Joshua could feel the steam pressure building and the massive pistons pulsing. Then the shaft began turning, the wheels found traction, and the locomotive started to move. A thick, black smoke was belching from its stack, as the train pulled away from the station, passing by a water tower, where it had just been filled. As the train rounded a curve headed up Hills Creek, it passed an old shop, where locomotives were serviced and repaired, and on a sidetrack was a graveyard of antiquated but fascinating equipment.
Joshua thought, “I would give anything if Julie and little Josh were with me.” He had quit his job in a fit of anger and when the bills mounted, he bailed out on his wife and little boy. “What was I thinking?” he reasoned. “I wasn’t.”
It wasn’t the peak season for this scenic railroad ride and the only other person was at the back of the car. Joshua threw up his hand with a friendly gesture and spoke loudly over the clamoring locomotive. “First train ride, man?” The stranger replied. “No, I’ve taken this trip many times. How about you, Joshua?” “First time,” he answered. Then it dawned on him that the stranger called him by name. “Do I know you?” Joshua asked. “Not yet, but I knew you before you were in your mother’s womb,” the stranger replied.
A familiar voice spoke, “Mommy can daddy hear me?” “I’m sure he can,” the mom replied.
The pressure was building, and the locomotive was almost full steam as it continued its laborious journey up Lookout Mountain toward the two switchbacks. Joshua spoke with great anticipation, “We’re coming up on the first switchback.” The stranger responded,“ There are many mountains in life that you can’t climb on your own, but if you allow me, I will be the force behind you that will take you to the top.”
“Hold on Joshua,” the mom said.
There was a loud huff of the stack, the clanking of gears and pistons, and the furious scream of the whistle, as the train went through a crossing, and the ever present clackety-clack of the rails that indeed made you feel as if you were being transported back into time.
It occurred to Joshua that possibly this train ride was a dream and not real at all. He remembered he was on his way to pick up little Josh. Frantically he spoke, “Am I dead?” The stranger had moved closer and his very presence melted the anxiety that was making Joshua’s heart pound in rhythm to the locomotive. Then he spoke softly saying, “Joshua, you’ve always been dead, but I came that you might have life and that life more abundantly.”
“Mommy, daddy just moved,” the boy said. “Joshua, I’m here and always will be.” the mom replied.
The locomotive conquered the first grade and quickly ascended to the last switchback. Cinders were flying and the cool autumn wind was whirling through the car like a mini tornado in Kansas.
Joshua insisted, “Am I dead?” The stranger opened his arms and said, “I died for you, Joshua. If you believe in your heart and call upon my name, you will be saved and will never perish. Do you believe?” Joshua answered, Yes, Lord I believe.”
As the train ascended the final steep grade you could see Shepherd Station in the distance. “What now?” Joshua asked. “Your time isn’t up. Listen! And you will hear a voice behind you telling you what to do,” said the Lord.
He could feel someone holding his hand as he struggled to get his eyes opened. Then with blurry vision he saw Julie. “What happened?” he whispered. “You had a blowout and wrecked your car. Stay calm and I’ll get a nurse,” she said.
“Julie, I met this man,” he said. Julie turned as she was leaving to get a nurse and said, “I love you.”
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