Bible Poetry

Blind Spot {ex21:23-25}

exodus-mercy-blind-spot-poem.png

Ghandi once said that
an eye for an eye
leaves the whole world blind.

Yes, but it also
leaves the whole world alive.

If the previous rule was
your hand for my eye
and then
my child's life for your hand
and then
your whole family for my child's life
and then
and then

and then
an eye for an eye
is not revenge,
but mercy;

pandemic blindness
a blessing,
compared to
the alternative.

The Association of Light with Darkness {ex20:21}

Photo © Unsplash/Sidney Severin

Photo © Unsplash/Sidney Severin

Mighty God,
Great Dispeller of Night,
Awesome Disbander of Murkiness,
Glorious Dismisser of Shadows,
we prefer to hail You
as the One
who banishes darkness.
We prefer hymns which extol
the world-illuminating power
of Your light.

We never sing songs
about Your darkness-dwelling tendencies.
We don't lift our voices
to praise Your presence in the shadows,
but to question Your delay in dissipating them.
And we are careful
to keep our distance from dark clouds,
though we seem to find them just the same.
   /or, rather, they methodically
    hunt down and engulf us/

Mighty God,
Strong Dismantler of Gloom,
when the inky blackness swirls around me,
may I choose to praise You,
the ever-present Holy Squatter
in Earth's rundown tenement.

As long as evil persists in this place,
draw my heart out
and steel it to brave
the onslaught of the whirlwind,
emboldening me
to seek You where You are,
willing to share and shoulder
some of the sorrow and suffering
that lives in Your own heart
for this forlorn and much-loved race.

 

Wonder-full Thunder {ex19:19}

Photo © Unsplash/Brandon Morgan

Photo © Unsplash/Brandon Morgan

Thunderstorms are my favorite.

I love watching the thick, black clouds
roll in from the west,
the wind whipping up leaves and dirt,
compressing the musty air like a balloon
until it bursts,
giving way to slick, saturating torrents.

I love the paparazzi pops of lightning,
the long, jagged, hair-trigger flashes of noon
radiating through the bruised sky,
connecting heaven and earth
in less than a second
for less than a second.

And I love the thunder,
the low, distant lion's growls
and the ear-splitting cracks
that break over your head
like an egg spilling a clangorous yoke.

As the storm rolls in,
I count the seconds between every flash
and every bellow,
anticipating the moment
when the delay is gone
and the light arrives with a boom.

In all this time,
I have never wondered
if, at that moment,
You were speaking to me.

 

Delegation Abdication? {ex18}

Photo © Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

Photo © Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

Exodus 18 has been
the jumping-off point
for many a sermon on delegating.
But I wonder if delegating
was what Moses was supposed to do.

He listened to his father-in-law,
but it doesn't say
whether he consulted God
on the newly-proposed
hierarchy.

On one hand,
Jethro's idea took a heavy burden
from Moses' shoulders
and broke it up into smaller
more easily-managed pieces.

On the other hand,
maybe God had intended
Moses to carry
the Israelite Cross.

On one hand,
the people could
get their disputes resolved
without having to practice
so much patience.

On the other hand,
the
plan
added
yet
another
layer
of
bureaucracy
between
the
people
and
the
God
who
had
longed
to
speak
with
them
face
to
face
as
a
man
speaks
to
his
friend.

Perhaps Moses did
the right thing.

But if he had been on
the sure path to
burnout,
why didn't the God
who was in the habit
of speaking with him every day
tell him so
Himself?

 

One-Hit Wonder {ex17:1-6}

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"Israel drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them,
and that rock was Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:4

God gives.
He doesn't know how to do anything else.
He gives rain to the righteous
        and rain to the wicked.
He gives water to the grateful
        and water to the complainers.

God is good.
He doesn't know how to be anything else.
If you are good to Him,
        He will be good to you.
If you are evil to Him,
        He will be good to you.

Moses struck the rock
with his rod at Meribah
and life-giving water flowed out.

We strike the Rock and
Life is still the thing
that gushes out after us,
a flood of grace
        to meet our anger,
a deluge of mercy
        to defy our shame,
a surge of good
        to repay our evil.

 

Mundane Manna {ex16:11-12}

Photo © Unsplash/Evi Radauscher

Photo © Unsplash/Evi Radauscher

In Egypt
God's people ate their fill
of meat and bread.
And in the wilderness
God's people ate their fill
of meat and bread.

For forty years
—14,600 days and nights—
God revealed to the Israelites
not that He could feed them in the desert
but that it was He
who had fed them in Egypt.

For God, the manna wasn't miraculous.

It is no harder for Him
to make bread rain from the sky
than it is to make
wheat stand in the soil or
dough rise in the bowl or
the crust appear in the oven.

God miraculously provided
for His people in the wilderness
no more or less
than He had in Egypt.

We should stop wondering
why God no longer works miracles and
start asking why we still consider
anything in this life
mundane.

 

Water Main {ex15}

Photo © Unsplash/Jeremy Bishop

Photo © Unsplash/Jeremy Bishop

There's water at the beginning
and water at the end
and water all over the middle

Spirit brooding over the deep
a rush from the Rock
precursor to wine
hushing the waves
Red Sea at attention
floodfloodfloodflood
strolling the waves
streams in the desert
rivers from the Throne

If we could recognize
the One who meets us
at all our broken-down cisterns
we would realize
that true life is a frolic
at the center of
a Forever Fountain

 

The Confrontational Creator {ex14:16-17}

Photo © shutterstock.com/Melnik

Photo © shutterstock.com/Melnik

The problem with sin is that we
want to have our cake
and eat it too,
just like Pharaoh,
who wanted to have his slaves
and free them too.

But not to decide
is to decide,
and not to give in
is to remain stubborn

and that has an effect.

We all think
/or want to believe/
that no matter
what we choose
we automatically
revert back to
this neutral default place
after each decision,
that our choices
don't have any lasting
consequences.

But that's ridiculous.

If you've lived in darkness
your entire life
and someone suddenly
turns on a light
you are no longer a person
who has only known darkness.

You cannot return
to saying that you do not know
what light looks like.
You may say it still,
all right,
but in your heart
you know it's not true

and that has an effect.

God is the Light of the World,
that Great Confronter who
scouts out
runs down
and passionately pursues
His darkness-dwelling
children.

He would not dream
of letting you remain
forever in your darkness.
He knows nothing of
live and let live,
has no hands-off policy,
and is generally unaccommodating.

He does not prefer to avoid confrontation.

As surely as He lives,
you live,
and as surely as He lives,
you will experience Him.

And when you do,
you cannot return
to saying that you have never
experienced Him.
You may say it still,
all right,
but in your heart
you will know it's not true

and that will have an effect.

And if you persist
in ignoring or avoiding reality
for long enough
you may just find yourself
in a chariot
at the edge of the sea,
unable to bat an eyelash
at the rising walls of water,
unable to wonder how or why the briny deep
is drawing back to reveal dry ground,
unable to think twice
before rushing headlong
into the foregone destruction
of a hardened heart.

 

A Rondel on Boys Who Weren't Necessarily Bad {ex12:13}

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For where there was no blood on the post,
the Angel brought heartbreak deep in the night.
Those oldest boys may have been perfectly upright;
no wickedness in them had been diagnosed,

no judgment that they were, to evil, a host,
but doomed even if they were kind and polite.
For where there was no blood on the post,
the Angel brought heartbreak deep in the night.

Even a Hebrew who thought smeared blood the most
distasteful and gruesome of any known sight,
who neglected to paint the jambs crimson-bright
would suddenly find his own firstborn a ghost,
for where there was no blood on the post…

 

Rondel: a French form consisting of 13 lines—two quatrains and a quintet—with a rhyme scheme of ABba abAB abbaA (the capital letters are the refrains, or repeats).

When the Heart Becomes a Black Hole {ex11}

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

by the time
God announced
the plague
on the firstborn
for the /second/ time
didn't Pharaoh know
God could and
would
do exactly
what He said

after the
blood
frogs
gnats
flies
dead livestock
boils
hail
locusts and
darkness
was there anything left
more dark
than Pharaoh's heart

how dark does it have to get
to not understand
that your opponent
controls
the very elements

-all of them-

didn't Pharaoh know
that if God said
his son was going to die
he would /in fact/
be planning a funeral
if he didn't
change course

why wouldn't you change course

in ancient egypt
the only person more important
than the firstborn son of the Pharaoh
was Pharaoh himself

why wouldn't you change course

is there anything
in this world
more powerful
than the human heart

is there anything
more capable
of being more implacable
than the heart
bent on rebellion

is there anything
more wild and dangerous
than the freedom to choose
and the power
it imparts

the power to
so harden ourselves
to truth
that /in the end/
we could sacrifice
what is most important
to us

and be ourselves
swallowed up by
allconsuming
darkness

 

Ruined {ex10:7}

Photo © Unsplash/Thu Trang Nguyen Tran

Photo © Unsplash/Thu Trang Nguyen Tran

The question Egypt's officials
put to their king
haunts me

How was he so blind
or so stubborn
or so arrogant
that he didn't see how
everything he loved
was slowly crumbling around him

Or did he see

Maybe the problem wasn't
that he didn't know
but that he did

Maybe the problem wasn't
that he thought he wasn't ruined
but knew he was
and thought there was
still a chance

still a way
he could fix it

One more opportunity
one more try
one more day
to start over
to redouble his efforts
to get it right

Maybe the problem wasn't that Pharaoh
didn't know Egypt was ruined
but that he still believed
he could repair the damage

But there is only
One
who can restore

There is only
One
who can rebuild

There is only
One
who can recover
all that has been lost

and it’s not us—

To be ruined
is not the problem

The problem is
we no more want to obey
than Pharaoh did
those two little words
God spoke:

Let. Go.

 

All Hail {ex9:23}

Photo © Brian Gary

Photo © Brian Gary

A monstrous storm of hail
fell
such as Egypt had never seen before
and hasn’t seen since.

It smashed trees.
It smashed crops.
It smashed people and flocks.
It smashed everything it touched.

But the one thing it didn’t smash
was Pharaoh's implacable heart,
that dense little rock
beating in his chest.

God could undo Egypt,
but He couldn’t undo the king.

All hail the power
we’ve been given
to fortify or destroy
our own personal dynasties.

 

Blood and Water {ex7:20}

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I love this river
I have stood on its banks
frolicked in its swell
almost been swept away by its current

But
I won't soon forget
the moment I met You
and I realized
that the mouthful of
—what I thought was—
clear, cold, refreshing water
was nothing more than
coppery, hot, metallic blood

I'd like to say
that since that moment
I've never cupped my hands again
to draw this putrid liquid
up to my mouth
but You know
that personal Niles are hard to abandon

I've been kneeling
at this river
my whole life
and You know just how
deep a canyon
it has carved in my heart

Still You couldn't bear
to leave me here
fervid and thirsty
never having tasted
Water from the Fountain
that will never
run dry

 

Name Game {ex6:3}

Photo © Unsplash/Kyle Glenn

Photo © Unsplash/Kyle Glenn

God revealed himself
to Moses
by a different name
than he had used
with Abraham
and Isaac
and Jacob.

An infinite God
with infinite names,
never failing
to manifest his presence
to the finite—
those who may resonate
for one reason or another
with a particular
moniker.

 

Good Question {ex5:2}

Photo © Unsplash/Peter Sjo

Photo © Unsplash/Peter Sjo

Ah,
the ineludible question
of every person
wise or foolish

(for the Lord does not refrain
from entering uninvited
the lives of idolaters
to introduce
Himself).

Asking the question
indicates neither
wisdom
nor
folly.

But how one responds
to the answer
reveals
a fool
or
a genius.

Once we know
the sun
the River
the frogs
et al
are frauds,
will we
relent
or
will we
refuse?

Who is the Lord that i should listen to him?
said pharaoh, the little transient ruler of egypt.

I'm so glad you asked
replied Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

 

Consume Me {ex3:2}

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The burning bush
was burning
but it was not.

Burning,
but not burning up
or burning down
or burning out.

Just burning.
A vessel
not too imperfect
to hold
Perfection.

Perhaps I could be
such a vessel.
One you burn, but don't burn up.
One you wear, but don't wear out.
One you break, but don't break down.

Consume me.
Engulf me.
Overwhelm me.

Do whatever it takes.
Enshrine your Perfection in me.
Use me
to get the attention
of your prophets
and priests.

I am just a simple shrub
ready to burn.