The Song of Streams

This poem is an old one, which I posted here on my blog three years ago (it’s hard to believe the blog has been going that long). I am re-posting it today because most of you wouldn’t have seen it back then, and also because I’ve been thinking about these ideas a lot recently as I’ve worked on the manuscript for “Dream Small.” When the book comes out, you’ll see that one of the chapter titles uses a phrase from this poem—I’ve called it, “The Upside-Down Ladder.” I have to say, though, that the original inspiration for this poem came from a scene in “Hind’s Feet on High Places,” by Hannah Hunard, a book I highly recommend. 

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Unless

Christianity is full of surprising reversals. Just think of Good Friday, where the King of Heaven abolishes the power of death—by dying in our place! He said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” And that’s exactly what he did—first the dying, then the bearing much fruit. Now, he calls us to follow him in the same way: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” As we approach Easter, I’ve been thinking a lot about this–what does it look like for me, right now? How is my own life reshaped and redirected by these reversals? These are the things I was thinking of when I wrote this poem:

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Me, Dorothy, And The Kung Fu Panda

Dorothy Gale (of the Wizard of Oz) and Master Po (the Kung Fu Panda) have something in common. As different as the two characters are, and as different as the styles and storylines of their films are, they both still end up in the same place. Master Po opens the legendary Dragon Scroll expecting power, but finds instead that it is simply a reflective surface. He learns from this that the power he needs is actually in himself, the one being reflected. Similarly, Dorothy travels the Yellow Brick Road all the way to Oz, only to discover that the famous Wizard is just a regular guy and that all along she had the power in herself to achieve her dream. Different stories, different genres, same point: if you’re looking for answers, look inside. 

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Tidings Of Comfort

“I’m just not feeling as festive this year,” said my eleven-year-old son, this morning, Christmas Eve. 

“I know. It’s harder for everyone, I think.” What else could I say? It may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but in 2020, that’s not saying a lot.

Normally at Christmas, when we sing lines like “tidings of comfort and joy” we focus primarily on the “joy.” I do, anyway. I like to think of Christmas as a happy time, a time of celebration and rejoicing. In all my Christmases, I can’t remember ever thinking much at all about the other word: “comfort.” 

Until this year.

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The night before Christmas 2020 (a spoken word poem)

This year is different. We all feel the tension between it and our holiday celebrations. That’s what this spoken word poem is about:

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Well Done > Well Said

A man said to his two sons, “I need you to do a job for me”. One son said “no”, the other son said “yes”—but that’s not how it happened. In fact, the son who said “no” changed his mind and did the job, while the son who said “yes” got involved in something else and never followed through. 

It’s a simple story, told by Jesus in Matthew 21, and the point is clear: making the right noises is good, but doing the right thing is better. It’s a point our human hearts need reminding of, and often. Our world is obsessed with words, impressed by words, drowning in words. As someone who enjoys writing, I take great delight in finding the right phrase and spinning it around until I find just the right way to turn it. But no matter how hard I work at this, I have to admit: it’s always easier to find words for ideas than it is to act on them. It’s easier to write a love song than it is to genuinely give yourself for the good of another person. It’s easier to rail against the proud and greedy than it is to stop being those things myself. It’s easier to say “consistency is key in raising children” than it is to be consistent while raising actual children. In almost every area of life, it’s easier to say the right thing than it is to do the right thing.

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Tears For My Enemies

As he rounded the corner, the view opened up and he saw the city in front of him, perched proud and confident on its hill, like a king enthroned. At the highest point stood the Temple, glistening gold in the sun, reflecting off the tears on his face:

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes…”

This was the city that rejected him. This was the golden Temple he would cleanse in righteous anger. These were the people who would shout “crucify him!” and make fun of him as he died. These were the people who would pierce his heart, and these were the people who broke it.

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INSIDE // spoken word poetry // lockdown 2020

I was challenged by a young man recently to write a poem about the current situation. I love the medium of spoken word poetry, so I decided to take this opportunity to give it a try. Here’s the result (The reason it looks homemade is because it is homemade):

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The Scent Of Hospitality

It doesn’t take long. You walk in the door and know within twenty seconds whether you’ve stepped into a comfortable home where you can relax and belong, or walked into a set of rooms that are evaluating and anticipating your departure. It’s almost as if you can smell it, even though you can’t quite put your finger on the scent. You know. Oddly enough, the outside couldn’t tell you. You had to cross the threshold. A house encloses an atmosphere all its own, an atmosphere you can only guess at until you’ve filled your lungs with it. I’ve been to warm brick mansions with flower-studded gardens where the other side of the door holds air that is stale, expensive, and untouchable. On the other hand, I’ve breathed in generous kindness inside shacks that let the sun in through their cracks, and sent the sound of laughter back to meet him. But that doesn’t mean it’s an income issue: I’ve also been to identical houses that shared the same street, yet behind their doors the air was radically different.

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The Gospel According To Santa

The coming of Santa is good news, as we all know. Homes with alarm systems and bolted doors still welcome a visit from the jolly old man who lets himself in through the chimney. He’s not taking anything (except milk and cookies), he’s leaving gifts behind. This is good news!

It so happens that “good news” is the definition on the word “gospel”. And though Santa is good news for children everywhere, his gospel does come with a few conditions:

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