What Might Be If We Believe
Looking out upon the world through prison bars,
They wonder how it ends.
And I hate to tell them,
Since they don't yet know
What lies on the other side of pain.
But I do. And we have not yet been forsaken,
Nor ever will be, though the world devolves into chaos.
But for now, the world that lies beyond
Is hidden from them.
I pity them for this.
And I do not mean life after life.
I mean the place that will rise from the ashes
Of all that we've burned with our ill-placed passion.
I wish that I could give it to them.
Perhaps that is what I am trying to do,
Here, with these failing words:
To shine a light on what might be if we believe.
With Me All the Time
I have often been ashamed
Of my need to be alone.
And it's not to say
That I don't long for people. I do.
I need others deeply, perhaps too deeply.
But I also need my solitude,
Perhaps more than other people.
And I wonder if it is because
There are so many others with me all the time.
I cannot pick them up and put them down.
There are no superficial conversations.
And it all, they all, weigh upon me
All the time.
Their stories cling to me,
Reach down deep inside of me,
And turn me over and over wondering.
Solitude gives me time and space
To process that,
And to hear the songs
That rise up in response,
Songs for the people I love
But whom I cannot see just now.
But we do our best
To speak the truth
To spite their treachery.
For only by the Spirit
Do we really know a thing.
And only by the Spirit do we speak
If we speak well.
And we do so knowing
That some will misunderstand,
And others will write them down
In an attempt to bottle up the light.
But we fear the coming years,
Long after we are gone,
When stony hearts will go to war
Over the interpretation,
Stones beating upon stones.
But we do our best.
They're all we have - words.
And we carefully pour over them
In an attempt to choose just the right ones,
So that, perhaps, someone listening
Can hear the whisperings
Just underneath all that can be said,
Not by words,
But by the Spirit,
Those truths which can't be spoken.
More Easily Pleased
It is God who rewards the righteous,
Not the world.
So seek to please God,
What a comfort,
That God is more easily pleased
Than the world.
In the midst of temptation,
Know that the desire for immediate gratification
Comes because you have not sufficiently believed.
Carnal desire plays upon the need for comfort.
And never do we feel the need for comfort so acutely
Than when it appears that all is lost,
Or that the task before us is impossible.
It is then that the lesser man rises up
And begs to be satiated.
For the carnal part of us does not live for the age
It suffers in the present.
And if it cannot see clearly enough
The reality of future reward,
It may storm the mind
And take it by force,
For it is the mind that directs the body.
Mind is the master.
For this reason, we are told
That we must be of a sound mind.
And so, If you have a lofty goal,
And a future intent for which you work
And which requires faith and endurance,
Project your mind forward
To the desired outcome.
And experience more deeply
The thing you can't yet see.
By this, the carnal mind will be appeased.
You may not believe me.
And I must admit,
It's harder than it sounds.
And it won't come without effort.
But it is better than the alternative.
I fear to check out
Lest another check in while I sleep.
For they can be hard to roust
Once they've taken possession of the house.
I do one thing, this thing.
Just a reminder to myself,
To not be distracted by the gimmicks,
To focus upon the thing that I am good at,
The thing to which I am called:
I could serve hell forever
And it would drain me dry and ask for more.
It’s longings are insatiable.
Because it doesn’t want the cure.
It wants the patch, the poison.
It wants me for it’s errand boy,
But not to heal,
Not to heal.
Perhaps that’s why
There is a place for such.
And it appears
That I am learning late
The thing my fathers knew,
That hell cannot be reasoned with
Or even helped
In any consequential way
I'd Rather Act
I would rather act.
It seems better, almost, to do anything
That moves me toward the goal
Than to hesitate.
I suppose that I say this to remind myself,
For there were so many years
When I could not see clearly enough
To move anywhere but out.
And since the only out is death,
I move back in.
And I suppose I do so
Because I have something to say before I go,
And because there are those
Who depend upon me for support.
And finally, the thing I am
Is the thing I do.
What a comfort!
So dear God, please help me act today.
Help me to keep on moving toward the goal.
Help me to do the thing in the world
That I am called to do,
Growing Up to be So Childish
In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,
Half-way between South America and South Africa
Is a Little Island called Tristan Da Cunha.
It is the most remote inhabited island in the world.
Only about 250 people live on the Island
And they rarely see anyone from the outside world.
Since they live so close,
And everyone knows everybody,
They are like a family.
And they share everything,
Well, perhaps not everything,
But they share.
It's a way of life.
And that is how it's always been, they say.
Many of the older folk remember the lean days
When ships would not come for months.
If one person got a bag of sugar,
They all had sugar.
If someone caught a bunch of fish,
Or slaughtered a beef,
They all had fish, or beef.
And supposing an old woman
Was headed to the cemetery
To visit her husband's grave,
She didn't call the florist.
She simply asked a neighbor
If she might cut a few flowers from her garden.
I suppose that such a way of life
Seems backward to those living
In the "get for yourself" world.
It did to some who visited there.
Long ago, a visiting sailor was remembered to have said,
"They are like a bunch of grown-up children."
I think he meant it as a slight.
But I believe it was the best compliment
He could have given them.
God help me to grow up
To be so childish.
Power and Freedom
You want to change the world.
And you believe that you can do so
Through a change in policy.
But you are mistaken.
Your doctrine is something like:
If only those in power
Could use their power
To profit me and those I love,
Then we would be free.
But such thoughts reveal a misunderstanding
Of both power and freedom.
Power resides in the ability to suffer well,
And freedom is its consequence.
The man who complains
Because he's being denied his rights
Has lost his rights already.
The man who knows his rights
Quietly lives by them.
He does not complain
When the powers that be
Don't acknowledge his work,
Nor does he use their rejection or disregard
As an excuse to not show up for work.
For he does not work for them.
And if, in the end,
His labors buy him no more
Than a seat in the gas chambers,
He dies a free man.
Let God Decide What is Good
Release into the acceptance
Of what you are so far,
For who knows what is good, but God.
And who knows how many revolutions must come
Before we are perfected.
Like clay upon the wheel, we turn
Round and round.
And he loves us where we are.
He loves the bright and burning
Coals within the flame.
And he loves the cold, the lost,
The hungry traveler
Far from home.
We are the same to him: beloved, cherished,
In the bosom of his deepest
And most holy intent.
For when it comes to the things of the Spirit,
Not all that glitters is gold.
Sometimes, the pearl of great price
Is found in the deepest, darkest,
Hours of our wayward, fearful, flights
Into the thing that we despise.
One thing for sure:
We will never find our way back home
By turning away in shame.
And so, let go...
Let God decide what is good.
Peace is a gift, however it comes.
And thank God for it.
But today, I would like to rock your boat a little
By saying that not all peace
Is God's peace.
And not all peace will lead to Him.
For there is a kind of peace that leads one to trust
In earthbound hopes.
And this peace is called carnal security.
And it is fine as far as it goes.
After all, is it not good to be content and grateful...
For the job, the social status, the wife, the children, the car, the house?
Surely! And ingratitude is far worse.
But what happens when these are stripped away?
Only then do we discover that perhaps our peace
Was less founded upon the infinite
And more upon the finite.
And only when we are thrown
Upon the naked hand of providence
Do we know whether our peace was eternal rest
Or carnal security.
And only through pain
Can the lesser peace be sifted out
Till nothing but that peace which surpasses understanding remains.
And as for love,
God's love is no less elusive.
For only in betrayal do we discover
Whether our love remains when theirs dissolves.
For there is but one peace, one hope, one love
That is eternal.
And the path to obtaining it is a winding upward road
To the hill of a tailor-made Golgotha,
Tailor-made for each of us.
And isn't it terrible to say it outright like that?
I feel as if I have broken
With some unspoken societal contract.
But isn't that what we always said we wanted
When we sang:
I have decided to follow Jesus...
The world behind me,
The cross before me,
No turning back...
No turning back...
The Last Exodus
The time has come for each person
To traverse their own wilderness path,
And through that experience
To create their own sacred remembrances,
And thus keep alive the truth,
Not of what God did for a people far distant
And far removed by time and culture,
But of what he did for each of us.
And just as the children of Israel observed the Passover,
We too will remember, from moment to moment,
How God spared us
While thousands around us were slain
Because they would not suffer themselves
To be led out of what they thought they were.
And this is the Last Great Exodus
That Jeremiah was talking about
When he said:
The days come, saith the Lord,
That it shall no more be said,
The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel
Out of the land of Egypt;
But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel
From the land of the north,
And from all the lands whither he had driven them:
And I will bring them again into their land
That I gave unto their fathers."
And this Last Exodus
Will change the hearts of the people.
It will bring them to have hearts of flesh, and not hearts of Stone
Because it is not only a journey into a geographical place
But a journey into the very heart of God.
One Eternal Round
I move forward toward the horizon of my tomorrows,
Not looking back upon what might have been
If I were something more, something different.
And I trust that the path that I have chosen
Is one eternal round,
And that, somehow, In the grand economy of God’s providence,
I will find each one that I have lost,
And that I love,
In the bright new hope
Of unseen futures.
For I have put my trust
In the promises of God,
Spoken at diverse times
And through unearthly means
To the marrow of my soul.
And the promises of God are real.
They can be banked upon
As surely as the revolutions of the cosmos.
So, come 'round, old fate.
I do not fear you.
I welcome the new
As it, surely as the rising of the sun,
Brings round the old renewed.