Tuesday, February 14, 2012
BLESSED: In The Beginning, Chapters 2-4
Author C. A. Webb welcomes you back to IN THE BEGINNING, the first book in the BLESSED series. Missed the beginning of the story? Find it online at www.blessedbycawebb.com.
“Did you have a good flight, Pastor James?”
The driver’s question temporarily broke the spell of reflection Ezekiel had created for himself. He looked away from the car window towards Carter, a man who had been with the President since the campaign. Ezekiel saw him wiping his nose.
“I’m sorry,” he asked, having heard the voice but not understanding the words.
The drive sniffed. “I was asking about your flight.”
Ezekiel faked a smile. “Sorry about that. I zoned out for a moment. The flight was fine,Carter. Thanks for asking.” He turned back to the window, afraid the uneasiness he was feeling would emerge enough to be noticeable.
It was too late for such concern, though. Anyone who had been around the President for any significant amount of time knew that things were not as they appeared. And Carter Winsley had been around the Pastor and his family enough to know that this was no ordinary visit, especially having seen what he had over the past few months.
Nothing had been the same since that woman--referred to by many at the White House
as The Woman In Black--had met with President Reynolds. Carter found himself wondering if everything would ever be the same.
“Pastor James,” he said.
Ezekiel turned to face him again. “Yes?”
Carter cleared his throat. “Everything is going to be alright, isn’t it?”
The look of concern staring back at him caused something within Ezekiel to break, and
for the first time that night, tears formed in his eyes. What could he say to this man? Everything alright? How could everything ever really be alright again? Forty years ago he made the naive mistake of believing he had the ability to make everything right. He thought he was favored. Blessed.
Now he didn’t know what to believe. With every news report and death, his conscience
was even more convicted. This all began with him, and he was convinced it would have to end with him as well. “I pray it will, son,” he finally answered, and turned away again as the tears began to fall.
The change in Ezekiel James, Sr.’s life was a moment that seemed to be innocent
enough, yet he would look back at it and realize it was anything but innocent. It was during a week-long revival in Dallas, Texas in the Fall of 1967 when he was given the opportunity to preach his first sermon to a large assembly.
He was already nervous about the assignment and being away from his young family
for the first time. Ezekiel had only been married to Elizabeth for three years, and the twins had just celebrated their first birthday. Anyone else would have felt quite a bit of accomplishment, but Ezekiel’s mind was on his son and namesake. Before he had left for Dallas, Ezekiel, Jr. became sick. After a week of doctoring on him at home, they took him to the hospital to see what was wrong.
Ezekiel had only been preaching in Mississippi a few years at that time. He was young
in the ministry, but his faith was strong. Some test were run on the boy, and it was determined he had a cold or maybe even the flu. If he was older, it wouldn’t have been a cause for concern, but at his young age it could prove fatal for him if the fever didn’t break soon.
The conference was in just a few days, and Ezekiel was prepared not to go and stay
home with Elizabeth. She was worried, true enough, but she knew how important this sermon was to him. “There’s nothing you can do here,” she had told him. “The hospital is doing all they can for him. Your mind will be there, anyway, so you might as well be there, too.”
It was an argument that really didn’t need to be made, because if anyone knew him and
his heart, it was Elizabeth. She had no doubt how Ezekiel felt about her or their children, but this revival was an opportunity that few little known ministers were getting.
He had to go.
There were over three thousand in attendance at the We Are The Light Of The World
conference that year, and Ezekiel James’ compassionate style and eloquent message of hope resonated with almost everyone in attendance. While on stage, there was no sick child or family hundreds of miles away. There was only the audience and him, and in that moment he took control of his destiny.
That night after the assembly, Ezekiel was treated like a rock star. People from all over the country who had heard him speak were coming up to him just to introduce themselves and say hello. The highlight for Ezekiel was having the organizer of the revival, Michael Silver, personally congratulate him.
“You are the future of our movement, Ezekiel,” Michael told him. “Stay focused and
true to your faith, and you’ll never go wrong.”
Those words couldn’t have meant more to Ezekiel if they had come from any other
evangelist. Michael Silver was the senior mouthpiece for an organization called The Heavenly Messengers of The World. What little was known about it came from secondhand information and speculation from those who wondered aloud about their actual purpose. What was known was that it had a private membership of 12,000 men and women worldwide, and though it was believed Michael was one of the founding members, from what Ezekiel had been told his role now was more of a motivational force for the group.
“Thank you, sir,” he had responded to the compliment with a large grin and handshake.
“Tell me,” Michael continued as he waved to passersby and shook hands with those who tried to get his attention, “when will you be heading home? Are you staying a few days in Texas?”
It was the last day of the revival, and though Ezekiel had wanted to catch a ride with some of his church members that were leaving for Mississippi that night, he wasn’t sure if Michael was asking for a reason.
“It all depends,” Ezekiel decided to say. “Some of my church members are leaving
tonight, but I was thinking of staying to fellowship a bit with some of the others.”
Ezekiel wasn’t exactly sure at the time, but there seemed to be a flash of
disappointment across Michael’s face. If it had been there, however, it was quickly replaced with a smile. He draped his arm around Ezekiel’s shoulder. “If you decide to stay,” he said to him, “there are some people I want to introduce you to, including my half-sister Evelina…”
Michael Silver had seen many dark moments in the history of mankind, yet what had
occurred just two weeks before Ezekiel made that late night trek to Washington D. C. was by far one of the most difficult yet. He had to tell one of the men whom he had great admiration for that it was possible his only son was going to die. A proclamation of death was something he had delivered many times over the years, but it was harder this time because Michael knew what was at stake and what was coming.
The wars that had plagued the world over two thousand years were all about to come to
a head, and finally things would be the way his Father had intended.
“Mr. Silver.” His secretary walked into his office located inside the Standard Life
Building in Jackson, Mississippi. They had only been there a few weeks, and depending on what happened in D. C., there time in the state might be brief. “You told me to let you know when Evelina had arrived.”
The secretary noticed his frown. “Yes, Ruth,” he told her, “send her in. Thank you.”
Michael glanced down at the report that had just come in over his email. The next
several days would be critical. He didn’t envy the President, or Ezekiel, Sr. for that matter. Life and death decisions were coming soon, and as Michael glanced back up, he knew that no one understood that more than the woman in front of him.
“Hello, Michael,” she said in the Spanish accent that she had adopted many years ago.
Out of courtesy to her, Michael stood. “Evelina,” he responded curtly, not trying to in any way hid his displeasure with her. “You weren’t at the assembly today.” He gestured to the chair across from him, and once she had sat, he resumed his seat as well.
“I didn’t think my presence would be welcome,” she answered, crossing her long
shapely legs, causing her flowing black gown to ripple around her body like the waves of her shoulder-length red hair. Evelina then smiled, her shining blue eyes seeming to dance. “Did you miss me, Michael?”
This was not a discussion that Michael wanted to have, this night or any other. He
tolerated her because he had to per instructions from his Father.
“We just assumed you would be there to represent the League,” he responded.
The dynamics going on in that office were striking on many levels. Here was Michael,
a distinguished-looking man with jet black hair touched slightly with gray at the temples and brown eyes, dressed in his daily attire of an all white suit, cream-colored button-down dress shirt and pointed black shoes sitting across from a woman seemingly young enough to be his daughter---and definitely not his type. The two, though, were connected in ways that few on the Earth would understand. Their origins similar, but their mission and purpose couldn’t have been more polar opposites of each other.
Evelina ran her manicured fingers through her hair. She had been looking forward to
these occurrences for quite some time, and now it seemed she would have her revenge.
“The League is aware of your plans, Michael,” she finally said, her tone cynical. “It is the council that seems behind the times. Like before, you are slow to act…”
“Our Father is never slow to act,” Michael interrupted. “He is allowing time for the
truth to be told so that everyone can have a chance at---”
“At what,” Evelina snapped, leaning forward and narrowing her eyes into slits. “At
everlasting life? Is that how you are trying to save these people, Michael, by selling them that ole story?”
Michael stood slowly, and as he did the lamps around his office brightened for several moments and then dimmed, casting long shadows across his face. “You will respect this space, Evelina,” he thundered. “I am not now nor have I ever been afraid of you.”
Evelina knew she had gone too far. “I…I apologize, Michael. It’s just…” She shook her
head. “Look at what they’ve done to this place. This was not the way it was supposed to be.” She rose to her feet. “You know, you might not believe me, but I wish things could have been different between us.”
Michael smiled, and the room seemed to respond to the warmth that emitted from him.
It even caused Evelina to close her eyes, wrap her arms around herself and remember the protection and love the feeling used to offer. In that moment, he caught a sliver of the woman he had known in the beginning with Adam---and it reminded him of the opportunity still available for mankind.
“It’s not too late, Evelina,” he called out after her as she walked to the door.
Evelina smiled back at him, though the sadness in her eyes gave her away. “It is for me, Michael,” she said and closed the door behind her.
Read chapter 5 of IN THE BEGINNING now at www.blessedbycawebb.com. Missed the introduction and first chapter? Find them there as well!