ninety-nine reasons to stay

lost sheep

Leave everything for me,
Herds and havens, the heaven-scent of billowy-backed clouds,
And the sure, steady streams of meadows sweet, the hills crowned
With succession of sunlight, leaping from dew upon the ground.

Leave your home for me,
Those heady beams of cedar, wound about by ropes of pinpoint green,
The Lebanon, the Life, the Vale Unseen,
Temples of a staggering reality,
The fullest Fullness and final Finality…
Leave it, for me.

Leave your family,
Row upon row of the righteous, robed in raiment white as wool,
And obedient, not like this fool,
But willing, if only to the fault
That they’ll never get the killing,
Nor learn to live as salt.

Leave it all for me,
A fallen, failing buffoon, a wandering greedy ingrate,
Bawling and wailing at the mess I’ve made, lurching,
Blinded to my need except to know I’m hurting,
Fleeing from Your true embrace, time and time again,
Writhing in my slavery, and hating in my pain.

Seems that only You
Would leave ninety-nine reasons to stay
For the single little cotton-headed lamb that got away.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:4‭-‬10 NIV

(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
unveil
something fearsome
gold dust prayer
lamps alike
eat the song
smallness
sisyphus

sisyphus

sisyphus

Measure it out to the end,
This treasure of yours, hidden inside.
You asked Him to follow through,
Follow you, embrace your human-plans,
Then trace you in the sky as you flew,
A god applauding.

Was there a “calling” placed on your life?
As in preaching to heathens or taking a wife?
Were there walls falling, allowing entrance into your own personal Jericho?
There we go again, centering our balance
On applications pending approval,
Reliance on biblical stories that by removal
From context leave us dangling as a participle.
The precipice for falling, thus,
And Sisyphus is calling to us:
“Rocks you roll will cripple.”

No, this business of being a disciple
Isn’t about you or your stomach or whatever thing inside you speaks,
And listening to it and calling it God
Is idolatry, and it reeks.

Maybe there’s a passion that can be fashioned,
That can be rationed out or and cashed in with a God who actually cares
About what’s inside of you,
Because He made you to hold it,
And emboldened you to believe.

Measure the treasure there,
In pots of clay, and stay a little while
In the knowledge of His plans for you,
Not your plans for yourself.
His are better and sure to succeed.
He plans not for what you want
But rather, for what you need.
So give it all up and steady yourself,
Get ready to follow His lead.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Luke 14:28‭-‬33

(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
unveil
something fearsome
gold dust prayer
lamps alike
eat the song
smallness

smallness

smallness

Most days I feel small.
Compare me with what You will
And I come up short,
One more year and maybe I can ride the big rides,
Brave the big things,
Without crying.
But I’m just a kid with a courage to match my stature
And a small way of thinking.
In fact, I’m quite sure
I’m shrinking.

I could blame it on others,
And there’s blame to go around.
Sure, some of it comes from my grasping for crowns,
From naming and claiming
That which isn’t mine to take.
And some comes from all the stupid choices I make.
But the rest, a large part,
Divested of others and me,
Is just how the world works,
Who I am, and what I’m meant to be.

Smallness is the gift to the small
Of an essence that should be familiar to all,
Of a greatness yet compact until God acts.
It will grow into shelter,
And spread through the dough,
And this isn’t feeling, but fact.
We, tiny saints, carry within us
The body and blood of His holy city.
And our smallness as seeds is a promise, not a pity.

This is so much bigger than all of us combined:
From a King once microscopic
Comes a Kingdom divine.

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Luke 13:18‭-‬21

(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
unveil
something fearsome
gold dust prayer
lamps alike
eat the song

eat the song

fruit

The wait is long, and long and low
The sighs of wind through empty leaves.
What fruit might hang on branch and bough
Is missing, and it makes me grieve.

Then sighs the wind through empty leaves
A song of three years passing by:
“I’m missing that which made me grieve,
And longing for what makes me cry.”

A song! For three years passed me by,
And never fruit to eat. A song
Of longing, sung to make me cry,
And one more year to right the wrong.

I never… fruit. To eat the song
Is yet to swallow hope and grace
For one more year. To right the wrong
Is up to You, to turn Your face.

See, the swallow! Hope and grace,
A weight so lifted, long and low:
Now up to You, lift to Your face
The fruit that hangs on branch and bough.

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” – Luke 13:6‭-‬9

(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
unveil
something fearsome
gold dust prayer
lamps alike

lamps alike

lamplighter

Lamps and little ones
Alike reveal darkened ways
And corners of doubt.
Some name them naive, facile,
For always lighting the way.

Faithful and frauds are
Alike left behind to test
The substance of souls.
By this light we are revealed,
Within and without, the fire.

Leaders and lackeys
Alike are judged on blind faith.
Charge your batteries,
Saints, let your little lights shine.
We will see when He returns.

“Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Luke 12:41-48

(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
unveil
something fearsome
gold dust prayer

receive

receive

It’s taken years of You
Reversing my fears, of me
Inhaling the tears of a cursed world unhinged,
Lunging in my lungs for each salty breath.
It wasn’t enough to believe in grace once and move on, an honorary member.
I needed to receive grace twice, thrice and forever
Until I knew my need so thoroughly
That only the gifted whole heaven would do,
And I would wait, uplifted soul, to You.

We do not live and move and have our being by the courage of our hearts,
But by the coronary explosion of His,
Who gives and loves and grants us seeing eyes and willing hearts to detonate,
Willing lives to watch and wait.

So body, take a step,
Sing a hymn, take some bread and wine
And live, read some Words,
Get to work, get some sleep and love
And give.
We need these inner rhythms of exhortation to our souls
To combat the sinner schisms of expectations versus reality,
To be made whole.

And so each day
Is a reminder that life itself is grace,
And each day
Is the treasured kind, to be measured at heaven’s pace,
And each day
Is where I find that I am found, and tethered fast to You,
Weathered and broken and blue.

I am a bird perched in persistent song,
Who thirsts for the sky,
Empty and full and true.

gold dust prayer

golddust

Lord, help me to invest well and expand
My interest, collecting fast in banks,
Accounts, and index funds across the land.
(For my rewards program, I give you thanks.)

I thank you for the faith to gather cash,
The happiness you grant through comfort sweet.
I pray for those with little faith to stash,
That with new hope they’d work to earn their keep.

Now let me rest, relax, and donate well
To people I deem worthy, to my cause.
I’m grateful I’ll know heaven sure from hell
By all the golden streets and diamond halls.

As Jesus said, of talents, to increase.
And in the end, my master will be pleased.

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16‭-‬21

(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
unveil
something fearsome

something fearsome

roaches

You used to
Skitter behind the walls,
Litter of mine, dropping
Roaches slipping past me.
With a slap, cast down flat
As fast as can be, by something
Fearsome, more than me.
No vacancy now, the room is full
But empty of tears. Come for me,
Who once had plenty of fears,
Come at me, you demons, you devils,
As fast as can be, and Something
Fearsome, Who’s for me,
Who is and utters Power,
Will dissolve you to dust.

Sputter, glower, all you must,
But strength you’ve only dreamed of
Inhabits length and breadth of this hut
Now. This is Supreme Love.
Here, we are under new ownership,
A thunder You intone, Your lips,
(Like Your fingers: fearsome)
Breathing strength I’ve only dreamed of,
Seething near. Come closer
Insects, your armor is flimsy, and scatter
As chaff. He is far more; simply, He is
Fearsome.
He laughs, and He’s for me,
And utterly more than
You used to
Be, He’s something
Fearsome.

If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Luke 11:20-‬23

(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

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

knock

knock

Audacity runs thick here, and what’s more,
We’re familiar with waking Him up for
This, that, and the other. So be
Bold in asking, brothers; go free
Bravely, sisters, approach the door.

Go lack common courtesy at your core,
When your state of soul is weary and sore.
When only one thing will heal me,
I am shameless.

Propriety isn’t piety, nor
Does it matter to the child or the poor.
Faith is annoying (it makes me hungry),
Like our families, who insist that we
Owe them something. Knock. By such blood and war
You are shameless.

“Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” Luke 11:5‭-‬8 NIV

(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