Minding the Gaps

If you haven’t yet read my short story In the Gaps, and you don’t like “spoilers”, you may want to read that first.

Not every story has a story behind it, or at least that story is some variant of “I had an idea and wrote it down.” In the Gaps was not one of those.

Several years ago my friend Nate mentioned an idea he had for a story. “An atheist says there is no god, but that’s asserting a negative. To prove it, you would need to be omniscient. What if an atheist became god trying to prove there wasn’t one?”

What he meant was that if I say something like “There are no unicorns”, then all someone has to do to prove me wrong is show one unicorn. The lack of a unicorn is not proof that it does not exist, because it could be hiding somewhere in the jungle. Suppose I observed every square inch of the planet at the same time and found no unicorns. Would that be conclusive proof? Of course not. The unicorn could have burrowed underground, or be living on another planet. To prove a negative, you’ve got to observe all of reality at the same instant. In other words, you have to be a god.

It was a great concept, and I awaited his final product. Knowing him, it would be some stream-of-consciousness cerebral, and mildly trippy, piece of high art. The sole character would spend his days alone, trying to prove there was no god. He would eventually succeed, only to realize, to his horror, that he had become the very thing he had proved did not exist.

Great stuff, but a different story with that premise started to formulate, unbidden, in my mind. Eventually I asked him if I could borrow his idea for my story, and he agreed. Another couple of years passed, but I finally sat down and churned out what I call In the Gaps.


It had been a week since Jesus had entered heaven. His followers still awaited his promise. Jewish pilgrims from around the ancient world ((Acts 2:9-11)) were packed into Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost; every year they presented the first of their harvest at the temple, to show God their gratefulness, and that they trusted him to provide even more.

Like that fateful Passover almost two months past, the city was on high alert. With so many gathered together, mobs formed quickly. Pilate had his Roman guards on prominent display, but out of easy reach. The crowds seemed to grow more volatile every year. The Jews were growing tired of their overlords.

It was almost time for the morning prayer ((Acts 2:15)). The crowds filled every inch of the temple’s massive courtyard. Latecomers fought for any open space they could find. Then, without warning, the thunder of a roaring wind ((Acts 2:2)) echoed through the temple.

In The Gaps

Aphelion’s soot-stained blizzards allowed atmospheric travel only a few days every year. The planet’s residents called those days “summer”. It had been the furthest world mapped during the second great galactic expansion, but each new wave made the name increasingly ironic. That it was inhabited at all was a testament to the stubbornness of mankind. The planet’s distant sun warmed only a small band around the equator, and surviving for more than a few days outside of one of the planet’s metal citadels was impossible. Satellites allowed for intergalactic communication, but only if the signals could reach them from the ground. Since the atmosphere was constantly polluted with smoke from volcanic eruptions, it was not uncommon for the planet to go for days in radio silence. Continue reading →

The Spirit of God

Jesus had promised ((Luke 24:49)) his disciples that “the holy spirit” would “come upon” them ((Acts 1:8)) in a few days ((Acts 1:5)). They waited expectantly, remembering the Bible stories about God’s spirit filling great men like David ((1 Samuel 16:13)), Samson ((Judges 13:25, 14:6, 14:19, 15:14)), Gideon ((Judges 6:34)), Joshua ((Numbers 27:18)), and many other heroes ((Genesis 41:38, Judges 3:10, 11:29, 1 Samuel 10:10, 1 Chronicles 12:18, 2 Chronicles 24:20, Ezekiel 11:5))  and prophets ((Ezekiel 11:5, Daniel 4:8, Micah 3:8)). It had given them wisdom and power, and brought deliverance numerous times.

Prophecy said that the Messiah would have the spirit of God on him ((Isaiah 1:2)), and they had witnessed it themselves. When Jesus said the same spirit would be given to them, they could not help but recognize it as the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy ((Ezekiel 39:29, Joel 3:15)): God would restore Israel and pour his spirit on all, marking the dawning of a new age.

Yet even though scripture spoke often of God’s spirit, it was still a mystery to them. Its appearance had grown uncommon in the centuries since the last prophets. Those in power at the temple were certainly devout, but God’s spirit was not part of the routines of temple life. Those ministering at the altars carried out the traditions of a millennium, confident that they were following the will of God. Without the insights of the holy spirit, they could not conceive what God was preparing in an upper room at the edge of the courtyard.

Uniformity Is Easy

When you listen and read one thinker, you become a clone… two thinkers, you become confused… ten thinkers, you’ll begin developing your own voice… two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise and develop your voice.

― Timothy Keller

There is a messiness to gaining wisdom. To get there, you must go through confusion, and when confused people interact it can become quite tumultuous. It’s simpler to deny that more than one viewpoint could have validity. Clones are easier to manage than thinkers.

Replacing Judas

Originally there had been twelve apostles. Jesus had made it that way. The number was significant. Twelve men, like the original twelve sons of Israel, chosen to restore their fallen country. Now there were only eleven. Peter, suddenly finding himself with a lot of time to think, pondered Judas’s empty position. Even though they now numbered more than a hundred ((Acts 1:15)), the vacancy bothered him.

Peter remembered that Jesus had gotten a lot of information about his ministry from the Psalms, so he also went to them for guidance. Soon he found a couple that echoed his own pain and anger at a friend’s betrayal. It didn’t take him long to find a verse he could use: “Let him die quickly and give someone else his position.” ((Psalms 109:8))

Peter interrupted the prayers of the others to unveil his revelation. ((Acts 1:15)) He formed a committee to find the best replacement candidate for the inner circle. The new man must be respected and entirely loyal. ((Acts 1:21-22)) Peter would not risk another Judas incident. Eventually they narrowed it down to two candidates. To ensure that they got the best possible man, and also gave God his proper due, they prayed for blessing on their endeavor ((Acts 1:24-25)) and flipped a coin. ((Acts 1:26))

Matthias was welcomed into the inner circle. Joseph, and the rest, remained outside, as mere disciples. ((Acts 1:26)) Peter felt content. He had ensured that Jesus’s carefully laid plan hadn’t been damaged by Judas’s action. The disciples resumed praying.

Down in the temple, a young but powerful Pharisee named Saul went about his business. He was as unlike the disciples as a Jew could be, and both he and the disciples liked it that way. Neither side could have imagined that Jesus would choose him as an apostle.

Fulfilling the Prophecy

The peace of the Republic meant security for the Jedi. As an unchallenged part of the galactic government, they saw no cause for concern. No threats remained in the galaxy to menace them. Most Jedi could pass a lifetime without thinking of the Sith, the dark warriors who once opposed them. Those rare few who warned that the Sith may not be eradicated were dismissed. The Jedi were everywhere, and saw everything. No Sith could arise without the Jedi noticing. Even if one did, an ancient prophecy said the Chosen One would destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force. They never imagined that the one spoken of by this prophecy would leave the Jedi Order a smoking ruin. Continue reading →

The Sanity Experiment

I promised I’d let you know how my sanity is holding up under the strain of sharing my home. Truthfully, it hasn’t been as bad as I had feared. There were certainly some initial challenges, especially since I have expectations about the way things are done. For example, I was taught that when you leave a room, you turn the lights out. I always lock the door, of my house and my car, when I leave them. I never start a new box of cereal while there’s still some of the same cereal left. If I open something that says “refrigerate after opening”, I put it in the refrigerator. If I wash the dishes, I don’t leave any food on the plates at the end.

Some of these issues I’ve been able to sort out. Others, I’ve learned to mitigate or accept. A few are still eating at my sanity, so perhaps I’ll have another report for you in the future.

The Lions’s Den

Jesus was gone, but his enemies were not. The religious leaders were still in confusion over what had happened, but the disciples knew they would soon resume their effort to wipe out Jesus’s ministry. The fear that had gripped them after Jesus’s crucifixion threatened to return. They were alone again.

Even if they had known what to do, their orders were clear: wait. ((Acts 1:4)) Nearly all of the disciples were from Galilee ((Acts 1:11)). They had houses, family, and friends there, but Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem, the city where he had been tried and killed. The city where the enemies of Jesus were the thickest.

There was only one place in Jerusalem where one hundred and twenty ((Acts 1:15)) men and women ((Acts 1:14)) of limited means could meet: the Temple ((Luke 24:52)). Every day they watched from their upper room ((Acts 1:13)) as the men who had accused Jesus of treason before Pilate ((Luke 23:2)) came and went. They hid in the massive crowds, but they knew it couldn’t last forever. Eventually someone would recognize them and report them to the priests. It was no wonder that they spent most of their time together in prayer ((Acts 1:14)).


The walk back to Jerusalem (( Acts 1:12)) was surreal. On the one hand, they had witnessed Jesus enter heaven, where they knew he was going to be with his father. They praised God for what they had seen. ((Luke 24:52)) On the other hand, they were confused. Jesus had not done what they expected from a triumph Messiah. Why choose such an unusual method to establish his kingdom? What king had ever been victorious by retreating? It seemed to them a very strange way to restore the kingdom to Israel.

Alone, without either Jesus or the holy spirit, their minds grappled with what they had just witnessed. Though Jesus had tried to prepare them for this moment, it was beyond what they could imagine. It would take some time before they realized it was a lesson about what it meant to be the kingdom of God.

If Jesus had marched into Rome and taken control, like countless dictators before and after, it would have satisfied the disciples, but it would not have fulfilled God’s purpose. A leader like that, no matter how good and just, would always find opposition from others who wanted supremacy. Even if he could defeat every insurrection and coup, the war would be endless and the body count staggering.

If Jesus had set himself up as the supreme overlord of earth, it would have met the expectations of his followers, but destroyed their unity. Already prone to jockey for position, each one would have been at the others’s throats, constantly scheming to secure his own promotion and stop the rise of those below. The seat at Jesus’s right hand would always be contested, and the hierarchy of those struggling to reach it would crush those at the bottom.

If Jesus had remained as a earthly teacher, dispensing wisdom and settling disputes, it would have pleased his followers, but it would have made them useless. Given the choice between listening carefully to the holy spirit or asking Jesus what to do,  the easy way would win every time. Why experiment with something new when you have the perfect teacher who can give you all the answers? The kingdom could never grow beyond the area that one man could govern.

Instead, he gave his followers the chance to discover his kingdom for themselves. Without him they would struggle, and sometimes fail, but they would grow. The men in white had said Jesus would be back, but they hadn’t said when. All the disciples knew was that they were to wait in Jerusalem. ((Acts 1:4))