The End of the Retreat

The End of the Retreat

The stark silence of midday prayer is broken
By the rhythmic buzz of a fly
Incessantly beating his body
Against the tranquil stained glass
Behind the bent worshipers.
Having been wonderfully warmed by the silence and solitude,
He now begs to be released –
To try his wings once again on the rustling breeze
And to feel the bright heat of the noon sun.
Besides, he is expected to be home for dinner,
And someone hinted that ice cream is on the menu.

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Fall Nostalgia

Fall Nostalgia

A crisp is felt in the air
As evening settles in more easily and early,
Its darkness refusing more and more to flee with each new day.
Yet the falling of the leaves and the smell of their funeral pyres
Evoke, not bleakness, but warm nostalgia,
As now bare branches form a doorway into the past.

Memories of childhood and adolescence
Recall a now gilded time of hayrides and harvest festivals,
Of apple picking and apple cider,
Of pumpkin carving and pumpkin pie,
Of leaf piles raked, not to be bagged and dragged to the curb,
But to be leapt into and redistributed over the browning, damp grass.
Of football games with oft disputed scores
Played in backyards by young boys who soon shed their jackets
To run with flushed cheeks and visible breath through the agreed upon pylons.
Of football games where the score was of no concern
If the right person sat near you in the swarming bleachers.
Of football games that served as the background score to the gathering of family,
Punctuated by the smell of fresh coffee and the sight of endless desserts.

What bleakness there could be to the passing of warm days and long nights,
And to the slow death of the life seen in green leaves and the fruit of the earth.
Yet new life springs from the falling leaves,
As the crisp in the air draws us
Into our memories, into our homes, and into one another’s hearts.

The Trail of Knowing God

The Trail of Knowing God

There are beauties of God’s character seen at the trailhead.
The wildflowers bloom and the arch of the trees
Create a door in which we are welcomed to stand and stare at Him.
He is not hiding,
Nor does he turn from those who seek him.

Yet from that vantage point, step stones rise and round a bend,
Beckoning us to journey beyond the doorway –
To come in and know him better.
Simple signs tell of destinations often traveled to
And worth traveling to often,
And the slightest effort often parts the trees
Revealing quiet wonders
And thunderous revelations.

Yet there are still more breathtaking views
Down into the hollows of less trod paths,
Up knolls and hills and mountains,
That will take time to get to.
They must be fought for,
Legs burning, feet slipping, hands grasping,
Heart pounding, lungs gasping for breath
Only to have our breath taken away
By the wonders that the pain and perseverance have bought.

We can now walk the ridgelines of deeper intimacy,
Catching our breath long enough to sigh and smile,
Only to descend into a place unfamiliar.
A place where all we can do is keep walking, trusting that something is coming.
Trusting that the next bend will make all the slogging forward worth it.
And at that final bend, the last one we are willing to turn before giving up,
We will find an artisan well.
We will step in the waters of a beautiful brook as it slides across smooth slate.
We will wander and discover waterfalls of mercy we hadn’t even been looking for.
We will climb mountains of joy with joy,
Knowing the view from the top is worth all it costs.
We will be content to be a bit lost at times,
If only we might be surprised to sovereignly stumble upon
The fathomless depths of all our God is.

Hate and Love Intersect

Written in the wake of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas Shooting

There are people and purposes we would die to protect –
Moments when hatred and love intersect,
When affection and devotion choose to absorb all the spite,
And be killed by darkness so they can shine forth true light.

But when the ones meant to protect become the ones that are feared,
Sending more and more bodies to the funeral bier,
Then as hatred and love intersect, confusion ensues,
And rage overflows between the black and the blue,
While the haves and have-nots spout myopic worldviews
And everyone is cluelessly clear about what we should do.

Meanwhile, sons and fathers lie cold.
Wives have no husbands with whom to grow old.
Men in a moment seal their own fate
Of a life filled with questions that will never abate.
Society hemorrhages, responding with silence or screams,
As the fabric of a nation comes apart at the seams.
Fear rules the day, and zero trust is our curse,
While vigilante justice only makes matters worse.
And God – he’s been gunned down in the street
By the chaos and questions we lay at his feet.

Yet…
At the cross, all sin’s hatred and God’s great love intersect,
And his sinless Son, Jesus, becomes the guilty suspect.
Affection and devotion chose to absorb all the spite,
And be killed by the darkness to shine forth true light.
Justice is satisfied by the work Christ has done,
And only the love in his death can make us all one.
Hatred and love intersect in Christ’s pain,
And the blood of his wounds will erase all the stains
Of the blood on our pavement and on all our hands
When this world is transformed into God’s peace-filled land.

As children of this king, let us run towards the hurt,
And stare into its face when our eyes want to avert.
Let us seek out justice and with love bind up wounds,
Hoping the longed for day will come soon
When perfect peace and pure justice finally reign
In the kingdom of the spotless Lamb who was slain
To purchase from every nation his multicultural bride
That his indiscriminate love might be forever glorified.

Darkness in the Garden of Prayer

The sound of footsteps broke the silence of prayer
As cowards came in the night to snuff out the Light of truth.

The betrayer drew near with a deceptive kiss,
Mercifully stopped by a question from Christ:
“With a kiss, Judas, you would betray me?”

Panic stricken, the disciples grasped the hilts of swords,
Striking in a futile attempt to push against
the will of the Father,
that Jesus had just submitted to,
and the power of darkness,
that was being allowed to reign.

Blood was spilt as a blade struck the ear of one of his arresters,
But a touch of grace,
from the one who had the authority to give life and healing
and who was now willfully submitting himself
to the hands of those who would take his life,
brought healing in the blackness of the garden of prayer.

Psalm Three

Numberless are my enemies, rising up in opposition,
Saying that in you my soul has no hope of salvation.
But, Lord, like a shield you surround me completely,
Lifting my head in triumph – God, you are my glory!
I sleep peacefully at night and rise with each new day,
Because you sustain me, though I am surrounded like prey.
But I will not fear, though there are thousands who try
To come against me; instead I will cry,
Arise, O Lord! My God, save me now!
Strike the face of all those who refuse to bow.
Break the teeth of the wicked – remove all their bite.
Send our enemies running in a most shameful flight.
Lord, none other can save – salvation is yours!
Oh, bless all your people from your infinite stores!

Psalm Two

The nations rage and the people plot.
Kings revolt and rulers conspire.

The Lord laughs from heaven.
He speaks out of his fury:
“The King is firmly enthroned in Zion.”
He declares with authority:
“You are my Son;
All nations and lands are yours for the taking.
They are yours to break like pottery.”

Nations and peoples, supposed kings and rulers:
Receive this warning and don’t be fools!
Serve the Lord in reverence,
And shake before His Son with joy.
Bow before Him! Kiss him in homage,
Before the fuse of his wrath is lit
And you are destroyed before him!
The blessed ones are those who find refuge in him,
Rather than revolting against his rightful rule.