Chapter 4

Sardis and Philadelphia

Present day, Windermere, FL. Monday 9/15, 9:30 A.M. 1st of the last 7 years of the end of days.

Jessica Reagan awoke in her 1 bedroom apartment happier than ever to be on her own. Every morning that she had in her own place was better than the day before. College had given her the independence she wanted. Her own place, her own schedule, her own life. Jessica loved her family, but she had felt smothered in her last year of high school. Now however, as she dug through the box marked "dishes" she thought, "my bowl" as she sat at the table she thought, "frosted flakes never tasted better" living at home had cramped her style, which would have confused her family if they had known.

They, as well as most of the people who knew her, thought her the perfect daughter, the perfect Christian, the perfect girl. Little did they know that it was all an act, Jess has a wild streak she had kept inside for years. Ever since she met Sam, she was never the same, on the inside. On the outside she kept the same persona that earned her the stellar reputation that everyone else knew. But on the inside, Sam had changed her. Sam had swept her off her feet in high school and the two were inseparable.

The fact that Sam was one grade behind her never bothered her or him. But now that she was in college, it proved to be lonely. Her own apartment would be the perfect situation. Perfect because nobody would ever suspect Jess from doing anything wrong. Her parents Steve and Melissa prided themselves on the perfect children they have raised. They were the envy of most of the parents in their circle. Starting with Jess, the good girl, and going down the line to her siblings. Cody, Brian, and Emily.

Now that Jess was in her own place, implicitly trusted by all, her parents would now focus on them. She was home free. On this particular morning there was only one thing on her mind, the party. Sam's nineteenth birthday party. The only thing that excited her more than her own independence was Sam's. the two of them could now start to plan the life they had been talking about for two years. Planning this party was the only thing on her mind, but it would have to wait a little while, because she was late to work.

Not real work, Jess was the church library assistant on her days off. It was a voluntary position that she basically used to further her good girl persona. Now, however, it doubled as a college internship program. She earned credits for volunteering on her off hours at the church. She liked the job and the people, and the fact that it was easy work was a bonus. Mondays were the worst though, inventory day. Long, boring, and tedious. She jumped in her car and was off.

As she parked and headed in to the church it was an internal message that said, "time for the good girl bit" there was Judy, sitting in her usual place. Judy had been Jess' boss for what seemed like forever. But, now that it went from a simple voluntary position to a college credit deal, Judy was somehow more "bossy" than usual. Perhaps it was the official nature of the letter Judy had to sign from the college. That would make Jess' goal today that much more difficult.

With the party only a few days away, she needed time to plan it perfectly. Her class schedule combined with her personal life left little room to breathe. Mrs. Starling would certainly understand that, wouldn't she? Jess straightened her posture and approached her boss as usual. "Hi Mrs. Starling, how's it going today?" Jess said. "Not bad, average inventory for this time of year, we shouldn't be here much past 5." Jess looked at her watch, she thought to herself, "one o'clock now, home at 5:30, dinner, get ready for class tomorrow, bed early, school all week, when am I going to plan this party?"

She felt the pressure, and tried her best to adopt her "please feel sorry for me" tone. "Mrs. Starling, could I just work a couple hours and leave, I've got so much to do at home and with a full class load, and a new place to set up, I feel overwhelmed." Mrs. Starling just shook her head and said,"Jess, this is becoming a bad habit that I'm sorry I ever started to support. I like you, but I've got to draw the line." Jess looked mortally wounded and said, "what do you mean?" Mrs. Starling, just as shocked, said,"what do I mean?, you can't be serious, Jess, you haven't worked a full schedule in months. It's always school or Sam or some party, I can't do it anymore, now I've got the college to worry about. They think you're putting in more hours than you are for your credits, I just can't lie for you. It was different when it was just me you had to worry about but now you just can't do it anymore. If you would like to volunteer somewhere else to earn your credits, you are more than welcome to. Perhaps someone else can cater to your schedule, but I can no longer bend the rules for you no matter how much I like you"

Jess was a good girl, a regular church attendee and the first to volunteer for anything. Although most would say she was the perfect girl, when she wanted something, that something would always come first, and this something was no exception. "If we finish early, and work real hard, then can I go early?" Jess was now pleading. "We'll see, Jess. But I wish you wouldn't put me in this position every week." Jess put her lunch in the fridge and set her sights on an early night. God used to come first with Jessica, church is where she first gained her good girl reputation. Always volunteering, always wanting to sit in front, but as time went on, other things took the place of God, she became more calculating and cunning. Keeping her reputation while compromising her beliefs at every turn to get what she wanted, such as, the party that she so desperately needed to plan. She wasn't just upset for herself, she was thinking of Sam. Since Sam had been held back a grade, and she had gone on ahead to college without him, their time together was less and less every week. However, they stuck together despite the year difference in schooling. Both of their parents thinking they were good for each other, hers thinking Sam was a nice devoted Christian boy, and his thinking that Jess would keep him on the straight and narrow. They were both proud of the fact that they could put one over on their parents. That fact did not make this situation any easier, Mrs. Starling wasn't budging unless she worked harder than she ever worked in her life. Like Sardis, her reputation was colliding with her desires.

96 A.D. Island of Patmos. A tear fell from John's eye wishing that all his brothers and sisters could be as faithful as the church at Philadelphia. The Lord was first and foremost their reason for living. And they never wavered from their love or dedication to him. They received no admonishment from him, only praise. They would always know, until the end, that The Lord was the sole object of their worship and praise.

Present day, Windermere, FL. Monday 9/15, 10:00 A.M. 1st of the last 7 years of the end of days.

 Judy Starling poured a tall glass of lemonade and took it out to her husband Robert, who was mowing the lawn. As she approached him, he cut the engine and said, "good timing, just finished that patch I could use a break." As Judy handed him the glass she said, "great, now I can at least get that section done before I go in, it's inventory day, remember?" Robert remembered of course. They always knew every detail of each others lives and schedules. "I suppose you are going in early to scope it out before Jessica arrives." Robert said. "I don't exactly need to go in early to get there before Jessica, but yes, I'd like to get a jump on it so as not to be there all night." Judy sounded annoyed. "What exactly does that mean?" Robert said, more than simply curious, he sensed a hidden meaning in her comment. Judy was quick to respond, "Jessica hasn't exactly been on time for the past two weeks." She continued without any further prodding from Robert, "in fact, she hasn't really been herself for quite some time, preoccupied, disorganized, and I do the lions share of all the work, I don't know what's gotten into her but she's not the same girl who volunteered in my bookstore a few years ago." Robert cocked his head and said, "your bookstore?" Judy recanted, "the church's bookstore", she continued, "I'm just worried about the girl, Robert, I wonder what the excuse will be tonight to leave early." Robert sighed, then said, "whatever it is, it's not your problem, she's at that age, you know, where God is in competition with the world, just pray for the girl, you can't do more than that, God don't need your help, now get going Philly girl, you're gonna be late."

Judy looked at her watch and ran in the house, in a flash she grabbed her keys and ran, all Robert saw was the garage door open, and her car leaving quickly, "drive careful! I don't want to lose you before the rapture!" She stopped, buckled up and threw him a kiss, then she was off. Upon arrival at the church, Jessica's car was nowhere to be seen. Not that she expected it, Jessica always punched in at the top of the hour after making a mad dash from the parking lot. Ten minutes later that fact repeated itself once again. "Just made it again by a hair, 'eh Jess?" Judy thought to herself with just a hint of sarcasm. "I suppose leaving ten minutes early never occurred to you?"

She knew that wasn't normal thinking for her, she chalked it up to still feeling spunky from her talk with Robert. "Hi Mrs. Starling, how's it going today?" Jessica said, out of breath as usual. Judy thought of a myriad of comebacks, and rejected them all in favor of a smooth afternoon session. "Not bad, average inventory for this time of year, we shouldn't be here much past 5." Was all she could muster up. Judy wondered how long it would take her to beg to leave early, and what creative excuse shed come up with this time. Jessica would not disappoint her, and as usual it involved Sam.

The fifteen minute exchange had not been in her plans, but all that went through her mind was the phrase," the straw that broke the camels back." They both said things they knew they'd regret later, or at least Judy knew she would. One side being the authority figure who refused to once again bow to a lazy, selfish volunteer. And the other side that refused to see that what she was doing was wrong. The results, Jessica would not be leaving early, and Judy would do the lions share of the work. This time however, things would be different. Judy would be informing the college of Jessica's actions. Her course credits for volunteer work could be in jeopardy. Judy had convinced herself that this was for her own good, but that didn't make her feel better. She decided not to make a bad day worse by telling Jessica of her decision and simply penned the report in her office while Jessica started the inventory.

Judy sipped her tea in the break room, wondering how Jessica's feelings were affecting her running the bookstore. she overheard Jess on the phone, "no, she won't let me go early." Judy felt as though Jess was playing on her guilt, being loud enough for her to hear her so she might give in. Jess continued, "no I don't know why, its dead here, i guess I'll be up late planning" What Judy did not know at the time, however, was that at four o'clock, she would be tearing up the letter, letting Jess leave, and remembering the phrase that Jesus himself said to his disciples, "seventy times seven." That's how many times you should forgive someone their transgressions. Also the ever popular, "if you forgive others, God will forgive you. But, if you don't forgive others, God won't forgive you." It wasn't fear that kept Judy on the straight and narrow path, it was her love of Jesus and her gratitude of her savior that always made her do the right thing. Even if it didn't feel right to her, if it was right enough for Jesus, that was good enough for her. It was that faith that kept her a faithful "Philly girl" a reference to the church at Philadelphia, in the book of revelation, and a nickname her husband gave her years ago.

96 A.D. Island of Patmos. Hot, cold, hot, cold John wished the Laodiceans would make up their mind. Hot would have been his choice, but that still remained to be seen. They were hot by praising God, but cold by defying his teachings. "They make no sense" John thought, how does someone half heatedly love The Lord after all he has done for them. "Madness" he thought. Rewriting traditions or doctrine to fit your own opinions do not make it easier to worship. "It makes it easier to sin." John thought. "It creates a gulf between you and God." And if they didn't repent, they would find out just how wide this gulf was.

Chapter 5