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The Manual: a novel about truth. ... ten principles. One life.


the book

Knowledge is in your head: what you know. Information. Understanding is in your heart: what you believe. Revelation. Wisdom is in your hand: what you do. Application. Results are in your life: what you want. Transformation.


the manual ten principles - one life

First edition: 2011 written by Mario Marchiò cover by Sergio Mascheroni final review: B.Beams - P. Du Preez published by Bosko Publishing S.A. distributed by Mario Marchiò Ministries Sec.21 Company incorporated not for profit. No. 85-01795-08


dedication:

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to the mission. It’s possible!


index:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

The beginning – the lake Be very aware of the world beyond your senses Keep your priorities right Be life's master, not its servant Define yourself by who you are, not what you do Joy is not a feeling: it’s a choice. Choose joy Allow passion to be your constant companion Generosity is the heart of happiness Protect your conscience Love is the art of life

Look for The Manual as soon as you can Furthermore 1 Furthermore 2 Furthermore 3 Furthermore 4 Furthermore 5 Conclusion and great escape

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9 14 24 37 47 69 83 93 106 126 143 161 171 184 191 197 205


the beginning

The evening was unfolding like a dream. The restaurant had kept its promises carried by the website and delivered a wonderfully intimate atmosphere. The hors-d’oeuvre had been great, the salmon superb and the Chardonnay chilled just right. A perfect tiramisÚ had completed the meal with a small espresso and a glass of Port. Now, back in their home, the man took his wife's hand and sat on the couch in front of the big fireplace. Then he reached over and pulled his woman closer to him. She smiled seductively and obliged. Soon his lips found hers, the music faded, the walls disappeared and fireworks lit the sky.


Up, beyond the clouds, past the universe, in a realm where time and space do not exist and have never existed, an almost invisible whiff of breath exited the lips of Divinity ... ... and a life began.


the lake

The lake was vast beyond comprehension, yet its shores were clearly visible. The colors were indescribable, the sounds unrepeatable and the dimensions immeasurable. Yet it was all so distinctively real and magnificently clear. The well-worn path upon which untold hundreds of millions of little feet had walked through an innumerable succession of earth seasons, skirted the contours of the great lake just inside the line of trees. It looked like the grass had been trampled and died, but in a place where life reigns supreme and nothing ever ends, it had simply changed its color to deliver the required effect. And gone on living.


Down in the distance along the shore, a tall, angelic being called “Dispatcher” was walking somewhat nonchalantly, hand in hand with a small child. His long legs were no match for the little one who, however, didn’t seem to mind at all having to keep up with the much bigger being and trotted quite happily next to him. Every now and then Dispatcher would stop, crouch down, point at something in the distance and smile. The child would open his mouth and produce “Ahs!” and “Ohs!” of wonder and excitement. As they walked past an opening in the forest, a Man dressed in a white robe was standing with his arms folded and a huge smile on his face. At the enquiring look from Dispatcher, the Man nodded lightly and the angel bowed to Him, ever so gently. Then he spoke. "Dear one",” whispered the silver haired being with the youthful eyes, "you have just been brought into existence in a distant place called earth by two people

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like you who love each other very much and long to meet you. However, that moment is not yet. You and I are going to spend some time together before that. I am going to give you principles that will help you when your hour to be born is fulfilled and you will relocate to your new, albeit temporary home on earth. This world is your final destination, but you have to go through this time-transition in order to fulfill your purposes and to want to come back here. It's going to have to be your choice and that choice is the only requirement for you to return. I will do my best to help you. The rest is up to you. Come, let us begin." With that, Dispatcher and the little child began their walk around the lake that would take exactly the right time to be completed. Around nine months. Not a minute more. Not a minute less.

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1

Be very, very aware of the world beyond your senses.

“This is the most important key, because that world is where everything originates and where everything will eventually terminate. Once you are born on earth, you will think that all there is to life is what you see, touch, taste, hear and smell. That is not so. The two worlds – the physical and the spiritual - live in parallel dimensions that seldom touch, even though they are very, very dependent on one another. The physical because it is simply subject to the sovereignty of the spiritual and has to obey its ultimate supremacy; the spiritual because the 15


divine Creator has an eternal and immense love for the physical world of humans and longs to reunite the two, for good, eventually. Sadly there will be many concepts that you will find very, very hard to comprehend the moment you enter the physical world and lose the ability to interact with the spiritual one. However, Divinity has designed a way by which, if you want, you will be able to reconnect with us. I shall tell you later about it. Suffice to say that Divinity will place within you a strong longing for this world and you will constantly try to solve the question of your origin, your identity and the final outcome of your existence. Therein lies your adventure, because that quest, my little friend, is ultimately the most important one you will ever undertake in your whole life. The journey will be long and the temptations to deviate many. The main lie with which you will be faced, is the one about Divinity’s character and nature. You will be told He doesn’t exist. And should you insist with such puerile convictions, you will be told He doesn’t care 16


about you and that He is cruel, demanding and vindictive. Don’t listen. Follow your heart. Your heart has been designed with a vacuum within it that only Divinity can fill - nothing else. Accept Divinity’s love, it’s His gift to you. I repeat: be very aware of the world beyond your senses; it carries your ultimate solution. Furthermore. There is a formidable foe that hates you with an allconsuming ferocity. He hates Divinity and because he cannot do anything to Him, he tries to hurt His children. This being has many similar beasts under him, fallen creatures who have betrayed their Master and followed him. They are now known as demons. You need to know this from the beginning, because even though it will take some time before you can make up your own mind as to whether these creatures actually exist or not and what to do about that discovery, they will try to destroy you from the very first day of your existence -

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and even before you will have your complete, physical body. Only the Creator's grace and love will protect you until you can select your own weapons and fight your own battle. Guardian angels will be assigned to your protection while you are vulnerable - and later on if you so choose. They answer only to Divinity's commands and, then, to your words. They are spiritual beings that have been created to serve Divinity and His children. I am one of them. I repeat: be very aware of the world beyond your senses; it's more real than the one you are about to enter."

Under the sun My name is Marco and I was born in a northern Italian town called Milano. I obviously don't remember much about that time apart from the few snippets of information I recall hearing from my family members in later years. I apparently had two noses. Well, not quite 18


two "noses" as much as one "nose" plus one very evident and very protruding growth on top of it, between my eyebrows. They told me that - even as a baby - it made me look very intent and very concerned with life. Though I had just appeared, I was already trying to solve mankind’s problems. I guess some people must have been happy with my coming. My father, on the other hand, didn't want a son, (he had one already and who wants two of the same kind anyway?) but he wanted a daughter. (Sorry, I didn't know that mattered so much, you should've told me, I would have tried harder). So he tried to exchange me. Yes, my brother - ten years older than me - told me later on in life that while our dad was going down in the elevator of the maternity home I had been born in, he met a man who was complaining about his wife giving birth to his third daughter. Promptly my father offered a swop. No one would find out. All that identified the different babies was a little plastic strip tied to the wrist. Easy - and both families would be happy. The other man said no - and in the short history of my one-week-long life, I was rejected twice. 19


That was the beginning of a feeling that accompanied me for many, many years to come. I am certainly not trying to offload the responsibility of my acute, chronic “infantilism” onto my father, but my dad’s rejection nonetheless formed a great portion of the root cause of all my misbehaving. (To be fair to him, I must say that in the last years of his life he did try to make up for all that time he simply wasn’t there and reached out to me. Unfortunately he did it too late as he died when I was just twenty-eight years old.) I basically didn’t know who I was (father, you are supposed to establish your son’s identity early in life) and so I tried to be and to do anything that I thought would help me being acceptable to him, with all the resulting lies, falsities and subterfuges that landed me instead in countless troubles and infuriated my father even more. I quickly moved from infantile naughtiness to juvenile mischief in those couple of years that bridge puberty. Whether it was my father (I was my mother's favorite child - even undeservingly so - therefore no problems 20


there) or a friend, a teacher or a girl, it looks like my early life was spent in trying to get acceptance from people. And to do that I was prepared to do almost anything. I exasperated my dad to such an extent that I found myself daily on the receiving end of his physical outbursts of anger. And understandingly so, since in order to somehow capture his attention, I would put salt in the sugar container he used for his customary aftermeal espresso coffee (if you've never tasted black, concentrated, strong Italian coffee, never mind without sugar, but with salt in the place of sugar, I strongly suggest you don't. Unless of course you enjoy looking like a bullfrog whose backside has just been stepped on by someone wearing military boots). I would pour acetone down the corridor in our apartment (mercifully Italian houses very rarely use carpets in passageways) and light it to watch the flame snake all the way to the front door, or slice his brand new, rather expensive easy chair, just because I enjoyed the sound of the blade cutting through leather.

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Yes, I was your very normal run-of-the-mill, factory default, snotty little Italian brat who demands to be the king of the castle just because he happens to be obnoxious enough to force everyone else out of the courtyard. And so I would shoot fire crackers off my balcony at little old ladies on the street four stories below and then follow up with water bombs; set a forest on fire while roasting sausages on a stick at a boy scout outing where my friend and I were the only participants; pick my father's business associate's gold fish off the surface of his 17th century villa's garden fountain with my pellet gun; use the same weapon to end the lives of countless lizards who made the understandable mistake of sunbathing on the fence wall that ran around my father’s garden and of many little sparrow birds who simply had the unfortunate idea of landing on the branches of a tree not far from my bedroom window. I got so drunk – at age twelve - on my father's liquor, carefully stashed in his downstairs cellar, that I had to be repeatedly slapped by my older brother who found me passed out, in order to be awoken from my comatose stupor. I once set fire to a wooden airplane model 22


when I should've been at school - which I then remotely flew into a tree of a neighbor’s garden, and on, and on, and on. And this only in my first few years of life on earth. And why? Because, bottom line, I wanted to prove to my father - and to myself - that I was a man and I had “what it takes�! Unfortunately when you are pre-teen, the only way to discover that you are a man and you do have what it takes, is to hear it from your father - lacking which, the little man-in-training is nothing more than an accident waiting to happen, somewhere, sometime, somehow - for sure.

On the other side Divinity smiled, an all-knowing beam. Almost to Himself He whispered, "Well, you and I are going to have some very interesting days ahead of us, little one. What a beautiful combination of extremes cohabit in your individuality. I have great plans for you. Yes, it's going to be fun watching you live." 23


"Fun, Sir?" exclaimed the angels almost in unison. "Yes. Fun." Divinity smiled again, but this time a little more somberly.

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2 Keep your priorities right.

“A physical body has been assigned to you: magnificently unique, you are an original. You don't get to choose the location of your birth or the time of it. You won't have a say in the color of your body, its details, sex or condition. Decide to make the best with what you've got because that is what you’ve got. Make peace with your body and treat it well. You will not get a replacement. Your body will begin the dying process from the moment of its birth. All earthly life is terminal. Savor every day as if it was the first day of the rest of your life – because it is. 25


You will reach your peak toward the middle of your time. You will feel almost invincible and indestructible, yet, as with all things on earth, it’s only an illusion death is able to strike at any moment. Do not fear it, but be wise. You will also be given a soul. Your soul will be a combination of your mind, your emotions, your will and your personality. Just as for your body, so it is with your soul: you are unique. No one else has your character. Just as your fingers will have on their surface a very peculiar, unique and singular design that will identify you amongst millions of similar human beings, so it will be with your soul. Past experiences, present circumstances and future plans and dreams will shape the pattern of your personality just like a master sculptor will a block of marble: distinctively, unrepeatably, a masterpiece that cannot and will not be duplicated. And then there’s your spirit. The one I am addressing presently, the real you. Your spirit is the part of you that has been created in the image and likeness of Divinity. That’s why your spirit will not die, it will merely move from eternity to time and back to eternity. During your 26


stay in the time dimension, you will decide where to spend the rest of your existence and that decision will determine your eternal home: with Divinity or away from Him. It will be your choice. You are a divinely put-together blend of attributes and characteristics that form the uniqueness of your person. Don’t try to be someone else. You are an original. Make peace with who you are and enjoy your uniqueness. Sometime during the course of your human experience, you will be inclined to think that all you consist of is a body but don't ever forget, you are a spirit, you have a soul and you merely live in a body. Keep your priorities right."

Under the sun. As a youngster I escaped death on many occasions. I almost asphyxiated thrice. Once as a baby, I stuck two peas up my nostrils, just because I discovered two holes in my face that obviously needed filling. I had to be rushed to hospital and have them surgically removed. 27


The other time when the hairy skin of a chestnut anchored itself in my air pipe and I actually became cyanotic before my father turned me upside down and smacked the sticky creeper out of me. And another time when my brother, with his back firmly on the ground, catapulted me off his feet a couple of meters up in the air and I flipped while flying. I landed on my back on a rock that simply sucked the breath out of me for what seemed to be an interminable time. I came to when my lungs miraculously started working again. These are obviously only the ones I actually remember but I am quite positive there must've been more. Once I melted two of my mother's knitting needles by pushing them into an electric socket in the wall. The experience was, to say the least, electrifying. One day, when I was only five or six, while I was running after my brother, ten years older than me, I didn’t see a steel wire farmers had stretched across a bridge to keep their cattle from straying onto a nearby golf course and I bounced off the child’s-forehead-high barrier down the side of the bridge. I flew past a number of very sharp, spear-shaped uprights that would have nicely impaled 28


me had I not miraculously missed them and ended my fall onto some providentially placed yet very, very hard pavers that covered the river below. They broke my fall and stopped me from being swept under by the current. I fell off various trees and other structures with injuries from minor to serious; had various motorbike accidents both by myself and with others; saw the back of a truck slice through the top on my brother's car, just a fraction of a second after he and my mother had ducked under the dashboard, only to stop just a few centimeters short of avoiding to smash the front of my face, which it did, somewhat painfully. I wore a stitched-up harelip for a couple of months after that. I ingested large quantities of liquor and smoked various types of exotic grasses and other material. Possibly the best challenge to my future existence, though, was when I wanted to see how 9mm bullets would behave when dropped inside the burning chamber of my father's boiler, down in the basement of our house in Tuscany. Of course the fun was watching them zing about in the tight cast-iron enclosure through 29


a small glass window on its side, which was eventually shattered by one of the deadly projectiles just a mere second after I had moved my face away. My first car accident was in Bergamo, a city in the north of Italy, where I attended college. I still remember the name of the guy who – due to my inborn, deceitful ability to make others believe I can do anything - insisted I should drive his 850 Fiat even though I was only seventeen and without a license. His name was Pescali; I think it should have been “Ignoramuscali�. I confidently took the wheel of the little car and a short twenty minutes later I wrapped it around a very solid and very unforgiving oak tree on the winding, mountain road that joins "Birghem de huta" (lower Bergamo) to "Birghem de hura" (upper Bergamo). Mercifully the tree stopped me and the rest of the passengers inside the car from taking off the side and flying to our certain demise on the rocks a few dozen meters below. My mother would buy cars and I would wreck them. 30


I remember the white Arabella Borgward, a first in Italy, with the hooked gear lever that protruded well past the middle of the console. We are talking early 60s. It was a beautiful car. I took it for a ride inside a very dense cluster of trees after having left the road earlier on – due to high speed - and introduced her to a few of them, intimately. Then it was the green Ford Taunus 12m. Along the river Sieve in Tuscany there is a sharp bend on the road between Pontassieve and Rufina that simply refused to negotiate with my careless, driving arrogance. I'll never forget the face of the solitary fisherman along the river bank who had parked his little 500 Fiat on the road curb and after having heard the smash, looked up and saw the front half of an unidentified car protruding through the wall and oscillating rather precariously, roughly ten meters above his head. And then there was the Taunus 17m and the Renault 4L, the 124 Fiat and the 600 Fiat, my brother’s Lancia, the old Giulietta and others. Lastly, of what I remember... was the white 500 Fiat which I had stolen from an unsuspecting driver who had unwisely parked it in front of a Coffee Bar with the keys 31


in the ignition. Well, what can I say? I had a girl to take out that night and no transport. I just had to have a car. Simple. Obviously I kept the little car for a number of weeks beyond that evening, miraculously avoiding some serious accidents and surviving a few minor ones from which I always managed to drive away undetected (and especially, un-arrested) before returning it to the address recorded on the registration papers. I parked it on the pavement by the front door, rang the bell and simply walked away. Yes, I think the connection between the foot on the accelerator pedal and my brains must have fused sometime during birth. Or was it just the connection with my brains in general? The more I think about those days, the more I think something or someone did not want me to survive them, while something or someone did. Only much, much later I found out who – and why. The one incident, however, where I can really say I encountered supernatural, miraculous help was when, 32


one winter afternoon at age thirteen I fell off a tree I was climbing, smashed the back of my head on two upturned bricks around its trunk and while lying there stupefied, I distinctively heard a voice that told me to get "water, water". I crawled to the garden tap a few meters away and just before passing out I turned on the water and put my head under the flow. Apparently, so the doctor later said, had I not done that and stopped the flow of blood with the ice-cold liquid, I would have quite possibly died of brain hemorrhage. Well, what do you know, somebody up there loved me!

On the other side "First class special angel Ariel, serial number 00A47BB26 at your service, Sir!"

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"At ease, guardian angel. Your new assignment is being dispatched to earth shortly,” announced the senior angel called Scribe. "Yes, Sir! Anything in particular I should know?" "You will find all relevant information in the file being transferred as we speak." The guardian angel closed his eyes for a fraction of a second and nodded in agreement. "As you can see, your charge has a very important future ahead of him. Your duty is to make sure all is done to protect his life. Limbs and appendices are expendable but he must not die. He is also very active.” A small smile escaped the senior angel's lips. “And he is going to require your full attention at all times." Suddenly the senior angel called Scribe turned his head faintly sideways, somewhat puzzled by what he was obviously receiving in telepathic transmission, and announced, "There is a special meeting called by Chief Michael himself and you've been summoned there. You are to proceed to Head Quarters immediately." 34


Ariel flew - even though the words, “instantly transported” might be more apt – to Heaven Head Quarters and entered the “Earth Operational Room” as silently as a thought. At his arrival, however, many heads turned simultaneously, including Michael's who rose to greet his subordinate. “Sit, dear friend, sit. I have much to disclose to you. The little guy you have been assigned to has, to say the least, a very interesting future ahead of him.” “Interesting, Sir?” mused special-angel Ariel, tilting his head ever so slightly. “Yes. Apparently he is one of those “pieces” the Lord uses in His unbelievingly complex plans of intervention. Your assignment will be a vital pivot for so many other lives. He has been engineered with a rather large portion of “consequential gifting”, as he will be very instrumental in the destiny of many others. He is strategically very important. And that's why the enemy has already assigned a somewhat “heavy” beast to him, your old friend Nakah, the killer.”

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Somehow Ariel was not surprised in hearing the name of the foe he had combatted so many times before. As demons go, Nakah was definitely one of the meanest. “Your assignment is presently walking the lake with Wisdom, the dispatcher,” continued Michael with a sudden frown on his strong forehead. “You will begin your mission in approximately nine earth-months from now. Go now. Study your charge. Get to know him intimately. Humans are so hard to predict. Be ready for anything. And, most of all, get ready for many fights. In the first half of his life Marco is going to give Nakah many opportunities to terminate him. This must not happen. Too many human salvations depend on this little guy. We are counting on you.” First class special angel Ariel, serial number 00A47BB26, exited Head Quarters walking rather then tele-transporting, almost as if he wanted to weigh his actions carefully. Starting from now.

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3 Be life's master, not its servant.

“Right from the beginning of your journey you will find forks along the way. Every one of these crossroads will bring within itself the divine gift of choice, hence the possibility of making a mistake. Should you take the wrong decision, do not despair but use the experience as a lesson to be learnt. There will be lots of learning to be done. Life, as you will know it, is a very harsh teacher but you can still make the best of its dictates if you so decide. Use it, don’t fight it! 37


Seek wisdom in everything you do. Respect older men and women and learn from all those who prove to be valid role models. Establish solid values early in life by which you will be able to weigh and filter your decisions. Do the best you can with what you have. Always take your next decision in the light of your past experience, your present circumstances and your future dreams and expectations, then act. And if you still take the wrong direction, look out for the next fork - it will come, and that time take the right turn. You will not be able to control what happens on the outside of you, but you will be the master of what happens on the inside of you. Mistakes are not final unless you treat them so. Don't let circumstances, wrong choices, errors and failures rob you of the fuel of life: hope. You have been given a magnificent ability called resilience. Use it. The ultimate desire of Divinity is for you to walk the road that will take you the quickest and the easiest way to His perfect plan and purpose for your life.�

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Dispatcher stopped and picked up a stick that had providentially appeared along the path. “Divinity’s will is not a straight line like this stick, rigid and unbending.” He then crouched next to the child and pointing to a rather leafy tree in the distance continued, “but rather like that tree. There are many branches through which the sap within that tree can flow to get to the outer edges of the foliage and all of them are valid!” The little one nodded slowly as he supernaturally absorbed the concept. “So it is with Divinity’s will. Make your choices, drink your cup, enjoy your life, keep pointing to the light, and trust Divinity to take you there one branch or another. Life is to be your servant, not your master! Remember, there can always be a new paragraph, a new chapter, a new page. It's up to you, because ultimately, you will be the one doing the writing.”

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Under the sun. One of the usual things that my father would hurl at me with painful regularity was, “You’re such a little girl! I need to take you down to the cellar and slap you around ‘til blood flows out of your face, and make a man out of you!” His not-so-subliminal message being, “You’re not a man!” And so I spent the first two decades of my life trying to prove to myself and to the world that I was a man! The only way an Italian boy thinks he can prove to be a man: by being a male. I started at the tender age of fourteen bedding anything that breathed. And I didn’t stop for many, many years. To be honest, I could easily have gone the homosexual way. When your father keeps telling you that you’re a girl, well, what can I say, many a boy would just believe it and, sadly, act on it. But not I, oh no, not I. I went the opposite way, the way of the male: arrogance, carelessness, self-centeredness, opportunism, conceit, impudence and irresponsibility. 40


I had to prove something to my father. I had to prove that I could handle life as a man. By myself. Without him. And so I ran away from home. I remember meeting a girl and hooking up with her father who needed a “partner”. This person was nothing more than a sad imitation of a businessman who would park his caravan somewhere on a side street in Florence and sell anything he could lay his hands on – legally or illegally - to passers by. However, he taught me how to charm up girls by drawing with a toothpick on the soot made by a candle on the inside of the white dish normally found on tables in discotheques. To fix it I asked the chosen one to let me use her lacquer hair spray (very fashionable those days) and then give it to her as a token of my undying love! What more could I have asked for from a mentor? And so I became the teen partner of one Cristiano Ronchi, entrepreneur “par excellence” in anything that could be sold, pawned, peddled or exchanged.

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One day, just one or two weeks after the devastating flood that hit Florence in the 60s, we went to a large warehouse that stored valuable books. After having checked the name of the Company’s proprietor on top of the building, I confidently announced to the guard that Mr. “Owner” had instructed us to remove a large number of very pricey volumes that though not water-damaged were nevertheless – because of the publisher’s prominence - unmarketable. As expected, the guard was bowled over by my self-assurance, did not check with Mr. “Owner” and gave us free way to load dozens and dozens of very large and costly volumes of 17th century prints onto our van. We merrily sold them at a give-away price from a spot in Piazza della Repubblica in Florence, until one day when Mr. “Owner” happened to walk by our caravan and saw his magnificent books being peddled for a song. Needless to say, he called the police and we left in a hurry. And that was just the beginning of a life where I would be spending my days in a desperate search for any 42


possible way to make a penny and get a girl. My two resident gods being, obviously, money and sex. Until some time in the late 60s when my father, who was at the time running away from debt and depression, was, though unintentionally, used as a divine tool to alter my life forever. After having quite supernaturally found me living in a small apartment in the center of Florence (just by walking by and hearing me play my guitar through an open window) he told me, somewhat bluntly and rather unexpectedly, “I’m going to South Africa. And you’re coming with me.” And so came South Africa. And with South Africa came Heaven’s (second) greatest gift to me: my wife. I met her at the Johannesburg Ice Rink where Alfredo, a friend from Naples and I, would go every week: he to skate and I (you guessed it) to pick up girls. She was seventeen and the most beautiful, pure and delicate thing I’d ever laid eyes on. She was exiting the skating area with a friend when Alfredo - my Neapolitan 43


angel - stuck his skate in front of her and providentially said, “Hold this, please”. She stopped, our eyes locked, I smiled, and destiny happened. I asked her to marry me in 1971 and we’ve had over forty years of the most gorgeous, heaven-made, satisfying marriage I could ever have dreamt of. Despite my initial eleven years of destructively counterproductive Italian behavior.

On the other side Divinity smiled. The blonde, slim teenage girl by the name of Josel had just finished breathing her prayer, “Lord, please send me a man that will love me or I’ll die!” and now was lying, eyes closed, hands behind her head, on her bed in the small suburb of Rawville, West of Johannesburg, in South Africa. Her dad had passed away when she was four and now in her teens, she felt the desperate need for a 44


man’s love and affection. (That which God has designed for every father to give to his daughter until she meets “the” man that will take his place and love her for the rest of her life.) Divinity looked throughout the earth and to the utter consternation – if angels could be surprised - of the angelic host that always surround Him, He pointed to, yes, me. Because, ultimately, He knew that no one on earth would be able to love that girl more than this crazy, uncaring, arrogant, self-centered Italian young man named Marco. The angels moved into action instantly and three short years later I found myself staring into the eyes of that magnificent creature and falling desperately in love with her. And I haven’t changed yet. “My son,” whispered Divinity to Himself while looking at Marco from outside time and space, “I will bless you with the most beautiful gift any man can wish for. I will bless you with love for your woman. There will be times when it will be nearly unbearable; your heart will almost ache at the intensity of my gift. I will put some of the 45


quality of my love in your affection for her. I am blessing you with a friend, a sister, a lover, a wife. You will never be the same again. Now go, and meet your companion.� And with that, on the 31st day of May 1968, Marco’s father boarded an old SAA Boeing 707 bound for Johannesburg, South Africa, with a rather uncooperative and somewhat intrigued twenty one year old in tow.

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4 Define yourself by who you are and not what you do.

“Your significance is not in what you do or in what you have, but in who you were created to be. Many, many people will have more things than you do, more knowledge than you do, strength, wisdom and beauty than you do. You are not them. Settle it. You are unique and uniquely made. Your personality, path and destination are different from every other human being’s on earth. During the course of your life you will be tempted to use titles and accolades to define your worth and significance. Don’t. The value of who you are is 47


contained exactly in that - who you are. You are a creature proceeded from Divinity Himself, made in His image and according to His likeness. Seek your true stature in your real roots. You have been created to constantly better yourself, which is good, but don’t ever allow that goal to become the sole motivating factor for your existence. When you look at the stars, it makes very, very, very little difference how much taller than the next person you are – or shorter. Your identity is embedded in your divine Father’s identity. Don’t be haughty but don’t ever forget where you come from. That notion, and only that, will ultimately protect you from life’s shortcomings and disappointments. Strangely enough, you will encounter people that will judge other people by the color of their skin. They will weigh them by the size of their bank account and regard them by the culture they come from, the education they possess or the popularity they enjoy. Don’t do that. When you approach life from the point of view of Who you come from rather than what you have or what you 48


do, you will see others through the same lens. You will recognize them and value them not in terms of how much they possess, what title precedes their name or what is their status in society, but in terms of their divine extraction, their natural qualities and their untapped potential. Doing that, you will surround yourself with teammates and not opponents; aids rather than rivals; friends instead of enemies. See all creatures as originating out of God – for they do – and you will understand the magnificence of the many facets of beauty: dissimilar in detail but equal in source. Life is not a destination, it’s a journey - enjoy your singularity.”

Under the sun.

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And so began my life in this incredibly beautiful new country, South Africa. Everything was so different. The language to start off with (I couldn’t speak a word of English and today I still struggle with Afrikaans); the food; the way people related to one another; the houses; the money; the climate; the traditions. You name it, it was different. My first strange experience in this new land was, however very trivial: work. I suddenly didn’t have a house to go home to, nor a steaming “mamma’s” plate of pasta waiting for me, nor a couple of notes begging to be lifted off my father’s purse somewhere in the vicinity. I was without support, alone (my dad had since gone back to Italy) and self-accountable. Suddenly I had to acquaint myself with this foreign and somewhat frightening new concept: survival. And so I applied for a job at an Italian factory called “Treviso Motors” that manufactured motorcar engines. I obviously told my interviewer that I had many years experience in the motor trade industry and got the job for the extravagant pay of S.A. Rand 1.05 per hour, today’s equivalent of just under ten cents of a Euro. 50


Obviously, as I was Marco, the “different” one, I found a way to escape the menial routine of “work” to which everyone else had to be subservient. I would clock in at seven pm for the night shift, give some money to my African helper (who knew far better what to do with the crazy machine than I did anyway), leave him with a platform full of engines to be worked on and disappear again to go play poker with my friends until the early hours of the next day. I would then return to the factory, give some more money to my guy, work for an hour or two ‘till the end of my shift, clock out and go home to sleep off the exhaustion. One morning, however, things didn’t go quite as planned. I remember having had a particularly heavy gambling night and I was seriously spaced out when I got to my “lapidello”, a machine designed to smooth down and polish the top part of engine blocks with a big, rotating wheel full of abrasive stones that protruded from its bottom like many dirty-white, symmetrical teeth which would pass over the head of the block with infinitesimally 51


small, descending steps, at a speed of approximately 3000 revs per minute. The problem that morning was that the last engine block my African helper had worked on before passing the control of the machine over to me had been a six cylinder Rambler which was significantly shorter in height than the four cylinder Fiat that had just been delivered to me. To top it all, it just so happened that as I pressed the fateful button that would send the much taller engine block firmly clamped to the oscillating table to smash into the side of the wheel rotating at frightful speed, the owner of the factory entered the floor accompanied by the South African minister of industry who was visiting and conducting a routine inspection of the plant. Moral of the story: the machine started, the engine block approached the wheel at the wrong level, the abrasive stones hit the side of the metal and shot off like bullets in radial formation and in a thousand different directions! Miraculously enough I, again, avoided being killed and, in this case, killing anyone else. Needless to say, however, I found myself suddenly unemployed and 52


with an innate dislike for abrasive machinery, motor blocks and metal work in general. And that was just one of the paybacks life handed me regularly for the “games� that I dared play with it. But then again, I really thought that was the way in which one was supposed to make a living. Cheat or be cheated. Take or be taken. Do unto others before they do unto you. What followed was a long period of youthfully arrogant, disruptive and wasteful months in which I moved from occupation to occupation simply trying to milk as much money as I could with as little effort as possible from a society and culture I still did not quite understand. Then I met my wife. And slowly, with my angel next to me, I learnt to adapt. And so we moved into an apartment, we bought a car and we had children. It really looked like I had finally grown up. But I still needed to prove to the world that I was a man and I had what it took!

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And so I started travelling. Those days South Africa had no television and so I bought a 16mm film library in one of the shadiest parts of town with my partner and friend Gianni. We hired out movies on film-reels in brown cases together with huge Eiki projectors to be viewed at home (very much like a video library these days, only way, way bulkier and messier). The quality of our “product� was very questionable and we had many encounters with the police until eventually we both ended up arrested and tried by the local authorities. Strangely, once again, even though we were guilty as charged, we were released and cleared of all accusations, but not after having spent a couple of days in a very, very cold, drab, filthy and debilitating prison cell. Twice. That experience and the arrival of SATV in 1975 caused us somehow to start thinking about offloading our very burdensome activity (I remember that in 1974 I did not spend one night at home as we had to stay open every night of the year, including Christmas!) But how do you offload something basically useless that no one wants?

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I made a couple of enquiries and pronto, I had the answer! Apparently the Arabs were buying western movies because of their “audacity” and the resultant potential for business. So, what does Marco do? Why, he hops on the first plane to Saudi Arabia, via Italy - in those days of sanctions – and lands in a 42 degrees hot Jeddah with a winter coat on his back and a bottle of wine in his suitcase! (Muslim, Sharia law calls for the immediate incarceration of anyone suspected of bringing alcohol into the country, but I did not know that then!) After an incredible stroke of “luck” (I later came to discover that all the “luck” in my life was nothing more than divine intervention) I managed to stay un-arrested plus – miracle of all miracles - get a hotel room in an impossibly crowded Jeddah and find a “Movie hire” shop literally around the corner from my hotel (which, might I add, had the biggest cockroaches I have ever seen in my life! I don’t mean they were enormous, but hey, you could hear them coming up the stairs and force your door open!). That’s where I met a little Arab man called

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Abdullah Sheik who informed me that he would buy any movie with which I could supply him! That was the beginning of over five years of my “import-export� business that spanned from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, from Somalia to Kuwait, from Lebanon to Zaire (Congo). We called our company MA.GI.CA. Enterprises, from the initials of the three founding members, Marco, Gianni and Carmine. The money was good, the travelling adventurous and the rules blurred. We would get, one way or another, anything that could be sold, package it and ship it to various countries. There we would exchange, usually at the local black market, the money produced by the sale of those goods with international currency or with other stuff such as ivory, precious stones or anything else valuable, and bring the whole lot back to South Africa, obviously under false pretenses, for banking or resale. That little exercise usually produced in the region of 1000% return on the original monetary outlay. But not without risks.

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As the movies we were selling had an English sound track, the Arab buyers required sub-titles. In those days the only lab that could do Arabic sub-titles was in Beirut, Lebanon. And so I began travelling to that country which, unbeknown to me, was on the brink of a civil war. In fact the last visit I paid to Beirut before moving the operation to Cairo in Egypt, was the day the Lebanese Militia decided to bomb the airport. My plane literally took off as the mortar bombs started hitting the runway! One day I heard that they were selling a matchbox full of gold powder for 5 Zaires (those days the equivalent of 20 cents of a US Dollar) in a remote place in Northern Zaire called Bukavu, in the Kivu region that bordered Rwanda. And as the “cautious� man that I have always been, I hopped onto the first plane and flew there. When I got to Kinshasa, the capital of the then Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo, today), I cashed fifteen thousand US dollars into Zaires after which I flew to Goma, the closest town with an airport, where I was informed that there were no roads going to Bukavu, only barges and small, private planes. I managed to get a lift with a missionary plane that was flying supplies into that 57


remote region and landed a couple of hours later on a very, very rough runway in the middle of Africa, with a Samsonite case full of local currency and nowhere to go. After having checked into a very “local” B&B, (I am not saying the mosquitoes were big, but they could certainly lift you off your bed and carry you away to their nest, if you weren’t careful) I began making enquiries. That led to finding myself after a few days at the end of a long bus drive in a rather isolated opening in the middle of a forest under an implacable African sun in my tan safari suit, a cigarette on my lips, a suitcase full of money at my feet and no one in sight. My “contact” had assured me that the miners would come and bring the gold powder to me. We would then exchange goods and I could catch the returning bus approximately an hour later. Oh, they came all right. About a dozen of them, with very fierce snarls on their faces, camouflage jackets on their backs and long, sharp machetes in their hands. The leader of the group approached me with a look that said, “You-very-poor-and-stupid-white-man-you obviously-have-the-equivalent-brainpower-of-an58


underdeveloped-amoeba.” He took my suitcase full of money and said in French, “Thank your God that we let you live. Now go and don’t tell anyone what happened if you want to stay alive.” Only many years later I would fully realize the significance of his words. One day I was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, trying to pass the time while waiting for some AmEx traveller’s checks to be refunded. They had been stolen in Nairobi and I only discovered the theft once on the other side of passport control at the airport. I decided to ask the travel agent if I could use his car for a tour of the city. What I didn’t know was that he was a fierce opposer of the then leader of the country, dictator Haile Mengistu, and that the boot (trunk) of his car was full of subversive material. I got a little African boy to show me the way and drove the car to the outskirts of town. After a couple of turns I found myself at the end of a very wide, sandy stretch of road, staring at a high, blank and rather imposing wall. Having turned around, I started driving off when I heard the voice of my young guide screaming, 59


“Kuacha! Kuacha! Stop! Stop!” Checking in the rear-view mirror, I saw a seriously menacing military vehicle complete with manned machine-gun pointing in our general direction, gaining on us at full speed. What followed was another “stroke of luck”. The soldier jumped out of the Jeep, unholstered a very big revolver, pointed it at my temple and commanded, “Get out!” Now, if you’ve ever wondered what to do when an obviously upset, red-eyed, profusely sweating, uniform-wearing, weapon-waving Ethiopian soldier orders you to get out of your car, let me satisfy your justified curiosity: you get out. He pointed the gun at the front of the car – let me interject here that I was driving a 850 Fiat that has the engine at the back and the boot (trunk) in the front – and said, “What’s in there?” Had I opened the trunk (thinking it housed the engine) in the front and let him look inside, I would most probably have been shot on the spot as the flyers and posters it contained clearly depicted Colonel Menghistu 60


his boss and despotic commander, but one and only employer - as a butcher and a despot to be executed. At that moment, however, “something” (again, some years later I came to recognize that “Something” as a very, very special Person) made me speak to him in Italian and somewhat carelessly say, “The last time I looked ... the engine!” He smiled, obviously relieved that he was not dealing with some C.I.A. American spy – very high on the hunting agenda of any Ethiopian military in those days – but with an Italian citizen (Italy had been very good to Ethiopia during and after the war) and with his gun waved us off. Once I was flying with my friend Gianni on an MEA (Lebanese Airline) jet from Cairo to Ryad in Saudi Arabia, via Beirut. Before takeoff one of the stewards moved us to the first-class cabin as the plane was full of Arab pilgrims going to Mecca for the Haj and, in his words, it could get quite nasty back there! A couple of hours later, at a 36 000 feet cruising altitude, while very comfortably relaxing in our 61


unexpected and unpaid-for luxury, we saw - not without some consternation - one of the cabin attendants run past us while holding a fire extinguisher in his hands. Now, when you are roughly 12 kilometers up in the air, flying at approximately the speed of sound, in a metal tube that manages to stay afloat above a vast amount of nothingness for the single reason that four powerful engines are constantly burning jet fuel that’s propelling them through the air, the sight of someone running through the aisle with a “fire-killer” does not motivate you at all to start lifting your hands and sing happy songs! When we finally saw him returning to his post, he announced to us that a Bedouin back there didn’t know he was going to get food on the plane and, having become hungry, had pulled out a pot, a bottle of water, some meat and vegetables, a newspaper and a couple of logs and had proceeded to light a fire on the side of his seat in order to cook himself a meal! I guess it takes all sorts! And these are only four of my “risky” adventures. There were many, many more. 62


Yes, my import-export life was certainly financially rewarding but definitely not without risks!

On the other side Nakah arched his hairy, long, twisted back and let out a blood-curling scream. Demons, imps and minor spirits scattered in all directions. They knew very well that when “The Killer” was in one of his moods, it was far, far better to stay away from him. The sentinel that had brought the message had been thrown against the side of the huge underground cavern by the blast of Nakah’s fury. His jelly-like form was pinned against the rocks by the paralysing stare of the chief demon. “What do you mean, he’s still alive? I ordained everything: I had protection evaded and situations prepared, and you tell me that this pitiful human being has survived? I cannot allow this pathetic creature to grow up and do what the enemy created him to do. I will not permit any interference whatsoever! I want to know how much the enemy knows. I want to know how strong 63


his deployment is and most of all, I want to know who’s protecting this man!!!” As Nakah finished his rant, he clenched his fist as if squashing a bug. He wasn’t going to have anyone interfere with his mission, not man, not angel, not anybody. Lord Satan had given very clear orders with regard to the future of Marco Martini and his plans for him were not to fail, or one would have to taste the cutting edge of his wrath. Slowly, maliciously, the eyes of the demon closed to a slit as his voice hissed to his soldiers, “He is obviously being protected by someone’s prayers or he would have been dead long ago. Find this praying insect and deal with him – or her.” Josel was coming back from an evening movie with Marco, who at the time had no car and had to let her return home by bus. Her eyes were sparkling with a tingling sensation she had never felt in the short seventeen years of her life. Was it real? Could this be truly it? Was Marco, the incredibly charming, handsome and strong twenty-two year old Italian man who seemed to be so attracted to her, the one she had been asking the Lord for? Had her prayers finally been answered? 64


As her thoughts captivated her entirely, ricocheting through her mind at the speed of flying bullets and bringing a slight smile to her lips every time they did, she did not notice the dark figure that had been following her rather stealthily for the last few minutes. The place where Josel lived was a little suburb west of the main city that was off the beaten track and hidden away behind one of Johannesburg’s famous gold mine dumps. The result was a very dark and isolated few hundred meters on the main road from the bus stop to her house in the suburb. Crime was very, very rare in those days of severe police retribution, but evil is evil, no matter who is at the wheel of power. The man silently accelerated and cut across the dark field to hide behind an electrical box on the side of the road. Nakah’s demons played his mind like the keys on a grand piano and soon his entire brain was occupied by the urge to possess that young woman. If she cooperated, everything would be fine, but if she didn’t, well, he would have to add another life to his already heinous and somewhat long list of similar “couldn’t-help-myself-she-tried-to-resist-me” deeds. 65


Suddenly, as Josel approached and the man prepared to grab her, Ariel sprang into action and after having disposed of a couple of minor spirits and flicking some demonic matter off his otherwise impeccable tunic, he kicked the stray dog that slept quite peacefully under a bush just left of the small metal box. The animal jumped to its feet at its sudden awakening and let out a loud and malignant growl at the person who had obviously caused it. But, as growling alone wasn’t enough, Ariel kicked it again, this time a little harder, and the dog almost flew into the legs of Josel’s assailant who began to scamper and run as the now seriously wild canine beast chased him down the dark alley and out of sight. Not quite sure of what had just happened and totally oblivious as to the mortal danger she had just been delivered from, Josel walked the last few dozen meters to her house and locked the door securely behind her. A few more steps and she was leisurely stretched on her single bed, eyes to the ceiling, still thinking about her new found love, Marco. 66


Deep in the hellish caverns of the damned, where darkness reigns and Satan is lord, Nakah and his demons stood trembling before Prince Beelzebub, second in command, directly under Satan, the infernal Master. All the arrogance, all the pomposity, all the self reliance gone, they squirmed like a bunch of naughty children caught stealing the cookies as they hurled accusations at one another in the hope of diverting the Chief Demon’s wrath away from themselves. “Enough!” roared the Prince of Darkness. “You are all incompetent, but you are all I have right now. Dispose of this Marco human and his female friend before they find out about their ultimate destiny. Use sex, money or pride, but get them! Or die.” concluded Beelzebub matter-of-factly, pointing to the door. The interview was over. The orders clear: “Them” or “you”. Face to the ground, the demons backed out of the room. 67


5 Joy is not a feeling: it's a choice. Choose joy.

“Even though life will be very somber at times, don't ever take yourself too seriously. Learn to laugh with others at misery's attempts to deprive you of your happiness. Not easy at first, but very, very prone to addiction. You will discover that human beings like to surround themselves with lightness and laughter. You can attract many with joy or repel many with misery. Choose your companions wisely. Always opt for the joyful, the positive, the hopeful. It’s an attitude you will need to cultivate. Life has the terrible

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tendency of serving you “lemons”. When it does that, smile – and make some lemonade.” The little child looked up at Dispatcher with a puzzled tilt of the head that said it all. Dispatcher stopped, smiled and explained, “What I am trying to say is that things will sometimes not go as you would like them to in life and you will be left holding some sour fruit in your hands. When that happens, smile real big, add some sugar-joy and squeeze the fruit. Then keep on smiling and enjoy the juice.” The child nodded and the two of them resumed their walk hand in hand. “Try as much as you can to concentrate on all the things you have been given rather than on the ones you lack. For indeed nothing good comes from self-pity. You will soon realize that you will never catch a tan if you stay out of the sun. You will never taste the juice if you don't squeeze the fruit. You will never enjoy the music if you refuse to dance. You will never see the fireworks if you don't light the fuse. You will never live an abundant life if you don't abandon yourself to Divinity’s beautiful unpredictability. 69


One of the greatest enemies of joy is monotony. Anything that can be predicted, weighed, measured and boxed can ultimately produce deadly boredom and misery. Search the sky for funny shaped clouds, play a joke on a friend, stretch out on the grass, go for a run on the beach, sing like nobody is listening, dance like nobody is watching, laugh like you don’t have a care in the world. Don’t always hope that the storm will stop but sometimes enjoy skipping in the rain! It’s Divinity’s desire for you to enjoy the life He has given you. Journey happily in His incredible creation, experience its beauty wholeheartedly, savor the juice of life. Smile often. It is your declaration of contentment.

On the other side Rather incredulous at his audaciousness, Ariel looked at Divinity and somberly whispered, “Why Master, why?” Yes, if angels could cry he would have let that strange feeling inside of him go ahead and produce tears.

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In His infinite mercy, Divinity had let Marco’s angel glimpse into his protégé’s future and the sight had not been pleasant. Marco was going to be attacked by a very particular vermin by the name of “Maveth”, the spirit of suicide, and he was going to be ravaged by the beast. Ariel had been given strict orders not to intervene and as much as he wanted to, he had to obey. The time had arrived when Marco had to decide his eternal future by himself – no prompts, no hints, no aids. Angels are impartial and rather distant beings, but Ariel had grown to love the crazy Italian to whom he had been assigned and the sight of what was to come, simply disheartened him. Ariel knew Maveth from previous encounters and he was very aware of the power the demon wielded. Maveth was a particularly dirty player. He would use addiction, regret, loneliness, self-condemnation and a host of other human emotions to attain his goal: death. His favourite hook was “depression” and that’s what he had decided to use with Marco. Depression is a powerful tool, because it takes away the will to fight. It 71


deprives the target of the ability to react as it sucks the juices of life from his very soul. It simply stops the flow of “expectation” and starves its subject of all desire, including the one to live. It punctures the hope-tank and waits at the curb for the car to stop. The first move Maveth made was designed to make Marco believe he’d had another stroke of luck. He was to be offered the opportunity of a lifetime: a new importexport business to be launched with a very wealthy and influential friend. And the unsuspecting young man took it all: hook, line, sinker, fisherman and boat. One fateful day, late in November 1980.

Under the sun. I decided that I’d had enough of partners who stole my money with a slight of hand and a smile on their face. I decided that I was more than good enough to go it alone in life, and started looking for a business I could buy. 72


It didn’t take me long to find an estate agency (the South African equivalent of a realtor) for sale. I had just enough money left from my irresponsible spending to match the requested price and I immediately contacted Mrs. Silver, the owner of Silver Estates in Orange Grove, Johannesburg, with a view to purchase her business. She was happy. I was happy. And the sale took place without a hitch. The problem, though, was the usual: I didn’t like working. And so, after having hired a receptionist, had the personalized “For sale” boards made, bought all the necessary stationery, furniture and various equipment, I simply sat behind my desk, reading the newspaper and smoking cigarette after cigarette, waiting for the phone to ring. The clients weren’t coming and I certainly didn’t have the time or the desire to go looking for them. Soon the money was finished and I started sinking more and more into inactivity and plain laziness. So, when Tony Galletto, the wealthy Neapolitan owner of an auto business in town and old time friend of the Italian gang I belonged to, offered me to open a shop in the suburbs that would handle women’s clothes, ivory and 73


semi-precious stones, jewelry and anything else I could procure, I jumped at the opportunity. What I didn’t know was the fact that the shop was to be a facade for money laundering from his somewhat shady business in extortion and other illicit trafficking. He would provide the cash, I would travel to far and strange places, buy anything that could be bought – officially and unofficially – bring it back to South Africa and sell it in our shop together with some legitimate clothing items. Easy as pie. Only problem? The now totally useless Estate Agency I owned. So, I simply offered it to Mrs. Silver who, strangely enough, said she would buy it back. She would move into the offices for a couple of weeks and then pay the required price. Unusual, but hey, I had to sell. What I didn’t know was that what she really wanted to do, was get access to my contacts, let the sale go sour and pick up the whole lot for nothing. After over a month of inactivity Tony asked me what the hold-up was and I told him. He replied, “Don’t worry. You’ll have your money before the end of the week.” 74


Mr. Silver, Mrs. Silver’s husband, ran a very profitable and vast warehouse on the outskirts of Johannesburg from where he sold hundreds and hundreds of clothing items daily, to a large African clientele. Tony sent him two of his thugs, Margherita and Baby Elephant. Margherita was an ex-mercenary who had killed his son in a drunken brawl and Baby Elephant was a Jugoslav who, well, his name said it all! They walked into Mr. Silver’s heavily carpeted warehouse with a bottle of whiskey in hand and as soon as Mr. Silver approached, they poured the liquid on the carpet. Then Margherita lit a cigarette and said to the open-mouthed owner, “Wouldn’t it be a shame if I were to inadvertently drop this burning match on your carpet? Pay Marco his money. Please.” Then he blew on the match and simply walked out. The next day I had my money. I moved out of “Silver Estates” and moved into my new occupation as the proud owner of “Il Postaccio” fashion, ivory and jewelry shop in the highly fashionable suburb of Bramley in Johannesburg. Life was finally smiling at me. 75


Until Maveth jabbed his claws in it. The lady I had employed as a cashier at the shop had a son who had a drug problem, which I obviously only found out about later. He regularly skimmed the takings off the till to the tune of many thousands of rands. After a few months, motivated by the strange lack of returns from the business and my perpetual and detrimental state of lethargic inaction, Tony asked for an audit to be conducted by our friend Pinky Darewicz. One Friday afternoon, having waited for me to go home because after all, I was the one being “investigated”, Pinky moved in and demanded the lady at the till to hand over the books. Soon the report came back with roughly 30,000 Rands missing – in those days the equivalent of approximately 30,000 Euros. It could only have been me who had stolen it, as I was basically the one responsible for the cash. Tony immediately proceeded to tell me exactly what a traitor, good-for-nothing, pitiful backstabber I was, an interesting echo of my father’s opinions. My best buddy Gianni abandoned me almost immediately. Well, I had to admit, Tony was way more 76


financially attractive than I could ever be and friendship is, well, replaceable, fully replaceable. My friends in general started avoiding me to the point that one of them called me a “Jonah” to be seriously shunned as someone who brought bad luck wherever he went. Maveth was firmly at the wheel. Soon Tony grabbed me and physically took me to the bank where he forced me – it doesn’t take much to force someone who feels like he has to stretch to look a worm in the eyes – to sign over my meager savings to him. He then physically drove me home in his small truck, loaded my furniture and towed my car away. With a fiendish smirk on his lips, he finally spat out at me, “All your life you will look over your shoulder and find me there, until you pay me back the last cent you stole from me!” I had been destroyed, mentally, financially, personally and now my future was in the hand of an unforgiving, cruel, small but vicious “boss”, who would not let go until he had sucked all he wanted – and more - out of me. 77


Just to show everyone near him he was not to be cheated. Alone, with no money, no help, no income, a huge amount of pressing bills to be paid at the end of the month (born out of an accumulated debt between the house, the cars, the furniture and various luxury items I had bought on credit) of roughly 150,000 rands (equivalent at the time to approximately the same in euros), I simply slipped into a comatose state of depression that kept me in bed with a 9mm under my pillow from morning to night. One afternoon Josel decided to go to the shop. Tony was there and when she walked in, he attacked her with a, “Do you have any idea what kind of a crook you have married?” Now, she might have been a slim, delicate seventeen year old when I met her but Josel was of “Boer” stock - the pioneers that fought for South Africa’s liberation from the British - and you simply don’t tell a “boeremeisie” her husband is a crook. Josel swung her bag and hit Tony in the head. Unfortunately for him, she had a somewhat heavy glass bottle of medication in there that she was bringing home to me and that caused a serious bruise when it impacted with her target. 78


After recovering from the hit and having nursed his bruise, Tony took his gun from his ankle holster and waved it in front of my wife, shouting obscenities. And that’s when I phoned, looking for her. Maveth had baited the first of his traps. Because when Pinky answered the phone and described what had just taken place, I emotionlessly stated, “You tell Tony that he can do what he wants to me, but if he touches my wife, I will kill him.” And I meant every word. Tony left, Josel came home and Maveth tightened the screw. It was like living with a monkey on my shoulder that simply sucked life’s juices off the back of my head. Suddenly I decided that I did not want to live anymore. I chose a way in which I was going to kill myself and planned the event for the Tuesday, three days away. The fact that I had a beautiful wife, a son and a daughter I loved very much, didn’t make a lick of a difference. All I wanted was to find the switch and turn off the pain. Payday for my arrogance had finally come.

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What followed is still a blur, even after all these years. I remember going to a psychiatrist and forking out the last forty rand I possessed for a half hour consultation. I remember looking at him as though he could really be my savior while I poured out my life to him. I remember him checking his watch – in the middle of my drama – and declaring very disinterestedly and matter-of-factly that my time was up and would I like to make another appointment for next week. I thought, “I won’t be here next week, you idiot. I am going to throw you off the balcony and claim insanity. What the heck, I’m going to kill myself anyway!” But I didn’t. You see, I had no strength available to do that. No will to fight. No will to live. Nothing. And so I left, with the distinct sensation that my road had finally come to an end. Maveth sunk his fangs in my brains and I took in the poison. Tomorrow I’d do it. No more life. No more struggle. No more pain. But someone had other plans.

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On my way home I met an old acquaintance of mine by the name of Serge D’Almeida. He took one look at me and declared, “My, my Marco, you really look bad. You need to come to church with me this evening!” After a couple of very well aimed expletives as to what I thought of church and “churchians” in general, Serge proposed the cancelling of an old debt I had with him, if I went. And so, I went. Maybe simply because I didn’t even have the energy to say “get lost” anymore, I don’t know, but I went. And my life was never to be the same again.

6 Allow “passion” to be your traveling companion.

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“Everything in life will be measured by your desire to do it - from work to entertainment; from your relationship with your spouse to the one with your peers; from your dreams to your future. Everything is going to gravitate around passion. Passion is the fuel that‘s going to energize your life, one way or the other. Abundance of passion will always produce a smile on your face, a skip in your step and a song in your heart. “Pathos” is another word that describes passion. Always remember, whatever you do, do it with “pathos”. No matter how insignificant the task seems to be, no matter how trivial the chore, how negligible the occupation or inconsequential your charge, always put all you have in all you do. Dream big dreams, focus past the possible, travel beyond the horizon and allow your heart to fly. Go out in the open and aim for the stars. You were not conceived for smallness, you have not been equipped for failure, you do not lack in anything. Divinity has produced a masterpiece in you, visible only with the eyes of 82


passion. Believe in who you are, no matter at what level of life you find yourself. You were made to succeed where you are. Go ahead and capture that which is already yours. Passion is what will get you out of bed in the morning, the energy that will propel you through the course of the day and put a smile of contentment on your face before you go to bed at night. Passion is the force that will make you face insurmountable obstacles and cause you to jump over them, tunnel under them, or simply blow them out of your way. Passion will cause you to keep on pushing when the world stops in front of you, keep on hoping when all have given up around you, keep on searching when everyone else has gone home. There will be many that will attempt to stifle your passion for life. Respond with a smile and march on! You were not created a chicken to scratch for worms in the dust of life. You were created an eagle to soar high in the skies of passion and destiny. Don’t forget your

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nature. Don’t forget your origin. Don’t forget your destination. And whatever you do, do it with “pathos”!

On the other side Alone in his bathroom Marco was totally unaware of the demonic presence that was screeching obscenities from an indefinite spot just above the shower-cubicle in the corner. Maveth was spitting all sorts of profanities at the weeping man but somehow this time he could not clamp his claws in his brains. “You imbecile! Don’t you understand that God doesn’t care for you and won’t help you? Who do you think you’re crying to? There’s no one here, you fool!” The demon was furious as he lunged and lunged for the young man, but couldn’t touch him. This was to be Marco, and him alone. His choice. His move. Divinity had decreed it.

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Marco looked at himself in the mirror and amongst repeated sniffs and snorts, he softly said, “God, I don’t know if you exist. I don’t know. But if you do exist, please help me.” Ariel held his breath – if angels could do that – in expectation of what he knew was about to happen. He had seen it so many times before, the simple plea of the creature to his Creator. The calling on the divine name. The heart cry for help. The quest of an unaware son for his yet unknown Father. And God’s response. Suddenly, without a sound to be heard in the physical but with the roar of a million tornadoes in the spiritual, the Spirit of Divinity shot from past time and space where life begins, flew past untold billions of galaxies in the spell it takes for a thought to form, entered Marco’s chest with a force beyond definition and dispelled all the darkness, depression and death with a shout of, “It is finished!” Ariel allowed himself a trace of a smile as he watched Maveth being literally blasted away by the bolt of power 85


that entered the room. The demon flailed his arms uselessly as a dark, descending vortex sucked him down through the floor of the bathroom, further and further away from interference. The angel descended from beyond the visible where he had been waiting for Marco to make his choice unhindered, and very, very silently, as not to disturb the sanctity of the moment, wrapped his powerful arms around his sobbing human charge. Finally he could resume his duties. It had been a very close call, but destiny had once again been kissed by Divinity’s mercy. And all was well. Man had asked. Divinity had answered. That magnificent. That simple.

Under the sun. I thought that church was a joke. First of all, everyone was smiling. Where I came from nobody smiled in

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church and there were boards outside that warned, “Silence! Church!” Now, if smiling wasn’t enough, there were two young girls on some sort of a stage, playing guitar while everyone was singing! What was this, a circus? I later came to know that in the presence of Divinity, everyone does indeed smile and sing! There were about fifty people congregated in the small hall on that fateful Monday evening. The congregation of that church (which today numbers over 30 000) was just over a thousand people at the time, but that evening was supposed to be a prayer meeting and very few people had attended. I said, “was supposed” because for some reason – which I later learnt to be called divine intervention – the presiding pastor decided to preach instead of having the prayer meeting. He delivered a very simple message – which I do not remember, no matter how hard I try – about the fact that there is a God and, supposedly, that He loves, of all people, me. I sat in the back row with a gripe and a smirk, not knowing if I had to laugh or feel annoyed. I left 87


at the end of the service, not without delivering some very caustic, smart-alecky remarks to the smiling, handshaking preacher at the door. But what he had said stuck, just like a seed that doesn’t mind whether the sower believes in what he’s doing or not, but all it needs in order to grow is to be sown. Those words had been planted in my soul and they didn’t care whether I believed they were valid or not. They simply threw out their little tendrils in the arid soil of my life and tentatively produced their first, hesitant little green leaf. That’s when I found myself in my bathroom. My wife was asleep in our bed a few meters away as I looked at that pitiful, passionless caricature of a man, staring back at me from the mirror above the sink. What I saw was a hash of dark, ringed eyes, sunken cheeks, disheveled hair and generally yellow/greenish complexion that screamed volumes of misery, depression and hopelessness in the semidarkness of the place. I was only thirty-five years old, but I could just as well have been one hundred and five, the way I felt. 88


What I didn’t know at the time was that I was about to challenge life itself to deliver something life did not possess - a new beginning. But I wasn’t alone. The God that I had disregarded and ignored, to whom I had paid no attention, blasphemed and ridiculed almost every day of my life, was standing at universe’s balustrade, watching my every move and hoping I would say yes to His offer of love, life and pardon. And so, in my strange way, I told Him that even though I didn’t know Him, I would give Him my permission to help me and to pull me out of those sinking sands that were so relentlessly sucking me down into their terminal embrace. Surprisingly He didn’t reprimand me for all the idiotic things I had done that got me to that point. He didn’t scold me for losing my way and falling in the pit. Nor did He criticize me for not having enough guts to get myself out of there. No. Instead He came alongside and heard what I had to say. Then He simply stretched forth His hand and pulled me out. I asked Him to help me. And He did. 89


I can’t say that I heard church bells ringing or angelic choirs singing, but something definitely happened on the inside of me. Passion came back and with it, the will to live. The next day I was up with a smile on my face – something that hadn’t happened for many months. I immediately told Josel that we needed to go back to that church where I had been the night before. Reasonably enough, due to her experience with my various encounters with strange religions, crazy belief systems and downright occult séances, she was very, very reluctant. But after seeing the sparkle in my eyes and feeling the freedom in my voice, she agreed to go and the following night, with tears in her eyes and a wobble in her knees, accompanied by a very ignorant and insecure, yet very determined husband, she went to the altar to receive the promise of a new life. And that was over thirty years ago.

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7 Generosity is at the heart of happiness.

“Generosity is a way of life. You can live to hoard or you can live to give. That will always be your choice. You will have opportunities to give of your treasure, your time and your talent - do it. The more you accumulate, the heavier you become. Suddenly every ”thing” becomes extremely important and you lose sight of why you’re alive. The personality of your divine Father is that of a giver. He cannot help Himself, He is what He is and cannot change. You, as a son, should always try and imitate your spiritual Dad. Give of your emotions, give of 91


your substance, give of your attention and especially, give of yourself. There will be many, many opportunities to enrich someone along the path of your life’s journey. Contrary to what most people will want you to believe, generosity is at the very heart of happiness. It’s the ability to paint your days with palettes of joy, love and peace, even without the participation of others. It’s the foundation for hope, vision and fulfillment on which you will be able to build secure relationships. It’s the backbone of every new story you’ll write, every new song you’ll sing, every new dawn you’ll admire. You will find it very hard to be sad when your mission in life is giving to others. Forgiveness is a big part of this. Someone will – count on it – hurt you or offend you or take from you, sooner or later. Determine in your heart from an early age that you will not allow the guilty to shape your life in any way. Give of your pardon. Forgive. Forget. Be generous. Furthermore, Divinity has placed a law at work on the earth that has been designed to return in greater 92


amount anything that has been given. It’s called, “the law of sowing and reaping”. The seed will always return itself multiplied many, many times over because of this law. And so will, eventually, everything that you sow - no matter where, no matter what. Remember to sow good seed wherever you go, because one day, my little friend, you will reap what you have sown. Surround yourself with grateful people by giving them a reason to smile when they see you. Your return in happiness will be immeasurable. So, smile at a child who’s crying. Hug someone who seems lonely. Kiss your loved ones for no reason. Give something to a needy person who hasn’t asked. Praise somebody you don't know. Encourage the hopeless. Forgive the guilty. Give wherever there’s a need to give. Go on, be like your divine Father and make the world better!”

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On the other side. The gigantic chessboard stretched across millions of galaxies like an immense platform covering creation from end to end. Stars resembling birthday glitter scattered somewhat carelessly across the vast, cosmic squares. Towering billions of light years into the void, the white king faced his opponent. The black pieces shuddered under the intense gaze of the Supreme Monarch of the Universe. Then He lifted a hand and pointed at the opposite side. Eight pawns grabbed their lanterns, torches and weapons at the command of the two black hooded knights with the long spears. Both bishops clutched a Roman whip and sinisterly flung their black robes across their shoulders over it. With a fiendish smile the Queen hid a mallet and four long, rusty nails under her coat. The Black King lifted a twisted crown of thorns in his fist and defiantly bellowed, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God!" The White King looked down upon the chessboard of His will and whispered, “Your move." 94


Compared to the eternal frame of creation, the game did not take long. A few thousand years after the opening move in the Garden, and the end was already in sight. The black player had cunningly maneuvered his way into the present, mercilessly final position. The white player had almost seemed incapable of stemming the opponent's attack as his defences were penetrated ruthlessly while the front line receded to the very heart of his kingdom. To the unknowing eye it almost seemed as if the white monarch had been moved by some queer suicidal desire to end the game, rather than win it. Piece after piece had been sacrificed to the black forces in the futile attempt to masquerade the carnage. Then, suddenly, over the last thirty three and a half years, the King was alone. And this, or so it looked, was the final move. Alone in the centre of His last available square, the white King finally dropped to His knees. His back torn open by the inhumane whipping, His once radiant face covered with dirt and blood caked on the lacerated flesh. 95


Surveyed from a distance by their evil king, the black hordes had finally closed in on the prone figure. The eight pawns had congregated around the two black castles and totally blocked any possible way of escape. The two bishops were still panting from their sadistic whipping. The black queen shrieked with delight as she hammered the nails into the twitching, royal wrists. Finally the two knights approached on their black mounts. The one in front roughly shoved a dripping, spongy mess into the dying King's face while the other thrust his spear into His side. And suddenly, as if eternity had been waiting for just a moment such as this, all creation hushed as a cry of desperation echoed through the chambers of infinity, "The King is dead. It is finished!" The White King laid motionless across the black square where He had fallen. Darkness descended. Then the party on the other side of the chessboard began. It was loud, it was vile and it was evil. And it lasted for a specific time. Three days. And three nights. And that was all. Because suddenly, unseen by living 96


eye and undetected by any of the black pieces that were triumphantly congregated around their stupefied, grinning leader, a shaft of white light penetrated the darkness above the chessboard and gently, even reverently enveloped the motionless Sovereign. That's when the whole universe began to rumble and shake as something that uncannily resembled a big, round rock rolled off the chessboard into the darkness below, and the King rose. This time it did not take long, though. Words spoken aeons before in a garden with two trees, resounded thunderously across the corridors of creation, ".. and He will crush your head!" The white King walked slowly and ever so purposefully to His now powerless foe and lifted His foot over his neck. With a somewhat mischievous glint in His majestic eyes, the victorious King looked down at the snake and calmly commented, "Check mate."

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Divinity laughed, balled His fist, pulled His powerful forearm down and loudly exclaimed, “Yessssss!� Angels all over shouted with their Master and danced with Him all around the throne! Another of His creatures had chosen life. Another human had accepted salvation. Another son had come home. Yes, it was time to celebrate.

Under the sun. Everything exploded in my life with the excitement of a million fireworks! Wow! The heavy rock that had weighed on my shoulders like an intolerable boulder had suddenly been lifted as if it had been a feather. The monkey on my shoulder that had been eating my brains through the back of my head was swiftly swatted away. The hissing voice that had kept reminding me of my 98


failures, my fiascos and my woes, was abruptly silenced – forever. And I began to see! Yes! That’s why I was born! Sure! That’s where I’m supposed to be going! Of course! This is how it’s going to happen! Obviously! That’s my final destination! It all became so magnificently clear! Like someone had turned on a light in the room and I could finally see the furniture, the paintings, the window, the door, the sunlight, the outside, the sky! Oh dear me, how much had I been missing! And you call “that” life? I wasn’t living; I was merely breathing while waiting to die! But not anymore, oh no, not anymore. Divinity had rescued me from certain death, He had stretched His scarred arm across the shifting sands of my cursed existence and simply lifted me out at the sound of my “please”. Josel and I instantly began getting involved in this new “kingdom” we had just entered. We wanted to follow our newfound “king” everywhere He went and in 99


everything we could. We started going to that “funny” church I had so despised just a couple of days before. We learnt new values, experienced new ways and tasted new life delicacies. Everything was so new; everything was so fresh; everything was so different. I felt so strong I could’ve conquered the world! Mountains? Let’s go! Giants? Bring them on! Difficulties? Let me at them! I felt so invincible! And then Margherita called. “Marco, Tony tells me that you haven’t given his money back yet. I have spoken to someone very mean who is going to visit you if you don’t pay what you owe Tony!” I replied, “Margherita, you know where I stay. Don’t send anybody. You come visit me, I’ll give you a cup of coffee and tell you about the miracle that happened in my life!” 100


After having somewhat rudely described to me what to do with my coffee and with my miracle, Margherita rang off. A few days later he called me again, “Marco, Tony tells me that you have two small children and a swimming pool. That is a bad, bad combination. Give Tony his money and maybe I will disappear from your life.” As rattled as I was, I replied in the same way as before. This time I knew, someone up there was looking after me. I didn’t hear from Margherita ever again. I later learnt that the poor man had died in a provincial hospital from a gunshot, alone and penniless, and was now buried in the public cemetery in Johannesburg. It was fifteen years later, after having become a pastor and starting a small assembly, that I shared my life’s story with my congregation one Sunday morning and mentioned Margherita’s name. As I spoke, I noticed a very heavily tattooed man by the name of Stefano 101


Bernardi, who had come from Johannesburg and joined our church a few months earlier, looking at me with horror in his eyes. Immediately after the meeting Stefano came to me and confessed, “Now I know why your face was so familiar. Fifteen years ago Margherita gave me your photo and contracted me to break your legs. That night I couldn’t find you, eventually got drunk and forgot all about you. I converted six months ago in the same church where you used to go. I am so sorry, please forgive me!” Forgive him? Are you kidding me? I wanted to kiss him! I didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh. Very few people escape such “executions”, but I obviously had contacts in high places! It was just like my precious Lord to let me know how, from the beginning, He had been looking out for me! I went to see Tony a few months after my “re-birth” and asked him to forgive me for the pain I had caused him even if I had not stolen his money. I tried to tell him what a magnificent, effervescent new life I had found and that he could have one too, but he cut me short with 102


a blunt, “I have worked since I was eight years old. What I have, I have earned. I don’t need your advice and I certainly don’t need your God. And, by the way, remember, I will never leave you alone. You owe me.” I have never seen Tony again.

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8 Protect your conscience at all costs.

“You will be given direct contact with Divinity through something inside you called “conscience”. Conscience is the ears and the voice of your spirit-being and will by all means be the only link you’ll have with this world. Your conscience will be calibrated to perfection at birth and, if untampered with, will be able to detect right from wrong; the wise from the unwise; the good from the bad. Unfortunately, right from the beginning, you will be prone to disregard its voice and to make up your own parameters. This is, sadly, unavoidable. Everyone does it. You will do it. The result will be a softening of the 104


volume and, occasionally, a total silencing of the voice. Reception will also become somewhat garbled and you will not hear Divinity’s words as clearly as you should. There is, however, a process available to you by which you will be able to recalibrate your conscience, over and over, to its original state. It’s called “disclosure”. It’s the simple act of talking to Divinity and telling Him about your shortcomings, your falls, your mistakes, your heart. This will not be news to Him, as He knows everything already, but it will help you, basically, to jettison the refuse from your life and start anew. Divinity will use your conscience as the main means of communication, even though, as all-powerful, He can use anything He wants - from dreams to visuals, from people to circumstances, from nature to direct audio and even the occasional, but very rare visit from one of us. The principal way in which conscience will contact you will be through feelings and thoughts. You will “feel” something is not right within yourself if that’s not what Divinity expects you to do and you will “feel” a strange and beautiful peace when it is. You will “feel” a sense of 105


outrage toward injustice and of strange warmth toward fairness; repulsion toward evil and attraction to goodness. All this, of course, has to be preambled by your desire for communion with Divinity, your level of allegiance and your constant disclosure. Otherwise, as I have already told you, the hearing will be impeded and the voice will be garbled. Should communication be impaired by an insensitive or dulled conscience, Divinity will, as any good father would, discipline you (you’ll get to learn that later in life). Your ultimate destination is to Divinity of such vital importance that temporary difficulties, of smaller or greater intensity, might have to be applied.” Dispatcher halted as the young child stopped in his tracks and looked up to him with enquiring eyes. Yes, he would have to explain this concept a little further. That’s when, as if out of nowhere, a little puppy appeared. It looked around for a mere second and ran straight into the child’s outstretched arms. The young man’s countenance exploded in a huge smile when he picked 106


up the puppy and allowed it to lick his face while wildly squirming in his hands. Then, suddenly, wriggling free, it ran away, straight for the lake. At that point of the walk, the path had raised somewhat and it was now quite a few meters above the surface of the water. At the sight of the potential danger, the child yelled and called out to stop, but the little animal kept on running. That’s when the young one bolted into action and smacked the puppy’s hind, sending it rolling and yelping down the embankment, confused, but away from the dangerous drop. The lesson ended; the puppy simply disappeared. Dispatcher explained, “Just as you cared more for the ultimate well being of the puppy than its desire to do what it wanted to do at the time, so will Divinity block you and discipline you whenever He sees you will not listen to His call to stop from hurting yourself. Fathers do that, you see. So, be very, very protective of your conscience. Being sensitive to its voice will mean the difference between success in life and failure.”

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On the other side. "Heavenly exchange, N.O.O.C. Prayer Department, can I help you?" "Could I speak to God, please?" "Sir, all communications have to go through this Department before reaching the C.E.O. Can I help you?" "Well, yes, I have this problem you see, it's my rent. I have been given twenty four hours to pay up, or the owner of the house I'm staying in is going to evict me and I need God to organize me some money before tomorrow afternoon at four o'clock." "Your request will be forwarded, goodbye." "But you don't understand, I am a new believer and if I were to lose my house, I really don't know how my faith would take it. Please mention to God that I could get very hurt if He doesn't do something soon." "He already knows, Sir, goodbye. 108


Heavenly exchange, N.O.O.C. Prayer Department, can I help you?" "I need some urgent healing. I have a very important concert coming up in less than a week and my throat is hurting. I have been to a doctor, I have taken medicine and nothing seems to help. Please tell God that I need my voice healed soon, or the ‘Contemporary Faith Rock Concert’ is up in smoke!" “Excuse me, but why have you not consulted our Department before going to a doctor?" "Are you kidding? This concert is too important for my career to put all my eggs in one basket and besides, a little medicine never hurt anyone." "Well Sir, I'll see what I can do." "Don't forget: the proceeds of the concert are to be donated to charity. Make sure God knows it." "Certainly.

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Heavenly exchange, N.O.O.C. Prayer Department, can I help you?" "My car just broke down. The stupid thing won't go and now I'm going to be late for my hairdresser appointment. I've had just about enough of this piece of junk. Will you please tell God to tell my husband I need a new car?" "Sure thing, Madam, He has already been informed." "Does that mean that I'm getting a new car?" " I cannot guarantee Management's decision, Ma'm, I can only guarantee that your request is receiving attention." "Heavenly exchange, N.O.O.C. Prayer Department, can I help you?" "Put me onto the Boss, pronto!" “Sorry Sir, all calls are screened by our Department before being forwarded upstairs: policy, you understand. Can I help you?" 110


"Hey, pipsqueak, do you have any idea who you are talking to? My name is Huge McMoney and I happen to be busy with a difficult twenty million Dollars deal where I need God’s help, and I demand to speak to Him now!" "Sorry, Sir, your attitude is presently counterproductive; you are being disconnected." Communicating angel number RJ/478955 was only two heavenly hours into his shift at the N.O.O.C. (Not Out Of Conscience) Prayer Department and he was, if angels could get tired, already exhausted. He appreciated the fact that his Department had nothing to do with real, godly prayers. They only handled prayers that had no faith in them and were basically wrongly motivated. The real kind of prayer goes straight through to the Lord, no exchange, direct line, but surely, even angels could take only that much of this stuff. He could not understand how anybody could handle such an enormity of selfish request from humans every second of the day, every day of the year, year in, year out, since the time when the first Man fell, at the beginning of man-time - and could then still go on loving 111


them and listening to them. If it wasn't more money, it was instant healing, if it wasn't a new car, it was a better job or a holiday or "traveling mercies" or "bless me this" or "bless me that". There seemed to be so few who wanted to talk to the Master just for the pleasure of talking to Him. Whenever they called, they had an open hand in front of them and a shopping list under their arm. Just as well he wasn't God, thought the angel, he would not be able to handle such selfishness from his very own creation. "Heavenly exchange, N.O.O.C. Prayer Department, can I help you?" "Could I please speak to God?" "Sorry Sir, all calls are to go through our Department before being channelled to Head Office. Can I help you?" "I see. Could you give Him a message?" "Certainly Sir, with the greatest of pleasure."

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"Please tell Him that I want to thank Him for my health and that of my family. Please thank Him for all the day-to-day blessings and yes, please thank Him for that bonus that I got last month. Oh, I have so much to thank Him for. Just give him a big "thank you for everything" from me .... and, yes, by the way, do you guys hug, up there?" "We most definitely do, Sir" "Please give Him a big hug from me and tell Him that I love Him." "It will be my pleasure, Sir! Goodbye." "Goodbye, and thanks." Just one mis-sorted call and suddenly his job didn't seem that thankless anymore. Finally, a little bit of godly sunshine prayer had come through the N.O.O.C. Department too. There was still hope. "Angel." "Yes, Lord." 113


"Call that man back right away, I'd like to talk to him. And by the way, find out what he needs." "My pleasure, Lord."

Under the sun Suddenly life was so amazing! It was like never having tasted chocolate and unexpectedly finding yourself with a whole piece of the sublime substance melting in your mouth! I just couldn’t stop! Josel and I would be in the church every time the doors opened, listening, learning, experiencing all this new “out-of-thisworld” “stuff”. We would split the little money we had between food, petrol and teaching cassettes (yeah, that’s what we had back then!) and make sure we didn’t miss a session. Life was smiling at me beautifully and I was simply “alive”! It was as if the sky was bluer, the grass greener, the birds louder, the sun warmer, the breeze gentler, the people nicer, the traffic friendlier and, well ... you know 114


what I mean! Life was just so magnificently, incredibly, enormously better! There was still, however, the small matter of my mountainous debt and lack of income, which desperately screamed for attention. A few days earlier the mere thought of those two monsters would simply have sucked all life-juice out of me. Now it was nothing more than a problem to be solved with the help of my newfound, ever-present, divine Friend. In my naivetÊ I thought up a solution and planned one of my out-of-the-country trips. My last one, I told the Lord, obviously. I would take my BMW, (which, possibly because of its age, I had strangely been permitted to get back from Tony), drive it North to Zaire (today’s D.R.C.) through Zimbabwe and Zambia, sell it for cash (that type of car would fetch in Zaire almost ten times more than what I could get for it in South Africa), buy some ivory and semiprecious stones, ship them home as personal effects and come back by plane. Easy as pie. Or so I thought.

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To be honest, when I explained my plan to Divinity, it did feel like He giggled, as if He knew something I didn’t know. At the time I thought it was my imagination. I managed to borrow some money from my bank and bought a couple of hundred dollars worth of travellers’ cheques. With that in my pocket, a full tank of petrol (on credit, clearly) in my car and a whole supply of “faith teachings” from my favourite preachers in my player, I set off for the almost five thousand kilometres round trip to financial freedom. I had done that trip many times before. Always taking a car up, converting it to cash and coming back with contraband. The journey was rather simple - head North to Limpopo in South Africa, cross over at Beit Bridge, go through the country of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), get a transit visa at Chirundu (48 hours, available at the border crossing), drive through the country of Zambia to Chililabombwe (the last town before the border), bribe a couple of enterprising officers not to register the vehicle and cross over to Kasumbalesa in Zaire (D.R.C.). Once in Zaire turn left, trying to avoid the bandits that would dress up as police only to stop you in a deserted area, 116


strip you of all your possessions and leave you car-less in the middle of the African nowhere-land (I had encountered them once on the open road and managed to escape by some very reckless driving to the nearest town where fortunately they had to abandon the chase). Finally ending the trip in the copper-belt town of Lubumbashi, where the anticipated deal was to take place. Sounds complicated but in Africa, when you know the “right” way, nothing is really complicated. Unless the Lord gets involved. All went well until I got to the Rhodesia/Zambia border. I had always got my transit visa at the border, but it just so happened that for some reason, I later realized “Who” was the reason, the procedure had just been changed a mere ten days prior to my arrival. Now you had to get your visa from Lusaka, the Zambian capital, before attempting to enter the country. So, after two days in a cheap hotel near Kariba and a few useless attempts at bribing the border official, I had to admit defeat and head back south. 117


Divinity had spoken, but I had not heard. I realized that if I could make the crossing into South Africa by the next day, I would be able to go to the annual “faith-conference” held by my church in Jo’burg. No more said than done, I put my foot down and pushed the big 3 litre BMW machine just over to the 200 km an hour mark. That’s when two remarkable things happened. First I heard the words, “Kudu on the road”. A kudu is an African antelope. Fully grown male kudus can reach well over a ton in weight. The words weren’t loud as in “audible” loud, but I “felt” them very “loudly” on the inside of me. Almost like a sudden thought spoken out emphatically in the middle of my chest. Anyway, one thing that could be said about my relationship with Divinity was that I really did want to obey. And so I lifted my foot off the accelerator right away and consequently managed to avoid by mere centimetres the big buck that was somewhat leisurely crossing the road just on the other side of the bend I was negotiating. Wow! 118


Soon after that, with a big, proud grin on my face, I put my foot back down and sent the big car flying again. That’s when the preacher I was listening to on my player declared, “You say you trust the Lord and then you break every single traffic law to get where you need to be. I challenge you to slow down, take your watch off your wrist and really trust Him to get you there in time!” I said out loud, “Oh yeah? Ok! I’ll show you how much I trust the Lord and I will do just that!” I took off my watch and slowed down to the legal limit of 120 km per hour. Now I had just over 400 km to cover. It was around four o’clock and the border post closed at 6:30 pm. My mind blankly stated, “At 120 an hour, plus stoppages, it will take you almost four hours to get there. That will make it 8 pm. Border closed. No faith-convention tomorrow. We’re going to sleep in Rhodesia tonight.” Nevertheless, I kept on driving within the limit; I kept on trusting. Predictably, I arrived at the border post between Rhodesia and South Africa a couple of minutes after 119


eight in the evening. To my utter surprise, though, I saw that the lights were on in the small office. After having parked the car, I went in and as I approached the solitary officer behind the desk, he looked up and almost shouted, “It’s about time! I got a call at 4 this afternoon that somebody had to make the crossing around eight tonight and to stay open until then. Come on, let’s get this over with, please, I want to go home!” I suppose he didn’t notice the look of absolute bewilderment that crossed my otherwise rather deadpan face. Yes, I did sleep in South Africa that night and yes, I was able to make the conference the next day where a very well known preacher convinced me to deposit my unused travellers’ cheques in the offering as a seed for the harvest I needed to take care of my debt. I did just that and within the year my financial obligations were met! I wanted to sell contraband. The Lord wanted me to trust Him. I have never looked back.

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The following months were the most supernaturally charged in my short, new, spiritual life. I could “hear” Divinity talking to me – don’t ask me how – I just could. Directions, suggestions, advice, all I had to do was ask. And the answer would come in a matter of seconds. Then one day it all stopped. Almost as if someone had pulled the plug on my “receiver”. The guidance stopped, the answers ended, the voice silenced. And I complained! That’s when Divinity opened my eyes and spoke that way, one last time. He showed me (not “like-a-movie”, showed me; more like a picture in the front of my head, like a “cut-from-an-imaginary-scene-behind-my-eyes”, showed me) a smiling father walking backwards holding his infant son by the hands. The little one would grab his daddy’s fingers and keep himself straight while taking some very hesitant steps. Suddenly the father let go of his son’s hands and, stepping back not too far from the frightened little walker, he said, “Go on, son, now do it by yourself!”

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The message was clear: if I wanted to live in this “trust� relationship, I had to grow. The time for being spoon-fed was over. The time for the beginning of my training in faith-life had begun. There were so many things that were waiting for me; I had to learn as much as I could. As fast as I could. Did I miss the ease of communication? For sure! Was I uncertain about the source of my new form of guidance? Yes. Was I concerned about what the future held with the clear voice of Divinity on the inside of me giving me plain instructions having been replaced by the somewhat vague need to simply ... trust Him? You bet! I later came to understand that when a child throws himself in his father's arms, he doesn't bank on the angle of approach being just right, nor on the speed of the fall being sufficiently acceptable for a soft impact, nor on the volume of his request, "Catch me, daddy!" being loud enough, but on the heart of his father that assures him, "I will not let you fall!" 122


And so I trusted Him. And He has never, never, never let me down.

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9 Love is the art of life.

“Contrary to what many people will try to convince you of, love is not the gratification of your senses, but it’s man’s silent response to Divinity’s character-call. The reason why God created you is the very heart of love’s nature. He did not create you and the rest of the human race to draw something from you, but to give something to you. Love is that something. It is His nature, His core, His personality. That’s how you love. You don’t take, you give. Simple. Once born, however, you will unfortunately find out that right from the time of all beginnings, the human 124


heart has been contaminated by pride. Pride is that attitude that will cause you to make your own choices and disregard love’s leading. The tendency that will push you to seek gratification rather than obedience and that ultimately will rob you of the very thing you had been striving for - happiness. The lie that Man has been fed from the start, is that he can find fulfillment outside of Divinity’s love. That is not so. Dispatcher released the hand of the child for a moment, looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Consider this lake. Just as you cannot have a lake unless you have water and you cannot have water unless you have wetness, so you cannot have life unless you have love.” The little one nodded with wonder and yet a thousand questions in his eyes. The angel straightened, gently took the child’s hand in his and began walking and talking once more.

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“You must realize that nothing of value, nothing of consequence and yes, nothing of any permanence can exist outside of love and all its derivatives. You will eventually come to know something called “sex”. God designed that for you, for two purposes: one, to continue populating the earth – that’s the place where you’ll be going soon – so that more of you can walk through this essential transaction called time, and want to know Him; and two, for your pure enjoyment. Divinity delights Himself in the gift that He has given mankind. It is one of the most powerful motivating factors with which you will ever come to terms. Humanity has been shaped by its attitude toward sex. Sadly, most of it has been wrong, yet the unfathomable beauty of sex remains. That’s how you got here. Your mom and dad conceived you in great delight. You are the product of much, much happiness – and love. Yes, you will enjoy sex, but you will only benefit from it if you keep it within the borders of commitment that Divinity has established for man and woman. 126


Not too long after your birth you will be tempted to think that sex is the ultimate thrill, but it will, eventually, only satisfy you if you will treat it as the beautiful, unique and fragile love-gift with which God has blessed you. Don’t cheapen it. Don’t misuse it. Don’t waste it. Bathe it in God’s love, enjoy it and especially, don’t be in a hurry.

On the other side Divinity watched His young creation skip happily along the lake-shore, hand in hand with one of His beloved angels, and smiled. Then a frown formed on His ageless face. So much beauty, so much potential, so much life and yet, this one too will be like all the others. He has to be. He has no choice. There will be a time soon, by earth’s standards, when Marco will be old enough to consciously grab a mallet, some rusty nails and face Divinity for the first time. He will then approach his Creator with indifference, or any other of the many, human, failed emotions. Just like 127


everyone else has done before him - some with hatred, some with disregard, some with carelessness, some with superiority, but they’ve all come with something. To kill Him. On the evening of a set day, Marco will grab Divinity’s wrist, place the nail on it and slam the mallet down, through the flesh; through the cartilage and bone; right into the wood. The wood of a peculiar tree Divinity Himself had created just for this purpose. Even before man failed, even before there was a need for salvation. Before the dawning of the first moment, Divinity had provided a way out for His creation. His love had already paid the impossible price of betrayal. On a tree, a very special tree He had created on the third day of the making of His universe, knowing full well man would use it, thousands of years later, to sacrifice His life on it. Man had disobeyed “love”, listened to “pride” and chosen rebellion. Man had voluntarily separated himself from his Creator. Man had allowed death to penetrate 128


his future and to dominate his present. Man was guilty of treason against life, against nature and against God. Man had to be rescued, or man had to be punished. At the core of Divinity is not only love, but also justice, because love outside of justice cannot exist, just like grace outside of truth is impossible. Man had committed a heinous crime. Man was guilty. Justice demanded payment. Divinity would not let man pay, because paying meant eternal separation and He, well, just couldn’t stand the distance. He had created man for love and love, Divinity was going to give – even if it cost Him everything. And so He came, clothed in human flesh, to live and to die just like one of His creatures. Because He had to produce enough life to conquer death, enough justice to offset injustice and enough right to counteract wrong. He was the only one who could do it. And he did, with His life. Greater love has no one than to give his life for his friends: justice demanded payment; love paid. 129


That majestic. That beautiful. That simple.

Under the sun. And so it began. The greatest, most adventurous, most exciting journey I had ever embarked on. It all began with a year of preparation in Johannesburg when I told the Lord I wanted to work for Him and He replied, “Oh no, my boy, not until you have fixed up your own life with what I will teach you. You cannot tell others how to live successfully if your own life is in a mess!” So I stopped and realized, “I can’t carry on doing what I’ve been doing, so, what type of job can I do that does not entail taking money from others; partaking in some crazy, illegal, money-making scheme, or lazing about behind a desk in a smoke-filled office, which is basically what I had done for the last eleven years?” And then I remembered, “I am a land surveyor. I believe I shall be a builder, like my father!” Pronto, I asked an African man I knew if he could build and when he said “yes”, I borrowed the equivalent 130


of 200 euros from my brother-in-law, bought an old Toyota bakkie (truck), loaded a garden wheelbarrow onto it with a couple of tools I had rummaged from a garage sale, and proceeded to advertise in the local newspaper with the last bit of money I possessed, “J.C. Enterprises: the neat builders for all your alterations and additions.” My first contract was worth a massive 100 euros and it entailed re-plastering the walls of a back room, in a house not too far from where I lived. I had in the meantime stopped smoking and my health and energy were returning. I would be up at five in the morning and ready to roll out with my African aid at six. We would work the whole day and I would come back home with bleeding cracks on my hands (I had not yet been told that you do not handle wet cement with your bare hands, especially when the last “rough” thing your fingers had handled was the striking strip on a box of matches) and a huge grin on my face. I was so proud of the Lord and I. We, together, could most definitely achieve anything. I just knew that.

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I moved from 100 euros jobs to a thousand and then to ten thousand. Got me an Italian partner who could really build, a number of labourers, got on to even bigger projects, bought two brand-new trucks, a three-ton and a one-ton and then, suddenly, ran out of prospects. One afternoon, a few days away from delivering my last contract and receiving my final payment, I parked my new Mazda on the side of the road and asked my divine friend for help. That’s when He said, “Look up and see your salvation is near!” I did that and noticed I had parked behind a huge billboard that faced the road. I got out of the truck, walked around to the other side and looked up. To my amazement, the billboard declared, “Subcontractors needed for large projects. Please contact so-and-so.” And right there, at the bottom corner of the billboard, the symbol of my faith stared at me, a few centimetres from my nose, as if to say, “Told you so!” I ran to the first public phone I could get (no cellphones those days) and called the number. The man heard my story and told me he was busy working on a 132


big project at that very moment and would I like to quote on it? I said, “Would I? I’ll be there in twenty minutes!” The quick ride across town, the breathless run to the divinely organized appointment, the few days of waiting for his response and voilà, I was holding in my cracked hands the contract to build the South African Head Office of one of the largest church denominations on earth! My Lord had done it again! Without my knowing, love had sneaked up on me and blessed me beyond my wildest imagination. I got busy the very next week. A few months later, at the peak of my enterprising career when my weekly invoices to the owners of the project ran into the multiple thousands of euros, when my total workforce numbered almost fifty and the value of my equipment began to warrant a rather expensive insurance cover, I heard my Master say to me, “OK Marco, now you can come work for me!” I sold everything I possessed, got my wife, my children and Pickford, our Siamese cat, in the car, our two dogs in the caravan-trailer I had been using as a mobile site-office and journeyed down to a little holiday 133


place called Hermanus, on the Southern coast of Africa, just over one hundred kilometres east of Cape Town. Josel and I have never felt as blessed as during those few years at the beginning of our life spent in the service of our Lord. His love was all around us. His grace covered us and His favour carried us. I was receiving revelation after revelation about His character and magnificence and I was able to share my rather limited knowledge but very extensive love with others, and enjoy the benefits! We began our fateful journey by establishing a holiday camp for children. They would come from the streets and ghettos of the Mother City (Cape Town) and we would make them feel like royalty, which they were, by the way, in the eyes of Divinity. A few years later we founded a church and then a school. Life was super! One day, though – believe it or not - I questioned His judgement. It was one of those days when you hear bad news from all fronts: radio, TV, newspapers and everywhere else. This faction attacked that faction. This group assaulted that group; a rape here; a murder there; 134


this one stole from that one while that one was robbing another one and all nicely seasoned in a foul broth of corruption that pervaded governments and communities all over the world. Yuk! Having become in my eyes what I erroneously thought was the equivalent of a walking saint, I felt it my duty to question God about His rather poor judgment in making man. And so I told Him, “What were you thinking when you created man? Didn’t you know this was going to happen? Didn’t you see that man would be nothing else than an evil, self-centred, homicidal creature that wouldn’t care a hoot about you or anyone else but himself?” I have since learnt that when you ask Divinity a silly and arrogant question, He just doesn’t answer until you get off your stupid horse and are ready to listen. So, a few weeks went by and I eventually simmered. One day I was flying somewhere and was seated just behind the plane’s right wing when suddenly I noticed what looked like oil seeping out of the engine. I called the flight attendant and reported the rather disconcerting find. She hurried to the cockpit and returned a few minutes later 135


with a big smile on her face, “The captain would like to thank you for your observance, but assures you that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. When the engine is too full of oil, it simply leaks out from an overflow valve on its side. Have a good flight.” And there, strangely enough, I heard the voice of His Spirit speaking clearly on the inside of me, “That’s why I created man, Marco, I am too full of love and I have to leak it onto somebody.” With the usual tell-tale “giggle” that assured me it was His voice. You see, God “is” love, He doesn’t just “have” love. Should He merely “have” love, He could “keep” love, “limit” love or even “refuse” love. But because love is His nature, He cannot but love! I later came to understand the heart of what He was saying when I considered the reason why a man and a woman get married and immediately proceed to have children! Now, with all due respect to all you parents of children out there – I am the father of two myself – “What were you thinking when you planned to give birth to your kids? Didn’t you know they would cry and keep you 136


awake through the whole night? Didn’t you know they would cost you huge amounts of money in health-care, education and entertainment? Didn’t you know they were eventually going to disappoint you, hurt you, even abandon you? And if you couldn’t have them naturally, you adopted them? What possessed you to do that?” I’ll tell you what possessed me to have my two children: I was created in the image of God and “I am too full of love and I had to leak it onto somebody.” That, my friend –if anyone needed any further evidence of God’s love – is the proof of His character. We are made by Him, like Him and we must have someone to love! Or we simply do not live. Having settled that in my heart, I realized that the only reason why He loves man so much, is not because man is loveable, but because He is love; simple. And that’s why Bosko was born. Bosko is the original Greek word Divinity used with one of His disciples. He spoke Bosko to him on the shores of a very special lake in the heart of a desert in 137


the Middle Eastern land in which He had chosen to live. He said, “Bosko” when He moved to earth temporarily and instructed his disciple to “feed His lambs”. And that’s what He also told me to do, so many years ago, “Bosko: feed my lambs!” Tell as many as I can that He loves them desperately. Desperately enough to give up His right to be “Divinity” and come to earth to live amongst His creatures as a man. Giving up that right, however, not only made Him “approachable”, but also made Him “vulnerable” and, yes, “kill-able”. That, my dear friend, is the food with which He has asked me to “feed” you. He loved you so much that He couldn’t live without you and so He came and gave His life as ransom for yours. The divine sacrifice has been immolated. One God-life for the life of humanity. He, the only one who could do that; the only one who was divine and human at the same time: the Lamb of God. Yes, it’s all done. Yes, it’s all finished. All you have to do now is receive from Him the gift He offers you: 138


eternal life with Him. No hidden agendas. No ulterior motives. No strings attached. Simply, “Thank you�. That is what I have done for over thirty years now. And that is what I will do for the rest of my life, until the day He calls me home and I will be able to tell Him, face to face, “Thank you Master. For the love, the fun, the opportunities, the life, thank you. For my precious wife, my incredible children, thank you. For the ups and the downs, thank you. For the assignments, the help, the struggles, the achievements, thank you. For that day in 1982 when you rescued me without asking for anything in return, thank you. For every time you have saved my life just because I was not done with feeding, thank you. For all the moments I felt you close to me even after having failed you, hurt you or disappointed you, thank you. For every smile, every thrill and every tear, thank you. For having trusted me with such an awesome responsibility like feeding your lambs, thank you. For the glory of a divinely orchestrated journey, thank you. For the gift of your friendship, thank you. For having overlooked all my mistakes, weaknesses and flaws and having used me nevertheless; for grace and 139


for pardon, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.�

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10 Look for The Manual as soon as you can.

Dispatcher stopped and picked up the child in his powerful arms. Cradling him as if he was a most valuable bundle, the angel’s face softened and he smiled ever so slightly. “It’s almost time for you to reach the end of our walk.” He pointed to a path that forked away from the lake just a few hundred meters ahead of them. He then put the child down once more and pulled something out of his back pocket that looked like a miniature book.

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“Eat it, Marco. It’s made of honey, a substance you’ll grow to love on earth.” Without hesitation the little one opened his mouth and ate the wafer-like book. His smile told the angel that yes, once born, Marco would definitely love honey. Taking the little hand in his once more, the angel resumed his walk. “I have told you many things up to now. Having said that, you will forget everything I have told you the moment you are born. That is unfortunately the result of man’s original failure. What you have eaten, however, will create in you the desire to find more of it once you relocate to earth. That little book is called “The Manual” and it contains all the instructions I have given you – yes, all the ones you are going to forget.” Dispatcher smiled at the enquiring stare of his little friend: “Don’t worry, you won’t have to bring up that one. You will find others on earth. Divinity has made sure that many have been printed. The reason why I asked you to eat that one is to put inside of you the desire to find one just like it, as soon as you can. You will try and satisfy that desire with a lot of other things, but only The Manual will totally gratify your craving. 142


Unfortunately the enemy has printed a few himself, all counterfeits that do not taste like honey, more like dung ... you will find out later what that means.” Dispatcher stole a worried look at the man in the white robe that somehow followed them all around the lake without moving, but Divinity looked back with smiling eyes and giggled under his breath. The angel relaxed and continued, “So, this is where we part company, Marco. My last instruction to you is the most important: look for The Manual as soon as you can. You will be needing to feed on it regularly to live a joyful, fulfilled, prosperous and most of all, meaningful life – just the way Divinity meant it. One word of warning though my little friend, when you read the Manual don’t ever get so concerned with the words of the writing that you forget the heart of the Writer. What counts is not the words in the book, but the book Divinity has written for you in each word!” With that, Dispatcher let go of Marco’s hand and the little one walked on without any apprehension. He headed for the fork in the path that signaled the last few 143


earth-weeks before birth and turned one last time to wave his hand at his friend. After that, he never looked back.

On the other side The old man sat, somewhat achingly, on the thick log on the grassy knoll under the big oak tree on the side of the lake. Without taking his eyes off the beautiful scene before him, he said in a soft voice, “It has been a long time, Master.” The Man in the white robe sitting next to him replied, “Yes, it has. You’ve had a long and satisfying life, my friend.” “That I had,” concluded the old man, “that I had. May I ask you a question, Master?” “Ask away,” mused the Man in the white robe. “Is that me I see walking along the lake?” 144


“Yes, it’s you.” “How can that be, Master? How can I be up here, at the end of my life, looking at myself down there, waiting to be born?” “You have been granted to be temporarily present in the eternal realm. What you’re looking at is you, before stepping out of this dimension. You spent nine earth months being instructed by an angel called Dispatcher on how to be successful in your future life. Then you were born. That’s when you exited the eternal realm and entered the realm of time. Then you stepped out of the realm of time once again to come here and ask me some questions,” concluded the smiling, white-robed Man. “Is this it, Master? Has the time come for my return?” asked the old man. “Yes, my friend. The time has come.” “When, Lord?”

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“When little Marco reaches that door at the end of the path in a couple of weeks,” replied Divinity, pointing to a rather large and elaborate door in the distance that strangely resembled the cover of a book and seemed to hang in mid-air. “There can’t be two of you on the other side of that door,” concluded Divinity with a slight lifting of the shoulders. “Are you afraid?” “How can I be afraid, Master? You are here. This is where I longed to be all my life.” “Good. I am very glad. Now let’s talk.” “I know there are many people praying that I don’t die. Master, how come you don’t answer their prayers?” “Do you want to go back, Son?” “NO! No Master. How could I want to go back after seeing you and all ... this?” “Good, then you have your answer.” “But ... can I choose?” “You’re doing that now, aren’t you?” 146


“What I mean is ... would you answer their prayers if I asked you to?” “Yes.” “And ... would I still be safe? I mean, would I still come back here?” “My son, you made a request that I accorded on the second day of February 1982 at twenty-two minutes, forty-eight seconds and a couple of tenths after eleven o’clock in the evening – according to time’s schedule – remember?” “Oh yes, Master, I remember very, very well. How could I forget asking you to help me? I didn’t even know you. I am so ashamed of what I thought of you. I thought you were an alien come from space thousands of years earlier to start a new intergalactic race!” The Man in the white robe burst out in a loud laugh and slapped his thigh so hard that he almost fell off the log on which he was sitting. “Yes, I remember the books you used to read! My, my, my what an imagination man has! ‘The chariot of the gods’, wasn’t it? Of course! 147


What a magnificent leap of fantasy. Justified, though, when you don’t have the truth,” Divinity concluded as He wiped a tear from the corner of His eye. Then He resumed, “But back to your question. Let me explain: as you very well know, my first creation was Adam, the original man. In him were contained, so to speak, every man, woman and child that would ever be born. He didn’t know it at the time, but Adam represented the whole human race. That’s when he made a rather bad decision. Adam decided to listen to a lie that told him that he wasn’t like me, that I was holding back on him and that basically I didn’t care for him.” Divinity stopped for a mere second, looked down on the scar on His wrist and gently touched it with the thumb of His other hand. Then softly shook His head as if to clear some bad memory, and continued, “That was not a happy moment. Adam allowed imperfection to seep into his being and automatically placed himself out of my presence. I am perfect, you know.” Divinity turned his head toward the old man with such a mischievous look that the old man found it almost impossible not to 148


smile. Yes, this was the God he knew and loved - so flawlessly divine, yet so casually human. “Yes, I am. And so was he! But did he believe me? No! He believed that lying snake! Anyway, it’s complicated.” “Why did you let it happen, Master?” “May I ask you a favor, Son?” “You? A favor ... from me? Of course, anything!” “Could you call me Abba, you know ... like, Daddy? I would really love that.” The old man gaped at the incredible simplicity of such a request. Here was Divinity Himself, the Creator of time and space, He Who had flung countless billions of galaxies in the sky at the mere sound of His words, He Who held within the grip of His hand the destiny of the whole human race, He Who was the source of all things, asking a mere mortal for a favor. How big was that?

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“Of course, Master – I mean – Daddy. It will be my honor and my joy.” “Thanks, Son. Let us continue then. I let that happen, because I had no choice. It might not make sense to you, but love can only be love if the person you want to love you is free to hate you. I was so longing for Adam to love me that I had to make him free to reject me. Or love would not be love. Anything that tries to control, that coerces, pressures, forces, or compels through threat of punishment or promise of reward, cannot be love. I could have created man as a puppet. Someone whom I could control in his responses and emotions, but would that have been love? No, of course not. Puppets don’t love; puppets do what they’re told! And love has to be a voluntary decision, or it simply cannot be love. No, I didn’t want puppets; I wanted children! Like any human son or daughter, man was made in his father’s image me! And as I am definitely free to choose, so was man also free to choose.

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Yes, Adam had to have a choice, a free choice. He chose to leave me.” Once again Divinity looked down at His wrist before continuing. “ However, it just so happens that I knew that was going to be the case and I already had plans in place to save the day. As “that” Adam had chosen to separate himself from me and take with him everyone who was “in” him, what we needed, was another Adam. A new Man where anyone who didn’t agree with the first man’s choice could “hide” from the consequences of his mistake. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. Let’s put it this way, you have something on earth called CDs, yes?” The old man nodded somewhat incredulously. “OK. Imagine you want to make copies of a song you really like. Give me a title,” “‘Better than I’, by my friend Bobby Michaels.”

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“Oh yes, I love his music. OK, assume that you want to make five copies of Bobby’s song, but someone scratched the original. What would happen? Every copy would come out damaged! Exactly what happened with Adam! Now, think, how are you going to get your five copies the way you want them, exact replicas of the original master, which is now scratched and unusable?” The old man looked puzzled. Then he snapped his fingers, “Of course! I’d ask Bobby to sing the song again and make me another master!” Divinity smiled and said, “Now you’ve got it! That’s exactly what I did. I sang the song again and made me another Adam! But this time, I couldn’t take a chance with man again and so I did it myself. Yes, I made the rules and I kept them. This time I wasn’t going to let mankind reject me, this time I “was” mankind! Yes, I designated the cost and I paid it. And now anyone who believes in what I’ve done, can partake of the benefits.” “You mean going to Heaven?” enquired the old man.

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“Well, technically yes, but there is so much more than that. Heaven is not just a destination, it’s a relationship; a relationship with me. The outcome of my love’s price was death, my death; its reward eternal life; here, together, man and I forever; my desire from the beginning.” The old man tilted his head and asked, “Does that mean everyone will make it here?” “No,” replied Divinity with a suddenly somber tone, “some will still not accept my gift. No matter how hard I try.” “But Abba, what about all the people who never heard of your love? What about those who have all their lives believed in a different divinity, not because they wanted to, but because they had no other choice?” Divinity turned His head toward a large meadow just left of the lake and suddenly, as if on cue, the whole scenery began to flicker, almost as if a gigantic movie screen had been lowered above the place. That’s when a huge number of people appeared out of nowhere. It 153


was as if there was no end to their number and yet each one of them was clearly identified and highlighted. Thousands, millions of people stood there, looking around somewhat bewildered. The old man recognized Muslims from Arab countries, Hindus from the East and Eskimos from the North; Mongols and Aborigines, African Sangomas and Tibetan monks. Executives in their black suits stood, bewildered, next to Roman soldiers, blond Vikings and American Indians. Jewish rabbis eyed, dubiously, dark, foreboding Goths while hooded, robed priests surveyed bald headed Egyptians. Housewives with rock players; witches from the middle ages and sex workers in the latest fashion; long haired hippies side by side with heavily tattooed bikers. There were actors, presidents, sailors, businessmen and women; the rich and the pauper; the young and the old. There was just about every type of people from all ages, cultures and backgrounds. They kept on looking around very puzzled as if they did not have the remotest idea as to where they were or why they were there. As Divinity and the old man looked 154


on, another Man dressed in a similar white robe appeared and began talking to the crowd. At the probing look of the old man, Divinity replied, “There are actually three of us ... but in reality we are one. It’s complicated.” “What is He ... you ... Him telling them?” “I am explaining to them what I have done for everyone on earth, hoping they will believe me.” “Are they ... dead?” “Yes, Son. They are dead. They have just exited the realm of “time” and have been allowed to enter the realm of “eternity” for the only purpose of hearing the good news of divine pardon they had never heard while they were alive. It’s ... complicated.” The old man brushed aside Divinity’s last remark and stood up, “Wow! That’s fantastic! A second chance for everyone!” “No son, only for those who haven’t heard on earth. Only the ones who don’t know.”

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“Great! Like that, everyone will be saved!” “You’ll be surprised,” noted Divinity with a sad note in His voice, “man has an incredible ability for being stubborn! I have tried everything I could to convince them and yet, some will still prefer to live away from me.” “What happens then, Abba?” “Well, I have to honor their choice ... and let them have what they want. There is only one alternative to being with me - being without me. There’s a place I have prepared for my enemy where those who don’t want to be with me, have to go. Not a nice place, but hey, I cannot force anyone, only woo them. Anyway, everyone who insists on being there is there already!” “What do you mean?” “You have been given the privilege of temporarily witnessing eternal things by entering this realm, but here, basically, nothing changes. Eternity does not begin, nor does it end. What you are in eternity, you have always been and you will always be. All those who 156


are here have always been here and those who are not, well .... It’s much like watching a movie. You know how it ends, but there is nothing you can do to change the story apart from trying your best to convince the female actor not to go into the dark alley on her way home. However, once the trying is over and the explaining is done, it remains her choice – and the plot ends. Similarly I know who will make it here and who won’t, while I pursue them and still let them make their choice for freedom’s sake. So, basically, I watch it happen, but I’ve seen it end already! It’s complicated!” The old man smiled. “... so, to finally answer your question about your being safe if you went back now? Yes, you would be. When you called out to me to save you, the real you were already here with me. Eternity cannot change, you see, it’s ... “ “ ... complicated!” Echoed the old man and Divinity at the same time, slapping each other on the shoulder and erupting in loud laughter!

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... furthermore 1

“I have so many questions, Abba,” said the old man. “We have time,” replied Divinity with a smile, pointing to the young child who was still quite a distance from the big door. He would take a couple of steps and then stop to lie back on the long grass, waving his arms and legs in the green carpet and giggling to himself. “Yes, he knows it’s not time to be born yet. You were almost a whole week late if I remember correctly.” “If YOU remember correctly?” said the old man with a look of, “Are you kidding me?”

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“OK, OK, you were six days, seventeen hours, fortytwo minutes and fifty-seven seconds late. There! Are you happy now?” concluded Divinity with a playful poke in the old man’s ribs. After chuckling together for a while, the old man asked, somewhat abruptly, “What happened to Rob?” Robert Molton, though younger than Marco, had been a friend for many, many years and some time ago the old man had been told that Rob had taken his own life in a motel room in Cape Town. “Rob is with me,” replied Divinity rather succinctly. “But he took his own life! Isn’t that, like, an unpardonable thing to do?” “Everything man does, is unpardonable. Whatever soils absolute purity, even in the smallest way, has destroyed perfection forever and hence cannot be allowed in my presence. That’s what man has done since the beginning. He can’t help himself. He doesn’t actually know the eternal consequences of what he is doing. That’s why I had to pay the price of all ‘wrong’ in 159


‘time’, yet have it recorded in eternity - once and for all. So there could be no recourse as to how seldom or how often; how deliberate or how unintentional; how venial or how mortal ‘wrong’ was committed. Wrong is wrong and I have paid its full price forever.” “Thank you, Abba. Thank you.” “Don’t mention it. Did you have another question?” “Yes. There’s one thing I’d like to know.” “One thing?” asked Divinity with a smile. “Well ... actually, many, but this one in particular. Why do bad things happen to good people? On earth, I mean.” As he pronounced the last words the old man caught himself, desperately wanting to pull them back. “Obviously ‘on earth’ Marco, obviously!” he thought. Divinity looked at him with an amused expression. “Son, there are no bad things here and there are no ‘good’ people either. Bad things are not permitted to exist in my presence and good people are not ‘good’ as such, they are just pardoned.” 160


If the old man could have blushed, he would have. But for some reason he couldn’t quite understand, he did not feel the slightest sense of shame or embarrassment in the presence of Divinity. And so he merely lifted his finger and nodded his head in acknowledgment. “What was the title of the first book you’ve ever published?” The old man felt quite pleased that Divinity Himself was aware of his writing achievements. However, this time he refrained himself from making another obvious observation. “‘The hole in the hedge’,” he replied. “You remember the book’s underlying assumption? I put a hedge of protection around anyone who desires to be my child. Well, actually I do that with everyone, but that’s another story. You wrote that such hedge of protection cannot be breached by ‘evil’ unless one voluntarily or involuntarily makes a ‘hole’ in it, right? And that this ‘hole’ is caused by a variety of ‘rodents’, yes? 161


You called them the ‘Dirty dozen’ - varying from lack of wisdom to unforgiveness, from pride to undisclosed malpractice, greed to bitterness, fear to offence, unbelief to ignorance, even traditions and others, remember?” “Yes, Abba, I do remember.” “Well, I don’t want to take any credit from you, but who do you think gave you that revelation?” “You did!” “Of course I did! I thought you believe what you write!” exclaimed Divinity, opening his arms in a gesture of surrender. “I do, Master, but sometimes it’s very hard to believe I am actually writing your truths and not just my ideas.” “Yes, I know, I know. It’s part of your makeup. So bold and yet sometime so ... insecure. Anyway, there lies your answer. My desire is for everyone to be happy and prosperous and healthy and fulfilled in life. Unfortunately most of mankind, sooner or later, opts for

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its own will rather than mine and so ends up somewhere I never intended it to be.” “ But couldn’t you ... I don’t know ... rescue them?” “I do. Sometimes. Most of the time I can’t. You see, I ‘have’ to respect their choices. Even though mercy and love prevail over judgment, equity still has to be maintained, or I just wouldn’t be who I am. One can be my child and still make some silly choices: choices that carry consequences no matter who you are. I guarantee the eternal, but the temporal carries repercussions and by-products, whether I like it or not,” concluded Divinity matter-of-factly. “Is there some form of prevention, Dad?” “Yes. Do you remember ‘The Manual’, the book Dispatcher told you to look out for?” “Yes. That was the book that influenced my choices more than anything else in my life.”

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“Good. I recall one of your favorite passages, ‘Be pliable in the hands of your Creator and He will make sure you make the right choices in life!’ Remember?” “Yes, Abba, of course I remember. That was one of the rules I tried to follow to the best of my ability – and it worked!” “Naturally. Basically what it means, and you know this, is: stay close and intimate with me, listen to my voice and to my heartbeat as much as you can and I will make sure that you choose in life what I would like you to choose. Guaranteed! So, to answer your question: yes, there is a fail proof way to prevent making wrong choices, ‘Be pliable in the hands of your Creator and He will make sure you choose right in life.’” “But what about those who don’t have ‘The Manual’?” “Aha! To whom much has been given, much is required – works both ways, you know. Remember this: everyone, but everyone will be given the chance to decide what to do with his temporal and with his eternal life. One way or the other I have made sure that every 164


human being will decide for himself with no coercion, pressure, deception, allure, threat of punishment, or promise of reward, misguidance, or lack of information. Divinity looked down to the ground and softly whispered, “How many times have I tried to catch my people’s attention. I have tried and tried to convince them that I know better and care more than they could ever imagine. Sometimes I even had to let bad things happen just for the sake of getting them to listen! Man’s eternal destination is so much, much, much more important than his temporary comfort.” Having said that, almost to Himself, He looked up again and continued, “During life on earth, mastery of man’s choices will only be limited to his ‘inside’, for his ‘outside’ can be attacked and hurt even if he does make the right choice. However, you can still conquer misery and despair inside of you even when life deals you a seriously rotten hand. It is and it will always be up to you. Remember Dispatcher’s words? ‘Life has the terrible tendency of serving you “lemons”. When it does that, smile – and make some lemonade.’” 165


The old man smiled at the thought that had, somehow, stayed with him all his life. “That works whether you have ‘The Manual’ or not. As far as life-after-life is concerned, you saw me talking to all the people that had not been given the possibility to hear me on earth. I promise you, Son, I will be fair to all.” “But then, what about us, Abba? If everyone is going to know anyway, what about your children, your followers? Didn’t you tell us to go and tell people about you?” “Yes! And what did most of you do? You went telling everyone that if they didn’t change the way they lived, I was going to fry them like a bunch of French fries! When all I asked you to do, was to tell as many as possible that I was not mad at them any longer and would they please accept my gift of pardon and eternal life!” The old man expected again the familiar sense of embarrassment to rise to his face, but, once more, he felt no shame, no condemnation. “Dad?” 166


“No, Son, in my presence there can be no shame, nor can there be any condemnation. Just a clear definition of truth that carries no guilt.” Divinity smiled. The old man looked at the walking, skipping, playing child on the path getting closer and closer to the huge door at the end. It wouldn’t be long now. “So ... ” “So, ask yourself: what is the reason why you are here? Because three of my disciples by the names of Serge, Peter and Ray did what I had asked them to do and told you about my love for you. All you did was to say yes. Fair enough?” “Fair enough!”

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... furthermore 2

“Something really bothered me throughout my life.” “Something?” Divinity said, unable to conceal a giggle. “OK, actually quite a few things have bothered me since I heard your truth. Can I ask you about them?” “Sure. We still have some time.” Unborn Marco was definitely not displaying the slightest desire to hurry toward the big door hanging in the air. In fact, as if he’d heard Divinity’s remark, the young child began chasing butterflies that had magically appeared, it seemed, uniquely for his delight. 168


“Have you heard of the theory of evolution?” asked the old man, forgetting once again the omniscience of the divine person he was talking to. “Yes, I have,” conceded Divinity rather condescendingly. “My son, Charles, had quite a field day with that one, didn’t he?” “Your son?” marveled the old man, suspecting that somehow, in some strange, impossible way, he had been misunderstood by the Man in the white robe. “Yes Marco, my son. Don’t ever make the mistake of assuming that just because someone has lived a life away from me, he hasn’t accepted my offer of pardon before taking the final step into eternity.” “But Lord, likening man to a monkey! Isn’t that ... like ... real bad?” “Yes, a very unfortunate resemblance, I must say,” Divinity smiled discreetly before suddenly breaking into a full-blown laugh.

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“Oh, forgive me, that was so funny. I made man in my image, I created him in my likeness and one day he decides that he descends from monkeys! My, my, my, what an absolutely hilarious concept. And the idea that everything that exists could actually be created by nothing through chance and time. You’ve got to give it to man - THAT requires a whole lot more faith than believing in me!” concluded Divinity with a final guffaw. “But, Abba, he misled so many people!” “He thought he was right, Marco, he just didn’t know. Not until just before the end. That’s when he realized he was wrong and – surprise – I was right! Well, anything else?” enquired Divinity, keeping an eye on the young child who was now skipping stones on the water surface. “Why does prayer sometimes not work?” “Prayer does not ‘work’ as such, son. Prayer is communication. Communication is relationship. Mankind has had the bad tendency of treating prayer like a

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computer program to be mastered, an html code to be embedded, software to be loaded.” The old man was surprised that Divinity knew about computers, and then, quickly, he caught himself before saying something silly again. “Of course Divinity knows about computers, Marco, all knowledge originates from Him. Dah!” “Prayer is far, far more than a mere number of steps or a list of words or a few taps on a mystic keyboard,” remarked Divinity. “Prayer is the heartfelt ‘I love you’ whispered by the creature to its Creator. Prayer is the cry of help shouted by the child to its father. Prayer is the quiet conversation of two friends around the campfire. Prayer is the ‘war cry’ of the soldier who is ready to engage in battle. Prayer is the sigh of relief when things turn out ‘all right’. Prayer is the joyful ‘chatter’ with someone you befriend. Prayer is the shout of inadequacy of the searching soul. Prayer is the loud proclamation when happiness threatens to spill over. Prayer is the bold request on behalf of a ‘needy’ one. Prayer is the ‘thank you’ that cannot be silenced. 171


Prayer is the beginning and the end of a relationship, for without communication there cannot be any relationship. That’s why, ultimately, prayer is communication, pure and simple. And, by the way, it’s not that prayer sometimes doesn’t work, but rather that I sometimes prefer giving my children what they need rather than what they want.” “But if you already know everything, what is the point in asking?” Insisted the old man, “Let’s just say that I enjoy the chat”. Divinity smiled and motioned for the next question. “There were many times in my life when I should have been struck by tragedy but I wasn’t. Was that you?” Divinity smiled and said, “Can you handle something a little ... different?” The old man frowned and said, “Yes, if you’re here, yes.” “I am going to let you see what happened behind the visible. Are you ready?” 172


“Yes, Abba.” Suddenly Marco found himself inside a grocery store somewhere on the East Coast of South Africa. Yes, he remembered. They were on their way to a beach cottage they had hired for a couple of days and had just stopped to stock up at a shop along the way: Marco, Josel, four year old Milena and one year old Michael. His car was a big, six-cylinder, two door, automatic Javelin coupé. The car was parked just outside the long, glass window at the end of the shop. Marco had gone to the firewood section and was now aligned with the car on the other side of the pane, a good fifteen meters from the store entrance at the other end of the building. The shop was off the winding, narrow road that ran along the sea and you reached it by driving up a short driveway. The parking in front of the shop was about five meters above the traffic. On the other side of the main road was a long drop to the rocks and the sea below. The car was parked on the incline, nose up and, as was Marco’s bad habit, with no handbrake engaged.

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Suddenly, as Marco turned to face the window, he watched with horror as his little daughter Milena tried to show her giggling little brother Michael how to drive and disengaged the gear lever, putting the Javelin in neutral. In an instant the big car began to move and Milena’s expression turned from sheer delight to absolute panic. As Divinity allowed the terrifying moment to be relived, Marco saw himself starting to run in the opposite direction of the car’s motion, as the shop’s door was at the other end of the building. He literally went flying past Josel who, as if acting a part in a slow motion movie, seemed to be standing still, like everyone else in the shop for that matter. Out the door and back toward the moving vehicle. Faster, faster; the head now moving faster than the legs; slip and fall on the tar, the big car riding its tire over Marco’s hand and grinding it into the gravel; get up and get going once more, run, open the door, reach inside and pull the handbrake mere centimeters from the edge; the boot (trunk) already protruding over the void. “Now I understand! You slowed the time so that I could make it!” 174


Divinity just smiled. “Thank you, Abba! I should have put on the handbrake, what a klutz! Less than a meter and the car would have gone over the edge and down into the ocean! You saved my children, Abba! Thank you!” “You saved them, Marco, I merely cooperated! Do you want to see another one?” “Phew, sure, Dad!” Marco instantly found himself on top of the mountain behind Bosko center in Hermanus, a few days away from the millennium. A group of men were busy raising a large, six meter cross that had lights along its perimeter and weighed quite a few hundred kilos. Marco had decided to erect the cross on a concrete drum and secure it with ropes so that it could be seen standing upright from miles away once the generator kicked in and the lights came on. Suddenly, as the winch of the small truck was whirring away and raising the massive structure over the 175


block, a gust of wind hit the group and snapped one of the ties. Swinging to the side, the big cross slid off the concrete drum and fell backward toward Marco, who was by then frantically backpedalling to get away. Unfortunately his foot caught on a protruding root and Marco tripped and fell on his back right in the path of the falling timber. Death was lunging for Marco with frightening precision and in the shape of a cross! That’s when Divinity nudged the old man in his side and said, “Watch this”. The scene froze and suddenly a powerful silver-haired being in jeans and T-shirt materialized, as out of nowhere, right under the cross. With a simple shove of the hand, he pushed the massive timber just enough to miss Marco’s head and shoulder and merely give him a bruise on the side of his arm, as it struck the ground next to him. “Hey! I remember that bump. It hurt for weeks!” “Yes,” conceded Divinity, “I instructed your angel to let that happen. I just wanted you to take note and use your head next time you thought up a silly plan like that!” 176


“Yes, that was a rather crazy idea, wasn’t it?” admitted the old man with a smirk. “Was the bruise ... like the hand and the gravel? Were they like … a punishment?” “No, not a punishment, Marco, a warning. Motorcar manufacturers build cars with handbrakes for a specific reason, you know? Then Divinity looked him straight in the eyes. His stare echoed the infinity of endlessness and the old man felt the incredible significance of what his Lord was about to say, "I will never punish you, Marco. All the punishment that needed to be dished out I took upon myself. Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing will ever cloud the grace I have given you and nothing will ever separate you from the love I have for you. Not your disobedience, not your misbehaviour, not your improprieties, not even your mistakes. Trust me." “Incidentally,” continued Divinity now quite matter-offactly, “that was Ariel, your guardian angel. He has been rather busy with you. One day you’ll watch the whole performance,” and another giggle escaped His lips. “By 177


the way, consider this: you are only aware of the few bad things that happened in your life because you experienced them but you obviously cannot be aware of all the accidents and dramas you were spared from – because they didn’t happen! You want to see another one?” “No, Abba. Not another blunder, please. I just thank God ... well, you, I guess ... that one doesn’t feel any shame in this place, otherwise I would really have to hide under a rock!” “OK. Ask me another question.” “Yes. Did you ever make ... you know ... eunuchs?” “Eunuchs? You mean homosexual people?” “Yeah, homosexuals. I always believed that nobody is born that way, that you don’t make anyone that way.” “Oh, but I don’t! The same way that I don’t make sick people, or handicapped people, or simpleminded people, or cruel people, or odious people, or wicked people; all I make is people: perfect in their spirit and 178


perfect in their possibilities. The problem lies once again with Adam’s original choice. He didn’t only mess up visible life, but he also contaminated the invisible part, life before birth.” “Wait a minute - does that mean that I could have been born ... you know ... one?” demanded the old man with a very worried look on his face. “Yes, Marco. And I would have loved you just the same! In fact, it is only my grace that keeps you from being seriously damaged by your father’s remarks while you are still in your mother’s womb. His rejection is a powerful trigger that could start a whole destructive change in your mind and body, and in your sense of identity.” Divinity concluded, pointing at the young child that by now was back on the path, watching ladybirds. “Do you mean you are protecting me, now, before I am born ... and yet you’re telling me about it, now, just before I die?” “It’s complicated!”

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“I thought you would say that!” mused the old man before continuing, “but then, what choice do they have?” “Remember, son, I will be fair to all. Trust me.” “I do, Abba. I do.”

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... furthermore 3

“Dad?” “Yes?” “Are you ever ... disappointed in your children?” “Son, how could I ever be disappointed if I know exactly what each one of you is going to do? You can’t disappoint an eternal being!” At the somewhat intrigued look on the old man’s face, Divinity explained, “Marco, I know everything. I was watching you when you hurt yourself and others with your actions. I was right there with you when you chose to ignore me and follow your own ways. I heard your jokes about me and my 181


sacrifice. I felt the stabs of ridicule and outright hostility. I carried the indifference and absorbed the contempt. I saw you when you dabbled in spiritual séances and flirted with the enemy. I watched you play the Ouija board and call up the dead.” Finally Divinity exclaimed, sweeping his hand across the lake, the path and the walking child, “I knew all about you before you were born!” “And you weren’t disappointed?” “No, Marco! I knew it was just a matter of time and you would make me proud! Wasn’t I right?” “I don’t know, Dad. Right now I should feel totally ashamed of what I’ve done. I should wonder why you didn’t incinerate me on the spot, yet I don’t. I was such a failure! Were you right?” “Yes, Son, I was right. Through you I have been able to reach countless thousands of lost ‘lambs’ who might otherwise have chosen to reject me. Many little ones have been fed, young ones urged on and old ones encouraged. You and I have done a good job, Marco.” 182


“If you say so. Oh Abba, I am so glad I cannot feel shame in your presence. Just the thought of what I have done could crush me forever!” “Marco, remember when Michael ran away?” “My son; yes Dad, I remember.” The old man thought of the day when his beloved son had done what most, if not all, young men at his age do - stray into the forbidden. At his father’s reaction and somewhat strong reprimand, Michael had replied by throwing a pair of jeans and a T-shirt in a backpack, slamming the front door and taking off down the road. “What did you shout at him while he was running away?” “Michael remember, Daddy loves you!” “Exactly! In the middle of his rebellion, in the midst of your disappointment, you cried out your love for your son. Why?”

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“Because I loved him so much! And because I wanted him to remember those words when the enemy would tell him I didn’t love him. And because that was the truth. And because I knew he was the best son I could ever have wished for, even while he was rejecting me!” “That’s my heart, Marco! And that’s the reason why he turned out to be the man who has made you proud all these years, because you didn’t look at his behavior, you looked at your love!” “Oh Abba, you make it sound so easy.” “Remember when you didn’t know where Michael was and you struggled being ‘strong’, for Josel’s sake, but inside you were coming apart?” The old man remembered very well. After his son had run off, Marco had enquired from some of Michael’s friends as to where he could have gone. The reply was: Cape Town. Not what Marco wanted to hear. With the new government in South Africa, the law had drastically relaxed and morals had dramatically slipped. Cape 184


Town had become a center for prostitution and drug dealing. Immediately the enemy whispered in Marco’s ears, “He is in Cape Town without money. He has to find a place to sleep. He already feels like a failure because you rejected him. He will do anything to survive, and will go all the way. The city is certainly not the best place for an inexperienced boy like Michael. He might already be lying half dead in some back alley!” But one thing the enemy had not counted on was the stubborn refusal of Marco to believe his God would let him down. And so Marco asked. And Divinity answered. One short, clear sentence from the Manual, “I will return the captivity of your son!” That was enough. Enough to trust; until Michael returned. And with him, peace. And they never left again. Marco smiled instinctively at the memory. 185


Divinity continued, “You asked me to help and I did! And do you know why? Because I knew Michael even before he was born. I knew what was inside him! I am the original father, Marco. I care about your children a million times more than any of you can. And I will look after them, if you just ask.” The old man hesitated for a brief moment and then continued, “I have been so privileged, Daddy, to have Michael and Milena as my children. I couldn’t have asked you for better ones. But what about other children like Jordan and Antonio and Gordon and Claire and so many others. What can one tell their parents?” “Tell them, Divinity also had two children, one male and the other female. They were living in a perfect place where there were no dramas, corruption or difficulties. They were brought up by a perfect father, in a perfect family, in a perfect environment. Their names were Adam and Eve - and both of them rebelled. If I couldn’t do it, maybe you should be a little more tolerant with yourself,” concluded Divinity with a smile and a slight raising of the hands. 186


... furthermore 4

“Why did you make mosquitoes?” “You’re not serious! Why did I make mosquitoes?” “Yes. And sharks and snakes and spiders and tapeworms and horse flies and ticks and all those other creatures that we could certainly do without?” “You are serious. Well, I made mosquitoes so that spiders would have something to eat and ...” “Come on Abba, seriously!” “All right. That is a strange question, but I did see it coming. The consequences of Adam’s decision reached 187


all aspects of nature. In the beginning everything was self-sustaining. In other words, you ate simply for the pleasure of it, not because if you didn’t you would die. Life was just ... spontaneous, with no need for gyms, plastic surgery, or health supplements. I had designed the body to renew itself every seven to eleven earthyears and the process would go on forever. Things like bacteria, germs and viruses simply did not exist. Nature was man’s best friend and all things worked together for the good of everyone. Death and disease were unknown entities that couldn’t touch my creation. Then Adam made his choice, and things started deteriorating. Suddenly stings and claws and fangs began appearing and blood became a very sought after commodity. Death and all its derivatives entered into my creation and reigned – sadly, from then ‘till now. It was the wrong choice of man that’s made mosquitoes. Albert, one of Adam’s brightest children, came up with a very clever scientific explanation for this basically everything in the universe is losing order and quality. That, Marco, is the actual state of mankind. Things are deteriorating around man - going from good 188


to bad, from direction to chaos. It has been like that from the beginning of time. However. Let’s just say that the world I originally made was perfect and let’s just say that I have set it back toward perfection once again. Satisfied?” Divinity smiled at the old man while He put his hand on his shoulder. There was much tenderness in the gesture, just like a teacher that begs the student to trust his formula, even if he knows his pupil doesn’t really understand all its components. The old man smiled back. “Sure, Abba. Is that why people hurt?” “Yes, Marco. That’s why people hurt. That’s why crime exists; and sickness, wars, famine, orphans, loneliness, AIDS, cruelty, terrorism, natural disasters and a million other things I never wanted for man, but man wanted for himself.” “Can you believe that the world calls tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, ‘Acts of God’?” asked the old man with a slight raising of the hands. 189


“Yes,” confirmed Divinity with just a hint of sadness in His voice, “I’ve heard. The whole creation is groaning at Adam’s choice. And they blame me. Sad, very sad. What else?” “Can you tell me about the fig-leaves thing?” “The fig-leaves thing ..,” stated Divinity tilting His head ever so slightly, “You have a way my son, you certainly have a way! What do you want to know?” “Religion Dad, the fig-leaves thing,” asserted the old man. “Ah yes, religion, the vaccine against truth. You know what a vaccine is - the stuff doctors give you when they want to make sure you don’t catch a bad disease. In a nutshell, it’s just a small dosage of something similar – not the actual disease, obviously – to cause your system to produce antibodies that will prevent you from catching the real thing. Quite clever, actually. Sadly, religion works in the same way. It gives you just enough spirituality to stop you from wanting to experience the real thing! Yes, the fig-leaves thing.” 190


Divinity smiled an all-knowing smile and then continued, “Religion - right from the beginning, man’s attempt at substituting me with something he has produced. From Adam’s attempt at covering his shame with, well … the fig-leaves thing to statues made of wood and stone; from mausoleums to men dressed in black; from systems where my sacrifice isn’t enough to systems that give divinity to man – including the whole monkey-image thing!” This time it was the old man’s turn to stare and repeat, “The monkey-image thing?” “Yes, you know, that crazy idea we talked about before, making mankind come from monkeys instead of me! You’re talking about fertile imagination! Yeah ..,” continued Divinity, “all that religion ever produced has been ignorance, hate, division, prejudice and death. What a travesty of truth!” “How can man recognize religion, Abba?” “Anything that requires man’s effort to please me, appease me or win me over is religion.” 191


“Why?” insisted the old man. “Simple,” concluded Divinity, “because Marco, I have already been pleased, appeased and won over. There’s nothing left for man to do, but the receiving. It is finished!”

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... furthermore 5

“ What about all the people that say one thing and do another? You called them ‘hypocrites’. What about them?” the old man asked. “Yes, hypocrites. The exact word I used, actually, was: actors”. “Actors?” “Yes, people who pretend to be someone and in reality they are someone else. What about them, Son?” “What happens to them?”

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“The father always knows the true identity of his children, no matter who they pretend to be. Many have made believe that they accepted my offer of adoption while sadly they have, in fact, refused it. Some did it for convenience; some out of need of approval; some did it because they were forced; some, by selecting to embrace a set of rules and behavioral-modifications they thought would gain them what, in fact, was already theirs; some, because they were allured, and some simply because they didn’t care about the finality of such a choice. However, ultimately, all of them rejected me. They wanted to come play in my house, but live somewhere else. Not possible.” “But why, Abba? If they are pardoned and accepted by you already, why not include them too?” “Do you think I don’t want to? I have spanned eternity making it easy for man to decide, but it’s a matter of the heart, Son. I have to respect what they really choose on the inside of them. Once all the necessary requirements have been satisfied and all the available information and needed impartation have been given; once I provided the way, unlocked the gate and opened the door, it can 194


only be up to them to accept the invitation and come live with me forever, or go stay somewhere else.” The old man realized the tragic clarity and finality of Abba’s words and looked away. Why, oh why was man so obstinate? “Anything else you’d like to know?” The old man hesitated. Divinity turned His face toward him and in an instant the old man realized He knew what the question was, before he asked. “Oh come on,“ mused the old man, “it’s not fair!” Divinity smiled, “Yeah, it’s not. Let’s pretend I don’t know what you’re going to ask me, ok?” “OK,” conceded the old man and then, much more somberly, continued, “What happened to the baby I had with Carla?” He looked away as if to abbreviate the moment. “The hairdresser from Florence? Pretty girl, yes, the child you never knew you had until your friend, Dino 195


called you in South Africa and told you she was pregnant? The little flower for which I had so many plans, that was ‘terminated’ – as if man could ‘terminate’ anything I have initiated, before being born?” “Flower? Was she ... a girl?” “Yes. We called her Bubble. Would you like to see her?” enquired Divinity with a sudden warmth in His eyes. “ ... but,” hesitated the old man “I will let you see her the way she was, had she turned five. There she comes!” and he pointed to a barefoot little girl in a flowery dress who was humming a song and skipping toward them, her hair swinging in a ponytail. The old man stood slowly and covered his mouth with his hands. Suddenly his eyes filled with tears - not of pain, but of wonder. Wonder at the immensity of God’s love, that instead of incinerating him for the wicked, wicked thing he had done, allowed him to witness the eternal well-being of his unborn daughter. 196


“Can I talk to her?” “No. Communication is not possible between the two dimensions. Sorry, Son.” “She is so beautiful.” “Yes, she is.” “Daddy!” screamed the little girl and ran into the arms of Divinity. He picked her up, swung her around a couple of times and then put her back down on the ground, but not before she had grabbed His face with both hands and planted a big kiss on His nose. Bubble went on skipping and singing all the way down to the lake and disappeared beyond the trees. “Thank you Master! ... Dad.” Divinity smiled, knowing exactly what the old man was thinking: his little girl hadn’t actually died or grown up without a father, but simply anticipated her return to eternity by the span of an eye flutter and had enjoyed a divine father all the time, anyway.

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“I am so sorry ... how could I have done something like this? And why am I still not feeling shame? Even after seeing her?” “I told you, Son, no shame in my presence. You did this because you didn’t know that life begins when I say it begins and not when a baby is born. There are many things man has not learnt yet, and never will. That’s why I had to intervene. It’s all done now, restored, the way it was always intended to be. Creation has been saved. It’s all over ... but for the shouting!” mused Divinity with a captivating smile. Then, suddenly, He stood. “It’s time, Son,” whispered Divinity, pointing at the little child who was now standing in front of the door. “One last question, Abba, please.” “Fine, but hurry, not even I can interfere with your birth.” “Why the book?”

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“You mean the door that looks like a book?” “Yes,” confirmed the old man. “That’s your life, Marco! That’s the story I have written for you from before time began and that you are about to enter as its main character. Did you like it?” “Oh yes Abba, oh yes; I loved it. Thank you for writing it!” Divinity smiled such a pregnant smile that it seemed to touch both ends of eternity. “Take my hand, Son, and close your eyes. The time has come. Welcome home!” The young child opened the door and walked through.

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Conclusion - or “the beginning” … should you decide to read on.

My name is Mario and I am the writer of this book. I am presently sixty-five years old and no way near, by the grace of God, my deathbed. I have still so much to do; so many places to go; so much to see; so many books to write. And Abba hasn’t called me home, yet. But that day will come. Sooner, or later, it will come. And then I’ll smile. Oh, not that I’m not smiling now. As you might have noticed, I am desperately in love with my Lord, my wife and my existence. I like it here! But I have decided that “there” is far, far, far better than “here”. And so I can’t wait to go. 200


You have read part of my life story. More, much more of it I did not include; more good and, yes, more bad. Suffice it to say that when I told Divinity I am glad there is no sense of indignity in His presence, for otherwise I would feel crushed by the weight of my shame, I meant every word of it. Yes, Marco had been bad. Mario has been worse. Yet I can look at eternity with expectation. How can that be? I had a debt to pay, a mortal debt to reimburse, the debt of my life. God had given me a spotless life, without the slightest flaw or inadequacy. And I simply made a hash of it. He had given me perfection; I repaid Him with deformity. He had blessed me with life; I turned it into death. My debt was ingratitude. His debt was love. Divinity had made up His mind, long before Adam failed. He had laid down a plan, eons before humanity betrayed Him. He had prepared a solution, an eternity before man’s problem arose.

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Written in “the Manual” - not this book, obviously, but the original one - stands a death-shattering declaration; a time-unrelated promise; a life-giving formula; a series of words birthed by the stubborn determination of a magnificent God Who simply had to come to His love’s rescue, once and for good. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (The original Manual, John 3:16)

He was the prince who snatched His beauty from the jaws of the dragon. He was the father who dove into the shark-infested water to rescue his drowning son. He was the warrior who stood in front of his house, sword drawn, daring anyone to harm his family. And He came. To rescue His love. He bridged the gap. He conquered the void. He paid the price. He killed the enemy.

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The story is told of a missionary who found an unknown tribe of aborigines in the equatorial jungles of Borneo, beyond a large river. The people received him well – they didn’t eat him – but wanted nothing to do with his message. A white god who has beaten death? You’ve got to be kidding me! When a contagious disease, however, began decimating the population and the missionary told them there was help on the other side of the river, they had to listen. Only one problem: Alaat, their river god, was not to be messed with. He lived in the water and would kill anyone who intruded in his habitat. No matter how hard the missionary tried to explain to them that there was no god named Alaat and that the river was perfectly safe to cross, they were too afraid – and kept on dying. That’s when the missionary called the chief and all the men of the tribe to the riverbank, dove into the water and swam to the other side. Dripping and grinning, the missionary waved for the men to come, and with a shout of jubilation they all jumped in!

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He had proved it. He had beaten Alaat, crossed the deadly chasm and surfaced unharmed on the other side. Just like another Missionary, an eternity ago. And now He stands, dripping and grinning, on the other side of death, and waves, “Do not fear. I have beaten Alaat. Its sting is gone. It is safe to cross over. When you are ready, come, I’ll be waiting.” Yet, we are so mystified by the thought. Oh we know it’s going to happen. We realize we cannot stay on this side of the water forever and sooner or later we are all going to have to cross that river and face Alaat, its fierce occupant. So, what do we do with the mystery? How do we approach the river’s inevitability? What’s mankind’s solution to death? We don’t think about it. Ignore it. It might go away. And like the proverbial ostrich, we bury our heads in the sand. When, in actual fact, death is nothing more than the beginning of life, the real, pure, unadulterated life. Christ dealt with human death three times in the Gospels. He raised the son of a widow in Nain, a place 204


near Mount Tabor in Southern Galilee; the daughter of a leader of the synagogue in Capernaum, and Lazarus, a friend from Bethany. And, amazingly enough, none of them thanked Him. Strange, wouldn’t you say? With the incredible resolve with which mankind clings and has always clung to life, they should, at least, have said, “Thank you”, don’t you think? Yet, they didn’t. Could it be they saw Divinity? Could it be they watched Him wave at them from the other side of the river? Dripping? Grinning? Could it be they would have preferred to remain there? Only to be jerked back half way through the crossing? We don’t know, but a perplexing observation, nevertheless. And so I close. My book has been written. My life has been shared. Alaat is beaten. The river is conquered. The prison door is open. Freedom beckons. Don’t be afraid. 205


"THE GREAT ESCAPE"

The days were dark in the windowless dungeon. The only available illumination was provided by some merciful outside light that somehow managed to squeeze through the gaps between the cell door and the walls. The prisoner's cell wasn't, in fact, much more than a cave dug out of the soft rock on the side of the mountain. One could always tell when it was raining outside. In a few minutes, the ceiling would start leaking and the walls sweating. Soon there would not be a dry spot left anywhere on the floor but a rock, propped up against the side of the cave by some previous, industrious prisoner. One could sit on that rock for hours, chin resting on knees, waiting for the water to finally seep away. Food was brought every second day and very unceremoniously dropped from a barred hole, over the 206


top of the door. As the approaching steps of the guard were heard it was but a few seconds to grab the mouldy piece of bread before it hit the ground and got devoured by hordes of hungry, waiting rats. Yes, it was a rat-race: and the rats won most of the time. Joe Anybody had spent most of his life in that cell and he had, years ago, lost the desire to hope anything would change. He had been there for too long, buried in filth, to know any other way. Oh, yes, every now and then he had occasional flashbacks of childhood days, when the sun shone and the air smelled nice, but, somehow, they were too distant to comprehend and too blurry to really appreciate. Yes, the echoes of those memories were definitely too warm to be understood while ankle-deep in seepage. Joe Anybody had decided he was going to live a prisoner and he was going to die a prisoner. No way out, no point in fighting. Everyone lived in cells. It had been this way since time began.

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Granted, some had better cells than others, with heating, seating facilities and even a bathroom, but everyone lived in one. Sometime between the ages of five and ten, every human being on the face of the earth would see the cave’s mouth and walk in. He or she would then be incarcerated in his or her own private cell, where he or she would spend the rest of his or her life. Unless. It was rumored amongst the prisoners that occasionally someone escaped. No one could quite tell how that happened, but the fact was that one moment they were in, and the next one they were out. The heists were apparently organised by an ex-carpenter from Israel, and never failed. His followers never came back. Apart from the carpenter's doing, there were daily attempts at escaping but no one ever succeeded. Somehow, those that tried by other means like booze, drugs, sex or money, could never really break out. In fact, the more they tried, the more the bars on their cells 208


got thicker and thicker. No, there was no way out. Death and death alone would unlock the door, nothing else. The door opened and a bearded man was, rather unceremoniuosly, pushed into the cell. Blood trickled down from the top of his head, as if something sharp had been pushed into his scalp. As he hit the side wall, he turned around and stared at Joe. The door remained open, for some strange reason. "Will you choose life?" asked the bleeding man with a tortured smile. "What?" replied Joe. "Will you choose life?" insisted the stranger. "Are you the carpenter?" enquired Joe. "Yes", said the man. "Can you get me out of here?" whispered Joe. "Yes", said the man. And again repeated, "Will you choose life?" 209


Joe looked into the man’s eyes. His face was marred. His body was battered. His cloak was covered in blood. His own life seemed to be so fragile. But his eyes were smiling. He was dripping. But he was grinning. "Yes!" shouted Joe, and quickly got up. Slowly, almost regally, the stranger lifted a hand, bleeding at the wrist, and for a moment the whole universe seemed to stop. "Go," he said. "I make you free!" Joe walked out of the cell that had held him prisoner for so many years and, as he did, the door closed shut behind him. Breathing the fresh, outside air, Joe smiled, because he knew, somehow, he'd see that Carpenter again.

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Dear reader, I hope you have enjoyed The Manual. Obviously most of what I have written is born out of my “imagination” – however, having said that, I am totally convinced of its subjective reliability. Should you want to go further and use this book as a tool for small group discussion or purely check on the scriptures I elaborate on, please visit: http://www.choosehim.net and click on “The Manual” on the far right. The password is “GBTM737”

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May the image of a God: good, merciful, full of joy, grace and love, smile upon your life. I hope you will recognize him.

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Mario Marchio’ Ministries P.O. Box 546, Hermanus, 7200, South Africa mario@bosko.org - www.bosko.org

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The Manual