A Breath of Truth

A Breath of Truth

by Marlin Peters

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504328395
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 03/23/2015
Pages: 302
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.68(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Breath of Truth


By Marlin Peters

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2015 Marlin Peters
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5043-2839-5


CHAPTER 1

Gene Dixon tried to sneak into his own house. Late afternoon, in the early spring of 1973, Gene hoped the WD-40 he previously sprayed on the hinges of the side door had done its job. He grasped the knob, turned it slowly, and pushed his weight into it.

"Where've you been?" Julia's taut voice cut at him from the kitchen. Gene headed for the stairs. After five years of marriage to Julia, he couldn't remember when her voice sounded less than angry.

"Be right there," he sing-songed in answer as he leapt three steps at a time to his bedroom upstairs. From his jacket pocket he pulled out the fragile plastic bag stuffed with a quarter-ounce of what he considered to be one sweet-smelling herb.

"Daddy, what's in the bag?"

Gene jumped when he heard his four-year old daughter's voice. "Hey there, Ann, honey. Were you in your room playing?"

She persisted, "Daddy, what's in your bag?"

"Only tomato seeds, Ann. We'll plant some in our garden as soon as it gets warmer."

"Can I help?"

"Of course you can. Now go see if supper is ready. Tell your Mom I'll be down in a minute."

Gene felt a familiar twinge of self-loathing. He enjoyed smoking a little pot occasionally, but he hated always having to sneak, hide, and lie about it. None of his close friends did drugs. Neither his nor Julia's family would even think of considering doing illegal drugs. His conscience gnawed at him as he wrapped the bag in an old pair of socks, tucking it into the back of his drawer. He followed the smells of dinner down the stairs.

"Tomato seeds? What ridiculous lie will you come up with next?" Julia took a deep breath, filling her lungs with retribution to spew at her husband. But then, to Gene's great surprise, she glued her lips together in a straight line and exhaled a slow, controlled breath through her nose.

Gene felt instantly wary. Usually these fights lasted for hours. Especially the ones about his drug use, because that was an easy gateway to all of Julia's other complaints: his lack of ambition, his independent streak, his attraction to communing with nature, his disregard for most anything Julia wanted him to be.

He watched as she finished setting the table. "Let's just sit down and eat," she said. "I made your favorite dessert."

Gene was certain now that Julia wanted something from him as she endeavored to keep him in a good mood. He didn't know the reason for this unexpected change, but happily he decided to sit down to enjoy what promised to be a peaceful meal.

After supper, he retired to the living room to do a little reading. Julia joined him after she finished cleaning up the dishes.

"I'd like to get your opinion on something," she said. "Check out this book and tell me what you think."

"Is this one of those Witness books? I already told you I'm not interested in your religion." Gene grimaced remembering how Julia embraced the faith of her father's family shortly after Ann was born, causing yet another source of tension between the couple.

"I only want your opinion on the book. I'm not asking you to become a Witness. I thought maybe you'd be interested because you're always reading stuff. Besides, I thought you wouldn't mind knowing more about it now that Ann is getting a little older."

Gene considered this for a moment. Of course he wanted to be a good father, so he shrugged and said, "Sure, I'll check it out." He paused as he received the book from Julia, fingering the smooth blue cover. "You can believe I'll tell you exactly what I think of it."

He pretended to be stubborn, setting the book down on the end table next to him while going back to the book he'd been reading. With his curiosity piqued, he waited until Julia went to bed, then he picked up the little blue book Jehovah's Witnesses referred to as the "Truth Book". He glanced through the table of contents noticing with interest a chapter referencing the cross Jesus was supposed to have been crucified on. He remembered how his mother always wore a necklace with a cross and Jesus nailed to it. Not that she was much of a Christian, he vaguely thought.

The crucifix seemed to him as good a place to start as any. He felt himself being drawn in as he learned that, according to the book, the word translated for cross in the Bible was stauros, which literally means a tree or upright beam or stake. Convinced this had to be wrong, he reached for his encyclopedias to execute research of his own. He discovered the little blue book to be correct.

"That's impossible," Gene said to Julia, the next morning. "Every Christian religion I know of believes Jesus died on a cross. Every church in town features a crucifix on their stained glass window. How could they all be wrong and this small band of Witnesses be right?"

"I don't know," Julia answered, calmly scrambling the eggs. "Have you found anything else interesting enough for you to investigate?"

"Yes, I certainly did. Did you know Christmas and Easter originated in pagan rites that were adopted by church leaders who incorporated them into Christianity in the fourth century? I don't get it." Gene was forming a grudging respect for the information in that little blue book.

Julia's voice softened. "Gene, I know you haven't gone with Ann and me to any meetings at the Kingdom Hall, but there's going to be a special talk this Sunday. It's geared toward families with unbelieving mates. It might explain some of the confusion you're experiencing about other religions. We would really love it if you would come with us."

Gene felt resistant, but the contradictions presented by what he'd read had started something gnawing in his gut. He wanted answers, but he didn't know for sure where to start.

He looked at Julia, feeling pangs of sadness at how they were growing apart. He thought of Ann and how he would do anything for her. He knew the degree of the judgmental attitude he constantly exuded ever since Julia embraced the Jehovah's Witnesses. He took a deep breath.

"Okay, I'll go this once. Only I want to leave as soon as the sermon is over."

"Of course. Thank you, honey." She kissed him lightly on the mouth and smiled.

CHAPTER 2

The closer it got to Sunday and his visit to the Kingdom Hall, the more mixed up Gene felt. After years of being forced by his parents to attend church every Sunday without the benefit of their company, he'd long since turned his back on organized religion. To him the teachings seemed empty: pretty words on a Sunday that were contradicted by the actions of the world he encountered every day. He wasn't expecting this to be much different.

He also knew if the talk bored him, it would take very little time before he fell asleep. He owned one old suit and hated wearing it. He absolutely refused to wear a tie. To him, a tie symbolized control, contrived by some pretentious group waiting to tighten the noose anytime they chose to hang him out to dry.

Still, something churned inside of Gene, an internal longing to learn more, to uncover more of those long-held religious teachings that might be proven false.

Sunday morning turned out to be one of those days when the natural creation begged to be noticed. Pockets of warm air surrounded Gene, silently disappearing, leaving behind a crisp, invigorating feeling. His senses became heightened as the earth pulsated with the promise of resurrection from winter's grasp. Reddish buds on the maple trees in the backyard had burst open overnight. A grayish-white mist rose from the river, gently disappearing into a cloudless, baby blue sky.

Most of the heaviness and dread he'd experienced as the morning approached slowly dissolved. He had a feeling this was going to be a great day.

"Daddy is going to the meeting with us, Mommy," said Ann. "Is he going to be a Jehovah's Witness too?"

Julia tried to hold back a laugh. "Maybe someday, Ann. Today he's only going to listen to the special talk."

The Kingdom Hall was not at all what Gene expected. The rectangular building resembled a ranch-style home. It stood in stark contrast to the varied architecture of the churches Gene recalled. No crosses or religious pictures or statues of Jesus or Mary were to be found, and he noticed an absence of long robes, elaborate, showy curtains, stained glass windows, and wasted space.

The main room where the sermon would be given held a hundred or so people. At least half of them were facing the rear toward the entrance, watching everyone who came into the room.

Gene felt awkward and definitely out of place sporting a beard with shoulder length hair amidst the clean-cut crowd. He breathed a sigh of relief when the meeting began shortly after they arrived.

The elder who addressed them wore a suit. He spoke at length of how the Israelites, in spite of all the miracles performed on their behalf, could not walk by faith alone but continued to demand more earthly reasons for what their leaders asked of them. The elder repeatedly referenced the Bible to support the ideas being discussed. Gene had no trouble staying wide awake.

In spite of his curiosity being piqued, Gene readied himself to bolt for the door as the meeting ended. He stood up to step into the aisle, but Julia and a man he didn't recognize conveniently hemmed him in. The man held Julia's elbow with his left hand, extending his right to Gene.

"Hi, I'm Ed, an old friend of Julia's father. What did you think of the talk today?"

"It was okay." Gene racked his brain for something more intelligent to say, but he came up empty. Then he added, "I really appreciated the speaker using Bible references to support what he was saying. I don't remember it being that way when I attended church."

"If you're interested in what the Bible has to say, Gene, how would you like your own Bible study? Free, of course." Ed smiled like a man sure of what the answer would be.

CHAPTER 3

Gene felt more comfortable attending meetings in the Kingdom Hall than in any church he'd attended before. He found himself looking forward to the weekly Bible study with Ed, discovering a deep insatiable thirst for finding the truth behind the scriptures. He challenged Ed with his questions, and Ed came prepared to offer evidence to support the Witnesses' beliefs. The books they studied not only made the Bible come alive, but also helped Gene begin to feel a personal connection. He related to the characters he read about while feeling a longing to know God as personally as they seemed to have known him.

Gene basked in this new experience of church. He felt a revived sense of purpose and of belonging to something much greater than himself. He drank less and quit doing drugs altogether. Finally, life began to make sense. This surely has to be the right place for me, he thought. Why doesn't everyone see what I'm seeing? How can they not?

Pleased now that Gene was appearing to become one of them, Julia's father took him under his wing. When his son-in-law questioned scriptures, William delighted in sharing his considerable knowledge with him. William took him to book stores where they found very old reference books to assist in translation and transliteration of biblical text. The two men grew very close.

Witnesses discourage their congregants from socializing with nonbelievers. Gene found his social circle growing into a tight-knit community. He and Julia began enjoying more of a life together. Although the familiar themes of Julia desiring him to increase their income and fit a certain mold remained, they seemed to fade into the background. He soon developed a renewed sense of commitment to his marriage.

When Gene first met Julia, she wasn't associated with the Witnesses. He couldn't recall ever hearing of them. It surprised him when he learned, shortly after Ann's birth, that his father-in-law, William, was a Witness. Julia told him how, after her parents divorced, she spent two weeks of each of her teen-aged summers visiting with William's new family, tagging along as they preached the "good news" from door to door. After he became involved with the Witnesses, Gene asked his wife what moved her to begin attending meetings.

"My grandmother," she said. "She came to visit me one day when you were working. She talked a long time about Ann's future. She said to me, 'Julia, you know Armageddon is right around the corner. You already know about Jehovah's plans for this wicked world. If Ann dies during Armageddon, and she isn't one of Jehovah's Witnesses, she won't have the chance to be resurrected. She will be forever in the grave and her blood will be on your hands.'

"I couldn't deal with being responsible for Ann missing out on the possibility of living forever, so I began going to meetings and studying the Bible."

Gene felt a little uneasy when Julia told him this story. Still naïve when it came to recognizing religious manipulation, he attributed it to the reminder that the Witnesses believed Armageddon would happen in the year 1975. With the end of 1973 quickly approaching, Gene realized he wasn't baptized yet.

Gene participated in the ritual baptism during the summer of 1974. Six months later he was appointed as a ministerial servant to assist the elders of the congregation.

1975 came and went like a thief in the night. The Society of Jehovah's Witnesses managed to convince its throngs of followers they never mentioned a specific date for Armageddon. Most of them bought the lie and life went on.

Being groomed to be an elder, Gene received numerous responsibilities. He relished giving talks because it gave him more impetus to dig into scriptural research. He diligently sought to ensure the scriptural accuracy of the information he dispersed to the congregation. He learned the ancient languages while using a number of references to check and cross-check his findings with great care.

Among the reference he frequently relied on was the 1836 edition by Scott and Henry of the Comprehensive Commentary of the Bible. To check Scott and Henry's findings he referred to the 1849 edition of the Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Edward Robinson and Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, dated 1894, as well as Liddell and Scott's 1869 edition of the Greek-English Lexicon.

Gene's expanding knowledge brought with it a growing discord. He began to see flaws with the teachings he passed on to the congregation. To them, he spoke the truth; to himself, he sought the truth. The more he learned, the more he felt an internal conflict; the more he experienced this conflict, the more he needed to learn. He began sidestepping the inconsistencies when he gave talks, using phrases like "according to the Society ..." and "the Society teaches ..." He doubted it got him off the moral hook, but it was all he could offer.

One day, one of the traveling overseers arrived to speak to the congregation. The man made an off-hand comment leading Gene to believe the overseer held ideas similar to his concerning the meaning of certain biblical text. After the talk, Gene cautiously questioned the man about his comment. His reply: "Why throw out all the good stuff for one questionable understanding or misunderstanding?"

Gene found some comfort in this philosophy and in the likelihood he might not be alone in his point of view. But he kept his thoughts to himself. The organization frowned strongly on anyone doing his own research. The frown grew to an expressed displeasure if someone shared their differing opinions with others, which raised a huge red flag. He didn't like anything getting in the way of his research, of his personal quest for truth. He decided to speak with William the next time he and Julia visited his home.

When that day came, Gene waited until he and his father-in-law were alone in William's book-filled study.

"Tell me, do you agree with the Society's understanding of what an apostate is? They're saying it is one who draws another from the truth."

"Could you be more specific? What did you find that disagrees with their teaching?"

"Well, it simply doesn't mean what they claim! All it means is a person who leaves the religion. It has nothing to do with leading someone away from the truth. How about the 144,000? Do you agree it is a literal number of chosen ones who will sit with Jesus in his kingdom?"

"What's got you so riled up, Gene? What would make you question such a basic teaching?"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Breath of Truth by Marlin Peters. Copyright © 2015 Marlin Peters. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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A Breath of Truth 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
CharlieOK More than 1 year ago
excellent read, great characters. I can't wait until Gene's next adventure.