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Momentary Joy

Momentary Joy
I am a father. My gospel
Is laughter, fingers in
My daughters knotty hair,
Tight hugs for my grinning son,
And saying “I love you”
Ten thousand times a day,
Every day, ferocious,
Urgent love. Eliya is only
Four, and I can already
See her walking down the aisle,
In my heart, and my heart
Feels the thunder of seconds
Stampeding us all to future days.


The Final Question

Suffering is a foretaste of my mortality.
And not only mine, but the mortality
Of everything as far as I can see. 
A bittersweet reminder that
Nothing endures. Things fall apart. 
People go away. Circumstances change.
There’s always a last sip, 
A last bite, a last kiss. 
I have nothing here that cannot be taken
By mighty hands of happenstances. 

The Beautiful Distance

What is Weakness? 

I know him well. 
The distance between
What I want to do, 
And what I do.

Beloved Stranger

Why are we here? 
To drink the sea?
To swallow the sun whole? 

God is light, and rain.
Our hearts are stone. 
Waiting in the dark. 
Longing to know. 
Our minds like maps
With whole continents 



I will embrace the Sun
Though You burn me limb from limb
I was made to partake of radiance
I’m starving for Your radiance.

Like the proverbial moth
And his love affair with the blaze
Smell the smoke of his remains
As he dies in the throes of praise

His whole moth-life was moving him
Steadily towards this moment,
To reach out and touch The One
His heart was burning for and

They say moths and fire
Don’t mix. I don’t believe them.
I was born with the appetite for fire
There’s got to be a reason.

Open Arms

My son Jadon
Two years old
Climbs into my lap
Like he owns the place.

Like how you walk
Right into your own house
Or put on your own clothes
Or open your own bag of chips.

The audacity of going home.


There will be a day
When I rise above the clouds,
When my head breaks
The sky, and savage clouds
Gray and white, will enfold me,
As I am lifted by wind, and
I am roar, and breeze, and
Sun-dawning glory, and I
Will rise like the sun, breaking
The plane of horizon,

And I will see Him. Face



One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. [Psalm 27:4]
Open the aperture of my heart
Wide, and wide,
I will open wide,
To be filled with light
To bring all things into
Penetrating focus

Rent's Due

I sometimes feel
Like an empty container
With nothing to pour.

And when this happens
My life feels like pants
That are ten sizes too big
And I am awkward and


Not If, But When

ONE ...
It’s not a question of IF
But of WHEN.

Clouds cover the sun.
Things are gray and it’s hard to see
The glow of joy above my head.

But clouds move.
Sometimes they are stubborn.
Sometimes it takes a while.
But they move.



What God gives
Is the perfect giving
And what God withholds
Is the perfect withholding.

Consider the bold perfection
That is our lives.
God is dialoguing
And his language
Is our circumstances.


The Difference

I write to remember.

There’s kindling.
And then there’s fire.

The fire is not the kindling.
And I am not God.

Seems like I would not need
To remind myself of the obvious
But I do.

I still think, often,
That I, kindling,
Can spontaneously
Burst into flame
Without a spark
From outside me.


Perfect Gift

James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Words to speak to my wandering soul:

Take your pleasure in God
And in the things that God gives
And it will be well with your soul.

Wait on Him.
Learn to love the way
He is handling you.

Love Him for the things He withholds,
Love Him for the things He gives,
Love Him for the suffering He allows.

Cry aloud to love Him.
“I love you Lord! Help my unloving!”


And This is Why I May Rejoice

Driving minivan

With crying baby

Bumping Christ-centered

Hip-Hop Poetry

I am tired of
Separation between
Self and sky.

I see mountains, dark faced
Rosy glow sinking between
Their shoulder blades, red-gold glory
A vibrant shout, fading down.

Only minutes left of this.



Resist the pull of the day.
Stop and be still.

Commit your works to the Lord your God.
Throw your worries upon Him
Reckless and forcible and hard.

Like a man who has learned
To become harder than
Oak doors. Like a titan
Who discovers
Bars and concrete
Cannot stop him.


To be plucked
And rolled into
The shape
Of the day.

Smoked into ragged ash
By the fat fingers of
Pressures and demands.


But first
Be still. 



Daddy’s time.
I rock her in the darkness
Two years old today,
My springy little girl
With hair like a headful
Of black springs
Coiled soft against my cheek
As we rock in the
Rocking chair.
I pray into her hair,
To the God who grows
Gardens in the hearts
Of men and children.   

We are teaching her
Obedience, which comes first.
A rough concrete slab
Upon which you can build
Sturdy and spacious floors
Of wisdom and meekness,
Honesty and integrity.

Obedience comes first.

And she is like a warm seed
Against me, curled up,
And I pray for God to give her
A heart of obedience, rocking
Her in the darkness, and she

Begins a list, she loves to
List things at this age, so she says
We obey! We obey our parents
And mommeee and dadeee
And Zai-Zai, and mommeee
And daddeee and nanaaa and
Papaaa …

She lists off grownups at random
And I see her innocence. All she knows
Is to obey grownups, she does not know
That there are wicked and vile men
In this world. Men who would steal
Her innocence if they could.

And in that moment,
Something primal and protective
Rises up in me, like a white hot rage,
Like opening a furnace door,
I don’t know to what lengths
I would go to protect this innocence,
I can’t see that far, only that it is
Further than I can see, and the way
Is obscured by smoke and heat,
A feral place inside myself I hope
I never have to go. And I acknowledge
This is father-fire. God’s instinct,
God’s furnace, wrought in me the day
You were born. I am not a ferocious man.
But for you I could be a lion to keep you safe.
I could become unrecognizable.

And I answer her list
With a list of my own: 
With a heat of conviction she
Couldn’t possibly understand:

“Daddy will take care of you.“
“Daddy will protect you.“
“Daddy will love you.“

And in response
She asks me this:

I kid you not.
She says, and I quote:

Can we go at
Chik Filas




Seek first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness.

Seek and you shall find.
Knock and the door shall be opened.
Ask and it shall be given.

And I’m not talking about
Or just when I’m desperate-seeking.
Or when-I-find-the-time-seeking.

But a lifestyle of persistence.
A poor widow begging daily
For justice. I am talking about
Seeking like you just got poisoned
And have 24 hours to find the antidote.

Hard seeking. Tear-soaked
Seeking. Fist-clenched-seeking

What is more lovely than sunrises?
The God who paints them.
Who is more lovely than the delicate
Arch of my wife’s jawline?
The God who sculpted it.
Who is more lovely than
The deepest longings of my heart,
And the poems I write, trying to
Articulate unutterable groanings?
The God who authored me
Before I ever authored anything.

Who is more worthy of all-out
Break-neck pursuit?

I want to die running. I want
To die
Hard, out of

Around death

Like those stories of Greek messengers, who
After running double marathons,
Delivered the message gasping,
And promptly died on the spot,
Because they gave every last
Molecule of everything to get there. Yes.

Everyone who seeks, finds.
No one who persists in searching
Shall leave with empty hands.

Oh taste and see
That the Lord is Good.

There is nothing better than God,
Therefore there is no better full time occupation
Than the pursuit of God. His heart
Full of mysteries, like mist against
The breast of mountain. Like fingers
Against the lips of sunrise.   

To seek and keep seeking,
Whatever that means. My life
Is spilling away, through my fingers
And I have to decide how I will spend
Every speeding second.

So seek. Like an explorer.
Like Magellan, when he
Circumnavigated the globe
At the end
He was reduced to a barely
Breathing skeleton, lost 90% of his crew,
So utterly consumed in his seeking, it flayed
The flesh right off His bones.  
And he bore the scars of it
For life.

Like that. That kind of intensity.

Circumnavigating the infinite,
A voyage that never ends.

Seek. Grope around in the dark
Until your fingers encounter

The face of love,
The lips and teeth
The cheekbones
The eyelashes
The breath

Of Almighty God
Who waits
To become
The consuming object
Of my passion

Because He
Deserves it.


Quiet Time Prayer

Lord, here is my heart.
All I have is yours.
I am listening carefully.
I long to hear your voice.
Say whatever you want to say.
And if you want to be silent, that's OK.


The Good News

First, the bad news:

The difference between
Who I am and who I want to be
Is eternity. It is impossible.
I know what it is like to stand
At the shore of the Red Sea
Heart wild-eyed as it drowns
In the impossibility of what
It sees ahead, the distance
From here to there. Death.
Panic. Despairing even of life.

I know what it feels like to
Stare deep into the eyes
Of impossible. How those eyes
Make you want to burrow down
Deep into your bed and hide. I know.

But here is the good news:
The distance between who I am
And who I want to be
Isn’t nearly as far as I think.

The same impossible God
Who made the way for Moses
To cross the Red Sea,
He is here. Right now. Fire
In my bones, Spirit in my spirit,
Christ inside of me. Impossible.
And yet, here He is. The same God
Who raises dead people,
Gives barren women children,
Splits seas in half, makes the
Sun stand still, rains down fire,
Gives sight to the blind,
Makes the crippled leap and dance,
And here’s the coup de grace:
Transforms the lump of coal 
We call the human heart
Into a something soft and
Able to be moved.
Able to love. Impossible.

And that’s the good news.
The distance between Point A
And impossible Point B is exactly the width
Of God. His broad back is wide enough
To span the gap. He is the Lord.
There is no distance. 

The distance between
Me and that impossible thing
God is calling me to be or do,
Or give up, or take on:

It’s not distance at all.
Not really. Once God is involved.

I can’t tell you how many times
I’ve stood at the banks of the Red Sea
My enemies hot on my heels,
The sea of impossibility right in my face,
Drowning me in the thickness and weight
Of my fears and doubts, my eyes
Nailed to the simple, bitter reality
Of there, ahead of me, on the other side,
The place I long to be, the place my heart yearns
And wails and weeps to go, so far out of reach
I can’t even begin to count
The miles, the light years. 

So many times it has happened.

And I cry out to God, and I wrestle
With Him, I make pathetic sounds,
I find a quiet place and howl in my soul.
And somehow, suddenly,
My heart crosses over
Even before I do, my heart begins to believe
And it soars high and away,
It crosses over. This is faith.
The miracle. The necessary
Spark that fans into flame:
I somehow believe the impossible
To be possible. This is what God loves.
For His children to say in their hearts:
“I don’t see it, but I believe. With God
All things are possible.”

And when this happens
Watch out. My heart has crossed over
And now all of me is following
I take steps and
Seas split, the ground shudders
In my path, reality bends and bows down
To its master, the Will of God.
Nothing can stand in my way
When faith paves the road for action
In accordance with God’s will
And His Word.

And suddenly I am on
The far shore, the impossible place.
The place I couldn’t see a way to. 
And looking back, I watch the waves crash down
Upon the armies of my fears and doubts.
My enemies are scattered and drowned.
Thunderous waves obliterate their shouts.

And I glory in God, My God,
Who has a mighty hand, who
Lays the smack-down on impossible,
Who retells me afresh, who retells me
Like a story of redemption and grace,
Who erases my ending and writes me
A new one full of victory and glory. 
Who gives me beauty for ashes.
Who bears me up on His shoulders
Like a Father lifts His boy.

God is for me
What I can never be for myself.
He takes me on a world tour of my infirmities
So I can understand my need.
He allows me to bathe in the distance.
He shows me impossible, face to face. 
God will take me into situations
Where I end, so that He
Can begin. This is not strange.
This is not the exception.
This is the mystery, this is
The story, full of God’s passion
And glory. Full of aching color,
Death, rebirth. The strong green
Shoots bursting through
Stone. Resurrection.

This is my life. 


Instructions for Walking on Water

This is how you walk on water:
You look unto Jesus. You close your eyes
To the impossible and look at the
Radiant one, standing there,
A miracle in flesh. Extending His hand
For you to follow Him right into
Impossible. To do the impossible
Like it was nothing. Walk on water.

The water I sink into
Is me, myself.
I am a quagmire.
I am so aware of all
My frailties and failures,
My flaws and sins and brokenness.
I fail. That's what I do.

And when I look at this, when I gaze
At these broken scarred hands,
Scarred soul, battered and filthy,
That is when I sink. Hard and fast
As a stone. I suffocate, I choke
On me. The impossibility of any
Good thing ever coming of this mess.
The convincingly simple mathematics
Of multiplied failure.

Because I am an insecure
Coward. When you
Look up Johnny Levy
In the dictionary of life,
That is what you will find.

And that is why I so desperately need
The Savior who can walk on water.
Who grows beautiful flowers
In pots of compost and refuse.
Who turns water into wine.

Who walks above this,
And invites me to walk with him.
Above me.

And I will rise when I see
Your radiant face, when I
Forget the waves around me,
When I forget me. When I forget the Ocean
Of all that I am incapable of
And it is swallowed up in Christ.

The impossible One.

I will rise today.
And yes, it is impossible.
The math doesn't add up.
And yes, it is happening.

Today. I will rise.


Father's Touch

I was an asthmatic kid
And when I got sick
It was like breathing through
A wet afro in my windpipe.
The panic, the agony,
My own lungs
Waterboarding me.

Will the next breath
Happen? Can't think like that.
Just keep breathing,
Like heaving thousand pound rocks
With my chest.

And my father was
A workin' man, tall and
Black and full of muscles
White smile crooked
As a gentle hustle.
He lived just outside the edges
Of real life, almost
In a land of myth and legend
Black belt superhero.

One night I was in bed
Wheezing in dim light
That spilled in from the living room of
Adult voices and murmured

And my Dad drifted in from work
Late night mahogany angel
Sat on my bed,
Laid his heavy hand on my chest,

And in this memory,
I can't see his face
Or make out his words
Of murmured thunder
But I know they are kind
Words, my son, my son

And my eyelashes
Stretch the light
Behind his head
Into pins and needles
Blades of brilliance
A halo of radiance
His shadowed face
His hallowed face

Hand heavy on my chest.
Warm as sunrise, heavy as Gold.

And if you ask me
What does Father mean?
I paint you this portrait
Lovingly. And with tears.

Father means:

The one who
Descends from the land
Of myth and legend
And murmured thunder

Splits the sky asunder and
Suddenly appears next to you.
Like Jesus Christ on a park bench

Comes to you.
In a strange and magical moment.
Fact and fiction mixture
Heartbeat whisper and deep wind
Tussles soul grass --
*Reality shivers*


A callused, heavy hand
With veins like Nile rivers
Slides through the cracks
Between heaven and earth
Descends and comes to rest

Heavy on my chest

And it's a radical, sudden intersection
Between golden streets and sick frail lungs
And god-like fathers and asthmatic sons.

Please don't misunderstand
I am not idealizing my father
Just realizing what my father
Taught me about my real Father.

And this mechanic's hand
Blackened, fissured, warm touch
Knuckles like knots of oak
Palm scratchy as corn husk,
I can feel it right now on my chest
Heavy through the decades.
Inside me. Forever.

My Father's hands
Reveal God to me.
Hidden down deep
In the fissures and cracks
Blazing secrets in arroyos of black
God who gives us fathers.
And their hands as a metaphor.
And their distance
And sudden closeness
Makes us listless
For more.

And this world is full of asthmatic sons
In desperate need of a Father’s touch

That heavy hand that holds in its weight

The heft of all creation;
And all beauty in the world
And all mystery, passionate
Heart-cry of eternity
On your chest
Feel the press
Feel the burgeoning
To enter your heart
Like a spear, like a blade
Like a brand new start.
Like a gardening spade.

And he's close now
Feel His breath
On your eyelids
And it's Father, it's
Murmured thunder.
Raw, ferocious love
The terror and the wonder
The budding flower
And the burning sun
The yearning One
Who could wither you
In less than a blink
And you'd be done.

Your whole life
Like a twig
Between His finger
And thumb.

And … instead
He gives mercy
And calls you a son.

And what loving Father
Doesn't lay his hand
On His

Love is stronger
Than death.

Asthmatic son
Are you heaving
Thousand pound rocks
With your chest?

Do you think God is stressed
Disapprovingly shaking His head
At your mess?

Are you weary
And heavy laden
And searching for rest?

Do you sometimes forget?
Or maybe never knew?
Maybe never knew?

Our Father.
Father. Daddy.
Papa. Abba.




You came to me when I was young
12? 13? 14?
Walking to school in the cool morning
Green grass lawns and dew.
The world crisp and dripping around me
In shades of fresh and new.
I felt Your fingers
Pulling at my heart, and the whisper:
"Give me everything."
And I knew it was You.

But I said "Not right now.
I just want to be a kid. Everything
Is too much. Will I now be
One of the men at church
Darkblue-suited and sober
Shadow-faced and stern?"
My heart bucked against this
"No God. When I grow up
Then I will be yours.
Then I will give you everything."

And God’s fingers withdrew.

Who has said "no" to God
And lived? Dark years ensued.
I tasted the fun things.
Video games until my thoughts
Ran digital. Dungeons and Dragons
In hours of ecstasy. And as I grew older
Lust of the eyes and the mind
A snapshot of hip or thigh
Savored long into the night.
Clubs and drunken dancing.
Grinding my body against
Women with no names.
Laughing and grasping
And yearning for light.
Fingers clenched tight
Around the prize of oblivion.
Hidden and nestled
And wrestling my sheets.
Desperately dark and alone:
Hide and seek. And never finding
My treasure. Only pleasure.
The taste of something sweet
Dissolving fast on my tongue
Lights out. Asleep.

And then I turned 21.
And You came to claim
What was promised. Everything.
You assaulted me with plagues
And then planted a growling, shrieking
Thing in my chest, something clawed,
Gnawing at the edges of my heart
And my rest fled from me
And I fled from this unseen
Assailant, depression, despair
For no reason; unexplainable
Ailment. I ran and ran into
Dark clubs full of undulating meat,
Hid in the bottom of 40 oz. of Mickey’s
Ran quickly from the quiet moment
Just before sleep, that eternal millisecond
When all my defenses
Switched off
And I was drenched with sweat and then
Faced with the desert of myself,
The nuclear fallout wasteland;
Red skies of discontent,
My absolute terror
Of God. The God who takes

I ran from this assassin
This slaughterer of men.
The God who kills you when he catches you
And rips away everything you like.

And then one college night
You sent impenetrable silence.
Friday night and my ride left me stranded
In an 8 X 12 dorm room empty handed.
Deserted hallways
Eerie how silent, how I seemed to be
A sole survivor of apocalyptic violence
Wandering lonely streets.

And that silence was like thunder
Percussion beating me, bashing me
Apart, throwing me against walls.
Silence was what it finally took
To break me.

And I fell at your feet,
Picturing huge white man's feet
In golden sandals, the only picture
I could assign to what was happening
And I said it's all Yours now.
Here I am Father. I'm Yours and
I will stop this madness, the clubs
And the cussing and the drinking
And the lusting, and I'll start going
To church and try to live right.
And I’ll keep using use these hands to write.
And it’s all yours now.
You can have it.

And you were gentle with me then
Tender speaking, warm against me

I lay spread out on the floor and gently
Like a breeze tussles grass
Like a corpse, like a seed
I flowered at your feet.

And that moment
You gave birth
To silence.
A sound that my heart
Had never known.

You inserted eternity
A forever running rhythm
In my chest, like a second
Heartbeat, like a rolling river
Like a sliver of heaven.
The cord that will never be severed.

And if I am still and quiet
For long enough, close my eyes
And hold my ears and full-nelson my brain
I will always hear this music:

Peace with God.
The sound of silence.
The sound of nothing between us.



First you must understand Me.
I am holy, and I call you to be holy.
Because I love you I will not make things easy.
I know the perversity of your heart.
If I give myself easily, you will spit
On my prizes, you will despise
Me. I am not like the harlot
Who gives away her treasures,
Who trades herself for crumpled, filthy money.
I know my worth. I am worth.
If I called you to pour yourself out at my feet;
If I called you to a life of weeping
And longing and travailing and failing;
If I were ten thousand miles away
And I made you scream and tremble
For every inch, would you still

Would I not be righteous
If I required this of you?

But you know Me. You've seen
My story, line after line,
That I am full of tender mercy.
And I rescue in due time.

Sometimes I call you
To trudge through the mud
To run to Me with legs
Made of iron and lead
To strain for Me like
A mother would strain
For her crying child
And I will add much to you
In these times.

Fight for the inches.
Rampage against the mud.
Come to Me, and you will be
Weary, and tired, but
Come and come, fight and fight,
And I will give you rest.
You have to labor to enter
My rest. You have to believe
I am there, somewhere in the darkness
Just outside your fingertips
Fumble for Me, reach and clench,
And I will lengthen your arms.

Call until your voice runs hoarse
These songs are beautiful to Me.
They will prepare your throat
For the deep and difficult notes,
The music I have written for you,
The music you aren't ready for yet.

Come to Me. Run to Me.
I will give you rest. But you must learn
To be unstoppable. Inevitable.
Like a man who flies dead into the sun
Though it flays his flesh in charred chunks
Until disfigurement won't stop you anymore
And death becomes a shortcut to my living room.
To strive burning,
To see I am good even through the pain
Smell the smoky smell of change
I will reduce you one thousand-fold
Until only gold remains.

Until you are someone devoured by love,
Out of your mind with love,
Until you would run one thousand miles
For just a moment with Me
Until you would scale mount Everest
For the faintest footprint of Me.

Until you chase the setting sun
As if you needed it to breathe
Until you cannot stand reprieve.
Until you recognize:
You die when you leave me.
And breathing
Is just a metaphor
For running after Me.

So breathe Me.

Run to Me. Past reward, past reason
Though you run after the sun
But don’t see the progression.

Come to Me.

I will always find you.
And I will never waste you.
And you will know
My worth.



I am successful
In nothing else today,
If I am a serial failure
If my words are clumsy
And my timing is off
And I am a great awkward
Fool of a man.

Father if
I am successful
In nothing else, I beg of you,
Make me successful
In this:

I may dwell
In the House of the Lord
Every moment this day
And behold the beauty of the Lord
And inquire in your presence.

My weak and flimsy heart
May hold fast to you, somehow,
With fingers of iron, grip of steel.

While failing,
I may simply know
That you are with me,
and the Peace of God.

Is a roaring success.
Today is a breathtaking
Landscape. Today is a New Zealand
Paradise. Exotic and lovely
As Japanese cherry blossoms & snow.

Today is


Death Grip

The thing that we count as precious
Is the thing we will carry with us

Like a child and his favorite blanket
With its silky border against his cheek.

By this we know that we count God
As precious, when we carry him

When we set our hearts to converse with him
And our minds to reach for him,
And our eyes to behold him.

When we know He’s in the room
Right now. Sitting next to me
And across from me,
Within me.

How precious is God to me?
Do I esteem Him as precious?

Do I leave him waiting outside the office door
Until I clock out for the day?

Or tell him, “just one minute
While I discipline my kids.”

Or “Pardon me, Jesus,
I need to take this one.
It’s an emergency.”

Or “Jesus, can you wait over there
While I write this poem for you?”

Or “Jesus, can you sit tight
While I suffer this agony, or
Feel this joy, or achieve this success …

Excuse me a moment while I
Live my life."

Is God really precious to me?
Does his counsel matter to me?
Do I ask him what he thinks
Or feels about a thing?

Do I ask his permission?
Request his approval?
Let him know how much
I love him and appreciate him
A thousand times a day?

Do I dive into the depths of suffering
And search for his face, as for buried treasure
Hidden amongst the barnacled wreckage,

Turning it all upside down
Just to find a trace of Him

A breath of Him
A whisper of His


Do I plead with my own heart
On his behalf, to love him,
Shaking my heart and yelling
“Wake up, wake up! And
Value what is good and virtuous.”

Or do I let my sluggish heart sleep till noon,
Dreaming of things that don’t matter,
Loving things that rot.

Do I scan the horizon of every moment for Jesus,
Do I strain my eyes to see him who is invisible?

I am convinced that we are all, every day
At our desks, facing a very special kind of exam.

The test is a simple one.
The bell rings; the exam begins.

Will I count God as precious today?
How much does he matter to me?

My hands will tell the truth.
My feet. The ruminations of my mind,
The actions of my lips
My life will tell the truth.

What does my life say?
No just my lips – my life?  
This is the test.

The heart of man is a riddle,
A mystery. A dead-ending maze with
Twists and angles and crevices.

But the test will reveal it.
Life will solve the riddle of my heart
For me and for everyone.  

Is it all just religion, or culture, or pretense,
Or do I believe that Jesus is the Christ
The son of the living God? Do I believe this?
Do I breathe this? Is it real?

In a single 24 hour period
There are one million things
That will assault my senses

Bills, meals, dishes, paychecks,
Awkward silences, uncomfortable problems,
Offensive personalities, “why me?” situations.

One million things.

There is a perfect moment, when the baby
Finally stops screaming. She closes her eyes.
I am afraid to even breathe. She takes a deep breath.
Her body relaxes. She is finally going to sleep.
And it is at this perfect moment
That a fire truck screams down the road.

One million things.

Stuck in traffic.
Taking a shower.  
Diagnosed with glaucoma.
Internet stopped working in the middle of a demo.
What will I do for my wife on our anniversary?

One million things.

There are one million things to go into and out of.
Life is an undulating thing, a roller coaster road.
And it will test my grip.
Always. That is what is being tested.

I say that God is precious to me.
How precious?
Sitting on the mantle collecting dust precious?

Or do I hold my God in a Death Grip
Refusing to let go, even as the world
Falls apart around me and I plunge.

The prybar of life is
Relentless.  Pulling and yanking
My fingertips, biting and wrenching
And screaming into my ear
Tapping my forehead
Like a Chinese water torture,
Begging and pleading,
Finding frayed strands
Of my heart and pulling,
Lying and cajoling, murmuring,
Whispering, slapping and beating,



To get me to open my fingers
Release my grip.
And lose.  And lose.
Not Christ, but the experience of Christ.
I cannot lose Christ, but I can lose
Christ in this moment,
My provision. The one who could have
Redeemed this moment.

The redeemer of moments.

How many moments
Have I wasted? How many moments
Could have been filled with the glory
Of Christ, a blazing redemption,
But I let go. With these fingers. 

I must learn a Death Grip.
My heart must come to know
Who is precious. And cling.

Because the time comes for all of us
When the world comes to an end.
I do not mean apocalypse.
I mean fundamental change.
The moment when nothing will ever be the same.
The massive tectonic plates of life
That seemed so sturdy, have shifted and the very ground
I walk on has betrayed me with a shudder, with a groan,
And I am cast into darkness. And silence.
Where faith is no longer theoretical.
But necessary for survival.  

And we will be reduced.
To ashes. Reduced to our simplest form.
Like fractions. 

Pray with me. Pray with me.
That in this place, the place of pressure,
That we continue to clutch his robe,
Though the whole world
Call us fools, like Job’s wife hissing
In agony and rage: “Curse God and die!”

Pray with me.
That when our faith is tried,
It might be found true gold,
And not just a shiny trinket,
A gum wrapper glittering
In the grass.

Let us love God
All the way down to our bones
Holding his face in a Death Grip
With every fiber and muscle, so tight,
That we would be torn in half first
That our blood would spray
Before we would ever let go.

Pray for us.

This poem was read at Alethia Church on 9/18/11.
Click the link below to download this poem in MS Word. 
**Download **


Shoot the Stranger

1 Corinthians 10:31
So, whether you eat or drink,
Or whatever you do,
Do all to the glory of God.
If it’s not loving God,
Then let it lie.
A snake in the grass.

A glimmer of something
In the dirt –
Tin foil wrapper.
Fool’s gold.

Even bending down
To investigate
You’ve lost precious seconds
Of life.

You lose.

If it’s not loving God
Then let it die.
A voluntary suicide
Of distractions.

Getting down to the heart of a thing.
Drilling to the center of the earth.
And asking those killing questions:

Is this for love of me?
Or for love of Christ?

And if indeed
For love of me,
Then pluck the sliver
From the heart.
Cast it away.

Grace will help you.
Grace help me now.

For my heart is so foolish,
So turned around.
So enchanted by trifles.

And grace is not the gun,
But the will to use the gun
To aim and shoot

The charming stranger, in your backyard,
In your chest,
The charming thing who is not Christ,
But is so good, feels and seems
So right, and cannot possibly be wrong,
Not hurting anyone, and for a good cause,
And delicious to the eyes, and good for making one wise.
And you wouldn’t shoot happiness …
Would you?


Grace is the will to grab your shotgun
Shoot that good-for-nothing dead
Right to the ground
Don’t never come prowling
Around my back door again.
And to return to the dinner table
Where Christ awaits
And life. And joy.
And suffering. And purpose.

Real life.


Author's Note: 
This poem was inspired by the writings of Brother Lawrence. 
You can view some of his writings here:

Where Does God Take You When You're Dreaming?

Little Eliya Grace
My baby girl
Four weeks old.

Sleeping, almond brown skin
Smooth as wind, baby wrinkles
Like ripples in air. Soft hair
Black and fine as wisps of silk --

The slightest breath
Can stir it.

I behold your face
Change like weather.
A sudden smile bright
And fading.
A sudden wrinkling up
Of the nose
And fading.

What do you see?

Where does God take you
When you’re dreaming?

Does He lead you by the hand
Flying through blue skies
To make you smile?

Does he blow dandelion fluff
Into you face
To make your nose wrinkle like that?

Then peace,
Placidity. Chubby face
Like still water
Reflecting lazy clouds.


Cardboard Man

Lord, my life feels like
Cardboard to the taste.

The minutes
Rocket past me
Like salmon in a stream.
And I can’t catch them.
They wriggle through my fingers.
I want to eat them all. Starving.

I am hemorrhaging time.
And I feel it, like bees in my chest.
Like the most beautiful dream
You can’t remember when you wake.
You just know it was
Extraordinary. Sunrise Erased.
Clawing after it with mind and heart.

I am a cardboard man.
Packaging. A denizen
Of dumpsters. Crumpled
And crooked in alleyways.

Stained with life and grease.

When packaging
Is just packaging
It is a forlorn thing.
A waiting thing. It’s meaning lies
In what it contains
Or does not contain.

I am meant to be the home
Of yawning passions. A throne
For God’s desire. A box bursting
With the gift for mankind.


Glimmering sword
And cherry blossoms
Falling, falling, and the mountains
Casting white beards towards heaven.
A flute moaning
Hoarse music of longing.
Tugging strands of heart
Like wind in hair.
Angelic clouds
Ferocious. Orange and black hues
Of sunset.

What was passion created for
If not to be directed towards
The untamed? The Hurricane Father,
The Still Small Voice, Thundermaker,
The Eternal One? What is passion for?

To be poured out on
Football games like stale beer,
Wasted on television shows,
Or renaissance art or finances, or
Justin Bieber? What is passion?

A storm inside of the heart,
The soul’s grappling hook,
A force of wind and feeling.
Nation shaker.
Society eruptor.

But passion without God in sight?
Mere bluster. Fanfare. A sad waste
Of power. A neon Vegas sign. A thing outside
It’s context – Amusement park ghost town.

I am a cardboard man.
But this poem
Unlocks me.
Reminds me.
Who am I?

No more than cardboard.
No less than anyone.
A container.
For Christ.
A placeholder
For Glory.

A blank and silent page
Inviting God’s ink
To tell His story,
In the silence and suicide
Of my own.

A vow of silence
Begging God to speak
Into every moment.

An absence
Making way for
The Presence.

God is the void filler. The gift
Packaging is created to contain.
Waiting is a sacred thing.
A necessary thing. Light descends
Where silence and waiting
Form a ready carcass.

A living sacrifice.
Crumpled in an alleyway.

The passion for God
Comes only from God.

And blessed are all those
Who wait for Him.


Guest Poet: The Machine

A poem by Isaiah Bradford
You are born

Then promptly forced into

The Machine

You are to only go forward

You can never go back

The Machine starts real easy

Only giving you tiny cuts every once in a while


The farther you progress into the machine

The more cuts and scrapes you get

Some get more than others

Some get one before the end that is so severe

They Die

But there are some that do survive

Then comes the end

It comes different times for different souls

The Machine has no use for you any more

It spits you out regardless of your needs

Your scars or open wounds

Don’t matter

The Machine has no Feelings

No Conscience

No Soul

Then comes your choices

The Omnipresent Omnipotent

The King of Kings

Looks at you all beaten and battered

With Compassion and Loving

He wants to take you with him back to his house

To share in his ultimate and everlasting glory

But it’s up to you

Every single decision you made in The Machine is analyzed

Those decisions decide whether you will have everlasting Glory


Everlasting Torment


I Encourage

Entreat and

Implore you to make the right decisions in The Machine

But you cannot do it on your own

Ask for help from His Mighty Omnipresence

And you will


--Isaiah Bradford



Lord, I am yours now.
Just that. Come what may.
Give me steel in my soul Father
Keep my wandering eyes
Off of the cookies. The rewards;
The benefits of faithfulness. Whatever
They may be. Give me the steel

To love you with an inexorable love.
An all my life love – a
No matter what you do or allow –
No matter how painful or impossible to understand
I will still follow you hard –

Will I seek God
Or just the things of God?
The Giver
Or only the gifts?

If God leaves me in prison
For a crime I didn’t commit
Stripped of freedom and comfort
Cold stone and time
Will I still
Grasp and cling,

Holding God
In a deathgrip

Come what may?

Lord I will love you
With all of my heart
That I have to give.

Give me more to give.
Or let me be content
With whatever meager portion
Is mine
To give.

You only want
ALL. Doesn’t matter
How big or small.
You only want all.

I cry out because I know
I am a fool and weak.
And smart and stupid.
And broken. And cannot.

Power belongs to God.

It’s so counter intuitive.
Christ is the gatekeeper
To all things. Life in particular.
To even want Him
He has to drag you
Kicking and screaming.

We don’t have the keys
To our own hearts, even.

Dead men who don’t know we’re dead.
Waiting in a train station
For our train –
And we don’t get to be privy
To the schedule.

We know only this.
It will come. It will come.
God is faithful and it will come.

Whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord
Will be saved.

Our sense of control is the ledge
We hold by our fingertips.

Our life is the prybar
beneath our fingers.

The lesson:



Recommended Poems: When I Became a Man (Phil Allen)

I stumbled across this poet / poem on Youtube. It's a spoken word performance about becoming a man that moved me, and causes me to glorify God. Let me know what you think. I couldn't find this man's name, which was unfortunate .... I'd like to hear more.


Heaven’s Regular

A Christian is not radical
He is only radical in contrast.
In fact, the Christian lives God’s norm
Lives out God’s basic purpose
For life – God’s standard.

The Christian loves hard,
Loves unconditionally, sacrificially,
Loves friends, loves strangers,
People in pictures,
Adversaries. His heart can do things,
Bend into shapes, fit into places,
Impossible contortions.

The Christian loves in a way
That is normal for God.
The Christian brings the norms of heaven
To the gates of earth, and beyond,
Into the hearts of the broken and destroyed.

God is love.
Love is normal.
We walk in, breathe in love
We are immersed in love
Every day of our lives
Whether our bruised eyes
Can see it or not.

If you’ve felt the sun on your skin,
Bitten the sour-sweet flesh of plum,
Breathed deep of the free air,
Ran your fingers through green grass thick as hair,
Then you’ve felt the love of God.

The Christian loves this way.
Radical only in contrast.
But not radical at all
In actuality.

Do you want to see
What God is like?

See it in the eyes of His Christians
In the works of their hands
Healing words. A virtue so radiant
It comes from outside.
Hails from another universe
Like the light of the sun
travels millions of miles
Just to land feather light
On your eyelids:

The radiant stranger that travels to earth
Who’s touch
Makes green things grow.

This is God’s life
Glowing in the heart,
in the hands
Of God’s people.

This is normal.
This is the way
It should be.

Heaven’s regular.



My hubby is so hot
     A lame guy he is not
He likes to run & play
     I would marry him any day
He really likes to write
     He never wants to fight
He really is so cool
     He makes all the girls drool.

     And then I punch them.

--By Sarah Levy



I must learn to seek God
Not poetry.

I must learn to see God
Not what He can do for me.

Allow my soul
To be dazzled by His brilliance,
His shining face

The things He has to give
Are already mine.

But Himself,
Himself also,
Himself more.

I must clutch
And sputter
And grasp after Him

A man standing beneath a waterfall
Mouth open

Drinking eternity
With a body

Fragile as a dry leaf

A mind
Like a thimble.


Author's Note: 
This poem was inspired by the writings of Frank Laubach. 
You can view some of his writings here:



John 13:23
Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.

It occurs to me today,
For God is showing me
That we can know a greater reality of intimacy,
Than even John knew, as he was
Reclining, leaning on the bosom of His Savior.

I have gotten
A little “weirded out” by this image:
It tweaks something in my flawed concept
Of Manliness; gives me a twinge and a spasm.

But that’s just my corruption and immaturity,
Some deep-rooted misunderstanding
Of the scene before me.

For this is not a picture of two men
Equal in stature, engaged in such intimacy
As might appear unseemly,

But rather,
A Father and his child,
For we are like children to Him
Who is the Ancient of Days,
We are less than children,
Sitting in the lap of God,
Reclining against his chest,
Offering wet cheeks
To be wiped away
By rough palms of experience

This is who He is to us.

John knew intimacy with God.
This is a picture of unspeakable beauty,
A picture of reality,
A right and correct picture,
Of how we can relate
To our Savior, our Father,
Our beloved King.

And for John, at that time,
It was for a moment;
A slice of time with
Beginning and end;
Perhaps minutes,
Or hours.

But for us,
It can be an eternal reality,
In our daily lives,
Reclining ourselves
To lay against the bosom
Of our Savior,

To rest contented,
To know we are loved,
To refuse –
– To absolutely refuse,
To be moved from this place.

For He is faithful who promised:

Matthew 28:20
“… behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

John 15:4
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

John 17:20
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Revelations 3:20
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Author's Note: 
This poem was inspired by the writings of Frank Laubach. 
You can view some of his writings here:

Gardens of Christ

God is cultivating
A love and reckless abandon
In our hearts, he is making room
For His son to find good and perfect soil

And to this end
God sends hardened tools
Of steel and wood, and
Life hurts. We’ve all felt
The blade tear into our hearts,
Knifing into harsh earth
Screech of metal against soil and stone
Relentless and savage.
Again and again and again.

It is necessary.
It never seems necessary
To the victim of such

Until the green shoots
Begin to rear their tender heads,
The garden appears
In vivid scarlet petal
And shimmering dew drop
And the King emerges
In full bloom.

It is necessary.
God is not savage
And does nothing

Every stroke is a clearing out.
A making ready.

The loving surgeon
Undoes us all

That we may be transformed
From cracked earth
To heart-breaking, beautiful
Garden’s of Christ.

Our Father does not waste strokes.

Author's Note: 
This poem was inspired by the writings of Frank Laubach. 
You can view some of his writings here:


When I am in Christ
Conscious of Him
Leaning on Him
Abiding in Him

Then I am my best self.

I have access to all that I need
And I will bear much fruit.

The enemy’s strategy has always been
And always will be
To sever me from this communion –

To rip me out of my savior’s arms
-- At least in my own mind –
And to strand me on a desert island
Of self sufficiency.

To make me believe a lie
That real, actual abiding is impossible
Or impractical;

Or limited to a few choice encounters with God
Per day. Or per week. Or per month. Or year.

To cheat me from the richness
Of a perpetual, purposeful abiding
In my savior’s arms

Will I settle for less

Than a life filled with,
Drenched with God,

Seconds full to bursting
With the Lord my God?

Or embrace Him hard:
A clinging so desperate,
So primary,
That it changes


Author's Note: 
This poem was inspired by the writings of Frank Laubach. 
You can view some of his writings here:


Self Portraits

Let us become
Testimonies of what is possible;

Showing the deftness and skill
Of our Father’s hand.

Some will stop.
Gaze in a drinking way.
Reach out, dark-eyed
And trace the contours
Of your face, your life
Feel the texture

Discover the brush strokes

And weep, and weep.
And whisper,
Let me, oh please,
Let me be painted
In such a way.
Show me this Painter
Who takes a scrap,
A rag of canvas
From the gutter,

And paints a sunrise
Infuses life, and color,
Renders glow and smile and teardrop

Paints self-portraits
On broken glass

Who makes a dead thing live.

Author's Note: 
This poem was inspired by the writings of Frank Laubach. 
You can view some of his writings here: