Friday, August 8, 2014

A Precarious Balance

Do you have to take the bible literally to be a Christian? Why don't Christians do more to help the needy? Is helping the needy really all that Jesus wanted from Christians? 

Social media is blowing up lately over the controversy surrounding the Christian band Gungor and their approach to answering such questions. The controversy, however, only highlights an already escalating tension that seems to exist between Christians who strongly emphasize solid biblical theology (what you know and believe about God and the bible) and those who rally for stronger social justice (what you do for those who are hurting).

Lead singer of the now notorious Gungor band, Michael Gungor, himself states "If I'm on the side of a road bleeding, I don't care if the priest or the Levite have beautiful 'beliefs' about the poor and the hurting … Give me the Samaritan. The heretic. The outsider who may have the 'wrong' 'beliefs' in words and concepts but actually lives out the right beliefs by stopping and helping me. That's the kind of belief I'm interested in at this point." His words would give us the impression that your ability to know and articulate what you believe about God is of little importance. That only helping people is important. Loving your neighbor is all that truly matters.

And on the other side of the coin you see churches of people, perfectly able to spout lines of doctrine and Scripture, who never step outside of their own front doors to help the suffering or needy. And this gives the impression that only theology matters, and loving your neighbor is far less important. So which is it? What matters most and what pleases God most?

I guess, rather than looking to any fallible person to answer the question, I try to make a habit of looking to Jesus himself when deciding on such pertinent issues. What type of example did He give us to follow when it comes to Scripture, compassion, giving, living and teaching?

One of the first things that comes to mind when considering His example, is John 6 where He feeds five thousand men from just five small loaves of bread and two fish. The first part of this event, suggests what Jesus would have us do for those who are needy. Obviously, He fed them! The myriad lessons that flow from this story on generosity and on giving when you have little are more than I can mention here. But it is important, I think, that Jesus did not sit in a huddle with His disciples and feed only them, but made a way for all the hungry there to eat. However, if you keep reading this chapter in John, it is apparent that Jesus isn't done talking about bread.

In passages 25-59, the disciples have grown hungry again and are looking for Jesus. This time, Jesus rebukes them saying, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” When the disciples are confused by this, Jesus goes on to explain that He is the bread of life, the Messiah, and that He alone can give them eternal life.

So what does the last part of this chapter suggest about Jesus' thoughts about theology? Does it matter if we can articulate who God is and what He has done? I think it's an obvious "yes" and a closer examination of the passage shows that He does a lot more articulating truth and theology than I have summarized here. 

So what does this mean about what is most important? Jesus did feed the five thousand first. Not to mention, there are piles of other references about helping the poor, needy and widows throughout all of Scripture. So there is really no excuse for sitting in a pew week after week, staying comfortable and keeping your wallet to yourself. That's a kind of a given here.

But when it comes to what is most important, Jesus speaks of himself again in verse 58,59 saying "This (I) is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” This suggests to me that the bread (the serving, the giving, the helping) though important, is not enough.  Jesus placed a huge significance on defining the gospel to the people that looked to Him. In this passage alone, He speaks of His deity, His divinity, His power and His love...all very theological, doctrinal concepts (not to mention beautiful and personal, too). He does not use the fact that helping isn't enough as an excuse not to help, but He uses the physical, material meeting of needs as a means of introducing the truth to the world.

So, what's of worth in the eyes of God when it comes to helping the needy, hurting, broken world? Both! Both solid biblical theology and great gestures of compassion are essential. But, in Jesus' example, neither can exist without the other. The "heretic with the wrong beliefs" who helps the person bleeding on the side of the road but can't tell them where to find the Bread of Life, falls short of his call, as does the man who preaches gems of wisdom but walks away. I pray that Jesus would empower us together to be the hands, feet, mouth and heart of God that can help the broken and hungry far beyond just a plate of macaroni & cheese today, to a much greater, eternal feast with Him someday.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


it was six
when you finally breathed
i think the waves on the rocks made you do it
and your breath
brought life to me
released tendons and tensions and sadness we never
had time to ponder

in the warm water
with sweet-smudged cheeks,
white sheets
and pepper
        you exhaled death and inhaled me

and  i couldn't stop kissing your face
into the blue i asked you
to open me today
to crawl inside
where i could feel you

and i'll take the rain and the knives
and the pain too

whatever it takes for the joy that comes afterward

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

in earnest

large windows and yellow sun
warm water and

we chased it like we were starving
and forgot that we are full

thankful today
for red diesel brakes
and teapots that boil hot enough

to make us simmer and slow

reflect on the richer things,
and each other
and the wonderful
serenity of having all we need

Thursday, February 20, 2014


i write to You
knowing that no one else
knows me like You do;

knows the pitfalls and the turns
and the places my ankles like to twist into,
and no one else can catch me better
or hold my hand as tight,
see inside me
like this...

see the tangled up-
mangled up-
maze of me
and still say,

You are
You are

the most dazzling of dreams
is not trade-able

these keys that you've made for me
the grace where You've bathed me
and the promise of forever with You

Monday, February 17, 2014

because we know

while i was so busy
bruising my fingers
pretending to help
(and actually believing I was)
I forgot

you are.

just a child,

and we can.

just laugh together.

and we can.

just cry.

and we can.

just Stop.

with all the
      So Hard.

and start
      H a r d e r


we know

The Way
in which
     The bless-

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Last night,
while warmed by grey and yellow vines,
I saw your soul flicker.

With my heart on its knees
And with words not belonging to me
the view that formed
Thawed one particle of you,

And quick
Like a dancing firefly

I saw
the launch of us,
Bigger and stronger
than cast iron cages
Soaring from
The attic window

Friday, January 10, 2014

All the Pretty Crashing

you have ruined me good
to the point that i want nothing but You,

to the point that everything
is flavorless

   True kiss

and everything
is plain
   blazing eyes
   That i can't stop

i blame you for this wonder,
i blame you for this opening,
i blame you for this apathy,
about Anything not

because you are
        so sweet
and you taste 
         so good
that my heart
         is full
and my hunger
for anything but
         of You

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

you will really know love when you are nothing

you saw me
when a skeleton, I was,
with not even a feather
to warm me.

                 Before this,

there had been decades
of warm meals,
steady enough to believe in
And large eyes, so beautiful,
they turned me to
 a Fool,
somehow surprised
by the spit on my face
and the direction of laughter.

in the alley, there,
tender & starved,
you found me,
unable to breathe
or cry,
or believe anymore

and with hands Larger than my soul,
you gripped the cancer from within my bones,
ripped it out of me with kisses,
while patches of flesh
grew beneath your breath,
Your life
climbing into my callow veins,
You were Nothing Left
and Everything to me

at the same time

Friday, January 3, 2014


These things you are/aren't saying
are worse than Bricks

We smash
Ballistic glass
til we're sleepy
and bleeding

My dear love,
how did we end up
here in Babylon again today?
rushing at one another
all wrong

let's chase the place
where the Gold melted into water
and let our Chacos fill with sand
holding hands until we're

We are the only ones left
for each other
you know
That's how we started
That's how we must go.

Let's quiet down
and hear each other now
Let's silent down
and turn each other
back toward the Sun
back toward what brings us together

to Stay There

This is it.

This is what you need. 

All you need.

And where you stay.

This is where you live

In that minute

Where you’ve felt it.

All the shame on your shoulders taken away.

All the blame removed and the heartache softly touched.

And the joy in the cleanness.
And the floor hitting gratefulness,
of an unknown tenderness
           holding you until you stop squirming away.
           holding you until you heal.
           holding you until 

No words
And no deed,
And no winter
And no wounds
can define or deface you