Tuesday, January 25, 2011

speaking light into darkness

There is the line about "speaking truth to power" which is intended to convey the moral obligation all citizens have to keep their governments and rulers accountable.

When I talk about "speaking light into darkness" I am intending to convey the great need for our entire world of having people who will do that 24/7 - from homes and schools and the workplace, to church and corporations and the gatherings of nations.

Words of light penetrating the sentences of darkness.

We all know how to complain with others and we've all done it.

We all know how to wallow in our own bitterness and we've all done that too.

We all know how to feed or even exacerbate others' times of bleakness and despair and, may God forgive us, many of us have done that as well.

I am talking about doing the opposite.

It is a variation, I suppose, on the phrase - "Better to light a candle than curse the darkness."

I am not talking about ignoring the reality of our suffering or the suffering of others. I am not talking about being unsympathetic nor am I encouraging anyone to avoid empathy.

I am saying that to speak light into darkness is better than speaking more darkness into darkness.

And I do not mean voicing empty platitudes or cliches or "cheer up, dear" sentiments.

Light is strong. You know how strong when you try to look into the sun. Or try to gaze at a field of pure white snow on a bright winter's day.

Or spend time with Jesus Christ.

Light pierces darkness. It vanquishes it. Dispels it. Changes a dark room into one with a light, no matter how small that light may be.

If instead of going down into the pit with others and remaining there, cursing God and our bad fortune - if instead, I say, we take a light that allows us to show the person in the pit the handholds and footholds that permit them to get out - then we will have created, in that moment, a new world and, ultimately, a new person. That new person may not only be the one we are trying to help. It may be us.

What a difference to speak hope when others cry out in despair. What a difference to speak love when others are burning up with hate. What a difference to speak light when we ourselves, and others around us, are wrapped in blackness and defeat.

When I think of doing this - laboring to speak light into terrible situations when the easier thing is just to collapse and mouth words of darkness and intensify the sensation of depression, defeat, and despair - it is impossible for me not to think of Christ, the Light of the World.

When I speak light into darkness, I am speaking Christ into darkness. And the darkness has never been able to master him, understand him, or put him out.

Even the darkness, Psalm 139 tells us, is light to God.

To speak light into darkness is to speak Christ into darkness and to speak Christ into darkness is to illuminate the world.

What a difference it makes if we do this instead of adding to the bleakness with our silence, our own bitter words, or our lack of prayer.

May 2011 be a year for you not only to speak light into your darkness and the darkness of others, but also a year of turning darkness into light. Making darkness the material out of which a brighter light burns.

May it be so.

fiat lux

Monday, January 24, 2011

an excerpt from the new novel

THIS IS an excerpt from my new novel. It is the sequel to Zo (2008) and therefore the second book in the trilogy. Obviously, it is better understood if Zo is read first, but I will provide a quick sketch of events leading up to the sequel which will permit it to be read on its own. But that would still be like skipping 50,000 words of a story!

God bless . . .

In January 1938, Yuzunia lit the candles and incense again and we sang four or five carols. Then we walked out into the cold and went down the street together under stars that pierced the skin. Yuzy wrapped up in Ian, Zhanna in Nykola, Vasyl and I side by side, Vasyl busy with his cigarettes. It was as if we were on a stroll together back in Canada during a dark winter’s night. We passed a church with great silver domes.
“It is a wonder it is still standing,” said Yuzy.
Vasyl blew out thick smoke. “The Great Leader always plays a game with the Orthodox. He closes some churches, leaves others open. Shoots some priests, makes others archbishops. Says there is no God, reminds everyone he went to seminary. He cannot cut the Orthodox completely out of the state. Slava Isusu Khrystu still matters too much to far too many. Even he cannot kill them all. Then he would have no one to purge.”
Yuzy gave a short sharp laugh. “Oh, uncle, hush, even the domes of the church could be working for the NKVD.” She suddenly stopped walking.
“What is it?” asked Ian.
“Do you think the church is open? I would like to go inside.”
“Go inside? You?”
“Why not? We just sang carols to Khrystos.”
“You really want to go inside? I doubt the doors will be open. Let me see.”
Ian went quickly up the concrete steps, as if he were eager to fling open the heavenly gates. I could see the surprise on his face when the large door swung open easily. He put his head inside. Then he looked down at us. “There is someone in here. But the church is a wreck.”
We came up the stairs and followed Ian and Yuzy inside. It was cold and lit only by a few large ivory candles at the front of the sanctuary and they were almost finished, great congealed lumps of melted wax with tall orange flames. There were no crosses, no carpets, no chairs or pews, no stained glass – the windows had been nailed over with old grey boards. The ceiling was domed and still rich with ornate carving, but it was so dark with stains and cobwebs that sagged with dust you could scarcely see the detail. The floor, however, was swept clean.
All this I took in at a glance. What arrested my attention was not what was not there or the dirt on what was, but a large icon painted at the front of the church that looked over all with black lively eyes. Bullet holes chewed away one whole cheek and jaw and several had just missed the right eye. But it was Khrystos, who had once smiled ever so slightly at the people who gathered here, bringing a strong dark compassion and rich thick brew of life that was still obvious in the iconist’s work despite the assault of rifles and machine guns.
Ian spat. “The good work of the Bolsheviks. They have taken anything of value, probably melted down the gold and silver, bartered icons and the stained glass windows for rubles or American dollars, and shot up the Son of God for sport. I would not be surprised if the NKVD use this for a urinal or a killing room. There are patches of blood in the corner that have soaked into the wooden flooring.”
I was surprised by his vehemence. Yuzunia pinched her lips together and her eyes darkened, but she did not speak. We wandered about in the emptiness. Zhanna bent, one hand in Nykola’s, and picked up a sliver of emerald green glass. Vasyl stood in front of the bullet-scarred icon with his arms down in front of him, his hands folded over each other. He had removed the cigarette from his mouth and extinguished the burnt end with his fingers.
“Someone lit the candles,” said Nykola, “someone must be here.”
“Or was here,” I responded. “Or it could be an NKVD trap. Maybe they are lurking somewhere inside ready to arrest anyone who comes into the church.”
I said it with a smile, but the joke did not go over well. Yuzy and Zhanna quickly looked behind them and at the doors we had not opened along the right wall.
“Perhaps we should leave,” said Zhanna. “Maybe the police use this sort of place for interrogation. No one would suspect.”
Yuzy nodded. “Yes, let’s go.” She turned toward the front doors, but hesitated. She looked up into Ian’s face, bushy these days with a thick brown beard salted with silver. “Although I wish somebody would say something before we go.”
“What do you mean?” asked Ian.
“I mean. Something. Holy.”
Ian shook his head. “I don’t understand. You are Stalin’s right hand man at home. Someone who knows more than anyone else how corrupt religion can be. Yet you want your husband to say something sacred?”
“You. Or anyone.”
“I’m not the one. I won’t reject a religion like Communism just to embrace another like Catholicism or Orthodoxy.”
“Never mind religion. Never mind all the robes and rituals. Say something in this place that matters more than all the death and hate we have seen in the past five years.”
Ian shook his head.
Zhanna looked into our faces. I was not prepared to talk and Nykola dropped his eyes. Vasyl still stood staring at the icon, hands folded, apparently not even listening to our conversation.
“Suppose I tried to write a poem out loud,“ Zhanna suggested, “one that I wrote on the air with my voice?”
Yuzunia smiled. “That would be right. That is what I am looking for.”
“I’ll try. If it’s all right with everyone.”
Ian nodded and I shrugged. She closed her eyes and then opened them again. She began to walk about the church, only it became less a walk as she turned this way and that, gently, even spinning slowly to look at ceiling and walls and icon and candle flame. She slipped off her shoes to move about in her bare feet, some moments, it seemed to me, lighter than a breath, as if she were performing Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty, not on wooden floorboards, but on ice.

Not hell do I worship or the singers of death
I do not linger here for men who use words as guns
Or rituals as chains
I do not wait for those who love the flow of blood
As I love the flow of rivers
I do not pause to anticipate the arrival
Of those who purge bodies and intellects and imaginations

In whispers I ask for one who will ignite light
Where light has never been wanted
Where it has been extinguished and treated with contempt
Shut away without regret

In whispers I ask for one who will place things just so
And make the setting right
One who crafts a soul out of broken language
Out of a blood grief and a scream wind

Who gives us a heaven
Who only knew a brutal earth

She did this as a kind of soft chant I could barely hear, not without rhythm, but a chant which had its own fluidity, its own notes, river-like, smooth and curving and far-reaching. Yuzunia nodded and, without smiling, stretched out her hand to take Zhanna’s.
“You could have come from my own womb,” Yuzy said. “There is no difference.”
A door opened and we staggered back from our thoughts and wishes, from our swirling, eddying prayers, ready to run, even to fight, seeing men in uniforms and trenchcoats who filed from some inner room with shining knives and gleaming pistols in tight hands that were black-gloved. But it was a small man with a small beard in the flowing black garments of an Orthodox monastic: the riassa – the black cassock, and the klobuk – the hat and veil. A large cross gleamed in the middle of the darkness of his chest – he was a priest. He bowed.
“I never see anyone in here. I never hear prayer. I cannot say I have ever met a prima ballerina assoluta. I welcome you. I am Father Bodashka. This is my church, or God’s church. How may I bless you?”
Yuzunia was the first to recover. She bent her head in his direction. “We have come in out of the cold for a moment, Father. We did not think the doors would be open.”
“Always open. Even to the NKVD.”
“They come here?” asked Yuzy.
“Only to pray. Yes, even some of them pray.”
Vasyl came toward the priest and bowed from the waist. “Father bless,” he said.
“May the Lord bless you,” said the priest and made a sign of the Cross with his fingers and gave Vasyl his right hand. Vasyl kissed it. This seemed to cheer Yuzunia though it astonished me.
“Do you live here, Father?” she asked.
“My room is behind that door. I was getting ready for bed when I heard you come in. I listened to your talk and decided to get dressed in case I was able to serve you in some way. But, really, it is you who have served me. Your quiet. Your wondering. The young woman’s prayer and dance. Marvellous. There has not been so much human life packed into this church in years. The divine spark is always here, of course, but our Lord is most delighted when he can dwell among his creatures.” He nodded his head toward his bedroom door. “My cat, for instance. She keeps this holy place free of rats. Listen. I do not want you to go back out into the night without some sustenance. Have a small meal with me. After all, it is Christmas. Khrystos Rodyvsia.”
“Khrystos Rodyvsia,” we responded.
“But we cannot take your food,” protested Yuzunia. “We have plenty of our own. How much can you have?”
“No, no. It will be our little celebration of the Nativity. Humble, but significant in the eyes of God. My dear,” he smiled at Zhanna Yeva, “there is a rug in my room, we can spread it out for all, would you mind fetching it while I bring the food?”
Zhanna nodded. “I will come with you.”
He opened his door and a white cat sprang out as he and Zhanna went in. “Her name is Kalyna,” he said over his shoulder, “after the snowball berry. God knows she is spoiled. But she likes people.”
Kalyna eyed us all carefully and decided to remain crouched by the door for the time being. Zhanna came out, unrolling a blue and gold and silver carpet, Father Bodashka following her with a basket.
“I have a good cucumber, some bread and salt, no meat, I fear, but here is a can of black Mediterranean olives, still not opened.”
“Where on earth did you get the olives?” asked Yuzy.
“There is a policeman who comes often. I hear his confession. It was his gift.”
Yuzy ‘s face went dark. “And how much does he have to confess?”
The priest looked at her. “As much or little as any of us. Even for the NKVD there is hope.”
“You believe that?”
“Tell me what God’s borders are when it comes to the salvation of a human soul and I will respect them. Tonight, I know of none. Not for you, not for me, not for him. Isn’t our country’s name borderland? Here especially, among these fields and rivers and mountains, there are no limitations on God’s grace. Now,” he loosened his riassa, his cassock, and sat on the carpet Zhanna had laid down, “come and break bread with me, my friends. This will be our Sviata Vecheria, our Christmas Eve feast.”
So we sat and salted the bread and placed olives and cucumber slices on it, slices we cut with the priest’s small pocketknife, and he poured red wine as well which we drank from small glasses. The white cat made its way to Vasyl and sat by him.
“Ah, the old cat comes to the old man,” Vasyl grunted, stroking her along her back and tail.
“Not so old,” said Father Bodashka. “Only seven.”
“Ha. Fifty. A spring chicken. Well, cat, I have many years on you, but soon you will catch up, if Stalin does not catch us first.”
The priest took a long drink from his wine. “Some day, I pray, his seminary training will take over.”
“Maybe it already has,” mumbled Ian. “No reflection on you, Father.”
Father Bodashka shook his head and popped an olive into his mouth. “What people are not aware of is that he rebelled against the Georgian Orthodox seminary he received a scholarship to. He did not want Christian spirituality. Or Imperialist Russia. You see what he has done to both. What you read about now is a man who is haunted by his ghosts and his devils. Lenin and Marx have been unable to cure him. God knows they are equally helpless when it comes to curing Russia’s ills or Ukraine’s. Think if the Sermon on the Mount caught a hold of Joseph. What kind of a world would we live in then? The NKVD would be handing out food baskets to the poor and helping babushkas across the street, maybe even shopping for groceries for invalids. Yes, smile. I have little to do here but pray and dream beautiful dreams.”
“Speaking of dreams, Father,” Zhanna spoke up, “I truly am no prima ballerina assoluta. I don’t know of any dancer who is.”
“It seemed that way to me,” he said, looking at her and nodding. “It still does. The spirit matters in such things as much as the feet.”

Sunday, January 16, 2011

the sequel to ZO

Just over two years since the publication of the novel ZO in December 2008, I'm happy to say the sequel has been sent to the Toronto publisher for release by March of 2011.

This second book is considerably longer than the first and covers the years in the story between 1933 and 1943.

For those of you to whom this is news, ZO is the first volume in a trilogy, this sequel is therefore the second. God willing and blessing, there will be a third that completes the saga.

ZO is readily available through Amazon or Chapters or by special order through your favorite bookstore. This one will available through the same channels.

I have blogged portions of the new novel twice on this site. One of them is entitled "in the midst of war we find an oasis it created" (11/1/10). The other is entitled, in a more obvious fashion, "the beginning of the sequel to the novel ZO" (10/19/10). I will probably blog a couple more pieces from the book over the next few months.

Anyway, the first novel was shortlisted for The Kobzar Literary Award, a Toronto award of $25,000.00 which I did not win, but which gave the book a larger readership. I hope this new book will enjoy something of the same blessing.

I don't mean to get caught up in all these details. The book has not only been with me all of 2010, but the ideas have been swirling in my head since 1988. The story means a great deal to me. I hope it will mean a great deal to others.

Because of the story and the issues involved, I believe it is the most important book I have ever written.

I hope you will get into the trilogy and follow along.

I'll keep everyone posted.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

holy quotes 8

Dort, wo man B├╝cher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.

Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.

Heinrich Heine, German poet of the 19th century
from his play Almansor (1821)

holy quotes 7

I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please.

Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.

I don't want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.

I want ecstasy, not transformation.

I want the warmth of the womb not a new birth.

I want about a pound of the eternal in a paper sack.

I'd like to buy three dollars worth of God, please.

Wilbur Reese, American pastor, 20th century

holy quotes 6

The Deluge

by G. K. Chesterton, British wit, journalist, and theologian of the early 20th century

Though giant rains put out the sun,
Here stand I for a sign.
Though earth be filled with waters dark,
My cup is filled with wine.
Tell to the trembling priests that here,
Under the deluge rod,
One nameless, tattered, broken man
Stood up and drank to God.

Sun has been where the rain is now,
Bees in the heat to hum,
Haply a humming maiden came,
Now let the deluge come.
Brown of aureole, green of garb,
Straight as a golden rod,
Drink to the throne of thunder now,
Drink to the wrath of God.

High in the wreck I held the cup,
I clutched my rusty sword,
I cocked my tattered feather
To the glory of the Lord.
Not undone were heaven and earth,
This hallow world thrown up,
Before one man had stood up straight,
And drained it like a cup.

holy quotes 4 & 5

The objective of rebuilding a broken world is not to return to life as though nothing happened, but to emerge from a dark time with grace and humility that might not have happened any other way.

Afflictions are but the shadows of God's wings.

George MacDonald, 19th century Scottish preacher and author

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

the snowy ending to The Dead by James Joyce

Snow seems to be everywhere this winter: Atlanta, Georgia; London, England; Europe, India . . . I expect to hear the Aussies are getting snow when their winter returns or Honolulu or Death Valley in California. In commemoration of this crystalline phenomenon (and recall that no two snowflakes are the same and images of them are used in books created for fashion designers and interior decorators) I have included here one of the strongest and most poetic endings to any story, James Joyce's The Dead (a film version of which was released in 1987). Since, in the Dublin author's tale, this snow falls on Ireland in the early 20th century, it shows you that this occurrence is not unheard of in the Islands - in fact, if you look at old Victorian/Dickensian era prints, you will see folk skating and mounds of snow. And remember Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates? The canals used to freeze in Holland during the icy Dutch winters and were used for skating on a regular basis.

Love it or hate it, I have to tell you, snow in the woods on a winter's evening (think Robert Frost) is one of the most beautiful experiences on earth, especially under a waxing moon and sparkling stars. Walking my Malamutes in the woods near our home, and our home is near the Rockies, we regularly see the winter magic of running or resting mule deer, fox, coyote, and yesterday a wolf with an incredible coat of fur. The snow offers up the tracks that permit me to read the nocturnal travels of man and beast like a holy book.

And now Joyce's gentle ending:

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It
had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver
and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had
come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the
newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was
falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills,
falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly
falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too,
upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael
Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and
headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns.
His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly
through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their
last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

holy quotes 3

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"

Jack Kerouac, American writer of the 20th century

holy quotes 2

How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.

George MacDonald, Scottish preacher and writer of the 19th century

Saturday, January 08, 2011

holy quotes 1

Sour godliness is the devil's religion.

- John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church

Thursday, January 06, 2011

if i take the wings of morning

. . . this is the first chapter of a new book that will be submitted to various publishers at the end of the month (or early February) to see who wants to put it into print. I can't show you anymore than this, but I can tell you the story takes place between 1917 and 1919 and it is not not only about the love between a man and a woman, but about the love between a people and their God, and also about the great courage that is possible from the human heart.

I hope you enjoy this small portion of what will eventually be a 100,000 word novel. At this point I am about one-third of the way through the story.

God bless you all in this brand new year of 2011.

[the book now has a publisher and will be released in the fall of 2011 or spring of 2012 - I'm not allowed, by contract, to show more than 1500 words of text.

Chapter One

Lyyndaya Kurtz straightened her back and looked up at the blue and bronze evening sky. It was that strange sound again, like a large swarm of bees at their hive, and it grew louder and louder. She leaned the hoe against the picket fence her father had built around the garden. Her mother, whose hearing was no longer very good, continued to chop at weeds between the rows of radishes and lettuce. She glanced at her daughter as Lyyndaya shielded her eyes from the slowly setting sun.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, using Pennsylvania Dutch.
“Can’t you hear them, mama?” Lyyndaya responded. “There are aeroplanes coming.”
Her mother stood up, still holding the hoe in her brown hands, and squinted at the sun and sky. “I don’t see anything. It must be just a small one.”
“No, it is too loud for just one aeroplane. Do you see, mama?” Lyyndaya pointed. “Coming out of the west. Coming out of the sun.”
Now her mother shielded her eyes. “All I am seeing is spots in front of my eyes from looking into the light.”
“Look higher. There are – three, four, six – there are half a dozen of them.”
The planes were not that far from the ground, Lyyndaya thought, only a thousand feet, not much more. Each with two wings, the top wing longer than the bottom one, each plane painted a yellow that gleamed in the sunlight. As she watched, one of the planes broke away from the others and dropped toward them. It came so low the roar of the engine filled the air and children ran from their houses and yards into the dirt road and the hayfields. They were soon followed by their mothers and fathers and older brothers and sisters.
Lyyndaya laughed as the plane flew over their house. A hand waved at her from the plane’s open cockpit and she waved back with all her might. “Can you see the plane now, mama?”
Her mother had crouched among the heads of lettuce as the plane flashed past. “Oh,” she exclaimed with a cross look on her face, “this must be your crazy boy, Jude Whetstone.”
“He’s coming back!”
The plane had banked to the left over Jacob Miller’s wheat field and was heading back over the farmhouses while the other five planes carried on to the east. Its yellow wings dipped lower and lower. Lyyndaya’s green eyes widened.
“He’s going to land in papa’s field!” she cried. “Where the hay was cut on Monday!”
She lifted the hem of her dress in both hands and began to run. The black cap that covered her hair at the back, left untied, flew off her head.
“Lyyndaya! This is not seemly!” her mother called after her.
But the young woman had reached the old grey fence around the hayfield, gathered the bottom of her navy blue dress in one hand, climbed over, and with strands of sand-colored hair unraveling from their pins, was racing over the stubble to where the plane’s wheels were just touching the earth. Others were running toward the plane from all directions, jumping the fence if they were spry enough, opening the gate to the field if they were not, and several of the boys and girls had reached the plane before Lyyndaya. It came to a stop in the middle of the field and when the propeller stopped spinning a young man in a brown leather jacket and helmet pushed his goggles from his eyes and jumped from the cockpit to the ground. He immediately mussed the hair of two of the boys who came up to him and tugged the pigtail of a red-headed girl.
“Jude!” Lyyndaya exclaimed as she ran up her, the tan on her face flushed. “What are you doing here?”
“Hello, Lyyndy,” the young man smiled, lifting one of the boys up on his shoulders. “The whole flying club went up and I convinced them to come this way to Paradise. I wanted to see you.”
“To see me? You fly a plane from Philadelphia just to see me?”
“Why not?”
“But you were coming back on the train in a few days.”
“A few days. I couldn’t wait that long.”
Lyyndaya could feel the heat in her face as neighbors began to reach them. A few overheard their conversation. She saw one or two frown, but most of the men and women smiled. A very tall man in a maroon shirt wearing a straw hat laughed. She dropped her eyes.
“Bishop Zook,” she murmured, “how are you?”
“Gut, gut,” he responded. “Well, Jude, what is all this? Why has a pigeon dropped out of the sky?”
Bishop Zook was not only tall, at least six foot nine, but broad shouldered and strong. He shook Jude’s hand with a grip like rock. The young man pulled his leather helmet off his head so that his dark brown hair tumbled loose. Lyyndaya fought down an overwhelming urge to take Jude and hug him as she had done so many times when they were nine and ten.
“I wanted the children to see the plane, Bishop Zook,” said Jude.
“Yes? Only the children?”
“Well – “ Jude stumbled. “I thought perhaps – I might ask Miss Kurtz – ”
“Ah,” smiled the bishop. “You want to take her up, as you flying men say?”
“I thought – “
“Are you two courting?”
“You remember what is courting, my boy, you have not been among the English in Philadelphia that long, eh?”
Everyone laughed and Lyyndaya thought the heat in her face and hands would make her hair and skin catch on fire.
Bishop Zook put an arm like a plank around Jude’s slender shoulders. “You know when there is the courting here, we let the boy take the girl home in the buggy after the Sunday singing. You remember that much after a week away?”
“Yes – “
“So your horse and buggy are where?”
Jude continued to hunt desperately for his words. “In the barn, but I wanted – ” He stopped, his tongue failing him as the whole colony stood watching and listening.
The bishop waited a moment and then walked over and touched the top wing of the plane. He ran his hand over the coated fabric and nodded. “A beautiful buggy. Pulled by horses with wings, eh? How many, Master Whetstone?”
Jude was trying not to look at Lyyndaya for help, but did anyway, and she was making sure she did not look at him or offer any by keeping her eyes on the stubble directly in front of the toes of her boots.
“There are - ” Jude stepped away from the crowd pressing in on him and Lyyndaya and turned around to look at the plane behind him as if he were seeing it for the first time – “there are – ” He stood utterly still and stared at the engine as if it did not belong there. Then he looked at Bishop Zook’s thick black beard and broad face. “Ninety. Ninety horses.”
The bishop nodded again and kept running his hand over the wing. “More than enough. There is the problem however – if God had meant us to fly, Master Whetstone, wouldn’t he have given us wings, hm?”
He took his hand from the plane and looked at Jude directly. Several of the women and women murmured their agreement with the bishop’s question and nodded their heads. Most remained silent, waiting for Jude’s answer. Jude stared at the bishop, trying to gauge the look in the tall man’s blue eyes. He thought he saw a flash of humor so he went ahead with the answer he had used a hundred times in their own Amish colony as well as dozens of the ones around it.
“Bishop Zook, “ he responded, “if God had meant us to ride a buggy he would have given us wheels and four legs.”
“Ah ha!” shouted the bishop, slapping his huge hand against his leg and making most of the people jump, including Lyyndaya. “You have it, Master Whetstone, you have it.” He clapped his hands in appreciation and most of the men and women and children clapped with him. “So now take me up.”
“As bishop, I must make sure it is safe for Miss Kurtz, ja? After all, who has ever had such a horse and buggy in our colony, eh?” He gave his hat to one of the men and climbed into the front of the two cockpits.
“I only have a little time before I must head back to Philadelphia – ” Jude began, again glancing at Lyyndaya for help, who had gone so far as to raise her gaze to stare fixedly at the bishop and the plane, but still refused to make eye contact with the young man.
“Five minutes,” smiled the bishop. “That is all I ask. I am not the one you are courting, eh?”