I’m terrified to write. And here’s why.

Words.

You’d think after years as a poet and a student of journalism and literature and creative writing and a newspaper columnist and freelance writer with three novels under my belt and a fourth in the editing phase, I’d be comfortable with words.

But today, I’m terrified.

Like most of you, I’ve been watching the news and the soundbites cross my social media feeds for the last week. I’ve seen friends curse worse than sailors and announce that they refuse-from-here-on-out to be friends with anyone who voted differently than they did. I saw a mother pack a suitcase for her grade school age son and kick him out of the house as he stood screaming in terror. I saw people threatening to kill police and throw rocks at them in the streets of my home town. And I saw the late night comedian sing a pop hymn through tears, and the voices of twitter and Facebook rose like an off-key choir and their collective

hallelujah

finally broke me.

Because like so many of the words filling our feeds and ears and minds this past week, their

hallelujah

is empty. A pop star dies. The media lassos his song and uses the word

hallelujah.

Redefines the word

hallelujah.

Distorts the word

hallelujah.

And the people believe they are saved by a pop song and a comedian pretending to be a candidate they thought could save them, alongside another comedian pretending to be a candidate half of the rest of the country thought could save them.

Hallelujah

is defined by Merriam-Webster–never mind the Bible–as a word used to express praise, joy, or thanks, especially to God.

HALLELUJAH

the people sing, and God,

well,

–can I have a witness here?–

I believe He weeps. I believe He looks out over humanity beating the emotional (and sometimes physical) crap out of each other in this land of milk and honey the same way Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and wept. Because the current and resounding

hallelujah

is empty, just like the words we sling at each other because we fail to see the face of the Creator in our enemies, in our neighbors, and even our friends. So yeah, I’m terrified of words right nowbecause a whole lot of people are saying a whole lot of things and nobody knows what any of it means anymore.

Love means

hate

and hope means

despair

and peace means

war

and brother means

bigot

and protest means

kill

and I am undone.

Hallelujah.

Can I at least reclaim that word?

Can I at least suggest those nine letters strung together be reserved for my Savior, your Savior, the one Savior, the only Savior, the only hope for any of us, whether we sit at a piano crying or throw stones or burn flags or vote for the wrong candidate, or whether we are simply alive and breathing, because to be alive and breathing is to be a sinner in need of grace?

Back when we actually knew what the words we were saying really meant, some wise soul coined the expression that the good Lord gave us one mouth and two ears for a reason.

Might require pulling out a dictionary, but we’d all be wise to sit and contemplate what that little phrase means for a spell.

There comes a time when a writer has to write, even if she is terrified, because the same words currently tearing us apart could, rearranged, bring us back together.

Words of hope for a hurting world.

That’s been my mission, my calling, for as long as I can remember.

So I’ll keep writing.

But I’ll sure as heck make sure to listen.

And I’ll reserve the right to sing

HALLELUJAH

for the only wise King.

 

The inky truth of grace

The words of the old hymn caught my ear as I fiddled with the church bulletin and struggled to settle in to the Sunday service, mentally, physically and spiritually.

Some Sunday mornings are like that, after all. 

The cross hangs in the front of the sanctuary, and yet my world is spinning around it so fast I can hardly focus on it. So much grief and atrocity, illness and loss,  temptation and the subtle idolatries of daily, suburban survival cloud my mind from the peace and easy yoke my Savior offers.

And that’s just the external concerns of life.

Internally, I struggle with being good enough to deserve God’s redemptive, adoptive, unfathomably unconditional love, let alone write stories about it. 

And yet, as the words of the old hymn poured over my restless doubts, my wandering heart, and my stained and ugly soul,  I realized I’m right where God wants me.

Although God might appreciate a perfect life, He knows firsthand there is no such thing.

And so He chases after the unfettered soul.

He salves the bleeding heart.

He woos the wayward sin-whore.

He runs to the pig-sh**-laden prodigal.

He catches us with His mercy.

He showers us with His grace.

He doesn’t just put white-out over our sins and stains and pain.

He removes them.

He forgets them.

And then He co-authors a new story with us.  

A story no scroll can hold.

A story no ocean of ink can supply.

A story of grace, eternal.

There’s some glory in that, friends, isn’t there? 

Glory! 

*****

“God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins. As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him.”

Psalm 103:9-13 (TMV)

*****  

one thing.

it’s loud out 

there, everyone with a sign, 

a banner, a stage.

all the world is one, after all. 

lost somewhere is 

a Man 

with an embrace for a droopy shoulder

a seat next to him on the bus

a bottle to count every tear

and somehow, armed with only those 

simple things

He still changes the world.

*****