Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why Good Friday's Great

Although I'm still busy with my remodeling I thought it would be appropriate to post a monologue I was asked to write for a Good Friday service. I hope the Easter season finds you all well.
Imagine a street just outside the city wall of Jerusalem. It is around 50 A.D. and a weathered old man sits on a corner, as if he’s waiting on someone or something.

“Excuse me—excuse me, young man. May I have a moment of time? I promise I’ll be brief. Don’t look so afraid; I’m merely a tired old man in need of some assistance. Wait—please don’t go, wait just a minute. Ah, here they are—two pieces of silver. Oh I know it’s not much, but it’s all that I have. Please accept them. You see, I have a very important meeting I must keep; an anniversary with an old friend you might say. Won’t you appease a ragged old soul and walk along side me for a moment? Here let me take hold of your arm, my eyes are dim and as I recall the road is quite steep and littered with stones.”

“Certainly I have a name, and although it is difficult to tell from my appearance now, I once held an important position. But neither my name nor my title is relevant any longer. In fact there is much of the past I’d do well to forget. In my youth I was a rough piece of coral, jagged and dangerous, but as the sea has its way with the coral, so does time with a man’s misguided intentions. Time has a way of polishing things, taking away the dangerous edges, smoothing them into something more universally acceptable.”

“Yes, we’re getting close now—look just ahead and you’ll see it. They call it Golgotha—The Place of the Skull. Over the years many men were crucified here, very near the spot you’re now standing. Come, let us rest on this large stone while I tell you the story of one man in particular.”

We knew him as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. His wisdom and eloquent words far exceeded his years. He performed undeniable feats of healing with merely the touch of his hand. Many believed his spiritual knowledge surpassed that of the Pharisees. People whispered quietly at first, but then voices became louder and bolder; proclaiming him as the messiah, the promised one. Some of his teachings went against the law of the day, the Pharisees and Caesar’s government became alarmed with Jesus following and eventually concluded they must end what they perceived as a threat.

They breached his inner circle, finding a weak link from within. They convinced one of his closest followers to accept a bribe. Then they arrested him and brought him before Pilate, seeking some kind of charge against him. Pilate could find no fault with the man, but the gathering crowd became persistent and unruly; so much so that Pilate feared their actions. During Passover the law allowed one prisoner to be set free. He believed with certainty, presented with a choice they would free Jesus, but the mob demanded Barabbas be freed instead and Jesus to stand in his place. With that the crowd grabbed him and prepared to crucify him.

Perhaps I should spare your impressionable young mind as well as my minds-eye the barbaric details. Roman Centurion’s oversaw the flogging and humiliation of the man they called “King of the Jews.” They thrust a crown made of thorns on his head, taunted, and beat him all the way up the hill. Once they arrived here the soldiers drove spikes through his hands and his feet, securing him to the cross.

Waiting for death is never pleasant, even for those that simply watch. In the sixth hour darkness swallowed the sky and eeriness settled over the crowd, then in the ninth hour Jesus cried out his final words; “It is finished!” At that moment the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom, the ground shook violently, and rocks split in two. It was at that moment I was convinced, this Jesus had been no ordinary man.

Slowly the crowd dispersed and went back to their homes, some perhaps regretting their involvement, yet I can only speak for myself. Yes…..I was there that day, among the crowd, and it still weighs heavy on my heart. In fact after witnessing the events I rushed home and wept bitter tears, yet somehow I knew I must record these emotions stirring within. In fact, this scroll I carry with me is the one I wrote that very day. Perhaps it is time I read it aloud, other than to the walls of my home.


Some claim a blasphemous heathen served justice by the horde,
others espouse the ‘King of the Jews’ was savior and lord.
Pilate could find no charge, yet they insisted in foregone conclusions;
irreversible actions fueled by conjured delusions.
Old Testament prophesies fulfilled through hands of the willing;
those naïve to the sanctity of the blood they were spilling?

Angry skies loomed closer, now swallowed in swirls of black;
Even the heavens cried out, wishing the crucified back.
The crowds had dispersed, satisfied with the finality of death
yet one remained hours after Jesus had drawn his last breath,
examining closely his role in brutal events just occurred;
granting a voice to emotions so unexpectedly stirred.

“Father in heaven, for what reason do you still grant me breath?
My transgressions so great, surely they have sealed my death.
Say it so Father God, and the ground shall split open and swallow me whole,
where the serpent and demons may feed on my miserable soul.
Would be a kinder fate than to face the savior I beat;
for it was these regrettable hands that drove spikes through his hands and his feet!”

“Despite these failing eyes I can see your disappointment; certainly no more so than I in myself. But this story does not end in death, it is alive with birth. It was this very place where so many have died that our most merciful God in heaven saw fit to grant me new life. Sixty years ago, I began a relationship I had in no way earned. A relationship of divine creation, meant for anyone who will ask for it—even the man who drove the spikes.”

“Here, take this with you. I have no use for the scroll any longer. Share it with your family and the community; it is a message that should never be forgotten.”

“Son, your company has far exceeded the price of two silver pieces, but it’s time we both headed for our homes. No, you must return to city alone. Don’t fret over a weary old man. These eyes have seen many things and now they must rest. Run along now before your parents are filled with worry. My friend will be arriving soon, and without a doubt and just as he promised, he will carry me to my home.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Speed Freak!!!

It appears my transfer suffers,
perhaps a hyper-extended byte.
No success flushing buffers;
I’ve dumped them half the night.
I see the signal sputter,
dropping packets left and right.
Streaming audio begins to stutter
as data dribbles from the pipe.

I phoned tech-support straight away,
yet my plea for assistance ended in dismay.
Can you believe he had the audacity
to speak these crushing words to me?
“Sir, I see no reason to keep you on the line
the only trouble I detect, is in the way you connect.
You’re on dial-up, and all is working fine”

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Exorcising of Demons

Father Mahoney’s eyes adjusted to the dim light of the unkempt room. The extravagant chandelier, centered over the table at which he sat, indicated possibilities of past, but the home’s cries for attention had gone unanswered, evident by the peeling wallpaper and broken plaster precariously clinging overhead. Intricate but sheer cobwebs proved little obstacle to the emerging sun. Rays of defiant light crept in under the boarded windows, refusing to obey those who wished to keep all things out. A sorrowful feeling washed over the priest as he mulled possibilities of what could have been.

No matter how intrigued he wished to be with his surroundings, his eyes again returned to his own thick wrist. At first glance the joint appeared no more interesting than any other, but the fact it was bound by handcuffs to a stranger begged more intriguing questions. The priest exhaled loudly as he assessed the situation. Both wrists were secured, one to a large man sitting next to him and the other to the leg of the table. As always he attempted to find some good in every situation, truthfully he knew the removal of the blindfold had been an answered prayer. The priest continued to wrap his mind around this seemingly senseless abduction.

He had been roused from a deep sleep, blindfolded, and ushered quickly out of his home. Although he had not seen a gun, the nervous man implied he possessed one which convinced him it would be in his best interest to avoid anything remotely construed as resistance. The young man exhibited his instability by changing his mind several times, then finally insisting the Father be transported in the trunk of his vehicle. The priest remained there in total darkness until coming to an abrupt stop at this old home.

He turned his attention to the man who sat motionless but connected to him. An unshaven face and salt and pepper pony-tail resting on the man’s back jogged no memories. A tattered Harley Davidson tee-shirt provided no clues either. Father Mahoney knew just about everyone in this small town. If they weren’t regular parishioners he had at least run into them at the local coffee-shop or post office and as any good priest would, extended an invitation to attend mass. Good or bad, it simply remained fact that one’s identity could not be kept a secret in such a small village. Especially as lively looking a character as the stranger appeared to be.

“Pardon me for not extending my hand, but we seem to have extenuating circumstances. I’m Father Mahoney and I don’t believe we’ve met.”

The stranger turned to the priest and nodded slightly. His square jaw did not flinch and gave no indication of an impending smile. His eyes seemed small, hiding in the shadows of his protruding and narrow brows; the whites of them crisscrossed with enlarged blood vessels, almost obscuring the fact they surrounded an iris of pale blue. The aroma of stale alcohol seemed to be his fragrance of choice.

“Sure could use a damn cigarette preach, how ‘bout you?”

“Actually, I’ve been trying to quit.”

The grubby stranger examined the priest closely. The prompted the Father’s lips to slowly spread into a nervous smile.

“That was joke. Can’t say as I ever saw the benefits of smoking, truthfully.”

“You’re a funny guy, preach. Guess we’re even; I ain’t never seen the benefits of goin’ to church, truthfully.”

“Have you ever been inside a church?”

“Have you ever had a Camel light?”

The priest shook his head from side to side, in response to the question as well as the unexpected chilly reception. Perhaps he would remain silent until the young kidnapper returned, hopefully to explain why he committed such an act and what his demands for release would be.

“Tell me preach, what’s so important that goes on in that church that I’m missin’?”

“Well—I suppose the presence of God, mainly.”

“You sayin’ they got God locked up in the church?”

“No, but I believe I’m safe in saying, you’re more likely to encounter God in a church than in the bottom of a whiskey bottle.”

“I don’t know preach, I’ve seen some crazy shit near the end of a fifth of Ten High!”

Just as the priest prepared himself to respond, the young man returned to the room. He adjusted his gaze from one hostage to the other. His eyes moved in an erratic fashion, as if they took in only a small portion of the view before becoming bored and moving on. His torn and frayed blue jeans barely reached the top of a pair of sneakers that had obviously seen better days. The upper portion of his body filled less than half of an oversized gray hooded sweatshirt.

He sniffed violently several times before wiping the excess powder from his nose.
Retrieving a shiny pistol from the pocket of his sweatshirt, he paced nervously back and forth in front of the two hostages. For several minutes he moved from one side of the room to the other, before pausing directly across the table. The small amount of light, that dared enter this room, now seemed focused directly on his face.

“You gotta be shittin’ me”, cried the disgusted voice of the stranger sitting next to the priest. “Johnny, just what the hell do you think you’re doin’, and to your own dad no less?”

The agitated young man struggled to speak, “You…you mean step-dad; you piece of shit!”

Johnny moved toward his step-dad with purpose slamming the pistol down on the table with such force the priest feared accidental discharge. The young man reached for and slid the cuff of his sweatshirt past his elbow, unveiling dozens of scars on his forearm. As he picked out a particularly severe mark he began to speak.

“Remember this one, ‘Dad’—ten minutes late coming home from school in the third grade. How about that one—forgot to take out the trash; now that’s a real travesty!”

Neither of the hostages appeared interested in viewing the scars any longer. Johnny’s step-father repositioned himself as to avoid the inconvenient view. He showed no interest in confronting the unfortunate results of his foggy days past. Father Mahoney’s eyes suddenly found particular interest in a blank wall directly ahead of him. To him each of the scars represented an unfathomably heinous act, but far more importantly the unconscionable acts were perpetrated by a trusted parent. During all of his days as a priest he had witnessed only one exorcism, but Father Mahoney wanted no part of a demon responsible for such abuse.

With one fluid move, Johnny buried the barrel of the revolver in his step-father’s thick chest, their faces mere inches from one another.

“Do you even remember holding the cigarettes to my arm? How I squirmed and begged you to stop, or were you so far into your bottle of whiskey you couldn’t hear my screams?”

The young man expected and received no reply, no apology, not even a feebly constructed excuse. He withdrew the pistol, leaving only an imprint in the Harley Davidson symbol on the man’s shirt, and then casually tossed an object onto the table. A fresh round belonging to the revolver rolled harmlessly to the edge of table, coming to rest against the belly of its intended target.

“Look closely at the base of the brass, you’ll find your initials carved there. I was only thirteen when I inscribed them. During the years since I hoped my raging hatred for you would subside, but unfortunately that never happened. Your role in this torture only lasted a couple of minutes, and you can’t even remember those. I’m the one who couldn’t escape the strange looks from strangers as they saw this disfigured piece of flesh. Do you have any idea how it feels to have literally no control over a situation that forced upon you! Perhaps within a few minutes you will!”

“Father Mahoney, don’t fade on me now. It’s your turn for a trip down memory lane. Come on Father, don’t you recognize me? Perhaps some soul searching is in order.”

The priest stared blankly at Johnny, as it was his turn to look down the dark barrel of the revolver. He racked his brain searching for a time when he and the boy’s paths may have crossed, yet he could recall nothing.

“Son, I’m afraid you have mistaken me for someone else, but you certainly seem very troubled, perhaps I can assist you.”

“Oh Father, you’ve done quite enough I should say. Perhaps you don’t recognize me without my altar boy robe. You hid behind the cloth, satisfying your own twisted needs, while forcing us to keep secret your nasty perverted game! Do you truly believe your God can forgive that wretched soul of yours?”

Johnny whirled toward his step father, as a thunderous roar erupted from the weapon. From nearly pointblank range the inscribed bullet found its mark between the bushy brows. His step-father’s limp body slumped over, and an echo filled the room, as his head made a thud when it came in contact with the table. Father Mahoney reeled in horror, partially because of the dead man still strapped to his own wrist, but primarily due the unsettling realization that his crime against the young man deserved equal justice.

“Yes Father, I do have a round containing your initials, but recently I’ve been conversing with God. Despite my own wishes, God himself has revealed to me another plan for you.”

The young man returned to kitchen, while Father Mahoney fervently broke into prayer.

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance………”

A strong aroma filled the room, as Johnny continued to soak the table, occasionally splashing the liquid onto the legs and shoes of the priest. He reached across in front of the holy man and slipped his hand into the front pocket of his dead step-father’s shirt.

“For God’s sake Johnny you don’t have to commit this terrible crime! You’ll burn in hell for this, I assure you!”

The young man struck a match and held it perilously close to soaked wood of the table. His hand began to shake violently as the priest pleaded desperately for his life.

“Perhaps hell will be final destinations, but I trust you’ll make a place for me there Father!”

The table and floor burst into flames with an indescribable whoosh. The young man walked calmly from the house, unaffected by the priests screams. As he shifted his car into drive, perhaps his mind should have been consumed by remorse, but Johnny only knew that he would rest easier now.