The Twelve Pathways to Christmas, Chapter 7:  The Way of Warfare

(This is a reprint from a previous post and a chapter in my book The Twelve Pathways to Christmas. See below for how you can purchase the book and help support missions.)

December 23

The first thing Ryan Fisher felt when he awakened was an obnoxious cold wind, pelting his face with sleet.  The searing pain coursing down his legs and across his chest further aroused him.  Opening his eyes, he saw movement outside, but the angle of his SUV in the ditch made it difficult to tell what was happening.  One thing was sure – the distant siren and flashing lights were for him.

Another thing became certain pretty quickly.  Assuming he lived, Ryan Fisher would spend Christmas alone.  There’d be no plane to catch, and nobody boarding a plane back to Birmingham.  Not in this storm.

It was the end of the day from hell, punctuating the week from hell, capping off the year from hell.  And now, freezing and in shock, Ryan Fisher closed a mental door.  He was done.

Done with the polite impatience he felt from hearing what a gifted communicator he was, yet never seeing visible fruit from his ministry.

“Sir, can you hear me?”

Done with the barrage of bills from his son’s accident and his daughter’s surgery.

“What’s your name, sir?”

Done with the feuding and politicking that so characterized his dozen years of ministry.

“We need a gurney and help with the door over here!”

Done with the fishbowl existence, where everybody, it seemed, had an opinion, and the their only disagreement was over what he was most doing wrong.

“BP 108/74, pulse 94.  Multiple contusions, face and neck.  Watch out, there’s glass everywhere.”

Done with coming home to an unhappy wife, and tensing up every time the phone rang.

“Do you have any family you want us to call?”

Done with the wrangling that changed his Christmas plans – sending Tina and the kids to her mother’s house three days ago without him, with the plan to fly in later.

“Possible broken ribs and collarbone – sir if you can hear me, blink your eyes.  We’re gonna get you out of there and get some help.”

Done with anything that required talking.  Or believing.  Or even staying awake.

December 25

Ryan opened his eyes to a brightly-lit room in Medical Center East.  The fill-in-the-blanks whiteboard on the wall informed him that today was December 25.  The cards and flowers nearby suggested he’d been there for some time.  And the weather-faced toothy grin to his right made it clear, he was not alone.

“Bout time you woke up,” said the strange man.  “Merry Christmas!”

Ryan mumbled a hoarse reply.  But he was no more in a talking mood now than night before last.  Breathing hurt, and he appeared to have had surgery on a broken left leg.

“If you don’t mind me sayin’, you look awful,” the roommate said.

Ryan, still trying to regain his wits, wondered what he could possibly mean.  Or, for that matter, who on earth he was.  And why, for God’s sake, he didn’t have a private room.

“Bert’s my name,” the stranger said, as if reading Ryan’s mind.  “I came in just before the blizzard hit.”

Seeing that Ryan was looking around, trying to get up, Bert cautioned, “No, my friend, you’d better stay right there.  What’s pretty can’t move, and what’s moveable is pretty ugly.”

Ryan rested – this man who made his living with words still having nothing to say.  His swollen face made it hard to move his mouth anyway.  Reaching toward a hand mirror on the sink near his bed, he eyed Bert, who again seemed to read his mind.

“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he said jovially.

What Ryan saw frightened him.  A stitched gash extended down his jaw line, sure to leave an ugly scar from a huge shard of imbedded glass.  His swollen face looked like frozen chronic pain.  The scratches, smaller stitches, and another massive set of stitches above his right eye only served to put an exclamation point to a failed life and ministry.

“So I hear you’re a preacher?” Bert offered, as Ryan returned the mirror, nodding.  “Heard you were takin’ food and gifts to a family in Clay?”

“Near there,” Ryan said blandly.  “Cedar Mountain Road.”

“Hard driving there in sunshine,” said Bert, “much less on ice at night.”

Ryan lay silently, wishing the man would go away, but more afraid the silence would only make his pain more excruciating.

“You remind me of a guy I knew a while back,” Bert was saying.  “Worked with him during the Invasion.”

The last thing Ryan wanted to hear was stories from Normandy or whatever bloodbath Bert was talking about.  Didn’t matter.  Bert continued:

“The Commander gave the order and we moved in with lots of fanfare.  Victory shouts and all that.  While the largest part of the army was preparing an all-out invasion, my unit was dispatched for a special clandestine mission.  It was a search-and-rescue for a family about five miles south of the main action.  Apparently the enemy was hell-bent to kill ‘em all.”

“The fighting eventually pressed south to our location.  Some of the fiercest engagement I’ve ever seen.  No matter how many casualties we inflicted, they kept coming.  And they weren’t taking any prisoners!”

“We got the family out in time.  Our unit had to provide protection, secure food and provisions, and lead them to a secure location.  All the while, we never could let ‘em see us anxious or afraid in any way.  It was a peace mission, amidst the mother of all battles.  If ever I’ve seen the Lord’s glorious presence with us, it was then.”

Ryan heard the words, but his heart had returned to the zone of self-pity.  What did this codger know of God’s glory?  For that matter, what did Ryan know?  All he knew was the part about the battle; he’d faced it from all sides for years.  And now, separated from family, badly injured because he was serving God by serving the poor?  And permanently scarred to boot?  This was how God treated servant/soldiers?

Ryan lacked the energy to wipe the angry tears flowing sideways down his head. Lost in thought, he finally realized Bert had stopped talking and had sat up on the side of his bed, gazing intently his way.

“You remind me so much of that daddy,” he said softly.  Pretty beat up.  His whole world turned upside-down.  Didn’t know how to show his wife he loved her.  I had to remind him three times – get moving.  It’s all part of a bigger plan.”

“So are you, Joseph Ryan Fisher – child of the Most-high God,” Bert said with a twinkle in his eye.

“Just need to sleep,” Ryan said dispassionately as he closed his eyes.  The last thing he wanted on Christmas day was a sermon about God’s bigger plan.

Wondering how Bert knew his name, Ryan drifted off to sleep.  The last thing he heard before losing consciousness was a group of carolers singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and Bert muttering, “I hate that song.”

December 26

The bright morning sun again awoke Ryan Fisher, Room 434.  He sat up and peered at the cheery whiteboard which proclaimed, “December 26.”  Glancing to his right, Ryan saw that the curtain had been drawn between the two beds.

“Probably talked himself to sleep,” Ryan chuckled to himself, just as Minnie Waldrop breezed in to check his vital signs.

“Happy Day-after Christmas, Joseph,” Minnie said.  “Wanna see what a foot of Alabama snow looks like?”

Without waiting for an answer, Minnie opened the curtain to reveal a stunning winter view of east Birmingham – and an empty bed beside him.

“Where’s Bert?” Ryan asked, fearing his roommate had died in the night.

“Who’s Bert?”

“The guy who was here yesterday,” Ryan said, his bruised face smarting.

“Mr. Fisher, we haven’t had anyone else in this room for days,” she said.  “And nobody’s getting in because of the weather.”

Adding “crazy” to his list of feelings, Ryan stared in disbelief.  Those must have been stout pain killers!  Even if hallucinatory, Ryan missed his motor-mouthed roommate.

Minnie was about to leave when she noticed an envelope on the edge of the sink, atop the hand mirror.

“Oh,” she said, “somebody left you a Christmas card.”

Minnie tore open the envelope and handed it to Ryan as she left the room.  Inside was an elegantly-simple folded card that read “Merry Christmas” in gold-embossed lettering.  Opening the card, Ryan was stunned to read:

Dear Ryan,

Thought you should know, the big shard of glass was aimed at your throat, and the smaller one was aimed at your eye.  We’re fighting for you, my anointed friend… just as we fought for the Anointed One two thousand years ago at the Invasion. Your Father wanted you to know that He sees your scars – all of them.  That’s why we invaded.

Now pick up the phone and tell your little girl that her daddy is going to live… abundantly.

Your friend,


As if on magical cue, the phone next to Ryan’s bed rang, and for the first time in months, Ryan felt his heart coming to life as he heard Tina’s voice.

“Marianna wants to tell you something,” she said in relieved tears.

“Daddy?” the four-year-old said.

“Hey Baby,” Ryan whispered, tears flowing.

“Daddy, guess what?  I saw an angel last night!”

“Really?  Me too!  What did your angel do?”

“He told me you were gonna be okay.  What did yours do, Daddy?”

“He fought for me, Baby.  And I am gonna be just fine.”


Merry Christmas friends! Please consider helping me support missions by purchasing the Kindle version of The Twelve Pathways to Christmas for only $2.99. All profits go to support LifeVesting International.  Click here for the link.

Martha Orlando December 15, 2017 at 11:04 am

This reminds me how much I enjoyed reading your book, Andy! Maybe it’s time for a reread.
Merry Christmas!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Joyful! Joyful!

Terri Engdahl December 15, 2017 at 11:34 am

thank you, Andy 🙂
peace and blessings!

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