How Do Angels Get Their Wings?

 

MOMMY, MOMMY, HOW DO ANGELS GET THEIR WINGS?

When they hold onto babies who shake and shiver in new-hot-birth,
rattling lungs speaking in tongues discernible only to the Lord of Hosts
and the bleeding mothers.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”

DADDY, DADDY, HOW DO ANGELS GET THEIR WINGS?

By Christ’s calm in maelstrom,
through child-laughter in an earthquake,
the holler at the snap of the bough-break, 
scaling cloud-faces and swiping at angels’ heels.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” 

BROTHER, BROTHER, HOW DO ANGELS GET THEIR WINGS?

The soldier, dying in the foxhole, 
as petrified as childhood trees, 
lost amongst metal-swirl
and snow-dirt-blood-blast, 
his heart shouts for God but his tongue calls him a motherfucker
and a vengeful sonuvabitch.
He screams and he screams, and his heart is as open as ocean water,
and by the time his whelps have clipped the treetops, 
they are rid of dross and come forth as gold.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” 

SISTER, SISTER, HOW DO ANGELS GET THEIR WINGS?

The old man with the little girl — the child.
Gray eyes meet green flame, his hatred of self passed between them —
Here he makes himself known and here she makes herself nothing.
Here he is most and here she is least.
Here he is cannibal and here she is feast.
He cloaks himself in the body of the licorice-black hair and tiny, unknown hands.
His exposure and her concealment,
his sound and her silence,
his living and her dying,
and all the while every move is the shriek-violin-bow over tuned strings, the lung-swell animation of clarinet, oboe, bassoon, flute, french horn, trombone, trumpet. 

Every move is scream and song and symphony.

Every evil sits side by side with every grace, 
every groan and scowl and howl and heap of chuckles and lover’s throbs,
every teardrop and tremble, every smile and every finger of every hand pressed to every back as part of every hand as part of every embrace, transubstantiated, from morsels of love and hate and longing and dying and dream and cowardice and despising and lament and shaking awake-awake-AWAKE and thump-thumping and blood-spewing sword-flash fire-breath —

All dutifully borne on the wings of angels.
And such glorious, voluminous wings are they —
that fearfully, wonderfully, thru night and day, them angels proclaim —
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”

 

 

 

 

      

     

     

the cowardly lion

"My son, my son," Padre's kiss on my forehead. 
"My love, my love," My body borne up by His. 
"My flame, my flame," His finger held to my sternum.

“Heal, Lion."
 
“Roar, Beast.”
“Love, Beloved.”

The lion; wounded and shivering, cowering in tree-shade at the river’s side.
The lion; half-cleaning its wounds of caked mud, dried blood.
The lion; terrified, filthy, shorn of pride — muscle — indwelling.

Padre kneels and speaks in hymns.
Padre matches breaths with the lion and speaks in dreams.
Padre combs his hand through the lion’s mane and speaks in tears.

He holds the head of the weeping lion in His hands.
He whispers and sparks fire in the lion's heart.
His eyes glow and He claims the lion —

"You — all of you — you are mine."
Now the lion sees its wounds slipping from its flesh as beads of water.
"Your story — your song — is mine all mine —”
Now the lion sees its wounds transferred to the lamb.  
“I make all things new, lion. You are mine all mine.”
Now the lion sees its shadow — held in the shadow the lamb.

The lion feels its frame renewed, and the lamb embraces the healed Lion. 
     "Feel them new bones — oh Lion —”
The lion hears sounds renewed, and the lamb holds fast the healed Beast.
     “Hear that new music — oh Beast —”
The lion sees its wounds closed and cleansed, and the lamb loves the healed Beloved.
     “See that new flesh — oh Beloved —”

And the lamb holds the lion’s gaze. “Watch — watch them wounds vanish as smoke" 
And the Passover Lamb — bleeding sweet, bleeding bright. 
“My lion — my lion — how wonder-full."

"How I love you, my oh my oh — how Deep and how Wide I love you."

alms for a nurse

In the mirror, there i am.

In the dust, there you are.

In the water, there we are..

remember.

In the eyes of the nurse, violet scrubs and ratty-ass Nike’s, cigarette dangling from her cracked lips; salt-n-pepper hair pulled back and coiled tight as a boxer’s fist — squatted on the curb and waiting for her 48 bus, on another hot fucking day where she’s going to have to care for another batch of dumb fucking people who’ve gotten themselves hurt for no good fucking reason.

In the eyes.

In the cracked lips.

In the boxer’s fist.

remember.

In this lonely hour — the beginning of a night shift, the beginning of a day shift, the beginning of twelve hours of prizefighting through red-tape bullshit again and again and again.

In this lonely hour — doubt transformed into helmet, anxiety transformed into breastplate, fear transformed into shield, mourning transformed into sword.

In this lonely hour — heart full of blood, lungs full of smoke, muscles full of wrath. 

In the red-tape bullshit. 

In the sword. 

In the blood..

remember.

 

Lions and Tigers and Bears...Amen

“I [Nebuchadnezzar] had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me.”

daniel // four / five

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I don’t dream as much as I used to; which scares me.

A lion, a lion — there’s a lion inside my chest — 

I dreamt something last night, but when I woke up in the middle of the night, I told myself I didn’t need to write it down, because I’d remember it. 

A tiger, a tiger — there’s a tiger inside my chest — 

When I woke up this morning, I’d forgotten all the details. All I remembered was there were three people, and I was one of them. 

A bear, a bear — there’s a bear inside my chest — 

I don’t dream as much as I used to, and I don’t write down my dreams like I used to, and I don’t wonder as much as I used to — but I still believe I was built for dreaming. 

I know my heart and my soul were built to be dream-makers and I know my hands and feet were built to be dream-makers.

Oh my — oh my — there’s a dream inside my chest — 

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“In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.”

daniel // seven / one

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Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Teach my heart to dream again. Teach my heart not to fear the lions, the tigers or bears.

Teach me tenderness in the lion’s den. Teach me grace in the fiery furnace. Teach me peace in the parting of the sea. 

More sleepless nights. More fragments. More of what I don't understand. 

Still me when the dreams shake my sternum. Hold me close when I squirm and seek to flee from the fire-breathing dream. Help me to count the costs and to take one step after the other — Right, then left; heart, then soul. 

Teach me what it is to love and be wild. Teach me what it is to dream and be your child.

Do I Still Believe in Magic?

Mozart’s dying, and it’s all his fault. 

Antonio Salieri, a good-but-never-great composer, a figurine thrashing against the Almighty, meets Mozart and views him as a lunatic or divine joke, a brat not worthy of the genius inside him. In response, he hatches a plan to drive Mozart insane and destroy God’s angel.

And now, standing at the foot of Mozart’s bed, looking at the dying cherub, he’s almost succeeded. 

Except now he sees, before him, an unfinished work — a requiem. He examines the sheet music, and he’s overcome by the beauty of the piece. 

Yet Mozart, near-delusional and beyond the point of saving, laments its unfinished nature. Salieri, compelled by a new vision, hatches one more plan:

“…Let me help. Let me help you finish it.”

Mozart’s spirit awakens. Salieri pulls a desk over and stacks up blank sheet music. Then, armed with ink and quill, he prepares to transcribe Mozart’s dictation.

He begins with the tenors, and in isolation, their voices float over both Mozart and Salieri. The bass voices follow, linked now with the tenors. Bassoon and trumpet and timpani and strings cascade behind them, instrument building upon instrument. Salieri struggles to keep up — 

“You’re going too fast!” 

“Do you have me?” Screams Mozart. Have you translated it right? Is it written?

Salieri finishes the last notation and flips the pages to Mozart, who lunges for them. His eyes scan the pages, his right arm raises as if he’s conducting the orchestra, and — 

— with Bombast and Goth and Power and Fury, the requiem rises to life, all parts in unison, more beautiful and terrifying than Salieri or Mozart could have imagined. God’s glory on full display.

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This isn’t a story from the history books. This is a scene from a movie, Amadeus, which itself was an adaptation of a play. 

Regardless of whether or not one calls the veracity of the scene into the question, the scene still hits like a wrecking ball every time I watch it. 

Each time I watch Mozart conduct an invisible symphony, I feel the hair stand up on my arms. 

Every time Salieri sees God on the page, I believe in magic. 

Every time two men engage the divine and experience grace, healing, awe — it makes me want to be a storyteller all over again.   

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Here now, the question I pose to myself: Do I still believe in magic? 

Do I still believe in the power of storytelling? 

Because this year I’ve felt, more than ever, like quitting. The spec projects I’ve worked on go out into the world, and return void. I feel like I’m throwing all heart and soul into the ether, and it makes me want to cage up all the wild animals in my ribcage, and snuff out all the flames in my lungs.  

Because the world doesn't need cute stories. The world doesn't need ugly stories, either. The world doesn't need fairy tales. The world needs shields and bricks and cash and gas and pills. The world needs justice and revenge and more bullets and higher walls and faster download speeds and more renewable resources. 

Because the world will not, cannot, listen to 'once upon a time.' Unless you're building an empire along with it, the world will not stand for 'in the beginning.' 

That’s something they don’t teach you in undergrad — not how to knock on the next door when the previous one shuts in your face, but how to keep knocking on the fucking door, period. 

Even when no one answers. Because Christ brought you to the door. Because He put a bird in your heart, full of song and radiant light, and He promised you He would teach you how to sing, and you said — 

“Father, I’m s-s-scared.” Like Moses at the Burning Bush, yeah? ‘Not a good a speaker,’ said Moses, ‘better off with someone else.’ But Padre, He smiles, and laughs deep, and he says — 

“I will teach you to sing. Because you are mine.”

And then He walks you to the door. 

“Now, knock.”

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This is my story, this is my song. 

knock, knock. knock, knock. 

Praising my Savior, all the day long. 

knock, knock. knock, knock.

This is my story, this is my song.

knock, knock. knock, knock.

Praising my Savior, all the day long. 

knock, knock. knock, knock.

Manos Y Pies // Hands & Feet

Break bread with your hands. Draw thanksgiving turkeys with your hands. Hold chopsticks with your hands. Play ‘chopsticks’ with your hands. 

Run a hundred meters with your feet. Climb a mountain with your feet. Send secret messages under the table with your feet. Go to the market, stay home, have roast beef (or not) and cry wee-wee-wee all the way home with your feet.

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Raquel lives in Nicaragua. She lives in a place with mango trees and guard dogs. She lives in a place with approximately two-dozen other girls and a few house moms who keep everything in order. She attends school and does her chores. 

Raquel lives in a place where she’s not at-risk to be sexually abused, as opposed to her former dwelling, the city trash dump. Raquel lives in a place where there’s responsibility and rules and the love of good, imperfect people. 

When I met Raquel, she’d just swallowed too much Kool-Aid powder (part of a food-eating relay race we are all playing), and was spitting up the powder. Her head, downcast. Eyes sunken. 

“¿Necesita un vaso de agua?”

A nod. “Si.”

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Dig ditches with your hands. Stomp out scorpions with your feet. Catch water balloons with your hands. Kick soccer balls with your feet. Build walls with your hands. Stand firm with your feet. 

Draw suns and flowers and hearts and rainbows all over the cement with your hands, like everything in the heavens above seeped up from underneath, ‘tween the sidewalk cracks and the breath gaps in the soil.

Walk the lonely, uncertain road with your feet.

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La Villa Esperanza started in order to give girls a chance at a future, to instill in them a strong sense of self, and to show them how precious they are to God. I and a few of friends spent one week there. We played games, joked about who was the most handsome jugador de futbol (Neymar Jr., in case you were wondering), and talked to the girls about how important they were to God, how much their lives mattered and how much people cared about them. 

‘The Villa’, our short-hand name for it, is not perfect, but it is, without question, a place of love and dedication. It sees each girl’s heart as a worthy place of devoting resource. It gives and gives again to these girls. Not because they scored high on an aptitude test, not because they live within a zip code or belong to a certain class — because God-ordained blood courses through their veins. Because God-breathed air billows in their lungs. Because every bit of them hums with God-made, fearful and wonderful life. 

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Hold each other close with your hands. Wade into the ocean with your feet. Pull back the curtain with your hands. Leap into puddles and break up your reflection with your feet.

Stand at the door and knock with your hands and feet. 

Bear one another’s burden with your hands feet. 

Kingdom Come, Will Done with your hands and feet. 

Manos y Pies. Hands and Feet. 

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Raquel is a child of God as I am a child of God as Alex is a child of God as Michael is a child of God as Dayana is a child of God as Dre is a child of God as Allison is a child of God as Clint is a child of God as Philando is a child of God as Hillary is a child of God as Colin is a child of God as Nasir is a child of God. 

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And All-Mighty and All-Powerful God scoops us up, slurps us up, catches us in his ever-expansive embrace, and it’s always “my child—my child—my child—my child—my child—my child, wholly and dearly loved.”

All prodigals. All lost. All found. 

All creatures great and small. We see the gospel made manifest, in ways minor and major, micro and macro.

Here, in the palm of God. 

Here, in the pupil of the mountain; in the turgid waves of magma. 

Here, in the pupils of a young girl, the wonder and mystery of dynamic Raquel.

Link to the story of Xochilt (a girl at the Villa) and Villa's Story: HERE

FICTION: STATION MANAGER

Esmerelda leaned against the inside of the doors; she felt her shoulders flush against the wood. Her eyes looked right down the center aisle, trained on Christ at the far end of the room. Another sweltering day. Another fan-less, breeze-less day. 

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, the maker of Heaven and Earth.”

The sun began to scale the stained-glass on Ezzie's left. Stations One through Six. Stations like the radio. The radio, like music. Music, like Jazz.

Christ, Jazz.

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, the maker of Heaven and Earth and Jazz.”

A figure interrupted the light, near station three. She saw his shadow, and she heard his voice. “Hello? Is anyone in there? Hello? Hello?”

Station Three. Jesus falls for the first time.

"Jesus, the cross you have been carrying is very heavy. You are becoming weak and almost ready to faint, and you fall down.”

"Hello? Please! Anyone at all!”

Station Three, thought Ezzie. Oldies. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. “Tracks of my Tears.” “Second That Emotion. “Tears of a Clown.”

Now if there's a smile upon my face
it's only there trying to fool the public
but when it comes down to fooling you
now honey that's quite a diff'rent subject

That could’ve been Christ in the garden, thought Ezzie. Christ might’ve been all smiles and ‘love thy neighbor’, but he knew he’d have to die. He could feel the sin and the shit of the world, and He knew there’d need to be an accounting. 

He knew his time was coming.

The shadow knocked on the glass of the third station. Ezzie hushed him.

“Quiet! They’ll hear.”
“I wasn’t followed. I swear. I swear. Please let me in.”

It’d been forty-eight days since the dead broke the soil at St. Timothy’s on Third Street. Ezzie had been holed up in the church for the past eleven.  

When the stone rolled away, it was a miracle. This time, however, it meant no more jazz or Smokey Robinson. The thought of her past life filled Ezzie with grief, and she wanted so dearly to cry. But If Jesus could sweat blood at Gethsemane and still not escape his punishment, thought Ezzie, then what good would crying about the lack of Motown do her?

Nothing. No amount of Gethsemane Sweat would bring back Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, The Four Tops, the Supremes, or The Temptations. 

The shadow knocked once more. And once more, Ezzie hushed him.

“Asshole! Quiet.”
“Like I said, no one followed me. And watch your language.”

Ezzie stopped. Her eyes went back to Christ for a moment.

“Just between you and me,” she thought, “I hope this guy goes next.”