I finished God of Chaos this week and have started on a new project for Lent. The Sins Against Us will explore how we deal with others' sins and how it affects our relationship with God.
Since it is 2/20, here are the first 10 paragraphs of The Sins Against Us:
The dark streets of Portland were even darker thanks to the ever-present late-winter clouds and the pouring rain, but Pastor Devlin was not as concerned as others may have been. He had lived in the Pacific Northwest his entire life. A little dampness never bothered him. Umbrellas and rain ponchos were for tourists and transplants. Also, why should he be comfortable and warm and dry when his scattered flock were not able to enjoy the comforts most in the city took for granted?
A few hours before, he had received a frantic call from one of the women he was trying to get off of the streets, again. Polly had been in and out of the shelter Pastor Devlin ran with the help of area churches since she was 18 and now—10 years later—she was out on the streets again. And she was scared.
When Devlin had received the call in the middle of the night he was half asleep and she was frantic. He had had more than a few problems finding Polly’s last known position. Fortunately, though, Portland had worked at getting rid of the vast majority of pay phones, so there were fewer starting places than there had been when he had first met Polly. The thing about street people, though, was their transitory nature. If they were in trouble, they had plenty of places to hide. Polly had been on the streets of downtown Portland for years and had many holes in which to . Devlin went through his mental rolodex of likely hiding places until he was able to find the most likely place—dark, hard to get to, dry, and, most importantly, out of the way.
Many of the homeless in recent years had found unused access points to the old “Shanghai” tunnels under Portland and had begun using those to hole up for the night. The old, grizzled, world-wise pastor knew one of these was not far from the payphone Polly had used to call him.
With a sigh, Devlin adjusted his coat, pulled up his collar, and began walking.
After a more than fifteen years working with the homeless and being called on nights just like this, Pastor Devlin knew the streets well, most of the people on the streets knew him, and very few things scared him any longer. However, walking around that night, he knew something was wrong. Something was off. For the first time in quite a while, Devlin was scared.
Doing what he had done for as long as he had, Devlin knew the difference between spiritual oppression and fear. Demons did not like his work with the homeless and did whatever they could to stop him. However, with just a few words and some prayers, usually that oppression would cease. God had never failed to protect or to shield him.
However, this fear was different. It was primal. It was a fight-or-flight fear. It was the kind of fear that kept prey animals alive on the Serengeti in Africa. Something was hunting him. But something that was not human. He had been hunted by humans before; he had been in physical war zones where other humans were actively trying to kill him. He had been in spiritual war zones where the Enemy had been trying to vie for his spirit. This was neither. Or perhaps it was both. It was something he had never felt before, and hoped, in that moment never to feel again.
Instinctively, he knew not to cry out. If the predator that was out there had not yet noticed him, calling out for help would be… counterproductive. Not to mention, if Polly was around it would not go well for her. The 27-year-old, though she spent most of the last decade on the street, still was not as street-wise as she probably should have been.
Shepherds were supposed to protect their flock, and Devlin now knew that he must protect his scared, wayward lamb. A wolf was after his lamb, and it was his job to protect her.
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