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Entry #6: Entrance

Last night as I lay in bed waiting to see the manifestation of my decision in Heartland, I sent up a few words to the man of light, letting him know I chose him. When I finally drifted off to sleep, Heartland as I knew it began to change.

Immediate darkness overwhelms me, far darker than I have ever experienced before in Heartland. Light begins to filter around me like a rapid sunrise. A natural green door appears before me, its doorknob a burl. I walk forward and reach for the knob, which turns easily in my hand. The door opens with a slight push. I force myself forward, entering a dark, leafy room with an earthy smell to it. The door behind closes and vanishes.

The room glows a dark green and as my eyes adjust, another door becomes visible. This one looks even more ancient than the first, its hinges rusty and its wooden planks faded and smoothed with age. This door, I am convinced, is the entrance to Heartland. I nervously run my hands through my hair, unsure of the changes which await me. I open it as it releases a drawn out squeal, like the hinges are rusty and the door long since unused. I peer through, not surprised to discover the unmistakable darkness of Heartland in contrast to the portal’s dim light.

I pause. I have made my initial choice, but the man of light’s warning about Heartland becoming even more real freaks me out in this strange place. But if I back out now, I’ll always wonder what might have been. As I push the door further open and cross the threshold, the door slams shut behind me and an invisible wind kicks up. I nearly choke on the surrounding, dismal darkness.

I close my eyes and take deep breaths. A strong voice speaks beside me, “Courage. This darkness is only temporary.” The man of light is here. A tremendous boom and an explosion of light force me to my knees. I cover my face with my hands. A moment later a second sound, like that of a hundred trees falling, shakes the ground where I kneel. The ground stills and the man of light leans down and helps me to my feet.

I hear a trickle of water across rocks. The sound soon expands into a gurgling creek, then a rushing stream, growing louder and louder into a pounding, rushing river and finally into the tumultuous roar of multiple waterfalls. An image of Niagra Falls comes to my mind, but this is nearly double, no triple, in volume.

Without warning, we are standing right above the falls on a rock. Panic seizes me. I scramble to jump to a rock farther back from the edge. The man of light holds me in place.

“No, we need to jump into the falls.”

“What? Are you mad? We’ll be crushed!”

He smiles back and says firmly, “Trust me, we won’t.”

I spy a trail of rocks leading safely to shore above the falls. I’m pretty sure I can reach shore if he lets me go. He interrupts my thoughts of escape.

“That path does lead to Heartland, but I cannot go with you that way. If you wish to travel in Heartland with Me, we must jump over the falls. That way lacks the Spirit, and without the Spirit, Heartland will remain mostly unchanged.”

I’m not entirely sure what he means by the Spirit but something in the way he speaks of it makes me long for it. The man of light holds out his hand to me. I take a deep breath and reach for his hand. As our hands make contact, water barrels into us from behind, knocking us over the edge of the plummeting, pummeling falls. The roar of the water powers through my very being and knocks the air from me.

The water is warm, much warmer than I had expected. In a minute we are at the bottom, and instead of being crushed, the water pounds down on me like mere feathers. I easily wade over to shore, the water lapping at my feet by the time I reach the bank. My clothes are drenched while the man of light isn’t even wet.

“Why aren’t you wet?” I ask.

“Because the River is My Spirit and I am the Spirit of the River.”

I don’t even know how to respond to that so I ask a question that’s been running through my mind for a while. “What is your name?”

“I am known by many names, but you may call me Kristof.”

Entry #5: Reflections

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the choice laid out before me. To be rid of Heartland and its incessant enemy versus Heartland becoming even more real. As far as the difference between the two men I have to choose between, one seems concrete and promising, the other surreal and dangerous.

Last night I actually dreamed twice of something other than Heartland, although I know the dreams were related to the place. In the first one, I found myself at college on graduation day surrounded by a large group of friends, most of whom I did not really know. I also had a boyfriend. They were all congratulating me as I held up a letter with a job offer from an esteemed company. My parents surprise me further with a graduation gift of a trip to Europe.

In the dream I step into the restroom to fix my hair before the ceremony, but when I reach the mirror I freeze. My reflection stares back but it is separate from me. I smile at it but it refuses to smile back. I even lift my hands to my face to ensure I’m smiling. Still nothing. My reflection looks back sorrowful and depressed, like it deems the success of my life as nothing. It is hollow and empty, refusing to be comforted. And then I catch a brief glimpse of a collar around my reflection’s neck, a chain of bondage leading off into the darkness behind my reflection.This dream is followed by another one which in comparison is much more realistic. Again, I am at college with a few close friends. We’re in someone’s apartment sharing a meal and talking about life after college. Truthfully, I don’t know what I will do or where I will be after college. I excuse myself and go to the bathroom to splash water on my face, hoping to relieve some of my anxiety.

My reflection in the mirror above the sink, like in the last dream, does not mimic my own. This time, instead of anxiety, my reflection seems peaceful and hopeful. It even genuinely smiles at me, as if trying to encourage me. I rub my eyes and try to see beyond my reflection. Behind is a path I recognize from Heartland. And in the middle of the path stands the man of light.

I know they were only dreams but they weigh heavily on my mind. Is getting what I want here and now really a form of bondage? Are my earthly desires bad? And is not having what I want a reflection of a deeper contentment, having to do with the man of light?

Lots of people in the world have what they want and seem perfectly happy, yet I know I only catch glimpses into their lives through windows too often smudged by my own prejudice. Where and who are the truly content, and what brings them peace and hope? I can’t help but think that it has to do with the man of light.

And so that’s it. Peace and hope are far better than having everything I want. And I wonder what the man of light can do in my Heartland. So I will choose the man of light. I am sure to dream of Heartland tonight.

Entry #4:  An Offering

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My mind has been active ever since the last dream. I find I cannot stop imagining what it would be like to sleep the night through and never return to the place where I am hunted by an invisible enemy. And on top of all that, to have my deepest desires granted! I’ll admit it’s quite appealing. A genie in a bottle feeling accompanies these thoughts. Ever present though, is the thought that my loyalty to this “friend” is required. And there’s the rub.

I hope for undisturbed sleep as I lay down. No such luck. This time I am by the sea on the western coast. A black mass pursues me. The field I run across is charred and burning from the enemy’s flaming arrows. If I can reach the cliffs, then I will be able to safely hide among the rocks and caves. I run faster while arrows fly at me with unbelievable speed. Miraculously I dodge, duck and weave, missing them.

Unfortunately one hits its mark, landing in my thigh. I tumble to the ground awaiting my arrow of death, which I know from experience will return me to reality. As if in slow motion, I see the arrow heading for me and in the same instance I see the other man from the dream, the man of light, dozens of yards behind the oncoming arrow. His light is brilliantly intense and just as the arrow tip reaches my heart, the man of light catches it in his hand.

He breaks the arrow in two and discards it. No more arrows fly and the black mass has disappeared, replaced by a hazy, soothing light, like filtered sun through fog. He reaches down to remove the arrow from my thigh. I expect intense pain but none comes. Incredibly, the wound is not even bleeding. He smiles and helps me to my feet.

I can’t help but look into his eyes. They are filled with a fierce strength and, of all things, sorrow. “Are you here to make me an offer too?” I ask, remembering the last dream.

“No,” he says in an authoritative voice, “I don’t make offers.”

I immediately regret my question. “I’m sorry. Thank you for saving me just now.”

He smiles again. Warmth spreads through me and into the surrounding air.

“A choice lies before you, a choice which will affect every aspect of your Heartland and your life beyond.” He kneels down and cups his hands around a bit of charred soil. He gently blows on it and when he pulls away, a tiny flower has sprouted up among a few blades of grass.

Hope floods me. “If I choose you, will Heartland go away?”

“No,” he replies, standing. “In fact, if you choose me, Heartland will become even more real.”

My heart plunges. “When do I have to decide by?”

“Soon.”

The wind kicks up. Swirling ash from the field encircles me. A gusting wind creates a vortex. “What’s happening?”

“The battle continues. Choose soon for your own sake.”

A sound like multiple trains fills the air. A wind funnel lifts me off the ground up into the sky. I count to ten and open my eyes. Home again.

Heartland becomes more real? Why on earth would I want that? I glance at the clock on my bedside table and gasp. There, right next to the clock, is the flower from my dream. As I touch it, it disintegrates. A sense of hopelessness drifts into my heart, but also an urgency. I must choose soon.

Entry #3: The Offer

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Another dream. I find myself standing in a meadow on the edge of the eastern dark forest. A run-down log cabin appears before my eyes. I crouch down, hesitant at what may happen next. The second man from my previous dream, the one who looks familiar and safe, steps out of the cabin grinning and saunters over. A tiny part of me says to turn and run but curiosity gets the better of me and I stand up, after all, no one has ever spoken to me in this place.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he says, “I’ve been wanting to speak with you.”

“Who are you?”

“A friend. I’m here to help you in this land.”

“How?” I ask, intrigued by the implications of his words.

“By making you an offer.”

Something seems off but I can’t stop myself. “What kind of offer?”

“I can make all of this,” he gestures all around, “go away for good, along with any physical symptoms. No more running from the enemy. No more nightmares. You could live a normal life apart from this place. And I can do more for you. I can give you anything you want, travel, career, relationships, you name it.”

“How can you possibly do any of that?”

“Let’s just say I’m resourceful in all the right places and ways.”

“Why should I listen to you and accept your offer?”

“Because, my dear, you’re exhausted. This place, this Heartland, is killing you.”

I nearly lose my balance. He has touched on not only my heart’s desires, but also my deepest fear.  Still, “What would you get in return?”

He chuckles and then smiles. “You pledge your loyalty to me. That’s the only way to end these nightmares for good and start a normal life apart from the curse of this land. It’s time for you to truly start living.”

I listen to his words, wondering how he can grant me all the things I really want, but the more I wonder about it, the less I care. My thoughts are jumbling together as the minutes pass.

The grass in the meadow unexpectedly waves in an invisible wind, the trees of the forest behind me motionless. The cabin shimmers as the sky turns a pale yellow. A real wind kicks up so hard I have to lean forward in order to stand my ground. “I’ll think about it,” I say, envisioning nights of dreamless sleep.

“Take your time, my offer stands. Let me know when you’re ready to accept.” He walks back to the cabin and disappears inside.

As the door closes, an arrow whizzes by me. I close my eyes and open them to the familiar surroundings of my bedroom.

Who is this man, really? Can he truly make the nightmares go away? Can he really give me everything I want?

We all have a choice on who we serve. Even if we choose to serve the real King, don’t we still struggle with having the good life, here and now? What sort of offers has the enemy made to you before? And what was the trade off he required?

The Heartland Journals: A Fictional Account of the Journey of Sanctification

0712162000aEntry #2:  The Players

The dreams continue. The arrows fly at me nightly from an invisible enemy. Tonight I find myself beside a stream flowing through a grove of maple trees. I can see faint, foggy outlines of a mountain range through the trees. Across the stream two forms suddenly emerge together, yet separately, as if they have timed their entrance perfectly.

I’ve never seen anyone else here before so I am immediately on edge. I’ve often imagined that others must be in this place, and I have certainly sensed the presence of something evil. But this is different.

The fog dissipates and I step closer to the stream to study them. As I move forward, the stream unexpectedly broadens and changes. To my left, the stream forcefully tumbles over rocks, creating rapids, and looking altogether impassible. Behind, fog curling away from him, is a bronzed man dressed in garments of pure, piercing light. His features are blurred, except his eyes, which are a mixture of the deepest of colors and blazing a halo of light. He emits power, strength, and danger. Nearly everything in me wants to back away from his direct, questioning gaze.

I close my eyes and turn my eyes to the other form. He is much easier to look at, friendlier, even handsome and smiling. He’s dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. He stares at me with beautiful, intense, alluring dark eyes. At first glance, he seems the type of guy a mother would love for her daughter to bring home. The stream in front of him flows at a leisurely pace, peaceful and smooth.

Without either saying a word, I know they have both extended an invitation to walk with them in this land. And I likewise know that I cannot walk with both. It’s either one or the other. There is no compromising, no working together. I stand for what is probably only minutes, contrasting the two. One light and dangerous, the other dark and safe. One unknown, the other familiar and beckoning.

They both have their eyes on me and I get the feeling that they know all about me, and this land. The question is, of course, which one can I trust to lead me through? Which will keep the enemy at bay, the evil far from me? Every instinct in me is leaning toward the second one, the one who looks like a model. And I realize that that’s just it—he seems too perfect. The first is an utter mystery, but I feel with some weird sixth sense, truth is in him. And isn’t truth what I am ultimately seeking, especially here in this strange place that lingers beyond the coming of day?

 

How do you visualize the players in your own Heartland? Is your Christ a bit dangerous or have you watered Him down over the years? Remember, according to Narnia, He is not a tame lion.  

The Heartland Journals, A Fictional Account of the Journey of Sanctification

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Entry #1:  Oppressive Darkness

I keep having these dreams where I’m being hunted down by an unseen force of darkness. Arrows are notched and released in rapid succession while I run through forests, across mountain ranges, alongside deserts, and beside the sea trying to desperately lose the enemy, all the while failing miserably. Most dreams end in my death.

When I awake, my heart pounds and I’m sweating and shaking something fierce. I often wonder if I am going crazy, for I swear I can sense the eyes of the unseen enemy watching me on days following the dreams. And on those days I can’t help but wonder if something is also physically wrong with my heart because it feels dark and heavy and oppressive in there. And even if it isn’t, then I tend to think my mind is off somehow, shifted sideways or turned upside down.

Unfortunately, this really screws with my reality. At times, strangely enough, the dreams seem more real, more important to me than the present. I have to keep it together though, for life requires much of us whether we are students, housewives, mothers, employees or even simply living on the streets struggling for survival.

I spend a lot of time contemplating my dream world. I’ve been there so much that I actually have a pretty good mental map of the place. From the highest southern peak I can see it all, the mountains to the far north, the massive forest to the east, the coastlands to the west and the large dried up riverbed winding its way through the land. I can even catch a glimpse of bogs, bayous and desert; that is when visibility is good enough.

Most of the time, the dreamscape is cloudy, foggy, and even smoky. The sun never shines, even though I can see faint shadows. Occasionally I have dreams about the place when I’m not being chased down by an invisible darkness. In those dreams sometimes a breeze blows gently across me and makes me think that the land in ancient days, or in future days, was or could be a peaceful place of rest and joy. And the future days strangely seems more ancient than the days before when I think about it. Yet even as I wake from the dreams where I’m not being pursued, my heart still drips with weightiness and gloom.

What is this strange place? Moreover, who is the invisible enemy, hunting me down nightly? And why does my physical heart feel the after effects of the hunter’s pursuit? And finally, is there any end in sight?

 

Have you felt the oppressive darkness and weight of sin before? Does this life ever seem like a dream to you? What does the current atmosphere of your own Heartland look/feel like?

My Blog is Starting Over. Again.

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In 2008 I wrote my very first novel. In 2008 I self-edited. In 2009 a friend edited (thank you once again, friend). In 2010 I self-edited. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 the same. In 2014 I hired a writing coach on the recommendation of a publisher. In 2014/2015 I started said novel over.

In 2015 I lost interest, but still recognized that the novel content was very important. In 2015 I stopped writing altogether. In 2016 I wanted to burn it. In 2016 I decided to re-write it a different way. In 2016 the thought of finishing it again, only to have it rejected, discouraged me.

I asked God to show me what He would have me do with it because the story is still compelling. Last week He gave me an answer.

My blog is starting over. Again.

This time, I am writing and posting my novel here. It is about the journey of sanctification, AKA, how God changes us inside as we allow Him freedom to. This time around it will be called:

THE HEARTLAND JOURNALS

A Fictional Account of the Journey of Sanctification

Maybe you won’t like it. At all. That’s okay. There’s plenty I come across that I don’t like either. Maybe the urge to edit my work will be strong in you. That’s okay too. Simply print it out and mark it up. Maybe it’ll be something you read every now and then. That’s okay. I’m not looking to gain a following of like-minded individuals so we can form a cult together. Maybe you’ll love it. That’s okay. I’m still not wanting to form a cult.

And finally, maybe, just maybe, you’ll identify or at least recognize universal human challenges and be inclined to think about your own journey in a brand new light.

No matter which category you fall under, I’m going to do this. I’ve given this topic a lot of imaginative thought over the years and I’m still getting new ideas. So I’m placing them here in fiction form. And the nameless, main character, if you feel the need to give her a name, is me. Or maybe it’s you. Either way, I am still a girl on a journey with Christ.

Today, I’m ____________.

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Today, I’m writing. Today, on July 4, 2016, I’m declaring independence from the enemy and his ongoing attacks to frustrate, sabotage and keep me from doing what God has purposed me to do.

Today I am no longer willing to hide behind a glossy mask under which fear and pride as a writer cycle around like gnatty annoyances. Fear is going down in the name of Jesus.

I’ve been reading Romans in the Message these days. Parts of chapter 7 hit particularly harsh(16-25):

I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it… 

I need something more!

the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions…

I obviously need help!

I realize that I don’t have what it takes…

I can will it, but I can’t do it…

My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions…

Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time…

 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable…

The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up…

I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight…

Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge…

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. 

Two weeks ago I went to a craft store and asked the Holy Spirit to speak to me whatever God wanted. I saw these two images, in this order.

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I was drawn to arrows right away. The enemy continually fires arrows at us. The ones he shoots at me say, “You will never be good enough.” God does speak in craft stores. He was telling me to be brave against the enemy’s arrows aimed right at my heart’s desire of writing. The scripture is Jeremiah 29:11.

The second photo was taken far away in the store from the first. Needless to say, it stopped me in my tracks. Can we say enemy attack?

I’ve been avoiding writing like the plague and viewing blogging as a leper colony, a place of isolation and disease.

But I’m back. I can only do this with God. Apart, on my own, I will continue to fail at it.

So today, I start. I write. I blog. I look up to the hills from where my help comes from.

What about you? What does your arrow say? What goes in your blank, Today, I’m ___________?

Mordor Living

Yes. This is an entry about Lord of the Rings of which I recently watched the extended version. For those of you ignorant of the series, please feel free to go off and read the books and or go watch the extended version. Then come back here in a month, or however long it takes.

I was thinking this morning about living according to Mordor. Mordor is darkness, enemy habitat, offensive and hateful living. A person living a Mordor life prefers to take over all territory around them and darken it with their presence. They will constantly try and recruit anyone to their side/opinions/mindset. They are willing to sacrifice any and all for more power. They constantly have their eye tuned to others in order to control or manipulate others under or against them.

The problem is that I am a Mordorian at times. How often do I dwell in enemy territory, taking in his lies and stewing in darkness? How many times have I sought to make everyone miserable around me? (Of course it’s subconscious.) As for darkening the world around me, on my worst days, I don’t even want to be around myself. I’m great at persuasion when it comes to me looking good over others.

The alternatives are many. A Shire existence is preferred, some might even consider it heavenly. A simple outlook on life with plenty of cheer and consumption. Still, there are hobbits who annoy.

Rohanians keep an eye on the enemy and attack, yet they are reliant on horses for strength and the Bible says in Isaiah 31:1 “…woe to those who rely on horses..”.

People of Gondor have to climb too many stinking stairs and they white wash everything. Rivendale, well, um, we can’t really be elves. Sorry. I see them more as angelic than human.

I’m sure there exists some massive volume of symbolism for J.R.R. Tolkien’s world. I’m just skimming the surface and trying to figure out where I should exist.

Hmm. Maybe where I am now, but maybe looking up first instead of out first. Of course every morning I eat two breakfasts, so perhaps I’m part hobbit after all.

The point is that I need to stop living like a Mordorian on any given day. By the grace of Christ I can.

What about you? Where do you dwell?

Subtle Attack

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The battle was today. Lena had prepared for it as best as she could, relying somewhat on instinct, intelligence gathered from allies and definitely from prior experience with the enemy. The enemy’s camp encircled hers, battle inevitable.

She was not afraid. She had prepared. She knew the war had already been won. She shifted her shield in front of her heart and raised her sword, waiting. The forest was still around her, full of rustling, russet beauty. The peace of the place brought praise from her lips. She belonged to Him. This skirmish was merely to test the strength of her armor. And He made her armor strong.

The enemy never stood a chance against Lena, armed to the max. Yet in a strange twist of fate, the enemy never engaged her at all. Before her very eyes, the enemy’s camp was slowly dissolving, disappearing. Lena sang for joy at their retreat.

She went on her way later, journeying across the open field on the way to her cabin. The joy of not entering battle that morning swelled her heart. She went about her day, working, completing menial tasks that must be done around home.

Slowly, things began to go south. Simple tasks of habit took on greater obstacles. A project she had been putting off for a week suddenly became impossible to complete due to forces out of her own control and knowledge. Frustration built, attitude embittered and before she knew it, Lena was lying on the floor feeling defeated, depressed and discouraged.

She fell asleep there, a mere fragment of the warrior from earlier.

When she awoke, all the signs were visible. The enemy had attacked her, not on the battle field, as she had supposed, but in the subtle aftermath of her everyday life.