An Exchange of Rings

The Quest to Replace a Purity Ring with a Ring by Spring

Jacob’s Last Words

by phichijacob

Dear Readers,

 

The command of scripture is to speak the truth in love. However, when love no longer lingers and mirth becomes cold mocking and delight becomes devoid of desire to see growth in grace, the joke must come to an end. For this reason, we the writers write to you.

 

Often has satire been utilized to address the problems of a particular context. It would seem that our adventure in story has been sorely misused and has been used as a means of degrading those of a particular brand of faith. The narrators seek to remind themselves as well as others that though it be a different brand, it is true faith nonetheless. Jacob and Esther’s quest for true love was never meant to serve as a platform to espouse superiority of faith or to condemn some among us. Rather, the fable was meant to point out certain errors of faith lived out by sinful people in the midst of an overly “spiritualized” culture – a culture that largely misses the point of the faith it boldly claims.

 

I would ask you to consider a few things.

 

One, the Lord has deemed it appropriate that every person be in process. Thus, as the other narrator pointed out, Jacob and Esther are Christians pursuing true faith, though many can look and see the ridiculousness of many of their thoughts and actions. Professing Jesus does not immediately grant one a certain level of theological training nor does it automatically alter certain thought patterns or emotions. Instead, the Holy Spirit works in and through ordinary life to teach us the beauty of the everyday, true faith, and deep friendship. It does not happen over night. Jacob and Esther are simply ones in process along with the rest of us.

 

Two, let us consider how to spurn one another on to good deeds, right faith, and a proper understanding of Jesus in the midst of process. Imagine Jacob and Esther a year, or two, or even ten removed from their escapades together. Consider what growth the Lord might have done. That growth is the beauty of the gospel; it’s a growing awareness of the love of Jesus and how He has called sinful people sons and daughters. “An Exchange of Rings” was an attempt to spurn born out of love for the campus, concern for the souls of those among us, and a desire to see Jesus rightly proclaimed rather than used as a magic 8-ball of sorts. Have you considered recently that He who created the cosmos condescended to His creation for the purpose of redeeming them? I

 

It is the sincere hope of the narrators that you, the reader, have walked away both stung with conviction but also spurned on to love those around you despite where they may be in terms of processing their faith. This writing adventure has served the same function for the writers. It is with great humility we apologize to those rightly offended and ask God to teach us to love our campus, our neighbor, and to pray for their welfare and growth.

 

 

-Jacob’s Narrator.

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esther’s last words

by esthergracemeyer

Dear Readers,

What started as bit of farce quickly spread into something more. When it comes to writing, content and context must always be held in delicate tension. The Narrator had hoped that these posts would begin conversations about the nature of the Gospel, the problems of Greek Life, and serious reflection on the flippancy with which people use the Name of God. This, alas, was not the overwhelming case. Instead, those who already had bitterness toward Holy Church used it as an invitation to perpetuate their hatred for the Bride and those who saw themselves in its reflection were not inspired to change and self-awareness but were instead driven farther into abstraction.

Apologies, accordingly, to those who, for legitimate reasons, were so offended.

It is thus that, what had hoped to be a laugh with a poke, must come to a close. In the service of God and not ourselves, even good intentions must be weighed against a Righteousness too great to bear. To this avail we all stumble, but when it is within our power to honor and obey our Lord and Master, in all times and in all places, we are called to submit.

However, before this brief encounter is wrought closed, The Narrator of Esther would like to pose these final thoughts, at the close shall come an insight into how the story would have ended, next semester:

—ONE—

Esther really wasn’t that bad. In fact, her faith is to be commended. For all her failing, for all her misunderstanding, she was, in the least, trying. She was, in the least, seeking. Does that cover everything? It does not. Dogma, true dogma, should be at the center of all people who seek and chase our beautiful Lord; however, all is but grace. All are on journey. All. Give space to chase the Infinite and you’ll realize just how far each and every one of us has to go. Through the ministration of Holy Ghost, somehow it all comes out to His good.

—TWO—

The above being true, it is also true that Greek Life on the campus of a professed Baptist university is a serious problem. In particular, fraternities and sororities that claim the name of Christ as masthead. Should a group claim Christ, as certain fraternities and sororities do, they should claim the whole of Christ.

Do we forget? Love your neighbor as yourself.

Though the Narrator admits culpability in frequently failing this command, nonetheless, as stated above, when it is within obvious power to correct, we as servants of Christ are called to do so. Organizations that are based on ostracizing, on the mindset of the cluster against the non-cluster, have forgotten the sting of not belonging.

You’re the child whose just dropped their ice cream cone in the sandbox and everyone is laughing at you. For a moment, would you be that child again? Consider what it means. Consider how it feels. Laugh this away, if you will, but there is hope you feel your heart bruised, that this causes a wound as old as this aching cosmos. Laugh at this too? It’s but Scripture.

Where would our Lord Christ be? Amongst the hungry and poor, the outcast, or with those assured of feeling that they belong?

This is not to suggest, however, The Narrator is without fault. The Narrator, instead, recognizes this failing and admits, in part, that this is the reason for truncating this fable.

But for those of you in the clusters, in the safety of group identity, is it fair to ask:

Shall you be the one to answer, yes, you on your own, for those who did not get to join the whole?

Shall you be the one to answer, yes, you on your own, for those who were never made to feel that they could try?

“Comfort ye my people.”

Where is your comfort?

—THREE—

Should this blog have appealed to you for it satirized a group that you do not like, should this have been a delight to your soul because it made you feel superior in your faith—are you not tired?

Have you not wasted enough of life hating the Church, all that energy that amounts to hating yourself? Are you broken, bruised, and wounded? The Narrator has a place for you here, come sit! We can chat about it, laugh at our foolishness, at our false superiority.

Come rest, at last, rest in the arms of Christ. Stop hating and being spiteful to the means by which Holy Ghost chooses to manifest. All is but grace and while dogma must be central, there is no negating this, we all need friends for the journey.

Come rest; come rest. Are you not tired? Do you need friends for the journey? Come play here with us, repentant misfits ourselves.

—THE ENDING—

This ending was planned several weeks ago, long before the bit of trouble …

Had the story gone on, next semester, Esther and Jacob (Phillip) would have broken up after a man on the street told them that he had a word of knowledge that they shouldn’t be getting married. Devastated, Esther sets off on her own to establish Bethesda Ministries–a clinic specializing in providing children who are deaf and living in Kenya with resources to live productive, active lives (yes, prayers for healing are included, but along with immediate care as well). On the plane, Esther contemplate the alleged promise she felt from God so long ago, about Bethesda and the names Andrew, Phillip, and Peter. She lets it go, telling God that she is willing to follow, even if it seems uncertain.

At that moment, an attractive man about her age is passing through the plane and takes the seat beside her. They start to chat. He explains that he’s going to Kenya as well to work with a mission church. Esther’s heart quickens, but falls quickly when he, taking out his in-flight reading, happens to pull out a Book of Common Prayer. Everything in her revolts, except a small part which, curiously, desires to know more. She watches him open the book, looks to the prayers within it, and when she sees how many Psalms are there, she begins to wonder if she’s missed something, if this, too, isn’t part of God. The man seems so nice, so open, so faithful, yet he is totally other than what she has been led to believe faith should look like. Yet, she considers, Christ is the same. She shoos the thought away, deciding that she doesn’t want to mistakingly read God into situations anymore.

Suddenly, the man apologizes for his rudeness in not properly introducing himself sooner, sticks out his hand, and says, “I’m Andrew.”

For you see, though it is not advisable for Esther to have thrust her finger down in Scripture and read the first verse that popped out for guidance, St. Augustine was converted by “turn and read.” God can use whatever He wills. Holy Ghost violently breaks in, sudden and beautiful, and does all sorts of beauty with our mangled messes. Esther included.

—CLOSE—

Now to Him be all glory, all honor, all power, now until the end of the age and the words passed here be found in the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, to whom be all glory and honor, now and forever, world without end, amen.

— Esther’s Narrator

esther, chapter five

by esthergracemeyer

Esther woke around noon to find Lydia lying atop her, hands carefully pinning Esther’s arms back, while Lydia murmured cereal names against her forehead.

“What are you doing?” Esther asked, images of Jennifer Knapp suddenly flooding her mind. She rebuked them quickly, just as Lydia finished a slurred, “LukycharmfrostedflakesgrapenutsOapplejacksreesespuffs!” and fell silent

Lydia loosed her grip on her best friend’s arms and sat back on her heels, still straddling the other. “I’m trying to perform a spiritual resurrection, Esther, in the style of Elisha.”

“Ja.”

“Sha.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s ja—“

“Irregardless!” Lydia snapped, eyes alight, “You’ve spent the past week moping around because of that guy and enough is enough.”

Esther felt a prick in her heart and she looked away, studying her wall where the Mandate poster still hung from September. Its distinctly African vibe stirred the flesh within her, pounding drums and animal instinct, and she suddenly found her thoughts turning to Jacob, his Christly biceps, the way his pecs bulged just slightly under his North Face vest when he lifted his NIV Study Bible ever so slowly as it slipped open to the Song of Sol—

“Esther?”

Esther’s eyes snapped shut. She opened them slowly, turning back to look at Lydia, a slight flush in her cheeks.

“Are you going to stay in bed all day or are we going to do something about all of this?” Lydia looked at her intently, never seeming to blink. Esther realized that she was not going to be able to avoid the issue any longer. Despite having spent the previous evening at an all night prayer vigil against Halloween and All Saints Day—two birds with one stone in Esther’s mind—and pretending it had everything to do with her piety, Lydia had seen through and recognized Esther’s spiritual business as avoiding her problems.

“Come on,” Lydia encouraged, “What would Joyce do?”

“What would Joyce do?” Esther repeated, taking a deep breath. Suddenly the Spirit brought the words of Joyce to her lips: “‘Complain and remain. Praise and be raised!’”

“Be raised!” Lydia affirmed, grabbing hold of Esther’s arms and pulling her back up off the bed so that she was sitting upright. Esther was laughing, the joy of the Spirit spilling out from her, but then it began to slowly fade and her smile turned into a soft line across her face. “Oh come on,” Lydia sighed, shaking her head, “You keep letting Satan steal the Jesus joy from your cookie jar!”

Esther let out a soft sigh. “It’s just I really wanted it to be him, Lyd. I wanted it to be Jacob. O—” she cast out her arm in a wide sweep, ‘Jacob have I loved!—’”

“Stop that!” Lydia insisted, shaking her head. “Esther, you keep thinking that because God gave you a word that it means that everything is set in stone. So what if his name isn’t Andrew or Peter or Phillip, it could still be him.”

“You really think so?”

“Of course!”

“Even though his name is Jacob?”

“Oh no! No, of course not.” Lydia shook her head. “No, he’s not it if his name is Jacob. But I was praying this morning over my Alphabet Cereal and the Spirit opened my eyes and I saw all those letters stirring in the bowl in front of me and do you know what word of knowledge came?”

Esther considered, not for the first time, that Lydia might be brick short.

“Um,” Esther muttered tentatively, “No?”

“The swirling letters formed new words again and again with all sorts of variations. Jhghjyu, Lophgsfdt, Hythdgan, and all sorts of words like that. So what if his name is Jacob? Jacob’s name was Jacob before God touched his tender place and he was renamed Israel. A name is just a name, but God is sovereign! If Jacob is to be the one, God will rename him. Right now he’s the wrong letters. But God owns all of the letters! He can do whatever He wants with them!” She clapped her hands together as a slight mist settled in her eyes. “Isn’t God beautiful?”

Esther considered her friend for a moment before deciding that it was best to nod, though she did so slowly. “Absolutely,” she agreed, though her heart ached. She wanted to believe that it was possible, but she couldn’t bring herself to accept it. At that moment, she felt the whisper of the Spirit to her heart, sudden and immediate, that she needed to go to the coffee shop. She slipped out of bed, Lydia looking slightly surprised, as she grabbed her clothes and changed quickly.

“Are you going to see him?” Lydia asked.

“Maybe,” Esther murmured, pulling a pair of tights over her legs so that they wouldn’t be exposed as she wore her ankle-length dress. “I just feel led to go.”

“With God!” Lydia declared as Esther turned, “Go with God, dear sister!”

As Esther walked down the side streets toward the coffee shop, she found herself praying, once more as she always did, for the campus. The spiritual life organization had recently taken on offering a personality test, which though she was unsure of what it was, she knew was inherently evil because it came from China, which she was fairly certain hated God and silverware.

“How long, O Lord?” she whispered, repeating the lines of Habakkuk, which she had read by the Spirit the day before when she had been seeking an answer about the Jacob situation and had the unfortunate folly of landing her finger repeatedly in Old Testament passages about circumcision, spilled seed, genocide, and something to do with an animal in Leviticus that she did her best to not think on again.

When she arrived at the coffee house, entering from the back, her expectation to find Jacob there, waiting, ready to tell her that he had changed his name, suddenly faded as she saw the deaf girl that she had recently healed talking on the back porch to the boy that had been with her when it had happened. They had been joined by a loud a woman who gesticulated wildly, as did the boy. Esther identified the woman as the one who claimed to be able to be a pastor, despite being a deceived Daughter of Eve. She was brandishing a Dr. Pepper 10 can and yelling something about sex trafficking, which Esther only presumed she was in favor of.

Esther slowly walked past them, lingering just long enough to watch as the girl laughed and listened, able to hear when she had never been able to do so before. Suddenly the feeling of blessing burned in her chest, how God had used her, could use her, and Spirits words were quiet: Bethesda.

She needed to spend time thinking about her ministry and less about Jacob. But as the sun spilled into the door as she pushed it open, she caught for a moment the brief smell of musk and bad life choices hastily repented of and her heart leapt in expectation.

The light passed into darkness and she was face to face with a Pi Kapp.

“Hey,” he muttered, looking her up and down, both confused by the length of her dress and that she was a woman standing upright.

A soft laugh escaped Esther’s lips. “Wrong letters,” she whispered, shaking her head and rolling her eyes at herself. “Wrong letters.”

an interlude from the narrators, part one

by esthergracemeyer

Dear Readers,

The Narrators of this blog do beg your pardon, for they imagine you are quite surprised to find them barging into you Friday with a post, when they are normally not inclined to do so. But we feel that it has come time to interrupt this little fable, this sort of Pinter play, with a few items for your consideration …

1. Should you find yourself smiling over the ways in which Esther and Jacob misuse the Scripture, thinking to yourself like a certain parabled Pharisee that at least you are not like them, have you yourself bothered to pick up Holy Writ of late, prayerfully and carefully read it, and dare to listen to the deep and abiding voice of Holy Ghost? Dare, we even venture, to believe it? If not, the Narrators invite you to consider it.

2. If you think yourself parodied here, the Narrators submit humble apology. Esther and Jacob are fiction and no more than that, though they certainly hold a firm tongue to their respective cheeks when reflecting on the life of a certain university and those who take what the narrators find to be silly things a bit too seriously. But that said, should you consider it an offense, perhaps another question is best posed: is there Scriptural basis for exclusive “Christian” groups? The Narrators ever so humbly submit that there is not.

3. If you delight in this little story for it makes you feel that your faith is superior or that your church–particularly if your church is designed to act as if it has all the answers, it is where people go who don’t like the church, or is where all the true believers in a kind of radical, hipster, political-activist-in-the-vein-of-Che, Jesus attend–the Narrators respectfully hope you understand that they are firmly, theologically opposed to you. The Narrators, perhaps much to your chagrin, love the Church. You shall find them, horrific as it may be, to be quite orthodox.

4. The Narrators also submit the following thought for reflection: we are all, if we have claimed Christ and be He raised, brothers and sisters in Him. All of us. Each and every one. Esther and Jacob included. Misguided as they may be, in Him art they still.

Humbly and ever yours, in Him–for in Him we move and have our being–

The Narrators

jacob, chapter four

by phichijacob

As Jacob walked home from the coffee shop after what he was sure had been one of the most real and impactful experiences with the Spirit he had ever known, he began to think on her. She had been the epitome of everything a diligent Christian man such as himself could ever want, would ever want. He recalled having been utterly shocked that she wasn’t already married! After all, what Christian guy wouldn’t have gone after her at first glance! He then remembered that surely God had kept other young men patient for the one. And Esther, being the one for him, could certainly not be the one for someone else. The thought confused him though he was certain it made sense and was, not to mention, entirely Biblical.

Walking home Jacob prayed first and foremost for Esther. He prayed that the Lord would have His Spirit fall on her, that he might keep her clean and pure for him. And for Jesus of course. She was committed to Jesus first and foremost. He would always be her true love. Jacob then prayed that God would enliven his love for Esther that he might shape and mold in a way worthy of being called a man after God’s own heart. This thought erupted into a stream of words he wished he had said to her had he only thought of them, or rather, had they only been given to him during their conversation. He opted to write them down as soon as he got home.

Jacob blew through the front door and his roommates heading straight for his prayer closet, a holy place reserved only for the most private spiritual things. It is the place Jacob’s spiritual life blossomed and grew. It was where he sought God’s heart. He sank to the floor of the closet, note pad and pen in hand. He wrote to his love, he wrote to his future wife, he wrote to Esther Grace Meyer:

Esther,

All at once, when I saw you sharing in my rebuke and concern over the sheer godlessness that has gripped our campus, I knew you were the One I’d been waiting for. You were the one that I’d practiced the faith and patience of Jacob. You are my Rachel. As we began to talk I was only gripped by a heightened sense of affirmation that you would be the one to support me, follow me, be my cheerleader as I become one of the leaders of the church.

Not only that, you echoed completely my sentiment that God must be number one in my life. As you spoke of your dating relationship with Jesus, my only thought was that I have some big shoes to fill. What a standard Jesus has called me to live up to! How I hope to be Jesus to you, to be your guide and protector. How I hope to live up to the reputation of Jacob and Phi Chi.

I love the thought of having someone stand beside me as I stand against Satan on this dark campus. Knowing that you recognize the many ways he works here. After all, you did heal that deaf girl the other day. The only thing that got me more stoked than hearing about that was hearing that you detest that awful theology that says God created some to go to hell while others to go to heaven. We have a choice and I choose you. The One.

And to know you share in my hatred of chapel here. It is sad that this place claims to care about the spiritual development of students. The other day they did a message in song from Jennifer Knapp. I was so encouraged by your words of disgust at her giving herself over to that which is unnatural and ungodly. Though I wholeheartedly approve of your opinion of her, I had to once again grip my purity ring remembering to keep my mind pure.

I hope to carry on in your journey of being drunk with the Spirit. That we might drink together!! And to think, I was able to say that to you without you assuming I meant something else.

All the love I’ve been saving for you,

Phillip Jacob Michaels III

At that, Jacob looked at his full name, knowing that soon he would be able to share that name with Esther. He longed for her to be his helpmate. Jacob rose from his prayer closet and decided to go for a walk. He did, after all, feel closer to God out in the wilderness.

esther, chapter four

by esthergracemeyer

That evening, Esther returned to her house in a sort of daze. Lydia had noticed it as soon as she had walked in the door and had been prepared to fetch the emergency anointing oil she kept hidden behind the olive oil in the pantry, but came up short when Esther announced that “Her soul magnified the Lord” for she had been led that day to her future husband. Lydia, who spent a significant portion of her ministry life serving IHOP online (that is, the International House of Prayer, not the crack house people ate at off campus) and was immersed in the Christian blog culture, recommended that Esther write a letter to her future husband as a means of expressing her certainty in the provision and promise of God.

Apparently, Lydia had stumbled upon a blog post a few days previous in which a young man had written a letter to his future wife. Despite his claims that he was not looking for a date, Lydia had sent him an email with the word of knowledge she had felt blossom within her upon reading his letter. She had yet to hear back from him, but she was confident his email silence meant that he was spending his time devoted in prayer.

Esther considered this advice and promptly discerned it to be prophetic, sitting down at their kitchen table and pulling out her leather journal, the purchase of which had saved three black children somewhere in Africa from someone that wanted to kill them. Or starve them. Or maybe just Satan.

To my future husband,

I have just come from meeting you for the first time and find myself enraptured by the overwhelming presence of Christ within you. When you told me, “God is number one in my life,” I realized that you and I were created like the halves of that baby that King Solomon was going to have cut in half—never meant to be broken apart, always better when together and whole.

How quickly our hearts were knit together! As soon as you began to speak, I heard the voice of my rugged Savior speaking into the seat of my womanhood. As I shared with you, as a daughter of Eve it is easy for me to be deceived and I am in need of a man who will be able to lead me away from the foolishness and weakness of my sex. And how has my Lord rewarded me for faithfully understanding my failings? He has drawn me to you, you who are going to be one of the leaders of the church. Not only do I know this because you told me but also because when you said it, I felt the Spirit kissing the back of my knees with the delight of thanksgiving!

But should our labors be only for this terrible, dark campus, which you told me you love being at so you can stand up to Satan, going to Worship at the Spot every Thursday night to sing as loud as you can so the Prince of this World knows exactly who he’s fighting against? No. We must also make room for each other, for we were created only for each other and only in a way that were you to ever not be mine, I don’t know what I would do! And in this—oh!—my joy! When I told you that I liked Jennifer Knapp before she let Satan take control of her body and she fell in love with what basically amounts to her own reflection and is logistically quite impossible to manage with regard the bodies of two women together, the way your eyes glazed over and your mouth hung just a bit open moved my spirit in delight knowing that you, like I, were imagining just how horrific such sin must be!

Did you see me smile in radiance when you said that you felt closer to God in the wilderness surrounded by your brothers in Phi Chi, how all that masculine energy, the sweat, the closeness made the man inside you flourish with zeal and burn like a bright, thundering flame? We are in such need of real men in the church, men who can feel it deep inside them and take it all, then push it all back and into others. How you delight my soul when you speak with such affection for your brothers but insist each time that your love is within the confines of 1 Corinthians 6:9.

You too ache over how pathetic chapel here is. How they don’t even speak the name of Jesus Christ. How they trust in the chariots of their invention and not in the name of the Lord our God! How I long to stand beside you, to be your support as a Titus 2 woman and teach those other women and children how to respect men like you who take a stand. Men like you, my kinsman redeemer, who are in strength and stamina and beauty surely exactly who Jesus also was. I look at you, at your ruggedness, at your strength, and I feel closer to God. How brightly you shine like the morning star!

What joy have you whispered to me? Did I hear you right when you said that you can’t wait to leave your mother and father and cleave to a woman? Oh, Jacob, cleave to me! I am here! I am waiting! Cleave! You said that you hate full frontal hugs between opposite genders because it is opportunity for sin. I shall wait for you, my Jacob. Here at the altar I shall wait! Cleave to me! Redeem me from never having been a TriDelt, the only sorority on campus that truly loves Jesus enough to exclude everyone else from it who doesn’t! Cleave, my Jacob—

And at this moment Esther stopped. She stared down at the page before her, pen slightly trembling in her hand. The first tear struck the word cleave, the second the name Jacob. Within her came the resounding voice of the Spirit, or at least the voice she had always presumed was Him: Did you not receive the promise? 

“Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.”

Bethsaida.

But Jacob.

But it was supposed to be with Philip, Andrew, or Peter.

What had she done?

jacob, chapter three

by phichijacob

Jacob woke up Sunday morning still quite disappointed that he had missed the retreat over fall break. He just couldn’t quite understand why God would not have arranged the circumstances of his life so that he could attend his fraternity’s retreat. He muttered Romans 8:28 to himself and trusted that his spiritual life was at no grave risk even though he’d missed such a formative experience with his “bros.”

Just the same, he clambered out of bed, did a set of push-ups, and walked into the bathroom to begin getting ready for worship. As he showered he began preparing his heart for worship, running through the laundry list of things he’d done wrong during the week and making promises to God that he would never again commit such mistakes. His list went something like this:

  1. He hadn’t witnessed to the guy sitting at the coffee shop, drinking an excessive amount of coffee from his green mug, and frantically typing away on his keyboard. He clearly wasn’t a Christian. How could he be? He had the audacity to flip off a professor walking into the coffee shop.
  2. Though he hadn’t actually lusted after that girl he saw walking back from the gym, he had thought about lusting and that was enough even though he had no idea what she actually looked like.
  3. He had lied to his friend who had invited him to a Bible study. It’s just that there was another Bible study he wanted to go to. (It should be noted that this was something he didn’t quite feel bad about. Something about going to Bible study and cancelling out his sin went through his head).

Jacob fully intended to wrestle with these sins and never commit them again. Either out of function of finishing his shower or being incapable of thinking of any other thing he’d done wrong the last couple of days he concluded his list, deeming his heart worthy for worship.

Jacob’s Sunday went on as usual after the service. He went to lunch afterward, where he and his friends marginally discussed the sermon they had marginally listened to, concluding that the worship had been really great and they had really felt moved. He napped and watched football, clearly accomplishing Sabbath rest. Whatever that meant. He did like the idea though.

Jacob went to bed that night having completely forgotten about his missing the retreat and quite certain that he would be able to vicariously experience the spiritual through his fraternity brothers, one of which he was meeting the next morning at the coffee shop.

Jacob arose with the morning, thanking God for giving him another day, another week, another chance to be His Light to the World. He walked from his apartment to the coffee shop, excited to hear of the Spirit’s encouraging work among his brothers. He stood in line, clearly noting the painted icon by the register. He had heard of someone speak of “writing” an icon. That confused him. There weren’t any words.

Anyway, Jacob ordered his drink – a large soyboy with the flavored coffee of the day. He became self-conscious every time he sort of mumbled the words to the barista. After all, accusations of being gay were no infrequent occurrence in his life. He paid and stepped away from the bar noticing his friend sitting at a tall table in the corner, “Hey man! Be there in a sec.”

As he looked over to his right he saw a plethora of some of the most godly, albeit ditsy, girls on campus. The giant triangles, stylistically sewn on the fronts of coarse jerseys stood together in great solidarity and unity. They belonged together and everyone knew it. After all, they all shared a similar zeal and passion for Vera Bradley, pearls, 4.0’s, Jesus and Phi Chi’s.

A Barista yelled out an order for some balding man, most likely a professor: “Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll for Dr. Candler.” He looked again to his right disgust and irritation filling first his eyes and then overflowing from his tongue. It seemed a very preached on from Sunday morning, the series was on James, quickly came to mind and was quite appropriate for the occasion.

“Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” He spoke the words with authority, passion and conviction. He had hoped the Barista as well as the professor (Consequently, he was the same professor the non-Christian guy had flipped off the day before) heard him utter Truth in hopes they would repent and learn to guard their witness.

In that moment, in that place, Jacob had an epiphany of sorts. Firstly, he then knew why he had been made to miss the retreat. Had he gone to the retreat he would not have known the proper verse to guard himself and his from such a perverse idea conveyed through the means of a drink. Secondly, as he finished speaking the verse, the longing eyes of brunette had locked onto him. She had come out of the bathroom right as the drink was called out, her uttering the first part of the verse from James.

Waiting for his incredibly masculine drink, Jacob felt a surge of desire. It was not an overpowering physical attraction – that would be wrong. Rather, Jacob knew in his heart that he had found the girl he would one day kiss on the altar, for the first time. Though he had kissed dating goodbye, he had now found the object of his courtship quest.

esther, chapter three

by esthergracemeyer

Esther had spent Fall Break at a retreat with her Lifegroup, though most of the time she had been cuddled up next to her best friend, Lydia, recounting with increasing spiritual embellishment the moment that the UKRTB–unidentified kinsman redeemer to be–had passed her the following week. What had begun as a simple diatribe about the way his triceps recalled the strength of Christ’s character had slowly metamorphosed into a prophetic utterance concerning their future nuptials, complete with “weeping and gnashing of teeth”–an unfortunate biblicist move that Esther made when throwing down her finger in the Gospel of Matthew, reading what was under her pointer, and interpreting it to refer to a future child.

But it was Monday morning and the break was over, Esther cast back into the harsh reality of a world tinged with a need to see Christ and where somewhere, out there, UKRTB roamed the sidewalks of campus with the grace of the Lord.

She moved slowly to her first class, letting her movements be subtle, gentle strides. The mid-October wind, still hot as summer, brushed like the Holy Spirit across her face, giving her a sloppy wet kiss. Esther’s mind wandered and she idly curled a strand of her long brunette hair around her finger, imagining what it would be like to wash UKRTB’s feet with her best perfume, her tears, her hair, like that prostitute in the Gospel did to Jesus. In a sudden moment of doubt, she feared this to be a kind of mutated lust, which she promptly combated by exclaiming, “Get behind me, Satan!”

This exclamation was received with uncertainty by the older man who happened to be walking Esther’s direction on the sidewalk. He held a copy of Mallory’s Le Mort d’Arthur under his arm and wore a suit that reminded Esther of horror movies filmed in the nineties. His fedora at an angle, he looked the young woman up and down for a few moments before making comment. “Goodness, young lady, I do think that was quite an unusual outburst! Are you alright, colleague?”

Esther blinked at him, partially unnerved by his gaze and, at the same time, unaware that her rejection of mental sin had been aloud. The old man kept his gaze on Esther. It was a gaze that captivated, arrested, but did so with such complexly veiled malice and fury that a sudden revulsion settled in the back Esther’s throat. A slight tension mounted in her neck and she began to discern in her spirit something particularly vile about him. She swallowed and looked away, breaking the spell of his eyes, and she kept a frenzied pace in the opposite direction.

She wondered, quietly in her spirit, if she had just confronted a demon.

This thought curled in her mind as Esther hurried toward the coffee shop at the edge of campus. She wasn’t spiritually stable enough for class, not after such an encounter, and considered that the purchase of a 254–a drink that donated 25 cents of its profits to a local ministry–was both edifying to her body and soul after such a narrow escape. If she had confronted a demon, she wondered, what was the reason for it? Demons only attacked people who were really close to God or doing what God wanted them to do. Was Esther so special? She didn’t think so. She didn’t feel any more special than anyone saved by the atoning blood of Christ should feel.

Then the thought changed, rippled, and she felt the Holy Spirit tickling her neck with his hand. She had been thinking about UKRTB when the demon had appeared. Why had she broken off things with Corey? Because he wasn’t a part of the mission God had for her: Bethesda … Phillip, Andrew, or Peter. It must have been that her work with Bethesda and the man she was to marry was UKRTB. It was him, not just in the simple sense of how his five o’clock shadow was so Jewish it could have been enough to bar him entry to any country club, let alone look like the face of Christ Himself but also because God had ordained it, had woven their paths together, had made each other like puzzle pieces that were incomplete until they were put together snug. There was only one soulmate in the world, only one, and Esther had found hers.

Somewhere. Out there. Beneath the lighted tower–once green, now likely never green again.

She stepped inside the coffee shop, her destiny rippling over her shoulders. Esther watched the sea of Greek letters before her eyes and felt her heart lurch. There had been a time when she had wanted to be one, to boast triple Ds across her chest and to have friends, real friends that she had paid for, but none of them had ever quite accepted her. She had tried, but she never fit and they made her more aware of that single fact than anything else. It had been her church that had taken her in, made her feel wanted, and finally had brought her to Christ, the best lover there ever was.

The stone, petrified statue representing some dead Catholic stared at Esther from beside the register. She blinked, several times, unsure each time she approached it what she was supposed to do. Sometimes it wore a hat asking her for tips, which caused Esther to recoil, thinking about indulgences. Sometimes it was just there barren, holding a stone bird, looking at her with hollow eyes reflecting his hollow faith. Esther hated how he was in Hell now for bowing down to Mary, but God was just.

Esther paid for her drink. She pushed around the Greek letters as kindly as she could, making it to the bathroom. She pushed it open and slipped inside. For a moment, she felt her heart sink deep within her, the old sadness of the life she could have lived seeping like heartburn up her throat. She swallowed.

As the door to the bathroom swung open and Esther made to leave, she heard the drink being called out that revolted her to no end — “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll for Dr. Candl–”

Esther didn’t know what she was doing. Her mouth was open, words, Scripture, was spilling forth, the stern rebuke to only have speech that was pure: “My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt–”

She stopped. Someone was finishing the verse for her. A rugged sounding voice, an authoritative voice.

There, in the midst of Greek letters, was the omega of it all: UKRTB.

jacob, chapter two

by phichijacob

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Jacob uttered these words under his breath as he completed his eighth set of bicep curls. For the record, Jacob hated it when people called bicep curls “Curls for the Girls.” He would not be duped into thinking the only reason to exercise such a prominent muscle in the body was to attract girls. Just the same, even if it did work, they were certainly not the type of girls that he, a Christian, would want to date. They’d probably want to make out on the first date.

Jacob, careful to let others know that he didn’t believe in mantras, would use verses such as this to enable to reach his potential and adequately care for his temple. He had read verses about the Holy Spirit leaving people – he didn’t want to take any chances.

A voice from the bench press interrupted his thoughts as he finished his final set, “Nice set, Bro! You’re lookin’ swoll.” Greg sat up from the bench press, inspected his pecs in the mirror, and then noticed Jacob. Naturally, he knew Jacob wasn’t as large as he was but he wanted to commend him in his efforts. What else were Brothers in Christ and Phi Chi for?

“Thanks, dude.” Jacob’s response was automatic but not fake. He shared the same sentiment with Greg. They were locked in this unsung competition, but as bros, you know? It was friendly and neither were willing to admit that the other was “more jacked” than the other. The beauty of the whole thing was that they built each other up by the comparison game. Yet, there were two things they were both sure of: Jesus was way more jacked than both of them and he would totally go and lift with them.

The two of them concluded their workout with a fist pound, mutual compliments and a quick look up at the wall above the dumbbells where the gym had actually painted the verse Jacob had uttered under his breath previously. Jacob and Greg exchanged a knowing look between the two of them – that verse had literally gotten them through the work out.

Jacob gathered his things and left the work out center. As passed out of the doors and into the atrium of the gym he saw a sole small group gathered in the café area of the rec center very clearly praying for one another. At least that’s what Jacob thought they were doing. Thegroup of 4 guys were hunched over and looking down at their hands. Jacob thought to himself how grateful he was that God had still granted a great deal of faithful ones on a campus that had jettisoned true faith for the wiles of academic jargon and misreadings of Biblical stories. As he walked by, sending up his little prayer, he heard someone from the café area yell, “Read Em and Weep, Boys!” He also thought he heard a stack of plastic chips being raked across the table.

Jacob exited the rec center and began walking down the sidewalk towards the heart of campus. Per his routine, he began humming to himself a song he had sung the night before at the college ministry gathering.

As he continued walking and humming, he saw a girl walking in his direction on the same sidewalk. Jacob had to admit that she was quite attractive. At this realization, he quickly began to fondle his purity ring that had settled on his left ring finger at the ripe age of 12, praying to God to shield his eyes that he might not fall into lust.

At that very moment, a truck drove by, the sun glaring off the metallic siding of the bed. The result was a momentary blinding of Jacob preventing him from actually making eye contact with the girl that walked by him. He thanked God for such an expedient answer to prayer. He had haunting memories of purity talks and torn pieces of construction paper all of which made a great deal of sense to him. He had every intention of entering into marriage with a mostly whole heart with as few rips and missing pieces as possible.

As he continued walking Jacob felt quite affirmed that between his discipline of bouncing his eyes and the help of the Holy Spirit in times of need such as this, he was well on his way to a pure, fulfilling, and conflict free marriage.

esther, chapter two

by esthergracemeyer

Esther studied her iPhone with a mixture of confusion and perspicuity. At least, she thought those were the two adjectives that described what she was doing. She wasn’t entirely sure what the second word meant. From an early age, Esther had felt that her life was an elaborate dramedy being staged by the Creator, such that she often considered herself in her own mind as being in the third person, observing herself as herself. This did not make her—she was quick to assure those she confided this in—a Calvinist.

Of all things, Esther feared Calvinism and liturgy above all else.

“Rise up?” she muttered, looking at herself in her own mind, looking at the email she was in fact looking at on her phone. “The only thing that rose up was Lazarus, Jesus, that little girl Jesus healed, and that little boy that Elijah lay on top of.” The young brunette hated uses of Scripture out of context, especially when it concerned athletics. She considered tweeting about it, but thought better of it when she recalled that the University’s chapel program had recently started following her.

“Surely,” she thought, a light October breeze that still felt of heated summer passing through her strands, “Surely our Lord had followers who were misguided fools, but He did not reproach them as they journey with Him along the Way.” This thought proved to be rather gracious, she was delighted to realize, and promptly tweeted it. However, the character limit became an issue and she settled for a truncated: “Jesus let fools follow Him too. PTL!”

Esther began her prayer walk for the day.

Leaving the coffee house she traversed the broken concrete back toward campus, passing a craft store and parking garage on her right. Out of the corner of her eye, Esther saw two people, a guy and a girl, walking toward the coffee house, crossing the street from one of the residential colleges. The guy was talking emphatically about something while the girl feigned attention. At one point she raised her hands up to her side and began to shake them like jazz hands.

Esther froze. No wonder the girl hadn’t said anything—she was deaf.

Feeling the sudden burden of the Spirit within her, Esther made her approach. She felt her fingers tingle as she reached forward. The young woman seeing her froze awkwardly as if she didn’t know what to do, her mouth beginning to move but no sound came out. The young man kept talking to the young woman, seeming to not recognize that she was no longer paying attention to him.

“Be healed!” Esther commanded and she breathed on the girl’s forehead, placing her hands on her ears and solemnly gripping them with reverential tenderness.

The young man was now staring at Esther, mouth agape. The young woman said nothing for a moment then issued a strange, strangled noise from her throat. Slowly she began to laugh with uncertainty. Esther realized that she would never have heard her own voice before, so it naturally would sound strange.

“Be healed,” Esther repeated, a tear slipping down her right cheek.

At that, Esther sensed her work done and turned away. As she walked back down the sidewalk, she heard in the distance two high-pitched laughs—of joy no doubt. Esther felt her heart and spirit rise within her.

“Rise up,” she whispered to God and the two of them shared a laugh. At least, she thought God laughed. In the movie she was constructing in her mind, He certainly had chuckled.

Esther turned the corner at the end of several blocks, back toward campus. She prayed under her breath as she went, passing the shadows of her campus: the auditorium where the chapel met that never spoke the name of God; the falling-down building where the professors within taught that Ruth had given Boaz oral pleasure in exchange for a place in Jesus’ genealogy; the bulbous building where they served mediocre coffee and mediocre theology in turn.

She marched seven times around the three buildings, keeping fixed in her mind the story of Jericho. Each time she looked up at the structures, waiting to watch them fall. Not a rumble or tremble of earth. No matter. She believed. When a bird passing overhead relieved itself atop the building in the middle, Esther considered it a sign. Her faithful labor had been sufficient. God had sent a sign of His judgement in the form of a pigeon.

PTL.

But.

Esther was in need, a deep, secret need. Though she had been endowed with beauty and grace, she had never found a man who truly met the standard that God had placed for her: Jesus Christ Himself. He was the perfect man, the perfect boyfriend, and Esther had dated Jesus with fervor since the moment of her conversion.

But that felt sometimes like a long distance relationship and she longed for the touch of a man who would be Christ to her. She wanted him desperately, almost as much as she wanted Him.

Esther found her prayers turning to herself. She wanted a boyfriend. After such a marvelous day, God would want one for her too. He loved her, so she asked. That was how it worked; she just had to believe.

And as if by a wink of Providence, it happened that Esther was walking the way of the university gym when a man passed her. He was blonde, tall, and smelled of carpentry. At least, Esther thought that was how carpentry smelled. He was coming from a work out, wearing a Phi Chi shirt, and when he passed her, a sudden wave of feeling flooded her. It surrounded her, caught her.

She froze, trying to remember to breath. Esther looked to her phone, fingers flying to text her best friend Lydia:

“Healed deaf girl and just got a Holy Spirit contact high when a guy passed me. I think God just found me my Boaz. PTL! ;-)”