Strong Man

There was a little boy, amidst the Strong Man people, who wanted so much to grow and be impressive like his father. Each day he would look at his reflection and see only himself. It can be terribly frustrating to be four when you want to be a great man.

His parents saw more than the boy could, how each day his character and integrity were developing into the valiant little warrior he was created to be. All too soon he would be battling the bad guys he was pretending to now in his play time. He would fight evil and rescue the good, while bringing joy wherever he went. But for now, he was just a little boy with big dreams and a bigger heart.

Each night while he slept, his mama would sneak into his room to silently encourage the boy not to grow up too quickly- because being a little boy is an amazing thing to be.

Pirate Jack

Pirate Jack is no longer a pirate but the name has stuck and Jack doesn’t much mind. He turned from his thriving career of pillaging on the high seas to become a rescue vessel. How that transformation happened is another story.

Pirate Jack is an old Dwarf, heavily weather beaten, and with only one leg. Neither his age nor his disability has stopped him from becoming renowned for his daring rescue missions.

He claims that he owes his successful rescue attempts to his steadiness. No matter how violent the storm, Pirate Jack can walk about the deck with ease while all the crew are being flung about like rag dolls in the hands of angry children.

When asked about his ability to maintain sure footing, Jack explains his strength comes from his core. It has nothing to do with the legs or anticipating the waves because that is impossible. Since he has made his core strong, there is little he cannot do.

Strengthening the core isn’t glamourous- no one can see your efforts pay off as with burly arm workouts. It is also tremendously difficult fighting off the old habits of laziness and gluttony. However, it is core strength that is required to be able to do what needs to be done.

 In his gruff voice he explains that one cannot be tentative in a storm when the waves, water, and sea monsters are attempting to catch hold of you. There is a job to be done- rescuing the drowning.

Do the work of training the core while the weather is fine, so that when the storms come you will be able and fit. These days are not about easy enjoyment but about thriving and living successful lives. Extraordinary lives are being lived even if no one else notices them.

Mags

Mags had a hard life- as did all who lived on the mountains of Talus, but she was unique. She didn’t let the hardness of her circumstances dictate her actions. Even in the mean years when almost nothing would grow, she tried to be as faithful as she could in sharing the tiny portions of what she had. Unbeknownst to herself, her acts of generosity sowed magic into her little plot of stony ground. Things began to grow there that were impossible.

Though her circumstances greatly improved, Mags’ nature remained consistent. Most believed that she was generous because she was blessed; some, however, remembered her hard, early years and knew better- Mags was blessed because she was generous.

Ichabod is Dying

He had been a much-desired baby. However, as the pregnancy wore on, life for his family turned from sweet to sour then finally to extremely bitter. Maybe they shouldn’t have named him at birth. Nameless, he might have had a better chance at life, but that is not how things are done among the Pixies. So, he was named, and his name reflected every terrible event of that year- Ichabod, meaning sorrow.

He grew up unloved.

Whenever negative things happened, the community looked to see the proximity of Ichabod to the occurrence. He was thought of as a bad luck charm and quickly became an outcast. He accepted what people said of him and his behavior reflected their expectations. He formed himself into his negative destiny- stooped over, brow furrowed with worry, and eyes cast down to avoid the concerned or angry look of others.

The day Wisdom came to this town the status quo began to crumble. She observed how good-hearted Pixies treated Ichabod as a scape-goat simply because it had always been the way of the community. Wisdom would not tolerate it.

With clear and undeniable reason, she spoke to the Pixies, slicing away their prejudice, until they saw Ichabod for what he was- not the foreteller of misfortune, but a sad, lonely Pixy.

Most of the community intensely regretted their horrible treatment of him. They would change, though it took some longer than others to completely change their way of thinking.

Wisdom spoke gently to Ichabod. He could not hear her voice, but this did not deter her from repeating her truth. Ichabod, you are more than your name. You are more than what others say you are. Depression can be broken. Joy and peace and purpose can be yours. You are meant for so much more. You are not forever destined to be what you have been. You can change your name.

It was not long before Ichabod could hear Wisdom, though he didn’t understand what she was saying. Wisdom saw this progress and continued her work until the day when he understood and, with tears, accepted the truth.

Wisdom gathered the community to announce, “Ichabod is dying.”

Shocked the community was silent, thinking over the sorrow and isolation the young man had been forced to handle for so many years. Tears slipped from many eyes. Then, from behind Wisdom, stepped a new man. No longer stooped, with a smooth brow, he stood tall, confident, and looking directly into the eyes of everyone. Wisdom announced, “Ichabod has passed away, this is Peter.”

Redeemed

The Sprite had once been strong and brave before her fall. Now she was skittish, fearful and silent. Maral faithfully travelled with the Sprite though the pace was very slow. The path did not allow for two to walk abreast; so Maral took the lead and blocked the majority of the wind.

In the evenings, the silence became overwhelmingly uncomfortable prompting Maral to begin shareing her experiences from her journey. When she ran out of stories, she spoke of her childhood in the forest. For a long time, the Sprite did not respond and Maral felt like she was speaking to the wind. Slowly, however, acknowledgments began to come from the Sprite.

As Maral won the Sprite’s trust, she began to speak of her own childhood. Their companionship dulled the dreariness and harshness of the Shifting Sand wasteland. Time began to pass not unpleasantly for the pair.

The Sprite was fascinated by Maral’s fire dwelling experiences. She chose to become vulnerable and shared her sacred secret about the great promise she had received when she was just a child. She had placed all her hopes and determination in this promise and had been chasing it for many years.

Maral had subconsciously assumed many negative things about the Sprite because she had been reclaimed from the sand but as their friendship developed each assumption was proven false. Maral found that the Sprite had been traveling much longer and over greater challenges than she herself had encountered.

Soon the Sprite’s old strength, gained from her many travels, returned to her, allowing her to take the lead. The pace was almost too swift for Maral, but she managed to keep up. The slight Sprite seemed more resilient to the relentless wind.

One quiet night the Sprite spoke about her fall. She tearfully confessed that she had become dejected as time passed and she seemed to be no closer to her promise. The harshness of the wasteland wearied her body and mind until she began to wonder if all her life had been in pursuit of something unattainable.

On the hottest day, she fully accepted that her promise was a myth. She was so low that she had looked out at the sea of sand for a while, then willfully stepped off the path.

She had been lost for years. The sand was wild and terrible. She had seen horrible things in the belly of the abyss. Then, after suffering much, she felt an unexplainable reawakening. Her promise was calling to her.

It was then the Reclaimer’s rope had found her and the battle to return to the path began. The sand had no desire to lose her and fought ferociously to prevent her escape. She had been a passive participant at first, but as soon as she caught sight of the firm path, she completely woke from her stupor and fought as never before.  

Drained, she stopped talking, Maral was silent as well. The story hung heavily before them. Then, Wisdom’s voice came on the wind. She spoke of perspective.

 Deferred hopes, born from unrealistic expectations, make a heart sick. A sick heart will hinder reason. Hold firmly to your promise without adding a timeline will be a difficult but worthwhile endeavor.  You are not responsible- or even able- to force great things to happen on your own. Only do what is before you to do each day. One can do no more and no less to reach their goal. However, the fulfillment of the promise might appear different than expected. You must find peace with that possibility.  Finally, when discontentment arises, hand it over to the peace of assurance knowing if one is faithfully doing all that one can, the promise has already happened.

Maral was confused, “It has already happened? But it hasn’t actually happened.”

The Sprite’s deep sigh drew Maral’s attention. She seemed as if something terribly heavy had been removed from her person. Smiling said as she laid down, “Its perspective.”

Maral wouldn’t understand what this meant for many more years.

Conversation

Maral shrank back from the stranger feeling small and exposed. His voice was gravely and belonged more to his stern face than the kind eyes she had seen. He continued without waiting for her to respond to his opening observation, “You, like many before you, believed the lie.”

“What lie?” Maral asked in a tiny voice.

“That you are not physically capable to cross this terrible wasteland. Once one agrees that they cannot go one step farther, that their limitations are too much, and that what they face is impossible the mirage appears.” He shook his head sadly, “There are no oases in this dry place. One must persevere.”

Maral interrupted, “But why is there no place to rest?”

The stranger sighed, “Because no one would ever leave the place once found. The conditions are so extreme here that none would have the willpower to leave it.”

Maral wondered if she had in fact seen kindness in this stranger’s eyes.

“This place is made to be hard.” Suddenly, his arm shot up and cast the rope that had been resting upon his shoulder out at the horizon. It sailed with magnificent speed but landed upon empty sand. He began to recoil it. Maral realized he had not stopped speaking during this odd action; she forced herself to focus on what he was saying, “You doubted yourself and chased a mirage, but you were not swept away by it. That speaks of great strength and wisdom.”

During her entire experience with this stranger, Maral had been feeling weak and foolish. His words took her shame away but left the humility; she felt taller.

“The Shifting Sand wasteland is difficult but it is not impossible. When you feel you can go no farther, go farther. Prove to your mind and your will that the limitations placed upon you are imagined. Everyone is far more capable than they realize, but most will never discover the deep wells of ability without the harshness of this place. This place demands that you delve deeper into your stores of strength and fortitude than you otherwise would.”

Again, his arm cast the rope into the distance. This time it caught something. Maral couldn’t imagine what he was doing. He began pulling in the taut rope. He continued speaking with only a mild strain to his voice betraying the amount of effort he was expending on his rope.

“It is not easy or comfortable and most will never attempt to cross this. They will never discover their potential depth.” Now for the first time he paused his monologue to completely apply himself to the task at hand.

In these moments, Maral’s mind ran over all he had said. She was surprised to realize that the clinging sand, her torment since she fell, had finally fallen off. She felt free and able to do anything.

She intended to tell him this, but when she looked up, she saw that what he had lassoed was a tall female Sprite. They both were struggling against the sand that appeared to be sucking her down. Maral felt powerless, but then the stranger with a final mighty pull hoisted her up to the firm path.

The Sprite was crying and choking on sand. He disentangled himself from her aggressive hug to offer her some water to wash the sand from her mouth and eyes.

When he spoke to her it was markedly more kind. “You have won little sister,” She cried harder. “You will not fall again. Rest here tonight; tomorrow you will continue your journey.”

The Sprite looked at him, astonished that he would send her away so soon. He only smiled, “There is one here who will walk with you.” He indicated Maral.

Stranger

Maral was covered in a sticky sand which could not be brushed off. After her tumble from the firm path, she had imagined- with exposure to a few days in the relentless wind as well as her own attempts at brushing the sand off her person- that she would be clean. She was wrong. What did happen was that her skin became raw and terribly sensitive.

Nevertheless, though she was physically in a sad state, her mental condition was much improved. What accounted for this was her habit of straining to hear the words of Wisdom. They didn’t come easily as before this season of wasteland wandering but she worked tirelessly to hear and clung to whatever reached her. With her mind absorbed with this work it left little room for contemplating her uncomfortable environment.

After many days and night of traveling in this manner, she suddenly had the eerie sensation she was not alone. Looking up from her dusty feet she saw a stranger. He was an amazingly odd-looking individual with ragged clothes and a rope. She froze.

She was sure he was as aware of her presence as she was of his, but he did not look at her. His intense gaze was locked on the horizon. Fearfully, she crept past him as quickly and silently as she could manage. However, he never once transferred his attention.

Still, she made good time to get as much distance from him as she could before she returned to her normal pace. She pressed the weird encounter from her mind and returned to her former pattern of listening to Wisdom’s voice.

Though it required all her concentration, Wisdom’s voice was clear and unmistakable. Maral froze as she received Wisdom’s instructions to return and speak with the odd unknown one. Her fear propelled her forward, unwilling to follow the instructions, but no matter how far away she walked from the stranger, she was called to return. Wisdom, it seemed was unyielding on this point.

With a deep sigh, she turned. As she retraced her steps her logic argued with her- this was unwise and dangerous. This mental battle distracted her from the weary acknowledgement that much ground was being retraced. She had lost large amounts of energy and time by delaying her response to Wisdom’s instructions.

It still seemed that all too soon she was near the stranger. Cautiously, she approached him. He was tall and terribly thin, but didn’t have the air of someone hungry or demented. Now that she was really looking at him, she noticed his stature was one of strength and dignity regardless of his unkempt appearance and clothes that spoke of poverty. She was dazzled by the contradictions surrounding this stranger. She was much closer now and her fear had evaporated. She saw his eyes, still locked on the horizon, had intelligence and kindness, though his face looked rough and weather beaten.

She wondered if perhaps she had judged him too harshly. Maybe he was not as unwelcoming as a first glance might suggest, but then he spoke. Remaining motionless he said matter-of-factly , “I see that you fell.”

Shifting Sand

Maral stood mesmerized before the vast Shifting Sand wasteland. She had been warned that if she were not constantly vigilant, she could slip off the raised, firm path to be swept away in the current of the sea of sand.

Her heart sank at the magnitude of what lay before her while her mind cried out, Wisdom are you still with me?

I am here. It will not be easy but you can get through this.

Though the body of sand was reported to be constantly moving, it appeared motionless. Maral picked up a small red pebble and tossed it out into the never-ending expanse. Instantly the pebble was carried 100 yards toward the horizon. Then, as if identifying the rock as an inanimate object, it was hurled back in Maral’s direction.

With extreme caution and good dose of trepidation, Maral began her journey. Miserable and lonely, she talked to Wisdom about everything she was experiencing, but found she had to strain to hear Wisdom’s voice.

Nagging thoughts and questions buzzed around her mind- You have lost your way. Why are you doing this? There is no end to this hell. Wisdom has abandoned you.

The voice of Wisdom was with her, but the attention Maral spent on these thoughts- even in getting rid of them- was distracting her from Wisdom’s voice. It faded until it was almost silent while the nagging thoughts grew louder as the days passed.

When she felt she could go no farther, she saw something in the distance. Rippling in the waves of heat was a paradise complete with shade trees and a large pond. Desperate for relief, Maral ran toward it.

It appeared, at first, to be directly in front of her, then shifted slightly to her right. Thinking of nothing but diving into the water, she stepped off the risen path.

As she fell the mirage vanished. She threw herself toward the risen path but her feet landed in the sea of sand. The current yanked at them to drag her away from the path. She scrabbled and clawed at the burning sand forming the side of the path. Terrified her heart and mind focused upon Wisdom and cried for help.

The voice of Wisdom was clear and gave her exact instructions. It was miserable and arduous work, but she followed all of Wisdom’s words without question or hesitation. Finally, she reached the top of the risen path.

After some of her adrenaline ebbed and her breathing returned to normal, she took stock of her situation. Up to this point she had exercised her best efforts to remain as sand free as possible, now she was covered in grime and grit.

Focus on my voice especially when it is not easy to hear, Wisdom said. You can make it through this difficult place. There is still some distance ahead, but it will not last forever. Speak with me, lean upon my strength, and you will not become distracted and fall again.