Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sing for Me

But when I stepped up to the microphone, I heard it
It was the voices of the brothers by my side
They were singing out my songs when the song in me had died
- Andrew Peterson, Shine Your Light On Me

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth with declare Your praise.
Psalm 51:15

Sometimes I sing.
Sometimes I sing for others.
Sometimes I need others to sing for me.

My family and I walked into church, late, just as the worship band was finishing the first congregational song. We found open seats near the back of the sanctuary, slipping into them like stealth agents during the opening prayer.

Looking past the crowd to the stage, I was happy to see that a good friend of mine was sitting behind the drum kit. The Sundays when he plays always have an added bonus for me. I enjoy his drumming because I know his heart – I know why he is there on stage. Drums are his voice. The rhythm is his praise to God. And as he and the other band members worship, the rest of us are drawn in to join their song. There is one drum beat, one heartbeat of a community in common.

After the prayer, the band played another song. I looked up to the screen for the lyrics, but I continued to listen to the drums. I marked the skill, and I delighted in the excellence of the music we were making together, echoes of the offering our hearts were lifting to God. Yet even as I became aware of the beauty of such a moment, I also could not help but notice that my heart was largely unaffected by it all. My singing was stale, unmoved; I had not yet noticed the boys standing two rows in front of us.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Soul Simplicity

The soul's dangers are complex:

To listen to circumstances over the heart,

To listen to the heart over community,

To listen to community over God,

To listen to God and not obey,

To obey God and not love,

To love the many over

God alone.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The City Surgery

Look from the high hospital window
Upon a city vast and vaporous
Like its people, car lights coursing
Through street-veins, life
Beating, streaming underneath
The nocturnal orb, bright, steady
Like the light over a surgery table

Nine floors up, nine hours out
Past the noon-day operation
That brought us to this
Window, watching a city to which
We do not exist, ghosts
Like the Spirit that hovers over,
Cutting, stitching, breaking, mending
The never-sleeping Nineveh
Even now. Why should He not care?

Turn to the dim hospital room
This side of the soundless glass
Between us and the city surgery,
My wife alongside the crib, asleep
A moment, before machines
By the bed begin their blinking, beeping,
Signs of life of the little one within:


A fan recently sent me this video he made using my song, Lothlorien. A big thanks to Derek Sawchuk. The song lyrics are posted below.

(For the less nerdy, Lothlorien is a wooded realm of the High Elves in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Thimble of Christ's Sorrow

A thimble of Christ's sorrow
Has in it more joy
Than all the world's oceans
Of ecstasy

Monday, May 13, 2013

Saturday Mornings

Most of my Saturday mornings have been spent down a country dirt road in Salem, AL, outside a little house surrounded by a 30-acre wood. Our house shared that dirt road with the homes of two uncles and our big red barn. At one time, that barn housed chickens, goats, and the horses that my uncles would ride over the wooded landscape. My uncles made trails all throughout the woods for those horse rides, and in the process, they cleared the forest pathways of my childhood. I can roam those trails in my mind still today: through the barn gate, across the iron-grated bridge over the creek, and into the hush of sun-streaked tree tops and neighboring wildlife. I would spend many hours there in solitude, trekking the familiar trails, exploring beyond them as far as I dared.

Sometimes a city friend would come over, and he would want to get up early and take our BB guns out squirrel hunting. We never saw a single squirrel, and that was probably okay with me. The forest was a magical place, more fit for a sword or wizard’s staff than a gun. My dad once made for me a wooden sword and shield to wield on my forest adventures. I couldn’t have been more pleased if I had been Arthur pulling Excalibur from the Stone. The forest was my kingdom, and I its princely protector. I loved the place: every tree of the forest, every babble of the creek that flowed through it, every stone in the creek bed, every blade of grass on creek bank and field, and every warm breeze that bent those blades, blowing past us, whispering mysteries of fleeting childhood.

On the border of my kingdom, my eldest uncle’s house sat, its back to the dirt road. The front of the house faced the forest. Even then, even with my love for the land, this seemed odd to me. Why build your front door facing out of sight, away from the road, as if to shy from its connection to society?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

In Common, To Start With

We share too much, brother,
In common to start with
Differences surrounding
Just one point. For instance:
We are both surely wrong
And right about something.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Despised and Rejected

And He began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Mark 8:31

The two of us sat in the elementary school principal’s office awaiting our doom. Convicted of fighting on the playground, all that remained was our sentencing. It hadn’t been much of a fight. Chris had charged at me, and we wrestled around a bit before our fifth-grade teacher broke us up and led us away like prisoners of war. Silent and motionless, I sat down beside Chris, now wrestling with my guilt. The whole thing was my fault.

Chris was an outsider, a strange and lanky kid who kept a safe distance from grade-school society. He mistrusted us, and for good reason. He spoke in a screechy voice, and whenever he answered a question in class, we erupted in laughter. I think even the teacher had to work at keeping a straight face. Chris was the sad clown of our class. His reality was our greatest fear: being rejected. Chris was alone. 

That day on the playground, I had teased Chris. I wasn’t looking for a fight - I was only fighting to fit in. Though I sat with the cool kids at lunch, I suspected that I wasn’t truly one of them. But I knew I had it better than Chris, and I wanted things to stay that way. So like the others, I teased him. Chris, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less about knocking me off the social ladder. At that moment, all he cared about was knocking me off my feet.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I see me, my future self,
Years ahead, looking back
To my present self throwing
A baseball to my son, and
He catches. My eye
Full of his youth
And craving. My attention
Is elsewhere, probably
Given to some future
Moment, not imagining
That in that future
I will only wish
I am throwing a baseball
With my son right now.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Act of God

Ambushed by the sudden storm, we stop.
We gasp and gaze through our invisible shield,
The car windows nearly busted by
Blow by blow of the battering hail
Stones cast from the darkened heavens
Upon unsuspecting travelers.

"A storm is not like the power of God,"
I recall, "It is the power of God."

Drivers huddled beneath the protective wings of
Gas station canopies find
No more shelter from the side-striking fury
Than those who flash distress signals find
Comfort on the highway's shoulder.

Inside the stranded jalopies and luxuries,
The frightened and the fearless,
The newborn and the weather worn,
The faithful and the faithless,
All helpless in God's storm,
All bend their necks to search the sky for mercy.

God can make snowflakes
As easily as ice rocks.

A reprieve of rain.
The final stone, serendipitous as the first,
Splotches the ice-paved streets.
With new awe and long-held exhales,
We carefully return to the road, now bent,
Dented, and surrounded by
A frightened world of white.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

There Is No Tomorrow

There is no tomorrow
There is no next year
There is no some day
There is no "when"
There is certainly no happiness there
And no sadness, for that matter,
There is no moment
Save this one

Friday, March 1, 2013


Slowly, breathe in,
fill your lungs,
feed your hungry heart,
with air and aches unseen as
God alone.

(Hold it, hidden,
still for a second.
Feel the tension
between the already and
the not-yet.)

Suddenly release
the silent stirring
prayer to God
who hears and sees and knows and is
your life in your breath.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I remember my home -
old roads only roamed
in Spirit-whispered stories
of ages past and yet to come,
now borderless and barren,
skeletons lining the lands
that once flourished like flesh,
young and unspoiled, tender and toiled
as fallow soil, the earth
as it was and will be
in its ancient youth renewed.

Old roads overgrown
with time and longing
for time without longing,
without losing and bruising of hearts
and breaking of bones that ache
for home, can you feel it?

Can you see it? The light
that lessens the weight of waiting
for what is right and out of reach,
the pillared beacon that beckons
the passing brave to believe
that bones, even of those who die in exile,
can be carried along the old roads
to the farm-land of their Father
- and await the harvest

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Last night I met a homeless man named Jesse. He lives under a bridge that I drive right past on my way to work every day. He had wandered, ragged and alone, into the church gymnasium where my son plays basketball. It was before the game, and we were standing in the lobby of the rec center.

Jesse came in from the cold night carrying a thin trash bag, which seemed to contain his few belongings. He sat down in one of the leather-cushioned chairs circled around a coffee table in the center of the lobby. After a moment, he asked in my general direction about the popcorn in the downstairs concession stand. "Do you have to pay for it?"

"I think it's 50 cents a bag," I answered. He nodded and looked down again.

Another moment and he mentioned the popcorn again to someone else who was passing through the lobby. He didn't get much of a response this time, but it struck me that he hadn't dared to ask for the popcorn, even though it was becoming quite clear he wanted some and also quite clear that he had no money. I couldn't help myself. I quietly slipped down the stairs, reappearing a few minutes later with gifts from the concession stand: popcorn and a coke. If Jesse wasn't going to ask, I'd ask for him.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Seeds of Mercy

 A year is a long time in the life of a seed.

In 2012, God led me to begin an organization called Clement Arts. When I say that God "led me," I mean that in the strictest sense - I have no idea what I'm doing. But God has opened the right doors and brought together the right people for His purposes. Today, Clement Arts is an organization that promotes and supports orphan care (specifically adoption) through music and visual arts.

This time last year, I was in the process of recording an album called Earth & Vine, an album which would help break ground for Clement Arts. This time last year, the seeds for Clement Arts were just beginning to be planted. Looking back, it is encouraging to see all that God has accomplished in just one year. Here is an excerpt from my journal, dated January 30, 2012: