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A Troubled Borrower

A Troubled Borrower poster

“But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water; and he cried, and said, Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” —2 Kings 6:5

Elisha was at the head of a school of the young sons of the prophets at Gilgal, and this chapter records a theological lesson given to the theological students.

The students in this school said, “Behold, now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us, Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell.” And he answered, “Go ye.” Their school had become too narrow to suit them, so they wanted to make a change.

God puts His own into a tight place in order that they might learn to trust Him. Put a man against a hard job and he feels like quitting. He looks at green fields far away and thinks they are a lot better than the one he is in. Anybody can run away from a tight place, but God will see to it that there are other tight places.

Out in the West we had a class of fellows that we called the “Farther up the creek bunch.” They would prospect a little bit in one locality and move along. Other fellows would tell them that there was gold farther up the creek and they would pack up and move again. They just kept moving and never got any gold.

Most of the world is like that. They never stop to learn the lesson God wants to teach them. They say, “I will go away further.” David got tired of running, and cried out in his Psalm, “If I make my bed in hell, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.” People are chasing all around, thinking they will solve life by running somewhere. People are taking trains, going from one place to another, thinking they will get happiness out somewhere, somewhere. If God can hold you steady He can teach you something right where you are.

The Secret Of A Success

The first law of success is to do the thing that is next to you, and the man who has learned to do that is successful. The majority of men are dissatisfied with their home lives, looking around at other homes, instead of saying, “I am going to be happy right here. I have this wife and this family, and I will be happy right where I am.”

Here is a woman who says, “If I had a little more money, and had everything like Mrs. So-and-So, I would be happy.” No, you wouldn’t. Unless you learn the lesson of solving the problem right where you are you will never be happy anywhere. Men and women do not know what happiness is who are chasing out after it. Happiness comes from within.

One man, asked the secret of his success, said, “My mother never let me go out of our own yard, saying that if I couldn’t be contented there I wouldn’t be contented somewhere else, and if I didn’t like the toys I had I could not have any more; but when I was contented with what I had then she would get me more. She never let me change until I was contented where I was.”

Our fathers never had a third of what we have. The average child today appreciates nothing that you give it. The world is spoiled with its luxuries. We have grown fat and flabby in this touch-button age, and we are not satisfied.

The first thing God wants to teach a man is to stand up and face the music where he is, and solve the difficulty. Men might come to me by the hundred and say, “Rader, you are dead right. I ought to settle this issue, but I will do it tomorrow or next week.” And all through life they are slipping along to hell because they never want to face the music and say, “Tonight I will settle my soul’s salvation.” You see little cards in the offices, “Do it now.” Why? Because men have found out they made failures because they put things off. You might just as well fix it now.

These young fellows had been traveling around with Elisha. Their godly school had become too strict and they said, “Elisha, this place is too narrow. We want to get into a broader field.”


Many young ministers and young men are looking for a big job; but if they ever learned to do what God Almighty told them to do, and what they ought to do right where they are, the world would make a track to their door. They don’t have to seek a larger opportunity—things will come their way if they dare to believe there is something they can do.

My father was a Presiding Elder in the early days, and had a little circuit preachers called Podunk Circuit, and every fellow who came out and wanted to preach father sent out there to try him out. Every one went out to hold a revival, and they hadn’t had a man converted for fifteen years. The people were hard-shelled. Father would send the men out there the first thing, and would know, when they came back with their report, what kind of fellows they were.

One day a fellow came from Missouri, who had ridden to Colorado on his bicycle. He was a peculiar sort of man. He wasn’t much to look at, a slow talker, but he looked as if he knew what he was doing. He pulled out some envelopes and letters and said, “I don’t care much for recommendations, but so you will put me to work earlier, and give me a chance to labor out in the field, I brought these along.”

Father sent him to Podunk Circuit, and he never even asked father where it was, or took any of Dad’s time. Dad thought he would start him off Sunday morning, but he was gone before breakfast. He came back on Monday, and father said, “How did you get along?”

“Just fine,” he said. “Do you know, they put up with me! Nobody threw anything at me, and nobody said anything to me at all. That’s pretty good, isn’t t?”

“That is good indeed,” father said. “Anybody invite you home to dinner?”

“What, me?” No. I didn’t expect an invitation, but they let me give my message and tell them about the Lord.”

That afternoon about three o’clock along came a man to the door and said, “Can we have that man?”

“Why do you want that fellow?” father asked.

“He is the only fellow that ever came out there that did not tell us how bad we were, and how hard we were, and what failures we had made. He just preached, and did not pat us on the back or flatter us, but he knows something we would like to know.”

That fellow went out there and he stuck, and they came up to his message and standard.

Some people think the green fields are far away, but if you have something in your heart you will find out God will give you a way to get it out. It will grow and find its way out. Elisha wanted to teach these men, and he said, “All right, if you think there is anything better further on, go on. If you think this is a little too narrow, go ahead.”

So they went out over by Jordan to make a place to suit themselves, and always, when men try to do that, God gets them into more trouble. You men and women will bear me out that, when you have tried to get your happiness by changing to something else, you have the same problems there, plus some more.

Elisha’s students thought they would swing out, and this one fellow borrowed an axe. How often you think if you just borrow a little money, or time, or method, or job, or help, and swing it at your problem, you will make a success. He swung his borrowed axe, and the first thing he knew it was gone, and he said, “Alas, Master, it was borrowed.”

A Shepherd Needed

The world has gone astray. God put it in the garden of Eden, but it went astray, and God has proven that the human heart is never contented until it finds God. There never is any rest until you let Jesus Christ come into your heart and be your very life. There is such a thing as soul rest for the Christian, a sanctified life, entirely given up to God, where God is allowed to make your plans, and put you in or take you out, and He is your boss, your Shepherd, and you are His sheep.

The greatest thing humanity can ever know is the sheep life. The porter opens to Him, and they follow Him in and out, and find pasture. “My sheep,” He says, “hear my voice, and follow me.”

Did you ever get to the place where you were a sheep? The great trouble I find is that we have so many goats among the sheep in the pasture, and it does not take long to find them. Throw an old rag of gossip out and the sheep won’t eat it, but the goats will. The old billy goats and the nanny goats are among us all the time.

The sheep hear His voice and follow Him, and go out to the pastures, and when they are satisfied they lie down in green pastures. There is peace and love among them, but there is always butting and quarreling among the goat crowd. But when a Christian learns the sheep life, where Jesus is all in all, there is great joy and peace.

The world, instead of taking a shepherd, is laboring with a borrowed axe. Man thinks he is going to build a great civilization, and looks toward the millennium he will build; but he is working at something with a borrowed axe. The world says the Christian life is too strait. “We won’t live that life,” it says; “we want to be broad.”

Thank God, I love the Christian life because it is narrow. The path is only broad enough for two to walk in it—you and Jesus, that is all—and there is plenty of light for your feet every time you take a step. It does not flash far ahead, but as you walk it flashes right there before you.

The world thinks it can have its own way. Oh, how we hate the restraint and want to throw it off and go our own way and make our own plunge, but, oh, thank God for the day that ever comes into a life when it surrenders to Jesus Christ and says, “Lord, I will take your way.”

The Narrow Way

I haven’t a Gospel that is a broad Gospel. I am a narrow man, and narrow-minded on salvation, but, thank God, my heart is not narrow. I have my blinders on, and only see the road ahead and am not looking at the things men are offering. I have my eyes on Jesus, and have lost sight of everything else beside. I love my own wife and can keep my eyes off of others, and when Jesus Christ comes into your heart He puts blinders on you. You are not under law, and do not mind the restraint, because these blinders are made of glory light. You have your vision set on Him, and He is enough. You are contented, and it is a joy to look to Him alone.

Look at the people that walk in this pathway. Do they look as if they were crushed? No, they have joy the world knows nothing about; but this broad crowd—I never saw a man that turned against the Gospel who did not start turning on the hell business. They begin doubting about hell, and want to ease it up. They say, “It is broader-minded to believe that everybody will get into heaven, after all.” They want to have us believe they are much more tender than God.

Yes, they get awfully broad-minded! In other words, they kiss smallpox and say, “I have a smallpox child in my house, but I believe in taking them all in my arms.” You are broad-minded and tender, and you kiss the smallpox child and say to your friends, “Just hold the dear smallpox baby for a minute.” You are so broad-minded!

Oh, in God’s name, hell will never get into heaven, sin will never get into heaven, and unless men are washed from their sin in the blood of Jesus Christ there isn’t a ghost of a show for any human being that walks. You can try to patch it up and take it to heaven, but sin will never enter God’s heaven. Men get so broad-minded that they forget that God hates sin. He loves the sinner, but despises sin, and you have to let Him wash you, and come clean with Him.

Throwing Off The Yoke

We have a good deal of broad-mindedness in our day, and are throwing off the yoke of even real downright decency. This yoke is thrown off, not only in religion, but in the marriage vow and in the divorce courts. We are throwing off all restraints, and men are going wild. You that have mixed among men know how soon men go wild when you take off restraints. Take off the lids in the cities tonight and watch hell wiggle and sizzle.

I was raised among wild men. I went out at nine years of age into the cowpuncher camps of Wyoming with my Dad, who was a missionary, and some of my earliest shocks were received there. We went up into Cripple Creek, in Colorado, a little town in those years. We had not been there long before a fine fellow came in from New England. He told father he had a wife and children, and five or six men had pooled their money, and he had organized a company and had come out to do business.

He went to Church back in his home. Used to put on his plug hat and frock coat on Sunday morning and go with his family to church. That was a common restraint in his home town in New England. Father thought he was very fine, and talked to him about the Lord, in the little hotel in front of the bar. Every hotel was a saloon in those days, and you registered at the bar.

We went on for about three weeks, and in the second week I came to Dad and said, “Dad, that fellow was drunk.”

“Oh, no,” Dad said, “he can’t be going to pieces.”

One of the fellows stood there, and said, “Yes, he has lost his grip, and is going to pieces.”

The next week we walked in, and over in the awfullest section of the saloon that fellow was sitting as drunk as could be, with women all around, and the language out of his mouth was vile, and he had gone all to pieces. Father took him out of there to the next town, to try and get him straightened up long enough to talk to him. What was the matter? That man had left mother and daughters and the restraints of home, and stepped out where nobody knew him, and when men get away from restraint the devil has a pull on them that is something awful. New England life was too strait; he wanted to be broad-minded, and he succeeded.

One of the great desires of my heart, as I see our boys leaving home, is that we might get to the cantonments and, even before they get to the trenches in Europe, present to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ; for when a boy gets on that suit, and they all look alike, and mother and father are away, all hell turns loose on him, and his temptations are a thousand fold, and it is our business to throw every restraint around him. But most of all to throw him the life line of salvation.

The average man would not have a shave once in two hundred years if there were not a woman around. He would cook on a skillet, and wash the plates every other Thursday. When you get a bunch of men together and see the way they do their laundry and live, just because they are alone, you realize that God knew what He was doing when He put the women in the crowd, and these little restraining jetties in the stream, that the river of life may not always overflow its banks and become broad-minded as the Dayton flood.

It is the trend of our times, in home, school, church, everywhere, for folks to have their own way, but they will never have happiness when they get it. Scholars think that is an exhibit of intelligence when they take some old thing and say, “Away with it; everything must be new; we are the gods of the century.”

The Trend Of Education

You have to be mighty careful when you leave an old path that you are sure you are not getting into a path with nothing at the end. The education of our day is nothing more or less than a fad, changing with every professor. This man writes a book, and they change the course of studies, and he goes down and another highbrow book comes out; and it is changing faster than the fashions in Newport. One day they wear their skirts long, the next day not any, and the next day short, and they are cutting them off at both ends now. The women have the men blushing in our day. The fads change, and the women go all winter long with a bare neck, and when the hot summer comes on they stick a fur on. It is absolutely senseless, but the great trouble is they are doing the same thing with their theories about the world, and about God and about the Bible.

Here comes a professor, and it is a fad to follow him. Germany came in with her rationalism, and there wasn’t a university in our country that was not glad to pick it up. England fell for it like a rube falls for a gold brick, and America fell for it, and we are putting it into our schools today. It was that stuff that ruled the Bible out of our schools, and said, “We want to be broad-minded enough to take in Jew, Gentile, Catholic, and because we are so broad-minded we will get rid of the Bible and not say anything in the school about that.” Living in God’s world and putting God out of His world. How can you have anything but anarchy? It is not broad-mindedness at all, it is running away from the narrow school of truth.

The man that stands is the jetty in the stream. It is the woman who stands in the home and says, “Go ahead and booze, but by the grace of God, I will stand by these children.” He goes on, but she sticks over the washtub, and many a boy or girl, an honor to their kind and to Jesus Christ, has had a mother like that, that stuck when everything else was going to hell and the devil. She was narrow enough to believe something, and to get hold of the hand of Jesus while everything around her was going to hell. Thank God for the fathers and mothers that stood when everything else wanted to go.

My father was the dad of ten children, and I will never forget when the oldest daughter came home from college. Sis thought she was the wonder of the ages. Father had given her piano lessons, and she was quite a player, and was dined here and there, and some one wanted to go with her here and there, and she thought she was somebody when she came home for her first vacation, and thought Dad was a back number.

When Dad said, “Come on, it is time for prayer,” she said, “Father, you will excuse me.” You see, she had gotten the great view of liberty, and Dad’s old religion was mighty old stuff.

Dad walked up to her and said, “Say, Sissy, say it again.”

“I am not going to family prayers.”

“Oh, you are not? You know which room your trunk is in, don’t you? Well, if you eat my food and take the clothes that I give you, then you will be at the family prayers, where God needs us and holds our home together. Now decide.”

Thank God for a Dad that will stick true. She knew he loved her, and that she had stuck a dagger into his heart and twisted it around. But Dad stuck, and he was true. The fight went on in her heart for about an hour, but in another half hour she was down crying before God for forgiveness in that hour of prayer.

How many a mother or father have had a sixteen-year-old boy or girl come in and tell them how to run things, because they had gotten a little education or earned a little money! Oh, we love to get broad-minded and run like Niagara over every restraint.

The average business man with a clean body that the father and mother, godly people, gave to him does not appreciate what he has. There are three men in Chicago that I know of who had godly fathers, and are what they are today because they have that inheritance. What if they had had a sport for a dad? What if they had a mother that had divorced the father, and they were the offspring of a rotten generation, going around with a syphilitic body? He would curse his dad for that stuff! Then why does he not take the Jesus that kept his father and mother together, and kept them pure and sweet, and gave him that body? Instead of that he says, “Well, I am a little broader now.”

Hallelujah! It is the same Jesus, and the same old way to get washed by the blood, and there is no other method. A man is a fool to preach anything else, for any man that ever takes Jesus and the washing of His blood, and takes the narrow way and says, “Jesus, I will be a sheep,” there is no happier person walks on this earth than that man or woman.

Elisha wanted to teach his students just that lesson. But they wanted to build where God had not ordered them to build, and that, too, with borrowed axes.

A Crop Axe

The whole world is building up its civilization with borrowed axes. Men talk about a bumper crop. They think their own ingenuity has brought the crop about. They put thirty-two horses on a great reaping machine in Eastern Washington and Oregon, and go over the wheat field and thresh it and drop the sacks as they go, and say, “My what marvelous work and machinery,” but why do they not talk about the marvelous wheat that God made? They are living on borrowed wheat. No man can make that. God made it, and it is His sweet, glorious invention.

Think of the invention in a grain of corn. Stick it in the earth and let God do His work. A little green stem comes up, and the corn silk begins to grow, and then you have a nubbin, and then an ear of corn. Where did that corn go to college and learn to put the correct number of grains on a row, and set up the correct number of rows? Where is corn college? Do you know? And yet men will raise their crops of corn, made so symmetrically and mathematically perfect in its ranks, and rows, and number of grains on that corn cob, beautifully formed, and never think of the God who made it so!

Where are the brains in a little bean, that when you stick the pole over here, and the bean has a runner on it, it will grow over to the pole? Where is bean college? Not in Boston. Then you stick the pole over here, and it will turn and grow back and make a U. Where are its eyes, its brains?

Borrowed Finery

You are living on borrowed stuff. It is all borrowed, the whole business. It is all of God. Why cannot we give God the glory? Why should we feel that we have to bow down to men, who made something with the materials and hammers, and irons that belong to God, that we use to plow His ground and reap His grain? We ought to bow to the God of the corn and God of the grain.

We are living on borrowed axes. We say we can build great stuff, but it is borrowed. When it comes to clothes, we are up against it. There isn’t a one of us that isn’t living on borrowed stuff. You could not keep warm unless you borrowed some wool off of a sheep, and some cotton off of a  plant, and let the manufacturers make it up into goods. You do not grow your own clothes. You can take all the cold baths you want to, but you will freeze just the same without them. My, when we get on our silks and satins and walk down the street, aren’t we wonders? And we borrowed it from a little silkworm.

We stick our shoes out so everybody will see them. But killed a calf for hide to make them. We borrowed our socks, our hats, our shirts, our ties and our collars, and our coats and overshoes, and every time we strut you say, “Here goes somebody. I am a walking machine, to exhibit many borrowed axes.” And some borrow their teeth and hair. We think we are wonderful because we are able to go out and get it and put it on. My friend, I tell you if the giant big head of humanity is not picked in this war, I don’t know what the end of the story is going to be. We are so stuck on ourselves and proud of ourselves that we have in our proud thinking and boasting set God aside. Is it a house? God let me have it. He made the tree from which the wood was cut, and the stones for the basement, and the material for the brick and cement, and laid the iron in the hills, and made fire before the iron was ever burned into steel. God made the rock and granite hills, and you are living in borrowed stuff.

Success? Power? Where do they come from? I remember a lawyer, a very brilliant Judge, who came from Tennessee, who settled in Colorado for his health. Many men came out for lung trouble, and he came, and regained his health. He was a fine looking fellow, and when father went to talk to him he said, “That’s all right; go out and talk to Mose in the barn about salvation. I don’t need to be saved. I am an honest, lovable kind,” and he went on telling what he was. “You go out and talk to my…man; he needs something. It will do him good.”

“All right,” father said, “you come with me.”

They went out to the barn, and the man owned some Kentucky race horses, of which he was very proud. Father said, “That is a fine horse, isn’t it? I suppose that horse came from one of those big draft horses, eighteen to nineteen hundred pounds.”

“What is the matter with you,” said his host, “are you crazy? Don’t you know what the mother of that horse is? Look at her record on the barn wall.”

“Yes, I know,” father answered, “but I thought maybe it came from some of this heavy stock.”

“Are you going crazy? That mare there, that is such a fine trotter, had a fine father and mother, both in the 2:60 class.”

“Then, is it any credit to her that she is what she is? Here is what I am getting at. It is no credit to you that you have that nose, and brow, and disposition. Listen to me. I knew your father and mother. They used to go to the Methodist meetings, and your mother would put on her Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, and then put her apron on to get breakfast, so she could hurry and go to the class meeting. And while she was doing her work she got so full of the Lord that she walked right out of the house with that apron on. If you have anything good, it is because it has passed down to you, and you will never get any credit for it.”

We sit around and exalt our own merits, but it is all borrowed. Is it power? Is it success? It is all borrowed.

We have no right to vaunt ourselves on these things. They are all borrowed, the whole business—brains, genius, talents, intellectuality, ability to do this, that or the other thing. It is all borrowed business.

“Christ In Me”

Elisha wanted to teach that theological bunch what the meaning was, and that God was there in every emergency, and that they must depend on God and have their happiness in Him, and not in the things they could do; that they were not to go over into the green fields, but meet the emergency there and say, “I am living on borrowed air, brains, ears and lungs. This body is God’s temple, and it is my business to let God come in and do what He wants with this body of mine. Anything else is sin.”

Oh, let God whisper to you, “Borrowed, borrowed,” and you have to answer to God for what you have done with it. You cannot run away with the thing and be happy. I care not what you get, you have to face God, and God will say, “What did you do with it?” You will have to answer.

“I loaned it to you for a little while,” God will say. “Be sure your sin will find you out,” and you will have to answer to God for the way you have lived, and for the way you spent your time.

Oh, may God send conviction and bring men to the consciousness that they are not gods, but that God is here, and they will have to give account to Him.

Elisha wanted that fellow to come to the place where God could teach him that all borrowed axes perish. Genius, art, money, friendship, the wonders of architecture and invention, and the pomp of power, they all await alike the inevitable hour; the paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Solomon said, “It is all vanity and vexation.” The spirit of man that tries to put it over that way ends by saying, “What a fool I was not to know it was borrowed.” Borrowed axes always drop down. What can I get that is my own? I may have God, through Jesus Christ, and if I know God I have life, and liberty, and joy, and victory over death and over sin, and victory over defeat, in Him.

Elisha went up there and looked at the water and picked up a stick and threw it on the top, and the Bible says, “The axe did swim.” Jesus threw Himself into our sunken lives and in Him we swim above sin and death.

When man has failed in his civilization, and all his genius has brought him naught, thank God, Jesus takes up the man that has lost all.

It is such a simple thing for a Christian to trust the full life of the Holy Ghost and let Him be his victory.

All Power In Him

You say, “How did the axe swim?” I do not know, but it did. I do not know how God could take dirt and make trees grow out of it, and mix a little sand and water and make melons grow. I do not know how God could make an apple grow on a twig, and nuts grow on another twig, so we can sit by the fire and eat apples and crack nuts, both made out of the same dirt. But God did it.

The greatest lesson men and women can learn is that God has provided in Christ Jesus all we need, and this is not a narrow life. He has provided the blessed Holy Spirit, and put Him in our lives, and will make our lives pure and powerful.

A young business man came to Pittsburgh and said, “I am up against it. I told God if I made so much money I would be all His. I wanted to do things for God. I have struggled, and understand you men believe in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Can’t you tell me how to receive His fullness?”

“As long as you struggle,” I said, “you won’t let anyone help you. The great trouble with you is that you have never been beaten, found out that you are a defeated person, and that there is no power in you to do God’s work. You do not realize that it takes the power of God to do God’s work. When you do, it will be easy for God to do this work, but as long as you feel that it is your ability, and that you can do it by some supreme effort, you will fail; but when you get to the end of yourself and say, ‘Lord, I will let you live my life,’ He will take it and live it.”

Are you not ready to give up your old borrowed goods and say, “Lord, there is nothing else to do. I cannot live the life, or do anything. I just let go.”

A man in New York, a big contractor, took the contract to build a section of new Brooklyn bridge. He had a certain kind of machinery that he could do it with, and based his figures on using that machine. When he got pretty nearly to the right place, through some accident, down went his machine into the water. It cost thousands of dollars.

He tried every way to have it lifted, but it was too heavy. Divers put chains on it and tried to lift it with a crane, but could not get the lifting machinery near enough to it, and they could not put another pier in, and the man was up against it, and offered a reward to anybody that could lift the machinery. Many contractors looked the scene over and scanned the reports of the divers, but they all passed it up.

Finally an Irishman came and said, “Can I have the job? How much is the reward? All right, it is mine. Have to earn it? Oh, well, I have the scheme, and I know it is mine. Have I the machinery? All the machinery I need. What is its lifting power? All kinds of lifting power—no end to what it would lift. It has lifted millions of tons, and lifts them all the time. Then you are sure of getting your machinery back? Dead sure.”

Five or six weeks passed by, and into the river he came with two great empty boxes floating behind his tug. No machinery, but great big boxes. He sent his divers down to put chains in different places on the machinery and then to fasten the chains to the boxes. They waited for eleven days, and on the eleventh day the tide began to go out, and went out more, and more, and more. They never saw the tide go out as far as that day. As the tide went out he dropped his chains again, and again tightened them, and the boxes went lower and lower. Finally he went out on the bank and they said, “What are you going to do? Where is your machinery?”

“Wait 12 hours,” he answered.

The tide began to come in and come in, and the boxes began to go down in the water, deeper and deeper, and then they stayed. He threw up his hat and said, “I have it! I have it!” The tide coming higher and higher lifted the boxes, and up came the machinery, and the little tug came and pulled the boxes up near one of the wharves, and a wharf crane took the machinery floating on the boxes, and they lifted them up on the land.

God has offered you a substitute in the person of Jesus Christ in the Holy Ghost to live that life for you, and you are going out on the streets of your city, and to your home, and you are going to struggle with borrowed axes. Oh, in God’s name, let go, and let this gift of God come into your heart, and work by the power of the Holy Ghost. Learn to let go and let God do the business.