Leaving Egypt

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I want to stand
Moses-like
on the edge of the hour
and, raising my rod,
part                          time.

I want to see
tired thoughts,
burdened eyes,
heavy limbs,
tumble over themselves
and heart beats surf on holy swells.

I want to see
the impending rend
between keen moments,
morning roll back on mother-warmth,
evening break on fading breath.

I want to stand
Moses-like
on the edge of the hour,
and then

when I’m ready

when I’ve passed through

turn and watch Pharoah drown.

Baptizing Babies in the Birdbath

girls pencil ch matte

 

Baptizing Babies in the Birdbath

We were baptizing babies in the birdbath,
me and Beats,
plastic pouty babies
with hard dimpled bellies
and yes or no eyes.

I baptize thee, Betsy Ann Wetsy
(in my most Godly voice)
I baptize thee
in the name of the Father,
(pouring water over sculpted hair)
and of the Son,
(swishing clicky head in basin)
and of the Holy Ghost,
(pressuring bad bubble spirits out of
off-center hole in bum)

There.

Having fulfilled requirements
for all our grandparent’s denominations
I held Betsy by rigid foot
and rained blessings
on the sidewalk.

Um, said Beats.

Um.

You blasphemed.
You said Holy Ghost.
You committed the unpardonable sin.

Um.

My life for yours, Betsy.
You take that kind of risk sometimes
for babies you love
when you don’t know all the rules.

 

When I was a child it was easy to believe that God was angry with me for doing something I didn’t know was wrong. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I know that it was strong enough to leave me fearful that come the great judgment day I would be rejected for failing to keep all the rules and having unconfessed sin in my life (because I didn’t know it was a sin.)

This poem seems light-hearted, but it is about a real experience. I was about five-years old. Beatrix and I had just come from enduring another sermon we didn’t understand. (My grandson defines a sermon as “when people talk about God but don’t let you ask questions.”) All we picked up was that there was an “unpardonable sin.”

For years I didn’t have the heart to tell Mom and Dad that all their efforts to send me to Sunday School and Bible clubs and camps were in vain because I was already damned. It took a long time before I realized that Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. He absolutely loves children – and adults. He doesn’t set them up for failure. He didn’t come to condemn.

I needed to let go of the lie that God is angry and capricious and impossible to please before I could see his eyes of love for me. It wasn’t easy; I struggled to let go of the only security I had known – keeping rules and striving to be good enough. But setting out on a journey to search for the real God has been so worth it. He healed my heart, took away my fear, and created in me a place to hold on to his love.

I decided to post this poem today because I know there are others who, for whatever reason, have the same picture of God – and you are tired and depressed and ready to let go. You’ve tried about as hard as you can try. You’ve gone through rituals and attempts to meet man-made requirements but are still afraid it’s not good enough.

I met someone who was old and ill. He was busy “covering all the bases,” going through all sorts of religious rituals and donating to several denominations. I saw in him the same old familiar fear. What if I am too bad for God to accept me?

I told him all God required of him was to let Jesus do what he came to do – love him just as he was. He found it hard, but the last time I visited him he sang, with steady voice, an old Kris Kristofferson song.

Why me Lord what have I ever done
To deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known
Tell me, Lord, what did I ever do
That was worthy of you or the kindness you’ve shown

Lord help me, Jesus, I’ve wasted it so
Help me Jesus I know what I am
But now that I know that I’ve needed you so
Help me, Jesus, my soul’s in your hand.

I believe Jesus heard him.

Save

I hear you

IMG_4158 rain cloud at sunset

I decided to re-post a poem I wrote several years ago. The day I wrote it I was sitting outside writing a letter to God. I couldn’t quite talk to him yet, but I was daring to write down my feelings and mail them to the fireplace. My page was full of angry accusations. In places my pen tore right through the paper. While I was crying a sudden squall blew in. I was so utterly at the end of my rope I didn’t bother moving. It felt like the storm raging in me was now raging around me.

The sun broke through while it was still raining. When the shower stopped I picked up my strewn papers and my wet Bible. It fell open to Psalm 18 where David writes about God wrapping himself in storm clouds on his way to deliver justice to his child. “Wrapped and hidden in the thick-cloud darkness, his thunder-tabernacle surrounding him, he hid himself in mystery-darkness; the dense rain clouds were his garments. Suddenly the brilliance of his presence breaks through...” (The Passion translation) And verse 19 “His love broke open the way.”

I’m publishing this again because this week I’ve read several excellent blogs by people younger than I who ably describe their frustration with church experience that involved competition, consumerism, hypocrisy, political manipulation, performance-oriented faith with impossibly high standards, dogmatic theoretical faith without power, and lack of demonstrations of love.

Yes, I know the saying that you get out of church what you put in, but change means admitting there are things that are not working for everyone. Many people are happy where they are, but there are also a lot of hurting people out there who feel no one hears them. They are expressing their disappointment with their feet. To those young people who are walking away I want to say, I hear you.

I think the largest “mission field” in North America is among those who have known spiritual abuse, from mild coercion to dastardly deeds worthy of criminal charges. I define spiritual abuse as the act of exploiting a vulnerable person’s longing for connection with their Creator for the purposes of acquiring  personal power -usually by a person with some degree of authority or responsibility for nurturing them. It is far more prevalent than anyone wants to admit. Repentance means to change the way we think. And we do need to repent. All of us.

The first step toward healing involves admitting there is a problem. If you have been a victim, express your pain, but don’t park there. Keep searching for the God who loves you as you are. He is not disappointed in you because he understands human frailty. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to show you what he is really like. He never expected you to be good enough to earn his love. He is the One who heals our wounded hearts and showers our lives with loving kindness.

We are incapable of loving God until we know his love. When you know you are loved and forgiven you can afford to take your hands off the throats of those who owe you. That’s when the world will know we are Christians – by our love.

 

Mourning

I cry, Oh God! Oh Christ! Oh Jesus!

Where are you when the ones who say
they speak for you –those who squeeze us,
press in on every side, demand
that we respect authority,
obey their rules, come (cash in hand)
to hear their words, as only they
have got the regulations straight at last?
Where are you when the weak are hurt,
aggrieved and stumbled in your name?

Don’t you see what they have passed?

I sit entangled with the chords
of bitterness around my feet.
A plant blows over on the boards
that fence me off from outside world.
The petals scatter on the grass
and now the gust of wind that swirled
their frail wings in electric air
becomes a greater blast of rage
that showers ashes in my hair.

Flash tears the sky –breath rent apart,
and splits the veil of one who mourns,
with lightning striking to the heart.
Deep groaning rolls across the vale
from craggy peak to worn down ridge
and rains pours down –beats down in hail.

The sun withdraws beneath a cloud.
and saplings hang their weeping heads
as thunder rails against the proud,
who dare to claim the earth their own,
–and in the woods from hill to hill
creation echoes back the moan.

My tears obscure the sky from view.
Oh God! I cry. God! Where are you?

My child, I hear.  I weep with you.

(written during the struggle)

This Now Place

frosty forest creston ch 5x7 IMG_0446This Now Place

The fog wraps itself around me
like soft flannel encircling a child who twists to see.

Mystic air muffles the crying crow,
the howling wolf.

Damp cloud strokes my cheek
and covers my brow.

I catch a glimpse of mountainside
floating like a memory of the future in the sky.

Then silence.

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Beside secret stream,
as in a dream,
I walk on wood chips,
sainted cedars,
lives laid down
to cradle my steps.

The shoulders of giants hush my footfall.

DSC_0037 turquoise stream ch kootenay park

Between fervent moss clinging to rock
the fountain flows, in unexpected joy
between somewhere and somewhere,
beauty colouring only this place,

this now place,
this here place.

I settle my soul upon Your breast and breathe Your love.

The mountains stand
shoulder to shoulder
like guardian angels around the valley.

Whether I sleep or wake,
whether You hide Yourself
or gently wake me to see Your glory.
I trust You.

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The Teacher

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The Teacher

Teacher, tell us,

they say,

clutching rulers and texts

against their chests.

Teacher, tell us.

 

Sun-scorched hands loose fettered bands.

Stigmata stretch to gather hatchlings

squabbling over foreign coins and spousal deeds.

Sand-ground feet tread foot-ground trail,

Stone pillow nights await grey dawn cleft.

Weeping flute unravels dancer’s shroud.

 

Broken bread,

water jug wine,

a table spread valley-wide

for open-eyed children.

 

Offered flesh receives frightened flail,

Honest heart meets jealous scorn,

Molested shoulders bear run-away shame.

 

Love, he says, sweating anguish.

Love, he says, bleeding sorrow.

Love, he says, opening arms.

Love, he says, dying.

Love, he says, rising.

Love, he says, pleading.

 

Teacher, tell us,

they say,

tightening robes

against the winds of his breath.

 

Teacher, tell us,

Will this be on the exam?

 

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law. (Mark 1:22)

Crazie Glasse

IMG_0292 stained glass window knox

Lord, how can man preach thy eternall word?
He is a brittle crazie glasse:
Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford
This glorious and transcendent place,
To be a window, through thy grace.

(from The Windows by George Herbert (1593-1633)

It’s amazing that silicon (the dust of the earth)  ground, fired, broken, pounded, fired again, and fashioned into shapes which make no sense when seen in isolation, can become a message of beauty in a Master’s artist’s hands. But in the dark it cannot been seen.

It is the light that makes glass glorious.

Correction

strawflower blur

It’s hard to touch my eye without flinching.

It’s hard to open my suspicious eye

to receive the lens on finger inching

toward the center of the light that my

unyielding lid wants merely to protect.

I know without the help of lens to mend

I can, at best, perceive an imperfect,

blurred version of what You, my clear-eyed Friend,

can see without deform. I steel my nerve

against the fear of rumoured pain which all

my disappointment says that I deserve.

I want to shed the doubt that makes me stall.

 

Forgive me when I shut You out. I think,

in time, that when You touch me, I won’t blink.

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My child, do not ignore the instruction that comes from the Lord, or lose heart when He steps in to correct you;  For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He corrects each one He takes as His own.   (Hebrews 12:5 The Voice)