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

clothe

robestudy

(Scripture: Colossians 3:1-14)

We used to walk
In the ways of the broken
And stand in sin-riddled spaces
And sit in old-self places.
We used to leave love unspoken…
Church,
Kill it, murder the earth in you, the old self, the cold stiff soul of you.
He came with so much more, for you.

Look up,
To a sky packed with angels,
To a star drawing wise men,
To the Baby born and died, now risen and enthroned on high,
To the things unexplainable that are not impossible with God.

Clothe yourself in Him,
(As He slipped into your skin)
In righteous raiment, not of rules,
But of royal, gentle, patient love.
Bear with your brothers and sisters,
Their burdens, their brokenness,
For you are not rich or poor,
Male or female,
Old or young,
But one in Christ.

Christ,
Be born in our everyday Christmas lives,
As you were on that holy Christmas night.

Prayer:
Jesus Christ, Word made Flesh,
Cause us to shed…
The garments of greed, gluttony, and gain.
The apparel of apathy, insensitivity, and indifference.
The attire of anger, hatred, and rage.
And to clothe ourselves with you.
Amen

Suggested Hymn: Joy to the World, The Lord Is Come!

(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

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

what is a Christian?

fish

Perhaps a Christian is a fish.
Packed into like-minded schools and
Following familiar currents,
Fed to five thousands and useful for a quick couple-buck temple tax.
Maybe we gill-filter saltwater to get only the holy
While we swim in our own waste,
Maybe we gasp and die when taken beyond the sight of our seas,
But at least we still taste good roasted.

But then, maybe,
A Christian is a stream.
Living water flowing from living wounds
Refreshing to the spirit and
Necessary for life.
Perhaps without rivulets and raindrops
Fallow ground would remain barren,
Earth dehydrated of hope,
Withered fruit upon the vine.
Water sometimes tastes funny or requires filtration,
But nobody questions their need of it.

Perhaps a Christian is a cross.
Covered in the molten metal ornaments Of a million dancing idolators,
An instrument of torture and death
That, thank the economic gods and simpering saints,
Can still turn a profit on the shopping channels.
In the end we still might make our owners a couple bucks at a yard sale,
And become again a symbol of mixed allegiance
A chain round the necks of newbies.

But then, maybe,
A Christian is a symbol.
Something that is not the thing but is,
For all intents and purposes.
Esoteric, obfuscating, and erroneous all,
But the symbol still stands as a signpost pointing,
Upward and beyond the withering world,
Despite interpretations and graffiti.
Check the pulse: are they signs of life?

Perhaps a Christian is a tattoo.
Indelibly ink-written in pin-pricked skin
So we would #neverforget:
How trendy we are,
How much tiny needles hurt,
How difficult it is to find good coffee,
And the insta-sacrifice of buying overpriced shoes for those in need.
At least when we’re old we can regret our choices.

But then, maybe,
A Christian is salt.
Preservation of a species is achieved, not by strength, but spice,
Too much is overwhelming,
Too little leaves it bland,
None at all leads to rot,
But when applied with grace and balance all the flavors come out and dance.

Perhaps a Christian is a steeple.
A sword aimed at the heart of heaven,
Separating Spirit and Body,
Human and Divine,
We gut the vapory clouds
And stand tall in our denominations,
A disfigured, dissatisfied body hardly anything more than
Loud mouth and grumbling stomach.
At least our flag will wave even as our roots rot.

But then, maybe,
A Christian is a tree.
Rooted in the riverbank and reaching for the sky,
Granting shelter to all who pass it by.
Maybe the pollen makes some eyes itch and throats scratch.
Maybe ripening fruit is bitter and hard,
But wait for the shade of late summer, filtered heat and light by leaves.
Wait for the brilliant bursts of color and flavor at harvest,
And the surety that ice-fields will be broken up by life.

Maybe we are all these things together,
A panoply of problems and wonders,
One thing one day, one thing another,
With very little concept of which we are when, and why.

But maybe that’s because
A Christian is a child,
Tenderness and tempest in a single tiny form,
Uncertain of my place and searching always to belong.
Perhaps the very thing that makes my love unfettered and real
Is the same thing that provokes tantrums and hair-pulling.
I’m all broken and whole,
Learning how little I really know and what it means to forgive.
And I am desperately in need of my Father.

(originally published in the Qara’ Shem Zine, the Literary Companion to the 2017 Gallery Tour, by my friend and incredible artist Josie Koznarek)

belief is to feed

Digital Capture

Answer!
We’re too fascinated, fastened to our fashions,
Stacked ads and rancid fads,
Flaccid in our patched passions.
What matters most isn’t plastered
On our fast-latched flash-goals,
Or packed onto our flack-stashing, fatty souls.
Catch Him if you can, cracked ones, or crash.
Your cash won’t make you whole.

Listen!
He invites you in. Light glistens,
Bickering in the spinning night,
Filtered criminals sitting, grinning,
Lit as fitting subliminals, bright.
This time is thinning, my sinners, it’s imminent.
Brim with your winnings, flicker as filaments,
Find in each divine pigment your own,
Simplicity, finitude, filigree, home.

Come!
From grueling suns, foolishly roam,
You crumb-combers, polished bones, boxed ones in zones.
Hone your honesty, honey, hold on when it blows,
Blossom slowly and lovely, more room for more growth
For more thorough thorns, force forging, foraging forms.
Forgo foolproof and long-tooth and lonesome and low,
Fold your cold fortunes forward, foes, flow to more floors,
Full forfeits and forgets will open more doors.

Feast!
For fasting will cease when we die,
Taste these teasers of years spent careening through sky,
The unseemly seekers see clearer, seed nearer,
Flee deeper, ye feeble bleating fearers. Here!
O Dearest, see tears swept swiftly aside, keep keening
In a single weeping Weakling, this Sheep-King.
Know need, Jesus-readers, teach each creature to heed;
For the fleet and the gleeful, belief is to feed.

“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” Luke 14:16‭-‬24

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

Words for the Church: Ordinary Time
eat the song
smallness
sisyphus
ninety-nine reasons to stay
before you kiss him
shrewd
exitus acta probat
i am thankful
midnight
sense the butcher