Friday, August 04, 2006

The Journey of Preparation

Part One: The Promise
It was the third day into the journey when Justus realized that he was traveling in territory that he had never seen before. Three hours before the young man had passed the mark of the farthest east he had ever traveled, and then he had traveled with his mentor. Now he journeyed alone, or at least it appeared that he was alone. In his possession Justus had three gifts his mentor had given to him.

Justus had traveled the countryside with him for almost seven years. Great crowds believed he was some sort of good teacher, a traveling Wiseman, imparting a standard of morality and a philosophy by which people should live. While the great crowds loved him, the mentor’s enemies said that was evil. His miracles they claimed were the result of black magic and that he was in league with a demon from the very depths of hell. Rumors spread through out the country, but Justus was one of the few who were permitted to know the truth. The mentor was no ordinary man, but rather he was the Son of the King beyond the eastern horizon, the Prince of the Majestic Kingdom that no living eye has seen, and the Lord of all the kings of that world and this world. Justus didn’t know why he was chosen, along with his fellow companions, to know the truth, but he was glad that he was. It seemed quite odd to him that others did not recognize the Great Prince because to Justus the sings seemed to be quite obvious.

Four days ago was the last time Justus saw the Prince. One by one each of his followers were called, and each one went. What they were told or given Justus does not know, all he knows is what he was told and what he was given. Justus was the last follower to come before the Lord.

“Justus I have a task for you to complete.”

The young man sat at his Master’s feet and answered, “Lord, I am willing to do whatever You ask me to do.”

The Great Prince raised eyebrow, as if He was partly amused by the answer, and then He smiled a great toothy smile which conveyed both love and pride for the young man. “I know your heart is willing to go, that has never been in question, but your flesh may say something different. You must constantly be on guard against the demands of your flesh, do not let them crowd out the truth in your heart.”

Justus nodded, even after spending so much time with the Prince, Justus still did not understand everything that He said. There always seemed to be an element of mystery to His teachings.

“I want you to travel to Mount Alabaster, the great peak looking over the vast Eastern Ocean.”

“Lord, I want to do something amazing for you. Though it is a great distance it is an easy task if one is prepared.”

At these words the Lord smiled again. Oh, how He did love Justus’ heart, but He knew far too well the intentions of his flesh. Justus still had very much to learn.

“Justus, do not count something as easy before you have accomplished it. Something that may look easy on this side may indeed look very difficult on the other side. One cannot know all the trials, pitfall, and snares that await on such a long journey.”

Again Justus only nodded as he tried to make sense of what the Lord had said.

“Before you begin your journey I want you to travel to Leitha, the town of your birth. In the center of town stands a majestic old oak tree. On the north side of the tree is a hole, and buried in the hole is a box.”

“What is in the box my Lord?”

The Prince chuckled, “Patience, Justus, Patience. I was coming to that. The box is a gift I have specially prepared for you to take on your journey. Inside you will find three items, each one is designed to help you complete the task I have given to you.”

There was a strange excitement that welled up in Justus’ heart. He could hardly wait to go and find his box and discover the great gift his Lord had promised to him. Yet there was also a sadness that began to creep in as Justus began to realize that he was making this journey alone.

“Aren’t you coming with me?”

The Great Prince’s face fell. “No my son. I have other work that needs to be done. I have sent each of you out to complete a task, but you will not be going alone. The gift I am giving you contains My Spirit. My presence will be with you wherever you go as long as you hold on to the gift.”

Comforted, Justus stood up, walked over to the Prince, threw his arms around him and hugged him goodbye. The Great Prince, with tears in his eyes, hugged Justus back and whispered in his ear, “You are my servant, my friend, and my brother, and with you I am very pleased. Now you must go.”

Justus gathered his things and headed west, into the setting sun towards his home.

Filled with excitement and with familiarity of the country Justus continued to walk into the night. It was in the early morning when just finally decided to make a little camp and sleep.

It had only been dawn a couple of hours when Justus woke up and began his westward journey home. About the time everyone was cleaning up their breakfast dishes Justus walked into town. Though he wanted to, Justus did not stop to visit his friends, or even his parents. He went straight to the old oak tree in the middle of town. Justus stopped and looked at the old tree for a moment. It had been there for as long as people could remember, it was rumored to be even older than the town, and yet it looked as strong as ever. The young man couldn’t help but marvel at such a creation.

Breaking free from his trance Justus walked to the north side of the tree. At first he could not see a hole because he was looking for a large hole in the ground, but there was none. After a few minutes of walking around the entire tree in search of a hole in the ground Justus finally found it. The hole was not in the ground, but rather it was about eye level on the north side of the tree trunk. Tentatively Justus reached up into the hole, a little nervous that a squirrel might be ready to attack his fingers, and pulled out a box.

The box was no bigger than a shoebox, but it was made out of beautifully carved wood. The lid was attached to the box by two little hinges. Justus lifted the lid and looked inside. There he saw a silver flute, something which looked like a compass except it had no markings on it, and a cloak made out of a light metallic green fabric.

“What am I supposed to do with these?” Justus wondered.

Part 2: The Power
Justus picked up the flute and began to examine it. It appeared to a simple silver tube with holes at various spots along its length. Justus had never demonstrated any musical ability and he wondered why the Prince would give him such a gift.

Tentatively Justus put the flute to his lips and slowly began to blow. The result was a soft melodious note that grew in volume the harder Justus blew. Then Justus experimented with playing different notes, and though he had no training it seemed everything that he did was right. The notes didn’t clash, but instead produced a wonderful song.

As Justus played a curious thing began to happen. Small animals began appearing in the area around the big old oak tree. Rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and small birds came out of their hiding places and stopped their scurrying as if to listen to the beautiful song of the flute. Justus, with his eyes closed, did not notice the small animals. All he glimpsed were the tails of scurrying animals as they raced back into the tall grass and the forest.

“Perhaps I could get the hang of this with a little practice ,” Justus thought.

Justus wished he had something to put the flute in so it wouldn’t get damaged. Then he remembered the empty candy tin that was still in his traveling bag. He opened the bag and took out the tin. Justus then carefully wrapped the flute in the fabric it was lying on in the box and placed the wrapped flute in the candy tin. It almost fit perfectly. Closing the lid Justus slipped the tin back into his traveling bag.

The compass was next to be examined. It sure looked like a compass, but the needle didn’t point north, instead it pointed towards the southeast and no matter how Justus turned the device the needle always swung back over to the same position. Would the Prince have given him a broken compass? No, Justus knew the Prince too well for that to be the case. The reality, Justus realized, was that he didn’t know what the device was. Not wanting to waste anymore time on it Justus wrapped it in the clothe it was sitting on in the box and then slipped it into his bag.

The cloak was the last remaining item. It was folded neatly and Justus was amazed how light the fabric seemed as he unfolded it and held it out to look at it. The sun glistened off the green fabric, which was the most unusual Justus had ever seen. The neck was connected with a simple oval silver pendant with a green gem in the center. The cloak was by far the nicest piece of clothing he had ever held, let alone worn. He hung the cloak on a branch of the oak tree and unfastened his old cloak. Justus folded the well-worn cloak and placed it in the carved box. He then unfastened the silver pendant and swung the cloak over his shoulders and fastened the pendant.

Not sure what to do with the carved wooden box at his feet, Just picked it up and carefully slid it back into the hole in the tree. Now he could begin his journey to Mount Alabaster and Grand Eastern Ocean, or did he a have few minutes to spare. It had been months since he last saw his parents, and now they were so close by. Perhaps he should pop over for a visit, after all that is what a good son would do.

But there was a nagging feeling in his heart that told Justus that if he delayed his journey now he would never begin. With great reluctance and a heavy heart Justus began to move eastward along the main east-west road of the country and away from his parents.

The first two days of his journey were of no account. Villages were constantly on the horizon, other travelers were going alongside of him, and civilization made the way relatively safe. It wasn’t until that third day when he realized that he had traveled further east than he had ever been and began to reflect upon the events that led him to the journey that Justus realized the danger he was in.

At first Justus thought it was just one wolf, but then he noticed another. Before long there were wolves, jackals, and coyotes already him, eying him for supper. Fear had crept into his heart and Justus had to fight the urge to run with every bit of strength that he had. As the deadly predators closed around him he whispered, “Help me.”

Through his fear-clouded mind Justus began to remember a time when he was traveling with the Prince and the other disciples. A mob from a nearby village came out and surrounded the travelers. They did not want the traveling Teacher coming to their village and teaching them they were wrong in how they lived their lives. The mob meant to rid the countryside of this troublemaking Teacher, and armed with clubs and swords they moved in for the kill. While the disciples wanted to run the Prince held his ground and began to sing. This caught the disciples off guard for they had never heard him sing before and it was the most beautiful song they had ever heard. Their fear left them and they stood with courage behind their Master.

The song not only affected the disciples, but it also had an effect on the mob. They laid down their weapons, sat down, and began to fall asleep. Soon there were 50 strong men sleeping like babies on the ground around the road.

“Remember,” the Prince said, “music always has an effect on the heart. It can make the strong man cry, give courage to the coward, and make love appear where only hate existed before.”

Reaching into his bag Justus pulled out the tiny containing the flute. As quickly, yet carefully, as he could he took out the flute, unwrapped it, and began to play. At first it was difficult because he was still uncertain, but as he heard the sound of music a rhythm began to develop in his heart and he let it carry him as played. With his eyes closed Justus played and played until he was out of breath.

His eyes opened to a stunning sight. No more was he surrounded by vicious predators but by boys and young teens who were seated on the ground in front of him.

“Thank you,” said one of the teenagers as he stood up, he appeared to be the oldest and most likely the leader of the group.

“Where did all the animals go?” Justus asked.

“Don’t you understand?” The teen responded. “We were the animals stalking you. Long ago a witch roamed the countryside. She was a bitter old woman and hated to see anyone having fun. One day she caught us playing tag in the forest and she put a curse on us to wander the wild and frightening people. Somehow with your song you have saved us.”

Justus began to realize that there was a great power behind the gift the Prince had given him. “No my friends, it was not I who saved you. You were saved by The King, the Majestic, who reigns across the Eastern Ocean through the power of His Son the Great Prince. They are the ones who deserve your praise, not I.”

“What are we to do now? Our families and friends are long gone?” asked one of the younger looking boys. The others murmured in agreement.

“Return to you village and tell them your story. Tell everyone you meet about the compassion of the Majestic King so everyone might worship Him.”

Slowly the boys got up and began a journey northward. “Thank you,” They called back.

“Remember,” Justus shouted, “Tell your story.”

Part 3: The Direction
The sun rose on the fourth morning of Justus’ journey waking him from his sleep. This was the first night that he had to sleep outside, but after the events of the day before he slept soundly even though he was on the ground. He got up and wrapped his cloak around him and then dug out a biscuit and his canteen for a bit of breakfast.

Within fifteen minutes of waking Justus was back on the road heading east and towards Mount Alabaster and the Grand Eastern Ocean. The morning passed slowly and for hours Justus did not see another person. Loneliness began to creep into his heart. At first this seemed to be such a marvelous adventure, but as time wore on the excitement wore off and he longed for the journey to end.

It was around mid-day Justus was startled when another person suddenly joined him on the road. Justus had been lost in his own thoughts and had not been paying attention and was unaware of the other man’s presence.

“Hello, there”

Startled Justus looked at the turned to see who had spoke. The man was older than Justus, but wasn’t old. He was dressed modestly wearing leather walking shoes, woolen trousers, and a buckskin shirt. He also carried a backpack on his back and wooden staff in his hand.
“I didn’t mean to startle you.” The man said, “It is just that we don’t get too many people traveling alone in these parts. It is mighty dangerous to be out he alone. The woods are full of critters that would just soon eat ya’ and look at ya.”

“It’s my fault sir. I should have been paying more attention to what was happening around me,” Justus responded.

The two walked in silence for a time before the other man said, “If you don’t mind me asking son, what are you doing out here alone?”

Justus thought about it for a moment. Should he tell the stranger about his mission? The Prince never said it was a secret, but still was it wise to share the information?

“I am heading for Mount Alabaster to meet a friend.”

“Well I’ll be! That is sure a strange place for a meeting. There is nothing around there for miles. Who is this buddy you’re meeting there?”

“Oh good sir, you wouldn’t know him.”

As Justus was talking the man did a peculiar thing. He looked into the woods on the Justus’s side of the road and shook his head. Justus looked in that direction but couldn’t see anything. What Justus missed was the big Grizzly bear that had been tracking him for miles.

“I might son, I might. I am pretty well known around this country and have quite of few connections with people in high places if you know what I mean.”

Justus smiled knowing that this man would have no connection with the Great Prince. “If you must know kind sir I am going to meet my Mentor, the Traveling Rabbi…”

This time the stranger was staring off into the woods on his side of the road. Again he shook his head. Justus squinted, but again saw nothing. The mountain lion that had been stalking him turned and slinked off into the forest when it saw the stranger with Justus.

“We are brothers then!” The strange man almost shouted. “You are a disciple of the Great Prince, and I am his servant. Adam is my name. Long ago he gave me the task of watching over the eastern wilderness. I am the Steward of these parts.”

“You know the Prince?” Justus couldn’t believe his ears.

“Yes, I do, son…”

”My name is Justus.”

“Yes, Justus I know the Prince. In fact he came to me a couple of days back and told me to keep an eye out for people traveling alone, and to offer my assistance to them. That is just like the Prince. He wants to make sure you make it to the mountain.”

“How far do I have left to go?” Justus asked.

“From here it is a good eight day journey.”

“Eight days! The ocean can’t be more that a 2 day journey.”

“That is true, but Mount Alabaster lies to the south 80 miles to the south, over some very difficult terrain.”

“How do I get there from here?”

“Two miles ahead there is a little used road which heads south. Take that road and you will be heading in a the right direction.”

The two men talked about the Great Prince as the journeyed the next two miles. Every now and again Adam would look into the forest and shake his head. Though Justus never saw them, the deadly predators would run off into the forest. Justus never realized the great danger he was in traveling the wilderness alone.

“Here our paths must part.” Adam said upon reaching the road south, “I have other roads to travel and other land to over see. But before I go I want to give you my staff. It is a good walking stick and will serve you well in the journey ahead.” Adam handed Justus the wooden staff. Then Adam reached into his backpack and took out a tinderbox. “Make sure to light a fire each night before sleeping. The fire will protect you from many of the predators prowling around looking for their next meal.”

“Thank you Adam for you kind gifts. My the blessings of the Majestic One be with You.”

The two shook hands and Justus turned to leave. He heard behind him, “One more thing, if you have a compass now is the time to use it. Remember to head southeast to find the Mountain.”

Justus turned to say, “Thanks,” but the land behind him was empty. Adam had vanished as suddenly as he came.

Justus traveled on the path south the rest of the day. Every once in awhile Justus thought he caught a glimpse of a bear, a big cat, or some other big man-eating predator, but he was never for sure what he was seeing. Though the predators knew what they saw, a man carrying Adam’s staff, and therefore off limits.

As evening approached Justus found a nice clearing, made camp, and started the fire. The predators knew better than mess with a man sleeping next to Adam’s fire, and word soon spread throughout the wilderness that the man traveling the path south was off limits.

The next two days Justus made his way south, but going was slower. This was not a well-maintained road, but a path used mainly by animals. It was rough, uneven, and often overgrown with brush. The second day was a killer as Justus had to fight is way through the undergrowth almost every step of the way. It was late afternoon when Justus came into the clearing. There the path divided into two: one going southwest and the other heading straight east. Which direction should he go? To go southwest would take him further south, but would also angle him back to the west. To go east would get him closer to the ocean, but he still had not gone far enough south. Then he remembered the compass.

Justus opened up his bag and took out the compass. The needle was pointing southeast. Finally Justus understood, the compass pointed him in the direction he needed to go, rather than pointing to the north. Now if there was only a path that headed to the southeast. The trip south had been bad enough with the aid of a path, and Justus shuddered to think what it would have been like without one.

As he looked to the southeast and the direction the compass pointed Justus finally noticed it. There was a path going to the southeast, a rarely used path, but it was there. There were markings: stones, carvings on the trees, and stakes that provided a faint outline for the trail. Wanting to get a little further before evening Justus set out on the trial, and every once in while he would stack a stone or pound a stick into the ground next to the trail, to help whoever might make this journey after him.

Part 4: The Trouble
Justus continued to the trial to the southeast the next day. He had been traveling for seven days and he was beginning to feel exhausted and he hoped things would continue to go smoothly so he could be at Mount Alabaster within the week. But he would not be so lucky.

The trial gradually descended into a valley, and as Justus made camp on a rise overlooking the valley he noticed that it was covered in a dense fog. Hoping that the fog wouldn’t last through the heat of the day Justus built a fire, at a supper of a hard biscuit and water, and feel asleep.

The next morning the fog was still there, but Justus was optimistic that it would burn off as the day progressed. So he packed up his things and descended into the fog. As he entered the thick fog he stepped in slimy water and mud. The valley floor was a bog! Justus began moving forward, doing his best to hop from one dry piece of ground to another.

He hadn’t gone more then 10 feet into the fog when he heard it. Voices and laughter seemed to echo throughout the valley. At first he couldn’t make out what was being said.

“One poor traveler stuck in the mud.” Came a chant from the right side.

“One pitiful Justus goes thud, thud, thud.” Was the response from the left.

The fact that the voices knew his name frightened Justus. He was uncertain what to do. And then out of the corner of his eye he saw something bright fly towards him from the right. In a reflex motion Justus grabbed his cloak and shielded his face. The fireball hit the cloak, bounced off and sizzled in the water of the bog.

Justus began to run, but he fell into the muck. He didn’t have the strength to pull himself out, so slowly he began to inch his way forward. Another fireball came from the left, and Justus got his cloak up just in time to deflect it, but the fire did singe his eyebrows. Wrapping the cloak around him and bowing his head Justus moved slowly forward.

“He is protected!” came the shrill cry on both sides of the valley walls. More and more fireballs were hurled down as shrieks of frustration filled the air. Ghouls, men who had been corrupted by the Evil One, the Dark Magician, and had devoted themselves to his magic, inhabited this valley. No, longer were they truly men for their hearts of flesh had been replaced by hearts of stone. Unlike the beasts in the wild these creatures did not fear Adam’s staff or Adam’s fire. They were not to be detoured from attacking a disciple of the Prince.

Jeers and taunts they hurled along with their fireballs, discouraging Justus as he made his slow trek through the slimy mud and water. There was not time for rest for the ghouls never let up. All through the night inch by inch Justus waded through the bog.

As dawn broke, provided a little bit of light through the thick fog, Justus remembered the flute and what happened to the beasts that wanted to eat him. Reaching into the bad Justus took out the tin carrying the flute, removed the flute, and began to play. The sound was still sweet and melodious, but it aggravated the ghouls on the valley walls. A fury of fireballs rained down.

“Stop the noise, stop the noise.” The creatures shrieked.

Disappointed Justus put the flute back into the tin and continued the journey. The power of the flute has no effect on those who do not care about being transformed. Desire to be different needs to be present along with the power of the float.

Finally at the end of the second day Justus drug his tired body out of the bog and onto dry land. He was tired, wet, hot, burned, and singed. All he wanted was to take a nap.

A little ways ahead, just off the side of the path was a spring which fed a pond. Justus walked over to it. Rinsed off his muddy slimy clothes, took a long drink, built a fire, and went to sleep.

Part 5: The Transformation
When Justus opened his eyes he noticed he was not alone. Sitting next to the fire was Adam.

“Finally awake are you Justus? That’s good. You have been asleep for nearly two days.”

“When did you get here?”

“Shortly after you did. I knew that you would have to go through the bog, so I thought I should be here when you came out the other side.”

“You knew? Why didn’t you say anything?”

“It wasn’t my place to tell. The Master had a reason for you going through a place like that, but He also didn’t let you go in unprepared. Your cloak protected you from the worst of it. Though we may not always understand it the Master believes these circumstances makes us strong, better equipped to do the next mission He has for us.”


“There is no buts, sometimes all we can do is trust because we believe the Prince knows what’s best. Here time to get up. I have some food for you which you can eat on the way.”

Justus got up and put on his cloak and boots and followed Adam down the path. While Adam talked and taught, Justus listened and munched on apples, oranges, and bananas. The fruit was such a nice change of pace the dry biscuits he had been eating.

Adam traveled with Justus for two days. The two men talked and Justus learned a lot about nature and the Prince that he never knew before. Soon the white stones of Mount Alabaster could be seen in the distance.

“Justus I am glad to have meet you, but I am afraid I have to say goodbye. I have work to do and other people to care for. These last few miles you need to travel alone.”

“Thank you for traveling with me and for the advice. I don’t know if I would have made it without you.” Adam smiled as they embraced in a farewell hug.

Adam turned and headed north and Justus continued southeast, following the needle on his compass. Justus looked over his shoulder for one last glimpse of his new friend, and Adam was no where to be seen.

The Journey was near an end, and as Justus got on the trail that led to the top of the mountain he was joined by other disciples. There was Benjamin, Alexander, Samuel, and Percy. Each wore a traveling cloak made out of metallic material, but each was a different color: red, blue, orange, and purple. Each one had a story to tell for each had been on a journey.

The last 2 disciples who were wearing yellow and silver cloaks soon joined the five disciples. Together the traveled the last yards to the top of the mountain. There sitting on a large rock sat the Great Prince, the only Son of the Majestic. He smiled as he saw the seven approach him. He had great faith in them, and he had equipped them for the journey, but each journey was filled with danger and uncertainty.

“Greetings Friends. Yes, I call you friends. No longer are you merely my servants, but I confide in you as friends. Come gather and eat.”

Suddenly before them appeared a table. It contained a simple meal, but one that was better than many of them had in days. The group gathered around the table and the Prince lifted his hands to the sky and prayed, “Magnificent and Holy Father, You have given me these men to look after and teach. They are now ready for the task You have for them. Fill them with Your Presence as we fellowship together.”

With that Justus felt a tingling running though his body. He looked around and noticed that the jewels on all the broaches were glowing and it appeared that cloaks were glowing as well. Yes they were! It started slowly at first, but as time went on the more intense the light became, until it was almost blinding. Then suddenly it faded.

As Justus looked at the other disciples the appeared to be the same men, but something about them was different. It was the way they held themselves, there posture. Their eyes seemed to be more kind and yet carry strength. Even more than this Justus felt his heart burn. There was a sense of purpose where confusion was before. There was courage in place of fear. And Trust in place of doubt. Justus knew from that moment on he was a different person. No longer would his life be lived in pursuit of what he thought would make him happy. Instead his life would be spent doing the will of the King and following the Prince wherever He might lead.

There was a profound silence for a long time, and then the Prince began to sing. The song was a hymn that Justus learned as a child: Perhaps Psalm 111. When the song finished the Prince had the disciples tell their stories. Each journey was filled danger from beasts, thieves, storms, ghouls, dragons, and other servants of the Evil One. They all carried the scars from their journey, but they all knew just how much they could trust the Prince to bring them through.

“It brings me great Joy to see you here today. I know that road you traveled was difficult, but I hope now you see that it was worth it. The King has granted me authority over all the land, much which still lays in darkness. You are the lights if you hold on to want you have learned and trust me. Rely on the gifts I gave you, they will continue to get you through, for I am sending you to be the lights in the dark and to bring hope to the hopeless and help to the helpless. Show you countrymen that there is a better way to live and that the King still loves them.”

The disciples looked at one another. They knew that this task was for all them, this time they did not have to go alone.

“I must leave you know. The King has called me Home, but I will return and when I come back I will set everything right.”

With that the Prince got up from the table and walked towards the ocean. The disciples followed, but motioned for them to stop, and he continued on down the path towards the Ocean alone. Standing atop the mountain the disciples watched the Prince get in a boat and raise the sail. At that moment a strong wind came out of the west and the boat moved away from the shore. Stronger and stronger the wind blew and faster and faster the boat went, and soon it was out of sight.

The disciples began to slowly depart in groups of two and one group of three. Soon only Justus and Benjamin, in his red cloak were left.

“Ben, what are you thinking?”

“I have always wanted to see the great forests of Adelphia.”

“I was thinking the same thing.”

And the two disciples began their journey to the northwest together.

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