Forty-Two. Happy Birthday.

I AM 

always telling you to write poems because your brain holds a pen like it was born that way.

Like it was made to spin to wind and run and dispel so many of the mysteries that have destroyed and created quandary, confusion, blindness, and sight. 

Your brain holds a pen like bluebirds have nests and foxes have dens always chirping and preaching that the running of orphans and black sheep can cease; that their drifting can end and that because of the son of man’s tramped and torn life we will have a home, we will find that home and that it doesn’t matter where we came from or who we have been.

i am

always telling you to write poems because your words are far from cheap.

And every time you put your thoughts down your two cents roll out and make the first payment towards a disheveled child’s future, a lost sojourner’ way, a promise that hope is so much more than a 4 letter idea to imagine or make up

because you actually believe it

you actually live it

because it has cost you your whole life and somehow managed to give you back everything more than you or i or any ever spoke, or claim & named.

i am

always telling you to write poems because i know that every person you ever meet is the best story that you have ever read- and when you turn the pages its never because you are seeking to finish so much as simply looking, searching, digging, and reaching for the beginning.

The beginning of that tattered and frayed blood red chord of redemption that runs standard through everyone’s – EVERYONE’S God awful, God beautiful life –

tragedy turned comedy

comedy turned epic

epic turned timeless, priceless classic;

Turned ashes to ashes and dust to dust, naked we came and naked we will damn leave

And not because its sexy not because its enchanting but because and ONLY BECAUSE that is IT-

That is The Story, the one story that we all get with one pen, that same pen that I said looked so right held tight in your white-knuckled fist dearly pressed against your skull because it never forgets and we both know that it sure as hell never erases but its been washed,

hallelujah

its been sanctified by the tears of grief that maybe you yourself can’t cry but I know you’re moved by which bled out the Savior’s burning eyes the night the world kissed that divine Palestinian skin with the same filthy lips that made prophets come apart- the same filthy lips that for the joy set before Him , He came and buried His perfection into this fragmented crust so that we could know the light from the dark

so that even when no one could get it right you… could still give life

when you would just write.

I AM

telling you to write poems, love

and not to worry if they sound okay or if they make sense or whatever that bullshit reason was that you don’t write poems

because your brain holds a pen-

Your were born so your brain would hold this pen.

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Forty-One. Odd Sheep Out.

I am convinced that Jesus is actually the Son of God and that He came and died so that who ever would believe would not parish but get to know and experience everlasting love and life with the Father. This being my conviction, I also happen to believe that Jesus is the best that that ever happened to me and that the abundant life I have partaken of in the Spirit has radically transformed every part of how I interact with reality. However, I still must resign myself to the fact that after nearly a decade of following Christ I still am far from mastering this whole ‘life in the Spirit’ thing. I guess you could say I still have  at least a few (hundred) things I still need to figure out.

You want to know what I did have locked down though?

This funny little world that has dominated Western gospel thought for the last several decades and that is what we would call American Evangelical sub-culture. We have our own books, movies, games (I still NEED to know who was convinced that Christian Guitar Hero was a good idea?) fast food establishments, TV shows that we all collectively watch and feel good about, TV shows that we all collectively watch and feel guilty about, clothes that we will wear, clothes that we would never wear, philosophies on …well every faculty of life, and we also claim a monopoly on both Truth and the proper biblical hermeneutic.

And I knew this world. I understood the structures, I defended the structures, I upheld all of its tenets (well minus the movies because…well I am just never going to be able to like “Facing The Giants”)

Over the years there were a lot of parts about this protective bubble that I was more or less disillusioned with but I could easily overlook these things because A. I  felt like I knew the intentions of the people who were pumping out the content and they were ones for good and B. Because I was entirely captivated by Jesus, by the Scriptures, and by the divine romance I had found myself caught in that was both rich and transcendent. I didn’t mind that sometimes the breadth of spirituality found in the Christian tradition and belief was obscured by trite and cheap phrases, a certain winged politics, neat and tidy categories, and this unanimously shared notion that we were never to ‘rock the boat’ amongst ourselves…butttt as soon as one of us does such a thing in the public square at the expense of an already marginalized group then one is applauded for “taking a stand on God’s Truth” and it’s chicken sandwiches for everyone!

I say all of this because throughout all of this time I was generally considered a part of the ‘leadership’ in these conservative faith circles. I somehow found a way to squeeze, bend, and jump through some hoops to the point of being able to fit. I learned to receive rebuke, admonishment, and correction…both the kind which is exercised graciously and the kind where I get told that I have a “resistant personality that could destroy the Kingdom” without any context or clarification as to what I said or had done to merit that description. I learned how to not conform to the patterns of this world but to be clipped and groomed into the image of the other girls within the non-denominational contemporary Christian world. About half-way through my general inability to identify with any of the Francine Rivers books I tried so hard to read I decided it was time to just focus on my prayer life, daily walking with God, and seeking out wise council from a few other Jesus-loving rabble rousers who had been doing the same We-Don’t-Fit dance for much longer than I and somehow I got by with a lot of eye-brow raises but never having to fall victim to exclusion.

The first time I began to recognize the residual effects of this phenomena was last summer as I was thinking about my brother. If you know my brother then I don’t need to explain…but if you don’t we will just say that he is a little rough around the edges. He is completely genuine, too smart for his own good, musically genius, endlessly creative, and so pro-anarchy and anti-establishment that he has more or less been in some kind of trouble since my earliest childhood memories. My brother is also a human. A human who both needs love and is fully capable of giving love. I trust my human brother with my life and despite our different religious identities my atheistic human brother still respects the idea of life having meaning and there being some kind of universal story interconnecting all of our lives. Sometimes we talk about God and especially lately because for whatever reason coming out to my brother made me that much more personally and emotionally accessible to him. You see, in the last several months I have had my eternal destination called into question and condemned more than my brother has his entire life and of course he finds that, given all that I’ve told you above about myself and him respectively, wildly hilarious. He likes to know how I am dealing with many of my friends getting all weird and Truth-speaky. He likes to know what it is like to interact with people regularly who have a planned questions and pre-tense to their conversation. He just likes to know how I am doing. Sometimes I laugh. And sometimes I cry. I cry because I miss the days when the people who God has loved me through and God has used me to do the same for them didn’t have to dichotomize my existence and relegate me to this category of “walking in open rebellion” and “choosing my sin over Jesus” and all of these other kind of bombastic things…but my tears are for so much more than this.

I cry because behind my brother’s questions about me and my experiences are my brother’s questions about his own life and his own experiences. Who does God say He is? Could He love someone like me? What actually is grace?

My brother never took issue with Jesus. He never resisted the gospel for sake of the gospel. My brother just wasn’t ever capable of the social gymnastics it took to morph into evangelical culture.

Will my brother come to know and qualify the message of Jesus? It is certainly possible.

But will my brother enter as that as a black sheep? Absolutely. My brother will simply become a little black sheep who loves Jesus just as I am a little rainbow sheep who loves Jesus.