Mark awoke from a restless nights sleep. It was not pain that kept him up all night; (surprisingly he had been in no pain that night), it was the words of Dr. Hollister that caused him to toss and turn the night thru.
He spent the night thinking of the Upper Room ministry that Hollister had mentioned. No matter how he tried to block the image of the church from his mind, he could not get away from it.
The church had just been a few miles from where he and his brother Gregg grew up. Gregg and Mark used to mimic the services of Pastor Kaleb Lambert they watched on television in the living room, laying hands on one another and “praying” for the sick.
Mark rose from his bed as the sweet fragrance of the maid Juanita’s cooking hooked him and pulled him toward the kitchen. Mark’s father, Oliver, had made a financial success of himself when he “created” his own computer technology company, but Mark knew his father had stolen the plans from his fellow co-workers. His father often boasted of the fact to him, teaching his son to be a business tyrant. In those days past Mark thought his father was a brilliant man, but as his life drained from his body drop by drop, he saw his father as nothing but a con.
“You want some breakfast, Mr. Mark?” Juanita asked in a Mexican accent.
Mark thought about it a moment and noticed he was hungry for the first time in many days. He smiled at Juanita and said with a broad smile, “Yes, I believe I will.”
She handed him a plate decorated with bacon, eggs, and toast. Mark ate all of it with swiftness. He pondered for a moment as he wiped his mouth with a napkin. He noticed he felt no sickness. He began to wonder if the doctors knew what they were talking about. Mark thought maybe he did not have cancer.
The last of Mark’s O.J. was going down his throat when Gregg walked in the room. He and Mark were alike in facial features, but since the sickness their bodies were night and day. Gregg was a well built guy and nine years older than Mark, although Mark looked like the older brother due to his illness.
Gregg was a successful attorney for the most prominent law firm in Albany. He based his whole life on his financial success. His beautiful wife, Ellen, was six months pregnant with their first child.
“How are you this morning?” Gregg inquired.
Mark looked at Gregg, “Quite well, actually.”
“What are you doing this evening?” Gregg asked.
Mark thought about it and he had no plans, “Nothing”.
“Then meet me at Charlie’s Diner for dinner tonight. My treat, I insist.”
Mark thought about the great breakfast he had just ate and responded quickly. “You bet, but you better be ready. I plan on eating big.” Mark said with a chuckle.
Lilly did not wake up until after noon. She never was up early after a night of singing and the after parties that followed. Her head was pounding from all the drinks she had had at the party. A knock came at the door and she grabbed her head in disgust at the sound of the knock.
“Yes, who is it?” She asked.
“It is grandma, you ready for a meal or are you going to sleep all day?”
“I’m getting up.” Lilly told her grandma as her eyes rolled in the back of her head and she collapsed back into her pillow.
Lilly got up and the room started to swim before her. She grabbed the mattress of the bed in order to balance herself. She managed to somehow get her night gown on and made her way downstairs.
There her grandmother was sitting on the couch and sipping coffee from her favorite cup. “Well, nice of you to join the living.”
“Don’t start, grandma, my head is throbbing.”
Lilly said that and she saw disappointment written on her grandmother’s face. “I bet it is.” Her grandma agreed.
Grandma Hardin got up from her chair and took her coffee cup to the kitchen. She put her cup in the sink and started washing the breakfast dishes. “I suppose you aren’t hungry.” Grandma Margaret assumed.
“No, not right, now.” Lilly confirmed.
Margaret continued washing dishes through tear dimmed eyes she kept hidden from Lilly. She, too, had made her mistakes by following the world in her past and Jesus had been gracious enough to rescue her. However, she knew everyone was not that fortunate. The verse Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6) came to mind.
She had heard people tell her not to worry about Lilly. They told her this verse meant if you raised a child up in the truth they are guaranteed to get to Heaven; but she knew that to be a lie. She knew it meant their minds would not be able to escape the truth; it was still up to them to accept it.
She prayed without ceasing for her granddaughter, whom she had reared since her parents had split and left Lilly with her. Lilly was the reason Margaret had turned to God so she could raise her right. Then came Lilly’s teen-age years and she slipped into the influence of friends and the world. Those “friends” led her down the wrong road.
Margaret’s thoughts were interrupted by Lilly’s voice. “I missed you, again, last night.”
“It was my Bible study night.” Margaret replied, trying to divert the subject.
Lilly became angry, “You have those meetings every Friday night, and can’t you put that aside just one night and watch me perform.”
Then Margaret became stern, “I would not come see you play that music in those places no matter what night it is. I know you have a great voice, but you need to use it for God’s glory and not money. He is the one that gave you that voice.”
Lilly gave a devilish sneer and began to mock, “That glory won’t put food on the table.” Lilly spread her hands out and spun around the room in a circle. “I want the world to hear my talents and get paid big for it.”
Margaret turned from her, not wanting to see her mocking face any longer. “You will be rewarded, alright. You will be rewarded by man.” Margaret assured her. “The world may applaud you but God won’t. Then when you miss Heaven like the other wicked what will you have to show for it?”
This only made Lilly even angrier. She did not know it, but the devil used her at that moment to bring up Margaret’s past. “You know, it is funny. You did the same thing I am doing when you were young. I think you are jealous.”
“No, sweetheart,” Margaret lovingly denied, “I begrudge the time I gave the devil and the world. I would not trade my relationship for all the money in the world…”
“I know, I know, for what shall it profit. I am sick to death of hearing you tell me that verse!”
Margaret saw she wasn’t getting through, and knew she may never get through. Jesus’ words rang truer than ever for her now, Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. (Matthew 7:6). In her heart God dealt with her and let her know there was no need in continuing on. Lilly’s soul was vexed with the sins of the world.
Margaret gave one last statement, “I am not preaching to you any longer. All I can say is if I were in a place like that when the trumpet sounded Jesus would not take me home.
Mark was sitting in the corner booth at Charlie’s Diner. He had known Charlie Henson a long time; in fact he worked for him when he was in his late teens. Charlie was a robust man in his late fifties; and looking forward to retirement.
Charlie came out from the swinging doors of the kitchen and saw Mark sitting there. He walked over toward Mark’s booth. “Hey, buddy, how are you doing today?”
“I’m doing pretty well.” Mark replied. “Just waiting on Gregg, he is buying dinner for a change.”
“Wow, Ol’ money bags is treating.” They both shared in a laugh.
Charlie was the only person outside of doctors and family that he had told about his sickness. Charlie said he would be in his prayers, but he had heard that from many people.
“You like a soda while you wait?” Charlie asked.
“Yes, that would be good.”
Gregg soon showed up and they shared in a typical great meal that Charlie prepared. Charlie could cook a mean steak. Charlie came out and got Gregg’s credit card to pay the bill.
“Hey, bro, you mind getting the tip.” Gregg asked. “I don’t have any cash on me.”
. “I guess I can manage that, you did buy me dinner.” Mark said smiling. He pulled his wallet out to put the cash on the tabletop when the ministry card Dr. Hollister had given him fell on the counter. Charlie noticed it.
“Where did you get that?” Charlie inquired.
Mark’s face turned a dark shade of red with embarrassment. “I got it from Dr. Hollister, yesterday.”
Gregg slapped his forehead. “I forgot. How were the results?”
Mark turned somber. “Not good, he said the same; colon cancer.”
Gregg suddenly became serious. “How bad is it?”
“He said six months to a year.”
Charlie looked worried for Mark. “If I were you I’d go there.” He said pointing toward the card.
Gregg picked up the card and was astonished. “Charlie, you can’t be serious. This place is one big hoax. It is like a magic show, smoke and mirrors.”
“Oh, I did not realize you been there.” Charlie said trying not to smile for he knew Gregg had never been.
“Well, not actually, just seen it on television and read about how it was false on the internet.” Gregg replied.
Then Charlie’s next statement shocked them both. “I have been going there a few months, now. I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure about six months ago by Dr. Hollister. He gave me one of those cards, too. I went and now the new EKG shows I have a brand new heart.”
Mark sat there speechless. The only thing he could finally say was, “I don’t know what to say.”
“Well, I do.” Gregg chimed in. “I don’t know how you got well, Charlie, but I am sure it wasn’t this church that helped.”
“I agree it was not the church.” Charlie fired back. “Jesus healed me through the church where His truth is preached and His Spirit can move.”
Mark looked up to his brother and did not want to look foolish. “Yeah, besides, I have felt great all day. I think the doctors may have been mistaken.”
Just as those words left Mark’s lips nausea hit his stomach like a hammer. He ran to the bathroom and vomited his entire dinner up.
Charlie continued to talk to Gregg. “You need to get Mark there, Gregg. If you love your brother you will. What do you have to lose?”
Mark walked slowly back to the booth. Gregg looked at the frail body of his brother and it was all he could do to hold back the tears.
“Here it is, Mark. You and I will go check this place out tomorrow night. We can’t tell dad, we will just tell him you are hanging out with Ellen and me.”
Mark was astonished for his brother was a man of intellect. He was an agnostic that believed there may be a god, but he did not believe it was for today.
“You sure you want to do this?” Mark asked.
“I don’t go in for foolishness, you know that, but if it will make you happy we will go.” Gregg cut his eyes toward Charlie. “After all, what do we have to lose? When you go and realize it is a fantasy we will get you some real help.”
Charlie was beaming. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow night. It will be a good service. Pastor Lambert will be speaking on the coming of the Lord.”
Gregg got up from the booth telling them goodbye, all the while thinking, “Oh, how could people be so gullible?”