CHAPTER 7  UNFORGIVENESS

                           THE DECEITFULNESS OF SIN


                                      By

                                 Phil Scovell

                           Copyright (C) 2003/2007

                             All rights Reserved



                         CHAPTER 7  UNFORGIVENESS


          He heard the beep of  Bill's truck horn and he rushed out  of the
     garage.  Pressing the close button, he heard the big door rolling shut
     behind him as he hurried to the street.

           "Morning, pastor," Bill said.  "Are you ready?"

          The pastor had  already placed his fishing gear in the bed of the
     big pickup truck and was climbing in.  "You bet, Bill.  I haven't been
     fishing since last summer and there's nothing like spending a day in a
     boat and feeling the pull on your line."

           Bill glanced in  his rear view mirror  to check to see  if there
     was any traffic before pulling out and saw the boat dutifully  waiting
     to be  pulled to the lake just thirty minutes away.  "Well,  it's been
     last summer  since I even had  the boat in  the water so   I'm looking
     forward to it, too," he said, and put the truck in  gear.

          At the lake, Bill had expertly  backed the truck and boat trailer
     down the boat ramp.   The pastor had leaped out, as excited  as a kid,
     and releasing the boat lock downs, shoved the boat backwards.  It slid
     effortlessly off the well oiled rollers and splashed into  the  water.
     Holding on to the  rope secured to the front of the   boat, he watched
     the almost new boat float backwards away from the  boat trailer.  When
     the boat was clear  of the trailer, he gave the high  sign to Bill and
     Bill pulled the  truck forward and the trailer slopped its way off the
     boat ramp; dribbling  water all the way.   The pastor walked  the boat
     line down the  bank until he came to  the  docks, and  climbing to the
     water  stained wooden  structure, he   walked  down the length  of the
     dock; gathering in the line and  pulling the boat closer and closer as
     he walked.

          By  the time  Bill had  returned,  he had  it secured  to  a dock
     support post and stood admiring his friend's boat.

          "It sure has turned out to be a comfortable fishing boat,"   Bill
     commented casually.

          "You can say that again,"  his pastor replied; still staring down
     at the craft bobbing on the water.

          "Well, pastor," Bill said, "Let's go catch some fish."

           They  motored out  to  their favored  fishing  hole and  dropped
     anchor.   By the time the waves which the  boat had created had rolled
     to the surrounding banks and died down, they were bated up and tossing
     their lines into the  clear water.   This end of the  lake was a  deep
     cove  and surrounded  with  lush  green lily  pads  that carpeted  the
     water's surface  for about 20 feet out into the lake.  Rarely did they
     have company joining them in the cove.  Apparently no body figured out
     how good  the fishing was in their favorite  spot.  Although the water
     was   ten to twelve feet deep at  the edge of the lily pads, the water
     was as clear as glass clear to the bottom.  If you watched  carefully,
     you could even see your fish darting out from under the shadows of the
     overhead lily pads and  making a run for your worm  wiggling around at
     the end of your  line.  It  was the most  peaceful place anyone  could
     want.  Even  the wind hardly blew  in the cove because  the banks rose
     high above the  water all the way around  and the trees were  tall and
     served as good wind breaks.

          The two men lean back in their comfortable padded boat chairs and
     watched their bobbers  floating on the placid water.   "Sure is mighty
     beautiful here," Bill said softly.

          "It surely is,"  the pastor replied.  "God  is everywhere present
     in this place."

          "Should we  pray for  some good fishing  then, pastor?"  he said;
     smiling.  Both men laughed and began to relax.

          When the  noon yellow sun  centered itself in  the middle of  the
     blue sky,  they  decided to  head  for the  boat  house for  a  break.
     Neither  man were what you called  dedicated fisherman but  they loved
     the water and they enjoyed eating the fish they caught.

          The pastor  tied the  boat up  at the  boat house  dock and  they
     climbed  out  of  the boat  and  walked  into the  cool  shade  of the
     building.  They drifted around the counters and looked over the latest
     of fishing gear on display but didn't buy anything.

           "Let's go eat," Bill suggested,  and they entered the small cafe
     attached to  the boathouse.   After ordering  and having  their coffee
     placed in front of  them  in large thick mugs, they sipped at  the hot
     brew and  enjoyed the  scenery beyond   the large  windows.  A  half a
     dozen  colorful sailboats  crisscrossed   the lake  and a  few fishing
     boats motored about.   The lake wasn't   large enough for  speed boats
     and  water skiing so it made for  a  perfectly peaceful place to fish.
     In the middle of the week,  there weren't many people on the water and
     the  pastor had noticed very  few swimmers at the beach as they passed
     by  on their way to the boathouse.  All in all, a man couldn't ask for
     anything  more  relaxing.   The  food always  tasted  the best  of any
     restaurant they had  eaten in but both men likely knew it was just the
     smell of the  lake and the overall atmosphere and the  sheer enjoyment
     of being  away from the big city that made the food taste so good.

          Paying and leaving a double tip, they stopped in at the boathouse
     again and Bill  bought two dozen minnows.   "You never know  what they
     like to eat unless you try," Bill said happily.

          The pastor had never once seen  Bill catch anything with a minnow
     in   this  lake but he  always bought  minnows every single  time they
     came.

          Boarding their boat and opening the sandwich bag full of  minnows
     and dumping them  into the minnow bucket  Bill had in the boat,   they
     cast off, fired  up the outboard,  and Bill guided the  boat  back  to
     their favored  fishing hole.   It  was  2 o'clock  by the  time   they
     returned to fishing and they  settled in for a good afternoon  of pure
     pleasure.

          Bill caught a  half a dozen, large enough to  eat, bluegill using
     worms.   The pastor  had hooked  a single  perch but  tossed him  back
     because  he wasn't large enough.   He knew Bill enjoyed catching  more
     fish  than he did but what Bill didn't know was that his pastor didn't
     care about catching fish at all.  When it came to fishing, the  pastor
     only cared about catching one kind  of fish and that was a   big mouth
     bass.

          He watched Bill hook up a minnow and toss his  line.  The  pastor
     figured Bill like watching his bobber dance  around and move little by
     little due to the  frantic swimming of   the small fish at the  end of
     his line more than he believed the  minnow would catch him a big fish.
     It  made  little  difference,  the pastor  thought,  because  all  the
     differences  between  two people  melted  away when  two  buddies went
     fishing together.   Too bad  a church couldn't  work the same  way, he
     mused.

          Suddenly  he saw  a  darting  figure rocket  out  from under  the
     shadow of  the  green lily  pads  and strike  his  line.   His  bobber
     instantly disappeared and he began reeling.  Whatever it was liked  to
     fight and for a moment, he thought  his  line might break.  He finally
     got it close enough to the boat and  Bill tossed him the net.  Leaning
     over the boat, he scooped up  the struggling fish and got him into the
     boat.

          "Holy cow!" Bill exclaimed when the pastor held the fish up.

          "Yep," the pastor smiled, "it's as big as a cow, too."  It was  a
     two pound  big mouth  bass.   After tossing  the fish  into the  large
     bucket filled with water on  the bottom of  the boat between them, the
     pastor  said, "I knew  there were bass  in   this lake but  that's the
     biggest one I've ever seen."

          Bill said, "I heard they've been stocking the  lake over the last
     couple of years  and put more  bass in.   That one though," he  nodded
     toward  the open bucket between them, "has most likely been around for
     awhile.  He's two pounds if he's an ounce," he concluded.

          "They sure are fun  to catch, that's for sure," the  pastor said;
     baiting his line for  another try.  "It will all be  worth it today if
     that's all I catch."

          "You ever  caught one  bigger?" Bill asked;  reeling in  his line
     when  he realized he'd lost his minnow.   He pulled off the bobber and
     said, "Oh, shoot.  I'll just go back to worms but fish  off the bottom
     for something different."

          "I went to Texas once and  fished at a place that specialized  in
     bass.  You ain't never  done anything until you have  been on one   of
     them high speed flat bottom bass boat skimming  the water at  80 miles
     an hour."

          "80 miles an hour!" Bill said; annunciating each word separately.
     "That's moving right out."

          "Yep," the pastor responded.  "It is a thrilling experience.  The
     bass I caught that  day, though, made the high speed boat ride pale in
     comparison."

          "What'd you catch, pastor?" Bill  said, pulling his hat down over
     his  brow, to protect himself from the glare  of  the sun bouncing off
     the smooth surface of the water.

          "I  caught a six pound bass and two four pounders."

          Bill whistled.

          "Yep," the pastor  continued, "It took  me 10 minutes to  get the
     big rascal  into the  boat, too.   His mouth  was so big,  I literally
     could stick my entire fist down his throat.  I've never seen  anything
     like it.   The guide said  he'd seen even bigger  ones  pulled  out of
     that fishing hole, too."

          "did you eat him?" Bill wanted to know.

          "He's at the taxidermy as  we speak.  I just got  a letter saying
     he would be shipped within the month.  I can't wait to put that one up
     on the wall."

          "I don't blame you," Bill replied.  "I'm excited to see that  big
     thing."

          Just then, Bill's pole bent nearly double.  Bill nearly lost  his
     balance trying to recover and almost went overboard.

          "Watch  your  line, Bill," the pastor  called.  "What ever  is on
     the other  end has the  power to snap that line cleanly and  it's big,
     too."

          "Oh, it's probably a dumb  snapping turtle," Bill growled.  "I've
     had  them do this to me before.   They bury themselves in the mud down
     there and you can't pull them out even with a tow truck."

          Thirty minutes  later, with both  men wrestling the  scooping net
     over  the side of the boat,  they pulled the huge  fish into the boat.
     This time, it was  the pastor who nearly fell overboard  trying to get
     the net, with the fish, into the boat.

          "Watch out,"  the pastor  yelled, "That crazy  thing is  a bottom
     feeder cat fish with horns as big as darning needles."

          They   tossed a thick towel over the struggling creature and held
     him down  until he settled down.

          Pulling  the  towel slowly  away  from  the  big fish,  both  men
     whistled at his size.

          "Get the tape  measure out, Bill.   This  cotton picker  is three
     feet or my name  ain't John Hix."   The  pastor  held the tape at  the
     head end as  Bill ran the tape out  to  the end of  the tail.  "Well,"
     the pastor said.  What's the  verdict?"

          "You were about right," Bill grinned.  "This crazy fish is 37 and
     one fourth inches."

          "It is a miracle he didn't break your line before we got him into
     the net," the pastor said quietly; admiring  the fish in the bottom of
     the boat.

          "He nearly  snapped my  pole; forget  what he  almost did to  the
     line."  Both men laughed.

          "You bring your camera?" the pastor asked.

          "Naw, who ever  thought something like this would be in this poor
     little lake."

          "Well," the  pastor said,  "I brought my  digital camera  so this
     puppy ain't going  anywhere without being recorded.   Maybe its a lake
     record,  too.  Let's drive  on over to  the boathouse and  see if they
     keep the lake records there."

          "Good idea, pastor,"  Bill said.  "Wouldn't that  be something if
     something like this was a lake all time record?"

          "Well, if it ain't," I'll eat my hat," the pastor laughed.  "Fire
     up the  engine behind  ya and let's  shoot on  over there  before this
     whopper takes a mind to try and jump out of the boat."
          "Tie him down, or something," Bill said.  "If he jumps overboard,
     I'm going in after him.  I can't let something like this  get away."

          The engine fired on the first pull and the pastor quickly  reeled
     up the anchor.  Bill was skimming  over the water's surface before the
     pastor even had the anchor secured.

          "The pastor turned  to tell Bill to crank the  throttle full open
     but  it wasn't necessary.   The front of  the boat was  lifting a  few
     inches out of the water as Bill opened it wide up.  The wind  blew and
     they had  to snatch their hats off their heads before they  were blown
     away.  The spray and the cool breeze made, from the  sheets of  water,
     cooled their hot  skin.  The rooster  tail thrown out behind  the boat
     was throwing  curtains of water almost  3 feet into   the air  as they
     made the trek across the wide lake.

          Tying up  the boat, the  pastor said, leaping  to the dock,  "You
     stay and  guard the hunk of fish  while I go asking  questions.  Don't
     let him out of your sight either."

          "Good idea, pastor.   I'd sure hate for some  kid to pass by  and
     swipe my fish and claim he caught it."

          "My  sentiments exactly,"  the pastor  replied.   "I'll be  right
     back," and he turned and ran for the boathouse.

          Soon he  was back  with the  boathouse owner  in tow.   Bill  had
     shoved  a couple of  fish ropes down  the throat of  the large catfish
     and secured them to the arm rest of one of the seats.

          "My  land!"  the  boathouseman said.   "I can tell  you right now
     this one  is a   record buster."   He  jumped down into  the boat  and
     handed one end of   the tape measure to Bill.   They measured it three
     times.  The   boathouseman whistled silently.   "Help me get  this big
     thing into   the boathouse so  we can  weigh him.   He's a whole  foot
     larger than  any catfish ever caught in this lake and I  fish for them
     all the  time myself."

          The scale read  20 and a half pounds.  They had literally carried
     it  by pulling one of the fishing  poles apart and  running it through
     his gills.  Even then, with a man holding either  end, the tail of the
     fish dragged the ground.

          "Well, sir," the boathouseman said, "fill out this form and   let
     me take some pictures to put  in the trophy case and you will   be the
     proud record holder  of the  biggest catfish ever  pulled  from  these
     waters.  I've been trying twenty years  to catch  something like that.
     I'm mighty envious, too."  the men all  laughed.

          The boathouse owner went to the old  pop machine, opened  it with
     a key,  and extracted three  orange Crush sodas.   "This calls   for a
     celebration," he said, slamming the pop  machine door closed  with one
     large hip.  Finding his bottle opener under the counter,  he pried the
     lids off and  tossed them into  the trash nearby.   Each   man took  a
     bottle and  clanking them  together, the  pastor said, "To   the  best
     fisherman in these parts."

          "Here,  here," the boathouseman  boomed and they  all drank their
     orange pop and then laughed.

          They went out fishing again  just before sunset and although they
     saw,  and heard, a lot of jumpers, caught nothing.

          "Kind of  anticlimactic," the pastor  commented as he  reeled his
     line in, "after that whopper."

          Bill yawned, "Yeah, I guess it is.  You wanna go home or is  your
     wife and kids expecting you this early?"

          "Naw,' Val knows when I go fishing, I might be out all night.  It
     wouldn't be  the first time I walked  in with a mess of  fish to  have
     her fire up for breakfast."

          "Well, then,"  Bill said; rubbing  the stubble on his  chin, "why
     don't we go up to one of the camping spots, find ourselves a nice fire
     pit,  gut the fish we  caught, and have ourselves  a good old fish fry
     before going home."

          "sounds great to me," the pastor  said, taking his pole apart and
     sliding it  down  the carrying  case.    "I'll drive  to  that  little
     grocery store and get us a  few potatoes so we can slice them  up  and
     fry them in with the fish."

          "Boy," Bill belched,  "I'm hungry already.  Sounds  great.  Let's
     do that."

          They  put the  boat back up  on the  trailer and found  a perfect
     camping spot.   "Drive on into town  to that little store,"  Bill said
     "and I'll get everything cleaned and a  fire going while you're  gone.
     Hurry up, though, my stomach is rumbling."

          "Hey," the pastor said before leaving, "what did you do with that
     big cat?"

          "Awe, don't worry about him.  I bagged him in a big trash bag and
     locked him in the truck  tool box.  Ain't no body gonna  walk off with
     my fish without taking the truck, too."  Both men laughed.

          By the time the pastor  had returned, the fish had  been cleaned,
     the fire built, and the  fillets frying.  "I was beginning   to wonder
     if you'd stold my truck," Bill laughed as the pastor  walked into  the
     light of the fire.

          "Well, I  had a flat,"  he said, and  being unfamiliar with  your
     truck and all, it took a little while to get the thing changed.  I  am
     glad you  have  a full  sized  tire instead  of  one of  those  little
     doughnut things."

          "Yeah," Bill replied, "those little tires might be all right in a
     pinch but in a truck, you might be a long ways away from some  station
     where you  could get a tire  fixed.  So  I have a balanced  full sized
     tire I carry around."

          "Good idea," the pastor remarked as he sliced potatoes into small
     strips and tossed them in along side the sizzling fish.  "I stopped at
     that station and they  fixed your tire already.   It was just a  small
     nail so they plugged it."

          "Well, you didn't have to go and do that, pastor," Bill said.

          "Oh, don't think  a thing  about it," the  pastor replied.   "Boy
     those bluegill  look tasty to  me," he  said; tossing the  last potato
     into the skillet.

          "They do, don't they," Bill replied.  "I brewed some coffee while
     you were gone.  Want some?"

          "I surely do.   Man,  does coffee  sound good  to me  all of  the
     sudden."

          They  sat and  drank the old  fashion brewed coffee  and spit out
     the grounds occasionally.  They each commented on the good flavor.

          "I brought us some dessert, too," the pastor remarked.

          "My," Bill  said in  mocked admiration, "for  a couple  of harden
     woodsman  like us,  dessert sounds  almost  like heaven.   What'd  you
     get?"

          "It'll be  a surprise," the  pastor laughed.  Bill  laughed along
     with his pastor and turned the fillets again.

          After supper,  they sat  back and  poured more  coffee.  The  two
     Hostess Twinkies tasted  like nothing they'd ever eaten  before.  They
     washed them  down with  more hot coffee and sat and watched  the dying
     fire  between them.

          Bill had been pondering  all day on how to bring it  up.  He felt
     closer to his  pastor than ever  before and this  day seemed to  bring
     them even closer.  He'd never felt anything like it and he  figured it
     must be  some of this male bonding stuff he'd  heard  about.  He still
     hesitated  when he considered bringing up the   topic on his mind.  He
     knew if he did not do it tonight, he'd never  bring it up again and he
     knew it would  tarnish this, what seemed  to be, a newly   established
     friendship he had with his pastor.

          Pastor," he sighed, "could I ask you something personal like?"

          The  pastor stared  across the  glowing  embers of  the fire  and
     tossed a couple of  sticks on to them and watched them  flame up a few
     inches.    "Bill,  we're  friends  and  friends  can  ask  each  other
     anything."

          "Well," he stammered, "I sort of figured  it that way, too.  I'll
     be  right truthful about it, pastor, I ain't never been close to a man
     before.  Me and my pa were almost enemies.  He beat me so  much, it is
     a miracle of God that I am still alive today.  I got  scars on my back
     from where he beat me with barbed wire once."

          "Good  grief" Bill,"  the  pastor  gasped.   "Barb  wire?"   He'd
     noticed the  scars on his  back in the  boat when  Bill had taken  his
     shirt off.

          "He was drunk most of the time and never worked and when he did,"
     Bill continued, "he never came home with the money."

          "What ever happened to him, Bill," the pastor asked; knowing this
     had nothing to do with what Bill was wanting to talk about.

          "I was riding  my bike one evening, and I loved riding because it
     gave  me time  to think  about things,  when I  saw  my dad  helping a
     floozy up the stairs of a well known whore house in town."

          "What happened then,  Bill?" the pastor said; encouraging  him to
     continue.

          "Well," Bill  said,  taking another  swig  of his  coffee  before
     refilling his cup, "Nothing I am too proud about."

          The pastor waited for him to continue.

          "I just  got plum mad,  really," Bill  continued slowly.   "I saw
     red, as they say.  My poor little mama worked her fingers to the  bone
     to keep food  on the table and  the rent paid and  all my pa did   was
     drink  and," he  hesitated  slightly before  continuing,  "and   screw
     women."

          "I understand, Bill, the pastor said trying to show his friend he
     wasn't turned off by his language.  "Go on."

          "Well, I rode my bike right up to the front door."

          "How old were you at the time, Bill," the pastor interrupted.

          "I was  just fifteen  but built  like a  brick outhouse.   I  was
     working myself by this  time carrying hod  for some pretty busy  brick
     layers.   They  were good brick  layers, too.   Anyway, I  was already
     bigger than my pa but seeing him drunk and holding that floozy  around
     her skinny waste  and barely dressed to boot, something  just  snapped
     inside  of me.   I jumped  off my  bike after  they had already   been
     inside for  a minute or  two.  I  tried the handle  but the door   was
     locked so I kicked it clean of its hinges.  It was a solid  core door,
     too, pastor.  I didn't know my own strength I guess.

          I  slowly  strolled into  the place,  not ever  having been  in a
     whore  house before, but  no body was  around and no body  came to see
     what the noise was all about.  I  walked down the hall and stopped  at
     the first  opened  door and  glanced in.   There  was my  pa with  his
     britches down to  his knees.   The woman had  pulled her dress  up and
     she had nothing on underneath.   My pa had a bottle in his hand and  I
     watched in horror  as he took  a pull at the  bottle and fell   on the
     woman like a load of bricks.  I'd seen enough."

          "Did you  just turn and  leave, Bill?" the pastor  asked, knowing
     he'd likely done no such thing.

          "Nope.   I  should  have, I  know, but  I was  one  mad son  of a
     bitch."  He  stop abruptly and stared  across the fire at  his pastor.
     "I'm sorry,  pastor.   I don't normally  talk that  way.   I was  just
     reliving  the  whole thing  and it  slipped  out.   Father," he   said
     quickly  lifting his eyes  to the stars, "forgive  me for talking that
     way.  I didn't mean it."

          The  pastor did a poor job of stifling  a laugh and said, "Go on,
     Bill.  What happened."

          "Well," the big man sighed, "I ain't proud of what I done but  it
     just seemed the  thing to do at  the moment.  I  ran over to the   bed
     where my pa and this floozy were  already going at it and snatched  my
     pa right off her.  He was like a five pound bag of potatoes.  That was
     probably because I  was so mad.   I chucked him right  out the nearest
     window."

          "Was it opened?" the pastor asked; a chuckle in his voice.

          "Nope," Bill said, "It weren't opened."

          "You mean you tossed your dad right out a closed window?"

          "Yesum, that is  exactly what I done.   I could have  killed him.
     It was a big picture window that looked  out on to a nicely kept court
     yard,  too.  It had nice  high and well trimmed  bushes all around the
     outer edges of the court next to the house.  I heard later this was to
     keep peeping Toms from sneaking up and  peaking in the windows at what
     was going on inside the house."

          "What happened to your dad, then, Bill?  Was he hurt?"

          "Only his pride.  Besides, drunks never seemed to get hurt.   The
     whole  window bowed when  his head hit  the glass and  everything flew
     outward and away.  Pa never  even got a  scratch.  Well,  not from the
     glass anyways."

          "So he did get hurt, then?" the pastor asked.

          "Naw really,"  Bill said  as he  tossed on  a small  dry log  and
     watched the flames  lick up around it  for a few moments.   "His pants
     stripped  completely off him  as he went  out the window,  he wore  no
     underwear, and he landed  on the top of  the big tall bushes   outside
     the window.  I walked  over and looked down at him.  He was  so drunk,
     he didn't  even know what had happened to  him.  Lights were beginning
     to come on all around the  court yard and heads popped out  of windows
     to  see what all the ruckus was about.   There was old  pa, naked as a
     jay bird and rolling around trying to get off the  sharp sticks of the
     bushes that were poking little holes in him all  over the place."

          "Then  what happened?"  the  pastor  asked.   He  saw Bill  smile
     slightly in the faint light before answering.

          "I walked back to the big bed where the half  naked woman lay and
     told her she  best be putting some  clothes on because the  cops would
     likely be here any minute.  Then I left and went home."

          "Did the cops ever come?  Did you get in trouble?"

          Bill laughed.   My pa, once  he realized I'd  made a fool  out of
     him in  front of  loads of people  who saw him  rolling around  in the
     court yard, tried taking me on two nights later but I just picked  him
     up and carried  him out of  the house and  dropped him on  the   front
     lawn.  He was drunk, I'm sure he didn't even know what  he  was doing.
     We never saw or heard from him again.  I got saved  shortly after that
     and  so did mama and my two sisters.   I went to  college, for all the
     good it did me in my job, but mama insisted.  That old woman had saved
     enough money for my  first semester, too.  I got a  job right away and
     paid the rest of my way through."

          The pastor began  laughing.  Soon  he was holding  his sides  and
     roaring like a dog baying at the moon.  Bill joined in and they had  a
     good belly laugh for several minutes.

          "Bill," the pastor finally gasped, "That has got to be one of the
     funniest stories I have ever heard.  Thanks for telling it to me."

          "You  ain't  going  to  be  using  it  in  a  sermon  as  a story
     illustration or anything, are you, pastor?"

          This set off another five minutes of laughing.

          The pastor's  laughter  finally died away but he  was holding his
     head.   "Oh, my   head  hurts, I've  laughed so  hard.   No Bill,"  he
     assured  the  big    man,  "I  won't   use  your  story  as  a  sermon
     illustration.   There's  probably  a good sermon illustration  in that
     story somewhere  but right now I   can't think of  one.  It is  just a
     funny story, that's all."

          They sat for another 10 minutes, both men chuckling occasionally,
     until the fire was nothing but a soft glow  in the darkness.

          "The  stars sure  are pretty  things,  ain't they,  pastor," Bill
     said.

          "Bill," the pastor replied, "you should see them in the desert or
     on  top of a mountain at night  where there's no city lights to hinder
     their twinkling."

          "You have?" Bill asked.

          "Yep.   They are  beautiful, too.  They  are beautiful right now,
     for that matter," the  pastor concluded.  Both men sat  in silence for
     long moments as they watched the stars.

          Finally Bill cleared his throat and the pastor knew it  was time.

          "Bill, what is it you want to ask me?"

          The big man was silent for  several moments before he spoke.   "I
     have it figured, Pastor, that you done already know what I'm  about to
     ask ya.  How so?"

          "Oh, he  shrugged, "I  don't know.   I  think it  was the  Spirit
     telling me.   I've just  known all  day you've had  something on  your
     mind.  At first I thought  it was the story you told me  about your pa
     just now but I know now  that you have something bothering you so  ask
     away, brother."

          The big man  cleared his throat again before  speaking.  "I don't
     rightly know  how to bring this up,  pastor.  It's really none   of my
     business either."

          "Bill, we're friends.  I know I'm your pastor but I'm your friend
     first.  Friends can talk.   What you have to ask me may  hurt but I've
     been hurt before.  I know you aren't  going to ask me because you want
     to hurt me but in your heart, you think it is going to hurt me and you
     just don't  want that to happen.  Ask me any way, brother.  Get it off
     your chest."

          He said  nothing for  long minutes but  then spoke.   "Pastor,  I
     ain't never had  a day with another man like this  before.  I listened
     to a Christian radio broadcast  the other day on the way to the plant,
     oh, I can't  recall which one now, and they talked about male bonding.
     I'd heard about it  before but I've  pretty much been  a loner all  my
     life.  I had  no brothers and few guys ever wanted  to pal around with
     me  when I was a kid.   College was different  but that was because of
     something else.  Today,  on the other hand, was an usual  day.  I felt
     close to you like I never dreamed possible."

          "But something bothers you, doesn't it, Bill?" the pastor added.

          "Yes, sir," he  replied, more in the dark now that the coals were
     dying down. "I reckon it does sort  of bother me but my problem is,  I
     can't hardly believe it is true after today."

          "Bill, I already know what you are  going to ask me so just  spit
     it out."

          Bill  hesitated for  a few  silent moments  trying to  gather his
     thoughts.  He was  confused at both what he had heard about his pastor
     and  puzzled at  the pastor's word  that he  already knew what  he was
     going to say.  Finally, he began speaking slowly.  "Well,  pastor," he
     said hesitantly, I  was doing some business   for the plant  the other
     day and had  to go to the bank.  I saw  a  new loan officer.  Somehow,
     and for some reason, I mentioned where   I went to church.  He goes to
     the Missions Church over on the west end  of town."
          "Yes, I know of it," the pastor said quietly.

          "Well, anyhow," Bill  continued, "he told me that  he could never
     go to  our church.  When I asked him why, he told me..."  Bill's voice
     trailed off when he found he couldn't finish his thought.

          "Because he thinks I am a homosexual, you mean, Bill?" the pastor
     said; finishing it for him.

          Bill's  mouth  dropped  open  but when  he  realized  his  pastor
     couldn't see it in the darkness, he closed his mouth and  said, "Well,
     pastor, I'm sorry but yes, that is exactly what he said."

          The pastor laughed softly.  He is sort of right, you know?"

          "What?" Bill sputtered.  "I figured he was just making it all  up
     and  trying to make  me mad enough  so I'd come  over and  join  their
     church or something."

          "No, Bill.   What he  is trying to do  is ruin my  ministry and I
     doubt he even knows he is trying to do that.  What he doesn't know is,
     it  isn't my ministry in the first  place.  Our church belongs to god.
     He called me here, that's for sure, but  if the Lord wants this man to
     stir trouble up for me, then go ahead and let him try  because I'm not
     afraid of him or his accusations."

          Stopping to  poor a  little more coffee,  he suggested  Bill brew
     another pot.   "It's going to  be a long  night, Bill, so we  might as
     well have  some good  coffee to wash  the dirt away.   If you  want to
     hear it, I'll be happy to tell you the whole story."

          "Well, pastor," he said as he began making more coffee, "it ain't
     really none of my business; like I said."

          "It is your business  now and you have a right to hear the truth.
     Especially  since this  man,  whoever he  is, thinks  he  can rock  my
     foundation enough  to cause me to fall  off.  So do you  want to  hear
     the whole story, Bill?"

          Sitting the coffee pot over the fire he had just stirred up, Bill
     looked  over  the glow of  the flames at his  pastor and said, "I sure
     would like  to hear it if you don't mind telling it, pastor."

          "Good," he replied.  "Here's how it began.

          In high school,  I joined ROTC.  I wasn't planning on joining the
     military you understand but I  enjoyed the training I received through
     ROTC.

          Long before I turned sixteen, I loved guns.  I especially   loved
     rifles.   Dad and I hunted often.   I pulled my first  trigger  when I
     was four  years old.  Missed  the target but  loved the thrill   of it
     all.   By the time  I was ten, I  never missed a  thing I   pointed my
     rifle  barrel  at.    In  ROTC,  therefore,  it  was  noticed that  my
     marksmanship was far advanced compared to everyone else.

          One day I  was introduced to a man whose name  I can't offer you.
     He was very high up in special  government operations, however, and he
     asked me if I would shoot for him for awhile one evening.  He took  me
     to a shooting range and for two hours I pulled the trigger  on  a very
     unusual rifle  he supplied.  Again,  it is something  I cannot explain
     because the rifle  itself is still a top  secret type of special   ops
     weaponry.  I triggered off over two hundred rounds that evening  and I
     am proud to say, I never missed once.

          On the  way home, the  man offered  me a job.   I can't  say what
     exactly what sort of a job but I will explain further as I get into my
     story.  I  told  this man  I was too young  to be in the  military and
     that  I already  had a job sacking  groceries 3 nights a week and most
     weekends.  The man laughed and told me, due to my marksmanship skills,
     my government  had  a special place  for me.  I  would go through  one
     year  of specialized  training  and  then I  would  receive a  special
     assignment  which  he refused to identify  at the time.  I  told him I
     would have   to discuss  this with my father  and he said  that he had
     already  spoken about it  all with my dad and  that my father was  all
     for it.  I  didn't believe him until  I walked through the front  door
     and dad  said, "Well, are you taking the job?"  To make a long story a
     little shorter,  a week  later I  was put  on a  special airplane  and
     flown to some place to this day I have no idea where we were.  I spent
     a year there  and besides learning  how to  shoot some high  technical
     and specialized weaponry, I was taught escape and evasion  jungle  and
     desert survival, and about a dozen other specialties I can't even talk
     about to this day.   They even flew me to some mountains with snow and
     we trained for  two months in the  snow.  I  about froze my butt  off,
     too.  I also learned two other  languages, Bill, in one  single  year.
     I can still speak them both fluently now, too."

          Bill's  curiosity got  the best  of him  and after  pouring their
     cups full  of hot  steaming coffee, he  said, "Can  you tell  me those
     other two languages, Pastor?"

          The pastor laughed and said, "Sure.  French and Vietnamese."

          "I'm starting to get the picture, I think," Bill replied.

          "I'm sure you  are, Bill.   Well,  on my 17th  birthday, I  found
     myself in the Nam.   I was, of course,  a year under age but  somebody
     with a lot more  clout and really high  up the latter had no   trouble
     fixing that little problem for me.  If you are wondering   what my job
     assignment was, I was a sharp  shooter.  I can tell you   that much at
     least.  I  shouldn't because if the  word ever got out   and the wrong
     people, or should I  say, the right people,  ever  found out, I  would
     most  likely be arrested  and serve  a lot  of time   in  the military
     prison system."

          "I understand," Bill replied softly.

          "At any rate,  Bill, your pastor served in-country  for two years
     before I quit."

          "You quit?" Bill said; astonished.

          "Yep," the pastor replied, "I quit."

          "But why?" Bill queried; confusion in his voice.

          "Because, Bill, "your pastor killed 88 people.  One of them was a
     woman, too.   After two years, I was just  nineteen.  We had more than
     thirty sharp  shooters in the  Nam in my   unit and  I was the  second
     best, too."

          Bill  whistled softly.   "88  people," he  said out  loud without
     thinking.

          "They were  all, of  course, the enemy.   Unless,  of course,  my
     government  lied to me.  They were very bad people.  In fact, half the
     group I killed  were responsible  for the deaths  of over two  million
     cambodian people.   That's something  you probably never heard  on the
     nightly network news."

          Bill  was  a  few years  younger  than  his  pastor but  he  well
     remembered the Vietnam war.  Finally he  said, "Two million people?  I
     surely never heard nothing about that."

          "It's true, Bill.  The CIA  director at the time, one of the  top
     Vietnamese  soldiers, and I  went to the  Cambodian river and  saw the
     bodies  floating  in  the  river ourselves.    Satellite  recon photos
     confirmed more than two million bodies in the river.  I can't  explain
     further but believe me, it happened."

          They both dropped more wood on the fire but the fire didn't blaze
     up; it just began to crackle.

          "You want to  know who  the best  sharp shooter in  Nam was  back
     then?"

          Bill  nodded but  he  again  realized  his pastor  wouldn't  have
     probably been able to see the movement so he said, "Sure."

          "It was a woman."

          "A woman?" Bill  said; puzzlement in  his voice.   "I knew  women
     served back  then but I thought  it was just as nurses  and stuff like
     that."

          "You're right but this woman was a very special woman.  She could
     shoot like no  body's business and the military snapped her up as fast
     as a duck on  a June bug  when they discovered her  skills."  After  a
     pause for a few seconds, the pastor said, "and you  know her, too."

          "I know her?" Bill said; confused.  "How could I know her."

          "Because, Bill, she is my wife."

          Bill dropped his almost full coffee  cup directly into the  fire.
     The flames  hissed as the  liquid spilled.   He  quickly,  and without
     thinking, retrieved his cup before it   burned.  He sat it on the hard
     ground next  to him because he   didn't trust himself to  try and poor
     any more coffee into  it at  the  moment.  "You  mean to tell me  that
     Sister Val...?"  He couldn't  finish his sentence.

          "Yep," the pastor said, Valerie Hix was the best sharp shooter in
     our unit and probably in all of the Nam war.  We called her Annie, for
     Annie Oakley back then  and her last name wasn't Hix  then, of course.
     She drilled 127 targets."

          "Dear Jesus," Bill said reverently.   Then, realizing what he had
     said, he quickly  added, "Oh, excuse me,  pastor.  I didn't  mean that
     like I  was swearing; I meant," and he  hesitated as he tried to think
     how to explain."

          The pastor laughed.  "I know, Bill.  Don't worry about it.  Jesus
     knows what you  mean anyway."   they  both laughed then  but Bill  was
     still trying to turn all  this information over in his mind.

          "Hard to believe, isn't it?" the pastor asked.

          "You got that right, pastor."

          "Bill," the pastor continued, "like I said, if anybody, and I  do
     mean anybody, gets wind of this, Val and I most likely will  end up in
     jail.  In fact, due to the nature  of our missions, you  probably will
     never hear about us again, if we get arrested I mean."

          "Oh, I won't breathe a word of it, pastor.  You can count on me."

          "I'm  not  worried, Bill.    I  just  wanted  to  make  sure  you
     understood."

          "Oh, I surely do.  I won't repeat anything you've said.  But Miss
     Valerie?  she killed, how many people?"

          "127," the pastor replied.

          "My, oh my," Bill said; wonderment filling his voice.

          They were silent  for several moments as the  pastor allowed time
     for things to run around inside his friend's head.

          Finally Bill spoke.   "Is that how you two met?"  Bill stammered,
     "being sharp shooters and all?"

          "No, Bill.  We met years later.  I knew Val of course, because we
     trained together  as teenagers but the  Lord brought us together  in a
     very unusual way.   I'll save that story for another  time.  I've told
     you all of this,  however, because I wanted to answer  your other more
     pressing question."

          "What's   that?"  Bill  said;  totally  forgetting  what  he  had
     originally asked.

          "About me being gay?  You know?"

          "shoot, pastor," he grunted,  "I plum forgot all about that.  Now
     it sounds mighty lame to me anyhow."

          "Naw, Bill, it isn't lame.  Let me explain because I want you  to
     understand and I want you to know the truth."

          "Ok, pastor," he said hesitantly, "but now I don't think I really
     need to know anything."

          "No, you  are wrong," he replied, "you need  to know the truth so
     let me tell you.

          Perhaps, if I had been older, killing 88 of the enemy would  have
     been  psychologically more  tolerable  to  me.   The  military   tried
     helping me  and I talked to a lot of shrinks but they finally  gave me
     an honorable discharge and  sent me on my way.  I spent  the  next six
     years  in and out of VA hospitals trying to  get my mind to  work.  It
     was during this  time I turned to  homosexuality.  I   couldn't hold a
     job for anything and what I did make, I spent on  pot."

          "You smoked pot?" Bill asked incredulously.

          "Sure did.  Why?"

          "Well, shoot, pastor,"  Bill answered, "you just  never seemed to
     be the type.  That's all."

          The pastor laughed.  "Listen, Bill, I lived in the bush  and came
     in about once every three months for debriefing and new orders.  I had
     the best  spotter a sharp shooter could  ask for.  He got captured and
     tortured during my  last tour.  I finally  found him.  He'd  been in a
     tiger  cage for  three months and  was a  breath away  from death.   I
     sneaked into the camp under the  cover of darkness to free him but  he
     was too far gone.  We had  made promises to each other that if  either
     of us were  ever caught and tortured, the other would  get in and kill
     the other.  I kept  my promise that night.  So I guess you could say I
     killed  89 people  in  the Nam."    Tears came  to  his  eyes when  he
     remembered  his friend.  "They had literally pealed strips of his skin
     from his  body with a pair of pliers.  They had stuck rats in his cage
     and the  rats were literally eating him alive.   If it hadn't been for
     the tattoo,  I wouldn't  have even  been able  to make  a positive  ID
     before killing him.  The damn  rats had eaten most of the  tattoo away
     even then."  The  pastor hung his head  as the heaviness of the  great
     sorrow rolled over him.  He still had nightmares once and awhile.

          Bill was  so caught  up in  the wonderment  of the  story he  was
     hearing, he hadn't even noticed his own pastor had swore.

          Suddenly the  pastor said,  "Bill, I'm sorry.   I didn't  mean to
     swear," and he softly prayed and asked the Lord to forgive him just as
     his big friend had earlier.

          "Shoot, pastor," Bill replied, "I  never even noticed.  I'm sorry
     about your friend,  though, pastor."  Bill had seen the sparkle of his
     pastor's tears in the  flickering firelight as he had reached to point
     of confessing he had to kill his own friend.

          "I didn't want to do it," the pastor said, his voice  hoarse, but
     he never  would have made  it out alive.   I shot the  camp commandant
     from literally  1800 yards  a month  later as  he stood   kissing  his
     mistress in the small village two miles from the  prison camp.  It had
     taken me a full month to study his  movements before I found the right
     time to kill  him.   I then  shot all twelve  guards and  let all  the
     prisoners out.   My spotter had been the  only American in the  camp."
     He stopped for a moment; thinking.  Then he spoke again.  "I guess you
     could add the commandant and the 12 guards to my total kills, bringing
     my total to 102, but my government  didn't count my spotter and the 13
     others as official kills, of course; just the 88 I killed."

          "1800  yards?" Bill  said  with  wonderment  filling  his  voice.
     "Pastor, that's way over a whole mile."

          "It sure is, Bill.  It was the best shot I ever took but I did it
     for my  spotter, the  best friend  I ever  had, until  I met  Val.   I
     carried my spotter, by the way, 16 clicks to an LZ where I radioed  in
     a chopper to  extract us  from the bush.   Choppers  attract a lot  of
     attention and we ended  up in a fire  fight just trying to get  out of
     the jungle.  I don't know how many I killed during the  fire fight but
     a few.

          As I  was saying, I  spent the next  six years  in and out  of VA
     hospitals.   Finally  I  ran  across a  psychiatrist  who believed  in
     treating all his  patients by keeping  them stoned.   Just my kind  of
     doc.  He knew I was crazy and he knew I liked being high so he made it
     easy for  me.  He provided me with lots  of morphine and lots of other
     drugs.   I  visited him three times a  week for 3 years and he shot me
     up  each time I came in.  In between visits, he gave  me pills.  There
     was a price to pay for my addiction, however."
          After a moment of silence, he continued.  "My shrink who kept  me
     high?   He was a homosexual.  The morphine kept the pain away  most of
     the time so I didn't care and was more than willing to do  whatever he
     wanted as long as he kept me stoned."

          "Then, that wasn't your fault, pastor," Bill interjected.

          "You're wrong  there, Bill.   I was plenty  responsible.   I knew
     what I  was doing and why.   I hurt big  time.  The drugs  helped kill
     the pain  and so did the sex with the doctor, too.  I tried everything
     to keep the pain at bay.

          I told you I  killed one woman?  She was the last person I killed
     in Nam.  Something snapped inside of me at that moment, Bill.  I never
     wanted a woman  after that  time.   It was like  coming up  to a  draw
     bridge and not having enough toll fair to pay to let the  bridge  down
     so you  could cross to the other  side.  So you just  dive in and swim
     for it  and hope you don't  drown.  The drugs  and the sex   buried my
     pain deep.   Besides, during  that time I  had sex  with at   least 30
     other men.  It is  only a miracle I don't have AIDS.  I was HIV tested
     for 15 years after all that but 10 years ago, I stopped it."

          Neither man  spoke a word  for at least  10 minutes.   The pastor
     looked at  his watch in the low  firelight.  It was 3  in the morning.
     He knew neither  of them were done  yet.  He was glad  he'd called his
     wife on his cell phone coming back from the little grocery  to let her
     know he likely wouldn't be home till morning.

          Finally Bill spoke.   "Me, to, pastor."  I  should have  died  of
     AIDS 20 years ago."

          "Why, Bill?" his pastor asked.

          "Well, I guess if you are willing  to tell me about your personal
     life,  it is only right you know about mine."

          "Naw, Bill," he replied.  "You don't have to tell me a thing.  If
     you do, believe you me, I won't be able to judge you because  only God
     has that right."

          "Yeah,  well, that's what  I'm afraid of;  being judged by  God I
     mean.  I don't think God can forgive me for what I've done either."

          The pastor  let that  remark pass  for the  time being  and said,
     "Tell me about it then, Bill."

          Taking a  deep breath, he began.  "It all  started when I went to
     college.  Well, no,  it started  before  then.  I was pretty  sexually
     active even as a teenager.  I laid everything that wore a skirt.  Back
     then they wore skirts,  you know.  In fact, my buddies, if you want to
     call them that, all said I'd screw a snake if somebody would hold it's
     head.   They were  right, too, so they  nicked name me  Snake.  I even
     have a tattoo on my right biceps."

          The  pastor didn't  bother saying  that he  had already  seen the
     tattoo on his friend's arm earlier that day.

          "I wanted to be  accepted and I had gained a  reputation among my
     pals based upon who  I laid.  At  fifteen I had  been with at least  a
     dozen girls at school.  I even  had sexual  intercourse with one of my
     teachers and she was 40 years old.

          When I  went to college, I found a  gold mine of beautiful, sexy,
     willing and free women.   Four of us fellows that  roomed together off
     campus literally wrote a pact and signed it in our own blood."

          "What was the pact about, Bill," the pastor asked as  he prepared
     another pot of coffee for them.

          "The pact read  that we had  to lay one  woman a week,  including
     during the  summers when school  was out, and  that each woman  had to
     sign her name in her own blood.   I know this sounds demonic,  pastor,
     but we   weren't Satan worshipers or nothing like that.  In fact, none
     of   us believed in  God at all,  I don't think.   We were  just crazy
     college kids trying to out do each other."

          "So did you all keep your agreement which you signed in blood?"

          "Well, yes, we  did.  Well,  at least the  other three boys  did.
     When  we   graduated,  we  presented  our  signed  papers  during  our
     graduation party,  from all the  women we'd  laid which lasted, by the
     way, four   days.  I  drank so much alcohol  and smoked so  much grass
     during   that time, I nearly died.   I ended up in  the hospital for a
     week  but that wasn't the worst of it, pastor."

          The  pastor poured the steaming coffee into  the mugs when it was
     finished boiling and waited for Bill to continue.

          Bill blew on his coffee a  few times to cool it and then  took  a
     couple of sips.   "You see, pastor, I was the all time  winner of  the
     group.  I had 356 signed forms and yes, every girl I slept with signed
     her name in her own blood.  Well, not every one.  Some refused so that
     meant I had to find another girl to go to bed with me.  So, the bottom
     line is,  pastor, I've slept  with over 400  women.   It is   only the
     grace of God that I am not dead from AIDS but back then,  no body knew
     anything about AIDS."

          "That's some story, Bill."

          "Yeah, well, the guilt is like a  500 pound tombstone I have been
     carrying around my  whole life.  I  got my life straightened  out with
     the Lord shortly after college.  Sally is the best thing that has ever
     come along in my life.  I'd be dead if it weren't for her love for me.
     The horrible truth is, she  was one of the girls I slept  with  during
     college.  I even  corrupted her and I knew I loved her   before I even
     crawled into the sack with her."

          "Bill," the  pastor asked  quietly, "Have you  ever asked  God to
     forgive you for your sin of immorality?"

          "Oh, have I ever, pastor.  I've prayed and prayed and prayed till
     I am  blue in  the face.   I  even fasted  once for  two solid  weeks,
     praying every day, asking God to  forgive me but the guilt never  goes
     away."

          "Has the Lord forgiven you, Bill, do you think?"

          "I don't know, pastor.  The Word says he has and it  even says  I
     am cleansed from  all unrighteousness once I confessed my sin to  Him.
     I just can't get rid of the guilt, though.  So, I guess, when it comes
     right down to it, God hasn't forgiven me and I wouldn't even blame Him
     if He didn't."

          "Bill,"  the pastor began slowly, "I am not a murderer but I have
     killed over  100 people and one was  my best friend.  I  am not a drug
     addict but I have done enough dope  to stock a pharmacy for 20  years.
     I am not  a homosexual but I  have had sex with  more than 30 men.   I
     even enjoyed  it at times.   I should be  in jail right now  because I
     robbed a few gas stations years ago just to get enough money for drugs
     and  alcohol.  I am not a drunk but  I drank enough boos that I was in
     AA  for a couple  of years.   When I got  saved at age  25 in a little
     church,  the Lord forgave  me of  all my sins.   The  guilt never went
     away, though, just like you said.  I cleaned up my life.  I won people
     to Christ.   I served  in every area  of the church  I could find.   I
     finally  went  to  Bible  college.    I  even  prayed  about  being  a
     missionary.    I guess  I figured  that if  I could  fly away  to some
     distant place, I could get far enough away  from what I once was so it
     couldn't hurt  me any  more.  Finally,  though, the  Lord led  me into
     intercessory prayer  and even  to  a man  who  really knew  what  true
     intercessory prayer  was all about.  In short, I have no more guilt, I
     can  return to  any  memory I  have and  feel no  pain,  and I  am the
     happiest  person on the  planet.  I  don't just know  I am forgiven; I
     actually feel the  forgiveness of God inside  of me.  This  church has
     been such a wonderful blessing  to me, too, and  I consider it a  gift
     from God."

          "No guilt?" Bill said suspiciously.  "And forgiven?"

          "Absolutely no guilt and totally forgiven," came the reply.

          "But how could that be?"

          "Bill, how do you feel  when you consider those memories of  your
     immoral behavior?"

          "I feel rotten as  sin.  I feel fearful that I  will end up being
     HIV positive some  day.  Most  of what I feel  is guilt.  I  mean, why
     would  I do all of that.  I was  even a Christian at the time but that
     didn't stop me.   I knew better,  too.  I also  wonder why God  didn't
     stop me."

          "So," the pastor said, sipping at his coffee, "you feel the guilt
     and you feel fear and perhaps some anger?"

          "Anger?" Bill said; puzzled.

          "Yeh, anger," the  pastor confirmed.  "You  said that you  were a
     Christian  back then and  you really knew  better.  You  also said you
     couldn't figure out why God allowed it to continue."

          "Well, that's  right I did say all that  but what's anger have to
     do with it?" Bill wanted to know.

          "Bill," the pastor replied, "the  feeling of, why God didn't stop
     you since you were a Christian, is  an indication you most likely have
     anger toward God.  Your statements about the fact you were a Christian
     and new  better but  did it anyway,  indicates anger  toward yourself.
     The  fear is obvious.   The guilt,  in this case,  is the  key but the
     anger is  used to mask the real pain of the guilt.  How would you like
     to get  rid of all these  feelings once and  for all and know  it will
     never return once you are healed?"

          "That would be wonderful.  Is it possible though?"

          Glancing at his watch, the  pastor said, "Bill, we've got to  get
     packed up and  back into town.  I  need a couple of hours  of shut eye
     because I have  some people coming  in tonight from  out of state  for
     intercessory  prayer  sessions.    I  want you  to  know,  however,  I
     guarantee the Lord  can heal you of  the guilt and fear and  anger and
     anything we might find when we pray together."

          "I'm ready  any time,  pastor," he replied.   "You  know my  work
     schedule.  Set me up for whatever times you want and I'll be there."

          The two men kicked out the remains of their fire, poured water on
     it,  packed  up the  equipment, and  drove  away as  the sun  began to
     lighten the eastern horizon.

     COMMENTS ON UNFORGIVENESS

          Unforgiveness has invaded  and plague the church.   No matter how
     many times we try forgiving others, and  ourself, it never seems to go
     away.  It is even worse if the one we need to forgive is ourself.

          In  my story,  two very  different men  had the  same  problem of
     unforgiveness of immorality  in their lives.  That is,  they could not
     forgive  themselves for what  they had done.   The pastor  had found a
     way, however, and he  was able to begin sharing it  with his friend as
     they  fished and later talked and bonded as men and Christian brothers
     around their campfire.

          Now, about this time, someone is saying, "I know God forgives and
     cleanses from all sin but..." and from that point  onward, their voice
     trails off.  What they are thinking, which remains unsaid, is  related
     to the sin of the pastor in  the story.  They can somehow believe that
     God would  forgive the church member in the  story because he only had
     sex with 400 women and everybody  knows God certainly can forgive that
     degree of sinful immorality.  Right?  It's  the homosexual behavior of
     the pastor, of all people, that they find impossible to believe can be
     forgiven by God.  You see, it works this way.

          "God  can, and  does,  forgive  certain sins  more  than He  does
     others.  I  mean, the heterosexual sin  of the one is  understandable.
     Well, not  exactly understandable, but  it is normal.   Well, it isn't
     normal exactly but it is..."

          Did you run  out of words there or what happened?  Try explaining
     what you  mean, then, concerning  the homosexuality of the  pastor, if
     you can, and see if you can explain why that is different than the sin
     of the immorality of the other man.

          If you  are thinking, about  this time, we have  missed something
     somewhere along the way, you would be on target.  What we have missed,
     and  overlooked,  is  the  problem of  forgiving  because  we  haven't
     understood the holiness  of God's nature to forgive  equally the same.
     Something else  we have not recognized, as part of forgiveness, is The
     healing power of God in healing us of our own woundedness.

          Generally,  about this point  in the conversation,  someone says,
     sputtering, "but  where do you draw the line?"   What they really mean
     is, where does God draw the line?  In their heart, they know where God
     draws  the line  and that's  the line  of total forgiveness  and total
     healing of the  woundedness.  If any  of this bothers you, it  does so
     because it is somehow  tapping into your own lie based  thinking.  You
     see, we secretly want to forgive the one man and not the other because
     of what  we "feel" concerning sin.  God  has no such feelings; He only
     knows  our   confession  of  sin   and  His  own  power   to  forgive.
     Furthermore, God isn't  remotely interested in our  opinion concerning
     these matters.

          Jesus asked Peter  a very unusual question one day.  You can read
     about  it  in  Luke  7:36-50.    Peter  was  asked  by  Jesus  in this
     illustration of forgiveness  and love, whom did the man love the most?
     Peter  thought about  it  and  confessed, "Probably  the  man whom  he
     forgave the most."  That was somewhat paraphrased but you can  read it
     for yourself.   Forgave the most?   That's what  Peter said and  Jesus
     didn't correct him.  So in my story of the pastor and his friend  that
     went fishing together and later had a man to man discussion, according
     to the bible, whom did Jesus love the most?  Let me turn that question
     around so  we can see its true impact.  Whom would you rather be?  The
     one God forgave the most  or the other?  The truth is,  Jesus forgives
     those who come to Him in repentance  equally the same.  We think there
     are differences, or degrees, of sin and thus the same must be true, we
     reason,  concerning   forgiveness.     Because  of   this  theological
     confusion, we humanly perceive, the  Enemy can implant lies which will
     keep us from being free.

          Taking this  to the  next level, if  Jesus can  forgive you,  why
     cannot we  forgive ourselves?   There is only  one answer and  that is
     that someone is lying to us and it isn't the  Lord Jesus.  Think about
     it.  Who is the father of all lies?  (See John 8:44).  What is it that
     the devil  is  lying about?   Is  it the  unforgiveness  or the  guilt
     you"feel"  related  to the  sin?   Remember  where  we  started:   The
     Deceitfulness Of Sin.   It isn't the  sin, therefore, but what  we are
     deceived by which creates the lie based thinking.

          Finally,   if  you  do  not  understand  forgiveness  and  cannot
     understand how to forgive yourself, can you at least see how this sets
     you up for demonic attack and gives them place in which to continually
     torment you?


                               End Of Chapter 7


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