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by Janice Stensrude
published in What Canst Thou Say? No. 81(1) February 2014

I once experimented with automatic writing; the result had been page upon page of horizontal spirals. It reminded me of the handwriting exercises we learned in elementary school. A year or so later, I sat propped in bed with my journal open. I picked up my pen to write as my Angst Of The Day took center stage in my thoughts. A two-year romance had ended. I felt overwhelmed with the sadness of it, and there was a large, hollow hole in my middle that had once been occupied by love feelings.

"I feel so completely alone," I wrote. I hesitated, and my hand began to move, seemingly guided by something outside me. The pen wobbled and very, very slowly a shaky J appeared, followed by a, and continuing until my name was spelled out. I consciously relaxed my hand to prove to myself that I was not willing the movement. Slowly a message was formed, looking as if it had been written by the shaking hand of someone weak with age or illness.

Janice, you are not alone. I am with you. I love you.

Then my hand rested. I sat for a period of time my pen raised, hoping more would come. But it didn't. For several nights in a row, I prepared to receive but nothing came.

It was about two years later, a typical work-day morning in August 1996. I made my morning cup of tea and settled at the desk in my work room. I opened my journal—a simple spiral-bound notebook with lined pages—and wrote the date on the top line of a fresh page. My arm slid from the page, my hand still holding the pen. I tried to raise my arm, but it didn't respond to my will. Then, as if it were someone else's hand, my right hand lifted, rested briefly on the page, then began to write . . .

In the beginning there was no thing and then the greatness came and there was every thing. . . . There was a man in a village not too long ago who had a house in the wood. He was very old. Though he was a good man, many people feared him because he lived alone and spoke with no one. He spent his days under the open sky talking to nature and hearing God's voice. God was telling him that mankind needed love, and he did not know what to do—just as you do not know what to do. One day he was talking to a squirrel, and the squirrel said to him, "Old Man, I am here to help you. You must talk to the people. You must tell them that God loves them. God wants their happiness, and you are here to tell them about it."

Now the old man did not know what to do. He was a quiet, kind man, but he did not talk to people. He only sat in the shade of the tree and talked to God and God's creatures. The sky above him was his friend and lover. He knew no other.

One day as he sat under the tree, an old woman came down the path to his house. "Old Man," she said, "I am here to help you. God has sent me to you that you may learn to speak to the people." And she sat down beside him. "Take hold of my hand," she said, "and I will give you what you need." As he took her hand, he felt a great energy pouring into him. It was like nothing he had ever before felt.

"What do I do now?" he asked.

"God will tell you," she said. He watched her walk away. Now he was alone with only the great sky above, and the squirrel nearby watching.

"Now," said the squirrel, "it is time to go into town and talk to the people."

"I can't talk to those people," said the old man. "They don't like me."

"It is your fear they don't like," said the squirrel. "Come with me now." And so the old man followed the squirrel down the road and they walked and walked until they came to the edge of the village.

"Now," said the squirrel, "go into the village and give the message to the people."

"I can't," said the old man. "They will laugh at me."

"Their laughter cannot kill you," said the squirrel. "God's love is your protection."

The old man was afraid, and he stood for a long time not moving. And as he stood there, the heavens opened and a great ray of light broke through and fell upon his path.

He stepped forward into the light, and as he did, it moved forward just ahead of him, and he stepped forward again. Each time he advanced into the light, it moved forward a bit more. And in this way, the light led him to the center of the village, and there all the people were gathered in the plaza conducting their business.

"Now," said God to the old man, "you have followed my light to this place and here you will do your work." People began to notice the old man. They noticed that he had a light about him, and it made them happy to be near him.

"Hello," he said to a woman near him.

"Hello," she replied with a broad smile. And now he wasn't afraid. These people would not harm him. They were waiting to hear God's word and he had come to bring it.

"God is love," he said to them.

"We know," they answered.

"Why then am I here," said he, "if you already know?"

"Everyone already knows," they all replied, "but until they carry the word themselves, they cannot remember. We have all been brought here by God carrying the word that he gave us, and each day another soul comes down that road bringing with it the word of God. It is only when we are together that the word has meaning. Sitting alone in the wood, you knew God's word. With the squirrel and the sky you felt the love of God. But you were afraid to bring it to the village. All of us were afraid to speak the word of God. We were all afraid that everyone would laugh at us. God had been speaking to all of us. In our ignorance, we thought we were the only ones hearing the voice, and we were afraid to speak. We were afraid everyone would think we were crazy and no one would listen."

My hand hesitated, then resumed. Reading it later, I realized that the story had ended, and my invisible correspondent had begun a commentary:

It is when we speak the word out loud to each other and with each other that the word has meaning. We are one. We are as cells in a single body, and we must communicate with one another and work in concert. Only then can this great organism known as humanity operate as a healthy being. It is more than people who are searching for health with herbs and vitamins. The planet is searching for health. All of humankind is searching for health. And we must come together and talk and listen and share God's words. God wants us to be healthy. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

It is a parable, Janice. There is no end to life. Life is eternal. The quality of life is up to humanity. There is power in numbers. And now great numbers of people must come together and save the world. Where there is hatred we must bring love. And that love will transform the hate and heal the wounds. Love has always been the answer. It is the only answer. Speak the name of love and God's work is being done.

I returned to the page every day for three months to receive dictation. I typed it, careful to keep it exactly as it was received. In the end, I had a badly written 272-page story of the importance of community and the need for people to spread the message of love.

Looking at it now, I remember a series of brief, to-the-point messages that I received between 2003 and 2009. It began with a neon-light vision that said, "Christ is the answer." A few years later, as I relayed that story to a friend, I added, "Now we just need to know, what is Christ?" The next morning a text arose in my thoughts. "Christ is pure love, and that is the answer to absolutely everything."

How was my story received? An acquaintance asked me if I had seen a doctor to see if I'd had a stroke. One friend read the entire manuscript and said it was a sweet story. Another friend, who had been eager to read it, returned it several days later, saying he just didn't have time to read it (though I wondered if he just couldn't bear to tell me what he thought of it). Eventually, I set it aside, thinking that perhaps one day I would look at it later and attempt to edit it into a more coherent and readable piece. But maybe that's not what I'm supposed to do. Maybe I'm just supposed to live the message of love that was brought to me so dramatically.