For Dark Anger Burning

Rains pelts the roof like small needles. Cold rain, bitter rain falling from smoke red clouds that reflect the lights from the grade school across the street. Monday comes too soon, and children will fill the school’s halls. Maybe, a bit more somber, heads checking the corners for danger. But tonight, it rains. I’m glad the rain is here, doesn’t seem fitting for a starry sky plastered with small bits of light. Not after Friday. Rain, the weather of sadness, of anger, of helplessness.

Photography by Mark Askins

Sweet Jesus, I’m angry, burned up on the inside with white hot rage, my heart leaks out through my eyes again.

I can’t understand or process these violent acts any more. Since the little ones at Sandy Hook Elementary were murdered, everything feels like a walking paradox. I’m angry one minute, yelling at the news media assholes for cornering terrified children for interviews. The next minute, I’m deep in Christmas planning and organizing, sending out lists for last minute gifts.

Happy for a moment which feels wrong and good all at the same time. My fists clenched for a fight brewing  and open to hold those who are dearest to me. Bones creak, and I don’t complain. All should be well, but it isn’t. Here I am safe at home, two dogs nuzzled under my arms, and I curse the unjustness.

Right now, I’m caught somewhere between fuck and shit and anger melts down into new weariness. I watch the voices on Twitter and Facebook rage for anything, anything to change. I’m angry. I’m angry at the NRA for pushing its fear-mongering “out of my cold hands” mentality. No one can tell me that an armed elementary teacher would have made the situation better. It wouldn’t.

And I’m angry at the voices crying for all firearms to be gathered, hauled away somewhere, interpreting the 2nd amendment to only muskets, or outdated fodder to prevent the red coats from coming. This simply fuels the other side’s fear and escalates the rage and breaking down of discourse. Stalemates only breed resentment and inaction. Worse still, they breed fear. I can’t take any more fear, any more  doomsday predictions, any more if we could only have bullshit. I’m done.

While everyone debates and grieves and mourns, I try to look toward the future, a new teaching job.

College English, three courses, everything I know how to do and trained so long for. For awhile, the pure elation of being back in the classroom again filled every part of me. But this was before Friday. Now, I’m terrified.  The choking what if’s sneak up, and there is a twinge of fear too. A classroom, students, what I have been waiting for these long two years poisoned by the if it happened in Sandy Hook, what’s to stop it happening at my new job? Right now, nothing makes the fear go away. It’s ever present part of entering the classroom again.

I look for some bit of peace or hope or joy this Advent, but right now, I’m only seeing fear and anger and rage. All boiling up and over…

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel. 

The rain keeps falling, softer now. Cold and bitter, the lights from the elementary school glow up on the clouds. A light in the darkness, an echo of the peace that we long for.


Mary, Mother

world glows from

behind white twinkle lights.

snow doesn’t fall until

just after christmas.


even the lights make do

with the damp, the south.

we’ve never lived

in a perfect currier&ives land

just this place

of yellow dried grass

and brown-bare evergreens.


mary didn’t live

amongst the satin-silked.

perhaps, the stable

wasn’t her perfect delivery room–

it wouldn’t be mine–

yet, when time and need

collided and said:


perfect was asked

to leave.

Waiting for Advent

Every December, Christians mark their new year through the celebration of advent. Advent, a new beginning for both the church and ourselves. May we consider this time of waiting, a time of peace and renewal, a time of reflection upon the past year. This month, I’m focusing my poetry on beginnings, this season of Advent, and quiet.

waiting for advent

morning  smells


earth sighs in fog

rising from grass to sky.

nothing like the christmas cards

snow drifting across paths

meant for sleighs

(that no one drives anymore).

sweat beads up under hair

sun sweats us raw

for this christmas parade.

plastic manager and mary

ride next to a boombox.


A Christmas Poem: Repost

Starry Night Sky!photo © 2009 K.Hurley | more info (via: Wylio)


Blurring the lines
Of chaotic turmoil
And the quiet places.

Whispering in the cold
Speaking peace
To an empty full sky.

Awakening brilliance shines
Glory steps out
Upon the stars.

Murmurings of yore
Shouting the secrets,
Answered in a moment.

Freezing steps
Hastening to see
Divine mingled humanness.

Breathing in
Manure scented

Fusing together
Worlds of man
And the presence of Grace.

Celebrating a Non-Perfect Christmas

Some days are heart heavy, laden with overwhelming stress. Others, sneak up softly from behind and embrace us with a warm hug, a bit of grace in the calendar of hard times. During this holiday season, the days of subtle grace feel fewer and more spread out. Expectations never quite satisfied leaves with us a salty after taste usually from our tears. We can’t do it all. But we won’t admit it. We allow the mistress of perfectionism to whip us into submission, and she is a bitch of an overload. Yet, we listen to her commands, obey, and loathe ourselves for our failures.

We believe the lie of perfect.

Maybe, it’s just me, but this year, I’m not really into the whole Christmas spirit. I tried. Our Christmas tree, real and smelling of the deep mountain woods, decorated with Hallmark ornaments looked beautiful. Until the its lopsided weight cause it to tumbled down several times. Ornaments broken and another tarnish on a potentially perfect Christmas. Stocking hung by the fireplace, and Christmas lists filled out and delivered to Santa and Grandma and aunts and uncles. Slowly, they complain that the gifts desires cost too much, and Christmas gifts become a competition for children’s affection, the favorite present, the best gift. Another blotch on a perfect Christmas.

But the first Christmas wasn’t perfect either.

But we place such a great weight upon ourselves for a perfect Christmas–perfect tree, perfect Christmas presents, perfect cookies. We choke on our perfect while Christ offers us a respite from our striving. Why do we believe ours should be perfect? Jesus born in a stable, hunted by Herod, and spending his early years in a foreign land. The first Christmas didn’t need to be picture perfect postcard of holiday cheer. It simply needed to take place. And we simply need to remember and celebrate.

Where does your Christ come from?

merry christmasphoto © 2007 David Lienhard | more info (via: Wylio)

During the week of Christmas, I begin pulling away from the twinkle lights, malls full of shoppers, pictures with Santa, just to remember why I celebrate Christmas. To revel in the cast of characters—shepherds, Mary, Joseph, the Magi, and Jesus—to sit in the stillness of morning remembering the joy, the peace of who Christ was in that moment. Like Margery Kempe in Medieval literature, I find it healing to insert myself into the Nativity to wrap myself in the comforting narrative of the birth of Christ. Particularly, the story of Mary—I love her words after the angel spoke to her, but each Christmas, I am deeply ashamed of how the evangelical church makes her a secondary, minor role in the whole Christmas narrative.

But the evangelical church has tried for years to downplay the role of Mary. How else could the church view women as non-persons, silence women’s collective voices, and extinguish the passion of the women in church. Perhaps, the men of the church felt excluded from the Christmas narrative, sensing a shift in power away from them. This power had to be regained. So, Christmas focuses on the masculine narratives—the shepherds, Gabriel, Joseph, and Christ. Mary is praised for her humility, her silence, her obedience. Never praised for her part in the salvation narrative, forgotten after the second chapters of the gospels.

Thus, men regained their position of power through downplaying the role of Mary. So much so that these same men of the church denied women rights based upon the gender of Christ—Christ is a man, thus, you women can’t have the same status, rights as men. But I marvel in the wisdom of Sojourner Truth in her speech “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

Yes, Christ didn’t come to give us power over each other, to deny one set of people basic human rights, to set up hierarchies in the church, but to rescue us from all these preconceived notions of power, to save us from our sins, essentially to remove us from our self-destructive ways. This is the miracle of Christmas.


First Advent and first candle is litphoto © 2007 Per Ola Wiberg | more info (via: Wylio)


Yesterday began the season of Advent. We celebrated like so many other churches the gift of hope. Hope in the promised Messiah, hope in the future of the church, hope for new beginnings, HOPE.

I don’t always understand hope.

I can begin to grasp faith and love, putting these two abstract concepts into very real applications. But hope, I am not sure how it can escape its abstract nature. Sometimes, hope feels more like something we cling to when life becomes too harsh–almost an escape mechanism for reality.

Yet in some ways, hope binds faith and love together. The only practical application of hope must be through faith and love. Maybe, when we see the interconnectedness of these three advent gifts do we gain a small glimpse into the divine. That gives us a reason to hope.

Question: How do you understand hope?