Deleted Scene from MOJAVE LEE
As another guest walked into his solarium, Sam Sneed shook his head. He’d built this room just for an occasion like this. He never expected to fill it to overflowing. Not on a weeknight. And certainly not during a pandemic. He scanned the room. Almost nobody was wearing a mask, some were shaking hands, others were hugging. The governor would not be happy with this.
As his wife Deirdre set up another chair, he looked down the long driveway to his home. He didn’t see any more cars coming. I hope that’s the last. He didn’t know half of these people. Normally that would make him nervous. He lived in this hidden spot in the trees for a reason—privacy. But he’d also wanted this place to be a haven for believers to meet, like it is tonight. As they say—be careful what you wish for.
He did a quick head-count in the solarium, then moved to the living room and kitchen. Fifty-six. “We’ll be starting in a few minutes,” he said loudly to no one in particular. “Please work your way to the solarium.” He headed that direction as well. Glancing in, he saw Deirdre moving plants against the wall to make more room. Lee was standing with Pastor Jim at the far end. The born leader, and the humble preacher. This should be an interesting meeting.
A few people shook his hand as they walked past him and down the three steps into the solarium. A few elbow-bumped him. A few more stayed above where they could hear, but avoid the crowd. As the last of them found their place, Sam stepped in and nodded to Lee.
“Welcome, everyone,” yelled Lee to get their attention. The room quieted. “Before we get started, Sam, would you say a prayer?”
“Sure,” said Sam, pausing a second. “Father, thank you for getting us all here safely. We ask for you to protect us while we’re here—not only from the physical dangers of the pandemic, but also the spiritual threats. We ask for your Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and help us discern your will in the things that we’ll discuss. We also ask for warrior angels to defend this home and the homes and lives of those present here, that the enemy could not retaliate against us for our obedience to you. We ask for your wisdom, Lord, as we give this meeting over to you, in the name of Jesus. Amen.”
“Amen to that,” said Lee, as Jim sat down. “As I look around the room, I see quite a few people I don’t know. Out of curiosity, how many here know Pastor Jim?” Quite a few hands went up. “How about Sam over there?” Half the room responded. “How many know all three of us?” Sam saw about twenty hands. “How many don’t know anybody?” As chuckles were heard, Lee said, “Sorry. Trick question. Now the big one. How many here know Jesus?” As hands went up all over the room, he added, “That’s good, because we at least have to have that in common, if any of what we’re considering is going to work.”
Lee paused as Deirdre set a bottle of water on an empty plant stand near him. “Most of you have heard about our plans to hide from humanity for a while, or else you wouldn’t be here. I know some of you are gung-ho about doing it, and others are skeptical. Myself, I go back and forth. If we are entering into a time of tribulation, or the apocalypse, or whatever, I don’t want to watch my family suffer. But I don’t want to shirk my responsibility to share God’s kingdom with others. Tonight, I’m not here to tell you folks what to do. I’m looking to you for some collective wisdom to make up my own mind. If this radical idea is a work that God is doing, then by His one and only Spirit, we should be like-minded.”
He took a drink of water as he looked around the room. “I believe what we plan to do should be aligned with the Bible as well, and not contrary to it. I’m not much of a Bible scholar, so I’d like Pastor Jim Dennis here to tell you what he’s thinks regarding this. Jim, it’s all yours.”
Jim took Lee’s place on the landing near the back door of the solarium. It gave him some extra height so people could see him. “Hi everyone. Let me first say that I wasn’t on board at first with what Lee was telling me. For most of my life I’ve faced public danger in order to share the Gospel. This seemed like the opposite, so I needed to check it out. What it boils down to can be found in first Samuel, where he tells King Saul that God prefers obedience over sacrifice. So, the question becomes, are we being obedient by hiding from the wrath to come?”
“I don’t follow,” said Edwin. “Aren’t we being obedient to God when we do as He asks, regardless of what He asks? I mean, I tell my kids not to cross the busy highway we’re on. But sometimes I tell one of them to get the mail which requires them to cross the highway. Get what I’m saying?”
“Well said, Edwin. I was critical of Lee’s idea, because it didn’t fit my way of thinking. I didn’t seek God to find out if it was His idea or not. Now I’ve done that, and I asked Him to give me a Bible verse to help me understand. It didn’t take me long to discover this one in Isaiah, chapter twenty-six, verse twenty. It says ‘Come, my people, enter into your rooms and close your doors behind you; hide for a little while until indignation runs its course’. To me, that sounds like the vision that Lee got. So much so, in fact, that I thought he might have read it and just used it to justify his own desires. People do that sometimes, and it’s not right. But Lee told me he didn’t know that verse existed.”
“What about the notion of pooling our resources?” added Edwin. “Some people are going so far as to say we should sell everything we have to do this thing. Really?”
“Let me speak to that,” said Lee. “In the first place, we don’t need it. It would be good if everyone could contribute their fair share, and maybe a little more for those who can’t. But think about what happened to the Jews in Poland in 1939. Whatever they tried to save was confiscated later anyway. I’d like to go back to what Jim just said. Ask God about it, and then be obedient to what he tells you. I see no obligation to sacrifice everything. Right now, we’re simply trying to discern if God wants us to do anything at all. If He does, then I would trust everyone to seek Him regarding how much to contribute.”
“Can I say something,” asked Sam.
“Deirdre and I have talked extensively about this. For those who don’t know, I’ve been working with Lee and the others to see what it would take to make the Mojave site work for this purpose. Not to brag, but this project would need my expertise. Look around this home. It’s big, it’s comfortable, and it’s private. I built it myself—with Deirdre’s help—to be our retirement home. But I still have to go out there, into that crazy world, to be able to afford to keep it.” Sam shook his head. “I forgot to lock my truck once, and in fifteen minutes half my tools were gone—at a high school.” He threw his hands in the air. “Of course, that’s not a problem now—the schools are closed. Anyway, we’d hate to have to sell this place.” He glanced at Deirdre, who nodded. “But we believe God has something better for us, on the other side of all this. So, our vote will be to do it.”
“Thanks Sam,” said Lee. “I was waiting to hear your vote before I decided.” As people laughed, he added, “I didn’t want to do all the work. All seriousness aside, if we’re living out there, it’ll be difficult to maintain a home or a job. That’ll be a huge gamble for a lot of people. I highly suggest you follow Jim’s advice, ask God about it. And don’t cop out and say you’ll do it unless he says no. Commit to it only if he says yes. Test it if you have to. Just so you know, we plan on putting out a fleece of our own regarding the Mojave. That’s not our land to play with. If we can’t get unrestricted access for at least ten years, we’ll assume God is not blessing our efforts.”
“So,” said Edwin, “is the Mojave our choice to do this thing?”
“Maybe not a great choice,” said Lee. “But it seems to be our only one. The pieces have been falling into place, and no other possibilities exist right now. That’s another fleece, by the way. If God wants us somewhere else, He’ll need to point it out.”
“Wouldn’t a dense forest be better?”
“Maybe. But can you think of a forest within fifty miles of here that we’d have permission to build on? This place already has a building, a water well, generators, and the fuel to run it all. And, it looks like we’ll get the blessing of the owners to be there. If the world goes really chaotic, there may be a lot of people running to the woods. It’s the first place the government would look to round everyone up. Do you see what I mean?”
“I think so. In the Mojave we won’t have visitors.”
“Not as many, anyway. But we still need official permission.” Lee looked around the room. “Listen to me, people. Everything happening right now says we’re in the last days. The lawlessness, the riots—some things give us hope and other things crush it. We all need to maintain a close relationship with God right now. I’m not here to persuade you with fancy words. But those of us working on this project need to know at least a few people will join us. You’re all here because you’ve expressed interest in doing that. How many think we should pursue official permission to secure the Mojave site?”
Someone in the back yelled, “How much will it cost us?”
“We’re still discussing that, but as commercial property goes, very little. We should all expect to pay something, just so we have a binding contract. We’ll have another meeting to discuss what the Consortium wants, before we commit to anything. Between now and then I recommend you all consider your situation. If you decide to move out there, what will you do with your home? Sell it? Rent it? Invest the money? Donate it? We’re in that dilemma ourselves, so I can’t answer that for you. But by the next meeting, try to be settled enough to make a commitment one way or the other.”
“When is the next meeting,” asked Edwin.
“Within a month. Make sure I have all your email addresses. I’ll let you know. Okay, I know a bunch of you have given us input on what you’d like to see at that location, just to make the stay bearable. Norm, Sam, and I have been investigating those possibilities. I’ll let them tell you what we’ve found. Sam and Norm, you’ve got the stage.”
For the next hour they discussed what amenities were possible in a barren desert. From a swimming pool to a dog park to a gluten-free diet, Sam bit his tongue as he tried to tactfully explain the absurdity of the request. But part of him was intrigued by the challenge to provide such things. He was mentally exhausted by the time the meeting was over.
As the last person drove out the driveway, he turned to Deidre and said, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”
She gave him a hug. “You can’t fool me. I think you like it.”
“In some frightening way, I do.” He looked her in the eyes. “If you promise not to leave me, I’d like to go for it.”
“If you’ve got the hammer, I’ve got the paint brush.”