© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner

If you haven’t read the previous chapters, you can find chapter one HERE.


The following night another storm moved over the coast, a little more severe than the one the previous night, and the weatherman on the late night newscast said that the national weather bureau hadn’t been able to establish a specific reason for the repeated pattern over the last two weeks. They had mentioned several possible causes but had not been able to make a definite determination yet. The most unusual aspect of the storms was that they materialized out over the ocean about five miles from shore and after hitting the coast along a five mile stretch and moving as far inland as the county line beyond Hamsted, they just seemed to wear out.

The following day was Sunday, and Serenity and her family attended services at the Christ Community Church just outside of the town. There were three other churches in Hamsted also, but Serenity’s great-grandfather had helped found this one, and they liked being a part of it. The sermons were always encouraging messages from the Word of God, and the worship was beautiful and heartfelt. They had invited Noah to services there, and he slipped into one of the back pews just as the first song was beginning. He loved going to church, but he hadn’t been in the community long enough to really get to know anyone yet, and he didn’t feel up to a lot of conversation with new people this morning.

At the close of the service, Pastor Carlyle called for anyone who needed prayer to come forward, and after they were prayed for, he suggested that the congregation as a whole stand and pray against the serious storms that had been plaguing their area. “I think it’s pretty clear that these storms are a result of the evil forces trying to misuse the elements of weather that the Lord planned for our good,” he said, “and we have authority over that. So I think we need to come into strong agreement this morning that those evil forces will be bound and their power to usurp the elements of weather for unnatural uses be broken.”

Several people said, “Amen,” and everyone stood to their feet. The pastor led the prayer, inviting anyone else to add something more if they felt led to do so. Noah felt really good about that prayer . . . and about this church. This was a church that he was going to feel comfortable in, he was sure. So as everyone began filing out, he waited to speak to the pastor and a few of the members. David came bounding down the aisle to talk to him and shake his hand in a grown up way, and following him came Serenity and Clint.

“Good to see you this morning, Noah,” Clint said, shaking his hand.

“It’s good to be here.”

At that time, the pastor turned to their group, and Clint introduced Noah. “Welcome, Noah. We’re glad you joined us this morning.”

“I am too, Pastor. I got a lot from your sermon, and I was really in agreement with your prayer about the weather. I believe we’ll see a turn around in that storm situation tonight.”

“Amen. I like that kind of talk,” the pastor answered. Someone else had touched his elbow to get his attention, but before he turned around he added, “Please come back to service tonight. We’re having a service that’s all testimonies and worship.”

“I’d like that. I’ll try to make it.”

“Good. Talk to you folks this evening then,” he said as he turned to the member wanting his attention.

While that conversation had transpired, another conversation was going on in the part of the atmosphere that was just beyond the visible realm. One of the captains of the Hosts of Heaven was addressing his troop of angelic hosts, all of them dressed in brilliant white garments, their glistening, diaphanous wings unfurled in readiness to carry out their orders. Each of the angels wore a large golden sword, sheathed at his side. Their commander was dressed much as they were, except that he also wore a golden sash across his chest with words in the language of Heaven inscribed upon it.

At his command, each angel drew his sword, and suddenly the brilliance of the golden fire that shot from all of those swords lit up the surrounding atmosphere brighter than the sun that was shining high in the center of the sky. “The saints have prayed in one accord,” the captain said. “They have spoken the words of Jehovah against the demonic powers that have been ruling the elements of weather over Hamsted and have bound them on earth. Therefore, Jehovah, true to His Word, has bound those forces in the heavens.

“Now . . . you are released, Hosts of Heaven. Go at once to the north, the south, the east, and the west. You now have the authority to rout all of those demonic hosts without exception. Then minister peace to the wind and the water and command them to rest for the next seven days.”

Instantly, there was a mighty rushing sound as the army of angelic beings separated to go in four directions, singing the praises of Jehovah as their battle cry, and speeding out to put the enemy forces to flight and bring victory into manifestation for the people of God. It didn’t take long. By 1:00, the sky was the clearest blue the people along the coast had seen in months, and the air was fresh and sweet, and carried along on a breeze so light and gentle it was like a caress. The sun shone without let-up until it slid gracefully beneath the horizon at a little after 8:00 that night.

By that time, the members at Christ Community Church were deep into their worship service. They were singing at the top of their lungs, clapping, shouting, and even dancing around the sanctuary with joy in the Lord. Some of the members of the Hosts of Heaven, although invisible to the human eye, were nevertheless present in the little church also, and were enjoying and even participating in the praise of Jehovah and the Lamb. They liked nothing better than this rejoicing that came from the redeemed of the Lamb. There was just nothing else like it, even in the halls of heaven. The redeemed of the Lord, coming with singing unto Zion, as the Word of the Lord described it.

The longer the praise continued, the more powerful came the presence of Jehovah Himself into the little sanctuary. After a while, most of the people were on their knees or even lying prostrate on their faces before the Lord in worshipful prayer.

But hidden away in the garage that belonged to the empty house beside Lacey and Troy Dillard’s home, the group of would-be sorcerers were applying every work of divination that they had learned up to this time, still attempting to conjure up another severe storm, specifically a hurricane. They repeated all the enchantments that they had learned from the Sally Stone materials and the connected web sites — at least all of those specifically about using the elements of weather to effect their own purposes or to bring evil consequences on someone who had treated them in an unacceptable manner. But when Lacey sent Troy to look outside, they discovered that nothing was working.

In the unseen realm, there was activity, but not what the group wanted to achieve. In truth, there were plenty of demonic spirits prowling around the edges of the atmosphere surrounding the coastal community, but they couldn’t get past a certain point. The beautiful, majestic Hosts of Heaven were on guard. They were stationed, north, south, east and west, permeating the whole atmosphere around them with peace and light. They could see the demonic beings pacing back and forth, red eyes piercing, tongues hanging out from panting with the desire to gain back the territory they had occupied for two weeks prior to this afternoon.

It was indescribably sad to watch these beings who had once been part of the glorious beauty of Heaven. But pride and rebellion were ugly things, and they produced ugly offspring. So these pitiful demonic beings had horrid black, leather-like skin in place of their once glowing, bronzed, angelic bodies. They moved in slinking, crawling, shameful ways, and right now they were pacing and prowling and growling . . . wanting to get into this space and cast the elements into chaos once again. But they just couldn’t break through.

The angelic hosts didn’t say a word. They didn’t have to. They were on duty by Divine order, as a result of earnest, faith-filled prayer by righteous sons of Jehovah, the redeemed of the Lamb. And as long as those prayers were in effect, Heaven’s occupation of this territory couldn’t be thwarted. In fact, the Heavenly Hosts were beginning to feel even stronger as the evening wore on. And eventually, they received more of their troops coming alongside as reinforcements. They knew what that meant. The people of God were releasing their faith in worship and prayer even more.

Sure enough, in the little church, the believers were thanking the Lord again, out loud and in unity, for His deliverance from the storms. They were confessing that they would all sleep in peace that night, free from the troubling elements that had brought uneasiness to them for two weeks now. Then they began to praise God again for His goodness. Finally, the service drew to a close and they began to disperse.

“My goodness,” said one lady as she stepped outside of the church. “Doesn’t that sky full of stars look beautiful? I haven’t seen the night sky that way in so long, I’d forgotten how beautiful it is.”

“Yes,” Serenity said as she stood beside the woman. “And I don’t see a cloud even on the horizon.”

“Does that mean the storms are over, Aunt Serie?” David asked.

“I believe so, David.”

“Goody!” he said and then turned to speak to Noah, who had just walked up to them. “The storms are over Noah!”

Noah nodded at David. “I know, Dave.” Then he looked at Serenity briefly before his eyes scanned the sky again. He took a deep breath. “Feels good, doesn’t it?” he asked her.

She nodded her head. “Mmhmm!”

Clint joined them just then. “Come by the lighthouse for a cup of coffee before going home, Noah.”

“Are you sure it isn’t too late?”

“Of course not. It’s only 9:00. Another hour won’t hurt surely.”

Noah looked at Serenity. She was looking especially beautiful tonight. She had left her hair down, and wore it swinging freely around her face from a simple side part. Her lightweight slacks and top made her look fresh and unsophisticated, although Noah knew that she was actually quite a sophisticated young woman. She was rather well known in journalistic circles. She had done a good deal of free-lance work for a number of periodicals, and she had two books on the bookstore shelves across the country. She wasn’t exactly famous, but she was making a name for herself.

“Would I be interrupting any of your work, Serenity?” he asked her now.

“No, I’m taking this evening off, so don’t let that bother you.”

“All right,” Noah said, turning back to Clint then. “I’ll come over for a short visit.”

“Good, good,” he answered and started walking toward the parking lot beside Noah, while Serenity and David followed at a slower pace.

Back in the garage, Lacey was growing more and more angry. Finally she jumped up. “Ooooohh! It’s those believers! It’s those believers!”

“What?” asked Darrin. They were all looking at Lacey, a little worried at the force of her tantrum. After a minute she answered.

“My spirit guide, Luna, told me today. She said it’s the believers who are blocking us. Their prayers!”

“Well, I’m tired of this anyway,” Nick said now, but Lacey continued as if she hadn’t heard him.

“Luna said we’d have to arrange a worthy sacrifice if we want to succeed.”

“What . . . what kind of . . . of worthy sacrifice?” Kelly asked, swallowing hard, trying to swallow down her fear. She was remembering the kinds of sacrifices described in the Sally Stone books, and she could hardly bear to think what Lacey might have in mind.

But before Lacey could answer, her brother spoke up. “Aww, I agree with Nick. I think we’ve spent enough time on the weather. This is getting boring. I want to do some fun stuff. I though that was why we started studying those books and playing the games anyway . . . so we could have some fun with these spells and curses.”

“Yeah, I wanta do some of that stuff they did in the Sally Stone movies,” Nick said. “That was really neat. That’s what I want us to do.”

“Let’s vote,” said Troy.

“No!” shouted Lacey.

“Lacey, when we started this coven, we all agreed that we would vote on what we would do,” her brother reminded her.

“I told you we can’t be a real coven until we have thirteen witches! We’re “The Middle School Order of the Magic Arts.”

“I know; I know, but still, you gave your word, and you can’t go back on it now . . . and you can’t change the rules without us voting on it.”

“Yeah,” Kelly chimed in.

“Oh . . . all right . . . if you all have to be such babies about it.”

“Babies!” Darrin said, obviously insulted and becoming angry himself.

“Okay, okay, okay,” Lacey finally said. She was getting tired of trying to convince them anyway. Her head hurt and she felt a little queasy in her stomach. She decided she was ready to go home anyway.

“Okay,” Troy said. “Everyone in favor of ending our plan to conjure up a hurricane raise your hand.”

Every hand except Lacey’s went up.

“Majority rules,” Troy said. “No more hurricanes.”

“So what are we going to do?” Darrin asked.

“I want to find out how to get my spirit guide to appear to me,” Nick said. “I can hear her voice, but I can’t see her yet. I must be doing something wrong. And Kelly said, she can see hers, but she can’t always understand what she’s telling her.”

“Well, we need to play the game some more,” Troy spoke up. “That’s how Lacey and I got to know our inner guides and understand how to follow them. We played the game over and over with Miss Parker in the after-school library hour.” He looked at Darrin then. “And, Darrin, you do pretty good now with your guide, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I’m getting a lot better at hearing him and seeing him.

“Well, okay,” Nick said, “bring the game when we get together Tuesday night, and we’ll play it.”

“All right,” Lacey answered in a disgruntled voice. “Now I’m going home. I don’t feel good,” she said and got up and blew out the candle that sat on the floor right in front of her.

“Me too,” Kelly said, following suit with her candle.

Troy shrugged his shoulders and looked at the other two boys. “Might as well. Oh, by the way, Lacey and I are going into Barclay next Saturday with Mom, and we’re going to go to the big bookstore there and buy the new Sally Stone book that just came out last week. Maybe it will give us some great ideas.”

“Great!” Darrin said. “Do you think, if I got you the money, that you could pick one up for me too?”

“Sure,” Troy said. “Anybody who wants a copy, just bring your money to Lacey and me by Friday.”

“Okay,” they all chorused.

Troy looked over to where his sister had been standing, but he saw that she was already leaving the garage and starting to their house. “Well, we might as well get out of here. Lacey’s already halfway to the house, so I need to catch up with her. If we go in at the same time, we have less chance of waking up Mom and Dad.” He picked up his equipment and turned to go. “See ya later.”

“See ya,” the others replied and filed out of the garage and closed the door behind them.

Once again, they all went their separate ways, all of them except Lacey secretly glad that they hadn’t had to live through a real hurricane. And Kelly was even starting to wonder how she had let herself get so far into something this scary anyway. She didn’t like it. It wasn’t the kind of fun she thought it would be when she’d read the first two books. She thought maybe she wanted out . . . but . . . if she remembered what the books had said . . . nobody really got out . . . because they couldn’t be trusted to be on the outside once they’d been on the inside, learning how to be a real witch. And she didn’t think she wanted to get to know her spirit guide any better. She didn’t like talking to her.

When Miss Parker, the school librarian, had started teaching them how to play the “Inside Myself” game last year, Kelly had thought that it sounded like something really grown up, and she had looked forward to learning things that would help her feel more sure of herself. But the more they played and practiced receiving their inner spirit- guides, the more uncomfortable she felt.

Of course, the Sally Stone books made it all sound so ordinary — listening to a spirit and letting it tell you what to do — the books made it sound as if there were nothing to be afraid of — but she was afraid. She began to shiver just thinking about it, and when she got to her room, she didn’t even bother to undress. She just jumped into her bed and covered up, with the covers all the way over her head — and then she cried herself to sleep.

But out in the unseen realm, the Hosts of Heaven were smiling and putting away their fiery swords. The enemy had turned back. One by one, and then two and three at a time, the demon spirits had spat out one last abusive insult and turned away and fled, leaving the atmosphere free of their filth and their stench. This battle was over. The faithful believers had stood their ground and won.

Oh, the angels knew that Jehovah would keep a contingent of the Hosts of Heaven in the area for a couple more days, just to ward off any of the enemy that might get the silly idea into their heads that they could make a comeback any time soon. But the heavenly troops felt sure that the actual warfare was over. At least this particular battle for control of the elements of weather in this specific area. But there would be more warfare in the near future. They had known the day that Gloria Dillard had bought Lacey the first Sally Stone book to read that they were soon going to be engaged in a vicious battle for the souls of the people of Hamsted and this coastal community — as well as those of others who were interconnected with the people who lived here.

It was no secret to the Hosts of Heaven that demons were assigned to move into communities and homes where the Sally Stone books were welcomed. They used the books as mediums through which to connect with the people who read them. That was bad enough, but the books then led to the movies. And when the first two movies were brought to Hamsted and shown in the little theater, an army of the powers of darkness had marched into town with them. And, of course, as the human beings watched the movies avidly, they automatically opened themselves up to become new hosts for the spirits that had come to town looking for just that opportunity.

The angels could only hope that the believers here would listen to Jehovah as He attempted to give them the revelation of what was going on and how they must fight against it on their knees and in His Word. Because until the redeemed of the Lamb, who were the priests of the covenant on the earth, began to pray and speak the Word of God out of their mouth, the Hosts of Heaven were restrained. After all, man had given the devil a legal right to function on the earth. And the only authority that could over-ride the devil’s power in the earthly circumstances was the authority of a man of God speaking the Words of God in the name of Jesus.

One of the glorious beings spoke to their commanding officer, asking the question on all of their minds. “Do you know yet, Captain, what these believers in Hamsted will do?”

He shook his head. “Not yet. Of course, Jehovah knows, but He hasn’t passed that information along to me. It must not be the right time yet.” Some of the angels on duty wondered now what Jehovah was thinking, knowing what His people would do in response to this attack of the enemy. Was His heart grieved because He knew they would fail to believe and obey — or was He rejoicing, proud of these children of His, because He knew they would trust Him and love not their lives unto death?

Some of the Hosts of Heaven who were in this particular detachment had worked with Noah Bennett last year — when he’d gone through the most trying events of his life. They discussed their concern for him now. “That situation was similar to this,” one of the angels was saying, “only even more serious.”

“Certainly more deadly,” another answered. “At least so far.”

“But Noah was totally committed and faithful then, and he did everything Jehovah needed him to do,” a third member of the hosts added.

“But,” the first angel spoke again, “he was severely wounded emotionally in that battle, and like any wounded soldier, he’s seeking rest and healing. I don’t know if he’ll be ready to stand in faith the way he did last year . . . or if he’ll even want to do so anymore.”

“Surely Jehovah will give Noah’s personal angel — who is it that has charge of him?”

“Naam has him,” one of the others answered, and his friend continued to make his point.

“Well, surely, Jehovah will give Naam something special to say to Noah that will give him courage and hope to try again.”

The others nodded in agreement, and then their captain spoke. “He must try again, because it looks more every day as if the people of Hamsted are going to need Noah Bennett and his experience desperately.” He paused thoughtfully before continuing. “But perhaps that is why Jehovah has led Noah here to recover. Because He knows what’s in Noah’s heart . . . even better than Noah himself.”

“Yes,” they all agreed, “Jehovah knows.”

“Yes,” the captain added, “and He always has a plan to rescue His people, if they will just listen to Him and obey.”

Look for Chapter 4 tomorrow.




© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner

If you haven’t read Chapter One yet, you can find it HERE.


Serenity jerked awake suddenly, not sure why until she heard a horrible clap of thunder and realized that the noise of the storm was what had pulled her from sleep so abruptly. Another storm. She sat up and slipped her feet into her house shoes, reaching at the same time for her robe. She turned on her bedside lamp and then started toward the door, intending to check on David. But first, she walked over to put her window down because the rain had started.

When she opened David’s door, she stood speechless and almost stopped breathing. The last thing she had expected to see was an empty bed. But when she saw that the screen had been removed from the window, she almost panicked. Had he been kidnapped? She couldn’t even allow herself to think the words. “Oh, please, Lord,” she whispered. She fought down fear as if it were her worst enemy, which it was in a situation like this. She knew the Word of God enough to know that she had to make a choice right now whether to believe only what things looked like or to believe the promises of God.

“Dear Heavenly Father, I pray Your promises of protection over all of us every day, and I know You’re faithful to them. I believe You’re taking care of David. So please . . . help me to hold onto my faith now . . . and show me where David is.” She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, and then another, finally sitting down on the bed and trying to settle her mind. She needed to decide whether to wake Gramps or call the police . . . or just go outside and try to find her nephew herself.

But the very next minute the phone rang. She hurried to answer it, sure that it was about David. “Hello,” she said almost breathlessly.

“Hello, Miss Lawrence?”

Serenity thought she should recognize this voice, but she couldn’t be sure. “Yes.”

“This is Noah Bennett. Perhaps you remember that I’m renting one of the cottages on the beach this summer?”

That’s why she thought his voice sounded familiar. “Yes, Mr. Bennett. What is it?”

“I called in case you were worried about your nephew.”

“Yes, I am. I’ve just discovered he’s not in his room. Do you mean you know where he is?”

“He’s with me right now, safe and out of the weather.”

“What on earth is he doing with you!”

Noah chuckled. “Well, it’s kind of a long story, but I take it he’s fascinated with horses.”

“What! You’re not making any sense!”

“I’m sorry, Miss Lawrence. I didn’t mean to upset you. David evidently decided to take a late-night ride on my horse, who had wandered down the beach toward the lighthouse, and he ended up here about the time the storm broke.”

“Your horse! I haven’t seen any horse!” She thought this man sounded sane, but she was beginning to wonder if her mind were playing tricks on her as a result of the lateness of the hour and her nervous state.

“No, I had stabled him with some friends in Pennsylvania until I made sure of this corral, and I just brought him down today.” He chuckled now. “I guess it wasn’t as secure as I thought, because he got out of the corral and wandered down to your place. He doesn’t usually let anyone else ride him, but evidently he and your nephew became instant friends.”

“And David’s with you now?”

“Yes. He’s just finishing off a big mug of cocoa. Would you like to talk to him?”

“Oh, yes! Please!” Serenity felt as if her knees would give out at any minute and she scurried to sit in the chair nearest the phone.

“Aunt Serie,” the dear little voice spoke hesitantly on the other end of the phone. “I’m . . . I’m sorry, Aunt Serie. I thought I’d be back home before you woke up,” David said, and she could hear tears in his voice now.”

“Are you all right, Honey?” was all she could say.

David sniffed. “Yes. I got a little wet and kind of cold, but Noah dried me off and gave me one of his shirts.” His voice was getting stronger now that he was past the time of remorse and seemingly past the time of what he had expected to be a severe scolding. “Aunt Serie, Noah has the most beautiful horse you ever saw!”

“And you rode him?”

“Yes,” he said, just then remembering that he still would probably have to face the consequences of his actions. “But Moondancer wouldn’t have hurt me, Aunt Serie. And Noah said that if I’d promise not to ever go out at night without telling you first, that he’d let me ride Moondancer again in the daytime. Is that all right?”

Serenity was wiping the tears of relief from her cheeks and sniffing just a little herself, but she managed to answer. “Well, we’ll talk about it later, David. Right now I just want to get you home safe and sound.”

“I’m safe and sound right here, Aunt Serie. Oh, Noah wants to talk to you again.”

Before Serenity could respond, Noah was back on the line. “He really is all right, Miss Lawrence, and he can stay right here until the storm abates enough for me to bring him home.”

“There’s no need for that, Mr. Bennett. I can come and get him.”

“Please call me Noah. I realize you don’t know me all that well, but you do know something of my family. Don’t you think you could trust me to keep him safe for just another hour or so? The wind is driving that rain pretty hard right now, and none of us needs to be out in it, even in a car.”

Serenity sighed. “Could you give me your phone number there, and I’ll talk to my grandfather about it.”

“That’s a good idea. I think he’ll agree with me,” Noah answered, and then proceeded to give her his number.

Serenity hung up and went to Gramps’ room. He was just putting on his robe, having been awakened by the conversation, but not knowing what it was all about. Serenity explained the situation to him, and he nodded, smiling just a little. “I’ve known the family pretty well for the past three years. His sister and brother-in-law come down every summer, you know, and Noah has spent a week or two with them each time. I don’t know him as well as I do June and Keith, but I’m positive he’s trustworthy in a situation like this. He’s been a policeman and then a county sheriff for many years, so he’s spent his life protecting and helping people.” He put his arm around her shoulders in a comforting squeeze. “David’ll be fine with him, Serie. The Lord’s taking care of things.”

So Serenity breathed a sigh of relief and said she guessed she’d call him back.

“Would you like for me to call him and feel things out one more time?” he asked.

“Yes, Gramps, I think that’s a good idea,” she said and moved to sit down close to the phone while he dialed the number. As he talked, he sounded pleased with the way the conversation was going, so she leaned back on the sofa and began to relax. As she did so, she began to think in more detail about Noah Bennett. She had met his sister June Campbell and her husband the year before last, when she had been vacationing here at the lighthouse.

They were a young African-American couple, married only four years and still waiting and hoping for children. Serenity had had a number of conversations with them, and they had all enjoyed community picnics on the beach during the weeks she was here. And then last year, she had met Noah while he was visiting, but she had spoken with him only that one time, because she had needed to leave the next day for home.

He was an attractive man, tall and strongly muscled, as would be expected of a man who lived his life enforcing the law. He had the deep brown skin of his race, of course, but his eyes were light brown, almost the color of caramel. She had guessed his age at around forty, since his short black hair had been showing just the first traces of silver. But his closely trimmed beard was still its original black. He was obviously well educated, and she remembered that she had responded warmly to his deep, resonant voice.

Anyway, she’d liked him. He’d been open and friendly . . . and she had been intrigued by the small, gold ring he wore in one ear. It was made even more interesting by the tiny cross that hung from it. There was certainly nothing ostentatious about it, but, somehow, she hadn’t been able to equate an earring with a law enforcement officer at all. Well, the main thing was that now that she was remembering all of these things, she was feeling much more at peace about David’s being with Noah Bennett until the storm was past. Gramps was off of the phone by now, and he still seemed totally at peace, so she decided she needed to make a pot of coffee and get out the cake they had sampled at supper.

While they ate, she and her granddad talked about June and Keith Campbell and how they had decided to forego their summer on the beach since June was finally expecting a baby in July. Keith had come down to open up the cabin and air it out last week, and that was when Serenity had found out that June’s brother would be taking it for the whole summer. Keith had said that Noah had been through some trying experiences during the past year, and he was planning on taking the summer on the beach to get some much needed rest and restoration. Serenity couldn’t help but wonder what had happened, and she let her mind drift over a few possibilities as she finished her coffee.

In about an hour, they could tell that the storm was pretty well past their area, and even the rain had stopped, so they were watching out the window for Noah and David. Finally, Serenity saw them, David sitting in front of Noah on the back of a large white horse, coming toward the lighthouse. As the bright beam passed over them methodically, she could see that they were talking and laughing. David apparently still had on Noah’s shirt. She could tell that it engulfed him, but she was grateful for Noah’s thoughtfulness.

Serenity belted her robe a little more securely around her waist and rushed to the door, flinging it open just as they came into the yard. “David!” she cried, holding out her arms as soon as the two had dismounted. Her nephew ran into her embrace, grateful that she was hugging him instead of scolding him. But he was smart enough to know that scolding still might come later. “Oh, David, you had me so frightened,” she said, gently pulling him farther into the house and stooping down to look him in the eye. “You promise me that you’ll never, and I mean never, do that again!” Her voice was stern, and her eyes sparked with fire, but there was such obvious love in both her voice and her eyes that David’s remorse was immediate.

He nodded his head fervently. “I promise, Aunt Serie. I’m real sorry,” he added, the truth of his words reflected in his eyes, which were so like her sister’s.

She tousled his hair. “All right. You’re forgiven,” she said and then hugged him again.

“I promised Noah too, and he said I could ride Moondancer in the daytime if it’s all right with you.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what,” she said, taking his little hands in hers, her eyes twinkling at him enough to take the sting out of her words, “I think we’ll have you wait one whole week before you get to ride any more . . . just to make sure that you don’t forget that what you did was serious and never to be repeated.”

“Oh, Aunt Serie . . .”

Noah spoke up then from where he stood just inside the door. “I think that’s an excellent idea, David. It will help you remember. So let’s say you can have a ride a week from today, how’s that?” Noah glanced at Serenity to get her approval, and he could see gratitude in her eyes for his support. He saw more than that in her eyes though. He saw a light and an energy that captured his attention, and the smile she beamed at him made him feel as if the sun had just come out. That was what impacted him about this woman tonight. She seemed to radiate life. How had he missed recognizing that before? Too busy with his own problems to notice much of anything, he guessed.

But he was noticing everything now. He was taking in her thick, shining, black hair that hung in a curtain past her shoulders, curving under just a little at the ends. She had worn it pinned up on the back of her head with a clip the other two times he’d seen her, and it hadn’t had this effect on him. Tonight, standing here looking at her in the soft living room light, he was getting a whole different picture. Even her modest robe didn’t hide the fact that she had a very womanly figure. And she seemed just plain nice on top of everything else. All in all, she was a woman to be noticed, and he had to remind himself that he was here for only one reason . . . to recover his own equilibrium emotionally . . . and he certainly didn’t need any other emotional upheavals to add to his list.

Serenity’s grandfather stepped forward now and shook Noah’s hand. “Thank you, Noah, for taking such good care of my great-grandson.”

“No problem, Clint. He was good company.”

“You might as well stay and help us finish up the coffee and cake we started on about an hour ago. I don’t think any of us is likely to be ready for sleep right now.’

“Oh, that’s all right,” Noah said, waving his hand slightly to indicate that he didn’t need anything. The truth was that he wanted to stay. This home was full of love and warmth and light, and he felt good in it, but he didn’t want to intrude at 12:30 in the morning.

“Nonsense,” Clint said now. “We insist. Don’t we Serie?” he added, looking at his granddaughter.

She looked up at Noah again from where she still knelt in front of David, unbuttoning the shirt so that she could give it back to him. “You’re very welcome to stay, Mr. Bennett.” She beamed a smile at him. “Gramps is right. We’ll be wide awake for a while yet.”

“All right . . . on one condition,” he said. Serenity lifted an eyebrow enquiringly. “That you call me Noah.”

She laughed at that. “All right, Noah it is.”

“And if you don’t mind, I’ll call you Serenity. That’s a beautiful name. It creates a peaceful feeling just hearing it.”

Serenity was so obviously surprised by the compliment that she couldn’t answer for a moment. “Thank you,” she finally answered. “And no, I don’t mind at all.”

“Good, now come on into the kitchen,” Clint said, leading the way.

Noah had changed into some dry jeans and a knit shirt before they started for the lighthouse, and he took off his jacket now and hung it on the back of the chair where he sat. Then he accepted a plate bearing a large piece of chocolate cake with white fluffy icing and coconut sprinkled over the top. “Wow! This looks absolutely delicious!” he said, picking up a fork and digging in.

“Do I get a piece too, Aunt Serie?” David asked a little uncertainly, obviously thinking that his night’s activities might keep him from getting to take part in this midnight feast.

“Of course,” his aunt said, smiling at him and handing him a smaller piece. “And a glass of milk if you think your tummy can hold that much at this time of night.”

“I only had cocoa at Noah’s house, so I’m hungry enough for milk too.”

“Here you go then,” she said, setting his milk in front of him and then taking her own seat. Clint had poured coffee for the three adults, and now they all just enjoyed the snack without saying anything for a few minutes. Then David spoke again.

“Aunt Serie, I know why Noah wears that ring in his ear.” He looked at her expectantly, and she answered, knowing that he wanted to tell her the story.

“You do?”

“Unhuh,” he said, nodding his head. “He told me all about it. Do you want to know?”

“Well, only if Noah wants us to know, Dear.”

David looked at Noah. “You want them to know, don’t you, Noah?”

“I’m not sure anybody but you will be that interested, David,” he answered, unable to hold back a laugh. He looked at Serenity and Clint now and continued. “David kept eyeing it and wanting to know why I wore it, so I figured answering that question was as good as anything else we could do while waiting out the storm.”

Clint answered him. “Well, to tell you the truth, I hadn’t given it much thought until now. These days, I see men wearing an earing now and then. But did they let you wear it in your police work?”

“Some agencies do, and some don’t . . . depending on what kind of uniform code they have. When I was on the beat in the city, they frowned on it, but when I applied for a deputy position and explained to the sheriff why I wore it, he just shrugged his shoulders and said he figured it was part of my religious freedom and let it go.”

“Well now my curiosity is aroused,” Clint replied, “so you’re going to have to satisfy it.”

“I’ll tell you,” David said, looking at Noah to make sure that was okay. When Noah nodded at him, he continued. “Noah said that after he gave his life to Jesus, he was reading in the Bible and read about a slave that was getting set free. But he didn’t want to leave the man who owned him. He wanted to stay and work for him as a servant. Noah said that’s kind of like a slave, except you get paid.” David glanced at Noah to make sure he was telling the story correctly, and Noah nodded again.

“So anyway,” David continued, “the rule was that if somebody wanted to be one of these servants, he was supposed to let the man who owned him put a hole in his ear and put a ring in it, and that meant that he would stay and work for him all the rest of his life. And when Noah read that, he decided that since he was going to be the Lord’s servant for the rest of his life, he would put a ring in his ear to show that that’s what he was.”

Clint spoke up then. “Yes, I think I remember that in scripture. I had forgotten about it, and I’ve never known anyone personally who took it so literally for today.”

“I’m going to serve Jesus all of my life too,” David piped in again. “So can I have a ring in my ear, Aunt Serie?”

“Oh-oh, David. You may get me into trouble now,” Noah said, grinning at him and then at Serenity.

She was trying hard not to laugh out loud, but she managed to answer her nephew as seriously as possible. “Well, we’ll have to think about that, David. I know you’ve given your heart to Jesus, but I think you need to be a little older before you decide about having your ear pierced.”

“Okay,” he said around a big yawn that almost drowned out the word. Then he added. “Aunt Serie, when you wear earrings, you always wear two. What does that mean?”

Noah answered him. “David, your aunt wears her earrings to make her look pretty when she goes somewhere . . . although . . . I don’t think she needs anything extra to make her pretty, do you?” He glanced briefly at Serenity as he spoke and saw her blush. Then he felt his heartbeat quicken. He was definitely going to have to be careful.

But David piped up with an answer. “No, I don’t think she needs anything. She’s beautiful as soon as she gets up in the morning with her hair all over the place and only her gown on.”

Serenity blushed again and spoke to her nephew as she rose from the table. “That’s a nice compliment, little man, but I think it’s time we get you into your bed . . . where you supposedly were headed when you took off for your midnight ride. I have to get your screen back into your window too, where you pushed it out. I forgot all about it in the confusion of trying to find you. I hope the rain was coming from the other direction.”

Noah spoke up then. “Is it outside? I’ll go get it and put it back in for you.”

“Oh, thank you. That’ll help,” she said as she moved to David’s side and wiped his mouth with a napkin, doing a better job than he had done himself. “Say goodnight now, Dave.”

“Okay,” he said, yawning again, sleep fast catching up with him now. He went to his grandfather’s chair and reached up to give him a hug. Then he turned to Noah and held out his hand for a handshake. “Thank you for the cocoa, and don’t forget my ride,” he said, blinking his eyes to keep them open just a little longer.

“It was my pleasure, David, and I won’t forget. Goodnight.” Noah stood and started for the back door, not bothering with his jacket. “I’ll go get your screen.”

Ten minutes later, David was snuggled beneath the covers, closing his eyes, his window back intact, and Serenity and Noah slipping quietly out of his room. As they walked back to the kitchen, Noah said, “I need to get my jacket and take off too.”

They were just entering the room when he thought of something else, and he asked the question of both of his hosts. “Did I understand David correctly that you’ve had a storm like that every night for almost two weeks?”

Clint answered, motioning for Noah to sit back down. “About that I guess. It’s certainly been much more frequent than I can ever remember.”

“Having been here only three days myself, I haven’t had a chance to hear much about them. Have they caused any damage?”

“Not right here close to the lighthouse, but farther in, close to town, there were one or two roofs blown off and some outbuildings torn up,” Clint said. “And then some pretty large hail did a little damage here and there. No people hurt though, thank God.”

Serenity had returned to her seat too, and she sat nodding her head now. “Yes, thank God, because there’s something about these storms.” She paused for a moment, as if trying to search for the right words. “I can’t put my finger on it, and I didn’t even notice it for the first three or four nights, but especially this past week, I feel as if there’s something . . .” she stopped again and looked a little sheepishly at Noah. “You’ll probably think I’m weird . . . and I guess I am a little more sensitive to the spiritual side of things than a lot of people . . . but it just seems as if there’s something particularly evil in the way these storms keep coming and coming and coming.”

Noah just looked at her for a moment, his eyes piercing. She had felt it too . . . what he had felt when he’d stepped out of the cottage earlier . . . something sinister. But he didn’t want to go there. He’d had enough of that kind of thing to last a lifetime.

Serenity looked at him almost apologetically. “I’m sorry . . . I . . . well, as I said, I figured you’d think I was weird.”

Now Noah felt sorry for her because, obviously, she thought she had let her imagination run away with her and was embarrassed now that she’d been so open with him. So he had to at least tell her that he’d felt something too. “Well, actually, I was wondering if my imagination were playing tricks on me earlier, because I sensed something . . .” he waved his hand in the air, trying to express the frustration of finding the right word to use. “I guess ‘evil’ or ‘sinister’ would be the best way to describe it. I’ve worked in the midst of a number of severe storms, but this one had another element about it.” He just shook his head. “I can’t explain it any better than that right now.”

Serenity breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, at least I know it wasn’t just my imagination. Thank you for telling me that, Noah.”

He rose as he spoke again and began putting on his jacket. “Hey, it doesn’t help much, but at least there’s two of us.” He reached out to shake Clint’s hand again. “Thanks, both of you, for the midnight snack and the good company. I’ll no doubt see you several times on the beach for the next couple of months, but maybe you can join me for a barbecue after I get settled in.”

“We’d like that,” Clint said, rising to see Noah to the door.

“Thank you, Noah,” Serenity said. “You’ve been more than a good neighbor tonight.”

“Glad to do it,” he said, and waved a hand as he stepped out the door and started across the yard to where he’d tied Moondancer. He breathed in the air from the sea now. It smelled good, and everything felt fresh. There was no sinister heaviness left. He could almost make himself believe it had been his imagination . . . almost . . . but not quite. He’d experienced too much this past year. But he’d made up his mind he would let nothing keep him from getting the rest and restoration he needed this summer. And that meant nothing . . . nothing and no one!”

About two miles away, in the little coastal town of Hamsted, five middle school students were gathered in a garage, sitting in a circle, their only light that which came from the candles they had lit to carry out the ritual they were involved in. Their parents had no idea they had sneaked out of their respective homes, but then they were getting quite good at doing so, since this was their seventh time to meet this way since school had been out. One of the girls, blond-haired Lacey Dillard, who had just finished seventh grade two weeks ago, seemed to be in charge of the meeting, but she was being confronted by her brother Troy, who was a year younger.

“Are you sure you’ve thought of everything we’re supposed to do, Lace? It seems to me we must be missing something.”

“Listen, you little pea-brain, I know what I’m doing! Get out your copies of the pages I copied from the spell book.”

Each member of the group dug around in their pockets to get their copies of the pages Lacey had copied from the book of spells that had been part of a spell kit she and Troy had ordered via the Internet. The kids had been reading the series of Sally Stone books for the past year and a half and had just finished book number five. They were enthralled with how Sally and her friends were being trained in the arts of witchcraft. And when they had scoured the sites listed on the Sally Stone web page, they got some clues as to other web pages concerning witchcraft, and finally found the one where they had been able to order the spell kit and other information concerning mixing potions and casting spells.

But the sixth Sally Stone book had come out just last week, and they were anxious to get their hands on it too. They were also excited about going to see the third movie based on the series. It would be a while before it came to their small town, so Troy’s parents had arranged to take him and Lacey, along with their closest friends, into one of the larger cities to see it as part of Troy’s birthday party next month.

“Since they didn’t give details of real spells in the books,” Lacey was continuing, “it took a little searching to get what we were after, but it was worth it.” She was looking through her pages and finally stopped and held one up. “See . . . it’s this one. It has the whole thing here. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t work. It’s probably the rest of you who aren’t concentrating and really believing with me!”

“Now, just a minute,” said Darrin, who was also Lacey’s age. “Don’t go blaming us. We all did our part. But you’ve got to admit, conjuring up a hurricane is a pretty big job. We’ve only done little things so far, like making the Mitchell’s cat run around in circles for two days, and making all three of Tommy Miller’s gold fish die at the same time.”

“Yeah,” agreed Kelly, who would just be entering sixth grade next year.

Nick was the only member of the group who hadn’t spoken yet. He too would be starting sixth grade next year, and he wanted to sound as grown up as the rest of them. He added his thoughts now. “And after all, we have been getting some real storms every night.”

“But you know what Sally’s professors at the school of witchcraft told her when she was learning to work her spells,” Lacey said. “You have to really concentrate and believe.”

“Well, I don’t know how much harder we can concentrate than we are now,” her brother said.

“Maybe we need to meet more often than we have been,” Lacey suggested now.

“I can’t take the chance on sneaking out of the house any more than I already do,” Kelly said. “I almost got caught last time. Besides . . . I don’t know why we have to conjure up a hurricane anyway. It was your idea, Lacey, but I’m still not sure I want to be in a hurricane.”

Lacey turned angry eyes on Kelly. “See . . . you weren’t really agreeing with the rest of us and believing with us! You’re the problem!”

“I am not! I was believing the best I could. It’s just that I’m scared!”

Darrin was Kelly’s cousin, and he patted her on the shoulder as he spoke. “There’s nothing to be afraid of, Kelly. We’re the one’s in control of this stuff. We can conjure up the hurricane just enough to enjoy all the excitement, and then we can get rid of it . . . right, Lacey?” He looked at their leader as he asked the question.

“Of course. Stop being a baby, Kelly.”

“Well, I have to go home now,” Nick said. “Are we going to try to meet more often or not?”

“Why don’t we wait and see if everything we did tonight will make the storm tomorrow night any worse than this one,” Troy said. “Then we can decide.”

“Okay,” Lacey agreed. “We won’t meet again until the night after tomorrow, but let’s start a little earlier. Maybe that will make a difference. Unless, of course, we get our hurricane tomorrow night. We said those extra chants tonight after the storm died down, so maybe that will be enough.”

“Okay,” they all agreed in chorus and got up from their positions and began blowing out the candles. They collected the various symbols and potions that it was their responsibility to bring to the meetings, and began to disperse to their own homes, slipping through neighbors’ yards and down alleys.

They all lived within three blocks of each other, so it wasn’t hard to get around that way, but as soon as they left the garage, all five of them ran as fast as they could to get home. For some reason . . . even though they never admitted it . . . they always felt scared after they’d had a séance or been conjuring. But they believed what they’d read in all the Sally Stone books: They would get over being scared as they gained power.

Look for Chapter Three tomorrow.


I’ve decided to offer my inspirational novel RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT for free reading on this website — unabridged — one chapter a day. I wrote the story several years ago, and it was first published in 2016. It’s available in paperback and digital on Amazon, but I wanted to share it with my followers this month for free. At the end of October, the chapters will be removed from this site.

The story is fiction, but it conveys the reality of witchcraft and its dangers, and also conveys the truth that Jesus Christ and His blood are more powerful than all witchcraft. Because the book focus on the spiritual warfare that takes place when demonic forces try to capture the hearts and lives of people, but God’s forces move in to defeat those demonic powers, I felt it was fitting to offer it in the weeks leading up to Halloween. After reading RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT, no one can ever look at Halloween quite the same as they did before reading the book.

I thought perhaps some of my readers might like a little background concerning the creating of the book so I’m offering that background here first. If you’re the kind of reader who isn’t interested in background and just want to get right into the story, you can skip down to where Chapter One begins. 🙂

Here’s How It All Began

Most of my friends know that I have a great love for lighthouses, and several years ago, two of my best friends, Roy and Donna Manasco, came across a small print of a painting by Steven Sundram, “Sureal Moments,” which focused on a lighthouse standing as sentry over a vast expanse of beach during a storm, and a beautiful solid white horse approaching the lighthouse. They bought the print for me and presented it to me as a gift on a Sunday morning at church. I was delighted with the scene immediately, and after arriving home with it, I sat and looked at it for some time before setting it aside to concentrate on my work. I was in the middle of writing two novels at the time, and they needed all my attention. So I had intended to work on one of them most of the rest of the day.

However, I placed Steve Sundram’s picture against the music rack of my keyboard, and sat down on the sofa across from it to eat some lunch. As I ate, I kept looking at the picture, and it literally drew me into it until my imagination began to build to the point that I felt I knew the place personally. Words began flowing through me, as if I were describing it in detail for someone else. I felt that I knew the people who lived there, who walked that beach and shared their lives on it. (Although they are not visible in the painting, they are there.) I even felt as if I knew the horse. I knew his name was Moondancer.

But I also recognized what was happening inside me: I was on the verge of birthing a brand new novel based on that picture. Now, at that time, I had already written six inspirational novels, three of which had been published and were currently on the market. However, every novel I had written previously had been born out of a specific story in my own mind — based on a particular character, problem, or theme. I had never written a novel that focused on a setting of any kind, and even my five-book series The Smoky Mountain Series, keeps the focus on the setting at a minimum.

So starting a book based solely on a physical setting was completely out of character for me. Furthermore, I scolded myself for even thinking about starting a new novel when the current books were still not finished. Immediately, I jumped up, walked over to the picture, turned it around backwards so that I could not see it anymore, and tried to finish my lunch.

But by the time I had finished eating, the descriptive passages flowing through my mind had grown into paragraphs. I fought off the temptation to sit down to the computer and pull up a blank page. I told myself that I absolutely had to finish the other work, one part of which was facing a specific deadline. But those words kept pressing through me. I managed to leave the room and do something else for several minutes, but before I knew it, I was back in the living room, turning the picture back around and looking at it again. I put it down and picked it up multiple times.

Eventually I began to get a handle on the main character — a man who had suffered serious emotional trauma and needed healing. A man who had made his way to this ocean, this beach, this place – in order to find peace and quiet, time and solitude, a touch of eternity — so that he could heal. At that point I didn’t know what he had suffered or what he was running from. Nor did I have any insight into what form and process his healing would take. I just knew that the story would be his story; he would be living there temporarily, and that the other people who lived there were going to have a significant part to play in his healing.

I fought the temptation and the draw of that painting until 3:00 in the afternoon, at which time, I sat down at my computer, pulled up a blank page, and began writing the novel Racing Toward the Light. Of course, it didn’t have the title at that point. But I wrote everything I saw and felt in that painting, and I didn’t stop writing until I had the lighthouse inhabited and the main character named Noah Bennet. I still didn’t know what his terrible past was or what would happen to him in the story, but I was determined to find out. And I can say, without any reservation, that I virtually lived in that painting for the entire three months it took to write the story.

Over the next two weeks, I realized two things: this story would take the bold step of dealing with the subject of the supernatural, which had been experiencing a resurgence in literature and movies at the time. Several conversations that I had with other people concerning the surge of interest in supernatural subjects, especially witchcraft and its effects, led me to realize that I had the rest of the story in that subject matter.

I’ve learned that when an author lets a story begin to tell itself on paper, he finds that it has within itself much more than he ever thought about when he wrote the first word. This story, conceived out of a picture of an unnamed place, built itself into a masterpiece that takes an intimate look into the world of the supernatural while, at the same time, allowing readers to follow the earthly characters as their lives relate to and are impacted by the supernatural realm. The story of spiritual warfare in both realms is sure to inspire and encourage faith in the readers.   

Racing Toward The Light also gradually eased its way into a powerful love story. That’s the second thing I realized: that in every book, whether the author planned it or not, there is a love story just waiting to be told. So I’ve told this one.

I want to express my appreciation once again to artist Steve Sundram for his generous arrangement for the use of his painting for the cover of the book. It you’d like to check out more of his great work, you can find him at

Now, to get into the story …


© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner


He was forcing his way through bushes and tree limbs that pulled at his sleeves and scratched his face. Moving as quickly as he could, he wasn’t even trying to be quiet. There wasn’t time to be quiet. Please, God, let us be in time! Please let us be in time! But it was so dark. Was it usually this dark? He’d camped in these woods, but he didn’t remember the feeling of being smothered in thick darkness like he was experiencing now.

Three deputies flanked Noah Bennett on either side, each of them sweeping the wooded terrain with the same kind of high-powered flashlight that he was carrying himself. I should have tried harder! I should have made myself stay focused on this! His breathing was ragged and his chest so tight; he wondered if he might actually be having a heart attack.

“Over here,” one of the deputies called out, and Noah turned abruptly toward the clearing on the right, crushing a portion of a bush beneath his boot to get past it in a hurry. All the light beams converged on the spot the deputy was looking at on the ground. There was the pentagram. And close to it a recently dowsed fire.

“This must be the place,” Noah heard himself say,

and as he began to sweep the beam of his light around, one of the other deputies pointed out a silver flash with his own light. The steel of the ritualistic knife glittered tauntingly at all of the men, as one of them reached down to pick it up with a gloved hand.

And then … they saw her.

Noah felt the agonizing groan begin in the deepest part of his abdomen. He felt the full force of it as it raged all the way through him. He felt his knees hit the ground with a painful thud as the groan finally escaped in a tormented cry ….

Sheriff Noah Bennett woke up sobbing like a child … again. He was wringing wet with sweat, and his sobs shook his whole body. He finally sat upright and grabbed his head. He had to get his stomach to settle down quickly, or he’d throw up again too. By sheer willpower, he managed to swallow the bile and begin to take deep enough breaths that the sobbing finally subsided. When he was under control enough to be able to move, he shoved himself off the bed and onto his knees beside it. Burying his head in the damp sheets, he tried to pray … again. This had to end. … Sometime … this had to end!

A mile out from shore, the ocean was a vast, undulating, lead-gray blanket. But as the currents approached the beach that held them in check by the decree of God, the waves became gentle, but persistent swirls of iridescent silver. As they washed against the land, their substance danced high into the air as if a huge bottle of champagne had been poured out into a giant punch bowl.

The dramatic change in the water’s color resulted from the fact that a lighthouse stood atop a modest knoll whose base stretched across the beach almost to the very edge of the water at high tide. The arm of light rushed out to meet the darkness, which was made more intense because of heavy clouds that almost rested on the surface of the water a couple of miles out and covered most of the sky over the coast. The only opening in the cloud cover was just to the right of the lighthouse itself, but it wasn’t letting any moonlight through. So the only radiance came from the beam that swept its ruling arc across its vast domain every fifteen seconds. But the darkness was no match for that penetrating light. The beacon was so intense that it forced, not only the ocean, but even those heavy clouds to reflect that light into the atmosphere. It was in the brilliance of that light that the caps of the waves became like silver lace, and the hundreds of water droplets like sparkling diamonds.

The wind had picked up. But it was often stronger on this part of the beach than it was farther inland, and the combined sound of wind and waves usually served more as a lullaby to the inhabitants of the lighthouse than it did a disturbance. At least that used to be the case . . . until the last couple of weeks. The light itself had been automated several years ago, but the house was still a quaint, but quite livable place. That being the case, the old man who had operated the light during the last decade had opted to lease the house for his home, with the understanding that he would service and repair the equipment that carried on most of the operations now.

His six-year-old great-grandson David had come to live with him almost a year ago, along with his aunt Serenity, the old man’s elder granddaughter. David’s mother was Serenity’s younger sister, and she and her husband had died in an accident while traveling abroad, leaving their son in the guardianship of his aunt.

The boy was sitting now in the window seat of his bedroom, looking out at the beach, the light beam sweeping enough light through the window periodically to bring a glow to his room and turn his blond head into a bright halo. He had his chin propped in his hand, his elbow propped on the windowsill, and he was deep in conversation with the Lord.

“And if I did have a horse, You know I’d take really good care of him, so Gramps and Aunt Sere wouldn’t have to do anything at all. I’d feed him and brush him and clean out his stall . . . well . . . when he had a stall.” That point was where he always got stuck in his well-rehearsed plan. He had his eye on an old shed that stood in back of the lighthouse and even had a rather wobbly fence part of the way around it. But he hadn’t figured out a way to convince his grandfather and aunt that he was old enough to help fix both the fence and the shed so as to allow for the housing of a horse.

“Well, Lord, I bet Trent’s dad would help fix it all up,” he finally said now. Trent was the seven-year-old boy whose parents had moved to Hamsted the week after school had let out for the summer. The boys had become almost inseparable friends over the next two weeks, and now they shared their dreams and plans with each other. Naturally, Trent thought the idea of David’s having a horse of his very own was “super,” and he had assured David that he would help all he could to figure out a way to make it happen.

As David continued talking with the Lord, his aunt, in the adjacent room was having her own conversation with her Heavenly Father. Serenity, who had been a writer for the last fifteen of her thirty-two years, was not used to having a child to care for, but she loved her nephew David fervently, and her decision to move him and herself to the lighthouse with her grandfather had been based on three things.

One was the fact that she was especially concerned about Gramps, particularly since he lived completely alone and in a rather isolated area. Since the family’s tragic loss, he hadn’t made much effort to mix with the people in the small town two miles up the road from the coast . . . or with the visitors that rented cottages on the beach during the summer. But Serenity had hoped that her and David’s presence there would encourage her grandfather to rejuvenate his waning friendships and to become an active part of the small community again.

The second reason she had made the decision was that she felt David needed a place of quiet and peace in which to recover from his own grief, and his devotion to his great-grandfather could only be an added help. And thirdly, Serenity knew that if she were going to be able to concentrate on her own work, so as not to lose her income, she would also need a quiet place, as well as someone to help take responsibility for David from time to time. This decision seemed the perfect solution since Gramps was eager to spend much of his time with David, and all three of them were delighted with the arrangement. For now, at least.

Since the family’s tragedy had occurred right after the school year had begun, and then Serenity and David had moved to be with Gramps immediately, she and her grandfather had decided that home-schooling David for the first year would be better than causing him to have to get used to a brand new school and then perhaps be moved again in another year. But soon he would be seven years old, and she felt that before long, he would once again need to be in an environment where he was with other children his own age more than he was now. He went to church and Sunday School, and he got along well with all of the other children there, but he had been so withdrawn and quiet since his parents’ deaths that Serenity had been a little worried. However, just lately, he seemed to be getting back to being the active, joyful child he’d always been previously.

Her thoughts drifted now as she changed into her gown and prepared for sleep. She didn’t usually go to bed at 10:00, but she’d been up writing until 3:00 A.M. the last two mornings, and the need for sleep was finally catching up with her. She started thinking about David’s schooling again.

“I’m just not sure what’s best, Lord,” she prayed now. “It’s so hard making all the decisions for someone else’s life, knowing that if I make a mistake, David could be the one to suffer.” She smiled now as she thought of her nephew in the room next to hers. Maybe he needed to be in a bigger town where he could interact with more different kinds of people than he could in this little place on the coast. The town of Hamsted was hardly more than a village actually, but she liked the people. And most of the town seemed to really care about keeping their school up to date and academically sound.

She let out a sigh. “Well, Lord, there’s still a few more weeks yet before we have to make a final decision. I know You’ll show me what You want me to do.”

She stretched out on her bed now. Sometimes she found herself wishing she had found someone to love and begin a family with, the way her sister had. She loved children and would like several of her own, even if it meant not having nearly as much time to write. She had dated from time to time, and she had a number of men friends and writing associates, but nothing had ever really “clicked” somehow. And, now, she realized she had added another dimension to the way men would see her, because she was now, to all intents and purposes, a mother as well as a successful career woman . . . not the most attractive combination to most single men in their thirties or forties.

Oh, well . . . she’d have to leave all that in the Lord’s hands. And she was usually pretty good at doing just that. But sometimes . . . like tonight she lay in her bed watching the beam of light sweep across the terrain … she felt unutterably lonely for the arms and the quiet, comforting, love words of a strong Christian man.

She sighed gently, rolling over to her other side, where she couldn’t see out the window, and closed her eyes. Then she returned to the prayer she had left unfinished when her thoughts had started to drift. “You know what I need better than I do, Lord. You know that I need more than just someone for myself now. I need someone who will be able to love David and help me raise him up in Your Word. I still have serious doubts about being able to do that by myself. But please, Lord, help me not to jump into some relationship out of fear that I can’t do it alone. That would be worse than anything.”

She yawned and pulled the cover a little higher until it nestled beneath her chin. “Thank You for making us able to come here, Lord. It’s helped all three of us a lot.” She yawned again, and somewhere in the midst of thanking the Lord for working everything out, she drifted into a peaceful sleep.

David was still happily chatting with the Lord about the desire of his heart, convinced that the Lord would provide a horse soon, As he continued to plan, he looked out at the beach. The broad expanse of sand stretched away from the lighthouse, eventually spreading out in front of the summer cottages that dotted that area for about two miles along the coast. David couldn’t see the first cottage from his room, but up in the top of the lighthouse, he could see almost all of them. They were spread out far enough to allow each family to feel as if they had their own private part of the beach, but were within easy walking distance of each other.

As his blue-gray eyes scanned the wave-swept coast, seeing only dim outlines except when the rhythmic arc of light swept around, David suddenly came to attention. Was he seeing things? Had he fallen asleep and started dreaming, he wondered. He sat up straighter and squinted his eyes to try to see better, but he had to wait for the light to pass over the beach again to be sure.

“Yes!” he said out loud, jumping to his knees on the window seat and pushing out the lightweight, temporary screen so that he could lean out of the window. “A horse . . . a real horse!” Right before his eyes a large, solid white stallion came galloping straight toward the lighthouse. A short distance away, the horse stopped and seemed to turn and prance around for a while, almost as if he were frolicking in the surf. Then he ran toward the lighthouse again, stopping again after several yards to do the same thing.

David was enthralled. He’d never seen such a beautiful animal. He’d often imagined what his own horse would look like, but he’d never imagined anything like this. He laughed softly as he watched, enjoying the horse’s antics almost as much as the stallion himself seemed to do. Suddenly, the horse stopped and arched his neck, whinnying softly. He looked right at David and started to trot over closer to the house.

By this time, David was leaning way out of the window, reaching his arm out to encourage the horse to come closer. He was aware that he needed to be quiet if he didn’t want to wake his aunt, but he just couldn’t resist calling softly to the horse. “Come on, Boy,” he said, trying to keep his voice down, but finding it very hard to do since he didn’t want to miss a chance to pet this horse. “Come on, Boy,” he said again, motioning the horse toward him from where it had stopped a few feet away from the house. Slowly, the stallion sidled up to the window, snorting and blowing softly, and David was finally able to touch his nose and pet him.

“You’re the best horse I’ve ever seen in my whole life!” he said now, and was rewarded with the horse’s moving close enough to nuzzle David’s shoulder as he hung way past the window ledge. Finally, David couldn’t resist any longer. He climbed swiftly out of the window, thankful that it was only a couple of feet from the ground, and stood beside the stallion. He hadn’t realized quite how big the horse was until he was standing in his bare feet beside the animal. But he wasn’t afraid. This horse must be an answer to his prayers.

Of course, his very next thought was that he probably belonged to somebody living in one of the cottages, but . . . well . . . he could pretend for a little while, couldn’t he? “Would you let me ride you?” he asked the horse now, and his only answer was the same soft blowing sound the animal had made before. So David figured it was worth a try and began looking around for a way to get up on the white stallion’s back. Finally he spotted the small boat that was turned upside down on a sand dune off to the side of the lighthouse, and he slowly moved toward it, never letting his hand slide from the horse’s neck.

“Come this way, Boy,” he said, and the horse moved with him as if he had been obeying the boy his whole life. As soon as David had himself and the horse in position, he climbed up on to the highest part of the boat and reached up to grab the horse around the neck. He threw his strong young body into one giant jump and managed to land on the stallion’s back, holding onto his mane in a vice grip so as not to slide off. He had no idea it would feel this way to be so high off of the ground. But as he felt the horse shift its stance slightly, moving beneath him, he felt as if they were one, and he knew he was right where he’d always wanted to be.

“Okay, Boy,” he said, leaning over the horse’s neck to talk as close to his ear as possible. “Take me for a ride.” He pulled very gently on the mane to try to turn the animal’s head in the direction of the beach, and then he nudged his heels . . . also very gently . . . against the stallion’s sides to encourage him to get started. “Giddy up,” he said, not knowing what else to say to a horse to get him moving, and to his great delight, the stallion began to trot across the lighthouse yard and move along the beach, back the way he had come. Once he was several feet away from the house, he began to run along the surf’s edge, and David, holding on for dear life, was laughing with delight. By this time, he was far enough away from the house to feel pretty sure he wouldn’t wake his aunt or Gramps.

They raced along the beach, boy and horse, free as the wind and the waves, flying past the first cottage and then the second, but still within the protective arc of light that swept over their path in its appointed intervals. But the wind was picking up even more, and thunder started to roll through the clouds that had continued to thicken during the past hour. After another minute, lightening began to flash in jagged arrows out over the ocean as the brewing storm began to move inland.

Those warning signals, which would have meant a great deal to any adult considering going out at that time, were lost on the six-year-old boy, who was finally realizing the power of a dream come true. And besides, he’d lived on the ocean long enough to see a number of storms there, especially recently, and he didn’t have any fear of them. Why should he? As far as he was concerned, they were all just part of the water, the sky, and the earth that he’d come to appreciate with a new passion since he’d come here to live. So he felt free to abandon himself to the ride as only a child can do.

About a mile down the beach, in the fourth cottage, Noah Bennett was wakened from his sleep for the second time. As he turned over, he heard the heavy roll of thunder and noticed that the lightening looked pretty intense. Exhausted by the earlier sobbing prayer, he had finally managed to get back to sleep an hour ago. There was just no rest tonight. But since he was wide awake again, he decided to get up and step outside to see what was going on with the weather. It wouldn’t hurt to check on Moondancer either. This was the stallion’s first night in the makeshift corral on the beach, and he wasn’t sure how the animal would take to it in rough weather.

He slipped a pair of blue jeans over the underwear he usually slept in, and since he knew the wind over the ocean was usually chilly, he grabbed up his lightweight jacket and put it on over his tee shirt. When he stepped out the door, he sniffed the air, aware that there was something about the atmosphere that made him feel unpleasant. It was nothing he could put his finger on, but . . . he just stood on his porch, looking out over the water at the fast approaching storm, trying to figure out what it was he felt.

Storms didn’t frighten him. He’d worked right through some of the worst of them in his years in law-enforcement. When he’d been a cop in a midwestern city, he’d had his share of experience with weather catastrophes. Then when he’d made the switch to a deputy sheriff position in the Southwest, and had eventually been elected sheriff himself, it was torrential rainstorms and the dangerous flash floods that he’d had to concentrate on in order to protect his people. He shook his head now, in thought.

No, it wasn’t the fact that there was a heavy storm approaching that made him feel this way. But it was something in the air. Almost as if the whole atmosphere were boiling with a menacing attitude, and as if the storm were just the outward manifestation of whatever it was that was at the root of the situation. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders. He’d come here to get some rest and recuperation. He’d better stop letting his gut feelings have so much effect on him if he expected to be successful at getting that much needed rest.

But he knew the Lord had given His followers spiritual authority over the elements of nature, and it was his habit to take that authority over storms, so he did so now. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I take authority over all of you elements of weather right now. I command you to submit to your Creator, and I bind you from becoming destructive in any form anywhere along this beach, or in the town connected to it.” Then he spoke to the Lord personally. “Father, I thank you for that authority, and for Your protection in the name of Jesus. Amen.” He stepped off the porch then and started for the corral and shed where he had installed Moondancer.

But what he saw when he rounded the cottage stopped him in his tracks and struck him dumb. The corral gate was open and Moondancer was gone. He shook his head. That horse! There wasn’t even a moon out tonight, he thought, looking up at the sky and around the beach. Of course, there was the lighthouse, and that arc of light was brilliant. It just might have been enough of a calling card for a horse that seemed to have been born to frolic at night when the moon was bright. He’d never seen a horse so fond of racing around and just plain having a good time in the middle of the night.

That’s how he’d come by his name, of course. Noah had bought the stallion when he was just a year old, and from the first time he’d taken him home, he’d recognized that he had a horse with a unique personality. But it had suited Noah most of the time, because some nights when he’d come home, burdened down by some of the crime he’d had to deal with, Moondancer was literally champing at the bit to get out in the moonlight and run. They’d raced across many a field and country road at night, and even in the wee hours of the morning, letting the crisp night air and the star-studded sky wash Noah clean from the crud that seemed to cling to some parts of his job.

But tonight was different. Moondancer wasn’t at home. He was in a strange place. Noah decided he’d better walk along the beach and see if he could find him before the storm really broke. He didn’t have to guess which way to head. That horse always ran toward the light. Noah chuckled softly to himself at that thought. Well . . . that was a good plan for a man as well as for a horse. Wasn’t that what the Word of God said? Jesus came to bring light . . . and He was the light of men. So no matter what was going on in a person’s life, his best plan was to always turn toward the light and head for it as straight as he could go.

Noah had been walking along with his head down, thinking, but now suddenly he jerked it up. He thought he’d heard a horse whinny. Sure enough, here came that beautiful white stallion, flying like the wind, the ocean spray splashing around his ankles.

But then Noah looked closer. “What on earth!” he said out loud. There was someone on Moondancer’s back. That horse never let anyone ride him unless Noah got on his back with the new rider and let Moondancer get used to him gradually. And then he refused most people even after all of that. How in the world did some kid . . . he could see now that the rider was a child . . . how in the world did that boy get Moondancer to take him up and allow him to stay there?

As they came within a few feet of Noah, the horse slowed to a trot and gradually sidled up to his owner. Noah could see now that the boy was the great-grandson of the lighthouse manager. He’d met the family last season when he’d been here visiting his sister and brother-in-law for a week. He’d really liked Clint, the grandfather, and they had swapped some good fishing stories. Then he’d spoken momentarily to David and his aunt on the beach two days ago. He looked up at the boy whose face was wreathed in an enormous grin. As he did so, he reached out and placed an authoritative hand on Moondancer’s neck. The horse knew to stand still and wait for instructions.

“Well, well,” Noah spoke to the boy in a friendly voice, “what have we here? Are you playing cowboy in the middle of the night?”

“Is this your horse, Mister Bennett?” David asked, excitement still filling his voice as a result of the ride.

“Yep. He’s mine. His name’s Moondancer. And my first name’s Noah, by the way. Why don’t you call me that?”

“Okay. Do you remember my name?”

“It’s David, right?”

David nodded his head. “Right.”

“Well, David, I’m just wondering . . . do your aunt and grandpa know you’re out riding at this time of night?”

David looked a little sheepish, dropping his eyes and letting his tongue slip out between his lips and slide back and forth slowly . . . a habit he had when he was nervous or unsure of himself. Noah almost grinned, but he knew he’d blow his whole image as a disciplinarian if he did, so he fought the urge. “It looks like you’re in your PJ’s to me. Aren’t you cold?”

David looked up then and just shrugged his shoulders. Noah figured the boy was probably just now discovering how chilly it really was out in this damp wind and that he wasn’t going to admit it for any reason. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you come on in and have something warm to drink, and then I’ll see about getting you back home, okay?”

David nodded, and Noah began to lead Moondancer toward the cottage, David still on his back. “Why do you call him Moondancer?” the boy asked as they sauntered along.

“Well, from the time he was barely more than a colt, he’s loved to go out at night and race in the moonlight. Sometimes, when I don’t have time to ride him myself, I’ll look out and see him trotting and prancing around almost like he’s putting on a show. So the name just seemed to fit him. What do you think?”

David nodded again. “That’s what he was doing over by my house. And then he just came right up to my window and let me pet him.”

“How did you get on his back?”

“I climbed up on an old boat that was turned upside down and then I jumped the best I could, and there I was!”

“And Moondancer didn’t seem to mind?”

“Huhnuh! He stood real still.”

Noah just shook his head. It was certainly a first. But by that time, he had the boy and horse back to his cottage, so he reached up and took David off of Moondancer’s back and stood him on the porch. It was beginning to rain steadily, so he said, “You step on inside where it’s dry, and I’ll be right in . . . as soon as I make sure old Moondancer here can’t do any more running around on his own.”

When the horse had been secured to Noah’s satisfaction, he returned to the cottage and put some milk in the microwave for some cocoa. He got a towel and dried David off the best he could and then dried himself. He slipped off his wet jacket and went into the bedroom for a shirt to put around David to help get him warm quicker. “You know, Dave, I think I should call your aunt and let her know you’re safe, because it’s raining so hard now that we may have to sit here a while before I can take you home. We don’t want her to worry if she checks on you and finds you gone, do we?”

David shook his head, but he was holding it down, knowing there was bound to be some trouble when his aunt found out what he’d been doing. But after a brief moment, he looked up at Noah, his eyes shining and declared, “It was worth it!” He didn’t have to say anything else, because Noah knew exactly what he meant.

In fact, Noah was a little envious right at that moment. It had been a long time since he’d done something just because it fulfilled a dream or a great desire of his heart, not stopping to count the cost, but just throwing himself into living the moment and savoring it. He reached out and tousled David’s blond hair. “I’ll ask her to go easy on you,” he said, and then added, “but . . . I want you to promise me that you won’t take off in the middle of the night for any reason at all without telling your aunt first . . . not for any reason.” David looked at him out of very solemn eyes, and Noah continued. “If you’ll promise me that, I’ll think about letting you ride Moondancer sometimes in the daytime, when it’s safer. What do you say?”

David’s eyes grew bigger and brighter, and then his little face took on a serious demeanor. “I promise,” he said, nodding his head for emphasis. “I promise.”

“Good,” Noah said, and reached into the microwave to get the cocoa. He set the mug in front of David and turned to the phone.

Watch for Chapter Two tomorrow.

Craving Candy — limerick

It is candy I’m craving today.
Just can’t get enough; there’s no way.
I have bought by the bag,
And my conscience it nags,
That I’m eating too much every day.

I have friends who are nutritionists,
And to eat healthily they insist,
I feel guilty as sin,
When I spend time with them,
So their company I’ve had to miss.

Every time I must go to the store
I check my sweet stash to make sure
That I have quite enough
Of the stress-easing stuff,
And if not, I make sure to buy more.

Yes, I know that I eat to de-stress;
It’s a weakness in me, I confess.
But these sugary treats
Keep me smiling and sweet.
Health food never has that much success.

Just a Reminder

Just a reminder that I will be continuing to devote an hour a day Monday through Friday each week — for a season — to pray specifically for any and all requests that come in through my websites or Facebook page. If you need prayer for any needs, I will gladly take them to the Lord in the name of Jesus Christ. His finished work and His blood have bought freedom for us from the evil that comes against us in this world, but we must lay hold of that deliverance and freedom by faith in His Word.

I’ve received requests to pray for individuals, families, and churches. The list is growing rapidly, but it’s never too long or too hard for God. He loves to answer prayer.

Do not ask me to pray for so-called “unspoken requests.” My faith comes from the promises of God’s Word, and unless I know what I’m praying for, I can’t know there’s a promise for it. So you’ll need to be specific concerning what you need from the Lord.

Please DO NOT post your requests in the comment section below. I will delete prayer requests from there. Send your requests by e-mail to my ministry e-mail address:

You may feel free to comment on this post in a normal manner. Just don’t specify your private requests on this site, where thousands of people have access to them. Everything you send to the ministry e-mail will remain confidential. Only God and I — and occasionally another member of my ministry team — will know about them.

The Passing

Original Watercolor © Sandra Pavloff Conner

Today the old chief passed,
Enwreathed by potent memories
Of battles fierce, of freedoms lost,
Of smoking pipe with enemies
Who swore to keep the peace treaties
But quickly spurned such promises
When greed for lands gained upper hand.
Today the old chief passed
And hastened to his ancestors,
To mountains, valleys, fertile plains,
Sparkling rivers, fields of grain,
Miles and miles of vast domain
Where Cherokee live free again,
Never again to be betrayed.
The old chief passed today.

Do You Need Prayer This Week?

I believe the Lord has called me to a special hour of prayer for the needs of others tomorrow — Wednesday, July 21 — from 1:00-2:00 p.m. I’m inviting anyone out there with prayer needs to let me know if you’d like for me to pray for you specifically.  Please do not ask for prayer for so-called “unspoken requests.” The only way I can pray in faith about anything is if I know for sure what I’m praying for and can find the promises in the Word of God that cover those needs. That’s impossible to do with a request that is totally unidentified. But if you have any specific requests, feel free to let me know sometime between now and noon tomorrow.

Please DO NOT leave your request on this page. You can e-mail your requests to me at my ministry e-mail at the address below. You will need to have your request turned in by noon tomorrow, U.S. CDT.  I would love to pray for you and see the Lord move supernaturally to meet your needs in the name of Jesus Christ.

Let’s Talk Coffee Podcast Trailer/Intro

This short podcast is the trailer/intro for my newest series of podcast episodes coming soon. I’m posting it today as an experiment to make sure all parts of my theme are cooperating with me on this venture. It will be about another week before I start publishing regular episodes, but I’ll be sure and let you know so that you can listen from here or from other major podcast venues.

PLEASE HELP:  I’ve set a picture for this post for now, but I’m having trouble deciding which picture to use for my cover art for the podcast when it appears on other venues.  Would you be so kind as to drop down to the “Comment” section and let me know which of the pictures you think would be best. You can choose from the one I’ve set as the temporary image above, or any one of these others I’ve inserted below this paragraph. Thanks a lot for your help.

Most Important Verse in our National Anthem

“So thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blessed with victory and peace, may this Heaven-rescued land
Praise the God that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

(Francis Scott Key)