The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Friday, January 25, 2013
You had been born to be king. You were the heir-apparent, well-beloved of your father, as well as the people. You had been trained in the ways of a wise ruler by your father and his counselors. All was prepared for you to assume the throne when you came of age.
One summer, your father sent you to tour the north countries. While you were gone, your younger brother, Li Ching, spread rumors against you among the court and people. “Your son thinks you a doddering old fool,” he told your father. “When my brother becomes king,” he'd said to the people, “he will seize your inheritance and send your young men to die in the southern mines.” And he said to the counselors: “My brother will have no use for you. He plans to rule by the stars!”
You had been born to be king. But now the counselors would no longer speak to you. The people were plotting to kill you before you ascended to the throne. And your father accused you of many things, full of fury, and sent you from his court in disgrace. You supposed you would die in the western wilderness.
For three months, you wandered with no direction. You ate roots, fruits, and berries, as the court horticulturist had taught you. You had several meals with strangers who found your face friendly. On the fifteenth day of the fourth month, you gained a traveling companion with a sun-darkened face and curly hair. He told you of a king who was coming to his native land, one who would be king over all other kingdoms. This was indeed good news; perhaps you could persuade him to speak to your father and restore your good name.- Perhaps you could once again come into your own.
You walked together for several months, speaking of many things. You walked with him to his destination, where he drew a map ,which would guide you the rest- of the way to his native land. Now your main concern was what sort of honor gift you could offer to this great king.
Fourteen moons had glided through the nights. The fourth night of the fourteenth moon, you had a curious dream: A woman as large as the sky appeared before you; in her right hand she held a brilliant star, in her left she held a bitter herb. “What would you have of me?” you asked. She handed you the herb and said, “This is your gift. Then: “Follow. Follow the star.”
When you awoke, you found the herb growing nearby. You gathered it into your satchel bag. You trusted the dream. Somehow, it seemed such a gift would. persuade the great King of Kings to help you come into your own once again.
A new year had begun. You had come to a great sea, and saw the star shining in the south. It seemed to hover over a small, town. It certainly did not seem like a regal town.
The-star now shown like a hundred stars over a cave. Within you found some unwashed shepherds and-common cattle. Beyond them knelt, an impoverished and frightened couple. She was about seventeen; her hair was long and stringy, her garment was tattered, and yet she seemed the most beautiful woman you had ever seen. He was twenty-one; behind his scraggly beard, his eyes were filled with a sad wisdom.
Between them is the child, wrapped in torn pieces of cloth and lain in a manger filled with hay.
You had been born to be-king. What do you do? You kneel before the child. You hand the gift of the bitter herb to the mother. You have come into your own at last.
Originally published January 1986
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Friday, January 18, 2013
Sunday, January 13, 2013
“. . . darkness is my only companion.” — Ps 88:19b (BCP)
There are often times in our lives when, like the psalmist, we feel wholly alone. We wander as though in a Wilderness, with no guide; with only Darkness as a companion.
There are many reasons for this dark wandering, but the story I hear most often has to do with self will, or pride. We really are thick-skulled folk, and most of the healthy choices sound too pat or cliched to be true. So we stubbornly try to do things our way.
Perhaps we use the moon as a guide. But the moon is remote and fickle; she is indeed a harsh mistress. And eventually the time will come when we are left with darkness as our only companion.
Or we throw yarrow sticks. Or we become existential atheists. Or we live for the pleasures of the dance floor and the bedroom. Those of us who have lived these sorts of lives know how utterly lonely they can be. When darkness is our only companion, it can be a form of living death.
But there is a light which can break through this darkness. It shines constantly, but it often seems we must be in the Tomb before we can see it. This light is cast by the Lord of Light, who is Lord of Lords.
Those of us who have wandered in the Wilderness with Darkness as our only companion have lived out a timeless story. It is the story of a Man Who Died, and yet lived again. It is a story which seems impossible to believe, yet we must believe because we have lived it — though in miniature.
It is a story we continue to live. It is present and fresh to us today, often with a greater vibrancy than the 6:00 news. And we know that the same Lord of Light who breathed life into the Man Who Died continuously breathes life into us. It is by this grace that we find the quiet space which is filled with a peace that passes understanding.
Originally written & published May, 1985