A Happy Face
This was a difficult story to write because it deals with individual conscience. There are times when Christians are expected to participate in ceremonies and rituals which they do not agree with or believe in, yet some times they choose to partiocipate and other times they refuse.
The idea for this story came from the time when Naaman, who had just been healed of leprousy, came to Elishah:
"And Naaman said, (Let me take) two mules' burden of earth, for (I) will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD.
(But) in this thing the Lord pardon (me), that when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon (me) in this thing. And (Elisha) said to him, Go in peace."
So here we have a man who in his heart worships the One True God, but also stands in the temple of a heathen god and actually bows to the idol – yet Elisha tells him to "Go in peace!" This is an amazing passgae, but it is picked up in the New Testament too, when Paul tells Christians they may eat food that has been offered to heathen idols. 1Corinthians 25-28. Paul leaves the matter to individual conscience.
My story pokes a little light-hearted fun at ceremony that the main character finds herself caught up in, but at the same time I try to dig into the theme of indivual conscience and freedom of choice reagrding such things. How seriously should Christians take anyone’s false or misguided beliefs? How much should Christians conform to the cultural norms of other nations – without denying or repudiating their stand for the truth?
This story is about as quirky as they get, with a boy called Brain and a surprise ending that 'messes with your mind'! It follows the idea of robots becoming self-aware, right through to a possible conclusion based on that hypothesis. With the rise in prosthetics and medical 'add-ons' there may be a point when a human's body os more than 50 or even 90% non-human. In that case, what would constitute a 'human'?
The deeper theme is the fact that "What Man can do, Man frequently does do". In other words. if humans are able to do something, be it good or evil, they usually end up trying it out. A good case in point is genetic engineering, which has huge resistance around the world, yet continues to be researched and applied unabated, and many are asking where will it end?
This idea is consistent with several statements in the Bible. For example:
"God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever . . ." Genesis 3:22 This statement by God is actually unfinished. What might sinful Man do if he is allowed to live forever? Death is therefore a merciful judgement, because it ends the rule of dictators and despots.
"God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5
This story also explores the fact that being self-aware is a precious gift, which it would seem is enjoyed only by humans, and perhaps a little by some more complex animals, but never to the extent we have it. Self-awareness is one of those things humans practise, or use, without fully appreciating it, or considering how difficult life would be if we could not recognise ourselves as separate and unique individuals.
The "red" in the title symbolises bloodshed and death, as as the story unfolds clearly has parrallels with the Genesis story. Little clues as dropped through the story but the final conclusion leaves no doubt. Similar motives are involved in the crime as well, but the wider question is also there – what if Man could manipulate the planets and make a new world to colonise – would it be any better than the one we have now? I sincerely doubt it! Man is a sinner, and sin will spread wherever humans go.
The LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth." Genesis 8:21
"Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Psalms 51:5
"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." Proverbs 22:15
This story is based on a jumble of silly superstitions which many people actually believe, such as the one about never pulling a face in case the wind changes. Imagine if these stupid sayings were actually true? If people really, literally believed these things, life would become a hazardous journey, full of fear and anxiety. Noone would live in a house with the number 13, or work on the 13th floor, or buy 13 of anything, and so on. No one would walk under a ladder, or break a mirror, or own a black cat! Millions of people would be in bondage to the strangest beliefs.
"For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver." Ezekiel 21:21
"You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save you from these things that shall come upon you." Isaiah 47:13
This story is about Intelligent Design. It has a science fiction tone, but the main theme is about a discovery in the desert which underlines the logic behind the Intelligent Design movement. Every designed thing points to a designer, as we know it cannot make itself, and in like manner the thing discovered in the desert points to some intelligence. I simply took Paley’s watch illustration a bit further.
"Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him?" Job 26:14
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Genesis 1:1
"I will praise You; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Your works; and that my soul knows right well." Psalms 139:14
"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:" Romans 1:20
This story is creepy and a little violent, but then the idea behind it is perfectly consistent with the true nature of human hearts so the violence is in context. Many crimes go unpunished, many terrible things are done behind closed curtains which only God knows about. What if something from a crime had the power to reveal secrets? What if a criminal could not escape his deeds, no matter where he hid?
"For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Ecclesiastes 12:14
"For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad." Luke 8:17
"He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy." Proverbs 28:13
This story began with a TV documentary, which reminded me of an artistic boy I once knew (by a different name. The story is also partly biographical as I have always had difficulty relating to non-creative people.
Nature and the environment of the created world bring to our minds parallels or pictures of other realities, depending on how we interpret what we see. We say people are 'as greedy as pigs', as 'skittish as lambs', as 'brash as geese' and so on, and the metaphors can become quite personal – eagle-eyed, dove-eyed, goat-footed, donkey-brained, rabbiting on, mulish, stunned mullet, sheepish . . . We can find many relationships with the world around us if we think about it.
In the story 'Joshua' learns to adapt, in order to survive, so one day he may build a place where he can be free to 'be himself'. This not an uncommon dream, which some people actually realise, but it take a lot of compromising, to preserve the inner person, in order to one day escape the prison of other peopl's lives, and start living your own. But by the same token, Joshua could have taken the other path and become a misfit, a rebel, and a fallen life, full of grudges and misery and unforgiveness against a world which did not understand him.
"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:4
1 Corinthians Chapter 12 covers the many gifts (which means the many different types of people) which God has given to the Church. It also speaks of all the different "members" being equally valuable to all the other members. None of the gifts or members is to be elevated above the others, all are designed to work with all the others, all are valuable. Like the flower in the valley, even though it may appear insignificant, God created it, so it must be important to him. Each Christian can have their own valuable ministry, if they are given the encouragement -–they do not need to be sent to the unknown valley,