portrait of a shrimp boat. a poem.

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bent and weary arms pulled
in tight
against the sides of the
empty hull
waiting for dawn, a new
chance
tides slap the sides
lapping at fear
the boat tips
uncertain night smothers
hope
then
the sun

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“…pray continually…”
I Thessalonians 5:7

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“Your inadequacy presents you with a continual choice–deep dependence on Me or despair.”
~Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

the lie and light of Christmas.

nativity6photo by He Qi

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John 17:18 was my advent reading for the day.

Nothing about shepherd or mangers, angels or the sweetness of a newborn babe.

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“As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18)

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Many–I suspect, perhaps most–during the holiday seasons, cannot escape the tension between the pull of the world, of advertisements, of vignettes of perfect family gatherings, and the pull of our hearts toward truth. And yet, into the world we are thrust, like the emergence of Emmanuel, every cell of our beings recoiling at the cold, wet shock of being. Human.

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Come thou long expected Jesus … 

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Followers of more than evergreens and silver bells are more acutely aware than ever of the discomfort, the lie, in fact, that a season, a single day on the calendar, somehow makes brokenness whole … somehow erases injustice …  somehow requires the downtrodden to return to the taxing origins of their pain.

Stand still and watch the unfolding of glory in the distant fields, knees bent in the mossy grace of our healing, and the scarred are accused of not following the star.

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The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay…

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Understandable, the need of the oblivious to throw stones at those with leaky alabaster jars, those whose incense and myrrh have been long spent. Where else, after all, could they catapult their own pain, but at those whose forms are already bent?

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Long lay the world in sin and error pining…

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Few know that, as John Piper wrote in my advent devotional today, “God makes every dagger a scepter in our hand.”

A scepter for lighting the way for future generations.

A scepter, lit by the original star, in the darkest of nights, to ignite hope once again.

A scepter which must be chosen, and held with fervor, with doubt, with diligence and with fear.

But a scepter which must be held, just the same.

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Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine…

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Divine is the night, indeed, when the morning comes.

At last.

At long, long last.

Modeh Ani. Good morning, indeed.

Each morning–early in the morning–I drive my son to his cross country practices.

And each morning, I’m tempted to go home and go back to bed until his run is finished.

Instead, through what can only be described as supernatural grace, I walk while he and his teammates run.

I walk, as the sun rises over the trails and cornfields and wildflowers.

I walk, as I grumble about the little things in life (like the unexpected failure and subsequent purchase of an entire AC system when it’s 100 degrees in the shade) and wonder where God is.

I walk, as I think about the patients I care for as a nurse, the ones who have bellies being drained from the effects of cancer; the ones whose caregivers sit at the bedside and feed them applesauce when a month before they could handle a nice slab of prime rib; the ones who love it when I wash their hair, massaging their balding heads no one else has touched for weeks.

I walk, as I consider the life-changing week my sons spent caring for “the least of these” on the streets of Chicago, returning to us as young men, hearts on fire for the Kingdom. Hearts bonded with new friends. Hearts bonded with the broken and the Lord.

Here are a few pictures I’ve taken on my walks this week as I consider all these things, blessings, curve balls, love so deep and other-worldly it hurts. And I recite, as my Jewish ancestors* and Jewish brothers and sisters do still today–before they even rise from their beds–the morning Modeh Ani. A prayer to begin the day.

May you acknowledge and feel the merciful restoration of your soul, and the faithfulness of our Great G-d, today, too, dear friends!

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מוֹדֶה (מוֹדָה) אֲנִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ מֶֽלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּים. שֶׁהֶֽחֱזַֽרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמֽוּנָתֶֽךָ׃

Modeh (modah) ani lifanekha melekh ḥai v’kayam sheheḥezarta bi nishmahti b’ḥemlah, rabah emunatekha.

I offer thanks before you, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.

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*Through extensive research I’ve been doing for my second novel (David C. Cook, 2015), I recently discovered that my Grandfather was 100% Jewish, which means I am 1/4 Jewish. My knees are buckled with honor at this truly life-changing discovery.