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Group 2
 THE ON-LINE PULPIT                                                          
               GROUP  3
BANNERS (under construction)

Cheryl A. Wright

   It had been a long hard day on the highway as the sun began to gradually drop from view and darkness over shadowed the country side.  After several hours behind the wheel it was time to look for a decent AAA rated hotel with a pool,  TV and plenty of room service.  Maybe the hotel would have an in house masseur for my tired aching muscles.  When I traveled, I always did it in great style and pampered myself.   There was no holding back for anything I desired as long as I could afford it and if I couldn’t,  there were always the credit cards to purchase a good time or a pleasure.

  About thirty minutes had gone by since I began seeking for a hotel of high quality but so far only a couple of middle class named motels flashed by my sight and some seedy looking places I didn’t even bother to count.  So,  I continued on down the highway for a few more miles as night arrived right on time and  a strange tiredness and nausea shrouded my entire body.  Like a storm out of nowhere it ascended and I found it difficult to drive any longer.  Just ahead was an exit so I turned on the right turn signal and got off the highway where I found myself at an intersection with only a gas station and a motel of questionable reputation.   Not having any choice at this point because I was fast becoming ill to my stomach,  I turned left into the motel parking lot.  But before I stepped into the motel office which looked and smelled bad,  I had expelled the supper which was eaten a couple of hours before.  My head ached,  I was weak and cold sweat appeared on my forehead.  All I wanted to do was lay down any where!  After filling out the guest registration form and trying to remember the car tag number,  the lady behind the desk handed a key to me and gave directions to the room.  At least it was on the first floor and close to the swimming pool, in case I felt better later.

   After parking the car in front of room forty,  I unlocked the door not knowing what I might find and turned the light on.  Just as I thought.  The carpet was worn,  the bed was saggy,  the walls were peeling in the corners,  a water stain on the ceiling and it smelled musty.   To make matters worse, in my condition,  the hot water didn’t work on the vanity sink and only two channels would come in on the TV.  And no room service!

   It was becoming quite late as I took a shower,  washed and dried my hair and crawled into bed.  Reaching up to turn the light off,  I noticed by my watch that it was only one minute before midnight.  The bed was lumpy and the pillow too flat as I struggled to fall asleep in the awful room when finally  my eyes closed to this world and I was no longer there,  much to my relief.

   Opening my eyes,  I found myself on a pathway and not in bed where I had fallen asleep.  Darkness was all about  except for the path that was before my bare feet.  There was nowhere to walk but straight ahead so following the path,  I began my journey not knowing where it might take me.  I had only been on the path a short time when out of the darkness a scene appeared in the middle of the path.  Not wanting to walk through the scene,  I looked for a way to go around but there was no way around and so I approached with caution.

   To my surprise,  Mary and Joseph were admiring their first-born son Jesus as He lay there in a feeding trough lined with straw while the animals stepped aside.  I looked around and thought how much Mary must have wanted a real room at the Inn to birth her first born but instead had to settle for a stable.  As an expectant mother,  she must have been disappointed because she also wanted the best for her child as all mothers do everywhere.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I observed how proud Mary was and she never complained about the stable,  the smell or the animals.  She was thankful for what so had no matter how it  appeared.  I walked closer to the trough.  Baby Jesus stared at me and with His eyes I heard Him speak these words,  “Child, are you better than Me?”

   Totally,  taken by shock,  I felt ashamed and had to turn away from the blissful scene.  Mary would have never complained about the motel room I had.  At least,  I had a roof over my head and a door to lock to keep others out.  Maybe the walls were peeling but they protected me from the outside.  Instead of straw and animal dung to walk on,  there was a worn carpet so my feet would stay clean and warm.  At the turn of a faucet,  I had cold or hot water without going to a well to fetch and carry it.   My motel room didn’t seem so bad after all!

   Pondering on the scene that was now behind me,  I continued to walk where ever the path took my feet not realizing  the slight ascent.  As I looked up,  I saw the mountain that arose and let out a deep sigh of dread but kept on walking as the path twisted around the rocky slope.  After awhile,  I felt the slight pains of hunger and remembered I had not eaten again since being sick to my stomach.  The mountain path was getting harder to climb and the rocks were difficult to walk over .  Once I lost my balance when  I wasn’t paying attention and stepped on a jagged rock that almost caused me to go over the edge of the mountain.  Hunger pains gripped my insides intensely as I complained out loud about the desperate situation.  I promised myself when I got off this mountain, I was treating myself to a king’s feast which included a seven course meal.  Sweat poured down my face and my breathing was deep.  Then I stopped dead in my tracks.  Who said I had to climb this mountain anyway?  I turned around to go back down the way I had come but to my complete horror, nothing but darkness was behind me.  There was no path to be seen!  Standing there, staring at the darkness, I weighed in my mind which way to go.  If I went through the darkness,  where would it take me?  It was a scary thought not being able to see where you were going so I opted for the path before me.  I did not know where it was taking me but at least I could see where I was going!  Every once in awhile I would glance behind me as I continued the hard climb up and see the darkness that always trailed behind me like a loathsome shadow.  The path before me, however,  was always lighted so I could see my every step.

   Approaching closer to the top of the craggy mountain,  I heard voices but couldn’t make out the conversation until I stood behind an outcrop then I froze in my steps.   I listened and hoped no one would know I was there.  One voice was tempting someone to eat but they refused.  Suddenly,  my foot slipped on a loose patch of small stones and they tumbled down the mountain side.  Everything became quiet while I held my breath,  praying no one would find me but He knew I was there all the time as His voice cried out over the mountain top,  “Child, are you better than Me?”.  

   No words came from my mouth for I had no answer to give that was sufficient for One who had fasted forty days and nights.  He was too busy praying for the souls of the world to worry about hunger pains or any discomfort am sure He must have had.  How small my uncomfortable state was compared to His!  No longer was I hungry nor did I have the appetite to eat.  

   The path ended at the top of the mountain so I turned around and to my great delight, the darkness had gone and in it’s place was a path full of light that led down hill.  Going down the mountain was not difficult  and it did not take very long before I stood at the foot of the mountain where the path made a right turn towards a city in the misty distance.  

  Drawing nearer to the city,  I realized there was a garden or park of enormous size near the main gate where the path wound in and out among the beautiful trees and shrubs.  My steps took on a quicker pace as I came close to the garden path.  It was so serene and smelled of sweet roses that I took my time walking through. At the end of the garden path,  I saw someone laying in the middle of the pathway.  His back was turned to me but I noticed His head was resting on a huge smooth stone with only a thin robe wrapped around His body.  Not wanting to disturb His sleep,  I tried to walk around without being heard but He turned over and to my astonishment,  I saw that it was Jesus!   With a sleepy voice He looked at me and said,  “Child, are you better than Me?”.

  It was then I realized how uncomfortable His bed of earth and stone must be with only a thin robe to keep Him warm.  He had spent many a night sleeping this way and now I felt bad because I grumbled about the motel bed and pillows which were not right according to my standards.  Even the simplest things Jesus did without and I was beginning to take notice of this fact even more as I continued on my journey.  With my head down,  for I was ashamed,  I walked around Him and followed the path out of the garden to the main gate of the city.

   Am not sure what came over me but I felt depressed and recalled the times friends and relation had betrayed me.  Some had even told rumors and made fun of me because of my faith in the Lord.  But it wasn’t only the unsaved who had caused problems but brother and sisters in the Lord as well.  It was difficult to understand how this could be but it was so nonetheless.   While I  was contemplating on these things,  I found myself in a residential area of town where I heard voices behind me telling someone to leave their home and to go away.  I slowly turned around to see a man standing in the shadow of a small house with His back turned to me.  Three people stood in the door way of the house and called the man in the shadow names as they told Him never to come back to visit.  It was then the man turned around and I saw the tears of hurt in His eyes.  Jesus had feelings like me and hurt inside when rejected by those He loved.  The Savior of the world was not accepted by His own so who was I to complain of betrayals, rumors and lies?   In sorrow, He asked me, “Child, are you better than Me?”.   All I could do was stand there with tears running down my face and shake my head from left to right.  When the tears cleared my eyes,  I was able to continue the journey as I walked through the streets lined with houses.  

   The path brought me out of the residential area into the town itself  where people were busy buying  and selling their goods along the streets  when  a commotion was heard.  Shouts were coming from a crowd that was fast approaching the center of town.  People stopped what they were doing to see what was happening as they joined the crowd.  Rude voices were calling out,  “Crucify Him!”  and making light of His royalty.   I stood on the corner as the crowd got closer and heard the noise of something being dragged at a slow pace.  My heart sank for I already knew what was going to pass before me but I still had to see for myself.  The crowd began to press in toward me as I stayed behind so I was not seen as He walked by.  When He was in front of me,  the few people who shielded me had disappeared and I was totally exposed to His gazing eyes.  I watched as He carried the heavy wooden cross on His shoulder.  The weight of it was so over whelming that His body was bent over and it was difficult for Him to catch His breath.  With the crown of thorns piercing His head,  blood and sweat pouring down His face, He looked up long enough to ask me a question as He passed by,  “Child, are you better than Me?”.   

   Somehow, all the burdens I thought I possessed faded away for they were nothing compared to the weight of the world Jesus carried  that day.  How could I have been so self consuming when the whole world was going to Hell?  My life had been full of wants and desires that weighed zero in the light of eternity.   My shame over took me as I continued on the path which took me to a hill called Mount Calvary.  

   There was no way to go around Mount Calvary for the path had ended and I had no choice but to be present and watch as Jesus was placed on the Cross to be crucified.  When His hand was pressed to the Cross and the hammer met the metal spike, it rang out this question, “Child, are you better than Me?”.  I watched in horror as this was repeated with the other hand and again,  metal against metal echoed,  “Child, are you better than Me?”.  Not wanting to witness any more pain I tried to turn away as His feet were placed on top of each other in preparation for the final spike but I could not move!  High into the air the hammer went and slammed hard into the spike ringing these words,  “Child, are you better than Me?”.  

   Before the Cross was elevated and planted into the hill,  His Blood began to flow out from Him, spreading through out the land.  Deep sorrow invaded my very being and I fell at the foot of the Cross and wrapped my arms around the wooden beam.  Great sobs of regret came from deep within for I had not loved Him enough for all the suffering I had seen Him endure.  Drops of His Blood covered my head and dripped over my entire body.  The Blood had been applied.  His Blood touched my lips and I tasted the Blood of Jesus .  It was sweet and so good!  The Blood flowed through my body and I was consumed by His eternal love and grace.  At last,  I had been given a Blood bath, inside and out.  An unearthly love rose up inside my spirit and I knew I was His  child and He was my Father.   I clung even more to the Cross not wanting to let go when out of nowhere a whirlwind came and pulled me from my resting place.  

   Higher and higher the whirlwind took me until I was suspended above the earth.  I marveled at how great God’s love was for such a small planet as she hung in the vast universe like a blue jewel.  Suddenly,  I was whisked away and taken higher until the things of earth passed away.  The whirlwind spun me around and around until I was standing before the throne of the Almighty.

   I could not look at Him but gazed at the ground wondering how I was going to answer  for I knew what was going to be asked.  All I had brought were complaints and ingratitude for my entire life.  Like the voice of many waters He asked the dreaded question,  “Child, what made you think you were better than Me?”.  I wanted to cover my ears so I could not hear His  vibrating voice but I stood there and began to tremble with fear.  My legs gave way from beneath me and I lay prostrate on the ground before Him.  I desired the ground to open up and swallow me but it would not.  So deep was my anguish that no tears came.  There would be no more tomorrows for me to make up for what had  not done been done for Him.  No more time left to obey His voice.   

   As I lay there,  the loudest clap of thunder I had ever heard sounded.  It startled me and I sat up but when I opened my eyes,  I gave a sigh of relief for I was in the motel room.  A thunder storm was raging outside which had waken me from my sleep and ended the strange dream.  I was sweaty, breathing hard and was thirsty so I reached up to turn the light on.  Looking at my watch, I realized it was only two minutes pass midnight.  Only two minutes had gone by and it seemed like all night!  This was going to be a long night.  

   Swinging my feet out of bed, to get a drink of water,  I glanced down at my feet and gave out a cry of disbelief.   My feet were incrusted with mud and pieces of straw but as I looked more closely,  I found small flecks of something red.  Reality struck hard for I knew what it was.  I had thought it all had been a dream but had it?  It was then that I knew the Lord had taken me on a journey at midnight.  It was as real as the air I breathed and I questioned myself as to why He would do this to me.  No longer able to contain myself,  I kneeled at the bedside and repented of all the faults He had shown to me on the journey.  It was  there I stayed the rest  of the night  until the dawn  began to
break over the horizon.  When I finally arose from the bedside,  I felt better than I had in years and had a deep desire to serve the Lord even more.  Everything was seen in a different light,  in His light and I knew things were going to be done His way and not mine.  I had to face myself honestly and it was not always a pretty sight but the Lord showed me where I had gone wrong and how to correct my ways.  I learned a valuable lesson that night.  Never mind what you do not have but rather mind the things you do have.  

  After stopping for a quick breakfast,  I continued on my journey into the year 2001 but now whenever I begin to complain or am not thankful enough, His voice always reminds me as  He  whispers those haunting  words  in my ear,   “Child, are you better than Me?”.