Nomish is thirteen summers old, the same as Hadlay. However, this is a quirk in the way Turrans count a person's age. It's not how many years you've lived, it's how many summers you've seen.  The first summer solstice after your birth is your first summer.  Nomish was actually born ten or eleven months before his sister Alila, but both of them saw their first summer on the same day. Hadlay is somewhere between Nomish and Alila on the calendar.

Anyway, Nomish is tall, thin, and has red hair and green eyes. His coloring is unusual for a Ramash—the more typical Ramash has blond or light brown hair and fair skin, blue or gray eyes.  He attributes this to an Oresed ancestor, who had a very secret love affair with a Ramash servant.

When I try to picture him, it's along the lines of Fred or George Weasley. Give him redder hair, green eyes and put him in a Babylonian costume and there you have it :

Strengths and weaknesses

Nomish is really, really smart.  The problem is, he thinks knowledge is the solution to every problem.

Quirk (if any)

Like a lot of boys, Nomish is a bottomless pit when it comes to food. He can eat and eat and eat and still be hungry a little while later.

Inspiration for the character

I wanted a foil for Hadlay, who is also very intelligent, but tends to act impulsively before she thinks. I also wanted her to have someone she could rely on to anchor her.  Nomish developed as a character as I wrote the story, depending on what Hadlay needed.

Background to the story

The one bit of background that is really important is that it's always been assumed that Nomish and Hadlay would eventually be married.  It was more of a default sort of thing; because their families were friends, they were thrown together a lot, and each of them has baggage that makes them not the greatest match in a culture where people try to marry "up." Nomish has the unfortunate heritage, and Hadlay's dad was once a slave. So it was assumed in part because they would just sort of default to each other.  All that aside, Nomish came to love Hadlay some years ago, so for him it's a love match as well.

Gird your loins. This is about to get harsh.

My cousin emailed this link to me this morning.  After reading the article, I was upset. Not with the government officials the writer was complaining about, though.  I was upset with the writer as well as several of the people who commented. Let me explain why:

First, call it a church service or a Bible study, there is still a reason for zoning laws.  There's a reason why cities set a limit to how many people can gather in some buildings. It's a matter of public safety and consideration for the neighbors. What happens if there's a fire--can all 50 people get out of a single family residence quickly enough?  What about sanitation?  50 people in a house with only one or two bathrooms can be a problem.  Where are the neighbors supposed to park if these people have taken over the whole street?  How's the mom next door supposed to get her kids down for a nap if these Christians are singing exuberant worship songs in the back yard or letting their own kids engage in noisy play while they have their study?  It's one thing to have a big family get-together now and then.  It's quite another to disrupt the entire neighborhood every week.  The neighbors must've complained for a reason, and I sincerely doubt it's just because they are "out to get" Christians.

If these Christian people REALLY studied their bibles, they might be more concerned about obeying the law (maybe they just haven't gotten as far as I Peter 2 yet), and treating their neighbors as they would like to be treated.

Nobody's violating their First Amendment rights, either.  These government agencies aren't establishing a religion or preventing anyone from worshiping the God they believe in, according to the precepts of their particular faith group. These people are just being asked to move their meetings to locations that are more suitable for large, regular gatherings. Nobody is telling Santeria followers that they can't worship according to the tenets of their faith. But the government does require that they keep ritual animal sacrifices to places that are suitable for the purpose and that they dispose of the remains according to laws of sanitation that every butcher is required to observe.  Nobody's telling Wiccans they can't take off their clothes at some of their meetings. Just not in a public park, thank you. Likewise, these Christians are being asked to follow certain reasonable laws. 

Giacomo (the writer) suggests that they're being persecuted.  Maybe he should go visit a church in Saudi Arabia or Darfur.  Maybe then he'd know the difference between asking religious groups to adhere to the same reasonable laws everyone else has to follow, and actual persecution.

I'm a Christian and I'm a fierce defender of the First Amendment, not just for my faith but for all faiths. But I'm also a fierce defender of the safety and rights of the people involved and those affected.  Moreover, I'm also a government worker, and I work with nonprofits, including religious organizations.  I've been on the receiving end of this kind of witch hunt.  At one point my office ran afoul of some churches because, on the advice of the Attorney General's office, we interpreted some statutes differently than they thought we should. The churches approached their legislators and got the statutes changed to clarify the issues (they initially tried to get us all laid off, but that sort of backfired).  Meanwhile we had to deal with incredibly vitriolic letters from taxpayers—one woman wrote the governor and called my boss a "handmaiden of the devil!" One newspaper's religion writer wrote an editorial calling us a bunch of "jack-booted Nazi's."  One church actually filed a lawsuit against one of my coworkers personally over a ruling that didn't go their way.  Ironically, that coworker was Dorothea, the womanI mentioned earlier who is such a superb witness for the faith. She earned my undying admiration by taking all this in stride, peacefully, without anger or vitriol. The suit was quickly dismissed, but her maturity still impresses me.

But while Dorothea was strong in her faith, the spiritual impact on the rest of us was far more devastating.  I was saved when I was about eleven, but during my college years I had slipped away a bit, and was living a worldly life when all this was going on, and for a long time after I wanted nothing to do with Christians or churches.  Thanks to Dorothea and others like her, I've since moved closer to the Lord, but to this day I'm still uncomfortable in some religious groups because of this kind of attitude (if you don't agree with me, you're an instrument of Satan).  One of my former pastors called it "sheep bite," and said that kind of bite could do much more lasting harm than the bites of wolves or snakes.  So I really want to talk to this Giacomo and tell him that if he thinks he's promoting the faith, he's dead wrong.

Mohandas Gandhi once said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."  Think hard about what he said and why he said it.  What happened in the above story is a much "lighter" version of Gandhi's experience, but it boils down to the same incredible arrogance and ignorant hostility towards anyone who isn't lockstep in sync with "us," whoever "we" are.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I titled this entry "Witness for the Prosecution," it's because the name "Satan" means "Prosecutor" or "Accuser." I very much fear that the witness we see from many Christians is more of a witness for the other guy.

The next few days developed a rather alarming cycle. Seems Jaws had—has a wife, and she knew where he spent his days.  So a nice police detective named Reynolds came by, and after talking to a few of my coworkers, she learned that I was probably the last person to see Jaws that day.  I tried to act nonchalant as I answered her questions, but before long itwas obvious that Inspector Reynolds has zeroed in on me as a "person of interest."

"Why don't you come in to the station and give a formal statement?" she worded it like an invitation but her tone of voice said that if I didn't accept, I was still going to go to the station, only I'd be riding in the back seat of the car. 

"Sure," I said.  "Just let me get my tote…"

It was an act of sheer desperation. I mean, how am I going to explain what really happened? It seemed preferable to "vanish" Inspector Reynolds, too, until I can come up with a way to bring everyone back. 

Of course, Reynolds had told her partner where she was going, so…

I really have to find a way to fix this before someone decides I'm a serial murderer. I head for the library, hoping to find information—a book, anything that might help. The thing is, put me in a roomful of books, and I'm instantly distracted. I could be there looking for the way to put out a fire currently devouring my kitchen, and the next thing you know, I'll be flipping pages in Josephus, pondering Herod the Great's cause of death
. (Trust me, you don't want to know.  Really.) 

Anyway, after a few hours of vague meandering, I remember my purpose and decide to enlist the aid of a librarian.  I'm standing at the desk, waiting, and it takes me a sec to realize the woman standing across the counter is the librarian.

She's about six feet tall, fashion-model thin, and her complexion and hair kind of remind me of Roy Orbison—but on her it somehow looks legit.  She's wearing ink-black lipstick and thick black eyeliner and shadow.  She's wearing the little black dress people always talk about, the one that covers all the more important bits, but they don't call it "lit
tle" without reason.  The cute little badge pinned to her cute little bosom says, "Hi, I'm Linda!" and has all kinds of pastel flowers, hearts, and smilies. Heart and flower-shaped smilies.  Linda is a study in contrasts.

"Can I help you?"

The writer nudge in me wonders how come a librarian doesn't see the problem with that question, but I keep focused on the task at hand. I clear my throat.  "I'd, uh, ok, well, I have this neighbor who vanished the other day… I need to know how to get her back."

Linda nods, and her long fingers made longer by (you guessed it) black, two-inch nails that I think might be real, somehow manage to type an accurate query on the keyboard. I know it's accurate because her startling hazel eyes crinkle with a merry confidence.

"Right this way."

When she comes out from behind the counter, I see she's wearing black, patent leather,
five-inch stilettos with lovely decorative chains. I try not to gawp at them as I follow her.  Seriously, how did this woman choose "librarian" as her life's profession? 

She takes me to a small section of books. The first title she pulls is, Hide and Seek: The Skip Tracer's Guide. After taking a second to scan the forward and discover what "skip tracing" is, I shake my head.

"That's not quite what I had in mind.  This neighbor…" I take a deep breath. "… She literally vanished.   One minute she's there, then I toss a skirt over her head, and she's gone. Whoosh."  I can't tell you exactly why I said "whoosh."  There wasn't any sound. But it seems like the word to use.

Linda stares, glares, then pokers up on me. It's a little like watching Gary Oldman act, the way her whole physical demeanor changes.  She even seems a little shorter, and those black lips are nowhere in evidence. She strides (I try not to be astonished that she can stride in six inch stilettos) to a new section, and from the titles she offers, we're into "ghost hunter" territory. 

Next stop, Bermuda Triangle (By this time I am a little disheartened. Nobody who vanished there has ever returned, and I wonder if this bodes ill for my own efforts).

Then comes the Bible, specifically treatises on the Rapture. 

"Yeah," I say, "That's sort of what happened. But how do I bring my people home?" In the context of the latest set of books, I'm envisioning myself a little like Moses.  One Red Sea to go…

A scant hour later, I'm home, shuffling around my kitchen and muttering about librarians who have no imagination. I expertly line up a row of cat dishes and measure food into them (one kind of food per cat, thank you very much). Then, as they snarf their food down, I wander up to my room and change into my jammies. My laptop sits on my bed, with pretty pastel bubbles floating across the screen. I must've forgotten to turn it off after checking email this morning. 

I hit Start, then "Shut down" just as I think of trying the Internet. At least Google doesn't call security on you when you ask weird questions. 

I flop down on my bed, start up again and arrange pillows behind my back while I'm waiting for the boot-up. Then I go online.  It turns out that, despite her obvious lack of enthusiasm by the end of our time together, Linda didn't miss a trick.

I'm up against the wall, and honestly I don't know what else to do. It occurs to me that I should pray.  I know, stupid me.  It's like God's the last resort, when he should be the first. What can I say? I'm a slow learner.

"Lord," I say, "I know that it was mean of me to toss my skirt over all those people. This is all my fault. But I really need you to fix things. I mean, you're good at getting us out of the messes we make, right? Isn't that what Jesus was all about?  Anyway, please help!"  Not exactly the most spiritual prayer, but under the circumstances, it's all I've got. 

At some point after that I must've dropped off to sleep.

"What the---" The voice, booming in my bedroom, startles me awake.  My heart slams in my throat as I lurch out of bed. My laptop, which was still perched on my thighs, crashes to the floor. I'm not used to hearing big, booming voices in my bedroom. 

Neither is Zee. He's crouched in a corner, with the hair along his spine raised to a Mohawk-like ridge, and his ears laid back. The growls rumbling from his throat make my hackles stand up. Zee can be impressive when he wants to be.

Meezer, on the other hand, is winding around my legs, begging for breakfast.

And through the lifting fog in my head, I register that there's a mob in my bedroom. Winnie, Jaws, Clyde, Reynolds, her partner, all of them are standing here, staring at me as I struggle to form a coherent thought.  That's no mean feat for me at 5 am.

"What the—" the voice said again. It belongs to Reynolds' partner.  He's staring at me in my jammies. "What are we doing here?" A murmur from the others suggests they'd like to know as well.

Even if I were wide awake, I doubt I could come up with an explanation that could possibly make sense of it, so I just shrug and say, "Follow me."  I lead the parade to my front door, open it, and surprisingly, they file out without a word. Even Winnie has nothing to say. She just blinks as she passes me.


I half expect the detectives to come back at some point, looking to arrest me for assaulting them with a deadly skirt. But when I don't see them for a few days, I decide that they probably won't. I mean, how would it sound to a judge? "Your honor, this woman tossed a wrinkly old skirt over my head, and the next thing I know I have this bubbly all-over feeling and I'm standing in her bedroom…"

Extra! Extra! Kregel just posted Chapter 4 of The Mirror of N'de to the free download site.  Keep reading here.
If I could only pick one book I read this year to share with a friend, The Mirror of N’de would be it. I can’t begin to tell you how incredible this book is. The heroes in this story are young teens, but don’t write this off as just another young adult read. L. K. Malone has created a vivid and powerful story that will resonate within the heart of anyone who reads it.

-Charlene at Quintessentially Quilly

"Hadlay struggled to her feet, her knees still shaking from the pain.  She stumbled to the basin and plunged her hands into the water, savoring the coolness.  Then, feeling as though she might still be watched, she knotted her sash and plaited her hair…."

Want to know what happened to Hadlay?  Read about it in The Mirror of N'de.
I posted a couple days ago about three people in my life who've had a big influence.  Would you take a minute or two and tell me who was your biggest witness, and what it was they did that really touched you?

Who was the greatest Christian witness in your life, and why?

My mom is a strong Christian and a gifted leader/mentor of younger women, so of course she's a huge influence, and I've seen her day-to-day walk with the Lord through some terribly difficult times. She's always done her best to be a listener, an encourager, and a prayer, even when her own life is painful or difficult.  Until recently she led her women's Bible study, and I can't say how many times women from her church have approached me to tell me the difference she's made in their lives.   She's probably done the most to establish the foundations of my own faith.

And my first pastor, Chap Cranmer, impacted my life as well, just by the way he treated people.  I remember him as a quiet--very quiet--presence in my life, a gentle, patient man of very few words.  He used to say, "Preach the Gospel all the time. Use words when you must."  Most folks who knew him would say he followed his own counsel.

I was very young when I knew Chap and I've always been a talker, so I didn't fully understand what he said until I met Dorothea, a former coworker I came to greatly respect.  She was raised by missionaries in China, so she had been a Christian for more than 30 years when I met her. In all the years I've known her, I don't remember her ever bringing Jesus up in conversation unless the other person mentioned him first.  I've known Christians who would say this isn't right.

But Dorothea doesn't have to talk about the Lord. He shows in the way she lives.  Everyone in the office knew she was a believer by the way she acted. It shows itself in the way she treats  people, the way she behaves, the daily choices that she makes.  I couldn't tell you exactly what it is that marks her. I know people who don't swear who aren't Christian. I know people who are kind who aren't Christian.  Somehow it's clear, though, that the way Dorothea lives comes from her walk with the Lord.  Her message is far more persuasive and eloquent than the many words I've tossed into the wind.

I'd like to be more like Dorothea and Chap.  It's good and well to talk about your love of the Lord. But the people in my life who rarely said a word but lived it were much more persuasive.
The emperor is very tall and slender, and very, very handsome.  His skin glows in the sunlight, so bright that some think he might light a darkened room simply by entering.  His silvery white hair has nothing to do with his age. His deep and musical voice mesmerizes those who listen, and his movements are so graceful he seems to be dancing. His skin glows like an opal in all the many colors, and he wears robes of gold with accents in the shades of all the gemstones. His hands flash with huge, expensive rings and he always wears the regalia of his office; diadems, turbans and crowns, so encrusted with gems and precious metals that it takes several human courtiers to lift them. 

It's hard to find a picture that really fits what I envisioned, but imagine Viggo here with white hair and beard, glowing skin and amber eyes, and lots and lots of bling. And stretch him out, so he's like seven feet taller. 

Strengths and weaknesses

The emperor is a powerful wizard. He can make anything happen with just a word.  As for weaknesses, well, no one knows of any.

Inspiration for the character.

The Bible, the Book of Enoch, and a runaway imagination. 

Thank you to everyone who downloaded The Mirror of N'de for free last week!  I hope you enjoy it! Your comments and reviews are welcome here!  And if you missed out on the free Kindle book, Kregel's got your back.  They just added two and three to the download that we started at the end of May.  Click the hook to read it!!
Hooked yet?  Download the rest.  Still super affordable on Amazon Kindle!

(And if you see Bonobos, let him know I borrowed his hand!)