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

IMG_7014-2

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

ancient strain

bread2

This Bread breaks daily,
Yet was broken only once.
Heavenly, and unleavened
By fancy turns of phrase or personal renderings.
“What does this mean to you?”
Is reduced to
“Take and eat.”
This is a reduction of falsehood, not freedom.

This good grain,
Has textures our tongues don’t understand,
And distasteful undertones we’d rather remove.
But we don’t choose the Baker or the Bread, sisters and brothers.
We don’t get to curate to our taste.

I would rather gorge on grass-fed meats and imported cheese, craft beer and sommelier selections to match my farm-to-table repast.
Excuse me, but this Bread isn’t locally-sourced, and it tastes a little stale.
This Wine has funky undertones; do you have something lighter on the palate?
I crave gourmet food,
Even when I know it could turn to ash in my mouth,
Even when, mid-bite,
I could be struck down for letting the grumbling in my tummy reach my lips.

You fill me, as with the richest of foods,
With things as simple as words and bread,
But this is an ancient strain,
Grain that fed forefathers and sustained prophets,
Crumbs that fell from heaven to the wilderness,
As from Your fingers to the five thousand,
As from Your table to Your children.
It is ever-filling, never-failing,
And our taste for it can grow.

“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
John 6:48‭-‬51

(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
within the knot
lay me down

begin again

IMG_7082-2(1)

Life is in
The Begin-Again.
(Dust and blood and birth)
In You Who Are,
The Beginning that begets all beginnings.

Each morning I am
Again,
Blinking through the after-death and learning how to walk,
Shaking off graveclothes and
Unbound by binding and
Unfurled by finding.
Light is suspicious, it’s too good to be true,
That once again I’m gifted this.
So I ask:
Who Are You?

Each day I am
Again,
Given the answer, but remain
Laughably human
And tragically fallen,
Muddying and bloodying myself and others,
In this undead dying death.
Some days I love a little bit more and hate a little bit less,
But it’s hard to tell from day to day
Whether I’m rising or falling
And just how far away
I am from
Who You Are.

Each night I am
Again,
Releasing tensions by deathbed
Into the hands that have always held them,
And waiting in my tomb for the dawn.
I hide from You behind You, O my Shield,
And I yield to
You Who Are.

Wake me, You Who Are,
Again,
A resurrection in Resurrection
And a life encased in Life.
Each morning, may I
Remember the reality of rebirth,
May it be
Branded and built into body and soul,
That when I render to You my end,
I will be in Your arms:
Whole.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
John 11:25-26

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

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

new wine

IMG_6911-2

(for Easter Sunday)

This day is relief,
As the earth vomits up Someone it is not equipped to keep,
As the weight that dove graveward two days back
Now stretches the world
Beyond taut belief,
Beyond boundaries and limits.
The tension builds to climax
And glory vaults skyward, in trampoline spring.

And we are stretched also,
Pressed down, shaken together, and running over
With the Undefinable that defines all things.

It tires me out, this glory.
The resurrection is both half and whole,
A seamless salvation in a sewn and tattered soul.
I just keep waxing worn and thin.
Who’s idea was it to put new wine into an old wineskin?

Brothers and sisters,
(Speaking of wine)
Today is the day to drink deep and be merry!
Let yourselves forget for a moment
The troubles of life on this earth.
Heaven’s hilarity has crashed in upon us
And laughter is echoing inside and out.

See it, green and tensile, bursting in buds and wild with heat.
Breathe it in, fragrant and alluring,
Feel it, rippling and supple to the touch.
It repeats itself time and again until we listen,
It copy/pastes until we see:
That He will make what is not, to be.

Everything is beautiful, now and then.
This day may be the brightest now,
But we have yet to see the rest.

“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.”
Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

(Liturgical poetry during Lent is inspired by the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Photo by Linnea Wheeler)

Words for the Church: Holy Week
battle-blind
all will be new
we gather together
black and blue
hatch

Words for the Church: Lent
the death of fire
tiny tilting towers
touch
via del vagare
kept
enrich the earth