Tag Archives: Magic

The Vision

Creek babbling through Benvoulin wetlands in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, Capture from video shared by Extemporalist under Creative Commons 1.0 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Creek_babbling_through_Benvoulin_wetlands.webm

The Vision

The stream burbled patiently singing its tune
As the sun shone in a ray through the break in the trees
While dragonflies danced and frogs played
In the early summer’s warmth of this peaceful place
My secret place where others rarely enter
A space to commune with the undisturbed world
To delight in the slow and steady rhythm of the creator
Where every mote of dust reflects magic and light
And heaven and earth are not so far apart
This thin space where sometimes epiphanies occurs

Into this peaceful space emerges a hawk, proud and strong
Soaring in to rest upon the branch an ancient oak tree
And it watches me watching it with knowing eyes
A herald of the mystery that awaits unveiling in that space
Rustling through the underbrush another unexpected guest
Emerging with his royal blue head from the undergrowth
Strutting into this magical place with his myriad eyes
As he quickly expands his tailfeathers in proud display
Looking imperially at the human who happens to be
In this space where creation came to play in delight
To dance in the joy of the creator’s masterwork

As nature continued to roll back her curtain of majesty
Rolling out her green carpet to await the celebration
Out of the mystery steps lady wisdom cloaked in green
With her escorts, a stag on her left and a wolf on her right
The frogs cease their croaking chorus
Dragonflies circle to land on the cat lilies
The peacock bows his proud blues head
the hawk swoops down to land upon her shoulder
While I stand transfixed by this moment of mystery
All watch as she brings forth an egg from her cloak
Which she cradles in her hands like the greatest treasure
As the creation watches this miracle of new birth

Somehow, I know to look away not to look unmediated
At the divine drama unfolding in this beautiful place
But from the reflection of the stream I see her lay
The dormant egg into a thick blanket of green grass
And from the bed of green emerges red, yellow, blue and orange
As nature’s nest burns and yet remains unconsumed
And I wonder if I, like Moses, stand on sacred ground
As the new chick emerges with a cry of victory
From fire and light and ash the new phoenix emerges
Spreading its wings towards the waiting sky
Looking to its dominion among the heavens

Before it flies away from this place it scooped
By the woman’s gentle hands and they share a second
As all the earth bows in this moment of mystery
Wolf and stag bend low, peacock and hawk
Even the trees themselves seem to stoop
As creation lifts its joyous song and the resurrection
The revelation that magic has not left the creation
And I, on behalf of humanity lie upon the verdant ground
In wonder and awe as a witness of this sight

As quickly as it was revealed it is concealed
Nature closes her curtain and the world returns
To the chorus of frogs and the dance of dragonflies
The woman and her escorts are gone
Back behind the shroud of the ancient trees of the forest
The phoenix disappears into the heavens
Shining as radiant and dazzling as the beaming sun
Yet, I remain stunned at this dream, this vision
Wondering at what I have seen as the memories fade
And so, I grab my pen and write furiously
Trying to capture the essence of the epiphany
Of the magic and mystery at work in the world
Masked but to those who sit in the thin spaces
Where heaven and earth are not so far apart

Exodus 8 The Insignificant Brings Low the Mighty

The god Khnum accompanied by Heqet, molds Ihy in a relief from the Mammisi (birth temple) at Dendra Temple complex

Exodus 8: 1-15: The Second Sign

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 2 If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs. 3 The river shall swarm with frogs; they shall come up into your palace, into your bedchamber and your bed, and into the houses of your officials and of your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. 4 The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your officials.'” 5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, the canals, and the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.'” 6 So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. 7 But the magicians did the same by their secret arts, and brought frogs up on the land of Egypt.

 8 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron, and said, “Pray to the LORD to take away the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” 9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “Kindly tell me when I am to pray for you and for your officials and for your people, that the frogs may be removed from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.” 10 And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “As you say! So that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God, 11 the frogs shall leave you and your houses and your officials and your people; they shall be left only in the Nile.” 12 Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh; and Moses cried out to the LORD concerning the frogs that he had brought upon Pharaoh. 13 And the LORD did as Moses requested: the frogs died in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. 14 And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, and would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.

The first sign which appeared in the previous chapter struck at the bleeding heart of Egypt and here in the second sign or warning, the plague of frogs takes the fertility of the land and now that fertility overwhelms the ability of the Pharaoh, his wise men and the magicians to control. These seems a strange sign and an odd display of power and yet the next three signs use things that on their own are weak and insignificant to bring the mightiest power of that time to the point of begging for Moses and Aaron to intercede for them. Frogs called up from the waters of Egypt will lead even Pharaoh to for a time acknowledge the LORD’s power in the land.

The Egyptian goddess Heqet, a goddess of fertility and childbirth

Frogs seems an odd choice and yet there is perhaps something to be seen in this choice. Frogs and the death of the first born in chapter eleven are the only signs where the language of plague is used (even though we are used to calling them the ten plagues).  Perhaps the connection goes back to fertility. In Ancient Egypt, the goddess Heqet, which is depicted as having a frogs head is one of the goddesses of fertility and seems to be the most ancient of these (since most of the other fertility images seem to be imported from other regions at later times). The association between Heqet, birth and fertility probably goes back to the frogs that would be common with the flooding of the Nile during the germination of the grain. Even midwives were known as servant of Heqet. The prolific presence of frogs at the controlled cultivation of the croplands probably sent a strong signal of fertility and life. Yet, here frogs instead of remaining in the places near the waters of Egypt move beyond their boundaries and cover the land and interfere with the life in the household, in the field and throughout the empire.

That which normally is received as a sign of blessing becomes a plague and fertility threatens to overwhelm that life which is already present. The magicians are able to replicate this sign, to demonstrate that they too can call up additional frogs-or perhaps that their powers to can be a plague. Regardless of their ability to add to the plague of frogs they cannot stem the amphibious infestation. Here Pharaoh for the first time acknowledge the impact of the LORD’s action in Egypt and ask Moses and Aaron to pray (or plead) to the LORD on behalf of Pharaoh. Moses’ prayers do lead to the elimination of the frogs and where once fertility threatened the households of Egypt now they are left with stinking piles of dead frogs.

Exodus 8: 16-19: The Third Sign

16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt.'” 17 And they did so; Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and gnats came on humans and animals alike; all the dust of the earth turned into gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt. 18 The magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, but they could not. There were gnats on both humans and animals. 19 And the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God!” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.

The Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to be able to control and manipulate the land and the water to bring forth a regularly fertile land. Their control of the elements of creation has often led people to believe that they are now masters of their own destiny and, as in the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, how they will make a name for themselves. The Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) loves to use irony and satire and like the Tower of Babel, which God has to come down and see (since even in their desire to reach up to the heavens is apparently isn’t visible from there) and confuses their language and thwarts their desire to make a name for themselves. Here it is in some type of small biting insect (can be translated as gnats, or lice or some other type of biting insect). Yet, here in the smallest of insects the magicians secret arts fail them.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is worth quoting at length here:

The Egyptians worshipped a multiplicity of gods, most of whom represented forces of nature. By their “secret arts” the magicians believed that they could control these forces. Magic is the equivalent in an era of myth to technology in an age of science. A civilization that believes it can manipulate the gods, believes likewise that is can exercise coercion over human beings. In such a culture the concept of freedom is unknown. (Sacks, 2010, p. 54)

The irony was that the Egyptian civilization which could harness the power of the Nile river and could build monuments to its leaders which stand even millennia later was shown powerless by a biting swarm of bugs. The magicians and wise men can realize their limits and acknowledge this is ‘the finger of God!’ Yet, in Pharaoh we have a leader whose heart (or will) is set, who knows the truth (even when all the facts contradict that perceived truth).

Chapter eight of Exodus is full of signs that are not lethal but inconvenient. The ecological disaster at this point while perhaps distasteful is not endangering the life or welfare of the people. Pharaoh’s entrenched resistance (whatever its source) allows the conflict between the LORD of Israel and the gods of Egypt to continue. Now for the first time the secret arts of the magicians has failed to replicate the finger of God. In the structure of the signs the third sign closes the first set but there is some wisdom to the way the chapter division occurs in our bibles. The frogs, gnats and flies all are ways in which the smallest and most inconsequential things manage to bring the might of Egypt to its knees.

Exodus 8: 20-31: The Fourth Sign

 20 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 21 For if you will not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you, your officials, and your people, and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies; so also the land where they live. 22 But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people live, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I the LORD am in this land. 23 Thus I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign shall appear tomorrow.'” 24 The LORD did so, and great swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh and into his officials’ houses; in all of Egypt the land was ruined because of the flies.

 25 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron, and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” 26 But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so; for the sacrifices that we offer to the LORD our God are offensive to the Egyptians. If we offer in the sight of the Egyptians sacrifices that are offensive to them, will they not stone us? 27 We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as he commands us.” 28 So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness, provided you do not go very far away. Pray for me.” 29 Then Moses said, “As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; only do not let Pharaoh again deal falsely by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.”

 30 So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. 31 And the LORD did as Moses asked: he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; not one remained. 32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and would not let the people go.

The structure of the signs would indicate this is a new set. As mentioned previously the first sign of each set occurs in the morning as Pharaoh is outside, the second occurs after Moses speaks to Pharaoh inside and the third comes without a warning. With each set of signs the intensity of the damage increases as the pressure increases on the Egyptians to let the people of Israel go. Another distinction between the first three signs and the remaining signs is that now there is a distinction between the people of Israel and the Egyptians. The remaining signs will now not afflict the land where the Hebrews dwell, almost as if an invisible barrier is erected to keep out the flies and later afflictions.

After the frogs, had come upon the land the Pharaoh asks for Moses’ and Aaron’s intercession on behalf of him and his people offering to let the people go and worship but once there is a respite Pharaoh’s heart hardens and he forbids the people leaving to go and sacrifice. In a similar way, Pharaoh calls for Moses and Aaron and offers to let the Israelites worship and sacrifice within the land but now cultural differences get in the way. We don’t know exactly what these cultural differences are that the Egyptians would have stoned the people of Israel for. Perhaps it had to do with the animals the Jewish people would sacrifice (mainly sheep and goats which the Egyptians found distasteful, for example in Genesis Joseph warns his brothers not to say they were shepherds for the Egyptians found shepherds abhorrent (see Genesis 46: 34)). Regardless cultural and religious differences would ultimately make cohabitation impossible for the Jewish people in Egypt. As a religious and cultural minority, they felt unsafe within the broader Egyptian culture.

The ancient world was a pluralistic one where multiple religions did encounter one another and sometimes those cultures would live together peacefully. The people of Israel found a home in Egypt for several generations and were welcomed, yet the Exodus relates a time where they were a persecuted and oppressed group. Their present is now that of slaves and their future will be one of being refugees in search of a new home. The economic system of Egypt was built upon forced labor. Change frequently occurs only when the situation becomes so odious it can no longer be maintained. The people of Israel will be reluctant to leave Egypt behind and will long for it when things become challenging in the journey to the promised land. The people and leaders of Egypt are reluctant to let the people go because it means changing the way in which their society functions. In some respects, it is not surprising that Pharaoh continues here to harden his heart and defend the status quo and that only the continued pressure of these strange acts of God makes him even consider the possibility of temporarily granting the people a time to worship. Frogs, swarms of small biting bugs and flies continue to make life in Egypt unpleasant and continue to show

Exodus 7: The Conflict Begins

Ancient Egyptian Art Depicting Apep battling a Diety from the tomb of Inher-kha, Thebes

Exodus 7: 1-13 The Initial Challenge

The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 When Pharaoh does not listen to you, I will lay my hand upon Egypt and bring my people the Israelites, company by company, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out from among them.” 6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the LORD commanded them. 7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.

 8 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a wonder,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, and it will become a snake.'” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did as the LORD had commanded; Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers; and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same by their secret arts. 12 Each one threw down his staff, and they became snakes; but Aaron’s staff swallowed up theirs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

The liberation of the people of Israel from their servitude to the Egyptians in not just a conflict between peoples, at its root it is a conflict between the LORD the God of Israel and the Egyptian gods. Moses becomes the vessel of the LORD’s work against the Egyptians and Pharaoh and the ‘wise men, the sorcerers and the magicians of Egypt’ line up on the other side. The central two characters, Moses and Pharaoh, both become representative or avatars of the divine power behind them. Moses here will be ‘like a God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.’ Pharaoh derives his authority from a divine claim that the Pharaoh is a ‘son of Ra’ the chief god of the Egyptian pantheon. Two conflicting views of creation (Ra is the chief god of not only the sun but creation for Egypt) and two conflicting views of the way that world should be structured are in play. Within Egypt, the superpower of that era, Pharaoh is all powerful and yet in this narrative Pharaoh plays a tragic character. Pharaoh will not listen to Aaron and Moses initially, but the conflict between competing sources of divine power will be seen not only by the individual players but also by both peoples (the Egyptians and the Hebrews). The end is that even the Egyptians will ‘know that I am the LORD,’ as the coming ecological disasters will testify to the power of the LORD over creation and the inability of Ra and those loyal to him to prevent this upheaval.

One of the places where translations don’t quite do justice to the original language is here with the language about the snakes that come from Aaron’s and what comes out of the Egyptians staffs. The word here in Hebrew is Tannin which is not the typical word for snake but rather for the serpent like chaos monster or dragon. Both sets of Tannin, from Aaron’s staff and the Egyptian magicians, are forces of war and destruction and chaos. Here chaos is unleashed symbolically in a struggle between the LORD of Israel and the lords of Egypt. Interestingly, to me at least, in Egyptian mythology the nightly struggle of Ra is against Apep (or Apophis) the snake like force of evil and chaos but now in matching the display of power by the LORD unleashing the forces of chaos even the emissaries of Pharaoh, son of Ra, must unleash their own forces of chaos. Ultimately it is the tannin released by Aaron which swallows the tannin released by the wise men of Egypt and this initial conflict foreshadows the chaos unleashed on creation that is to come. One of the things that begins here is the inability of the Egyptian wise men, sorcerers and magicians to undo what has been unleashed through Moses and Aaron. They may initially replicate what Moses and Aaron do but they cannot undo it. They can only add to the chaos which threatens to consume all of Egypt.

One of the aspects of this and the following passage to consider is the ‘hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.’ There are certain passages where Pharaoh himself is the one who hardens his heart and others where the heart of Pharaoh is hardened by God. For those looking for a definitive answer to the tricky question of divine determinism I am afraid you are likely to be disappointed. Many interpreters see within this, and each interpreter makes theological choices based on their understanding of God, for Pharaoh’s free will remaining intact and the responsibility for the choices remaining entirely on Pharaoh’s shoulders. Others take serious this hardening of Pharaoh’s heart by the LORD and see the enslaver losing his own free will and becoming the tool that once the enslaved Hebrew people were. The truth is probably subtler as the ancient writers of the Bible were not dogmatically rigid. Divine determinism and free will could coexist without any perceived conflict. Perhaps, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks can state:

Pharaoh is in fact…a tragic figure like Lady Macbeth, or like Captain Ahab in Melville’s Moby Dick, trapped in an obsession which may have had rational beginnings, right or wrong, but which has taken hold of him, bringing not only him but those around him to ruin. (Sacks, 2010, p. 49)

Perhaps Pharaoh is merely trapped within a worldview that cannot imagine letting the Hebrew slaves go. Perhaps Pharaoh’s heart and mind receive some divine nudge to harden his resolve and will as the chaos unfolds around him and his people. Perhaps Pharaoh, who views himself as the king on the chess board is merely a pawn being played. Regardless Pharaoh, the son of Ra, will be unable to avoid being swallowed up by the chaos unleashed as he struggles against the LORD. The gauntlet has been thrown, the challenge has begun for the lives of both peoples. Warnings are unheeded, hearts are hardened and next the heart of Egypt will bleed.

The Roman Kiosk of Trajan (left) on Agilkia island in the Nile River, near Aswān, Egypt

Exodus 7: 14-25 The Bleeding Heart of Egypt

 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water; stand by at the river bank to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was turned into a snake. 16 Say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” But until now you have not listened.’ 17 Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD.” See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood. 18 The fish in the river shall die, the river itself shall stink, and the Egyptians shall be unable to drink water from the Nile.'” 19 The LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt– over its rivers, its canals, and its ponds, and all its pools of water– so that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout the whole land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'”

20 Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and of his officials he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned into blood, 21 and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them; as the LORD had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians had to dig along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the river.

 25 Seven days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile.

The Nile River, or to the ancient Egyptians simply the river, is the heart of the Egyptian empire. Egypt was shielded from other early civilizations by deserts on both sides and the Nile river delta provided for an agricultural abundance that allowed the people to focus on the construction of large public projects like the pyramids. The river is a source of food, transportation, and ultimately life. Without the Nile River, there is no Egyptian empire and even though the Nile never becomes a significant source of worship for the Egyptians, it is simply an assumed part of life. Yet, it is here that the LORD instructs Moses and Aaron to strike first. The heart of the Egyptian empire bleeds, life begins to end and an ecological disaster begins to unfold.

This begins a highly-structured telling of the signs and wonders that bring the people out of Egypt. In the three sets of three where the first in each set Moses speaks to Pharaoh outside in the morning, the second Moses speaks to Pharaoh inside in the palace and the third comes abruptly without a warning. Some would argue ecologically that one plague would naturally follow the others because of the ecological devastation, and while that may be true the narrative moves where the LORD is in control of each sign and wonder unfolding.

In Genesis 3, the end of the story of Adam and Eve, the disobedience by Adam and Eve which is supposed to result in their own deaths is ultimately born by the earth (see Genesis 3: 17). Here also it is the earth which bears the consequences of the disobedience of Pharaoh. Of the first nine signs, only the hail is fatal to humans and even then, Pharaoh and his people are warned to bring their people and animals into a secure place with a twenty-four-hour warning. Each sign seems designed to make the Egyptians aware that it is the LORD who is the God who has power over the creation and here the waters of Egypt are the first to bear the consequence of the refusal of Pharaoh to let the people go to worship the LORD.

Again, the magicians of Egypt, by their secret arts, are able to replicate this chaos with some of the uncontaminated water and yet they are unable to reverse or limit the effects. They can only contribute to the chaos. The river turns to blood, the fish die and the waters stink and are unable to drink. The lifeblood of Egypt is now biological waste and yet the people continue to find a way. Even though the river will be contaminated people are still able to dig for freshwater along the banks of the river. The ecological disaster forces the people to change their patterns and yet the Egyptians continue to find the water they need for life to continue. Pharaoh’s heart remains hardened and his will is resolved since his priests can apparently in some way replicate what the LORD is doing through Moses and Aaron. Perhaps, he is also shielded from the immediate effects since he would not dig for his own water, ultimately slaves or servants would do that for him. He retreats to his house without taking to heart the bleeding heart of his empire. He closes his eyes and his doors to the disaster beginning to unfold around him.

Communio: A Poem



There are times when the words and symbols spark
Lighting up our world, illuminating the dark
And in our mundane world magic appears
To strengthen resolve or to calm our fears
With a community of saints on holy ground
Where the remnants of ancient faith are found
In those rare times, you can almost feel
The mystery hiding behind the real
Where good and evil struggle and strive
And God and the devil are still alive
Where water and wine and flesh and stone
Unite us together. We are not alone
Where God’s presence has come to earth to dwell
And deep runs the water in the spiritual well
Where hope emerges from the pain
And the drought ends in heavenly rain
Where we see again the world made new
And the magic returns to me and to you

Exodus 4: Divine Magic, Anger and The Return to Egypt

Burning Bush by Quirill at deviantart.com

Burning Bush by Quirill at deviantart.com

Exodus 4: 1-9- So That They May Believe

Then Moses answered, “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.'” 2 The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw the staff on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it. 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Reach out your hand, and seize it by the tail”– so he reached out his hand and grasped it, and it became a staff in his hand– 5 “so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”

 6 Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” He put his hand into his cloak; and when he took it out, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. 7 Then God said, “Put your hand back into your cloak”– so he put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored like the rest of his body– 8 “If they will not believe you or heed the first sign, they may believe the second sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or heed you, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

Moses’ second objection or clarification leads us to the first demonstrations of divine power in the form of magic. In our modern disenchanted world, we may have trouble trusting a narrative where God acts in concrete physical and magical ways within the world but to remove the magic from Exodus, or the Bible in general, is to remove from the story the active engagement of God in the liberation of the people of Israel. Personally, I have little interest in the enlightenment era portrayal of God as ‘the divine clockmaker’ or ‘the prime mover’ who stands unengaged and uninvolved in the world. The bible does speak to a world where ‘good magic,’ the magic which kept the forces of death and darkness at bay was the purview of the temples and churches. While many of the more fundamentalist churches have been troubled by the popularity of books like the Harry Potter series, The Magicians, and many other fantasy series involving magicians, witches, and a world that is somehow still enchanted I personally enjoy these books and believe in a world that is still more magical than our scientific disenchantment would encourage. To limit faith to that which is seen, observed and controlled is to transform faith into some sort of disenchanted dogmatism. There was wisdom when the council of Nicaea included in the Nicene Creed’s first article “We believe in One God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, visible and invisible.” (Emphasis mine)

These three magical signs are in response to Moses’ fear that they will not believe him or listen. Here with each of these signs the emphasis on believing is placed. The staff becomes a snake and then again, a staff so that they may believe. The hand becomes diseased and then healed and whole again in case they do not believe the first sign, they may believe the second.  This skin disease, probably not Hansen’s disease or what we know today as leprosy, was still a fearful thing in the ancient world and particularly for the purity concerns of the ancient Jewish people. Leviticus chapters thirteen and fourteen are entirely dedicated for how the people are to deal with those who have a skin disease like this, this type of disease would prevent a descendant of Aaron from participating in or receiving the benefits of the offerings and the temple (Leviticus 22:4) the book of Numbers will remind the people again that people with a skin disease are to be put outside of the camp (Numbers 5:2) and later Miriam, Moses’ sister, when she and Aaron challenge Moses’ leadership will also be afflicted with this or a similar skin disease. (Numbers 12) This type of skin disease must have occupied a central place of fear or disgust for the Hebrew people and here the LORD uses this disease as a demonstration of the God of Israel’s power over this feared ailment. Finally, a third sign is given but not demonstrated but it foreshadows one of the coming signs in the conflict between the God of Israel and the leaders (and by extension gods) of Egypt.

The gospel of John will later share a similar view of the signs that Jesus did so that his followers may believe. While that gospel can state that many other signs other than those recorded were done: “But these were written so that you may come to believe” (John 20:31). Yet, these demonstrations of power tend not to create a robust and long lasting faith. One of the continual struggles throughout the book of Exodus will be the people’s continual inability to trust in either Moses or the LORD despite the incredible actions that God will do to bring the people out of Egypt, to bring them across the Red Sea and to sustain them in the wilderness. Yet, these signs and the conflict with Moses and the magicians of Egypt will be an essential part of the way the LORD will triumph and bring about the liberation of the people.

Exodus 4: 10-17- Prophetic Resistance and Divine Anger

 10 But Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” 13 But he said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “What of your brother Aaron, the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. 16 He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him. 17 Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.”

Isaiah could proclaim he was a person of unclean lips, Jeremiah was only a boy too young to take up the calling God placed upon him, Gideon, Zechariah and countless others would wonder about their sufficiency for the task that God had entrusted to them. Moses has already asked, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (see 3:10) Now Moses claims he is slow of speech and slow of tongue (literally heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue). There is a parallel with the Apostle Paul who, particularly in his correspondence with the Corinthian churches, where his eloquence in person may not compare to the words of his letters. Yet he, like Moses,

“did not come proclaiming to you the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom…My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” 1 Corinthians 2: 1, 4

Moses’ proclamation of the message to the people of Israel and to Pharaoh will not depend upon his words but as demonstrated with the magical signs immediately before will predominantly be a display of God’s power working through Moses.  Yet, God also wants Moses to know that these words will come from God and that God can empower his mouth and tongue. Yet Moses persists in asking God to send someone else.

The anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses. This is a pregnant statement which may be connected to the strange interlude in verses 24-26, but the LORD’s anger about Moses’ unease at accepting this mantle does not prevent God from attempting to find an accommodation. Here Aaron enters the story as Moses’ previously unknown brother. Moses will not find a way out of the calling that the LORD has placed upon him but now there is the sharing of the mantle between the two brothers. Aaron will become the mouthpiece for Moses and Moses the mouthpiece for God. The words of God will now be doubly mediated but still effective. Aaron’s partnership with Moses will perhaps make the beginning of the process easier on Moses but there will come a time where Aaron and his sister Miriam will also become a challenge to Moses’ leadership of the community. (Numbers 12)

Exodus 4: 18-26- A Strange Interlude

 18 Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, “Please let me go back to my kindred in Egypt and see whether they are still living.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 The LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt; for all those who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons, put them on a donkey and went back to the land of Egypt; and Moses carried the staff of God in his hand.

 21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD: Israel is my firstborn son. 23 I said to you, “Let my son go that he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; now I will kill your firstborn son.'”

 24 On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the LORD met him and tried to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it, and said, “Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then she said, “A bridegroom of blood by circumcision.”

Moses returns to Jethro and requests his leave for the task the LORD has set before him and begins his journey back to Egypt with his wife and sons. The LORD is now speaking to Moses separate from the theophany at Mount Horeb giving him insight to both the situation back in Egypt and charging him to perform the acts of power he has been given. The dynamic of hardening Pharaoh’s heart will be a theme for much of the coming conflict between Moses and the LORD with Pharaoh. The charge to identify before Pharaoh that ‘Israel is my firstborn son’ serves multiple purposes. First, it demonstrated the close and intimate bond that the LORD has with the people of Israel and the vulnerability that the LORD experiences not only their suffering and oppression but also later the feeling of betrayal. Second, the phrase is connected in parallel to the foreshadowing of the final plague, the death of the firstborn sons in Egypt. Finally, it may be one of the textual insights into the strange interlude that comes immediately afterwards.

Detail of Ziporah from Boticelli's the Trials of Moses (1481-82)

Detail of Ziporah from Boticelli’s the Trials of Moses (1481-82)

Exodus 4: 24-26 is one of the strangest and most cryptic passages in all the bible. Generations of scholars have come at this passage and come away puzzled. Many scholars of a previous generation would have pointed to multiple sources that preceded the final composition of the book of Exodus and this portion being an inclusion from an ancient telling of this story but regardless of how we arrived at the canonical form of Exodus this story has survived any attempts at editing away the uncomfortable image of the LORD coming to kill the messenger. The Hebrew is ambiguous about whether the LORD is coming for one of Moses’ sons or for Moses himself and either argument can be made textually. If the LORD is coming for Moses it is due to the divine anger being kindled in 4: 14. If the LORD is coming for the first-born son of Moses it may be linked textually to the parallel Israel is my firstborn son/killing the firstborn son of Egypt, which may sound like a more stretched link but considering some of the discussion below about foreshadowing the Passover it at least needs to be considered. Regardless of the ambiguity the aggressor is clearly the LORD and the savior is clearly a woman.

One of the themes of the first portion of Exodus is the ways that women’s actions, often foreign women, led to the preservation of the children of the Israelites and particularly Moses. The midwives, Moses’ mother and sister, the daughter of Pharaoh and now Zipporah (the first one to receive a name) all have a part in the preservation of life and making possible the future liberation of the people. Perhaps due to her position as a daughter of Jethro, priest of Midian, she is aware of what is required in this type of encounter with the presence of the LORD. Even though the Israelites did not have women priestesses many Near Eastern cultures did use women in priestly roles. The quick circumcision of her son and then the touching of Moses’ feet (or genitals- feet is often a euphemism in the bible) combined with the unique proclamation of Moses being ‘a bridegroom of blood’ is enough to thwart the LORD’s attempt on Moses’ (or his son’s) life.

Some interesting things, at least to me, to reflect on: the LORD only tried to kill Moses. We have already seen that the LORD can make healthy skin instantly become diseased or turn water to blood and a staff into a snake and we are approaching a phenomenal display of divine power to bring the people out of Egypt, yet here the LORD is unable (or perhaps unwilling) to follow through on the threat to Moses’ life. Perhaps this is a place where Moses is learning that he will be called upon at times to stand up to the LORD, as he will both later in the book of Exodus and throughout the journey of the people of Israel to the promised land. Perhaps it has something to do with perception of uncleanness for Moses’ uncircumcised son (and perhaps self). Literarily the passage has a unique connection with the Passover as Carol Meyers can demonstrate when she says,

It foreshadows the way blood will save the firstborn Israelites from the final plague that God will visit upon the Egyptians (12: 7, 13, 22-23), and it anticipates the role of circumcision in defining the legitimate participants in the Passover (12: 43-49). (Myers, 2005, p. 66f.)

There are some similarities between this story and Jacob’s wrestling with God in Genesis 32: 22-32 and yet this story is unique in the LORD attempting to kill in this way. Perhaps the closest I can come to a resolution on this strange interlude begins in the description of Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia by Mr. Beaver, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he is good. He’s the king, I tell you.” The LORD is many things, but safe is not among them. Walter Brueggemann can speak of the passages witness to, “the deep, untamed holiness of God.” (Actemeir, 1997, p. 2:718) Moses’ entry into the role of mediating God’s presence is one that can be threatening to his very life, and not only by Pharaoh. It is an uncomfortable passage but one that resonates with many of the prophets who found their lives surrendered to God’s message. The God who can turn healthy skin into diseased or a staff into a snake or who will unleash the plagues that will bring the empire of the day to its knees is many things, but safe is not one of them. We can only believe that God in God’s deep untamed holiness is indeed good, the king, and that God’s entry into the ordinary space of our world will ultimately be a force for setting the captives free.

Exodus 4: 27-31 Moses, Aaron and the Israelites

 27 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went; and he met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which he had sent him, and all the signs with which he had charged him. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and performed the signs in the sight of the people. 31 The people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.

At this point in the narrative Aaron is the primary mouthpiece and actor before the people of Israel. Moses’ taking the central role will come soon enough, but for now Aaron acts as the LORD allowed to Moses in 4:14. The words and the signs produce within the people a hopeful faith and they are able to worship knowing their misery and oppression has been seen and heard. Moses has survived his experience with God on the mountaintop and in the wilderness and together he and Aaron and Zipporah have returned to Egypt and the struggle for the people of Israel’s freedom is about to begin. The struggle between the God of the Israelites and Pharaoh of Egypt will unleash a power previously unknown by the people and will allow a captive people to emerge from the superpower of the age.

Deuteronomy 18: Priests, Prophets and Forbidden Magic

Deuteronomy 18: 1-8: The Levitical Priests

Painted board of Aaron, oil on wood panel, British, ca 1708

Painted board of Aaron, oil on wood panel, British, ca 1708

1 The levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no allotment or inheritance within Israel. They may eat the sacrifices that are the LORD’s portion 2 but they shall have no inheritance among the other members of the community; the LORD is their inheritance, as he promised them.

3 This shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder, the two jowls, and the stomach. 4 The first fruits of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the first of the fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. 5 For the LORD your God has chosen Levi out of all your tribes, to stand and minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for all time.

6 If a Levite leaves any of your towns, from wherever he has been residing in Israel, and comes to the place that the LORD will choose (and he may come whenever he wishes), 7 then he may minister in the name of the LORD his God, like all his fellow-Levites who stand to minister there before the LORD. 8 They shall have equal portions to eat, even though they have income from the sale of family possessions.

In addition to judges and the king outlined in Deuteronomy 16 and 17 respectively now a third ordering portion of society is added, already alluded to in Deuteronomy 17: 8-13 with their role being the final judicial appeal for cases too difficult for the regional judges. This third pillar of the society is the priesthood, a group set aside to minister before the LORD and who serve cultic, teaching and judicial roles for the people of Israel.

The Levites do not have an inheritance of agricultural land, they will have places to live but not the fields for growing crops or animals like the other tribes. On the one hand they are independent of the necessity to work in the fields and are able to dedicate their time to their work of ministering on behalf of the community. On the other hand, they are incredibly vulnerable and dependent on the other tribes providing for them and continuing to offer before the LORD their sacrifices and bringing in their first fruits. If Israel remains faithful to their calling to bring in from the fields their first fruits of grain, wine and oil as well as offering the firstlings of the flock and the other offerings that are outlined the Levites will be taken care of. If Israel becomes a more secular society then the economic security of the Levites is undercut because they do require the other tribes to provide the portion that they are living off of. They have no inheritance other than the LORD which gives them, perhaps, a closer sense of communion with their God but also depends upon receiving the blessing of the LORD through the labor and work of the other tribes.

Israel was intended to be a society structured around this covenantal relationship with their God, not a secular society. In this society structured around a particular understanding of justice the people will care for the tabernacle and later the temple and those who minister to it. The remembered reality is often far different: the priests would often fail in being faithful by abusing their position, the temple and tabernacle would fall into disrepair, the people and kings would be attracted by the ways of the other nations and the economy would become indistinguishable from the nations that surrounded them or the practices of Egypt where they were enslaved.

It is possible that the reference to Levites leaving the towns and coming to minister at the temple/tabernacle may reference the reforms of King Josiah in 2 Kings 23: 8-9, where he tries to centralize the worship of Judah in the temple and eliminates the high places. In the theology of Deuteronomy and the books that come after it, the high places are places where the worship of the LORD is not done correctly, perhaps blending in the elements of the surrounding nations. Perhaps this is also referencing the practices mentioned in 16: 20. The centralization of the cultic functions in Jerusalem does cause a concentration of a large number of levites, but the ongoing narrative also is aware of priests that are scattered throughout the nation. There would be tensions that would arise between the rural priests and the urban priests who became a part of the power structure in Jerusalem, but these verses imagine a situation where rural priests would be welcomed into Jerusalem as equals.

We live in a very different world than the one imagined in Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy the Levites become one of the central parts of the society ordered around the worship of the LORD. In the United States where there is a strange hybrid relationship between the religious and the secular those in religious callings that are dependent upon the support of their congregations share the blessing and insecurity imagined for the Levites. There is the gift of being able to dedicate one’s time to the ministry that they fell called to be a part of. Yet, particularly in our increasingly spiritual but not religious age where many congregations are aging and shrinking and fewer people identify themselves religiously as a part of a congregation much less support one financially, many leaders of religious communities are finding their calling very tenuous. Unlike the Levites there is the opportunity in a diverse economy for dual callings where the religious role becomes one of two or more roles that sustain a person and their family, but in the ancient world where wealth was tied to land the Levites were placed in a vulnerable state if the other tribes did not support the religious system.

Deuteronomy 18: 9-14: Forbidden Magic

9 When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you must not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations. 10 No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass through fire, or who practices divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the LORD; it is because of such abhorrent practices that the LORD your God is driving them out before you. 13 You must remain completely loyal to the LORD your God. 14 Although these nations that you are about to dispossess do give heed to soothsayers and diviners, as for you, the LORD your God does not permit you to do so.

We live in a world where magic is predominantly a part of fiction and the magicians we may see are illusionists that are able to trick our senses through various forms of deception. There are still people who look to horoscopes, palm readers, mediums and other spiritual forms of divining the future but for most people in our society theses are looked upon in terms of entertainment rather than items to place one’s trust in. In the world of Deuteronomy, the practices listed were apparently real and persuasive options available in the world they lived within. All of these forms of magic and divining the future were not to be things that the people of Israel were to heed.

Many of the prohibited practices relate to trying to predict the future or discern how a person is to act to bring about a desired future, whether through practices like augury or by inquiring of the dead. In many respects this vacancy is to be filled by the role of the prophet talked about in the coming verses, even though the biblical prophets are primarily concerned with the present and its impact on the immediate future. Perhaps one of the key differences comes from a different view of the universe. For many people in the ancient world the future was fixed and many ancient religions have some idea of fate. For the people of Israel the future rested in God’s freedom and their relationship with their God. Ultimately God would decide the course of their lives based upon their obedience to the covenant. Deuteronomy will echo repeatedly: if you follow the ways of the covenant you will be blessed and your lives will be long, if you do not follow the commandments and ordinances you will be cursed.

In verse 13, the command is that “you must remain completely loyal to the LORD your God.” Walter Brueggemann points out when speaking about the word translated completely loyal, “The Hebrew term tāmîm means “integrated, whole, undivided, as one unit.” This idea and term likely lies behind Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:48 which gets translated, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The translation in the gospel as perfect could mislead the reader to think this is about some type of moral perfection which is different from the direction of the Sermon on the Mount within which this verse is contained. Jesus and Deuteronomy are both calling for unreserved loyalty and living a whole integrated life within the followers ongoing relationship with their God. (Brueggemann, 2001 , p. 194)

Deuteronomy 18: 15-22 The Prophetic Voice

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem by Rembrandt van Rijn 1630

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem by Rembrandt van Rijn 1630

15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16 This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak– that prophet shall die.” 21 You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the LORD has not spoken?” 22 If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.

 The fourth and final pillar of the Israelite society is the voice of the prophet. The judges, priests and king will all be voices charged with defending the faithfulness of Israel and protecting the justice for all the people, especially the vulnerable. Yet, the judges, priests and king will all compose the ruling class of the people and come from privileged positions which may skew their perspective on justice at times. With Moses all of these roles are held within one person but in the coming future without Moses these gifts will need to be spread among the community, yet the prophetic voice, the one charged with speaking on behalf of God, is a unique gift of the Hebrew people. The prophets may or may not come from the priestly Levites, but they are charged with standing between God and the people as a mouthpiece. Often their words will be uncomfortable: they will challenge kings and sometimes be thought of as traitors. In Deuteronomy 13 it is the faithfulness of the prophet to the LORD that is the critical discernment as to whether the prophet is a true or false prophet, but sometimes a situation may arise, as in Jeremiah 28 where Hananiah and Jeremiah are proclaiming two very different prophecies and both apparently in the name of the LORD. Now the actual occurrence of the prophecy becomes a key part of discerning who the true and false prophet is. Being a true prophet of God is often a dangerous and lonely vocation because it often challenges the monarchy, priestly and judicial powers calling them back to justice and their vocation on behalf of the LORD. Only certain people seem to be able to hear the voice of the LORD, and this story places this back with the reception of the law at Mount Horeb/Sinai (see Exodus 20: 18-21). The word of God being enfleshed in messengers rather than appearing in its terrifying unveiled power is a concession to the people’s plea. Yet, in this enfleshment in the prophets there is also the potential for abuses even in this office. The story of Israel will be full of false prophets who tell people what they want or expect to hear or those who ensnare others. The prophets will also be those who at least in some cases, like Elijah and Elisha, are able to act as an extension of God’s power towards (or against) the people of Israel.

Within the person of Moses he bears together the roles of leader, priest, judge and prophet. From a Christian perspective these roles come together in a very different way with Jesus. Because of this it is not surprising that the gospel of Matthew spends a lot of time placing Jesus and Moses alongside each other and understands who Jesus is in light of Moses story and role. It is very early in the Christian church that you can find references to the three roles of Christ: as prophet, priest and king. And perhaps it is underappreciated how Jesus was seen by the people of his time as a prophet because his words and his actions would have called to mind some of the biblical prophets that had been a part of the story of Israel.

Banished Monsters

Old Tree Wallpaper by Deligaris@deviantart.com

Old Tree Wallpaper by Deligaris@deviantart.com

Maybe there was once a time when magic ruled the world
When wizards and witches cast their spells upon their watchers
Where dragons flew beyond the mountains and wild children lived in the forest
Giants and trolls and goblins inhabited the wilderness beyond the safety of town
And brace heroes marched out into the wild lands to defend our boundaries
But no longer, the dragons are gone, the giants of old are dead,
and the children of the forest forgotten
Lost to the fog of some long forgotten time
beyond the shade of our parents’ or our parents parents’ memory
The demons that once dwelled in the wilderness now have only our minds to haunt
And the devils live among us wearing our own skins
For in arming ourselves to conquer the dangerous world of monsters
We became that which we sought to banish, the reflection of our nightmares
For where else will the monster roar if not within the heart of man?

Neil White, 2015

Beautiful Creatures

The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli (1483-1485)

The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli (1483-1485)

We are beautiful creatures, every one
A mixture of saint and sinner, good and evil
Danger and beauty all wrapped into one
Able to pierce the soul with words
And to open a world of possibilities is a single look
Within each of us flows the deep magic of the universe
For some the potential energy lies buried deep within
An unending well of energy only tapped by looking inside
Others allow it to flow dynamically just beneath the skin
Ready to break forth with the slightest of encouragement
But within each one that beauty resides
Only needing someone able to see us as we are

Neil White, 2013

I’m going to attempt the challenge of doing a poem each day in October, we’ll see if my creativity cooperates

purple rose 01 by picsofflowers.blogspot.com

Creative Words: A Poem

Creation by Selfish Eden (deviantart.com)

Creation by Selfish Eden (deviantart.com)

A clever turn of phrase or a verbal picture
In the beginning come the words
And in their own Genesis they craft a new world
Painting with the spirit of imagination
Breathing new life where once only an abyss rested
The words emerge and join together
As bones and sinews
Muscles and skin
Life emerges from the bone yard of the void
Once they emerge they take their own form and have their own life
Each one its own character to be savored and relished
Evoking sights and smells
Sounds feelings and emotions
Recreating the past
Re-imagining the future
Each one has the potential to unearth memories long forgotten
Some use their indelible ink to tattoo themselves on the soul
The realities they create may be harsh and brutal
In their dystopic world we see the dark side of reality
The truths we would rather not see
The sins we would prefer remain buried
Words that rend the world and pierce the soul
Sometimes the poet and the prophet are one
Crying tears of sorrow over words that cannot be contained
And a people whose ears no longer hear and eyes no longer see
Yet words uttered from the same mouth may ache of passion and love
Calling us to hope
Lightening our darkness
Pointing to potentiality and power unimagined
And a future seen only through the hopes and dreams of faith
But they are never just words
They are echoes of the deep language that pours its magic into the world
They point to the real and imagined
They define and name
They build up and tear down
Words set loose on the world
Bearing the best and worst of humanity’s heart
Laying naked the mind and soul
A mirror showing the sacred and profane blended together
For the world the words create reflect the heart of their creator
They go forth to create
They rattle around in the eardrums and the imaginations
Of those who have eyes to see and ears to hear
For in the beginning the words come
The Genesis, the beginning of all the potential worlds they might create
And in the end, when their pneumatic inspiration ceases
Remains the apocalypse of new creation
Unveiled within our memory

Composed Neil White, 2013

purple rose 01 by picsofflowers.blogspot.com