The Fallen King

I wake in a sweat from the same horrible dream, trying to sift terror from reality.

My friend lies bloody and still. His woman wails over her dying child. And… there is more, but I cannot say it. I push the scene away, but it plays over and over, a fresh nightmare each time I open my eyes.

The dream begins in springtime.

Not far away, there is war and death, but I am safe at home. I wander to the roof and lean against the parapet, its warm walls soaked in the afternoon sun. A gentle breeze carries the scent of new life, rising from the valley below. Here and there, wildflowers paint little bursts of color on the ground.

It is a safe place. A quiet place. But here the arrow found me, and I fell.

My eyes meandered across the cheerful, unruly maze of courts and streets and houses, and then to my undoing. A movement, a color, a shape, the gleam of water on skin. She was hidden from others, but not from me, the King. I saw her from my place, so high above. And I watched.

It seemed a safe place, but the deadly arrow was me, and how far I have fallen.

I used my high place to spy and then steal and then kill and then hide. God made me their shepherd, but I have torn the sheep.

I wake in a sweat and my sin is ever before me. I am King over nations, but how I long for the dangerous years when God was my hiding place, when my hands were empty but clean.

“Have mercy, O God, because of your great love! All this evil I have done, but please don’t throw me from your presence. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me!”

Well, the wailing woman whom I stole from my murdered friend clutches a dead child to her heart, and I wonder if we are forever cursed.

And that is the question, isn’t it? This good God who hates evil… How can he live with such as us? I have broken every law and humiliated the nation. I have no sacrifice to offer but this broken, humiliated heart.

“For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.”

I comfort my stolen wife and a year later, another son is born. I watch in wonder as she embraces the child, tears of joy running down her face. Then I cringe as a servant appears, whispering that Nathan, the prophet, has arrived with a message.

Nathan, the fearless critic who exposed my cover-up. Nathan, who announced that our first son would die.

I slip from the room, remembering my many tears. Does God forgive? Really forgive? Are we forever cursed by the things we have done?

Nathan walks confidently toward my throne as I study the floor, dreading what I am about to hear. He stops a few feet away and waits for me to meet his eye.

“The Lord has sent me to tell you the child’s name,” he says, and his face softens. “He is to be called ‘Jedidiah’, for he is loved by God”.

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This story is a dramatization of events recorded in 2 Samuel 11 – 12. (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+11-12&version=NIV)

Jedidiah, also known as Solomon, became the third king of Israel, succeeding his father, David.

Jesus, born one thousand years later, was also a descendant of King David’s marriage with Bathsheba.

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.”
-Psalm 51:17 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+51&version=NIV)

“You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”
-Nehemiah 9:17

As If He Knew

I touch his face, and the white cloth comes back red.

I saw him last on Sunday; the whole city saw him – the quiet eye at the center of a storm. The crowds thundered, and the ground shook with their celebration, but even then, I saw a quiet sadness in his face, as if he knew…

Well, the crowds are gone, though their shouts still ring in my ears. I see their faces – the rich and poor, distorted first by joy and then rage in this week of madness. And now, there is only silence.

I lean over him in the dim room, bend to untangle thorns from his hair, and my lungs fill with the sweet, musky scent of perfume – a strange tang of beauty among all this ruin. My friend returns with fresh water, and we begin again, our fine clothes now spattered, our soft hands stained with his blood.

I shouted, too, that day. I had been watching him for months, amazed, and could not help feeling that, against all odds, things had finally come right. That all our misery had been swallowed up into something larger – something we heard was coming but had lost the power to believe.

Well, tears running down my face, I finally believed. I shouted alongside the rich and the poor, my face hijacked by a joy I could not contain.

But it had been wrong after all, and here we are.

He looks ten years older than yesterday, withered and wrung. His hands frozen in a cramp of agony, flesh torn from his back. The five gaping holes where life drained out.

I watched it all. I made myself watch – the gut-wrenching cruelty, the pain flashing across his face. But somehow, they did not win. He did not break. He did not even seem surprised. Every humiliation and misery their mean little minds could think of. Every dirty little insult our own people could spit at him… He took it all and gasped, “Forgive them.”

When it was finally over, I hurried to the governor’s mansion, no longer caring what the other rulers would think. Pilate gave me an evil look and snarled, “So, you’re one of them. Well, you got your wish. Now, what do you want?” His face changed when I told him.

I took his written order to the centurion at the cross. He looked up to the body, then back at me.

“You were his friend?” he asked, with a strange expression.

“Yes,” I stammered, thinking how little I deserved that title.

He called for a ladder and helped me take him from the cross, staring for a moment into Jesus’ face and lowering him to me with surprising tenderness.

It struck me again how Jesus changed us. All of us. Some hated him, and some loved, and some were just confused, but we all changed in one way or another.

Well, his wounds are clean now, and the cool, stone tomb smells of spice and fresh linen. Nicodemus leans over him one last time, whispers, “I’m sorry”, and a tear splashes on the gentle, wounded face.

What was it John called him? The lamb of God… He was gentle, yes, but I met a few of the people Jesus healed. I tasted bread and fish he pulled from thin air. I talked to Lazarus, who he raised from the dead. I held Jairus’ sweet daughter in my own arms. I felt the earth shake when he suffered, and I watched the sky go black.

This was no lamb. No force on earth could bind him, not all of Rome’s legions. And yet he was bound. And he bled. And he lies here, dead.

The blood of lambs is taken, but this man’s blood was given, and an urgent thought stirs in me. A memory. A question. The lamb of God, the old book predicted, “pierced for our rebellion and crushed for our sins… whipped so we could be healed.”

And suddenly, I see it. We celebrated the right man for the wrong reason. This – this! – is what it means to be Messiah: The rightful king, broken for us. This was our punishment, not his – laid on him, our hero, who, even in his agony, forgave us.

We stumble out, exhausted and grieving, just as temple guards arrive with orders to seal the tomb. With a flourish of authority and style, they shoo us away and roll a great stone in front of the door, forgetting that God is on the other side.

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Surely he took up our pain

and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

-Isaiah 53: 4-5

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.

-Luke 23:50-54

He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.

-John 19:39

Reviewer comments for “A Different Kind of Sky”

One of the best books I’ve ever read. Such a captivating story…

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Started to read at 11 p.m. last night. Finished it at 5 a.m. this morning. Bad idea but well worth the loss of sleep.

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Such a descriptive narrative. Well thought out and expertly written. I feel like I just lived life alongside Mike… There is so much depth and richness in the storytelling that I didn’t want it to end.

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This book had me laughing and crying. It was an emotional read full of wonder, hope, and sadness.

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I found myself experiencing side-splitting laughter, bouts of deep, heartfelt grief, and curious excursions into the overwhelming vastness of human existence, confronting the age-old questions: How is it that humans exist, and for what purpose?

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The characters feel like real people. The storyline contains a solid mix of humor, sadness, suspense, and drama.

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This book was really hard to put down. The character development by the author draws you into the story, making you feel a strong connection to their life’s journey. Excellent book for a club as the depth is well beyond a surface discussion of life, faith, joy, tragedy, etc. Can not wait for more from this author!

Find the story on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1625862393

Ragged

I am the last man on earth to be telling this story – a ragged man who smells of sheep and earth and campfire. I would not tell it, except that it happened to me.

An hour ago, we were in the fields, throwing sticks on the fire and trying to stay warm. An hour ago, I don’t think I believed in angels. Well, I am warm now, and I know more about angels than most any man alive.

I was watching the stars when it burst into view, a towering monster of light with blazing eyes and a voice like a trumpet. I was terrified until I noticed the expression on his face and realized I could understand his words.

He was glad – glad with some gigantic joy, and soon there were hundreds of them – hopping about like excited children, shouting, and singing like their hearts were on fire.

I was still shaking, but the joy on their beautiful faces broke my heart. Whatever they were telling us, it was shaking them, too.

When they left, we stared into the suddenly dark and silent sky, breathed air that stirred in their wake and smelled like springtime, and the sea, and some strange incense, all mixed together.

For a minute, no one said anything. I trembled, but I was no longer afraid, maybe not even surprised. Somehow, I think I knew there was such beauty in the world – there was a place for it in your soul, just waiting. But I never expected to see it, had almost forgotten it was there.

We will find him in Bethlehem, they said – just over those hills – and so we run with our own gigantic joy; run so far that my lungs are on fire, just as my heart is on fire.

And now, still panting, I step into the dark barn, duck under the cobwebbed timber, and stop. Lamplight flickers over the drafty room. A man leans against the wall, and a woman leans against him. In front of them, a rickety feed trough, and there the child lies.

If I had not seen the angels, I would not understand what I feel right now, the sparks shooting through my arms and face as I step carefully over the straw and kneel before the manger. I would think I had lost my senses, not awakened a new one.

But somehow, my heart knows you, child. It knew there was someone like you in the world, though it did not know that it knew. To meet you is a remembering. To kneel here is a coming home. My heart burns like an angel, like a moth rushing toward light. I am only a shepherd, but I know I was made for you.

I take one more look as we turn to leave, shake my head as I step into the night. How strange that this is the story of God and that I, who smell of sheep and earth, am the one telling it.

I would not tell it, but this is where the angels sang. We are ragged people, but it was to us the Christ-child came.

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This story is a dramatization of events recorded in Luke 2.

Written for LIFE International, 2021.

A Different Kind of Sky

Mike is a dangerous man living a dangerous life. He flies low and fast, dodging trees and wires. He fights for those he loves and aches for those he has lost. He longs for the one woman who quiets his restless soul.

How does love change us? How do we survive crushing disasters? How do we make sense of ourselves and the world around us?

A Different Kind of Sky is a story of loss and restoration—a story of one man’s search for meaning in this deadly and beautiful world.

Find A Different Kind of Sky on Amazon: A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel

CBHaze
CBHaze
2023-01-23
Verified
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Great story, hard to put down! This is a very good read that flows well and brings you into the story/location. If you grew up in the country or have spent any time in the country, this story will bring you back to those times. Highly recommend.
John L
John L
2023-01-02
Verified
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: A compelling, page-turning read The plot flows fluidly and compellingly; sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. Not bound by strict calendar dates or traditional chapter breaks, the author tells a captivating story with varying pace, but one that moves along to keep the reader wanting to see what happens next. There are several surprises. The characters exude real-life -- not contrived -- people. The storyline contains a solid mix of humor, sadness, suspense, and drama. I would recommend.
Jcat
Jcat
2022-12-13
Verified
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Excellent read. Such a great story. So very happy to have read it.
Amazon Customer
Amazon Customer
2022-12-05
Verified
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Wonderful Journey of a man’s struggle to find his place in life I’m not much of a fiction reader but I love Aviation and decided to give it a read. I’m so happy I did. This book was wonderful. I had a hard time putting it down.This is a journey of one man’s struggle and quest to find the meaning of life and death. You follow his journey from adolescence to adulthood and all the trials and tribulations that go with it. This book had me laughing and crying. It was an emotional read full of wonder, hope and sadness. His questions on faith are very relatable and really makes you dig deep into your own thoughts on who we are, why we are here now and what comes next. It shows how fragile life can be and the impacts we make on others.Religious or not, this book will leave you wanting more.
John Frye
John Frye
2022-11-22
Verified
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: High Altitude Story; Down to Earth People A good writer creates characters who seem real, living lives with which you can identify. Readers, following Michael, the main character, on his relational trail, whether with family, friends, co-workers and Ralph, encounter all the joyful and sorrowful experiences of life. Jeff Ostrander has a way of etching them into our memory. I found myself experiencing side-splitting laughter, bouts of deep, heartfelt grief, and curious excursions into the overwhelming vastness of human existence and confronting the age-old, yet ever presence questions: How is that humans exist and for what purpose?
Kevin Moy
Kevin Moy
2022-11-12
Verified
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Wonderful story about a walk through life What enjoyment this book brought me! A simple man yet faced with challenges we give little thought to. Every page bringing either a smile, frown, fear, joy, hope, love or answers to what we all call life that most of us dream for. Read this book to help you see the wonders and beauty that surrounds you.
Amazon Customer
Amazon Customer
2022-11-07
Verified
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Good blend of characters and plot. Ostrander does a great job of weaving personalities into the plot. Excellent, page turning read.
Chinterman
Chinterman
2022-11-01
Verified
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Outstanding and Realistic This book is an exceptional story of one man's journey through life and toward faith. It masterfully avoids the trite storyline typical ofChristian novels. It feels genuine and I found myself deeply caring about the characters. Well done!
Marshall Pennell
Marshall Pennell
2022-10-24
Verified
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Captivated my mind and my emotions. I'm still thinking about it. Such a descriptive narrative. Well thought out and expertly written. I feel like I just lived life alongside of Mike.The things that the main character, Mike, thinks about are things that we all think about, or at least try to. There is so much depth and richness in the storytelling that I didn't want it to end. Some books entertain you and help pass the time but offer no real benefit for having read them. This book is certainly entertaining but also enriching. It is thought provoking without demanding that the reader be a scholar or philosopher. An excellent and well crafted piece of art!