these are a shadow

…all that is worth remembering of life is the poetry of it

Month: December, 2011

it should be enough.

Here we are again, falling for that old, parasitic idea that fulfillment lies in man’s approval and immediate satisfaction. It seems our fallen habit is broken only to sneak back into the overlooked places, or perhaps the same ones again. It’s a painful repetition. We come to Grace repeatedly, wearied by today’s scant faith and short-sighted hope, yet still find that the promises do not hinge on such mutable things.

Jesus is mine and all is well, but I want
And sway by the swaying wants of men.
Love is mine and truth is real, but I feel
Less comfortable than before.

Song and story are mine, but true glory
Is not weighty and I think the beauty is me.
Goodness is mine and my hands are full, but I
Grasp the wind and must still learn
That no one else will do.

Here, the heart knows unsettledness: Place evades my certainty
And friends marry friends while I still long for that.
Another tomorrow came, and I have been carried by
Another will, but it all seemed so statically silent
Instead of brilliant with the news of my dreams come true.

Grace, astonish
When I lean again to feel that it is not


saturday’s coffeehouse.

The coffeehouse concerts at college always draw me, but I always start to draw inward after I find my corner. Something about the stirring crowd, the cozy lights, and the fact that I have to shout in order to be heard by the person next-chair causes this “quiet observer” mode in me. Usually, my mind and pen can’t get away from a bitter taste of the shallow – the frailties of our race that haunt even our most beautiful tries.

Most often, it’s my favorite. Early for the prime corner, I plan to drink my fill of the evening;
But this time’s not the same, from the start.

Customary paper-covered tables for crayon scrawling;
But something about a pencil and journal page is (oddly) more appealing.

3-per-table tea lights, someone’s floor lamp – the glow is sweet;
But the performers up there are almost buried in their shadows.

Good song – Sufjan is a genius of a man. And I had no idea you were such a beast at that instrument.
But most talent doesn’t dazzle. Do they think they are singing in unison right now?

I ask a friend why her face is heavy;
But the crowd’s din is deafening, so she draws a schoolgirl’s hearts and initials to say she misses someone.

Time for coffee, if I can get to it;
But it’s watered-down or something. I drink it anyway, the donut might have helped.

Eye contact with deep eyes across a black-diamond-level maze of tables, chairs, and oblivious others;
But he probably wasn’t even looking at me.

Time to sit and listen again – or try;
But the instruments are too loud and I just want the busy room to hush. Even a murmur would be nice.

Someone’s announcing a trivia question for a prize –
But either no one’s listening, or no one keeps track of celebrity baby names anymore.

So many pretty people in trendy clothes. I especially like the rolled-up plaid look,
But that’s all of the boys tonight. Just one big blur of flannelled men.

I finger my new beaded bracelet with the silver tree clasp. After 22 years, Daddy’s still my Valentine.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t long for another one. Some days more than others.

Attempted conversation. I laugh a lot, of course.
But it might not be real this time. I just can’t make my life sound interesting enough.

A new arrival picks up the burnt orange Crayola; will this be another friendly doodle contest?
But his face speaks a more serious intent.

I glance down, and see curiously written amidst the table’s sad, scribbled mess:
Next to the most beautifully most Emptied and Alone on a tree.

Strangely stunned, I am drawn beyond the noisy place to the Truth on the next morning’s table.
The image of true fullness lingers as I leave,
Running to drink deeper.


“And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” Ezekiel 13:14

I may be in the minority, but I love turning to the Old Testament prophets and relishing the Gospel that drips from each page. Verses like this halt me, needfully abrasive in their gritty images of sin and our attempts to hide it. God is never fooled, and any breaking now is mercy.

The house stands gleaming, but underneath
It’s split, creaking and shaky.
Most walls are shredding from rot
Underneath the smeared whitewash of a false peace,
But no one seems to notice.

The other rooms offend,
But it’s a holy blood that soaks them deep,
Throbbing life into the uncovered filth,
And whispering of future glory
When the age of war is done and the pretty dead walls are broken,
Leaving only the true ones forever –


The universal groan for redemption is always felt but most often left unspoken. Some call it the Ache; the corporeally unsatisfiable soul which names us eternal creatures. We can’t seem to find what we are ultimately looking for – even the clods under our feet are crying for rest, and we know it. But instead of setting our hopes on unseen realities, we try to end our hunger by clinging to what we see and despairing when we lose it… One day I will not see so dimly, but until then, mine is the groan and the hope of living between salvation’s already and not yet.

The dust weeps.
Torrents cannot heal its rending, for
The Curse fingers its way past elements.
All the breathing fight and collapse,
Souls sighing thunder over the state of things.
Grasped pleasures dissolve to cold ash
As time takes and pain shakes
What was only meant for here
And now – in this dismal labor room,
The sweaty, straining City groans loud for
The last re-making.

Only for the Nothing.

“Make me feel my need of You.”

It’s often my carelessly muttered prayer as I stumble around in the mornings. But I forget how much I really think He needs me and that I’m the worthy one.  Such a posture makes me hard and distant in my self-sufficiency.  One day, it came hard in the pew: unbearable guilt and shame over these other lovers, pretty but deadly. I needed to see again that I made those wounds in those hands that plead my name.

The sanctuary’s rigid pew kept me still,
But my stormy mind refused to hush.
Thoughts were taken captive by an old friend I thought I’d moved past,
Who seemed to like these Sabbaths best
To bring bitterness to precious things.

Fierce attempts to be at rest and humble fell bloodied again, and grinning arrogance gained a decided seat.
Every try reeked of my unwelcome guest, dead to me – but we still held hands, tighter today it seemed.

No goodness this way. Let go.

Black sin-love was laid ugly and bare in the familiar good law,
And I wept over soul poverty with heavy confessions of need. I prayed to feel it, and it hurt, of course.

“It is sweet to be nothing” is truth, but only as the aftertaste
Of choking down this bitter pill – to ruin my heart-lean on anything plus.

I learned it again today and I only learn it hard.
It’s a Gospel of an Only,
And it’s only for the Nothing.

venture no. 5

I memorized the cure for restlessness. It is most rigorously yellowed by highlighter ink in my copy of St. Augustine’s Confessions. I speak it to myself and know where to run, and yet I keep having to fight to be still. So much else competes for my peace, and I want to try them all before I allow myself rest. I need the Father’s jealous hand to hush me with Heaven again.

It takes shatterings.
Many heavy shatterings, because
The hallowing needs to hush them.
Loud, lying lovers – reveling in jactation;
Fraudulent food their famine feast.
The breaking came and showed beauty to the
Abysmally satisfied. Tenderness wrecked all imitations
Of the real gem –it wasn’t you after all.
Look, this –yesterday’s fallow flounderer now
Heaves for heaven. Sleepless seeker
Silenced by a strange undoing of death
By death.

Still we beg more
Crushing –flint-faced ruin races to
Win over the widening white.

Just –
Rend more busy shadows hard embraced for
A true sort of quiet.


By myself, I bend away from adoring the God-man. The enfleshing of the Creator is a splendid offense, and doesn’t envelop my world as it should. His love was pitching his tent among the ruins of our home and the shambles of my heart. Now, to do the same: to embody him to those also yearning and those still distant.

A strange grace invaded
this marvelously ruined city.
Highest glory is with us,
the God-man, breathing our
Sin-poisoned air and loving the
stumbling, the simple, all who
Dare not lift their eyes.

Our fathers coveted the sight.
Fainting hearts running to the child
whose blood would mercy-seat
Us to the King. [we hated but who yearns
Enfleshed, God inhabits darkness, tastes
weakness. Knows

Need. Temptation will be no stranger
to the forever firstborn, entering
Time to be the Fulfiller of wallowing
humanity. To hush the
Stubborn, bring near what we distanced.
The Branch, stooping lower than
Eyes were anticipating,

obeyed, [never scorning]
delivered, [idol-bound exiles]
redeemed [HIS].

lovely fury.

I gave in that time that Heidi asked me to run. It was one of those days when running is simply glorious and necessary. Autumn was just beginning to fade from brilliance, but there was still much to bask in. She stopped ahead of me and breathed out a sigh as she pointed to a patch of grey, tangled barrenness. The mess reminded her of need and greater grace.

I felt frigid chills as she drew
My eyes to the angst-ridden scene.
The air was not cold, but the warmth
Had escaped this chaotic mess.
Unkempt undergrowth dashed by the entangled
Branches of poor-postured trees.
In greenless grey, this bleak wilderness
Whispered the approaching bitterness
Of winter.
Had we come a few days sooner
There would have been vibrancy
And delight in fall’s rich texture.
But she sensed a beauty that begged us to linger.
It was the grim desolation that pleads another garment –
This one of white so white no bleach could compete.

And we knelt to the grace that
Brought order to our disarray.


The mirror of glass fights for my attention wherever I go. I’ve found freedom from its lies and chains, but sometimes it still tempts me to waver and not believe that Jesus is enough. His word is the only mirror that shows me the truth and gives me confidence. They tell me I am His.

the morning glass greets me with a frown as
i search it for my meaning.
what do i read?
am i pretty today?
“your hair is not gathered right,
and black would turn more heads,”
it whines,
devouring minutes,
never smiling, always pointing.
faults changing and shallow,
it is never pleased.
i can’t stay any longer.
the image there is not the fullness
is not forever
is not even mine.

a looking-glass of paper beckons
from the corner
i search it for my meaning.
what do i read?
i see heavier faults in me
past the skin
but constancy and hope.
that what these eyes can see
withers with the weeds.
that the forever Treasure is hard to chase
but His face is beauty.
they think they will see it
on the screen,
in this tangible glass.
but they will see beauty,
they will see
in a girl that finds her meaning in a cross
and loves.