Psalm 0

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***

i think trust must be

knowing

that someday i will be

standing

somewhere a

good ways off (a

good time hence),

and not

wishing

it was all different.

***

 

After XIV, 2005

***

And somehow I wonder how we

ever managed to live before we knew

adenosine and scapula and macrophage

and watched with curious invasions the

mitoses of a million unknown brethren and then

further – as in all things, all thrills, all deep hungers, never

satisfied with the joy already in front of us – as we began with

feverish indignation, with righteous entitlement, to uncode, unfold,

unravel the very letters and words of our

deepest identities -

                                 and yet somehow we

did live. We ate, breathed, slept, and made

love to our wives, who carried for us hundreds and thousands of

children, new lives always springing from old ones, joined to, joyed with

one another -

                        and all this without knowing

how it all worked, was it was all “called.” We did not need to “call” these things

at all. They came to us

unbidden

in the first place.

***

Is anyone still there? We shall see. Regardless, I am here. Even if I am the only one. Hope everyone is well.    – R.E.W. 

in the morning, immutable

***

the face peeks

just out from the shadow of

stiff brisk brick.

nineteen degrees.

the head – its squinting eyes, its

blistered lips, cracked from wind and

overuse, its gray jelly belly -

warmed by hints of day.

the rest, though, the

body, stands motionless in the shade.

blood still moves, but flows

floe cold. toes frigid,

rigid in iceberg shoes.

hands in empty pockets, holding

nothing, warming nothing but

themselves.

***

praying bernhard reimann was wrong

 

we’ll see how this goes. whimsy often betrays.

 

***

last night i was certain

that i wanted

some scorching black drink brewed

fresh and only for me

 

and when it was done and

all the grounds were coursed through and

all the oils and sacred secrets had been

sucked out i

poured it into a cup and

set it somewhere new, different,

seemingly benign

 

heat scores and

time wears and apparently

together they conspire to draw

rings in unsuspecting innocent wood

 

at last when

undeft fingers clumsily looped into

ceramic rings to

rescue planks of ancient trees it was

too late

 

and already carelessness had

spent its fortune on

making some mark that

no one but me would

ever see

 

i hoped, more

dearly than i hope that

euclid was right, and that five hundred

billion years hence no one

still

will have heard my name

 

***

it’s been a while. challenges are welcome. please, shout to the heavens the horrors of this poem. it will, in all honesty, be appreciated.

Reunions

***

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.  – Psalm 36 : 5

***

Not long ago i had the joy of attending a reunion of some of my friends from high school. Initially i had quite mixed feelings about the event. There were, of course, a few friends who i was very excited to see, knowing that our friendship from school remained (mostly) intact and untainted. Overwhelmingly though i felt a tremendous sense of dread about encountering many of the attendees; i had not left a good impression on many people while in school, and i could only begin to guess at how much this would still be a factor.

The evening was quite pleasant at first, comprised primarily of the standard exchange of updates. Conversation centered around jobs, children, living locations, and other sundry pieces of data about each person’s current situation. It wasn’t long, however, before talk naturally shifted to more nostalgic ground, and tales from our time together 15 years prior began to surface. This, of course, was the part of the evening i had been dreading all along.

i will spare you the details, because some of the stories i heard about myself are truly too embarrassing to pen, but suffice it to say that even i was shocked at the level of callousness, selfishness, and utter depravity that the character Rich Wilson exhibited in some of these stories. With no exaggeration, i can honestly say that i was such a pompous and disgusting ass in high school that i had forgotten some stories that most people would remember with cringing horror. In essence, i had done so many awful things to people that my memory could not contain them all.

Reflecting on this later in the evening, i found myself shaken to no small degree as a result of these encounters. This event revealed two things about my heart, things which i knew to be true but clearly needed to be reminded of. First, it still matters to me a great deal what people think of me, so much that i believe it is somewhat idolatrous. While it is true that i should be concerned with how i come across to other people, i should only have this concern in the context of my identity in Christ. My primary concern should be reflecting Christ’s love to the world, and not what opinion people may have of me. If anything, my self-image issues frequently get in the way of this reflection, and often i find myself less bold about the gospel than i ought to be for fear of seeming crazy or silly. Secondly, i have a tendency to dwell on the mistakes of my past, so much so that sometimes this becomes my identity. My mistakes and inadequacies also have relevance only in the context of the gospel: they display, if i allow them to, how deep is the Father’s love and how powerful is His redemptive might. If He can love even me, He can surely love anyone.

Somewhere between the abject blind selfishness i showed in high school and the co-dependency i exhibit in current relationships lies the proper place for my heart. This place creates a man who is aware of his failures and yet not afraid to show them because in them Christ’s ultimate grace is displayed. This place creates a man who is concerned with how others see Christ, not himself. In this place, my image is of no consequence; in this place, i am not afraid in the least of looking like a fool so long as it is done for the sake of loving God and loving others well.

Outside of this place, there is only worry, guilt, shame, and dark, weary stories from the past. i do not want to forget these stories entirely, because they remind me of who i was, and they remind me of who i would be without Christ. At the same time, i need not fear these stories nor run from them any longer. i may concern myself with how others feel about them for the sake of healing and amends, but i myself can be free to feel nothing about them. That man, praise God, has been and is being put to death each day.

Ultimately, the only opinion of me that matters is God’s. It would be great if these people learned to love me, but if they do not, God has chosen to, and that is not only enough, it is everything. i would be lying if i said i understood it, and even to say such is humbling beyond words, but for purposes of His own He has chosen to see in me His child. i pray that i will learn to see myself in the same light.

***

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.  – Lamentations 3 : 22

What i learned while i was away

***

Wondering if i still have the knack for this. Or the stomach. I was so driven, so committed, so wonderfully enthralled such a short time ago, but so much has changed since then. Other things have just seemed to loom larger. i am a little embarrassed at this point that i made such a big deal out of the importance of writing in my life, although i am not sure if this is because i was right or not about that importance. Either way, makes me look kind of foolish. Either it is not important, and i allowed it to take over, in which case i am obsessive and fickle, or it is important and i haven’t done it in months, in which case i am simply lazy and sluggish. Either way there is a weakness involved; i am like a building in constant danger of collapse. This isn’t the result of wear or age as in the case of some buildings, though there has been plenty of use, but rather the result of neglect. i have forgotten to install certain mandatory frameworks that contribute to structural integrity. i have skipped over essential elements of the building code to save time and effort. (Something like that. My sense of metaphor atrophies.)

Recent events have actually highlighted this in my life somewhat strongly, and through the process i have actually learned a little bit about weakness. Some time ago i learned that self-deprecation and arrogance were not opposites as they may be defined, but were in principle two sides of the same egoist coin. They were, at root, exactly the same sin: the sin of overt self-focus. Whether that focus manifests itself as depression or haughtiness depends largely on whether or not the person has had good fortune. The sin itself remains the same.

Frailty, i have learned, is much the same. It may seem to be the opposite of over-reliance on one’s own strength, but in reality the lie at its heart is identical. Those who rely merely on their own strength are clearly not in recognition that it is the Lord who gives them strength. They are obviously not acknowledging that there will be times when human strength is insufficient, and that all strength ultimately comes from the Lord. It is no different for those who, by believing they are weak and frail, commit to idleness or inaction. They too believe the same lie: that the Lord does not provide all strength.

There have been many changes in my life in the past few months, some of which i may delve into at some point, but all of which have been both a difficulty and a blessing. These have tested my resolve lately, and i have been found wanting. i have fallen into the trap, the old familiar trap, of believing that i am incapable; that i am not adequate to the task, whatever the task may be. Most often, that task was loving my wife well. It is easy when i am tired and stressed to believe that i do not have the strength to have patience with her or to be kind. And this may be true. But this is not an end result, merely a jumping-off point. There is actually value in recognizing my weakness, so long as it leads me to the cross, where i may be replenished. If instead, as it has lately, it leads me to self-pity or to the hollow comforts of ineptitude, then all value in it is lost.

Looking back on this post, i realize that what is missing is the anecdotal element of a good blog, and that there are no specifics herein. i also can recognize that the form is a bit sloppy and undefined. Don’t worry, i’ll get there. It will just take a little time to get my chops back. But this, too, is part of strength: committing to be just a bit better next time.

***

fifty-one

bth_iphone-Scary-Shadow

***

i am not he

any longer

 

and yet my shadow is

as angular, black as

his was, my voice as

scratched and rasped as

his was, my words

carelessly swung

swords as were

his words, my deeds

like plowing barren fields, like

breaking rocks into

dust, sad and pointless and

empty:

 

so too were

his filthy sick

 

hands.

 

his folly is my

sadness, his failing becomes my

habit, his silliness my frivolity; his

each new birth means

my death

 

and he is born

anew

 

daily.

 

(but so too

am i;

 

his is merely of

air,

dust,

 

wind;

 

mine of

water, of

fire, of

 

spirit, unnameable un-

tameable, un-

quenchable.)

 

 

(amen)

***