Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Handout (04/14/11)
By Anita van der Elst
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She’d experienced many a mirage in her time in the desert after her banishment by the Queen of the Realm.
The Queen’s invitation to join her inner circle at Court where all could express their hearts had seemed genuine. And all was well and good until Iliyah voiced her growing concern regarding the Sacred Cow.
“Don’t you think these beliefs about the Sacred Cow are raising it dangerously to the level of a Golden Calf?” she’d asked.
The other Ladies-in-Waiting had pulled their skirts in around them and continued their adulation of their Divine Bovine. The Queen, with a contemptuous glare, had raised her Royal Finger and pointed it, first at Iliyah and then out towards the wilderness.
“It is not your place to speak criticism of what we hold Most Dear. Be gone far from here and show your face no more,” the Queen intoned. “Death will be yours if you return to my Realm.”
The Queen’s Kingdom touched horizons of great distance and the only place outside of it lay in the desert lands. Iliyah had fled with sighs and tears her only companions. For many days she plodded, her feet weighted down by the clinging sand of Repentant Valley, from time to time believing an oasis was just ahead, only to discover merely another mirage. What good would it have been had it been real, she thought. She had been sent away without a penny or product to trade; had taken with her bitterness and resentment instead.
Now with squinted eyes, damaged by hot winds and glaring sand dunes, she tried to read the sign posted next to the block-walled warehouse entrance. Did it really say what she thought it said?
*Come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Slipping inside the cool interior, Iliyah let her eyes adjust to the softer light. Slowly her vision registered.
Rows upon rows of high metal shelves stacked with every good thing imaginable stretched from wall to wall. At the front end of each row stood a white-coated woman or man, white gauze hats perched jauntily on their heads. Each tended a display table laid with small paper cups. In each cup what appeared to be three or four jelly bellies glistened.
Iliyah paused to watch the shoppers around her. They were stopping at the tables as the white clad Attendants called softly to them. Iliyah stepped closer. A tall gentleman offered her a paper cup. She took the handout and shook the container a little, making the candies roll about. She raised it to her nose and sniffed. Aromas both sweet and savory assailed her senses.
“Are these free?” she asked.
“Yes, these are mini-samples of what you will find in larger quantities throughout the warehouse,” the Attendant said. “Try it, and if you like it, I can direct you to full containers of each.”
“But I have no money,” Iliyah confessed. “I’ve sojourned long in Repentant Valley and my heart and pocketbook are empty.”
“Ah,” said the man. “Everything is free here. Nothing needed from you except the interest of your mind and the will of your spirit to partake. **The High and Lofty One who inhabits Eternity, the Holy One, says this, ‘I live in that High and Holy Place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts.’”
Iliyah picked up a yellow jelly belly from her cup and bit into it. A warm sensation filled her mouth and sent tendrils tickling her heart. She recognized the flavor, had forgotten it existed.
“That one’s grace,” the man’s gentle smile confirmed the knowledge. “You’ll find more of that on Aisles Alpha through Omega.”
One by one Iliyah chewed the sweet samples. The mint green morsel brought a rush of refreshing forgiveness for her bitter attitude, and even a little for the Realm she’d left behind. The pink—a touch of peace. She saved the confetti-speckled jelly bean for last, rewarded with what she’d hoped for: a jolt of joy. The perfect tidbit to begin a CostPaid shopping spree.
Iliyah gratefully pulled out a cart, her thoughts sweetened by the assurance that here the Queen of the Realm was powerless.
*Isaiah 55:1 NIV
**Isaiah 57:15 NLT
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