Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And I Looked and Beheld...

The clouds part at laser-speed. Planets spin into darkness.

The wind roars like a hurricane against her face,

yet does nothing to slow her passage as she shoots like a lightning bolt in reverse, through atmospheres and realms she never knew existed.

Her home planet is nothing but a pebble far below,

discarded like a thousand other pebbles on the vast dark blanket of space.

The journey ends in a flash of sizzling brilliance.

A trumpet blasts as a thousand voices shout in triumph.

A new world engulfs her senses, swirling with sights, sounds, and smells—all new, yet not foreign.

She is stunned, a bit numb, but has never felt so alive.

Why do those back on the pebble consider her dead?

“Welcome! Welcome!”

The cries draw her in with a force more powerful than anything she's ever felt.

Music is everywhere: in her ears, her mind, her being.

It vibrates to the core,

indistinguishable from the radiance

that swirls around her like a mist.

A man stands beside her.
His dark face glows so brightly that had she seen it back there,

it would have blinded her.

Now it only sharpens her vision.

He holds out strong hands to greet her. “Conna-Joy, you’ve come!”

“Conna-Joy? That’s not my name.”
He tosses a head of glistening black hair and laughs.
“Oh, but it is. I’ve been longing to tell you that."

She focuses on his handsome face as the brilliant cacophany
sizzles around her like a lightshow.

He leans close and power crackles from his white garment like electrical charges. “Weren’t you taught that the names of the beloved

are written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life?”

She nods.

“Well Conna-Joy, the Father knew your name long before you existed.
Don’t you know that the Holy One himself named you?
Your name means Full of His Joy!”
“But how...who...?”
He smiles a patient smile. “My dear child. You men of earth are so easily confused! Isn’t it known to you, that you were created in His very image?
In the mirror image of Himself, He fashioned each of you mortal men?”
She nods and wishes she knew more.

“When He made you, He gave you a name,
part of which is linked to His own character.”

The man sweeps a massive arm to encompass the teaming throngs ahead.

“You were chosen to represent His joy!

You are the very image of the Master’s joy,

something which we celestial beings cannot know.”

“Celestial beings?"

A wistfulness crosses his face and then clears. “Yes, we are both created beings, you and I. But only you, Daughter of Earth, are fashioned by Him

to be of His heart, to carry His essence, and to reign with him forever.

It is a breathless wonder my brothers and I cannot imagine.”

“So, you’re...you’re an angel?”
His broad smile electrifies the air.

“Yes, and such an honor it has been to serve the Master

by overseeing you from your birth.”

She gasps. “You’re my guardian angel?”

He laughs again, a deep rich sound that joins with the music

and adds a unique harmony.

“That’s what you call us, but it is so much more than guarding, you know.

We exist to do the will of the Master, to listen to His every whisper

and rush to fulfill it.

I and others were there to bring His plans into fruition,

to urge you on, protect you, guide you and fight for you

so that His will would always prevail.”

Conna-Joy throws her arms around his waist.
“Oh, I always thought you were there. It’s so great to meet you!”

With her face buried in the icy freshness of his garment,

she feels the solid strength beneath the spotless white.

“I always wondered...if I would meet you...if it was true.”

He extracts himself from her embrace and engulfs her hand in his.
“We have much to see. I am called Dre, which means ‘yearning to serve.’
I will guide you and help you learn, just as I’ve done since your conception.

But this time, it is you who will go on before me in your understanding,

for there are things we celestial beings cannot know.”

She studies him. How can this be true?
A real angel walks beside her, holding her hand, showing her Heaven!
How could she understand half of what he knows?

The music coming from the center of a great crowd
changes beat as they draw near.

Laughter explodes and she is pulled toward the crowd as with a magnetic force, anticipation building inside her chest.

The music swells and she hears herself singing with them,

a song she has never sung before.

The voice that soars from her throat is in perfect pitch

and she wants to laugh again for the sheer joy of it.

At a touch on her shoulder, she whirls.

Gazing back at her are eyes she had seen every day of her life

until the drunk driver stole them away. “Mama?”


Arms surround her and another set of arms joins them.

She lifts her head to look.

“Daddy? Daddy, you’re here! We didn’t know…”

Tears drown her laughter and she buries her face in his white garment.


He speaks into her hair, the deep calm bass she has missed for so long.

“Yes, I'm here by His grace. I now understand what grief I caused with my pride and stubbornness. After the wreck—your mother was already gone—I lay there in the broken glass and cried out to God.

He saved me in that instant, and suddenlyI was here!”

He holds her at arm’s length to smile into her face and she notices that his robe does not glow as brightly as her mother’s does.

He watches her face as understanding dawns. “Yes, you see it, don’t you?”


He smiles, that same tired smile she has missed.
“I am here by His glorious grace, but my rewards are few.

My ability to worship and enjoy this place is not as great as those who faithfully served him all their days.

No, it doesn’t make me sad. There is no sadness here.

The knowledge causes me to praise Him all the more

and reverence those who have such stories to tell.

Others possess such depth of understanding,

it will take me eons to comprehend it all!”


Conna-Joy glances at her own shimmering robe and humility floods her. When she looks around, she can easily spot those with ultra-shining robes

among the duller hues.

But the differences don’t hamper the delighted celebration

going on all around her.

Her mother slips an arm around her waist. “I was so excited when I learned you were coming. I know the pain it causes our family, but from here we get to see the bigger picture and our sorrow is short-lived.”

“You knew I was coming?”

“Oh, yes! He tells us so we can watch for you.
Your father and I have been with you
ever since Dr. Rymer told you about the cancer.

We held each other and prayed for you.

When it got too hard to watch, I had to turn away.

But when I did, there He was, holding out His arms to me.

He wiped away my tears with such love and joy I could never stay sad.

I knew it would be a short time until you would be here with us forever.”

Conna-Joy’s eyes mist and she nestles her head against her mother’s chest.
“I felt you,” she murmurs.
“I wanted to believe it was you. I even prayed that God would tell you.
That He would let you know what I was going through.

I felt so alone.”

Her mother squeezes her tight. “Oh my precious daughter, if only you knew.

You were never alone.”

She sweeps an arm toward the crowd.

“Look at them. They’re all your family. So many of them stopped to pray with us and joined us in our vigil.

"Look, over there, see the short man with the black skin?

That’s Fen-Kindness. He was like your father.

He met the Lord a short time before His homecoming.

But once here, he was able to become all that the Father had planned for him.

You can actually see the kindness floating around him like a cloud.”

With her new eyes, Conna-Joy can see the golden aura

surrounding the gentle-faced man, walking arm-in-arm with another.


“He came every day of your illness and prayed with us. He brought D. L. Moody with him one day. Moody is known here as Aga-Truth, and such a prayer session that was! You’ve just got to pray with him soon. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Dre moves to her elbow. “Come. You won’t want to miss this.
It’s time for the Parade of Nations.

We’ve been doing this for centuries, and every time it is new.”

She lets him propel her along and feels as though she is floating.

Her mother and father lag behind as they talk with others.

The vast crowd had seemed far away, but almost instantly

they are a part of it.

Music fills the cathedral, the top of which soars upward and out of sight.

From the enormous platform before them,

lightening flashes and sparks skyrocket like fireworks.

The air seems charged with electricity.

Though millions stand between her and the platform,

it is as though she is the only spectator.

A sea of musicians stretches for miles, yet she can clearly see every face and the instrument each plays.

As she watches, the director moves away and another strides onto the platform. The orchestra never misses a beat as they leave the elegant Austrian ballad

and launch into a lively Mexican dance.


Dre nudges her and points, dragging her attention away

from the incredible musical display.

“There, to your right. See them? This is my favorite part."

With a crash of a thousand cymbals,
the golden doors at the top of the platform open.

A Presence unlike anything she has ever experienced fills the place,

swirling like a tornadic wind, golden in color and taste,

engaging every sense and leaving her breathless.

Instantly the teaming throng falls to the floor in reverence and a hush fills the universe. Voices from somewhere unseen rise in song, lifting to impossible heights with impossible harmonies. The music swells, drowning out everything but the intense need to worship the Presence who stands before them.

Then silence fills the air as completely as the music had done.
Not a sound ripples through the millions of humans and angels on their faces.

A voice as crackling as thunder, yet comforting as a lullaby, booms:
“I Am that I Am, my faithful ones.
Well done! Enjoy the house of your Lord.”

Another crash of cymbals and the music picks up right where it stopped,

rising in unfaltering crescendo.

Dre lifts her to her feet with the others and she strains to focus on the platform, but the brightness is too dazzling.

She looks at Dre. “Is it, is that...Him? Is it really Him up there?”

She cannot speak the name aloud.

Dre smiles down at her and she feels like a child with so many questions.

“Yes. He fills the place with his presence many times a day,

but He is so magnificent, your eyes are not ready to see Him in all His glory yet.

My brothers and I can.

We gaze upon His face at all times to draw strength and instruction.

But mankind is different. In time you will.

You have all of eternity, you know.”

She squints at him and he laughs.

“Try this,” he says. “Close your eyes. Now face the platform

and tell me what you see.”

When she obeys, she gasps and falls to her knees.
“Oh, it’s...He’s...breathtaking...I can see now!
I can see inside my head, but it’s too big.

It’s like watching a blockbuster movie on a mini-screen.”

Dre laughs and pulls her to her feet with his big hand.

“You creatures of earth are so entertaining!”

He wipes his eyes on his sleeve and grows sober.

“Now, we must stop this chatter, or we’ll miss it.

Watch! Here come the Polynesian Islands.”

She looks where he points. The orchestra is now playing a lively reggae and brightly-costumed dancers twirl and clap while the throng applauds.

Conna-Joy claps along, wanting to join the dance.
They twirl in perfect symmetry
as they pass slowly before the magnificent golden throne.

A human-like hand emerges from the dazzling Presence

with palm up, inviting more.

Conna-Joy gasps and clutches Dre’s arm. “Was that...was it...Him?

Was that Jesus?”

Dre gives her a sly smile, his tone lightly chiding. “Of course.

Who else would be sitting at the right hand of the Father?”

She squints into the glittery mist, but sees nothing more than his hand.
“Well, when do I get to see Him? All of Him?
Isn’t He supposed to be...I dunno, kinda walking around? Shaking hands?”
Dre laughs so hard that she was certain he could be heard ten galaxies away.

“Oh, Daughter of Earth, you so delight me!

I have enjoyed serving the Master with you.

You brought me much joy the years you were on earth.”

“I did?”

“Oh, yes. We celestial beings love to trade stories of the ones our Master has sent us to serve. We have no greater joy than watching you, like you watch your children, as you learn to serve and love our Master.

But now, there I go again. I don’t want you to miss this part.”

He turns her attention back to the massive gates through which the parade participants emerge. The gates themselves appear to be formed of solid pearl, encrusted with precious stones.

They open to allow the Polynesians to exit, and the music changes beat once more. From the orchestra pit comes a song from the Orient

and a voice from near the Presence announces:

“The People’s Republic of China.”

Thunderous applause echoes from the farthest planets,
accompanied by shouts and whoops of delight.
Through the gates come thousands of Chinese,

wearing the traditional garb of the country and era to which they had been born.

Conna-Joy gapes at the glittering garments,

brighter and more colorful than anything she had seen on Earth.

On the heads of many, are crowns, laden with jewels.


She turns to Dre and tugs his sleeve,

her eyes riveted on the solemn dance before them.

“I know those must be the crowns they earned when they served the Lord on earth. Some don’t have anything,

and their faces look a bit less radiant than the others.

“But what are those giant crowns on the group in the middle?

Why are they so much bigger...and, wait!

Jesus is coming down the steps! Look! Look Dre, He’s coming down!”

She jumps up and down like a child at the fair

and he smiles at her indulgently.

“Look! Oh, I can see him really well now! Oh, wow!”

The parade has halted, the music frozen on a single note,

all instruments in unison.

The Son Himself is making his way down from the throne,

and going directly to the group in the center.

Conna-Joy realizes she is holding her breath.

She turns to Dre and whispers, “What’s He doing?

Where’s He going?

Who are those people in the middle,

the ones he’s going right up to?”

Dre folds his arms and stares at her, puzzled.

She tears her gaze away from the scene to look at him. “What?”

“You really don’t know?” he asks.
She shakes her head and turns back to the scene.

The Son has reached the group and the music stills.

A hush envelopes the place and as one,

the group falls before him,

lifting the sparkling crowns from their heads,

and laying them reverently at his feet.

Dre’s voice is low in her ear, filled with reverence.
“Those are the martyrs.”
She gasps as tears fill her eyes.

His voice goes on, barely audible in the sacred hush.

“The largest crowns are reserved for the ones

who gave their earthly lives for His sake.

He will spend all of eternity thanking them and praising them for it.”

She watches spellbound as love and gratitude flow like a waterfall
from the Son to the ones before Him.

He opens His arms and they rise to embrace Him.

When He looks up, the rest of the Chinese assembly joins them

with tears and laughter.


How they all fit inside His embrace, Conna-Joy cannot imagine.

But they do fit, and no one is any farther from Him than anyone else.

She feels her mother’s arm around her shoulders as she wipes her eyes.
“It’s just so...so...I can't...”

Dre nods. “Your name is Joy. He gave you so much it is difficult to contain.”


On the platform, the Son recedes into the golden mist

as the Chinese dance out of sight.

Right behind them, Ethiopia twirls through the gates,

singing and chanting as the music evolves into an African chant.

Once more, they bow and present their crowns

as the Son steps forward to embrace them.

“Come with me. It’s your turn,” Dre says

and without waiting, takes her arm and leads her toward the gate.

What at first appeared to be a long distance, they cover in an instant.

Suddenly, she is standing before another throne.

This one is so brilliantly white it makes her robe look dingey.

She is once more in a great crowd of people, but they aren’t singing.

They stand patiently, most in the company of an angel.

No one here wears a crown.

Conna-Joy hears the gasps ripple through the crowd
and she turns toward the throne to see a great door behind it slowly open.

There He is!

He’s coming down the steps in a simple white robe,

his hands outstretched in greeting, his face alight with a smile


Conna-Joy can't stop the cry of excitement
and as though he hears her, He smiles and speaks.

“Conna-Joy, my beloved sister!”

His voice is like a rushing stream, powerful and clear.

He settles on His throne, attended by a swarm of tiny angels, their wings like gossamer netting, fluttering with the speed of hummingbirds.

Conna-Joy looks at Dre.
The angel smiles and gives her a little shove.
“Welcome! I’ve been waiting to see you.”

She trembles, frozen to the spot.

How can she approach that throne?

How can she look into that face? Gaze upon those hands?.

Tears well in her eyes as she makes her way to his feet.


He meets her halfway,

stepping down to pull her to him.


His touch is like an electrical charge surging through her body,

but instead of pain, she feels life radiate through her skin,

out her hair, uniting with the brilliance around her.

She closes her eyes and clings to Him, knowing she could stay here forever.


Then she feels something being placed upon her head

and she draws back.

“Oh, no! No, I don’t...no, oh Lord, no...I’m not like all these people.

I don’t deserve this at all. I’m so ashamed of how I doubted you,

I...I turned my back on you so many times...”

Regret floods her soul,

but she feels his hand on her chin.

He turns her face to His. “I am so proud of you, my sister.

This is for those times you served me when you didn’t want to.

The Evil One attacked you and you could have listened, but you didn’t.

You did what I asked, even when it cost you. And I was so proud.

All Heaven rejoiced with me!

"You taught that class of third graders

when you'd rather have been in the college class.

"You gave your last dollar to the benevolence fund

when you were out of a job?

Remember, Dre?”

He exchanges a smile with the angel.

Her heart feels as though it will swell out of her chest.

She’s so unworthy of this, but He insists.

She tries to meet His eyes, but her own are swimming.

Carefully, He positions the crown on her head, just the way he wants it.

Then He touches her cheek and her tears dry.

“Enter into the joy of your Lord!”

He smiles and winks, just for her.

Once more she is standing next to Dre.

The crown feels funny on her head.

It isn’t uncomfortable, it just doesn’t belong there.

She looks at her reflection in the polished gold pillar.

The crown is indescribably beautiful, encrusted with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. On earth, such a crown would buy an entire continent.

“Dre, I—” she croaks, but he holds up a hand.

“I must go now," he says,
and in his eyes is a hunger she doesn't understand.
"This is the part we angels cannot join,

but we love to watch.

This is reserved for the ones the Son went to redeem.

You will know what to do.”

Then he is gone and someone is calling her name.

She turns to search the sea of faces, not recognizing the voice.

She feels a tug on her robe and looks down.

The little face peering up at her is unfamiliar, and yet at the same time—

she knows.

She drops to her knees and reaches blindly for the tiny white-robed child, burying her face in the soft hair.

“Oh, my baby!” she cries, her voice muffled in the feathery curls.

“My baby, my little baby...

They told me you were nothing but a blob of tissue,

but I knew. I named you Rose.

You were too small for a real funeral,

but I never forgot you.”

Childish laughter fills her ear

and she pulls away to drink in the face she has never seen.

“I know, Mommy. Here, I’m Peaceful Rose, because that’s the part of Him he wanted me to have. Jesus knows you missed me, so He sent me over here right away so you’d know.”

She laughs again, a happy musical sound that Conna-Joy thinks

she’ll never tire of hearing.

Peaceful Rose takes her mother’s hand and leads her to a place in line,

explaining patiently as Dre had done.

“It’s almost time. I love this part! You have a crown, but I have these!”

She holds up a fistful of exquisite, long-stemmed roses in a vivid array of colors. “The children get to throw these like this, see?”

She demonstrates by pulling the petals from a rose and tossing them into the air, giggling with joy as they float down around her.

“He just loves it when I do this!”

She plucks some more and Conna-Joy laughs with her as the petals float around them like fragrant snowflakes.

They both pluck a handful and toss them together,

laughing and clapping in the middle of the rose-petal storm.

Then the music grows louder and it’s a song she recognizes.
Her favorite worship song, but it had never sounded like this!

"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty..."

A million voices join the instruments in a roar of music

that makes the distant planets tremble.

The words come to her lips

and she sings with her new voice a harmony she had never known before.

Peaceful Rose grabs her hand

and together they sing and dance for joy because they can’t keep from it.

A deep voice announces them

as the crowd surges through the gates:

“The United States of America.”

Applause like the roar of a train breaks over their heads
as they pass before the massive platform.

Every eye is fixed on the glowing Presence before them.

She is so close now she feels the heat, the energy that flows in never-ending movement around the golden throne.

The weight of her crown grows heavier, not in discomfort, but in humility.

How can she wear a crown like this when she looks into that face?

Suddenly, as before, the music stops, with only the high note suspended

as they take their places before the Presence.

She darts a quick look at those beside her

and sees the heavier crowns she’d seen before.

There are martyrs in her group after all.

They move forward, their faces radiant

as they lift the heavy crowns from their heads

and lay them at Jesus’ feet.

Conna-Joy gasps as she recognizes familiar faces.
Is that Joyce Youngman? She was a missionary from Texas,
beheaded by the hostile tribe she ministered to.

And over there! Charles Coffee, Mama's friend,

murdered by a witchdoctor in Zambia.

To her left, a young girl gazes rapturously on Jesus’s face

as she places her crown at His feet.

Conna-Joy stares as a recent memory rises:
Brooklyn High School!
She had watched the story unfold from her hospital bed.
Gunmen held the entire senior class hostage until
Robyn Renaldo had tried to tell her would-be assassin of Jesus’ love.

She told him she forgave him,

even as his finger pulled the trigger that ended her life.

Now Conna-Joy stands beside the young hero,

surrounded by others who had been tortured and and murdered for Jesus's sake.

Who is she to be in their company?

She'd done nothing worthwhile on earth. Nothing.


She bows her head, humbled by the paltry gift she has to offer.

The Son steps forward and opens his arms.

With shaking hands, she lifts the jeweled crown from her head

and places it at His feet, grieved at its inadequacy.

Why hadn’t she done more while she had the chance?

What had she to offer among these who had given their all?

She stares at the glittering crown.
On earth, men would kill for this kind of treasure.

Yet it is nothing but garbage when it’s all she has to offer Him.

She lifts her eyes to His face, regret weighing her soul.
As their eyes meet, He whispers, “Thank you.”
Her heart swells and she is no longer ashamed of what she has to give.

He accepts her gift as He accepts her.

Peaceful Rose tosses her fragrant petals in glorious abandon,

giggling and dancing before Him.

He scoops her up and kisses her cheek.

Leaning toward Conna-Joy, he whispers,

“Let the little child lead you, my sister.”

He opens His arms and welcomes them all into His embrace.

“Thank you, my beloved ones.

I accept your gifts and your hearts of devotion.

May you find pleasure in My house!”

The music swells once more and Peaceful Rose clasps her hand.
Together they sing and dance away from the Presence.

Dre is waiting with her mother.
“When you are ready,” he says, “we have worlds to explore.

“There’s more?”

His laugh was rich and melodious.
“Oh, so much more! This is only our gathering place.

Don’t you remember the Son telling you

that he was going to prepare a place for you?”

“Well...yeah...but isn’t this it?”

“Only the beginning,
as in your earthy homes you had a front porch

to welcome your guests.”

She laughs with him.
“This is not like any front porch I’ve ever seen!”

“The Master loves to personally show you the home he prepared
with you in mind. Each is different, you know.
Perfect in every way.
Filled with treasures designed especially for you.

When you’re ready, He will come and escort you there.

It brings him great pleasure to give to his children."

“May I have her now?” her mother asks.

With one hand clasped in her mother's and the other clinging

to Peaceful Rose, they make their way toward a massive host

filling the air with praises.

"I know how you always wanted to sing," her mother is saying.

"Wait until you experience music the way it was created to be!”

Their path to the choir is slowed as they are intercepted by others

welcoming her home. People she had almost forgotten.

Mr. Dawkins had been an old man living alone

when she had visited him as a child.

He lopes toward her to envelop

her in a strong bear hug,

the strength of youth in his arms.

Voices clamor for her attention:
“You taught me in Sunday School!”
“You shared the Gospel with me!”
“You gave up your seat in the revival service so I could hear.”

A group of Asians presses closer

and a handsome, olive-skinned man grasps both her hands in his.

He’s ruddy face beams as he pumps her hand joyfully.

“We heard you were here!

We are some of those from India

who were blessed by your mission trip many years ago.

You never knew, but after you came and ministered to us, my father—”

He gestures to the smiling man at his side.

“He came back to our village and told us what you said.

We all accepted the Son as our Lord.

We want to thank you with all our hearts!”

The memory of that trip flashes into vivid focus and she looks at Dre.

“Yes, I was there too,” he says.

“It took many of my brothers

to combat the forces of darkness that tried to destroy you.

But the Son was victorious! Praise to his Name!”

“I can’t take it all in,” she gasps.
“There are so many I need to thank as well.”

“You have all eternity, my daughter.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my brothers and I must minister to your earthly family. They are experiencing a time of grief after losing you.”
“Oh,” she cries and puts a hand to her mouth.

“I forgot about them. What can I do?”

“Enjoy your reward. Others are interceding on your behalf.

When you’re ready, you may join them.”

Then he is gone.

With her mother leading the way, they find places in the vast choir,

whose numbers she could never count.

Their voices blend in perfect twelve-part harmonies, never imagined on earth.

A tiny Japanese woman smiles and gestures to her seat

as she prepares to leave the choir assembly.

Conna-Joy takes her place, slipping into a row beside an African woman.

She lifts her voice and her hands as a song she’s never known before

pours from her lips.


A chill ripples over her being.

Such exhilaration had been only a fleeting dream until now.

Nothing on earth had prepared her for the higher thoughts and emotions

that now lift her from the inside out,

pulling from her higher waves of exultation.

This is where she belongs.
The fulfillment of every longing on earth.
The only place her heart ever wanted to be.

She is home.