Poetry 030: Afloat

What if we had waited
Held hands through the sandstorm,
And waded through the tears;
When the doubts appeared
Stared deep into the pith,
Jeered at the darkness,
And bounded off the plinth?
Maybe together, our feet –
Beating against the depths –
Would have paddled us afloat,
Negating the loads chained
To the thrones in our hearts:
We could’ve been our boat.

© Denis Adide 2012

 

Poetry 029: Gravestone

His father – sternly convinced of it –
had told him that the truth,
in all it’s possible clarity
would be found at the end
of a shared bottle of wine.

He had often since wondered at
the quality of the participants
of this particular ritual.
With half the bottle now soaking the soil
beside the cold gravestone –
there was no way he could now
find out.

Maybe it – the thought – was slightly ominous
that when he and his wife were to wed
they’d inherit his parent’s rings.
It was a promise he’d conceived
and asked when dreams existed
beside the old tricycle he used to ride.
The same which now was caked in rust,
half in mud and green entombed
in the old house his family once had.

Frequent these trips of his had become
the more her words swayed,
the dead had ears that didn’t judge
the words his heart would say.

© Denis Adide 2012

(Again another draft I couldn’t resist sharing)

‘Stone Altars’ (Part 4)

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

Under the spell of the Bishop’s hat, which towered above the crowds now gathered on the steps of the Cathedral, we listened as the canon read from the book of Moses the story of how God delivered and led the Israelites through the parted sea and away from the pursuing Egyptian army. He, the Bishop, then began the service and marched us – crowds and candidates – into the huge cathedral doors, stopping by the font where the waters waited. With vigor and verve, he blessed the water and began to baptize the candidates. Each name was spoken with a deep sense of passion and enthusiasm, this man celebrated each face the drops touched, pronouncing the blessings surrounding the choice to pass into death and emerge into life with Jesus – Him for whom we were gathered.

(It is an interesting thing, that the church chose to have baptisms and confirmations on easter Saturday. I will cover this in a further reflection. For now I must return to the issue at hand).

I was impressed by the manner in which regardless of the number of people being baptised, the Bishop’s enthusiasm and sense of privilege never waned. Once the baptisms were done, He invited the rest of us – the confirmation candidates – to renew our vows before God by symbolically drawing the cross upon our foreheads with the waters from the font. When this was done, he led the procession down to the front, underneath the great dome. Candles in hand we all sat – the crowds joining in the scramble for good seats.

Being on the first row, my confirmation came and went quite quickly – I’m certain there is still a lot of processing to take place of what went on within me during those brief moments, what you are getting here is what I have been able to digest so far and feel is relevant to the issue of stone altars. As I mentioned in the preceding post, I was privileged to have been sat next to a young lady who was being baptised and confirmed on the same day. It was an honour to explain some of the liturgy and symbolism to her and see the effect of her grasping the depth of the steps she was making, even sharing her first journey to taking holy communion. This, and the long list of names that – like me – were called up to be confirmed, gave the occasion a sense of grander that surpassed all sense of ego that had developed within: leading up to the service, I had grown to believe in the speciality of my place but seeing and feeling my name vanish into a list that seemed endless was humbling. It was at this that the statement rang again.

I asked for your hearts, but you made these stone altars for yourselves

Yes, there was an altar made of stone (a hardening) that I had built for myself. Not to give God glory or even to lead me to a place where I could, but rather to keep myself in an elevated place. It was an altar well concealed in the sentiments of radicality and difference: in the desire to be set apart, to be distinctive. All these things in and of themselves aren’t bad, it is the secret edifice that they had allowed me to build without my noticing that made me shudder. As the names were called out, I realised that this vow that I was making wasn’t being done just by me. In fact, I was joining a whole host of people: becoming one of many. I was disturbed by the fact that I wanted the service to end quickly so I could go out and celebrate. The other names had began to make uncomfortable listening. The arrow to heart was the fact that for all his pomp and age, the Bishop remained enthusiastic about each name he read and blessed each one aloud and with such favour.

Skirted by a sense of self-righteousness masked in good intentions, I had erected my name, my reputation and adorned it with many things – words of affirmation, prophecy, and works, I had built myself into a tower overlooking the city so much so that in many ways I despised the Cathedral, trying to depose it.

A friend had asked me how our worship made God feel. This in an attempt to understand how to worship God in ‘Spirit and in truth’. My response was to say that our drive to worship shouldn’t be one that seeks to affect God, for he is suited in Glory already. Worship, and all it’s acts, were there as responses to God in all his splendour. This is right I think as it focuses our lenses onto the heart, which turned out to be the most important part of the sentence I heard.

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

The heart is the most important word in that line because it canvases everything else. If the heart is correct, then the pieces of bricked up stones cease to be altars for selfishness but tools for mission and service. God doesn’t need beautiful buildings in order to be glorious or reveal his Glory. Neither does he need the pomp and ceremony of religiosity to touch the heart. It is in the heart – like that which I saw displayed in the Bishop’s sense of privilege in service – that God dwells and affects hearts. The real cathedral was in the heart of the man serving within it.

When we attach a deeper Spiritual essence onto the bricks and mortar, and beautiful artwork, we elevate what is architecture into something that it isn’t. On the other hand, though it isn’t the house of God, it is the house of God’s people and where they are (two or three) there He is also. I had walked into Chichester Cathedral thinking that God would speak to “me” there because “I” had gone into “His house”. I forgot that he could speak to me at any point and at any time thus the rebuke I think (and the rebuke was word from God spoken to me – I believe – inside the Cathedral: chew on that).

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

I come from a continent that isn’t adorned with many cathedrals and churches. The church there is very much carried within its people. The many Church buildings that Britain, and Europe, are blessed to have are, and will always be reflections of the people within the church. They carry the sense within us of God’s grandure and hospitality but can be stumbling blocks to the development of faith within the heart. Like the dinner table for sunday roast, or Christmas meals, or Easter turkey, these spaces provide avenues for us to celebrate with each other the deep sense of hope that our faith gives us. It gives us space to share that hope with guests to our family. These things however, like the faith, do not require the space the buildings provide in order to be done – as I have experienced in Africa and is documented in many places. God is preached on streets, in homes, in fields and felt in hearts.

We cannot escape the privilege however of having these beautiful buildings and must, like Peter and the boat, cease to see them as means of surviving on the water but rather tools from which to preach the possibility of walking with Christ. We can only do this once we, internally turn our eyes heavenward, and not to fresco’s and domes. Remembering out own brokenness and folly in repentance (destroying the architecture in our hearts that keeps us from humility). Only then can we respond to the call the heart in true worship.

I was reduced to tears after sharing the peace with my family and friends who had journeyed to take part in the service with me. The joy they had in their eyes, having watched what had taken place, humbled me. It reminded me of the call to serve and invigorated me with a passion for them. It was their eyes, handshakes, hearts, and hugs that broke the bricks that supported my internal dome.

As you read this, please do place me in your prayers as the journey towards a truer understanding of my place in God’s kingdom continues. I know that within me is the urge to shy from addressing my own brokenness so desperately I ask for your intercession as I try and tear down the boulders within.

Finally, think on the statement and feel free to converse with me on your reflections.

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yoursleves

God is frustrating. As creatures in his image we yearn for control thus making trust – or faith rather – difficult. The absurdity of prayer, its necessity, the frustration of unwanted responses – silence included – add to this difficulty. All we have is the hope that within the eternal scope, the completely wise allpowerful will be true to his promises of unconditional ans unflinching love.

Calling people to him, we musnt hide from the difficulty while marketing the hope. Keeping aware of our own pain makes us sensitive to the pai mm of others. Only then can we draw near to the cross together in gracious hope.

I celebrate muamba’s recovery but likewise mourn with the many whose pain has been rekindled and highlighted in its wake.

Good reflection.

Thanks

astoryoffailure

It’s been quite a while since I wrote on here. I have surprised myself with my silence. The truth is – the quiet has been a combination of two facts-of-life: 1. Busyness 2. Complete dearth of inspiration.

Work has been busy – for which I am deeply grateful. Life as a freelancer is constantly unpredictable and I am very happy to have an influx of work, which will keep me busy and out of trouble for a few weeks.

Mostly – and this I suspect is the “real” reason – I just haven’t felt inspired. Haven’t known what to write about. Haven’t felt that I had anything to say. Fleeting thoughts have crossed my mind but nothing has taken root.

Until today.

This morning, I went to church. It was a lovely service. On the whole. A guest speaker and lots of happy faces. All was going swimmingly. And then…

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Poetry 027: Gull

It baffled me to see gulls
this far in, away from the sea.
Probably as much as it did him
to see me – a man of colour –
this far from the metropolis.

I wonder whether
He thought it a hunger –
similar to that
of my winged counterparts –
that had led me to sing
Away from ‘home’,
and not the Love
Whose white hands I cling.

© Denis Adide 2012

Solitary Confinement

If the wicked didn’t flourish then the choice to do good would not be under such scrutiny and I wouldn’t understand the well within my conscience that Love eternally refills.

D. Adide

So it’s been a short while since my last post. If I’m to be honest, I have been witnessing a battle between my deflated ego, my heart and my mind. The three, swords drawn at each other, have been in unrest since the realisations that I alluded to in the last post: The Pangs of Desire. The result of this war is a sentiment that, until now, I have been unable to kernel.

Some call it the man cave, that space where we – from time to time – have to disappear to in order to recover (or rediscover) the senses of self necessary to rebuff the challenges the world sets. It is that desolate space where you see yourself in all your complexity. The space where good and evil feast together, morality and immorality grey, selfhood and external influence interplay  betraying yet portraying who you are to the seeing eye. (Worth a mention here the great difficulty in actually quantifying how the idea of selfhood arrises. The more I contemplated myself the more I realised that the self I was watching was a reflection, an apparition even, and not the ‘I’ that was watching. It’s an almost Hegelian multiplicity with the other constantly emerging.)

Deeper and deeper into the recesses of my own desires and thoughts I found myself treading. The abyss never ending: so much so that the distance back to the surface seemed closer and best of all more appealing. It was then that I came across the image below.

(Take a moment and scroll down, have a look, then scroll back up)

I am comfortable being confined in there because I know now that I cannot rescue myself. I lack the language to battle the sense of reticence, neither can I avoid the tug to silence. Worst of all, I do not yet fully understand what the man in there is trying to say and as his character is still an enigma to me, I fear setting him free. The reality though is that, it is I who is trapped and not he. The world is small in comparison to the grounds he Lords. This I know because when I shut my eyes and visit, he always takes me to a new place with immeasurable beauty, each surpassing the last.

NOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH

The desire that had been plaguing me, to unleash the deamon within and quench my conscience, first seeming bad, proved to be a very good lense on my character. Where I thought that my actions were governed by a fear of their consequence, I subsequently found that it is Love, and not fear that governs my choices – especially those that involve the welfare of others. The only person I am unable to properly serve is myself, and that is because I am broken and am unable to resist pandering to my own depravity. I am fully capable of resisting the selfish surges when the outcome is pain for others. Love – that complex diety – guides my hands but like Paul with the thorn in his side, keeps me grounded. If the wicked didn’t flourish then the choice to do good would not be under such scrutiny and I wouldn’t understand the well within my conscience that Love eternally refills.

 

Love Fearlessly, to whatever end!

 

Poetry 021: Unconditional

It is the wealth of continuity, un-assailed, unabated, unstoppable.  

Where can I go to hide from you?
You pursue me into the very depths
Of the heart I strive to keep away.
Where can I run? To whom?
Where is it that you are not?

The sweat on my brow testifies of you,
As I flee, it reminds me of why,
Bringing you closer as I try away.
The wind whispering past
Speaks of the swiftness with which
You overtake, overwhelm, overcome.

And even when I risk life itself to flee
The hope of freedom sets me back
Into the death of being loved.
Being Loved
Being Love
Being an Object of love,
Unconditionally.

© Denis Adide 2012