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An Excerpt Celebrating Title Release: The Zealots

Celebrating Release day today for The Zealots by G.K. Johson!

Shim’on couldn’t remember the last time

Shim’on couldn’t remember the last time he had awakened without the heavy weight pressing down on him. He carried it like a bag of stones, dragging the weight through the streets, onto his fishing vessel, to the market, and back home every day.

The afternoon and evening hours, free of distractions and when he most needed sleep, were the worst. He could feel the pressure on his chest, crushing the life out of him, and bruising his heart and ribs. If it were a real sack of rocks, the bag would have been torn open by now and the stones inside strewn in his wake. But it wasn’t real and tangible, it only felt so, and he couldn’t shake the burden as much as he wished he could.

Shim’on lay in bed wishing he didn’t have to get up and go to the lake. In fact, he wished he hadn’t woken up at all. Yes, that’s exactly how he felt. He glanced over at his immah, who made the evening meal quietly attuned to her sons’ much-needed sleep. Shim’on watched immah’s movements. Maybe she wanted to keep her thoughts to herself.

He could never tell her his thoughts

The vision haunted him. Watching the Romans kill his abba happened over and over.

He knew the darkness inside him would scare her, and she was already scared enough. He knew abba’s Miriam needed him now, but she seemed to be grieving alone. Grief absorbed her not only because of the loss of her husband but also because of the depression and silence of her eldest son.

Shim’on sighed, the weight heavier than ever on his chest.

Looking back on that night, he cursed his cowardice. With his dagger, he could have at least tried to save his abba. Now Yitzchak was gone, and Shim’on felt crippled by the guilt and anger he carried. He was letting his immah down. He was letting Hanoch down. Even Yitzchak must be disappointed if he could see him now.

When Shim’on returned to their home that first night without Yitzchak, Hanoch had pushed him furiously. Deep in grief, Shim’on realized his brother couldn’t understand why he’d gone to Bin-yamin and Yeshua rather than to his own brother. Shim’on tried to explain, but Hanoch refused to accept his answer. His brother remained angry and hurt since that day, an invisible wall rising between them. Shim’on couldn’t blame him.

Reluctantly now, Shim’on pushed himself up from his mat and put on his leather sandals. His day as a fisherman was just beginning.

He performed netilat yadayim, pouring the water over his hands using a clay basin and cup. He nudged Hanoch awake from where he slept on an adjacent mat and waited as his brother readied himself. The young men ate a hasty meal before leaving.

Closing the door behind them, they began their short walk to the shore. Months ago, Yitzchak, Shim’on, and Hanoch had chattered loudly and happily as they made their way to the sea. Back then, Miriam laughingly teased that they were like the Shabbat shofar, letting the neighborhood know that night was falling.

Since Yitzchak’s death, the walk between brothers was made in silence

Reaching the shore, Shim’on strode down to the water’s edge and knelt. He scooped handfuls of the cold water to wash his face and wake himself up. Meanwhile, Hanoch commenced unfurling the sails.

Shim’on climbed back up the shore and into the boat, smoothing his hand over the boat’s cedar planking. The vessel was twenty-three-feet long and seven-feet wide and required a crew of five men to operate. It contained room for twelve to thirteen passengers, though they seldom had any though, after Yitzchak’s death, Shim’on had hired another man for their crew.

With a flat bottom allowing it to be pulled ashore, the crew was able to unload a catch quickly and efficiently. He joined his brother and their hired men, Demas, Tertius, and Gaius, as they deftly prepared the nets and hoisted the sails to take them to the middle and deepest part of the lake.

“Ready?” Hanoch glanced towards Shim’on. He nodded.

“Ready.”

Hanoch and Tertius jumped from the boat and pushed it back into the water, then pulled themselves over the railing.

The warm wind filled the sails and they moved from shore. Shim’on took a deep breath of fresh air and exhaled. This was truly the one place where the weight lay lightest on his shoulders. He still felt it of course, but the physical demands of fishing distracted him from the constant thoughts battling in his mind. Gusts caused the boat to dip while skipping over the choppy water kicked spray against his face. Light from the full moon above them glanced off the waves, surprisingly bright. His abba had loved it out here too, and Yitzchak always had a knack for knowing where the fish would be from day to day.

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“Adonai told me to fish at the north end today boys,” he would say, or “Adonai is good, He sent me a dream that we will fill a net just off the shore.” His sons and the other fishermen had often teased Yitzchak about his heavenly directives but more often than not, Yitzchak was right, and they would bring in a good night’s catch.

Eight hours into the wet smell of the sea, wet ropes, and the dripping sweat of labor, Demas appeared right. They pulled in yet another net filled with musht, enough fish to finally necessitate returning to shore to sort and unload.

The anchor rope glistened as Hanoch and Shim’on pulled it hand over hand into the boat. The sky began to brighten with dawn’s soft hues. One of the men raised the sail to catch the wind at their backs.

Shim’on manned the tiller as he pointed the vessel back to shore. Twenty feet from the shoreline, Hanoch jumped over the side of the boat. The water came to his waist as he guided the boat in with a rope and secured it onshore. Other fishermen were unloading their catches as well, and Shim’on felt pleased to see that their own was one of the largest. A proud smell of his full net was the scent of dinner and a roof over their heads.

Wives, daughters, and young boys not yet old enough to be learning a trade awaited their men on the shore.

The men would sort the day’s catch onto carts, and donkeys would then pull their loads into town to be sold by the women at the market. Since they had been forced to give their donkey to the soldiers before Yitzchak’s death, a neighboring family shared the use of their donkey until Yitzchak, now Shim’on, could afford to buy one.

Miriam stepped forward from where she waited with the neighbor women and walked toward her sons as they jumped off the boat into the sandy gravel.

“Looks like a good catch last night?” She looked questioningly at Hanoch and Shim’on.

“A very good catch, Immah!” Hanoch grinned at her, “Perhaps good enough to have lamb tonight?” Shim’on could see the joy her youngest son’s teasing brought Miriam. “That could be possible,” she grinned, and sobered as she looked at her eldest.

She looked from one brother’s face to the other, “Yitzchak would be so proud of you both.” Her eyes became misty, “He always said you two were going to be better fishermen one day than he ever was.”

Shim’on felt her words briefly puncture the hard shell that surrounded his heart and he could see his abba’s smiling eyes and hear his deep voice. The memories flooded him with grief, and he felt tears spring to his eyes. Abba had no reason to be proud of him now. Ashamed, he ducked his head and gathered up a handful of nets.

“Come, Hanoch.” he said more harshly than he knew was fair, “There’s no time to talk. Your work’s not finished.”

Glancing at Immah’s face, he saw the pain that his dismissal of her kind words had caused, and he felt a wash of guilt.

Hanoch stood awkwardly on the shore between them. Shim’on knew his words cut him as well, a sharp departure from the laughter they had shared a short time before. The other fishermen onshore continued their work, though Shim’on could see that some of them noticed the scene escalate.

Despair gutted him. Angry and bitter, the hungry wolves encircled his soul. Dark thoughts returning, chest constricted, he could hardly breathe. Distracted, he paused in his work. Arching his back, he released his anguish to the dawn.

Despite the beautiful pink and purple streaked sky shouting to make way for the day, darkness hung over Shim’on. Thoughts threaded their way deeper and deeper into the fabric of his being, leading the way to a dark pit. If only I had done more, he would not have died, he thought. But I didn’t, and he is dead. What kind of son am I? I’m worthless. Surely Adonai has turned His back on me. I haven’t even avenged Abba’s death. I should have been the one to die. It would have been better that way for everyone.

No longer able to keep the gall inside, he felt words bubbling to the surface.

“We won’t get to keep the money this catch earns us, Hanoch.” Spitting, he smacked his hand on the side of their boat, “So stop thinking of your stomach. Have you already forgotten the reason Abba died? Have you forgotten the money the soldiers demanded from him and that their gift for his death was demanding even more from us?” He was shouting now, and despite the visible hurt on Immah and Hanoch’s faces, he continued.

“I’m doing the best I can, but your laziness is not helping.” His directed words at Hanoch slapped his brother’s face. He knew it wasn’t true but felt trapped by his pain to continue shouting.

“And, I’m sorry I’m not ‘myself,’ Immah,” he aimed these words at Miriam, sarcastically mimicking her comment to Yeshua a few nights before. She flinched. “How do you expect me to be myself? With Abba dead.” The anger was at its peak, “Or don’t you remember?”

With this last comment, Miriam sobbed aloud, and Hanoch stepped forward, hands balled into fists.

“That’s enough, Shim’on.” He heard a slight tremor in his younger brother’s voice. Though two years younger, Hanoch was slightly taller, yet not as muscular. This was the first time Hanoch had dared to oppose him apart from playful roughhousing. Shim’on knew he would beat his brother if it came to it, but he had no real desire to grouse a fight with him.

“It’s enough to disrespect me,” Hanoch said in a low voice, “it’s another thing to speak against our immah.”

Indifference and disdain his pretense, Shim’on scooped up an armful of nets and dragged them toward an inlet further up the shore. Hanoch and Demas were left to tend to the fish and load the cart Miriam would take to the market.

As he made his way down the sandy shoreline, he tried to avoid the curious looks of the other fishermen. But one face caught his eye.

Lydia stood a short distance away, her eyes netted his pride with empathy. Another wave of shame rolled over him. Lydia’s face fell as his eyes hardened. Looking away from her, he continued down the shore. Tears pricked Shim’on’s eyes, but he refused to let them fall. That would be foolish and weak. No, it was better to cover his anguish and guilt.

He swung the nets over to where the Jordan River made its way into the sea, sat heavily, and threw the nets off to his side.

Brothers at Odds, The Zealots by G.K. Johnson

GK Johnson’s debut novel, The Zealots, has arrived. Will Shim’on’s guilt find acquittal or will it drive him to wrong? Will Hanoch accept Shim’on’s excuses and explanations regarding the night of his father’s death, or will he seek revenge?

Find your copy today on Amazon.

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©Capture Books, 2020, and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find several children’s books of high literary quality.

What is Your Next Must-Read?

Advice, analysis, Charmayne Hafen, election season, featured, journey to twilight, op-ed, protecting our children

Keeping a Head Above Election Quicksand

Charmayne Hafen, children’s author

Did you also hear?

The scandalous election season report of an assault carried out on a 12-year-old boy holding a political sign in Boulder, Colorado set me off. The father of the boy, Jesse Rosales, “told officers his son came home from a bike ride early Monday afternoon and told him a woman had assaulted him.”

If I allow myself to watch the news, I hear of a new shooting or beating almost every day. Evil seems to be erupting everywhere.

I find it difficult to know how to respond to evil as I strive to uphold my belief that all people are created in God’s image. I want to live out the truth of the Imago Dei while keeping my head above the sand. Denial helps no one.

Charmayne Hafen, Children’s Author

Maybe it’s partiality to protect the innocents, but I’ve been in a mild rage over the last few days as I see our country imploding. I know intellectually that I cannot control the actions of another person. Emotionally, I want to scream out negativity. The only thing I can control is my reaction to the insanity. How do I respond as a Christian to what I see going on around me?

I love to memorize verses and passages in the Bible. Romans 12:21 has been in the forefront of my mind for at least a month now. I asked God what my response needs to be in the face of evil. He told me very clearly how to handle it. “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

The more I focus on the evil so rampant in our country, the more violent I feel inside. How strange a turn! I want to take action and lash out. When I ruminate on all that is wrong, I find myself spiraling downward. In a short time, I’m having thoughts about doing things I so vehemently oppose.

“Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” I’ve heard true-life stories of good overcoming evil. It’s late at night and a man standing in a subway station is accosted by a robber. The robber has no jacket and so the man offers him his coat. He offers to buy the criminal something to eat. In a short while, the thief gives his life to Christ.

I have a story from my life. I worked with someone who liked to slander and gossip. She eventually got around to calling me a choice name to a mutual friend. Only by God’s grace did I decide to talk to her in private instead of saying something negative about her to the mutual friend. I told her I heard she had called me a choice name and wondered if I had offended her in some way. She apologized, said it was a joke. There was never an issue again.

How do we overcome evil with good? Here are some practical ways to live this out.

  • Be kind to people I encounter daily
  • Get out and meet people
  • Make a priority to give
  • Spend time loving my family
  • Invest time in the gifts God has given me
  • Actively listen to other people

In Return To Twilight, the second book of my Land of Twilight trilogy, Sam must face the challenge of overcoming an evil influence on his best friend, Lorna. Lorna is not acting like herself. She follows the lead of Jenny, the new girl in the neighborhood, and treats Sam poorly. He has to decide how he will react to her bad behavior.

Return to Twilight is the second book in the Land of Twilight trilogy by Charmayne Hafen.

My focus must be on the good God has placed in my life. I have a precious and priceless family and friends. I have the gift of writing which brings me so much joy. I have resources and the ability to influence other people. When I think about these things or ponder “whatever is true… whatever is lovely,” (Philippians 4:8), evil shrivels in the light. I’m still aware of what is going on, but I am not overwhelmed and I do not become part of the hatred.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

©Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find several children’s books of high literary quality.

Contact Capture Books if you have a goal to become a successful author.Contact

better together, captive audiences, Charmayne Hafen, Cog Railway, memoir, Middle School Author, op-ed, Twilight

Time Crunches By Like Cogs on Wheels

I’m Charmayne Hafen, a Colorado-based author of several elementary, middle-school, and young adult fiction novels.

Sometimes I think I’d like to live out life with the mindset of young wanderer but, I turned 50 this year, yes 50, and time seems to be crunching along faster and faster, as though I’m seated and antsy to be traveling the Cog Railway in haste to the cloud-shrouded top of Pike’s Peak.

It sometimes frightens me.

I glimpse strange and glorious scenery passing by outside my window, and small animals I have never been introduced to before. I have no vocabulary for what is going so quickly by me.

I want to slow down the days and appreciate what is.

This pre-election season in our global climate accompanied by a pandemic and never before experienced rioting in America has brought such suffering and yet, for me, so many God-given gifts. One of these is the gift of meaningful time.

Here, I am spending more time with my husband than I ever have in our 20 years of marriage. I’m discovering things about him I didn’t know. I have come to realize that his sometimes stern tone of voice is just a focused response, unintended to be harsh or even mean. He loves me so much more than I ever knew. He told me the other day that he would always rather be with me than alone.

Time spent is an investment in the future of a loving relationship. Time is our most precious commodity. If we spend our time with people that don’t support us or even tear us down, we are investing into a bottomless “whatever will be”, to our own detriment.

We tend to think animals live in the present, that they don’t have a future and don’t have a past. But we know that’s not true. They can use tools to fix something for the future. In a Swiss zoo, orangutans had a skylight in their cage and dismantled the whole thing. That way they could spend summer nights on the roof of their building. Then in the morning before the caretakers came back, they would go back in the cage and put the skylight precisely back together. So no one ever noticed. On a nice summer night, it was better to be on the roof than inside the cage.

Steve Paulson on Primatologist and author, Frans de Waal, via Nautilus; Empathy, Morality, Community, Culture—Apes Have It All

Time is more precious than any amount of money.

Book Two: Return to Twilight by Charmayne Hafen

To enjoy money there must be time.

To enjoy my calling to write, I must prioritize it and take the time to write.

In my middle-grade Trilogy, The Land of Twilight offers readers a time and space altered dimension. Sam and Lorna occasionally get lost between what matters and what is and what they wish could be. But, they are growing up and their inquisitive minds begin to discover answers to replace their usual acceptance of “whatever”.

In the most recent third book of my Land Of Twilight trilogy, Trouble In Twilight, my seventh-grade characters, Lorna and Sam, travel through time to learn how to save the dying Land Of Twilight. As they pay a visit to ancient Greece and the city of Nazareth, the friends grapple with what it means to have faith as well as faith in whom or in what you put your faith.

It takes the passing of time to reach different conclusions about faith. God is gracious and gives us this time.

I’ve heard, and I believe that God lives outside of time. He already sees our sanctified, perfected selves. We are the blind ones. We’re stuck in a timeline where living only for today or living in the past or even the future can be dangerous if we don’t have the cogs on the wheels to grip the cogs of the railroad machinery.

Ignoring the importance of time well-placed, this gift we’ve been offered to spend on our most important relationships can take our focus off of the One who calls us “holy” or set apart for a special relationship with our Creator.

If we focused more on who He says we are, that He made us for the purposes designed within our make up, and for Him, we might be free to live at last.

I pray I’ll maintain this investment of time with my husband even after things “go back to normal”, whatever that is compared to now. I also pray I will continue to slow down and take time with those I love and that God places in front of me.

Time is a precious gift to be given with full focus and care.

Charmayne Hafen, author

Charmayne Hafen co-owns and manages a petroleum testing company with her husband. Besides this dimension, she sets the pace for each day with her morning rituals of listening to music, painting and art, prayer, and writing.

Book One: Journey to Twilight Book Tour, 2020

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find several children’s books of high literary quality.

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