On an ordinary night near the turn of the millennium, a young man and his very pregnant wife trudged into the small town of Bethlehem. When I say the word ‘small’, I don’t mean ‘oh how quaint’ small. I mean ‘doesn’t merit a dot on most people’s maps’ small. It maybe could be called a suburb of Jerusalem on a nice day. In reality, it was the place that they stuck the sheep and shepherds during the year when they weren’t needed for Passover.

‘Suburb’ really means ‘ghetto’.

It wasn’t really the nicest place. It wasn’t the best place to take your wife, and it definitely wasn’t the place you wanted her to go into labor.

So, of course, she promptly did.


Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

–John 1:46

Mary lived in Nazareth. In all likelihood, she was born and raised in Nazareth. Joseph also lived in Nazareth.

Jesus’ parents were hicks.

And it came time for a census, and they had to go to where their families used to live. So Joseph took Mary, his incredibly pregnant wife of three months, to Bethlehem, Jerusalem’s ghetto. And there was no room for them in the single inn that Bethlehem possessed.

So they stayed in a barn that night.

Of course, she went into labor. And Jesus was born in a barn, with cows and donkeys and sheep as the witnesses. Amidst the stench and the sounds of the animals, the hope of the whole world descended from Heaven. The indignity of humanity He accepted freely, and the discomfort of infanthood was His.

Babies are loud things. And messy things. And ugly things. There is nothing in a baby’s face that makes it beautiful; entirely objectively speaking, babies are ugly.

Jesus was a baby. There was nothing to recommend Him over other babies; probably you couldn’t pick him out of a group unless you were His mother. He was as normal as a baby could be.

Jesus had dirty diapers.

Normality is strange. Jesus was God incarnate; He should have been unusual, at least a little bit, shouldn’t He? But He wasn’t. As a child, we are never told that He preached to the children of Nazareth. He did not raise any of his friend’s pets from the dead. He did not make earth-shaking pronouncements of power.

He obeyed His parents, He worked with His father, He did His daily chores.


Who’da thunk it?

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The Color Blue

How do you explain the color blue?

Saying “It’s the color of the sky” really means nothing. The sky? What is the sky to one who cannot see? There is nothing tactile, nothing tangible that one can say, “This. This is the sky, this is blue.”

You could say, “The sky is where the sun is.” But the sun is simply a sensation, warmth, as close as your skin. It doesn’t live far distant, but wraps itself around you every time you step out the door.

How do you explain the sky? Or stars?

“Stars are light.” But what is light? It has no scent, nor sound. When you have never known anything but dark, you cannot even call it darkness, because it simply is. Light and darkness are meaningless, to one who has never seen. And a star? A star is not warmth. “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” and what does twinkle even mean? A song for children, full of nonsense words. What is a star?

Or night? The rhythm of your day, unquestioned, yet arbitrary–for night is simply “when we go to bed,” and day, “when we play.”

A common language, rendered–not incomprehensible, but not-quite-comprehensible–by the absence of one key clue.

A language permeated with sight, with colors and light and darkness and things that can be neither tasted, smelled, heard, or felt.

And I weep, because no matter how far I try to go, no matter how much I try to understand,

there is still that one, impenetrable barrier

erected every day

when I greet her:

“It’s good to see you.”

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Resting Time

Time is money. Don’t waste my time. I don’t have the time. There’s not enough time. My time is valuable. I can’t spare the time.

Isn’t it exhausting, rushing to and fro?

The other day, I was driving to an appointment. As is often the case when one has no time to spare, the car in front of me slowed to a stop. I had entered that dreaded beast of the modern age, The Traffic Jam. I opened my window into the useasonably warm fall air and stuck my head out, to gauge the length and girth of the beast.

It stretched far out of sight.

I spent the next five minutes tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, constantly glancing at the dashboard clock, and generally fulfilling all the stereotypes of someone stuck in traffic and late. Then I realized something.

This time was a gift.

There was very little to pay attention to. Move forward with the car in front of you; stop with them as well. Watch for signs indicating a road closing. That was all.

This time, I rolled down my windows and stuck out my arm, letting it drift in the warm currents of dusty air. The sun was shining; butterflies–real, actual butterflies–were flittering about in the roadside wildflowers. The bitter-rich smell of woodsmoke permeated the breeze. God was good.

I never made it to my appointment; I had to call and reschedule. But for a brief, shining half hour, I relaxed and delighted in the time given to me. I didn’t have to be in control; I wasn’t responsible for everything. I was just still.

There is not enough time, and will never be enough time, to do everything. But there is a time to work, and a time to rest. Don’t consume your times of rest with worry about what you will do when they are over. Each time has worries of its own; just live in the time that is given you, and honor its purpose.

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By Them We Are Healed

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.    —Isaiah 53

She sat curled on the bed, fortifying herself with blankets and pillows and the illusion of security. Honesty is a scary thing; she had to prepare herself for it.

The cry of the human heart: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Loneliness is the human condition; our inmost being craves to be known and loved at the same time. Honesty is the only thing that makes it possible to be known; yet honesty is the same thing that might destroy the love we so desperately crave.

“Sometimes,” she swallowed, “I’m not sure God is there anymore.”

She waited for the condemnation. When it did not come, she braced to speak more.

“But then, when I remember,” her voice broke, “That he knows my pain, I cannot bear it. I cannot fathom that kind of love. Maybe I don’t understand, but a God who could do that for me must be good. And a good God would never lie.”

In response to such love, what can one say? How can anyone ever fathom it? There is no answer, no answer except for a question:


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Random Untitled Poetry

To whisper storms to sleep at night,

To call the hidden diamonds forth,

To know–exactly–one’s own worth;

To have the mind of Christ.


To listen to a child weep–

And know you cannot kill their fears–

To be the only one who hears!

–To not die–but–to sleep;


To wait down through the longest age,

And write down all the truths untold,

To–shaking–speak as though you’re bold,

To earn an honest wage;


To live as though you’ve seconds left,

To weep as though you’re never home,

Always lonely but never alone,

Rejoicing–and bereft.


If you have lost all that you seek,

And if you’ve counted every cost:

Go to the world–and to the lost–

For “Blessed are the meek.”

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One of my Commonplaces

“For we shall verily see in heaven without end that we have grievously sinned in this life; and notwithstanding this we shall verily see that we were never hurt in his love, nor were we never the less of price in his sight. And by the assay of this falling we shall have an high and a marvelous knowing of love in God without an end. For hard and marvelous is that love which may not nor will not be broken for trespass.”

A Book of Showing, Julian of Norwich, Chapter 61


This is a marvelous security. When all is said and done and we see that “all our righteousness is as filthy rags,” it is a great comfort to know that for all our sin and worthlessness, we are still loved.

It’s hard to continue loving after a betrayal. When you look at a person and all you can see is what they have done to you, it is more than hard; it’s impossible to honestly love that person. All they are now is an open wound. It is also impossible to be the recipient of such love. It can break you, knowing that you have only given someone harm and all they have is love for you still.

That is what hard means: you can break against this love, for it is hard and strong as a diamond. It will shatter you to pieces, and it will not let go. For of what price is an open wound? How can you prize something worthless? How is it possible that we are not “less of price” to God? There must be a lessening; justice and fairness demand it. And yet the worthless is still loved; and for that reason there is a desire, a longing, to become something worthy of such love, no matter how impossible it is.

How can one possibly respond to such love? All we do is fall, down and down and down again. There is no response we can give that is worthy, no deed we can perform, in response to this love that came and died for his betrayers.

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My first Free Verse experiment

The group over in the corner is disturbing me.

I think they’re fomenting revolution, perhaps. Or at least–

They’re talking about Hitler, now. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about that.

And now they’re laughing. That’s just typical.

I wouldn’t laugh about such serious topics. At least not where others could hear me and judge.

And is that an accent? Ugh, from Texas, too. She’s talking about feminism.

I thought she was one of those. She has that sort of self-satisfied air. At least I–

I don’t look down on people for their learning, or assume they know less than I just because I disagree.

I’m better than that. (better than her, I mean.) Sitting smug in her boots and just drawling away.

And divorce? Someone said something about it;

Probably positive, those sinful libertines.

“As soon as I have a computer, I’ll give you your criticism.”

Ha! They don’t even like each other. Rather, they don’t, at least

Speak civilly, like decent people do; normal people

Don’t plan their criticism; are not so free with their hatred.

(I wonder when was the last time that man shaved. He’s disgusting.)

And those things really should not be said

In public. Don’t they know that children could hear? How crude.

Those things do happen, but I don’t want to hear about them

Here, where I order my coffee and get my breakfast bagel.

It’s unsettling. Who do they think they are? To air dirty laundry in public, unashamed,

To speak of wounds in everyday voice. At least I don’t–

Don’t speak of my wounds above a whisper;

Don’t laugh at my pain; don’t make a sound;

Don’t let the world see my weaknesses,

Don’t rail at the darkness,

Don’t make



And they laugh. Out loud.

They’re disturbing me.

That group over in the corner.

They’re too alive. Too loud. Too honest.

They call themselves poets; I know what they are,

Mockers and slanderers, liars and filth.

I’m not like them, at least–

I’m clean.

“For it is not the well who need a doctor, but the sick.”

Pass by that haven; they’re too happy there.

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Poetry cannot be taught

Poetry cannot be taught,
And writing is not learned.
Classrooms give no wings to thought–
Nor teach you how to yearn.

But watch the world for half an hour–
Be silent in your soul.
Leave, for once, your ivory tower
And listen to the pull

Of falling stars, of concrete, trees,
Of lovers’ rendezvous–
Dance unshod through dewy grass;
Memorize your shoes.

Read a book–or two–or three–
That makes you laugh aloud;
Be unashamed to shout and weep
Amidst the grey-black crowd.

Then listen to a little child
As if he were a king;
Sit with him an hour, and wind
His yoyo on its string.

Then–and only then–you might
Begin to hear the song
That underscores the woolen night;
That makes the day run long.

Then, if you hear the glittering words
And pull them from thick air
The heartbeat of the universe
Might open to your ears.

And if to class you then return
You’ll know the truth untold:
A poet’s born, and learns to yearn
By first becoming old.

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If Anyone Thinks

I have been reading James for the past few months, and it is horribly convicting. It’s not a ‘simple fix,’ either; as I messaged to a friend over the summer:

How is one supposed to have a mouth that only blesses when there is so much that is curseworthy? How does one keep from favoritism when people try so hard to make you hate them? How can we be holy when the world is so very, very wrong?

How can we be holy in a world gone very wrong?

“Count it all joy,” he says, “when you encounter various trials.”

But what about when the trial is rejection? What if your trial is that the Church you love casts you out? What about the times when your trial seems utterly fruitless, when you come out the other side and are left empty and wasted?

“Blessed is the man who stands fast under trial.”

I know my faults, and they are many. I am often reminded of my sin. But aren’t the trials supposed to come from outside? Am I not a member of the Body, as loved as any other? How am I supposed to bless the elder who curses me? How am I supposed to have no favorites, when on the one hand there are broken ones who love my brokenness, and on the other are the proud who humiliate me? Why do we put on trial those we are called to work with?

When did the Church become a courtroom, where we damn or acquit? Weren’t we barely saved from damnation ourselves?

“Put away all filthiness.”

Aha, we say, see? God is sanctioning our rage. Look at them, really look! Aren’t they filthy? Aren’t I better?

Aren’t I better.

“…that we should be a kind of firstfruits.” We are the firstfruits. We are better. We are chosen.

“Do not be deceived.”

Do not be deceived.

Do. not. be. deceived.

“but each person is tempted…Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Each person.

Do not be deceived. We are each person. You are each person. He is each person.

I am each person.

We have no right. None. We must stop attacking each other; we were not called to sit in judgement of the other members of the body.

Even more so, we have no right to attack others for sinning, for we are the greatest of sinners.

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

I’ll get back to you with the rest when I have mastered that. Visiting real orphans, and real widows, and with them feeling their pain; a keeping myself unstained by bitterness, pride, and self-righteousness.

This could take a while.

Categories: Musings | 2 Comments

The Wreck

The air conditioner just died;
She couldn’t find a parking space.
He says he loves me for my mind.
How many signals did I miss?

The coffee-mug spilled on her shirt–
I didn’t see the light was red!
“You’re asking for a world of hurt.”
He found her in a hospital bed.

“This bruise is shaped just like a hand.”
It wasn’t my fault; I couldn’t stop!
Please don’t; please, no! Please! I can’t stand.
The nurse awoke her; why did she sob?

“It’s all just fine.” “You’ll be okay.”
But now she’s lost another fight.
Today was a very, very long day.
And tonight will be a very long night.

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