It’s Sunday.
The double doors were open wide. I went in quietly and sat at the back.
The service was in full swing.
The pastor was in form as usual. Today is probably my 10th visit. I like the fact that they don’t do that “let’s recognize first time visitors” thing.
Anyway it’s no longer my first visit though I guess I am still strictly speaking, a visitor.

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The service has ended. But I make no move to leave. I have business with the man of God.

I sat there and watched him hold court at the exit as the members filed past. Judging by the way he greeted them, it was obvious he knew everyone. Shaking each hand, a few words here and there: “How is the family; it’s been a while; The little one is growing really fast; I haven’t seen your husband in church in a while; You should come for the fellowship during the week; The men’s group is meeting next week; Don’t be a stranger now. …”

I have heard it all before. From him and many others just like him.

I know he holds a brief counseling session after each service when most of the parishioners have left except those who want to see him for one thing or the other.

He will attend to all comers for the next hour or so. Today’s not particularly busy. There was only one other person beside myself in the church.

I watched the old lady go into the little room. Thankfully she didn’t stay long.

As she walked towards the exit doors, the pastor stuck his head out the door and gave me an inviting smile.

Well. It’s time.

I got up and walked up to the door.

He greeted me warmly and offered me a seat.

“Hello sir. How are you doing this fine Sunday. I have noticed you during a couple of our services. It’s always nice to see a new face. You have probably noticed our church is not so big. I know almost everyone by name.”

“But forgive me. Can I offer you something to drink? But I am sorry we only keep soft drinks here. I keep the strong stuff in my quarters.” He said with a conspiratorial wink.

I smiled back and said no.

“Ok. So what can I do for you sir.”

“I am a sinner.” I said.

“Ain’t we all”, he interjected. “That’s why we have hope in the redeeming blood of Christ who has paid for our sins.”

“True. True.” I nodded in agreement. I let the quiet settle between us for a few seconds. We both appeared contemplative.

“So I have always wondered if all sins are equal. Because I am having issues treating them the same.”

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“Well,” I said. “Let me give you a couple of examples. I do business and a lot of times I need to grease the wheels of progress if I am to succeed. It’s either that or I pack up and go hunt moose or backpack across Europe or something. If you understand what I mean.”

“I also don’t see any harm in indulging in a little of this and a little of that. If you understand what I mean.”

“Well, I could say I do son. But can you be a little more plain on the second example.” He asked.

“Well, you know, a little weed from time to time now that it’s legal. A few pills to get in the party mood sometimes.”

“Ok. Well. I must say we can’t allow our standard to be the law of this world only. Some things are naturally wrong and our conscience convicts us accordingly if only we would listen.”

“What if I feel no pangs of regret afterwards nor any mental discomfort during the act?” I asked.

“I am glad you said that. Let me read something to you out of the bible. 1 Timothy 4:2. You see, we must let our conscience become seared.”

“But I don’t think my conscience is seared because I do get those mental anguish when I do certain things.”

“Such as what?” He was somewhere between inquisitive and exasperated.

“You know. This and that.”

“Well. I really don’t know. Can you tell me plainly son.”

“Ok. But I think we are digressing a little sir. My actual question was if all sins deserve equal punishment.”

“I should think so. In fact that’s the case. There are no little sins and no big sins. All sins will be punished equally unless the sinner repents. Let me read a couple of passages to you. Romans 6:23. You see, the wages of sin is death and God commands us to repent and sin no more. In John 8, Jesus commands the woman he saved from being stoned to death to go and sin no more. Otherwise she would appropriately get death as the wages for her sins.”

“But I am still not certain. Let’s say I slap someone in anger and never apologized though I am wrong even though I think I am right. I personally don’t think that’s a sin if the person was acting the fool. But I guess a better example would be the young man that jumped ahead of me in a queue. I asked him quietly to, you know, step back in line but he had a mouth on him. So I took a brass-knuckle to his face. He didn’t die but he thought he did for a minute or two and I am sure he wished he had the following day. Now that I think about it I could have handled it differently.”

“Eh. Young man. You seem to have a violent bent. But violence never solves anything. It just escalates matters.”  The pastor was visibly becoming worried.

“Not really. With the right level of violence you will be surprised how quickly you can bring a matter to a satisfactory close. Of course not always satisfactory for all concerned. But you catch my drift.”

“I am really getting concerned about you son. I think we need to say a little prayer at this point.”

I humor him. He grabs my hand and went on for a couple of minutes. I said amen at all the appropriate places.

His hitherto discomfort seemed to have abated a little.

“Now young man as I was saying, violence is not a solution. But you were saying?”

“Oh yes. I was saying I don’t think all sins are created equal, but you are taking an opposing view it seems.”

“My point is this. Take the fellow I took the brass-knuckle to his face. Granted his features were never the same again, but at least he survived. I even heard he found a lady that could stand him enough to be his wife. Good luck to both of them. I guess that was a sin.”

“Do you think I should hypothetically speaking, suffer the same punishment for that as for shooting some fellow who was abusing a little kid in broad day light. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t kill him. I just shot out his kneecaps. He’s been in a wheel chair ever since. I think it’s a sin that I did that actually. Because I took something from him that I could not give back. But I got rid of a greater evil with a little controlled temporary evil.”

The pastor was looking at me with a strange look in his eyes. His jaw was slack. But after I stopped speaking he realized where he was and quickly regained his composure.

“Young man. You do lead an interesting life. So much violence! You know the psychologists would say you are compensating for something. Was there abuse in your childhood perhaps?”

“Actually, no. I couldn’t have wished for a more adjusted and happy childhood. But we were discussing whether all sins are worthy of the same punishment.”

“Yes. Yes. Yes.” He said hurriedly.

“So what sort of punishment do you think those two sins will command?”

“The bible is clear on that point my son. The wages of sin – all sin – is death. Except the sinner repents of course.”

“Death is not such a bad thing.” I countered. Didn’t David say in the Psalms that there is no remembrance of anything for the dead?”

“True but that’s the Old Testament. It’s been overtaken by the New Testament. “

“So why do we still bother with it then?”

“Well the whole bible is written for our instruction and edification. You see there is no present without the past, so it would have been incomplete if we were handed down only the New Testament.”

“Ok. But if I may steer you back to the crux of our discussion.”

“Some matters son, are a little dicey you know. For example, you could have reported the child molester to the police. He would have been punished appropriately by the law.”

“Yes. But he would have been back out on the street in a couple of years. And who knows what he would have done next? You know crimes of that sort just get escalated by the perpetrators with every round that goes by. I think I put a stop to that.”

“But still. …” He was trying to marshal his thoughts.

I cut in: “You know you already said we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just the laws of this world. Now that I think of it, I believe I was executing God’s judgment on that chap. Just like Herod was consumed by worms on the spot when he ascribed God’s glory to himself.”

“Son, that’s a little different. A different regime and a different time. And an angel smote him if you remember.”

“Can you really be sure I am not an angel, pastor?”

“I am sorry son, but highly unlikely. Given the vices you listed earlier.”

“True. I am not an angel. Just following that line of thought to see where it might lead.”

“So pastor. As we were saying. Or as I was asking, I really do not think all sins ought to deserve the same amount of “reward” but of course I can’t claim to be a bible scholar which is one of the two reasons why I am here.”

“Which reminds me. A little side story. I used to be in the military. I left after I came back from my last tour. Because I realized I was fighting for a cause that was of benefit to only a few power hungry individuals in high places. But not only that, it was the atrocities we committed under the guise of liberating the country from the tyranny of its previous rulers. The problem was that in the paranoia of the war, it was difficult to know who was friend and who was foe. As to be expected, a lot of innocent people paid the ultimate price. People see some of the results of the carnage on their TV screens and cringe, but I tell you, living through it; actually being there; participating in it – you couldn’t even begin to imagine the horror.”

“I came back disillusioned and for a couple of years I was lost and haunted by the eyes of those I had killed. Time truly heals all wounds. Because with time those eyes faded away and I could begin to function properly in the society again. But I wasn’t really the same person that went to war. I had lost something. I guess you could say it was my innocence. Coupled with the fact that I couldn’t get any reasonable job after I returned, I just drifted into what came naturally.”

“Which was? Sorry. Is?”

“You know. Do for people what they are too scared to do for themselves.”

“Like what?”

“You know. Every – thing.” I put emphasis on the word.

“Sorry. That went over my head son. But it sounds illegal. Is it?”

“Well. I guess it depends on whose point of view you are looking at it from and also whose laws. If you catch my drift.”

“Em. Huh. I am a little confused as to where this is heading. Not sure you are really here for counseling. Are you?”

I think he is trying to get rid of me.

“Well. True. How did you know? You are truly perceptive.  Must be the training. You know, a man of the cloth such as yourself.”

He beamed a little despite himself. Flattery does wonders.

“Which of course leads to the second reason I am here.”

I leaned back a little. He followed suit.

“So pastor. Certain people in your congregation despite how small the church is, believe you are a stumbling block that’s preventing the church from growing.”

“Now I am not a man to take an assignment lightly. I do my own research and only accept a commission when I am convinced of the merits of the case.”

“Pastor. You have been dipping in the church till. If it was only a little here and there to tide you over, I wouldn’t even bring this up.”

His face was starting to take on the look of a trapped animal.

I continued: “But you have been really naughty. That condo by the beach. And the Maserati parked in the garage.” I shook my head from side to side.

“Not to mention Angela who is neither your wife nor your staff but lives free like a queen on the regular anonymous (you think) transfers you send to her. There are at least three people in the know now – you, Angela and myself. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, you have been coveting some of your parishioners’ wives under the guise of spiritual guidance. That one, only you, myself and the ladies concerned know about.”

“But I guess you are still wondering where all this is going.”

At this point, I sat up, slowly brought out my gun from my jacket and placed it on the table. His eyes brightened with fear. His mouth moved, but no sound came out. His eyes were fixated on the gun.

“You see I am in a dilemma. I have never killed a man of the cloth before. And while it should just be another job since you have aptly demonstrated you are a man as fallible as any other, there is still this little part of me that screams out in protest against what I have set my mind to do. That bit in the bible that’s so often misquoted and taken out of context comes to mind: do my prophet no harm. But luckily, you are not a prophet by any stretch of the imagination. But that still leaves me with the fact that you have a flock to look after spiritually and I see you haven’t done too badly there. You know that saying – do what I say, not what I do. That’s what you have been preaching and really, you have helped quite a few of your members you know.”

He nodded eagerly. Maybe he thought that might be his salvation.

“I was almost decided in my mind, but you have truly helped me. You have put my mind at ease now. Really. Because if all sins are created equal, and the wages of sin is death, then you deserve what’s coming to you.”

I got up. Cocked the gun and leveled it at him. The scope was dead center between his eyes. I know the path the bullet will take – in through the front, straight through his brain to exit at the base of his skull. Even if by some earth-moving miracle he survives, he won’t be in a position to do any finger-pointing or do anything for that matter.

He first began to whimper and plead for his life. Then he was literally bawling with snort running down his face.

“Pastor. You have committed a great sin. And I have chosen to be the punishment of God unto you. If you had not committed so great a sin, a punishment like me would not have been sent to you.”

He cried even louder.

“Ah. Pastor. I am disappointed. I expected you would take it like a man or better still; take it like a man of God. Here we go.”

I fired two shots. Everything went silent. I walked out the room and shortly thereafter I was out in the sunshine. It was a bright day – it was a good day to be alive.

I really should stop doing this. Someday someone was going to force my hand and things might turn out ugly. There are real bullets in the gun. But was I really ready to go all the way?

Behind me I could hear him in the church. His distress was audible in his voice but the only thing he kept repeating was “Dear God!”. I could picture him on his knees rocking back and forth in front of the beautiful cross above the altar. I hope I had scared him straight enough to change his ways or at least enough to lose the robe.

I brought out the little book and put a little tick next to his name. The list was still long. I won’t be back in this church for a while. But I will be keeping an eye on him – that is, if he remains there.

I walked slowly away. Little children were running after butterflies in the park a little distance away.

It was so long ago. On a day such as this. When I proudly uttered those same words as I brought carnage and destruction, and some said the hordes of hell, to the lands of the east. Like Herod, I thought I was a god and so I would announce to my conquests, “I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”

Now I have been cursed to wander the earth until the second coming in order to atone for my sins.

You see, my name is Khan.

Kublai Khan.

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NOTE: the “punishment” quote was actually made by Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan’s grandfather.

The girl behind the polka dot

The girl behind the polka dot

It was the third of June
the rains beat down none too soon
for the heat, the heat was strong enough
to cook the brain

The rains lashed down
but I was safe behind the screen
the wipers screeched their protest
idle since last year
now venting their despair

The red carpet was out
the man ahead lost his footing
the cameras flashed
his shirt was dripping
the TV crews – shooting

The hall was crowded
the lighting occluded
the fashion impressive
the models attractive

Her face haunts my dreams
her vision my days
the rain washed away all:
sins and signs
things and grime

Love, affection, infatuation
gasps,whispers, exclamation
heaven, earth, and in between
death, taxes, all that lives within
lighting, thunder, lightening

silence …

It was the girl behind the polka dot.



Bundled against the cold
On a cold winters night
I wandered where I know not
Icy fingers can’t freeze my heart
Make me calm as the snow king
I think of you 

I looked at the sky
No stars
But they are there
Shining their light
I wish I was lost among them
Tell me how to define eternity
If not a day without you 

The leaves crunch underfoot
The lady smiled as I pass her by
Do I frighten her?
Maybe it is my eyes?
Do I frighten you? 

I wage war with the sins of my past
They fiddle with my mind
I am of late April
I am supposed to be strong
Stand firm against the tempests of life
I will – if by you 

I pass a man
A mugger I thought
“Jump me” says my eyes
Use the knife in your jacket’s pocket
Strike before the dried blood of your summer victim rusts your trusty blade
He didn’t hear me
Or maybe he thought he pitied me
Because of you 

I am back to my journey’s end
I opened the book
I turned the page
Paul tells me to stand firm if I could
But seek if I wont
So I knelt on the felt
Closing my eyes
I asked for you

Consider This

Consider This

The voice of the angel was as thunder in the sky: “Son of man.”
“Here I am” I said.
“What would you give to roll back time? For the laws of God are set in the firmament for ever and ever. And for every sin, there is a just recompense”
“Which of my many sins” I asked, “for which I have not asked forgiveness?”
“Though thou has sought forgiveness and obtained it, karma must still be done, lest the sons of men take the heavens for granted and make mockery of the laws of God.”
“Will thou give thine right arm to see justice done?”

So whilst I pondered the devil and the deep blue sea, for I would regret parting with the left, but the right is as life itself.
Whilst the fruit of my indecision looked me in the face with a smirk on its lips
There was a shaking in the heavens
And lo and behold, a second angel whose dazzling apparel was a beauty to behold:
“Listen not to him who stands yonder. Look, even now his white is as rags, unfit for the earth. No, not the heavens”
And I looked, and indeed he spoke the truth, for the first angel’s countenance was as dark as his garment. Filthy beyond description
“Indeed the laws of God are eternal. But he forgives and does not bring to remembrance again.”
“Thy sin has been forgiven. But look to the earth, and see to it.
The will of man is strong, his memory infinite. Fear hath gripped his heart.
Have thou forgiven, thou who seek forgiveness?”
“Come, let us consider the matter.
The giving of a heart can never be forced. Moreso, if it be given under duress, know not that the end of such things is as uncertain as the ways of the wind upon the sea?
Thy heart aches, because of what thou hast done and failed to do.
Thou no longer take pleasure in the eating of thy meals, they are as burdens which must be borne.
And thy sleep is but short as a moment of time.
Look not to the heavens.
Look now and see that she of whom thou dreamest is happier without thy person to cast a blight upon her day.
See how she skips lightly like a songbird on her merry way.
Her worries are many like women before and after her.
But take solace, they are less one: thy attention constricted her throat; brought discomfort to her being; and lighlty brushed her heart with despair.
But now all that is in the past, If thou but stay away.
But the ways of the heart are inscrutable
Even now thou hope and scheme
Even these words I speak though thou hear,
would they sway the course thou art set thine heart upon?
Haven’t thy hasty choices these past year caused thee enough grieve?”
“But lest I take hope, nay, thy very soul and crush it with my words, I shall hold my tongue and what will be will be
Go now, son of man. Do what thou wilt.”

In the twinkling of an eye, the skies were darkened till nothing except the two beings in the sky could be seen with the naked eye.

And thus spoke the first angel from whose nose and mouth came smoke and sulphuric stench:
“Wouldst thou waste thy time upon this vain pursuit?
Knowest not thou, that even now,  thy time upon the earth is half spent, and the ax nibbles at the foot of thy tree?”

And from the second Angel:
“Consider not words spoken in anger.
Remember not that anger in thine heart, though thou ground thy teeth and speaketh not, was thy fall from grass to grace?”

And with lightening rending the darkened sky:
“Know not thou that anger purifiest all things. And wheretofore thine heart lackest will and strength, now thou art as a lion fierce?”
“Hear me now, son of man, fault my speech if we do not find common ground.
Is not this the will of womankind?
A man aggressive above his peers, to take the bull by the horn, and bring it to heel?
For look, while thou shilly and shally, she places her hands in anothers.
Who knows whether he be meek or mild?”
“For don’t all men hide their wicked ways behind noble deeds until rings hold tapered fingers tight in vise-like grip?”

And the angel in the dazzling white:
“Son of man, he utters truth and lies in equal parts.
Let not his double-speak confuse thy unsettled mind.
Don’t all men and women have freedom of will to chose whom they desire to spend their time? ”
“Listen not to the voice of treason,
that would have thee treat womankind as lesser beings, incapable of making their own decisions.
Know not thou that womankind is in many ways wiser and stronger than credit is ascribed  unto them?”

“Enough! I tire of this dragging of the feet!” Screamed the first angel.
“Let us set fire to this matter! We shall see if he comes refined like gold or burnt like chaff!”
And so saying, the first angel robed himself in a terrifying display of smoke, fire, fumes, thunder and lightning.
The vista was as if hell itself had arisen from the fiery depths and come upon the earth.

“Fear not son of man.” Said the second angel,
“For thou art been given dominion till this earth shall pass away”
And so saying, he stretched forth his hands and commanded: “Peace, be still.”
Immediately, there was another shaking in the heavens. And the darkness passed away along with the first angel and all the evil thereof.

And behold, the sky was as a day just dawned, with the sun in all its glory, shedding light on all below.

“What happens now?” I asked.
“Son of man, thy will be done. But thou art responsibility for thine action and inaction.”
“But consider this: the same desires, displeasure and human feelings afflicts the fair lady. So when thou taketh thy decisions, remember this.”

“Is there any hope?” I inquired.
“There is always hope. But is it thine or hers? For what thou hopest for today, may be thy regret tomorrow.”
“I pray thee therefore, pray, and listen. If thou art prayed and listened. Thou wouldst not be in thy current dilemma.”
“Happiness is within thy grasp. But thou must look beyond thine nose.”
“And why dost thou torture thyself. Why not let go – let her go; keep thy promise.”
“Indeed, I promised. I intend to. I have set my hands to it and will surely try. Thus was the promise made.”
“So why dost thou set this down in black and white? Would it not aid thy labour and thy course if thou dost not?”
“Truly, thou art on point. But I once was part of a little group where the teacher asked of each person a simple question.”
“Which was?”
“Have thou felt the fire that burns without flame? That makes thine heart constrict but not painfully?”
“And only one solitary lady said “Nay”, to which the teacher lamented her loss.”
“Therefore I set it down, so that even if I never again feel that fire; in case I am asked when my joints are stiff, and I cannot recall the meal I had in the morning; I can still say:
“Lo! There! Read! I once felt the fire!”
“May it be unto thee as thou desireth.”
And so saying, the angel was caught up in a beam of blinding light.
And once again I was alone with my unwelcome thoughts.

Notes: this is the last in the “series” (hopefully) – it’s easy to spot the common thread in the related posts.