Lavi gazed into Jerusalem's starry sky. The moonlight glistened and pierced through the cracks in the slats of the shack where Lavi lived with his father.
An angry voice shot through the night. "Lavi, where's my supper?"
"Coming, Papa." Lavi felt his heart thumping hard beneath his shirt as fear sliced through him. "Papa, we had no food for me to cook?"
"Well, you should have gone out and stole some." The intoxicated father lunged toward his son and slapped him sharply across the face. "I wish you'd never been born!"
Lavi covered his swollen eye with his hand. "Papa, you don't mean it!"
"I mean every word! You have been nothing but trouble to me since the day you were born." Lavi's father stumbled and collapsed on a heap of blankets on the floor. Before he passed out, he growled, "You are always in the wrong place at the wrong time!"
Hot tears slipped down Lavi's cheeks. He clenched his tattered coat and huddled in a dark corner.
Early the next morning Mary admired the flowers in her father's garden. She smiled and waved at Lavi. As he came closer, she gasped, "Lavi, how did you get a black eye?"
"Oh, it's nothing." Lavi rubbed his bruised eye. "I just fell and bumped it."
"Oh, I'm sorry. It looks like it really hurts." Mary tugged on Lavi's sleeve. "Come and see Papa's roses. They will make you feel better. Papa always says, 'Life is like roses, full of beauty and full of thorns.'"
"My life is nothing but thorns!" Lavi let out a huge sigh.
"Lavi, I know who can help youJesus of Nazareth!" Mary's eyes snapped with excitement. She continued, "Papa says He has helped so many."
"No one can help me, Mary. I have never seen this Jesus, and if I did, He would never want anything to do with the likes of someone like me." Hunger pangs gnawed at Lavi's sunken stomach. "Mary, I'm going to town. Maybe I can pick up some scraps for tonight's supper."
The marketplace was buzzing with activity. Lavi eyed a table full of freshly baked bread. They won't miss just one loaf. When the merchant wasn't looking, Lavi inched his way toward the table and quickly stuffed a loaf in his pocket.
A scream pierced through the crowd. "Thief! Thief!"
Lavi bolted through the streets. A giant of a man tackled him. "Where do you think are you going?"
"Nnnnnowhere, I guess!" Lavi bit his trembling lip.
The man shot back, "Oh, you are going somewherestraight to the dungeon."
An elderly woman's shrill voice echoed, "That's the same fellow who stole my lamb."
An officer bellowed, "There's only one thing to do with thieves, they must be crucified."
The crowd chanted in unison. "Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!"
Lavi slumped to the ground.
Eeeekkkkk. Eeeekkkk. A mouse squeaked in the corner of the damp dungeon.
Lavi clutched the iron bars. Painful memories taunted him. "Oh, God of Abraham, everything in my life is so wrong. I was born to a man who doesn't want me. I've lived as a thief, and now I guess I will finish wrong, too. If You are there, please help me."
Lavi's prayer was interrupted by the sound familiar footsteps. "Mary, how did you know I was here?"
"Papa saw them arrest you. I've brought you something." Mary handed Lavi a hand-woven basket filled with beautiful roses and two loaves of bread. "Lavi, did you hear Jesus was arrested? They are crucifying him tomorrow."
Lavi shook his head. "What did He do?"
"Papa says Jesus is being falsely accused." Mary leaned forward. "Lavi, maybe He can help you."
Lavi waved his hand in the air. "Mary, how can He help me when He can't even help Himself?"
"I know He can help you, Lavi. Papa says He not only heals broken bodies, but He heals broken hearts, too." Mary slipped a single rose from the basket and placed it in Lavi's hand. "Jesus can give you beauty among thorns."
A guard rattled the prison bars. "Your time is up, Miss!"
"Lavi, you must promise me if you see Jesus you will speak to Him."
Lavi nodded. "I will, Mary. I promise."
Lavi moaned and writhed in pain as he hung on the cross. He heard the Man beside him cry out, "I thirst."
Lavi lifted his eyes and saw Jesus of Nazareth gazing back at him. Waves of love swept over the young man. His heart burned within his chest. When Lavi saw the crown of thorns on Jesus' head, he whimpered, "Beauty among thorns!"
Jesus cried out to Lavi, "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
"I will not end wrong" Lavi looked toward Heaven and triumphantly exclaimed, "Finally, I am in the right place at the right time!"
Dixie is a pastor's wife, ghostwriter, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of five "perfect" grandchildren. You can find out more about the ministry she and her husband are involved in at www.floydslighthouse.com. Guardian Angel Publishing has published 10 of Dixie's children's books.