Journey to the Glory: A Story about Virtuous Growth

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“Journey to the Glory: A Story about Reflecting Virtuous Growth”

By Brian M. Drummond and Troy M. Borst

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In a world at heart like our own, lays a land divided.  The town of Receding is one place. To those in Receding, the other place is a land of fable beyond the Desert.  They call it the Highlands. Those who have heard the story of the Highlands know it as a place of Hope. Expectant more are we who know the place to be real. We called the Highlands “Hashem” a word from the language of the First Ones meaning “The Name.”  I am a believer.  We, believers, call that land Hashem because it is in the Name that we live.  It is the land of the True Vine in whom we seek to abide.  He is the Most High Host and so King of all Lands.  These are the stories of my journey in the hope of Glory. Glory stories.

This story continued from:

“A Journey to the Glory: A Story of Reflecting God”

“A Journey to the Glory: A Story about Reflecting Wisdom”

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In addition to the Ancient Story being true, I now knew that life in the land of Living Water was more than my eyes could see.  My way forward would require focused faith in the Ancient of Days.  I was optimistic though since I had further support and friendship. Filos and I had walking sticks and had united with the People of Ancient’s Rule.  Yes indeed, our carefully crafted wooden sticks were reminders for us to not trust in our own understanding, but to lean on the True Vine.

The Finishers made our reminder very appealing.  The morning after our stick ceremony and vows, Filos and I were admiring the finished work done to our walking staffs.  We both knew we could never have done such a quality job.  We were amateurs at best; these Finishers were gifted!  The wood had a thick polish that made the green Rockwood glisten much like the rock in the Chambers of Light.  It glistened especially at the foot of the stick which had a rock glazed base applied through their skill.  It was a marvel!

We decided at that moment that we must go to the Finishers and personally thank them for taking such care with our walking sticks.  As we set out, we realized in humorous embarrassment we had no idea where in the Outpost the Finishers camped.

Master Ducit, of course, had our answer.  “Walk toward the north fork of the waterfall where it flows into the river.  You can’t miss it.  The Craftsmen are the only ones up there.  They all live and work right at the pool at the foot of the waterfall.”  We started to walk away and he quickly added, “You should serve the Craftsmen in any good way they have need. They do much for all the People of Hashem.  Under their guidance, both of you can learn much about responsible love.”

We nodded to this wise man and mentor and followed his directions.  Sure enough, we found our way without much trouble.  The Craftsman greeted us with cheer and we were quick to thank them.  We found the Finishers who had worked on our staffs, and we praised them for their artistry.  They were a plain-dressed bunch with simple hair and beards.  They were all bare of vines and leaves except for their vine belt.  One of them explained that they use their vines and leaves in all of the items they craft.  Apparently, they put all they have into their craft.

One of the Craftsman, perhaps one of the seniors of the group, named Diligo came up to us with purpose in his steps and opportunity in his eyes.  “It is time to go down the river to supply and provision those in need.  I would like for you two to take the supplies and go.”

I questioned Diligo lightly since in all my travels in Hashem, I had not met many who needed much.  Dwellers and Newcomers certainly were in need, but that was it.  Diligo nodded with understanding and answered, “Love is no respecter of persons.  Sometimes you need support and sometimes you do not.  Sometimes others need support and sometimes they do not.  We give and receive because that’s how love works. You love people. You let people love you. That is interdependence and is the way of life in Hashem.  Now is the time to go support and share in love. We have heard of needs down river and have crafted to supply those needs.”

Another craftsman, perhaps older than even Brother Pede from the Encampment of Mercy, spoke after overhearing my question and Diligo’s answer, “That right!  Listen to Diligo young’ins.  You go.”  He pointed a walking stick he was fashioning down river.

We remembered Master Ducit’s words about serving them as they had any need.  Filos nodded and agreed, “We’re your men!  We are here with the blessing of Master Ducit and will serve.”

Diligo laughed deeply, “Old Master Ducit would have us teach you a thing or two I am sure.”  He paused a moment and then said, “Going down the river will be a great teacher.”  Diligo started to walk away towards an outlet of the pool under the waterfall.

“Follow him!” the older Craftsman motioned.  He pointed the walking stick he was crafting at Diligo.

We walked a little further to the outlet.  There in the water was a raft.  It was a big raft full of leaves, branches, some flowers of the region, and an empty space clearly prepared for more items.  The raft itself curled up a bit on all the edges and had netted walls that went entirely around the craft.  A small sail was fixed on a beam in the middle.  Attached to the beam was a wood-crafted stool and near to the stool was a long scope of some sort.

“We Craftsman build and send a raft down the river every few months when we hear of needs,” Diligo explained again.  “The leaves you see here are a donation of the Sages who grow and harvest them for the healing of the Peoples.  Most the leaves are to go the Peoples of Grace and Mercy where I grew up.  I know firsthand the pain and suffering of people as they arrive from Receding.  I do not live in that place anymore, but my heart is still there.  We, Craftsman, see to it that those who love mercy have what they need.  The rest is given out in portions as needed along the river docks.  Other goods are also received along the river and taken downstream to the Peoples.”  Even as he was explaining, other Craftsmen were filling the raft with created goods and filling up the raft.

Then looking to us Diligo declared, “Time to put some virtue behind what you’ve been given.”

As we boarded the raft, Diligo explained that there are five hamlet riverports to stop at on this trip down river.  He gave us a small manifest with a map with each of the stops clearly marked.  “Look for these symbols on the docks,” he said as he pointed out the marked stops, “You will receive items at a few docks, but at all the ports you will give.”

Hamlet of Holy Knowledge

ham of holy knowledge

Hamlet of Self-Control

Ham of Self Control

Hamlet of Steady Stream

ham of steady stream

Hamlet of Godliness

Ham of Godliness

Hamlet of Brotherly Kindness

Ham of Bro Kind

I had indeed been given much in Hashem and there was still so much more yet to learn. I longed to add to the goodness with which I had been entrusted. So Filos and I set off downriver with a good attitude.  I was filled with wonder.  He was filled with anticipation of what was to come.

Neither of us had been on the river.  Neither of us was sure how to fill the time.  First, we tried singing a few songs we both knew and then talked about why we liked them.  That didn’t last very long as we soon were just looking at the beauty of the land.  Awe of from our river view breeze through our minds and we barely noticed each other.

My thoughts flashed back to how I imaged this place when I was in Receding.  I remember thinking about the ancient story and my longing for what was called Living Water.  Now I was here!  Filos and I were in the water of the Royal Falls with tall forest all around us.  The smell of fresh living water blanketed us as we headed down river with goods for the Ancient of Days.  I was no longer imagining my longings, rather, I was living them!  I was living a giving lifestyle.  Life here was going on all the while those in Receding suffered day after day.  When I passed through the Desert, there was no water at all.  Here there was more than enough water.  Not just water… but enough “Living Water” for everyone in Receding and the whole of the Desert.  It was all rushing beneath our feet.

The life abiding in the True Vine, our Host, had not escaped my attention.  Nevertheless, there were boundaries between Receding and Hashem for a reason and I knew the Ancient of Days wouldn’t force anything on those in Receding. The offer of the refreshing cup of faith weighed heavy on my heart.

“A dock!” shouted Filos. I quickly came out of my thinking stupor.  I jumped to my feet and went to the scope.  Sure enough, it was the first symbol on the manifest:

ham of holy knowledge

Filos turned the sail a bit so we could reach the dock port.  The port was a perfect fit for the raft.   A short stocky man at the dock helped us secure the raft.  He tied off the last rope and waved to us with a loud “Hi!”  We both waved back.

“Welcome! I am dockmaster Gnosa.  I am of the Hamlet of Holy Knowledge.  We care for the riverport here for the Scholars of Deep Thought.”  He pointed to some crates on the dock, “I have a donation from the Scholars of Deep Thought.  It is a gift of books.”  He then took a big whiff of the leaves on the raft.  His face was bright with pleasure.  His smile told of his joy to receive some of the leaves the Sages love to share.

Filos then responded, “That’s why we are here!  Where do you want us to put your items?”  Gnosa pointed to a small shelter just off the riverbank.  It didn’t take long to unload.  It took even less time to load the crates of books.

As we loaded the last crate, I asked Gnosa, “Have you read any of these books?”

“Yes,” he replied with affirmation, “I have read them all.”

That amazed me.  I didn’t know how long it would take to read so many books.  I remembered my time with the Scholars of Deep Thought and how long it took to read.  I measured myself as a slow reader.  Gnosa tossed Filo and I some fruit and we sat on the edge of the dock for a break.  The breeze off the river felt good on our skin.  The ebb and flow of the breeze eased our bodies and minds.

After a few minutes, Gnosa spoke up saying, “I have learned much from reading, but I have grown richer more observing the river.  Let me share some of those lessons with you two that it may help you increase in measure as you abide in Hashem.”

He thought deeply for a moment and had a serious thoughtful look on his face.

“Brothers,” Gnosa began even as he took a bite of his fruit, “everything comes from Beyond, the abundance of the Ancient of Days character. Some grow attached to the plenty you see on land, but here at the river, if you looked closely you are drawn to the One that transcends.  You are drawn to The Name.”

Filos looked at him with an immediate question, “I can imagine that being a problem in Receding since everything is devoted to Prince-Nachash.  But not here?”

Gnosa nodded as he took another large bite of his fruit, “We live in Him here.  That is why the First Ones named the land “Hashem.”  The glory He sends to us through the True Vine our King is how abundant life is lived.  We must drink from what He provides for life.  Like my father would say on occasion, ‘It is the heart behind a thing that gives life meaning.’”

Gnosa nodded his head and concluded, “Brothers, it is submission to the nature of our King that we must affix our minds.”

“You learned that all from just sitting on the dock and watching?” I enquired.

“Yes,” Gnosa said manner-less with a mouthful of fruit, “You could put it that way.”

All three of us chatted for hours until Filos noticed the light of day had become a bit dimmer.  We decided to get some sleep before starting again.  We both slept well.  Gnosa sent us off the next day shouting after us, “Keep in mind what I taught you!  Much trouble will flee your souls!”

“Sure thing!” Filos said as he waved back.

I was already pulling out the manifest to see where we would go next.  We were heading to the Hamlet of Self-Control on our down-the-river mission:

Ham of Self Control

Gnosa had told us the next dock was about a full day or more downriver.  He mentioned that with a good breeze on our sail we should reach the next dock by day’s end in the dim light.  We knew we had time on our hands so we decided to do some fishing off of the raft.  I had learned a thing or two about fishing in my time at Lake Transcendent.  That was a lake.  This was a river.  I figured the same principles applied.  We took some of the good-sized net walled along the outer portion of the raft and affixed it to the raft in such a way to catch fish as we went downstream.

After going downriver about three hours, we notice the raft began to slightly slow.  We pulled the net aboard and the first thing I did was whoop in excitement and rub my hungry stomach with pleasure.  The first thing Filos said was, “I don’t know how to clean fish.”

“I have seen it done,” I replied, “I will teach you.”  We cleaned fish for a good hour and still had a dozen or so to clean.  We cooked them and ate more than our fill.  We packed the rest of the cleaned fish away in an extra crate and sat on the raft with bellies full of food and pride.

Filos confessed, “A full belly always makes me sleepy.”

“Well,” I said as I satisfyingly rubbed my stomach, “nothing is going on.  I see no reason why you can’t take a nap.”

 “You don’t mind?!” he said with a lightness to his voice.

“No,” I replied.  “You sleep and if we reach the dock before you wake, I’ll let you know.”  Filos was asleep within a few minutes and it wasn’t long before I to grew tired myself.  My eyes grew heavy.

I awoke with a jolt.

I was jarred awake as the raft hit a rock and we were tossed about.

Water rushed into the raft.

I shouted for Filos.

Some of the crates jerked loose and spilled into the river.

The raft shook and continued downriver.

I looked around as the water rushed in.  Guilt also rushed into my heart due to my irresponsible behavior.  I had fallen asleep and fallen short!  Filos’ disappointed face matched the feeling in my heart.  Filos was a young man with integrity and self-control, but I feared I may have lost his trust.

Water continued to rush into the raft.

My brain was swimming and churning as we both realized we needed to get to the riverbank.  I worked on the sail and Filos grabbed the rudder and moved us ever closer to the bank.  We raked the side of the raft along the bank until we came to a stop.

“This was on my watch,” I said under my breath as I jumped off the raft to tie it to a tree.  On my watch, the raft was wrecked.  What’s more, we surely had missed the dock because it was morning bright and well past the dimmer light.  Wrecked and missed a stop!  We were so full of life and satisfied before we shut our eyes.  Now I got us wrecked and if we couldn’t fix the raft, we would be unable to carry out our responsibilities of delivering goods.

After a few minutes of inspecting the raft, we each decided the raft could be repaired.  In my gut, I knew we shouldn’t have to fix the raft, but we did.  I held back my anger toward myself, but my anger was ready to flow like the river we had been on.  Filos was quick to get to work.  I could see him trying to figure out how to fix the raft and move forward downriver. I pushed my despair away and got to work beside him.

We worked in silence until I spoke up.  “I don’t know where you get your self-control Filos, but I admire that in you.”  I knew he was upset with me, yet he did not speak harshly towards me.  Not even a little.

“I get it from my father,” he said quietly.

In the end, the raft wasn’t so bad.  Our friendship had acquired more damage than the raft.  Along the bank were plentiful thick vines which we used to rebind the wood.  After a few hours work, we were ready to get back on course.

Most of our chatter was task-oriented.  Filos was distressed with me and likely at himself for overindulging.  I didn’t blame him for being disappointed with me.  I was troubled myself.  Had I been on watch no wreck would have occurred.  I closed my eyes with a full belly and the measure of my growth in Hashem was thwarted by a big river rock.  We were not tricked by a lie or overpowered by an oppressor… I simply fell asleep when I should have been on watch because my mind was more in tune with my full belly than my duty.  I could have kept us on course in the river’s current.

We pushed off from the riverbank where we had stopped.  We pushed off from the rocky foundation of Hashem and the irony was not lost on us.  Both of us were less confident in our own strength as we head downstream.  All eyes open.  Duty bound.

Our eyes were fixed downstream hour after hour as we looked for landmarks on the river-chart to locate our next dock.  I sat close to the looking scope.  We would not miss another dock!  With such intensity, we were both growing tired, but neither of us dared go back to sleep.  I felt bad. Filos didn’t trust me at the moment and would not sleep.  I wanted to win back his trust so I wouldn’t sleep either.

There was tension in our friendship.

I figured it was my place to begin to repair the strain between us so I spoke up, “Let’s take a vow.  May we each vow that we will not sleep until we reach the next dock.  We will keep one another awake.”  Filos nodded and was all for it.

“Yes,” he said in agreement, “I would rather keep you strong than find rest… my friend.”  I don’t know if he actually paused before saying ‘my friend,’ but I appreciated the words and the emphasis nevertheless.  Our friendship was repairing and we would take the right action to get to our next stop.

Something clicked in my mind from when we were repairing the raft.  “You mentioned your father before, when we were repairing the raft, tell me about him.  What lessons did he teach you?  How are you like him?”

Filos looked downriver thoughtfully and began: “My father, Gravitas, came to Hashem from Receding when he was very very old.  I am not sure how he made it through the Desert, but he did.  When I say old… I mean old, old falling apart old.  He was a carver, builder, and craftsman in Receding.  Once in the Land of Hashem, the Overseers saw to it that he would be a servant who would help keep the Gate of Baptism in good repair.  That was no easy task.”

I recalled as he spoke, about the climb I took to get to Hashem from the Oasis.  I remembered stairs and statues and candles and all the parts of the journey to the glory of Hashem.

Filos continued: “The labor keeping the Gate of Baptism in good repair was time-consuming and laborious.  At one point, he had to re-carve some statues.  He did them three times until they were the right shape and the right weight.  That means he carved nine statues when he only needed three.  By the time he finished, I was old enough to remember.  I watched him on the morning he finished the ninth and final statue.  I asked him how he kept control through it all and did not quit or take a heavy hammer to all the statues in frustration.  Do you know what he said?”

I shook my head no.

“He said, ‘Acknowledge the Ancient of Days in all you do, and He will provide the patience and self-control to serve Him and the perseverance to continue in Him.’”

“He said, ‘Self-control fueled by the Ancient of Days is His-control and we must allow Him to fill us up with his power.’”  Filos nodded as the memory played out in his mind’s eye.  “I have always tried since that day to follow that example. To acknowledge the Ancient of Days in my actions that His-control would fill me.”

I took Filos words to heart pausing to reflect on them. I so noticed this part of the river seemed to move quickly and a tad bit wild, which may have played a part in our collision with the rock.  The water moved swiftly most the day and then slowed.  I looked to the bank and the landscape was flat; there was a little breeze to move our sail.  The water moved us forward, but just slowly.  We each gave each other space throughout the day to cool off.  I busied myself at the raft’s scope looking downriver and across the riverbank.

My mind wandered as I scanned the bank.  I was reminded of what a wonderful condition I had joined myself to through the True Vine my Host.  I felt welcomed here in Hashem in a way that Receding seemed unable to offer.  This made me feel thankful on one hand, but sorrowful on the other for my lack of self-control.  I thought about such things for some time.

I was peering into the scope when a rush of wind passed over my head.  I looked up from the scope, but saw nothing around me.  I looked to Filos and his eyes were large.  He pointed behind me.  I looked behind at the river and saw nothing.  I looked above the river and I saw them.

They were birds.

It was a whole banditry of Desert Thrashers.  Every so often the Desert Winds would blow them into Receding and they would tear everything apart.  I had not imagined they would be in Hashem.  Desert Thrashers only flew in large groups.  They were pale gray with spots.  Each one had a huge curved beak and bright orange-red eyes.  Such scary eyes.

They were birds.  And those birds were coming back around to us!

The banditry of birds was upon us before I realized and began pecking at me and Filos.  A few of them flew through the sail and tore it in places.  Vines were torn.  They attacked for a few moments and then they were off again swirling around us.

“Why are they here?” I questioned.

Filos was at a small locker on one side of the raft.  He was looking inside the locker for something feverishly.  “They blow in sometimes from the Desert side of the trench.  They die off quickly because the Land of Hashem is no place for them.  But,” he said as he closed the locker in frustration, “until then they wreak a little havoc!”

The birds were again on us and began to try and peck through the few crates we had left.  I now understood why the crates were so sturdy.  The Craftsmen must have prepared the raft for such a strange occasion.  The birds pecked the crates.  The birds pecked the vines and a few snapped loose.

“What do we need?” I yelled to Filos.

“An avem horn!” he yelled back as he was batting some birds away from the crates.

My eyes darted all over the boat as I searched for a horn.  I looked at the crates.  I looked at the scope.  I looked at the chair.  The chair.  The chair had something under it.  I dashed to the chair and fell to my hands and knees.  A few Desert Thrashers pecked at my hands.  I looked under the chair and I saw a small glint of silver.  I reached in and a Thrasher landed on my head and pecked at my ear.

And for no reason, the banditry of birds was off and was again circling the raft.  Filos had been pecked more than I, but relief washed over him as he saw what was in my hand.  “Blow it!” he yelled out as he pointed to the banditry again heading our way.

I closed my eyes and blew as hard as I could on the silver avem horn.  I could hear no sound.  I blew and blew and blew.  No sound came out.

Filos raised his hands in victory, but I did not understand.  I blew the horn and the birds crashed into each other and the banditry was dispersing.  Birds were falling into the river.  I could not hear the sound, but the horn was definitely hurting the Desert Thrashers.  With one more blow, the flock of attacking birds was gone.

We both sat on the deck of the raft in relief.

I saw a dock and its symbol in the distance:

ham of steady stream

Filos and I reached the dock with no one to welcome us.  The dock was without a dockmaster which we both found odd.  Had the Desert Thrashers been here?  Had the horn done something to the people in the hamlet?  We did notice a hamlet inland about a good long stone’s throw.  After tying off the raft, we went into the little village looking for people.

I began grumbling under my breath as we walked.  First, I lost most the goods.  Then Desert Thrashers attacked.  Now, no one is here to greet us.  What’s next?   We headed to the first lodging we could see as we entered the village.  A large round hut made of clay and stone was put together with great craftsmanship.

As we approached, we heard a confident warm feminine voice call out to us, “Why the long faces boys, are we not in Hashem?”  An older woman with gray-streaked hair came from around one side of the hut to greet us.

I answered, “We are indeed and we are blessed, but we have not kept our keep.  Our first self has won the day and we come to you with less than we should.  We come in despair and shame without goods.”

“I see,” she stated, looking over my shoulder towards the dock.  “We’ll have to remedy that.”  Her tone was warm and positive and I firmly believed that she would aid us on this day.  I had no doubts.  She finally reached us, bowed slightly, and formally greeted, “I am Constantia.  Welcome to the Hamlet of the Steady Stream.”

She indicated with her hands for us to follow her further into the village.  We did so.  She gave us an approving look and advised, “Press forward boys.  Sometimes we must go ahead on a journey on trust.  We all have missteps at times due to our moral weaknesses.  You both are learning that as you travel on the raft.  Right now, you are not leaning on your sticks in a walking journey as normal, but must flow closer the current of life’s stream in the denying of self.”

We entered a public area in the center of the village.  There was a seating area flanked on all sides with large orange flowers with a very sour smell to them.  My nose crinkled a little as I smelled the flora.

Constantia continued as we sat together, “When you do not function as your true self, you can do nothing.  At times, you may not have your hand on your walking stick.  It matters not.  Never take the mind off the Vine.  We must control the first self in keeping our mind ever on the True Vine.  We must do so, even more, when we are not walking in familiar territory.  Even on the water we remain standing high and confident, lest we sink.”

She paused and took one of the large orange blossoms in her hand and took in a deep breath.  “This takes time and patience,” she continued, “But you’ve come to the right place for we greatly esteem such character here at the Steady Stream.”

She paused again and took another of the large orange blossoms in her hand and took in a deep breath.  “Perseverance can be sour,” she said with a slight spike of humor.  “Now,” she said standing, “Come let me show you around our humble hamlet if you are not in a hurry to run off.”

Filos and I were not about to dismiss such hospitality after coming with nothing but bad news and self-loathing.  “Yes, we would love to,” we said in unison.

Constantia lead us out of the seating area at the center of the village and showed us the other dwellings all lined up in a straight row going away from the river.  The whole little village was like that… all in order.  There were folks moving about in a casual manner and all of them seemed to be a lofty bunch.  They were all doing something, but no one was in a hurry and no one was at their task alone.  It made me wonder how anything got done because the pace was so calm.  Everything seemed to be in its place and everyone seemed to be content in their attitude.  It was a simple thoughtful atmosphere where time seemed to be in the control of the people.

Constantia told us that the people of Steady Stream knew one thing very well.  We realized as she spoke that these people had something special.  She explained to us that the Ancient of Days can be fully trusted.  She went on, “We here move forward not fast or slow, not rushed or delayed, but trusting all things work together when trusting in the Ancient of Days.”

I told her, “That is amazing considering Filos and I arrived without all the Ancient of Days sent us to bring you.”

Constantia laughed a little.  Not a condescending laugh, mind you, just a knowing laugh as she had felt the same thing before.  She answered me, “Yet, there will be a gain for us even when you leave because we now know you.  Our beginning friendship, even though you came with little, returns with us as gain.  In our loving you, we all together persevere in conforming to the likeness of Him.”

Filos understood and continued her thought, “So your lives come from trusting in the Ancient of Days and His provision.  You have completeness here because you have trust in the community.  All this we see comes from hard work and planning, yes, but it also comes from the core of your hearts in peaceful unity to the Ancient of Days.”

She nodded and continued, “To say we understand trust, is to say we value relationship. You boys had a wreck.  Don’t let that break your trust.  Trust us when we say persevering brings unity and all things work together for good to those that love to live in the Name.”

At this, I looked at Filos saying with all my heart, “I am sorry for breaking your trust.”

He immediately replied, “I know you meant no harm.  We both made the same mistake.”

To which Constantia affirmed, “What a wonderful friendship the Ancient of Days has granted you, boys.”  Then she added, “Time is in His hands.  He heals all wounds of those who trust Him and so shares His glory. Hold firm to the hope of glory boys.”

We spent the remainder of the day with the people of that little village helping with their tasks and shared in their relationships.  We helped align a new set of huts.  We helped some craftsman make some new crates.  We even took the place of a governess for a few hours and watched twenty active children, so she could have a break.  That was an experience!  All of them in Steady Stream was a stable people that worked much harder than it first appeared to us.  Their unity and persevering way made it look easy.  Easy is the wrong word… their perseverance, in fact, made their burden light.  Their close relationships made all they did together a great joy.

The troubles in our minds had for the most part been remedied with the help and love of Constantia and the others of the hamlet.  When we left the little village to go downstream, I knew better what it meant to grow in Hashem and what it meant for all things to work together for good.  Filos and I were in no rush to leave these people. Their way of living had really quickly rubbed off on us. With our renewed sense of perseverance, we said our goodbyes and went downriver.

It did not take long for us to reach the Hamlet of Godliness which near as I could figure on the manifest with the map was very near the People of Holiness.  As we approached the hamlet from the river, we noticed their dock sign:

Ham of Godliness

I checked it with the manifest and we knew we were in the right place.  I knew we were in the right place, but I could not see the village.  We saw movement in the flora and fauna, but couldn’t make out what was moving.  It was not until we got very close to the dock that I realized the village must have blended in perfectly with the land because every hut and building and bench close to the dock was covered in a deep green moss.  We also noticed several crates already on the dock.  As Filos tied off the raft, I jumped onto the dock.  It was many of our crates we had lost in the wreck!

As we both stared at our lost-cargo-found, joyous greetings came from behind us.  A very short man and a very tall woman were approaching us.  It looked like they had green hair because some type of green glistening plant was growing on them in their hair and on their skin. They were green and naturally glistening like the land.  I tried to look, but not stare.  I did not think people came into the world with green skin, so I failed at not staring.

The whole place seemed different and these green people were even more particular than most in the land. As I was trying to take everything around me, I began to feel a bit ill, but I kept my composure as the green people were coming to greet us.

“I am dockmaster Bepos and this is my wife Genuine.  Welcome to the Hamlet of Godliness.”

I shook their hands and Filos was still staring at our lost-cargo-found.  Bepos went up to Filos and patted him on the shoulder, “Nothing is ever truly lost in the Land of Hashem.  Nothing is lost if you are willing to humble yourself.  The Host our King has a way of bringing things back to those who seek His holy nature.”

With that, Filos turned to respond to Bepos and he was met with green skin and green hair.  He did not conceal his shock as well as I had.  Genuine smiled a beautiful smile and ran her hands along her green arm.  “Don’t be shocked.  Our homes in the Hamlet of Godliness are made of sturdy planks covered in green moss.  It rubs off on us.  We let the land color us as He sees fit.”

Bepos began to load up the raft, “We are a quiet hamlet which we believe reflects the Ancient of Days.  He is order and peace you know.”

Filos was helping Bepos load the raft and asked honestly, “Do you ever wash off the moss from your skin and hair?  Is that possible?”

Genuine and I joined them in loading the raft and she answered his question, “Oh yes, our green skin and mossy hair can be cleaned and we would look like you.  We find it a mystery that the moss colors us.  So, we let it happen.  We find godliness, reflecting the Ancient of Days, has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Filos and Bepos loaded a very heavy crate together and he continued, “We have found that in humbly reflecting the Ancient of Days, we gain much.  Not financial gain, mind you, but righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.  It rubs off of Him onto us.”

I commented in understanding, “So you see the green moss as a symbol of the Ancient of Days’ character and you want to be colored by Him.”

“Yep!” Bepos yelled out as he stacked the last of the crates.  “The Ancient of Days’ glory and goodness infects us and we reflect Him.”

Genuine pointed to one of the crates we had brought with us on the raft.  “Is that crate full of fish?”

“Yes!” Filos said as he grabbed it and opened it.  Once he opened the crate, the smell of the many days old fish was overwhelming.  I wanted to jump into the river to escape.  Filos immediately shut the lid of the crate and apologized over and over.

“Praise!” Genuine exclaimed.  “We have a new hut further inland that needs moss-grown around it and nothing grows moss better that old fish.  May we have the crate and any others you might have?”

Folis handed it over in amazement and with some relief.

Bepos said, “Moss growing happens naturally sometimes over time, but most of the time it is intentional on our part.  If we want to fully reflect the Ancient of Days, we have to let Him work, but we have to do our part as well.”

We boarded the raft and both Bepos and Genuine untied the raft for us and we began to slowly move back into the current of the river.  Filos and I looked at amazement at the Hamlet of Godliness.  We could see the village now whereas when we arrived we could not see it.  We saw that the movement in the flora and fauna we had seen earlier were the people moving, living, and working in the village.  Their skin colored by the moss of the land blended them in and we could not see them clearly before.  Now we saw them all and it was beautiful.

We turned our attention downriver towards the last of our stops.  I looked at the manifest and through the scope.  Filos manned the rudder.  We had not put up the sail for the river after the Hamlet of Godliness was moving swiftly.  Not too swift that we were in danger, but swift enough that we made good time and had to be vigilant in managing the raft.

We came to one part of the river where both sides of the riverbank were full of people on bended knee.  They had their hands raised to the air.  All of them, a hundred people at least, were bowed in prayer to the Ancient of Days.  It was a sight to see as all of them sought the favor of the Ancient of Days and praised Him.  Some did so out loud.  Some did so silently.

It was not long after the folks in prayer that I spotted something strange in the river through the scope in the river ahead of us.  Filos noticed the strange look on my face and inquired.  I had him look through the scope.  His face matched what I imagined mine looking like for we were both puzzled.  At the same moment, it dawned on him and me what we were seeing and we ran to the edge of the raft and we both jumped in.

It was the top of someone’s head.

We swam as fast as we could.  I moved my arms and legs as fast as I possibly could in the water.  We had to reach the person.  How long had he or she been in the water?  Were they okay?  How would we save them?  What would we do with them if they were not okay?  My mind raced as fast as my arms and legs.  Filos and I both reached the person at the same time.  He yelled to try and rouse the person as my hands reached around them.  I cannot describe to you the next moments exactly, but I was overcome with so much laughter that I almost drowned myself.  It was not a person, but a river tortoise’s discarded shell.

We were both treading water as the raft went past us.

“Oh no!” Filos cried out.  With fury and strength, he and I swam as fast as we could after the raft.  Neither of us had thought about anything other than saving the drowning person.  It had not been a drowning person, but now we were in a bit of trouble.  Filos must have been blessed at that moment because he swam faster than I and with a providential grab, happened to take hold of part of the rudder.  He hauled himself onto the boat and slowed it so that I could catch up.

He and I looked at each other and shook our heads.  I tossed the tortoise shell at him and said, “Well at least we were willing to lay down our lives and our mission for someone.  Even if it ended up not being a ‘someone.’”

Filos spent the next hour or so doing something with the shell.  After an hour or so, he proudly and victoriously put the shell on his head.  He had fashioned it into quite a useful hat.  It was wide enough to keep the sun off his neck and out of his eyes.  It would be sturdy.  It also came with a story.  I nodded approvingly

The last stop coming up was the Hamlet of Brotherly-Kindness.  I could tell that we had traveled far in the Land of Hashem and that we were very close to the Peoples of Grace and Mercy.  I looked at the map and confirmed we were in the right place:

Ham of Bro Kind

The dockmaster at the Hamlet of Brotherly-Kindness was a good-natured fellow with wavy brown hair that stuck out in all directions.  His name was Pietas.  He greeted us by saying, “Welcome new friends on the horizon!”  He then directed some young men standing nearby to unload the raft.

He motioned for us to join him up the path as he walked into the village.

“Come have a meal and stay with us in the Hamlet of Brotherly-Kindness until morning becomes bright again.”  He did not seem to want to take no for an answer.  It was understood that we’d eat and enjoy the town’s hospitality.  Pietas led the way till we came to seven wooded lodgings.  Two were large with porches, benches, and chimney stacks and five were small simple buildings.

As we came up the path some of the people saw us and greeted out to us, “New friends may be on the horizon!”  Many people dropped what they were doing to see us.  Others commented on Filos’ tortoiseshell hat.  Some came from the smaller wood lodgings with great interest in their eyes.  They genuinely wanted to meet us.  Pietas told them we had come downriver with a delivery of goods.  Some of the younger children pointed towards the dock and ran to see. Still, others thanked us.

We sat down on the porch of one of the large buildings and those that gathered around asked us to tell our story of our trip downriver.  I told some of it.  Filos told some of it.  Pietas and others asked questions.  When it came to our raft wreck, there were gasps.  When it came to us telling how we ended up finding the goods stacked on a dock waiting for us, those same gasps were praises to the Ancient of Days.  The children especially enjoyed hearing about Filos’ tortoise hat.

I expected an evil eye or two, but none were found.  I was delighted to find nothing but kindness pouring from the people both young and old.  It was a kindness akin to the kindness I received when I first arrived in Hashem from the Peoples of Grace and Mercy.  I don’t know what to call it other than kindness.  This kindness has power in it.  Maybe I’d call it “mature kindness?”

A few of them offered short stories of times they had made mistakes and grew from their ordeals.  Even in their empathy, they were kind.  I remember understanding (and I told Filos this later), that I suddenly understood that the kindness we were receiving was genuine and from the heart.  It was not just kind actions, but a kind heart behind the actions.  I understood what set the kindness of these folks apart from others certainly in Receding, but also even in Hashem.  There was just a quality about these folks that was impactful.  They each wanted to know us and knew we could grow and with kindness grafted us into the spirit of that region.

I say “that region” because I could smell flax fields on the cool breeze coming from the Peoples of Grace and Mercy.  That also meant we were near Mitis, Clemens, Lito, and Longan with the Peoples of Gentleness and Patience.  I mentioned to Pietas and Filos that I would not mind stopping to see Salve or the big muscled Mature Healer Assa.  They helped me through the most pain I have ever felt.

Pietas exclaimed, “Yes, we must!”  I guess based on his answer and his enthusiasm that he was coming along.  We rested the rest of the evening and slept soundly that night.  The next day we awoke and went to the village center at Pietas’ insistence.  The whole Hamlet of Brotherly-Kindness was there with tables full of food, drink, and various hand-crafted gifts.

“You mustn’t leave on an overly full belly,” I heard from at least ten people.

While we ate as guests, wagons were packed and loaded.  We packed a few items for ourselves and we headed out with the wagons.  We were fed, but not overfed.  We were packed, but not overpacked.  The one wagon was full of the wise Sage’s leaves.  Another was full of tools to harvest flax.  The third wagon was filled with large jugs that looked like ointments or some kind of drink.  The three wagons and all of us went on our way.  People waved.  Shouts of “Come back new friends on the horizon!”

As we walked along the wagons, Pietas who seemed to be a storyteller at heart began to share with us about his childhood in Receding.  He mentioned how he grew up in East Receding.  I found that comforting as that was where my family was from.  I immediately related to his story.  “My father encouraged us to steal.  Not actually mind you, but he never said it was wrong or punished us if we did it.  He would always tell us that if we stole or cheated or tricked folks in any way, that we should do it well and not get caught.  ‘It is only wrong if you get caught’ he would say.”

Filos reflected on this a little and asked him more questions and he asked about school and things like that.  I began to daydream.  All of a sudden, Pietas said, “Yes, my father Tarpetto was a nice man most of the time.”  As soon as he said the name, my attention snapped back to Pietas.

“Your father’s name was Tarpetto?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said with a shake of his head.

“I think I might know at least one of your family,” I said.  “I went to school with a boy named Tarpetto from East Receding.  He and I stole pie one day from the Market.  It didn’t seem to bother him, but it sure weighed heavily on me.”

“Oh,” he said with a distant sadness, “I am so sorry.  Yes, it probably is some relation of mine.  Tarpetto and Tarpetta is a common name in my family.  My family takes no care to lie or steal.  So far, I am the only one of my family to make it to Hashem.  I pray for them daily.  My only sadness with your words is that my family has not changed in the time I have been gone.”

Pietas walked beside me as one devoted to kindness and giving.  What a change had been wrought in Pieta’s life!  He was a deeply loving and giving man.  I could not imagine him adrift in lying, stealing, or anything like that.  To think of him treating others with disrespect, was hard to believe. If it were not Pietas himself telling us how he used to be in Receding, I might not have believed it.

We came to the Village of the Peoples of Grace and Mercy.  As we entered the area, many children took notice of Pietas and came running right into his arms.  They loved him.  His arms were not wide enough to hug them all at once, but he tried.

Salve came up to us and I greeted him warmly.  It was good to see him.  We spent time greeting one another and when Salve came to greet Pietas he said, “Just in time Pietas!  We have been looking forward to hearing how you will bring us to remember.”

Filos and I looked to Pietas not understanding the phrase “bring us to remember.”

Pietas explained right away amidst the hugs of the children, “It is my turn to share in the time of remembrance of the Ancient of Days’ mercy.  It is one of the reasons I came along with you two. I didn’t mention anything before because I wanted to save what I have to say for the right time.”

Salve spoke again, “Well evening is upon us!  Let’s get those supplies in order!”

Immediately people came from everywhere to empty the wagons and cart the items to their proper places in the village.  It was not long before everyone had begun to return.  There was a large tree stump not far from where we entered the village.  People seemed to be gathering there.  Filos pointed in that direction and we noticed Pietas was there as well.  We walked over.  I was interested to hear this “time of remembering.”

We got there and sat down.  It seemed like the whole village had gathered.  I looked around.  Healers.  Friends.  Behind me, some Dwellers walked around the edge of the gathering.  They were ready to listen, but not ready to sit.

Pietas stood on the stump and said aloud to everyone: “He was one of us… this is the Travelers Tale.”  I was surprised.  I had not heard the Host called the Traveler in some time.  Filos just nodded.

Pietas continued, “He came into the world through His mother.  He was flesh and blood same as you and I.  He came for those who were dying so that they may have life, but He first grew up in the same manner as we do.”

Pietas spoke as his arms waved around illustrating his words: “He grew to learn of virtue and to be good just as most do.  Though sin He never knew so He was unlike any other person.  He grew in relationship with the Ancient of Days.  ‘Father,’ He would call the Ancient of Days, as no other person dare do.”

“In His grand knowledge, He revealed self-control in moral fullness that caused those weak to humble or rebel.  But even to the rebellious, His hand would remain calm.  He would point out moral weakest and offer His strength.  He showed no anger toward them.  He was full of warning and yet meek. In perseverance, His goodness did not fail.  They called Him a liar and worse.  He revealed all holiness.”

I could not take my eyes off of Pietas.  My ears were open.  My heart swelled as I heard the story.

“Yes, He persevered and was holy before everyone.  Those around Him were profane.  Most did not bear to be in His presence.  He was set apart from their ways.  He continued until they delivered Him to the final day for which He traveled.  On that day, He offered us Himself in brotherly-kindness.  He imparted love from the Ancient of Days.  He was willing to become like one of us so that He could offer to us to partake in the very nature of the Ancient of Days.  Now we know what it is for him to be like us and now we can be like him.

Salve joined Pietas on the stump, looked to the sky, and said aloud:

“Our King’s cares are achieved in His Name.

It is better to give than receive.

Better to serve than be served.

Better to share in love than never return love.

For our King serves us all.

His burden in that way is light.

Abide in His land

Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly in Hashem.”

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