I’m rereading Emily Dickinson’s complete works. Her poetry speaks to me because she never intended to have a wider audience. She wrote for herself and those closest to her, reclusive thinker that she was. And brilliant, oh so brilliant and incisive. So, once again I have waded into her penned thoughts, more interested in the tapestry of her interwoven ideas, than in archaic turns of phrase.
It further inspires me to write poetry and to withhold any sort of publishing just yet, or more likely ever. Without the constraints of who might be offended, put off, or encouraged to self-righteous bombast, I write from the heart within a tangled menagerie of disparate disciplines within which I perceive synergistic complementarity, including but not limited to philology, text criticism, literature, physics, astronomy, mathematics, ethnography, Christian faith and spirituality, and so on.
In other words, I write about what interests me, seeking to explore meaning within the mundane, and to find interesting justapositions from widely divergent disciplines.
It’s the sort of thing that wouldn’t sell on the popular market, or likely even the obscure. Probably for the best. Wouldn’t want to offend the politically correct power brokers of religion, publishing gatekeepers, and state-run media.
So back I go. Into obscurity. It’s okay. I like it this way. I have friends here. Together we are weaving a poetic tapestry in the rhythms of daily living.
I know my kids, those young people whom we gather from the surrounding neighborhood in projects, apartments, and shelters. I’m learning their stories, their needs, their hopes and hurts. I asked my children’s director for permission to begin writing lessons to better engage them at their points of need and that’s what I’ve been doing early this morning, sitting outside the local Starbucks in the cold and rain. I prefer being outside. Fewer distractions while I’m writing.
There are a few highlights to this lesson which I hope will spark the imaginations of the children. I’m going to do two short interactive stories which require all the kids to get up from their chairs, and move as characters in the story. It’s the exodus narrative, including the encounters of Moses with Pharoah, and the Red Sea transit with the Egyptian army in pursuit. It’ll be chaotic, but memorable. Kinda the point.
I want the kids to remember that the same God who went to all that trouble to save the children of Israel from slavery, and then went to even greater trouble to save us all from our sins; the same God who made the extraordinary covenant to all generations with Abraham, later confirming it with Isaac and Jacob, has now made a covenant with us through Jesus Christ. The same God who loved his people throughout time, loves these kids. No matter what they have done or think they have done, or what has been done to them. Even in their humble circumstances seemingly obscure from a much larger, perplexing world, God freely encounters them as they learn to read his Word and pray. And listen to his voice.
It’s best if I stop here. I’ve got some listening of my own to do as the rain falls on this cold, spring morning.
He looks into your eyes as he speaks to your heart, lifting your bowed head with his nail-scarred hands, taking in the tears running freely down your cheeks. He speaks softly, but with unwavering confidence, saying, “The sin for which you weep, that shattered shame which threatens the very life of your spirit with the weight of terrible guilt, is now removed and cast away as far as the east is from the west. For your sin was nailed to the cross, your guilt atoned. You are free. Rejoice!”
You note the glorious countenance before you. Your Savior. Your Redeemer. Your Lord. The Lamb of God, slain form the foundation of the world, now risen again victorious over hell and death and sin.
Go now, Ambassador. Tell others what Jesus Christ has done for you. And rejoice!
Shattered people fill the public square in the Portland metro area. Some seem composed; others make no pretense as to their despair. They go about their lives doing whatever they can to survive. I’m not only writing about those without shelter and basic necessities, although they do occupy the forefront of my prayers. I also refer to the more affluent. They may sometimes be harder to spot with their basic food and shelter needs met, but their relational and emotional needs scattered to the winds.
They ride mass transit alongside us, hang out at local watering holes like Starbucks or one of the many ubiquitous Portland pubs, and they sit near us in theaters, churches, sporting events, and concerts. Some do none of that. They remain at home, far from view. Alienated. Isolated. Alone. Shattered.
Maybe that’s you. Your heart is broken. It seems so damaged that you can perceive no way to move forward with any kind of hope or purpose. You may even wonder if life is worth living any longer.
If you are a follower of Jesus, I encourage you to do a few things. First, pray to God, asking for his help to find encouragement. Second, read the Psalms. Start at the beginning and keep reading prayerfully. Last, find someone with whom you can talk. Perhaps a pastor or a wise counselor with a Christian worldview. Maybe a parent or friend.
If you are not a follower of Jesus, I invite you consider the hope he offers. Check out the book of Matthew in the Bible. Know that God loves you, no matter what you have experienced in life or what you think you have done.
Got questions or need to talk? Leave a comment. I’m listening.
If you want to raise up the next generation of leaders, then allow the next generation to lead alongside you. Yes, they will do things differently. No, they won’t think like you in every respect. But they will take ownership and responsibility if you give them that opportunity, blessing and support. Question is: is it about you or is it about God’s agenda in your church and community?
If it is about you, then why?
If it is about God’s agenda, then what is God saying and how is he moving? What is next concerning how will you get there alongside your emerging leaders?
Off you go, discuss. Not with me so much. With them. They are the ones who will make it happen with you. I’m just a crotchety old meddler…
Besides, I’ve got my own community to engage in conversation in the days ahead.
In a moment I want you to close your eyes. Not yet. I’ll give you the signal.
Read Psalm 46 first. Read it again more slowly. Do you want to read it again? Go ahead…
When it’s time to do so, I invite you to forget your surroundings and concentrate. Focus on your life as it is now. Here. In this moment. No matter what pressures you face, or the grief that pummels the deep places of your soul, or the self-talk that constantly assaults your dignity and value like an ubiquitous dull ache repeatedly interrupted by penetrating targeted barbs, I want you to rest in the presence of Jesus.
As you close your eyes, speak his name with an attitude of worship. And wait. Listen. Speak his name again. Listen for his response, keeping in mind God’s message of encouragement for his people in Psalm 46, particularly verse 10, but in the context of the entire psalm.
This is your signal. Close your eyes, not opening them until you are ready, however long that may be.
Now that you are back, reflect upon your experience. Write it down. Share with a trusted friend.
Be still and know that he is God.
As I completed my walk home from work she stood at the entrance to the apartment parking lot, waiting for her children to arrive home from school on their bus. Looking up from her phone, she offered me a brilliant smile framed by a colorful Hijab and a friendly hello in response to my own smile and greeting. The moment was brief but meaningful.
I see her and her children often in the complex. Yesterday, she followed her daughter as the six year old girl struggled to master riding her bike, albeit with training wheels. It brought back happy memories of my own as my father helped me to graduate from training wheels to greater freedom as a bicyclist.
It also reminded me that regardless of the color of our skin, our religious and cultural background, our political leaning, our social status, or our gender, we are human, God’s beloved creation.
Yea, that’s right. Each of us is created by and loved by God. Imagine that. You may not agree. God loves you anyway. No matter what you have done, or think you have done. He loves you. But I suggest that you not ignore his love or take it for granted. The clock is ticking. Got questions? Ask away and I will reply when I can.
John 3:16-18 NRSV
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”