25 July, 2006

Trip: Radio silence?

I know, I keep promising to shut up and I keep chatting away. This time, though, I may actually be off the air until Sunday. We'll see. :-)

I am leaving my mom's to stay with my mom in the Lord for a while. I may actually be unable to connect from there, even at this hideous dialup speed.

Thanks for all the fun, though! It has brightened my trip.

Regeneration: Round 3 (or 4 or some such)

I have become quite comfortable thinking of myself as a regeneration-based Calvinist, as opposed to basing my Calvinist thoughts on election itself. I am seeing more and more clearly, just how unusual my position is.

Charles, with whom I spent 20 hours or so during my forced layover in Chicago and San Fran, has also been struggling on the subject of predestination. He has a great deal of respect for many Calvinist preachers, but still cannot accept the core principles of Calvinism. That's cool, of course, and made for hours of get-acquainted fun.

Charles also has a tremendous command of scripture. He has huge swathes of it memorized, and by memorized, I mean that he quotes text and reference and then text and reference of every cross-referenced verse as well. I could be more jealous, but I cannot imagine of what. What a wonderful way to spend 20 hours. :-)

I was hammered.

Charles beat my version of Calvinism senseless, and not just by using the same old verses. Charles threw out whole new arguments against irresistible grace, connections I had never heard before. If I am a regeneration-based Calvinist, I would describe him as a "believe"-based non-Calvinist. He placed the act of believing before the gift of regeneration time and time and time again.

I need a little time alone with the scripture before I decide whether I am going to step back from my ideas around regeneration, but I have never been closer to doing so. I look forward to a chance to bounce these thoughts off my mother in the Lord in a couple days. I'm sure she will have something to say. :-O

Forgive me if this is of limited interest to most of you, but I am going to go into a little more detail anyway. I hate to drive anyone to something more interesting (like weather statistics for Antartica) but I just have to record these thoughts anyway.

Between Weekend Fisher, Jonathon Edwards, and Charles I have had a lot to think about on this subject. I have expanded my understanding of regeneration a great deal in the last 3 months. I formerly believed that the Spirit just miraculously made us alive in Christ at a time of His own choosing. I have come to see how the Spirit uses the living Word of God in making us alive. The living Word is planted in a human soul, and it begins to grow.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus teaches how those seeds are planted into the human being. The sower casts living seed into 4 kinds of soil, and it sprouts up in three of them. There is a little bit of a debate about the rocky soil and the weedy soil. Some believe that because that soil did not bear fruit, those people were never saved. Some believe they were saved and fell away. As a Calvinist, of course, I would have to be in the first camp, but nagging thoughts about my ex-wife cause me to rethink even this.


There is an insight here that arrests me. Those seeds are cast into the heart of man, but cannot bear fruit until they are joined to our spirits. Furthermore, they cannot bear fruit until our spirits are joined to the Vine - Christ. The word grows in us, but until we believe it is fruitless. Belief grafts the word to our spirits. Belief is the the verb that empowers the scripture in us.

More thoughts flow from here. Maybe the seeds are the Vine. If that is true, then being joined to the seeds is being joined to the Vine. Maybe the seeds are not the Vine, but are what makes us able to be joined to him. We are washed by the word He has spoken to us. But, let me drop that for a minute. For now, I just want to dwell on how that seed is joined to our spirits.

The seed is alive in us before we do anything. Either the seed is joined to us when we believe, or we believe because the seed is joined to us. If we start out by assuming that our belief appropriates the seed, and joins it to us, then we can say that belief empowers the scripture in us.

This thought is as old as the old puritan expression, "Faith lays hold of the promises." There is nothing innovative about it, but seeing it in this context, in the light of each seed of scripture growing and waiting to be joined to our spirits was powerful to me.

I will give you an example of Charles' arguments. This was completely original to me.
1 John 5:9
If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, ...

God expects us to receive His testimony concerning His Son using the same facility of belief that we use when hear hear human testimony. If my coworker tells me my car is being stolen, I don't hem and haw; I believe him and fly out to check on my car whilst dialing 911. My belief of God's testimony should come more easily and surely than my belief in a man's testimony. More than that, though, I should believe God by the same mental workings that make me able to believe my coworker. There is nothing mysterious happening here.

I don't yet submit to that argument, but I am considering it strongly. I have long believed that faith in God is something that we cannot generate on our own precisely because it is mysterious - divine actually. This is one of the best arguments I have ever heard that faith is actually within human capability. It is a great sign that I have more questions now than I did when I started trying to answer them!

Today, I still believe that we cannot believe until God gives us a divine and eternal life. Belief flows from life, and not the other way around. Tomorrow I hope to have even more questions. :-)

So much to understand of the works of God! And so much joy in the figuring!

It was a treat to talk about these things with Charles, face-to-face. It happens so rarely that I come across a person who both cares about them, and is willing to go around about them a bit.

Thank you Lord, and thank you Charles.

23 July, 2006

Trip: A Third Friend :-(


Yes, I received one post from an anonymous person whom I met on an airplane, and 70 from an anonymous spambot. :-D

Yes, the spambots have finally found me.

I like allowing anonymous comments, but I am not going to enjoy deleting 70 spam comments. If I get another 70 before Sept., I will have to turn on word verification.

22 July, 2006

Trip: Wow. Dialup :-(

I am miles away from broadband here, and using my grandmother's computer on her 28.8k dialup connection.

I had forgotten the Internet could hurt this bad.

And I don't have my shorthand, either. I actually have to type every word that you are reading!?! How could the world be so cruel. ;-)

Anyway, it is pretty interesting to back in "the valley" down here in Paso Robles. Temps seem to be 110+ and I think the humidity is a little higher than usual at 21%. Of course, you know what difference that made in my tennis. None. Got to play a little twice. I needed to stretch my legs a little.

BTW: If you want to see a passing of the baton in tennis, tomorrow James Blake is going to dismantle Andy Roddick in the Indianapolis final. If you compare Blake to Roddick,
Forehand: Blake - same power, more control
Backhand: Blake - get real. Roddick is just starting to get a backhand
Server: Roddick, but every big server has a weak game or two
Service return: Blake - Roddick's return is an embarassment
Attitude: Blake - He knows how to work through a match. They both can be fragile mentally, but Blake is much tougher than Roddick
Coaching: ? - I don't really know, but Jimmy Connors could be the best thing that ever happened to Roddick. My guess is that Connors won't be able to help him. Connors has the mental toughness that Roddick needs, but it came too easy for Connors. You cannot teach what comes too easily.

Roddick will not be able to win this match on serve and coaching alone. Blake wins in two sets.

Ah well. All this typing reminds me that it's still daylight here on the West Coast. Why am I not out trying to find another chance to hit right now?

21 July, 2006

Leadership: Choosing Leaders

I cannot pretend to speak on this subject with authority. Scripture gives guidelines on how to reject poor leaders, and some hints about finding good ones, but let's face it, there's really not much clear advice. In the end, the apostles themselves chose a leader by lots.

I will not advocate shooting craps for the position of elder, no matter how scriptural it might be. :-)

Indulge me as a recall the Familyhood Church in which I would have us choosing leaders.

I know that mine is not a popular vision, but I can see nothing less. I am tired of knowing that my neighborhood is filled with Christians whom I will probably never know well, and maybe never at all. There are mystics and theology buffs and evangelists and caring brothers and sisters living in walking distance, but I will never meet them because they drive across town to find fellowship with likeminded people. Do they forget that Paul told us all to likeminded, not merely to seek out those with whom we agree?

Mutually deciding to avoid one another does not count as likemindedness.

In my happy dreams, we are a neighborhood of believers of all stripes and we share our love for Christ together. There are some Calvinists, but not most. There are a couple of people who believe fringe things, but mostly we are all in the mainstream of common Christianity. Pentecostals, Baptists, and Presbyterians. We probably have a Catholic or two, and the Church of Christ seems to be well represented. ;-)

Without doing anything, we would spontaneously have some cool fellowship, if we could only be introduced. But a church is more than fellowship, and I want that "more" more than anything. The church is a kingdom that attacks the gates of hell. It is a bride who prepares herself for a joyous day. It is a body that nurses its own, and a garden that needs tending. The church is also the target of the common ravages of sin, the intentional attacks of men, and the assaults of our spiritual enemy.

None of those opportunities, responsibilities and cares will be improved spontaneously.

Leaders must overcome denial for any of those things to happen.

We will need to choose those leaders.

This could be hard.

My biggest fear is that we will choose those who have been successful in business. Ellen said it very well. (I quote from memory here on this airplane.) God didn't require leaders to successfully run a business, but a household.

Businessmen, and please forgive me here, are not the only people qualified to lead God's church. A board of elders composed of nothing but successful businessmen can be prone to miss the quiet call of the Spirit. We need a businessman or two leading our church, if only to make sure things get done, but we also need a whole diversity of leaders. We need some artists, some thinkers and some flamboyantly extroverted people too.

Of course, if we go out trying to fill our church leadership roles with a shopping list of personality types we will be disappointed at best and self-destructively misguided at worst. We need to open ourselves to leaders who don't look like typical elder-stock.

[Let me say a word about women in leadership before I go into how to identify a church's first leaders. Yes, I think women are called and ideally suited to fill some of those leadership roles. I don't think that is news to anyone. Let's talk about that another day, though. I really want to go through the verses that define the discussion, but I am not prepared and today my heart is with the church's need for leaders in general. Let's just say that I believe that men can fill all roles I will describe below and leave a placemarker for a discussion of whether women should also fill them another day.]

I would like to propose a simple test for who should be identified as leaders right off the bat in a new church.

Every house that has raised reputable children at least into their teens, and in which everyone feels comfortable, has a leader at its helm.

I won't belabor the point about having raised kids, and I don't consider it iron-clad, but you all know how I feel about it.

Let me belabor being comfortable in a leader's home just a little, though. The epistles refer to "the church that meets in ______'s house," and hospitality is a requirement of an elder. I think those things are great pointers. If everyone just loves coming over to someone's house, it's a good indicator that the whole family really cares about God's people.

Sometimes that person is going to be a businessman. Sometimes it's going to be a carpenter, or a cad designer or a salesman. That's cool. If the church is willing to call that person and that person is willing to respond, they will rise to the need. We have already decided that even an untrained, uncredentialled, inexperienced person with the call of God on his life is perfectly qualified to lead in the kingdom.

I say we should give them a chance. I think the church will be better for it.

FTR, I believe that ideally you should divide the number of households in the church by 5, and have about that many leaders. Every one of those leaders may not be a pastoral candidate, but they will all grow into the responsibility to keep their eyes open, and to care for the people nearest them.


Q: What about preaching? Who is going to preach?
A: Ideally, we would find out that we have all the skills that we need already in our neighborhood, but that's too optimistic. So, hire a preacher. I bet that we could find someone who would preach on the side for us. We don't need a "pastor," because some of our elders are definitely going to be shepherds.

Q: What about heresy? Who is going to keep us from falling into error?
A: Honestly, as long as we are not trying to conquer the world, we are not going to fall into grevious error. Error creeps in with pride and ambition, not with normal life. Error comes in when one Christian leader is trying to differentiate itself from all the rest and must find some new truth that nobody else has. "If we have something exciting and unique, then people will flock to us," is the idea. So, don't be unique! It's hard to decide to be normal, but that's where truth and safety lie. If a doctrine makes us too unique, and we are in doubt about it, then drop it. But, if we really are not sure, then I'm sure we can hire us a theologian, too.


Thank you for bearing with me on this. When I started this leadership series, I really did not know how I would recommend that we pick leaders. I did know that this had to be the pinnacle of the discussion, but I didn't know what my answer might be. I'm really happy with where this ended up.

20 July, 2006

Update: Stuck in Chicago

My little 1 hour flight from Columbus to Chicago then on to Reno is now on it's 4th hour, and maybe we'll get out in another 2.

Fun stuff!

(And Ellen ... I certainly could go there ;-)

19 July, 2006

Leadership: 2 discussion questions

I have moved up the economic ladder a little bit in recent years. I'm in IT, though, so job security is a little bit of an issue (not much, just enough for the analogy I'm drawing.)

As I understand the socio-economic climate of the first century, that probably makes me somewhat equivalent to a "freedman." I'm still a member of the unwashed masses, but I am no longer a slave. I have earned my freedom from my previous owner, and can now seek any employment that happens to jazz me. In fact, that's how it happened. I was freed from doing mechanic work for my employer, and continued to work for them as a programmer. After a couple years, I found another job and moved on.

The point is that I am not a scholar, priest or merchant. I am not in the upper class of professional society, and never will be.

But I could be.

This is America. Upward mobility may be our only common religion.

In the first century, there was no such thing as upward mobility for freedmen. Only the rarest of individuals might make it as high as merchant in a lifetime of work.

The church was the sole shining counter to that example. In the church everyone was known solely by their first name. Class was no obstacle to God, and no obstacle between brothers.

With that background in place, here is my first discussion question.

Could a slave/freedman be a presbyter/elder/bishop/pastor?

We have all agreed that authority/judgement must be exercised by a leader in God's kingdom. Could a freedman carry that authority with the people of God? Could a slave exercise that judgement? Would a merchant submit to a slave?

On to the second question. First a little more background.

In the first century, being a slave carried less stigma than being on welfare does today. It was not your fault you were a slave. It didn't mean you were a less capable person or had made any mistakes to be forced into slavery. Your village was just in the wrong place when the Roman army rolled through, or when your chieftain decided to take on Rome. Stuff happens.

The same was not true in America in 1850. Christianity was complicit in the redefinition of race as a justification for slavery. The Quakers really shone as a beacon against the lies that undergirded slavery. The rest of Christianity, though, was an example of how confused good people can become when interpreting the bible. There were strong abolitionists in our ranks and strong advocates of slavery all quoting from the same word of God.

Repeat question #1 for America in 1850.

Could a black slave be a presbyter/elder/bishop/pastor?

In the North? In the South? (In California? ;-) In an "unenlightened" congregation?


Tomorrow morning at 6:20 I am on a plane bound for California to grace my family and a couple old friends with my presence. My Internet connectivity during my vacation will be spotty. I cannot predict how much I will be able to chat, but I will make the effort.

16 July, 2006

Meme: Poking fun at someone who deserves it

Weekend Fisher has suggested a meme in which we poke a little fun at ourselves. As usual, her point is profound so give the post a read. As a home churcher, I offer this:

Q: How many home churchers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: I suppose we'll all have to do it! Kevin doesn't seem care enough about Christ's holy bride to change the lightbulb in his own house when he knows we are going to be meeting there tonight. Oh well. Let's make that the subject of our meeting! We were wondering what to do tonight anyway.

It may not be funny if it hasn't happened just this way to you a dozen scores of times. If it has, though, then it's REALLY NOT FUNNY!


Yes, it's just like that.

15 July, 2006

Bible Study: How to study a verse on Crosswalk.com

Delivered to my bible study group on 7/13. Recorded here so that I could print it out and hand it to them tomorrow:

A quick primer on how to use CrossWalk.com to really study a verse in depth.

For starters, pick a verse about which you have some questions. :-)

Just read it and talk to the Lord about it for a while. You have to understand before you start that the paper and ink you are holding in your hand is not holy. The words on it are spiritual, but they are not magical. They are true, but they are true about Someone, and it is that Someone Who matters.

The spiritual content of the scriptures is only made known to man because the Spirit makes it known. The spiritual content of the scriptures is not knowledge, but the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Spirit makes the scriptures known to you, He is revealing Christ to you, or He is doing nothing at all.

So, spend time reminding yourself and the Lord Who it is you are really seeking when you are plumbing His word.

Then, dig out some tools!

All of the tools that I will tell you about tonight are just the discoveries of men who came before us, captured on paper and then placed on the Internet. Use these just like you would use some time alone with a trusted elder in the Lord. Except they're even cooler because you don't have to disturb anyone to use them at 5 in the morning, or 11 at night! All these guys have gone on to their reward with the Lord, so we could not disturb them if we tried. :-)

The study tools are all at bible.crosswalk.com. To get there from crosswalk.com, click on Faith then Bible Study Tools.

From there, enter the verse you would like to study. (You can also enter search words to study by idea, but we are going to do a whole lot better than that tonight.)

Be sure to use either the KJV or NAS with Strong's Numbers and select the Study Tools checkbox. We will be using both of those things. You might click on the Preferences link to set the bible you will use to always come up as one of these. It will save you some time in later searches.

For our little example, we will look at Matt 5:48.

(Throughout this little lesson, I am going to call this the Verse Study Page. You will keep coming back to this page throughout this lesson, so remember to click "Back" to get back to it, or use whatever other nifty trick works best for you!)

Clicking Find brings you to the Verse Study Page. Note that most of the words in the verse are underlined. This is because we chose a bible with Strong's Numbers. We will be clicking the underlined words later.

Over on the right, you see a bunch of TLA's (three letter acronyms) and 5:48 over and over and over. We'll be getting to those too! First, though, look at the bottom to see what all the TLA's stand for. You have it right when you see that DBY stands for Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament.

The first two links I recommend you click are "NTB" and "TSK," give me just a second and we will do just that!

The point of this part of the verse study process is to expand our horizons.

We could dive into the Greek and all that, but it is better to see what the rest of the bible has to say first. We want to see WHAT this verse has to say, and to do that we need to see what the rest of the bible has to say on the same subject.

For starters, click the little link at the top of the Verse Study Page that says "read chapter." There's no point in studying all over the bible if we haven't see what the verses around this one say about it.

Next, on the Verse Study Page, take a look at the NTB (Nave's Topical Bible) subjects available to us. There are 8 topics listed. Let's assume that Perfection is probably the one of most interest to us. Click the word, "Perfection."

Here you find 40+ other passages of scripture that all talk about the idea of perfection. These won't tell you exactly what Matt 5:48 has to say about perfection, but they will sure open your mind to some things that Jesus might have meant when He said these words.

Next, on your Verse Study Page, click TSK (Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge).

You will note that several of the TSK verses are verses you already saw in the NTB. But not all of them. The TSK follows some counter-intuitive paths in linking verses together. That's what makes it so cool! You never know what you might find, but it's worth it often as not.

We have successfully expanded our horizons on this verse, so now we are ready to jump into the Greek a little bit. I don't know Greek, and statistics suggest that you probably don't either. Without loads of training we should not try too hard to track down roots of Greek words and dissect fine shades of meaning, but there are some simple tricks that we can use to great profit.

Click on the word, "perfect" in Matt 5:48 itself on the Verse Study Page, and you will be taken to the Greek Lexicon entry for the Greek word "teleios" - Perfect.

We want to take a quick glance at the definitions, and make sure that we are not somewhere out in left field. We also want to click the little speaker button so that we can hear the word pronounced (we wouldn't want to embarass ourselves in front of our Greek-speaking friends, now would we ;-).

Mostly, though, we want to look at all the other places this word is used in the New Testament. The best way for us non-Greekers to guess what might be the meaning of this Greek word is to see how it is used in other places. I have it on good authority that this is what the pros do, too. :-D

You are now deeply into the So What stage of bible study. You are, whether you mean to or not, starting to draw conclusions about what this verse really means. You are seeing what the Spirit is really telling His church by these words. You are starting to see what's really important about being perfect like your Father in heaven is perfect.

Click on the 1 Corinthians link above to see how Paul uses teleios to the Corinthians.

Now, ....


There has to come a pause in this process. You've probably looked at dozens of verses all over the bible (with nothing more than a few dozen mouse clicks!), but it is time to let some of this sink in. If you can, spread all this studying out over a few days, and mingle into it liberal prayer. Let the Spirit illuminate the things you are reading, without just charging full-speed ahead in your own time.

After you think you have a pretty good idea what the So What of this verse might be, dig into some commentaries. Let some of the elders of Christianity past share with you what they thought it meant. They will confirm your insights, add to them or correct them. No matter which or what mixture of which, it is cool to read a commentary after you have taken the time to really dig into a passage.

As an example, I am showing the GIL commentary, but go ahead and click on any number of them. You will find that they each have a different flavor and focus.

And now you enter the most important stage of bible study ... Now What!

It is a mistake to gain insight into the Lord and do nothing with it. Now that you know what it is to be perfect (assuming you actually did this study along with this lesson :-O) it is time to open your heart to the Lord and let Him show you a new way to be perfect.

May the Lord bless!

14 July, 2006

Leadership: Submission and ???

The next word after "Submission" in these discussions is always, "Authority." And over the last week, I finished quite a competent little post whose title ended in just that word. Well, almost finished. Actually, I got right to the end, and discovered I'd been wrong all along.

The truth hit me over the head like a chocolate orange (you know the gems - you smack the little orange on a table or some such, and it breaks into a dozen wonderful little slices of orangy chocolate?) In a surprising flash revelation, with just a hint of noggin ache, I saw a dozen ways "authority" misses the target outright.

It really made for quite an impatient day as I sat at work, and in bible study, and in a car with my son, and at lunch and a handful of other places, wishing all the while I could sit down and tell you all about it. I'm really unhappy that I have not had the time to write as much as I'd like. And my busyness comes at just the time that I really need the sincere distraction of typing something joyful and amusing.

Ah well.

But, here I am now, so I may as well get on and start enjoying the moment!

I wrote my poor, doomed little post on this passage:
Luke 22
24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

This little speech of our Lord's actually appears in all three of the synoptics. Matthew, Peter (Mark) and Luke all devote a number of verses to it. I knew as I typed that I was nattering on about something that Jesus and three of his best biographers agreed was important. And it's easy to natter on about authority using this passage, because Jesus directly uses the word and says the equivalent of "Bad pastor! Naughty, naughty pastor, claiming authority over your flock like that. Off to bed with you, after you finish cleaning up your whole congregation's dinner plates and sweeping up the crumbs and giving them to the poor somewhere."

The only problem with that little conceit is that it leaves off the whole "Oh, and judge the 12 tribes of Israel while you are at it" thingy that He said there at the end.

Nattering while nagging myself with niggling notions that I've not nailed the nuance of a narrative drove me nutty. So, I was greatly relieved when I finally made it down to commenting on verses 29 and 30. Looking at the verses that were distracting me let me scratch that itch.

No one could have been more surprised than I, though, when they came clear for me. I look at a passage for nigh unto thirty years, and the last thing I expect is to suddenly see something completely new. The bible is truly a joy.

Leaders in the church are not to take authority over it's members; leaders are to judge them.

At first, I felt much like you probably do now. That's rather a step up in the brutality scale, isn't it? My mind shied away from such a stern word, but there it was in black and white. ...judging the twelve tribes of Israel

Oh, I know. Everyone thinks this is all for another dispensation, but think it about it for a second. It really isn't. There was no church when Jesus said these words, and after Jesus had risen again Paul went on a great deal about how the church is spiritual Israel. The kingdom of God is here now, and has been since the Spirit fell down on those brothers and sisters in the upper room two millenia ago. These disciples were eventually given the keys to the kingdom, and they were to bind and loose things on earth as God willed in heaven.

They exercised judgement in the kingdom of God, exactly as Jesus said they would.

Do you want some examples of leaders in the church judging?

1 Tim 1:20 Hymenaeus and Alexander are among them, and I have delivered them to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.

Acts 5: 3 Then Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds from the field? 4 Wasn't it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn't it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God!" 5 When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. 6 The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him. 7 There was an interval of about three hours; then his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 "Tell me," Peter asked her, "did you sell the field for this price?" "Yes," she said, "for that price." 9 Then Peter said to her, "Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out!" 10 Instantly she dropped dead at his feet.

1 Cor 5: 3 For though absent in body but present in spirit, I have already decided about him who has done this thing as though I were present. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, along with my spirit and with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord.

2 Thess 3:14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.

2 Cor 13: 2 I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others,

Now those are not the most fun passages the bible has to offer, but they are silent on something very profound. Those are passages that speak of discipline being exercised on people who walk unworthy of their calling. But I cannot think of any passages in which authority is exercised. And that makes sense, since Jesus goes out of His way to teach His disciples not to do so! Judgement I see, but authority is rebuked as strongly as it is encouraged.

Let me see if I can draw a picture of the difference between judgement and authority. Let's do a roleplay with two daddy's named Judgement and Authority, and a little boy.

The little boy is in the kitchen, ice cream is in the freezer and trouble is on the horizon. Each of our daddy's looks at the little boy and says, "I'm leaving now, but don't touch the ice cream." The little boy asks, "Why, Daddy?"

Judgement answers, "I want you to enjoy the ice cream, and I want you to enjoy your dinner too. To do that, you have to eat them in the right order, so you may have no ice cream until after dinner."

Authority answers, "Didn't I say I'm leaving? I'm your father and I told you not to touch the ice cream, so don't touch it. Hush now, and do what I say."

Of course, little boys being little boys, he does what little boys do and he snatches an ice cream. Daddy's being daddy's, though, they each catch the little boy red-handed and chocolate-lipped.

Judgement says, "I see you didn't really want dinner. You wanted ice cream, instead. But you shouldn't eat sugar without some real food in your stomach too, so you had best wash the rest of your ice cream down the drain. And since you didn't want dinner, you can go to bed without it tonight."

Authority says, "I thought I told you no ice cream! I'm here to grow you into a righteous man, so when I talk, you'd better listen, and you'd better do what I say! [Insert tedious lecture here.]"

Our two daddy's, Judgement and Authority, each speak from equal authority, but Judgement bases his power on sound fact and fairness. Authority bases his power on his role and good intentions toward the boy. Authority reminds the little boy that he is acting in the boy's best interests, and that he is in fact the boy's "Benefactor". Jesus did not like that, as you will recall. Judgement simply assesses the facts, draws a teaching conclusion, and enforces it.

You might know Judgement's style as, "Speak softly, and carry a big stick."

Very little wiser has ever been said by uninspired men.

Authority tends to have a bad case of Verbal Diarrhea. Everything authority does seems to be attended with a stern lecture, and lots of reminders of how important submission is. Which is really quite funny, because a lot of what authority says is absolutely true. It's almost all true. Especially the part about submission.

The title of this post should be "Leadership: Submission and Judgement". The only reason it isn't is because that would have spoiled the only little bit of surprise I really had. Submission is still in the title, though, because we need submission. We need the discipline of submitting, and we need the blessings that we gain from those in authority over us.

Whether our rulers rule with Authority or Judgement, and we know which one is more pleasant, it is still our business to submit to them. I would only add that we should submit to them with judgement. No judgement is required in submitting to the Lord Jesus, but even if you could submit to Charles Haddon Spurgeon (one of my heroes - where everyone else loves CS Lewis, I love Spurgeon - for purposes of this example you could trust him. :-) Even if you could submit to Mr. Spurgeon himself (I love that he was Mr. Spurgeon - not pastor Spurgeon, or Reverend Spurgeon, or something even more hideous), you had best do it with judgement. We are to submit one to another, but not to be mindlessly enslaved one to another.

So, to summarize the whole leadership series (for those who might have forgotten parts of it, since I started it way back in May)

Leadership is the opposite of denial. Leadership sees problems and takes meaningful steps to correct them while it is still early enough. Leaders need to know when to act, but they also need to know when to be patient and encourage confused people. Older leaders are better at this. They have a better eye for when someone needs to jump in and do something, and when everyone needs to just chill and let a situation work itself out. They know this stuff because they have been through some high water in their lives. They know that sometimes it's the still waters that should scare you, and sometimes thick frothing rapids are nothing but a little tantrum.

Leaders should care more about people than doctrine, and though they should be able to teach sound doctrine, they should know it well enough to teach it for the purpose of building character. They should know that it is a life pattern of good works that shows a living faith in Christ, much more than having all the creeds down pat.

To this end, it is good to make sure that your senior leaders are just that, seniors. When your leaders are all young and highly gifted, everyone is at risk. The gifts are a great blessing to the church, but they are also a destabilizing influence. Young, gifted men are as dangerous as they are rewarding to have in leadership. Give them responsibility, but not all at once. Let them grow into it a bit. Let them grow slowly.

And finally, leaders should lead by judgement, not by authority.

10 July, 2006

Hello: I'm back

Howdy all, and thank you for the kind words. They mean a lot.

The camping went well. Nothing miraculous happened, but my son and I busted through the brush for 4 days, and wore ourselves out quite thoroughly. The first two days it rained incessantly, which was just perfect. I was hoping for a little struggle to keep the time interesting, and that just suited the bill. Rain or no rain, we built a fire every morning and evening and ate hot food, so it was good.

We spent 3 days moving as far and as fast as possible without setting foot on anything man-made. For example, on day 2, I picked a point 2.5 miles away as the crow flies, and we raced each other there. He was unhappy that I had chosen a point so close, "That's barely an hour! Pick something worthy of our time."

He got there in just over 2 hours, and me in just over 2.5.

To get there we each navigated 10 elevation changes of more than 100 feet up and down (picture 10 flights of stairs, only substitute mud slopes so steep that moving forward without hands and feet is impossible), a huge, thorny raspberry patch (with him in shorts - it should have given me more of an advantage, but pain is not much of a deterrent to him), and a horse pasture (again, he ran through it while I worked my way around it.) I gradually became quite adapt at using a found walking stick as my third leg, as it was the only way to get dependable traction more often than I can count.

The trip back was done together, and at a leisurely pace. (At least he had the common decency to feel fatigue!) I will tell you this, though, 2.5 miles worth of open woods during a steady rain was more than enough to cause both of us to lose all sense of direction. When we pointed "home", we were wrong by 90 degrees. The GPS units made getting home a real breeze.


So, I was home in time to catch about 1 hour of Wimbledon. It was nice, though, to see it end up right. Mauresmo has struggled so much, and to hear that she successfully overcame Henin-Hardenne was heart-warming. You may recall that Henin wimped out the last time they played, claiming a stomach ache. She played through this time, and took her lumps fair and square. Good. Mauresmo silenced a lot of us on Saturday, and gave all us "chokers" a reason to hope.

Federer needed to beat Nadal if theirs was going to be a "rivalry." That he did, and that he did so convincingly was a great relief. Anyone with any sense is betting on them in the final of the US Open in August. My money would be on Federer again. Once he has someone figured out, he seems to be able to keep up the pressure. Just ask Nalbandian - the last pro to "own" Federer.

I picked Italy to win the World Cup, too, so it was a good weekend for me in that vein. One word about Zidane ... that dude uses his head to strike balls every day - his shot at Materazzi should practically be considered assault with a deadly weapon. Wow. What a hit!


Future blogging.

There will be some, but I don't know how much. I go out to California in a week, and am gone for almost 2. So, I offer no predictions on the number of posts between now and August. Thanks for checking in on me while I was gone, though! I will try to get out to everyone's sites shortly.

05 July, 2006

Cinderella and the Proud Curse: Chapter 1

Once upon a time there was a beautiful maiden who went to a ball until midnight and managed to marry a prince. There was a little confusion about a glass slipper, but in the end she got her man.

I understand that the poor guy who wrote that story said something at the end of it about “Happily ever after.” His sources were suspect. Cinderella was, you see, married in fairyland, and anything can happen in fairyland.

In this sad case, what happened was that a certain old, and very unpleasant witch read a worn out scroll. She found in it a very old and worn out prophecy that said that the first-born daughter of a servant queen would have in her veins the power of …”

Yes, that’s right, the worn out scroll could not be read, just at that critical point. The witch did not know what power she could gain if she got a drop of the blood of that child, but there was only one way to find out.

The old woman could wait, and she only told one man about the prophecy. Princess Cinderella was not yet a queen, but one day she would be. If Cinderella’s first child were not a girl, then the prophecy was false, but if she were… The old lady had a plan.

In due time Cinderella had her first child, a daughter, and they named her Anna. She was a beautiful little girl, with nearly invisible hair growing on her ears. This was important, because it meant that somehow a little bit of fairy blood had been magically given to her.

Only a Mommy would have known.

Only a Mommy should have known, but a certain ugly and very unpleasant witch knew too, and that was exactly the sort of thing that happens in fairyland.

When Anna had her first birthday, Cinderella and her prince announced a party for her. They were on the balcony overlooking a plaza where hundreds of the prince’s subjects were gathered. Cinderella could hardly contain her pride. She looked at the prince, and she looked at the people, beaming with the pure joy of it all. She remembered a certain stepmother, and all the things she had endured. She remembered the blessings of her fairy godmother. Most of all she remembered the beautiful gift her Anna had been, and how happy she was.

Cinderella gently lifted Anna from her basinet, and held her aloft for all the people to see. They could share in her joy now!

Anna was just old enough to lean up against things and stand, and to coo and gurgle when she was happy. As Cinderella cradled her in her arms, Anna looked out and saw a thousand people, hushed and watching her. Immediately, Anna became very still and very quiet.

“Blbbll, thubbl. Abub thubul,” Anna said, and raising her chubby little right fist, she added, “Abulbul!”

The thousand people who had all been holding their breath, let it out at once. Anna was beautiful, even more beautiful than Cinderella herself. After they all gasped, there was just silence through the plaza. Everyone knew now that the prince and princess were blessed, because they had been blessed with such a beautiful baby.

Just then, from the middle of the crowd came a voice saying, “She’s kind of plain, don’t you think?”

Cinderella heard her from all the way up in the balcony, and her face turned red with sudden rage.

“Actually, she’s very nearly ugly,” the unwelcome voice continued.

Cinderella and her prince stepped to the front of the balcony, and looked down to see to whom the foolish voice belonged. It was an old, (truly) ugly woman. It was easy to see her because all the people near her had backed as far away as the crowded space would allow. Soon it was obvious why everyone had backed away, as Cinderella shouted, “Seize her!”

With that, Cinderella stormed away with Anna while the prince tried to keep up. She sent Anna with her nurse to the nursery while she went straight to the hall of judgment, and waited for the old woman to be brought to her.

In minutes the faithful guards hauled the old woman in, which was exactly what should be happening right now according to her plan.

Cinderella had no idea that she was looking at her mortal enemy. The witch wanted nothing but the worst. She wanted to be alone with little Anna.

Not knowing that she should feel afraid, but beginning to feel very uncomfortable with how angry she had become, Cinderella started to feel guilty. She had just treated a poor old woman terribly, because of pride. She would never have tormented this poor old woman this way were she not so proud of Anna. Upon seeing the tired, old woman bound in front of her, Cinderella begged forgiveness of the old woman, and bid her be released.

The old woman did not leave, though. She may have been ugly, but she was very, very cunning. Instead, she bowed her head all the way to the ground, and told Cinderella that she wanted to give Anna a gift. She owned only one precious thing in the world, and would never be happy in life again unless she could give it to her now.

Without raising her head from the floor, she held out a pouch. Above her sad mop of gray hair she held a teardrop shaped package, carefully wrapped in coarse peasant’s wool.

Cinderella looked down on this pitiful woman who could easily have been her own grandmother, and her heart broke. She ran down from her throne and lifted the poor old woman from her position of shame. Hugging her, she wept and said, “Sweet woman, I am so sorry for scaring you so. Please, forgive me and go your way in peace.”

With that Cinderella rose up and bid the guards to free her.

Of course, the old woman was not sweet, but Cinderella could hardly know that! She was as heartless as an ogre, and twice as greedy. Anyone who knew her would have been shocked to hear her next words.

“Please dear princess,” she said, “do not break my heart and reject my humble gift.”

Cinderella looked at her, with tears of shame filling her eyes. “Of course, dear woman,” she said. She took the simple, terrible gift from her mortal enemy. “Since you have offered it to Anna, how can I say no?”

Turning from her, Cinderella left the room. The old lady’s eyes twinkled, and she let the relief she was feeling show through to guards who showed her safely back into the street. Not much is scarier than letting yourself be arrested by an angry mommy who could say, “Off with her head!” and actually be obeyed. She had pulled it off, though.

She had only to wait now.

The prince followed Cinderella, and took her hand. “Chirpy,” he said. He called her Chirpy because Cinderella so very much liked to whistle whenever she was happily at work. “Chirpy, you are too kind. You are beautiful in your jealousy and your mercy alike.”

Cinderella looked up at him and said, “I just don’t know what came over me. I don’t know what I did wrong, but in my heart I feel that nothing good will come of this day.”

The prince stepped up to her, and held both of her hands in his firm grip. Confidence shone from his face as he insisted to her that, “Every true deed, done from a true heart, will give birth to truth in the end.”

Cinderella looked at him through suddenly teary eyes, and tried to choke back her fears. His eyes met hers and worked to settle her heart, but she was not sure whether they were as strong as the creeping dread in her bones. Anna was in danger. She did not know how or why, but she could sense it in her bones. Something about her moment of pride was a dangerous, dangerous thing.

The prince was already late to discuss a recent border argument with Duke Archibald to the north, so he left his princess with a quick kiss. Poor Cinderella was left standing alone in the cold, gray hallway of the castle. With a heavy heart, she went to see her blessed little Anna.

A wonderful old maid was there, watching Anna. She got up to leave Cinderella in peace with her little girl, and with Fluffy, the family cat. (Back in those days, they did not believe that cats would steal a little girl’s breath in her sleep, like some do today.)

Anna was as beautiful as ever, and as patient. From the moment Cinderella picked her up, she squirmed to get down and touch the “Guggfe”. Her momma’s heart chuckled, and she set Anna down next to Fluffy, if only to watch the cat run away from Anna’s curious little fingers.

Anna’s easy fascination with everything close enough to grab her attention was like a balm to Cinderella’s heart. The prince was right. They were well cared for, and everything would be fine.

In the quietness of the moment, the old lady’s gift came back to mind. She pulled it from her pocket, gave it to Anna. “Here you go, my brilliant little angel,” she said. “It’s from a dear old grandma down in the village.”

Anna began to worry the string off the old wool, and to get the package opened little by little. Eventually, it was clear that the old lady had gifted a little mirror to Anna. Instead of looking at it, though, Anna did as children have done since time began and began chewing on its handle.

“Let me hold that for you dear,” Cinderella said. The little mirror had not been washed, and it probably was not designed to be a chew toy anyway.

The handle was carved from a dark and beautiful piece of wood. It was engraved with the most frightening little pictures, though. On both sides of the handle was a very large cat, while in the middle were the most frightened and helpless looking mice she had ever seen.

She looked into the glass itself, and suddenly it clattered to the floor.

Cinderella clattered to the floor too, though without quite the same noise. She looked up, and suddenly Anna was twice as large as a horse and the was room bigger than any cathedral. The chair on which she was sitting was could have held the entire palace guard, and left them room for their best marching maneuvers.

Fear overcame poor Cinderella, and she fainted right away.

Cinderella and the Proud Curse: Chapter 2

When she awoke, it was to see the giant Anna crawling over toward the mirror. Her mind struggled to make some sense of what she was seeing, but none of it meant anything to her. How could Anna be so big? Somehow she had to fix poor Anna. The mirror kept pressing itself into her mind, though.

The mirror! The mirror had done this to her! But what had it done? It was lying face down, so she had no way of seeing herself. She looked at her hands, though, and they weren’t hands at all. They were paws! She felt her face, and she felt whiskers. Her nose wiggled as they thought, and suddenly she understood it all. The mirror had turned her into one of the frightened little mice engraved on its handle.

And now Anna was lifting the mirror!

She had to get that mirror away from Anna somehow. She yelled, “No!” at her little girl, now huge before her, but only a squeak came out. Anna had the mirror, but she dropped it again. This time it landed face up.

She did the only thing she could think of, and ran across Anna’s little fingers. They were bigger than a couch to her, but none of that mattered. Anna squealed in fear, and then delight. She took off after her new fuzzy little toy.

Cinderella had gotten her attention. Now, she had to lead Anna away from the danger. She dodged left and right, and kept herself just out of Anna’s curious, crushing fingers. When Anna was far enough away from danger, Cinderella hid herself behind Snuggle Bear, an old teddy bear that Anna didn’t like any more.

She went to catch her breath, and turned around to lean against the fluffy comfort of Snuggle Bear, when she saw a Fluffy that was no comfort. Bigger than Anna, and crouched to pounce, a merciless Fluffy the cat was getting ready to eat her mouse-sized mistress.

Fluffy’s eyes hypnotized her. The most fascinating shade of orange, they were as large as a dinner table, and intent on nothing but her.

Those eyes were flying through the air, directly toward her.

She caught the briefest glance of two paws looking like the outstretched limbs of some horrible tree. Those paws were like nothing she had never seen before. They were not the pillows of softness that comforted her every night. Each paw held five curved razors spread wildly like some awful dragon’s, and all 10 of them were aimed directly for her heart.

Fear finally broke Fluffy’s hypnotic hold over her, and Cinderella ducked under Snuggle Bear. Snuggle Bear crushed down onto her under the weight of Fluffy’s flying leap. Fluffy threw Snuggle Bear away, leaving Cinderella face-to-face with Fluffy’s wild eyes, and overpowered by her terrible kitty-breath. She had nowhere to run, so she ran right under Fluffy, slipping between her legs to freedom.

Fluffy wheeled to chase her, and fell right on her head in a crashing pile of cat and teddy bear. She had not noticed that her claw was hooked on the bear. She rose, trying both to track Cinderella with her eyes, and shake her claw free of Snuggle Bear. Cinderella ran straight past the mirror, then back to it. It was a horrible risk, but she had to look into that mirror once more, and see whether it offered any clues.

In its glass, she saw only the furry white face of a frightened mouse.

Snuggle Bear and Fluffy were both charging across the room to get her. Fluffy could not get her paw free, but she couldn’t give up the hunt, either. Far worse, though, Cinderella saw Anna headed back to look at the mirror.

The mirror was full of evil magic, and the old lady was the witch that put it there. No old witch was going to hurt her Anna.

Fluffy and Snuggle Bear charged, flailed, and crashed after her. Cinderella’s poor mouse-heart was beating a thousand times a minute, and it was screaming for her to make it to a mouse hole. She could even see a good one straight in front of her. Freedom and safety were just across the room. Behind her, though, Anna grew closer and closer to that hateful mirror.

Without thinking, she ran right straight under Snuggle Bear again. Fluffy tried to follow her and got flipped upside down, but when she rose, she was free of her snuggly shackle and ready to begin the chase for real.

Cinderella saw that there was a table standing right over the mirror. Maybe there was something up there that she could push off to break the mirror. She scurried up the table leg. That put several feet between her and death.

There was a book on the table that was surely big enough to break the mirror. She was not sure she could move it, but she was ready to try. Her thoughts were interrupted by Fluffy, though. Fluffy was unable to think of anything but catching that mouse, and playing with it until it could play no more.

Cinderella dove off the table for dear life.

As Cinderella flew off the table toward the mirror, she could see Fluffy’s image reflected in it, and looking down to mark her target. A terrifying plan entered Cinderella’s mind, and she froze there in the middle of the mirror. Fluffy froze too, waiting to see which way the helpless mouse would flee. Anna was reaching out, about to grab her or the mirror. Cinderella could not tell which, but she said a quick prayer that Fluffy would not wait any longer. Fluffy needed to pounce NOW, before Anna got any closer.

Cinderella just sat there, motionless on that mirror.

Fluffy would not pounce!

Anna’s hand touched the mirror handle, Cinderella remembered that cats don’t attack things that are being still so she ran in a quick circle around the mirror. Before she could look up, she knew Fluffy was in mid-air. She waited just a blink longer then ran for the mouse hole.

Fluffy landed directly on the mirror, just as she’d hoped, but the mirror didn’t break.

Fluffy took off after Cinderella at lightning speed. Well, almost. Really, she tried, but instead she spun out on the mirror, throwing it backwards across the room and shattering it against one of the table legs.

The noise distracted even Fluffy. She and Cinderella both turned around to see a kind of red fog drifting up from the shattered mirror. It was not like smoke, because smoke would be thinning and going away. This fog was getting stronger, and starting to float around in the room. One glance told her that Anna and Fluffy were both watching it with great interest.

Like some sort of jinni from a bottle, the fog seemed to take on a kind of a shape and almost seemed alive. Anna sat up and started giggling. She had never seen anything like it. Fluffy started slowly walking up to it. The fog turned, and started moving toward Fluffy. Fluffy jumped and ran back a little way. The fog turned again, and started toward little Anna. It seemed to follow whoever was closest.

Cinderella knew she had to be closest.

She ran directly behind the fog, but it completely ignored her. She ran right into the fog, and all around it, and it didn’t even seem to see her. It just kept drifting toward silly little Anna, who just kept looking at it and giggling. Fluffy was still proving what it meant to be a “scaredy-cat”. There was not a hope in the world.

Cinderella just plopped down on her furry little bottom, and gave up. The cloud had already gotten her, and now it wanted a fresh victim. There was nothing she could do. The old witch had beaten her. How could she fight a cloud?

The cloud had worked its way past Cinderella, and was now drifting lazily toward Anna.

Cinderella wanted to wave a book around in the room, and make the cloud go away, but mice are not built for that. They are not very brave, either! Cinderella had already overcome that natural fear that mice have too many times for one day. She just couldn’t do it again when there was nothing to be done.

The cloud had passed Fluffy, and she started toward it again. Curiosity, they say, killed the cat, and Fluffy seemed to need to prove it. She wanted a good sniff at the butt of that weird looking cloud, and she was going to try to sneak up behind it to steal a whiff.

Cinderella watched, with fascination and a little hope. As soon as Fluffy was closer to the cloud than Anna, it turned to drift toward her instead. It was almost beautiful to watch, in a terrible sort of way. The cloud held together with its own shape, and it almost seemed like it had a head and knew which way it wanted to go. When Fluffy snuck up behind it, the cloud never turned around. The head just kind popped out right in front of Fluffy!

Fluffy poofed out her hair like a blowfish, arched her back, hissed, spit, jumped 3 feet in the air, turned around, and jumped backwards like an acrobat. The head of the cloud immediately turned back to Anna, who was still sitting there giggling and cooing in perfect innocence.

Really, Fluffy had only backed up about a foot, and as soon as the cloud was headed the other way, she got interested again. She still looked very, very Fluffy with her fur all poofed out, but she was sticking out her nose as far as she could without moving her feet, trying to get a sniff of that weird thing.

Cinderella felt something like hope.

She ran out in front of Fluffy, and tried to get her give chase one more time. Fluffy glanced at her, and then went back to sniffing the cloud from five feet away. Cinderella started running in circles, hopping, and even squeaking as loudly as she could. It was no use. Fluffy was only interested in that weird cloud, but not interested enough to make it follow her.

Cinderella would have been confused and desperate, but there was not enough time. The cloud was only inches away from her beloved, cooing little Anna.

She ran up to Fluffy, that mountain of claws, teeth, and eyes that hypnotized just before the kill, and bit her on the toe as hard as she could. It was not a smart idea, but a half-baked plan just in the nick of time, is better than the perfect plan one second too late.

Suddenly, Fluffy was interested in something besides that cloud!

Fluffy picked up her paw, and shook it mightily. Cinderella hung on as long as she could, but eventually Fluffy figured out that she could just bite the mouse off her paw. That would NOT help anything! So, Cinderella let go, and took off running.

Fluffy was just a little slow, because so many things were happening that were all confusing her badly.

Cinderella did not run directly toward the cloud, but just a little past it on the left. Fluffy took off after her. She suddenly did not know why she had been ignoring this mouse. That cloud was very confusing, but a mouse was a problem she could solve. Catching the mouse would be much more useful than sniffing some cloud.

Cinderella saw the cloud hovering ever closer to her Anna. Anna was reaching her chubby fingers toward it, but could not quite touch it yet. With a silly grin on her face, and a twinkle in her eyes, she kept waiting to touch this pretty red cloud sent by an evil witch to do who knew what to her.

After getting just past the cloud, and hearing Fluffy almost right behind her, Cinderella dashed between Anna and the cloud. Fluffy wheeled hard to the right, right behind her tiny prey. Suddenly, Fluffy realized the trick. She tried to stop, but slipped, and came to a crashing halt right between Anna and the cloud.

Fluffy was stunned.

Her whiskers were actually touching the cloud, and she was frozen in place. In a moment of sad confusion, Fluffy decided she might as well smell that cloud if she was stuck under it. She touched the cloud with her nose, and took the world’s smallest sniff.

The tip of the red cloud touched the tip of Fluffy’s kitty-nose and, Whoosh! The whole cloud jumped into her nose at once! First there was a cloud, and then there was a wide-eyed Fluffy standing there blown up like a balloon about to burst, and no more cloud anywhere. And then it was over. Fluffy turned into a confused, orange mouse.

Weeping little mouse tears, Cinderella ran over to Fluffy, and threw her arms around her. If not for Fluffy, that would be Anna as a mouse right now, and that would have been terrible. As it was, Cinderella had a friend in her plight.

Together, they would figure out what to do next.

For starters, they would get out of little Anna’s reach. Babies are not always gentle when they catch furry little toys!

Cinderella did not have to think long before she knew what to do. Her fairy godmother had once given her beautiful clothes, and a fine carriage when the king announced his ball for the prince. She might or might not be able to help her now, but she was definitely her only hope. The prince and Cinderella had set up a special home for her in the castle as soon as they had been married, as the best thank you they could imagine, and so she would be easy to find. Cinderella and Fluffy went to her at once.

It was not an easy trip, because Cinderella didn’t know how to use the little mouse holes that were all over the castle. They had to take the usual hallways. Every now and again, some servant girl would see them and run screaming, or some servant boy would see them and try to catch them, but with quick dartings, and good hiding, they eventually made it safely to the far corner of the castle, and all the way into her godmother’s room.

When they entered the room, her godmother was sitting quietly in a chair, reading a story written one of her friends. Upon seeing two little mice come crawling under her door, she did what any good fairy godmother would do. She said, “Cinderella, I’m so sorry this happened to you! I knew that no good would come of you arguing with that horrible, ugly woman.”

How did she know that that the little mouse was Cinderella? Well, that’s just the kind of thing you know when you live in fairyland, and you are a fairy godmother.

She said, “Cinderella, I cannot keep you from paying the price for your pride over Anna. It is good to be proud of your baby, but bad to make everyone else act as proud as you. But, that witch wishes to punish you over-much. I can help you fight her curse, but I cannot fix it for you.

“This I can do,” she said. “The curse that the witch has placed upon you can only be broken by the kiss of true love, and it’s not likely you’ll be winning the kiss of true love as a rodent! I can turn you from a mouse into any animal you choose, and as that animal, you must win your prince’s love again. I can do this for you 3 times, so choose wisely. In what form would you fight the witch’s curse?”

Cinderella looked at Fluffy. Seeing another little mouse was a great comfort to her. Her fairy godmother had stooped down as low as she could, and she was speaking as quietly as a mouse, but she still looked horrifyingly huge, and sounded like the sound of a dozen carriages. Fluffy was just the right size, even if she was not much of a counselor.

She thought about all the things that made her prince happy. First, there was Anna, and herself. That thought alone almost reduced her to tears, but now was not the time to give into sad emotions. She had a prince to win back, and a witch to beat.

The prince was a man, and men loved their hobbies. Men were just boys in grown-up bodies, really. That meant that she could win his love by being fun.

What was the most fun the prince had? Sometimes he loved games, but there were no animals in his games. Sometimes he loved reading, and the theater, but there were no animals there, either. What could she choose?

Ah! Falconry! The prince loved to hunt with his falcons. She looked up at her huge fairy godmother, looming above her though she was lying on the ground beside her now, and asked if she could be a falcon?

Her fairy godmother hesitated a little bit, and seemed to pluck at her chin. “Do you think, child, that you will be able to win his love as a falcon?” she asked.

“Oh, yes! Very surely,” came Cinderella’s reply.

“Then it shall be as you wish it, dear,” said her fairy godmother.

Cinderella and the Proud Curse: Chapter 3

The fairy godmother snuck a slender little wand from the many folds of dress, and began to chant,

Lost in a house
Lacking in length
Throw off this mouse
Burst forth with strength

With the slightest little touch of her wand to Cinderella’s head, and the tinkling sound of little fairy chimes, Cinderella sat up as a falcon. The whole world was suddenly different. Falcons and mice see the world very differently. She could see each hair on her fairy godmother’s head, and the whole room suddenly seemed to be filled with moving things. Every rustle of the drape, every buzz of the fly in the corner, and the slight wiggle of the little mouse next to her all were like candles flickering in her eyes. She could not help but see them.

She put out her foot, and it moved like lightning. She caught Fluffy before he could even think about running away. She had to be very careful, because her claws were so strong, but she could not bear to hurt Fluffy after all she’d been through. She lifted her claw to her fairy godmother, and made her promise to take ever so good care of him.

Her godmother put Fluffy into a safe little box with air holes, and promised to come back to look after her. Then she wrapped a sturdy cloth around her arm and waited while Cinderella hopped up there. She took Cinderella to the falconer.

As they walked, the talked a little bit. The fairy godmother explained that Cinderella must not attempt to cheat true love. She could not try to let the prince know who she was. If the prince kissed her because he knew who she was, the curse would not be broken. She would have to live out her days as a falcon. The prince would know who she really was, but she would never be able to hug him again. Cinderella took this rule to heart, and vowed never to give a clue who she was. She would just be the best fun her prince had ever had in a falcon.

When they arrived at the falconer’s, the fairy godmother told him that this falcon had just flown into the castle, and needed a good home for a while.

The falconer was baffled that such a stunning specimen of a bird had been let free, but he accepted her willingly. The female peregrine falcon was the perfect rank for his prince, (A king would have required a gyrfalcon, at least, and a lesser noble would have required a lesser bird.) The falconer was shocked, but not so shocked that he forgot to tell the fairy godmother that he would suggest the prince try her after he had tested her skills himself. He took her up to the mews, hooded and jessed her, and let her grow comfortable with her new mew-mates. That is to say that he took her up to the most elegant set of birdcages in the castle, put a hood with a bell on it over her head, and tied her down to her perch. Falconry is a very fancy sport, with a lot of very fancy names and customs. Cinderella would not be good at it right at first.

Over the passing days, Cinderella was asked by the falconer to pursue a lure, and each time she brought the lure back to her falconer, she was rewarded with a small chicken, or a mouse. These she ate with great gusto (after making sure that the mouse was not Fluffy!) Chasing a lure was hard work, and very tiring, so she was always hungry for even the smallest reward. These she ate whole, and every part tasted good to her now that she was a falcon. The bones, brains, fur, and teeny little claws all tasted like ice cream to her, and they were good for her, too. She grew stronger and better at hunting every day.

One day the falconer came a little later than usual. She always had a hood on, but that was OK. She had gotten used to knowing everything that was happening around her just by listening, so she knew that breakfast had long been served before her falconer came. He finally came, though, and he talked to her a little more than usual. His words made her heart leap, “Well then, my little chicky. Let’s see whether you can make your prince and his falconer proud today.” Cinderella was going to hunt for her prince!

She could hear a dozen horses mulling around, and guessed that this was a large hunting party. She had never heard such a ruckus. All the voices were those of young boys, though. She was beginning to become confused when there was a sudden hush.

The sound of laughter came from behind her.

This laughter was not that of the boys. These were men, and they laughed with the sure confidence of rulers who had earned the right to rule. It was odd, because they did not laugh as friends, and she could tell. These men might even be enemies, but they weren’t sure. Everything they said and did was calculated, and every laugh was tuned to be polite without giving more credit than necessary.

There! That was the sound of her prince’s voice! It was so strange to hear him in this world. He was a prince, but a prince among those who were princes and more. She could tell that he was worthy to be in the group, but that some of the other men were her husband’s superiors.

Gradually, the men mounted their beasts, and Cinderella was transferred to her prince’s arm. She was so close to him, and this was her chance to earn his everlasting love. She wanted to hop down and scratch some words in the ground, or something else that would tell him who she was, but she knew she could not do that. Instead, she stood there, still as death, and waited until the hunt would begin. If only her hood could be removed, and she could look at his face, and look into his eyes again. She knew they would melt her heart. It had been two long, hard weeks, and she really just wanted to be held in his arms.

Cinderella fought the urge to collapse. She pulled herself together, and waited in the dark, listening for every time her prince spoke to the men around them.

Gradually, a new voice began to take over her prince’s attention. She did not know this voice, but it had the crackle of a man who was almost old. “So, my young prince,” he said, “I have heard that your commoner wife has gone missing. What of that?”

“Thank you for your concern, Lord Farris,” answered the prince. “Yes. My dear Cinderella has been missing under the strangest of circumstances for two weeks now. Even as we ride, my palace guard is turning the castle upside down, but I don’t believe that they will learn anything new.”

“Then you must consider the future of your little realm,” Lord Farris said.

Cinderella was horrified that this old man would write her off so quickly, and felt the blood boil in her veins when the Lord emphasized how her prince’s realm was so “little.”

“As you will recall, my Lord Farris, Cinderella was no commoner, but only raised as if she were one by her father’s second wife. That stepmother’s offense was fully repaid, and Cinderella was simply returned to her rightful state when she consented to marry me. As for the realm with which my father and king has entrusted me, I have done and will do what is right in his eyes.”

“Yes,” agreed Lord Farris, “but when a due period of mourning has passed, imagine what good could come to both of our realms should you marry my fair daughter. It is not every day you receive a second chance to right such a mistake as marrying for the pleasure of a single clever dance.”

“Thank you, my Lord for your careful thoughts and forthright telling of them,” said the prince.

With that, she felt her prince’s horse slow up slightly, and heard the Lord Farris ride on ahead.

Even the stable boys had overheard Lord Farris’s proposition. In no time, the entire world would be setting wedding dates for her prince and Lord Farris’s daughter. It was awful to hear and terrifying to imagine, and Cinderella could not do anything about it but sit there on her prince’s arm.

Eventually, they arrived at a little stream, judging by the bubbling sounds, and everyone stopped. Each of the minor dukes, earls, barons, and knights hunted first, in reverse order of rank. Each hunter’s bird eventually returned with a mouse, or a chipmunk, or a songbird and cheers were shared all around.

Eventually, only Lord Farris and the prince had yet to launch their birds. Right of rank lay with the Lord, but right of property was with the prince since they were on his land. They stared at each other, and neither was willing to loose his bird first. Cinderella kept waiting for her hood to be removed, and for her jess to be loosed. The quiet was unsettling, and threatened to become frightening.

Lord Farris let out a sudden laugh, “Well played, young prince!” he declared. “I admire your spunk. Let us loose together, and see which bird shall return the victor!”

She felt the prince’s body move as he nodded, and prepared to take flight. The prince removed her jess first, and then the hood. She looked over to see Lord Farris and his bird ready to fly as well, and almost didn’t take off as both men raised their arms. She was looking across at a gyrfalcon easily twice her size. Her fairy godmother had made Cinderella a peregrine falcon. She was faster than the gyrfalcon, but very much smaller. Cinderella could almost as easily end up that bird’s prey as her competition.

When the gyrfalcon launched, though, Cinderella was up in the air right behind her.

Both birds started circling higher and higher to get the best view.

The stable boys were beating the bushes trying to flush some quail, while one of the hunters was releasing his best ferret into a rabbit warren, hoping to scare out one or two. Cinderella kept climbing. So did the gyrfalcon. It was a way of seeing the world she had never known before. As she looked down, the horses and people of the hunting party were just a bunch of specs, but she could see every little move they made. A horse flicked its tail, and her eyes tracked it instantly. One of the stable boys pointed up at the gyrfalcon, and she knew it. It was like every smallest motion made in the whole world was under her complete domain.

That was why she knew the instant the rabbit broke from the hole at the back of the warren the ferret had invaded.

The gyrfalcon knew it too.

Cinderella began her stoop, plunging into the headlong dive all hunting birds are famous for. She was flying fast, faster than the gyrfalcon, but the gyrfalcon had started closer to the rabbit. Cinderella would not beat her there, so she pulled up and started gaining altitude again. She could see Lord Farris celebrating, standing in his saddle, and cheering his hunter on with a cry of, “Ho! Ho!” It tore her tender little heart, and brought the start of a tear to her eyes.

Fortunately, her eye remained clear enough, because out of nowhere a flight of ducks was nearing the hunting party. She waited for just a second before she dove. She wanted Lord Farris to see what the prince’s falcon could do.

The gyrfalcon hit the rabbit hard, and grasped his rear haunches in her iron talons. It was not a good hit. Even her massive legs could not reach the rabbit’s neck to break it from that far behind. The rabbit kept trying to flee to a new hole. One that would hide it from large birds, and that would not have hungry ferrets in it either. The gyrfalcon was trying to figure out what to do, when it saw the ducks as well. It quickly calculated that the rabbit was probably going to get away anyway, and that the ducks were better catch, so it took off again.

Cinderella was in full stoop now. She fell through the air as fast her sleek feathers would allow. The wind washed back the tears from her eyes.

She targeted the lead bird.

Flying faster now than any other living being on earth could ever hope to move, she still had a split second to see the confusion in Lord Farris’s eyes as he tried to figure out why his bird had left her prey, and the disgust as he saw that the prince’s bird would get the first kill after all.

Cinderella hit the duck with mighty, outstretched talons at 200 miles per hour. The duck felt no pain, and Cinderella felt the purest elation of her life. As she swung the duck back under her body, the better to carry it back to her prince, she saw the gyrfalcon hit one of the ducks that had dodged her way when she saw Cinderella’s strike. This one was a clean hit, and she quickly took it back to land near the hunting party.

The proud gyrfalcon mantled over her kill, spreading her wings over the duck, and protecting it from any who would steal her prize. Cinderella, however, was not just a falcon. She flew directly to her prince, and deposited her kill in his hands as she resumed her perch on his arm.

Lord Farris looked from his own mantling, defensive bird to the prince’s willing and almost loving bird, and back again. While he waited for his falconer to coax the duck from his bird, he admitted to the prince, “You certainly have a way with women, young prince.” Anyone standing a little closer, though, might have heard him mutter under his breath, “That old witch had better have done her job well.”

Lord Farris might have wished to hear the prince’s words. He whispered to his hawk, “You, dear lady, have shamed a man who desperately needed it. I will see to it that the falconer feeds you this duck tonight. You earned a hundred ducks with that strike.”

Back in the mews later that night, Cinderella glowed in the memory of her triumph, and of the prince’s wonderful words. She had been forced to wear her hood the entire way home, but she would never forget the look on his face when she dropped the duck in his lap. She was proud of her prince, and how he had stood his ground against the Lord Farris.

Cinderella ate her duck that night, but the next days did not bring her prince back. Gradually over the following days, as she did her lure drills, and ate her reward mice, it began to dawn on her that she had not won her prince’s true love. The prince did love his game, and did love to play. He even loved her after a fashion, but she had been wrong about him. The game of hunting was both a great game and more than a game to him. He played to establish his reputation with his peers, and so it was important, but it was still just a game. He loved watching his falcon hunt, but he would never love his falcon.

She understood that she would never win the prince’s true love as a falcon.

With that revelation, she spoke to the walls of her wonderful birdcage, “Godmother, I was so wrong. I will never earn my prince’s love as a toy for him to play with. I need to choose again!”

No sooner had the words left her mouth than her fairy godmother was there.

“There, there darling,” she said. “I know it’s hard, but the story of your great hunt has filled the castle. You truly did your part well.”

“I know,” Cinderella said, “but doing my part was not good enough. I must find another way to try to win my prince’s heart.”

“Then you must think of what the prince truly loves,” her godmother said.

Falcons are a uniquely quiet kind of animal, and when Cinderella started thinking, nothing came out. Her face betrayed none of her thoughts, and her eyes still looked like they were focused a mile away, looking for dinner.

Her fairy godmother understood, as all fairy godmothers do, that it was a time to wait quietly. Eventually, Cinderella spoke again. She said, “I will become a warhorse. My prince cares more about his people than anything, and he loves to be able to help them. I can think of no other animal that could serve him in his work, but as a good warhorse I will be there when he needs me, and that will make the difference.”

Her fairy godmother really frowned this time, “Do you think you have the time, child, to earn his love as a warhorse? It could be years before anything happens that would cause him to call on you.”

Cinderella just stared back with those clear, piercing, unfeeling falcon’s eyes. Her heart was breaking behind them, but you would never know by looking at her. Again, a tear tried to form, but then she reflected for a moment. She assured herself that this was the best chance she could think of, and she told her fairy godmother, “Yes. I am willing to take that risk. My other choice is to wait here in the mews with a plan I now know will not work.”

04 July, 2006

Cinderella and the Proud Curse: Chapter 4

Smuggling Cinderella out of the mews was a dangerous job, but fairy godmothers are dangerous people. She managed to move through all the corridors to the outside world without anyone ever seeing her. You might want to ask her how she did it, but she would never tell. Fairy godmothers have more tricks up their sleeves than just changing pumpkins into carriages.

Once out of the castle, she whispered,
Tired of play
Ready to fight
Gone bird of prey
Burst forth with might

Her fairy godmother tapped her head again with her wand, the little fairy chimes rang, and the stoic falcon became a prancing mare. She said to Cinderella, “I cannot take you to the stable master, people might figure something out, but if you just walk over there, I am sure someone will find you.”

Cinderella did not answer right away. She was still trying to get used to how the world looked when seen as a horse. Instead of looking at one thing at a time, she was constantly looking at everything. Her right eye saw her fairy godmother, but her left eye was seeing a little boy playing with a stick. As if that was not enough, with both her eyes she saw the whole world, all the way around to her tail. She could see the whole stable all the way around her all at one time, and it filled her mind to overflowing.

Mostly what she saw was everything that moved, but it was the opposite of being a falcon. As a falcon, everything that moved was a possible snack. As a horse, everything that moved was might be a wolf waiting to eat her. Everything that moved was scary.

She could hardly focus on her fairy godmother for the sight of a little flag waving behind her. She knew that her fairy godmother was always colorful and smart, but instead she looked fuzzy and gray, except for her blue scarf. Cinderella found that by lifting and tilting her head, she could make her eyes focus better on that scarf. The blue was as blue as could be, but everything else was only gray.

Her fairy godmother put her hand up to pat Cinderella’s head.

The sudden movement terrified her. She was seeing too many things, and suddenly one of them was attacking her. She jerked back, causing her fairy godmother to jump back, too. “There, there girl,” she whispered to Cinderella, “It’s OK. Don’t be frightened. You’ll get used to it in a day or two. Remember that all horses are a little skittish. This is why. They see too much, but not well enough, and their poor little brains just aren’t quite fast enough to keep up with it all. You’ll get over it. Have no fear.”

It was just what Cinderella needed to hear. She really didn’t hear everything she said, but the tone was just right. Everything was going to be OK after all. She stood still, and then reached out to nuzzle her friend. She breathed deeply of her fairy godmother’s smell. It was a beautiful smell, and she knew that she would never forget it. That smell meant everything was OK. This time, when her fairy godmother reached out to pat her, she was ready and she resisted the fear. It was just a scratch between the ears, and it only lasted for a second or two, but it was perfect and it felt like heaven. She was ready to go face the world again, and to go out and conquer her prince’s heart.

She looked at her fairy godmother (and three other random things at the same time) and said, “Thank you dear heart. I love you, and all you have done for me.”

Her fairy godmother just smiled a sweet little smile, scratched her nose one last time, and turned back to the castle.

Cinderella turned toward the stables. She had been there once before, and looked forward to learning what she could do.

It was only moments before a stable boy found her and put a quick hackamore around her neck and nose. She wanted to watch the stable boy, but instead she watched his face, the rope, the rope again on the other side of her head, and everything behind her. It was too confusing, so she concentrated on simple standing still. Somehow, when she had been a falcon, nothing had been frightening. Now, everything seemed to want to eat her. Fortunately, the boy kept whispering kind-sounding words to her, and that helped her keep her fears quieted. His smell was not very strong, but she didn’t smell any fear. The boy was barely thirteen years old, and Cinderella was pretty sure that if she were to step wrong, she might accidentally kill him. Knowing that didn’t help, though. She was still much more scared of him than he was of her.

Being a horse was not going to be easy.

The boy brought her straight to the master of the stables. She could hear them talking together, and she could kind of understand what they were saying, but somehow understanding what they were saying was too much work. She ended up just standing there and listening to their voices, not caring at all what they said. The stable master spoke in a low growl that seemed to say, “I have you now, and you’re mine. That means you are safe. Nobody can get to you through me, and you will do everything I ask.” She didn’t need to know anything else. That man was in charge of everything he could see, and she would be safe if she just did what he wished.

Around his voice she started to feel safe.

What the master wished was for her to go with the boy to one of the stalls, so she did. There she found grain, hay, water, and quiet; or not quite quiet; something better than quiet. She found the sounds of other horses eating, resting, and swishing their tails at flies. All their noises sounded just right. In the mews, she didn’t even remember whether there were any other birds. She couldn’t have cared less. Here, though, she was wrapped in the sounds and smells of her herd. She immediately went to sleep.

She woke and slept several times that day and night. Each time she woke, the weird vision of the whole world at once seemed a little more normal, and each time she ate she felt just a little more secure.

When morning came neither the stable boy, nor the master came for her. It was someone else, an older boy. As he drew near, she smelt something new. It was not quite fear, but it was not courage either. She wondered what it was, and she grew nervous. She watched as he came around behind her, and walked up on her left side. His hand ran up her side, then her neck, and finally up to her nose.

Suddenly, on her right side some huge brown thing flew toward her, and before she could react, it hit her in the neck and jaw! She reared up, stepped back, and took a wild kick at whatever was over there, but she hit nothing. As she began coming back down again, the boy bellowed and struck out. She barely felt the hit, but she heard his voice, and smelled his new smell. It was definitely fear. Whatever it was, the boy was afraid of it too! They were both terrified, and growing more so.

The boy backed up against the wall, and she backed up against the door, and looked for something to kick. There was nothing there. She looked wildly around, using both of her eyes, and spinning her ears this way and that as she tried to spot anything moving, anything that might have wanted to strike out at her. There was nothing.

Cinderella was more than a horse, though, and her mind gradually took over from her instincts. It was the boy. That was all. The thing that had hit her was the rope the boy was trying to put over her head. He had thrown it over her, instead of placing it there carefully. He had not been scared of some dangerous attacker. He had been scared of her. Her nostrils were still flared, and her eyes still wide, and so were the boy’s. She could see it now, even if it was a little fuzzy. The boy was plastered to the wall, afraid of the huge monster that he had created. His nostrils were flared just like hers, and his eyes were even wider, if that were possible.

Cinderella, calmed herself, leveled her breathing, relaxed her eyes and started walking toward the boy. She lowered her head so she could see his face better, and so that he would not feel threatened. Slowly she edged toward him, and gradually was able to nuzzle his hand. As soon as he scratched her head, he began to calm down, and this time when he put the rope around her neck, she was ready for it, and stood firm. By the time he had walked her out to the paddock, he was his old self again, and even his smells were returning to normal.

Out in the paddock, he had a saddle and bridle waiting for her. Out of her left eye she watched as he grabbed the bridle, and settled it on her head. In her right eye, the things the younger boy was doing fascinated her. He pulled out big things and small things and flags and all sorts of sticks, and set them all at different parts of the paddock.

The older boy put the saddle on her back while she surveyed the horizon, just enjoying her first few minutes out under the blue sky. Cinderella didn’t know that almost all experienced riders kick a horse in the belly with their knees to knock the wind out of it, and to make sure the saddle is cinched up tight. She learned!

Eventually, the boy took the reins, grabbed the saddle, and swung himself up on her back. It was a strange and scary feeling for Cinderella. The boy was pretty heavy, but she felt like she could carry him forever. That was not the problem. The problem was that she could not see him any more. She could see the whole world, but she could not see the one thing that she did not trust. This awful stable boy was sitting in the one place in the world that she could not see very well, right behind her.

She steeled herself against her fear, and tried to figure out what she was supposed to do. Whenever he kicked her, she went faster. Whenever he yanked the bridle, and the bit tore into her mouth, she turned toward the side that hurt. Whenever he smacked her in the head, she tried to do whatever she had just done differently the next time.

Being a horse was very hard.

The first half-hour went pretty well. The boy asked her to run around the paddock, and stop, and gallop, and trot, and stop, and then gallop some more. She could do all that. There were really so many things to learn though. She had never had a man on her back in her whole life, and every time he whacked her, she just wanted to try to buck him off. She never even knew when the smack would come, because she could not see him back there. She hung on through it all, though, and did everything he asked of her.

He didn’t stop.

For two more hours it went on. He and his young assistant made her ride right next to things that were probably supposed to be enemy soldiers. They clapped really loudly behind her back when she was distracted by another challenge. They made her ride with a lance bouncing right next to her head. They even made her ride right under a flag flapping in the breeze. In her mind, she could tell herself that it was just a flag, but her horse instincts just saw movement over her head. She wanted to bolt and escape, but she controlled her fear again and again. It was hard. She could not even focus her eyes on the flag, because it was too high. She was not able to see things over her head very well, so to her it was just noise and movement, and that meant danger.

Cinderella lost all track of time. She had just been struggling forever. They came up to the flag again, but this time she could not take any more. She stopped and pranced backwards away from it. The boy dug his spurs into her already raw flanks, and he blasted her with his whip. Cinderella was so very tired, but the boy pushed her onward.

Finally, Cinderella could take no more. She laid her ears back, and prepared to jump as high as she could to see whether this little runt might want to try flying over to that flag without her.

Just as she was ready to leap, though, she noticed that the boy was not on her back any more. She whipped her head around to try to see what was happening, and she saw the boy lying on the ground being kicked by the stable master. His tone was almost even angrier than her own, and his boots were leaving permanent marks on that boy’s bottom as he struggled to get to his feet long enough to get away from his new enemy.

No sooner was the boy gone, than the cinch on her saddle was completely loose and the master was whispering in her ear. She was too tired to try to remember what his words meant, but it didn’t matter. The man spoke pure comfort to her soul. He scratched her ears and told her that everything was right with the world. He took the horrible bit out of her mouth, and put back on a simple rope hackamore. They began to walk slowly around the paddock. As they went, he kept on whispering in her ear and as they passed little things that she wanted to smell, the master stopped and let her. She stopped and smelled in the scents of all the sticks and flags and barricades that she had been dodging. They didn’t seem nearly so frightening with the master there, and smelling them made them all seem normal.

By the time the master brought her back to her stable, there was fresh feed and hay there, and plenty of cool water. Cinderella was so tired, she could not think at all. Then she went to sleep.

Over the next couple of weeks, two things filled her life. The first was waiting for the master to come and work with her. He only worked with her a half-hour a day, but it was amazing what he could teach in just a half hour. It was only a week or two before she knew things it takes a normal horse months to learn.

Of course, another trainer took her out in the afternoons, and ran her hard for an hour. The master did not have to be there to work her up into a good lather. She loved the chance to run, and loved how far and how fast she could run without getting tired.

The second thing that filled her days was so bad, though, was the news, and it was bad.. Her fairy godmother visited her every day, and keeping her informed of all the happenings in the castle.

The bits of news were just little things, but together they meant so much. Lord Farris was gathering his dukes and earls together. People could not get their ploughs fixed, because there was a shortage of iron. No one could buy any grain because all the usual suppliers were completely sold out. Any one of those things was a good subject for a talk over tea. A lot of soldiers, a lack of iron, and a lack of food meant war.

Lord Farris was calling up an army.

Early one morning, her prince came to the paddock with all his attendants and servants. He was in full, princely dress and looked like a vision in blue. It was wonderful that he had chosen blue; it was the only color she could truly see well. Had she still been a falcon, she would have been able to feast her eyes on him, but she still delighted in her fuzzy, blue sight of the one she loved, and sat quietly while her heart broke. She had trained and trained to carry her prince into battle, and it was obvious that she was not going to get her chance.

It took almost an hour for the prince’s party to get fully assembled, and ride off. When it finally happened, Cinderella could hold her voice no more. Her whinnies meant nothing, but she had to proclaim her misery as best she could. Horses don’t cry, but their big hearts can break, and hers was shattered.

All Cinderella knew was that her prince had mounted another horse, and that the whole group had left without her.

She began turning over in her mind what form to take for her last chance. When her fairy godmother came, she would have to confess that she had not even gotten a chance to win her prince’s heart.

Once the party was completely gone from sight, Cinderella tried to pull herself together. She took a big drink of water, and had a little grain and hay. She was just beginning to feel like herself again when the master came to her and saddled her up. She noticed, but did not pay much attention to the fact that this saddle was much smaller than what she was used to wearing.

She didn’t feel much like training that day, but she would relish doing so as a last memory of being a horse. In fact, if she could not come up with another animal to change into, maybe she would stay a horse. She certainly loved her master enough to do so.

She loved being a human among humans so much more, though. She was so hungry to feel love again. And of all the people in the world, she loved her prince. She just could not get over the thought she might never see him again.

“Is she ready?” came a voice from behind her. She had watched the man walking up out of the corner of her right eye, but hadn’t really paid him any attention. That voice, though, got her full attention immediately!

It was the voice of her prince.

Her ears stood up, and her head whipped around. She bobbed her head up and down until her eyes were focused as well as they could be on his face, and was sure. Yes! It was her love. Here! And not out with his party, riding to who knew where, but here to ride her to anywhere he pleased! She let out an excited whinny, and started shaking right where she stood.

“See,” her master said, “I told you she was smart. She’s the smartest horse I’ve ever known. No other horse would know her prince at first sight, especially the way you are dressed.”

The master was right. The prince was dressed more like a stable boy, than an heir to the king’s throne. She thought about it for a second, and realized that the first party was a decoy. The prince thought that there were spies around, who would report when he left the castle … report to Lord Farris.

Then the prince was preparing for war too.

That meant that their ride today would not be for pleasure.

That was good, very good.

The prince stood up into her saddle, and disappeared into that blind spot that she had come to trust so well in the hands of her master. She could no longer see him, but his knees, his hands, and his voice would tell her everything about him. Before they had ridden ten minutes, she knew what she had always suspected. He treated all his subjects with the utmost of respect, even the lowest. And he was perfectly clear with them too. She could sense no doubt in his hands. Whether he wanted a left turn, a quick jump, or a full on gallop, she knew it instantly and was able to obey him perfectly. She was so happy.

The prince was done with small talk. He gave the reins a quick flick, and they were off. They started in exactly the opposite direction as the main party. They continued riding away from everyone at a slow gallop for over an hour, before the prince suddenly turned into the woods.

The woods were new. She had never been in the dark woods before, and these were the darkest she had ever seen. Horses don’t see well above their heads, so she could not see the tops of the trees, but she could see that they blocked the sun. It was very unsettling.

The prince never flinched. She could feel his weight settled lightly in the saddle, and that he never fidgeted. He was perfectly at home on her back.

They rode like this for hours.

Finally, in a remote part of the woods Cinderella had never seen before, the prince began to slow her down. She could feel his weight shifting in the saddle as he began looking left and right, and even behind them. What he was looking for, she could not begin to guess, except that it probably was not good.

The next few moments happened so fast, she could hardly remember it all.

Out of the back of her eyes, her horse vision caught movement on both sides. At first it seemed like just a limb moving, but she didn’t wait to figure that out. She bolted into a gallop. At her first motion, six men with spears stood up in front of her, and she broke to the left, away from the river. That was no good either, because there was a solid cliff wall. This was a careful trap.

Turning left again, she saw the movement behind her had been four men with spears. She ground her mighty hooves into the soft moss of the forest, and lowered her head. Within 2 steps she was almost at a full gallop, and almost within spear range of the prince’s enemies. With her last step, she did a little trick that the master had taught her. She did it without even meaning to, and she did it perfectly. She leaped into the air at full speed and when her hooves were in the right place, she shattered the soldier’s helmet with a well-placed kick.

Suddenly, they were free.

The attackers never had a chance to strike at her prince, and she was at a dead gallop, running away from them before they even knew why they had missed their chance.

She was moving so fast that she never saw the rope that snapped tight in front of her. She just felt her forelegs quit moving while her body kept going. She hit the ground hard, and her prince went over her head. When she came to a stop, she was up against a tree upside down. By the time she rolled back onto her feet, there were 3 ropes around her neck. All she could see were men and spears all around her. She had no idea where her prince was, and she began lashing out immediately. The men were scared and smart, though. They stayed out of reach of her fore hooves, and she was too frantic to turn around and try a real kick. The men with the spears were growing impatient, and starting to get close enough to take a stab at her. Well, let ‘em! She was more than ready.

Suddenly she saw and heard her prince. He was pressing up between the men, speaking calmly and quietly.

Somehow, he seemed to be in control of everything.

It didn’t make sense, but if he was OK, then she had nothing to fight over. She dropped back to the ground, and started to quiet down. The prince took a moment to rub her nose, and to let her know everything was really going to be OK. He didn’t spend long, though. He turned to the man with the biggest helmet insignia, and asked, “What was the idea of ambushing me that way! You call me to a secret meeting, and then you risk my life?”

“Yes, lord prince,” said the sergeant as he fell to one knee. “If I have failed to obey my orders, I am greatly in your debt. I am to bring you to my lord’s ambassador, immediately.”

“Untie my horse, and then lead on,” the prince commanded.

His order was obeyed, and Cinderella accepted her prince onto her back once again. Her heart was still racing as if she were free, but she was bound both by her loyalty to her prince, and by the dozen spears behind her. She followed this sergeant who had lately tried to kill them both, and memorized everything about the path out of here. As a horse, she found she had a fantastic memory for paths. She was prepared to use any of them at her first opportunity!

When they arrived in the clearing, Cinderella’s heart went from racing to a dead stop.

The lord’s ambassador was none other than the witch who had started all this. She had nearly turned Anna into a mouse, and done that very thing to Fluffy and herself, and now she was trying to kill the prince. What was going on here?

“Fair prince,” the evil woman began. “You are here because I sent you a message telling you this was the only place you could find out about your fair princess.”

The prince was silent.

She continued, “I could not tell you this in your castle. I needed to be out here, where I would be safe. Your princess is never coming back. I cannot tell you why she left, but I can tell you she has gone forever. You have been betrayed.”

The prince still said nothing. He did not know the of the tide of emotions tearing Cinderella apart just beneath his saddle at this very moment. On one hand, she was dying death after death of pure anger because her enemy was saying such awful things when she could not answer her. On the other, she was afraid to move or even make a sound because she wanted to know what her prince was thinking. She was frightened of his response, but hoping he would not lose hope in her, in spite of this witch.

She reached into her frock, and pulled out a bag. From the bag, she pulled out a white thing. “This was given to me by one of my masters. He explained that this was Cinderella’s wedding ring, and included a note from her to you.”

She handed the note to a servant to hand to the prince. Cinderella was instantly mad that the woman would not come into reach herself. She was too clever by far.

As the servant brought the note to the prince, Cinderella watched it with increasing fascination. It seemed to shimmer. If she looked directly at it, it looked like everything else she looked at. Through her horse eyes, it was fuzzy, and hard to focus on. But when she glanced away it was amazingly shiny. It was like it was made of some kind of silver that reflected the sunlight even when in the shade.

The prince received the letter in silence. He had not yet spoken a word, and it didn’t seem this letter was going to change that. He began shaking, though. Soon he was sobbing, and then weeping outright. His tears lasted a long time, even though a few dozen people were watching him. If anyone cared that the letter broke him, though, they did not show it.

The witch spoke again. “I’m sorry, young prince, that you have been betrayed in this way. We all make mistakes, and marrying for the sake of one enchanted evening is not the worst of them. Cinderella could never help your kingdom to prosper. Your people deserved better, and so do you, as you see now in that foul letter.”

Cinderella did not know what was in that letter. The witch had written it, not her, so she knew that it was horrible. Still, she stood quietly and watched everything unfold.

“Lord Farris,” the witch continued, “has a daughter, and a plan for uniting your two kingdoms. Allow me to introduce Danielle.”

At that, a young woman stepped out from a tent near the edge of the clearing and began walking toward the old witch. She shimmered, just like the letter had shined. She was frightening to look at. She was just too beautiful. Suddenly, though, Cinderella understood. Danielle was shimmering because she looked like two different people. One Danielle was a queenly beauty, but the other was a rather plain girl playing dress-up. The queenly illusion could slay a man with her beauty, but the real girl was too drab to even notice.

To Cinderella’s horse-vision, neither of these views lasted long at all. She kept looking stunning, and then plain, and then stunning again.

The prince could only see the queenly beauty. Cinderella could tell because his knees tightened around back, and he stood up in the saddle just the tiniest bit. Her big horse’s heart broke.

It was magic. The witch had cast a spell to make the plain girl look queenly, and she could see now that she had cast a spell on the note she had given the prince as well. Her heart broke a little more, because her prince believed the note, and thought that she had betrayed him. Cinderella looked around the meadow, and knew that only she could see through the magic. Every man in sight was seeing a woman for whom he would die, if only given the chance.

There was nothing she could do.

“Lord Farris’s daughter,” the evil, old witch introduced. “was deeply offended that you wronged her so much over so little when you chose Cinderella. Now that we all know what kind of woman your little dancer was, Danielle is vindicated before all, and sees no reason why she should embarrass herself further for your benefit. Nonetheless, at her father’s request, she has agreed to take a carriage ride with you to your castle to determine whether you are worthy of her forgiveness. Should you not wish to take this ride, she will return to her father, and inform him of your judgment.”

The prince did not sit silent for long. “Do I understand that the Lord Farris has plans beyond those for his daughter?” he asked.

“Danielle has been authorized to explain certain things to you, good prince, about her father’s plans, certain things that might interest you. And we all know that a marriage such as this can seal an alliance. Yes.”

The prince dismounted from Cinderella, walked over to Danielle, and bowed. It was a simple moment of formal courtesy, and Danielle returned it in equal measure. Cinderella stomped a little where she had been left, but again, there was nothing to do.

Turning to the old witch, the prince said, “We must leave at once. Already, I am gone from the castle too long.”

With that, the prince and Danielle were taken to the waiting carriage, loaded up and began the trip back to the castle. Cinderella was tied to the carriage with a 10-foot lead, and followed the carriage home in which a beautiful illusion was stealing her husband. Once they arrived, she was stabled and fed, but she could not eat.

After two days of heart-wrenching pain, her fairy godmother came to see her.

“I know what happened out in the woods,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

Cinderella looked at her. She had come to the stall all dressed in black, and she was holding her hands clasped up to her face as she spoke. Cinderella could see that she really was sorry, and that if she could do anything, she would. It let something deep inside her rest to know that someone, somewhere knew and cared that the most awful thing in the whole world was happening to her right now, and that she could not do anything about it.

Cinderella also finally understood that her fairy godmother could not do anything about it, any more than she could. She placed her big head up against her fairy godmother’s bosom, and just nickered for a while.

Eventually, it was the time for a decision to be made. Cinderella still had her third chance. She could turn into one more beast, and try once again to win her love’s heart. Her fairy godmother asked her what she would like to become.

“There is nothing I could become that could compete with that magical beauty,” Cinderella said. “Whether at play, or at work, I can only serve the prince faithfully. I cannot make him see that it is with my heart I serve him. He only knows I serve him well, not that I serve him in love.”

“I’m afraid you may be right, dear,” whispered her fairy godmother.

“When I choose this third form, it may be the form I will bear for the rest of my life,” Cinderella concluded.

The two stood together in silence for a few minutes, neither able to come up with anything useful to say. Eventually, Cinderella picked her head up, and looked her godmother in the eye.

“I choose to be a nightingale,” she said. “She sings the saddest, most beautiful song in the whole world, and she sings it all night. If I must be an animal, and lose the one I love, then I will mourn my loss in beautiful song all the rest of my life.”