Excerpt from: Wickwire, The Long Journey Out: (written during the early 90’s)
Mom and pap occasionally took us to a little brown wooden church up at the top of a hill across from the two stone covered houses, when I was very small. I had heard the Bible story of the three men who were thrown into a furnace, and they walked around in the fire. Pap said, “If you tell lies, you’re gonna’ burn forever, for eternity, and never get out of the lake of fire.”
I tried to figure out how long eternity was, but that boggled my mind. He said it was “forever and ever and ever.” Somewhere near the little town of Thornton, or Newburg, W. Va., there was a constantly burning coal field. Somewhere, after we’d stop the pick-up truck, at the RR crossing in Irontown, to make sure no train was coming, and after the ol’ covered bridge, we’d come upon this pit. It smoldered and smoked and had pockets of red glowing fire, when seen at night. I remember seeing this ghastly scene from the back of the old pickup truck as we came home from Aunt Daisy’s or Aunt Lillian’s on Sunday evenings. Smoke rose up from this hellish place, and traces of a sulfur odor permeated the air. As we would visit relatives in the area, we would pass this “ever burning” scary place. I imagined that pap’s “Lake of Fire,” that he said was in the Bible, must be similar or maybe even worse than this place.
I began thinking a lot about this horrible punishment that everyone who told lies had to go through: I remember walking to and from the school bus, by myself, and contemplating an eternal future of burning in a lake of fire. I particularly thought about the hair on my head being burned off, and equated the feeling to the few times that I had been burned by accident at one of the stoves in the house. I knew that having real body hair (on arms and legs) was not safe. Hogs got it scraped off at butchering time, and chicken feathers burned, so human hair must burn, too.
The names, Shadrack, Mishack and Abendiggo (sp?) kept coming to my mind, and I thought, “if they could survive fire, in a fiery furnace, maybe I too could not have to suffer burning forever. This was the point in my life where I started playing in my own mind with dangerous concepts. I would imagine the three Hebrew children, walking around in a fire raging furnace. Pap said they walked on the coals and the flames didn’t hurt them. While only six years old on the little dirt road next to Wickwire creek. I would mumble the three Hebrew names over and over in a ritualistic way, as I walked away from the log house down at the curve. I started by saying out loud, “God, if you are real, please just move the white clouds.” I watched with excitement! The big, puffy white clouds would hang up there, and not move an inch.
Baby blue sky seemed to hold them right there, as still as could be. I think I really expected God to move the clouds so I would know He was real, and I would then be careful about lying, and everything else. I tried this for two or three days before upping the ante to scary higher stakes.
Next I said, “God if you are up there, make it thunder and lighting.” Nothing! Nothing happened! There were only big blue skies and white puffy clouds that didn’t seem to move an inch. Finally, the thought came into my head, and I made the ultimate challenge and took what seemed like a gigantic risk at the time.
I said, out loud, “God, if you’re real, and you are up there, strike me dead right here, now! I clinched my fists and squeezed my eyes shut, almost expecting revenge, or at least to be knocked to the dirt road. Nothing! I continued standing and breathing. I repeated the phrase, only this time I said, “I dare you, at the end of the phrase. Nothing!
A merciful God apparently does not take the life of a confused child, on demand. I didn’t know, as a six year old, that there really were doctrines handed down that stirred a universal power to put these kinds of thoughts in a little child’s mind. A decision was made on this day in my life, that there was no God, and that my pap had been saying this “lake of fire,” stuff, just to scare me into not lying. This began a pattern of lying to my Mom and Dad that would continue and escalate over time for the next 21 years. Not really lying, just withholding truth…. NHT
The scary, ‘hellfire and damnation message, has created massive fear in the hearts of all who hear this, ‘most tragic of Bibilical mis-interpretations,’ Being indoctrinated from birth, with this message, is a tough one to break out of. I am free! No more Lakes of Fire to concern myself with. I believe God is love. There is no, “Lake of Fire.” I love the spirit of my earthly Father and know that he meant no harm with the ‘Lake of Fire,’ warning….I am sure the scary message was handed down, in this maner, from each generation. I am totally grateful to my Pap for the experience and it’s impact on and in, my life. Finally, to end the ‘Challenging God,’ story, I know fully that there is a God, after many hard knock tests, and I have experienced this Indwelling powerful spirit and know it is God. God’s mind is our mind, if we so choose….Fear is the opposite of Faith! May we all release our personal, ‘Lakes of Fire,’ that perhaps still hide, inside, and step into a new Four Dimensional World of SPIRIT. Surrender is a major key…Constant gratitude…is a law! Pure, good, uplifting, positive, hopefilled, ‘for the greatest good of all,’ thoughts, hastens our experience of Heaven on Earth. Loving all living beings…. Noble Hartsell Turner