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)

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)

Amusement Park: Bungee Jump

Amusement Park: Bungee Jump

“Are you ready?” the man asked as he did a final check on the straps.

Amalia wasn’t so sure. It had sounded doable from down below, but from up here, it looked insane. Jump out into nothingness, with only a bungee cord attached to her? How does He talk her into these things? 0614202153 (2)

 

She looked down again at the tiny X. Her target. Second thoughts plagued her as her heart tried to beat its way out of her chest. Maybe He was just testing her, like He had with Abraham. Maybe He would stop her before she stepped off the edge. Or maybe she had heard Him wrong. Maybe there was another way down, one that provided more security. Like an elevator. She turned around to ask Him, but He was not there.

Panic joined her fear, and she began to shake. Wasn’t He going to jump with her? He promised He’d always be with her. Didn’t that include impossible things, like this jump?

She looked back over the edge of the platform again.

No, no… she couldn’t do it. She could not make herself walk off that platform no matter what He had said.

“You can trust Me,” He had said.

“Do not fear,” He had said.

“I will be with you,” He had said.

“You were made for this,” He had said.

But now that it was actually time for that first step, she regretted ever agreeing to it. Turning around, she opened her mouth to tell the man that she had changed her mind, but stopped when she saw him shake his head. “No turning back,” he told her, gesturing for her to turn back around. “You may as well get it done. The longer you procrastinate, the harder it will be.”

Dismayed, and with a sense of fatality, she turned back to the great expanse of nothingness. She had no idea what was going to happen, but if she had to jump, then jump she would. If she perished, it would be God’s fault, since He was the one who got into this predicament.

She took the smallest steps she could, inch by inch, until she got to the edge. Breathing rapidly, not daring to look down again, she lifted a foot. And froze. She couldn’t do it. She just didn’t have it in her to continue.

“Yes, you do,” came a soft, encouraging whisper from deep within her. “Because I’m in you. Don’t trust what you fear; trust what I’ve promised.”

Grasping tightly to that voice, she stepped off.

It was just as terrifying as she had thought. The target grew quickly until it was all she saw. She was going to crash! But just as that thought formed in her mind, she was jerked back up into the air. The bungee cord! She had forgotten about that!

Her second descent wasn’t near as frightening as the initial one. A calmness now rose up in her, and she began to enjoy herself. This time, as she neared the target, she was confident the bungee cord would save her.

Her joy and sense of freedom, a freedom filled with the Presence inside her, increased on each subsequent fall. By the time the ride was over and she was standing on the X, she was hooked. She couldn’t wait until she could jump off into nothingness again.

“Amalia, well done!” Jesus congratulated her as He walked up.

“Jesus! That was amazing! I want to do it again!”

He laughed. “You will get many chances. Each time I ask you to speak to someone about Me, especially to people who may ridicule or persecute you, it will be like jumping off that platform. But don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you. Remember that I am in you, strengthening you from the inside, and that my love for you will keep you safe.”

Amalia wasn’t too sure about the ‘ridicule’ and ‘persecution’ parts, but the rest was exciting. More chances to jump with Him? Anytime!

 


 

How often do we let fear of what others say stop us from going where God sends us? How do you deal with that fear?

 

Scriptures:

Matt 28:19-20  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Proverbs 29:25 (ESV)  The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.

Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Heb 11:1 (By Faith) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Heb 11:8 By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going.

Heb 11:17-19  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

1 Cor 2:5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Amusement Park: Swinging Box

Amusement Park: Swinging Box

“How about that ride?” Jesus pointed to a box hanging by four poles from a horizontal bar.  “I love riding this one!”

Amalia agreed, and they climbed in. “This swing is supposed to be able to go all the way around, right?”

“Yes, if you keep working at it.”

“I’m ready.”

Amalia waited. But nothing happened. No motor came on to move them. The box remained stationary.

“Is this ride broken? Why isn’t it swinging?”

“It’s waiting for you.”

“For me? What do I have to do? I’m already inside, standing up, holding on to the wall handles. I’m ready. So why doesn’t someone push the button to get this ride moving?” She leaned out the window. “Hey, anybody out there?”

“Amalia, You have to get it moving.”

“How do I do that?” She studied the walls, ceiling, and floor. “There are no buttons in here either.”

“The power comes from your body. You have to move, and then the box will move.”

“Oh, okay, if I have to.” She began hopping, jumping from foot to foot. The box jiggled, 0605202043 (2)but didn’t start swinging. She jumped harder, willing the box to swing, but it only jiggled more violently. “Come on, box! Why are you just jiggling? Start swinging!”  Frustrated at the lack of desired response, she looked at Jesus. He was laughing.

 

“Why are You laughing?”

“I’m laughing at the confusion this box must have, being jumped on like that. It’s reacting exactly as it should to what you are doing.”

“What do you mean? I’m trying as hard as I can to get it to swing, but it just bounces!”

“I know. But have you noticed that when you jump up and down, the box does the same?”

“How else am I supposed to get it to move?” Amalia frowned. “Besides, I like jumping.”

“Think about how a swing works. Specific movements are required. Any other movements won’t result in the swing moving in the direction it was made to move. You know, it’s kind of like when you do acts of service for people. You have to fit your actions to what they need. If you do only what you like or want, you won’t get worthwhile results.”

“What do you mean?”

“When you help people, you want to make their lives a little better, right? You want to bring them some happiness, share some love, or meet a need they have. But what if you only did what you wanted? What if someone needed their yard mowed, but you only liked to give food. If you went to them with food, they wouldn’t be very appreciative. They might be confused, or maybe even hurt that you weren’t really thinking about them.”

“Okay, I think I get it. “ She imagined sitting on a swing, and focused on which movements the swing needed her body to make into order to move. “Oh, I have to shift my weight frontwards and backwards.”

Amalia rocked back and forth. The box began to swing slightly. “It’s working!”

“Great! Keep going!”

After a while, sweaty from the effort, Amalia stopped moving. “Jesus, this is too hard. I’ve done my best, but I can only get halfway up. Can You help me?”

“I thought you’d never ask!”

He threw His weight with hers, and the box quickly climbed higher with each swing. Soon the momentum of the box’s movements added to their effort, and Amalia found that she didn’t have to work as hard at it as she had at the beginning.

“This is fantastic!” Amalia laughed aloud.

With Jesus grinning by her side, they continued shifting their weight, and the box climbed even higher. Higher and higher and higher, until they were directly above the horizontal bar. They lingered there just a moment, before swinging back down, and up the other side until they were above the horizontal bar again.

Amalia marveled. To be suspended up in the air like that had to be one of the most fascinating experiences she’s ever had.

And then it got better. On the next swing up, instead of lingering at the top, it kept moving. It continued down the back, then up and over again, making complete circles around the horizontal bar.

Amalia couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. “More! More!”

“That’s enough for now. Your body isn’t ready to maintain this for long. You need to take time to rest.”

Disappointed as the box slowly settled to a gentle swing, and then to a stop, Amalia realized her body was indeed spent. Jesus was right. She did need a rest.

And then, she reassured herself, she would get Him to take her up on this ride again.

 

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

How do you know what people need?

All comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated!

 

Scriptures:

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Galatians 6:9-10 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Romans 12:10-11 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Mark 6:30-31a The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest for a while.

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 2

Amusement Park: Haunted House, Sixth Room – Mountain, part 2

The climb was just hard as she has imagined it. The dangers were every bit as real, and the top of the mountain never seemed any closer. It felt like she was going to be climbing forever. Jesus was true to His word. He directed her along paths away from cliffs, showed her good plants to eat, gave her clean water from surprising sources when she was thirsty, chased away all the dangerous animals, and provided safe places to rest when she got too tired to move on. Sometimes He would disappear – preparing the way, He said – but was always within earshot. All she had to do was call, and He was back by her side.

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And yet, in between the hard places, there were times she was delightfully surprised at what she found. Refreshing streams bubbling over colorful pebbles and emptying into golden emerald ponds.  Birds singing to each other from the branches of the trees. A newborn fawn laying in the shadow of bushes loaded with berries. An unexpected clearing covered with a patch of soft grass. The powerful sound of the wind in the tall trees that surrounded her. The majestic view of the valley below her surrounded by even higher mountains. Abandoned cabins, still containing signs of the life it once held.

Her favorites, though, were the places where the water fell from great heights, bouncing over boulders of varying sizes, and splashing down into refreshing pools at the bottom. Her eyes traveled the path of the water droplets, letting the roar and splashing of the water fill her until she thought of nothing else. She tried to imagine what it would be like to be able to play with the waterfall like the birds did as they flew in and out of the mist created by the splashing water. Or what kinds of secret caves the falling water hid. The smaller waterfalls were just as intriguing. Sometimes the water looked like it was rushing to its destination, while the water in other waterfalls seemed to be enjoying a much slower pace. She couldn’t resist reaching out to touch the water, and marveled at the sensation of the icy coldness running over her hand. No matter how big or little the waterfall was, she wanted to spend hours at each. Sometimes Jesus let her, but other times He called her away to continue their walk.

Slowly, Amalia’s attitude began to change. Her trust in Jesus grew as He did what He said He would do, and she no longer feared what she might face. No matter how hard it got, knowing He was there made it all doable. She found her focus shifting from anticipating the unknown to finding joy in the moment. She didn’t have to worry about how to cross this mountain. She didn’t have to worry about how to deal with any problems or obstacles that might arise. That was Jesus’ job. All she had to do was follow His directions. With Him taking care of the big scary details, she was free to enjoy the small fun ones.

But then they entered a fog that grew thicker with each step. The swirling mist swallowed up everything around them until she could barely see the ground in front of her. She even lost sight of Jesus from time to time.

“Jesus? What is this?”

“Not to worry. This mountain is so tall that it goes up into the clouds. The fog around us, the clouds, shows us that we are nearing the top.”

“But I can’t see anything. How can I stay on the path when I can’t even see it?”

“It’s no different than before. I’m still with you. I’m still guiding, protecting, and providing for you.”

“I bet You can see through this… this… swirling mess. That’s why You can say it’s no different. But it IS different for me. I can’t see!”

“You don’t have to. You have Me.”

“But, how will I be able to follow You if I can’t see You?” Amalia stopped walking. “How do I know that the next step I take won’t lead me off a cliff?”

Jesus sighed. “Amalia, I thought you trusted Me.”

“I do, but this is different.”

“Why? Have I changed?”

“No.”

“Other than the fog, has the mountain changed?”

“No. I don’t think so, but then, how would I know if I can’t see it?”

“What if I told you that it hadn’t?”

“I guess I would believe You.”

“So, if I haven’t changed, and the mountain hasn’t changed, what changed?”

Amalia thought about that for a few minutes. And then she got it.

“My vision. What I can see changed.”

“Exactly. You trusted Me before, trust Me now. Instead of focusing on what you see, focus on what you hear.”

Amalia wasn’t happy about this turn of events. It wasn’t fair to expect her to continue walking a hard path without being able to enjoy the beauty along the way. And, being a visual learner, she had always done better using her sight than her hearing. Suddenly she wanted nothing else than to be on the other side of the mountain and in the car that was supposed to be waiting for them. “Okay, fine. Let’s go. The faster we do this, the faster we can get to the other side.”

If Jesus minded her tone, He didn’t show it. “That’s the spirit!” He said. “We’re not far from the top.”

At first Jesus stayed close by, telling her where to walk, encouraging each step she took, and letting her know if she wandered to the left or to the right of the path. It wasn’t as bad as walking completely blind because Amalia could still see the ground, but only enough of it to take one or two hesitant steps at a time. She missed using her sight, but slowly began to get better at using her ears. Through the fog she could hear the calls of the birds and imagine them flitting from branch to another. She could hear the roar of the waterfalls and imagine the crashing water. She could hear the mighty wind above her and imagine the leaves dancing in the trees . As she focused on the sounds around her, she realized that she could hear Jesus better also.

Slowly, as she grew comfortable following Jesus’ words instead of His body, she actually began to enjoy the walk, taking each step more confidently. She found a strange beauty in the fog that she had never noticed before. The fog’s muting of the birds, waterfalls, and wind was actually peaceful. Almost like being in the dark room with Jesus. She didn’t even mind when the dirt path became covered with snow, making the path even harder to walk. She trusted that Jesus would not let her wander into dangerous ground, and would be quick to correct her each time she drifted from the path He had her on. However, the increasing strength of the wind around her caused her some concern. Jesus had told her He would direct her steps, but what was going to keep her from blowing off the mountain? And where was He, by the way? It dawned on her that she hadn’t heard His voice for a while now. She stopped walking and listened harder. No Voice. Had she become overconfident and taken a wrong turn somewhere? Was she lost now?

“Jesus! Where are You?”

So soft, like a whisper just barely heard over the wind, came the words, “Remember what I told you.”

“That’s it? That’s all I get when I need You the most?”

“It’s enough.”

She wanted to scream in frustration. She had done everything He had asked her. She had trusted everything He said. And this is where it got her? Lost in the blinding fog and blown around by the gusty wind? She shivered as she realized she was also freezing. She stooped down, hugging her knees, in an effort to escape the harsh conditions around her. Feeling abandoned and alone and afraid, she faced her worse fear: she was going to die.

When Walking Gets Hard

Walking used to be easy. In fact, it was so easy, she pretty much bounced with each step. She loved to  listen to the birds and watch the  squirrels scurry about as she walked.

But after a long time, she noticed it was getting harder and harder to walk. She no longer had a bounce in her step. Each step took deliberate effort. It felt like she was walking into a strong wind. But there wasn’t any wind. Or like she was wading through deep water. But there was no flood.  So what was slowing her down, making her work so hard to keep her forward momentum? She had no idea. All she knew was that she had to keep moving if she wanted to make it back home.

Much more time passed, and she was still struggling. In fact, it was now so hard to move it took all her concentration. She had no interest in the birds or squirrels. Each step took every ounce of determination she had as she slowly forced it forward. She held her arms up in front of her as she bent forwards, hoping that by shifting her center of balance, she could get gravity to help move her forwards. But even her arms took effort to keep them in front of her.

Bent almost double now, sweat pouring from her body, she wondered if she should just quit. It would be so easy to stop moving. Staying in the same place wouldn’t be so bad, would it? It was nice here. She thought of her home. It was nicer than where she was, but was it really worth the effort? What if the effort cost her more than she had? What if she died trying to get home? What good would her home do her then? Maybe staying in this place was best after all.

She had just about stopped moving when she heard a whisper coming from deep within her. No, not quite a whisper. Just the hint of a voice, really. So quiet she almost missed it. “Keep going,” was all it said. But with the voice came a strong sense of longing to finish this walk and get home – a feeling that someone was watching and cheering her on. Not understanding but willing to trust it, she started moving again.

It took tremendous strength and even more willpower to take the next few steps. She was so tired, she could think of nothing except shuffling her feet forward one inch at a IMG_20181009_074336724time. But after a time, she realized she was getting stronger. She could see muscles in her arms and legs where previously there was only flab. And her feet were beginning to move a little easier. Instead of an inch, she was able to go several inches with each step. Then a whole foot at a time. It was like as she got stronger, whatever had a hold on her began to break off piece by piece. Soon she was able to straighten up and walk with her hands swinging by her sides again. Moving quickly now, she was delighted to see her home come into view.

As she turned into the driveway, she noticed she was once again bouncing with each step. Squirrels scampered around the nearby trees that lined the long driveway. And she heard a bird singing somewhere over her head.

Sighing with pleasure, she was so glad she had not given up. Yes, all that effort WAS worth it! She was home!

Bella – Epilogue 

Bella spent many days visiting the lake. No matter how often or what time she arrived, she would find God there. And no matter how many questions she asked, He always answered them patiently. Some answers were clear and easy to understand, others were a bit vaguer.

“Why did You tell me You were Pastor Toby when I first met You?”

“If I had told you I was God, what would you have done?”

She thought a moment, then laughed. “I’d have run as fast and as far as I could to get away from You.”

“That’s why. I meet people where they are. I reveal only what they are ready to hear.”

“What is this place? This church that seems bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside?”

“Kind of like spiritual life. From the outside, life with Me often seems small and contained when actually it’s very much the opposite.”

Bella nodded with understanding.

“And why does Your back yard look so different to me than it did to that lady who saw a forest?”

“Because each of you have a totally unique relationship with Me. What you see and experience is based on who you are and how I made you.”

“OK, I can get that. What I can’t understand is how this place can be two things at once. Or more likely thousands of things at once.”

“I’m not bound by your laws of physics. I’m beyond any law.”

“But… thousands??”

“I’m big,” He said with a shrug. “Thousands is nothing to Me.”

“So if You’re that big, how can You take notice of something as small as me?”

“Because of all the things I’ve created, I love you the most.”

Bella smiled. Amazing, she thought, that this God could love her this much. Little did she know how much her God really did love her. That would be revealed to her at another time, when she was ready. For now, she was content to sit His presence, soaking up His love, and learning all she could each day.

IMG_20181005_154104240

The End

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15   16

17

Bella – part 18 Meltdown

Bella allowed the music to strengthen her as she reached for the garden door. Taking a deep breath, she slowly let it out trying to calm herself. She had to be clear headed when she found Pastor Toby. It wouldn’t do her any good if she was too scared to say what she wanted, what she needed to say. She took another deep breath, held it, and opened the door.

At first all she saw was the flowers and plants he tended. A mixture of disappointment and relief surged through her. Maybe he wasn’t here after all. But then she saw something move at the end of the row and heard a very quiet chuckle. Pastor Toby! Had he seen her? As if he had heard her thoughts, he called out, “Hi, Bella! So glad you’re here. Come look what I found today.”

Bella walked up to him and looked where he pointed. Next to a tiny, empty chrysalis was IMG_20181005_154120386a brand new butterfly. Wings still drying, the beautiful turquoise and black insect rested on a leaf. Bella stared at the tiny creature, tears filling her eyes as her heart seemed to grow too big to contain. What was going on? She had seen plenty of butterflies before, but none had affected her as this one was doing. If she wasn’t careful, she was going to lose herself in the flood of feelings rising in her.

She tore her eyes from the butterfly and looked at Pastor Toby. “I need to ask you something,” she said.

“I know,” he said, smiling at her. “Let’s do this.”

Now that the moment was here, she didn’t know exactly how to start. Should she be blunt or lead into it more slowly? Not being one to beat around the bush, she asked, “Are you human?”

“Nope,” he answered looking at her with a hint of joyful expectation.

She found looking into his eyes to be as emotional as looking at the butterfly. Tears beginning to stream down her face, she tried to turn away. She did NOT want to cry. She didn’t like to cry and avoided it at all costs. So why was she crying now? It didn’t make any sense. Was he doing something to her? She could hear the music from inside the house getting louder and seemingly to swirl around her. There was something in that music. Something that seemed to reach deep inside her. That’s it! Maybe he was brainwashing her through the music! But the harder she tried to turn away, the more the tears came. She had to do something – anything – to break this.. this… mind control.

“Um… can we go to the lake?” she asked him. “We can talk on the way.” That would get her away from the music, as well as give her a reason to not make eye contact and a chance to regain her composure.

“Sure, whatever makes you feel more comfortable.” He turned and gestured towards the lake, inviting her to take the first step.

Released from his gaze, she started walking quickly towards the lake, hurrying to get out of reach of the music. She noticed he matched her pace, staying right by her side.

“So, you’re not human?” she asked as they walked.

“No, I’m not.”

“Are you here to capture this planet?”

“If by capture you mean take control, yes. I do plan to take control one day.”

Surprised to not only get direct answers for a change, but to be told right out that he planned on taking control, she was speechless. But only for a minute.

“Why?” she burst out. “Why take our planet when you have your own?”

“This is my planet. I’ll just be taking back control of it.”

“Your planet? You used to have control? When did you lose it? How?”

“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you someday. But I think you have a more important question to ask me, don’t you.”

She had to admit he was right. As curious as she was about the control issue, it was a distraction from what she really wanted to know.

“What are you going to do to us? To me?”

“Nothing you don’t want done. But I want to heal you of so many injuries you’ve suffered in your life. I want to make your life better. And I want you to live with me forever.”

“But what if I don’t want to live with you forever?”

“I will never force you. It’s totally our choice.”

“And what if I told you I was going to warn everyone about you? What if I talked to reporters about your plans?”

“That would be awesome!”

Taken aback, totally not expecting that answer, she stopped and looked at him. “You don’t care if I tell the whole world about you?”

“No. In fact, I wish you would. I wish all my children would.”

“Aren’t you afraid of military attacking you and forcing you to leave?”

“No, they can’t do any more than what I allow them. And I’m not going anywhere. I have many people yet to save here.”

“But you’re just one alien. Wait, is Jude… of course he is. So there are only two of you aliens. Against a whole army. And you don’t feel threatened?”

“Nope.”

Bella continued walking, trying to make sense of all this. None of her scenarios had even come close to this. Why wasn’t he threatened? Did he think he was more powerful than an entire army? Evidently he did. What kind of alien could be this powerful? A whole ship load of them might feel invincible, but just one or two?

And why did she still feel the song swirling throughout her inner being? She couldn’t really hear it with her ears anymore, but it was like her very soul was reaching out and soaking it in. Her heart felt open and raw, seeking his touch, his presence. And she felt a sense of longing growing in her – longing to be with him no matter where he went. To be with him forever. Just the thought of losing him should the military kill him created a pain so deep she couldn’t bear it. Tears began streaming down her face again as she turned to him.

“What kind of alien are you?”

“Alien?” He laughed. “I never said I was an alien.”

“But you said…”

“I said I wasn’t human.”

“Then… who are you?”

“I’m God.”

“God? Like God-in-the-bible God?”

“I am.”

Just two simple words, but it was enough. All the confusion fled her mind as if a bright light was turned on. For a moment she saw clearly who she stood before. This was the almighty, all powerful God! The Creator of the heavens and the earth! This was GOD!

She fell face down before Him, sobbing and feeling so insignificant and dirty. She was nothing compared to Him.

“Oh, God, I am so sorry. Please forgive me for all my evil thoughts against you.”

“You’re forgiven,” He immediately responded with a voice so gentle and loving that she dared to look up. Then it hit her. This was also the One who had made her – and loved her – and only wanted her love in return. As she looked into His eyes, she felt His love for her totally engulf her. Her heart swelled until she thought it would burst. And she knew beyond a doubt, that there was nowhere she’d rather be than here in His presence. Forever.

“I love You,” she told Him. “I want to be with You forever. I never want to be separated from You even for a moment.”

“That’s totally possible,” He answered. “All you have to do is invite me inside your heart. My Spirit will come and set up dwelling there. And we will never ever be apart again.”

“Yes! Yes! Please come into my heart!”

“Done!” He face lit up with joy so brightly He seemed to glow! Yet she had no trouble seeing His hand reach down to raise her up. Standing next to Him, tears drying on her cheeks, she couldn’t resist hugging Him. As her arms wrapped around Him, His joy enveloped her until she felt like she would burst if she didn’t start dancing or something. So she did! She danced all the way to the pier with Him dancing right beside her. Breathless, she sat down and turned to Him.

“I have some questions…” she began.

And He laughed.

 

 

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15   16    17

Bella – part 17 Today is the Day

Bella woke with a start. She had a strong sense that there was something dangerous she needed to do. Something important. What was it?

And then she remembered.

Today was the day she would confront Pastor Toby. Was she ready?

Heart thumping loudly in her chest, she got up and went into the bathroom. Staring at her reflection in the mirror, she wondered if she was brave enough to go through with it. Or was it being stupid? Maybe she should just forget about it and accept it like everyone else seemed to have done.

No! She had already been through this and the decision had been made. She would go confront him today no matter how bad it might turn out. She thought about the possibilities as she got dressed.

  1. He was an alien and would feel threatened by her knowledge and she would end up imprisoned somewhere in that weird church.
  2. He was an alien but would deny it and she would be dismissed as having a great imagination.
  3. He wasn’t an alien and would laugh at Andy’s joke on her and she’d end up a fool.
  4. He wasn’t an alien and he’d seriously question her sanity and she’d end up in a mental hospital.

She didn’t like any of those scenarios so she created one more, one she hoped would happen: He was an alien and her threat to take what she knew to the media would be enough to make him pack up his church and leave the planet. Without the secrecy, there was no point in him being here to observe anymore. And she might actually come out of this a hero.

Bolstered by the thought of saving the world, she took one last glance in the mirror, saluted herself, then left her apartment.

She was surprised to see how empty the sidewalks were. Being early morning, she’d have assumed at least there would be many people heading to work. “I wonder where everyone is,” she mumbled. It felt weird to have the sidewalk all to herself and she hurried the few blocks to the church.

As she walked, a tiny voice inside her whispered, “What about his love for you?”  She had forgotten about that. She let herself remember how accepting he was, how loved she felt in his presence. And how much she longed to spend more time with him. Then another thought filled her mind. She only felt that way because he used some kind of alien technology on people to brainwash them feel that way. It wasn’t real. Shaking her head, she pushed aside all thoughts except the one about confronting him.

When she got there, she found the church door open, as if waiting for her arrival. She squared her shoulders and marched through the entrance, across the foyer, and up to Pastor Toby’s door.

Again, she found the door already open. “What’s going on here?” she wondered, eyes IMG_20181005_154132429darting around. Was everyone hiding? Did they know what she was about to do and wanted to watch the show? Not seeing anyone, she cautiously entered the living room.

Now what, she thought. Do I wait for him or Jude to arrive, or do I go looking for him?

As she stood there, just inside the door, she heard singing. It was a different song, but the same singer. No doubt about that.

Not knowing what to do, she listened to the soul-stirring music coming from somewhere down the hall. Although she couldn’t understand the lyrics, she felt drawn by the melody, like it was calling her and making her feel safe. And courageous. Like it was encouraging her to do what she had come to do.

Taking a deep breath, she crossed the room and entered the hallway. Where should she look first? The kitchen?  Isn’t that where Pastor Toby spends a lot of his time? And it was breakfast time so where else would he be? The garden, maybe? Since the kitchen was on the way to the garden, she decided to try it first.

But when she got to the kitchen, it was empty. Not even food cooking on the stove. Maybe he’s not up yet, she thought. Maybe I should just go.

But the soft sound of a song from that sweet unseen singer drifted into her mind, and she was filled with the sense that something exciting was about to happen if only she kept looking.

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15   16

Bella, part 16  The Deserted Island, the Insect, and the Lion, Oh My

As her breathing calmed, so did her mind.

“Ok,” she said to herself. “You wanted to know the truth. Well, now you know it. What are you going to do about it?”

“Hide,” herself answered.

“Forever?”

“Maybe.”

“That won’t work. Eventually you… I… will need to eat.”

“I’ll call take-out.”

“And how will you pay for it when you lose your job for not going to work?”

“Umm… OK… you have a point. So what are you going to do?”

She thought about that for a long time.

“I think I need to go back to the church and confront Pastor Toby. See what he has to say. Maybe Andy was just pulling my leg.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? What if he won’t let you leave?”

She thought about that before answering, “I’ll just have to take my chances. What else can I do? Ignore the whole thing?”

“Why not?”

“Because I can’t. Not any more than I could ignore hearing something buzzing around my head. I have to know so I can protect myself. Or at least know enough to come up with a plan.”

“You can protect yourself without going back. Just hide out here.”

“We just went through this. I can’t hide out here forever. I need more information so I’ll know exactly what I’m protecting myself from. Besides, what if this whole thing is a joke? Then if I did like you say – hide out here – it would be for nothing. And so would any plan I come up with. So I HAVE to go back. To make sure. And to find out more.”

“OK. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Bella shook her head. Conversations in her head were nothing new to her, but this one had really felt like two people. Was she schizo now? It didn’t matter. Pastor Toby was real even if the voice in her head wasn’t.

Bella got up and went to her desk. It might be good to start keeping a journal. Just in case. She dug out an old notebook from the bottom drawer, tore out the used pages she didn’t need any more, then wrote the date at the top of the first clean page.

She began writing.

Tomorrow may be the last day of my life. At least life as I know it. Am I really going to do this? Confront Pastor Toby? Make him admit he’s an alien? Demand to know his plans for me? What will he do? Send me to his home planet? Keep me captive in his weird home? Kill me?

If anyone reads this after I’m gone, please be careful. Aliens are real. They are here. And they are dangerous. Pastor Toby is one of them. Don’t try to confront him by yourself. Call the police. No, call the National Guard. Or the FBI. Anyone with lots of firepower. Just don’t go there alone or you may end up like me.

Bella put down her pen, yawned, and looked at the time. 3:07 PM. Still early enough to get in a short nap before dinner. She yawned again. Why was she so tired? It was getting very hard to keep her eyes open. She stumbled to her room and climbed into her bed, and was asleep before her head hit the pillow.

She had a series of dreams. In one, she found herself on a deserted island. Dangerous IMG_20180929_084745719sounds coming from the jungle behind her, sharks and jellyfish in the water in front of her kept her from any attempt to escape. She spent her time pacing up and down the beach, trying to decide which way she wanted to die – facing the unknown dangers in the jungle or the known dangers in the water. Then a boat appeared. She knew the water was too shallow for the boat to reach the beach. Yet she also knew if she could get to the boat, she would be saved. If only she could muster up enough courage to face the jellyfish and sharks that might be close by.

In another dream, she was holding a can of bug spray and hunting a huge, dangerous looking insect that someone had warned her about. But when she found it, it turned out to be so tiny it was no threat to her at all.

In yet another dream, she was being chased by a hungry lion. The faster she ran from it, the closer it got to her. After running for what felt like forever, she couldn’t run any more. Resigned to her death, she turned to face the lion, expecting it to leap on her and sink its fangs deep into her throat. But instead of attacking, the lion began licking her as if she were one if its cubs.

When Bella woke, it was dark. Disorientated, sweaty and still shaking from her dreams, she turned on the lamp to check the time. 11:25? Wow, she thought. She really had been tired. Must be the result of the internal struggle she’s been going through ever since that first day when she ran into the church to escape the pushy lady. She wondered what would have happened had she not chosen the church that day. What if she had just let the lady help her? Probably her life would have gone back to normal. Her sad, lonely normal life. She certainly wouldn’t be thinking about confronting an alien, right?

Should she try to go back to sleep? No, that wouldn’t work. She was too wound up from here dreams. Maybe she would feel better if she ate something. Bella slid out of bed and went to the kitchen. She popped two slices of bread into the toaster and some leftover spaghetti into the microwave. Then she went to her desk to turn on her computer. Wanting something light to help dispel the residual uneasiness from her dreams, she searched for a comedy on Netflix. She chose an episode of Cheers which had always been able to make her laugh just as she heard the microwave beep. She returned a few minutes later with her plate of warm spaghetti and cheesy garlic toast, settled in front of her computer, and began to eat. Familiar food and entertainment brought comfort to her body and mind and she felt herself relaxing. Good, she thought. At least if I’m going to die tomorrow, I going to enjoy the last night of my life.

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15