maybe Jesus is a toothless old man

maybe Jesus is a toothless old man

war veteran

who doesn’t like to talk about

those times

has a mental illness

they had to put a scope down his throat

he’s sick there too

and he’s hungry

scarfs down a sandwich

then asks for a cup of coffee

talks about how God is in everything

pulls at his beard

says he’s old, ugly

wishes he could talk more clearly

but points to his head

been handicap for two years

wishes his head was more clear

the lettuce sticks to his beard

says he’s addicted to the salsa

crunches the chips

spits when he talks

wears a dirt-stained jersey

jeans that are ripped from above the knee

to the ankle

maybe Jesus has cloudy eyes

dark black skin

and some white in his beard

or maybe

Jesus just loves that man

and wants me to love him too.

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the Gospel: for a sleeping Church

give me dust and danger

i don’t want to be a stranger to the least

of these

because i was too caught up in me

who i’m supposed to be

strip away the roads and the comforts of home

if it means stripping back the veil

that keeps me from

seeing Grace in the midst of an accommodating place

where the gospel of self-reliance

is the anthem preached and the declaration of belief

doesn’t require any sacrifice at all

i’d rather risk losing what i’ve known

than risk falling from Grace

because i failed to live out the Word i claimed to obey

choosing instead my own, selfish way

then succumbing to hypocrisy

as i held the Book above my head

deceiving myself and the world into agreeing

that the way we have chosen to live

the consumerism faith which takes rather than give

was the Gospel preached by the Man i love

who bled and died, bore the wrath from Above

enough

no more fantasies

no more justification

no more lessening the price of our costly salvation

i refuse to buy into this westernized faith

which lives a gospel contrary to the Gospel it claims

believing we are the center, the reason for His crucifixion

yes, He died so we could live

but that wasn’t the sole intention

see, we are creatures of glory

when we are creatures of the King

and it is not our own glory that we should boast in gladly

for He says we were captives

slaves to sin, death, and greed

yet the chains have been broken –

for FREEDOM we’re free

so why would a free man choose slavery again?

we were enslaved and then ransomed

but still we give in

to the idols that chain us and keep us from flight

may the scales fall from our eyes

we need more than physical sight

because why would a free man not boast in the One

who bought his freedom through the death of His

only Son

why do we pretend like salvation is something

we’ve achieved

we act like all it takes is

confess and believe

like an action we take makes the Grace alive

but see

you and I weren’t the ones who bore God’s wrath

and then died

and then laid in a grave for 3 days before reviving to life

so why do we attend self-righteous meetings

separate the light from the dark

to listen to preaching

then go home to our comfort where we

rely on ourselves

when Christ died so we could put self-reliance

on the shelf

and He gave us His light so we could run to the dark

where the created await

where the captives are

where a message of Hope

of the freedom we’ve known

could transform a life, redeem dead souls

we’re always talking about

the cure to cancer

but we walk around with the power to raise dead to life

Jesus’ blood is the answer

so who are we telling about the cure to death?

we just bottle our Truth

don’t share any with the rest

of the hurting, the broken, the ones who haven’t tasted and seen

the salvation we’ve known

don’t you get it?

we’re FREE

not free to live as we please or build up our own fame

we bear Christ’s cross now, we live for His name

avoiding those on the margins who don’t

know Christ’s worth

is living opposite of how Jesus exampled on earth

Jesus dined with thieves

the prostitutes washed his feet

he called a murderer to be a missionary

overturned tables when people sold goods in His sanctuary

so tell me

what is this Christianity we claim?

because it doesn’t resemble the radical

Jesus way

He came into the flesh, bore our bullying, endured death

not so we could stay silent

or adhere to a feel-good faith

but so we could

abandon ourselves

until all that remains

is the Christ who loves us as His own

and whose glory will forever be known

throughout the nations

when we obey His command and deny our desires

and live as if His ways

really are Higher.

present in our pain

sometimes the heart aches until it doesn’t anymore

there is no easy fix, no simple cure

because just when the sorrow begins to dry up

when the flesh begins to scar

there is a new wave of sadness which rips through the old wound

mangling the flesh again, sending the soul reeling

into another round of shudders and shakes

cries to the Heavens –

an endless “why?”

but sometimes the Heavens are silent

not because God can’t hear our moanings

not because He is insensitive to our pain

but because sometimes

for our protection

He hides other fountains of sorrows from us

the reasons from us

sometimes if we knew the why

it would plunge our souls into a new wave of despair

an anguish we could not rise out of on our own

He conceals things

for our own good

though we do not always believe this to be good

but if we knew the gravity of what

we ask for

when we ask

why

when we plead with Him through tears

asking where He was in the moments

that we could not be strong

could not protect

could not comfort

could not console

could not see the darkness for what it was

sometimes the silence we perceive

is actually a gentle whisper of peace

the quiet answer in the chaos

which is difficult to hear

over the drum of our own fearing heartbeat,

the chokes and sobs which escape our lips

the wailing tears which scare even us

animal-like cries of pain

when we cannot explain the pain of a loved one

cannot console the nightmares

of someone we vowed to protect

when we cannot reconcile this present darkness

to the Light we know to be

give us not merely eyes to see

but ears

which hear

your voice of peace

in our deepest, darkest

agony

the shattered heart from that which is lost

a cost too great for us to know

a cost you paid

a weight you bore

an agony you know all too well

you absorbed pain as punishment for crimes

which you did not commit

yet we still feel the resounding ache even now

of the world’s decay

won’t you shelter us

as we try to find the pieces which split off

into every direction

won’t you fill us in our most empty places

as we falter and try to make sense

of these deep, dark shadows?

we know there is beauty

life, light, joy

but sometimes the darkness

surrounds us

and just when we start to get back on our feet

we are attacked by a new wave of grief

so

please

even though you already are

can you help us to see

that you are present in our pain?

Cultural Identity in the Context of Christ

I’ve been confounded with guilt over my heritage lately. I used the word “confounded” because this guilt is something that is inexplicable. It is not an emotion I have observed or adapted from the surrounding culture. It isn’t something that has been preached, taught, or┬ápropagated.

But here am I. Feeling guilty. Because for all that I have, all that I take for granted, all that is available to me, there are fathers, mothers, and children all over the world who will never know what it is to have plenty. And yet, so many times, I complain and wish that I had more. A faster computer, a newer car, a bigger travel budget. Material blessings that many people in other countries have never known.

Many times I have wondered why I was born in America. Why God allowed me to grow up in white, middle-class America. I have experienced some painful hardships which sear the soul and scar the memory. But I have never gone hungry, been without at least one parent, or feared death as a disease contracted by birth waged war on my body.

But I see the faces of Haitian children, African babies. Hopeful eyes, white smiles, runny noses, dirt-smudged clothes. And those hunger pangs are a reality. Living without the love of a mother or a father is a reality. Being without medical care as HIV destroys their fragile little bodies is a reality.

And here am I. White American girl. Sitting in a cafe with her coffee, iPhone, laptop, backpack, shoes, sweater, car keys.

Certainly I have trials. And it is not that I believe in minimizing my own heartache, fears, trials. Because in my life here, there is still pain.

But when I read about the joy of orphans half-way across the world who have nothing but live like they have everything, I feel like I am missing something.

Like maybe I have founded my faith on the crumbling foundation of Westernized Christianity rather than on the Cornerstone of Jesus Christ. Maybe I have based my security on the digits of my bank account, the functionality of my car, the love of family and the acceptance of friends, the consistency of a pay check.

Maybe I have never really relied on God at all.

I know that I have. He has broken me and built me up by His grace.

Yet still, I wonder how the faith that I proclaim can co-exist in this culture of materialism, self-sufficiency, ladders of success, and excessive greed.

Who am I?

A sinner rescued. A thief pardoned. An orphan adopted. A slave freed. A criminal redeemed.

But in my world of Facebook statuses, Twitter updates, LinkedIn profiles, Klout scores, I am whoever I declare myself to be. I build myself up to gain accolades, acclaim, acceptance. Thus, living out an identity contrary to the one I proclaim.

An identity hidden in Christ. Not centered in the limelight of my own fading accomplishments. My earthly accolades.

Where moth and rust destroy. Where moth and rust destroy.

My culture teaches that self-sufficiency is the key to satisfaction. Networking, a ladder to success. Constantly climbing, constantly reaching, constantly striving.

But my Creator, who I claim to praise, who I claim to obey, who I dare to call Lord –

He tells me

I am but a mist.

And He cares for me – oh how He cares for me –

But the things of this world will fade.

They will all pass away.

From dust I have come and to dust I will return.

Yet we keep putting our dust on a pedestal. We dress up our dust in suits, lipstick, fancy sports cars, job titles, social media platforms, words and empty promises.

And in all of our masquerading, in all of our chasing after the American dream, the American way, I fear that we have forgotten the Jesus way. The one that commands us to love our enemy, care for the orphaned and widowed, bind up the broken-hearted.

See, we have equated physical blessings with God’s favor.

But Jesus was homeless.

We have deemed suffering as punishment.

But Jesus was slaughtered, the innocent Lamb of God.

We have clung to job titles, prestigious positions, and numbers of followers as our measure of worth and importance.

But Jesus was born in a feeding trough in a cave, rode into town on a donkey, had 12 fisherman for followers, and was murdered by those who claimed to love him.

My guilt is in my hypocrisy. My adherence to a lifestyle in a culture that I do not know how to change, so conform to.

My heart craves material poverty that I may receive spiritual wealth.

Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.

Have I treasured you, Jesus?

I call you Lord, but do I sound just like a Pharisee? Promoting my own social agenda? My own self-righteousness? My own understanding of You rather than the Biblical testimony of You?

I have used your name in vain. I have blamed you for my own discontentment. While, in fact, the war within is the one you warned us about.

The spirit vs. the flesh.

I pray that the spirit will win. That you will truly be my treasure. That I can see this country, this culture, the one you have placed me in for this season as You see it.

May I embrace each day as another opportunity to discover You. As another opportunity to practice love, mercy, and grace. Another day to choose truth in a world of deceit.

Change this guilt into hope, Lord. May your light cut through the shadows darkness throws.

Because the Treasure of You will not be tarnished by the filth of our dust.