Saturday, December 26, 2009


So long
I have watched the world turning
Have seen the petty greed, the vanity,
The prideful rage, the hearts that nurse their hurts:
The dragging of the vision through the dust.

They speak the law
With pious lips that never kissed the flame
Of love’s bright glory, tongues untouched by coals.
Words of light
Are darkness at their speaking, nooses spun
To trip unwary men and cause their hurt.
I have seen hate
Nursed, like an idol, in the holy place:
My heart was sick, my very stomach sour.

“Where is your God?” the mocking shadows taunt.

I will keep the faith – though it is not mine, but yours,
The word once given
And never taken back -- I will believe it.
I will stand on ramparts of my soul,
Surveying sorrow,
And let this hunger be my prayer to you.

For I know that you will come
Not in shadow, but substance,
Your word fulfilled in flesh like unto mine
Reversing history with audacious love.
And, though I walk in darkness,
I am blessed.
I shall embrace my God.

Hidden among the crowd: man, woman, child.
The common place pious poor, on a common day,
When the temple groaned with tiredness.
There was no beauty
Particular to them.
No angels sang, the sky stayed just the same.

And yet I knew, I knew my peace had come.
The Spirit’s whisper shouted in my heart,
“This is the One!”
In my weak arms He lay,
Sovereign and savior, yes! My very God!
A little child who’ll wipe all tears away.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Donkey Remembers

Ok, I know that the donkey is possibly a pious fiction (though not a ridiculous one -- the poor woman was 9 months pregnant after all!) and there's no mention of other animals in the biblical narrative -- but sometimes a little creative licence gives us a fresh perspective.


I never minded the weight. She was such a slight, young thing, even though she was swollen with the child inside. She seemed barely old enough to become a mother, but I guess that’s the way of it, isn’t it? She swayed with me as I walked, and never grabbed or pulled. He was different, older, had obviously knocked around the world a bit, and knew his hay from his thistles, as they say. But when they looked at each other, softly, shyly, there was something so delicate and tender between them that it was almost enough to warm me in the frosty air. And when they looked at each other like that it was as if the years flowed off him and onto her, he seemed awkward, uncertain, as if he wasn’t quite sure what she wanted from him, and she seemed completely at rest, as if all the clamour on the road around them never touched her at all.

The journey itself was uneventful, except it was rather slow, there were so many people going hither and yon, as if the whole world was moving house at once. And it was obvious that, for all her quiet ways, the lady couldn’t travel very fast. But he took good care of her, and of me, and every time he helped her back up onto my back he would look me in the eye and tell me to take care, because I was carrying the most precious thing in the world. I supposed that was what every father says – now I wonder ..

It was when we reached the town (and such a little town to be worth the bother of such a journey!) that things became less ordinary. Apparently there was some problem with where they were going to stay; several times the man knocked on doors, had a short, disappointing conversation and came back sadly. We would move to another street, another door, and the same thing would happen again. The lady had grown very quiet, very still, and I could almost feel her pain as her body tensed in silence. After several such conversations, he turned back, looked at her face and then asked, almost whispering, “Is it time?” She nodded, scarce able to speak, and he took her hand and held it for a long moment, then returned to the door that had just closed behind him and knocked again. This time I could hear an extra note of pleading that had not been in his voice before, and apparently the other person heard it too, for a long conversation followed. This time we did not set off down the street again, but went around the back of the building into a room. There were beasts stalled there, and clean straw, and hay in the manger. Everything I needed at the end of a long, hard day. I slept, ignoring the sounds of human bustle.

Hours later, in the cold quietness, the still-point of the night, I was woken by a new sound: the thin, sharp cry of a newborn human baby. The man was holding the child and a long strip of cloth and looking very awkward. “Here, let me do it,” said the woman softly, and proceeded to wrap the child firmly.

But something else was tugging at my senses and confusing me –a soft, faint sound of music. It seemed to be coming from the sky. “That’s ridiculous,” I thought to myself, but I was wrong. Ridiculous or not, it was happening. Soon it was beyond doubtful, every note came with silver clarity. It was the moment when I discovered that even a poor man’s donkey is capable of tears. And in bad moments since then, I have recalled the beauty of that music and found my way back to peace. To know that such music exists, and that it broke through into the world that night, is an incredible gift.

Just as the music was fading away, several men appeared – shepherds by the look of them. It was amazing enough to get any visitors in the cold, pre-dawn darkness, that shepherds should leave their sheep at such an hour, the hour of the wolf, was even more surprising. They were out of breath, and from the look of them they had probably run all the way from the fields.

The man and the woman looked up startled, and the man moved defensively in front of his wife and child. “What do you want?” he asked, grasping for his walking staff.
“We mean no harm,” said the foremost shepherd, still breathing hard.”We have come to see the child.” The man still looked defensive, but I was watching the woman’s face at that moment, and I saw her look up with wonder and sudden understanding. The shepherd, seeing the man still hesitate, went on talking, his tongue almost falling over itself in his eagerness to explain, as if the mere retelling of events would make new sense of them. It was a confusing story, full of angels, and God and someone called David, but one thing was obvious, this was no ordinary baby. Most babies do not have messengers coming down out of heaven to announce their birth. I felt a great wonder, but also a great fear, and as the lady lifted up the child to show them, I found myself kneeling down before the child. It was only some minutes later, when the moment had passed, that I realised that the other creatures there had done the same.

There is much I don’t fully understand, but that chilly night, in that dark little room, in such an ordinary, almost pathetic place, was the greatest moment of my life. I have seen holiness, and I was forever changed by the experience.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


This week's challenge? A poem ending with the words "The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations"

This first was named delight. Here grew
Beauty. The pristine morning of the world
Sang with the stars, and all was loveliness.
And in the centre grew the tree of pain
The place of choosing, there to choose awry:
Tears turned to acid, burned with bitter dust,
The clamour of great falling. Death. Decay.
The dizzy flailing of a flaming sword.

Here olives grew and moonlight overwhelmed,
And in the shadows stood the terrible.
Death gaped and whispered through the echoing trees.
There was a dreadful shadow, as of thorns,
There was the cup of anguish offered, drunk,
And pure bright courage, trembling with great sweat,
Stepped forth near naked, only clothed in love
To be impaled upon the tree of life.

Here now I cultivate amongst the thorns,
And choke upon the stubborn, eager weeds,
And bear the burden of the barren rocks,
The rage of sun, the sullenness of flesh,
The misery of dreams unrealised.
How shall your true fruit grow in stony ground?
How shall your spirit labour with my flesh,
To bear the beauty of yourself in me?

And the last garden as a city comes
Dressed in her nuptial glory, without sun
Nor moon, nor death, nor any kind of pain.
The curse is gone, the living water flows
And he is on the throne, and we in him
To reign. And here one tree in glory grows
With never-failing fruit, and the leaves
Of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Most of you who know me already know that I am a Christian egalitarian. I respect my complementarian brothers and sisters, but disagree with their interpretation of scripture. However, when it comes to hyper patriarchy, I actually believe that it's something different from a variant nuance of interpretation.Excuse the strength of my language, but I really believe that "religion" that relegates women to being mere appendages of men, something less than fully human in their own right, is ultimately evil. This is what I wrote as a comment on another blog:

Y’know, re:#299, I actually believe that patriarchy is a religion, a false religion that goes right back to the fall and is demonic in origin. “Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you” — it’s a prediction of the grief which is to come. God created woman to be not just man’s ezer (help) but his ezer kenegedo — one who is an exact counterpart, standing side by side with him to build a kingdom of love and light. But it didn’t last

She who was to be by his side is now put under his thumb, and the richness they could give to one another is despised and disparaged. Power and control is worshipped, and man makes gods in his own image, instead of conforming to the image of God. He no longer wants a strong partner, he wants a child-wife, and every perversion follows, as lust becomes conjoined with the lust for power. He no longer trusts woman, so he has to defeat her. Wives and children are pawns in this game of power and dominion. Love grows cold and is replaced by the rage of the chronically insecure.

I actually believe that when Christians embrace patriarchy it is just as much syncretism as when Israel of old tried to worship both Baal and Yahweh. The Kingdom of God is not about who is the greatest, but about who is willing to serve.And it isn’t one morality for males and a different one for females. There aren’t pink and blue fruit of the Spirit.

This false religion is pernicious, and has tempted the human race right through history. The old religions worshipped phallic symbols as the ultimate expressions of god-like power — has anything changed?
“And I will set enmity between you (Satan) and the woman ..”

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Another writing challenge -- begin with the word "tomorrow" andset it in a time of change for the character

Tomorrow the plane will land and she will be in the far away country. She will be alone, gloriously, terrifyingly alone, and probably very, very lonely. But, be honest, when was the last time she wasn’t lonely? Their relationship was a farce, a bitter caricature of all that love is supposed to be; and she was never more alone than when he put his arms around her.

Truth hurts, and this truth hurt horribly, as if the whole world had played a mean, cruel joke on her. But it wasn’t the whole world, only him; yet, in that time, in that place, he had been her whole world, and she had thought all the rest of the world well lost in order to be his. And yet, even then, at the beginning, it had all been a monstrous lie, a cruel and pointless abuse of her trust. And what she felt most ashamed of now was not the things he had done to her (she knew the blame for that was solely, totally, his), but that she had been so gullible, so stupid. The counsellor had told her not to blame herself, that men like that were professional deceivers, but she had always prided herself on being intelligent and perceptive – perhaps it was her pride that was most deeply injured?

She owed that counsellor a lot, for relentlessly, almost brutally, she had kept naming his behaviour for what it was, using labels that sliced through many foggy layers of excuses. In the beginning he had made wonderful excuses for himself, spinning stories of such convincing pathos that she ended up feeling sorry for him when he victimised her; soon he had her so convinced that she made the excuses for him all on her own. She shook her head at the memory.

Tomorrow would be different: a new country, a new life – at least for a season, until she could forget, until she felt truly safe to return. Strange that she had never told him that the name he knew her by was not her legal name, the name written on her passport; that she had anglicised both her first and last names in order to fit in. Even her initials were different. And because he had so quickly isolated her from her family, he had never even realised her ethnic origin. Strange? Or some blessed gift of self-preservation? Now he could not stalk her, could not haunt her. She had cut and dyed the long hair he had insisted on, bought herself new clothes, and finally was beginning to convince herself that she was no longer that shamed, helpless, injured woman whose life had only begun to change one night when she desperately entered a hospital casualty department.

It was time to try and sleep, if sleep she could. Sleep had been one of the first casualties in that long maelstrom of emotion, and she was still regaining it. “I am safe, I am safe, “ she murmured, breathing in and out slowly, deliberately. Even money, whose lack so often shackled the abused, had been provided. Again, knowing and caring nothing about her wider family, he had not known of the old uncle who had recently died and left her a nice little legacy. She remembered with a shudder those days when she could not leave the house because he had taken the car and her wallet. She had been so helpless, just a punching bag to exercise his ego against. But never again – those days were finished, flushed away like the dirty water from an overdue bath. Her mouth could not resist twitching into a smile, and, amazed and delighted at her own sense of empowerment, she summoned the stewardess and requested a celebratory glass of champagne.