Gandalf

Gandalf’s Fall

Gandalf

Gandalf – why speak not when you fell
Into the deepest pits of hell
Down countless fathoms, miles deep
Among dark beasts that never sleep?
Where waters quench all fires hot
And nameless monsters lurk – long forgot –
Reside there since the world was made
Alone in sunless, airless shade.
Where, under earth, you grappled death
Hewing the balrog every breath
You remained in the cold and dark
Until it fled. What vital spark
Of life made you fix fast its heel
As up it went – no sense but feel
And touch remained! – ascending fast
The Endless Stair it reached at last
To burst out into open air
On Celebdil? How fought you there
Again until you cast it down
The balrog, wizard of renown?
Why is your fight unsung? Unseen
As though your toils had never been?

Say, Gandalf – when the mountain broke
Beneath the balrog dead, what spoke
You to the powers, to your kind?
What thoughts, what prayers went through your mind?
What hidden paths then did you walk?
Why of these mysteries won’t you talk?
How did your colour grey to white
Transform when you lay out of sight
All broken, powerless and spent
On Silvertine? What powers lent
You strength to come back from the dead?
Upon the eagle’s back you sped:
Sent back to us, new life regained,
But with so much still unexplained?

What wizards know, they secrets keep.
Some unwaked truths are best asleep.
Ride on White Rider – never rest
Until your toils with fruit is blessed
With victory over destroyed foe:
Then Gandalf shall be free to go
A condign reward he shall earn
And – at last – to the West return.

Rubaiyat – Death & Life Uno

Rubiayat

The earth – comprised of fine, malleable clay
Greets cheerfully the rising of each day.
From such a sod did humankind receive
The Breath of Life, our ancient teachings say.

From clay: was man created and new-born
Arising from the pristine Eden’s lawn
To greet his Maker, having broken free
From that damp grasp – the earthy dust late-torn.

To dust and clay again must man descend
When at the last approaching his life’s end.
His very bones disintegrate and fall
To dusty motes. To this doth all life tend.

Missionary Programs

missionary

Missionary Programs – the past.

In previous times, missionary work used to be one of the key activities of the Christian church. Today, it is an optional extra.

Missionaries once traveled from their home country to the target country to preach the Gospel to all and sundry. Over time, these heady ideals became too hard to maintain: so performing charitable good works superseded preaching the Gospel; which in turn have been replaced by “cultural exchanges”.

Critics ascribe such bowdlerisation of missionary activity to various causes. Some charge that church missionary budgets are misappropriated to pay pocket-money to pastors’ brats for overseas backpacking holidays to perform “friendship evangelism” at church expense. Others contend that charitable works – digging wells, mending roofs, and etcetera – have nothing at all to do per se with spreading the Gospel and therefore should not be missionary-funded. Other critics point out that today’s cities contain multiple ghettoes of unreached ethnicities (immigrant-suburbs of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Chinese, Indians…): so why waste money sending missionaries overseas when they could instead simply bus themselves into the next suburb?

Missionary Programs – the present.

Criticisms – such as those above – must be dismissed out of hand if a church is to establish a well-funded Missionary Program. Unpleasant facts must be reshaped, redefined, and selectively ignored for a church missionary program to garner funding.

In such a climate, the following suggestions are offered as tried and tested strategies for inspiring church attendees to willingly pour their hard-earned savings into your church missionary fund:

  1. Missionary as Marketing. Label everything “Missionary” to attract donations. Don’t worry about “misapplying” the label to activities that have nothing to do with spreading the gospel: instead, introduce the concept of “Missionary Support” (see below).
  2. Missionary = Missionary Support. To circumvent the contentious problem of identifying which activities spread the Gospel and which do not: adopt and generously construe the label “missionary support”. Categorising an activity as “missionary support” gives churches the flexibility to fund literally anything out of missionary funds. As long as churches consistently repeat that some given activity “supports missionaries”, church attendees will continue consenting to part from their cash.
  3. Report plentiful activity. All donors want to see value for money: so provide regular reports showing how busy church-funded “missionaries” are. List activity after activity: omitting all incriminating details. When the eventual question of “How fruitful is all this activity?” emerges: deflect embarrassing investigations by citing “Spiritual Progress” (see below).
  4. Spiritual progress. “The Material has nothing in common with the Spiritual.” These and similar mantras must be repeated endlessly to counter any donor expectations of measurable results. Endlessly reassure donors of the boundless “Spiritual Progress” of your “missionary” activities.
  5. Church expenses. The missionary fund cash-cow is now ready for milking! Churches must deduct: administration feeds, handling feeds, paperwork fees, transfer fees… – the list is limited only by your collective imagination.

The Only Gold

Sunset Gold

The only gold I’ll ever know, the most gold that I’ll see
Are in the sunset clouds, I trow, that soar high above me.

This gold is safe enough I deem. No robber thieves it there.
No ladder’s made that’s tall enough to scale these walls of air!

Our gold – it looks so lovely. For it sparkles and it gleams.
And it is far more valuable than what at first it seems.

Such gold cannot buy bread. Nor clothes. Nor houses. Nor the sod.
It points to treasure greater still: it is the hand of God.

Legends of King Arthur – Merlin’s Metamorphoses

Banner - Legends of King Arthur - 500w

(The metamorphoses of the young Prince Arthur, then under the tutelage of the Wizard Merlin…)

Tench

Flick of fin and gulp of throat
What fun to swim down in the moat!
Flick of muscle, shiny scale
Who’d believe a student’s tale
If he said he’d transmogrify
Into a small fish by-and-by?
If wizard-taught, then well may he
One day perforce a fish may be!

But when facing the predatory pike
Who at the moat’s dank bottom there holds sway
With awful power: teeth that snap and strike
The weak, the lame, and too the unwary
The boy-turned-tench his vital lesson learned
What power can do – and too what it cannot.
A kingly lesson: though with danger earned.
How needful for a king of Camelot!
Up to the bank, spurning cold waters deep –
Where predatory jaws there never sleep –
To reassume his own form back on land
His human shape assuming on demand.

Merlin

Feathers rustle, chirping squawk.
Upon his perch – the pigeon hawk.
Face the windows, searching why
He’s not allowed into the sky?
Hawking, diving, killing game –
Waiting here is not the same
As drinking blood from a new-kill
Or soaring through the air with skill
To then return to claim reward.
Hawking is an aerial sword!

When the merlins line the mews
For resting, each their perch they choose
And speak in voices low but clear –
For they the softest sounds can hear.
While speaking of what they enjoy:
In-listens close the hawk-once-boy.
The pigeon-hawk? Who is this guest?
To stay here – he must past the test!
The guest accepts the test with gladness
Till confronted with the madness
Of a damaged hunting bird
Confront your fears! Without a word
Face down the eyes deranged and crazed:
The courage of his heart displays.
Lunge and tear – dodge-down, escape
Then reassume the human shape.
Dodge and weave! To live – be swift!
This lesson is his teacher’s gift.

Ant

Live ants in armies march and drill
Deep-delving into their ant-hill
To labour, build defensive screen
To do – or die – all for their queen!

Their deeds for royalty all ants do give.
To die is good. To serve is but to live.
All for their monarch. Every day their thought
Is: how best raise the honour of her court?
The soldier-ants – their strength doth guard the weak.
The workers – work. To serve the hive all seek.
The boy-turned-ant works daily as their slave
Seeing the workers work, until the grave
Receives her own again, their bodies all
Are recycled as finally they fall.
The workers, worn: their carcasses imbued
With value still: recycled to be food
To feed the hatching larva. Cycles life
From birth to grave: with toil, and sometimes strife.
This enervating law the boy descries
While working, seeing this with his own eyes.
Release from ant-bound slavery is sought
The boy then reappears, consumed in thought.

Owl

Look and listen. Launch and flit.
Soar in shadow – small owlet!
Hearing sharper than them all –
Listen! Hear the creatures call
And stumble, running through the dark.
Claws clinging to crumbling bark.
Night-eyes see deeply into shade.
Launch! Soar! Swoop! The killing’s made
Dinner for an owl: one meal.
Now up on silent pinions steal:
Up, away, by bole, by tree
Hunting, flying silently.

The boy-turned-owl moves silently. By night
None other soars as quietly in flight
As does the owl. Select, for each task then
Who is most suited: whether beast or men.
Kill what and when you must: and never more.
The owl the young man’s shape does then restore.

Goose

Geese take wing! Now soaring! Fly!
Rise into the endless sky!
Boundaries are but of earth:
Skies unbounded! The world’s girth
Encompassed by the paths we fly
The very clouds go tumbling by!

The boy-turned-goose his wings moves aerially
And gazes on the world ethereally
Cutting across the liquid paths of air
Seeing the big picture. Perspective there
Is real. How can land-squabbles matter?
The earth is wide! Like so much geese-mad chatter
Is politicking over such rich soil
Which men consume, as angry wars embroil
Each kingdom against kingdom. Sordid gain
Kindles a king to envy once again!
To be a king: perspective must be true!
And the big picture must be kept in view!
A shimmer – and the magic change is wrought.
The young man re-emerges, wrapped in thought.

Badger

Dig and delve! Dig deep the earth
Explore the country of your birth
From underside, where the sun’s rays
Are hid in endless night. The days
Pass by unnoticed underneath
The earth. Each burrow is a sheath
Concealing life that it protects.
To live here, one at last expects
An inner peace to settle in
And fill one’s mind. Deep reflection
In solitary night well pays
The loss of a few sunny days.

The boy-cum-badger looks around the hall
And contemplates the meaning of it all.
Each animal is given its own tools –
As: teeth, claws, fur, strong limbs. The God who rules
Gave each one what they needed. Such His plan.
So what did good God give when he made man?
Humanity. What is it? Just a brain?
No – more. A soul? Indeed. But to be plain:
A man is more than animated sod.
A man is meant to image forth his God!
To rule. To reign. To worship. And to think!
A whirl of magic-thunder. In the blink
Of time, an ex-badger and young man stands.
His claws no more – he feels again two hands!

Each beast therefore its own wisdom may bring
To teach the lad Merlin trained to be king!

Soul to Soul

Take my hand

There was friendship in the world here once. When soul knit unto soul
As Johnathan’s to David knit. Two parts making one whole.
Have all such friendships disappeared? Do they exist today?
I wonder. And I doubt it much. It’s very rare, I say.

Perhaps each generation sees such friendship. Perhaps not.
I couldn’t guarantee it. It’s not been my earthly lot.
But perhaps somewhere, perhaps somewhen, such friendship might exist.
I hope so. It is in such things that heaven will consist.