“Becky did it better.”
Jenny squealed with delight and jumped out of her car to give Zeke a big hug. Not only was he quite shocked to come across someone he used to go to school with during third grade, Zeke found Jenny’s reaction to seeing him again even more shocking. For she had always treated him like poor, white trash.
“It is so good to see you again, Zeke. Were you going in to eat with someone?”
“No, I am here by myself. If you have not already eaten, I would enjoy the company.”
Jenny grabbed Zeke by the hand and started walking toward the lower entrance of the restaurant. Zeke wondered what the rest of the evening would be like.
The lower part was crowded, but Zeke noticed one empty table next to the picture windows, and that was the table the hostess led them to. The hostess gave them both a menu and said that the waitress would be by shortly to take their order.
“It looked like the hostess was almost expecting you, Jenny.”
“Yes, I eat here regularly and call ahead to reserve a table from time to time. I had a feeling that a table would be needed tonight, and I am sure glad I paid attention. Have you eaten here before, Zeke?”
“No, but I was told that the chicken-fried lamb chops were very good here.”
“That they are, indeed!”
“What about something else? I feel little funny about eating lamb chops after recent events.”
“Oh, I would love to hear all about it, but in answer to your question, everything on the menu is absolutely delicious. I am especially fond of their signature fried chicken and mashed potatoes, with deep fried pickles and okra as appetizers. Deep dish apple pie and hand-churned vanilla ice cream complete the perfect meal for my taste.”
It all sounds wonderful to me, too.”
The waitress came and took their order, and after she left, Jenny cleared her throat as if preparing herself to speak. Zeke braced himself for the questions to start, but Jenny surprised him.
“I really am tickled to see you again, Zeke. I have been so ashamed of how mean I was to you back then, and I have been hoping for at least the opportunity to tell you how sorry I am.”
Even after all that he had experienced since, Zeke was amazed at how the memory of something so trivial that happened so long ago could still be so painful to him. It was all he could do to keep from breaking down in tears when he saw tears welling up in Jenny’s eyes.
“Thank you, Jenny. What is past is past, and a lot has happened since. This is not the place to go into too many of my details, but I would love to hear as much about your life as you are willing to tell me at this time.”
“My goodness, are you some sort of secret agent man?” Jenny giggled when Zeke gave her a blank look and blinked.
“It’s all right, Zeke. I just hope you will tell me as much as you can later. After you left school, we moved to Picher, Oklahoma when dad was offered a very lucrative job recovering land that had been mined for lead. That is what he had gone to school for, and he was just a school principal until better work became available. I went on to study medicine at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, and I now have a family practice clinic here in Springdale.”
Jenny saw the waitress bringing their orders, and after the waitress placed it on their table, Jenny made Zeke an offer that he did not want to refuse. “Okay, Zeke. You do not have to tell me anything tonight if you promise to tell me later.”
“What are you doing tomorrow night, Jenny?”
Jenny’s heart skipped a beat, and her ability to speak seemed to have left her. All she could do was hand one of her appointment cards to Zeke that listed her clinic’s phone number and hours of service.
“Good! I will call you tomorrow to determine how to proceed.”
Jenny still could not speak. For she felt like a young schoolgirl being asked out on a date by the boy she had a major crush on.
The reality of the current situation was not all that far off. For Jenny had carried a torch for Zeke since the third grade.
It was different for Zeke, of course. For he had never carried a torch for any girl, nor even considered having that sort of relationship, but the times appeared to be a-changin’.
Zeke called Jenny the next day as promised, and it was decided that Jenny would drive out to his place after she saw her last appointment in case she was needed for an emergency or wanted to leave in a hurry. This was suggested by Zeke, and Jenny was impressed with how thoughtful he was—not to mention his sense of humor.
The part about Jenny wanting to leave in a hurry was unnecessary, though. For Zeke told her everything about his past up to a certain point, and Jenny did not flinch.
Quite the contrary, actually—especially in regards to Zeke having the ability to heal with a touch of his hands. Jenny wondered if his touch was even necessary and wanted to put it to the test as soon as possible.
Zeke did not know what to think. For he had been fully expecting Jenny to start rolling on the floor in delirious laughter or running away screaming in terror over what most people would find utterly ridiculous at best and horrifying at worst. Yet, here she still was and even wanting to learn more.
Zeke had held back what had happened after he moved into his new house. When he went ahead and told her, Jenny really did erupt in laughter, but it was not directed at him. For she found it absolutely hilarious that Apostle Marcus and his mighty men of faith had ran away in terror at the sight of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Jenny also loved the part about the Lamb of God suggesting ordering the chicken-fried lamb chops at the AQ Chicken House.
When Jenny saw the dazed look in Zeke’s eyes, she slowly walked up to him. Then she gave him a kiss that left Zeke gasping for breath from more than the lack of oxygen.
“The love that I have for you is from our Heavenly Father, Zeke. He has kept you safe all of these years, and now He has sent you a helpmate if you will accept me.”
Zeke did not need another revelation and gave Jenny an equally passionate kiss back. Things progressed quite naturally from there.
No, Zeke and Jenny did not sin. For their union was ordained by the Lord God Almighty Himself, but it was in accordance to His will for Zeke and Jenny to make it binding in the eyes of manmade courts of law as soon as possible.
Zeke and Jenny visited several different churches in the area in the hope of finding one to provide for their needs, but none felt right. Much to their disappointment, Zeke and Jenny finally settled on becoming legally married before the Justice of the Peace in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Zeke was especially disappointed over failing to find a church where he could become officially saved and baptized, but the more he thought about the crux of the issue, the more the premise seemed flawed. For it was written: And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Luke 23:39-43 KJV.
The full context of that passage has Christ Jesus being crucified between two common criminals. Quite obviously, the Roman officials were not going to allow the one who believed to be taken down from his cross in order to be properly baptized so he could enter into Heaven after his physical death. So, how could Christ Jesus make him such a promise unless baptism as generally understood is not absolutely necessary for the remission of his sins?
Zeke had also dove headfirst into the study of different belief systems, and the part about paradise seemed to confirm the Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory as being a place where certain ones go after physical death to finish all of the requirements necessary to enter into Heaven. On the other hand, does this mean that Christ Jesus was also not completely qualified? For the believer asked Christ Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom, and Christ Jesus had told him he would be with Him in Paradise that very day?
Yeah, there are all sorts of different points to counter that argument, with the biggest being that Christ Jesus is everywhere all of the time as being a full and equal part of the Lord God Almighty, but in order to be in favor of Purgatory, one has to deny that we are saved by grace through faith. For it was written: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 KJV.
Getting back to baptism as generally understood, there is another verse in Luke that does not support it. For it was also written: But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Luke 12:49-50 KJV.
The context of the related passage is about upcoming changes, and this led Zeke to seriously question baptism just being about the ceremonial washing away of sin. After all, Christ Jesus has always been completely without sin. Besides, He had already undergone the traditional baptism ceremony at the beginning of His ministry in the flesh.
It all added up to baptism being about Spiritual change, but Zeke was perfectly willing to accept that he could have it wrong. After all, it had happened before.
Zeke’s reasoning also made sense to Jenny, but this gave neither one all that much comfort. For how could they be right while so many others were wrong?
However, it was written: Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it. Jeremiah 5:1 KJV.
The context to that verse is the Prophet Jeremiah desperately trying to talk the Lord God Almighty out of sending Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Jerusalem and haul off the survivors into slavery, and the rest of the story is that Jeremiah failed to find even just one righteous person in supposedly the most righteous place in this world at that time. No, it was not looking good for the northwestern corner of Arkansas.
Of course, there was not a threat to northwestern Arkansas being brutally conquered by an invading army, but the implications were just as eternally dire. For easily 90% of the population in the four-state region had been either raised in a Christian church or raised by someone who had been raised in a Christian church, and Zeke and Jenny had failed to find even one church they could comfortably attend in good conscience.
Jenny had continued her work at the family practice clinic in Springdale, and she came home one night with a proposal that Zeke was not initially all that enthusiastic about. For it involved moving back onto an Indian reservation, but Jenny persuaded him that it was well worth pursuing.
“The OU College of Medicine has asked me to help resurrect a shuttered hospital in Tuskahoma, Oklahoma.”
“Tuskahoma is the capitol of the Choctaw Reservation, Jenny.”
“I know, Zeke. The hospital was run by the tribe before hard times forced its closure a few years ago.”
“May I remind you that I was directly responsible for those hard times?”
“No, the Mockingbird was, but even to those who do not want to distinguish between you and it, what better way to help heal open wounds than you helping to provide for the needs of a downtrodden people?”
“Have I told you lately just how much I love you?”
“Not nearly enough, and I need to remind you of this much more often!”
Jenny had obviously not outgrown her naturally mischievous tendencies. For instead of pointing out to Zeke that it was highly unlikely anyone would connect him with the Mockingbird since he had not appeared to anyone on the reservation as himself, Jenny just let her poor husband roast over a fire of his own mental making until he was done.
Yes, that sounds more ornery than mischievous, but Jenny was quite sure that Zeke’s inside Source of information would give him a clue soon enough. Besides, she had been biding her time until a good opportunity presented itself for her to get even.
No, it was not all serious Spiritual pursuits and torrid romance to the Erickson household. For Zeke and Jenny took turns pulling pranks on one another, and a couple of weeks earlier, he had pulled a good one on her.
Zeke had become very well acquainted with the head chef of the AQ Chicken House, and he was very enthusiastic when Zeke enlisted his help. While Zeke was supposedly in the little boy’s room. the head chef sent out a wing off of a roasted Cornish Hen on a plate with three peas and a tiny carrot stick instead of Jenny’s actual order. The waitress was also in on it, and she told Jenny that new management at the restaurant was concerned about how much Jenny normally ate. Zeke swore that people five miles away heard Jenny scream, “ZEKE!”
It took six months to find a replacement for Jenny at the Springdale clinic and another six months before the Choctaw Medical Center was up and running again. Zeke had found a substantial amount of money his father had buried in steel drums out in the woods up the holler from where the still was located, and Zeke used some of it to help finish the medical center and build an adjacent chapel.
The chapel came to be known as simply, Haven. For Zeke wanted the chapel to be a safe place for all to come and escape the rigors of reality for at least a little while.
Aside from being the pastor of Haven, Zeke also assumed the duties of a hospital chaplain for the Choctaw Medical Center. Holding both positions proved to be quite a dilemma, however.
The trouble was that there were simply not enough hours in a day to do both and neglecting one made the other suffer in more than the obvious way. For it was through being the hospital chaplain that Spiritual healing could be inconspicuously provided through Zeke, and it was through those miracles that the congregation of Haven steadily grew.
If what our Heavenly Father actually says is absolutely true was better known and understood, there would have been plenty of good shepherds to help tend to the flock, but there were none to be found. Yeah, back to that little of matter of being right while everyone else was wrong again, and the Jeremiah account was not always as comforting to Zeke as it should have been.
Zeke was often able to drift away in the rock ‘n’ roll coming over the speakers in the vehicle he was driving at a given time, but there were a few songs that made things worse. One in particular really hit hard, and it was always too late to grab the knob and change the radio station after it started playing.
No, the lyrics were not exact, but they were certainly close enough to send Zeke into a vicious tailspin. For trying to be both a hospital chaplain and a church pastor was like being torn between two great loves, and it often made Zeke feel like a fool.
Thankfully, Zeke had Jenny to lean on when he felt abandoned by the One who could right all of the wrongs in a twinkling of His eye. Of course, if our Heavenly Father really was all He professed to be, how could anything go wrong to begin with, and if He was not all that He professed to be, what hope could there be for any of us?
It was the open discussion of such questions that kept people coming back to Haven long after daily life dulled the glory of the miraculous healings they had experienced. Coming to a consensus proved most daunting, nonetheless.
It certainly did not help that the enemy does not fight fair by targeting our natural weaknesses. A perfect example of this is the demonic doctrine of Word-Faith. For it exploits those wanting to believe in themselves, and there were plenty ripe and ready for picking in the Haven congregation despite Zeke’s best efforts.
Oh no, Zeke did not preach self-loathing as a virtue, but there is no way to have full and complete faith in our Heavenly Father when one wants to also have faith in themselves. The message of Word-Faith was exactly what the itching ears of those who wanted to believe in themselves wanted to hear.
One of the primary leaders of the Word-Faith Movement was none other than Apostle Marcus James, and he made it his personal mission to harvest as many of the hearts and minds of the Haven congregation as possible. Zeke challenged him to an open debate at Haven, but Apostle Marcus was not about to have another face to face encounter with Zeke.
Instead, Apostle Marcus encouraged a reporter for the Tuskahoma Times newspaper to investigate if Zeke could actually be the infamous Mockingbird. When the reporter came to ask Zeke about it, Zeke did not deny that it was true, but he went into great detail about the surrounding circumstances and how ashamed he was of the harm he had wrought. That part of Zeke’s interview did not make into the front page newspaper article, and Zeke instantly became a pariah in the community and far beyond.
No, not even Zeke’s most stalwart supports among the Haven congregation stood by him, and Zeke seriously considered moving back to the Erickson homestead. His decision was made much easier when Jenny was diagnosed with stage four chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Zeke and Jenny were not all that concerned, though. For they both had great faith that our Heavenly Father would heal her like he had so many others through Zeke before, but her condition continued to worsen.
Apostle Marcus boasted that everyone in league with the devil would suffer similar fates, and Zeke wanted to go borrow one of the Cheyenne’s sacred arrows and split the false apostle in two. Jenny convinced him that it would just make Apostle Marcus into a martyr in the eyes of his followers.
So, Zeke and Jenny left Tuskahoma quietly and headed for home, but she died just after their vehicle crossed over the state line into Arkansas. Zeke never felt more alone in his life.