Preparing for the Final Exam

Preparing for the Final Exam

by Jennifer Sue

The neighbors tried to ignore the cursing and crashes from the Becker place. They all peeked through their curtains drawn to the unprecedented action like moths to a flame. Needless to say they were stunned when the large bay window exploded outwards in a shower of glass. The projectile doing the damage seemed to be a battered teenage girl! Multiple calls to 911 were made within seconds.

With the window now open the unintelligible bull like bellows of outraged anger from Josh Becker and his sons echoed through the neighborhood as they stood in front of the shattered bay window. Obviously they were cursing at the body lying crookedly amongst the shattered glass, torn drapes, and broken sashes was unmoving and silent.

Next door neighbors, a retired military couple, she a MASH nurse and he a combat medic, ran out to aid the unfortunate girl. When they reached her they were horrified by the extent of her injuries. Her face was battered beyond recognition. Their horror did not prevent them from immediately assessing her injuries. To their credit they focused their efforts to staunch bleeding from a dozen wounds even though the assailants continued to curse at the unconscious girl.

*****

The man was a fundamentalist Christian redneck who, if he could get past his hatred of the rag-heads, would feel right at home with fundamentalist Muslim teachings that the male was far superior to the female and that women should be subservient to men. His wife and daughters were thoroughly indoctrinated and mousy, seldom wearing anything other than dresses or skirts. The fact that the when the couple married she was 14 and he 20, being five months pregnant at the time, had caused only minuscule ripples in their church life since they did the right thing.

Josh was home on leave after serving in Desert Storm when they had done the deed. While Becky was young, her parents were simply relieved to know Josh made an honest woman out of their daughter. Both families were fanatically right wing fundamentalist Christians and Josh and Becky followed suit. Even though Becky had been 14 and pregnant when she married, because she admitted her sin and begged forgiveness the church welcomed her. Josh was respected for doing the right thing owning up to his family responsibilities. Becky began teaching 3 and 4 year olds in Sunday school just after David was born. Becky and the kids went to church every Sunday and Josh joined them at least once a month.

Children followed on a nearly yearly basis for seven years before Josh finally agreed Becky could get her tubes tied off after the last child. They had enough mouths to feed and there was no way in hell anyone was going to get near HIS manhood with a knife!

The first born was a boy, David, and no one dared to call him BJ! Next was Reba, followed by Peter, Mary, George, Martha and John. Josh was a top notch mechanic and ran a successful repair and bodyshop business from the pole building he’d built on the empty lot behind his home. The girls stayed with Becky to learn to be good housewives. The boys joined their dad in the family business on their ninth birthday. Because they worked from an early age, none of the boys had time to play sports. That didn’t mean they weren’t sports fans. They spent many evening hours watching ESPN and grousing about the inept officials.

Starting in ninth grade David took the half day mechanic courses at the county vocational technical school instead of a full day of standard academic courses. Upon graduation he joined the family business full time. While Reba managed to graduate from high school, she was pregnant at the time and married the week after graduation. Peter followed the same path as David and was a senior working with his dad and brother. Mary was a pretty junior with plenty of male admirers but was cautious, having learned to be careful after what happened to Reba. George was a sophomore taking the vo-tech route and working in the garage. Martha was quiet freshman who steered away from becoming involved with boys hoping to be able to go to college to become a teacher. Last was John, a quiet, shy youth who hated working in the garage.

John was a straight ‘A’ student, academically head and shoulders better than anyone in family. The redneck lifestyle of his family held no attraction to the youth. From his earliest years he’d been different from the others. As the baby of the family he had been pampered by his older sisters. While his brothers had learned to shun the play of the girls by age four, John enjoyed playing with his sisters. Even before the time for John to join the guys in the shop arrived, he wanted nothing to do with it. However, a severe whipping from Josh, using his two inch wide leather belt, soon had the boy understanding he had no option but to work in the family business.

Josh had complained that the coddling of the girls was making John a sissy even before the whipping on his 9th birthday. The entire family knew John never seemed interested in the rough and tumble antics of his dad and brothers. The older John became, the more frustrated Josh and his other sons became with John and his lack of interest in manly pursuits. By the time John joined the guys in the shop the animosity was almost tangible. John’s attitude made it blatantly obvious he was unhappy to be there and considered it to be forced labor. By the time he was in seventh grade he was fed up with the work and the crap he endured.

John desperately searched for a way to limit his exposure to the family dynamics. Attempts to bury himself in academics were foiled since the family had little respect for book learning. The only area John was able to find that his family didn’t dare intrude or ridicule was church. Yet in his heart and mind the church served to magnify his failings. Still, the church promised to help eliminate a person’s demons and sin if you prayed sincerely and honestly asking for forgiveness and strength to overcome your shortcomings. John most certainly fervently prayed but while he was able to keep the demons in check he could not overcome them. So with the naivete of youth he dove into his faith with head first. Participation in the church youth group was expected of all youth upon reaching the seventh grade. The Becker girls attended most youth activities until graduating while, except for John, the guys attendance was sporadic.

While John felt guilty for being out of step with his family and church he noted the way his family and congregation treated the church and clergy with devotion and respect. Besides his personal demons the boy had issues bringing himself to accept his church’s unyielding belief in absolute male superiority. This did not mean he rejected faith in God. In fact, he quickly realized his inquisitiveness and intelligence, when directed to faith, would not be frustrated by his family. Seeking to understand why he didn’t slip into the expected societal mold, he delved deeply into the Bible and church doctrine. What he found seemed to agree with the chauvinistic attitude... at least on the surface. But as he dug deeper he discovered rather large cracks in the foundations of fundamentalism.

Being intelligent, he knew enough not to reveal those faults as he dug ever deeper into the doctrine and faith. The pastor was clearly delighted by John’s quest for biblical knowledge and understanding so he took him under his theological wing, hoping to guide the bright teen into the ministry that desperately needed smart young men to guide the sinning flocks to salvation. The pastor even interceded with Josh to allow the boy time to study.

Like many tough men, Josh never felt comfortable around pastors. As a common man of faith he knew he was a sinner who was saved by Jesus, which created a powerful sense of guilt and unworthiness. Pastors were agents of God, men who were ‘right’ with Jesus and led their flocks by example. That made pastors better men than common sinners, thus simply being near a pastor put a sinner in his place.

Josh was wise enough to understood that John simply did not and never would fit into the family business. It was man’s responsibilities to see his sons grew up strong and led responsible lives just like he did. So when the Rev. Kunkle approached Josh about allowing John to come to the church after school instead of the working in the garage he saw an acceptable way out of his frustration with the boy.

Pastor George Kunkle believed he was an agent of God. With the power of the Lord behind him he guided his flock like the good shepherd he was. Not only was he a charismatic leader, his personality was so positive and forceful his parishioners never questioned his pronouncements. Josh, like virtually all his parishioners, were weak misguided sheep to be guided and thus rarely presented a stimulating theological challenge much less discussions. John opened an opportunity for meaningful spiritual growth, not mere rote platitudes. John intrigued him on a theologic level and the boy’s questing mind begged a firm guiding hand.

So when John began 8th grade, he rode the bus to First Baptist Church after school. With Josh’s blessing, Rev. Kunkle had John do daily chores about the church until supper, both inside and out, to keep the body strong along with the mind. Betty, the pastors wife, enjoyed having the polite bright teen join them for supper in the parsonage next door to the church. It was a welcome change of pace. After the meal, the men would adjourn to the pastor’s study where John read and studied under the pastor’s tutelage. While John studied, the pastor prepared his sermons and did his own reading. At 9pm the Pastor drove John home. On the nights meetings were held, John attended to gain a better understanding of how the church operated which led to him joining the choir and becoming an assistant Sunday School Teacher. Everyone liked the intense young boy which reflected positively on his family and reinforced the feeling Josh had that he’d done the right thing.

By the end of the 2nd week of school the rumor mill had John studying for the ministry. Since the church was a respected and venerated institution, even the bullies avoided interacting with the devout youth. Even the teachers were a bit intimidated by the intensity of John’s devotion to the church. That left John isolated amongst the many in the school, a situation John enjoyed after years of being hassled for being different.

John devoured everything Rev. Kunkle had on Christianity and theology. By November, with the pastor’s assistance, John began to study Judaism in order to gain a fuller understanding of Christianity. While Rev. Kunkle conceded Christ had been a Jew and that the old testament had been given to the Jews by God he made sure John understood the Jews had lost their place as God’s chosen when they rejected and killed Jesus. John only questioned the pastor once about the Islamic faith. The vehement hatred that erupted left no doubt the good Reverend considered Islam to be spawned by the devil.

With his extracurricular religious studies, no one at the school expected John to participate in any clubs or sports. In fact, since his grades were so good and his behavior polite and respectable, he was allowed privileges denied to other students. John used that to spend all his free time in the library where he was allowed free access to do as he pleased. No one complained because they knew he would not abuse the privileges and no one wanted to be like him to earn similar honors.

Using the library computers John delved into what was denied or prohibited him with Rev. Kunkle. One of the first things he did was to read the Koran and Muslim study guides. Another was to read other translations of the Bible. That led him to question just how accurate the Bible the church used to develop and rationalize it’s beliefs could be. The New Testament was a prime example of translations of translations which had to be translated into current language. Jesus, his followers, audience and detractors spoke Aramaic. The Gospels were originally written in Greek, which meant the original spoken Aramaic had to be translated into Greek. The Church in Rome then translated the Greek into Latin. When the King James version was written the Latin was translated into Old English. Still in use by the church today, the flowery old English must be translated into modern English by those who hear the Old English spoken by the pastor or if they read it themselves. That leads to a spoken language translated into a written language which is translated into another written language which is yet again translated into another written language that is an archaic form of what we use today. That is simply way to many translations, errors had to occur.

Not only that, but all languages change over time so what a word meant at the time it was spoken or written may not be the same thing it means today. A perfect example in modern English is the word GAY. The simple sentence “The man was quite gay.” has two quite distinctly different meanings depending upon WHEN it was written. If written before 1960, the primary popular definition of gay was someone who was happy. Written after 1960 the primary popular definition of gay was someone who was homosexual. That transition in meaning occurred over a period of about ten years. Other words that altered definitions about the same time. "Grass" was mowed, "coke" was a cold drink, and "pot" was something we cooked in. "Aids" were helpers in the Principal's office, "chip" meant a piece of wood, "hardware" was found in a hardware store, and "software" wasn't even a word. In his research John came across a ditty entitled LIFE BEFORE THE COMPUTER. Before 1980 memory was something you lost with age, an application was for employment, a program was a TV show, a cursor used profanity, a keyboard was a piano, a web was a spider's home, a virus was the flu, a CD was a bank account, a hard drive was a long trip on the road, a mouse pad was where a mouse lived, and if you had a 3-1/2 inch floppy... you just hoped nobody ever found out.

What that means is that when reading in any language, the reader MUST know what the words meant at the time they were recorded. A person who knows only modern Greek will get a very different understanding of the New Testament if they read it in the original written language. Translation of the Old Testament is even more convoluted than the New Testament. The mistakes stem from five flawed translation techniques: etymology, internal structure, cognates, old mistranslations, and misunderstood metaphor. Added to that was just plain stubborness and refusal to admit to errors.

It had only been on May 5, 2001, that Pope Paul II begged God's forgiveness for sins committed by Roman Catholics against Jews, heretics and women, he acknowledged that the "Church" has been wrong in the past. It also took the Catholic Church 359 years to admit that they were wrong when they accused Galileo of heresy, condemning him to death, unless he recanted that the earth rotates around the sun. At the time it was considered heresy to challenge the belief that the Earth was the center of the universe.

People have used the Bible to endorse slavery and segregation, initiate wars and crusades, condemn inter-racial marriage, burn women at the stake as witches, support the racism of the Ku Klux Klan, approve of Hitler's holocaust, and other horrific actions... the list is long. Looking at these atrocities now we wonder how could people have been so wrong about what the Bible says? How could mistakes of this magnitude happen in matters concerning a book that was considered to be the inerrant word of God? That led John to wonder if people are wrong again about what the Bible says about homosexuality?

John believed that the original scriptures were God-inspired and contain the truths that God would have us know. Subsequent translations must deal with text, where perhaps there is no comparable word for the original, or meanings of words are sometimes lost or changed. To "fear" God is not to be afraid of God, but to respect and trust in God. Words do change over time.
Translations have been written with the best of intentions by God-fearing, uninspired human beings who have done their very best to convey God's message, as THEY understand it, with their current knowledge that they have of the original languages, customs, traditions and culture of Bible times, and with their own BIASES, based on their understanding of what they THINK the original scriptures say. None of us have been brought up in a vacuum and it is impossible not to let our preconceived beliefs influence our understanding of all that we encounter.

For example, the most accurate translation of the word "Abba" is "Daddy", but the translators felt that the term "Daddy" was not reverent enough and so although the CORRECT translation of "Abba" is "Daddy", in our Bibles, we read "Father". The translators had the best of intentions, but for their own reasons, they translated "Abba", (Daddy) into "Father", a term which is much more formal and rather distant compared to "Daddy". Do you regard God as your Father or your Daddy? Think about it. The essence of the word is still true, and yet it really is not nearly as accurate as it should be.

John found a many examples. The tenth Commandment, commonly but wrongly translated as "thou shalt not covet," illustrates how internal structure or etymology can be misleading. Like the English "host" and "hostile" that share a root but don't mean the same thing, the words for "desirable" and "take" in Hebrew come from the same root. It's the second word, "take," that appears in the Ten Commandments. But translators, not recognizing that related words can mean different things in this way, misunderstood the Hebrew and wrongly translated the text as "thou shalt not covet" for what should have been "thou shalt not take."

Another is the translation "Jubilee year" which results from a mistaken application of cognates, similar words in different languages. In the original Hebrew, the year was called the "year of the horn," or, in Hebrew, "the year of the yovel." The Latin for “yovel” is “iobileus”, which just happens to sound like the Latin word “iubileus”, connected to the verb “iubilare”, "to celebrate." The English "Jubilee year" comes from the Latin. A similar Latin coincidence gave rise to the notion that the fruit in the Garden of Eden was an apple.

One error that really disturbed John was that starting about 2,300 years ago, the Hebrew Bible was translated into a Greek version now known as the Septuagint. One shortcoming of that translation is its inattention to near synonyms. For instance, the Hebrew words for "love," "mercy" and "compassion" are frequently mixed up, because they mean nearly the same thing. Likewise, because most young women in antiquity were virgins and most virgins were young women, the Septuagint wasn't careful to distinguish the words for "virgin" and "young woman" in translation. This is how the Hebrew in Isaiah 7:14 which describes a young woman giving birth to a boy who will be named Emmanuel ended up in Greek as a virgin giving birth. Though these facts about Greek and Hebrew are generally undisputed among modern scholars, the translation error remains because people are unwilling to give up familiar translations and also because the Gospel of Matthew describes the virgin birth of Jesus by quoting the mistaken Greek translation of Isaiah 7:14.

Also, metaphors are particularly difficult to translate, because words have different metaphoric meanings in different cultures. Shepherds in Biblical times were symbols of might, ferocity and royalty, whereas now they generally represent peaceful guidance and oversight. So the image of the Lord as shepherd in Psalm 23 originally meant that the Lord was mighty, fierce and royal. The impact was roughly the same as "the Lord is a man of war." But in most English-speaking cultures, "the Lord is my shepherd" conveys a wholly different and therefore inaccurate image.

Similarly, kinship terms like "father," "brother," "sister," etc. were used in the Bible specifically to indicate power structure. This is why the romantic Song of Solomon, the Bible's only full length treatise on relationships, says "my sister, my bride" or "my sister, my spouse." On its face, that English translation is not only unromantic but in fact felonious. The original point, however, was that the woman in this relationship should be the man's equal

John also remembered accompanying Pastor Kunkle as he took a visiting French exchange student for breakfast. The young woman was still learning English but no one spoke French so when she ordered a "difficult" egg, neither the waitress nor any at the table could figure out what she wanted. After a bit of effort she was able to explain that what she wanted was a "hard-boiled" egg. At that time her understanding of the word "hard" was "difficult", but it was not the correct word for the situation, even though "hard" does indeed mean "difficult". Unless the culture and nuances of language are known to translators, errors in interpretation could and have easily been made. Research is continually adding new understandings about our knowledge of biblical times. It is important that we use the latest information available to us as we seek to understand the accuracy of Scripture.

Other errors occur because of fears and prejudice. "The word 'sodomite' is not found in the original Hebrew, nor is it found in the Greek. It was not until AFTER the rise of the hierarchy in the institutional Church that the account of Sodom and Gomorrah began to be equated with homosexuality. The word 'sodomite' then came into use. If the truth be known, the original use of this word referred simply to a person who was a resident of Sodom." The word "homosexual" did not appear in the Bible until 1958.

Another peculiarity he found was how dialects of the same language use words differently. Within English there are differences in the language depending on where you come from. In England, "pants" refer to underwear, whereas "trousers" are what we, in North America, would call "pants". Misunderstandings occur because of the cultural difference in words. Even at his young age John realized that much of the so called church doctrine was based upon inaccurate translations of the Bible.

Another mystery he discovered was how certain verses are plucked from the Bible to make a point while other verses in the same Chapter are blithely ignored. In the NIV translation, Deuteronomy Chapter 22 verse 5 states: A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this. This line is used as a hammer against transsexuals and gays. The haters pull the verse out and use it to beat the “sinners”. Yet in that same chapter, verse 12 says : Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear. When is the last time any of the haters had tassels on the corners of their clocks?

Another example is at no place in the Gospels does Jesus even mention homosexuality. Yet the haters dare to speak for Jesus when they condemn the LGBTQ community. Yet when Jesus specifically mentions a situation that violates one of the ten Commandments, they ignore it. In the NIV, Mark Chapter 10, verses 2-12 says: Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” “What did Moses command you?” he replied. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” Yet no Protestant church condemns divorced remarried people as being sinners for violating what Jesus condemned. In fact, many are welcome members.

All these discoveries shook John, making him question his loyalty to his faith. It didn’t shake his faith in God, but it shattered his trust in the doctrines of human manipulated churches. What he found made him question why religions who claimed to love God hated anyone who loved God in a manner different from their own. It didn’t take him long to realize that every religious doctrine is based on their own particular translations, traditions and commentaries, no matter how skewed they are from the original. As each bit of research he made confirmed that conclusion another understanding was revealed. The difference between religion and faith. Faith is accepting God’s love which is good since it comes from the Almighty. Religion on the other hand comes from mankind as it tries to imitate God, judging and condemning any who disagree. Religion is the devil’s best friend. Put simply, faith is God coming to man, religion is man attempting to get to God.

John began to realize his unsuccessful prayers to eliminate his personal demons failed because the religious rhetoric put forth by the church that his failings were a sin was incorrect! What if his personal demons were NOT really sins in God’s eyes, but only in the flawed human eyes of men? After all, God did not make mistakes... so why should John feel his basic desires and wants were not what God intended? John’s world was turned upside down.

Maintaining his schedule of studies and school work, John pondered those revelations. Everything he discovered in his continued research seemed to indicate his deepest desires were not sins but simply the way he was created! In late April when alone in the church sanctuary, a place he still felt had a special connection to God, he put aside the religious trappings within which he’d previously prayed. Bravely he knelt before the altar and opened his soul to God, admitting that he truly and honestly felt like a girl who was trapped in a boy’s body. Crying he asked God for guidance to direct him through the minefield like chaos of Biblical, religious and Theological interpretations regarding being transgendered.

As he wiped away his tears he felt a sense of calm come over him. The huge burden of religious induced guilt was miraculously lifted from his sagging shoulders. A thought like a bright flickering candle ended the blackness in which he had existed. How could he be sure he was transgendered if he didn’t try to present as a girl? Shaking his head to clear such a bizarre thought he remembered that back before he’d started kindergarten his sisters had occasionally dressed him in their clothes. The experiences had been delightful until his father found out. Then they had all been severely spanked. Since then he stayed away from his sister’s clothes out of fear, briskly crushing ever mere flicker of that thought from his consciousness. Yet now the thought to try dressing as a girl pushed forward through his concerns and misgivings. For the next few days it kept re-occurring until it became a continual nagging requirement.

Yet even though he now knew most of the doctrine that condemned his desire to be female was based on hatred and ignorance, the life lessons he’d endured kept him from acting on the persistent internal urging to dress as a girl. The guilt factor was easy to disregard.
Two weeks later as he stepped from the shower his eyes caught the shiny pink glint of lace edged fabric poking past the lid of the hamper. Grabbing his towel he dried himself without conscious thought as his eyes could not turn away from the hamper. The longer he stared, the more he wondered what was protruding through the lid. Could it be a pair of panties? Perhaps a bra? Or a shimmery slip! Secluded in the bathroom he could safely explore what one of his sisters had hastily left exposed. With extreme nervousness and anticipation, he tip-toed to the hamper. For several moments he stared at the exposed girlishness while debating if he dared touch it. Taking a deep breath and holding it, he gingerly reached out with his right index finger to touch the shiny pink cloth in the same manner one would reach out to see if an electric fence was live. Quickly he jabbed his finger into the fabric and just as quickly pulled it back. His heart was beating harder than he’d ever felt and he swore he felt a shock like tingle race from the tip of his finger to his brain. Shivering he licked his lips and reached out again. This time he stroked the silky fabric.

Memories of his sisters dressing him like a living doll leapt from his subconscious. The lustrous satin of petticoats had caressed his pre-school body bringing delight and a sense of comfort he’d never felt since then. They had called him Joan,

Carefully he raised the hamper lid to see the rest of the tantalizing garment. It was a scintillating half slip! The room began to spin as his hands touched and explored the delicious fabric. Panic gripped him for an instant as he worried that God was about to smite him. Then he exhaled deeply and drew in a huge breath. Giggling nervously he realized he’d been so focused on the slip he’d been holding his breath. After a few deep breaths the room settled down.

John knew he’d stepped over a daunting threshold as he lifted the slip from the hamper. It had to be Martha’s as she had just left the bathroom. Now that he held the girlish delight his inhibitions seemed to flee. Slowly he brought the slip to his face to rub it against his cheeks luxuriating in the delightful silkiness as well as the sweet lingering fragrance of his sister’s body powder. The forbidden delight could no longer be denied. Grasping the garment by the waist he gingerly stepped inside and drew it up to his waist. As the soft silken fabric kissed his exposed flesh all he could do was tremble and bite his lips as he suppressed moans of delight. Less than two minutes later he was struggling to hook the bra in place having already donned the panties. It took a few moments to realize he could hook the bra in front and turn it around. Looking down he was a bit of a let down to see the empty ‘A’ cups. Still, it felt so right to be wearing girls’ clothes! Glancing at his reflection in the mirror he giggled to see his image. With his hair only three inches long he looked like a punky preteen girl dressing in her older sister’s clothes. Joan, his long suppressed and denied alter-ego had re-emerged!

What amazed him was that while he could still see ‘John’ in Joan’s girlish image. It seemed to confirm that even with short hair and a flat chest he was meant to be a girl! After a few moments spent memorizing the sensations and his feminine appearance, he reluctantly shed the girlish garments and replaced them in the hamper. Then he hastily slipped on his PJs and exited the bathroom.

While the rest of his family gathered in the livingroom after bathing to watch TV before going to bed, for the past few months John headed straight to his room to read the Bible. Not wanting to give anyone a chance to suspect what he’d done, he followed his normal routine. Despite how much he tried, he simply could not concentrate. Memories of how it had felt so deliciously right to dress in the lingerie filled him with delight. For the first time in years he drifted off to sleep with an angelic expression upon his face.

Over the next several days every time he glanced in a mirror he saw his reflection revealing the hidden and long denied Joan. Each evening he hurriedly washed to allow himself ten minutes to try on the clothes Martha had worn that day. Gone from his mind were the voices of guilt. Everyone noted his demeanor was upbeat and he smiled easily, quite a contrast to the shy sullen boy he’d been. With each passing day he became more convinced he truly was a girl trapped in a boy’s body. John was Joan, with John simply being the manly mask those with whom he interacted expected to find. The two were almost distinct split personalities but at their core they shared the same soul.

Despite that, he knew he could never let himself be discovered while dressing up. While he realized being true to himself was NOT a sin, he knew the church and his family would not see it that way. The best he could do was keep his secret until he could move out on his own. In the mean time he’d have to be content sneaking into his sister’s outfits while hoping for an opportunity to have time to experiment further when he had the house to himself.

The perfect opportunity presented itself the week before Memorial Day. The females of the family were going to a baby shower for a close friend from church. They’d be leaving a bit after 5:00pm since a buffet was to be included. His dad and brothers had tickets to go see the local minor league baseball team play a double header. The garage closed at 5:00pm so they’d come in, shower, and leave, stopping at a fast food joint for supper. John would not be expected to accompany either group. His devotion to his religious studies provided a perfect out.

As soon as his dad and brothers left, John ran to the bathroom to shower. After drying he lightly dusted himself with Martha’s body powder for a girlish fresh scent. With great anticipation he removed the outfit she’d worn to school that day. Fifteen minutes later he anxiously left the bathroom to go to his sister’s room to check himself out in the full length mirror. His heart soared!

He saw a smiling short haired girl wearing a pleated two tone green plaid skirt that ended just above her knees. The dark green knee socks matched the dark green in her skirt covering her shapely legs allowing only five inches of flesh visible below the skirt. The brown single strap Mary Jane shoes only added to the overall schoolgirl look. A nylon blouse in light green matched the light green in her skirt. The blouse modestly showed the pert twin mounds on her chest, even if they were only stuffed with toilet paper instead of flesh. The belled three quarter sleeves and V neck were trimmed in delicate lace. All in all Joan looked like a cute schoolgirl which tickled John with utter delight. Then Joan’s smile bloomed as she realized John had named her! Finally Joan was freed from the horrid existence that had been John’s life. She reveled in her girlishness and freedom!

For the next hour Joan danced about the house as the stereo blared every Justin Beiber CD in the house. The delighted pseudo-girl was in the kitchen making herself a light salad when the back door opened and her father and brothers came in out of rain. The smiling singing girl turned in response to see who came in the door, so wrapped up in her happiness the consequences of being caught had been forgotten.

The guys stopped dead in their tracks as they stared at the cute short haired girl, wondering who she was and how scrawny little John had landed such a fox. Suddenly the girl’s smile faded as an expression of horror filled her face. Joan’s momentarily frazzled brain realized the baseball game had been rained out and that she’d been so wrapped up in her freedom she’d never noticed.

The horror quickly faded to be replaced with a look of near absolute serenity. Clearly, God wanted her secret to be discovered! There was a minuscule chance her family would accept her, but she held no hope out for that! Instead she expected an emotional explosion which would culminate in being beaten to death. Either way, it would be God’s will and she put all her trust in his loving hands. “Hello Daddy,” she softly declared. “I forgive all of you for what you’re going to do.”

Even with her words it took a moment for the reality of what they were seeing to sink in. “What the fuck is this?” Josh bellowed. “I always knew you were a sissy but this takes the fucking cake!

In an instant he crossed to Joan and savagely punched her in the face. Joan flew backwards as blood sprayed from her nose. Before she could recover she’d been picked up and literally thrown into and through the door into the dining room. By then her brothers were also yelling crude obscenities and lashing out at the dazed pseudo girl. Punches and kicks came from all sides and every angle. When she stumbled and fell someone would pick her up and throw her to the others. The bloody melee was quite similar to a shark feeding frenzy. The clothes she wore were ripped and torn as her blood splattered about the downstairs. The savage beat-down swirled into the living room where Joan finally lapsed into unconsciousness. Still they attacked her and cursed. Finally Josh and Jr each grabbed an arm and leg. Together they began swinging the limp body while the other brothers counted the swings, “One... two... three!” They hurled the beaten shattered body of their youngest family member through the large bay window out into the front lawn.

The neighbors tried to ignore the cursing and crashes from the Becker place. They all peeked through their curtains drawn to the unprecedented action like moths to a flame. Needless to say they were stunned when the large bay window exploded outwards in a shower of glass. The projectile doing the damage seemed to be a battered teenage girl! Multiple calls to 911 were made within seconds.

With the window now open the unintelligible bull like bellows of outraged anger from Josh Becker and his sons echoed through the neighborhood as they stood in front of the shattered bay window. Obviously they were cursing at the body lying crookedly amongst the shattered glass, torn drapes, and broken sashes was unmoving and silent.

Next door neighbors, a retired military couple, she a MASH nurse and he a combat medic, ran out to aid the unfortunate girl. When they reached her they were horrified by the extent of her injuries. Her face was battered beyond recognition. Their horror did not prevent them from immediately assessing her injuries. To their credit they focused their efforts to staunch bleeding from a dozen wounds even though the assailants continued to curse at the unconscious girl.

The wail of sirens heralded the arrival of the police. The officers glanced at the shattered window and the battered body as they headed for the front door. The paramedics swarmed the girl, glad for the efforts of the neighbors. It was clear they managed to keep her from bleeding out but she was still near death. As one paramedic set up an IV of saline solution to augment the battered teen’s dwindled blood supply the retired nurse held the broken left arm stationary so the IV could be inserted. The officers headed to the front door which opened as they approached.

Josh glared at the officers who hesitated, clearly intimidated by his ferocious countenance. “You may as well take me in,” Josh growled. “I’m the one who beat the shit out of that thing.”

The officers asked him to step outside where they cuffed him and placed him in the back of a patrol car before calling for back up. An ambulance, siren wailing, pulled up. The crew hastily pulled the stretcher from the back and rolled it to the paramedics. With the aid of the retired couple, they strapped the shattered teen to a back board with splints on both arms and both legs as well as a neck brace. They gently moved her to the stretcher and loaded her into the ambulance. An officer entered the house, clearly stunned at the wrecked rooms. Blood was splattered everywhere he looked. The three oldest Becker boys stood to one side, clearly shocked by the carnage. It was clear by their bruised and bloody knuckles as well as the victims splattered blood on their clothes that they had participated in the savage beat down. The officer called for a forensics team and additional units to secure the 20, 18, and 16 year old suspects.

*****

The trauma center staff took over treatment of the unconscious victim as soon as the ambulance arrived. The paramedics had communicated the sorry condition of the girl. As the nurses began to cut off the clothes, it became clear there was hardly any part of the teen that had not been battered. It was only when they reached the groin that they discovered the girl was male. The discovery didn’t effect their effort but the savagely battered genitals were barely recognizable.

Questions about the identity of the victim by the trauma unit’s staff were quickly forgotten as they worked frantically on the unidentified boy. Their efforts were frustrated by the internal bleeding. They had three IVs pouring blood and saline solution into the youth but the life sustaining fluids were leaking from nearly every internal organ almost as fast as they were being added. None of the staff could understand how the victim’s heart kept beating.

*****

When Becky and the girls arrived home they were stunned to see the place swarming with police. Fearing the worst she rushed to the house followed by the girls only to be stopped. “I’m sorry, Mrs Becker,” one of the local officers stated as he stepped in front of them. “The house is a crime scene, possibly even a murder scene if the victim doesn’t survive. Your husband and sons viciously assaulted a young girl nearly beating her to death before throwing her through the bay window. They’re all in custody being processed and questioned. I’m afraid you’ll have to find someplace to stay for the night, maybe even longer if the girl dies.”

“They beat a girl?” Becky questioned barely able to wrap her mind around such an atrocity. “Who is she? What was she doing here?” As she spoke she and her daughters were able to see the ravaged interior of the home through the shattered bay window. The broken glass and parts of the window along with portions of blood soaked curtains were being photographed by investigators. It was plain to see where the girl’s battered body had landed and the trampled area around that bloody point where she’d been treated.

“What happened?” asked Martha as she and her sisters surveyed the disaster.

“We don’t know,” the officer sighed. “The neighbors called it in after the girl was thrown through the window. The Kerrigans rushed out and began to treat her. If they hadn’t, she would have bled out where she landed. It’s still too early to tell if she’ll make it. As for who she is we have no idea. She had no ID on her and we’ve found nothing inside.”

Becky drew in a deep breath as she struggled to make sense of the mess. It was her first duty to take care of the girls, then she’d see to the guys. “Is there anyway we could go inside to get some of our things?”

“I think we can arrange something but you’ll have to be escorted,” the officer replied. “Let me talk to the chief.”

While they waited Becky called her sister and briefly explained what happened and that they had no idea why the guys had beat a girl much less why they nearly killed her. Of course her sister offered them a place to spend the night.

The police chief came over with a female officer from the State Police who would accompany them inside one at a time to get the clothes they’d need for the next few days. Needless to say they were all horrified by the destruction and blood splatters throughout the downstairs. The trip to Becky’s sister was made in stunned silence. The memories of seeing the bloody carnage left by the beating were forever etched into the memory of the females. Once the girls were settled into her sister’s home, Becky headed off to the detention center to see if she could find out what had happened.

*****

The trauma center staff knew they were losing their patient as the heart beats slowed and began skipping. Despite their best efforts the valiant heart finally stopped. Nothing they tried restarted the overworked heart. Reluctantly they finally admitted defeat and pronounced the mystery boy dead. A nurse covered the body with a sheet as the frustrated weary and bloody staff forlornly left the emergency surgery. They were dedicated professionals and it hurt their souls whenever they lost a patient, especially a young teenager. The head of the team went to notify the police of the death.

*****

Things at the detention center were chaotic when Becky arrived. The area seldom had incidents like that which had occurred and the staff was trying to be professional in the performance of their jobs but it didn’t ease the raw emotion. It took nearly fifteen minutes until the sergeant was able to meet with Becky in private. The sergeant confirmed Josh along with David, Peter and Paul were in custody and that they were being individually interrogated about the heinous assault.

“Are you sure they didn’t just walk in on it?” Becky hopefully asked.

“We’re sure, Ma’am,” the sergeant sighed. “Your husband confessed at the scene and the boys are covered with as much blood as he is. They all have cuts on their knuckles from beating the girl.”

“I just can’t believe they’d do such a thing,” Becky sniffled. “When can I see them?”

“Probably not until tomorrow,” he replied.

“My youngest son, John was home,” Becky said. “You didn’t mention him. Is he in custody too?”

“He’s not here,” the sergeant frowned. “I haven’t heard anything about another boy. Are you sure he didn’t go visit a friend?”

“No, he was planning to stay home,” he never goes anywhere without letting us know. God I hope he’s all right. Since I can’t see them, could you at least ask them if they know where John might be?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” he replied as he stood. “Please wait here until I check.”

Becky’s mind ran wild as she anxiously waited. The ball game had been rained out so that explained why the guys came home. But where had the girl come from? John did not have a girlfriend. Why had they so savagely attacked the mystery girl? Who was she and where was John?

Ten minutes later the sergeant returned. His face was grim. Becky stood in response and felt as if her heart was pounding through her chest.

“I wasn’t able to speak with them,” he informed her. “But we received disturbing news from the hospital. The victim died. But she wasn’t a girl... it was a boy dressed as a girl.”

“Oh my God,” Becky gasped as she flopped back into the chair. “No, it couldn’t be! John NEVER dressed as a girl! It couldn’t be! The victim... what did he look like?”

The sergeant checked his notes and read off the description the trauma unit provided. Becky paled and fainted.

*****

At the trauma center, one of the nurses frowned. Every few moments she kept hearing four or five ‘beeps’ with a pause of several seconds between each that sounded like the audible signals of a heart monitor. But the trauma unit was in the midst of an unusual down time between emergencies so there were no patients. After the sixth time hearing the ‘beeps’ she stood and began checking the equipment to see if one of the heart monitors was malfunctioning. As she stood amongst the stored units she heard the mysterious beats again, only this time from her location she was able to tell the sound was coming from the operating room that held the body of the dead boy. Quickly she rushed to the room just in time to see the monitor beep, then after a few seconds it beeped again, repeating the pattern several times before falling silent. The monitor was still hooked to the boy! She ran to the bedside and hit the emergency button. “Stat... Trauma Unit 3... STAT! We have an intermittent heartbeat!” With that she pulled the sheet off the boy and began to check for a pulse. The next time the monitor beeped she felt corresponding pulses in the boy’s carotid artery! By then other members of the trauma staff rushed in. They quickly began efforts to restart the stubborn heart.

*****

Once Becky revived from the shock, she shakily rose intending to go to the hospital to ID the victim to make sure it was John. Naturally the officer refused to let her drive. An officer was detailed to drive Becky to the hospital. Upon reaching the hospital she rushed to the trauma unit front desk to explain who she was and that she needed to see if the dead victim was her son. The accompanying officer joined her and identified Becky. The receptionist, seeing the haggard face, red eyes and clenched teeth as Becky spoke with barely controlled frustration let the receptionist know she had better get someone in authority.

Becky and the officer stood by the reception area when the on-duty head of security and the head of the evening emergency staff stepped through the doors. A brief quiet conversation was all that was needed for them to bring Becky back to the emergency conference room. Once seated Becky spelled out her fears about the identity of the battered victim and why it was possible her normally peaceful husband and sons went off. After Becky gave a brief description of John the doctor let his head drop to his chest.

“As we were prepping the victim for surgery we did discover the battered individual was male,” the doctor sighed as he raised his head to look at Becky. “Although he’s been beaten beyond recognition, the general body size and hair color match. The trauma unit staff pronounced him dead forty five minutes ago.”

Becky nearly lost it at that point. All the agony and trauma were too much to handle. The officer said they were aware the victim had passed and that Becky wanted to ID her youngest son. The doctor agreed but first insisted Becky receive a mild sedative, enough to calm her down without knocking her out. The medication was quickly retrieved and administered. As he was doing his best to calm her while the sedative took effect, a senior nurse knocked on the door.

At first the head of emergency was angry at the disturbance but quickly realized that the staff knew better than to interrupt meetings such as this. It had to be something important. Gently he excused himself. A moment later he was running down the halls towards the trauma unit. The nurse who had interrupted stepped in to sooth Becky.

Twenty minutes later the head doctor reappeared, clearly tired and bewildered. “Mrs. Becker, half an hour ago, thirty five minutes after they pronounced the beaten boy dead, his heart restarted on it’s own. How that happened is a complete mystery. There was no sign of life and the morgue staff was on it’s way to pick up the body. The trauma staff has been able to stabilize the heartbeat. At this point it’s still too early to say if he’ll survive. The victim lost over half their blood, and was clinically dead for 35 minutes. Even if he does survive, the odds are quite high that there will be major permanent brain damage. We know his skull has multiple fractures, most of his ribs are broken or cracked, one lung was pierced and collapsed. There is massive internal bleeding, especially in the spleen, liver and kidneys. The genitals are crushed. All the major bones in each leg and arm are broken. We have no idea how much nerve and brain damage has been done. A stent is being placed in his brain to drain off excess fluid to prevent any further brain damage. If it hadn’t been for the prompt first aid by the neighbors he would have died on the lawn. I don’t want to get your hopes up so I’ll be blunt. It’s highly doubtful he’ll survive the night.”

“But he came back to life,” Becky whispered in desperation as she clung to hope.

“Yes, but we have no idea how or how long it will last. If he survives the night at best he’ll be in a coma. To survive his body will have to deal with the massive trauma to deal with the accompanying swelling and bruising. We’re doing our best to save him but we can’t make any promises. I’ll give you some anti-anxiety medicine to take but for now you need to get some rest.”

Becky numbly nodded her head. Being drugged as she was they called her sister to come to the hospital to pick her up to take her to get some rest. No one had yet to make a positive ID.

*****

By morning the police had positively identified the victim as John Becker. That the youth had survived the night after dying unnerved nearly everyone. The hospital staff had no explanation for the revival or survival. The entire community was shocked by the incident. That John, the shy, quiet, even monk-like teen had been dressed as a girl was mind boggling in the tight-knit conservative Christian community where everyone knew he’d been intensely studying the Bible under the pastor’s tutelage. That Josh Becker and his other sons had so savagely beaten John when they discovered him dressed as a girl was equally stunning, yet in their homophobic existence, bizarrely understandable. The crime scene investigation took two days.

Josh and the boys were shocked by their savagery and tormented by the serene look on John’s face as he silently endured the vicious beating. Not once had he uttered a sound despite the savagery. Nor had he made any attempt to escape or defend himself, not even trying to avoid the blows. The serene expression was still on his face after he’d lost consciousness! It was obvious he knew his fate and not only fully accepted it but had actually forgiven them for what they were about to do! All four individually confessed to their violently hateful reaction upon finding John in drag. They also told of their confusion about John’s serene acceptance of the beat-down as well as his uttered forgiveness. They were truly remorseful for what they’d done.

All four Becker males were released from prison after spending two nights in lock-up. The sons were released into Becky’s custody while Josh was released on $50,000 bail. The nearly shattered family headed home to clean up the mess and attempt to get their lives back on track.

Reverend Kunkle was devastated by the event. All the high hopes he’d had for John entering the ministry had been vaporized. The church members were equally knocked on their butts. No one had even the slightest inkling that John was anything but a decent, God-Fearing lad who could quote the Bible with ease. Yet when they heard how John had serenely accepted his fate and forgave his family in advance, they all felt those actions had been entirely in character. Everyone was outraged at the sin of crossdressing but confused by the serene acceptance and forgiveness. Even more amazing and confusing was the fact he’d been declared dead and for thirty five minutes had no pulse before his heart miraculously restarted. The baffling big unanswered question was why John had dressed as a girl?

*****

Against all odds John’s body continued to live. Although on a respirator the heart beat steadily. The thirty five minute pause had been enough for the blood at the multitudinous sites with internal bleeding to clot. When the heart restarted, the bleeding did not resume. That alone was unheard of but as far as could be determined no clotting had occurred anywhere else! The EEG showed no evidence any but the base functions of the brain remained. For all intents and purposes, John was brain dead. On the surface the body appeared to begin healing as the bruises changed color and faded and the blood pressure increased to normal levels. After a week, with the permission of the family, all life support was removed. The body was so battered that no organs could be harvested. Becky, Josh and the siblings were all solemnly gathered about the bedside sadly waiting for the end. When the breathing tubes were removed, there was no sign of independent breathing. The doctors waited for the heart to suffocate to once more pronounce him dead. It took ten minutes for the stubborn heart to stutter to a halt as the heart monitor flat lined.

No one in the room had a dry eye. Becky and the girls were openly weeping. The doctor placed a stethoscope to the stilled chest for over a minute to make sure. They waited another fifteen minutes with several stethoscope checks to be sure, then the doctor in charge softly announced the time of death. The grieving family was allowed a few moments alone with the body to say goodbye. Ten minutes later Josh somberly pulled the sheet over his son’s head. Slowly the family made their way out of the room.

Becky paused at the door to give the body one last glance. Suddenly John’s entire body spasmed causing her to scream. She rushed back to the bed as the family followed her with the staff on their heels. Before anyone could stop her she yanked the sheet off John’s head. As she did so the body spasmed once more. The mouth opened and a raspy ragged breath was drawn in. The heart monitor began beeping, slowly but steadily increasing to sixty beats per minute as the stubborn heart once more restarted. This time accompanied by breathing!

Now the doctors were totally baffled. This second stoppage had been for twenty five minutes! Not only had the heart restarted but the body began breathing on it’s own! There was absolutely no explanation.

Still there was no upper brain activity. They monitored John for another week as his body doggedly lived on. Again on the surface the body showed signs of continued healing. Once more the family faced a heart wrenching decision. This time it was whether to continue the IVs that were giving his body nourishment. Becky refused to have the IVs pulled unless a feeding tube was added. She insisted that as long as the body breathed and the heart beat, the very least they could do was to sustain it.

A feeding tube was put in place and the IVs removed. After another week with slow continued healing, John was moved to a nursing home. The comatose body continued to live.

The Becker household slowly pulled itself together. They continued going to church and faithfully prayed for John as did the entire congregation. Despite searching through John’s writings and notes, nothing was found to explain why he had been dressed as a girl. Despite all the prayer there were no answers. All anyone knew for sure was that after dying twice, John’s body stubbornly still lived.

June turned to July, July to August, August to September. John’s body continued to live with no sign of brain activity. As the broken bones healed therapists began to flex the limbs and to rebuild a functional range of motion. They were amazed as there was no evidence of stiffness in the joints. While the muscles had atrophied, it was no where near what was expected. Even more amazing was that despite the many open wounds on his face, not a scar was visible. By the beginning of October, except for the feeding tube and catheter, John looked as if he was asleep and could get up and walk away when he awoke.

The doctors kept an eye on his progress and documented everything. Never had anything like this occurred. Scientifically they had no reason to expect the brain dead youth to ever recover but spiritually they hoped. Becky continued to visit John everyday, holding his hand and telling him all about the family and how much they missed him.

On morning of October 30th, Becky was talking to John when she felt a faint twitch in the hand she held. “John,” she whispered in awe as she grasped his hand with both of hers. “Baby, it’s mommy! Please wake up! Oh God, please wake up!”

Her words were answered by a feeble squeeze from his hand, quickly followed by several more. Frantically Becky plucked the call button and rang for the nurses. Chaos reigned for the next half hour as the staff verified John was responding to their words by squeezing their hands. Word was sent to the hospital and an ambulance dispatched. Becky called Josh and told him the news as she rode to the hospital with John. Rushed into emergency they hooked him to an EEG machine which showed almost normal brain activity. Everyone knew of the brave fight the boy who refused to die had waged and were thrilled to learn the news. It even made the local six o’clock news. Once more no one could explain the sudden resumption of higher brain function which meant no one had any idea what to expect.

Becky and Josh were seated holding hands by the bed the next morning discussing their hopes that John would soon awaken. The months long trial had reduced their concerns about why John had been dressed as a girl to meaningless drivel. At this point they’d accept him in any way shape or form as long as he woke up. As they spoke they periodically glanced up to look at the fully healed angelic face. Both were startled when they glanced up to see the boys eyes were open and he was smiling. Both gasped in shocked delight.

“Hi,” John spoke scratchy soft voice. “I’m sorry I’ve caused you so much worry.”

“John,” Becky tearfully cried as she leapt from the chair to hug him. “Oh God, thank you for answering our prayers!”

“Son,” Josh nodded as he struggled to hold back tears while placing a hand on John’s arm.

John nodded in acknowledgment. “It’s difficult to talk. Can I please have a drink?”

Becky picked up the cup she’d been using and held the straw to John’s lips as he gratefully drew some fluid into his parched mouth as Josh pushed the call button.

“He’s awake and talking,” Josh exclaimed when the nurse called back on the intercom.

Within seconds nurses flooded into the room quickly followed by doctors, all eager to see the miracle for themselves.

“I can explain everything, but not right now,” John smiled a most beatific smile. “I know that over the last few months my case has attracted a lot of attention... and yes, I know it’s been months... I learned a lot of things that I need to share. I know it’s asking a lot but instead of telling it over and over again what I’d like is to have news conference this evening so I can tell what I’ve experienced while I was away from my body.”

“I don’t think that’s advisable,” the lead doctor spoke. “After being unconscious for so long it could jeopardize your recovery.”

“Sir, please don’t think I’m being rude,” John smiled. “But my body has completely healed. Granted, I’m a bit weak, but I can stand and walk across the room now, without any assistance.”

“You may feel fully recovered but...” the doctor began.

“Please, sir,” John interrupted. “Humor me. You know my injuries have healed. Let me sit up, swing my legs over the side, stand, and walk across the room without any help or undo hesitation. If it makes you feel better, have people stand by to catch me if I sag but that won’t happen. If I can not do as I say I can, I will willingly follow your recommendations. But considering how unusual my case has been, are you willing to forbid me to show you another miracle?”

The faces of everyone in the room showed they KNEW John could not do what he’d just said he could do. Yet they also knew his case was a miraculous mystery. Against his better judgement the doctor gave permission for John to try. Staff hurried to position themselves to assist.

When all was ready a nurse lowered the bed rail. John threw back the covers, sat up, and slid his legs over the side of the bed. That alone stunned everyone. Before they could assimilate that accomplishment, he slipped off the bed to stand. With a smile he took a slow step, then another, and another as he worked the long unsued muscles and nerve pathways. In under a minute he walked across the room, turned around, walked back to the bed, and hopped up to sit with his legs dangling. A smile of satisfaction filled his face. The faces of the onlookers were clearly showed they were stunned. Once more there was no way anyone just waking from a months long coma should have been able to do what he’d done.

“Now, if you could remove the feeding tube I’d really like some food,” John smiled. “Setting up a six o’clock news conference would be most appreciated.”

Of course the doctors wanted to check out John which he allowed. They found absolutely nothing wrong. The gastric feeding tube was removed and jello and other soft foods were brought. John asked for a set of hospital pajamas and a shower.

Needless to say the hospital conference room was jammed with news media before six. The head doctor began the news conference by reviewing the extraordinary events of John’s case ending with his ability to walk demonstration. With that he introduced John and did a Vanna White arm gesture to the right. The cameras panned to the double doors as they opened and a blissfully smiling thin boy clad in striped hospital pajamas slowly walked through escorted by his family. Murmuring amongst the news media swelled.

“Please forgive me for not standing,” John spoke softly but firmly once he reached the microphones as a high stool with a back was brought out for him. “I’m still a little weak.”

That casual remark caused nervous chuckles.

“First, thank you for coming,” John continued. “I’d also like to thank all those who looked after my body while I was out of it. I know that sounds strange but that is exactly what happened. I had an almost five month out of body experience during which I was aware that my body was healing.”

Those in attendance didn’t know how to take that declaration.

“Let me begin by saying that I do not blame my father and brothers in any way, shape, or form for what they did,” John said as he turned his head and smiled at his humbled family. “We were all victims of our conservative Christian religion which has lost sight of the fact that Jesus came to save ALL people, not just those that follow the (finger quotes) rules. Now a bit about myself. I never really fit in with my family or school or even church. I was always different, always the odd ball. I tried to fit in but it never seemed to work out. The harder I tried, the more out of place I became. I finally turned to our religion. I studied everything I could but the more I learned, the more confused I became. I realized that in many cases Christianity fell into the same trap the Second Temple Jews fell into during Jesus’ life. Their faith and trust in God became lost in man-made rules and requirements. Jesus complained about false piety, how the humble practitioners had morphed into an arrogant ‘we’re better than you because we follow the rules mentality’. They became self righteous hypocrites! Matthew 19:14 reads: Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ What this means is we should approach God with the innocence and simplicity of guileless children. Faith in God must be pure and simple, but that is too easy for mankind. We think we need rules... rules beget religion... all too soon following the ‘rules’ becomes more important than the faith! But God never made rules, he gave us simple commandments. It is mankind who makes the rules. Matthew 19:3-9 reads: Some Pharisees came and tested Jesus by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ ‘What did Moses command you?’ he replied. They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ ‘It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,’ Jesus replied. ‘But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ In those verses Jesus specifically says that Moses wrote the law because the people demanded it! Man wrote the law to the detriment of God’s intent! Please understand, God LOVES faith and HATES religion.”

The news media were stunned by what John declared in such simple yet profound terms.

“Let me comment about birth defects,” John continued. “I assume you’re all aware what a cleft palette is. It is a tragic disfiguring birth defect. Unlike what happened in past centuries, science and medicine have advanced enough to know that it was neither the child nor the parents sins that caused the birth defect. It is a simple genetic defect. Doctors are now able to surgically correct that birth defect and many others and no faith condemns the doctors, child, or family. In fact, they often assist in the corrections! I too was born with a birth defect, but unlike a cleft palette my defect was not readily visible. We all know the vast majority of human bodies come in one of two genders, male and female. The exceptions are usually called intersexed and are some sort of genetic blend of male and female. What many religions still deny is that the human brain also comes in two genders, male and female. We must also note that one’s soul resides in the brain. Normally, the body and brain match, but for some of us they don’t. My birth defect is that I have a male body and a female brain which means that in my soul I’m female.”

There was a lot of murmuring and John’s family exchanged looks of bewilderment and enlightenment. A few nodded their heads while many shook their heads.

“All my life I’ve had to deny my inner girl,” John explained. “My life as a boy was simply an unhappy masquerade. I wore the mask of a boy to hide my true self, but never quite managed to do so convincingly. My fervent study of the Bible and God was the result of my inner conflict. I hoped that by studying Christianity, I could find a way, with God’s help, to overcome what my religion insisted was a perversion and sin. I never found it. Instead everywhere I looked I found that God loves humanity just as we are! Jesus ate with the sinners, healed the sick and deformed, and genuinely cared about every human being. No where does Jesus condemn crossdressing or transgenderism.”

Again there was murmuring. Those moving their heads were about equally split either nodding or shaking their heads.

“The old Testament does talk about crossdressing.,” John continued. “Deuteronomy 22 as a whole is talking about responsibilities and boundaries. Verse 5 reads: ‘A woman shall not wear a man's apparel, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whoever does such things is abhorrent to the Lord your God.’ In the context of the chapter it’s talking about deceit yet many religious people take it out of that context and use it as a prohibition and condemnation about one gender wearing the clothes of the other. In the same chapter verse 12 reads: ‘You shall make tassels on the four corners of the cloak with which you cover yourself.’ But when have you ever seen one of the hypocritical self-righteous religious people who so vehemently condemn cross-dressing or transgendered or gays or lesbians wear tassles on the corners of their clothes? That “law” from verse 12 they ignore because it no longer applies. Hello! If you insist on strictly following the law from verse 5 in the same chapter, then you need to follow EVERY law in that chapter!”

Once more there was murmuring and more nodding heads. Few still shook their heads.

“As I mentioned, I never found where the Bible or God condemns a person for being true to themselves,” John declared. “In fact time and again the Bible insists we not put on false fronts but let our soul shine through in every aspect of our lives! In all my research and studying I kept finding that same admonition. The life I lived as John was a false front, a mask, a lie that denied the reality of my soul! My faith in Jesus and God DEMANDED I be true to my soul! Yet I knew that my family, church, and community would, in their ignorance and religious arrogance, condemn me. I was too weak to do what I knew was right in the eyes of God in public so when I had some alone time, which in a family as large as ours is difficult, I borrowed my sister’s outgrown clothes and for a few liberating moments, freed my soul from the masculine mask I hated. My very existence as John was my hated ill-fitting disguise. The first time I slipped into girl’s clothes my female soul was freed. Over the next few weeks I felt my true feminine self blossoming and diverging from my John mask. It was almost as if I had two distinct personalities, the female one happy and free even when hidden inside the caged and unhappy male one. The night I was beaten, my mother and sisters were going to a baby shower and my dad and brothers were going to a ball game. I used the time to become my true self, Joan. I didn’t know the game had been rained out or that my upset dad and brothers came home. I was in the kitchen making myself a salad when they came in the back door. Briefly I was horrified and scared, then I remembered God wanted me to be true to myself. I felt God’s loving protective hands surround my soul and a sense of profound serenity swept over me. I knew I was about to be beaten, mostl likely to death, yet I felt no fear. I faced my fate trusting in God just as the early Christian martyrs did in the coliseum. God gave me the strength to tell them I forgave them for what they were about to do.”

Amazed by John’s story, again they murmured and many nodded.

“The actual beating is mostly a blur” Joan spoke softly. “I do know the John mask I wore every day stepped forward to take the pain, absorbing it to protect Joan. When we landed on the front lawn after being tossed through the bay window, we knew we were dying. John stepped up one last time, sacrificing himself so I had a chance to survive. I felt him die and together we left the dying body. As Joan I floated in a white mist as I contemplated all that had happened. The utter faith and love of God I shared with John had allowed us to accept and forgive our beating. We had instantly known it had been God’s intention we be caught. From the very beginning of the brutal attack by our dad and brothers, John gallantly pushed me to the back of his consciousness as he saw our dad’s fist approaching. Even though he was helpless and did nothing to resist the assault, John willingly accepted the pain and agony in order to gallantly protect me. While I felt the pain and torture being inflicted, those senses were dulled as John sacrificed himself, using the mask of his existence as a shield. My Joan self endured the mauling in horrified silence as John nobly took the punishing assault. His dying thought was that he forgave his family. I felt John die. But I also felt the angels tugging his pristine soul from our dying body.”

No one made a sound as they were all drawn into her words.

“Of course, since John and I were one and the same despite our differences, I went with him,” Joan sniffed back tears. “The angels benevolently smiled at me as we rose into the heavens. I was not afraid although I was a bit saddened to have our life end so abruptly. Still, we had been true to ourself and our final reward was awaiting. With a smile I assisted the lingering shadow that had been John to it’s reward. Then I had a huge surprise.”

“A man greeted me when the angels paused before the beautiful pearly gates. He said ‘Joan, you have endured much suffering,’ His long hair and bearded face smiled with such grace I knew I’d been blessed to meet Jesus. Even though I felt guilty I couldn’t help but glance at his hands. ‘My wounds have healed, child, as will yours,’ Jesus spoke, then looked at the shadow of John. ‘John passed his final exam with flying colors. Not only did he accept his fate with peace, he found the strength to forgive those who killed him, just as I did over 2000 years ago. He used his mask to save you from the worst of the pain, a very noble gesture. Now, I must ask you a question. Your body has died. You are welcome to join us in heaven now, or you can return to your body, revive it and help it heal itself.’ I looked at the shriveled husk of John and sighed asking. ‘If I go back, will John have to come with me?’ ‘No, child, John has done what was asked of him so I will take him to his reward,’ Jesus smiled. ‘You want me to go back to show them how wrong they are to condemn transgendered people,’ I nodded as I began to understand. ‘Since I’ve studied the Bible I can speak to the issues. By recovering and then showing them I can’t be deterred from being the girl I am, I’ll be helping others like me. I’ll do it because I know you’ll be by my side.’”

The audience was spellbound. Either the youth was an excellent story teller or they were hearing a true out of body near death experience.

“Jesus smiled at me and spoke. ‘Excellent, Joan. The doctors have given up hope for the survival of your body. They had virtually no hope that it could make a complete recovery even if it survived. However, we can change that. Your steadfast unshakeable faith in God the Father, me and the Holy Spirit will once more show them that God is all powerful as you make a complete recovery. It won’t be easy and there will be a lot of pain and discomfort. But in the end there will be no scientific explanation as to how you overcame your injuries. Your faith will shine through for all to see.’ ‘I’m humbled to be so trusted,’ I smiled. ‘I know,’ Jesus smiled back. ‘I have other works to attend, my child, so I’ve asked the Archangel Michael to gather people to explain your mission.’ With that Jesus blessed me with a kiss on the forehead and took John through the gates. I was speechless and felt at total peace.”

The audience could not deny there was an expression of absolute bliss filling Joan’s face.

“Then a deep bass voice spoke. ‘My dearest Joan. I am Michael.’ The introduction snapped me from basking in the glorious light of heaven. I looked to see a large powerful man who was the epitome of handsome. The wings on his back did not look out of place. ‘We want you to become our modern day Prophetess,’ Michael smiled as he led me over to a gathering of people. ‘While your soul will reside in your body to assist in the healing, your consciousness will be here in the clouds outside the gates. I’ve gathered Abraham, Moses and Isaiah from the Jewish Old testament times; John, Peter and Paul from the early Christian era; Mohammed from the Islamic period, and Ghandi from the twentieth century. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindi, Buddists, Wiccans and myriads of other beliefs all worship the same God. Some recognize God as the Supreme Being but other faiths or belief systems simply worship aspects of the single supreme Godhood.’ ‘But how is that possible?’ I asked not understanding. ‘Every person is unique,’ Ghandi responded. ‘In all of mankind’s history, not even two have been alike! People are the sum of their experiences. Everything they see, hear, touch, understand and even think is based on those unique life experiences. There is no way one belief can accommodate such a vast human diversity. That is why God allowed the divergence of belief in one supreme God. Yet when you look under the veneer all beliefs share the same basics!’ ‘That’s what I was discovering in the research I was doing,’ I nodded. ‘You were quite close to having a eureka moment,’ Moses agreed. ‘That’s why we’re taking advantage of your situation.’”

Not a sound came from those listening. They could tell that the youth was speaking the truth... or at least believed he was speaking the truth.

“‘So I was set up to get beaten to death?’ I asked with a bit of anxiety. ‘No, God seldom directly interferes with existence,’ Paul explained. ‘The world is what it is. God created everything and set it in motion. Unfortunately good can only exist opposite an equal. So for everything good there has to be an opposite evil. Otherwise life would be bland with no choices. Remember, God gave man free will. But free will is useless unless there are choices. A person must make a conscious decision to belong to good, which is God, or to evil, which is Satan.’ ‘That seems harsh,’ I declared. ‘But I can see the sense of it. But didn’t God create Satan?’ ‘Satan is a fallen angel, a celestial being who arrogantly rejected his benevolent creator by choosing an existence of evil,’ Michael explained. ‘But God also created my kind, angels who love and gladly serve God. Satan and I are both angels but are quite opposite.’ ‘So the Genesis story of creation and Adam and Eve are factual?’ I asked. ‘The earth and humanity is only a bit over 6100 years old?’ ‘Heavens no!’ chuckled Abraham. ‘That is one of the most garbled beliefs! Remember, writing is only about 4000 years old. Writing as we know it for stories is only about 3000 years old. So if the story of creation is literally true, it had to be passed down by word of mouth for 3000 years before it was written down. Because it was humanity telling and retelling the story, it changed because the listeners heard and understood the story based on their experiences. The fact it changed in the retelling does not make it any less valid. Also, until the last few hundred years, most people were illiterate and knew nothing of science. How do you explain to illiterate people that God summoned the world into being from nothing to the universe as we now know it. Just look at the creation stories of nearly every culture. They’re basically all the same. Science has come pretty close to explaining how creation happened with the Big Bang theory but a few pieces are still missing. Creating the world in seven days, doing a bit each day, is the easiest way to make illiterate people understand. Fundamentalists insist the seven days of creation, time-wise, are like earth days today. In reality a creation day is well over one billion years and no two are the same length! God began creation about 13.8 billion years ago. The Earth coalesced about 4.5 billion years ago. People ignore or forget that for God, time is meaningless. God simply is for all eternity while few humans reach 100 years old. Comparing human time and God’s time is folly.’”

Again the audience was spellbound.

“‘Okay, that all actually makes sense,’ I nodded. ‘So how are the various human beliefs in a supreme power alike?’ ‘The first common base is a profound worshipful love and respect for God even if they call him Mother Earth or Gia,’ Isaiah explained. ‘Remember, mankind is made in God’s image. That means God is both feminine and masculine. One gender is NOT superior to the other because each is only half the image of God. That’s one reason you are an ideal candidate to be our prophet. Physically your body is male but mentally you are female. You are much closer to the true image of God than most of humanity.’ ‘Wow!’ I exclaimed humbled by the revelation. ‘The second common base is to love your neighbor as you love yourself,’ Peter continued. ‘Those two are the foundation of every belief. Nearly as important is the human soul’s need to be in a positive relationship with the Creator, thanking God for his unyielding love and patience. Humans who strive for or have a right relationship with the Creator do good works to further God’s master plan. However, good works can not bring people into a right relationship, good works are the positive result of a right relationship.’”

What Joan was relating made a bit too much sense which unsettled some listeners.

“‘So you want me to explain how all beliefs are really beliefs in God,’ I asked. ‘Not exactly,’ Mohamed sighed. “Virtually every belief declares their’s is the only true faith. Simply by doing that they denigrate every other belief. Most belief systems actively condemn those who don’t believe as they do. The Islamic terrorists have taken that human induced flaw in God’s message to extremes. Unfortunately, they’re not alone nor are they the first. We want you to show humanity that while their faith is valid, that does not mean the others are invalid. Their declaration that their beliefs are the only correct way sets up an adversarial relationship based on negativity. They end up highlighting the differences. What needs to happen is to celebrate their similarities!’ ‘I think I understand,’ I nodded. ‘Every belief is like mathematics. The right relationship with the Creator is the goal. If the goal answer is 50, there are many ways to get that answer. 30 + 20, 2 x 25, 70 - 20, 5 x 10, 20 -11 + 12 + 38 - 9, in fact there’s a virtually infinite number of combinations that will equal 50. That means there has to be an infinite number of paths to a right relationship with the Creator. What works for one person may not be acceptable for another but that does not make either wrong.’ ‘You have the idea,’ Abraham smiled.”

By now several listeners were feeling a bit uneasy. Like many in today’s modern world they preferred not thinking about God.

“‘But how do I convince them,’ I asked. ‘In every belief they declare their version of heaven will accommodate the diversity of their followers,’ Paul explained. ‘But they draw a line at their faith. For Christians the example is in John 14: 1-2 where Jesus says: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ The many rooms he’s speaking about are the various beliefs and he’s going to prepare ONE room for his followers!’ ‘But doesn’t Jesus go on to say that ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ I asked as I tried to understand the righteousness of those words. ‘This verse is one of the most misunderstood and misused verses in the bible,’ Mohamed shook his head. ‘When read wrong it implies that non-Christians have no contact, understanding or relationship with God. This interpretation is false and hurtful as everyone on earth knows God as God constantly speaks to everyone on earth in their heart. Many in the non-Christian world obey this inner voice and follow the Lord by loving their fellow man. Tragically many who claim to be Christian and many who do not ignore God’s speaking to their hearts.’”

Everyone was listening intently.

“‘Non-Christians, however, when they love and obey God in their heart are missing something that Christian believers have,’ John added. ‘Christian believers have God, not only as a voice in their heart as non-Christians do, to be obeyed, but they also have God in the physical world. Jesus is God come into the physical world. He is the love to be loved and the love to be served in the physical realm. Thus the Christian when he or she serves God they serve Jesus in everyone they meet. The Christian meets Jesus literally in every human being, the good and the bad. Thus when Jesus is talking about nobody coming to the Father but by Him, He is not saying that people of other faiths do not come to God in their hearts. He is saying that without Him mankind cannot meet and serve Him in the physical realm by seeing Him in others.’ ‘I never thought about it like that,’ I said. ‘Then there is the problem about people who couldn't have heard of Jesus whether through geographic separation, or being born too soon,’ Ghandi declared. ‘Did God actually intend to cut off all humans who didn't or don’t have the chance to know Jesus? Did God intend that all the Muslims/Hindus/Buddhists/what-evers should be thrown into the pit, despite their proper observance of their honestly-held beliefs? No, other verses point out times when Godly men were taken away from this world without the benefit of Christianity like Elijah, pre-death, who had the Law, Enoch, pre-death, before the flood, and the Criminal on the Cross, post-death. God can welcome non Christians to heaven because he can do anything!’”

Not an eye left Joan as she spoke softly yet so profoundly.

“‘The statement about many rooms in heaven is quite clear,’ Mohamed explained. ‘It is in exact conformance to the teachings of the Qur'an. We are told how God sent messengers to all tribes and nations. We are told that the basic message which was given to each of these tribes was the same: ‘Worship God alone and worship none else.’ Some of the secondary details of this worship might differ from one tribe or nation to the next according to God's infinite wisdom and his knowledge of those people. It was made very clear to each prophet that he was not to preach to anyone but his own people. It was further made clear to this messenger's people that if they were to obey him that they would receive the reward of God. God would not hold them accountable for what any other tribe or nation did or did not do. This is exactly what Jesus is saying here. He said that in God's mansion there are "many" rooms. Jesus was sent to guide his followers to only one of them. The countless other rooms were reserved for other tribes and nations if they would obey their messengers. However, Jesus was telling his followers that they need not worry themselves about the other rooms. Anyone from among his people who wished to enter into the room which was reserved for them could only do so if they followed Jesus and obeyed his commands. So Jesus confirmed that he was going to prepare "a" mansion and not "all" the mansions in my Father's house.’ ‘That will take a lot of convincing,’ I sighed. ‘Religious people are stubborn.’ ‘They have always been stubborn,’ Isaiah declared. ‘I spoke about that over three thousand years ago.’”

Most of the listeners nodded at that.

“Much more was said,” Joan smiled with the look of one who has truly met God. “But the Last words spoken to me were by Michael when he told me, ‘When your body awakens, you will have a short time to get your message out. While God did not set up your situation or injuries, he has decided, with your cooperation, to use you as a prophetess. To make that possible, your body will have a miraculous recovery.’ What I just related may seem fantastic. But it is all true. I spent my out of body time learning from the great leaders and prophets from dozens of faiths and beliefs. They are ALL in Heaven. The only thing that disturbs their peaceful eternity is the hypocritical arrogance of those humans who have had their faith subsumed by religion. That is why they invested the time to explain the truths. So that I could return to tell the world. However, as Jesus explained in a parable, many will not listen. Luke 16: 19-31 reads: "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, "Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' He said, "Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' He said, "No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

“Well, I was pronounced dead for thirty five minutes and with the aid of angels revived. Then I died for 25 minutes and again with the aid of angels revived. So I HAVE risen from the dead twice! The next time I die, I will rise to my reward in Heaven. It was no accident that I returned to my body when I did. It is no accident that we hold this news conference now. Tomorrow is the day we remember those who have gone on to their final reward in the past year. Tonight is commonly known as Halloween. But for many centuries it was known as All Hallows Eve .. Or All Holy Eve... or by the early Christians as All Saints Eve. Ancient traditions hold the souls of those who did not make it to heaven tried to take revenge upon the living and the living dress in costumes to fool those tormented souls from finding their victims.”

“Well, John was my costume, my mask,” Joan continued. “From this day forward I am Joan and I will be true to myself. My life’s mission is to get people to love God and their neighbors. Remember, people do not die, they graduate... to heaven! Death in this life brings us to our final exam... Like God, I want everyone to pass! It doesn’t matter how you worship whatever you feel comfortable acknowledging as the Supreme Being or Entity. What’s important is that you worship and treat your neighbors with respect. God does not recognize labels, they are of human construct, not divine. It makes no difference if you’re Christian, Moslem, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Wiccan, male, female, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, black, brown, red, yellow or even purple; whether you’re a super-genius or an imbecile; whatever your race, creed or sexuality, God loves everyone!”



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