What church work feels like

There are  people who are tired of eating mush every day. They are weary and have been rejected and desperately in need of sweetness and flavor and good news.

So you learn how to make cookies where there were none.

And a bunch of people love it and say, I never knew these flavors existed! I’m alive! 

But then some other people say,

I’m hurt, why did you make cookies, you should have made chicken! Cookies are wrong, you’ve neglected all of us.

So you make chicken and some people say, about time! Thank you!

But other people say, how dare you! I can’t believe you didn’t consider us bird lovers! Here you go again always being the source of pain and division.

So you make some salad and some folks are glad and happy. One even sends you your first ever email thanking you for spending so much time getting paid poorly and not having any benefits and for taking the time to make food for people who had none.

But then a blog gets written, and it’s all about the fact that the salad wasn’t fully organic. 

You respond by saying actually, it was organic and we said that last week during announcements. 

It didn’t seem to matter, as a campaign gets started with the hashtag #keepchurchorganic. Lots of people who’ve never had your salad or who were there when you woke up early to pick the lettuce and clean it before anyone showed up start posting about how you’ve hurt them. Some people are hurt and tell you you’re wrong and can’t believe you’ve never made chicken or cookies. 

So you go to your co-pastor and vent about how much it sucks that people get the story wrong, assume the worst about you, project their pain and brokenness onto you, have expectations of you that you can’t meet, consistently let you down and flake on things they said they would do, tell you that you’re the problem, tell you how to do your job, make things up about you, expect lots from the your work but don’t want to pay for it and when you do mention that food costs money they accuse you of being greedy and corrupt, take your words and twist them, use you, cant seem to see the good in your work, take advantage of your time and heart, expect you  to have food ready at all hours of the day and night, expect you to answer for every person who made food ever, don’t respect your family or personal lives, and make you a caricature to air their all grievances onto.

And your copastor says with divine and supernatural compassion and sincere eyes, yeah those people are so broken and in pain some one should make them a cookie

And you go and make the most holy and sacred and delicious cookies you’ve ever made.

As you share them with your friends, and you too taste the chocolate chip good news and the words “take and eat, this is my body broken for you” seem to come up from within and without your soul. You remember the times you complained about steak, grilled cheese, and sea food- how those foods were all wrong.

You take another bite of the gooey goodness and a melted chocolate chip runs down into your beard.

And then you sing together some songs that your co pastor leads. And you cry, out of gratitude for getting to know so many wonderful people who let you into their pain that is also your pain. 

And You rejoice with praise and exclaim, That’s one God-dammed delicious cookie!

The Melody

The human song is a kaleidoscope of harmonies

Blinding bright

Fallen and triumphant

And only resonant in the choral room where no one is left out

A response to open eyes and to creation’s cry

Love and its adoration is all there is in the end

And so we build and destroy

Give birth and take life

And only the poets can even come close

To telling lies that point to the truth

Because there are no words

No symbolic utterances

That can capture the dimension from which our harmonies emerge

The source behind the longing

The ripple from before eternity

The hanging note humming within all

Love and its adoration from beginning to end

What was it?

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Was it the taps of fermented barely in the lobby?
Or the artsy-theater aesthetic
Maybe it was the apologetic and all-inclusive welcome video
Set to scenes of the town and magnetic melodies of mercy

Was it the organic and inspired narrative?
An identity of roots deep and branches wide
Perch, shade, and grace for the hurting and rejected
A holy family of heretics, queers, addicts, and even clergy

Was it the deconstructed and unorthodox poly-doxy?
Relationally centered on a strange old story of divine embodiment
Or maybe it was the randomly perfect group of people gathered
Eclectic, messy, and sacredly sincere

Maybe it was the willingness to follow the questions?
To challenge the norm and live in the tension
Learning to find home in the unfamiliar wilderness
Finding that the Something Beyond was there all along

Was it the fragrance of justice and generosity?
Monthly gifts to the good-seeking from outside our tribe and within
Or maybe the salvaged tires from a forgotten creek
A water table made slightly more Eden than Gehenna

What exactly was it that made this place so blessed?
Which one of these accidental saints can take credit?
Who orchestrated this symphony of souls
Out of tune in the most harmonious and heavenly of ways?

Father

Few words carry as much weight
To some, warm feelings of affection and gratitude
Tender memories of playing catch & life lessons you never knew you needed
To others, affliction and longing
A relationship you never had, or one that you wish you could erase

It’s a mantle too heavy to carry alone
A yoke that can’t fully be lifted
Protection, provision, direction – ‘manliness’
All convoluted expectations from within and from without a culture that doesn’t know father

We imagine Mufasa, Atticus Finch, Sandy Cohen, or God himself
But we get humans figuring it out
A flawed fraternity
A cocktail of testosterone and benevolence

So our unmet images manifest mocking caricatures
The Homer Simpsons, Peter Griffins, the Al Bundy,’s
Some deserving, some not.

But inspiration is always more transformative than critique
Aspiration more valuable than defeat
Hope victorious over all that’s bleak

So this Father’s Day we proclaim
To the fatherless
or father wounded
To the father-rich
or father-called

Let us honor the pain of all those limping
AND reverently cherish the love of all those who carry the title

To all those who father
Thank you, don’t give up or give in
Keep loving with fierce tenderness in a way that reflects one of the Divine’s faces

Because fatherhood is a holy order
Not for the faint of heart
But open to all willing to walk the path of love on behalf and alongside emerging souls
That they would know the love of an Abba

—-

Opening Day

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Breaking clouds, Spring’s warmth
A resurrection aroma in cut grass
Memories and highlight reels yet to become
Another year and hope invites to lean in

Rosters set, scorecards blank
A book of life with stories to be written
Caps on hearts and calls to worship
Familiar hymns of stars and stripes

It’s a grace to hear those words once more
After the slumber of Winter’s tomb
Like a newborn’s song, “Play ball, He is risen”
An euangelion proclamation at first pitch

Like a ripened fruit or hanging punchline
Anticipation and promise are everywhere
In each cracked bat and triumphal entry
Hosannah, Holy Toledo, Hallelujah!

Caught in the Divine rhythms and seasons
Opening day points towards our destiny
This pastime will surpass our lifetimes
Until at last we sing the anthem in Heaven’s sandlot

Let in

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I didn’t know why I started to cry
It was mile 2 on the skyline trails
The cold before the atmospheric river
And the dam burst

The weight of a thousand rejections
Tears of finally being seen and loved
Souls who’ve been told they were abominations
Now cherished and free

That was yesterday
When I held a microphone, mostly just trying to make sense
Sharing a heart as flawed as any
And a hope –  blurry but bright
Stories of acceptance and embrace and a Love beyond love
All to a church of randoms becoming family
In a dark graffiti adorned pub theater

When it was over
Two hugs turned to three and four
Salty soaked eyes, torrents from the the heart
All of it sacred and holy

What a privileged
What an honor
To bear witness to a healing soul
It’s too much for me to hold

And so in the middle of mile 2
My eyes broke from the status quo
And it came out

Gratitude for being let in
Let in to the divine work in the midst of our mess
My mess

This poem was written the day after our church talked about it’s inclusive love for all regardless of gender or orientation. 

Here

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We live at the epic-enter
Patient zero in consumption’s AI revolution
Where excessive capital and extreme poverty
Dot the skylines and fill the gutters
The bookends of our taxonomy
Homo-Sapien, the wise-ape
Here all of our contradictions are undressed

Beauty and depravity
Within each symbiotic breath
In and out, out and in
The foggy, salty air of this place
Love’s holy name on our lips

Here
Where golden hills cradle
Piercing glass
Protected waters
And the first-fruits of the connected age

This place is where each new flashy screen is imagined and monetized
Follow the algorithms upstream and you’ll find it
The source of our great epidemic

Bent necks and drained adrenal glands
The pursuit of the digital novelty
Hearts, clicks, and likes
Behind each one a desperate search for meaning and identity
“Can anyone see me, do I matter?
A prayer of all history and all hearts

The bay and the redwoods paint a mirage of wholeness
But the bridges and the lights are not the promised land
Ones and zeros are not our home
Curated profiles are but empty calories

There was a time before our madness when we,
The we we’ve erased by destiny manifest,
Lived in melodic harmony with these lush shores
Like a nursing newborn and her mother’s magic

The seasons
Rain and dry`
Were our agenda

The neighborhood
Brother oak and sister marsh
Was our network

But those days are long gone

Now it’s the hum and hurry
Legions of the earbuded and laptop hooked
Avoiding the suffering and squalor below
Spinning the endless wheels of educations debt and technology’s promise

From dawn to dusk we fight and climb
Ignoring the depths of reality within

This place is stunning and stark
And if you’re not careful its spell will always entice
The promise of boom
In endless veins of gold and silicone

This is home
It’s all here
The bookends of humanity

Salvation is here too
And like the keys you lost but were in your hand the whole time
It’s right here

Breathe it in
Notice it
Let it out

Because we are patient zero
An epicenter of life
A contagion of love
An ocean of grace
Here

This is the gold rush beyond
The transcendent burst behind the bubble
The novelty that can’t be grammed or tagged
The promised land is here
Within