unveil

transfigure

(for Transfiguration Sunday)

Every one of us will eventually be running around naked.
There will be no way to cover our pain, no pretense or fame, no expensive names –
The light there will be so bright that it disclothes us, all of us,
And the fall of us will be mighty and massive: insane.
To what degree will that be awkward for me?
Is nakedness freedom or shame?

It’s valuable (no) important (no) essential – to see
And be seen, for faith is in sight (as in seeing unseen), is in hearing unheard-of things:
belief is obscene!
Such that hiding it seems the most natural way,
Such that He hid Himself for most of the days
He was here, but to several, and then to them all,
Not yet to us. When? Not yet, and then…
My loved ones, He lingers, but still we will know.
And the grace of His lingering is melting like snow.

Sparkle then, sprinkle us, baptize us well
That rising from rivers, and blinking back hell,
You would clothe us all daily in luminous light
And forget, and remember, and hold back the night.
Listen well, saints, His unveiling is nigh,
What once was concealed will soon split the sky.

“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”
Luke 8:16‭-‬18

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

Words for the Church: Ordinary Time
difficult, divine
better
torrents of my making
mine to forgive
now does the earth
when blood
knock

beg the question

wrestle

(written for Moody Bible Institute’s Day of Prayer, March 1, 2017)

Join me in the questions.

So,
Where are you?

We are reaching in the dark,
Grasping for Your reality,
For some light and hope in this chaos.
Does Your Spirit hover over these troubled waters?

Where were You?

Where were You when?
Why didn’t You?
What are You doing?
Or are You even?
And the world around us asks:
Where is your God?

So it begs the questions,
Are You sleeping?

You are Your own defense,
And it seems circular,
Like the cycles of oppression and death
That assault us every time we open our newsfeeds.
Like the circles that we spin in
Round and round and round in our minds
Mistrusting ourselves, mistrusting others, mistrusting You.

We aren’t even looking for meaning in ourselves or others,
But we are looking for You.

So we beg in question,
Do You care?

“You are Lord.”
And we say it like a mantra or a meditation
In hopes that our words would have You at beck and call, but
You are not tame,
Though we’d like to leash you and parade you before our peers,
Our performing big-game god,
One night only, tickets available at the door
In exchange for prayers and Scripture memorization.

What fools we are.
You are an alarming, searing, unspeakable
Word for which we have no words.

So we need to know,
Why don’t You speak?

When you called us to the chase,
When you asked us to obey,
Maybe we thought – was it wrong to think? –
That You would be with us always to the end of the age.
But perhaps our definition of presence is different from Yours.
Like our minds are.
Our whole lives may be in asking,
And the gradual collapse of our souls into You.

So,
Terrify us,
Burn us alive,
Bring something good from this mess.
And we will yet praise You, our Savior and our God,
Wherever You are.

the work of the church

pray

(Exit and entry prayers, written for Moody Bible Institute’s Day of Prayer, March 1, 2017)

Upon entry:

Would you hold your hands out palms downward with me?  We all get to read the bold lines.

Father,
We come before You at the start of a day full of spiritual labor,
And our temporal labors weigh us down.

We release these things into Your care, for You care for us.

We give you our distractions,
For You are much more interesting.
We give you our homework,
For You exist beyond the pages and above the outlines,
We give you our relationships,
For they find all meaning solely in You.
We give you our complaints,
For You hear us.
We give you our worries,
For You hush and hold us,
We give you our fears,
For You are perfect Love, and they cannot stand the sight of You.
We give you our pride,
For we are so, so small, yet not one of us can fall but that You see us.
We give you our grief,
For You are solace, and comfort, and hope.

Turn your hands palms upward, please. We say together:

Father,
Give us love for You and each other.
Joy in Your presence,
Peace in our hearts,
Patience for the struggle,
Kindness for all we encounter,
Integrity and unity of purpose,
Faithfulness in prayer,
Gentleness toward all, and
Self-control in our minds and bodies.

Grant that we would be in step with Your Spirit now, as we pray.

The work of the church is prayer.
Papa, we come into your presence as children into the arms of their parent.
Hear us, as You hear Your Son,
Refresh us with Your Spirit,
Interpret our mumblings as only You can.

Upon exit:

At best we mumble.
At best we stutter.
At best our half-hearts desire to desire
And need to need.

And Your mercy listens,
And Your Spirit hears what You define
And in Christ our words are clear to You:

Maybe they only amount to “help.”

But this is true:
That here, here, is nothing.
And You, You, are everything.
And Your help is swift,
And it’s rarely what we want it to be.
But it’s always what we need it to be.

Join in the bold lines:

In our grief,
Comfort us.
In our pride,
Convict us.
In our fears,
Embolden us.
In our worries,
Settle us down.
In our complaints,
Give us perspective.
In our relationships,
Let us love.
In our homework,
Help us to persevere to the end.
And in our distractions,
Focus our hearts on what really matters:
Your Gospel.
Your Kingdom.
Your glory.
You.
Jesus, in whose name we pray.
Amen.

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)

small (a lullaby)

lullaby

Sleep, my child, sleep,
While the kings and queens of nations you do not know
Rage and squabble about issues that never cross your mind.
They are nothing but names to you, and the names hold no fear.
Would that I held them in the same esteem.

Sleep, my child, sleep,
While the thunder of public opinion roils around us,
In the eye of the storm, may you rest;
Your ballot cast for more cookies after dinner,
For the freedom to stay up late,
To run out into the chilly night and jump in leaf piles,
To go barefooting, squealing at the cold.
You see this world more clearly, because it is small and you are small.
Would that I remember I am small, and our world is small.

Sleep, my soul, sleep.
The setting of your story
Is to be where you are now.
Your God will call you forward
Through nights black and warfare grim,
Set your mind in the hammock of His will,
Rest your heart under blankets of peace.
Past understanding, pillow your hope.
In the night of mystery, find grace.
In the prayers of the saints, see long and wide and high and deep into history and into future,
And live.

Inside and Out (A Lament)

heart

These layers we build, unbreakable, bound up in billions of reasons and values and things
That motivate from the inside and out
(For out of the heart comes evil)
We convince and cajole and cook down our opinions
Into slurries unfit for human consumption
Then stick tubes down throats
And make each other swallow them.
We say and we shout and we speak and we spout,
But no one listens.

What comes from inside has good reason to hide,
But what’s evil is counted as good now and forever, amen,
God help us.
In our society the from-depths rejects bubble up – inside and out
To those who don’t need our theological solutions
Our hell-bred confusions
Our tactful exclusions.
This is intentional, damned,
And the best of intentions when bred from deception
Are violent.

Where is love?
Where is the give?
Where is the heart that, transformed from the outside and in, give-loves, love-graces, mercy-lives,
Brothers and sisters, forget these places
Within that we hold,
These high places
Of our old, old hearts,
Grasp not, oh weary heart, let go
And let God,
And let grow.

Forgive us, our Lord,
Have mercy.
For we have none.

Mumblings

At best we mumble.
At best we stutter.
At best our half-hearts desire to desire
And need to need.

And your mercy listens,
And your Spirit hears what You define
And in Christ our words are clear to you:

Maybe they only amount to “help.”

But this is true:
That here, here, is nothing.
And You, You, are everything.
And your help is swift,
And it’s rarely what we want it to be.
But it’s always what we need it to be.

resultants

Let me touch something good and real and green,
Alive and thriving and pulsing and diving,
The resultant of your action.
An effect of your cause.
The fruition of your love.

Let me know the world is yours and all that lives in it, loves in it,
That the kingdom is not random
But formed and adored by its Maker.

You are not vicious.
Though we bite and devour each other and write screenplays about it and build terrifying dreams of reality from the scraps of our damaged imaginations,

You are not our broken horror construct.
You exist outside, rerouting our hounded paths to your holy halls.

See? You ask. And we do, when you say it.
See. You say, and we do, for you see us.
Our slumbering minds in nightmare, recoiling, repulsed at our constructs.

Awake. You whisper.
And we do, to a reality deemed better,
Screaming beauty, that we touch and hold and adore,
Made bold to walk the golden, gilded road back with you through you to you.
For you are beauty.

See. Awake. Live.

free fully

Form in me freedom.
For in me wanderlust is rampant,
And I want it to be your prodding, not my discontent.

Free me to be, truly;
Free me to be, fully.
Let me live in the light in the right frame of mind,
Devastated no longer by the absence of others,
The passing of time.

You create seasons for really good reasons, though I think them not.
Free me to be, truly,
Free me to be, fully,
Grateful for the fateful,
Content in contemplation,
Still in your stillness.
And let my life static be
Preserved intact, in your amber glass.
Knowing, because of you, I last.

Prince of [Peace] on Earth

Excerpt from “Shadows and Songs”, a musical/dramatic production of the Christian Reformed Church of Western Springs, IL.  In this production I folded the traditional lessons and carols format on top of itself, so that the Old and New Testament readings corresponded (1 and 4, 2 and 5, etc.), and finished with the 9th reading of John 1.  This excerpt is paraphrased from the 3rd reading (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7) and the 7th reading (Luke 2:8-16).

Left – prophet Isaiah, street preacher, carrying a sign (“THE END IS NEAR” on one side and “THE LIGHT IS COMING” on the other) and a bullhorn.  Right – shepherd, in cowboy outfit – nomadic, rough around the edges.

Isaiah: (with conviction – persuading, pleading – very animated) 

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

on them has light shone.

Shepherd: (as if telling a story – a tall tale – around the campfire) That night, we shepherds were out in the field, keeping watch over our flocks.  Suddenly, an angel appeared to us, and glory blinded us, and we were scared out of our minds! But the angel said to us, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Isaiah and Shepherd: For unto you a child is born,

Isaiah: …Unto you a son is given…

Shepherd: …Who is Christ the Lord.

Isaiah: And the government shall be upon his shoulders.

Shepherd: “You’ll know him this way: he’ll be a baby wrapped in rags and lying in a trough.” And suddenly the sky was on fire with angels, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest!”

Isaiah: …and his name shall be called…

Shepherd: (concurrently) It was…

Isaiah and Shepherd: Wonderful.

Isaiah: …Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of…

Isaiah and Shepherd: Peace…

Shepherd: “…on earth, for with you, He is happy!”

Isaiah: Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Shepherd: When the angels went back into heaven, we were like: “Let’s go to Bethlehem and check this out” and we rushed over and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, wrapped up all snug in rags, and lying in a trough, (spreads hands confidently, completing his tale), just like they said.