Notes from the death star
And so the curse prevailed un-curtailed.
I, for my own desires, continued in failing
maintaining that blasted work
of stitching leaves into garments
Even when dried skin sufficed to unify.
Where hands failed, I made new ones to fit,
and covered the blood that soaked them;
Where feet had come unstuck,
cracked from the toil and sweat,
I fashioned boots to hide the bones
fleshed by scars upon scars;
Where my eyes resisted my heart’s covenants
dark glasses over the spaces in the mask,
the same that covered the mind
whos banner self had turned
from usurpations of benevolence
to tyranny’s reign.
“Words I chained in Hymns
and winds to whom once in song I’d yield
rose I and tamed.”
But I hear it,
resounding like the distant echo
of a thousand drums;
a thousand shakers attached to dancer’s heels,
peering over the hills that form the surrounding horizon –
my prison of deeds.
Like the sweetness I once recalled
from the days before the banishing,
before the knowing that couldn’t be unknown;
before the seeing that couldn’t be unseen;
the blaming that couldn’t be undone;
the hiding that couldn’t by my hand be uncovered;
the betrayal to which i’m here unstuck –
like the sweetness of before it rests,
tethered to the memory deep behind
what I’ve hidden;
from the spaces that dream of beyond
bonding to the things the blasted hills deny.
Ahh it is a crying only I can hear, I think,
teased into being by the thoughts that this wind whispers
“there is still good left in him”
I hope for it’s truth
but live out the lie.
walking in the undoable denying of the third crow;
living at the end of the sixth hour,
and the death that is now known as end.
For words I failed to attend,
and actions i’d never commend,
its neither me nor pretence.
“I call out to you, again and again,
Yet you linger.”
From whence cometh my help?
© Denis Adide 2015
1. Will you only hover over the emptiness? Will you kiss the mess and speak? Or will you hold it together in its darkness.
2. When will the night cease? The word was heard and the divide created but this darkness won’t relent. Shine brighter still in the darkness for this plain won’t break from its failure to comprehend.
3. This is not order. This is not good. This is not fruitful. This is not living with the blessed. This is neither sleep, nor rest, nor sabbath. This is the forbidden curse uncurtailed. This is the untrodden serpent but the bruised heel. This is the body you put here in the unweeded garden. This is the toil beyond the fences, the rebellion of the soil – with breath in it, the scorch, and even worse… the unending waiting.
4. Yes. I lifted the rock and struck his temple. You lifted the smoke and struck me beneath the skin. (I lifted the first fruit – the choicest of the flock and yet was still struck. Were you not my keeper also?)
5. Voice from the deep, where will you lead me? Where will you have me place my feet? Where will you have me pitch my tent? Where shall I call home? Why, when you call in the night, won’t you show me the place to which you’re headed? To which we are headed?
6. For those I have forsaken, and for those I have brought with me, show me more than just stars. My flesh is old, as old as the promise whispered in the darkness. Follow, you said. But lifetimes later… I’m still lifting my tent pegs.
7. Will you destroy the city when 1% is righteous? Will you destroy my name or leave me a remnant? If you will then why the following? Why the calling?
8. Bless what I have dismissed.
9 – 16: neither of us have had the opportunity to laugh.
… here my scriptures end…
Faith: Dancing with Donald Grump
A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (1976)
I climbed to the top of the peak. When I looked, I knew I might never again see so much of the earth so beautiful, the beautiful being something you know added to something you see, in a whole that is different from the sum of its parts. What I saw might have been just another winter scene, although an impressive one. But what I knew was that the earth underneath was alive and that by tomorrow, certainly by the day after, it would all be green again. So what I saw because of what I knew was a kind of death with the marvellous promise of less than a three-day resurrection.
Might be a question that primarily reflects my own experience but, did Christmas catch you at a bad time? I know with all the lights and resurgence of that Michael Bubble album on the radios; and the many Christmas jumpers, it may seem as though happiness was thrust upon everyone indiscriminately. I don’t know if, like me, there was a grump who got pummelled into dust by the relentless call to think in a celebratory way; a grump who couldn’t escape the responsibility to respond from the recesses of what he/she knew instead of how they felt.
I won’t lie, for me, the time spent putting together the lego Millenium Falcon, and the 1000 piece star wars puzzle I received for Christmas helped the grump have some space to find perspective. I am not a Christian (lol init!). I know how important this whole birth of a King stuff is, and not just in terms of when I eventually get to heaven but more importantly for the life I lead now. Yet neither of those two facts sheltered me from the true and valid emotion presented by Donald Grump, who had casually found his way to the throne room in my heart and was wiggling his bottom on the comfy this-is-how-I-feel-right-now throne.
The presence however, of Donald Grump, didn’t negate or even diminish the truths to which my life was to be ordered. Maybe it was the reading through and around the scriptures for the two Advent and Christmas eve sermons; maybe it was the look on the people I loved in whom the hype had fully set; maybe it was the reality of the temporary reign of Donald Grump. Either way, alongside the lull, there slowly grew a warmth that eventually danced in the throne room in spite of, but not to spite good old Donald.
Here was the lesson I had forgotten, was reminded of by the experience, and have found expressed in the quote from Norman Maclean.
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NRSV Heb 11:1).
“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” (MSG Heb 11:1)
“faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses” (AMP Heb 11:1)
Because I believe that this child whose birthday the whole hype is about, I find myself placed among those for whom a future season of joy and happiness, and more importantly peace is guaranteed. I can rest on the truth that this guarantee is not just for what is to come, but that because of this same child what is to come is a possibility in the Now. Forgiveness means that Donald Grump is disregarded but rather embraced and renewed; loved with a patient passion; cherished into shining with happiness.
In other words, the sorrow that stood in the way of my joining the hype was as temporary as the seasons which Norman Maclean observed. It was subject to change. And the only permanent thing was the ‘ALIVE’ and ‘MAGNIFICENT’ promise of a resurrection from which there will be no death.
The warmth that danced in the throne room was always there dancing: He is the King who doesn’t need to sit on a throne to reign; whose dancing was permanent and infectiously changing all who sat on the throne into movers and shakers and spreaders of joy, and the peace that undergirds it.
Lifted eyes: From whence cometh help?
Dust from fleeing horses
as they leap into the shadow
of the hills I have looked to for help
A thief this night forced
open my stable doors
and to the ground brought my walls and fences
Now with empty words
my lips turn to silence
It wasn’t fire but my own hands that had encompassed me.
“Did the nails,
stained by your blood;
still holding bits of your flesh;
sounding notes from hammer blows;
Did the rough cut wood,
bed for your final rest;
cradle for the crucified;
once soaked for mercy,
ever succumb to rot?
Did the rocks,
hewen out to carry someone else,
rejoice as they laid your body –
their sculptor broken –
awaiting his awakening,
I busied myself with a measuring line;
chiseling stones for the wall.
high and thick I made it,
then sitting silently within,
I missed the wind.
Plundered I look to you:
My fortress and shield.
© Denis Adide 2015
“Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help
and who rely on horses,
who trust in chariots because they are many
and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel
or consult the Lord!
The Egyptians are human, and not God;
their horses are flesh, and not spirit.
When the Lord stretches out his hand,
the helper will stumble, and the one helped will fall,
and they will all perish together.”
Isaiah 31:1 & 3
“This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”
‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets
and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
See, your house is left to you.
And I tell you, you will not see me
until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” ’
I had scoffed at my wife when she spoke of aches and pains following her personal training sessions. Scoffed because my distance from fitness was not as clear to me as it perhaps should have been. As it transpired, I would have to take up some of her sessions as she was unavailable for a few weeks.
Confidently I strolled into the gym, a slight tinge of fear but confidence none-the-less. Realistically I limped out the gym. Dripping sweat and shattered illusions in equal measure. The days since the end of the football season had quickly rolled into weeks and months and regardless of my regular swim sessions, whatever fitness I had was evidently no more. #R.I.P
My older brother told me a while back that you loose fitness faster than you gain it. Interesting thought eh! The task of maintaining fitness is less difficult than the task of gaining it. “No Pain No Gain’ the old saying goes. It had crept up behind the decisions driven by indiscipline.
What’s that got to do with Jerusalem?
A strange thing happens when a response gets turned into a ritual. The assumption over the outcome really affects the heart of the act and eventually even the vision of which the act is a response. Somewhere in the process of obedience to the law, in the turning to scriptures to discover more from them, the sight and sound of the living – active and moving – God whose Word dictated their deeds was replaced by the ritual itself. There he stood amongst them, unknown to them and lamenting their self blinkered hearts.
I suppose the days since the red sea; since the manna; since the walls of Jericho; those days had turned to centuries of sacrifices; incarnations of the temple; graceless hierarchies and worst of all, rules that drowned love.
Priests had become pharisees. Condemning instead of mediating. The watchmen became the evictors.
“Go” He said. With weighted measure we
Obeyed. With sword, bow and scepter our siege
We laid. In decadence we hewed out our footholds
In the foothills of grace’s dismay. With hands,
By architecture tainted, this earthen town we laid.
In thick steel our gates we made; their outward
Arrows sharp as gazes. So high the walls
We chose erect that the early breeze, once
Composed abated. The mighty streams, whom
Once in spring we bathed, in anxious zeal
Rose we and tamed; life we chained in hymns,
And winds to whom once in song we’d yield,
Chose we assail.
What’s freely given, if not valued is easily lost.
© Denis Adide 2015
Behind: The unrecognised sublime
“Awe and terror have a fine defining border. Nothing captures this more for me than the sea. Every time my eyes reach for the horizon they are confronted with its impossibility: the truth of my own limitation in the face of ambition. As I think on it, the waves break forth and the reality of a depth that surpasses the visible distance in scope terrifies. Indeed I’m once more a spec, not even of as much consequence as the wind blown drop nestling on my eyelash. Before is beyond and I thirst for it hoping it would be my becoming.
The trouble is, this terror ahead – this awe – conceals by its drawing of my attention the truth of the vastness behind. I suppose this is the curse of ambition: never really taking stock of the unmastered past. The land that my eyes ignore isn’t covered in my footprints yet has contributed more to my foundations than the seas with all their potential can”.
He draws breath. Scratches his head and pauses.
“I cut my hair bald for a decade.” The words emerge from darkness and disappear, like headlights on a country lane.
“I wonder what happened to them. The faces that like my childhood memories irregularly haunt: showing up to confront what’s before in violent eruptions; claiming authority over the present; branding the eye; calling false all that is and is to come; and howling as the wind blows them away – back into the abyss we share”.
A breath intentionally drawn once again.
“There are terrors both ways; awe both ways. One must turn his back to the seas now and again. To bask in the unrecognized sublime”.
This is an illustration my comic book Bible. A day after casting my vote I’m reading when I find myself stuck and struck simultaneously by what I’m looking at. The picture has a well defined, symmetrical, and handsome man beneath the purple robes: the illustrator’s perspective on Jesus I think. Looking beyond that, I note that what is beneath the robes is the same that made the universe. The same that destined the fingers that are placing the robe, accessorised by ridicule, on his skin – sore from the whipping he’s just received. The discipline that focuses the destructive potential into love is awe inspiring. Power here is expressed fully in it’s application, or seeming inaction.
I saw here Ultimate power; Absolute power; Universe creating power. Alongside it also a real Response-ability, gentleness and self control. This was here a pattern – a template and challenge – for how to hold power. There really wasn’t anyone more powerful thus no other pattern other than this has any authority and authenticity: this was a lesson from the source. Those who thought they had power actually had none and he who seemed powerless and bound actually had it all.
It gave me solace in the face of my post election dispair – I lamented the system not the outcome. Here in this picture I saw the indictment against human structures and the power they claim to have. I saw clearly the truth that in the man Jesus only was there the combination of power and responsibility: a combination neccesary for the complete redemption of humanity. This task was, is, and will always be beyond us. All I can do is respond: surrender, repent, anticipate, and bear witness.
Trust and follow
It was cold and windy. Not at all what we had hoped it would be like when we planned the weekend away. The roar of the water as, in waves, it crashed upon the sands usurped our utterances; we had given up verbal conversation owing to the effort and the neccesitated cold ears. Drops of rain and sea water flicked passed the hood and doused our tired eyes. But we were not to be deterred, neither was Alaska.
It’s almost a year since I carried her for the last time away from the dog shelter. Her body slumped in my arms, fighting off the effects of the general anasthetic she was under for her spaying. In the months that followed we learnt from each other. Her of my commitment to her and me of her devotion, and her fear of deep water. Alaska they called her, our tail wagging companion.
The cemented pipe reached forth into the water like an arm. It emerged from the sand as though anchoring it to the stillness beyond the raging waves. I could feel it call out. The sirens were singing and I was bewitched.
“Will you stay with her while I go?” I asked my wife, remembering Alaska’s fear.
She didn’t hear me on account of the waves. I handed her the untethered leash and she gestured to the dog to join her. With that I turned to the expanse and walked the narrow habour.
Halfway up I began to feel light touches on the back of my boots. Looking behind me I saw her. Nervous, tail between her hind legs, looking up at me then down to the waters around us. She had followed me. Partly overjoyed as we neared the end I stroked her wet back and praised her. The fear filtered my assurances. When I faced the beach she wriggled her way behind me, eager once more to follow. Her tail lifted, and so did her face, when our feet found sand again.
It is impossible I think, to follow without trusting. This is the trusting that doesn’t mitigate risks but wholeheartedly devotes to a determined following; the trusting that goes closer to the expanse of fear in order to be LED out of it; the trusting that is forever behind, ready to stop when the leader stops. This trusting is the tether that’s stronger than chains; it is fastened only by undying LOVE; proved by COMMITMENT for whom TIME bears witness. It is the trusting at which I consistently fail but desire. Maybe because I fear being a sheep, or a dog, and fancy that childlike way of being beneath me.
“Give me the courage to follow even in the face of fear, even in the face of death.”
But am I thirsty?
Yearning for the cup of obedience,
For the sour wine of humility
And the salvation it brings?
Am I thirsty?
To endure with you and not to reign,
To stay faithful through the pain,
To praise in chains,
Or when blood stains my imperfect garments?
Am I thirsty?
Knowing that nothing else satisfies
No food for this desire,
Wood for this dying fire?
Or am I mourning my death while waiting
For it all to dry up!
Give me thirst,
Give me hunger.
March me into the wilderness,
Into the desert where you are.
Give me stones
Destroy my thrones
Shake these bones and make me re-membered.
The beds are dry, the clouds long departed:
Give me thirst,
Give me the name to call
Give me the knees upon which to fall.
In deed I rage against mercy,
Refusing the first.
Give me thirst
© Denis Adide 2015
Before he dies Jesus drinks the ‘Cup’ after saying he thirsts. This the same cup he asks be taken away in Gethsemane. On the cross he thirsts. Is it a thirst for something to drink or is it a desire to be obedient even unto death: death on a cross. He desires to take upon himself the work of salvation.
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me”.