Thursday, August 25, 2016

Go West

"He stood at the edge of the river, gaze slowly shifting between the mountain valley of the Lord’s Bounty and his friend’s unrelenting quest for gold.  'We’re free,' he insisted.  'The two freest men in all the world…isn’t it enough?'  
The Frenchman’s sharp eyes met the Scotsman’s disbelief. 'Is it for you, mon ami?'
'Aye,' Mckeag said softly.  'And always will be.'  
                           -“The Yellow Apron.”  Centennial, 1978  


The call slips cool through morning light,
Hides quiet in the gold that admits the day.
Go west, young man,
Come up, brave heart,
It’s long since you were away.
Escape the concrete, weary bones,
Unburden your soul of highway dust,
Drapetomani 
Run barefoot in beauty,
Find peace, for a time, in holy wanderlust.


Where shekinah rests on the mountains,
Draw near and find your rest.
Tabernacles of stone,
Restore faith once more,
To the limping spirit still blessed.
When shalom wraps ‘round in a flannel,
Steel string psalms float raw and bare,
Toward hope again,
Not to last, but to live,
And eternity echoes through star-pricked air.


Where enamelware pours the coffee hot,
And its warmth unburdens clouded eyes,
The limbs bow low,
In bodily prayer,
To salute the Son, to stretch and rise.
The altitude reveals the truth,
High Country calls me to learn and grow,
The journey ahead,
Down to low places led,
Cannot stifle the promise that leads us on.


In those sacred days of westering,
The Shabbat that heals the faith once more,
Compels obedience,
Renews the spirit,
To fulfill what the Lord has made him for.
And though hell and suffering bar the way,
Calvary has crushed a victory through,
Over shadow grace sings,
To our hearts bestows things,
That the angels of heaven only wish they knew.    



“When you meet me here again, you will have come to stay. But not now. You must 
go back to your own world for a while.”  
-Aslan, The Silver Chair



All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  Neal.  2016.  
Images via:  Eru Illuvatar, tumblr.com, and Josh Abe.  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Deep

“Come, let me breathe on you.  Now are you brave again?” (Aslan, Prince Caspian).


Water
Dipping a toe in and feeling the liquid-cool creep up my skin.  
Jumping in is always the hardest part.  
Creation of the dust, my humanity thirsts for that which gives life.  
From craving tongue to the searching heart, only a true reflection pours peace.  
Satisfaction for the parched soul staring back up at me, 
Imago Dei.  


Sometimes I strip the shoes and curl toes in the dirt of my making,
Feeling the firm grounding of a foundation that anchors the soul.  
But today the terrestrial weighs heavy,
The curse of this fallen soil.
A cracked and thirsty pavement dragging me earthward,  
Antithesis of the eternal,  
Deserts waging war against my soul.  
But the music draws me in, slips my skin under the surface of liquid song, 
Of gravity suspended.  


Clear and sharp, now muted soft,
Rolling in waves that echo endlessly on the shore. 
Truth resounds in my soul,
Smooths across pebbles shaped by a permanent dwelling in the deep.  
I need to stay here for awhile,
Listening.  
Rippling with the same breath of the Genesis creation. 
Hovering over the water, it surrounds me.  
Hello, Holy Spirit.  
How often do I forget that living water is alive?  
I am a mariner with a mountain soul,  
A mermaid seeking streams and lakes in the high places above all that is below. 
I want to see the sunlight diving into patterns of gold-rimmed aqua,
Ever dancing, never ceasing.  
Borealis of the blue world.  


With waves encamped around me, I am held. 
Cradled by the might of raw strength that soothes with gentle beauty,
Crushes the enemy and cleanses what is unclean.  
Here, tears may mingle free with Calvary’s water,
Blood of a pierced Messiah that covers me still.  
Take me where my feet can no longer touch the depth, beyond where human breath can carry the lungs.  
A longing to be forever caught up in the holy flood.  


Soon, all ransomed hearts will come home here to stay,
Forever a part of the restoration that welcomes into the deep, 
Flowing with a healing that raises the dead.   
But for now I swim the tide, 
Surrendering anew to the only water that quenches the thirsty soul and stills all earthly clamor.  
In the water I listen to remember the truth,
Have you heard it too?
How the tide of victory has swallowed up suffering.  
Every brook murmurs peace
And each wave whispers,
Shalom.  



Friday, July 15, 2016

Letters From War

“When life is hard, remember that we are not the first to ask ‘Is there no other way?’”
-Jeffrey Holland.


A poet’s soul is a strange thing.

Of a depth unknown, save to its maker.  Curved by feeling and branching wide beneath a burden that is the world itself, who can understand it?

Yet like Anne Shirley, I have come to suspect that kindred spirits are not now so rare as I used to think, and though the poet may spend his days trying to capture what escapes the tongue and translate the heart, he is aware that even the least poetic of eyes knows what it looks like to see visions shatter.


What if I were to ask you what it sounded like to hear a dream die, or what faith feels like as it stretches to its tensile limits, reaching for a hope that seems to be receding like the betrayal of the tide?

Somewhere—caught up in those tangles, you’re likely to find me.

On any given day I wage war.


Trapped in a weakened body, assaulted by feeling, and caught in a fierce and ongoing brawl between a burdened heart and a soul dedicated to God.

It’s taken me months to even begin to give shape to the madness that has slowly descended, and I may never be able to fully paint an accurate image for others to hold.  But despite my reservations regarding vulnerability, here’s a brief account concerning my lack of online presence, the delay of my publishing endeavors, and my general withdrawal from life for the time being.

On the quiet days, when the smoke and skirmishes are somewhat distant, I’m slowly shaping the courage to say:


Dear World,

It’s me.
 
I know I haven’t blogged like I said I would, and the cyber-dust that coats my story files is likely centimeters thick.  I know I said I’d publish my next book soon, and I’m sorry I haven’t crafted one word in months.  I’ve become the negligent horse owner that I swore I would never allow to develop, and the tornado carnage that is several places of the house have been unattended since December.  My once marathon-ready creative muscles have slowly shrunken on the couch in front of a TV screen that would rather watch Food Network re-runs than write, because the effort it would demand from me has suddenly become too much.  

Confused?  Me too.  But let me try and explain.


After months and months of weird diets, doctor’s visits, innumerable blood draws, and many prayers, I left Mayo Clinic with the somewhat nebulous, yet still ominous diagnosis of dysautonomia, one that threatened to impact my life the way a cluster of mounting clouds turns to steel and thunder.  Vague though its presence is, it warns you of its power and declares that you haven’t even yet begun to feel the full force of its heaviness.

Now stricken with a chronic and so-far incurable illness, the Captain, the man cub, and I clumsily navigate through the world of POTS during pregnancy, while trying to maintain some shred of normalcy wherever we can.

It all sounds quite melodramatic.  Trust me, I know.  An appraisal of my appearance likely won’t yield any evidence other than the often weary face of a mom or other hard worker.  Besides, I’m also an accomplished performer (read: faker), and I wear the mask of “just fine thanks” very well.  That’s because the ugliness of illness doesn’t appear on my skin, it’s in my blood, in my heart rate, in my stomach, and in my brain.  Add to that the reality of pregnancy, and each symptom nearly doubles in discomfort.


I smiled and chatted with the barista at the local coffee shop today, but I’m sure he couldn’t see that I was literally counting the seconds until I could grab my iced coffee and collapse onto a nearby couch, because I was afraid I was going to pass out.

Even as our little family prays its way through each day, and sometimes each night, discouragement and confusion are a constant threat.  It seems more than reasonable to accept that important lessons often take a season of stretching and growing to fully learn, for the heart to embrace.  Yet, somehow when it comes to the Christian walk, it feels as though there’s tremendous pressure to read a few verses on joy and instantly demonstrate a flood of trust and contentment lest our fellow church-goers look down on our lack of faith.

I do trust, most wholeheartedly, but I am still learning, and this journey is painfully difficult.  I ask God to help my unbelief, because I’m just not strong enough.


I want desperately to accept these life changes and be on my merry Christian way.

But the truth is—I’m heartbroken.

It hurts to constantly be on the phone enlisting the help of others to take care my beautiful boy, when I want nothing more than to be the mommy he needs, the one who isn’t too exhausted to chase him around the backyard with the three legged dog, or one who bears a patience that isn’t constantly harassed by a body that complains of an illness that few can fully understand.

I ache to fire off e-mails to contacts in the equestrian community querying if anyone is in the market for a sweet horse, the same hazel coated pearl that I scrimped, saved, sweated, hoped, dreamed, and prayed for since I was eleven years old.  The prize that I fought so hard to love and learn with, and for which I once gave almost every cent I owned.

Soon he will likely disappear into the back of another’s big white trailer and be hauled away by a soul who might never understand that he was once the answer to a little girl’s prayers.  


I gaze at the hiking trails from my porch and sigh as I turn back to my doctor-recommended recumbent bike (i.e. an uninspiring treadmill with pedals).  Frozen meals now dominate the majority of the freezer space, and worst of all, I rarely write.

When the Captain and I prayerfully sought publication for my first novel, we were at peace with what felt like God’s blessing.  Therefore we didn’t imagine pouring blood, sweat, and tears into a publishing process after years upon years of prayer and labor, only to grind to a painful halt smack dab in the very middle of it all.

Books events, consistent work, never ending miscommunication with publishing representatives—in no time it was all too much, and it hurts even more to admit it, to have tried my hardest and failed to succeed.  

It’s an ongoing wrestling match to consider abandoning the profession I’ve spent so long creating, but the worst blow was far harder, and that was to tuck away everything else as well—all the writing, all the stories, all the words, all of it, because my mind and body were simply too weak and tired to keep up.

In summation, I’m truly not sure how to condense all that’s happened and explain the details of our situation.  There is still so much we don’t know, and whether or not I’ll be able to resume any part of my so-called normal life after pregnancy remains to be seen.  At the moment the future is even more of a mystery than feels typical, and that is hard.


I have not given up, and I trust my Lord absolutely.  I don’t know what he is doing, but I know that he is good, and it’s that truth that I will continue to rest on.

However, if you see me, be gentle with my and have patience.  I still feel as though I’ve been robbed of some of the most personal and important pieces of myself, and it’s often unbearably painful to think that I may never live, work, write, ride, or anything else the same way again.  Some of my most precious dreams are dying in my arms, and I do not yet know if or how they may be resurrected.

I hope to continue working on my novel’s sequel, and I am actively exercising in ways that may relieve me of my POTS someday.  But most days I am somewhere along the difficult cycle of hurting, healing, and then hurting all over again, and I feel as though I am merely an observer on the sidelines, not simply resting but watching life go by without me.

Bear with me, if you dare.  I plan on saving whatever drops of energy I can in order to continue writing, however inconsistently.

Prayers are appreciated, fellowship is treasured, and for the time being cookie dough will continue to be praised for its emotional if not entirely physical health benefits.


For now we’ll keep fighting, and I’ll continue to write these “letters” whenever I’m able.  They say that dry days are kindling for burning bushes, for holy experiences with God (Voskamp).

You may find me knitting a baby blanket while the man cub splashes in his redneck swimming pool on the porch, or you might see the Captain and I quietly holding hands and swinging side by side on a hammock in the dark.

We’re a bit beaten up at the moment, but we’re also choosing to trust in the one who is able to raise the dead, and if this letter reaches you on the homefront, then you can tell anyone straight from our hearts:

God is still good, and he is on the move.  



For more information on POTS and dysautonomia, you're welcome to check out a few of these informational resources:  

http://www.dysautonomiainternational.org/page.php?ID=30

http://diseasescure.pw/when-you-love-someone-with-postural-orthostatic-tachycardia-syndrome/

All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2016.  
Images via:  M.J. Neal 




 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"We Interrupt this Program..."

 

I climbed a tree the other day, because I wanted to fill my lungs with the living breeze, to feel the wind lift the dust from my spirit, stir it to life, and sweep the cobwebs from my soul.  Emerging from winter, worn out.  Entering spring a bit stiff with the must and rust of year-long wrestling match still clinging to my elbows and knees.  

I crawled into a patch of sunlight yesterday.  Into that tipped-over gold that spilled yellow over the rocking chair, eyes closed, praying for the warm to drive the shadows from my thought and sear the sickness from my body.  



Sometimes your jar of clay wages an ever-present conflict with maladies both persistent and insidious.  The days slide dull through blurred vision, and you testily give your attitude a few bracing slaps each day, because for some terrible reason, when the physical is under siege, patience is the first deserter.   

Over the battle-shredded radio waves, mostly static fills the ears with a dull buzz, pressing on to saturate even the spirit, if allowed the opportunity.  Every once in awhile, threads of a broadcast break through, but now the voices sound foreign, unfamiliar, and the only recognizable phrase is the glaring announcement repeated again and again.  

A program interrupted.  Life interrupted.  A declaration of war with as yet no foreseeable conclusion.  


In a post-Calvary world where the hurried heart walks spiritually slow, how do you savor joy and time when each stretched-out minute feels as though it only prolongs an agony, smears salt in a wound?   

Where does a fugitive find a day’s refuge or a soldier secure contentment when the desire of each second is for the nightmare to be over and the war to come to an end? 

In such times life speaks a language you feel like you can no longer understand, and each word twists confusion and displacement that redirect your course with painful detours. 



As an exile, you wander trying to keep the stitches of what’s left together.  As a fighter you march into each day struggling to drive a ravenous enemy from the bones of your borders.  And on the home front, you control the damage as best you can, looking to a horizon you pray will spell the dawn.  

Life interrupted means a loss of control, a snatching of the map you’ve made to plot your course.  Navigation flounders on foreign soil, and the only alternative to stumbling through the dark is to bend the knee and look up.  Above the path of human navigation glitters a reminder woven into the fabric of creation itself.  


On the darkest of nights, when thick ink fills the foxhole serving as shelter, stars glitter fierce and bright overhead, inviting the heart to remember, to recall that men were finding their way by the light of I AM long before the sonar and the GPS. 

In drawn-out assaults where ugliness scrawls graffiti over grace and the mirror displays only a poor photocopy of the reflection you know, you thrash and fight to remember God is good.  When you’re positive that whatever the difficult days were designed to teach you is a lesson you are thoroughly botching, your lungs fight to gasp out “Amen.”  


The body:  a battleground.  

The life:  war-torn 

But even the ambushes that mount against you cannot catch your God off guard.  Is even an emergency surprising to the one who stands beyond time?  “Little by little, one travels far.”  

The cross rose in victory that has already crushed the forces of the enemy, decimating his power.  And though the way is often milestoned by suffering, the one who is risen bears our pain as his own and gently prunes the thorns from our hearts.  

Maybe I’ll climb a tree tomorrow, stealing soft into a sniper’s perch not to watch for the enemy, but to sight and guard the weapon of joy provided as a shield to repel his strikes. 


Perhaps I’ll secure a place of sunshine, praying for a spirit that cleanses the soul with peace amidst pain and de-fragments the static of an interrupted broadcast trying to drown God’s goodness. 

The hands on the trigger may bleed, and the kneeling knees may bruise, but in the strength of the Father the petitioning lips can whisper, “And if not—He is still God.”  

Chin up, broken-heart, for He is near.  Take heart, weary one.  To suffer is not to sin.  

Have hope, because the cross secured a victory that ultimately freed your soul from the chain of this world.  The tomb was empty, and if there were one memory you could retain, that’s the one should choose, because it alone is joy enough to fill one thousand interrupted lives.    
   


 Images via:  mission4today.com, ebay.com, buzzfeed.com, tumblr.com, Travelblog, carlylynn.com, goodbyehousehellohome.com

All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2016.  

 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

{Un}Real



I hung up the phone after leaving a message for my publisher for what felt like the twentieth time that week, feeling as though this entire book endeavor was turning out to be somewhat of a disaster.  After all, miscommunication and squashed expectations seemed to be our unfortunate MO.  

But amidst the disappointments and frustrations that were relentlessly dotting this difficult time of stretching and hard learning, I had to remember my purpose in all this mess, one that I had long since entrusted to mighty hands far more capable than I.  

I didn’t start out to be John Grisham.  I don’t write to sell millions of copies, and I think you’ll find that underneath the inky epidermis of it all, many storytellers feel the same way.  After all, it isn’t J.K. Rowling’s millions that we’re truly desirous of.  It’s not her fame, popularity, or material wealth that prod the dull ache in our hearts.  Certainly those things would be nice benefits, but what it comes down to is this:  



Impact.  

The weight of significance that satisfies something in a reader’s soul. 

It’s the “in” she has, the opportunity, talent, and ability to touch millions of lives with make believe, and for those of us who long to share the good news through our writing, this might be our deepest envy.  

Rowling’s books were certainly the center of controversy among believers, and we must absolutely take care what voices we allow to speak into young minds, but the lesson I’d like to point out is this, “Look!  Right there—did you miss it?  How millions of all ages devoured a single story?  Did you see the entire generation of middle school boys now reading for fun, or the adults still waving their ballpoint pens like wands when they think no one is looking?” 



Literary fallout can be a colossal force.  The hearts of this world are hungry, starved in fact for something that will make them feel whole, and what better opportunity for those who bear the sign of the cross than to write living water into the ink of books?  

Barnes and Noble shelves bend with paranormal romance, and Amazon networks are saturated by fifty shades of the same old thing, but unless a tale is bound by something beyond this world then the ultimate result will still eave spirits empty once more, empty and searching for the elusive echo of joy that rings raw in the hollow soul. 

I didn’t become a vegetarian after reading Charlotte’s Web, and Richard Adams’ work didn’t see me scrambling to secure rabbit rights.  I knew they were stories in the end.  But even among the whimsy of the imaginary something within me was moved, insatiably stirred by the constant anthem that there was more to this world than what I could see.  That life, death, beauty, and sorrow were more than a handful of rocks and bacteria thrown carelessly together by chance collision.  I read because I needed to know that there was more than all this.  That’s the magic of it.  That is why we need books, perhaps now more than ever before. 
   


There.  Did you catch that?  The tangible, redeemable, and live-giving thing that can be plucked from between the pages?  

Love, pain, justice, mercy, meaning—Truth.   

There is an open door in the literary realm, a perilous quest awaiting the pens of those called to proclaim the living God, the triumph of grace.  

Certainly not all books are created equal, and the discerning heart would be wise to sift through what he reads and what he chooses to fill his mind with.  For the enemy is here too, lurking between the lines and prowling, claws extended, along the spines.  But what I hope to impart is this, the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  


Whether in writing or in any other field, let us minister through our excellence, marrying quality with the holiness that pierces the shadow and satisfies the soul.  

I will never be Harper Lee, but I write to light the dark, and in that endeavor I know that my God is able to turn even failures into instruments for his glory.  

Want to open a book and drink in the light with me? 
  
In the paths of pages, we just might find our way home again. This is the truth that children cling to and adults allow the years to tuck away:  

When what is unreal becomes real, magic becomes more than make believe.  



Images via:  Tumblr.com, Susan Tuttle Photography, domainehome.com, inspire we trust, and Graeme Smith.  
All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  Copyright 2016.        
        







Saturday, February 13, 2016

"Here is Love"





Dear Valentine,

It’s come to my attention that the fabled heart-bedecked day is upon  us once more.  Coincidentally, my shopping cart gravitates toward dark chocolate at the supermarket, and I smile when I watch that old man place a bouquet of roses on his bicycle before heading home to his love—but I was wondering if we might do something different this year.  In the words of my dear J.R.R. Tolkien: 

“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” 



So will you begin a Valentine journey with me?
   
I’m sure you’ve felt it too.  In times past generic cards often dotted the difficult years of singleness, which then transitioned toward the relational pressure to become the stars of an effortless Kay Jewelers commercial every February 14.  I have to wonder if beneath the stereotypical expectations we might together find something deeper—something more.  Because love is far greater than the lace doily our world has wrapped it in.

Remember when we met, how you used to hold my hand for hours over the center consul of the car, rubbing my knuckles and marveling at the shape of my thumb?  Three years, two jobs, and one baby later we sometimes have to fight to get back there.  Time travel that surpasses the numbness of the mundane has to be deliberate, or it won’t happen at all.  Love that costs the lover nothing is not worthy of the name, and that’s a lesson we learn and learn again.  



Hard loving.  Loving when it hurts.   

I want to re-think this holiday, because love is the very banner under which believers were meant to gather.  It’s the blood-red grace-mark that’s supposed to distinguish Jesus’ followers.  By love we’re called to be known, and if that is true, then I know my rebel’s heart will need more than a red rose to train it.  Because the other day my spirit cringed ugly when the light gently exposed a rotten branch, drawing attention to the dirty looks I threw at your back when you left coffee grounds in the sink again. 

“Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.”  This is the truth that always fights to bridge the gap between us, in those life-heavy moments when our fingers are separated by mere inches but our hearts lie many miles of silence apart.



This year, and the next year, and the next year after that, I want to learn courage, because to love is to be vulnerable—to be brave.   God, “show me where my armor ends, show me where my skin begins.”  Because when we do the Father’s love, the real and mighty kind that inhabits deep waters, then that mantle begins to cover not only my soul and yours.  The stitches multiply and weave wider until they become a canopy under which the weary may find rest and the lost may be found.   

“My song is love unknown, my Savior’s love for me.  Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be.” 

As Christians, love is our weapon; love is light.  All the vast array of magnificent deeds that we might do for the kingdom are reduced to naught, unless we have love.  The many beautiful words I could weave would be as a mouthful of dry dust if my heart was not broken for the things of this world that beg for God’s mercy and compassion.  And the revolutionary inventions that your mind and hands can conjure would avail nothing if the code of God’s love were not programmed into the marrow of it all.  



I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love you terribly, though often not as selflessly as I should.  And as the manufactured hype of this holiday approaches, you have my utmost permission to take a deep breath of relief.  I have all I really need, and the sight of your soul tuned to God's heart in a hurting world is more romantic to me than a thousand strings of pearls. 

You know how much I love wildflowers and fresh tea, and I melt like warm dark chocolate when you leave handwritten notes on my car.  These are gifts both beautiful and good that I will always receive with great joy.  But when it comes to love, true love, let us never forget the author of the story, the one who gave his son to be an atoning sacrifice for the lost and unworthy whom he refused to un-love.  “Dear friends, as God has so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 



This day belongs not to the exclusivity of romantic emotion between lovers, nor is it an excuse to fill one day to the brim with thoughts of love only to leave cups dry and empty throughout the rest of the year.   Love was not made to be this hollow basin into which we pour an often processed feeling on occasion.  Instead it is the very all-purpose all-weather clothing we are called to put on each and every day and that which should proclaim to a broken world who we are and whom we serve.  

So here’s to you, my Valentine.  Do you want to do this adventure with me?  It won’t always be an effortless quest, and at times this loving will be bitterly painful.  But when “love breaks my bones and I laugh” I know that the love of an Almighty God is able to demolish even the strongholds of self, and perhaps if we are broken together beneath the Father’s will, then things will come out all right in the end. 



Let’s keep learning, you and I, and as God perfects our practice and reorders our love, perhaps he will allow us to share this glorious incomparable joy with the others whom he sent his one and only son to die for.  It’s why we’re here, and as we continue our together-journey, let us sow the small acts of kindness and love that keep the darkness at bay.  
   
All My Love,

Your Valentine   




Images via:  tumblr.com, Allison Richards, weheartit.com, afternoon-in-autumn.blogspot.com, Melissa Chinchilla, okno.no.uk, poetrysociety.org.   

Quotations by:  Alison Luterman, Ursula K. Le Guin, Sleeping at Last, Samuel Crossman, 1 John 4:11, Charles Bukowski, J.R.R. Tolkien, Walt Whitman.   

All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  2016.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Et In Terra



“Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self knowledge.  It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves.  Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us.  Indeed prayer makes it safe for God to give us what we most desire.  It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God.”  (Tim Keller) 



Presence.
So heavy.  Can you feel it too?
How each letter swells with the weight of it all? 
Soak up the gravity; stretch mighty to grasp the significance. 
Below, the heart wrestles in the learning, and the spirit struggles again to climb.
Miles into an endless enigma. 
Of sleepless agitation.
And terrestrial condemnation.   
But remember, it’s all in the gaze. 
Lift.  Force the eyes up if you have to.  Where are those hills?    
In the madness and the dark where restless thoughts fly thick through souls, 
Edify us with songs of the Day
 Instruct the spirit to fold and pray.
When the woe of unclean smears slander across the truth, we cry undone.   
Oh, unbearable union. 
Of shalom and the shadow. 
But the most beautiful of words are bestowed by grace. 
By the cry “Our Father,” we know the holiest place.
A flight from pain, communion is not, nor a vessel to dodge the suffered trial. 
As it is in heaven,
So be it on earth. 


Sovereign will be done and kingdom come surmount all other needs. 
Like shafts in the dark, our prayers pierce the shroud,
Comets in reverse escaping into the sky to bring Heaven down. 
In the end that’s the only way to do it. 
The only way to keep the heart from withering in your chest. 
To pray like you breathe. 
Holiness like oxygen. 
Because that’s what it is. 
Sometimes we don’t know Him, but deep down we also know why. 
Have you ever found the path to prayer held against you? 
Because yourself was in the way? 
Be glorified in us, Oh Lord, hallowed be your name. 
Fortify the hand to bestow your love on friend and foe the same.
Bathe the hurts. 
Baptize the wants. 
Flood the heart familiar with you. 
Reorder our loves with purpose, arrange the fragmented spirit
With shards of rough soul,
Make brokenness whole,
And cover all with the portion of your promised peace. 
For that’s a bond we can rely on, a mending and a communion surmounted by a vow. 


That even in the shadow lands we know the gift of love,
And how much more will he give his to his children out of his perfection?
His spirit, incomparably beautiful, dwelling in a temple of flesh.
Oh that honest prayer would erupt from within,
A yearning for communion. 
Unhindered by fallen perception. 
Words cannot mislead the one who searches out the deepest of places. 
Decorated desires,
Holy wishes,
Only the most carefully selected requests to bring.
We reason to be heard when the volume of our praise outstrips the request 
But really, we can only ask him.
And the surrendered spirit fully exposed to the refining eye of God
Will perhaps know greater intimacy. 
A year in the making, another journey bearing days to learn.
To measure these thoughts,
To condense this scattered rhythm,
Would be an anthem of practice
A song to fight stronger with each passing day.
My God, I want to know you more. 
This year,
and always,
Please teach me how to pray. 



*If you have enjoyed this slightly impaired attempt at contemporary poetry, leave a comment below!  


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