the gift of a human
the joy and the pain
with flaws that run deep
but life flows in their veins
from their birth to their death
like us, muddling through
he gave not an angel
but a human to you
Humans. All our closest relationships—our parents, our partner, our siblings and friends, all of them are human. The problem with humans is that they are flawed. They make mistakes. They hurt us and disappoint us.
But they are like us, because we are also human. We have flaws. We make mistakes. We hurt people and disappoint people. The beautiful thing about all being human is that we can understand each other. We know what it is like because we are also human. And maybe, through that, we can find ways to offer grace and forgiveness to each other too.
The Armour of God
The belt of truth
I fasten tight around my waist
Holding close the words you have spoken of me
The truth that the storms of life would seek to tear away
Today I declare your truth
And fasten it close
The breastplate of righteousness
I fasten firm upon my chest
Powerless to do right in my own strength
My sinful flesh has died and Christ now lives in me
This righteousness that is yours, in Jesus Christ is now my own
I fasten it close
The gospel of peace
I wear as shoes on my feet
The good news that keeps me steady, whatever may come
A longing and a readiness to share what I have found
I step into that eagerness
And lace it tight
The shield of faith
I take upon my arm
Extinguishing every fiery dart the evil one may throw
On every day, in every moment
I raise the shield of faith
And hold it tight
The helmet of salvation
I place upon my head
The saving power of Jesus now guards my mind
And fear will have no hold on me
I place his salvation upon my head
And strap it tight
The word of God
I take as a sword in my hand
A word more powerful than any force or violence
A word that brings life and light and truth
I take God’s word in my hand
And hold it tight
The vital work of prayer
I take upon my lips
In petition and intercession and thanksgiving
For every brother and sister in the faith
Without ever giving up
I stay alert and pray
I choose to put on today
The whole armour of God
Standing firm in a strength that is not my own
For the battle is real, though it wages unseen
I receive the gift given to me
And take it up
For the full poetic liturgy, along with Bible verses and questions for reflection, follow the download link.
A vessel, dry
An empty cup
In your great pow’r
Come! Fill it up.
A body, dead
A hope denied
In your mercy
Breathe life inside.
A life laid down
Called by your name
In your great love
Come! Light your flame.
Fear, Your Day is Over
Fear, your day is over.
I have listened long enough
To your whispers and lies
That seek to paralyze and haunt me.
I used to be your plaything
Caught in your icy grip
Drowning in waves of terror
You had your fun
As each new fear
Tightened your chains.
You thought I was yours
But your pride was your downfall
For you pulled the chains too tight
And I recognized you for who you are
I know the one who has the key.
Fear, I know your little game now
Every time you stole my imagination
Filling it with endless things
That could go wrong
You piled calamity upon calamity
I died a thousand deaths
But you could not touch me
What would you have me fear now?
You have said it all before.
There’s no reason for me to fear you
Or listen to your whispered lies
You do not define me
I live in the house of love
I belong to the Prince of Peace
Fear, your day is over
I am free.
The Story Behind The Poem
The inspiration for “O Mountain” came from the weeks following my Mom’s death from cancer last year. Among all the feelings that Mom’s death brought up for me, one of the strongest during those early days was disorientation. It was as if my inner landscape had shifted and it was hard to find my bearings. To be honest, that surprised me. Maybe that’s why the feeling made such an impression. I hadn’t been consciously depending on my Mom for a while—I had my own family I built my life around, and during Mom’s final months of cancer I had been more focused on offering support than asking for it. But still, when she was gone, it was like something massive had disappeared from my life, a presence that was taken for granted and connected to the core of who I was. When that was suddenly gone, I felt very disoriented. The feeling reminded me of one of my favourite psalms, Psalm 46, which was a cornerstone for me during Mom’s first diagnosis with cancer. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear… Those words gave me courage and hope during that chaotic, fearful time. After Mom’s second diagnosis with cancer, Psalm 46 wasn’t as significant for me. I had other scripture passages that I turned to. But when Mom died and I was left with that feeling of disorientation, the words of Psalm 46 came back to my mind: …though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea… and I realized that was what I had experienced. One of the mountains of my life, that my life was oriented around, was gone. No wonder I felt disoriented, and no wonder the words of Psalm 46 were such a comfort to me, as they have been for so many.
That realization was over a year ago, but sometimes a thought needs to sit and wait for a long time before it is ready to be given words that can be shared. A year later I was ready to give it a try, and I wrote “O Mountain”.
As I wrote it, I thought about all the different kinds of mountains that can dominate our inner life. It isn’t just parents, but also ideas, beliefs, memories, locations, treasured possessions, and other important relationships. We all have an inner mountain range that we orient our lives around, and when we lose one of those mountains, we can feel very disoriented and lost for a while. So as I wrote the poem, I wrote it about Mom, yes, but I also wrote it in a way that the mountain can be whatever it is that someone has lost. It is about that grief that we all go through, because we all experience the loss of something we hold dear, at different times and in so many different ways. But God is always there. He is the Great Mountain that can never move and will never leave us. We can truly orient our lives around Him.
How do people make houses?
Are ghosts in real life?
Why did Nana die?
My kids ask a lot of questions. “Why” is one of their favourite words, and one of their favourite times to ask questions is at 8pm when they should be falling asleep. All their best, most important questions seem to come out during bedtime, which is great, but also frustrating. By that time of day I am tired and I want them to fall asleep, not become little philosophers and theologians! But then I find that when we have some time during the day and I ask them if they have any questions or things they want to talk about, they can’t think of them.
I want to talk with my kids about important things, but I’d much prefer to have those conversations earlier in the day. That is what prompted me to make a “Question Time” poster—a page of prompts to help them remember some of the big questions that they want to talk about. I chose nine topics that often come up in their questions, and depicted them with a simple picture and a word or short phrase:
- Sad: What makes them feel sad? There have been a lot of sad emotions to process lately, as the boys grieve the death of their Nana and “GG” (Great Grandma). I want to make sure I give them opportunities to process their grief.
- Angry: Little kids have big feelings! Helping them find ways to talk about their angry feelings is really important to me.
- Scared: From ghosts to monsters, my kiddos have big imaginations, and it can be quite the task to sort out what is real and what is not.
- The Bible: The kids enjoy Bible stories, and there is so much to be curious about in them. I keep learning more too!
- Jesus: I am so thankful that both of my kids love Jesus, and they want to learn more about him. I want my kids to know that it is always okay to ask questions about Jesus and our faith.
- Death and Heaven: There are a lot of questions about death and heaven these days. Even though there is so much that I don’t understand, I’m glad that I can talk with my kids about it.
- Boys and Girls: Another topic that my kids have lots of questions about. Whether it’s where babies come from, transgender family friends, or what it means to be married, I want them to know that they can always come to me with their questions.
- Curious: From cars to planets to bugs and everything in between, there is so much that they want to know about! And when they ask about something I don’t know, we all go learn from YouTube together.
- Hopes and Plans: Our family is in a temporary, transitional phase of life right now, and there is a lot of talking about “where we will live someday” and what our new home might be like.
I am constantly amazed by the unusual and thought-provoking questions that kids come up with. What an amazing gift to be one of the people that my children turn to when they want to know more about the world!
If you have kids, have you used something like this before? What kinds of unexpected questions have they asked? Are there any topics you would add to my prompts list?
From the Trees
straight and tall
toward the giver of light
wide your arms to receive all that is poured out to you
those growing beside you
the free air once again
The Story Behind the Poem
The seed for “While it was Still Dark” was planted several years ago when I heard an Easter sermon on the resurrection passage in John 20:
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
The speaker, Chris Yue, drew my attention to the phrase, “while it was still dark”. Two thoughts stayed with me from that sermon—first, that the resurrection happened while it was still dark. The greatest miracle of all history had happened, and no one knew about it yet. As far as anyone knew, nothing had changed … but everything had changed. I found that to be such an encouraging thought, that even though it may look like things are hopeless, that nothing has changed, it may be possible that God has already done amazing things and we just don’t know about them yet.
The second thought that stayed with me was the faithfulness of Mary Magdalene. Even though it was still dark, even though she had no reason to hope or even dream of what was coming, she still went to the tomb. She didn’t know that a miracle had happened, she was just doing her part to be faithful to the Teacher that she loved. And for us today, that is all that is asked of us—that we continue to be faithful, even when we don’t see the miracles or know what God is doing. We can be faithful, even when it is still dark.
While it was Still Dark
She knew what hopelessness was like
But this time somehow it was worse
For she knew love and hope and peace
Then watched as senseless violence burned
Her hope and future into ash
The one she loved, teacher and friend
Tortured and murdered ruthlessly
The eyes that saw her see no more
The hands that touched and healed the sick
Now bloodied, mutilated, dead
Despair and fear now fill her heart
As friends disperse, flee for their lives
And yet she cannot stay away
Her heart still yearns for what is lost
She slips away, out of the city
While it was still dark.
With heavy heart she seeks the tomb
No hopes or plans in mind except
To be close to the one she loved
To care for him one final time
She weeps and walks her lonely road
Believing that this is the end
But soon she’ll find the tomb unbarred
Her fear and sorrow overwhelmed
Engulfed by wonder beyond hope
Before her eyes he stands alive—
But she is still upon the road
In grief and darkness and despair
Continues faithful step by step
To where her heart at last will know
The miracle already happened
While it was still dark.