The Lion in my House

This is Christmas

“By indirections find directions out.” Polonius Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 1 “Tell all the truth but tell it slant — Success in Circuit lies” Emily Dickinson, “Tell all the truth,…

Part 3: Behold, Celaeno

She glanced at the cage closest to her own, and suddenly felt the breath in her body turning to cold iron. There sat on an oaken perch a creature with…

Part Two: Belief and the Spider

Rukh was standing before a cage that contained nothing but a small brown spider weaving a modest web across the bars. “Arachne of Lydia,” he told the crowd. “Guaranteed the…

Part One: A False Horn on a Real Unicorn

“Spells of seeming,” the unicorn said. “She cannot make things.” “Nor truly change them,” added the magician. “Her shabby skill lies in disguise. And even that knack would be beyond…

Satellite

Lord, Give me patience, Gentleness, And wisdom. Let me pierce the darkness, Reflecting your light; Orbiting a planet that you Love; Separate, but built of the same stuff, Ejected, Pulling…

Lord,
Give me patience,
Gentleness,
And wisdom.
Let me pierce the darkness,
Reflecting your light;
Orbiting a planet that you Love;
Separate, but built of the same stuff,
Ejected,
Pulling Unicorns from the Tide.
Let me love as you have loved,
In truth, with no malice,
Inside, with no care for slanders,
In joy, with an eye to eternity,
Invested,
Showing graciousness to the broken.
You are the light and you washed away the darkness.
You are the healer and you banished the sickness.
You are the warrior and you vanquished the enemies.
You are the father and you gave me a legacy,
An inheritance,
A family,
A hope.

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Imaginal Cells

What a strange time. If Solomon was right and there is truly “nothing new under the sun,” it must be ab origine that we find ourselves wondering, “What could possibly…

What a strange time. If Solomon was right and there is truly “nothing new under the sun,” it must be ab origine that we find ourselves wondering, “What could possibly come next?” and marveling at the weirdness of the nature of man, in spite of it never having changed from the garden until today. Flatus vocis. Surely we are getting weirder.

The imaginal cells of God’s primordial creation are still somehow at work and it is by His grace alone when we emerge from our gooey cocoons as butterflies not not hornets. We alight on his purposes to sing our hymns and flutter away mindlessly.

That is the power of grace; the strength of the mercy in the Gospel.

Not the American gospel of hard work and reward; prosperity and justice. The American gospel is a lie, and we’re suckers for taking it too seriously.

After all, what has our prosperity earned us? What have we bought with all that labor?

The best of us this week didn’t come from our strength. It came from our weakness. From the baptism of tragedy we saw godliness emerge. In our excesses, we only see dull humanity.

Perhaps we ask too much of ourselves when we vie for safety. Maybe the best of us comes from tragedy; and we should hope for it more.

We should escape the cocoons. We should alight on his purposes. We should sing our hymns and give Him our hallelujahs and be grateful that in the tragedy of our souls, where the water has cut deep caverns and, over millennia, left dry bones with a fast quip and a taste for bad wine, He pours new water that quenches thirst and infuses dry bones with blood and life.

In return, He asks that we yield. He asks that, finally, after all the crooning for bad wine and the twisting of the clock that turns flesh and bone into dust and lays galaxies to waste; that after chasing shadows through the wastelands far from home where the shadows slip into deeper shadows, and the sun sinks at our backs and we dip deeply into the gulf within ourselves; He asks that we turn ourselves over. And, when we do, He stoops to put a cool cloth to us; to clean us up. He wipes off the shame and regret and the lostness that our wandering could not solve — and the bitter and demanding urgency to matter. And He just gives that to us; that thing we strive and scratch and claw and connive and twist and spit and cuss to produce. He just gives it away and in astounding abundance.

And He settles us into one of many rooms in His Father’s house; a room meant for us, with curiosities from the wasteland that were hidden behind the shadows, but were the evidence that all the loneliness and chasing was somehow always meant for this room in this house and those curiosities bear His mark, like scored stone markers highlighting a path we never knew we were traveling, but brought us here. And we bear new marks too; His, and His for us, which is like a beautiful and happy scar. A strange reminder of a time of sadness that can only be remembered with joy.

Multiverse galaxies sing as their gears turn like a machine ingesting time and exhausting grace, spraying glimmering drops of dew containing universes and machines and glories of their own. And, for all the beauty, the great mystery of His grace it that is belongs to the mundane; it is the miracle hiding in every stop at the post office, and every staff meeting, and every diaper changed. For all the work of the wasteland that reaped so little reward and cost so much, the grace of the gospel does its work like a scout sent out before His people to look deep into the frontier and illuminate our footsteps to His glory.

For the Father of Creation, who, with His invisible hand, powers the motion of the atoms and whose Spirit proceeds to give Life, gripped the machinery of time and space and wrought His Son to be born amongst His Creation; a new thing begotten in the mysteries of His authority and love, to blaze a new path for mankind home unto Himself through His own suffering and blood. The Father, Son, and Spirit are co-equal kings of eternity; Lords of a mansion home to his people, whom he has drawn unto Himself, for His own glory. His rod and his staff are a strange mercy in a world where we are not yet home, but we look toward the day now born not yet delivered when His people feast at His table and share in an inheritance not earned, but freely given and binding all to Him and to one another through His blood.

And we shall not want. And and the prosperity and all the suffering will be a chapter in a book only beginning, a book about Him and His people, wherein each chapter gets weirder. And we know Him – and love Him – better.

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The Old Hunter

It has been a few weeks since I’ve posted, but I haven’t been ignoring the site. I made some cosmetic updates over the last week, and, more importantly, I’ve been…

It has been a few weeks since I’ve posted, but I haven’t been ignoring the site. I made some cosmetic updates over the last week, and, more importantly, I’ve been reading through Ezekiel, with an eye and an ear to whatever God has to tell me through that old prophet for today.

He has shown me, thus far, that iniquity is no new phenomenon, and that He is not ignoring it Himself.

But, it was through a different sort of prophet — a truth-teller of the sort with which I am more familiar, the writer H. Rider Haggard – that God revealed something about the nature of man in this season of apparent racial disharmony. Perhaps it is ironic that Haggard and his hero Allan Quatermain have been branded as racist themselves by the more modern intelligentsia, though perhaps it is a more primitive brand of racism than the kind decried today. Maybe not.

For whatever it is worth (and I am gathering lately that my opinion on the matter is not worth much), I never found the books racist. Unseemly, perhaps, in language to the modern reader, and a tad too brash in it’s Anglophilia, but the man who wrote, “…I say that as the savage is, so is the white man, only the latter is more inventive…but in all essentials, the savage and the child of civilization are identical,” saw more to the human heart than base racism.

So, looking to the New Thing breaching the frontier of tomorrow that is here and yet coming, I’ll leave this old thing recounting the adventures of a white man challenging the frontier of a dark continent and finding kinship among the natives. Here is to the hope that we will find kinship among the sinners on this dark continent and they will come to receive the inheritance that a Heavenly civilization has wrought and is working among us through the blood of our King.

“It seems to me very desirable that we should sometimes try to understand the limitations of our nature, so that we may not be carried away by the pride of knowledge. Man’s cleverness is almost infinite, and stretches like an elastic band, but human nature is like an iron ring. You can go round and round it, you can polish it highly, you can even flatten it a little on one side, whereby you will make it bulge out on the other, but you will never, while the world endures and man is man, increase its total circumference. It is the one fixed, unchangeable thing — fixed as the stars, more enduring than the mountains, as unalterable as the way of the Eternal. Human nature is God’s kaleidoscope, and the little bits of coloured glass which represent our passions, hopes, fears, joys, aspirations towards good and evil and what not, are turned in His mighty hand as surely and certainly as it turns the stars, and continually fallk into new patters and combinations. But the composing elements remain the same, nor will there be one more bit of coloured glass nor one less forever and ever.”

“Allan Quatermain,” H. Riger Haggard

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The Older Brother

Andrew W. K., musician known for his songs, “Party Hard” and “We Want Fun,” writes an advice column for “The Village Voice,” America’s first alternative “newsweekly” founded by, among others,…

Andrew W. K., musician known for his songs, “Party Hard” and “We Want Fun,” writes an advice column for “The Village Voice,” America’s first alternative “newsweekly” founded by, among others, Norman Mailer in 1955.

I ran across a posting from Andrew W. K.’s column in the Voice from August 2014, an article published just after the news broke of the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. And, it was just a few months ahead of the thumping of President Obama’s Democratic Senate in the 2014 mid-term elections. No doubt, a high-point in political and cultural fever.

The article is in response to what must have been then and what continues to be a common sentiment: the politics of a son are not the politics of his father, and the result is a soured relationship.

I won’t copy the whole article, but I’d encourage you to read it here.

Though the bulk of the article, in my opinion, turns a tad trite, rife with the ill-defined, though tenderhearted “love trumps all” language of the day, W. K. caught my attention with the insight and thoughtfulness of the first paragraph of his response:

Go back and read the opening sentences of your letter. Read them again. Then read the rest of your letter. Then read it again. Try to find a single instance where you referred to your dad as a human being, a person, or a man. There isn’t one. You’ve reduced your father — the person who created you — to a set of beliefs and political views and how it relates to you.

Setting aside ‘the person who created you’ and taking it only for what the author most likely meant (that is, not a reference to the Creator, which is perhaps a deeper metaphor in the context of what this evoked in me), I couldn’t help but see the parallels in this part of W. K.’s response to the Older Brother of Jesus’ parable on the Prodigal Son. The full text of the parable can be found in Luke 15:11-32.

Upon learning that his wayward younger brother had returned and his father had begun the expensive measures of celebration, the Prodigal’s older brother was angry:

“Then [the Older Brother] became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.”

It isn’t clear whether Jesus told this as the third in a string of parables (all found in Luke 15) about the value of the lost, or if the author of the gospel account recorded them together in this way to demonstrate the values of the lost among us to our God. But it makes sense that Jesus would have told them all together in this way, culminating with this story about a father whose younger son took his inheritance early (signaling to the father that the son saw no further value in him; that the son wished the father were dead) and spent it on whores and wild living. When the son has squandered it all and saw he had nowhere to turn, he came home empty-handed, expecting to be treated like a slave, rather than a son. After all, he had dismissed his relationship with his father, why would he not expect the same in return?

But, it wasn’t the father who held the greatest resentment. It wasn’t the father who felt injured at the younger son’s return — and even felt injured at the celebration of it. It was the older brother. The older son of the father. It was the son who had not run off, but had worked diligently for his father and kept the rules of the household. It was “the Pharisees and scribes” (from Luke 15:1, to whom Jesus was speaking when he told these parables of the lost) who “were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”

Imagine welcoming a sinner! Imagine eating with a sinner, as this boy must eat dinner with his father whose political views are so offensive! Imagine a good Jesus, eating with sinners.. and talking with them, and enjoying them.

So it is with us.

We call those who disagree with us “non-human,” because we consider ourselves better. “This son of yours..” “This father of yours..” “This friend of yours..”

I do it. You do it.

But, we would be wise to not call for the kind of love our world has to offer. Look to the love of the Father in Jesus’ parable. This is the image of God that we are left with. It isn’t the image that many of us, right-meaning and well-intentioned, leave with our neighbors. It isn’t the kind that the Older Brother has to give. It is the kind that the Father has to give.

And, thankfully, we know He gives it, because we can trust the word of Jesus. And Jesus deigns to eat with us sinners, even those who sin like Pharisees, following rules that do, in the end, matter to the Father, but forgetting the humanity of our neighbors.

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The Four Horsemen of Calumny

On June 1, 1950, the Republican junior United States Senator from Maine, a 53-year old-woman named Margaret Madeline Chase Smith, the granddaughter of French-Canadian immigrants (immigrants from Quebec who fled…

On June 1, 1950, the Republican junior United States Senator from Maine, a 53-year old-woman named Margaret Madeline Chase Smith, the granddaughter of French-Canadian immigrants (immigrants from Quebec who fled anti-French Canadian and anti-Catholic sentiments in 19th century Canada), made a speech that would become famous in the American annals for its courage and historical significance. Senator Smith, who would be remembered as the first woman to serve both houses of Congress and the first woman to serve the state of Maine in either house, would go on to be the first woman nominated by a major party in American life to the office of the presidency. That party was the Republican party, and the speech for which she is most famous was, in part, a speech recriminating the party to which she belonged.

It would be called the “Declaration of Conscience” and it was in response to the infamous Joe McCarthy, Republican Senator from the state of Wisconsin, who delivered his own famous speech, known as “The Wheeling Speech,” on a cold, wet Lincoln Day in February to the Republican Women’s Club of Wheeling, West Virginia. During the speech, which would mark the start of his meteoric rise to infamy, Senator McCarthy produced from his coat pocket a slip of paper on which he claimed to have 205 names of Communist Party members in positions of influence within the State Department. “The State Department is infested with communists,” he said. And he would go on to build his career identifying and publicly shaming them from their positions of power.

But, when McCarthy’s fellow senator and party member Smith spoke, she condemned McCarthy’s actions, even if she refused to name him directly.

“The Democratic administration has greatly lost the confidence of the American people by its complacency to the threat of communism and the leak of vital secrets to Russia through key officials of the Democratic administration. There are enough proved cases to make this point without diluting our criticism with unproved charges.

Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic Administration.

Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.”

Senator Smith was right about that. Shew was right about it all the way up to the 21st century, when communism and socialism are still the talk of the day, and the Russians are still looking for secrets. These are not problems at the root of our Democratic system, but symptoms of greater, deeper, and more damaging poisons. Fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear continue to be the tools of a trade steeped in personal interest.

Smith concluded, “I doubt if the Republican Party could [ride to victory on these ‘Horsemen’] — simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest.”

Perhaps she held too high an opinion of her fellow Americans, or her fellow men in general.

The only response to these Horsemen are the horsemen of the Lord, yet to come and ride, and those horsemen — though deeply desired by so many — bring a kind of dread of their own.

But, in the meantime, we wait for heroes like Senator Smith who recognize the needs of men like ourselves, and we take a longer view of the history of America, and the history of mankind, and we do not give ourselves the credit for being more callous or degenerate than we rightfully deserve.

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Fathers

(Meditation Scriptures: Psalm 78, Joshua 24, Matt 10:34-36, Romans 8:14) It doesn’t escape me that your dad probably wasn’t what you wanted. Maybe he wasn’t always there for you. Maybe…

(Meditation Scriptures: Psalm 78, Joshua 24, Matt 10:34-36, Romans 8:14)

It doesn’t escape me that your dad probably wasn’t what you wanted. Maybe he wasn’t always there for you. Maybe he was dangerous. Maybe he is just missing.

Dads leave strange scars on their children. We can make odd memories when we’re not trying to make good ones.

My dad gets a special pass in my heart. He’s not perfect. I guess none of us is. But, I am a lot like him in some good and in some bad ways, and I suppose the same passes I give myself also apply to the old man.

My dad had his own world when I was a boy; his own place where he was master and commander. His store was nestled in a fascinating art deco castle, in the middle of the bustling city center. Veined white marble and cherry wood opened up heavenward to a sky view. I can still recall that strange, nameless scent with hints of polish, leather, and fountain spray.

Inside the store was my dad’s kingdom. It was his decoration and his craftsmanship. It was his initiative and hard work on display. He must have learned so much about record-keeping and management and sales. I never really had an appreciation for my dad’s work until much later, when the store was no longer there and he’d gone to work for someone else. Like all things, I did not miss it until it was long gone.

When I think back on those days as a boy when I would romp and play in those long, storied hallways of the big marble castle and smuggle quarters from the cash drawer and beg him to “melt something” under his torch, it makes me miss my daddy.

He is still with us. In fact, I spent Sunday afternoon with him and my mom and my grandpa. But when I think back on those old days at his store, I think of the younger man with his black beard and his grey suit and his patterned neckties. I think of the giant, who created beauty with his black hands, and who ruled his own world.

I miss my daddy. That’s what has happened as I’ve gotten a bit older and had children of my own. That is the way of things.

“He established a testimony in Jacob
and set up a law in Israel,
which He commanded our fathers
to teach to their children
so that a future generation —
children yet to be born — might know.
They were to rise and tell their children
so that they might put their confidence in God
and not forget God’s works,
but keep His commands.”

My father is not arrogant. He is not aggressive. He is kind and gentle. He is patient. He can be petulent when he is angry, but it never seems to last too long. He is sad and contemplative, but he smiles for me. He is tired, because he works hard hours. When he sings, he shows what’s on the inside. He knows about scripture and he teaches what he studies. He laid a foundation of faith in me that has been reset over time; a few blocks changed and new lines drawn and extended. But the root remains.

“Then they would not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not loyal
and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”

Stubborn. Rebellious. What is old is new again.

My daddy did not stamp out my rebellion. I suppose he could have. The fight would have been costly for both of us.

Instead, he watched me, patiently. And rather than make an enemy by inflating my pride, he fueled a spirit that would, ultimately, find its way home to a loving Father.

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Blood

I wish I could take some credit for it, but I can’t. I wish I could say that it was somehow my doing, but the little I did do was…

I wish I could take some credit for it, but I can’t. I wish I could say that it was somehow my doing, but the little I did do was afforded to me by someone else. Even that was — and is — an act of faith, given to me in some portion each day as I apparently need it.

What tender mercy he brings to a household in a womb; the throbbing heartbeat of a God whose justice runs red against the door. His sacrifice; my salvation.

But, there is death. The destroyer of body and soul moves like a sweeping scythe. And some, for reasons I don’t understand, are not saved. Some. Too many. Bitter herbs choked by weeds or never-rooted and trampled by the killing angels. Old wounds.

A different doorpost is covered now in a different blood. A different sacrifice. A different salvation. A different killing spirit that kills even as He resurrects. Death, once feared, is now no threat; a chasing Pharoah and his army, drowned in a curtain of baptism. The watery circumcism that draws His blood has splashed away the old conqueror. Blood and bread to commune with the Almighty.

Bodies are piling up. The stench is bitter and sad. A blood transfusion is needed to stop the spread of the disease, but their skin is thick like crocodile scales. Time tick tocks and tick tocks and crocodiles run from time.

My feet are tired, but not tired enough. The old sores have gotten soft. I commune like a heathen; no sandals on my feet and no staff in my hand. My green pastures are too close to home; too well-worn and too soft; too familiar.

Do you pass by, God of Abraham? Do you seek out new lands and new little boys who live inside old men to follow you to them? Are there many left who seek you in your golden wake? Son-burned faces and high adventure?

What marks do we bear? Are we foreigners in your land? Do we carry the mark of Cain to the lands of Wandering? Are we lost?

Color us with your blood. Color us with faith.

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I am not.

Maybe the biggest lesson of my adult life has been a lesson about my own identity. I got tired of pretending; lying and ducking and puffing and faking. To be…

Maybe the biggest lesson of my adult life has been a lesson about my own identity.

I got tired of pretending; lying and ducking and puffing and faking. To be sure, I still do those things. I’m just tired of them now.

But, when the great God of Heaven’s Armies declares, “I AM,” all I have left to offer him is that, “I am not.”

I am not the husband I should be. I am not the father I should be. I am not the brother or son that I should be. I am not the friend or neighbor I should be. I am not the employee or the coworker that I should be.

I am not.

It is a discouraging thought. But, looking back over the many seasons of life where I’ve failed and, frankly, looking around me now, realizing that I’ve left a wake of damage and knowing a good deal of what is ‘right’ to be done, I see my flaws. I know where I’m going to fail.

If you’ve been to a good church enough times, you know what comes next: this is the purpose of God’s amazing grace. We are not enough, but He is.

That is true. That is beautiful.

Yet, I regret it. I know it is something that I cannot be, but it hurts to know that it is something I haven’t been. Damage has been done.

I am not enough. I have proven time and time again that I cannot be the change I want to see in the world. I make the same excuses for myself that everyone else does. “You tried; that counts for something!” “At least you aren’t as bad as him.” “You’ll do better next time.”

But isn’t that here the Gospel starts to make sense?

Isn’t that when the truth begins to set us free? Not from remorse; not from sadness (..not yet).

The bad news always comes before the good news. I haven’t been enough. I am not.

He is.

Now, may the Spirit of the living God that casts new light on old sins take root in you and in me. Let him work his good work. Let him paint you with new, living colors.

Let him roar. Let us tremble.

Let me bury my face in his mane and wrap my body in his paws and lay my head on his soft belly as it rises and falls with his heavy breaths. I can feel his claws behind the rough pads of his big feet, and I know I deserve them. But, he doesn’t seem to have my blood in mind. I feel safe with him, even though he is no tame lion. He smells like grass and dirt and rose petals and his long, slow blinks tell me about love.

I am not. He is.

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The Land of Wandering

All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost….

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

I am attracted to the idea of adventure, even if I’m turned off by the idea of bug bites and exhaustion.

The truth is that there are days I’d like to see my life as an adventure, and there are many nights where I’m happy that it is not much of one.

The hook sinks for me that “not all those who wander are lost.” I’ve done a fair bit of wandering, and I wanted to believe that I was not lost because I was following something — my heart, a few authors, some friends.

I was lost.

I wouldn’t have ever known it if I’d not been found. But there I was: lost. And, unlike Cain, I was glad for it.

Cain’s expulsion from the garden for the murder of his brother meant hiding himself from the Lord’s presence. Isn’t that all of wandering from Him? Isn’t that where I was?

Somehow, through a few side paths later redeemed, he brought me home. Those deep roots sown so long ago sprouted something new.

But, if I’m being honest, many days still feel the same. I still ingest the ‘news’ and wonder what in the world to do about it. Clear answers don’t come so easily.

All that is gold does not glitter;
all that is long does not last;
All that is old does not wither;
not all that is over is past.

“Oh wanderer, come home.”

It is better than the land of Nod; the land of wandering.

It is inestimably better.

(Quotes in italics are from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring,” and Christopher Tolkien’s “The Treason of Isengard.”)

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No Man’s Land

  I feel like a man without a country; like the “no-man” of “no-man’s land.” While all the people around me are moving forward, my heart is retreating backward. I…

 

I feel like a man without a country; like the “no-man” of “no-man’s land.” While all the people around me are moving forward, my heart is retreating backward. I am not running away, I’m running in reverse; compelled toward the light on a different horizon. My sails have caught a prevailing wind, while all other ships seem to lurch forward with the tide.

Jesus spoke of the sower and seed, a path and birds, rocky ground and scorching sun, and choking thorns.

In my belly, I can feel the tiller. I can feel the sharp metal grinding; the hands of the gardener pulling; digging, changing.

In the silence of my heart, he speaks. What can I tell him? How do I respond?

This is not gentle sculpting; not caressing. This is cutting. Pruning. Heat. Drowning.

What is coming?

“For this people’s heart has grown callous;
their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
otherwise they might see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
understand with their hears and turn back —“

Tilling the soil. It’s more than I want. It’s maybe more than I know how to handle. It’s like a burning ember in my stomach; a star pain, a constant throb. Burning flesh. It smells.

What is next?

“And I would cure them.”

 

 

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