Sunday, May 17, 2009

Five Dollar Bills And My First Jesus Novel

Five Dollar Bills And My First Jesus Novel
which is entitled, New Clear Days


When I was a senior in college I began to receive glimmers of a longer story about the Second Coming of Christ. After graduation I spent a year writing several hundred pages. Then I reached the point where I could go no further until I had read the Bible, and so put the draft in a drawer and opened the Bible to page one. Several hours a day and eight months later, I reached the gospels. Just about that time, on August 16, 1989, there was a lunar eclipse. As I was then working on a piece of fiction about the moon, I very much wanted to see it, and was looking forward to it for three days. The sky was hazy that night, so I mounted my bicycle and rode into the country hoping it would be clearer away from the city lights.

It was very dark, and I had gone about three miles when I hit something on the road and vaulted over the handlebars and landed face first on a large rock. I was knocked unconscious and awoke surrounded by paramedics and policemen. I had a broken bone in my shoulder, road rash on my face, and a gash on my forehead which required several sutures to close. After healing for a couple of months the scar shaped into a perfect crescent moon, about which time I had reached Revelation in my reading of the Bible. “And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.”

Filled with the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit, I was ready to revisit my Jesus novel, which I had decided to call New Clear Days. The novel is the story of a latter day prophet Jeshua, who preaches on behalf of Mother Earth and performs miracles in Nature. He is mistaken by masses to be the Second Coming of Christ, which he denies unto his death upon a cross. I worked on my book in public every day, and was asked by countless friends and strangers how I’d gotten the moon on my forehead. So much so that I began to ponder about another passage in Revelation, chapter 14: ‘And I looked: and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads…and which were redeemed from the earth.” Wouldn’t it be an extraordinary blessing, I thought, to be among those chosen one hundred forty-four thousand?

Several weeks passed and I reached a point in New Clear Days where I wanted to include a brief parable. The story required that I have one of the twelve disciples be keeping a dirty secret, so I went through the twelve and when I saw the name Andrew, recalled an old acquaintance, Andrew N, who I had known about five years before. He was a freeloading thief that had attached himself to some friends of mine. He never worked, lived at home, and on the rare occasions he had any money, it was five dollars he had gotten from one of his parents. The next day I went to The Daily Caffe and penned several pages which contained the following passage.

Without another word Jeshua began walking through the street, and most of the thousands followed. At length we came upon a beggar, who asked Jeshua for some money. He turned to us twelve, and asked us to give him all the money that we had. There were none among us with a cent, however, except for Andrew, who gave him a five dollar bill, to his own shame. Jeshua placed it in the pouch on his robe, then removed it again, handing it over to the grateful beggar. At the end of the same block another man asked Jeshua for money, and he produced another five dollar bill from his pouch. Seeing this another woman approached him, who also received five dollars.

Then he turned to the crowd and said: “For God is like a man of infinite wealth: he gives it away generously, but only to those who ask; if you will not ask, you will not receive.”

--excerpted from my novel, New Clear Days


Riding home that afternoon I had a five dollar bill in my wallet, which was my last money, and I decided to spend it on food. I was locking my bicycle near the store when Andrew N. came strolling by--I had not seen him in three years! It was an astonishing coincidence, yet only the beginning. The next afternoon I was walking downtown with one dollar in my pocket that I planned to spend on coffee so I could sit in the cafe and write. I was thinking that I would like to go out for a couple of beers that night, to unwind my mind a bit; I had no cash, but distinctly remember saying to myself: ‘Perhaps I'll find some money on the ground, since I've always had good luck in that regard.’ I meandered aimlessly for an hour before turning my tracks toward The Daily Caffe, and when I reached that destination, there on the sidewalk, before the front door, was a five dollar bill, not twenty feet from where I had sat the day before and wrote the parable.

Over the next few months, while living a remarkable stream of coincidence, including finding several more five dollar bills, I finished that draft of New Clear Days. One Tuesday night, while preparing to write the final chapter, I was seized with the urge to clean my room, and the last part of the task was to sort out my cassette tapes, which were in disarray everywhere. The very last tape in the pile was so old that I hardly recognized it. I played it, and heard a recording of myself strumming the guitar with a female singing silly lyrics in accompaniment. After several minutes I finally recognized her voice: it was Betsy Spivak, who I had dated five years before. I hadn't listened to the tape since we recorded it. Five minutes later I was in my bed praying to God with all my heart, asking Him to bring a woman into my life. I had grown lonely while writing the book, and was craving female company. My prayer was intense.

The next afternoon I was sitting in The Daily Caffe with some friends. It was a rainy May day, so the cafe was crowded, and the only free table the small one to my right. That was shortly occupied by a pretty girl, and we started chatting. Her name was Betsy Su--vik. Two days later I wrote the last page of New Clear Days in the afternoon and went on my first date with Betsy that night.

Our rapport was remarkable—she articulated it the best when she said, “Oh my God! We’re a perfect fit.” And the awesome coincidences continued occurring when we were together—I found two five dollar bills with her. But what was meant to be was also meant to not be, and when we broke up a few months later, I was devastated.

The night I knew it was over with Betsy, I went out to a couple parties and got absurdly drunk, and was in no condition to ride my bicycle three miles home. In the dead of night I wandered onto the New Haven green and plopped down against a tree. It was not the safest place to be at that hour. I had been there several minutes when I noticed the silhouette of a rather imposing black man towering over me. "Hey man! Are you all right?" he asked.

"Yeah, I just can't get home. I'm too drunk to ride my bicycle, and I have to work there at eleven." I pointed to The Greenery, a restaurant across the street.
"I knew you needed help. I could tell from a distance that you are blessed. I knew the moment I looked at you."

His name was Andre. I stood up, and we spontaneously burst into a euphoric celebration of the Lord there on the green. I felt joy like David carrying the ark into Zion. We whooped and hollered and sang Hosanna.

Then I told him the story of Betsy, and how I had prayed for her to come into my life. His face suddenly dropped. He shook his head and yelled: "You did what? You prayed for a woman? A woman? A WOMAN! Man! I am disappointed with you! You asked God to bring you a woman; I cannot believe you did that."

"But--"

"You don't pray for women, they come and go like the wind. When you pray, YOU PRAY FOR WISDOM! I don't believe you used your gift to get a woman. A woman! Don't look at me like that, you sit quiet and listen. You are here to seek understanding, and when you pray to God you ask for wisdom. Everything on earth comes when it comes, but wisdom comes only of the Lord!"

I was humiliated by his chide, but all the wiser. At length he asked me about my bike. I pointed out where it was locked to the fence that surrounded the green. “Believe it or not, that’s my car right next to it,” he said. “Come on, let’s go.” He put my bike in his trunk and drove me home.

When I awoke in my bed, I thanked God with all my heart for conveying me there. My own bed had never felt so comfortable, and I was in continuous disbelief to be lying in it. I reached the restaurant on time, and when I collected the money from my first table, I glanced down and saw GOD LOVES YOU written on the top bill.

The following evening, Sunday, I was sitting at my desk, staring blankly at my typewriter, pens, pages and books, none of which I touched. At length, and suddenly, I grabbed a Bible, and opened it at random to Proverbs 9. ‘WISDOM hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars; she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table...’ The entire chapter is essentially a psalm about wisdom, and the most striking verse was number 8, which described Andre and me: ‘Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man and he will love thee.’ I closed and randomly opened the Bible a second time, to 1 Kings 10:6-7: ‘And she (the Queen of Sheba) said to the king (Solomon), It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.’

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