Tuesday, September 19, 2017

That was my Springtime

That was my springtime, then,
When tears washed my whole world clean
And watered in love made new.
Was that your springtime too?

That was my springtime, then,
When I first raised my eyes
And gazed into infinite blue.
Was that your springtime too?

That was my springtime, then,
Blossoms torn off by pain
But then new wonders grew.
Was that your springtime too?

That was my springtime, then,
Bleakness and shearing wind
And yet soft sun broke through.
Was that your springtime too?

That was my springtime, then,
All seemed so small and plain
And yet the wild birds flew.
Was that your springtime too?

That was my springtime, then,
When falsehoods thaw and wane
Learning that joy was true.
Was that your springtime too?

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Woman and the Whispers

Years ago she had learned to hold her head high amongst the whispers, even when her heart was breaking. They didn’t attack her directly, a priest’s wife had some status still, even a barren one, but she knew the hushed voices and the quickly averted eyes, the not-quite-hidden mockery. She knew it all, because her own heart was her fiercest critic. How could she have failed so badly when she had tried so hard? Why were her arms so empty when, every day, she saw careless women, shallow women, even pagan women, with babies in their arms?  Was there some secret sin for which the Lord had cursed her with an unfilled womb? There was a time when she had wondered if it were her husband, Zechariah, who was at fault, but he was a good man, who earnestly sought the Lord. It could not be him. Besides, hadn’t she been taught all her life that these things were a woman’s responsibility. And now that she was too old for any possibility of pregnancy it was all a settled misery that she showed to no one.

Then came the day when her husband came home from serving in the temple. His tongue was silent but his face was radiant, and when he tried to write out on a tablet what had happened to him, she wondered if he had gone mad. What was this talk of angels and babies, of unbelief and dumbness? She had no idea what to make of any of this, but it was troubling. It stirred up old wounds, and in the silence of the night she cried out to God.

But as the weeks passed, she noticed the changes in her body, changes that would have filled her with joy twenty or thirty years before. But now she was confused. How could she be pregnant now, when her fertile years had brought her nothing? Could she be imagining this, self-deceived by the very desperation of her longings? And what if she lost the child? Wouldn’t that just invite further scorn from the mockers, further whispers in the corner? For five months she hid herself away from public scrutiny, afraid; yet even as she felt the waves of doubt and fear roll over her, she felt something else as well – a whisper of joy that would not be silenced, but as the unborn child grew, it grew as well, a secret angelic hymn of praise in her heart. Despite her aching, aging limbs and the growing weight within her, she wanted to dance down the street and sing out to the gossips and the whisperers that her reproach had been taken away.

And when she was six months pregnant, the last whisper of doubt was silenced, for her cousin Mary came from Nazareth, with a story even more wondrous than her own, and at their meeting, the Holy Spirit came upon her and she understood, and cried aloud her wonder and her praise. And the child in her womb leapt in wonder and delight (could such a thing even be?), for he recognised his Lord and his messiah, and, even before birth he was committed to his role to be the forerunner to call Israel back to repentance, just as Elijah had done in his own time. For the King was coming.

And the two women, one old and one young, but both caught up into the glory of the same story, embraced and wept and went into the house together. There was so much they needed to talk about.

And the whisperers never troubled Elizabeth again


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Note to Abusers

Though you break them, they will rise
With stark knowledge in their eyes:
Terrible what they have seen,
Terrible where they have been,
But it is your soul that died,
Leaving raging lust inside.

Power is the drug you yearn
For the pain you won’t discern.
For the things you will not own
Play you like a gramophone
With a scratchy, broken tune
Howling to a silent moon.

Put in place your plastic smile!
It won’t hide the crocodile
Lurking just below your skin
Ravening for another sin,
This dark hunger won’t be fed
Till it eats you and you’re dead!

Every time you harm a child
You yourself become defiled

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Parable of the Plants

I was dreaming, and in my dream I saw a vast plain, stretching to the horizon.  A high wall of solid rock divided the plain, so that one side of the wall was in brilliant sunlight, and the other in perpetual shadow, with only a kind of twilight from the glow on the other side of the wall. All over the plain there were green plants. On the sunlit side the plants were not yet fully mature, but they were flourishing, and as they grew you could see that each plant was unique, bearing its own kind of fruit or flowers. Some were bushes, some were young trees, each of them had room to spread its branches, and all of them were beautiful.

It was different on the dark side. They had rigged up artificial lights to help them grow, but the wavelength of the light was wrong somehow, and the more they leaned towards these false lights, the more their growth was distorted. Some were taller, some were shorter, some were stronger, some were weaker, but none of them bore fruit. They blamed each other for their lack of growth. “You’re crowding me!”, or,  “You’re taking my space”, or “my soil” etc., were common complaints. Everything was competitive.

Every so often the word would go around that the only way to flourish was to be uprooted from the dark side and replanted on the bright side. Occasionally a plant would cry out “I surrender!” and a giant hand would reach down from the sky, pluck it out of the ground and transport it to the other side of the wall. Most of the plants around it would be horrified, it looked like a form of death, but sometimes another plant would be moved to cry out its surrender too, and be transplanted.

And as I watched, it seemed like time was speeding up, and the dark side was growing darker, and the bright side was growing brighter …

This was my dream, make of it what you will

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

I will thank

For the gentling of my days
For these moments in the sun,
Rainbow’s promise, spring’s caress,
I will thank the Holy One.

For hard truths that shaped my soul
Bitter tears and hopes undone,
Dreams that crashed and wings that smashed
I will thank the Holy One.

For the joy of simple things,
Gladness, merriment and fun,
Smiles like gifts across our days
I will thank the Holy One.

For the beauty of this world
Reaching out to pierce and stun,
Splitting wide my calloused heart
I will thank the Holy One.

For the promise and the peace,
All His suffering has won,
Mercy that will hold me fast
I will thank the Holy One

 For the wonder of such love,
Love that loved ere stars and sun,
Love forever and beyond,
I will thank the Holy One.

Monday, September 04, 2017

The Sad One

She had lost her freedom, and her honour, and now her child. Less than a year ago she had been a free woman, the honourable wife of an honourable man. But that part of her life was gone forever. One night had changed her destiny and ruined her hopes. And all because she was keeping the law …

It had been the time of her monthly purification, and she had been bathing herself, just as the law of Israel decreed. As she washed, she had been dreaming of her husband Uriah, and how she wished he was home with her instead of away with the army. But then, of course, he would not have been the man she loved if he had not put a high value on his duty.

She had barely finished drying herself and dressing, when there was a knock on the door. Surprised, she had run to open it (could it possibly be her husband?), only to find a messenger from the palace saying that King David wanted to see her. Bewildered (what could a man she had never met possibly want with her?), she complied. One does not disobey a king.

She should have known. In the months that followed she castigated herself frequently with those words. What did a man ever want with a woman? But would knowing have made any difference? One does not disobey a king. It was a night that shamed and confused her, but she resolved to think no more of it, especially since there was nothing she could do about it. But then she found that she was pregnant, and that changed everything. She would be disgraced if she bore a child when she had not seen her husband for months. So she sent word to the king. She did not know what he could do, but the whole situation was his responsibility, and he must somehow make it right.

She was not quite sure of the sequence of events that followed – men did not take women into their counsels. She heard rumours that her husband had been summoned to the palace, but he did not come near her, and she tossed through sleepless nights wondering what was happening. Then they sent her a message that Uriah had died in battle, and she was to come and join the king’s harem. Again, what could she do? Her honour might be saved (was there honour in a king’s harem?), but she wept for her husband, now lost to her forever, and that she would never again be mistress of her own home.  And she wondered what exactly David had done, though perhaps it was better not to know.

And now this child, whose coming had disrupted her whole life, was dead. She had lost everything.  Sure, there was every luxury here, but what was that compared to freedom? Her heart questioned and her soul wept. Her honour and her self-respect lay in tatters. She did not imagine that God himself would restore her and lift her up to be part of the lineage of the Messiah who was to come.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Way Back

One more step
Then another
Another,
No! This really is too hard!
Pause …
Rest …
But I can’t stay here,
Here is no place to stay,
And I don’t want to waste the steps I’ve taken.
Pause …
Think … yes, pray!
On a journey as impossible as this
Prayer becomes necessity, like breath,
I breathe in Hope, I breathe out all my fear,
And tears will wash the signposts.

See, a few more steps
Taken, that I hardly noticed,
Breathing, praying,
One foot following the other,
And look how far I’ve come!
But oh!
Look how far I have to go!
Breathe … pray … and weep …

Nobody told me about the angels.
I cannot name their faces, but I feel their touch,
In the helpless chasm of night
When serenity has fled
They are there beside me
And I know in my not-knowing.

This is a difficult climb!
Someone once said, “The descent to Avernus is easy”.
They forgot to mention
That the climbing back
Will scrape off all your skin until you quiver
Like a newborn creature, bare before the world.

Somehow I continue.
I have turned aside and then retraced my steps
Too many times to count.
I am all done in
And yet, each day, somehow,
I have moved forward
On this narrow path whose bourne I do not know
Except it is the only way to go.

Sometimes I see,
In dreams most glorious, my Father’s house,
Waiting there still,
But is there love for me?
But the stranger things become,
The more familiar
The path becomes.
I can almost taste
The bread on my Father’s table.
Why do I see
A nail-scarred hand hold out the wine for me?

And the angels whisper
I am almost home.