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No substance behind your laughter
No light behind your eyes
I can’t quite reach to touch you.

So, didi, I tease
Trying to make you remember
What the future still could be.

Your heart got frozen, then shattered
And it hurts less to stay numb
But I pray that you heal instead.

God is good, I said
And he agreed
And I was just so glad
That this year instead of cancer
He’s filled with dreams.

So although sometimes I want to say
I wish the world was a better place
And that’s all I can think of,
Some days
These are the words I start and end on:
God is good.

Birthday

Psalm 27:4

We thought that we were wiser
We though we’d seen the world
We thought we knew the truth of things
Because we grew old and understood
More of the good and evil that wracks the world
Because we had seen the smoke and mirrors
And knew about fine print and twisted truths.

But we forgot what we had known
That You are great and You are good
That You save Your servants from the fire
Send flames that consume drenched offerings
Kill giants with unlikely stones
Bring walls tumbling down with us surprised
And bring life bursting out of death.

We thought that we were so mature
With our complex problems and respectable sins
We though we’d be accepted
Because we cast out demons and fed the poor
So we came proud and busy
Feeling self righteous for penciling You in
Like a necessary chore on our daily schedule.

But You said we should come like children
To enter Your kingdom knowing we’re poor
Wretched, naked, sick, and blind
Trusting in You and waiting on You
Unafraid because we know who You are
Calling You Abba, confident children
Desiring only to see Your face forever.

After a week of anti-gospel

You said if we kept Your glory silent,
The rocks would bear loud witness.
This week the world is screaming
Of how far we’ve fallen from glory
Look at the headlines
They leave us all reeling.

Race turned tragic by metal shot through air
Already that’s too much
It leaves so many questions
So many lives that will not be the same
Again ever.
And it all seems so senseless.

The ground shakes and shifts
In Yunnan, Oklahoma, Iran
Pictures of rubble and people bereft
We’re all just humans
Trying to stand and trying to walk
But even solid ground can betray.

Bombs go off in Iraq
And more people die.
Images of an explosion in Texas
Stories of babies massacred
Of rape and assault
All of our lives broken and twisted deep.

That’s not the end of this dizzy stream
Grudges and hatred thick enough to touch
China has neither forgotten nor forgiven
Atrocities carried out by Japan.
I’ve seen bitterness in students’ eyes
Although others want reconciliation.

When wars drag on too long
It’s hard to say what winning would be
There’s just the aching knowledge
That all the people are victims
And people beg for peace in Korea
But no one knows what will happen.

H7N9, H七N九
Germs in the air
Fear of what could be
We all wonder, wait.
When students are sick,
It’s hard not to worry.

Our hearts are all heavy
With pain of our own
And the earth crying out.
I’m eager for renewal
For a world without killing, corruption
Death, disease, disaster.

But then I think about them.
It’s already choking me to say
I won’t be back next year
And I have three months left!
I don’t know when this love grew
That welded my heart so suddenly.

I think of 300-something faces and names
Of all that I’ve heard of their stories
Of dining hall conversations
And questions in class
Messages on qq
And yesterday in my living room.

“They say China’s dangerous, with no belief.”
He told me, laughing, this friend of mine
His eyes are all honest and his smile’s wide open.
“Do I look dangerous to you?”
I couldn’t laugh, afraid that I’d cry
Afraid that my heart would split open and spill.

I’m not afraid of you, of course,
But I am so afraid for you.
The world is rushing to its end
And I don’t know how to wake you up
You are not yet prepared
For what will surely come.

So in the midst of all the darkness
All the terrible news crashing in
I am pleading for light to break in, undeniable
For good news to explode
To infect dead hearts with life
For all manner of things to be well.

Names

She took a pen and filled the page with words
All the names that she’d been called
They were ugly, the shape and the sound
And all the shame of the meaning
They were words with only one purpose:
To cut and destroy and kill.
They were names that meant only one thing:
You are worthless and will never be loved.

But before she was born, before the stars danced
Another pen recorded the names
In indelible ink, in a book without mistakes
Of the chosen and precious children of God
And they were the names that were truest of all:
The ones engraved on the palm of God’s hand
And they were the names that meant only one thing:
That God would ransom and love them forever.

The names you are called will always sink deep
Cutting or changing the paths of your life
Your past will follow wherever you go
And sometimes it’s hard to find freedom.
But the name He has written is the one you grow into
The one that will shape you forever
When everything else has burned or faded away
He will still call you by name.

Grief

You stand on the far side of a chasm
A grief that I cannot cross, cannot bridge
We’re sundered by space, by decisions we made
By the roll of the dice and our hearts’ own desires
Would you believe when I say that I ache for your pain?

I have no easy answers to offer you, dear
And Job wished that his friends had been silent
So I pray for your heart and your mind and your soul
My spirit will kneel to bless His name –
Our ineffable God who both gives and takes.

About Love

If the love is of this kind, that refuses to be used, is only content
When it is your ultimate end: can you be content?
You wanted some sort of a genie-in-a-bottle god, who’d
Come when you called and grant your deepest wishes.
I know. It’s a dream common to all of us who have
Walked around with stone and stony hearts.

But what when He refuses, when He crushes
The good things you longed for and takes them all away:
What then?
And I sit across from your unwavering eyes, from
The tears sliding down your face,
Listening to your broken words.

Homeless and despairing, that’s what you say
Sand blown in wind.
It’s all vanity and at death we turn back to dust
So why speak of love that goes on forever?

Sometimes you don’t need more arguments, reasons
But someone to hold onto your hand and intercede hard.