House of God

Warm breezes rustled the dry leaves that hung stubbornly to the trees.
Autumn held the fields and forests in its colorful grip. The nights were cold,
but afternoons still carried the reminder of summer, like a dream disturbed
but not forgotten.

Tony and Tie Li sat lost in thought, letting the sun’s rays caress their
faces and arms one last time before the season turned to winter, and such
moments would be only a memory.

“Tony,” Tie Li said, adjusting her position on the rough log that rested
heavily on the hillside overlooking the cornfield, “why did it have to happen?
Why did Eve eat that fruit? Now we all suffer. It not fair.”

The boy drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “The Creator let
them choose their own life. God used the special tree to test whether Adam
and Eve would obey Him. The serpent said Eve would be better off if she
disobeyed God. Adam and Eve failed the test.”

For a long moment Tony was silent. He studied the clouds racing with
the wind high above their heads. “I guess that’s what sin is–choosing to
believe what the serpent says.”

Tie Li shivered as she remembered the snake that fell out of the tree in
Eden. Try as she might, she just couldn’t erase the image from her mind. Was
it impossible to obey God? Had the Creator simply left the world to destroy
itself? It certainly seemed so to Tie Li. But the Creator had made a promise to
Adam and Eve. He had said that evil would be destroyed. Enmity. That’s
what He had called it. Enmity.

Out in the field a little chipmunk scurried among the short, dry stalks of
corn that remained after the harvest. His furry cheeks bulged with some
provisions for the coming winter. Tie Li watched as the creature raced about,
looking for the bits of corn that lay scattered along the rows that stretched to
the distant fence. Every so often the chipmunk would stop at some high point
in the field and carefully inspect the world around him for danger.

“Cute, isn’t he?” Tony had been watching the little worker too. “He
knows that food will become scarce soon. He’s not going to let winter catch
him unprepared.”

Tie Li smiled and shook her head. The animal was certainly taking his
work seriously.

Tony leaned back and let his gaze settle on the clouds. How soft they
looked, how very soft.

His body stiffened. From behind a cloud a large bird drifted into view,
with powerful wings outstretched, riding the currents of air that flowed
upward from the hillside. He knew immediately that this was a red-tailed
hawk, one of nature’s most feared hunters.

He glanced at the chipmunk, then back at the hawk. Had it seen the
little creature among the rows of corn?

As if in answer, the hawk changed course, flying in a wide circle above
the field. Tony rose to his feet, his eyes on the bird.

“What wrong, Tony?” Tie Li stood to her feet too. “What you see?”

The hawk continued to circle until it was above and behind the
chipmunk. “Tony, what wrong? I see only bird, I–”

Suddenly the hawk drew in its wings and began to dive toward the

“No!” Tie Li screamed. “Tony, no!”

The bird’s speed increased with each second. Tie Li started running in
the direction of the little animal. The chipmunk, seeing the girl in the
distance, stopped and sat still, watching her.

“Tie Li, come back!” Tony called after his sister. “You can’t help. The
hawk is too fast.”

The chipmunk, curious about the movements of the girl at the far end
of the field, scurried a few feet to higher ground where he could get a better
look. Tony saw the hawk move a wing ever so slightly to adjust his path over
the ground. By now the bird was silently skimming the rows with blinding
speed, the world a blur about him. Only the chipmunk remained in sharp
focus up ahead.

Tears ran down Tie Li’s cheeks as she stumbled along, racing as fast as
she could toward the middle of the field. She watched as sharp talons
emerged from under the bird as it closed in behind the unwary animal. As the
shadow of the bird flicked by the little creature, it began to turn around. But
in the next instant, the hawk was upon him.

The impact forced the air from the chipmunk’s lungs. It let out a
piercing screech, then became limp. The bird spread its huge wings to change
its forward speed over the ground into a steep climbing turn to the right.

Tie Li reached down and grabbed a stone. Hurling it upward toward the
hawk, she cried out, “You evil, you evil! I hate you!”

The stone sailed past the bird, close enough to make the hawk abruptly
alter course. As the predator twisted to sidestep the stone, it released its grip
on the chipmunk. Tie Li saw the tiny limp body falling away from the bird,
spinning end over end, drifting in a long curved arc toward the tall grass that
grew by the field. With a scream the hawk sailed back toward the
clouds, its wings lifting it higher with each mighty stroke.

Tie Li watched as Tony ran over to the grass. Carefully he parted the
tall blades, moving slowly, searching for the little body.

The girl remained standing in the field, her hands forming fists at her
side, her breathing labored. Evil had won again. It always did.

“He’s alive!” Tony was kneeling in the grass. “Tie Li, he’s alive!”

The boy lifted the tiny trembling body in his hands. Tie Li ran to his
side. “See?” he said. “He’s breathing. We’ve got to get it him somewhere safe
so he can get well.” The pair carried the little casualty to the workshop.
Tie Li found a small empty box and lined it with strips of cloth and dried
grass. With care they placed the chipmunk in his new home. While they
worked, Tie Li was silent.

“I think we should warm up some milk for him to drink when he gets
better. What do you think, little sister?” Tony smiled at Tie Li.

The girl didn’t answer. She turned and walked toward the door.

“Tie Li, what’s the matter?”

Something deep inside Tie Li snapped. She whirled and faced her
brother. “I hate this world! I hate death! I hate everything! There no hope.
Nothing changes. Only pain and hurt!”

“Tie Li, that’s not true.”

“You take me back in time. All I see is sadness. Even Eden has sadness.
I hate life! I hate Voyager. I hate you!”

The girl ran out the door.

“Tie Li, wait!” Tony ran after her. “There’s more. You haven’t seen
everything.” “I see enough! Leave me alone! Just leave me alone.”

Tony stopped and watched his sister jump on her bicycle and start
down the driveway. His heart was breaking. He didn’t mean to make her sad.
He didn’t mean to make her hate him. He loved her. He loved Tie Li more
than anything in the whole world. Now she had turned against him.

“Tie Li,” he called, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry! Come back. Please, come
back!” The girl continued down the road leading away from the farm,
her legs pumping the pedals in rhythm with her sobs. Her world had been
destroyed once before. Now it was happening again. Not even a tiny
chipmunk could live without fear, without death.

Tie Li rode for a long time, her mind lost in sorrow. Images from the
past merged with the present. She saw her village burning as snakes hung
from the trees. The screams of a thousand chipmunks blended with the bird
sounds of Eden. It was too much for her to bear. She wept openly,

As the images faded, she became aware that she was sitting on the steps
of a building on the edge of town. Her bike lay on the sidewalk. Through her
tears she could see cars passing by on the street and people hurrying back and
forth in front of her. It was evening.

Looking behind her, she saw a sign hanging over a large wooden door.
The girl stared at the words for a long moment. “House of God, it read. She
repeated the words out loud. “House of God.”

Tie Li slowly climbed the stairs and entered the building. She saw rows
of benches and a long aisle leading to the front of the room where a big
six-pointed star hung from the ceiling. Behind it stood a case covered by a
purple-and-gold cloth. Light from the stained-glass windows spilled into
yellow pools on the tile floor. Weariness overtook her. She sat down on
a cool bench, resting her head on the tall back.

“God,” she pleaded, “where are You? I need You.”

A hand touched her shoulder. Turning around, she saw an old, deeply
lined face framed by snowy-white hair and beard looking down at her.

“God?” she whispered. “Are you God?”

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House of God

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