May 30, 2005

Sunrise in Thessalonica

(I wrote this 1-page story. I hope you enjoy it.)

The rooster next door starts to crow at an hour before dawn. You grumble and start to roll over, pull up on your arms, heavy sigh. Then you just whisper, “Lord.”
Your aching muscles groan as you slip off your cot to the ground, quickly finding your sandals. “Man, earth sure got cold last night!” You grab the heavy wool cloak that hangs on the high jagged stone in the wall, stand for a minute, in the far corner of the room, and kick dirt on the pit as you turn to go, finally pulling the dark cloth down over your head.

The large hinges whine as you unbar the door, and the rusty lock skreeks when you close it behind. Turning upwind, you reach for the hood of your cloak, and remember last night’s heavy rain. “S’not that bad today.” You start up the street, past the doors of your neighbors, and keep to the sides to avoid what did not wash away. You step over the legs of two boys sleeping under a cart. Torchlight flickers from behind upstair shutters. You make your way fast through the darkness and cold. “The Lord is my Shepherd. I know.”

At the corner, you cut down the alley, uphill, and continue to zig-zag across two more streets, towards the market. You stop at the wide street, and cross it. The darkness has faded to greyness and the false dawn beginning allows you to see two more figures approaching. You then see the torch in the wall, by the red door you seek. Your two friends from the west go on in, while you come up the road. They don’t wave. You enter, and finally notice your bare legs shivering as usual, when you see that someone’s got the fire stoked and going. Five are sitting. Two on a bench, one on a crate, two on stools. You sit on the half-barrel nearest the door. Outside the wind makes a soft howl, and dogs bark down the street. A baby coos up in the loft, and a child’s voice says ‘shhh’, as the fire pops once. Your legs manage to get still again, and your lungs have calmed down a lot. You push back your hood, fold your arms, close your arms, and you get still inside. Someone says, “Jesus.” Someone says, “oh, yes.” Softly, in turn, each voice speaks, in love with the One who is there.

Five minutes. Ten minutes. Silently, sitting. Calling His name. Feeling the comfort of Him. A sister in the room begins the song about the lamb. Your body is warmer. The whole world is gone. Fifteen minutes. Stillness. A brother starts talking to God. Other voices, you realize, came in since you did. Looking up, you are heartened to see, now, 9 or 10 are devoting the start of their day to the sharing and touching of Christ. Twenty minutes. Someone gets up, and slips out. With a quiet smile and a hand taken briefly, they leave. The meeting goes on. You’re aware that your back is a little bit stiff, and you straighten and fidget a bit on your crate. Three or four sit eyes open, and quiet. Content. The rest are still lost in their Lord. You look at the others who look back at you… and you smile. A rush comes upon you because of their smile. Gladness, safety, freedom and peace… Hope and renewed strength to live… A God who is pleased by all this! These whole new worlds opened up by this way, by this Lord. What a year!

You stand, mindful that chores are waiting. True dawn creeps in from the loft, and from around the door. You squeeze someone’s shoulders a bit and you whisper “Praise Him.” Then you leave.

But you don’t feel so cold anymore.

May 1, 2005

What is a Christian?

Here is a poem I wrote recently. It's about one part of what happens when Jesus Christ enters someone. Enjoy!

Completely Different

A big, fat, filthy, barnyard rat
Came crawling down a post
Then did a little flip, and spun
With silky threads that came out from his tail
A web. He wrapped and spun until
His body – whiskers, snout and all –
Were gone. Coocooned. Entombed.
And not ten minutes passed. I watched
The bulging white sarcophagus, it cracked
And out came eighteen inch long wings
Whose colors sparkled in the sun,
And now, no longer rat,
The brand new creature flew
Through blue-white heaven. New.

Out in the field, that day, a hobbled goat
Was curled up next to some sleight brush
For shelter from the sun. Its skin was dry
And scaly, when, with both its pointy horns,
The stale old creature started scratching, rubbing,
Pushing on its molting skin. Eyes swollen shut,
Teeth pulling at the flesh around his hooves,
His back arched, caved in, crusted up, and life
Then vanished from the goat. I saw his mouth
Had opened fifty inches wide. An egg emerged
Just half-way out, a yellow beak burst through,
And shattered shell and crusty flesh together.
The baby eagle, pounding its straight wings,
Caught strong winds up to gusty heaven. Free.

That night, back in the house, one common girl
Is trying hard to mind her parents, doing all her chores
And counting days until spring formal, when
She doubles over on her bed, reading a little book
About a man. In fifteen minutes, halfway through
One paragraph, she stops. A burst of light as bright
As Disney’s best extravaganza fills the room,
And firecrackers pop inside her – none of this she notices
Except in one, long meaningful slow sigh.
Three quiet seconds. Stillness in the room – it looks
So different now, and yet the same.
She puts the light out quietly. Her brand new wings
Enfold her – and in Jesus’ arms she soars beyond the skies.
No longer human. Loved. Alive. New. Free.
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