The Crooked Path

Chapter Three
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…
~Jeremiah 29:11a

As David awoke to the sound of his rooster crowing outside, he rolled over in his bed and looked at his clock to see it was 5:30 am. He wasn’t quite as fast getting out of bed because he couldn’t seem to shake the burden God had given him for Ruthie Cox. He had prayed deep into the night hours until his heart broke for the girl, and what he felt was complete darkness. He couldn’t understand why God placed such a big burden on his heart for the young lady but knew he couldn’t ignore the still small voice of God. He learned long ago when God called him to pray for another, it had to be taken seriously. He sometimes wondered if he or someone else had prayed a little longer and harder for his Sadie, she would be alive today. He felt a prick in his heart every time he thought about the possibility of still being able to hold her in his arms.
He forced himself to get out of bed and go freshen up, so he could get his day started. He had planned to go into town to pick up a few supplies, but before he did, he wanted to eat his breakfast and spend time with Jesus. After he freshened up, he made his way into his kitchen and cooked himself a bowl of oats with raisins and brown sugar. Once he finished eating his breakfast, he picked up his old tattered Bible and made his way to the front porch where he would spend time reading and talking to his Master. After he prayed, the image of Esther came into his mind, and God spoke to him, “My son, pray for my servant, for her heart is about to be shattered!” He fell on his knees and began to pray in a way he had not prayed for some time; it was a deeper prayer than what he prayed for Ruthie. Yes, God allowed David to feel a small piece of the pain that Esther was about to face. For a very brief moment, he wondered why he had not thought to pray for her while he was praying for Ruthie. He set for sometime on his front porch, and allowed his heart to go into forbidden places. The image of Esther with her light brown hair and her big blue eyes filled his soul, and he began to feel emotions he had not felt since he lost his Sadie. Maybe the feeling he felt for Esther was not quite as strong as what he felt for Sadie, but he knew if he allowed the walls around his heart to come down, he could easily fall for her. Sweet lovely, holy, woman of the cloth, Esther Cox, and the very thought of her being a woman of the cloth felt like cold water thrown in his face. He knew that some people were anointed and marked by God for a divine holy purpose. And then God spoke ever so tenderly and said, “My son, you are anointed and marked by me for a holy divine purpose.” All he could do was cry for the next few moments, until finally, he stood up and set out to do his morning chores before going into town.
He worked hard to finish his tasks before noon, so he could go to Anne’s Café for lunch. Anne was a middle-aged woman in town, and she ran the café for more years than he could remember. Her husband, Ted, died in an awful car accident years ago, and Anne worked hard to keep the café running as if good ol’ Ted was still alive. He felt obligated to go by and pay her a visit a couple of times each week. He guessed it was because they both shared in grieving over the loss of a love one, and no one knows like someone who has been down that dark lonely valley. Come to think of it, Esther has been down that lonely valley, he thought.
David was thankful that his workload was rather light today because he wasn’t much in the mood for hard work. As he milked his old cow, Betsy, he sang some of his favorite hymns and felt God’s peace. “Can you feel God with us too, Betsy?” He loved talking to his farm animals; fact is, for the longest time they have been his only companions. As he began to think about having someone besides his farm animals to talk to, he began to feel warmth in his heart. Truth be known, he was a very lonely man, but right now, he wasn’t ready to share his heart with anyone except Jesus. Yes, for now, that is. . .but just maybe, someday that could change.
He needed to go collect the eggs from the hen house before he completed his morning chores. Then he went back into his farmhouse to wash up before going into town. As he looked at his self in the mirror, he couldn’t help but think he wasn’t that bad looking of a man for forty years of age. He maybe had a little gray around his temple and a few lines around his brown eyes, but he could still see some youth in himself. He stayed fit from working on his farm, and he tried to help out in the community as often as he could. All of a sudden, the image of Esther’s beautiful face flashed through his mind, and he shook his head trying to get her image out of his mind. Lord, forgive me for thinking such thoughts,” he prayed and put on a fresh clean shirt along with a little cologne just in case.
He hopped into his old ford truck, placed a basket of fresh eggs up front with him, and headed for Esther’s house. He hoped she wouldn’t catch him leaving the eggs on her front porch. As he headed for the big town of Williamsville, he had one secret thought in his heart—an attractive looking woman by the name of Esther Cox.

After Esther and Ruthie completed their breakfast, Ruthie set off to school, and
Esther planned to pick up a few items in town. She sat for a few moments reflecting back on the change in Ruthie and remembered the darkness she felt last night as she prayed for her daughter. A chill ran down her spine as she thought of possibly losing her daughter. She knew that Ruthie would be graduating from high school in just a short while. But she had high hopes that her daughter would continue to live with her for a few more years. After all, Ruthie was all she had. Yes, she had Aunt Minnie and her church family, but Ruthie was her only child, and she was her only connection to Samuel. Tears began to well up in her eyes once again as she thought of her beloved Sammy, and she whispered a short prayer, “Lord, will it ever get easier? And, God, please don’t let me lose my baby girl. I don’t believe I could handle it,” she heard nothing from God, not even a hint that everything would work out, nothing but complete silence. “I have got to trust God and pull myself together. After all, I’m a pastor,” she whispered.
She went into the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror and could see that her eyes looked puffy from crying an ocean of tears. The closer she looked, the more she could see the dark circles under her eyes, but she thought she still looked youthful. God had given her a natural beauty with healthy ivory skin for which she was very thankful. She had just recently turned thirty-seven, and realized she still received a lot of looks from gentlemen in the community, but she had a wall around her heart as high as the heavens. No, Esther was absolutely sure that wall would never come down because she had loved only one man in her life and could not foresee giving her heart to another, not in this life time. Jesus owned her heart. Period.
After she freshened up, she made a shopping list before she left for town. She was grateful she lived only walking distance from town and church since she didn’t have her own transportation. She glanced at herself one last time in the mirror and made sure the stove and coffee pot were turned off before leaving. As she stepped outside, she felt the cool breeze blow across her face, and she began to feel revived. It was a little cooler than yesterday morning, but not too cold with the sun shining. Esther stepped across the front porch, and she noticed a basket of fresh farm eggs. How kind that one of our church members left us fresh eggs, she thought. This was one of the many benefits of preaching in a small country church. All of the church members treated her and Ruthie with such love and hospitality. Well almost everyone, she thought as Mike Falcon’s face flashed in her mind.
No doubt Esther would run into many people whom she knew, which was one of the nice advantages of living in a small town. She began to feel God’s Spirit with her as she walked along humming “Amazing Grace”, and He spoke to her softly, “My daughter, I know the thoughts I think toward you. . .”

David planned to go to Bill’s Feed and Seed first to pick up a few cages for his tomato plants. He then went to the Hardware store in hopes to buy some new saw blades for his old saw. He was thankful to see Silas at work when he arrived at the store. Silas recently hired a young man that would be graduating this year from high school by the name of Ricky, who knew very little about the old store. Not that David needed a lot of help, because he knew his tools very well, but he did enjoy talking to someone who knew the hardware business.
Silas noticed David right away, “Good mornin’ David, how are you doin’ these days? I haven’t seen you around the ol’ store for a week or two.”
“I’m doin’ mighty fine Silas . . . just been plantin’ the fields. A person can get busy this time of the year on a farm.”
Silas gave David a friendly smile and said, “What can I do for you today?”
David looked down for a bit and looked up and said, “Awe, I broke my saw blade cutting away some old limbs from my oak tree the other mornin’ and was hopin’ you might have some in stock.”
Silas was quick to come from behind the front counter and walk over to aisle three. Just as David turned to follow Silas, he saw Mike Falcon walking into the store. David felt a cold chill run down his spine as he made eye contact with Mike. There was something about that man that made him feel uneasy.
Silas was quick to notice Mike and said, “Good mornin’ Mr. Falcon, I’ll be right with ya.”
Mike grumbled under his breath and said, “Yah, yah, just hurry every chance ya get, I ain’t got all day.”
Silas ignored Mike’s rudeness and continued helping David. David noticed that Silas wasn’t on first name bases with Mike and thought that to be rather strange with Williamsville being such a close knit town.
“Here we are, I think this is just what you’re lookin’ for David.”
“I do believe you’re right. This should work great, and hopeful, it will last me as long as my old blade.”
Silas winked at David and commented, “I’m sure it will as long as you don’t go cuttin’ down too many oak limbs. Come on up front David, and I’ll check you out. Not unless there’s somethin’ else you need before leavin’.”
“Naw Silas, I think that should do it . . . thanks for your help.”
As David made his way to the front, Mike Falcon stepped directly in front of him and stared a whole through him and said, “Let me ask you somethin’ good ol boy, what do you think of that lady preacher we have a preachin’ for us?”
David stared in the eyes of Mike and could see the coldness—a coldness that penetrated straight into his soul. It made David want to get as far away from him as he could. He wasn’t quick to answer because he could definitely smell trouble. He spoke with a hint of firmness, “I think she is one of best preachers I ever heard preach, and she sure preached a good message Sunday.”
Mike looked at him with a look of defiance and said, “Are you just a sayin’ that because you’re sweet on her?”
David felt his face turning red and thought a few things he was sure God wouldn’t be pleased with, but looked in Mike’s eyes and spoke with boldness, “I’m sayin’ that because she is a true woman of God who happens to be highly anointed by God’s Spirit. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way!”
“Well e-x-c-u-s-e me, Fisher, I didn’t realize our little preacher lady was such a touchy subject for you,” Mike said with a wicked laugh that David found to be degrading. David could not get out of the hardware store fast enough, and he left with one thought on his mind—trouble! He took the saw blade to his truck and then started to walk over to the General Store to pick up a few items. He noticed that he was low on coffee and some personal items. As he approached the store, he noticed Sister Blue standing in front of the store in deep conversation with someone. However, he couldn’t quite tell whom she was speaking with. When he got a little closer, he realized that it was Esther. He felt his heart flutter as he briefly made eye contact with her, and he hoped she didn’t notice his face turning slightly pink. He felt almost like a giddy schoolboy with a crush on a young girl. What was happening with him? This is crazy, David thought before he looked up and realized he was about to walk right smack into Esther!
Ohhhh, If only the ground would open up and swallow me, Esther thought, as she fell into the arms of David Fisher! She wasn’t quite sure how it all happened. She only knew that one minute, she was walking away from Sister Blue to go into the store. The next, she was in the arms of a tall dark-haired man who had eyes that reminded her of Samuel’s.
David knew his face had turned every shade of red and maybe even a shade of blue from holding his breath. Because as Esther fell on him, landed on him, or whatever you want to call it, he put his arms around her rather shapely waist, so she wouldn’t fall flat on her face. She looked up at him with her big blue eyes, and he felt the walls around his heart come down just a fraction, and he said, “I’m sooo sorry Reverend Cox . . .” As soon as “reverend” came out of his mouth, he felt the walls around his heart go back up even higher than the tallest building in the United States. The Empire State Building, (At least he thought the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the United States.) Esther looked rather bewildered, and she immediately took a quick look around, only to see Mike Falcon walking straight toward them.
Mike’s eyes locked for a fraction of a second with hers, and he thought, Well, well, look at our preacher lady and Mr. Fisher. I always knew those two had somethin’ secretly goin’ on, and look at them in broad daylight. Lord have mercy. . . I think my plan for gettin’ this woman out of the pulpit is about to take shape.
Esther jumped back as far as she possibly could and spoke as loud as she could, hoping Mike Falcon would hear, “Excuse me Brother Fisher, I didn’t realize you were in front of me.”
David was lost for words as he replied, “Huh, oh no, no, it was my fault . . . I should have been prayin’, or I mean payin’ closer attention . . . please forgive me, Reverend.”
She looked in his eyes for a brief moment and felt her heart skip a beat. She shook her head to dismiss the ungodly thoughts, and said, “Have a good day Brother Fisher…”
She turned to go into the store and then remembered Sister Blue standing on the walkway looking from her to Brother Fisher. She quickly spoke, “Oh, Sister Blue, I’m so sorry, but I must be going. God bless you and have a good day.” She then opened the door to the store and practically ran inside. Sister Blue looked at David with a spark in her eyes and said, “Good day, David, and it’s nice to see you.” She then walked away with a big smile on her face. David stood alone looking like a complete idiot as Mike Falcon came walking toward him with a smirk on his face.
“Seems you and I keep runnin’ into each other today,” Mike said in a rather arrogant way, “Oh sorry, did I use the wrong wordin’ when I said runnin’ into each other? Seems to be your thing today—runnin’ into people that is.” Mike laughed out loud.
Davis wanted to hit him but instead said, “Good day, Mr. Falcon.” He walked away thinking, Going to the store could wait. Instead, he headed toward Anne’s Café, thinking lunch sounded real nice.
As soon as Esther entered the store, she caught her breath and quickly replayed the whole incident that just happened and came to one conclusion—not good! She said a quick prayer that the Lord would work it out, and then she heard her name from across the store.
“Essie, Essie, over here.” It had to be Aunt Minnie because she was the only one who called her Essie. As Esther walked toward her aunt Minnie, she tried her best to clear her thoughts because she knew Aunt Minnie was a very perceptive woman. Aunt Minnie looked at Esther with worried eyes, and whispered, “Why dear, you look white as a sheet! Are you okay?”
“Yes, Aunt Minnie, just a little weary.”
Aunt Minnie pulled Esther into a hug and said, “I know dear, it’s Ruthie, isn’t it? I have been so worried about that child.”
“No need to fret, the good Lord is in control.” Esther felt a little doubt in her heart even as she spoke the words. Aunt Minnie looked at Esther with her tender eyes and clicked her tongue, “Now Essie, you know as well as I do that there’s something to worry about. Why the child has taken on a different personality, and I’m afraid she is about to do something very seriously wrong. Like making a poor decision, or go in a wrong direction, or possibly . . .” Aunt Minnie went on and on until Esther put her hand gently to her mouth.
“Now, Aunt Minnie, we must be still and know the battle is not ours, but the Lords.” Esther could feel her eyes cloud with tears even as she spoke the words, and she knew once again, Aunt Minnie saw right through her.
“Come, dear sweet Essie, shall we go have lunch together and come back here to shop afterwards?” Esther followed Aunt Minnie like a child in need of words of wisdom and a motherly touch, and off the two went to Anne’s Café.
As soon as Esther walked into the café, she knew that this was a very bad idea. Because the first person she saw was David Fisher, and their eyes locked for what seemed to be eternity.
David looked at Esther for a bit and thought; she has to be one of the most beautiful women in the State of Missouri. He heard the still small voice of God say, “My son, I know the thoughts I think toward you.”

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