Filtering by Tag: prayer

In A Communion of Lions

+ IN A COMMUNION OF LIONS +

The guards kicked open his door, and as soon they entered, they drew swords and spears. They uprooted him from his position of prayer. Daniel saw hands on his arms, felt arms at his back, and was reminded of when he was a boy — when guards that sounded like these guards, when hands that felt like these hands — took him. 

“Daniel!” Shouted his mother. “Daniel!” 

There was no trial, no explanation; much like the time guards came for him as a boy.

“Daniel! Daniel!” His mother continued to shout until Daniel was too far removed from her to hear her. The greater the distance grew, the more fervent her shouts, as if she was trying to dig as deep into the earth of his heart as possible and plant the truth before she ran out of time — before he was taken from her forever.

He was jarred back into the present by the taunts of his accusers. They berated him, calling him a traitor and a blasphemer. Daniel heard more laughter as they neared the pit. He’d heard of this place — from time to time, he heard the screams. As he was thrown in, he noted the insults of his accusers, and the panicked shouts of Darius, the king — his friend whose own decree had ensured this punishment — 

“Daniel!” Shouted his friend. “Daniel!”

The stone sealed the entrance, and Daniel’d run out of time.

And then, he was alone. 

Or, to be more precise, he was with the lions. 

Void of light. Of sound. Daniel crossed his arms, felt his forearms and face. “I am here,” he reminded himself. “I am here in the dark, in a pit whose walls are made of rock. I cannot see my hand in front of my face. I smell rotted corpses. My heart beats, I take in air. And I am not alone.” 

He couldn’t discern their shapes in the dark, but he could feel the presence of the lions. “They are here with me,” thought Daniel. “Lord, your lions are with me.” 

Daniel focused on his breathing. 

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. 

Hearing his breath reminded him of his father, who taught him to pray. 

“How, Father?”
“Here,” he said, kneeling — his father’s eyes now lining up with his. “When you pray, kneel.” 

“Why, Father?”
“Because kneeling helps us remember.”
“Remember what, Father?”

“It helps us remember we were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent miraculous signs and wonders — great and terrible — upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

His father held Daniel’s hand. “Pray with me, son.”

“Yes, Father.” 

His measures of breath reminded Daniel of the One who gave him breath. “My breaths are traced out like hills to you. My breaths are curved like clay pots to you. My breaths twist in the air as dust to you. My breaths have shape and substance to you.”

Did He who gave him breath also put him here, in the darkness, alone but not alone? Immense, yet intimate. His name, on the edge of his lips — His name, forever unknowable.

He drew a deep intake of breath and remembered stars. 

He exhaled and remembered sunlight.

Daniel knelt. Slow. One knee, then the other. He kept his head bowed, kept his hands on his knees. As he settled, he heard the first lion. To his right. Daniel heard it take one step. 

“Breathe,” he told himself. “Pray.” 

You are near to me as the lion is near to me.

Another, to his left, stepped. Daniel grew even more still.

You are present with me as the lion is present with me.

“Breathe,” he told himself. “Pray.” 

A third lion, from the center, approached. It came closest to Daniel, close enough to hear its breath sing through its nostrils. It stopped a foot or so from him. Daniel could feel its breath on his forehead, and he lifted his head to meet the lion’s gaze.

I know your breath as I know the lion’s breath.

“Breathe,” Daniel told himself. “Pray.”

The lion stood still. Daniel looked into the eyes of the lion. 

And there, Daniel saw God.

+ TWO +

“My name is Daniel; a name given me by my parents. When I was a boy, I was taken — my friends and I. The king’s ancestor enslaved my people and led us from our homeland. When we arrived in this land, the ones who captured me — the ones who captured you — gave me another name.

Belteshazzar. 

This ancestor — Nebuchadnezzar — he believed himself to be mighty and invincible. So mighty, in fact, he demanded that everyone worship him as a God. The people of this land are accustomed to gods they can see — gods of flesh and wood and stone. 

But I know of a God beyond image or substance. 

And it was this God who gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream — a dream whose meaning he couldn’t discern. In his confusion, he grew frightened and angry. Nebuchadnezzar assembled the wise men of his kingdom and commanded them not merely to interpret the dream, but to first discern the dream without it being told to them, and then to interpret it.  

My friends and I had been trained under the eye of the Nebuchadnezzar’s officials. We were counted in that group of “wise men,” though we were not native to the land. I heard the request, and thought it a fearful, mad plea. Perhaps this was the first time he felt small — the first time he felt something beyond himself. 

When none of the native wise men could discern neither the dream nor its meaning, Nebuchadnezzar demanded we all be executed. I spoke to my friends — Hananiah, renamed Shadrach — Mishael, renamed Meshach — Azariah, renamed Abednego — and I told them to pray for God’s mercy.”

Daniel paused. He remembered his friends, and their time in the furnace. He’d wept as they were cast into the furnace, and he’d prayed all throughout the ordeal. Afterward, he saw them — their hair was not singed, nor did their clothes smell like smoke. 

“How?” Daniel asked his friends, “how do you stand amidst fire, but do not burn?”

His three friends smiled. “An angel,” said Hananiah. “An angel appeared and stood with us.”

“What happened next?” Asked Daniel.

Hananiah bowed his head, then lifted his eyes to meet Daniel’s. “The angel spoke our names.” 

+ THREE +

“The night before the execution,” Daniel continued, “the mystery of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was revealed to me. I can’t say I heard a voice, but at once I saw the statue. I saw layers of gold, silver, iron and clay. I saw a stone cut by unknown hands. The stone demolished the statue, and then became a mountain.”

“I praised God for His revelation — He who gives wisdom, over and over again. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.”

Daniel felt the lion on his left inch closer. Daniel smiled. 

“Is that you, Hananiah? Are you here with me?”

Daniel’s eyes shifted left. “When I saw you after your hours in the fire, you spoke of the angel. You said you saw flame reflected in its eyes, but because you knew you were with an angel, you were not afraid. You felt awe, Hananiah. You felt near to God.”

The lion to Daniel’s left purred. He heard its intake of breath and its exhale.

“I remember you, Hananiah — surrounded by fire, but not burning. I remember praying for you that morning. I remember your name on my lips — the name your parents gave you when they held you, when they bathed you and circumcised you. In the morning, I prayed for you.”

“Yes, now you are here with me. You, and the lion — and the God of our Fathers. He is the God of the Parted Sea and the Fire that burns but does not consume.”

+ FOUR +

Daniel turned his gaze toward the lion in the center. “And you, Mishael,” said Daniel. “Mishael, my friend — shall I tell you what I prayed for this afternoon? Before I was taken?”

“I prayed for my neighbor. I prayed for the king’s guard. I prayed for Darius, our king. I prayed for our people because I believe we’re lost. Our Lord detailed the laws we were to keep because we were once slaves to Pharaoh. In His mercy, He took us from Egypt. We were fearful and made a graven image; a calf. Time and time again, manna after quail after water from a rock, the God of our Fathers told us what was necessary for obedience and health. 

In response, we chose to pursue our own power and might. 

We chose the way of Babel.

We waged war and worshiped false idols. We shed blood and ignored the voice of He who seeks to redeem and make us whole. God allowed us to pursue our ignorance to the fullest measure, and now we are exiled. Now we are far from home. 

I prayed for us, Mishael, in the midst of our exile. I prayed God would not turn his gaze from us and make us strangers forever. I prayed He would remember us.”

Daniel sat still, taking in the sight of the lion. 

“There’re dreams I’ve not told anyone about yet — dreams I think he’s given me, but I don’t know how to express them. I knew the dream of the statue was not my dream. But these new dreams — I don’t know how to speak out loud and share them with anyone.”

Daniel tilted his head, still looking at the lion. “I wonder if he does the same to you.”

+ FIVE +

“Once he gave a man a dream where water covered the earth. God was to destroy all life, save the life he spared on a boat the man was to build. Why that man, and why the destruction? Could not have God withered any violent hands? Could he not have crooked any tongues that spoke evil? Could he not have dimmed, instead of destroy?

He gave dreams to yet another man, or a young man. The LORD gave him visions of suns, moons, and grain. Yet when this young man told his brothers of his dreams, his brothers lashed out against him. They fought over the young man’s cherished coat, and sold their brother into slavery. He was carried to Egypt. There, he spent time in prison; hearing dreams, caring for the imprisoned.

His dreams showed life, yet they also showed death. They showed both prosperity and famine, and both, in time, came to pass. I'm sure the dreams frightened him. I hope they frightened him as my dreams frighten me.

There was once a boy, who heard the voice of God when there was no voice, when our priests were evil and sought their own good as opposed to the good of others. The boy served under the care of the spiritually dead priest, yet God spoke to the boy. Time and time again, the boy assumed it was the priest. At last, the priest told the boy to speak to God.

‘Speak, LORD. Your servant is listening.’

What was it like, to be the boy who heard the voice of God, and what was it to be the mentor, the one who knew this boy was hearing the voice of someone he once knew so intimately, yet knew no longer?

I do not want us to lose the sound of God’s voice. I want to hear it constantly in my ears. I want it to fill my body. That’s what I prayed for this afternoon — that we would be remembered and brought close as children of God.”  

+ SIX +

"There was someone who was led through a covenant. He was told to turn his head upward and count the stars. That was to be his offspring." Daniel paused. "You've seen stars, have you not, lion?" The lion blinked, turned its head for a moment, then returned to Daniel. "Yes, you must have seen stars when you lived free."

Daniel continued. "Later, when he had but one son, he was told to slaughter it. He was told to take it up the mountain and kill it, as sacrifice. As affection."

Daniel paused, and thought. “I do not know the mind and currents of God, but I know he is the God who has overseen my friends though they were in the fire. He is the God who is with us now.”

Daniel examined the paw of the lion. There were shards of bone and rock jammed in the paw. Daniel reached toward the paw of the lion, and it growled. Daniel stopped. The lion showed its teeth to Daniel, which were rotted, and the gums were charcoal black. Daniel could smell the infections and sores in the mouth of the animal. The lion’s mouth reminded Daniel of the coals used to bake bread, as a child. 

Daniel remembered his home, and he remembered his family. He recalled the shared meals as a family, where he and his brother laughed together. His father was someone who loved them well, and his mother’s smile would shine.

Daniel leaned back from reaching for the paw. ”My mother sang,” Daniel told the lion. “She sang when my father laughed, and in time, my father sang with her.”

“You and I are surrounded by violence, but in this moment, I remember singing. I pray we might yet know a more peaceful existence. I pray God brings us out of violence and teaches us to sing.”

“I miss the sound of my mother’s song.”

 

+ SEVEN +

Daniel looked at the lion to his right, and noticed a scar across the lion's side. Perhaps suffered in an attack. "You are beautiful, Azariah.” The lion yawned and looked away from Daniel. "I know who made you. He is the one who made me as well.”

The lion bowed its head and pressed in close to Daniel. Daniel could see the rib cage of the lion expand and contract. Daniel could feel the lion tremble as it breathed.

“When was the last time I trembled, father? When was I last trembling?” 

His mind floated back in time. “Yes. There was a prayer, one day. I was young. I’d heard the story of Passover for the first time, and my father spoke about the the blood spread across the top of the doorway, and I thought about the slain lamb, and then I began to shake. 

I think about the lamb, and I tremble.”

Daniel came back to the lion. ”You're made of grace, Azariah, and you’ve been made with grace. But your captors,” said Daniel, “they’ve trained you to become a manifestation of their wrath. They take the worst parts of themselves and pour them into you. Then, they forget the violence was borne from them. They permit themselves to ignore they haven't dealt with the most violent parts of themselves.”

The lion licked its lips. Daniel noticed the crooked teeth of the lion.

“Nebuchadnezzar had a second dream. Of a tree, once blossoming with fruit, stripped of its branches and cut down to the stump. I told him he was the tree — that though he was, for the moment, adorned with riches, very soon he’d be stripped of everything and sent out into the wilderness. 

Soon thereafter, he was stripped of everything, and he became a wild animal, eating the grass of the forest. For seven years, the animal nature in my king — that ravenous, craven part of himself — reigned. My king was wild, but after seven years, God restored him.

Nebuchadnezzar knew the violence in men’s hearts like few others ever do.”

Daniel kept his eyes on Azariah. And Daniel prayed once more.

“Lord, I believe you have me here for a reason. I believe you give me visions and words for a reason, even if they terrify me. I imagine more dreams will rise, and I will love and tremble again. 

When I look close, I see how this lion trembles. What would make such a powerful creation tremble? This lion shakes, and I don't know why, father. 

Creation suffers. We suffer here, both because of us are not supposed to be here. Both of us belong elsewhere. But we are here. Both you and I are here because men are too often afraid to face themselves. We are exiles, together. We are made well, made for a purpose beyond our knowing.

I pray you help us sleep. 
I pray you help us sleep and dream of you. 
We are not where we are supposed to be, but we are where we're meant to be.
If the lion dreams, Father, I pray the lion dreams of you.”

porcelaing

     Sometimes, the world — specifically, climate change — scares the hell out of me, and I feel like hiding.
     Sometimes, the world — specifically, climate change, Donald Trump’s impending presidency and the threat of nuclear war — scares the hell and the ever-loving shit out of me, and I feel like hiding and burying myself alive.
     Sometimes, the world — specifically, climate change, Donald Trump’s presidency, the threat of nuclear war, plane travel, the web of responsibilities associated with home ownership, my near-crippling negative self-view, my dissatisfaction with the eat-drink-be-happy-but-if-you’re-not-happy-here’s-netflix-and-that-should-do-the-trick-until-tomorrow idea of living, my near-constant Eeyore-cloud-heart-steering belief that we’ve broken the world and that I broke myself along with it, and no one, myself included, is ever going to be fucking okie-dokie, a-okay, right-as-rain regardless of how hard anyone tries— all of that scares the hell and the ever-loving shit and the absolute fucking life out of me, and I feel like hiding and burying myself alive and wishing I could give back every breath I ever-ever-ever took.
     Sometimes I am so scared of everything being so much bigger and faster than I am that I feel like the only logical response is freezing and letting everything else pass me. 
     Sometimes I’m so scared I’m PETRIFIED.
     But you know what helps?
     Cereal.

+ TWO +

     Yeah, I mean, the kid’s stuff — Frosted Flakes, Cocoa Puffs, Honey Nut Cheerios, etc. Cereal makes me feel better, because it’s sweet and delicious and it reminds me of a time where none of the things that scared me dominated my thought process. It makes me think of a time where one of my best friends and I split a whole box of cereal over the course of an afternoon. We talked and laughed and ate cereal, and that was as complicated as the day got.
     It’s a defense mechanism, a comfort food, and emotional concealment.
     But sometimes, the wolves are bigger and badder and huffier and puffier than any castle of cereal I could make. Sometimes the wolves cross the moat without any problem and tear a hole in the cereal walls, and Tony the Tiger hurries back with a report, raving to me that “They’re Grrrrrrowling at the door!! They’re going to break in any second! Wwwwwwwwwhat do we do?!”
     And then I’m gone, hiding again. 
     Deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. 

+ THREE +

     Writing — storytelling — aches and dreams shared with a community — a campfire. 
     It’s what I always go back to — it’s been my love language for decades now. There’re journals filled with stories, stories I haven’t shared. A library of caged birds. And why?
     Because of the wolves, that’s why. 
     The wolves are the ones who piss on the campfires and swallow the birds. If I let the birds go, the wolves will devour them, and they’ll put out the fire, and I won’t have anywhere to go. I won’t have anything to say.
     I love to write, and I love storytelling, and I know storytelling’s in my marrow — but I’m afraid.
     Why?
     Because it feels like the world needs storytelling like it needs a hole in the head — because it actually HAS a hole in the head, and it needs a medic, and it needs a top-flight surgical team to put it back together. It needs higher walls and more skilled sharpshooters. It needs antidotes to the viruses spread by the enemy, and then it needs viruses that the other side doesn’t have antidotes for yet, and it needs something loud and snarling and foaming at the mouth.
     Because it feels like the only thing the world needs is more wolves.

+ FOUR +

     And then Padre shows up. “Hey,” He says.
     “Oh, hi.”
     “Bad day?”
     “Yeah.”
     “Sorry about that.”
     “Thanks.”
     “Might I suggest something?”
     “Sure.”
     “Read the Psalms.”
     “Excuse me?”
     “Read the Psalms. It’s the one after Job.”
     “Who do I read them to?”
     “Yourself. In time, the Wolves.”
     “Why?”
     “Wolves love Psalms. Didn’t anyone tell you that?”
     “No. Why should I read them to myself?”
     “Because I know.”
     “Know what?”
     “That feeling in the back of your jaw — the feeling like your mouth wants to wire itself shut, lock the door and throw away the key. Because I know every thing you think of saying feels incomplete and off-target and late-to-the-party. Because I know you’re afraid to address the world — your neighbor — your reflection — because you think your words have to be the skeleton key that unlocks all the sorrow and vitriol of this age. All of that’s very admirable.”
     “Thank you." 
     “And it’s also profoundly, utterly foolish.”
     “…Yes.”
     The Almighty crouches low, His eyes meet mine. “Dom. I know it feels like your love is insignificant.”
     “…Yeah.”
     “I know it feels like you need to be a medic, or a sharpshooter, or a wolf.”
    “…Yeah.”
     “But you don’t.” He wipes a fallen tear from my eye. “You’re not a medic, and you’re not a sharpshooter, and you’re not a wolf. You’re Dom. And that’s because I made you like Dom. I made you Dom-shaped, with that Dom-laugh and that Dom-smell. I made you to look like Dominic. To sound like Dominic. To breathe and weep and dance and laugh and love and hope like Dominic.”
     “And,” He adds, “I did it on purpose.”    
     I nod. Another tear. “That’s what scares me the most, Padre — that you knew exactly what you were doing when you made me. I feel it in my chest.”
     “Yeah?”
     “Yeah — that forest fire — that burning bush, that lion’s den — that heart of mine — you put it there. You were sloppy.”
     He smiles. “How so?”
     “If the cops dust my heart they’ll find your fingerprints all over the place.”
     He nods. “Guilty as charged.” 
     “I forgive you.”
     He kisses my forehead. “Ditto.”

+ FIVE +

O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.

Blue Light Specials

I attended a church in Philadelphia that would, mid-service, include a prayer of confession/repentance. We would read the prayer aloud, and then would bow our heads in a period of silent prayer and reflection. 

After a few moments, the person leading the time would say something to mark the end of the silence; 

“My friends, look up; these words are for you.” 

They would then speak of words of encouragement or glad tidings; a psalm perhaps.

For example:

CONFESSION/REPENTANCE

Lord God, you have shown us such love,
and stretched out your arms
to draw us into your embrace.
Yet we so often fail to show that love
within our lives,
or recognize its source.
Forgive our short-sightedness,
for the times we've failed to see your love
in the generosity of friend
or stranger,
the shoulder to cry on,
willing ear to listen,
a word of encouragement,
holding our hand that extra mile.
Forgive us for failing to notice
how much you care for us.

PRAYER/REFLECTION

“My friends look up, these words are you.”

WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT

You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.

(PSALM 65:5-8)

+ TWO +

There’s ache bound up in every person — crack them open and they erupt like volcanoes. They love in furious gushes, like Texas oil wells. More grief and more dream than sand on the seashore. 

Every attempt I make to measure out a heart — yours, mine, a complete stranger’s — will be incomplete. Every attempt I make will be flawed. It will miss the mark. 

Pardon me, Lord, for my incomplete, opaque words.

Keep me loving, Father. Always, keep me seated at the table. Keep me asking questions. Keep me listening to that melodious, drunken ramble. Keep me listening to the trembling, anger-filled screed.

+ THREE +

I’m an introvert, and I don’t do well in crowds. I’m not terrible, but I’m far from a social butterfly. That said, I love a conversation with another person. I love the ebb and flow of a good, unpredictable dialogue with a friend or stranger. 

This is what breaks my heart about digital addiction — when people choose their phones over other people. When we seek communion on online walls and not with other people. 

Other people are full of their own thoughts/ideas you can’t control. They’ll act one way on Monday, and then Tuesday they’ll seem like a completely different person. If you open yourself to someone, you’re liable to be hurt or let down by them. You’re going to be disappointed and it’s going to be difficult. 

But with the devices we use nowadays, with technology and its infrastructure, we can craft relationships that’re wholly reliable, that won’t change from day to day, moment to moment. We can pull whatever we want and however much we want of it. And if we don’t like what we’re hearing, it’s not like we have to sit with it or work through anything. We don’t have to abide or endure. 

We can walk away at any moment. Unfollow, unfriend. Swipe left. 

We’d rather pour ourselves into our devices because we think we make our world bigger, better. We can create our very special echo chamber, full of our very special intimacies, full of very special Everyones who looks like us and sounds like us and loves the things we love and hates the things we hate and loves as we would love and hates as we would hate. 

Higher and higher go our walls. And we think we make our world bigger and better with every click and touch, but yet it feels like we’re nesting our hearts in bigger and better porcelain prisons, as if our hearts — fervent, burning-bush vibrant — existed at the core of all our emotional nestings — but every thing we do, every interaction is one more nesting, one more hiding, one more obscuring.   

There’s so much tenderness and face-to-face engagement we’ve lost, so much grace we’ve willingly forfeited — so much compassion we’ve forked over — so much intimacy we’ve rejected in the name of ‘connection.’ 

I believe there’s so much more to be had from a pure engagement — from time given, which — when two people do it, becomes time shared — honest time. Love-full time.

+ FOUR +

“My friends, look up; these words are for you.” 

Forgive me, Lord, I’m biting the hand that feeds me — anyone who’s reading this, you’re reading this because I posted a link on Instagram, on Twitter. I don’t know what to do.

Forgive me, Lord, I’m broken and busted. I’m aware there’s often a gap between the aspirations of my words and the works of my hands. 

Forgive me, Lord, when I seek to make intimacy and relationship out of parts that were never meant for the spirit and weight. Forgive me when I choose the thing over the person. 

“My friends, look up; these words are for you.”

I hope to see the light glow from within your eyes, not the blue glow of a screen bouncing off your face.

I hope to learn how to endure and abide with you. I hope to ebb and flow with. I hope for fast and slow with you. I hope for hurt and for the strength to lovingly slosh through the muck with you. 

I hope to be revealed with you, to de-nest hearts. Layer by layer. Grace by Grace, open space by open space. Heart given to heart. Hope giving way to hurt giving way to hope. 

“My friends, look up; these words are for you.”

Do I Believe in Love?

Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It’s a tale of good and evil. 

Hate: It was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. 

Love: These five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. 

The Right Hand: The Hand of Love. 

The Story of Life is this: Static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished… 

But hold on! Stop the presses! The right hand is coming back! Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that’s right. Yea! Boom! It’s a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he’s down. Ooh! Ooh! Left-Hand Hate KO’d by Love. 

If I love you, I love you. But if I hate you…

— Radio Raheem, from “Do The Right Thing” (1989) writ/dir by Spike Lee

II

Do I believe in Love today? 

To believe in Love — to open my doors and say ‘Today I Love and am Loved,’ simultaneously giving the world opportunity to accept or reject me and my handsome heart — is not a singular act, but a daily, action-by-action orientation. Today I believe in Love, and today I choose to Love.  

Because I can believe in Love, but I can also believe in Hate, and added to such belief, is the opinion that Hate is stronger than Love. Hate is more profitable and more accessible than Love, I might say. 

Hate doesn't weigh as much, doesn't cost as much. Hate doesn't charge extra when you travel, and it fits through all doorways. Hate doesn't ask questions, and doesn't require you to listen. 

Hate is more understandable than Love and affords me more armor than Love, more shields and more reasons with which to defend myself. Hate assures me of rightness, and righteousness.  

Love, though — Love be that heart in full bloom, that blessed open door without conditions — the only condition being that the door stay open. 

III

How do I summon Love from barren soil? 
Christ have mercy.
How do I be still in the pupil of the beast and show Love?
Christ have mercy.
How do I take in venom, bitter fruit and waste — and conjure that ribbon — that melody — that blaze — that mysterious and wondrous Love?
Christ have mercy.

We are flame, and we are flesh. 
The spirit is willing, amen and amen, and the spirit is weak, amen and amen. 
Help me Father, to speak like the rock — break me and bring forth water.
Ayúdame, Padre, to burn and yet not be consumed.
Help me, Lord, to die and be born anew.

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.”

 

 

 

 

      

     

     

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

+    +    +

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 — 

+    +    +

“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

+    +    +

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.