ADVENT 19 / Full Measure

This year, for the four weeks of Advent, we are doing the #RendTheHeavens devotion at both The Featherblog as well as Psalm 10 Ministries.


4 O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. 6 You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves. (Psalms 80:4-6 ESV)

“What will people think?”

It was the question my mother asked every time I did — or wanted to do — something that might not look right. Something that would make me stand out in all the wrong ways, and reflect badly upon her as my mother.

There was always a little fear in her voice when she asked me that question. And no wonder — she grew up in a tiny community, the daughter of a fairly wealthy and respect (and feared, and resented) farm family, the object of gossip. Anything she did got home before she did, and reflected for good or ill on her family.

Me? I’ve never cared what people think. I mean I do, but not like this. I want to be loved and accepted and to belong and be valued. But I don’t know how, and whenever someone even so much as suggests “what will people think?” of something I have said or done, I don’t quite know how to react or think straight.

I just don’t. I never have, and I never will.

And at this point in my life, I don’t know how to. I am misfit and an outcast, and that is all I will ever be.

I don’t like it. I don’t like being an object of concern, a thing people puzzle over and worry about, a problem to be managed. Someone robbed of agency because who I am and what I do seems to always frighten or anger someone and something “must be done” about me. And I have shed enough tears over it, anguish and despair, sunk into deep places and wondered — still wondering — when will I have finished my full measure.

Not yet, apparently. And maybe not ever.

Is it me? It must be. I know it is. I know who and what I am not. But no one tells or teaches or patiently tries to say, “this is who you must be to be one of us” or “this is who we must be to allow him and accept him and form him.” Just an expectation, and impatience, an awkward intolerance. And not even a “no thank you” but a rough “please go away now” followed by silence and an angry turning away.

And still … I have not drunk my full measure.

I don’t often ask God what it is I have done to deserve this life, to be this alone, and this cast off, but sometimes I wonder — what is this sin I’ve done that got me to this place? That has left me so cold, and alone, and unwanted? In which the neighbors whisper and gossip and wonder but never say hello, never actually speak to me, never actually ask me, “who are you?” Much less invite me into their lives, and ask me to participate, to become part of them.

I do not know. And so … I weep. I suspect I shall always have tears to drink, tears in my bread. A full measure.

And then some.

ADVENT 17 / Mercy in the Waiting

This year, for the four weeks of Advent, we are doing the #RendTheHeavens devotion at both The Featherblog as well as Psalm 10 Ministries.

Somewhere, I added a day. Oh well…


20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt … (Jude 1:20-22 ESV)

Mercy.

I do this ministry — I do all ministry — because I believe in mercy.

To be merciful, for me, is to not use power against someone when you could, to not take advantage, or exercise privilege. Mercy is simple — it is sharing, it is inviting, it is including, it is surrendering. I feel I am not communicating this well. Mercy is when I deserve or have earned something punitive, or merely because I breathe and I am viewed to be in the way, or inconvenient, or troublesome, and I am not dismissed, or belittled, or abused, or ignored.

I have not seen a lot of justice in my life. I admit, I do not understand justice. Not really. Justice is, for me, a form of vengeance. I don’t get to have vengeance on those who have hurt me, no recompense. The wrongs done to me don’t ever get made right. And I have seen too many people I love, whose lives matter to me, hurt with impunity, and so the call of others, their demands, for a just world … confuses me. Even angers me. Why do you get to demand justice when I don’t?

No, I don’t understand justice. People hurt me, and they pay no price, bear no consequence. Not ever. In fact, hurting me seems to be a form of righteousness. Still, to this day. It has always been that way. My guess is it will always be that way too.

But mercy … mercy I get. I have experienced a lot of mercy in my life. Have had to. Wouldn’t be here, shivering in the cold of Central Washington typing this blog, without it.

I know what mercy looks like.

We wait for mercy. We wait for justice. We wait for a world remade right, where there is no suffering, no evil, no sorrow.

Until then, sometimes the best we can be is the mercy we wait for. To love and accept others as we wish we’d been loved and accepted. To reach out, to say “you are not alone.” It is, I admit, in the face of cruelty and brutality and horrific violence, not a lot.

But nothing else makes sense as I wait.

ADVENT 4 / We Were Gathered

This year, for the four weeks of Advent, we are doing the #RendTheHeavens devotion at both The Featherblog as well as Psalm 10 Ministries.


And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:31 ESV)

Is it a good thing or a bad thing to be gathered?

Memory dims and fade, but I still remember intensely that beautiful Tuesday morning in September, 2001, when the ordinary gave way to the extraordinary, when death rained from the sky, when men and women tumbled to their deaths, when smoke turned the sun to blood and toxic dust filled the air.

We the elect, those unfortunate enough to have been there that day, were gathered, a mob of humanity, under giant towers slated for destruction, watching, helpless, while people died.

Nameless. Faceless. Placeless. No distinction between us mattered. Unable to protect. Unable to be protected. All equal as we stared at the end of the world.

Is it a good thing to hear the trumpet, to feel the wind, to know that heaven is being folded up and we are, all of us, being brought to one place? To face death knowing we can do nothing? The we have done absolutely nothing?

Is it a good thing, in the face of death, to hear the voice of Jesus speak: “My love is all that matters.”? To know that as the world falls down around you, something bigger is present, and has spoken, and means it?

Is it a good thing or a bad thing to be gathered?

ADVENT 1 / Rend (Matthew 24-44)

This year, for the four weeks of Advent, we are doing the #RendTheHeavens devotion (also known as #FuckThisShit, because sometimes polite language doesn’t cut it) at both The Featherblog as well as Psalm 10 Ministries.

Advent is a season of waiting and expectation. But it’s not necessarily a polite waiting. Because we’re not waiting in an easy place. We are conquered people. We have been brutalized and broken and exiled. We’ve been slapped and whipped and beaten, humiliated, made to play and sing and dance, by those who do these things without conscience or pity.

They have very little sympathy or compassion for their own. We can expect next to nothing from them.

But we also speak the truth. We are not mere unfortunates, not simple victims of circumstance. We are here because of our unfaithfulness, because of the unfaithfulness of our ancestors, who themselves enslaved and brutalized, who themselves whipped and beat and took perverse pleasure in the subjugation of those who were other. Who set things into motion we can hardly understand, only barely repent of and cannot even begin to correct or repair. We are here because we, as a people, have followed gods that could not redeem or save us. We have sought protection in physical power, in wealth, in ideas, in comfort, ease, and good order. In anything but the God who delivered us from Egypt.

We bear our sin. We bear the consequences of sins that are not ours.

So we wait. For deliverance. For vengeance. Because when God acts — against Pharaoh, again the Philistines, against Babylon — vengeance and deliverance are the same things. We have been promised. We have tasted and seen that God is great. Our ancestors, faithless as they were, also walked dry shod across the sea, over the river, and back to homes after a long exile. They beheld an empty tomb. And believed.

We have been promised. We wait.


Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:44 ESV)

I don’t know what I am waiting for anymore. Once, I was waiting for a convoluted church process to approve me for pastoral ministry, and then send me on my way to the work I had been called to do. I had big dreams. Ambitions. I wrote a book, I’m a pretty fair writer and singer of songs. All of that was going to be the foundation for for a nice, substantial, comfortable career.

But that was not to be. None of it. In fact, so much of what I waited for in the last ten years has simply crumbled or evaporated in my hands. I have almost nothing to show for myself.

I have given up waiting for anything. Most days I have no hope anymore. So little music in my heart that the callouses on my left hand have slowly worn off. I have a job, my first real job in 10 years, and that’s something, though accounting for inflation, I’m making less now than I did doing the same work 20 years ago.

But … I don’t know what I’m waiting for anymore. I have no dreams. No hopes. I aspire to nothing. I’m not even sure what the promise of God means to me anymore.

So, what does it mean to be ready … if I have no idea what I’m waiting for? If I have no idea what deliverance, or salvation, or redemption — no idea what any of it means.

And how can I be ready at any hour … when I’m not even sure exactly what it is I’m waiting for?