© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner



The next morning when Lacey and Troy got to school for the Library Club, they were early enough that only one or two other students were there, and they were busy setting up some materials Miss Parker was going to use that morning. “Oh, I’m glad you two are here early,” she said to them. “Troy, I need you to count the number of take-home packets we have left on that shelf by the window, and Lacey I could use your help in my office, if you’re willing.”

“Sure, Miss Parker, “ she said and followed the librarian into her little office while Troy moved over to the bookshelf by the window to do his part.

“Now, Lacey, I’ve ordered a number of new books for the library, and I’d like for us to be able to use some of them this summer, but I haven’t had time to check to see exactly which ones have come in so far. Would you be willing to go through all the books in these two boxes and put a check mark beside the titles on my list if those books are here?”

“Sure,” she answered taking the list that Miss Parker handed her, along with a pen from the desk and going over to the two boxes sitting on the floor in the corner. As she worked quickly, she didn’t pay any attention to anything else, until she realized she was hearing Mr. Kelso’s voice. At that she glanced behind her briefly and saw that he was standing in the doorway talking quietly to Miss Parker.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t get to you earlier, but I was tied up with some other problems and got here later than usual. I wanted you to know before you start that you won’t be having David Hartford and Trent Matthews in the program anymore. Their mothers withdrew them yesterday.” Miss Parker made some kind of face that he had never seen her make before, and he didn’t know exactly what it meant, but when she answered him, it was in her usual tone of voice.

“Well . . . I’m not really too surprised. They just couldn’t seem to fit into the program at all. They almost seemed afraid to play the mind-expanding games, and I heard both of them say something about the books not being something God wanted them to read.” She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s a shame, but some people just won’t allow themselves to progress in the development of their inner selves.”

“Well, I think there was a problem with one of them having some nightmares too, and some strange events that the two ladies attributed to the material they had been exposed to here. I told them about how much the program has helped some of the other students, and that it is positively received here because of that, but they just didn’t feel comfortable about the boys coming back. I’m sorry, Miss Parker. I know you try very hard.”

“Thank you, Mr. Kelso. I do try very hard, and I’m seeing some fine progress with most of the children, so I’m not going to take this little event as a setback. But thank you for telling me as soon as possible.”

“Oh, and I meant to tell you that Miss Lawrence did ask to speak with you personally yesterday before she saw me, but you were unavailable, of course. So I assured both ladies that I would fill you in thoroughly, and both of them said that if you should have any questions, you should feel free to call them.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary. As a matter of fact, Mr. Kelso . . . well . . . I hope you’ll understand what I mean by this . . .” she paused as if searching for words. “Well, let me just say that sometimes if you have a person who cannot get into the spirit of the project, he can often interfere with the development of the other people who really want to succeed at it. I think perhaps, in the long run, this is for the best.”

“Well, I’m glad you can look at it that way, then. I’ll go now and let you get to your work. I see most of your students are here now. Have a good day.”

“You too,” she said, as he slipped back out into the hallway and she went into the main room to welcome the children.

So, Lacey thought now, the two smart alecks who thought they were too good to read the books the rest of us read aren’t coming back. About that time, Troy walked in and told her Miss Parker was beginning the class. “Hey, Troy did you hear? Those two boys, Trent and David, have quit the Library Club.”

“How come?”

“Well, you know they said all kinds of silly stuff about God not wanting us to read the Sally Stone books, and they wouldn’t play the games with the rest of the kids. Miss Parker said they were scared. And that’s just what they are: scaredy-cats and smart alecks. I’m glad they’re gone.”

“Who told you?”

“I heard Mr. Kelso telling Miss Parker. She thinks it’s better that they’re gone too. We can all get more out of the classes without somebody like them around. One of them is just an old cry-baby anyway. He had some bad dreams, and now his mommy doesn’t want him to come back.” Her nasty, mocking didn’t seem to affect her brother. Troy just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, I guess they’re just too young to appreciate it.”

“But you started reading the Sally Stone books when you were only a year older than them, and you appreciated them, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. I guess you’re right. Anyway, class is started; get out here,” he added, turning back into the main library room, and Lacey followed him, a gleeful look in her eyes. For some reason, she felt that her day had just taken a turn for the better.

By late Thursday afternoon, Serenity was a bundle of nerves. She hadn’t been out on a date since she’d gone back to Cincinnati for several days during Easter week. Then she had gone to dinner twice with a man she had dated frequently before moving to the lighthouse. He was a photographer, and they had worked together on several magazine articles and had become good friends. But Serenity didn’t feel anything beyond a strong friendship for him, and she certainly hadn’t had any butterflies or sweaty palms as she prepared for their evenings together.

Tonight would be different. She knew that as surely as she knew her name. She couldn’t have explained it, but she knew that what she felt when she was with Noah was altogether different from anything she had felt with the men she’d dated before. As a result, she was torn between excitement at having the chance to examine those feelings further, and concern that her feelings might be leading her to a place of heartache when Noah left the area.

“Aunt Serie, how come you’re just sitting there staring at your mirror?” David asked from behind her. She hadn’t heard him come into her room, and she couldn’t help chuckling a little now as she turned and looked at him, still in her dressing gown after her shower.

“I’m just thinking, Dave. Did you and Gramps decide what you’re going to do for supper?”

“Yeah, that’s what I came to tell you. We’re going into town to the fish restaurant, and then Gramps said we might even go to the movie. It’s one about a racehorse. Is that all right with you?”

“I think that sounds like fun. I bet you’ll both have a good time.”

“When’s Noah coming to get you?”

Serenity glanced at her watch. “Oh, my goodness! He’ll be here in about thirty minutes!” she said, shocked that she had sat so long thinking. “Come give me a kiss and then you scoot so I can get dressed quickly.”

“Okay,” he said, giggling. “You must think this is a special night if it’s taking you so long to get ready.”

“Well, it is . . . kind of. Noah and I have never gone out to dinner before.”

“Does that mean you like Noah a lot?”

Serenity tried to decide how to answer that question. “I think we all like Noah a lot, don’t we?”

“Yeah. He’s one of the best friends I’ve ever had.”

“I’m glad. Now you tell Gramps that I said for you two to have a great evening.”

“I will,” he said turning and running back to the hall to carry the message to Clint.

Twenty minutes later, Serenity was standing before her mirror in one of her favorite evening dresses. It was black and sleeveless with a squared neckline that showed off her lovely tan to perfection. The dress fell from an empire waistline in soft folds all the way to the middle of her calf, and she had completed the look with high-heeled, sandals with very thin straps. She had pulled her hair up into a cluster of curls on top of her head with a few wisps floating around her face, and her only jewelry was a pair of single pearl earrings and a single pearl on a short, delicate, gold chain around her neck. When she walked out into the living room, Clint was just on the point of coming to tell her he and David were leaving. But he stopped in his tracks and whistled.

“Now that’s what I call classy, Granddaughter. You’re sure going to attract attention tonight!” he said, grinning broadly at her. David ran up to her then, his eyes bright.

“Gosh, Aunt Serie, you never dress up like that here! You look beautiful! Noah will think so too.”

“Thank you, both of you,” Serenity said, blushing a little as they both still stared at her. “Well, you need to get going, don’t you?” she asked.

Clint chuckled and took David by the hand. “We can take a hint,” he said. “Come on, Dave. We’re not needed around here right now. See you when you get home, Honey,” he said to Serie, and whisked his great-grandson out the door.

Serenity sat down and tried to slow the rapid beating of her heart as she waited, but in no time, she heard Noah’s knock on the door. He was a little early, but at least she wouldn’t keep him waiting. So she walked over and opened the door, inviting him in and stepping back into the full light of the room. Noah stood there with his mouth slightly open, his eyes registering blatant approval of how she looked, but it was several seconds before he said anything.

“Serenity . . . you’re absolutely beautiful!” He wanted to say more, but he was having trouble getting his feelings translated into words. He had recognized the natural beauty of the woman before, but he just hadn’t expected the impact that he’d sustained when she’d opened the door tonight. Where she was usually fresh air and sunshine, tonight she was one hundred percent, tantalizing, provocative woman. And to make the package even more irresistible, there was an innocence about her that made it clear she didn’t even realize how alluring she was.

“Thank you, Noah,” she said almost shyly. “I’m ready if you’d like to leave now,” she added on a questioning note, not quite sure how to react to the look in his eyes. She would have described it as hunger if she had allowed herself to be honest, but instead, she tried to move both of them into the ordinary activities of getting away. She just wasn’t ready to deal with the other yet.

So when Noah finally cleared his throat a little and nodded that he was ready, Serie turned out all the lights except one by the sofa and walked through the door as Noah held it open for her and locked it behind them. It was the first time she had ridden in his car, and she enjoyed the fact that the interior smelled just slightly of his cologne. She inhaled the scent deeply, feeling little ripples of pleasure go through her as she did so. Then she let out a long, slow breath. Get hold of yourself, Serenity, she told herself. Don’t let this evening go to you head, for Pete’s sake.

“Comfortable?” Noah asked, looking at her and glancing to make sure her seatbelt was secure.


“Good. I know the Suburban isn’t exactly the ultimate in transportation for a rather formal evening out, but it was my best choice for this trip to the coast, since I was hauling the trailer with Moondancer. Oh . . . by the way . . . I have some news I think you’ll want to hear.”


“I’m a new uncle!” he announced, beaming.

“June had her baby!”

Noah nodded, still grinning. “A little . . . or rather . . . a big baby girl. Keith said she weighed in at nine pounds and twelve ounces.”

“No wonder June didn’t feel like doing much for the

last couple of months,” she answered, laughing. “And they’re both fine?”

“Both perfect,” according to Keith, and he gave me just about every detail he could remember. “I’m going to call and talk to June tomorrow. She was already asleep when he called me, just about an hour after the birth, and I didn’t want him to disturb her.”

“Well, I’d like to send them something. You have their address, I suppose.”

“Sure. I’ll get it to you tomorrow.”

“Oh, you haven’t told me her name.”

“Evangeline Joy Campbell.”

“Wow, that’s a mouthful, but I like it.”

“Me too,” he said, glancing at her and smiling. “As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed that we like a lot of the same things.”

“Well, people who have great taste would naturally like the same things, don’t you think,” she asked, grinning at him.

“Absolutely. And speaking of great taste, I hope you like this restaurant. It’s the newest thing in Barclay . . .The Sandcastle. It’s only been open about three weeks.”

“I read in the paper where they were having their grand opening, but I haven’t been there yet. It sounds like a fairly fancy place. I hope I’m dressed formally enough.”

“You’re dressed perfectly. I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said, smiling at her as he briefly took his eyes from the road to glance over her quickly once more. “Besides, I didn’t have a lot of choice myself. I brought only one suit with me, along with two dress shirts and two ties. I intended to loaf and rest during this period of time, so they’ll have to take me in this suit and tie or do without me altogether,” he said, laughing now.

“Well, considering how you look in that one suit, I don’t think they’re going to turn you away . . . especially if the decision is left up to a woman,” she answered, joining in his bantering mood.

Noah laughed out loud again, as he answered her. “Remind me to take you out to dinner often, Serenity. You’re very good for my ego. Would you like some quiet music?”

“Sure,” she answered, and he reached down and flipped open a small CD case. “Look through these and choose something you like.”

So Serenity chose an instrumental worship CD and put it in, adjusting the volume so that they could still talk when they wanted to. As they listened to the music, they did continue to talk sporadically, mostly about general topics and local happenings, and before they realized how much time had elapsed, they were driving into the restaurant parking lot.

The dinner was everything they could have wanted it to be, and the atmosphere in the restaurant was conducive to quiet conversation, which was what they wanted. Noah asked Serenity about her work and her years living in Cincinnati, but whenever she asked him something about his work, he gave very short answers and steered the conversation back to her as quickly as he could. She did, at least, manage to find out that he had been a police officer for several years in a large city in the Midwest before moving to the Southwest and becoming a deputy sheriff. In response to her persistence, he told her about being elected sheriff, but after that, Noah took the conversation in a totally different direction.

“Why is it you’ve never married, Serenity. You’ve surely had offers.”

She laughed lightly, but she blushed too. “Well . . . actually . . . I haven’t had any proposals yet.”

Noah’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open just a little. “Good grief, are all the men you’ve known blind or stupid?”

Serenity laughed out loud then. “Well they could all see well enough, but I don’t know for sure about the other.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I think it’s just that none of the relationships ever seemed to click . . . you know . . . that little extra something just wasn’t there. I’ve been great friends with several men in my life, but . . .” She shrugged her shoulders again and then added. “I don’t really have any explanation, I guess . . . and . . . now . . . with David in my life . . . I’m not sure that there are very many men who will want to even try and find out if something special could develop. But I certainly wouldn’t even consider not raising David. I love him as much as if he had been my own.”

“I can tell. And he feels the same way. But it’s a huge responsibility all by yourself. It was a very unselfish thing for you to do, Serenity. I’m sure the Lord is pleased with you. And . . . don’t sell yourself short . . . or most of the men in the world. There are still a few of us out there who appreciate children too.”

“Oh, I know that’s true. And I didn’t’ mean to sound as if I were accusing men of not being interested in children. It’s just that most men want to begin with just a wife for a few years and then have their own children, only when they’re ready.”

Noah shrugged. “It depends on the man. And you, Serenity, are a very special woman. I’m sure any number of men would be glad to share their life with you and help you raise David.” As he spoke he looked deeply into her eyes. They were large, emerald green jewels, and he felt as though he could look into them for hours at a time. Serenity held his gaze, her face solemn for the moment, wondering what Noah’s words just now had really meant. But after several moments, she lowered her own eyes and began to make little folds in her napkin beside her plate. They had finished eating and were having a second cup of coffee, and she knew the evening needed to come to an end soon. For some reason that made her sad, but she had to force those feelings aside.

Noah still hadn’t spoken anything else, and when she glanced back at him, he was still looking right at her, the look in his eyes more like a smoldering fire now. He sat as still as a stone, the only movement the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed, and that was rather rapid, Serenity noticed. Of course, she realized that her breathing matched his, and her heartbeat was now double what it had been five minutes ago. She had to do something to break this connection between them because if she didn’t she might drown in those eyes . . . or worse yet . . . she might say something she would regret.

She managed to tear her eyes away from his and look toward the other side of the restaurant. She took a couple of deep, slow breaths and cleared her throat. Then she glanced at her watch. “Well, it’s getting late, I guess. Do you think we should go?”

Noah glanced down at his own watch. “Not so late, really. But if you’re finished, we could leave and go for a drive down to the beach. It’s a beautiful night.”

“Yes, it is. That sounds like a good way to end the evening. The moon should be right over the ocean about now.”

So they left the restaurant and drove down to the beach, glad that there weren’t very many other people there at this time. “Shall we take a walk,” Noah asked her. “Of course, you’d have to take your shoes off. I’m sure those heels won’t make it in this sand.”

“That’s no problem,” she said and slipped off her shoes. He opened her door and took her hand, leading the way almost to the water’s edge. They strolled along, hand in hand, their fingers entwined, not saying much of anything, just feeling the beauty of the night and the warmth of each other’s presence. After several minutes, Noah realized the breeze was getting chilly, so he took off his jacket and placed it around Serenity’s shoulders, leaving his arm draped over it as they continued walking.

Finally, after they’d strolled a considerable way from the half a dozen other beach combers, they came to a small rise in the ground with a large rock formation jutting out of it toward the sea. Noah placed Serenity against it and stood in front of her as a shelter from the breeze, which was a little stronger on this part of the beach. As she leaned against the rock, he leaned toward her, placing his hands on either side of her just above her shoulders. His eyes, as he looked into hers, were burning with that same fire she had seen in the restaurant, only now it wasn’t nearly as controlled. She felt an answering flame leap within her, and she couldn’t take her eyes away from his.

Slowly, Noah moved his right hand from the rock and gently traced the line of her cheek with his index finger. Serenity shivered as his hand came to the front of her face, and he began, even more gently, to trace the line of her lips, now slightly open as she tried to reclaim her breath. Suddenly, Noah removed his hand from her and straightened up, shoving both hands into his pants pockets, his eyes still on fire.

“Serenity, you know that I want to kiss you.” His voice was low, the timbre of it vibrating over her, touching every nerve. “. . . And I think you know how much I want to kiss you.” She didn’t say a word, but her eyes burned into his, and he knew that he was right. “But I’m not going to kiss you . . . because . . . because . . .” He saw her swallow hard and knew she was fighting the same battle that he was. He tried to pick up the train of thought and finish his explanation. “I’m not going to start something that I don’t know if I can finish . . . even though . . .” His voice had become husky. It was hard to get his breath. He tried to drag in a deep breath to continue, but everything else that he was feeling was consuming him.

Suddenly, he grasped Serenity’s shoulders, and with a groan, he pulled her to him and captured her lips. His reason told him that he was making a mistake, but everything else in him was singing with joy at the experience of connecting so completely with this woman. And Serenity’s response thrilled him even more . . . so much so that he deepened the kiss and wrapped his arms tightly around her as she wrapped her own around him with equal fervor.

Several long moments later, Serenity finally made a slight motion to pull away, and Noah begrudgingly released her lips, but not his embrace. Immediately, his mouth traced a line of kisses along her cheek, nestling momentarily at her ear, and then moving just below to the tender spot on her neck. Serenity had felt searing heat engulf her the moment Noah’s lips had touched hers, and even now, she felt the same trail of heat as he moved his mouth gently against her skin. She rested her head against his shoulder, and as he placed one hand against the back of her head, he whispered in her ear. “So much for my good intentions.”

At that, Serenity gave the tiniest giggle, and although she tried to smother it, she failed. But that response managed to defuse some the energy of the moment, and as she pulled back, Noah was able to slacken his hold and finally release her, except to place his hands gently on her shoulders. He looked into her eyes. “I’ve come to care very deeply for you, Serenity. But I don’t know for sure what that can mean for us. I’d like to think you feel the same, but I’m not going to ask you to confess that, because I have no choice but to continue doing some very serious soul searching right now. And . . . that being the case . . . I can’t afford to let myself focus on anything else or anyone else too deeply.”

“Well, I’m not sure what my future as an instantaneous mother holds either, Noah, so I’m not ready to make any declarations either.” His eyes searched hers, and there was an undeniable longing in them, but Serenity could tell that he had gotten control of himself again, and he would force himself not to give in to satisfying that longing until he was satisfied about everything else in his life. She smiled at him now. “I think we probably should start for home, though, don’t you?”

Noah nodded, letting out a deep sigh, and turned back toward the way they had come, taking her hand in his again. They made the drive back in silence for the most part, but it was a peaceful, pleasant silence. Each of them needed to sort through their thoughts and feelings, and neither wanted to risk hurting the other. They listened to the worship CD again, and somewhere along the middle of the program, Serenity fell asleep. When they arrived at the lighthouse, Noah patted her shoulder gently. “Serie,” he whispered, but had to do so three times before she woke. As she came awake, before she opened her eyes, she felt his warm, breath on her face, and inhaled the sweet scent of him, remembering the kiss for another moment. She smiled then and finally opened her eyes, looking right into his.

“Sorry, Noah. I guess I was pretty boring company on the trip home.”

“No need to apologize. You’re very beautiful when you’re asleep, and you didn’t even snore,” he said, grinning, as she sat up straighter and unfastened her seatbelt. Noah got out and came around to open her door. He took her hand and held it all the way to her own front door. Then he took her key and unlocked the door, holding it open for her to enter. Just as she stepped into the doorway of the silent house, she turned back to smile at him and thank him for dinner.

“It was my pleasure . . . and . . .” He paused and barely touched his index finger to her lips. “Thank you for sharing that beautiful kiss with me, Serie.”

Her throat felt clogged suddenly — with what emotion she wasn’t sure — but she couldn’t get any words out. Finally, she just smiled once more and whispered, “Goodnight, Noah,” and turned to step the rest of the way into the living room.

“Night, Serie . . . sweet dreams,” he whispered and turned toward his car.

Look for Chapter Ten here tomorrow.

faith confessions flip books

I have several Christian friends who like to confess God’s Word over themselves and their families every day, so I made them flipbooks that have some of their favorite scriptures (in a personalized version) on the pages of the book and some more on decorated cards slipped into the pockets. Each book has a different decorative theme, depending on the individual person — or my available materials.  This is one that I made this week with an autumn theme. (I also include a specialty tea bag in each pocket as an extra treat. 🙂 ).
Sorry my photos are not super clear.



© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner



At 8:30 Tuesday morning, Serenity called the school office and asked if Miss Parker would be in that day. The secretary told her that Miss Parker didn’t come in on Tuesdays and asked if she could be of assistance.

“No, but if I can’t get in touch with Miss Parker, then I need to see Mr. Kelso sometime today. Would that be a problem?”

“Not at all, Miss Lawrence. May I ask what the meeting is for?”

“It has to do with some problems that have come up in the Library Club, and I’m not sure that I can send David back. I need to discuss the whole matter with Mr. Kelso.”

“Very well, he has time to see you late this morning, around 11:00, or after lunch at 1:30.”

“We’ll be in at 11:00 then. Mrs. Matthews, Trent’s mother, will be coming in with me.”

“Okay, I have you down for 11:00. See you then.”

“Thank you. See you at 11:00.”

When the two mothers sat down in Mr. Kelso’s office, they were still trying to decide where to start their explanation. They had prayed together on the way over, asking the Lord to give them the right words, and now they knew they just had to trust that He would.

“Miss Maxwell said there seemed to be some kind of problem with the Library Club that you needed to discuss with me, is that correct?” he asked, his features pleasant and his voice kind.

“Yes,” Serenity said. “And we want you to know that we haven’t come to you in order to go behind Miss Parker’s back. I did ask to meet with her, but she won’t be in today, and I intended to meet with you after I had seen her anyway, so . . . I hope it’s all right with you to do it this way instead.”

“Certainly. I want to know if we have a problem of any kind here.”

“Well, there are probably a number of parents . . . actually, there evidently are a number of parents who don’t think there is a problem, but for Elizabeth and myself, and our families, there definitely is. David and Trent always share with us what they’ve done each day, and it seems that both times they’ve come they have been subjected to long sessions of readings from books on witchcraft and demonic activity. Then they have been asked to pretend that they could become some kind of animal that could give them great power to do secret things. And in yesterday’s session, they were told to lie down on a mat, with the lights out in the room, and imagine that they had some kind of being coming from the inside of them that they could talk to and receive directions from.

“Now both of our families are strong Christian families, and all this witchcraft and sorcery teaching, as well as the imagination games, which are indicative of new age meditation techniques, go completely against what we believe and allow our children to practice. We’re wondering why those specific things are being taught under the auspices of a Library Reading Program.”

Mr. Kelso smiled at the two ladies. “I know the program you’re referring to, ladies, but I assure you that we are not engaging in some kind of sorcery or new age religion. Miss Parker explained to the board about how these games free the students to begin to use their minds more energetically and, as a result, enable them to get more out of their regular academic subjects throughout the year. The games also draw out the natural creativity in each child. And I can tell you first hand that last year some of our students who were quite shy and were underachievers, before being exposed to those games, became very extroverted and began to accomplish a number of tasks better after learning to play the games. And most of our students read more books during the year since Miss Parker has managed to introduce some of the more current and very popular books into our library.”

“But, Mr. Kelso, there are any number of games that will challenge and even quicken a child’s intelligence that don’t require them to practically go into some kind of trance and imagine they are speaking with another kind of being inside of themselves,” Serenity said.

“Are you sure the boys aren’t exaggerating just a little about what they’re being instructed to do? Sometimes children do that when the experience is totally new to them. And I think that would be likely with David especially, since you told me he had been through a traumatic year and had been home schooled as an only student during the last school year.”

“Mr. Kelso, each one of these boys is considered higher than average in intelligence, according to all of their test scores, and each one of them has had a great many experiences due to living in more than one place as well as traveling a good deal. I don’t think they’ve been so secluded or shielded that they would find it necessary to tell lies or exaggerate about their experiences here. Furthermore, each one of the boys told the exact same story to two different mothers at two different times. I think that alone makes their information more than plausible.”

Then Elizabeth spoke. “That’s right, and they didn’t exaggerate at all about what they’re having read to them for about an hour and a half each day, because I checked the content of those books myself. They’re horrid! And there are certainly hundreds of books on the market that are written specifically to interest children that don’t require them to study the science of witchcraft. Kids don’t have to read about a person turning into an animal, or possessing an animal’s body, or having body parts cut off and thrown into a boiling cauldron to effect some kind of spell in order to learn to love reading, surely!” Her voice had risen a little by the time she finished her statement, and Mr. Kelso lifted his hands in a motion that evidently was meant to calm her.

“Please don’t get so upset, Mrs. Matthews. I assure you we encourage our children to read all kinds of literature. This summer, Miss Parker is just centering her program on the Sally Stone books because they are so popular, and they lend themselves very well to rounding out the work with the mind-expanding games. Perhaps if you gave the program a little more time, you would begin to see the value in it for your boys.”

Serenity felt a knot form in her stomach. Something was terribly wrong that this man couldn’t see the harm in what was being taught in his school’s library. She felt a little sick at her stomach, and tried to tell herself that her feelings were not coming from fear. Finally, she spoke again. “Well, Mr. Kelso, as I said, our families are Christians— ”

“Oh, I’m Christian too,” he interrupted her to say.

“Well, that’s good to know, but the fact still remains that the things that are being taught in the Library Club so far are actually part of a religion. The games are the same things taught in Hinduism, and the sorcery books are basically teaching the satanic religion. So I have no peace about exposing David to that kind of influence, and I won’t be bringing him back.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Miss Lawrence,” he said, and sounded as if he really meant it. Then he looked at Elizabeth. “And do you feel the same way, Mrs. Matthews?”

“Definitely,” she said. “Mr. Matthews and I will be withdrawing Trent from the program too. I probably should tell you something else too. Trent has been having horrible nightmares since he started coming to these classes. He even had an experience when he was awake when he thought he was being visited by some other weird being. We even called our pastor and had him come over so that we could all pray until my son had peace again. He has never had any experiences like that in his life until he came to these classes, and now that he’s free from those horrible things again, I definitely will not expose him to any more of what caused them.”

Mr. Kelso shook his head sadly. “Well that’s very unfortunate, of course. I’m sorry you son had so much trouble. And I’m sorry the boys won’t be participating in the rest of the program. I’m sure Miss Parker will be sorry too, but I’ll explain it to her the way you’ve explained it to me. If she does have any questions, is it all right if she calls and talks to you?”

“Certainly,” Serenity answered, glancing at Elizabeth for confirmation, and her friend nodded her head as well. Then Serenity continued. “But there may be another problem, Mr, Kelso. I need to find out from you if the material taught throughout the year will also include this kind of thing, because if so, I can’t send David here to school at all.”

“I can assure you, Miss Lawrence, that this particular program is a specialized one and is used only as part of the library and reading advancement curriculum. Your nephew would not even be exposed to any of it in any of his other classes.”

“And would he be required to take part in it during their class visits to the library?”

“Not if you don’t want him to. He can always just go to the library and check out a book that he wants to read and sit at a table and read quietly while the other children take part in whatever Miss Parker offers that week. Would that be satisfactory?”

Serenity looked at Elizabeth and could see doubt in her eyes that matched what Serenity herself was feeling. “Well,” she finally said, “I need to talk this over with my grandfather, since he’s actually helping me raise David right now. I would certainly want his input before I make a final decision. Let’s just say that we’ll leave David enrolled for next year . . . at least for now . . . and perhaps I can talk with you again after I’ve had time to think it over and pray about it some more.”

“Very well,” he said, smiling again. “And you too, Mrs. Matthews?”

“I think that’s the best plan for us too, Mr. Kelso. At least until I have a chance to talk more with my husband. He may want to come in and talk with you himself.”

“Anytime,” he said and than glanced briefly at his watch.

Serenity took the hint and rose from her chair, as did Elizabeth. “Thank you very much for taking so much time to discuss this with us, Mr. Kelso,” Serenity said, extending her hand to shake his.

“It’s all part of my job,” he answered, turning to shake Elizabeth’s hand next. “Mrs. Matthews, tell your husband to feel welcome to come and talk to me if he needs to.”

The two women walked back into the main office. The secretary smiled at them from where she sat at her computer terminal. “Have a good afternoon, ladies,” she said.

“You too,” Elizabeth answered for both of them, and they started for their car.

Serenity and Clint invited Elizabeth and Lucas to dinner that evening so that the two families could discuss the pros and cons of leaving the boys enrolled in Hamsted Elementary School. Serenity had thought that if all four of them could share their thoughts and their hearts, they might be more likely to cover all of the aspects of the problem and reach a better decision.

She had wanted to invite Noah too, but she hadn’t asked Elizabeth about doing so, and they didn’t know him as well as she and Clint did. Besides, why should she put him in the position of having to hear all of their problems? He was here to get rest himself, and he’d be gone after August, so none of this would affect him at all.

Suddenly the gravity of that knowledge hit her with a jolt. He would be gone. And she most likely would never see him again . . . unless his sister and brother-in-law took the cottage another time, and he came for a visit. But that wasn’t likely with Keith and June having a new baby now. There was a deep sense of emptiness inside as Serenity contemplated her life without Noah in it. And wasn’t that silly, she told herself. She hadn’t really even known the man before four weeks ago. How could she feel an emptiness at the thought of his being gone from her life again?

Well, she didn’t know how; she just knew it was so. But she could shake off that feeling surely. Their relationship hadn’t moved into anything intimate, after all. Even after Noah had hinted several days ago that he wanted to take her some place romantic, nothing had developed. She got up now from where she’d been sitting on the porch looking at the ocean. She needed to get the meal started and get her mind out of this depressed train of thought.

Their meal progressed cheerfully. The boys always had fun together, and the four adults were beginning to feel as if they had been life-long friends. When they sent the boys out to play and finally began to discuss the school and its difficulties, they found that all four of them were on exactly the same wavelength. It looked as if they were all leaning toward the idea of sending the boys to the Christian school at Barclay or home schooling them both.

“If we pooled our knowledge and resources,” Elizabeth said now, “we could teach both of them at the same time and share all of the work load . . . maybe even alternate days, so that neither of us had to be tied to it every day.”

“That would make it a lot easier,” Serenity said. “Especially when I’m trying to meet a deadline from time to time,” she added chuckling. “I’m notorious for barely making it under the wire most of the time anyway.”

“Well, let’s all pray together right now,” Lucas said, “and then we can continue to pray the rest of this week and see what the Lord will show us.”

“Sounds good,” Clint said and reached out his hands to either side, indicating he was ready to join hands and hearts in that prayer. After that, they called the boys in, since it was getting dark, and Serenity insisted that they stay for her to put on a fresh pot of coffee and serve another piece of pie all around. Lucas said he just couldn’t resist another piece of the strawberry rhubarb pie, so they stayed. When they were walking to their car to start home, Noah came riding along the shore toward the lighthouse, so they waited to speak to him before they left.

After bidding the Matthews goodnight, Serenity turned to Noah, who had dismounted and was standing holding Moondancer’s reins. “There’s strawberry rhubarb pie left, Noah, and plenty of coffee. Would you like some?”

She could see interest flicker in his eyes, but he asked, “Are you sure you’re not too tired for more company?”

Serenity laughed. “Not at all. All we did tonight was talk and eat. Come on in. I’m sure Gramps will join you for coffee at least.” So they all trouped back into the kitchen, and Serenity told David that he needed to get his bath and prepare for bed.

“Oh, Aunt Serie, can’t I stay up and talk to Noah?”

“You can come and talk just a few minutes after you get your pajamas on and brush your teeth.”

“Okay,” he said, showing a definite lack of enthusiasm, but he obeyed just the same.

“Let’s sit in the living room this time,” Serenity said. “We’ve been sitting around this table for hours. We had so much to discuss that we just got right into it after dessert and never moved from our spots.’

“Problems of some kind?” Noah asked.

Serenity told him as simply as she could about her and Elizabeth’s visit to Mr, Kelso that morning and the results. Noah listened attentively enough, but at the same time, he seemed distant somehow . . . almost as if he were in his own world while he was listening to her tell about the events of the day. But when she had finished, he responded immediately.

“I think you and Elizabeth are very wise to take the boys out of that, Serenity. Most people don’t recognize how dangerous some of that stuff can be,” he said, letting his eyes stray from her face and focus somewhere off in the distance, as if he were seeing something else. It was a most unusual feeling that Serenity had as she watched him, and yet she felt sure that he was really paying attention to what she said to him.

Finally, she asked him. “Do you know a lot about this kind of thing, Noah?”

He lowered his eyes, staring down at the floor for a few moments, but eventually answered her in a very quiet voice. “I know enough.” Then he looked back to her face. “But it isn’t something I really want to discuss. Let’s just say that I know enough to tell you that you did the right thing taking David out of the program.”

“Well, now what we have to decide is whether to leave the boys enrolled there for the regular school year or not.”

“Where would they go otherwise?”

“Well, we’ve contemplated home schooling again . . . or possibly the Christian school in Barclay . . . but it’s so far . . . about a forty-five minute drive both ways.”

Noah nodded. “Yes, I’ve been over there a time or two since I’ve been here. Well, are you leaning toward one of those solutions more than the other?”

“Maybe,” Serenity answered, saying the word slowly. “But it’s early days yet.”

“Well, I’ll be praying that the Lord will give you clear answers,” he said, setting down his empty pie plate. “And now I’d better get going. The pie was absolutely delicious. Oh, and by the way, I never got back to you about our unfinished plans that we discussed on the phone the other day. What do you say to a nice, quiet, candlelit dinner one evening this week?”

“Uh . . . well . . .”

“She says ‘Yes,’” her grandfather answered for her, grinning. When she opened her mouth to say something, he wagged his finger at her. “I’ve told you, young lady, it’s time you gave yourself as much consideration and care as you do others.” He looked at Noah. “She’ll go. Just tell her what night to be ready.”

Noah laughed and looked at Serenity, his eyes twinkling. “Well, Miss Serenity Lawrence, it seems you’re going to dinner with me, so we might as well make it as soon as possible. What about Thursday?”

Serenity smiled at him. “I would like to go to dinner with you, Noah, and Thursday’s fine.”

“Good. We’ll go into Barclay, so I’ll make some reservations for 7:00, and I’ll pick you up about 6:00, how’s that?”


Just then David came bouncing in and ran to sit on the footstool by Noah’s chair. “Aunt Serie said I don’t have to go to that dumb old Library Club anymore, Noah.”

Noah reached out his hand and pinched him lightly on the nose. “I think you have a very smart aunt, David. I hope you’re giving her lots of hugs and kisses to show how much you appreciate her.”

David nodded his head vigorously. “I do. I give her lots of hugs and kisses, don’t I, Aunt Serie?” he asked turning to her now.

“You certainly do, Sweetheart, and they’re what gives me the energy to keep going. Now Noah has to leave, so tell him goodnight and go hop in bed. I’ll be in before long.”

Clint got up and reached his hand out to David. “How about Gramps reading the bedtime story tonight, Cowboy?”

David jumped up. “Great!” he said, and then turned back to Noah. “Goodnight, Noah. I’ll probably see you tomorrow.”

“For sure,” Noah answered him and watched as he kissed and hugged his aunt and started for the bedroom with his great grandfather. Just before they turned down the hallway, David turned back to Noah.

“You should give Aunt Serie hugs and kisses too, Noah, to show her how much you liked her pie,” he said innocently and then was off to bed again. His great-grandfather chuckled and just continued down the hall with David without saying a word.

Noah looked at Serenity, a smile on his face, and when he saw the blush that covered hers, he said. “Please don’t be embarrassed. It’s a thought I’ve had a number of times myself . . . but . . . well . . . I’ve learned that it’s not always good policy to follow through on every impulsive thought.” He rose then and so did Serenity as she answered him.

“Yes, I’ve learned that lesson too,” she said and smiled as she led the way to the door. They stepped out on the porch into the moonlight, and Noah turned to her and reached up his hand, touching her cheek as gently as a feather with his fingers.

“I’ve got a lot to work through personally right now, Serenity. I’m not sure exactly what my future holds at this point . . . for a number of reasons . . . except that I’ll most likely be leaving here after August.”

“Noah, you don’t owe me any explanations,” she said hurriedly.

He dropped his hand to his side and thrust both hands into his jeans pockets. “I know,” he said, looking out toward the ocean. “I know I don’t owe you any, but I’d like to give you some. I just don’t know for sure how to do that right now.” He looked back at her, a smile on his face again. “Well, it’s late. Maybe we can finish this conversation Thursday . . . that is if you’re still willing to go out to dinner with me?”

“I’m willing,” she said grinning, a teasing light in her eyes. “I think I’ve taken bigger risks in my lifetime.”

Noah chuckled, as she had meant for him to do, and then he stepped off the porch and headed for his horse. She walked out that direction part of the way, and as he mounted Moondancer and turned him toward home, he said, “Goodnight Serie. Sweet dreams.”

“You too. Goodnight,” she said, and then walked back to the porch and sat down, watching him ride along the beach as far as she could before going inside.

When Noah got home, he took a shower and got ready for bed. Then as he stretched out on the bed, he picked up the Barclay paper that he’d bought that afternoon. Hamsted’s paper was just a weekly affair, and Noah liked to keep up more than that, so two or three times a week he bought a copy of The Barclay Chronicle. He hadn’t taken the time to read it yet, but since he was too keyed up after his visit with Serenity, he decided the paper would provide a way to shift his thoughts and, hopefully, shift gears in his emotions. The two front-page articles had something to do with national politics, and Noah just scanned them, having heard most of the information on the TV earlier. But when he turned to the first inside page, he came face to face with a scene right out of his own memory.

There was a picture of an obviously very worn wooden floor with a pentagram painted on it in black paint. Several candles were scattered around the floor, all well used, some of them completely burned down to the holder. But most captivating of anything in the picture were the large, dark stains on the floor in the center of the painted symbol. The article identified them as bloodstains, coming from the blood of the animal that had been slaughtered right at the scene sometime within a twenty-four hour period prior to the picture being taken.

Noah snapped his eyes shut, shaking his head as if he could shake the picture out of it. It was like having a flashback – or having the dream again. He’d had so many during the last several months, and only since coming here had he thought he might be rid of them. But as he sat there with his eyes closed, the headline flashed onto the screen of his mind. His eyes had simply skimmed over it on the way to the picture, but evidently it had registered. “IS SALLY STONE RESPONSIBLE FOR SLAUGHTER OF LOCAL ANIMALS?”

Noah opened his eyes and looked at the article again. As he read down the columns, he discovered that this kind of crime had been discovered twice since the newest Sally Stone movie had come to the Barclay area. A few inhabitants had suggested that these crimes indicated that there really was such a thing as witchcraft, and that people shouldn’t take it so lightly. But in the interview with the county sheriff, the reporter got a lengthy quote discounting that possibility.

“That’s nonsense,” the sheriff was quoted as saying. “These two crimes were obviously perpetrated by some kids or some weirdos who got ideas when they saw the movie and then went out and acted out exactly what they saw. As near as we can tell, the two situations we’ve discovered are identical to the two such events in the movie. Somebody is out to play a mean joke on the public,” he said. The article continued for some length, but Noah let the paper slip from his fingers as he closed his eyes again.

“No,” he whispered. “No,” he said again, a little louder. Then he bounded out of his bed, shouting, “No! No! No!” He put both hands up to his head, holding it as if it hurt, but it wasn’t physical pain that was tormenting him. He paced back and forth across the room a couple of times and then walked back to the bed and picked up the paper. This time he concentrated on the picture of the sheriff. “You idiot! It is real! . . . very real!” Noah gripped the paper as if he were gripping the shoulders of the sheriff whose likeness he was staring at. “Don’t be a fool and wait too long the way I did!” he shouted at the photo and then threw the paper down on the floor with a despairing groan.

He paced back over to the bedroom window and slammed his open hand against the window frame as he looked out. “Lord, don’t expect me to do anything about this. I’ve done my part, and I wasn’t any good at that! You should have gotten someone else . . . You should have made sure someone else became sheriff in that last election because You knew what was coming and that I’d bungle it.”

He looked out at the night sky and tried to take a deep breath to settle himself, but it didn’t work. The thoughts came to him hard and fast about all that he’d learned during the last year as a sheriff facing the kind of spiritual warfare his church hadn’t prepared him for. Yes, he’d learned — finally —  and the decent people of his county had won in the end — but at what cost? He shook his head. “No,” he spoke aloud again and then turned and moved across the room in a flash. He pulled on his blue jeans and then grabbed the paper, almost running outside to the barrel where he burned items from time to time.

With a thrust of his arm, he made sure the paper was securely stuffed as far down as it would go and put the lid on the barrel. “This time it’s somebody else’s problem. They’ve got the Bible. Let them learn to study it the way I did. Let them learn too, Lord. Maybe they’ll even do a better job than I did. And don’t ask me to try to help. They’d only consider it interference.” He turned to walk over toward the corral. “Besides, I’m not their savior . . . You are,” he added, opening the corral gate and reaching up to pet Moondancer, who sensed the chance for another ride in the moonlight. He saddled the stallion quickly and then mounted and took off. He let Moondancer have his head. He needed to run like the wind himself . . . to get away.

So they ran, Moondancer trying to race with the moon, but Noah just trying to race away from the darkness. But where was he going? What was he racing toward? Just running away without some destination at the end of the race was no good, and he knew that, but he kept running. He had to have some relief, the kind he’d found before on the back of this magnificent stallion that the Lord had provided for him. God had truly been good to give him a horse this special. He knew that, and he was grateful with his whole heart. But he couldn’t let himself think too much about the Lord right now. He knew where that could lead him, and he couldn’t bear the thought.

So he raced through the night . . . and the Hosts of Heaven watched . . . and the hosts of hell watched . . . and His Eternal Father, Jehovah, watched . . . but as Jehovah watched, He smiled. He knew what was really in the heart of this son of His, this warrior of the kingdom who had proven himself so faithful in the past. And He knew that Noah would do the same again this time. So even while Noah ran, Jehovah smiled. It wouldn’t be long now, and Noah Bennett would turn and begin to race straight toward the Light again — and then the battle could begin.

Find Chapter Nine her tomorrow.



© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner


Monday morning David was up bright and early, eager to go to the Library Club. He had told Trent about it, and his friend had signed up to go too, so Serenity was going to pick up Trent on the way and drop off both boys. Then Trent’s mom was going to bring David home. Serenity liked Elizabeth and Lucas, Trent’s parents. They were strong Christians and had become members of one of the other churches in town very shortly after moving to Hamsted. Serenity and Clint had met the family on the beach, and the Lord had just seemed to unite all their hearts together immediately. She was grateful that the Lord had provided David with a good friend who was being brought up to love Jesus and obey His Word.

When she got to the school, she was surprised at the number of kids that were attending. She wondered how Miss Parker could handle all of them herself, but maybe she had some help that Mr. Kelso hadn’t mentioned. Of course, he did say that she often used the middle school students as helpers, so that was probably enough. She went to the library door to see if there was anything else she should know before leaving the children, and she was surprised to see that several of the students were sitting quietly at tables already reading avidly. Wow, this program must really instill a desire to read, she thought.

When Miss Parker assured her that she needn’t be concerned about anything else except to have the boys picked up at 12:00, Serenity told David and Trent to have a good time and went back out to her car. She had decided to do the grocery shopping while in town anyway, so she headed for the store. As she was going down the cereal aisle, she came up behind Noah, standing there trying to decide between corn flakes and corn pops. She couldn’t resist surprising him by sneaking up close and getting as close to his ear as possible to say, “You might as well take one of each,” but before she had finished her statement, he had jumped and whirled around so fast that he almost knocked her over. Instinctively, he dropped both boxes of cereal, which conveniently landed in his cart, and reached out to grab Serenity with both hands.

The shock of the whole event had nearly taken Serenity’s breath away, and when Noah grabbed her around the waist to steady her, she gasped, using up what little breath she had left. He instinctively pulled her closer to him, until her hands rested on his chest, and since her eyes, wide with surprise, were intent on his own, he was momentarily lost in their depths, unable to say anything else. Finally, he roused himself to say, “I’m so sorry, Serenity. I didn’t mean to practically knock you down. I didn’t know you were there.”

“It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have sneaked up on you like that,” she said, finally able to laugh lightly at the whole episode. But she was still shaking inside, not from almost being knocked down, but from being held so close to Noah Bennett. She stepped backward a step and removed her hands from his chest, but he didn’t let go of her immediately, so she tried to take another step away from him.

With that move, he did release his hands, the look on his face indicating that he had actually forgotten that he was holding her. “So you’re not hurt?” he asked now.

“No,” she answered on another shaky laugh. “How about you?”

“No, I’m fine, but then I didn’t have some big brute of a man almost knock me off my feet like you did.”

Serenity glanced down at his cart. “Well, at least your cereal landed in your cart safely,” she said.

He looked at it then. “Yeah . . . and what was that you were telling me when I turned on you?”

“Oh . . . I just said you might as well go ahead and get both.”

“Why is that?”

“Because, if you’re having such a hard time deciding, it usually means you’d like to have both of them, and whichever one you take home, by tomorrow, you’ll be wishing you had a bowl of the other. This way, you can have whichever one you’re in the mood for when you get up each morning.”

“You know, I’ve never done it that way before, but you’re right; I have gotten home from the store and ended up wishing I’d made the opposite choice . . . a number of times.”

“Well, I’m glad I could be of help. I guess I’d better finish my shopping.”

“Are you in town on other business too — oh, I remember, David started his library thing today, didn’t he?”

“Right. I drove Dave and Trent to school, and Elizabeth will pick them up and bring David home.”

“That sounds fair enough. Well, listen, are you in a hurry to get home?”

“Well . . . not particularly I guess. Why?”

“Why don’t you have a cup of coffee with me. I skimped on breakfast this morning, and I’m starting to feel it now. I suppose you ate a healthy meal?”

“We had scrambled eggs this morning, but I guess I could drink another cup of coffee.”

“Good, and maybe I can talk you into eating a little something else too.”

“The only problem is that I have to get milk and yogurt, and I don’t want to leave them in the car.”

“Well, let’s get everything that isn’t perishable, and then when we’re through at the restaurant, we’ll come back and grab the one or two remaining items that need refrigeration. How’s that?”

“It’ll work, I guess.”

“Great. We can put the groceries in our cars, and walk to the café in the next block.”

“All right. I’ll get going on my list then, and I’ll meet you at the check out lane.”

Noah nodded. “See you there,” he said, and took off for the next aisle.

Over at the school, Miss Parker was well into her day’s work with the students. She had welcomed them and given each one a name tag so that they could get to know each other more easily. Then she began with the younger students, and any middle school students who weren’t familiar with libraries, and she showed them how to make use of the various parts of the library itself. She assured them that they would go through all of these points again and again during the month, and that they would each have ample opportunities to practice what they learned until they could use everything in the library that they might need, including the two computer terminals.

By that time, it was time for their snack, and right after that, she began to give out reading assignments. She began with the youngest and when they were started, with an older student to help them, she progressed through each group. She had chosen Lacey Dillard to be the helper for David and Trent’s group, and their reading for this week was to be from one of the Sally Stone books, Sally and the Shaman’s Secret.

Lacey introduced the book as one she had read twice herself, and she told them that the school library had three copies if they wanted to check a copy out when they got ready to go home. Then she began the story, reading with enthusiasm and even changing her voice to portray each character realistically. Most of the children sat enthralled. Some of them had read the book, and most of them had seen the movie, but they still sat quietly and attentively, as if they couldn’t wait to hear what happened next.

David understood most of what she read, but he knew that all of the stuff about becoming a witch and the descriptions of what the witches did was not something he was supposed to read. He put up his hand to tell Lacey so, but she didn’t pay any attention, so he leaned over to Trent and whispered, “This stuff is bad stuff. We’re not supposed to read about this,” he said, and at that point, Lacey did pay attention to him.

“You have to be quiet while I’m reading,” she said. But she didn’t have a chance to read another word before David answered her. “We’re not supposed to read that stuff. It’s bad, and God says not to be a witch and do all those bad things that witches do.”

“All witches aren’t bad. In these books the good witches almost always win in the battles with the bad witches and wizards,” Lacey answered him.

“But there’s no such thing as good witches.”

“Unhuh!” two of the other students spoke up, nodding their heads, and one of them added. “Yeah, in this story Zota is a really good witch. She only puts spells on people who are mean . . . well, and sometimes people who make her mad . . . but she teaches all the new wizards how to fight the most evil witch there is.”

“That’s right,” Lacey added. “Now just be quiet, and you’ll see.” So she continued to read, and David became more and more uncomfortable. She had just finished the part about how the shaman changed himself into the shape of his animal spirit – the spirit that gave him his power – when Miss Parker rejoined their group. She sat quietly with the group until Lacey came to the end of that chapter, and then she told the children that it was time for their first project.

“The modeling clay I had each of you bring is for you to use to create the kind of animal that you believe would be your animal spirit, like the shaman had in the book. I want all of you to get a package of clay and sit at one of the low tables, and then I want you to close you eyes and get really quiet. There’s to be absolutely no talking. While your eyes are closed, I want you to think about what kind of animal you would like to get extra power from . . . you know . . . try to imagine what kind of animal would be most likely to make you able to do some of the things you find it hard to do, or maybe things you secretly want to do. Then I want you each to create that animal out of your clay.”

So the children got up from the floor where they had been sitting, on a colorful rug, listening to the story, and they each took their package of clay to a table toward the back of the room. David closed his eyes, but he couldn’t concentrate. This was the silliest thing he had ever heard. Nobody got power from a dumb animal. People only got power from God . . . or sometimes the devil. But he didn’t want to cause trouble, so he sat there with his eyes closed for quite a while, but that was all he did.

When Miss Parker came around again, she noticed that David and Trent hadn’t made anything out of their clay. She stooped down to talk to them, since they were sitting side by side, and asked, “What’s the trouble, boys?”

“I don’t understand what we’re supposed to do,” Trent said. He was dealing with the same feelings that David had, but he didn’t know quite how to put them into words. David didn’t seem to have that trouble.

“People don’t get power from animals. They get power from God or the devil, but they don’t get it from animals.”

“Well, it’s true, many people can’t, David, but special people can, and I’d like for all of you students to have a chance to find out this summer if you are some of those special people.”

“That’s stupid!” David said, feeling uncomfortable enough that he forgot momentarily that he’d been trained to never raise his voice to grownups. Miss Parker was experienced enough to understand that she was dealing with a problem that resulted from David’s obviously extensive religious training . . . something she personally thought had far too much influence in the lives of some young people these days. But she was also wise enough to know that a serious confrontation at this point would only stifle the development of the other children who didn’t seem to have the same reservations as David and Trent. So she spoke placatingly. “Well, I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you two just create the kind of animal that is your favorite . . . maybe your own pet, or an animal that you’d like to own as a pet. How’s that?”

David thought for a few seconds and then nodded his head. “Okay, we can do that.” He looked at his best friend. “Can’t we, Trent?”

“Sure, I can do that,” he agreed.

“Great,” Miss Parker said and moved on to check on the work of the other children at the table.

A little before noon, she came around again and checked one last time on the work, and found that David had created a large white horse, and Trent had created a brown and white dog. “Well, you like horses, I see,” she said to David.

“Yeah, this is Moondancer. He’s Noah’s horse, and he lets me ride him.”

“Well, you’ve done a good job. And you’ve done well with your little dog, Trent.” She looked around the room then. “Each of you may take your project home if you like, or you may leave them here for the rest of this week.” She then had all the children clean up their work area and begin to collect their possessions and line up to be dismissed. At 12:00 sharp she walked them all out to the front door of the school, and saw that they were being met by someone they knew. When they were all gone, she breathed a deep sigh of relief.

She wasn’t sure how she was going to handle David Hartford. She certainly couldn’t come right out and say that his religious training would hinder the whole project. This little community wouldn’t be able to handle anything quite so progressive yet. But it was coming along. The positive reception of all of the Sally Stone books and movies had gone a long way in opening up the thinking of the people in Hamsted, but as a firm believer in new age humanism, Miss Parker was zealous to push them along as quickly as possible to even higher levels of revelation.

When David arrived home, Serenity was just fixing lunch, and as she put a tuna salad sandwich and some pickles and chips on the table for Gramps, David, and herself, she asked him about the morning.

“Some of it was fun. We learned a lot about using the library. I’ll be able to find a lot of books there to read,” he said excitedly.

“Wasn’t all of it fun?” she asked.

He took time to swallow a mouthful of food and then stick a couple more chips in for good measure before he answered, shaking his head. “Some of it was stupid.”


He nodded. “They read to us from some dumb book about witches. I tried to tell them that we aren’t supposed to read about that stuff, but they didn’t listen to me. Me and Trent were the only ones in our group that even knew there isn’t any such thing as good witches! Can you believe that?”

“What was the name of the book?” Serenity asked, her concern growing stronger with each point David made.

David shrugged as he took a drink of his juice. “Oh, I don’t know . . . Sally something . . . and some kind of secret.” He shook his head again. “It was stupid.”

“Well, I’m proud of you for trying to tell the other kids the truth. What else did you do? I see you brought home a white horse. Did you make that?”

“Yeah!” David said, jumping up and going over to the chair where he had deposited his things when he came in. He brought the horse back to the table. “This is supposed to be Moondancer. She said to make my favorite animal, so I knew I had to make Moondancer.” He looked up as if he had just remembered something. “Oh, yeah, that was another thing that was stupid. This weird guy in the story thought he got power from an animal . . . its spirit or something . . . and Miss Parker wanted us to imagine what kind of animal we could get power from and make that. But I told her that people don’t get power from animals, and she said I could just make whatever was my favorite. And Trent too. He made a little dog with great big ears,” he said giggling now.

Serenity looked at her grandfather briefly, seeing that he was a little concerned too, but she didn’t say anything else until after David had finished eating and gone outside to play. “I’m concerned, Gramps,” she said now. “What he was telling us sounds a lot like new age teaching to me. And I know these witchcraft books are really popular now, but I wouldn’t have thought that the school would promote them.”

“Maybe you should talk with Miss Parker on Wednesday when you take David.”

“Well, this is his first experience with the other kids he’ll be going to school with all next year. I hate to make a fuss or cause a problem right at the beginning. It could turn out to be embarrassing for Dave. I’m not sure what to do.”

“Well, pray about it. And I don’t think waiting one more time or two will hurt. He certainly seems to have known how to handle himself . . . and the ‘stupid’ material,” he said, grinning at her.

“That’s true. All the Godly things Tom and Patience taught him from his earliest years have really taken root in him.”

“And you can add to that everything he’s learned virtually at your knees this past year, Serenity.”

She nodded. “And all the Bible stories his Gramps tells him evidently haven’t gone amiss either,” she answered, finally able to grin about it all herself. “I think I’ll give it a little time and pray and see how things go the next time or two.”

“I think that’s wise. Now, I’m off to George’s cottage to help him paint his boat.”

“Okay, see you at the next meal,” she said, laughing. “I think I’m going to chain myself to my computer until I get the next three chapters of my book done.”

“I’m anxious to read them,” he said walking to the hat rack by the door and taking up his cap. He placed it on his gray head and winked at his granddaughter. “I’ll see you about 5:00.”

“Have a good time, and both of you try to get more paint on the boat than on your clothes.”

At that, he walked back over to her and pinched her nose the way he had when she was a tiny girl. “Girl, I’ve been painting more years than you’ve been alive, so I’ll thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head.” They both laughed, and he turned and headed out the door.

Noah had told Serenity that he had some business to take care of in Barclay in the afternoon, and he wouldn’t be back home until early evening, but he insisted that David could still get in his ride on Moondancer. He had promised to call when he got home and arrange for her to send David down to his cottage. So about 6:30 that evening, with the sun still plenty high enough for a long ride, David took off for Noah’s place, and, by 7:30, Noah was on the phone again saying that David wanted to stay over at his cabin for the night.

Serenity didn’t mind David staying, but she didn’t want him to be a nuisance either, and she told Noah so.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Dave and I are pals. We enjoy each other’s company,” he replied and then spoke away from the phone to the boy. “Isn’t that right, Dave?”

“Right!” he yelled loud enough for his aunt to hear him.

“And this cabin has the extra bedroom with the twin bed, remember?”

“Well, okay, but doesn’t he need some pajamas?”

“We’ll ride down on Moondancer pretty soon and get them.”

“Well, that’s fine with me if it is with you and David. But promise me that you’ll call if he turns out to be more than you bargained for.”

“I promise. And you can take advantage of an evening to pamper yourself without a little boy running around.”

“What I’ll probably do is take the extra time to write. I’m finally getting toward the climax of this novel, and I could use two or three more hours of uninterrupted concentration.”

“Personally, I think you work hard enough as it is. I still vote for the pampering, myself,” he said with just a hint of a chuckle.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think I know how to pamper myself. I guess I’ll just have to wait until there’s someone else around who knows how to do it,” she replied, entering into his bantering tone.

“Well, lady . . . you’re talking to a man who knows how,” he answered now, his voice taking on a serious, almost intimate tone. “Maybe it’s time I showed you.”

“Uh . . . well . . . I . . . I wasn’t hinting, Noah.”

He chuckled again then. “I know you weren’t, Serenity. But I was. However, since I have company this evening, I’ll get back to you on it.”

“Well, you two enjoy your evening.”

“Oh, we will! We’re going into town and get a good video and then we’re going to build a fire on the beach and roast marshmallows before we settle down to watch it.”

“Wow, I think I’m jealous.”

“Sorry, this is boys’ night. Can’t invite you. Besides . . . what I have in mind for you calls for some place a lot more romantic than these four walls.”

Serenity cleared her throat. Her heart had picked up its beat when he started talking to her about pampering her, and every added comment just quickened it that much more. But she didn’t want to be reading something into this relationship that wasn’t there. She needed to be careful.

“Well, I’ll say goodnight then,” was all she could think of to say.

“Goodnight, Serie. Sweet dreams.” Noah hung up the phone and sat for a few moments thinking how glad he felt to be able to give Serenity a whole evening just for herself.

Later, as he and David sat roasting their marshmallows and watching the sun splash its last orange streaks across the horizon, Noah picked up the clay horse that David had brought down with him in order to show it to Noah. “You really did a great job with this, Dave,” he said now. “What else did you do today?”

But when David answered him, telling him pretty much the same things he had told Serenity, Noah felt his chest tighten and his heart start to pound. By the time David had finished, Noah was wishing with everything in him that he hadn’t asked the question. The strain he was feeling must have registered on his face momentarily because David asked suddenly, “Are you okay, Noah?”

At those words, Noah forced himself to take a deep breath and smile at the boy. “Sure, I’m fine. I’m just thinking about something. So . . . uh . . . what did your aunt say about what happened today?”

“She said she was proud of me for saying what I did, and then I heard her talking to Gramps about maybe talking to Miss Parker about what we learn at the Library Club.”

“Well, that’s probably a good idea.”

“I heard her say she would pray about it and wait until I went another time before she decided.”

“I see,” Noah answered, and then was quiet for several minutes. “Well . . . what do you say we douse this fire and go watch our movie?”

“Yeah,” David said, jumping up, ready to do his part in putting out the fire the way Noah had taught him.

Find Chapter Seven here tomorrow.


© 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.

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.


My mind’s aloft,
Swept by the winds of doubt.
Could lose my way unless I face
The sun.
Could lose my way unless I face
The Son.

(I’ve taken a little liberty with the cinquain form in the poem above, but I think it does a perfect job for the purpose of the message.)

Make Today Your Day


Today two nephews and I buried my sister. She is my only sibling and the last of my close family that I had on this earth. The loss and the sadness are indeed great, but they are countered by our sure knowledge that she had received Jesus Christ as her Lord and is now rejoicing in His presence. She has entered into the next level of life that He bought and paid for by taking all of our sinfulness upon Himself and suffering through horrible torture and death to pay for it. 

He did not remain dead. He rose from the grave with new life — life that He had earned the right to share with anyone and everyone who would accept His sacrifice and welcome Him into their hearts to reign over their lives. So my sister has just begun to experience the joys that surpass all of our knowledge here on earth, and she will be experiencing those joys and pleasures in an endless relationship with our loving Creator and Father.

Today’s experience has prompted me to speak out once again — to pose the question for anyone out there who has never answered it completely:  Have you recognized Jesus Christ as the one who came from God to take your sin and set you free from the eternal punishment that it deserves?  Have you accepted His sacrifice and His eternal life of joy in the presence of our Creator?

We usually shy away from contemplating the fact that we are going to die. But the simple truth is, dear reader, that you — and I — and every other human being on this planet — are going to die. The God who offers us an eternity of joy, victory, endless creativity, and love has told us clearly how to gain that kind of eternity. He has made it simple: Accept Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. 

You may ask, “Will believing and following anyone else work just as well?”  In answer to that question, let me ask you a couple: Has anyone else willingly taken on your sin and suffered torture and death to pay for it?  No?  Has anyone else risen from the dead with victory over sin and death and with eternal life to share with everyone who wants it?  No?  Then you have your answer: No. There is no one else — no one else — who paid the price for you and your sin. There’s only one way to the eternity you want. 

Today is the day to make the decision. Do you want to come to the hour when your body is laid in the ground only to discover that your soul and your spirit have passed into an eternal realm without God, without joy, without hope, without a chance of anything except torment — all because you refused the free gift of eternal life offered to you by Jesus Christ? I don’t believe that anyone truly wants to make that choice. I think, most of the time, people just don’t want to get serious enough to give the question its due consideration.

So I’m posting this encouragement today. Make today the day when you give the subject its due consideration. Make today the day when you accept Jesus Christ and His open invitation to step right into His loving, victorious presence when the hour comes that you take your last breath here.


Encouraging Bruised Reeds & Smoking Flax

(I originally wrote this article over a year ago, but at a time in our society when there is so much that divides us, incenses us, and hurts us, I felt an urging by the Holy Spirit to share it again now.)


“A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.”  (Matthew 12:20, KJV).

These words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, described Jesus Christ, both in the Old Testament prophecy forecasting His coming, and in the New Testament as He carried out His earthly ministry. The words referred to the fact that Jesus was careful not to put down or belittle people who came to Him, even when they were weak in faith, or because they were lacking in some area of consecration or obedience.

Now, to be sure, He did on occasion ask His own disciples, “Why are you fearful, or why did you doubt?” But those words were not intended as reprimands, but as questions to cause them to think and learn. They were in training, after all, and were supposed to be learning from Him and growing in faith and the demonstration of it. They were in a different position from the average person who came to Jesus for ministry.

Throughout His earthly walk, Jesus was kind and compassionate to everyone who had need of Him. If the people He dealt with had even a smoldering bit of faith, or just a heart-felt desire to connect with Him, He welcomed them and spoke and acted in such a way as to encourage them. To the sick man at the Pool of Bethesda, who evidently had some lack of initiative if he’d been supposedly “trying to get to the pool” for 38 years,  Jesus simply asked, “Do you want to be made well?”  And then, even though the man’s only response was to complain about not having any other people to help him, Jesus proceeded to heal him completely. (John 5:1-15).

And look at His treatment of Zacchaeus, who was a first-rank sinner (self-confessed) and who had no obvious faith or obedience going for him. Just the fact that Zacchaeus wanted to know more about Jesus — enough to climb into a tree so that he could see Jesus better as He went through town — was enough for Jesus to call him over and invite Himself to Zacchaeus’ house — showing him both honor and compassion at the same time. (Luke 19:1-10).

Even when Jesus knew He had to deliver a strong word to a person who sought something from Him, His focus was on loving that person and responding in the most compassionate way possible. In Mark’s gospel (chapter 10) Jesus is approached by a rich young ruler who asks for instructions for inheriting eternal life. This young man had sought to follow the rules of the law in conduct, but he obviously had a heart problem that would keep him from being in unity with God.

Jesus knew the man would need to let go of the pride he had in following the rules and experience a heart change that would cause him to truly give of himself to help others. Jesus knew HIs instructions would come as a blow to this young man, and the first thing we learn about Jesus in this situation is that He “loved” the young man. He spoke to him words that were necessary, but they were not spoken in rebuke, but in love and compassion.

Another time, when Jesus’ disciples told Him of other ministers who were delivering people in Jesus’ name but were not following Him, Jesus said to leave them alone because if they were not “against” Him, then they were “for” Him. He didn’t rebuke those other ministers or even correct them. (Luke 9:49-50)

Wherever He went, Jesus was looking for ways to lift people up, encourage them, and help them grow in their relationship with their Creator.

Several years ago I read words by another minister that said, in effect, that we should be careful not to destroy someone’s imperfect faith because, at the time we’re interacting with that individual, it’s the only faith that person has. But it’s likely that, given time and encouragement, that imperfect faith will grow into something stronger and purer.

I’ve learned over the years that there’s a good deal of wisdom in those words, and I’ve seen people’s faith grow exceedingly. In fact, my own faith has grown, changed, grown some more, and changed some more over some sixty years of life as a Christian. So I know the potential is there.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about this particular subject matter lately, and I believe the reason is that the Lord is showing me it’s really important to encourage people in these areas. I think I’ve always been an encourager in general, but I know, at times, I also tend to hold back when I see that a person has areas of his life or faith that are most definitely unscriptural. I sometimes tend to concentrate more on trying to “help” them get “fixed” in those areas rather than encouraging the little bit of positive in them — that smoking flax of faith or that character trait that is slightly bruised.

But I believe the Lord is saying that I need to refocus and concentrate on encouraging for a while rather than fixing. It may be that enough encouragement of the positive — even if it’s just smoldering or somewhat bruised or damaged — will strengthen those people enough to help them go on and eventually get the other stuff fixed.

And, after all, God is the real “fixer” — not me. And I’m also aware that there are a number of areas in my own life that need “fixing” as well. Certainly, I need to pray for the people in my life where the negative areas are concerned, so that the Lord has an open channel to work in their lives. But I need to let Him take care of the fixing and use my energy and influence to encourage those individuals. Encouragement in the right places can sometimes put us in a stronger position so that we can better receive the help God has for us.

So, as I move forward in my life, one of my primary spiritual goals is going to be to encourage every positive thing I see in every person I’m with, and to do so in the name of Jesus Christ — who never broke a bruised reed (damaged person) or quenched any smoking flax (smoldering faith.)  I believe if I’ll be faithful to do my part, He will be able to do all the rest of the work necessary to bring them to wholeness and overcoming faith.

photo courtesy of Ria Algra @

Living With Abandon


Life is challenging even in the best of times. But sometimes we need to stop everything and take stock of just what we are giving ourselves to as we travel through that life. Many people don’t realize that we all tend to give place to – or even collect – some objects, people, and experiences that do us more harm than good. Periodically, we need to take a good long look at those collections and do some house cleaning.

In fact, we need to throw out some things and walk away from them forever. Abandonment isn’t always a negative term. And if you’ve been feeling a little bound up, a little negative, a little pressed, stressed, and overwhelmed lately, I’d say it’s time to abandon some stuff.

Abandon your fears. Abandon your insecurities. Abandon your doubts. Abandon your past failures. Abandon the negative words others have spoken concerning your abilities or your future. Abandon the so-called ‘friends’ who do not draw from you your best and highest.

Life is too short to live it in fear, doubt, and the faulty judgments of other people. If you’re going to get anything out of this life, you’re going to have to put a lot into it. And you can’t do that if you’re constantly afraid or second-guessing because of past failures or someone else’s opinions.

Stand up and lay hold of this day in faith. God made you, so He loves you. And because He made you, He obviously has a plan for your whole life. Maybe you’ve never spent enough time with Him to find out about the plan. Or perhaps you’ve started living for Him, but you’ve gotten side-tracked or knocked down, and you’ve shifted your focus to the negatives in your life.

Well, today is the best time to turn your focus back to Him. Take His hand and let Him lead you where He wants to take you. Let Him show you His delightful plan for your life. Then get started – or re-started – carrying it out.

Abandon what is negative, dark, and destructive. Seize what is positive, light, and life-giving. Then go out there and LIVE!

It’s Pouring Rain!


It is absolutely pouring rain at my house. I mean sheets and sheets of hard rain, descending with purpose. But I’m not feeling the least bit sad about it. You see, my windows are open, and I can hear the rhythmic beat as the torrents hit the ground with resolution. It’s like a satisfying loud symphony, with all nature providing the orchestra. I can breathe in the unique fragrance that is a fusion of just mown grass and freshly washed air.

The flowering pear tree across the road is vying with the rain to be the center of attention. It’s pure white blossoms are startling as they stand out through the smoky gray curtain that’s obviously intent on maintaining center stage for now.

The force of the downpour at the very beginning stirred my soul and wakened me from what was about to become a mid-afternoon stupor. And now — ten minutes into the storm — the downpour has settled to a sure, steady pattern that sooths and relaxes me.

Two-thirds of the sky is heavy and gray, but to the southeast, I see a small patch of bright turquoise, just waiting for it’s chance to take over after the storm wears itself out. And wear out it will. No elements can keep up such an energetic production for a long period of time. Like all good things, it’s limited to a fragment of time. But its enough. In fact, its just exactly enough to allow us to enjoy it properly.

Deep breath — satisfying sigh — I’m happy in the moment. 🙂


Palm Sunday Message: ‘You Don’t Have to Be a Christian to Call on Jesus’

“Here comes Jesus!”

“Jesus of Nazareth is coming!”

“Do you see Him yet?”

“Here He comes!”

“Here comes Jesus!”

Excitement was rampant, and cries of “Hosanna” filled the air. Shouts of joy and triumph could be heard for miles along the road, and people rushed to lay palm branches and their personal garments as a carpet of welcome. Jesus of Nazareth was coming to Jerusalem.

This carpenter-teacher who had journeyed among them for nearly three years, teaching them, healing them, feeding them, forgiving them, raising their dead. This miracle worker, this wise man, this man who was gentle enough to draw crowds of children to his side yet bold enough He would soon drive money-changers from the temple with a whip — this man whom many claimed was the prophesied Messiah of Jehovah — this man was coming again to Jerusalem! I’m sure, had we been there, we would have heard the message repeated over and over again for miles: “Here comes Jesus! Here comes Jesus!”

We in the Christian world celebrate that event on one special day out of the year, and we call it Palm Sunday. We have special services and some of us wave palm branches in the air to commemorate the day that is often referred to by church historians as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But that event happened over 2000 years ago. One could say it’s all history now; it’s been said and done;  it’s over.

But not so, my friends! I am thrilled beyond words to be able to tell you that Jesus is still coming to anyone and everyone who would like to receive Him. He’s a living, vital, right-now Jesus. He is the I AM (The self-existent one who causes all other things to be; the one who is and becomes whatever He desires to become — Hebrew definition). And the great I AM desires to become everything that His creation needs.

Jesus of Nazareth is alive today, and He’s still loving people, teaching people, feeding people, forgiving people, delivering people, healing people and making  them whole. And, yes, He’s still raising people from the dead. He’s the same Jesus who fulfilled the words of the ancient prophets by riding  into Jerusalem on a donkey that day.  He’s the same Jesus who worked myriads of miracles for the people. He’s the same Jesus who went to the cross to pay for the rebellion and sin of all the human race.

He’s the same Jesus who rose from the grave and took His throne as Lord of the universe. He’s the same Jesus who promised that if we would call on Him and receive Him as Lord, He would freely fill us with His own eternal life and with power to serve Him. He’s the same Jesus who promised that after our life of service to Him on this earth, we would move on to Heaven and live with Him forever. No questions —  no if’s, and’s or but’s. No struggling to get there, no sacrifice, no hard work, no price to pay. Jesus did the work. We receive the benefit.  And the Word of God,  Hebrews 13:8, says “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.”

So I can tell you confidently: “Here comes Jesus!  He’s coming to you today! He’s coming because He sees your need; He sees your trouble; He sees your sorrow; He sees your pain; He sees your desperation; He sees your hopelessness; He hears your questions; He hears your confusion; He hears your private crying. He’s coming to you because He loves you.

Did you know that you don’t have to be a Christian for Jesus Christ to love you? Sometimes we who call ourselves Christians tend to flock together so tightly that we become almost like a clique, and the rest of the world feels as though they can’t break through the wall to become a part. We don’t intentionally form a clique, of course. Occasionally it just happens as a result of our thoughtlessness. But my message to the “rest of the world” today is that you don’t have to become a part of the “clique of Christianity.”  All you have to do is get to know Jesus, the real person.

And did you know that you don’t have to be a Christian to call on Jesus? That’s right. Jesus isn’t listening just for the call of the Christians. Certainly, He’s attuned to their cries and He rushes to their help when they need Him, but Jesus the Christ is listening — intently — for the cries of all the millions of  His creation in this world who don’t know Him at all. His heart is waiting expectantly for their voice to call out His name. And He’s ready to answer that call swiftly. He’s ready to come home with you at any time.

When Jesus walked the earth, He was often found in the homes of those who were not active believers. People whom the scriptures refer to as “publicans” and “sinners” found that Jesus was more than willing to spend time with them and teach them the truth about God — and show them God’s love by healing their sick and delivering those in demonic bondage. In fact, He often received hateful criticism from the religious leaders of His day because He gave Himself so freely to those who did not have a relationship with the true God. But Jesus’ response was simply that His main reason for coming into the earth was to find those who did not know Him and offer Himself to them.

Zacchaeus was one such man. (His story is told in the Word of God, the book of Luke, chapter 19.) Although technically a descendant of Abraham, Zacchaeus was chief among publicans — which means he made his living working for the Roman government, collecting taxes from his fellow Israelites — and, by his own admission, cheating them. He had heard about Jesus, but he was no believer. However, he was curious, and as Jesus passed through Jericho, right before his entry into Jerusalem on the donkey, Zacchaeus, a short man,  climbed into a tree so that he could see and hear Jesus easily. Jesus called him down from the tree and invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ house.

Zacchaeus recognized Jesus as the Messiah and opened to Him his home and his heart. We know that he invited Jesus in with his whole heart, because, after spending only a short time with Him, Zacchaeus voluntarily confessed his sin of cheating and promised to make restoration of everything with interest. Jesus did not ask Zacchaeus to do so. The man simply opened his heart to Jesus, and a changed nature was the result.

So, I will say once more: You do not need to be a Christian to call on Jesus. No matter what religious tag you wear — including that of “Atheist” —  that tag will not keep Jesus from coming to you if your heart is reaching out for Him and inviting Him in. What will happen to that religious tag after you meet Jesus? Who cares?  I can guarantee you — without qualification — that if you ever meet the real Jesus, you won’t care.

Here comes Jesus!  He’s coming to us today — Christian and non-Christian — He’s coming. With words of comfort and reassurance to destroy fear — with delivering power to destroy the yokes of the devil — with healing and wholeness for body, mind, and spirit — with wisdom and direction that leads to successful solutions — with the power of His Holy Spirit and all of the anointing for service — with eternal life to overcome death once and for all and forever.

Jesus is coming!  He’s coming to you!  Right now! Open your heart to Him and let Him meet all of your needs today.


Picture courtesy of Wikipedia commons: