Friday, February 25, 2011

Hunting Giants

I brought lambs for your altars, fattened for slaughter.
I brought fire, incense & bowls.
I brought songs for the gods of my sun, moon & stars,
I cried "I am yours, not my own!".

You hid me in the cleft of a rock so you could protect yourself.
You weren't in the thunder, the wind or the fire...
but I was, I was.

Will you destroy me if I look in your eyes?
Will I be your stone trophy or paver?
Will you fault me if I dare to look back?
Will you turn me to salt in due season?
You were the face of God to me, Omniscient.

You were as locusts, trumpet-tongued, drowning out my light, devouring.
You left me speechless, you left me small.
Your paths knew no boundaries.
You were the voice of God to me, Omnipotent.

You left me a handful of magic beans
in the wake of your well meant destruction.
I live in the shadow of great stalks & giants.
You aren't here,
but I am.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Small Things

They launched into the yard together one morning.
One was bound to earth, forced to claw its way up trunk & branch,
leaping from tree to tree.
The other flit freely from earth to sky.
There was no clawing, only the spreading of wings.
One had arms & tiny hands with which to accomplish practical tasks
like gathering & burying it's food.
It makes its nest in a hole that someone else fashioned.
The other must bow low to find its food in the dirt.
Its hit or miss & quite the messy affair.
It tirelessly gathers twigs in its beak
to create a sanctuary among the branches.
Two species exist together. Both are small.
One is grey. The other sports vibrant patterns of colour.
But there are two. Two are better than one.
One chatters & "squeals" while the other chirps & sings.
One weighs heavy on the branches.
The other, you barely know is there.

Which am I today? A practical squirrel living in a place someone else abandoned? Am I gathering my food only to hide it? Am I bound to earth, clawing my way from tree to tree just to get anywhere? Do I weigh heavy on the branches? Or am I a bird who catches a current I cannot see in order to fly? Do I bow low to find my sustenance? Do I take care in finding materials for my home & do I build it among the branches for all to see? Would you even know I'm there? Would you hear a chatter & squeal, or would you hear a chirp & a song? You will know me if you see me. Which are you? We exist together. Two species, both small.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I commute 20 miles to work (one way) everyday. I know bridges, backroads, side streets & freeways. I know slow spots, escape routes & the time I need to allot for each variation. I know the speed limits & I know where the photo cop lies in wait for his next victim. I know where there are gas stations & parks, post offices, libraries & stores at any given point. I live wherever I happen to be at the moment, but it wasn't always that way.

I got to thinking how when I get in the car to go to work, I'm going to work no matter what (as far as it depends on me). If I run into traffic, construction or some other obstacle, I adjust accordingly & take a different route. But I can't just turn around & go home. That's not an option.

How often have I turned around & "gone home" in my life when a difficult circumstance presented itself? How many times have I given in to distraction & gone out of my way, wasting the trip? How often have I just sat, stuck & brooding? Just as there's always options in my commute, there's always options in the pursuit of a goal. There will be difficulty, maybe some traffic hazards or construction, but I can adjust accordingly if I keep a watchful eye. It took time to build my repository of geographical know-how. I got lost in the beginning. A lot. But realizing a goal is not impossible. In fact, it seems I do it everyday...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Finding My Eye

I have one good eye with which to see. The other one I plucked out voluntarily. After all, if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, right? Better to go through life maimed. So I plucked out my eye because I was told it was causing me to sin. I also cut off one of my hands... Boy, that hurt.

The extraction of my eye, the amputation of my hand is something I've not been able to hide since. Whenever people look at me, they see the empty socket where my eye had once been. Whenever they go to shake my hand, they come face to face with a blunt stump. Oh, I know there are glass eyes & artificial limbs to be had, but that would seem to negate the intended purpose of the loss, don't you think? I'm making a statement here. This is my "penance".

I'm of course being facetious. But this is how I've felt throughout life- blinded & maimed... I was told my perspective was all wrong. I was just a child. What did I know? So I plucked out my eye to conform, to acknowledge the truth that my perspective was a problem. As an adult, I still have one good eye, but I often miss things & tend to grow weary more easily... I find myself keeping my good eye shut whenever I can to preserve it's strength.

I figuratively cut off my hand because I was told I was behaving badly. The way I chose to express myself- the only way I knew how- it was unacceptable, untamable, full of gangrene that only threatened to grow & take over the whole of me. If I hadn't cut off my hand, I would be in jail by now, on the streets or dead... At least that's what I was told. What a handful I would've been (No pun intended)! My behaviour, my response to life, my expression of me was unacceptable. Better to put a stop to it before it got out of control. I still have one good hand. I can do minimal tasks. I have to go slow, but I get by.

As I was cleaning out my proverbial basement the other day, I saw something in the corner. It was my old toy chest, the kind with the bookshelf on top & chalkboards on the sliding doors. Colourful zoo animals frolicked among numbers & letters of the alphabet. I had contributed my own scrawling artwork in crayon in the blank spaces between. I used to like to hide in this toy chest. I slid the doors back, getting chalk on my good hand. I looked inside. Floating in a jar, staring back at me, was my eye. My severed hand floated in the comfort of formaldehyde in a jar next to it. I wasn't sure what to do at that point... I decided I would come back & deal with it later. I left them there & turned off the lights. My eye was getting tired & I had to wash my hand. But something inside me was excited to find these treasures... kept for me all these years. I wondered if I could be restored or if I would remain damaged beyond repair... Perhaps these things are better left alone. After all, I'm making a statement here.

PLEASE NOTE: The actual scripture I was eluding to can be found in Matthew 5:29-30. "If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." (NIV©2010) Its also important to note if one adheres to the respective editor's subheading of "Adultery" for Matthew 5:27-30, you will find I've deliberately taken these scriptures out of context.

I also omitted the bit about throwing the part(s) away. I felt it was significant for the reader to understand that I had not in fact thrown the parts away- I had merely cut them off & hid them... contrary to instruction, which in itself, was an act contrary to its intended purpose.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Short Bus Revelation

I was driving behind a short bus the other day & was reminded of a time past... I was suddenly in 4th grade, just 9 years old. I remember John, the large, slobbering mess of a man who sat in the front seat on the right hand side. He had greasy hair, was covered in acne & probably weighed 200+ lbs. The entire bus reeked of his body odor. He also liked to lick the windows. A lot. Then there was another boy, my age, who enjoyed flapping his hands & making occasional sounds. He was blond. He was autistic. I sat in the back & watched the passing landscape, mortified. We would be bused 20 miles out of town to "school" & home again, Monday through Friday. The kids I involuntarily left at my old school that October thought I disappeared. And that's exactly what happened.

I had classes with a short, redheaded, severely cross eyed girl who always said "ruse" instead of "use". She reminded me of a shaggy little puppy because she liked to follow people around. She was in her 20's. There was another girl in her 20's who was severely mentally & developmentally impaired. She was very tall & skinny & would often be found staring at the ceiling, mouth agape, swaying & vocalizing incomprehensible words. Among our motley crew were the more developmentally sound children- kids up to 13 who had been drinking, using or sleeping around or who were disruptive at school. This was my category I suppose. My crime was frequent inconsolable temper tantrums.

I got to thinking how my one short year at this place really messed me up. It was absolutely humiliating. I came to believe I was like the people I attended classes with. I had been cast off to my own little tribe of misfits. The authorities had spoken & confirmed my greatest fear: I do not belong. I was conditioned to believe there was something inherently wrong with me because of the way I behaved.

I mentioned that the kids I had left at my old school that October thought I disappeared. And "I" did. Whatever confidence I had in myself was obliterated. I was being punished for responding to situations that no 9 year old knows innately how to deal with. If only someone had come along side me, instead of condemning me as the source of the problem. If only someone had recognized that I was overwhelmed with something I had no idea how to qualify or assimilate. If someone had thought to teach me how to communicate my feelings & give me a creative outlet, my life would have been markedly different.

So why write about this? Because as I finally begin to deal with the residual effects through counseling, I'm able to identify this part of my life not as the pit its been for years, but as a turning point. I'm closer to finding the kid who dissapeared that year. The lies I believed are exactly the kind of lies the evil one tells us. He says we are hopeless & spiraling out of control. He says we have no choices- someone else will decide whether we are worth our salt or not. He tells us we shouldn't dream, shouldn't risk, shouldn't even plan because we will most certainly fail. The authorities have spoken. Welcome to your rightful tribe. For years I simply wanted to die. I prayed for it everyday. But here I sit all these years later & for what? Perhaps its to encourage someone out there not to drink the poision, not to believe & base their life on the lies they were told when they were young. Its time to leave the window licker behind.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Space Between

Two stone walls parallel one another. They are ominous, ancient & spanning miles. They are high & rough hewn. The two walls are the Sacred & the secular. They are white or black, good or evil, extraordinary or mundane. One may choose to walk either the Sacred or the secular, but one cannot leap between the two, though the gap is small. There are guardrails fashioned at alternate heights to keep one from falling. They're also effective to hinder a successful "leap of faith" along the way.

Imagine a space between these two walls, just large enough for a person to walk. There is but one way in & one way out at either end. A few brave souls have managed to rappel down the side of a wall to reach the narrow path. Their ropes have been left behind, anchored to the guardrails, some frayed, some broken. Why would anyone choose the narrow path? Certainly walking either wall would offer the best visibility & opportunity for safety. But something else compels those who make the descent.

In the space between, there is a sort of continuity. Sacred & secular now overshadow all. Reach out your right hand- here is the Sacred. Reach out your left- here is the secular. And there you are, arms outstretched, a kind of mediator between the two. Distinction melts away in the darkness of this valley.

Within all of us who bear the Name of Christ are the walls of Sacred & secular. We call them spirit & flesh. We call them faith & the world, life & death. These stand opposing each other, but Jesus is the Mediator within us, the Light to guide us. He is the Peace to calm us & the Wisdom to help us choose what is good & right & true. He is the Shepherd, leading us to the end, where the walls eventually leave off like unfinished freeways.

A few brave souls descend the walls only to climb back up one of those old ropes with great difficulty. Some try to go back & forth on a regular basis, expending so much energy that they eventually lose their grip. Some come to the end of a wall only to realize its a dead end. There are no guardrails here, nothing to anchor to. But those who resolve to make the journey via the narrow path will find a new perspective to travel by... All that matters is Christ, not the staunch division of Sacred & secular. All that matters is What matters in the space between.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Name On the Stone

"Give me a heart of flesh for a heart of stone!" she cried.

She stood in a graveyard in front of a tombstone. It was dark & she couldn't make out the name- but she knew it was hers. It was very old... worn & discoloured. This was her "heart of stone", standing in judgment of her, standing as a witness to her life. Beneath her, in the ground, lay her rotting corpse. The green grass was thick & uniform, unmolested by machine or shovel. This was not a fresh grave.

"A heart of flesh for a heart of stone", He said. He came at dawn & kicked over the tombstone. The wages of her sin had been death, but His gift to her was life. She would now live to make His name known- with a heart of flesh for a heart of stone.

Ezekiel 36:25-27, Isaiah 12, Romans 6:23

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Secret Passageways

Troubles & mourning are a blessing from God. They're like those giant boring machines that carve out tunnels within the earth. Oceans & mountains are challenging obstacles, overcome. Those few bright lives, those "fortunate ones" who manage to go unscathed by loss or pain of soul crushing magnitude have never felt the danger & the risk of the dig. They won't have access to these tunnels for a very long time.

It may be years & a significant investment of finance & labor, but eventually, a tunnel will be completed. The "fortunate ones" will have to wait in line & buy a ticket to travel to the other side. They'll ride in relative ease, comfortable in a high tech, streamlined rail car as it hurdles through the depths of the earth. Some may never know what went into making this tunnel, even though commemorative photos & stories line the walls of the stations on either side. They didn't feel the darkness & breathe the mud & dust of broken earth as it was pulverized in the grinding teeth of the machine. They will pay a price to go through the tunnel, but it will be nothing compared to the price it took to actually bore through the earth.

Troubles & mourning carve out "secret" passageways through the earth of our hearts, beneath the mountains & oceans that rise & swell & overwhelm us... Mountains & oceans are obstacles, overcome. These "secret" passageways lead to God's own throne & He won't turn us away, though we be caked with dirt & sweat, though we be streaked with blood & tears. He hears the grinding... He knows we're coming.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This Little Light of Mine...

...Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

If my heart is where my treasure is, it stands to reason that I'll find my heart when I find my treasure... When I lose heart, I lose focus. I lose perspective. The lines get blurred. I stir up clouds of dust as I walk, stinging my eyes, making me cough, covering me like an artifact. I'm lost. How can I find anything in this mess of "me"? Have I laid my treasure up in some dark closet, only to be eaten by mice & moths? Has an enemy broken in while I was sleeping & stolen it?

Maybe that's why Jesus speaks of light along with storing one's treasure... “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light..."

I'm reminded of the parable about the 10 virgins. All of them fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom & all of them woke to the announcement of His arriving. Half had plenty of oil on hand & kept their lamps lit. The others watched their own wicks burn out & went off to find oil. The first half found their treasure. The other half were left in the dark.

If I've lost my heart, am I prepared to light the wick & come face to face with what I treasure?

Matthew 6:20-21, Matthew 6:22-23, Luke 17:21, Matthew 25:1-13

The Minister's Words

(Part two of "The Minister's Sugar Cubes"- Jan. 2011)

The minister took both hands & ran his fingers through his short white hair. He loosened his tie & slid the loop up over his head. The tie fell to the floor. He took off his jacket & threw it onto an empty chair in front of him. Perspiration pooled on the skin beneath his shirt.

"Repent", he said queitly. "Repent of your "knowing", your certainty, your security. The Kingdom of God is near. Will your wisdom save you? "

He lowered his head.

"Repent of your hatred for one another, your judgment, your pride. Will the currency of common righteousness save us? Its absolutely worthless. Have you no fear of God? Wake up! We are the poor ones. We are the wretched & naked & blind. We are the ones unwilling to share the good news of His peace with each other, let alone those we ostracize."

He moved through the congregation, looking as many in the eye as would meet his gaze.

"We go barefoot, blistered & bitter. We offer stale water from the well of our own self righteousness. We hold out dirty cups all day long & wonder why no one will drink. Why be martyrs for one another when we already have a Saviour? Who do we think we are?!"

He began gesticulating with his hands & grew louder as he made his way to the front. The congregation sat dumbstruck.

"Quit fighting each other! Don't waste your time waging war against flesh & blood... Your neighbor isn't the enemy. And even if he were, Jesus told us, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful! Don't judge... don't condemn... forgive, and you will be forgiven! Give, and it will be given to you"! He also told us, " I came into the world as a light, so no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. If anyone hears my words but doesn't keep them, I don't judge that person. For I didn't come to judge the world, but to save the world. "

The minister turned his back on the congregation & got down on his knees.

"Repent of your knowing."
Most people got up & left, but some lingered.
Slowly, one by one, the few who remained began to crowd in around him.

Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:36-38, John 12:46-48