The Captain’s Voyage

In this story, the earth was flat, and the edge was terrible! The land was on the edge of the plate, with waters in the middle and below it cascading waterfalls over the edge into the abyss below. In from the rim, there was a great and vast sea that spread over the whole area within the Rim World, and in the center of the Sea was rumored a dark hole, ever enshrouded in cloud and rain. The waters flowed in the sea out from the center, onto the beaches of the Rim World, and underneath eroding the underside. The inhabitants of the Rim World knew or chose not to know that they and the land were doomed to destruction, should no way of escape be found. Many lived inland as far from either shore they could to feel the security of land everywhere their eyes looked, still others sought to turn away from the waters of judgment flowing from the Center, and stared off the terrible edge into the black seeking false promises of salvation in the Abyss itself. But from this abyss, no salvation could be found.

Still others looked from the shore of the Rim World to the inner Sea, and in this world, sooner or later, most people came to take up the profession of Sailing. Ships sailed around and around the Rim and the Center. Every once in a while, the Column of cloud and swirl of rain in the distance at the center lit up with a golden flash like a lantern. One time this happened, a Captain in port of the Rim met a man who told of one who had fallen into the Center Abyss and had returned. He said, for those who have the courage, the center is the doorway to a New Heavenly World. There was also a story that the waters near the centered flowed down from the Heavens, and that the Center let anyone whose ship belonged to the Master of the Seas to sail among the Heavens with Him. And so the flashes of gold would light up the dismal hopeless lands as reportedly, a ship would rise from the Center up to the Heaven World.

This Captain believed, and started preparing his vessel, setting off from port. Many had attempted this journey, but few completed it. The Water flowed contrary to the Vessel out from the Center, but the Wind blew ever toward the Center. But people would go so far and roll up their sails, or suffer themselves to be driven back to the Rim. But the Heaven World was for those whose sails were open on their journey to the Center.

The Captain settled in his heart he and his crew were going to the Center. He knew the Rim world was doomed to fall into the nothingness over the edge, so being pulled out to sea, he opened his sails and waited. The Holy Wind filled his sails and carried him along. At first, he rode around staying near the shore empowered by this new wind, but he soon learned that the wind bore a voice that spoke to him in the rattling and flapping of the sails calling him to remember his quest, and the One who went before. So with his crew, he and a fleet of sailing ships made for the ominous cloud round the hole that was hastening the rim’s demise with its downpour.

In a fearsome fog and storm, the Captain had to learn to follow the Voice on the Wind alone and soon came through the fog, along with a handful of boats. The rest stayed in the fog or turned back.

As they sailed, they came upon a Cruise ship which had dropped anchor part way between the center and the land at a little floating dock in the water. People were celebrating the Wind’s cool breeze and their avoidance of the Rim world’s destruction, and they powered their docks with windmills. Being content with company and this world, often they would sail back and forth between the Rim and the floating town, to repeat the simulation of their journey to the center. But often such docks lasted only a short while in these turbulent seas, and people left floating would either go back to the Rim world, or struggle to build another wharf. Still others would return to their original quest. This last group was very few.

The Captain moored in this floating harbor called “Near Gathering” and when he saw that it would one day fall, sinking daily despite the efforts of the cruise ship captain, he listened for the wind, which spoke of a specific path to the Center he must take. He announced to his fellow captains, whose boats were all moored there like cars in a parking lot, and said to them, “The Wind has spoken to me, if I am to reach the Center, this is my path to take. What say you? Will anyone go with me?” Many counseled him to stay and help keep their floating wharf afloat, but some who knew the true aim of any Sailor’s quest committed them to the Voice on the Wind they all heard, and the Captain moved beyond, now with a couple of ships following him.

The Next journey’s stage was choppy but wind-swept. Wreckages of ships sailing for the Center nearly lost, with flotsam and jetsam and men and women overboard. The Captain and his crew had been charged with the task of rescue and recovery; but many they rescued wished only to return to land, some wanted to return to the floating wharf, and the Captain sailed to and from the Wharf to drop people off. Eventually, he saw that there was too much work for him alone to accomplish for those shipwrecked between the Center and the Rim world. He knew two causes of the ship-wrecks: a sea serpent beneath the surface and jagged rocks upon which other former captains now stood to raid and commandeer other ships in waters choppy and churning not only with the downpour of water not far away, but the swirling sea monster they had been un-shipped to serve. Each was the King of his own island, and they fought each other, except when it came to preventing other captains from reaching the Center. Then they worked together.

The Captain kept his sails open as he steered past these jagged rocks, ever listening to the Voice on the Wind and being vigilant for the attacks, persuasions, or feigned friendship of the other Entrapping Captains seeking to plunder the treasure his vessel had gathered with the flotsam and jetsam and to rule yet another minion of their own dark corners of the world. The flow of water was against, the comfort of land behind drew them back, the encouragement of the floating wharf seemed more palatable, and the work of rescuing shipwrecked was so necessary. Perhaps this Captain should turn back, he wondered.

But no. He had set out for the New Country. The Heaven World. These who blocked the way were preventing many from entering and were themselves not entering. Woe to them! They had taken their stand in opposition to the Master of the Sea’s intention to let all who wish, come and enter in. He denounced them on their threatening Spires and bade them repent and stop oppressing the poor, and instead leave their tiny Rim-worlds and get onto his ship as he made for the Heaven world. None heeded his call, and now, a fear of the Master of the Seas constrained them, from their attack. Sailing wind-swept and voice-led, he passed the row of jagged rocks that were all that remained from here to the whirlpool at the center or so he thought.

The Sea Serpent ruled these lands directly, and began battering the Ship. The Captain quailed at first wondering if it was too late to turn back for the Rim world, but then he remembered the Joy of the Heaven world and he turned his wheel to tack full force on the Wind. He was so near the edge of the whirlpool now. At the very last, as the keel of his ship broke the wall of the Swirl, the sea serpent charged its head straight through the heart of the ship, and reared its ugly dragonhead at him. Many of his men went overboard as the ship lifted up out of the water, but the Captain held his wheel fast. “You have failed,” he cried, “For I am still kept by the Wind, and He will carry me to His everlasting Kingdom.” And so the Dragon could not withstand the wind and the rain here so near to the Center, and falling backwards he descended down the black pit being cast cast down until he was seen no more. The Ship settled back in the water now began to founder and was caught in the swell of the Sea’s whirlpool, spinning downward, downward toward the dark into which the serpent had fallen. All grew dark around the Captain and his men.

Then, suddenly, the torrent of black and water around him turned to golden light caught in the now illuminated water swirling like blown glass windows gleaming with the light of the sun. The Ship once descending was now ascending and or a moment the swirl of water pulsing out from the center ceased as the whirlpool’s polarity reversed. The clouds broke, the rain stopped, and all around the world from the jagged rocks to the shipwrecked peoples, to the floating wharf, to the fog enshrouded to the newly sailing, to the Rim world inhabitants, to those on the edge of oblivion, all of them saw that familiar glow at the Center of the flat earth. They saw someone had made it. The water’s outflow was stilled, and it was easier to sail toward this beacon of light again; so like many moths to a flame, the sea was filled with white sails all endeavoring to make the same journey to the New Heaven World.

For the Captain and the few of his crew who clung to the Ship, their rising up was a joy and a celebration. They praised the Maker of this way, and eagerly awaited their new home to which they neared moment by moment. Beyond the clouds and rain and out of sight of the jagged rocks, and treacherous waters, they came to a fair mild water way above the one they had just left. The Ship with its breached hull was changed to now be made of wood that would never sink. It bore the scars of its battles, and its treasures that were fit for this new world, and the Captain felt the Wind not only in the Sails, but all around him.

He lifted his eyes and saw a Heavenly Kingdom: a great golden city on land, and the waters were not flat, but rather they continued perpetually in a sphere and the Kingdom was alight all around as if the Blue sky above and the land all about glowed as with a light within and without. A Small sea round the portal flowed down in a waterfall, but the further away the ship sailed, it narrowed to a river which the Captain steered no longer to navigate. Rather, the wind carried him up the River of life; on either side of the River grew trees of different fruit and the city of Gold rose up on either side; the River ended at a great throne, and the One who sat upon it was the one whose Wind had carried His voice. He said, “Welcome home, Captain.”

And there was great celebration as the one who sat enthroned was praised for the Rescue of another, and the Captain was given the Rank of Commodore, and given charge of ten cities in this new world. And he ruled at the side of His Master for the rest of forever.

The Mirror

Once upon a time, there was a magical mirror. Perhaps you’ve heard of one of these before. This full length mirror framed by gilded flowers had the ability to show the viewer not only what was on the outside, but it also showed what was on the inside of a person. A good person would look into the mirror and would see a beautiful face staring back. A bad person would look into the mirror and see an ugly face staring back. Many people from distant lands came in search of the magic mirror, because they wanted to know what was in their heart. When people left, some of them were in tears, some were rejoicing, others screamed, and others were silent.

The Keeper of the Mirror was a middle-aged man named Henley. He had a daughter named Blaine. Henley told Blaine when she was 12 that she was ready to look into the mirror. His only caution was, “Don’t believe everything you see. There is more behind the mirror.” The child nodded and looked into the mirror for the first time. Staring back was a beautiful face, but as she smiled at her reflection, her teeth were green and sharp. She covered them up with her hand, and her hands were like claws. Her face recoiled and the eyes bulged out too large for her head. She looked away from the mirror, covered her face, and told her father, “Father, I am hideous!”

The old man knelt down in front of her and said, “Look into my face.” She looked. “What do you see?”

She looked and saw his eyes full of compassion and his gentle smile. She didn’t answer him.

“Remember what I told you when you look into the mirror, “Don’t believe everything you see. There is more behind the mirror.”

“So, I’m not ugly?”

“What you saw was true, but about your heart, and what is in your heart will come through your face.”

“Why were my teeth green and sharp, why did I have claws, why did I have eyes too big for my face?”

“That is something only the Maker of the Mirror can tell you.”

“Where is he?” Blaine asked

“If you look for him, you’ll find him.”

“I don’t think I want to. What if he tells me that what I saw was true?”

“That is something for all people who look into the mirror to decide: What will they do with what they see?” said Henley, and then he put his arm around his daughter and led her out of the Chamber.

That night, after Henley had gone to bed, Blaine got up and went to the mirror chamber alone. She couldn’t help but look again to see if it was the same. She trembled, but she also was drawn inescapably it seemed.

Entering the chamber, she uncovered the full-length mirror framed by golden crafted flowers, but she couldn’t bring herself to look into it. She worked up the courage and looked, and there was a girl who was her, but the more she looked the more distorted the image became. Her nose became pointy, her shoulder’s slumped, her hair falling out. She wanted to smash the mirror as sobs racked her body. She crumpled to the ground crying.

She remembered her father’s words, “Don’t believe everything you see.” But if I’m not supposed to believe it, why did he let me see it? Does the mirror lie? Then, she remembered the second half of what he said, “There is more behind the mirror.” She looked up at the mirror frame. It was wide enough to be a door frame. She covered the mirror, and then grabbing ether side of the mirror, she wiggled it to see if it would move. It moved on the right side.

The mirror swung open, and in that dark chamber, a new doorway opened up. Inside the doorway was a craftsman’s shop. She walked in and saw many crafts hanging on the wall. Many mirrors not like the magic mirror.

She walked past them toward the lamp-light at the workbench on the far side of the Craftsman’s Shop.

“It’s a bit late” said the voice of a man with a tinker’s helmet on at the work bench “To be up and about, isn’t it?”

“Who are you?” said Blaine shakily.

“I am a craftsman.”

“Are you the Maker of the Mirror?”

“I am.” said the man.

“Then can you tell me why I saw what I saw?”

“I can, if you want to know.”

“Why were my teeth green and sharp, why did I have claws, why did I have eyes too big for my face? Was it real what I saw or was it a lie?”

“All my looking glasses tell the truth. Your teeth are green and sharp because you are greedy and the things you love are not all good. Your hands have claws because your fear makes you fight others, you had eyes too big for your face because you are proud and think too much of yourself.”

The girl was angry, but slowly as she breathed she knew what he said was true.

“I guess that means I’m ugly. She said sadly.

“Only if you want to stay that way. That is something for all people who look into the mirror to decide: What will they do with what they see?”

“What can I do?”

“Nothing. Your heart is something you don’t have the power to change.”

Her heart sank.

“But that’s not the right question.” continued the craftsman

“What is the right question?”

“‘What can I do?'” Said the Craftsman.

Blaine hesitated, “What can you do?”

“I can show you another mirror.”

He offered her a way over to the other side of the workshop. There was a mirror with a very different frame. It had a ring of thorns around it.

“Will it show me what is in my heart?”

“Yes.” he said.

“Will it be true?”

“Yes. All my looking glasses tell the truth.” he responded gravely.

“But what if I see the ugliness again. I couldn’t bear to see that all again.”

“There is more for you to see if you will seek for it.”

Blaine looked at the thorns, and she felt like she had seen more than she wanted to see already. She turned to leave the craftsman’s shop, but at the doorway of the first mirror she stopped, and her head hung sadly.

“What if my ugliness is really all there is?” She said.

A voice behind her gently called, “It may be, but if you will not look into this mirror, then the mirror outside will be all you have seen. Everyone must look into that mirror, but there is more, if you will see it.”

A tear clouded the surface of her eye, and she blinked it back. She turned back to the craftsman. She walked across the shop, slowly, up to the thorny mirror, and with a feeling like resignation, she lifted her eyes to look.

The face staring back at her was her own. Again she saw the teeth were green, the hands were claws, her eyes too big. She looked and her lips trembled at what she saw. The nose was pointy, her shoulders looked frail and slumped and her hair was falling out.

Then. . . she noticed the other person in the reflection. The Maker of the Mirror stood beside her without his tinkering helmet, and his own reflection came into it, and she saw his face. To her amazement, It was brilliant like the sun shining bright and beautiful, and and she realized the beauty of the heart of the one who stood beside her. It was comforting, but also terrifying, because she saw her own ugliness right next to his beauty.

She looked away from the mirror at him frozen to the spot not sure if she wanted to run or cry.

“Who . . . Who are you?”

“I make things.” He said smiling. “And I also remake things.”

Then, with his two strong hands, he turned the mirror and stepped to the side. Now when she looked into the mirror, all she saw was his reflection glowing at her, and slowly, his reflection, started to take her distortions, and put them on himself. Now He was horrific and ugly looking, his teeth greened, his hands clawed, his eyes big, his nose pointy, his shoulders slumped, and his hair falling out. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing: her ugliness had been transferred to him. She felt so awful that it was her ugliness had caused him to be so disfigured.

Then, he turned the mirror back to her, and she looked and saw her face again. Her face had changed and she gasped. There was no longer any distortion of her features. All of them had been taken away. Instead, her face was glowing and youthful. It beamed like the sun just as His did. She cried again, but this time the tears were happy.

She looked away from the mirror, and saw the Maker standing there, with his eyes full of compassion and love. His own face was still bright with joy.

She was silent.

“How?” she finally asked.

“I made this mirror for you, to remake you.”

“You know me?”

“I’ve been waiting for you. I had hoped you would find me here.” He said.

“My father told me there was more behind the mirror. Why do you hide behind the mirror?”

“Not many people are ready for what I have to show them. Only those who seek me diligently are ready to find me.”

Blaine’s heart was full of peace. “What do I do now?”

“Take this mirror with you. Use it to show others what I have done for you.”

She took the thorny frame into her hands. One of the barbs pricked her finger, and she said, “Ow. Why is my frame so thorny?”

“That, you will understand more in time.” the Maker said.

She took the mirror to her room and went back to sleep. From then on, every time she looked, she remembered the face of the man who made her mirror, and who remade her. And when she grew up, she became the Keeper of the Mirror in place of her father.

The King and His Champion

Once upon a time in a Kingdom ruled by a very wise King, there was a certain knight who was famous for feats of gallantry in battle. This knight was the best sword fighter, best with a spear, best with a bow and arrow, best at jousting– All the Kingdom knew and saluted this champion and praised and cheered each victory.

But under the armor, the knight was very unhappy. Every day this knight would ride into battle with this fear: “I am not worthy to be loved just for me.” This champion also had one weakness carefully concealed: being incredibly slow at running. Because of this, could you guess how many foot races this knight entered? That’s right. Zero!

Until one day, the King made a proclamation that he was holding a footrace in which every knight in his service must compete. But as a peculiar twist, one knight was to wear the King’s own colors. Can you guess which one? Yup. our very own best-at-almost-everything champion. How do you think that knight felt?

The day of the race arrived, and the King’s champion was sick with worry. Soon the whole kingdom would see just how unworthy this knight was to wear the King’s colors. The race began. Very soon every other knight had passed the “champion” who at this moment was feeling like anything but a “champion.” The race concluded and every knight crossed the finish line, but last of all, a whole minute later, in front of the whole laughing crowd of the kingdom, and in front of the King, hustled the Knight who carried the kings colors.

How embarrassing! Can you imagine how that knight felt then? That knight was so mortified with shame, that off came the kings colors, and left off was the armor of a knight, and our hero went home and stayed inside too ashamed to be seen in the kingdom again.

Then one day, a knock came at the door of the knight’s house. It was the King himself! The knight blushed for shame. What could the king want with such a disgraceful, unworthy champion.

“I want you to come back into my service as my own personal assistant.” said the King.

“My Lord, why? Why would you want such a slow foot-soldier in your service? And why would you have ME run in the race wearing your colors?”

The king answered, “I have watched you fight so hard to prove to everyone and yourself that you are worthy of admiration and love, but I organized the race to teach you that love is something you cannot win. Love is a gift. I do not love you because you’re the best. I choose you and love you because I see your heart and I treasure it. You will be my errand runner if you will accept my love.”

The knight was speechless and from somewhere deep inside tears streamed down. The King came near and embraced the knight. From that day on, the champion happily became personal assistant for the King and did not care about being the best fighter or the fastest, because of this truth: he was loved just for him.

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This story is was written for a friend who I recognized was struggling with tendencies to cover feelings of unworthiness with achievement. The ending can also read: she was loved just for her.

I Got Pulled Over…

Some of my thoughts on the Black Lives Matter controversy are in this story.

I got pulled over.

Around midday, I was driving my ’97 F-150 home from a Mediterranean restaurant down 484. I was in a hurry to get home so I accelerated to make a yellow light that turned red before I went under it. Immediately, I heard the chirp of the siren and saw the lights dancing behind me. I pulled over into a parking lot, and I was not ready for what happened next.

Before the officer came over to the window I had both hands on the wheel and my license in my hand. I am white, and the officer that came up to my window was black.

“Hello.” said the officer.

“Hello, officer.” I said.

“You know why I pulled you over?”

Now, I had been feeling frustrated due to the reason for my visit to the Mediterranean restaurant, and I also have a high respect for law enforcement, so I’ll share with you what I said, and the conversation that followed.

“Yes sir, I do. I know I ran a red light back there, and I am sorry. I can explain the situation if you would be willing to hear it. But even if you’re not willing to listen, I understand what I did was wrong. I broke the law. Would you please be willing to hear me as I share with you what is personally going on?”

“Okay.” The officer said shifting his weight to get comfortable listening to me.

“I love my wife. She wanted some Mediterranean food for lunch, and she only had an hour for us to eat lunch together. I wanted to get her some food she wanted because she’s cooped up doing work training on Zoom because of the Pandemic. I was delayed getting the food because there were other people ahead of me, and when I came back it was 40 minutes into her lunch break. When she opened the black bags she didn’t have any sauce or humus. And the menu online was not set up right, so I offered to go back to the restaurant and get her sauce and humus, and to let them know they needed to update her menu. So I went back just now, got the stuff and by this time, I have driven 15 minutes there, 15 minutes back, 15 minutes there again, and now I’m trying to get back because she’s hungry, even though I won’t be able to enjoy lunch break with her. And when I saw the light turn yellow, I was like, “No!” and I pushed for it. And it turned red. I shouldn’t have, but I was frustrated and acted out of that frustration.

“I am sorry. I recognize what I should have done, and I ask you for a warning. I am not entitled to one, and I don’t deserve one, but I boldly ask you for one. I trust your judgment in this case, and if you give me a ticket, I will receive it.”

The officer paused a moment and took my license and said, “Wait here.”

He went back to his car, and looked through, presumably my traffic record. After about 5 minutes he came back to say this:

“Sir, I see in my records that you are a teacher at a Christian school is that right?

“Yes sir.”

“If any one of those kids saw you run that red light what would you say to them?”

“I would tell them I was wrong to do so and that I have repented.”

“You better have. I see on my records you’ve gotten pulled over one other time for running a red light, and you told the officer that time it was due to ‘frustration’.”

“Yes sir.”

“You need to deal with this frustration issue. I don’t want to catch you doing this again. Red lights aren’t optional. You could get yourself or someone else seriously hurt.”

“Yes sir.”

“That’s your warning.” He said as put his notepad back into his pocket. “Now, I’d like to ask you a personal question, if you’re willing.”

My eyebrows furrowed as I blinked and said, “Okay.”

“Does your wife usually send you back to get things that restaurants miss?”

“No sir. This is something I wanted to do for her.”

“Alright,” the officer said as he pulled out his wallet and handed me 40 dollars! “This should cover it.”

I was shocked as I said, “Officer, this is not necessary.”

“You teach the Bible, right?” asked the officer.

“Yes sir.” I answered

“Then you probably know that in Romans 13, it says the governing authorities are servants of God for good, to punish evil behavior and praise the good. Your willingness to go and make things right for your wife is commendable, so let me help cover the cost.”

Tears filled my eyes and streaked my cheeks as I reached out my hand to shake his hand.

“Thank you, sir. I know things are really hard for the police right now. I just want you to know how glad I am that there are those of you on the force who seek not only punitive justice, but restorative justice.”

The officer shook my hand firmly and said, “I hope I never forget that.”

He bid me “Take care,” and I went home to my wife.

The story is fictional, but should it be?

I have seen Enough–Part 3

Suddenly, countless gleaming jewels of all different colors covered the surface of the earth. Each one in turn told the Story in a different way. Their multi-colored glow grows brighter and brighter.

The one who stood to the East said:

-I see the tree a bounty of seeds has born.
-The fruit is sweet yet hemmed about with thorns.
-Broken o’er creation again is the new light of day.
-Brightening more brilliantly, chasing night away.
-The Man also, he is reborn
-With joy he bears suffering and scorn.
-His re-creation has made him play and sing
-To his Creator for all things new making.
I . . .

The one who stood to the South said:

-I see the world still fallen down so steep.
-Injustice’s wounds have run so deep.
-Still there is something which smacks of injustice
-To self, so that others may become rich.
-The Man also, is failing and broken.
-He toils to heal deep wounds unspoken.
-He chooses to make himself nothing
-That through his poverty others might have life abounding.
I have . . .

The one who stood to the West said:

-I see death here still takes its toll.
-Like a great tide it’s waters still roll.
-And yet each death like a crushed leaf.
-Bears the promise of life that spells death’s defeat.
-The Man also, his days are few.
-His death is like to the Man who knew.
-Yet, in his end, he bears witness
-Of the life beyond which he meets with bliss.
I have seen . . .

The one who stood to the North said:

-I see the powers of the world are crumbling
-They thrash and clamber to scramble out from tumbling
-Into the chasm opening beneath to finish him off
-As a new kingdom eternally takes its place built on solid rock.
-The Man also, rejects power as futile.
-He takes his stand while the earth sinks around him.
-He opens his arms to receive the penitent
-And the power and riches of the new Kingdom, he shares
. . . enough!

And The Voice came from the throne above:

“Have you seen enough?”

I Have Seen Enough Part 2.

Then all four looked and recognized something in their midst and each in
turn said:

I see a tree sprung up from the ground.
I see lifeless limbs bear the grief for those standing around.
I see lightning split death’s silent sky at the ninth hour.
I see on display the prize and ends of all wealth and power.
The Man also, is bringing new life by dying.
The Man is weak yet showing enormous strength
The Man is finished, yet eternal in his impact
The Man is powerful, yet makes himself nothing.
This doesn’t make sense.

Then it went deep into the center of it all, and the four saw the transformation:

Can it be? It is as it was from the beginning
Can it be? The poor are clothed in raiment of splendor
Can it be? The dead are raised to life everlasting
Can it be? The wealthy and powerful on earth are defeated
See the Man also! He makes all things new.
The Man in his weakness is made strong
The Man has died once, now lives forever.
The Man is worthy of all honor and power.
We have seen enough.

Then the Man rose up to the One who was above them, and sat at His right hand and said:

“There is still more.”

I Have Seen Enough–Part 1

And the one who stood to the East said:

– I have seen Your life and it is good
– Each day begins with light and hope
– Each tree bears fruit and sweetly carries
– The glory of the tree for a while tarries
– The Man also, his life is good
– Each birth is a bright sunrise of hope
– In his offspring Heaven’s joy is sweet
– And the prime of his life is sacred.
I have seen enough.

And the one who stood to the South said:

– I have seen frailty and emptiness and loss
– Poverty sweeps the world like a flood
– Broken relationships twixt all things bringing sorrow
– And when all is done, if it matters none can know.
– The Man also, is weak and fraught with loss
– His injustices strip him of his dignity.
– He fights his neighbor and both are filled with sorrow
– His life is fleeting, and if it matters none can know.
I have seen enough.

And the one who stood to the West said:

– I have seen the end of all things.
– The Past: the receiver of all that lives in time.
– I see Darkness deepening where once was light.
– The stop is sudden. then all is silent night.
– The Man also, his end is near
– His works may out last, but only for a time.
– His heart is dark staring into that night
– The end is inevitable whether wrong or right.
I have seen enough.

And the one who stood to the North said,

– I have seen both wealth and power.
– They course through the world like a poisoned flower
– They rob the weak many and feed the rich few.
– They kill the righteous and boast against You.
– The Man also, is drunk with wealth and power
– He raises his glass, toasting himself man of the hour.
– He squashes the poor and praises the brutal
– He slaughters the righteous and wars against You.
I have seen enough.

And the One who was above them said,
– “There is still more.”

God’s Rules Interpreted for Kids (A GOSPEL!)

God is the One who made everything, and he loves everyone. He needs us to do the right thing and stop doing bad things. These are His rules.

  1. There is only One God: Him. No other gods are allowed.
  2. Don’t make statues of God or worship them. God is represented by living humans, not nonliving stone or wood or metal.
  3. Treat God’s name respectfully.
  4. Make sure to take a day to rest to remember what God is really like.
  5. Respect your parents, so you’ll have a long life.
  6. Don’t kill someone, or want to kill someone, value other people’s lives.
  7. (This one is *mainly* for grownups) Don’t share your deepest heart or body with someone other than the person you’re married to.
  8. Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you, but respect other people’s stuff.
  9. Don’t try to get people to believe things that aren’t true; instead help people believe the truth.
  10. Don’t wish you had what other people had, but be thankful for what you have.

Above all the two most important rules which sum these up are: Love God with your entire being, thinking, and doing, and Love the person next to you as much as you love yourself.

And for the most advanced rule followers: As Jesus Christ has loved you, love other people in the same way! (This one requires a bit of study and experience to follow, because that’s how you learn all the ways that Jesus Christ has loved you.)

Why this is important

The reason why all of this is important is because all of us have done wrongs things, and the older we get the more wrong things we will do. Remember that God has to punish people who do wrong things in order to be fair. He will judge everyone in the whole world unless they are willing to ask God to forgive them, to say they’re sorry, and to stop doing those bad things. The punishment for sin is death and God’s standard for who gets punished is if they match up with Jesus’ perfect obedience. I can’t obey God perfectly like Jesus did, and neither can you.

Now, He is fair, but He is also merciful. God sent Jesus not only to set the standard, but also to give his life on the cross to take the place of anyone who wishes for God to forgive them. That way God gets to be both fair and merciful. Those who ask Him to forgive them, He forgives. Not only that, but He also gives his Holy Spirit to those who ask for him, to help them do what is right. Only those who have the Holy Spirit living in them are able to obey God perfectly.

God has a plan for all of this. God wants people to be filled with his Spirit so that He can bring people everywhere back into a good relationship with Him. Then once he’s got all the people who will stop sinning, and start obeying on board, He will burn up this old earth and sky and make a new one where there are no bad things and no people who do bad things anymore. If you ask God to forgive you and give you his Holy Spirit to help you do the right thing, you too will be allowed to be in that New Earth and Sky. And God will build his house on earth with them, and they will all live and reign in the new Earth like Kings and Queens forever and ever. If you don’t, there is an fire that never dies that will burn up all who do not ask God to forgive them, and receive his Holy Spirit. But if you do this, you will be called a Christian.

Now, the life of a Christian is hard, because the rest of the world is sinning against God and doesn’t want to serve God, but if we do what Jesus did, we will show the rest of the people in the world how God really loves them and wants them to repent so they can have a good relationship with Him again.

To the Laughing Son of God’s Grace

Dearest fellow Christ seeker!
– – In my search for Christ, I discovered some clues to the significance in his life in a deeper study of Luke’s Gospel, which I thought I’d share with you, “O most excellent Theophilus.”

Mary (Mariam) was a virgin in Nazareth, and Gabriel is sent from God to her. Suddenly this one who has stood before the face of Yahweh is speaking to her!

  • Gabriel’s first word is a very common greeting in those times, “Hey! May your days be well! Great to see you! Rejoice!” all summed up in “Greetings” My that english word can be a bit of a let-down, but in the original it’s a joyful salutation. It’s like “Heyyyyyyy!!!” with a big smile.
  • Then he calls her “highly favored.” It’s like In The Matrix, Dozer greets Neo with great excitement and anticipation for what is about to take place. The common solemnity of this occasion is enough to excite some people to fear, but here, this first word from Gabriel to Mary is very a version of: “Hey, you super-special person!”
  • The Lord is with you. He is not trying to calm her down yet. He is pointing out what David recognized is the source of the fullness of Joy. “The Presence of the Lord.”

These three parts of his salutation are awesome. It’s about to be some very good news. And earlier in the chapter we got an example of what happens when people don’t believe when an angel is telling them good news. Cousin Zacharias has been silenced now for over 6 months rather inexplicably, because this same angel delivered some super special news, and he didn’t believe him. Mary’s response however is very human and humble. She is doing two things. She is deeply perplexed through and through, and she’s also pondering what kind of visit this is.

Then Gabriel unloads on her a super-duper bombshell of a lifestory.

Now, just to reveal: as I studied each verse, I wondered “What it would mean if he had just stopped there?” What was the significance of everything Gabriel told Mary. Since it was divine communication, kept treasured forever in the heart of a human concerning the salvation of all humanity and the world, I figured it be worth looking into.

  • Don’t be afraid.–Mary needed to be calm enough to hear this.
  • You have found favor with God–It always starts with God’s grace!
  • Behold you will conceive in womb–Life will start
  • And you will bill bear a son–Life will be born
  • And you will call his name Jesus–The child shall be named.
  • He will be great–this will be his quality
  • And He will be called the son of the Most High–The child shall be named again.
  • And the Lord will give him the throne of his father David.–He will inherit David’s Kingdom
  • And he will rule over the house of Israel forever–He will rule in this kingdom forever
  • And of his Kingdom there will be no end.–And there won’t be a time when he stops ruling, or when his kingdom falls apart.

These insights stand out to me from these poetic lines from Gabriel’s word.

  1. The Lord is compassionate of our frailty. He knows we can’t hear or remember anything He said if we are afraid.
  2. God’s Grace is what shone on Noah before it described him as righteous. It is His way to begin with the face of God’s gracious favor being turned in the direction of an individual through whom he would bring about His salvation. In these moments we glimpse the mirth of God who is glad at the beauty and effectiveness of His plan.
  3. Jesus’ life is outlined here from “Conceived, born, named . . . to given a throne, ruling, and never-ending. Each piece is important, and each piece speaks to something special that God is doing.
  4. The middle section is “He will be great and be called son of the Highest One.” There any many high ones, but this child will be son of the “Highest One.” Also, He is called twice, did you notice? First his name is called “Jesus” then he will be called “Son of the Most High.” A mystery, but is this just common parallelistic repeating in the scriptures or is there an intentional pattern here?

In any case, dear Laughing Son of God’s Grace, there is a lot of joy packed into these verses which overuse and traditional limelight can really make hard for our eyes to see.

Merry celebration of Jesus’ Birth! Which probably happened right around this time of year btw!

😀

Depths of Understanding

Through translation and the molten nature of meaning in language, I have recaptured in my imagination something pleasantly sober the way even the hardest truths can be. No matter how hot the fire burns or how brutally it breaks down constructed things to irreducibly simple forms, it still brings warm life to the cold and reminds us of deep things intrinsic to human existence.

Consider the earth, with only the surface inhabitable, and yet beneath an entire world un-trodden by man’s body, where only his dreams and musings may go. Understanding goes deep with a person deeper than their body, but it also comes forth from within a person in ways that effect their tangible livelihood. There are lightnesses of understanding which men contemn, and there are depths to which some men go that many who go there seem stuck upside down with their bottom sticking up in the air: completely un-comprehensible to the surface mind. The lightness does the heart good, like the sea air does the deep-sea diver’s lungs good. But the Ordinary alone is not enough to maintain a profitable life. The ordinary life in which we live– that layer of reality in which we move around, make decisions, and react with decisions and chance far greater than our own control– is ruled by other layers of reality. And the deepest layers are the Highest layers. Let me lay out these layers as I see them.

-1. Humor. Humor is the level of understanding to which one person goes, to make another person exert greater understanding than himself. It makes the ordinary feel that he is indeed sane, and this fool who prates on and on makes him who is listening feel that he is sound. It is the humble gift God has given humanity to encourage and comfort the world with its ever-precarious, ever sobering, ever deepening conditions of decay and uncertainty and trouble. Well-crafted humor is the very fragrance of understanding rising up from the vents of that which is deeper than us. But, when used effectively, humor raises us to great heights, then either sets us down again, or plunges us into the deeper understandings into which we must dive. O the thrill of the hammer swung backward through the air, only to rush forward to drive the nail home once more! O the exuberant and silly breath we take to dive once more to the depth of understandings!

0. Ordinary Reality. The realm of the real and clear. Here far is far, and near is near, a spade is a spade, and a cigar is a cigar. Do not read between the lines. Words are sufficient. Listen to what is said. Read what is written. See what is shown. Many find this simple life good. It is. And yet the corruptions beneath the surface have far too often twisted the surface to that which is not simple. Look around you at the dishonesty of man’s hearts. A simple weight well-calibrated is true and good. It is the plethora of dishonest weights that make this level of understanding a dangerous ground. “Don’t believe everything you read” say the wise, and wizened. Solomon also said, “The simple believe every word, but the prudent consider their steps.” ~Prov 14:15.

1. Joy— Ah the pledge of good faith! There is truth beneath the surface! The Promise of a better surface life comes from digging a deep foundation and a roomy storehouse where the temperature is cool year round. Such cools calm the temperamental flares of heat which spring from a lack of reserve. The deep waters of life flow beneath the surface, and cool water is a nourishment to every soul seeking shade and sweetness in this broken desert of life. A man of understanding carries within him an oasis in any desert! He is the happiest of fellows to embrace the streams of truths that water all of the plants up on the surface. Indeed, for many this results in a nerdy withdrawal from all things surface and ordinary, and thereby leaving those without refreshment feeling abandoned, ignored, and deprecated. Nevertheless, these ordinary folk gain the hearty laugh of staring at people up-ended, bottoms in the air seeking some sort of treasures and refreshment that would otherwise be bought with a great cost underneath the hard sun.

2. Weight— The pledge is sweet, and the collection of waters tastes good, but there is too much water to carry around with a person. A man’s canteen, strength, stomach, and mind can only handle so much. Eventually, the immovable and inescapable nature of what is understood leads many to shy away from the responsibility which is thrust upon those who have understood it. Not only are there many who are in need of the life here in encased, but the one who knows of it comes to see the real predicament at the surface. The pressure and weight of all the understanding comes to sober the one once drunk with the pleasure and raucous laughter of understanding, and he comes to see his own face in the water, and in that face recognize his own makeup of water, and his resemblance to the owner and supplier of all the water in the world. These are those who are stuffy and self-absorbed and feel impregnated with the grand self-importance of that which they hold, lest they give way to the deeper levels of understanding which require greater courage.

3. Sorrow–Fingernails grind on a chalkboard, and a bone fallen out of joint is a deep pang of something wrong in the world. Understanding brings grief, that depth of the weight of all the world crashing down on broken supports. Seeing people in reality slip off the edge into oblivion unnecessarily just because the scales are tipped out of favor of real justice. It is heartbreaking to know not only the problems for so many, but the connection of the problems to other problems both cause and effect, and to see this web of impossibility, like the web created by a mirror shattered and fragmented from some point of impact. Understanding in people who face the deep underbelly of the world have one of two directions they can go now. It is too thick to explore here, you cannot go left and right. You can return to the surface with your sorrow you have learned, and boast over your understanding as deep as you went. You laugh at those who revel in new discoveries, because you have forgotten the pledge of good faith, and have seen heartbreak the more understanding you have grown. You can return jaded. Or you can go down deeper.

4. Surrender— The point of impact, where the real world we live in was shattered like that mirror is the brokenness of humanity which must be acknowledged and dealt with at the source of the problem: me. G.K. Chesterton understood this when asked in a Newspaper, what is the problem with the world.” He responded with these two words, “I am.” This is the moment to which Understanding leads a person: will you seek to preserve your life, or will you lose it? Here again, the man who has understood– who has “stood under” the reality of life and seen it’s fractured-ness and fractals and fractions–has two choices. He can lose self in annihilation or an inglorious manner that utterly rejects the goodness of understanding he learned at the beginning. Or He can entrust himself to the wise One who led him down this far on his journey of understanding, and commit the unpardonable sin against self: surrender to someone greater than yourself who requires your all with no caveats, no reservations, and no exit strategy. This is the “Lose yourself” that Jesus spoke of when he said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel will find it.” It is a risk. It is very much like death. It’s like giving up, except it’s more like “Okay God, you win. I won’t keep fighting you anymore. I will actually submit to you, and accept that You are the Savior and not me.” This is the decision to which your journey deeper into understanding has been leading. There is Reality, Joy, Responsibility, Sorrow, and ultimately Surrender of self to the One who has proved how worthy He is through his impeccable track record.

This is the end.
Of the old life.
Of the New life
This is the beginning.

5. Peace

“There are depths of love that I cannot know, til I cross the narrow sea. There are heights of love that I may not reach, til I rest in peace with Thee.” ~Fanny Crosby

Understanding brings a person to the core of all that is, and he discovers the need to surrender, and once there is surrender, suddenly, from the very core of a person’s existence to which Understanding has led, a life is born anew. A life that is never-ending because it is begun by the One who is Never-ending. A life that is not your own, but belongs to the One who truly owns all things. A life that is set not on a broken platform, but the deepest possible foundation: to the core of reality itself: The Maker, the Word, and the Resurrection. This is where Understanding can bring a person, but only with humility, love, grace, and courage–honesty with self and God. He is there at the center of the layers of reality. And in His presence is the FULLNESS of the joy the understanding of which one found hints at the beginning of his journey. He is there, eagerly awaiting those who will take up their cross, and lay down their lives for His World-saving cause.

The Depths of Understanding
Illus. by Aner327

These are the Depths of Understanding as I have seen it. And I hope that God gives you the heart to go to this depth with Him. Remember: “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” ~Hebrews 11:6.” If you find yourself at any point of this journey and you have stopped short of the Self-Loss Surrender that leads to life, go back to the last point you found yourself, and seek God. After all, “He who seeks God understands all things.” (Prov 28:5)