Christmas Card

Virgin Birth. [Smirk goes here.]

We think we are so wise to scoff at a fairy tale and hoot at the simplicity of a gullible people who would accept the premise of a virgin birth; as though in Biblical times there was no such thing as a cynic; no winking, clucking crones who knew better than be taken in by that ruse. Or, as is more likely, we’d like to conveniently forget that in those times even disobedient children were stoned to death, so greatly did fear rule the hearts of men.

We live in a day where we can now easily witness a real stoning on our iPhone if we choose: A real woman. Solid stones. Yielding bones. For us, a horrible snuff film. For the zealous of Islam, a righteous lesson and stern warning to the unbeliever.

Such zealots fear Christmas for their own reasons. I’m more interested in why we do, too. We’re not afraid to recite the story in the safe surroundings of the adjunct scenery: makeshift stables and glittering cardboard stars made by neighbors and friends, whose children giggle at Harold Angels.

But we don’t really, really want to contemplate what it means to believe it. What it costs. It’s bothersome. Maybe to ourselves, our own sense of tradition and sentiment we’ll admit a smattering of transcendent notions about some one, or some idea, or angels, and light feelings, and—

But not really, really. . . not. . . well, really? A virgin birth?

It’s so stupid. A virgin birth. *snort!*

Half a world and not so far away, angry, cowardly Islamic men stone women so that they can uphold the darker fairy tales of their own goodness and purity. But we all have attempted something similar in thought if not in deed. In some way, it’s a story as old as life itself:  the shifting of blame, the shedding of blood, the scapegoat of our fears sent from our camp of awful reality– and so we are made good again. A fractured fairy tale of life as we seek a way out and up.

We live in a world of elites who tell us far grander fairy tales about ourselves, and we, being so wise in our fear of being stupid, we’ll follow any star as long as we don’t have to leave the couch. Vague comfort and diaphanous joy is all we seek. No need to saddle up and risk everything for more than that.

I’m curious. Is there some dark harm in believing in a virgin birth at that time, in that place, in those inconvenient circumstances? In believing in such a thing, am I inspired to fear and loathing, or might I share in an utterly unlikely miracle that makes me doubt my own goodness– and to look up for answers instead of around for a stone?

So, did a young girl, paralyzed with fear, have nothing to lose by telling a stupid lie? Or did she give birth to Life while under the shadow of death? What man of Joseph’s day would stand with such a woman, and not take up a stone, but instead take a wife?

I mean, c’mon, really?

Yes, really. It’s all Good.

(From Christmas 2010.)

Mourning Into Dancing

First, this: John 20

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

 

“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

You’d think, at the very moment when all of man’s past history focuses narrowly into the very point of Heaven coming down to earth, and which, from that same Point all of the future would fan out in a new understanding of God, that we could expect something a bit more sober and serious from the account of the resurrection. Some sort of Behold! like the angels in the shepherd’s fields announcing Jesus’ birth. But no. The account of the angels in the tomb starts things off with a wry or even dramatic, “why are you crying?” as if they didn’t know.  It suggests to my mind that they are leading her on a bit in her grief because they want the joy to be that much sweeter.

It’s not unlike all the videos we see of soldiers coming home and delaying their reunion for the sake of a good surprise. Yes, we can think it a bit cruel when our heart is so sore with grief that our long-lost loved one would delay for even a moment.  But Love’s ultimate success is in its surprise. Jesus is in on the joyful joke here, at his own tomb, asking the woman there who she’s looking for in his tomb! It positively carries a tender sentiment that rings of an affable, approachable and human Love infused with Heavenly joy.

The long separation is over. God and Man can now be at home, together! A surprise in the making! It was a long time coming. Calls were made, plans drawn up, friends called in to help, secrets suppressed, hints dropped.  But first, a terrible journey. When you consider all the pain endured, and the horrific price paid, I suppose it’s not unlikely that the power of Heaven’s holy joy would still be bursting forth from the tomb like an atomic afterglow.

Consider for yourself the long waiting, the endless longing for your heart’s own fulfillment.  The separation from joy feels like death.  But the reunion is Life and Love and Joy unspeakable.  The wholeness and joy of a loved one’s embrace that was too long denied by distance and circumstance has now restored everything to its proper place.

“Thou hast turned my mourning into dancing!” is the wonder of Easter.  Let Love surprise you this Easter. Love has found you, that’s all that matters:

“Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Just Doing Your Job

You got up this morning at oh-dark-thirty and dressed without thinking, the familiar trappings of power and might are just so much weight and smell. Even though the leather reinforcements behind the impressive metal were long ago worn smooth with oily sweat and long marches, the garments of a Roman Centurion are not designed for comfort. You report to your appointed post and assume the air of disappointed privilege, the kind that carries the Great Roman Seal of power over those whose land you occupy, but you’re not sure if riding herd on the conquered god-botherers is dignified enough for you. At least they’re a civilized bunch that appreciates authority and order. Well, when they’re not out to lynch a prophet or insurrectionist.

Speaking of which, this guy Jesus is in dutch with his own people, but you can’t imagine why. He didn’t put up much of a fight last night but wow, when He spoke it was like getting punched in the face. You remember falling back a few steps, hand on your sword. You really thought He was gonna call down fire the minute he spoke. But no, not so much as a curse for the stool-pigeon who set him up. A few feints of swordplay by some clumsy fisherman weren’t aimed at you, but at the feckless elders of their own people.  You smile grimly. You recognized their jealousy even through their pious show of concern for the People. Nasty business all around. So you wonder what Pilate will do with him. Probably beat him and release him and get back to whatever it is the one-percent do when they are not forced to perform a dumb show of justice.

Hold on. What? Crucify Him? You’re not squeamish about the process one bit, and if it’s what it takes to quell some bothering riot you’re all for it. You have plans for the weekend, after all. But damn it’s gonna be hard to do quickly, because this guy Jesus apparently has a sizable following. Not that they are armed, but that many people can cause trouble if they want to. There goes your weekend plans for sure. Some talk about Him not staying dead, like all good examples of the tender mercies of Rome do.  Great. Extra duty and no extra salt to show for it.

You see Him being led into your area. Time to get to work.

A New Commandment

Imagine being a disciple of Jesus, having walked thus far with Him, seen miracles, seen His care for his friends, his marveling at the faith of a Centurion, his rebuff of a Canaanite woman seeking healing for her daughter–and His subsequent joyful concession to her fearless faith. You’ve seen him weeping at Lazarus’ tomb, as well as having had a woman wash his feet with her tears, which was maybe dodgy but great in the re-telling. And perhaps you were there just a few days ago watching as he drove out, with whips and imprecations, the banksters in the temple. That was gutsy.

You’ve listened to His sermons and parables and maybe you’ve understood them, or just enough of them to stick around. You heard him completely own the elite lawyers, and you secretly delighted in every bit of the testy exchange, knowing that you were useful to that crowd only as long as they thought you had an inside line on this guy, Jesus. Damnable power-mongers all. Maybe you, too, chafed a bit at the whole, “before Moses was, I AM” gambit but nevertheless, that kinda thing woulda gone viral on YouTube. And you know what you’re thinking? “This guy, this Jesus guy, everybody’s saying He’s the Messiah and maybe He is, but it’s not sitting well with my power base. I depend on these guys to be there for me, but Jesus is an unknown guy with a fuzzy background from a backwater borough in Nazareth. But the lawyers are pressuring me.  They tell me He doesn’t stand a chance, that the hoi polloi cheering him the other day were just a buncha low info rabble looking for free bread.. I just don’t know what to think, but the truth is, I gotta go with the winning hand.  Gotta stop this before it gets outta hand. Wait and see for now.”

So now you’re there with the others, in an upper room, having a strange interlude before your meal. Jesus, here alone with all of his disciples, seems to be acting out another parable. Only it isn’t. He really is stooping quite low and washing your feet. Like some common slave would. And He’s saying, what, exactly, about cleanliness? “Crap!” you think, “He’s onto me! Who’s set me up and tipped Him off?”

And now, bread and wine He offers you. You take it because your mind was made up before now, so eff it all to Sheol if He’s gonna call you on it in this way. Time to go.

Now, imagine you’re another disciple, sitting there in the awkward silence having watched Judas leave to go get more bread and wine, so you think. So why the big hush? Peter, James and John look pretty pale and agitated. Here we are, on the cusp of hope and change, a new Messiah ready to make Israel great, you think. It’ll be awesome, and you’ll be there to see it. The foot-washing deal means, maybe, that the disciples will all be equals in His kingdom and man, that will be a refreshing change. The little people won’t be as corrupt and tiresome as the ruling class you now have, that’s for sure. And no secrets or word-twisting or hair-splitting. You will all set a good example– as leaders of course– of nobody thinking they’re better than anyone else. And just imagine the things that’ll be set right politically when you and the others bring back the Ten Commandments. Back to basics! The Founding Documents. It’s not the Ten and Ten Thousand commandments! Really. What would Moses do? That’s what you’ll do.

And hey, speaking of Moses, you notice Jesus is talking about the commandments. “Yep. Exactly, Jesus! What? Wait. A new commandment? Don’t we have enough already?” you think. “Probably foot-washing. Makes sense in these filthy towns.”

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

“Huh,” you think, “I wonder what that’s gonna look like?”

 

 

 

 

Yet Higher

Exalted
Far above all the Earth
Beyond the Heavens
Above all knowledge
Behind all good
More vast than oceans of time
More radiant than galaxies of suns
Higher than thought can think
More.
Higher.
Bigger.
Lovelier.
Right.
Good.
True.
With us.

*****

Merry Christmas to those who still seek Him!

And since RSS feed won’t update a WP repost, check back for the annual Christmas stories. Peace to you all, and thank you for your many kindnesses and good will.

The Gods Of The Copybook Headlines*

(*With apologies to Kipling.)

I read the daily headlines and then I have  a little dialogue I carry on in the grand tradition of “my old man” and other generations before him. One rarely needs to read beyond the setup to know how the game will play out in the ensuing paragraphs. So, I read, judge and mock each header in their turn. Because Obama is not our problem. Congress is not our problem. First and foremost, the Mainstream Marxists posing as “objective reporters” of our days and dramas are much our source of trouble. They hide well behind the sickly conceit of their self-importance, apportioning the lots of fact and opinion according to the dictates of their perverted schemes.

Do you remember how they shepherded us and shielded us from the horrors of 9/11 lest we be inflamed with passion and meet like with like? Bless them, may they live forever! How brutish we mere mortals must have seemed to them, demanding vengeance and a show of proper retort for the blow we were dealt. Have you hugged your journalist today and thanked them for their sagacious intervention in our national bereavement? Yes, they moved us along quickly after the fact, and now have the temerity to drag us back to it yearly and force us to kneel and beg forgiveness for our sins.

I’m sick to death of it. The Marxist Media, ensconced in their small opinion labs,  study the populace as a great Experiment. They observe, but cannot resist the urge to meddle. They profess their purity of heart and yet project onto their subjects all manner of racism and debauchery even when they don’t actually see it. They assume it is an occult blood factor, sins that we hide, horrors that they want so desperately to see. Their voyeurism knows no satiation, and so they proclaim to see what is not there.  Not finding all the debauchery and sin they imagine means work for them, and they are supremely lazy.  So they drop the casual lie and it is picked up often enough and degraded through so many iterations that when it finally arrives back at them, it sounds like an inscribed truth: Americans are racist at heart, xenophobic, backwater hicks. Rubes to be ruled by their betters.

Tomorrow the Marxist Media will do its level best to find itself in our graces. They will deign to enter the house of mourning, seeking to bring some gift of gravitas that they imagine the little people will appreciate.  And I will mock their mawkishness, their dumb show, their pretense to understanding the enormity of what cannot be imagined and yet happened.

The world of men is full of much more unimaginable horrors and our godlings will never whisper of it. Women will be mutilated, men will be eviscerated in unutterably offensive ways. The Media godlings will never let us know. They will shield and protect us and tell us for whom to cast our votes. They will never willingly give up their place as the magic mirror of our society, assuring us of our own ugliness and complicity in the horror. They will assure us that 9/11 was our own fault. They will do it over and over and over for years and decades to come until we become, at the last, as ugly as the gods of the headlines would have us be.  With angry fangs and tongues hanging out. Chocmul-like thralls awaiting another beating heart to be tossed  their way that the sun may come up in our dull lives one more day.

All those 3,000 lives lost 10 years ago just keep on sacrificing themselves to these insatiable media cretins.  They will churn out thousands more hours of afflictions for you to observe until you beg for mercy and agree with your tormentors that you and you alone are to blame.  Just please make it stop!

Even so, you will likely read every word and watch every clip and listen to every anguished soul captured in the digital resin of emergency calls, voice mails on loved ones’ phones, and stories of miraculous escape or miserable suffering.  But not because the godlings command you to.

No. Because your heart is not like theirs at all. You want to preserve and revere, truly honor their death and reflect on such lives cut short; lives ended before they had that vacation, that connection, that revelation of love, that  completion of wisdom and that joy of figuring the whole puzzle out.  It haunts you in your quiet meditations, out of the glare of the outside observers. No. We’re nothing like our MSM overlords at all. Our heart would tear out the eyes of our attackers and  run them through with sorrowful steel and righteous wrath.  Our hearts know better how to handle their own griefs and sorrows.

We reject the writs of the Gods of the Headlines.  We ignore them while they talk down to our suffering, seeking,  like some flat avatar, to usher us into a place of peace and calm acceptance.

Oh Hell no.

Update: Wretchard speaks for me:

The story of September 11 must for all time become the story of how a certain date became unspeakable to al-Qaeda and its followers; a tale of how this day of all others,  became the blackest day in the history of Islam. It should forever be a date that can never be mentioned without arousing a deep sense of shame throughout the Middle East so that in generations hence, people should still come up to strangers unbidden and say, “I’m sorry for September 11. “  Until then it is unfinished business.

We have no right to forgive. We have no right to forget. We have no right to move on until this final condition is met. That in the holy of holies of our civilization’s enemies, in the innermost recesses of their sanctum sanctorum they should say with heartfelt ardor: never again. Never again. Never, ever again.

Better Than She Has To Be

But then, she is as good as her own personal standard, not mine. And Rachel Elizabeth is someone to celebrate:

How unabashedly good she is, from her soul up. She shines like a smiling Venus in the darkest skies of Internet cynicism and discontent.

“I’m just a service worker doing my job.”

I predict great happiness for her, no matter what her circumstances.

Imperfect implement in the hands of a perfect Craftsman.

Our big family was a reporter’s dream:

And this wasn’t even all of us. And where was mom?

Dad was just returned from nine months in Rota, Spain when the local paper saw our family awaiting his arrival so early that morning; you can see the long shadows of dawn spreading out beside us. With most of us in school uniforms, it was a picture waiting to happen. And it did.

It’s hard to imagine how difficult it must have been for him to be away from his kids. We were the backdrop to his own grand sense of himself; more than props– for surely he loved us– but we were sometimes expendable in his darker, weaker quest to feel sorry for himself. Still, the narcissism yielded the happy benefits of camping and picnics and road trips with all of us in tow because it was all of the part he loved to play and the excess energy he obviously possessed. The Navy suited that restless energy until they gave him permanent orders to serve as an instructor in electronics training school, so he dragged us to all sorts of outdoor adventures every weekend and summer to feed that restlessness.

He reveled in our rambunctious joy as we learned to ski and fish and snorkel and shoot, or just watch us rolling down the sand dunes at Fort Clinch. A former baker in his younger days, he delighted in rewarding the first child awake on a Saturday morning with a trip to the bakery for donuts. The lucky one would get a bear-claw pastry. Sure, we could be bought for the price of a pastry just so he’d have someone to talk to at 6:00 a.m. Of a balmy Florida evening he’d sidle up to a quietly bored and sweaty child and say, “Let’s go for a drive.” We’d head off down some county road to where the air was cooler at 60mph and he’d just talk about the universe and science and how to do speed math and why the future would be all credit and have no tangible currency. If ever there was a thespian who needed an audience, it was my dad. Even if he had to populate it himself. He was always waiting for our curiosity. He rarely lectured unless asked, and you could tell he loved to be asked. It was his way of rewarding what he felt to be the highest ability: the ability to be curious about the world. That’s an awesome legacy to leave a child.

He was far from perfect, but a better Hand was still guiding him. . . for my own sake. I thank God for the good bits that have stayed me and shaped me for the better.

At every funeral, this picture pops up and I get razzed endlessly about my panties shining in the full view of God and everyone. Last Thursday was no different. I informed one and all that at my funeral, I didn’t want to see this picture paraded yet again. I was assured that it most certainly would be, now, and it would include lines and arrows and exclamation points all over it.

Sunday Sermon: A Right To Exist, Even After You’ve Died

Ezekiel 37:12-14

12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”

Read it and weep, Islam.  It is not mere men you have set yourself against, but God himself.

There are so many directions to contemplate, so many tangents. I’ve erased them all. Today, with Israel surrounded by her enemies, I think I shall let the very fact of her existence stand in testimony of the resurrection power that we soon shall celebrate.

Dear friends, if the God of the Universe had a plan for Israel that was so important He saw fit to breathe new life into its dried bones, don’t doubt that He can do the same for your own heart of stone. Froward, rebellious, sinful and useless as dry bones, it seems God won’t accept your excuses or even your self-assessment. “You alone Lord, know.”  Don’t presume.

Then consider the Gospel account of Lazarus found in John 11. Apparently, God won’t be thwarted in His plan for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t delay, resist, run, and avoid . . . maybe even die. Dead and putrescent is no excuse! Imagine that. Lazarus minds his own business and shuffles off this mortal coil and God calls him back to life to be a testimony of Christ’s power and to be a reproach to the pretenders to power. Next thing you know, Lazarus is alive and well and has a death-warrant on his revived head!  Don’t assume.

We remember that we are dust and we do well.  We must also remember that He can breathe life into the dust.  “If that same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwell in you, it shall quicken your mortal body.” Dust isn’t your destiny. Don’t resume.

During these last weeks of Lent, seek out new life for your soul and spirit. Let the living waters flow, let the Breath of Heaven call you forth from the mess you’ve made, from the restrictive grave clothes of mistakes and regrets, from the cave of your alienation from Life itself. Live, and move and love.

God never posts “DNR” over your deathbed.

When Moms Come to Visit

My mom showed up in the wee hours of the morning last night because she had something important to ask. Before I knew it she plopped comfortably on our soft leather couch and was softly distant. But it was Mom, and so her middle of the night visit was somehow quite natural. It seemed silly of me to get too excited.

“Why are you here, Mom?

“Oh, we’ve come to see the little curly-headed one,” she replied. We? I didn’t see my Dad with her. I put that aside for the moment.

“Chuck? You’ve come to see him,” I surmised matter-of-factly. The oldest of my five brothers, he alone inherited curly, thick, blonde locks. The Cherokee bloodline failed to reach him through all the German thickness of head and heart. But he is by far the tallest of us all. To me he is almost a stranger, the difference in our years meant he was gone from our home before I was old enough to be aware of his presence. I was pondering this when she continued.

“Yes,” she said. And then she grew even more distant, not looking at me but saying plainly, “You must pray for him, you know.” She said it in that halting and serious manner she has when she is uncomfortable but determined to broach the difficult topics.
_____

At that moment I awoke and sat bolt-upright in my bed and began to pray, first for my own astonished soul to see if it could be fit to pray for my obstinate and proud brother.

I flashed to several years ago and remembered how angry I was with my brother, when he lashed out at my mother just days after her passing. “Fuck off and die!” was my answer to his emails that wanted to blame her for allowing so many of my Father’s shortcomings. For knowing what she knew. For not being a stronger woman. As if raising eight kids and being entirely dependent on their father for their sustenance wasn’t her only option back in her day. As if my heart wasn’t broken at her passing. He didn’t understand, and he callously wanted to defend our father when the rest of us were just short of wondering if Dad’s narcissism hadn’t killed our mother in some Munchausen-by-proxy way.

I had heard some months back that my brother now has cancer. The VA isn’t giving him solid answers or options but my brother is placing all his hope in positive thinking and the power of his profession of health. Which had me thinking, while praying for him, that our words carry weight, even those spoken in the heat of heartache.

So it came about in my midnight meditation that it was I who needed forgiveness for rash curses before I could pray properly for my equally proud and rash brother. I could but mutter, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” And then I could muster a pittance of prayer for my poor brother.

I called my sister, the eldest of us all, and related the visitation. She didn’t doubt for a moment that Mom had indeed, come to ask for prayer for her son. I swear, we could all be the Devil’s own footlings and she would still believe, speak the best, cover for us, excuse us, and still want the best for us.

I talk to my Mom in my thoughts and heart all the time. I suppose I shouldn’t be astonished that she would talk to me, and indirectly lead me to my own absolution, helping me to feel the spiritual deficit of my own soul in a fervent need to pray for my brother’s very life and soul.

Moms never let go, it seems.