Richard Exley Ministries

The Parable of the Geese
Posted on April 25, 2007

“Experience has taught me that in the early moments of temptation the way of escape is broad and easy to find.  The longer I delay, however, the narrower the way of escape becomes.” 

We have been flying since the first hint of daylight and the sun is now far down in the western sky as we circle the body of water far below us.  Though we have ridden a fierce north wind most of the day, weariness nonetheless makes our wings heavy.  Twice we have bypassed promising lakes after being alerted to danger by our experienced leader.  He is a magnificent bird well past his prime, but he can still fly with the best of the young geese.  He has been my mate for many winters.  For the most part we have had a good life – flying north to Canada in the spring to hatch our young, and then back south with the first hint of winter – but twice we lost offspring to the deadly guns of the hunters.

 Through the driving snow I now see a cluster of geese huddled against a marshy bank at the far end of the lake.  Being surrounded by grain fields, it promises not only a sheltered resting place but sustenance as well.  We will not find a better place to spend the night, of that I am sure.

Category: Morality

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Braided Rag Rugs, Coal Oil Stoves, and Friends from the
Posted on April 19, 2007

A key figure in my young world was Grandma Miller. Her entire life was lived on the ragged edge of poverty, but she was rich in spirit.

The longer I live, the more I realize just how fortunate I have been.  In addition to a very positive relationship with both my parents, and my brothers and sister, I was blessed with an extended family of loving grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Although I was never given any reason to think myself better than anyone else, I never doubted my worth as a person either.  Within the extended family circle I knew I had a place.  I was loved. I was somebody.

A key figure in my young world was Grandma Miller.  She stood 4'11" with tightly-curled red hair. As a child I never realized she colored it, but she must have, because it remained the same tint until the day she died.  Her entire life was lived on the ragged edge of poverty, but she was rich in spirit.

Category: Life

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It's Not About Fishing
Posted on April 12, 2007

As I write this I am sitting at my desk overlooking beautiful Beaver Lake. A hundred feet down the mountain from me its crystal clear water sparkles in the morning sunlight, tempting me with thoughts of fishing. With an effort I turn my attention to the task at hand only to be side-tracked again. This time it is framed photograph sitting on the widow sill to my left. Looking at it my thoughts wonder to a spring afternoon nearly four years ago....

Killing the outboard engine, I make my way to the fishing platform on the bow of my bass boat. After lowering the electric trolling motor, I maneuver the boat toward my favorite crappie hole. In a couple of minutes I have it positioned just where I want it and I cast my red and white jig toward a pile of submerged brush near an outcropping of rocks. Before I can begin my retrieve, Alexandria, my three-year-old granddaughter, is pulling at my sleeve. “Papa,” she says, “I want to fish.”

I try to talk her into sharing my rod with me but she won’t have any part of it. She wants her own rig, so reluctantly I prop my rod against the side of the boat and tie another jig on a second pole. After casting it out I hand it to her and she immediately reels it in and hands it back to me to cast again. This time I show her how to let the jig drift to the bottom before beginning a slow retrieve. At her age she isn’t going to master the art of fishing a jig but I am hoping to distract her long enough to let me get in a little fishing of my own.

Category: Parenting

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Mary Magdalene - The First Easter
Posted on April 05, 2007

When Jesus died, I lost not only by dearest friend, but my reason for living as well. Like Peter, I truly believed Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Now I don't know what to believe. As I watched Him die two days ago, something died inside of me. A black despair enveloped me, give birth to an all too familiar hopelessness.

For two nights and a day I have wrestled with my tormenting thoughts, and I am no nearer a resolution.  Was Jesus just a man, an extraordinary man to be sure, but still just a man? His death seems to prove that beyond question. Yet, if He was only a man, how do I explain His miracles?  More importantly, how do I explain what He did for me?

For years I existed in a nightmare world.  I lived in the darkness inside of me with those who had taken residence there -- malevolent spirits, abused and abusing. My name became a byword in the city of my birth -- Mary the mad whore of Magdala.  The life I lived I hated, as I hated myself, but I was powerless to change. I was a prisoner, and death seemed my only escape.

Then one day He came, this itinerant holy man, the one they called Jesus. I waited until he was alone, and then I approached Him, driven by the demons within.  It was not His help I sought, but His destruction.  With a well-deserved confidence I set out to make short work of this popular prophet.

Intuitively I knew He could not be approached as other men. With them I appealed to the weakness of their flesh, reducing them to puppets of their passion. He was different. His strength was His weakness. His compassion would be His undoing.

"Prophet," I called in a voice hardly more than a whisper, "have you a moment?"

Peering into the shadows where I stood, His eyes sought mine. It was as if He looked into my soul! Suddenly I felt naked. Ashamed. And a strange feeling it was for a woman such as I, a woman who had shamelessly sold her nude flesh to more men than she could remember.
He spoke a single word then: "Mary."

No man had ever called me by my name. Woman? Yes. Whore? More times than I would like to remember. Even sweetheart in the heat of passion. But never Mary.

Inside me the spirits were in a frenzy. "Flee!" they screamed. "It's a trap!"

As I turned to go He spoke my name again, and the darkness within eased just a little and then a bit more. Love washed over me, His love, and I found myself weeping. Almost without realizing what I was doing, I slipped out of the shadows and knelt at His feet. Reaching down He placed His hand on my head and said, "Be free!"

At His words the darkness was shattered; the spirits expelled!

Taking my hand, He drew me to my feet and looked deep into my eyes. "Daughter," He said, "your sins are forgiven."

There was no shame then, nor fear -- only love. A holy love, pure and clean. Gone was the madness within. Gone was my shame and sickness of soul. Gone was my brokenness and despair. Gone was all my sin, washed away in the light of His love!

If He was only a man, how do I explain that?

Yet, if He was indeed the Son of God as He claimed, what does His death mean? Is God now dead? Has evil triumphed over good? 

The answers are beyond me. All I know is that Jesus is dead, and I am alone.
Morning is just a smudge of light on the horizon as I enter the garden. For just a moment I am disoriented. Things look so different in the dark, and the tomb I have found is empty. 

Carefully I retrace my steps, thinking I must have taken the wrong path. No. This is the right way, of that I am sure.

But the tomb is empty and all I can think is that the religious leaders have stolen the body of my Lord. Wasn't it enough to kill Him? Must they now desecrate His body as well?

Weeping disconsolately before the empty tomb, the darkness threatens to reclaim me, and I cling to my sanity by my fingernails. Then through my tears I see a man approaching through the early morning shadows.  "Sir!" I cry, not even attempting to disguise my grief, "If you know where they have taken the body of Jesus, please tell me."

He answers me with a single word, a single word that dispels the darkness within. A single word that rescinds all of the madness of Friday. A single word that undoes all of the damage wrought by my grief. A single word that forever shatters the myth of death.

"Mary," He says, and like the first time He called my name, love washes over me, and joy.  Once more I know who I am, Mary Magdalene, beloved of the Father and the Son.

Not Mary, the mad whore of Magdala.  Not Mary, the abused, the rejected, the dirty toy of even dirtier men. Not Mary, the habitation of demons. Not even Mary, the bereaved.

With that single word, all sin and death have attempted to do and all hell's fury has threatened is undone.

"Teacher!" I cry, falling before Him, my heart undone. He's not dead, I think in amazement. He's not dead! Like the angels said, "He is risen!"

And then He is gone -- yet in a way I can't explain He isn't gone. I can't see Him, but I have the strongest sense the He is here, that He will always be here, nearer than the breath I breathe and more alive than life itself.

Category: Hope

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