On That Day it Didn’t Matter

A poem for the day after 9/11

On that day it didn’t matter
Who you were
Or where you were from
Or who you voted for
Or how you got here
Or where you were going

On that day it didn’t matter
If you were Black
Or White
Or Asian
Or Hispanic
Or Indigenous
Or Arabic
Or Another

We were one nation
Under attack
Helping each other
Out of the hot, twisted steel
Piled high
Where the towers had
Only moments before
Pointed skyward
Staunch symbol
Of formidable strength
Crumpled in a heap

Hands searching
Reaching for humanity
In the debris–
In the debris,
Reaching for humanity
Men, women, children
Image-bearers of God Most High
Stranger-friends
Forever bonded
By the shared hell
Of ash and metal and paper and people
Falling from the sky
#neverforget

But we have forgotten

On this day it matters
Who are you?
Where are you from?
Who did you vote for?
How did you get here?
Where are you going?

On this day it matters
If you are Black
Or White
Or Asian
Or Hispanic
Or Indigenous
Or Arabic
Or Another

We are one nation
On the attack
Hurting each other
With hot, twisted words
Piled high
Where hope lies
Mortally wounded,
Waiting
To point us skyward
Stark symbol
Of formidable strength
Crumpled in a heap

Angry accusations enrage
While justice speaks
But we keep screaming
So we can’t hear her pleading,
“Where is the humanity in this debris of insanity?”
Men, women, children
Image-bearers of God Most High
Suspicious strangers
Shouting
Hurt and anger and fear and judgment
Flying from our lips

Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Help us remember
#neverforget

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Sunrise

First light
Pedaling boards
In the dewy shadows

I am surprised
By my fellow first-lighters
Children, teenagers, middle-agers, old-agers

All seeking the same thing:
Solitude, companionship
In the waking dawn

To walk, run, or cycle with the ocean
To our right, heading north
To our left, heading south

Perspective is
Perception

Pedaling,
Waiting for this first light
To reveal
Daylight

Watching the curve
Of our spinning sphere
Dip down
Below the first sliver
Of fire
Obscured by clouds

Revealed through lighted slats
Red, orange, yellow, purple, pink
Refracted,
Spreading across
The wide swathe
Of heaven

The glory of God
The glory of earth
The glory of reliability

The glory of knowing
It’s coming
And yet
Standing
In wonder
At its appearing

Breathless beauty
Predictable,
Hope-filled
Unexpected sunrise

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After Rain, the Rainbow

Billowing, sunless-grey expanse
Flooding my miserable soul
Oh Sadness, filling up my doubt
Drowning every hopeful thought
Soaking barren desert land
Emptiness, Oh my soul

Gathering clouds of celestial vapor
Washing my abundant dread
Rivulet streams flow peaceful, quiet
Away, my darkest mindful thoughts
Rushing down to churning ocean
Emptiness, Oh my soul

Topaz sky break forth
Over emerald hills
Ruby, amber, golden arcs
Fill my hopelessness
Creamy rays of happy light
Glowing warmth of fire-heat
Filling up my soul

Ignite the dreams that dying lay
In the graveyard of my doubt
Arise, my Soul,
Leap. For joy outshines my desperate gloom
Spark the fire-stoked energy
That reads dread doubt’s firm eulogy
Today the clouds have parted

After rain, the rainbow

 

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The Flowers are Still Blooming

Pandemic spring of my distress
Giving way to emptiness

Prison, shelter, refuge, home
Feeling captively alone

The flowers are still blooming

Pandemic spring of isolation
Quarantine, my deep frustration
Locked in endless habitation
Giving way to desperation

The flowers are still blooming

Pandemic spring of self-reflection
Time for painful introspection
What is my new life direction
At this global intersection?

The flowers are still blooming

Pandemic spring of raging malice
Waking to our blind injustice
Now is time for humble service
And a call to true repentance

The flowers are still blooming

Creation groans awaiting Christ’s
Consummating sacrifice
Full payment of the costly price
Widely opens paradise

The flowers are still blooming

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The Day We All Went Home

Pandemic stillness haunts my soul
Stillness in the midst of strife
Stillness in my quiet life

The day we all went home

Stillness
Be still

Be still and know that I am God
An ancient, oft-ignored command
That we may finally understand

The day we all went home

Searching, seeking, longing soul
Now relinquish feigned control

Healing hurts and salving scars
Soothing words and binding hearts

The day we all went home
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Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

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Wandering One

Wandering One,
Seeking shelter from confusion and fear.
Where are you going?
What do you long for?
Whom do you trust?
Come, Seeker. Come with me.
I will show you the way home.

I know the Way because He has found me.
Found me when I was the Wandering One.
He has washed me.
Washed me in His soul-cleansing blood.
Washed me and carried me home.

Come, Seeker. Come with me.
There is no other place.
Come, find shelter here.
Rest here now, in the shadow of the cross.
Let its shade protect you from the scorching heat.
The scorching heat of your sin and shame.
Lay it down.
Lay it all down.

Come, Seeker. Come, Sinner.
There is room at the table for you.
Eat freely of the Bread of Life,
Broken for you.
No. No, dear one.
You are not enough.
It is okay.
Christ is Enough.
You must feast on Him.
Partake in His suffering.
He suffered for you.
Partake in His dying.
He died for you.
YOU!

Come, Seeker. Come, Sinner.
Come, Wandering One.
Come home.
Christ will give you a new name:
Beloved One.

 

 

 

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Dream Small

From the time we are little children, we are told to dream big. The world holds endless possibilities for those who can dream the dream big enough and then somehow make it happen. The power is in our hands. As we try to make sense of this for ourselves, we also teach it to our children. 

What do you want to be when you grow up, child? Do you want to become a famous athlete, actor, singer? Do you want to be a successful doctor, lawyer, executive? Do you want to become a well-known artist, speaker, writer?

Do you want to be famous, successful, well-known, well-loved?

Reach for the stars, my darling. The sky’s the limit, little one. You can do anything you want to do. You can be anything you want to be.

As our children grow, the fanciful dreams of the early years become the oppressive nightmare of college preparation. Is your GPA okay? Did you study for the SAT? What about the ACT? Should you take that, too?

Are you smart enough? Are you well-rounded enough? Are you good enough?

Forgive me if I am being contrary, but I think we are dreaming in the wrong direction. We tell our children to dream big while we decorate our homes with signs that say things like live simple.

What are we even talking about?

We crave simple. Then we complicate. We drum into our children all the things that they have to do to prepare for what they will someday be. We take them to school and church and practice and rehearsal and training and specialized classes. Then, when we finally take them home, we are too tired to tell them the things about life that we really want them to know.

Even the modern Christian call to “do big things for God” is drumming the same dream-big rhythm. But the Bible has a different idea of what life’s dream should be. Are you ready for the big dream, God-style? Here it is:

 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

That’s in the Bible?” our children asked when we first read this passage at the dinner table. They were surprised by the straightforward, uneloquent command to mind your business. Yes, little ones, that’s in the Bible. Mind your own business. Work with your hands. Win the respect of others. Not by what you do, but by who you are. 

Dream small.

God doesn’t call me to do big things for Him. He calls me to lead a quiet life, to mind my own business, and to do the work He has set before me each day. That work is often mundane, boring, and extremely unextraordinary. When I lay down my big dreams about how God is going to use me in big, grand ways, I can embrace the small, everyday dreams of a peaceful, quiet, God-glorifying life.

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Reference:

I Thessalonians 4:11-12, NIV

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Cancer Acrostic

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The Home of Grace

This is the third post in The Grace Series. For the first and second, click here and here.

Somehow, it seems that grace is the hardest to give at home, where it should be the easiest, with my own people. The man I chose. The children I birthed. But I am often the worst version of myself at home. I must daily seek God’s grace to fill me so that it may overflow to my family and then out from our home to our little corner of the world.

I have been watching mamas for a long time. I have come to know that Mama sets the tone of the home. In other words, the grace my people extend to others is in direct proportion to the grace I extend to them.

They cannot give what they have not received. 

I must show my children how to extend the grace-gift to each other. I must show them how to admit when they’re wrong, how to ask for forgiveness, and how to repent of sin. I must do this not only by instruction but also by example. When I sin against my children, or in their presence, I must come to the place of grace in the shadow of the cross and ask them to extend the grace-gift to me.

When I sin against my husband, I must ask for the grace that he is often so ready to extend. He is better at this than me. “I’m sorry” is such a hard pill to swallow. But when it finally goes down, the grace that washes both of us makes it easier for him to give the gift. Am I doing everything that I can to make it easy for my husband to extend grace to me?

Probably not.

Freely you have received, freely give.

When I give my husband, my children, the gift of grace in the way I have received it from my Father, I encourage them to also give. I have received Life from the Life-Word, Jesus Christ, and I give the grace that overflows from Him to my family. We give grace-filled words and grace-filled service. We give as we have been given, not reluctantly or under compulsion because God loves a cheerful giver.

And then, from the grace we have found in our home, we reach out and extend that grace beyond our family. Sometimes, the people we touch have already received the Grace-Gift. They know what it is to be washed in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb. And yet, they too need grace. They need it because, while Christ has healed the broken-hearted and bound up our wounds, He also calls us, His children, to bear one another’s burdens.

In this way, we fulfill the Law of Christ.

Other times, the people we touch have not yet received the Grace-Gift. It seems wholly and wonderfully strange to them. They are drawn to it, but they do not understand it. By showing them the overflow of the Grace-Gift in our own hearts, we show them the source of that spring: the Grace-Gift Himself, Jesus Christ.

Giving grace in and through our home is a daily laying down of my fleshly cry, “What about me?” As I seek to follow the One who laid down His glory for me, I follow His example. After He cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” He then cried, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In my daily interactions, I often know not what I do in the ways I offend God and others. May God grant me the grace to pray Christ’s prayer of forgiveness,  freely receive His grace, and freely give it.

Freely you have received, freely give.

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References:

  1. II Corinthians 4:15 “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”
  2. James 5:16a “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other, that you may be healed.”
  3. II Corinthians 9:7 “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
  4. Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
  5. Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”
  6. Luke 22:34 “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
  7. Matthew 10:8 “Freely you have received, freely give.”
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The Gift of Grace

This is the second post in The Grace Series. To read the first, click here.

Freely you have received, freely give.

God’s gift of grace has been freely given to me through the sacrifice of His only Son. I freely receive this grace, and I freely give it, or at least I want to. It is hard to freely give to others because it always costs me something. The grace-gift costs me my pride, my convenience, and my comfort. It costs me my to-do list, my system of doing things, and my vision of how things ought to be done. It means I have to lay it down, lay it all down.

Selfishness is so heavy.

When I empty my arms of all this heavy burden, the grace-gift freely flows. The laying down is hard, but the giving is easy. It is joyous. It is holy. This grace-gift is hardest to give when I am tired, spent, or fed up. Sometimes, I don’t want to give grace, because my people don’t always deserve grace. They hurt me, ignore me, and sin against me and each other. But this is exactly when the grace-gift is most needed because Grace has the power to demolish strongholds.

How can I, the recipient of the greatest, undeserved Grace-Gift of all time, not also extend undeserved grace? This is exactly what Grace is at its heart. The undeserved favor of God.

Freely you have received, freely give.

Grace means that I think the best of others, see the best in others, and love them like they already are the best versions of themselves. I do this because it is what Christ has done for me. Christ loved me when I was an enemy of God, completely outside of His covenant of grace. He extended the best kind of grace.

I was dead, you see, and He made me alive. He reached down and breathed the breath of life into my soul, and I became a living being. And God saw what He had re-made through His Son, and He called me very good.

Freely you have received, freely give.

No one can ever offend, hurt, or betray me more than I have offended, hurt, and betrayed my God. And yet, He loved me anyway. How can I not also love others in this way? I must. I am commanded. I am compelled.

Giving, receiving, and living in the place of grace is my calling as a child of God and a follower of Christ. It is my greatest joy, and often my greatest struggle. In the day-to-day rhythm of my life, Christ invites me to dwell in the shadow of the cross, where His grace abounds to me.

To read the third post in The Grace Series, click here.

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References

  1. Matthew 10:7-8 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come  near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received; freely give.
  2. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  3.  Genesis 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
  4. Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

 

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