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-->

Chapter 25: Surrender, pt 3

In that safety, I finally begin to answer His question. “Papa, I used to love the church. I know I did at some point. But now—now I just plain hate her! I do not want to invite any one. I do not want to even be there. I love the individuals but I hate the body.

“She is ugly and dysfunctional. She is hurtful and dishonest and abusive. She takes and takes and takes but does not give in return. She is wretched and ugly. I hate her! How can I love that?

“You have shown me how to love my husband. But he has laid down his life for me and his children. But the church? She has never been there, never supported, never stood by me. And You want me to choose to love that?” The words tumble out in a flurry. I feel wretched and afraid. Part of me expects understanding from Him. A larger part though expects correction and rebuke.

“You have been wounded, you voice the harvest of those seeds. I have promised you before I would not rebuke you for being wounded. I cannot require discipline of your hurts.”

He holds me very firmly now. I cannot pull away without struggling with Him. I want to though. I want to run and hide. “I almost wish You would! I do not want to do what You ask. I do not know how! I wish You would rebuke me so that I would have to find a way to do it.”

“I will not do that, child.” There is no note of anger in His voice although I cannot fathom why.

I hate to even think it, but I do not really understand why He would refuse. I am suddenly aware of a bitter and vile thought. I hate to admit it, but I hear myself thinking, “Why would He turn down the opportunity to hurt me when I am even asking for it?” Tears of hurt and shame begin to flow. I want to hide from Him, but cannot.

“Now, we can talk.” His voice is gentle as He shifts me into His lap, pulling me close enough to hear His heartbeat. “You expect, deep within, that I really want to hurt you.” There is no accusation in His words, only a statement of fact.

He is right, I do. I really expect He wants to see me hurting. After all, that is what His church has done, it is what my mother has done… Then I realize it is her voice that I am hearing and feeling I this moment. I do not know why, but I have always assumed she wanted to hurt me. The little criticisms, jabs, observations made when I thought I was doing well. I guess they left the sense that she really wanted to hurt me. And worse. I have felt that this is the way it should be so much so I invite and accept it.

“Papa! Forgive me! I did not know. I have seen you this way too. Please forgive me! Please help me to see you the right way” I cry into His arms. There is no rebuke, no harshness, no anger from Him.

The sin, it must be sin, it was born out of the hurts of many years. He is not angry with my hurts. I can feel His desire to bring healing to these wounds and cleanse the sin of my heart and replace it with truth. “Please forgive me Papa.”

“Forgive her.” He says, I know He means both my mother and the church.

“Yes, Papa. I choose now to forgive them both. Please forgive me my lack of forgiveness. I repent Papa, I repent and I choose now to forgive them and release them both to You.” I whisper he words, He has drawn me so close I do not need to speak them more loudly.

He says nothing but I can hear the beat of His heart and the soft chimes of grace in my ears.

Finally, He speaks. “I love you daughter. Know this does not change that at all. Remember I kissed you before I asked this of you.”

I had not seen that, had not remembered that. I press into Him as He holds me, relieved in seeing this. I am truly safe and secure here with Him. He truly does accept me, not based on my performance.

“Because you have chosen this though, you will see changes. The seeds you have sown will be watered through this sacrifice.”

I stumble on the words sacrifice, confused.

“Your obedience is a sacrifice child. Do not minimize that. You have chosen to lay down the hurts of the past out of love for Me, asking nothing in return. I do not treat that lightly.

“This sacrifice shall be rain upon those seeds. And I will bless your harvest with abundance.” Tenderly He lifts my chin and kisses my forehead, cradling my face in His hand.

“I love you Papa.” I whisper.

“I know child, I know.” He replies. He adds nothing, no condition, no corrections, no requirement, no demands. He simply receives from my heart.

“Thank you for that, Papa. Thank you for not asking for what I cannot give, for not demanding what I cannot do.”

“Lay down that burden, that fear here and now daughter. I want to free you from that load. You have long been weighed down with the notion that to be loved and accepted you have to do more, do what you cannot do, be someone else. Lay that down now and fully receive the love I have for you.”

“Yes, Papa, I will lay that down. How do I do that?” I wish I already knew, but I cannot see it.

“Look in your hand.” He replies.

As I do, I find I am carrying a small, smooth stone. Large block letters spelling out “Not Enough” adorn the deep grey, oblong piece. An icy knot forms in my gut as I read those words. They capture the entire situation so very clearly. Never enough.

“Give Me the stone.” His words are an invitation, not a demand. He will not take this from my by force.

Not shifting from the hold He has on me, I press the stone into His right hand. “It is yours Papa. I will not be “not enough” any longer.” I close my eyes and press into Him.

His arm tenses as His hand closes around the stone. I can hear the stone cry out and finally break under the force of His great strength. He throws the pieces into the darkness of the cave where they will not be found. They clatter and bounce as they fall.

“You are enough, daughter. You are sufficient and made for my particular purpose. Do not accept any longer or even hear the admonition that what I have created in you is wrong or that it is not enough. You are the work of My hands and My delight. My grace and My grace in you are sufficient and I am pleased.”

“You are so good to me, Papa.” I whisper, marveling at how much has changed since this walk began. In many ways I feel as though I have met Him for the very first time. I have known Him, but not truly known His heart. “Thank You, Papa.”

In the stillness of the place, the only sounds I hear are the sounds of Him, the falling water, the chimes of grace, His breath and heartbeat. This place is full of Him and only Him. There is neither room nor place for anything else. There are moments when I still cannot believe myself here with Him, like this. This is all so very different than what I have ever believed or understood.

“And what do you think of that?” I an hear a wry smile in His voice.

“I think that I like You and trust You more that I ever thought I could and that You are much safer that I ever realized. I finally have begun to understand how You can be who You are and yet love me without condition or caveat. I don’t completely understand, but it is a beginning

“You are so much more awesome than I ever understood. I love to lose myself in this place, in worship before You. You are truly more incredible that I can ever say. Only You, Papa, only You.

It seems as though He sighs at this; it sounds as though He is pleased. “Rest now, with Me.”

Laying my head to His breast, I sleep.

Chapter 26-->

Chapter 25: Surrender, pt 2

That I can do! I am relieved to obey Him. I sing to Him, focusing on Him, not what He has asked. As I do though, I find that there is a shield in my hands. It looks like a police riot shield made of a dull grey metal. This is the independence He wants me to sacrifice.

I know I have used this many times. It protects me, keeps me safe from the intrusion of others. I can be in the midst of a group and still be safe and protected from them. This is what He wants me to lay down before Him.

I do not want to obey. At the deepest core of my being I do not want to let this go. I do not understand why He asks this of me. He has said that this is not disobedience, that this is not sin to correct, so why does He ask this?

I stand for a long while before I finally realize that the consequences of not doing what He has asked me are more dreadful to me than the consequences of doing it. I think so at least, but my heart is still unsure.

The heavy shield is strapped to my left arm. I try to remove it, but am unable to. “How do I get this off, Papa?” I ask genuinely puzzled.

“Use the sword,” He instructs.

How I wish He would just take it from me! With my right hand I reach for the sword. It is difficult to reach and hard to maneuver. It takes me a long time to cut the sheild free. 1CO 12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" … [24] … But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, [25] so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

Finally the shield clatters to the ground with a dull thud. I stare at it a moment but then act quickly before I lose my resolve, quickly picking it up and placing it on the fiery altar. The flames flare as I do. I find I cannot watch, though. I step back and turn away from the offering. The intense heat threatens to burn my back and neck. Shadows dance wildly on the cave walls as the flames crackle. Finally, they die down once again.

I do not want to look. I feel torn, empty and afraid, almost angry. I do not understand what is being asked of me.

“Turn back and look child.” He firmly directs me.

Unwillingly, I obey. The flames have not consumed my offering, but have purified it. In place of the large body shield, there is now a small gold shield. He gestures, inviting me to take it. I try to pick it up, but it is still hot from the flames. Startled, I juggle it a bit until I can set it down and step away from the altar.

“Come to Me.” He says.

I stride over to Him, but cannot look at Him, the turmoil in my heart is great. We stand in silence for a long time. Finally, He reaches out and takes hold of my chin, turning my face to look at Him. Still I cannot meet His gaze. “What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid?” He asks pointedly cutting to the heart of the matter. I am indeed afraid.

I hesitate to answer, the honesty it requires intimidates me, but I find strength in my frustration. “I am afraid of disappointing You, of displeasing You. I truly do not understand what You are asking of me. I will obey You! I will! But I just do not see, I do not understand what you are asking of me! I do not understand how to do this. How can I obey what I do not understand? “I am afraid You will turn me away because of this!” There is a shrillness in my tone that even I do not like.

“Who do you think I am? Do you still not know Me?” His voice is sharp.
I feel like I am caught in a no-win situation, not knowing how to obey yet being expected to do so none the less. And I suddenly realized that this is not of Him. “I am sorry Papa,” I whisper, though still not at ease.

Gently He releases His grip on my face. “Go get the shield and bring it to Me.”
I do so, the metal now cooled enough to hold safely in my hands. He takes it from my hands, holding it out for me to examine.

It is much smaller than the old one, large enough to fend off a specific attack but not large enough to truly hid behind or to separate me from a crowd. The brilliantly polished surface reflects the glow of the coals, uninterrupted by unneeded decorations. The edges roll slightly to soften them so they will not cut the user. The metal while thin and light, is very hard and strong, much sturdier than it looks. He turns it over to show me two leather straps for my left arm and a longer one to sling it across my back when not actively using it.

I know what this is, faith; but still I do not understand. Silently, He fits the shield across my shoulders, on to my back. “Now look at the stone.” He instructs.

I try, but the glowing coals are too bright and I cannot see anything. He scoops the coals back into the lantern, containing the light so I can look on the altar stone.

Finally, my eyes adjust to the dimmed light. I can just make out how the altar stone has melted. In its place is a flow tone, shaped like a tent with soda straw formations forming a fringe at the top edge. At first, I think it is a tabernacle, a tent of meeting, but then I see, it is a wedding tent.

“Papa, I do not understand this, I do not understand what you are asking of me.” I plead, shaking my head, despair threatening to overtake me.

“I want you to love my church. You have grown cold and distant. I want you to fall in love with her again.”

“But how do I do this with this church? What more do You want me to do? What else can I do?” I feel like a failure. If all I have already done does not satisfy, then nothing can.

“Come sit with Me.” He invites, sitting down to lean against a large rock by the water’s edge.

I sit at his feet, my back to Him, not even leaning on Him. I can feel myself closing in and shutting down.

“You are pulling away from Me.” He observes as He lightly rests His hand between my shoulders. “Why?”

I can not cover it up, it is pointless to try hiding from Him. “Because I do not even like the church! Sometimes I hate it!” The words tumble out from me along with tears.

“Come share your heart with Me.” He draws me closer to Him, putting His arm around me to pull me to Him.

I bury my face in His shoulder to tearfully whisper, “I am afraid to, afraid You will be upset with me.”

“I already know, child. It is safe to tell Me.” He strokes my hair to reassure me He means what He says.

Part 3-->

Chapter 25: Surrender, pt 1

My dreams are strange once again and I awake uneasy and disturbed. “Papa?” I ask uncertain what is happening now.

“You heart is anxious.” He declares, showing me He understands even what I do not tell Him.

“Yes, Papa, why?”

“You sense there is change coming. And there is. I want you to establish a new memorial stone here in this place.” He explains carefully.

I understand my growing anxiety now. Taking a deep breath, I ask, “What must I do Papa?” My emotions are mixed. I know what He requires of me is always good, but it is often so difficult. I was not prepared for this.

“This memorial stone is a surrender, a surrender of independence.”

My mind races now. I do not understand, but yet I do t the same time. I have always been fiercely independent. That has been how I have gotten through much of what I have dealt with in life. I am terrified of what will be if I have to give this up—what is He asking of me? I begin pacing before Him. “Papa, I don’t understand. I will obey. Please, tell me what do I need to do?”

I can’t stop pacing nor the racing thoughts in my mind. I just cannot see what He wants. I think too, I am deeply afraid to even look there, it seems to much to bear. He does not reply. Finally I have to ask, “Does this require your correction for me to see it?” A knot of dread fills my gut. This does not seem to be a place of correction though. I am so confused!

“No daughter.” He finally speaks. “This is not something that you have done wrong. “ I hear more than feel myself begin to breathe again. “No child,, “He reaches out to me, touching my shoulder, stopping my pacing. “You have not disobeyed Me. I have made you the way that you are. I gave you that independence, it is part of your gift, part of what allows you to do what I have called you to do: to think for yourself and to stand and teach what is difficult and even painful and to do it in strength.

“No, I do not wish to take that from you. I do not ask you to change that, to become something or someone that you are now.” He pauses for a moment. “I am asking you to submit it to Me in this place of worship.”

Part of me is relieved, but I am no less confused that before. But still I long to obey whatever He asks. “I will do what you ask, Papa. Tell me what to do.”

“This will be a sacrifice. You must build an altar.” He explains.

“I don’t know how.”

He does not answer immediately, but seems to look around for a moment. His gaze settles on a large flat rock just a few steps behind me. “Take that rock and bring it here.” He directs.

The rock is large, half as tall as I am and about as wide as my shoulders. I am certain that it is heavy as well. How can I move it? It must weigh as much as I do, at least, even more! But I know He would not ask of me something I cannot do. So, I walk over to the rock.

The stone is rough, like unfinished limestone but not sharp. I pull at it and find it is more than my arms alone can lift. But I know that I can lift much more with my legs. Perhaps I can get my shoulders under it and lift it that way.

I tip it up onto my shoulders and push it up off the ground. The walking is difficult, but I manage to get it the few steps to Him. Carefully, I set it down before Him. He nods at me as I try and catch my breath from the effort.

“It is not complete. The altar must have horns.” He explains indicating the shape He wants it to take.

Not knowing what else to do, I find a stone and chip away at the edges of the stone altar to make it conform to His design. The blows of stone on stone jar my hands and arms. They ache with effort. My legs still quiver from the effort of moving the stone. If preparing is like this, I fear what the sacrifice will be like.

His voice jostles me out of my thoughts. “The altar must have fire.” He hands me the lantern holding glowing coals. I have nothing to transfer the coals with. Still hoping that I am doing right I open the lantern and spill out the coals on to the stone altar. I am surprised to see them glowing brightly, then suddenly burst into flame.

“What do I put on this altar?” I finally ask, not sure if I have thought it or said it aloud.

“You will know.” He replies reassuringly. “Just worship Me.”

Part 2-->

Chapter 24: Worship, pt 4

For a moment it is silent but for the sound of the water. In the stillness I hear the soft chimes of my earrings moving in time with y breath. Though soft, the song of grace echoes off the rock walls, seeming to grow louder as it does. The rocks are crying out to Him of His grace! The song is so beautiful, I have to listen.

As I do, I feel Him reach to take my face in both His hands. He bends to kiss me, this time though, He kisses my lips. It is not the kiss of a lover though. It is the lingering kiss of a King declaring to His court, this is His beloved, the one who belongs to Him.

I am transfixed in this moment, not moving or breathing for a long time.

Finally, He says, “This is a place of intimate connection. As you declare who I am in worship, you allow me into your heart to become what you have declared Me to be. In this place you allow Me to become resident, to take the throne of your heart.”

He lifts His hand into my sight. “Give Me your hand.”

I place my hand on His. I am struck at how tiny—like and infant’s—mine is in His and by the strength and might of His hand.

“Why do you so willingly place your hand in mine knowing in My strength I could hurt you?” He asks, his voice echoing off the walls.

“Because I trust you, Papa.”

“This is a place of trust. When you open your heart to pour out worship you are walking in trust and openness to me. Come unto me, and I will give you rest.”

I see that verse now in a new light, the command and the promises He gives and how worship plays its part in that.

“ Do You want me to teach this, Papa?” I ask softly.

“In time. For now treasure it in your own heart. Ponder it, study it. Let the seed grow that in time the fruit will be ready in its season.”

“Yes, Papa.” How many seeds like this have recently been sown? I silently wonder.

“Many.” He replies to my unspoken question, “And the harvest will come soon as well. The ground here is good and the harvest needful. Expect abundance and surprise.” He pauses for a moment. “In this new season of harvest, My promise to you is that My yoke will be easy and My burden light. I am changing and equipping you to do what I have brought you into this season to do. Do not be intimidated or overwhelmed by anything that happens, for I am ordering it. Just walk through the doors that I open and know that I have opened them for you.”

“Yes, Papa,” I whisper, what else can I say?

“That you love Me.” He replies, thee is a smile in His voice.

“I love You, Papa!” I cry out, my heart ready to declare this over and over again I catch His hand in an embrace and He draws me in to fully embrace me. This time though, for this first time, I think, I embrace Him back. I am a little afraid to do so, but He immediately responds with a more powerful embrace, tucking my head under His chin. I know I have pleased Him. “I love you, Papa, I whisper again, my voice echoing off the walls. “I love You.”

“Rest in Me, now,” He directs, pressing my head to His chest. I obey, easily falling asleep cradled in His arms.

Chapter 25-->

Chapter 24: Worship, pt 3

I awaken and He is still here beside me. I feel rested, refreshed.

“Drink of the water here,” He says. “It is a source of refreshing that will not run dry. You can always find it in the midst of your worship.”

The water is cold and sweet, purer than anything I have known before. I am struck again by the beauty of this place. Caves have always spoken to my heart.

“Few truly find this place, child.” He explains once again. “It is hard to get to and there are not shortcuts here. All must travel the same path. Some stay closer to this place all the time, but here are not short cuts to get there.”

I am surprised at how He immediately directs His comments at the lies I have been taught. I had been told that there were those who were favored with shortcuts, that the rules did not apply to them, only to the ordinary among us. Yet, He tells me this is not so. “Papa, can I ask You? Why was the path here so dark? I do not understand.” The question comes out of my mouth before I even can think about it.

He pauses for a moment before answering, as if thinking of a way to explain that I will understand. “It is dark because this is not a place found by the flesh. You do not travel here with your eyes, but with your heart, guided by My grace. The path here is only through My grace.”

I nod, I think I understand. I look around again, marveling at the scene. Three particularly distinct formations catch my eye here, a crystalline spray, a butterfly shaped crystal and the rose crystal. “What are these Papa?”

“These are memorial stones marking major transitions as you learned how to enter into worship. The rose is when you learned to dance before Me. The butterfly is when your spirit was first set free to become lost in worship. The crystal spray was your discovery of what worship was and what it meant.”

I remember each of these times, not so much as a specific event, but as an emotion, a transition, a change in my walk with Him. Thinking on these things, I find a longing to dance before Him building in me, to dance even as David danced before Him. I do not understand the desire, I am neither musician nor dancer. But to be able to totally give myself to celebrate who His is, is a deep desire of my heart.

“May I Papa?” I finally ask, feeling a bit self conscious, even embarrassed.

He nods, very slightly and opens His arms in invitation. I am not sure why, but I begin to remove the garments He has given me. I am safe in this place, I can be uncovered before Him without fear.

I begin to sing and to dance before Him, letting overflow the deepest feelings of my heart and mind. I am not performer to be sure, but I can see His smile and I know He is pleased, receiving what I offer before Him.

The cave is filled by the soft radiant glow of the lantern that surrounding Him. I can feel it, it is His glory. I know this light so well. It warms and comforts me.

I continue until I have poured our all that is in me. When I stop, I am standing before Him. He ways nothing, but gently begins to pour a new oil over me, rubbing it deeply into my hair and face, anointing me head to foot.

As I in all of this, I realize I am not afraid any more. I remember not long ago, my terror at being uncovered before Him. I am no longer afraid.

“What were you afraid of, daughter?” He asks, lightly holding my shoulders.

“Everything. I was afraid You would reject me if You saw me for who and what I was. I was afraid of condemnation. I was afraid You would hurt me, but not heal. I was afraid you would not love me if I was not perfect, afraid that I would not be enough for You to accept me.” I pause for a moment, reflecting. “I am not afraid anymore.”

He kisses the tops of my head, then picks up the garments He has given me and tenderly dresses me once again. I feel so secure in His garments.

“Come sit with Me.” He says, walking towards the stream. We sit beside the flowing water. “Worship is your expression of love for Me. I need nothing, but I desire relationship with you. That comes through your worship of Me. As you declare in those times who I am, what I am, you make a statement of faith, for trust in those things and in that faith you are brought closer to Me.

“David, Mary and John all were true worshippers. They longed to be in my presence, close to Me, celebrating in the fact that I was there with them not in what I had done for them, but in who I am and that I was there in their presence.

“John reclined on my breast, hearing My word, but even more, the beating of My heart. Mary was always found at My feet. She never wanted to be far to be far from Me, to miss out on a moment of My visit.

“You have long wondered which spirit you had, that of Mary or of Martha. You have called yourself a Martha many times. But I want you to see this: When we first came to this castle, your first thought was to prepare Me a meal, instead, though, you followed Me into the study. In that room there have always been two chairs, yet by your choice, not my direction you have always sat at my feet not in the chair. Even in other rooms,, you have only take a chair when I have directed. You have been by my side constantly and at my feet as often as you could. You even mourned your lack of perfume with which to anoint my feet.

“You have Mary’s heart, child, ministering to Me by closeness and relationship rather than by your constant doing.” He touches my shoulder as I hang on every word He is saying. “I am moved by true worshippers because they have given me their hearts.”

He lifts His hand from my shoulder to cradle my face in a tender embrace. I press into His embrace, drinking deeply of it. “Please, teach me Papa,” I whisper, longing to know more of Him.

“The way here is not easy, few are willing to crawl blindly, guided and covered only by my grace and spirit. It is a path of surrender, not of show. A place to move as I move and only as I move. True worship goes deep into your soul and takes you to this place where the rocks ill cry out with my grace eve if you do not.”

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Chapter 24: Worship, pt 2

I feel a rush of cool air in the darkness. I breathe deeply, drinking in the refreshing coolness. I think I hear the sound of running water too.

He stands to His feet and helps me to mine. There is a flicker of light. He is lighting a lantern!

“Look around you child.” He declares, holding up the light.

We are in a cave, water running down one wall into a small creek flowing down the center of the chamber. The light reflects off the dripping walls, glistening.

Careful not to touch the formations, I walk about, amazed and the incredible and rare formations I see.

“Papa, what is this place! I whisper, awed by what I see in the glow of the lantern.

“This is the secret place. The place deep within yourself that you have longed to ifnd, fearing what you would see. Now, look—“ He gestures outward. “The river here is flowing to the surface, filled with life. This place is carved by the life flowing through here.”

I see crystalline formations of the rarest forms.

“Look here.” He points out to me a rose shaped crystal that looks like a massive gypsum rose, but is made out of pink crystal. I have never see something like this before.

“No one has.” He replies to my thoughts. “It only exists here in your heart.

“You have long wondered what is inside you. There are treasures here that no man shall ever see, put here for My pleasure alone. No one else will come here with you or will discover what I have placed here. This is a place of wonder, of worship. It is the place you come to when you are lost in worship, in My presence.

“you have the heart of a worshipper, not to lead it, but to enter into it, to come into this secret place with me an to worship without distraction.”

I do not understand, at least my mind does not, but I think that maybe my heart does! “I know this place, Papa—the feel of it I know. I love to be in this place with you, dancing before you, bowing at your feet.”

“The time spent here is precious to Me, especially those times when you have pushed through circumstances to get here.” He explains.

“And it is You who takes me here!.” I blurt out my sudden new understanding.

“Yes, however, you come, you follow willingly, closely. It is easy to become distracted and not get to this place. Rest here in this place of worship for a while.” He sits beside the quietly flowing water.

I sit down with Him, singing softly to Him.

After a few minutes though, I find I must ask, “Why was my flesh so reluctant to come here?”

“Because the narrow path here becomes blocked easily with the issues of the flesh. Those temptations that have been calling to you and that you have refused would have blocked the path here. We would have been unable to come here without first cleaning it all up. To come here means you must subdue your flesh, your flesh knows this and rebels.” He explains.

I nod, understanding, I think. I rest now, sleeping peacefully in this place.

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Chapter 24: Worship, pt 1

Finally, He speaks once again. “I want to share something with you, to take you somewhere with Me. Your flesh is afraid to go because it will have to change. Will you come?”

The decision takes but a moment. “I will.” I stand before Him and He reaches out to take my hand in His. “Yes, I will go with You.” I repeat, taking His outstretched hand.

Firmly He grips my hand. The touch of His hand draws up so many feelings in me. His hands are so large and powerful that they could crush me in a heartbeat, yet His gentleness is amazing.

“Come with Me,” He instructs, rising from His chair.

My feet are hesitant and slow to move. Gently He encourages me, but does not force me to follow. Once again I do not understand my own reaction.

We leave the study, cross through the large tiled foyer, the sound of our footsteps echo loudly through the hall. I want to ask where we are going, but feel I should not. He says nothing. We continue to the staircase, but do not go up, rather we walk along the right side, to find a door in the side of the staircase. I do knot know what is behind the door. Still silent, he grasps the doorknob; it is slow to turn. Finally it does and the door complains and He opens it. I cannot see what is behind the door, the darkness there seems impenetrable. I look to Him, but still He says nothing.

“What is this, Papa?” I finally ask, having not ideas of what to expect. I can only guess that this is a storage closet, a utility room perhaps?

Still no answer. He ducks His head to step though the doorway. I am hesitant to follow, but He is still holding my hand and draws me to follow Him. I know I could pull away, but I step into the darken doorway. The room is deeply dark and I am afraid.

I cling to His hand as He turns to the right and takes a few steps. My grasp on his hand tightens even more, I fear letting go, lest I become lost in this dark place. And I still do not know where we are!

“Why do you need to know?” He finally answers in a voice so soft I almost miss it.

The words that tumble forth surprise me. “I guess I don’t, since I am with You.”
“Then come and follow.” I hear His slow foot steps as he starts to slowly walk again. I focus on keeping hold of His hand. “Focus on Me, do not become distracted or lost in this place.”

“Yes, Papa.”

“Listen to My voice, not to anything else you might hear. Follow Me now.”
I can feel the space has become smaller than it was. Soon we will have to crawl to get through it. “Where does this lead?” I murmur.

“To where we are going.” He replies. I know there must be a reason for His indirectness, but cannot fathom what it might be.

Soon the ceiling angles sharply down and it is not possible to walk upright any longer. If we have to crawl, I will not be able to hold his hand any longer. “Papa! It is so dark! I cannot see You. I can’t hold Your hand!. I’m afraid of being separated from You.”

“Come then.” I feel His arm on my shoulder, guiding me to slid past Him and stand in front of Him. He helps me down to my knees to crawl, but then He kneels above me to crawl Himself. He surrounds me with His presence as we crawl through the small tunnel. I will not become lost!

We seem to crawl for a long time. I cannot tell what is around us, all I can feel is His presence. My knees, hands, wrists and elbows begin to hurt from the rough ground we are crossing.

“We are almost there.” He whispers encouragingly in my ear. I had thought I could go no further, but somehow His encouragement makes me able to go on.

The air here is hot and stuffy now. I fight back a rising panic. The heat, the darkness and the sense of being utterly lost is feeding a deep fear in me. Finally, He stops.

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Chapter 23: Another Key, pt.2

When I awaken, He is still there. He feels me stir and hugs me briefly. Then He says, “Let Me see your neck.”

I turn to show Him the scar, let Him examine the burn of the coal. I can still feel the coolness of the salve He applied earlier.

“Do you understand the importance of all this?” He asks.

“No, I don’t think so,” I reply, still blinking the sleep from my eyes and rising to my feet.

Gently with His finger He traces the path of the scar on my neck. “This scar threatened your life’s blood. It sat where your blood, your life flowed though and it contaminated it. This was the source of your constant fear that I would leave you, that I would turn my back on you and abandon you for someone, for something more important. It was the core of your failure to trust Me completely.”

I understand now what help the key in place and why I could not break it. “But, Papa, if this was so very important, why did it not seem as difficult as earlier hurdles we faced? It was not easy, it hurt and dos, I think. But it was not so hard as the challenges of the garden. Why is that?” I ask quietly.

He is silent for a moment. “You have come a long way child. You have learned to hear My voice. You have begun to trust Me and expect good from Me. What you once had to fight to see is now more easily seen. It does not make it less important, it is evidence of the changes of your heart.

You still bear a wound of where the scar has been removed. Today, I will heal that and replace it with new, if you will allow Me. I want you to see Me beside you and walk in a fresh and new anointing I offer you. You must walk in a new trust that your huios (placed, adult child) prayer has been heard and that it pleases your father to answer it. You need not plead or beg. Your Papa—

--He has not called Himself that to be before—

“Your Papa has promised you an answer of abundance and I will not forget my promise. I will heal that scar and mark it with my love.”

“Yes, Papa, yes!” my voice is but a whisper. I desperately want to obey and receive from Him. My words are in faith, not my own strength.

“Come close to Me.”

I am standing just steps away from Him. Aware now of the burn on my neck, it is harder that it should be, but I obey. Turning that side of my neck to Him, I feel myself tremble. He puts His hand to my face and cradles my cheek.

“I am pleased, child.” He says.

I press into His hand savoring the words I longed to hear. With His other hand, He touches the burn on my neck. I feel the warmth of His touch and know He is healing me.”

“Now, instead of fear, your blood, your life will course through the touch of my glory and those who see you will see the reflection of My glory.”

It is all I can do to stand soaking in His presence.

Finally He says. “Come to the window.” I follow Him there. “Look,” He points outside. I see people gathering outside the gate.

We watch at the window for a while. At last, I ask Him about direction, what I am supposed to do, what direction I am to go, what am I to do with or for those gathering at the gates.

He looks at me, taking my hands in His. “Do you trust Me?”

“Yes, yes I do.” I reply, confused by His question.

“Then trust Me. Walk through the doors I open. Knock on the doors I present. Do not run off in searching. In you, I want the work to be Mine alone. I want others to see what I do in you and know it is an act of My grace alone, not of your building or creating.”

“Yes, Papa. I will do what you ask. I will wait on You. Please, Papa, do not let me fail to see what you place before me. I will obey.” This is so different to me. I thought there were things I was to push through, but He seems to be telling me to wait now. And I will.

He nods at me and releases my hands. He turns and walks back to His chair and sits by the fireplace once more. “Come here child.” There is a firmness in His voice that concerns me.

“Yes, Papa.” I quickly step to His side.

“If I told you to place yourself into My hands, would you obey?” He asks me pointedly.

Confused and swallowing hard, I stammer, “Yes, Papa, you know I have and I will.”

He pressed me further, “What if you know that it meant correction, discipline?”

My heat sinks. I have no idea what I have done wrong. “Yes, Papa, yes, I would. I will. Have I displeased You? Have I disobeyed?” I have no idea what I have done.

“Why? Why would you obey?” He persists, not answering my question.

“Because…well because I, I trust You, I love You. Papa, papa, I trust you. Correction hurts, but it is worth it Papa. I want to be close to you, I do not want to be apart from You. I want to walk with You and there is no other way. I want to obey You.
“Papa, how have I disobeyed you? What I have I done wrong?” I cannot help but ask, my concern still growing, edging even into panic.

He nods. “What is what I want you to teach my people. Teach them who I am, how to live. Teach them to trust Me enough to obey Me.”

Still uneasy, I answer. “I will, Papa. Show me how so I can do it right. I will do it.” I realize His voice is grieved, His expression heavy.

“Many of mine do not know this. Teach them of expectations and your new expectations. Teach them where you have been.” He pauses, finally answering my question. “You have not disobeyed Me, daughter.”

Relief flows through me and I find myself breathing out my tension. “Papa, show me how to do this, how to share with your other children. How do I start?”

“Come close, let Me whisper in your ear.” He beckons. I rest my head again on His heart to listen.

“You do this in the context of who you are. Do not pretend to be anyone or anything else. You are a teacher, because of your gift, people will ask of you. All you need to do is let others know you know Me and answer the questions they ask.”

I can do that! Relief once again washes over me. I can do what He is asking of me! The picture I have always had was of something that I could not be. But this I can do! His yoke is truly easy and light! I can not get over the idea I can do it

“My people are insecure in their gifts, they believe that someone else’s gift is beter or right. They spend their time chasing after these other gifts rather than developing what they have. It is in the context of your own gift that you will minister, even to the salvation of others.” He pauses a moment. “Serve Me, not men.”

A pang of grief pierces my heart. I life my head, pressing my forehead under His chin. “Papa, I am sorry, I have done just that. I have confused who I am serving. I have tried to please man, thinking that would please You.” I am grieved at this insight, but at the same time, overcome knowing that repentance can come in the context of such incredible closeness.

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Chapter 23: Another Key, pt.1

For a long time, I rest there in His arms, my head upon His chest, His hand on my heart. Gently, He puts His hand to my face, holding it, tucking my head under His chin. “Child do you understand that I am delighted in you?” He asks. I can hear the pleasure in His voice.

“No, Papa, I really don’t think that I do.” I am embarrassed as I whisper my reply.
“It is time to change your paradigm about yourself as well. You see yourself as a child, but you have grown up. You see yourself as an apprentice when you are expert. The feedback from your most recent group of students I sent to you to show you this. It is time to take confidence in what I have created in you, time for you to accept and be thankful in what I have created you to be. Step up and take that now.”

What He asks is a big change, it is very new for me. It is so much easier to see myself as small and just faking my way through things that to see myself as strong and competent. But I must submit, I must obey. “Yes, Papa, please help me.”

The room is quiet now, not uncomfortably so, but quiet nonetheless.

Finally I ask, “Papa, this destiny that you talk about, I am scared. Every time I have heard people speak of their destiny, I hear them speak of terrible hardship and pain. Yes, they have said that You brought them through, but it has always sounded awful and I am scared.”

“I know you are scared. But know this child, my children do not go through more pain on the way to their destiny than those who are running from Me. They tell of their pain because it is a memorial stone to what they have done, the growth and maturity they have gained. It is not a bad memory they want to run and hide from, but a reminder of what they have gained. So they talk about it and it sounds like they have walked through great difficulties, worst that you are willing to bear. The meaning of it all though is different to them.”

I shake my head; this is hard to understand. “I have always believed that serving You meant asking for that pain and it has frightened me. It has made me fear that You would take from me the things that are dearest just because You—well You did those things as a matter of course. I’m sorry I have looked at you that way, Papa.”

“I know, child, I know.” His kind voice is soothing to my troubled spirit. “That is why I want you to know I love you and I want you to trust in My love.”

“How? There is so little love that I do trust…” The words tumble out before I can stop them. I do not like to hear this truth spoken out loud though.

“That is not as true as you think.” He counters without anger. “There are loves that you do trust in. You do know how to do this. Let me into that circle of trust.”

“How, Papa, tell me how.” Desperation tinges my voice.

“Oh, child,” He sighs, stroking my cheek gently with His thumb. “You are so close. Your heart is so close to this. There is one last key that you did not give Me when you gave Me the keys to your heart.”

“There is another key? I honestly thought I gave You all of them. I do not even know what the key is for.”

“”It is the key that unlocks an attic room where your dearest treasure is kept. You wear the key around your neck.”.

I am surprised to find there is a thread around my neck and on it hangs a tiny key. Looping two fingers around the thread, I try to break it, but it does not break! I try to lip it over my head, but cannot. I can find no know to untie. I do not understand how to give it to Him, although I truly want to do just that.

“How do I do this, Papa? Do I cut the thread with the sword? I do not understand.”

“No, not the sword. The thread must be burnt away in the flame.” He explains.

“But how?”

“I must take the coal from the fire and burn it away.” He speaks slowly and deliberately now, knowing the weight of what He speaks.

I swallow hard, but do not hesitate. “Please, Papa do it—I want to give this to You. I am not afraid of the flame if it is in your hands. Burn away what you must. I trust You.”

Tenderly, He presses my face in His hand as He hugs me. Helping me to my feet, He takes my arms and walks toward the fireplace with me. The blaze is very hot, its strength frightening.

Suddenly I know what is in that attic room! It is a portrait of myself! It is the very core of who and what I am. With access to that, He can repaint that portrait. This is what I fear the most, finding out I am not what He wants and being required to become something that I just cannot be. Unconsciously, I clutch at the key, my flesh does not want to give this up. I chew at my lower lip, struggling not to yield to Him.

Through it all, He waits for me, not taking anything by force. His wait is patient, not driving me or manipulating with guilt.

I try to force my hands off the thread, but cannot. “Papa, burn my hands if you must! Please, I give You this key! Take it from me as I cannot!” I whisper in desperation.

He takes a coal from the fire. I stiffen in anticipation. He surprises me as he takes the coal to the left side of my throat to a large raised scar that I did not know was there. He pressed the coal to the thread, pressing it into the scar.

The pain courses through me as I search to understand the nature of this scar, this wound of long ago. Finally I can see that it is fear! But of what?

I see a little girl whose daddy is always away and when he is home his is not accessible, too tired, asleep. She is afraid daddy is not there for her, that he won’t be there when she needs.

“Papa! Forgive me for this view of You. I have been afraid You would not be there for me! Forgive me!.” Suddenly the thread breaks and the key is in my hands. Without a word, He removes the coal and returns it to the fire. The burned scar throbs; I shut my eyes to hide from the pain.

“Wait here for Me, do not move.” He instructs. He seems to take a long, long time to return. I want to look for Him, to wander from this place, bit I fight to obey.

“Here,” it is His voice once again! He presses something into my hands. I fight to open my eyes, but still cannot see it.

“Papa, I cannot see…” I stammer, confused and a little frightened.

“Let Me put salve over your wound.” Gently He smoothes His fragrant salve over my neck and shoulder. The coolness immediately begins to relieve the pain. I feel myself relax and almost fall. Struggling to keep my feet, I clutch at His arm for balance.

He is there! I suddenly realize, when I blindly reached out without looking or checking to see, He was thee!

“Yes, daughter, I am always here.” He presses something into my hands once again. I am finally able to see. It is a small gold mirror. “It is for you to see yourself through my eyes. When we look at the portrait you keep, I want you to be able to see what I see as well.” He explains.

Though curious, I cannot bring myself to look into that mirror now. In spite of the ache in causes in my burned neck and shoulder, I press the tiny key into His hands.
“Please, take this now, too, Papa. I want you to have this key too.”

He takes it as though I have given Him a great treasure, polishing it and adding it to the other keys in the velvet wrap. “This is a treasure to Me, child. It is all you have to give.” He says somberly, as if to warn me from belittling my offering to Him. “Place the mirror the cabinet for now. It is not time to go to the attic now.”

I obey, but slowly because of the pain in my neck and shoulder.

“Come sit with Me again.” He sits and once again draws Me to Him, bidding me to rest upon His shoulder. I am grateful and I fall asleep in His arms.

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