I’m here today to tell you about a man who lived about 2,000 years ago. According to the scriptures that were written about him, he was not necessarily a handsome man, physically, but he was striking in other ways and carried about him a certain presence. There are many people alive right now (some of whom even claiming to follow him) who will argue with you about his skin color, which is maybe one of the most preposterous arguments of all time — the very definition of missing the point. From what we know about nutrition and diet from the time period in which he was living and preaching, he was most likely a little man. Frail and not of any significant stature. We know from what was written about him by historians outside of Biblical text that he caused quite a ruckus for a time in Jerusalem. And we know from both the old and new testaments that he was a Jew who rose from nothing. He worked with his hands in a town called Nazareth — a lowly place where even one of his appointed apostles couldn’t believe anything good came. We know he performed miracles (not even his accusers, who put him to death, claimed otherwise) and that when he was wrongly charged with being a false prophet by religious leaders, he stayed silent and carried himself with a grace that none of us could manage. These are all merely details about the man whose words and teachings have changed hearts and even divided some for millennia, just as he said they would. Somewhere in the basic description of this man Jesus is something of you and I. The Christ figure, the savior of the world, who is, like us, one person caught up in the perpetual motion and chaos of the times. But he chose to love, to see something bigger than himself or what was at play in the world. While it’s true his perfect life exemplified how we fall short, it also reveals the better way we can have for ourselves and for how we treat others. His heart was full of love despite the tragedy that no one recognized him as our Creator. I love him because he spoke to me, but I also love him because of the man he was before we knew for certain he was God.
From my lips the prayer is released.
I watch it go up on something like angel wings
riding wherever the wind takes it,
but always climbing,
rising through a patch of clouds
and up into thin, cold air
through the blue
until the blue turns black
entering a fiery barricade and finally passing out into the glare of stars
giving way to darkness
until suddenly everything turns bright
into … a presence
gathered around a throne
attending to the source
then over them
where it enters the creator
where he weighs my supplication
and decides whether to grant it blessing
or in its denial, lead me to deeper surrender.
My prayer released from these lips
all the way to His hearing.
Pilate told his soldiers to make the tomb as secure as they could. I’m sure they followed orders, sealing it off with a barrier no man could ever defy. And yet, on this morning, they found the stone … rolled away. The man who was spit on, beaten and nailed to the cross was gone. His followers and his captors stared at the tomb in wonderment. The Son of God could’ve walked right through the massive stone—leaving the grave sealed. Or, if he wanted, he could have lifted the rock up in the air and smashed it to the ground in a million pieces. But he didn’t. He simply rolled it open and left his burial clothes as a sign. Jesus is risen. And no grave we make for ourselves is ever too great for him to undo.
I wonder sometimes what those three days must have been like. After watching him pierced and humiliated came the endless hours and sleepless nights without a Lord and Savior in the world. (Millions of people live like this everyday. I did, for a time.) Before sunrise on Sunday, the Lord kept his promise … he always does. He finished it. Death. Life as a slave to sin. If you aren’t following him, he can end it for you—give you a new life. One worth living. And a heart that causes you to love even the one or ones who pierced you deepest.
In the gospel written by Luke (a physician), he mentions that Jesus was in such anguished prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” I imagine every time Jesus prayed, it was fervent prayer—a moment to reconnect with his father. But this night (tonight) he knew all he was going to suffer the next day. Death, Satan himself, and maybe worse than that, the rejection, hatred and betrayal of the very people he came to redeem. Remember that in your prayers tonight. Remember that … whenever you pray.
Of course, it depends on the woman. But generally speaking, it’s not looks or money or anything material. The desire isn’t a certain lifestyle or destination, the aptitude or potential of a man. The longing is for one different than the others. Who knows what no other man knows. She wants a man willing to exchange souls: a man stripped down to his core. Keeping no secrets, dedicated to her heart. And when she finally finds it, she passes her soul on—to the man whose window light clears her morning fog. He hears her. Available and near her. This all runs contrary to what a man is. The brute at his core who savages. Collects bodies. Conquers prey. We were devised this way. Both, one born from his rib. A Creator’s hands shaped us and we set ourselves at odds. But when the impossible aligns and souls go floating, the perfection He intended cannot be broken by any man, especially the commoner.
Better than a padlock
or security alarm
is the garbled handwriting
with which I keep my journals.
Printed in faint pencil lead,
the words go
from margin to margin,
to the edge
of the notebook page.
Front and back,
the hard-pressed words
to the other side
of the paper.
My dreams lean
on blue lines.
tells a fantasy.
arranged by date.
You are welcome
to come read
You are welcome
to make them out.
But you can’t.
They are hand-written
A soul poured out
yet still cannot be read.
Any decent writer knows:
you give it all away,
day after day.
But there is that one bit
no one can get at.
No one can reach.
You keep it for yourself,
whether it is worth something
Ahead, a car flinches as its brake lights slam red.
From nowhere, a hawk comes gliding across the country highway.
First, the two northbound lanes.
Then, the median of dead grass.
Then, the southbound lanes.
And finally, over to the bare tree branches at the edge of the wood.
The branches bend under its weight as it flutters its wings closed and finds its perch.
In a moment, the ruckus is over and the traffic immediately resumes its rush.
I drive on, my mind still in the tree branches and open air with the hawk,
looking down on the strange flow of machines.
Unbridled by laws, by lanes, by time.
Wild and free from the rest of us animals.
On the drive down to Wichita:
The last dead days of February beginning to blossom.
Rolling prairie and mounded hills ready to green.
The surviving winter birds and the first of spring circle over bare trees.
Road going on and on, the entire countryside fenced into fine squares.
So many times I’m drawn to pull over and walk into it all.
Sun-covered hills and not a soul in sight.
Just passing cars and diesels and trucks, going and going to someplace.
I think about Ginsberg and his poetry reading in Wichita.
Pass the home of William Allen White.
The prairie is full of great poets.
The words are riding on the clouds and thick in dusty wind gusts.
I roll down my window and let them glide through my fingers.
No one wants to read anything real anymore.
No one wants to read truth.
In comes the arm and up goes the window.
I have caught enough words.
The last poet on the plains.
Not too much, the Lord says. Not too much. Moderation. Pace. Your time will come when I say so. He keeps me this way. Tempered. Living life. Developing my faith. Careful not to give it all to me, because he knows what l’ll do with it. I’d spoil it. On women. On riotous living. You know, a real prodigal son wasting his inheritance. And so I keep my heart open and put the words down. What he teaches me goes deep into my soul and comes out through my fingertips. I walk the streets an unknown. In perfect seclusion. A poet of our Lord, writing the words he gives to me to share. Never given an ego to trip over. Never trying to swallow too much success. Life with him is moderation. Balance. So I take the ills with every step forward. I owe everything I am to him, which is not too much, and never too little.