Monday, October 13, 2014

Recollection

I taste again my yesterdays
In the thin-lipped silence
Of the scream that dares not speak.

Is this why I so love thunder?

Yesterdays’ flavour
Was the flavour of stale crumbs,
Half-worm in the tomato,
My shriek all out of place.

True, there were dramas,
Improbable teacup storms,
And I the bridge laid down to harmony –
As if peace were my gift!

But mostly silence:
A grey, tight lid slammed down across our days,
To hide all things,
And hide them from ourselves.

When clarity came
It shattered teacups
Till the storms all drained away:
The monster in the depths laid bare

Shrinking before the light.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Seeing it differently

He had always known that his friends were wrong, but now he knew that, though his first judgement had been right, it had been right for the wrong reasons. He had been seeing the whole situation through the lens of his own righteousness, his own non-deserving of punishment. It shocked him – no, totally unmanned him – to realise that a man could be right for the exact wrong reasons, and that a man could seek God earnestly all his days, and earnestly strive to be pleasing to Him, and fulfil all His commands, and yet … and yet … totally misconstrue who God was and what it meant to serve and worship Him.
He had always been a careful man, a scrupulous man, the very definition of ‘God-fearing’. Only now could he see the irony of it all: that he had feared God in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons, precisely because he had cut his image of God from the cloth of his own being, that he, who had sought in all things to walk in excruciating humility so as to cause no affront by effrontery, had had the ridiculous arrogance to imagine that his human understanding could define all that God was!

It was strange though, wasn’t it, that he could see the ridiculous flaws in the understanding of those friends who had sought so hard to correct his theology and show him the error of his thinking, yet could not see the inadequacy of his own thinking. The same moral fearfulness that had always made him so conscientious had served as his defence against their accusations – had he not always searched his heart and life for hidden sin, had he not always made pre-emptive sacrifices against any possible sin of his children? And now, in his hour of tragedy, when they could find no better comfort to bring him than their blazing certainty that he must have committed some grave sin for God to punish him so severely, he knew they must be wrong. But their questions only added to his torment, and his abiding sense of injustice.

Then the Lord came, fierce and terrible in the mighty storm, and spoke the words that shattered, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Have you given orders to the morning? Have the gates of death been shown to you? What is the way to the abode of light?” On and on the relentless questions came, until he no longer sought to protect himself from them, but instead was lifted into the grand vision, the vast glory of God’s purpose and design. How had he ever imagined that his words were enough? It was not that they were wrong, it was that they were so woefully inadequate, because his concept of God, a rumour and a theory, was so much less than even the edge of the wonderful reality.


There was only one possible, trembling reply, “I had heard of you with the hearing of my ears, but now my eyes see you, and I repent in dust and ashes.”

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Scapegoat

The living breath is ragged in his throat,
His legs are tense, not knowing where to run,
Or which way fear will come. His strength is spent
And yet his walking death is scarce begun.

Driven away from safe familiar fields
Driven away from any shepherd’s care
No more sweet grass is offered to his lips
He must find food where all is scant and bare.

This is the realm of jackal and of owl
The haunting absences, the empty sere,
A desolation fully destitute
Where every stone and rock will whisper “fear…”

Driven, unshriven, under a fierce sky,
Lost in a land that breathes no kindliness,
How can he know – poor, dumb and suffering beast –

That God’s own self shall walk this wilderness?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Matter of Principle

The corner of Simon’s lip twitched, betraying his satisfaction as derision and delight melded together in a perfect moment. All his long-held suspicions had been justified! This outlandish Galilean, not trained in the proper rabbinical schools or accredited by due, recognised process, was a total fraud! He spoke so eloquently – yes, Simon was a fair-minded man, he could concede that this Jesus was eloquent – yes (he lost his train of thought for a moment and quickly recovered it), he was certainly eloquent enough, talking about God and holiness and the nature of true righteousness as if he had the last word to say on the subject. And he spoke as if he knew better than the Pharisees, the true guardians and protectors of the Law of Israel, as if he, this nobody from Nazareth (Nazareth? Seriously? Could anything good come from there?) … he caught his train of thought again … this upstart Nazarene really believed he knew more about holiness than those who had dedicated their whole lives to studying, and scrupulously obeying, all the minutiae of the Law. And, unfortunately, the common people, with the itching ears of those who found the Law a burden rather than a privilege, would rather run after this Jesus and listen to him and ignore the careful wisdom of the Pharisees

Yet now he was caught out on the most elementary principle of all. All serious students of the Law knew that a man who sought holiness should have nothing to do with women (except his own wife, who should know her place). Women were a snare and a temptation, unholy daughters of Eve the original temptress. No man who was serious about God would allow a strange woman to come physically close to him, let alone touch him. It was a matter of principle. Hadn’t he read the passages in Proverbs about the dangers of the Adulteress? And how could a man make any claim to be a prophet of God, and not immediately see that this was a sinful woman, a woman whose moral failings made her unfit for decent company? Yet here was Jesus, quite unperturbed, while this wicked woman wept all over his feet, wiped them with her hair and then poured perfume all over them! What was he thinking? Surely her hair flowing loose in public was enough to show her indecency? Yet as Simon watched closely, there was not the slightest hint of disdain on Jesus’ face. Instead, he seemed to look at her as if she were wonderfully precious.

Then Jesus raised his eyes from the woman and looked straight at Simon. Suddenly Simon felt a bit less sure. But then Jesus started telling a story about 2 men who owed different amounts of money, and both had their debts cancelled. What did that have to do with anything? He seemed to think it was all about love. Next he was reproaching Simon about a lack of the finer courtesies owing to a guest – did Jesus seriously imagine that a man such as Simon would stoop to wash the feet and anoint the head of someone like himself?  Protecting one’s status was also a matter of principle. Somehow, in Jesus’ eyes this wicked woman had given him the very courtesies that Simon had denied him.


Then, to complete the outrage, Jesus turned and said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” Who did he think he was? Only God could forgive sins: that, too, was a matter of principle.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rain (a poem)

Let me unfurl, receive
Blessing beyond belief:
Life where the drought has been
Fatness for tight and lean.

Let these hands opened wide
Accept what You provide;
Kneeling amidst the mud,
Owning Your gift is good.

Let each uncurling flower
Speak Your redemptive power
Green rising through the ground
Where only dust was found.

And through each season’s turn
Yours be the love I yearn:
You make what could not be

Blossomed reality.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

INFP (a poem)

I am the sum of my parts, yet not part of the sums,
The stiff arithmetic of commerce
Bores me with its pedantry;
I cry out “why?”, but no one hears.

Enter the butterfly.
Oh coruscating wings,
Oh love, oh wonder!
Why do they talk in grey while my heart leaps rainbows?
I sing, wing, fling in silence,
Wondering how

To bless the dark-grey thinkers with its beauty.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Patriot

It would have been so much easier to pretend that she knew nothing, that she cared nothing, to sink into the life of a pampered princess, enjoy all the privileges of being Queen of Persia, and let her heart and soul wither and wilt. After all, what could she do? She was a young woman in a world of warriors and intricate power politics and her position and safety were totally dependent on the whims of a king who had already shown himself to be very quick to discard a queen who failed to gratify his every whim with blind subservience. She was, in her own way, despite the silks and golden dishes, the perfumed gardens, and the servants trained to fetch whatever she should desire, more trapped than the poorest free citizen of the empire. Life i8 the harem was a life of cushioned slavery.

But her cousin’s words haunted her. Partly it was the warning: her safety was not guaranteed. If the King, under Haman’s evil influence, had issued a decree (the unalterable law of the Medes and Persians) that all Jews in the realm were to be destroyed on a certain day, then surely some enemy would betray her (and a palace was full of enemies, whether one was aware of them or not). All men live under the shadow of death, all our safety is but a temporary respite from the inevitable. She was more deeply affected by his assurance that God would raise up a Deliverer; from the cradle her uncle had taught her the history of her people: the history of sin, fall, and deliverance played out over and over again. The promises to Abraham still stood; his seed would not be obliterated from the earth.  All of that was truest truth.

But what stirred her very soul, and demolished the illusion of peace she had tried to find rest in were the final words of his message: “who knows but that you have come to royal position for a time such as this?” Her elevation had always seemed the most extraordinary thing to her, despite her cousin’s confidence. She was not the only pretty girl in the world. But what if he were right? What if God had given her this privilege and status just so that she could intervene at this crucial moment (which only God had known would take place) to protect her people, God’s people? What if it was not about an easy life for Esther, but about preserving the race through whom salvation would one day come? What if????


There was only one way to find out, she would have to put the King’s favour to the test. If she approached him and he did not extend his sceptre, it was death, but death was only a heartbeat away anyway. And if he extended his sceptre and gave favour to her plans, then she would have the opportunity, in the right time and place, to make her plea, and the lives of many of her own people could be saved. Put that way, the choice was no choice at all. Tremblingly, prayerfully, she prepared herself to face the king.