I was born in Receding.
I was born again as I stepped into the Highlands.
My hand reached the top of the cliff I felt another hand take hold of mine. It was strong and helpful. The man who grabbed my hand I would come to know as Salve. Salve was the first face I saw in the Highlands. His face was kind. His eyes blue. His hair almost pure white. He wore a clean white tunic with plants draped about his body. Some plants were also around his neck. Some vines with leaves wrapped their way around his legs. In a way, he looked like a living vine with leaves.
“Hello,” he said to me in a low voice pregnant with excitement. “Welcome to the Land of the Host in Whom we live. Welcome to Hashem!” I looked at him. Then I looked behind him. Behind him was a semi-circle of people all here to welcome me. They clapped their hands in approval. A few hooped and whooped as I made my way onto solid ground. All of them were dressed as he was. They all had white tunics with various plant life draped around them. Some of the women had leaves and small yellow flowers in their hair.
Each of them said to me in turn, “Welcome in the Name of the Host.”
I could not talk. I was breathless from the climb, but also from excitement. I was here! I had made it! I had made it to the Highlands! Or had I? What did the white-haired leafy fellow call this place? Land of Hashem?
Another person behind him, her name was Sal, said to me with a knowing look, “Yes, you heard us say ‘Hashem.’ Those who live apart from this place call it the Highlands. We who live here call it the Land of Hashem. Where you stand is the Highlands. Where you stand is the Land of Hashem.” As she approached me to take my hand (as I was wobbling), she plucked some of the leaves from around her neck and placed them on my skin.
I managed some mumbled words of thanks and looked around. Where I had come up from the trench was the only entrance from the trench into this land. In a semi-circle around this entrance were open-air huts with plant-thatched roofs and in each of the huts were people in various stages of health. I saw people tending to one another. I saw people laying ill. I saw others moving around slowly.
Sal, took me by the hand, and lead me to one of the empty huts closest to the cliffs. “Come this way,” we need to tend to your sores and get you dressed for the Land of Hashem.” I did not say a word but followed. I was just taking it all in.
I sat on a cot in the open-air hut, and several men closed some side panels for some privacy. Salve introduced me to Assa, the Mature Healer. Assa was perhaps the most muscle-bound in-shape man I had ever seen. His features were hard and cut deep into his skin. His hands were large, strong, but also gentle. He helped me get my cloak off. As I did so, my muscles all screamed with pain. He also helped me get my shirt off.
I have never felt such pain.
Not in all my life.
I had not realized it, but my shirt had melded into my sores during my journey. The sores were all over my back and arms. As Assa peeled away the shirt, pain shot through my arms and chest and back and skin. Some skin stayed with the shirt. The sores were larger than they had ever been and more painful. The rest of my clothes were the same. Pain all over my body.
Assa, the Mature Healer, began to pray over me as he helped me wash my wounds. He prayed in song as he applied some type of medicine in the form of leaves. He was plucking them from vines around his waist and from leaves in a pouch. Through the pain, I could hear the words he sang and they ministered to my heart. I still was in awe of this large, strong man having the gentle touch of a healer. He sang in a deep low rumbling voice:
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Ancient of Days will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Ancient of Days will answer. You will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I with healing. You will cry for help, and He will say: Your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.”
After the washing and applying medicine, my body was worn out. The pain had worn me out. I did not want to sleep so I asked if Salve or Sal or anyone else could come and talk and share about the Highlands with me.
Salve came immediately.
“Assa told me your wounds are deep and hurting,” Salve said as he pulled a chair to my side. “Please be assured that as you spend time here, hopefully, your wounds will heal. I brought you something to wear that will help you along.”
Salve gave me a long tunic of white linen. It felt very cool and clean on my skin. He gave me a thin belt made from a vine for my waist with the comment, “it will grow with you.” I am not sure what that meant but figured I would find out eventually. This was such a nice gift. The linen seemed to help the medicine work. The breeze flowed into the tunic, and I felt renewed. He noticed that even though I was exhausted that I could not sleep. He offered a tour. I slowly got to my feet and nodded. I wanted to see.
“You will find,” Salve said as we left my open-air hut, “that here we ebb and flow with the rituals that bring us life. We follow the habits that grow us closer to the Ancient of Days and give us an abundant way of life. We find that growing closer to the Ancient of Days means we grow as people and we take on His characteristics.” As he talked, he would take leaves from himself and place them on me. The leaves were for my healing, so I did not protest.
As we walked, Salve showed me this small part of the Highlands at the edge of the cliffs. What I saw astounded me to my core. This entire land was nothing like Receding. It was perhaps the absolute opposite of the land I had been born into. The Highlands, or the Land of Hashem, was marked with abundance.
I saw trees full of rich fruits. Red ones. Green ones. Yellow ones.
I saw trees that reached into the sky, and I could not see the tops.
Colorful singing animals were flying in the air.
Furry chattering animals were leaping from tree to tree.
There were slick scaled looking animals in each pond we passed by.
“Why does everything look so green and big?” I asked with astonishment as we made our way down a wide stone path.
Salve laughed a little. “I had forgotten how different it is for you. The brightness and bigness of food and trees are because of the purity of the water that saturates this land. You are seeing the result of being in a land tied to the Royal Waterfall. We drink and grow in the pure bounty of the Ancient of Days.”
“Is everyone located right here,” I asked. “I thought there would be more people here.”
“No,” Salve said as he nodded to other people who passed us, “there are tribes of people all over the land of Hashem. We are all spread out within reach of the River of the Royal Falls. The River branches out and brings living water to the land. Well, this is what I am told. Only someone who has looked down from the height of the Royal Falls has seen the reach of the River that ends where you began at the “Gate of Baptism.” I have not been to the top of the Falls myself. I belong to the People of Grace and Mercy. We are those who share what we know to be true about the Ancient of Days. We greet all of those who come through the Gate of Baptism. Grace and Mercy greet everyone through baptism.”
I looked as we walked the wide stone path that encircled the village of the People of Grace and Mercy. I saw that they all had open-air huts which were cool in this shaded area. The land right next to the cliffs was shaded by the tallest trees I had ever seen. Some people even had their huts built into the side of the trees. This was a land of plenty. This was also a land of people who served. Salve explained that the vines and leaves they wore were for giving away. They wanted to help and heal those who came to the Land of Hashem.
We passed by another group of people talking. One of them looked ill. He looked weak like me but somehow seemed even worse. I must have looked at Salve with concern on my face because Salve immediately tried to assure me.
“He came to us some time ago,” he said in a calm voice. He is having trouble moving on. He has become a Dweller. Sometimes people who come from… well… who come from where you do… they just stay here with us. They never move on. They do not all become one of us, but they stay around here. We try and help them, but mostly they just dwell here… so we call them Dwellers. It sounds bad I know. Sometimes people come through the Gate of Baptism and get stuck and never move on. They just dwell.”
Salve looked at me with a stern face, “You will not stay here by the way. We will begin you on the process of healing, and then you must go into Hashem and forge yourself forward on the abundant path of life the Ancient of Days has for you.”
“Why can’t I stay here?” I asked with honesty. I turned around and looked back at the ill man. I then quickly looked back to Salve.
“You cannot stay here because the People of Grace and Mercy are only the starting place. Grace and Mercy start us on our journey with the Ancient of Days, but there is so much more. Much much more.” We walked around and around the area of the People of Grace and Mercy. If they were not tending to someone like me, they were working in the flax field. If they were not working in the flax field, they were working with the flax to make the white garments we all wore.
“Tell me about the ebb and flow of rituals that bring life,” I said as we passed a group finishing off some white tunics.
Salve smiled. “Praise the Ancient of Days and the Host in Whom we trust! The rituals that bring us life, the way we live, are based on the living instruction of the Host. You see, while the Traveler was in Receding, He communicated what it means to take part in the Name. Some of us followed Him here where He more fully taught us how to live in the Name.”
I nodded; not really understanding.
“I can see you do not really understand,” Salve said with kind eyes, “that is ok. It will all become clearer as you travel Hashem. You see, we center our lives around the Ancient of Days in several important ways. The first, drinking. The second, serving.”
I looked at him blankly. I waited for an explanation.
“The Ancient of Days tells us to drink from the water that comes directly from Him. This water is pure and gives us life. It is very different from Lake Receding or the wells there. Here we can actually drink the water without the need to purify it. It is also free forever for those that trust in the Ancient of Days and have reliance in Him.”
Some understanding dawned on me.
“The Host, tells us that we should also love those around us. We should serve those around us. In doing so, we tap into what it means to be like the Ancient of Days. He cares for us, so we care for others. We here among the People of Grace and Mercy take this very seriously… sometimes more than others. We definitely believe that by serving others we connect ourselves deeply to the Ancient of Days.”
Some insight dawned on me.
“So,” I said in trying to summarize Salve’s words with understanding, “you drink from the water as one way among many in demonstrating your complete trust in the Ancient of Days. You serve the people who come through the Gate of Baptism because that is exactly the kind of thing the Ancient of Days would want you to do because it reflects Him.” I thought I was done and then I added, “And you know all of this because the Host has told you.”
Salve smiled and nodded. He patted my back gently with reassurance. Soon after that, Salve left me to wander slowly through the village. It was on my second circle around the village that I came across a man. His hair was black and wild with dried up brown leaves in it. His white tunic was tattered in places with remnants of vine on him. He was peering down a ridge of a valley with eagerness in his pacing. I called out as I became closer in a greeting.
“Sir good day to you!”
As soon as I said it, he quickly turned to me. He rushed to me in a frenzy.
“What happened to you,” I asked. “Are you a dweller? Who is helping you?”
He grabbed my shoulders once he got to me and yelled out into the air, “I have important matters to deal with! I haven’t the time to always be concerned with my garments like most people around here. It’s easy for them! They don’t deal with despair. I deal with despair!”
All at once, he turned me by my shoulders and pushed me to the edge. I thought for a moment he was going to toss me over the hill down into the valley. Instead, he squared me up at the edge and pointed his fingers over my shoulder.
“Look! Look!” As he said those simple words, his arm moved side to side indicating the whole valley below. “I just can’t breathe down there! Do they not understand there’s no real air down there?! Why don’t they just give me what I need? They have it! It’s deeper than my skin you see! It’s deep down, deep within! You got the sores too, I can see them.”
He started to pace back and forth again like he was when I first saw him. He was talking aloud to himself, to me, and to no one, in particular, all at the same time. All of a sudden he turned and looked firmly into my eyes and said with a low serious voice, “It’s all harder than you think. I have a good heart, or I wouldn’t be here at all.” It is as if he thought I was judging his heart or thought he didn’t have a good heart.
As I was listening to his pessimistic words and watching him pace back and forth, I could see he was full of the sores like me. He was right about that. I was listening and became more and more alarmed with what he was saying.
I backed away a little.
“There’s no air down there.”
I backed away a little.
“I am sick of healing.”
I backed away a little.
“I am so sick of healing.”
I watched him carefully as I backed away a little more and then he sadly walked away. I walked back towards my open-air hut. I needed more medicine. As I went, I saw two of the villagers rushing towards the man. They would help him for sure.
Maybe he was just crazy.
How could life become so distressed for a man in a land so full of goodness?
I came back to my open-air hut. I gingerly walked up the small steps. I eased my hurting body into the cot. Every muscle in my body seemed to want to rest for days. I still had questions, but instead of answers, I got sleep.
As I laid my head down, I prayed.
Ancient of Days,
I know and believe that I am now part of You. I am not sure what that means exactly yet, but I know and believe that I am in the right place to fully discover You. I can’t believe I am so sick. I had no idea that I was ill when I was home in Receding. No one there knows how ill we all really are. We do not know. We just drink the water from Lake Receding or the wells and we just think that is all there is… but it is not. There is so much more.
There is healing in You.
There is life in You.
I have no idea how long I am supposed to be here. I suppose I will figure out that over time. I am here among the Peoples of Grace and Mercy. I must admit that I do not understand Grace or Mercy but I have felt it, and it is good. These people don’t have to help me or heal me, but they do. I did not have to make it to the Highlands, but I did.
Those are both extensions of Grace and Mercy. I get it. Sort of. I definitely don’t want to take Grace and Mercy for granted. Grace and Mercy are so powerful. If a guard from the Pond Lords can find You, Ancient of Days, then anyone can. Anyone who has done anything wrong. Your arms of Grace and Mercy are so wide that I cannot imagine there end. That is part of who You are I guess.
You are nearly boundless Grace and Mercy.
Thank you for your Grace and Mercy.