The odors of paint, ink, charcoal, and other media with which beauty could be created mixed in the air beneath the vaulted ceiling just as brilliantly for the nose as the colors did for the eye in the Alders University Art Building. Painted wire sculptures hung from steel rafters, swaying in the heat blasting to comfort the occupants against the Autumn chill; a painted sculpture peeking out of a frame greeted visitors at the entrance; and a maze of drywall partitions created alcoves in which students worked and could be observed by visitors.
Amid it all, a man in tweed sat, mesmerized, barely on his cushion, elbows digging into his knees and eyes darting side-to-side, as the young woman at the painting station before him waged war upon emptiness. The white which resisted, no matter the color she chose, no matter what brush she held, no matter her attempts to turn its nothing into something. She dipped her hand in paint and smacked her work; she dipped rags and threw them; she even loaded her long, blonde braid with paint and whipped it around her in an arc which sprayed the canvas and everything around it.
Another man with paint smeared on his apron approached the spectator, the rubber soles of his running shoes squeaking on the freshly waxed linoleum. “Dr. Walton I presume. Welcome to Alder.” When Walton continued watching the spectacle, the aproned man looked at the artist and mentioned, “I see you are enjoying your visit.”
Dr. Walton stood slowly, eyes still forward, and extended his hand to shake before giving his attention. “You must be Dr. Connelly, the Art department head,” he said. “I saw some of your pieces at the Met.”
Connelly’s expression remained neutral. “Oh? Which was your favorite?”
Walton straightened his posture and squeezed Connelly’s hand in reply to what had become a frozen shake. At thirty years of age, he had only recently been awarded his doctorate and offered his first professorship; but he knew a trap when he saw one. Truthfully, he did not like any of Connelly’s pieces, so he had to choose one he hated the least and give a good reason for it or else Connelly would own him. He could explain what emotions he knew Connelly must have been feeling when he was painting or sculpting and own Connelly, but Walton had never won many popularity games in his time, especially the ones which allowed the winners to control the losers.
“I appreciated all of them. Which would you like to talk about?” Always answer a question with a question.
“Oh, no you don’t,” Connelly retorted, shaking a finger and sounding half-serious. “Your opinion will reveal something about you. Don’t be afraid to answer the question.”
“Your work reveals things about you,” Walton countered. “Are you sure you want me to?”
Connelly breathed a laugh. “I’m not insane; why not?”
Walton smiled slyly, one end of his lips reaching for an ear. “Relax. I wouldn’t be able to diagnose anything. Maybe an Art Therapist could, but I’m just a psych teacher and hopefully soon a psych professor," he said, his eyes trailing.
“It just seems to me that you don’t really enjoy your work.” He turned his eyes back to the student who was clearly not enjoying her work either, trying to manipulate the medium with a pattern of grunts, screams and pleas for obedience. “Don’t get me wrong; you’re very good at it. It just seems to me that your attention to detail is taking away from the fun you could be having with your trade. But what do I know? I’ve got a doctorate in Psychology and a master’s in teaching, so I know very little about art except what I like.”
Connelly turned his eyes from Walton to the art student. “And what is it that you like, Dr. Walton?”
“I like art that says something other than, ‘Hey look – I painted a bowl of fruit or sculpted a human being. Look how good I am at it.’ I like art that makes me feel something and forget that someone else actually crafted it. Although, I have had the rare opportunity to watch this artist, and I must say how impressed I am with the passion and raw emotion which go into her work.”
The art professor took a sip of coffee and offered, “Too bad her work is crap.”
Walton whipped his face back at Connelly, his wiry hair struggling to catch up. “She can hear you; that’s terribly rude!”
“I hope she can hear me,” Connelly admitted with a nod. “I have tried telling her nicely for years that she doesn’t have what it takes, but she just won’t listen.”
“She’s being persistent and not giving up on her passion. Even Da Vinci had canvases crumpled in the corner.”
“Persistence is admirable if it pays off,” Connelly agreed. “Da Vinci made mistakes and didn’t let them keep him from his success, but the fact is that he finally did succeed.
“Another thing about Da Vinci though, is that he didn’t paint because it was his dream; he did it because he was paid, and we all admire it because it is beautiful. He might have hated the Mona Lisa, but because his employers were pleased, it was a success. The helicopter, I suspect, was his dream, his passion; but he failed at that just like this young lady is failing to produce art. She needs to find out what she is good at and do that and get paid, even if she hates it.”
“Back to you,” Walton said. “Do you like what you do?”
“Honestly, I didn’t at first; but because I am psychologically strong, I learned to like it because I’m good at it.
Connelly leaned to one side. “Look, she’s not a special case. I get at least one of her every year: a wide-eyed young man or woman, fresh out of high school, away from home for the first time, and full of misguided optimism about their hopes and dreams. I’m not here to help their dreams come true. If I taught something more like History that doesn’t require more talent than staying awake in class, I would say that I could teach it to anyone at all; but art, like music, writing, or even empathy which counselors require, is not a skill but a talent; and people either have that talent or they do not.
“Besides, where would you and I be without people working at The Store or The Restaurant? We wouldn’t be able to buy food or anything else. I help talent develop. I cannot create talent that is not there. You might think I’m being unnecessarily cruel like that judge on the singing competitions, but really, she isn’t either. She merely tells it like it is, and the truth only hurts if people are too emotionally attached to the idea of being famous singers, wouldn’t you agree?"
"Why must some people be subject to poverty simply because they lack talent in demand?"
"Be careful, Sir. That comment sounds awfully Communist. And even if you didn't mean it to be, there isn't a single ideology that is without people in poverty. There simply isn't enough resources to go around.
“I have already broken it to Mz. Beck as gently as possible, reminding her that everyone has one or more talents, and I have encouraged her to discover her talents elsewhere. But she refuses to listen to reason. Surely you must understand. Emotions are fine things, but in the end, our brains must be in charge of our lives or else we would go insane,” Connelly said, widening his eyes and shaking his wiry, black curls.
Walton brushed one side of his sportcoat back and put a fist on his hip. “Isn’t art subjective, though? Some people don’t like Da Vinci but love Warhol or Picasso. How can you tell if art is good or not? Some art doesn’t bring joy but fear like Dali or Munch. Who and how many people do you poll when you grade?”
“The same amount as you will. Even though most of the answers on your tests will clearly be either right or wrong, I don’t figure you were planning to consult Professor Edwards of the English department when grading your students’ essays.”
“So your opinion is all that matters?”
Connelly’s stance relaxed as he gave a slow nod. “Now you’re beginning to understand what it means to be a professor. For four years, you are the god to whom your students pray for their future; and you deliver judgment in the form of grades to prophesy said future – in your particular subject. It would be truly cruel to flunk them without directing them to try something else, of course; but the responsibility of figuring out what that ‘something else’ is lies with their advisors. You’re going to flunk plenty of students in your time here.”
“If they don’t apply themselves.”
“No, no! This isn’t high school. You’re not making them shove a bunch of useless facts into their brains so that they have the right to make minimum wage. There will be brilliant minds, geniuses even, in your classes who will not be able to use those big brains of theirs for Psychology. Nonetheless, they would be phenomenal at Physics or Chemistry…” Connelly looked away for a moment and waved a hand to address the building, “or Art maybe. Only half your job will be to teach Psychology, but the other half will be to weed out the people who are not supposed to be psychologists. And again, remind them that there is hope: this university offers nearly every subject imaginable.
“Now if you like Mz. Beck’s piece well enough to buy it from her, that’s between the two of you; but I’m willing to wager that you would be the only one interested in any of her work.”
Walton pursed his lips in frustration. “I still don’t understand how one can judge that certain pieces of art are bad. With singing, you either have a range of pitch and a pleasant tone and sing on-key or you don’t. With writing, you either use the English language correctly or you don’t. My students will get multiple choice questions right or else they won’t. Art has so many dimensions – Impressionism, Realism, Abstract – it seems to me that Picasso and Pollack must have been called failures in their time.”
Connelly nodded. “I see where you’re going with this; and, yes, there have been artists of whom it has been said were ‘ahead of their time’. Many artists who we would consider successful never made a dime while they lived, but their success was simply unrealized until after their deaths.”
“Because they broke the rules that Art had at the time.”
Connelly’s bottom lip pushed against the top, and his eyebrows rose. “One could say that, yes.”
“Wouldn’t you say that Mz. Beck is breaking the rules of Art that exist now?”
Connelly smiled. “I would say that; however, she has read every textbook and required reading and even the recommended reading. She knows the rules and, I believe, is genuinely trying to obey them; but she seems unable. I’ll even give her that she might even have a vision in her head of what would be high quality art, but she just has not proven herself able to get that vision out of her head and onto canvas… or clay or stone or anything else she has used.
“I have also explained to her at length that while she may have ideas of her own, she needs to master the ‘rules’, as you call them, first before trying anything new; but she seems too afraid that doing so would taint her artistic individuality. She is not the first student who has proven too impatient to learn the techniques of the masters, but we want them to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ to borrow a quote.
“You went through the same experience, I’m sure, when you wrote your dissertation. You had to come up with something original, base it on information that your industry already possesses, and get your original idea out of your head and onto paper.
The department head inhaled. “I’m not unsympathetic. It is very frustrating for student and faculty alike that so many people’s brains are programmed through experience to enjoy something but are not equipped through genetics to actually perform it well. Maybe you and your Psychology cohorts can figure that one out. My best advice for Mz. Beck is that if she enjoys making bad art to continue doing it every day for the rest of her life but to stop wasting her time trying to turn it into good grades.”
Walton looked back at the mess on the canvas and the warrior who had fought valiantly but lost. He sighed, signaling his own defeat.
Connelly turned to leave, his voice reverberating off the vaulted ceiling and back to Walton. “If you think you could convince her to quit, she and I would owe you debts of gratitude.”
Walton put his hands in his pants pockets and blew out a deep breath, surveying the carnage. He had to admit – to himself, of course – that he had enjoyed the creation of it more than the piece itself. If he had seen it in a museum, he would have passed it, shaking his head and swearing he knew nothing about art. How many other pieces had he passed that had been hung in museums since their artists somehow managed to obey the seemingly unexplainable laws of art?
Half of him wanted to stay wisely silent while the other half insisted he say something after having spoken at length about the young woman as if she herself had been a lifeless, witless piece of art hanging on the wall collecting dust. “Uh…”
She had not moved for some time but stood before the results of her rage. Understanding clearly that no one would be satisfied with it, she took it off the wall, smashed it to the floor and ripped it to shreds.
“I know you put yourself into your work, but please don’t destroy yourself.”
She hung her head for a few minutes, trying not to scream or say things she would later regret. Satisfied with her self-control, she spun and faced Walton for the first time, the skirt of her own paint-stained apron rising slightly. She found herself needing to adjust her gaze upward as she had misjudged his height from only overhearing his voice.
Her surprise only delayed her mood for a moment. “I know you’re a Psych professor and are just trying to help even if you care more about your reputation if someone you talked to commits suicide than you do about me because you don’t know me; but you don’t need to worry. I’m fine.”
“So what are you going to do?”
She sat upon a white, rectangular bench which, despite its function, looked more like art than any of her paintings. Her hips seemed to widen unnaturally as she sat, and she bent to rest her elbows on her knees, leaning deeply as though she were used to being a size much smaller than she appeared. Her comparatively thin face, hands, and bare feet hinted that perhaps she had added some padding to her overalls. “Please don’t take this as cynicism, but why do you care?”
“If I leave, is there anyone else who will care?”
She bowed her head. “Yeah, I’ve got Someone. He and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, but I’ve got Him.”
“If you’ve been having domestic disputes…”
She raised her head all the way to laugh at the ceiling. “What is it with you mental health people? You always expect the worst. Every argument is domestic violence, every spanking is child abuse, everyone who is depressed is going to commit suicide. Some problems are just normal parts of everyday life. You can’t solve everything with a pill.”
Walton held one wrist with his other hand and bowed slightly. “I completely agree with that: not everything can be solved with medication.
“Well,” he said, “if your problem is nothing more than a common annoyance which you can solve on your own, I’ll be off. It just seemed to me that it has been going on for some time with no end in sight.” He spun on his heel. “I apologize for the interference.”
He had taken a few steps before she sobbed, “Stop.”
He turned and walked back to his previous position.
“I’m sorry,” she sniffed, sitting again and trying to regain her dignity. “Connelly isn’t the only one who thinks I have a problem. I just want to make something beautiful, but I can’t no matter what I try.”
When she heard the echo of his wing tips returning, she continued in a sarcastically authoritative voice, “And this is the part where you tell me, ‘Art takes so many other forms: music, dance, theatre, architecture, writing, photography, etc., etc.”
He sat next to her. “And this is the part where you tell me you’ve tried all of that and failed.”
She pointed at him with one multicolored finger while wiping tears with a clean part of her wrist.
He looked up at where her canvas had been and the white rectangle outlined by the paint spatter. “And I suppose since your favorite of all of them was painting, you decided to stick with that until you got it.”
She sighed in surrender. “Ok. You deserve a lot more credit than I gave you.”
“That would be the empathy to which Dr. Connelly was referring. Is there nothing else you want to do with your life?”
“I want to get married and have children. I just wanted to know if there was more to me than just that. I guess there isn’t. I hope I marry someone rich.”
“People defining themselves by their jobs is very often unhealthy. There is a lot more to me than being a psych teacher. There is a lot more to people who are waitresses at The Restaurant or who work in factories or office jobs which they might hate. That’s why so many people have hobbies and go on vacations to do the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. It’s unfortunate that some people can’t make money doing what they love or make enough money to do what they love or have enough time after work to do what they love, but don’t let that keep you from your dreams.”
She stared at him with unnaturally bright blue eyes, hoping he would say more or that she would come up with something else to say.
Walton walked over to the flammable pile, picked it up and reached into his pocket for a one-hundred credit note. “I think I will buy this piece after all.”
“What are you doing? I destroyed it on purpose. Connelly’s right; it’s crap. It’s completely viral; even I hate it. I was trying to make it look… well different than it did anyway.”
“Performance art,” Walton accused, smiling and pointing a finger. “You and I are trying to say the same things, just in different ways. You’re crying out to people who see no value in something that has taken your time and effort; and I am telling you that everyone has value regardless of their talents and regardless of their appearance. Edison said he didn’t fail seven hundred times to perfect the light bulb but that he had successfully found seven hundred ways not to make the light bulb work.
“Notice that I did not say, ‘invent’. Edison found a failed bulb in his neighbor’s trash and committed to making it work. We don’t know his neighbor’s name because his neighbor gave up. Maybe you won’t find the right way to paint a masterpiece, but your efforts have not been in vain. They will carry you to your ‘light bulb’, whatever that is. Somehow your experiences here will aid you, even if they are no more than challenges to your faith in yourself. And if you don’t give up on yourself, someday I suspect you will find your masterpiece in the mirror.
“So I’m going to take this… reminder of your tenacity, and when your ‘someday’ comes, find me and tell me all about it so that I can take this off my wall.”
She snorted a laugh.
“I mean it. I’m counting on you. I want to put this in the fireplace as quickly as possible.” He extended his hand to shake. “I’m Dr. Luke Walton.”
She laughed through her tears and introduced herself as “Heroine,” pronouncing the “i” as a long “e”.
Walton’s eye twitched and he stared at the wall.
“Sorry. Your parents named you after a drug?”
Heroine inhaled, getting herself ready to repeat the explanation she had needed to give to almost everyone she had ever met. “They were trying to redeem the word so that, through me, it would go back to meaning ‘a female hero’; and to emphasize the difference from the drug, they pronounced it differently.”
“I see. If you’ll excuse me.”
Heroine watched as the man who had proven to be a strange sort of hero left abruptly.
He, uh, never made it home, Walton. The police traced his bus route back here and found his body on a bus stop bench with his VR specs on. Everyone who had seen him told the police they just figured he was into his game and minded their own business. He must have had a needle in his pocket when he was here, because his bloodstream had more than enough Heroin in it to kill five people.”
The next student who had reserved the public workspace arrived with a canvas in hand, struggling to keep all his art supplies tucked under his arm. He raised his eyebrows and pulled his smile tighter to communicate he would patiently wait for Heroine to gather her things but that he would soon need her to move on.
“For what it’s worth,” the young artist said in a squeaky voice, “I thought it was great – your painting, I mean. I’ve liked all of your paintings. What does Connelly know?”
Collecting her things from the stained cement floor, she replied, “He knows what most people will think and whether or not enough people will like my art to keep me in business. I know no one buys paintings anymore, and maybe I would have just ended up in advertising for The Store, but I was hoping I would be directed toward something instead of being forced to succeed at something that isn’t working. Why do you have to know how to paint before you learn how to create art on an Interface?
The male artist pointed a finger to speak again, unwittingly taking the hand from his materials, which spilled across the floor. Heroine bent down and helped him gather the brushes at her feet, bare as the chilly concrete beneath them except for sprays of paint and spots of polish, a different color for each nail.
“No kidding about people not getting breaks unless they’re super smart, super talented or already rich,” he said speedily. “If you really want to work for TS Advertising, you should whip something up and present it to them directly.”
“Maybe I should,” she said after a painful pause. “Thanks.”
God desires those who are His to know there is nothing we will do that can ever effect change in our acceptance of Him in His Son. He knows our ever-constant primary goal is to “please” Him, and this goal is the most manifesting issue concerning our faith, and sums up all in our fellowship with Him. I say “will do,” not could do, because those who could will to do otherwise have not been under the “work” of His hands (Phl 213). He knows where we will error, but the issue lies not in all that we do, but rather in the fact that it’s never our will to displease Him, for we always will to “please” Him—whether success or failure (though our walk ever progresses “in the Spirit”).
The Why Of It All
Do you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior? Not only your Savior from the wrath to come, and from Satan and the world (unbelievers, whom has always made up the majority of earth’s populous, hence the term “world”—NC), but from self? Many a one needs to have that driven home. What characterized the Lord Jesus when here? All that Satan could do, he could get nothing out of the Lord. When He was here, He was always master of Himself, and He undertakes to save us from ourselves (our sin-source, the “old man.” It’s been said that the lost need saved and the saved needs delivered, i.e. Holy Spirit “mortification” in our walk—NC). When He presents us to the Father, we shall be in glorious bodies, delivered from humiliation, “made like unto His own glorious body” (Phl 3:21). Then we shall be perfectly and eternally delivered from everything not of Him. Can you say to the Father, I am a poor, simple and foolish thing, but I see that Thou hast said, and written down, that I have been crucified together with Christ? Thou lookest on me, having faith in the love that gave Thy Son; Thou lookest on me as crucified together with Him who was put to open shame.
A second thing comes out—dead together with Him! He “gave Himself a ransom” for us, and the eternal life with which He quicken us is the eternal life which He had “before the world was” (Jhn 17:5). There can be no mistake as to what that quickening is. Dead, buried; ah, do all believers know what it is to reckon themselves buried together with Christ? When I think of the grace of the Lord Jesus, I say there was the end of myself in Adam (1Co 15:48, 49). God put me away on the Cross.
Now as to the power of this practically: if you have got any gospel at all, what is your gospel? Is it the Gospel of eternal life? If so, I expect you to be doers, not hearers only (hearers only are absent of faith, for faith always brings forth the works or “fruit” of the Spirit – Jam 2:18, 20—NC). You cannot have life, and not be a doer. The Father has met everything against me in His Son. What is the grace mark of that given to us here? “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin (not to die but manifest in our walk we are dead—NC), but alive unto God.” Do you count yourselves to have died unto sin? Do you know what it is to be in the presence of the Father and in fellowship with Him and His Son? That He is a living Person, whose glory we can have little idea about? The Lord Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God; and do you and I know what it is to say of everything connected with the first Adam, Thou sayest of me that I have been crucified together with Christ, dead together, buried together, raised and ascended together with Him (ascended with Him in position, and though not yet physically, it is certain as if presently so because it is inevitable—NC)?
If you say that I can reckon myself to be dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God, I believe. Yes, you say; but do you see that I do not feel it? He never said that you would feel it! Abraham was given certain promises, and God took special care to let everything in nature get the sentence of God against it. You see how faith versus feeling was tried in Abraham. “A father of many nations have I made thee.” I can quite suppose the people around him saying, “Where are all these nations?” You have no child even, only Ishmael, who was not born in thy house. Where are all these nations? What did Abraham say? Just leave all alone. God has committed Himself by promise, and He is able to perform—leave it all alone.
Abraham took the truth of God just as the thing in which he could rest (faith is always about unceasing trust in God for all things—NC), and would rest, and did rest. I do wish to press that side of the truth. The heart having been found in the humiliation of the Lord Jesus that which enables it to look ruin in the face and say, I am not afraid to see the place Adam got me into, not afraid of the flesh or of the world. Why? Because there is my Savior! “Know ye not that as many as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death?” We have been crucified together with Him. There is where the saint gets rest. My Father said it, my Father has written it. We have just a little bit of the blessedness of the humiliation and the glorification of the Lord Jesus, if we have faith in the facts; but the Father knows the fullness of it all, and He will give us perfect blessing in His own time and way.
I believe that this civilization will last for a long time, I believe that love is the force that will make humanity to return to primordial beginning, to return to the soul. I believe that the love that Jesus has given us is able to change the world so much that people will be appalled by the harsh word, let alone over some serious sin. I believe in the one who was born in a manger, crucified, resurrected, and living Jesus Christ. I believe in his pure love that will change mocking, violent and evil people, (I was once like that, too), into a very good people. I believe it will be with that love that World wealth finally gets distributed fairly and that rich countries will stop exploiting the poor. I believe that the love of Christ will turn greedy people into generous who will share their wealth with the poorest. I believe that we, all together can stop hunger, thirst and diseases in third world countries. I believe that the day will come when, for the first time in history, at least in one part of the Earth there will be no war. I believe in Christ's promise of the New Heaven and the New Earth which He will give us one day, but I believe the time has come to create something new. The time has come for a civilization of love, a civilization that will live in this world, but in the Kingdom of God! Jesus, bless us and give us love to illuminate this dark world. Give us love to encourage people who are afraid of the future, give us love so that we can love others the way you have loved us. And now, you who are reading this, ask yourselves who am I talking to, brother, sister, I'm talking to you. If you are wondering where to begin building the Civilization of Love, from where if not from ourselves, if you're wondering when this could be achieved, when if not now because this is the time of grace, this is the time of salvation!
This story is Fan Fiction, based on the former TV Series: Joan of Arcadia, involving the Culture Wars; in which Joan gets suspended from school, for bringing a Bible to class.
I do not own any of the characters in this story. All of them, except for God, belong to the Producers of the TV Series “Joan of Arcadia”.
God is in Public Domain.
Power in the Word
By William D'Andrea
Inside Arcadia High School, the bell rang in Ms. Morris’ 3rd Period History Class. Her Students were in their seats. Joan Girardi and Adam Rove sat beside each other. Their Teacher, Ms. Morris stood at the blackboard, writing.
Adam looked at Joan’s books.
He said, “You’ve brought a Bible with you to Class?”
She told him, “Somebody I keep running into, told me to ‘Let the light that is in me shine forth.’ Do you have any objections?”
“No. Not really.”
Ms. Morris stood beside Joan’s desk.
She said, “The Supreme Court has objections, even if Mr. Rove doesn’t. Having this book in School, is a violation of the Constitutionally mandated separation of Church and State.”
Joan told her, “That’s not what the Constitution says Ms. Morris. What it actually says is: ‘Congress shall make no Law, respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free practice thereof.’ Banning the Bible from school isn’t ‘mandated’ by the Constitution. It’s prohibited.”
Ms. Morris picked up the Bible saying, “Well I’m mandating it here. This Book promotes fundamentalist religious bigotry and insensitivity to other beliefs, and I won’t have any of that in my Class.”
“That isn’t true.” Joan told her “It tells us how to do good to others.”
Ms. Morris walked to her desk and held the Bible over the waste basket.
Joan was horrified.
“Don’t do that Ms. Morris!” She warned, “There’s gonna be more trouble than you can imagine!”
Her teacher said, “Be quiet Ms. Girardi!”
Ms. Morris dropped the Bible into the wastebasket.
Joan covered her eyes and braced herself.
The entire classroom began to shake.
Adam shouted, “Earthquake!”
The terrified students ducked under their desks.
The shaking stopped.
Ms. Morris spoke. “You can return to your seats everyone. It’s over.”
The students got out from under their desks and returned to their seats.
“It’s not the wrath of God.” Ms. Morris assured them. “Just a frequently occurring natural phenomenon, here in California. Isn’t that right, Ms. Girardi?
“I don’t think so Ms. Morris.” Joan told her, “This might be just the beginning.”
Third Period ended. Students moved along the corridors, changing classes.
Joan stood beside her locker. The “Dreamiest looking Guy in school” came up beside her. She recognized Him. He was God in disguise; and she was peeved with Him.
He said, “I like the way you handled that Joan. You let the light that is in you shine forth.”
“Well I don’t like the way you handled it. Things are gonna get really bad for Ms. Morris; aren’t they?”
“Like you said, this is just the beginning.”
Her voice was worried. “You’re not gonna send Ms. Morris to Hell, are you?”
“That’s up to her.” He said, “I’m never the one who makes that decision. ‘It is by your words you are justified, and by your words you are condemned.’”
She asked, “What words do you want Ms. Morris to say?”
“That my Word is a lamp unto her feet, and a light unto her path to Salvation.”
“You want Ms. Morris to read the Bible? For guidance in life?”
“Like you said, this is only the beginning. I want you to give her the Bible you brought to Class.”
“The one in the wastebasket?” She protested. “You don’t want me to go back in and fish it out, do you? It’s gonna be all gross and stinky.”
“There are only papers in that wastebasket. It has no stench. My Word doesn’t stink.”
During 1st Lunch Period, Ms. Morris’ classroom was unoccupied. Joan entered, and went over to the Teacher’s desk. She reached into the wastebasket and removed the Bible.
Ms. Morris entered the room.
“Ms. Girardi!” She said, “I dropped that in there, so it would be thrown out with the trash, where it belongs.”
“You have no right to do that Ms. Morris.” Joan told her, “You’re violating my Constitutional Rights; and you’re committing sacrilege and desecration; and you’re in danger of going to Hell.
“Ms. Girardi. Going to Hell, is not just an antiquated notion, based on ignorance and superstition. It’s also hate speech and a threat, which will lead to your suspension. Come with me.”
Ms. Morris took the Bible away from Joan and escorted her out of the Classroom.
Several minutes later, they were both in the Office of Mr. Price, the Principal. Joan’s mother Helen Girardi, who worked in the School Office, was also with them.
She asked, “So what did my daughter do Ms. Morris?”
“She brought this into my classroom.”
Ms. Morris held up the Bible.
Helen said, “A Bible?”
The teacher said, “Every educator in this district has been instructed by the School Board, to hunt down and dispose of all hate literature.”
Helen Girardi laughed. “Hate literature? A Bible? You can’t be serious.”
“She also threatened me.”
Helen Girardi looked at her daughter. “Joan threatened you?”
“It wasn’t a threat Mom. It was a warning. She threw my Bible in the garbage. That was just before the earthquake happened. That’s when I told her, that she’s in danger of going to Hell.”
Now the Principal asked, “You said that Ms. Morris was in danger of going to Hell?”
The girl’s mother said, “It sounds to me like a warning that Ms. Morris should definitely heed.”
Ms. Morris told her, “It sounded to me like hate speech, and a threat, for which I’m asking that Joan Girardi be suspended.”
Joan spoke sharply. “Which might lead to you getting attacked by a plague of locusts, Ms. Morris.”
The woman said, “You heard that. More hate speech, and another threat.”
Helen said, “A ‘threat’? Are you serious? Does Joan have the ability to send anyone to Hell, or to have you attacked by locusts?”
Mr. Price now spoke. “Unfortunately, Helen, she has the ability to influence other students to believe and behave as she does.”
“Then she’d be a good influence.”
He told her, “Good or bad doesn’t matter.”
“The facts are that Joan Girardi brought hate literature to school. Then she threatened a faculty member.”
Joan’s mother said, “I think that anyone who tells High School Students, that the Bible is hate literature, is an ignorant bigot, and attempting to corrupt their morals.”
“What Ms. Morris or I believe isn’t in question. I’m suspending Joan for three days, beginning now.”
Joan said, “Mom?”
The Principal went on. “She will not be allowed to return to class, until after I’ve had a conference with you and her father.”
Helen answered, “If good or bad doesn’t matter now, it will; when we’ve had that conference, which will be attended by our lawyer.”
Joan added, “Then you’ll prefer locusts.”
An hour later, Joan was heading home on a bus, seated behind the rear exit. Her books, including her Bible, were on her lap, and she was very dejected.
A Man in his mid forties sat in the seat behind her.
He asked, “Why is your heart downcast Joan?”
She knew He was God, in one of His many disguises.
“Why?” She told him, “I’ve just been suspended for three days, because I did what you said. I didn’t ask to be made a martyr.”
“Open that Bible Joan.” He told her, “Read Matthew Chapter 5, verses 10, 11 and 12.”
Joan searched through the Bible and found the place.
She read, “’Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’”
God and Joan read together, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.’”
Then God quoted the Scripture alone. “’Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.’”
Joan grouched, “Well whoop-dee-do. I still didn’t ask to be made a martyr.”
He asked, “So what do you think I should do about Ms. Morris? Do you really want me to send locusts? How about hale that burns with fire? Darkness that can be felt? How about boils?”
“How about all of them?”
“Never! I repeat never, ask me to harm anybody!”
“Hey. You know I didn’t really mean that.”
“I forgive you. Now how about you, going a little further in Matthew? Verses 44 and 45.”
Joan found the place and read, “’But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;’”
God quoted the next verse. “’That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
She asked, “You want me to love Ms. Morris?”
“I don’t expect you to develop any strong feelings of affection. I mean you should bless her, pray for her, and do good to her.”
“After she’s had me suspended? You’re asking too much.”
“Joan.” He told her, “As I have forgiven you, you should also forgive Ms. Morris.”
“I know. This is all about keeping Ms. Morris out of Hell.”
He said, “You may never have feelings of love for her Joan, but I always will.”
The following morning, Ms. Morris was seated at her desk. The bell rang while Students entered the classroom.
Adam Rove entered. He came over to Ms. Morris, and placed an apple, along with a package in a plain brown wrapper, on the teacher’s desk.
He said, “Good morning Ms. Morris. This is for you, from Joan Girardi. She asked me to bring her all her homework assignments, while she’s suspended.
Ms. Morris spoke with amusement. “Is it a bomb?”
Adam told her, “She didn’t say.”
Ms. Morris opened the package. She found a Bible with a handwritten note, taped to the cover.
The note said, “God loves you Ms. Morris!”
It was signed, “Joan Girardi”.
Ms. Morris was not amused.
“Mr. Rove.” She said, “Tell Ms. Girardi, that I do not appreciate this sarcasm. Along with her regular assignments, she is to also write: ‘There is no place for God in School.’ She is to write that 100 times.”
After classes ended that day, students were leaving Arcadia High, and boarding the School Buses, to go home.
Joan and Adam stood across the street from the School. He held the Bible with the note taped to the cover and handed it back to Joan.
He said, “At least she didn’t throw it in the garbage this time.”
“I suppose that’s some kind of progress.”
Adam stepped away from her and headed for the Buses.
God disguised as the “Dreamy Guy” stood beside Joan.
He said, “So Ms. Morris didn’t appreciate the peace offering you sent her in my Name?”
“No. According to Adam, I now have to write 100 times, ‘There is no place for God in School’.”
“Then you should get on with it.” He told her, “And after you’ve written that 100 times, I want you to add: ‘Wherever God isn’t welcomed, the Devil rushes in, and brings all the evil he can along with him. Look at the conditions of American Schools, for proof.’”
“You want me to do extra work, on top of the extra work?”
“Rejoice and be exceeding glad. Great is your reward in heaven.”
“Well I’m not in heaven yet, and with all this extra work, I don’t have time to party!”
He told her, “This is about more than you and Ms. Morris Joan. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
“I’m involved in genuine spiritual warfare?”
“I am your strength, your shield and your fortress.”
“No.” She told Him, “No. I’m too young to be drafted.”
“Joan. Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Put on the full armor of God, to resist all the attacks of the evil one.”
“That’s what Joan of Arc did, and I know what happened to her; and I’m thinking, ‘Fire hurts’.”
“She took up a sword of steel.” God told Joan, “I want you to take up the sword of the Spirit,”
God touched the Bible in Joan’s hand.
“which is the Word of God and trust me.”
Then God the “Dreamy Guy” was gone from her view.
She thought. The sword of the Spirit, is the Word of God? God’s Power is in His Word!
Joan opened the Bible and began to read.
That evening in the Girardi house, Joan sat with her parents in the living room.
Her father Will Girardi said, “Who is this Ms. Morris anyway? She sounds like a former Campus Radical from the sixties. They’ve all become Commissars of Political Correctness.”
“Oh, Will please.” His wife said, “You’re not gonna get started on that again?”
“Why not? She got my daughter suspended, so I am gonna get started on it. She probably belonged to one of those Subversive Organizations, who taught that a Communist revolution was inevitable, and it was her generation’s duty to help bring down the Country.
Joan asked, “But Dad, Communism collapsed around 1990, didn’t it?”
“Yeah. Officially, but people like this Ms. Morris don’t know how to stop. They’re continuing to be subversive, just out of habit. Why do you think that our educational system is in such a bad shape?”
His daughter said, “Because they’ve taken God out of the Schools; and wherever God isn’t welcomed...”
On her first day back in school, Joan was in Ms. Morris’ Class. The other students were in their seats. Joan stood before Ms. Morris, who was seated at her desk, reading Joan’s extra work assignment. Joan held her Bible.
Ms. Morris read aloud, for the entire Class to hear, “Wherever God isn’t welcomed, the Devil rushes in, and brings all the evil that he can along with him. Look at the conditions of American Public Schools, for proof.”
Then she said, “Ms. Girardi. If you say that I’m in league with the Devil, it’s just another form of hate speech.”
The girl told her, “You threw my Bible in the garbage. If that’s not working for the Devil, what is? ‘If the light that is in you be darkness, how great that darkness is.’”
Joan stepped up to Ms. Morris. She placed her Bible on the teacher’s desk.
“Let it be a lamp unto your feet, and a light unto your path to Salvation.”
“Why did you do that Ms. Girardi,” the woman asked, “when you know it’s going straight in the garbage again?”
“’God makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. I’m doing all I can, to keep you out of Hell, Ms. Morris.”
Ms. Morris addressed the entire class. “Everyone. Tell me. Are there any among you, who also believe, as Ms. Girardi does, that I’m in league with the Devil?”
The students looked at each other uneasily.
Joan told her quietly, “I know I’ll never love you, but God always will.”
Ms. Morris looked troubled by Joan’s words.
She said, “Please return to your seat Ms. Girardi.”
Joan went back to her desk and sat beside Adam.
Ms. Morris spoke. “Now everyone, your essay assignment for last night was; ‘In what ways is the Constitutionally mandated separation of Church and State, being violated, in the United States today?’ I think we’re all anxious to hear what you have to say about that, Ms. Girardi.”