Source: In defence of Alpha
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…
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.
I always find it interesting that God didn’t just descend on the clouds a full grown man first time round. He elected to grow in a womb at the mercy of a young girl; to be born a baby in a possibly unhygienic setting; to be raised by the same young girl and her husband – who knew that the child wasn’t his; to be a refugee in exile.
It’s also interesting that in the church’s calendar there are nine months from Easter to Christmas, leaving 4 months between Christmas and Easter. Its almost as though the detail of the growing up years, the nurturing years (granted there isn’t much in the bible to go on) are unimportant.
Over the few days following Christmas however, I have been pondering the seeming silence of the growing years. What emerged was a question regarding how I would respond to the responsibility given to these young parents. Then the realisation that the very responsibility was in a strange way, my own also. Born was a baby, born with that baby was an idea which I had to live a life responding to. My response to that idea would be either purpose in life and death or emptiness for myself and others.
This then is an invitation to join in the pondering what those in between years would look like for you. The carol services are gone for another twelve months. There might be an invitation to an easter service coming in the next few months. What would have happened to that baby; that seed; that idea in the in-between time? Would answers to the questions raised have been pursued or ignored?
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
I Just had to share this… Worth the watch and ponder!