little massive victories

When I look at myself, I see pride. I see writhing self-justification and miserable foolishness. Willful rebellion, chaos of indiscretion, high treason. And the just sentence is death.

I won’t argue with that. I’ll go die. That’s fair.

When I look at Jesus, I see love. I see justice and mercy, perfectly harmonized in the blood sacrifice that ransomed my soul. I see hope of eternity offered freely, joy beyond imagination, truth and reality restored, and everything as it should be. I see life.

I won’t argue with that, either. I’ll cast myself in worship before that throne, overwhelmed by the magnitude of grace bestowed on a wretch as undeserving as myself.

As undeserving as myself.

Undeserving as myself.

Undeserving.

Undeserving.

Undeserving.

And sudden, subtle, slow, a single supporting role in this beautifully complex drama becomes a one man show with a solitary trick.

The entire orchestra sits in duct taped silence while a lone cellist drones her sporadic tenor line on repeat – meaninglessly disembodied from the context of grandeur it was written to grace. The audience contemplates mutiny.

Undeserving.

Having done all, the voice cries, “I am an unworthy servant; I have done only what was my duty” – and it cries aright. But the words are empty when the heart behind them withers with, “I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man, taking what you did not deposit, reaping what you did not sow.”

The inner dialogue is two selves, one stern and black-robed, the other cowering on cold stones.

Suck it up, I tell me. You’ll be fine. You are fine. You have to be. It’s your job. How could you not be? How dare you complain? Look at all you’ve been given, and look how you’ve messed it up. Just look, look, look at how you’ve messed it up. You’re doing it wrong. You’ve – failed. You’re forgiven, sure; but you’re still a mess. Don’t dream of wanting things, asking for things – you’ll only mess them up. It’s what you do. Yeah, you’re a child of God – somehow! But you’re His stupidest, lowliest, most rebellious, stunted, stinking child. Anything short of everlasting, torturous death is better than you deserve. So suck it up, I tell you. Grin and bear it. You’re far too ugly and muddy for company; you belong in the background, so stay there. Quiet. Maybe you can even be a little bit useful, if you stay out of the way. The world is harsh, but really, do you really think you have a right to anything else? People out there have it worse than you – so much worse. Hush. Hush. You’re fine.

Truth – disembodied, disproportionate, grown into a heaving, cancerous lie.

I chide myself endlessly, cognizant that I may be being over harsh, but thinking (of course) that I deserve no less. Self-perpetuating death spiral of irony, that obsessing over regret of indwelling idolatry should become, itself, the largest and least visible idol in all the vaporous temple of lingering falsehood.

Undeserving.

Oh, and by the way, rejoice and be glad. Sing a new song. Do it.

The dissonance of commands is lost on my weary preoccupation. If I think this self-flagellation is at least acceptable – probably even right – then I have to ascribe its origin to the Author of everything right and acceptable. I label my condemning voice an echo of God’s, and refuse to see that that’s what I’ve done. I say I believe in a gracious Lord; I marvel, a little breathless, at His mercy; I really do. I insist that He is kind and good, that He never inflicts pain without purpose, that the debt of my sin has been utterly erased. I call Him Father. But I live like a cringing, writhing, subhuman slave-creature.

I expect to be whipped. I’m ready for it, I won’t cry out, I almost want it. But I think He’ll do it; that’s the problem. I don’t really believe He’s forgiven me. Is He unwilling? Unable? Would I call Him a liar? Of all the things I mustn’t dare to do, this is the one to avoid at all cost – yet the one I may, after all, have been daring all along. Father, forgive me.

And here’s the crux of it: He has.

So leap into the light, young soul! Unglue yourself from the groveling ground and be alive! The price has been paid, it really, really has. A cruel dictator might have bought prisoner-subjects with blood, might have been honored by endless muttering oblations – but your Father wants children. Eyes wide open, He wants you to rejoice in His presence and dance in His light; there is no darkness in Him at all, no shadow of change. He loves you.

He loves me.

Many things are true, and few enough of them are easy. Liberty doesn’t mean flowers and marshmallows everywhere. Life is war, because there are legions who want me back in chains. It’s war because I am made new, yet still am becoming, and every day is a putting to death, a bringing to life. It’s war, but it’s been won. Jesus has secured the victory, and with Him, so have I. There is therefore now no condemnation.

A gentler voice must echo the chambers of my heart – gentle, but deep with eternity.

Abide in Me, My child. Live the truth: you are, so be.

Be vibrantly alive. Be a miracle. Be growing into fearless, expansive love. Be poured out, every drop.

Be free.

I want to be everything,
and marvelous.
Unafraid to love,
deep, expansive, and wild,
everything good,
everything beautiful,
everything worthy -
without breaking,
without crumbling,
without going mad.
I want to fade
so I can shine brighter.
Eyes off me,
all eyes off,
riveted by the reflection I,
undistracted,
undistracting,
am
of Him.

I dance the edge,
hoping to land,
trying to belong
somewhere;
but every step lands,
graceless stagger,
vagabond still,
ever pilgrim.
Home is far ahead,
I know.
My roots will wait
for native soil,
eagerly unsettled
until forever dawns.
Shades of rebirth,
glory backtracked,
understanding ventured,
shattered,
rebuilt…
transience is in the fading core.
I breathe it gladly.
The changeless is coming;
is, always was.
Breathing resurrection,
complete yet becoming,
pulsing triumph of divine love
in every grace-bought heartbeat -
my dust-born frame
is granted to live a miracle.
Everything good,
everything true,
burgeoning flood of glory
so thinly contained
in every ransomed heart;
I am impossible,
an arrow,
glowing firebrand,
straight to the Forever King
who swallowed death and lives.

small lamentations

eagerly you came and stood on my music
cast hurried on the floor,
you crowded whispering against my arm
sawing awkwardly at the strings,
in my perplexed face you shoved a picture,
one you made for me,
stickers and scrawls.
i whispered quick for you to move
and when the muddled song was over
i smiled but forgot to thank you
for that love.
taped to my door now,
and i’ll tell you tomorrow.
oh, broaden my narrow world.

we call it nostalgia because

I am curled into a plush chair, wishing languidly that there was an outlet near enough to keep me from having to move to a less comfy location in a few minutes to keep my laptop from expiring – staring out into the melancholy drizzle – thinking happily, but very little.

Then someone at the counter behind me asks to have their bagel toasted, and the air is rich with cinnamon, raisin, crisping breadcrumbs – and my heart is transported. I am small again, and the rain is alive, a thick blanket of security to wrap me inside the lamplit glow of home. The dimly unfriendly afternoon must glower alone outside. It cannot reach me here, where I am dry and loved. Thick, spicy scents of supper, home cooked, hang heavy in the air – comfort and anticipation together.

All in a rush, I am reading my favorite books, wrapped in the warmest blankets, playing our worn-out piano, making up worlds with a brother and sister. We are young and small, and the planet we spin on is a marvel; and all we need, late in an October afternoon, is a misting chill to be held at bay, a gentle threat to make the glow of safety a song of love … echoing still, two decades and hundreds of miles later.

I begin to wish I’d had my own bagel toasted. I did, actually – but the girl behind the counter evidently heard my “yeah, that would be great” as “nah, skip it” when she asked, and I didn’t care enough to correct her.

Apathy, toast crumbs, cream cheese, rushing traffic annoyed by the wet, and I need to move before my laptop dies. Be glad today. You’re alive, the rain is outside, and you are loved.

a new new colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
And find guarantee that they breathe no more.
Send these, the homeless, unwanted to me,
I lift my lamp beside the blood-stained door!”

human-foetus_1666004c

Emma Lazarus basically wrote this poem in 1883.
(little bit sorry for the plagiarism, but not much)

little words

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I was reading Psalm 30 this morning, and a little word jumped out at me near the end – a word so small and purely functional – a word I’m afraid I would ordinarily have skimmed right over in favor of what seem like larger and lovelier ideas, expressed in phrases like “mourning into dancing” and “I will give thanks to you forever.”

The little word was “that.” And it’s on this same word, I think, that the whole purpose of the psalm’s conclusion turns.

Here’s the gospel: because of Jesus, my mourning has been turned into dancing. My sackcloth is gone, and I am clothed with gladness. Hallelujah!

But this can’t just be a static truth. Did God save me just to make me happy? What does He want from me now? Why am I still here?

This is why:

“…that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.”

Because of who He is – because of what He’s done for me – it’s the glory and praise of His holy name that consumes my heart and drives my life. In a dark, decaying world that still howls for my soul, this changes everything. Life is a battle, within and without, but it’s been won already. I will give thanks to Him forever. I cannot be lost, now I am found.

The Psalms are songs, right? Psalm 30 is a song to make me into a song – one of hope in the face of death, of truth in the midst of all these lies. But what kind of love is it if I hum my song of gratitude only softly to myself, for fear that others may discover that I serve the Lord of heaven and earth, and perhaps come to worship and adore Him themselves?

This is why you are alive, Christian. Do not be silent.

5.11.13

and so, poised on the edge of forever,
I will take this day.
the waiting is like breathing,
because nothing under this sun,
nothing touched by the rain,
none of it will last,
and home is still far ahead.
of course we wait.