Beautiful

Early afternoon, the sun beats down.
It’s uncomfortably warm and the lack of breeze is stifling.
A man sits just outside the gate, drenched in a pool of his own sweat.
Withered and worn, not many pay him attention, let alone any coin.
He’s not easy to look at; gnarled and mangy.
The sun, nor time, has been kind to this cripple.
He sits, ashamed, eyes never leaving the ground.
He’s felt alone his entire life, despite being surrounded by people.
The crowd is not his friend.
Energy doesn’t accompany him either.
All he can afford to exert is to raise a cupped hand to passersby.
But it returns to him as it leaves: empty.

“Look at us!” he hears.
Words he’s never heard before.
Blankly he stares up, two men standing above him.
He expects perhaps to have a real meal tonight.
But what he’ll get tastes much, much sweeter.
“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you.”
His eyes wrinkle in puzzled expectancy.
One man’s hand extends down to him.
“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
The words are firm and powerful.
Their hands clasp together.
The beggar rises.

His feet and ankles grow strong.
Muscles he’s never used are suddenly strengthened.
After a lifetime of sitting, lying, and being carried, he walks.
Not only does he walk, but he runs.
Not only does he run, but he jumps.
Never before in his life!
Joy is too small a word.
Elation is an understatement.
He can’t contain his delight, or his gratitude.
Words of praise flow like a fountain.
Wonder and amazement abound.
For the first time in his life, gazes are cast in his direction for reasons other than disgust.

The cripple exclaims in awe.
The beggar exalts the high heavens.
The cripple is finally healed.
The beggar is simply beautiful.
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Liberation by Surrender

I always fought so recklessly for my own freedom.

Thrashing and gnashing, yet I only became more restricted.

Chains were there but I didn’t give them notice.

Instead I looked outward, away, and afar.

I paid no heed to the tugs on my soul,

And I ignored the slow warning song of my heartstrings.

Consumed and carried away I continued,

Exercising unearned privileges and wasting the true cherishables.

Unfortunately, I cared more for the perishables.

I poured my life and my lungs into exhausting heaves and sighs.

I was left breathless.

But somehow the numbness masked the pain.

The surface betrayed the depth of my actions.

I was conceived, by none other than myself.

And soon I began to feel the shackles chaffing my flesh.

They began to dig in, to fester, to tighten.

So I writhed and I rampaged.

I abandoned teachings and proverbs.

I cast down wisdom as foolery.

I was digging quickly my own grave.

But then I realized that the more I fought, the more I was caught.

By divine intervention, I came to.

I laid down the spade, the sword, and the fight.

Never before had I considered surrender.

Never before had I viewed the white flag as a symbol of strength.

I began to see that humility trumps pride, any day of the week.

On my knees, I felt the dirt in my fingers.

I felt the truth that I had been stomping on for so long.

The grains of dust felt comforting in my hands.

I marveled at the view from the floor.

Before, I saw it as a place of weakness.

Before, it seemed a place shame.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

From the ground you see truth.

You recognize your own smallness.

You appreciate the blessings once taken for granted.

You see people for who they are, beneath the exterior.

You learn of patience, humility, and love.

You become a washer of feet.

O the strength!

O the humility!

O the joy!

I find that my heart has begun healing.

My soul has begun to sing.

I feel my spirit lift, as sails in the wind.

The seed of righteousness breaks through the surface.

My grief and my sorrow are released.

Fears have set sail, never to return again.

Pains are gone.

Stains are gone.

Wholeness has come.

And peace has come.

I am liberated by grace, and by love.

“The chains are gone, I’ve been set free.

My God, my Savior has ransomed me!”

O the grace.

O the love.

What power and glory come from sacrifice!

What strength and humility come from surrender!

I am finally free,

I am finally free.

God’s Candles

Steep on the hillside I stagger alone,
Groping for footholds where the sun once shone.
Traces of light still betray my eyes
Beneath the ever darkening skies.
My mind recalls a nearby ledge
But grip slips off the crag instead.
Over the cliff I fear I’ll tumble
One of these times that I clumsily stumble.

Then, at once, I catch glimpse of light,
But it recedes too quickly back into the night.
I know in the darkness some hope exists;
It’s not just evil that indwells the abyss.
There’s hope and life pointed out by belief,
The opposite way from pity and grief.
Then off in the distance it glimmers again
And that hope continues to blossom within.

With all of my heart I earnestly pray
That the Lord, by grace, would light the way.
And then in an instant his glory ignites
As my soul and my eyes are relieved of the night.
One on the hillside. Two. Then three.
Now hundreds of miracles blaze before me.
They light the true path set before me by God;
A path that sinners, turned saints, have trod.

So onward I trek with fervor and pace,
Aware of the evil still lying in wait.
But no matter the number of lights that snuff,
Evil will never stamp out enough
To even cast shadows on God’s true light,
For it’s by his glory I outlast the night.
Even when the devil finally softens one light,
There are millions more shining into the night.

Shadow Bird

Idea for this piece inspired by Patrick Griffin’s song, Shadow Bird. Highly recommend you listen to it while reading this poem. It can be heard here.

 

With but a breath he takes to flight,

Soaring with courage into the night.

He leaves on the branch all worry and fret,

He knows he’s not going back there, yet.

Darkness whispers her wisps away

As her shadows impose an eerie dismay,

Surrounding the creature with imminent fear

Though somehow he isn’t affected here.

She throws at him fury, vengeance, and spite

But he parries them all back into the night.

She cowers in horror for the very first time,

For usually she is the shudder down the spine.

This phantom, however, flies unfazed,

Feathers unruffled by nighttime’s display.

In desperation, she heaves all her might

And bombards the wraith with every bit of the night.

Still he soars, both strong and serene,

Resolved to slip and to stay unseen.

His wings are robust but flap unheard;

He owns the night, the shadow bird.

Among Mountains

Deep in the hills your peace is found;

Tucked between the mountains is your refuge.

My soul is quieted by the stillness;

My heart is calmed by the silence.

The majesty of creation astounds me;

I marvel at the work of your hands.

Mountaintops tower and valleys lie low;

Skies blow over and streams run through.

Chirping swallows accompany the crickets;

Woodpeckers drum as willows whisper.

In wonderful harmony they play;

They combine to delight my ears.

My soul is warmed by their song;

I am rendered breathless by their beauty.

How gentle and precise your touch;

How measured and perfect your hands;

How majestic is their work!

How marvelous is your creation!

I am overjoyed by the sights;

Overflowing with peace and gladness.

You, O Lord, are wonderful;

You, my God, are glorious.

How grateful am I for such life!

And grateful I always will be.

Lifesong

Hear the lifesong in which you breathe,

Ride the notes as they come and leave,

Feel the rhythm flow with such ease,

Savor your lifesong, and purely believe.

Indwell the lifesong that enraptures your soul,

Follow the trills wherever they roll,

Notice the moments that render you whole,

See before you your lifesong unfold.

If you’re panicked, pause.

If you’re uncertain, slow.

Your lifesong is coming,

Soon you will know.

There is no rush,

There is no haste.

Your lifesong is coming,

In patience wait.

Breathe in the joy of your heart being filled,

Delight in the peace of your world being stilled,

Embrace your lifesong and all of its thrills,

Marvel at the dreams your lifesong fulfills.

Carry on and carry strong.

Live your life’s true song.

Nestle in a lifetime long.

Breathe and be your lifesong.

Looking Into the Sky

“Why do you stand here looking into the sky?”

The angels ask the apostles a seemingly straightforward question. Yet the apostles have no valid response. “We’re waiting for Jesus,” they could say. “We’re waiting for him to come back.” But the angels would simply respond, “Did he ask you to wait?” No. He did not. “Did he give you some instruction?” Maybe there was something about going to make disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Oh yeah… that.

So why do we stand here, looking into the sky? Or worse, doing other things? If eagerly awaiting Christ’s return (inactively) is not a good use of time, then how much worse is everything else we waste time doing?

I recently came to realize that, although our time on this earth is temporary, the impacts and ramifications of our time here are eternally significant. If I waste my own time, it’s no big deal because I’m just a sinful man anyway. But is it really my time I’m wasting? The answer is no.

God gave me this life, and it’s his to do with as he pleases. The time I’ve been given is also his. And although my earthly body is only a temporary shell, God has the ability to do eternal work through me, if I let him.

But when I waste what I think of as my time, I’m really wasting his. If I weren’t loafing around, squandering precious moments on insignificant and sometimes thoughtless things, he could be making a difference through me. He could speak into someone’s life that needs guidance. He could bring healing to someone that’s been subject to suffering for years. Or, he could save one person. And that one person could save numerous others. That’s countless souls that could have been saved if I wasn’t wasting time. His time.

It is true that the apostles were told not to leave Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Father, the Holy Spirit. But that’s not the point. They were sitting around, waiting for Jesus to bring prominence to the kingdom of Israel once again. They wanted and expected him to do the work. And there’s the fault. They were perfectly content to stand in one place, looking up at the sky with eyes open and mouth gaping. But that’s not what we’ve been called to do.

Without a doubt, we are called to eagerly await his return. But it’s an active form of waiting; one that involves doing. And God has chosen to use us as his instruments, his vessels, his ambassadors. So I have to stop myself sometimes and ask, “Why do I stand here looking into the sky?”