Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christian Baptism (10/18/07)
TITLE: Baptism in Nature's Paintbox
By Lisa Holloway
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A bird sang within the foliage of a huge tree that dabbled its toes in the shallows while reaching for the summit above. The bird's trill faded and, for just a moment, I saw the shadow of a large, flightless bird gallop past. I concentrated to hold the singing bird at the edge of my mind; the large bird's image faded into the wind as the song became clear again. The veil of time was thin here in the place known as Nature's Paintbox. This hidden spot so close to Eden still felt the warmth of God's breath and thrummed with His pulse.
Then I felt Ariosto's hand at my elbow, guiding me across the shifting rocks to the center. It was time to join my brothers and sisters in Christ in the sacrament of baptism. Two years had passed since I'd asked God to forgive me for my life of lies and turned to walk in the light of His presence. For two years, I had studied the scripture and prayed under the mentorship of Ariosto and his sister Damaris. Now I knew well what I professed and would finally follow Christ in this act of symbolic death, burial, and resurrection.
I felt so close to Him here, like I was being washed in living, flowing prayer. For a moment as Ariosto spoke the holy words of baptism, the whiteness of his robe shifted to a rough, brown tunic, while his aspect was older, bearded with gray in the darkness of his hair. He smiled as if he knew what I was seeing and made the sign of blessing before moving his hands to aid my plunge in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Moving under, I felt the weight not of water, but of eternity. Vast stretches of time spread out before me as the water flowed past and disappeared. Someone so bright I could scarcely look at him walked toward me across a green plain covered in fruit trees and jasmine. I could not bear the beauty of Him--the searing beauty of absolute love in His eyes. I sank to my knees and stared at the ground. When He lay a hand upon my shoulder, I felt a keen, burning sensation that healed what I had not known was faulty and gave me strength to look at Him, if only for an instant.
In that eternal second, I was keenly aware of the ugliness I had enacted repeatedly in my pride and selfishness--in my deliberate ignorance--but that passed as soon I knew that those things did not exist any more. Even as I had chosen to give them to Him, He had annihilated their power, and I need have no shame within His touch of grace.
I lifted my hand to reach for Him, deliberately pushing thoughts of the present away as I sought to step across that slim boundary of time and space to stay with Him forever, always as pure and filled with joy as in that moment. When he spoke, the sound of rushing streams, of the most sublime songs, the roar of the lion, the whisper of the newest creation echoed in the timbre of His voice. I could melt into that voice gladly, losing the importance I thought I had.
Not yet. The place and time you are in now are where I need you to be. They are where you will find the purpose I give to you that you may also give a gift--to Me and to the world I created as carefully as I painted those cliffs with nature's paintbrush.
The voice softened as I once again rushed upward, light shining in the narrowing veil of liquid above me. I wiped the water from my eyes and looked out to the smiling faces of people of many times sitting on the bank, waiting for their risen sister.
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