Saturday, August 27, 2011

Conversation ..

She didn’t see him until she had landed on the twig, angling her wings to catch the warmth of the soft spring sun. His green, segmented body was well-camouflaged against the leaf stem, but she saw his familiar, hunching movement. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that she herself had been exactly the same ..

He looked at her, then quickly looked away. She recognised the signs, she had once felt exactly the same shy awkwardness. It seemed wrong, on such a beautiful day, that he should be left feeling such awkwardness and doubt, when there was a wonderful secret she could share with him. She paused, wondering what she should say, then his furtive, sidelong glance decided her.

“Hello,” she said gently, “isn’t it a beautiful morning?”

“Yes,” he answered, then, with a sudden rush of words, “it must be wonderful to fly in the sunlight on such a day!”

It was her cue, and she took it. “It is wonderful. There’s such freedom being able to fly. I can remember how it felt when I was like you, and had to crawl everywhere. I used to dream of being able to fly, and it all seemed such a ridiculous, impractical thing to dream of.”

“Well,” he replied, “it is. Some are born with wings, and some without. We all have our place in this world. We live, we eat, we enjoy light and warmth while it is given to us, and make the most of every juicy leaf, then the day is over and the darkness descends. One by one our friends disappear, becoming dry and lifeless lumps. This is who we are, this is all we have.”

“Oh no, it isn’t really like that at all. It only looks like that. We go into that darkness like a great sleep, a sleep that feels like death – but it is not. We come out the other end as a new creature; it’s like getting born all over again”

“That old fairytale? We tell that to the new hatchlings, the one-day-you-can-be-whatever-you-like story, but then we outgrow it. I guess that some people like to dream that there is something more than this, but they’re only fooling themselves. There is nothing more than this, and wishful thinking only spoils the pleasures of now. Take what you can, enjoy this life you have, and don’t muddle the moment with vague philosophies. That’s as silly as trying to tell a chicken that it’s going to grow up to become an eagle!”

“But what if it is?” She saw him roll his eyes and realised she had not expressed herself well. “I mean, what if it turns out that it really isn’t a chicken after all, but a baby eagle?”

“Baby eagles still have wings, “ he replied, obviously growing tired of the conversation, which was interrupting his continuous lunch. “You might note that I do not have any wings – see, none!! – and I am self-evidently not a baby butterfly. I don’t know what game you’re playing, or why, but please leave me alone. I don’t have a future destiny, and I’m very hungry.”

The butterfly flew sadly away, wondering why it had to be so difficult. Was there no way to convince a caterpillar that there was a greater reality than what it could see immediately before it?

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Nonconformist

The Nonconformist

Walking amongst the outward forms, I tripped,
Swirling down through the layers of knowing
Towards the black silence.

Set upon by the lachrymose beasts
And pummeled with emotions not my own
In search of proper feelings which I cannot find,
Is motley out of fashion?

Transparency appears the last defence
But, even so, the image is a lie;
Revealed by the proper reflection.

I would go as the wind goes
But, having too much substance,
Dismiss the childish fantasy in search of solid self –
Yet Thine is the glory ..

Me? Oh I would roll upon the hills of paradise,
But that would be to circumvent the journey,
And that is not allowed.

Gather me then, in the tendrils of your promise,
More solid than this fleeting earth;
And carry me, however long it takes,
Learning Your honesty.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Going Down

I couldn’t believe it. Didn’t he know who I was? Apparently he didn’t even consider it important enough to come out and speak to me in person, just send a message via his servant. If he didn’t appreciate my high rank, and the might and majesty of Aram, surely it mattered that his own king had sent me to him? But Israel is a strange place, where it seems that prophets rank higher than kings, and have no qualms giving orders to them. The least he could have done was come out and speak to me in person; perhaps pray over me or whatever it is these outlandish prophets do to minister healing! Apparently I wasn’t important enough to be worthy of his time and attention – even though his own king had taken my request very seriously indeed (and quite mistaken my objective)

But it wasn’t just the mode of the message that rankled, it was the message itself. “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan’” I was told, as if that most ordinary of rivers, where the common people did their washing and fetched their drinking water, was somehow more magical, more powerful that the great rivers of Damascus.

I was furious. This whole journey had been a complete waste. And I was the more angry because it meant so very much to me to be healed. Honour and glory and the favour of the King I had amassed in plenty, but it was all useless to a leper. Soon those little patches would spread, soon they could no longer be concealed beneath my clothing, the disfigurements would appear, and, instead of being one who rode forth resplendently to the cheering of the crowd, I would be an object of scorn and loathing. All men must die, and who knows that better than a soldier, but leprosy is the sentence of a living death, and, under my bravado, I was terribly afraid. This is a fate that would unman the bravest.

It was my servants who talked sense back into me, and surely there is a deep moral there, for my whole path to healing has been dependent on humbling myself. It was the little Israelite slave girl who made the first suggestion; now it was my own faithful servants who tactfully pointed out that I had nothing to lose. If he had demanded from me some daring or difficult deed as the means to my healing, of course I would have consented (and claimed the credit for the healing to my own courage). Therefore (they suggested very carefully) why should I refuse to do something so easy as wash in the nearest river? There was no possible answer to that which didn’t sound ridiculous when put into words, so, with an ill grace to preserve the remnants of my pride, I went down to the Jordan.

And there, in the river whose very name means “going down”, I washed myself seven times, as the prophet had instructed, and was cleansed of my leprosy and washed away my foolish pride. Well might I be a high ranking commander in the King of Aram’s army, but before the God of Israel, the God of Elisha, I was nothing but a broken leper, desperately needing to be cleansed and healed. And how could I receive His healing until I had let go of myself and gone down to acknowledge my true emptiness and need?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Confession

I was a fool – a right royal fool if you like. I had seen the power of Israel’s God before and only a fool crosses swords with a God so mighty. That is a loser’s game, and I did not get to be king of this vast empire by choosing to be a loser. I knew (or thought I knew) how to vanquish every earthly power, and what are my priests and diviners and all their crowd of hangers-on for, if not to keep me in the favour of the gods of Babylon? Give them their appointed festivals and sacrifices, and they seem well content. A king can do business with gods like that, and know where he stands. They have their sphere of power, and I have mine.

But Israel’s God is different. I thought He was nobody, the god of a defeated people, the god of an empty temple – like we found when we ransacked Jerusalem. But it seems that this God, who has no statues, no representation except an empty altar stained with blood, wants more than any other God. He is not content with the forms of worship, He wants the submission of our hearts – even kings have to bow to him. I should have known, I had seen what happened when those three young men refused to worship my statue, and were thrown in the fiery furnace. He walked in the flames with His servants, and the worst I could do to them was set at nothing . Even then He was demanding my submission; I had made a decree that none should blaspheme Him, but even that was not enough. He wanted me.

He even sent a dream as warning, and gave Belteshazzar the wisdom to interpret it. And still, even then, in the pride and folly of my heart I ignored Him. I still worshipped myself, and my own achievements, more than any god. And the day came when I looked out over Babylon, that great city, and saw it as the living proof of my own glory, and spoke the words of my own sublime praise. And in that moment, in my very act of speaking the highest untruth, that glory and honour belonged to me, rather than Him – in that very moment my sanity departed, and I became as a beast of the field, and was driven forth from the society of men. I ate grass like a brute beast, and this body of mine, perfumed and pampered, for seven years was washed by nothing except the dew of heaven, and my hair and my nails had no servants to care for them. All my kingliness that I thought made me so great was gone in a moment. I had no authority any more, and, it soon became apparent, even my humanity was not my own accomplishment, but could be taken away from me. There was nothing left for me to boast in; only my life was preserved. All those things that identified me as human had been stripped from me, and the meanest beggar in the street was more fit for the throne than I was.

And then, after seven years of humiliation, I lifted my eyes to heaven, and I was restored. I have learned, and those who watched what happened to me have learned, that I am not king of this great empire through any virtue of my own, but because god, the great God, the only true God, has chosen to let me rule. And I was a fool to ever believe that all glory, honour and dominion did not belong solely to Him.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Tree

In the beginning, it was placed in the garden. No one knew where it came from, but, like all of creation, it was sourced in God Himself. Perhaps it was more truly of Himself than any of them realized then. It was there, in the centre, right at the heart of all things, the only companion, in that holy place, to the tree which was forbidden. And its beauty was something beyond their understanding, something they were not yet ready for. It was too subtle, too complex for their dawning minds to grasp, and somehow just a little frightening.

But the other tree, ah, that was different. God had spoken His ‘No!” into the very fabric of creation, but there was a beguiling ‘Yes!” speaking louder and louder in their minds. And, in the end, they took of the fruit, and they ate, and the world was broken. Their hearts were shattered by their own doing, and God’s pronouncement when it came was confirmation of the death they had already accomplished. And they were sent forth from the garden, and the cherubim descended, sword aflame, and the way to the tree of Life was barred from humanity. Yet the very action of their being sent forth invoked promise as much as penalty, for it was said that there would be a life beyond this death, and a hope beyond this hopelessness.

Centuries passed. Men laboured and men fell. Some looked upward, and beheld the beauty of God and put their trust in the One whose promises outlast the stars; but others looked around at the heaving world, or inward to the clamour of their own desires and embraced death by the very means they sought to defy it. And finally, while men looked the other way, the tree returned. It was no longer a thing of beauty, it was stark and dead and terrible. As it had to be, for the way to life leads now through death, and it could appear no other way within this world. It was no longer living wood planted by the hand of God, but old, dry boards, pushed back forcibly into the ground by human hands. Its only fruit was the body of a dying man, and it was blood, rather than the sap of Life that flowed from it. It no longer grew in holy sunlight, but stood under the descent of a terrible darkness. Men cried and wept at its presence, but many were so inured to death that they mocked instead. And by the planting of that terrible tree, Life returned to the broken human race.

It has not wholly vanished since, though the world sees only the symbol and not the substance. The eyes of faith see the life that is given to them in this death, they eat and drink of its fruit and find His life flows into their present body of death.

But even this is not the end of the story. One day the whole creation shall be reborn, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth and the city of God, fair as a bride, shall be revealed. And in the midst of her the Tree of Life shall stand, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more mourning or crying or pain. There will be no more death.