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(The Mysterious Gift, Essential Things, A Magical, Mystical Christmas Mystery, A Stranger in the Night, & The Prodigal and the Paraclete are posted below.)
The Mysterious Gift
Joseph Patrick Rogers
Somehow everyone seemed to know
About the gift that I planned to bestow
Upon an unpopular, ill-tempered fellow
Who was very loud and often bellowed.
Everyone had an opinion to share.
“Do not go there!
However, if you do go, take care!
That man is selfish, petty, and mean --
By far the worst person we’ve ever seen.
Girl Scouts selling cookies, he chases away!
If you park in his spot, he’ll make you pay!
If you disagree with him, he’ll ruin your day!”
I heard all their warnings,
But I still wanted to go.
Perhaps I was foolish.
I do not know.
I was determined to go there.
I could not be deterred.
The cynics, skeptics, and doubters
Need not say a word.
I gathered my courage and buttoned my coat,
Then ventured forth like a sailor with no lifeboat.
I set out upon my way,
Eager for the challenge of that day.
Upon reaching the man’s house,
I rang the doorbell.
There seemed to be no one about
As far as I could tell.
But then I knocked on the door;
I knocked loud and clear.
I wanted him to know that I was here.
In the doorway, he finally did appear
With an expression that would cause much fear.
“What do you want?”
He declared angrily.
“Why are you here to bother me?”
As I started to explain
My reason for being there,
He cut me off.
He did not care.
The details I’ll spare you.
There’s no need for those.
Let’s just say that he was mean
From his head to his toes.
The man was a scoundrel.
Let’s tell the truth here.
Because of the truth,
We need never fear.
His expression was unpleasant.
His eyes were quite beady,
Revealing a character sinister and seedy.
I wanted to run.
I wanted to flee
As far from this villain
As I could be.
However, some hunch told me to remain,
To give it another try,
That my efforts were not in vain.
Firmly in one spot I stood
And bore his insults as best I could.
I ignored the awful things that he said
And thought of pleasant things instead.
I thought of geese flying over the lake.
I thought of Christmas morning after I would awake.
I thought about kind grandmas and funny dogs.
I thought about a fireplace with burning logs.
I recalled my favorite heroes, writers, and saints.
I remembered a picture that I tried to paint.
The man’s insults I did not heed.
Such venom I did not need.
He ranted and raved about this and that
And glared at me like I was a brat.
Finally, at last, after speaking so long,
He ran out of breath.
I felt like singing a song.
As I looked at him,
I managed a smile.
I’m sure that he had not seen one for a while.
He sighed and said to me:
“Why don’t you walk away?
Is the effort too much? Are you lazy?
Or maybe you’re a little bit crazy?”
“Everyone is a little crazy.
You should know that by now,”
I told him, maintaining my smile.
“And some days, I’m lazy,
But that’s good, too.
If we didn’t rest and play,
We’d all be sad and blue.”
“Get to the point!
I don’t have all day!”
The man said, stamping his feet,
His face turning as red as a beet.
Before he exploded, I replied,
“The point, sir, is that I want nothing from you,
Not your money, nor possessions, nothing at all.
That is not why I came to call.
In fact, I’m here to give you a gift.
Perhaps it will give your spirit a lift.”
I held up the present
That he had not previously seen
And, in his eyes, there appeared a wondrous gleam.
Just for a moment, I could see
A glimpse of what this man could be.
However, his reply showed suspicion of me.
“You bring me a present unasked for, just out of the blue.
There must be something in it for you!
I will not be fooled by this deception and lie.
To you, I say ‘goodbye!’ ”
The front door slammed in my face.
Clearly I was unwelcome in this place.
It was really quite rude,
But I was not discouraged by his bad attitude.
I placed the gift on his porch,
Then departed and went on my way.
I had done all I could
On that bright, happy day.
I left a gift unexpected, unsought, unforeseen,
Yet it was a gift fit for a king or a queen.
Before I traveled too far down the road,
I heard something back at the man’s abode.
I heard a door open with a loud click.
Perhaps my imagination was playing a trick.
But when I looked back, I was pleased to see
The man on his porch looking at
The unwrapped gift with childlike glee.
The opened gift seemed to glow with a radiant light
In the hands of a man who was now a joyful sight.
He appeared to have mysteriously been made whole
With charity and generosity filling his soul.
Perhaps the man had been transformed
Like the Grinch and Scrooge on Christmas morn.
Perhaps that happened on this day,
Although, with certainty, I cannot say.
I do not know.
I hope and pray that it is so.
"Planetarium Spectrum" -- a mosaic photo by Joseph Rogers
Joseph Patrick Rogers
I was in a hurry.
It was urgent indeed!
I needed to get there.
No time could I cede.
I jumped in my car
And went speeding away.
There can be no delay."
A digital doodad downloaded driving directions.
Upon the iDashboard,
I could make the most efficient selections.
My car had all the cool doohickeys and doodads electronic,
And my car's digital stereo was symphonic!
I'm a fan of gizmos and gadgets
That are fast, fun, and cool.
I must have all the latest technical tools.
My car's deluxe iMotor
Had spinning iRotors.
The car's crankshaft turned
With all the speed that I yearned.
As I sped down the roadway,
The unexpected occurred
At the very worst time.
It seemed so absurd!
I considered my car to be the best one around,
The best high-tech model in town.
However, on that day, something went wrong.
Something snapped and banged as loud as a gong.
The thing-a-ma-jigs had gone all askew,
And I did not know what to do.
The car slowed down to a crawl,
Then stopped when the engine stalled.
I opened the hood to find out what was wrong,
But the list of problems was incredibly long.
The things that made my car go so fast
Seemed to have imploded in a blast.
The thing-a-ma-jig and the thing-a-ma-bob had both broken loose,
And the what-cha-ma-call-it was wobbling like the head of a goose.
A digital doodad had exploded,
Scattering all the iCircuits
With which it was loaded.
I tried to fix the thing-a-ma-jig and the thing-a-ma-bob,
But, for me, it was too much of a job.
The situation was really quite vexing.
Seldom had I had a day more distressing.
It was a complete mess.
Finally, I sat down for a rest.
I looked up and down the road
And found that I was all alone
And very, very far from home.
I realized that I needed a break.
It was almost more than I could take.
I took a deep breath and sought peace within.
It seemed a good place to begin.
I opened my eyes,
And things seemed a bit better.
I did not know why.
A flock of seagulls was flying by.
Something gleamed in the distance.
What could it be?
I decided that I would go see.
To my surprise, I was near the seashore.
I had never been this way before.
I felt pushed forward by the wind
Toward a place where I had never been.
This is not where I planned to be.
I feared the sea:
Wild, powerful, and free –
Such majesty was not for one such as me.
"How did I come to be here
Upon this shore near the pier?"
As the wind almost lifted me into the air,
The sea soon washed away my many cares.
Suspended between earth, sea, and sky,
My spirit soared to a new high.
"Put out into the deep,"
I recalled that someone once said.
I wondered where I was being led.
Sea and sky shone like fire.
For a few moments, I heard music
That sounded like a choir.
Upon returning to my car,
I felt that I had fought
And won an inner war.
Without a what-cha-ma-call-it
Or iStuff or iWidgets
Or digital doodads or doohickeys,
I somehow got the car running
Without all those high-tech thingys.
Mystically, magically, the car once again worked.
With a huff and a puff,
It started with a jerk.
Filled with a feeling of grace,
I drove home at a leisurely pace
In contrast to my earlier haste.
What had been so urgent earlier that day,
I could not recall.
Perhaps it had not been so important after all.
Life's essential things were not what I had previously thought.
The gizmos and gadgets were too easily bought.
Deeper and deeper, I needed to go
For in the deep,
Great things would be bestowed.
A Magical, Mystical Christmas Mystery
Joseph Patrick Rogers
As twilight turned
To darkness deep,
I thought it unlikely
That I could sleep.
Because I am only eight,
And it was getting very late,
I was told to go to bed,
But an unsolved puzzle
Raced through my head.
A mystery needed to be solved,
And I would do it!
I was resolved!
When it was too dark
For anyone to see,
I found a hiding place
Near the Christmas tree.
This hiding place I carefully chose.
I was concealed
From head to toes.
No one knew that I was there.
That I might be spotted,
I had not a care,
But a prankster needed to beware.
Indeed, I knew that a prankster did exist.
Although this person vanished like the mist,
The prankster's handiwork was plain to see
All over our Christmas tree.
Each morning on our tree,
Some things were not where they should be.
Ornaments had been moved to different branches overnight.
It was giving us all a fright!
These constantly changing ornaments
Were the cause of our puzzlement.
A gingerbread house
Had changed places with
Ornaments that had once been
On branches on the back of the tree
Were now in the front,
Clearly displayed for all to see.
Ornaments from lower branches
Were now near the top.
My family wanted these changes to stop!
There was a logical explanation –
Of that, there was no doubt.
Like Sherlock Holmes,
I would figure it out.
From my secret hiding place,
I spied upon our tree.
I wanted to know what was going on
And wondered what it could be.
For two hours, nothing happened.
There was nothing new to see.
Then, shortly after midnight,
I felt a magical energy flow over me
And the sparkling Christmas tree.
So very, very late that night,
I was treated to an incredible sight
When the Christmas tree emitted a burst of pure light.
Moving in perfect harmony,
Many ornaments descended from the tree.
They formed a line like a marching band
As if guided by some unseen hand.
Frosty the Snowman
Marched with Snoopy and Charlie Brown's crew.
They were accompanied by elves, reindeer,
And my superhero action figures too!
All the Disney princesses
Liked the celebration.
And, because it was winter,
Ice Princess Elsa was close to elation!
The Little Drummer Boy
Led this happy procession.
Admittedly, they were
A wildly assorted collection.
Some ornaments were religious
While others were not.
At the end of the parade,
Marched a Star Wars robot.
Surely this could not be as it seemed!
Perhaps I was in the midst of a dream.
However, I pinched myself
And found that I was awake.
For what was happening,
No explanation could I make.
It was all very joyous
And a whole lot of fun.
I just hoped to understand this mystery
Before Christmas Eve was done.
The Gingerbread Boy twirled
A graceful Gingerbread Girl
As they danced as a happy pair
While some penguins followed
A friendly polar bear.
In the parade,
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Were well represented,
And many of the carol's characters
Were prominently presented.
There were geese, doves, hens, and a partridge, too.
It looked a bit like a mini-zoo!
Eleven pipers and twelve drummers all played well.
They marched to the tune of The First Noel.
The Christmas Nativity
Was near the center of all the activity
As the parade circled around
The little Bethlehem town.
This amazing sight
Put me in a merry mood,
But somehow I knew
That this was merely a prelude.
As much as I loved
Watching those ornaments animated,
There was still someone
For whom I awaited.
Anticipation filled the air.
I was so glad that I was there!
In front of the fireplace,
He suddenly appeared
With his classic red suit
And his long white beard.
From this living legend,
Even the little ornaments
Were clearly fascinated.
His life force was so profound
That his presence affected
Everyone and everything around.
Throughout the centuries,
This man of grace
Had somehow transcended
Time and space.
Upon seeing his face:
Kind, wise, and pure,
I recalled hearing of
His love for the poor.
Of that being true,
I was very sure.
He did all his work
With neither hesitation nor delay.
He knew his main mission
That bright Christmas Day.
The man's generosity was beyond measure.
To my family,
He gave many treasures.
We got games, clothes, and books,
And fantastic toys of every kind –
Exactly what we wanted –
As if he could read our minds.
It pleased me all the more
Because my family was very poor.
An aura of power was around this man
Who brings joy to all lands.
Before he departed up the chimney,
Saint Nicholas smiled and waved at me.
One moment he stood there,
And the next he had vanished.
It was wonderfully outlandish!
I had thought myself so clever
To hide out of sight
On that Christmas night,
But wise Saint Nick
Had not been fooled
By my little trick.
The ornaments returned to their branches.
They did not want to take any chances
Of being caught roaming the room,
And it would be dawn soon.
I went upstairs to get some sleep.
That night's lessons in my heart I would keep.
There was more to this world than I had thought.
Creation was wondrous, vast, and wild,
And I was just a little child.
A Stranger in the Night
Joseph Patrick Rogers
On a night so dark and dreary,
A woman feeling sad and weary
Fled into the vast unknown,
Far from what had once been her home.
Across a rocky shoreline she fled,
Uncertain where the rough path led.
Because she was so very worried,
She moved too fast in her hurry.
She tripped upon a rock, stumbled,
And down a steep hill,
For a while,
She remained still in the sandy dirt,
Uncertain how badly she was hurt.
Upon a nearby cliff,
She saw a stranger
And feared that she was in danger.
Injured and alone,
She was easy prey
For any evildoer who came that way.
The stranger came down the hill
And helped her stand.
He calmed her with kind words,
Then brushed off the dirt and sand.
"Thank you for lending me a helping hand,"
She told the stranger,
Who fortunately was no danger.
Nevertheless, it was getting very late,
And she feared a tragic fate.
Off this island,
She needed to flee
And be gone
As soon as could be!
"All the boats are moored for the night,"
As her despair reached a new height.
She was about to give up
And turn around
When she heard a little sound.
It was the sound of water splashing.
Against the nearby wooden pier,
Some waves were lapping.
She was surprised to see
A sailing skiff still upon the sea.
Silhouetted against the shining moon,
A lone sailor in the skiff
Appeared none too soon.
"Sir, to the mainland,
Could you make one more run tonight?
I'll pay you well.
For your trouble,
I'll make it right."
The man smiled and replied,
There's always time for one more run,
Even if my passengers only number one."
In bright moonlight,
The sea seemed to glow
And was wonderfully serene.
It seemed almost like a dream.
Upon reaching the far shore,
She thanked the man,
Who declined the money in her hand.
"This was directly along my way.
Save your money for another day."
After saying goodbye,
The woman departed
As another long walk started.
Somehow she knew the direction
That she should go.
How she knew where,
She did not know.
Perhaps as a child,
She had been there once or twice before.
In her mind's eye,
She saw a door.
As she sought this sanctuary,
She glanced about,
Watchful and wary.
She passed through a dark valley
In which she sensed doom.
Everywhere danger seemed to loom.
Shadowy figures came swiftly out of the night.
They were indeed a terrible sight.
Nightmares had become all too real,
And she feared her fate was sealed.
The predators headed toward her.
Then, suddenly, they stopped
And turned around,
Disappearing into the night
Without a sound.
"I must look tougher
Than I am.
Somehow I got out of quite a jam!"
She laughed with relief and joy.
Happy as a child with a new toy,
She was very pleased
And finished her long walk with ease.
She entered a small town.
It was almost dawn,
But people were not yet up and around.
A colorful cottage caught her eye,
And she gave a profound sigh.
She approached and knocked on the door,
Uncertain what was next in store.
The door opened without hesitation,
And she felt a thrilling sensation.
A man stood there,
Tall and strong.
She realized that she had been
Expected all along.
His face was one that all persons knew:
Handsome, wise, good, kind, and true.
The woman had a sudden epiphany.
For the first time,
She could truly see
With profound joy,
She beheld the Man.
He then told her,
"I was the stranger who helped you near the cliff.
I was the boatman in the skiff.
The evildoers in the dark valley fled from me.
I was the friend whom you could not see.
"I am your first and foremost friend.
I am the Beginning and the End.
"It was to me that your journey led.
There never was cause for dread.
It seemed as though I was not there,
And you were burdened with many cares.
"It was I who prompted
You to set out on your way,
Who guided you here
And now invite you to stay.
"I am the Way, the Truth,
The Life, and the Light.
It was I whom you sought
For many, many nights.
"Come, sister, daughter,
And dear friend.
Share in my life without end."
The Prodigal and the Paraclete
Joseph Patrick Rogers
Upon my front door,
Someone was rapping.
Then on a window,
I heard a tapping.
Who was there?
Early morning visitors
Were rather rare.
Was I in the middle of a dream?
No, I was awake,
Or so it seemed.
Tap, tap, tap.
What is on the window sill?
It’s a bothersome bird.
“Please be still!”
I tried to chase the bird away,
But he kept returning.
He seemed determined to stay.
Does he plan to tap all day?
Tap, tap, tap.
Why does that bird persist?
What is the use of this?
Tap, tap, tap.
It goes on and on.
I wish that he would be gone!
Apparently, it is I who needs to leave.
This is difficult to believe!
I will go where I cannot be found.
That tapping is too annoying to be around!
I’ll make my daily walk to the town square.
There are many things to do there.
My rights and grievances I shall declare.
My opinions will be heard.
I’ll mock ancient traditions as absurd.
From my phone,
I can send tweets worldwide
And win followers to my side.
Tap, tap, tap.
The bird is here, too.
All the way to the town square he flew.
Tap, tap, tap.
Isn’t there some way to get the bird to desist?
I can’t take much more of this!
Why does that bird still follow me?
Doesn’t he belong in a tree?
That tapping is driving me quite mad!
For some silence, I would be glad.
I do know of a silent place –
Filled with light, mystery, perhaps with grace.
But to that place, I swore not to return!
Let those damned candles burn!
Out of that place, I once fled
And sought other truths instead.
Tap, tap, tap.
I don’t know what to do!
I haven’t even the slightest clue!
Perhaps I will retreat to my old sanctuary,
But in that place, I shall not tarry.
The bird can’t follow me inside.
It will be an ideal place to hide.
Tap, tap, tap.
It cannot be!
I hear the bird,
But him I cannot not see.
This I did not expect.
I could not be more vexed!
Has some witch placed upon me a hex?
Within these walls, I expected
The bird to be non-existent,
Yet here, he is even more persistent!
Wait! Wait! The tapping is no more.
I wonder what is next in store.
I hope that the bird has departed,
(Tap, tap, tap.)
But he might be just getting started.
Through a clear pane
In the colorful stained glass window,
I could see a bird
As white as snow.
He almost seemed to glow.
Outside that calm and peaceful church,
The bird rested on a perch.
Perhaps his task had been completed.
My prideful spirit had been defeated.
I looked toward the altar table
On which would be placed
The gifts of bread and wine,
Soon to be transformed
Into the life divine.
At that moment,
The magnificent bird took to the air.
Never was a sight so fair.
He then flew from my sight.
His mission done.
My soul set aright.
Saint George and the Dragon
Joseph P. Rogers
From atop a rocky, craggy cliff,
As the giant beast looked down
Upon the splendid, defenseless land,
The dragon formed a wicked plan.
“I shall take all that is good here.
The townsfolk will be taught to fear.
When all this land’s wealth is in my den,
I’ll burn the place down, then burn it again!”
Flapping its wide wings,
The dragon ascended into the clouds,
Then swooped down,
Everyone scattered who was in his path,
Terrified by the dragon’s wrath.
The beast destroyed everything in its way.
It truly was a dark, dark day.
The people were soon defeated.
Into caves and hiding places,
They fearfully retreated.
One man, though,
Walked alone into an open field.
A bright red cross was
Emblazoned on his shield.
This knight named George
Stood by himself as he awaited
The dragon’s charge.
A calm serenity stayed on his facial features
Despite confronting this fearsome creature.
Looking up from his ill-gotten plunder,
The dragon stared at George
In awe and wonder.
“Who is this fool who blocks my way!
I’ll burn him into toast! He soon shall pay!”
Time after time,
The dragon attacked the knight
During their long and wondrous fight.
George was as patient as the stars of night
As he waited for his chance to strike.
By the creature’s claws,
George was soon battered and bruised.
Everyone watching expected him to lose.
But again and again,
Against the creature’s armored hide,
George struck with all his might
As he fought against this beast of the night.
Wounded and weary was the knight.
There seemed to be no end to the fight.
He was just a mortal man.
Would this be the knight’s last stand?
Yet George stood his ground.
He did not flinch
Nor retreat nor yield an inch.
His sword shined with holy light.
George swung hard – first left, then right!
Then straight forward into the beast’s scaly hide,
George thrust his sword into its side.
The dragon roared as
It staggered backwards
Toward the cliff edge,
Then lost his balance
And fell over the ledge.
With earthquake-like force,
The ground shook,
And water flowed backwards
In the brook.
The dragon toppled into a deep ravine,
Never again to be seen.
George stood upon the hill victorious.
The townspeople shouted, “Glorious! Glorious!”