Prodigal: Yes, and you can share stories as we ride out.
Me: I think I have a good one to share.
This is from the book Small Miracles for Women by Yitta Halberstam & Judith Leventhal
First came the volley of shots, then the high pitched screams, and finally, the irrevocable silence of death. Later, in the women’s barracks, hushed whispers would tell of an aborted escape by some of the men. And much later, a young woman by the name of Esther would learn that Yidel–her beloved brother and only surviving family member–had been among the casualties.
Now her world was totally broken, destroyed. She was the last, the remnant. Two years earlier, when Hitler’s nightmare had first been unleashed in Poland, her beloved parents had been shot down by the Nazis in cold blood, and Yidel–older by four years–had become both father and mother to her. Yidel had been her sanctuary and port, her stalwart companion during her sojourn through the camps. Now he was gone. She was 20 years old and completely alone.
“He died a hero,” she tried to console herself. “And better a bullet in the back than death in the gas chambers.” That ignoble death would soon be her fate, she was sure, when she discovered that the next step on her journey was the infamous death camp Sobibor.
Until now, Esther had been relatively fortunate. Over the course of the past two years, she had been moved from camp to camp, but all of them had been “work” camps, where slave labor was harnessed for the Third Reich, where it was still possible to survive.
But Sobibor, like Treblinka and Belzec, was a “death camp.” Its only industry was extermination. When Esther was told she would be transported to Sobibor, she knew the end was near. Sobibor existed for one purpose only–the manufacture of death.
Strangely, though, when she entered the main gate of Sobibor together with the crush of hundreds, it was a sense of elation, not despair, that suddenly engulfed her. You are going to escape from here! a voice deep inside her exulted. That certainty surged through her even as her eyes absorbed the impossibly high barbed wire fence, the formidable watchtowers that loomed overhead, the menacing guard dogs with bared teeth.
Her first minutes at the death camp served only to confirm her incongruous conviction that here at last, in the jaws of hell, she was going to be blessed. For whenever a new transport arrived, a selection was made. Almost all of the arrivals were sent immediately to the furnaces, but during each selection a handful were plucked out from the crowd and spared.
Sobibor was not only a death factory, but also the place where Nazi personnel lived, and skilled laborers were required to tend to their needs and maintain the camp. Sometimes the call came for carpenters, or goldsmiths, or dentists; sometimes musicians, or singers, or dancers were recruited to entertain the Nazis when they were bored at night. On this particular day, the Nazi recruiter just happened to be looking for women who knew how to knit, a skill at which Esther excelled.
Out of the transport of 800 young people who arrived at Sobibor that day, only seven were selected for a temporary reprieve. And Esther was one of them.
“Eventually, they’ll replace us with others.” one inmate murmured to another.
“No one leaves here alive.”
“We must escape!”
And so, almost as soon as she had arrived at the camp where her fate never looked bleaker and the odds never seemed greater, Esther joined with other feisty spirits to plot the famous Sobibor uprising–the biggest prisoner escape of World War II.
On the eve of the revolt, Esther bade farewell to those in the barracks who would not be joining their effort to escape. They were either too sick or dispirited to try. We’re never going to make it either, Esther thought sadly as she kissed her friends good-bye. But better a bullet in the back than death in the gas chambers.
That night her sleep was restless and her dreams had a hallucinatory quality to them. In one of those dreams, she saw her deceased mother enter the main gate of Sobibor.
“Mama,” she cried out in disbelief. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know that we’re going to escape tomorrow?”
“I know,” her mother said answered calmly. “That’s why I came.”
“Ester’le,” her mother said tenderly, “I am here to tell you that you will escape! And this is where you must go when you do.”
Her mother took her by the hand, led her out of the gate, and brought her to a barn. They went inside the barn, and there her mother pointed toward the loft and said in a clear, firm voice: “Here you’ll go and her you’ll survive.”
And then she disappeared.
Esther awoke with a start and, trembling, roused the woman who shared her bunk. Shaking she recounted the dream, but Esther’s friend was unimpressed and made short shrift of its import.
“Listen,” she scoffed, “you’re nervous, you’re scared, of course you would dream about the escape. But the dream doesn’t mean anything. Don’t take it seriously.”
Esther was unswayed by her friend’s dismissive words.
“Nonetheless,” she vowed, “if somehow I miraculously survive, I won’t rest until I find the place my mother showed me!”
In the dream, Esther had recognized the barn; she actually knew the place quite well. As a child, she had tumbled in its hay and played hide-and-seek underneath its rafters. It was part of the property owned by a Christian farmer, a friend of her deceased father’s a kind man who lived 18 kilometers away from her hometown of Chelm, a town that was currently occupied and flooded by legions of Nazi soldiers.
“This is the place you’d escape to?” Esther’s friend asked incredulously. “You’d have to be crazy….walking into the enemy’s embrace. You might as well die here!”
“My mother didn’t come to me for nothing,” Esther said stubbornly. “If she told me to go to the barn, there must be a good reason….”
On the morning of October 14, 1943, 300 inmates of Sobibor, armed with weapons smuggled into camp by sympathetic partisans, revolted. Chaos erupted as phone wires were snipped, electric cables cut, guards overwhelmed, the Armory seized, Nazi soldiers shot, and hundreds of prisoners jumped the barbed wire fence. As Esther leaped for freedom and ran for cover to the adjoining woods, blood gushed from her scalp. She had always feared a bullet in her back; but when it came, it grazed her head instead.
Faint with hunger, weak from her injuries, Esther nonetheless prevailed. In the forest, she joined up with a group of partisans with whom she traveled. She hid by day and walked at night, and when the hunger and thirst drove her to the brink of madness, she knocked at the doors of the little farmhouses she passed, and mercifully, everyone was kind.
The partisans begged her to stay with them and become a permanent member of their group. She would be safer, much safer, they tried to convince her, if she hid in the woods and joined their cause. But Esther could not be deterred.
“I have to find the barn in the dream.” she said stubbornly.
And two weeks later she did.
Beyond the edge of the woods where she walked, she finally saw the outlines of the structure she had so tenaciously sought. She waited until dusk, and then warily slipped inside. The barn was empty. She ascended the ladder to the loft, made a bed out of the hay, and then fell asleep.
The next day, she went hunting for food. A compassionate farmer gave her a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk, but when she returned to the loft to slowly savor her meal, and odd thing occurred. She placed the bottle of milk on top of a bale of hay while she tore into the bread, but when she turned to retrieve it, the bottle was gone. Somehow the mounds of hay enveloping her had swallowed the bottle up whole or else it had dropped o the floor below. Esther was frantic with thirst. She dug through the hay and hunted on the floor. All sense of caution was flung aside as she clawed at the floorboards in vain, making agitated noises as she dove deeper into the hay. Her movements grew louder and more careless with each passing moment, jolting awake the slumbering figure huddled in a corner on the other side of the barn.
“Who’s there?! the figure sprang up in alarm.
Now I’m finished, Esther thought.
“Who’s there?” the menacing figure shouted once more.
Esther froze in shock.
“Yidel?” she cried in disbelief as she recognized her brother’s unmistakable voice. “Yidel…is that you?”
“Esther!” he screamed. “Esther’le!”
“But Yidel….” she labored slowly, incomprehensibly. “Your’re supposed to be dead!”
“No, Esther, you’re the one who’s dead!”
“They told me you were shot at the work camp…”she said.
“Esther,” he broke in gently, “I was the only one who escaped that night. Everyone else was killed. But Esther’le,”he said, eyes brimming with tears, “someone told me that you were dead! I am overcome with joy that you are alive! But how did you know to come here?” Yidel asked in wonderment.
“Mama told me to,” Esther explained. “She came to me in a dream. I’ll tell you all about it soon. But first I want to know how long have you been here?”
“Ten months. Papa’s friend has been hiding me here since I escaped.”
“Yidel!” Esther sobbed. “All I want you to do is sit with me all night and just hold my hand…And then we’ll watch the sun rise …together.”
The next morning, the two heard a loud sharp whistle coming from outside the barn. “That’s a signal for me to come out,” Yidel explained hurriedly to Esther. “It’s Papa’s friend, the farmer. He wants to talk to me.”
The eyes of the farmer were tense and worried.
“I don’t know if I can keep you here anymore, “he said not unkindly. “A strange woman has been seen wandering nearby, and no one knows is she belongs to a partisan group or who she is. I’m worried that the neighbors will get suspicious.”
“That woman is my sister!” Yidel cried. And he told the farmer the miraculous story of his sister, the dream, and her escape from Sobibor.
The farmer was visibly moved by Yidel’s account.
“Well, if God brought you together,” he said, “who am I to tear you apart? Your sister can stay with you in the barn.”
And in the barn, thanks to the loving guidance of a mother who watched over her children from a world beyond, Esther and Yidel hid safely for nine more months, until they were liberated by the Russians and the war finally grounded to its end.
Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
This is from the book Overcoming Spiritual Blindness by James P. Gills, M.D.
In blindness, all of us too easily forfeit glorious intimacy with God for the pursuit of the “golden calves” that appeal to the natural man. The Father’s purpose in strengthening us with the Holy Spirit is that Christ may dwell in our hearts. This “dwelling” speaks of living with Him as in your own home where there is a closeness, fellowship, and intimacy of which the unbeliever knows nothing. The Son of God is so great and glorious and precious that the Bible refers to Him as the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:46), the King of kings (Rev. 19:16), the “heavenly” bridegroom (Mark 2:19), and a hundred other titles as well.
It is a good day and Christ has protected you and given you favor. Enjoy and praise Him. We are so focused on the trials that we do not soak in God’s glory as much as we should. The day of favor and blessing is like the day of a warm breeze after the cold winds of the winter. You notice them but you can easily forget to focus on them if you are inside all day long. Lord bless YOUR Holy NAME!
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
This is from the book Sister Freaks : Stories of Women Who Gave up Everything for God by Rebecca St. James
Crystal Woodman’s biggest concern that Tuesday morning was her physics test. She hadn’t studied, and she needed every free minute during the day to cram. When lunch period started, she convinced her friends, Seth and Sara, to come with her to the library instead of going off campus as they usually did.
She had been actively involved in church and youth group as a child, but in high school Crystal had turned away from God to get involved in the party scene. After a few years of trying to be “cool” by experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and boys, Crystal began to see how empty her life was and went back to church. Not entirely committed to either lifestyle, she swung back and forth between the party kids and the church kids, drawn to the deep relationships she saw in Christians like Seth and Sara but also craving the popularity of the “in” crowd.
The three friends pretended not to notice the librarian’s glare and chatted as they found an empty table. Instead of studying, they joked around with a camera for a few minutes, enjoying each other’s company and the memories of prom the weekend before.
Slowly, they began to notice sounds and movements outside the library. Seth looked out the window, but the stream of students leaving the school looked like the usual lunch crowd. No one seemed to be paying much attention until a teacher ran into the library, screaming, “There are boys outside with guns and bombs. They’re shooting students!”
Crystal searched for an explanation: It was a senior prank. It was a student’s video project. Those were firecrackers exploding in the hallway. After all, nothing bad could happen there. They were in Littleton, Colorado, an upper-middle-class suburb of housing developments, parks, and strip malls. People didn’t get shot there.
But it was April 20, 1999, and people were being shot at Columbine High School. As the sounds drew closer, Crystal watched a terrified classmate stumble into the library, clutching his bleeding shoulder. This was no prank. There was no time to escape. Crystal, Seth, and Sara took cover in the only place they could, under a library table. Seth pulled Crystal’s head to his chest to protect her and whispered, “Start praying. I don’t know what’s happening. God is the only one who can get us through.”
Two boys with guns entered the library. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, seniors at Columbine, began moving around the room, randomly shooting their classmates.
Crystal’s face was hidden in Seth’s shirt, but she remembers the sounds, smells, and feelings of the next few minutes. Gunshots and pipe bombs exploded around her, shattering glass and mixing with student’s frightened cries and the angry voices of the killers. She smelled the smoke from the pipe bombs and felt the floor shake with every explosion.
The voices drew nearer, and Crystal realized, It’s my turn to die. She heard a gunshot just a few feet away–a boy under the next table was killed merely because he wore glasses. For the first time, she thought she would not leave the Columbine library alive.
Crystal began to pray. “Okay, God, if You’re real, get me out of here alive. I will give You my life forever. I’ll quit partying. I will do anything. Just get me out of here. I didn’t understand then. I do now. It all makes sense now.”
One of the killers shoved in a library chair, and it hit Crystal’s arm. They had reached her table. But even as she thought about dying, a voice in Crystal’s mind told her, God’s going to get you out. You have a story to tell. God’s going to get you out.”
The two shooters began talking to each other. They had run out of ammunition, and their extra bag of bombs and bullets was in the hallway. Without even looking under Crystal’s table, they left the library.
As soon as Eric and Dylan left, the surviving students began to leave through a fire escape. They knew the killers had just gone to reload; they would come back. In the instant before she left the library, Crystal looked around. “It was the first time I had seen the room. Everything had been shot up-the computers, the windows, the books—and little fires had been started from the pipe bombs. I saw the bodies of my classmates on the floor….and I knew they were dead.”
Crystal and the other survivors in the library ran together out of the school. Not sure how many shooters there were or whether they were watching, Crystal and the other kids took shelter behind a police car parked just outside.
Eventually, police officers took everyone further away from the school. Crystal was separated from Seth and Sara and started to weep uncontrollably. “Everything I had known for sixteen years–my innocence, my security, my safety–was just stripped away from me. I didn’t know what I had just seen; I hadn’t processed it all.”
Crystal joined the chaos, throngs of students wandering through the nearby park and shopping center, looking for phones to call parents or friends. It would take hours before everyone was reunited and the names of the dead were confirmed. Crystal walked across a field with Craig Scott while he looked for his sister, Rachel. They would later find out she was the first person murdered, shot just outside the building. Crystal would hear students telling the story of a classmate killed in a different part of the library after she affirmed her faith in Christ, without knowing right away that it was Cassie Bernall, a member of Crystal’s youth group.
She eventually found a phone and called her father, who met her near the school. She filled out police reports and eventually went home for a tearful reunion with her mother and brother.
Even in her pain, Crystal remembered her promise to God, and she stepped forward again and again to tell her story. She quickly became the unofficial spokesperson for the Columbine students. She was interviewed on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, and all of the Denver area news outlets. Wracked with depression and plagued by nightmares, Crystal wouldn’t speak to anyone for weeks unless it was in an interview, but she found comfort in telling the world about how God saved her.
Over the coming weeks, as she worked through her own emotions, Crystal began speaking to groups–local churches at first, and then rallies, youth conferences, school assemblies, festivals, press conferences, and retreats. She became a living testimony of God’s promise in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God took Crystal’s damaged, wounded spirit–the one that had seen so much pain–and used it to help others heal. Later, traveling to war-torn Kosovo with Operation Christmas Child (an outreach of Samaritan’s Purse), Crystal met children who live every day with violence like that at Columbine. That event, coupled with others, led her to dedicate her life to speaking.
Crystal knows there are cruel and scary things in this world. But she knows also there is One who is stronger, and she is putting her faith in Him.
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
Prodigal: Ok, I share my cornbread and you share what you just read.
This is from C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity
If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity if of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years. A bit more makes no difference.
But as soon as you look at any real Christian writings, you find that they are talking about something quite different from this popular religion. They say Christ is the Son of God (whatever that means). They say that those who give Him their confidence can also become Sons of God (whatever that means). They say that His death saved us from our sins (whatever that means).
There is no good complaining that these statements are difficult. Christianity claims to be telling us about another world, about something behind the world we can touch and hear and see.
Seek who Jesus was. It is only then that you will begin to understand for yourself what all this means. We cannot deny that something is going on with Jesus who has stayed around for thousands of years and in so many different countries and cultures.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.
Me: Sometimes I struggle with finding the right words.
Prodigal: I think everyone does.
This is from Bold Love by Dr. Dan Allender & Dr. Tremper Longman III
There are many who share their feelings or ask, “May I be honest with you?” and proceed to unleash a stream of invective that comes from the bowels of hell and not from the sanctuary of beauty. I am advocating a view of love that is consistent with doing ultimate good for the other. There are times when a hard, painful rebuke is good. There are other times when it would crush a broken reed. There are moments when the gentle wind of encouragement deepens a resolve to live for God. There are, of course, other times when encouragement will be misheard as support for a direction that is deadly. Therefore, confrontation may be the kindest word possible. Love is the offer of a good gift that fits the circumstance, needs, and personal variables of the one being loved.
Love embraces another for the great work of redemption. It captures someone by a goodness that is anything but “unconditional.” It is remarkable conditional in that love cannot flourish and bring forth fruit in arrogant and unrighteous soil. Therefore, love must be an intrusion of a good gift of word or deed that makes the greatest demand of life: Follow Christ and serve Him with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. Bold love is the tenacious, irrepressible energy to do good in order to surprise and conquer evil.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Me: I am not sure, but gold is discussed in the bible.
Prodigal: Tell me about it.
This is from the book Joseph: A Man of Integrity and Forgiveness by Charles Swindoll
You see, there is no hurry-up process for finding and shaping gold. The process of discovering, processing, purifying, and shaping gold is a lengthy, painstaking process. Affliction is gold in the making for the child of God, and God is the one who determines how long the process takes. He alone is the Refiner.
Job was not saying, “When He has tried me, I will make a million!” Or, “When He has tried me, I’ll get everything back that I lost.” Or, “When He has tried me, my wife will say she’s sorry and will make things right.” Or, “When He has tried me, everything will be like it once was.” No, it’s not the externals that are promised, it’s the internals. The Lord promised Job, “When the process is finished, you’ll come forth as gold. Then, you’ll be ready to serve me where I choose. Then, you’ll be able to handle whatever promotion comes your way.”
1 Peter 1:5
Who are guarded by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.