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.
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
Allowing me to know,
Fully and deeply,
That I do not operate well without
Realizing this will be my prayer all my mortal days:
Satisfy me in you.
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.
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.
Father, forgive me,
For I have forgotten once more,
To trust You.
The promises I think You’ve made,
Or the desires I dream You’ll fulfill,
But You, alone.
Help me, Father,
To be enough for me.
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.
In the new leaves growing boldly in the sunlight,
Drifting just far enough through the window
To shine across your shoulders
And through your glass of iced tea.
The rain sounds creating quiet–
That song playing on the radio,
Evoking a particular sight-smell-feeling memory.
Most of all in how
Saying I love you
Can be so ordinary
And yet mean so much all the same
If you will only pay attention.
The things great and glorious are all a jumble
In the start-stop-go-stop-go-go-breathe
Of a busy week;
The both/and of a full life.
Yet waiting still stretches endlessly here.
I have only specks of patience to my name,
And sometimes my prayers
Are just desperate stares at the ceiling.
The good is folded in with the painful,
The beautiful with the ugly.
I’m held together with tape and glue
But at least I’m held together.
And I have eyes to see and ears to hear
The words and whispers of a Creator
Woven within a tangled and magnificent creation.
The grace of living, again.
How do you describe a space
That is the same regardless of location?
This plane we seat ourselves before
Wields an enchantment,
Capturing us in conversation,
Building families of all kinds.
Each time, we leave different than we came–
Full in stomach and in heart.
All I know: we’re invited to a feast,
Which I know is a symbol,
But also a means for achieving itself.
We drink the living water and we eat
Solid food and
Suddenly we’ve found You
In our midst.
1 Oh, all who thirst, come to the waters,
and the one who has no money,
come buy and eat,
come buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2 Why do you pay money for what is not bread
and labor without satisfaction?
Listen carefully to me: eat of good things,
and take delight in abundance.
When I was five, it was easy to give You the reigns.
I was small and weak,
And I held so little in my power,
It seemed such a simple request to satisfy.
I gained Eternity for a pittance.
But I began to grow up
And Responsibility and Privilege
Well, they grew with me.
I learned to love Independence
And Self-Sufficiency was my friend.
Suddenly control mattered more than faith
And my childhood offering became distasteful
In the face of grown-up fears and worries.
Giving You what You wanted
Now seems like too much.
This stumbling began at five years old:
I never had even the smallest thing to give,
You want Everything and yet Nothing.
You would have me let go of what was never mine,
That your Love might fill my empty hands.
“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”