Barney Schilling’s sweaty fingers slipped nervously across the laptop keyboard. He was getting excited again. It was a heady feeling that had been escaping him and, therefore, all the more to be savored.
“I was right. FACEBOOK became boring because it’s too easy. Now, this blogging scene—this is more challenging!”
Pushing his thick horn-rimmed glasses higher on the bridge of his knobby nose, Barney’s overall persona would have put a typical computer geek to shame. He had taken to the internet like a fly to a spider’s web as a young teen, and gradually delved into the seedier side of it. Although government restrictions had not targeted his questionable activities yet, he was careful to cover his hard-drive with encrypted, untraceable messaging.
Today, he would begin an online relationship with a grieving widow who was posting updates of her personal struggles on her blog. He was developing expertise to become whoever the blogger needed him to be. Slowly, she would be intrigued by his empathetic understanding of her loneliness. After all, he had been human-lonely for most of his life, replacing that void with cyberspace.
Eventually, he had gained access to Eliza’s financial information using a bogus e-mail address for more personal conversations early on. He didn’t feel guilty for fleecing her of some of her wealth—the old biddy had more than she knew what to do with, anyway.
“I’m not heartless. She has enough left to live in luxury.”
Barney drew the line, though, at taking advantage of children, and prided himself that he actively advocated and supported a teen surveillance safety council on secure blogging practices for those under the age of 21 . . .
What Barney didn’t expect was that he would himself get drawn into someone else’s blog drama in the process. He had been surfing the internet for vulnerable targets after the widow scam when he happened upon a blog written by a young mother giving daily updates of her ailing son’s fight to survive. A hit and run accident had left him paralyzed from the waist down. The boy was consequently becoming a computer whiz; which, naturally spiked Barney’s interest. He broke his rule about contact with children by submitting helpful comments on the blog for young Thad’s mother to pass on to him. She was so appreciative; he slowly became addicted to checking the blog for updates on the boy’s condition and progress.
As time went on, a strange and unfamiliar phenomenon developed in Barney’s heart. This mother’s strong faith in God permeated her entries. She was bound and determined that God had allowed, not caused, this travesty in her son’s life and consistently submitted Bible verses as evidence. This fascinated Barney.
“Can it really be that God is this personal—that He actually cares about an individual’s daily living?”
Having been an agnostic previously, he was impressed with the multiple comments by friends and family, and even strangers, who obviously believed He was. They were all so encouraging, so loving, so authentic!
Barney Schilling was restless. The thrill of the chase palled. He was dissatisfied with his life that contrasted so sharply against the serenity he saw portrayed through this stranger’s blog. One of the entires mentioned the particular church many of these people attended. With some simple research, he was surprised to find that it was not far from where he lived. It was not long before he decided to go himself to check it out.
Now, Mr. Schilling was accustomed to being ostracized. If anyone was a victim of profiling, he was the poster adult prize for it. His social skills were almost nonexistent and his appearance was often sloppy and outdated. But, from that initial Sunday at this little, insignificant church, he felt accepted for who he was. Oh, there were some stares and lifted eyebrows, sure; he was used to that. But there was no snubbing, no ignoring, no hands-over-the-mouth giggling at his expense. He had ventured into unfamiliar territory and he wasn’t sure what to make of it.
So, Barney kept going back to the church. His hardened heart softened as he experienced the genuineness and love of those around him. Eventually, he came to know God personally, spurring him to begin his own blog, chronicling his personal journey to God. He prayed that there would be another computer nerd out there who would be touched as he had been, and who would be changed by his testimony . . .
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