the kingdom of heaven

and the violent take it by force
because they utterly trample the bounds of propriety
and will not take No for an answer
in the face of daunting, overwhelming odds
they lack the good sense to give up and give in
graciously
cutting their losses
leaving us comfortable with the status quo
they refuse to live with the words que sera, sera
instead waging messy protests
crying out that This is NOT how it should be
the grit and steel that backs the worn petition
Your kingdom come

and the violent take it by force
because they are the ones crazy enough
to stay up all night wrestling with the angel
with God Himself
what kind of audacity does it take
to interrupt the King for a glass of water?
that of a child.
a child who knows they are seen and beloved
who holds fast to the truth that
God is always, only, ever good
in darkness. in death. in devastation.

Ashes

[for Merry]

The season of deafening silence began in this way:

(For each of the decades of silence, a single day)
She pressed her ash-smudged forehead against my lips
Leaning in for a kiss
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Hlasta! Quetis Ilfirimain…

But our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost;
We are cut off utterly.
We cannot hope to turn again,
Or, indeed, to turn at all;
Dum spiro spero‘s sad corollary counterweight.

And if we have hoped in Christ in this life only,
We are of all men the most to be pitied.
But in fact, the Word intrudes:
“You shall know that I am Yahweh
I will open your graves
And put my Spirit within you
And you shall live.

From one degree of glory to another:
May my ash-smeared lips proclaim such truth
In unsilenced joy into ages everlasting.

~~~~

Hlasta! Quetis Ilfirimain is the final line of the first song in the Fellowship of the Ring, Quenya for “Listen! It speaks to those who were not born to die.”

Dum spiro spero is Latin for “While I breathe, I hope.”

Other references: T. S. Eliot’s Ash Wednesday, Ezekiel 37, 1 Corinthians 13, 2 Corinthians 3.

And One More, for Nick

Oh yes, I am angry
All these months later, the entire summer in between.
He didn’t even know you!
And it seems an insult to say that I could have done better.
But really.
I think I could have, little as I knew —
Little as I had known you.

The way you left has left a hole.
The edges are less jagged, worn a little smoother
But they still catch.
The first time I made baguettes —
When your friend needed a place to stay —
When they brought food over for us —
Those of us who knew you look at each other
And smile and swallow tears.

He should have said that your heart
Was as big as the widest sky;
That the way you laughed and loved
Was nothing short of incredible;
That you were humble and gentle
And practical and kind;
And that you had a laugh to span the stars
Dreams to bridge great chasms.

I know that it doesn’t matter to you, not now,
But the truth of these words have stuck in my heart:
“Say what you like about melodrama,
it beats confusion.
The truth is we ought [to] have a chance to say a little something when it’s getting dark.
We ought to have a closing scene.”

[Quote from Leif Enger’s So Brave, Young, and Handsome]

John’s Motif

day one:
words were spoken into the void
–let there be light–
and there was; immediate and incomprehensible
existing in obedience to the Infinite

and then came the Fall
with all of the rhythms disharmonized
–men loved darkness rather than light–
and there were thousands of years of death
the unbridgeable chasm wider every day

but.
the first day came again
words exploded into the gloom
–and the darkness has not overcome–
and He rose; unashamed and undefeated
complete victor over sin and death
post tenebras lux!

at the start of a journey

Listen to the unseen singer
And the river of wind in the trees
Let go of the toys of your hollow dreams
And step into the uncharted frontier

Follow the song and not your own heart
For it leads you down dark fragrant paths
And nothing but death is the prize at its end
And I have prayed better for you, dearest friend

You will be hungry and thirsty
Confused and depressed
These woods grow wild, cold and dark
The only right path winds unfathomed ways

Hear the song of the Weaver as He skillfully works
And the threads obey the sound of His voice

Prayers for Jacob

It must have been six years ago
Those sneakers wouldn’t fit you now
But the words in my heart haven’t changed
For this child I prayed
And you’re no child anymore
But I still pray to see the rest fulfilled:
And the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him!

I’m not ashamed to call you my brother
We share a name, you know
If I could write your life out with my words,
These are some I’d choose:
As long as you live, you are lent to the Lord!
Or these:
Now thus says the Lord, He who created you, Jacob:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are Mine.”

I pray that you may know this overwhelming love
That would ransom you at such a high cost —
Nations in exchange for your life, Jacob,
Himself to redeem your soul.

A year ago, I looked at your words
And felt hope grow in my heart
Because what you wrote was full of Jesus
I wondered Where does this come from?
I could have cried, I was that happy
Why did I ever doubt?
Don’t I have memories of your sister —
Sunshine hair and sky blue eyes
hand in mine —
As living, breathing answered prayer?

The world is full of snares and traps
So I won’t lie; I’ve been afraid
But again I see your words
Speaking of what you’re bound to:
Christ-follower. He has a plan for all of our lives.
And I feel tears in my eyes again.
For you, child, I still pray —
These six years and all your life to come.
I pray you may wrestle and cling for dear life
Saying I will not let You go unless You bless me!
So that you may hear Him respond in the end:
You have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.