Sunday, November 29, 2015


A shock in the dark—
Running along wire,
Along rivers
and spires,
Down city streets
in taillights, headlights,
Reflected in
of passers-by
Who turn and shine
on the world at large;
the world is large,
and dark,
in need of
Splaying out from
a single Star,
a single
A river of bright
running along edges
of hearts, and
reflected in
gazing on
men afire
with the light

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cleansing Fire

 What if prayer is a furnace? 
    When we confess, every sin and every evil thing 
       is burnt away into ashes. 

          But every prayer in line with Life and Love
            —stemming from God's Spirit—
                 is refined like gold and silver. 

                   What if that? 

                       And lest we forget, 
                         even ashes are used in making soap...


Dedicated to Sarah, Kasey, and Marit

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dark Nights

Serpentine sorrows weave their way through my thoughts tonight. It has been one of those days where things go well, but one person after another lets a little bit of ache show through. I see the hurt, yet the trying to be vulnerable so the heart won't harden. I see broken bodies and broken hearts. Sick bodies and sick souls. I see carnage and horror in the streets of Paris. The pain piles high; the daily struggles of how to move forward after the death of a loved one, the death of a relationship, the death of a dream. 

These are not my sorrows, they live in the lungs and limbs and sore hearts of others. But those 'others' are my people. My friends, my family...My neighbours across the globe. What do we do when the Fall is crushing us? Not in one splat, but slowly pressing down on us, like a heavy stone, like the steadily rising tide, like oppressive darkness... Then what?

Under the pressure of the Fall, I am reminded of the relief of the Incarnation. Sometimes I have wondered why God created mankind if He knew that sin and death would enter the good world He had made. That is because I am inside the story, too close to the events to understand the Author's intent in each minute portion of the story.

 O me! for why is all around us here
  As if some lesser god had made the world,
  But had not force to shape it as he would,
  Till the High God behold it from beyond,
  And enter it, and make it beautiful?
  Or else as if the world were wholly fair,
  But that these eyes of men are dense and dim,
  And have not power to see it as it is:
  Perchance, because we see not to the close;—1

As Tennyson points out, we do not know the close—but God Himself sees the end from the beginning. He knew Eve would succumb to temptation and that Adam would fail to stop her. God knew the price He Himself would have to pay to right the world from the chaos of the Fall. He knew that He would love us and we would spit in His face. That He would forgive us, and we would run into the arms of other gods again and again. He knew He would be vulnerable with us and that we would use His own love and mercy against Him. He knew these things, too, when He created mankind—and He went ahead and made us and loved us and died for us anyway.

The Curse may crush, sin may seek to squeeze the Life out of us, darkness may seem like it is draining the Light out of the world... But the Curse, the darkness, does not know the ending. Life will win. Light will oust darkness forever.
So when the perishable is lost in the imperishable, the mortal lost in the immortal, this saying will come true: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ ‘O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ It is sin which gives death its power, and it is the Law which gives sin its strength. All thanks to God, then, who gives us the victory over these things through our Lord Jesus Christ!2
Somehow, God makes the ending better than the beginning, even when dissonance is introduced in His symphony. He weaves it into His strong melody and brings resolution and redemption.

Blesséd, blesséd, blesséd be He!


1. Lord Tennyson, Alfred "The Passing of King Arthur" Idylls of the King (Public Domain)

2. I Corinthians 15.54-57 (PHILLIPS)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

To Be Fully Known

And I don't want the world to see me...
...I just want you to know who I am1

Omaha, Nebraska. That paragon of culture is precisely where I spent a long weekend with friends. Now, I know that many of you will think of steak, cornfields, and farmers when you hear the word Nebraska, but there is quite a lot to that Plains State aside from plains. The highlights of my weekend were all cultural experiences: from the Joslyn Art Museum, a symphony, and a gourmet dinner, to a tea emporium, exploring the grounds of a mansion, and spending time in prayer at a beautiful Catholic edifice.

Though we spent less than an hour at the Joslyn Art Museum, it was meditative time well invested. Upon exiting the European art section, there was a small room containing a Monet painting and a small bronze statue of Auguste Rodin's Eve. Unlike many portrayals I have seen of Lady Eve, this one was not sensual nor was it sanitised. There she was, naked, with no hand covering her sexuality, no long hair hanging down to hide her womanhood; she hid only her face. Though she was bronze she was not brazen—contorted in remorse and agony for the curse she had unleashed upon mankind. When I gazed upon this mortified Eve, I saw fear and sorrow. I saw vulnerability. I saw humanity in the wake of the Fall. I saw the hope of repentance. I saw myself.

How can human hands take cold metal, making it live in ripples, effulgence, and emotion? How could the artist cast one woman who would resonate with so many of the women who gazed upon her abject form? Yet somehow, in broad strokes, Rodin made just such a woman. Eve in all her remorse and repentance was a woman—she was human. From this bitter moment of knowing sin, a veil was placed between God and man. 

From this time forth, humans began to hide—and we choose to hide behind much more than fig leaves and excuses. We hide behind our accomplishments or our identity, behind our careers, cars, or kids. We hide behind walls that we have built, brick by brick, barb by barb. We hide behind our intellect and our to-do lists, behind styles and having it all together, behind addictions and amusements—we hide because we are afraid. We are afraid that we aren't smart enough, handsome enough, or successful enough. We are afraid to let anyone see our mess, our turmoil, our uncertainties, our weaknesses and inabilities. And when our first emotion isn't fear, it is fear hidden under the guise of pride. We pride ourselves on our achievements or our brutal honesty or some other thing, in order to prove that we are enough, we are strong, we are worthy of love and acceptance, or at least of respect and awe.

What if we were like Eve, not hiding our humanity—for it is our glory, our being what we were made to be. What if we did not try even to turn our eyes away from our Maker in agony and ignominy? What if we recalled Isaiah's words, that our Maker is our Husband and that the Holy One is also our Redeemer (Isaiah 54:3)? What if He turned our faces toward Himself, sought our eyes with His, and called us His belovéd? There is no "what if?" about that—He does exactly that. From the very first He has pursued us. 

Beginning with Adam and Eve, in the cool of the evening the Lord sought them, He called out to them "where are you?" (Genesis 3:9). Adam answers the way I so often do, "...I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." (Genesis 3:10) "...I was afraid, because I was naked..." I was afraid to come to You, Lord, because You would see through my accolades, accomplishments, and intellect. I felt vulnerable and raw, so I didn't want to come before You. I have sinned and I couldn't wash it off. I want to fix myself before I come to You. Slowly, slowly I am learning that this is when He cups His hand under my chin and searches out my eyes. The searing Love in His own eyes burns away my impurities, illumines my darkness, heals my brokenness, makes me worthy. It isn't that there is no consequence for sin, there is. Yet it remains that the payment was made by the injured party. The One who covenanted with us is the One who paid the redemption price when we broke the covenant. The Holy One is our Redeemer.

Like Eve, I forget the kindness of God that leads to repentance and I can think only of His Holiness. I forget that His wrath is directed toward my sin, not my self, so I hide. I try to be fit enough, smart enough, encouraging enough, anything-else-enough-to-atone-for-myself—except being vulnerable enough, honest enough, and humble enough to come before Him. 

The irony in all my fears, in all my brokenness, is that I deeply want to be known—to have someone know me as I am and not walk away. Those great theologians, 
the Goo Goo Dolls, put it this way: And I don't want the world to see me/'Cause I don't think that they'd understand/When everything's made to be broken/I just want you to know who I am1. They understand the ache of every human being, the desire to be known—but also the fear of being known. We don't want the whole world to see us as we are, just the one person who will know us for ourselves and not run away. It is a scary thing to be vulnerable with another person. What if they betray you? What if they reject you? What if they take what they know about you and use it against you? That is the risk of love. A risk we fear and long to take, all rolled together.

Love is the risk God chose to take on mankind. He chose to create Adam and Eve, though He knew the Fall would happen. He chose to love them, even though He knew they would choose not to trust Him and would break the world He entrusted to them. He chooses to love us, even though we put up walls or try to win approval rather than receiving His gifts of love, reconciliation, and redemption. He chooses to love us, even though we often snatch gifts from His hand, yet run away from Him when we don't get our way. And even when we nail Him to a cross with our manifold sins, piercing Him to His very heart, He still loves us.

Perhaps I see less of myself in Eve after all—at least she stood before her maker in all her nakedness and sorrow. I run from my Maker in those moments, or try to cover myself with the flimsy fig leaves of my accomplishments and intellect. I ache to be known, yet I fear it. I want to be naked and unashamed before my Maker rather than clothing myself in my own attempts at being "enough".

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve," said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.2

O my Maker-Husband, let me be content in Your Love. Let me be vulnerable enough to come before You. Make me able to know that You are enough and that You make me worthy.


1. The Goo Goo Dolls, Iris (Written by John Rzeznik, Warner Bros. 1998)

2. Lewis, C. S., Prince Caspian (Scholastic Inc., New York, 1987) 211-212

All Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Refusing to be 'Singled' Out

How Should the Church Treat Singles?

“Another one bites the dust” is the relationship theme song I resonate with lately. I can barely go a month without one of my friends telling me they are dating or engaged. I have been in—or behind the scenes of—quite a few weddings in the last year or two. This is not the first round of this life-season for me. It happened a couple of years after high school, again after my higher education terms, and now that many friends are approaching their late twenties and thirties. There have been quite a few seasons of babies among my friends, too. It is a constant ebb and flow.

None of this is surprising—it is the rhythm of life. It feels new and exciting and surreal when it happens to you or your closest friends, but it sounds pretty normal to everyone else. What might sound abnormal to some is that I am pleased for my friends, but I don’t want to be in their shoes. Oh, I have twinges of unfulfilled hopes when I watch the father-daughter dance at weddings. I am human, I want someone to go through life with—to care about and to be vulnerable with. Sappy songs make me sad every now and then. Sometimes I feel at loose ends, like I should have someone to share something with, but they aren’t there. The longing to be loved is natural, put in our hearts by Divine Love himself.

More often than not, however, I am thankful to be single. Singleness is not synonymous with loneliness. This truth often seems to evade people—especially church people. They ask some strange questions at times, and snarky me replies in my head (well-taught-me answers with much more tact). The one I hear most often rings hollow to me, “About the time I became content with my singleness, I met my spouse.” Strange, I think to myself, I’ve been contentedly, cheerfully, single for many years and ‘Poof!’ I have no husband. Thanks for sharing without caring to enquire whether or not I enjoy being single. Every now and then someone will tell me (none-too-subtly) they would like me to meet their son, though no one has ever followed through on helping such a meeting to take place. Now, I’m not opposed to getting married, it simply isn’t my calling at this point—I am quite satisfied with all that I have and am called to right now.

Words upon words have been written about relationships—both the dating kind and all others (as if those are the only two categories there are). I have heard plenty of married people tell me they wished they had enjoyed their single years while they had them. Many a single friend has told me of their ache to be married. That pain is real, I understand. Usually, I choose not to add my voice to those conversations, as they have been had many times already by people who are wiser than I am.

Rather, I choose to opine about feeling like someone who grew a third head on the spot, or like the Invisible Man at various church gatherings. How should the church treat singles? For starters, it would help not to be pitied or unseen. Singleness isn’t a disease. It would also be great if people wouldn’t ask all those frustrating questions—”Have you tried online dating?”—as if I were dying to get married, or am unaware of how to meet people of the opposite sex. If you are so concerned, invite a few unmarried men and women over for dinner so they can spend time together comfortably. It would be a relief not to be “singled” out—either made an outcast or lumped into groups of other single people. What I am trying to say is that it would be helpful if singles were treated simply as human beings, not as ‘singles’. We are persons, not slices of Kraft cheese.

Churches that don’t have a singles’ group receive my mental applause. The ones that have small groups of mixed ages are hailed with gratitude. How will I ever learn what marriage is if I don’t see it lived out in front of me (in others besides my parents)? Peer groups often feel like the blind leading the blind. I need folks who are older and wiser than I am speaking into my life, telling me their stories, sharing their wisdom and what God is teaching them through Scripture. I have friends in their forties, fifties, and sixties with whom I love spending a long evening—to hear and to share about life and Godliness. I probably need more of these friends. These are the friends who share their homes, their meals, their thoughts on literature and society—the friends who open the Word of God to me.

We are all human beings first. Yes, we are male or female. Married or unmarried. Old or young. Gifted in this or gifted in that. Dichotomies aside, however, we are all in need of Love, of Beauty, of being made Holy as God is Holy. We all need Truth to anchor our lives. We need our family and friends. We need to give and to receive—graciously, humbly. We need stillness and the sounds of life. We need time alone and time in fellowship. We all need Jesus.

Why focus on the things that divide us? Perhaps that is the reason I don’t like being labelled “single”—or “female” or “white” or whatever other label people try to stick on each other. It is not an us-against-them sort of life. Life that truly is life is lived together—and that is much harder than separating off into our little factions or comfortable autonomy, isn’t it?