Psalms for Doubters – Belief in the Absence of God

Most times my doubt is stronger than my faith
So often my doubt feels more like confidence
–confidence my faith
is in a God
who isn’t there after all.

I affirm the creeds
the virgin birth,
the resurrection
the ascent into heaven
and every now and again…

I believe in them, too.


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A Prayer Whispered Against The Darkness

Praying Hands - Albrecht Durer
We kill each other all the time, often in the name of God. For thousands of years, they killed each other in the name of Jesus.

Our Father

And God seems far, far away, able to help us find lost car keys, but unable to do anything of actual use like rescue the hungry from starvation of stop us from killing each other or save loved ones from dying or leaving us.

Who art in Heaven,

God’s purported followers say that God hates fags. God hates soldiers. God hates you. Thank God for Katrina. Thank God for dead soldiers.

Hallowed be thy name.

Drone strikes. War. Famine. Terrorism. Extremism. Fear. Hatred. Atrocities done in the name of God by the people of God.

Thy kingdom come,

People willing to harm one another in the name of God. Guns and bombs and hurting them before they hurt us. Shootings in schools. Kids arrested for bringing pocket-knives to school.

Thy will be done

Hatred. Evil in the name of God. Hatred in the name of love.

on earth as it is in heaven.

One in six Americans don’t have enough food.

Nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012.

Several children die due to malnutrition or hunger every minute.

Give us this day our daily bread

We cannot forgive ourselves our sins, so how could God?

And forgive us our debts

How dare those evildoers harm us? How dare that person cut us off? How dare bin Laden attack us? How dare the Boston Bombers attack a marathon?

As we forgive our debtors.

Catalogs, stores, the Joneses posting on Facebook about their consumerism; God help us, we are the Joneses.

Lead us not into temptation

From stores that sell products made by slaves and underpaid workers and children
From our own desires to buy them
From all-consuming patriotism
From apathy
From our cynicism
From our fear of others
Lord,

But deliver us from evil

We pledge allegiance to the flag
Our Kingdom it shall be
No matter what the cost to others
From sea to shining sea

For Thine is the kingdom

We measure power in megawatts
And kilotons of explosive power
Military budgets
Destroyers
Guns
And stealth fighter jets.

And thine is the power

We worship superstars
Gurus
Theologians
Presidents
Presidential candidates
War heroes
Local heroes
And hope for more hits on our blogs
And likes for our photos
And maybe this is okay, but

And thine is the glory

Kingdoms crumble, but thy love remains

Forever

Maranatha: Come Lord Jesus.
America is not the last word.
We are not the last words.
War is not the last word,
nor famine, nor hunger, nor sword, nor anything in heaven and earth
The last word is

Amen

[Don’t] Give Me Words to Speak

“Give me Words to speak 
Don’t let my Spirit sleep 
Cause I can’t think of anything worth saying…”
-Aaron Shust

I don’t know what to say
That hasn’t already been said
I don’t know what to write
That hasn’t already been read
I don’t know what to play
That You haven’t already heard
So here’s my song, You write the words
-FFH

What should I say to them?
What if I’m failing them?
What should i tell the tonight?
-Shaun Groves

These three Christian musicians seemed to be having difficulty figuring out something to say. It seems to happen often, though some might wish it happened more often to Phillips, Craig, and Dean. From both ends, I’m fascinated by the mini-epidemic of feeling a strong need to say something.

I think this comes from the fact that we come from a sermon- and biblo-centric tradition. We think that our lives come from words (though Christ tried to disabuse us of this notion). We assume that if we have an opportunity to speak, we should. If there is a chance for words, it ought to be taken. We ignore St. Francis’s suggestion that we use words in our preaching only if necessary. Perhaps this comes from a sort of narcissism that we have the answers and we need to share them. Especially if we have an audience, we should say something.

Silence wouldn’t do well on the radio. We dislike silence. We surround ourselves with music and words and television. I struggle to bike to work without the radio on. Perhaps it is that terror of silence that provokes desires in our musicians to speak words, to write songs, even if they have nothing whatsoever to say. Maybe it’s primal instinct that silence means danger. Maybe it’s fear of feeling alone.

I avoid writing things when I have nothing to say, but that has rarely stopped me from writing them anyway.  But I will pat myself on the back because at least I don’t write about how I don’t have anything to say. Not usually, anyway.

Then there comes the moment where (hopefully) we realize that we don’t have anything whatsoever to say, or that we had things to say and that the only thing that was reasonable to say was nothing at all. I had that moment almost ten years ago late one night in a Subway restaurant talking to a coworker who had lost someone close to her. The only words that were right to speak were no words at all.

Why Must God Be Great?

The world is big
and scary
and filled with things
that we can’t
understand.

We are small
and weak
and at the end of the day
scared of things
that we can’t
understand.

Worship is our exit.
We have to believe
that good will conquer evil
that somehow in the end,
we will be
safe.

Our songs of praise
of the greatness of our deity
are just as much for us
as for our deity.
We need our God to be great.
And not just great, the
Greatest.

Even after Jesus
we look for a God
who gives us an exit
from pain and suffering
surrounds us
with a hedge of protection
a wall of fire about us.

A God who protects us from
the fiery furnace
the lion’s mouths
our enemies
We’re terrified
that he might let us go through
the worst.

death.

This is the power of God
Resurrection.

God.
Maker of heaven and earth
most often
steadfastly refuses divine intervention
when we need it most.

Leaves us with just resurrection
words of kindness
occasional parking spaces
money in an envelope
when we need it most
mini miracles
signs, not proofs
Not the sort of things God would do
if he really existed.

God engages in
a steadfast refusal to be
the God us doubters
wish for

while the certain sing their songs
of how that’s exactly who he is
and make excuses for why
God doesn’t
step into our sky blue
and say that’s quite enough.

Psalms for Doubters – Something In My Heart Believes

Something in my heart believes
Or wants to

Sometimes it’s hard to tell
So I take the rope again
And pray there’s something at
_____the top

The way is dark, and sometimes lonely
Sometimes the path is steep
The road looks less like black and white
When it appears
_____at all.

I had a dream where they called gays fags
in a song in church
I stood up, outraged, demanded that they stop
I was overcome by
_____the fury

Where’s heaven? And is it ever coming?
Coming to save us from ourselves,
our poor, lost selves?
Will Jesus ever come back and save
_____the world?

And if he does, will we even like it?
Will our hearts have gone too far in our own way?
Will we know Jesus so intimately that when he shows up
We’ll know that it’s
_____not him?

Jesus, if you’re out there,
Come and save us.
Send a signal.
The cross was great, but
All those years
And all the tears between
The dust of history books –
You and I
Both know it could’ve been
_____a myth.

And fiction, and crooks
and liars, thieves
the folks you came to save
_____rewrote your story

and wrote out folks like them
and wrote out folks like us.

They said you didn’t like anybody
but that as our failed parent it was
your obligation to come and save us from
our evil selves.
_____So you did.
I don’t want to believe you’re mad at us.

But are you really out there, or are you just
a mirage of wishful thinking
a beautiful true story,
that mythbusters will find
_____BUSTED ?

Well
I don’t know.
And maybe no one can.
_____But I’ll believe.

There’s evidence enough
to get a nod from me.
Not enough to silence all my doubts
My questions
_____And maybe there never could be.

But forward, into the darkness
Following the shadow of a doubt.
Hoping gentle words and love can save the world
Hoping that salvation is out there
Hoping that salvation’s coming
_____in here.

This is why doubters don’t write hit Christian songs.
Nobody wants a maybe-hope, we want
The Truth
with a capital T.
_____It’s not that easy.

– – –

I was driving home late one night and got to thinking that there aren’t a whole lot of songs on Christian radio that speak to people who aren’t certain of everything, and I got this idea to write some Psalms for us. I didn’t really follow standard Psalm format, but I thought, we need poetry that helps us see that we’re not alone in our questions.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I can fix this,” you’re the reason I was nervous about publishing this in the first place.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I thought I was the only one who felt that way,” this is for you.

Psalms for Doubters: And Yet

I knew the answers, the replies,
But no one ever asked the questions.
When they did ask, they were harder,
_______Stuff I was never prepared for:
 _______How can God ignore an abused child’s prayer?

I knew the verses, the chapters, the book
But I never saw the genocide
Until it hit me like a grenade
Bombed my faith, belief, my
_______certainty.

I heard God’s voice, felt his spirit,
But all those answered prayers,
And strong emotions
Could be explained away by logic, common sense,
_______Emotional willpower.

And then one day God died.

The joy collapsed, my full heart emptied
I felt love drain from my frozen soul
God’s promises, all broken
Every man be true, but God, a liar.
_______And.

If anything was real, Hell was.
I dreamed of death, God, make it quick
Our hearts weren’t made to hurt like this,
so close my miserable existence,
in your mercy, give me
_______an end.

I slowly died, and was reborn
A shadow of myself
A heart too cracked to love, too torn
My faith in shreds upon the floor, and God
_______not to be trusted.

God will always do what’s best,
I made myself believe it.
I held on tightly through the hard times,
but whenever things got better,
_______dread.

I’d learned already
how all happy stories end:
God was gonna firebomb my heart
_______again.

And somehow it would be
for my own good.
 ______________Bullshit.

I waited long in fear and hesitation
Waited for the other shoe to fall.
But fear destroys your soul as well as heartbreak
It keeps love out, it keeps love
_______out.

A flower in the concrete
Legends of an empty tomb
Stories of a god who came and died
Strong evidence the legends could not be
_______true.

What if it’s all a lie?
The words that others hold so tightly
know are true
the words for which my counter-evidence
_______recommends an appeal.

I flex my muscles
Grip the rope
Arm over arm, but
not gaining much, in way of
_______hope.

The wise ones see my progress,
See my aim,
Grab my arms and pull
They want to claim
_______they helped.

I shake my arms free
I pull away, I lose the rope
I can’t go back to self-deception
If their path is real, it needs
_______correction.

I can’t prove my faith with math,
strict logic that cannot be undone,
Evidence that demands a verdict,
_______and yet —

And yet.

– – –

I was driving home late one night and got to thinking that there aren’t a whole lot of songs on Christian radio that speak to people who aren’t certain of everything, and I got this idea to write some Psalms for us. I didn’t really follow standard Psalm format, but I thought, we need poetry that helps us see that we’re not alone in our questions.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I can fix this,” you’re the reason I was nervous about publishing this in the first place.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I thought I was the only one who felt that way,” this is for you.

Psalms for Doubters: Hey God

Hey God
They told me you’d show me where to go
They said you’d always lead the way
That I could count on you for direction
But all I’ve been able to count on you for lately
_____Is silence.

Hey God
They said you cause everything that happens
But bad has happened
And i can’t believe you’d be behind it.

Hey God.
I don’t believe them anymore
But I still kind of believe in you.

Hey God
Are you there?

– – –

I was driving home late one night and got to thinking that there aren’t a whole lot of songs on Christian radio that speak to people who aren’t certain of everything, and I got this idea to write some Psalms for us. I didn’t really follow standard Psalm format, but I thought, we need poetry that helps us see that we’re not alone in our questions.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I can fix this,” you’re the reason I was nervous about publishing this in the first place.

 If you’re reading this and thinking, “I thought I was the only one who felt that way,” this is for you.

The Psalm Project

My Old Testament Intro I class was assigned to write an original Psalm using the style in scripture. This is mine.

God who loves all,
____God who is kind and gives to everyone,
Where are you, God?
____And where is your spirit?
Why do storms strike the coast and kill the innocent,
____And why do you allow evildoers to make children soldiers?
How can I praise God for goodness done to me
____When violence is done to others
And has been throughout history
____And God does not intervene?

God, come soon,
____And do not long be so far off.
Hear the cries of the poor and the broken,
____And do not harden your heart
____against the people you have made.
Put an end to the evildoing of the wicked,
____And may your righteous judgment save them from their sins
____And save all who suffer from them.

But rain brings life for everyone;
____The sun warms the faces of all.
Flowers infiltrate prison camps
____And human kindness slips into the darkest places.
But where no good gifts appear,
____When only suffering, pain, and tragedy remain,
I remember the cross,
____The day God joined our suffering.


The assignment was to match the form of a Psalm type, and mine most closely matched the 
lament form. But it was missing two key elements: Address of Praise, and Petition for Deliverance. I added the first two lines as an address of praise easily, but then I only had the first and last stanzas. I still had to put a petition in the middle. And the petition required faith.

I hate asking for things, mostly because I hate being disappointed. It’s easier for me to ask God for vague things, like strength and to take care of people. Even then, I don’t expect too much of God. Sometimes when I’m desperate, I pray. But with the sort of things I was dealing with in this Psalm, there was no clean exit strategy. I had to ask for things directly related to the first section. I felt my heart crack when I realized that to finish this assignment, I had to put myself out there. I had to ask God for something I actually wanted. And that left me vulnerable, vulnerable to disappointment. And I think… maybe that’s faith.

Online Debates, Political and Otherwise

There once was a man named Tom Kimbelroy Fittens
and he was a man who had many opinions
on things ranging widely, from love to religion
and politics, music, but least of all, kittens.
Tom Kimbelroy thought (it was barely a whim)
That kittens were better than puppies, to him.

Now one day, as it happened, Tom Kimbelroy stumbled
on a newspaper article that said dogs were jumbled
They stank and they peed anywhere that they pleased
and their rolling in poop would soon lead to disease.
So then, without thinking, Tom Kimbelroy turned
and posted on Facebook the things that he’d learned.

He knew that his friends who knew kittens were best
would all like his status, be pleased – but the rest
his crazy old friends, who still liked their puppies
would realize that they had been mindless old guppies.
They’d soon see the light, they’d soon give up dogs
– but what’s this? A comment, from Tumbleton Cogs.

Old Tumbleton lived on the outskirts of town
he too had opinions, enough to go ‘round
the world at the equator six times, that Cogs
but the problem was, Tumbleton really liked dogs.
He was quick to reply, and to point out the flaw:
Tom’s article scratched only the tip of the paw.

“The problem is, kittens turn into old cats
They can’t be controlled, and they grow up so fast
They scratch up the furniture, pee on the rug
They take over your home – just like some old thug!
But the worst thing about cats,” said old Tumbleton firmly,
“Is cats do not see you as owner, or family.”

Tumbleton turned from his keyboard with glee
He knew that Tom Fittens would soon come to see
He was right about Kittens, and Kimbelroy, wrong
And Tom would be glad he’d corrected his long
and rambling (and patently false) bit of thinking
Oh come now, Tom Fittens, what have you been drinking?

But pleasure was not what Tom Kimbelroy Fittens
felt when he read what Cogs said about kittens.
Now remember I said right away, at the start
that kittens were not in first place in Tom’s heart?
Well what Tumbleton said made them first in his brain
and Tom Kimbelroy started
toward going
insane.

“Your facts are all lies!” Fittens practically shouted.
“You got them from sources that all have been outed
as cat-hating dog-loving, biased resources
I wouldn’t believe them if they said that horses
were four-legged creatures with tails and a mane
You should be receiving “The Cat On The Plain.”

Tom Kimbelroy Fittens now smiled with delight:
Tumbleton would know he would not win this fight
for though Kimbelroy’s sources were biased as well
he knew “The Dog Daily” was biased as heck.
As little as he’d cared before this debate
His interest was growing, sealing his fate.

Tumbleton didn’t like that Tom called him a liar
For Tom was the one whose pants were on fire.
“‘The Cat On The Plain’ is all nonsense, and it
really only is good for cleaning up poop.”
His self-esteem lifted, he clicked on “reply”
and waited to see his old friend’s next new lie.

Somehow in the fight, Old Tumbleton Cogs
had forgotten that he didn’t care much for dogs
But it was too late, as it was for Tom Fittens
Who was trapped in this fight, of all things, about kittens.
And now, I am sure, unless one has been killed,
for all that I know, they argue there still.

In All These Things We Conquer

The markets crash, they’re tumbling
prophets on the corners are mumbling
about judgment on America the free.

The price of bread’s ten bucks a pound
Terrorists attack and there’s the sound
of the falling of America the free.

but in all these things we conquer
in all these things we overcome.
There’s no way to stop the promises
The resurrection’s gonna come
So no matter what may follow
No matter what the lies
They can never separate us
from the love of God in Christ.

Conservatives or Liberals (take your choice)
Make it into office and silence your voice
Politicians wreck America the free.

Banks foreclose on the American Dream,
Hardship, persecution, peril and famine
they aught not happen in America the free.

but in all these things we conquer
in all these things we overcome.
There’s no way to stop the promises
The resurrection’s gonna come
So no matter what may follow
No matter what the lies
They can never separate us
from the love of God in Christ.

Morality becomes a crash and burn
Wickedness confronts us on every turn
Bound to happen in America the free.

If the police bang down our doors and say
That it’s not right for us to pray
They don’t allow that in America the free

Then in all these things we’ll conquer
in all these things we’ll overcome.
There’s no way to stop the promises
The resurrection’s gonna come
So no matter what may follow
No matter what the lies
They can never separate us
from the love of God in Christ.

(For the original blog post, click here.)