love indiscriminate

Who are the least
of these my brethren?
Stereotypes, but
I hear a challenge,
appeal, maybe,
to see the world as He does -
as it is.
Trappings torn away,
unsee what you think you know.
There is no least.
Where we glance and see weakness,
grace will look longer,
show a mirror -
and we are the same.
Superiority is illusion.
The only strength is knowing
we are broken.
We are all least.

dregs

Soft and shrinking,
newborn soul -
what terrible glory in learning
that you need no shell.
Lay yourself out now,
wide open,
unprotect.
Let the world hurt you
if it will -
and it will.
Because you are
darling child
of the Healer who called you to life
first from nothing
and then from the dead -
what harm can He not undo?
And what of pain?
It is nothing
to the joy ahead.
Soon now, you will be home.
While you linger,
live.
Drink the laughter,
drain the tears.
You don’t have to be enough -
cannot.
He is.

little unpoem psalm

I look back over the weeks, and suddenly crystallized in all those moments, those conversations, those twinges in time, I hear the soft, strong refrain of your voice. Again and again. “My child, I love you. Let go of death. I have made you alive, now come and live. Look where you are: this is death. Remember me. I love you. Come away.”

Stabbing through the fog I only dimly know enshrouds me, you woo me back for the millionth time from the edge of destruction. Will you never be fed up and snap at me to get my act together already?

I would.

You never will.

indoor sunlight

I’m sitting at Coffea, in the corner by the fireplace, with a full view of the sparsely populated room. Wednesday morning, my first partial day off in several weeks, and I have studying to do. The sun is shining and the patio is full, and I’m inside because I don’t know why. But I’m glad I aimlessly alighted just here. Because next to me – I’m trying not to be too obvious about the fact that I’m totally creeping on them – is the most beautiful thing.

An adorable little girl, maybe four years old – pink sundress, wavy blonde hair pulled into a barrette, cute little glasses – is sitting at a table with what has to be either her dad or her grandpa. (I’m sorry, sir … I honestly can’t tell.) The little table is spread with children’s books, and she’s reading one of them aloud to him. Slow and careful, one word at a time. She fidgets, hops down off her chair, bounces back up onto the edge of it to crouch low over the colored pages. He has a big pad of paper in front of him, and he’s writing on it in Sharpie. At first I thought he was just keeping her busy with books while he worked on something else, but he is so attentive to her labors, I think now he is writing down words that are new to her.

He praises her richly, points out pictures, makes predictions about the story. She leans into him and rubs her head on his shoulder; he gently rests his hand on her back. Some page turns induce such hilarity. They both giggle, and both their joy is real.

I teach reading and phonics, too. I don’t know what method he’s employing over there. I suppose I could get worked up if I found out he was using a whole language approach that will hamper her ability to decode unfamiliar words later in life. But it doesn’t matter right now. It really doesn’t matter.

Right now, she is everything. He’s teaching her to read, giving her the keys to the world. More than that, he’s teaching her to love to read, to love words, to love learning – lacing the experience with delight. But above all, he is knitting her heart to his own, fortifying her soul with demonstrated assurance that she is seen and cherished and deeply loved. She doesn’t understand that yet – for now, it’s just all she knows - but she will someday.

He told her they were finished just now. She clambers onto his lap and sings, “Finally time to act sillyyyy!” She doesn’t know she has been this whole time – but she was trying, I think, for him. She pokes around putting away her crayons, and he offers to leave without her. “No, Daddy, wait! I can’t go by myself!” (Aha. Not grandpa. I apologize.) “Why not?” he says, “Couldn’t you catch a ride with some gypsies or something?”

They’re gone now, reveling somewhere else in the marvel of being alive under the floating in clouds, unafraid of smallness. I feel quite sure of it.

Thank you, Father, for that living artwork. You make beautiful things.

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)