Thursday, February 26, 2009

my friend Orion showed me this. 

A sloop of amber slips away
Upon an ether sea,
And wrecks in peace a purple tar,
The son of ecstasy.

-emily dickinson-

I wonder why I love sad songs so much. 
I would say it's because I enjoy life, 
and delight on most everything. 
and because of that, I have an insecurity that my experience is two
not that I never have dark days, or troubled waters,
but that my default seems to be joy. 
and I'm thankful for that. 
but I love to love to love sad songs.  
Songs about loneliness.  
and longing for home. 
and broken relationships that remain broken. 
the truth in those songs,
I mean the rusted memories of Patty Griffin
and the lamenting histories of Ray LaMontagne
the righteous hunger in Derek Webb
and the American quiet dispair of Sufjan,
I just love to live inside them, 
set their pain beside mine,
and revel in it.
Maybe they lend me a third dimension.
- JJ.
"Natural gifts carry with them a ... danger.  If you have sound nerves
and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you
are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is.  "Why
drag God into it?" you may ask ... Often people who have all these
natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognise their need
for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down
and their self-satisfaction is shattered.  In other words, it is hard
for those who are "rich" in this sense to enter the Kingdom.
"It is very different for the nasty people - the little, low, timid,
warped, thin-blooded, lonely people, or the passionate, sensual,
unbalanced people.  If they make any attempt at goodness at all, they
learn, in double quick time, that they need help.  It is Christ or
nothing for them....
"There is either a warning or an encouragement here for every one of
us.  If you are a nice person - if virtue comes easily to you -
beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given.  If you
mistake for your own merits what are really God's gifts to you through
nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still
a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible
... The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far
above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.
"But if you are a poor creature - poisoned by a wretched up-bringing
in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels -
saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual
perversion - nagged day in and day out by an inferiority comple that
makes you snap at your best friends - do not dispair.  He knows all
about it.  You are one of the poor whom He blessed.  He knows what a
wetched machine you are trying to drive.  Keep on.  Do what you can.
One day (perhaps in another world, perhaps far sooner than that) he
will fling it on the scrapheap and give you a new one."      -  CS
"As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to an unutterable anguish. As I writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity. I have often wished myself a beast. I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own. Any thing, no matter what, to get rid of thinking! It was this everlasting thinking of my condition that tormented me. There was no getting rid of it. It was pressed upon my by every object within sight or hearing, animate or inanimate. The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness. Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in every sound, and seen in every thing. It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition. I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm." -Frederick Douglass


Whether it's good and evil,
or woman and man.
Myself and other, anger and pleasure.
I am thinking about the balance between the extremes,
and how one may not exist without the other.
Can God be good if there is no bad?
Can I enjoy heaven if there was no alternative?
A product brings pride when it is the fruit of great labor.
A lover trembles in the arms of a long hungered touch.
And the inverse confirms me.
An easy capture is no game at all.
A glutton for anything, food, sex, or sarcasm, will quickly find that more is needed,
until all of moments are spent in it... and there can be no more.
And he must resort to a deeper dispair.
It is in the wanting that a thing is given value.
It is in the tension of love and love lost,
of touch and lonely skin,
of exhausted sleep and more work to be done,
for I can faintly recall days where too much sleep made me bored and crazy,
of best friends and time apart,
of leisure and labor
the tension of a mother's desire to nest and rear to set free,
of a lovers call to consume and remain herself,
and of a re-born soul,
for loving your neighbor as yourself requires a deep self-love,
for sacrificing yourself requires something to sacrifice,
and dying to yourself will only bring yourself into existence.
It is in the tension that God has made Himself known.
I don't know what this means,
but I guess Romans 11 told me so.
Who has ever given to God that he should counsel Him?
Who can know the ways of the Lord.
I love that I can lean on that, and the hints He has placed
in every tension.
that this is not home, or maybe that home is in an impossibility.
- JJ.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


When I look at the years of tossed together poems... I realize that I love the imagery of the ocean.  It's cliche because it is true to human experience, and readily available to tell it.    I should probably try to be more creative.  

Dark Water.

I wrote this for a friend who was an Engineering Major, and not understanding how God could be part of that. 

Dark Water:

Begging for something
More than crumbs,
And tired of the bruised shoulders,
from I life I did not choose,

I walk to the shore,
In the middle of the night…

Told of life and life
More abundant,
And told that my comfort is shame
I sometimes stand in my parent's house,
And ponder persecution.

I am at the shore,
My clothes behind me,
And my feet in the foam…

What is this song,
A serenade,
With celebration and
A cleverly disguised
Funeral hymn.

I am waste deep,
In dark water.
My arms are raised,
In fear of cold and

Two years spent in
Books and numbers,
Another on the slab.
For what?  My
Blood, drunk with bewilderment, stares at
The faces of people
whose names I have never spoken
and whose faces I know well.

"I do not accept the authority of popes and councils,
For they have contradicted each other."

I lower my arms and
My teeth chatter in November waters…

I've begged enough to know
That a corpse strung up
Is born again
And a broken back
Is the force of armies.
Perhaps confusion is confidence,
And fragile faith
Is face to face.

"Here I stand.  I cannot do otherwise."

I press my head
Into a swollen wave,
and disappear…

I will not go back,
I will not dance or mourn,
Until You reveal Yourself.
You promised.
I do not ask for Moses,
Just a whisper.

I say a crumb will do.

"God help me.  Amen."

…into dark water. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

If I Am Alone.

I wrote this when I was in law school... feeling pretty distant from relationship and burdened by work, I cherished so much those connecting moments I would have with best friends.

If I am alone,

Perhaps by the sea,

And I see the sun,

Falling to the dark

not without a brilliant fight

of violet strokes and gold,

The water that pets the sand stone,

Will slow with shadowed time,

And the day pauses.
And ache.

With inadequacy to convey

a swelling in my spirit.
I make a note to tell you,

Or find my camera.
So it is,

With a true book,

a shared glimpse,

Or a crooked tree hungry for company,
If I am alone,

I hold for you,

To share my deepest,

Because what cannot be said

You understand,

And we stand by the sea in silence.

And beside the sea we ache.

Feb '06