Slap (GS8)

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Blessed is the slap
On one cheek and again across the other
Of corner-office saints
Sucking blood from the whip-tracked backs
Of beaten brothers and sisters too far away to defend themselves,
(Thank god, because the guy on the corner who smells sure doesn’t sell),
Valorizing and monetizing their pain
For advertising campaigns and book deals.

Blessed is the blow
On comfort saints who read those books
And weep to make penance
And go to their book club and talk about how this made them feel over tea and cookies.
The book will go on their shelves,
Alongside their Bibles and beliefs,
To be accessed in emergency.

Blessed is the trolling of
The media martyrs,
Those who talk big
Via graceless creeds and faceless feeds,
And won’t talk to their neighbors about Jesus,
Except to excuse political action
Or refuse socializing on Sundays.
Jesus was never so tiny.
Sometimes there is reason for rebuke.

Blessed are you, royals of a kingdom unfurling,
When the fact of your faith
Encounters real opposition,
Not well-deserved discipline.
When being a Christian stinks because you’re being a Christian.
This kingdom is coming,
And your preparation here
Is salty and harrowing.
The narrowing of your public platform
Is to be expected, not rejected.

Look to Jesus, your Monarch,
Watch how He suffers,
And know your destiny is the same.
Watch how He rises,
And take hope.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:10

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12. Photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

Inherit the Wind (GS1)
Rain-world (GS2)
Quitting (GS3)
Count My Bones (GS4)
Let me be (GS5)
here (GS6)
careful of the cut (GS7)

spring cleaning

broom

I’m ready for spring cleaning, trees.
You brooms,
Bristling and eager
To sweep away dust bunny clouds
And marvel at the powder-blue linoleum of the sky.
And I want to take and shake you
To speed up the process
Because there’s this one spot in the western corner
That could use extra cleaning.
When you scrub it just right it’s all
Shattered crystal and golden tapestry
And it positively shines of an evening.

I’m ready for spring cleaning, rain.
I know you’re capsuled
In jars somewhere
Waiting to be spritzed over old brown fields.
When you shower us just right
It washes off the mud of the year from the heirloom earth
And turns it green around the edges.
The earth is younger than winter let’s you believe.
All it needs is a warm bath,
And it will come out pink and wrinkly,
Giggle-wriggling in the joy of nakedness.

I’m ready for spring cleaning, wind.
Your warmer self is blowing open windows
And sucking up fragmented leaves and fallen fuzzies.
You shake them loose and deposit them somewhere else, like our old vacuum.
It’s all just redistribution anyway…
But you liven up this worn and shaggy rug with noise and frantic glow
And satisfy us by zigzag patterns ‘cross the carpet.
On some spring evening, whisper from behind shuttered doors
And comfort me.
Tell me that Someone is awake and cleaning while I’m tucked away,
And when I wake the world will have woken too.

careful of the cut (GS7)

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It shatters
And I struggle with clumsy fingers around fragments,
Careful of the cut.
This is too important to let lie,
This is too real to not try
But I end in blood and refraction.

What a thing to call a child to,
The sharp, queasy work of piecing some semblance of light from dark,
Of wholes from parts,
Children break more than they make,
And You send us to mend holes in hearts?
It takes steady hands and years of experience to perform such surgery.
We’ve hardly grasped gross motor skills.

Father,
Send us as creating, created whirlwinds of reiteration,
With our scotch tape and school glue
Into the fray of a people jagged with rage and hate.
And as we bloody our hands on their hurts and come away with scars of our own,
Make good use of this work,
This labor for wholeness,
This reconciling God to us, us to us, dust to dust,
A work partial until you set your scarred hand firmly round us
And mend us final.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Matthew 5:9

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12. Photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

Inherit the Wind (GS1)
Rain-world (GS2)
Quitting (GS3)
Count My Bones (GS4)
Let me be (GS5)
here (GS6)
Slap (GS8)

arbor day

arborday

We are two trees,
On a hill overlooking a lonely planet,
And our roots run deep to waters unseen but known to those who trust.

And by some serendipity,
We got planted nearby each other,
Transplanted, perhaps; grafted in…
And over these years of plenty and loss,
Our roots have grown deeper into this rich soil,
And our limbs and trunks have leaned inward and entwined,
A single soul, but distinct when it matters,
Flowered and flourishing,
With little saplings by its side.

Today is Arbor Day around the world,
People planting trees and caring little for their growth beyond the day and fleeting feeling.
The day matters little, yet matters all.
You and I are here where we’ve been for years now,
Resting in each other’s arms and watching the stars and our saplings,
And we are content, because we are one.
Somehow Someone granted us this place, and I’m stunned at the grace.
It’s something to celebrate, this tree-ness.

Grow with me, my darling,
Through the days and nights ahead.
Whether the sun kisses our crowns or darkness gathers round about,
Whether we are supple or creaky,
Naked in winter or clothed with the glory of spring,
Be with me.
We will grow for now,
And one day we will wake to the eternal dawn and be lifted, branches all,
Into His vine, together one.
Perhaps we’ll burst into bloom,
Petals mingling in the eternal dance.

I don’t think we’ll forget this hill or our oneness,
For forgetful hearts will be remade remembering,
And the warmth of this embrace against the cold of this night
Is not easy to forget.

(for my wife, Linnea, on Valentine’s Day 2017)

here (GS6)

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Am I pure?
The question is laughable.
I know I’m not.
I know the thoughts.
I know the inner walls of my heart:
Caked sins of the past,
Dark slime of the present,
And the ominous shadow of tomorrow.

Look inside me, O God.
You see.
You know.
Why would you put in front of me
An ideal I will never reach?
Maybe the mindset is wider and longer.
Or maybe You mean to drive me
By the sheer weight of my impurity
Into your arms.

Holiness
May be what I long for,
And what I need,
But it is not what I have,
And the weight of a day
(More often than not)
Outweighs the weight of glory even when it’s a good one.
Is this wrong of me to say?
It’s the truth.

So I come crawling back to a Love I know
The arms of the One who forgives,
Each evening,
And as the dark falls round my empty heart
I rest in Your blood-soaked Purity,
Tested, tried, near.
Here.
And I am made clean.

You lift my stain from me
As if it were but a garment,
And not my nature.
And in these fractured streetlights
Painted on these broken walls
Of this small place,

I see You.

This can’t be just me.

My whole life will be
The asking and answering of the question: why?
And the collapse of a broken soul
Into You.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Matthew 5:8

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12. Photo by Linnea Wheeler.)

Inherit the Wind (GS1)
Rain-world (GS2)
Quitting (GS3)
Count My Bones (GS4)
Let me be (GS5)
careful of the cut (GS7)
Slap (GS8)

inheritance

inheritance

Abba,
Father.
What is this inheritance?

This broken palace.
The pillars of this weary world are groaning
under the weight of our corporate sin.
The floor is cracked clean through
by the boots of conquerors and tyrants.
The walls were built to hold our demons at bay,
now riddled with bullets of our own making.
What have we made of this?

Abba,
Father,
We are your children,
Wearing ragged paper crowns and messing around in the mud,
Slinging snide comments and wielding worldviews
Shouldn’t we be soaring on wings as eagles?
Living triumphant happy lives?
Chasing souls with passion?
We are the church, and we are not the heirs we wish to be,
We are more paupers than princes.

But we are here,
And we call on your name,
The Name that called us first,
Out from ourselves,
The Name that revives our dying souls,
The Name that renews us again,
and again,
and again,
and again,
and again
And makes us:
Whole.

And we:
Whole and holy heirs with/in/through Christ
Share also in your inheritance of pain:
Such scars on arms outstretched
To embrace the sick and sinful
Such tears wept,
Such blood-sweat,
And even just the callouses worn from all that walking-
You. You of Heaven and You of Earth,
A dusty Savior, a flesh-wrapped Birth.

And You know this ruined palace well
And You know what You will make of it.
Just as You know Your children,
And what You will make of us.

Abba,
Father,
What is this love?
That bestows on kings and queens of questionable bloodline
Freedom,
Of the sort that breaks captive’s chains, and releases from fears,
And ushers us into your family.
This, this is a weight of a glory
That will crush our sufferings underfoot,
And break gravestones in Easter explosion.

This is final and this is true:
Our full inheritance is You.

(delivered by Gracie Ericson at Moody’s Founder’s Week 2017)

Let me be (GS5)

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(for Green Season)

Let me be quick.
The reduction of parts of humanity
To single-minded organisms
Of little or no use to you
Besides a formless, feared enemy:
This reduction will not stand.
And I’m not talking about standing before
Web-wide talking heads or
Pandering preachers
Or even indignant citizens, no.
I’m talking finality.

Let me be clear.
When you stand before
A righteous, ruling King
Who came from a faraway land
And was rejected at the gates of this one,
And you look him in the eye,
(If you can)
What will you have said about mercy?

Let me be practical.
Did you give to the needy?
Did you open your door?
Did you visit the sick?
Did you feed the poor?
Did you give anything tangible or intangible to people who didn’t deserve it
Or warrant it
Or have anything to offer back?
When he separates us out, it will not be by immaculate theology, but by righteous action.
If those who show mercy are given mercy, what happens to those who show none?

Let me be merciful.
If only for fear that on that day no mercy would be shown to me,
But mostly because it already has been,
In stunning, cross-bloodied fashion.
Listen.
He came for the tired, the poor,
The huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
And the tyrant, the pundit, the muddled maddening persecutors of the weak.
Before you stand as ruler and judge of the enslaved world,
Wait.
Did you pray for those you hate?

Let me be honest.
There is a special place reserved in hell for all of us,
And the only cancellation is by replacing your name with another’s.
Be careful how you use that Name.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Matthew 5:7

“Isten hozott,” a Hungarian welcome, literally means “God-brought.” We received this door sign from a dear friend who used to live in Budapest.

(Liturgical poetry for the Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is inspired by the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12)

Inherit the Wind (GS1)
Rain-world (GS2)
Quitting (GS3)
Count My Bones (GS4)
here (GS6)
careful of the cut (GS7)
Slap (GS8)