Friday, December 23, 2016

Letters to Lucy, 2: Their struggle, our sacrament

Dear Lucy,

You must not waste your suffering. Ava Bright entered into hospice care today. And we must not squander her struggle, either. Those whose dying shows us how to live, whose fighting teaches us how to fight. If I could speak right now to Mama Shiou, Christine, Audrey, Ava Bright, each in their different stations so truly alive, I would say:

Your cancer was my cure.
Your near-death experience was my near-life experience.
You fought so bravely, to crawl back to the land of the living. 
Thank you. Thank you, so, much. 

Stay alive, Lu. When your muscle memory assaults you and makes you feel falsehoods, know that He speaks not only to our hearts and minds but also somatically, to our broken bodies. He donned one himself. You are feeling and flirting with the edges of terminal illness, yes. Yes, all you must do is heal.

We give cancer patients the space and time to attend to that intensive care, to wage their whole selves in warfare against death. We try to relieve them of their other tasks and concerns so that they can just go through the carnage of chemo and unafflicted by other concerns. They are "just" to heal, to try to live one more day. We provide their families with meals and childcare and carpools. They take indefinite medical leaves of absence.

her father carries her when she cannot take one step more.
Ava Bright

When people do not see our invisible terminal illnesses, they may not intuitively give the space and grace that they would give to one who is outwardly, visibly wasting away. We also struggle to give ourselves fully to both the healing and the incapacity. But God sees! Lucy, He sees the ravaging infection more than we even do. He knows how hurt and dying we are. He is carving out that space and time for us. He is our chemo ward(robe). He knew I was dead when I felt and looked rather alive and fine.

Do not fight to justify to yourself that you need space and time to heal. Ask the Spirit to convince your heart. Try not to exhaust your limited mental energy attempting to figure out and explain why you are so hurt and dead. Does any cancer patient know precisely how (or more ludicrously, why) they got cancer? Does it matter? How it imperceptibly snowballed into a deadly crisis. Maybe they were chain smokers who brought it upon themselves. Maybe they were born into toxic environments and nuclear dumps. Maybe they ate too many GMO foods. What matters? No matter what you chose before to bring you to now, cancer is so unambiguous in what you must choose next. Simply:

Are you ready to resign to death?
Or will you fight for more life?
Do you want to be healed?

I hate cancer. But for these friends' visible and invisible wars, I give thanks. I give thanks for their whole life-and-limb struggle, agony, to GET WELL, a sign for us. Life shone so brightly through their battered body walls. Remember their cancer. Remember them wasting away at 90, 80, 70lbs. Remember the childrens' resilience and bright hope in searing pain. Count their falling hairs, bottle their tears, remember their fatigue and weary regret in the fight for life. See how they made an offering of their pain, brought a sacrifice of praise.

And we are promised this: no matter how hard you fight, you may not, will not, become wholly whole, wholly holy until at last you pass through death's door? But is the fight worthy? Would you crawl bloody and naked and emaciated out of the abyss, through the wilderness, back to the land of the living?

And would you be consoled that these infinite distances, trespasses, took Emmanuel only three days? He is with you. You will never cover all that distance in all your life and all your losses and all your love. But He has already gone there and come back for you, and will again come back for you, again and again and again resurrect you, forever and ever and ever.

Keep going, dear love, and help me in this.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

on Speaking & Polo, Echo & Narcissus

Some possess the familiarity and commonality to speak into your life because for at least several miles, your meandering paths overlapped; maybe you set out from shared origins. Your sandals are interchangeably sized, your footbeds similarly molded.

But to a rare faraway few you grant the privilege to speak to you from across the universe. You throw yourself in the way of their words, you sit down by evening light to read their letters from another world, so far from your own that their reports seem fantastical and incomprehensible. You ask questions, you try to understand. Though you differ in disposition, in composition you are alike––stardust earthenware. And then you look beyond the impossibilities, the separation, the gulf. You decide, wherever He's going, is where I want to be. You don't know who's farther along toward a common destination, but you have this assurance that regardless of when and how arrival should occur, whether your journeys will in the while intertwine, you will see each other at home. You will wait at the table for the missing ones, and tomorrow, you will dine together.

Your paths might be lost to and apart from each other. But they converge at the last––and along the way, in brief instants of contact, a momentary glimpse of the Real, an echo of Home. For so long you've traveled alone that speech has come to silence. But you need that polar pull, that nostalgia that is not backward or forward in time, but is every word forever.

Reorientation. You summon your voice, and call into the canyon.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Letters to Lucy, 1: The dissonance

My dearest Lucy,

I call you "Lucy," because you see Aslan––and, more significantly, because He sees you.  Even now, in your "long defeat" of maladjustment back from Narnia, He sees you.

Your weary word of how dim this world, this time order, has grown to you reached me. And, my dear, I am alarmed. I wish to be by you, that in our togetherness we can stop time for a moment and bring that land back here –– in our with-ness, we re-member, reenact, recreate. We were supposed to be royal emissaries from that world, queens. Lucy and Esther.

You speak of allowing your dimming heart be snuffed out altogether, resolving the tension by giving in to the unbearably lonely darkness. You feel that the only other alternative is to let this world be bright to you and consider the white light one the dream, the fiction, just to stay awake this deathly hour. Yes, Lucy I am alarmed. You are at a threshold. You are in the valley of the shadow of death. The only way out, is I Am the Way. It is: I am the Resurrection and Life.

You do not know whether you will make it out. But, if you do, you will know with all certainty that He has done it. That Love is stronger than death. It is unassailable, it cannot be severed, you can never be separated. Yes, you are on the brink of Life. Dear love, what a terrific place to be!

I remind you that the Lord placed His mission on your heart. Do not be surprised or troubled if he puts you through boot camp, and makes you utterly invincible. I put all my chips on you coming through on that other side with your faith intact and joy multiplied.

I love you,


Sunday, December 4, 2016

it's still winter in Narnia

but we are pressing North.

we are not alone, though we are lonely. we are exposed, wet, we crave warmth. we leave room at the table for the most crowded empty chair, upholstered with a whole entire pillar. of cloud. of witnesses. behind and before. we are afflicted and perplexed and struck down. we are assembling and retaining only the most irrational team of baffling idiots, unafraid of nothingness. meek, oh my, weak, oh why. a band of fools, an orphan train. a shanty town on the move with love to gain and nothing to prove.

we work with blunt tools in fallow fields, we spill our blood and sow our tears, and all the while, joy rises and rises. these heavy crosses would crush us, but an alien lightness keeps invading, and lifting us up and up and up.

It is cold. the night is long. I had good shoes but walked a long way now all seven of my toes are frostbitten. I need rest. will I wake if I fall asleep in the snow? It would be a gentle way to go. I have kept my eyes open in an unseeing world so long, my eyelids fall.

and I am too small to know and too tired to ask for what I want, the helps and comforts for which I wish. but for what I need, I simply say, Lord have mercy and it all rains down to wash away my delusions of Lack.

winter isn't over. but neither is Advent. take me to a window, help me see. o Lord who changes not, abide with me.

the constellations bring tiny consolations at the end of a long day of longing, to the messenger in Sandburg's poem. the poet so ruined and pregnant with visions that he is moved to speak truth to power. to those privileged enough to be blind and deaf, unless they choose divine condescension. unless they stand in cramped footbeds and lie in mangers.

Give me hunger,
 O you gods that sit and give
 The world its orders.
 Give me hunger, pain and want,
 Shut me out with shame and failure
 From your doors of gold and fame,
 Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger! 
But leave me a little love,
 A voice to speak to me in the day end,
 A hand to touch me in the dark room
 Breaking the long loneliness.
 In the dusk of day-shapes
 Blurring the sunset,
 One little wandering, western star
 Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
 Let me go to the window,
 Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
 And wait and know the coming
 Of a little love.

// Carl Sandburg, "At a Window"

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Open Pit BBQ Lamb

My Isaac, come off the altar now.

This is the coming
off of the altar
After one has been bound
seen the glint of the blade
in your father's hand
After one has tasted the honor and terror
Of being wanted by God
I am ready father
I am at the table
A near-sacrifice passed over
No, not this one
He was ready to be offered
Was he ready to be spared?
How did he live again ever after?
Did he carry that knife in his heart?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Dear Mr. Heup,

Thank you for teaching me how to write. I would be so constipated and autistic without you.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Robert Frosty snowfall freeflake

I shall be telling this all with a song
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged at a foothill, and one ––
uphill was behind a door and the other one —

You could see from this vista, how pleasantly unfolding
The gentle stroll, well-marked by heavy traffic,
Bridges and tunnels and highways that wound
Surely and safely back down to the plain
down, down where you would gain
your mirage life in the city
of man and for a mundane
thirty-three more years bloom
and build your monuments on the Atlantic shore
pay Caesar's tolls but wither your souls.

Beyond the door, a pounding sound
Someone wants to return from the other side?
Or no, ––not knocking
a heartbeat, a drumbeat,
a beckoning. Who is it?
You press in, unhinge, swing wide the trap
Behind a suffocating one-way gate, the ascending path

Vanished. Pack up your own baggage, pick up
Take up, take heart, and cross
Over the mountain bluff climb
Up above your dread abyss, the wilderness creeps in behind you
Do we have adequate supplies? I got the lighter, did you pack––
Wait, where did my companions go?
Where is my family?
The oil in my lamp burns low
Whose are these dry bones?
There is no bridge here, look though we might
Sunrise to sunrise, and between them, long, long nights.
Certain death awaits, your cargo you hurl
Into the swirl of the sea, o God!
Do you see? Are you asleep?
Why did you lead us here only to die?
There may not be a tomorrow if we sleep tonight

I led you here to wake you from the grave
I met you here to free you into my service
I Love you more than you want
to be loved I stripped
you to coronate you
I fought you to win you
I wounded you to heal you in me
you died in me you again live
This is the life of the world to come
I've already arrived its already begun

Two roads diverged and you
drew a line and pointed
at yourself
the accusations
the Way and the Life
you pointed with your sword,
to yourself, you spoke, you said,
you were Truth, so I...
I took the plunge
into your wounded side and,
my Lord! my God! I ––
I have been freefalling
into Your heart
ever since

Thursday, November 10, 2016

if your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash

dance me through the panic til i'm gathered safely in

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Among my many contradictions...

... I am a gloomy optimist. Wolterstorff and Heschel make sense to me. It feels better than being a cheery pessimist.

give me farsightedness
strain my hope
for river crossings
promised lands
the life of the world
to come
tomorrow in Zion
the gates flung wide
we labored and sang
and the walls kept tumbling down

You ask how I feel about the election. I am relieved the blinders are off. Were you surprised to wake up today and discover that the bully beat the smart girl? I wish I were surprised. You thought we had made so much progress for minorities and human decency. Here is where you have called me a cynic. But your despair today––no, I am your gloomy optimist.

Yes, America is that absurd. Yes, so many actually do think that America belongs to white people. The work's just begun. It's everyone's problem now. All day around the city, people everywhere were crying in public places and engaged in civic conversations. Yes. How did we get here? By only caring in the eleventh month, the eleventh hour. Sorry Charlie. Didn't have faith in the system to lose. The unthinkable happened before – think of the Japanese Americans in WW2. It's gonna be okay.

Yes, I am hopeful. because now No, really, who is an American? is a question we all have to ask and answer, again.

Maybe this leads to the end of the electoral college system. Maybe it ends the two-party system. Maybe I should visit Taiwan before WW3 levels it. Maybe we learn to reach out to the margins, the ignored, the forgotten. Maybe the media shapes up.

Anyway there's no way he can do all the ridiculous things he said he would. That wall he said he would build, it's already there. That pipeline she's supposedly opposed to, it'd get built anyway. The ship fo state is this massive lumbering thing. And anyway as president, he can't just say whatever he wants anymore. There's always impeachment... right? She would have made a shitty Democrat (though a skilled stateswoman).

There's nothing new under the sun. Some years we plant for the seasons. Now we plant trees.

it's coming through a hole in the air
from those nights in TianAnMen Square
it's comin from the feel that this ain't exactly real...

on a visionary flood of alcohol
from the staggering account
of the sermon on the mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all

the sorrow in the street
the holy places where the races meet

from the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away

imperial, mysterious in amorous array
democracy is coming to the USA
sail on, sail on, oh mighty ship of state
to the shores of need
past the reefs of greed
through the squalls of hate
sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on

i mean i love the country but i can't stand the scene
and i'm neither left or right i'm just staying home tonight

// Leonard Cohen

Monday, November 7, 2016


He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

–28: By whose stripes?

He can do it. He can make His suffering far more (and more deeply) defining, scarring, determining –– than our own papercuts.

He can gather your broken body into His perfect one. Make your lack part of His completeness.

Fill up what is lacking.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

–36 What is this action of "arising"?

Heart, never linger in the dead and dark.

Arise and go,
for this is no place to rest,
because of uncleanness that destroys
with a grievous destruction.

having been buried with him in baptism
you were also raised with him
through faith in the powerful working of God

follow that Right Hand Man.

if then you have been raised with Christ,
seek the things that are above,
where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

because You rose, I will arise

dress yourself for work; arise,
say to them everything that I command you.
do not be dismayed by them,
lest I dismay you before them.

shake yourself from the dust and arise;
be seated, O Jerusalem;
loose the bonds from your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.

three days in the dungeons, and an eternity in the Light.

my beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away,
Arise, go out into the valley, and there I will speak with you.”

awake, O Sleeper, 
arise from the dead
and Christ will shine on you.

Heart, never malinger.

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

He has taken your hand, said to you Talitha cumi.

“Little girl, I say to you, arise.”

arise, my soul arise, shake off your guilty fears
He owns me for His child, I can no longer fear

Friday, October 14, 2016

–40 Which mountain to climb, on which hill to die?

again, why die on this hill?

the peak has come into sight and relief. since the first step on this particular ascent, the cast die, there's been no possible return.
I have to model ... ways for them to confront [...] without going all scorched earth. They need to see ... how to speak to ignorance, wield their dignity and push back against individual and systematic efforts to define, limit and exclude them. –– Topher Sanders 
i have to be willing. to model. to go first.

will i provide all that i can toward that for which i long and pray?

i have to bear witness.

who will speak for the unspoken for, the silenced? hineni.

remember whom you were following, and what mountain he ascended.
hedge up my way dear Lord.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Midnight in Montreal

do not dress in those rags for me, I know you are not poor;
don't love me quite so fiercely now when you know you are not sure,
it is your turn, beloved, it is your flesh that I wear

Saturday, October 1, 2016

cairns and inukshuks are prayers

jenga and Babel are foreplayers

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Spring in the Desert: the Well of the Living One Who Sees

There is a particular desert I visit time and again.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
some souvenir stones
remember and be helped

Between Egypt and Philistia

These are badlands. I went––exiled by the ignorance of others or driven by their cruelty and dishonor only rarely. More often I have returned there to the familiar stench of vomit, withdrawing into a tempting habit of self-pity.

Deserts are fine places to visit. Not so great places to be indefinitely on the run and without adequate supplies. They can be treacherous if you're unprepared. Many have died in that wild. Sometimes deserved, for leaving safety in the first place.

But! there is a fountain there. Mercy.

Hope, hydration, a chance of surviving the desert, making it out.

I did not build the well. I did not name it first, though I know its name now, Beer-lahai-roi. It springs up in the depleting wilderness that is the feeling of being unnoticed and uncared for––hurting alone––in pain. A hideaway, a runaway, ashamed, invalidated. It is an incredibly disorienting experience; it is maybe untrue, but definitely felt.

There is fellowship there. With, at the very least, those who are drawn to the same desert spring. This on its own already begins to lift the you're alone nobody sees nobody cares lie –– because so many other people share in the fellowship of this suffering, feeling invisible or like they don't matter, like they or their pains are insignificant and unworthy of mention, that they ought not burden nor blame others but should bear it alone and struggle against wearing a chipped shoulder as a special badge.

Recently, I met a woman there.

She was fleeing. Toward home, maybe, safety. Away, at any rate.

And the angel of the LORD found her.

–– by a fountain of water in the wilderness,
 by a spring on her way to lostness.

He found her, intercepted her in her dishonor and panicked grief.

She was contemptuous and bitter and in flight.

And his first word to her:


Seen, known by name. Not scorned, but sought:
Hagar, whence camest thou? and whither goest thou?

She said: "I flee. From the face of my mistress Sarai."

The LORD has listened to your affliction.
You will know this deep in your bones, in your blood.
The fruit of your body, the life that comes
out of what you thought would kill you
will be defined by God's hearing.

She named the LORD who spoke to her:

You are a God of seeing.

She, that exploited foreigner, fleeing her station, named the LORD!
God who names people was named by her, by her experience.
He drew near to her, to be experienced and known by her!
A spring in the desert.

You are a God of seeing. What a beautiful confession of faith.

She said, Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.

there is Fellowship here

And not just in the company of other outcasts, wanderers, exiles – though that is precious. There is the still-beating heart center of reality, that cosmic Christ, God with us.

Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while. Mark 6:31

He meets me in the desert, every time, whether I go there to seek Him (escaping into Reality) or am just escaping from something else. Sweet to my secret heart is that living water. So I'm learning to Sabbath there intentionally and regularly, to that lonely place, to find that I'm not alone. There is an altar there where I can exchange the state of my heart for a fully sated one, and find not just the commiseration and consolation of others on the run.

But in lovely, brooding stillness, responding to come away my Love, resting with the only One who suffered alone, who wandered the wilderness and won over all its deadliness. To rest with Him, be alone with the Burden-Bearing, Safe, Hearing, Seeing One.


Heart, never be tragic.

Live in His gaze, His attentive Love. 

Instead of licking your wounds, lift up your eyes.

See Him seeing you, be with Him as He meets you.

Return to the land of the living.

He shines His face on you.

So I stack another stone, to remember and be helped by Hagar. Years later when she looked away from the face of the Living God Who Saw her, He came to her help again. And He comes after me again and again, bids me come away with Him, nevermore alone. in Genesis 21.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Good Rebbe

why do you call Me good?

but Rebbe,
You are!

You do not only require
that i reform
my mind

rebuild ruined streets
repair breached walls
renew parched land
resurrect the dead

restore my soul
before You

first responder
total rehabilitator

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Learning to Be a Child, 7


it will take all
my life
my diligent
to graduate
this school
to wake
to be as true
and small
a child
as the eternal son
to face
that already
i am

And the next thing she knew was that she was kissing him and putting her arms as far round his neck as she could and burying her face in the beautiful rich silkiness of his mane. 
"Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan," sobbed Lucy. "At last." 
The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face. 
"Welcome, child," he said. 
"Aslan," said Lucy, "you're bigger." 
"That is because you are older, little one," answered he. 
"Not because you are?" 
"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger." 
// Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis

Friday, August 12, 2016

"Dogfish" and Dogfish Head

I wanted
the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
   where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
   I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,
whoever I was, I was

for a little while.


You don't want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don't want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it's the same old story––
a few people just trying;
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind...

// "Dogfish," Mary Oliver

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

wobble baby

weebles wobble, but they don't fall down.

no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, 
and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. 
this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from Me

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

current NY state of mind

heaven meeting me
between Jersey and the sea
is New York City

fly up from decay
to de civitate Dei
the Appian Way

Thursday, July 21, 2016

late have i loved You, lately Here

lately I've been feeling like
it's taken all my life to get here,
but here I am.

night is night
day is day
sleep is death
life is breath

would each next heartbeat steadily say:
it's taken years and tears to get here
but here, I Am.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

no more to roam

beauteous fields lie just before me
where the redeemed no more shall weep

i'm goin there to see my mother
she said she'd meet me when i come
i'm only goin over Jordan
i'm only goin to my home

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


bare hands
bare feet
bare heart

Monday, May 23, 2016

hold fast your aim, by sun and star, be earnest and brave

May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month. I'm a heritage breed human.

It's a very exciting time to be Taiwanese American!

This new era for Taiwan, marked by Friday's inauguration of Madam President Tsai Ing-Wen, is a day my grandparents thought would never come. This mixture of disbelief and relief at the arrival of a New Day, a new political reality and peaceful governance, is a feeling-state I want to file away. For me, the hope was mostly inhaled, inherited, second-hand. Even so. Will It feel like this Then?

Were you watching this inauguration? Does it utterly bore you now? What kind of real-time witness do the heavens bear to the unfolding of earthly events?

Whatever economic sanctions, war, diplomatic consequences lie next on the horizon for Taiwan, for poking that big dragon across that strait and for daring to be herself, tell her own story to herself and to the world . . . remember this political moment. This brave and bold celebration.

Monday, May 16, 2016

approaching asymptotes

There are things you can’t reach. But
you can reach out to them, and all day long.

// Mary Oliver, Why I Wake Early

Friday, May 13, 2016

a prayer for when my wings feel broken

when death and daybreak are at hand
hold on, hold out, past the agony
when you see him you will be made like him
in the light of a new day

be a well-watered garden! not a garbage can. Thank you Lord.

(of Gibran's)

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Our God, who art our winged self,
it is thy will in us that willeth.
It is thy desire in us that desireth.
It is thy urge in us that would turn our nights, which are thine,
into days––which are thine also.
We cannot ask thee for aught, for thou knowest our needs before they are born in us:
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself
Thou givest us all.

Great and gracious are You God,
You bid me fly, and give me wings.

sun, sun sun here it comes. thank you for a perfect parent

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dear Mom

Baby Mama, 1963

Thank you for doing your best.
Thank you for not giving up.
Thank you for your pains.

Thank you for naming me, in three languages, after beautiful women of the King's court;
You prayed for me to be crowned in gold and clothed in indigo.
The names were prayers that I'd rise above and surpass;
Thank you for speaking 青出於藍 over me.

Thank you for loving God.
Thank you for loving the Bible.
Thank you for teaching me to pray.
Thank you for entrusting me to the care of a local church.
Thank you for urging me to press into things unseen, a spirit world.

Thank you for Guh and for commanding us to be best friends.

Thank you for giving me life, Mom. I very much like being alive.

We sent this one up for you.

Ahma and I missed you a lot these years. Your absence was felt all the time. She prayed for us, we prayed for you. I guess it kind of went something like this:

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Not mine (to) own

13.  Resolved, never to buy/own anything I am unwilling to loan:  But who am I . . . that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness (1 Chronicles 29:14–17).

14.  Resolved, to remember my worth and my unworthiness. I am worse and weaker than I dared admit, but through Christ I am more loved and accepted than I dared hope. Lord, do suspend me in this great grace, between these peaks and pits, let mercy be my harness.

My worth is not in what I own, not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love, at the cross

My worth is not in skill or name, in win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed at the cross

I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest treasure, wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other
My soul is satisfied in Him alone

I will not boast in wealth or might or human wisdom's fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ at the cross

Two wonders here that I confess: My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed –– my ransom paid –– at the cross

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Prayer of Adoration

Holy LORD of all creation,

​You are Holy, yet so involved with us.
​You give life, breath, form to dust.
You knew the end, our ends, from the beginning –– creating us each with a name, an interpretation, and meaning.
Dignifying us with bodies, giving us shape, and strength, and clothing
When our efforts to re-create ourselves, or to fashion You in our likeness maim and degrade us, Lord, You show us mercy
You turn our eyes away from ourselves and onto You.
​You are Holy, Lord, yet You allow us to see You.
ou wash our eyes
​, wipe the tears that blur our vision,
​the scars that blind us

​We behold You, and in Your mercy, we are not destroyed, but 
like You in that beholding.​
You are Holy, and yet you are NEAR to us.
​Inhabiting the praises of Your people.
Without You, we hide our hearts in trembling shame. We fail, O Lord, to acquit and justify ourselves.
But You declare Your children righteous and blessed.
You have resurrected us, we celebrate that this Sunday of Easter,
You raised us up with You, so we open our mouths in petition and praise!
Where before there was guilty silence, you give us a NEW song, gathering us from lonely desert wanderings, to ascend to You, together.​
We sing these songs of ascent, and suddenly, we are not alone, but together in the company of your people and your angels, crying out Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord.
Thank You for these songs, that carry our sorry notes of grief, our high and happy notes, our weary/resting pauses to You.
We sing Your praises to ascend to You, and suddenly we are at rest––
for You have descended to us, to the dead, to dwell with us, and give us new life. 
You are Holy, God, and yet you are with us
You labor with us, not only to make us safe from Your holiness, but to make us Holy, like You.
What dignity, kindness
​, mercy, and family
 You have bestowed on us!
Stay in our company, Lord, as we sing these freedom songs, in Christ's name –– AMEN.​

Monday, April 18, 2016

limping right on with nothin' but the whole wide world to gain

God wants us busy, never giving up
He wants nothing but the whole wide world for us

faith is believing what you see ain't so
but my sweetheart we've got to learn
to live with these ghosts they can't leave, we can't go

now we'd sell this valley if we could go north where the sun sets
drippin buckets of gold

walk with me Lord, walk with me
hold my hand Lord, walk with me
while i'm on this tedious journey
i want Jesus to walk with me

wash my eyes, renew my mind, steady my heart.
lord have mercy, christ have mercy.

Monday, April 11, 2016

... the one landscape that we, the inconstant ones,
Are consistently homesick for... 
The blessed will not care what angle they are regarded from,
Having nothing to hide. Dear, I know nothing of
Either, but when I try to imagine a faultless love
Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams...

// WH Auden

Dreamland is making me ill. bring me to Real, the land of the living. mercy

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Meanwhile spring arrived––

... a beautiful, kind-hearted spring, without spring’s usual promises and deceptions, and one of those rare springs which plants, animals, and people rejoice in together. This beautiful spring energized Levin even more, and hardened his resolve to make a complete break with the past... In spite of his solitude, or because of it, his life was extremely full, and it was only occasionally that he experienced an unsatisfied desire to communicate the ideas wandering round his head to someone other than Agafya Mikhailovna, although he often ended up discussing physics, agricultural theory, and especially philosophy with her...
// from Rosamund Bartlett's translation of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina

(Sakai's Velveteen Rabbit)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dearly Departed

(On sacramental love, signpost saints, mirrored reflections, good ghosts, the blessed bygone)

Ah-gong's birthday soon.
I will be in Jordan.

Old love, you have left, I have been left behind, I have had to let you go, too, yet in spite of it all –– I know myself to have been and to be marvelously loved.


for so long. 

to have had you.
at all.

I have been thinking about this kind of sacramental love, signpost people, the very most reflective mirrors of the divine image.

I have known an unmeritable number of such formative friends.

Who are they? these ghosts who, having departed, stay with us yet? The blessed bygones who help and hound and hold and heal us on our way home, by their presence––by their absence too? In life or death, once near, now far-off. You grieve, yet with the strangest new hope, new hunger. And thirst. For righteousness. Satisfaction. It is good grief. Good ghosts.

Love will abide.

Who are they, whose love was sacramental, life-dispensing, grace-bearing, whose loss is not only felt, but also felt proof of where they once had so very incarnately been?

In the spaces they leave, you know that their love was so astonishing, unending, so much stronger than death, that it lives on even in your own transfiguration–– your having been its object.

Of them, it can be said and sung "because I knew you, I have been changed for good."

Who are they for whom "nevermind, I'll find someone like you" is neither possible nor desirable––no rebound or replacement could suffice or be true to how astonishingly and how truly you were upheld in unmixed love.

Expansion (a heart like the ocean) is the only way onward –– larger, deeper, farther, higher, more, greater, wider, stronger, longer. They came along, bore you up, went along.

I ask these things, because hardly a day goes by unblessed by the memories and the passage of these dearly departed, not all dead, saints, sons, and sinners.

Sometimes, such abundant, time-stopping with-ness seems just too extravagant for the mundane time order in which we must live on and labor. A dalliance with eternity.

To have crossed paths at all, was almost too much, and certainly not enough.

You could and likely will love and miss them for all your days, always longing yet never lacking. Certainly at the milestones –– signposts as they were. No longer having that bygone togetherness is just the light yoke of living right on, because that cup is overflowing still.

I am not glad they are gone, but I am not sorry; they remain near. It is a strange thing. The kind of encounters and brief communions that mediate and concretize the divine, intertrinitarian love and delight that gird up all that ever has been.

Perhaps that is why they come.
And why they must go.

Christ has died.

They were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
While they were talking and discussing together,
Jesus himself drew near and went with them;
but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

These manifestations/demonstra(y)tions are miniscule in proportion.
Do you remember the redirection of the sun's rays by a diamond?
Kaleidoscope days.

So clear, like
Dizzying, like

thank you Lord for shadows and dim reflections.
thank you Lord, for space to see you.
thank you Lord, you are all that is real.

He acted as if he were going farther,
but they urged him strongly, saying,
"Stay with us, for it is toward evening
and the day is now far spent."
So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at table with them,

he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him .  . .
He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

You were there. A communion of souls. It was your table.

Christ is risen.

You were there. You were there, it was you.

Christ will come again.

Your Ghost. Your Abiding presence.
My Guarantor. 
Your return. 
It will be my full consolation.

Sit with us, dear Lord. Dine with me here.
Holy Stranger, help me hear, help me see.
O Lord who changes not, abide with me.
Here I am!
I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

to be unbound, unfettered, unshackled, unbind, unfetter, unshackle

i'm no longer a slave to fear

my chains are gone

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,
"Lord, how many times shall I forgive...?"

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt,
and the LORD your God brought you out from there
with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt,
and the LORD your God redeemed you;
therefore I command you this today...
It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you

It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow,
that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands... 
It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow...
It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt;
therefore I command you to do this.


“You have judged rightly.”

Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon,
“Do you see this woman? I entered your house;
you gave me no water for my feet,
but she has wet my feet with her tears
and wiped them with her hair. 
You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in
she has not ceased to kiss my feet.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are
forgiven—for she loved much.
But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Monday, February 29, 2016

to Sleep Perchance to Dream

Restorative rest. The herd had encircled him... The sentinel was on duty. It's the same anytime any horse lies down. The herd gathers and guards. The sentinel watches and listens. Horses need REM sleep and cannot get it standing up. But on the ground they are more vulnerable to predators, so most horses will not lie down unless guarded by the herd. One of the many reasons why nature never intended horses to live in isolation... (50) // Joe Camp, The Soul of a Horse

Until fairly recently I could reliably be counted on to fall asleep within the first half hour of any movie watched with friends, in a home or at a theater... It was a running joke in our Big Kids' Movie Club from Summer 2014. I have seen the beginnings of so many movies. Un the company of friends, with comfy sprawling arrangements and dim lighting and a belly full of salty crunchies... I would, I could, lie down in safety. I'd fight For wakefulness sometimes and the movies were good! but heavyliddedness would overcome me like a long hemorrhaging deficit gobbles up new income, new lifeblood. Replenish.

Ah yes, I am learning to, coming to, lie down in safety, sleep in belovedness. Tethered to the tree fort. Swaddled. Safe. Sabbath rest.

Made for this. "Being domestic [does not] negate the claustrophobia and stress he lives with on some level, caused by feeling trapped, unable to flee, alone, and bored. Never mind how willing he might be to go into the stall either because he has always been forced to or because he knows that is where the food is" (60).
First Mover. "Much of the survival drive is wrapped up in the instinct to be safe, which means being part of the herd, understanding the language of the herd, and understanding the social order of the herd. Every herd, no matter how large or small, has a distinct pecking order. All determined by who moves who, thus who respects who, which translates into who feels safe with who as their leader" (65).

I've been reading this book from Nausicaa, and hanging out with horses. The instinct to flee, to fly, to survive, to test security and belonging, Am I better off with you than I am on my own? is an old, old friend to me. Coming to see in myself how those who are preyed upon seek the safety of a herd, how they achieve calm, helps me to tune into true safety and belonging and cease from my flight, and tell all my sheepish strugglin' scaredy friends, hey. HEY! Hey, we are okay now:

We are the people of His pasture, and the [dumb prone-to-wandering-off-and-dying prey animals] of His hand. Not slaves of the whip and bit and bridle; not enslaved but safekept. Loved. He gathers them in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd... he goes before them, they follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I Am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. Come to me, weary and heavy-laden, I will give you rest.

And how did He know? How could He lead them... He himself was the Paschal Lamb.

He who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.

The total liberty of consent. The scandalous freedom of submitting to headship. "You want your horse to come because he or she wants to be with you. And when you begin by giving the horse the choice to be with you, and when you learn to communicate from the horse's end of the lead rope, creating that willing relationship is totally doable. It is never too late to begin again... I don't treat horses like puppies. I treat them like partners. Junior partners, of whom I expect great things... Because for the horse, to acknowledge and respect a leader is to feel safe. This is deeply rooted in their nature. And feeling safe means survival. Which makes the leader the source of emotional comfort. Is it any wonder, then, that they work harder for a good leader? Don't we all?" (68).

Pin your ears.
Lick and chew.
Be loved.
Be led.
Come to Me.
Follow Me.
I laid down My life for you.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Wobbling in Place

I've had the great privilege of working closely with CH since going on full time with YL. She is so spirit-filled, composed, creative, visionary. We get down with how-are-you-really's and pray it out before gettin' down to business.  It's an incredible blessing.

Today I said I'm a bit turbulent, that it's Gramma's birthday today, and I miss her so very much. She was a mom and a friend to me.

CH said, you're kidding! It would have been her mother L's birthday today too.

It's not the only parallel in our stories. When we first met, we swapped stories of silence and speaking, truth to power.

Happy birthday to our dearly loved ghosts.

Hugs all around.

Thanks Abba.

Her mother who was murdered by her neighbor in a drunken brawl, when CH was 18. How the months before that, the Lord had orchestrated it such that nothing was left unsaid, there were no regrets. How they got their first and last photograph together. How she learned how crazy her ma really was about her.

How are you so brave and composed C? After all that you have lived through. It certainly gives me hope. I feel so wobbly all the time. Any surefootedness seems so tenuous, like testing the strength of ice on a frozen lake.

You are seeing the end result, girl. I wobbled most my way through the last three decades. You are right where you should be. It is okay.

every single story is a story about love
both the overflowing cup
and the painful lack thereof


P's match news this morning and re-considerations this week, reminders of perfect pruning, Your goodness, how You do not waste good faith. We talked about my N-approved choice of breakup tunes, how much it slays me, why I thought she should give it a spin (MDL & JLB also have steered her toward this album). Grieving and expressing love to someone so unfamiliar yet so missed and longed for.  The great paradox of her being everything you want and everything you can't have, everything she cannot be. You just have her, as she is, and that's what you have to and get to love. Carrie had schizophrenia. Sufjan slays me.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Little Sawdust Heart (more on ravishing and lavishing)

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse, “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once.” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been rubbed off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you become Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”


The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.


He thought of those long sunlit hours in the garden–how happy they were–and a great sadness came over him. He seemed to see them all pass before him, each more beautiful than the other, the fairy huts . . . the wonderful day when he first knew that he was Real. He thought of the Skin Horse, so wise and gentle, and all that he had told him. Of what use was it to be loved and lose one's beauty and become Real if it all ended like this?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lent Renunciations

"Every sin is an attempt to fly from emptiness" -Emile Novis

"Be unafraid of nothingness" -Irene


Elisabeth Eliot reflects: When a man brought a lamb, the priest laid it on the altar, slit its throat, and burned it. The offering, then, was accepted. But what was left of it? . . .

But these strange ashes, Lord, this nothingness,
This baffling sense of loss?

// Amy Carmichael


It must needs be a multi-pronged attack on my most precious addictions and dependencies. Or I'll just compensate for abstaining from the one by indulging more in another.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Happy Monkey Year

Ufff. I cant recall the last time I felt so sick. But this is even preferred to falling into fall.

Grammas chicken soup by the mug! 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

to ravish & to lavish

"The world is the closed door. It is a barrier. And at the same time it is the way through . . . Every separation is a link."

He said, "Fall on your knees before this place, in love, as before the place where lies the truth." I obeyed. 
He brought me out and made me climb into a garret. Through the open window one could see the whole city spread out, some wooden scaffoldings, and the river on which boats were being unloaded. The garret was empty, except for a table and two chairs. He bade me be seated. 
We were alone. He spoke. From time to time someone would enter, mingle in the conversation, then leave again. 
Winter had gone; spring had not yet come. The branches of the trees lay bare, without buds, in the cold air full of sunshine. 
The light of day would arise, shine forth in splendor, and fade away; then the moon and the stars would enter through the window. And then once more the dawn would come up. 
At times he would fall silent, take some bread from a cupboard, and we would share it. The bread really had the taste of bread. I have never found that taste again. 
He would pour out some wine for me, and some for himself–wine which tasted of the sun and of the terroir upon which this city was built. 
At other times we would stretch ourselves out on the floor of the garret and sweet sleep would enfold me. Then I would wake and drink in the light of the sun. 
He had promised to teach me, but he did not teach me anything. We talked about all kinds of things, in a desultory way, as do old friends. 
One day he said to me: “Now go.” I fell down before him, I clasped his knees, I implored him not to drive me away. But he threw me out on the stairs. I went down unconscious of anything, my heart as it were in shreds. I wandered along the streets. Then I realized that I had no idea where this house lay. 
I have never tried to find it again. I understood that he had come for me . . . My place is not in that garret. It can be anywhere––in a prison cell, in one of those middle-class drawing-rooms full of knick-knacks and red plush, in the waiting room of a station––anywhere, except in that garret. 
Sometimes, I cannot help trying, fearfully and remorsefully, to repeat to myself a part of what he said to me. How am I to know if I remember rightly? He is not there to tell me. 
I know well that he does not love me. How could he love me? And yet deep down within me something, a particle of myself, cannot help thinking, with fear and trembling, that perhaps, in spite of everything, he loves me. 
// from The Notebooks of Simone Weil (Arthur Wills' translation). 

Simone. She was a slave set free, like every saint, "singing what must certainly be very ancient hymns of a heart-rending sadness. Nothing can give any idea of it. I have never heard anything so poignant. There the conviction was suddenly borne in upon me that Christianity is preeminently the religion of slaves, that slaves cannot help belonging to it, and I among others . . ."

Simone. She is one of those women whose craziness offers me a comforting kinship. A traveling friend whose journals came with me to the restorative and serene radio silence of the Catskills this weekend. She is yet another wandering self-exiled Jew, with an itinerary away from the cathedral cloister, part of the fellowship of the excluded. A chosen outcast, whose psychological homelessness––whose marginalization––matters, bears weight, in all of her self expression. I met her after that August day eight years ago on which splaying out on the hardwood floor I was newly acquainted with my own poverty of heart. She was a balm–-and a caution––to my embattled mind, against the valorization of unnecessary suffering and against self-exclusion. Weilly weirdly wonderful and woeful.

To Bousquet she had written:

I absolutely cannot imagine the possibility that any human being could feel friendship for me. If I believe in yours it is only because I have confidence in you and you have assured me of it, so that my reason tells me to believe it. But this does not make it seem any the less impossible to my imagination. 
Because of this propensity of my imagination I am all the more tenderly grateful to those who accomplish this impossibility. Because friendship is an incomparable, immeasurable boon to me, and a source of life—not metaphorically but literally. Since it is not only my body but my soul itself that is poisoned all through by suffering, it is impossible for my thought to dwell there and it is obliged to travel elsewhere. It can only dwell for brief moments in God; it dwells often among things; but it would be against nature for human thought never to dwell in anything human. Thus it is literally true that friendship gives to my thought all the life it has, apart from what comes to it from God or from the beauty of the world. 
So you can see what you have done for me by giving me yours.

She was constantly Surprised by persevering presence, enduring friendship.

She came to me again in studying the resistance and inner liberty of women during the Holocaust. And I returned to her this weekend, grateful for her and for all those who've gone before me, to blaze the way.