Both at Once

I’ve been calling them my Attitude Class.
I named them for their hinge,
Which bends this one way for now,
But tantalizes me with the potential for a reversal.

The challenge of them crowds my mind.
I feel for the other classes;
The very joy they bring
Is what allows me to rest from them.

I wonder if God is God
Because he can hold Joy and Challenge
All at once,
And yet know Joy the most.

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Clear, now.

Tell me, what is it
Which moves me,
Here, now.

If I were a photographer, I’d picture
The grasses and trees
Scenting the pitch night air,
And me:
Hair blown in eyes, nose, mouth,
Arms out and up,
Catching sticky, humid air,
Asking for a way to feel
Which does not lead to heart, chest, body
Bursting, with
Joy, Grace, Relief (truly, relief),
JOY.

I have no pictures.
Only words, which reach to half
Of a moment which has happened
More than once.

Weeding

I. If telling yourself this represents that
Helps you for having a picture for your feeling
Go ahead and do so:
Take the aches and moans and spatter them onto the world
Until you understand them properly.
Afterward you’ll have a story to tell yourself,
Because you found some truth
Previously hidden away in the mess.

 

II. You’re here because you needed to move
Closer to the ground,
Like a person about to faint breaking the fall,
You stoop down and pull at the first weed you see,
Breaking its head but not the roots.
Go back, pull out the rest.
Toss everything aside.
Step one, check. Move on.

 

III. This isn’t your mother’s garden.
Somehow you got clay and cicada shells
While she has black topsoil and earthworms.
She worked hard for her garden,
And you know, somewhere,
That perhaps you’ll get there too, someday.

 

IV. There are so many weeds.
Two weeks ago, they burst out in little purple flowers.
You aren’t supposed to like weeds,
But the blooms charmed your heart
Which is so easily led astray by temporary things.
Now, the consequences:
A garden choked by leafy invaders.

 

V. You realize you’re doing of all this
For the sake of the peppermint plant
And the snapdragons.
You doubted the mint would return in the wake of winter’s havoc;
The snapdragons were supposed to die.
One year later and both of them have reappeared,
Persevering through dead leaves and dandelions–
Reminding you that what you plant may truly thrive,
And even things you believe will leave forever
Can return when you least expect them.

 

VI. If it helps to tell yourself that this flower is that thing in your life, do so.
Make weeds and flowers transform into stories.
This garden is your fairy land–
Slay all the dragons
And traipse down even the scary, spider-ridden paths.
But when you’re ready, and only then,
Go home to your warm bed and your comfortable pajamas,
Slide between the covers, and rest.

Happy Now?

I’ve written the first lines
Of a million and one poems,
With time only for beginnings,
Half-finished thoughts and undeveloped dreams.

I chase fresh starts,
Looking for Perfect,
For This Is IT.
Instead I find Good For Now.

But here, the sun is shining;
The trees are shivering into salient green buds,
And I think that’s good,
So I’ll pause, here, for now.

Staying Awake

I’ve always had sympathy for the apostles who fell asleep while Jesus was praying in Gethsemane. I have even more sympathy these days, when a Friday night finds me, more often than not, passed out on my couch by 8pm. I wonder if they could have stayed awake better if they’d known why they had to wait so long. Waiting always seems easier when you know why, so perhaps they could have kept their eyes open if they’d understood what was really going on in that garden.

We’re just around the corner from the start of Advent. Every year I give a little nerdy spiel to my students about how the word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “arriving”. I tell them about why that matters, and that we use this time of year to think about two arrivals of Christ: the one already happened, and the one not yet here. I tell them we live in a time between, and that Advent gives us the space to reflect on that in a special way.

The problem is, outside of the Advent season, I’m often just killing time while waiting for that not-yet-arrived Jesus to show his face again. I’m tapping my toes and checking my watch as if I’m at the DMV, wondering why, for the love of all that’s holy, I am still stuck here. Just like the apostles, I am bad at waiting, and too often I fall asleep when I most need to be alert. However, I think I could be better at waiting if I had a deeper sense of what was around the corner and a greater purpose in what I ought to be doing in the meantime to help keep my soul awake. It’s one of the reasons I treasure the Advent season as a time to refocus and reorient my habits of waiting. It allows for a more natural rhythm of peace and reflection that can so easily elude me during the other months of the year.

My friend Becky shares my love for this season, and this year we teamed up and wrote a prayer journal specifically for Advent.  Check out by clicking here.  It’s full of different verses and creative exercises to facilitate a time of quiet reflection. In a season so easily overtaken by a flurry of activity, we hope it’s something that can bring peace and direction as you wait in Already-Not-Yet.

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Thankful

For the usual things
Made more special for their expectedness:
Family
Friends
Food.

For things beautiful and strange:
Books with voices that strengthen my own;
An orange cat with winsome determination;
Crackling fires facilitating laughter and conversation.

And for things unusual:
Love beyond measure,
And grace that finds us
Even in the midst of our wanderings.

Illumination

I wanted to be angry
When you started work on the decayed hallways
Lined with dim outlines of emptiness.

Dust filtered down
And the foundations shook;
What a mess you’ve made.

But this is the grace of sight:
Not that I can see the cracks and breaks,
But that through them
I may glimpse the sun.

Still Learning

They didn’t teach me
How best to express an ache
For people I don’t know,
Or how to help heal a wound
That never closes.

They didn’t teach me
Five steps to fix an evil next door
And a continent away.

But they did teach me how to love
They taught me to stand up
They taught me to be compassionate
Even when I’m afraid.
They taught me grace, grace, grace.

They taught me that no one is perfect
They taught me to listen, carefully.
They taught me “I’m sorry”
And they taught me apologies paired with action.

They taught me to paint with all the colors
Because no one ever made art
Just staring at white paper.

They taught me “all men are created equal”
And Jesus loves me, so He must love you
Just as much.

They taught me so many things

But here I am, still learning.

Never Forget

It’s a sunny and perfect day again,
But this afternoon the airplanes
Remain on their straight paths across the sky.

I see a building with two colors of stone,
And a chronological sea of benches.

I thought never was a long time,
But then fifteen years
Still feels like yesterday.

 

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