1- God, the Love Story: Autumn

This entry is the first in a new fall series.

Wake up! Wake up! I was walking; well at least I was trying to walk. The ground beneath me was so unsteady, so many pebbles of all different sizes and shapes that I could not stand erect like a normal person with shoes on a sidewalk. My knees kept buckling from the pain in my feet till I decided to try crawling on all fours. The way was so desolate, long and wide; I was on an expansive pebble beach. I looked around for signs of life, buildings-a church, other people and saw none. Nothing but air, sky, and pebbles, air, sky, and pebbles. I knew that if I kept trying to move I would eventually reach something, Christmas. There would be Christmas and then I would surely find signs of life.

Suddenly I heard an echo of a sound that came from far away calling me to wake up. Oh Life! How I had longed to be relieved of this empty wasteland so hard to traverse. The sound was so sweet and welcome that I wouldn’t even heed what it said to awaken. Instead I stopped and sat on the warm pebbles to hear the song, “Wake-up, wake up!”

Gradually I driftedfrom hearing to listening and as I did the vision of a man with a long white beard in a clean blue oxford shirt appeared in the distance. He was surrounded by small fairies and I turned my head to see that I too had three fairies hovering over and around my head. I was still on the wide pebble beach. The man started to walk towards me. No, I can’t say he was walking. The man glided towards me and then stopped and waited for me to go to him.

“Get up!” a fairy whispered to me. “You can’t just crawl to him on all fours like an animal. Stand up straight and walk!”

“Do you know what you’re asking?” I replied. Then, in obedience to the tone of reason from the fairy command I raised my two hands to try to gain my balance. The earth was as unaccommodating as ever. I eventually straightened myself, but I was horrified at the idea of walking such a distance on those pebbles. I had no choice. My longing for another soul compelled me to obey.

The sun brightened the space between and around us as wispy clouds navigated away from mister sun. Step by painful step were taken with as much human nobility as I could muster. The man did nothing to make it easier for me except not to move farther away as I approached him. He patiently awaited my arrival watching me with what I had hoped was pity and not disgust.

After what seemed an eternity of torture, our eyes met. I stopped, wanting the distance to be good enough as I called out, “Greetings, my friend.”

My other fairy buzzed around and pinched me on the behind while her partner said, “Don’t stop, and for heaven’s sake don’t fall on all fours again. You’re almost there. Get closer!”

The break, not sweet enough to languish in, ended as I took several more steps towards the man hoping that our meeting would be worth all of this suffering.

“Greetings.” He said. His voice sounded like a combination of honey and sand.”My name is Noah. Will you sit with me?

2- Meeting Immortal Noah

Second Post in the Series "God, the Love Story: Autumn - 1"

I could hardly believe my eyes. Standing in front of me on the way to Christmas was Noah, THE Noah. What was he doing here and what did he want to tell me? Then it occurred to me how natural it was that Noah should appear on this barren road to Christmas when the earth awaits the great light of true life.

As I drew close enough for a conversation the excruciating pain in my feet turned to numbness. My heart was racing with the realization that I was about to talk with a patriarch of immortals. He held his hand out to help me climb up on the rock to sit beside him. “Welcome daughter.” Noah greeted me warmly.

“Father Noah why are you here?”

“My child, I could see your distress. I was sent to teach you how to walk on the earth.”

“It’s not me, I can walk fine! It’s these horrible pebbles. I have no choice but to step on them. If I don’t reach Christmas I will die!”

Noah bowed his head. Looking at the rocks at his feet he smiled pensively and then replied, “Your words reflect the brilliant intelligence but gross ignorance of a toddler.  Was I less of an aspiring immortal because I never experienced Christmas?”

“Father Noah, perhaps you forget, there was no rocky road to Christmas in your day. I am obligated to go to Christmas.”

“Ha-ha!” He seemed to be genuinely laughing at me! “When I walked the earth and the sons of God had children by the beautiful daughters of men; mankind thus corrupted the image of God. The pain of walking to Christmas is the pain of corruption and mortality.

Death and evil surround you, as the evil neighbors surrounded me and my family before the flood, and then even as it surrounded us in the Ark. There was no difference at all between the devastating flood and the evil men. Being in the Ark was a type of Baptism for my family, as it was for Jonah in the belly of the whale. Realize that the Spirit of God lies deep within your watery body, protecting you from corruption and mortality that surround you. Go there and find the righteousness that pleases God who does not want you to feel the pain of walking to Christmas. As long as Christmas is a remote place you struggle to reach, you will never get there. That is how you are to walk on the earth, my child.”

And he went on: “There are three things you must do to walk the earth pain-free. Listen to your conscience. Study and obey His commands, and receive your sight. Blind was the man who cried out saying, “Son of David, have mercy upon me.” When he received his sight and saw Jesus Christ, he acknowledged Him no longer as the Son of David but as the Son of God, and worshipped him. You too, my child must beg for spiritual sight to see the road that lies above the pebbles that torture you so. “

3- The Day After Noah

Part 3 of the series, God –The Love Story Autumn

With that Noah stood up and held out his hand to me. Reflexively I kissed it. He nodded slightly and said, “May we meet again in kingdom-come, my child.”

I whispered, “I hope so.” But before I could finish Noah had turned away and began to descend the boulders. I sat as still as the rock under me watching him go. His gait was as spry as if he was wearing shoes, which he wasn’t. I don’t know if I saw him actually disappear or if he merely went so far that I couldn’t see him anymore, or if my thoughts distracted me from seeing him disappear so mesmerized was I by the whirlwind in my mind.  

I knew that I was not ready to walk. Noah had given me a lot to think about so I sat there for one, maybe two hours trying to listen for my conscience. Suddenly I heard the buzzing sound of fairies. Had they been there all along? The largest fairy fluttered in front of my face. She looked so much like Tinkerbelle I had to chuckle with delight.

“You know he was right,” she said. “He’s a classic; that man did not make it this far being wrong!”

“Mine-Fairy,” I replied, “Are you my conscience?”

 She shrugged her little shoulders and said, “Let’s just say we’re related.”

 “May I ask you a question? If Christmas is in my heart, do I have to walk on those pebbles?”

“Dearie”, she said sounding slightly peeved with me, “You can’t sit here till Christmas or till kingdom comes. Because you still live in time, you must keep moving. The person who won’t move is like the man who hid all his talent because he was afraid to risk losing it.”

“Okay, if I’ll walk if I must, but what did he say about the pain?” I asked.

She fluttered over to my shoulder and landed, then whispered in my ear. “Try to remember. Look to see if Noah planted his words in your mind.”

I closed my eyes and thought as hard as I could. Sure enough, Noah’s words percolated to the surface, clear as crystal. ‘The pain of walking to Christmas is the pain of corruption and mortality.’ So, walking doesn’t have to be painful! If I can overcome corruption and mortality I can walk to Christmas or anywhere just as Noah did.”

“Right!” my fairy was so happy that I remembered what he said.

With the lines of communication fairly open to my conscience, or at least to Tinkerbelle, I was ready to move on to the second piece of Noah’s advice, to obey the commands. I was going to need a lot more help with this so I turned to look up at my fairy that by now was fluttering around the nearby olive tree. “What are the commands?” I shouted a bit to get her attention. “Did he mean the Ten Commandments; how did he even know them since he lived centuries before Moses?”

“Goodness-me! No wonder your feet hurt so much when you walk! Don’t you know anything? Noah didn’t need the tablets of stone because he simply did all that the Lord commanded him. That is how he distinguished himself from the rest of humanity. For you, it’s different. You need all the help you can get; the Ten Commandments are a start. But Jesus gave you about an hundred more commands. Remember what He said.”

 I was stumped. “Give me a hint.”

4- All One

 Part 4 of the series – God, the Love Story-Autumn

Noah left me with good advice about how to walk to Christmas without feeling the pain of the pebbles. He said that I need to overcome corruption and mortality. To do this I must:  1. Listen to my conscience, 2. Obey the commands, and 3. Achieve spiritual sight.

I sat on the boulder pondering all that while the three fairies hovered around me. With them representing my conscience, I felt ready for the next step, to obey the commands.

While trying to recall the commands I watched the littlest fairy flutter over to my face. “You aren’t ready for the commands; there is something you should know first.”

 “What is that I asked,” a little relieved by the distraction.

 “Why do you suppose Noah came to you?”

 “I guess he felt sorry for me and wanted to relieve my pain.”

“Nope; there are billions of people in pain; he went to none of them. Noah saw that you are alone and that’s why he came to you.”

“Noah teaches aspiring immortals like you not to absorb the violence and corruption of the world. The way those pebbles tormented you proves that you are easily attached to pain. Separate yourself even more. You are alone but not alone enough, let go to be able to listen.”

By now I wondered how I could be even more alone. My thoughts drifted back to Noah and how he managed. All those around him had corrupted the image of God that they had been created to reflect. They were violent. Noah did not argue with them but instead listened for God’s commands to him and he always obeyed. He was right to ignore the others. That’s probably why God called him righteous!

Not alone enough. What could that mean?

The Tinkerbelle fairy read my mind and flew towards me from the olive tree to say, “God is one.”

“Huh?” I replied. She was clearly not my conscience, but more like my teacher.

“God is one.” Tinkerbelle repeated. “Noah was not alone, truly alone and able to hear God’s commands through his conscience until Noah too was all one, I mean only with the one God. Do you understand yet?” she said with a wink and a smile and then added, “Not only, not lonely, not double minded or fractious but all one…completely alone.”

Tinkerbelle’s words finally penetrated and took root. While travelling the desolate rocky road to Christmas my focus on pain and pebbles was misplaced. Even though there were no other people as far as my eye could see, the place was crowded so long as I became distracted from, separated from, the God that Christmas brings to the body. With that thought my feet tingled.

I stood up on the boulder and looked around at the clear blue sky and broad road below. Suddenly, from the area around my heart I heard a resounding voice bellow, “Go forth and build an ark!” I laughed. God surely has a sense of humor and then I fearlessly descended the rock to continue my journey to Christmas.

5- Likketysplit

Part 5 in the Series God-the Love Story Autumn

I felt very different as I descended the boulder, almost looking forward to the challenge of the pebbles. The spirit of Noah was with me, I could tell. When my left foot landed back on the pebble path I looked up to the heavens to tell God for the millionth time how much I love Him.

So enrapt was I, trying to think of new expressions of worship that I was about an hundred yards away from the boulder before I realized that I had been walking on the pebbles again.

That’s when I knew it was time to think about the commands. I remembered my own father often asked, ‘How can you say you love me when you don’t obey me?’ I used to think he said that just to coerce me into doing what he wanted me to do, things I hated such as eating dandelion greens with lemon or hugging my mean sister. I didn’t understand love then as I do now.

I now know that the commands, I mean obeying them aren’t meant to cause me displeasure or even discomfort; they are meant to destroy me.

God taught me that true loves involves a little murder and a little suicide. It is cooperative annihilation, like dying on a cross that someone else nailed you too, but you let him. Anything less than true love is only passion, or fantasy, or infatuation: all that dissolvable stuff, all that mortal stuff.

I want God to know that I truly love Him and want to be immortal like Him so while walking to Christmas I tried to think about the commands that I rather want to ignore.

I admit that from time to time my feet hurt, even to the point that my knees would buckle. But instead of giving in to the pain this time, I used it as a signal to tell God another reason He was awesome.

My big problem wasn’t sore feet anymore; it was that I didn’t remember all the commands. I needed fairy-help (again.) “Uh, Tinkerbelle are you here?” Poof, she and her two sisters appeared instantly.

“Yes dearie, we are here. What do you need?”

“Do you know the commands?”

“We know someone who does!” the littlest fairy said with mischief in her voice.

Suddenly I saw a most interesting sight. Tinkerbelle reached behind her wing and pulled out a tiny little whistle which she proceeded to blow as hard a she could, only I heard no sound at all. Yet, a small man, maybe he was a leprechaun, materialized in front of my eyes. He was dressed like Napoleon or Captain Blye, I’m not quite sure which, but he looked very much like a tiny commander. I tried hard not laugh at him. He was so cute! He had fine wavy brown hair that peaked out from under his commander’s hat. He was very solid, surprisingly solid since he had just materialized, but he was not fat or thin, although who could tell with all those pleats in his costume.

“Dearie” exclaimed proud Tinkerbelle, “I want you to meet the commander. He will walk with you for a while and teach you the commandments. Whatever you do, don’t argue with him!”

I have no idea what made her think I would argue with him, but instead of attempting to correct my reputation, I simply replied that I would never think of arguing with such person. Before I could finish Tinkerbelle and her two sisters flew away leaving me with this strange little commander.

6- Commander Lightfoot

Part 6 in the series God The Love Story-Autumn

Alone together the commander looked at me with his sparkling blue eyes and a grin that took over his face.  In a warm baritone voice he opened with, “Shall we begin? Would you rather walk or sit?”

“Um, do you mind if we keep walking,” I replied, “I don’t want to be late for Christmas?”

“Neither do I.” he agreed.  With a little skip in his step to keep up with my longer legs, the commander went on to say that I had placed him in an interesting predicament since most of the commands are from Jesus who will be born on Christmas Day which waits for us at the end of the road.

“I am not worried about that,” I said, “because God always comes to us from the future. For just this once, you and I can go to the infant Jesus already knowing what He will tell us when he matures!”

 “Good thinking! I’m going to like you! Now let’s begin.” Then his tone changed dramatically. He started to speak slowly and with much conviction, “Pay close attention. Just as every tree if it is to endure must have strong roots that reach deep into the earth to withstand the winds and earth’s heaving movements, even violent earthquakes, likewise, the aspiring immortal must be rooted in obedience to the commands for the soul to endure the tumult of the first life and the transition to the new earth.”

Before I could speak, the commander grabbed the space of his own pause and added, “To become united to The Immortal God, you must first know what He is like, which you can by knowing what He likes…which He clearly tells you by His commands!”

When I was sure it was my turn to speak, I asked whether my conscience instinctively knows these commands, which would explain why I should listen for my conscience?”

“No.” he replied, “Like a new laptop, the conscience comes with certain basics but you must install the commands.” I was surprised that this archaic little man knew what a laptop was. At this point I figured that I was ready to challenge him.

“My sister said that faith, and mercy, and grace all override the need to obey the commands.”

“Absurd!” I could tell that I struck a bad chord when his face turned angry red. ” Daily, millions of people pray ‘Thy Will be done’, and within an hour they violate God’s will. They are either grossly ignorant of the commands or… the commander paused to regain his composure. Under his breath I heard him say to himself, ‘Make and maintain peace’.

I quietly gave him all the time he needed. Finally, he spoke to me again. “Or like your sister,  they believe that God’s mercy is permission. If your sister thinks that Jesus gave you license to neglect his commands, why would He say, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.’ Too many people want to walk on the highway to Christmas who won’t accept the suicide of self discipline that Christmas ultimately calls us to.”

My feet started to hurt but I tried not to let it show. The problem was that I couldn’t think about what he was saying and praise God to keep from feeling the pain all at the same time.

“Can we sit for a minute?” I asked and collapsed without waiting for his reply. The commander collapsed with me. Once we settled in comfortable positions, I asked him whether God loved me enough to let me be myself.

I was surprised how calmly the commander took this question, he merely lowered his head and said, “The person who has my commands and keeps them is the one who really loves Me, and whoever really loves Me will be loved by My Father. And I will love him and will reveal Myself to him.” I sensed that the commander was starting to get impatient with me when he got up and walked on alone leaving me sitting on the hard lumpy pebbles.

7- Wartime in Lalaland

Part 7 in the series God the Love Story Autumn

I could not believe that the Commander was leaving me! He had hardly taught me any of the commands. I didn‘t know whether or not I should get up and chase after him? I still didn’t know enough of the commands to be able to resist corruption and mortality. I felt doomed. As my mind grappled with these thoughts he was getting farther away from me and it would be harder to catch up on those awful pebbles. I had no choice so why was I wasting time?

Without another thought I stood up and tried to run after him. My feet hurt terribly but I couldn’t allow myself to think about that.

“Commander, wait for me! I need you! Please don’t go!” I shouted as loud as I could.

To make matters worse a forceful cold wind blew in from the mountainside. I wasn’t prepared. The wind was getting stronger and stronger. It was a tornado-wind and not empty either, sand from under the pebbles filled the air so I could hardly see as I tried desperately to scurry up to the commander who never even looked back for me.

“Fairies help me!” I shouted as my body pushed against the wind. This time they didn’t come.

“You will never make it! He left you because you are a pathetic creature. You dare to aspire for immortality and yet you cling to your ego and your lusts.”

“What! Who said that?” Those words were so hurtful; I didn’t know if they came from my own mind or if I was being haunted by a demon.  

“Go away, I hate you!” I shouted at the air as I tried to run on the pebbles through the sandy wind.

Again the faceless voice tried to torment me, louder it said, “Don’t you know why he left you? How you insist in having it all your way, you write your scripts and follow them, you judge everyone around you by your own standards, and condemn them when they fail to be exactly like you. You refuse to die to self. You wouldn’t be caught dead on a cross. Hopeless, you’re hopeless and the little man didn’t want to waste any more of his time on you, nor did he want to argue with you. That’s not his way.”

I was still running but the Commander was no longer in sight. The pain in my feet became too great and the voice too strong for me so I collapsed to cry. I covered my head with my arms to try to protect myself from the voice. I cried louder and louder so I wouldn’t have to hear the voice. No matter how loud I cried, I could still think. Perhaps the voice was right. I remember trying to challenge the Commander when I asked him if God could love me as I was, and not as the person the commands wanted me to change into.  Then I could see that God wanted me to practice holy-cooperative-suicide, the likes of which accompanied Jesus on the cross and as long as I insisted on being myself and lazy at that, I failed God’s purpose. I could no longer be called a true aspiring immortal, perhaps only a highway Christian.

At that point in my thoughts, I felt a hand touch my shoulder. In fear I cried louder hoping it would go away and leave me alone in my misery. I may as well even give up trying to go to Christmas I thought. Life is over for me. I will succumb to corruption and mortality like everyone else. That thought brought more tears and louder sobs. Who was I to think I could ever hold the infant Christ in my arms? The touch turned into a tap. I had forgotten that perhaps I was not alone.

Whether it was bravery or utter surrender I do not know but I lifted my head out of its cave of arms and could hardly believe what I saw. The Commander and a fairy stood over me.

“Get up!” he ordered. “We have work to do! There are others you must meet on this path before you can get to Christmas and we are almost there. You can’t afford to spend too much more time learning the commands. Get up I tell you. You mustn’t dawdle. Study this.” And he threw a small book at my feet.” 

8- The Mark

Part 8 of the Series, God the Love Story Autumn

The book that the commander tossed at my feet was square, about seven inches on each side. It looked home-made because it was put together with a golden ribbon that wound its way through punched holes at the top and on the cover it only had a big sticker of an angel child wearing a hooded coat with a Christmas tree in her arms. Hand written letters titled this odd book, The Mark.  In a fog of disbelief that the commander returned to me, and that my chase was over, I simply looked up at him and stared. Even the wind had stopped. Was I forgiven?

“Don’t just ogle me; read the book! It doesn’t get any clearer than this! You want to know the commands, read them, study them. Eat them, for Christ’s sake!” I hugged the little book and kissed it to show my gratitude, tears still trickling from my eyes.

Then I lifted the cover to find a page that said, ‘This book is for people who like very deep and complex subjects made extremely simple.’ Well then that was for me, I thought. The next page listed the fruit of the Holy Spirit which are Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Longsuffering. Mildness. Fidelity. Modesty. Continence. and Chastity. Under this oval shaped list was a quote of Jesus from John, the Evangelist that read “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing.

My mind bounced back and forth from Jesus’ words to each kind of fruit wondering what the fruit had to do with the commands. I supposed that if I memorized the commands, but more than that, if I let the commands change me, it would be exactly like Jesus living inside of me instead of just me in me. The fruit would be the test, like testing a math problem: addition with subtraction and subtraction with addition. I always liked math because truth lives in math! Me + commands = fruit. Fruit - commands = me. Following those thoughts I was more anxious than ever to read the commands.

The next page demanded more patience because it was the introduction and still not the commands yet.

Since you can’t see the book, here is some of what it said:

The commands of Jesus point the way to the perfect life. The perfect way of thinking, behaving, relating, accomplishing, and living of the eternal life which begins on earth. Time and again Jesus referred to the necessity to obey His commands. These commands of Jesus are the target, the mark, which - being his words – actual describe Himself. In other words, Jesus is the mark and his commands are the mark. To obey His commands is to hit the mark and thus become like Him. To deny them, ignore them, overlook them or rationalize them away is to miss the mark (sin). To attempt, no matter how poorly, to hit the mark is the Christian way of life.”

There was more to the introduction but I was anxious to get to the commands so I flipped through the pages. Finally, on page seven the commands began. They were numbered one to ninety-five. Each command had its Gospel reference. Most commands had more than one reference.  Here are a few:

1. Be mild, patient, longsuffering.

2. Be generous.

3. Make and maintain peace.

As I read the commands a funny thing happened. I got bored! Imagine that! All of this chasing and crying and sore feet and here I was looking the commands smack in the face and I wanted to find a better book, maybe Huckleberry Finn or something.

4. Don’t swear.

5. Don’t resist the evil man (who injures you); if anyone strikes you, turn the other cheek (and let him hit that on too.)

6. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.

“AAahem!” the commander cleared his throat to speak. I had forgotten all about him! Upon hearing my thoughts, He said, “It is also boring reading football plays, and war strategy. All of these things mean the most when they are needed. You will understand. For now memorize, so when you are in a situation, you will know what to do. You must develop the discipline of an athlete or a soldier to become a true disciple!”

Geez, I felt like I should salute him when he said that! Instead I looked up and asked the commander if I could keep the book to study on my way to Christmas.

“The book is yours,” the commander replied. “but get up and be on your way. Christmas is around the corner and I must leave you.” He reached for my hand to help me up and then he squeezed it with unusual strength for such a small figure of a man. Without another word the commander turned and headed west.  

Obediently, I resumed my journey while trying to memorize the commands. As I walked I looked up from time to time and wondered how I could ever change so much.

7. Love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you.

8. Be perfect; grow into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character.

9. Forgive people who have sinned and don’t be resentful.

10. Do not judge, criticize, or condemn others.

11. Be on guard against men whose nature it is to act in opposition to God. 

9- Precious Mercy

Part 9 in the Series, God the Love Story Autumn

I have come a long way since deciding to take the most isolated and difficult road to Christmas. Never in a million years did I expect to meet Noah. When I started this trek I didn't even know that to overcome mortality I had to listen to my conscience, obey the commands, and gain spiritual sight. All I knew then was that I wanted to become immortal and that at Christmas God would come to earth to make immortality possible.

Listening for my conscience was not so very hard to do, but these commands are another story. "Don't resist the evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other [and let him hit that one too]; and if anyone wants to sue you give him even more than what he is asking for; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. If someone steals from you, don't demand it back. Don't worry about the future. Don't get divorced or marry a divorcee." (Mt5, Lk6)

Yesterday, I promised the commander that I would memorize these ninety-five commands so I will, but obeying them all is out of the question, especially in this day and age.

"Right-o!" chirped a little troll from behind me.

"Where did you come from?" I said masking my alarm with irritation.

Without reply he asked, "Are you talking to yourself?"

"No, Iím dictating my Journal entry. You happen to have intruded on my writing the Journal of an Aspiring Immortal; now go away!"

Ignoring banishment, the troll said, "Everyone decides for him or herself which commands to obey, and which they will dismiss. As for the acceptable commands, most are only for pretense. They fully expect to fail and ask for mercy like a crutch to fall back on because of their weakness or some other excuse. But is it weakness or hubris?"

"Did you hear me tell you to go away? You have no credibility troll!" I replied. And to myself I said, "How dare this imp interrupt my train of thought?"

"Correct me if I'm wrong humanoid, but credibility means NOTHING to you. When I entered you were saying that you didn't intend to obey God's commands. So why should I obey your command to leave?  I will not go away. Your little world will have to include me whether you want it to or not!"

It was true that I had no choice concerning who lives in my world. If I did I would certainly not admit this rude argumentative troll.

Continuing to taunt me the troll said, "Lucky for God that He decides who will live happily ever after and not you. When the moment comes for the narrow gate to the land of immortality to open who will pass? Will it be the aspiring immortals that focus on trimming themselves with the commands or will it be the fat cats who lay back and ask for mercy all day long? Mmm... I wonder?" [Command #35. Enter through the narrow gate -contracted by pressure and the way is straightened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are they who find it. [Zondervan Amplified Mt 7:14, Jer21:8, Deut 30:19]

The troll was really beginning to annoy me now.  "You are too hard on me. I am washed in the blood of the Lamb who set me free from sin and death. Jesus said, "In the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. I expect everyone to ignore most of the commands so I do too."

I thought that was a good answer, but the troll ignored it and went on with his tirade. "You walk to Christmas in joyful anticipation, a Christmas you can't even comprehend.  Christmas was actually more degrading than the Cross! Divesting himself of the flesh -- okay, but divesting himself of His power and wealth to become human, well, that is Credibility worthy of your obedience. Jesus led the way to become smaller for the greater good." And to show that he had heard me the troll exclaimed,"The Blood of Christ made immortality possible yes, but the Blood is not to be used as a license to ignore His commands, and His example. Don't fool yourself to death, mortal."

"What I have against you," said the troll relentlessly, "is that you don't even try. Is mercy magic that makes your duplicity appear to be sincerity?" [Command #87. Pay attention and be on guard, looking out for

one another; if your brother sins, solemnly tell him so and reprove him and if he repents, forgive him. Lk 17:3]

I yelled back, "So what is mercy good for?"

As expected, the troll had a ready response. "Mercy is for those who try, who are running the race with all their might and powers of concentration; it is for those athletes who fall. Mercy isn't a sweet melody of kirie

eleison to be used to calm nerves; it is the olive twig the Spirit dove presented after forty days of terror in the ark. Mercy is a gift you can't presume to receive."

With that the troll pierced my blue eyes with his. Lightening was followed by a roll of thunder. Petrified I turned to look for shelter, finding none. When I turned back the troll had disappeared. All was still. When my

heart stopped pounding I resumed my walk and wondered what made me so stubborn. Why didn't I even try to love the troll who was my enemy?

10 - Father Abraham

This is the 10th entry in a series entitled God the Love Story Autumn

Having been humbled, more like cut to the quick, by the commander and a troll I was determined to devote the rest of my trek to memorizing and contemplating the commands with the intent that I would follow each one to the letter, even if it killed me. Which I was sure it would. Repentance, metanoia, conversion, change of mind and heart, though a slow and grueling process for me nevertheless became true. The realization that the road to immortality required the cross of obedience made sense. My daily willingness to die to my natural self for God’s sake slowly became my quest because He too was willing to die. He was even willing to die to being pure God, willing was He to convert into a poor vulnerable babe not for Himself but so that I may live in peace with Him and my fellow immortals forever. How ironic that I must die so that I may never die.

These thoughts occupied my mind along the pebbled road when to my surprise a large figure of a man wearing a tunic and carrying a long staff stood in the distance on my path. “Who are you?” I asked as I approach the man like a car approaches a red stoplight. Actually to say this man was large is an understatement. Standing next to him made me feel like I was the troll. When I think back on it I can’t say for sure whether he was a giant of a man physically or whether his importance made him seem so much bigger than me. He had long gray hair, a very long gray beard and he wore a tunic. His eyes were hazel green, like marbles, not big but deep and clear. His face was unusually smooth and rosy for a man so old.

“I am Abraham. I am here to teach you how to see.”

“Father Abraham!” I exclaimed. “What are you doing on this road to Christmas? You are already immortal.”

“Where else should I be, child? I live on the road to Christmas as long as this sun and moon force me to. Shall we keep walking while we talk? You are running late you know. In your country the people will soon celebrate the day of giving thanks to God for His providence to the early settlers. That day opens the door to the Christmas season. As well it should. How beautiful is the orchestration of these twin holy days. First you Americans thank God for protecting the bodies of His people, your founders, when they were most vulnerable and in danger, and within weeks, you lay gifts at His feet when He deigns to become one of you, hungry and defenseless. This infant could give nothing but hope. Yet those who knew how to see with their spiritual eyes welcomed and honored him as God’s only begotten Son! Yes, let us be on our way to Christmas together.”

“Father Abraham,” I replied, “I am not so sure I am ready to see.  I am still perplexed by the concepts of grace and mercy. You had no commands to follow, neither the Ten Commandments nor the Law, nor the commands of Jesus. Forgive me father, but when and how did you start to see?”                

“Ah my child, as I asked you to walk faster, now I must tell you to think slower.” He replied, spewing the milk of human kindness with each word. “First let me ask you, what is this death you are so afraid of?” 

11- About Ignorance and Death

Part 11 in the series, God, the Love Story Autumn

The last time you came to visit, surprisingly, Abraham, the Father of a multitude, appeared on my path to Christmas. He had asked me what the death was that I was so afraid of, the fear of which kept me walking on these painful pebbles mile after mile and day after day till I could reach the Christ-child to ask for immortality. 

“Why Father Abraham, everyone knows that death is a deep darkness of nothingness, a kind of sleep without dreams, a state of non-being. I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to sing and eat delectable foods forever. I want to see God! Look at yourself immortal Abraham, standing here millennia after your own bumpy trek through life on earth. I want to be alive like you!” 

Abraham did not reply right away. Instead he lowered his head in deep thought before finally speaking, “You should know my child that the world of nothingness you just described does not exist. You fear a lie.”

I was alarmed and toppled by these words. Abraham went on to explain, “Bodilessness is not deep dark nothingness. Do you remember in the Gospel the scene when Peter cut off the ear of the soldier who had come to arrest Jesus, and instead of gratitude, Jesus became angry with Peter and restored his ear to the man? Be careful to avoid human logic!”

“What does logic have to do with death?”I cried.

Abraham patiently replied, “On that day Peter learned that the logic of God is logic that doesn’t fight against death but overcomes it entirely. The logic that says that a body lies in a state of nothingness after losing the electricity of thought and the mechanics of respiration and digestion is the logic of man, not the logic of God.”

“To live immortally one must cling to the source of life which is our God. So light filled and intelligent is He that God illuminates the world of those closest to Him. People who sit in human darkness are as ignorant and blind as a man in a cave. Death is distance to God nothing more, nothing less.”

“My child you will never gain spiritual sight by looking for it. Seek only to be as near to God’s light and life as you can possibly get. The commands will help only if you understand that they bring you close to the light. Cling to that light and your spirit will see what mortals cannot. Think on these things. I will teach you no more. For you have others to show you the rest of the way to Christmas and they are waiting for you. Be gone.” 

12- To See God

This entry is 12th in the series God the Love Story

When Abraham told me to be gone I didn’t dare look back. I was so anxious to arrive at Christmas that I walked faster and with a little skip in my step. The air had turned cool and crisp. It felt so good that I took several deep breaths.

I was glad to have some time alone with my thoughts as I reflected on what Abraham told me. "To gain spiritual sight draw near the source of light." That reminded me of the passage in Isaiah where he said, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned." Isaiah 9:2. At Christmas, the light of Christ rises on all who sit in the darkness of mortality. How wonderful it will be to the Christmas light.

Suddenly a man appeared by my side. “I am Moses and I have been sent to teach you about spiritual sight.”  

“Nice to meet you Moses,” I said respectfully, wondering where he came from and then not so respectfully added, “Aren’t you about the only person who actually saw God with your eyes? How can you teach me about spiritual sight?”

Untouched by my jab Moses replied, “Just as God called me to the top of Mount Sinai, you too can see God by climbing the mountain that Noah set before you.”

“Mountain, what mountain must I climb?” I said, fearing the worst.

“Remember Noah told you to ‘Listen to your conscience’ ‘Obey the commands’ and ‘Gain spiritual sight’. The order was no accident; it forms a mountain you must climb to see God.”

The conscience, often easy to hear, is the foot of the mountain. To master the commands is to climb the mountain. You may not ever want to kill or steal, but perhaps you are tempted to lie, and find it impossible to love your enemy. At the top of the mountain you will see God and through eyes like His you will see all of mankind as He sees us.”

“Spiritual sight is easy for demons because they are spirit. Remember in the Gospels how many times demons recognized Christ’s divinity? That was spiritual sight. When a human consciously tries to become like God then the spiritual becomes more vivid because God is spirit. Being like God, we can see others as He does. That is the kind of spiritual sight Noah meant. To gain spiritual sight without obeying the commands is demonic. With all of their spiritual sight, demons will not obey God’s commands.”

 “But Moses, all of this seems too difficult, almost impossible. Please tell me about mercy and forgiveness.”

“I cannot teach you about mercy.” Moses bowed his head slightly and added. “Remember that when I hit the rock twice I was not allowed enter the Promise Land even after leading God’s people there for forty years. No, sadly, I cannot teach you about mercy, only that it can’t be assumed. There comes one after me who  better qualified. I must be on my way and so must you. Merry Christmas my aspiring immortal friend, I hope you make it.” And with that Moses vanished as quickly and as surely as he appeared. 

The Mercy King -13

This is the 13th entry of the series, God the Love Story Autumn about travelling the road to Christmas

The sudden disappearance of Moses was something of a relief to me. Being reminded of the importance of following the commands I admit is kind of boring and kind of troublesome. I suppose though that wherever Christianity has failed humanity, whether at the Church level or the personal level it is because the commands were neglected. Imagine how different the world would be if the Church had made and maintained peace instead of the Crusades? I feel sorry for God that His Will is not being done, even if, a million times a day, people say they want it to be. I guess people don’t take the commands seriously because God loves everyone so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for our transgressions.

Did Jesus really die so we can be selfish and self-centered, argumentative, and dishonest without conscience because we will receive mercy? I really don’t know and I wish I did. All I know for sure is that I shan’t be judge and jury to anyone else on the planet, whether king or pauper, stranger or friend, Moslem or Jew. I must only judge myself and I will be a tough judge of me. I will judge myself harshly for the same reason I will run a mile, or do thirty push-ups when I don’t have to. I think if I am too easy on myself I won’t be ready or able, when the moment comes, if it comes in my lifetime, to go through the scary tribulation and to meet Jesus Christ in the air. Lamp oil.

Is it any wonder that so few people are on this road? So many bad aspiring immortals have darkened the path with hypocrisy that others can’t see the way at all or where it goes. The Church, to attract and retain enough people to pay their bills, hardly ever mentions how vital it is to obey the commands.

But I need mercy too. When I fall I am so glad to have a hand reach out to pick me up, even if I have to ask God to forgive me seventy times seven times a day, if I make myself change, He will forgive me and let me try again. If.

My next acquaintance is going to be no surprise. It can only be David, the mercy king, the forefather of the infant Christ. I wonder what he will look like, whether he will be Michelangelo’s David, young and beautiful, like perfect brand new Adam. Or maybe David will come to me when He is old and sorrowful. Either way I can’t wait to meet the one person in the whole wide world who can teach me about mercy. Yes, I want to meet David. We need to talk. 

The Truth About Mercy -14

This is the 14th entry in a series entitled God, the Love Story Autumn  

This journey of mine to Christmas began when the leaves were blazing reds and yellow, but it has been many weeks since I could comfortably call this the Love Story Autumn. The world around me now is quite white and quite cold. So much of the living has fallen into frozen hibernation. The best part is that snow has compacted onto and between the pebbles at my feet so the road that tortured me so on warms days is now smooth and quite flat. I can ignore the cold because of the fire that blazes in my heart to reach the infant Christ.

As much as I long to cradle the Son of God and the Son of Man in my arms, I long to understand mercy.  I am pretty sure that King David will soon appear and he will tell me all I want to know. If anyone understands mercy it must be David who was so awful but who wrote all of those exquisite psalms.  

It has been several days and nights since I have met soul or fairy. All of the hustling and bustling to decorate and bake and buy, wrap and send gifts and cards, sing songs and partake in parties has kept most mortals and aspiring immortals alike blinded to this path.

“We’ve been here!” chimed the littlest fairy that appeared in front of my eyes. “You have simply been too engaged in your own thoughts to see or hear us!”

“I don’t believe you! It’s impossible. I haven’t seen any of you fairies in weeks.” I said challenging the fairy to be completely honest with me.

Stopping the argument at its inception, she said, “I know someone who knows about mercy even more than David, you should learn from her.” And then the little fairy landed on a bare branch next to a bright red cardinal.

Astounded, I stopped dead in my tracks in front of the cardinal and fairy and asked, “Who can that be?”

The fairy leaped onto the back of the cardinal in shear merriment and together they circled me like a merry-go-round. “Stop that! I need to know about mercy!”

“It is our Mother, silly!  Who else?” the little fairy chirped.

“Well then where is she?”

“You can’t see our Mother, but you can obey her. She is the Bride of Christ. She is in your heart and in the halls of scholars and in cathedrals and chapels. Our Mother knows.”

Now you are being evasive. My time grows dangerously short. At this point I fear that I will never witness the birth and you are telling me to leave this path to seek our invisible Mother. Impossible!”

“I beg your pardon!” The littlest angel sounded genuinely angry with me. “Our Mother is not invisible by any means. She is concrete and wood and flesh, She is stained glass and volumes, She is blood and sweat and tears.” And calming down a notch she added, “Don’t worry, Annabelle here can tell you what She teaches on mercy.” Then my little fairy friend alighted from the cardinal as Annabelle appeared.

“We must keep moving, but listen carefully.” Annabelle said. “Everything that I say is true; don’t doubt a word, obey mercy and you will be closer to immortality than you have ever been before.”

“Mercy is both spiritual and corporal. Spiritual acts of mercy are (1) to admonish sinners because in fact you do not want them to suffer as a result and hope that others will admonish you when you veer from the path (2) to instruct the ignorant because the darkness of ignorance makes life so much more difficult and dangerous than it needs to be. Yes, instruct the ignorant and seek instruction. (3) counsel the doubtful. Doubt is quicksand, such mercy can save a soul from destruction. (4) comfort the sorrowful and watch mercy turn despair into humility and dust into gold. (5) suffer wrongs patiently, your pride will burn like candle wax to light the path to immortality. (6) forgive injuries that you may be forgiven. As you see pilgrim, mercy is so much more than forgiveness though. Finally, (7) pray for others, both living and dead who may not be able to beseech God to grant their wishes.”

Mercy sounded like more commands to me.  

Reading my mind Annabelle said, “Becoming immortal is active. No one is making you aspire to immortality.”

“Please continue. Of course I will do whatever is needed and I am happy to.”

Annabelle went on, “Corporal acts of mercy are more practical, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, ransom captives, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and bury the dead. The more you give, the wealthier you become. Do these things and you won’t have to go around seeking and begging for mercy; mercy will come to you. Got it?”

At this Annabelle smiled such a big glowing smile that I swear she grew.  Suddenly I looked up to see that I was approaching a regal figure.  

“King David, is that you?” and without another thought I fell at his feet.

“Yes, he said, extending his hand to lift me. I took his hand, kissed it in gratitude for the psalms and slowly arose. Once up I became mesmerized by David’s green eyes. He looked at me and said, “Let me join you in these last days. Together we will greet my Son and my Lord.”

The Path of Kings -15

This is the 15th entry in the series, God, the Love Story about walking the path through autumn to Christmas.

In silence King David and I walked side by side. I had many questions for him, but he seemed so determined to arrive at the manger in time that I supposed he didn’t want to waste a minute chatting. I was grateful just to be near him. By his gate and his being David revealed himself to me. Do you know what I mean? When you are near someone, how if you try, you can pick up their vibrations, vibrations of attitude and experiences that emanate from deep within. Well, maybe it helped to know David’s psalms. I had memorized as many as my brain or time would allow.

As dusk fell upon us stars appeared in the sky. It was beautiful! Hundreds and hundreds of stars forming all sorts of constellations. I tried to see if I could recognize any of them, even the big dipper which is the very easiest to find, when David grabbed my hand. “Please, there is no time to look at the stars, the path is coming to an end; look, here are my friends let us join them.”

Sure enough right in front of us was the end of my beloved road and three men wearing long colorful tunics and golden turbans. Before I could ask how we would find our way with no road, David pulled me over to meet the three kings! They looked just like they do in the story books. “Where have you been?” one king asked in an obviously irritable tone of voice.   

“I’m sorry, my little companion here had a lot to learn and it took time. Where is the star?”

The magi pointed to a large glowing star the likes of which I have never seen in my life and said, “Come quickly, let us continue our journey.”

By now I could not contain myself. I had to ask, “King David, how did these men know what the star would lead them to?”

He replied, “When they started their pilgrimage in Persia, you may know it as Iran, and the star first appeared, they were told that the star would take them to the king of the Jews so they followed it.”

Curious, I asked, “What could they benefit by seeing a king of another country so far away from theirs? Why would they want to worship a baby who could do nothing for them?”

David didn’t reply. The kings were walking so fast I had to jog from time to time just to keep up.

But walking fast didn’t keep me from thinking. These are strange men indeed.  They are Persian, barbarians; they have nothing in common with the Jews. What could a Jewish infant king do for them? Won’t they be surprised to see him in a manger and not in a castle? How long will they stay?

Then I remembered something and tugged at David’s belt after I caught up with him. “King David!” I said, “I don’t think we should be walking with these men. They are going to bring much danger to the infant Christ when they tell Herod that they are looking for a rival king! Let’s leave them now! I don’t want Mary and Joseph to hate me!”

King David was nice enough to answer me, “Relax my child. By now Mary has learned that danger is an illusion. God will protect her and certainly her infant Son. She will not blame us, or even the magi.”

Having broken his precious silence already, I asked more, “King David, don’t you know that stars go from west to east and we are going from north where these Persian’s came from, south to Jerusalem. This can’t be a star. Also, we can see it during the day. No one can see stars in daylight. And a star could never point out as small a thing as one little town or a little barn or especially a baby in the barn.”

“Shhh!” David exhorted me to stop the questions and I did as we kept walking fast but in silence. Many hours later, we all paused for a water break. Then kind King David pulled me aside and whispered,

“God neither sent these men prophets nor angels because like the Jews they would not have believed them, but rather he sent something familiar and nonthreatening to their sense of reason, a star. Thus little by little God drew these men to greater and greater knowledge. This so-called star was sent to Persia to bring these three men to the manger to confirm to the Jews what their own prophets foretold.  And as for Herod, don’t fret; driving this holy family into Egypt was important to God. It was to recall Jacob’s (a.k.a. Israel) beloved son Joseph who was driven into Egypt by hatred and there saved all [the tribes] of Israel. What man intends for evil, God uses for good.”   

One of the magi then came to fetch us, “We must be going, come quickly.”

Christmas at the Manger -16

This is the 16th and final entry in a series entitled God the Love Story Autumn about the autumnal journey to Christmas.

Here I was walking to Christmas with the three Kings and Grandpa King David, all of us following the star together! I had been alone on this path for so long that I had to get used to walking with others again, keeping up with their pace, trying to figure out when to talk and when to be silent, all those things that people with people have to do. Well, with this group it was mostly silence and I liked it that way.

I wanted to prepare every ounce of me for the moment of meeting baby Jesus Christ. I almost know how Simeon and Anna, the old people, must have felt when they beheld the infant savior. They certainly had the spiritual sight Moses taught me about. To see this baby and to know how special he is was a gift.

Of the kazillion people who ever lived, who were all made in the image and likeness of God, the Creator of the universe, only Jesus perfectly reflected the image of God to the world. Not Moses, not Abraham, not Noah, not Adam, no one else could show us how to relate to our Father from beginning to end. No one else could show us how to be human. Jesus is the model, and God knows we need a model. He is the only person who can say, “It’s my way or the highway!” and be absolutely right and not even mean. It’s just true, that’s all.

All of those miracles of healing and raising people from the dead and walking on water are kind of intimidating to some aspiring immortals. How could we ever be like that?  A good model should be attainable, they think. But really God let Jesus show off just to get attention. Jesus said anyone could do all those miracles and some people do some of them sometimes because the miracles just come down to being in perfect harmony with the creation and the Creator. It’s like knowing how to play a huge pipe organ. If you are in tune with how it all works it is not hard at all, but if you don’t know, well, it’s impossible to make the instrument work the way it is meant to. Same with creation. If you are in tune with the Creator and creation, even more than scientists think they are- who can be more ignorant than they know, then you can master nature too. That’s elementary for some aspiring immortals. But mastering nature isn’t as important as being in harmony with the Creator of it.  It’s not the miracles that matter as much as the relationship with God that makes the miracles, that matters.

These were the kinds of things I was thinking about as the four kings and I approached Bethlehem.

I even had to stop thinking though when my eyes beheld the City of David! This was a real town! People all around not even realizing that the most important event in the history of the earth was taking place, and they were just chatting away and cooking foods, and playing in the streets. I don’t think anyone in town saw the star, but sure enough it led us to the exact building. When we arrived, King David was the one to knock on the door, he being the grandfather and all.

Joseph let us in. I was last. When I entered that manger-barn I was so overwhelmed by the vibrations and the light that I collapsed and covered my head and started to cry. It had been such a long journey that I couldn’t believe I was really and truly at the belly button of history. No one even noticed me because they had their own greetings to make. Simeon and Anna were there, and the lambs and goats.

After a while Joseph noticed me and he came over to me and held out his hand to help me up. I took it and even though he didn’t know me from Adam Joseph gave me a big bear hug. Well, that made me start crying all over again. When I got control of myself he walked me over to the baby Jesus, and that started me all over again. I just cried and cried. I couldn’t help myself. Mary didn’t mind. She just looked at me as if she was my mother too, with patience and kindness. She was so young.

Eventually I stopped crying and we all sat around the baby and talked and laughed like people do in a regular hospital room. About an hour or so later Joseph got up signaling that it was time to leave and let Mary and Jesus rest. We all stood up and hugged everybody. Baby Jesus was fast asleep by then. I didn’t want to go so I let the kings go first. When I couldn’t delay anymore and I was almost out the door, Joseph called me. “Wait a minute, I almost forgot. I have a Christmas present for you.” And he handed me a wooden box.

You’re not going to believe this, but I don’t care because I know it’s true. I opened the box and inside was a pair of golden shoes!