Pilgrim 2 001

“Propaganda interdicts all witness to the Lord.  The use of propaganda is contrary to the declaration of the gospel.  Counter-propaganda cannot be used against the man who himself uses propaganda.  The only way the church can take is that of silence.  Silence and not dialogue!

 “… There is a time for speech and a time for silence, says Ecclesiastes (3:7).  We shall often have occasion to meditate on this.”

       —  Jacques Ellul, The Politics of God and the Politics of Man


* * * * * * * * * *


Noise is one of the biggest problems facing mankind today.  And the most problematic thing about it is that no one thinks it’s a problem.  On the contrary, modern people love noise.  They seek it, embrace it, cultivate it, revel in it.  Most of us seem to have forgotten how to live without it.  Can you imagine sitting in a doctor’s waiting room for thirty minutes without muzak or driving two or three miles in your car without radio or phone?  Even more terrifying is the thought of an entire evening spent alone without the incessant drone of the television.  The world has indeed become a very noisy place.

What’s worse, all this noise isn’t just loud and noisy.  It’s relentless and ubiquitous.  It tolerates no margins and leaves no gaps. Like the tide upon the shore, it hammers and hammers without ceasing.  It surrounds, assails, grabs, sticks, and pulls from every side.  It’s there in the lonely watches of the night.  It goes howling down the dark and echoing corridors of dreams.  It neither slumbers nor sleeps.  That’s partly because this noise is no longer merely audible.  Madison Avenue, technology, and the electronic media have devised ways of producing visual, tactile, mental, emotional, and psychological noise as well.

This is a case of “sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.”  There was a time when the Evening News came on at six o’ clock and left us in peace by six-thirty.  Now it grinds away twenty-four hours a day.  And that’s not all.  Nowadays the TV set accounts for only the smallest fraction of a percentage point of our total noise factor.  “Mobile devices” make it impossible (always with the voluntary consent of the user, of course) to escape all this “messaging.”  Texts, tweets, and chats; Facebook posts, phone calls, and the constant pinging of ten thousand “apps;” billboards by the highway, pop-ups on the Internet, scraps of advertising crammed into every available crack and cranny of the material universe – all these things and more clog the inner and the outer spaces of heart and mind like unstoppable clouds of destroying locusts and infecting mosquitoes.

Under this perpetual bombardment there is barely a person left alive capable of thinking his or her own personal thoughts.  Spiritual and intellectual freedom, in spite of the lip-service they receive, are mere relics of the past.  From morning to night our consciousness is dominated without respite by the ideas, suggestions, and agendas of Somebody Else.  There is only one way to describe such a state of affairs:  we are all of us living under a regime of interminable propaganda.

This is yet another point at which the Pilgrim has to stand apart from the kosmos.  In this he has no choice.  He is driven to this course by his nagging awareness of the difference between the noise of the world and the distinctive music of the everlasting Word.  He understands that, in order to catch this Word, one must pause and listen in silence.  It is not to be found in the media vortex or the crashing sound and fury of world events.  It comes like a whisper in the ear, spoken gently by a still small voice.  Those who wish to receive it must learn how to elude the ever-present screens and speakers that line the walls of contemporary culture.  They must shut out the violating yammer and babble that fill the airwaves, cloud the atmosphere, and hopelessly confuse the floundering brain.

But there is another sense in which the contemporary situation constitutes something of a conundrum for the Pilgrim.  After all, he too is a man with a message:  a message that sometimes begs to be shouted from the rooftops; a message for the saving of the world.  Under the present circumstances, the temptation to jump on the bandwagon, avail himself of the advantages of mass communication, and blend the Word with which he has been entrusted with the general hubbub can be almost overwhelming.  It is a temptation that must be resisted.

One cannot fight fire with fire.  Neither is it possible to overcome noise with noise.  To manipulate, finagle, or shove this message down the throats of needy men and women is to betray the One who is its source.

The message which the Pilgrim brings as he travels through this world is a message of deep meaning and quiet peace.  As such, it can be communicated only from mouth to mouth and life to life.


The Firebird XI

 Throne 001


At this, another one of the bright people approached us, saying, “All is now ready.  Come.”

Without further speech the two of them led me through the crowd to a sheltered spot beneath the shadow of the great throne.  There in the heart of this place of glassy rock and ice I saw a patch of soft green, where grass and fragile, trembling flowers grew, and a quiet spring of water came bubbling up from under the ground.

“Here in this shaded place,” said one of my guides, “you may rest yourself from all that has gone before and prepare for things yet to come.”

I was glad enough of the opportunity, and lay down at once, pressing my cheek into the young and tender grass.  My eyelids grew heavy and I felt myself slipping into sweet darkness.  Just before drifting off, I managed to ask, “How am I to prepare when I don’t know the way?”  But the fragrance of the grass, the music of the spring, and the warmth of the patch of earth on which I lay soon overpowered me, and I was asleep before I had an answer to my question.

As I slept, it seemed to me that I dreamed.  And in my dream I looked and saw the eight-legged horse and his rider galloping along the black horizon, sharply silhouetted against the rising red glow in the sky behind them.

“It’s Christmas morning!” I thought.  “It’s just about to rise.”

Then I jumped to my feet and cried, “Wait!  I will follow you if only you will wait for me!”

With that, I began to run; but in the next instant I realized that the earth had fallen away beneath my feet and that I was falling from a steep cliff into the dark sea below.  In that moment the wound in my heart grew suddenly cold as ice.  I kicked with my legs and groped wildly with my arms in panic as down, down I fell into the murky depths.

And then I awoke.  Raising myself on one elbow, I heard the gentle music of the spring and the mellow voice of my first guide saying, “Rise.  Come.”

Still trembling with the cold shock of my terrible dream, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and got to my feet.  Then I paused, reluctant to leave that place beneath the throne.  It was like a little bit of Spring in the midst of that blue and wintry world.  The throne itself was faintly radiant, though I did not think that it was the source of the warmth I felt, for its glow was cold and pure as starlight.  In spite of this, the air around it was light, warm, and redolent of the scent of flowers.  Everything within me wanted to stay, to sink again into the sweet green grass.  But as I stood there hesitating, my guide called to me once more.

“Come,” she said.  “The hour is growing late.

And so I followed.

* * * * * * * *


Viking host 001

“… How stupid everything is!  And war multiplies the stupidity by 3 and its power by itself; so one’s precious days are ruled by (3x)2 when x = normal human crassitude (and that’s bad enough).” 

                                                                               — J.R.R. Tolkien, Letters, #61 

Books 001   

The Firebird X


Mountains of Fire 001


Higher and higher the bird carried me.  The earth fell quickly away and the stars grew brighter around us.  Wisps of flame from the bird’s tail and wings licked my arms and legs up and down but, to my amazement, I was not burned.  We flew so high that the moon seemed to have grown larger and drawn nearer.

But for the quiet roar of the Firebird’s flight all was intense silence.  The air was still, cold, and pure; so cold that no impurity or uncleanness could live there.  I myself would not have survived without the Firebird’s heat to warm me.

I felt that I would choke, so thin, so fine, so pure was the air, when we began a sudden descent toward a range of jagged mountain peaks.  No trace of roundness nor softness did I see in the shape of those mountains.  They were hard-edged, sheer and sharp, their summits like razors, violet-blue and transparent at the tips.

Though the dawn was still far off, there was a sense of the sunrise about those mountains.  As they drew nearer the stars faded and the sky paled around us.  Shades of blue, purple, crimson, and gold suffused the air.  The entire dome above my head was colored as the horizon at dawn or sunset, and yet there was no sun, nor any hint of it, for the light was evenly distributed from one end of the heavens to the other.  I wondered about the source of the light, and soon came to the conclusion that the mountain peaks themselves must be luminescent.  Indeed, I decided that they could best be described as mountains of frozen fire.

“This is the Land of the Horizon,” the Firebird said in a voice like the thunder of the rising sun.  “This is a place on the Verge.”

“On the verge of what?” I thought to ask, but did not, for my heart’s wound had again become inflamed and was burning as never before.  Unspeakable joy and excruciating pain were upon me, and I experienced them as one, just as I had in my reading of the little book.  All I could say was, “Let’s stay here forever and ever!”

The Firebird set me down in a valley of those mountains, a valley like a bright blue bowl of glass, scooped out like a setting for a gigantic jewel high among the uppermost clefts and crags.  To my great surprise, the place was filled with people.  I cannot describe their faces except to say that they were open and eager.  Their expression was one of pure anticipation and expectation.

One of them approached me and took me by the arm.  I stood speechless in her presence.  Her appearance was softly and quietly dazzling.  Whether she wore a bright robe or gown, or whether it were an unclothed body of light upon which I looked I could not say.  Here form was all of shimmering brightness and motion, though she seemed solid enough to the touch.

“I am glad to see you,” she said, and her voice was low and rich.  “We have long watched your doings and have awaited your coming with joy.”

“Who are you?” I asked in astonishment.

“We are witnesses,” she said.  “We are helpers of him whom you seek.  We are watchers who dwell here at the uttermost edge and tip of this world, awaiting the approach of him who is to come.”

She pointed to a great throne, the appearance of which was like a great stone of sapphire.  All around it were other people of her kind, busy, it seemed, with preparations.

“But who is he?” I asked.

“For us,” she replied, “his coming shall be as the rising of the dawn.”


 * * * * * * * * * *


Feeding 5000 001


 My soul yearns for that God’s touch

Who soiled His soles on the Jericho Road.

My eyes strain to see

That striking figure by the sea

Of Galilee, head and hands


Stark against the sky,

Sandals planted firmly on the sand,

Investing all the powers of the Cosmos

In the breaking of the loaves and little fish –

Too little, as it seemed, among so many.


Poet's Corner 001



Pilgrim 2 001

            “I have very little idea of what is going on in the world, but occasionally I happen to see some of the things they are drawing and writing there and it gives me the conviction that they are all living in ash cans. It makes me glad I cannot hear what they are singing.”

— Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation  

“It’s Friday.  Sunday’s a-comin’!”

– Tony Campolo

* * * * * * * * * *


For the past half-century the church in America has been caught up in a desperate, breathless, and mostly losing race – a race to stay “relevant” to the surrounding culture.

There are at least three big problems with this.  In the first place, there’s the difficulty of trying to hit a moving target.  Other than the fact that culture is generally “progressing” on a steep downward curve, it’s hard to predict exactly where it’s headed or what it’s going to do next.  Under the circumstances, most church leaders (who aren’t particularly adept at analyzing social trends) have no choice except to operate from a reactive rather than a proactive base.  As a result, they’re usually running about five to ten years behind the times.

The second problem is more fundamental and more important than the first.  It has to do with the Pilgrim’s identity as a stranger and sojourner.  Foreigners are “irrelevant” by definition.  People who are simply “passing through” have no reason to pay much attention to the habits, attitudes, and practices of the natives.  Their home and destination are elsewhere.

The third difficulty is inherent in the meaning of the word itself.  Of necessity, “relevance” is measured in terms of some outside reference point.  One can only be “relevant” to someone or something else.  “Relevance,” like a planet’s orbit around the sun, takes shape around a defining center of gravity.  The concept is devoid of significance until you’ve identified this nucleus.

For the Pilgrim there is only one defining center of gravity, and it never changes.  It entails no necessity of predicting or following future trends because it is, in and of itself, both present and future.  As a matter of fact, it can be described as the presence of the future.  As author Jacques Ellul explains,


The Christian is essentially a man who lives in expectation.  This expectation is directed towards the return of the Lord which accompanies the end of time, the Judgment, and proclaims the Kingdom of God …  Consequently it means bringing the future into the present as an explosive force.  It means believing that future events are more important and truer than present events; it means understanding the present in the light of the future, dominating it by the future, in the same way as the historian dominates the past.[1]


Clearly, there is a great deal about our unstable and ever-shifting society that simply fades into insignificance when viewed from this perspective.  In light of the reality of the Kingdom – which is not only coming but, according to the Master Himself, is already “at hand” – it matters very little who is in the White House, which team wins the Super Bowl, what the Supreme Court has to say, or where the Dow Jones Industrial Average lands.  To concern ourselves with such petty stuff is to be like that “ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”[2]

Does this mean that the Pilgrim doesn’t care about culture or society?  Absolutely not, for the Pilgrim cares deeply about people, and people are what culture and society are ultimately all about.  But it does imply that the Pilgrim approaches people consistently from the perspective of the Eternal Present.  He has no interest in the latest fad or trend.

It is, of course, more than likely that the kosmos will regard this approach as “irrelevant” or “dated.”  But then that’s of little consequence.  For “the kosmos,” as we know, “is passing away, and the lusts thereof; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”


[1] Jacques Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom, 49, 51.

[2] C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory.”

The Firebird IX

Star 001


When they saw that I had given up the fight, they withdrew once more.  A moment passed during which I lay perfectly still.  Some of the imps looked confused, but others smiled knowingly.  All of them turned to their chief, who also smiled a grim and knowing smile.  He stepped forward, raised me up by a handful of my hair, and shouted, “Up with you!  Can’t you see what’s got to be done?  Get to it!”

“I can’t,” I moaned.  “I want to, but you – ”

“Of course you can’t,” he sneered.  “But you must!  Don’t you see?”

“You can’t but you must!  You can’t but you must!” echoed the others, laughing even more uproariously than before.  Again they seized me and set me on my feet.

I stood like a pillar of stone in the midst of their childish caperings, utterly lost and miserable. What could I do?  They would not be satisfied one way or the other.  Nor, I feared, would they be content to leave me alone.

Suddenly I was reminded of my wound.  In an instant the burning pain in my chest returned, but it was somehow different this time – more like an overpowering desire laced with a surge of anger, white-hot and pure.  My eyes were drawn upward, above the little hill, above the steadily rising moon, to where the long-tailed star had now reappeared in the sky.

“You must but you can’t!  You can’t but you must!” sang the imps, drunkenly dancing and hopping from one foot to the other.  But I saw the leer on their faces change to a look of dread in the glow of the light that was growing in the heavens.

“Maybe I must, and maybe I can’t,” I said, slowly turning my gaze from one terrified face to the next.  “But I don’t care much one way or the other, for I have been wounded by the Firebird, and I am no slave to such as you!”

They all let out a horrible shriek and fell on their faces as the flaming bird swooped down upon us, scorching the earth and sending the imps flying in every direction like so many leaves before the wind.  The great talons snatched me and held me like vises of steel, the fiery wings surrounded and covered me, and all in a moment I was swept away.

* * * * * * * * * *


IMonolith 001

“At some point it becomes far from asinine to speak of the god of Technology – in the sense that people believe technology works, that they rely on it, that it makes promises, that they are bereft when denied access to it, that they are delighted when they are in its presence, that for most people it works in mysterious ways, that they condemn people who speak against it, that they stand in awe of it, and that, in the born-again mode, they will alter their lifestyles, their schedules, their habits, and their relationships to accommodate it.  If this be not a form of religious belief, what is?”

                                   — Neil Postman      

Books 001

The Firebird VIII


Fir Bolg 001


I must have fallen asleep.  When I opened my eyes I was lying on my back, stretched out upon the ground.  The moon, which had returned in all its fullness and now hung suspended just above the little grassy hill, caught my eye.

“I will follow you,” I said with determination.  “I want so much to follow you now!  I’ll go wherever you want me to go!”

“Then come along quickly!”

I was startled at the sound of a new voice, high-pitched, resonant, even musical, like a woodwind instrument, but also strangely mechanical in tone.

“Step lively if you’re coming!” the voice continued.  “Don’t be such a lazybones!”

“Lazybones!  Lazybones!” chimed in a number of similar voices.  “Don’t be such a lazybones!”

A moment later I found myself surrounded by a troop of odd little men.

“She won’t!” I heard one of them laugh derisively.  “She can’t!”

“No, no!” said another.  “You’re absolutely right!”

“Certainly not!  Definitely not!” agreed a third.

“A lazybones!  A sluggard!” rejoined the chorus.

I thought of the eight-legged horse disappearing into the distance.  A new pain, cold like cold steel, flashed through my heart.  I rolled over onto my side.

“Get up!  Get up!” shouted the first of the strange little imps.  “You’ve got to!  You know you’ve got to!”

Suddenly I felt unspeakably tired and weak.  “I know,” I responded, “But I don’t have the strength.

“You must!  You must!” chanted the others.  “Come along quickly!  Come now!”

At once they were all around me, tugging at my nightgown, pulling and pushing me this way and that.  Ten pair of bony little hands laid hold of me and wrenched me upright, setting me on my feet.  I looked down at their misshapen little faces as if in a dream.

“Go quickly!” shouted the chief imp, stomping as if in a fit of rage.  “Go, go, go!”

“Step lively!” chanted the others.  “Don’t be such a sluggard!”

I had no choice except to comply.  Assuming that they wanted me to follow the eight-legged horse and its rider, I struggled against my own weakness and took a single step forward.

“Stop!” I heard some of them shout.

“Hold her down!  Keep her down!” cried two or three others.

Immediately I was all but smothered beneath a pile of scrawny bodies as the imps leaped wildly upon me and began pummeling me with their fists.

“She won’t!  She can’t!” they shouted.  “A sluggard!  A good-for-nothing!”

“Let me go!” I cried in pain and confusion, covering my head with my hands and pressing my face to the ground.

They jumped away at once, then drew back and stood regarding me from a distance.

“Please let me go,” I continued without getting up.  “I want to follow the man on the eight-legged horse.”

“Yes, of course!” piped the chief.  “What else?  You must follow him!”

“You must!  You must!” chanted the others.

“Well, then,” I said, getting to my feet, “I will, and I hope you will be so kind as to – ”

Instantly they threw themselves on top of me again, kicking, scratching, and beating me into the ground.  I began to cry desperately.

“You must follow him!  Yes!  Yes!  But you can’t!”  Shouted one of the little men.

“You must but you can’t!  You must but you can’t!”  They all joined in, jeering and laughing with glee.

Again the steel-like pain cut me to the quick.  I ceased struggling and lay limp on the ground, overwhelmed with despair.

 * * * * * * * * * *

The Firebird VII

Horse and Rider 001


I obeyed.  I was led through the streets for what seemed a long, long time.  At last an alley between two long, low, dark buildings opened into a large, surprisingly empty space, grassy but treeless.  On a little hill out in the middle of this open place I saw him, standing, as it were, at the top of the earth’s curve, his heavy sack beside him on the ground.  I saw the tip of his slouched hat nodding black against clusters of stars.  Otherwise he did not move; but I felt him beckoning me to join him just the same.

Slowly, I began to move forward.  At each step the burning fire and comforting warmth within grew stronger and became more completely fused and melded together until they became one new thing:  an overwhelming sense of awe, a kind of holy fear.  By this time I was weary to the point of exhaustion, but still I did not stop.

And now the Firebird reappeared and hovered over the little hill whereon he stood.  Shadows danced in a widening circle, stretching, squatting, darting, leaping.  I came to him and laid the body at his feet.  He spoke to me, but his words were dark and strange.  When I try to recall them, they come back to me as a little song:


                                    Plant it, sow it in the ground,

                                                Cast it all away.

                                      In its time it shall be found

                                                And live again.


                                      Sow it, plant it in the earth,

                                                Seek for it no more;

                                      Until in death it finds rebirth

                                                And lives again.


Looking down, I saw that the shape at my feet was a body no longer, but a large sack of seed.  From under the brim of the tall slouched hat I could feel his eyes upon me, watching me patiently to know what I would do.  I undid the mouth of the sack, lifted it as best I could, and dragged it to the foot of the little hill.  Then I began to walk around the hill in ever-widening circles, throwing out handfuls of grain on my right and on my left as I went.

When at last the seed was spent and I have covered the whole of the grassy field with it, he said, “Now follow me!”  Nearby grazed an eight-legged horse, glossy white, sleek and strong, shimmering with a moon-like sheen.  In one swift motion he leapt to the horse’s back and set his heavy sack before him.

“Follow me if you will!” he repeated.  Then off he rode at a gallop four times as fast as that of any horse anyone has ever seen.  In seconds he had passed clean out of my sight.

For a moment I stared after him, bewildered.  Then I sat down on the ground with my head in my hands, wondering how I would ever catch up with him.  The night had now become very dark, and I found myself wishing for the sunrise with a longing intense as a physical pain.

* * * * * * * * * *


Pilgrim 2 001

“Let us not ascribe that which is the effect of [God’s] truth, only to the good-will of men; it is God’s act, ‘not by might, nor by power’ nor by weapons of war, or strength of horses, ‘but by the Spirit of the Lord.’”

—  Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, “A Discourse Upon God’s Knowledge.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s difficult to understand the current love affair with weapons on the part of so many people, especially those who claim to be disciples of the defenseless Lamb of God. Surely there is only one way to explain this baffling phenomenon: it’s yet another example of the infiltration and corruption of New Testament values by good old-fashioned Americanism.

This is not the way of the Pilgrim. The Pilgrim professes not only to believe in a Savior who clearly eschewed violence, pugilism, and all forms of worldly power, but to follow His example in everyday life and all kinds of practical situations. We are talking here about the example of a Man who “gave His back to the smiters and His cheeks to those who plucked out the beard;” of whom the prophet Isaiah writes that “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.”

It’s not surprising, of course, that some of the denser among His disciples thought He had changed His mind on this point when, in speaking figuratively about the hardships that lay ahead, He said, “Let him who has no sword sell his garment and buy one.” Apparently they were already one step ahead of Him. “Look, Lord!” they cried, stumbling over one another to show off their foresightedness. “Here are two swords!” His reply? “It is enough.”

If Christ had seriously intended that His followers should arm themselves, it’s hard to see how two swords could possibly have been “enough.” Two is certainly not “enough” for today’s worldly-minded weapons enthusiast. If anyone had had the slightest doubt about whether Jesus meant His words to be taken literally, that uncertainty should have been forever dispelled when, about an hour later, one of these armed heroes drew one of the two swords and used it to cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant. The Master’s response at that critical moment was the same as before: “Enough! Put away your sword, for those who take the sword will perish by the sword!”

He was right. Enough is enough. For those who desire to live the Pilgrim life, it’s time to recognize this fundamental truth and remember that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” It’s time to say with the psalmist, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Let’s be perfectly clear.  This is not a political issue. It has nothing to do with “liberalism” or “conservatism,” “Democrats” or “Republicans.” It’s a spiritual rather than a constitutional problem. At heart, it’s a question of making up our minds where our confidence really lies. It’s a matter of staying faithful to the One who is our only true Defense.


As for Americans and their government … well, they must do what they think best. But where the Pilgrim is concerned, there are no two ways about it: he has no choice except to part ways with those who put their trust in the weapons of this world.


A Word to New England (William Bradford)

Poet's Corner 001

Oh New England, thou canst not boast;
Thy former glory thou hast lost.
When Hooker, Winthrop, Cotton died,
And many precious ones beside,
Thy beauty then it did decay,
And still doth languish more away.
Love, truth, goodness, mercy and grace —
Wealth and the world have took their place.
Thy open sins none can them hide:
Fraud, drunkenness, whoredom, and pride.
The great oppressors slay the poor,
But whimsy errors they kill more.
Yet some thou hast which mourn and weep,
And their garments unspotted keep;
Who seek God’s honor to maintain,
That true religion may remain.
These do invite, and sweetly call,
Each to other, and say to all;
Repent, amend, and turn to God,
That we may prevent his sharp rod.
Yet time thou hast; improve it well,
That God’s presence may with ye dwell.

          — William Bradford, 1654
Pilgrim 2 001

The Firebird VI


Star 001



I stepped through the mirror and out into the night. The sky was now spattered with stars that cast a cold but friendly light upon the ground. Not the slightest sliver of a moon did I see, but the star I had seen earlier soon reappeared, its glory surpassing the brightness of all the others.

As I watched, this star seemed to grow larger or draw nearer. At length I could see that it was trailing a streamer of flame like the tail of a fiery kite. Bright plumes and red flares shot straight out from its sides as it came closer. At last I realized that it was not a star at all. It was the flaming bird that had given me my wound.

Once again my heart was shot through with a searing pain as the Firebird descended upon me and its hot breath enveloped me. Frozen with fear in spite of the heat, I was on the verge of fainting dead away when a small voice at my ear said, “Be not afraid.”

Looking quickly to the right, I saw the small gray bird sitting perched upon my shoulder. His eyes burned a steady blue, penetrating my body with their light and kindling the glow within. The Firebird was nowhere to be seen.

“It is time we were going,” said the bird.

“Going where?” I asked in amazement.

“To find him. To follow him, of course. I have brought you out at last, and he awaits you not far from here.”

“But I don’t know the way,” I protested.

“Take first one step, and then another,” whispered the bird. “Go straight on ahead. I will not let your steps go wrong.” And he fluttered off.

Burdened as I was with the weight of the body I carried, I took a step forward. Above me and a short distance ahead the Firebird reappeared, gliding aloft on blazing wings, splashing a red-gold light over the earth. The stars humbly faded in its presence. Every tree and every blade of grass cowered and cast wildly flickering shadows. I followed the Firebird for I had no other guide, nor had I anywhere else to go.

Across the yard and into the street I followed the terrible Bird. The night was cold, I think, but I hardly noticed it at the time. Through dark and sleepy streets I carried my other self until my arms ached so that I felt I could not go on. Then I stumbled and fell, scraping my knees on the pavement, but never releasing my hold on the cold figure I was clutching. I found myself looking into its face, and it was as if I looked again into that awful mirror. Numb and tired, I wept.

“Don’t cry,” whispered the small gray bird at my ear. “You may get up if you want to. Only take one step and then another. The place is not far now.”

I raised my eyes. Against a sky like black marble speckled with silver, in a canyon between two rows of tall gray houses, was a spot of red light. The inner glow returned. Something or Someone lifted me up and set me on my feet.

“Go,” said the voice at my ear. “Christmas Eve is passing swiftly.”

* * * * * * * * * *