A Modern – Yet Very Old Tale

    How did I ever get to this point?”  She wondered as she stood there shivering, trying to inconspicuously pull up the strap of her shift, which had fallen off her left shoulder.  she shivered, scantily clad, not having been given the opportunity to put on a robe or cover herself with something of substance.  Never before had she been more aware of her life situation. Her gaze was downward, she didn’t need to lift her eyes to see the accusing and angry eyes blazing over her. The men surrounded her, poised to throw the stones they held in their hands.  Their aim directed at their target, which in this case was her.

It would be over soon.  She prayed that when the first stone was thrown, that it would hit her directly in the temple and knock her out, or quickly kill her.  She knew that she deserved what was coming, and received their judgment as justified.  She dare not lift up her eyes, for fear accusation would show in her own eyes for those who she knew had secretly partaken with other women for the same reason she stood before them now.  It was not her place to accuse, her own sins were boldly before her.  

Although she wouldn’t look up, she did allow herself  a quick glance sideways at the man she had been found with. He stood way off to the distance clearly begging his wife for forgiveness, promising her anything to come back into her good graces.  She knew this because he was actually groveling at his wife’s feet, his wife’s arms crossed against her chest, listening to his ridiculous pleas and promises with disdain.  Would his wife forgive him? Probably.  It was hard to believe that this was the same man who had sworn she was his “one true love” the “only one who ever understood him, believed in him or had accepted him for who he truly was.”  Yet was he there standing beside her?  Was he there defending her? Was he even willing to be stoned alongside her? NO. Fool she was for ever having believed him. Loved him. Now here she stood, her life on the line.  It was taking forever for this circle of men to kill her, couldn’t they just do it and be done with it?! Not one of them could hold as much disdain for her as she did for herself.  Would that she could throw the first stone at her own head.

“How did I get to this point?”  She wondered.  “How did I allow myself to participate in something I knew was wrong?”  As she stood there, waiting for the first stone to be thrown, she thought about her life. Ironically, the one thing she had sworn she would never do. She had done.  Her father had left her mother for another woman, and she had seen from first hand experience as a child the unhappiness that action had wrought.  She had sworn she would not become like him.  She had hated him with a white hot searing hate, yet, here she stood. She had gone against all that she had known was right – how? Why and when?  She had been a good faithful girl all her life.  Never in her wildest dreams had she ever imagined that here she would stand.  Ostracized, forsaken, guilty, alone and about to be stoned.  Still she waited.  It was taking forever.  There was a man, dressed in white addressing the men holding the stones.  He had their undivided attention, which for the moment was off of her.  She could run.  She wouldn’t get very far, she knew – but she could run.  But she didn’t.  She didn’t because she knew she deserved what was coming to her.

Why had she done it? The relentless question in her head tortured her worse than any stone throw could. WHY?  And then the answer came to her.  Really, it was nothing but a flimsy excuse. But it was the truth.  She had wanted to disappear, to go away.  She had wanted to forget,to lose herself… She hadn’t been able to deal with the issues occurring in her life, life had not turning out the way she had expected it to and it made no sense to her,  1+1 was supposed to = 2.   But it hadn’t.  So she disappeared into a life she believed was real. She had gotten lost in a lifestyle she had been convinced was real life.  Somewhere along the line the lines of reality and fantasy had become blurred and with it the ability to see things as they truly were. Any time reality would knock upon her door, she had become angry with it. She had denied it! “We shared a tent! We shared a love! We shared a life! He was mine! I was his!” No, she wouldn’t go back.  It hadn’t helped that her co-sinner had agreed and shared and encouraged her with selfish lies, love filled promises he had never truly intended to keep. She wouldn’t look at him again.  The truth had hit her squarely in the head, he had never truly been hers in the first place and she had sinned against God, she knew the consequences. It wouldn’t matter now, she’d be dead shortly.

“Oh why was it taking so long?!” She bit her lip in frustration, wanting to scream. “DO IT! THROW IT! I SINNED! I AM GUILTY.  YOUR JUDGMENT IS JUST!”  Yet she stood still, knowing it wasn’t her place to do anything than stand there allowing goose bumps to form on her body.  How could she be so cold when her heart was racing so fast?

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  Now what do you say?”

Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.

She had heard of this Jesus.  This man robed in white.  What was he writing? She strained her eyes to see, but she couldn’t tell.  

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw the stone at her.”  Again Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time.  The older ones first, until only Jesus was left.

She couldn’t believe it, they were throwing their stones – down on the ground, not at her.  Her jaw dropped in surprise.  Though still she stood.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one sir,” she responded softly.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.  “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

(*Italic bold print taken from John 8:3-11)

I wish the Bible said more as to what happened to that woman.  How she moved forward with her life.  My hope is that when confronted with her lifestyle and when her eyes opened to show her how her life had been, that she chose to follow Jesus.  He was probably the first man to ever show her love. Yes, my hope is that she ran back to her tent, dressed quickly, grabbed a shawl and followed Jesus for the remaining days of His ministry (or her life).  She was a prodigal, as is anyone who chooses to go down a sinful pathway.  Perhaps she encountered others who had fallen as she had and was able to grow into a strong woman of God and extend the right hand of fellowship to young women and keep them from falling in the way she had.  Perhaps she found her own self worth because of the love, forgiveness and grace shown to her by Jesus.  More than likely her biggest accuser was her own self (which is often the case with ex-prodigals, no matter the sin).  But Jesus encouraged her to go forward, clearly we will not know the ending of her story until we are on the other side – but there is one thing that is clear.  Our God is a God of second chances.  Our God is a God of grace, and forgiveness and love and mercy.  The Bible tells us:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

No matter what your sin has been (or is) Jesus died for you. His words are the same today as they were yesterday, “Go now, and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11).  It doesn’t matter WHAT that sin is – listen to Him.  Heed Him, the life He has for you is so much better than any life you could choose for yourself.  You just have to believe it.  As an ex-prodigal, myself I can tell you that the hardest part is the aftermath, the forgiving yourself and the moving forward.  As I wrote in a prior post, any ex-prodigal is in good company, for the Bible is filled with them:

Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer

Rahab was a prostitute 
David had an affair and was a murderer 
Elijah was suicidal 
Isaiah preached naked 
Jonah ran from God 
Naomi was a widow 
Job went bankrupt 
Peter denied Christ 
The Disciples fell asleep while praying 
Martha worried about everything 
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once 

Zaccheus was too small 
Paul was too religious 
Timothy had an ulcer..

AND Lazarus was dead!
(*Taken from rapturenotes.com)

What are (or were) YOU?  God’s grace, forgiveness, mercy and love can take the worst of us and allow us to use our “mess” for a message and use it for His glory, now that is what I call – a Happy Ending… Or maybe, better yet – A new beginning? You decide…

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The Pathway (Part II) – The Way Home

 
Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart, lean not to your own understanding, in ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path. (Proverbs 3:5)


Walking along the road of life enjoying the warm sunshine on my back, whistling a joyous tune and carrying my rule book in my left hand, not a worry in my head, I encountered a sign mid –course in my journey:

 “CAUTION: DO NOT CROSS, DETOUR TURN RIGHT.”

Scratching my head, I looked around.  No one else was on this way for me to converse; I did not see any difference between the land I was currently following and the land to the right.  Why could I not journey forward? What harm would be done?  There was nothing that raised concern within me; clearly the sign must have been put there in error.  Tentatively I touched my toe to the grassy green ground in front of me, just as I thought it was springy and stable, crouching down I sniffed and touched a tuft of grass, nothing odiferous, in fact it smelled the sweetest scent of  green sun touched grass.  I stretched my neck to look as far yonder as I could, a beautiful clear blue horizon, billowy clouds, tall green grass, in fact as I inspected the grass I noticed a little red and black spotted lady bug perched on the edge of a green blade studying me as I studied her. 

“Don’t do it!” She said shaking a tiny little lady bug finger at me, speaking in a small little voice that I had to lean over with to hear clearly.  “Listen to the sign.  This pathway may look enticing and wonderful with its deep blue sky and ample walk way, but don’t do it.  For it will deceive you, lie to you, make you promises  it will never keep, use you and lead you down a way you never should go it knows nothing but deception and is full of self with no consideration to the feelings and heart of the traveler who travels its length. It will take and take and take from you, suck your feelings dry until you have nothing left to give.  It does not know how to think of anyone but its own needs and its own self.  It is a pathway of deception. Don’t be fooled by its outward beauty.  If you saw it with the eyes of truth you would see it as it really is – empty, broken, dark with nothing to offer any traveler, for it can’t even make its own path straight. Follow the right way to go, the one written in that rule book you carry.” She motioned her little hand at my book.  “This one is nothing but a mirage of lies that does not know how to tell its traveler the truth.  It gives you a pipe dream and just when you have travelled deep within its path it will shatter you into a million tiny little pieces without thinking twice. Its only full of self, and never gives thought to anything else but the way it wants to go. The sign is there for a reason. Heed it beautiful traveler of light.”  She fluttered her wings at me and looked up at me with her little face.

I Laughed in delight.  “Oh silly little ladybug, you act as if it were a wayward man.  It is but a beautiful, sweet, darling pathway!  Like none I’ve ever known.  What stories you tell!” Then I whispered to her, “Lady bug, lady bug fly away home…”  The lady bug looked at me a moment with a shake of her head and a shrug of her red and black dotted shoulders, “I tried to warn you, but you will do as you will.  You will come to regret it and my words will come back to you someday.”  She flew off into the sky.

I looked at the pathway to see if I could see what she saw and again was tempted by its enticing land.  I let my back pack fall to the ground so that I could tuck my rule book safely within the confines of the bag and decided that while I was at it, I would kick off my shoes and place them in my bag as well.  I wanted to feel the soft, springy cool grass against the soles of my feet as I went forward on my journey, my mind made up.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. An exquisite day, birds singing, sun shining and all was right with the world.  “A caution sign.” I scoffed, “Absolutely ludicrous.” 

The scent of honeysuckle permeated the air and my heart delighted at the lovely little fragrant blossoms that clumped sporadically here and there. 

“Come walk my length,” the pathway beckoned.  “I promise you, I will show you beauty you have never encountered.  We will walk this journey together, you and I forever.   I will take you places where history has occurred and we will enjoy going back in time and learning of its people.  I will never leave you.  I will show you love, satisfaction and true contentment.  Palm to palm I will never deceive you or let you go.  I promise… Come beautiful traveler, we were meant to be together – travel my way, there is much to be seen and we will journey together.”  It beckoned to me like an invitation from a lover.  I was captivated, I believed it, I wanted it, there was no way I would go any other way, except the way this path beckoned.   I followed it a ways, stopping at one point to lie down on my back on the sweet fragrant green grass and breathe in the intoxicating scent.  Stretching out my arms luxuriously behind my head to feel the cool smooth grass against my palms and stare up at the clear blue sky and bask in the rays of the sun.   “This is absolute Heaven,” I sighed in delight. The best way ever! The greatest decision I have ever made! I should have torn that sign down, to think I would have missed this lovely little way because of it.  I wonder how many people have missed out on such a scenic site due to that horrid little misinforming sign?!”  I was of a mind to rise up, turn around and do that very thing, but decided against it.  “I am a knowledgeable, intelligent being.  Capable of making up my own mind and choosing what is right for me!” I mumbled to myself,  reluctantly rising up to leave and continue on my way, in doing so I passed by a small pond to filled with scenic flat brown lily pads.

“Are you now?” croaked a response, “Are you sure about that?”

I stopped mid-step and looked around to see where the remark had come from. “Who said that?”

“Me that’s who,” was the response. 

My eyes spanned the ground around me and finally located the source.

“So full of yourself, it’s a wonder you saw me at all,” He huffed blowing up his vocal sacs with air, causing his throat to balloon out.  I dispersed of my back pack, dropped down to the ground to see him better.  There upon a lily pad sat a dark green bullfrog looking at me with disdain in his black little eyes.  “Doesn’t it say something in the rule book about “pride before a fall?” He asked.

“What exactly does that mean?” I asked insulted, was this tiny little green creature judging me? 

“It means that perhaps you should consider the fact that there may be more to things than what meets your eye. Perhaps you don’t know as much as you think you do.  Maybe there was a reason beyond what you could see for that caution sign warning.”  He accentuated his remark by extending his tongue and capturing a fly who had mistakenly thought could fly by unnoticed.  “Point made and perfect timing.  Just as that fly thought he could sneak by me unawares, he was sadly mistaken, to his demolish and to my satisfaction.”

“I beg your pardon!” I said with great indignation.  “You are just a little green bullfrog, what could you possibly know that I don’t?!” I rose back up rocking on the back of my heels.

“Is that a fact?” He replied as he watched me rise.  “I wouldn’t be so sure of that if I was you, I would try to be a bit more open minded…” With that he extended his long green legs and did a flying leap off the lily pad with so high a jump that the water splashed me full in the face.

“What audacity!” I exclaimed wiping the pond water off my face with the edge of my sleeve. Picking up my back pack, I turned my back to the pond and stomped forward to resume my travels. “Wretched little frog!  I hope he gets eaten by a snake!”  Onward in my journey I went.

MY life, MY plans, MY schedule, MY way.  I had made a plan for my life and I was going forward, confident in that plan.  I had made the right decision and as I walked all of my senses delighted in the world around me.  Who knew where I should go better than I? Proud of myself and looking forward to my destination, I continued on.  If things felt this right, they certainly could not be wrong, or so I thought…

As time went on, my travels began to feel a bit too long, the pungent smell of honeysuckle which once had smelled so appealing, began to smell sickeningly sweet.  As the sun began to sink behind its horizon, mosquitoes appeared buzzing annoyingly around my head and nipping at my feet, try as I might, I could not get them to leave me alone.

“Oh you dratted bugs – why must I have been blessed with such sweet blood!” I complained as I tried to swat them as I continued on my way.   “I should be at my destination now.”  Wearily I looked around me.  The pack on my back felt heavy now and was beginning to chafe the area between my shoulder blades, taking it down; I took out my shoes and put them back on my bug bitten feet. I sat against a large boulder, raising my knees up to my chest and wrapping my arms around my legs.

“Regretting your choice of actions yet?” said a quiet voice.

“Oh no, not you again Mister Frog,” I groaned trying to adjust my eyes to the dusk locate the annoying little amphibian.

“I’ve been called quite a few things in my life, but frog is not one of them,” the voice chuckled.

If my sense of hearing was correct, it was coming from somewhere above me, finally I saw it and when I did, I wish I hadn’t.  I backed away from the boulder as quickly as I could.

“Oh come on now,” it exclaimed watching me with little red eyes as it twitched its whiskers. “I’ve no intention of spraying you, I’d say you’ve already made quite a stink of things, wouldn’t you agree?” The skunk twitched her tail as if to toy with me, and laughed in amusement as I cringed and closed my eyes. “Tell me something,” she continued, “why do you have a rule book in your bag if you chose not to follow it? Do you find comfort in just the carrying of it?”  She tilted her head to the left to look at me.  I could see her red eyes glowing in the dusk of the evening.  Once in my own travels I came across the belongings of a camper who had gone out upon a hike.  They had left upon their sleeping bag the same book of rules you too carry.  I was curious about it, so I meandered over to take a closer look. Opened the pages to a rule which said, in a section entitled Psalms Chapter 32 verse 8: “The Lord says, I will guide you along the best pathway of your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.”  I’m curious, or maybe just a bit nosey – but I have to ask, have you listen to His advice? Have you allowed Him to guide you or have you chosen to guide yourself?”  The skunk rested her chin upon her paws and waited for my response.

“What I do, how I do, why I do, is no one else’s concern, only mine.  It is why it is referred to as a “personal” relationship. That sign was clearly there in error.  Someone should have taken it down a long time ago.  I only wish I had done it before I travelled forward.”

“Interesting…” commented the skunk.  “This is only my two cents worth and you can take it for what you will; but it seems to me that a relationship consists of more than just one.  Yet I have not heard you communicate to this Lord of yours in any way.  In fact, I have only heard you talk to yourself about how pleased you are with you, with the decisions you have made…  Look around yourself.  Have you gotten to where you wanted to go? Have you eaten? Are you cold?  To me you look disheveled, lost and irritated far different from the girl I saw set out this morning.  Whose rulebook are you following if not the one in your sack?”

Her words stirred up within me a great irritation and without thinking, I took off my right shoe and flung it at her, hitting her right upon her left hind quarters, which caused her to release the most pungent and smelly sprays which caused my eyes to sting and I began to choke at the stench.

“That was simply cruel, “she said turning around with a limp. “More than cruel, it was mean.  It was cruel and mean.”  She looked over her shoulder at me with a hurt expression on her black and white striped face as she limped off into the dark. “It seems to me, I once saw something else in that rule book you never read, about a person reaping what they sow… You’ll have to tell me how all this worked out for you if ever we meet again.” And she disappeared into the dark.

I was alone, alone with only one shoe.  Night had fallen and now I simply wanted to be done with this part of my journey. I could barely see two feet in front of me and I reeked of skunk.  This was not going according to my plan. This was not the way things were supposed to be, and there was no one here for me to talk to, what should I do? Not knowing, I decided I had no choice but to settle in for the night. Tomorrow I would find a place to bathe and continue on my journey, which surely must be soon coming to an end.

“Don’t listen to any of them, ” the pathway beseeched me. “We were meant to journey together. Keep going.  I will never leave you, we belong together.  You are my one true love, beloved traveler let me take you down a way you’ve never been. Look at my picturesque background, like what you see and tell me you do.  The beauty of may way is solely for you.”  I snuggled closer to the ground.  I loved this pathway like no other I had travelled, I was going to stay on it forever.  I was committed to its way.

Even as I thought that, a feeling of uneasiness crept over me and for the first time, I began to feel a niggling of doubt, doubt that what the pathway was saying was true.  What if they were right? What if I was being deceived?  What if the pathway was lying to me and taking me down a way I didn’t know? I tried to shake the thought off.  I loved this pathway and had forsaken all other ways to follow its trail.  Taking my remaining shoe off and putting my backpack against the ground I lay my head down upon it, like a pillow, the words of the ladybug, frog and the skunk replaying through my head.

“It will deceive you, lie to you, make you promises  it will never keep, use you and lead you down a way you never should go it knows nothing but deception and is full of self with no consideration to the feelings and heart of the traveler who travels its length. It will take and take and take from you, suck your feelings dry until you have nothing left to give.”
Does not your rule book say pride before a fall? Perhaps you should have more of an open mind, there may be more than what you see…”
“Why do you have it in your bag if you choose not to follow it?”

Was not life filled with making decisions? The way seemed straight and I didn’t want to go another. It was my choice and with that last thought inside my head, I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

My own stench woke me up. I’ve got to get cleaned off! I thought as I scrambled up and ran my fingers through my hair.  I’ve got to get clean! The smell of skunk had permeated my clothes and I knew that I would have to bathe clothes and all, so off I went searching for water.  

“Come, I shall show you where you can go,” the pathway said lovingly to me.  “I shall take you where you can get cleaned off and where we can be as one forever.”

I came to a high rise of land and as I reached the top, I could see a river below.  In my relief and excitement I hiked up my backpack and started to run, barefoot down towards the water, which turned out to be a HUGE mistake.  As I got closer to the shore, I encountered sand.  Not just any sand, quicksand.  Only I didn’t know it until I had reached it.  I started to sink.

“Oh this is not good! Not good at all!” I cried trying to get out.  But the more I struggled, the more I could feel my body sinking deeper. “Oh my! What should I do?!  Oh no!” I said trying to remain calm.  What a pickle I had gotten myself into. “Pathway, where have you taken me?” I cried out.

“This is not my fault but yours.” The pathway said sternly in a disciplinary tone of voice.  “People blame me ALL the time for things that are not my fault.  It is YOURS. You had no intention of ever staying on my pathway, did you? Did you wonder about paths that you had not ventured last night as  you slept? Did you listen to the creatures and their accusations around you?”

The more it accused and spoke, the deeper I began to sink.  “What are you saying?” I asked astonished, trying not to fight against the pull. “Happily I would have journeyed down your pathway all the remaining days of my life, for I have loved every moment of this journey.” At that same moment I noticed a troll walking over the side of a hill. 

“Help! Help! Help!”  I yelled trying to yell without thrashing around. The backpack which I had had no my back felt like a millstone around my neck. Oh that I had removed it from my body prior to running towards the water!

The troll stood far from the sand I had so stupidly and willingly walked into and looked at me and laughed.

“What have you here my darling pathway?” The toothless troll questioned. She was about 300 pounds, stringy greasy hair, a polyester dress hung loosely around her pudgy form. Then as she leaned closer, she noticed me and her expression changed to one of anger.

“Who is this that you have allowed to venture upon our land?” She bellowed to the pathway. (If I had had both feet planted firmly on the ground I would have felt the pathway quiver in fear.)

The pathway was afraid of this troll? What power did she exhort over it?

“No one dear, just a wayward traveler.” The pathway responded, voice shaking.

Oh so now instead of “beloved” I was a “wayward traveler?” The revelation shocked me as I fought to keep my head above the mire.  For the second time I thought about all the warning signs that had come my way.  Signs I had chosen to ignore.  

“I’d like to keep her if I may.” The pathway stated to the troll.

“Cover up her head and kill her.” The troll said, waiting for the quicksand to cover my head.

“Ahhhh but then she would be one with my land and with me forever,” the pathway said quickly.  ” You wouldn’t want that now, would you my trollness?” He said it seductively.

The troll tapped a big fat stubby finger to her chin.  “That simply won’t do at all… You cannot keep her – expel her from the mire right now and then follow your own path home for we shall discuss this further!” She stamped a fat little trolly leg, turned around and marched back the way she had come.

The pathway obeyed her and I felt a suction that carried me down at first, covered my head in its slimy, muddy waters and then I was lifted and propelled high into the air, falling on my backside so hard that my rule book, surprisingly undamaged by the mire fell out on the ground beside me.  I landed hard, covered in filth, smelling like skunk and nasty pond water.

My heart was shattered into a million little pieces and at this point, I could not focus upon anything but the pain.

“I’m sorry I deceived you,” The pathway said after a moment. “I wasted so much of your time. I am unworthy of your loyalty and your love.”

My heart hurt, it was hard to hear what the pathway was saying because the loudness of my pain reduced its words to a mere whisper.

“I should never have come this way.  I should have obeyed the sign and ventured the way it indicated. Had I known I would be in so much anguish I would never have turned down your way.” My eyes filled with tears, as my backside smarted, my heart hurt and I felt very alone and lost.  I no longer trusted my own discernment.  “You have hurt me more than I have ever experienced in my life. But the truth is, you poor pathway are the one to be pitied, for the truth is, you go in only one direction. I saw you and loved your way and would gladly have walked upon your path until the end of time.  I saw the beauty in you for who you were, while everyone else just saw a “way.” You are the one who will have to hope that people will ignore the sign and venture upon your pathway and discover the beauty I saw in you. It may take me some time, but I will recover and I will go on.  You will remain, stagnant and stuck and look what you have to contend with?  All the days of your life. I am shattered into a million little pieces, but my God will put me back together and I will rise more beautiful, more knowledgeable and wiser than I was before because I take responsibility for my actions.”   I picked up my rulebook, my back pack, wiped the slime as well as I could off my body.  “I renounce you and this pathway I have innocently, willingly, wrongly followed in a love which could never be returned.  Go away from me, for you paid my love back with deception – back to your old life, your old ways and your old habits.  I shall not journey with you anymore.”  I turned my back on the pathway I had loved to detour a different route.  Broken, but not defeated. Heavy hearted, yet at peace because I was finally going the right way.

“Lord, you say things for a reason.  Forgive us when we do not heed Your voice, but choose to listen to ourselves. The louder our own voices get, the softer becomes Yours because You are a Father who gives us free will.  We can be wayward children, yet still You love us.  Still you patiently await our return to Your way.  I ask that You meet me halfway, for my heart is shattered and I am having a hard time thinking straight and I doubt myself. Forgive me my sins, wash me with the blood of Jesus.  I repent.  I renounce anything that might hinder me from hearing Your voice and following Your direction for my life.  Cleanse me from the filthiness I have gained upon my journey.  My hurt is my own, I own it, I acknowledge it.  I ask that you would heal my heart and bind it back together. Forgive me for not guarding it better, for it is the well spring of life. I ask you this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ my Savior. Who died on the cross for forgiveness of my sins, rose again and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Amen.”

As I stood in the middle of I-don’t-know-where, the sun came through the trees and landed upon my form.  It’s light stretched out to touch my sodden, dirty clothes and made them white as snow. My stench was gone. The grime was gone. I was clean.

I could no longer hear the pathway – it was in the past.  It’s voice was gone.  But I was not alone.  A new clearer voice filled my head.

“My precious daughter, how I rejoice upon your return, you see? I am meeting you halfway.  Though your sins were scarlet, I have made them white as snow.  Here I AM, I AM the one who heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.  Surely I will bind up yours and heal you, for I love you. You are mine. I have plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Lift up your head – child YOU are MINE. Come, lets go forward in my love, my grace and my mercy – I have work for you to do.”

And so another chapter in my life closes, do I still hurt? Yes.  I imagine it will take some time for that pain to wane.  For I loved that pathway and I pray that at sometime, it will become a pathway of light instead of one that hurts and crushes and destroys what was meant for only love.

At the beginning of the pathway stood a wanderer – observing the sign and scratching her head… 

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The Pathway Continued (Part III)

 
A gentle reminder – some of life’s most precious moments happen when you least expect it…

As previously referred to in another wrote (see post from March 2013 entitled “The Pathway)  – I was traveling down a beautiful  road, one that I thought I was destined to travel upon  all the days of my life only to have been chased off the road but the fattest, ugliest, sexless looking of trolls.  It was a private way and the disgusting troll had reminded me that the road belonged to her, pulled out her ownership papers, barked at me to be on my way off her property. Heartbroken – I had no other choice but to change route and cross over upon another path.  Looking behind me at my beloved road one last time, I realized that the road was subservient to its troll and would always be.  The pure natural and vibrant beauty of the road would remain unrecognized, unappreciated and neglected – its location taken for granted –all the days of its existence,  which was a shame for its beauty was such that had I been able to remain upon it, I would have danced and frolicked and appreciated its natural beauty all the days of my life.

My head downcast, and being such, I did not see the different kind of beauty in the new path I’d taken. Different from whence I had come. Golden sunshine peaked down in between tree leaves; birds sang joyfully, honeysuckle pungent and thick filled the pathway with a natural wild sense of beauty.  Yet, I missed it all for my gaze had gone to my feet – not in front of me, and my shoulders were slumped in defeat, I cared not where I roamed.  Like a leave flitting about in the wind, I went mindlessly forward, all that had been vibrant and full of color now in my present state of mind, had become black and grey. I couldn’t venture on the road I longed for, so I no longer cared, the beauty had dissipated in the world around me.

Walking with downcast eyes and a heavy heart I did not see the tall oak of a man until I bumped right into what apparently was a set of trunk sized knees, it  startled me (so lost was I in my own thoughts of sorrow).  Like a startled deer poised for flight I froze in the headlights of this unexpected intruder. (Although truth be known, I suppose I was the intruder, since I was the stranger upon the path).

“Whoa…,” Said a strong steady voice.  He stretched out a solid arm with large hands to keep me from toppling over.

I lifted my head up. This man was so tall I had to lean back and stretch my neck waaaaaaay up to see. Hazel eyes in a heart shaped face looked down at me with amusement.  A red beard handsomely mapped his lower rectangular jaw. He looked like a combination of a woodcutter and a leprechaun gone giant, but there was a gentleness that exuded about him that looking upon him, made me feel unafraid.

“Why are you so downcast?” He questioned, raising a large pointer finger to lift up my chin so we could be eye to eye.  “You should be looking ahead of you, not down.”

“I suppose I should,” I responded with a sigh, “yet I care not where I go.  I am journeying wherever it is my feet choose to lead me…”

“Such a lovely face should not be wearing such a solemn look.” He stated.  “Come, no doubt you are hungry and I am pleased to share my lunch with you along with some words of encouragement to make it all the more palpable.”

He led me along the pathway to a small flowing stream.  This gentle giant of a man sat cross legged on the ground and encouraged me to do the same.  Sighing, I obliged. He opened a lunchbox, which I had not noticed was beside him; broke off a piece of bread and a chunk of cheese and handed it to me.  I was about to decline except for the dead giveaway sound of rumble from my stomach, so I decided to partake of his generosity.

“Tell me your story,” He said encouragingly, leaning forward to listen attentively. His face so close to mine I could count freckles that danced upon his nose.  His red well groomed beard gave him an almost regal look, and the kindness in his eyes encouraged me to share my tale… About the unexpected beauty I had fallen upon, the temptation to proceed, which I gave into, the joy and love and completion I felt walking along what I had thought was my own little beautiful road… How I got chastised and commanded off by the horrible troll and found myself alone, discouraged and at a loss as to where to go. When I was finished, I rubbed my hands together to free them from the crumbs and looked up into the face of this gentle giant to see his reaction to my tale.  How astonished was I when I saw eyes filled with tears and compassion.

He was quiet for a moment, this giant of a man. When I gazed up at him I saw a range of emotions cross his face and it seemed as though he was trying to gather his thoughts.  Why should one feel so strongly for the journey of a stranger?

 He was quiet and I was uncertain whether I should stand and leave or sit and stay.  And then he spoke…

“In life you will encounter many various roads and pathways… I have found that the best ones are those that travel wide enough for two and go “both ways.”  Even those that are not easy on your feet teach you endurance and perseverance; and though you may not realize at it the time, strengthen you for the journey ahead.  The most important thing is not the beauty in the surroundings around you or the context of the road itself – but how you travelled it… Life is a journey down many roads.  Think on this – what did you learn from this last road you took?”

I listened to his words and thought long and hard before I answered.  “I learned of love and friendship. I learned that life is much better when shared.  I learned that there are many more meanings to “unequally yoked” than what I had been originally taught.”

“So you see,” said he. “Although you no longer journey down that road (and not at your own choosing) you have gathered a lot of insightful treasures along the way.  Hence, the roads that you travel end up coming together and forming a map called, “YOU.”  Think now, what else did you learn?”

I tapped a forefinger to my lower lip as I recalled my journey through the road that I loved.  “I learned more about myself.  Humbleness, compassion, mercy… I learned forgiveness and most importantly of all that each person’s journey is their own and not to be judged by the observer.”

“Well then,” he exclaimed, “It seems to me that was a road worth traveling no matter its end… You are a better, wiser person for it. Or so it would seem to me.” He rose from his sitting position and once again loomed high above me. He reached down to extend a hand to me to help me up.  I could not help but notice how small my hand was in his immense larger one.

“Who ARE you?” I couldn’t help but ask, curiosity taking over and then blushed with embarrassment at my straightforwardness, for surely it was not my business.

He grinned at me – such a boyish grin for a gentle giant and responded, “Just a traveler like yourself.” He gathered up the remainder of his lunch box, closed it shut and tucked it under his arm.

Looking around at my unfamiliar, yet beautiful surroundings – seeing the newness of the path for the first time, shyly I asked, “would you journey with me a while?”

He looked at my shy expression and laughed a deep laugh, his hazel eyes filled with amusement.  “It seems as if we already are – for you stand upon the same path as I.”

“Very well, “I said my own laughter ringing with that of his. “Lead the way…”  And, although he took up most of the pathway with his size and his girth – He did.


The moral of the story is to always try and find the beauty in whatever path life leads you. Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” The choice is ours, it may not be the pathway you imagined you would journey on – maybe it’s not the one you wanted or perhaps the choice has been taken out of your hands, not yours to make… It just might be better than anything you would have chosen for yourself…

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” (Psalms 3:5)

 

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Are You Captivated?

He Came to Set the Captives Free – And That Freedom Includes YOU Too!!

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” (Luke 4:18)

There He is, Jesus – with the key to your jail cell.  I have a vivid imagination, as I read that scripture, I picture one of those large old fashioned skeleton keys – you know the kind, you see them in every old cowboy sitcom or movie.  There Jesus is standing there, outside your cell, unlocking the door with a key only He has.  The door creaks as it opens wide, Jesus is telling you to come forth! That you are free!  What is your reaction?

You have been in the dark for so long – You think you are having a mirage.  There stands a man, in blinding white light outside your cell.  You can hardly look upon Him for the light surrounding Him is blinding. You say to yourself: “This is not real, there is not a man dressed in white with a beard and a key outside of my cell.  I’m having an illusion.”  You blink your eyes from the brightness and turn your head to face the wall which you have faced for many a season…

Or…

You run out that door as quickly as your legs will carry you, stopping only at the opening to throw your arms around the man who has rescued you, throwing your arms around Him and say, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!” Tears of joy and relief and thankfulness streaming down your face…
Or….
You look at the man releasing you with a look of distrust wondering what is in it for Him.  What will this cost you? Thinking that this is another trick.  “No thank you, the devil that you know is better than the one you do not…”  
Jesus came to set the CAPTIVES free!  He can set us free, but He cannot MAKE us accept that freedom!  The cost was His life for YOURS.  He gave it willingly, obediently and with more love than we will not fully understand until we truly stand before Him.  What are you going to do??
I understand all of the above reactions – because I have felt them.  Have you?  I say that humbly and with shame.  Often times when we don’t walk out of our situation thankful for Jesus having made the ability for us to do so, is because we lack enough faith… (Ouch…)  Faith to believe that God is BIGGER than any situation or problem… Or that He even cares enough about us to do anything about it.  If we don’t become discouraged or depressed we become mad at God because we think He doesn’t “love us enough” to help us get through whatever situation we are in.  Even if it is a situation that is of our own doing… And yet that is another reaction we have.
“Lord, this is my mess… I made it.  It is my fault – Mine! Mine! Mine!  I deserve whatever hell I have allowed myself to be in…” 
That is an absolute LIE from the pit of HELL.  There is not ONE of us worthy! Or Righteous! NOT one!!!  The Bible tells us:
“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10)
and also:
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
 
There is no degree of sin.  And all of us sin!  (Oh yes…) But the good news is that Jesus took those sins upon the cross with Him! He died for forgiveness of our sins!!  The problem that we have is that we dishonor Him by believing that that is not ENOUGH to get rid of them!  We believe we deserve to be miserable or to stay in the cesspool we have probably created ourselves.  And that is simply not true…
If you were in the ocean drowning, and you were to be rescued – say they threw out a floaty to you.  Would you reach out and take it? Or would you continue to drown, thrashing your arms and yelling, “Help! Help!”
Your help is right before you!  Take the hand of Jesus and allow Him to pull you out of whatever mire you are in.  It doesn’t MATTER the reason.  The Bible tells us:
“You have searched me and known me.You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.…” (Psalms 139:2-3)
Nothing comes as a surprise to Him.  He knows you intimately.  Let Him love you, let Him heal you, let Him deliver you.  He is there at this very moment that you are reading this.  You may not be able to see Him physically with your eyes.  But if you soften your heart, and just quiet your thoughts – you will by the Holy Spirit feel Him.  TRY IT. Don’t just take my word for it – experience it for yourself, what do you have to lose? Listen…
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelations 3:20)
Do not allow your own captivity to keep you from experiencing the freedom that Jesus bought with His own blood…  Do not allow doubt, or sorrow, or depression or self-hate to get in the way of allowing Him to free you.  He is BIGGER than your situation.  He loves you.  Truly loves You.  Don’t hold yourself back.  Walk through those cell doors that Jesus has opened – rejoicing.  Thankful.  it is WHY He gave His life.  He gave it for YOU to walk freely away. 
The price is to turn away from whatever it is that held you captive previously.  Believe that God has better in store for you…. It is true you know.  He wants you to walk through those gates or doors that have held you captive so that you can live the life that He has created you for!  You have a purpose!  You have a reason for being!  Isn’t it time that you found out what that was?  There is nothing more satisfying than walking in the purpose that God has for your life!  Take time to discover what it is, if you don’t know already!
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Now that is a loving Father, don’t you think?  You are consecrated!!!
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Take His hand. Talk to Him.  You don’t need fancy words – just talk to Him.  Share yourself with Him, it is not as though He doesn’t know you already, He does… But He likes to hear you share your mind with Him.  It’s called “having a personal relationship.”  And that is what He desires.  The Bible says:
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (Psalms 34:8)
It is the only way that you can discover it and enter into a relationship with Him.  Just like that floaty, you have to reach out and grab it.  It is there – just receive it! Accept it! And when you do – cling to Him.  He is your forever eternal life line.  Once you have tasted and seen that the LORD is good – you won’t ever want to let go!  And guess what?  If you find yourself walking back into that “cell” – you’ll stop and turn around and say, “No!  I have been there and done that! No!  Once those God has freed are free indeed!!!”
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
You will reach a point where you know – whatever place you are at in your life that what God has for you is so much better than what you had for yourself!  And no matter how many times you turn around – God will be there directing you, strengthening you, encouraging you, loving you, believing in you…
Go! Be Free! Walk out of that cell that has held your mind captive!  And believe in your freedom that He has bought with His own precious, precious blood.  
“God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.” (1 Corinthians 7:23)
Look! The door is open! Fly high! Glide! Soar! Walk in that freedom and don’t look back!  The best is YET to come!
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The Pathway (Part I)

I was walking down a path on an otherwise unremarkable day, when I came to a bend which led me to a fork in the road.  

I stopped. I hesitated. I contemplated.

Knowing fully well which pathway I should choose…

To my left  – a familiar, well-worn path, predictable, more of the same on which I had already tread, a ho-hum kind of travel, familiar and reliable yet unexciting and if more of the same – tedious.

To my right – a path that drew my attention by its intoxicating scent of blossoms.  Its pathway surrounded on both sides by  long rows of weeping willow trees with such thick branches they formed an arch as far as the eye could see; and oh how they swaying in the wind as if to entice me. 

 “Come, girl… Come down our way.”

I hesitated again.  Should I stay on familiar, unchanging ground or dare I step upon this beautiful path of unfamiliarity?

Tucked deep within the bows of one of the Weeping Willows, hung  small, wooden white painted  sign, whose letters had been painstakingly engraved with a wood burning tool; carefully created  with the precision and care which only a feminine hand would have taken the tedious time to do. It read, “Private Way.”

The sign was clearly meant to dissuade, yet caused within me the opposite effect.

“You have no business going down that other road. Don’t do it.” A quiet stern little voice whispered in my head. “Don’t do it. Stay on the pathway of familiarity. It is your safest bet.”

“What can the harm be?” I scoffed, stamping my foot.  “I deserve to walk down this pathway. How splendid it is and I can’t help but wonder where it leads? Perhaps it is even a short cut?  I’m sure it will be fine.  An adventure, what harm will be done?”

With that my decision was made.  I took a bold if not rebellious step onto the path. 

Sheer heaven

Each step lovelier than the next, my heart felt full.  My well-worn shoes did the pathway a dishonor. Leaving me no other choice…  Feeling somewhat naughty, glancing quickly around me, I knelt down and removed my dusty shoes and socks and lowered my bare toes down into the springy velvety softness of green grass which cupped around my feet lovingly.

“Ohhhh…” I sighed.  What harm would a moment of rest do? I lay back looking up a the blueness of the partially seen sky between high treetop limbs.  Allowing my palms to face down so my fingers could caress the softness of the dark earth beneath them.  How heady and captivating were the fragrant flowers lining the way;  turning only my head to admire the breathtaking view I wonder what lay beyond the horizon? Could there possibly be any sight more splendid than this? Rising back up, I felt light-footed and danced along the pathway, skipping in and out and around the long trunks of the trees giddy at the thought of more to come.

Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! My pathway! Made in love for ME, meant for ME! For my feet alone.  Mine to cherish! Mine to love. Mine to adore! Mine to walk!

So enchanted and self-involved was I that I did not see along one side, a woman’s straw hat flung and forgotten, off in the grass – or the initials of a couple, encircled in a heart engraved upon the trunks of one of the trees. 

On I went, following this oh so splendid path. The longer I trod upon it the more I wanted to continue.  Before long, the sun began to set, and I wrapped my arms around my chest beginning to feel cold. Cold and very much alone. Rubbing my arms, I hesitated for the first time. Looking far ahead, I could see way in the distance a stone cottage, with a warm yellow light shinning from its windows.  How lovely, I thought as it came closer and closer into view.

To my surprise a very robust, unattractive and heavy set woman flew out of the house. Indeed, if not for her voice, I would have thought she was a he.  

“What are you doing on our pathway? Did you not see the sign?”  She said furiously.  Eyeballing me with contempt her hands furled tight in fists. An angry tick twitching within her right cheek.

“You have defiled it! You had NO business continuing on property that is not yours.”  The more she looked at me, the angrier she got. “What business have you here?” 

I glanced behind me at the way I had come.  Thought about the day I had experienced, looked back at the pathway I had come to love, and realized, no answer I gave her would suffice.

“I have none,” I admitted honestly. “I just happened upon the way, and noticed this lovely, lovely path…without giving it much thought – I took it.”

She looked incredulous for a moment. Spittle forming on the outside corners of her lips. “Lovely way?”  She said. “Lovely way???”  She looked behind me at the path as though she was trying to see what I saw.  “This way has not been lovely in many a year! It has been a hard pathway.  A relentless pathway, and exhausting pathway.  I have had to beat weeds down. What once was lush and vibrant and full has become hard and unforgiving and unyielding.  I have tried to grow many a vegetable upon this soil – yet it has withered and died. It has become cold and hard and unyielding…Yet this pathway has been mine since I was 18. I know every grain of its soil.  For 38 years it has been mine. I know its every mood. It is MINE not yours and I will not allow you to come prancing down the way as if you owned it. You do not, no matter what you may think.” ”

Listening to her I stood astonished, my mouth gaping.  How could she not see what I saw?  The land she described was not that of which I stood upon.  It was lush and green and vibrant and seductive.   Calling my name like a lover – tempting me to become one with it over and over again.

She stood defiantly facing me. Braced for war. A fight I could not win. I had only known this pathway for a short while – she had known it for years.  I did not see what she saw – and I actually felt sorry for her because somewhere along the way, she lost the ability to see the beauty in the path.  Her perspective had changed. Her appreciation for it had grown cold. I did not see what she saw before her and yet she was right.  It was not my pathway.  It did not belong to me. It belonged to her.  There was nothing I could say.  I hated her at that moment. Hated her because she had everything I wanted and I wanted to stay there.  Make her be gone! It was my pathway! Created for ME in love. Mine to walk, mine to enjoy, mine to cherish, mine to love! – Yet it wasn’t.  The pathway belonged to her.  I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay!  Yet, it wasn’t mine.

Reaching into her pocket she pulled out a paper.  “You see?” She said shoving her big man size hand under my nose for me to see it.  “Proof! Proof that this is MY pathway. Not yours. So be gone!”

I had no words. For what could I say?  She smiled an ugly smile, turned around and headed back through the door of which she came. I heard the door slam behind her.

Reaching down to caress the mossy ground, I was at a loss for words.  It seemed like it should be mine. It felt like it should be mine.  Yet proof stood within the walls of that house that it was not. The sorrow I felt was immense. It filled my soul. Turning around I didn’t know which way to go. Should I go back the way I came? Yet I could not. Should I go forward? How? I only knew that I could not remain in front of that house for fear she would c

 

ome out again.  How could she not see the beauty I saw? The love I felt? It was all around me. How could I be without it?  Yet as long as she remained, she was proof that it was not mine.  This most beautiful and gifted pathway.  How could years be spent upon it not relishing in the lusciousness of it? When had her eyes dulled? Or perhaps she had never seen it for what it was. How very sad…

Sighing, I dusted off my hands and continued forward finally understanding the weeping willows lining the way.

 

 

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