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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The last days

It had been coming for some time.  The anxiety, the fear had been building like a mob gathering numbers in a square.  So he was pleasantly surprised to find the day they finally came, all he felt was relief.  He only wished he had had enough time to text or call his family before they took his phone.

“Would you mind coming with us, sir.”  And that was it.  A short car ride, a brief time in an interview room where no one interviewed him, a night in the drunk tank and then he boarded a bus with no windows.  The bus was full of others, some quiet and placid like him, others though were wild eyed, weeping, praying.  He wanted to help them so he started singing.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll…” they took it up in dribs and drabs until nearly the whole bus was singing.  Their guards stood up and the billy clubs began their work.  So he sang louder and was tazed.

When he didn’t come home she thought he was working late.  He didn’t answer his phone but that was par for the course.  After dinner however she called everyone she could think of to call.  No one had seen him.  He had been working alone.  Fearing he had had an accident, she drove out to the site but his car was gone.  She checked the hospitals.  Then she called the police.  The voice on the line sounded incurious and overworked as they took the relevant information and hung up.

Days passed.  She slept very little.  She moved around in a numbness.  Packing lunches, sending the kids to school, going to work, making dinner and still he did not return.  No word.  No call.  What finally shook her awake was the grocery store.

“I’m sorry ma’am, your card was denied.  Do you have another?”  She did.  That card was denied too.  As was her bank card.  “Could you step out of line ma’am?”  The manager apologized and tried her cards again at the desk with the same results.  She had no cash.  No one did.  It was all counterfeit these days.  They began to look at her suspiciously, she was too tired and confused to get angry so she left the groceries there at the desk.  Driving home she realized she still needed them though so she tried another market.  The eyes were more sympathetic but the results were the same. 

“I don’t understand,” the manager there said, “this should work.  You did re-register with the new system didn’t you?”  She finally got angry.

“Your family will starve,” said the well-fed man in the suit.
“They may,” he answered.
“You haven’t asked for a phone call.”
“You haven’t charged me with anything.”  He stared with the serene indifference he’d been blessed with these past few weeks into the eyes of the man across the steel table.  It was the first time anyone had attempted to talk with him.  It was the first person he’d seen since they put him in his cell.  It was the first time they’d let him out of his cell.  It was a day of firsts.  He smiled.  The man in the suit just stared.
“Is something funny?”
“Probably not.”
“You can save them.”  The smile sank.  Now the man in the suit smiled.  An actor’s smile.  A smile of pity.  “All you have to do, is call them, tell them to register.  Tell them it’s okay.  They’re credit will be unfrozen.”
“You won’t let me go though.”
The man in the suit shook his head, “no, I’m afraid not.  Your kind is too dangerous.  We’ve done the psych evals.  But there’s still hope for them, they’re not committed terrorists, they haven’t been brainwashed by your medieval brand of ignorance and hatred yet.  Tell them it’s okay, tell them to register and they can live.”

The phone rang.  She didn’t answer it.  She’d forgot what it was.  It hadn’t rang since people found out.  They’d tried talking her into registering.  They’d tried convincing her she didn’t have to live like this.  Her mother was hysterical.  She had tried to take the children from her, have her declared unfit.  So she ran.  In the middle of the night she loaded them in the car with what little food a friend had given them and left.

She had nowhere to go.  They stuck to back roads, slept in out of the way parking lots.  Though she still didn’t sleep much.  Every time headlights would wash over them she panicked.  She didn’t know what she would do if they took her children.  They were lethargic and whiney much of the time now.  They kept asking her why?  She kept giving them every answer but the one on her heart. 

This was his fault.  He was the one who wouldn’t register, didn’t want her to register.  He was the one with all the whacked out beliefs.  They had fought.  They had fought bitterly, she had threatened to register her and the kids anyway but something had always stopped her.  Something stopped her now.  She wasn’t angry at him for stopping them, she was angry at him for giving her these doubts.

The phone rang again.  She recognized it this time, his face showed up on the screen.

“Baby, it’s me…wait, wait, baby wait.  I have something really important to tell you.  Are you listening?  Kay. 

Endure.”  The phone went dead in his hand.  The man in the suit shook his head sadly.

“You could have saved them.”  The guards came.  They took the phone and lifted him from his seat.

“If she listens to me, then she will be saved.”  They put him back in his cell.  That was the worst time of his captivity.  Would she listen?  Would she endure?  Would they take his children and re-educate them?  It wasn’t in his hands.  He could only hope and pray the life he had lived before was enough of a witness.  Two days later they came and got him again.  This time he was put in a line and marched single file up some stairs and up to a large room where they were put side by side with three other lines of half-starved prisoners.  Each line was made to stand before one of four doors.  He looked around at the others, happy to be seeing someone at all.  There were men and women of every tongue, tribe and nation but one thing was uniform.  The two lines to his left were successfully taller and the one line to his right was made up of people about six inches shorter than he and his line.  It meant something but he was far too addled by this point to figure out what.

The doors opened and they marched inside.  It was buzzing, dark, dank and narrow; the walls rubbed their shoulders.  Their slippers rang hollowly on the metal floor.  There was a single row of red fluorescent lights down the center and by it he could see the only feature of the corridor was a track to either side about neck high.  The first person came to a wall and stopped, the guards kept packing them in until they were pressed so tight they could barely breathe.  He couldn’t move, there was nothing to see to either side so he looked up. 

The lights he thought were red weren’t really.  They were just covered with something red.  The buzzing he saw wasn’t just flickering flouros.  There were flies too.  He looked again at the tracks.  He looked up at the flies on the red stuff on the lights.  His smile came back. 

“My sin, oh the bliss, of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part but in whole…”
This time the song was cut off when their heads were by the steam driven cable running down the tracks.  The bodies were pressed so tightly together they just stood there until the floor opened and they fell with the other four lines into the truck bed below.

It finally occurred to her to chuck the phone after his call.  It was probably being tracked the whole time she ran.  They could have taken her at any time.  She drove all that day until she couldn’t see straight anymore.  She parked on a scenic overlook and watched the sun set into the sea.


“Yeah, honey?”

“Can we be done driving?”

“Yeah, honey.  We’re done.”  They were out of gas anyway.  They slept in the car that night.  The only cars she saw were tractor-trailers, the kind they use to take refuse to landfills.  There must be a dump nearby.  The next day she packed up everything they had into one little bag and they started walking, she had to carry her daughter she was so weak.  She found she couldn’t carry her far though as she didn’t have the strength.  They sat under an outcropping and slept and ate the last of the food.

“Mommy, why are you crying?”

“Let’s sing a song.”  She racked her brain for a song.  She had no memory for lyrics.  Especially ones her children would know and draw hope from.  In a weak but confident voice, her daughter began to sing,

“Jesus loves me this I know…”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rejoice! You suck and so do i!

“Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, in order that it would torment me so that I would not exalt myself.Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would depart from me. And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, because the power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore rather I will boast most gladly in my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may reside in me.” (2Cor:12)

It’s usually my policy to not speak of myself too much here.  This is for two reasons, one is that I’m really not that interesting.  Two is because I’d like to be.
I am a small man.  I don’t mean short, though in God’s humor, He chose to make me that too.  I am small in dignity.  I am not confident.  I have no claim to greatness.  I have no claim to honor.  I need constant reassurance, an emotional parasite from a line of emotional parasites.  I am self-absorbed.  I have little to be proud of and often combat this by taking far too much pride in the few gifts I have been given.

Why am I telling you this?  Again, two reasons: 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5) and because, like Paul, I am learning to boast in my weaknesses.

Only Christians can do this rationally.  I am easily overwhelmed.  A harsh word, a small opposition to my plans, a little thing that goes wrong and I come apart.  Why would I boast of this?  Because sometimes I overcome!  How?  Did I cease to become a small-minded, self-seeking, easily overwhelmed weakling?  Heck no!  Gimme a few minutes and i'll prove it.  Christ overcame me!  He not only overcame the resistance, He overcame me!  And He does this all the time!  So to boast of my weakness is to simultaneously boast of His greatness!

It has been my pattern, being a self-seeking, small-minded man, to see this as growth.  I’m getting better.  Bah!  Thank the Lord that He keeps knocking me back down!  Otherwise I would be insufferable!  My heart wants to take the victories of Christ in me, the times He overcomes me and my weaknesses, the Power of God in me, for myself!  I am so pathetic I would take credit for what God has done for me and through me!  I am so wretched I would accept the glory for things I had nothing to do with!  Any time I overcome myself, it is not me but Christ in me!  So I will boast in my weaknesses, my lack of education, my lack of resources, my lack of strength and stature, because the Power of God, the Victory of Christ and the Spirit of Love shine through these things!  God is making much of Himself not through our supposed aptitudes but through the very things we most hate about ourselves!

This is a lot of exclamation points.  But this stuff excites me.

Now, I will not boast in my sin.  And these weaknesses have been used as engines of sin in me.  When I try to make people like me.  When I try to take credit for God’s gifts.  When I seek the approval of men and God.  When I become self-righteous.  34 With those who scorn, he is scornful,
    but to those who are humble, he gives favor.” (Prov 3)
In my weakness, I have allowed sin to power and corrupt even the good in my life.  I have loved only to seek love.  This is not love.  God, who is love, loves those who cannot love Him.  Who cannot benefit Him.  God does not seek us to fill some hole in Himself.  He seeks us to fill a hole in US!  This is love!  Not to be worshiped for how great I am but to give up my greatness, to use my greatness (I’ll get to that) for the good of the other!  That my friends, my brothers and sisters, is Love!  That’s why love isn’t proud, why it doesn’t keep a record of wrongs!  It’s not seeking anything but the good of the other, it’s not considering itself at all. 

I would tell you to love like that but that would be stupid!  You can’t!  You are too weak, I am too weak.  And that’s exactly where we need to be!  Now we’re ready.  Only a Christian is greatest when they come to the end of themselves. 
“And this is the victory which has conquered the world: our faith. Now who is the one who conquers the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1John:5)
When we confess our weakness to God and each other, God is free to move!  Why would He bless us if we take credit for His work?  No one's is going to be saved by thinking we're awesome.  You are no one's savior!  We must confess our weaknesses, foremost and first among them being, We cannot save ourselves!  Only by Christ are we saved and redeemed!  We must boast of our failings and flaws before men (we might as well, they see them eventually anyway) so that men will see our good deeds and say, “That’s awesome!  He’s a total jerk so that must be the finger of God!”  The Father and Son are in us.  They have given us the Holy Spirit, the mighty right hand of God!  The greatest power in the universe is in us!  God says to us, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3)  “‘Child, you are always with me, and everything I have belongs to you.” (Luke 15)  Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.  We are simultaneously worse than we think we are and greater than we can possibly imagine!  God has given you your weakness as well as your gifts!  Stop using them to build tin tiaras, reverse the polarity on the engines of sin and focus on Christ!  Learn from Peter, don’t take your eyes off Him.  The crowns we wear are His gifts!  They are the works God’s Spirit does in us!  Throw them at the Lamb’s feet, rejoice that He has chosen you, do good as He makes you able and worship!  How could you not??

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Lord of the Piston Rings?

So i was looking at a leaf spring from an old car in my yard, yes, i am a redneck, get it out of your system now, moving on, and suddenly i pictured this guy.  This Uruk Hai but not in Middle Earth, Last Earth: Post Apocalyptic Earth.  My fancy gave him a 3/4 inch rebar arrow and then took off trying to re-imagine the Lord of the Rings in this new setting.  What if hobbits were halflings readapting to a pastoral setting after the technological breakdown?  What if Sauron was pushing to reinstate the techno-industrial empire?  What if his "eye" was a remaining satellite?  Goblins came out of tunnels, basements and sewers?  Man was easily lured back to his glorious past, forgetting the evils he had wreaked upon the world?  i'm still fuzzy on elves but they'll come.  What do you think?  What would this world look like?  How would it effect the story?  What would the ring be if magic was symbolized by something else?