On Belief

•May 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

[I stumbled across this story very early this morning as I was writing this.  I only very vaguely remember writing it and I don’t really remember when, or what was happening at the time, but I liked it a lot.  I can’t remember if I posted it back then, but I edited it a tiny bit and decided to (re?)post.  Enjoy!]

I said to the LORD, “I don’t believe you.”
“That’s a shame.” God said, “I made you dinner.  Are you hungry?”
“No.” I said, as I ate His good bread and drank red wine.

“I don’t believe you.” I said.
“That’s a shame.” God said, “Come play with me.”
“I’m happy in the mud.” I said, slapping dirty water to prove it.
“No you’re not.” He said, “I have trees to climb and rivers to chase and oceans to walk on.”
“Oh alright.” I said and dove in.
“Come up here.” He said, sitting cross-legged on the waves.
“That’s impossible.” I said, spitting out salt water.
“Suit yourself.” He said, bobbing up and down as another wave rolled beneath him.

“I don’t believe you.” I said.
“That’s a shame.” God said, “I drew you a bath.”
“I’m not dirty.” I said.
“Yes you are.” He said, “Your face and hands are black and smudgy.”
“I like them that way.” I said.
“No you don’t.”
“I suppose you’re right.  Why is the water red?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it.” He answered, “It will clean you better than clear water.”
I leaned back until my head went under, and when I sat up I was clean.  He handed me a towel.
“I don’t believe you.” I said, drying my face.
“That’s a shame.” God said, “I have a job for you.”
“I already have a job.” I said.
“No you don’t.” He said.
“You’re right.” I said.  “But I can’t work for someone I can’t see.”
“Why not?” He asked.  “People do it all the time.”
“I suppose you’re right.”  I said.  “What would you have me do?”
“Follow me.”
“How can I follow someone I can’t see?” I asked.
“Follow the crowd.” He said, and pointed to them.
“They look lost.” I said.
“I know. I want you to lead them.”
“But I don’t believe in you.” I said.
“You ate my body and played in my world I made for you, and I washed you in my blood.  What do you think believing is?” He asked.
“I don’t know.”  I said.  Then I turned and yelled, “C’mon!” to the wandering crowd, and we followed Him together.

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Bread

•March 17, 2011 • 2 Comments

As He was walking along, Jesus saw a man dressed in black sitting on a rock.  He didn’t have a red face or horns, or a tail or a pitchfork.  He just looked normal, handsome, even.   But his eyes were black.  Too black.  They seemed to soak up all the light around them.  Jesus knew him right away and his skin prickled a little.

“You look hungry,” Satan said.  His lips curled up in something like a smile but his eyes were still too black to look even a little bit happy.

“Yep,” Jesus said, his mouth set in a firm line.  Satan was holding a smallish round, smooth stone in his hands.

“You know,” He began slowly, stroking the stone, “If you’re really the son of God…”  Maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was because he was so hungry, but suddenly Jesus wasn’t listening anymore.  He was imagining a scene in his mind, like he was watching a movie.

 

He could see a cool green garden.  It was late afternoon and the golden sunlight filtered down through the leaves of the many trees to land in speckled patterns on the grass, taking on a greenish orangy glow.  Everything was quiet and peaceful.  A cicada sang somewhere nearby.  In the middle of this garden was a particularly beautiful tree.  The bark was smooth and white, and the leaves were such a light green that they looked almost white as well.  Every branch was heavy with fruit—such fruit!  Great gleaming globes that shimmered red and gold.  From the heart of each a strange, mysterious light shone so that beneath the tree’s branches, instead of shade, it seemed brighter.  A man sat beneath it, leaning his back against the trunk, his eyes half closed.  A woman lay on one of its lower branches, her long hair and bare feet dangling.  A vividly bright green snake was slowly creeping down from one of the topmost branches.  It slowly wound itself around the same branch where the woman rested, arranging it’s coils just next to her head.  Did God reeeally sssay… it whispered in her ear.  What did God reeeeallly sssay…?

 

“If you’re really the son of God,” Satan began again and Jesus was back in the desert.  The heat hung around his shoulders like a wool blanket and his hunger chewed and rolled over inside of him, “Tell this stone to become bread.”  He turned the stone over and over in his hands.  It was exactly the shape and size of a loaf of bread.  Jesus remembered bread.  Unbidden he thought of crisp crust and floury dough.  He remembered his mother lifting fresh loaves out of the stone oven.  He could smell them.  He could taste them.  His mouth watered and his stomach raged, but he was back in the garden.

 

You will be like God, the snake was saying.  It was now coiled around the woman’s waist and shoulder.  She was now sitting up on the branch, holding a piece of the magnificent fruit with both hands.  You will know what God knows.  He didn’t want you to know that.  He doesn’t want you to have it…. The snake’s tongue flicked in and out as it whispered first in one ear then the other.  She was gazing at the fruit in her hand.  It’s light reflected in her eyes.  She smelled it.  Pressed it to her lips.  She took one slow bite.  Juice snaked down her chin and between her fingers, down her arm.  It was as red as blood.

 

“You shouldn’t starve.”  Satan’s strange black eyes widened and the darkness seemed as if it might escape them.  He offered the stone to Jesus.  Jesus took it and felt it’s weight and warmth.  Just like a fresh loaf of bread.  But just then another, wildly different scene filled his mind’s eye.

 

Another desert.  Tents scattered as far as the eye could see.  Old, dirty, shabby, tents.  Covered in dust and age.  People, hundreds, thousands standing outside, half of them looking up at the sky, shading their eyes against the brilliant sun.  The other half looking down, their eyes wide with surprise and smiles.  The ground was white, covered with something strange, mysterious, new.  White flakes.  Sweet, delicious.  Children were laughing, picking up handfuls and filling their mouths.  Their fingers were sticky.  Their mothers’ faces looked old and tired, but their eyes shone with tears and sunshine.  What is it?  What is it? They all whispered.  What is it? Manna, in Hebrew.  God has provided for us.  He takes care of us.  Though we complained.  Though we doubted.  God has sent us this what-is-it.

 

“Man does not live by bread alone.” Jesus smiled and tossed the stone back to Satan, who jumped and fumbled a little to catch it.  “I’m not all that hungry.”

 

In the Beginning, God Created Physics

•April 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Before God created anything, He knew that he would create people.  I want to create people who will be my friends. Thought God. I will love them, and they will love me.  We will walk together and talk together and be in relationship.

I will make them in My image so that the more they learn about each other and themselves, the more they will learn about Me.

I will make them a beautiful place to live.  I will fill the home I make for them with clues about Me so that the more they learn about their home, the more they will learn about Me.

I will make their home governed by natural laws so that they will know that I always do what I say I will do.

I will fill their home with examples of My love.  I will surround them with stories about Me: stories about my forgiveness, stories about new life, stories about how much they need Me, stories about restoration.

I will even create some things just to make them laugh.

And then God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.  Light poured into the darkness.  It was complex and intricate.  It always followed the same rules—even when it seemed to behave strangely, it was just doing what Light does according the rules God set up for it.  Just like God, it always behaved the same way.  It kept its promises.  In just that one thing—light—God had created laws that governed the universe.  If God had only created light, we still could have known so much about Him.

Then God created air to breathe and ground to walk on.  God created the air to be invisible and everywhere and absolutely necessary for life—just like He is.  God created the ground to hold our weight, to carry us even when we ignore it—just like He does.

After that, God looked around and said, we need some color around here!  And just like that the bare, dark, sweet-smelling earth began to sprout flowers, and grass, and bushes and trees, each one different and each one beautiful.  God said, “I want each of these plants, from the biggest to the smallest to tell My story.  Each plant will produce seeds.  When the seeds fall to the ground in death, they will be resurrected, growing a new plant, the same as the one that died.  But why be boring?  I want these seeds to grow from beautiful, colorful flowers—a million different kinds.  I want them to be housed in delicious fruits to eat.  Why should eating to stay alive be boring?  Let there be taste and variety and color!  I’m not boring and monotonous, why should my people’s food be?  Why should their home be?

Then God said, if everything is the same all the time, very soon everyone will become very very tired!  Let there be a time to be awake and a time to be asleep.  I want my people to rest.  I will make a big light to tell the people when to be awake, and lots of little, quiet lights to sing them to sleep at night.  Also, let there be whole long seasons of rest when the plants can sleep under ground only to wake up to new life when the next season comes.  Let it be warm for a season and cold for a season.  Let rain fall without being asked to feed the plants and keep them alive.  I want my people to know how much I love them and will take care of them even without being asked.

Then God said, let’s make creatures—a million kinds!  Let’s make an elephant and penguin and a whale and a tiger and a mosquito and a banana slug and a chinchilla and an angelfish and a clownfish and a monkey and so many crazy kinds of birds of so many crazy kinds of colors and shapes that no one will be able to count or keep track!  The birds will make such beautiful music; this place will sound like heaven!  Let’s make a caterpillar, yes! A caterpillar that tells a story!  It will be born a little worm.  It will eat and eat and eat and when the time is right it will build a little tomb for itself.  It will crawl inside and die for a little while.  But then it will come out of the tomb!  It will break free from death and it won’t be a little worm anymore.  It will have wings—beautiful, colorful wings to fly and fill the sky with so many beautiful, colorful stories.  It will be so lovely and it will tell such a lovely story.

Then God looked around at everything that He had made so far.  He saw the colors, smelled the smells and heard the sounds of all the creatures and all the beautiful things that He had made.  God smiled. “Nice.” He said.  “I think that’s enough for them to handle.  If I used all the colors and smells and music in my heart, I think their tiny heads would explode!  This is just enough.  When they see all of this they will see Me without it killing them.”  Then He said, “Everything is ready. It is time.”

So God reached down and scooped up a handful of soft clay from the ground and made it into a man.  God held this tiny clay figure in his hand and looked into its tiny clay face.  God took a deep breath and began to blow, gently at first.  He blew and blew.   Where God’s breath touched the clay, it turned into skin.  Soon the skin became warm as blood started running underneath it.  Soon a heart was beating in the little chest.  Suddenly the figure took a deep breath of God’s breath into it’s tiny lung and opened its eyes.  He yawned and stretched.  The brand new person looked into God’s eyes, and God looked back.  “Hello,” said God, “Your name is Adam.”

“Hello,” said Adam. “I look just like you!”

Work of Art

•February 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I want to meet you in a city where neither of us lives. She’d said, never imaging he’d make the trip.  It wasn’t as if either of them was real after all—just collections of words and pictures.  Characters in a story.  Good stories happen in Chicago, and she already had a ticket.   So she left clues in text messages and stashed maps under benches never planning to be found.  When he found her, she wished she’d taken more time with her hair.  He said nothing at first, just stood back and considered, pretending the museum had always been her home.

The Conversation

•January 21, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“Perhaps I should go back to the house.”

“If you wish.”

“The children need me.  You saw her face.  She would never have come alone unless…”

“He will learn.  Maybe he will become a man.”

“I don’t know that I want him to.”

“That is your folly.”

“I know.  But if you had known them before—If you’d seen—He’s too young to have so many wrinkles in his forehead.”  A long unhindered silence.  “You know what they have assumed, yes?” Said the goat to the dragon.

“Of course.”  Dragon mouths are not made to smile, but the goat swore she saw one.

Part I

•October 11, 2008 • 2 Comments

“I think I’m going to run away.” I said, and set down my glass.
“Where would you go?” He asked, as if escape were a viable possibility.  Two girls were looking at me from across the room.  Under the dim bar lights and cigarette haze, they seemed to give off their own glow, one full and sensual like dark chocolate, eyes like liquid gold, the other striking and angular with startlingly red hair.  They were holding hands.  At the table next to them a man and woman were deep in conversation, their foreheads nearly touching.  In the opposite corner a beautiful woman sat alone with her wine glass.  Her long dark hair mostly hid her face.  She brushed her cheek with a hand.
“What’s the matter with Good?  Is she crying?” I motioned toward her.  My friend re-lit his pipe.  He ran a hand through his gray hair.  Looked exhausted.
“He left her again.”  Poor thing.  She took it like a champ, but this was becoming unpleasant.  “Worst thing is the sisters over there’ve been givin’er a hard time.”  Soul whispered something to the redhead and she laughed, green eyes flashing my direction again.
“Are they really sisters?” I asked.  I mean one was black and I was pretty sure Romance was Irish.  She had an accent, but it might’ve been faked.
“Ha! And I’m their father.”  His eyes crinkled and he exhaled vanilla smoke, shaking his head.
“Just a sec.” I said, picking up my glass and crossing the room.  I set it on Good’s table and sat down across from her.  She looked up and I saw the tears still on her face, but her eyes were clear and when she spoke here voice was steady.
“Where will you go when you run away?” She asked.

When All One Governs Are Spades

•October 8, 2008 • Leave a Comment

    She suspects that she is somehow intrinsically incapable of contentment.  She beats her fists bloody against the walls of her “prison,” then weeps at the door to be let back in.  She wonders if happiness forsakes her because she never looks hard enough, or because she looks in the wrong place.  It is simple and impossible to prove nonexistence.  Figuring it is probably her fault, she wishes someone would just tell her how to be happy. The problem is that someone already has.  She’d listened to him (more than one “him,” in fact,) and he was wrong.  He is always wrong.