The Impressionist Part 9

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"You don't care? How can you say that? On top of that, if you keep getting high, your b.u.t.t's gonna wind up in jail-or worse you're going to hurt some innocent person! And if you do go to jail, I'm not bailing you out! That's for sure! I'm surprised you haven't been arrested already."

Josh just stood there glaring at me with cold, uncaring, eyes. He crossed his arms again, covering the scars.

"How many times have we been through this, Josh? If you have a record it's going to be hard to get into college. Now, you may not even graduate on time. You're smarter than this!"

"I'm not going to college anyway," he said nonchalantly.

"What!" I shouted, clenching my fists. "Well, if you don't-"



"What, Dad?" he said interrupting me. "I might not end up like you? If you're an example of success, no thanks! You're not happy! Mom's not. I heard you guys this morning. If the two of you can't make it, why should I even try? You ran her off and I'm leaving too! I don't want to be anything like you! Got it?"

With that, Josh bolted out the front door, slamming it behind him. I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut once again.

25.

Bile rose up in the back of my throat and my hands trembled. I felt physically ill. "Just look at you. You're a loser with a capital L," the voice berated. "Josh nailed it. You drove both of them off. They're trying to get away from you. You drive everyone away. You've been doing it your whole life. It's a never-ending cycle."

The panic and despair was now replaced with a suffocating depression that closed in around me...darkness like I was being buried alive. I considered plopping back down in the Lazy Boy and anesthetizing myself with football, but chose to limp back to my bedroom instead. Truth was I didn't know what to do with myself.

Back in my bedroom, I spotted the canister and slid my portrait out and unrolled it before me on the bed. The myriad of colors splashed and splotched with Jim Ed's impressionistic style once again leapt off the pages as my eyes scanned the images he'd captured. I compared the half-me, half-dragon with the half-me, half-lion. Which one was really me, the vicious monster or the courageous lion? There was no doubt in my mind. Then I noticed small letters written at bottom corner of the painting, something that I'd missed before. It was a Scripture reference. Nehemiah 4:14. I reached for a Bible that Paige kept in the bedside table and looked up the Scripture. "Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses."

There sure has been fighting going on in the house, I thought, sliding the Bible back into the drawer. I'm quite certain that's not the type of fighting Nehemiah was talking about. Sitting there I felt the heaviness of my family, my home, my life crumbling down around me, and recalled the words of Jim Ed.

"I've discovered that life has many defining moments," he'd said, "places where we have to make choices of how we are going to respond-what voices we are going to listen to. Today is a defining moment for you, Adam, whether you are going to begin walking in the light and forgiveness; are you going to get back into the fight, or are you simply going to continue on the same path getting the same results?"

I was certain that if anything was going to turn around, something had to change-and that meant starting with me. I was the one who was going to have to take action. It was the only hope I had for saving myself and my family. In my mind, I knew all this, but my emotions were screaming just the opposite. The depression, fear, and regret now overshadowed any feelings of hope. All I felt was hopelessness and despair. Laying the painting aside, I curled up on the bed in the fetal position and rocked back and forth until I fell into a fretful sleep.

26.

When my eyes popped open, my first thought was that someone had come in and pulled up the blinds because the late afternoon sun was s.h.i.+ning directly in my face. Squinting, I instinctively s.h.i.+elded my eyes. Then it occurred to me that the sun always sets on the other side of the house. Yet, if that was the case, why was the whole room full of light, blinding light, a light so bright my eyes should have melted in their sockets? In fact, my whole body should have melted. I looked down and realized that I had a different body, a new body, one that absorbed the light. What was more amazing, however, was the light was alive and pulsating, moving in and out of me, bathing me in inexpressible love and peace. Inside the light, nothing else mattered. I was at peace, complete and total peace. I didn't know where I was, but I never wanted to leave.

Then I saw Him, a distinct figure stepping out from the light, yet somehow was the light. Light was bursting from inside Him and through Him. It was Jesus; I just knew that it was. But this Jesus was unlike any being I'd ever seen before. A magnificent blend of all races, His head and entire body radiated with absolute holiness. The flames of His eyes seared through to the deepest parts of my essence, revealing everything true and repulsive about me. All that I'd tried desperately to keep hidden in the dark corners of my soul was exposed by the light and laid bare before the One who held the power of life itself in His hands.

At this knowledge, even though in a new body, I was repelled backward away from Him. "No! Jesus, no!" I cried. "I know what's in me. I'm not good. I've failed too many times! I'm so disgraceful. I'm unworthy."

"Oh, Adam, My son, I know you," Jesus said, His smile warm and comforting. When He spoke, His mouth never moved but I understood perfectly as the warmth of His love penetrated every atom of my being. "I know you better than anyone, better than you know yourself. I see you, Adam, all of you. I died for you. The price was paid. Your part is to receive My gift." He held out His hands, and that's when I saw the scars. For a moment, I remembered Josh's scars. Josh had cut himself out of frustration and pain, to experience some form of relief, but Jesus had allowed Himself to be excruciatingly tortured beyond anything our imaginations can fathom and then hung on the Cross because of me, because of my sin. Feeling the weight of how much pain I'd caused Him, I dropped to my knees and wept a river of tears, tears of grat.i.tude.

"Adam," Jesus said, placing His hand on my shoulder, lifting me up. "I see you."

"Lord?" I trembled. "I don't understand."

"Look," He said. "I want to show you something."

In less than an instant, somehow I was outside my body, looking back at myself-the other me. I was clothed in a radiantly white, pure and s.h.i.+mmering garment fitted perfectly on my newly formed spiritual body. "This is the true you," said Jesus. "You are mine, Adam, clothed in My perfect righteousness. I purchased you with My own blood. See yourself as I see you. Live from your true ident.i.ty, not your old man that is dying. You don't have to be a slave. My Spirit is in you to empower you to live the way I created you to. Only believe, Adam, and depend on Me."

Then I was back in my other body, looking in Jesus' eyes. He placed His hand on my shoulder. "Remember, I am with you always. You will experience troubles in the world, Adam, but have peace and don't lose heart because I have overcome the world."

Jesus began to fade back into the light around Him. "Wait!" I blurted out, sensing He was leaving. "What about Paige and Josh?"

"You will have all you need to do what is before you, for My Spirit is in you. I will comfort you and counsel you. Listen to My voice. Walk in step with My Spirit, Adam."

"Is Jim Ed an angel?" I impulsively asked. "Did You send him?"

"He's a chosen vessel, like you, Adam."

Just like that Jesus disappeared and I was left pondering the things He had said.

My eyes blinked open and I was still in the fetal position on the bed. A dream, I thought, yes, that was it-a dream! Yet somehow I knew in my heart what I'd experienced was more real than anything I'd known when I was awake. I slipped to my knees.

"Jesus!" I cried out. "Take me! Take what's left of my life and use it. Change me, G.o.d! Make me like You. Make me more like Jim Ed."

At that moment, it felt like warm oil poured over my head, covering my body and cleansing me from the inside out. That same overwhelming peace I felt in the dream was in the room. Jesus was here. It was as if I could see His blazing eyes, filled with warmth and compa.s.sion. He was so close. For a long time I knelt there beside my bed, weeping quietly, floating in His endless love.

Feeling another presence in the room, I turned around surprised to find Josh standing over me. At first, I wasn't sure what he was going to do, if he was going to cuss at me or take a swing, but then I saw the tears in his eyes. Our eyes linked and he fell down by my side collapsing into my arms.

"I love you, son," I cried, squeezing him tightly. "I love you so much!"

"I love you too, Dad," he cried.

I slid my arm around his shoulder like we were buddies, and we both sat there on the floor for a while. No words were spoken. No words were needed.

27.

I unfolded the piece of paper with Jim Ed's number and entered it as a new contact in my phone. I really wanted to get with him and tell him my experience. I knew I couldn't tell just anyone. Some people would just write me off. I'd still not heard from Paige and had a gut feeling that dumping a new religious experience on her might make her leery. No, this was real. Something had happened inside me and I knew I would never be the same. Paige was going to have to see the new me. When the time was right, I would tell her.

Josh agreed to get into a professional program. We couldn't do anything until Monday anyway, and he didn't fight me any longer about the keys. Something had occurred between us. Josh wasn't bluffing, though I was perfectly aware that he could lie to my face with tears in his eyes. Yes, something real happened between us, but I knew it was going to be a long, difficult journey forward with him. I had a mixture of emotions running through my mind. I had to tell someone of my incredible experience so I entered in Jim Ed's number and pushed Call. I thought about Eric- he would just love this. Just like with Paige there was no answer, but this one went straight to voice mail after the first ring. "Jim Ed, this is Adam, something happened to me, man! Wonderful, strange, I've got to tell you. Can we meet? Call me."

For the next 20 minutes I paced the floor of our house, waiting. I finally gave up. Midway though a bowl of Captain Crunch Josh and I were having, my phone dinged indicating a message. I looked down thinking it was Paige, but it was Jim Ed.

"Meet me at the new McCafe at 6 pm," he sent. "The one at the corner of 101st street and Memorial Boulevard."

"Sounds great," I replied. "See you there."

I invited Josh to ride along with me to meet this painter dude and afterward get some pizza and hang out. I showed him the portrait that Jim Ed had done.

"Cool," Josh replied.

A block or so from the McCafe was the Forest Green Cemetery. As we pa.s.sed by, I saw Jim Ed's truck weaving through the cemetery's main driveway out to Memorial Boulevard. Apparently he was leaving to meet us. I'm sure he didn't recognize us because he had never seen my vehicle before.

Josh and I pulled into the parking lot of McCafe and waited for Jim Ed. When he got out of the truck we walked to meet him in the parking lot.

"Jim Ed, this is my son, Josh," I said.

Wearing a black, long-sleeved t-s.h.i.+rt, Josh nodded. Jim Ed looked at him with his warm, inviting eyes and stuck out his hand. A big smile broke across his face. "Name is James Edward Porter. Friends call me Jim Ed. Nice to meet you, Josh."

Josh took his hand and shook it slightly. "I'm Josh."

Jim Ed tipped his Saints cap. "Fine young man," he said squeezing Josh's hand firmly. "Yes sir. You're bursting with intelligence and gifts. Can feel it."

Josh didn't speak, but his face lit up.

Jim Ed leaned in closer to Josh. "I see you, man," he whispered in his ear. "You're set apart for a divine purpose. G.o.d's got big plans for you."

As we walked in, I could tell Jim Ed was exhausted. He looked older and depleted, even more so than he had when we left the park.

After the three of us got our coffee and slid into our booth, Jim Ed turned to me and said, "So tell me about this strange and wonderful experience."

"Something incredible happened, Jim Ed!" I exploded, hardly able to contain my excitement, but trying to tone it down some. "I had a dream, but it was more than a dream. It was like a vision. I was in the light and Jesus came to me. He spoke to me. It was real Jim Ed, and I'm the last person to put stock in such nonsense as dreams!"

Jim Ed and Josh listened carefully, hanging on my words as I went into great detail.

"Somehow I'm different. It's hard to explain, but I feel it. I'm not the same person."

"Or you are just now understanding who you really are," added Jim Ed.

"Yes, I understand now," I said. "It's not about me, but Him."

Jim Ed looked at Josh, who was nervously picking at his arm through his sleeve. "What do you think about that story, Josh?"

"I know something happened to my dad," said Josh. "I believe him. He's never acted like this before."

"How 'bout another cup of coffee?" asked Jim Ed.

"Sounds good," I said and we all three got up and walked to the counter for a refill.

"Did somebody you know die?" Josh asked Jim Ed while we were waiting. "We saw your truck coming out the cemetery."

I shook my head, in an attempt to let Josh know we didn't want to go there, but Jim Ed interrupted me.

"It's fine," he said. "Yes Josh, somebody did die. It was my Christina."

"Who was Christina?"

"It's okay if you don't want to talk about it," I told Jim Ed.

"We need to talk about it, Adam," he said. "You need to hear it."

We sat back down at the booth and Jim Ed began.

"Christina pa.s.sed from cancer not long ago, Josh," he said.

"How long?" Josh asked.

"Not quite eight months, but she was diagnosed a little over a year ago." He was trying hard to smile, but it was too much of a struggle so he gave up. "She'd been complaining of pains in her side and was getting more tired than usual, so we went in for a checkup. I was thinking it was probably just her age. You know, find the problem, get some meds, soon this thing will be behind us. That's what I was thinking. That's when the bomb fell. After the doctor poked on her side, he ordered a CAT scan. He said the tests would probably come back negative, not to worry. Three days later the phone rang. Christina had a ma.s.s on her spleen. The doctor explained that she had lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the lymphatic system of which the spleen is the center. It was aggressive and they gave her only months to live."

"I'm sorry," said Josh. "You can stop if you want."

Jim Ed just continued, dropping his head, talking into his coffee. "We hugged. We cried. Cried out to G.o.d. I felt emptiness and despair rising up inside me like cream in the milk bin back at our old dairy farm. The thought of going through even one day in this world without my Christina was more than I could handle. At home that night, after Christina was in bed asleep, I walked in the back yard and fell against a tree, gripping my face. My insides screamed. When I prayed, it seemed like G.o.d was slapping me down with a rod of silence. Where was G.o.d anyway? How could He allow this? Anger took root in me again, boiling up. I knew I was headed for another defining moment just like that day back in the truck when I was set on putting a bullet through Lewis' skull."

Josh's eyes about popped out of his head. "Putting a bullet through Lewis' skull?"

Jim Ed nodded, "Was I going to give in to despair and unbelief, let hate and anger rule me...or was I going to rise up and be a warrior for Christina during her time of greatest need? Maybe I was born for just such a time. This was not only Christina's greatest test, but mine too."

28.

Her immune system down from the chemo, Christina had her worst week ever. For several nights, she lay in bed s.h.i.+vering violently for hours at a time with temperatures hovering at degrees. A mere skeleton, she' d fall asleep then woke up enough to choke down a few swallows of Ensure, and then throw it up. It was horrible. Weak and frail, Christina was in pain almost continuously, even with pain killers. It was crus.h.i.+ng Jim Ed to watch her. By then, Christina was too weak to pray out loud. She barely even talked. When she did it was only a faint whisper. Jim Ed, their son Will, and a plethora of friends had prayed for months believing G.o.d for a miracle healing or for the medical treatment to cure her, but things had only worsened. It appeared on the surface that G.o.d had taken a sabbatical.

"We can't give up," Jim Ed whispered into Christina's ear. "We have to draw strength from Him and keep going. He's here baby, He's here."

Sometimes he would encourage her by saying, "Christina, you're here on this bed doing the greatest work you've ever done for the kingdom of G.o.d. What you're doing now is as important as all the Bible studies you've taught, all the wors.h.i.+p you've led, all the praying and witnessing you ever did. It's bringing together everything. This is your greatest work!"

Christina would nod weakly.

"By acknowledging G.o.d's goodness right here, in this situation, we're exalting Him and choosing to declare His glory before all of His enemies-before all His servants and all His creation! G.o.d is alive, Christina. You know that. You showed me that!"

She would nod in agreement.

The Impressionist Part 9

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The Impressionist Part 9 summary

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