Why so Puddleglum?

Puddleglum-COLOURED_labelled

What do you do when all you’ve ever known to be true suddenly doesn’t feel so true anymore?

NOTE: If you want to read about the Art of Puddleglum, i.e. the picture up top, you can follow this link.

Puddleglum is a character in The Silver Chair, the sixth book (or fifth, depending on your point of view) in C.S. Lewis’ series, The Chronicles of Narnia. He was a marshwiggle, a weird creature who lived by a swamp, and had a mildly amusing pessimistic outlook on life. In the story, he joins Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole on their quest to find the lost Prince Rilian, following a set of clues given to them by Aslan.

I would have told you the story, but I feel that it’d be a mega-spoiler (and you’re like, “C’mon! The book’s like 50 years old already!”). Let’s just say that by the time they find the prince, he’s the brainwashed prisoner of the evil Lady of the Green Kirtle. They release him, but then the Lady walks into the room.

She doesn’t snap at them, but she cheerfully hypnotizes using the enchanting tune of her harp and the whiff of a secret powder she dumps on the fireplace.  With every word she speaks, with every strum on her harp, she almost fully convinces them that everything they’ve known to be true was made up, all in their heads.

First, they knew that they were in the kingdom of Underland (yes, it was literally miles underground). They knew they had come from Overland, the land above the surface. Or had they? Were they really sure there even was such a land among the rocks and mortar in the roof of the cavern? (Another character later comments on how weird it would be to live in a world like ours, a world without a roof, with just open sky above) She made them believe there was nothing beyond the dreadful world underground that they could see at the moment.

Then they asked about the Sun. About Narnia. About Aslan the Great Lion. And she convinced them that those concepts were merely flights of fantasy based on things they could see around.

Her words (however enchanted they were) made them reconsider their beliefs in these things; things they had always accepted to be true. Sure they had fleeting memories of daylight, of their home world, of the Lion, and of words spoken to them before. But these memories were fading as she spoke and strummed on her harp (or maybe it was a ‘lyre’ … see what I did there? ;) ), the mist of the ‘Decepto-powder’ filling the room.

Until Puddleglum stomped out the fire and ended the enchantment, to the Witch’s horror.

Here’s that part of the story and what he said:

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

Wow.

 

I like Puddleglum because of his decision to believe in the Truth –to fight for it— even when his mind did not agree. Even when he was being convinced otherwise, he still held on in faith. It was not easy, but he did.

Life may present us with a couple of facts. But that’s what they are: Facts, and nothing more. But don’t let them make you doubt the Truth. The facts are like holograms, translucent 3D images in space. They last for a while, but they only appear under certain conditions. They would change with time. They look real, but they are not necessarily real. We may feel them, but our feelings are really subjective neural experiences (OK, enough geekspeak from me).

The Truth, like Ted Dekker (one of my top favourite authors) loves to say, is just beyond the skin of this world. Beneath and beyond all we can see is another realm where everything is the way they really are. It’s the Kingdom of God, a world where everything is in obedience to God. You’d see that something actually happens when you pray, that something happens when you speak, and that there’s a lot more going on around us than we can see with these eyes.

Jesus is the Truth, and what He says is true. No matter how the facts appear, don’t make the mistake of thinking the facts are the Truth.

You may have no family with you now (FACT) but that does not mean you’re abandoned.

You may not have money in your pocket at the moment (FACT), but that does not mean you will never be successful in life, financially or otherwise.

You may have failed a course or two … or more (FACT), but that does not mean you’re a failure.

You may have prayed for the sick and nothing seemed to happen (FACT) but that does not mean Jesus was lying when He said you would pray for the sick, and they would recover. It doesn’t mean that your salvation is inferior, either.

I guess Faith counts when its feels like there’s no reason to believe. That’s when it counts. And that’s when it’s hardest. We can’t do this on our own. We weren’t made to. Hang on. Ask for His help. He will help you. You’re not alone in this.

I should know. I’ve been there. A lot of times, actually. One of such times I cried and cried for strength, but it didn’t seem to come as suddenly as I expected. I was too scared to let anyone in on what was bothering me, so I slapped on my trademark smile. I didn’t want my doubts to bring them down too. I felt so alone deep down, desperate to scream, to breathe. Trusting in God suddenly felt futile. I know I encourage others to remember that He is always with us, but I didn’t feel Him near right then. I didn’t feel Him at all, period. I felt like a fraud, like I was just going through the motions. I gotta tell you, it was scary.

But He was there. Is here. Man, He is. He’s been here all along.

You know what? I guess I got used to feeling that way. I preferred to ignore God. And when I didn’t, I felt as though I was the one person in all history that He had wronged. It felt easier to ignore Him and His things. But He had not wronged me. What had just happened was that, like the kids in the story, my ears were filled with the wrong tune and that’s what I was listening to. The Liar’s lyre.

So what did I do? I don’t know, really. I’m supposed to tell you that I prayed more and studied the Bible more, and that that’s I got more strength, but that’s not what happened. To be honest, I didn’t feel I’d get anything from praying. When I read the Bible, it was as if there was no life. That’s where I was. I was supposed to stir up strength from my spirit within, but I felt too weak. Worn. Tired. And because my mindset was warped, so were my decisions. And, sure enough, somewhere deep inside, I blamed God for all of this. To most readers this scenario may sound weird, especially to those that know me personally. But I hope there’s someone out there that understands. Even if no one does, it’s OK. You don’t have to go through that. Just keep your mind on the right stuff. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I thank God for exposing me to the right words. Like that verse that talks about how God is our Hiding Place, Who surrounds us with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7). Though I was blinded to see His faithfulness towards me, I could see His faithfulness toward others, so I knew He was still out there somewhere. It’s like being in a dark basement, with a few pinpricks of light stealing in through cracks in the wall. I sought those spots where the light was peeking through, ‘cause that’s where I felt safe.

I realized that though I may be special, I’m not so special that His loving kindness would extend to all except me. I was hearing His words, but I wasn’t listening. For the longest time, I wasn’t listening. But He got through. Ha! He made sure He did. No matter how long it took, He hung on.

Why did it drag for so long? I guess I was a hard nut to crack. God did not leave me be. He kept making sure His words broke through the thick clouds around me, until I could finally really hear His songs of deliverance again. His words of Truth and encouragement.

He was trying to get to me all along.

That’s the annoying thing about Grace. No matter how hard we try to earn points on His scales, He shows us that He’s the One that gave us whatever points we’ve got. He’s the One helping us up.

I still have lots of questions, I won’t lie. I still do. But I’m learning to trust.

I’ll trust.

Man, I don’t usually get so personal in my writing. I prefer using a character in a convenient story to pass the message across, but I guess I just wanted to do this. Hope it’s worth something, though.

This is real life, man.

But, enough about me. Back to the point.

 

Sometimes the lies look like facts. Sometimes it’s easier to accept the lies than to fight to listen to God’s Voice of Truth.

We may be walking in caves as dark as Death with no light in sight (FACT), but we must not let that make us forget that there ever was a Sun. That there is still a Sun out there.

Don’t let circumstances make you forget that there’s a Son, either. And He’s not just ‘out there’, He’s ‘right here’ with you. The Son of God that died and rose to make you fully free – free to live, free to be! He’s alive! He’s broken the chains and blown the prison doors and nuked the concentration camp and placed you in another country, so you have no excuse for allowing the tunes of the Liar’s lyre to become your reality. God is holding you up, so trust Him. Let His words, His songs, break through to your heart. They are working on you. He’s working on you.

You may not feel it, but He’s after you. He’s surrounding you. Ah, if you could see His hands around you, trying to squeeze the darkness away. If your eyes could be opened so you can see what’s really going on!

There’s a battle going on, my friend. A battle for your soul. There’s a wooing going on, and each side is desperate for your heart.

One in seduction, One in Love.

One for destruction and One for Life.

The Liar wants to keep you shrouded in a cloud of darkness. The Truth wants to make you free, and truly free at that.

His words are real and true. Let them be your reality. Keep on studying what He’s said, and talking with Him. It’ll change your mindset.

Your feelings may not all change in an instant. But they also could. But whether they do or whether they don’t, you’ll be fine. Even when you mourn, Jesus says you will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). It’s not His desire for you to mourn, but even if you do He’s got you covered.

You see, the lies may be like those holograms. Holograms are particularly crafted to appear through some optical hijinks, subject to the directed lighting in the room. But the Truth has always remained. It’s the Pure Light that drives away all illusions.

And the Truth is that God loves you, and He’s got you. He would not let any evil come to you, and He would help you make an impact so great it would blow your mind (in a good way J ). His plan is for you to be satisfied and fulfilled in life. To thrive, not just to try to survive. What’s waiting beyond is so much better than anything there’s ever been. We can’t even imagine it, but He reveals it to us by His Spirit in us, His children.

So trust Him. He can be trusted.

And when you do, that’s when you’ll find the strength to stomp out the lies and shine Light into the Darkness, to encourage and comfort others.

To remind them that our Father has never left us. He’s right here.

Even in the deepest throes of Underland.

 

‘Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there…’

PSALM 139:7, 8

The Stuff Friends are Made Of

The Stuff Friends are Made of 3

Old Peter Macready was a really old man

With skillful hands and a very sharp eye

He was an inventor. A creative one indeed

For he made everything he could ever desire.

From the chandeliers to furniture to cutlery

To the finishing. His creativity knew no end.

There was nothing in his house that wasn’t made by him.

Except the fact that, in all this time … he’d made no friends.

 

In his eighty years on earth he’d met many people

Men and women, boys and girls, since he was born.

But none were the kind he’d want for a friend.

And none ever asked if he wanted one.

 

“I don’t need ‘em”, he said. “I don’t need ‘em at all.

“If I ever needed something, I never had to search

I just made it instead.

Piece of cake! I’ll just make!

Making a friend of my own shouldn’t cost me much.

 

He tried to make his own little wooden marionette

Like the one that sang the classic, “I’ve got no strings.”

But it could do nothing else. It had no brain.

And to this day, that’s the only song it ever sings.

 

So he made an android robot that could do much more.

It was sentient, intelligent, and good with chores.

But it kept trying to terminate him and take over the world

So he had to turn it off, after losing a few doors.

 

He tried to use a Professor’s famous solvent: Chemical X

To make daughters of his own, like the cartoon’s story went.

But with nothing nice to add to the Sugar and Spice

The resulting volatile mixture simply destroyed his basement.

 

After months of explosions and whole room implosions

He found that a new friend was nowhere near.

With a sigh of disappointment, he gave up on his desire

To have friends. After all, he’d been fine for many a year.

 

After all…

 

(sigh…)

———-

KNOCK-KNOCK

(Silence)

KNOCK-KNO—

(A creak as the door slides open)

A boy in a uniform stands at the door, a brown package in his hand. Actually, he is too old to be called a boy, but too young to be called anything else. He probably isn’t even 18 yet.

I should say something … but I don’t know what to say. I frown instead.

He raises a hand to wave, even though I’m right in front of him. “Hi … sir. I’m Justin. Is this Mr. Macready’s house?”

I nod slowly, wary of troublemakers like him. “I’m Macready.”

He nods. “I’m a mailman. Well, obviously, ‘cause I’m clearly not female …” He pauses. He must expect me to say something, but I know not what. He keeps oscillating about his feet like a pendulum bob. “OK, most people get that joke the first time, so this is a little embarrassing—“

“I’m not expecting any mail,” I interrupt. “There’s nothing here for you, boy.”

“It’s Justin. And, yes … I mean, no! No, you’ve got no mail. Actually, you never get any mail, I think. But I couldn’t help but notice that there’s always smoke coming out of at least one of your windows. No one on your street seems to know what’s going on with you, sir, so I was …” he rolls up a sleeve and scratches his forearm. “I just wanted to make sure you were OK. You know.” He nods, pursing his lips, his gaze not shifting from mine. “That’s it.”

He doesn’t seem to be up to any trouble. I nod once more. “I’m fine.”

“OK…” he turns to stare back at his bike parked by the curb, and turns to look at me. His gaze strays behind me. “I guess that’s – WHOA!!! What IS that thing?!”

I turn abruptly to see what’s got him all startled. It’s my old android, resting in the kitchen doorway in the last pose it’d taken before I shut it down. It’s been too heavy to lift, so I just left it there. Now this boy has seen it. “It’s nothing—“

“Nothing? That’s a robot!” He’s a little overexcited. “WHOA!” He’s still staring around at everything he can see through the doorway. My portraits, my carpentry and –

BAM! I shut the door and stand in front of him, my arms folded. He’s seen enough. “Is that all?”

“You’ve got some crazy stuff going on here, dude.” He says. “I mean ‘sir’.

Crazy? Dude?

“I mean, it’s crazy, but only ‘cause it’s good. As in, it’s so good that it’s crazy. Like, crazy good. I mean,” he tries to find another word. He gives up. “I’ve said too much already, right? Like, I should probably just shut up and get going.”

“That would be preferable, yes.”

“OK, I know when my eVite’s expired.” He walks away. “You’re alright, sir. Been good meeting you.”

But now he’s leaving. This … ‘dude’ had cared enough to ask how I was. And I felt … good about it. It was bizarre, but good. I hoped he would return someday.

“Thank you.” I manage. He stops and turns. “Thanks for coming over … boy.”

He smiles. “Actually, it’s Justin. But I guess we could go with that.”

 

———-

 

And that wasn’t that last they saw of each other.

Justin became Mr. Macready’s new friend.

As soon as he entered the inventor’s house the next time

His exuberant excitement seemed to know no end.

 

Mr. Macready learnt a lot about friendship from Justin.

For he observed that the boy had taken the first step.

Perhaps that’s the way to make new friends.

Not to wait for them to come. But to reach out a hand.

To help.

 

He learnt that you can’t make them out of what you see.

Friends aren’t made from things. They just happen to … be.

At the end of the day, Mr. Macready could say,

“The best ingredient for friendship is me!”

 

———-

“Hey,” Justin says after taking a bite from the cookies he brought over this time. “Where’s that creepy song about strings coming from?”

My Statue of Liberty

 

My Statue of Liberty_final2

We sailed for weeks; spent months at sea
With nothing but ocean and sky to see.
Hoping we’d reach our destiny
The land of Hope. Home of the Free.

They say its citizens are live truly free
In that place, life needs no remedy.
It’s where I’ve always wanted to be.
I hope that there’d still be a place for me.

I was below deck when my mate called out to me
“Come out!” he yelled. “Come out ‘n see!
I can feel it beckoning on me?
Is that the monument they call Liberty?”

I reach the deck in a hurry
And see the sign that takes away all my worry
I’m home at last. It’s all been worth the fuss.
For this Statue of Liberty is a Great Big Cross.

My Statue of Liberty_thecross2

It’s Not About Me

I was walking up the street one day with my eyes on my phone, scrolling through my email. I just happened to look back up at the road in front of me when I saw that there was suddenly less road and more …well, pole. Yup, I’d almost walked into an electric pole. It was then that I realised I had to pay more attention to the world around.
The whole ‘scrolling-through-my-phone-while-walking-on-the-road’ bit is a habit I’m trying to stop. I think I picked it up as a reflex response to avoid the awkwardness of staring at people walking toward me. I’d either be checking my mail or checking out the latest ‘share’, ‘comment’ or ‘like’ on my last post (narcissistic much?)
But I realise that I’m cheating myself of other things. Like the world around me. The people around; yes even the ones I’m trying not to stare at.
While I’m dipping my head into cyberspace I’m missing out on the opportunity to be a blessing out here in the real world. They’re the ones I’m supposed to reach out to, right? I shouldn’t be all wrapped up in myself or I’d miss out on all that.
It’s not about me.
It’s not about you.
Our lives are too big and too full for it to only be lived for ourselves. But you know what? We are also too tiny and infinitessimal for us to be the centre of our own lives.
We were made to live for God, and God’s all about reaching out to others. Showing them Love. Giving them Life. That’s what we’re made for.
You’ve got a LOT to offer, some of which you’re yet to discover. You’ll see them when you actually reach out.
So don’t be all “me, me, me!” You’ll miss out on the other notes in the beautiful harmony of God’s Creation.
So flash a smile to someone today. You never know how far it could go.
:)

FATHER OF CHIBOK

Father of Chibok

…must … make it…

Can’t stop … can’t turn back…

I must…

… must …

… SIMBI …

With every step, Adamu ibn Gafar’s heart pummeled harder into his chest. His breath had turned to intermittent gasps. His strength was giving way. But he could not stop. Would not stop. His rifle weighed heavy on his neck by the strap.

A dry wind caressed his bearded face as he crested a knoll, leaving a gritty taste in his mouth. The valley before him, dotted with trees and sparse undergrowth, was laid out bare like an unfurled scroll of green and brown. The Sambisa forest. It would have been the perfect landscape were it not for the dark secrets hidden in there.

How many nights had it been now? Seven? Eight? Yes, eight nights since he’d left the village.

Three since he last ate.

Two since he last drank water. Dirty water, at that.

His head was already feeling dizzier with each new hour. He could feel every bone in his body. He knew he should have turned back a long time ago, but he had to keep his attention on something more important. His sole purpose for being here. His only purpose for living now.

Simbi … Simbi … must make it… It had become his mantra.

He did not even know where he was going. Everyone knew that the terrorists sometimes set up camp in this forest, but they were also constantly on the move. Only God knew exactly where they were. Gafar knew that he would most definitely die out here. His next step could plunge him to his grave…

Something about that thought must have been taken seriously, because the next thing he knew was that the horizon was rising unnaturally. The sandy ground was rising to his eye level … and growing darker. His scraggly beard bit into his skin as it touched down on sand.

Am I … falling?

BAM! His world faded to black.

 

———-

A crackle played at the back of his mind as he slowly regained consciousness. It could’ve been gunfire in the distance. A salty tang filled the air, assaulting his stomach. Oh, that churning curling feeling. How hungry he felt. Slowly, one of his eyes peeled. There was a fire, alright, but it wasn’t gunfire. More like a camp fire. It was in sharp contrast to the dark night around.

Wait a minute. Camp fire meant camp…

…and camp meant…

People!

He hurried to his haunches, scurrying away, but stopped at the sight before him. Only one man was seated in the sand facing the fire, his back to Gafar. He had seen no other human being in days. He noted that his rifle still sat beside him. Desperate not to make a sound, he slowly grabbed it from the grass at his knees.

Could it be? Had he finally reached their camp? Is he one of them?

Struggling to his feet, he sauntered slowly toward the stranger, reminded of the pain in his bones with every step he managed. The man was humming to himself, poking the fire with a stick. He was roasting some fish in the fire, hence the salty tang. Food! But Gafar would not kill a man for food … unless he was a no-good kidnapping insurgent—

But, still… FOOD!

“You’ve been out for hours.”

Gafar stopped. Who said that? He had been certain they were alone. Gafar had not seen another human in over a week. Had this man just spoken? Gafar knew he had been found out. He raised the rifle to the man’s head. He should have said something, but nothing came to mind.

The man turned slightly. “I thought you’d like some food.”

Gafar gulped, his throat dry more from hunger than from fear. “You have five seconds to tell me what you’re doing here.”

The man paused. “Clearly, I’m roasting fish—“

“Are you one of them?” Gafar snapped. “The Haram?”

The man turned and seemed to notice the rifle for the first time, his gaze falling to its barrel. But he didn’t flinch. “Why would I tell you that?”

“Answer me!”

The screeching of crickets in the distance gave an ambience to the scene. “What if I told you I was and you weren’t one of them? Or if I said I wasn’t, but you were one of them? Either way, one of us is dead already.” Gafar froze. The man smiled. “Consider me a friend, mallam.

“I have no friends on this path.”

“Then consider this an invitation. In a land such as this, we could all do with a companion.” The stranger patted the ground beside him. “Come. Eat.” A bowl of already roasted fish sat beside the man. “I also got some bread.” He extended his bag towards Gafar.

Gafar was torn. He should be pulling the trigger, but his hunger was too strong. He snatched the bag out of his hand and reached in for a loaf. Sure enough, he felt the soft loaves of bread in his hands. The aroma was too hard to resist. And he took a bite.

His gastric juices and salivary glands went to work. Goodness, he had not realized how hungry he really was until now. Whoever this stranger was, he had brought some good food. This was like a miracle … if you believed in such.

“You’re welcome,” the stranger muttered, returning to his roasting. “There’s a creek over there. The water’s cleaner than most.”

Gafar sat, taking more of the bread and fish. Out of habit he muttered his thanks. The man looked nothing like anyone else he had seen before in these parts. He knelt at the creek and gulped down a good helping of water. Sure enough it was clean water.

“God must be looking out for you,” the man said. “Few survive days in this forest on their own.”

Gafar did not respond. He preferred not to give much thought to God. He needed not to. For one thing, those perverted terrorists claimed to be fighting in His name. Why would God allow those men to take his daughter away? Either someone or something was wrong in that equation, or there really was no God. It just didn’t make sense. Without answers he chose to remain neutral on the subject.

“There’s a nomadic clan about a day away where we can trade that gun of yours for supplies,” he said. “But they’re always on the move.” Gafar arched a brow at the man, who shrugged. “I’ve lived in the Sambisa for a good while now. I know my way around here.”

Gafar studied the man as he returned to the fire. He wore a woolen jacket over his brown caftan. The white goatee framing his chin gave him a patriarchal look. Had he really lived here for long? He was in no mood for a conversation, but clearly this man was. “I thank you for the sustenance, sir. But one must wonder what would make a man like you to stay in this godforsaken forest.”

The man stared pointedly at him.“I could ask you the same question.”

“My path is no business of yours.”

“I see all kinds of men making their way through this forest every now and then,” he said. “Most with ill-intentions. You don’t strike me as their type.” He cocked his head, ostensibly studying Gafar. “But I can tell you that the enemies you seek will not be taken down with just one rifle.”

Gafar turned to him. So this man had deduced his vendetta. “You’ve … seen them?”

“Everyone knows when they camp, the Haram. Most families left the forest as soon as they started … ‘camping’ here.”

“Yet you remain.”

The man shrugged. “I’ve got greater concerns than my own safety,” he said. “As do you, I presume.”

“I’m grateful for the food, sir, but like I said, my path is of no concern to you.”

“One rifle cannot take down an entire camp of—“

“Sir, I would rather not talk about this.”

“Some would call that denial. “

“Sir, I really don’t like—“

“But you want to talk about it—“

Gafar shot to his feet. “Look! Your attempts to drive me out of my mind can’t go beyond how out of control I already am. I … ha … I … I don’t even know why I’m even trying to talk to you. I should have killed you and made off with your food when I had the chance.”

The man was smiling and it was annoying. “But you won’t, my friend.”

“Don’t be too sure.”

“You may be mad, but you’re not ax-crazy.”

“Yes! Yes! You got me there, old man! I am mad! I’m absolutely crazy! What was I thinking, coming in here with a borrowed gun? And you know something else, old man? I’m dead already. I’m a dead man! This is a dead man talking to you, right here! What have I got to lose?”

“A mad man and a dead man. That’s a very lethal combination…”

Gafar clenched his fists. “Tell that to those perverts.”

“…for you,” the man finished, his eyes glistening in the fire’s hue. “It’s lethal for you. And you know why? I can tell because I know who you are.”

“You don’t know the first thing about me.” The man just stared at him, with what looked like sympathy in his eyes. As far as Gafar was concerned, he was mocking his resolve.

“I know … that you’re a dangerous weapon to anyone that crosses your path now. And that’s because of who you are.” Gafar waited for the punch line. But when it did come it took the wind out of his sails. “You’re a father.”

Gafar froze, at a loss for words.

“They must have taken something most precious to you to bring you in here,” the man continued, his eyes on Gafar. “However insane this is. And I can think of nothing as precious as … as a child. A daughter.” He paused. “Your daughter.”

Gafar just stared at him. Exposed and vulnerable in that moment. Now, when he needed a smart comeback, nothing came. He just stood there and stared. “Well … well, it’s better than just sitting down and doing nothing.” He tried to avoid his gaze. “Like everyone else is doing.”

“How old was she?” the man’s voice was gentle.

Gafar stared into the fire. The thought that had been playing in the depths of his heart boiled to the surface. Simbi’s lost, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

For the first time in days, he let the teardrop trickle down his face. His resistance fell away. The heave in his chest was back. He could feel his pulse thumping in his forehead. He slowly sank to his seat.

The man just stared at him.

“Nineteen,” he whispered. “She was … only … nineteen.”

The crackle of the fire and the distant caw of hawks filled the silence that followed. His heart was breaking again. And, again, he was helpless.

“We hoped this would be the last WAEC that would get her into university. I didn’t think it was necessary. I only wanted her to get married and start a life as soon as possible. Her mother wanted our daughter to have a dream. A future. She made me promise —right there, as her life slipped away— to get our daughter through school. She would become a great woman. A princess that royalty would die for. But you know what? I never really realized how beautiful my daughter was already. A treasure…” he gulped. Now she was gone. Kidnapped. And who knew what else had become of her.

“What I would give for one more moment to hold her … to tell my daughter that I love her. I never told her that. I never … thought I needed to. I thought she always knew. But I would give anything! Even to the last of my cattle and my land, I would give it all. I just want my daughter to be safe…”

He was breaking down in front of a stranger, he realized. He had spent a week away from humans and he had already lost all his pride. “It’s been so long now. I saw that video, you know. They showed the girls, all in black. But I didn’t see my Simbi. They say they’ve been sold as slaves. Others say they’re dead. But I can’t believe that. I couldn’t live with myself if that happened.”

The man had just been listening, now there was nothing but sobbing and the crackle of the fire between them.

“You want to negotiate with them?” the man asked at last. “You mentioned giving your cattle.”

“What choice do I have?”

For a moment they simply stared into the fire. “You really do love your daughter,” the man said. Gafar wiped his eyes. “I know how you feel … friend.”

Don’t say that. You can’t possibly know how I feel.

He placed a hand on Gafar’s shoulder “You will see your daughter again. It’s the hope we fathers have to hold on to.” Gafar turned to him. “The enemy may take our daughters, but we’ll do everything to bring them back. Even to lay down our very lives. Because it’s everything we have to give.

“After all … that’s why I’m here as well,” the man said, turning back to the fire.

Gafar sniffed and turned to him. “They took your daughter too?”

The man stared into the fire for a moment. When he did reply his voice was nothing but a whisper. “Daughters.”

That stopped him. Gafar was shaken. Really?

This gave a whole new perspective to this man. His daughters had been taken as well, and he was here to rescue them. There were things he wanted to ask, but he couldn’t. It was just … surreal. And sad. Very sad. So he does know how I feel. “I’m … I’m sorry.”

How, if there is any justice in the universe, these things could go unpunished troubled Gafar. How could these people continue their evil crusade – and no one else wonders why?! God, are you even there?

“You asked me why I’m here, in this …as you called it, ‘godforsaken’ forest,” the man said, a slight quiver playing at the edge of his lips. “Now you know. I have to be close to my children, somehow. I’ve been here for ages, searching, ready to bring my daughters home.” He smiled, in spite of himself. “I couldn’t live with myself any other way, knowing they’re in the hands of such evil men. I couldn’t afford to.” He shook his head, staring into the distance, lost in thought. “This ‘fatherhood’ thing, it’s … it’s an occupational hazard.”

Gafar sighed deeply, looking up at the stars. “You know, sometimes I think that if I ever brought her back safe, I would take her out of this place. Out of this country. I’d sell everything I have to take us to somewhere safe. I would throw the biggest party ever for her and her friends. I would … I would let the whole world know that she’s the most beautiful girl of all. The most precious jewel to me. I would never yell at her again … ever…”

The man nodded silently. “The Father’s heart.”

For a moment they did not talk. Gafar absentmindedly took some more helpings of the bread with fish. These short silent moments that punctuated their conversation seemed, to Gafar, to bond them somehow. A sort of camaraderie between fathers desperate to bring their loved ones home. Through long and dark nights in the cold, the bites of parasites and the certainty of death, the thought of their daughters home and safe again could be the only thing keeping them going.

The man turned and stared into his eyes again. “You can be sure that I’ll let your daughter know how much you love her so.”

Gafar smiled, as the chilling realization that he would die overtook him. But he nodded. “I’d do the same if I saw yours.”

“Listen to me—“

“—But frankly I just might outlive you, old man—“

“No, wait, you’re not listening to me. I will let your daughter know you love her because I am with her.” Gafar squinted at him. “Right now.”

Gafar tried to make sense of the man’s sudden cryptic shift in gears. “What’re you saying?”

“You know full well what it is I am saying.”

“Who … who are you?”

That enigmatic smile was playing at his lips again. “Don’t you remember me? Adam?”

Gafar was taken aback. He didn’t recall telling this man his name, let alone his first name. “Are you … no … it can’t be…”

He nodded. “I am.”

And he smiled one more time.

 

———-

Incessant chirping played at the back of his mind as he slowly regained consciousness. It could’ve been the sound of angels greeting each other. Perhaps he was dead already. For real, this time. He felt full on the inside. Oh, the blessing of good food. Especially bread and fish … talk about a meal! Slowly, one of his eyes peeled open. There was chirping, alright, but there were no angels. More like birds—

Wait a minute!

As he hurried to his haunches, he was engulfed by the daylight around him. He was still in the forest, birds chirping in the trees. It was another day searching for his daughter. One thing that piqued his attention was that there was no evidence of a camp fire around him. No ashes. He turned and confirmed his last expectation – no creek either. Had it been a dream?

But if it had all been a dream, why did he feel as if he had eaten?

He inhaled deeply, staring up into the bright sky. It was a new day, with new dangers ahead. But never before had he felt so much resolve.

Miracles do happen, he mused.

Picking his rifle again, refreshed and filled on the inside he hurried on into a forest that, perhaps, wasn’t so godforsaken after all. To death. To life.

To his daughter.

For Simbi.

———-

“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing

nothing living or dead,

angelic or demonic,

today or tomorrow,

high or low,

thinkable or unthinkable—

ABSOLUTELY

NOTHING

can get between us and God’s love

because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

Romans 8:38 and 39 (The Message)

 

———-

FATHER OF CHIBOK

Father of Chibok; Father of all.

I know You hear us when we call.

Thank You because You’re always near.

And, as You’re here, You’re also there.

You’re with our sisters and daughters in captivity.

Keep them, protect them … set them free.

I know You can

‘Cause You’re more than a man.

You loved them even before this all began.

Heal their hearts; heal their minds

Keep them from the fear that binds.

Our hearts go out to them too.

If anyone can bring them home, it’s You.

And Father,

This part is so hard that it barely even rhymes.

Help us … somehow … to pray for and love the men

Possessed by the spirit of terror.

For they terrorize and wish our nation ill

But unbeknownst to them, they are the captives, still.

Heal their hearts, heal their minds.

Free them from the bondage that binds.

Let them know that even in the darkest of forest

There’s a Father that loves them, and in seeking them, You don’t rest.

If anyone loves them, it’s definitely You.

Help us to love them like You do.

O Father of All; Father of Chibok

Thank You ‘cause You answer when we knock.

In the end, we know that Evil’s time is done.

In the End, evil is overcome.

Let Your Kingdom come and make this all right.

The world will be so much better with Your Light.

If anyone can do this, it’s going to be You.

What can we do?

Can You use us too?

Help us to lighten up this world

With your light as we do as we are called.

Reflecting your love to every fellow

That they may know that You love them so.

If You can use anyone, dear Jesus…

…thank You because it can be us.

Love Keeps No Records Of Wrongs

emmanuelonimisi:

Saw this post by a friend and thought y’all would like it. I did.

Originally posted on temissan001:

Hello people! This is a short story I wrote for a writer- friend o’mine a while back.

I usually don’t write short stories but I decided to try it out. Tell me what you think, will ya?

She flinched as she applied a sac of ice against her swollen face.
“I’m not taking him back” she muttered, “I can’t do this anymore”, she
cried. Her mind reeled back to the now famliar routine. A slap, yet
another and then the slamming of fists against her frail self.
Funny how regardless of everything he did, she still always
accepted him back. For he had her bound in fetters and chains. There
was no letting go, or so she thought.
The voice of the door cut her train of thoughts, “come in” she said
absent mindedly as she stared at herself in the mirror. There he was,
somber and all. Before she…

View original 149 more words

GRAVE ROBBER

Grave Robber header

Working on The John 11 Story has been an interesting experience for me. Sure, I’ve known the whole story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead for years, but taking it from this new angle was a pretty amazing opportunity. And sure enough, it looked as if God had pre-prepared the story to fit the format in which it is crafted here, with specific lessons to pick from on Love, Faith and Hope. And I love the way it all rounds up on my favorite story: Life over Death.

The first installment, Love, tells of the part when Jesus first heard that Lazarus was sick. He loved his friend so much … that he waited and let him die. I gotta tell you, this blew me away. But that’s what Jesus did, because He knew it was best for His friend. It didn’t matter that others would see it as downright inhuman, He saw the Big Picture and He lived according to that.

The second installment, Faith, shows us a little bit about ‘walking in faith’. It’s an assurance we have based on God’s reality that affects all that we do and how we live. Others may not see into this other reality, so walking in faith may look crazy to them. That’s probably how Jesus must have looked to his disciples and friends back then. With discouragement on the outside it can be quite hurtful. But He held on, not changing His conviction and confession.

And then, it all boils down to the final installment. Hope.

To many, hope means nothing more than a baseless expectation. Some even preach and teach –with the best intentions, I’m sure— that hope is inferior to faith. But they are so wrong.

But Hope is a word very dear to me. It’s entwined in my heart and in all my stories. I see Hope as … uh, like a rope –a sure and steady rope— that keeps us connected to our expectation. It’s like you’ve been on a ship sailing, with nothing but water for miles. Then suddenly, your shipmate yells from the crow’s nest, “Land ho!” Suddenly everyone rushes to the starboard side to catch a glimpse of the land to which we’ve been headed and they turn the ship toward that direction. We can finally see where we’re going. In a sense, we feel connected to that place already because, on the inside, we are finally home.

That’s Hope.

For children of God, we have a sure and steady hope waiting beyond this sea we’ve been sailing all our lives. It’s an anchor in another world, waiting just beyond this one. We know that we are going to still live even after we leave this world. And why will we live? Because we believe in Jesus, the One that is Life Himself. So no matter what we go through in this world down here, everything seems worthwhile. It is worthwhile because the satisfaction waiting for us is much greater, much better, more grand, extravagantly more amazing than anything down here. Such joy, such peace, such fulfillment and satisfaction in that Other World called Eternity.

And because of this Hope we have on the inside, we are connected to our Home. We already experience the joy and peace and life and love waiting beyond. It’s a life rooted in Eternity, and we call it Eternal Life. It flows on our insides like a river, and overflows to bless this world. It’s literally Heaven on Earth … through us. That’s what Jesus was probably talking about when He said that “The Kingdom of God is within you” in Luke 17:21.

We know it’s not a baseless hope because of the One Who has been there already, and made a way for us to get there. His name is Jesus. He died and rose to life so that He could open the portal for all that believe in Him to join Him, so that they can also have Eternal Life. Nothing can beat that. Not even Death.

Ha! Even death is no match for Eternity’s Conqueror.

He defeated Death so that we would not have to fear it anymore (Hebrews 2:15). The fear of death keeps us from living life to the full. It holds men in bondage all their lives until it finally snatches them away. But Death does not ‘snatch’ those who have Eternal Life. It serves them to bring them Home, at the right time. If you believe in Jesus, you need not fear Death any longer.

But Jesus ended all that. He literally dealt with Death, and rose up to life. It’s actually more awesome than the way I described it, but you get the gist, right? Because He is alive, our faith is effective! Because He is alive, we have Hope, a real Hope. Because He is alive, we can go the extra mile for others out of Love. Because He lives.

But then, it did not end there. He did not just defeat Death that day. Something bigger is coming.

 

The Grave Robber is Coming.

Here’s how the Bible describes it.

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:51,52

One day, everyone who believed in Jesus before they died will rise to life and their bodies will become immortal. Death’s very throne room –the graveyard— will be raided instantly, and everyone that belongs to Christ will rise to meet Him and be with Him forever. And everyone who is alive and believes in Jesus will also join them. It would all happen in an instant, ‘in the twinkling of an eye’.

There will be no more death for us ever again. Ever. Forever.

We’ll have finally reached the shore.

———-

That’s part of why I love this Hope, especially since my father went Home a couple of years ago. I don’t talk about it much, I know, but one good thing God brought out of all that is that my attention has shifted from this world to the next. Sure sometimes I get distracted by the holograms of this world and forget my true identity, but my Home –my true reality— is in the next. Nothing fulfils me completely except it’s also rooted in that World. I tell myself, “Oi, if you ever want to see your Dad again, you better be good!” I believe in Jesus. My father also did. Our Hope is in Jesus. And I believe that one day we will both meet together at that Grand Reunion. But I get the feeling that our attention would be taken, not by ourselves, but by the One that got us in this great story in the first place.

Jesus. Eternity’s Conqueror.

So I’m no longer afraid of death because I have Jesus.

But I’m not suicidal, no. I don’t go around looking for death. I just have the confidence to live to the full without being afraid of death. I’ve got the Eternal Life of Jesus Christ in me. He influences how I live, so that I can bring His Light into the darkness around. This is what my life is about. The Hope and freedom that I have in Christ is what I share in my writing and artwork, so that you can see Him in me and come to the Hope we have in Him. You don’t have to fear death any longer.

Jesus is here. He loves you sooooooo much! Yes, He really does. Really.

Come to Him and find Life. Outside Him there is nothing but darkness and gloom and fear and Death.

Have you received Jesus? You can receive Him today.

 

Below are the words to one of my most treasured songs. It’s called Grave Robber, by a group called PETRA, and it explains everything I’ve been talking …uh, ‘writing’ about so far.

 

GRAVE ROBBER

(Based on Hebrews 9:27, John 4:14, 1 Peter 1:24, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 15:26, 51-55, Revelation 7:17)

There’s a step that we all take alone
An appointment we have with the great unknown
Like a vapor this life is just waiting to pass
Like the flowers that fade, like the withering grass
But life seems so long and death so complete
And the grave an impossible potion to cheat
But there’s One who has been there and still lives to tell
There is One who has been through both heaven and hell
And the grave will come up empty-handed the day
Jesus will come and steal us away

(Chorus)
Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes
And death finally dies

Many still mourn and many still weep
For those that the love who have fallen asleep
But we have this hope though our hearts may still ache
Just one shout from above and they all will awake
And in the reunion of joy we will see
Death will be swallowed in sweet victory

When the last enemy is done from the dust will come a song
Those asleep will be awakened – not a one will be forsakened
He shall wipe away our tears – He will steal away our fears
There will be no sad tomorrow – there will be no pain and sorrow

 

The day is coming. And everyone will see. Believe in Jesus and receive the life He came to give.

The Grave Robber is coming for His own.

 

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.

It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God…

HEBREWS 6:18-19

THE JOHN 11 STORY: Hope

<< INTRO

<< Episode One: Love

<< Episode Two: Faith

John 11_hope

And so we got to the tomb. A rock was fixed in place over the entrance of the cave to seal it. And there I saw him. No one else could see him except me. I saw the enemy himself.

Leaning on the gravestone, his hands folded, my foe stared at me through hideous eyes cold from millennia of nothing but darkness. He just stared at me, an ugly sneer playing at his lips.

“It appears we meet again, Son of God,” he said, sarcastically dragging that last part.

So this was the monster that had held man bound for years. The one whose lethal sting festered in the blood of men, bringing them slowly to the grave through sin. This was the one that had kept humanity in chains, in oppression because of sin.

“What do you think you can do here?” he hissed. “Too late to heal this one, so you want to take him out of my hands? Like you did in Galilee? What’s your deal? I have a right to keep them, and you know it. However, you’re too late. It’s been four days. This one’s spirit is long gone.”

Yes, this is the monster that I will defeat on a cross. The last enemy. A painful reminder of what is in store for me.

But I was not there for him. Not yet. I was there for Lazarus. My gaze was set on what lay beyond Death. I would not let him have the final say here. I would not engage him before his time.

I turned to my disciples. “Brothers, take that stone out of the way.”

Martha started at that. “Master, are you—? I mean … he’s … he’s been dead for days! Four days—“

“Martha…”

“His spirit’s gone and I get it that you want some closure – I probably even get that more than you do – but … the stink! He’d be rotten by now.You don’t—“

“Martha, dear Martha … didn’t you hear me say you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

She stared at me, wondering if she should dare believe in what I was implying.

Yes, I dared her to believe, to expect the ‘impossible’. Let hope be rekindled in your dear heart. She stared at the tomb, her mouth agape.

“Go on,” I told my disciples. “Get the stone out of the way.”

They were already pushing the large rock. Behind me the crowd gasped in shock, some in horror. It was downright disrespectful disturbing the dead, they must have thought. To some I must have appeared like a hopeless rebel adamant to see my dead friend’s body one last time. The cold interior was opened. And, sure enough, the putrid odour drifted toward us. The others withdrew behind me. But I kept on staring into the darkness beyond, where my friend’s dead body lay.

“So that’s it?” Death scoffed. “You’re just going to ignore me now?”

Never again will death oppress those that believe in me, and those that will believe. The day will come when I will take all that Death has got for their sake, and dump it all on myself. I will die too, yes. But I will rise again. Death will lose its sting. The grave will lose its victory. That’s my Father’s plan.

“You do know that you are just a man,” Death growled. “All men eventually come to me. Men die. You may have taken three or so from my claws … but who will raise you when you fall into my hands, hmm?”

One man would die for all men to be saved. That would be me. It is all playing out as my Father had said. Death’s biggest mistake would be to take me, the one who is Life.

“I will maim you, and crush you, and destroy you before their very eyes, Son of God.”

See? The winner has already been decided. It is already written.

I lifted my eyes. “Thank You, Father! Thank You because You have heard me! Of course, I know You hear me always. I just said that for the people standing here, so they can believe that You have sent me.”

Some thought I had finally snapped. Death was furious, seething because I gave him no heed.

“I will deal you the worst death ever,” he said.

“LAZARUS!” I called out. “COME OUT!”

You dare take him from my hands—?!“ But then, he vanished. No doubt, with vengeance in his heart.

Death was gone.

The crowd peered into the darkness from a safe distance. In the silence that followed, the passing breeze and the chirping of birds filled our ears. Heavy breathing echoed behind me.

And then there was a scream. Someone had observed movement in the tomb. But then she was not the only one.

“Look! There! Do you see it?”

“See what? Oh, wait … oh my! Oh my—“

“Where? What’s going on?”

“It’s a GHOST!”

“Good God!”

But he was not a ghost. My friend bounded out of the tomb to their screams and cries for mercy. I’ll admit, it’s not every day you see a dead man come to life. He was still bound and wrapped up in strips of cloth so he could barely move. “Quick,” I said. “Someone, unwrap him. Get him out of those … clothes.” They hesitated at first, but then some of my disciples went ahead, the others too scared to come. The sisters held back, crying.

When the sheet from his face was removed we all saw him. Lazarus. Thank You, Father.

The sisters ran to embrace him, crying out loud. The screams of terror turned to cries of joy. The man held his sisters, joy streaming from them. The news was spreading, the grapevine already reaching the village: Lazarus is alive! So many people that doubted before believed now. They had now seen what my Father is capable of.

It was totally amazing as faith rose that day. I saw people trust in God again. Many who had given up on God’s saving power were now filled with faith. They could now see that God could do anything, that He was here for them, and that He had sent me here. They had faith in me. These people were getting set up for the days of the kingdom, after the final battle comes to pass, and is won. They will believe. They do believe.

It does not matter that they may not continue believing. My story is not done.

I will die. I will rise. All who believe in me will be filled with eternal life, and they will never fall into Death’s hands. Death will become my vehicle to victory, and theirs too.

It will be painful for me. Torturous and unearthly for me. So that you can be free.

And the result will be awesome. Everyone who believes in me will be filled with the Life that conquers Death. Yes, everyone— even you!

Ha!

It surely is worth it.

 

‘Whoever has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure’

1 John 3:3 (NIV)

 

———-

[POST-CREDITS SCENE]

In the recesses of the study in this palatial mansion, a group of men meet to discuss. They are leaders and priests, the top in the land. And the high priest sits with his fist on his mouth, deep in thought. A messenger has just arrived with the news.

“Are you certain?” one of them asks.

“Yes, sir,” the messenger says. “I saw him with my very eyes. The man lives.”

“BAH! There must be an explanation,” another says dismissively. “No man can bring the dead back to life.”

“He’d been in that tomb for four days, sir!”

“Do you expect us to believe that this demon-possessed Galilean – a chronic blasphemer– can raise the dead?”

“Well … I, uh—“

“It’s a trick, nothing more. A very costly one. There must be a logical explanation.”

“But his sisters mourned four days. We all saw them—“

SILENCE!”

“Even worse,” another puts in. “With such miracles – or rumors of miracles – this Jesus will have many more people believing in him. They’ll make him some sort of Deliverer. A … a messiah.”

“Some think he’s the Messiah.”

“That could be dangerous.”

“There would be an uprising. They will try to defeat the Occupation.”

“The Romans … they won’t take this lightly. There will be bloodshed. They’ll tighten their control—“

“And we’d be removed from our positions!”

“That … that would not do. For the sake of the people, of course.”

“We must stop this Jesus!”

A very deliberately audible groan from Caiaphas makes them all fall silent. His hand is on his forehead. “You’re all so stupid! Isn’t it obvious what we must do?” He stands, staring them down. “One man dies, and this uprising is no more. One man’s death, and our nation is spared destruction.” The priests warm up to what he’s implying. “He dies … and everyone is saved.”

Truer words have never been spoken, unbeknownst to him.

In the shadows, Death smiles.

It is all playing out as my Father said it would.

Now, more than ever…

…it has begun.

 

THE END?

 

This story is inspired by the eleventh chapter of the account of John Bar Zebedee on the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.

THE JOHN 11 STORY: FAITH

<<INTRO

<<Episode 1: LOVE

John 11_faith

We did not set out for Bethany until two days later. Lazarus was, no doubt, dead by then. Mary and Martha were in deep mourning by that time.

When my disciples were gathered I told them. “We need to get ready. We’ll be setting off for Judea today.”

To say they were astonished would be like saying the Jordan is wet.

“But, Master … Judea?! They’re out to kill you over there. It’s not safe to go now.”

“We’re just coming from there.”

“Can’t it wait?”

I turned to them. Yes, there were logical grounds for fear in Judea. But fear is never a good option. “Wouldn’t you rather walk in the day, when there’s light?” I told them. “Or would you prefer to walk in the night, when there’s no light? That’s an invitation to stumble.” Besides, I needed to be in Bethany. I wanted to get to my friend.

But they could neither see it, nor understand it. Not yet.

“Our friend, Lazarus, is asleep. I’m going over there to wake him up.” Oh, what a glorious sight it would be. Sickness thought it had its day, but Lazarus would not stay dead.

Andrew perked his ears at that. “Oh, so you’re saying he’s better now?”

“Uh…”

“I mean, if he’s asleep, then he must no longer be sick. He’s alright. That doesn’t require a visit now.” The others nodded in agreement.

“Wisdom is profitable to direct,” Thomas counseled. Interesting. “These times are dangerous in Judea.”

I eventually had to use the ‘D’-word for them to understand what I was saying. I wanted their faith to be strong enough to see these things the way I saw them. But for now, it’s just one step at a time. “Lazarus is dead.” The room fell silent. “And I’m glad that I was not there earlier, for your sakes. You’re about to be given new grounds for your faith.”

The silence lingered for a moment.

“He’s dead?”

I stood. “So it’s settled then. Let’s get ready to tell the others. We’ll leave after lunch.”

I could feel their stares as I walked out of the room.

“He is serious … isn’t he?”

“Does anyone understand the Master these days?”

“You did see him leave the room. He means to leave now!”

“Sometimes I worry about him.”

“He’s been talking about dying and stuff. Now this?!”

“This is trouble, I tell you. Is he suicidal?”

“Don’t say that! You know who he is…”

“OK, alright. But still…”

“We’ve sworn our lives to him.” A loud sigh. “We might as well go and die with him.” That was Thomas’ voice.

I shook my head. Not even my closest friends could trust me on this. They just couldn’t see the Bigger Picture. They however trusted me enough to come along with me.

Looks like it’s just You and me, Father.

—–

For as long as sin has existed, man has been subjected to death and the pain it brings. I’ve seen and felt that pain many times. I should know … my father on earth, Joseph Bar Yacov, died years ago. The pain of separation can be gut-wrenching, from this side of heaven. Death has been holding humanity in its grasp, bringing fear, oppression and despair in its wake.

But there is another side to these things. I am the One that brings life to the dead. There was Jairus’ daughter back in Capernaum; and there was also that young man in Nain. I brought them back to life.

But one day, I will be the death of Death itself … by my own death. It sounds crazy to the human mind now … but the Father knows what He is doing. We know the evil principalities will orchestrate my death, not knowing that they are bringing Life to Death’s very doorstep. It will be painful … torturous … the pain of the punishment for millennia-worth of the sins of men … Sometimes I wonder how I can go through it all. But I trust my Father to give me the strength when I need it.

In many ways, this whole experience reminded of me of my own coming sacrifice. Like Lazarus, I too will die. But I will rise. My friend has been given a front row seat on one of the greatest stories of all.

By the time we approached Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days already. We were still about a mile away from the village when I noticed the woman in black coming down the path towards us. Even from that distance I could tell who it was. Martha. The news of our coming had reached her already. I hurried ahead of the others, extending my hands for the embrace. She just stared at me as I approached, her face quivering. She had cried so much, her eyes were red. She willed herself not to cry anymore. With Lazarus gone, she and her sister would be at the mercy of their relatives. At least, that’s what she probably expected. Oh, Martha…

“It’s OK,” I whispered as I embraced her.

“Four days, Master,” she whispered into my shoulder. “Four days. If … if you had been here … my brother would not have died.” I stared into her face. What could I say? I knew waiting would hurt them, but I could not have done otherwise. If only she knew the great miracle waiting ahead. Would she understand? She inhaled deeply. “But I know that God will still give you whatever you ask.”

She still believed in me? Underneath all that pain and hurt, could she see what was really going on? Or did she think God was unfair in granting my requests but not healing her brother? “Your brother will rise again,” I told her.

She avoided my gaze. “I know. I know that he’ll be raised up too at the Resurrection at the end of time, when all the dead will rise—“

“Martha! Don’t be afraid to get your hopes up. You don’t have to wait for the end! I am —right now— Resurrection and Life. Even if they’re dead, if anyone believes in me they’ll live! And everyone who believes in me while they are still alive will never ultimately die. Do you believe this?”

It must have been hard for her, I know, demanding such faith. But it’s the truth. After all this, she would be able to believe in God for anything. That’s what I want. She nodded. “Yes, Master. All along, I’ve believed that you were … are the Messiah, the Son of God come into the world.” She knew and believed all that, but now it probably just felt like nothing but words. Was she reassuring herself? Did she really believe? She inhaled deeply. “Ah … I must go, get the house ready … please excuse me—“

“We’ll go with you—“

But she was already hurrying back into the village, desperate to keep the tears from falling in our presence. It was definitely not going to be easier. There was so much fear and doubt out here. It hurt that my friends had to go through so much pain. Was it necessary?

Father, thank You because in the end … it is all worth it.

“He really is dead, isn’t he?” Peter said behind me.

I turned and nodded. My disciples, the ones that would be my witnesses when all this is over. “For your sakes, I’m happy I waited.”

“You said so before. But…”

“Trust me,” I said. “This is so that you all –everyone— can see what my Father is capable of. Through me.”

We waited for the others to catch up. We had barely left that very spot when Mary came hurrying toward us. Friends and family, all in mourning, accompanied her. Many halted when they saw my friends and I. But my attention was on Mary alone. She did not hide her tears. She had believed in me for so long, and I had not come when her brother was ill. How should I expect her to feel?

She fell to her knees at my feet, crying. “Master! If only you had been here, my brother would still be alive!” No, she was definitely not happy.

“Mary –“

“It’s too late! Now my brother is dead. He died, Jesus. Lazarus is … gone.”

This was more difficult. She was crying. The pain… It was as though we were swallowed by this barrage of wails, as the mourners raised their voices with her. Dear Father…

Father, they’ll know this was worth it in the end. Let their faith be strengthened.

The fear and gloom and despair out there left a bad taste in my gut. Death had left its footprint, and it was a painful sight. Death, you will be the last enemy I will defeat.

I felt a lump in my throat when I asked, “Where was he laid?”

“Master, come and see,” one of the mourners said.

And they led us to the graveyard outside the village limits. It was a bare wasteland that reeked of loneliness and gloom – the opposite of what I have come to give humanity. These were my enemy’s stomping grounds, and my friend had been brought there as its trophy. Just like all humanity.

Lazarus in a grave.

Before I knew it, I was crying. I let the tears fall. I let the sobs turn to wails. Pent up feelings gushed out to the surface in that instant … and I wept. My disciples were troubled to see me cry, but I couldn’t help it. This was man’s lot because of sin’s curse. Death. So far, so opposite from what We intend for them.

But I will end this.

I will surely end this.

It is worth it, Father.

“Aw, he must really miss his friend,” someone said. “See how he loved him.”

They did not know that it was because I loved him that I had delayed my coming.

“Love, schmove! If he really loved him, why couldn’t this ‘Healer’ make his friend well before he died, eh? But call him to make a blind man see and he’ll show up. But for his friend? Meh!”

Not on a day like this. Not adversity now; not today. It will be worth it, my friend. It will all be worth it. You may deny me now, but this is for you too. Your faith will be energized.

No one saw what I was seeing, or expected what I was expecting. But in the midst of the doubt and adversity, the fear and gloom – I held on to my Father’s words.

Lazarus, I’m bringing you to life today.

When we got to the grave I lifted my eyes. “Thank You, Father! Thank You because You have heard me!”

 

To be concluded… in Hope

 

NOTE: I understand that this interpretation of the story may cause some questions. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I’ll also share mine. Thanks! :D

The John 11 Story: Love

<<INTROJohn 11_love 2

We were all refreshing ourselves – that’s me and the Twelve, and many of my other followers— by the banks of the Jordan. I love these guys. Many of them have left their families to follow me. Some have brought their whole families along to join us. These people received the words of life into their hearts like bread, and I hoped that they would digest it. Just like we were digesting the meal we were eating at that moment. And it was a very refreshing one, I remember, especially after hours of teaching.

Andrew brought a young man to me. “Master, this is Ethan,” he said. “He brings news from Mary and Martha in Bethany.”

I recognized Ethan from the brief times we spent in Bethany. “Peace be to you, Ethan.”

“And to you, Master.”

“All the way from Bethany? You must be exhausted from the journey—”

He shook his head, barely blinking. “Your people have been very kind to me, sir. But I could not eat now, even if I wanted to.”

I nodded. “And why would you not want to?” I noticed the shadow over his features. Andrew knew it too. He had mentioned only Mary and Martha. “And how is my good friend, Lazarus?”

Ethan looked up at me. “That’s why I’m here, Master. Lazarus, your friend, is terminally ill. He needs you. Master.”

And that was the moment. The moment that altered the rest of the week.

Lazarus…

With a word I could have healed him in that moment. Human logic and emotion required me to. I would have loved to. Lazarus. He has been a faithful man, taking care of his parents’ estate since their deaths. No ordinary suitor could take his sisters, not while he was around. And his generosity is overwhelming. His doors are always open to my disciples and I every time we pass through Bethany. Always willing to understand my teachings, Lazarus is a man I am glad to call my friend.

Healing him would bring joy to his sisters. They’ve been troubled long enough because of this sickness.

But…

But I am never alone in these matters. My Father and I go through them together. He knew what was going on. He knew when the foul spirit of sickness took my friend’s body, and His ears were not silent to his cries and those of his sisters. But He had a much better, much Bigger plan.

That was how I knew that Lazarus, my friend, would die.

But the story would not end there. Like I said, We had a Bigger plan:

We would raise Lazarus to life from the dead! :D

It would be amazing. This would build faith on a grand scale. Especially for Lazarus. He would have a front row seat on Resurrection before most people would. How great his faith would be at the end of all this, for all to see!

This will turn the eyes of many up to my Father, a big boost to their faith. They will see how awesome He is, and what He can do; that He can do anything! They will believe in me, the one He has sent. And my disciples, people like Andrew and even Ethan too, will be stronger witnesses of me and the Life I have come to give.

In the end, this would be best for Lazarus.

But to Ethan, Lazarus was still sick. He still stood there, staring at me, waiting for a response.

“This sickness would not end in death,” I said to him. “But it will be an opportunity for everyone to see how awesome God is, and what He can do. And His Son will be glorified as well.”

“So … you’ll come and heal him then?”

I smiled. ‘Healing’ would not cut it. Just not in the way they were expecting. Ethan bowed and left with a finality, sure that Lazarus would be fine, wondering why I did not follow him.

Mary and Martha would not be pleased at first. Death has always brought pain and despair, especially to the families of those it takes. It would no doubt bring more here. We take no pleasure in that. I am here to bring an end to Death’s tyrannical rule over mankind. But until then, the pain would still linger.

I know there is a glorious end to these things, but the journey to that end would be painful for me and for my friends. For Mary and Martha.

But my Father loves them much more than any human could. The pain and disappointment this death could cause were temporary and inconsequential compared to the Greater Glory waiting beyond this. When God is glorified, what they’ll have is much better than if it were another healing. I loved him too much to settle for that. Something much greater awaited him. There’s a Bigger Picture here.

I love my friend, Lazarus.

And that’s why I waited and let him die…

…For a time.

 

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. [They were His dear friends, and He held them in loving esteem.]

Therefore [even] when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He still stayed two days longer in the same place where He was.

JOHN 11:5, 6 (The Amplified Bible)

To be continued…in FAITH

 >> and HOPE

 

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