Quarry

Huddled masses, He hears each cry,
As you lie wallowing in dust and earth,
Surrounded by the sounds of pain
Compounded with the clanging hammer strikes.

Piece by piece you are chipped away,
Broken from the heavy mountain holding you,
Gathered in
From the only home you have ever known.

The hills echo with your distress
As rough edges are chiseled and polished,
Smooth and more smooth you become with each passing day,
Until it happens:

The work is finished.
You come to rest in your new home,
Where there is peace and a place for you,
And all is quiet.

In building the temple, only blocks finished at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.
1 Kings 6:7

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Supplication

Lord, I am afraid of hope.
No good reason, I know.
Plenty of good reasons, I feel.

I acquiesce your sovereignty
Over clothing and food.
Lily of the valley,
Sparrow of the field,
Yes, even the least of these.

Never mind needs.
Wants are the stuff of hope,
And these I refuse to count on
With good reason.
Good isn’t about getting what I want.
And Lord you are so good.

So you see I doubt myself,
To know good when I see it.
I feel depravity deep in my core.
The heart is deceitful
Above all things.

So Lord I’m scared to tell you
What I want.
I’m afraid it won’t be good enough,
Afraid even that the very speaking will negate
Any positive response
You may otherwise have been considering.

I know all the Bible answers for this problem of mine.
But I’m betting on the fact
That you want to hear from me.
So here I am,
And here is what I want:

To see hopes fulfilled.
To hear YES while I still care.
To trust that somehow
Good doesn’t always mean NO.
To know and feel your love.
For that love to be enough.

Lord hear my prayer.

Amen.

Education

There is rhythm
Even here, in the click-clack of the keyboard
As I compose another test
In a never-ending line of assessments.
What is this definition
Label the part of speech.
Categorize and explain,
Until at least one small piece of your world
Is neatly quantified and set aside.

Move on.
Learn again
Some of the same things.
Mostly the same things.
We are a forgetful people
Circling round and round to remind ourselves
Of what we knew, once.

Adventus

A providential reminder:
Advent arrives every year,
Enters into my impatience,and says
Already, Not Yet.

Already but not yet?
When I was a child I didn’t know what this meant
Outside of gifts under a tree–
Mine, but not yet.

Jesus says God knows how to give good gifts to his children.
I worry about that word “good”.
I think I know what good gifts are, but
God seems to have a different definition in mind.

My parents always asked for a list.
God doesn’t take my list into account.
Or at least
That’s how things stand so far.

Already, Not Yet
Already, Not Yet

Tidings of comfort and joy:
We are the people
Who are given everything,
And we are the people who wait.

Path of Most Resistance

Annoyingly
You are more inclined to change my heart
Than my circumstances.

You could move a mountain with ease,
Yet are content
To take on the tangles
Of my attitudes and
The dirty corners of my soul.

Of course you choose this way,
Assuring my dependence on you.
You keep the trials in place,
Removing all my illusions of control
Or ability;
Allowing me to know,
Fully and deeply,
That I do not operate well without
You.

Prayer Continuing

Realizing this will be my prayer all my mortal days:
Satisfy me in you.
Forever asking
Because my foolish heart is forever distracted
By the glimmering dreams of this world.

Perhaps their glow and temptation will lessen, someday.
This is the hope which underlies my prayers,
That each morning will find my heart
More drawn to you,
If only by the smallest fraction.

Is this hope enough for you to work with?
I only desire you insofar as my mind
Tells me it is my best option,
This state where you are the context and comfort
In all my joy and all my sorrow.

Yet my heart is vain
And deceitful above all things–
Refusing to know truth,
Believing it can find anchor in creation,
Trusting only in itself and no other.

So here, my prayer and my confession eternal:
I do not love you as I ought.
I am easily led astray by empty promises,
By shadows and shallow pleasures.
Lord, satisfy my heart and mind in you alone.

Prayer Excerpted

Lord, you do not grow tired or weary,
Yet I still worry that you will tire
Of my asking for the same thing, again
Asking for what I am still unsure
I actually want.

You know, I’ve become accustomed to Fear;
I press close to it as a familiar friend,
My surety in the midst of all other uncertainties,
Making me, for a moment,
The master of my own miserable little kingdom.

Every day is a gift, so they say,
But I squander these days you’ve given me,
Hoping for a new set that will be more to my liking,
Laid out neatly and just as I prefer:
A future defined and dependable.

So what I ask, Lord, is to be glad
In this day.
The future still stands vague and terrifying,
But right now I plead for Peace, for Hope,
Just for today,
Knowing I can seek you again tomorrow.

Long Ride Home

Currently returning from a trip to New York City visiting my friend Emily. The night before I left, I was tired and not terribly enthused about departing from home, but I had purchased bus tickets when my spirits and energy levels were high, so I was going regardless of my current feelings on the matter.

I stepped off the bus into a sea of humidity and grey rain clouds, and was greeted by Emily’s smiling face. My initial hesitations over the trip vanished as we embraced and began making plans for the rest of the day. We began by walking through the gardens of the High Line. The sun came out and a breeze whipped up, clearing out the humidity and the clouds. And then began the dominating activity of the next three days: exploring and imagining myself living an everyday life in each new spot.

I chose the bench on the High Line walk where I would take my journal to write in as I looked over the water. I made a list of the restaurants in Chelsea Market which I would systematically work through until I had tasted all the flavors it had to offer. I saw the bookstores I would frequent and the farmers market from which I would walk home with wildflowers and fresh vegetables. I picked the apartment rooftop where I would host lively dinner parties, and the fire escape where I would sit in the mornings with my coffee. I eyed Emily’s apartment and determined where I could make space for my KitchenAid mixer, and made plans for how I would store my Christmas decorations. My fantastical New York self would fit right in here; I was sure of it.

Best of all, this life had no complications. Faceless friends would populate it, but as I didn’t know who they were, there were no worries about finding them and no danger of their leaving afterward. I had all kinds of time in this picture– never a dull moment but never one too busy either. My bank account obviously would stretch to accommodate all the things I wanted to do and try. In this life I was always happy and carefree.

I’ve gone through this exercise often enough to see the escapist tendency that lies behind it. I know my ideal picture is truly a fantasy–expanded and overblown to the point where it is entirely unrealistic and unattainable.

Riding back to D.C. forces me to remember that my fantasy has no real bearing on the reality of my day-to-day. I’m attempting to avoid thinking about the slow drains in the bathroom, or the headlight out in my car, or the loneliness I felt last week. At least, I’m trying not to focus solely on them, these reminders of a less-than-perfect life. There are other glad things to return to as well: my own bed, my overflowing bookshelves, my deck with its herbs (hopefully) surviving the rain, my church with my Scottish pastor, and my very real friends who have faces and who love me in my weaknesses. The Good, Very Good, and the Less Than Ideal are all joined together into a real and concrete state of blessedness.