Friday, September 18, 2009

The Peasant and the Prince

Today I am sharing one of my personal favorites. I had such fun writing this story for the Faithwriters challenge in December of 2007. The topic was "The Church."

The Peasant and the Prince
by Sharlyn Guthrie

A young peasant woman shuddered at the sight of the prince striding toward her. Shrinking into the shadows she attempted to hide, fearful of his motive in seeking her out. She had spat at him yesterday as he passed, though she hadn’t thought he’d noticed.

The shadows failed to conceal her. He grasped her with firm, yet surprisingly gentle hands. “I saw you on the street yesterday.”

Her eyes scanned the pebbles near his feet and her throat constricted, preventing a reply. Placing one finger under her chin, he tipped her head, causing her to meet his tender gaze. He wiped a smudge from her cheek, then caught her as her knees buckled.

“I have come to offer you this.” He smiled, extending a roll of parchment tied with red ribbon. “It is a ketubah, a marriage contract. I love you, and wish for you to become my kallah, my bride.”

“You? Marry me?” She searched his face for the mockery she expected to see, but none was found. “I haven’t a dowry,” she managed, ashamed.

“It makes no difference. If you accept my proposal I will see to it that you are housed and cared for until I return to take you as my wife. It’s all here in the ketubah: my love for you, my intent to marry you, and promises to fulfill all of my obligations to you both now and in the future.”

“But where will you be?”

“I am going away to prepare our future home. I can’t say when I will return, only that I will. And when I do, you must be ready for our marriage. Will you accept me as your groom, your choson?”

“Oh yes, I do accept!” She bent to kiss his feet, but was quickly drawn up into his embrace.

“Then you must begin now to act worthy of me. Go, change your clothes and ready yourself for the day of my return.”

One rapturous kiss was shared, and the prince left as quickly as he had come. Word of the betrothal spread, and many were taken aback. Why would a prince marry a peasant woman? Some were angered, while others simply chose not to believe it was true. Still others marveled at the mystery and intrigue of the unlikely match.

The kallah soon discovered that her temporary home was situated in the realm ruled by the prince’s arch-enemy. Still, she cheerfully went about her preparations for marriage, concerning herself with little else. Her new life contrasted sharply with the life she had lived as a peasant. Few had taken notice of her in the past, but with her name now linked to that of her choson, all eyes, it seemed, were on her.

Attractive suitors clamored for her attention –men of strength, ardor, and shocking impropriety. Their attention was flattering, nevertheless. One offered wealth beyond compare, another fame and recognition throughout every worldly kingdom, yet another promised amazing supernatural powers. Such offers sometimes tempted the kallah, who was growing weary, and at times impatient.

Each suitor was seemingly more attractive than the last. When their charming ways failed to entice her, their tactics became less subtle. “Didn’t he say he would return?” they taunted, “Where is your choson? See? He has left you with only a ketubah filled with empty promises. Surely he is dead, or else he has found another lover more worthy of his name.”

Confused, the kallah unrolled the ketubah, seeking her beloved’s wisdom. “Be on the alert for imposters, sent by the enemy,” it said. “They are wolves in sheep’s clothing who seek to snatch you away from me. Don’t pay them any heed. Keep your heart pure.”

Years passed, and life went on around her. Most of the kingdom dwellers lost interest in the story of the peasant and the prince. When the aging woman attempted to remind them, they laughed. “You’re still waiting for your prince? You’re missing all the fun. Don’t you know that purity is outdated? A real lover wouldn’t expect you to wait so long.”

Still, the kallah remained faithful, yearning for her beloved. The wait had been long, and sometimes it seemed unbearable. But day after day she reached for the well-worn ketubah, and each day its words rekindled her passion and restored her longing. For once she was merely a peasant woman in soiled garments, but soon her home would be a palace. She knew the prince, her precious choson would come.

Please stop by Joanne's blog, An Open Book, for links to more great Friday Fiction!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What's Mine is Mine

I have been listening to my son, Tyson’s music lately. He is a song writer, guitarist, harmonica player, and worship leader, all of which are useful in his position as a Bible camp director. One particular set of lyrics has recently grabbed my attention. The song is “My Treasury.”

My Treasury
Words and music by Tyson Guthrie (March 2004)

Her sister cooked. Her brother laughed.
She broke her little jar of glass;
Poured a year’s pay on a pair of dirty feet.
And as the oil mixed with dirt and clay
She let her hair down to wipe the mud away.
It was the first time they’d seen Judas weep

What’s yours is yours; what’s mine is mine.
If it could stay that way that’d be just fine.
That’s the sound of thieves breaking in.
I hold on what’s been given me,
Like alabaster jars in my treasury,
And the moths and rust they wear my treasure thin.

I thought one time I had a friend;
I ain’t never seen that man again.
He left without saying goodbye-
Had a top hat and a mustache;
He paid me every penny in cash.
And he’d smile and wink his beady little eye.

What’s yours is yours; what’s mine is mine.
If it could stay that way that’d be just fine.
That’s the sound of thieves breaking in.
I hold on what’s been given me,
Like alabaster jars in my treasury,
And the moths and rust they wear my treasure thin.

Well we scrape and hoard and rake it in.
We fill our coffers to the brim;
Call it things like “Good Stewardship.”
And the bride of Christ is growing fat!
We fill her up with this and that,
And in a dim, dark mirror she’s looking pretty fit.

What’s yours is yours; what’s mine is mine.
If it could stay that way that’d be just fine.
That’s the sound of thieves breaking in.
I hold on what’s been given me,
Like alabaster jars in my treasury,
And the moths and rust they wear my treasure thin.

One Sunday in June I sat in a small, sweltering mud and dung building packed with so many people that some had to sit on benches outside. All rejoiced and praised God with their whole hearts. They had also come prepared to give that morning, their offerings including various kinds of produce.

One month later I sat in an enormous, elaborately equipped sanctuary in a large U. S. city. Everything about the music and the rest of the service was professionally planned and perfectly executed. The church contained several restaurants and coffee shops, a 2-story McDonalds style “playland” for toddlers; an aquarium built into the wall of one long hallway; and a three-story youth building with basketball courts, stadium seating theater, and every video game set-up you could think of. I’m pretty sure no onions or mangoes showed up in the offering plate at this church, but judging from the size of the facility, one week’s offering could have easily built a large enough structure to hold the first congregation, with enough left over to feed its starving members for an entire year! Thinking about it actually made me ill, and sent me seeking out the words to Tyson’s song.

Now It is true that some of the lyrics of “My Treasury” apply to the church. However, I am personally challenged by them as well.

Jesus said: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Do I hoard my treasures? Do I regard what I have received from God as my own? Have I allowed my integrity and joy to be stolen? Is my treasury full of rusty vials, weighing down a sadly misplaced heart? Where, in truth, does my treasure lie? These are the questions I have been asking myself recently.

Father, search my heart. Forgive me for holding on to things that can never satisfy. Let my treasure be simply, completely You. Amen.

How Sweet all at once it was for me
to be rid of those fruitless joys
which I had once
feared to lose!
You drove them from me,
you who are the true,
the sovereign joy.

You drove them from me and took their place,
you who are sweeter than all pleasure...

O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth,
and my Salvation.

Confessions, IX, I.