A Penny of Great Value

Sheila contemplated the coin in her hand. The little golden disc, not worth much in the world, was worth something to her. The thrill of spotting its glint in the gutter a few minutes ago as she made her way down the sidewalk still bubbled within her. She had seen pennies before, but there was something different about this one. Somehow she felt a great value connected to it that differentiated it from the myriads of others readily available. Not understanding what that value was but knowing she would not be spending this one, she tucked it carefully in her jacket’s inner pocket – the one closest to her heart – and continued her journey.

Several weeks later, Sheila again contemplated, but this time it was water which captured her attention. Not the beautiful water that surrounded her, but the murky water that covered the bottom of her small boat.

She could feel the gentle rock as small waves lapped at the sides of her boat, none of which were big enough to splash over those sides. The water had not come from there. She glanced at her water jug – nope, it had not spilled. Had the water been there when she entered the boat, leftover from the previous day’s rain? No, she would surely have noticed the touch of icy water sloshing over her toes. Too much water would sink her boat but, thankfully, it wasn’t near deep enough for that. Maybe she should ignore it and just enjoy her time on the lake. She picked up her oars but stopped when she felt cold water cover her foot. Alarm bells rang in her mind as panic rose in her heart. The water level was increasing. It had to be a leak. But how? She hadn’t run into anything. At least nothing she knew of. And she hadn’t dropped anything heavy enough to cause damage. No weak areas had been found during its maintenance check last… last… Sheila had been so busy with life, she couldn’t remember the last time she had had the boat serviced. She had been told how important it was to maintain her boat. Her safety, maybe even her life, depended on it. Now she was paying the price for her neglect.

Heart racing, Sheila calculated the rate the boat was filling against the distance back to the dock. If she rowed fast enough, pushing the oars in deep enough, could she might make back in time to hoist it up before it sank? No, rowing that fast and hard would require more strength than she had. She would have to stop the leak now, before heading back. First, she had to find the source of the leak. Hopefully it was small enough to plug it with something, although she had no idea what. Sheila ran her finger along the bottom of the boat. Even after several minutes, she couldn’t feel anything that could signify a leak. Now what?

Slowly, a video she had recently watched came to her mind. In it, someone had described how the movement of the water under the boat can sometimes reveal the spot where the water was entering. Sheila cringed. That would require jumping into that ice cold water without a wet suit. Desperate now, she felt along the bottom of the boat again, this time for the force of water shooting into her boat, not matter how slight. And again she couldn’t find the source of the leak. Not having any other choice, she accepted the inevitable. She was going to have to go in.

Sheila pulled off her jeans and slid on a pair of soccer shorts. The touch of the chilly air on her legs convinced her to wait until the last minute before removing her jacket. According to the video, the movement of the water could be tracked as the tiny bubbles in it reflected the light from a flashlight. Sheila had a waterproof flashlight in her backpack, which she realized, was now in two inches of water. As she bent to pick up the bag, she heard a plop. Her penny! She had forgotten that it was still in her jacket pocket and now it was down in that dark murky water. For a third time she felt along the bottom, this time searching for the small coin, and rejoiced when her fingers found it. Carefully she tucked it into the zippered pocket of her shorts, dug out her flashlight, removed her jacket, and, bracing herself, jumped overboard.

The shock of the cold water was worse than she expected. Gasping, she shivered while treading water, waiting for her body to adjust.  As soon as it did, she took a deep breath and dove under the boat. She expected the water to be somewhat clear since the surface was so pretty, but instead it was dark and murky, just like the water filling her boat. Her flashlight revealed multitudes of bubbles moving in all directions. Those were not the bubbles the man in the video had said to focus on. The important ones were the ones closest to her boat. She aimed her flashlight at the bottom of the boat and watched the direction the bubbles were heading. Her lungs began to complain, but she continued studying until one area of bubbles acted differently than the rest. Noting its location, she swam out from under the boat, broke through the surface of the water, took a few deep breaths, and then dove back down. Close examination of the area showed several tiny streams of water heading toward a central location. That had to be where the hole was. Sheila ran her finger across the bottom, and sure enough, felt the indentation of a hole a little more than half an inch across. Although it seemed small, Sheila knew a hole that big would have sunk the boat already. Why hadn’t it? Confused, Sheila poked her little finger in the hole and felt it narrow the deeper she pushed her finger. Ah, that’s why her boat hadn’t sunk yet. The other end of the hole must still be very tiny.

With lungs screaming, Sheila surfaced and refilled her lungs. As she tread water, she mentally took inventory of her supplies. What did she have that could plug the hole that would last long enough for her to get to the dock? Her rag was too big, and she hadn’t worn socks. None of her tools would work. She needed something small and round and waterproof, like a marble, which she could jam into the hole. Water pressure under the boat would hold it in place until she was able to get it repaired properly. At least that’s what the video had said. But she didn’t have a marble. The few nails and screws in the toolbox didn’t have heads big enough. Tissue paper wouldn’t last long enough. And she didn’t have any chewing gum.

And then she had it. Her coin! It was small and round and the perfect size. Carefully, she removed the penny from her pocket and swam back under the boat. Holding the flashlight in her mouth, she felt for the hole with one hand, and, finding it, shoved the coin into the hole with her other hand. She wiggled the penny with her finger, wedging it deeper and deeper into the hole until she couldn’t move it anymore. Slowly she lessened the pressure of her finger and was relieved when water pressure continued to hold the coin in place. Quickly now, Sheila returned to the surface of the water and took several deep gulps of air before climbing back into her boat.

Replacing her wet clothes with the dry jeans and jacket, she wrapped her arms around her body and waited until her body quit shivering. While she waited, she looked at the almost three inches of water that had made its way inside her boat. She should try to scoop it out, but all she had was her water bottle which would take too long. She chastised herself again for being unprepared and decided to get back to the dock as soon as possible. She knew someone trained in the repair of boats that would be able to remove the water and filth much more efficiently than she could.

As she rowed, she thought about the deceptive beauty of the water. On the surface, it was shiny and inviting, but she had learned the hard way how dark and cold the water under that surface had become as it rejected the warmth and light of the sun, and how easy it had been for that cold darkness to invade her boat. If it hadn’t been for that coin, she would not be heading back to the safety of the shore right now. She knew when she found the penny that it was special but had had no idea just how valuable it would prove to be. And if she hadn’t tucked it into the pocket of her jacket – the very jacket she now wore – she wouldn’t have had it when she needed it.  That glittering coin had just saved her boat, and maybe even her life.

Amazing how such a small, seemingly insignificant thing had become the most important thing of all.


For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, (Eph 2:8)

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:19)

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Tim 3:12-13)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Kayla’s Story, An Allegory: Chapter 9 That Dirt Pile Again

Kayla opened the rest of her letters – the ones that had come from her current friends. Just like she expected, there were several invitations to special events in their lives. A baby shower at the country club, complete with a sit down meal and live music. A birthday celebration at the ‘world famous’ night club on the west side of town, the one that saw frequent police action. A bachelorette party featuring a popular male stripper.  All sounded exciting and she instantly regretted not having opened these invitations since some had already taken place. No wonder a few of her friends had gotten weird towards her lately. They must have thought she had deliberately ignored them.

But then her eyes fell on her father’s letters and the letters from her old friends. Suddenly Kayla saw the invitations for what they were – cold, crass, and self-indulgent enticements to engage in passions of her flesh. The invitations had nothing to do with actually loving or caring about her or anyone else. Kayla couldn’t remember ever having deep talks with any of those friends. Sure, their behavior showed that they might have missed her. But had they really missed her? Did they even know – or care – who Kayla really was? No, more likely they had missed the affirmation her presence would have given to their behavior. And her gifts.

Kayla shoved the invitations into her backpack, no longer even slightly interested in them. She preferred the satisfying discussions around simple meals that she used to have with her old friends, the ones who really knew her and loved her anyway. She added calling them to her mental checklist of calls to make when she got home. Placing the rest of the letters into her backpack, Kayla flexed her right foot. Her ankle gave a warning twitch, but most of the pain was gone. Surprised, she got up carefully, balancing on her left foot, and slowly added weight to her right. She was even more surprised as her foot remained firm with just the slightest complaint from her ankle. Taking a few steps confirmed that somehow her injury had mostly healed. Not understanding how, but grateful that it had, Kayla turned to face the pile of dirt. It was time to go home.

Thinking about the advice her father had given her on the phone a few minutes earlier, she looked for a way that wouldn’t require climbing the mound. He had said there were always ways around obstacles, and she would find them if she looked for them. Well, this was definitely an obstacle, and if she was to believe her father, there would be a way to get around it. She had taken what seemed the easy way the first time, but climbing that dirty mound had turned out to be neither easy nor safe. Where was the other way? Kayla walked along the edge of the pile toward the street but found nothing new. Disappointed, she began to doubt her father’s assurance. How could there be another way when it was obvious the pile completely blocked her access to the other side? His advice had always been good before, but what if he was wrong this time? What if he didn’t really mean what he said? What if she had misunderstood him?

Kayla looked back up to the top. She could feel the temptation to just go ahead and climb the thing and get it over with. Her newly healed ankle shouldn’t be a problem so why not? It would only take a few minutes and she could get on with her walk. The longer she stared at it, the greater the desire to start climbing became. The thrill of getting to the top – of conquering this mountain of dirt – was enticing. She was about to give in when the sound of her father’s voice rose in her heart. “There is a way. This is not it. Keep looking.”  Startled, she shook her head against her misplaced desire. No! She wouldn’t give in to temptation. Her father wouldn’t say what he didn’t mean; therefore there was another way even if she couldn’t see it at the moment.

Kayla walked slowly around the edge of the mound again, this time heading towards the fence, through which she could see the other side of the dirt sloping down until it almost reached the garage. She considered walking to where the dirt was shallow enough to cross safely, but reconsidered. She would have to go all the way to the garage. Surely this other way wouldn’t involve breaking the law by trespassing. So where in the world was the way her father had promised she would find?

As she neared the fence, she began to notice that the top of the pile seemed to dip in the center, almost as if there were actually two piles. She could picture a truck making multiple dumps along this driveway so she wasn’t very surprised. But what did surprise her was the change in the dip as she approached it. The closer she got, the deeper it went, clearly separating the two piles.  Her heart began to beat faster as a new thought tickled her mind – what if the two piles weren’t actually connected? What if they only appeared to be because of her perspective based on where she had been standing? What if there was actually enough room between them for her to pass through? She quickly took the last few steps around the first pile and shouted with joy. There was a path in between them! It was narrow, but totally doable. Her father was right. There was a way!

It took only a few minutes to walk between those piles of dirt and she was on the other side. The sun was bright in the sky, filling her with warmth and light, as she danced her way down the sidewalk. Her house was only a few blocks away now and she couldn’t wait to get there. She was excited to reconnect with her old friends, to heal her relationship with Lisa, and to share what she had learned with her father.

Kayla laughed as she looked up at the sun streaming down on her. No matter what happened in the future, she had the companionship of a few close friends, and even more important, the love and support of her father. Life couldn’t get any better than that.


For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. (2 Peter 2:18)

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.  (1 Peter 2:11-12)

Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. (Rom 13:13)

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2 Thes 2:15)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it. (1 Cor 10:13)

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. (Ps 16:9)

The Battle Over Samantha

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For many years, Samantha had guided her family to work outside their home. Besides teaching, her children also gave frequent talks to a great variety of people who asked, helped out in the soup kitchen downtown, shopped in small as well as large businesses, and donated to relief organizations. If someone had a need, they were to be quick to say yes. Samantha believed in the value of everyone, and instructed her family to use their resources to promote the welfare of others.

Not only concerned for those outside her home, Samantha also worked hard for those within her home. Her family was extremely important to her, and her children, in return, loved her greatly. At first her children had been supportive and grateful for her words to them even though they knew as well as she did that things weren’t perfect. She encouraged them to voice their concerns and suggestions with the intent that they would work on the problems as a family. But as her family grew, so did the problems. Sibling rivalry became a constant source of friction and it seemed she was no longer good enough for many of her children. No matter what she said, someone would complain. If she suggested steak and baked potatoes for dinner, some of her children complained that she ignored their desire for single dish meals. If she directed her family to clean the living room, some of her children complained that she was saying the dirt in the other rooms didn’t matter. Stains settled on shirts were her fault for not having treated them immediately. No matter how hard she worked, there were always more complaints about more messes. Some of her children blamed her that the messes even existed. They yelled, criticized, and threw tantrums. They turned on the siblings that ignored their rants or defended Samantha, and vowed to force them to change or to be attacked, which resulted in more fights as the second group retaliated with anger and name calling. Few children looked at themselves as the cause of many of the problems.

Samantha was concerned with the increasing discord in her family but was frozen from action by conflicting ideas on how to stop it. The stress of indecision weakened her immune system, which allowed viruses and bacteria to begin infiltrating her body. She fought against them the best she could, but could feel herself losing when a cancer took root and began spreading throughout her body.

One day a friend arrived. He had been watching the decline of Samantha’s family and could no longer stand by and do nothing. He suggested that she reduce her outside work for awhile in order to focus on the problems in her house. She followed his advice and began to shift her priorities. But as she did, her hidden illness began interfering with her work. The man recognized the signs of cancer in her and told her and her family that helping her regain her health was one of his top priorities. Until she was healthy, she wouldn’t be able to take care of anyone properly.

The backlash came quickly and violently.  Many of the children denied that Samantha was sick and refused to acknowledge the symptoms the man pointed out.  They said he was lying in order to take control, and that as long as their mother did things their way, they could take care of all the family problems themselves. They did not want this man in the house, and demanded that he leave. Other children disagreed, saying that the cancer would contaminate any solutions tried and would only result in more problems.  They wanted the man to stay, thankful for his help and intervention.

It seemed as if the disagreement would last forever, but eventually, a plan was devised and successfully executed by the first group of children, forcing the man to leave and replacing him with a woman. This woman also denied that anything was wrong in Samantha’s body and threatened to take action against anyone who disagreed. The children in the second group watched sadly as Samantha was put back to work without consideration of any possible health issues. While the first group of children celebrated their victory, the second group worried that the end result would be their beloved mother’s death, and were frustrated with the lack of freedom to voice any more of their concerns.

Will the first group of children care enough about the feelings of the second group to let a doctor examine the health of their mother to verify whether or not she was healthy?

Will the second group of children quietly submit to the woman’s threats, or will they rise up to confront the unfairness of censorship?

Will the man go back to his own life and ignore the needs he saw in his friend, or will he continue to find ways to get her the help he thinks she needs?

Will Samantha survive the intense battle that rages over her?

Only time will tell.


This allegory was written in response to a question I read this morning. My prayer is that God opens all of our eyes to what is true – to see the truth no matter which group of children we are in – to acknowledge what is true and not true in what we see and what the other side sees – and to recognize the truth about the evil spiritual enemy who is the real mastermind behind this battle – for without truth, there can be no healing or unity in our country.

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (Ps 25:5)

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! (Ps 43:3)

These are the things that you shall do: speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; (Zech 8:16)

and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)

Kayla’s Story, an Allegory: Chapter 8 Opening the Letters

The huge pile of brown dirt loomed before her, taunting her, daring her to climb it one more time. Kayla stared at it, looking for signs of her previous painful descent. Other than some loose dirt at the base of the pile, Kayla could see nothing but smooth, inviting dirt. It was as if she had never crossed that deceptive mound before. But her limp and the brown smudges that covered her clothing told her otherwise. No matter how safe it looked, she knew all too well how dangerous it really was, and she was not going to make the same mistake again. And yet, she still had to get to the other side in order to get home.

Kayla considered her options.

The mound of the dirt spilled over the curb and into the gutter. To get around it, she would have to walk out onto the busy street. The distance was short so it wouldn’t take long, even with her limp, but she would be in constant danger every step of the way. Even if she stayed as close to the curb as possible, distracted or careless drivers frequently veered off the road, sometimes scraping the curb before pulling back into their lane. If that were to happen while she was walking in the gutter, she would be pinned between the car and the dirt pile – not a risk she wanted to take.

She could cross the street and walk on the grassy area that ran along the other side, which was safer but would require crossing four lanes of heavy traffic, not once but twice. She couldn’t imagine how she could achieve that with a limp slowing her down. A pedestrian crosswalk about two blocks away would provide a safe way to cross but would add four blocks to her walk, and she’d be no closer to home. Not something she wanted to consider with a twisted ankle.

So how was she going to find a way past this giant obstacle when it seemed there was no way? Looking back at the dirt pile, she could feel it calling out to her. Come on up. The dirt has settled and is safe now. You’ll be able to handle it this time. Nothing will happen to you. It makes more sense to climb over than to go the extra distance to avoid the climb. Don’t be scared. Just because you got hurt one time doesn’t mean you’ll get hurt this time. Besides, other people do it and nothing happens to them. Kayla considered the tightly packed dirt. It did seem safe. Maybe this time she could climb it without falling. She knew the problem had been at the top, so maybe if she crawled across the top instead of standing, she’d be okay.

But what if she wasn’t? What if this time it collapsed under her weight and more than just her leg got trapped? What if she got buried alive, and no one saw noticed?  Or worse, cared? She could die in there.

Discouraged, not knowing what to do, she sat down. If only the maintenance department had done their job and removed this hindrance already. Too bad they hadn’t while she had been on her way to the park, but then her trip to the park had been aborted. Maybe they hadn’t had the time. Or maybe they didn’t see it as a hazard. Regardless of the reason, the obstacle was still there.

Thinking of the park made her think of Lisa. Should she take her up on her offer to help? She knew Lisa had a car and might be willing to come pick her up. A ride home sounded extremely nice right now. But Lisa might still be working at the park. If she wasn’t, the long hours of picking up trash may have worn her out and she might be napping. And, Kayla had to admit, she felt too guilty to ask anything of Lisa until she apologized for her judgmental thoughts. Her apology might seem manipulative if she ended it by asking for a favor. No, she couldn’t ask Lisa. What about Larry and Buster? They had asked if she needed a ride. But no, she had already intruded enough into their day. Who else did she know?

Shifting position as she considered her short list of friends, she felt her backpack dig uncomfortably into her back. She removed it, placed it on the ground in front of her, and gingerly placed her aching ankle on it, hoping elevating her ankle would ease the pain. She expected her foot to sink into the almost emptiness of the backpack, but instead, the backpack held firm under the weight. Something inside the pack must be holding it up. What did she have in there? A couple of water bottles,  some makeup, a bag of trail mix, and…the letters. She had forgotten about them. Since she wasn’t going anywhere soon, this would be a great time to read them.

With a few groans, she pulled the backpack closer, removed a large handful of letters and a bottle of water, and repositioned the bag under her ankle. Opening the bottle, she took a sip of water, then another. The refreshing sensation of the soothing water down her dry esophagus was amazing and her sips quickly became gulps until the bottle was empty. Sighing with satisfaction, she replaced the cap, set the bottle on the ground, and picked up the stack of letters.

The first few were from her father. Opening each, she found similar messages of love and desire to see her in each one. “I love you and always will.” “When are you going to call me?” “I think of you every day.” “I love you more than you can imagine.” “I’m eagerly waiting for your response.” “Come see me soon and I’ll treat you to lunch.”

Kayla felt bad. Ever since she had moved out of state, she had tried to remember to call him from time to time, but for some reason never made the time to go see him. She had thought he was busy with his own life and didn’t care all that much about hers. True, he was always excited to hear from her, but she thought that was just momentary, and that as soon as she hung up, he got busy with something else. But these letters were painting a different picture. Did he really think of her daily? Did he really love her as much as his letters said? Tears welled in her eyes as she thought of the pain he must feel by her mostly indifferent attitude towards him. Not indifference, exactly. She did love him, and enjoyed her time with him, but, well, life just seemed to demand so much of her time and energy that she didn’t have enough left over to share with him. She pulled the rest of his letters from the pile and set them at her side, feeling too convicted to continue reading them. As soon as she got home, she would call him. Right after she called Lisa.

Flipping through the other letters, she recognized the names of a variety of friends, but one particular one stopped her. Memories came flooding back as she stared at Paul’s name. They had once been very close, spending much time hanging out together. It had been a strictly platonic relationship, but very deep. They talked for hours about life, and his wisdom had helped her more than once to negotiate around some tricky situations. She regretted now that she had allowed time and the stress of daily life to put a distance between them. She noticed the forwarding message her father had written across the envelope, and made a mental note to thank him when she called him.

Continuing to flip through the mail, she found other forwarded letters from Pete, Matt, Jonathan, and Phil. She smiled as she saw their names. Good memories warmed her heart as she remembered the hours they had spent together discussing important topics. When the other girls were more concerned with trivial matters, these guys shared her hunger for deeper things. Why had they gone their separate ways after graduation? Or had it just been her that had gone a different way?

The rest of the letters were from some current friends. Kayla looked at them, confused. These friends frequently sent her messages through social media so why would they write to her? Come to think of it, she hadn’t gotten many messages lately. What was up with that? Maybe the letters would explain but first she wanted to see what her old friends were up to. Pulling their letters from the stack, she began opening them.

Most expressed fond memories of their talks, reminders of the many lessons they had learned, regret for allowing their friendship to fade, and an invitation to renew their relationship. Several told of new adventures and life events. A few asked that she call them. A few even gave her warnings about staying true to what she believed. But every one of them mentioned her father in some way or other. “I loved how attentive he was, not only to you, but to me whenever I stopped by.” “His love for the flowers in his greenhouse was amazing.” “He always gave the best advice.” “Say hi to him for me.”

Nostalgia for her friends fought with renewed guilt as she thought of how long it had been since she had called her father. Maybe she should call him right now. No, first she should read the rest of his letters. He might ask about them. She picked up the small stack of letters and slowly opened them, expecting the weight of her guilt to increase with each one. She wasn’t disappointed.

Dear Kayla,

I hope this letter finds you well. I miss our talks late into the night. Call me when you get the chance.

Love always,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

I know we have been out of touch but I think of you every day. I love you. If you need anything, you know how to reach me.

Love you bunches,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

Remember when we used to talk about how some people were too tied up with their own concerns to think about bigger, more important issues? I hope that’s not happening to you. A call from you would be great reassurance.

Much love,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

Word has come to me that things aren’t going too well for you. Please call me. I would be delighted if you would allow me to help you a way through your difficulties. With all my experience, I’m sure we could fix things quickly.

All my love,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

Please call me. We have some important issues to discuss.

Love as always,

Dad

Kayla’s hands gripped the letters to her chest as she allowed fresh tears to spill down her cheeks. She could feel his steady love through these letters in spite of her own lack of response. He may have been busy with other things, but one thing was clear. She was still a priority to him. From her earliest memories, he had always been there for her – guiding her when she was confused, entertaining her when she was bored, teaching her what was important, comforting her when she was hurt, and caring about what she cared about. He listened to every complaint she made, provided everything she needed and more, and sat up with her all night whenever she was sick. He gave her security both when life was good and when it seemed to fall apart. Just because she had moved away physically didn’t mean she had to distance him in her heart as well. And it was painfully obvious to her that the distancing had been one-sided. He loved her so much, and she only gave back a token of that love. Kayla bowed her head over the letters, and gave in to her grief.

After what seemed like hours, something began to grown in her mind. A puzzling thought. How did her father know of her problems? She had not told him the times she had called. And none of her current friends knew her father. So how had he known something wasn’t right? Was it his great love for her? She had to find out.

Paying no attention to her ankle’s objection, she pulled her backpack close enough to dig out her phone. It took three tries for her trembling fingers to dial the familiar number, and she held her breath as she listened for the call to go through.

It was answered on the first tone.


Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (Ps 36:5)

Kayla’s Story, an Allegory: Chapter 7 Appearances

It was every bit as hard as she had thought it would be. As she stepped over empty soda cans and broken beer bottles, maneuvered around discarded electronics, furniture, and bags of trash, and avoided the holes that seemed to be all over, she realized there was a good reason people warned about crossing this vacant lot. It was not only full of dangerous traps, but it smelled as bad as it looked. The rancid odor of decaying food mixed with the musty odor of rotten wood filled the air. Kayla tried not to breath as, through sheer strength of will, she slowly limped her way through the maze of obstacles. Finally, reaching the halfway point without falling even once, Kayla rewarded herself with a rest stop. Spotting an abandoned armchair, she checked it over for signs of rodents, and seeing none, gratefully lowered herself into it. Exhausted, but proud of her achievement, Kayla sat back and looked at the sky. Gray clouds still swirled, blocking most of the sunlight, but every now and then a tiny sliver of light managed to break through. A longing rose in Kayla’s heart as she focused on those tiny beams of life. She knew, above the clouds, the light in all its fullness was still there, but that wasn’t enough. She wanted to feel the warm sunshine on her face again. She wanted to bask in the light as she had been doing before the phone call. She wanted those clouds that separated her from her beloved light to be gone.

“She’s here somewhere.” The man’s deep voice shattered her thoughts. Kayla froze as she listened. Maybe they weren’t talking about her. The voice had come from her right side, but as from a distance. Maybe they were talking about a stray cat. Please let it be about a stray cat.

“Are you sure it was her?” came another voice. This one sounded familiar. Too familiar. Chills rose along her spine as she realized it belonged to the man in the black hoodie who had glared at her earlier that day. Panic stricken that it might actually be her they were after, she looked around for a place to hide, but the only thing nearby bigger than her was the green armchair she was sitting in. Stuck where she was, hoping her green sweatshirt would blend in with the green of the armchair, she quickly pulled her knees up to her chest and tried to disappear into the chair’s soft, worn out back.

“Yeah, it was her. She had the same limp. Look, here’s a footprint.”

“There’s more. They look like they’re heading for that green chair.”

“Maybe we’ll find more footprints on the other side. Let’s go check it out.”

Kayla closed her eyes as heavy footsteps approached. “I’m invisible. I’m invisible.  I’m invisible,” Kayla thought as loud as she could. “Nothing to see here – just a green chair.”

“Hello again.” The voice came from directly in front of her. “So glad we found you.”

Kayla didn’t know what to do. Open her eyes and face what was coming? Or play possum and hope they lost interest and went away? Not ready to face anything, she slowed her breathing as much as she could.

“Is she dead?”

“I don’t think so. I think I saw her arm move. I’m going to try to wake her.”

“No, don’t touch her. She might be sick.”

“But we can’t leave her like this.”

“No, we can’t. I’m going to try something.”

Kayla’s heart raced and she almost lost control of her breathing. What were they going to try? Did it involve hurting her? She remembered the times she had used twigs to poke at insects to check if they were alive. Were they about to do the same with her?

There was the sound of things being moved around, and then a voice. “This should work.” Kayla forced her body to relax, anticipating a jab on her leg. She was not disappointed. The jab came, hard enough to be felt but not hard enough to hurt. Kayla was able to ignore it, as well as several more jabs in other parts of her body.

“Let me try. You’re not doing it hard enough.”

Suddenly a sharp jab to her side caused Kayla to gasp.

“See? I told you.”

“See what? I didn’t see anything. She’s still not moving. We need to call 911.”

Kayla remained still. Why hadn’t she thought about calling 911 herself as soon as she knew she had been spotted? And why on earth would they call 911 on themselves? Something wasn’t making sense.

 “Want me to jab her again?”

Not if she could help it. The first hard jab was bad enough; she did not want to experience it a second time. If ignoring them didn’t’ work, maybe acting tough would. She opened her eyes. “Leave me alone,” she told them through gritted teeth.

“We can’t do that.” The taller one answered.

“Yes, you can.” Kayla said. “Just walk away.”

“Naw, can’t do that. Wouldn’t be right,” the second man responded.

Kayla’s heart raced, but she covered it by demanding, “What do you want? I don’t have any money.”

“Don’t want your money.” Larry said. “Buster and I just want to help you, like we tried when we first saw you limping on the sidewalk. This lot is too dange-“

Kayla interrupted, “It didn’t look like you were trying to help, not with those daggers in your eyes.”

“Daggers in my eyes?” Buster asked, sounding confused.

“You do look pretty mean when you get frustrated,” laughed Larry.

“Sorry,” Buster said. “Those ‘daggers’ were not meant for you. I was just frustrated to see that Rory guy grab you. He’s bad news.” Buster said.

“Pastor Rory’s not bad news. He tried to help me.” Kayla declared, crossing her arms.

“He tries to help lots of people – only not for their sake. Rory only does what’s good for Rory,” Buster said.

Larry added, “Many people are fooled by Rory’s false promises. That is no place for you, and neither is this place. If you’ll let us help, we know the safe way through this mess.

Kayla looked at the rest of the vacant lot that she still had to cross. There were even more pitfalls and obstacles on the second half, and with everything placed haphazardly, she couldn’t see a straight path. In fact, she couldn’t see any path. She sighed inwardly at the difficult journey ahead. She had made this far by herself, but she was tired and wasn’t sure if she could make it to the other side. At least not without falling. Turning back to the men, she looked from one. With their faces hidden by their black hoods, they looked every bit as dangerous as the trip across the lot. Maybe they were members of some gang, looking for a target in which to prove themselves. Well, she didn’t want to be a victim. Not if she could help it. She’d rather face the possible injuries of walking by herself than the probable attack by these two, if not their whole gang.

“It’s okay. I can find my own way,” she finally told them.

“Look, we’re not going to hurt you. We just want to give you what we have – our knowledge, experience, and strength – to get you to a safer place,” Larry said. “We really want what’s best for you.”

Buster nodded. “It’s not about us. If you insist, we can go away like you want and let you make your own way. It’s not like we need to help you. We just know what could happen and want to save you from it.”

 Kayla wished she could believe them. It would be so nice to have their help. But their black hoodies…

Suddenly Kayla realized if she looked past those hoodies, if she took her eyes off the obvious outerwear and focused on what lay underneath, she could see their eyes which seemed to glow as if reflecting a light. Excited, she looked up at the sky. Had the sun broken through the clouds? No, the clouds still covered the sky so the light wasn’t coming from the sun above. Looking back into their eyes, Kayla felt drawn to the peace that radiated out from them. It was a peace that went beyond anything she had ever experienced before. Evil could not possibly exist in a peace like this. Allowing the peace to seep into her, Kayla sighed as she relaxed. “I could use some help.”

Within minutes, Kayla was once again on her way home, this time supported on each side by strong arms. Navigating around the larger debris, and lifting her over the smaller ones, they made short work of what would have taken Kayla three times longer if she had had to do it herself. When they made it to the sidewalk, they stopped to celebrate. The men high fived each other while Kayla tried to pull out her wallet from her backpack. But they refused any payment, saying they were just happy to help.

“Where do you need to go from here?” Buster asked.

“Oh, just a couple of blocks. I’ll be fine now that I’m out of that hazard trap.”

“Here’s my number,” Buster said, handing her a card. “Call me if you need more help.”

Kayla took it. “I will. Thanks again.”

With a smile on her face, she watched them head back across the not-so-empty lot, amazed at what had just happened. Then she turned and headed towards her home. As she limped along, she thought about how those men were not at all what she had feared. And how the two well-dressed men in the florist shop were not what they appeared either. She sure had misjudged all four of them. And if she had misjudged them, then maybe she had also misjudged Lisa. The only way to tell was to actually get to know her. Kayla made a mental note to call Lisa once her ankle healed. Maybe they could go out to lunch or something.

Suddenly the light broke through the clouds and beamed down on Kayla. She looked up with delight as most of the clouds scattered and disappeared, leaving just a few behind. She took a deep breath, face upturned, and let the warmth of the sun fill her. This was more like it. She wouldn’t have any trouble getting home now that she was strengthened. Not even that pile of dirt was going to stop her.


Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. (Prov 4:14-15)

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Rom 16:17)

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 3:27)

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)

Kayla’s Story, an Allegory: Chapter 6 The Phone Call

Thoughts of the park intruded into Kayla’s light-worship as she limped toward the corner. She had been so intent on getting home that she had forgotten about the people expecting her there. It was well past the start time and most likely everyone was well into whatever the event entailed, which was probably picking up trash. Hopefully enough people turned out that she hadn’t been missed. Tending to her injuries was more important than participating in some kind of work day. She was doing the right thing by going home, which was closer to her now than the park. And yet, guilt was quickly replacing the peace that had flowed through her just moments before. Maybe she should call someone to let them know why she hadn’t shown up. But who? All she knew was that the invitation had come from her church which she only occasionally attended. She didn’t have any members in her contact list, nor did she want to. Those self-centered people held no interest for her, and she had resisted every attempt they made to include her in church business. Kayla had only agreed to the go to the park event to build her reputation with a few influential and powerful members. She had even hoped to be photographed by the newspaper reporter who was going to be there. Having her picture on the front page would show everyone how altruistic she was, and it would ensure that those powerful and influential people would remember her should their memories fail. She might be a nobody right now, but one day she would be rich and powerful herself.  It would ruin everything, though, if she lost standing for missing this dumb event without an excuse. She couldn’t allow that. She had to make sure they knew she had tried to show up. If she could contact the church, the secretary would be able to provide a phone number of two. Kayla couldn’t remember whether the pastor was going to be at the park or not, but the secretary would know that as well. The thought about her pastor reminded her of Pastor Rory, who was still way too close for her comfort. What if he decided to try to find her? And then there were those two guys in black hoodies, probably lurking somewhere nearby, waiting to ambush her. Looking around, she admitted she didn’t feel safe. Better to keep going and make the call when she got home. But between there and where she was now lay two big obstacles. The large pile of dirt blocking the sidewalk, and a large empty lot located just around the corner. Actually, the empty lot was not really empty. Rocks and pebbles, along with all kinds of litter lay scattered all across the uneven terrain. Typical litter such as rusty cans, broken bottles, and empty packaging were joined by the not-so-typical tires, crushed boxes, old mattresses, and dilapidated furniture. Getting across this lot was hard enough with two good legs, but her sprained ankle made it an even greater challenge.

Kayla reached the corner just as her phone rang.

“Hey, it’s Lisa. Where are you? I thought you were coming today. We waited as long as we could, but finally had to start in order to finish by noon. The others are still working but I keep getting a sense that something was wrong, like you need help or something. So I decided to call you. Are you okay?”

Lisa. That obnoxiously friendly busybody that everybody kept talking about. Kayla listened to the torrent of words, delighted that she had been missed but wishing it had been anyone else on the phone other than Lisa. A feeling rose in Kayla’s heart, one she wasn’t very familiar with. It was almost like she had done something wrong. But that was nonsense. The only thing she could think of that she could possibly have done wrong was not calling the church group. And that was no big deal since she had planned to call as soon as she got home. Maybe that was it – she should have called before someone from church called her. Well, that was an easy fix. She would just apologize.

“I’m sorry. I ran into a problem.” Kayla turned the corner and kept walking as she talked.

“What kind of problem? Is there anything I can do to help?”

Kayla wanted to say, “Yes! I would love a ride home,” but she couldn’t trust Lisa. Rumor had it that Lisa had a way to twisting the truth to make everything sound much more melodramatic than it actually was. Kayla was sure Lisa would spin her failure to call as irresponsible and inconsiderate. Although Kayla had a good excuse for not showing up at the park, she suspected Lisa would exploit any information she got as much as possible. On the other hand, it was possible Lisa was made to call against her will – maybe the pastor asked her to call – and that she didn’t really want to help and was hoping that Kayla would refuse. So Kayla bit back what she wanted to say and said instead, “No, it’s okay. I don’t want to further inconvenience you any more than I have already.”

“It’s no inconvenience. I want to help. What can I do?”

Lisa sounded genuinely concerned, but then, so had Pastor Rory. No, this had to be a ploy to poke her nose into Kayla’s business. Kayla preferred keeping her life private. She didn’t want a busybody like Lisa to spread all kinds of lies about her, especially if she found out what had happened in the florist shop. It was better to refuse help now than to be let down later.

“Thanks, but everything is okay.” Kayla winced as her lie added to the sense of guilt in her heart.  “I appreciate it though. I’m sorry for not calling earlier, and that you all waited on me. Please apologize to everyone for me.”

“Certainly. Well, you’ve got my number now. Call me if you need anything, even if it’s in the middle of the night.”

Kayla said she would and then ended the call. Feeling chilled, she looked up at the sky. Clouds were gathering, blocking the sunlight. Just what she needed. Now she had to go through that hazard filled lot without the strength of the light she had begun to depend on. Where had those clouds come from anyway? One moment the sky was blue without even a hint of whiteness, and the next moment the blue was almost completely enveloped by swirling gray clouds.

Disappointed, Kayla limped the few remaining yards to the lot, where she stopped to reconsider. She could take the longer way home and avoid this lot altogether. It would add almost a mile to her walk, but all of it would be easy sidewalk walking, and just as importantly, there would be people around. She didn’t know where those two thugs had gone and she would feel safer staying on the sidewalk. But would her ankle handle the extra distance? As if in response, her ankle began throbbing almost as bad as when she had first hurt it. The sooner she got home the better. Danger or no danger, this lot was the better way. Mind made up, she entered the lot and began making her way across it.

So intent on her thoughts, Kayla didn’t see the man in a black hoodie standing across the street.

But he had seen her.


For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:3)

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matt 15:18-19)

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37)

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)

Kayla’s Story, An Allegory: Chapter 5 Pastor Rory

Kayla trudged up the next street, eyes focused straight ahead while her heart drank in the light. She didn’t notice that her limp was slowly getting less pronounced. And she didn’t notice the two men who followed her. All she thought about was her goal, about her desire to be home where she could tend to her injuries, pour herself a glass of sweet tea over crushed ice, and sit outside to bask in the light some more.

Gradually she became aware of voices coming from behind her. She couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but from time to time they would burst into laughter. Glancing behind her, she was startled to see two youngish men, both dressed in black hoodies and worn jeans. Their hands were hidden in their bulging hoodie pockets, and they wore caps pulled low over their eyes as if to shield them from the bright sunlight. Dismayed, she wondered how this neighborhood changed without her noticing. Everyone always wore bright, happy colors. When had dark hoodies like those creep in? It was like shadows had infiltrated the light. However, the men didn’t seem to be paying any attention to her and she let out the breath she didn’t know she was holding. 

She had only gone a few more steps when she heard one of them call out, “Hey, wait up!”

Kayla’s heart went cold. It was one thing to share a sidewalk with fellow pedestrians, but now she felt like a target. Keeping her eyes straight ahead, she continued limping up the sidewalk as if she hadn’t heard them. Maybe they would go away.

“Hey, you need some help?” The voice called again, accompanied by a dark chuckle from the man’s partner. The voices sounded a little closer, much to Kayla’s apprehension. They were gaining on her.

She tried to walk faster, but her bad ankle wouldn’t cooperate. Knowing now she couldn’t out-walk the men, she looked around. She needed to find a place to go, somewhere with people, before they caught up to her. This was a commercial part of town, but the small businesses were more like electronic repair shops, florists, and office suites. None were very busy, and most actually looked closed by the look of the empty parking lots. But the florist building only two doors away looked promising with its lit up ‘OPEN’ sign.

“Hey, lady! I’m talking to you!”

Heart racing faster than her feet could move, Kayla bee-lined toward the florist doorway. Those men might be perfectly harmless, but it wasn’t worth the chance. Step, limp, step, limp, step, limp. She had to go faster. As the heavy tread of their sneakers came even closer, she cringed as she imagined the feel their nasty breath on her neck. Just a few more steps.

Suddenly an arm grabbed her arm just as she reached for the door handle. “There you are, darling. You had me worried. What took you so long?” Kayla spun around to look up into the eyes of a man who appeared to be around her age. Well dressed, sharp haircut, and carrying a brief case, the man was smiling at her as if she was a close friend.

“What? I don’t – “

“I know you didn’t mean to be late. You never do. But this time I think you have a good excuse.” The man interrupted. Navigating her with his hand, he continued talking as he led her inside the store. “What happened to your ankle? That’s a pretty good limp you have.”

Kayla turned her head and watched the two younger men in hoodies pass without saying anything else. She shuddered as they met her gaze with dark, angry eyes before moving on and disappearing around the next corner. Feeling safer now, she pulled her arm from the stranger’s hand.

“Thank you. That was kind of you.”

“You’re welcome. I’ve had some dealings with those two characters. They may have only wanted to help you, but I doubt it. They’re bad news. So… what happened to your ankle?”

“Oh, I fell but I’ll be okay. I just need to get home.” She tried to go around him so she could leave. But he moved in front of her.

“There’s no hurry. Come, sit down. Let me take a look at it.”

“Are you a doctor?”

“No, but I’ve deal with many sprains over the years. I coach soccer.”

“Thanks, but I think I’ll just go home.” She tried again to get past him, but again was blocked.

“Hey, Larry! Bring some hot water, a towel, and the old bandage you keep under the counter,” the man called over his shoulder as he led Kayla to a table. He pulled out a chair and almost pushed her down on it. “Now, now, don’t be like that. It’s best to determine the extent of you injury now. Walking on could possibly make it worse. If it’s not too bad, like you say, I’ll just wrap it and you can be on your way.”

Feeling she didn’t have a choice, Kayla sat. She wished she was back at home. Even more, she wished she was back in the light. It was dark in this store, which was strange considering it was a florist. Even if the owner didn’t invest in good lighting, why didn’t the sunlight enter through the two large front windows? It was like the glass only let in tiny amounts of the light she craved.

Wincing as the man gently manipulated her foot, she noticed another man approaching holding a bowl of steaming water in one hand, and a cloth and bandage roll in the other. He appeared to be the same age as her rescuer. Taking the cloth and bowl of water, the first man said, “You’re right. It’s not that bad a sprain. I’ve seen worse.”

“Do you need anything else?” Larry asked. “Something to eat? A soft drink?”

“No, no, I’m fine.” Kayla tried to get up. “I’m okay, really. I need to go now.”

“What you need is to rest your ankle for a few more minutes. Trust me; I know what I’m talking about.” The first man smiled warmly at her. “Plenty of time to get you home later.”

“Pastor Rory, if she wants to go, let her go. We can’t force her to stay.” Larry said. “Although, I agree it would be better if she stayed.”

“True,” Rory said, and then looked at Kayla. “If you really want to go, I won’t stop you. But can I at least clean the dirt from your ankle before wrapping it?”

Sitting back down, Kayla sighed. If was nice of these men, to take the time to care for her injury. And Pastor Rory did seem to know what he was doing. “Okay, but just for a few minutes. Then I really need to get going.”

Pastor Rory continued smiling as he dipped the cloth into the hot water. He squeezed out the excess water, then gently began running it over Kayla’s ankle. “Here, let me remove your shoe and sock so I can get at the dirt better.” He slowly tugged her shoelace loose, and then gently removed the shoe. Confusing emotions flowed through Kayla. On the one hand, letting a stranger touch her felt awkward. She wanted to stop it and go on home. On the other hand, he was a pastor. It was his job to take care of people. And her ankle really did need to be cleaned whether now or at her house. It would be easier to do it here since he already had everything ready. She should just relax and let him do what he was called to do. Besides, she had to admit his touch did feel good. Somehow the throbbing in her ankle seemed to disappear under the pleasant sensation of the slow circular movements of the hot cloth.

She sighed, closing her eyes to more fully enjoy the deep warmth as Pastor Rory wrapped her foot in the cloth and gently massaged her toes, moving across her foot, and then up her ankle. It felt so good after having been in pain for so long that she didn’t notice when he pushed the bottom of her jeans up and began massaging her shin and calf. She gave in to the sensation, trusting in the integrity of the pastor’s office even though a soft warning bell was beginning to go off in her head.

“Feels, good, doesn’t it?” Larry asked. “Pastor Rory is very good at what he does. And I’m good at what I do. Let me bring you some of my world famous fudge. It will warm your stomach every bit as much as that hot water is warming your leg.”

Kayla opened her eyes. “Aren’t you a florist?”

“Yes, but just to pay my bills. My real passion is baking.” He pointed to a back door. “I have a full kitchen back there. If you don’t like fudge, my chocolate cream pie is heavenly. Here, I’ll bring you some of each. Be right back.”

Kayla watched him disappear through the doorway, and then turned her attention back to Pastor Rory, who was rinsing the cloth in the bowl. “Thank you. I didn’t realize how badly I needed this.”

“Most people don’t know what they really need. That’s why I became a pastor. I want to teach people to recognize their needs, and even more important, to meet those needs. So many people think they need to go through life denying themselves, but that’s just wrong. We’re supposed to be enjoying our bodies. ‘If it feels good, then it is good’ – that’s what I always say.” Pastor Rory winked at her. “Like right now. You’re enjoying this cleansing, right?” Kayla nodded, but something in what he said caused her concern although she couldn’t put her finger on it. She started to pull her pant leg back down, but Pastor Rory stopped her. “I’m not done yet. Your knee is also dirty.” He pointed to a smudge on her pants. “Can you pull your pants up over your knee so I can clean there too?” He started to tug at her pants, but now it was her turn to stop him. “That’s okay. I can handle my knee myself. Just wrap my ankle, and I’ll be going.” Pastor Rory’s smile faded. “I would feel much better if you would let me free you from all your dirt.”

“I would feel much better if I could go home now.” Kayla responded, pulling her pant leg down firmly. “If you don’t want to wrap my ankle, that’s okay. It’s feeling much better now.”

Larry returned before Pastor Rory could answer. “Here you go. Eat all you want. There’s plenty more where this came from.” He shoved a plate heaping with thick fudge slices and gooey pie toward her.

Kayla’s stomach twisted at the thought of all that sugar. Shaking her head, she said, “No, thanks. And I think I’ll skip the bandage.” She pulled her sock and shoe on and tied it quickly. “It was really nice of you guys to go through all this trouble for me.”

“No trouble at all,” Pastor Rory’s mouth smiled, but his eyes didn’t match. “If you have any more problems, come back anytime.  You know where we are.”

Larry chimed in. “Even if you don’t have a problem, please come back.”

“Sure,” Kayla said as she stood. She took a step and immediately realized all that warmth had been deceptive. Her ankle was no better than when she had entered this place.

“Are you sure you want to go? I can see your ankle still needs treatment. I can free you from that pain, too.” Pastor Rory said.

“Positive. Thank you again.” Kayla limped to the door, and exited without looking back. As soon as the sun hit her face, all traces of confusion left her. She felt sick that she had allowed that man, pastor or not, to touch her like that. Even worse, she had enjoyed it! Well, she knew better now. If she ever ran into him again, she would not be tricked by his words a second time. Turning her face up to the light, she allowed it to cleanse her of all the residual unpleasantness of that man’s touch as she continued toward home, determined this time not to let anything stop her.


But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise freedom, but they themselves are slave of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (2 Peter 2:1-2, 18-19)

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:14)

Kayla’s Story, An Allegory: Chapter 4 Which Way?

Kayla took a hesitant step toward the light. It seemed crazy to go that way. She could not see how it would lead her to the park, or how the light could remove the mountain of dirt so she could get home. In her mind, all she could imagine was ending back at the pile of deceptively sturdy dirt. Light or no light, that dirt existed and she had no way to get past it. As for the park, maybe she should turn around and go to the park regardless of the shadows. At least she knew her way in that direction. Besides, important people were waiting on her. Well, maybe not waiting anymore since she was already late. But they might still be counting on her to show up and do something.

Kayla turned and headed toward the shadows. She had only taken a few steps when she felt the pull of the sun on her back. She wanted to turn around. Her heart cried out to face the sun. But her mind was demanding to make it to where she thought she should be. Determined, she forced her feet to keep moving. The limping made for slow progress, so she had only gone about 50 yards when she stopped again. A new thought had popped into her mind. What if someone had reported the dirt and the city had sent a work crew to remove it? What if her way home was open now? With her injuries, she wouldn’t be able to do anything at the park, and she’d only end up inconveniencing someone. Better to go on home now.

Turning once again, Kayla’s heart soared as she limped toward the light. The amazing brilliance was almost tangible, and she wanted to dance in its presence. Instead, she had to settle to soaking in the warmth of the life-giving light as she slowly limped home. When she reached the bus stop, she sat down to rest. She thought about the old man and wondered where he was, hoping that he would be on the next bus to stop. She’d love to thank him for his words of wisdom. He had been so right. Facing the sunrise of new beginnings was so much better than the sunset of dark endings.

A bus pulled up, complete with all its pfssssting and hissing and diesel fumes. The door opened to let a man off, but it wasn’t the man she hoped for. She smiled anyway as he looked in her direction. His eyes seemed to see past her as if she wasn’t there, then he walked away. Kayla frowned, ready to call out something unkind, but she felt a sense of “don’t do it” rise up in her heart. That was weird. She had never felt anything like that before. It had to have something to do with the light. The light was so good, maybe she was supposed to be good, too.

Rest time over, Kayla carefully got to her feet. Although she could kind of walk on her right foot, her ankle still throbbed. Maybe going back home wasn’t the best idea after all. The park was closer, and she could get a ride home. That way she wouldn’t have to walk as far, and she wouldn’t have to deal with the dirt, should it still be there. She hated the thought of walking away from the light, but felt she had little choice. The less she walked on her ankle, the better.  Besides, walking away would just be temporary. Once she got home, she would be able to face the sun again. Mind made up, she headed west.

However with each step, the call of the sun got stronger. She could feel it pulling at her heart as if it were alive – as if it were a good friend begging her not to go away. She tried to ignore it, but it found its way past every mental block she put up. Tears began to fall, unbidden, as she fought to keep going. She was doing the right thing. She was doing what she needed to take care of herself. She was not really rejecting the light, just not facing it for a little while. But try as she might to convince herself, she knew these excuses fell flat.

Giving up, she turned back around and headed toward the light that was still calling her. Maybe she should trust that if the light was calling her that way, then it would take care of her. As she waited to cross the street, she determined not to change her mind again. With the unspoken promise of the light, she would make it home. Or at least to the dirt pile, if it was still there, in which case maybe the light would reveal a way around it she had not seen before. It was worth a shot.


And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Heb 10:23)

Kayla’s Story, An Allegory: Chapter 3 The Man at the Bus Stop

By the time Kayla had crossed one empty lot and reached the intersection of two busy streets, she had developed a kind of rhythm to her steps. Steps and quick half-steps gave her a funny but productive gait. Only two blocks left and she’d reach the last empty lot she needed to cross before arriving at the park. Spotting a bus stop across the street, she pushed the pedestrian button on the post, and then clung to it for support as she waited for the light to change. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles flew past her and she wondered where they were all going in such a hurry. Didn’t people ever slow down?

Do you?

She ignored the accusing voice in her head. She had good reason for the way she drove. The little walking icon turned white and she began to hurry as much as she could while limping. She knew she wouldn’t make it to the other side of the street in time, and sure enough it began blinking while she was halfway across. Well, she was already in the street and those drivers would just have to wait. She limped her way to the sidewalk, grateful to find a ramp. Trying to climb a curb would have been challenging no matter how low the curb might have been. She made her way to the bench at the bus stop, dropped heavily on it, and let out a loud groaning sigh. A few other people were on the sidewalk heading in different directions, but no one looked at her. Fine, let them be that way. She didn’t need them.

Soon an old man shuffled up to her and carefully lowered himself on the bench next to her. She scooted a few inches away, and tried to ignore him. But he didn’t seem to notice. Instead he spoke in a loud but friendly voice. “Hi. You waiting on the bus?”

Kayla shook her head at him briskly, and then turned away from him again. And again he didn’t seem to notice. “Not waiting on the bus? Then why are you sitting here? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Kayla lied, hoping it would end the conversation.

“You don’t look fine, if you don’t mind me saying.” The man fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a yellow handkerchief. “Here, it looks like you need this more than I do.”

Kayla stared at the offering, and then at the man. She didn’t want the handkerchief, but was touched that he would offer. “No, it’s okay. But thanks, though.”

“No really. Even if you’re not going to ride the bus, you are going somewhere. And I think you would feel better if you cleaned your face a little. It looks like you slid down a mountain face first.”

“Something like that,” Kayla admitted. She took the handkerchief. “Thanks.” Pulling out her bottle of water, she wet the cloth and wiped it quickly across her face, being careful not to apply pressure to her nose. She was about to hand it back to him but stopped when she saw the mixture of dirt and blood that coated the small cloth. No wonder he had asked if she was okay. Pouring more water on it, she squeezed out the excess and ran it over her face again. This time she took care to cleanse her entire face. She looked at the man. “Better?”

He smiled. “Much. Do you want to talk about what happened?”

Kayla didn’t. It wasn’t any of his business. But she didn’t know how to tell him that after his kindness, so she said simply, “I fell.”

“That was some fall, from the looks of it. You should see a doctor.”

“I’ll be okay. I just need to get home.”

The both sat in silence for a few minutes. Kayla hoped the bus would arrive before he could ask her any more questions. But no such luck.

“Can I ask you something? It might seem kind of strange, but I feel like I need to ask it.”

Curious, Kayla nodded.

“Which direction were you facing when you… fell… this morning?”

“What?” Kayla frowned. Which direction? What did that have to do with anything? This old man was crazy. Nice, but crazy. The sooner the bus took him away from her, the better.

“Which direction were you facing?” he asked again.

“I guess I was facing…” Kayla mentally retraced her steps leading to the dirt pile. “… west, I think.”

“I thought so.”

When he didn’t say anything else, she prodded, “Why? What difference does it make?”

“All the difference in the world.  One way faces the light of the rising sun, the other side into darkness.”

“Well, yeah, the sun rises in the east, but so what?” She shrugged. “The sun also travels to the west.”

“But that’s the sunset, not sunrise.”

 What’s so important about sunrise?”

“It’s the beginning.”

“And sunsets are the end?”

“Exactly.” The old man smiled with delight. “You got it.”

Kayla was more confused than ever. “I got what?”

Before he could answer, the bus pulled up with the loud pfsssst as the brake’s compressed air was let out. The smell of diesel fuel from the back of the bus blew over Kayla as the door opened.  The man got up, gave Kayla a thumbs up, and began to climb the steps into the bus.

“Wait! I got what?” Kayla called after him. But he didn’t appear to hear her as he reached the top step and the bus doors closed with a hiss. The bus pulled away, leaving Kayla alone once more.

What did he mean about the east and the west being the beginning and the end? The beginning and the end of what? And what difference was it whether she faced the light coming from the east or not? She had to go west to get to the park, didn’t she? He had made that sound wrong somehow, almost like it was the cause of her fall. That was just crazy.

Stuffing the now filthy handkerchief into a side pocket of her backpack, she painfully got to her feet. It was time to finish her walk to the park. She took about three steps, and then stopped. Looking straight ahead, she took note of the shadows that filled the area in varying shades of blacks and grays. Although she could see where the light of the rising sun, still somewhat low in the sky at this early hour, penetrated the darkness, parts the sun hadn’t touched yet still laid in deep shadows. She turned around and squinted into the dazzling brightness of sun. The light was so bright she couldn’t see any shadows at all. It really was a world of difference. How had she not noticed this before? The sunlight was so inviting and uplifting that Kayla didn’t want to walk towards the darkness anymore. Yet walking towards the light presented some impossible obstacles. Her home was to the east, but between there and where she was now was that huge dirt pile she wouldn’t be able to get by easily if at all. And the park, where she was supposed to be going, was to the west. There was no way she could reach it by going east. So what should she do? Continue going west, further into darkness? Or turn around and go east, towards the light that was calling her?


Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (2 Tim 2:21)

And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city. (Ez 11:23)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9) 

Kayla’s Story, An Allegory: Chapter 2 A Pile of Dirt

The rising sun, hidden by a thick layer of clouds, seemed cold and distant. Kayla shivered as she hurried to her car, key in hand. The sooner she got out of the cold brisk wind the better. As the door slammed shut, Kayla shoved the key in the ignition and turned it. Click. That was it. No motor sound, just a click. Eyebrows raised, she tried again. And again, just the soft click that she had grown to hate over the last few months. She had delayed buying a new battery until she could find one at a deeply discounted price, and had gotten used to demanding someone jump her car each time she found it dead. But she thought she had fixed it after cleaning the connections with a homemade cleaning formula she found on line. For the last two weeks it had started right up. How dare it quit working again now! Frowning, she pulled the key out and punched the steering wheel. Without the use of her car, she would have to walk in this gloomy weather. It would make her late, but she could save some time by cutting through some empty lots. Sighing heavily, she opened the door, climbed out, slung her backpack over one shoulder, and began trudging down the sidewalk.

 As she walked, she contemplated the voice mail that had come from her church last month, inviting her to a special gathering at the park. The person had not given many details, just to dress comfortably, preferably pants and a t-shirt, and to be there by ten. Probably some kind of clean up event, but that was okay with her. Helping would help her standing in the church, and she enjoyed strengthening her connections to certain members. She didn’t need their favors right now, but who knew what the future held. There may come a day when she will be glad she took the time to cultivate these relationships.

Turning the next corner, she abruptly stopped. The sidewalk disappeared under a large mound of dirt which had spilled out from the driveway of a small brown house. What were they thinking to bring in that much dirt? Didn’t they realize it would encroach upon the sidewalk, hindering those trying to complete their walks? Or didn’t they care? How was she going to get past it? The traffic had not gotten busy yet, but there were still enough cars to make street walking dangerous so going around the dirt wasn’t an option. She looked across the street. Maybe she could walk on that side, but the lack of a sidewalk over there deterred her. She didn’t want to walk through the tall weeds, probably picking up prickly hitchhikers along the way. There might even be snakes in there. Shuddering, Kayla looked back at the dirt pile. As much as she hated the idea, climbing over the mess seemed to be the lesser of three evils. She gingerly began taking some steps, placing each foot carefully, and shifting her weight slowly as she tested the stability of the dirt. Expecting to sink with every step, she was surprised when she didn’t. The hardness of the dirt suggested that it must have been there a good while. As the dirt held, her confidence grew, and her steps became firmer and faster until she was cresting the top. Standing at the top reminded her of one of her favorite childhood games, and she yelled out, “King of the Hill!”

Suddenly her right foot plunged down on nothing as the dirt gave way. Flinging out her hands, she desperately tried to keep her balance. For a moment she thought she had won, but then the dirt under her left foot shifted and she hit the dirt face first. Her vision dimmed as pain erupted from her nose. She wanted to cry out, but the musty taste of dirt filled her mouth making her gag instead. She sat up slowly, spitting repeatedly, and took stock of her injuries. Her nose was still pulsating with pain, but the rest of her seemed to be okay. At least she thought so until she tried to stand up. This time she did cry out as her right ankle gave way and she fell again. She had to get help, but first she had to get off this pile of dirt before more of it collapsed. Not able to stand, she resorted to crawling. Small landslides flowed around her as she painfully pulled herself along, sliding one inch at a time. Holding her breath each time she shifted her weight, she begged the dirt not to collapse.  When she finally reached the bottom, she heaved a huge sigh of relief and reached down to examine her throbbing ankle. She manipulated her foot, turning it in all directions and wincing at times as pain shot up her leg, until she was satisfied it wasn’t broken. A sprain was bad enough, but at least she wouldn’t have to call 911. Her minimal insurance policy wouldn’t cover an ambulance. Somehow she was going to have to get to walk-in clinic on her own. She scooted to a nearby speed limit sign, and used the pole to pull herself to a standing position. A cautious step, and then another, and Kayla was relieved that the pain, although painful, wasn’t too extreme.  Maybe her ankle wasn’t that bad after all. If she could just get back home, she could treat her injuries herself without having to incur a huge medical bill. However, climbing over that pile to return home was out of the question. She would have to continue to the park, where she shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone to drive her back home.

As she limped, she wondered why no one had seen her predicament. In fact, she realized after a few moments, there had been no traffic while she was on that dirt mound. That was strange. It almost felt like that dirt had been placed there deliberately to catch people off guard, and that this whole thing had been planned to cause her to fall. She shook her head. No, that was crazy thinking. Who would do such a thing? Still, it was strange that no one had seen or heard her. Or maybe someone did and chose not to get involved. That was more likely. The emotionally painful feeling of not being good enough to warrant help by strangers intensified her physical pain. Soon her tears made tracks down her grubby cheeks as she made her way to the place where she was worth someone’s attention and help. Her church owed her at least that much for being willing to help clean up the park with them.


For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. (Jer 5:26)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

The arrogant one will stumble and fall with no one to raise him up (Jer 50:32)