Friday, February 28, 2014

A Bridge Is...

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A tiny cry
Lustier now
One large finger reaches
Five tiny ones grasp
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is born.

A solid thump
Dignity hurt
Tears fall, wailing starts
Some comfort sought
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is strengthened.

Oh lonely walk
School begun
Strangers at each turn
Seek kindred souls
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is started.

Cross my heart
And hope to die
The pledge is given
Friendship forever sealed
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is cemented.

This sweet love
The first to be
With every intention
Of lasting past forever
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is expanded.

Long black robes
And sweaty palms
Fine speeches made as
Superior becomes equal
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is spanned.

Nine to five
Joyous terror struck
Until new minion is
Equal to old master
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is possible.

A coffee shop
Pumpkin pie
Double sugar, double cream
Eyes meet, hearts unite
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is completed.

Some angry words
Senseless battle
Second thoughts, wisdom prevails
One face turns to another
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is repaired.

Two, then one
Alone again
House empty, heart full
One thing forever sure
Hand reaches out for hand
A bridge is gone.

In stillness now
The bonds released
Peace fully and forever known
A nail-scarred welcome
Hand reaches out for hand.
A bridge is crossed.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Teardrops in the Fog

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Author's Note: As ideologies too fiercely clung to result in destruction and death in Venezuela today, I was reminded of this story I wrote several years ago when a friend shared the story of a woman she had met in one of the larger churches in Caracas. This woman was a staunch government supporter and was convinced that her role was to change the minds of others in the congregation who supported the opposition. And just what would happen if they met on the street in the middle of a protest?

The bottle grazed Maya’s skull.

Where … where am I?

Gray. That’s all she saw. A haze, like fog, swirled around her. If she were dead, there should be a tunnel with a light at the end. At least, that’s what everyone said. No one had ever mentioned fog. This certainly wasn’t heaven. That’s where she should be if she had been killed.

What is this place?

She wasn’t even sure it was a place. Maya couldn’t see ground or sky. She was afraid to move, unsure of what might be underneath her feet. It was some place, and no place.

Something moved near her and she jumped, turning toward whatever it was, crouching in the defensive position that the National Guard had taught to all the reservists.

A shape took form in front of her.

“Who … who’s there?”

“You first. Where are we? What happened?”


The shadow moved closer, dissolving into a woman Maya knew from church. Her face was bloody, the skin pale and her eyes watery. The younger woman’s hair hung in damp, limp strands.

“Were you in the march?”

Miriam nodded.

Maya shivered. The tear gas had started to fly along with the bottles and rocks. She’d lost her helmet as the reserve unit pushed forward, driving the students back. That must have been when the bottle struck her. She never focused on the faces. She didn’t want to see, or know them.

“There were lots of us there—women, old people. There was no place to run when the water canon opened up.”

There was a hint of reproach in Miriam’s voice.

The only reason Maya had stayed at the church was to convince those among the membership who were dissidents that they needed to accept Christ. She believed with all her heart that people like Miriam couldn’t possibly be believers and not be supporters of a government so committed to liberating the nation from the influence of godless foreigners.

“If you had only listened to me, accepted the Lord, and joined the movement, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be okay.”

Miriam laughed, the echo sounding hollow in the semi-darkness.

“What are you doing here then—wherever “here” is? You’re the one who should repent. I’ve been telling you that for months. No true Christian can follow this megalomaniac with a Messiah complex who is determined to turn you all into little robots jumping at his every command, obeying blindly, and trampling all over the rights of everyone else.”

“Wait a minute. That’s not true. I’m …”

“Maya. Miriam.”

The voice startled both women. They trembled, even though the sound was not harsh. Miriam slid closer to Maya.

“Who … who are you?”

“I think you both know. Now I want you to listen. There is no more time to waste. Have you forgotten the mission I left for you both to complete?”

Neither woman was a fool, but Miriam was the first to respond.

“Yes, Lord, of course. You told us to go and make disciples …”

“And that’s what I was trying to do …” protested Maya.

“Me too, but she …”


They did.

“Miriam, since when is political affiliation the benchmark that decides whether or not a person is a Christian?”

Maya allowed a slight smirk to cross her face.

“Maya, when did you stop following me to follow a man?”

The smirk died a sudden death, replaced by an equally sudden realization.

“You’ve wasted time trying to convince each other to do something already done. You’ve hated each other because of political differences, and demonstrated that to all those around you. You’ve brought shame on my Name.”

Like teardrops, their silence clung to the fog.

“Maya, when was the last time you spoke to one of your fellow reservists about me? Miriam, have you bothered lately to speak to any of your fellow students about their need of a relationship with me?”

The grayness deepened.

“When will you work together for the Kingdom rather than against each other …”

The final words hung in the air.

“… and against me? When will you look at each other, and the world, through the cross?”

The crash of a gurney coming through the door of the emergency ward woke Maya. She looked straight into the eyes of Miriam, occupying the bed opposite her. Her head hurt, but not nearly as much as her heart did.

The reservist reached out her hand.

“I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”

Friday, February 14, 2014

Who Killed Felix Ortega?

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Author's Note: Student protests in Venezuela continue the cycle of death and the destruction of a society. They remind me that one day, God will call to account those who so callously cling to power at any price, and sacrifice everyone else to their own ambition. There will be a day of reckoning. At the same time, believers are called to pray—and always to stand up for truth and righteousness.

In the house hugging the foot of the Avila,* the conversation was subdued. The walls had ears.

“Felix has got to go. There are 400 names on his list and ours are among them.” The man slouched on the sofa looked worried.

“Be reasonable,” said another. “Montero got away—jogged away from his secret service minders right into an embassy where he could be sure of being granted asylum. We could easily do the same.”

“They will be more careful now. The leader of our movement walking away from house arrest in the plain light of day embarrassed them,” added a third conspirator.

“It’s only temporary. They will get someone to replace him,” suggested a fourth companion, adding: “We can only hope he’ll be less diligent.”

The subject of the clandestine meeting was state prosecutor, Felix Ortega.** Two years after what many considered a failed coup d’etat, Ortega was working his way through the list of supposed participants. At 38, he was a rising star on the political scene. His success and his public profile had become a threat to many.

Not far away, in an opulent reception room of the official residence of the president of the republic, others were having a similar conversation for different reasons.

“He’s got to go. He knows too much,” insisted the Minister of Justice.

“He’s fair,” said another.

“That’s the problem. Being fair means he is not necessarily going to be loyal to the revolution.”

“So, replace him.”

“No good. To fire him will throw him, and all he knows, into the arms of the opposition.”

Ortega had arrested members of the Metropolitan police, who had been accused of shooting and killing civilians during the march on the presidential palace that began the failed attempt to overthrow the government. He was also investigating the popular mayor of one of capitol’s satellite cities, implicated in the bombing of several embassies. Felix Ortega was tightening the noose around several necks.

In the house, plans were made.

“He has bodyguards. It will be hard to get to him.”

“If we were talking about a gunman, maybe. But a bomb is another thing. He’s taking a graduate course at night. They will guard him, but perhaps not his SUV.”

“Remote controlled?”

“Yes. He is most vulnerable on his way home from the university.”

In the presidential palace, other reasons for Ortega’s demise came to the forefront.

“The commandant wants it done,” said the president’s right hand man. “You know how he hates anyone to get more press than he does …”

“…or be more popular…,” interjected another.

A sharp glance from his companions silenced him. Even here, the walls had ears. They all looked around somewhat nervously as if expecting the Presidential Guard to rush in upon them.

“C-4 will do the job. There will be plenty of opportunity. He’s told us himself that he always dismisses his bodyguards when he goes to class,” said a minister.

One of the men chuckled. “We can always blame it on the opposition—or the CIA. He’ll make a handsome martyr for the revolution.”

On the night of November 18, 2004, a yellow Toyota SUV cruised through the darkened streets of the city. Just five minutes after the vehicle had left the university parking lot, two explosions ripped through the thin black fabric of the night. The car, consumed by flames, continued its forward momentum until it eventually crashed into a store.

Felix Ortega’s death is fact, as are some of the details in this story. The names and faces behind his death remain a controversy. Arrests were quickly made, but few are convinced that the real killers were found. The truth is that jealousy, fear, and lust for power killed Ortega. His death represents only one of many that God will charge to the account of the ambitious men behind the political turmoil that has marked this South American nation over the last ten years.

Paul’s admonition to Timothy is a constant reminder that unless those who rule come to faith, there will be no peace for anyone—including believers.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

*Part of the Andes mountain range
**Names have been changed.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Illusions, Delusions and Conclusions

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“Don’t just lie there; talk to me.”

“Go away, can’t you see I’m crushed. It’s too late.”

“It’s never too late. Here, I found this big chunk and …” the man paused as he carefully placed the piece he had picked up near the base of the wall, “…I think it goes right here.”
The speaker gingerly bent down in an effort to get closer to the ground without crunching any more of the myriad of shell pieces scattered around him.

“Forget it,” moaned the object of his compassion.

“Not until you tell me which one of the stories about you is true. I’m not going to let you ooze away until you do.” The soldier, for that’s what he was, put another piece in place.

“What stories?”

“Well, there’s the one about the cannon. They say the Roundheads were giving the Royals a really rough time of it…”

“I know about Kansas City, but who do the Roundheads play for?” came the feeble interjection.

“Save your strength and let me finish.” Not waiting for a reply, the man continued to talk and to look for pieces that fit the broken puzzle lying on the ground.

“Anyway, the Roundheads had laid siege to Colchester and the Royals had mounted this huge cannon on the wall beside the church bell tower. Course the wall couldn’t stand up to the constant battering. The Roundheads took out the tower and the wall—down came the cannon. The Royals couldn’t put it back together no matter what they did.”

“Nope, that’s not the story I grew up with.” The shattered shell on the ground took a ragged breath. Keeping himself together, what little there was left of him, was getting harder.

“Then you were the one-eyed gunner who was up there firing the cannon?”

“Nope, not him either.”

The soldier scooped up some yellow matter and gently placed it inside a cup-like bit of skull.

“At least this stuff is prettier than what I usually have to collect,” he said to himself, thinking of all the grey matter he had been exposed to during his military career.

“What was that?” said the dying orb.

Embarrassed that he’d been heard, the man quickly moved to the next question.

“Okay if it isn’t that one, how about the one about this Cardinal Wolsey who couldn’t manage to get King Henry a divorce, so he lost his job at court and got sent down to his country home in disgrace.”

The disaster lying on the ground, grunted. “Do I look like a prince of the church to you?”

“Well,” admitted the soldier, “not now. But you did fall from a high place and end your career badly.” He carefully applied a bit of spit to his repair job.

“Yuk, be careful where you put that,” exclaimed the victim.

“Then you have to be Prince Humperdinck, right?” his helper continued.

“Now that’s a yoke,” came a weak laugh. “I told you I wasn’t a Cardinal, and now you want to make me a prince?”

“Well, the story fits, doesn’t it? They say there was this prince from some obscure country in Europe who liked to walk along the walls of his father’s castle. Trouble was, he must have been given to daydreaming or something. Anyway, one day he fell off. Broke every bone in his body. Does that sound familiar?” For a moment, the man thought the poor creature beside him had finally passed. There was no sound, certainly no movement, from the mangled mess before him.

“Hey, Humpty, answer me. You can’t quit yet,” the soldier urged.

“Why not?” came back the answer. “You know how the story ends, so why bother with the futile repair job. Just let me go.”

“Because I don’t know how the story started. My mother always said I had a curious streak. You know; taking clocks apart to find out how they ticked …”

Humpty laughed. “Now I know why you’re insisting on fixing me. Tell me, how many pieces were left over after you got your clocks back together?”

“Ah, Humpty, come on, tell me. We’re running out of time here.”

“Alright, alright. Then maybe you’ll let me die in peace. It’s the bar story.”

“Bar story?”

“Yeah, a Humpty Dumpty was a drink made of brandy boiled in ale.”

“No cannon or cannoneer?”


No cardinal?”


“No prince?”

“Nope, just falling down drunk.”

“I’m shattered,” sighed the soldier.

“No, I’M shattered. Now will you go away and let this story finish?” replied the egg.