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Follow the Yellow Brick Road….

It’s the middle of the night and I just awoke from some dreams that had me thinking so I thought I’d get up and write some of them down.

One thought that always strikes me at 3 a.m. when I often wake up is the memory of a Chinese medicine practitioner once telling us that if you wake at 3 a.m., your liver is impaired. Gosh, no kidding….

The most provoking dream was that there was a discussion at our church about whether or not the minister should be asked to officially step aside since he is often traveling to other churches to help guide them as they grow, to allow more of the several ordained ministers who are members of our congregation to step forward and take part. I believe this idea is being subtly suggested by the current pastor in an effort to encourage the other disciples of Jesus to grow in their journey.

At my mom’s old church in Maine, a rift had developed over where to hold church services—out at the original building on the island, or move inland a bit during the winter. The congregation ended up splitting and the laypeople of one of the churches had to take over running services. Of course, this brought out the pent up amateurs who’d been itching for a chance to preach better than the minister, but it also revealed some true disciples, people whose humility left them in the pews rather than the pulpit but who, when pushed forward, shared the learning of a lifetime of spiritual seeking.

Some parishes talk about each of us congregants being ministers and indeed, we are. At whatever point we are on our own spiritual journeys, we are no different from the disciples of Jesus, each of whom struggled from time to time with questions and doubts about their chosen path. Many of us are standing on the yellow brick road, propelled reluctantly forward by a cacophony of raving munchkins, not wanting to walk that unknowable path, afraid that there is no turning back once we start. We reach our own dark forests, full of creaking sounds and hidden shadows but there is always a place to rest when the shadows subside. I never really thought about the spiritual implications of “The Wizard of Oz”, but as I think of it now, my God! What a revelation! Am I the only one who hasn’t seen this?? Why did it take so long???

But this is exactly what I’m talking about. Sometimes it’s not until the one whose coattails we’ve been riding on steps aside that we are forced to embark on our own journey. Some of us experience a profound event that pushes us forward, though more often it is a continuous series of small events that guides us. It is the way that we use these events that determines our path because there is always a better road to take, even if we don’t always choose it. When we allow our choices to be informed by our faith and past experiences, we continue forward. As comfortable as the poppy fields in our lives may be, we can’t languish there forever. There is a need for us to keep moving, to continue the journey, for there are others following in our footsteps. If we stop, then we must step aside and let them pass through, because merging back onto the path is much harder than simply moving along with the flow of traffic.

I have seen my share of dark forests and have been paralyzed there, terrified of the perceived sounds and specters of shadow that move in the corners of my vision. But each time I arrive there, as I do often, I know that it won’t last forever and that there is rest a few short steps away. But until the light of dawn strikes, I am left there to stand firm and denounce the sounds, defy the shadows, live in faith that my journey through that dark night is necessary to my peaceful rest so that I can be strong through the next forest that will inevitably come.

Perhaps everyone but me sees the profound spiritual message in “The Wizard of Oz”, but this is part of my own personal journey—finally seeing the lessons for what they are, rather than looking at them blankly over and over again. I will never watch that story again with the listless mind that has for 44 years merely been entertained by it. By gosh, it’s only been in the last few years that I realized that the whole movie isn’t in black and white! I never knew that the horse of a different color actually changed colors! But I sure did learn a lot  about values (the color kind as well as the moral kind) watching it in B&W. I still can’t believe Emerald City is actually green….

The lessons are always before us, but until the teacher steps aside and lets us find them for ourselves, they are merely academic. If the teacher has done his or her job well, then we need no munchkins to propel us. We know what lies ahead and with a little faith, will have all that we need to keep us on the path toward our destination. 

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