THE FIRST MEETING

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This is a novel about how Bill Laggard met a man who encouraged him on his journey to follow Jesus in his marriage life as well as other areas of life. As Jack  makes it clear: You don’t ask because you think he wants you to decide that and because you think he doesn’t have to. He is in charge of your destiny, and as you have willed yourself to him, he is in control of you. And why do we have to ask? We have to because our eyes are but weak lenses with blind retinas that could capture but only a few range of life, but his are special binoculars that sees the future, even from the
beginning and from the greatest distance. Remember he is Omniscient?”
I believe that as you read this story, though the characters are fictional, all the stories are true. They are from real life experience gathered together to help others God brings our way.

As a learner, I always try to put up an exuberant performance, to impress my aunt and also to persuade my lecturers into thinking that I was no ignoramus.  But this year, this peculiar year, I massively missed the mark for the four core subjects or courses in line with biochemistry. Some of my less intelligent colleagues were even successful. I cringed at the thought of it. Was it that my lecturers felt a little inconsistency with my answers? Having known me to be someone in whom he had confidence, and also hearing the news of my failures, the vice chancellor of the university, Mr. Clang Waiter, called me to his office. He blamed me for losing concentration and bringing my academic end to ignonimous. I seethed inside as I left his office. He spoke roughly to me and I had never seen him explode so. Afterall, I wasn’t ill-bred so as to reply roughly in return but I did know that he wanted no other than the best for me. It so gripped me with guilt that I was going to throw a whole full year, having spent a whole lot of money, estimated €150,000. What was I to do?

Trying to control my emotions, I wiped my brows with my pocket handkerchief and began plunging down the stairs which opened up to a broad lawn which lay in front of the water fountain. I caught a glimpse of the vice chancellor, Mr. Clang, coming out of the office. He scowled and turned around the other way, started towards the other staircase with each squawk from his shoes, sending pain through me. I had never felt so frustrated in Oxford. When I got to the end of the stairs, I saw three among my course mates. Kim, Rake and Jokstan were members of a deadly secret society located two blocks away from the university,  and even at that, they were expected to fail. But when I indeed ask them, they said they all passed. The thought about this seemed to incinerate my mind and I could detect signs of incipient unrest winding up in my heart. I preferred it best to move about incognito so as to at least, ease the painsome, and not only that but to also reduce the level of my fame. I walked a few steps away then withdrew and hid behind a tree with my ear still zeroing into the conversation of my friends. My gut roiled as I heard them making jest of me; calling me names. And then they hummed a rondo and laughed wickedly. I was awe struck with the laughter that was imbued in their staccato of voices. So, I decided to leave there at once to find some place to have this guilt feeling rest for a while.

The streets of Oxford were very busy; quite as usual, but the atmosphere was crisp and dry and even the place where I had usually gone out of my way to wash my hands was now completely dry. After walking two-quarter a mile, I reached a coffee shop and checked in, requesting for a diner for two. I wasn’t really expecting anyone because I hadn’t scheduled one. The waitress came out from the servery with food in a large glass tray covered with a piece of acetate material. This was my favorite and I really ate until I was sated. Eating was now the only thing that could satisfy my emotions, and I soon came craving to forget about the morning experience. I requested for a cup of coffee, and when it did come, I freely drank. It calmed my nerves and I soon fell asleep.

A few moments later, I was awakened by a buzzing bug which had stung my ear. I whimpered a little and turned towards the glinting wall which was enough mirror to see my reflection and examine my ear. Amidst all this, I sensed a growing impulse, stimulating me to turn back but I though it was just a series of passing infatuation. Rather, it was so pressing that I couldn’t resist it. I gazed dreamily out of the window and caught a glimpse of a figure coming towards the entrance on the horizon, which was tiles with silver. I chuckled with delight, thinking it was my nephew, Collins Errando. He was my best person in the world. I got past the rest of the people taking coffee and tiptoed to the sliding glass doors at the entrance, trying not to make a squeak of my shoes as I loosely buckled them. From the door, I could see three men- one old and two others- with two ladies. One of the four college-aged opened the door ahead of the old man and the others. Seeing them, I pretended to be the waiter, although, I wasn’t on uniform. I ushered them to a group diner close to mine at the far corner of the room. Rubbing my hands, I asked if they would prefer tea or coffer or any other food, according to normal British etiquette. They requested coffee, and I turned round to inform the waitress of their arrival. She served them coffee and I think I heard fragments of their prayer. Then as they settled down to drink, I awkwardly shuffled forward to take my seat, and burying my face in an album of pictures. Almost simultaneously, one of the ladies inserted her hand into her grocery bag and brought out an envelope which she threw on the group-table.

“That’s my result. Do open and see,” she requested.

Carrick Helmington, a young college-aged bespectacled german, with an air of warm smiles and gentle sense of humor, extended his vein-lined hand to grasp the envelope, but the old man got it just before he could. I chuckled inwardly as Carrick paused, with his hand stretched out and a bewildered look at the old man. The old man actually looked like some belligerent, with arched brow, sunken eyes and aquiline nose, appearing to be some unpleasant fellow with a vicious look. His face broke into a smile.

“Cool!” He exclaimed. “You came fourth in the microbiology department. Take a look at this Carrick.” Now that he spoke, I found places in my heart to believer that he might actually have some avuncular behaviour towards this friends of his.

“Well, Mathelda, not in the least,” Carrick said. “And that’s because my elder brother whom I stay with wants nothing less than third.”

Amused, I looked over the album, just to see the name “MATHELDA STONE” and to hear Carrick’s concluding statement; “But it doesn’t seem so to me.”

The rest chuckled, seeming to deride his idea, perhaps because they thought it old fashioned as I did. Who was good enough even to be fourth? Carrick turned away. It was after this joke that their conversation began and I. Soon discovered the names of the others. The other girl was “LIZY CALLAR”, and “ELLE FREDERICTON” was the next young man and the old man, who had been silent for sometime was “JACK”.

“…You know, my brother feels there’s nothing difficult in schooling and studying…” It was Carrick speaking. “He graduated summa-cum-laude from Harvard university and is actually the best biochemist this town has ever seen. To him, all things are possible with God. How is that so?”

“You think it’s not?” Lizy questioned, with a mock chuckle.

“How should I?” Carrick shrugged. “It doesn’t make any difference. All things can never be possible. It is what I had been taught in my first year seminar. It’s not that I don’t believe in Christian teachings. I do, but even at that, doesn’t ti sound so foolish for someone to say that all things are possible?”

“If that’s what you think, better steel yourself for this question,” Jack said. “If all things aren’t possible, with God, then why are you living?”

“Well that only suffice a part, because he may be the one keeping my life but probably not my education, even though I came second in medicine and surgery department.”

Jack smiled. “Doesn’t it occur to you that if you had no life-sustainer, you would have no life, and likewise no education. If you were dead, how would you hold a pen to write an exam?”

I was astonished at how wisely this man answered questions.

“So, then, how would I make heaven for doubting God?” Carrick whined. “At least, I go to Church.”
“Then that’s all!” Fredericton exclaimed.
“Sure!” Lizy commented.

But Mathelda clenched her lips and crossed her legs. She just squinted at the morning’s young sun through the arms spreaded window, much to my surprise. Carrick winked at Jack, who leaned forward to acknowledge it with a nod.  Then he dropped his comment,
“When will you come to recognize that life in Christ isn’t about going to a place where you can find Christians gather and hear comments from the bible? Notice that I am not saying that you can’t share Christ’s life among other Christians but I don’t  just want you to view it the wrong way. Regular attendance in church meetings and continuous commitment to church activities can’t lead you to  heaven or earn you a place in God’s heart. You need an intimate and cordial relationship with him. Then he will develop in you the trust that Carrick now lacks. To think that God is happy with your just going to a meeting and just sitting down, without even digesting a helpful word in your heart, is estimately zero to the mark.” Jack implied.

“Sir, you speak of relationship. Where do we get that kind?” Lizy demanded. “As for me, I can’t attend a day’s meeting without commenting at the end that I gained something.” Fredericton added.
“Something like?”
“You know, feeling satisfied that I learnt something beneficial and also helped someone,” Lizy replied.
“Alright Lizy.”

I hated the somewhat criticism implied in his voice. I thought Lizy had finally bit him to it but it didn’t occur so. His face was still intense.

“But that has to do with motives and not mere words of mouth or external gestures and expressions,” he continued, “and the things learnt are many times forgotten once you get past those doors.”
“I know. It’s sometimes that way,” she agreed as the others nodded.
“Check this out,” Jack said, as his face turned serious. “Lizy, when you got to your service last week, what was your motive as you were going about your course? What did you really have in mind for that day?”

Clenching her fist, she replied, “Well, to be sincere, I really wanted everyone in the congregation to learn through my actions; to know how loving I was and how much worth emulating my life was. I also organized a series of songs to calm them down.”
“Wow!” Mathelda exclaimed. “How did they feel?”

“Glamorous!” She responded, with a beam of smile. “They couldn’t control their voices when they appreciated me. They commented that they haven’t seen such display of savoir-faire attitude. I felt my head spinning like a carousel. I was on top of the world with the realisation that I had changed enormous amount of lives. I was enthralled at the thought that I felt the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit.”

I nodded, knowing how much I had done that today. It occurred to me that I was no different from Lizy Callar and so I expected no contrasting response from anybody. Mathelda’s lips were pursed. Carrick had on his face a look of bewilderness and Fredericton was overwhelmed by a mock chuckle but Jack wasn’t even fazed. This expression of his was enough presage to determine his words. He didn’t berate, though, but took Lizy’s hand and began expressing his ideas.
“That was actually wrong, Lizy. Do you think God would be happy with such a mind setting? He doesn’t measure sonship by religious display and religious starship, but by discipleship.”

“But why not, sir Jack?” Carrick almost whined. “Being religious enhances for a steady growth in Christ. Doesn’t it increase God’s love for us?”

“That is where you are getting it backwards, Carrick,” Jack replied, clenching his fist. “Displaying of habit and praise seeking from men will make you no different from the religious leaders whom Jesus rebuked. They were extremely perfect in clothing the outside. They could initiate a thousand laws for others to follow. Attending ceremonies and sitting in the highest places at banquets were their ulterior motives, but they lacked the Holy spirit.

“All thesame Lizy,” he said turning to her, “many people get themselves started in ministry and religious institutions just to gain a good name down the street. It doesn’t seem to me that you went to that occasion that day to share Christ’s life with the body but to gain personal aggrandizement was your sole aim.”

That sounded antagonistic to my feelings. Outrageous! But I knew this man actually had the right answer.

“But we are not under the law,” Fredericton said.
“But it makes no difference between you and them,” Jack responded with a snigger. “They thought keeping those rules and regulations would draw them nearest to God,but it never did and you think going to church would save you, even when nursing wrong motives and priorities.”
“I don’t know if you mean that those ideas are carnal?” Mathelda asked with a raised brow and John nodded.
“But even at that,” Mathelda continued, “your comment of a few minutes ago by-passes my understanding.”

“Okay take this illustration; Lizy went to ‘church’ last sunday, with the expectation that if she gave to the poor,  they will honour her and that with that she had attained what God wanted her to gain. Doesn’t that sound like being bred out of a carnal mind? A spiritual mind wouldn’t do that. Do you remember a part in the bible when Jesus refused to be called ‘good master’? Name calling and magnifying words Will make you think you have attained a great height but in other words, it will rob you of all the great things God has for you on this journey. Approving and accepting such praise will show that you are no lowly servant but a self-approved slave.”

“But I thought God ordered us through Christ, to always care of for the poor and give to the needy?” Fredericton queried.
“Not when it gets twisted as to coming from a wrong mind setting,” Jack implied.
“So it means I shouldn’t give at all?” Lizy further questioned. “All these seems like giggling over words.”

“It’s not,” Jack broke in. He sized the room and noticed my presence and my face fell again into my paper. With a smirk, which broke into a beam on his lips, he continued, “The fact that the young waiter over there is sitting on that bench doesn’t give an explanatory word to his love for the chair. He may hate it, but it’s meant to be sat upon, probably because he wants no one mocking him of having no place to sit.” Turning back to them, he explained his idiom; “the poor are always given. Yes they are meant to, I can’t alter that. But not when it gets twisted and you give out of a wrong mind. If you are being led not to give, don’t. If you feel you are led to, obviously, you should. But when you give wrongly and it dawns on you later that you didn’t ask yourself what motive or what feelings motivated you to do so, you will suddenly find yourself in a betwixted state.”

“I get that now!” Carrick, who had been quiet for sometime, said. “But Mr. Jack, I have a question. Just one more in my arsenal.” Jack nodded. What he said sounded less questioning. “My brother recently sent an amount of money to my bank account. I will withdraw it immediately I leave here. It is part of the evidence that he is really happy with my result. Sir, I will like you to advice me how much, or what percentage, I could give the less privileged fellows.”

“Where did you get that idea from?” Mathelda asked.
“What idea?” Carrick acted stunned.
“The idea that issues the necessity for a mere human with no special difference from you, apart from age and God-given wisdom, to dictate a specific part of your life for you, Carrick,” Fredericton broke in.

Jack smiled, “Who then should he ask?”
“I don’t know! I only expected him to dismiss that idea because you can’t let somebody remote you as though you were some blind and deaf, led by a labrador. You know, it isn’t at all right.”

They all guffawed. I tittered. I saw that Carrick, who didn’t laugh at all, saw this as a bit of laceration because he suddenly put on an icy glare. Jack resounded his question. “Who then should he ask?”
At least, I felt it right to get indulged into their conversation. This, as well, looked like an opening. This thought was indefinable, although I would have nothing to say if I get some questions from this icono-clastic minded fellow; so he seemed. Dropping my album of pictures, the words dripped out of my lips: “Ask God Mr. Carrick!”

Jack smirked at me and nodded. “I thought you were the waiter?”

I adroitly avoided answering that question. Collecting myself, I replied that I wasn’t the waiter but I only had to help them locate their places. Suddenly, the thunders uttered their voices. The sky, which had appeared a little rosy sometime ago, had turned indigo. Waves upon waves filled the air. The gale had begun and many large trees surrounded their branches. The clouds spread their arms to cover the sun and within some minutes, the entire premises belonging to the restaurant officials was soon filled with miniature rivulets of rain.  Almost all the loquat grasses in the environment were soon uprooted by the erosion.

“I think we have got to go,” Fredericton reasoned.
“I also suggest we use the rain coats with Lizy and the boots with Carrick,” Mathelda suggested.

The materials were presented and when they were prepared to leave, they put it on and as the rest headed for the door, Jack hesitated. Slowly but firmly, he gradually shuffled to my direction and placing his hand on my shoulder, reassured me of God’s love for me. He dropped only three words.
“Jesus loves you.”
“Could we find a little time to talk now?” I pleaded.
“I would have loved to but next time would be okay.”
“And when would that be?”
“You believe God is in control, isn’t it? Same I do because it is he who knows how to arrange our meetings. Trust God with that and have a nice day!”

With that, he turned and left. The last I saw of them, they were plodding towards the gate, through the rain. I never knew such truth and trust could ever lie in the hearts of mere mortals.

Read the other chapters here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/533730 FREE.

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