better

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A new soul needs to inhabit new skin.
Old skin can’t take a new shape. It’s too thin
Not to crack by fermentation to foam,
Like naked green shoots erupting from stone.
New growth won’t accept the shape that I’m in.

I’m melting, I’m molting, I can’t seem to win
This game of evolving, of growing new limbs.
This stuff is so strange; what used to be home
Just seems better.

Fill me with wine, let new skin grow again.
Old shells can burst and fall, chaff for the wind
And rain to plant deep in paths that I’ve roamed
(perhaps to enrich the fallow to loam?)
Life in Law pales until life filled with Him
Just seems better.

He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
Luke 5:36‭-‬39

(Liturgical poetry during ordinary time after Pentecost is inspired by the parables of Luke. Photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

Words for the Church: Ordinary Time
difficult, divine

difficult, divine

trinity

(for Trinity Sunday)

You are Three but One,
Above, beyond, outside, more,
Difficult Divine.
I can accept the concept,
But living is to adore.

You are One but Three,
Through, with, in, beside, and here,
Kindest Deity.
Embrace me in sweet death
Such that sweet life begins clear.

Father, Brother, Ghost,
Behind, before, surround me,
Dearest Trinity.
I see. Impart, yet fully
Present, past and future: free.

julep

julep

There is sweat on the glass
And sun on the grass,
And it’s greener than believable.
It’s all green everywhere, but taking different shades
At different lengths and heights and widths.
And I wonder why You chose blue and green and brown to be what I see today,
And why they heal me so.

The wind is in the treetops
And the white noise of a million leaves shifting in their seats
Lulls me to content in my porch-swing cradle.
I don’t have to be anywhere right now,
So I’ll stay here forever…
Sipping bourbon and mint,
Infusing into tea by the minute
Like my drink.

These are small moments,
Captured not by intellect, but by sense.
Yet,
The color green,
Mint juleps,
And summer warmth on cheeks
Might just bring us closer to Him
Than a thousand systematic theologies stacked skyward.

shake it out

shake

There are days when the weight of it all sits on my chest.
Always and evermore
There are emails
There are meetings
There are plannings and ideatings
And the myriad things that come from them.
This, that, and the other
Always and evermore
The making of the dollar and the scheming and the plan.

My heart is in forward motion, truly, and my vision is my cloak,
But some days even I wish I could drop it in the lake
And run around naked in the sand.
Maybe I’ll dive in and fish it out after it’s good and soggy
With the real, glorious weight of real, glorious water,
Not fake vistas and tapping keys and ballpoint pens and cancer lights.
I’ll squeeze the last drop of goodness out and shake it in the sun,
Then hang it from a high point to dry fresh in the breeze.
Maybe then this vision I had of changing the world
Will refresh me like I hope it will others.
Maybe I’ll wrap it round me to keep warm when winter comes.
Or maybe I’ll leave it there and go for another swim.

birth of a nation

pentecost

(poem #2 for Pentecost; poem #1 here)

See the Spirit scatter
Eternal Flame into a thousand tongues,
Simmering in saints of every race
Until every language sings His grace.

See! A million tiny candles on a million tiny hills (for He owns them all):
Such is sight that births sight from thin air.
To be owned by Him is to push back the night, to be in and not of,
And the giftings are numerous, beautiful, fair,
And the greatest of these is love.

Rekindle in me
The heat and the flame
Of an earlier day,
When I sparked at Your name,
Let the sputter of embers within me
Drive me down to my knees,
And the power of prayers translated from groans
Lift my head and remind me:
I am not my own.

Saints:
Witness the birth of a holy nation,
Showering fruit and fire like the Son.
This is the gifting of re-creation:
We burst into flame as one.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:7-12

(Liturgical poetry during Eastertide is inspired by the I AM statements of Christ.)

Words for the Church: Eastertide
new wine
begin again
ancient strain
within the knot
lay me down
finer line
dwell

dwell

pentecost

(poem #1 for Pentecost; poem #2 here)

I stand among stone-throwers
Ashamed, and sin-hurled into the melee,
And the only light in this dim world
Radiates from His face, leaning down,
Bending to touch this dusty ground.

Accusations are words made weapons,
Forged in bitterness, formed by a truth:
Caught in the act.
I wait, we all wait, to hear the verdict.
Will it be love? or fact?

In stillness, there is naught but
Scratch upon scratch,
Nail into dust, scarring rifts in the earth,
And silence of the pregnant kind.

A stone falls.
And the thud breaks the spell.
He walks away,
A greybeard with too many years
To be blind to this separating light.
He saw sin, and it wasn’t at the center of the mob,
But within himself, the night.

To dull and deathly thuds,
Fallen stones and falling followers,
They leave, the accusers, the accused.
And I stand, left lonely, and simmer inside.

He writes, this Word.
And the Light of Him is more holy and fierce
Than any “holy-man mob” hell-bent on sealing heaven
against those who need it most.
And I think,
Would that this Word would dwell in men and not just among them;
Would dwell in me, like a tongue of fire from an eternal flame,
Like a love that could never be quenched.

I am
Unworthy,
So I drop my stone
And leave Him and His soiled bride alone.

“When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:7-12

(Liturgical poetry during Eastertide is inspired by the I AM statements of Christ.)

Words for the Church: Eastertide
new wine
begin again
ancient strain
within the knot
lay me down
finer line
birth of a nation

finer line

tapestry

(for Ascension Sunday)

Salvation is a seamless garment of glory,
Woven before and beyond the world,
And stretching along the lines of
Eternity in our hearts.
It is complete, a holy raiment,
Drenched in blood and covenant.
This is the way of truth to life,
Of God and Man, of Jesus Christ.

What kind of a Way is this?
Narrower than a Pharisee,
More tripwire than binding rope.
With all these camels squeezing through the needle,
How then can any be saved?

What kind of a Truth is this?
Honest as fire and
Just as destructive.
It incinerated my old comfy clothes, and my new garments hurt!
They are better, but not broken in.

What kind of a Life is this?
That rips me apart each day
Just to sew me back together.
Until death parts this ragdoll,
There will always be tears.

But here I am still,
Dangling by this thread
Between heaven and earth,
With the scarlet cord
Slicing through bone and marrow, spirit and soul.
I’m too tied up to break free.

Family:
You are clothed in the Sun.
Tangle yourselves further up and further in
To Him whom you have known and seen.
There never was a finer line,
Yet the labor is comfort
And the cut is kind.

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
John 14:5-7

(Liturgical poetry during Eastertide is inspired by the I AM statements of Christ.)

Words for the Church: Eastertide
new wine
begin again
ancient strain
within the knot
lay me down

union

dance

Two were made one
To ancient rumblings
And tied together, right hand in right,
And the people who witnessed wondered,
Aware of something beyond the flowers and ties and symbols and smiles.
The Word made union a present reality,
And by crumbs and slurps
We feasted at your table.

Something of heaven peeped through and illuminated the nature of things,
There in that place of stone and wood,
As a sunbeam reveals the luminescence in dust.
And it was very good.

We traveled through traffic and fought for parking spots,
Wearing the best and hoping for the same, and checking our troubles at the door.
The bread and wine continued to flow, sacramental
And holier than we thought possible in the tiny pub.
To the tune of pounding feet and warm shouts we rejoiced as one in the oneness.

Something of heaven seeped through and backlit the body heat of the assembled saints,
There in that place of metal and glass,
As a fire warms the bones and wine gladdens the weary heart,
And it was very good.

I saw you, two-now-one, on the frenzy of the dance floor,
Yelling to each other the lyrics you were gifted:
“I’m only gonna break, break your
Break, break your heart”
And I laughed at the naked truth of it.
You see more than most, and still made your vows.
In this, dear ones,
You are fire and you are fearsome,
And the dark ones will quake when you approach.

(on the occasion of Hattie and John’s wedding)

lay me down

greenpastures

Lay me down
In fields of green, where grazing is my greatest aspiration.
We are worn out by grasping for greener grass, when we could just let you lead us.
And here I am, refusing to gobble grain that was purchased at great cost,
Like me, even when I’m lost.

I am a sheep and I am a child,
All that is within me is woolly and wild,
Yet I hear Your voice and come tripping and rolling down the hill in your general direction.
I’d make a great viral video.
Not so sure about that whole follower thing.

Lead me along,
Through valleys of twisted thoughts and deeds ill-done.
They are my own and not my own,
As I am Yours but act unknown.
Maybe half of my life is falling,
Over things and off of things,
Into sin and into Your arms.

And even now
I think wolves are just wonderful.
They appreciate young blood and fresh ideas.
Until I’m scattered and attacked, I’m smitten.
After, I’m limping, longing for a Word long-written.

Lay me down
By law and by love,
By the laying down of Your life
In satisfaction of the same.
Let me listen,
And by listening be lost and found
And wrapped and wound,
And called by Your name.
Fences are friends, not foes, in this field.
Your calling is not just to obey, but yield.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
John 10:14‭-‬18

(Liturgical poetry during Eastertide is inspired by the I AM statements of Christ. Photo by Linnea Wheeler)

Words for the Church: Eastertide
new wine
begin again
ancient strain
within the knot

within the knot

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Plants are lazy.
All they do is sit around and grow.
Yet He is one, and so are we,
So there’s something vital in the flow.

This ecosystem is
Meant for growth at its root:
Vine to branch and branch to fruit.
When I separate from the tangle of Vine and branches we call Your People,
All I intake is pollution and smoke.
I shrivel, withered and parched, which is why you call us to remain.
Except,
To be within the knot is not all it’s cracked up to be.
It seems that certain branches strangle their neighbors over resource and space,
Cannibalizing others in the name of grace.

It is the way of things in nature to cling to survive,
But what we cling to determines if we thrive.

Flow from within me,
That I may grow from the thin me to
A flowering sapling, a taller tree,
A fruit-bearing defender of all I see.
Let me be in the thick of the wait,
Bearing up under it when beleaguered,
And always, ever,
Remaining.

Maybe plants aren’t lazy, but patient,
And confident of soil and Vine.
The root of the matter will always be:
I am His, and He is mine.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:5‭-‬8

(Liturgical poetry during Eastertide is inspired by the I AM statements of Christ. Photo by Linnea Wheeler)

Words for the Church: Eastertide
new wine
begin again
ancient strain
lay me down