The Ridge

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I

I went out tonight after church-choir

And was alone in the company

Of Wilder-ness and our Maker.

Out, off of the beaten paths below

Out of the reach of well-worn worries.

II

I was on the Ridge with the darkness,

Looking out from the top of the world,

Out, over the valley, and into the city—

Lights tracing below, stars unmoved above,

And the cadence of katydids surrounding:

III

Theirs a vivescent hum,

A pitching, droning, a drumming.

The air inhales and out again.

As Life sounds, and smells

Tangibly, overwhelmingly, here.

IV

“Who?” begs the bard or Socratic,

His lone voice undrowned in chorus.

Yet soloist meets accompaniment—

Amidst the uncut undergrowth

As the breezes rush and…

V

Again try breathing praise.

And my collar was grabbed

As a Northward gust

Met a Southerner from the West.

Moved, yet, I am unmoving now,

VI

Considering man, Unmindful.

Watching planes ever so aimlessly

Etch their ways in every-which-way,

Just as we all do on summer days—

Making distance from Home,

VII

And all the Who’s housed there.

I am a mile from my house

Or my parents’, but Home?

How’s Home-land ever been

Less our Fathers worked it?

VIII

Yet we move on, often far off—

Searching for places

That cultivate Ridge-like moments

And life goes on;

Fast and –er, and –est.

IX
Train whistles and rubber to asphalt

Interrupt. Or compliment?

From this Vantage, sound travels

Manmade breaks into the natural ambience.

Motors make noise—

— 

X

Trails diverge, hapless,

Into yellowing woods.

People like leaves wrinkle with age,

Which of these leave

With legacies saved?

XI

Yet I listen,

Amidst grand motion,

Swept, and incapable of leaving

Heaven leans down here,

And must carry me away.

XII

Impressive Footprints

In the hourglass sand.

When shrugging at the years’ retreat,

Destiny becomes a dance,

Set to Solomon’s songs.

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Mar Bella

O, that a single smile of yours was mine per se,

To house, to shine, through my darkest of days.

Or a tear of your joy could keep safe here within

All the paper ships my dreams could ever whim.

You are together siren and muse and nymph.

Your voice gathers to sink, recover, and tempt.

By your words I lie full, tossed at your waves.

Grasping the tide, tide breath that we save.

Yet not a shell, you or I, to have and to hold,

But a soul, ere a mind, ungrasped and yet whole.

So as life slips our sand and our houses thus fail,

Let’s lose how time winds and adjusting share sails.

Maturishly

We all learn meanness in elementary school, we get good at it in middle school, and perfect the art by high school. Only a select few forget their meanness through college. Thus, growing up is a hardening for most, like the bark on some old tree, impervious. Each day being told by someone to hate someone else, sometimes yourself.

In the midst of this we love to see authority knocked down. Our heroes are merely likable villains. Our rebels needn’t cause to be relevant. Immaturity is lauded as a sign of “being in touch with the inner child”. When boys and girls never grow up, they behave like children. We live in a modern day Lilliputia. Swift’s vision of a strong man being held down by the wills of the short-sighted could not ring truer. Hating the status quo is the highest sign of adolescence.

In relationships we are mean to be hurtful because it is the easiest way to feel the power of words and actions. Our best attempt to grasp at and control our budding, confused personalities. As if we must grasp anger before acceptance, pain before pleasure, and fear before love. In the truest sense, these dichotomies exist, even down to good and evil—God and not God— so that we can grow and learn.

We, like Adam and Eve, are not left naked and alone in the Garden, scratching our heads until we figure out what death is through experience. God showed us death by the example of a sacrifice and he has done the same with life. When I was a child, I was all a child is, but Jesus calls me up to manhood.

Drown Me Out in Whispers

The testimony of God’s faithfulness, Tuesday, spoken by a mother bereaved of her newborn, was still ringing in my ears this morning as I was reminded of a friend’s mother in town yesterday for cancer treatments, a fraternity brother whose kid brother is battling the same disease, and of friends less “lucky”, burying their hopes for healing much like a lifeless child. In such anguished moments, “why” seems the only appropriate response to pain that I am sure, at our best, we wish we could share, even bare. Our last possible reaction would be to rejoice. Rejoice? Rejoice that Christ suffered far greater to free us from this broken place and, as a seal of salvation, He grants His Spirit, called “Comforter”. Heaven chose to come close, and if we hush our natural, our sinful knee-jerk of “How could you God?”, we can hear the Father of Love whisper, “My grace is sufficient, my power is made perfect in your weakness”. Through a relationship with Jesus, we find that the darkest moments of this life are but labor-pains, excruciating no doubt, yet matchlessly worthwhile in light of our coming births into a world where death and all of its trappings are truly no more. God, speed that day, your Word our path, your peace our salve along the way.

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One role of the Holy Spirit is to illuminate scripture,

All of these passages have been in my life the past couple days:

Psalm 46

Romans 5:1-11

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

James 1:2-4

The title above (Drown Me Out in Whispers) is the name of a song I’m writing through.

Here’s the Chorus:

Can I get a shout in here?

To break this quiet, crying in me

Can get the feeling You’re near

Your voice, speaking up, beside me

Can I get a calm in me

Because I can’t help but feeling

In this moment,

I’m only emptiness

 [pause]

Drown me out in whispers

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Vanity Fair

Social media has trained me to watch and quantify the approval of others more than I would like to admit. Even my ten-year-old kid sister incessantly asks how many “likes” a picture of her has received on Instagram. The nature of humankind is to worship and, in a perverted form, to desire worship. With a bit in the mouth of the Internet we have not only economized the achievement of both, and now conveniently sized our modernly-façaded molechs to fit into my pocket.

I feel we are all actors on a grand stage, only that some of us are better paid. I scribbled down the poem below in the midst of a public speaking tournament several years back and just recently dug it out of a coat pocket.

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Wither, whence,

And wanting

More. And hence

The haunting

Whore I am,

As I am

Selling will for

Little when

I know full well

The worth of time,

The cost of life,

Yet give it up

To mask my eyes.

For what? My cause:

The harlot called Applause

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Written 2010, Edited 6.17.13

Gaining Wisdom

All of those well-armored excuses that have kept me from writing have dissolved. In having my wisdom teeth out I have been forced into repose. Slowing down has been a fear of mine for as long as I can remember— like any child I always dreaded naps or days whiled away in sickness— and yet I never caught the absurdity in my finding contentment by ebbing hours to a box full of stories garnished with dancing lights. I’ve slept for the better part of the last four days and laid plenty of time on the altar of what is now a thinner, wider box. But I guess losing time has gotten easier over these short years. I recall the “bedtimes” of my childhood, riddled with a cocktail of anger and some twinge of wonton emptiness felt, climbing the stairs away from loved-ones, fearing what I would miss while absent, dreading that I would die alone in my sleep and never taste all the joys pent up in tomorrows.

A move away from my father’s hometown followed abruptly my Grandmother’s passing shut me up as a scared little boy on the edge of awaiting manhood. Christ intercepted me there. When I had reached my wit’s end, I found life’s beginning. My Savior extroverted me and with a newfound voice, I continued arguing until he taught me love, then loved others to a point of idolatry. I learned to be busy again and to keep plenty of acquaintances who could know me just enough to admire me, but not enough to call out my sin. Selfishness is the root of indulgence. I am so thankful for those who saw through the prior and called me out on the latter. By the time I graduated high school, I had an idea of who I wasn’t. By the end of the summer, I met a renaissance of letting God run things, but a move back to Knoxville, land of my forefathers, forgot progress soon. I realize that I spent my freshman year of college attempting to quicken my pace. To run from simple truths. In horsemanship, a trot is faster than pacing, but why not a canter? Break out a full on gallop and continue until something can’t. Most of my life has been a series of races against shadows, with odds I don’t want to own up to and spectators I can’t dare acknowledge. Strange how in tripping, my strength exhausted, I somehow end up in Heaven’s merciful embrace.

I remember the poem “Invictus” and that Lucifer, in an effort of evolutionary, forward motion, claimed to be the master of his own fate too, and with his declaration, earned a ticket out of paradise. Here I sit, I can do none other, immobilized passed the walls of my parents house, learning to be content in resting, the same as in “going” because God is God and I am where He supposed I should be.

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6.15.13

Of Honkytonk and Homeward Bonds

95.5, 97.9, 103.3—look like a sequence of numbers. Even if you knew they are radio stations, that’s a has-been, outmoded, dying breed of communication (right?) like a flip-phone in a sea of “smart”. Yet, I find, other than the people who make “the 615” home, I miss those three stations more than anything else. Sure, when imagining the nostalgic quilt of my hometown experience, I must acknowledge there are squares for The Perch and Mazatlan, for worship at Brentwood Baptist and Brentwood United Methodist, representing frequently haunts, Ravenwood High and the YMCA, piecemealing together the rolling Greenhills where the Bluebird sings, quaint streets of Downtown Franklin, and every well-worn, uncanny nook in between, but I realize the thread that ties it all together— like the roads, ribbon-binding the suburbs and country-side, is the music that has accompanied me from each to each. Any car felt like mine because of the trap-set heartbeat and guitar strings intangibly holding me in the seat better than the belt crossing my chest. Driving to Knoxville yesterday, as each station fizzled out of the airwaves, I felt a little bit of Nashville slip away. However, by finding new channels, I was able to bring a couple chords back. I think what I’ve hit on is bigger than the radio: Country Music, and its embracing God, Country, and Family, combined with a Southern sentiment for tradition, ties many “Gypsy souls” back to their hometowns. My soon-to-be-Marine roommate says it’s a lifeline back to his Savannah, Tennessee roots and this deep connection will grow as he’s shipped the world over. So, whether played in the weary hours of after-midnight, in my parents’ backyard, under a privately shared view of the stars, cruised to in cars on city streets across the states, or reminisced over in some desert field, the ocean away, each note rings true and resonates with something certainly American, but more rudimentarily, free.

Written 5.6.13