Stones Chosen

Recently I was commissioned to write a poem on one of the Bible’s most enigmatic figures, King David. I was inspired to look into that moment in time when David as a young man chooses stones for his sling to defeat the giant, Goliath. I figured if I could live in that moment with David I could get a good glimpse of what his entire life meant and maybe even get a good glimpse of the meaning of all of our lives. Here is my attempt, entitled Stones Chosen.

Kneeling at the water’s edge

His eyes are filled with searching.

The man child crouches down to find

The giant’s surest ending.

His thought…. It’s in choosing.

Ripples in the quiet stream

Glisten dappled sunbeam worries

Over floating stick, sundry leaves and a

Sudden assortments of prize projectiles.

It’s always in choosing.

The wind whistles through the reeds accusingly,

As sparrows coax choked chirps

And the man child swallows the tart taste of doubts

All of which share the same query

What do you think you’re doing now?

It all about the choosing

Some stones are an afterthought.

Some chosen by mass, others by their merit.

The man child goes for neglected ones

For he knows what it’s like to be forgotten.

Orthoclase feldspar, Rust flex breccia

Sharp edged shale and even darker obsidian

Water laps his digging hands as distant

war drums beat their bitterness

As the giant’s taunts grow with heaviness

As fear flows in waves of weariness

As the tension builds in an army’s reticence

Knowing David’s avarice is limitless

The day feels brittle and pale

It all about the choosing

He sensuously rubs his sight against

one rock’s wet curves and crevices

Even as a youth his eyes

Are drawn to life’s allurement

He moves beyond this enticing pull

Avoiding this trap for later

‘Cause you know it’s in the choosing

Seeing himself within the stream

His hope is in the knowing

of every facial crease, in a furrowed brow

of want, and need and winnowing

But what about the choosing

The brown one smooth,

The grey basalt pale green,

The keen cleft copper one.

The blue beryl rubbed raw,

The hewn angled crag.

He’s choosing stones like he chooses notes on his lyre

He’s choosing stones like he chooses words for his songs

He’s choosing stones like he chooses options

To punch, to pour out or praise

Five stones find themselves next to a sling in the man child’s shepherd’s bag

Such small stones alone they are,

but building blocks for much.

For promises, for family lines

For formation, foundations, for trust.

Alone they are disappointed things,

But together they are of legend.

The hope of a fledgling kith and clan

Of messianic making.

It’s in the choosing

Just a moment of calm… before calamity

A moment of peace for breathing.

A moment where God and his chosen can be.

Before a giant falls, a kingdom collapse, and another in its rising

in response like this water in its stirring.

Soon there will be a sling in hand,

And with it all the whirling.

The spin of humanity and divinity,

The turn of time and temperament,

The spiral of potential and proclivity,

In the rotation of every love and love lost.

Soon there will be the whirling

of deception and authenticity,

of exacting revenge and cutting the corners off cloaks!

For the story is in the choosing!

Life… longed for… is in the choosing!

Our heart torn for tears in the choosing!

One soul dies yet another on lives, is in the choosing!

Freedom’s found or cell door shuts, in the choosing!

Rape, relinquishing, 4 slugs to the skull, lengths of lynching rope, cross, tombs, empty graves, gathering devotees to policy or prophecy

it all in the choosing

It’s in the choosing

It’s in the choosing

It’s all in the choosing

It’s always in the choosing!

As the man child stand erect.

At the creek bed of what is to be.

He chooses these rocks because they are loved.

Not loved because he chooses,

Not because they are perfect, or popular or even preferred

Or that their flight path is known to be true.

He stands there with a lingering sense

This is in God’s eyes how he is viewed.

You can own this as a sacred truth or disregard it in the losing

But leave holding this one thing:

It’s all within the choosing.

A Love Supreme

John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is a masterpiece! It is a suite in four movements that has become as important for some as the Book of Common Prayer, rosaries, and candles to their spiritual lives. But this powerful piece of music released in 1965 could not have been conceived by Coltrane without his moment in the wilderness in 1957. His wilderness moment was located in his Philadelphia home, where behind locked doors he beat his addiction to drugs.

I use this amazing piece of music and this torturous time in Coltrane’s life as a bridge to consider Jesus’ wilderness time of temptation as well as the times of wilderness wandering in our lives. In this sermon I pose the proposition, maybe we can learn from Jesus how we deal with the in-between times in our lives. Take a listen!

Open Letter To Estrangment




I know you know me. I’m well aware of your presence. While we’ve been sparring for a while now, I realized we’ve never really communicated. I wanted to write to inform you the streets of Chicago has claimed the life of another African American man this week. Seeing how violence has claimed well over 300 in the last seven months which equates to about a 50% rise of murders in the city, I’d imagine you are wondering why this particular murder has occasioned this letter. Well you see this wasn’t just any violent death. This was the death of my cousin. A cousin who grew up in my house as a brother. A cousin who slept in my room and often my bed. Although time, circumstance, and a move to Chicago stole our ability to maintain a sense of great intimacy, he was still someone I loved.


His loss has thrust me into a the kind of nostalgia I typically resent. But it is providing a sense of comfort you’d never understand but I sometimes need. I remember climbing the apple tree in our backyard with him. While fear and a burgeoning common sense always told me to stop climbing when I ran out of thick branches on which to cling, this was not for my cousin/brother. He reached for thin branches. The heights were too seductive. The air far too rich to avoid. He reached for thin branches. He’d leap across the wide part of the creek bed behind the neighborhood park. I’d always step across on a path of generous stones. But my cousin/brother flung his black boy body, eviscerating space and sky. Only sometimes did he make it home dry.


It would be easy to blame Chicago itself…

Offering the Uncertain New Year Small Acts of Everyday Acts of Heroism


Do I dare step onto the deck so uncertain. My brown boy mind thought as one foot floated in mid-step as the other foot rested fear filled on Tom Sawyer’s Island. See, there was a time when you had to have a book of tickets to get on rides at Disneyland. The E Ticket rides were the best. You needed an E ticket to get on Space Mountain. That’s all that were left in my book of tickets on the way to Tom Sawyer’s Island. As a child I ventured from the group and hopped onto the Paddle Boat. As the whipping wind produced tears in my eyes, I traversed this man made microcosm of the Mississippi River just to get to this island I had to see. My childhood heart beat so hard it felt like I was bruising the inside of my rib cage. It was Tom Sawyer’s island!!! That’s when it had to have happened. That had to be when I dropped that book of tickets. That moment of manufactured euphoria had to be when those remaining E Tickets slipped through clutched fingers or fell out of some puckered pocket. I must have stood on the banks of that fabricated island near Injun Joe’s Cave for 20 minutes before I decided to step foot on that boat without a ticket. Would they let me on? Does Disneyland have a jail for stowaways? Should I plan to live on this island till they find me? Where could I hide on the boat if I made it on? Every one of these questions came to mind as I decided to step onto and into the uncertainty of that deck.


This is exactly how I’m feeling again as I place my first few tentative steps onto the speculative deck of this new year. I’m weighing the rush of past months with the feelings of joy and disappointments previously held. My foot held suspended by far too many questions and way too few answers. This feeling is magnified exponentially because I’m sitting with a generation of young students, activists and entrepreneurs who are struggling with stepping into the uncertainty of this coming year as well. This got me thinking about the nature of uncertainty and how engagement with it could inform our spiritual growth. And what I am finding is the path toward God calls into question a value we hold…

Lawn Chair Legacy

That early in the morning you wouldn’t expect the air to be thick with humidity and the call of the cicadas. Even at five in the morning the atmosphere in the boot heel of Missouri is redolent with teeming things. As night gives way to day space is filled with condensation, promise, and the possibilities of what can be. This was my granddaddy’s time of day. The time he and God did business. An aluminum lawn chair with frayed green and white plastic webbing perfectly placed under a generous pecan tree was were they met. My brown boy eyes spotted them from a screened in window held open by a spinning box fan. I saw them. I saw my grandfather and God meet. It was 5 am under a pecan tree next to a dirt and gravel drive way on my family’s farm. He met God there daily, sitting on that beat up lawn chair with the day and his Bible opened for the meeting.

Whether it is studying the Bible, meditation, silence, solitude, worship or any other spiritual discipline, the need for modeling is essential…

Another Tip from a Messy Contemplative

empty hand

I get tripped up on the shoestrings of western thought. I read when Teresa of Avila meditated she would catch herself levitating. Get that! Unbeknownst to even Teresa she would find herself unmoored from the bonds of gravity and for a length of time unknown she’d be just float in contemplative bliss. I’m luck if I don’t trip on my way to my meditation mat. There’s so much clutter on my way to bliss consciousness.

This is especially true as it relates to my tendency of idolizing “more”. I have been preconditioned to want more. I want more food, more stuff, more time, more space. I am driven by the notion: satisfaction is met with the acquisition of more. We are predisposed to this truly western idea that all will be made better by more.

The contemplative pause out rightly rejects this claim. Being fully present to God in sacred space says, “no”…

The Press of Loneliness

Loneliness 1

Jesus knows what loneliness feels like.

I imagine he is well aware of the sound, the texture, the alkaline taste of aloneness. Loneliness colors so much of His time at the Mount of Olives. His closest friends fall asleep on Him in the midst of His deepest sorrow. His most committed followers scatter and leave Him upon His arrest. Jesus gets my loneliness.

I wear my loneliness like an under garment, always unseen yet constantly the closest thing to my skin. And like most clothing, our minds allow us to filter out its sensorial presence. But when I allow myself to perceive it the loneliness is in fact perceived. I think this is the first time I’ve admitted my loneliness. I’m so thick with rich community it’s seems almost a travesty to admit its existence. But I’m finally coming to grips with the fact that loneliness is not about having the necessary number of key relationships in your life. I think it’s something more.

I sit with so many lonely people in my practice. Most of them Millennials who are surrounded by laughing acquaintances, helicopter parents, and thousands of friends, followers, and the like on social media. But in the lightness of our day we sit in the sticky darkness of their loneliness together. And I’m honored to hold vigil with them there. Because journeying into the dark of their aloneness, bearing witness to their grief, serving as wet nurse to their tears offers rich wisdom.

For many, loneliness is a product of this age. They’ve grown up in a generation marked by fear…


The Shout of Sacred Consent


The memories of the older women I observed as a child at Riverview Church are etched indelibly in my mind. This church built by the sweat and labor of my grandmother and grandfather was the seedbed of my contemplative life. Because that church was sacred ground defended and held by these warrior women of faith. Their work-creased hands sculpted by caring and cotton picking offered pieces of peppermint candy out of the corners of second hand purses. Their backs were made strong by stooping and picking up the pieces of broken men shattered by a world antagonistic to their very being. These women were fierce. While denied access to adequate education these women held depth. Their very presence functioned as midwifery to my faith. As they held vigil over their own sorrows during worship they would coax and wheedle the sacred, which was buried within me to the surface. And these women moaned as the Holy Spirit moaned and as the earth moaned. They sang from a place as deep as the bowels of slave ships and yet from such a thin space you could swear you saw a glimpse of heaven and earth becoming one. And as the preacher preached and as holy words were proclaimed they would say, “Yeeeeeesssssss!” This was different than a typical exclamation of, “Amen!” This was not just some throw away, “Hallelujah!” This was a profoundly felt and richly stated, “Yeeeeeesssssss!” And their “Yeeeeeesssssss!” may be the solution to many if not all of the problems our world faces today, because their, “Yeeeeeesssssss!” is so vastly different from the dangerous “yes” of our day…


Standing in Solidarity with the Hurting

Eyes in Alley III

You can find some beautiful things in alleys and dark places. Just ask Elizabeth Gibson. On her typical morning walk she spotted something in a dumpster. She had no idea what it was but she said something just, “pulled me in”. She moved toward the dumpster. Had the courage to open lids, shift debris, and get her hands dirty only to find an abstract piece of art. Her words: Even though I didn’t understand it, I knew it had power”. The painting was a Rufino Tamayo original worth $1,049,000 at auction.

You can find some beautiful things in alleys and dark places. But to be real with you I very seldom want to run to those dark places. Getting my hands dirty by touching the debris of people’s lives is hard…

A Recipe for Purposefulness in Grief


I’ve been dealing with a lot of personal grief these days. This was the first series of holidays without someone that was real dear to me. I started looking for something to cling to in my grief so I wouldn’t drown in my hurting. Then I remembered the recipe for anointing oil. Anointing someone with oil is one of the sacred spaces I get invited into periodically. Every time I anoint someone with oil I feel like I’ve stumbled onto holy ground. We see this practice all throughout the Old and New Testament of the Bible. People where anointed with oil for a variety of reasons. Kings where anointed. Priests were anointed. If a prophet was commissioned to speak to the ills of a nation or if someone was sick they would be anointed with oil. I think it is one of the most special things we can do for one another. Anointing reminds us of the importance of the intimacy of touch. It confirms and affirms those being anointed with oil. I think it’s a sacred act of love that cuts through the staid ritual of just going through the motions of faith. It’s amazing what a little oil, the laying on of hands, and a warm word can do for a person…