The sleepy, eastern Washington wheat town of Antioch has become a gateway for the supernatural—from sightings of angels and a weeping crucifix to a self-proclaimed prophet with an astounding message.
The national media and the curious all flock to the little town—a great boon for local business but not for Travis Jordan. The burned-out former pastor has been trying to hide his past in Antioch. Now the whole world is headed to his backyard to find the Messiah, and in the process, every spiritual assumption he has ever held will be challenged. The startling secret behind this visitation ultimately pushes one man into a supernatural confrontation that has eternal consequences.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||8.40(w) x 5.58(h) x 1.39(d)|
About the Author
Frank E. Peretti es el destacado autor de Esta patente oscuridad, publicado por Editorial Vida. El y su esposa Bárbara residen en la costa pacifica del noroeste de los Estados Unidos.
Read an Excerpt
Sally Fordyce left the house as soon as the breakfast dishes were done,
walking a little, jogging a little along Highway 9 -- a narrow, straight-as-a-string two-lane with a fading white line and an evenly spaced parade of utility poles.
This was eastern Washington State, quiet and solitary. Wheat fields, spring green, stretched in every direction over the prairie swells. Straight ahead,
the highway dipped and rose gently into the distance until it narrowed to a vanishing point at the far horizon. The sun was warm, the breeze a little biting.
It was April.
Sally was nineteen, blonde, slightly overweight, and severely unhappy, mainly because she was no longer married. She had believed everything Joey, the trucker,
told her about love, and how she was that girl silhouetted on his mud flaps.
The marriage -- if it happened at all -- lasted three months. When he found another woman more intellectually stimulating, Sally was bumped from the truck's sleeper and found herself coming full circle, right back to being Charlie and
Meg's daughter living at home again. She had to keep her room clean, help with dinner and dishes, get home by eleven, and attend the Methodist church with them every Sunday. Again, her life was not her life.
She had tasted freedom, she thought, but she was turned away. She had no wings to fly and nowhere to fly even if she did. Life wasn't fair. (To hear
Charlie tell it, he and Meg must have made up a list of all the dumb mistakes they hoped she would never make and given her a copy. Needless to say, things were tense.)
Even before she tried Joey, the trucker, Sally used to find escape out on the wheat prairie in the stillness of the morning. Now she returned,
even fled to this place. Out here, she heard no voice but her own thoughts,
and her thoughts could say whatever they wanted. She could pray too, sometimes aloud, knowing no one but God would hear her. Dear God, please don't leave me stuck here. If you're there, send a miracle. Get me out of this mess.
In all fairness, it was past time for Sally to feel that way. Except for those who had wheat farming in their blood and couldn't wait to climb on a combine,
most everyone growing up in Antioch heard a call from elsewhere -- anywhere
-- sooner or later. When they came of age, all the kids who could find a way out left -- usually -- for good. Sally had come of age, all right, but had not found a way out. Charlie and Meg would probably tell you that she was not the kind to look for one, either. She was still waiting for it to come to her.
The halfway point of her jog was a spreading cottonwood at the top of a shallow rise, the only tree in sight. It was monstrous, and had to have been growing there long before the roads, farms, or settlers came along. Sally double-timed her way up the rise and was breathing hard by the time she reached it. She'd developed a routine: Every day she braced herself against the huge trunk and stretched out her leg muscles, then sat and rested for a moment between two prominent roots on the south side. Recently, a short prayer for a miracle had also become part of the routine.
The stretches went easily enough. She had cooled down, her breathing had settled, she could feel the flush in her cheeks from the exercise and the cool air.
She rounded the tree
And almost jumped out of her skin.
A man was sitting between the two roots, exactly in her spot, his back against the gnarled trunk and his wrists draped lazily over his knees. He had to have been there all during her stretching-out, and she was immediately curious,
if not offended, that he had said or done nothing to indicate his presence.
"Oh!" she gasped, then caught her breath. "Hello. I didn't see you there. "
He only chuckled and smiled at her with a kindly gaze. He was a remarkably handsome man, with olive skin, deep brown eyes, and tightly curled black hair.
He was young, perhaps as young as she was. "Good morning, Sally. Sorry if I startled you."
She probed her memory. "Have we met before?"
He shook his head teasingly. "No."
"Well, who are you?"
"I'm here to bring you a message. Your prayers have been heard, Sally.
Your answer is on his way. Be looking for him."
She looked away for only a moment, just a slight, eye-rolling gesture of consternation.
"Be looking for who -- ?"
He was gone.
She walked around the cottonwood, looked up and down the road and across every field, and even looked straight up the trunk of the tree.
He was gone, just like that, as if he'd never been there.
After one more hurried trip around the tree, she stopped, a hand against the trunk to steady herself, her eyes scanning the prairie. Her heart was beating faster than when she'd come up the rise. Her breathing was rapid and shallow.
She was shaking.
At our lady of the fields church in Antioch, Arnold Kowalski was busy dust-mopping the quaint little sanctuary, pushing the wide broom between the pews and down the center aisle, moving a little slowly but doing a thorough job. Arnold had been a soldier, a carpenter, a diesel mechanic, and a mail carrier, and now,
since retiring, he had taken upon himself the unofficial title of church custodian.
It wasn't a paid position, although the church did provide a little monetary gift for him each month as an expression of love and gratitude. He just did it for God, a few hours a few days a week, pure and simple. It brought him joy,
and besides, he liked being in this place.
He'd been a devout member of Our Lady of the Fields for some forty years now. He never missed Sunday morning mass if he could help it. He never failed to make it to confession, though now at seventy-two the confessions were getting shorter and the penance easier. He liked to think that God was happy with him. He considered himself happy enough with God.
Except for one thing, one minor grief he had to carry as he moved slowly down the center aisle pushing his broom. He couldn't help wishing that God would pay just a little attention to Arnold's arthritis. It used to flare up occasionally;
now it was only on occasion that it didn't. He was ashamed to think such a thought, but he kept thinking it anyway: Here I am serving God, but God keeps letting it hurt. His hands throbbed, his feet ached. His knuckles cried out no matter which way he gripped the broom. He was never one to complain,
but today, he almost felt like crying.
Maybe I'm not serving God enough , he thought. Maybe I need to work longer. Maybe if I didn't take any money for what I do here...
What am I missing? he wondered. What am I leaving out?
He always took off his hat when he entered the building and blessed himself before entering the sanctuary. Right now, as usual, he was wearing his blue coveralls. Perhaps a tie would show more respect.
He pushed a little more dust and dirt down the center aisle until he stepped into a beam of sunlight coming through a stained-glass window. The sun felt warm on his back and brought him comfort, as if it were God's hand resting on his shoulders. From this spot he could look up at the carved wooden crucifix hanging above the altar. He caught the gaze of the crucified Christ.
"I don't want to complain," he said. Already he felt he was overstepping his bounds. "But what harm would it do? What difference would it make to this big wide world if one little man didn't have so much pain?"
It occurred to Arnold that he had addressed God in anger. Ashamed, he looked away from those gazing wooden eyes. But the eyes drew him back, and for a strange,
illusory moment they seemed alive, mildly scolding, but mostly showing compassion as a father would show to a child with a scraped knee. Sunlight from another window brought out a tiny sparkle in the corners of the eyes, and Arnold had to smile. He could almost imagine those eyes were alive and wet with tears.
The sparkle grew, spreading from the corners of the eyes and reaching along the lower eyelids.
Arnold looked closer. Where was the light coming from that could produce such an effect? He looked above and to the right. It had to be coming through that row of small windows near the ceiling. To think he'd been attending this church for so many years and never noticed this before. It looked just as if --
A tear rose over the edge of the eyelid and dropped onto the wooden cheek, tracing a thin wet trail down the face and onto the beard.
Arnold stared, frozen, his mind stuck between seeing and believing.
He felt no sense of awe, no overshadowing spiritual presence. He heard no angelic choir singing in the background. All he knew was that he was watching a wooden image shed tears as he stood there dumbly.
Then his first coherent thought finally came to him. I have to get up there. Yes, that was the thing to do; that would settle it. He hurried as fast as the pain in his feet would allow him and brought a ladder from the storeroom in back. Pausing before the altar to bless himself, he stepped around the altar and carefully leaned the ladder against the wall. Every climbing step brought a sharp complaint from his feet, but he gritted his teeth, grimaced,
and willed himself up the ladder until he came eye to eye, level to level with the carved face.
His eyes had not been playing tricks on him. The face, only a third life-sized, was wet. He looked above to see if there was a leak in the ceiling but saw no sign of a stain or drip. He leaned close to study the image for any sign of a device or some kind of trickery. Nothing.
He reached, then hesitated from the very first tinge of fear. Just what was he about to touch? Dear
God, don't hurt me. He reached again, shakily extending his hand until his fingertips brushed across the wet trail of the tears.
He felt a tingling, like electricity, and jerked his hand away with a start. It wasn't painful, but it scared him, and his hand began to quiver.
Electric sensations shot up his arm like countless little bees swarming in his veins. He let out a quiet little yelp, then gasped, then yelped again as the sensation flowed across his shoulders, around his neck, down his spine. He grabbed the ladder and held it tightly, afraid he would topple off.
A strong grip.
A grip without pain. He stared at his hand. The vibration buzzed, and swirled under his skin, through his knuckles, across his palms, through his wrists. He lightened his grip, tightened it again, held on with one hand while he opened and closed the other, wiggling and flexing the fingers.
The pain was gone. His hands were strong.
The current rushed down his legs, making his nerves tingle and his muscles twitch. He hugged the ladder, his hands glued to the rungs, a cry bouncing off the wall only inches from his nose. He was shaking, afraid he would fall.
He cried out, gasped, trembled, cried out again.
The electricity, the sensation -- whatever it was -- enveloped his feet and his scream echoed through the building.
Sunday, pastor Kyle
Sherman prayed the prayer of benediction, the pianist and organist began playing the postlude -- a modern rendition of -- "Be Still My Soul" -- and the congregation of the Antioch Pentecostal Mission rose to leave. The after-service shuffling was the same as one would see in any church. Folks gathered up their coats, Bibles, Sunday school papers, and children, then formed slow-moving clusters in the aisles and doorways to joke and chat. Families, singles, friends, and visitors passed through the main doorway where the young pastor stood to shake their hands and greet them. Kids went as wild as their parents would tolerate,
running outside after being scolded for running inside.
Dee Baylor was among the departing saints that day. A steady and constant presence at Antioch Mission, she was a robust, heavy-set woman in her forties with a prominent nose and hair that added measurably to her height. Short, mousy
Blanche Davis and tightly permed, blue-rinsed Adrian Folsom were walking with her across the gravel parking lot as the three worked excitedly to keep the
Christian grapevine alive.
"That's all he said?" Adrian asked.
Dee didn't mind repeating the story or any part of it. "Just that
'her answer was on his way.' And according to Sally he said his way,
not its way."
"So who was he talking about?" asked Blanche.
"Maybe her future husband," Adrian ventured. "God told me I
was going to marry Roger."
"So what about the crucifix at the Catholic church?" Blanche wondered.
"You can't limit God," Dee answered.
"No, you can't limit God," Adrian agreed with extra insistence in her voice.
"But a weeping statue?" Blanche asked, making a crinkled face. "That sounds awfully Catholic to me."
"Well, it's something a Catholic would understand."
Blanche considered that in silence.
"We need to be seeking the Lord," said Dee, her eyes closing prayerfully.
"We need to be expecting. God has plans for Antioch. I think the Lord is ready to pour out his Spirit on this town."
"Amen." That was what Blanche wanted to hear.
"Amen," Adrian echoed.
Dee looked up at the sky as if looking toward heaven. The clouds were breaking up now. Patches of blue were beginning to show, promising a pleasant afternoon.
Adrian and Blanche walked and continued the conversation until they noticed they were by themselves. They looked back.
She was standing still, clutching her Bible to her bosom and looking heavenward, her lips moving rapidly as she whispered in another language.
They hurried to her side. What is it?
All she could do was point, then gasp, her hand over her mouth.
Adrian and Blanche looked quickly, afraid something might fall on them.
They saw nothing but billowing clouds and patches of blue sky.
"I see Jesus," Dee said in a hushed voice. Then, raising one hand toward the sky she shouted ecstatically, "Jesus! I see you, I see you!"
Brother Norheim walked by. He was old, bent, and hard of hearing, but a respected church pillar. He knew how a church should be run and how the Spirit moved and how to properly wash out the communion cups so as not to offend the Lord. When he started "Bless the Lord, O My Soul" from his pew in the evening service, everybody sang right along whether Linda Sherman could find the right key on the piano or not. He could see the ladies were excited about something.
"What are you looking at?"
"I see the Lord!" Dee gasped, and then she broke into a song. "I
see the Lord...I see the Lord...He is high and lifted up, and his train fills the temple!"
Adrian and Blanche kept staring at the clouds, hoping to spot something,
making quick sideways glances at each other for clues.
Brother Norheim looked the sky over, smiling with three golden teeth and three gaps. "The firmament showeth his handiwork!"
"What do you see?" Adrian finally asked.
Dee pointed. "Don't you see him? Right there! He's looking right at us!"
Adrian and Blanche looked carefully, following the point of Dee's finger. Finally,
Blanche drew in a slow, awe-struck gasp. "Yeeesssss...Yes,
I see him! I see him!"
"Where?" Adrian cried. "I don't see him."
"Isn't that incredible!"
Adrian put her head right next to Blanche's, hoping to gain the same perspective.
Blanche pointed. "See? There's the top of his head, and there's his ear and his beard..."
Adrian let out a crowlike squawk she usually saved for funny jokes and deep revelations. "AWWW! You're right! You're right!"
Now all three women were pointing and looking while Dee kept singing in and out of English. Brother Norheim moved on, glad to see the saints on fire,
but others came alongside to see what the commotion was all about. Dave White,
the contractor, saw the face right away, but his wife, Michelle, never did.
Adrian's husband, Roger, saw the face, but found it an amusing coincidence and nothing more. Don and Melinda Forester, a new couple in church, both saw the face but disagreed on which direction it was looking. Their kids, Tony and Pammie,
ages eight and six, saw Jesus but also saw several different animals on top of his head.
"Look!" said Adrian. "He's holding a dove in his hand, you see that?"
"Yeeahhhhh..." Dave White said in a hushed voice,
his face filled with awe.
"He's ready to pour out his Spirit!" Dee announced with a prophetic waver in her voice.
"Eh, beats me," said Roger, squinting at the sky.
"He's speaking to us in these last days!"
"You're crazy," Michelle insisted. "I don't see anything."
"Hey Pastor Sherman!" Tony yelled. "We see Jesus in the clouds!"
"There's a rooster!" Pammie squealed.
"It just kept going from there," Kyle Sherman told me. "The three women started seeing all kinds of things because the clouds kept changing. For a while Jesus had a dove in his hand, and then after that he turned into a door
-- you know, the door to the sheepfold, the door to heaven, whatever you want
-- and then --" Kyle looked toward the ceiling as he recalled the appearance of the sky. "Uh...a flame, I think." He drew it in the air with his hand. "Kind of wavy, you know, up and down like a pillar of fire."
Kyle hadn't used any names up to this point, so I asked him, "Are we talking about Dee Baylor?"
He nodded, looking abashed.
"Adrian Folsom and Blanche Davis?"
Kyle nodded again, a reluctant yes.
"Makes sense," I said, picking up my coffee cup and taking another swallow.
It was Monday, the typical pastor's day off. Kyle Sherman and I were sitting at my kitchen table with coffee cups and a bag of Oreo cookies between us. He was still in his twenties, dark-haired, wiry, a fresh horse ready to gallop. For the past four months, he'd been at this table in this little house several times, keeping in touch and trying to be a good shepherd.
And hoping to keep some strays from straying further, I surmised. I know I
caught his attention the moment he arrived to take over the pastorate. I was still the official pastor until I passed my mantle to him, but I was conspicuously missing. Antioch Pentecostal Mission had a pastor -- a former pastor
-- who couldn't go near the place.
Kyle immediately did the pastoral thing by coming after -- coming to -- me and becoming a regular part of my life, welcome or not. The minister in me understood what he was doing and admitted that, if I were in Kyle's place, I would have done the same. As for the rest of me...well, I'll get to that.
Today's visit was decidedly different from the others, however. I hadn't heard quite so many Praise Gods or Hallelujahs from Kyle today. I could tell the spiritual escapades of Dee Baylor and company were weighing on him.
"Dee seems like she's --" Kyle was either struggling for words or waiting for me to fill in the blanks.
I filled in the blanks. "Dee is a follower with followers. Meg Fordyce has a little prayer and praise meeting at her house once a week, and Dee gets out there pretty often. Just put it together from there."
I could see a light bulb coming on, but Kyle apparently wasn't comfortable with my drift. I'm not sure I follow you.
"Kyle, it's simple. Meg told Dee about Sally seeing an angel. That means someone else is getting a special visitation from God that Dee isn't getting.
You don't get something from God without Dee getting it too. She won't allow it."
Kyle actually looked disappointed. "So what about Sally? You think she made the whole thing up?"
"You can talk to Charlie and Meg about Sally. It's up to you, but no,
I don't believe her. It sounds too much like the vanishing hitchhiker."
Kyle laughed. "You've heard about that, right?"
"Oh yeah." He paused. "So Dee's copycatting?"
"No, with Dee you get it back with interest. Sally saw an angel. Dee's seeing Jesus."
But Kyle shook his head, still unsettled. They're excited, Travis. And not just Dee and Adrian and Blanche, but the Whites, the Foresters --"
"Excited about what? Jesus in the sky with a rooster on his head?"
"Pammie thought it was a rooster."
"Hey, you asked me." I set my coffee cup down on the table like a judge closing a case with a gavel.
"So what about Arnold Kowalski?"
I made a conscious effort not to roll my eyes. "Didn't a statue of Elvis start crying once?" I looked in my empty coffee cup and then at the coffee maker. There were still at least two cups in there. "You need a refill?"
I got up and poured another cup for myself. "Maybe Arnold Kowalski is the Catholic version of Dee Baylor."
I could tell from Kyle's tone that he was getting impatient with me. "No,
now come on, Travis. Kowalski went to Dr. Trenner down in Davenport, and he took x-rays and the whole thing. He says the arthritis is gone."
I sat down, my hand still on the handle of my coffee cup, and just looked at him. "What do you want me to say, Kyle?"
He sighed. "Just say what you think."
"I've already said what I think."
He stared at his empty coffee cup, dragging it by the handle in little zigzags around the table. "But you don't suppose God could surprise us once in a while? You know, do something we weren't expecting?"
I leaned forward. "Kyle, what these people experienced, they expected.
Trust me." I leaned back, sipped my coffee, and tried to come up with some closing comment. "If you want my advice, I'd say don't sweat it. This kind of thing comes and goes and the wrinkles wash out eventually."
"I just need to take a position on all this."
The very thought of someone else having to take a position gave me a dark little pleasure. "Yeah, you're the one who has to remain stable, aren't you? Well,
it won't hurt to let the jury stay out a while."
"I think Dee and Adrian are watching the clouds again today --"
There was a knock at the front door.
"It's Rene," I said, then hollered, "Come in!"
She came in. "Hi, Trav."
Her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she was wearing her old green sweats, same as she did every time she came over. I introduced my big sister to the new pastor, and I took pleasure in another thought: Rene lived in Spokane, so she didn't have to worry about Kyle calling on her.
"Don't let me disturb you, she said, turning toward the bedroom."
"We were just finishing up."
"Uh --" Kyle fished around for his lost thought but apparently found another one. "Anyway, the ministerial's going to meet tomorrow morning to talk about all this. I think Nancy Barrons is going to be there."
"Great," I said. "Newspaper coverage. That'll put the fire out."
Kyle raised an eyebrow at me. "Hey, Travis, the whole town's buzzing about this. There's a lot going on out there and you're missing it."
I smiled. That made three pleasurable thoughts in a row.
Rene came out of the bedroom with my laundry basket. She was giving me a look, most likely a comment on how full that basket should have been but was not after a week.
Kyle was still talking. "Anyway, why don't you come with me? I haven't gotten to know all the ministers yet. You can introduce me, sit in and listen,
have some input."
It was a ploy, pure and simple, and not the first time Kyle had tried to get me moving in the old church circles again. I gave a little disarming chuckle and wagged my head.
"It'll be at the Catholic church. We'll all get a chance to look at that weeping crucifix."
I made a face. I couldn't help it. "Get real!"
Kyle just raised his hands in surrender to logic. "Hey, you can bicker about hearsay or you can go straight to the source and see it for yourself."
"And sit down with all those ministers again? Not this year, thank you."
Rene walked behind me to the refrigerator and checked my supply of frozen meals and leftovers.
Kyle looked at me for a moment, and I knew I wouldn't like his next question.
"Do they have something to do with it?"
"To do with what?"
"Yes," Rene answered.
I shot her a glance over my shoulder and she shot me one back.
Kyle had no fear of thin ice. "With you resigning your pulpit, sitting here in this little house all by yourself --"
"Never changing your clothes," Rene cut in, "not shaving, not cleaning up --"
"I change my clothes!" I said.
She looked at the laundry basket on the floor. "There's only one shirt in there. Have you worn that same shirt all week?"
I looked down at the shirt I was wearing. I couldn't remember how long I'd worn it. "I like this shirt." I turned back to Kyle. "And you're living in the parsonage now, with my blessing. You're welcome to it."
Kyle raised his hands to show a truce. "I didn't mean...
"Trav, we're not trying to pick a fight."
No, they weren't picking a fight. It was just the same old dilemma:
friends whose loving concern keeps stumbling into your raw nerves, with every irritating stab well meant. I stared at my coffee cup because I couldn't look at them.
"It's your life, I know that," Kyle said gently. "We just care about you, that's all."
Then you might come up with a solution I haven't heard already, I thought.
But I didn't say it out loud. We had already had that conversation and it got us nowhere. Instead, I just looked at him, managed a smile, and reminded myself that I really did love this kid -- sorry, this man. This fresh new pastor, this up-and-coming man of God with the young, pretty, piano-playing wife and the two energetic kids. I reminded myself that twenty years ago I was sitting in his place. I was thinking the same things, offering the same solutions, excited for the same reasons. Man, did that feel like a long time ago!
"Thanks for the invitation," I said finally. "Not this time.
Maybe later, when I've got something better to say for myself."
He returned my smile. "Okay." And to his credit, he dropped the subject.
"I gotta get going. Give me a call if you change your mind." With that he rose, patted me on the back, and headed for the front door.
"Oh, I will," I promised almost jokingly.
After Kyle closed the front door behind him, I looked up at Rene, still standing by the refrigerator. She was in her late forties and looking great,
though giving me a somewhat scolding look the way big sisters do. It had always been her role to run interference for me while reaching back to swat me when she thought I needed it.
"We're, uh, we're doing better, Kyle and me," I said. "We got along pretty well today, all things considered."
She shrugged. "One of these days you're going to give him a lot of credit just for coming back."
"I do already."
"You gonna let me cut your hair today?"
"Maybe next time."
"You're getting pretty shaggy."
She came around and sat in Kyle's chair, facing me directly. "I don't know when that will be."
I figured it would be a week, just like always, but I could read in her eyes how wrong I was. "You and Danny going on vacation or something?"
She sat back in the chair and sighed deeply. "Travis Jordan, I owe you an apology. I've been wrong."
"Wrong about what?"
She drew a breath and sighed it out. "Wrong about letting you just sit on your rear." This was Rene's characteristic bluntness, her tough love.
"Trav, it's been ten months. You know Marian would be upset to see you like this. I'm upset. Danny and I have been talking about it, and he's right: I thought I was helping you by doing your laundry and planning out your grocery list and cooking most of your meals. But..."
She looked away and drummed her fingers on the table while she built up to it.
"I can't be your mother anymore. School's starting in the fall, and by that time you're going to have to be a clean, resourceful, responsible adult again. You're going to have to be an example."
"In other words, get a life."
"No, you have a life. I'm telling you to get on with it. I mean..."
She looked around the house. It was a small place. She could see the dining room, living room, and bedroom from where she was sitting. "When we were kids, Mom would never let us get away with a mess like this. We had to clean our own rooms, remember? Now here I am, cleaning yours. What's wrong with this picture?"
I looked around. This was a mess? I'd come to regard it as simply having everything
I owned in plain sight and within easy reach at all times.
"I shouldn't even have done this, but I talked to Don Anderson yesterday,
and he has a washing machine in stock that was damaged in shipping. It works fine, it just has a dent in it. He said he'll let it go for a hundred dollars.
Travis, buy it. Hook it up and use it. Get yourself some rope and make a clothesline out back. The weather's warming up. You can dry everything back there. And did you try that meat loaf recipe I gave you?"
That meat loaf. "Uh, yeah. I think I cooked it too long."
"You used to cook when you and Marian were in California. I know; she told me. And you still have the makings for meat loaf in the freezer. Try it again. Try all the recipes again, and keep trying, 'cause after today, I'm out of here." She hurried around me and picked up the laundry basket. "I'll do this load, and then...you'd better buy that washing machine." She bent and kissed me on the cheek. "We're gonna talk someday.
We have to."
"Sounds like we just did, I said."
"We will. I promise. Bye."
She smiled at me, turned, and went out the front door.
I heard her Bronco start up and drive off, and then the remarkable quiet of a small eastern Washington wheat town set in. Such towns have no ambient rumble of traffic. The only airport is a small strip for crop dusters several miles west of town. I could hear the electric whir of the clock on the wall and the intermittent drip from the kitchen sink. Somewhere in the neighborhood a dog barked. A breeze caused a dry leaf to skitter along the concrete just outside the patio door.
I sat motionless and intensely alone, ignoring the coffee growing cold in my cup and trying to get through my head what had just happened. It could have been the proverbial two-by-four against the side of the head. It sure felt like it.
I finally got up and stood in the archway between the kitchen and the living room, numbly scanning the disheveled state of the one-bedroom bungalow.
The coffee table had disappeared under books and magazines I'd planned to read or been reading, most of them open to wherever I'd begun or left off. I had to assume that I had flung my coat and hat over the chair near the door, but
I sure couldn't remember doing it. I could probably blame the post office for the newspapers and catalogs that were spreading like kudzu over every level surface including the floor. The cluttered kitchen counters were filled with dirty dishes and cereal boxes still stood around after a week of breakfasts.
It suddenly occurred to me how embarrassing it would be if my landlord were to drop by.
I made my way to the bathroom and found something equally messy in the bathroom mirror: a graying, weathered, whiskered, forty-five-year-old former...what?
Anything I had ever been, I wasn't anymore. I knew that much. A question from my ordination application came back to me: Are you always neat and clean?
I stifled a laugh. Not today.
But Rene's point was well taken: Someone else was going to have to look at this face when September rolled around a whole classroom full of sixth graders. I'd managed to regain a teaching position I held years ago, when Antioch
Mission was a fledgling congregation any small-town, small-church pastor can tell you the value of a secondary source of income. Because the job didn't start until September, it had always remained an abstraction to me. I'd shaved perhaps twice since the job interview, and never viewed the upcoming responsibility in light of the fact that I was a wreck.
Things will have to change, I told myself. Pretty soon. Tomorrow,
Enough of the face. I left the bathroom and looked out the bedroom window expecting to see the same winter-browned hill that rose just west of my place, with a tight grove of wind-battered cottonwoods at its crest.
There was somebody out there.
I stopped. I'd never seen anyone on that hill before. I wasn't even sure who owned that land.
But there was a man standing by the cottonwoods, resting an arm against one of the old trunks. He was facing my direction, and didn't appear to have anyplace else he needed to be.
Was he looking at me? I went closer to the window and shifted my head back and forth, squinting a bit. He was looking at me. He wasn't just looking west or looking toward the house. He was looking at me. I could feel my brow furrowing, and he responded with a slight smile and a nod.
There was something about those eyes that held me. From here, I guessed they were deep brown. But that gaze you didn't see every day. It seemed to say, without words, I know you.
Who was this guy?
His hair was long and black, parted down the middle, curling down to his shoulders.
He had a beard.
I looked away, catching myself, corralling my runaway thoughts. Uh-uh, no
Travis, don't think that.
He was wearing a white robe, wasn't he? I looked again, and yes, he was. A white robe tied in the middle, open at the neck, with long sleeves that hung loosely from the arms. I couldn't see his feet because of the tall grass,
but it was a reflex, a natural step to imagine sandals. I'd been to Sunday school all my life. I'd seen the pictures.
He was still looking at me, and seemed to be enjoying how awkward I
felt staring back.
I finally shook my head and said, "No. No way."
He laughed, nodding his head yes.
I casually moved away from the window.
Then I ran to the patio door and bolted outside. Whoever this guy really was, I was going to know it within the thirty seconds or so it would take me to reach the crown of the hill. It was a gag, right? Somebody sent him to shake up the weird old former minister.
But now the breeze played across the deserted grassy slope and the cottonwoods stood stark against the sky all by themselves, just as one would expect on a warm April day. He was gone. Just like that.
On Tuesday, June 15th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Frank E. Peretti to discuss THE VISITATION.
Moderator: Good evening, Frank E. Peretti, and welcome to our Auditorium. We're so glad you could join us to chat about THE VISITATION. How are you this evening?
Frank E. Peretti: I'm great. This is a whole new experience for me, chatting on the Internet, so we'll see if I press the right keys.
Penelope from Chicago, IL: Will you be on a book tour for THE VISITATION? Can we expect to see you signing anywhere? Thanks for all the enjoyable reading. I am a huge fan.
Frank E. Peretti: Hi, Penelope. Yes, I'll be touring in August and September, coming to cities such as Nashville, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Dallas, and Spartanburg, Virginia. And thanks for all the reading!
Craig from Walpole, MA: I read somewhere that you had stated this was in some ways the most difficult book you have written so far. Why was THE VISITATION more difficult to write than your previous books?
Frank E. Peretti: Hi, Craig. What made THE VISITATION difficult was that it is such a spill-your-guts, heart-level book. I had to go through quite a bit of personal reflection and recalling and dig deep into my own heart to extract the book's various themes. That stuff can take time, and sometimes the deeper feelings and sentiments of the heart are hard to nail down and put into words.
Jenny from South Carolina: In some ways, THE VISITATION seems like a story of a spiritual coming of age. Are any elements of this story autobiographical?
Frank E. Peretti: Oh, yeah. There's a lot of biographical stuff in there, all doctored up, disguised, and fictionalized, of course, but drawn from my own life experiences.
Frank from Oklahoma City, OK: Can you tell me a little bit about your creative process? How long does it take you to write a book like THE VISITATION?
Frank E. Peretti: Hi, Frank. Well, usually I write a book in four steps: 1) Brainspilling. I just start writing down ideas, good or bad, and let those ideas lead to other ideas, and eventually a working story emerges. 2) Outlining. This is the real nuts and bolts of the writing process, laying out all the elements of the story in some kind of workable, readable order. I can spend about a year doing just this. It's the least fun job, by the way. 3) Writing the book. After sweating through steps 1 and 2, this part is the most fun. I can stop working and start playing pretend on paper. 4) Rewriting. I'm doing that all along anyway, but there's a specific time to rewrite after the editors get their hands on the manuscript. Writing a novel is a collaborative process, actually. I do the writing, of course, but I value the input from publishers and editors. And I guess I'm a slower writer than most. Usually a major novel will take me two years. THE VISITATION took three. It was a little tougher to get through.
Gail from Bucks County, PA: We had heard some years ago that THIS PRESENT DARKNESS was becoming a film. Do you have any plans to put any of your books on the big screen?
Frank E. Peretti: Hi, Gail. Well, I really have no power to make one of my books into a film, but there is a fine producer who has been trying to get THIS PRESENT DARKNESS made into a movie for several years now. I just talked to him a week or so ago, and things might be taking a turn for the better. It just might happen, God willing.
Greene from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get your start? Do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?
Frank E. Peretti: Howdy, Greene. I've wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. It's always been a part of me. My first book project, THE DOOR IN THE DRAGON'S THROAT, began as a story I told in installments at a junior high Bible camp. After I told the kids the story and it went over really well, I decided to write it as a book. When Crossway Books saw my manuscript, they decided I knew how to write, and asked to look at another project I was working on, a big manuscript I'd titled THE HEAVENLIES, which they later titled THIS PRESENT DARKNESS. To any aspiring writers, I guess I'd say, Make sure you know your stuff, get advice, and don't go into it blindly. A lot of would-be writers make a lot of avoidable mistakes because they don't know how to structure a story or submit a manuscript, for instance. Read some books, take some classes, connect with some writing groups. Just learn your way around.
Inky from Inky: Where do you come up with your book titles? Are they Biblical in origin?
Frank E. Peretti: Hi, Inky. Oh, most of the titles I make up in my head. Sometimes the marketing department at the publisher comes up with a catchy title that would help the book to sell. I think THIS PRESENT DARKNESS is the only title that is somewhat Biblical in origin.
Naomi from Vermont: From whom do you get the most religious or spiritual inspiration today?
Frank E. Peretti: Well, these days I read and listen to Ravi Zacharias quite a bit. I'm really into Christian worldview issues, you know, apologetics and defending the Christian faith, and Ravi provides some great stuff.
Sharon from Oyster Bay, NY: I read that you were also a musician before you became a writer. What music do you listen to when you write? Has your musical background influenced your writing?
Frank E. Peretti: I don't listen to any music when I write because I enjoy music, and so I get distracted and can't keep my mind on my work. I suppose my musical background has influenced my writing in terms of the people I've known in that field -- they can provide grist for certain characters -- and also the subtle aesthetics of music: the emotion, the pacing, the rhythm, that can translate into written prose. Music is emotional, and I try to carry that same emotion into my writing.
Chris from Michigan: Who designed the book jacket of your book? Are you happy with it? Do you have any say in the design? It's such a cool cover...
Frank E. Peretti: The book jackets are all designed by the marketing department at the publisher. It's their job to make the book eye-catching so that people coming into a bookstore will want to pick it up and buy it. I get a little bit of say on the cover designs, but I've never had to say much; they've always done such a great job.
Wilford Jacobson from Louisiana: I like what you said about THE VISITATION being a "spill-your-guts" kind of book. Did this make the writing process any different for you than with your past books?
Frank E. Peretti: I suppose the biggest difference would be that the past books were more "issue" driven. You know, pick a topic and write about it, be it spiritual warfare or truth or sin. THE VISITATION wasn't so much a book about what's happening "out there" as it was about what has been happening inside my own heart over the years. As such, it was a tougher book to write because I had to probe deep inside myself and try to gain at least a partial understanding of all the Lord has brought me through.
Will Brown from Charleston, SC: I couldn't put your book down after I started reading it. It was great. How does the main character parallel your own life? I know that you play the banjo as he does.
Frank E. Peretti: Hi, Will. The main character loosely parallels my own life, at least as far as his doubts and struggles. Some of his experiences are taken from my own life, but I've fictionalized most everything so that, well, the main character and I have been through a lot of the same things, but it's more like we've lived in two different places. I did make him a banjo player, though. I couldn't resist that.
Will from Charleston, SC: You have been writing in the Christian market for many years now. How has the Christian marketplace changed in that time?
Frank E. Peretti: It's gotten a lot bigger, more aggressive, and more sophisticated.
Patrick from Detroit, MI: Do you think your books can reach and be appreciated by a non-Christian audience? Do you write them with a strictly Christian audience in mind?
Frank E. Peretti: I've had lots of non-Christian readers who have appreciated my storytelling even if they have not agreed with my message. Some have become Christians after reading my books. The Darkness books were written mostly for Christian readers, but THE OATH and THE VISITATION were written for a wider market, kind of as a way to introduce non-Christians to Christian ideas -- the Gospel, in other words.
Jean from Dallas: Hi, Frank. I love your books and the way you make me visualize the ongoing battle between good and evil. It has really helped me in my Christian walk to remember God is ultimately in control. In this new book, do you see that as the main theme, the message you wanted to get across? If not, what would you want the reader to have taken away?
Frank E. Peretti: Wow. Uh, THE VISITATION carries a lot of themes that any individual can find, depending on where they are in their Christian walk. The main theme, though, is the passage from a "religion-based" life to a "relation-based" life, the process of "coming of age" as a Christian and realizing that, no matter what all the church stuff may be around you, the real issue is your own personal relationship with the Lord. The surrounding church culture can vary with time and place, but knowing Jesus is the one vital treasure you can keep as your own no matter where you are.
Scott from Florida: What was your inspiration for the spiritual battles in the Darkness books? and is the new story more along those same lines?
Frank E. Peretti: Hey, I've always loved action movies like "Star Wars," "Superman," the other superhero stuff. The spiritual battles in the Darkness books derive from my love of action, excitement, and swashbuckling adventure. THE VISITATION isn't so much in that vein; the tension of the story is more psychological than physical.
Moderator: Do you have any books you're saving up to read this summer?
Frank E. Peretti: Yep. I've got a few by Ravi Zacharias, and then there are some Christian fiction titles I need to check out just to see what the other writers are doing.
Will from Charleston, SC: Many of your stories take place around small towns. Is that because you are more familiar with those surroundings?
Frank E. Peretti: I like small towns. You can control the overall environment more easily and get to know the citizens. And yes, I come from a small-town environment, so I tend to write about small towns.
Pat from Nashville: I understand Thomas Nelson is your publisher. Is this correct? How long have you been with this publisher?
Frank E. Peretti: I actually have three publishers: Crossway Books of Wheaton, Illinois, publishes the Darkness books, PROPHET, and the first four Cooper books, plus TILLY. Word Publishing in Nashville publishes THE OATH and now, THE VISITATION. Thomas Nelson's children's branch, Tommy Nelson, publishes the last four of the Cooper series. I understand that Thomas Nelson owns Word, so in the bigger scheme of things, that would make them my publisher. It gets complicated. Oh, I've been with Crossway since around 1983, and with Word for...about five or six years.
Jen from Jersey City, NJ: Do you think of your books as a means to convey a moral? Or do you think the religious elements in them are just great tools for a supernatural thriller? I think both, but I would love to hear your take on it...
Frank E. Peretti: Jen, I try to see to it that my books always convey a moral from a Biblical, Christian perspective. The trick is to convey that moral in an exciting, entertaining way. I love a good story, and that's what I try to write.
Richard from Ft. Lauderdale, FL: How did you first get your start? It seems like a grassroots enthusiasm for your books developed and spread like wildfire. Did you do anything to set the original spark?
Frank E. Peretti: Yes, it was a wildfire, all right, but it took several years to get it going. A lot of prayer, a lot of work, and a lot of waiting.
J. P. from Boston, MA: Do you think books like yours will see a rise in popularity this year, with everyone's nagging fears about the fate of the millennium?
Frank E. Peretti: Not so much books like mine, but there are plenty of apocalyptic books out there right now that are having their heyday.
Suzanne from Atlanta, GA: Hi. All of your books are beautifully written, and I have enjoyed them all. Do you have a favorite Christian fiction author?
Frank E. Peretti: Not yet. There are so many right now I can't keep up with them all.
Deborah from Williamsburg, VA: What's in the works now, or are you planning a well-deserved break? And thanks for allowing yourself to be such a creative instrument. You have been an inspiration to so many.
Frank E. Peretti: Thank you so much for the encouragement. I'm sort of taking a break right now, working outside a lot on my place. Next project will be a new series of adventure books for kids, published by Tommy Nelson.
Carol Morse from Ardmore, OK: Of all your books, do you have your own personal favorite? Why?
Frank E. Peretti: That's kind of like asking, Which of your children do you like the best? Each book is different, and I like each one of them for its own special qualities. THIS PRESENT DARKNESS was my first novel, written with great enthusiasm amidst great struggle, so it has a special place in my heart. PIERCING THE DARKNESS is very well-organized and structured, and I've always liked that about it. THE OATH was a tight thriller, and I liked how my writing was getting more polished. THE VISITATION is, I hope, a real step forward and upward for myself as a writer and for Christian fiction in general.
Lando from Abbotsford, British Columbia: Thanks a lot for keeping the great books coming. Will you ever do something historical or futuristic in coming novels?
Frank E. Peretti: Historical might be fun. Futuristic might be, well, too conjecture-ish for me, but you never know.
Shirley from Portland, OR: Hi, Frank. I don't really have a question. I just wanted to say, Thanks for being an awesome author! I love every one of your books. The only ones I haven't read are The Cooper Family books, but in time, in time. Can't wait to get your newest. It sounds wonderful! (as usual)
Frank E. Peretti: Thank you so much, Shirley. God bless!
Will from Charleston, SC: There is popular fiction series called Left Behind out right now that deals with the Rapture. Have you considered writing a series of books like that?
Frank E. Peretti: Funny you should ask. Tim LaHaye approached me years ago, asking if I'd be interested in cowriting the series that became the Left Behind series. I turned him down because I didn't think the idea could work fictionally. Well, guess who was wrong?
Todd and Gail from Levittown, PA: We just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you for all your hard work. We saw you at a Creation festival years ago, and you are quite a character. You acted out many of your characters and did the same on your audiocassette of THIS PRESENT DARKNESS.
Frank E. Peretti: Great to hear from you!
Jeanne from Florida: Did you have a personal experience or revelation that made the spiritual plane real to you, as you depict it in your stories (especially the Darkness books)?
Frank E. Peretti: No, but I've known quite a few people who have had more direct experiences. You have to take all this stuff with a grain of salt, though, and try to stay within the boundaries of scripture. Usually I manage to do that.
Moderator: Thank you so much for joining us this evening, Frank E. Peretti. You have been a terrific guest, and we wish you all the best of luck with THE VISITATION. Before you go, do you have any closing comments for your online audience?
Frank E. Peretti: I'm really flattered and encouraged that so many of you showed up to chat. I'm sorry I couldn't get to answer all your questions. Hey, God bless all of you, and I hope to meet you face to face someday!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Awesome book, brings a mondern twist and i believe accurately depicts how a false prophet would be in these times. He does not need to study his Bible again either, for in the Bible it states that the false prophets will decieve with great wonders. In the end, Almighty God still prevailed and the battle against the enemy was won. God is in control of all things and i believe this book portrayed that very well.
Once again a book worth reading with hot chocolate and a blanket. Mr. Peretti puts wonderful color into this small town going mad on a grand scale at the appearance of what many believe to be Jesus himself.
This was the second Frank Peretti book that I read. I read The Oath first, which was incredibly good! So maybe this isn't a fair review. I was kind of disappointed with the book in comparison to The Oath, but I still read it in less than 4 days. I read both books back to back in a week. Frank Peretti has a unique writing style that clarifies how we act and think and how we sin against the Lord. This is a good book in that it shows how blind we can be to spiritual matters and how we are not perfect in discerning good from evil. It's easy to get wrapped up in what we want to see and this book clearly shows that. I thought that it got a little over the top at times, and even thought that it ended rather abruptly. This book was by no means a bad book (it couldn't be with Frank Peretti as the author), but I do have to say that it is my least favorite out of any Peretti book that I have read so far.
This is an awesome book. I have read everything Peretti has written and although it's not what I consider his best, it is none the less captivating. He has brought to life areas that we need to watch out for in our Christian walk; ie: how easy it would be to be taken in by a false prophet.
One of the most anointed books I have ever read. I have come to expect nothing less than the best from Frank Peretti. This is a suspenseful thriller that will captivate your heart and mind and minister to your soul.
This was the first Perreti book but not the last. A little craxy in parts but good. Enjoed it
I had a difficult time working & sleeping, knowing that this book was waiting for me! Mr. Peretti has done it again--writing a thought provoking tale of church politics, the demons we face, antichrists, and the loving TRUE God that we are all searching for.
Very long. And there are a ton of characters to keep up with. Plus all those flashbacks got confusing. But i love this book! Its exciting and mysterious(:
but Satan CAN heal. you have to remember, he was an ark angel, closer to God then any other angel. And he has demons working for him. 'Sorry Tom!' I'm about halfway through the book now, and I find it thrilling and Biblically acurat. The plot is thrilling and draws you right into the story. It teaches the importance of staying close to God and not being led astray. I highly recommend this book.
It's difficult to review this without giving away too much of the plot, which is based on suspense and twists, some of which are foreseeable. In general I found this to be a more mature and rounded book than some of Peretti's earlier novels. It engages fully with some of the frustrations and disappointments of those involved in full time ministry and some of the mysteries of how God answers prayer. I felt that this approach was betrayed slightly by the neatness of the resolution of the plot lines. I think that a little more ambiguity at the finale, a little more ongoing dissonance would have been more faithful to the first half of the book and to reality.
First time reading 'Christian fiction', and I thought the book was ok. A lot of the themes and plot elements have been covered with much more flair by "regular" horror authors. Two thirds of the book are spent building up atmosphere and mounting suspense, but when the finale finally rolled around I felt a little underwhelmed. It is readable, however, so I think 2.5 stars is fair...
A good read.
Frank Peretti nailed it! It's not about "religion"... It's about an intimate relationship with the Savior...the One True God who is sovereign! His Name is Jesus!
Worth the read.
This book was great. You people that do not believe the power and ability of the dark fallen angel need to wake Up! Jesus is the answer!
Looking forward to reading this book. I have read the darkness series, House, Illusion, and House. All are great reads. If you like Peretti you may also like Ted Dekker
Hate to see it end!
Totally worth your time.
Satan has power. He tries to imitate God, but only God saves. And one day He will destroy all evil. Jesus wins in the end.