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Sitting near to the mountainous rock base, in the midst of its cascading shade, as the long morning slipped into late afternoon, the sweat that earlier had weighed down my clothing with a great quantity now cooled me as welcomed breeze whisked around my entire being.  Looking out and over the flock entrusted to my care, carefully wiping my unkempt and disheveled graying beard of the continual flow of perspiration, I could not help but reminisce of my former state compared to that which currently held me in its routine grip; why, I am not sure but for some reason today I would allow my imagination and remembrance to wander freely.

A son to none other than Pharaoh himself, sheltered in exquisite manner, pampered, lacking nothing, with servants ready at my beckon call, for food, for drink, for entertainment and any other indulgence that needed fulfilling; days were filled with little responsibility and even lessor expectations by those responsible for my care and maturation.  Forty years later, as an aging shepherd, without title, without status, hungry, thirsty, alone, looking out and shepherding a bunch of noisy, smelly goats seeking the same hint of shade as me.  The vast differences between then and now fueled my self-absorbed pity party and I became increasing irritated as the goats now gathered nearer to me, jockeying for position, in and out of the sun.  Incapable of withstanding the tumultuous sounds and smells any longer I decided to get up and walk around the other side of the mountain away from the grating circumstance that held me captive with its mundaneness.

As I walked slowly, further away from the mountains looming presence and once again into the throngs of sun and heat, I muttered under my breath disgust, annoyance, anger and frustration, when, in an instant, I was taken back and utterly surprised with an unusual scent of fire; I knew that it seemed hotter than normal but I had really never witnessed any kind of spontaneous eruption of fire in the desert before and I was curious as to its origin.  Following the odor, not too far from where I first took notice, I saw a bush that was, in fact, on fire. Yet, as I watched it from a distance, the bush was not being consumed and shockingly kept both its shape and form; its inner substance apparently incapable of being burned.

I stood dumbfounded, engrossed, and absorbed by the flickering of the flames, seemingly dancing without hindrance, for an unsuspecting old man, in the middle of the desert.  I could not turn away and remained held, by something, yet without restraint; for how long I am not sure?

The wrestling of the flock, in the distance, brought me back to reality.  The day was drawing to a close and I now questioned myself as to what I had been witnessing.  I began to speak to myself.  “I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”  I drew near to the bush, fixated once again upon the bush that smelled as if it were burning, looked as if it were burning but somehow simply was not.  Stepping still closer, I nearly fell with fear, as a voice, out of the very midst of the bush, One of thunderous power, spoke and said clearly, “Moses.”  I quaked with distress, not understanding what was happening and proceeded no further towards the bush.  There was a pause and I lingered, sweat once again finding its way down my face and disappearing into the folds of my beard, seized by anxiety until once more… “Moses.”  I was not sure how to reply or even if I was supposed to but sheepishly I softly responded, “Here am I.”

Father, this story, inscribed on parchments of old, so many years ago, by mere men like ourselves, has spoken to me with a clarity not previously enjoyed nor contemplated by thine son.  Firstly, the light, your light, it, with great wonder, was the agent that afternoon day that drew Moses to thee, but, there is something hidden within the words so carefully written and easily read over and not given much consideration; Moses, “turned towards the light.”  Meditating upon its message, surely it is a process that has repeated itself over and over for eons, to countless men and women, without fail.  “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”  At some point in the lives of those created by thee, you draw each of us, individually, with such care and you make yourself known, in ways too numerous for our simple minds of understanding, yet, you do.  Then, as the One that had, has and will conduct the orchestration of the heavens, you wait, with great patience, for a response; either a movement towards the light and or, with deep reservations, movement away from the light.  It must be pleasing and painful, simultaneously, as you will never force yourself or great love on anyone; you will draw, but, you will always give a man and or a woman free will to move closer to thee and or not to.

Oh Lord, there is yet more.  It notes eloquently that “when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush.”  You waited, watching so patiently, yearning, aching, longing, hoping, that Moses, would come closer to you and when he did, THAT is when you called his name…Moses; and not once but twice to give him clear indication it was you, The Great I Am, that would call out to a man.

Father, my contemplations have run amuck; forgive me.  What if Moses had not made the movement towards you?  Is it enough to simply acknowledge the light from a distance, never really drawing closer, and if we do not, what must that do to you, what must you feel as our indifference permeates the atmosphere?  We have so many questions Father, answers alluding us, yet, we cannot help but to turn, and more so, rather, we find ourselves running towards you.  Why Lord?  What propels us to such fanaticism in the eyes of the world?  As age manifests itself, as if time were fleeting, the call comes forth, with a clarity, with an urgency, no matter or remembrance of time now vanished, as you call us by name, to a more intimate relationship with you.  As with Moses, and let us be keenly aware, it shall not be for self, for he truly suffered greatly as he led your chosen people out of Egypt and through the deserts of time.

Lord, give us courage to take that first step and or step once more towards thee, let us tarry no longer, and as you witness such movement, oh that we too might hear our names specific, privileged, honored, and that we would shine brightly, with a brilliance so not of this world, to illuminate darkness and rid those that are held captive to its bondage!  Though each call, specific to our individual lives, may be different in manifestation, the desired end result is the same.  It is, quite simply, in the absence of your Son’s walking of the earth, for us, to now be the agent, to be the light, to be the salt of the earth, to draw, men, women and children alike to your amazing and unconditional love.  So many are hurting, so many are lost, so many are painfully withering away in the confines of darkness.  “The people that walked in great darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

Father in closing, burn this verse deep into the realms of our existence, while we still have opportunity, while we still have breath, and let us walk each day, lit, ablaze, by none other than that of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 60: 1-2 “Arise, shine; for thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.  For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.”

We so love you Father, we thank you, we worship you and find ourselves time and time again, undone, with words too wonderful for our thoughts.

Daniel

Exodus 3: 1-4 “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.  Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

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7742957059

My eyes became exceedingly dry, without moisture as I laid irritated but anxious, tossing and turning, colder than normal, and fighting to close off my mind to that of Jesus.  I had seen Him earlier the previous day, surrounded by His disciples, as they shielded his appearance to that of the masses; I found this odd as I, along with others, were always so very excited to be near to Him, anxious to listen, amazed as to His healings and simply loved being consumed by His absolute presence.  I had not witnessed this manner of secrecy before, as He normally walked openly among the people, and it stirred my curiosity as to their purpose. 

They walked slowly, yet, at the same time seemed to be in a bit of a hurry towards their destination.  I kept close, as they talked among themselves, their voices muffled, causing me further intrigue, and they were just unaware of my proximity to them as they all clamored near to His being.  They turned the corner, close to my home, and descended into my neighbor’s home and proceeded up and into an upper room.  I stood closely, hugging the stone, still warm from the day, yet now cooling quite quickly, at the base of the home and listened intently to their conversation through the opened window directly above my head.  The windows, open to the full originally, soon were closed as the evening breeze brought forth a sting of cold. 

With their conversation now completely cut off to my ears, I wandered back home, somewhat frustrated and ate our traditional Passover feast with my family.  I went through the motions, but I was somewhere else within the confines of my mind; I knew that Jesus was probably enjoying the same tradition and I longed within, deeply, to be partaking of such with Him. 

I also had become aware that Jesus, His disciples as well, would, as in the past, head for the Garden of Gethsemane at some point in the evening; it seemed to be one of their favorite gathering places.  Tonight though, if they were to go to Gethsemane, would bring opportunity for me to once again be amongst them without their knowledge; they would have to pass right by my home and more specific my room.  I went to my bed early, purposefully leaving my window open wide, anxiously anticipating their possible passing by?! 

Minutes turned to hours and I found myself dozing off, only periodically, as unsuspecting passersby would cause me to take attention to their steps and or their voices.  The early morning chill, now biting a bit harder, caused me to wrap my naked body in my bed linen.  I had lost hope that they would venture to the garden, yet I laid, still, aware and anticipating the possibility. 

Without warning, I heard not just a few walking, but surely a small group and I wished it was them. I lifted from my bed, peering out and towards the sound of the voices, careful to stay hidden within the cover of dark, and they came nearer still with each passing moment.  As they approached my window, I slid down and away from their sight, but still close to the opened window and listened with all that I had for the voices that might be familiar to me; it was them!   

I waited only until I was certain they would not see me follow and jumped out of the window quietly with bed linen still covering me; I wrapped it tighter around my body and slowly shadowed them to Gethsemane. 

Soon they came to a stop and I witnessed Jesus, from a distance far enough not to be seen but within ear shot, and He said to His disciples, “Sit here, while I go and pray yonder.”  He then took Peter, James and John, separating them from the rest, and came closer to where I was hiding.  Almost instantly his countenance changed; for the first time, I saw him filled with grief and uncertainty.  I had no idea as to the cause and sat increasingly disheartened; this was not the same Jesus that I had encountered so many times before and I began to break emotionally.  He then said to them, “my soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.”  I began to cry, trying not to be heard, and was overcome with a myriad of emotion as to what was playing out before my eyes? 

He then, alone, went a little further still, away from their sight, and fell on his face.  I stepped closer, unwilling to leave Him alone as the others soon fell asleep, and He prayed, saying, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”   He was in tremendous agony, praying more fervently, and I watched, crying all the more, with eyes now beyond blurred, as droplets of sweat fell as blood to the ground.   I wanted to scream, I wanted to yell at the disciples, now sleeping heavily, to awake and come to His aid but something held my tongue. 

I could do nothing but sit in agony as my heart burst with compassion and with a love not of this world.  I wished I could have reached out to him, just to let him know that he was not alone but I felt as if I was intruding on such an intimate conversation that I simply sat whimpering as a small child, under the cover of darkness. 

Without warning, He rose, and walked back, again His countenance changing instantly, now with a profound confidence, and approached those disciples still sleeping.  He simply noted, “the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.” 

No sooner had he finished his sentence, I heard in the distance a small group of people quickly approaching our location; the closer they came it became evident that something was dreadfully wrong as swords and clubs accompanied their arrival.  I soon was overcome with fear and began to distance myself from the situation; I walked away quietly and soon their angry voices began to diminish with distance now between me and them.  My heart began to beat terribly within my chest and each step away from Jesus brought forth a greater revelation of my cowardess. 

I turned back and as I came close to them once again suddenly, His disciples scurried past me, one after another running and fleeing for their lives and I stood utterly confused and conflicted.  I watched as the angry band of men forcefully bound and led Jesus away and from the garden; I simply could not bear seeing Him forsaken and though I knew my life too might be hanging in the balance, seeing Jesus alone was too much for me.  I stood crying, now in full sight and I screamed with all that was within me…Jesus!  I simply wanted him to know that He was not alone, that there still remained one, near to Him.  

 Several of the men broke off from the group and quickly began to push and pull me angrily as they beat me with their clubs; the pain from each blow somehow quickened me and I struggled with them as they tried their best to contain me.  With one last burst of energy I twisted and turned and felt freedom from their grasp as I ran away naked from them.  I ran and ran, not looking back and soon found myself exhausted from the early morning experience.  I was tired, thirsty, naked, cold and ashamed that I had not been brave enough to endure the suffering with Jesus… 

Father, this story has caused me to contemplate much.  Why is the young man, one that followed you with fervor, endangering his own life, on that unforgettable early morning, held in scripture with no name?  I can only imagine, simply, that it is so, because it affords us an opportunity to place each of our names in his stead.  How many of us have followed you with a zeal that is unmatched, loving you with much passion, seeking your face with urgency, only to find ourselves too, unaware and or aware, of our forsaking you for something else of this world, absolutely naked and with our heads, once held high, now hanging in disbelief, in doubt, in confusion, in uncertainty as to your presence in our lives? Recently Father, you made it so very clear as to the tactic of him, that I want desperately to refuse to mention, but must so that there is a clear understanding as to his subtleties.  The very first question posed in scripture was that of the serpent, to Eve, as you heard it voiced and brought to life so many years ago.  “Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?  With that question he revealed the one tactic he would use on each and every human being that would seek relationship with you…doubt!  If he can take us down this path of doubt, indecision comes forth, hesitation arises, confusion resides, and mistrust finds its way into our lives, weakening our resolve, hindering our walk and, if not addressed, traversing this earth, inadequate, in your stead, amongst and in a world that is so desperate for light; the light that shall expose the darkness and what binds them, and us too as believers, rendering us ineffectual, weak and woefully powerless.  It is time, as each day passes into the next, bringing us closer to the end, for us, that follow Him quietly and, in the shadows, to awaken from our slumber, to hear with a sense of urgency, the words spoken by your Son,toy those closest to him that early morning in the crisp air of the Garden of Gethsemane, “Rise up, let us go…”        

Matthew 25:34-40 “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee?  Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in?  Or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these thy brethren, ye have done it unto me.” 

As with Christ, we acknowledge that the trials, the tribulation, and the persecution WILL follow our rising.  Fill us Father with nothing less than that of the Spirit of your Son, that power from on high, that will cause us to endure beyond our own limits!  We love you Father, we thank you for the Passion of Christ and for the gift of thine Holy Spirit. 

Daniel

 

 

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reaching for the “one”

I sat waiting and in disbelief, with great fear and trepidation, as to what I knew was forthcoming.  Yet my greater focus was not so much on me, but for the other man, beaten horrifically beyond recognition.  He was bleeding profusely all over his body; his flesh had been ripped off and away exposing his inner tissue, his tendons, his muscles and his bones.  He was in great pain, shaking uncontrollably, as the dirt floor became saturated and stained with the crimson red pouring forth from his body.

The soldiers, preparing for our punishment, were frustrated and angry that there was now a third prisoner that would require a cross of crucifixion.  I could barely watch as they now, the entire band of soldiers, began to abuse him mercilessly.  “They plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying Hail, King of the Jews!  And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.”  I was astonished when his blood and fragments of his flesh traveled the distance between us and found their way upon me; they both peppered my body with their heat.  My first inclination was to wipe and rid myself of this intrusion, but for some reason, I could not and simply allowed it to remain untouched.

I sat, dumbfounded, as he held the agony of pain within; he seemed resolute, beyond any man I had ever encountered, to portray nothing less than an inner peace, to hold his anger, and carefully hold any indication of judgement to those that railed against him.  He uttered not a single word, refusing, with the same resolve, not to stoop to their level of unhinged madness. It was all too much for me to take in, too much to consider, too much to understand and for the first time, in many years, tears puddled in my eyes.  They soon, without capability of being bound any longer, eventually overflowed unhindered down and into the crevices of my aged face leaving a trail of warmth that equally matched that of his blood; they felt good.  I wondered, in the midst of the turmoil and chaos that surrounded our last hours, who this man was?

As they dropped the cross upon my shoulders and back I nearly buckled under the immense weight that now became an unwanted part of me.  My flesh screamed with pain as the splintered fragments of wood from previous uses pierced me relentlessly.  Now carefully balancing the cross and gaining a sure foot hold, my eyes were fixed upon the man that had captivated my thoughts; how could he bare such a weight in his condition?  I saw and heard him gasp as they too dropped the ornament of pain upon him; he fell instantly to his knees as he unsuccessfully tried to steady the weight upon his gaping wounds.  I could no longer simply stand by without action; I immediately dropped my cross and went to him.  I lifted his cross while he, once again, stood slowly to his feet.  The loud threats and stings of the whips from the soldiers did not deter me.  I assisted in placing the cross gingerly on his back and withstood the onslaught of further beating until I was certain he had the cross in balance and under control as we stood together.

 

Walking slowly towards the place of the skull, that of Calvary, and the crucifixion that awaited us, my thoughts were overcome with him; if all he had been through at the hands of the Roman soldiers were not enough he now withstood the mass abuse, from his fellow countrymen, along the streets leading out of Jerusalem.  Some were yelling and screaming, almost in unison, “crucify him!”  Others threw rotten fruit while still others spit upon him as he passed near and by them.

I heard, through the mass of hysteria, someone shout his name; Jesus!  Yet it was not in a tone of disdain but in one of compassion.  I looked to the place of the herald and saw a woman crying without hindrance and uncontrollably, reaching as she repeated his name, Jesus, this time now with greater volume, with groans of disbelief as he passed by.  She fell, unable to stand, as she witnessed the horrific state of his physical being and the dreadful scene playing out before her very eyes.

Suddenly and without warning time slowed and an eerie quiet fell upon me.  I began to hear my father’s voice absent so many years from my life; I was instantly transported back in time, to a place of total comfort, as my father recited passages from the handwritten scroll that consumed his free time.  I was too young to understand the words that he spoke but somehow, they brought me comfort.  I watched, somehow in a time warp, as my father, sitting beside my bed, began to tear up, his voice cracking, over and over again, until he cleared his throat with a great cough.  He paused for a moment, trying to gather his composure, wiping the tears now cascading upon the old scroll, and repeated once more what he had just read, with a very quiet but clear tone; yet this time he read it slowly as each word hung on his lips…

“behold, my servant will prosper, he will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.  Just as many were astonished at you, my people, so His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men.  Thus, He will sprinkle many nations, kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; for what had not been told them they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand.  Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  Surely our griefs He himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.  All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.  He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.  By oppression and judgment, He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?  His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.  But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.  As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, my Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.  Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.”

I felt the heat of the nail near to my wrist and then heard the loud clash that brought hammer to nails head.  It was the extreme pain that ushered me back and in to my circumstance.  The next nail, it too hot from sitting in the sun, penetrated my flesh with the same intensity.  Looking down, as they placed my feet, one on top of the other, I saw the larger nail, twice the size of the other two being carefully placed upon my foot.  I watched fearfully as the soldier raised the hammer much higher and with greater concentration.  The clash, of hammer and nail, once again, resonated throughout my entire being and I quivered with pulsating pains as the second and third swing brought a sure fastening of my feet to the foothold of the cross.  My entire body now shook with pulsating shockwaves of relentless, persistent, unyielding agony.

Lifting my head, gasping for air, I saw, in the distance, the man, Jesus, now being assisted by another man towards us.  I, unfortunately, relived my earlier experience as they, methodically and void of any mercy, fastened Jesus to his cross of crucifixion!  I closed my eyes tightly, unwilling to witness the savagery being released, yet, the sounds refused to be muffled.  The hammer to nail experience, through bone and tissue, once more reverberated upon the hill, and it only ceased when the securing of man to wood was sure.

I could not help but cry out as tears flowed freely and without interference and I felt their warmth running down the front of my body.  Looking over at Jesus, through eyes partially blurred and distorted, I saw him lift his head and eyes up towards the heavens.  I thought he too was gasping for air, yet he began to speak softly through the turmoil that held us in close proximity to one another; our arms seemingly stretched out and reaching towards each other.  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

My heart felt as if it exploded and I simply broke!

Broken not for the circumstance that held me fast with its excruciating pain, but because the words of my father echoed once again within the confines of my mind and with a clarity that now shook me to the very core of my existence.  “He will be high and lifted up,” “his appearance marred more than any man and his form more than the sons of men,” “he will sprinkle many nations,” “he was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” “He was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed,” “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth,” “by His knowledge the Righteous One, my Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities,” “He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.”

I began to cry, with full understanding, that the man that had earlier in the morning “sprinkled” me with his blood, was the same man that caused my father to cry and contemplate so many years before the words that dripped with truth.  I could only muster a couple of words as I felt small, I felt ashamed, I felt guilty, I felt dirty, and more than unworthy in his presence.  I opened up my hand towards him, fingers reaching for him and said, “Lord, remember me when you come into thy kingdom.”

Jesus, lifting his head slowly and now looking back at me, with eyes not of this world, with outstretched arms fastened willingly, his fingers also reaching towards me said, “Verily, I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Father, what more could be written, of old and in the present?  Men tried to stifle your words as they crucified you, thinking, incorrectly, that death would or could somehow silence you.  History, that too written by men, attempts to asphyxiate the words that you so eloquently spoke years ago and it too failed and fails. The desires of men, not kind to your love, have tried for years, and still today, to diminish the love that you possess for us with untruths, lies, misconceptions, and any vile means available to thwart, the truth.  We find ourselves contemplating, with greater depth, the wonder of the words of your Son today and His Passion; “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Oh Lord, how very precious can the simplest combination of words be in the lives of those that would seek your face and to a greater extent to those that do not know, in its entirety, the love which you embody specifically for them?  The thoughts of Isaiah, written thousands of years ago, begin to unveil the mystery which is that of your Son.  “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not thither, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”  Forgive us Father, we confess that we have not hidden your words in our heart, ever ready to be spoken to the “one” in need of refreshment.  Who might the “one” be Lord in a land filled with a mass of humanity yet so very near to us in our small circle of influence?  He or she is waiting, looking, longing for something not of this world, floundering in circumstance, dying a slow death filled with anger, with despair, with depression, and an utter lack of love.  Oh Lord, hear our prayers this day, give us opportunity to reach with outstretched arms, with nothing less than the love you embody, to the “one” chosen for an encounter today and let us, with humility and compassion, speak “your words” of truth and “your words” of love unconditional.  Why now, why the urgency?  Simply because just the “one” is of great value, he or she is worth the cost paid upon the cross by Him who willingly offered, willingly hung, willingly suffered, and ultimately overcame death by His limitless love.  I wonder what more you can do Father, to express to those of us here on earth, as each day passes, your love for us?  Your plan of redemption was and is beyond anything we could have ever considered in the limits of our flesh.  We find ourselves, hopelessly at your feet, desiring more of you Lord, more of what you desire for our lives, yet, and most humbly, not for self any longer; pour out through us and to the “ones” of your choosing today and every day that we have breath.  Let our last words mimic those of Christ as noted by John, the one and only disciple present at His crucifixion, be “I thirst.”  That thirst, surely, is not for that of fluid, but for just “one” more that might come to know thee even at the end of our lives!

Daniel

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Encountering the heart of forgiveness…

The brilliance of the sun, cascading down and around us all with its fullness, was incapable of unseating the chill of the early morning.  My body shivered uncontrollably as they, the scribes and the Pharisees, held me tightly, oblivious to the strength of their equally cold and calloused hands.  My dress, actually my undergarment, offered little to deter not only the cold but also the eyes of those that we encountered as we walked through the city and towards the temple.  Many began to shout, “stone her” and I contemplated my decisions, not good ones, and the consequences that awaited me as we came nearer still to the temple; a crowd now followed us and I began to feel small pebbles bounce off of my body periodically as my captors seemed oblivious to the onslaught that increased.  Now within the gate, in the distance I could see a mass of people within the temple gathered and listening to a singular man sitting amongst their numbers.

The anger of those dragging me, now at a faster pace and with a much stronger hold, seemingly rose to a crescendo as they neared the lone man whom they had become fixated upon.  They began to shout, softly at first, then with greater authority, “make way” and a clear path opened towards the man.  I tried desperately to pull back my disheveled hair from my eyes in hopes that I might see who this man was but the ferocity of their hold deterred my attempts.  My tears, now overwhelming me, restricted my eyesight even further.

Before I knew it, we stood motionless, and an eerie hush fell upon the situation.  I stood, humiliated, embarrassed and full of shame, looking down and at my feet now bleeding profusely from the journey; the crimson red stained the immediate area of my undesired stage of forthcoming judgment.  They thrust me forward with a final angry push and I found myself standing directly in front of the man that remained seated.  Now, with hands free, I slowly wiped my tears and pulled my hair back and away from my eyes; a state of utter disgrace washed over my entire body as I literally felt the eyes of each person present piercing my very soul.  The quiet was deafening!

I, however, desired to see the man that held my fate in his hands and finally garnered enough courage to lift my head gradually, and looked upon him with curiosity; I was surprised to see that he too looked poor, lacking the expected apparel of hierarchy or privilege.  Our eyes met for the first time and though anger, hatred and judgment surrounded us on all sides, his eyes manifested something much different; immediately, a calm and peace overcame me.  My thoughts turned inward; should I plead for my life or accept the stoning that awaited my sinful act?  I was powerless to speak.

The silence was broken when one of the men clad in his fancied priestly clothing, in an annoyed, irritated and maddened proclamation, shouted, “this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.  Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”

I awaited his response, knowing full well the punishment and began to yield inwardly to the judgment and its finality.  Again, a quiet fell.  Rather than standing to speak, he, to everyone’s bewilderment, “stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.”  His calm, his demeanor of peace simply never wavered.

My accusers once again, now in unison and not simply the one, began to lay out the charges against me, giving in greater revelation, the details of my sin; recounting meticulously for all to hear with clarity as if somehow, he had not fully understood their charge.  They repeated my sin again and finally he stood.

He now took stood in front of me.  He reached down and grabbed my hands and clasped them lightly; the touch of his hands left me feeling weak and almost incapable of standing.  Looking deeply in to my eyes, as if speaking only to me, but certainly to the masses and to those that stood as my accusers and said, “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”  He said nothing more.  Once again quiet fell with intensity.

I felt the release of his hands and again he slowly stooped down, his eyes fixed simply on the ground and he began to write once more.  For how long the silence loomed I cannot tell, and it was only interrupted when to my surprise, one of my accusers, an older man, looked down and walked away; one after another each one would follow suit and soon I found myself standing alone before him.

He stood and once again grasped my hands with a gentle caress not of this world.  “Woman, where are those thine accusers?  Hath no man condemned thee?”

I felt compelled to answer, crying softly in disbelief, and simply said, “no man, Lord.”

He said, “neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more.”  At once, an older woman approached me and gently covered my “nakedness” from any further humiliation and she held me tight as we walked out of the temple.  Walking slowly, my feet so tender with each step, towards my village, I asked her the name of the poor man that offered forgiveness, that held no judgment, that had much compassion and was the giver of love unconditional.  She spoke softly and said, “Jesus.”

Father, we wonder, what must it have been like to experience your son in the flesh?  My spirit responds with a resounding…we have.  There has been someone in our lives that embodied the very spirit of Jesus.  They were present during our darkest times, during unsuspected trials and tribulations giving nothing less than what your Son would have given.  They give of their time, they give of their energies, they give simply because there was/is a love within them that is not of themselves and it is so wondrous that they simply cannot contain it all for self; it is an overflowing waiting to be released to a world that longs for such.

If we were to just step back, for a moment, and remember when we too stood before thee, sinners and deserving of judgment, I wonder what our daily reactions would be as we come across those that are hurting as well, lost in their shame, held in guilt, in need of forgiveness and a simple loving encounter.  A chance meeting that would hold no condemnation, but rather hold compassion, one that would hold mercy, grace, and of a certainty hold a love not of our flesh and only of Him.  Oh Father, that we would be privileged to be that one, to stand in your stead, that allows them to experience Jesus today.  May we speak of your plan of redemption, the sacrifice of your Son on the cross of crucifixion, the ransom fully paid, the chasm of separation bridged, and the loving intimate relationship that you so long for with your children.

Father your word notes, “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” 

Lord it is all too wonderful for our comprehension and I am once again…undone!

Daniel

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At the well…

The heat had become thick, lingering all the more in my modest home, as early morning gave way to its later counterpart.  The sounds and activities, now much more evident, of the inhabitants outside my one room dwelling beckoned for my participation.  Yet, I lay, as with every morning, reliving my life; thoughts of failed relationships with multiple men and those too of my female acquaintances overwhelm me.  My family had all but disowned me, disappointed in who I had become, ashamed as to how I was perceived by our village and left me to a world of loneliness.

Soon the tears would come, slowly at first, until the deluge would issue forth without hinder; small whimpers soon gave way to deeper groans of hurt as depression consumed me once more; I wondered if unsuspecting passersby heard the moans of intense pain?  My night gown, sticking now closer to my flesh, becoming inundated with both tears and perspiration held me closer still to my bed of despair. 

The unsuspecting shriek and bark of a dog, in close proximity to my door, frightened me back to the reality of my painful existence.  Now sitting up, along the side of my bed, I tried to moisten my lips, thirst now overtaking me, but was unsuccessful.  I took my hands, swept them across my face, and carefully used the sweat to pull my tangled hair back and into a pony tail.  I tasted the excess still upon the palm of my hand and the saltiness stung my cracked lips and deterred any further indulgence.

I rose from my bed and walked slowly across the room, with little energy, to the small basin that would hold my drinking water; it was bone dry.  I feared, knowing that yesterday’s lingering within my home of isolation, the choosing to remain in the confines of my room, might be consequential.  Near to the basin was the larger water pot that I somehow hoped would still be holding a bit of refreshing water but it too was empty.  I would have no choice but to ready myself for a trip to the watering hole.

As I reached down to pick up the larger water pot, my dress, once beautiful and full of color, now woefully laying tattered and worn, slipped off my shoulder and ripped a bit more.  My emaciated body was simply incapable of filling the void becoming greater still as each day passed into the next; I had not eaten for a couple of days but food held little if any value for me.  I had all but given up.

Opening the door slowly, the hinges creaked, and to my demise announced my forthcoming presence to the masses.  The wall of heat, coupled with the inability to acclimate my eyes to the illumination of the sun, caused me to step back into my home briefly.  Remaining for a few moments, I felt what little energy I possessed, begin to diminish as I tried to balance the larger pot on my back.

I could not have walked more than 20 feet when I felt, their eyes, those lacking compassion, peering upon me with great judgement.  Soon to follow came the insults, spoken with anger and disdain, as they too lacked any sense of human compassion.  I wondered, the watering hole still in the distance, if I would even make the journey feeling overly weak.  Again, trying to moisten my lips, I felt the warmth of blood now oozing a bit from my parched lips and without thinking I wiped the crimson red upon my sleeve; looking at its concentrated color upon the dry dusted background of my garment stunned me with its intensity.

Nearing the watering hole, Jacob’s well, with no energy, the time was now nearing 12:00 noon.  I knew from previous experience that I would more than likely not encounter anyone at this time drawing water and I welcomed the loneliness that awaited me. 

To my surprise, as I traversed the last few steps towards the well, a lone Jewish man sat; he too looked tired, hungry, thirsty and disheveled from his journey, from where I did not know nor did I care.  Our eyes met and I quickly turned mine away, hoping somehow that I could draw the water I needed without any conversation and or further encounter and be on my way?  I approached the mouth of the well, still careful not to make eye contact, and lowered the smaller vessel towards the water.  I could feel, though I had refused eye contact, that his eyes fell heavily upon me; I had years of experiential knowledge developing this sense.

“Give me a drink.”

Not sure how to respond, I lifted my head and allowed our eyes to meet once again; it was if he was looking deep within my spirit, beyond just a normal glance, and a peace came upon me.  Dumbfounded by his words, replaying them over in my mind, still looking intensely back and into his eyes, I noted quietly, almost inaudible, that being a woman of Samaria, and he a Jew, that the request was not normal.

He then paused for a moment, as if gathering his thoughts carefully and said, “if you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

I approached him, now unafraid, and sat down near to him and we began to converse, alone in a world where no others were.  He spoke giving greater details of living water, never thirsting again, and though I had difficulty understanding all that was being revealed, what followed shook me to my core.  He spoke, more gently, exposing intimate details of my life and I now cowered in the shame that had held me captive for so many years.  I immediately looked away and simply said, “sir I perceive that you are a prophet.”  He spoke softer still, of the Father, true worshipers and of God as a spirit, but the sting of his earlier revelations of my life caused me to slowly retreat into my inner fortress of despair as I had done so often and away from our conversation; it was how I coped. 

I, with the bondage of my past, now holding me steadfast, gradually rose to my feet, longing to be alone in my home, did not know exactly how to end this chance meeting or what to say next?  I simply said, “I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ: when He comes, He will tell us all things.”

He reached out, now standing too, and cupped my chin, gently, lifting it upwards so that our eyes had no choice but to meet once again.  In a tone, one that I had never heard before, said, “I that speak unto thee am he.”  His eyes, looking so very deep now, were too much to bear, piercing my very soul, and tears began to flow unhindered; I found myself incapable of standing any longer dropping slowly to my knees.  Weeping at his feet, I felt his hand now on the top of my head, delicately stroking my hair.  All that held me captive, regret, shame, guilt, anger, loneliness and unforgiveness, lifted off of me, one by one and I felt a sense of clean; layers of immorality, filth, and sin melted away with each stroke of his tender hand. 

The faint sound of men speaking with one another startled me and with their volume gradually increasing it could only mean they were nearing the area of the well.  I rose quickly, though I did not want the encounter to end, not knowing exactly what to do next.  He must have sensed my dilemma and simply embraced me, wrapping His arms lightly around me.  I, on the other hand, could not hold him tight enough?!  The men were very near now and as I slipped away from our embrace, I looked into His eyes one last time; they were full of love.  I picked up my water pot, somehow now full, and ran towards my village with new found energy with water splashing everywhere.

As I neared the homes within the village something was different and I no longer wanted to avoid those, my fellow inhabitants, that I came upon.  I felt renewed and I felt a passion to speak of my time with Him at Jacob’s well.  I boldly began to recount, to an ever-increasing crowd, all that He had revealed to me with words that simply were not my own.  One by one they began to disperse anxious and excited to seek Him that I had spoken of. 

Back and in the confines of my home, alone once again but not feeling as such, I opened the windows that had been closed for so many years and the brilliance of the sun filled the room.  A small breeze cooled my body as I thoroughly washed my body with the water from the pot.  I felt new, I felt clean, and free from the shackles of life that held me bound an incapable of living.  I found myself singing, singing of His love, His compassion and praising Him, that found me at my darkest hour.

The small tap at the door startled me and I opened it with pleasure and without hesitation.  Weeping and falling to her knees, a woman begged for my forgiveness, for her lack of compassion and the pain she must have caused me by her actions.  I reached down, caressed her hair with the love of Him, lifted her up and simply embraced her.  She pulled away, wiped the tears from her eyes, and smiled deeply.  Reaching in to her small satchel she slowly revealed a beautiful new dress and proceeded to hand it to me.  The dress, now in my hands, vibrant with color and so soft to the touch overwhelmed my senses.  We hugged one last time and simply cried in each other’s arms.  After her departure, I held the dress up to my body, swirled it around the room and danced with Him that had given me new life.    

Father, I have tarried long contemplating the Samaritan woman at the well.  There is so much not written; forgive me if I have embellished the story not to your liking.  The journey that day must have made you beyond tired, I know that you hungered for a certainty, your homelessness adding to the “totality” of your wearied state, but that did not deter you.  Words almost fail me as I consider the lengths that you will go, out of your way, to meet those that are in need of intimate conversation, those that are in need of an intimate touch of your hand, a wonderful grand intimate encounter.  You knew she would be there, you knew that she would be a voice for the love she received, freely giving to those that more than likely were unworthy of her offering that day; similar to us Lord.  Yet, when we encounter You, at the well, in our deepest darkest hours, depressed, angered, frustrated, longing, thirsting, for something more than of this world, we are changed and we too should not be able to contain all that you have done in our lives.  It is said of Moses after coming down from mount Sinai and his time with God that “the skin of his face shone” and of Stephen and that those of the council “saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”  Father, do our faces shine?  Is their light, a brilliant light, illuminating the darkness of the world we live in, emanating from us and to a world encompassed with hurt, loneliness, and hopelessness?  Do we go out of our way, freely giving of our time and our energies, looking for those you would allow to cross our paths, willingly and excitedly speaking of You?  Father forgive me for asking so many questions.  The contemplations continue, not sure really if we are able to fully comprehend the entirety of how very much You love us.

Father, there are those that read this message today, in the quiet of their surroundings, finding themselves in need of You, in need of that intimacy you so desire and in need of your presence in their lives.  Dare I ask in humility, crossing the miles of separation, time irrelevant, to meet them right now?  Would you flood the rooms where they sit, encompass them with love, unconditional, and full to its offering?  Wash over them I pray, wave after wave, and heal wounds left unattended and break the shackles of hindrance afresh from their lives.  The words of Your Son seem appropriate.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”  We love you Lord, and we “thank you” and close with this thought, uttered by King David, “What is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you visit him?  It is all too absolutely wonderful Father…Undone.

Daniel

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where are you?

The coolness of the morning accompanied by a restless wind, through the canopy of trees, awakened me unexpectedly and early from a horrible night of sleep.  The ground, normally soft and welcoming on my body, seemed unforgiving as I tossed from side to side; for the first time I experienced discomfort, pain, and a numbness simply absent from any previous night of slumber.

Raising slowly to my feet I immediately felt that something was different, something was awry. The woman that He had given me, still slept, yet she lay curled up and as I placed my hand upon her side in an attempt to reduce the shivering that encompassed her being, she slowly began to open her eyes.  The warmth of my hand caused her to want more as she pulled me close and next to her.  Our bodily heat, one to the other, reduced the effects of the cold morning and we laid dumbfounded to the consequences that consumed our existence.

We whispered softly to each other, not knowing why, other than we might be overheard by Him.  We replayed the events of the prior days encounter with the snake and both, simultaneously, felt emotions we had not yet encountered; guilt, shame, and awkwardness overcame us with a ferocity that was relentless in its offering.  We wept, quietly, in one other’s arms and small droplets of water, this too new, trickled from our eyes and down our faces; we remained in our comforting embrace as neither of us wanted to rise from such.

The warmth of the sun stirred us and finally we began the day.  Looking upon each other, differently, we recognized immediately that we were uncovered and naked.  Uncomfortable we began to affix together the leaves of the fig tree to act as a covering and or an apron.  Earlier we had heard the voice of Him, walking in the midst of the rather large garden, and because both of us felt so uneasy, we hid in and amongst its canopy.  Over and over we heard His call until finally He found us.

His call, specifically to me, not so much to the woman as he bellowed my name, “Adam” sent chills down my spine.  I was fearful to respond, unwilling to answer and we remained quiet still in the thickness of the covering; the woman gripped my hand tighter still as the call came once again and I was experiencing emotional overload as my body shook and quivered without hindrance.

Then finally, as if next to me, “Where are you?”

 

This question, the first question posed by God to man, still resonates today.  Time, measured in years has not, in any way, diminished its call, the shifting of sands, numerous, have not nor will ever be capable of shrouding its herald; and what of distance, might it eradicate the cry from the Father, specific to His children?

This morning, in His presence, He taps away, quietly, at the keyboard of our hearts, and desires to know of our answer to the call, to the herald spoken by Him with fervency, with ferocity, with urgency and with an unending resolve, ever waiting, patiently, for our consideration and our response…

”Where are you?”

Father, we come before you this day, each one of us, broken in some way.  Some of us are hiding, some of us are running as with Jonah from the call You have on our lives, some of us contemplating life’s unanswerable questions, as Martha and Mary, “Lord, if thou hadst been here,” some of us simply hurt, we have lost our way, we are walking in unforgiveness, in bitterness, we are lonely, incapable of receiving the love you so long for us to possess, your fullness and yet, all the while, you remain, never leaving us, never forsaking us, always there, so very near, closer than we can imagine, wondering… “Where are you?” Father forgive us, let us answer right now, without further delay, and with the same volume back to you, we are here Lord and we need you so very much.  We need you to place balm upon the injuries, the bruises, the cuts, the scars, inflicted without deterrent by life and its unending trials and tribulations.  We confess the selfishness of these desires yet we must know, with a certainty, that there is a greater purpose beyond ourselves Lord.  Scripture so eloquently notes, “There was a man sent from God, and his name was John.  The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe.”  Father, are we not all, every single one of us, sent from thee, and could it not be that the name John is interchangeable and that our names, in humility, could be placed within the same confines of scripture?  Sure, many of us are poor in the eyes of the world, possessing little, without eloquence of speech, without influence, without power and yet though we lack in these, what we do have, is it not utterly eye opening?  The words of Paul leap off of the pages with boldness, with clarity, and with power as we too proclaim of your goodness, your grace, your mercy, your peace and of a surety your love to all that will hear of such wonderment. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

“Where are you?”  Give us courage to answer!

Undone,

Daniel

 

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Walking by faith…

I was unable to sleep, why I am not sure, but the coolness of the early morning now flooded the tent, the corner flapping gently, as the small breeze worked its way in and around the limits of the once bustling space; I was content with life, reflecting greatly, in regards to Him that I had become so intimately attached to and dependent upon.  With the inhabitants of the camp, now well into their slumber, I was puzzled by the stir within the livestock, seemingly on edge as I listened to their restlessness coupled with the occasional neigh of a few donkeys.   Sarah, oblivious to the activity, slept peacefully and near, as always, our Isaac snuggled in beside her; I was a blessed man.

He had given me so much, beyond anything I could have imagined, and my life replayed itself over and over in my mind.  Just as I was beginning to feel sleep come, my eyes now heavy with the day, I heard, with clarity, the voice of Him whom I had come to recognize instantly.

“Abraham.”  The voice frightened me with its authority and urgency and I knew, somehow, that this encounter, the conversation that now lingered waiting for my response, would once more change my life; previous experience had taught me well that He had a plan that would need my participation.  I could only muster a simple, quietly spoken, “behold, here I am.” 

Then there was nothing from Him and I began to wonder if somehow my mind, battling sleep deprivation, had failed me?  The livestock, again, catching my attention, seemed unusually active for the hour and the breeze coming in and through our tent intensified for some reason; I was paralyzed, with uncertainty, my thoughts anticipating His next words and I simply felt bound, with a hint of fear, though I was not sure why?

The activity outside the camp instantaneously stopped and an eerie quiet filled the tent other than the wind that blew constantly. 

He began to speak once more and I remained fearful but excited at the same time.  I sensed the hairs on the back of my neck raise to attention and His presence completely consumed the tent though my family was not any more the wise as they slept deeply.

“Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”

My heart sank and I felt helpless, incapable of processing the request, as I considered what was just spoken.  I could not speak and to make an already difficult situation worse, though I felt His presence earlier, I now sensed I was once more alone with my thoughts and without the opportunity for further discussion with Him.

Could I have heard right?  I peered over, looking intently on Sarah and little Isaac resting so unaware of the encounter.   Questions began to emerge as to why, after blessing me and Sarah with our only son so late in life, would He require this of me?  What would those within our family think of me sacrificing my son not to mention the reaction of Sarah?  The absurdity ran through the boundaries of my imagination and it was just too much to ask, too much to comprehend without further conversation and I sat defiant, determined to ignore the discussion; yet, with all that was within me, I was confident that it was His voice and I had heard Him correctly and the command, as if spoken to me again, echoed in the quiet of the now terribly lonely tent.

I refused to wrestle any further with the flood of emotion that was overtaking me and I now became equally determined to follow, no matter how ludicrous the call, Him that I knew, experientially, had never ever failed me.  The doubt, the whispers of the enemy, of which I was well aware, now faded as my resolve to carry forth His demand upon my very life and that too of my son deepened.

I walked to the tent near to ours, slowly, as my eyes fought to adjust to the newer atmosphere and I gently awakened two of my closest young servants knowing they would not question the hour and or the beckoning.  Walking back out and towards our home, the light of the moon and the myriad of stars caught my attention briefly and I paused looking up; I felt the smallness of my existence and I remembered a promise spoken to me by Him.  “…look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, so shall thy seed be.”

Scurrying about speedily but careful not to awaken the masses, I witnessed the young men readying the wood needed for the offering and a fire bundle, crackling in the darkness, illuminating our immediate surroundings a bit, as I had asked; now as they saddled my donkey, I knew it was time.  I stood motionless, in all that surrounded me, with a greater determination intensifying, to tarry not a moment longer, and quickly traversed the steps back to our tent.

Little Isaac, without question, as I awakened him, rose to my voice and we slipped out of the tent with Sarah unaware of our departure.  It was still early morning and the bite of the small breeze now caressed each of our tiring bodies as we ventured forth into the darkness. 

The next three days of flight brought questions from little Isaac as to the sudden departure from our family but nevertheless he obediently withstood my instructions.  The young men, as well, were noticeably confused though they too would be compliant with all that I had instructed them.  In the distance, with the rising of the sun and its warmth, I sensed that we were now close and nearing the end of our journey.

I instructed those that were with me to wait, to travel no further, and I took control of the fire bundle and laden donkey with the sacrificial wood.  Isaac and I journeyed the last mile or so together and our conversation was limited.  It was as if he knew that this ceremonial sacrifice, that he had witnessed before with young eyes would, in some way, be different.  My heart began to ache, anguish was consuming me, torment found every fiber within, and I began to suffer greatly as we approached the inevitable destination.  I could feel the knife on my side and though it was small in size, the weight of its purpose became extremely heavy upon my physical being as with nothing I had ever experienced. 

The soft tone of Isaac’s voice caught me off guard and said, “my father: and I said, here I am, my son.  And he said, behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

I nearly collapsed, legs weak with despair, unable to steady myself, as beads of sweat now found their way down my back and disappeared into my inner clothes: what was I to say? 

“My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.”

We finally approached the area and if I was weak before I now found myself wholly exhausted.  I began, with what little energy I had left, to build an altar with the help of my son, and I cried softly, so that Isaac would not hear and a steady stream of tears flowed down and through the crevices of my aged and discolored face.

I laid the wood in order, as I had done so many times in the past, and I sheepishly began to bind Isaac and told him of the love that I possessed for him.  He was perplexed, but willingly offered no resistance, and I wept now without hindrance.  It was just too much as I neared falling to my knees in utter agony.

I reached down and I caressed his face, kissed his cheek and lifted the knife up and out from my side, hidden from his eyesight.  He was so calm and I simply was not.  Something, not of me, for I was incapable, began to take the knife towards my son to slay him and offer him, sacrificially, as He had requested.

Just as I was near to sacrifice, from heaven came a thunderous call, “Abraham, Abraham!”  I immediately paused, my heart now pounding out of my chest, lowered my knife and with the same volume responded, “here am I.”

“Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him:  for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”

I was overcome.  I dropped to my knees after unbinding little Isaac and I hugged him over and over to his dislike.  I pushed back the hair from his eyes, wiped away the dirt affixing itself to his cheeks and looked deeply into his eyes with a love not of this world.  In the near distance a noise caught our attention and we witnessed a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns and we arose, together, to offer him to our Father.

 

It seems only fitting, after all this time, to end in a prayer Father.  We recognize the intimacy of fellowship between you and Abraham, there was a history of interaction, and how important it had become to you both.  So we must ask ourselves, looking inward and with honesty, a most simple question.  Do we have this relationship with you and is it so sweet, so precious, so intimate that we hear you, with clarity speak our name specific?  Oh, that we would be given the opportunity to hear such and respond in kind as Abraham… “Behold, here I am.”  That we would make ourselves accessible to thee Lord, to you, that calls our names.  Do you still call a man or a woman, to the utterly absurd and to that which is greater than our intellectual capacity to understand?  Isaiah notes with eloquence the truth so foreign to us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

It is in this moment, after hearing our name, after acknowledging your presence, when the irrational request, beyond our comprehension, comes with full force that we must without fail, trust in you and respond.   Abraham’s reply, that of rising early, transcends time as to the action of an earthly son, trusting his Heavenly Father, with a request that he cannot process in the mind of his flesh.  There is something to be said for “immediate obedience.”  It does not allow our thoughts of doubt and or the whisper of the enemy to thwart your will Father! 

The world tells us that many of your requests cannot be carried forth by mere common men and or women to fulfill all that you desire for us individually and collectively as the body of Christ; that you do not want such intimacy this day with those you would call sons or daughters.  We do not believe this Lord. We believe that as we contemplate your desires, that you right now, are amongst us, looking, listening and participating in our mediations and our considerations of that which lingers with prominence before us; you are waiting for an audible response and further still a walking out of our faith.  But why?  What if anything can be expected from the obedience that we offer you? 

You spoke to a younger Abram and issued forth a promise and I am more than sure it was simply not exclusively for him alone and spans time without end.  Genesis 13:14-17 “For the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever.  And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed be also numbered.  Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.”

Each one of us that choose to walk with Christ, eventually, though probably not soon enough, recognizes that our obedience cannot be for self, though intimate relationship is, in its entirety, rather to be chosen than gold, but rather for the benefit of others.  We have the opportunity to walk the land, to be the light of Christ, to be the salt of the earth.  We can walk from east to west, north to south, to foreign lands and all the while be conduits of all that you are; compassion, kindness, and of course love unhindered.  Though darkness truly pervades this world of which find ourselves participants we want nothing less than to be a portion of the light of your Son, Jesus.  When we walk let us shine with such brightness, with such wonderful luminescence, that it shall blind all that come into our lives and cross our paths.  And how might we have those encounters present themselves?  We simply walk, one day at a time, by faith, knowing as the psalmist proclaimed “What is man, that thou are mindful of him?  And the son of man, that thou visitest him?”  You are mindful of man, you arrange collisions if you will between those that need such.  Father, I am reminded of the young girl wanting food, the man that was not a believer, the homosexual man, the man that only wanted a cigarette, the man that threatened me with death by those evil in the desert and the numerous chance meetings, we, encountered.  Let us walk Lord, though there may be periodic detours, in obedience to irrational calls, and claim victory for those lives, the chance meetings, that you coordinate all over this land. 

Oh Father, Isaiah was “undone” in his words…we too are the same.  We are inspired by his words, Isaiah 8:2 “the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

We are humbly yours Father, waiting, listening, tarrying, constraining you all the more so that we might hear you once again call our names and…walk by faith.  We love you Father, we thank you for the Passion of your only Son, Jesus, and the gift of thine Spirit.  We praise you, we worship you, we glorify you and sacrificially give our lives to thee this day! 

Daniel

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thwack

The stench of the colony, for some reason, overwhelmed me more today than any other time in the past.  The foulness of dead rotting skin and remnants of extremities, fingers with bone now showing, toes looking nothing like toes, scattered along the path, was simply more than I could handle as I walked slowly passed those too feeling overwhelmed and with little hope.  On the outskirts of our shanty village, in a desperate attempt to lessen the smell that lingered, exaggerated by the noon day heat, I finally reached the fig tree that would offer me a bit of shade.  I sat, limp and without energy, as with every day, trying desperately to escape “life” and the reality of my situation that ravished my flesh now scarred from its horrifying effects.

The disfigurement, gradual at first, now consumed me entirely with flesh tumors covering the majority of my body, skin lesions unhindered and the loss of extremities to the point of debilitation.   I lifted my hands to my head, or what was left of them with fingers now mostly gone, as my palms cupped my forehead.  Without thinking, I moved too quickly, and the simple adjustment of my body caused my skin to tear and stick to my cloak with its moisture.  The blood trickled forth, crimson in color, freely and without interference; I sat in disbelief that there was no pain.  I had numbed to such yet there was a pain more relentless; that of limited, warm, human contact for so many years.

I simply could no longer go on; I was ready to die and the sooner, I thought, the better.  Lifting my eyes towards the mountains and in to the brightness of the sun, the shimmering heat leapt and danced off of the ground.  Something moved from the mountains base but I could not tell as to what it might be.   The dust clouds, significant in size, took me by surprise as “it” moved ever so slowly.  I wiped my tearing eyes in an attempt to focus a bit more and as I cleared them I noticed a large crowd of people heading into the main village still a good distance away.  The closer they came within my view I noticed they followed a smaller group of men, a bit ahead of them, and greater still their seemed to be one they all followed.

Could it, possibly be, the man, the man named Jesus, the great miracle worker?  My thoughts ran a muck and I stood replaying the stories of demons fleeing with a simple rebuke of his voice and likewise all manner of diseases healed as if they had never existed.  The thoughts, too grand for comprehension, lingered, as if suspended in air and capable of being touched.  I felt something stir within me and without hesitation I sensed an urgency to see if this was him and if I could somehow speak with him in my humbled state.

As the large crowd approached I knew that it must be Him; his attire was not that of privilege but rather as a common man…one of us.  He carried himself with such resolve, steadfast as he walked ever so deliberately now just on the outside of the gate to the village that had been banished me years earlier from its masses.   Nearing closer still, I could hear the murmurings begin and the warnings from within and without prompting him, vehemently urging him to not only ignore me but to stay clear of me.

Now overcome by the jeers, the insults penetrating so very deep and the hurling of threats, I turned slowly and began to walk away from the angered crowd.  My heart sank.  I began to cry, softly, to myself.  I had never felt so very dirty both inside and out?  My steps slowed and I felt something stir once again within and I simply stopped as I wiped tears streaming down my filthy face.

Without thought, I turned again and ran as fast as I could and fell at his feet, taking the masses by surprise as they screamed at me with great fervor and without hindrance.  I cried out, face down before him, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.”

I cried now uncontrollably, still prostrate and incapable of looking at him directly.  Through my tears, now clouding my sight, I saw his feet move.  All was silent, not a word was spoken by anyone, and I feared he was simply going to walk around me.  Then it happened.

I felt a hand touch my head gently, the silence still deafening, and his stroke worked its way down the side of my face and his fingers now cupped my chin.  With a bit of pressure he lifted my face upward, away from the ground, and our eyes met as he stooped down to the place of my humiliation.  I had not experienced the touch of a human hand for so long that I simply reveled in its caress.  We looked at each other for what seemed like an eternity and then he spoke, as if the touch were not enough.  He quietly said, “I will; be thou clean.”

In an instant a burning sensation encapsulated my entire being and the horrible effects of leprosy reversed themselves right before my very eyes.  A simple touch and a kind authoritative word changed me forever…how could I ever thank him for such?!

Father, this passage has impacted me greatly.  For many of those that would encounter Jesus, His words, spoken at appointed times would change lives beyond imagination…we have all been recipients of such.  Yet there were some Father that experienced Him in a much greater way, with His “touch.”  We cannot begin to comprehend what that must have felt like or maybe, just maybe…we can?!

The older I get Lord, it has become so very clear, that the simple touch of a human hand, placed upon a person that is hurting, upon one that is lost, upon one that is lonely, upon one that is afraid, upon one that is despondent and or upon one that has given up, affords us the opportunity to feel what that must have felt like.  It is your touch Lord, they are your hands of caress and of an unconditional love through us, channeled down, and upon the very sons and daughters you have selected for us to encounter.

Matthew 9:36-38 screams to us with a sense of urgency Lord, “but when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.  Then saith he unto his disciples, the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.  Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.”

Father forgive us, let us look out rather than always looking inward and send us forth to those scattered abroad each day to those of your choosing; put them in our lives and allow our paths to cross.  Move us, greatly, with a compassion we have not yet encountered.  Let not another day pass Father for there is one that needs a “touch” from someone today!

Undone,

Daniel

 

Matthew 8: 1-3 “When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.  And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, lord if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.  And Jesus, put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean.  And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”

 

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I watched from a distance, as the young babe looked intently, into the eyes of the aged woman I had come to love so very much.  She held him close, upon her bosom, and looked back, with the same intensity, now moistening her lips with the tears that had trickled down, through the wrinkled crevices, upon her face.  A smile emerged, that had been absent for so many years, and the whisperings she uttered made me curious as to the recipient of such.  Little did she know that the one she gazed upon would be in the blood line of none other than the son of God…Jesus!  The wisp of the heated wind took me back to times, of extreme difficulty, that we mutually endured together when life was not so wonderful… 

…My emotions were running violently unhindered and without restraint.  The heat of the day equally matched the intensity of the ever relentless bugs circling my being and crawling everywhere.  Some managed to bite my flesh sparsely revealed through my paltry clothing now drenched with sweat and stained from the labor of the day.  I could hear, through the thickness of the corn field, the heart penetrating insults, directed towards me, that echoed within the stalks near, by those hired to harvest the yield that was now awaiting their attention.  I simply waited as well, longing within that they would overlook a bit of the yield and or drop some as I gleaned the meager leftovers. Circumstances, beyond my control, played over and over within my thought process as the day crept by slowly and without compassion on its weary participants.  I wept quietly, hoping, that none would hear me.   

Sitting now on the ground from exhaustion, my back in an undesired, uncomfortable fixed hunch, I no longer was distracted by the bugs or heat.  I could not help but remember the discouraging words, so callous, that poured forth with such ease, from my mother in law as we returned to her home in Bethlehem and wondered, now sitting alone in the poverty of my menial existence, if I had made a horrible mistake?  “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?

Years earlier I had heard her speak with such passion about her God, the God of Abraham and His plan for our then enlarged family.  She now spoke with little hope, weak and aged from the trials and tribulations that life had inflicted upon her without pity.  I witnessed her heart, torn asunder, with the loss of her husband and left in a land raising two sons that would hold them as refugees from the famine that ravished so many areas.  A few years later, her sons, one of which was my husband, would soon follow into the footsteps of their father with untimely deaths.  She simply was not the same woman that I had come to admire and love without limitations.  The smiles had diminished, the laughter had ceased and she was simply broken, physically, emotionally, spiritually and seemingly beyond repair.  Her pleas for both me and Orpah, her other daughter in law, to go home to our parents, broke my heart to the full.  I could not leave her alone and refused to see her try and “live” with little expectation, with no means of support and with the heartbreak that ravished a once large faith…

Father as I read of Ruth, the restoration that would follow for both her and her mother in law Naomi, I sit in absolute wonderment.  When life, with its trials and tribulations, both outwardly and inwardly destroyed any faith once possessed by one of your children, as the great I AM, you were there!  You were there in the midst of the circumstances, you were there in the corn fields with Ruth, you were there when Naomi spoke words that must have penetrated your very heart and you were there, Father, as the One that gleans at the most opportune time.  You gleaned what others had cast away, you gleaned what others left behind, you gleaned what others had trampled upon as widowed women, in places of poverty and for those of a “humbled and contrite spirit.”  We find much comfort in knowing that many of us, in similar heart breaking situations, can more than count on you to be the same in our lives.  You desire nothing less, evident by your plan of redemption, by the giving of your Son, as the sacrificial lamb, than the realization that when life and its current and or coming atrocities appear in various forms, your Son, now sitting at your right hand, as the Great High Priest, “is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”  It is too wonderful Father!  The vast majority of us are not of this world and hold very little estate in the eyes of those that would look down upon us.  In speaking of Abraham it was said, “and so, after he patiently endured, he obtained the promise.”  Scripture pours forth this morning Father… “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”   The cross in its entirety represents nothing less than afflictions endured by pious men and woman, as a trial of their faith, conforming them to the example of their crucified master; and to do so daily!  One can certainly understand the need for thine Spirit Father as in the flesh we find ourselves painfully weak, lacking the strength that can only come from thee to withstand the “wiles of the enemy.”

Father, there are those reading this morning that find themselves in places of despair, in places of discouragement, in places of hopelessness that they never could have imagined.  The enemy, whispers, insults by his underlings, unconstrained, to the ears of your children.  So our response this very hour shall simply be… we “therefore come boldly unto the throne room of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”  As with Ruth, give us courage to be different, to go where others dare not go, to be subservient to your desire for our lives, to serve those that others would choose not to serve, to be counted worthy to be the embodiment of your Son.  Naomi, in the end, was restored and though she looked down upon a babe with much love, we shall look up, from the foot of the cross, also with a face full of tears, and revel in all that was and is your Son, our Savior, Jesus.  Recipients of love uncompromised, love unconditional and with a heritage unlike any other as children of God.  “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.”

We commit our lives into thine hands and though the words of Ruth were spoken to Naomi, may they  be emblazoned upon our very hearts and spirits as we cry them out to you Father!   “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for where you will go, I will go…”

Daniel

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I sat, alone, though the throngs of inhabitants bustled in and around me, at the gate to our village, in a state of utter despair.  The light wind blew its fading hint of heat, mixed with a small taste and tinge of dirt, across my face and within my beard as the coolness of the evening began to come forth.  Tears of regret, tears of sorrow, tears of time wasted and tears of life revealed their earlier existence from the recognizable streams of “clean” down my dirtied face.

Pulling my tunic up and over my head brought the warmth I had enjoyed earlier in the day as the hours passed in contemplation of the absolute sinfulness of the place I called home.  I looked out, as the sun, now waning fast and all but gone, out and into the approaching darkness, towards the distant mountains and noticed faint shimmers of light dancing irregularly as they moved closer towards me.

As the light came more definitive it was clear that the illumination was emanating from two men of God.   I immediately rose and greeted them, humbling myself in a prostate manner, with my face towards the ground.  My thoughts raced, unhindered and wildly, as I knew of the rampant sin which lurked, ever so near, just inside the gate and an all-encompassing shame engulfed my entire being.  I immediately implored them to come to my home but they, with matching resolve, declined my offer.  To make a bad situation worse they even had thoughts of staying outside and in the midst of the city; they obviously were oblivious to the debauchery that awaited them so very close.

I pleaded, once again, this time more vehemently to simply come home with me, to wash their feet, to rest and lodge there for the evening.  They could then, early in the morning, arise and be on their way.  To my grateful surprise they accepted and we quickly worked our way to my humble dwelling and I was cautiously confident that we had done so unnoticed under the cover of darkness.

We enjoyed a bit of unleavened bread, prepared in haste, and soon found ourselves tired and a bit weary from the day’s events.  Without warning, a pounding upon the old wooden door, shook us from our leisure and a boisterous crowd, shouting with increasing volume, demanded that I surrender the two guests into their company so they could “know” them.  My heart dropped and the shame that had earlier held me tightened its grasp upon me once again.  Surely they were aware of the fear that gripped me knowing, all too well, of the wickedness now demanding their involuntary participation.

I, for a brief moment, as if unaccompanied, contemplated my earlier thoughts at the gate, of a life ineffective and without fruit, not only as a witness to my family but my inner circle of influence as well, in all things pertaining to the God that I had once walked with more closely.  Another, more powerful pounding upon the door, ushered me back and into the present and without hesitation I opened the door rapidly, closing it behind me with the same level of swiftness.

The mob, obviously in a drunken state, could, nor would, attempt to hide the lust that their eyes possessed.  Their mouths spewed, unhindered, sexually laced tirades of unimaginable desires for my two guests.  In a panic, I offered my two virgin daughters, hoping this would somehow quench the yearning that was now reaching a crescendo.  They, however, were insistent upon the two men and began to physically take their frustrations out and upon me.  I felt a strong pull, from behind, and before I knew it the two men of God had dragged me back into my house and simultaneously struck the men outside with blindness. 

With a tremendous urgency, the two men spoke, with clarity, as to their visitation and purpose.  God would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  I was commanded to reach out, immediately, to my family and anyone else that would listen to the pending judgment; little did they know I had no one, not a singular acquaintance, outside of my family and my heart sank.

I heard, as I slowly awakened out of my sleep, the two men mumbling amongst themselves yet it was still quite dark.  I lay, disappointed, as the pleadings to my family fell on deaf ears just hours before.  Their mocking, without limitations, brought more tears though they went unnoticed.  Without warning I heard them, “Lot, arise, take thy wife and thy two daughters, which are here, lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.”

I arose, sitting now on the edge of the bed, but was paralyzed with grief, with fear, incapable of moving as I dropped my head into my hands.  I felt the strength of one of the men and he laid his hand upon mine, along with my wife’s hand, now standing beside me, but she fainted with the sternness and insistence of the request.  The other man grabbed my two daughters, by their hands as well and before I knew it we, all, were carried, into the darkness and not in our strength.  The chill of the morning took our breath and we gasped, trying to “take in” the enormity and severity of what now was transpiring without delay and quite quickly.

“Escape for thy life, look not behind thee, neither stay thou in the plain: but escape to the mountain lest thou be consumed” were the words spoken with great urgency.  We fled, alone from our guests, deeper into the darkness, towards the backdrop of the mountains faint in appearance.  As the sun began to rise, we heard from behind, sounds of tragedy of which we had never before heard.  My wife, now overcome, from the cries and screams that carried over the distance, became beyond distraught.  She wept for our other children calling each one of their names out in great agony and simply fell, exhausted, to her knees.  I held her close and I could sense she was going no further; she looked deep into my eyes and without further hesitation and with greater resolve, turned her head ever so slowly and back towards the city though I begged and pleaded her not to.

I embraced her and the once soft flesh now hardened in my very arms.  I let go, fearful, in despair and the distinct smell of salt accompanied the continual hardening of my wife to my utter disbelief.  My daughters, now crying uncontrollably, reached down and grabbed my outer cloak and lifted me up and we continued on, fatigued, further still towards the mountains. 

Father as I age and reflection becomes the greater part of my daily thought process, I too, as Lot, many times sit contemplating the unexpected meetings with those you would send across my path, the countless opportunities long since passed, and my specific circle of family and friends that have not witnessed your presence, in its wondrous fullness, in and through my life.  I recognize the enemy wants this contemplation, this regret and doubt that will, if we allow such, to eat away at our joy and the glorious light that you wish to shine forth.  The words of Paul to the Philippian’s well up within me as I tap away at the keyboard you have placed before me, “but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Father, Jesus noted that “we are the salt of the earth.”  What a tremendous statement! I am mindful of the residue of salt, either after exiting the waters off of any coast, the windblown salt air that sticks itself to us, and or the unmistakable taste it leaves upon our lips.  Your fullness, in the form of grace, of mercy, of peace, of compassion, of kindness, and of course love should be so “thick” that when they depart from the chance meetings that you have orchestrated with great care, those that you have allowed us to have fellowship with, they cannot help but recognize that residue of salt that lingers long upon their very beings.  They should leave our presence, in an absolute awe, wondering “what the heck did they just encounter”?   They should feel hope, they should feel encouragement, and they should feel all that you wanted them to experience specific to their individual needs.  Jesus said “remember Lot’s wife” and I must confess, in my lack of understanding, I am not sure why we should do so other than to not look back, but rather “to press toward the mark” and to recognize that, her final state, a pillar of salt, is what we should be!  Let today be the day we let go of bitterness, the day we let go of unforgiveness, the day we let go of anger, the day we let go of anything that hinders us from being simply pillars of salt stationary and in one place, but pillars of salt, walking without boundaries to the nations, to those amongst our circle of influence, and walking in our inheritance, as your children.  We bow before you and we ask, in great humility, for yet more encounters Lord, more chance meetings, more crossing of paths, to anyone that you would choose to be in the midst of your presence as we humbly stand in thy stead.

Daniel

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