Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stay in the Castle

Stay in the Castle by Pastor Jerry Ross is extremely good!
I love to read this book over again every now-and-then.

Stay in the Castle is the story
of a young lady who finds herself
at a crossroad.
One Road is marked, "My will".
The other, "God's will".
It is a Love Story.
A story of misplaced love, lost love
and genuine love realized.
Best of all, Stay in the Castle is a true story.
(book description on the back of the book Stay in the Castle)

Over the next few days I am going to post a chapter of the book. Enjoy!


"I know what is right, and I want to please the Lord. But I have feelings too!"
I looked down into the tear-brimmed eyes of a sixteen year old Mexican girl named Lidia. We stood in the steps leading up to her parent's apartment, one of six in a dull, brick building on a block of dull, brick buildings; just one block of many endless such blocks that created the "Little Mexico" district of Chicago. The concrete, asphalt, and bricks had absorbed to capacity the sun's power and now simply joined it in bombarding us with choking, intense heat. This afternoon the city was windless. I was tired from having spent the day visiting my "bus kids", the children, teens, and families that rode First Baptist Church Bus 122.
I had first met Lidia a year and a half earlier when I became a Bus Captain of Route 122. She was fourteen then, a semi-faithful Sunday morning rider with a sweet smile and atrocious English. Shy and quick to laugh, she stole the heart of my wife and me. We adopted her, unofficially, as out little sister, or more honestly, the child we were yet to have. In the next twelve months, we encouraged her to read through the Bible and rejoiced at the change it made in her. Most Sunday evenings during that year found me at her dining room table tutoring her through Algebra, working to improve her English (and her my Spanish), or helping her cope with the challenges that come with being a teenager. Her faith in God grew, and I knew that God was preparing her for something special.
During those short, wonderful visits, she often dreamed out loud of becoming a missionary to her homeland. She spoke of attending Bible college and someday returning to the land she had left as a young girl. She spoke of her lost family members still in Mexico whom, she was sure, would be saved, if she was given a chance to share the gospel with them. I dreamed with her and prayed she would someday be allowed to go.
At the end of those twelve months her parents moved her just five blocks west but outside the boundaries of Route 122. We were saddened to lose her, but were confident that her new Bus Captain, Rich Stults, would faithfully shepherd her. At his invitation, we still tried to visit her when possible and saw her on Sundays at church.
A few months later, Brother Rich stopped me after the bus meeting on a Saturday morning and asked me to visit Lidia.
"Is something wrong?"
"I'm not sure. Something about her is different. Something is bothering her, and I thought you might be able to find out what."
Later that summer afternoon, I walked the four blocks to her home and knocked on her apartment door. She was home baby-sitting her younger brother, Tony. He was twelve years old and had lived his life in a wheel chair, having never walked or spoken. Wheeling him to the font window of their apartment so that she could watch him and he us, she then joined me on the front steps.
"How is everything?"
"All right, I guess." she answered, her eyes averting mine.
The "I guess" in teenage talk means "something is wrong, but I'm not sure I want to talk about it". The challenge then is to find out what. So I went down the list.
"How is everything with your parents?"
"And your sisters?"
"Is Tony all right?"
"Yes sir." Very polite.
"Are there problems with the gangs?" Little Mexico was the territory of the Latin Kings street gang, and there was constant pressure on the teen-agers to join. Up to this time they had left her alone, branding her a "Jesus girl".
"No sir."
"Lidia, look at me."
Here eyes met mine.
"I've known you too long not to know when something is bothering you. We've always been able to talk about everything. Is it something you need to talk to me about? If not, I'll bring Miss Sheryl...."
"It's a boy." She interrupted, her eyes again on the ground.
I half smiled to myself.
Of course, dummy, she's sixteen now.
"Tell me about him."
Slowly at first, and then in a rush, she explained. A few months ago she had gotten a job at a small store at the end of the block. A young man had begun to hang around and talk to her. He was really nice--and funny. She really liked him; maybe even loved him.
Warning bells began to go off in my mind. I began to ask "preacher questions".
"Does he go to church?"
"Is he saved?"
"I don't know."
"Well then, what are you thinking?"
Then, I began to "preach". After all, it;s very cut and dried. Saved people are not supposed to date unsaved people, let alone marry them. What about being a missionary? What about the will of God?
Sometimes goes to church? He probably belongs to the Latin Kings. What was she thinking?
And then the statement that cut straight through my "pat" answers.
"Brother Jerry, I know what is right, and I want to please the Lord, but I have feelings too!"
This wasn't just a high school crush. This was a crossroad. She was trying to think, but it's hard when you're feeling so much.
I had no idea what to say to her. I mumbled some excuse to go, secured a promise that she wouldn't do anything foolish, and ask her to let me think and pray about it for a week.
Of course she agreed. I think she wanted an answer that would help her to do what was right. This was a good kid.
I walked the four blocks back to my route, waited for my ride, and prayed. I asked the Lord for the right words to say: words that would not sound like an adult who had forgotten what it was like to be sixteen. For a week I prayed, and thought, and fasted. The thought of Lidia falling in love and marrying someone who would take her from God's perfect will was almost unbearable.
The following Saturday I again made my way to her home, praying that what I would tell her would make a difference. Her mother greeted me at the door and invited me to sit at the dining room table. Soon Lidia arrived, and we were served fresh lemonade. Her mother busied herself and left me alone to talk to her--to tell her a not-so-make-believe story--to ask her to stay in the castle.

(From the Introduction of Stay in the Castle. Pages 5-9)

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