Category Archives: Poetry

Precious Death

I.

My name is Ahyoka. In Cherokee, that means “she brought happiness,” but I have known no happiness. We tried to accommodate, to live like the white man. We dressed in the clothes of the white man, learned his language. We built houses in villages with stores and shops; we tended farms and sold our crops in the market. We had art, music, and culture, religion, and language for centuries before the white man came. The white men called themselves “Christians.” We lived peacefully in what the white man calls “Georgia.”

Then they said an order came from Chief Andrew Jackson. Our homes, shops, and lands were stolen. My mother was one of the women raped. They stole all our belongings. We children hid in the woods, eating roots and berries until they found us. In rags we walked the trail of tears. Our grandparents died on the way. We were “given” land where crops would not grow, and left in squander to starve.

I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful ones.

II.

In my native Ghana, my name, Nyamékyε means “gift from God.” I was given that name because my mother was long childless. I was the answer to her prayers. I grew strong in our village. My father was a mighty hunter. I was given in marriage to a handsome man who was also a hunter. The entire tribe rejoiced when I gave birth to Quaashie. Quaashie means Sunday. We often name our children after the day of the week they were born. Quaashie was a strong, healthy boy. 

I was sitting on a log by the river outside our village nursing Quaashie one warm afternoon when they threw a net over us and we were trapped. They beat us and packed us into a large boat. We lay chained on shelves with others inches below and above us. From above, the excrement fell down on us. We were covered in dung and sweat. The white men took us out of chains every few days, brought us up on deck, dumped salty water over us, then raped us. My vagina bled and my belly hurt. We ate horrible tasting swill. When we finally reached shore, they stood me, holding Quaashie, naked on a block wearing chains. White men stuck their hands in my vagina and squeezed my breasts. They spoke strange languages.

I wailed when they ripped Quaashie from my arms. I never saw him again. I never saw my husband again. I never saw my mother, or father, or villagers again. Chained, I was thrown in a wagon and taken to what they called a “plantation” that was land stolen from native people like me. The white people are Christians, but not like what our preachers tell us. The one they call “master” rapes me every week. I have born three babies by him. They have all been sold away. And here I must pick cotton under the overseer’s whip until I die.

I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful ones.

III.

I am Adinah, which means “gentle delicate one” in my native Poland. We are Jewish. My daddy was a professor of literature at the university. My mother was a concert violinist in the symphony. I had a little brother named Aleksander. Our home was filled with fine art, books, and music. Daddy’s library had tomes from floor to ceiling. His big mahogany desk always covered with papers. A large globe sat on a stand in the corner. A baby-grand Steinway sat in our drawing room. We all played it. My mother practiced her violin for hours every day. The sunlight streamed through curtains and danced off the crystal chandelier. 

There were screams in the streets the day the Nazis came and kicked open our door, seized each of us, then looted our house, stealing all of value. They threw us into trucks, then packed us like cattle onto trains. I never saw my mother, father, or little brother ever again.

The camp had barbed wire and men with guns who called us names and said we were not human. They were Christian and called us “Christ-killers.” They said we drank blood at our feasts. Women in tan uniforms yelled at us, beat us, kicked us. We were packed into drafty wooden buildings. We slept on shelves like slaves on a ship. We dressed in rags. Most of the girls and women in my bunkhouse died of cold or starvation. Others were taken for “medical research. We never saw them again. 

A foul-smelling smoke wafted continuously from chimneys and ash fell on us all. I remember the nauseating feeling I got when I learned it was the ash of humans like me.

I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
    I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful ones.

IV.

The brutal Russians and the helpless Ukrainians are Christians. My name is Yuriy. I am Ukrainian. I am 14-years old. Invading Russian soldiers stopped my father Ruslan, and me when we went out for humanitarian aid. We raised our hands. We were unarmed. They shot my father dead. He was shot twice in the chest, right where the heart is. Then he fell. They shot me in the arm. As I lay on the ground, they shot at my head, but the bullet went through my hood.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
The Lord protects the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest,
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling.
I walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

    
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful ones.

LRT 9 April 2022. Scripture is from Psalm 116, NRSV. The story in section IV comes from the BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60989121

Relentless Love (a meditation on Psalm 107)

How long had she been wandering?

Alone, lost, confused, disconnected 

From her true self, unable to find her

Way into authenticity?

How long had he been in this dungeon?

Chained in dark dampness, warmed only

By vermin vying for crumbs of stale bread?

Addiction’s vile tentacles wrapped around his spine?

How long had her body been wracked with pain,

Shivering and vomiting, sweating, delirious?

Attached to dripping tubes and whirring machines

While physicians prodded, poked, and ignored?

How long had they endured this eternal hurricane?

Tossing the tiny ship to the sky,

Plunging it to hell, chaos, darkness, 

Watery grave from which none return?

How long must they withstand this tyrant?

Suffering the brutal oppression of bitter totalitarianism?

Where no one dare call their soul their own,

And injustice sits enshrined alongside of greed?

There, on the horizon lies the bright city

Garden city

City of lights

City of peace

City of connectedness

Freedom city

Beloved city

City of health and vitality

Peace and equanimity

Justice and joy

City with foundations 

Whose architect and builder is God

Redeemed from wandering, into the fellowship of the city

Redeemed from bondage, chains, and prison into freedom and light

Redeemed from sickness and pain, into health, vitality

Redeemed from the storms of watery chaos into safety, peace, equanimity

Redeemed from oppression by evil rulers into familial freedom

The unwavering, 

eternal, 

universal,

unconditional

steadfast love of YHWH never ceases.

a river of grief

Most every spring the river would flood.

we were used to it, but as Greed 

continued to destroy the Garden, 

the rains came earlier and

earlier, and more and more 

intensely, which concerned us,

yet we learned to live with the new

normal. After all, the old log house

was built on poles sunk deeply into

the earth. worst case scenario, we’d 

sip chardonnay, gaze into the forest

and simply wait for the water to recede. 

in the dark hours of early morning

the crash came with shattering glass

smashing porcelain, and twisting metal.

everything paused at 45 degrees as if the

cabin stopped to bow respectfully to Queen River

like a conquered general surrendering his army.

We momentarily breathed relief 

a deafening crunch as if a malevolent giant

was crumbling up the house like a piece of 

scrap paper – splinters and shards,

missiles and spears, dust and plaster,

a sucking sound, a roar, sliding, sliding,

now swirling into the raging muddy river

wet, cold, freezing, gasping, grasping,

panic, desperation, no breath to scream

on and on, day after day, more panic,

so cold, so alone, so afraid, raging waters

churning, churning, churning, 

scraping rocks too cold to bleed, too afraid to live, 

mind numb, limbs blue, vision blurry

how long? 

(i was swept downstream in the angry river 

for centuries by shape-shifting Achelous, the

progenitor of Sirens, who was whipped into wrath 

by the self-indulgence of evil wizards)

there is no timeline for grief

society’s grid is nonsense.

the raging flooded river carries

each one on a different journey,

a journey that never ends,

that transforms the heart

for good or for ill.

after many years, the river widened.

the current, while strong,

seemed less ferocious, less angry, less

determined to drown me,

the water warmer now,

almost pleasant in spite of still

carrying remnants of broken

homes and lives, and the bodies of 

dreams and hopes and loves

only on a chart can you see where this river

empties into that river which empties into

that gulf, which feeds that ocean, for, in reality

it is all one, from mountain springs fed by melting snow to

streams and brooks, to the mighty breakers that

spray lighthouses, it is all one

we are all one

impossible to determine when it happened exactly,

but one day, still floating, now on my back,

warm sun on my face, rocked gently by the currents of

mother river, i realized that this river of sorrow that

i thought was surely my death, carried me until it 

emptied me ever so gently into 

My True Self

Meditation from 2 Timothy — Paul in prison writing his last letter

Does one ever get used to cold darkness,

To hard and bitter clay atop icy bedrock?

Many a time have I been in this place, in

Other places and at other times, all

Different and exactly the same – 

Chained to walls, or once to soldiers

Alas, no more

A chill so deep, chattering teeth,

Blue lips and fingers, numb feet and toes,

Shivering, fetal position, rags and excrement

Damp stench of urine, fever, and human dung

No bars, windows, doors, visitors, except the

Sentry with bowls of slop twice daily,

Nauseating and unidentifiable

Rags only, festering sores, oozing pus,

Eyes burning and blurry, without 

Cloak or scrolls or parchment or quill 

No companions except the rats that

Race across my legs, looking for a

Drop of gruel. They look at me with the

Longing eyes of brothers

Abandoned. Alone. Always alone.  

They are ashamed of me – 

Criminal, incarcerated, forsaken by

God, guilty, must be guilty of

Something, otherwise, 

Why would he be there?

Chained and alone?

Surely, if God were for him

Mighty angels would have

Snapped the chains and stunned the

Guards – no, he is deserted by God,

Cast off for heresy – absurd to think of a

Kingdom that welcomes whores and pimps and

Pagan curs 

God has his reasons for leaving him there – 

Prosperity, wealth, success, victory, conquering 

Come to the ones with whom God is pleased

Surely, they say, what goes around comes around, and

He is only eating his just desserts

So, distance yourself, they cry, lest you too

Sit in chains

The end is near. 

The executioner’s axe is sharp.

There is no victory. 

No parade. 

No strong finish. 

No miracles. 

No deliverance. 

No kiss of grace or touch of love in

The damp – only the wails of 

Distant prisoners being dragged to

Stakes and crosses and chopping blocks

So their blood can oil the machine, or,

Depending on their choice,

Mingle with the pascal mystery

And then …

He comes

I see no visions

No flashes of light this time

No audible voice this time

But he is here, and I, 

Enveloped in perfect Love,

Am not at all alone.

And all is well

Warmed by grace

Embraced by acceptance

Enlivened by divine smiles

Held by everlasting arms

At the universe center

I lay me down to sleep.

What’s God Up To? A look at 3 poems in 1 Timothy

Jesus Changes Lives: An Overview of 1 Timothy

Hope & the 2nd Coming — a look @ 1 Thessalonians 4 & 5

There is Love at the Center of the Universe

Dive into the ocean hidden in your chest, and discover a new world in yourself. — Attar of Nishapur

Strange and wonderful music reverberates throughout the cosmos.

How is it that millions of fragments can think and act as one? How do starlings form massive murmurations that fire the imagination? Who choreographs hundreds of lightening bugs? How can the physical cells that were once a man mowing lawns split into a billion points of light yet communicate and dance as one? 

And yet, that is exactly where he found himself a millisecond after his heart seized to a stop. Fully awake. Fully alive. Fully aware. Intact. Flying, swirling, weaving, cellular particles turning in on themselves, now a pirouette, revolving, twirling, dancing to the hymn of the universe, flashing through galaxies where time bends and light stands still.

All the molecules he had always called “me” split apart, dissipated, separated, drifting off in varied directions among quasars and nova, swirling about the fiery rings of black holes where space-time curves and braids into strands of aqua light, and where seraphim chant haunting symphonies of harmonious ethereal sounds.

He was quite calm, observing with interest that he was cognizant yet simultaneously in millions of molecules spread over galaxies, swimming in oceans, climbing mountains, strolling through gardens, visiting his widow in her dreams, and flying through space. 

His multiplicity-singularity dove like roosting chimney swifts into a massive black hole where his fragments coalesced into a new body – immortal, no longer susceptible to disease or pain, no longer limited by time or space, able to surf the stars and ride the dolphins across seas of warm grace.

Through wormholes and ripples of space-time, whole, solid, embodied. Here people become musical notes and the colors of the morning. Here, people merge with electromagnetic energy. Eons of oceans surge within Denisovan descendants. 

Here, bighorn sheep speak quietly.

Aborigines explain their intricate petroglyphs to medieval scholars who stroke their beards and consult dusty tomes. 

Here, there are no warriors, no bullies, no officers with guns, no judges with gavels, no cells, no chains. Bombastic politicians lie hog-tied and gagged, merchants weep, and dictators wring their hands while children laugh and play, tossing dreams into the air. Amber stardust floats back to earth and takes the form of talking frogs wearing waistcoats and geese sporting bonnets.

Here Alpha becomes Omega. He swirls with the hymns of the cosmos and communes with the atoms from which he was formed and the seawater that courses through his veins. He can simultaneously be fully present in dozens of places.

Space-time turns out to not be empty, nor cold. There is a substance, an ether, like air to a bird, like water to a fish, in which all dwells. It feels warm, comforting, pleasant, relaxing, and peaceful. Tranquility reigns. 

Deep within, we intuitively sense that we are cradled by something both wonderful and incomprehensible. 

A radically different King. a look @ Col. 2 with Larry Taylor

The Single Most Astounding Claim Ever Made About God – Colossians 1:1-2:4


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