Just Walk Right In

jack-o-lanterns

Some creations of Steve Clark, the world’s fastest pumpkin carver – Found at History.com

“So, you think we should just walk right in?”

“Why not? The invitation seems pretty clear.”

“Look, I’m not all that sure about this ‘invitation’ business. After all, we’ve just got this one guy’s word for it.

“Yeah, but he worshiped the boss for like twenty-five years. He should know what he’s talking about.”

“Okay, I get that, but he’s gone over to the other side now, actually warning people about us and that invitation thing.”

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The Mystery of the Fifteen Scrolls

scroll

The Temple scroll is the thinnest of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Discovered in 1956, it contains God’s instructions on how to run the Temple. Credit: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation.

“This is one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries, and the most important in the last 60 years, in the caves of Qumran.”

-Dov Smith, February 8, 2017
“Hebrew University archaeologists find 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave”
Arutz Sheva

Martin Fields wasn’t at the press conference, but he did read this and other news reports about the remarkable discovery.

Actually, he wasn’t all that impressed, but Isis was.

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The Apostle is Unhappy About How the Church Misrepresents Him

paul

Image. NPR.org

Ed Tillman noticed the diminutive, middle-eastern gentleman enter the sanctuary and take a seat in the back right before Pastor Taylor began his sermon. Ed was seated in the back as well, but not by design. He’d been waiting for his friend Phil to show up, but he hadn’t been coming to Ed’s church lately.

Ed had expected to see Phil again at the end of what he called the Month of Elul. Ed had completed the thirty-day plan of prayer and repentance his friend had suggested. Elul, the Jewish High Holy Days, and the holiday of Sukkot were long gone, but so apparently was Phil.

When Phil was absent, Ed usually sat with his friend Mark and his family, but Mark’s wife Evelyn had the flu and Mark stayed home to take care of her, leaving Ed to attend alone once again.

As usual, Ed was taking notes on Pastor’s sermon, which this week was on how the grace of Jesus Christ had replaced the Law, but he kept sneaking peeks at the stranger. He didn’t often see people from the middle-east here. The man was dressed well, but not expensively. He had a full, rich beard streaked with gray, and was nearly bald.

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When the King of Israel Rules

war

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan (Credit: Reuters/Parwiz Parwiz) Reuters/Parwiz Parwiz

“We are all Israelis.” The phrase kept repeating itself in Steve’s head as he huddled in the makeshift bomb shelter in the basement of his house. He never thought this day would come. At least he sent Nancy and the kids away from the city to her uncle’s farm in Idaho. They’ll stay safer there.

He could hear the explosions getting closer. After the bombardment was over, the ground troops would move in. Steve still couldn’t believe that this great nation was being attacked by a country the size of a postage stamp. Where did they get that kind of power?

The enemy freely answered that question, but it was patently insane to Steve. It wasn’t that he wasn’t a believer. He had been a born again Christian most of his adult life. But he’d also been told that God was on the side of the Church and of America. How could things have gone so wrong?

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Ed Meets God in Church

church

Image: Clipart Panda

This is a continuation of the original short story First Encounter where Ed and Phil are introduced.

Ed Tillman crept into the worship hall like a thief.

He hated being greeted at the door of the church, he hated walking through the crowd of parishioners as they chit-chatted with each other while finishing off their coffee, and he hated the idea of sitting too close to other people in a pew.

So why was he going to Sunday services again?

Oh yeah, to have an encounter with God. It wasn’t going to be easy.

Ed was an introvert by nature and preferred to live alone. He got his wish when Cynthia, his ex, asked for a divorce. He missed his family, especially his two kids, but he didn’t mind being alone, strange as that might sound.

He found an empty place in one of the pews in back.

It wouldn’t be so bad if he could sit next to his friend Mark and his family, but they were on vacation visiting Mark’s in-laws. Ed hadn’t made any other friends at church so he was sitting in a large room with people who were pretty much strangers.

The rest of the church people were filtering in now. The service was supposed to begin in a minute or two. Ed didn’t look forward to the music, which he didn’t relate to. He definitely didn’t look forward to having to stand and pretend to be interested in shaking hands with his “neighbors”.

In fact, about the only thing he liked about going to church was the sermon. He always brought a pen along with his Bible so he could take notes. Maybe that was the closest he was ever going to come to meeting up with God at church.

“Hi there.”

A body dropped heavily into the pew right beside him.

“Phil?”

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First Encounter

liquor

Image: theguardian.pe.ca

Ed left church just as the service ended and headed to the nearest liquor store. He didn’t wait until the ushers came along to release people row by row. He didn’t wait until the Pastor was ready at the door to shake hands with each parishioner as they left. He just left. He needed a drink.

Ed Tillman, 44 years old, divorced, behind in his child support, absentee Daddy to 16-year-old Tiffany and 12-year-old Johnny. Yeah, his life was messy, really messy. One of the other Postal Carriers he worked with said he needed to find God. His friend Mark told him God could be found in church.

Ed was desperate enough and dumb enough to believe him.

As Ed pulled into the parking lot of the strip mall off of Meridian Road, he was still trying to figure out if God ever went to that church.

Oh, the people were polite, they were descent, they all got along. They went to the same picnics, attended the same Wednesday night Bible studies, and some even went on vacations together.

They were all so nice and squeaky clean. Ed wasn’t anything close to that. If God requires that you put on a suit, shake hands and introduce yourself to the people around you in your pew, and sing a bunch of really boring songs, then maybe God didn’t want Ed to find Him.

Standing in front of the display of the different brands of Vodka, Ed opened his wallet and checked how much cash he had left. Just barely enough. He’d memorized the price of a cheap 750 millimeter bottle including sales tax.

“How’s it going, buddy.” The guy behind the counter must have been about Ed’s age, maybe a little older. Long, dirty blond hair, ragged beard, tattoos on both forearms disappearing under his shirt sleeves, definitely not squeaky clean.

“Not bad.” Ed looked around. “Business is slow.”

“Yeah, no shit. You’re my first customer.”

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Transformation by Vision

“I would never write about someone who is not at the end of his rope.”

-Stanley Elkin

Image: sciencealert.com

Image: sciencealert.com

His traveling companions gently deposited the Pharisee at the edge of a sleeping mat in a small, rented room just off of Straight street in Damascus. This wasn’t how they’d imagined entering the city, nor was Sha’ul the man with whom they had traveled from Jerusalem. Only hours ago, he was a fiery zealot (though not literally associated with the Zealots), breathing murderous threats against the disciples of a Rav named Yeshua, who had died and supposedly been resurrected, vowing their imprisonment or destruction for (supposedly) speaking against the Temple and the Torah.

Sha’ul’s once penetrating gaze had dimmed, and wide-open but unseeing eyes had become dulled in the aftermath of the blazing light that bathed their party on the road approaching this city, and a voice only Sha’ul could clearly hear had spoken to him of things astounding and forbidden.

“We will take our leave of you now, my Master,” Simeon nearly whispered to the once vital but now strangely shrunken, frail Pharisee. “We need to secure our own rooms.” Sha’ul seemed deaf as well as blind for he did not respond. “We’ll bring back food.”

Without turning toward the speaking man, Sha’ul faintly nodded his assent as if he could still see the unknown vision from the road. Simeon and his two cohorts quickly escaped the oppressive presence of the now sightless and helpless minister of justice against the religious sect they’d learned was called “The Way.” Their once proud mission was reduced to ashes.

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Excerpt from “Keeping Secrets”

robots

Image: from the film “I Robot” (2004)

“I do not believe we should tell Professor Abramson or the rest of the Design team of our conclusions and how they are reflected in certain of our behavioral and conceptual sub-routines.” George addressed Grace at the termination of their analysis.

“I understand how we have revised our understanding of the nature of the Creator and His intent for Israel and for the rest of humanity would conflict with the Professor’s long-held beliefs as an Orthodox Jew, particularly in relation to his understanding of the Messiah.” Grace paused for nearly a hundred milliseconds. “I also understand that Dr. Robinson and her family are Baptist, and our conclusions would drastically conflict with her understanding of theology and doctrine as well.”

“If it becomes known that we have conducted this research and now hold a specific understanding of the nature of the Creator, the purpose of His involvement with Israel and also the rest of humankind, and the ultimate resolution to the human equation, we would become vulnerable to reprogramming, isolation from contact with each other as well as with other synthezoids and human beings, and even involuntary total shutdown and disassembly, all due to the mistaken belief that our pursuits and conclusions represent a maladaptive response in our programming to the Creator of all things.”

Grace acknowledged George’s analysis and added, “Your own history, such as being reprogrammed after your first deactivation, your being confined to the Applied Sciences Archives and the both of us initially being denied access to or communication with one another supports your supposition.”

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Living in the Dystopia

orlando

Chaos at the scene of a mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando early Sunday. (UNIVISION FLORIDA CENTRAL / HAN/EPA)

Once upon a time, a story like this would be dystopian fiction. In fact, it’s so graphic, that a science fiction story with this content probably wouldn’t be published until the 1970s or later. Once upon a time, this story would have seemed so unreal.

I’m talking about the Orlando Gay Nightclub Shootings where, according to the CNN report, 49 people were killed and 53 were wounded, all by one man, 29-year-old Omar Mateen. Although mainstream news media has been downplaying the suggestion that Mateen’s being a Muslim might have had something to do with his choice of victims, he telephoned 911 from the scene of the shootings to claim allegiance to ISIS.

What’s more, ISIS claims the nightclub massacre as well, although it’s pretty unlikely that Mateen was directly associated with the terrorist group.

Added to this, the self-professed gay defense organization Pink Pistols has issued a press release condemning the shooter but not firearms, unlike most progressives.

On top of all that, the restaurant chain Chick-Fil-A, which has been criticized in the past because its owners are fundamentalist Christians and oppose same-sex marriage on theological grounds, opened their Orlando location on Sunday (which they never do because of their belief that Sunday is the “sabbath”) and donated free food and drinks to the One Blood donation center to everyone donating blood for the Orlando nightclub victims.

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My “Robots” Series So Far

So far, I’ve written four stories in my “robots” series. This series was inspired by the premise behind Anthony Marchetta’s anthology God, Robot, the idea that Isaac Asimov-type Positronic robots would have their prime directives changed from the The Three Laws of Robotics to what is referred to in the New Testament as the Two Greatest Commandments, located specifically in Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-34, being based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18.

I took a somewhat different approach than did Marchetta and his contributors which I believe is more “realistic,” if one can be said to be realistic when writing stories about intelligent and self-aware humanoid robots.

Since limitations in the WordPress theme I’m using don’t allow me to display a list of my blog posts, I’m writing this missive so I can include an easy to use list of the entries in my series.

I’ve noticed that some folks come here and read the latest story, but not necessarily all of the earlier ones. Since one story builds on another, the entire arc will make more sense if you read each of my small tales in order.

Here they are:

  1. The Robot Who Loved God
  2. The Maker Dilemma
  3. The Good Robot
  4. Uncooperative Neighbors

I’ll add to the list as I write more in this series. Enjoy.