I'm working fast and furious on my next book, Seeing The Life. My goal is to have it finished by the 15th and the release date is June 7.
I truly feel God's hand in this work more than any other. The life of Jesus is well known and studied by, hopefully, all Christians. It places a huge burden on me to make sure things are correct not only in his life but also historically accurate. I've learned a lot about the history and culture of the time.
Since I am focusing on finishing the first draft I'm going to repost blogs I've written before until I get it finished. Today though I'm giving you a preview of Seeing The Life by posting the first two chapters. This is a rough draft so forgive the errors in grammar and punctuation.
This is a VERY rough working copy of the book cover. It may be similar to this or not look anything like it.
Seeing The Life Chapters 1-2
“Dassa, Dassa,” Miriam called as she entered the backdoor of the inn which lead to the kitchen and general work room.
Dassa looked up from her chore of chopping leeks for stew. “Yes, Ima?”
“I need you to go fetch Midwife Tabitha. The couple your abba put in the stable… the woman is in labor. She’s in the early stages, but I think you should leave now before it gets any later. Too many strangers in Bethlehem to delay.”
“Yes, Ima.” Dassa scooped up the chopped leeks and tossed them into the stew pot. She dipped her hands in water for a rinse and went to grab her cloak hanging by the door.
“Take your abba’s. The darker color and will conceal you better. Keep to the shadows. Go straight to her house and back. The darkness conceals those who seek to do evil.”
With a nod, Dassa covered her face with her veil, drew her father’s black cloak around her and slipped into the night. She hurried down the narrow alley to the not much wider street. A dog sniffing through a pile of rotting garbage growled at her as she passed as far from him as the meager roadway would allow.
Dassa scanned both directions. She did not want to be seen by Roman guards or any others out at night. As a young woman alone there was great danger. She pulled her eyebrows together in confused thought. Something wasn’t right. Not seeing anyone she turned down the street rushing past the buildings which housed both businesses and homes. Few lights glowed in the windows and on rooftops.
The evening had progressed into night. The inn, during this busy time, stayed active long after the rest of Bethlehem slept. Those who had come to town for the census register seemed to stay up eating and drinking until the last watches before dawn. Then they complained if the noises of a busy day interrupted their sleep.
Dassa didn’t think highly of most of the travelers. They were a loud, demanding group as a whole. Sometimes one or two would be polite but… Dassa just tried to avoid them as much as possible. This posed challenges as some slept in the inn’s main room. It was a small inn. Deep within the town, they had a reputation of good food, decent wine, adequate beds, and a fair price. The inn had become a regular spot in the route for a goodly number of traveling merchants. Not having a courtyard and only a tiny stable tended to keep the Romans away.
By now Dassa had walked several blocks from the inn. Nervously she slipped into a dark doorway. Something was different. She tried to figure out what. The brightness of the night. It was more luminesce than it should be. The glow quivered, almost like the flame of an oil lamp. No, that wasn’t quiet right. She didn’t have the proper word. She gazed at the wall across from her. There seemed to be a light which shone separately from the moonlight. She tilted her head back, seeing neither the moon nor whatever created this strange glimmer.
She moved out of the doorway, hurrying faster. The unusual illumination was making her not only nervous but also afraid. The shadows were odd. They seemed to be almost doubled. She wanted to get to the midwife’s house and back home as fast as possible.
Dassa stepped out of the narrow street into the town square. She walked quickly. As she passed the well Dassa looked up. More of the sky was visible. She stopped and stared.
The moon, nearly full, shone brightly. This was not what held her attention though. A star, brighter than any other, pulsed with a luminosity Dassa had never experienced before. There was a strange shifting of the shadows which seemed as if they were being chased away by the starlight.
A dog’s bark and hobnailed shoes sounding on the cobbled street brought her focus back to her errand. Dassa ran across the square into the shadows on the other side. If a soldier found her she would never be home again. She paused, listening. The clank of the soldiers’ boots faded. With a silent release of the breath she’d been holding, Dassa left the sheltering darkness and slipped around the corner. Only two more streets to cross.
Arriving at the midwife’s house Dassa pressed herself into the doorway. The position of the door let the moonlight and the strange starlight illuminate where she stood. Dassa felt as if the moonlight and star’s glow outlined her against the wood. She knocked quietly, afraid the sound might carry and alert the guards, hoping someone in the house would hear.
“Who comes in the night?” A male voice called.
“Dassa Bat Eli, we have need of Midwife Tabitha. A guest is in labor.”
The door opened and the man’s hand reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling Dassa inside.
“What was your father thinking sending you out on this errand? He should have come.” Tabitha’s husband, David, frowned at her.
“He could not. We are full to over flowing. The couple having the baby are in the stable. It was the only place with some privacy.”
Tabitha came from the back room with a bundle containing what she needed. “Stop scolding the girl, David. She just did as she was told.” Tabitha patted Dassa on the cheek, a loving grin on her face. “Praise Yahweh for getting you here safely. David, come, escort us to the inn, please.”
“Why is it that babies always choose the middle of the night to be born?” David grumbled as he wrapped his wife in her cloak and grabbed his own.
Dassa and Tabitha entered the stable behind the inn. David had gone to the main building saying he would let Miriam and Eli know she was safely home. The journey back had gone faster since they didn’t have to keep to the shadows since David was with them. They still kept to the lesser traveled streets and alleys not wanting to meet any Roman guards. Both the midwife and her husband had commented on the strangeness of the light from the sky. The star, brighter than before, chased more of the shadows away.
“Joseph,” Dassa whispered from the dark entry way. “I’ve brought the Midwife Tabitha.”
“Praise Yahweh. Will you help my wife? She is young and we are both scared.” Joseph’s fear was palpable.
“Peace Joseph. I’ll do what I can. Yahweh is the one who brings forth the miracle,” Tabitha said approaching the young woman lying on clean straw in an empty stall. “I’m Midwife Tabitha. Your husband is very nervous. He didn’t tell me your name.” She shot Joseph an amused glance. He smiled sheepishly.
“I’m Mary.” As she said the words a contraction rippled down her body causing the mother to be to stiffen in pain.
Tabitha counted until the contraction ended. Kneeling beside Mary, she asked questions. Some the girl answered, others brought confused looks to the faces of the young couple. “Dassa, please get me some water. I have most of what else I need.”
“Yes ma’am.” Dassa left the stable again noticing the starlight shining brighter still. It seemed to pulse like the beat of a heart. Hurrying to the kitchen, she gathered several water bags. Her mother came from the front room and kissed her cheek.
“How is the young ima?” Miriam asked.
“Scared. So is her husband. I’m to bring water.”
“You stay near Tabitha. She may need you to get things that are normally in the house. The stable isn’t where I’d want to give birth, but it’s the best we could offer.”
“Yes ma’am. Ima, have you seen the star that’s shining so brightly?” Dassa put the straps of the bags over her shoulders and picked up a large bowl.
“Earlier. Is it still shining?” Miriam stirred the kettle and ladled out the stew into bowls.
“Even brighter. If you can spare a moment come and look.” Dassa held the door open as she and her mother stepped outside. Miriam’s mouth dropped open. The moon appeared pale in comparison.
“Oh my, I’ve never seen anything like it.” The women stared up at the sky as the single star banished all others.
“I must get back to Tabitha,” Dassa said leaving her mother wide eyed with wonder.
As she entered the stable Tabitha and Joseph stood near the doorway talking quietly. Tabitha kept looking at Mary resting in the straw.
“It’s not possible, I tell you. I’ve never encountered this in all my years as a midwife.”
“It is so. The angel said she would bear a child as a virgin and so she is.” Joseph’s face was serene and calm.
“But how?” Tabitha asked.
“By the power of the Most High and the Holy Spirit. An angel came to Mary and told her. When I found out about her pregnancy I was going to divorce her but the angel assured me to marry her.”
Dassa stood quietly listening. The words of the prophet Isaiah spoke in her mind: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Her betrothed, Micah, had read them to her just last week. Immanuel, God with us. Was this the sign? Was the prophecy being fulfilled? Here in their stable? How could that be possible? The Messiah was to be a king. He was to free their people. Kings weren’t born in cattle stalls.
“Dassa, Dassa.” Tabitha’s stern call brought her back to the present. Her questions would have to wait until Micah came. “Bring me the water and then go get your mother. Hurry, there’s no time to lose.”
As she approached the stall where Tabitha now stood waiting she slipped the bags off her shoulders. Dassa looked at Mary’s sweat drenched face. She held onto Joseph’s hand as another contraction pressed down. Dassa handed the bowl and bags to Tabitha and ran back to the kitchen.
“Ima, Ima, Tabitha needs you, come quickly,” Dassa said as she found her setting more bowls of stew before hungry men and women in the front room of the inn.
Dassa saw her mother’s lips move in prayer as she threaded her way through the crowd. “Is something wrong?”
“I’m not sure.” Dassa kept silent until they had left the house. “Tabitha and Joseph, Mary’s husband, were talking when I came in. They were saying something about Mary being a virgin.”
“Impossible,” Miriam scoffed.
“It is in Isaiah; Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
In silence they entered the stable. Tabitha signaled them to come near.
“You must check this girl, Miriam. See if you find the same as I.”
“So what Dassa heard you say is true?” Miriam’s jaw dropped in shock.
“You examine her. Dassa you pay attention. I want you to check her too. Are there any women in the inn who could also be a witness? We must hurry, it will tear soon.”
Dassa watched as her mother checked the girl. Mary’s embarrassment was evident. She turned her face into Joseph’s hand which she gripped.
Miriam sat back on her heals. “And a virgin shall conceive… I’ll go get some of the wives and Abigail, she and Micah arrived a short while ago to help.” Quickly rising, she nearly ran from the stable.
“Dassa, now I want you to check.” Tabitha instructed as to how to the proceed and what she should feel for. Dassa went red with embarrassment. She looked at Tabitha who nodded.
Slowly Dassa knelt between Mary’s knees and did as Tabitha had said. She found the bit of tissue proclaiming Mary’s virginity. Dassa pulled her hand away and stared at the pregnant young woman. She was about the same age as Dassa. God with us. This woman was giving birth to the Son of God right now, in their stable.
“I was so nervous, Micah. To be asked to do something like that to a stranger. How embarrassed Mary must be.” Dassa was slicing cheese in the kitchen. After she and Micah’s sister had confirmed the virginity of the young mother to be Dassa had been sent from the small mud hut that served as the stable for the family. Travelers needed to leave their donkeys and horses at a public stable.
“You truly think this baby is the one of the prophecies?” Micah snatched one of the slices of cheese and was rewarded with a light slap on the hand and teasingly stern look from his betrothed. He was leaning against the wall near where Dassa worked.
“You are the expert in the Tanahk. You tell me. Just last week you read from Isaiah that the virgin will bear a son…”
“I know, but now? Here?”
“Where is it said He is to be born?”
Micah thought for just a second. “Bethlehem.”
Dassa looked at him. “A virgin giving birth in Bethlehem.”
“I’ll think it more likely if the baby is a boy. Maybe the entire thing is just a made up story to get people stirred up against the Romans. Lots of people know the Messiah is to be born here.” Micah filched another piece of cheese.
“Are you hungry?” Dassa asked somewhat irritated that he kept eating the cheese. “I’ll serve you a bowl of stew if you are.”
Micah grinned. “I like annoying you in little ways. You’re so cute when you’re angry.” He leaned forward and kissed her on the nose. “Yes, I am hungry and your stew smells wonderful.”
“Now you’re trying to get on my good side with compliments.” Dassa took a bowl from the freshly cleaned stack and ladled the rich stew into it.
“Is it working?” Micah looked at her with innocence pasted on his face. She laughed.
“No, you fool. Here, eat this. Maybe I can get this cheese sliced and out to the men who will pay for it.”
Dassa handed the bowl and bread to Micah who bowed his head thanking God for the food as she placed the last slices of cheese on the platter. The common room was crowded with men and a few women still awake when she carried the platter to the group of men who had ordered it.
“Hey there sweet thing. How about you and me finding a corner?” A man with oily hair and foul breath grabbed Dassa by the arm.
She jerked her arm away and scurried back to the kitchen. “I’m not going out there again. I don’t care if they are paying customers. I don’t want to be pawed one more time.”
“Someone touched you?” Micah stood swiftly looking at the doorway Dassa had come through.
“I’m fine. He’s drunk and I got away.” Dassa was shaken but didn’t want Micah to know. Every time she had ventured into the common room that evening some man approached her, some more subtly than others. “I can’t wait until we’re married. I’ve never liked serving in there. I get so nervous.”
Micah wrapped his arms around her. “It won’t be much longer. I’ve almost gotten the house complete. If there had been room at my father’s house we would already be married.”
“I know. That’s part of being a younger son. No room for the bride.” Dassa laid her head on Micah’s chest. Sounds coming from outside the building caused them to jump apart blushing.
Dassa’s mother, Miriam, came in through the back door. “Well, the baby’s been born and the mother is doing well. Tabitha should be in soon and will be hungry I’m sure. So will the new father and mother.” Miriam began laying bowls and bread on a tray.
“Well, what did she have?” Dassa asked.
“A beautiful boy. He started crying as soon as his mouth and nose were wiped out. Healthy and strong.”
Dassa’s hand shook as she fumbled to find Micah’s. His was trembling slightly too. “The son of God,” she whispered.
“Ima Miriam,” Micah said. “Let us carry those out to the stable for you. I’m sure you would like to sit for a moment.”
Just then Dassa’s father Eli came into the kitchen. “I’m locking the door. No one else can fit even for a bite to eat. Miriam, has the young woman had her baby yet?”
As her mother explained about the birth Dassa and Micah filled a bowl on the tray with stew. A loaf of bread and two cups were added as Micah picked it up to carry. Dassa grabbed another bag of watered wine and opened the door holding it for her fiancé as he passed through. They passed Tabitha who was heading to the kitchen as they went to the stable.
The stable was dark with only one oil lamp burning in the stall where Mary lay. Joseph sat near stroking the fuzz covered head of the swaddled infant.
“Here is some stew, bread and wine. I’m sure you are hungry.” Micah set the tray on the floor.
After helping Mary into a sitting position, Joseph looked around for a place to put the infant. Dassa was pouring wine into cups Micah held. Mary got onto her knees and spread a small blanket into the feeding trough.
“It’s just the right size for him. Lay him here, Joseph.” Carefully the baby was placed in the manger and the blanket wrapped over him.
“I wish I had something besides a feed trough for him,” Dassa said. “It’s not right he should sleep there.”
“I’m just thankful God provided this for him,” Mary said smiling at her sleeping son.
The young parents ate in silence while Dassa and Micah settled against the gate. Micah placed his arm around Dassa’s shoulder.
“You two betrothed?” Joseph asked grinning?
“Yes. I’m trying to get my house finished so we can marry.”
“Do you need help? I’m a carpenter.” Joseph dipped a piece of bread into the stew then ate it.
“I could use some help. Also I need a scribe box made. I’m a scribe. The one I've been using is old and falling apart. It was my sabba's.”
While Micah and Joseph discussed construction Dassa scooted close to Mary so she could speak with her. “Mary, are you tired? I could take these two away so you can sleep.”
Mary smiled. “A little. I’d like some company for a while. When Joseph gets talking about his work he can forget I’m even around.”
Dassa chuckled softly. “I know just what you mean. Micah can get talking parchment, lambskins, styluses and inks until I’m cross-eyed with boredom.”
“I want to thank you for all you did. Midwife Tabitha said you had come to get her.”
“You’re welcome. Were you very embarrassed when we…well you know.”
Mary blushed. “Yes, but at least more now know I was a virgin when he was born.”
“Have you decided on a name?”
“Yeshua. Joseph was told by the angel to call him Yeshua.”
The couples continued talking, getting to know each other. Joseph had decided they would stay for a while in Bethlehem since Micah had told him of several carpentry jobs as well as hiring him to build the scribe’s box and help with the small house he was building. Dassa was planning on searching out a house or room the couple could live in. If nothing could be found Joseph and Mary were invited to live for a while with Micah and her once they were married.
Sounds came into the small hut from the alleyway between the inn and the next building. Men's voices shouted excitedly. Eli could be heard yelling at them to leave. That they couldn’t go into the stable. When the door opened it was evident his orders had been ignored.
A group of ragged shepherds pushed in. They smelled of sheep and unwashed bodies. Joseph and Micah stood blocking the entrance to the stall where Mary and the baby, as well as Dassa, were.
“What are you doing here? Why have you come?” Joseph’s words were fierce, a father and husband protecting his family.
“Peace, peace. We mean you no harm,” said the oldest of the men. He looked to be in his mid-fifties. “We were tending our sheep out in the hills. The sky was bright with that star. We were talking about it, the star, when there was a flash in the sky and an angel of the Lord was in the air in front of us.”
“We all fell on our faces sure we would be dead in a moment,” another man said.
“Then the angel told us not to be afraid. How can you not be afraid when an angel appears?” the first man said. “My name is Rueben. Please forgive me for not telling you sooner. We are rattled by what has happened.” He went on to state the others’ names. “The angel said he came with good news, great joy for all men. He said the Messiah had been born. The Savior had been born in Bethlehem.” Rueben became more excited as he spoke. The others nodded and murmured in agreement.
“Then, then,” a youth named Daniel broke in. “Then there were thousands of angels filling the sky. They were singing ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace for those with whom God is pleased’.”
“We stood as statues until they faded back into heaven. Then we came here to Bethlehem to find the babe. A couple was walking through the street talking about a newly born boy.”
“It was a midwife and her husband going home from the birth. We begged the location of the baby.” This time a tall thin man spoke named Caleb. “They told us here.”
“Quiet,” Rueben said. “We will wake the child.” He spoke softly, reverently. “We have come to worship the Savior born this night.” Falling on his knees, Rueben bent and touched his forehead to the dirt floor. “Please may we see him?”
The other men followed Rueben’s example. Stunned, Micah looked at Joseph who was kneeling at Mary’s side speaking to her in a hushed tone. Then he stood and lifted the sleeping infant in his arms and walked to stand in front of the men.
Eli, Dassa's father, was standing behind the shepherds. It was as if a lamp lit within him. He had heard from his wife, the midwife and Dassa about the couple and especially the young virgin giving birth in his hovel of a stable. The Messiah, born here. The King of kings not born in a palace but in a goat stall. With the others, men shunned by all because of their profession, Eli knelt and silently praised the Lord for the fulfillment of prophecy.
The watch called. Tthe night was passing. Before the shepherds went back to their hills and herds they were given bowls of stew and wine. They had left small gifts, all they could afford; soft wool from the recent shearing, a smooth carved spindle, a lambskin. Each expressed their gratitude to Joseph and Mary for the honor of seeing their son. Eli waved off the few coins they offered for their meal. He could well afford to give them the meal. It wouldn’t be right to profit off these men. God had given them most wondrous news and he had profited from it in a way worth more than mere money.
Dassa and Micah stood in the kitchen speaking softly. Eli and Miriam sat at the table. It was late and Micah needed to return home and the innkeeper and his family needed to sleep. Morning would come all too soon with its hungry guests.
“We need to remember this, Micah,” Dassa said.
“Yes, I will get some sheepskin pieces and write it down. We can keep it always. When Yeshua comes into his kingdom we can let people know. For now Joseph has asked that we not spread the news of his son.”
“Why? He’s the son of God.”
“That is why. Joseph is concerned about Herod. You know what he has done. All the death and destruction he's caused. Joseph fears he would come for Yeshua if he thought the child was threatening his kingdom.”
“All right. I will tell my parents and try to get to Midwife Tabitha in the morning to tell her.”
“I must go. Good night my Dassa. Sleep well.”
“You also, my husband.”
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Sophie Dawson is my pen name. The real me is the wife of a farmer in western Illinois.
I have two grown sons, one of which is married to a wonderful young woman. They gave us the most wonderful granddaughter ever in November of 2010. I'm not the least bit prejudice. :)