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Archive for December, 2010

Seems very much like C.S. Lewis’s line, “Unattainability. The most intense joy lies not in the having, but in the desiring.”

The ripest peach is highest on the tree —
And so her love, beyond the reach of me,
Is dearest in my sight. Sweet breezes, bow
Her heart down to me where I worship now!

She looms aloft where every eye may see
The ripest peach is highest on the tree.
Such fruitage as her love I know, alas!
I may not reach here from the orchard grass.

I drink the sunshine showered past her lips
As roses drain the dewdrop as it drips.
The ripest peach is highest on the tree,
And so mine eyes gaze upward eagerly.

Why — why do I not turn away in wrath
And pluck some heart here hanging in my path? —
Love’s lower boughs bend with them — but, ah me!
The ripest peach is highest on the tree!

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The Messiah Complex

When one claims to have a new idea that will easily transform the political, social, or cultural world at large, I remain often skeptical. Even more so, when one believes that by his own love, one will change another person’s life, a more dubious claim indeed. Such thinking is typical of the “Messiah Complex,” one in which by our loving someone or even adopting someone, we can “save” the person. Thus, the woman who is ill treated will someday save her fiance’s heart by her own faithfulness.

Our love and affections can have a real and measurable affect on others, no doubt–but to save them simply on human initiative? A failed enterprise. Am I a misanthrope? a cynic? No, I remain a healthy skeptic of human motive. In education, young teachers and counselors often have the idea that if they can “just but save one” akin to throwing back the one fish among hundreds washed up and gasping for air, then they have accomplished much. (Never mind the primary role of teaching and advising, saving is more important).

For my own part, I believe any decision can have parts good, parts bad which defy easy categorization. Where the desire to help and the desire to be praised and have one’s good deeds noticed go unmixed takes a careful planner indeed. No wonder that Jesus commanded his followers to pray unseen behind closed doors. Elsewhere, what began as one kind of fruit might bear another. Discern in Margaret Atwood’s excellent poem “Siren Song” the kind of attraction for such a “savior”:

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see beached skulls

the song nobody knows
because anyone who had heard it
is dead, and the others can’t remember.
Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?
I don’t enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical
with these two feathery maniacs,
I don’t enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.

I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song

is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.

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Christmas Drama

 

On December 24, Morningside Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa tried drama as a way to “sing to the Lord a new song.” None of us are “natural” actors, but we performed in a way that hopefully brought glory to God. While I have some theater experience, I had to coax a few first-timers–they were fabulous grace be to God and put in much hard work. In addition to reading T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi” and doing another reading interspersing verses from the Old and New Testaments, we tried the following four monologues. I wrote this to try to tie the thread woven through each life’s story of a longing anticipation and expectation for the long-awaited one, Jesus Christ. Each character had a single prop and sat looking at the audience from the stage.

SIMEON

Who has known how many hours he will live? I do. I know I am about to die. Only one other man has been given this. I read in the Holy words Elijah was told that he would be taken by the LORD. And I am to be taken. How do I know?

I have lived 87 years. For the length of my years, I have petitioned one thing for my people. That I would witness the Deliverer. We are foreigners in our own land. We were once a light to the other nations but we smothered the light and ran after their darkness. I pray the light be restored and Zion be restored, your holy hill.

A vision came to me but it was if I was dreaming awake. It came to me in the night so I covered myself with the animal skins afraid, but I still heard the voice clearly. You will not die until after the appointed day. On that day you are to tell no one but quiet yourself, enter into the Temple courts, and be shown.

When I thought in my heart, how shall I know? The voice knew my thoughts and said, “Blessed are you, Simeon, for you shall be shown the long awaited one before the hour of your passing.”

My children claim I have the forgetfulness. So all the physics say. My eldest brought me to the teachers of the law. They listened and observed, looked thoughtfully at me. But I know that they do not believe me.

On that day, the Temple, though a forlorn remembrance of the glorious Solomonic reign of yesteryear will be restored, not just the Shekinah glory, but in its fullness. Lord, I will see. I will see. I will see. I will see…

BLIND MAN

I cannot see. I never have. If you put perhaps your poorest of coins, you can help. What’s that? Hmm. I know. The corners of the field are left for the poor, not the corners of the garments and the pockets. So I have heard. It was funnier the first time.

There are no real jokes. There is a serious matter, some secret sin have I done though to figure out what it is, aye, that’s the rub, the crux. I sit as my parents have had me do for years. Do I blame them? How could I? I came to understand what I could not see, that they worked hard in the fields for me. What is a child to do when he has functions that work. You see I can eat, and I could do something with my hands. I could weave, even pick grain but it’s work to explain to me how and where and what size. I lack discernment, but I eat. So my parents asked me to beg and I have been begging for thirty one years. But I am not alone. The competition is endless. Who is paralyzed, destitute, lazy, possessed, with the bleeding disease, these all are needs and they are never-ending.

But we all share one thing in common. We have sinned, I know not how one person’s sin equates to this punishment, another’s does not—it is mystery. Some say my parents did it, so some scribe surmises. They are so good to me, I do not believe that. Why does God punish a child from birth? Why does God punish the child for the sins of his father and yet keep hidden the sin?

Sometimes I bathe in the waters that they lead me to and I take some clay and place it on my eyes and pretend that all of my life I have been seeing. That I know what purple means, and sun, and constellation, and that it’s only the clay that separates me. I wash it and pretend that afterwards I will see. I never do.

ELIZABETH

I never do understand why God made me barren. I would have named my son Zechariah after his father. But I am disgraced among my people. Some people find the irony. My husband is of the priestly division of Abijah, and I a descendant of Aaron. We observe all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. I would have consecrated the child to you, Lord. I have repeated Hannah’s prayer. But my womb remains closed. I have accepted that I am far beyond my childbearing years

I used to take it to heart when Abigail at the well with her four boys and four fat boys they were, she liked to whisper, “What has she done?” And then to my face, “Have you tried eating aged mutton?” Yes, Abigail. “Have you tried praying?” Yes, Abigail. Have you boiled mandrakes and placed them on your stomach after being with your husband? I had enough. I wanted to ask Lord, is it not enough for me to be the disgrace in whispers without providing salt in the wound.

God gave Sarah, Isaac. And Hannah, Samuel. So I used to say. Now, I pray for a different grace. My cousin Mary is betrothed which means a child for her in due time. My prayers now are different. God bless Mary. Give my heart understanding that you give and you take and your name is blessed. Amidst painful reminders of another joy, another new mother, a mother your goodness in its mystery has caused me not to be. I wait on you. I pray to you. I hope in you. I hope.

PETER

I hope you’re happy. Stupid thing. Another leak. It isn’t enough that I mend the nets for you, but I’m in business with my brother to actually take you out and drop the nets. And no, it’s not as if you actually talk. We just see the bubble from the tiny spacing and then its me rowing while my brothers scoop out water. It’s become routine with you.

What is this life? Every day it’s the same. There is no grand picture. I fish. We eat. If there is money left over, we sell. I take the money, I repair the nets, caulk the ship, wait, and fish again. Life is not a line, it’s a circle. I wake up in the morning and repeat. The sun rises and falls on the Lake of Gennesaret, James and John get in the other boats, we fish, we wash our nets, we sleep, we wake, the sun rises and falls on the Lake of Gennesaret, do you see?

Sometimes when the waves roll this stinking boat up and down, I dream of being a great man. Of doing something great.

What’s that? Oh what am I doing? I am pondering greatness. Yeah I got it. Do you know what he thinks would be great? Caulking the sides of this stinking ship.

SIMEON

Lord, I am waiting to see.

BLIND MAN

Lord, I am waiting to see.

ELIZABETH

I wait on you, Lord.

PETER

(sighing and nodding) I am waiting. What have you made me to be?

(Lights down.)

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