SAGA OF DARKNESS VISION OF LIGHT
Chapter One - New Beginnings
by Dennis R. Cook
It was an early Spring Sunday morning. The Palo
Alto air was crisp, the sky blue. I found myself
awaiting Reverend White's sermon, entitled, "Adam's Last
Chance." There I was, a Duke University Theology
Graduate, working as an executive for a Japanese
corporate giant, sitting in church making every effort
to imagine what Reverend White's sermon was going to be
about. After all, hadn’t I been a Divinity
student' Never mind the fact that Duke was also known
for its research in Parapsychology, and its basketball,
but not necessarily in that order, I had other things on
I felt like such a
charlatan. I had been given all the tools for the
ministry anyone could dream of. I had the finest
training in Theology money could buy, and I wasn't using
the talent or the education. I was too busy making
Now don't misread me. I
don't believe there is anything wrong with money.., just
that when you find yourself obsessed with the mind of
God on matters, serving Him should be the only thing
Instead of thinking about my job
evenings, I would lie awake and prepare sermons in my
head. How ridiculous! And there I was on a
Sunday morning just reveling in Reverend White's sermon,
loving every minute of it, and the good reverend hadn't
even approached the pulpit.
Honestly, I didn't wake from my
daydream that Sunday until the sweet little lady sitting
next to me in the pew stood with the rest of the
congregation and began the praise portion of the
service. That's when I realized I had missed all
of Reverend White's sermon.
I was embarrassed! I had
drifted off again...
Not even the newness of our
recently completed worship center, with its lavish rock
gardens and fountains set beneath cedar pews could hold
my attention. T’was said, when one was in my
condition, that he was too heavenly minded to do any
earthly good. The shimmering glass that composed
the exterior of the setting, although transparent,
seemed to mock my ineffectiveness as a Christian.
I felt so alone.
I balked when Reverend White
shook my hand after church. I realized that I
didn't know the man. Was he my Christian brother'
What did his warm smile and handshake really mean'
Why did I feel such a disassociation with the man'
Where was the inter‑ connectedness that was supposed to
bind me to him' It was time I found out.
I recoiled at the touch of the
door handle to my silver BMW in the church parking lot.
It struck me that its gleaming metal flake exterior
exuded the glory of humanity. The soft, black,
leather seats declared the heart. Why did I feel
that I had to define myself, as Solomon would have said,
with monuments to vanity'
My shoulders slumped as I
opened the door to my spacious, lavishly decorated home.
My home was my villa, my chalet. It was everything
I wanted from life, it seemed. And a stately
manor it was. Palm trees lined a semi‑circle
drive. A split-level design opened to a patio and
pool overlooking mountainside greenery which overflowed
into the country meadow below. I had refused
marriage several times in order to preserve my childless
Yuppie lifestyle. It was starting to eat away at
my gut. Know what I mean'
The spirit really had me under
conviction. I was a mess, a complete contradiction
of terms. I could flow in the spirit like a bird
floating off a mountain top in a stream of pure air.
I could pray in the spirit for hours and praise God
until I thought I would melt away. But I could be
so carnal in respect to worldly things it turned my
stomach. I was a complete contradiction of terms;
flesh against the spirit I suppose; immaturity;
That's why, when Reverend White
knocked on my door that same Sunday afternoon I was
shocked! The reverend needed help and had come to me for
advice. He appeared terribly upset and wouldn't
even sit down when I offered him a chair.
"I know you're surprised to see
me, Joseph," Reverend White began, "but I've always
thought of you as an honest Christian with his feet on
“Amazing how wealth can
deceive,” I thought.
Reverend White was a tall, thin
man, in his late forties with some graying hair.
His eyes didn't betray years of stress, however, and I
sensed it was rather unusual for the man to face a
situation that unnerved him.
"I do the best I can," I
assured the reverend, turning my head so he couldn’t see
the guilt in my eyes. "What can I do for you'"
"Show me," was the reverend's
reply, pacing while it seemed he was trying to form the
right words. "Show me how I am supposed to compete with
this,” he said, releasing his fingers to expose a rather
striking red crystal.
The reverend’s anxiety
perplexed me. I knew what the stone was and what
it stood for in New Age circles, but I failed to
understand why the gentleman felt I could help him
compete against a New Age talisman, if that is what it
"Before I answer your question,
Reverend… if you do not mind my asking, why have you
chosen me to help you' Surely there are several
ministers in the area who are imminently more qualified
to give information about that crystal than I am."
"Hardly," the minister scoffed.
"You are the only graduate of a school famed for its
paranormal investigations that I know of in the area.
With one exception, of course, that being that radical
Steven I seldom see at church anymore."
I was going to suggest he check with the witch covens in
the bay area, but realized he might take offense if I
made light of...what seemed to him, at any rate, a
“There really isn't much I can tell you about the
crystal phenomenon that might relate to your question.
"Crystals are supposed to focus psychic energies.
New Agers use crystals to channel spirit guides, read
moods, gain wisdom, and heal. I still don't know
how to answer your question, though, what do you mean,
how are you supposed to compete'"
"I don't know," he began. "Perhaps I shouldn't
have come. Maybe it's nothing, you know.
Maybe it's burn out. I'm tired of competing.
Christianity seemed so simple twenty years ago when I
began the ministry. Now there's a new religion on
every block and a new revelation every week. Half
of them are pounding on church doors trying to gain
acceptance. Some of them are getting in, and it's
becoming harder all of the time to keep them out.
Frankly, I don't know where to draw the line anymore.
If we let them in the church as they are we violate the
integrity of scripture. If we don't let them in
we're criticized for either being too conservative or
too intolerant. Quite a few of our youth
ultimately wander off because they sense our confusion.
If we don't know what is true, why should young people
bother to listen to us'"
"I know it's a very serious situation you're confronted
with," I interrupted, trying to be comforting.
"Where did you find the crystal' And why is it
upsetting you so much' I mean, can’t you just think of
it as a rock and forget about it'"
“No, I can’t. Truth is paramount in my book.
If I stop loving the truth I am finished as a man of
God. Although at this point I am not sure that I want to
continue. Anyway, not to digress, I found it under
my podium after church.
"What preceded was uncanny. I had a vision. A spirit
appeared and pointed to the base of my podium and then
"This was his second appearance. Both times that
he has appeared I have been so shaken by the event that
my mind has failed me! Joseph, we are not trained
to understand this type of phenomena in divinity school!
Reverend White continued pacing, pausing briefly to
glance at the purported talisman, then heavenward.
“I forced myself to look under the podium. This crystal
is what I found. What does it mean' I need
to know! Would that I had prayed more earnestly
for the spirit of wisdom and knowledge!"
"I'm not sure," I balked, "but I know someone that might
be able to help us if you have the time."
Reverend White hesitated, a look of consternation on his
"A wise man has many counselors," I chided.
"I'll make the time. There has to be a reason for
all this madness. Someone must have the answer."
"Well, then let's go," I said, perhaps naively. It never
crossed my mind that a real adventure was soon to begin.
I didn't reveal our destination to Reverend White. I
hated to traumatize him further. I only had one choice.
And I hoped the good reverend would see fit to forgive
me. After all, if one of his exalted elders could
have helped him with their vast spiritual knowledge, he
wouldn't have come to me. He needed an answer and
I knew where to get it.
I hadn't seen Steven for a few
months, but I had known him for years. We had met
during our graduate studies at Duke University.
How we had managed to settle in the same California
community had always perplexed me. I was there for
the big bucks. But Steven' I had to assume
the Spirit had led him to the bay area. The only reason
I knew he was back in Palo Alto was his phone call the
God only knew what Steven had
been up to, but he said he needed to see me. He
wanted to talk about spiritual visions, voices, demons,
and capturing faith. At that time I had no idea
what he meant by the words, capturing faith. As
well, visions, voices, and demons engendered some
consternation within me. Those thoughts had
quickly passed. But with the arrival of Reverend
White, and a moment to reflect as we drove, I couldn’t
help wonder if there wasn’t some damning connection
between the two.
Steven was a brilliant
Christian, albeit, with a somewhat abrasive personality.
I didn't know anyone he didn't rub the wrong way.
I was the exception. He had the knack for making
the most religious authority figure feel spiritually
challenged. Their handicap, he would argue with
them, was not in their lack of knowledge, but rather in
their lack of faith. He didn't mind letting
seminary professors, (Steven called them cemetery
professors), and church elders, who he argued, had
gained their spiritual authority by secular means, know
that he wasn't fooled by their false piety. He
suspected the very objective of each was to advance his
own cause, not the cause of Christianity, to act as cock
of the walk and sit in the chief seat.
Steven was peculiar in many
ways. He fiercely scorned spiritual
superficiality, or liberality if you will. The few
times we had class together at Duke were a riot.
Anytime there was the faintest hint that someone was
questioning the integrity of scripture, Steven would
attack. Sometimes he would seem to preach for an
Our classmates knew in short that Steven
stood for the truth. His typical oration went
something like this: "I'm not fooled by modern
attempts to attain salvation for mankind through the
science of invention or the beacon of education.
I'm not ingratiated by the power of advancing knowledge.
Knowledge does not dissuade me from believing the words
of God. I believe that God heals by the laying on
of hands. I'm not afraid to confess I'm blessed by
the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus...I'm not
afraid to declare Jesus Christ is my Lord. I don't
place my faith in the science of invention or the beacon
of education. I place my faith in God."
I worried that Reverend White
would be afraid of Steven, but I liked Steven because he
believed he led the life of a true apostle. Steven
was bold, defiant, rebellious; a defender of the Truth
against all odds; a risk taker, always ready to storm
the gates of hell. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have
loved him. Martin Luther would have saluted him.
The sons of thunder would have adored him.
Saint Peter wouldn't have loved him, but he would have
liked him a lot...Ha!
As we neared Steven’s house,
the sky had darkened somewhat. A light, spring-like
breeze was blowing, and it had started to rain a little.
We turned into Steven's driveway.
Reverend White's complexion
paled as he recognized Steven's old beat up 4X4.
He bristled as if to object, but it was too late for
Steven was standing on the
porch of his small brownstone cottage. The cottage
wasn't anything to get puffed up about, but its
quaintness could have been enhanced by yard work such as
hedge and rose bush trimming. Didn't figure that
kind of work mattered much to Steven, though. The
man didn't need the definition of apparent wealth.
Allegiance to material wealth was my problem.
Steven had something deeper, and he was distinguished by
that, but not only that.
He also impressed with his
stature. Not that six feet three inches was that
tall, but his piercing blue eyes made him appear
perceptive beyond his forty years. And one was, again I
say, at once, struck by the depth of the man's
character. The river ran slow, as the saying goes,
but it ran deep.
Steven greeted us cheerfully,
then politely led us down a narrow hallway to his den. A
lively Christian melody filled the air. The smart
sounds seemed to emanate from either bedroom or kitchen,
I couldn't be sure, but while tuning in, my sense of
smell brought me up short. Either Steven had a
female companion, or Georgio was making air freshener.
A disheveled pile of newspapers
occupied the couch where I assumed the good Reverend and
I were to be seated.
Steven sensed my indecision.
"Make yourselves at home,
gentlemen. Toss those papers on the floor and make
yourselves comfortable. I've been catching up on
basketball scores and game highlights of the past few
weeks. Haven't had the time on the reservation."
"Oh, what reservation were you
on'" Reverend White asked, eager to break the ice.
"I've been working north of
Gallup in the New Mexico section of the Navajo
Reservation," Steven said.
"I bet that has been
interesting," Reverend White said. "What work have
you been doing'"
"Well, I like to think of it as
voluntary missions work. I'm helping an elderly
Navajo build up his church. You know the
Navajo,... a fascinating people."
"You will have to tell me all
about your experiences out there some time.
Perhaps you could even share them with our congregation
some evening," Reverend White said.
"I'd like that very much,"
Steven said, "but, I'm afraid it will have to be another
time. I am only going to be here a few more days."
"Another time, then," Reverend
I could tell by the glint in
the good reverend’s eye that he was pleased to have sewn
a good seed with Steven.
Steven changed the subject.
"Joseph, how about those Duke
Blue Devils' Looks like they might be in the
championship game of the NCAA tournament again this
"I wouldn't be surprised," I
said. "I caught their game last week on CBS.
Berringer had thirty points. That guy has been
unconscious the past month."
“Ya’, he has been tough to say
the least. Hope he keeps it together against
“Me too,” I said.
"Well," Steven sighed, leaning
forward, "what's on your mind' I know you didn't
drive all the way over here to talk basketball."
Reverend White didn’t waste
time or words. He stood and reached deep into a
pants pocket to retrieve the crystal he had shown me
"I found this stone underneath
my podium this morning. I'm afraid it represents
something I've been worrying about for a long time."
"And that is'" Steven said,
locking eyes with the good reverend as the gem exchanged
I've had a vision the last two Sunday's
during church," the Reverend said. "Each time, a
spirit being has appeared before me and pointed toward
the bottom of my pulpit. I hate to admit it, but
it hadn't dawned on me until this morning to look
underneath the thing. Anyway, that gemstone is
what I found. I am afraid my church is under siege
by New Agers, a witch coven, or something."
Reverend White paused,
reflected a moment, then continued. "Steven, I
would like your opinion. What do you think is
Steven held the crystal to the
"Wow," Steven said with
youthful childlike exuberance, "have you looked at this
under the light' It's brilliant!"
"Why no," the good Reverend
said. "May I'"
"Certainly," Steven said,
moving aside so Reverend White could take full advantage
of the light.
It does have a remarkable brilliance to
it, doesn't it' Here, Joseph, take a look at the
fire in this stone.
I couldn’t find any flaws in
the gem. And the fire...it burned in my heart. I
knew immediately that the Spirit of God was there in our
midst. That crystal was a gift of some sort, I
I returned the gem to Reverend
White and awaited Steven’s analysis with much more
"I do not believe your problem
is as serious as you might think," Steven said, smiling.
"I do have some thoughts on the matter...., let's
see..., where to begin.. Oh yes, I see. Number
one,...umm...angels must have permission from our
Heavenly Father before they can speak to us. That
leads me to believe the interpretation of the vision has
already been given to you. Number two has to do
with you, Reverend White...have you been thinking about
leaving the ministry'"
"Well, eh, yes," Reverend White
said, caught off guard by Steven's keen intuitive
ability. "But how could you have known'"
"Relax, Reverend. I'm coming to
that. You see, I'm not thrilled with the state of
religious life in America either, and I suspect your
fear of New Agers and the like has caused you to stumble
upon some very important truths here. For example,
the stone...I'd say a jeweler will appraise its value at
several thousand dollars."
"That much'" Reverend White said. "But why would
someone place such a valuable jewel under my podium'"
"My guess is someone placed that gemstone under your
podium in faith, desiring their gift to the church to
remain anonymous. You know, that is the real way
we are supposed to give. Don't let the left hand
see what the right hand is doing, as they say."
"So, it's just a gift and I have nothing to worry about'
What a relief! Thank you Jesus for restoring my faith!”
"Well, wait just a minute, Reverend," Steven
There's Steven again, I thought, showing little tact.
"Reverend, I see three other things that might add quite
a bit to your understanding.”
“Oh'” The good reverend
said, seeming surprised he might need to know more.
"One, God wanted you to find
the gemstone. Two, because the gem was beneath
your podium, God is reminding you that you are to make
your living there. And three, you were granted the
vision in order to encourage you to stay in the
ministry. Despite all the confusion you perceive
in your role as a minister, you know only good can come
if you persevere."
"Remarkable," the good reverend
said. " Steven, you were the last person I would
have conferred with about this matter. You are a
hard one to get to know.
Joseph, thank you so very much
for bringing me over here. Now I understand why
you and Steven are such good friends.
Steven, I apologize for not
taking the time to get to know you better."
"Apology accepted," Steven
said, smiling, then turned toward me.
"Joseph, I believe you are here
for a reason as well. You know you aren't exactly
honoring your call to the ministry. What say you
clean out your desk at Mammoto Corporation and join me
in New Mexico'"
"Whoa! Hold on Steven," I
balked. "People just do not give up high paying
careers at the drop of a hat."
They do if they have the call of God on their lives.
Joseph, I've known you for a long time. By now the
Lord's hand has to be so heavy on you, you probably lie
awake at night preparing sermons in your head."
He had me!
"Listen, Steven," I said, "I have 90 days vacation
coming which I'm entitled to take all at once. I
haven't had a vacation in four or five years. The
people at Mammoto would probably be happy to get rid of
me for a while, but I'm not making any promises."
"Fair enough," Steven said. "I'll see you
tomorrow. Oh, by the way...I have a tape that I
want you to listen to. See if you can find the
time to squeeze it in before you get here."
"Do my best," I said, as Steven escorted us to the door.
Reverend White appeared tense. I knew it was
because the past few weeks had been tough on his psyche,
and his nerves were frazzled from lack of sleep most
I wondered if he knew a jeweler
he could see on Sunday afternoon. The money from
that gem would calm my nerves. Ha!
As we drove over the rain
washed avenues, Reverend White couldn't say enough nice
things about Steven. “Awesome God,” I thought, as
I pondered the miracle of Steven’s newfound