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)

What If?

0808202219

 

What if all those warnings over the last 40+ years were true –

warnings of a coming darkness?

warnings of God’s wrath?

warnings of judgment because we (Christians) have turned from God?

 

What if you knew those days were here?

How would you live differently? Or would you?

How would it change your prayer life? Or would it?

 

Individually and as a Church,

would we use God’s Word to look within ourselves, to see where we’ve compromised with the world around us?

Because we have compromised.

Would we ask God to reveal our sin; where we’ve strayed?

Because we have strayed.

Would we repent, and pray for God’s mercy?

Because that’s what He wants most of all.

Or would we point our fingers at each other? Or at those outside the Church for bringing this upon us?

 

Each time the Israelites strayed from God’s commands, incorporating pagan lifestyles and beliefs into their own, God sent warnings through His prophets. God gave the people plenty of time to return to Him. Sometimes it was years, sometimes decades, sometimes even centuries. But each time the warnings were ignored. Since the wrath didn’t appear the next day, or the next month, the Israelites believed it wouldn’t happen at all. Instead of turning to God, they turned on the prophets with ridicule, imprisonment, even murder. Until the wrath fell on them.

 

What if we as a Church are no different? What if we have adopted the mind sets and life styles of the world around us? What if we no longer hold God first in our hearts, but  seek after the gods of this world? What if we have been warned repeatedly by courageous modern day prophets, but treated them the same way the Israelite treated the prophets of old? Have we dismissed those who have called out for us to repent? Have we belittled and criticized warning “prophecies”, believing, maybe, that God doesn’t do that anymore? Or that the prophets “got it wrong”? After all, we go to church. We give our money. We try to live good lives. We’re fine, right?

Are we?

 

God told the Israelites to…

worship only Him, and with all their heart,

to follow all His commands which involved their relationship with Him, and with each other,

and to keep His ways, not the ways of the people around them.

 

Didn’t Jesus tell us the same thing?

worship God with all our heart,

love each other, treat each other fairly and justly

obey the Holy Spirit inside us,

and not conform to the world around us

 

God poured out His wrath on the Israelites for straying – wrath that included…

Confusion, frustration

Diseases, afflictions, pestilences, and illnesses

Defeat by their enemies

Oppression and robbery instead of prosperity

Sojourners among them would rise higher and higher while they were brought lower and lower

A nation from far away come against them

Crops consumed by insects

So hungry they end up eating their own children

Be in darkness as if blind

Be left few in number

 

Scary, isn’t it?

What if He did the same with us? What if He’s already doing it? The New Testament warns of a coming wrath. It’s not a matter of IF it will happen, but WHEN it will happen.

 

Yet, God also promised blessings instead of curses if the Israelites turned back to Him…

Set them high among the nations

Defeat their enemies

Establish them as His holy people, causing all other nations to fear them

Prosper them in every way

Send rain in its season

Open to them His good treasury in heaven

They would lend to other nations, and not borrow

 

What if we listened to the prophets this time?

What if we turned back to God with all our hearts?

What if the time was now?

 

 

 


Scriptures:

“For the LORD GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)

“Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.” (2 Chron 24:19)

 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Rom 1:18-19)

“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom 2:4-6)

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has not inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceived you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”” (Eph 5:1-14)

 “ Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” (Col 3:5-6)

“Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” (Jude 1:17-19)

list of Blessings for Obedience, and Curses for Disobedience (see Deut 28)

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and all your soul, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you…  and you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today. The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of you cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers… (Deut 30:1-3, 8-9)

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil… therefore choose life that you and your offspring may live…” (Deut 30: 11-15, 19)

“if my people who are called by by my name humble themselves, and pray and 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)

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your father served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in the land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

 

Dear Outraged One (from Someone Who Loves You series)

IMG_20180717_084543278
“What do you mean I’m not allowed to sleep on my tummy!”

 

Dear Outraged One,

Things are not always what they appear to be.  They might look one way to you. If fact, they might look so clear to you that you would believe you had the only possible interpretation.  But if you would ask me, I can help you see them in a different light.  Like that warning label. It seems so clear and might not make sense to you since you love sleeping on your tummy when you’re being held. But if you ask me about it I could help you see that it’s not about that at all. It’s not a personal attack against you, but rather a protection against a danger you had not known existed. So come to me when you have questions. I love answering them for you.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

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

 

Do you hear God speaking to you in these letters? If so, it’s no coincidence.  As I write to my new granddaughter, I can hear God speaking to me. And my prayer is that you can also hear Him speaking to you for He loves us even more than I love my granddaughter.

Life is Like a Beach, section 2: Red Flags

The following is part of a book I would like to publish someday. It’s too long to blog as one post so I’m breaking it up section by section.  Each section can be read as a stand-alone, and hopefully my analogies will provide food for thought as well as encouragement to keep on going no matter where you find yourself in life.  I’ve added links  at the end to the previous sections to make them easier to find should you want to read them. Oh, and all photos were taken by me and are untouched other than cropping when necessary. God’s creation is so awesome just the way it is!

 

Red Flags

Sometimes after that long walk towards the beach, my plan to dive into the cool water is crushed when I see that red flag.

IMG_20170524_085350235

 

Red flags mean danger, and that’s exactly what this flag is telling me. The water is dangerous right now. Wait for a better day. Sometimes the danger is evident, such as a group of large sharks swimming just off shore. But other times the danger is hidden, like an undertow. I could ignore the flag and go in “just enough to cool off” which may or may not end in disaster. However, to keep safe, I can respect that the flag is there for a reason and choose to obey it. Especially when there is a double red flag!

IMG_20170123_070417315

 

There are dangers in life too. God is good at putting up red flags in our lives, sending us warnings of dangers we may or may not see.  A check in our spirit, advice/comments from friends or family, scripture, and dreams are the most familiar. But God can and does use even unexpected methods to get our attention such as traffic delays giving us time to think, lost keys keeping us from going somewhere, words that pop out at us on billboards, a quote in a totally nonspiritual, unrelated book we’re reading, and random emails with titles that go right to the heart. The only questions are if we are paying attention, and if we choose to listen.

But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm. Proverbs 1:33

So, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 3:7-8

Previous sections:

Section 1: The Path