Revisiting Talitha

‘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

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Behind: The unrecognised sublime

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“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”.

Reinterpret power

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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.

#reflection

Trust and follow

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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.

#metanoia

“Give me the courage to follow even in the face of fear, even in the face of death.”

#Amen

John 19:28-30

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!

No!

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:
Dust reigns.

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.
Oh Lord!

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”.

Lines composed while contemplating John 19:16-30

They were bare hands that sharp nails received
Bare lips that with a kiss revealed
Sealed with bare stone and silver a heart deceived.

Love seamless as His royal robe
Untouched but taken whole
Given whole.

And as they take your robes, you take mine.

Filthy rags.

I resist for a fear of shame
But you shame my fear by clothing me
Clothing me with that seamless love

I’m touched and overtaken whole
Given whole.

© Denis Adide 2015