I Am God’s Poetry


It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
~ Ephesians 2.8-10

(original photo taken by, and edited with permission of, Elizabeth Jane Schrott)

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Because We’re Not Good: “East of Eden”, a Book Review


We all have those pieces of art–be they movies, books, music, what have you–that upon first exposure we fall in love. We turn the last page or walk out of the theater or concert hall certain that this will surely be added to our list of favorites and long-held companions. Yet, how many times do we say this and a year or two down the road someone mentions that very piece of art and we find ourselves thinking, “oh yeah, I did read that, didn’t I?” or “I had forgotten how much I loved that album!”

So often we get swept away in the immediate experience of something skipping upon the waters of our soul, leaving little ripples and echoes dancing upon the surface. But these dimples and dapples merely play on the surface for a time, returning once more to their source, leaving the waters ultimately undisturbed in their wake–the liquid plane unbroken; the deepest depths untouched.

There are other times, however, that we encounter a piece of art–or rather, it encounters us–and we are changed. It transcends mere rankings of “favorites” and “Top 10s” and weaves itself into our fibers. We do not critique and assess it, so much as it sizes and weighs us. The surface is broken and we are plunged beneath, staring humanity’s unvarnished truths in the face. And in so doing, our own humanity is actually enlarged, a spaciousness expands in our souls and we feel more human, even as our foundations are shaken.

John Steinbeck’s 1952 magnum opus, East of Eden, is just this kind of piece of art. It’s the kind of book people say they will read “someday”, only to read it and wish “someday” had come a lot sooner. So if you haven’t read it. Do so. Start today.

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Sabbath [a Holy Saturday poem]


Rothko-Black-RedOn the 1st Day: God created Palm Trees and Donkeys
On the 2nd Day: He created Fig Trees and Temples
On the 3rd Day: He created Scribes and Pharisees
On the 4th Day: He created Silver and Kisses
On the 5th Day: He created Bread, Wine, and Gardens
On the 6th Day: He created a Tree, Nails, and Thorns

And on the 7th Day: God rested from His labor.

And there was evening
And there was mourning…

___________________________

[read my other Holy Day poetry here]
all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

The Elements [a Good Friday poem]


death-of-salesman-clothes-hangerWelcome, hello
Come in.

Take your shoes off
Set down your suitcase
And hang your jacket

Enjoy the fire; enjoy the tea
Rock in the chair, back and forth

That’s all you can do right now.
Rest.

Your items will still be there when it’s done.

Your shoes–
the mud will be dry, they’ll feel like new
to aid you on your way

Your suitcase–
is not all that important, frankly
take it or leave it
it doesn’t do much

And your coat–
yes, it just hangs there, dripping from the storm
the rip in its side as apparent as ever

But it will dry out and stiffen once more.
Ready to clothe you and hold you;

To keep what’s within,
within.
To keep what’s without,
without.

To speed you home in health.

But for now

Let us wait.
Let us drink.
Let us rest.
Let us cry.

Let us feel the searing heat of flame lap our feet in the hearth below.

___________________________

[read my other Holy Day poetry here]
all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

Holy Week Music: Mozart’s “Requiem”


Klimt-Death-LifeOne of the primary ways I relate to the Church Calendar is through music (hence the free Mixtapes I put out each season). Even when I am terrible at engaging at an intellectual or even a practical devotional way, I am really intentional about filling my life with music that will still put my soul in the proper posture for the particular season.

For this Lent, I found myself spending significant time with Mozart’s Requiem, a “Mass for the Dead”. This was his last (and still mysterious) piece–unfinished before he died. Before Holy Week was over, and as we enter into the Holy Weekend, I wanted to offer this to as a way you might be able to engage in these last few days of Lent. Here is the audio, and below that you will find an English translation of the entire Mass. The words are achingly haunting and beautiful and deserve your perusal whether you have time for the music or not. Have a blessed Lent.

W. A. MOZART, REQUIEM
English Translation, from St. Matthew’s choir
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Palm Sunday: “The Emperor Has No Clothes” [POEM]


I feel far, Lord.
But I know you’re here.  I know it.
(Do I?)

(Can I?)

It’s the nature of the matter; a matter of nature, I suppose.
Perhaps only now I feel at the deepest existential depths:
“I believe! Help my unbelief!”

Or in a word: Hosanna

That cry.  That plea.

The certainty of uncertainty.
The pregnancy of a pause.
The pondering of a moment.

That moment.  The moment.  

The moment that dressed my doubt in assurance.
But that emperor has no clothes
(or so everything says).

So where does my assurance lie?
Where do my feet stand?

My body pelted with rain, snow, and hail;
I pray my heart rests beside a fire,
drinking tea,
rocking in a chair,
my shoulders draped in that most costly of quilts –
my Rest.

Clothe me–
with the coat I lay on your path–
for this emperor is naked

and needs his King.

[read my other Holy Day poetry here]
all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

Cool Hand Luke’s “Of Man”: a favorite album is now free (and perfect for Lent)


cool-hand-luke-of-man-coverIf you don’t care about the commentary, and just want the amazing music, you can get it at Noisetrade. If you’d like to listen to the album first, just press play:


Someone’s “favorites” are a weird thing to define.  They are prone to fickleness, are tied so closely with whatever else is subjectively happening in one’s life, and usually bear little resemblance to what that person would consider as the technically “best” of any particular thing. So when you have a “favorite” that sustains that title for years–decades, even–it’s a big deal.

Since high school my favorite band has been Cool Hand Luke. Back then they were a little hardcore screamo band. At that time, to get their CD, you had to mail a check to the lead singer’s house. As time when on, their style changed at the very same time and in the very same way as my own. It felt like we were growing together.

Around my senior year of high school, they came out with an album called Wake Up,  O SleeperAnyone who’s heard of CHL probably knows them from this stunningly powerful work of art. It quickly became the most influential and “favorite” album of mine. And it has been ever since.

Towards the end of college, I became pretty good friends with the lead singer. For a while, every few months, we’d talk for a couple of hours on the phone. He was discerning whether to go to seminary and what to do about the financial mess their shady manager had left the band in. I got to see his heart and the heart behind the beautiful music they made.

Eventually, he got married, I started seminary, and he decided it was time to end the band and begin seminary himself. But there was one last project he felt he had to do.

Of Man.

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Ash Wednesday Benediction [POEM]


ash-wednesday-faces-of-the-faithful-photos

The shape of the promise is death 
Say the word, feel the space, build the coffin in your mouth
Climb inside and make it yours

For it is

That tomb washed white, emerges in life, enslaves in death, watches the end

agape

Expiration exorcism, cast the spirit, cast it low;
Cast your eyes and feel the blow
Cast the lots

Carve the promise into your bones, your forehead

Let your face shine with Moses glory: that of the immortal God
–that suffering, dying, ashen glory-story

May your face shine with Ash
As you wear the world’s judgment embedded in your skin, in your body,
May you feel the world’s death in your face, may you hold it before your eyes

May the flame that licked the palm find its end in you.
Bear the flame the world shall never know, precisely so it never will

Take their judgment and rub it on our faces and cast it to proclaim

Lift up your eyes

Wear it loud

The shape of the promise is death

[read my other Holy Day poetry here]
all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

“Coffee Crucifix” (a sonnet for National Coffee Day)


Coffee Crucifix

Crescent ring under porcelain smooth
___stain the wood-stained finish.
______(It is finished.)
___Marked with muddy water;
___mark the merry day; to
___marry the murdered man.

Floral notes in blackened waves
___crash the shore of trembled lips.
Choral bright, in darkest night,
___wake the tone of trebled kiss.

Younger tastes left open-wide; older eyes made
satisfied.

Mark the wood: complex simplicity.
Pierce my heart: storied infinity.

[read my other Holy Week poetry here]

all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

Crying Over Spilt Rilke [Re-Blog]


Ran across this quote and post. They are both so good. I am all the more persuaded I need to open up the copy of Letters that I have sitting on my shelf right now. It gets cut off in the excerpt above, but here’s the whole Rilke quote:

You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

The Narratician

“You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I recently came across a used copy of Letters to a Young Poet, which I’ve been meaning to read for a long time now. As I was leafing through it in the book store, I noticed that there was…

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See the Official Guatemala Blogger’s Trip Photo Essay


lemonade-international-la-limonada-guatemala-logo

Though I love to take pictures, I didn’t take that many shots when I was in Guatemala with Lemonade International alongside the rest of the team of bloggers there. This was because we had a professional, dedicated photographer with us. I wrote about Scott Bennett and my thoughts on his work before the trip.

Each night as we writers sat down to blog, he’d show us the pictures he took for the day, and we’d fight over which ones we got to use in our posts. He took some amazing pictures, and shared many of the raw, untouched photos with us.

Well, now that he’s had time to dedicate more time and resources to focusing his creative eye on the pictures, he has now released his official photo documentary  from the trip, as part of the site Visual Peacemakers.

This photo essay beautifully captures the essence of our time and the people there as well as (if not better) than the words of us writers. I encourage you to spend some time with these pictures and let their weight and beauty affect you. Then, would you consider joining with Lemonade International in their continuing work in the La Limonada community of Guatemala?
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It’s Still Easter: a Theology of Color [photo sermon]


philly-tree-pink-spring

This week’s WordPress Photo theme is “Color“. Rather than simply writing about different pictures I’ve taken, I’m instead trying to write “photo sermons” based on these topics. In these posts, I want to try and use the photo itself as my “text”–trying to see how God reveals himself in his “other” book, in addition to the Bible.

In our last photo sermon, I talked about how I love that Easter comes around Spring time and so the natural world beautifully reflects the spiritual truth being celebrated. Also in line with this truth is the fact that Easter–just like Spring–is not just one day–it’s an entire season in the Church calendar.

It takes time for beauty and truth to get into and blossom within our souls. It takes preparation and anticipation for the roots of our hearts to quicken like the trees around us–to feel life coursing in them once more.

This is beautiful. And it doesn’t need to be this way.
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On Easter Sunday: “Oh Death” [a song]


[I wrote this after my grandfather died in 2010 after a long battle with throat cancer. It really affected me, and I wrote this to redeem this moment for him and me. You’ll find a recording of the song below. It’s simply a piece of cathartic lament in light of pain, and is not meant to be “high art”.]

I here your footsteps coming
The floorboards they scream
I pray to my Father
to wake from this dream

I’m tired, so tired
when will this end?
I’m tired, so tired
Your strength, won’t you lend?

Oh Death, here is your sting
Oh Death, I hear your voice ring
Through echoes and ages and days gone past

Oh Death, here is your sting

This breath, you can take it
This body, is yours
This voice you have stolen
My eyes are now dim.

Oh this sweetness you’ve taken
I taste life no more
This life, I release now
But this love you can’t have!

But I’ll rise….
But I’ll rise…

I’ll awake from this nightmare as daylight draws nigh
The tension of ages breaks before my eye

This breath I’ll take back. This life will be His.
That body, you can keep; I’ll get a new one from him

Like daybreak it’s new and as strong as fired steel
The demon like dew is gone, ’cause I am healed.

His vict’ry now better: of this conquest we’ll sing
Your vict’ry now bitter:you will taste it’s last sting.

Because…

Oh Death, you’ll taste your last sting
Oh Death, I’ll hear your voice scream
Through echoes and ages
and days gone past

Oh Death, here is your sting.

Oh Death….
taste it and weep,
for oh Death,
I no longer sleep.

Because, Oh Death,
I’m no longer thine;
And, Oh Death,

The vic’try’s now mine.

[read my other Holy Day poetry here]
all writings licensed: Creative Commons License

On Holy Saturday: “Tired” [a poem]


“Yes
it is time
to think about Christ
again.

I keep putting it off.”

Longing and lusting
Raging and seizing

Looking out the open window
wanting a woven sacrament to
touch me

Functional loss
A downward slope
___sloping
________sloping

Noting the works and words
with fingers cold
Touch the parchment
feel the ridge

Ancient enchantment enticing
___interlude

English bathtubs as angel arms
___a memory vivid
___tongue refreshed?
Imagine imaged imagination

Piercéd Christ
Pasted chest

Aroma fills:
pierce the pores!
Wash the brain!

Heal

_________not

soothe

[read my other Holy Day poetry here]
all writings licensed: Creative Commons License