Little By Little: A Warning, Part 4 of 4 (Based on a Dream, June 25, 2021)

Mallory sat at the kitchen table, chin resting on her hands. Glumly she thought about her house, or what her house had become. She no longer recognized it. Over the last six months, Jag had made his mark in every room, and was beginning to hint that he needed her bedroom to house the rest of his family when they arrived.  She knew she had to make Jag and his siblings leave. But there were too many of them to physically force them out.

Mallory had gone to the police only to be told there was nothing they could do. She was the one who had invited him to move in and to make himself at home without any sort of lease. Once his mailing address had been established at her house – done when his siblings had written to him – he was in effect a tenant. And tenants had to be evicted. That required a lengthy process involving formal notices and court hearings. In the meantime, as long as he didn’t damage the property, Jag had the right to privacy and the freedom to do what he wanted, including letting family members move in. When she had complained that he had sold her personal items and kept the money, she had not been able to prove it so the police could do nothing about that either.

Sighing, Mallory got up and looked around. How did she end up where she was? Living in a house that seemed like it was no longer hers, at the mercy of strangers and helpless to change it? Regrets filled her with cold despair. So many things she should have done.

She should have made Jag sign a lease when he first moved in.

She should have limited the rooms he had access to.

She should have stopped him the first time he overstepped his boundaries.

She should have involved the law as soon as he messed with her personal property.

She should have made his sister leave instead of leaving the door open for more siblings to join them.

She should have been more assertive and less understanding.

But how was she supposed to know how far he would go? She would never have done to anyone what he had to her. Now it was too late. All she could do was accept the reality of what her home had become, and hope someday, after a long, difficult battle, to get it back.

Matthew 7:15

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Little By Little: A Warning, Part 3 of 4 (Based on a Dream, June 25, 2021)

Mallory stood at the entrance to her living room, stunned. Her furniture was gone. All of it. From the softly padded recliner couch and elegant glass-topped coffee table to the six-foot wooden bookcase and large wall painting – everything had been replaced with cheap thrift store pieces. A long piece of driftwood stood where her grandfather clock had been. In place of her thick floral area rug lay a threadbare remnant. The walls were bare except for a curling poster of a band she had never heard of.

Anger built in her as the shock wore off. Jag! It had to be him. Who else had the lack of respect for her things as he did? Ever since he had tossed her boxes of memories into the dump a few months ago, she had been watching him closely but he had shown no signs of removing anything else. Other than giving her excuse after excuse for not moving out, and constantly forgetting to clean up behind himself, he had been a decent guest. Until today.

“Jag!”  she called down the hallway. “Jag! We need to talk!”

The door to the guest room opened and Jag stepped out, closing the door behind him. “You’re back?”

“Yes, I’m back.” Mallory motioned to the living room. “Did you do this?”

“You’re back early,” he said as he sauntered towards the kitchen. “I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow.”

“Come back here. We need to talk.”

Jag continued walking. “Sure, but first I need a drink.”

“No! Now.” Mallory’s voice shook with tension. She didn’t like confrontations, and she had overlooked some of his behavior to avoid them, but this was too big to ignore. “What did you do to my living room?”

“Our living room.” Jag said as he disappeared around the corner.

Our living room? Mallory stood facing the kitchen, indecisive. Should she follow him and force the discussion? Wouldn’t that send the message that he was in charge? She didn’t want that, but waiting meekly for him could also send the same message. The sound of a hallway door opening interrupted her thoughts. With heart racing, she whirled around.  If Codee was at work, and Jag was in the kitchen, who was in the hallway?

She didn’t have to wait long to find out. A head covered with dark brown curls peeked out around the corner and called out softly, “Jag?” When she caught sight of Mallory, she gasped and withdrew back into the bedroom.

A woman? Jag had a woman in his bedroom?

Seething now, Mallory started for the kitchen but was met by Jag carrying two bottles of water.

“Jag –“ she started, but he cut her off.

“Just a minute. I’ll be right back.”

Mallory watched him walk to his room, hand one bottle through the doorway, and then walk back to her, all with a smug smile on his nonchalant face.

“Yes? Is something wrong?” he asked as he continued past her into the living room. Sitting on the worn out couch, he put his feet up on the battered coffee table, leaned back, and clasped his hands behind his head. “What do you need to talk about?”

“What… where… how…” Mallory sputtered, not knowing where to start. She raised her hands in an all-encompassing gesture. “This!”

“Do you like it? It was all free.” Jag continued smiling.

“But what did you do with the furniture that was already here?” Mallory stopped. No! He couldn’t have! Not wanting to know but having to, she asked “You didn’t dump it, did you?”

“Of course not. That stuff was worth some money.”

“So where is it?”

“I sold it.”

Mouth open, Mallory stared at him. He stared back, unfazed.

Closing her eyes, she tried to control her anger. “Why?” she finally managed to squeeze through clenched teeth.

“I needed the money.”

“But it wasn’t yours to sell.” Loss filled her as she opened her eyes and looked around.

“Sure it was. I live here, too. Besides, you have so much, I figured you wouldn’t miss a few pieces.”

“You’re wrong on both accounts. You may live here, but it’s my house. MY house. You’re just a guest. And I do miss my “few pieces”. It took me years to save up to buy that furniture. And for you just to sell it while I’m out of town for a few days, how dare you?”

“Calm down. It’s just furniture. It’s not like I sold your dog. If you’re not happy, you can just buy more.”

“That’s not the point. You sold what wasn’t yours. Where’s the money? That’s not yours either.”

“I gave it to my family. Things are really hard for them right now. I figured they needed it more than we do.”

“Didn’t you think you should have at least asked first? I might have been able to loan…” Mallory stopped as a crash came from Jag’s bedroom. Pointing towards the hallway, she demanded, “Who is in your room?”

“My sister. She lost her house and I told her she could live with me.”

“But…”

“Don’t worry. I got her a separate bed.” Jag got up. “I’ll go see what happened. I told her not to try moving the TV by herself.”

Mallory sank on a nearby tattered armchair. She wished she had never invited Jag to stay with her. Even though he had had a good reason for what he had done, it didn’t justify his actions. She wanted him – and his sister – to leave. But with nowhere else to go, they would end up on the street, and she couldn’t force herself to do that. She had to find another way. Maybe his sister would be more cooperative, and then, in turn, influence him to show more respect.

Mallory got up and headed for Jag’s room. It was worth a shot.

Matthew 7:15

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Little By Little, A Warning Part 2 of 4 (Based on a Dream, June 25, 2021)

“You can’t do that. Those were my boxes.” Mallory stood facing Jag, hands on her waist.

Jag looked up from his lunch. “It’s my room, my things,” he answered smoothly. “If you wanted them, you should have moved them last month like you said you would.”

“I’ve been busy, and there’s really nowhere else. The attic already if already filled with Codee’s things.”

“That’s not my problem.” Jag took another bite of his sandwich.

“Not your problem? Of course it’s your problem. You got rid of something that wasn’t yours. What did you do with them?”

“I took them to the dump.”

“You WHAT?” Mallory roared. Taking a deep breath, she lowered her voice and said through gritted teeth, “Get them back.”

“Can’t.” Jag stood up. “There’s been several storms since I dumped them. They’re trash now.” Leaving his plate and glass on the table, he headed for his room. “You’re better off without them, anyway. Trust me.”

Mallory stared at the forgotten plate, trying to grasp the loss of her childhood memories. Among the contents of those boxes had been photographs, cherished toys, favorite books, her grandmother’s quilt, and yearbooks dating all the way back to elementary school. None of it could be replaced.

The tickle of tears on her cheeks woke her from her nostalgia. Wiping them away, she took a deep breath. Maybe it was all for the best. She hadn’t opened those boxes in years. If they had been as important to her as she thought, wouldn’t she have done something with them by now? Jag was probably right. She was better off without the clutter. All she really needed were her memories.

Matthew 7:15

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Little By Little, A Warning Part 1 of 4 (Based on a Dream, June 25, 2021)

“Are you sure you’re okay with me staying with you for a while?” the man asked as he shifted from foot to foot at the bottom of the steps.

“You are very welcome here. Where else are you going to go?” Mallory answered, holding open the front door. “Besides, there’s plenty of room here. Come on in.”

“Thank you.” He climbed the few steps and, tipping his head at Mallory as he passed her, took a step into the small foyer.

Mallory closed the door gently before moving around him. “While you’re here, feel free to make yourself at home. When Codee called telling me you need a place to stay for a few weeks, I was thrilled to help.” She led him into the living room. “What’s your name? Codee told me but I don’t think I heard it correctly.”

“It’s Jagjit.”

“Yup, that’s what she said. That’s an unusual name. Where –“

 “My father had a thing for odd names,” he interrupted. “Call me Jag.”

“Okay, Jag. Would you like something to eat or drink before I show you your room?”

“No, thanks. I ate at the shelter before coming here. Codee was very kind.”

“Yes, she is.” Mallory pointed through a doorway. “Your room is this way.”

As Mallory led Jag down a long hallway, she pointed to the first door on the left. “That’s the bathroom. I usually use the master bathroom so you and Codee will pretty much have this one to yourselves.” She stopped at the next door. “And this will be your room. I want to apologize ahead of time for its condition. I kind of used it for storage, but the bed is comfortable and I put fresh sheets on it this morning.”

“It sounds great.” Jag sighed. “Just being off the street is enough. I don’t need any fancy rooms.”

Mallory opened the door and motioned for Jag to enter first. “Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Jag’s eyes wandered around the room and he let out a soft whistle. “This is for me?”

Mallory nodded towards the side wall. “Yes. Sorry for the boxes. I tried to keep them to that one wall so you would have plenty of room to get around. As soon as I can, I’ll move them to another area although I’m not sure where yet. They contain-“

“It doesn’t matter,” Jag cut her off. “They don’t bother me. This bed is all I need.”

Mallory frowned, irritated at being interrupted again. “Well, maybe. But it bothers me. You shouldn’t have to deal with it.” She noticed he was still standing just inside the doorway. “Please, make yourself comfortable. There’s a table by the window where you can set your backpack. And there are towels in the bathroom for you to freshen up. I’ll be in the kitchen. You might not be hungry but I am. Join me whenever you’re ready. ” Mallory took one more look at the stacks of boxes, and then turned to go. But before she went through the doorway, she caught a glimpse of Jag dropping his dirty backpack on the freshly cleaned carpet as he headed for the bed.

“So much for following directions,” she mumbled.  “But maybe he’s just tired, poor guy.”

Matthew 7:15

 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Finding the Truth, An Allegory Based on a Dream

Syretia felt confused as she looked out at the crowded room. The people, calling out a variety of conflicting information just moments before, now sat restlessly in the lined up chairs, all facing her in expectation. Wanting to leave the stage, but knowing she couldn’t yet, Syretia instead allowed her mind to wander back to how she got there.

It seemed to be a lifetime ago when she had been happily ignorant of the rest of the world as she happily went about her own daily life in her small town. She knew important decisions and bitter debates were happening in every country, but none of that seemed to touch her personally, and so she took care of her ever-changing garden. Sometimes the roses seemed to dominate the garden, their sweet scents mingling to create a beautifully unique aroma. Sometimes it was the sunflowers in bloom that demanded her attention. Their majestically large sunny faces filled her heart with wonder. How could any flower be that big? Other times, it was the small Creeping Phlox with its multitude of tiny purple, blue, and pink flowers that caught her attention. Whether on her hands and knees studying the tiny petals up close, or gazing at the colorful carpet from a distance, those tiny blooms were impressive.

She spent hours each day watering, weeding, and talking to her beloved flowers. She didn’t mind the hard work because the bountiful reward was so much greater than the effort she put into maintaining her garden. And she was delighted by how  it brought smiles to the faces of the people who walked or drove by each day.

And then one day that all changed.

Syretia had watched the approach of the storm with excitement. She loved watching lightning dance in the sky and listening to the thunder boom their applause. She loved watching the raindrops race each other down her window. And she loved the freshness a good storm left behind after cleaning the air.

But this was a storm like no other. Strong winds blew in even stronger gusts, uprooting trees and snapping branches. Garbage cans, plastic lawn chairs, loosened shingles, and cardboard boxes rushed down the street as if running from something huge and frightening. Lightning flashed like strobe lights, their zig zagging lines penetrating the sky in every direction. The incredible roar of the pelting rain hitting cars, sidewalks, and rooftops was so loud it almost drowned out the constantly exploding thunder.

Syretia hid in her closet, and prayed that the storm would pass quickly without causing great damage. She prayed for her garden, and for those of her neighbors. She prayed for people who were hiding in their own closets, and for those who didn’t have closets to hide in. She prayed for the cowering animals outside, seeking in vain for shelter, and she prayed for inside animals, trembling in fear in the arms of their owners.

Eventually the winds abated, the rain lightened, and the sound of thunder faded away. Syretia cautiously emerged from her closet. The house appeared to have escaped damage. Sighing with relief, Syretia went to the window and gasped. He garden lay in ruins. The strong winds had broken the sunflower stalks. The heavy rain had washed the roses from their stems. And the Phlox lay drowning under water that had overflowed the street. She wanted to rush outside, but until the flood went down, it would be impossible to do anything in her beloved garden.

While waiting for her garden to dry, Syretia heard of a man who was speaking in the town hall about ways to salvage and build back devastated gardens. Curious, and needing the information for her own garden, she walked eleven blocks through ankle deep water for the opportunity to learn and to ask him questions. She wasn’t the only one. By the time she got there, the room was in chaos. Most people were sitting in the chairs facing the stage in rows, but many were moving about the room. All were yelling, arguing, name calling, and criticizing each other as the man stood on stage trying to speak.

Syretia tried to make sense of what she heard as she walked down the left side of the chairs.

“Everyone needs to use the RBG Drying Agent. The liquid form of RBG will save plants still under water. By injecting it into the stem, it will keep the roots from rotting.”

“That’s experimental. No one really knows the long-term effect that a drying agent will have on the roots.”

“Nonsense. Thousands of plants were tested, and all turned out fine.”

“I heard the roots got soft anyway so it doesn’t really make a difference whether it’s used or not.”

“That’s not true. Although some roots did get soft, they weren’t as soft as they would have been without the RBG. Besides, they returned to normal after a few weeks and are doing great.”

 “Well, you can inject your plants, but mine will be fine without it. Even if they get a little root rot, it won’t be bad enough for permanent damage.”

“Your recklessness is going to kill all our gardens. It’s been proven that RBG prevents the spread of root rot to plants not yet affected. By not treating your plants, you put everyone else’s plants at risk.”

“How do you know which plants will have root rot and which don’t? Or how bad it will get? Most of the time plants can survive under water for short periods without much if any damage. You’re succumbing to the fear planted by false advertising. Of course the RBG manufacturers want you to use their product. They are making millions of dollars, and they are using fear to control people so they can make more. First it was one injection, but soon it will be regular injections to keep the rot from returning. You just wait and see.”

“You’re stupid for believing that hogwash. If every plant got RBG now, root rot would be eliminated and there would be no need for further treatment. Your uncaring attitude is going to make this disaster last forever.”

Tired of the heated exchange that was going nowhere, Syretia moved on to different group. She wanted to find out facts, not opinions. Maybe this new group would provide more substance.

“You have to wear rubber gloves when you’re in your garden, not those cloth ones.”

 “Rubber gloves are too thick. They make it harder to do things. I prefer to use my bare hands.”

“But everyone knows the storm pulled most of the positive protons from the earth leaving an unbalanced number of negative electrons. By walking you become negatively charged which could result in a shock when you touch your plants. 

“That’s just a theory. I don’t wear gloves in my garden or anywhere else and I haven’t been shocked. Nope. I prefer living my life as normal as possible.”

“How selfish of you! The gloves are not just for you. They are also to keep the plants safe. Apparently you don’t care how many plants you shock by not wearing them!”

“Spoken by an ignorant fool! Regular rubber gloves – the kind we have access to – don’t protect anything.”

“Lies!”

“Besides it’s not that bad. Most plants never feel any shocks. Those that do, get over it just fine. And once a plant’s been shocked, its charge becomes balanced and shocking is no longer a problem. That’s going to happen to all my plants eventually.”

“Even someone as stupid as you must have heard the numbers. Plants everywhere are dying from these shocks.”

“That’s because weak root systems can’t handle severe shocks. And relatively speaking, that only includes only a small percentage of my garden.”

“It’s not just those with weak roots. Lots of other plants are dying too. I hope you can sleep at night knowing how many flowers you’re killing by refusing to wear your gloves.

“I’m not killing anything. Plants that are at risk are the ones that need the protection. Not the whole garden. And just so you know, I do wear gloves when around those. If you want to wear gloves, go for it. Just don’t require everyone to do what you do. Or judge those who think differently than you.”

“Your incredibly self-centeredness is astounding…”

Syretia had heard enough. She walked across the front of the room hoping to find discussions that were more objective on the other side. She didn’t. What she heard were opinions, accusations of misinformation, lies, and judgments just as she had heard on the first side. This side, though, were talking about the man on the stage, and about the way he got there. Some thought he had been asked, others thought he had bullied his way there. Syretia didn’t know but was curious. How HAD the man gotten to be the lone figure on the stage?

Suddenly there was a lot of commotion as people moved from one place to another, yelling out opinions and seeking those who shared them. Syretia found herself being squeezed closer and closer to the steps leading to the stage as people pushed past her. To escape, she climbed the half dozen steps and found herself face to face with the man. He motioned to the crowd. “Your turn,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge,” and then disappeared down the steps as someone appeared from behind the curtain, took her arm, and guided her to the front with the words, “You want to save your garden? Don’t leave until you get to the truth,” before disappearing behind the curtain again.  

Confused, Syretia stared out at the crowd. She watched as they quickly took whichever seat was closest. The people, calling out a variety of conflicting information just moments before, now sat restlessly in their chairs, all facing her in expectation. She knew what she chose to believe was going to affect how she worked in her garden, and maybe even influence others who were also searching for truth about their gardens. “But how do I get to the truth? How can I know who’s telling the truth?” she asked under her breath. “They are all so sure of themselves.”

And then she had it.

Ask questions!

“It’s not like a buffet where I pick and choose the most appealing to put on my plate. It’s not about who’s the loudest or how often it’s repeated. And it’s not about loyalty to favored people. It’s like pulling weeds – and that’s done through asking questions.”

Questions like… Why do you believe what you believe? Where did you get your information? Did you check to make sure it was totally correct before sharing it? Does it make sense when compared to other facts? Are there hidden motives and agendas that would cause what you say to become suspect? How accurate have you been on other things you’ve said? Are you trying to manipulate me by using fear, guilt, or threats? Will what you say match what I find when I research it?

Confident now, Syretia smiled. “I have some questions for you.”



In this time when many falsehoods, misinformation, and outright lies are being circulated causing conflict and division, it’s good to remember what the Bible has to say about seeking wisdom and truth, and about foolishness.

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 14:8 The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.

Proverbs 15:14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.

Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 26:12 Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Proverbs 18:15 An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Proverbs 2:1-22 The Value of Wisdom

My son, if you receive my words
    and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
    and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
    and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
    he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
    and watching over the way of his saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
    and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you,
    understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
    from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness
    to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil
    and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked,
    and who are devious in their ways.

16 So you will be delivered from the forbidden[a] woman,
    from the adulteress[b] with her smooth words,
17 who forsakes the companion of her youth
    and forgets the covenant of her God;
18 for her house sinks down to death,
    and her paths to the departed;[c]
19 none who go to her come back,
    nor do they regain the paths of life.

20 So you will walk in the way of the good
    and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will inhabit the land,
    and those with integrity will remain in it,
22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
    and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Is Unity a Salad or a Cake?

What is unity?

I’ve been hearing a lot about unity from the White House over the last month. I thought I knew what that was, but, based on what I’ve seen lately, I started thinking maybe my definition of unity was flawed. So I looked it up.

According to an online dictionary, unity can mean 1. the absence of diversity, of having unvaried or uniform character; 2. oneness as in combining all parts into one whole; or 3. oneness of mind and feeling among people where they live in harmony or agreement.

I wasn’t surprised with definitions #2 and #3 because that’s how I understood unity – people living in harmony together, agreeing to disagree when viewpoints differed, but ultimately accepting each other as valued parts of a whole. Unity like this can be likened to a large salad – each ingredient remaining identifiable, yet together creating a marvelous meal.

What I didn’t expect to see was definition #1. Absence of diversity? Unvaried or uniform character? That would be like cake batter in which most ingredients lose their individual identity when combined, disappearing in the uniform mixture they create. What would this kind of unity look like in this country? Who decides what that unvaried or uniform character would be? As I think about the increasing suppression of conservative viewpoints and intolerance of Christian beliefs that’s been happening in our country, and all the more since the election, the more alarming this has become to me. When the democrats speak of unity, is this the definition they’re using? Is this what Biden means when he keeps talking about unity? That would explain a lot concerning his actions and the direction this country is going.

I think I know what conservatives believe about unity.

I am beginning to understand what liberals may mean by unity.

But what does God say about unity? Which of the three definitions above does God mean? Or does He have His own definition? I did a search for the word unity on a Bible app and only came up with a handful of scriptures. Looking at the original Greek or Hebrew words didn’t help answer my question this time. Different words were used, and each definition could be interpreted in several ways, which is illustrated in different Bible translations.

Ps. 133:1  A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (ESV)

Ps. 133:1 A Davidic song of ascents. How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (HCSB)

in harmony!
יָֽחַד׃ (yā·ḥaḏ)
Adverb
Strong’s Hebrew 3162: A unit, unitedly

Job 10:8  Your hands shaped me and altogether formed me. Would you now turn and destroy me? (BSB)  

Job 10:8 Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity; yet you would destroy me. (NKJV)

and altogether
יַ֥חַד (ya·ḥaḏ)
Adverb
Strong’s Hebrew 3162: A unit, unitedly

Col 3:14 Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity.

of perfect unity.
τελειότητος (teleiotētos)
Noun – Genitive Feminine Singular
Strong’s Greek 5047: Perfectness, perfection, maturity. From teleios; completeness.

Eph 4:1-3  I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Eph 4:13  …till we all come to the unity of the faith…

unity
ἑνότητα (henotēta)
Noun – Accusative Feminine Singular
Strong’s Greek 1775: Oneness, unity, unanimity. From heis; oneness, i.e. unanimity.

1 Pet 3:8  Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (ESV)

1 Pet 3:8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded and sympathetic, love as brothers, be tenderhearted and humble.

 [be] like-minded
ὁμόφρονες (homophrones)
Adjective – Nominative Masculine Plural
Strong’s Greek 3675: Of one mind (intent, purpose), like-minded. From the base of homou and phren; like-minded, i.e. Harmonious.

Are we, then, supposed to choose our own definition of unity? Knowing God like I do, I don’t think He would leave us in the dark in an area that is clearly important in how we are to live. And I was right. I found a whole chapter describing unity.

1 Cor 12:1-30 (NKJ) Spiritual Gifts: Unity in Diversity

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: you know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make it known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given the greater honor to the part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

Unity, therefore, is both oneness and diversity. We acknowledge our differences, not hide, remove, suppress, or attack them. We find the value in each other, and work together as a whole.

This can be applied to our country also. In order to be a strong, whole, functioning, and healthy nation, we have need for everyone – conservatives and liberals, republicans and democrats.

We need each other’s strengths, ideas, and contributions.

We need both ears in order to hear clearly, or what we hear will be distorted.

We need both eyes in order to see clearly, or we lose our depth perception. We also have blind spots that only the other side can see.

We need all body parts doing what only they can do in order to be a fully functioning body.

Let’s listen to each other – really listen and not let out biases color what we hear. Let’s seek to find value in each other. Let’s work together to understand rather than condemn. Let’s pray for each other, holding each other up instead of tearing each other down.

Then, and only then, will America be the great nation we all want.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Ps. 133:1  A Song of Ascents. Of David.)

Political High Places?

When I was a new Christian back in the 1970’s, the term ‘Jesus freak’ became associated with those who were excited about Jesus. According to one of the definitions on vocabulary.com, a freak is “a not-so-nice noun that refers to a person who expresses such an intense obsession with something that it resembles addiction”. Obsession is defined as something about which one is constantly thinking about or concerned. So although Jesus freak was meant to be derogatory, I along with many others embraced it because it described our obsession with our God.

Today I am becoming increasingly disturbed with an obsession in our country that has nothing to do with God. When I listen to press conferences, news reports, and commentaries, no matter what’s being discussed, it seems Trump is pulled into it, giving him credit or blame depending on which side of the Trump-fence the speaker is on. It seems the whole country, even the world, shares this obsession. Maybe this is normal and temporary as everyone adjusts to the new president, but there are indications that it might not be going away anytime soon.

Other people have noticed the same and I’ve heard lots of name calling on both sides. I think it would be fair, at least in this blog (since it’s mine and I can say what I want), to call them all Trump freaks. Trump freaks who support him, wanting him to return to power and save our country. Trump freaks who hate him to the point fearing even the possibility of his return. Both groups seem to spend an equally amount of time talking about him.

Being a Trump freak might be fine, if that’s what you want to be. Everyone has the right to obsess over whatever they desire, as long as their obsession doesn’t include harming others.

However, being a Trump freak might not be okay if you call yourself a Christian. By definition, there’s room for only one thing in an obsession, and God makes it clear that the “one thing” should be Him.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:5-9)

Think of it this way. God wants to be the sun in our hearts, minds, and life. He wants everything we do and think to revolve around Him. He wants His light to shine on every part of our life. The result would be that we’d be constantly talking about God, interacting with God and relating life in terms of God.

An obsession on something other than God replaces Him as the sun in our hearts, minds, and life. Everything we do and think revolves around what we’re obsessed with. It penetrates every part of our life. We constantly talk about our obsession, interact with what relates to our obsession, and relate life in terms of our obsession.

Another word for this is idolatry.

It’s easy to see the idolatry of Trump-worship in the scores of people who are glorifying him beyond normal support. The media loves to show how crazy and irrational some of these people are. What’s not so easy to see is the idolatry in those who worship the idea of taking down Trump, everything he did, and everyone connected with him. They are consumed by thoughts of saving the country from his influence and proving how terrible a person he is. The media ignores how crazy and irrational some of these people are.

As I was thinking about all this, I thought about the high places that are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. They were areas set apart, usually on a hill or mountain, to worship and sacrifice to pagan gods. God hated those places and warned the Israelites to destroy them. Instead, the Israelites used them to worship God along with the pagan gods they adopted from the nations around them. God called this practice an abomination, and made it clear He didn’t want to share the worship due to Him.

While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. (Ezekiel 43:6-8)

In the United States today, what is higher than the presidency? Could it be that presidential politics is the western culture’s high place?

We need to make sure we are not involved in idolatry on high political places. We need to make sure we have not replaced God with Trump, or equate the two. We need to make sure God is the only sun in our lives, and that everything we do and say revolves around Him and His ways. And that includes any thoughts about Trump – whether they be thoughts of love or of hate. We don’t want what happened to Israel to happen to us.

For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their idols. When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel. (Ps 78:58-59)

And lest we think He was talking only to Israel…

Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the LORD God be a witness against you, the LORD from his holy temple. For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. (Micah 1:2-4)

If, when we examine our hearts, we find an obsession has taken up residence there, we can take it down just as the Israelites were told to do to the high places they found. To not do so would to disobey God, which is evil.

“For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10-12)

Seeking peace does not always mean being a pacifist, and doing good might involve standing up for what we believe in, so removing a political obsession doesn’t necessarily mean removing politics from our lives. It means we don’t put our political activism alongside God in our hearts. It means we spend more time praying than we do reading and commenting on social media platforms. It means seeking God’s truth instead of repeating lies. It means keeping our tongues from returning insults or condemning people Jesus died for. It means we listen to God for our marching orders rather than jump on anyone’s bandwagon. God may say jump, or He may have something different for us do, which may or may not be what we think we should be doing. Only He can see the big picture. Only He can see through all the deception permeating both sides. Only He knows the future and how one action will impact another down the road. Only He can coordinate everyone for maximum effectiveness. And He will only empower and equip us to do what He calls us to do, not what others call us to do. Otherwise we will be working in our own strength, and possibly in the same manner of those we call enemies, which won’t do much good and may even backfire on us. Joshua learned about following God’s directions when facing Jericho.

As Joshua was sizing up the city of Jericho, a man appeared with a drawn sword. Joshua strode over to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “I am the Commander-in-Chief of the Lord’s army,” he replied. Joshua fell to the ground before him and worshiped him and said, “Give me your commands.” “Take off your shoes,” the Commander told him, “for this is holy ground.” And Joshua did. The gates of Jericho were kept tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelis; no one was allowed to go in or out. But the Lord said to Joshua, “Jericho and its king and all its mighty warriors are already defeated, for I have given them to you! Your entire army is to walk around the city once a day for six days, followed by seven priests walking ahead of the Ark, each carrying a trumpet made from a ram’s horn. On the seventh day, you are to walk around the city seven times, with the priests blowing their trumpets. Then, when they give one long, loud blast, all the people are to give a mighty shout, and the walls of the city will fall down; then move in upon the city from every direction.” (Joshua 5:13-15; 6:1-5)

I believe only God can heal our country. Let’s tear down our high places and give God our whole hearts.  Let’s turn from following our own ways and accept Him as our Commander-in-Chief. Let’s do things His way which will allow Him to answer our prayers. Let’s watch Him do what only He can do.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet live, godly and dignified in every way. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior. (1 Tim 2:1-3)

You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. (Matt 5:43-45)

For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:6-8)

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)

Do you be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 15:5-6)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Rom 15:13)

The Battle Over Samantha

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Samantha survive the intense battle that rages over her?

Only time will tell.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kayla considered her options.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Kayla,

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

Love always,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

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

Love you bunches,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

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

Much love,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

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

All my love,

Dad

Dear Kayla,

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

Love as always,

Dad

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

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

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

It was answered on the first tone.


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

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

Kayla’s Story, an Allegory: Chapter 7 Appearances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is she dead?”

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

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

“But we can’t leave her like this.”

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

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

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

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

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

“See? I told you.”

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

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

 “Want me to jab her again?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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