Monday, June 19, 2006

Chapter 31 : Discovering Dreams, pt 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 31 : Discovering Dreams, pt 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 31 : Discovering Dreams, pt 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 31 : Discovering Dreams

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

“Open the third box,” He directs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Read the title.” He encourages.

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

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

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

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

Chapter 30: Opening the Gate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Take and eat the fruit.” He directs.

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

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

“Gather here, child.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 29: The nail, pt 2

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

“Take the next object from the box.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I purposefully slide the hood off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He has marked me, I am His!

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 29: The nail, pt 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 28: Voices,pt 2

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

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

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

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

“Expose your sin to Me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 28: Voices,pt 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It is,” He assures me.

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

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

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

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

Chapter 27: I will not…, pt. 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Remove them”

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

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

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

“Open it.”

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

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

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

He nods deeply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 27: I will not…, pt. 2

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

“Talk with Me.” He invites.

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

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

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

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

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

“Surrender that fear to Me daughter.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 27: I will not…, pt. 1

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

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

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

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

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

He begins.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

I will obey.

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

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

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

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

Abruptly He stops.

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

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

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