Another Way

This is not working
I am not breathing, in and out like I should
I do not want to live here anymore
in this place where the most vulnerable are
repeatedly victimized
Where brokenness begets brokenness
where weapons are celebrated and defended
more than children
Where protocol or the lack of it
prevents change and assistance
I do not want to live here anymore
inside of this body that carries the weight of
tragedy like it was designed in the shape of a wheelbarrow
and my heart is the set of calloused hands that picks it up
fingernails scraping the dirt beneath it and I can feel every pain
Like the soil that gathers around my cuticles
the dysfunction is relentless
and everyone is telling me to breathe but they
Do not feel what my chest feels like
it is like a burning tightness,
it hurts to breathe in and when I exhale I feel
flooded with sorrow so instead I
hold my breath

Yesterday I said my mind feels like two forks
with the prongs grating together and I am trying
To shake these thoughts loose so that I can sleep at night
but it is all unrelenting
How does one regain control when there is not
a moment to do so?
Even my silence is tormented by memory of the past
and anxiety over the future
I thought that I would have one sacred space in this world
but nothing is immune,
Everything is permeable
and all of this requires an incessant working towards wholeness
or else it becomes fragmented
And I am exhausted
Like the bathroom sink that once was clean
all things require a periodic scrub
all things are seemingly bent towards destruction,
I remember when I first heard the word entropy:
gradual decline to disorder
You were fascinated by it, and I chose to deny it
but now I am not so sure

Tomorrow is the 26th and it would have been his 29th birthday
but he only had 27
I have carried my grief like it could fit in my pocket but it
turns out that it is instead every piece of clothing that I wear
I have convinced myself that it is acceptable but it is not in
any way, shape, or form
I understand the way of death and resurrection in nature, see it all around me
but that does not make my throat soften so that swallowing is not painful
That does not make my body forget what it felt like to tremble on the day that he was buried
I tend to keep myself from writing these words because I don’t
want anyone to feel hopeless
but if I don’t allow them to flow through me like a river
they will flood me until I drown
If I don’t make space for this pain I will soon sink into
a bitterness that cannot be shaken and God, I don’t want to be bitter
because I believe in the tension between all that is beautiful and all that is desperately wicked
so I offer up every racing thought within me
every angry argument and uncalled for reaction
every righteous frustration and selfish motivation
every moment of giving up and giving into the inertia that haunts me
every deep hurt that seems to find no permanent solace
All of the deceit that I did not expect to receive
all of the misunderstanding that I thought wouldn’t be
I offer up everything
Take it, please, just for a moment at least
and If I must carry it again, I will add it to my wheelbarrow of a body
but right now, I must set it all down and see what You might make of it

Pain and Peace

There is no room left within me,
No more space to stuff the tragedy
No more spots to hide the things that terrify me
Or nooks to store the words that now pour out of me
I’ve found myself not eating until I am ravenous
Not resting until I am out of it
Not slowing down until the only remedy is to remove myself
From every responsibility entirely
I promise you I am trying
To build up boundaries and categories
To transition from concern to… stability?
I can’t seem to do it,
I am on a constant rollercoaster of
Anxiety, turning the curve to anger
Rolling down into depression,
Sliding over to lethargy
Rolling up to passion and
Stalling out at overwhelm
And then I’ll free fall to joy
Because somehow it is still present
I just wish I could stay with it
A little longer
Before I return to the ride

It is the sound of my neighbor’s voice screaming at his partner
That she is worthless
It is the silent tears of a new client who
Has had everything taken from her because of a broken man
It is the dragging of trash bags on the linoleum floors of the shelter
Containing the last remnants of home that the child in front of me has
It is the midday calls with news of another hospital visit
The tightness in my chest at any thought of losing
Another person that I love, God I don’t want to lose any more people that I love
And it is the literal war
That is happening simultaneously
While I peel meat from chicken bones from Monday’s dinner
With shaky hands, bracing myself for the feeling of nausea that
Happens when you forget to eat all day
I prepare my late lunch
While millions of people are being displaced

Tell me how to believe that evil is not triumphant
When it seems that even in the best scenarios the sin of pride and greed
Is still able to run rampant
For every good that happens,
There are layers of indecency
I’ve grown so expectant of despair that
The sound of children playing at the park
In my neighborhood frightens me
As their youthful screams echo down the street of
Brick buildings,
I envision the worst,
And glue my feet to the ground in an effort
To keep my body from moving towards the noise

I am not always like this
I am not always like this
I know peace,
I am hopeful
I believe in real, unrelenting, rooted goodness
Yet in the same willing heart
I hold a deep knowing that
This is not alright, this is not all right
And in my reality of helplessness
My inability to stop these various wars
both within and around me
I breathe
It is only my breath
It is only our breath that we
have left
Inhale, listen to the sound of the city birds
Exhale, watch the branches of the trees sway in the wind
It is not that I can do nothing,
It is that I cannot do everything
It is not that I should look away
It is that I must keep my eyes open
both to the pain and to the peace

One Year

February 8th, 2022

It’s as if my thoughts are bound up by the fear of permanence
The idea that if I acknowledge the weight of today
It will sink me into a pool of brutal reality
Where the water turns to ink,
turns to sludge and before I know it
The air that I’m breathing will
morph into a textured sorrow
That resembles something like
quick sand, like a bad nightmare
I could be overcome,
overcome by every emotion that has
been woven through out each of these
365 days with out you on earth

Everyone experiences grief differently
but I believe there are some similarities
like how the phrase
“It comes in waves”
seems to ring true for anyone who
has lost someone that they love deeply

For me,
the waves are still here
Your sister said that
she lives with a lump in her throat
and that is truly what it is like
going on everyday in this place where
we can’t see you

I am torn between reflection and movement
I want to remember you,
to watch videos of you
to listen to your voice and
find photographs that I never knew existed
Want to bring up your name so often
because the truth is that the basis of my being was
built right beside you
My first encounters with joy, adventure, sadness, and concern
were experienced with you
All that which makes this life worth living
are seemingly wrapped up in stories where
you are the main character
the protagonist, the embodiment of vitality
and the ruler in which I measure nearly
every relationship

And then there is movement,
this constant need to keep on going because if
I remain in reflection or even visit it at all
there is the threat that I won’t be able
to continue on, I am working to reconcile
the presence of your spirit and the
absence of your body

The weight of today is like the
weight of the year
It is too much to hold
so I let it scatter,
diffuse into the pockets of time
where I can be still and know
that this Story is still good
It is just drastically different than the one that I wish to read,
It is desperately different than the one that I would’ve written

A year ago today,
I was looking at the ocean for the last time
that I would see it with the part of me that
you took with you in your death
Yesterday, I looked at that same ocean
eyes searching the waves with a hope of
reclaiming fullness
And a simultaneous desire to lose
the rest of myself
All that I know is that
all that is left is what has always been
The only thing worth anything
to love and to be loved
to find rest in the impossibility
The assurance that death leads to life
time and time again

The waves are still here
They are angry and crashing,
cyclical and comforting,
weeping and restoring,
Always seemingly surrendering
I will learn from them
I must learn from them

God With Us

If you were here,
I would’ve texted you a photo and said
“can you believe this??”
As I drove down grandma and pop’s old
street and observed the giant houses that
they’ve stuffed on the plots,
nearly spilling onto the sidewalks,
That used to be yards with small
homes built of bricks and
historic memories

When I turned onto North Nelson
I felt the energy within me shift
I’ve been alternating between
Dull nothingness,
An aching pain,
And a sharp panicking feeling
For a while now, but
Especially in light of the holidays
which were always nostalgic and kind
of sticky
But at least then
I knew what it looked like where you were
and I could check in to see what you were doing
Now I live in a city that
Is a stone’s throw from
The majority of our childhood
The best times together
with plates of salami, olives, and cheese
trays of cookies and jello cake
pop-pop pouring encouragements into silver rimmed glasses
our faces all warm and red from the radiator heat
and the whole family packed in the kitchen like sardines

It kind of feels like our family has
Always been aching, yet still hopeful
I’ve been a witness time and time again
To the way that sorrow and joy can mingle together
It’s like I already know this dance

In all honesty, I’ve been moving quickly through these past few months
Not entirely by choice, just due to the nature of my work
but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve clung to
The late nights and urgent needs like a life boat
some strange kind of life boat that’s filling up with water
and here I am, standing in it with a bucket

I’m surrounded by people that do not have homes,
People with broken relationships,
seemingly insurmountable barriers
single mom’s escaping abuse
confused children
father’s working three jobs
with out transportation
families seeking asylum
and although I am present
there’s often not much that I can do about it
I’m saturated in a broken system,
Failing policies,
And a community who seems to understand in one moment,
and perpetuate the very problems it’s trying to solve
in the next

Yet through all of this,
I’ve thought of you
Can’t stop thinking of you
And I’m trying to hold onto the light
of how precious it is to be in
A family that chooses hope
To remember that the sole
purpose of advent is to know
Immanuel, God with us
And to carry this concept deep
within my soul
I can move through these
Moments, take a breath in these moments
The gut wrenching moments,
The joyful moments
The numb moments
The disappointing moments
The angry moments
The breaking moments
In every moment
Immanuel

Nine Months One Week

nine months, one week
I can’t help but to mark my life by
the days that pass by without you here
tonight I cooked dinner
I can count on one hand how many times I’ve cooked dinner since you left
I used to love to cook,
I’d research recipes for hours
I’d cook new things every week
I’d listen to music and sing while I
chopped onions, listen to stories and
sermons while I sautéed
And when you left, I stopped really
not intentionally
It just kind of happened

In the months right after
I gave away nearly all of my stuff
sold my home
started out on what I tried to claim as
adventure, wanted to fully live in every
moment, yet for so many of those
moments, I didn’t want to live at all
After a slew of events both good
and very bad
I am here
in our new apartment
and I cooked dinner
on my own, while I listened to voices
that encouraged me
to both hold on and to let go
The skin on my hands grew tight from
the butternut squash,
my senses grew alive from the scent
of cayenne and turmeric
The vegetable broth splashed on my
striped shirt
and still, I cooked

The apartment is mostly empty
since I sold all of our shelving
and we don’t have a dresser yet
for our clothes
This all feels like a sort of
starting over, beginning again
yet I feel so old
exhausted and worn down but
alive somehow
I want to keep going
and I want to keep cooking
I want to be like these many
windows that let the November light in
There is such great sadness in
the people that I love and within myself
and it is in many of those I’ve
come to know
I want to believe that it is not
stealing life, that it is actually making
all things more meaningful
I have found that when I place it
in the hands of God I can see it
differently, it doesn’t make me feel it
any less but I can watch as it takes
shape into something
The days stack up and fall apart again
the work gets hard then wears thin
the seasons change then the weather stays the same
winter sun on bare branches
I am raw like them until I get leaves again
until I cook again
until I become full again

Eight Months One Week

10.18.21

there is a sweet spot
where I doze off during my
nightly reruns of seinfeld
where I can’t keep my eyes open any longer
and I shuffle to find the remote
and turn the screen off
and I fall asleep
still with thoughts of you
but not the kind that keep me up
and if I lose this opportunity
If something keeps me up,
a dog barking or a cold draft
thirst for water and none beside me
If I have to get out of bed and use my
five senses again,
Well, then I’ve missed it
and I’m back to where I usually am
exhausted but consumed by
the memory of you
sometimes it is our childhood
christmas at grandma’s or swimming in the creek,
other times it is of our teenage years
the feeling of laughing with you
hysterically, sometimes adulthood…
watching you get married or waiting
for you to show up at sunday dinner
on the worst nights they are of your funeral
flashing visions of your white and gold casket
of the way my throat hurt so bad from weeping
of the videos of you moving, dancing, singing,
plastered on the large screens
of your song, of your wife walking to the
microphone to bravely speak about you,
of our family, faces so long
grimacing in pain
and then I can’t shake it
my throat tightens yet again
and the permanency of your absence is
shocking all over again
and the tears slide from the corners
of my eyes again
eight months and one week
since you left and it is still
unbelievable yet this
insomnia has become a staple
my heart aches for the day where I am not
missing you, where I am not regretting
every possible moment that I could’ve been
with you but I wasn’t
could’ve told you a thousand more times
that you are my best friend
that I love you
that we need you here
we still need you here
I’m tired of my words
of my own voice in my head that
still talks to you
of my moving from one place to another just to find some sense of stability,
but always coming up short because the discontent is inescapable
the grief seems to be growing, changing but still growing,
so I lay here still in darkness
waiting for my eyes to grow heavy enough to slip into sleep and then
wake to begin another day with out you again, yet I am never with out you
because I carry you,
and the absence of you
everywhere I go

Three Months

Three months since the day that he left
and I am sitting in
the home that I bought
nearly eight months ago
and now this home is empty,
literally,
almost bare
It never really felt right to begin with
and when he left it was
like I formed a physical repulsion
towards stuff, any stuff that did
not have meaning or purpose
or bring joy
And this home just became a house
the walls too thick,
the weight too much

When he left, I could not
do anything about it
I could only sit in the
sorrow like hot glue
and begin to pick up my
limbs, felt like a fly
stuck on paper
felt like an imposter
felt like my smiles were
painted on and at night
I’d feel them wash off
as the sobbing overwhelmed
my body, as the grief
filled out every part of me
and then there were days
where I was light all of a sudden
and the laughter felt real again
but then it felt wrong
and I’d have to convince myself
it was right

It is right to feel joy
even when you know pain
It is right to find relief
even when it will hurt again
It is right to slow down
and it is right to speed up
It is a balance between all things
it is a convincing that we are enough

In the moments where I could not stand to
breathe, I began to let go
and this letting go brought relief
this tangible giving up of things
feels like inching towards new life

When he left, it was like all
the boundaries of time were
removed and emphasized simultaneously
I wanted out, yet I wanted in
In on a life of full intentionality
out of the prison of my own recycled thoughts
in on an existence that does not depend on conformity
yes out of the pain, but I know by now that
the only way to go
is through it
So I have decided to feel,
to be present
I am taking solace in the saying that
all we have is now
because now I can be
And although now is not
always good, or even bearable
It is here

So I breathe, I let go,
I dig deep, I sow,
I wander, I think, I laugh,
I dance, I weep, I eat,
I sleep, I love, I learn,
I watch, I listen, I observe,
I read, I sing, I work
I am, here now
Let me just be
here now
Let me know deeply
that You are also
here now
and that although
he is not here now,
he is full now

Man with a Gun

a man with a gun
creates a world of trauma
a man with a gun locks down a family homeless shelter,
evacuates an apartment building before the residents can get their clothes on,
causes children to hide underneath their desks at school
a man with a gun makes
going to a movie theatre
buying food at the grocery store
and working at a spa
seem like entering a battlefield
everything is a risk
because men with guns
feel powerful
their inadequacy runs so deep
they must take the lives of others
to feel an ounce of strength
meanwhile we let our children
become saturated in a world of virtual murder
we treat our wars like holy mandates
we numb ourselves from feeling the pain of our neighbors
we make light of tragedy in an effort to just get to the next day
they say that “law-abiding citizens” are worthy of
carrying, we hope that they will protect us
when the time comes
I have no answers but I do have questions
It seems we are destined to live in a world
where trust is elusive
and if we were to find it
It would be taken advantage of
It seems that even the systems that
are set-up to protect us
are out to get us
because behind the closed doors of church buildings
there is a man lurking
and at the precinct
there is someone abusing
For wherever there is power in the hands
of humanity there is corruption
and if it’s not intentional,
It’s in the form of half-assing;
someone’s lack of empathy leading
To another’s demise
It’s a strange thing to believe in
The divinity of human kind
while simultaneously losing hope
and letting go of every certainty
maybe this is just my grief speaking,
or maybe this is my declaration
to say that I still believe we need saving
but the saving must be a comprehensive effort
not entirely our own
not entirely the job of a far off God
maybe we could meet in the middle?
maybe it looks like laying down our weapons
and carrying each other’s burdens
an inhale of introspection
how can I love better?
my words must not be bent to claim
that this is the fault of one soul
or the fate of our whole world,
but can there be a balance between
pointing our fingers and taking responsibility?
when everything seems out of hand
where should I pick up and start again?

Noah

words, I use them for everything
they outline my silhouette
follow me wherever I
go, I breathe them out
and become them
I speak them
seek them, need them where are they now?
there are none
yet there are too many

the ache is indescribable and
shocking, horrifying, breaking us apart and holding us together
forced forgetfulness of this
irreversible reality finds me as
I fumble to go about existing
but the trees are laced with you,
the stars shine like they did on
the many nights that we lived
looking up at them in
wonder and awe
now you have become like them
a mystery,
distant yet illuminating

the only breath that I have in me
is caused by the knowledge that you are in peace
you are more free than you have ever been
you are more real now, more alive now,
more vibrant now

all of their words are about your brightness,
the contagious factor of your smile and existence you fought so hard to be with us
you gave us so much of yourself
your presence unlike any other
your love like a burning fire

so, my words will be of you,
shaped by you
for all of the days to come,
because you cannot be contained in a stanza
and no words could reflect the depth of this grief
the vacancy left inside of me
the complexity of this pain
my cousin, my best friend

written on 2.10.2021

Slippery Slope?

My words must hold weight now
In place of my temporary inaction
Due to the crippling anger
That runs so deep and pulses
Like a fresh wound left unattended
I am trying to bandage myself
To layer the gauze so my
Blood doesn’t run out and I am left
Lifeless, a corpse drained of all
energy and
Goodness
I didn’t know anger could be felt like this
And now I can’t imagine how on earth I won’t feel it
Every attempted word of solace stands out like a
Cheap piece of plastic floating in a pristine chlorine pool
I know I am meant to have empathy
For all humans around me
But I am growing increasingly frustrated with those
Who have power and don’t yield it for true Good
Those who are given the option
But forgo decency and uphold lethargy

And they label lethargy as noble and righteous
They label sickening pride as wisdom and sound judgement
They label laziness with “Well, I’ve been doing this for a long time”
They label cruelty with “Well, I can’t change that”
They label excuses with “Well, I can’t help if I don’t know”
They label racism with “Well, it’s a lot better than before”
They label passivity with “Well, we must focus on unity”
They label white supremacy with “Well, there are places worse off than here”

How can we hide any longer?
How can we continue to look the other way
How can we continue to deny the responsibility,
The reality that every single decision holds weight
Why have we not stepped out of these shells of religious bigotry and hypocrisy and into the
Tender, aching, presence of those who are in need?
Why have we continued to stigmatize and disrespect the very populations that
Jesus ate with? Sat with? Walked with?

This anger runs a web through every one of my interactions
From the coworker who is solely present to collect their paycheck
To the pastor who acknowledges the past as if it were more holy than the future
To the subtle (and not so subtle) infiltration of nationalism
To the mass amount of trash I sort through on a daily basis as I search for a coat that fits a child

Human, I know it is overwhelming,
And it feels like there’s not much we can do
But it is in the smallness of our daily actions
Our purchases, our language and relationships,
It is in the subscriptions and the habits and
The addictions and avoided conversations
And the apologies
It is in the shifts of perspective
That we will begin to take part
In the flourishing of a world
Now
Now is the time,
Not yesterday or tomorrow
Not before or later
Now is the time that we pick apart our
Biases, lifestyles, and convictions and immerse ourselves in an honest search for truth
The truth of ourselves, the truth in our beliefs
The truth of what our actions (and lack of action) reveals about our own character
Now is the time for us to shed these layers of dead and disturbing traditions,
Now is the time to listen

Human

I am a collection of contradictions
in the shape of a human body
My skin is the boundary
keeping the anxiety and confusion from seeping
out of me
I am having trouble staying
comfortable in my comfort
My conviction deepens within me
every time I feel something like happiness
Contentment feels like it is stolen
from those who are with out it
I am trying to separate
myself from everything else
but were we really meant to be that way?
To live in categories and separateness
a watered down version of
us versus them
We’re all doing it on some level
casting away discomfort and pain
But today I read some words from an
unnamed author
And they wondered if
our calling to “cultivate and care for creation”
did not require us to fix things
rather to “reach far into the places unknown and trust that even the smallest brush with the cloak of Christ will make us all well”
and it made me wonder too
Because lately I’ve been caught up in the notion of
fixing things
because these broken things are overwhelming
yet I am reminded in the moments of my
limited language
trying to communicate with words that
don’t make sense
That I am awfully helpless and
I am just a collection of contradictions
in the shape of a human body that is
forbidden from embracing another
And my empathy cut deep when
I walked into her room and found her crying
and all I could say was “lo siento”
I’m sorry for the way that things are
a lot of the time I am prying apart
systems and bureaucracy
attempting to be a human
To see every human as
A human
Tearing down the walls of division that
religion, politics, and pride
have built
Stepping over the boundaries that others have
put in my way, or that I have allowed my
pain to create

To be honest
aspects of my theology are crumbling as I
consider the personhood of Christ
and begin to understand the history,
the reality
Yet I feel like I am the disciple
laying my head on his shoulder
finally listening to his heartbeat
with out fear of what anyone may think
Yes, everything is falling a part
yet coming together
My love growing
as my heart goes on aching
Settling into the discomfort as the baseline
instead of avoiding it like the plague

First Day

Home
Has always been important to me
But it is becoming something all together
Different, and more meaningful
I’ve always loved it for the way my books are
Stacked up and my plants are placed
When I was young, I would’ve
Rather been home than anywhere else

But now, even
The dishes in my sink are a sign
Of an appetite met
Of being full, of being fed
The rug spread out on these aged parquet covered floors
Is a comfort on my feet and
It is a luxury

See, even the locks on my doors are a symbol of privacy
The lampshades and the bathroom sink
Only my toothbrush and his
And no need to sanitize every time I touch the porcelain

I have become too comfortable with my comfort
Not noticing the power of space and the importance
Of every moment that I spend between my couch,
My kitchen table, my bed
This is sacred and it is
No longer going unnoticed

These steps that are taken from the hallway
To the front door
The sound of the keys scratching against the lock,
The flicker of the light when it first comes on
The time spent waiting for the water to warm
What other detail have I lacked gratitude for?

I can’t deny the depth of the sadness that I feel,
But can I balance the overwhelm of insufficiency with
Something inside of me?
Only your joy will carry me through this
Only your strength will keep me from uselessness

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For the Love of God

 
For the love of God
Stop politicizing your faith
The God of the nations does not identify with your sides
The God of the galaxies is not concerned with your categories
For the love of God, stop speaking so much
sit in the discomfort of silence and examine your heart
Stop projecting, expecting more from others than you give yourself,
stop painting a picture of how you want to be seen
in a desperate attempt to rid yourself of guilt or prove your personal goodness,
stop denying, stop condemning;
You are not a righteous judge.
Human, think of the conflicts within yourself
the areas of your thinking and believing that
you cannot reconcile or redeem
Do you want reconciliation and redemption?
Surely, you will not find it within
you cannot go a few days with out
opposition and pain
You inflict problems simply by existing,
lay down your pride
And understand that you are not the answer
you are the problem.

You seek your own comfort over the well being of your neighbor
you focus on the materialistic, superficial, and transient
you make idols out of lust, money, dreams, and passions
you lie for your own gain, you love for your own satisfaction
Do you truly believe that a collection of your own thoughts and ideals would bring
hope to the most broken and desolate parts of your country, your world?
You have not defied death or disease,
You have not conquered the grave,
no, you are headed for death and on a
consuming path of destruction
Everything you can hold in your hand will soon rust,
and those intangible accomplishments that you identify with
Are of no greater value than dust
If you are remembered at all after you are gone from this earth,
you will have no knowledge of what they will say or believe
About who you were, or what you did
And if you knew, would that be enough?
You are not satisfied with the words that they tell you now,
their praise and approval does not remedy the ache and void inside of you

Human, each day your body is weighed heavy by the pressure
of aging, the elements of time and space are working together
To prove your fragility and your mortality
Do you see how great of a predicament you are in
with out Grace?

Apart from Christ, there is no good
There is simply fleeting pleasure and
hollow contentment
With out the atoning blood of Jesus
you are left to your own devices
to your own efforts,
emotions, disappointments,
successes, memories, mistakes,
futile attempts at building something that will last
that cannot last,
that will burn up and
if anything at all
simply and solely be a part of the
past
Human, sit with your soul
attempt to cradle the wounds and complexities
of this strange existence,
Slow down for a moment and face the
reality of the grandeur of the skies and
the smallness of your being

I choose the everlasting,
I choose the abundant life
the one that is not dependent upon anything that I have done or will do –
The one that is given full and complete meaning
because of the perfect life of a man,
who was and is God, who was killed
who bled vibrant, pulsing blood for the
nature of my being that
was enslaved by sin
but designed for communion

I live in wholeness now,
because of the breath that returned to his body
and the purpose that was restored to me –
completely and fully alive now,
no longer defeated by the daily
anxiety and hopelessness of the temporary
I live in truth now,
I can see the world for what is is now,
an aching collection of breathing bodies
and immortal souls that will not stop
killing, lying, stealing, fighting,
dying, mourning, crying, deceiving,
breaking, aging, enslaving, and groaning…

Until, the glory of God is revealed
And the nations are healed
and every tongue declares
Jesus; savior of the world.

How do I live now? I pursue Him now,
what does he require of me?
To do justice, to love kindness,
to walk humbly with my God

Have you grown weary yet,
of eating and never becoming full?
Of drinking, only to thirst again?
The hunger within you will
only be satisfied when you no longer
Eat of this world

For the love of God,
dismantle your pride,
turn your eyes

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A Prayer for Justice

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5:30am and the breeze moves through the trees
like a knife against warm butter,
a morning of your unfailing love,
but do you hear the cries of the marginalized?
I hear them but I do not know what to do,
what to say. My heart aches with them
but my voice falls thin against the vast history of hurt,
the collections of oppression
O God, my words are powerless with out your purpose
my empathy is not enough, my outrage manifests
in restless nights and constant questions
I am listening, O God
I am asking, O Lord
Guide my steps and let me not cower beneath
the weight of injustice
Reveal in me any ounce of prejudice,
any underlying judgement

You are the God of all nations,
the loving father of every skin covered soul
Teach me how to be a defender
of the dignity, safety, value, and freedom of
every man, woman, child
Rid me of complacency in the face of sin
Separate me from silence when it is time to speak,
I will embrace the discomfort that is festering
knowing that this is your way of calling me near to you,
near to your heart that breaks with each act of violence,
each moment of discrimination,
each tear that falls from the eye of
a mother losing a child,
a son losing a father,
a human losing hope

You are the Lord
who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness
for in these things you delight
Make me a vessel for your steadfast love, justice, and righteousness
for these things, I will fight.

A Clanging Cymbal

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I have learned that
being where you are
is often better than longing for the past
or dreaming about the future
The habit of thinking that you are always in the wrong place
will keep you from existing in the present
you will float six inches above the ground
never feeling the grass bend beneath your feet
or the sand in between your toes
or the tide rolling around your ankles

So, taste the food in your mouth before going for the next bite
when you look at the stars, let your eyes linger even if it is cold outside
Listen to the voices of those speaking to you with out preparing what you will say next
Pick one thing, not everything
Choose knowledge over ignorance,
compassion over convenience
Drink your coffee while it is still hot
Examine your motives and practice honesty even when it is partnered with discomfort
Identify rush and hurry as the enemies of quality and patience
When you are tempted to numb, feel instead
Ignoring pain, begets pain

Forgive and forgive and forgive again

Speak kindly to yourself and you will judge others less
Assume that all humans are made up of complex histories
diverse experiences, circumstances, thoughts, sufferings
not one identical to the other

Go outside
outside of your home, outside of your perspective, outside of yourself
Retire your expectations
Dismiss your pride
And begin to balance the notion that tomorrow is a new day,
but also tomorrow may never come
A juxtaposition of hope and impermanence
contentment and yearning
order and chaos
And in all of this you will need an anchor,
and that anchor is love.

Freedom, Balance, and Molasses

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Is it not simply freedom that we are all longing for?
Freedom from the subconscious tyrant,
the one that mulls over mistakes and forbids self efficacy
Freedom from impending deadlines and constant hurry
Freedom from failure and the faults within
Freedom from cyclical tragedies and
generational maladaptation

Is it not simply balance that we strive for?
a balance between justice and mercy,
judgement and grace,
It is like we have got this innate inability to develop boundaries
that protect, nurture, sustain, and transcend
Instead we’re giving too little, taking too much
or giving everything, with nothing remaining at all

Have you experienced slowness,
like molasses dripping from a tablespoon?
Or is everything around you like crashing water,
thin liquid running over and you cannot hold
anything solid in your hands?
It must be freedom that you long for,
balance that you lack
If it was left up to willpower,
or boiled down to behaviorism
We’d be a stagnant people
plagued by inadequacy and predicted
by statistics and those before us
Yet we have not been left alone

To be known and to be loved,
to feel known, to feel loved
to know and to still love,
Are these not the remedies for nearly every
dark hour?

I must accept my total inability to save myself
or anyone around me before I can step into
the joy of obedience
before my process of sanctification will feel more like freedom
and less like penance

and here is freedom,
balance blooming inside of me
not yet achieved, not solely up to me
I will embrace this state of malleability
settle into this new found dignity
No longer weighted by a constant state of
struggling to
maintain personal holiness

This vulnerability is an invitation to
think deeper, to believe more
What if you could gain everything
in one moment of surrendering?

Dissatisfied?

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Your longing cannot be satisfied by a certain acceptance,
it cannot be extinguished by a set of belongings, a state of security,
or a romanticized relationship
In your most perfect day,
your best travels, your most loving moment of intimacy,
you will still yearn and the inmost part of your being will not
settle into contentment like you’ve convinced yourself it should

You will be constantly wanting, reaching, striving,
you will not find an eternal joy on this earth
Even the most serene moment is laced with sorrow
this life ends with death, as do most of our elated emotions
After health comes sickness
after community comes desolation
after prosperity comes lacking
after relief, another burden appears
Aren’t you exhausted?
Aren’t you afraid?
Aren’t you wondering why your best efforts are inadequate,
why your greatest pursuit turns up void?

The depth of God’s character can be made known to you,
the vast measures of his love can be made real to you
To no longer live with a crushed spirit,
to no longer bask in the temptation of self-pity,
or base your existence off of self-sufficiency, self-indulgence,
to no longer measure your worth with an underlying taste of self-depreciation,
self-abuse, or self-hate
If it is freedom you are after, take hold of this redemptive offering
The blood of Jesus gushing out for you like an ocean wave crashing at the shore
your name on his lips as he breathed his last breath
and your name on his heart when he rose to life after a brutal death
do not let this act of ultimate love be a fake tale or some far off history
entertain the thought that this might be the only reality

Will you be hindered by modern culture and mistakes of organized faith?
Will you be convinced by hidden pride that you are in control of your soul, your life?
December has been slathered in consumerism and nostalgia,
the months to follow, set-up on goals and priorities, which you will fail to keep
and continually misalign
the spring will come with movement and growth,
and you might miss the symbolism of all of creation coming to life again and
summer will distract with events and some type of temporary hope kindled by the heat
autumn will come and the leaves will change
and then it will be winter again, and when yet another year has come and gone
what will you have to say of it?

The years will pass,
you will age
you will lose the people you love and the money that you have saved
you will feel glaring moments of sadness, fleeting moments of joy
you will accomplish things that will soon be forgotten,
and you will build things that will rust and eventually be destroyed
What will you have left,
when all good things come to an end?
What will you have left,
when your body fails and you give up your last breath?

This is a plea to those I love,
to those I have yet to meet
Don’t waste this life when you could live
in the most tender care of a King
One who will transform your weakest attempt
into a miracle of grace and redeem your bruised body
to be an eternal reflection of his glory

Through out these days of living in a state of groaning,
I rest assured knowing
that I was made to be known and to be loved by him
and I was made to know and to love him
and this simple declaration satisfies every longing
it settles my soul, gives life to my bones

This poem was inspired by a sermon titled “The Wounded Spirit” by Timothy Keller, probably one of my favorite sermons ever. Listen to it here. Read it here.

 

Like a Garment

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Have you ever
seen a thread unravel from a garment?
Pulled a load from the washer
only to find a string of frayed fabric?
Caught up and tangled,
you try to find the source
but you complicate it further by digging and pulling
And when it’s in your hands
you can see that damage has been done
that what was at first designed to be
a useful and beautiful thing
has begun a process of unravelling?

The human is like a cotton garment
with lace edging on the seams,
Its maker intended for it to be worn
and for it to create warmth
and for it to contribute and be loved and held
With wear it becomes dirty
and it needs a wash
and often times the caretaker doesn’t follow the directions,
maybe they didn’t know how to read, or they just followed what they had seen
and in it goes with wool and polyester and fabrics of all kinds
it gets thrown in with circumstances and textures that it was never meant to know
and instead of a delicate hand wash it gets beaten by the movement of
the machine and strained by the heat
and when it gets pulled from the wash,
there the fabric is frayed
and the thread is wrapped around everything
tangled up and worn out

Do you yell at the garment? Complain that it didn’t
do its job right? Wonder why it failed to be washed clean,
go to the maker and demand back your money?

A soul is more fragile than a garment labeled hand wash only,
the mind more composite than sewn together threads
and we gossip about the neighbor with the addiction,
throw stones at the mother whose child floats into the foster care system
Our brains were wired for attention,
but theirs were met with neglect,
heightened traumas and coping mechanisms turned into
generations of dysfunction
and there lie our pleas to break the cycle and do something
muddled and drenched in the reality of helplessness

I do not claim any ounce of confidence,
the only thing I can do is recognize my weakness
I welcome the constancy of my brokenness
It is only there that I will have rest

I wrestle with my doubt of your goodness
and my anger over your sovereignty,
This is not a place of equal right or opportunity,
but my ambivalence over your existence and truth
is extinguished by the thought of a life with out you
Yes, this place is stacked full of misery,
all the more reason we need your saving

I refuse to allow my cynicism and self-righteousness
to overpower the only source of light in all of this
with out you, whom do we have?
with out you, where should we go?

I serve a God who came for the weak,
he bled and died, so that the blind could see
He is not a removed or cold high priest,
he is a man
who suffered for,
and suffers with,
me

Our quickness to trust in humanity,
should be deserted when we see
the homeless child in their vulnerability
an unravelled thread, a damaged piece
I serve a God who says “come to me,”
he rose to life for the weary
My conviction should not rest
in my angry defense of my inability to save
it should be an everlasting devotion
to the maker and designer of mankind and the ocean
Dismantle my pride and teach me to lay down my life
change the way that I live and the way that I die,
death to my scrutiny and life to my trusting
death to our complacency and life to our caring

My destitution runs deep,
your grace covers me,
I am no longer a garment frayed and torn,
I am a new creation made to be used
an instrument for warmth, a speaker of truth,
I exist to glorify you

 

Twelve Years

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For twelve years the sun has risen
and the sun has set
there have been twelve hot green summers
turned into crisp and colorful autumns,
For twelve years we have gone forward
wanting to be where you have been

My fear, if left unattended
turns into a frigid tightness in my chest
I lay in bed pushing away thoughts of loss,
I can’t bring myself to believe in the false security
of his breath rising and falling next to me
I shut my eyes tight
but I can’t shake the feeling
that all good things are ending
that someday I might wake up
and later that day, have to fall asleep
with out him beside me

My dread, if not bolted down by hope
will come in the form of irritability
will settle in like a blanket of sorrow
an unwelcome uneasiness, lining the thought of tomorrow

My anxiety, turns from a raging ocean
into a steady bay
Sometimes the wind picks up,
but it won’t be long until I’m calm again

I have not been left in the casket of my fear, dread, or anxiety
Just like you have been given more life than I have ever known
the same God that has made you immortal,
removes the sting of death from me

I move through life with the thought of heaven
anchoring my heart and breathing peace into every part of me
If one believes that we don’t go on living,
then what would the purpose of these years, like mist, be?

My fear is not stamped out by worldly remedies,
it is healed by the design of a God who sent a savior to die for me
My dread and dissatisfaction only exist when I lose focus of His
grace and prominence
How humbled I become,
when I acknowledge my quickness to forget
that this world is only a shadow
and He has called me out of denial

I do not want to lose any more of the people that I love,
but how wonderful to rest in the assurance that those who have gone
are not actually lost
The world might label this faith as the loss of freedom
but I would argue to say that this is freedom at the core
to no longer be controlled by my fear of death,
to no longer rot in the depth of my selfishness,
to no longer allow sadness to consume my joy
to live in the liberty of a redeemed existence
followed by life eternal,
where there is no more death
or mourning, crying, or pain

There is no time to be wasted,
no time to hold onto bitterness or self-righteousness,
no time to ignore the way that rust eats and bodies age
There is beauty in everything if we submit,
but there is only pain if we reject
This life is just the in between
the race preparing us for the next

Twelve years are like a fleeting memory in comparison to eternity
twelve years, half of my lifetime at this moment
and I am not guaranteed one more day
Let the fragility of this life lead us to cling to the author of salvation,
let it guide us to love like there is no act of greater importance

The loss of you, revealed the greatest truth:
What is seen is temporary
What is unseen is eternal

 

Warm

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He woke up before me,
and I laid in bed with my eyes still closed
listening to the shower turn on
and the autumn wind rustling the trees
the bed still warm from where he slept

I woke up early this morning,
and when I climbed out of bed it was like a small celebration,
a little success, because I so often fail instead
He was already putting his socks on
but he smiled at me when I claimed my accomplishment

I made him breakfast,
as he shuffled around our apartment
still dim from the night before,
I thought of how many times I’ve missed this moment
because of my commitment to sleep and the warmth
of the covers, keeping me safe

Safety is false,
there is always room for fear
yet I still feel safe
and sad for those who fall asleep with out,
and wake up with out,
the feeling of safety

I walked him to his car,
carrying a bowl of eggs and potatoes
and a small bit of coffee, because he left the rest for me
the air is cold all of the sudden,
the leaves are turning orange and red
another summer has faded
and the familiarity of October sets in

The light in our apartment
turned from dull to a bright contrast
the sun shining on the wall,
shadows broken up by our plants

Warm is the feeling of missing him when he is gone,
but trusting that he will be back
Warm is the joy that rests deep within me,
the absence of the depression that once consumed me
Warm is the thought of my family,
the simplicity of loving selflessly

Our apartment is still and
quiet this morning
chairs and bookshelves grounded,
frames secured to the walls
but as the wind drifts in through our open sliding door
chaos exists outside and in the rest of the world,
the warmth within me is what I will hold on to,
to have the capacity to persist in the cold

My prayers are steady and specific,
I begin with thankfulness and move on to repentance
I proclaim my pleas and then I yield to you
I long for the chance to give the warmth I have
to someone who has never felt it,
or to someone who has lost it

The comfort you have given me
is not mine to keep
I trust that you will provide
the warmth that they, too, need
and if you would,
let me be your hands and your feet

Reasoning

To live in simple moderation,
to accept what I could have changed
to look away at the sight of dysfunction or demise
to fall asleep to the distraction of a screen and
wake up to the rhythmic habits of my own world
Even in this generic approach,
I cannot deny the intensity of life

The weather rages and the stories never end,
the intricacies of photosynthesis in the trees
and the psychology behind a human mind
the endless combination of words in millions of books
each making a new and unique character
I cannot pretend to grasp the largeness of life

The injustice in our laws,
the contradictions in our nominal faiths
the little lies and snide remarks
in our daily conversations

The traffic, a sight of frustration
the ocean, a glimpse of peace
holiday mornings with their nostalgia
and the disappointment of time gone too fast

The pleasure in symmetry,
the components of anxiety
the fear of sickness and the
longing for death or dreading of dying

We must not stay distracted,
or we will miss the point
everything on earth is a foreshadowing of
what is to come or a consequence of what has happened

We must not settle for what our culture has deemed appropriate,
just a little bit of religion or a lot of distraction
materialism and busyness racing in to hold our attention
good works as our redemption
substances as our prevention of feeling deeply
or our means to stay afloat

Shouldn’t an entire world history
and continued actions of
slavery, genocide, and destruction
lead us to believe
we are innately sinful,
and in desperate need of saving?

We are quick to identify
the terror brought on by others
yet slow to recognize the hate
and conflict in our own hearts
I have a hard time seeing how the
world will change
if we refuse the transformation of our
own hearts, minds, souls

I could resort to nihilism,
fall into cynicism,
live this one life with no thought of the next
I could say that all things go,
avoid confrontation through assimilation
but I would first have to deny the artist who created all good things,
I’d have to choose a gaping void over the deepest satisfaction,
the most clear answer to my endless aching

This is a not so subtle reminder
that moths and rust destroy
life moves quickly and what do we leave when we go,
a legacy of family, distracted and busy?
I look to Christ as my hope
a sure and steady anchor,
a purpose for my soul

But when I look to Him,
I’m confronted and convicted of a reality within
his words are not isolated anecdotes of comfort and peace,
they are like fire, burning and refining
“O for grace to discard all hypocrisy,
and to be found of Him sincere and without rebuke…”
How deep the rest that abides in me,
when I surrender everything
I admit to my ignorance,
welcoming your wholeness in my weakness
I wrestle with the absurdities of life
and even my anger with you
but I won’t bask in distraction,
busyness with no real action
Your words are sharp and cutting,
yet your embrace is so sweet.
There is no explanation for living
if I deny you as my King

Humanity moves forward,
clenching on to the past and vying for the future
I remember the truth that each person has been made
in the image of the god that I believe to be true
I acknowledge the mysteries and long to know more of you,
and I refuse to give this faith only a small part of me,
it is either everything or nothing at all.

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance,
and if true, of infinite importance.
The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

quotes by charles spurgeon and c.s. lewis

Freedom from Me

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This poem is inspired by Sharon Hodde Miller’s book, Free of Me, this sermon by Rev. David Stephenson from Mclean Presbyterian Church, and my most recent life transition of moving from Arlington to Amissville.

Replace my self centeredness with an awareness of your
sovereign presence
Who am I to say
what will happen tomorrow,
or even today?
I’ve always known
a false sense of control
harboring anxiety like it’s a part of me
Allowing my plans and the failure of them
to dictate my disposition and my trust in you

There is freedom,
wherever you are
but not just from my past or future,
freedom from my present self
My never fleeting condition of
selfishness and pride
my constant fear of
inadequacy and the notion
that all good things will be
taken from me

There is freedom now,
your presence as real as the
invisible wind shaking the spring green trees
There is freedom in the evening,
when I’ve yet to complete all the things that
I set out to do in the morning
There is freedom in each new sunrise,
an opportunity to seek you more
to accomplish the purpose you have made me for

So let me find satisfaction in you alone
in your creation and your sacrifice
There is freedom from myself
You have forgiven all of my failures,
and finished all of my good works
I need not dwell on myself,
for you have given me a new identity
one that is made up of you,
I am free of me.

First

I’m sharing a love poem from a few years ago. My husband and I are moving out of our first apartment in less than a week and I’ve been going through our things and making sure we aren’t taking anything we don’t need to our new home. I’ve caught myself finding letters and scraps of paper hiding in books and boxes. I wrote this poem for him after dating for eight months. This poem is a good reminder, to love and to love well. We are called to put others first, to love them above ourselves, above our pride, weaknesses, work, and even our sadness. Have you ever heard that love is at first a feeling and then it is a choice? I believe this to be true. We are all bearing burdens, battling emotions, distractions, and darkness. My heart aches, but it can also love. In sickness and in health, in the newness of spring and the dead of winter.

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You are first.
The first thought I think in the morning,
the first voice I miss in the evening
You are first and only.
The only one I want when I don’t want anything,
the only good thing in the midst of my anxiety
You are first and last.
The last hand I will hold to my face,
feel your fingertips on my lips like a sacred belonging
the last heart I will carry in mine,
my love for you is a strong thing.
You are first to me, and for me,
before my pride and worry
You are before the sun and moon,
before the things I need to do
You are first and only, my dear,
I’d admire you for days, I admire you always
I’ll choose you first and only and last
First when I rise, only when I walk,
and last when I lay
You are first for all of the days.

Written 12.08.16

Resurrected

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Inspired by John 20

They looked for you here,
ran to your tomb, only to find the linens
that were used to wrap you
Mary thought you were a gardener,
until you said her name
It took some time for them to recognize
to believe that you were alive again,
Thomas had to touch your side,
to feel the nail marks on your hands

The cool spring air slides through my open windows,
as the early morning sun glosses the green buds on
the awakening trees,
I listen to a recording of my pop-pop playing trumpet
off of a worn down and scratchy CD
Every sweet note lingers in the space around me
as I remember, I won’t find You in the grave,
You are alive, You are not there
You are risen indeed

The crowd gathers to hear about your miracle,
but how many of us will leave
with out recognizing that your death was an invitation to
newness, that you long to make a new creation out of me
How could I turn away from this hope that you have revealed,
my questions stretch towards the heavens but I will not
be consumed by the limitations of my humanness
I can’t stand still in the truth of all of this

Your body was broken, and you bear the scars to prove it
and if I ask like Thomas, you’ll let my hands curve around
your resurrected wounds
You’ll say my name so that I know it is You

When fear overcomes
and terror endures
I lock my doors and hide
Yet you come to me
in overwhelming love,
surpassing peace
your spirit flows
it covers me

You are not dead,
you’re not hanging on that cross
Jesus, you are alive
and you are calling us

“Come to me,
I will give you rest
a rescue from this world,
from your weariness
I am making all things new
and in this moment,
my Peace I give to you.”

This is glorious,
the grace that you have lavished upon me
this is redemption and now I can truly live
In this life I will follow you,
author and perfecter of my faith,
in every sorrow, in every disappointment,
in every pain, in every death
you stand sovereign
giving purpose to my breath
This hope is not a coping mechanism,
it is the anchor to my soul
It pulses in my blood,
transforms my every thought
The Truth of who you are,
a conquering light,
defeating the dark

The Things You Carried

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Inspired by John 19.28-37

When you go to the cross,
will you take my shame?
I’m living in leftover layers from my past,
consumed by oceans of regret,
caught up with what I should
and should not have said

When you go to the cross,
will you take my pain?
my flesh fails, my body aches
my hands are weak,
they often shake
my anxiety, it creeps up on me
makes a home in the back of my neck
snakes around my nerves
and strangles my dexterity
many days there is not much left of me

When you go to the cross,
will you take my loss?
flashing visions of the ones I’ve loved,
tremor through my mind in moments of panic
I see their mouths gasping for breath
I call out to them, don’t go
not yet

When you go to the cross,
will you take my pride?
I hate the way it controls my life
sneaking into every scenario,
claiming ownership over my disposition
calling attention to my selfish condition

When you go to the cross,
will you take my sorrow?
It’s rooted so deep in me,
pulling apart those moments of joy
like a frayed fabric, I want the whole
piece but it won’t let me have it

When you go to the cross,
will you take my sin?
I’m a wreck and I always have been
a part from you I’m left in the mire
covered in ashes, headed to a blazing fire

My separation from you is real in this moment
the darkness sets in the hour of your crucifixion
it was my mocking voice that put you on that cross
and then your skin was broken, you bled for us

After one last bitter sip,
you cried the words “It is finished”
your body hanging bare and beaten
your mercy for me made alive
in your death you have made me new
this sacrifice I cannot undo

When you rise from the dead,
will you remember my name?
I am your child,
you have made me that way.

He Loved Them to the End

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Inspired by John 13.1-35

You knew the cross would take you soon
your hour had finally come
and in this knowledge I stand in awe of you
often confused by you
Knowing the beginning to the end
You loved them to the end

You filled the basin with water,
took Peter’s foot in your hand
He struggled to accept your grace,
refusing your decline to the lowly place
Reminded of the depths of his sin,
he asked you to then wash his hands and his head

You knew who would betray you,
you loved him still and again
and this is the part that breaks me
I have an odd sense of sympathy,
I beg Judas to change his mind
every time I read this piece of history

If love is what you gave to them,
and love is what you give to me
then love I should give to all
even those who may turn their back on me

If love is service and sacrifice,
because you became a servant and The Sacrifice
I should seek to serve and to sacrifice
every moment, every day of my life

And you loved them to the end,
the disciple laid his head against your chest
your presence full of peace and rest
And you loved them to the fullest extent

Red Lettered Death

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Inspired by John 12.20-36
Encouraged by John Piper, Dying as a Means of Loving

I’ve always known the red letters were sacred
and when I read them to myself I would try to deepen the tone
of my voice in my head, to make them sound more like Jesus
to make something or someone distant, feel a little closer

And in my dark moments of depression
when I clung to disobedience in fear that
following you would leave me more empty
I may have echoed the words of the Greeks at the feast,
“I wish to see you”
Many times I made the request,
Many times you revealed yourself and I turned away,
caught up in sorrow, persuaded by the need to save
To save someone on my own,
with my own strength

And in my elated moments of pride and false contentment,
I may have echoed those ancient words again
tossing my plea like a coin to a fountain
not knowing that your presence requires death

I remember the day that I committed to following you,
preceded by a lifetime of arguing, doubting,
surrendering and taking it back,
questioning, pondering, watching and waiting,
and finally saying
make me into something new,
take my life I give it to you.

I was a grain of wheat
fighting my fall to my death,
thank God for the moment that I finally gave in

I gave in to your grace and my death
led to Life,
I wish to see you Jesus
for who you are and not what I’ve made you out to be
I wish to know you Lord,
in the intricate ways that you have known and loved me

As you laid your life down for me,
teach me to do the same
Every day dying to self,
Heaven is my gain

As you shed your red blood for me,
spoken in red letters on paper to see
Dismantle my pride and obsession with
shortcomings,
Conquer my desire for earthly things,
put my selfishness to a red death
by a crucified King

Make me Like Mary

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Inspired by John 12.1-11

Mary poured out her oil onto your feet,
your skin saturated and slippery
the fragrance of holiness catching the senses of
all in that home in Bethany
Lazarus was breathing again,
his life felt real and awake as he inhaled,
exhaled the glory of your existence
Martha could smell it from the kitchen,
where she joyfully wept while washing dishes
her heart raw from the death and life of her brother
could these days be compared to any other?

Judas, angry and appalled
why would so much value be
emptied, couldn’t one drop be enough?
It was not the poor he was worried for,
it was the selfishness of his own heart

I am Mary kneeling at your feet,
I am Lazarus brought to life by your mystery,
I am Martha weeping at the thought
of your sacrifice for us and submission to the cross
I am Judas, trying to get by
only giving you bits and pieces of my insufficient life

I am the crowd that came to see,
who you really were and what miracles were complete,
I am the skeptic and a sheep
You spoke for all to hear,
and you called me

Jesus, renew me
make me clean
I want to wave the palm branches and cry out to my King
Hosanna, Hosanna
Don’t let me forget
about your death
the time that you lived and died on this earth
Your resurrection soon to come,
but I will dwell on the darkness that you endured
to know the weight of your devotion
to gauge the magnitude of your wounds
to understand the capacity of your love for me

Make me to be like Mary
kneeling at your feet
“There I lay my sins and sorrows,
and, when weary, find sweet rest.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
there I love to weep and pray,
while I from his fullness gather grace and
comfort every day.”

Make me to be like Mary,
giving you everything I have and love,
keeping nothing from you,
resting my forehead on your anointed feet,
you have come to rise and to raise me

Make me like Mary,
kneeling at your feet

 

Because of a Mustard Stain

I missed you the most
when I put on your plaid denim shirt
looked in the mirror and saw a mustard stain in the reflection
It made me think of hot summer days and eating hot dogs
Visions of you laughing and stirring potato salad flooded my mind
and I wanted you to be here again
I wanted to run to the freezer in the back room and grab
a popsicle to soothe the flushed feeling that fell on my face
at the thought that you cannot be here again

Your absence brings an ache larger than a missing person
When you left here you took an entire era,
my childhood was wrapped up in your existence
showered with boston cream pies and birthday cakes
I want to give to others the way you gave
I want my home to be like yours

The beginning days with out you were sticky
and frozen together by winter air and an odd adjustment
to a different kind of living where my worries of you would be
extinguished by melancholy peace
The days ahead will be riddled with thoughts of you,
the desire to talk with you

I’ve been dreaming of you nearly every night,
reminded that you are now more than alive
let the reality of heaven steal away the gloom
the empty moments where I miss you
The knowledge of your state produces a
joy greater than pain
a fragrant contentment like the scent of your
leftover laundry detergent

Our apartment is now home to your old
windowsill plants,
They traveled with you from arlington to amissville,
back to arlington with me and soon to amissville
again they will be
Irony is alive in this life,
we go from child to later become childlike,
with the weakening of bones and the
deterioration of strength
You had so much fear but you
held fast to your faith

I believe I learned how to truly pray because of
my prayers with you
kneeling down beside your bedroom chair,
holding your hands in mine
hearing the heaviness of your lungs pulling in
a breath, and the most holy name rolling off of your lips
you would whisper his name “Jesus, Jesus”
you said his name like a friend,
like the comforter he is
and I would pray as your whispers became the chorus,
God let us see beyond circumstance
let us trust beyond capacity
let us be near to You more than anything

I learned that prayers when you are sorrowful,
prayers when you are sick, can be uttered with
desperation and met with surpassing peace
Just say the name, “Jesus, Jesus”

When you were overwhelmed with suffering,
body fighting the pull of death
My mother said that just as entering the earth is painful,
so is leaving it

The difference here is that the life to come after
won’t be one of peaks, highs and lows
No, the life that is to come is incomparable
I think God uses contrasts
He shows us the darkest pit to reveal the truth
of the most glorious heaven

On the night that you left,
my terrified anger mellowed out into a deep trust,
my husband said that we could do one of two things;
question why a good god would allow suffering like this
or thank our good god that it doesn’t end like this

Thank you Lord that this is not the end
Thank you Lord that you said “Come to me
weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”
We are weary and burdened, you will give us rest
She was weary and burdened,
you took her from this life to the next,
The heavens are rejoicing and
every sweet memory declares your sovereignty

To Be Yours

It’s a desire to be in more than one place at a time
not a fear of missing out, but a fear of time
The quickness of it, and the thought of am I doing enough?
being enough, loving well enough?
Never enough and that’s the core of it all
My actions don’t satisfy my debts, my words
don’t earn your approval
My life could decrease in works and increase in mess
and you’d love me all the same

I would make it work the other way, if I were God
I don’t have thoughts on my own that are anything like yours
My thoughts are like dark roads covered in black ice
waiting for a chance to sneak in and crash up the movement of sanctification
If I were God, I’d say
the better you do, the better you are
and that would be more comfortable, knowing that my merit is earned
but I am not God, thank God

Instead, you give freely
and I come up short
you meet me

I am most at peace when given the opportunity to sit on the couch
with books and your word, and a hot cup of coffee
and I also feel anguish in those moments with the knowledge that I can’t
stay in this place for as long as I want
and among the peace there is also torment
the wrestling of my flesh, I just want to be more like you
I am not a savior though, I am simply saved

Simple in the sense that your blood is real and covers it all,
I long for your truth and the shaking off of my hindered perspective

My perspective that is hindered by the daily anxieties that I hate that I have
when I admit the things that truly worry me I am ashamed
Uneasiness rises within me at the sole thought of moving from one place to another
travel, food, sleep, furniture, finance, any ounce of change
I’m embarrassed by the concern that causes my chest to tighten,
I hold my breath when you’ve given me reason to breathe

When conviction runs rampant in my anxious heart,
I am left feeling defeated and undone
I crave to get every single idea and event inscribed on my internal calendar
and carried out into eternity but I fail
I fail to accomplish the simple things, and I have always been
compelled by the complex

This is an admittance of guilt for things that I should rightly feel guilty for,
but you told me that to set my mind on the flesh is death,
and to set my mind on the Spirit is life and peace
and I want to live

I want to live in utter admiration of your character,
letting this knowledge of you lead me away from darkness
the shadows of my heart and the way it sets my mind up for failure
Let compassion be an enabling emotion, leading me to
serve you out of freedom and genuine care for others
Let each day be counted as good because of your work
already finished
And in my lacking let your fullness be
illuminated

Slow my internal discourse, my outward speech
make a symphony out of my discomposure
and let me hear your voice above it all
saying

“Child, you are mine and that is enough.”

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