welcome.

writing

Welcome to the place where I keep and sort most of my writing. Below is a brief intro to my projects. For a brief intro to me, visit my vital stats page.

The Words for the Church project consists of weekly poems inspired by Scripture, one for every week of the liturgical calendar. These poems are designed to be used in church community or devotional settings. I have attempted to tag these by subject and liturgical time frame. For reprinting and permissions, click here.

The Weekly Story project consists of primarily children’s stories and poems from the summer of 2016.

Miscellaneous poetry, prayers, stories and liturgies are scattered throughout and tagged by subject. If you’re looking for something specific or need something customized, drop me a line. I’m always interested in doing something new!

Commuter Haikus is my Twitter project, consisting of 5-7-5 observations from my daily commute into downtown Chicago. Follow me on Twitter to get one every weekday.

My upcoming project is a serial fantasy adventure. Once I’ve mapped out the story and done the preliminary research, I’ll be delivering a chapter a week here on the blog. Stay tuned!

If you want to keep up with these adventures and future projects, sign up to get my words in your inbox.

Basically – enjoy. And thanks for reading!

– Chris

confessional

easterlily

Yesterday was Easter.
Like lilies we arched
our necks and sent
fragrance heavenward. We were full
as full can be after baskets and feasts; the feeds
filled up with family photos and we liked
and loved and shared. It was a season
of champagne. Monday came and I
greeted it with risen
indeeds, and my deeds came
not from the blush of a sunrise
empty grave but from the whitewash

maw. Risen One, Easter
has been happening for two thousand some years and so has
Monday, and Tuesday, and the rest of the week.
Would that single Sundays could change
forever

our solitary weeks, rituals our train rides,
feasts our hungry bellies. You are not a God
of “one-and-dones” but a lifeline. The fullness
we know
at times
is a reminder that You are indeed
filling, now, and again, and
again. If I was refreshed
once and for all, would I need
You each day? I wake

and receive, and sin, and receive, and mourn,
and receive, and rejoice, and receive. I would despair
if I couldn’t receive, but it’s funny how I wish
I didn’t have to. I am in need, I confess it. I live in a

body of death in a
place of death in a
time of death, and You are Life
Eternal. Remind me, my Easter, through my filthiest
moments, through my rainiest
hours, through my loneliest
days, that Easter is every
day, that Your once-and-for-all is a
presence, not a pact I need to
fulfill. How shall we then

live? By confession: grace
an evident
sacrament, a long-
ing and fulfillment
entwines.

triptych

limbo

I. ABSENTIA

I wake to the wrong
in this unfamiliar,
for never have I known a day without breath, or
a moment bereft of Divinity.
It is all anti- and un- and non-,
a string of empty sentences,
a filmy negative:
Absence.

It sticks to me,
seeping in through cell walls.
Pitch and tar: a network of scars dissolving under
translucent skin,
as if blood was black
and black was blood.
Midnight is needling in my veins,
and for a moment there is
the violent silence between spark and ignition,
and blood bursts into consuming flame.
I, too, consume
the void.

II. LIMBO

Waiting was never easy.
The frequent settling frosts coat the fields in cobwebs.
My ancient static stations have (of old) been places picked clean, and
the cross circles my dead, suspended by a thread invisible.
What place do dreams have here?

To me it is less about
isolation or overpopulation
and more about the amount of me present nowhere and now.
To me it is less about
blinding light or stifling dark,
and more about who is blocking both.

In limbo, loss has a name, and you hear it echo
in the sobs of songbirds,
in the chimes of bell towers,
in the muttered mantra:
“He left.
He left.
He left…”

I notice the dive
more by motion than intention, as it stutters on my cheek,
and blinks an eyelash on my temple.
How close you are, and how far:
close enough to be tremulous, far enough to prove it:
What place does hope have here?

To me you are more about
incense and entrance through thicker smoke,
than you are about breathing easy.
To me you are more about
affection and caress and the touch of lips to life and limb
than you are about washing hands.

In limbo, loss has a name, and you hear it echo
in the weeping of the women,
in the ring of nail through bone,
in the splash of viscera on sand,
“Come back.
Come back.
Come back…”

What place does
love have here?

III. ABSOLUTIO

Once I dreamed
of a blackness silent but once, to speak:
“Release”
and all else fell silent.
In the after-echo was a gathering storm
of pinpricks,
as if the veil overhead was pierced by
a million falling angels
and filtered through the ensuing sieve a beckoning increase.
It was the edge of glory,
the very margin of a sweeping light.

Then the microscopic became fearsome
and tore the world from its hinges,
picked it up and shook it in joyous canine frenzy.
We were fetched, and brought forward,
and thrown far afield to return,
to ever return,
to ever turn.

And the light blinded us so that we might see,
through spit and mud, the ceiling we knew
split from side to side as a ribcage parted,
to reveal
the figure of Utter Fullness
ascending,
a Lamp to light the way and to gather all lamps in radiance.
In the train of rising trumpet blast,
there was a thrum of budding thunder
as infinity bloomed.

I paused,
remembering my hell.
My Lover slipped His left arm under me
and embraced me with His right,
and stripped me of my chrysalis,
and I took flight.

familiars

lion

Old friend,
rest your head on my
chest again, weigh me down.
How you’ve grown since I last let you
rest at the edge of my bed.
(weight)
A lion from a kitten,
pads and claws from pinprick paws,
sinew and muscle and softest fur,
(weight)
Dogged, determined a hounding
Within, this familiar. Flee
The haunting, my twin.

Here kitty kitty-
how you have grown!
What big eyes you have
fixed on me. The inward home
Never tame, and always domestic,
And always on my chest
(weight)
awhile a week a year a life,
all those
moments you grew and I knew
you grew, and the fear of it was
(weight)

Will you ever leave me, beloved?
Or will prowling purrs greet me
bedside to wake and
defeat me each day
that I live, you eat
me and feed me, your
(weight)
crushing my chest with present choices.
I’ll let you nudge me til I reach for you,
gnaw me while I preach at you
scratching itching ears and comfort scars
claw to the bone. Yawn,
large and
constant companion, while I
(wait)
I will live with you
and learn from you,
and rule you and be ruled, and
(wait)

perhaps the sea

perhapsthesea

Foaming and violent as the wave,
we echo of beatings taken
on shores unknown or known too well.
The sea is as young as it is sage,
as seasoned in relief as in spite,
splitting sand and salt asunder
in its desperate grasp for land.
Within our breasts beat
echoes of land taken kernel by kernel,
we know not where,
we know not when,
we know naught, lest we see.

Leagues and knots,
leagues and knots rattle,
leagues and knots roll beneath us,
scraping our hulls, lulling us,
pulling parabola ripples back
and forth and back, forth
to conquer back, forth
to falling back, forth
to inky behemoth back, forth
to back, and finally forth.
We are parabolic too.

The sea and sky are each inside the other,
entwined in supine leisure,
boiling as aquamarine, fallible,
flawed and two things at once: one new thing.
The oldest things, perhaps,
the deepest things, perhaps, fail us
at the moment of resurgence,
for they shift beneath our feet and
we are walking on air with our heads in the ocean.
The upside will be down,
on all sides sea as far as the eye,
on every side beings of import and concomitant export believe.

We are waves and sand and sea and sky,
grey and blue and green and black,
and one day there will no more of us,
(by virtue or valor, the earth will be full of us),
and the sky will consume the sea and send it
back and forth on the wind
as judgment and serene volition.

On that day,
may we drink deep of the saltless nectar of clouds,
may we inhabit mist in memoriam of who we were,
may we wash mountain peaks and greenify gardens,
and revel in the rivulets.

Be still with me, and feel
the beating of the back and forth and
the fullness of a pregnant horizon.
Know the frailty of sand and time.
Place your hand in mine
and evaporate.

too small a thing

snowflake

“It is too small a thing
to shine light in the dark
of the days on the path for the dead.
And it is much too tiny
to give you a light, when
I can make you all lights instead.

It is too small a thing
to plant the seed deep,
and let your growth be up to dirt.
And it is much too tiny
to cease nurture of each
to be Life to all those who hurt.

It is too small a thing
to just give you sight.
I must walk with you so I might see.
And it is much too tiny
to provide you with eyes
and not a new way to be free.

It is too small a thing
to be Lord of your lives
and to rule with benevolent grace.
and it is much too small to
relinquish the rule of your hearts
and not love face to face.

It is too small a thing
to just be with you now
in the moment your sorrow is air.
And it is much too tiny
to not breathe it in
and be one with you in your despair.

It is too small a thing
to build heavenly homes
and to fit them for queens and for kings.
And it is much too tiny
to not make a place
for you here in myself, ‘neath my wings.”

Church:
We are too small a thing
for an infinite God
to fit into anything less,
so He came to us tiny
to capsule in bodies
His Love and His Truth and His Rest.

(from Isaiah 49:5-7)

mercifully

silverlining

Don’t you tell me
everything is going to be okay,
that silver slivers line the sky behind those brooding clouds.
Are your eyes better than mine?
Can you see past the present?
Wait, that’s right.
Your special knowledge grants you sight.
Let me clarify:

We are not thriving in the Garden,
we are dying in the desert.
We cannot reverse the plummeting,
we cannot catch ourselves.

Let me be discouraged.
I am one in need, to feel in my viscera
the disconnect, the anger, the problem,
so I can grow to know it, this Nineveh,
holding it in my hands and rolling it around my tongue.
Let me breath it back and swallow it up in my lungs.
Don’t you see?
Sweeping it behind the bright side
only conceals it!
It still exists.
Do you think, somehow, that’s final?
I’ve seen enough to know it’s not,
that left there, it will only rot.

Mercifully,
I can feel pain.
By grace I know
that something is wrong.
In Christ is hope not only of release and tearless eye,
but also that He’ll catch and hold us here beneath the sky.

suspension lament

suspension

I’m angry
at the pundits at the top that crush
the peasants down below them, at the
bent backs breaking beneath boots shod with blood –
when leading equals leaving,
equals bleeding “them” for what you love –
that green paper, power trails,
I’m seething, seeing justice fail
to act, seeing begging boomerang back
with rough rebuffs, lax and pegging
types in stereo v surround sound –
yes, you, sharpen your axes,
gather round, stone the poor,
wield the facts, stomp the floor –
clap clap clap for us, we’re so evolved,
we’re so resolved to make ourselves the victims,
when the system victimizes those sewn shut, eyes closed wide,
swaying from side to side to hide the shame spurting from the wound –
I have nothing. I am poor.
Yet you run to slam the door
for me, pray for me, send me some vibes
and donate a dollar with your latte for me.

See the first cause, the clauses running
deep in, steeped in, reaping sin, weeping thin –
sages suspended speak:
“This raging won’t end, no one will defend the widow, the orphan.”
Nope, let’s keep socializing endorphins,
checking notifications,
echoing status changes round padded mirrored rooms riddled
with fadded mirrored fools –
I’m seeing myself,
I’m being myself
And I’m broken. I’m broken.

I’m livid at You, Lord,
Who let’s us free to run our games –
to stun, to lame, to blame,
and see the efforts falling short forever.
Tether me fast against the blast of my lungs,
sin speaking from within, sleek sonnets of soot and ash –
I’m greedy, I’m rash –
for the justice I don’t see you wielding.
Can’t you remake your made people yielding?

I am seeing
in Your Word: wrath withheld
(Lord, have mercy)
and justice untouched by the All-Power,
all of us, flowers, much in need, born of seeds scattered,
(Christ, have mercy) –
We matter.
We all do,
we all of us, matter to You,
and that’s why the weight of justice waits on us, takes a slack pace –
– by suspension: redemption
by lack: grace –
I crave the Grand Injustice, yet
begrudge it to those I just don’t get.
(Spirit, have mercy)
In You we can live livid and grieve and salve our seeing,
and let justice fail a little while, long,
and lift the dying, failing, fleeing,
until we cease to hum along
and throaty, thrum in living Song.

invocation

snowdrop

We limped the last length of the year,
A year full of what could be
A year full of what wasn’t,
And the snapped promises of the past linger now
At the brink of another.
I am here, preparing for the plunge,
My breath fogging the future,
Glaring down the precipice to locate hand-holds,
Avoiding the inevitable.
This old year opened, like those before, with glint promise.
Years shouldn’t make promises they can’t keep.

The new year waits in an icy womb,
When color is drained, like the blood of the earth, into seedling veins.
We bubble with the announcement,
But she is now not yet among us
In the flesh of bud and blood of bloom.
Warmth rolls stones from crimson tombs,
And the dead will be born again.

Isn’t there inherent hope
In dawning, of things doing,
As there is in dusk, of death?
We are children of the promise
Long before we penetrate it.
We must live to the last before we begin.

Let the new things live a little.
Let the old things die.
Let all of it matter more, remembered and anticipated,
Pressed down, shaken together, running over,
An invocation,
A benediction,
A word.

etch

mirroredsky

(Scripture: Revelation 21:1-7, 22-27)

These little lights of ours,
Candles, lit on the darkest days of the year,
Shining through the frosty haze on window panes:
These are antidotes to our doubts and fears,
These are hopeful sparks of a far future,
Etched in flame in mirror skies,
Called by His name, as we are.
Dawn will see us rise.
Do you hear what I hear?
“He is near,” The cosmos cries.

This City is our Home,
Made bright by the Begotten, leading Born Ones in His train.
He who was lit by starlight,
Is the Illuminating Sun.
He who was flanked by shepherds
Now shepherds everyone.
He who cried for Mary’s touch
Now wipes tears from our view.
He who once was fresh in flesh
Is making all things new.

Citizens and faithful ones,
Your names are known by God with us.
His dwelling place is here,
So that He can draw you near.

Prayer:
Jesus Christ, Word made Flesh,
As you have sewn love into the fabric of creation,
Etch hope into the walls of our hearts.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Suggested Hymn: O Come, All Ye Faithful

(from “Come As a Child: A Christmastide Devotional,” prayers by Pastor Mark van Stee)

Christmastide 1: Crush
Christmastide 2: Sift
Christmastide 3: Flicker
Christmastide 4: Spill
Christmastide 5: Stifle
Christmastide 6: Squall
Christmastide 7: Plunge
Christmastide 8: Kiss
Christmastide 9: Burst

strain

crackedpot

(Scripture: Hebrews 4:14-16)

We are weak.
And our weakness, as winter wind,
Cuts to the bone
And divides us asunder.
We know where we’re grown,
From soil on a planet infected with sin,
The stuff of Satan injected within our broken beating hearts.
Skin-shells are but the start.

You are weak,
Christ-babe, Christ-child,
Christ-teen, Christ-man.
In every season of growth plagued
By the very dust of skin and bone,
Earthy human: as us, for us, with
Head that knew fear,
Hands that knew strain,
Heart that knew love, so
Heaven could know pain.

Persevering Priest,
Place your scarred hands in ours,
Place your scarred self in hearts,
Tempt us anew with Your Divine-Human self,
That through all our Christmases, calendar and within,
Your sanctity and empathy would be reborn in skin.

Prayer:
Jesus Christ, Word made Flesh,
You were injured, so that we might be healed.
You endured pain, so that we might enjoy peace.
You bore the strain of human existence, so that we might rest eternally.
You died, so that we might live.
You are worthy; all praise and honor and glory to you!
Amen

Suggested Hymn: Once in Royal David’s City

(from “Come As a Child: A Christmastide Devotional,” prayers by Pastor Mark van Stee)

Christmastide 1: Crush
Christmastide 2: Sift
Christmastide 3: Flicker
Christmastide 4: Spill
Christmastide 5: Stifle
Christmastide 6: Squall
Christmastide 7: Plunge
Christmastide 8: Kiss
Christmastide 9: Burst