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.

Pottery

Kristen suggested I submit this to a literary magazine. I looked it up, and while cleaning it up some, I realized that it really answered well the questions that I had posed in Questions. But in a completely different way.

Constructing clay is patient work
Not too little or too much pressure
on the earthy wet
And you cannot rush
Else your work will collapse.

Carry clay with caution
lest it break
or lest it crumble.

Fragile clay are we
Patient, gentle hands has He. Continue reading

Questions

i come still broken and a bit confused
How many times does the road we’re on
wander through the valley of the shadow of death?
Can we trust You to give us less
than trials and tribulations?
You only promised You’d be with us,
not that where you’d be with us
wouldn’t be hell.

I used to think that being with You
would always be heaven
even if it was in hell
but it seems the times we need You most
You seem so far away
and it’s only later,
when life seems better,
that we know You carried us
that You were there the whole time

almost like You
inserted Yourself
after the fact.

Why do You love us enough
to let us do things You know will hurt us?
I sometimes wish I could trust You
for a lesser love.

I find You not to be safe
but good
though I wish I could find You safe.

But You insist on surgery
to remove our idols
when we insist upon
keeping them
because You really do love us after all
and because You want us
all of us
eventually

So do the ends justify Your means?
Do You care about the ways You lead us
and abolish those things we hurt ourselves with?
or just the doing?

Lord, have mercy
let me not go
to places where i will hurt myself

and yet I thank You for the pain
that leads my broken cries
to You.

O for a way to You not covered by thorns
Come rescue me.

A poem for September 11

This is for the office workers
in the twin towers
and the pentagon.

This is for the passengers
on Flight 93.

This is for the firemen
and police officers
and EMTs
who risked their lives
and gave their lives for others.

This is for the American soldiers
who risked their lives
and some who died
for the cause of freedom
and the safety of others
in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is for the Afghan and Iraqi citizens
who had their homelands invaded
and their homes bombed
by an overwhelming foreign power.

This is for the human beings
created in God’s image
who had their human rights trampled on –
the innocents who were tortured
in Guantanamo Bay.

This is for the innocents who were hurt
in Sadam Hussein’s reign
and in his removal.

This is for every person
who ever lost sleep
for fear their homeland would be attacked
or their home would be bombed
or their beliefs would get them killed.

This is for ever middle eastern American
who gets glared at by others
and every peaceable muslim
who is treated like the enemy.

This is for every middle eastern Christian
who gets glared at by others
the lovers of peace
associated with Christian America
who are treated like the enemy.

This is for everyone
who lost someone they loved
in a building or a plane
on 9/11/01.

This is for everyone
who lost someone they loved
on a day other than 9/11
or in a way other than the sadly-famous way.
who mourns alone
on that anniversary
whose nation mourns not with them.

May God have mercy on us all.

if You ever gave up on me

If You ever gave up on me
decided my fragile sinner’s heart
wasn’t worth the effort
that the diamond underneath
was really only dirt
and finally ran out of endless grace
if one day my sins hit four-nine-one
if one day your endless grace was gone
and You told me it was too late,
I could never again find redemption, well
…welcome to hell.

It would kill me; I would die
I’d quit on life
’cause I couldn’t be alive
or I’d wander the streets
weeping redemption
telling them not to take Your grace
so loosely
like I did
before it’s too late for them too.

It’s the prophets with the end ripped out Continue reading

Psalm Forty-Five One

and the riches of redemption
overflowed the broken notes;
the slave found himself a prince,
the one once dead, alive.
the mournful broken heart rejoices
and the humble poor believe.

And the theme once played
in a minor key
repeats in shades of grace;
the weakly-struck piano keys
now explode in the glorious theme
of the undeserving victor,
the prisoner now set free
and claimed by royalty.

and the kingdom of heaven grows
and I find Gods will being done
“on earth as it is in heaven”
and the grace of God refuses
to be contained in the heart of God
From the cross it explodes
And in God’s pain He screams
I LOVE YOU!
in words none can ignore.

And the garden tomb is empty
Christ the victor is alive
Sin is conquered, evil banished
God’s broken heart now beats again
Hatred’s crush, now gone too far
suffocates in the heart of grace.

And the guilty go free
Glorious unfair exchange
and the redeemed celebrate
in the land of mercy.

Creation Groans

I woke up this morning from a dream about being at Jumonville. Summer Staff 2011. And I realized that, come summer 2011, most of the people that I knew and loved from Summer 2009 won’t be there. The Beattys, Ree, Craig, Ashley Crago, and maybe David Orr will still be there… but Kristen will be gone (sort of)… Nate, Tyler, Brittany, Sara, Rob, Mike Nuss, Will, Carrie, James, Caitlin (both of the Caitlins)… and it stung. I could feel their absence at Jumonville already. I could see its emptiness without them there, and hear their voices and laughter in its silence. Even some of the friends I made during summer 2010 will be gone come next year. I think Nate’s gonna hurt the most, though, because he was more than a supervisor. He was the big brother I never had. I’m gonna miss him, especially while I’m making schedules and figuring out how to fix stuff… this time I’m going to be the improviser. We worked together all the time. …At least I’ll have another adventure staff I already know and love: Margo. And that’s a relief.

Then I remembered how it felt this year. I didn’t feel people’s absence as much because I was around other people I loved. And I don’t feel their absence so much now that I’m around still other people I love, here at school. And I realized that loving the people you’re with is really the only way around the holes left in your heart by the people you love who are now in the rear-view mirror. “New people” can never fill the holes created by those in the rear-view. They just create new holes. But in their presence, you forget the holes left by those in the rear-view. To love someone else is deeply is the only way to feel less hurt from the holes left by those who are gone. But it’s hard. Cynicism takes you hostage and lies to you.

Cynicism is one of the ugliest perversions of Imago Dei. We are made to love and be loved, but we grow instead to despise those made, like us, in His image and likeness, thinking that the ones we meet now aren’t as good as those we knew then. But everything changes. And in change, there is both the bad of sin’s corruption and the good holiness with which the world was made. Imago Dei and “very good” mesh together with fall and curse and sin. And the body and blood of Jesus is kneaded into the whole mix, generating hope – hope for a day when our glorious King will return in power and majesty and finally set all things right. But until that day comes, all creation groans with longing. The heavens and earth declare God’s glory, and at the same time the earth cries out for the return of the King.

Come, Lord Jesus.