Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Chapter 32 : Returning to the abyss, pt. 3

I see a fait light at the bottom of the stairs through the hold in the wall. I can also hear the voice of the abyss growing louder. I shake my head, intentionally ringing the chimes in my ears to drown out, or at least subdue for a moment the awful voice. Yet I can hear it faintly and if I attend to it, I feel its grip sending stabs of pain deep throughout my gut.

This is different than before, much stronger, more forceful. It is different in nature too, more direct, harder to recognize for what it is, harder to ignore. “Why is it different here?” I must ask.

“The abyss is losing its grip on you. It is fighting to keep hold, to keep power over you. You are threatening to escape it fully. The abyss does not give up its captives lightly.” He explains. “I am here with you. I am your refuge and your strength. You do not need to be afraid.” He reminds, “Let that become truth to you.”

I breathe in deeply, smelling His fragrance, choosing now. “I will believe Your word. I will believe you meant what You said. I will believe.” The voices of the abyss seem to quieter now.

I glance back at the wall. It is torn open and I could scramble through the hole. I am unsure what to do though. “Papa?”

“What do you want here?’ He replies. “You may crawl through the wall, but then the wall will remain within.”

Of course! I could have seen that for myself! I am ready to be done with this obstacle, to press through it. It looks as though I could press and have it give way. But the tunnel is narrow and the block would cause me to stumble. No, I have to get rid of them, there is no other choice. “Papa, please show me, what are these, how do I get rid of them? How do I give them to you?” I turn to look at Him as He nods at me and I know now that I have chosen well.

I look back at the wall, focusing on the stone at the bottom left. It seems to be holding much together. “What is that stone, Papa?” I whisper quietly, biting my lower lip in anticipation. I think I know what it is already. The stone suddenly has a face I recognize. Then there is another and another. Soon the entire bottom row of stones is covered with faces of individuals whose words flung me into the abyss years ago.

Above them I see more faces, still more who are associated with my plunge into this darkness. In the center I see the face of my mother.

“Why is she here?” I ask without realizing I have spoken. Then I see her turning her back on me because I have done something that displeased her. And for that moment I no longer existed to her. I was not wanted! That is what ties all these faces together! Each one of them has said to me, you are not wanted!”

“Papa, What do I do with this? How do I tear this down? I cry out raggedly.

“Forgive them.” His answer is simple, yet profound I had buried all of this underground, deep, so deeply that I no longer could see it not know that it was there. Yet these faces still called out their dreadful message to me.

Swallowing hard, I reply, “Yes, Papa, I will.” Slowly, one by one, I forgive and release each one.

“ I forgive her for the words she spoke, for what she did. I give her to you—she is no longer my problem. I forgive her.” I speak the to first face on the wall. I hear a sharp crack and see the corner stone begin to split. “Papa, I forgive them. I release them to you. I hold nothing against them any longer. I forgive them. I forgive these others and I release them to you. They are now yours. “

A long horizontal crack opens along the bottom row of stones now. “I forgive the teachers, the administrators, the others. I release them into your hands. I do not have to fight their words any more. They are yours!” The crack starts extending upwards now.

The most difficult one is still at hand. Taking a deep breath, “Papa, I forgive my mother, now. I release her to you. I forgive her for turning away, for ignoring me, for not meeting my heart’s cry. I forgive her! Papa, please bring restoration to her! Please. She has lived with the consequences for long enough, set her free Papa! Set her free!.”

The stairway resounds with a loud crack that echoes painfully through my head. The stabbing, throbbing pain shoots through my temples and echoes within me. A loud rumble distracts me from it as I see the wall crumble into a heap at my feet.

“Papa, I repent for my unforgiveness, for failing to forgive these, for building this wall within me. Tear it down! Take it, crush it! Leave none of it within me. I know I cannot be what you have desired if it remains. Destroy it completely!” I struggle to life a heavy stone to give to Him hoping He will destroy it. It is too much for me, though and I cannot lift it.

Suddenly, He is at my side, now taking the stone from me, lifting, then crushing it by His mighty power. It is so effortless to Him! His strength amazes me. One by one, He crushes the stones until only powder remains.

“Spread this on the path and pack it down well underfoot lest any dust remains airborn.” He instructs.

Painstakingly, I spread the crushed stone along the staired path towards the door. I do not go down further than we have already come. Meticulously, I tread along the entire area, trying to firmly pack the crushed stone into place.

“Is this enough? “ I finally ask.

He looks over my work, pausing to firm up a spot under His own foot. He nods. “Yes, it is done.”

In the silence of the moment I realize a voice has been silenced. I no longer hear “not wanted” in the distance. I am sure though this is not enough, we are not yet complete in our task.

He nods. “You are correct, that was just the first obstacle. But it was not a small one. This wall has influenced every relationship you have in some way or another. It kept you from sharing, especially sharing your needs and kept you from receiving, from allowing others to give to you.

“The wall has been in place a long time. Now that it is gone, you will need to adjust. It will feel threatening to you at first, admitting your needs, letting others touch them. Do not let the fear that you have learned cheat you from this. Push through the fear and take hold of My hand. Draw strength from me and take refuge in Me, not in your own self protection.

“See that what I have given you is good.” His voice is encouraging. I feel anxious though. Do I really want this? A part of me does not. “You flesh.” He offers.

It feels unsafe, exposed. I liked life behind the wall where it was protected, concealed. I feel exposed vulnerable now. I can meet my own needs much more efficiently on my own…

“No—“ He interjects, stopping my run away rationalizations. “You cannot. That is a lie you have learned to believe. You are not designed to be alone. To be complete, you must be tied together with others, fed by and feeding others.

“Do not continue in that deception. You can get by on your own, but you are emaciated, starving for more. Look at what I have just now healed in you—How strong the desire to be filled now that it has seen the light of my restoration! How hungry you are!

“That is the state of your heart. Hungry but you do not even know it. You cannot hear the hunger pangs, yet you are starving. Let me restore that to you-allow you to connect with and receiving from others.”

The silence hangs heavy as He lets me decide. How much easier this would be if I did not have to decided at each step. But I must. I cannot turn away from what He wants.

“Yes, Papa, please, begin the process. I know it will not be instant, please begin to heal and restore this walled up place that I might be able to connect again.” I wish I felt this more as I pray, but it is all that I have at the moment.

He reaches out and takes my shoulders in His hands, presses His forehead to mine. “Reach out to Me, daughter, bridge the gap between us.”

I reach out and grasp His arms, just at the elbow, I can reach no further. His arms are so big, so strong that I cannot even begin to grasp them fully in my hands, but I try none the less.

I can feel His breath warm, even hot upon my face. I breathe it in, at first it is difficult, even suffocating. But then it becomes easier, cooler, freer. I am able to breathe in deeply what He has breathed upon me.

“Breath in my life, My spirit, child. Let it fill and rebuilt you from within.”

A cool breeze blows in through the door, down the long stairs, refreshing and renewing the stale air, echoing what He has said.

I want to reply, but have no words. I just breath and obey what He has spoken. ‘I will supply all your needs according to much riches and glory. I will supply….’

I remember how Elisha brought life to the dead child, laying upon him and breathing upon him. I wonder if perhaps part of my heart—once deal is now coming to life again.

“It is—if you will allow it, even nurture it.” He replies softly.

“How do I nurture this?”

“By taking risks, run barefoot in the grass, hold My hand and run, talk to those you meet along the way and share from the depths of your heart. Hold My hand, I will give you strength.”

I clutch His arms, overwhelmed by the notion. “Show me where and when, Papa. I will, I will do it.” These are words of faith.

“I know you will…” Suddenly I realize, He has faith in, belief in me!. He sees my heart and He believes in me! I realize how little I know my own heart when He believes in me more that I do.

“Thank you Papa, thank you.” Tears slide down my face to the crushed stone below.

Finally, He takes my face in His huge, strong hands. He kisses my forehead, lingering slightly. “I love you.” He reminds me.

“I think I am finally beginning to know that, Papa—finally, maybe….”

He smiles on me. And I wonder at what a strange place, the path to the abyss, it is to finally have that realization. And ironically, in spite of all this I find I begin to run from Him, from all of this. My heart, my flesh I suppose takes off, trying to lose itself in a place He cannot find me. It does not last long this time, only a few hours, not days. My flesh has not been subdued, as my routine has been broken and the flesh gained strength while I did not attend to it. I call out to Him, and He is there.

“Forgive me Papa, I repent,” hanging my head in shame, awaiting the heaviness of His correction.

“No,” He finally says. “You already know, your heart is repentant, there is no need. You know.”

“I repent Papa, I bring my flesh under submission to you. I bring it under your rule.” I return to the routine I had left and find my flesh is once again able to submit.

Chapter 32 : Returning to the abyss, pt. 2

I chew on this for a long time, savoring what He has given Me. I have heard these words before, but they never touched me like this before. Many times I have felt that those I have trusted have spoken against me, turned against me. I begin to see that He has not been behind the words that have been said to me. That it was not Him who inspired the words that rejected me. Perhaps, it did not even please Him that those tings were said. I never that that it please Him specifically, but I guess I had not really thought of it displeasing Him either.

“Those words were not from Me, child. I was never in that.” Tenderly He touches my face, bringing me back from the past into the moment with Him. “I am your refuge.” He reminds me.

I begin to realize, finally, that I am not alone. I never was. He was there for all of it although I did not understand it then.

“Come now, you cannot go unarmed.”

I realize that my sword and belt and shield are still learning by the tree. Quietly we walk there together.

As I gather them, I ask, “Please teach me about these. I do not feel I really understand them”

Smiling, He takes them from my hands. “You already know what these are, truth, faith and My word. They are linked together. Truth is your foundation, holding everything together, supporting everything.” He fastens the wide belt firmly around my waist. “Truth comes from my Word and from faith, they are linked. It is your using of truth that holds you together. It is what is deep within your heart, not head knowledge. This is what has become truth to you.” He hands me the shield. “This is faith. This is what you are willing to believe Me for. What are you willing to ask of Me and trust that I will do when your faith is in Me. I am your refuge. You will not be shaken. It requires a strength and tenacity of decision to hold on to what you know is true. And this…” He hands me the sword, “This is My word.”

JN 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

“My Word is powerful, alive with My life. You can use it to the extent that you have faith in what has become truth to you. Knowing My Word alone is not sufficient. It must be truth to you, under girded by faith in it.”

I listen, concentrating on what He is saying. Do I believe what He has just shared with Me? Is it truth to me? Do I have faith in what He has spoken to me? I glance over my shoulder toward the door He has shown me, the back at Him. I must, I have no choice. To overcoming this thing I must believe what He has said and act on it.

“Yes, daughter, that is the way. What you have is sufficient to overcome, you must choose what you will do with it. Whether you will use it or not.” He explains.

“Yes, Papa, I understand. I will choose to believe what you have said. You are my refuge. I will hide in you for You are on my side.” I reply carefully. Words are cheap, I must do more than simply speak them. I need to walk them out as well. That is what the challenge will be. “Papa, I just realized, I will need light too,” I remember the darkness of the abyss.

“I am your Light and I will be with you.” He replies, taking my hand. I am reassured as we walk toward the doorway. We wade through the water to get to the door. There are a couple of feet of ground between the water and the door, so standing is awkward.

He reaches out and opens the doors with surprising ease. Few doors seem to have opened so easily. He ushers me through before Him. The stairs here are not open as they were at the other door. We can only take a few steps before we come to a wall, a large brick wall blocking the way.

At first I do not know what the wall is, but then I realize that I know this wall. It is the wall that stands between my heart and those who try to be close to me. This is the wall that keeps me from reaching out and allowing others to meet my needs.

Suddenly, I see how I have struggled and fought to meet my own needs, even at the expense of meeting the needs of others. In my independence I have taken care of myself to make sure my needs were met, needs which should have been submitted to others, and failed to meet needs that were my responsibility to meet. I have failed to submit, allowed my independence to stand between myself and others such that no one needs were met.

“Papa. Forgive me!” I cry out, astonished at what I have seen. “I never knew I never knew the depth of my sin! Forgive me! I repent. I submit, I submit my needs to you Papa God!” It is so very clear not, I see what I have done there is no question, not excuse. It is before me and the stain is unmistakable. I sob both in repentance and in frustration. How should all this be there? I never before realized the depth of the sin within me. “Please, please, forgive me, Papa!”

I see something more now, there is a further cry in me, I want to cry out for restoration as well, but find I am reluctant to.

“Why do you not ask child?” He presses me, not allowing me to dodge the issue I do not truly want to face.

I do not want to answer, yet dare not disobey His press for an answer. Finally, I whisper, “Because…why should you do this for me? Why would you say yes? I have caused this in my sin. These are the consequences of my sin—why would you want to step in to change that which I have so earned?” I cannot lift my eyes to look at Him, I am so afraid of Him in this moment. I am guilty, how can I ask for anything?

I feel more than see the sternness of His expression. I know He is not pleased with me. My heart sinks, feels tight and cold within me.

“What kind of parent do you think I am? To bring you to a place of repentance without hope of restoration? To change your heart and breath life into it only to leave it for death in a situation without hope or promise? If one of your own sons were to recognize and repent of his own disobedience would you not move heaven and earth to bring him into fullness of inheritance?” His voice is very firm, almost angry now.

Meekly, I reply, “Yes, I would, once I saw the change of heart was a real change.”

“Then how much less do you expect Me to do for you?” He demands.

I am afraid now. “I don’t know, I don’t know! “ My tears flow freely now, “Why would you do anything for me? Why would you care?” The words tumble out unbidden, pouring from the wounds of my heart, from the voice of this place.

Suddenly, He is holding me, allowing me to draw strength from Him. “Because I love you.” He whispers in my ear, holding me more tightly still. “Ask of me…”

It is hard to draw breath through my sobs, but finally I am able to whisper, “Please, Papa, please heal, please bring restoration. Restore what the locust has eaten and the canker worm destroyed. Restore what my sin has destroyed!” I am shaking even as I ask this.

“I will child, you will see. I will.” He replies softly in my ear. He holds me as the shaking finally stops.

“Show me the source of this, Papa. Where does this come from?” I want to get to the heart of the problem, to truly and finally change.

Nodding, He shows me a picture of my birth, prematurely taken from my mother’s womb, suddenly cut off all source and supply. I struggle to breathe but no one realizes, there is not help offered. I struggle for breathe, finally taking in ragged gasp, then crying out in fear. Still no one realizes my distress, no one comes to me in my needs. I am cold and afraid and alone. There is no one to meet my needs! I must meet them myself—no one can be trusted—no one will give me what I need!

My heart breaks at this picture. There is no one who could confirm this picture to me, but my heart confirms it clearly in the depth of pain that rises in response.

“Forgive me this vow! Papa, please, forgive me this vow! Please break down these structures and restore, rebuild, renew. Tear down this wall!” Raising my eyes to Him, I see cracks appear in the wall now. I rush to it and am able to pull one large stone known! I hand it to Him. He crushes it in Him powerful hands, the pink powder falling from it looks like crushed granite paving material. It covers the stairs thinly. Pulling a second stone down, I hand it to Him to be crushed.

Chapter 32 : Returning to the abyss, pt. 1

I try to obey, yet find myself sitting at the foot of the bed, staring at the objects on the shelf for a very long time. Finally, I fall asleep, sitting there, leaning on the post at the foot of the bed. Not long afterwards, I wake, blinking in the morning light. I feel neither rested nor refreshed. I am stiff and my mind is foggy. I look around and find that He is there, still in the doorway, watching me.

“Come with Me.” He invites, extending His hand to me. I unfold myself from the awkward position on the bed and slowly walk to Him. It is somehow a relief to be in His company again. He entwines my arm in His tenderly. “Come; let us go out into the garden.”

We walk carefully down the outer stairs to the garden grove below. I wonder briefly if we are going to the place of correction again. I find that I am at peace even if this is the case. But it does not seem to be His destination. We walk through the garden, talking for much of the morning.

As we walk, though, I feel a pull, a pressure on me that distracts. Things seem confusing, unclear. I do not know how to see what is going on around me, how to understand what I am feeling and hearing. The pressure builds and builds, becoming impossible to ignore, overwhelming. “Papa, what is this? Please help me! I can not continue this way, help me!”

He turns to look at me. “What are you hearing?”

Until this moment I did not realize that it was indeed a voice that I felt more than heard. I pause for a moment to listen for it and I hear clearly now the words, “You are not wanted.”

Now I understand what I am responding to, what I am feeling. But I do not understand where it is coming from. The voice is not loud, just a muffled sound, but enough to raise a reaction within me. “Where is this coming from? What have I done? What do I need to do to get rid of this?” I find myself growing more and more agitated.
His answer takes a long time. “It is the voice of the abyss.” He explains.

“But how? We shut the door—nailed it shut. You quieted that voice.” I am confused, remembering my struggles through that place.

“Come, I will show you.” He guides me through the garden, to the sunny side of the castle. We pause at the bench by the water and he points out a door in the castle, near the waters edge, at the corner of the wall. In all the times we have been here I had never seen this before. “There is another door to that place.

“You did shut the door to the abyss, but the voice is strong, even penetrating through the song of grace that you hear now. It is not coming at you in the old ways. The voice is calling to you in new ways now.”

I realize that this door is in the sun, not in the shadows as before. The voices, feelings I am struggling with are coming from a source which has never been a source before, my husband. This is a new picture and new way indeed. “What must I do, Papa?” I ask, desperate to make it stop.

“You have a choice; you can nail the second door shut. The voice will remain, but the door will be shut and you do not have to go into that place. Or, you can go into that place and silence the voice.” He does not seem to indicate which the right choice is.

I think for a moment. I do not want to go back there, but there does not seem to be much of a choice. Closing the door does not silence the voice and I want it silenced. “Will you go with me? I can’t go back there alone.” I begin, stammering with anxiety.

Placing His hand on my shoulder He says, “You will not go alone. But you must prepare first. You cannot go as you are right now.”

“Yes, Papa. Please, help me.” I am relieved that He will be with me. Even now, the thought of facing that abyss alone is more than I believe I can do.

“Come, then, first you must eat.” He guides me around the side of the castle to the back door to the kitchen. We walk in and He begins to prepare a meal for me. He places a large piece of meat on a plate and pours a large glass to milk. Instead of going into the dining room, He turns back outside, heading toward the intimate picnic area. We sit at the table and He places the meal before me.

I hesitate for a moment, not knowing where to begin.

“Drink the milk.” He tells me.

I hesitate, not understanding why that is important now.

“Drink. It will replenish what is being taxed right now. It is the foundational things that are being attacked right now. These are what are usually attacked, and debilitated. It is rarely the deep things that come under such attack.”

I take up the large glass and begin to drink. It is incredibly rich. Not like the milk I am accustomed to drinking, stripped of the richness for health’s sake. I must drink slowly, it is so rich. I savor the flavor and the fullness, not having realized the depth that was present in His milk.

PS 59:9 O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, [10] my loving God. God will go before me and will let me gloat over those who slander me.

PS 59:16 But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.17 O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.

PS 62:1 My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

PS 62:5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.6 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.7 My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

PS 62:11 One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong,12 and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.

He reminds me of His strength, His love. His is my fortress and I will not be shaken from His arms for He alone is my refuge.

As I finish the milk, I find strength returning to my bones. I am strengthened and reassured. I am finding peace in Him once again. “Thank you, Papa.” I breathe. “You were right, that is exactly what I needed.”

“Now, take the meat.”

I begin to eat the meat He has placed before me:

PS 55:12 If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him.13 But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend,14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.
PS 55:20 My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. 21 His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.
PS 56:1 Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack.2 My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride.
PS 56:5 All day long they twist my words; they are always plotting to harm me.6 They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life.7 On no account let them escape; in your anger, O God, bring down the nations.

PS 55:16 But I call to God, and the LORD saves me.17 Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.18 He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me.
PS 56:8 Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll-- are they not in your record?
PS 56:9 Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me.10 In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise--11 in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

PS 55:22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
PS 55:23 … But as for me, I trust in you.
PS 56:3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
PS 56:13 For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

Men have hurt me, come against me, those who were close and trusted. When I call to Him, I am saved, He does not forget me, but sees and records my distress. He delivers me from my distress, the efforts of those against me have no effect on Him, but His hand is against them and He will turn them back. His is for me. He will never let me fall, I trust Him and will not fear. No man can harm me beneath His coverings, I walk with Him.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Chapter 31 : Discovering Dreams, pt 4

He releases my other arm so that I can bring the nearly empty box into my lap. As I look into the box, I find two objects remain. I glance at Him in surprise; I thought there should only be one.

“Success is an attitude, little one, not a specific dream.. I want you to have that attitude over all the specific dreams I am giving you.” He explains. “Now, take out the smaller package.”

Of the two objects in the box, one is a large, oblong package, the other small, the size and shape of a jewelry box. I remove that smaller package and set the box aside.

As I tear at the stubborn paper I whisper, “I will submit to you, Papa. I lay aside my fear and take up faith. I will receive what You have for me.”

The paper gives way and I open the box. Inside, there is a ring. It is a ‘mother’s’ ring, set with six oval stones. The first three I recognize as being my sons’ birthstones. The other three seem to be topaz, garnet or ruby, and amethyst. But I only have three children. Then I know, these are my sons’ wives! They will be daughters to me, not daughters-in-law! My daughters! I am sobbing now, with joy.

“Look again, there is more.” He whispers in my ear.

I look more closely and see tiny round stones, eight or ten of them, set between the larger oval stones on both sides of the ring. I cannot make out the colors, there are too many of them to tell. It takes me only a moment to realize these are their babies! My grandchildren! This is my family, knit together and held close through three generations. Overcome with emotion, I press the ring to my heart, sobbing, not wanting to let it go.

“Put it on.” He takes the ring and places it on the index finger of my left hand. This is where I wear a ring to remind me of something important. This I cannot forget.

I look up at Him and mouth the words, “Thank you.” Not trusting my voice at all in this moment. In reply, He kisses my forehead tenderly and puts His arm around my shoulders. I rest there, my head on His breast for a long time before He hands me the final wrapped object.

I hold it for a few moments before unwrapping it, wondering what more there could be from Him. The wrapping seems to give way easily this time. I find that I am holding a microphone.

He does not wait for me to ask for an explanation. “You will need this when you teach.”

‘I will need this when I teach… when I teach…’ The words ring over and over in my ears, ‘…when I teach.’

“You have been afraid to accept this, child.” He speaks out the unsaid words of my heart. “You have known since you were thirteen that this was your calling, but you have been afraid of it. You have tried to hide from it, tried to run from it, and even recently, you have been ready to give it up.”

Tears begin to fall again as the turmoil over it all comes welling up again. A very real pain knots my gut reminding me of the struggles I have had with this issue. He strokes my hair comfortingly.

“Do not be afraid any more. I have never changed my mind. I want you to hold on to this, to pursue it, to dream.”

Looking from the object in my hand to Him and back again I whisper, “I will, Papa, I will.”

We sit there, together, for a long time as I try to absorb all He has said and given me. Finally though, He says, “It is time for you to take these and put them where they belong.”

I look up and realize that it is night now. A cool breeze blows in from the balcony bringing in the fresh scent of night. Without thinking, I reach for the box to hold the objects so I can carry them to my chambers. Firmly though, He catches my hand and stops me.

“No, do not put them back in the box. If you do, you will not retrieve them. They must stay visible to you or they will be lost again.” He warns, taking the now empty box from the table and folding it up, flat, so that it cannot be used.

“Yes, Papa.” I meekly whisper, not realizing I was doing the wrong thing. Carefully I gather the objects in my hands and rise to my feet to take them into my chambers. He walks there with me, across the balconies. I walk into my bedchambers, to the shelf above the bed. He stands in the doorway and watches as I place the objects on the shelf.

“Now, it is time for rest. Sleep now.” He instructs.

Chapter 31 : Discovering Dreams, pt 3

I am lost in thought for quite a while. It surprises me when He reaches into the box and hands me an unwrapped object. It is a teddy bear! I am back to being confused again. The stuffed animal is soft and comforting, something I want to hold. But it is a child’s toy; I cannot fathom what this has to do with me or my dreams.

“Papa, please, help me understand this. It just does not make sense to me.” I look up at Him. Although I cannot see His face, I know His expression is one of mirth, He is enjoying this!

“This is an object of comfort. You are to be a comfort to My people. There is a difference, though. The comfort you are to offer them is the comfort of My grace, a true eternal comfort. They will come to you, seeking comfort, for you are called grace, and you will give them that comfort. You are bewildered because you do not see yourself as comforting, but rather confronting. This is because your picture of comfort is inaccurate. Real comfort comes from truth and you offer My truth. You offer what is real.” He explains.

“Yes, Papa,” I reply, but I know this idea will take some getting used to for me. I and still not sure I totally understand it. I am still stuck with a feeling of incongruence between the pen and the teddy bear. “What am I to do with this?”

“Take all of these things and place them in your chambers. There is a shelf above your bed. Put them there so that you are daily reminded of them. Pray over these dreams. Pray them into being. Their presence there will remind you to do that. But wait, do not do that now. Finish seeing them first. There are five dreams for you to see. Five is the number of my grace.”

I set the pen and the bear on the table with the ceramic dove. I wonder what can still be in the box. I truly do not know what else there might be, but there are two more objects, He says. I reach into the box again and remove a flat square package, wrapped securely in paper. This one is difficult to unwrap, the tape is stubborn, the paper tenacious.

Under my breath I hear myself saying “I submit to you, Papa. I submit to your will.” As I do, the paper gives way and I am holding an elegant wooden frame. It is mahogany with a beaded molding around the outside edge. Inside the frame is a document. It takes a while, but finally I am able to read it.

The document is a certificate of ordination. I ponder this for a few moments, not knowing whether to take this at face value or if it is symbolic. He does not give me a clear answer. But I realize that that issue is not so important, for this is a dream of full time ministry.

I remember twenty years ago this was a dream I held. But, like so many other things it seems, this was lost to me by the demands from outside. And now, He is returning it to me. I do not know what this looks like though, and He does not explain.

Once again, I find myself lost in thought. This time though, I find myself becoming distracted. We begin to talk of other things, but I feel the weight of the former things, the thoughts, feelings, expectations of the past, pressing down on me. It feels hard to breathe; there is a weight on my chest and across my back. Instinctively, I reach for my throat and find that over the robes He has given me I am wearing a heavy, beaded collar, made of small shells, that is making it difficult to breathe. Flexing my shoulders I find there is a heavy woolen, felted mantle across them, pressing down and making it difficult to move.

Where did these things come from? He did not give them to me. Panic threatens for a moment as I feel suffocated by them. I have to get rid of them! I cannot let the old ways, the old expectations steal from me again! With both hands I clutch at the collar, wrenching it from my neck. I hear beads raining down on the floor as I throw the collar into the fire. Likewise, I grab the mantle, flinging it off into the fire as well.

The flames blaze brightly, consuming the foreign garments. I begin to breathe more easily, but the panic and distraction still remain. I cannot focus clearly.

Knowing my distress, He takes my forearms into His powerful hands. “Hold on to Me.” His voice is commanding, firm. Instinctively I clutch at His arms, holding them as He is holding mine. Still I cannot focus.

“Look at Me!” He commands. “Draw your strength from Me. Focus on Me.”

Somehow, I manage to raise my eyes to look at Him, locking on to Him with all I have. As I do, the old things lose their grip and begin to fall away. Slowly, I feel myself returning, the old things no longer threatening to overcome the new.

“I am returning your dreams to you.” He reminds me, bringing me firmly back into His presence. “They are purified now, but what you dreamt of in the past was truly from Me, even if you did not know it.” He pauses to release one of my arms and press His hand to my face. “I love you and want to give these to you. You need these dreams to give you drive, to give you purpose.” He strokes my hair tenderly, then traces the edge of my ear to the earring He has just place there, reminding me once again of distance He has brought me. “Look in the box now.”

Chapter 31 : Discovering Dreams, pt 2

Once we are there, He gently takes the book from my hands and places it on the table in front of the fireplace. “Keep it here, where it is ever before you and you can remember that you are writing this.” Turning back to me, He says, “Come with Me to My chambers now, I want to show you your dreams.” He takes the box up from the table.

I follow Him out to my balcony and across to the balcony of His rooms. As we walk into the sitting room I am reminded of His taking residence there and glad of it. He places the box on the table and sits down on the small couch. He bids me to sit with Him.

As I do, He puts His arm around me and draws me close. For a time, we talk, not about anything in particular, about the journey to this place and the changes it has brought about. Finally, though He says, “Look in the box.”

Biting my lip, I bring the box into my lap. It is full, but not too heavy to manage. Looking inside, I see a number of objects, each carefully wrapped in plain paper, as if packed for long term storage. I cannot make out what the objects are, though. Reaching into the box, I remove the topmost object and set the box aside.

The object is quite heavy for its size, about the size of a woman’s shoe. Glancing toward Him for encouragement, I begin unwrapping the object. The paper resists my efforts for a bit, but finally gives way to my hands. As it tears away, I see a polished ceramic figure in cream, grey and gold. The figurine is that of a bird, a dove I think.

I find myself staring at it for a long time. What does this have to do with my dreams? I do not understand what this object means. Something out of the corner of my eye draws my attention to the window. As I glance toward it, I am reminded of the eagle we had watched soaring overhead.

To fly! To succeed, to soar above! This bird is a picture of that flight, of success!

“Yes, child,” He confirms gently, “I want you to dream of success, to see that, to hold on to that. That is why the bird is ceramic. It is heavy and sturdy so that you can hold fast to it without fear of it breaking, crumbling in your hands.” I feel His arm warm around me, hugging me gently as He explains.

I stare dumbly at the figurine for a few moments. A tear slides down my cheek as I realize that this is something I have never dared let myself hope for, dream of. The old expectations of disappointment would always overtake the possibility. But, what then, does success mean?

“What does it mean little one?” He voices my thought, challenging me to look further into this dream.

What does it mean? I turn the idea round and round in my mind, considering different definitions of the word. Finally, though, I realize there really is only one definition. “Success is pleasing you, Papa. That is what I want more than anything.”

He leans down and kisses the top of my head tenderly at this. I am reassured that I have answered well. He explains briefly, without great detail, what this will look like. I find I have no reply to make. With great care, He takes the bird from my hands and places it on the table, edging the box toward me again. He nods toward the box to encourage me to look into it again.

I do not actually look in, but rather reach in and pull out the next object. Unlike the first, it is very light and thin. This one is easier to unwrap. It is a white quill pen with a gold nib.

This object I do understand, very clearly. I have always had a dream of writing, from the third grade, maybe even from first grade, I remember it. I wrote throughout childhood and into high school. But then a deep wound came in to steal that from me. It has been lost to me for many years. And now, He is handing it back to me, purified, refined in His fire, for His purposes.

“I am giving you a pen of gold for the words that I will give you will be as gold to the ears of those who hear them.” He explains with pleasure deep in His voice.

I am weeping openly now, I could not hold it back if I tried. “This is my dream that you are giving me back!” Some how I am surprised that what I had within me could be what He would desire.

“You will recognize all your dreams, child, they are all very familiar to you. I gave them to you in the first place; you gave them back just now. All I did was to purify them. They are all things you know.” He draws me closer now, pressing my head under His chin for a moment. Slowly my tears cease as I caress the pen in my hands coming to believe that what I thought was forever gone is now given back to me.

Chapter 31 : Discovering Dreams

We walk upstairs, to my chambers. The sun shines in through the balcony windows, but the fire is still burning brightly in the fireplace. He guides me to sit by the table where the boxes are resting. The second box remains open and not yet emptied.

“Open the third box,” He directs.

I balk; it is difficult for me to leave a task unfinished. “But we have not yet finished the second. How can I look at the future before the present is settled?” I find myself protesting. The truth is that I do not want to look in that third box.

“But the present is shaped by the future.” His voice smiles ironically as He says that. “Do you not teach that? You tell your students that the present is shaped by your picture of the future. Is that not true?”

I nod, not willing to argue the point. I open the box, but do not look inside. I cannot bear to. I know what is inside is not right, there is something wrong with it all. Uncomfortable, almost disgusted with it, I hand the box to Him. “Papa, please, take this, there is something wrong, it is not right. I don’t want this…”

Nodding, He takes it from me without hesitation. “Your dreams have been pressed and shaped by the expectations and demands of others. You are right, as they are now, you will not see them realized.” He walks deliberately to the fireplace. I am surprisingly undisturbed to see Him dumping the box out into the fire.

I watch, emotionlessly as the fire blazes and apparently consumes the contents of the box. Part of me feels relief that they are gone, like a pressure, a demand is no longer present upon me. But I am surprised as I see Him reach into the fire and retrieve objects, now purified by the fire, and place them back in the box.

“Papa, please, I really don’t want them back. Please…” I stammer, not understanding what has transpired.

“You are speaking out of your old expectations. You are speaking out of your expectations of disappointment and pain. Those have been changed…” His voice trails off.

As it does, I remember the setting of new expectations, of abundance and of love and of the tokens of those changes which sit in the study below. “Yes, Papa, but I don’t understand, why do I need these? Why are they so important.”

“Because, without a vision, my people perish.” He explains, walking back toward me with the box. Instead of pressing it on me, he sets it down on the table. “Come; walk with Me to the study.” He helps me to my feet and tenderly takes my arm. I am again struck by His incredible patience with me.

Together we walk down the long staircase to the foyer and down the hallway to the study. As we walk in, I am filled by the sense of peace and security that I find in this place.

Rather than heading toward the fireplace to sit as we have before, He guides me to the bookcases along the back wall. We stand there for a moment, before the bookcases, just looking at the shelves upon shelves of books, reaching from the floor to the high ceiling. I long to sit and pour through each one. The possibilities they contain—I sigh.

“Choose a book.” He instructs with no further direction.

I feel like a kid in a candy store, and yet, I know there is purpose here. I search the shelves, trying to find the ‘right’ volume. Finally I see it, on the third shelf up, on the far right. It is a moderate sized volume, with a red and purple cover. Carefully I remove it from the shelf.

“Read the title.” He encourages.

It takes a moment, but finally I can, it says “A Life Well Lived”. I open the book and find that it is only partially written. Over half of the pages are blank.

“What will you write on those remaining pages?” He asks, inviting me to consider the possibilities.

Now I see. Those pages, I want to write out the fulfillment of my dreams on those pages. I understand Him now. I do want to have dreams once again. The longing though is one tinged by uncomfortable anticipation.

He nods at me, smiling, knowing my thoughts. With the book still in my hands, he takes my arm and we walk together back up the stairs to my room.

Chapter 30: Opening the Gate

The warmth of the sun and the sound of birds wakes me. I blink in the bright morning light, feeling rested and stronger than the night before. The ache has subsided a bit. Much to my embarrassment, I hear my stomach growling.

“You are hungry.” He noticed too! My cheeks flush in a hot blush. “Come into the garden. Eat of the seeds you have sown.

I do not understand what He means. He takes my arm and leads me down the back steps into the garden. I do not know where He is going or what to do now. So I simply follow.

He leads me into the shad garden. The gnawing emptiness in my gut becomes painful. He points out the mushrooms growing there. I pick several and at His instruction eat them. They are rich and flavorful, satisfying the edge of my hunger and dulling the sharpness of my pain. It I such a relief! I had forgotten they were growing here.

“There is much growing here that you do not know of. There is much fruit now, from seeds that you have sown. It is time to partake in some of it.”

He guides me through the shade garden to the picnic area behind the kitchen. The fence there is covered in dense vines that are heavy with ripe raspberries.

“Gather some of the berries and come with Me.”

I gather as many as I can hold and return to Him. The berries are large and full, a sweet scent rising from them. He takes them from me and we continue to walk around the castle walls. We stop again in the sun at the bench by the moat. The tree there is full of large ripe peaches.

“Take and eat the fruit.” He directs.

My mouth water as I pick a large heavily perfumed fruit. Without hesitation, I bit into the sun-warmed fruit Juice runs down my face and hands. The richly flavorful fruit ease the ache of hunger gnawing at me. I wash the sticky juice from myself in the cool water, taking a long drink as well. I can feel Him smiling on me as I do.

Finally, he takes my arm to walk with me to the bridge over the moat. Growing beside the bridge we find a heavily laden blueberry bush, with fruit as large as large grapes. Below it I notice a lush patch of leafy spinach.

“Gather here, child.”

I take up handfuls of spinach, washing it before I hand it to Him. Then I pluck a many berries as I can hold, again giving them to Him. We walk again, turning right, to stop at the bench at the front gate. Here there is a small patch of tiny wild strawberries beneath a nut tree laden with nuts.

“Gather here as well.” He directs, laying out the berries and spinach on the bench.

The berries are easy to harvest, the nuts take a little more time; shelling them is not easy. Finally, though, I have enough to give to Him.

He takes the final offerings and rolls them, together with the others, into the spinach leaves, reminding me of a salad my children love. Turning back to me, He places the roll in my hand, indicating I should eat.

It is wonderfully filling, rich with the nuts and sweetly tangy with the berries. The freshness of the spinach completes the picture and answers the hunger of my soul. Finally satisfied and refreshed, I sigh and lean against Him, sitting on the bench.

“This is what you are growing in this garden, fruit to fill and heal the wounded, hungry souls.” He pauses. I had not realized that such produce was present here. “Come, let us unlock the gate now so that others may come in and partake of what you have grown here.”

Unlock the gate! Excited anticipation mixed with fear rises up in me. I have kept carefully, intentionally locked for so long. Do I really want to unlock it?

He rises and takes my arm, leading me toward the gate. The gate and fence have changed so much. Now painted white, the well spaced iron bars are just my height now. A definite boundary, but not an impenetrable one any longer.

I fix my eyes on the gate itself. A spring close panel that may be opened only from the inside covers the lock. I do not want to do this. Yet, He has asked me and I did choose that I would submit, not negotiate, not manipulate. Taking a deep breath and deciding once again for submission, I pull open the panel, revealing the lock, a simple dead-bolt style mechanism. I reach to turn the handle, but it is rusty and hard to turn.

“I will submit! I will!” I whisper under my breath, fighting with the lock. Finally, it turns and the gate swings open. It stands ajar, not fully open, but definitely no longer tightly closed. The sight of the open gate raises panic that quickly builds to terror. Without thinking, I turn and run.

But I run straight into Him. He catches hold of my shoulders, firmly, not letting go. “I will guard the gate for you child. As I now guard the door of the castle, so not I will guard this gate as well. Trust Me. I will not betray your trust.”

“Yes, Papa,” I stammer, still overcome by the fear that the sight of the open gate raised in me.

“Come and rest now with Me, before you look at the open gate again.” He leads me back to the bench and guides me to sit with Him. His arm around my shoulder strengthens and comforts me.

Still the open gates trouble me. The though of people coming in draws up expectations of hurt, wounding and being used.

“This is why I will keep guard at the gate.” He replies. “Remember, my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Choose to trust Me, child. I will be your protector—your shield, your strong tower. All those names you know Me as I will be for you here. Take Me at My Word.”

“Yes, Papa—I choose to—I will.” I whisper.

We rest a bit longer but then He bids me to return to the gate. I follow Him there. This time, though, He stands behind me, arms around me as I look at the open gate. The fear rises again, but it is not overwhelming this time. I am able to fight it back.

“You have opened the doors to your dreams.” He whispers.

“What dreams?” I ask. “I don’t think I have any.” I am puzzled.
“You do. We will look at them together. But first, give them to me that I may reshape them, purify and mold them.”

“They are yours, Papa.” I reply, sighing as the last of the fear seems to drain away.

“Come then, let us go upstairs.” Together, we walk to the back stairs up to my chamber.

Chapter 29: The nail, pt 2

“Sit down, “He gestures for me to take the chair near the fire. It feels strange, but I do so. I would rather be sitting at His feet. As I sit, He hands me the second, flat box. Since we were last here, I realized that the first box was my past, this my present and the final one, my future, my dreams.

“Take the next object from the box.”

In the dim light from the fire, I look into the box and see a gold earring and a nail. I remove them and set the box aside.

The earring is a simple gold hoop of moderate size. The nail is not much larger around than the earring. I find I know their meaning and I look to Him for confirmation.

“These, if you are willing, are to be the mark of your new won submission in Me. If you ask Me, I will drive the nail through your ear into the door post. I will place the ring in your ear, marking you as a beloved servant for life, one with great stock in the household, one who may inherit from the household.” He explains.

I pause to think for a long moment. True, this fight to a place of submission has been difficult and I would like to mark it. Yet, I know these symbols mark the choice of submission for a lifetime, not just a moment. They make a powerful statement that for some reason is difficult to even consider.

And yet, what other choice is there to be made here? Have I fought through all of this only to be turning back, turning away from it now? Can I permit myself the option, the possibility of picking up again what I have fought so hard to lay aside?

“Yes, Papa—please, I want to be marked as Yours, for life.” I finally force the words out in a whisper, my voice more ragged than I expected.

“Then come with Me.” He extends His hand to me, seeming to ignore my inner turmoil.

Heavyhearted, I walk with Him to the balcony and through the gate to the balcony of His chambers. We stop at the door way between the balcony and sitting room. The twilight air is cool and quiet, magnifying the tension I carry.

“Here.” He instructs. I obey, wishing for joy in this moment, but not readily finding it. Instead, I find I am afraid and uncertain. But of what? The pain? No, that truly does not discourage me. I guess it is the not knowing what I am getting myself into that haunts me. But I have chosen and I will stand.

I look up at Him in resolve now. I feel His gaze upon me and sense His approval. His firm hand on my shoulder guides me toward the door post. But His touch is gentle as well, He does not force me. And this reassures me that I can trust. And I choose to trust.

I purposefully slide the hood off.

“You are my beloved servant, daughter, friend, attached for life, invited accepted.” His words soothe some of my anxiety.

Carefully, he adjusts my head, to place my ear against the door post. He glances at me as if to say ‘Are you read?’

Biting my lip, I close my eyes, not wanting to nod and move out of place. I reach up to remove the earring in my left ear, assuming it will be in the way

“No.” He stops my hand firmly. “do not remove them. I gave them to you for a purpose. I want you to hear my grace always. I will place this here.” He touches a spot on my upper ear.

I am actually relieved, noticing once again the soft song of grace ringing in my ears. I am glad that this constant will not change.

The glint of the nail in His hand catches my eye as He presses it against my ear. The metal is cold against my skin. I can see a mallet in His hand; I suppress a shudder as He raises up the mallet. Swallowing hard, I feel the mallet strike the nail. A sharp pain course through the side of my face as a crunching sound testifies to the cartilage giving way under the nail. My stomach churns slightly.

The pain is momentarily intense, but not unbearable. I am pinned, though to the door frame, unable to move. I have to fight a rising panic as a drop of blood runs down my ear to my cheek.

He says nothing, but removes a package from His robes. He unwraps the white velvet from the package, revealing the keys I have given Him. Tenderly He takes the velvet and wipes the blood from my face.

“This is your life that you are giving Me. It is a precious offering.” He explains, rewrapping the keys with the now stained velvet. His gesture strikes me, how precious that single drop of blood is to Him. How precious my life must be to Him.

Tucking the key back into His robe, He kisses my forehead. “You are the bride I am preparing for my son, and I love you.”

My panic subsides, He is worthy of my trust. With controlled careful strength He pulls out the nail, twisting it out of my ear. He takes the earring and passes it over the coals in the lantern, burning impurities away, leaving the gold glowing and hot. He moves very close to me.

“I will place this in your ear, marking you as Mine.” He pauses a moment as if to make sure I do not object, then pushes the gold ring through the nail hole in my ear. My ear stings sharply as He does so. The heat from the gold burns, but also seals my wound.

He has marked me, I am His!

The weight of the ring is noticeable and the pull of it against the new wound begins a dull ache that steadily grows.

“You are Mine,” He whispers. “This is the mark of your submission, child, not offered cheaply or without meaning. It is hard won.” He kisses my forehead.

“Yes, Papa,” I breathe through flowing tear. I swallow back sobs that come from His recognition of my battle. Knowing that it is all important to Him moves my heart beyond words. The ache though, spreads down my neck and shoulders. I do not understand it.

Wrapping my rim in His, He guides me to the edge of the balcony to look out over the grove. The cool air of twilight soothes me as He stand behind me, wrapping His arms around me in a secure embrace. I lean on Him drawing from His strength. By now the ache has spread throughout my body. Why does it ache so much?

“Because submission is a process of death. Death to the flesh, to the self, is a painful process. That is the pain you feel. Let me give you My strength to stand on. Lean on Me and rest.” His embrace is firm and sure. I lean into Him, suddenly feeling incredibly tired. In the security of His arms I am safe and find rest. I sleep.

Chapter 29: The nail, pt 1

Sometime later I awaken and He is there. I think on what has just past. “Forgive me Papa, for not trusting you fully. I will trust you now.”

He hugs me gently, receiving what I have said. “Come with Me, I want to show you something.” He helps me to my feet and takes my arm. Unhurriedly we walk through the shade garden, turning the corner to the place where the shaded side meets the sun. Attractive vines have overgrown the fence here, making it a place sheltered from the outside. Tress sprinkle the area as well further enhancing the intimate feel of the place. Close to the castle wall, near a door I did not know was there, I find a round stone picnic table and benches. I realize the door must lead into the kitchen.

“What is this place?” I ask, bewildered.

“It is place for you to meet with those I connect to you.” He explains, but offers nothing further. We pass slowly by the picnic table and finally into the kitchen. Walking by the pantry I see the shelves are basically well stocked, although there are a few empty places on the shelves.

“I will help you to fill those shelves, do not worry.” He comments as we walk past.

Continuing through the kitchen, we stop in the small private dining room. There He bid me to sit down and places before me a plate of bread and meat and a glass of cold fresh water. “Eat now.” He invites.

I obey, realizing how hungry I am. The meal tastes so good. I use the bread to sop up the juices from the meat so as not to miss anything He has given me. The meal leaves me feeling stronger, some what renewed after the struggle of the recent past.

Leaving the table now, He takes my arm to walk down the long hall into the foyer. Suddenly I am so tired.

“Papa, I don’t think I can go further.” My feet feel like lead weights right now, my legs burn with the effort of just walking. I fall into a chair placed along the hallway wall, desperately trying to catch my breath and make the burning stop.

“Renew your strength in Me. (Is 49).” He instructs. “Take my hand and come , you do not need to rely on your strength, I will give you strength.”

Placing my hand in His, I struggle to my feet. Slowly, leaning heavily on Him, we continue down the hall. Gradually the hallway opens into the elegant foyer.

Polished black and white marble tiles greet us here. Heavy, regal moldings line the floor, door frames and stairs, working their way up to create panels on the walls. The flowing split staircase seems a focal point as the center of the space. The wide stairs with their gilt banister rise to a landing, then on to a second where it splits into two staircases leading to the second floor.

Together we climb to the first landing and sit at the top step. Looking down into the foyer I see the shadow forms of many people, guests crowded into the foyer, talking with each other. They seem to be waiting for something.

The sight threatens to overwhelm me. I feel the tears burn my eyes as the fear rises from within. The urge to run builds, but He is there with me, so I stay.

“You are overwhelmed now, but it will not always be so. This place will not always be full of people. There will be times and seasons for that, but it will not overwhelm you. I will give you strength and understanding, and I hiding place in Me to rest. Your study, the cave, those are places away from the crowd. They are only for you and I, they will sustain you in those seasons.

“My yoke is easy. It will be different this time because it is me, not you. I will show you your dream, in that box upstairs.”

“I am afraid of them.” I murmur, hanging my head.


“Disappointment. I remember being told as a child I could not have those dreams.” A great sadness fills my voice.

“Do not be afraid, we will look at them together. Remember your new expectations, abundance, not disappointment.”

I am intimidated by what I hear. Not sure of what it means, not what I am supposed to do. But I have made a decision and I will submit. I will trust Him in this and not fight to do it in my way. Finally I am able to whisper, “Yes, Papa, as You say, it will be.”

I feel more than see Him smile. Even so, my heart is heavy. I know, more that feel, that all this is good. Yet it is hard. The changes have been hard won and though defeated the flesh is not laying down gracefully in defeat. I feel it rising up, wanting to manipulate the situation into its own will. But I will not negotiate, I will not try to do it my way. His is the only way and I will submit. A silent tear slides down my cheek, testament to this inner struggle. I notice His hand on my shoulder and how long it has been there.

“Come upstairs now.” He softly instructs. Slowly we walk up the stairs, taking the flight on the right heading into the hall containing our chambers. He leads me into my own rooms.

Chapter 28: Voices,pt 2

“You are being set free to be what and who I have made you to be. The barriers that have stood in the way are being torn down and I am unleashing you. In the past you have been afraid at every step of the way. You fear displeasing me. Leave that behind and walk in the new maturity of the mature son (huios) The placed one knows the heart and will of the Father and goes forth in confidence to do it without fear.”

“Yes Papa.” I try to absorb what He is saying, but it feels overwhelming.

“There remains one thing still left to do before we leave this place.”

My heart sinks. It is still not complete? What more can there be? Repressing a sigh, I ask, “What must I do ,Papa?”

“Expose your sin to Me.”

I still do not love this process, but I have learned to obey. Quickly removing my robes and sandals, I place myself, uncovered, into His hands.

“ I trust you, Papa.” I whisper, trying not to tremble.
“I love you. I will never betray that trust.” He takes my arm in His and walks with me to the waterfall. “You have not been washed of the stains.” He explains.

Without thinking about it, I look and see that I am still covered in heavy, tar-like stains. As I see them, I realize how uncomfortable they are; I do not want to continue carrying them.

The startling cold of the water breaks me out of my thoughts. He has soap and a scrub brush in His hands.

“These stains have prevented Me from reaching your heart. Submit to Me now and allow Me to wash them from you.”

The water’s cold penetrates my joints and starts to ache. I do not want to stay, I hate the cold. But even as I begin to shiver, I hear myself saying “Yes, Papa, please cleanse me.”

He wastes no time as He begins scrubbing the stains from me. “You have trusted in yourself not in Me. You protect yourself, take care of things for yourself,,,”

Suddenly I hear my own vow, “I will not be vulnerable.” And I see its source—daddy did not protect us from the alcoholism. This is the final piece of the puzzle that has kept me from submitting.

“Papa, I repent! I repent of this vow! I break this vow! Break down these structures, Papa break them down!”

The cold water has hardened the stains and they start falling away. The center of my back itches intensely. A stubborn stain clings there. Vigorously He scrubs at it until it falls away. Finally I am clean,

But the penetrating cold has taken its toll, soaking into my joints leaving them aching and sore. My skin, raw and red from the scrubbing and peeling away the stains, tingles and burns. As He leads me from the water, I find the warmth of the air welcome even though it stings my raw flesh painfully.

“Allow Me to anoint your raw places.” Even His voice sounds warm now.

I nod, unable to find words. He has a flask of golden oil in His hand that He pours liberally over me. The oil is so warm! It is the penetrating warmth of a sunbeam in the middle of summer, strong and sure. The heat sinks deep into me, driving the cold from my bones. As it does, I realize the stinging ache is gone from my skin as well. The oil has covered me and relieved my pain.

Tenderly He reaches for my robes and covers me with them. He ties the sandals back on my feet and settles the silky hood over my head. Although I am spent, I also feel protected once again. I am safe.

“Come now and rest.” He leads me by the hand to a warm sunbeam to sit with Him and rest. This time I know we are finished and I am truly able to rest.

Chapter 28: Voices,pt 1

The silence only last a few moments as we sit together. “Tell me how to do this. I do not know how to submit.”

“Yes you do.” He shakes His head disagreeing with me. “You already submit to the wrong voices. You fight the correct one, but take in, unconditionally, the wrong ones.”

He has rebuked me again, very gently this time. It hurts though as He is right. “Please change this. Do whatever it takes so that my heart can hear and recognize the right voices.” I whisper, biting my lip in fear of what I am asking.

Without explanation, He takes my hands, presses His thumbs into my palms, then presses my hands to His heart. Suddenly, without warning, He releases my hands and sharply boxes my ears! I jump back in shock and surprise at the explosive pain in my ears. I cannot hear! Before I can react further, He grabs my face tightly and presses it close to His, so close I can feel the roughness of His beard on my cheek.

“Now, listen to My voice. The others have been drowned out. You can hear them if you try, but now choose to focus on My voice.” I can hear His firm whisper in my ear.

My ears are still ringing with pain, tears streaming down my cheeks as I now, whispering, “Yes Papa.” My face is still locked in His powerful hands.

“Child, listen to My words. You are loved. You are valued. You are respected. You are destined.” Under the sound of His voice, I hear the soft chimes of His grace, but nothing else.

He continues to hold my face as my hearing slowly returns. I realize though that there seems to be a bandwidth missing. The other voices have quieted.

“I want to hear Your voice.” I murmur.

He kisses my cheek. “And I want to speak!” Abruptly He stands, pulling me to my feet. “Hang on to my neck!”

Without thinking, I obey. He spins me about, allowing me to soar once more in His arms. Joy floods in, threatening to overwhelm me.

“Remember,” His voice is soft in my ear as He sets me down once more, “My yoke is easy and My burden light. Teach my people this. Let Me be in control though. Know that this is where and how I want to speak to you, in your ear, softly, with My grace drowning out all the other voices in the background.”

“Yes Papa.” I press my head to His chest. He holds me close to His heart, pleased I think.

I sense what He has said, particularly about teaching His people is important. It is strange to think I could be dong something important. I think on others who are important, seven or eight names immediately come to mind. I am not though. But what He has just said sounds like what He has asked me to do is important.

“It is,” He assures me.

I do not understand how this can be when everything looks like I am not significant. I only assist, support and substitute for those who are important.

“Under authority does not mean lesser. Remember the lesson of the eye and the hand. They are different; one is not greater than the other. Both are valued and important.” He pauses for a moment, then goes on. “The changes in you have been rapid because of your willingness to receive and even ask for My rebuke and correction. You do not understand How important that is to Me.” Gently, He strokes my hair. “I know it is hard; it pleases Me that you obey.”

I really do not understand, it does not feel like things around me have changed. But I will not deny what He has said. A quiet joy wells within me, knowing I have His approval, a satisfaction and contentment I have never known before.

He guides me to sit down with Him once again. I find that I am finally able to rest in His presence again. The distance between us has finally been bridged.

Chapter 27: I will not…, pt. 3

I feel as though I dare not express to Him how relieved I am to know His rebuke is finally over. At least for now. Taking my arm in His, he walks me to the north east corner of the castle, where the castle and courtyard share a common wall. A small thorny weed growing near the wall catches His attention. The vine seems insignificant and easy to overlook.

Yet, He points to it, directing me, “You must get rid of this. Dig it up; do not let this grow and undermine what has been built here in this place.”

Not fully understanding, I obey. I have nothing but my hands to dig with now. My sword is still back in the grove. For a moment I think about going back for it, but He shakes His head.

“No, you do not need that now. This is a matter of your choices.”

So I begin digging with my hands. The process is slow and difficult, but I finally reach a large white root, positioned directly beneath the wall, near the corner. I am puzzled. I fear if I try to dig it out the wall might lose support and begin to collapse.

He nods. “Open up the root and remove what is within.”

I can feel Him watching me as He directs me. I wonder how to carry out his instruction, having nothing to cut the root open with. I try clawing at it with my fingernails. At first it does not give way.

I remember what He taught me before though, that I must bring my flesh into submission, choosing His will over my own. I command my flesh to submit. The root starts to tear under my hands and I peel open the tough outer husk. Inside I find four large white pods, the size and weight of gallon milk jugs.

“Remove them”

Struggling slightly with them, one at a time I pull them out of the underground husk, laying them at His feet. Each one is marked with a word. Together they read, “I WILL NOT SUBMIT”. I swallow hard at this revelation. I never knew such a declaration was buried so deep within me.

“Look at the third one.” His voice calls me from my reverie.

I take the pod in my hands, staring at the word “NOT”.

“Open it.”

I try clawing it open, but it will not tear. “I submit my heart to You, Papa!” I pray under my breath. The pod splits open suddenly.

As it does, I see myself at age 2 or 2 ½, telling my maternal grandmother that I did not have to listen to her, she was not my mother. I have heard the story many times from my parents, including the part about how this lead to one of my few childhood spankings. I have always been embarrassed by the tale. This time though, He shows me something different. I see how, in that moment, in my childishness I realized that I truly did not have to submit. All I really had to do was make it look like I was doing the right thing and that was sufficient. As long as I acted in ways that were close enough to expectations, my heart did not have to submit. And so the pattern became set.

“Forgive me, Papa! Forgive me! Forgive this vow within me, that I would not submit! Break down these structures Papa! I will submit. I will submit!”

He nods deeply.

“How do I get rid of this?” I am excited, yet fearful of the possibility of finally finishing and closing the gap between Him and me.

“Open up the pod and spill its contents on the ground.” He directs

Struggling, I finish pulling it open. Finally it flies apart. The pod is filled with insects! I drop it in fear and revulsion, reflexively brushing my arms and legs with my hands to make sure there are none on me. My stomach churns at the mass of creatures on the ground and I jump back trying to distance myself from them.

“Burn them.” He hands me the lantern from His hands.

Keeping as much distance as possible between me and the writhing mass of bugs I pour the coals out of the lantern out over them. The coals glow for a moment then burst into flames, consuming the insects and the now empty pod that contained them.

Once the flames die down, I sweep the coals carefully back into the lantern.

“Now, return the remaining pods back to the root.”

If anything, the pods feel heavier now. I struggle with their weight as I return them to the root under the wall. “I WILL SUBMIT” I bury the root once more, allowing it to continue supporting the castle wall. Finally finished, I sit back on my heels, my energy spent.

He stands beside me, looking at me. Placing His hand on my shoulder, His voice is soft, “Come, let us go back to the shade garden once more.” Reaching out to help me up, He takes my arms to lead me back to the garden.

Chapter 27: I will not…, pt. 2

Finally we reach the shade garden and sit beneath a tree. There is a gentle quiet as we rest there. But even in this rest I find myself becoming restless and agitated.

“Talk with Me.” He invites.

Hearing His voice, I sigh with relief. I am reluctant though, to talk, fearing further rebuke from Him.

“Tell Me your fears, little one.” He wraps His arm around me and draws me close to Him.

“I am afraid,” I begin, not really sure what I am going to say. “I am afraid that you will turn me away, that you will no longer want me to serve you, I guess.” My voice is uncertain, stammering as I stumble through my words.

“Child, I will never turn you away.” He extends His left hand to me, gesturing for me to take it. “You see your name is cared upon the palm of my hand.” I trace the hard raised edges of the car with my index finger. “I have promised to never turn you away. It is you who turns away from Me in these times.”

I know what He says is true, but still I am afraid.

“Surrender that fear to Me daughter.”

I do not know how, but I am willing. I realize that there is a stone in my hand, dark, smooth and oblong—slate I think. On its smooth surface is carved the word “ALONE”.

As I read the word I realize how long I have held on to this memorial stone, believing its pronouncement over me; that I should always be alone, isolated in heart if not in physical distance. Wordlessly, I place the stone in Him hand.

I watch as He closes His powerful hand around the stone and begins to squeeze it. The stone squeals metallically in complaint before it suddenly shatters. He drops the dust and stray pieces and let them fly away in the breeze. Then He draws me close again, holding and reassuring me.

Finally, He says, “Child, will you return with Me and let Me finish?”

Even as His words weigh heavily on me, I am stuck by the fact that there is no anger, no condemnation in them. Deep within I knew it was not finished. My flesh wants to walk away and be done with this. By my heart….” Yes, Papa.” I whisper, “I will.” I am filled with dread, but the alternatives are so much worse. I cannot imagine continuing to be apart from Him.

He holds me close for a few moments longer, to remind me of His promises, I suppose. Then, He helps me to my feet, laying His arm around my shoulders to walk back to the grove.

Far too quickly we arrive at that place. Once again I find I must decide and surrender myself into His hands yet again. He receives me lovingly, but as before, His rebuke is hard and uncompromising.

“You have disobeyed Me, you have been in rebellion.” The words cut deeply through me; how they hurt! I see how my fear of submission centers in my mother. I vowed not to submit so that I would not be vulnerable to be hurt again.

“Forgive me, Papa.” I choke out the words in a strangled cry. “Forgive me for I have refused to submit to you! I repent, I repent!”

“Will you surrender control?” He firmly asks, pausing a moment in His rebuke.

Suddenly, I notice another stone in my hand. Black and sharp like obsidian, the jagged glassy oval bears the word “CONTROL” engraved upon it. I know what I must do and realize if I pause too long I will not be able to do it. Silently I hand the stone over to Him. Again, as before, He crushes it in His powerful grip. Sometimes, like now, His strength truly frightens me. Surrendered into His hands, He could crush me like that rock and there would be nothing I could do. A vague sense of helplessness washes over me.

But, His rebuke is finally over now. I am exhausted, but glad that at least of now, it is over. He guides me back to the shade garden to sit beside Him and rest once again.

It does not take long for the restlessness to seek me out once more. I don not understand why I cannot seem to relax in Him presence right now. No! The realization hits like cold water. We are still not finished. That is the source of the agitation.

“Oh, Papa!” exhaustion and distress color my cry. I feel the distance growing again. “Please! What ever it takes, I want to obey! I will go—what ever you ask!” Tears flow freely down my face. “I just want to finish this. Please, please, let us finish this.”

He does not respond; for a moment there is only an uneasy silence, punctuated by my choked sobs. I brace myself to hear there is yet more rebuke awaiting me, flinching in anticipation of it. “No.” His clear voice cuts the heavy silence finally. “No further rebuke now.” Although I try to hide it, my sigh of relief is unmistakable. “Your heart is changed, willing and softened now. That is the purpose of rebuke, once achieved, it is no longer needed. Let me take you to the source of the problem.”

Chapter 27: I will not…, pt. 1

“Let Me see your feet.” He finally says. He takes my feet in His hands, tenderly rubbing them for a moment. Gently, He ties the sandals back on my feet. “It is time for you to take some risks now. This will require correction.”

He sits there beside me, saying nothing more, as if waiting for something from me. I feel a barrier between us, not hostility, but as disconnection. It seems more and more unbearable as the moments pass.

“Papa, Please, I cannot stand this separation! Please, change me. I do not want to be apart from you!”

He smiles, taking my arm and we walk toward grove, walking through the shade garden rather than through the sun. As the grove comes into view, I realize that I am not so frightened of it as I once was.

He leads me to the tree to stand there and receive correction from Him. Willingly I obey.

He begins.

He shows me a painfully familiar picture—idolatry! Again. My gut is wrenched to see that my own comfort has become an idol between us. I have worshipped my comfort and failed to pursue His promises, even as Israel failed to pursue the promised land!

Abruptly, the correction changes to rebuke! I have disobeyed Him. I have refused to lay aside my comfort, to be uncomfortable for Him. He is angry, displeased with me. His rebuke has stopped, but I can still see His anger. I hate His anger! But I know that it is only in His anger that I can truly appreciate the depth of my sin.

I stand dumbly before Him, unable to form a reply. I try to go to Him, walk with Him, but cannot reconnect. A cold distance still stands between us and I cannot bridge it.

Finally I realize what it is. “You are not finished, are You?” I hesitantly ask.


I know the only way to bridge the distance between us is to allow Him to complete His rebuke. Oh, how I truly hate His rebuke, I feel like my heart is falling within me. He is waiting for me to ask Him to finish. How many times has He said He would not force me here. Oh, but I wish He would. I do not, oh I do not want to ask Him for further rebuke. But if I do not, the distance will remain. And that is worse.

Sighing heavily, I finally cry softly, “Papa, please, I cannot stand this distance between us. Please, finish this, what ever it requires.”

Silently He nods, leading me back to the tree. This time though, He sits on the branch, saying, “Come, place yourself into My hands to receive My rebuke.”

I swallow hard. Not long ago He had asked me if I would obey such an instruction. I said yes then. Now it has become reality and I must choose.

I will obey.

I remove sword, belt and shield, those things which seem to get in the way at this moment. A deepening knot tightens in my gut as I lay them aside by the smooth trunk of the tree and walk to Him. In silence I stand before Him for a moment. He presses my cheek with His hand and kisses my forehead, reminding me of His love. I place myself into His hands.

He does not hesitate. His rebuke begins and it is hard. I do not understand the depth of my disobedience nor how much anger He has for it.

“I am displeased.” He reprimands strongly, the tone of His voice pierces my heart more than His words. “You have not listened to Me, habitually tuning out my voice, especially regarding ministry. You have refused to share your heart, particularly your weakness and sin with others. You refuse to receive ministry from Me. You have closed down your heart. And you have refused to submit.”

His words are hard and heavy, cutting through the depths of my heart. His rebuke is always right, but the truth hurts so deeply. I cry out, “Forgive me Papa, forgive me! I will obey, I will submit.” Then I am surprised to hear myself say, “I am terrified to submit!”

Abruptly He stops.

For a moment I am confused, but I remember that He has told me He would never rebuke me for my wounds. Without explanation He helps me to my feet, but I have no strength to stand. I fall to my knees crying beside Him.

“Teach me how, Papa, teach me how to do this.”

“Come rest with Me in the garden.” He takes my arm once again. We walk together, the distance between us bridges, somewhat, now. I hurt now, though, with a deep ache and a longing for a relief of the terrible emptiness that the distance from Him brings.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Chapter 26: Barefoot, pt 2

We continue on, walking now, heading toward the doorway. The very real pain in my knees leaves me limping and clinging to Him for support. My labored breathing hands heavy in the hot, stuffy air.

Finally, we reach the door back to the foyer. Cool air and bright light rushes in as He opens it. While the cool air is easier to breath, it feels cold now in the foyer. The change is a shock to me, leaving me feeling ill. He helps me to a nearby chair.

“Let Me see your wounds.” He directs, peeling away the robe from my knees as I wince in pain. My knees are torn and bloody, bruised and aching.

“ I do not understand, Papa, what happened?” I ask as He removes the debris from my wounds. Deeply imbedded stones make the process very painful. “What is all this?”

“The criticism, condemnation and self consciousness has penetrated deeply, child. They have cut you in ways that debilitate you, keeping you from that place of worship. There is great power in that place, so there is great struggle in getting there.

“You have been wounded getting there before, you dance before Me wounded. You serve before Me bleeding. Let Me heal those wounds.”

“Please, Papa! I am so tired of this pain!”

He opens a jar of salve and straightens my legs. Taking a handful of the ointment, He spreads it liberally over my knees. It burns! I bite my lip to keep from crying out. I was not expecting this!

“I want to burn away the criticism that is infecting these wounds that makes them fester and poisons you. Some of it has been around so long you cannot distinguish it from the truth.”

I hear old voices from the past raising up from the shadows. “Not good enough” “Stupid, stuck up, uncaring” “Not like us, different” “Too hard, wrong, does not fit” “That’s not the way it is done.”

I know these voices well. They have haunted my heart, kept me from intimacy with Him. But in ways they are also a part of me, a part I must now give up. “I release these to You, Papa.” I whisper, biting back tears. “I want to hear truth, not this any more.”

“Yes” He says, “it is time not for truth.”

I do not even begin to understand what He means by that.

“Remove your sandals.” He directs. I obey, handing them to Him. He helps me to stand, then walk through the foyer and out the front door.

I remember how afraid I have been in the past, walking with Him. I realize I am not afraid now. So much has changed.

As we step outside I hear myself thinking about how much I hate being barefoot.

“Why?” He asks, my thoughts are not hidden from Him.

“It hurts. Either someone is stepping on my feet or I am stepping on something that hurts or I stub my toes on something. I always seem to hurt myself when I go barefoot.” I explain hurriedly.

He does not reply.

As we walk across the courtyard, I notice how warm and soft the sand feels underfoot. It tickles my feet, but does not hurt. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a small green plant growing up near the gate in the same place where we planted a seed not long ago.

Still without speaking, we cross the bridge into the garden. I am taken aback as I realize how the wood is softly smooth and warm underfoot, feeling almost like silk underfoot. As we cross the bridge and step over to the grass I am awed at how velvety soft the grass is beneath my feet.

“What have you felt?” He asks.

His question surprises me and I cannot find an answer.

“You have closed yourself up to much that is good in trying to protect yourself from what is bad. Trust Me instead. You have excused it, but it has been selfishness and sin.” Gentleness and love infuse the challenging words He has just spoken.

His words are heavy in the air between us, placing something before me that I had never realized. Yet I cannot deny or argue what He has said. And what He offers is so hopeful. “Please, Papa, correct it.” I finally whisper.

“I knew you would say that.” He leans down to kiss the top of my head and He takes my arm. Somehow it seems like is has been a long time since we’ve walked like this to the grove. I am surprised though, when He turns to the right into the sunny side of the garden, toward the bench by the mote where we have sat to watch the koi. The garden is blooming and beautiful.

I am seized by the urge to run. Not to run away, but to run like a child for the sheer joy in running. He takes my hand suddenly and we begin to run together, laughing for the very joy of it. We run full out until I finally collapse from the effort. Tumbling down on the ground I realize that my feet do not hurt! I see our footprints in the grass and the small stones laying in that path and wonder why I did not seem to step on any of them.

“Because you are holding My hand.” He replies. “You have been guarding yourself for a long time. Now is time for you to begin to take risks, holding on to My hand.” He helps me back to my feet, taking my arm once again. Coming upon the shaded bench, we stop to rest in the coolness of the refreshing shade. “This is how you are to labor now, holding My hand and being refreshed in Me.”

I look up at Him for a moment and see a solid strength like no other I have known. He is so different from what I had been taught to expect, so safe, so faithful, so truly worthy of my trust. His hand in mine does not force me nor hurt me, but freely gives me strength and comfort.

Silently, we move to the water’s edge, sitting on the bank to dip our feet into the cool water. Although a bit shocking, the coolness of the water is reviving nonetheless and we sit quietly, resting there.

Chapter 27 to come

Chapter 26: Barefoot, pt 1

I awake in His arms still. I am surprised to still be there.

“Get used to being in Your Father’s arms.” He replies to my unspoken thoughts.

I think on this for a long while. What does it mean to be in His arms?

“I did not send you out to go alone, be rather that I will go with you.” He explains. “I will hold your hand now that the stone “Not Enough” is gone.”

I see now how that stone prevented me from holding on to Him before. It stood as a wedge between me and His promises. I sigh, relieved that it is now gone. I lean my head against His shoulder; it is so restful here with Him. I am surprised to realize suddenly, I am not used to rest.

“I will give you what you are to do now. I want you to rest in Me even as you labor for Me.”

I have been working too hard with and for too little for son long. And there has been no rest. I wonder for a moment what would it be like to be used to this, for being in His arms to be the norm. How very different things would be.

I am beginning to understand a little. I rest again in His arms, trying to understand what it means being there. I think on holding my son in my arms. Where I go, he goes. His relationship to me is clear to all who see. From that place, he can clearly hear and list to all I might have to ay. It is a place of affection from which I often whisper words of endearment to him. When I hold him he is in a place of safety, out of danger, protected. When my son is in my arms all I have is his and in his reach. His position with me is clear. He is watching where I am going, where I am taking him, not worried about how he is going to get there.

It is also a place of immediate correction, not so much of repentance, but of direction, a place I can softly speak direction to him. It is a place where he does not have to worry about being taken care of. It is clear that he will be.

I long to learn to rest and stay in His arms. But I feel myself becoming restless.

“Make a habit of staying here.” He whispers in my ear. I try to rest once more, and finally I do.

His peace overwhelms me and I find delight in His presence once more. “I cold be here always.” I sigh softly.

“No you could not.” He laughs, knowing my pension for activity over rest. “Do you know I delight in your company? This is what I made you for. Do not let others in true here.” He is quiet for a little while, but then continues. “There is a different perspective from here that I want you to see, set apart from selfishness, from your own needs. You can get here only because your need is met in me.”

“Forgive me my short-sightedness, my selfishness, Papa. I am indeed a selfish creature. Please forgive me.” I whisper, seeing the truth so clearly within me.

He nods silently. “Trust Me for the bigger picture, start to see from one step further back, the perspective from my arms is up higher and one step back from where you have been looking from.

“There is provision and abundance because you are here in My arms. You are doing because you are accepted by Me, not accepted because you are doing.”

He lets me think on all this a while before adding, “It is time to go back now.”

He helps me to my feet as He stands. We walk past each of the memorial stones: the crystal spray, the butterfly, the rose and now the wedding tent. I recall the meaning of each and try to hold on to it. In the light of the lantern we make our way back to the entrance. It is small enough that we will have to crawl through.

On hands and knees, there is no light in the space. He covers me as He did before as we crawl through into the long passage.

“Can one get lost here?” I ask, sheltered in His presence.

“Yes, that is why you must stay with Me.” He replies, His voice echoing off the close walls.

I wonder how someone would get lost, the passage seemed straight, but sheltered in Him, I guess there was more I did not see. The path seems different now than it was when we came in. I find rocks in the way, excruciatingly painful under my knees.

“Those block the pathway in.” He explains. “I swept them out of the way when we came in.”

“What are they?” I am bewildered.

“Self consciousness, embarrassment, fear, guilt. They are those things that keep you from coming into a place of worship.” He replies without condemnation.

“They hurt!” I exclaim in frustration as my knee lands directly on another stone. “Can I get rid of them?”

“Yes, you must intentionally sweep them away.”

I begin deliberately sweeping them aside with my hands, clearing a path to crawl through. My efforts though are imperfect and I am painfully aware that miss a few.

“Each time you come here, you must do that to prevent distractions that will keep you away.” He warns as we continue the long crawl out of the cave.

My knees are pretty battered by the time we come to the end of the passage way. I find it difficult to stand even as I blink my eyes in the light, trying to adjust to the brightness outside the crawl space. The pain in my knees screams at me until I cannot ignore it. I remember His earlier admonition to me.

“Papa, my knees…” I whisper, still a bit afraid to expose my wounds to Him.

He turns to look at them. I can see they are bruised and bloody. “These are wounds from criticism, old and new and even criticism of yourself. Your worship is a gift to others even as it is a gift to Me. You have wounds that often prevent you from going there. Let Me heal you.”

“Yes Papa! Here? Now?”

“No,” His voice is gentle with me, “we need to leave this space first.”

Part 2-->