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Be PreparedPosted Friday, November 25, 2011, at 4:46 PM
There was once a group of friends that did everything together. They had grown up together, gone to the same preschool and school, took the same dance classes, played soccer together, and had been scouts earning badges and camped together. Though they were girls, their motto was "always be prepared" and they were.
As they grew into adulthood they began to separate as their lives lead to different paths. Some went to college. Some took jobs. One took over the responsibilities of raising her younger siblings after the death of her mother. They drifted apart little by little.
One day an announcement came that one of their group was getting married. The date had been set and she was inviting her friends to be a part of the wedding party. As was the tradition, the groom and his friends would gather outside of town until dark and make their way to the wedding by foot, gathering friends along the way who would join the parade until they reached the bridal party.
As they made their way, singing, carrying lights, and making merry, the bridal party could hear their approach, but did not know exactly when they would arrive. The bride and her friends wore their finest clothes, listening for the anticipated wedding party to arrive. Their lights they kept low to save until the groom's party arrived. Then they would turn them to high as they joined the merry group going to celebrate the marriage of their friend.
For some reason this evening, the groom's party seemed to be taking forever to arrive. The friends talked and joked as they waited. Recalling stories of their childhood as they waited, the conversation was filled with "remember when" and "what about the time." As the time for the groom to arrive drew closer they went through the tradition of making certain the bride was prepared with "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue."
Finally their nerves spent, they heard the groom's party in the distance. The torches and lights that they carried twinkling like stars in the distance. One of the friends realized that her fuel for her light was running low. She asked if anyone has extra she could borrow. Several of the friends had brought extra fuel, but some had not. The bride's friends knew that they would need their lights long into the night. Between them there was not enough fuel for the entire night. This could ruin the celebration.
One of the friends--the one who had given up her hopes to raise her siblings--offered to share her extra fuel. "No!" exclaimed the bride, "we have always lived by our motto, 'Be Prepared' and promised to hold each other to the promise."
"What can we do?" asked one of the friends.
"There is an all-night market just a couple of blocks away. You could go buy fuel while we wait."
"Fine," said those unprepared, "you go get the fuel and we will pay you back later."
Pulling herself to her full 5'2" she said, "I brought extra fuel for my lamp. If you didn't then you go. If you hurry, you will be back long before the groom's party arrives."
Pouting the five girls pulled themselves to their feet, "it would be faster is only one person went and you were always the fastest runner, why can't you go for us?"
Looking to the rest of her friends, she said, "Because I am not the one who isn't prepared. Judith remembered even though she had to find a babysitter, feed, and settle her three younger sisters before she came. Anna worked all day and must be exhausted, but she came prepared. Mary came straight from a full day of classes, brought her supplies and party clothes with her and even helped Evelyn fix her hair. Ruth has been cooking for days, making all the food for the party tonight and still came prepared. I brought my supplies and Evelyn's as that was part of my gift for our bride. You should all have to take care of your own preparations."
Looking around at each other, the girls all melted into laughter. "So, our little mouse has finally found her voice and back bone. Naomi, you are right. We will run to the store and be back before you can miss us." And the other five girls hurried off into the night.
Time passed quickly and the sounds of the groom's party grew louder. Judith, Anna, Mary, Ruth, and Naomi helped Evelyn with her final preparations as the groom came into sight. Claiming his bride, the party wound their way to their final destination. The friends knew that the other girls would join the parade as they returned from their purchase and find them at the wedding later.
Tamara, Deborah, Phoebe, Elisabeth, and Abby hurried to the market. They had not realized that so many others would also not have anticipated the need of extra light. Stock was low and the lines were long, but they finally paid for their purchases and hurried back to their friends. Phoebe broke a shoe as she stumbled in the shadowed path and they took a wrong turn once. Finally, tired and a bit sweaty they found their way just in time to see the wedding party sweep away over the hill.
They followed as best they could with Phoebe limping. Abby ran ahead trying to keep the wedding parade in sight as the other hurried along. Phoebe had to rest, Deborah stayed with her as Tamara and Elisabeth hurried on promising to save them a place. Trying to find their way in the dark, along unfamiliar streets was difficult. The twists and turns got them confused and they had to back track several times.
Finally all five of the girls found their way to the hillside just above the incredible grounds of the Wedding Feast. The girls could see the bride and groom seated at a table lavishly spread with food. Small lamps twinkled throughout the gardens. Torches, candles, and lamps brought by the guests lent a festive and romantic air to the party. Music played softly as the aroma of food tantalized the hungry girls. An adobe wall surrounded the garden and the girls saw the gatekeeper closing the gate as the last of the party made their way through the entrance.
They rose and dusted themselves off. Gently they picked their way down the path holding the lamps high and singing as they came to the gate. The gatekeeper was gone. The gate was locked. They called out for him, but he seemed not to hear them. How could they gain entrance? This was the wedding for their dear friend--they were invited, honored guests. They were to be in the bridal party. Why was someone not waiting for them?
God, forgive us when we fail to prepare. Open our hearts so that we hunger and thirst for you. Teach us your ways. Help us to live our lives so that we are always ready for you. So be it. Amen.
İRayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.