Friday, December 24, 2010

All Seated on the Ground

On the outskirts of town, the crackle of a modest campfire could be heard from a distance, indistinct words mingling with short outbreaks of muted laughter, carried across the hills by a calming night wind.  Working men’s hands stretched out towards the fire, elbows resting on knees, eyes gazing at the inviting flame, lingering smiles on lined faces.

The fire invited warmth, and the small circle of four enjoyed each other’s company.  Conversation alternated from the mysteries of life to the mysteries of a good lunch, with moments of gaseous laughter in between.

Jake stroked his beard absently, his round face a picture of contentment.  With a touch of ache, and a touch of whimsy, in his heart, he took a deep breath of the night air. But the breeze shifted and instead he took in a lungful of smoke.  Coughing and laughing, he waved his hands in front of his face, the smoke stinging his eyes with tears.  His friends looked on and seasoned the night with another healthy smattering of laughs.

He hacked himself dry, and wiped the tears from his cheeks.  

“Daaaah!” he said with a wheezy chuckle that shook his big frame.  “Oooh…  Shaaah!”

Another round of laughs.  Jake could easily keep a laugh going with his supplementary curse words.  It was an old joke with these men, but one that seemed to improve with age.  He wiped his face with one more chuckle, glancing around the circle at these men who knew him like no one else.  Jake’s soul could use a good, strong laugh right now, and the levity in this circle had been earned in heartbreak.

Jake’s wife was not living with him at the moment.  She had the girls, Deborah and Sarah, with her.  Sometimes the other guys saw Jake bite his bottom lip while he worked.  They knew this meant he was missing those lovely brown eyes.  Michael sat next to Jake now, and had noticed the familiar lip bite several times through the evening.  

Michael was Jake’s closest friend, and had been with him in his darkest moments.  He seldom offered a solution, but he always offered a shoulder.  He was with Jake now, as he struggled to earn his wife’s forgiveness and make his family a family again.

Michael was older than Jake by two years, and shorter than Jake by two inches.  Slow to speak, it seemed that words formed somewhere in Michael’s dimples a few seconds before he spoke them, and Jake could usually predict the mood of the words if not the words themselves.  

Jake was the first person Michael told when he found out he would be a father, and Jake was with Michael when little Gabriel was born.  That night they smoked their lungs dry and drank bad wine.  Michael went to Jake when, sixteen years later, little Gabriel stormed out of the house, cursing his father and making an oath never to see him again.  They drank bad wine that night, too.

Michael took a cursory glance around the hills at the animals they were minding and  reached for the jug.  David beat him to it and with a wry little smile, took a deep, warming swig of the mixed concoction.  

David, thin on top and thin in the middle, had been a widower for almost as long as he’d been a father.  When he spoke of his little girl, who was married now and expecting David’s first grandchild, his eyes became thin slots of joy.  When he spoke of his wife, those eyes were wide and thoughtful, and it seemed he had married her yesterday morning.  When he spoke of her death, they were distant, and it seemed she had died last night.  The wound left by her absence was a tear, a laceration, that had never healed.  

But he knew how to tell a good joke badly, and he laughed twice as often as he cried.  “I own this town, you know,” he would often joke.  “I got royal blood and someday I’m gonna clean up this city!”

Dave licked his lips and placed the jug in Michael’s waiting hands.  Mike took a large gulp and set it next to the kid of the group, a young man they simply called Turtle.  Turtle  lifted the jug nearly to his lips, but didn’t take a drink.

Turtle was slow.  Young for his age.  He began working with these men two years ago, when his father gave him the scar above his right eye.  He told his son never to come back, and Turtle, though crushed inside, obliged.  He felt no bitterness to his father, he was too simple for that.  He simply felt sadness.

Turtle, simple as he was, had begun to make something of his own life.  He wasn’t sure what a man was supposed to be, but he knew it wasn’t what his father was.  Somewhere, though, in the company of these broken men, he had begun to form a picture of fatherhood, of masculinity, of friendship.  Recently he had even found a young woman with far-off green eyes and wispy brown hair who seemed to him to be God’s messenger on earth.  Her name was Zoe, and to him she was Life itself.

“She’s really pretty, huh?” blurted Turtle, absently holding the jug in his hands.

He liked to talk about her with his friends.  Whatever the actual topic of conversation was at the moment seldom mattered.  When he got to thinking about her, he went to a place far away, and talking about her was an invitation to join him there.

“She sure is, Turtle.  Very pretty,” said Jake with a knowing look to the others.

“I know, huh,” said Turtle, smiling.

Silence came upon the four friends again as they stared into the fire.  The flames crackled from orange to yellow, with sparks of green and blue near the bark of the firewood.  A lamb brayed here and there to accentuate the tranquility of the moment.  If a stranger passed by in the night, he would have seen four good old boys sitting by a fire.  

David sighed deeply.

Michael coughed quietly.

The fire crackled.

An angel stood within the fire, and said, “Hello.”

The men jumped, falling to their backs as if hit by a blast.  David scrambled backward on his hands and elbows.  Jake screamed girlishly.  Turtle didn’t move.  Michel ran several feet in just seconds before turning around to see the figure.  

It was smiling, and stood as tall as a fig tree.  It was a fiery green, flickering with flame, highlighted in orange and white.  Though the men were scattered, the angel seemed to gaze on each one of them individually.    His eyes looked into their own, reading their stories in a moment.  Mighty dread pounded in their ears and fear struck their limbs numb.  Their impending death seemed apparent.

“Don’t be afraid,” the angel said.  

But Turtle had stained himself, just a little.

The angel’s voice was both deep and light, like the rushing of mighty waters and the babbling of a brook.

“I bring you good news, of great joy, which will be for people of all time, everywhere.”

“Oh God,” said Michael.

“Tonight, just over there in David’s town,” and the angel held out a flaming hand and outstretched finger, “a Saviour has been born, who is the Anointed One, the Lord.”

“Wow.” said Turtle, who startled easily, but accepted things with remarkable speed. “Can we see him?”  

“Yes!” The angel smiled as if sharing an inside joke. “This is how you’ll find him.  He’ll be wrapped in swaddling bands, and laying in a feeding trough.”  

The absurdity of a newborn in a feeding trough didn’t strike the men until much later, as at the moment they were talking to a flaming angel.

The angel now seemed to hunker down on his haunches, as if he were about to reveal a wonderful secret.  Later, when David told the story, he swore the angel whispered, “Watch this!”

A curtain opened.  Until that moment, they had been unaware of its presence, but it drew away from them just the same.  What was revealed was perhaps the greatest spectacle ever seen by human eyes.

The shepherds rose slowly to their feet, mouths agape, eyes transfixed upon the quiet hills surrounding the little town of Bethlehem. Tears rolled down Jake’s cheeks.  Michael’s legs shook visibly.  Standing upon the hills, as far as their new eyes could see, were angels.  Thousands upon thousands, millions, more than could be counted, line upon line, arrayed in the swirling, perfect order of nature itself.

An emerald glow rose from the ground to the sky, illuminating each strange, angelic creature from within.  Which were cherubim and which were seraphim they didn’t know, but there were figures of flame, like the one in their campfire, and beasts with strange faces, and men and women with enormous eagle’s wings, and creatures that eluded all description.

The campfire angel stood to his feet again, and bellowed with a voice as big as the sea:

“Glory to God in the highest!”

The angelic horde shouted back with the sound of a million trumpet blasts: “And on earth peace!  Good will towards men!”

Again the angel shouted, even louder, and the earth itself thrummed with his voice:


The legions of beings called in return, deeper than thunder and higher than music.


And in an instant, they were gone.  The curtains closed.  The campfire angel disappearing with, what Dave would later claim to be, a wink.

The four men stood there, in the silent hills, the night air whisping across their faces.

Turtle giggled.  Jake chuckled.  David laughed.  Michael burst out in a howl.

They laughed all the way into town.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mercy's Place

An aged dog, tethered to a stake in the ground and forgotten, listless and languid in the afternoon sun. He sat there as such, rubbing his whiskers and watching the shadows grow. He had been here for a very long time, and could remain for an age to come.

Thirty-nine years ago, he was 24. He thought he was an adult then. He was mistaken.

He took for himself a girl. She was old enough to excite him, and young enough to love him. He thought he was in love, too, or something close to it. He was in heat. When he discovered that he’d impregnated her, the air around him became palpable, pressing the life from his lungs.

He deserted her, and ran for the big city. He hoped he would be lost in the crowd. His first night in town was spent at a brothel, where he began the evening laughing in the company of strangers. He fell asleep weeping in the arms of a prostitute.

Between drinks, he looked for work in the new town, finding it at a small cabinet making company on the south side. When, on his second day, he arrived for work a strong morning wake-up on his breath, he was able to hide his condition from his boss. He could not hide it from the blade he was carrying or the steps he was attempting to descend.

His injuries were extensive, but with his money spent entirely on forgetting the mother and child he’d abandoned, he had little interest in medical care. It didn’t take long for him to lose the use of his legs. His right hand, infected from a deep gash and lack of proper bandaging, was not much better.

The proximity of his injury to his act of abandonment was not lost on him. He was guilty. He was punished. He wandered the streets, and haunted the jails, hobbling as he could on crutches, or shuffling along on his calloused knees.

It wasn’t long before he found the community pool. It was a popular place to be for those who were going nowhere. Tramps and beggars, cripples and creeps. They congregated here. For the disabled, it was a place to be among people who understood. For the drunks, it was a place free from judgement. Upright citizens often called upon the authorities to “clean up” the place, but seldom to any avail.

It was known as Mercy’s Place, a name held in irony by the upright, but not by the residents. It was a mercy to be among people that didn’t mind what you were, or why you were there. It was a grace to be free among the fettered, without shame.

It also helped that these were thought to be miracle spring waters.

“Watch for the water when it woozshes,” a friend told him. “If it moves a certain way, like, ‘wooozsh’ like that, it’s an angel jumping in the water. If you’re the first one in when it woozshes, you’ll be healed. My friend knew a guy who lost a foot. He got in the water when it woozshed, he got his foot back. Cuz God loves us, huh?”

A good tale for the simple-minded, he thought. God become superstition. On the rare occasion when it looked like an angel was troubling the water, he sat and watched the lucky one jump in. He never did see any limbs grow back, but the rumour persisted.

In the back of his mind, however, never close enough to confess it in words, he believed something of the story. He would sit on his mat, legs useless and slumped beneath him, staring at the spring, the sun sparkling upon the waters. The thought, the feeling, always persisted, that there was something to his friend’s words. Maybe not the part about angel jumping in, or even about getting healed, but something.

“If I ever make it in, I’ll know…”

His mind would again travel to the child he never met, whose birthday he never even knew. He thought of the mother, nursing a newborn alone. It was always this way in his mind. The child always an infant, always out of focus. The mother always alone. Neither child nor mother aged a day in 39 years. Their place was as stationary as his seat on his mat.

And there he sat, forever held in place by the weight of a burdened mind and a heavy heart.

He was an old man now, and old beyond his years. His legs withered sticks, his hand a fist so gnarled it was practically a club. These days, however, he sat closer to the pool than he used to sit. On the rare occasion that the spring waters woozshed, he shambled as quickly as he could to reach the edge. It was always the same, though, with the old man left wheezing and breathless while the quicker man splashed in the angel’s wake.

From time to time, some well-meaning souls came down to Mercy’s Place, offering a meal or clothing, sometimes even a little conversation. Today was such a day, though not on the typical day of the week. He ate a simple, mildly tasty meal, as a volunteer sidled up to sit with him.

“Hello,” said the volunteer.

“Hello. You’re not supposed to be doing this today, you know.”

“Some people think that.”

The old invalid gave him a wry look. “ ‘Some people?’”

“Don’t worry about it,” the man said, and changed the subject. “Are you from around here?”

“Nope. Been here a long time, though.”

“How long?”

“Almost forty years,” he said, his eyes occupied with the space around him.

“Wow. You’ve been here by the pool all that time?”

“Pretty near. I like it here,” and he took a sloppy bite of his lunch.

“It’s nice,” the volunteer confessed, taking in the sunshine on the water. “I’ve heard that the water here is good for you.”

“That’s what I hear.”

“You must know about the angel jumping in?”

“Yeah. That’s why we’re all here. Everybody’s waiting for a miracle.”

“Do you think it’s true?”

“I don’t know. Heard plenty of stories. But I’ve been here a long time and I’ve never seen it for myself.”

“Hm. But do you think it’s true?”

“I don’t know. I suppose it would be nice for it to be true. Angels taking a swim in the water and all that. It would mean that maybe God is actually watching out for us. Maybe it means he likes us.”

“Do you think he likes you?”

“I don’t honestly know. I’ve done some pretty unforgivable shit in my time. It’s why I am the way I am. I wasn’t born this way, you know. I don’t have a palsy.”

“What happened?”

“Well sometimes you’re lame because that’s how life is,” he said. “And sometimes you’re lame because you made a terrible, sinful mistake, and that’s how life is, too.”

“You think you made a mistake?”

“Bad. I’m still paying for it. These legs, this hand, payment to God. I suppose I’ll be staying right here until I die.”

“Do you want to be healed?”

To the surprise of both, the old man began to cry. “Young sir, more than anything. You know I sit right next to that damn pool every day, just waiting for that angel to jump in. Isn’t that stupid? But every time it happens, it’s when I’m too far away. I don’t have anybody to carry me, and while I’m trying to drag my bony ass down there, somebody else always gets in first.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Oh, it’s nonsense,” the old man sniffed. “I just… I just want it to be true. I think if I got in there, and I was… Well it would mean… It would mean I was forgiven.”

The man put his left hand on the cripple’s shoulder, his right upon the shriveled hand, and looked him in the eye.

“Get up,” he said. “Take your mat and go home.”

The old man sniffed again. “What?”

The volunteer stood.

“Stand up. Take this old mat, and walk.”

He twitched his right hand. He stared at it. He stretched it out.

“Oh… God.” He stared at the volunteer. “You can’t…”

“I can. Stand up.”

The old man looked up at him. He shook his head, tears filling the crevices of his beleaguered face. “You… You don’t have to do this… I don’t…”

“I know. I want to do this.” He offered his hand. The old man took it, and as he did he felt in his feet a sensation he had missed for nearly forty years: strength. It flowed into his calves and thighs, and before his thoughts could catch up to him, he was standing, and sniffling in the arms of a lunchtime missionary.

The missionary turned him around. “Go ahead,” he said. “Walk.”

He did. Not with the trepidatious steps of a newborn, but the easy gait of a man waking after a long nap. He walked to the edge of the pool, looked back at the volunteer, and shared a smile. He walked back into the embrace of the man who made him walk.

“Thank-you,” he said.

“You’re welcome,” replied the man. “Don’t forget your mat.”

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Well, to be honest, I’ve never seen my parents.  It’s not that they left me, it’s just that I was born blind!  I’m sorry!  I’m kidding.  I mean, yes, I was born blind.   But in fact, I love my parents very much.  They live on the west side.  I try to visit them at least a few days a week.  Let them know I’m okay and so forth.  I’ve lived with them on and off, but I don’t like feeling like i’m a burden on anybody, so I try not to disrupt their lives too much.

Anyway, I love them and I’m glad that they never treated me like a curse.  Some folks tend to think that if you have a kid with something wrong with him, like being blind for instance, that there must be something wrong with you.  Pardon the expression but that’s bull crap if you ask me.   Well, unless it’s because my parents were less than married when they had me, but I don’t think so.  Well, actually, they were married when they had me, if you want to know the truth.  Just not so much when they... um... made me.  Ha!  Either way, I don’t think they were being punished.  They always loved me as if I was a blessing and I’m grateful for that.

As far as begging, I honestly don’t know how long I’ve been begging.  I’m not trying to make you feel bad or anything, I just can’t remember.  It doesn’t bother me that you asked.  It is what it is, you know?  I hear a lot of people going by, and a lot of them are in this big rush and going places and so forth.  I don’t need to worry about that.  Where have I got to go?  The only time I have to go anywhere is when I have to GO, y’know?  Ha!  I’m just kidding.  No, but, I do have to go sometimes, right, and I’ve got a spot so don’t worry about it!

My parents didn’t make me go beg.  I just knew I needed to.  And like I said, it’s not that bad.  And blind people tend to make more than your cripples and such.  I know, right!  I think it’s because people just feel worse for a blind person.  Ask somebody what they’d do if they lost a leg or an arm, and they’ll say they could get by.  But ask them what they’d do if they went blind.  That’s when they start sighing a little more and saying things like, “Boy, you know, I just don’t know.  That would be awful,” and so forth.

Well it’s really not awful.  I was born this way.  I don’t miss seeing.  I mean, do you miss being able to, I don’t know, touch sound?  Ha.  I know, it’s weird.  But really, that’s what it’s like.  Actually, I notice a lot of things other people seem to miss out on.

Like what?  Wow, um, let me see...  Birds, of course.  There’s a lot of different birds around here.  But, actually, my favourites are the pigeons.  I know!  I know nobody likes them, but I think they’re great.  I love to listen to them coo.  That’s the most incredible sound.  I’ve probably been pooped on more than a few times on the corner here, but I still like them!

I love the sound of certain bugs, too.  There are these things, I don’t know what they’re called, but they make the most amazing humming sound in the summer.  I love it.  You get that going along with the pigeons cooing, it’s just amazing.

Oh, and the sun.  I love the sun.  I think if there’s one thing that would make me wish I could see, it would be the sun.  I think if I could see, I’d probably go blind from staring at it!  Ha!  Isn’t that supposed to be bad?  Staring at the sun?  I don’t know.  But I love the fact that I can feel it, even though it’s not, like, a thing,  you know?  Like the wind, but more mysterious.  You can’t touch it, but you can feel it.  That’s so crazy!  Sometimes when I’m sitting here holding out my hands, honestly, I don’t even care if anyone drops any money in them.  I’m just holding the sun there.  A nice cup of sun!  Ha!

So, yeah, I guess it would be nice to see, if you want to know the truth.  I’d like to know what light is.

Maybe someday.  On the other side of the door, you know?  Yeah.  That’d be nice.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Son of David

His throat was raw with screaming.  He had reached a point of frenzy and fear that sent his mind whirling with desperation.  His sightless eyes spilled tears as he called out again and again. His moment was passing away, and with it, all hope for healing.

He clamored through the crowd, the masses of people pressing and surging around him like a rushing river.  When he finally fell to the ground, he wailed so loudly the sound seemed to form a momentary circle of silence around him.  His ear popped with a sudden thud as someone kicked him.  “Shut up!” came a voice, but his tenacity was as complete as his blindness.

He had lived in darkness almost all of his long life.  He remembered sight faintly, but he did remember, and on many days this seemed to be less a blessing than a curse. 

When he concentrated, instinctively closing his eyes to do so, he could see colour, and shape, and distance, as through tempered glass, and darkly.  He recalled the mottled shade of a bird’s wing (a sparrow?), and the sky reflected in water.  But mostly he remembered the shape of his father’s face, and the colour of his eyes.  His mother died when he was very young, and even when he had sight her image had already faded.  But his father’s eyes were deep and strong, and it seemed to him that all colours were possessed of the blue of them.

He remembered the light brown tones of parchment in twilight.  He remembered his fingers running the page as he read aloud to his father, stumbling on a word here and there, his father smiling and helping him sound it out.

He remembered going to temple with his father.  Though the people and the altar were obscured in the shadowy fog of his mind’s eye, he remembered the touch of his father’s hand in his own, and his father’s hand upon his back as they knelt together to pray.  He remembered the whisper in his ear, close enough to feel his breath, as his father hinted insight into the scripture reading.  

It was in this way that he remembered a promise.  He remembered a saviour.  He remembered a whisper.

“David’s son.”

He thought of that whisper every time he heard a scripture about the promised Hero.  The Hero would come from David’s line, his truest son.  Even now, not having heard a proper scripture reading in many years, he would hear, and feel, that whisper again.

“David’s son.”

He remembered other whispers.  These were the words that escaped his father’s lips when he prayed in private, his sleeping son wide awake and listening from his bed.

“O God, we are in desperate need.  Please, please help us, dear Provider.  Come to us, dear Saviour.”

But the son of David was a long way off, and the young son of Timaeus had hunger pangs.  When his father became ill, the boy had already begun begging to keep them both fed.  His blindness was not yet even complete, though he would play his eyes wildly for a more complete affect, and for more coins from sympathetic passersby.  

It seemed, now, in his memory, that his eyesight and his father died on the same day.

For unnumbered years, the son held what was left of his father’s image as to life itself.  But he was losing the strength of his youth.  Time pulled the blind man slowly, relentlessly, away from his father’s embrace, the distance between them growing ever greater, the blue of his father’s eyes ever fading into darkness.

But today, there was hope.  A man was working miracles, and he was coming close by.  He remembered a line from Isaiah, and he remembered his father’s whisper.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

“David’s son”

He screamed again, his voice like a desperate animal.  “JESUS!  JESUS, SON OF DAVID!  HELP ME!  HELP ME!”

He sat there, shaking and weeping, and still he called out.  But now, all that came from his throat was a kind of silent braying.  

“David’s son...  Help me.”


There was a voice next to his ear, and a hand on his shoulder.

“He wants to see you.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Stone Number Five

He crouched down by the water, watching the small brook rush upon the stones. He dipped his left hand in and let the deep coolness play upon his fingers for a moment. He reached for a stone, small and dark, and brought it forth.

He studied it as he patted his hand dry against his thigh. The stone was dark gray, mottled with black specks and the slightest twinge of red. He bounced it in his hand two or three times. Heavy enough. The right size. Pretty, too. He reached for his bag and placed the rock in the well-worn leather pouch.

He’d always loved collecting rocks. He liked to choose just the right ones, for shape or size, or simply for that certain something that just seemed... right. A diamond, a ruby, these things meant very little to him. But a nice rock. That was something special. Sometimes, he liked to use his knife to etch a message into its surface.

Again he dipped his hand into the water, and this time pulled out a small but heavy red stone, black veins coursing through it, and smooth from the rhythms of the river. He turned it in his hands for a moment, inspecting it with furrowed brow. A little small, but this, too, he placed in his satchel.

Twice more he pulled stones from the river, and placed them in his pack.

Again, he knelt down and pulled one more stone from the brook. This one was squarish, but smooth. From his belt, he pulled out a sling. It was made of tightly wound wool, worn and stained with time and a thousand stones. He put the squarish rock in its small, curved leather pouch, held both ends of the sling in his strong left hand, and whirled it at his side.

Across the wadi was a tree. Its branches dead with age, it was gray and had a large knot just below the fork of its decaying branches. The sling spun at his side, until he carefully raised it above his head, and took aim. The sound of the whistling cord filled his ears until, with a grunt and squint, he let go, sending the stone flying.

He missed.


Lord, I’m gonna need to do better than that.

He picked up another stone, placed it in the sling’s satchel, and took aim once again, his brows curled with concentration.

For Israel, and for the name of our God.

The stone flew, straight and true, hitting the tree across the river with a thok, missing its target by inches.

“Better,” he sighed, “but bad.”

For a third time, he dipped his hand in the river, and placed a stone in the sling. He breathed deeply.

Lord, I know you can do this. I know that I can’t without you.

The whirling sling sung above his head, and after a moment, he let fly the stone.  He watched it spiral and soar above the water, praying as it flew.

The stone hit the knot, and stayed there.

He scampered across the shallow waters to inspect what he could hardly believe. He ran his fingers across the embedded stone, his lips parted in awe.

“This is good,” he whispered. “This is very good.”

He pried the stone from the bark, inspecting it, almost expecting to discover something in the stone that held a secret. He placed it in his satchel.

“Five stones,” he smiled. “A good number.”

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I See You

He sat under the tree, the pages of scripture resting in his hands.  His eyes, however, were gazing upward, and traveling from the branches, ripe with figs, to the open sky.  Wisps of white floated above him, playing with the sunlight as they passed.  

A small bird called out as it lit upon a branch nearby in a flutter of tiny wings.  She rested there a moment, long enough to cock a studious glance at the bearded young man.  His eyes met hers, and she called out a verse.  She paused, and in another flutter she rose again.  He watched her swoop and rise and disappear behind the building beyond the small, green field his fig tree called home.  

His eyes came to rest once again at the open page before him.

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre...

Abraham.  Our father.  The one who left his country, his family, his home to venture out into the great unknown. 

He thought of his own town.  The dirty, nothing, little city he called home.  He could count the number of streets on two hands, but somehow, he felt lost there.  Life beyond its walls did not seem impossible, but close enough to impossible to seem unreachable.  To where could he fly if he did leave?  The dirty, nothing little town next door?

His heart felt anchored, chained, to everything familiar.  Family, expectations, and the weight of a life without vision.  To leave it all would require a call as deep and dramatic as that of Father Abraham.  But God was not appearing in the great trees of Cana, with angels making impractical announcements that made a person laugh with hope and disbelief.

He thought of Abraham, of flight and of freedom and of angels, and a stab of jealousy for the ancient father ran through him.  His hand was wiping away the water at the corners of his eyes when his heart leaped into his throat.  A  great flurry of feathers landed above his head.

“God!  You scared me to death!” he said.

The culprit, a haggard, grey pigeon with pink eyes, preened his wings and stared back.  He cooed a raspy hello, and in another flurry of whining wings, he was in the air and winging west and south toward Nazareth.

“You’re headed in the wrong direction, my friend,” he muttered.

He sighed, glancing down once again at the page before him, and his eyes came to rest at the words of the angel.

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

“Maybe this is.”

For a moment, all was silence as he stared upon the story on the page.  And for a moment, he thought he heard a silent voice somewhere in the stillness.

I see you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


“I’m sure he’ll come back.”  The boy placed a consoling hand on the older man’s shoulder.

“I know...  I know...” The old man, getting older before his time, wiped his eyes with the backs of his hands.  “Thank-you.  I didn’t mean to trouble you with my problems.”

“I’m hired help.  You didn’t say what I couldn’t help with.”  The boy of fifteen smiled back.  He, too, seemed older before his time.

The old man feebly smiled, but the playful kindness of the boy seemed to strike a deeper well of tears.  He reached for the boy and held on to him, shaking with grief, his face buried in the boy’s chest.

“I miss him so much!  I’m so scared for him!”  His voice was hoarse with grief, and a lifetime of digging in the dirt.  “I just want him home!  I don’t care about how he left.  I just want him home!”

The boy held him in his arms for a long time, until at last the shaking subsided into exhausted gasps and sniffs.  The boy looked carefully into the old man’s eyes, and held his gaze for a moment before he spoke.

“I look forward to meeting him.”

The boy had been working for the old man for three weeks now.  He had heard from another hired hand that one of the old man’s children had ran off.  It had been an unhappy departure.  The young son had spoken a cruel word, thrown an obscene gesture, and walked away.  The old man was heartbroken.

This other boy, this good boy with a large family and a limited income, had been in search of work.  The old man, realizing he could not take up the work his wayward son had been doing, hired him with few words and a firm handshake.

Now, three weeks later, an unexpected friendship had slowly been forming between the boy and the old farmer.  The old man admired the boy’s combination of hard work and a ready smile.  The boy admired the old man’s kind face, and friendly eyes.  He had also recognized the grief behind those eyes.

The old man never spoke harshly of his youngest son, but when he did speak of him, it was with the decisive, clipped sentences of a man keeping a world of pain at bay.  Instead, he turned his words to his older son, and set upon him words of praise and adulation.

“He’s a good man, my son,” he would say as he watched the young man at work in the field.  “He’ll do well with the place when I’m gone.  He’s up before me every morning, and usually comes in an hour after me at night.  He’s a hard worker.”

The boy would nod, and wonder when the old man would finally break.

Tonight, he decided, he would ask about the son that wasn’t there.

Twilight was gathering upon the fields as the boy had come to collect his daily wage.  The old man stood in the pale sunlight and handed him his humble pay.  The boy had asked with refreshing candor.

“Sir, what happened with your son?”

A look of pained relief had come over the old man’s face.  No one had dared bring up the subject with him, and it had been wounding him so to keep it unsaid.  With a deep sigh, he had told the boy everything.

Now, as the tears dried and the first star of the evening shone above them, the two sat in a silent communion.


Nine months and two pay raises later, the boy was still at work.  Each day, he hoped he would lose his job to a returning son.  He watched the old man from the field, and noted how often he would gaze down the road, looking at nothing, watching for someone.


It was about three in the afternoon on a Thursday when he heard the old man shriek.  The boy  had been digging a post hole, and when he turned to see what had happened, he saw the old man running like a mad man down the lane.  He knew even before he saw the distant figure what the old man was running toward:  a reunion.

The boy set aside his shovel and walked, awestruck, in the direction of the running old man.  What he saw would stay with him for the rest of his life.

A young man, not much older than he, was ambling slowly up the road toward the farm.  His clothes were dirty, and he looked exhausted.  When he caught sight of his running father, he simply collapsed to his knees, and shook his head.  It was that head shaking that would always stay in the boy’s memory: the weary son’s hands cupping his mouth and nose in disbelief, overwhelmed and hardly believing a father would run to a son such as he.

But he did run, and swept down upon the son like a crashing wave, the folds of his robes enveloping him in an ocean of mercy.

The boy came as close as he dared, stopping far enough away to hear only the bedraggled son’s responses to whatever words of grace his father was speaking as he held him.

“Please, Dad, I can’t....  I don’t want...  I’m sorry...  I’m sorry...”

But soon all words were gone, and there was only a father and his son in silent embrace.

A moment later, the old man called for the hired hand that stood at a distance behind him, that hired hand that had come to be something more.

“Jesus!  Jesus, come here!  It’s alright, come here.” he called.

The boy came forward, smiling humbly, but not shyly.

“I want you to meet my son Caleb.” said the old man.  “Caleb, this is Jesus.  He’s one of the hired hands here.  My best.”

“It’s good to meet you.” Jesus said.

Caleb greeted him.  “You too.”

“So you see why I can’t take you on as a hired hand, son.  I’d have to fire this replacement here.  Now, Jesus, I need you to get a couple of things for me....”`

The three of them walked toward the house, the father, the son, and the hired hand.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Party

Miriam sat at a table with two other party goers, her powder-blue eyes glancing about the room as she took another sip of wine.  She was ordinarily quite at home at a dinner gathering, but tonight she felt quite awkward and more than a little out of place. The party was abuzz with people from all over her small town, but there were few she had ever met.

She recognized the man with the scraggly beard who was currently slapping his legs and barking a loud, toothless laugh.  In fact, she’d even spoken to him several times, usually having told him, “No.  I have no change.”

She also recognized the lady who was often found sitting by the bread vendor at the market, holding her small child in her lap and looking pathetic.  Her hand always outstretched and her eyes upturned.  Tonight she still held her child, but she was bouncing the giggling boy on her knee, clapping in time with the music.

She had not, to her knowledge, seen the man with one leg before.  She couldn’t help but stare.  He was a marvelous dancer.

At first she had wondered why any of these people had been invited to such an occasion.  Soon, she began to wonder why she had.

Her eyes came back to the two men seated with her.  They were friendly enough, in a common sort of way, and the younger of the two was the host of the celebration.  They had introduced themselves, though the older man’s name left her head almost as soon as she’d heard it.

She felt obligated to attempt some small talk, and had to raise her voice to uncomfortable levels to pierce the din of the room.

“So how do you two know each other?  How did you... um... meet?” she asked, hoping she hadn’t yelled.

“I was drunk, off my ass, on the street.  He helped me out.” the older man yelled.

“Oh!” said Miriam.

“He had tried to ride it home.” interjected the younger man.  He began laughing as he added, “Sarah was not happy!”

“Who’s Sarah?” Miriam asked with a confused smile.

“His ass,” the young man replied.


“You still had the tether around your hand,” continued the young man, “and I think Sarah had dragged you about fifty feet before you even noticed you’d fallen off!”

Miriam giggled.  She hated when she giggled.  It rarely meant that she was actually amused, and more often than not it meant that she didn’t know what to say or how to respond.

“God, I was a mess,” said the old man.  “I think I’d pissed myself, too.”

“Yes, Ben, you did,” said the young man, raising his eyebrows and remembering a certain scent.

“Some things never change!” laughed the old fellow.

Another round of laughs broke out between them, and Miriam tittered nervously. She was relieved, though, that the young man had mentioned his friend’s name.  She thought she’d try to move the conversation into a more comfortable subject matter.

“So what do you do, Ben?” she asked.

“I’m a dung collector,” said Ben with a smile.


This was not a more comfortable subject matter.  She was sure she could feel the precise shade of red on her face.  “Is that...  How is that for you?”

“It’s the shittiest job around,” said Ben seriously.


And Ben laughed.  “But business is always booming!”  He set forth on what was, apparently, a standard set of dung-related witticisms.  They were designed to put off, or put at ease, anyone who asked about his profession.  Miriam was not put at ease.  She giggled and tittered and felt like crying.

Ben calmed himself from his personal laugh-fest.  “Jesus, how long has it been since that night?”

“Almost two years,” Jesus said.

“Two years!  My God.  Seems like longer.”  He placed a hand on Jesus’s shoulder.  Jesus folded his hands around his cup of wine, and looked over at his friend.

“This here is a very special young man,” said Ben, suddenly addressing Miriam with an unexpected air of formality.  “I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone like him.”

“Oh?” said Miriam.

“I’ve known a lot of people, but not a one of them has ever been my friend.”  Ben looked at the young man with eyes as deep as a clear, blue lake.  “He is my best friend, ever.”

Miriam was silent and, somehow, finally began to feel comfortable.  “That’s wonderful,” she said.  “God bless you, young man.  You have a good heart.”

Jesus smiled.  “Thank-you, ma’am.”

Miriam smiled back.  “I think you’ll go far in life with an attitude like that.  Happy birthday.”

Ben slapped him on the back and raised his cup.  “Happy twenty-first, Jesus.  Thanks for inviting us.  I’m just sorry I don’t have anything to give you.”

“Don’t worry, Ben.  I have my reward.” he said as he waved away the apology.  “Just don’t piss yourself.”

“I don’t make promises I can’t keep.” said Ben.

Miriam laughed.

Friday, August 27, 2010

One Thing You Lack

The young man didn’t have everything, but he could obtain much of it on credit.

He was a good guy.  He wasn’t snobbish with his relative wealth, and it was just that:  relative, in both senses of the term.  He had inherited a healthy chunk of wealth from his father, but he was not what anyone would consider “very wealthy”.  He was, as he sometimes put it, “comfortable.”  So he wore his wealth like a comfy coat, modestly and naturally.

He was devout, closing his eyes and silently moving his lips as the priest led services.  He gave a healthy tithe, often going well beyond the minimal 10 percent.  He was pretty sure these factors had something to do with his continued  “blessing”.

He was relatively happy, as well.  Relatively.  As yet unmarried, though there was a possibility or two.  He enjoyed his community, and he loved a good party, though he was never found with a headache or a churning stomach in the morning.  Usually the next morning he held on to a lingering smile from a good time well had.

Most nights he went to sleep content with how things were, and he slept deeply.

That is, most nights.  Lately, he felt he’d been ever-so-slightly troubled by a distant, unformed thought.  He was still quick to smile and welcome a friend, but there was often found a thoughtful furrow upon his brow.

That distant thought soon became the faintest whisper, and it came to him as he lay in bed, a candle still smoldering beside him.  He would close his eyes and strain to hear it, but it was still out of reach, barely a decibel below what his ears could hear.

But the feeling, the whisper, persisted.  It was there now when he woke.  It was there at his parties.  It was even there at church.  He found himself staring into the sky, as if he might be able to hear the words in the whisper if he could just concentrate hard enough.

Today was a Thursday.  It was late in the afternoon, and he had just waved good-bye to a friend and business partner.  The marketplace bustled with people as he began a leisurely walk home.  He bought a flavoured drink from a smiling girl, and sat for a moment on a step to enjoy it.

A beggar sat on the ground across from him, between a fruit stand and a basket maker, his thin and aged hand outstretched as it had been for years now.  Someone placed a coin in his palm, and though the person was gone too quickly to see it, the frail old man pressed his hands together and raised them to his forehead, bowing in thanks for the small kindness.

He took the last sips of his drink as he continued watching the old man.  He stood, paused for a moment, and walked home.

The meal prepared for him that evening was filling and delicious.  He sat, satisfied, closing his eyes for a moment to whisper a thank-you, and for the first time, he heard something with form.

His eyes shot open, and he heard it echo in his mind.

one thing you lack


He didn’t sleep well that night.  The phrase reverberated in his head in concert with the yelping hound across the street.  He rose in the morning, bleary-eyed and disturbed by a dream he couldn’t remember.

The phrase came back to him with every action, with every transaction.  There was urgency in the phrase, as if his very soul depended on it, but there was no tangible direction.

It pestered him as he walked through the market.  It came to him as he sat at a restaurant for lunch.  Later, as he stood in the stable in the evening light, he heard the phrase again.  A young camel nuzzled at his hand as he fed her a date, her lips tickling his palms.

“Have I been kind to you, girl?” he asked.

The camel said nothing, but raised her head and turned an eye toward him.

He gently scratched behind the camel’s ear, and whispered to God, “What do you want me to do?”  The camel overheard, and responded with a deep, croaking, “Maaaaah!”

“I know,” he said.  “One thing I lack.”


He decided to see the Teacher.

He watched him from a distance.  People were gathered all around him, many of them working class types, many others much less than working class.  He even recognized the old man from the market, smiling toothlessly as Jesus shook his fragile hand.

He thought about going home.  He thought that perhaps he could speak to the Teacher when there was not so much of a crowd, or at least when the uglier element had departed.

one thing you lack

He didn’t go home.

He pressed forward through the crowd, and soon found himself just a few feet away from the rabbi Jesus, shoulder to shoulder with the other admirers.   He glanced to his left.  The woman there smelled bad.  He cautioned a glance at his other shoulder.  The man on his right looked mean.  The teacher, in the crowd, stood smiling and shaking a filthy hand.

How does he love these people?  He knew immediately that he should feel guilty for such a thought, but he couldn’t help it.  These people were definitely not in his circle of friends and acquaintances.  He didn’t dislike them, exactly, but he did like them better from a greater distance.

The phrase was with him with every thump in his anxious chest, and it drove him on to brave the unseemly element.

one thing you lack  one thing you lack  ONE THING YOU LACK

Finally, he found the courage to throw his hand forward in a desperate greeting, but somehow, he found that he had fallen at the Teacher’s feet.

Jesus looked down at him, then knelt, and looked him in the eye.

“Can I help you?” the Teacher said, placing a hand on the young man’s shoulder.

“Good Teacher, I’m desperate.  Please tell me, what do I have to do?  I mean, to have life?  I mean, real, enduring life?  What am I missing?”

“You call me good.” said the teacher.  “Why do you call me good?”

The young man looked confused.  “I... Because... you are.  You’re here with these people.  They love you.  It takes a special kind of person to...”

“Only God is good, my friend.  We just get to share in it.”

Jesus stood, lifting the young man gently as he rose.

“So how... How do I do that?” the young man asked.

“You know the commandments.  Don’t commit adultery.  Don’t murder.  Don’t steal.  Don’t lie.  Don’t defraud anyone.  Honour your father and mother.”

“I’ve kept all these commandments all my life!” the young man said, exasperated.  “All of them!  I tithe!  I try to be good to people!  What am I doing wrong?  What am I missing?”

Jesus looked at him, and loved him.

“One thing you lack,” he said, his voice as even as a narrow road.  “Go, sell all your possessions, and give them to the poor.  Then you’ll have life.”

The young man stood there, staring at him, shocked and silent.

“Are you serious?”

Jesus smiled.  “You do that, and you will have more treasure in the Kingdom of God than you’ve ever had before.  Then come, follow me.”

The furrow came back to the young man’s brow.  He felt like his stomach had been pulled out of him, and his heart now sank into the empty cavity.  He turned, and saw the faces of the other people following Jesus.  There was perhaps a full set of teeth for every three people.  That one was obviously a prostitute.  That one looked like he had just stuck a knife in someone.  That one smelled like dead fish and booze.

“You know where to find me.” Jesus said.

The young man walked away, his face weighted with thought, his heart defeated.

“One thing you lack,” he’d said.  “One thing you lack.”


He stood, his bundle of money heavy in his hand, staring at the old beggar.

God he thought, this is impossible.  And his camel brayed behind him.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The others sat at a distance, chatting quietly, stealing glances at the two of them. The two sat huddled by the breakfast fire, the morning sun warming up to the day.  He glanced upon the face of his friend, who was looking out upon the sea.  Haunting guilt lingered like a shadow in his chest, and when his friend looked him in the eyes, he quickly cast them down at the sand.  His friend’s gaze, however, remained.

The fire cracked, and the waves cast a hush upon the shore.

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus said.

Peter’s eyes shifted from the sand to the fire and down again.  It had been a long time since his friend had called him that.  He’d gotten used to his nickname.  He only dared a brief look into his friend’s eyes.  “You mean more than the others?  More than these fish?  More than my old life?”

Jesus was silent, and answered his question.

“Yes, Lord.  Yes,” Peter said.  “You know I love you.”

“Feed my lambs.” said Jesus.  “They’ll need a shepherd.  I want it to be you.”

Peter protested.  “Oh, Jesus.  Thank-you, but, I couldn’t do that.  I think you want someone like John.”

“No, Peter.  I want you.”

Peter kept his eyes everywhere but upon his friend.  “I really couldn’t.  I’m just not equipped.”

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes!  You know I do!  I just...”

“Tend my sheep.”

Simon Peter, the son of John, looked to his friend.  “Jesus... Please.  You don’t want me for this.  I can’t!  Please!”

Jesus spoke again.  “Look at me, Peter.”

Peter felt like gravity itself fought against his gaze, and strained to raise his eyes.

Jesus placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

The surf broke upon the beach as the tears broke from his eyes.  “You know everything!” he cried.  “You know I love you!”

“Do you know you love me?”

Peter was silent, but for his sniffling nose and the stifled grunts of a sob.

“I denied you!  I denied you!” he wept.  “I’m sorry!  I’m no better than him.  I’m so sorry!  I don’t want you to love me like this.  Please!”

Jesus held the weeping man.  “Too late, Peter.  You’ve welcomed me three times.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Betrayed, Abandoned

The weight of his betrayal was crushing him.

He had been the one who had felt abandoned, forced into the background of friendship by the others.  He thought he could force his hand, and somehow return himself to his place of honour at his friend’s side.  He thought his friend would finally rise up, finally fight back and show his strength.  He didn’t.

The moment after he kissed his friend’s cheek, he knew it wasn’t going to go that way.

Despair was now a strangely comforting blanket he wrapped tightly around himself.  He walked out into the night, numb, and cold, the thirty silver coins shaking in the purse held by his trembling hand.


The weight of his friend’s betrayal sunk his heart like ballast. Forgiveness was here, waiting, if he would only come and receive it.  He hung there, high above the gawking crowd who had gathered for the execution, and searched each face for the face of his friend.

If only he would come, I could tell him.


His betrayal might have gone unnoticed, had a rooster not crowed.  He might have justified it to himself, told himself he was only trying to lay low so that he could be near.  The rooster told him otherwise.  Clear and shrill, it sang the coarse and cutting song.  Denial.  Betrayal.  It stole the breath from his throat, and he ran away, and wept bitterly.


If only he would only come, I could tell him.

He looked upon the faces of the ones gathered here before him, like the sheep and the goats awaiting their judgement.  He saw the faces of his friends in his mind’s eye, and loved them.  He saw the faces of his accusers, of the ones who had condemned him.  An ocean of broken people broke upon his heart, each one condemned to death by a billion separate judges.  Peter and Judas stood out.

“Father, forgive them.  They don’t know what they’re doing.”

If only they would come, I could tell them.


He looked upon the field below him, standing on the branch of the lone tree which he had climbed.  The rope scratched his neck, and his hand played at it without thought.  He stood carefully upon the limb, steadying himself by another branch.  The grass is tall, he thought absently.  It’ll be a long time before anyone finds me.

He pronounced himself Judge of his own soul, and found it guilty, punishable by death.  He stepped out from the limb, and the weight of his guilt doubled gravity.

Friday, July 09, 2010

I Came for the Sick

He could hardly stand the loneliness.  It seemed to come over him like an overwhelming, shadowy hand, death-like in its silence and terrifying in its completeness.  His chest would begin to constrict as his heart raced out of control.  He would try to breathe, until his attack subsided, and then he would pray for sleep to come quickly.  A stiff drink or three helped to answer his prayers.

The morning brought a routine, and a day with enough busyness to keep the loneliness at bay.  Each day he sat at his desk, a morning snifter safely in his hardening belly, and each day he would count.  There was safety in numbers, but each night it was the same.



A sleep-inducing drunk.


For years now, despair had been forming like a parasite, consuming him from within.  Each night, it fed upon him in the moments before sleep came.  It brought someone to his mind for him to hate, or to lament, or both.  He thought of his father, and wept.  He thought of his father, and raged.





His illness began to come upon him in his working hours, and panic would shoot up from the pit of his stomach like a geyser.  To quell it required a quick drink, just enough to keep from throwing up, and he could return to his numbers.

Today he sat at his desk, counting his money in a dull buzz.  He had counted it twice already, but it was an unusually slow day and he needed to keep his hands moving.  He heard the familiar squeak of turning wheels, the bray of an ox, and the shuffle of feet.

He raised his eyes to see a group approaching, mostly on foot.  They looked dirty, but who didn’t around here?  He counted sixteen, eleven men and five women.  Several were laughing together.  They looked happy.  He hated them.

The man in the lead approached his desk.

“How many are in your group?” Levi asked.

“Uh... fifteen?”

“Sixteen,” Levi corrected, and scribbled down the number.

“Sixteen, then,” the man said.

“How many oxen?”

The man looked back.  “Unless you have an extra under your desk, just that one.  Right there.”

“How many axles on the cart?”

“Just one.”


“This lovely town of yours right here, actually.”

Somewhere, a dog barked.

“Reason for your trip?” Levi asked.

“The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Levi looked up from his paper.  “Excuse me?”

“The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Isn’t that great?” he smiled.

Levi paused for a long moment to assess the stranger. He expected to see eyes lit with lunacy, but instead saw something entirely different.  These eyes were unnervingly sane.  If he had seen such things as compassion or ferocity before, he might have called it one of these.  Instead, he had only an unnamed feeling of love and danger.  He felt something rising up within him that felt like hope and fear and longing, and repressed a particularly acidic belch.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Jesus, from Nazareth.” the stranger answered.

The geyser in his stomach lurched upward again, but this time he couldn’t keep it down.  A golden-brown stream erupted from his mouth and onto his desk, covering the money he had recently counted in an acrid breakfast.

Levi looked up at the stranger, Jesus.

“So you’ve heard of me?” Jesus said.

A strange and unexpected sound came out of Levi’s mouth, something between a whimper, a laugh, and a sob.  His vomit ran down his chin and covered his quivering hands. He looked up into the face of this Jesus.  He was smiling, though he was taking no delight in Levi’s humiliation.  His eyebrows formed little ‘u’s of sincerity.  The ‘u’s were too much.  He lost all control, or perhaps unexpectedly let go of it.  Levi began to weep, and snort, and blubber like a child.

“I’m sick!” said Levi.  “I’m... so... sick!!”  And he began to wail.

Jesus’s friends stood at a distance, their sixteen faces a row of stunned silence.  The ox brayed.

Jesus came around the desk, and sat beside him.  He placed one hand upon his shoulder, and the other one into the vomit-covered hand of the weeping toll collector.  Levi looked up at his unexpected consoler.  This Jesus was still smiling, but there were tears in his eyes, too.

“Follow me,” Jesus said.  “I’ll help you get better.”

Levi, shaking, sniffing, dripping, got up, and followed.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Everything came washing over her, not in an instant, but in an ever flowing moment.  Images of every secret kept and shame concealed came rushing over her in a torrent of grace.  There was pain in the reliving, but also release.  Her tears rolled on, and as she wept her tears became a rushing river which engulfed her seven times.

She saw herself in a new dress, a girl of eleven.  Her hair was dark and long, and spilled gracefully upon her shoulders. She had a small jar of scented oil, which she dolloped behind her ears, and took a deep breath of the fragrance.  It was sweet, and deep, and made her think of roses. She sang to herself, until she saw the opening of the door, and watched her father enter the room.

She felt his hand on her thigh.  She saw the closing of the door.  She felt the tickling of the tears streaming back upon her face and onto her earlobes, where the perfume lay, still filling the room with its scent.

She saw her father entering her room again and again, closing the door.  She felt his hand upon her shoulder, holding her in place.  She saw his eyes across the table as they dined with affluent friends, eyes that told her this was a secret she could never speak of.  She saw the closing of the door.

She saw the face of the first boy that looked at her the same way her father did, and the closing of another door.  She saw the second, and even the third, but the rest took on just one face:  her father’s.

She saw the money shining in a pile next to her bed, the first time she took charge and made them pay.  It had shimmered dully in candlelight, almost pretty.  But it bore a seed of shame deep within her.  This is all I’m worth, she thought.  It’s all that I am.  Soon there were no candles; only back alleys and roach-infested corners, and the face of her father, and somehow, the closing of a door.

For years without number, and days without end, there was the closing of a door.

Until him.  One day, as barren as any other, there was a new face, and he looked her in the eyes from across the street.  He smiled, only as a gift, with no expectation.  She did not smile back, but she held that smile he’d given her somewhere in the corner of her heart.  Many men smiled at her before, but it had always cost her something.  This one was free.

As she now recalled it, she could almost hear the rusted hinges creaking open as he spoke to her the second time she’d seen him.  Through her present tears, she laughed for just a moment at the memory of his first words to her.

“Hi.  Would you like to join us for lunch?”

An invitation.  An open door.

She had made some excuse not to join them, but she never forgot the invitation.  She saw him many times since then, and it was always the same.  He asked her every time, with that wide, open smile, “Would you like to join us?”  It was a doorway into something big, and it was always open.  What lay on the other side of it was immense, and spacious, and terrifying.

Today, he had been walking past her corner again, and paused to find her.

“Hi, Helen!  How are you?”

She smiled.  “Not too bad.  Better since you’re here.”

“We’re having dinner at my friend’s house.  Do you want to come?”

“No,” she said.  “I need to work.”

“Well it’s just up here, to the left.  Do you know Simon?”

She wanted to laugh out loud for just how well she knew Simon, but only said, “Yeah... I think so.”

“We’re having dinner there.  You’re welcome to join us.”

“Thanks.  I’ll think about it.”

She watched him walk away, and waved a good-bye.  Somewhere inside her, she knew that he himself was that doorway into something grand.  It still scared her to death.  But this day, this barren, ordinary day, she would walk through it.

An hour later, she was knocking on Simon’s door.

“Come in!” Jesus said, before the owner of the house had a chance to speak.

The door opened, and a beautiful girl with long, dark hair stood quivering in the frame.  In her hand she held a small jar of scented oil.  She saw him, and he smiled, and she broke.

She ran to his feet, and wept upon them a stream of unbounded love.  The spirit of humility had been slowly killing the spirit of shame for a some time now.  Tonight, it had finished the deed.  For the first time, she felt she could be forgiven.  For the first time, she believed she could forgive.

She took the jar of perfume, and poured it upon his feet, and kissed them.  She tenderly dried his feet with her hair, which fell like a mantle upon them.

“Your sins have been forgiven,” he whispered.

“I know,” she said, and smiled.  “Thank-you.”

“You’re worth more than you know.”

She smiled again.  “I’m starting to believe that.”

“Your faith has saved you, Helen.  There’s an open door.  Walk on in peace.”

She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath of freedom.  It was sweet, and deep, and made her think of roses.