The Cost of Running

Mark 2:13-17 — The Tales & Adventures of John Mark

The Cost of RunningThe pirate’s blow narrowly missed my ear, its blade slamming into the wooden deck with a resounding thunk. For but a moment I wondered how he had missed but then it became clear — one the sentries had come to my aid. Crashing into the assailant, the guard drove the pirate back towards the railing. Then bringing his fists down on the assailant’s arm, he struck the raider just above the elbow. The sword clanked to the deck. Whirling, the pirate raised onto the balls of his bare feet as if to charge, but the sentry’s hard kick sent pirate sprawling back against the railing.

Had the sentry pressed his advantage he might have succeeded in keeping his life, but while bending over to pick up the sword, the pirate quickly drew a knife from his belt and plunged it deep into the sentry’s chest. For a moment a look of shock shown in the sentry’s eyes. Then he staggered backwards, hands clutching his chest, blood squirting from between fingers. With a gurgling moan, he slumped to his knees and fell face forward. Moving quickly the pirate withdraw his dagger from the dying man’s chest and turned to reach for his sword.

His actions came too late; the second sentry snatched up the sword and in a whooshing blur, brought the blade flush against the side of the burly assailant’s neck, nearly severing his head.

“Live by the sword, die by the sword,” the Teacher had warned. I saw now that my Lord’s words rang true, for with his own weapon the pirate had been slain.

Stunned, perhaps in shock, and confused by the wild brawling around me, my chance to escape over the side passed. Paying little attention to the pirates clambering over the railing, the sentry aimed the sword at my back and marched me towards a deck hatch. A kick to the back of one knee dropped me into a kneeling position. A second kick against my ribs sent me sprawling headfirst into the hatch hole. I plummeted into darkness, landing hard on rough planks. Above me the sentry slammed the hatch door shut, sealing me in darkness with others in the cargo hold.

If the young woman thought I would be welcomed aboard the Asklepia she greatly misjudged the temperament of its crew and ship’s owner. Running from trouble always comes at a price and for me my attempt to flee Saul and Barnabas had led me into a ship’s brig filled with slaves. While the ship rolled side-to-side with swells that passed beneath her hull, those around me groaned as if about to become sick. Others complained loudly.

“Honored I am in my village,” a voice shouted in Aramaic. “I demand to be let out!”

“Do you not hear the crew’s screams, man?” a voice countered.

In darkness a hand gripped my shoulder, startling me.

“You were on deck. What did you witness?” The man spoke with the calm, steady diction of someone in charge. “Is the crew in revolt?”

The shock of being found and accosted so quickly caused me to stutter, “Pi, pi, pirates intend to take the ship.”

“I pray they will,” my neighbor whispered to me. His hand released my shoulder. “Perhaps we will fare better at the hands of murdering thieves.”

Not willing to state my fears that the pirates would demand we join them as crew or be killed, I kept silent.

“In the darkness of night was I stolen from my tent,” a man shouted. “Bound and shipped onto another vessel, were my wife and children. And for where I know not. If offered the chance, I would cut the throat of the person who took me.”

“I sat at the city gates deciding matters with other elders.” said another man. “For me to be treated in this way will bring hostilities. If not from my countrymen then from my fists when I am presented the chance.”

There it was: two men who wished the ship’s owner dead. But if it was freedom the killer desired, why not simply dive over the side after taking the aid’s life? Had one of the two men been seen in a hallway after leaving the owner’s cabin and been tossed back in the hold?

The stench of unwashed men and the odor of their retching prompted me to take short, quick breaths. Above us the roar of flames intensified, suggesting that not only the sails but the masts and spars had also caught fire. From the clank of blades clashing there seemed to be no end to the fighting.

Boasting in Aramaic the man nearest to us shouted, “The god of Ceres will not stand for this travesty.”

“Perhaps your gods are asleep,” a younger voice mocked. “Or indisposed.”

“May my god strike you down for your impertinence. To disparage the god of Ceres is to invite calamity.”

“Knowledge is my god,” the young man countered. “And your gods are no gods at all, for they cannot speak or hear.”

“You speak blasphemy and shall reap the wrath of the gods!”

Despite the increasing heat of the stuffy space, my skin became clammy, as if I were chilled with a fever. Or perhaps it was because of the cramped, stinking room and the ship’s chaotic motion that I began to feel ill. Bending forward I hugged my mid-section, expelling stomach-gas as quietly as possible. In but a few moments the queasiness passed and I felt somewhat better. Only then, while inhaling deeply, did I notice the faint smell of burning wood and smoke. Lifting my gaze upwards, I tracked the faint, narrow glow of orange spreading between each ceiling plank. The Asklepia was on fire.

“Pray tell what good is your knowledge to you now?” asked the man loyal to to the god Ceres. “Can your knowledge free us from this vile place? Save us from being sold into servitude?”

“You shall know soon enough,” the young man answered, “for I sense we are about to be set free.”

Though in my spirit I felt convicted to declare that there was but one true God, I remained silent, for all my attention remained fixed on the orange glow that continued to increase in brightness overhead.

“How is it that you came to be captured?” my neighbor asked.

When I did not respond immediately, a different voice called, “Perhaps he is one of the pirates sent to spy on us.”

I considered the stranger’s comment, wondering best how to reply, then answered,  “I took no part in the attack. I stole aboard, that is true, but only in desperation. I hoped this vessel would take me to the coast of Tyre and Sidon.”

“I know of Tyre and Sidon,” said my neighbor. “Have heard of its violent reputation.” His hand found mine. “I am Onesimus, slave to Philemon of Colossae.”

“John Mark, a Hebrew from Jerusalem.”

“Why this ship” my neighbor,” Onesimus, asked, “when there are other vessels that might be more suitable to such a passage?”

“I . . . someone said I should . . . um, deliver an important message for the owner of this vessel.”

“As do I have a message to deliver,” growled the man seated near us. “And deliver it I shall with my fist should the owner and I ever meet.”

“Should you have the occasion to speak to the owner of the ship,” Onesimus asked, “what would you say?”

Unable to make out the faces of those around me, I sat terrified, for I feared that should I tell them that I sought to deliver a message of liberty, the men and women in the cargo hold might riot. With the ceiling planks glowing with the brilliance of a setting sun, I found the courage to speak the words the Teacher had placed in my heart.

“‘I come to set the captives free,’” I answered. “That is the message of the Teacher. Such was the good news I spoke to the owner of the ship.”

“What an odd thing to say to someone who grows rich by stealing villagers from their tents,” said Onesimus. “And when he heard your words, did the owner of this ship agree to set us free?”

“You are not owned by any man,” I replied. “The Teacher wishes for you to know this — for all to know this. The Teacher did not come for the righteous, the religious, the rich. Rather, he came to save all who do evil, who are lost, and who are held captive by sin and sickness and darkness.”

Those around me began murmuring, though I knew not if my words brought hope or offense, for most spoke in tongues I could not comprehend.

“Would you dare to call me evil?” asked Onesimus

Sensing the attitude of my neighbor had changed, I quickly reassured him that I did not mean to impugn his character. “While it is true that all men are inherently evil, this is not how we were created or the future Yahweh intends for us. In the beginning of all things we were created in his image and what Yahweh creates is good always. But through the actions of one man sin came into the world. For this reason we now know right from wrong, good from evil, and we choose evil over good. Why, this very evening I myself acted with evil intent when I stole my way onto this ship.”

“Evil am I? For which offense do I deserve to be enslaved?” Onesimus asked. “Tell me if you can. Does your god judge so harshly that a man can be taken from his tent in the darkest of nights and forced to be a slave? Is this the god you serve?”

The harshness of his tone left me afraid I had said too much — or explained my Lord’s love in a manner that dishonored him.

“If there be any among us evil it is the Hebrew from Jerusalem,” a voice called out. “With his very words you have have heard him say as much. And did the sentry who brings us water and food not say this very evening that a wicked man walks among us? Perhaps if we purge this evil from among us the ship’s owner might look with fondness upon us and grant us a measure of comfort. Reveal that he is the one with with blood on his hands. What say the rest of you?”

Immediately a cry went up, “Death to the Hebrew! Death to the Hebrew!”

In but a flash of intense heat and falling timbers their shouts of accusation turned to panic. All around me men and women scurried away, screaming as the ship’s deck caved in, trapping us beneath burning timbers. A large ceiling beam gave way, pinning me against the floor where I lay. Flames from its splintered base shot across my legs, searing the soles of my feet.

The Asklepia was going down and if not first burned alive, with her sinking we too would go down to the depths of the sea.

 

Human Cargo

Mark 10:42-45 — The Tales & Adventures of John Mark

Human Cargo

In the cabin of the ship’s owner the moon’s faint light bled through open window along the back wall. A skittish breeze lifted the edge of a thin cloth that served as its curtain. In doing so the faint breeze carried the rank odor of emptied bowels and bladder — the owner’s chamber pot. The illumination of a single tallow candle cast upon the face of thes rotund man seated behind a writing desk. To call the room a cabin is to veer towards exaggeration for the space was no larger than the tent I once used to travel with the Teacher. Still, with its low ceiling and cramped feel, I sensed in I was being watched by someone other than the man behind the desk. With a prolonged examination, I saw no others, only a single bunk and it unkempt. The centurions who had hauled me aboard remained in the hallway, no doubt keeping watch to ensure I did not try once more to flee.

Without acknowledging my presence, the ship’s owner pulled the candle closer. On his desk lay a scroll similar to those I had seen used in synagogues back in Galilee. Using the tip of a long, silver pointer and with the intensity of someone searching for something of great value, he read silently to himself.

Only when he reached a line mid-way down did he stop and summon a guard from the hallway. “Take care of Aristarchus and be quick about it.”

The centurion remained next to me, our shoulders nearly touching. “And what would you have me do with him, sir?”

“Carry him out and slip him over when the crew is not looking. Once a crew falls under the spell of rumors and suppositions there is no accounting for how they may react.”

With the help of the second centurion, the pair placed it on a long, wide garment on wood flooring near where I stood. Only when they riffled through the material on the bunk did it become clear to me that the source of the foul smell was not from a chamber pot but that of a man stretched out on the bunk. Upon death the body had emptied itself and filled the room with a stench that even to this day I cannot forget.

“We will remove him by way of the galley, sir. Only the cook shall be in the area and should I have my way he shall not know of what we carry.”

“See to it he does not.”

A knife of some kind had been thrust in the dead man’s chest. An oily, red stain soaked his outer cloak. Eyes part-way open and fixed in a lifeless stare revealed the youthful state of the deceased. I gauged him to be not much older than me.

“The crew must not know of the circumstances surrounding the death of my aid. I mean to find the culprit and soon.”

“Understood. The crew merely suspects Rastus died while on deck fending off the pirates. We shall see this remains their belief.”

Once the pair of centurions exited the room with the body,  the ship’s owner shifted his gaze towards me. “Aristarchus was my personal assistant. He went before me, stood watch outside my cabin, tasted my food, and checked this cabin before I lay down each evening. More than that, he is my sister’s youngest. When I returned from dispensing with those pirates I found him where he lay. No doubt that dagger was meant for me.”

I said nothing, merely listened. Did the owner of the ship think I had killed his relative? Was this why I stood before him?

With the back of his knuckles he rubbed his chin. “Your presence off the stern of my ship, what am I to make of it?”

“I . . . am not part of those who attacked this ship if that is your implication.”

“No? You were found in the water clinging to the safety line and not more than a moment later Aristarchus was found dead in my cabin. My window looks over the rudder. You could have easily thrust him thru and jumped without notice.”

“I assure you, this is the first I have been in your cabin.”

“Cast from shore and adrift by accident, were you? Happened upon this ship by good fortune, did you?”

“My crime, if there is one, is that of someone seeking to steal aboard as a stowaway. I only meant to secure passage to Caesarea.”

“And if this ship is bound for Rome?”

My heart sank. The girl had seemed certain the Asklepia was bound for the coast of Tyre and Sidon. Had she deceived me also?

“Our departure this evening was kept secret,” the ship’s owner continued. “Not even the crew knew of time we would cast off. It was for secrecy that we moved to next harbor before raising sails. Had their been a spirit of mutiny among the crew I hoped to discover it before we put out to see but none made a move to indicate any but loyalty to our mission.”

“And if I may ask, what is your mission?”

“You may ask and now have, but with the death of Rastus your character is suspect. In a word, I do not trust you.” He leaned back in his chair, looking me up and down as if to appraise me. “This much I will disclose: our intent is to sail across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia and land Myra in Lycia. And yet before we can raise sails here were about to attacked by pirates.”

“You have my word that I have no part of their wicked scheme.”

“The word of a murderer means little.”

“Perhaps it is your crew, sir. Could they not be the source of this ill luck that no befalls you?”

“‘Ill luck?’ Pirates do not arrive but with planning. A man stabbed in his bed is not ill luck. The men who brought you to my cabin say that you meant to come aboard to deliver an important message for the owner of this ship. Speak it plane and be gone. I wish to dispose of this matter and you before we come under assault.”

I wondered how best to deliver the Teacher’s words. I sensed that to say the wrong thing might cost me my life. And yet I could only speak the truth. To do otherwise would be to deny my Lord Jesus Christ.

“As you well know,” I said, “those who regard themselves as owners of another person lord it over them, often treating them poorly. I myself have witnessed slaves brutally beaten for simply failing to bring a cup of water with speed. Such treatment of others should not be. We are all created in the image of the God who created the heavens and earth and sea and all that is within. To treat our neighbor as one might oxen or cattle is affront to our creator.”

“Your creator, not mine. My god is Mercury, the god of trade. He is good to me, as I am to him. Great he has made me, for with little I began. I have amassed great wealth and intend to gather even greater goods with the delivery of this ship’s cargo.”

“If you wish to become great, you must serve others. This is the wisdom of the Teacher. Whoever desires to be called great must be slave of all.”

“You speak as a fool, for who but a fool would relinquish command of ship and crew in order to serve as a galley slave?”

“Though his throne is in heaven, the Son of God did just this and more. He gave his life as a ransom for me and you and all who will accept his gift of mercy.”

“Do you propose to teach me how to command this vessel?”

“I only wish to make known to you that the punishment for anyone who steals another is death. Even if the victim is sold or still in their possession, the one who steals an individual for the purposes of making a profit from his life and work must die.”

“There! Your words convict you. You speak for the slave and in doing so you admit that you intended to harm me.”

“I confess no such thing. I am merely speaking the truth.”

“What is truth but what a man thinks truth to be.”

“There is but one truth and he is Lord of all.”

“Lords and truth, slaves and free men. Defend the slave do you? Then with the slaves you will remain until we dispense with this attack. Centurion!”

From outside two centurions rushed in, taking me by the arms.

“Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution,” I said as calmly as I could. “For we are not to rule over man or woman with harshness. In Christ Jesus there is neither slave nor free.” With the pair of centurions pulling me out the door and into the hallway I added, “We are all one, all the same, all sinners in need of saving. Even you, sir. Even you.”

A moment later I found myself on deck where all about the crew of the Asklepia fought with the marauders who had boarded the great ship. From within the blackness of sea and night flaming arrows streaked towards us, catching in her sails. I only had but a moment to witness the carnage and in that short time I could see that the pirates held the advantage. Then a deck hatch was quickly opened and I was let down, the released, dropping into the ship’s cargo hold with the rest of the slaves.

Are Paid Book Promotion Sites Worth the Money?

Join us for this episode of Reality Coaching for Writers where we answer the question: Are paid book promotion sites worth the money?

Book promotion services can be a great way to get your book in front of new readers, but before you invest heavily in these sites and services it helps to gain some perspective and set realistic expectations.

Here are a few book promotion sites I recommend:

BookDeals: https://bookdeals.app/submit-a-book/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/partners

E-Reader News: http://www.ereadernewstoday.com/bargain-and-free-book-submissions/

Fussy Librarian: https://authors.thefussylibrarian.com/one-time-free-ebook-promotion-genres/

For a complete list of book promotion sites visit Dave’s list at: https://kindlepreneur.com/list-sites-promote-free-amazon-books/

Eddie Jones and Diana Flegal offer personalized coaching for writers. For more information, check out: https://writerscoach.us

Are paid book promotion sites worth the money? Check out this video.

Does EVERY Story need a Villain?

Reality Coaching for Writers

https://writerscoach.us — Does every good story need a villain or antagonist? In this episode of Reality Coaching for Writers with Eddie and Diana discuss why we need villains and what characteristics a good villain must have. It is the struggle against the forces of unfairness and injustice that helps a hero/ protagonist grow and change.

Does EVERY Story need a Villain?

There are four ways to introduce a villain’s POV:
Predisposition
Past
Personal demons
Present environment

Predisposition

Predisposition is the auto-mechanism that guides your character at the start of her journey. Her habits, manner of dress, quirks, and social interaction shape her in a way that is uniquely suited for her role in your story. Study her. Watch the way her hands swing when she walks, the shift in her eyes when confronted by her boss, and the way she twirls her hair whenever he walks in the room. Identify these traits and show them to the reader.

Temperament is a person’s manner of behaving, thinking, and reacting to others and circumstances. Temperament reveals itself best during stressful events, so after you define your character’s basic temperament, then turn up the heat and burn away the dross, the impurities. Allow the reader to watch her change during the story.

Past Pointers

How was your character raised? What events shaped her? Dig into her past and reveal in small bites. Each element should reinforce why she acts, thinks, and feels the way she does. Often one defining moment in her past is enough. Be selective, show her wounds, allow readers to touch her scar. Then ask:

  • With what has she struggled? A physical affliction? Emotional wound?
  • What has she discovered about herself?
  • How has she changed over the years?

Personal Demons

Internal conflict is the energy of your character. Imagine an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, each whispering into your Lead’s ear. Allow the reader to see this internal struggle as your Lead weighs the consequences of her actions. It is here in the moral struggle between good and evil that your character will grow or shrink. Every character must go through an internal transformation. External struggles are problems that need to be solved.

Internal struggles are questions that need to be answered. As your character solves the external problem, she gains insight into how to answer the inner questions. To create a story with depth, get to know what she wants. Then reveal her motives by showing how she:

  • Interacts with other characters
  • Responds to events in the story
  • Pursues her objective

Present Environment

It’s not the “what” that’s important but the “why.” Reveal her internal motivation for the way she dresses, talks, and acts. Your job is to help the reader grasp the desires, motives, beliefs, attitudes, dreams, and frustrations of your characters. Subtlety is key. Err on the side of understatement. The more you tell readers how to feel, the less they will. Show emotion through action, dialogue, and body language. The more personal the struggle and impending danger, the more suspenseful the story.

Building Your Satan

Does every story need a villain? Yes and for your bad girl to be likable, she should have at least one of these qualities and the more she exhibits it, the greater the tension between your protagonist and antagonist. We want to pull for the bad girl because often we see our faults in others. We just don’t want them to win.

Eddie Jones and Diana Flegal offer personalized coaching for writers. For more information, check out https://writerscoach.us
#writercommunity #writer #RealityCoachingforWriters #characterdevelopment

Start With What’s in Your Hand (Exodus 4:2)

Repurposing Content

Repurposing content from a successful blog or sermon can be a great source of material for a book. Writing from scratch can take time, but when you re-use published content you start with a pre-existing audience, an established focus for your book, and hopefully, a built-in marketing machine. In this episode of Reality Coaching for Writers we’ll look at how to start with God has placed in your hand.

Eddie Jones and Diana Flegal offer personalized coaching for writers. Find out more at https://writerscoach.us/

Why Do Your Write?

Your purpose behind the prose says much about where you’ll end up on your writing journey and how you define success.

“The scripture reference I gave during yesterday’s video topic, ‘Why do we write?’ is from Matthew 13 in the passion translation.” – Diana

“The disciples came up and asked (Jesus), “Why do you tell stories?” He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create a readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state, they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they are blue in the face and not get it. ”

Eddie Jones and Diana Flegal offer personalized coaching for writers. Find out more at https://writerscoach.us/