Monday, October 12, 2015

Casualties of Terror: Kunduz Airstrike, 10/3/2015

We bombed a hospital, perhaps in error.
Human shields? Certainly they shielded
humans. When the enemy is terror,
There is no reasonable doubt. We all have yielded
to this internal foe, rapid-firing
hearts under quivering ribs and shoulder blades.
Guilt is presumed, and there's no use inquiring,
no innocence: we are all afraid.

Oh, by the rockets' red glare, can you say
what this blood-streaked banner ought to mean?
Too many of the brave and the free now lay
obscured in dust. Their bright stars shine unseen,
while underneath the bleak unspangled night,
we bow before the power of our fright.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Lunar Apocalypse, 9/27/2015

After the dark day, I held you lightly.
Rage spent, we watched the moon grow bright again.
It had only been our shadow, and all the world's
sunrises and sunsets bleeding together
right along with us, and afterwards,
I'd never seen a midnight quite so clear.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Compassion is not a zero-sum game.

Babies are being torn limb from limb, and still we find room in our hearts to weep over a lion. We still have enough leftover moral indignation to call out comparatively trivial hypocrisies. And we still try to push all of this out of our minds long enough to make dinner and take out the trash and do all the other things that are ours to do.

As well we should.

Compassion is not the sort of thing that diminishes with use.

Instead of hoarding our compassion, careful only to bestow it on the most worthy subjects, let us strive to live with fully awakened consciences.

A story about a pet lamb woke David to the gravity of his own crimes.

May Cecil the Lion awaken us to the value of life.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

as soon
as you try
to hold it. Hoarded
manna breeds maggots, and power
storage typically involves some sort of battery.
Wind cannot be contained, and when
harnessed it becomes
something else,

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

to the eyes,
lies at the center 
of Eden. Ah, man the master!
You cannot always
have your fruit
and eat 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

brought us
once again
into the garden,
between trees ripe with beautiful
fruit. We can choose life
or judgment
of right

Monday, June 15, 2015

the tree of
judgment and morals,
and see that the sages spoke truth.
The fruit is good. If
we eat it
we shall

Friday, June 12, 2015

gods and whips have ceased
to goad us. We do not yet dream
of freedom. Each night
we are still

Thursday, June 11, 2015

fell asleep,
followed by my arm.
I'm glad about the baby, but
I wish that my arm
would wait for
the rest

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

too soon. Let
slow residual
sediment float uneasily
down thrpugh deep and cloudy waters until everything
is unexpectedly softened,
transformed to velvet 
by a fine

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

wind will
not be still
and the earthquake won't
cease to clatter like loud cymbals.
It is all just noise.
I await
the voice

Monday, June 8, 2015

The world is full of sex and drugs and rock-
a-bye-baby. In retrospect, perhaps we should
have been more concerned about the lullabies.
The swaying motion preserves a sense of safety.
It does not preserve the actual baby,
which I may, even now, be throwing out with the bath.
Excess caution always comes with danger,
and this is no exception.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

the new
born kitten
cross the road? There are
no answers,

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Good old Castro was a campesino (We think it rhymes with Reno, but what do we know?) And when he left his rustic roots behind, He always was most generous and kind. Believing beans and rice to be the best, He saved that sort of food for all the rest. Humble Castro, former campesino (Perhaps it rhymes with rhino. How should I know?) Subsisted mainly on roast pork and veal; Proving his ideals at every meal. He fasted from the pleasant peasant fare, But still produced vast quantities of air.

Monday, June 1, 2015

the mill
stones: heaven's
kingdom is at hand.
Where last are first, the children stand
in for God. The wheel
turns: beware
lest you

Saturday, May 30, 2015

is vast.
You need not
exhaust yourself
all at once. You'll unfold slowly,
wings flailing against the silk in which you've wrapped yourself.
Do not allow the part of you
that is free to break
this precious
thread: you

Monday, May 25, 2015


lending earth
their fierce gravity.
Dust is raised up above the air,
upending the elemental powers of the world.
Those born of water
find their tongues

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Trigger warning: trigger warnings

It's only fair to warn you at the outset that this post may trigger... something or other. I'm not sure why trigger warnings have provoked such an intense response, but it's worth acknowledging that they have. If you don't think you can handle reading about trigger warnings, feel free to skip this post.  ;)

But now that I've warned you, I'm going to go right ahead and talk about them, because the point of trigger warnings isn't to avoid talking about painful subjects, but to talk about them with courtesy and intentionality.

The phrase "trigger warning" was popularized in those corners of the blogosphere where trauma survivors gather together to process. Those blogs exist precisely because it's important to talk about trauma, because you can't really heal if you always avoid the painful subjects.

Handling intense emotions is a learned skill, though, and sometimes it takes a lot of practice to get it right. Moreover, it takes the right kind of practice, and that's why trigger warnings matter.

As my wise flute teacher told me, and as I tell my own students now, practice doesn't actually make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Practicing scales at breakneck speed with sloppy technique does more harm than good. It's practicing, yes, but it's practicing playing badly.

In the same way, exposure to triggers can be an important part of recovery, but it's only helpful if we're prepared to practice well.

If you warn us first, then we can use it as an opportunity to practice all the awesome skills we learned in therapy. But you aren't doing us any favors by blindsiding us with unexpectedly graphic material, because without a warning, we might end up simply drowning in our memories all over again, or we might end up practicing whatever destructive coping mechanisms come automatically.

We don't need to avoid our pain, we need to channel it in productive and life-giving directions. We need to talk about hard things, and we need to read the great books that hurt. But we need to do it carefully, intentionally, and at the right time.

Which means we need trigger warnings.

It doesn't have to be disruptive. I remember my professors doing this sort of thing automatically, not because of any policy, but because they genuinely cared about their students. Far from sabotaging our education, their compassion helped us feel safe enough to engage with the material on a rigorous level.

A trigger warning policy is a poor substitute for that kind of real concern, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

the tears rolled
over to anger,
disbelief, sorrow, and regret.
We would not laugh now.
It's funny
the way

Friday, May 15, 2015

all day long.
Each step reminds me
of the emptiness that you left
behind when you ripped
the sole right
out of

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

With writer's block for a pillow...

here and there
you will hit a block.
You might trip, get a concussion,
but lay your head upon it gently, and you may find
an Ebenezer, a heavenly stair
up which you may limp,
a cornerstone
on which

Monday, May 11, 2015

Some say, without exception, that weasel
words are unambiguously bad.
This is somewhat like painter taking care to keep his easel
free of nuanced color. It makes me sad.
I won't call them the writers of the green
book, since it seems likely they'd prefer
pure blue or yellow. Fair enough. I've seen
little lovelier than daffodils and sky, yet there were
always in such scenes some subtler hues.
On this, I will not equivocate or hedge.
I use weasel words, and will defend much of their use.
Regardless of who does it, it's a travesty to wedge
the dappled truth into some simple view
without a word of warning when you do.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

a summer's
day to anything?
This is Houston. I would not damn
my enemy's dog with such praise, faint as the panting
breeze that barely ruffles the hot
wet blanket of air
draped over
us like

Saturday, May 9, 2015


The pigeons in the parking lot
Feast on greasy taco wrappers.
Their feathers glow with as many rainbows
As the swirls of oil puddling beneath
The rattletrap truck. Under the swingset,
The puddles are made of good clean mud:
A suitable habitat for algae, mosquito larvae,
And tadpoles. Most of the latter will die
When the rain dries, but we rescued a few
Hundred. Many of these will also die, much
To the relief of the stowaway mosquitos, if Noah
Keeps dropping his toys in the tank. His brothers
Hover above, calming the maelstrom.
We clean up after the bright-winged birds,
And continue to hope for a plague of frogs.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The bayou is strewn with black-eyed Susans, Queen
Anne's lace, Whopper wrappers, and the feathers
Of several anonymous birds. An ice-cream truck
Meanders through the neighborhood, blaring, "Go
Tell Aunt Rhodie." Occasional honking suggests
That goose may not entirely be dead.
The eviscerated dove most certainly is.
Same goes for the grackle, but who is there
To hear the news, dear reader, except for you?
It's enough to make one wonder whether or not
It's worth the risk to open one's eyes to spring.

There are mountains underneath the Canyon.
We weren't as close to the center of the world as we felt.
Still, in the dark, as we would sleep, embedded
In layered rock, we shook when the earth trembled,
And when the walls lit up, and the birds sang, we would listen
For the news of which city had been reduced to rubble.
There inside the Canyon it was clear
That we are all connected. It is still so.

We all must stand or fall on this shared rock.
We drink of the waters that flow between us, and breathe
One another's breath. Our own small lights
Aid and obscure each other's view of heaven.
Love for fellow man must make us care
For the vast and hidden mountains that we share.

Monday, May 4, 2015

There are words that a poet must not use.
Do not write with breathless, aching, passion
About your heart, except perhaps to describe
A cardiac event. Be clinical and precise.
Shock is a sure symptom of original genius.

Color is out. Virgil's not green anymore,
And those sorts of tricks will make editors see red.
In order to fit in, you must say something new.
Reworking older work is so passe.
Leave that to fogeys like Milton and Rossetti.

Heirloom words are too tarnished for everyday use.
Polish them on holidays if you must. Otherwise,
Keep your grandmother's silver in its case.
There is no meaning left for words like grace.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

work gears
each cause always caused
by some other cause, except for
choice. The world's habitual order is interrupted
by several billion prime movers
at the very least.
Surprise is

Saturday, May 2, 2015

falls: velvet,
and somewhat moth-eaten. Mostly
the holes have been patched up by now. Just a few
pinpricks remain to recall us
to the unending
realms of light

Friday, May 1, 2015

The tremble-feathered little bird
Beating fierce against your ribcage,
Cannot hear a calming word
Through the flutter of her rage.

She needs to learn to listen, so you must
First begin by showing her the way.
You must be the first to trust.
Attend to what your fledgling heart may say.

Learn what she knows. Then once you know,
And she feels that you understand her fear,
You will have earned the right to show
the rest of what's true, and she'll finally hear.

The heart needs the mind, and the mind needs the heart.
Whichever one can listen, ought to start.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Elegy for the Grand Canyon

Weep, weep, for the sacred ground
Defiled and unearthed for its terrible power.
Weep for the sunlit bright brief hour
Of blue-green waters dancing, and the sound
Of cottonwood leaves. What has been found
More precious than the land where the red rocks tower
And the prickly-pears flower
With sharp-spined sweetness? Weep for the ground.

Weep, weep, for the world's brutal ways,
for the souls who cannot be content
With the earth's lovely gifts, for the passion that lays
Waste to the wilderness, raging unspent
With nothing unscathed in its wake.
Weep for the earth and her dear children's sake.
as a child;
translucent, floating,
born into the oceanic
womb while depths within
you, in turn,
bring forth

Sunday, April 26, 2015

rain down
on the just
until the torrents
sweep them away, while the wicked
eat of the fruit of the land, for indeed he sends rain
on them as well, and they devour
what grows from gentler
rains that fall

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Some days, you have to pretend
to be alive. It will feel like a lie,
until you remember that every pretense
inevitably implies a pretender;
a subject, if you will. And you will
eventually recognize this stranger
to be yourself. Then you can simply
go on being alive for the rest
of the day. Night will come, and sleep
may cause you to forget again.
Try to remember in the morning
that some days, you have to pretend.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Even on days like this, when noon
shines an apathetic twilight,
there are some illusory escapes.
The usual noise of traffic is drowned
in the tires' sudden spashing. Waves
lap at the curb, and I could almost
feel myself upon some peaceful shore,
then not, then there again, a slightly
slower rhythm than the thunder-
punctuated rain. Preserve
me from such hopes as those that fly
from this bleak box.

                                     The leaves, long dry,
are drenched. Too late. They won't grow green
again. There is no return,
except perhaps the long way through
decay, and then beyond the winter,
moment piled on moment, end
on end. O, for courage to attend
to the damp gray road that leads to home.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Let them eat cake!

On behalf of all cake-buyers everywhere, I would like to start out by affirming that a baker/decorator should have carte blanche to refuse a commission for any reason whatsoever.

If the requested design or message doesn't make sense to you, for the customer's sake, you probably shouldn't make the cake. If it's a challenging design that's beyond your skill, for the customer's sake, just say no. And if the person ordering the cake disgusts you so much that you don't think you can resist the temptation to spit on the frosting, you've got some serious soul work to attend to, but in the mean time, for the sake of the customer, it might be a good idea to let somebody else make the cake.

There are also all sorts of religious reasons why someone might to refuse to make a cake. Orthodox bakeries should have the prerogative to sell only vegan cakes during lent, or even to shut down altogether between Ash Wednesday and Easter. If someone asked me to make an excessively vitriolic or murderously gruesome cake, I would have to tell them very politely that my religion prohibits that sort of thing.

Cakes are art (at least, they ought to be) and I think it's a terrible idea to try to force art from anyone. Anti-discrimination laws are incredibly important when it comes to housing, retail, and basic food-service, but anything involving custom design is impossible to effectively regulate.

But silly and dangerous as it is to try to force people to make cakes against their will, it's equally absurd to shame Christians for doing business with sinners.

It's okay to make cake for remarrying divorcees.

It's okay to make cake for cohabitating couples.

It's okay to make cake for couples who are openly intending to use artificial birth control.

And it's okay to deliver pizza to frat parties. (If you happen to witness any violence, be sure to intervene appropriately. You could totally save a life, or prevent a rape.)

As St. Paul says, "You would have to leave this world to get away from everyone who is immoral or greedy or who cheats or worships idols." In our complex society, it is impossible to avoid complicity with sin. I benefit from slavery every day. I wouldn't be able to write this blog post if it weren't for the child slaves who are coerced into grueling and dangerous mine work. And if I ever manage to make enough money to actually pay taxes on it, the odds are pretty high that those tax dollars are going to help fund some pretty appalling injustices.

Thanks be to God, Jesus directly addressed this sort of dilemma, and as always, his answer is both peaceful and bracing.

When the Pharisees inquired about taxes, it was a seriously thorny question. Roman taxes paid for roads, aqueducts, and the preservation of the Pax Romana, but they also funded gladiatorial contests, pagan temples, the slaughter of every male infant in Judea, and ultimately, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Those are that taxes that Jesus is talking about when he says to give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and give unto God what is God's.

Jesus says to go ahead and pay your taxes. Don't fret about your unavoidable complicity, but always remember that you belong to God, and are made in his image. Do whatever it is that God gives you to do in furtherance of his kingdom, and trust him with the rest.

The Pharisees called for the sort of moral perfection that avoided all potentially contaminating contact with sin, even if meant leaving somebody in a ditch. Jesus calls us to reach beyond that, and aspire to the moral perfection that belongs to God himself, who sends rain on the just and the unjust.

This is serious. If your righteousness doesn't exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

If we're going to follow Jesus, then love trumps keeping our hands clean, and he calls us to imitate the presumably befuddled and synchretistic Samaritan rather than the faithful but hopelessly uncharitable priest and Levite.

None of this means that we should ignore sin. Jesus was quite outspoken in his denunciations, and when he ate with sinners, it was always to call them to repentance. But he really did eat with sinners, prioritizing love over his own purity.

Love calls sin for what it is, and that's why I'm writing this. If you're living in bondage to the idea that God demands that we avoid doing good for sinners at all costs, I would be remiss not to tell you how gravely dangerous I think that is.

But I will gladly make you the very nicest cake that I can. For your sake and mine, though, let's just stick to a simple sheet cake with buttercream frosting. And sprinkles.

Friday, April 10, 2015

When first we practice...

Spin, spin, spin,
With your eyes clenched tight.
You will probably pin
The tail on the nose. That's alright.

Innocence is bliss.
It's justice if it's blind.
Spin, so when you miss
No guilt will cloud your mind.

Spin, spin, spin,
And weave your shimmering strand.
Do whatever you must to win,
But make sure that you don't understand.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Thy kingdom come, rising up from clay
damp with heaven's waters. Here on earth
may streams of life pour down upon the just
and the unjust both. May our purity surpass
all petty human perfections and aspire,
Father, to that perfection which is yours.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Judgment, splinters, and restoration

Not too long ago, there was a meme going around about "how liberals read the Bible."  Various versions were in circulation, but all of them showed an open Bible, which had been so heavily highlighted with a sharpie that the only words legible were "judge not."

It's a clever meme, and up to a certain point, it has a point. Obviously, Jesus said a whole lot of things besides "judge not." If you're going to follow Jesus, it's not enough to simply refrain from judging people. You also have to refrain from murder and name-calling and envy and sexual immorality, and if you manage to catch the guy who stole your coat, you have to offer him the shirt off your back.

But... you also have to "judge not."

You really, really, do.

The sharpie-highlighter meme seems to imply that the injunction to "judge not" only exists as a sort of blackout poetry, where the meaning is largely unrelated to the intentions of the original text.

But if you peel back the layers of sharpie, the context doesn't mitigate this command one jot or tiddle. It's part of a discourse on the importance of loving sinners, and "judge not" is pretty accurate summary phrase for the entire passage.

If you think that it's hard to reconcile this whole not-judging thing with the intense ethical demands laid out in Scripture, you're in good company. Jesus insisted that his teachings were a fulfillment of the law, and didn't water it down at all, but he never did manage to convince the top Torah scholars. I'm convinced that Jesus is right, but I have to admit that it can be really hard to see what he's getting at. Like the magic eye pictures that amazed us in junior high, sometimes it jumps out at me in breathtaking 3-D, and sometimes I'm stuck staring blankly at a hopelessly incoherent jumble.

But at the times when I can see it and the times when I can't, it's still there. All of it. Jesus calls us to walk the hard, narrow road of holiness, and he doesn't even allow us the sweet consolations of judgmental self-righteousness.

I get why the scribes and pharisees might not have been able to see what Jesus was saying, and even if they did see it, I get why they might have killed him for it anyway. Jesus' teachings are hard words. They're the words of eternal life, and I don't know who else to go to, but they are very hard words indeed. Everyone should count the cost before deciding to pick up a cross and follow.

Of course, theories abound about how Jesus' teachings are not really as hard as they seem. I've often heard it said that because Jesus follows the not-judging discourse with the illustration of the log and the speck, he didn't really mean that we aren't supposed to judge, but merely that we're supposed to deal with our own sin first.

The problem with this theory is that I've never had much success in removing splinters by yelling at them. I'm getting pretty good at dealing with splinters, mostly because I've had a lot of experience with them. Who knew that all those childhood cactus encounters would come in so handy? Still, it's a delicate task, requiring understanding and precision. When my kids come to me with splinters, I try to figure out how the splinter got there in the first place, so that I can guide the offending fragment out through the same path. Sometimes a salt paste will help the swollen flesh recede, and sometimes I put a dab of glue over the splinter, so I that I can peel it away when the glue dries. Every splinter is a little bit different, but for all of them, if you're harsh and impatient, you're apt to drive it in deeper. Worse, you might break off the visible portion, leaving the rest of it buried and inaccessible.

So while it's true that once you've removed the plank from your own eye, you're supposed to help other people with their splinters, you simply can't accomplish that by judging them. Condemnation is just as ineffective against splinters as it is against sin. We are not seeing clearly if we think that having been saved by grace we can go on to save others through our condemnation and judgment.

The lesson of the woman caught in adultery is not that good behavior will earn us the privilege of throwing stones, and the lesson of the log and the speck is not that we should start judging as soon as we become unaware of our own sin.

Thanks be to God, Jesus empathizes with all our temptations, and even though he's amply qualified to cast the first stone, instead he chooses to drive our accusers away so that we can go and sin no more.

We should do likewise.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Shall I wear the ashes of my zeal?
The branches that I wave become a cross,
and in a week of week of weeks grow dry as tinder,
consumed until the flames die out at last,
and all my striving turns again to dust.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Counting the cost

Grace is what transforms us.

The law can't do it. Rules and punishments can't do it.

As Christians, we know this. It's one of the core assertions of the gospel. I've never, ever heard anyone claim to follow Jesus while denying the superior power of grace over law and punishment...

Unless we're talking about parenting. Or politics. Or any other sphere in which we might be the ones handing out grace or judgment.

It's easy to get excited about grace when it's just between us and God. It gets a lot harder when it's between us and other people.

Because grace isn't cheap. Grace means that somebody has to get on a cross.

It is much easier to be on the receiving end of grace than the giving end, but it's a package deal. Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

If you want to follow Jesus, you have to take up your cross, and embrace the cost of grace.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I drag my weary bones up the flight
Of steps to the pteradactyl skeletons.
Dangling from the ceiling, to the right,
There's also a mammoth, assembled with cables and pins.
I'm sure there's a very good reason why he's flying.
These things are too great and too marvelous for me.
I have not quieted my soul, but I am trying,
Which I suppose is why I come to the museum to see
How much we know. After years of digging,
There's really quite a lot one can piece together.
The displays are supported by very strong rigging,
But despite the sturdy steel cables, it's hard to say whether
Any given model will hold for long.
We've never met the monsters with their flesh still on.

Monday, March 16, 2015

of your mind
with words not your own.
Make them your own. Choose them wisely.
Choose wiser words than your accidental mutterings.
You can't choose your own words except
by choosing others.
Set your sail
to choose 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Personal... but more than personal

When we first started exploring Catholicism, I knew that there were certain elements of my Protestant heritage that I needed to be careful not to lose. I've been given a wonderful foundation of Scriptural knowledge, powerfully undergirded by the idea that Biblical literacy is for everyone. This is something I want to carry with me into Catholicism.

 I initially assumed that the emphasis on an intimate relationship with God was another such distinctively Protestant virtue, but as we've visited a half dozen different parishes over the past months, we've been very surprised at what we've observed. Everywhere we go, we're finding Catholics who are absolutely obsessed with encouraging everyone to have an intimate relationship with God. Moreover, they have some really great advice about it, too, and my prayer life is growing by leaps and bounds.

Catholic spirituality is very different from what I expected, and I found the discrepancy puzzling. What on earth was going on?

I think at least part of the answer lies in the multiple meanings of the word "personal."

I had always heard that one of the main differences between Protestants and Catholics is that Catholics don't value a personal relationship with God as much as Protestants.

If we mean "personal" as opposed to "impersonal," then this is a bizarrely counterfactual claim to make of a church that is so focused on intimate union with Christ.  But if we mean "personal" as opposed to "corporate," then this really is a legitimate area of disagreement. Protestants place a higher value on personal conscience and private interpretation, while Catholics place a higher value on church authority and the communion of saints. This isn't to say that Protestants don't value the communal aspect of the faith, but simply that they believe that Catholics place a dangerously excessive emphasis on it. Likewise, Catholics believe that the Protestant focus on individual autonomy is unhealthy and out of balance.

Protestants are wary of too much emphasis on saints and church authority because they don't want to let anything get in the way of intimate union with Christ. Catholics, on the other hand, make a huge deal out of both the church militant and the church triumphant precisely  because they believe that union with God's people is indispensable to union with Christ himself.

This is a legitimate disagreement, and there are solid arguments on both sides. But it's important to remember that for both Protestants and Catholics, union with Christ is the goal.

Obviously, Catholicism and Protestantism alike can all too easily  devolve into a set of rote religious practices. That's a problem we must all guard against, and faithful Protestants and faithful Catholics do guard against it. In all branches of the faith, the Christian life is all about being drawn up into the richly relational life of the triune God, and our disagreements are merely about how best to promote that end.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Embrace your blindness. Savor each intricate contour
Of the darkness you inhabit. Listen and feel,
Voraciously attentive to what you know,
Content within it's limits. Man the master
Can only rule within tight fixed bounds.
Manage your business wisely, and when you wander,
Bear in mind the things you do not know:
Each stranger on the road may be your father.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Intercede for us

I've always found the idea of intercessory prayer a little bit weird. I mean, if God is all-knowing and all good,  how can it possibly make sense to try to convince God of anything?

And yet, we're obviously supposed to do just that. Not only are we supposed to directly ask God for what we need--that part makes sense, simply as an expression of trust--but we're also supposed to pray for other people, and ask other people to pray for us.

Which is very, very weird when you think about it. I mean, don't we each have direct access to God, through the one mediator Jesus Christ?

Nonetheless, we're obviously commanded to pray for each other, and to ask for prayer. Make of it what you will.

Yesterday, I was praying for my children, and also asking Mary to pray for them and for me, when the baby woke up from his nap. I could hear his sweet little voice calling out, "Mama? Mama? No Mama. Where Mama?"

And big sister took him by the hand, and brought him to me. The little guy was overjoyed, but before settling in to nurse, he took a moment to celebrate with his big sister, happily pointing me out to her.  "Mama. Mama."

Lately, I've been noticing my children intercede for one another quite a bit. It absolutely melts my heart when one of them begs me to bend the rules for a brother or sister.

And it changes what I do.

I won't allow anything dangerous, of course. But I will gladly be more lenient about computer time or sweets when brothers and sisters ask for each other, just because the love between them is so very precious to me.

And I cannot think of anything that makes my heart gladder than watching my children lead one another into my arms.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

the abyss
of trash that sparkles
like a pixelated sunset
casting colors up to the steely sky. Swift beaks snatch
for silent prey: odd bits of bread
and discarded fruit;
feast enough
for all

Thursday, February 19, 2015

It eats right
through your intestines,
feeding upon anxiety
as well as sugar. Caution itself is perilous;
pride finds purity very sweet.
It may be this kind
is only
cast out

Monday, February 16, 2015

unraveled stories 
must suffice for light; lovely tales
sacrificed for thread. Merciful mother, undoer
of knots, show me the clear bright strands
freely flowing down
from heaven's

Saturday, February 14, 2015

thought there is
someone who thinks it,
and also someone who links it
with something you think. This is an opportunity
to form the kind of distinctions that are essential
for good dialogue, and help you inch
closer to the truth.
Use it. The odds are
you think some

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

is full
of good things.
You can't have them all.
Every glory comes at the cost
of another. Ours is the splendor of the lilies,
of grass and of dust. Revel in your bounded brilliance,
and the unending streams of light
you will never hold.
That there is
such good,

Criticizing the good guys

Last night, one of my little boys asked what a Pharisee was, and one of his big brothers answered.

"The Pharisees are the bad guys."

Good guess... but no. The Pharisees were the Bible teachers.

"Okay, yeah, but they were the bad teachers."

Another excellent guess... but no.

The Pharisees were most definitely  the good guys.

Jesus has some very hard words for the good guys.

And some of the good guys were willing to listen to those hard teachings. They sat at Jesus' feet alongside the crooks and the prostitutes, welcoming Jesus as their king and their God.

But just as most of the bad guys wanted to go on being bad, most of the good guys just wanted to go on being better than the bad guys.

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, like a dying grain of wheat, and Jesus has hard things to say to all of us.

Given that the world is so full of bad guys committing acts of unspeakable brutality, perhaps it was rather offensive of President Obama to mention the crimes of our own people during his prayer breakfast remarks.

But it was just as offensive in Jesus' day, and in Paul's. Then, as now, the bad guys were engaging in murder and torture, burnings, crucifixions and large scale mass infanticides.

But even then--and even now--Jesus has challenging words for the good guys, too.

If the crusades were less brutal
 than they might have been, it is precisely because careful self-examination is woven into our heritage as Christians. We must not allow fear to induce us to abandon the great tradition of acknowledging our enemies' shared humanity, and our own shared capacity for evil.

The violence of others presents us with the twin temptations of apathy and imitation. It is wrong to stand by and give tacit permission to injustice. It is also wrong to follow our enemies in the ways of inhumane brutality.

There are no easy answers. Disagreement is inevitable, and probably needful. But however we respond to evil, we must do so carefully, prayerfully, and with eyes wide open to the many dangerous traps around us.

"...lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

days to dry
the body, preserve
it in death. It takes thirty more
to dry living tears, pack provisions for the journey.
Joseph must carry his father
out of Egypt, through
deserts, lay
him in

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

not slow
as we count
evenings and mornings,
the agonizing rotations
through formlessness and void. The spirit broods, wings outstretched.
land rises up from the waters
suspended in light.
All will be

Saturday, January 17, 2015

with your beads.
Roll the words inside
your mouth until the flame descends,
opening your lips to silent mysteries. Blessed
are you who bear the word in joy,
light, sorrow, glory.
Pray for us,
now and

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Give me faith enough to love, to let
the earth's embrace swallow me whole, and hope
to receive the swelling waters, let them burst
beyond myself; yes, teach me how to love.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bigger than the Bible

I was glad to see this article about Anglicanism at the Gospel Coalition. I love my Anglo-Catholic friends, I love all my other Reformed friends, and it's good to see them celebrating what they share in common. 

It's also good to get a bit more clarity on the ways in which I disagree with both of them.

"In Anglicanism, Scripture alone is supreme as the saving Word of God."

I love the Bible, and the more I read it, the more I find in it to love. But like all faithful messengers, the Bible does not point to itself. It points to Jesus.

Jesus alone is supreme as the saving Word of God.  


Not Moses, not Elijah, not John the Baptist, not the angel Gabriel or the Virgin Mary. Not even the Bible.

Just Jesus.

Scripture is God-breathed, and useful for instruction and training in righteousness. But Jesus is the living and active Word of God who sees every inward thought, understands our weakness, and stands before the Father as our great high priest.

I've often heard Hebrews 4:12 quoted as though it referred to the Bible, but that is an impossible reading of the text. 

The writer of Hebrews does not praise this Word for its power to teach us, but for his power to see, understand, and judge us. "No creature is hidden from his sight" is a very odd thing to say about the words that became our book, but it is most emphatically true of the Word made flesh.

Moreover, this reference to the "Word of God" appears within an argument for the supremacy of Christ over every other form of divine revelation, including (indeed, starting with!) the Bible. 

At various times, God has revealed himself to us through various prophets. Some of their words have been preserved for us and bound into books. This is a very great blessing.

But Jesus is greater.

The Bible is an important messenger,  and we should listen to it well. But if we listen to it faithfully, we will obey it's call to worship no mere book, but the living Christ, the Wisdom through which the Father created the world, revealed in human flesh.

We search the Scriptures, because we believe that in them we have eternal life. And indeed we do.

But only if we are willing to look beyond them, to the Word to which they point.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Such a great cloud

I wrote a nice long essay about the Virgin Mary, and it was almost ready post. I wrote about how she's the biggest obstacle in our journey toward Catholicism, but also maybe part of what's drawing us in. I also talked about the rosary, and learning styles, parenting, and my lifelong obsession with epistemology. All that remained was to tie it all together, which, come to think of it, may or may not have been possible. But now I'll never know, because I forgot to save the file.

I've been doing that a lot, lately. It makes me very glad that Jesus is the one responsible for saving my soul, and that his memory is better than mine.

Anyway, having thoroughly demonstrated my inability to save my files, let alone my self, I'm back to my old method of writing my first draft directly into blogger. Automatic cloud storage ftw!

Of course, this approach has risks of its own... so if I say something stupid, just assume that the baby was messing with my phone, okay?

I am actually pretty paranoid that Amos will grab my phone and do something ridiculous, which is one reason why we held off for so long before jumping on the smart phone bandwagon.

But the cost of traditional phone service went up, the cost of cellular went down, so here we are, and on the whole, I'm glad. It's quite possible to be well organized without a cell phone, but I've never actually managed to do it, and I'm glad that we live in a time and place with so many useful tools. We stand on the shoulders of lots and lots of mostly ordinary people, all learning from one another and building on each other's work, together doing things that none of them could have done alone. Technology is a great blessing, both flowing out of and facilitating the greater blessing of human community.

Homescooling is much easier now that I can fit dozens of books in my pocket. I spend more time reading with the kids, and less time looking for books, which is good, and less time getting upset with the kids over lost books, which is even better. My electronic to-do list is the real game-changer, though, because it provides enough structure to let me flexibly respond to the kids' ever-changing needs.

I like these new rhythms. It's been a good back-to-school week, made all the better because I've been meditating on John Neumann, who dedicated his life to helping kids learn, founded about a kabillion schools, and wrote amazing prayers of repentance drenched in grace.

His feast day was on Monday, and even though I can't keep track of such things, the editors of the Magnifcat do. They've laid out a daily banquet of prayers, hymns, and Scripture readings, along with beautiful reflections by and about all sorts of saints. There are so many different ways of becoming like Jesus, and each one shows me a different aspect of holiness to aspire toward, a different beauty to pray to see in others. I don't know how time and consciousness operate in glory, but I do know that we're all in this together, around the world and across the ages, and I am glad.

On my own, I'm pretty bad at remembering all the things I need to know if I'm going to run this race well. I'm grateful to be surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.