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)

Kayla’s Story, An Allegory: Chapter 1 The Mail

Kayla smiled as she stretched. Eyes still closed, she relished the softness of the pillow under her head, the cradling support of her new mattress under her, and the snuggly blanket wrapped around her, still as fuzzy as the day she bought it. She loved mornings, and but this morning came with an additional thrill. A event awaited her, one that she had been anticipating with delight for weeks.

Eager to get started, Kayla rolled out of bed. Walking to the huge closet, she quickly put on a green sweatshirt over a gray t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and her green sneakers. Although it wasn’t quite winter yet, the mornings in her part of Florida had gotten colder than usual, thus necessitating her clothing layers. Once the sun was high in the sky, she would be able to shed the sweatshirt. She thought about the upcoming event as she brushed her hair and applied just a touch of makeup, and then added a pair of green and gray dangly earrings. Looking at herself in the bathroom mirror, she nodded with satisfaction. Completely coordinated, she looked good.

On her way to the kitchen she bumped into the hall table, knocking over the overstuffed mail basket. Mail went flying everywhere. She hadn’t realized how long it had been since she had actually read the piles of mail she received every day. Maybe she should take the time to go through it now, before she left for the event. Although time was tight, she should have time to sort through most of them. Besides, from the looks of it, it would only take a few minutes to toss all that junk mail in the trash.

Kayla retrieved the trash can from the kitchen, and bending down, began picking up one piece after another. Ads for car services and warranty extensions designed to play on her fear of the unknown future, pleas for contributions along with letters and pictures intended to elicit guilt should she decide not to give, and offers for credit cards created to make it easy to give in to temptations filled her hands. She tossed them in the trash can, and then bent to pick up more. A hand addressed envelope caught her eye. Reading the return address, she was surprised to find her father’s name there. She squinted, trying to remember when she had received it. But try as she might, she couldn’t remember having received the letter. How long had that been mixed in with the junk mail? Not having the time to read it right then, she put it back in the mail basket. As she picked up more mail, she was dismayed to find more letters that had escaped her notice. A few of them were from her father, but the rest were from friends. Again she was puzzled. She understood why her father would write a pen-and-paper letter – he was old and had not taken to electronic communication – but her friends? She was always getting emails and messages from them, so why had they felt the need to send her letters? Maybe she’d find out when she opened them, but that would have to wait. She added them to the mail basket before stooping down the pick up the remaining mail, separating the handwritten ones from the mass produced ones. When the floor was clean, she looked at her trash where junk mail she had not asked for overflowed. Why did they keep sending her this waste of trees when she never responded? Did they think by sheer volume they would win her over? Well, that wasn’t going to happen. The trash was the perfect place for them. Personal letters, on the other hand, were important and needed to be kept safe until they could be read. Curious about what they said, she was just about to risk the time to open one when her phone alarm beeped. She groaned with frustration. It had taken longer than expected to clean up this mail. She had to leave now in order to arrive on time, and she hadn’t even had breakfast yet. Grabbing the good mail from the basket, she left the bad mail in the trash can and hurried to the kitchen. She stuffed the personal mail into the front pocket of her backpack in case she had an opportunity to read them later, grabbed an energy bar and a bottle of water, and hurried out the front door, locking it behind her.


It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deut 31:8)

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7)

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5)

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)

Part 8: Let’s Build a Bonfire (Christian But Not series)

Photo by Tomu00e1u0161 Malu00edk on Pexels.com

Ziv walked along the path as it wound through small campsites on its way up a mountain. It was just past midnight, and the darkness pressed in on him as he hurried along. The tiny individual lights of the camp fires he passed, those that were still lit, reassured him that he was not alone, but did little to chase away the darkness. Ziv tried not to breathe through his nose, for each breathe brought with it a nasty odor of decay that seemed to come from all around him. Covering his nose with the top of his shirt had only made breathing harder, so he had given up and was now rushing up the path heading toward an unknown destination. All he knew was that he had to somehow rise above this evil darkness.

As he walked, Ziv noticed that some of the campfires he passed, as small as they were, were slightly brighter than others. Were they larger fires? Were their fuel sources different than the smaller fires? Or were they being better maintained? Not only that, but the rotten odor seemed to disappear the closer he got to those fires. Ziv’s curiosity made him want to stop at the next bright fire to ask, but a particularly foul odor suddenly swirled out from the dark site he was just passing, overcoming all thoughts of the fires. He had to get out of this nastiness.

Slowly he climbed higher than the campfires, seeing less and less of them. The darkness was still pressing in, but not quite as strongly as earlier. He was relieved that the odor was also decreasing. When he could no longer smell the tainted air, he stopped and looked around. The path ahead of him, illuminated by the stars as they began to come out as clouds dissipated, continued up the mountain, disappearing around a curve about twenty feet from him. On both sides of him scraggly bushes filled the spaces between tall evergreen trees. Branches stuck out at every angle, as if to grab any passerby who carelessly got too close. Behind him was the path he had just climbed. Where should he go? Going down was out of the question, and he didn’t want to attempt pushing his way through the underbrush, so sighing, he turned back to the only option he felt he had. Forward. When he got to the curve, he took one last look back, then determinedly faced forward and continued walking, not knowing what he would find.

What he found was a rock. A very large rock. A rock so white it seemed to glow in the dark, making it stand out from everything else. Ziv followed the path as it circled the rock and returned to the curve from which he had just emerged. There were no side paths splintering off from this main one. Apparently, this was the final destination of this path.

Not wanting to go back down, he decided to climb atop the rock. It would provide a safe place to rest as he considered what to do next. Finding some foot and finger holds, he managed to pull himself up until he was sitting at the top of the rock. It was as hard as he had expected, but that gave him a sense of security. It would not be crumbling under his weight. What he hadn’t expected was its warmth. At this time of night, it should have been cold, having lost its daytime heat. Yet, here it was, well past midnight, and this rock felt as warm as if it were midday. Confused, but thankful, he settled down in delight, enjoying the clean fresh air and bright stars. His gaze eventually wandered down the slope of the mountain that lay before him. If he looked hard enough, he could just barely make out a few tiny sparks of light. Although most campfires apparently had gone out, a few were still burning. Feeling safe and cozy, he began to doze.

Suddenly a voice jarred him awake as it called from somewhere below him, “Hi, up there. Room for one more?”

Apprehensive about who this stranger might be, he called back, “Who are you?”

“A friend,” came the swift reply.

Had one of his friends followed him? Although the voice sounded somewhat familiar, he couldn’t place it with a face. Besides, he had not heard anyone approaching, neither while he was walking or while he was on top of this rock. If it was a friend, how did he find him? Ziv needed to take a look, but leaning over the edge of the rock was not an option, not if he wanted to keep his balance. And, in spite of the star light, he probably wouldn’t be able to see the guy well enough in the dark to identify him.  So instead, he asked another question. “What’s your name?”

“Ryder.”

“Where did you come from?”

“A long distance. Can I come up? It will make talking easier.”

Ziv frowned. Why was he being so mysterious? Was he was a thief? If so, he would be disappointed. Or was he friendly like he said? Something in his voice made Ziv want to believe the latter. He decided to trust his gut. “Sure, come on up,” he called back.

When the stranger came into view, Ziv scooted over making room for him to sit. Ryder quickly joined him, giving out a loud, relieved sigh as he stretched out his legs.

“Amazing how the warmth of this rock is so soothing after a long hike. Wouldn’t you say so?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Ziv tried not to stare at the stranger’s appearance. His dark face seemed to be lit from the inside. He wasn’t exactly glowing, but there was definitely something there. His black curly hair framed his head and reflected the light from the stars that were still shining brightly. His long sleeve hoodie and denim jeans barely had a spot on them. No twigs, no layer of dust, not even a wrinkle. It was like he had just put them on. Even his hiking boots looked clean. Ziv looked down at his own dirt-coated pants and self-consciously picked off some hitchhiking seeds that had managed to attach themselves there. Wherever this guy had come from, it wasn’t from the same path Ziv had taken. Giving up on removing all the hitchhikers, and not wanting to rudely stare at his visitor, Ziv looked down the slope of the mountain at the tiny flickering fires.

After a few minutes, Ryder’s voice broke through the silence. “A penny for your thoughts.”

“Oh, I wasn’t really thinking about anything,” Ziv said without looking up. “I’m just kind of daydreaming I guess.”

“About what?”

“Those fires down there.”

“What about them?”

“Well, I know the people who are sitting by them are probably thinking they are a decent size, but all the darkness around them pretty much swallows them.”

“True, but the light is still there, no matter how small it appears.” Ryder said with a shrug.

“Yeah, but…”

“They don’t seem to matter much when compared to the amount of darkness that surrounds them, is that what you mean? That they don’t do much to drive away all the darkness?” Ryder looked at Ziv. “We both know that’s not their purpose. But let’s suppose for a moment that it was.”

“That campfires are supposed to provide light up an entire mountain? That’s crazy.”

“If we’re talking about campfires, then yes. But what if they are something more than just campfires. And the darkness is more than just the natural darkness of night on a mountain.”

Now it was Ziv’s turn to ask, “What do you mean?”

“Well, when I look out, it reminds me of the darkness that covers this world. Not a natural darkness, but a spiritual darkness. And those lights down there are like the prayers of the people as they pray against the darkness. Do you understand?”

Ziv nodded. “I can see that. As people pray, they light up their immediate areas.”

“Right. And the people down there who have  gone to sleep, letting their fires die out, are like the people who are no longer praying for one reason or another. What do you think would happen if everyone woke up and relit their fires?”

“Well, there would be a lot more light. But it still wouldn’t be enough. Those fires would still be very little.”

“What if groups of people decided to combine their fires?”

“You mean share a campfire?”

“No, I mean add their campfire to another campfire.”

“That would make it twice as big, giving it twice the light. I think I see where you’re going with this. People combining their prayers with the prayers of others would create a brighter light that would illuminate more of the darkness. But even if everyone got together and made one huge bonfire, there‘s still way too much darkness that wouldn’t be touched.”

“What if the bonfire drew others? Like those who, through their own choices, had walked away from the light? What if they saw it and turned back to the light? And what if those who never had a light were drawn to it and wanted to join in?”

“Then the large fires would spread and become even larger.” Ziv’s eyes lit up. “Eventually the darkness, including that evil smell, would be gone. Everyone would be in the light!”

“Well, almost everyone. There are always those who prefer the darkness.”

Ziv was disappointed. Then what would be the point? And then it hit him. He turned to Ryder. “But that wouldn’t matter as much because the light would be greater than the darkness. The world would still be a better place.”

“Exactly.” Ryder smiled and closed his eyes.

Not wanting to disturb Ryder’s rest, Ziv continued to stare at the fires. Could it be that simple? Everyone praying together against the darkness, adding their light to the light of others around them? Turning from their own evil deeds making sure their light was as bright as possible, and strengthening each other’s lights in the process? What would it take for everyone to come together like this?

I have the same question. What would it take for all of us who call ourselves Christians to join together as Christ’s disciples – fully committed to all His ways – in order to share the light of God with the whole nation? I think maybe we’re beginning to find out.

Ecclesiastes 4:12  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

John 3:19-21  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. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come into the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

(Ziv as a boy’s name (also used as girl’s name Ziv), is pronounced zeev. It is of Hebrew origin, and the meaning of Ziv is “radiance, brilliance or light of God”. The name Ryder is a boy’s name of British origin meaning “cavalryman, messenger”.)

Turn Back to God? But I Never Left.

 If you say, “Turn back to God? But I never left.”

Are you sure?

Let me tell you a story.

There was once a man and a puppy. The man loved his puppy with his whole heart, and she loved him in return. He took care of all her needs: a comfortable bed, the best food, plenty of water, and lots of fun toys. He was quick to take care of any physical ailments, and spent many hours playing with, grooming, and cuddling her.

The only thing he asked for in return was her undivided love, and for her to stay in the yard he prepared for her, which would protect her from danger, and would also keep her from becoming separated from him. She happily agreed because the yard was beautiful and contained everything she needed.

Every time she heard her master coming to spend time with her, she would run from wherever she was and jump into his arms, kissing him with her puppy tongue, and wagging her tail so hard her whole body wagged right along with it. He would laugh and hug her tight, and then put her down to start their favorite game of chase. It was a great relationship which they both treasured.

One day while he was away, she noticed some loose boards in the fence. Curious, she pushed on them and found that she was able to peek into the next yard. She couldn’t see much, but she could hear excited barks. She pushed on one of the boards a little harder, and was able to make out a group of puppies chasing each other. That looked like fun, and she wanted to join in, but she remembered that her master wanted her to stay in the yard he made for her. So she resisted the temptation to call out to them and just watched them instead. Day after day, when the man was away, she would sit with her face framed between the loose boards, and watch. Eventually the other puppies noticed her.

“Hey, would you like to play with us?”

“I wish I could, but I can’t. I’m not supposed to leave my yard.”

“Why not?” asked a tan puppy with black spots.

“My master says it’s not safe.”

“That’s just dumb,” said a scruffy brown puppy. “We’re here every day and nothing has happened to us.”

“Yeah, your master sounds too strict,” chimed in another scruffy puppy, this one white.

“But he loves me and wants what’s best for me.”

The tan puppy ran closer to her. “Really? Then there’s no problem. He wants you to be happy, right?”

“Yes.”

“Would you be happy playing with us?”

“Yes, I think so. It looks fun.”

“Then what’s wrong with having a little fun with us? Your master will be glad that you’re happy. Besides, he’s not home. He won’t even know.”

She frowned. Something didn’t sound right about this, but the tan puppy made sense. “Okay, but just for a little while.”

The other puppies barked excitedly, welcoming her as she pushed past the loose boards.

Looking around, she immediately noticed this yard wasn’t as beautiful as her yard. It was dirtier, and crowded with all kinds of things. Some looked nice enough, like the wading pool, colorful balls, and yummy smelling chew toys. But others, like the thick chains, dirty muzzles, and rusty cages, were kind of threatening. “Don’t worry about those,” they assured her. “Just play with what you want.” So she did, and found being there as much fun as it had looked. Chasing the other puppies, fighting over toys, splashing in the muddy puddles, and barking at nothing were all amazingly entertaining. When she got tired, she rested under the tall, spreading trees. When she was thirsty, she drank from the community water bowl, gradually getting used to the taste of the discolored water. And when she got hungry, she shared the synthetic food the others ate. Eventually she began to worry about the time.

“I think I need to go now.”

“Sure, thanks for joining us. Will you come back tomorrow?”

“Maybe,” she said as she slipped back into her yard.

When the man arrived, she wasn’t quite as eager to greet him. A sense of guilt interfered with the joy she normally felt. Would he know that she had not stayed where he told her? But he didn’t say anything so she put the feeling behind her as they began their daily game of chase. Usually he chased her first. As soon as he touched her, he would run off, laughing and calling to her as she chased after him. It usually didn’t take long for her to catch him, and then they would roll around on the ground with lots of delighted laughter and happy barks. But this day was different. For some reason she could never get quite close enough to catch him.

The next day she couldn’t resist the urge to join her new friends again. The fun was just as intoxicating, and again the man didn’t say anything. Maybe he didn’t know. Maybe he wouldn’t have to know. Or maybe the other puppies were right. Maybe he didn’t care where she went as long as she was happy. So as the weeks went by, she not only joined them each day but arrived earlier and stayed later until she was spending most of her time over there.

Without being aware of it, her joy in her own yard slowly faded. She still loved her master, but found her new friends and their yard much more enticing. The more she played with them, the more she wanted to be with them. Chasing and digging and barking filled her days, and she returned to her yard guilty and exhausted each evening.  Her run-and-jump into the man’s arms was replaced with a crawl, sometimes even reluctantly when she was especially tired. She still enjoyed her time with him, but sometimes had trouble staying focused on him as the thoughts of the other yard filled her mind.  She still ate her good food, but it became more of snack because the cheap food kept her stomach full. And the more of the dirty water she drank, the less thirsty she was for her own clean water.

The man saw the difference – in her attitude, in her lack of cleanliness, and in her health as slowly the unhealthy food and water took its toll. He knew she had been leaving the yard, but he had been waiting for her to realize the consequences weren’t worth the disobedience. And he was hoping her love for him, and his love for her, would be stronger than the pull of the other yard. But one day he couldn’t wait any longer.

“Where have you been going?”

“Nowhere,” she lied, looking away from him.

He shook his head sadly. “Don’t you know that the filth of that other yard, the filth that now covers you, separates us?”

Convicted, she whispered, “I’m sorry. I won’t go back. I don’t want to be separated from you. Please clean me up.”

He did, and their relationship was restored. But the pull of the other yard was strong, as were the voices of the puppies calling to her. So again and again, she continued to leave her yard to join them in theirs. And again and again her master cleaned her when she asked. Eventually though, she came to think like the other puppies. “My master will always be there. He loves me and will always forgive me. So what’s wrong with having a little fun?”

Now for the big question… did that puppy turn away from her master?”

And for an even bigger question… have you turned away from your Master? I know I have. We all have. It’s just a degree of how far into that other yard we’ve gone.

God’s calling us to come back. Can you hear Him?


Deuteronomy 10:12  “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (emphasis mine)

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

 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.

Amusement Park: Swinging Boat

Amusement Park: Swinging Boat

“Where do you want to sit,” Jesus asked Amalia.

“It doesn’t matter,” Amalia responded with a huge smile. “We’re on the boat. That’s all I care about.”

Jesus smiled back. “Just being on the boat might be enough for some. But I know you. Once we get moving, you’re going to start comparing. So you may as well do that now.”

Amalia looked at the rows of seats. Half were on her right, the other half were on her left. Both sides were facing each other. It looked like they would all get the same ride, swinging both frontwards and backwards. So what did Jesus mean about comparing them?

She imagined sitting in the first row on her right. She pictured the boat swinging forward as high as it could go, and where she would be at its greatest height. Then she pictured how high the last row would go. And she understood. That first row would not rise near as high in the sky as that last row. If she chose the first row, she would not experience as much of the swing as she would if she sat on the last row.

“That’s it, isn’t it?” she asked Jesus. “By choosing where I sit, I can control how much of the swing I experience.”

“Exactly. So, where do you want to sit?”

“I want to experience this ride to its fullest. I choose the back row!”

“I was hoping you would say that. Come on.”

Jesus led her past all the seats on the right side until they got to the last row. “Here you go. This is going to be great!”

Amalia’s anticipation increased as the boat began filling with people. Finally, the ride attendee announced the boat was full, and closed the gate with a clang. He pushed a button, and the boat began its first swing.

At first the swings were small, and Amalia could barely feel the gentle rise and fall. But the swings grew stronger and rose higher on every pass. Soon Amalia felt the need to hold on as her seat became perpendicular to the ground. The only thing keeping her from falling was her seatbelt.

It was exhilarating! The delicious anticipation as she climbed higher, the momentary lull at the very top, and then the stomach-dropping fall made this ride all that she hoped it would be. She laughed as she rose, and screamed in delightful fear at each free fall, knowing she was safe with Jesus.

After several swings, she noticed a difference. Being able to see the top of the rise, or the bottom of the fall, when she was moving forward made the gut-wrenching thrill easier to handle than when she rose or fell backwards. Not being able to see where she was going made it harder to tell when the rise would turn into a fall, or when a fall was finally over and she began to rise again. So even though she knew that she was secure in the boat, and that no fall would last indefinitely, she preferred the thrill of seeing over the alarm of not seeing.

“Just like when you’re walking with Me,” came the familiar soft whisper in her heart. “You love when you can see where you’re going, both when things are going well and you’re heading for great heights, as well as when things fall apart and you can see how much longer before you rise again. But you’re not so fond of experiencing the same things without the help of your sight. Being able to see the WHEN makes the WHAT easier. If you only faced one direction, you wouldn’t get the whole experience.  Just as this boat ride includes ups and downs in both directions, regardless of the seat you choose, your life also includes ups and downs with and without sight. Both the seeing and the not seeing builds your trust in different ways, making your faith complete in a way not possible with just one. And just as you are secure with Me on this boat, you are secure with Me in your life. Once you understand that, you can enjoy the walk with Me no matter which way you’re facing.”

Amanda nodded. This ride was turning out to be one of her favorites. But would it be if she didn’t have Jesus by her side? If she didn’t know He was keeping her safe through every move, both on this ride and in her life?

She was glad she would never have to find out.


James 1:2-4  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Philippians 4:11-12 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound, in any and every circumstance. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.