I yanked open the heavy metal door where canine convicts yammered behind bars. Except for this yellow dog just grinning like a fool and she hasn't wiped that grin off her face for two years. Something therapeutic about a grinning dog.
We walk. I talk to God under my breath and move my lips a little chatty because I don't know ventriloquy, and sometimes I think I should walk with my cell phone pressed to my ear because it doesn't look strange to talk to God on the phone. I may do it yet, but for now I just make sure I'm not caught. The dog can grin and wag like she's laughing out loud and no one bats an eye, but let me be caught kind of like that, kind of grinning and sort of wagging my tongue with no phone and yeah, people would eye me from wary distance and they'd cross the street and warn their children, "Stay close, she's batty."
Honeysuckle air, and coyote breath. And I'm thanking God that I'm on this walkway just now because there's a coyote on the other side of spring's veil all bud and leaf. I peer through the wood and this mangey wild isn't leashed.
I shorten the leash, "Stay close, girl, he's batty," I warn. She sits and my lips marvel out, "So this is what it looks like." I bend a tad closer to see better and, "This is what 'This is the way, walk in it,' looks like! It looks like me safely on the pavement breathing honeysuckle air, and me not on animal trail with a coyote breathing down my neck. I thank God I'm on this paved and not in that wild. "Well I know," I qualify, "it's a suburban wild. But still."
Yeah, the neighborhood street is right there, but so is the creek. And there are water moccasins swimming in that water. My boys know about them. And there are tarantulas and coral snakes and brown recluse spiders in the underbrush and vine tangle and certainly in the hole left at the foot of the old uprooted tree felled by a wind that shoved it over. And there are bobcats, too. I've seen one. And coyotes bigger than fifty pounds of therapy dog.
I indulge my wild-side curiosity till the nudge of my Father, "Okay, Ms. Wild-at-Heart who has nothing but coyote bait clipped to the leash, time to go."
The yellow bait dog and I back away slow and smooth. "Thank You, Mr. Maker-of-the-Beautiful-and-Dangerous." I breath honeysuckle air, therapy dog grins, and I thank my Father for "This is the way, walk in it" boundaries.
"Honeysuckle worship, " I think to myself as hymn comes to mind, "Lead me, Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness; make Thy way plain before my face. For it is Thou, Lord, Thou Lord, only, that makest me dwell in safety." I worship it and I think there must be honeysuckle incense burning in Heaven and wafting over this way I'm walking in.
The most beautiful boundary is the smile of Life. My Father is the giver of Life and I want to live my life within the bounds of His smile. His smile is wide, "This is the way," and the way is just as plain before my face as it is on His face, all grinning happy; blessed.
I don't do slick mud if I can help it. It clumps like the clay it is till my tennis become as platform shoes.
The coyote is gone. Rain filled the creek during the night. Water runs just slap happy between the banks, and grinning dog and I slip-slap somewhere between creek wild and cement walk because God grinned, "Come with Me! This is the way!"
"But it's muddy," I falter as yellow dog pulls because it seems she heard Him and the two of them just can't stop grinning.
Slip-slap. The mud packs inches to my soles, and every step I take I'm taller for it. "Why this way?"
The grinning dog doesn't know and doesn't care why; but God? "Won't you follow Me into the wilderness?"
Ooh. Jesus followed and was in the wilderness forty day and nights. The Israelites followed and were in the wilderness forty years. There is precedence. "Yes, Sir, I will."
I know where the garden hose is. I'll wash clay from my soles. And I know where the hammer and nails are. I'll let my tennis dry and use hammer against nail to chisel clay from the tread of my soles.
Thing is, I've been following Him nearly forty years and regarding the wilderness, sometimes it's coyote breath and sometimes it's honeysuckle air but always, if I follow my flesh, wilderness clay'll clump heavy to my soul and I'll walk heavy steps burdened by it; if I follow God, well I'll follow the holy precedence and as the Israelites, my shoes won't wear out and the soles won't loose their tread; and my soul won't loose it's footing.
"If you were raised with Christ," I read Colossians chapter three while my shoes dry on the patio step, "set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."
The hammer and a nail wait on the patio to be used when the clay is dry enough to break. I'll pick them up and chisel the nail through sole tread.
"Chisel the clay from my soul." I say it to the One who felt the nails chisel the very clay-like flesh He was born into, and who was trodden for this very clay that I am.
Tread, according to Webster's dictionary, is "the pattern of raised lines" on the sole.
Before hammer hit nail heads, before clay-like flesh broke open between the bones of His hands and feet, He was trodden. Were the tread marks on His body the pattern of raised lines marking the Way?
My soul hears, "This is the way, walk in it," and I will respond, "Tread my soul."
I will. I do. "Tread my soul," I say to the trodden One because the only tread that will keep my soul from slipping and growing heavy with the weight of this world is the pattern of the raised lineage of Christ traced through Mary and Joseph who helped establish the holy precedence and know well the wild way.
I'm washed clay and my tennis are dry on the patio. "Chisel the tread of my soul till the pattern of Your soul grips me to Your way." I pound the prayer out as I dislodge clay. "Chisel," I say, "because I don't want to walk the clumsy heavy, the clay-clump; and I don't want to be as clay elevated by this world of clay. So chisel, Lord, chisel on." Only the retreaded soul will ask to be chiseled low. It's humbling to follow His way, but I desire humility.
"Now is the time," I read in chapter three of Colossians, "to get rid of " and I know what's on this list for me. I aim the nail I'm holding and hammer it on the head along another rubber tread line. I pray it, "I'm stripping off my old nature," and clay dislodges from sole tread.
"Put on your new nature," I continue in Colossians and, "Uh, Lord? I think I need a new pair of tennis."
"Be renewed as You learn to know Me and become like Me," He answers me in our Colossians conversation as I clean this sole on the patio. Something spiritual about cleaning mud from a sole.
Dry clay litters the patio step and one sole, the one for the left foot, is renewed. I pick up the shoe for the right foot, turn it over, and begin digging out the tread lines.
The Lord chats while I chisel, "I chose you to be holy; to be a people I love."
I hear what He's saying between the lines. It's lineage language from the lips of the trodden One, and it's like breathing honeysuckle air till I think I can taste it. Sweet, sweet honeysuckle scent clothes me just all, "clothe yourself with tenderhearted mercy."
Tenderhearted mercy is all honeysuckle wild and sweet to me.
"Clothe yourself with kindness."
"Oh with gladness, Lord!" Kindness is sweet honeysuckle. Kindness can strip coyote breath; can just take the howl away.
"Clothe yourself with gentleness and patience." It's as if He were holding out a garment woven from honeysuckle vines, saying, "Here! Put this on!"
I set down the hammer and nail. Once someone reading my book, Pisteuo! Connecting with God's Heart-Becoming Joyful asked me, "When do I get to the part where you tell me how?" I said, "I can't tell you how, but there's One who says, 'This is the way, walk in it,' and that's what my whole book is about."
He treads real souls to walk without slipping where He says to walk. Walk anywhere else and, well, anyone can slip on pavement when the sole's tread for wet clay. And if the sole's tread for pavement? Well we all know it's easy to slip in the mud, and I know I don't want to be wallowing in mud because I've chosen animal trail when God's said, "This is the way," and pointed to the sidewalk. And I don't want to get scraped up on pavement because God tread, for His own strange reasons that only make sense once there and back, the bottom side of my real soul for the mud. It's a daily walk, and every day's different.
I walk all over this clay covered wild rock called Earth and the One who beckons me, "Time to go," when I've fascinated over a coyote long enough is the same One who, next day, just grins out, "Hey! Let's go walk through the mud!"
May I wrap my soul in honeysuckle that grows wild while I give my soul to the only One who knows how to retread my soul? I think I may, because He felt the hammer and nails, and because He's the trodden One, and because He's the One holy angels ministered to and I'm quite certain that angels so holy must smell something like wild honeysuckle.
May I slip not at all? Well, at least not very often? May I walk where He says to walk, today? Sure footed? Till the day when I stand on higher ground? I may, because I'm in the grip of His soul.
There are clumps of clay on my patio.
I don't think there'll be clumps of clay on His patio.
Just retread souls.
written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig