Saturday, April 27, 2013

Skid Row: City of Angels

Can you tell me
Can you tell me
Can you tell me

When the wind blew,
were you there?

Los Angeles. City of angels. Dirty angels. Broken angels.
Angels pushing shopping carts
Angels shooting up in dark alleys
Angels getting lost in the
of neon signs.

Live nudes. Live Angels.
Open your eyes.

Pastor Johnny cries, "Lord give me an education cuz I'm lackin!"
And in true Skid Row fashion
tells me how he was saved
by a little girl who told him,
"Jesus still loves you,"
as he lay on the curb
outside a church
coming down from last night's high,
doing anything to just get by.

And I started seeing Jesus in the faces
of addicts in the corners
and hard to reach places
avoiding my eyes
souls crying to be loved
and accepted
feet and hands calloused
from years on the street,
hardships, brick walls everywhere they meet,
lacking grace, lacking faith.

Angels with clipped wings
fell to Skid Row
having only enough courage
to find the next dealer
on the corner of San Juan and San Pedro.

My homeless friend Omar says, "Can we pray?"
So the five of us grab one another's hands, push beer bottles out of the way,
stepping over the used needles,
around the blood stained curb,
behind us a man in a wheelchair smokes rock,
a woman yells at us for being on her block,
sirens pierce the night,
police lights shine down the street
and the five of us stand in the alley,
and cry out to God for one another,
for Skid Row.

Blessed are the ears that catch the accents of divine whispering,
and pay no heed to the murmurings of this world. (Thomas Kempis)

I wrote that poem sometime between 2009, when I first visited Skid Row, and 2012.
My heart dwells in the inner city.

If you are in the Phoenix area, I will be performing my poetry at 8th Day Coffee and Culture off 2nd Street and Roosevelt on First Friday, May 3rd. I will be performing sometime between 8 and 11pm, so feel free to come, grab a fair trade coffee, check out the art, and listen to some hope-filled performances. You can click the picture below to check out their website, and be sure to add them on Facebook!
*photos on Skid Row taken by Brandt Russo  

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Prayer of Desperation

"Pray, not out of discipline but out of desperation." -Gary Haugen 

I am no better.
But I think I am healthier.
That doesn't make me more spiritual,
or closer to God.
Maybe it makes me more sick.
Forgive my pride and bitterness.
I can love those in and of the world.
I have a harder time loving my brothers and sisters,
those who claim to see
yet live as if they are blind.
Do I do that, Father?
Forgive me. Forgive me.

Help me to have grace
with others
with myself.
Help me to love when I feel so unloving.
Guide me by your Spirit.
Make me small and weak and humble.
Help me to fully live in each moment.

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." -Jesus of Nazareth 

Life abundantly right not,
in this moment.
Not a distant future,
or somewhere lost in the past,
but life now.
Life fully engulfed by God's Presence,
Help me to see, Lord.
Help me to live fully now.
To not waste time,
To not waste words,
To not waste resources.
To live fully. To be fully alive.

Overwhelm my soul with Your Presence.
Lead me, in every moment,
into deeper unity with Your Spirit, Your life force, Your heart.
Let my heart beat to the rhythm of Yours.
Teach me to dance to that rhythm.
Teach me to believe like a child.
Child-like faith.
Teach me to fall to my knees,
to draw in the sand,
to be less preoccupied,
to laugh more,
to enjoy more.
Feel deeply.
Love deeply.
To move with Your Spirit.
Like the wind.

"The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." -Jesus of Nazareth 

Teach me to be like your mother, Mary,
who treasured up all of these things in her heart.

Teach me to be like Mary Magdalene,
who stood by you,
wept at the cross,
believed Your resurrection when everyone else doubted.

Teach me to be like the one who dropped his stone first
and walked away.

Teach me to be like the child that sat on Your lap when You said,
"to such belongs the kingdom of God..."

Make me foolish enough to enter Your kingdom.
Make me contagious enough
to bring others with me.

Let Your joy and love exude from me.
Let Your fragrance emanate from my pores.
Wrap me in Your scent,
like I've been sleeping
in that shirt
you left at my house.

Let the words from my lips
be intriguing and edifying.
Keep me from speaking words that sting
and take dignity from Your children.

Use my words to build
and disarm
to protect
to provide
to engage
to edify


When the emotional storms rage
and serotonin
and melatonin
and endorphins
and neurons
are confused and dismayed,
keep my straying heart from straying,
stop its betraying.
Put a bridle
on this wild mind and heart.
Rein me in
to hear
the gentle
of Your pulse.
Cradle me on Your chest,
close to Your heart,
so I can feel Your warmth,
and lay all fears aside,
as I recognize
my Daddy.

Abba, Father,
forgive me,
for I know not what I do.

I know only
I once was blind,
and now I see.
Yet sometimes I cover my eyes
and pretend I live in darkness.
Sometimes it seems so much easier
than trying to think black and white,
like the churches teach me,
in this technicolor world.

Father God,
don't let me fool myself into thinking my absolute truths are absolutely true.
Don't let me compromise relationship
for my version of reality.
Don't let me compromise love
for my personal preferences.

Let me be a tree,
full of Your fruit,
roots grounded
in living water,
changing with the seasons,
bending with the Spirit's breeze.