Pastor John on Zechariah 8

As I was reading through Zechariah, and came across Chapter 8, I was reminded of a story I wrote years ago. The story included a character named Pastor John, and he gave a sermon. Here is that portion:

* * * * * *

Pastor came to the podium and arranged his things, then cleared his throat and began. “In continuing my series on sin, we are still in the Old Testament, rich in examples. We’re learning what sin is, how to recognize it, and what to do about it. When we sin, it is important to look at it, recognize it as sin, and confess it. Let the Holy Spirit work in you. I pray that is an effect of this message. My sermon this week is titled, ‘Sin, Confession, and Peace,’ and the main text is from Nehemiah Chapter 4 and Zechariah Chapter 8.” He stopped, listening to the rustle of tissue pages as the congregation turned in their Bibles to the passages.

“If you’ve read the book of Nehemiah, you know that he is a humble man of God. Reviewing his heartfelt prayers to God in chapter one, we see that he handles the Word of God rightly, and prays God’s own words back to Him. Nehemiah writes this in the first person: I heard these words, I sat down and wept, I prayed before the God of Heaven. This was a man who knew God’s Word, and knew how God’s people had broken His heart. In chapter one verses 6 and 7, he says that he prays and confesses, the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. He knew God’s purposes for His people, His plans to prosper them and not to harm them. He also knew God’s people had utterly rejected their God, their Provider, and their Protector. The prophets, before the Jews were carted away to Babylon, had told the people to go ahead and let themselves be carted away, to not rebel or make war. We see then that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and many of the priests who ended up in Babylon heeded the prophets. They listened to God, they heeded His Word, and they obeyed Him.

“So, there’s Nehemiah, serving the king of Babylon. Note first that God has grabbed Nehemiah’s heart. Nehemiah loves his God. In the first chapter, he pours out his heart to a very personal God. Secondly, God has put him in what may seem to be a menial position, that of a wine taster. This is not a menial position at all, and maybe that can be the topic of another sermon. Suffice it to say that Nehemiah has ongoing, face-to-face contact with the king of the civilized world. This is also a personal relationship: Nehemiah notes that he had not previously had a long face before the king. On this day, he is so sad that his face shows it, and the king notices! Not only that, but the king asks him what’s up. Not only that, but Nehemiah is on a comfort level with the king that he asks (albeit with knees knocking) a huge favor, and the king grants it – big time!

“Nehemiah gets to go back to Jerusalem and work at rebuilding the temple. He lets nothing distract him from his goal of making Jerusalem a center of refuge for the remnant of Israelites who lived in the region (Nehemiah 6.3). Here is a picture: The church needs to be a center of refuge. It is here for those who will avail themselves of it – to those who come. Notice, not all chose to return to Jerusalem; many chose to stay in Babylon. As today, not all choose to come to church; but we build this church, this body of Jesus Christ, for all who will come, and we invite His people to this place of refuge.

“In Nehemiah Chapter 4, while the people are building, the enemy is coming. Let’s pick up in verse 13.” He proceeded to read verses 13 through 21.

“Nehemiah lays it all out for us: When the enemy came, they 1) prayed to God, 2) set a watch, 3) continued to build and 4) kept their weapons and alarms in hand. God makes for us a wall of protection around us, not only as a church, but also individually. His Holy Spirit resides within each of us. We are His temple, as God tells us in 1 Corinthians 3.16. We don’t always walk in the Lord. We don’t always fully obey. Sometimes we allow the enemy to invade; sometimes it’s because we live in the flesh (and we like it); sometimes it’s through simply not knowing God’s Word and not bothering to find out (like David and Uzzah, when he tried bringing the ark back to Jerusalem and Uzzah died). When our walls are destroyed, we are desolate, and we lie in ruins (see Isaiah Ch. 64). Because God’s Spirit is within us, we can look up to Him and confess. He will quicken hearts, raise up people and resources to accomplish His work, and lead us. But we must be faithful to remain diligent in the work, else we return to desolation and ruin. This is exactly what happens later in Nehemiah, by the way, and what happens in each of us. Diligent in the work means staying in God’s Word and staying with the tasks to which He calls us. The book of Nehemiah outlines what they did back then, and we can use those same tools today. 1) Pray to God. Make sure you know to Whom you pray. 2) Set a watch. God’s Word tells us that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Watch out for Satan, for evil, for opportunities for the flesh. 3) Continue to build. Read God’s Word. Meditate in it. Pray. 4) Keep your weapons and alarms in hand. Peter tells us to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. Memorize God’s Word, to keep it in your heart. Know the promptings of His Holy Spirit. Setting an alarm might mean being accountable to another person.

“While Nehemiah was building, there is no record that enemy armies are actually invading or attacking the builders, yet there were Sanballat and Tobiah with their armies, mocking. In verse 13, it says, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. Nehemiah arranged people in their families with their swords and their spears and their bows. Sometimes it just feels safer to carry a big stick, whether danger is imminent or not. He’s a wise man, that Nehemiah. The trust is in God. He makes his people ready, should the need arise, or should God call.

“Later in Nehemiah, as I said, the people again sin. Nehemiah calls them together and reads God’s Word. They are convicted, fall on their faces, and repent. Only God’s Word has the power to do that.

“In these passages, let’s look at how God’s Word is used. First, it’s their big stick. Paul calls it the sword of the Spirit. It’s how they defend themselves, and how they feel safe. Second, God’s Word brings recognition of sin, the power of conviction; and with it, the hope of forgiveness in repentance.

“Why do all this? It’s a lot of work for Nehemiah and the people, and they stand in danger. What’s the goal? What do they think they’ll get out of it?

“Seventy-five years before Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, God raised up a prophet in that city, Zechariah. Within seventy-five years, we can only guess whether Nehemiah had access to Zechariah’s writings. He may have. Whether he did or not, Nehemiah knew God, and trusted Him.

“Let’s look at what God promised through Zechariah, in Chapter 8. It’s a fairly short chapter, only 23 verses. Its wording is powerful, and worth reading aloud, so I’m going to go ahead and read the whole chapter.”

As he finished reading, Pastor John looked up at his flock and beamed.  “What a song of hope for the despairing Jews returning to their wasteland! To see what lay around them, and then to see the vision Zechariah presented to them from their God would have been a great leap of faith for these people, and a great blessing. This is what I see:

Safety: verses 4 and 5, Old men and women in the streets with children playing. This is a picture of security, showing that they will live long lives and will not be snatched away in their youth.

Unity:  verses 7 and 8, He will save His people from the east country and bring them to the west country to dwell in Jerusalem, and He will be their God in truth and in righteousness.

Purpose: verses 10 through 12, Before, there was no hire, no jobs, no peace. Now they have promises that the vine shall give her fruit, the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; the remnant will possess all these things. But 1) v 13: let your hands be strong, 2) v 16: speak the truth, 3) v 16: execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates, 4) v 17: don’t imagine evil in your hearts against your neighbor, and 5) v 17: love no false oath. These are things the Lord hates.

Promise: verses 19 through 23, Fasting shall be turned to feasting. They shall have joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. There shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities who will desire to go speedily, that they may pray before the Lord of hosts, and may seek Him. People will take hold of the skirt of him who is a Jew saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

“These are still the promises of God to His people, when we live in obedience to Him. Praise Him! In the words of Psalm 33.1, Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. I close with Psalm 100: Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before His presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.”

Eliab and the Wilderness Lessons

“We’re never going to get there, anyway.” Amminadab spit on the ground and looked Ahiezer in the eye. “I wander around for forty years, or go where I want to go. I’m my own man, and I’ll do what I like.”

Ten-year-old Eliab looked at the two men, squatting by the tents. He waited for his father to answer.

“We’ve kept safe and healthy so far,” Ahiezer said firmly. “I think as long as we listen to Moses, we’ll do alright.”

“Ach!” Amminadab spit again. “You listen to Moses, you die in the desert! He said so! None of us in this generation will see the Promised Land. Why die? Come with me and my family. There is a small group of us going back to Egypt. At least there we had a house and a garden. We ate the leeks and garlic, the figs and the pomegranates – we could live off the fat of that land, instead of this manna every day.”

Ahiezer rocked on his heels. “I hear of other men gathering a group to try to go into the land beyond Jordan, to try again, on their own, to go in and settle there. They want the Promised Land on their own terms.”

Amminadab waved him off. “No. We tried that when we were there the first time. Yah set it up so that they died trying. He would do that again.”

“So,” Ahiezer stroked his chin. “You believe some of Yah’s promises, but not all of them?”

“Oh, bah! I’ll do what I want, you do what you want. I only thought I’d give you a chance at a better life. You want it, you take it. You don’t want it, you stay here. It is nothing to me.” Amminadab struggled to his feet, straightened his robe, and walked away.

Ahiezer looked at his son. “So, Eliab, what do you think of all this?”

Eliab went to squat in Amminadab’s place. “Will I get to see the Promised Land, Abba?”

“You will. It was my generation who were the unbelievers. I don’t know why we were so stiff-necked.” Ahiezer shook his head. “You were only three when we left Egypt. You were too little to remember the hard life we had, the struggles, the terrifying miracles Yah worked to set us free.”

Eliab traced the scars along his father’s arm. “But I am old enough now to remember the stories of how you got these scars, and the ones on your back. And I remember the stories of the locusts, the boils, the darkness, and the death.”

Ahiezer laid his hand on top of Eliab’s head. “And how we put the lamb’s blood on our doorstops, and the Angel of Death passed over us. We did not lose you, my son, my firstborn.”

Eliab jumped up. “And the Red Sea! We walked through the Red Sea on dry ground, and LORD God Almighty swallowed up Pharaoh and his army dead.” He swished his arm so hard, he twirled around.

Ahiezer smiled. “Yes, you know. You must remember. When you grow up, you must tell your children and your grandchildren all of this.”

Eliab wandered over to his home, their tent. His mother was inside, as always, cleaning or preparing food, watching the younger ones, or putting things away. He greeted her. “Hello, my em. Is it almost eating time? I’m hungry.”

“You are always hungry. You are growing so fast!” Em smiled and handed him a robe. Here, it is your sister’s. Please put it away for me.”

Eliab brought the robe to another, far corner of the tent and lifted some things. He jumped back. What was this little golden thing? He picked it up. It was in the shape of a bull, very finely made. Eliab knew right away that this was an idol, forbidden by Elohim. Why had his mother kept it here? Where did it come from? Had her friend made it? Was it one of the golden baubles the Egyptian women had pushed at the Israelites as they fled? Again, why would his mother have such a blasphemous thing in their home?

He put the object back just as he found it, and covered it, just as it was. Did Abba know about this? Should he say anything?

*           *           *           *           *

Eliab stood straight and tall, shoulder-to-shoulder with his kin and his Israelite brothers, before Moses. The forty years of wilderness, training, chastening, and sharpening had passed; and it was time to enter the Promised Land.

Moses was old now, and ready to give his final admonitions to his beloved people. He would soon go home to sleep with his fathers and be with his cherished Jehovah. Eliab knew Joshua would be their new leader, and that he was faithful and true. But Moses loved them with his whole being, and had led them through so much. He had always been there for them all. It was time for everything to change.

Eliab looked around him, at the sea of men. Far behind him, he spotted his wife, Milcah, with their three little ones among the other women and children. Ahead of him, rows and rows of men, and Moses before them. They were more in number than ever, even though the older generation had all died.

Some had died in the desert, refusing the simple act of healing by only looking upon the fiery bronze snake that Moses made. God had sent those snakes when everyone spoke against Him and complained against the manna. Eliab himself had been bitten; he went immediately to look upon the fiery bronze snake that God commanded Moses to make, for healing. Eliab was saved by looking upon it; the pain and sickness left him immediately – it was a miracle! Then he remembered his own Em, so sick from the bite. Eliab had begged her to look upon the fiery bronze snake and be healed, as he had, just as God had promised: so many had already been healed! But, after Abba died, Em had clutched even more tightly to her little golden calf. Sick and dying, she had whispered to it. Of course, it could not save her.

Some had died in battle. Eliab dropped his head in shame as he remembered how the Moabite women had seduced the men of Israel, how they had bowed down to their gods; many had died then.

He thought of Amminadab, so many years ago, and wondered whatever happened to him and the others who had gone off to seek their own futures. Eliab looked up. He was glad he’d stayed with his people. This was where Yah had put him, and He had great plans for His people. Moses said so.

He and his brothers-in-arms, tens of thousands of them, had been in training since their youth. They were armed, they knew how to use their weapons, they were strong and virile, and they were with Jehovah, under His protection and guidance. They were trained not only in fighting, but also in The Law. They knew how to trust their El Shaddai. Had not his own brother been captured by the Canaanites; and had not all the Israelites vowed a vow unto the LORD? The LORD God had delivered up the Canaanites, and the Israelites utterly destroyed them and their cities at Hormah; they rescued their fellow Israelites.

Eliab and his brothers fought against Sihon king of the Amorites, taking all the cities from Arnon unto Jabbok. Eliab was there, sword in hand, with his people, to the battle at Edrei, against Og, king of Bashan. Moses heard from God, Himself, “Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon.” El Shaddai fought for them. And they smote them, and all those people until there was none left alive, and they possessed his land.

Yah’s chosen people had made great spoil in the many battles, especially the battle against the Midianites. They would enter the Promised Land a rich nation; Yah Yireh (The LORD will Provide) had been very good to them.

Eliab turned away from his thoughts as he noticed the crowd silencing. Moses was going to speak. Eliab quieted his mind, and prayed Elohim Shama (God Who Hears) to give him ears to hear.

Moses began: “The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:  Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates.  Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.”

Eliab well remembered the stories of this journey, told around many a meal, told by the elders, told by his own abba, most of which he had experienced, himself. He remembered shaking in his sandals at the sight of Moses, shining so bright he could not be looked upon. Even his Abba and his Em shook with him at the fire on the mount at Horeb.

Moses continued: “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.  Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.  For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?  And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.”

“El Shaddai!” Eliab almost physically fell to his knees with his thoughts. “Look what You have done for us! Look Who You are to us! You are our Wisdom; You are our Understanding! You have set us high above all other nations! Blessed be Your Most High name!”

And Moses continued with these words: “Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger:  I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.”

Eliab’s knees gave out at that, and he fell on his face. “and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image!” The men around him helped him up and gave him water, thinking he was faint.

Moses spoke a few more words, and dismissed the people for that day. Eliab made haste to his tent, to his satchel of few belongings. There. He felt it. Em’s little golden calf. He had kept it as a memento of her, a small treasure to remember her. How foolish! Of course it had not saved her, and now he had in his hands a forbidden thing, forbidden by the LORD God Most High, a jealous God.

Eliab quickly stoked the fire, made it hot, and threw the golden calf into it. He watched as it melted, then turned to ash. He threw himself down with his face to the ground, as he had seen Moses and Aaron do so often. His family returned home and he stood. They all stared into the fire with him. His questioning eyes met those of his wife. Did she know? She smiled through her tears and nodded. Their hands met and squeezed.

Eliab scooped the ashes out of the fire and put them in a small gourd. Milcah poured in some water, and his children watched, mouths agape, as he drank the ashes.

“Eeew!” they cried. “Why do you drink that?” “What are you doing, Abba?” “Abba, no!”

As they sat together over their meal, Eliab told the story again of Moses on the mountain, of Aaron and the people and the golden calf. Of Moses and the Ten Commandments. His three little ones could recite the story, and all the commandments, and they spoke them together.

“My children,” Eliab explained, “we must always, in all our little ways, obey the LORD God Almighty. My mother treasured her little golden calf, and she died with it. I do not wish for us to die with it, as well. We will live! As Moses said today, God will bless us and give us long lives as we obey Him. I want a long life with you, and with my grandchildren.

“And now, I must find a lamb unspotted and perfect.” He called his eldest son to accompany him to the sacrifice. “We go forward with a clear conscience.”

The next day, Moses took up to continue. “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?”

Eliab was glad his wife and children were there, listening. Moses’ words would mean more to them after last night.

As Moses recited the Ten Commandments, the voices of the thousands grew to a roar as they joined him. Eliab turned to look at his family. They were all but shouting the words in their joy. “I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth... …Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”

The masses continued through all the LORD’s commandments. And then spoke Moses these words: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

Moses paused. The elders took up the chant first, and as more and more of the Israelites joined in, the very ground shook with their voices raised to Heaven: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might!

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might!

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might!!!”

Then Moses continued, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:  And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”

“Yes, El Shaddai, yes! We will do all You command us!” Eliab felt the tears streaming down his face.

Moses spoke of entering the Promised Land: “When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;  And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:  Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.  For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.  But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.  For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.”

Eliab thought of his own sons.  They were young yet. Would they have conquered the Hittites and Canaanites and all Yah’s enemies, before his boys would be of age to fight? Would his children live in peace, or would they, too, have to fight against the enemy? He wanted his little ones to grow up and live in all the promises Yah had given them. He would teach them, as Moses commanded, to obey the LORD in all things, to not turn aside from Him in any matter. To make sure who they married, within the tribes of Israel. Then they would reap all Yah’s blessings.

Then he thought of the generation before him. They had sent the spies into the promised land, and they came back scared. There were giants in the land. What if, when Eliab went in with all his host, they came against the giants?

But then Moses. But then God: “If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them? Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt; The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the LORD thy God brought thee out: so shall the LORD thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid.”

Eliab was immensely comforted. Yah had seen them through everything. Had brought them through everything. As long as they trusted in Him, they had peace: if not peace with their enemies at least peace in their hearts because they knew He was with them, that He took exquisite care of them.

The people stood before Moses for a number of days, listening to his last words. Eliab wanted to commit every word to memory. He was grateful for the scribes and the Levites, who were given the responsibilities to record and keep all the laws.

Then Moses came to the blessings and curses. Eliab was overwhelmed with the many blessings Yah promised His people. He was so giving! So protective! But then Moses had a long discourse on the curses. Moses even told his people that they would receive these curses because he knew they would turn away from their God.

“Oh,” Eliab’s heart cried, “Adonai forbid! Do not let us ever turn away from You! Bind our hearts to You, that we may not want to go anywhere else. You are so good to us; may we ever want Your goodness.”

Eliab lay on his mat that night, eyes wide open, next to his wife. They were ready to go into the Promised Land. Joshua was their leader now; but it was Yahweh Nissi Who held them in the palm of His hand.

*           *           *           *           *

Abba (“daddy”)

Em (“mama”)

Yah (respectful abbreviation of Yahweh) (The LORD) Genesis 2.4

El Shaddai (God Almighty) Genesis 17.1

Yah Yireh (The Lord will Provide) Genesis 22.13, 14

Elohim Shama (God Who Hears) Exodus 2.24

Qedosh Yisrael: (The Holy One of Israel) Leviticus 19.1

Adonai (Lord) Deut 6.4

Yahweh Nissi  (The LORD My Banner) Exodus 17.15-16

Whiling Away the Airport

I don’t travel by air often, but when I do, I like to imagine what might happen when I’m whiling away the time at an airport. Sometimes I imagine desperate renegades (of course, I’m the hero), or interactions with other of the waiting passengers. I discovered one of my fictional pieces today, and I share it:

On my way home from Michigan, I had a 2-hour layover in Chicago. My flight arrived early and, if all went according to schedule, I had two hours and forty-five minutes to use up before I could board my next flight.

I had already grabbed a bite to eat and wandered around enough to work my cramps out. I figured it was time to make my way to the boarding area and read my book for the remainder of the wait time. As I neared the gate, I was surprised and dismayed to discover how crowded it was. After an in-depth perusal I discovered that there were, in fact, only four seats available. I didn’t usually like sitting next to unknown persons; I would have enough of that, after all, during the next flight. I was ready to take a load off, though, so I chose a seat near a frazzled looking young woman holding a newborn. She also had a three-year-old who kept trying to escape. The three-year-old had her own chair. I looked at the woman and pointed to the empty seat next to the little girl’s.

“May I take this seat?”

She looked up at me and all but rolled her eyes. She sighed and reached for the little girl and started prodding her to remove her hands from the seat I was eyeing. “Come on, Tanya. Move this way.”

Little Tanya was compliant, but active. Fortunately, the newborn was sleeping; however, I guessed that a sleeping baby now meant a crying baby during the flight, and hoped that my airline seat was far from this little family’s.

I took my seat and found myself the target of a small pair of inquiring eyes. Tanya was standing quite still and staring at me, in that blatant way that kids have. I was intrigued by the sharp intelligence I sensed in the light of those eyes. I squeezed my lips together to make fish lips and puckered at her. The eyes remained intense. I relaxed my lips and wiggled my nose. The fluff of her eyebrows went up. I worked my lips again, and watched as the tiny pink bow of Tanya’s lips pursed and moved, as though she was remembering how to suckle. As I wiggled my nose, her lips and nose waxed and waned in an attempt to copy my movements.

I glanced at the mother. Noting her sentry eye on Tanya, I held her gaze as she looked at me.

“I’m a retired teacher,” I said. “I’m wondering if little Tanya knows any sign language, or if she might like to learn a song.”

The woman shrugged. “I guess.”

I started singing softly, and moved my hands to sign the words to You are My Sunshine. Tanya watched me intently, eyes darting from my face to my hands.

At the end of the chorus, I said to her, “Now you help me sing. You can move your hands, too.”

“You are my sunshine,” I sang and signed slowly. I was careful not to reach out to Tanya to assist her hand movements, as it would scare her mother, and kept my signing hands close. “ooo, you’re good!” I exclaimed between lines, and I gave her an encouraging smile.

I was amazed and taken aback at the dazzling smile Tanya gave me in return. A pretty child to begin with, she was transformed into a cherubic beauty of fairytale features. I gasped and stared, transfixed. Again, I glanced at the mother. “She’s beautiful!” I exclaimed.

Mom’s face softened and she smiled. “Yes, she is. She doesn’t usually smile for strangers, but it looks like you’ve really tagged her.”

We continued chatting and singing and signing until the flight was called. We didn’t end up sitting near each other, but Tanya and her mom waved and smiled to me as they passed.

 

Playing Around with George

So I added a story to my blog site, on a separate page. I haven’t done this before, so I don’t know if followers get a notification that I added anything.

The new page is a link at the top of my blog site, The Mystery of George. Here’s the link: https://maggietiggles.wordpress.com/the-mystery-of-george/

Does anything show up in your notifications? I’m thinking of doing something like this for my Maggie Tiggles story – making a separate page.

Every Perfect Gift (Part 2 of 2)

EveryPerfectGift*

{Part 1 click here}

Luke’s thoughts drifted to several times when he’d really bungled it, and he groaned.  “Please, Lord, just direct me.  I need you.  Amen.”

The next night was their date night.  Once a week, Luke and Tess made sure to clear their schedules of all else, to devote time to one another.  Whatever they did together, and however things panned out, they’d made a pact to always close in prayer before they went their separate ways for the night.  Luke and Tess had both confessed that they were glad they’d made the pact during the pink-and-rosy times, because there had sure been times they could have parted differently, and there had been some few prayers muttered between clenched teeth.  Tonight, however, both were really glad to see each other, and their eyes shone.

They were meeting at Tess’ apartment, and she’d prepared a simple dinner for them.  They chatted as they ate, about nothing in particular, and there was just a little spraying of water and snapping of towels as they washed the dishes up.

“Let’s go for a walk,” Luke suggested, as he held his hand out to her.  Tess searched his eyes, and shyly took it.  Luke wondered if she knew something was up, too.

They strolled to their favorite park in the evening twilight.  Luke escorted her to a bench, sat next to her, took her hands, and looked at her.  He saw a hard swallow as she looked down.

“Tess,” he began, “you know I love you.  You know I love the Lord more than I love you, and I know the same about you.  We both know where we’ve each come from; some of it ain’t pretty, but God has meant it for good, to bring us together.”  He paused, not knowing where to go, searching for words.  Tess looked up at him.  Now he looked down, and let go her hands.  “Tess, we’ve talked about marriage before, and I’ve never sensed that you’re sure, that it’s what you really want.  I don’t want to push you into anything, and I don’t want you running away, but I just feel that I have to say something.”

He looked again at Tess.  She swallowed again, but was silent.  Dared he think her eyes reflected hope?

“Okay,” he started again.  “I had this idea.”  He reached into his shirt pocket.  “I brought my lucky coin.”  He locked eyes with her.

“Heads we get married, tails we break up.”

Tess looked at the coin, looked at Luke, and smiled.  It was a great, huge, joyful smile.  She knew that coin, that old Roman coin, Luke’s lucky silver coin from his father.  The one with the head of Zeus on one side, and the head of Jupiter on the other.  “Go for it!” she said.

Epilogue

Luke and Tess were again seated on their favorite park bench.  Luke reached into his shirt pocket.

“Remember that lucky coin?” he asked.

Tess smiled and nodded.

“It’s in this little box.” he said, and opened it.  Inside was an exquisite ring, detailed with diamond and ruby.

“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty,” he went on: “not in luck or false gods.  I had that coin melted down, and now it symbolizes the unbroken circle of our love.  Proverbs 31 asks, ‘Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.’  Tess, you are far above rubies, but I hope this symbolizes the infinite value I place upon you.”  He took her hand, and slid the ring onto her finger.  “And the diamond, well, …”

Tess beheld her beloved through mizzled eyes.  “This diamond is forever,” she finished, “and I will wear it forever, as my pledge of love and respect for you.”

*photo from http://www.alamy.com/

Every Perfect Gift (Part 1 of 2)

EveryPerfectGift*

James1.17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Luke turned back to that verse again.  James, chapter one, had been the topic in their Bible Study group last night, and verse 17 had jumped out at him.  His thoughts had gone immediately to Tess, and he’d looked over at her, wondering if she had sensed it, too.  Not evidently.

Now he was prepping for their next Bible study already.  They only met once a week, but God was tapping him on the shoulder.  In Chapter two, it happened again: For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.  Luke knew that: he’d known Jesus as his Savior for ten years now, and had jumped into God’s Word with both feet, no turning back.  Today, though, he was seeing this verse with a new perspective.  He was thinking of Tess, and he was pretty sure God had brought his thoughts there.  To know what to do, and not do it – that would be to dishonor God.

Luke and Tess had met as sophomores in a study group – Shakespeare, of all things.  She’d helped him limp through that one, and, although from almost antithetical backgrounds, they’d found in each other kindred spirits.  They shared all kinds of interests, from sports (he had a pretty good batting average and she had a mean hook shot) to coins (both their fathers had had coin collections).  From friendship had come deeper feelings.  Now, both in their last semesters, they had tailored their classes and activities to spend as much time together as possible.  Luke had known for the past year that Tess was The One; had known with all his heart, without a doubt.  He’d prayed about it often, and it was during times like right now, when he was talking with God, that he knew it the hardest.

Tess was skittish, though.  Luke could understand that.  She’d had a rough time of it in her home, growing up with alcoholism and divorce and death.  Luke was excited at the joy and peace he saw in her as she grew in her faith.  They’d talked about marriage several times, of course.  At first, just skirting the perimeters, dabbling, speaking in the most general of terms.  More recently, conversations had turned much more personal, and timelines had been touched upon.  Tess still seemed evasive and nervous.

Luke knew God must be working in her heart, just like God was working in his.  When he thought of asking Tess to marry him, his heart jumped, and he had that sharp feeling in his gut that he always got when he knew it was God.  Was it time?  Now?

Luke folded his hands over his Bible, and bowed his head.  “Lord, I think You’re telling me that it’s time to ask Tess.  You know my heart, and you know how much I want it – I think You put that desire in me.  I’m praying, Lord, that You are also working in Tess, and that this is Your perfect timing.  If it isn’t, if I’m reading You wrong, please let me know.  I don’t want to do something really stupid.  ‘Cause You know I do that.”  Luke’s thoughts drifted to several times when he’d really bungled it, and he groaned.  “Please, Lord, just direct me.  I need you.  Amen.”

The next night was their date night.

To be continued…

*photo from http://www.alamy.com/

Leona’s Secret (Revisited)

Fictional story originally posted Sept 10, 2018

LeonasSecret

I received an interesting call this summer. The caller identified herself as Leona Green and said she hoped I didn’t mind that she got my number from the phone book.

“I saw your picture at the Fair,” she said, “and it brought back so many memories. The one of the old truck. May I ask where you took that picture?”

I replied that I’d found the rusty old relic in the Hills one day when I’d been hiking.

“Do you think it’s still there?” she queried.

“Very likely,” I said. “It looked like it had been there for a while. It’s on forest service land, off a dirt road.”

There was a long pause, and I wondered if I should say something to fill the gap. Finally she spoke. “I’d like to ask a big favor of you, but I think we should meet first. Do you live in town?”

I told her the area where I lived, and she chuckled. “Why, that’s just down the road from where I am at Clarkson.”

“The assisted living?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s the one, on Maple Street. Would you like to visit?”

Since I’m retired, we agreed to meet in a half hour. I got ready and drove the short distance, bringing the picture with me. She met me at the front desk and took me to her neat-as-a-pin room. I handed her the picture.

“Oh, my. I really wonder if it’s the same one.” She sighed as she held the photo and stared intently at it. She looked up at me. “I used to know someone with a truck like that. It was painted green at the time.”

She asked me about who I was, and we chatted and compared notes until we’d arrived at a few common friends and acquaintances. She had a quick wit and lively sense of humor, and we were enjoying one another’s company when she suddenly peered intently at me. “Are you up for a little adventure?”

I raised my eyebrows. “Uh, maybe.” When dealing with a 97-year-old, one should never jump right into anything without seeing a few yards ahead.

“How would you like to take me on a drive, and we can go see that truck?”

I did a short mental calculation, looking at the clock: 45 minutes to get there, a few minutes to look at it, then back should still get her home in time for her meal. “Are you sure?”

“It’s a beautiful day!” she exclaimed. “Why not?”

A half hour later we were winding our way up the highway on a hot summer day, Leona’s walker folded in the back seat. I knew right where the truck was, and drove straight to it. We parked on the side of the dirt road, her passenger side window giving her a clear view of the truck.

She turned her head to look at me. “I’m going to push my luck and ask you for another favor. I’d try it myself, but I’m too old and too short.” She pointed to the truck. “The windows are all gone, so you should be able to reach right through that opening, on this side – the passenger side. There’s a lever you can push, if it’ll still move. It opens the air vent. If you get in there, you might find a box. Could you do that?”

“You bet,” I answered, my door already half open. It was an easy task to reach my arm into the truck. Not so easy was the lever she’d mentioned. It was big enough to get a good grip, and I yanked and pulled until it gave way. I hesitated only a split second before my hand entered the dark slot, but found her little box immediately. I drew it out and brought it to her. We both sat in the car while she dusted the box tenderly. She cupped it between her hands for a good five minutes, then opened it. We both gasped. It held a diamond ring.

She pointed at the truck again. “That’s a 1934 Chevy pickup. See the hand crank out front? It used to belong to a Mr. Dewey Nelson and it was green. He was 24 when I knew him, and he’d bought it used. The spring before I turned 17, he asked me to marry him. I was absolutely dizzy in love! He was so much older than I was.” She smiled at me. “Of course, it’s that way when you’re young, you know. Twenty-four, for heaven’s sake!

“Well, I said yes, and he gave me this ring. Isn’t it beautiful? But we didn’t want anyone to know yet, not until after I turned 17, so we kept it a secret. I wouldn’t wear the ring except when we went out together. When he dropped me off at home, we’d put it back in its wee little box, and we had that cunning hidey spot for it in the truck, inside the air vent.”

She was quiet for a minute or two, remembering. She looked up at me again, this time with tears in her eyes. “About a month after we were engaged, I got word that he’d been killed in an accident. We had one of those spring snow storms, and the roads were terrible. He missed a curve. No seat belts in those days, of course.” She shook her head. “What a long time ago that was! I was devastated. I never did tell anyone that we were engaged, not until just now when I told you. No one else ever knew about this ring.” She sighed. “But that,” she pointed to the truck, “is why I am Leona Green now, instead of Leona Nelson.” She closed her eyes and smiled. “God has been very good to me.”

Tears of Gold (Revisited)

Originally posted Sept 16, 2018

TearsOfGold

There was once a poor man who cried and cried because he did not have enough money.  He cried in the morning because he had no fresh butter to put on his bread.  He cried in the afternoon because he had no horse on which to ride into town.  He cried at night because he had no hired servant to prepare his dinner.

Every day the man toiled at his house, alone but for the stray dog he’d adopted some months ago.  Every day he went through the motions of caring for his needs:  cooking his food, washing his clothes, tending his garden, caring for his cow and chickens.  And every day the man dreamed of having more money.

“Oh, for a fine carriage, with four graceful steeds to dance ahead of it.”  The man sighed and looked at his dog.  “Then I would not have to stay at this house all day.  Oh, for a stately mansion in which to live, instead of this hovel.”  On and on the man would dream, crying all the while for that which he did not have.

One day the man heard of an old witch who lived in a cave some distance from his home.  “I will visit this witch,” said the old man.  “Surely she will see that I must have more money.  Perhaps she can cast a spell to make my poor life more bearable.”

So the man and his dog took a journey to that cave.  The old witch stood near the opening, leaning upon a stick.  She fixed a shrewd eye upon the man.  “Hah,” she cackled, “you want money.”

The poor man looked up, astonished.  “Truly, she is a wise woman,” thought he.  He began to cry.  “Take pity on me, kind lady,” he said.  “I have never had enough money and have lived a hard life.  Can you help me?”

“Are you starving?” asked the witch.

The man stopped crying, shocked.  “Of course not.  I work hard to provide myself with something to fill my belly.”

“And your dog?”

“He gets the scraps from my table.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

The tears began to flow again.  “Every day I must get up, milk my cow, feed my chickens, tend my garden, cook my own meals, and keep my house clean.  When finally I tumble into bed at night, I scarce have time to enjoy a good book before I am fast asleep, so tired am I after the day’s exertions.”

“What do you need money for?”

The poor man mopped his eyes and blew his nose, to no avail.  The tears flowed faster than ever as he described to the witch what he could do with some money.  “Alas, I am able to enjoy only the barest of life’s necessities.  With more money I could buy a horse to travel to town.  I could buy some of the delicacies sold there, to embellish my dinner table.  I could hire someone to help me with my huge workload at home.  Ah, woman, the things I could do with a little money.”

The witch was silent.  She looked at the man as she chewed her lip with toothless gums.  She spoke.  “I have good news for you, Friend.  You will be a rich man, indeed.  Go home now.  I must work my spell.  When you wake up in the morning, you will see the magic I weave for you.”

The tears dried up.  “I’m going to be rich?” the man asked delightedly.  “How much will I get?”

“I said go home!” The witch answered fiercely.  “But leave the dog here.”

“What?”  the man asked, blankly.

“I said, the dog stays.”

The man shrugged.  “Do I need to do anything else?”

“Nothing.  Go home.”  She spun around and disappeared into her cave with the dog.

“Hee, hee!”  The man danced all the way back to his house.

Early the next morning, he awoke, eager to find his riches.  Without stopping to get dressed, he raced about his house, looking for the money.  Not on the table.  Hurry.  Not under the bed.  Hurry, hurry.  Not in the closet.  Where could it be?  He flung open the front door.  Not in his garden.  Run, run.  Not in his shed.  Maybe in the barn?  No!  He ran back into the house and began tearing the place apart.  Everything out of the dresser.  Everything out of the cupboards.  Nothing!

Finally, the man sat down at his table, panting.  That witch!  Nothing.  Nothing!  He began to cry.  He wept and wept that the witch had tricked him so.

Suddenly the man opened his eyes.   Something was happening.  Gold!  There was gold on the table, gold on the floor, gold in his lap!  From where had it come?  He reached up to wipe a tear from his cheek and drew his hand away.  There on his finger was a teardrop of gold.  His eyes darted to the other gold pieces.  They were all shaped like teardrops.

“Why, this is too fantastic,” exclaimed the man!  “Surely… Surely… But it is true!  I am a rich man!”  He pranced about in his nightshirt with glee, tossing golden teardrops into the air.  He listened to their tinkling music as they danced with him on the cobblestone floor.

Now the man’s dreams began to become reality.  He spent his gold with a flourish.  Ah, what fineries he enjoyed.  First, a fine white horse and a small carriage.  New pieces of furniture for his house, and new clothes cut in the latest fashions were fast to follow.  He ordered the tastiest delicacies from the baker and butcher.

The man threw away his old clothing, threw away his gardening tools.  He burned his rickety old furniture.  Soon all the gold he had cried that first morning was gone.

“Oh, my!” he wailed.  “I have not bought nearly all the things I most desperately need.”  The tears flowed again.  He opened his eyes, hoping.  He was ecstatic to see that his tears were still of gold.  He would be the richest man in the world!  He would never run out of gold!

Immediately, he started planning how he would spend his fortune.  Why spend so much trying to fix up this old hut?  Why not buy a new house?  And, he would certainly be very busy with his money; far too busy to worry about mundane household chores.  Servants!  He would need an army of servants to staff his new mansion.  And more horses and carriages.  He would need more and finer clothing: he was a man of import now.

And so it went.  The man spent his gold, and then cried more.  Soon he was having a hard time thinking of reasons to cry.  He couldn’t cry because of lack of money – he knew he could produce more any time he needed it.  He tried crying for other people’s problems, things he’d heard about in the town, but those were hard tears to squeeze out.  He had a hard time feeling sorrow for that which did not touch his own life.

One time he tried rubbing onions in, but the tears that came to his stinging eyes were only wet.  No, to produce gold, his tears had to be those of true sorrow.

“Wretched, wretched life!”  The man screamed.  “How am I to cry if I cannot feel sorry for myself?”  Tears began to flow again before he realized it, and quite a pile of gold was all about him before he stopped to wipe his eyes.

He used this tactic again and again, but soon found himself walking always in sorrow, trying to eke out a few more bits of gold.  He would stroll aimlessly about the echoing halls of his mansion, take excursions in his fine carriage pulled by six graceful steeds, spend hours in his counting house, sifting through his gold.  All this he did with dry-eyed sadness.

He found he did not want to cry again.  How did he no longer enjoy his mansion, his horses and servants?  Why did he always feel he had to cry, had to have more gold?  What was to become of him?

The man went for a walk one day.  He found himself at the cave of the old witch.

She hobbled out and leaned on a rock, her gnarled hands gripping her stick.

“So,” she said slowly, “you return.”

The man kicked the dirt with his tooled leather boot and hung his head.  “I have everything I need now,” he said, “everything I’ve always wanted.”  He shrugged.

“Yet you still are not happy.”

The man sighed.  “I thought if only I could buy whatever I wanted, then I would be happy.”

“And you aren’t’?”

The man was silent.

“You must be very careful what you wish for.  Sometimes it’s not something you truly want.”  She gave her toothless smile.  “But sometimes it is.  You are a rich man.”  She turned and went back into her cave.

The man left and wandered through the fields.  He stopped by a tree and sank to the ground.  “Money!” he spat out.  “How could I have thought it would make me happy?  This is not what I had in mind.”

Money and sorrow were now forever linked as one in his soul.  Perhaps he could go back to his garden, his cow and chickens.  At least work could take his mind off his sorrows, off his money.   Where was happiness?  Joy was not to be found in money; he had at least learned that.  Contentment, maybe, could be found in the work of his hands.

He was just starting to rise when he heard rustling behind him.  He looked around, and there was his dog, tail wagging.  His dog!  A friend!  The man felt instantly guilty, knowing he had not given the dog a second thought after leaving him with the witch.  Yet, here was this dog, a gift sticking its nose under his arm.  Maybe this is what the witch had meant, a gift to make him rich.  He pulled the dog to him, hugged him and nuzzled his head against the dog’s.  The touch, the willingness of the dog to come close to him, suddenly overwhelmed the man, and he began to shake deep inside.

He felt tears welling up in his eyes.  “No!  No more gold!”  He pushed his hands against his eyes.  Try as he might, he could not stop the tears.  He sobbed and sobbed with grief, rocking back and forth as he held his dog.

Suddenly he stopped.  He rubbed his eyes.  His hands came away wet.  Wet!  Wet tears!  The words of the old witch rang in his ears, and he smiled.  “I am a rich man, indeed.”  He laughed and laughed as the tears of joy ran down his cheeks.  They rolled onto his fingers and he held them up.  Truly, these were tears of gold.

Forgiveness (Revisited)

Originally posted July 28, 2018

forgiveness pic

So, you still have told me nothing about ‘the incident,’ as you put it.

You pretty much know what happened.

Well, that’s only what I’ve heard from other people. It’s not the same as your perspective, and I think it would help our relationship if we could talk about it.

I don’t talk about it.

Can we talk about it without discussing what actually happened?

Sure, we can skirt around it all you want. But I will say one thing up front. Being a guy, you’re never going to understand the perspective of a victim like I do.

You’re right. One, I have never been a victim like you have. And, mine is the perspective of the male, the one who is usually the authority, the stronger, the dominant one. I think you know me well enough by now that you know I view my gender as a gift from God, to handle wisely and lovingly; that He created us both, male and female, as different but equal.

Yeah, I get that. And you must know that I trust you, given that we’re even having this conversation.

Thank you for that. Please know I will never knowingly break that trust. If I come close, you will let me know?

Yep, and ditto for me?

Yes.

~silence~

From our previous discussions, I know that you’re struggling with your relationship with God because of the incident. You’re upset that He would as willingly forgive those men who hurt you as He forgives you.

He doesn’t seem like a fair God.

Do you have difficulty seeing Him as a God Who loves you?

I get that He loves the world, you know, the whole, “For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

Do you think He loves you, personally?

I’ve seen His grace in my life a lot. I mean, like a lot. I credit Him with my rescue in the first place. That could never have happened if God hadn’t intervened. And I do thank Him for that, I really do. I think that shows His love for me. And other things. Yes, I think God loves me.

So, God loves you, but you’re mad that He loves those guys as much as He loves you?

No, He can love them as much as He wants. But, for what they did, they should never be forgiven. They should never get to spend eternity with Him because they should go to hell. That’s justice and righteous. God is a God of justice and righteousness, too.

I agree that those men deserve hell for what they did…. Do you think you deserve hell for your sins?

You do NOT get to put me in the same category with them! I would never do to anyone what they did, over and over and OVER!

I’m sorry that happened.

Listen, I have to get going. I think we’re finished talking for today.

I get that. Before we part, I’ll leave you with these verses: James 2.10 “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Also Jeremiah 17.9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” And you know Romans 6.23 tells us that the wages of sin is death.

That’s the part I’m so mad about. Goodbye.

~~~~~~

It’s been a while. Have you been able to process?

Yeah, I admit I sin. Everybody does, I know I’m not a saint or even close to it.

But?

But I’m NOT like them. I could never be like them. They do NOT deserve forgiveness.

Do you deserve forgiveness?

Of course not. No one does. But God gives grace, and He gave me grace.

But you’re mad that He could pour out His grace on those men.

You would be, too! You have never been in my shoes, but I’m pretty sure you would feel the same way if you were.

I’ll never know, Lord willing.

No. So don’t speak to me like you ever will.

I can’t. All I can do is give you what God says.

I KNOW what He says! And that’s what makes me mad at Him!

So you think there should be a rule, some sort of plumb line that, if a person crosses it, then they are automatically scratched from the Heaven list.

Absolutely!

Well, there is such a plumb line. Any sin keeps us from Heaven. But you think that some sins can be forgiven and be on the Heaven side, and some sins can’t be forgiven, and be on the hell side.

Something like that.

So you think your rules are better than God’s?

I think it’s only right.

And that God’s wrong?

Listen, I know that God’s never wrong. I know what the Bible says, and He’s perfect and all that. I just don’t agree that He should ever forgive people like that.

Maybe He didn’t.

That’s not the point. The point is that He could. God can forgive anyone, and He does! He just chooses, and He grabs them, and He changes their hearts and then they get to go to Heaven.

And that’s not okay?

Not after what they’ve done.

And you can’t forgive them?

NO..

So, again, I ask: Do you think your rules are better than God’s?

I’ll leave it at this: I know God’s right. He gets to make the rules. I just don’t like all of them, and I don’t agree with Him. He’s a big God. I think He can take a little disagreement. … … I have to go now.

Then today I leave you with these: 1Samuel 15.23 “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” And Matthew 6.15 “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

~~~~~

I agreed to meet with you today. Don’t you think I’m doing really well?

Yes, I do. Why do you think you want to meet with me?

~sigh~ Because, against my better judgement, I like you very much, and I respect what you have to say.

If your judgement votes against me, who or what is the driving force behind you being here?

Oh brother. Okay, it’s God.

I’m going to agree with you on that one. I’m grateful He’s working in you. I’ll tell you, He’s been working in me, too. I’m struggling with this; not like you, but I’m ‘way not enough to cover this. I’ve had some pretty deep times with God. I know you pay attention to Him. Have you had good conversation with Him lately?

I did a study on the verses you left with me. Number one, I looked up idolatry. Basically I came to the conclusion that you’re hinting, ever so subtly, that I’m being stubborn in not agreeing with God, so I’m committing iniquity, or in iniquity, or however you put it. And that, because I think I’m right and He’s wrong, that I’m setting myself up as my idol, putting myself on the throne and deciding that I know best. That about cover it?

Did you hear my voice telling you that, or God’s?

Same thing, isn’t it?

Really no. Really really no.

Umph. Fine. That’s what God was telling me while I was reading His Word and studying it.

You didn’t like it, I take it?

Duh.

I never do, either. Hebrews 12.11 “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” That means all of us are grieved when God chastens us. But, He gives us the peaceable fruit of righteousness if we learn from it.

So I have to learn from it in order to get the peace fruit.

Matthew 7.16 “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” Do you want peace?

You know I do.

You already have the Holy Spirit within you, and He empowers you with the Fruit of the Spirit. Part of that is peace. Learn from Him. What about the second verse?

The forgiveness part?

Matthew 6.15 “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

I’m hitting a brick wall there, one that I prefer to walk away from.

I know you already know this, but I’m throwing it out anyway. Forgiveness isn’t for letting anyone off the hook. It’s for the forgiver. It’s one of God’s gifts for blessing you.

So I’ve heard.

My dear, you don’t have to generate forgiveness. It’s not in you. I see that, and I think you do, too. It’s not in anybody to forgive such a thing.

So, just let God do it in me or though me or whatever?

Pray about it. Just a tip: when I’m really struggling with something, wrestling with God, so to speak, it helps me to physically put myself in a position of obedience and worship.

What do you do? Kneel?

Well, actually, I … prostrate myself.

Like, on your belly?

Full out, face down, nose rubbing on whatever is under me. I humble myself and pour myself out to God, begging for His mercy on me.

~gulp~ Umm

Here’s a tissue.

I can’t even think about that without crying. I really don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know that I even want to. What about 1 John 1.9? “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” Can I confess my sin of unforgiveness and be forgiven?

I think God will handle that. Just give it to Him.

Waters (Revisited)

Originally posted June 15, 2018

water W imageaters, born from above

gurgle and babble, stumble and tumble.

Bubbling, dodging, splashing against        

obstacles in the way, as a springboard,

                      running between deep and shallow,

                      flowing like sinews and muscle

                      then

                      leveling, slowing,

                      sliding into silken pools

                      gliding sedately in their paths,

                      nodding and yielding to immovable rocks.

                      Deep underneath

                      tribulation, distress, leaps and joys tangle,

                      rising to the surface as lines of grey,

                      and forming ripples and swirls

                      like wrinkles

                      as time suddenly catches up.

                      It straddles the precipice, clinging to moments

                      before its swooping descent, splashing

                      in streaks of wild white strands

                      plunging with reckless abandon

to its end

                     b

         e

  l

                                                                   o

water W imageaters born from above

                                                      gurgle and babble stumble and tumble.

                                                      Bubbling, dodging, splashing against

                                                      obstacles in the way, as a springboard,