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The Beautiful Distance (2015)

 What is Weakness? 

I know him well. 


The distance between

What I want to do, 

And what I do.

The Day of Great Silence

There is really

Only one question

That matters. 

What do you want? 

Not, what do you think

You want. 

Not, what do you want

For Christmas. 



One day

My child

Your scars

Will be 


House of Cards

In Him we live.

In Him we move.

In Him we have our being.

You woke this morning,

Opening eyes

He gave you,

To behold light

That He spoke.


I was planted. (you too).

And the Son of Man 

Whispered to me (and you), 

“I have a plan for you. 

I will make you fruitful. 

Keep your head turned up

Into my sunlight, 

And wiggle the toes of your roots

In my moisture. Smile into 

My wind and rain

And you will live.

And when it is dry

And the world cracks around you

And you’re drooping 

And browning and weak, 

Send your roots down

Deeper, send them 

Searching, sucking, 

Longing, and you will 

Always find me.

Weep and Roar

Bless those who persecute you. 

Bless and do not curse.

Bless those who 

Chase you down

Alleyways and

Open fire. 

We are martyrs.

We don’t curse.

We take deep breaths. 

And we mourn. 

And we listen. 

And we breathe. 

We are Christ’s thumb

On the bleeding carotid artery

Of this world, and we do not

Curse, we are healers, 

We are lovers, we are 


We see faces. 

And we bless. 

We rejoice with those who do rejoice, 

And weep with those who weep.

We don’t cut cords.

We don’t build gated communities. 

We don’t erase faces. 

No matter how ugly the faces.

No matter how distorted with rage

The faces.  

No matter what horrors

Those faces do. 

We do not erase

The image of God

In other people. 

We do not reduce. 

We do not declare Jihad. 

We do not make men

Into animals. Even if

They act like beasts. 

Because we are 

Christians. And Christ

Died to give us faces. 

And we don’t get to make redemption

Off limits to anyone. 

God said let there be

Faces. Love gave us faces. 

And we love the way

We are loved. Which means

We see 


Alton Sterling

And Philando Castile

And George Floyd

Had faces. 

And we mourn for them. 

And we mourn for their families. 

And their communities. 

We do not make them

Statistics, or typewritten text

In the New York times. 

We do not make them

Into what they should

Or should not have done. 

Or where they should

Or should not have been. 

We let their blood

Get on us. And we weep

For them. And for children

Wailing because their

Fathers are gone. 

Because we don’t get the luxury

Of amputation. 

Of removing their faces. 

And their families’ faces

For the sake of not being 

Undone. We do not wear

Bullet proof vests over our hearts

And we do not shove 

Those shaking mourners

Into a soundproof closet in 

Our minds so we can sleep. 

Because our God

Came down. Our God

Came inside our filthy 

Cockroach-ridden hotel rooms. 

Got our dirt on His clothes

And our filth on his face

And our sin on His shoulders. 

He touched our rotting

Limbs, he put his cheek

Against our sickness. 

And we are His witness. 

The Lord Jesus

Crossed out every boundary line. 

Bridged perfection and imperfection

With His body as the connection.

He erased our facelessness.

And told us to call God

Our Father.  Which makes us all


He died for insecure

People-pleasing cowards

Like me. 

He died for 


And racist cops

And child molesters. 

And pastors kids. 

Try and tell me He didn’t. 

Try and show me 

The line you didn’t cross

To deserve to be saved. 

He died for the person

I couldn’t stand

To be on the same continent with. 

And He died for me. 

And we’re all equally worthy

Of God staying up in heaven

With His back turned

While we ethnic cleanse each other

Off the face of the earth

With our guns and our 

Campaign rhetoric

And our simple instinct

To look away. 

And we’re all equally worthy

Of God reaching down 

And snipping the cord

To our breath as we

All die gasping in unison. 

But instead, God came down. 

He crossed the tracks. 

Crossed the border. 

Crossed the yellow homicide tape. 

Crossed the gender divide. 

Crossed the great wall. 

Like Romeo and Juliet style, 

He loved the one

He was supposed to hate.  

He gifted us with faces.

Healed us and sent us back

To hold the faces of the dying

In our hands, gaze deep, 

Drink deep, and see faces, 

And see faces, and cry, 

I see you, and you have a Father, 

And I see Him in your 

Faces, hiding just outside

The lines, in the place where

Strangers become brothers

And enemies strip off their hatred. 

And one day we will be in heaven

Marveling at who made it.

And weeping with the person

Next to us. Weeping for who

We judged unworthy

Of being noticed

And loved by God. 

Because grace

Is staggering. And it’s 

Too big to swallow. 

And our minds will

Choke on it. Words fail and

Brains fail. The grace

That extends from a 

Holy God to an ugly me 

Is my indisputable proof

That grace is ridiculous.  

So instead of choking, 

Instead of swallowing, 

On this colossal grace, 

We let it out. 

We shout it out.  

Like angel’s trumpets

Breaking concrete. 

We speak

The gospel 

That dwarfs us. 

Like a pinprick

Uttering sky. 


And now, brother, 

And sister, you are


You have opened

Your chest and planted

The seed of infinity. 

The roots have grown, 

And have drunk from

Hidden streams of gold. 

You are a freak of

Nature. No longer 

Just a son of earth, 

But now a son of sky. 

And all this has happened

Invisible to the naked eye;

Down in the depths of your

Secret soul. 

We are those who

Stare into the sun

With golden eyes.

The Planting

Picture a man with

A zipper that runs

From belly button 

To neck. 

Now picture the 

Sensation of zipping

Down, slow toothy growl

As the zipper parts

Flesh from flesh,

Wet sound, like

Biting peach, 

Until you are flayed

Open, filleted, and

Laying on your back,

Breathless with the 

Strangeness of this

Moment, utterly 

Exposed and more

Naked than lack

Of clothes can ever

Make you. 

You feel a cough,

Or perhaps a tremble

Of inner cold, thrum

Of deep tissue nerve

Endings singing their

Songs electric into 

The cool air. 

You are both dead

And alive. You are 

Alive because you 

Are dead. You are in 

The secret hour, 

The magical hour

Of resurrection life. 

And in your palm

Is the Seed. The very DNA

Of God. A very small seed. 

Plain looking. Speck of dust

With infinity within its walls. 

And you take it, ever

So gently between thumb

And forefinger. 

And you press it down

Into your unzippered 

Soul, feeling the wet walls

Of your chest cavern against

The outside of your hand, 

Slick slime of blood and

Tissue kissing your knuckles. 

And you rub and flick your

Fingers slightly to make sure

The Seed leaves your fingers

Before withdrawing your hand, 

And then poke it twice for

Good measure, pointing 

The way.

Then you withdraw your hand,

And press your parted sides

Together, closing yourself up 

Before you take the zipper and pull. 

You have received now, 

With meekness, the engrafted

Word, which is able to save

Your soul. 

And what now grows, 

No one can see. Until it

Spreads its roots through 

Every vein and makes you

Something new. 

A being of two worlds. A doorway. 

A tree with hidden roots stretching

Down into eternity, and drinking

From golden streams

Parkhill, Son (Johnny Levy)

My wife sometimes 

Jokes that she

Wants me to be a 

Bit more polished.

Maybe wear capris

Like rich Italian guys.

Or maybe like a scarf 

Or something.

And I say what 

I always say.

I'm from Park Hill.

She Thrives

The treasure and the charge of the church is Christ. 
When He is lost, the church ceases to be alive, 
Mysterious, supernatural. And it becomes a system
Like any other system. There are good and bad
Systems. Reflecting the proficiency, priorities, and tendencies 
Of their human architects.  But the church, 
She is not a system. No, she is something more,