Saturday, February 25, 2006

Chapter 9: Pleasing Papa, pt. 2

“Papa? Papa…” my tears fall on His outstretched hand even as I press it to my heart.

“Daughter, “he gently speaks, “I love your heart. I delight in it, I take pleasure in what I have created in you, exactly what I desired it should be. I will not damage that which I love so dearly. That is why I will not bring rebuke or correction to you in this innermost place in your heart. Those things are for other places.” It is true, that is exactly what He has done. “The pain that was caused you here, I will not cause you. I will not betray your trust here.” I find myself clinging to His hand, crying. His promise soothes my fear. His hand is heavy upon me, warm, not painful.

“I want to help you rebuild the structures of your hear. Would you let me take you to the structures that were formed in your pain to rebuild?” Now I am reluctant. I do not honestly want to go back, to relive those wounds, to be reminded of them again. I want to keep them buried where they are. But I feel His hand upon me, in my hands. I remember the scars and my name. How can I tell Him no?

“I will go with you, Papa. I honestly do not want to go back there, it hurts to go there. But if You tell me that is needed and You are going to take me, to be with me, then I will go.” I swallow hard, fearful of what He will show me.

He nods, wrapping His strong arms around me once again as if to protect me from what I must see.

I see myself as a baby, comforted in my daddy’s arms. But he is saying, “You are making things so difficult for you mommy. Why can’t you be good for her?” My heart drops, breaking as I hear these words. An empty aloneness floods coldly into me, isolating me from the comfort I had felt.

I see myself as a little girl, longing for daddy’s attention but not able to get it, not able to please. I see myself at ten years old, crying out for understanding support, but receiving only criticism and guilt.

My heart cries out, “I can’t please daddy!” I hear myself say it over and over and over again. I can’t please Him—he will not be pleased, neither daddy nor my Papa God! I sob from some place so deep within me there are no words, no tears, only gut wrenching cries. I finally see the vow my heart has made out of these hurts.

“I repent of this vow! I repent! Forgive me, Papa, forgive me!” I cry, struggling now. “I….I…I break this vow!” The words are so very difficult; the sobs come more forcefully now. It is hard to try to break what has always seemed so undeniably true. How can this not be true? It is what I have always known; it is what has always been. And yet, He told me that He is pleased in me. He said He is pleased with me!

“I break this vow. Oh, Papa, I break it, I renounce it! I can please my daddy, my Papa, I can! He is pleased with me! I release my heart to receive this!” The words pour out of my wounded soul. I feel myself collapse, feeling spent and weak, as though I have lost a major support for everything I know. What do I do now? Everything I have known before, trusted and believed has just been overturned.

“I took you here to rebuild, not to leave you without.” He tells me. “Let me rebuild for you.” He whispers in my ear.

“Yes, Papa.”

“Expose these wounded places to Me. Let me touch and heal them.” I try to obey, exposing my heart to Him. But something is not right. I wait for Him to explain. “No child, that is not where your wounds are.” He pauses. I still do not see. “Your wounds are on your back. Lie here, across my lap that I might tend those wounds.”

I obey, but pull the robe down with me, over me, to cover and protect me.

“Let the robe go for now. Expose yourself you Me.” He instructs again. There is no anger in His voice, but I remember this instruction when He rebuked me and fear is stirred within me. The fear takes on a life of its own, growing more menacing by the moment until it overwhelms me.

I am shaking violently, my guts convulsing. He tries to touch my wounds, but I flinch and pull away. I hear myself crying out, “Daddy, don’t hurt me, please!” I know that this is the old way, but I cannot stop it. “Don’t hurt me!” I want to hide from Him, to run away. I cover my head with my hands as if to protect myself from His touch.

Tenderly, with great patience, He gently places His hand ever so lightly on my shoulder. After a moment, he carefully reaches over and brushes my hair from my face. I fight not to flinch. I feel so afraid, so vulnerable and exposed. I keep expecting correction, rebuke, pain. Surely there is some reason for Him to hurt me now. There must be! I am so exposed, so vulnerable right now, it must be so that He can hurt me. Tears flood down my cheeks, my trembling, uncontrollable.

Gently He asks, “Why are you here right now?” The words hang in the air, not demanding, but waiting for response.

My mind races to find an answer that will protect me, one that will not bring anger down on me. I heard no anger in His words, yet, but surly it is not far behind. “Because you told me to.” I finally reply. But that is not the full answer.

“Because…because you said you would not hurt me.” I whisper, afraid to speak these words. I fear that I have heard Him wrong, that perhaps this was what I wanted to hear and not really what He said. Afraid that he will be angry at my misunderstanding, I persist. “You said that you would not hurt me here. I am here because I chose to trust You. I choose to trust You!”

The revelation of what I have just said hits me with a resounding impact, leaving me feeling like a spring suddenly unwound. I do trust Him! He means what He has said to me! Tension pours from me, from the top of my head through my entire being. I relax heavily into His lap. He rests His hand heavily on my shoulder as if welcoming me to rest upon Him as He soothes my wounds with His heavy, fragrant balm. I breathe deeply of the healing fragrance, drawing it deeply into me. It eases the aching of my heart even as it relieves the sting of my wounds.

Once He is finished, He lets me rest there a long time. Then he draws me into His lap once more.

“Because you chose to trust Me, You have seen Me as trustworthy. Because you chose, you have seen. So it is the way with faith, choice precedes sight. You chose faith and I am pleased.” He pauses for a few moments. “Rest a while now.”

I sleep on His shoulder.

Chapter 10-->

Chapter 9: Pleasing Papa, pt. 1

When we return to the study the sun is shining brightly through the windows. It is such a delightful place! The warm sunlight glows on the deeply polished wood. There is a peace and order in this room that comforts and welcomes me. We walk to the chairs by the fireplace. He sits and draws me to His lap. With an incredible contentment I curl against His shoulder. For a moment all is right in the world.

“Papa, may I ask you something?” He nods. “Why did you ask me if I was sure I wanted your correction?”

“I wanted you to know yourself, to hear your own voice say that you wanted what would bring pain to you for a moment. I wanted you to know that I was not requiring this of you, but that this was a path you wanted to go. I will not force you in this place, you must walk here willingly with Me.” He responds gently.

It is still difficult for me to comprehend that He is not demanding these changes of me. Are you, were You angry with me?” I cannot keep myself from asking. It seems so difficult to believe that this is possible.

His voice smiles and He briefly holds me tighter and answers.” No, it saddened Me when you left this place. It was My delight to hear you calling to Me to meet you there in the garden, by the tree. No child, I am not angry, I am pleased.”

His words sit warmly upon my heart. He continues to speak to me of my expectations and dreams. He tells me again of His pleasure in me, in the softness of my heart to Him. I want so much to feel this in the depths of my being, even as I felt His correction, but is seems so much harder.

“It takes longer to build that it does to tear down. We are rebuilding structures in your heart now. Taking down what sin built is easier, rebuilding will take more time.” He explains.

I see a package at His feet. I seems covered in insects! My stomach churns and my skin crawls. “What is that?”

“The flies are trying to return.” He seems so undisturbed by this, I do not understand. Earlier, He was so concerned about these creatures, so adamant that I be protected from them.

“What should I do?” I want to get rid of this thing, I don’t want to be anywhere near it.

“Wrap it up and throw it into the fire.”

The package is sitting beside a bag. I place the bag over the package and tie it up into the bag, careful not to allow the insects to escape. My stomach heaves uncomfortably being this close to the bugs. I waste no time in throwing it into the fire. The flames quickly consume the parcel. I wonder what would have happened had it remained in the room with us, but He does not offer an answer. I quickly return to His arms.

“Let me touch your and begin to heal and rebuild your heart.” His gentle invitation soothes my anxiety. I open myself to Him, but say nothing. He places His had on my belly. It is heavy and warm. “I love you daughter and I want to build new structures within you. Stay with Me here until that is achieved. You will need them for the next place we are going.”

“I will, Papa! I will.” I whisper as committed to stay here with Him as I was to stay at the tree until my heart was changed. I rest my head on His shoulder and try to drink in His presence. Oddly, I find that even here there is a part of me cringing, waiting for rebuke, even afraid.

“We’ve touched this before, but the wound is deep, the betrayal you felt from those you allowed here before wounded you beyond what you know. Rebuilding will take time.” He explains before I even ask.

The pain He speaks of rises to the surface, I know it well, its sharpness, its expectancies. “What do I do?” my desperation wells up, pouring forth before I can check it.

“Patience,” He reminds me. “This will take time. Know what this pain is first. Then choose a different course. Choose to respond differently. Recognize what this is and go on. Do not give it more than acknowledgement. Focus on the new path, the new building. Here, take My hand.” He extends his right hand. I take it in mine, awed at the strength and gentleness. I cannot help but press His hand to my cheek. I feel a tear slipping down my cheek. He catches it, saying, “I want your heart. Look at my hand.”

He extends his left hand toward me, turning His palm to me. I see the scar from the nail and something else. Below the scar I see my name carved in His palm. I am struck by the sight, so hard that I cannot comprehend it. The feelings are so strong they overwhelm to the point that I can no longer feel the fear and pain I felt just moments before. How can I not trust my heart to the one who has carved my name into His hand along with the wounds He bore for me?

part 2-->

Chapter 8: Connecting, pt 5

Even in the safety of His arms, I find myself becoming distracted and confused. Is all this real? Have I seen all I think I have? I wander away in my confusion. I return, but it is still dark. I cannot find Him. Panic sets in! I cannot find Him. The fear becomes deeper. “Papa! Where are You?” I cry out, feeling more lost and alone than I expected.

My heart leaps as I hear His voice from afar off. I cannot understand His words but I know the sound of His voice. Where has He gone?

No, I realize He has not gone. It is me. In my distracted confusion, I left His side. It has become a wedge, a wall between us. Horrified and fearful, I cannot bear the thought of such separation from Him. “Papa, don’t leave me – don’t leave me! Where are You?” His voice is still far off. I fear it will take a long time to find His side again.

Trying to figure out what it going on, I realize this distraction is not the product of sin. That I would have recognized much sooner. No, this has come from something that is permitted me. But even still, it has created distance between us. The distance used to be tolerable, acceptable to me, but now it is intolerable! My heart aches with the emptiness of this distance from Him.

“Papa, don’t leave me! Don’t go! Please, correct my heart. I do not want to be separated from you!” I do not know where I am at the moment, but I do finally know where to go, where I will find Him. I must go back to the garden, to the tree. I know I will find Him there. I begin to run, my heart knows the way.

Finally. I see it. The moonlight gently bathes the familiar place in a cool serene glow, calming my anxious heart. I know this place and that comforts me. I stop at the tree, clinging, breathless, to the familiar branch. “Papa,” I cry, desperate to hear his voice again. “Papa! Don’t leave me! Don’t go! Please meet me here! Correct, perfect my heart! I want to be with you!” I hear something in the shadows. It is Him, my heart knows! “ Please. Papa, set my heart right!”

“Are you sure you want this?” He asks from the shadows. I still cannot see Him, but His voice is clear. “Are you sure you want this?” He asks again. Puzzled at His question, I nod as He continues. “ That was not sin. It was within what you are permitted.”

“I know, but it has separated us! I do not want to be apart from You!” Desperate fear rises as I consider the possibility that the distance might not be crossed. “Please please Papa I don’t want to be apart from you. I don’t want this distance, even if it is permissible.” He does not respond immediately. “ Please – “my voice’s very small now, afraid He will turn away.

He steps forward into the moonlight so I can see Him again. I sigh with deep relief, some of my fear departs as my eyes fill with Him. “All right, little one.” He softly replies.

I cannot tell if He is pleased or not. But He steps toward me, until He is standing beside me, His hand resting lightly on the branch. “I will show you what you ask.” He begins.

I can see how, although not sin, my distraction took my eyes off Him. With my eyes off Him, I got lost, I wandered away. Distance formed between us and my heart pined in the isolation. It used to acceptable, this distance, but now it leaves my heart aching, my mind sick. Dull terror tears at my heart. “Forgive me! I am sorry! I am sorry for becoming distracted, for wandering away! Please, help me, I don’t want to wander away again. Please help me! Change me so that I don’t do this again!” I cry, clinging to the branch for the strength to stay. “I want my heart changed!”

So He continues. The pain of the distance and separation grows deeper, threatening to overwhelm me. I see what it will become if allowed to remain. The gulf grows and grows until I can barely see Him in the distance. Sickness rises in my throat as I hear myself scream, “No! No! I don’t want this, I don’t want this! I want to be with You! I want You! Papa!”

He is finished, but I am not sure I realize that for a long time as I lay crying on the branch. He stands beside me, His hand softly upon my shoulder. For a long time He just lets me cry. Finally though, He says, “Come.” He helps me rise and walks me to the waterfall. “Go wash now.”

Walking into the waterfall, I turn my face up, letting the water pour upon it. I feel the stain of my tears falling from me as a peace finally descends on me. I stand there for a very long time, allowing the pure water to refresh the depths of my heart.

When next I realize it, the dawn has broken. He is still standing on the bank waiting patiently for me. I wade back to the bank to meet Him. He says nothing, but takes my face in His hands, brushing the water from my face and hair. He holds my cheeks and kisses my forehead. His strong arms wrap around me in a powerful embrace. I can feel His smile now.

“I told you in the beginning that this time would come. I told you that instead of fighting against my correction, you would come to relish it, that you would come here to meet with me and ask for me to change your heart.” There is joy in His voice like I have never heard before. It fills me at a place I did not even know was empty before.

A peculiar joy dawns as I realize that He did tell me those things and that is exactly what has happened. I did not understand then what He meant, I could not picture how such a thing would be, but it is perfectly clear now. I also now see how the change in my heart was necessary for this change. I understand now how my confused perception of correction and pain would never have allowed me to seek this from Him.

“Thank you, Papa!” I have no other words to speak. My heart is full, relieved to be with Him again.

“Let’s go back to the study now.” He tenderly suggests, taking my arm. He is silent as we walk back, but I am certain he is pleased.

Chapter 9-->

Chapter 8: Connecting, pt 4

Resting in His arms I remember His rebuke, not so much the pain, but the honesty, the purity of it. The same quality was in His praise. Honesty, truly honest with no room for argument. The old voice still tries to echo in my ears, but I touch the necklace He gave me and it is stilled.

Quietness fills the room. It is dark outside, but the moonlight fills the room with a cool, serene glow. The fire crackles warmly, comfortingly, reminding me I am safe here.

“Are you ready to confront the rest of this?” He asks.

Safe in his arms, I nod, knowing He is not going to force me if I say no.

I see my mother again. She is holding me, walking the floor with me as I cry. I see myself nursing at her breast. But what should bring comfort brings one pain! My belly hurts! I cry but cannot be soothed. Although she tries to comfort, she becomes frustrated and angry with me. The more I cry, the more frustrated she becomes and the more I cry. Attempts to comfort always bring pain, fear and anger. My tiny heart learns to fear the comfort for all it brings with it. But the association between the pain and comfort brings a twisted association between pain and the sense of being loved. It is all twisted in my tiny heart.

Even as I see this I wonder why I do not feel that pain now.

“Because I am holding you and shielding You from it. “ He releases His arms from around me just slightly and enormous pain floods in: “Papa: Hold me! Don’t let me get lost in this!” He does. I cannot face this apart from Him. It is too strong for me and will overwhelm me.

I see myself again at her breast, beginning to reject her breast because of the pain of the colic. She tries to give me a bottle, but they are cold and of little comfort. I cannot receive comfort from her and the relationship is impaired from the start.

“Papa, what do I do? Ho do I change this? I forgive her! “But ‘tis not enough.

“This is not a product of sin, but of a deep wound” your heart. Let Me reform, remake that in you.”

A pang of fear stabs at me, but I cannot say no. I open my heart to him and see myself as that infant again.

This time is different though. I am in His arms, crying. He rocks me and puts one to His breast. I cannot understand this. But somehow my heart does. He feeds me filling a deep emptiness within me. My belly begins to hurt. He puts me over his shoulder, rubbing and patting my back. Laying my across His lap, He rubs my back until the pain is gone-the pain is gone! For the first time, it is gone! He draws me in to suckle again and I am filled, without pain.

He lifts me to His shoulder again and walks with me. His feet are silent across the sheepskin, padding ever so softly across the wood floor. He looks with me through the windows at the garden, the tree, the waterfall in the moonlight. I can hear His voice, but I do not understand what He says. My heart knows though, they are words of love.

He takes me back to sit with Him, nestled in His arms. “Let me heal you heart.” These words I understand.

He again takes His salve, on His fingertip. I am holding onto a finger of His other hand-I am so tiny in His arms! Tenderly He spreads the ointment or my tiny heart and belly. A tension flows out of me, a tension I have always known. I relax into His arms.

“Let me take the blanket from you. “I understand these words, but do not understand what He means until I look down and see a filthy, black blanket clutched in my tiny hands, covering me. I realize I have worn it for many years. I am reluctant to let it go, but the baby trusts this voice, the voice that has fed and warmed and taken the pain away. The blanket slips from my hands. From the corner of my eye I see Him toss it into the fire. In its place, He draws me closer and feeds me again, filling my emptiness, one never filled before. I am warm, safe and content.

I find I am confused too. I thought at this deepest place there must be deep sin, but instead there was hurt and fear.

“This thing formed in a place of trust. Little one.” He explains.” This has stood in the way ever since, poisoning all closeness.”

“Oh, Papa’ I repent for holding this! Please forgive me: Speak to my heart to be released to trust and receive for the first time! “ I am warm and safe in His arms.

part 5-->

Chapter 8: Connecting, pt 3

I throw the jar into the fire. It explodes in a shower of sparks. It is gone, but the effects are still lingering within me. I cry on His shoulder for a while, alternately feeling the sting of those words and the terror of the infant.

“Let me look at you.” He instructs, helping me to my feet. Reluctantly, I rise to obey. We are close to the fire. I feel its heat upon my bare skin. I cannot help myself. I drop my face as His gaze falls on me. My heat aches with the wretched ugliness that has been declared over me.

“No, this time you must look at Me” He takes my face in His hand, gently lifting it. I open my eyes and see a tenderness and love so profound I cannot comprehend. "You are not an ugly little thing." The words burn within me. “You are beautiful.” He pauses making sure I have heard. “I have created you, fitted you exactly to my purposes and you are perfect in that. You are beautiful.” He strokes my face, across my eyes, my cheeks, lips, throat, ears telling me what He has created them for and they are beautiful, exactly as He intended them to be.

He holds my arms, shoulders and hands, telling me what He has wrought in me, purposed to teach His people How to live. He touches my heart and shows me the necklace I wear. Silver and engraved with those awful words, that I have worn for so long it is fastened to my heart.

“It is time to take that off:”

I try to obey, but cannot remove it. “I forgive my mother,” my words are hardly above a whisper, almost as though I do not want to hear myself say them. I have hung on to this along time. Letting go is difficult.

The chain breaks, but the plaque is still embedded upon my heart. “How can I remove this!” I cry out, pulling fiercely, at the stubborn piece.

“Deny the lie you have believed. Receive My truth.”

I obey, repenting of believing the lie told me so long ago. Finally the horrid words are loosed from my heat. I pry them off and fling them fiercely into the fire. I can see my heart is raw and wounded beneath.

“Let Me heal you now.” His soft voice is almost a shock amidst the ugliness I feel covered by. He takes me back to sit with Him. Gently, He covers my wounds with His balm. As the pain subsides I feel my self relax in His presence.

I wait, wondering what is next and am surprised as He places a new necklace around my neck. Unlike the first which was flimsy and cheap, this one is substantial and heavy. I cannot help but reach up to touch it.

“Go ahead, child. Look and see what I have given you. Do not be shy, I will not take it away.” His tender encouragement spurs me on to take the pendant in my hand. Lifting it, I am stunned to see a large faceted store; my birthstone! A diamond in the shape of a heart. One side has engraved on it: Fragrant offering of thanks. The other bears the words: Unmerited favor.

It is beautiful and it bears my name. With my name upon it I know it was intended for no one else. So precious a gift, intended for me!

“Keep this over your heart for it is the truth.” He holds me and I nestle in close.

" This is not all there is for me to deal with, is it ?” I finally ask, already knowing the answer.

“No, but rest a bit here before we go further.” He does not release me from His embrace. I feel safe and secure in His arms.

part 4-->

Chapter 8: Connecting, pt 2

“I want to speak something to you now that you have not heard before.” I strive to listen, to hear His heartbeat, and I feel His arms tighten powerfully around me. “Not long ago you were waiting to hear that you were not faithful either. That was the one thing that was not shaken from you. The parable of the talents has always touched you. You have wondered which servant you were. You have been the servant with five talents. You have taken what you have had and used it and made it grow through your service, in school, in your work. Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into your Father’s joy.”

I long to receive these words, but some how they do not penetrate, they fall away from me, even as the memory, the emotion of correction and rebuke flood in. “Papa,” I stammer, not sure of what to say or do.

“Shh-- I know. All you can see is rebuke and correction. Let Me walk with you there for a moment.”

part 3-->

Confused I follow Him through the thoughts of my heart. We watch again the time of rebuke, the times of correction. I am filled with the old sense of pain and disconnection.

He whispers to me, “You have stopping this memory too soon. Walk a little further through the memory.”

As I obey, I see each of these times has also brought obedience, forgiveness and most of all closeness with Him.

“This is where you must come to as the flesh draws you here.”

My heart suddenly understands what He means. Yet it feels like my heart is still untouched. There is yet a wall. “What is this, Papa? I want so much to receive what You are giving, but I cannot get through this. What is standing in the way?” I cry out in frustration.

With out criticism or condemnation, He shows me. I see a small cabinet, like a medicine cabinet in a dark wall. I open it and draw out a brown bottle clearly labeled as poison. Each time there is praise or comfort to me I poison it with this!

“What is this poison?” I murmur in horror

Quietly He replies, ”A structure you heart has built out of the judgments and vows surrounding your mother and her ways.”

“Oh, Papa!” I see the truth of His words. “What do I do with it ?. How do I get rid of this? Do we need to go back out side? I will gladly go-I must get rid of this!”

He pauses before answering. “What does your heart need?”

It takes me a long time to answer. “I think it is my flesh that cries out for harshness, but that will only feed the problem I can’t help but feel this sounds like a copout, though, that I am trying to take the easy way out. But still I am more able to believe in the harshness than Your tenderness towards me. So perhaps that is not the way.“ I do not know what else to say, I hope I have answered rightly, not angered Him.

He tucks my head under His chin and draws me close. He is not angry!

“I want you to receive my tenderness. To receive at an unquestionable place my approval and love for you this is a structure of the flesh, so it must be dealt with in the flesh. Bring your flesh under submission to the Spirit and it will fall.” He whispers south in my ear in a tone so far from rebuke there is no mistaking it.

There is quietness as I begin to bring my flesh under submission.

Finally, in His still soft voice He begins to speak to me. “This comes from a very deep, dark, old place in your heart, even from your infancy.”

I see my mother, late at night walking the floor with a crying, colicky, premature infant that I know is me. She is alternately angry and tender, comforting, then cursing in Spanish. I cannot hear what she is saying.

“Uncover yourself, child,” He tells me. “You must bare yourself to hear.”

As I obey, I remember what a struggle it has been to do this. He takes me back into His lap, holding me tightly, reminding me that I am not facing this alone. Even so, I am suddenly afraid, as if my heart knows what it will hear and is fearful of it. “ Hold me Papa! “I cry, terror rising.

Without hesitation, He tightens His hold around me. “Nothing can hurt you here I am covering and protecting you.” He reminds me of the snake and crocodile I faced in His arms of His strength on my behalf. He reminds me that the victories were found in His arms. “Stay here in my arms and you will conquer this too in my strength.”

I press my head tightly to His chest, hearing His heartbeat. I see my mother again. My guts hurt as I hear the baby cry. I am feeling my own pain I realize. I am difficult to comfort. She is tired and frustrated, even angry. One moment she is tender and patient, the next she is angry and filled with rebuke.

“Que cosa tan fea!” I hear her say, her voice harsh and tired. The words resound and echo within me. “Oh, Papa! This is the poison.”

Part 3-->

Chapter 8: Connecting, pt 1

The walk back to the study does not take long. Neither of us speaks, but the silence is comfortable. Somehow I am surprised to find that the study is unchanged from the way we left it. I walk to the windows to look out over the much charged garden, sighing.

“You still feel distant.” He quietly says over my shoulder.

“Yes.” I shake my head, turning to Him. “Why is it so hard to reconnect again?”
“You still bear deep wounds, more then you realize. Come. Let Me heal them.” Taking my hand, He walks to the chairs at the fireplace. Still holding my hand, He sits down. “Lay here, across my lap.”

I find I am hesitant to obey.

“Your back bears deep wounds from childhood from being ignored after correction. Rejection is deeply tied with correction for you.” He gently explains, easing my fears.

As I move to comply, He instructs, “Open your robes.” As I do, He allows me to see myself, for a brief moment, as He is seeing me. Ugly ragged wounds rage across my back and shoulders. My flesh is torn, infected. The wounds remain open, unhealed even years after they have been inflicted.

The weight of what He has shown me presses heavily upon me. I lean heavily across His lap, unable to bear the load of my own wounds. Carefully, He begins to spread a heavy fragrant salve across my injured back. The fragrance is more herbal than medicinal, more fresh than pungent. It does not burn; at first it feels cool, then warm, the warmth spreading throughout me.

“Forgive me for holding on to these things, Papa. I repent Papa. I want to let these things go.” I whisper softly, my knees sinking to the floor now.

For a while, He allows me to rest there with my head cradled in His lap. But then, He tenderly draws me to sit in His lap. I cannot help but notice the immense strength of His arms, made ever more noticeable by His gentleness with me. Even with all His power, He has never injured me, never purposed to harm me. I feel so secure, so safe in this moment, and yet there is still something.

“Drop the wall.” He says before I can even ask.

“What wall?” my confusion pours forth before I can contain it.

“The wall rejection has caused you to build.” He pauses a moment, gently resettling me in His arms again. “You have raised a wall like a pane of glass at the innermost place in your heart. Trust Me now. I will not reject or turn you away. Drop that wall, let it break.”

I find I must consider His words before I can act. He has never turned His back to me through all of this. He has not rejected me even as the blackness of my heart has been revealed. How can I refuse to trust Him now?

I choose to drop the wall. I find a pane of heavy glass in my hands. It forms a barrier between Him and me. I can see Him through it, but cannot touch Him nor feel His touch through it. It is difficult to move and even more difficult to release. For so long I have been taught not to drop, lose or break things, trying to do it purposefully is a struggle. Finally, though I am able to maneuver it and drop it the floor. I am surprised that even though it falls on the thick sheepskin, the glass shatters as it hits.

In that moment, I feel Him drawing me in close, closer that I ever have been before. My head pressed to His breast, I hear the beat of His heart, smell the sweetness of His breath. Softly, so softly, He tells me of His love and of the gifts He has placed within me. He speaks to me of the plans He has for me, for good. He reminds me to have confidence not in the gifts He has given, but in the giver of the gift and to know what He has given me is sufficient for the tasks He will lay before me.

For a moment I can find no words to speak. Finally, I whisper, “Be it unto me according to Thy word.” He holds me close, stroking my cheek. I feel so secure, loved in a way I never have been before.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Chapter 7: The Study, pt. 3

The tree is beautiful in the moonlight. The entire garden is inviting even in the soft darkness of the night. Somehow it surprises me to find it so after battling the monsters that used to dwell here. He guides me to the lowest branch of the tree. Reluctant, only because I dread to see my own sin, I rest there, waiting to see what He desires to show me. He begins.

I see once again my idolatry. I see that I have placed my idol, my warped image of myself ahead of His truth. In seeing myself as lowest, the exception to His rules, I have called Him a liar! I have called Him a liar! I have treated His promises, everything, as meaningless, worthless. When I have turned my back on what He has promised and refused to believe that He meant what He said, I dishonored Him and defiled myself!

The wretchedness of this revelation hits my like a bucket of cold water, chilling me to the core. I am sickened by what I see, but I cannot deny any of it. I have! I have called Him a liar, to others and even to His face. I have denied His truthfulness, I have denied His holiness! My gut wrenches at the awfulness of what I am seeing!

“Papa, forgive me!” I cry out, clinging to the branch for strength. “I repent, Papa, I have called you a liar! I repent! Forgive me. Forgive me!” There are no other words I can speak, nothing left to say.

I feel His gentle hand on my shoulder. He is not angry. Still I am surprised that He is not. Rather than meeting me with harshness, recrimination, or criticism, He simply tells me, “Go wash now. There are stains beneath your robe. Go wash in the pool.” Nothing more, no demands, no conditions, only –go wash.

Carefully, I make my way to the waterfall to free myself from the stains of my own sin. “Set my heart free to trust, Papa! Break down these structures, built of my own pride. Teach my how to trust in all that You have promised.”

He nods, gesturing down to the waters around me. In the moonlight, I see the stains washing away, out of the pool, out of the garden, carried away in the current. They are gone from me.

“Come,” He holds out His hand to me. “Let us go back to the study.”

“We can go back? After this?” I am surprised at His offer.

“Yes, as long as you invite me in, then I will return with you.” He helps me from the water and entwines my arm in His.

“Please, Papa, please come in.” I am so relieved at His words, I can find no other words of my own. We begin the walk back into the castle. Finally, I must ask, “You’re not angry?” I just need to hear it from Him; I long to be certain of what I think and hope is true.

“No, I am not angry. You are my daughter. This is part of being a creature of flesh, not because you are so unworthy. This is just the nature of dying to self and living to the Spirit. I am not angry over this at all.” Lovingly, He reaches and presses my head against His shoulder, reassuring me that it is all right.

Still, I feel it difficult to reconnect.

“After I correct you, child, you must come to Me. I will not turn you away, but as an act of faith, you must come to Me. Correction does not separate you from Me, it brings you closer. Your habit though, is to turn from Me, to run away. I will wait for you, but you must come and seek Me. If I allow you to wait for Me to come to you, you will reject and turn away from Me, feeding those things you are putting to death. Let me help you. I want to show you those things that are standing in the way of connection to Me.”

“I want to see them and change them. Please show me.”

“I will.” He presses my head to His shoulder once again and we continue to walk back to the study.

Chapter 8-->

Chapter 7: The Study, pt 2

At last I am able to return to my task and I finish cleaning the glass from the floor. He directs me to one of the trunks by the windows. I find an enormous brown-black sheepskin rug, much larger than any I have seen. The wool is soft and luxurious, thick and lush. He helps me place it on the floor between the two chairs. I also find in the trunk two soft blankets for the chairs.

The sun is going down and the room is becoming dim. He lights the fire in the fireplace and the candles. “Come sit with Me here.” He invites sitting down in the left hand chair, nearest the windows.

I sit at His feet on the lush sheepskin rug; the other chair is just too far away. Tenderly, he drapes the blanket across my shoulders. I rest my head on His knee and listen as He begins to speak.

“In this place I will meet with you. I want you to come to understand who you are and who I am. There is much that stands in the way of you knowing that right now. Will you let me teach you who you are to Me?”

“Yes, Papa,” I breath softly, my heart beginning to beat harder. I still fear what He will tell me. I know I should not, but I do.

“For years you have beaten yourself up over who and what you are.” He explains His voice soft and soothing. He is not angry at me, but gentle and loving, drawing me closer in, not pushing me away. I cannot recall being treated with such acceptance and tenderness before. “You have beaten yourself up because you were not born a son. Your grandmother cursed you for not being a boy and you took that to heart. She did not like girls, saw little value in them and you saw yourself unacceptable for what you were. You judged her for that and now struggle related to other women because of it.

“For years you have been trying to prove yourself as good as a son. You have been dissatisfied in yourself, not really able to accept yourself as anything but second rate. Others have fed this belief, born out of this curse.

“But I see neither male nor female, only you, what I have created and designed by My own hand. Break this curse now.”

I listen intently to what He says, trying to capture it all. None of this is what I expected to hear. Although I am taken by surprise, all of what He says is true, I cannot argue, I have just never seen it this way before. Above all, though, I want to obey Him so I do not argue, but allow my heart to be broken before Him. “I repent, Papa, I repent of those vows I made that I would never bee good enough, never as good as a son. I repent of dishonoring my grandmother and judging her for her weakness. I repent of my judgment against her which has locked me into the very same sins! Break this pattern, Papa! I repent!

“Forgive me for cursing myself with her words, that it is a shame that I wasn’t born a son! Forgive me! Break down, melt the structures that my sin has created, Papa! I release my heart to embrace all that you have made me to be, to accept and rejoice in your purposes for me, that you have made me to be exactly what you intended.” I weep softly on His knee.

With great warmth He lifts my head and gestures to the curio cabinet between the windows. “This is a place for you to keep what I will give to you where it will be before you and not lost or forgotten.” The cabinet is empty.

He takes my hands in His and presses something cold and hard into my hands. I look at it and see a faceted crystal heart, about the size of a golf ball. “This is a marker for you to remember when you first understood that I love you exactly the way I have made you, I do not want you to be anything else.”

Biting my lip, I am at a loss for words, the crystal piece held tightly in my hands. I walk haltingly to the cabinet and set the crystal heart on the center of the uppermost of the glass shelves. Carefully I close the door to the cabinet and turn back to Him. As I do, for a moment I fear that this means He is going to leave now.

“No, little one, “He smiles. “Don’t you see, the first place in the castle you made ready is the place for being with Me. I am pleased. I want to be with you here. I am not leaving. Come sit by the fire with me again.”

With great relief, I step back to my spot on the rug at His feet. As I sit back down, I am touch by a new fear. It comes pouring out of me before I can stop it. “Is there to be correction, rebuke here?” I find I draw back from Him slightly.

He pauses for a moment before responding. “No, child, that is for outside in the garden, by the tree. This is a place of intimacy; I can speak directly to your heart here. I will not hurt you here; I will not betray your trust in this place. When you invite Me in here it is an act of trust and I will not betray that.” There is firmness in His tone that assures me He means what He says.

Something in what He has said resonates with me, I cannot get past it. Betray, He will not betray that trust. I wrestle with it for a moment, then I see. Once, long ago as a child I allowed daddy into this place of trust, but he used it for rebuke. He did not hear my heart, could not understand my heart, he brought painful rebuke into this place. I try to push back the pain from that as it wells up fresh in my chest. I suddenly realize, I shut the door then, and no one has been here since.

I begin to understand now. This is why I have never really felt loved by Him. I shut the door because of the hurt. I have kept Him out, refused to let Him in, failed to accept what He has offered to me.

“Papa forgive me for shutting you out! I have kept these doors shut for so long, have forced You away when You have tried to come in! I repent for keeping You out and for all the excuses I have made for why You did not come in! Forgive me! Please, heal this in me, change these things in me!” I pour out my heart to him, weeping as I see His truth.

He draws me into His lap, comforting and restoring me. “My daughter, do not be afraid to engage you faith, to believe what I have said, all that I have told you. I will heal and restore you and help you to grow in all these things.” He whispers in my ear. He holds me to His heart and rocks me gently for what seems a long time. “Will you let Me correct you? There are insecurities I want you to be freed from.”

My heart sinks a bit at His words and I am torn. He is not demanding this of me now, but I am reminded of when He asked me to expose my wounds to Him. He allowed me to walk with them for a time, but then required that I obey. I do not want to go down that path again. I think I would rather follow Him in this now, before it becomes more difficult to do so. Swallowing hard against the fear, I whisper, “Yes.”

“We must go outside for this.” He explains, helping me to my feet.

I hate to leave this place, this closeness with Him. Yet, as He takes my arm in His, I do not feel a separation from Him. He is still close by my side; there are no barriers between us. In a silence that is curiously unstrained, we walk back outside, through the courtyard and cross the bridge. Following the edge of the moat, we find our way back to the grove of magnolia tree and the water fall.

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Chapter 7:The Study, pt. 1

We sit together quietly this way for a long time. Finally, from His arms I look out over the disheveled hall. ‘Where do I begin?” I wonder. A large part of me is ready just to do, to do something, to do anything, to just begin somewhere and start getting stuff done. Another part of me desperately wants to do something for Him, perhaps find the kitchen and prepare a meal. I have invited Him in, shouldn’t I do that? A small, quiet voice inside me though urges me to give even this over to Him. So I look up at Him, wondering what He would want to do.

“Let’s begin in the study.” He suggests, helping me to my feet.

“I don’t know where that is, I don’t know the way.” I stammer, suddenly embarrassed that I do not know my way around this place.

Taking my arm to guide me, He assures me, “I’ll show you.”

I marvel that He knows this place so well, while I do not. He laughs, “I am the architect.” I hear the gentle smile in His voice.

He leads me through the foyer and to the right to a room which seems to be quite a way down the hall. The room, on the right hand side of the hall way, is of moderate size with high ceilings. On the left hand wall there are wall to wall bookcases. The opposite wall holds a large fire place. The facing wall has two large windows extending from floor to ceiling. The room is dark and dusty, unused for a long time. I feel like part of me knows this place, even though it seems unfamiliar now.

“I suppose we should start at the windows and let some light in?” I ask, taking a tentative step toward the windows.

He smiles and nods.

Deep burgundy-red velvet curtain panels with heavy bullion fringe flank the windows while a matching swag drapes the top. The curtains are drawn closed, shielding the room from light. With some effort, I pull the curtains open, expecting light to come in. But it does not; the windows are filthy as well. I hate cleaning windows, but I go about the task without complaint.

As the windows become clean, light pours into the room enabling me to really see the room for the first time. I am amazed. The walls are paneled in a stunning wood, the color of a light mahogany but with the pattern of a bird’s eye maple. The wood floor matches the walls, mahogany inlaid with an elegant but simple pattern. The ceiling is brilliant white plaster with beams that match the paneling. Already the room feels warm and inviting to me.

Now that I can see much more clearly, I take a little time to look around the room and see its details. Between the windows there is a large curio cabinet with rounded glass doors in the front. Below the right hand window there is a large wooden trunk with a flat top. I wonder what it contains. To the left, I can see the shelves are filled with rows and rows of books. A library ladder leans against the shelves at the far corner of the room. Looking toward the fireplace I see two red leather wing back chairs in front of the huge fireplace. Doors flank the fireplace on either side.

The room is dusty from disuse, but not damaged in any way. I find such joy in cleaning a place that is so inviting and beautiful.

“Will many people come here?” I ask, wondering the purpose of this place.

“No,” He replies. “This place is just for you and I, a place where you may sit at My feet and learn from Me. The books are all that I will teach you.”

My hear soars to hear this. I have dreamt of sitting at His feet and listening to Him as Mary sat at the feet of Christ.

I go to clean the fireplace; it looks at though it has never really been lit. The hearth, which is tiled, flat on the floor is inlaid with gold filigree as is the tile around the front of the fire place. The fire place tools, wood basket and the filigree screen that sits in front of the fire place are all gold too. A carved wood mantle, simple and elegant, holds two gold candle sticks with burgundy taper candles. Above the mantle hangs a large mirror.

Finished with the fireplace, I begin to sweep the floor. As I do, I notice the floor seems covered with shards of broken glass. “What is this?” I ask surprised because I do not see evidence of what has been shattered here.

“Broken dreams that you have let die here.” He poignantly replies.

I feel suddenly heartbroken hearing this, despair pouring over me. I know it is true. I have given up on even having dreams any more, contenting myself with the day to day. I have even questioned whether or not I should have dreams at all. He seems saddened at all that lays in ruins here. His sadness pushes me past where my own broken heart can go alone. “Oh Papa! I repent for all those vows—of not being good enough, those abortive judgments and vows wrought even at my birth, that have left these dreams lying in shards!”

I turn away from Him, to sob into my hands, but He is there as I do. He takes me into His arms and holds me to His breast. “It is all right. We will rebuild them.” I am assured by His words, that perhaps all is not lost now. I take comfort in that possibility.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Chapter 6: Entering the Castle, pt. 2

“This is the door to the castle, to your heart. You have the key, you must open it.” He explains, stepping aside to allow me closer to the door. Implicit in His words is the truth that He will not force open the door, it must be by my act alone.

I push at the great door, but it remains shut tight. He says I should be able to open this, but I do not know where to begin.

Seeing my frustrated confusion He suggests, “Clean the door.” And He hands me a cloth.

I begin to clean away the dust. Carvings of vines begin to emerge and a beautiful stained glass light is revealed. But I can find no doorknob and no keyhole. Puzzled, I see too, the hinges for this door are on the inside. There is no way to open the door from the outside! This does not make sense!

I look around and see ‘needle’s eye’ entrance to the left side of the door. A narrow passage is cut into the front wall of the castle, just wide enough for a small person to squeeze through.

“There!” I exclaim excitedly.

“Yes,” He nods, “You must go in and open the door from the inside.” He pauses. “I will not enter through there.” I am disappointed; I had hoped this entrance would have been sufficient for Him. It is clear though that there is no arguing with His way of doing this.

I am uneasy leaving His side, but see no options. I wonder what I will find on the other side of the narrow entrance. What will be inside the castle? Are there monsters lying in wait for me there?

“Do not explore or wander. You will become lost.” He cautions.

Taking His warning to heart, I squeeze through the needles eye. The passage is very small and tight, I can barely force my way through. The rough stones scrape at me, touching me with a cold welcome. It feels like it takes a long time to squeeze through.

When I finally do make it through, I find it is dark inside the castle. My eyes take some time to adjust, so I wait, just outside of the tiny passage. At last I see well enough to take the few steps down the front passage and find the front door.

As it was on the outside, the door is thick with dirt on this side as well. Upon cleaning it, I find the door is locked in place with a huge black metal bolt across the whole door. The bolt is anchored in a heavy metal latch that is bolted to the thick door frame. Clearly, this fortified structure was intended to keep out even the most determined visitors.

Curiously, I feel safe and secure behind this huge door, bolted into place. Even though He is on the other side of the door, I find I do not really want to open it. The sense of safety enfolds and comforts me here. Opening the door is surely a dangerous thing; that must be why the huge bolt is in place. Why do I really want to open it and take a chance on something coming in to hurt me? I just want to stop, rest, think about this whole thing.

Then, I begin to clean the dirt from the window and light, His light, pours through chasing away the shadows and clearing my thoughts. I must open it! I push at the bolt, trying to release it. The bolt does not move.

“How do I open it? What is the key?” I cry.

He begins to knock. The sound is steady and sure, resounding off the walls inside the castle. Each knock reverberates through me, reminding me of His presence. The knocking continues, building urgency within me.

“I’m coming! I’m coming!” I call loudly, becoming terrified that He will leave. “Don’t leave Papa, don’t leave!”

He continues to knock. Even as the sound reminds me that He is on the other side, it frightens me too. I am cold with the thought that it might stop and He will leave because the door did not open to Him. I must find the way to open this door! Desperation begins to set in.

I struggle to find the key to this lock. Then I remember, He taught me to subdue my flesh to see and hear more clearly. So I do what He taught me and slowly I begin to see.

I see myself as a very little girl, in my grandmother’s arms. My father comes up and angrily takes me from her. I see that he is angry, and although I know now what daddy’s anger was from, my perceptions then were very different. I see how the little girl feared daddy was angry because she was holding onto someone else.

“Daddy will be angry if I hold on to anyone else. Don’t let anyone else in!” I hear myself give voice to the vows of my heart. As I hear these long forgotten reactions, I begin to violently sob. "Don't let anyone in! Don't let anyone it!" I cry sinking to the floor, curling in on myself. "No one can come in!" The bitterness of this vow envelops me like a cold wind, biting at me trying to draw me away from the bolted door.

This it what holds the bolt in place! This is what locks the door and holds everyone else out. “I repent Papa! I repent of this vow! I invite you in now, please, come in. Forgive me! Forgive me for this vow that has kept You and anyone else out. Heal me and changes these structures. Please come in! I open my heart to You!”

A fresh flood of tears comes as I hear the steady knock of His hand. He has not left! He is still knocking! The sound gives me new strength.

Struggling, I rise to my feet, clutching at the door frame for support. I push once again against the stalwart lock and the bolt moves! It slides grudgingly, just enough for the door to open, but it is enough. I pull desperately at the heavy door, fighting to open it. The door is solid, thick wood, much heavier than I thought it would be. I am not sure if I can move this alone. What if I cannot get it open enough? What if what I am able to do is not enough? Finally the door gives way to my efforts, opening just a crack.

But it is enough. He rushes in, more quickly than I could have thought, pushing the door the rest of the way open, and sweeps me into His arms. Suddenly I am comforted by the incredible safety of His presence. He has not left! He is here with me now. He waited for me, did not abandon me. He is here!

For a long time, I sob in His arms. I cry in relief that He is here, inside this place with me. I sob at the pain of the vow I had made keeping Him out. I cry at the pain of my own sin that has kept me so alone.

As I calm a little, I am struck with the way He rushed in to me, to comfort me the moment the door opened. It is as though He was waiting anxiously on the other side, waiting for the moment the door came open, desperately wanting to come in. He is not a reluctant guest. I can see how much He truly wants to be here with me. I am amazed, but without words to speak.

He lifts me in His arms and takes a few steps. I can see there is a large, comfortable chair just beside the door. He sits down and draws me into His lap. We sit there, together, for a long time, my head resting on His shoulder.

“Thank you for coming here.” I finally whisper finding words to voice my overwhelming emotions. “Thank you for becoming Papa in this place as well.”

In reply, He kisses the top of my head. I do not remember ever feeling so securely loved by Him as I do in this moment. I close my eyes, relishing this moment in His arms.

Chapter 7

Chapter 6: Entering the Castle, pt. 1

When I wake, I wonder about what has transpired. It seems so unreal. But I see the carcass of the crocodile, floating in the moat, nearly out of the garden now. It reminds me of the reality of it all.

I sigh heavily and suddenly feel Him beside me. He is still here with me. Although I am not so surprised by that anymore, I still feel relieved to know that I am not alone. He does not speak, but rises to His feet, helping me to mine. Putting His arm around me, we walk quietly to the front of the castle. The water in the moat is clean now, clear and sparkling, as though nothing had ever polluted it. It is hard to believe such a transformation could happen in such a short time. I marvel at the completeness of it all. In the waters, small koi dart about, filling the once foreboding moat with colorful life.

There is a drawbridge over the moat to the castle. The bridge is only half way down. Neither up nor down, it seems ambivalent, neither welcoming nor directly turning away those who seek entrance. We cannot cross. I know we could easily ford the moat; without the monsters guarding it, the moat is no longer a formidable obstacle. Yet, it seems clear that is not the way He desires to enter in.

“How do we cross this?” I wonder aloud, feeling tired and discouraged. Clearly the bridge is controlled from inside. I cannot see how to get around this.

He is undaunted though, His quiet assurance calming my anxiety. “The bridge is not a serious hindrance here, child. Do not be concerned. This only needs your invitation. Invite me in.”

A flood of relief washes over me! After all that I have fought through so recently, it seems almost unbelievable that this part can be so easy! For a brief moment I am tempted to question Him, but I do not want to risk losing the simplicity of this answer.

I turn to Him. “Please, Papa, come cross the bridge with me. Come into the castle, I want you here.” I quietly say, voicing the true desires of my heart.

Just behind me I hear a gentle creak of wood. I look and see that the bridge has fully lowered, allowing us accessing into the inner walls.

I stand just looking for a long time. I have wanted this for so long, but now it seems difficult. Excuses and distractions rise around me and I begin to wander away. I am not sure how long I wander, but I suddenly He is not at my side!

Panic rises for a moment, but soon I realize that I know where I am and I know the way back. The path back to Him is not difficult; the obstacles have already been dealt with. I rush back to Him. He is there, patiently waiting for me to find my way.

I look at the bridge again, “Must we do this?” I have to ask.

“You must decide,” He replies, “I will not force you here.”

This would be so much easier if He would press me, insist, if He would just make me! Even though I want this, taking that first step is difficult. He offers me His arm. Hesitantly, I entwine mine in His. He lets me take the first step.

The bridge is easy to cross; there are no obstacles, no monsters here. As we reach the other side, I am surprised. I had expected to enter into the castle directly, but as we cross the bridge and pass through the wall I see an open, barren court yard. The yard is eerily empty, it should be full of life. I do not know how I know this, but I am certain it should.

“Why is this so empty?” I ask Him, pausing to look over the stark expanse.

“You have not invited anyone here in a very long time.” He is right, I have been alone here, alone for as long as I can remember. “Do not fear, though, this is not an obstacle either.” He reassures.

The inner walls that define the court yard are built from stones, rising about ten feet high. The castle sits in the corner of the two back walls. It is unusual, though, in that the castle and the courtyard seem to be more diamond shaped than square, with both the front door of the castle and the bridge in the walls sitting in the front corner of the structures, rather than flat in a wall.

To the right and left of the castle door there are small pockets formed by one castle wall and the courtyard wall. Although they are empty, these seem like places that should be planted. I am once again struck with the fact that I can see no plant, no creature living here.

We walk across the courtyard to the front door of the castle. The door is tall and wide, carved from mahogany, but it is covered with dust and grime. Clearly the door has not been opened in a very long time, if ever.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Chapter 5: Fears and Monsters, pt. 5

I am silent for a time. Yet another to battle? What can it be? In the distance I see the eerie silhouette of a huge crocodile in the dark waters beyond the next gate. This must be the large monster He warned me of earlier. It seems so huge! I am afraid and yet numb at the same time. I do not want to go any further, I do not want to do this. Even in the distance this thing looks so big I do not think that I can tackle it, especially not so quickly after the first three. We rest briefly, but I do not feel rested or ready when He says it is time.

“Come, I will carry you.” He takes me, as before and swims to the final gate. It opens quietly and surprisingly easily. We pass though without challenge. The water here is calm and eerily quiet. I keep looking for the creature here, but see nothing but still calm water. Only the small ripples made by His powerful strokes are visible.

At last I must ask, “What is the monster here?” My voice is barely above a whisper.

“Fear of abandonment.” He replies, also in hushed tones.

As always, it is true. I have always feared being abandoned by Him, by everyone really. “Where does it come from?”

He shows me a picture of my birth. Born by c-section at 7 months of pregnancy due to concerns over my mother’s health, I was taken too soon from the womb. The nurses wrapped me up in a blanket and set me aside to tend to my mother who was having a difficult time with the spinal block used for anesthesia. I was left alone I was afraid, gasping for air! I feel myself suffocating, overwhelmed with fear. I am terrified of being left alone, abandoned! Even more, I see how I have judged my mother, the doctors and nurses for leaving me

The monster is now upon us! It throws itself at us, lunging straight for my heart! The pain is intense as its teeth tear at me. I scream like that baby, but with no sound. The crocodile disappears for a moment underneath the cloudy waters, only to resurface in another brutal assault. This time though, it manages to lock its teeth onto my arm and it rolls us into the water. I am suffocating, drowning!

Finally, for a moment, we surface and I gasp for air. “Papa!” I cry, no other words available to me.

“Use your sword.” He reminds me. He is calm, but there is an urgency in His voice.

Spurred by that urgency, I clutch at my sword with my free arm. This time, it seems much easier to use it. “He said ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ “ I stab at the creature with the glinting blade. “ I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth.” I cry over and over, driving the keen blade in over and over again.

At last the reptile releases me from its grip and after a few moments, I see the carcass floating belly up in the water, carried away from us by the current. Fear, relief and exhaustion flood over me and I am crying as He carries me to the shore. Lifting me from the waters, He sets me on the bank, “Rest now.” He sits with me until dawn begins to break over the garden. In the faintly pink light of the infant morning, He carries me back to the familiar grove where the tree and the waterfall reside.

Gently, He sets me on my feet again. I am covered with the effects of the battle, dirt and debris from the dirty waters and gore from the carcasses of the monsters covers me.

“Wash the gore away.” He instructs leading me to the waterfall. I obey, anxious to be clean once again. It takes a long time to free myself from the remnants of the battle..
When the filth is finally gone, I realize just how much everything seems to hurt. I feel like my guts have been ripped out. I am exhausted. “Papa, please, anoint me! Heal me!” I weep knowing I cannot continue on this way.

He does not need to say anything. He covers me in His balm. I almost do not notice my nakedness before Him. A small part of my mind wonders why this was ever such an issue to me.

“Come, sit with Me.” He puts His arm around me as we walk to the base of the tree. Together we sit, leaning against the massive tree trunk and I sleep upon His shoulder.

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Chapter 5: Fears and Monsters, pt. 4

He guides me to the third gate, the water here is still deeper than I would like. Unlike the other two, the gate here is hinged and only has to be pulled open. Dark water and trash pour through the open gate.

“What is this?” I ask, surprised to find something else in these waters.

“Debris gathered by the next beast, fear of insufficiency.” He pauses for a moment. “Before we seek it out, we need to deal with the debris.”

The current carries the trash down to the waterfall. I gather boxes, cans, even bags out of the water. What are these? I wonder?

“Bad memories, anger and bitterness, old attachments.” He explains, surveying the rubbish.

“What do I do with these?” I ask.

He gestures to a fireplace in the castle wall, in the middle of the wall. I had not noticed it before. I see now, there is just enough ground between the wall and the moat, maybe three or four feet, for one to stand and light a fire there. “Burn them.”

It takes a long time to carry all the junk to the fireplace. But finally it is there. I am not certain that it will burn well wet. He seems certain though as He lights the fire himself. We cross the moat again and sit on the limb of the tree to watch the debris burn. As we do, the sun begins to set and the darkness of night descends on the garden.

“Where has all this come from?” I finally ask.

“Wounds.” He replies. “Some have been there a very long time, even from your birth.”

I think on what He has said. I do not think I have ever really been without and yet I always remember feeling afraid of insufficiency. Even now, it is difficult for me to let go of anything.

Finally the fire has consumed all the garbage. We walk back to the fireplace. I stir the ashes, hoping to find something worthwhile left from the flames, but there is nothing. Silently I wonder what will be left within me after all of this is complete.

He puts His hand on my shoulder. “It is time to seek out the next creature.”

“In this dark?” I am uneasy.

“Yes, it was formed in the darkness, even the darkness of the womb. Now it is time to seek it out.”

Uneasily I am guided by Him back into the water. The moon glows, allowing us to see dimly. The water is cold, adding to my ill-ease. He firmly entwines my arm in His as we walk through the waters. As we pass by the second gate, the water deepens and it is hard to keep my head above it. The fear rises in me. It approaches panic as we near the open third gate.

I repent for my fear, for by His side, there is nothing to fear. I repent for taking on the family legacy of fear, for harboring and nurturing it. “God has not given me a spirit of fear!” I cry. I am surprised to see the moonlight glinting off my sword as it flashes down cutting the lies that have bound me to these fears. I did not realize I had taken the weapon up again.

I can see in the moonlight that the water within the third gate begin to clear. We pass through the third gate, but the waters are too deep for me to continue on foot.

“Let me carry you.” He offers. He takes me in a lifeguard hold to swim with me through these waters. “Do not get lost in this place,” He warns.

“What should I do?”

“Listen to what I will speak to you.” He takes me to His breast to swim into the third gate. I had never noticed how powerful His arms were! I feel safe in His grasp.

The water is deep, cold and dark with the night as we enter the third gate. His strong stroke cuts through the water almost without sound. He begins to speak softly in my ear. “The monster in this place was formed even as your mother carried you in her womb. Her many fears and burdens touched your tiny spirit. You have always felt like a burden, like you were taking away from someone else, like you should not be.”

My shyness, never wanting to be seen, my fear of releasing anything for fear I would miss or need it, they all root here! I never realized this was all connected. Suddenly, I see!

Just as suddenly, a huge leech confronts me and tries to attach itself to my belly. It burns as it touches me! It seems, though, it cannot get purchase on me through His robe. I know if it does it will drain the life from me.

“Help me Papa! Get it off!” I begin to struggle—then I realize I might break away from Him if I do. True terror strikes me now. “Don’t let me go, Papa! Don’t let me go!” I pull at the beast but cannot break free. “I repent of these vows, of these beliefs that I have taken on as truth! I repent of holding on to anything that is contrary to Your word! Forgive me! Forgive me, Papa! Set my heart free of these bondages and cages, free to believe what is Your Truth. I break down these structures, rebuild them in Your perfection!” I cry finally realizing that my own strength will not free me from this monster.

“Cut it off.” He firmly directs, not loosing me from His strong grip.

I grab at the saber, awkwardly freeing it from its sheath. It is difficult to see the creature in the dark, to know where to strike at it. I don’t know how to use the weapon in this position, I am not even standing on my own two feet, but held firmly in His arms. But still, His instructions are always right, I must try to follow them.

At last I see how to do it. “You knew me; You formed me in the womb.” I call out, trying to breathe under the weight of the creature’s assault. “You have plans for me. I am not a burden, but a plan.” The blade slices down and frees me from the creature, but I dare not allow it to escape only to attack again. I plunge my hand into the water and finding it, throw it to the bank. It is far heavier than I had imagined, threatening to wrench my shoulder. It lands with a wet thud and seems to shrivel as it hits the ground.

I gasp for air as I feel the weight release from my chest. So much floods to the surface in absence of the weight that has kept it pressed down. “Forgive me! Forgive me for believing all these lies, Papa! Speak to this tiny girl’s heart, set it free to be wanted, to receive affirmation, to release things, to be seen! Oh, Papa, heal these damaged places.”

Crying and cold now, I feel His strong arm holding me close. “I am here,” He reassures me, swimming to the bank with me. We rest in the shallower water for a time.

Still I am overcome with all I have seen. “I never knew, never saw….” Even as I say this, I feel numb and confused, like there are pieces of an unseen puzzle trying to fall into place.

“This lies very deep within you, few see this depth. You feel little right now because it is so deep, but it is there.” He explains, soothing my confusion, validating my concerns. “There is one more we must conquer tonight. This one was also formed in darkness.”

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Chapter 5: Fears and Monsters, pt. 3

Finally, it is time to move on.

“In order to open the next gate, you must stay with Me.” He cautions, taking my arm.

We press through the waters, now clear to the second gate. He has me stand in front of Him in order to open the gate. The water swirls around us powerfully. As I open the gate the water rushes through with unexpected power. I am thrown back into Him. The force of the water is immense! Without His strength I would be pushed back all the way to the waterfall. He knows I cannot stand against it here, so He carefully walks us back to the first gate.

“Why is this so strong?” I ask, breathless.

“It is the power of these fears in you.” He replies with an unflappable calm. I never knew how strong these fears were.

The waters have become dark and murky again. Once again I repent of the fear I have held on to and the generations of fear that have been passed down on to me. The waters begin to clear and I can see the fish again. I am relieved.

“Come, we must go to the next one. It never ventures from its lair.” He takes my arm to guide me.

As we press past the second gate, the water becomes deeper, up to my shoulders and now my chin. The higher the shadowy water gets, the greater my fear becomes.

“Hold on to My shoulder.” He offers. I do, finding that I can keep my head above water this way. The cold of the water penetrates me with a new level of fear.

“This monster here is fear of losing control.” He finally explains.

At this I slip from His shoulder and for a moment I am under the water. Dimly I see a huge black snake coiling in the depths. I struggle to break the surface as it wraps itself around me. Its powerful coils encircle me, crushing me, driving the breath from my lungs. As I fight to get a breath, I see a little girl, lost in a store, hiding under a clothing rack, very, very afraid, vowing never to let a situation get out of control again.

Suddenly I am able to reach my hand out through the coils and I find His shoulder. I pull myself to the surface, spitting water, unable to catch a breath for the press of the snake.

“I have made this vow! I will never be out of control again! I confess!, “I cry with the little breath I have left. “I repent! Tear down these structures! Forgive me, Papa!”

I break my other hand free and find the snake’s head. I pull it off of me and try to strangle it, but cannot do it with just one hand.

“Let Me hold you up.” He takes me by the waist and holds me up so my head is above the water. With both hands now I pull the snake from me. Little by little it gives up its hold. I thrust it down into the water, drowning it.

“Cut off the head.” He instructs.

Fumbling to find my sword, I pull it from its sheath, holding it with both hands. I shiver with the cold and exertion, trying to concentrate on using the weapon. “He is in control and I am in His hands!” I cry as the blade comes flashing down to cut off the creature’s head. Triumphantly I throw the snake to the bank.

He is still holding me. He draws me close to rest in His arms. I lay my head upon His shoulder, drawing from His warmth. I see the waters clearing. As they clear, I see the snake’s lair, a place where the waters drop off and become very deep. There are baby snakes in the water! He hands me a bucket and I catch each of the tiny creatures and place it in the bucket. I do not want any to remain. It takes some time, but finally, there are no more. We place the bucket on the shore with the dead snake.

I am tired and drained now. The water has become less cold now and that helps.

“Drink, “ He invites gesturing to the clear waters that surround us.

I do. The waters are clear and sweet now. I would never have imagined how refreshing they could be come.

“Others will drink from this place and be refreshed as well.” He encourages me. He lets me rest a little while, but then insists, “It is time to press on to the next gate.”

Part 4

Chapter 5: Fears and Monsters, pt. 2

We walk a few steps more into the waters and encounter a gate beneath the water as the flow from the waterfall becomes the moat.

“These gates hold the monsters in their places and keep them away from one another. They must be opened for you to reach and overcome each one.” He explains.

I reach out for the gate. The grid is made of a heavy metal; the thick bars are rough against my hands. I pull at it hard, surprised when it gives way beneath my grasp. The murky water rushes in, swirling in with the clean. Clear water rushes to takes its place, slowly infiltrating the darkness beyond the gate. I begin to push forward, through the gate, but stop short, realizing that I am alone. “Papa!” I cry. He is there, but He is behind me now. I rush back to Him.

“Stay with me, do not go off on your own with this. If you stay with me, nothing here can harm you. You are clothed in my robe, you need no other protection but to stay with Me.” He warns me purposefully.

“What am I to learn as we wait?” I ask certain that this time is not to be wasted.

“To stay with Me, to focus your eyes and ears on Me, to keep your arm in Mine.” His answer seems so simple. “Where I am taking you in the future will require you to do this. I will take you places you could never have gone still holding on to your fears. You will travel, alone, to teach and minister. You will be known as Grace, not by the name you family has given, not by the name your husband has given, but by the name I have given you. You will have to keep your eyes on Me, not be distracted by what may be bumping you under the water.”

Involuntarily, I glance down at the waters and see how much they have cleared. I see small fish, brightly colored koi, swimming just beneath the surface. Together now, we begin to walk through the clearing water. I see now that the water is teeming with these small fish, kept small by the monsters that dwell beyond. The water is cold and growing colder. I see a black form under the water, like a small shark, eating the small fish. A knot of fear rises and I realize this is the monster in the moat!

“Do not concern yourself with it yet.” He directs.

His direction makes no sense though! The creature bumps my leg, making its presence clearly known to me.

He guides me to continue walking with Him to the gate that separates this section, this monster from the next. “You must lift this gate next for us to get through to the next one.”

“But we haven’t yet conquered this one!” I protest before I realize what I am saying.

“We will. Stay close to Me. Do not try to move this gate yet, lest the next creature swallow up this one and become stronger.”

So we stand at the second gate, where the water is still murky and dark and wait. As we wait, a huge storm brews—wind, thunder, rain—and it is cold! What do I do? What is it?

“Do not be afraid or distracted from what you are trying to do. Stand fast, it will pass.” His voice is steady, unwavering.

The cold penetrates me and I begin to shiver.

“Come closer.” He stands behind me, wrapping His arms around me to keep me warm. I am grateful for His warmth to hold me through this storm. I press into Him as the storm finally passes.

I find myself distracted by my own thoughts and abruptly realize that He is no longer standing behind me! “Where are you!” I cry.

“Here,” He quickly responds, as He walks back to the first gate.

I rush to catch up with Him. “Where are we going?” I am confused.

“To catch the monster.” He replies.

I do not have a chance for fear to gather as I see fish fleeing past me. I feel a hard bump in my belly. Then again! And again! It is the monster.

“What do I do?” I exclaim in fear.

“Grab it by the tail!” He directs calmly, seemingly undisturbed by this turn of events.

I feel it bump me again; I reach into the cold, dark waters. My hands find the beast and I grab its tail. It struggles hard against my grasp, trying to bite my arm. But I fight it and its teeth do not find purchase. Its teeth are huge! Black and jagged in an impossibly large mouth.

“What is it? Take this from me Papa!” I have followed His direction, but do not what to do now. Fear rises in me, what is this thing? What do I do with it?

“It is fear. Fear of being wrong, fear of making a mistake.” He replies, revealing the monster for what it is.

It struggles even harder against my grasp, not wanting to be removed from its feeding ground. “Help me, Papa!”

He takes my hands in His and together we lift it out of the water and strike it against the bank, again and again.

“I repent of this fear! I repent of harboring it, of keeping it alive. I repent of the vow I have made not to make mistakes. I am not allowed to make mistakes! Forgive me for believing this!”

We throw the limp, heavy beast out of the water. It lands with a dull thud on the bank. The creature begins to flail and flop on the ground, trying to get back to the water.

“Behead it.” He simply directs.

Awkwardly, I take my sword and wade to the struggling beast. I am not sure how to use this weapon though. Suddenly I see—the repentant are loved! (1Jn1:9) He will not turn me away for my mistakes! It is not perfection that He demands, but a repentant heart! The sword in my hand flashes down and beheads the creature. Finally it lays still.

“What do I do with it?” I ask, turning back to Him.

“Leave it on the bank, it will nourish the flowers.” He does not seem concerned with it.

Already the fish are gathering to us, tickling. I realize that I have bread in my hands to feed them. He watches as I feed the fish; the waters are teeming with life!

“It’s gone, Papa, it’s gone!” I exclaim in relief. This was not as bad as I had feared.

“When you repented of the fear that has been handed down through your family the monster began to shrink. As you stay beside me, these things will be small.” He assures me, reminding me that He will not leave me.

“Thank you for being Papa in this place now! I am so glad you are here.” I whisper. He holds me close for a long time as we stand there in the clearing waters.

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Chapter 5: Fears and Monsters, pt. 1

He helps me from the clear waters. “Yes, that is where we are going next. The moat contains the fear that surrounds your heart, keeping you in and everything else out.

“There are indeed monsters , creatures of those fears, in the moat that you must overcome. There are four of them, three smaller and one large. Their presence here is polluting the moat. You must drive them out to clear the waters and make the way safe.” He explains.

I knew there were monsters here, besides those awful birds. I just was not expecting to encounter them so soon. I thought they would be waiting in the castle. But He said that we cannot even get to the castle until I conquer these. I step into the water again and step toward the moat, carefully staying in the clean water fed by the waterfall. I begin to pray, “Lord…”

Panic rises, though as I realize that it is not enough! “Papa God! Where are you! Take my arm, please!” I cry out, looking around for Him in desperation.

He is there, taking my arm and steadying me. As He does so, I realize that I did not wait His instruction. Instead, I rushed in on my own. Indeed, this is my pattern, my way, rushing in independently and on my own, not waiting. I know I have done this same thing over and over again.

“That was the first challenge of this place,” His voice snaps me back to attention, “… not to try and go here alone as you would have done before. Walk with Me through here, I will protect you and help you. You cannot walk this path alone. You cannot overcome this alone. Your strength is not sufficient . Mine is.” His direction is firm but not harsh.

“I want You to be Papa here too.” I whisper, holding tight to His arm. “I want to clear this water, I am afraid of its darkness.” The murkiness of the water hides what is beneath, I cannot see what might be coming. I am afraid.

Then I see, I have chosen this fear and held on to it. I look for the hidden dangers and knowing they must be there, I fear. It has been handed to me, through generations of my family. I have been taught to fear what might be lurking where I cannot see. But this fear does not tell me the truth! I press in close to Him. “I repent, Papa, I repent of this fear, of holding on to it as if it were truth. Forgive me! Show me the truth, help me tear down and rebuild.”

The waters from the waterfall seem to flow more strongly now, invading the murky waters and beginning to clear them. Suddenly, I realize this moat is the source of water for the garden. Until now, the garden has been fed by these polluted waters, tainted by the monsters that dwell within them. As the clear water takes hold, the garden will be changed!

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Chapter 4: Thorns, pt. 5

We leave the vile nest and return to the front of the castle. By comparison, it is beautiful here. The thorns have receded so that we can walk more easily. The flies are gone and the vultures all seem to be back at the nest now. I breath more easily, tempted to rest a bit.

But His voice draws me back to what we are about. “You cannot see what these vultures are about because you do not really desire it. Your flesh does not want to change, does not want you to see.” There is firmness, but no condemnation in His tone.

“What can I do? I want to see, I want to understand.” I protest, feeling torn between the desire to quit and the desire to press through.

He does not answer immediately. It seems He is considering how to answer, perhaps whether to answer me at all. I try to wait patiently on Him, but it is difficult. Finally I hear Him drawing a breath to answer. I bite my lip in anticipation of what He will say. “It is your flesh that is drowning out what you seek to hear.” He explains. “Your flesh is too strong right now, too loud right now. It is threatened by the changes which may take place and is fighting them. To hear what you have asked for, you must subdue it. I can teach you to rebuke the flesh, to weaken its grip that you might hear what you are seeking for.”

His words hang heavy. I hate that word, rebuke. I feel ill at its mention, the intense pain and humiliation of His last rebuke of me are not far off in my mind. I do not want to go there again. Yet, that is not what He has offered. He has not said He would rebuke me, but that He would teach me to rebuke my own flesh, to bring it under submission to Him. All this distracts me and I am tempted to wander. I look about, remembering that the birds are gone from here now and for a moment consider what it would hurt to just clean up the front of the castle and leave the birds alone.

I remember the stench and those awful calls. No. No! I do not want that anywhere near me. The fear of those awful creatures is worse than my fear of His rebuke and the pain I know it will bring. I cannot allow those things to remain, no matter what He requires of me to do it.

I feel caught between a rock and a hard place though when I finally turn to Him saying, “Yes, please, help me do what I must to see this thing. I’ve got to get rid of it, I can’t live with it here!”

It seems a long moment before He nods at me. “All right. You have chosen this.” He says as if to remind me of my own will in this. “You must expose yourself to me so I can teach you to subdue your flesh.”

I am thankful at least this part is easier for me. I remove all that He has given me, setting aside the robe and sandals. The gravel is sharp on my feet, reminding me of the protection He has given me throughout this place. I hand Him the belt, wondering in the back of my mind whether He will hit me with it. But He sets it aside, reaching out to me, to draw me closer. I give Him my hand and step close to His side. He begins to show me how to rebuke my flesh into submission to Him.

He is not gentle, though. The pain is intense as spirit and flesh argue. Through the pain I hear my own voice crying out, “I must see this thing. I must bring it to death!” The rebuke, the pain continues, intensifies and I hear myself scream out, “Show me! I bring my flesh under submission to You!”

Finally, I see the one legged vulture afar off and in my mind’s eye, yet another picture emerges. I see a small yellow canary with one leg that we had as a pet when I was a tiny girl. The bird sang very sweetly, but was always in a cage. I watched that bird often and never saw it fly. I longed to touch it, stroke it gently. It was trapped in that cage where on one could touch it. I seem to hear my mother’s voice saying that the cage kept the bird safe, so no one could hurt it. Then I hear that little girl say to herself, I want to be safe too! No one must touch me. So a cage is built around her, keeping her from the touch of others, but like that bird, she is trapped, too, and cannot fly.

I am trapped and cannot fly! No one must touch me! No one can touch me! I cry out without realizing it. Waves of emotion wash over me, grief, fear, perhaps anger. I sob without words to speak for a long time, seeing the trapped bird so clearly in my mind. “I want to be free! Papa, I want to be free!” I am on my knees now, huddled into a little ball, rocking. “ I want to get out of this cage.” But how do I get out?

Not until the first wave of emotions has subsided do I realize what I must do. “I repent, Papa! I repent for holding on to these images, these beliefs about the world! Break them down—set me free, Papa, set me free! Papa, I’m sorry, forgive me! Forgive me!”

Raising my head slightly, I see the cage has fallen away and the canary is flying free, singing. I watch as it soars over the garden, out of view. A moment later, though, I see the little girl with the bird sitting on her finger. She is gently stroking the bird with one finger and the bird sings in response. The canary takes to the air again, she runs beneath, ‘flying’ with the airborne creature.

As I watch them run, I realize that the thorns have retreated even farther, becoming individual bushes now. Nothing comes to attack—the vultures are gone!

“Papa, can we go back to the nest?” I want to see for myself that they are totally gone.

He guides me back to the shady side of the castle, but it is a very different place now. The fallen rocks, the nest, the thorns are all gone. The stench no longer hangs in the air, I can breath here. No trace of the vultures is left. All of it is replaced by a familiar magnolia tree!

The tree from His garden is here now! Behind it, I can see the water fall is here too, gently flowing and feeding the mote which encircles the inner walls of the castle. In my excitement, I climb into the tree. On a near branch I see a small nest with three baby birds, getting ready to fly themselves. I watch them for a long time, laughing at their antics.

Finally, I climb down. With His help, I begin to clean up the garden, raking, pruning, restoring the flower beds, cleaning up the benches. As we do so, He tells me, “It is important to tend this garden, this is the place people will come into to be ministered to. For a long time, the wrong crops have been tended here, now the right ones can grow.”

The work seems to progress quickly. When we are finished, He bids me to wash in the waterfall. I welcome the opportunity to enjoy the cool waters. As I do, I see the clear waters of the water fall flowing into the moat and becoming cloudy and dark. I fear that this is the next place we must tackle.

Chapter 5-->