I am dead thirsty. I lap up the life of others, never quenching nor satisfying that longing within me for more. I am a vampire, always in quest of. I am enslaved by desperate pursuit. Ravenous and manic, I seek you. I come for you because I need the life in your veins. I need.
I can’t count my victims. Too many are they.
I see my next meal, a strange man on a vacant road. I approach slowly to stalk him. He is a lighted figure in a fold of darkness, as if he holds the sun within himself. His silhouette stands out against the evening. His mere existence is an annoyance to me. He neither cowers nor defies as I approach. He meets me eye-to-eye. It is infuriating.
His face is weathered, beaten and bruised, but serene. His hands scarred, horrific torment have they endured or given. Perhaps I have met a monster like me. I size him up. I can take him. The blood on his hands looks like it has been there for an eternity, though it has the stench of freshness.
He appears to know me. At the very least, he knows what I am about to do. And he doesn’t seem to mind. I attack with precision, injecting my fangs and drawing the blood. Slowly, deliberately, deliciously I drink in the depth of life from his neck. Almost instantly I realize this lifeblood is different. A surge, more like a punch, hits me head-on somehow. I reel, a bit, but return to the drink, drawing in its warm fulfillment. But again, it strikes me. It reaches me, deep within and takes me.
My limbs, my muscles, my entire being staggers and halts like a rushing freight train suddenly stopped by unseen hands. The cells of my body rebel, turning against me, and begin to transform. They are becoming something else.
As if I have no control over my being, they twist and coil without my direction or input. I am being remade. I find myself eagerly accepting this new thing, hungering and thirsting for it with all the desperation of my previous pursuit. Everything within me cries out. Astonished, I feel a presence seeping into me, filling my hunger. I am bloated with it, round and plump with this life. My thirst, palpable and parched, is satiated as if with a flood. I am overwhelmed.
I look into the eyes of my victim, a suddenly strong and invincible presence. His eyes are the color of me. His hands and arms around me, as though I were the prey, he does not look away. And in that moment I realize the blood on his hands is his own. This cannot be. A mythical creature, this; I do not believe in Jesus.
When he spoke he said my name as if he'd known it forever. I can’t tell you what that did to me. But I can tell you I will never thirst again, not ever.
I wrote this in 2008. It appeared then on a now closed site, Gather.com.
They obeyed a house of cards. From it came their orders, their worries, and all of their concerns. This is what needs to be decided. These are the questions and these are the answers! Everyone knew it was a house of cards. They even made jokes about it. But no one looked elsewhere. No one dared. They thought it was the only place that could affect change. The only place that could help them, fight for them. What would they do without the decrees coming down from the king of hearts and the queen of doom. How would they know what to do?
One day a card fell. It was pushed by the wind, or more specifically, a breeze, the kind that is too light to be expected, but pushes one thing into your field of vision and stops you in your tracks. It took out a lesser card, a small two, but it shook the whole house and the upper cards went next. The whole monstrosity caved in an instant, toppling with the force of a world crumbling. And then no one could look anywhere but at the wind. It was just getting started.
It took out other things too. Every. Thing.
The mountains fell. The stars fell from the sky. Two things remained.
His oldest daughter was the Wisest. She understood her father, why he did what he did, though she was too young to see all of it. She knew he did it to prove something. To be something. To win.
The Smallest was hurt. She didn't understand. Instead, she was swept away by each ebb and flow of the tide. She was away so much she was not sure anywhere else existed, though she hoped it did. She was the one who would grow up to be just like him, seeking the same affirmation, in the same ways.
His Closest pulled her words and her story out of the air and held them too close to see, so there is nothing to tell. She doesn't breath, doesn't hope, doesn't dream. She allows no mention of it, how she felt, how she feels. She leaves no footprint, no breath, because to do so would make his actions real and she does not want that.
They sat waiting for the pot to boil. It was a rare night that he was home with them. Maybe the only night. No one knew then that was the day the wall would come down. No one knew it would come down at all. So when his friend arrived and invited him out, they knew nothing different than all the days before when he left them.
His friend had a job to do and needed help.
They walked the whole way. It was dark. He was afraid. His friend's job was to confront someone, get information from them, and kill them. He was afraid of his friend, the target, and the information. It couldn't implicate him, but it was frightening for a reason he couldn't articulate.
The conversation between the three men went like this:
Friend: You refused?
The Target: I couldn't do it. Things have changed. I have changed. I'm out.
He: You can't be out. No one gets out.
The Target: I am out.
The Target: They didn't tell you? I am a changed man. I am different.
His eyes were serene. Solemn. Resigned. He would not bend. He would not break. They could see it plainly. This was no longer the same cohort they had worked with, no longer the man who they had come to respect, no longer the man who had ordered others killed like they were about to kill him.
Friend laughed. They had told them. Now this man believed in God. Now he would not work with them. He was on his own. He was different.
Friend: You're a traitor.
He hated the Target now. How could he turn away from them? After all they'd worked for. After all they'd achieved. He would just give up now? They did not believe him about God. Who believes that? They assumed he was an ordinary traitor, one with his own reasons. It was no concern of theirs what he said now.
Friend: Do you know we will kill you?
Friend didn't really want to do it. They'd been through a lot with this man. He was their colleague. Their comrade. He had helped each of them. He'd sacrificed for them. He had given to them. And he was different now. But they didn't know why.
The Target pulled a weapon from his right side coat pocket and shocked them both when he placed it on a table instead of firing.
The Target: I won't kill you. And I want you to know I forgive you. Both of you. I forgive you and when I am dead I will pray for you at the foot of the throne.
His words were incomprehensible to them. He sounded like a madman and they killed him.
Friend: Do you think he really forgave us?
He was taken aback. It was a stupid question, one he didn't know how to answer.
He and Friend parted ways then, each heading for home. He wondered how his family was, something he didn't normally allow himself to do. And as he walked his steps drew him closer to the wall. Tall, impenetrable, protective. Something was happening on that night, however. People were gathered around. He stopped to observe the commotion. There was shouting and singing. Pieces of the great facade were being tossed, thrown to the ground. They were tearing it down!
He was caught up in it, watching but not helping. He was done helping. He thought about all he had done. He thought about forgiveness. He'd just killed someone. Someone who said he forgave him. It was unsettling. And now the wall was coming down. He hoped it meant something. He hoped he was forgiven. He stared, unblinking, and as he watched, he saw the shadow moved. It was jolted out of place, obstructed, directed, pulled. He saw that something reached out to the shadow and pulled it away and, as he watched, he hoped it would do the same for him.
He was swept free. He was brought out of deception. And he could see. With his eyes. With his heart. With all he could hold.
As he watched the wall come down and the shadow move and remembered his friend's, his victim's, words, "I forgive you," he wished, he hoped, he prayed and cried out and couldn't believe he got a reply. His burden, lifted and thrown, his darkness gone in the grip of a light that caught it and held it and brought it down.
He was free.
But he had ordered someone killed. He was not directly responsible, he reasoned, which gave him space between himself and the guilt. But he'd done it just the same. He'd watched a murder and had not intervened. In fact, he'd approved it.
In his life were many sins. He had abandoned someone who needed him. He had hurt someone who loved him. He regretted it. How could he be freed from that? But he was and he found it difficult to take. Not that he wasn't grateful. He was overwhelmed with gratitude, tears streaking his face, his heart, everything he could hold. He was paralyzed with it. He moved only by the force that held him up and led him. He was no longer his own.
He stood motionless in the center of his small town with the wall now down around them and the inhabitants strolling harmlessly around. They kept walking, not pausing, not stopping to say hello, everyone just going by with no destination other than "I can go here now" with no restriction. He began to stroll too, for hours or minutes he couldn't tell, and finally went home to tell his family they were free.
But they weren't. His family was still imprisoned by him. The wall was down. The shadow was gone. The weight had lifted. But his Closest remembered his cruelty. His Smallest remembered his absence. His Wisest knew. She just knew. He was free of his guilt, but they were still under it, pinned to the floor by unforgiveness and resentment and the truth. It was true. He had done it all.
So he set out to change the truth. He hoped. He promised. But he failed, horribly, spectacularly. He was a changed man, broken, serene, a man who had been unable to rescue himself and now he needed help to clean up the mess. He needed a rescuer. They needed a rescuer, to be saved from all he had done to them.
The darkness met him, cold and sharp, and promised him power, but he no longer wanted it. He wanted sunlight. He yearned for hope. His heart, his hands, everything he could hold with wanted only to hold purity.
It was a new feeling for a man who had spent his entire life on temporary pleasures, always looking in the same place for something different and finding the same over and over again. He feared he was a slow learner, but he was meant to learn this lesson well so that he would remember it with his heart, his hands, everything he could hold.
His mind changed when the wall fell. It pulled the darkness with it. He saw the shadow tugged by the weight of the collapse. What can grasp a shadow and pull it down? He thought he must have seen an illusion. The wall must have hit something real and moved it, of course, and that altered the shadow. Of course? But he was slowly losing belief in the course of things and gradually accepting that he had seen a shadow moved. A shadow that was not a reflection, not cast by light, not a mere effect of something real- this shadow was its own entity. He had seen evil moved and he knew it.
"You don't need to be afraid of the dark anymore."
He would not admit to being a fearful man. Maybe, once, or twice, he had felt fear as a small child or in a strange circumstance, but never as a man, never unless he was half asleep or- but it was futile. He was afraid. Fear led him. Fear drew him. Fear called his name. Fear ate his meals before him and arranged his home to suit its needs.
Fear had been the boss for so long he did not recall another time, until that moment, and he realized, instinctively, then with logic, that there was something that could move differently than everything else. Something could rescue him. He winced at the thought because the last thing this strong man wanted was to need rescue. Then it happened.
Vladimir Putin gave Netanyahu a Bible during their meeting in Sochi, Russia on Wednesday. I thought that was cool, though cool is not a big enough word. I am at a loss for all other words, so you just get the deepest thought of ordinary me. Cool.
Early this year Netanyahu gave Trump a Bible. This past Spring, Putin gave Netanyahu a book about Jewish history, The Jewish War by Flavius Josephus. If these guys could just keep handing each other books instead of fighting, I think we will be good.
There's lots of turmoil in the world.
Let's celebrate the quiet times.
Looks like the video I linked to is no longer working. It originally came from Benjamin Netanyahu's Facebook page. If you want to see it, it was posted August 25.
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
Rahab lived in Jericho. She hid enemy spies because she wanted to be rescued. She asked only that they would save her and her family. She believed Jericho could not stand against their God. She knew He was greater than everything else she had relied on. How did she know that? Maybe she'd heard the stories of Him. Travelers often visited her. Maybe some of them had first hand accounts. Whatever led her to this knowledge was strong enough that she acted on it courageously.
What do we know about Rahab?
She had a home that connected to the wall around Jericho. She had a mother, father, and brothers. She was a prostitute. We don't know her age. We don't know what she looked like. We don't know how she found herself there. We don't know what her family and neighbors thought of her or even what she thought of herself. What we do know is that when she heard of the God of Israel she believed. And she trusted. Where her great faith came from we are not told. But she is listed with the Patriarchs of the Faith in Hebrews 11 because of it. She and Sarah, Abraham's wife, are the only women mentioned there. Sarah we can understand. But Rahab is a surprise, a valiant slap in the face of condemnation. Rahab is unexpected.
Sometimes people compassionately call her an Innkeeper, which ruins the story entirely. This is a story of grace.
Joshua 2: 1-4
And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them.
I wonder if God told her the men were coming and where to hide them or if they told her who they were and she decided in that moment to help them. I like to think she was prepared. She set the flax out to dry on the roof because she sensed something was coming. She was waiting.
What became of Rahab after that?
...and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
Rahab saved all of Israel with her kindness and then became the wife of Salmon and the mother of Boaz, Boaz who rescued Ruth who protected Naomi. Rahab joined the house of Israel. Rahab was of the bloodline of the Messiah.
Did she ever dream her name would be remembered like this? What do you dream?
The Baptism of Rus, celebrated on July 28, is a day of remembrance of the Russian Prince Vladimir's embrace of Christianity in 988. I've read several versions of the story, one describing how he chose Christianity from a list of religions because he was moved by the description of Christian worship, another that he was struck blind but then healed and claimed to have seen the true God, and one focusing on how his life changed dramatically afterward. He was like a new man.
There was a time when Russia, then the Soviet Union, seemed hopeless to me. I pictured wandering people, always looking, looking in the darkness for any kind of light, but unable to see. That description may make you laugh if you have been there or if you are not like me. But now it's not like it was. It feels different. How can I feel it? I can't explain that, except to say that when I pray for Russia I feel like someone there is praying for us. It is a good feeling.
I am going to put this picture here too. Why? Because I pray the above verse, the Lord bless you and keep you, for Russia and for Vladimir Putin. People have a lot of things to say about him. But prayer is something apart from all of that. It has no borders and no concerns other than the Lord bless you and keep you. Putin has talked about his beliefs some, but I wish he would say more. Happy Baptism of Rus to everyone!