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

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

sense the butcher

butcher

Violence in the bone
And silence in the stone
Heart at the cry, we are party
To the crime, parting comfort
From the sigh,
“Come and buy, souls for sale,
Discounts for the dregs, wholesale
Bitter pills,
People killed by kindness withheld!”
Weeping filled with findings revealed:
Our hearts.

Our hearts are violence, pestilence.
Restlessness lingers on our lips.
Listen:
Can you sense the butcher in your head?
Lopping limbs from all the dead around you
(Labeled as such, and losing value
By the touch of our tongues and toneless virtue).
Hear ye: “I am here to hurt you.”

Will we always cast out and
Beat down the Named
For the sake of cash cows
And rebranded fame?
It’s by pity the death of the last
Brought us in, and fitting
His breath blew away every sin.

You,
Who hate.
See yourself in that vine,
See you selfishly climb
On the backs of your kin,
Watch the jostle to win.
Now let go and fall,
Frail bundle of bones.
Now cast yourself down
On a Savior of stone.

He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” Luke 20:9‭-‬18

(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
hell on earth
midnight

midnight

midnight

Midnight, O midnight: when will you be mine?
I’m weary of letting my little light shine.
I fear that I’m getting a bit more aligned
With religious nuts everywhere, calling for signs,
With fidgety monks, covered hair, falling in line.
The people You tend to catch aren’t my type.
They’re flimsy and fatuous, less substance than hype.
And then I remember, I’m one of them too.
When I dismember us, I mutilate You.

Midnight, O midnight, when will you be mine?
I’m weary of letting my little light shine.
Lord, all I receive is never my own,
But I’m told: believe, and I’ll give you a throne.
You give and You take and You won’t let me be,
I live and I make and I sow: don’t You see?
If You’re God, the question remains: why not act?
But You’re rocky; You reap Your refrains, and I lack.
Stock up on struggle, heart, leap to the fray,
The One Who will part you is the One Who will stay.

Midnight, O midnight: when will you be mine?
I’m weary of letting my little light shine.
Lord, the work must be done. The light dims,
The fields are rich, and the work force is slim.
I need Your need deeply (You gave me that too)
To plant Your seed freely (true faith comes from You)
When night comes, Your people will sleep as the dead.
I’ll triple Your goodness, then lay down my head
On a breast full to bursting of patience and grace,
And rise in the morning. Oh, lift up my face!

“Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”
Luke 19:12‭-‬27

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

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

hell on earth

autumn
May autumn
Tinge me inward,
Dip me in the colors of death
Under heavens of brass,
And hang me out upside down
To wither and dry in the shivering sun.
For then I’ll make good eating when winter has come.
All of the earth is bloodied and bruised,
And the purple smell of the over-ripe
Hangs everywhere by a thread,
Ready to tumble to rot,
To fall from living to dead.
And I smell it’s brother on the wind, the woodsmoke hovers and seeps,
Soaking my clothes like cider,
Spicy and warm and deep.
The earth is crispy, and
The bushes are burning.
Hell on earth is oddly holy, as incense,
And the impulse to remove my shoes
Rises within me as the northern wind.
I could howl with bloodlust.
I could rend my flannel to shreds
And leap and kneel and fall prostrate in the ashes of the dead and dying,
Lying strewn about my unshod feet,
Scattering in the air as I fling them.
My heart releases in hilarity at blatant disregard,
In the crush of fruit and limb and leaf,
In heavenly hodgepodge and cool relief.
I will take my delight in the death,
with my dear ones and cider,
As this bounty sinks into us all, ever deeper and wider.

i am thankful

pharisee

I am thankful I’m
Not like the Pharisee in
This week’s parable.

 

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9‭-‬14 

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

Words for the Church: Ordinary Time
something fearsome
gold dust prayer
lamps alike
eat the song
smallness
sisyphus
ninety-nine reasons to stay
before you kiss him
shrewd
exitus acta probat