When I was a kid, I was told that someday
I could be whatever I wanted to be
And then by the age of 23
I was in debt
Out of shape
Overwhelmed
And under-paid

So no one told you life was gonna be this way

Now I am stuck between childhood
And being grown-up
Between doors I want open
And doors I want shut

But I am not finished, not yet
Putting pieces together of an incomplete set
Got my head above water but I’m getting feet wet

Yet I’m almost, but not quite
Like a ghost, or Bud Light
Set my sights on the future
But I cling to the past
Prone to wander and squander my time
It’s so fast

Cuz that kid who was me
Wasn’t that long ago
Growing up, from a pup
Til I reached this plateau

Although, I still have the audacity to dream
But I have to pay the bills
I still have the faith to hope
When the world stands still
But I can’t stand still
Cuz I’m filled up with passion
To pursue my desires in a fiery fashion

But you know, the job market, the way that it is
You can’t just move out the house and start having some kids
So I need to float around, try a couple careers
Find what makes me alive to survive through the years
I’ll just climb up the ladder, get out on my own
Earn a check, pay my dues, maybe pay off my loans

I’m not afraid to settle
Just settle down
Strap on my boots
Shake the dust from this town

I’ve got my head in the clouds
And my feet to the fire
Got my back to the wind
Hands stuck in the mire
My entire life waits for the turn of the page
Bunking up with my parents, making minimum wage
And they say it’s a stage, just a phase to go through
For the moment, I will own it and I’ll try to make due

So if I could go back and speak to me as a kid,
There are 3 things I’d tell him to help him through it

  1. You’re never too young to make mole hills out of mountains
    Cuz what seems big now
    As the years get counting
    Will be dwarfed by the forces of time, change, and distance
    And your eyes will grow wise as you rise through resistance
  2. There will come a day when sweatpants and a hoodie is no longer a viable daily wardrobe option. Embrace it while you can.
  3. When you do grow up
    Whatever hand you are dealt
    Please never settle for anything else
    Than to be what you were destined to be
    Yourself

“Psalm 139”

Posted: 09/10/2013 in Uncategorized

The first time she ever spoke those words,
They flew
From the tip of her tongue like birds
And they rested, nested
In the backside of her mind

15 years she’s been blind
By the ways she’d been slandered
Redesigned and Defined
By societal standards
Gerrymandering beauty to fit an ideal
Photo-shopped to the top
Not resembling real

She would feel all the weight
As she waits on the scale
Cuz the more that she weighed,
Well, the more that she failed
She inhaled expectations
And exhaled all her worth
Breathing lies into life
Like God breathed life to earth

And it worked as the boys began giving attention
Tried to make her feel loved, never mind their intentions
Not to mention the tension she felt in her heart
As the eyes of the guys would dissect her apart
They’d surround her like sharks
In an ocean, alone
All her dark felt so dark
Never knowing… or known

And the cycle went on
Spinning round like a record
From the wings of the dawn
To her past that’s been checkered

Skin scratched like vinyl
Soul scarred with shame
Discarded like the dust
From whence she came

But these words, they fell
Like raindrops on a desert flower
And lay down in the stem
Absorbing their power
She devoured each syllable
That hung from her lips
As she tasted the fruits
Of an intimate kiss

This was unlike the ways
She’d been looked at before
She was seen as herself
Nothing less, nothing more

It’s frightening to be known
Cuz it means they can bruise you
Confiscate your desires
To misuse or abuse you
Reach down to your soul
And then wholly refuse you

To be seen, unformed, the most vulnerable state
Yet to know I am fearfully, wonderfully made

And your thoughts can’t be counted
Your wisdom surmounted
Or all your judgments clouded
How could I have doubted

That you were the one
Who could see, feel, and hear it
So where can I possible go from your spirit?
Where can I flee from your almighty presence?
You’re there at the top of the stairway to heaven
You meet me alongside the gateway of hell
You find me and bind me wherever I dwell

And these words, they have fluttered
From head to the heart
And they’ve perched as you’ve searched
And unearthed every part

I could look through the books
Of the world’s greatest scholars
Spend the rest of my life
And the last of my dollars
I could search the whole universe
Far as could be
But I never could find God
Til I found God, in me

I wrote this monologue several years ago, but I was reminded of it by a friend the other day, and thought I ought to post it here.  It’s the story of humanity from Genesis-Revelation told through the eyes of Satan. Interspersed between various parts of the monologue are verses from Revelation to be read by another reader. Feel free to look up the verses if you’d like.  Also, keep in mind that Satan has a Brooklyn accent. haha. Enjoy!

_____________________

I know what you’re thinking… where are the horns and the pitchfork?  I get asked that all the time.  Well, let me first clarify a few things for you.  The horns were just an awkward middle school phase.  I grew out of em eventually.  So don’t worry, some of you will grow out of your horns too.  And the pitchfork??  That was just one time a couple… thousand years or so.  I was in Hell’s Kitchen, right? And we ran out of regular-sized forks, and I was hungry.  I grab the pitchfork, someone snaps a photo, and bada-bing bada-boom… I’m stereotyped.  And then some people ask me about this accent, and I know you were about to, so before you start buggin the hell outta me, let me just ask you a question.  Why wouldn’t the devil be from New York?  Seriously… (sigh) the ignorance of some people.

And let me tell you, it was never easy being the devil, with all the tormenting souls and whatnot.  It wasn’t my first choice of profession.  I really wanted to be God… but that position was “already filled”.  And with a name like mine, you’d be a devil too.  You try growing up in the Bronx when your parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fur, name their beloved son Lucy.  Lucy!  They were expecting a girl and already picked out the name. But who on earth names their son Lucy Fur???  My life was hell… literally.  (Mumbling) I hate that name.

I did have some good times though.  Like there was this one time right after creation.  I was in the Garden.  I put on a lizard suit and convinced some dopey, naked broad to eat a piece of fruit when the Big Guy told her it was a no-no.  Got her and her hubby’s formerly naked bodies kicked outta there so fast. (laughs).  I did miss my arms and my legs for a while though.  But it was worth it.

And then there was this one time when I got everyone on the entire planet live to against God… Well, not everyone.  No good lousy Noah and his stupid boat.  But the whole earth got flooded though.  That was a pretty proud day for me.

(Rev. 21:1-4)

________________________

Things were working good for a couple thousand years or so.  The history of people is full of a bunch of screw ups, thanks to me.  Seriously, I got everyone who was close to God in trouble.  Abe was a liar, Moses was a stuttering murderer with a bad temper, the Israelites were all a bunch of whiners who apparently couldn’t read a map, Saul was a jealous, greedy, dimwit, David got all lusty-eyed and killed a guy, but not before doing a little royal hanky panky with the man’s wife, the temple was built, the temple was destroyed (my personal favorite), then it was rebuilt once more.  All the while, God’s people are sinning like crazy and worshipping Barbie dolls.  Then came a buncha boo-hooey, end is extremely nigh prophets that no one listens to.  It’s like everything God did, these disgusting vermin called humans that he “loves soo much” managed to mess it up.  I couldn’t be happier.

Then comes this schmo Jesus.  Let me tell you about a little story about him.  He goes out into the desert for 40 days and doesn’t eat one bite of food.  I noticed him out there and sensed that he might be a little hungry. Then me, being the nice guy that I am, I offered him a sandwich.  Now this wasn’t no ordinary sandwich.  This was a nice, hot Philly Cheese steak sandwich, and when you’re famished, nothing tastes better.  And there was no catch either!  All he had to do was bow down to me.  Needless to say, I was deeply hurt by his decline of my generous offer.  So I take him to the top of the highest building around, and says “Alright, if your God is soo tough, why don’t you just jump off this building and let him save you”.  Then he tells me that I shouldn’t test God.  Me?!?  As if I would ever try to do something like that.  So I am now particularly perturbed, so I bring out my big guns.  I take him to the top of a mountain and say, “Listen bud… I’m tired of playing games with you.  If you worship me, I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world.  I got no better offer than that.  Just take it.”  So then he tells to go away.  How rude can this guy be?  Who does he think he is?  The Son of God or something?

Then that’s when I realized what had happened.  I lost.  And you don’t understand… I never lose.  Never.

Then I just couldn’t get rid of that guy.  He was everywhere, and he was ruining everything I had.  People started to understand God better, and they kept ignoring me.  Then, after much trouble on my part, he died… finally.  I get 3 days of peace… 3 days!  Then he comes back to life, and from that point on, everything was different.

(Rev. 19:11-16)

______________________

So after that Jesus guy came back, God pulled another trick on me.  For people who believe in him, he gives them this thing he calls a spirit to live inside of them.  I can’t implant stuff inside of people… believe me, I’ve tried, and it wasn’t pretty.  So it was very difficult to compete with.  And these people with the spirit acted differently.  With the spirit, they could better determine right from wrong, and it was a constant reminder that God was always with them.  They started loving each other and serving each other more and more.  It was enough to make you sick.

Things just kept getting worse from there.  Churches were built all over the world.  And I won individual battles all the time, but it just wasn’t the same.  It never was the same.

(Rev. 19:1-2a, 6b-9a)

___________________________

I never thought this day would come.  He kept telling me that it would, but I just didn’t believe him.  I had it all, you know.  I had everything.  People all over the world bowed down to me and worshipped me and worshipped evil.  But now those people are gone.  I had an army, but now I’m all alone.  Chained.  Unable to fight.  Powerless.  Hopeless.  Because I know that there is no room for me on this new earth, no place for me in this new heaven.  I know my future and I made my choice.  This is the end of it all.  And this is what I’ve become.

(Rev. 20:1-3, 7-10)  (Rev. 21:6-7)

What do I do?

I speak absurdities
Cuz the Word’s been transferred in me
Entered and it stirred in me
Bird by bird it recurred in me
Til they heard in me
The upside-down world
Painted thick with anomalies
Like the first shall be last
And the last shall be first
And the least in the kingdom
Is the greatest on earth
And the only way to live
Is to die through rebirth

I speak silence into noise
And noise into silence
Speaking truth to the peace
And peace to the violence

I speak tears through the fears found in tense waiting rooms
In the “Her time was too soon’s”
Over laden ashes and newfound tombs
With abandoned brides and addicted grooms
In the midst of the ruins in the peak of the strife
With the Spirit a-brewing, Speaking dry bones to life
Sharpened words like a knife
Til they cut at each part
Enters in like lament enters into your heart

I speak encounters on mountains
Countering accounts of mounting doubters
Different-bodied estates will awaken these powers

So I speak with the masses
As their stories unfold
Mosaic pictures of God
In each testament told
And it can’t be controlled
Cuz the Spirit will use
The oppressed and distressed
To condemn and accuse
The abusers maintaining
The stained status quo
Reaping harvests of truth
For the lies that they sow

So I speak disruption
In the vein of resistance
It’s the burden of burning
With passioned persistence

I speak possibility
In the face of hostility
In the imagined reality
Of what the world now could be

I speak the hope of “one day”
One day
As if I only work on one day
As if the Word only works on Sunday
As if Monday’s a fun day to do as I choose
Well I’m choosing to preach now with nothing to lose

And so I preach
Through water, fire, famine, and fear
Down the barrel of guns
At the end of the spear
I will preach the speech of liberation
From Wall Street to Main Street
To unpaved plantations

I will preach behind the pulpit
On the steps of city hall
I will preach until it breaches
And it crumbles down walls

I will preach on the streets
I will preach to the birds
I will preach til the Lord
Wipes me clean of my words
And only then will you know what it is that do

When I’m worn and I’m weak
When I no longer speak
Well, I’ll be preaching then, too

A few weeks back, I posted onto my Facebook an article written in Christianity Today about John Piper’s comments regarding women in leadership positions. I received some comments asking for my reactions, and I think that now that my semester has wound down I have had some time to formulate a response that can hopefully be helpful.

I want to begin by saying that I have much respect for John Piper and his ministry.  I have many friends who have been affected positively by his work, and I do not wish to diminish the work that God has done through that, nor do I intend to reject all that Piper has said or done.  The article I posted (linked here:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/april/hey-john-piper-is-my-femininity-showing.html?start=1 )

written by Rachel Pietka, is extremely critical of Piper’s views and even goes so far as to attack his character because of it.  I do not wish to engage in the current environment of “pastor bashing” (of which Piper is sadly a full-fledged participant), so I will not be questioning his character, the effectiveness of his ministry, or his personal faith in Christianity – despite my personal disagreements with his theology extending even beyond the topic of women’s roles.

Just had to get that out of the way, because I don’t want an opportunity for fruitful engagement to turn into a personal attack.

Also, I would encourage you to not only read the article but to listen for yourself the podcast referred to by Pietka. I’ve listed it here:

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/do-you-use-bible-commentaries-written-by-women

In this podcast, Piper is asked the question, “Do you use Bible commentaries written by women?” To understand why this question matters, one must first have an understanding of Piper’s theology of men and women. Piper believes in what many current scholars call a “complimentarian” philosophy on the relationships between men and women.  This means that women and men each have God-given roles assigned to them regarding how they relate to one another and to society. Often, this means that men are granted authoritarian roles over women (regardless of giftedness, desire, or personal sense of calling) because God has universally ordained it to be that way.

It is this philosophy that denies women to be in positions of authority in church, in government, or in the home. Complimentarianism is intended to be a supposed middle-way between male or female domination and egalitarianism (viewing men and women as equal partners in marriage, church, and society).

Though I admit that I personally have an affinity for egalitarianism (which I can explain if anyone is would care to know), I have witnessed many life-giving and God-honoring relationships built on complimentarian ideals.  While receiving premarital counseling, our counselor (who also preferred egalitarianism) instructed to us that some couples who abide by complimentarian structures tend to have less complicated marital problems because roles and expectations are already assigned and because couples can easily be held accountable to these roles. Many egalitarian couples fail to do the difficult work of navigating and discovering such undefined roles, causing issues that can lead to abuse, neglect, and conflict.  In much the same way, many who claim to be complimentarian can use such a philosophy to propagate domestic violence and abusive manipulation of power and control. Both systems can be misused, and I have witnessed both positively used to honor God.

However, Piper claims to stand firm on biblical grounds as to why complimentarianism is the ONLY viable option for Christians, and this is where we disagree. Traditionally, there are two biblical explanations for why complimentarianism is the preferred philosophy for people like Piper.

(1) Paul’s charge for women to be silent and not obtain authority over a man in 1 Timothy 2:12.

(2) The household codes in Colossians 3, Ephesians 5, and 1 Peter 2.

Since Piper appealed to the first explanation in his podcast, I’ll tackle that in this post and save the household codes for a later date (if anyone’s interested).

1 Timothy 2:12 is one of the most complicated sections of scripture on gender roles, and it should neither be ignored nor handled lightly.  We run into problems when we take this verse uncritically without looking at its context in the letter and within the whole of scripture. Within the letter itself, we must keep in mind that this is written primarily for pastoral reasons.  Paul is writing to Timothy to address particular situations and not to articulate a systematic theology. In particular, he was addressing an issue of false teachers.  In his second letter to Timothy, Paul clarifies that there were false teachers who were particularly targeting women in the community (3:6) and leading them to a falsified gospel message. Paul’s charge against women exerting authority over men in 1 Timothy appears to be related to this situation.

What is interesting is that Paul appeals not just to the situation but to the story of Creation and the Fall. Paul claims that since Eve sinned first, not Adam, then man should have authority over women. Piper uses this to claim that there is something inherently God-given about these gendered roles.  Because of Eve’s sin, things just have to be this way.  However, in Romans 5, Paul claims that all sin came through one man (Adam), not one woman.  Paul appears to inconsistently appeal to the logic of the Fall, and I honestly do not have a simple solution for this other than to say that Scripture as a whole is not as black and white as Piper would lead people to believe.

To further complicate Piper’s view, he makes a distinction between a woman having “direct authority” and a woman having “indirect authority.” For example, a woman could be a city planner (working meticulously behind the scenes in a leadership role), but she could not be a drill sergeant (barking orders at inferior men). He believes that women can have these types of leadership roles because her “female personhood” is out of sight and out of mind. The problem with Piper making such a distinction between direct and indirect authority is that such a distinction does not exist in scripture.  I sense Piper is attempting to reckon with the notion that he has seen women exercise authority in positive ways that he cannot quite fit into his scriptural interpretations. Rather than embracing that tension, he is trying to make Scripture say things that it does not say. He creates these categories outside of Scripture while attempting to hold to biblical literalism.  If he is attempting to read the Bible as literal, he should at least be consistent. Instead, he creates categories that are neither literal nor biblically or logically consistent.

With all of this in mind, I cannot seem to come to terms with Piper’s interpretation of this text or with his vision for gendered leadership roles. Again, I’m not telling anyone to reject Piper entirely, but there is considerable reason to question his vision of gender. If you scour the Scriptures, you will find positive examples of women throughout the Old and New Testament exercising authority (both political and spiritual authority) over men.  We must remain faithful to their stories and to the whole vision of God’s story so that our fellow brothers and sisters will not suffer oppression, neglect, or exclusion at the hand of teachers propagating false doctrines.

I urge you to reject Piper’s notion of women in leadership and embrace the teachings, wisdom, and faithfulness of our mothers and sisters in the church. They are a true blessing to the body of Christ that must not be silenced.

This is a poem I wrote based off of 2 Kings 6:15-23 (a great passage by the way, I seriously encourage reading it before reading this poem).  This poem is a challenge to the myth of redemptive violence, a challenge which we can find in scripture.

“Open Your Eyes”

Open your eyes
Open your eyes

To America, Afghanistan
North Korea and Iran
To China, Israel, Iraq
All who defend, all who attack
Open your eyes

To republicans and democrats
To the Wall Street Fat Cats
To those begging for change to be thrown in their hats
To the whites and to the blacks
Open your eyes

To the atheists and Christians too
To the Muslim and the Jew
Through separated walls, peek through
And open your eyes

To the young boy who wanted
To be something higher
To serve God and his country
Were his only desires
Then they give him a gun
And they tell him to fire
Til he watches his innocence
Sink in the mire

To the man who returns
Serving two terms abroad
Wrestling dreams when he sleeps
When awake wrestles God
Cuz you can’t spare the child
When you spoil the rod
And he’s used it so much
That it hides the façade
That they call him a hero
When he feels like a fraud
Young man it’s the system
Not just you who is flawed
Open your eyes

To the king who believes
That the enemy forces
Will surrender, retreat
By his chariots and horses
Fighting war with a war
Like its peace it endorses

Give your enemies a table
Spread it with a few courses
And open your eyes
Open your eyes

This is a poem I wrote about an experience I often had while in Israel.  Whenever I traveled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, I would have to go through a checkpoint to pass through the Israeli wall.  While crossing, I was often a witness to prejudice and violence as Palestinian civilians attempted to pass from one side to the other.  I want to make very clear that in writing this poem, I am not attempting to stand on the side of a politic.  I would not consider myself either pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, for I believe that people on all sides have been oppressed.  This is just one sample of my experiences, and please keep that in consideration.

“The Peace of Jerusalem”

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem
Six words hand painted on a rock outside an empty tomb
Six miles away, where an infant once lay by an inn without any room
I stand by a wall, 30 feet tall
And wonder what Joshua’d think of it all
Would he blast the trumpets, sound the call
And march until the checkpoints fall
Like Babylon, like Jericho
The victors reap just what they sow
The seeds of violence and hell
Harvested now by Israel?

No, not today
The judgment waits
And power stays
Along this gate

I stand in line, passport in hand
American
As if my daddy owned this land
As if my skin was greater than
As if their blood was on my hands
And so I stand

Checkpoint-ed
Anointed as witness of sin
To watch the abuse as I walk right in

Pat downs, reach arounds,
On the ground, not a sound
Fingerprints, passport
Discrimination into sport

Take off your turban
Take off your shoes
Strip down to nothing
With nothing to lose
And yet nothing’s to gain
When there’s nothing but shame
So just play by the rules
Cuz they made up the game

No, you can’t plead your case
With that look on your face
They can tell by your race
That you’re in the wrong place

Teenagers taught hatred
With the authority of guns
The birthright of all the chosen ones
But they are just sons and daughters made to
Hold a gun, hold the line at the government’s cue
Somehow I doubt that they even knew
But it’s something like fear that’ll do that to you

Well, you can plant a flag
But you can’t take control
You’re only achievement is in making a hole
That makes way for the underground
Where the silenced bring sounds
And where chains are unbound
And where lowly are crowned
And where hope it confounds

Because it doesn’t make sense
When the violence
Isn’t returned by self-defense
But by actions of beauty
To sing and to paint
Is their call of duty

Art is the gun and the pen ammunition
Graffitied resistance on concrete partitions
Even stones cry out for their own demolition
In such hostile conditions, there will come a day
When actions will rise from the words that they say
If not revolution, then time will decay
Yet, six miles away, there is hope about to bloom
Six words hand painted on a rock outside an empty tomb
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem