Jordan River Poem

The Jordan River

stretches out wide
and yet the far bank
so close I may reach
arm out, try
and slip pink
fingers into Mamaw’s
bony hand, blue vein beelines.

The closeness a mirage,
tossing waves driven
to death dance
upon small dark boulders
dotting shore.
People necromance,

they call God unfair
for He took her away.
I hear His gentle whisper,
Jordan River breeze rustles
ribbons of hair against my chin,

It is not yet
your place or time:
wait. Attend to your soul,
attend to the still-living.

You shall not fear them for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.~Deuteronomy 3:22

O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or earth who can do such works & mighty acts as yours?~Deuteronomy 3:24

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Something had gotten into her:

fall air, maybe. Her legs accepted

bright sunshine–winter in its wake–

her smile wouldn’t be banished.

 

What have I done?

She thought, knowing power

of simple smile when heart, soul

attached were sincere, happy.

 

Enthroned he, on black truck speckless,

skinny legs like pretzels wrapped under guitar.

Music emitted for her to bathe in,

surf cresting eardrums’ sandy shore.

 

She chastised herself for wave goodbye to

he in musical paralysis, hands faithful to

guitar strings. Powerless but in smile, folded

up edges of brown beard, eyes dancing.

All of Us Down Here

I bury my face in his Word, overwhelmed by a handful of unhappy people who I love with genuine, concerned heart. Face buried in familiar pages, I receive the phone book smell of Hosea chapter two. Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her~Hosea 2:14.

And the children who dance erotic, letting go of sexual urges planted by obscene songs and scenes they’ve seen in carpetless homes? Will you allure them too? Will they ever know the joy of God-strong in them? “I have seen his ways but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the tossing sea for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt”~Isaiah 57:18-20

The angry one, Lord, who sees herself only as a victim, never as an overcomer? The one determined to beat odds and blow past highest grades in the class? The one who wants bad to see justice served by men who will only fail him? For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.~Romans 10:12b

And me, Lord, your tired, joy-filled servant, so often wandering in pursuit of lies, so often doubting and tarrying in shame? Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning~Psalm 30:4-5

“If God is on our side, who can be against us?

In this wasteland where I’m livin’

there’s a crack in the door filled with light

and its all that I need to shine.”

~NEEDTOBREATHE

Voiceover

Thursdays are not typically exciting days in my life. The usual order of events goes like 1) class, 2) study, 3) work. That’s it (what a trip, I know). Today class happened and after beating my head against a Physical Science textbook for a good 30 minutes I scuttled into my creative writing instructor’s office for a visit. Ms. Sandy is a Northerner (from the upper half, give/ take a state or two, of the U.S.A.). I have had mixed experiences with Northerners due to cultural differences but one thing I will say: they call it like it is. Cut and dry. Black and white. “You stink.” “You’re extraordinary.” “What exactly are you referring to?”

That being said, nearly the first thing out of Sandy’s mouth to me was: “You have what it takes to go as far as a writer as you want. If you want to get your master’s [degree], write [professionally], you can do it.” 

Compliments happen. Warm fuzzy feelings, gushed gratitude. Blah blah.

But when Ms. Sandy said those words my heart sang. I laughed until I cried in my truck on the way home because the words Ms. Sandy said are true.

Truth is the driving force behind joy.

At a dear friend’s request I met with 4 other women this afternoon to form a panel that was consulted on issues faced by young people today. We contributed our voices hoping that the curriculum our interviewers create will offer insight and guidance to a generation in tumult. Sitting in the dim light I noticed something about the 4 of us. Two of us, myself and one other, have lived the most utterlysplendidprivilegedlives for which any girl could ask. Have they been hard lives? Yes. But they have been lives filled with love and Truth and opportunity. We are extraordinary blessed. The other two–girls dear to my heart–have not been granted the same gifts. Neither have Godly father figures to turn to for help or support and both carry deep scars not yet fully healed. Of the four of us, myself and the second “privileged one” were the quickest to speak, the most eager to voice our opinions. Though their stories and opinions are arguably more gritty and riveting, the other two had to be coaxed, and still did not speak as much.

When I have something to say a fire burns in my belly until it is said. I know that it is my human right to be heard. I know that my words are important. Knowing this leads me to treat the words of others with equal importance. It’s respect, the right thing to do.

But when you’ve been ignored your whole life? When a man has never asked you what you think about…anything? When no one has taken the time to get to know you? When you’ve been yelled at and treated like an unwanted pest?

Inevitably, you start to doubt the value of your own voice. You begin to question the importance of what you have to say. You decide it is better to keep quiet because no one wants to hear it.

So there they sat, the girls with the most to say keeping quiet. I blame the powers of darkness for the loss of anything on their hearts that went unsaid. I praise the One who gave them the courage to utter the few words they did into floating microphones. And further, I recognize my small role in the puzzle God is masterfully putting together.

He has nurtured and grown me via parents and community, literature, travel, and music, to speak eloquently and boldly on behalf of the Truth. Not just the blessed Truth of the Gospel, but also the Truth of individual experiences all around me. Harsh realities, tragic memoirs, unique celebrations, epics of the downtrodden: the stories of timid ones need to be told. Minorities are cast aside, virginity is cruelly stolen, words are misunderstood, drugs drive knives through families. And those people keep quiet because they have been told that their words carry no weight.

Their words do carry weight, and they are burdens God created me to bear.  He sent a blunt Northern woman to reiterate the truth of my gifts: I am a writer. Not every word I pen is perfect (HA!), but writing creatively is one thing on this earth that will come naturally for me. Oh, the freedom of knowing that is true! By His guidance and mercy I speak, I write, and in so doing I will flesh out a small corner of His plan.

One woman with a host of hushed people trailing a humble King. It’s a weird story, but it’s mine.

When condemnation grips my heart
And Satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear
The Great I Am the Lord is here
Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty.

~Rend Collective Experiment

All the other Thursdays have (and will) serve an equally great purpose, but today was a big mile marker in the journey of arriving for my purpose here on earth.

Your story is valuable, as is your voice.

Speak.

Year of Two Griefs

2013
2013

2 years ago I tutored a girl named Aaliyah.
1 summer ago I met a woman with 3 daughters trailing behind her.
That summer I realized that I had to have real faith or no faith at all.
I knew that it was not enough to serve people I did not know.
I knew I was cheating God to emotionally clock in and out of “ministry”.
I knew I had to care.

Then I said, ‘behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’~Hebrews 10:7

Back to the girl named Aaliyah.
I started showing up at her apartment, chatting with her mom.
I started bringing strawberries after school.
I felt awkward and unsure of everything except for one thing: God’s plan.

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.~Micah 7:7

He was leading me, Little Old Me, and I was doing my best to walk in the shoes He had for me.
I searched and searched and kept coming back to apartment 119 in the projects.
Then I took three girls to the park.
Then I took three girls to the library.
Suddenly–I can’t remember when exactly–a relationship was born.

Rumor has it that other languages have words for what English speakers call “adopted family” or “fictive kin”. I wish English had a word for it. The three girls are not my sisters, they are not my kids. “Entourage” doesn’t cut it either. They are something more miraculous and unusual. We became blood-kin not by our parents but by our Savior. His love compelled me to their door. His love made sure there was a place for me in their life. God’s whimsy, His creativity, His mission brought us together and made one great year.
There were apologies and snacks by the pool. We ran spontaneously into the sprinklers at Peabody Park and we went to church together on Sunday afternoons. We danced in the talent show and we played tips with the Church’s Chicken basketball. We read books together and we watched Beatles videos until we got bored. We wrestled, we danced, we swam, we clapped, we sang, we prayed. We were humans–little girls–together. Jesus’ loving ability to meet our needs bridged the gaps between us.
There were times when I felt I was banging my head against a wall of sin and rebellion. There were times when dancing in the kitchen with them was therapy for me.
Our love for each other turned heads. I like to think that people felt an inkling of divine involvement when they saw me and three chocolate swirled girls happily packed into my truck.1452329_763019423714930_46172494_n

Now they have relocated and left a gaping hole in my life.
The anvil is on my heart again,
Like wounding a wound.

The English language falls short once more.
Suffice it to say, God’s dreams are the dreams that overwhelm and delight.

As I read Isaiah 30 I can feel God whisper to my tore up soul:

This is the way. Walk you in it.

Unforced Grace

You, Lord, are enthroned forever.

In my little life, You have already done so much.
You raised me up in Your word via loving parents.
You ignited that knowledge of the Scriptures by Your Holy Spirit.
You took me to Jamaica to break my heart for the nations.
You led me to a Native American Reservation in Washington state to set me face to face with the choice of who I will worship. In a fierce competition between me and You, You won.
Blessed be Your name.
You broke my body and wholly took control, though I fought it tooth and nail.
You shattered my pride and claimed my heart for Your own.
You led me to Mexico to discover grace and peace.
You drew me to North Little Rock to glimpse Your heart for the marginalized.
You allowed tragedy to strike as close to my heart as possible outside of my nuclear family.
I don’t know Your plan but I can see Your hand
Moving, shaping, preparing, making.

Few delights can equal the mere presence of one whom we trust utterly~George MacDonald

When I take a moment to reflect on the road I am walking,
I quickly become overwhelmed by what an eloquently written story my life is.
This God–His way is perfect. (Psalm 18:30)

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythm of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.~Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

Hot Cheetos

Upon entering the supermarket in North Little Rock, you will see shiny bags of chips. These salty snacks boast vibrant colors and grab-able cellophane packaging. They rustle loudly as shoppers rush by, turning the heads of men, women, and children. All alike are motivated by the color, and by their bellies.

Rumor has said that these chips are made out of potatoes, sometimes corn. But emphasis is not put on the content of these products. Focus is on the instant gratification that comes to the eye when shoppers see that bag and on the tongue when it tastes those savory treats.That temptation is strong and giving into it…tasty.

Human devices and inventions echo these well-dressed bags of chips. Both look so appealing. Both leave emptiness behind. Potato chips leave snackers greasy and unsatisfied. Purely human ideals—thoughts with no intentional hints toward God—leave the world threadbare and unfulfilled.

I find myself consistently drawn to the things of the world. It all charms me cruelly: addictions that spring from abused relationships, goals, foods, and lifestyles.

Imagine spending the night with a guy just once, and feeling no guilt over refusing his calls the next day.

Consider how good it would feel to free my mind, just once…

Imagine living all for me, carrying no burden for the poor, and harboring no guilt over the apathy of my heart.

Imagine guiltlessly chasing my own dreams.

 

But a human without guilt has yet to be found.

And I want no part in a dream that isn’t Christ’s. 

A shiny bags of potato chips,

The world rustles as I walk by.

 

People reach out and

I do not know if they are propelled by darkness or drawn to Light within me.

That confusion makes it difficult, this engagement with the people around me.

I love every one (imperfectly),

And it is alright for my grammar to disintegrate,

But it is a grave issue to see my morals weakened by the pressures of this fluid society.

 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…~Philippians 3:18-20

Tarnished grammar might matter.

Really, communicatively and professionally, it might.

Like that missed payment on my credit account might matter.

Like that broken mirror on my truck might matter.

Like that check list I never get to might matter.

The genuinely important thing to do is to

Start seeing “problems” as opportunities (like Jesus did, when he spontaneously fed 5, 000+ people).

The urgent question is, does what I say coincide with what I do?

 

Mother Teresa, tell me you had doubts while you walked the straight and narrow.

Martin Luthers (both of you), tell me you were not completely certain in the actions you took.

 

I have found happiness and I seek no other way.

My body is weak that I may learn to rely on Him.

His strength is sublime in my shortcomings.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.~1 John 4:15

Perfect weather

People to love

Prince who saved me

Great God who raised me

Sisters I would die for

Grandmother who I cry for

Children I have hope for

 

Delicious potato chips that (eaten in moderation) probably won’t split my soul.

Amazing Amazing

Always I’ve thought that happiness comes from circumstances, and joy-of course-from God. Joy is awesome to think about but not a reality, happiness is what we really want (shh.)
Not true!
Never have I felt such joy until now.
Little did I know that happiness follows joy that has found its’ root in Christ.

I would close my eyes to take it in but I’m driving.
It’s not the music that my stereo is retching out, it’s not the sun-striped hair on my head. It’s not the 2000 Nissan Frontier that is mine per use of hard earned cash, nor the lovely day that I’ve had.
Nope; it’s Jesus. Him, all Him.
This is what all that light burden and easy yoke stuff is about.
This is the joy that will either implode or explode. It will be shared with others or from me it will be withheld.
Say to the weary one, “Your God will surely come.”

What keeps the fear at bay?
Certainly not the pain in my neck and feet, the challenges that I face. Not friends or church or work or family.
It’s that Spirit settling down in me, like I’m being baptized all over again.
Amazing, amazing grace.
My arm finds its way out of the window, into the pressure of the wind rushing by. I wave at the trees, the clouds, and the people of my little city, just for the sensation of it.
A plea for joy that led to loving. Love that told me about grace. Grace that paves the way for peace. Peace that manifests itself in happiness.
Blessed am I!
Oh that my attempts to show people His love were half as poor & selfish. I wish to see my joy manifest itself righteously, as Jesus’ did.
By the power of the Spirit, it is possible. By the power of Jesus, love wins the war. By the power of the Father, everyday can be better than the last.

He did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but humbled Himself by becoming a man