Good Friday

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It is 7:30. Jesus is before Pilate. “This man is a rebel against Rome,” the Jewish leaders are saying. “He claims he is the king.”

“Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asks.
Jesus replies, “Yes, it is as you say.”

They continue to talk.

Good Friday

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It is 7:15. Pilate has been alerted. Jesus is being brought before him, having already bled and been mocked. He was taken in prayer last night, and has not slept in at least twenty four hours.

Good Friday

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It is 6:45. At this moment Jesus was coming before the leading priests and teachers of religious laws. They said, “Tell us if you are the Messiah.”

A meditation on Isaiah 5

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Something I threw together last week. “Finishing the Song” is the title:

“I have decided to plant a garden on that hill,” the Gardener said one Spring afternoon.

“That hill?” his son asked.

“That hill,” the Gardener answered.

“Why?”

“Because that’s the hill I chose.”

“It is fertile and eager for life,” the counselor said. “The rocks can be removed. The soil can be turned.”

“You’d know,” the son replied. “What about our enemies?”

“We will build a watchtower,” the counselor replied. “All will be welcomed if they seek peace. Those who don’t will be rejected.”

“Why a garden at all?”

“I am King, my son, but I am more. I want to have the world see me through the life I bring. I want people on the road to see my garden. Take in the beauty. Taste the fresh fruit. Drink the wine. I want them to see who I am before they see me.”

“You have already planted a garden.”

“Yes! But that is within the walls now. No one can see that garden anymore. They can’t taste that fruit. Not yet. They will. But not yet. Now, I want to have a garden outside the walls. A garden of life which points to life.”

So they got to work, masters at what they do, eager to step down from their heights and get their hands dirty. Rocks were taken away. Paths were cleared. Choice seeds were found and planted with care. Vines were tended. Small saplings grew to strong trees. Flowers began to bloom. The garden flourished. It was beautiful and the bounty of what it offered in fruit and vegetables was vast. Vintners came and tasted the wine.

“It is magnificent,” they said. “We must share with those back home.”

Messengers were sent to the Gardener King. They brought gifts and praise and honor, declaring his work to be beyond measure.

The Gardener smiled. His son smiled. The counselor smiled.

Those who were hired to tend the garden smiled but not as much as before. They became discontent. The garden was not interesting enough anymore. They heard of different flowers and different trees and different ways of tending the soil. One fellow came along and told them tales of a garden he saw years before.

“There was this tree,” he said. “The fruit of which… wow, amazing. Really opened your mind. Too bad the Gardener won’t let you plant that here. It was something else.”

Those in the garden asked more; about how to find this tree, how to care for it, what it was like, if it could be planted again.

“Well, there are ways,” the man replied. “Of course, you can’t ask the Gardener King. There are others who can help. You need to ask them. They will show you beauty and tastes you can’t even begin to imagine.”

The servants began asking around and taking the advice of any who would offer it. It didn’t take long for their efforts to be noticed.

The counselor came by one day and plucked a fig off a tree, then spit it out after taking a bite.

“Terrible! I must mention this to the Gardener.”

The Gardener knew something had been going wrong, but took special notice now. He saw the flowers were dull and hardly any bees were around. The trees looked brown and the branches drooped. The grapes on the vines were small, shriveled. He tripped over some rocks, rocks that weren’t there before, stumbling into the dirt. He put his nose next to the soil and sniffed. Something was wrong. The soil was poisoned.

“What more could I have done?” he asked, tears streaming down his face. “I had a beautiful garden, with choice grapes and gorgeous flowers. Now look. What have you made of it? The soil is ruined. Nothing will grow.”

His anger began to rise.

“I will tear down the trees. I will break down the hedges. The watchtower will be abandoned. This hill will become a wasteland!”

The servants scattered. The Gardener and his counselor went back to the castle where they met the son..

“The garden is ruined,” the counselor said.

“Can anything be done?” the son asked.

“Yes,” the Gardener said. “But not now. The soil must recover. Then it must be replanted. New, healthy plants grafted onto the old to bring new life. It can be done. But the servants can’t be trusted to do it. Who can I trust? Who can bring life?”

“I will go,” the son replied. “I will replant your garden.”

A Taste of Heaven

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A little thing I wrote last week, posted for your enjoyment:

After finding my finances to be rather, well, less interesting than I would like them, and too interesting to my creditors I decided I’d wander west a ways to see what all the fuss was about. I had a horse, a few bags, and lots of advice from folks who hoard good ideas without ever getting around to using any themselves.

They asked where I was going and I said, “West” and left it at that mostly because that’s all I had so far. Well, in fact I had a couple of ideas in mind, even if not a destination. One was to take a ride on one of the Mississippi paddle wheel steamboats my cousin Henry Ladro kept going on and on about.

“Like riding a smoking castle,” he’d say, any chance he’d get. I never quite got what was so appealing about a castle that’s smoking, but anyhow it did bite me somewhere deep so I made that part of my plans.

I don’t remember much from the first part of the trip except dust and sweat. I rode in dust and worked up a sweat, seeing nothing new and making me wonder why people ever left home. By the time I got to the fine town of Hannibal, Missouri I was ready to put the dust behind me.

A selection of boats were in port, so I went to the agent and said, “Give me a ticket for one man and a horse to St. Louis on the finest boat you’ve got.” He smiled and sold me a ticket for The Empyrean Tincture.

When I got myself halfway settled, long after the ship was hustling downriver, I wandered up to the pilot house. I wanted to know what kind of man manages a beast such as this.

The pilot was an older man, with a long white beard and a crisp white uniform. He shook my hand and welcomed me aboard, inviting me to stick around after I expressed my sincere appreciation for the fine shape of his vessel and his skill in handling her.

“Now some of the other captains, they’ll tell you they own this river,” the pilot said to me. “I would never say that, not for a second. Sure, I may borrow it for a little while. I might even take advantage of it. But own it? No, sir, I respectfully decline the honor and refuse the responsibility.”

“I suppose,” I said, “they are expressing their mastery of the depths and dangers, saying this river isn’t going to catch me unawares.”

“That’s what they’re saying, and I could say the same thing as them, maybe better at that, sir. But, we’d all be plumb fools for the saying of it, and no one has ever accused Captain William Sampson Beveridge of being a fool, not while sober leastways. I know every turn, every twist, every rock, every shallow, every current, every dog, trader and ne’er-do-well on this river, and I’m nothing compared to the mighty Miss herself. No, she lets me borrow her a little bit. As long as I stay in her good graces she’s kind. But she’s been at her work for a long while before me, and she’ll be at it a long while after ol’ Captain Beveridge is forgotten.”

“Such is life, I suppose,” I said.

“Well there’s life and then there’s life, and I’m telling you this here is a living river. She goes where she will and how she will. Folks say this is the Mississippi and likely a hundred years from now they’ll call it the same. Only it’s not the same. I remember when I was young and followed twists that are now straight, and how I ate good meals in fine river towns which are now 20 miles in the country. No, this river goes where it will, biding its time but never satisfied. A good pilot never stops watching and never stops learning and keeps his wits about him from the time he’s old enough to strap on his boots to the time the undertaker takes them off. No, sir. If you hear a pilot say he owns this river, you decline his services and swim the rest of the way. For your health and safety, sir. Now then, pardon me. Here we are.”

We arrived in St. Louis. Here I disembarked, after offering my compliments to the captain and his crew. Not long after I was back in the dust, though with a little better notion to keep my wits about me, at least until I reached the other side. Of the country that is.

a wee scene

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A little something I wrote last week. Call it “Pilate’s Choice”:

The chaos has moved away from the palace. Only the various guards and couriers and other officials remain. A servant enters the room and stands silent waiting for a command.

“Take it,” Pilate says to the servant. “I am done with it.”

The servant walks out the large double doors onto the balcony and picks up the heavy basin of water and the towel draped over it. The water sloshes as he walks out, some spilling on the mosaic floor.

Pilate stares at the spilled water and at the servant who doesn’t stop walking. Another time he would have the servant whipped. Not today. He is exhausted by his position today, though the servant may make up for this later.

He stares out over the courtyard where not long before crowds and rebellion had been calling for blood. Pilate gave it to them. What else could he do?

Soft footsteps and rustling of fine robes stir his frustration again.

“What now?” he yells as he turns. “Leave me alone I said!”

“Like you left the holy man alone?” his wife asks. “Did you do it?”

“It is done,” Pilate replies.

“I told you my dreams,” she says. “You are wrong.”

“Wrong. Right. None of that makes a difference, Procula my dear,” he replies. His mood softens under the gaze of the only person who could make him feel shame. “Are you the Sibyl that I can record your dreams in my reports to Rome? Ah, they were stirring up rebellion over this man, I will write, but my wife, she had bad feelings about the whole business so I let him go. Sorry about all the buildings they burned.”

“Your mocking does not befit you,” Procula responds. “This is a matter of the gods.”

“I am sorry,” Pilate says. “This day. These people. What can I do? I go left I am assaulted. I go right I am crushed. You have heard their clamor. You know they are constantly complaining. I am Rome to them, all they despise and hate. They never relent. So what am I to do? Defy them and take a stand against their fiery darts? For what? For what Procula? I ask you that.”

“They only use words,” she replies. “They have no real power. You are afraid of their arguments? You are Rome and wield Rome’s power to act with justice and nobility. Do you use that? You have been called here with authority. Yet words make you falter.”

“Words now. What later? He is innocent. Don’t you think I know that? But, what else could I do? I gave him the opportunity. All I needed was a reason, an argument, a defense so that I could use that to protect him and to protect me. This didn’t have to turn out like this. You call him a holy man. What did he say to me? ‘You say so.’ He said, ‘You say so.’ What am I to do with that? I asked him to prove himself, he gives me nothing but my own opinion.”

“You could have chosen what you knew to be right.”

“Choose what is right? Choose what is right for who? I choose me, Procula. I choose me. Had he given me an eloquent defense; had he pointed me to his righteous deeds; had he done a miracle, I would have chosen him, and sent that scoundrel Barabbas to the cross. I wanted to, Procula. I wanted to save him. But he gave me nothing. How could I choose him if I have nothing more than my own stark choice. Indeed, I think he wanted to die. I think I am doing him a favor.”

“You are doing no one a favor, Pilate my husband. Do not confuse willingness to die for desire. Though maybe that is a distinction you can no longer make.”

“Procula, there is no distinction. Willingness is desire. He is not afraid of death, and so he is dying even now. I am afraid of death. I am terribly afraid of it. So I choose not to die at the hands of rebellious barbarians or cunning Romans. I choose not to die so I stay here in power. He chose to die so he is on a cross. Let that be the sign of those who would follow him and not be afraid of death. I choose me. I choose life. Those rabble who follow him, choose the cross. And they choose all that brings.”

cawing

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Well, if you haven’t been able to tell by my last few posts, I’ve a new section up called Cawing. It’s where I’m going to start putting up stuff I’ve written which doesn’t already have a home elsewhere. If you have any comments or suggestions or thoughts or contemplations or musings or rants or anything else about anything you read please feel free to send them my way.

A dream

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For the first time in a long while I fell asleep on the couch in front of the television. Now, sometimes this is a gentle and relaxing sort of sleep, indicating the busyness and work of the day pulling my consciousness away before I had a chance to get up and wander to bed. The gentle lull of a favored show or movie massage my cares to silence, my eyelids grow heavy, my body slumps against a pillow, and even my ears no longer can keep up with the plot. A few hours later I wake up, the lights still on, the dinner plate still next to me, and I happily move from living to bed room.

Usually, it’s nice. Last night I didn’t fall asleep watching an old movie, or a drama, or one of my Rocky and Bullwinkle DVDs. Instead, at some point I turned the channel to the news. It must have been between the coverage of minor global events and the sports coverage. I remember seeing the smiling sports anchor talking about what he was going to say about USC and the Lakers’ new season, but I don’t remember hearing the report.
The unconscious should not be listening to the news while it is drifting away from rational consideration. The inner life doesn’t fly. It drags along on the ground, meaning if it drags through the mud it takes a while to get back into presentable order.

I fell asleep on the couch and I had a dream, a vivid dream. Here’s my dream.

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Lost and Found

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Colin was lost. Sure he knew where he was, but he was still lost. The strong fragrance of the trees filled his nostrils as he stood staring. It was afternoon, and though warm, not overly so. Clouds were moving and gathering towards him, likely bringing some more cooler temperatures, and who knows what else. Fortunately, he was prepared for an extended time in the wilderness. Unfortunately, he just realized he no longer knew how extended this time was going to become. Birds, jays and chickadees among others, seemed curious about this new visitor to their neighborhood. For a time he was curious about them as well, but that was before he realized he no longer knew where he was.

The trees around him were immense. As tall as he could crane his head to see, as big around as his first apartment after college. It was an amazing place to be, even if one had strayed to get here. Not a stranger to the wilderness, Colin just now became aware that he was not as familiar with it as he assumed. Maps always seemed to be easily read, but, in this case, where he absolutely knew he was had no bearing on anything he could see around him. That hill he just came down was not really supposed to be here, nor that creek in front of him. He was not sure where these were supposed to be, but here is not it. So sure he is of this he first doubts the makers of the map, and then begins to doubt the maker of the hill and the creek. It wouldn’t have occurred to him that he could have misplaced himself, but here he was, quite misplaced.

After continuing to stare for a moment, he realized being bewildered about his location was not all that bad. So he sat on the remains of a trunk, climbing up its crumbling side, and let the forest smells calm his already peaceful soul. The screeching cackle of a steller’s jay caught his attention, but only in a casual sort of way. High above him, he watched clouds gather in the sky, but craning his neck so far back to do this quickly became tiresome, so he restored his gaze upon the ferns, and rocks, and birds. There was something about sitting in the midst of such an abundance of life. Something primal and invigorating, something which reached into his depths and said “Ah… yes.”
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A Sea Story

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Everyone said he shouldn’t be doing this. Well, everyone being Tony and Kris. They’re the only ones he told. It’s too dangerous, they said. What if something breaks, they asked. You don’t really know how to use the radio, they pointed out. Ah, but it was the adventure, the challenge, the open air and clear skies which beckoned him. It was the call of nature upon his weighted soul, entreating him to forsake the vagaries of society with all of its artificiality. The natural world spoke to him, and too long he went without the conversation which empowers his being. He listened to the call, because his soul demanded it of him. Not often does one’s own soul command action, but when it does… when it does…

Scott knew that only amongst the stars and clouds, birds and waves could he find whatever it was he lost. He did not mind the solitude, he cherished the time to think. Indeed, he needed the time to think, in a place where others could not interrupt him with all of their own pressing concerns. It was true, he was very good at what he did, which often made people irritated, for good reasons, but that often kept him from the things he wanted to do, and the things he needed to do. With all that happened over the past several weeks, he simply could not go any longer without finding some sort of re-centering. So here he was.

A strong breeze from the northwest blew, puffing out his shirt and messing up his wavy brown hair. He stood, letting the breeze blow in and through him, filling his lungs with its new air. It was still early in the morning, the sun not yet sure it wanted to rise. He laughed when he left the cabin into the cockpit and saw the single sea gull sitting on the top of his mast. This bird, with its demanding call, was the reason he was up right now, but it did not bother him. On certain mornings, beautiful mornings of strong breezes and brilliant sunrises, it is a boon to be woken up before the body would have naturally stirred.
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