The Mountain

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My heart is a mountain.

Majestic against the summer sky,
Roots running deep–beyond the barren clutch of Winter, drawing up water even in a desert land.

As old as time, reaching back to the beginning,
Possessing the youth and candor of a child.
Fairy tales dwell in its depths,
Wisdom in its bones.

Unshakeable, it rises from its great foundation:
Laid up with the utterance of each word spoken to its soul.
Wrought of language–word and witness–
As numerous as grains of sand,
Bound together in truth.

No man can unmake this foundation.
No weapon against it can prevail.

My heart is a mountain–strong, and still.

Piercing the heavens in its height,
A watchman, shaken free from slumber, lifting its head from a pillow of clouds.
Dressed in armory of golden light,
Draped in a robe as pure as snow,
Decorated by a sparkling garment of stars.

Standing, always, in vigilance,
Unwavering in peace.

There is a tenderness in its curving blade,
Breathtaking to behold.
A softness in its fortitude:
This is sacred, holy land.

My heart is a mountain–whose face is cut by wind.

Shorn of sharp edges,
Refined and polished,
The breath of the Spirit rushing down its slopes;
Leaping and bounding down the plateaus and planes,
Leaving each side radiant beneath the gleaming sun.

There is a wildness in its gaze,
A song in its embrace:
The proclamation of a beauty untouched by the eyes of man.

There is abundance here, and grace.

My heart is a mountain–gates laden heavy with the Glory of the King.

Canyons full to brimming with joy and mercy, providence bursting from the ravines.

Hidden in the deepest valley, knelt low beneath its brow,
Grief and sorrow fall like rain.
Yet within those shadows there is healing:
A whispering of wings.

The echo of a million heart beats,
The drumming of a thousand breaths,
The rhythm of unspoken dreams:
Roaring through the caverns,
A pulse in its veins,
Carving out a way.

Here grows a garden, full of life.

My heart is a mountain–a promised land:

Filled with the ache of calling.
Climbing, ever-higher,
Stretching limbs, ever-taller,
Austere in bearing, humble in deed.
Fierce and jealous,
This heart of mine.
A mountain of freedom, an altar of remembrance.
In strength, it rises,
Unassailably, immutably, changed.

With every beat made more holy,
With every hope, more lovely.
Reaching into eternity–
The length of its life knows no end.
At its helm, a fountain of blessing,
In its voice, a multitude of praise.

There is salvation in this place:
My heart, a mountain.

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The Cost of Heroism

At what cost do we become heroines?

What is the cost of laying ones life down to achieve the impossible? To reap a reward far greater than the riches and treasures of this world? To walk, ahead of the crowd, and be the first to proudly scale a mountain of insurmountable difficulty and height; a mountain to which others said “no,” a mountain no one else would climb?

Any novelist will tell you a story cannot be written without conflict. A main character destined to achieve heroism cannot do so without first being marked by pain, conflict or tragedy. An event must first occur that causes such unequivocal challenge the person is shaken, to the very marrow of their bones, into action. And so adventure begins, and we follow the exhilarating stories of our fictional heroes (or anti-heroes) through their looping trails of process, struggle, realization, and victory. When our favorite characters finally achieve the great and glorious task they were so ardently pursuing, when they defeat the evil set against them and conquer the pitfalls welled deep within themselves, we happily cheer and applaud as if the victory was our own. We love our characters, in whatever form of media, who triumph over every obstacle and prove the underdog can, indeed, win. We idolize characters who prove to us that, even for normal, seemingly mediocre people, greatness is possible.

Our fervent love for storytelling reveals within humanity a thirst for heroism. We gravitate towards fictional heroes of all shapes and sizes, and in the same fashion we idolize real people in history who have emulated achievement of catastrophic proportions, the size of which can only be classified in our minds as heroic. We look at these giants In the world and in the faith, and so often we harbor in our hearts a hope to one day be, if not them incarnate, at least like them.

We hunger to be heroes and heroines. We seek them out to model ourselves after their lives. Our desires for role models are healthy.

But, so often, we gaze longingly at our leaders yet we do not see their pain. We do not see the tragedies that bore their need to rise above, victorious. We do not know the loss, the death, the tragedy, or the struggles they have faced. We do not share in their conflict or their battles–we see only the aftermath, and oh, how it appeals to us and makes us long for our own mountaintop moment.

There are times we covet them their stories and their positions, or we simply long for the moment we, too, will be acknowledged as heroines.

But again, I ask–at what cost does heroism come?

Do we recognize, when we ask for the honor and privilege of bearing a journey to heroism, what we will lose to gain it? Do we realize what greatness will cost, or understand that to be marked and set apart, to be driven to achieve the impossible, we will face tragedy that demands a response? Do we know our pain that will push us to heroism, and are we prepared to sacrifice in order to walk that path?

We flock to our heroes and drink in their stories of resilience, of perseverance and prayer spent in the quiet, secret places of their lives; we believe it all to be good history.

And it is.

The history we hear about is good. And true. And honest. It is raw and necessary. But these histories are made so because of redemption–not because they were inherently easy, or came without sacrifice.

Before these people became our heroes, they were first brought to their knees by the result of a tragedy outside of their control, or by feeling a pain and a longing so deeply wrought within them they were moved into action. In love, they bore scars of suffering and laid down their life to gain freedom and victory, both personally and publicly. They have journeyed, sometimes for years, before becoming the heroes who stand before us, leading lives of wonder and triumph.

If anyone embodies unimaginable sacrifice that births redemption and heroism, it is Jesus. The man who literally gave His life to save the world and bring us into right relationship. It was Jesus who set the ultimate example, Jesus who said, “Whoever seeks his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” It is because of Jesus the injustices we face will yield victory and freedom. It is because of Jesus we are able to rise on the other side of our hardships as heroes and heroines.

Because of Jesus, our pain and tragedies spur us onward so we might bear witness and testimony to victory. Jesus gave us the gift of redemption: the gift of a life that can be lost so eternal life might be gained.

Though that reward is instantaneous when we profess our readiness and willingness to the King of all Kings, the immediate results are not always what we ask for.

It still remains that, in this life, tragedy and conflict are often the birthing place of heroes. Circumstances occur that reveal in our hearts the burden and passion to push onward towards the achievement of something greater than ourselves. Love is what carries us to our victories, and love bears the weight of our crosses as we co-labor towards our ultimate prize. It is only through loving deeply we can even feel the kind of pain that brings compassion and hope, that we can be courageous enough to reach for redemption.

Redemption transforms our sacrifices into something more precious than gold or silver, as is it is the ultimate gift Jesus can give. And even in the rejoicing of redemption we must remember that it counts for naught without there first being a pain or wrong-standing that must be righted. Redemption is only necessary if there is injustice and wrong-doing, if there is brokenness that must be made whole. And it is beautiful, raw, honest, and true to journey, each one of us, through this process. He is worthy to receive it all, to trade in our sorrows for joy. He is worthy of sacrifice, worthy to bring us into heroism alongside Him, powerful and free.

A hero without the power of redemption and the history to match it is only a person with ambition and achievement. Likewise, the coveting of a persons history and position, even if their life is deserving of high honor, is a wrongly placed desire for the pain, sacrifice and redemption that made them who they are.

Each and every one of us has the opportunity to enter into redemption and heroism within our lifetimes. But do we know the cost of our heroism? Are we at peace with the sacrifice we will individually give, be it time, pain, or physical comfort, to achieve the grand ending of our stories? Do we truly understand and acknowledge the loss others have endured to give us the platforms we stand on today? Do we recognize the honor present in that choice?

Ultimately, do we celebrate others rightly for their heroism, and do we open our hearts to be celebrated into heroic deeds, ourselves?

Our pain and our tragedies deserve to be seen, our burdens deserve to be felt. Our stories deserve to be heard, to be transformed into redemption to bring others into freedom. These are acts of heroism: living transparently, choosing to flourish and love in the midst of uncontrollable circumstances.

If we are ever to enter into our fullness, we cannot confuse where heroism begins. The heroic deed does not come from standing on the mountaintop of a journey others could not make: our personal journeys are meant for none to walk but ourselves. The heroic deed, instead, is born with the vision of the proverbial mountain in the distance, and acknowledgement of the sacrifice it will take to crest its peak. Heroism is in feeling where you are so deeply that the pain, longing and love therein crescendo in a symphony of sorts within your soul, when you surrender fully to whatever the journey before you will entail.

Heroism is in the honor of saying yes, and in that yes, finding freedom that will carry you into victory. It is in walking the road set before you and allowing the rawness of your experiences to move you, to shape you. To see the beauty of others’ suffering and to stoop alongside them, taking up their hands with pride to help them walk. Heroism is allowing your life to shine with honor, to be transformed, and to allow your transformation to usher others into healing along the way.

So do we know the cost at which our heroism comes? For that kind of heroism, the only true heroism, will cost everything. The heroic deed is born only in a moment, but to achieve heroism is the process of a lifetime, full of pain and joy, full of triumphs and losses. But what reward to count it all lost and, as you journey, gain Life.

Swan Song

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Dear, beloved swan,
Awaken love from slumber deep,
Arise, for morning light has come
And laid it’s doorway at your feet.

Arise, your knightly prince has come,
Astride a gleaming steed of stars.
Your plumage blooms in heavy folds,
With petals soft, bereft of scars.

No dream of old, nor one of new
As sweet as this, awakened life.
For He has claimed His waiting one,
His lost beloved, and His wife.

As golden raiments grace your brow,
And trumpets sound to slash the night,
To leave their mark upon the dead,
You must awaken!
And take flight.

Wings were formed within the womb,
Wings soldered, softly, with His gaze,
Wings that waited, while you slept,
Wings that trembled in His praise,
Unfurling, fast! Upon the wind,
Upon the light, atop the rays–
Of sunlight, streaming, from His throne,
To lead you far beyond your days.

For you have waited, dearest swan,
And bid your time in patience, sweet.
You have been sleeping far too long,
As shadows formed beneath your feet.

The sun was rising all this time,
As you were dreaming through the years,
While you became the rising dawn,
And put to bed your youthful fears.

At last, this lengthy sleep is done,
For purpose stirs within your breast,
To wholly fill your tender lungs
Which formed, so slowly, in your chest.

With melodious song, arise.
Awaken love unto its rite!
To tuck away the glowing moon,
And bid goodbye the grips of night.

For dreams of old have come and gone.
Oh swan, your waiting finally done.
You have been beckoned to the sky,
Transfiguration has begun.

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Knowledge

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Day 12: Knowledge

Day 12

Harold did not like the forest, and he did not like the wet.  He also did not like his step-mother Hilda, who made him wear the atrocious, over-sized brown suit he was now struggling to ruin with the mud and the rain and the branches green. He did not like her eyebrows, which arched menacingly when she tried to cajole him into doing something of her wishing.  He did not like her lipstick encrusted mouth that hid the fangs he knew were surely embedded in her ruby gums.  He did not like the way she chewed her food at the dinner table, or the way she held his father’s hand in public.  He did like his father, though, but now that his father was dead there was not much of him to like anymore. 

Harold had escaped from his fathers funeral just in time to evade having Hilda smother him with her vague attempt at “mothering.”  His sister, Veronica, told him rather sternly that Hilda was “trying her best” and that Harold ought to behave himself. Veronica had told him this in a sad, irritated way when she had rang to say she couldn’t attend the funeral. Apparently, plane tickets were very expensive and Veronica had no money, which was not very surprising as Veronica usually did not have money, although she was very bright. That was why Hilda had sent Veronica away to boarding school the year before, and now that Veronica was at University, Hilda had also convinced their father it would do her no good to coddle her financially.  Harold thought his father would rather have regretted siding with Hilda now, since his own daughter could not attend his funeral and it was all because of his own stupid rule Hilda insisted on enforcing.

It’s what your father and I agreed on, Veronica, and I want to honor his wishes.  Besides, there is no money. It’s all gone to your father’s funeral and we have to take out another mortgage!” 

That’s what Hilda had told his sister on the phone.  She didn’t know Harold heard her, because he was hiding in the stairwell, crying.  He hated being in his cold, dreary house with his father gone, and he didn’t want Hilda to see him cry.  He had made a rickety fort in the hollow space beneath the stairs.  It was the only place Hilda did not know about, and therefore, could not take away from him.  

Harold pushed through the forest, his teeth chattering.  The sky churned mercurially above him, spitting rain in violent spatters as if it were just as disgusted at Harold’s father’s funeral as Harold was.  He was shivering, however, and regretted not grabbing his rain coat from the back of the car when he had ran–the suit was successfully being soaked and muddied, but at the expense of his own goose-pimpled skin. Further he dashed into the forest, blinded by tears of rage and heartache, gnashing his teeth and stumbling over branches and rocks.  He did not notice that he was being followed, nor that the forest was slowly transforming around him, becoming creepier and darker by the second.  The trees closed in above him and soon the sky’s angry face could not have been found at all were Harold to look up and examine his surroundings, which he unfortunately did not, as he was so distraught that he had no interest in disappearing skies or dark, scary glades in forests. 

He ran on like this for several more minutes, huffing and puffing and having his face continuously smacked and scratched by brambles that were all conveniently located at his eye-level, until his foot connected with something very hard and still, and he tumbled into a clearing, brown, ugly suit and all. He laid in a heap for a moment, with his face pressed up against the moist brown dirt and his eyes squeezed shut as he tried not to cry. It had hurt very badly when he fell and the ground was compact and littered with tiny rock–his palms and knees burned like they had been skinned from his fall.  He thought about how he wished he could just disappear, and a tear escaped his closed eye.  Then he though about how he wished Hilda would get found out for the monster she was and the police would lock her up forever, and another tear came sliding down his face.  His last thought was about how his father was dead and would have picked him up and dusted him off and made him a tomato sandwich if he had been alive, but he most certainly was not alive and it was all Harold’s fault, because if Harold could simply have known that his father was going to die that day, he could have prevented it.  Tears were now coming hot and fast down Harold’s grimy cheeks, and that was when he heard the shuffle only several feet away from him.  

Harold scrambled to sit up and wipe away the salty brine flowing from his tear ducts.  He had the brief, panicked thought that somehow the demon Hilda had found him in the deep of the wood and that he would be scolded and chastised and made to go to bed without dinner that night, the very night of his own fathers funeral, because Hilda was heartless and cruel and liked to “teach him lessons.” But when Harold sat up and scooted back on the cold, hard ground, rubbing his runny eyes and sniveling from the damp, it was not Hilda he saw standing at the edge of the very dark, very cloistered clearing he was now sitting in.  

It was an old woman. 

She was very ugly, Harold thought, before he realized how dark it had become and that he did not know which way the cemetery was from where he sat.  Fear replaced his grief, just then, and he scooted back until he bumped into something that rattled dangerously behind him with a hollow sound he did not like at all.  When he glanced out of the corner of his eye, Harold saw that it was a shiny, white bone.  His stomach plummeted and his skin blossomed with shivery goose pimples that had nothing to do with the cold.  

The woman, whose back was hunched and had eyes that gleamed white and wispy in the sudden moonlit night–had Harold not been terrified out of his wits he might have wondered where the silver moonlight was coming from as it was 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon, but he did not think about this at all as the woman began to blindly shuffle in his direction with a wide, gap toothed grin that chilled him to the core. As the old woman moved, decrepit with age and degeneration, she raised a skinny arm and pointed a bony, sharpened finger at him.  

Harold forgot all about Hilda and her wicked ways as a blood curdling scream welled up in his throat.  He whimpered a bit, too afraid to move backwards for fear of finding the rest of the skeleton the white bone belonged to, and he was so afraid he had forgotten that his legs has the capacity to carry him out of the forest as fast as he could run.  Just when he thought he certainly was a goner and would be joining his father before long on the other side, the old woman halted at his feet, looked down at him with her unseeing eyes and spoke.  

“You want to Know the future? I can give you the sight you desire.” 

Her voice was like night unfolding, speckled with dust mites and meteors. She loomed over him, breathing in the dark air and rattling like the bone beside him. 

He choked back tears and swallowed, clearing his throat; he did want to know. If he had known his father was going to die he could have saved him. If Harold could know the future, there were so many things he could prevent from happening.  He could always protect Veronica from harm; he could know when Hilda was plotting a devious plan to crush his dreams and he could outsmart her; he would never have to eat brussels sprouts for dinner again because he could be mysteriously absent for those meals.  Maybe he could even know when his own death was imminently approaching, and avoid it. 

The old woman smiled, but it was a nasty knowing smile, the kind a worm might make after finding a particularly delicious carcass to cuddle up in. Harold found himself gagging at the thought.

“Yes, yes…” The woman muttered gleefully, clasping gnarled hands above him. “You can do all those things with the sight, but use your imagination, lad! There is so much more.  Many a soul has sought my service, but you’re the youngest I’ve had in years.  Yes…You can do a great deal more than avoid brussels sprouts…” She shook her head in disappointment, smacking and licking her lips.  

“No, no… Perhaps the sight is not for you.  What’s that?”  She suddenly looked up from him and cocked her ear towards the blackened sky.  A shiver bolted down Harold’s spine. 

The old woman put her finger to her grisly chin.  “Mmm… Could be.  Could be true.  Never bestowed the power to see and change the future to one as young before…could be.  But here’s the question…” She turned her milk-white eyes upon him again and the wind began to blow as she spoke.  

“Are you willing pay the ultimate price to See? You will be as mad to others, and a god unto yourself.  Do you want this weighty mantle laid upon your shoulders? It will be your glory, and your doom!” At the word doom she smiled and her rotting teeth winked at him from her gaping mouth.  The wind tickled his ears as it sped up, dancing around him, moaning and sighing with words–with words. Names were riding the air, whispering, screaming, crying and shouting.  

Cassandra! Cassandra! The wind shrieked, and it was a hellish cry that stole into Harold’s grieving heart and wound clammy, suffering fingers about his bones.  

Harold clamped his hands over his ears and began rocking back and forth, shaking uncontrollably.  The voices continued to assault him and he closed his eyes, telling himself it was all a dream. As he chanted, the wind died down and silence ascended. He snivled, slowly raising his eyes hoping to find himself alone.  

Yet the old woman stood in front of him,  seeming much more real than she had before.  

“Terrifying, isn’t it?” She spat, her words dripping with disdain.  “And it can all be yours, if you just say the word.” She said the last bit in a sing-song voice, the kind adults often use when trying to goad their toddlers into eating unsavory things like mashed peas and carrots.

Harold did not want this gift, but as she said the words the goading found some small, imperceptible part of him that still longed to be told what to do.  He felt greed steal into him and he thought, just for a moment, at how much power he might have with a gift like this.

The old woman smiled.

“That’s what I thought.  Do you feel it? The authority you will carry! Do you want it? To be all-seeing?”

His heart quickened and he nodded, wiping snot from his nose. 

“Then you must take a bone from your fathers corpse and bring it to me.”  

“What?” Harold blurted, or rather gargled, since he had been silent up until that point.  

“Well, you didn’t think the sight came freely, did you? Come now, simple boy. You must bring me a bone from the line of your forefathers, so I can get a taste of your lineage and bring it full circle. Lucky for you your father’s already good and killed.  Most have to do the killing themselves.” 

Harold had hoped the bone on the ground beside him was a coincidence–the remains of an innocent animal who died of something nice and natural, like old age or as another animal’s meal, left to decompose on the forest floor.  Terror washed over him and, sneaking a glance out of the corner of his eye, he saw piles of ivory laying in wait, glowing in the shadows.  

Her withered voice stole softly by him.

“The bone marrow’s the best part, but it’s all used up in those dry shells.” She smacked her lips again, and her jowls quivered like jelly in her anticipation.  
With sudden agility she swept over him and spread her arms wide.  The dark air churned and the trees howled and the wind danced maniacly over their backs.

What are you afraid of? Take the sight and receive your due, a bone from your fathers grave is a small price to pay for omnipotence and all-seeing knowledge!” 

It was then that he began to see his life play out before him in the reflection of the old woman’s eyes, swirling and turning and becoming muddled with millions of the other endings from the lives of people he had never met.  

First, he saw Hilda and his father, then Veronica, then his teacher Mrs Smith. Then he saw cities collapsing, and bridges breaking and buildings caught on fire and people screaming and bleeding and sobbing. He saw babies beig born, and birthday parties and first kisses and funerals. He saw hospital beds and car accidents and people brandishing guns and knives and scared children cowering and people in padded cells. As all of it unfolded before him, the old woman’s face crumpled and she began to wail and gnash her teeth, crying out in words he did not understand.  But the universal sound even Harold recognized was pain, and terror welled up in his heart as he realized that even if he lived to be 182, it would not be enough years to sort through all of the information that was trapped behind her skull. 

It was then that Harold longed for the unremarkable comfort of what he already knew, like his fort under the stairwell, tomato sandwiches, and even Hilda. 

He opened his mouth to speak, and simply whispered, “No.” 

Everything stilled, and with a flash of lighting and final shriek of wind, the woman was gone.  

Harold did not think after that, he simply ran.  His legs became so tired they turned into flimsy licorice sticks beneath him and sweat trickled down his back and face.  When he tripped over a root and fell down, he was so exhausted and confused he fell into a deep, unsettling sleep. 

When the police-man found him in the middle of the night and carried him out of the woods, Harold had never been more happy in his life. And when Hilda tore around the corner in her creamy Mercedes and sprinted out of the car towards him, he was glad.  She was still wearing her wrinkled black dress and her hair was ratty and tangled and mascara was smeared in big smudgy, rings beneath her eyes, but for some reason Harold thought she looked rather sane and pretty.  

When Hilda asked him where he had been, he told her the truth, or what he remembered to be true:  all about how he had run away and gotten lost in the forest, and how he had finally just sat down and fell asleep on the ground. Hilda smoothed his hair and her hand was cool and soft as she sniveled and nodded while he talked, pursing her lips and clicking her tongue in bewilderment.

As they drove home and Hilda quietly cried, reaching over every so often and patting his leg, he decided it was nice that Hilda was still around. For a brief moment he wondered why he had found her so vulgar to begin with.  

He sleepily sank into the warm leather seat and a wave of mixed emotion washed over him. It was sorrow and grief, anger and doubt, and oddly, happy, thankful relief. Harold did not know what was going to happen now that his father was gone,  but for some reason he thought that was just fine. Mostly, he just wished that in the future Hilda would stop making brussels sprouts for dinner.

Silver

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Day 10:  Silver

Silver, brings the morning light,
Between your strands of hair, in grace.
It did not always hover there,
With silver lining down your face.

Silver, tarnished ring and vow,
With care and aging on your hand.
No mind can know what supple love,
Embraced within that silver band.

Silver, waxing moon and stars,
And frost! That creeps on window panes.
Insurgent beauty blooming soft,
Fades silver as the night’s moon wanes.

Silver, molten in your eyes,
That years can neither dim nor take.
Instead, enhanced and strong they shine,
The sheen atop a silver lake.

Silver, like the jewels you wear,
With regal bearing on your skin.
Affluent poise has never known
It’s likeness in a silver pin.

Silver, mirrors drink of your youth,
Yet do not show you it, in kind.
The glass reflects the touch of age,
But silver, bright, is in your mind.

Silver, wisdom visits me.
Her voice is hidden in your speech.
She flows, unfurling, from your lungs,
The silver lining in your reach.

Silver, tears that cup my eyes.
And clouds that linger, hovering.
Whence sun comes not, but sorrow flies,
As we stand, silver, burying.

Silver, brings the morning light.
I wish it could be brought, again.

10 Great Quotations from Writers about Writing

I like this.

Interesting Literature

‘Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.’

– Neil Gaiman

‘God may reduce you on Judgment Day to tears of shame, reciting by heart the poems you would have written, had your life been good.’

– W. H. Auden

‘A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.’

– Thomas Mann

Gaiman1

‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.’

– Cyril Connolly

‘The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is that he’s given the freedom to starve wherever he likes.’

– S. J. Perelman

‘The original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.’

– François-René de Chateaubriand

‘I think the hardest thing about writing is writing.’

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Move

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Day 9: Move

At night, I dance.

I sweep through the valley arrayed in freedom, leaping and bounding with grace and majesty. My body is agile, my limbs healthy and tenacious. I am alive.

With my every movement I am tearing the yoke of blindness from eyes that cannot see and untying the knots of slavery binding wrists and feet. My legs are strong and they do not fail me.

I have no fear in this sacred place, the garden of my dreams.

I dance until the ground begins to shake, tantamount with the rhythm of heaven and the beating drums are pouring out of the hearts of mountains, flooding the earth with spoken poetry. I am within the sounds and the noise is vibrating through my bones and my heart is a tambourine.

I move with the resplendent rushing tides, but even the ocean is not powerful enough for me and I dance faster still, until my sweat is streaming rivers soaking the ground and my heart beats savagely against my chest, travailing for justice.

My spine is straight, a rod of poise and dignity. It is strong as steel and light as air, the perfect structure upon which my flesh and nerves are enmeshed in harmony. My muscles ache and my lungs expand to their glorious capacity, bursting at their resilient seams. I am drinking in my fill of sweet, honeyed air, crying out for more.

And just at the moment it seems I would drown in my own oxygen, my lungs yield to the joy of abandonment and I am stronger.

Shouting, I leap and the tops of the trees are my ballroom floor; the colors of the seasons and the changing earth caress my feet as I skim the edges of night. In the unbroken sweetness of this immortal play, from my purchase in the heavens the suffering of all people is finally manageable.

I twist, my body bending in a thousand unfathomable ways that are gorgeous to behold. I am alive as I move between the stars that light the night.

In my rejoicing, there is a moment when the storms roll off the back of the waters and the music softens it’s treading and the thrumming in my blood slows.

August, the moon wanes, and the veil of darkened night descends. This is the moment when immeasurable amounts of tears begin flowing from my footsteps, rushing onwards through the valleys as they race towards the sea.

I am unanimous with mourning, and my limbs stretch themselves long in despondency, reaching for protection , weeping for loss. Empathy tears through my veins as I spin and fold, as the gravestones beneath me shudder and grieve over death and sorrow, evoking hearts to bow in exhortation and weep the tears of innumerable souls. In this moment, I am grief. I am cloaked in night and dance on the altar of sacrifice: I dance over it all.

Colors illustrious drape over me, but cannot touch me. Melodies chase my ears but I am one step ahead and the music emanates from the chambers of my heart .

The mountain tops are my footholds as I race up their sides, purging the stages of despair my brothers and sisters courageously face in the day light. I lay my body in the spaces of the valleys, indulging in their beauty.

I dance until the anger, the sadness, and the fear have run their courses. Until they have been felt in all their archaic fullness and have been given due justice. Until they have been known with everything I have, and the ashes of mourning have been washed clean by my tears and the oil of gladness anoints my skin in the devastation of grief’s wake.

I dance until the virgin sun is born again and the sunrise abounds in radiance. As shafts of light break through the darkness and pierce my soul and I move in praise and worship as the rocks and the earth cry out.

As the light kisses my glistening skin I am beckoned home, softly, and He meets me in sovereignty.

He eases the pain from my sore muscles and slowly works them back into form. It is not my form when I dance, but the mask I wear in the day light. He curves my back into its proper place, bends my legs into familiar shapes, all the while calling me beautiful, calling me lovely, calling me perfect. My teeth are jumbling in my mouth, a peculiar physical feat. His hands are careful and true and He touches my lips in understanding. My heart continues to sing.

I awake in the morning, satisfaction and yearning both laid deep in my being. As I drag my tired limbs from sleep I look upon my wheelchair in triumph.

At night, I dance.

Companion

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Day 8: Companion

“I don’ need your spells. I can do this on my own. I know th’way back.”

She is squirming on the table. She doesn’t know the way back, but she keeps insisting that she does.

“We will see what you know when we are finished. I am not about to send you off into the forest Wilde without being prepared.” Maggie keeps stirring at the sweating pot, her silvery hair slipping out of her pins.

The forest Wilde is a scary place. Some people say it is haunted. Of course, as most idle gossip contains seeds of truth, this tale is no exception. The forest is haunted, though not by what people conjure up in their boring imaginations. There are no ghosts or ghouls or wraiths laying in wait to drag them to Hades. It is haunted by me.

Or so the stories go. I, personally, do not venture into such gloomy and depressing places more than is necessary on principle, and necessity does not seem to beckon often. When it does, I do my civil duty and leave small traces of destruction to provide fodder for the ever growing wild-fire that is my reputation.

It is beneficial to us for the forest Wilde to remain a hedge of protection from the village, as we are best left to ourselves.

Maggie needs more Life, which is why this unfortunate girl has found her way onto our kitchen table. I have an inexhaustible supply of life. My, ah, condition, as Maggie likes to call it, ensures that Life does not run dry in my veins. But Maggie does not have my good fortune and the resultant effect of mortality requires that she “borrow” Life, a little here and there, from unsuspecting townsfolk.

Please understand–we are not barbarians, my friends. On the contrary, we are rather sophisticated.

We generally leave our unsuspecting contributors better off than we found them, though I do admit this is largely at Maggie’s request, with her tender, caring heart and doe-eyes. I find it difficult to deny her as she has sacrificed so much for my marred existence.

We give our contributors new memories, better lives. It is not hard to do, for what is elusive to general human intuition is not elusive to me: most people seem to wear their deepest desires on the outer sheen of the frontal lobe, in an easy to find and unprotected place. Once accessed, it is nearly effortless to coax them towards slipping into the new skin of their desires. Unfortunately for the world, I have found that many minds are really just foul-mouthed trolls hunkering down in the caves of men’s skulls. On these occasions I do a bit of Erasing and Re-working, and the resulting new specimen of human is much more pleasant. I really am doing the world a service. They should be thanking me rather than fearing my unscrupulous imminence. Besides, a few lives here and there in exchange for a human purification system is a bargain if I ever saw one.

I watch Maggie from the shadows and I can feel the girls pulse in my fingertips. It is nice to feel a pulse this vivacious. It has been a while.

The girl, whose name is Maia–a delicious round name that rolls off the tongue–squirms harder. Maggie pushes up her sleeves, stirring more vigorously than before.

“Let me go,” Maia moans, but her fight is slowly seeping out as Maggie mixes faster and thin strands of color are being sapped from Maia’s hair. Her fear is palpable in the air, it’s scent is licking at my taste buds and filling my nostrils. There are times when I find the fear refreshing, but today is not one of them. Beneath her fear is fierceness and dedication, hard work and loyalty. She is rather soft and caring underneath her calloused veneer, like violets and lilacs growing in volcanic ash.

Maggie does not know I have been watching Maia for some time now. Her mop of red hair spills over the table and I remember days when the sun would glint off the crown of her head and cast rainbows. Typical human eyes could not see this, of course, but there are certain advantages that come with being considered “undead.” I have seen Maia give food to beggars and welcome the dead and dying into her home to ease the pain of their passing. She is truly a saint among men.

It was I who fetched her, I who brought her here to give Maggie a drop of her life. A few years can easily be returned to Maia, should I grant it. In fact, she can have eternity if she wishes. I am of a certain age where companionship is becoming desirable, and Maia seems to be the kind of soul who sees beauty where others see abomination. Is it so wrong to think she may find it within herself to love me?

I have not told Maggie of my plan, but she cannot be a thief of Life forever. Her time is coming soon and I need to be ready.

Maia stills on the table and her eyes cross lazily. Her hands go limp and her legs stop moving. Maggie’s hair is blonde again, but there are still streaks of grey threaded through her bun. She knows as well as I that time is taking its toll.

Wiping the back of her hand on her forehead she looks at me.

“It is done,” she pants, smiling weakly. “What future are you going to paint for this brave woman? She is Good. I can feel it in my blood.” She frowns for a moment and touches Maia’s arm softly, concern etched in her pretty features. “I am truly sorry, dear. But my brother needs me.”

Maggie’s face is full and beautiful. Her eyes have always been deep pools of unknowable grace and acceptance, galaxies hidden behind their warm, blue gaze. She looks back up at me, expecting an answer.

I emerge from the shadows and smile. “I will give her eternity.” My voice is liquid charm, sure and smooth.

Maggie’s eyes widen in confusion and terror.

“What? No! No, you must not do this! She has a life! You cannot take from her what was stolen from you! We promised, Godwin. Remember our vow!” Maggie’s eyes light up with that ferocity we share when we are convinced we are unshakably correct. I feel for her, and I do remember our vow. The bonds of our twin-ship were not severed when I was cursed. But she does not understand what awaits me when she slips from the fingers of this world.

“My darling sister, that was before the clutch of thousands of years made themselves apparent to me. I need a companion. I cannot be alone. Surely, you know this.” I cup my hand around her face and smooth away the worry lines that have formed in the corners of her eyes. Her hurt and panic are bleeding into my palm, fluttering butterflies in my hollowed joints.

Her lips quiver tremulously.

“Do you want me to be happy?” I ask softly. Painfully, she nods.

“Then let me have this chance.” Maggie closes her eyes and grabs my hand, closing her fingers over my own.

“Be careful,” she shudders, clenching her fists around the fabric of her skirts. I leave her rooted to the spot. Lifting Maia into my arms gently, I feel the edges of emotions begin to form in my heart that have long escaped my senses. Is it care? I have not cared for anyone but my sister in so long I am not sure. Shadows gather in the hollow of Maia’s porcelain neck and I can taste the salt and brine of ocean water on her dress. Hugging her warmth to my cold chest I step into the sunlight.

As I walk towards the forest Wilde with my future in my arms, I sense Maggie’s gaze on the back of my neck. I do not turn to see her sorrow chasing after me.

Flame

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Day 7: Flame

I keep staring at the bush, waiting for something to happen.

Anything. I am waiting for anything to happen.

I try not to move. I don’t want to disturb what might be coming. If it’s in the stars or the sun or the wind or the moon, I don’t want to be the one who messes it up, who derails the perfect moment of clarity I have been waiting all this time for. What a waste, right? To have waited so long for IT, just to mess the whole thing up at the last second.

I think back on my forefathers and imagine their journeys, their suffering and their perseverance. I think of Moses, who had his burning bush moment without even asking for it. Who stumbled upon it unwillingly, who denied it and tried to give it to his brother.

I am not like Moses. I am eager. I am headstrong and impulsive and excitable. I want this moment, and I’m prostrating myself on the ground begging for it. I need to know where to go from here so I don’t mess it up along the way. I need direction. I need a name. The kind of name when people utter it and look at me, they think, Yes. That is who she is destined to be.

Day after day I’ve been coming here, watching this unremarkable, dog-eared bush and waiting for the moment it bursts into flame–my flame–and displays the divine providence of Yeshua over all that lives and breaths. But mainly over me, because this is the moment that will illuminate my existence and make a way for my footsteps into the future. Steps I will surely not falter on.

But why on earth is it taking so long? I mean, I know about timing and everything. About patience. But it’s been days now. I’ve been staring at this bush, waiting.

Maybe it’s the way I’m sitting. Or how fidgety I am. Or my breathing is too loud and it’s disturbing His gift to me because His gift is beautiful and rare, an ethereal dove finding land for the first time in ages and you don’t want to crush it or hurt it or move too fast, because everything is threatening to it in its simple purity.

Turmoil rolls around in my chest. If my breathing is what’s making this take so long this bush is never going to catch fire.

I shake myself from the thought. I wouldn’t be sitting here waiting for the defining moment of my entire life, the compass that will carve out my destiny, to have it all destroyed because I’m breathing too loudly. Right? Surely, I can’t destroy my own future. I’m waiting. Waiting people can’t mess things up.

But I’m not moving until I get my answer. Even if it’s been months of sitting in the same spot, waiting for the flames. I do have to admit that staring at same bush day in and day out is getting boring. I can only count it’s branches and leaves so many times, and it’s not exactly located in the most beautiful of places. I stare at it, trying to find some hidden meaning in its rickety branches. All I feel or see is that it’s hot and dry, and silent in the way that silence lays across your body in a blanket and does not want to be disturbed.

I have asked Him why this bush in particular, but I don’t get an answer. I keep asking anyways, hoping He will get tired of my questions and speak to me. But I can’t out-patient Him, so if He waits, I wait.

I put my chin on my hand, determined and resolved, and the wind picks up around me. Well, not around me. Within me. I can feel it inside my rib cage, I can can hear it in my blood.

You will not find what you are searching for here.

The wind carries His voice and fills my hollow spaces.

I want to roll my eyes, but refrain. I’ve been waiting too long to move on empty handed.

“Well then, what’s the point of this?”

I don’t have to, but I ask aloud, hoping that my voice will incite something more tangible from Him. A burning bush, for instance.

The bush remains frightfully plain and inflammable.

You are waiting for your burning bush moment, but now is not the time, and here is not the place.

“Then why am I here?” The irritation in my voice is palpable.

The wind within me laughs, unfurling in a cool breeze that soothes my aches and pains. It is not mean, but amused, which I am not sure I find amusing because I’ve spent the last month staring at a ragged bush for nothing. Is it too much to ask that I get what I’ve been waiting for?

Now is not the time for your burning bush moment, but it will come.

I feel myself wilting. I am parts anger and sadness, disappointment and shame, but mostly I feel wholly defeated.

“This doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know what to do. Just tell me what to do.”

I know I am pleading. My voice is a whisper and as I hug my knees, the ground beneath me does not yield to my folding body. It is silent for a moment, but I am not alone. The wind gathers me up and His voice fills me, expanding and pressing against my muscles, my skin. I am tingling and shaking all over, and tears begin to wet my cheeks.

Live.. Be in Me in all you do and your burning bush moment will arise at the right time. But it will never come if you sit here waiting, because you will never arrive at it. Be free and live. I am with you.

My tears come faster now. I am becoming my own shallow pool in the desert. What He says makes sense, I feel it’s truth resonating in my bones, but something in me is still clinging to doubt and uncertainty. I am so afraid that sometimes it paralyzes me and I am rendered unconscious. I feel it creep up behind me, with it’s tiny mouth and gluttonous body, whispering that I am unworthy, that I will surely disappoint, that I will never amount to anything.

And again it comes, soft, but strong. He does not need to be loud for His authority to prevail. When He speaks, all must bow. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.

My insides melt and the chilling fear becomes slush being shed from my body like winter giving way to spring . His voice rises, louder.

You will continue to stare at this bush for as long as you insist on it. You can wait as long as you want, but you are only prolonging it from coming in the right time. For now, it is simply a bush, and you are waiting for nothing. It is time to move on from here.

I hesitate, still doubtful.

Why do you doubt? I am with you, you cannot fail. Do not rob yourself of your future. All that I have for you is ahead. If you wait here for it to catch fire and illuminate your path, you will be waiting forever. I have given you all you need. Go.

I nod, and peace adorns me. My body hurts from sitting here so long, anyways.

“Okay.” I say, aloud again.

The wind smiles around me and the bush disappears into the indigo sky, leaving a path through the desert open and clear. One last time, He speaks, and His voice is so loud that even earth and the rocks cry out.

I will show you the way.