“Kryptonite or Sunshine” and 2 other V-day poems

Ah Valentine’s Day, the one day in the year when all the silly, sappy and serious poetry of the past is socially acceptable to share. Here are three poems for your pleasure (read lyrically aloud for maximum effect).

Kryptonite or Sunshine

Girls are kryptonite
Or sunshine, it depends on…
I don’t have a clue…

#haiku

Longing for “At Last”

Until that time
When you are mine
I beg for grace
To endure
The anxious race
For love so pure
That it will bring
Only joy
And will sing
Bright and coy.

Through the sorrows
Each tomorrow
Leads to hope,
Faith and love.
So let’s elope
From earth above,
A taste of heaven,
That others will see,
And crave to get in
on Holy Trinity.

For They made man
And They made land
From which there came
Someone special
Not quite the same
But with differential
Glory, beauty,
winsome smile
Evoking holy
Relief and–
“At last”.

A Poem Can’t Make You Love Me

A poem can’t make you love me
But still it’s worth a try
To speak honestly and freely,
To let you hear my cry.

Why do feelings come and go,
Fleeting as they please?
I thought loving kindness would
Be enough to please.

“Give it time”
Will tell what exactly?
One day we’re fine,
Suddenly anxiety.

I’m here for you no matter what
But still it makes me sad
To hear that you don’t feel the same
As if I have been bad.

Then again I feel confused,
Sometimes you seem happy
With true delight, affection, joy,
Feeling like we’re lucky.

But other days you seem so scared
Of problems overwhelming
And want to hide inside your bed
From dangers that are felling

Your joy and peace
Both day and night
Pushing you to
Fight or flight.

But pillows make
For sorry shields–
To knightly strength
Does danger yield.

I mean of course
Your Mighty Friend.
I’m a lowly
Squire hand,

Holding up the shield of faith,
Slashing with the Word.
More at stake than chemistry,
Your joy in Christ, the Lord.

If that you have,
But romance hides,
I’ll be content
And stand aside.

But if Satan seeks to steal
Your happiness in Christ,
I will fight with all my strength
For your abundant life.

A poem can’t make you love me,
But love can make a way
To wait and speak and act and give
Grace for another day.

Something to look forward to if you are single (or not)

Looking forward to Christmas

What do think is the most romantic time of year?

I have always considered it to be Christmas: the festive atmosphere coupled with below freezing temperatures that bring people together or the fresh winter air contrasting with the warmth of a hand and a breath.

After a recent evening at church, I once again felt the ache, but in my futile attempts to express the ineffable, I stumbled upon an insight into what I actually sought: something to look forward to.

For a single person, it is one thing to set goals, make plans, fulfill responsibilities, think, read, write, code, play, socialize, work and all sorts of other good activities. Yet after each trial or accomplishment, something feels missing: someone to share it with. Without someone to look forward to seeing when the work is done, the motivation for the work is diminished.

While pondering these thoughts, the song Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) played on the radio and on the wings of its soaring chorus I realized: this looking forward to being with someone is what Advent is all about. Listen to any carol and you’ll feel it–the joyful longing and sweet anticipation of Jesus’ arrival. Read the Scriptures and you can experience the deep desire for his return:

So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-5)

So if you find an abiding desire for someone to look forward to seeing amidst the joys and sorrows of daily life, take heart! Whether or not God satisfies that desire through a significant other now, there is someone to thoroughly look forward to seeing and being with: Christ.

The first time he entered this love story was to lay down his life for his Bride (people like you and me, if we believe in him) and when he returns it will be to eliminate evil, to establish his righteous reign, to wipe away our tears and turn to them to joy, and to throw the greatest wedding party in history.

Singles, could anything compare to that day when you see God face to face?

Or if you do not know God, would you like to?

PS, learn more about Advent by following this devotional.

Lonelyphobia

After a tiring week at work, I wanted nothing more than to relax at home alone, but a gnawing anxiety crept through my heart on the bus ride home. I’m calling it lonelyphobia.

There are all sorts of causes for lonelyphobia and in my case, I felt “lame” for not wanting to socialize. I felt like a loser for staying home on Friday night and feared that I actually didn’t want to be alone, but was simply too “lazy” to seek company. Thankfully I could share these feelings with my sister and she said that barring the miraculous appearance of a girlfriend I should buy a dog.

I think most dogs are excellent emotional capacitors. You lavish them with affection and when you’re down they can return it to you in full measure. Their cute faces act like mirrors of the soul, reflecting back to their caretakers the feelings they have been nurtured with. Unlike humans, you can almost be sure that the delight you express towards a dog will be happily reciprocated without making the relationship confusing or awkward.

Yet with all its joys, the dog-man relationship falls short of human companionship. My friend Will recently noted that loneliness wasn’t so much, “a lack of society, but a lack of like-minded society–people who you can share your heart and interests with.” His thoughts echo the Scriptures:

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

I think we often mistake socializing for companionship. How often have you been to a gathering where you made smalltalk, but never connected with anyone? Have you had lunch with a friend, but felt miles apart in conversation? Although “it is not good for a man to be alone“, it seems better for a man to know he is alone than to confuse superficial relationships with true companionship. There’s no point getting demoralized over not socializing enough, but it seems good to be “anxious” to find loyal friends.

Do you have true companionship?

Sign up here if you’re looking (don’t worry, it’s private :-)):

I think lonelyphobia is particularly common among goal-oriented people. We feel frustrated if we hang out at the expense of making progress on our goals, but we feel guilty if we don’t socialize because we are pursuing our goals. The goal could be as simple as doing well on an exam or as complex as creating a company, but whatever it may be, we crave companions who share the same mission (by the way, please leave a comment if you care about technology entrepreneurship for the gospel!).

As I wrestled through writing this post, I realized that although I could suggest visiting meetups around common interests, attending conferences or joining a small group, I didn’t really have any answers. The only hope I have is God. If he has called you or me to a mission, there’s probably going to be plenty of loneliness (and joy) along the way.

God sent Paul to preach the gospel and he was deserted by his ministry team. Elijah’s passion for God made him the target of an assassination so that he fled into the wilderness alone to save his life. Jesus knew his disciples would all leave him when he faced his deathly mission to save the world by sacrificing his own life. In every instance the only hope they had was that God remained with them. No wonder the Scriptures ring with refrains of:

  1. I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5Joshua 1:5)
  2. I am with you always (Matthew 28:20)
  3. Be strong and courageous, for I am with you (1 Chronicles 28:20Joshua 1:9)

So if you feel lonelyphobia, trust in God! Don’t feel guilty over not socializing (that’s my merit side saying I don’t deserve friends if I don’t hang out…). Don’t feel lazy self-pity over having no true companions (they are a grace we should ask God for and take responsibility for loving). Buy a dog, attend a meetup, invite a friend to dinner, but always remember that God is with you and that he alone can fully satisfy your desires for companionship, intimacy, and adventure.

Note: This post was really hard to write because the topic felt way too big. I didn’t get to address dating, fellowship, leadership, the etymology of companion (breadfellow), and so much more. If you’d like to add more the conversation, please leave a comment!

PS, Here are affiliate links to books you might find helpful:

How to Rebuke a Friend

The look on his face said it all. A stiletto tongue emerged from his rage contorted countenance,  launching a barrage of words accusing me of misinterpreting, badmouthing and misjudging. Words designed to stab the heart and twist hard. Words designed to shift blame and attention away from the issue at hand to protect a vulnerable ego.

I’m sure almost everyone has experienced something like this. You have someone’s best interests at heart. You notice something they did wrong, which damaged themselves and hurt others, indicating a deeper problem in their lives. You want to help correct them, but three barriers keep you from diving in.

First, you wonder whether or not you rightly appraised the situation.

Did I misunderstand that e-mail? Maybe it sounded mean to me, but the others found it funny. Maybe I should be more understanding since he was tired from staying up all night.

Once you get over all the possible excuses and decide you care enough to bring it up, you think about what to say.

What if they take it the wrong way? Maybe I should overlook the problem–it’s not worth the trouble.

You dither between taking action and leaving well enough alone. You wrestle through every word to say and then go overboard trying to address every possible objection. Eventually the mental chess softens your arguments like Downy and you have a sweet-smelling, fluffy rebuke, but fall asleep exhausted before you can deliver it.

In the deep of the night, your heart psyches itself out on the third question.

Who am I to rebuke my friend about this? Why should he listen to me? He’ll probably bring up stuff I’ve done wrong in the past. Maybe I should just ignore the problem since I’m not one to talk.

Come dawn, the anxieties wear you down and you choose to pretend like nothing happened. No conflict, everybody is happy (at least on the surface) and you didn’t have to do a thing :).

This has happened in my life more times than I can count, even though I know the frequent exhortations of Scripture:

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Proverbs 27:5-6)

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. (Revelation 3:18-20)

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2)

It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person
than to listen to the song of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:5)

Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor
rather than one who has a flattering tongue. (Proverbs 28:23)

So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. (Luke 17:2-4)

Most of the time, I am okay rebuking a little kid when I see him do something wrong, but when it comes to peers or superiors, I would rather keep my mouth shut than endure the consequences of calling out problems I see. It’s a lot easier to whine to sympathetic friends since feeding the gossip monster is far safer than risking a friendship or taking the heat for rebuking someone in power.

When we forget that God alone can change a person’s heart we agonize over our responsibility to rebuke and preemptively give up because we feel powerless to guarantee a positive response. This anxiety often expresses itself in sympathy seeking gossip. When we ignore the fact that God commands us to rebuke and restore, we may only pray about the problem, expecting God to fix it for us and so continue in a passive-aggressive holding pattern without ever taking the actions that God prescribes for healing the relationship. Thus we have the vicious cycle of courage burying anxiety producing despair-fueled laziness.

Instead of giving practical advice on “10 ways to be an awesome rebuker” or “20 tips for making your friends listen to you” let’s see what a biblical view of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility can do for us (I’m totally preaching at myself here). God is in full control of every human being, including wayward friends/leaders. This is a big relief since we know that it’s his place to change them, not ours, and when he chooses to do so, it never fails. Even so, God holds us responsible to speak the truth in love, which inevitably includes upbuilding rebukes (pretending like nothing is wrong, is a form of lying!) because that is how He planned to grow his children to maturity. Since God’s plan cannot fail, our efforts to follow him in this matter are guaranteed to grow his children to maturity as well.

So instead of succumbing to anxiety or despair, let’s make rebukes a healthy part of our relationships with superiors, peers and subordinates. If a person responds poorly, we discover early that we may need to follow the advice of Proverbs 9. If the person responds well, our relationship can only get stronger.

If you’ve had a difficult situation confronting people you care about, please share about it in the comments. Thanks!

PS, I found Pastor Sam Crabtree’s book Practicing Affirmation a helpful balance to these thoughts on rebuke. He recommends an “affirmation ratio” of 10 affirmations for every rebuke you give a person to demonstrate that the rebuke is truly given in love. (Note: this is an affiliate link, so I benefit if you buy the book through this link).

The Empty Seat

What does this picture bring to mind? Awkward moments seeking the passenger who will cause the least discomfort to you? A chance to finally rest your legs after a crowded commute?

I always look for the empty rows when I get on the bus, but it’s absurd since I know someone is probably going to sit next to me. I guess it signals an unspoken desire to be alone. But the truth is I don’t want to be alone–I’d much rather have a meaningful conversation with someone. Why don’t I take the empty seat and start the conversation?

There was a period in my life when I felt like every conversation had to be directed to the gospel and somehow incorporate Jesus. If He is the most important person in my life, wouldn’t I naturally talk about him most? Just as lovers continually have the name of their beloved on their lips, wouldn’t I want to bring Him up with others? Unfortunately my best intentions caused me much grief, anxiety and guilt. Oh there were glorious times when I got to share about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and how he saved me and transformed my life. But for every good conversation there were ten more that fell flat and another twenty “opportunities” that I missed and felt guilty about after the fact.

Avoiding the empty seat was my way of avoiding the opportunity to share the gospel and I could thereby avoid the guilty feelings that came from ignoring those opportunities. Everybody cares about something and even if you don’t care about the gospel, I think you can agree that the Seattle bus culture makes it difficult to connect with other passengers on a personal level. It’s even easier to avoid other passengers with the ubiquity of smartphones. Now you can take the empty seat next to someone and still skip the opportunity to connect with them by pulling out your phone and checking e-mail, watching a video, or texting a friend.

I actually like being alone on the bus. Minding my own business and doing my own thing. I don’t want to trouble anyone and don’t want to be troubled myself. But I struggle about my responsibilities towards all the strangers around me. What does God expect of me? Does he expect me to “make the most of every opportunity“? What is an opportunity? Is it someone asking me a question about God? Or is it me sitting next to a stranger on a bus and initiating a conversation? What does it mean for me to “love my neighbor as myself“?

As my chaotic conscience endured these hard questions, my soul has often taken refuge in the sovereignty of God. He alone is capable of saving any person and he alone can give them the gift of faith and it is completely his free choice. But as much of a relief to conscience this reality is, it does not remove the responsibility of being a witness.

When I set out to write this post, I did not have any strong, heartfelt answers to this internal conflict. It has percolated in the back of my mind occasionally, but I didn’t have anything solid worth sharing. So I looked around for some answers in the five texts linked to above.

Colossians 4:5-6 In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he prefaces his exhortation for believers to make the most of every opportunity with a request for prayer so he would have an open door for the gospel. He also does not explicitly command evangelism, but gracious and seasoned speech that give a person knowledge of how to answer everyone.

Mark 12:31 The whole concept of loving one’s neighbor as oneself could be inappropriately stretched to mean telling everyone the gospel the moment they give you a chance to speak since it is “the most loving thing to do”, but if I consider the desires of my own heart, I think most people want to connect deeply and share their heart’s desire and struggle. They want someone to hear them and love them and speak words into their lives that pierce through the superficial safety bubble they’ve setup with insight and care.

Exodus 34:6-7 God’s freedom to have mercy on anyone he pleases is coupled with his abundantly gracious character. Whenever I seek to share the gospel with someone I can be confident that the God on whom their salvation depends is thoroughly good.

Ephesians 2:8-9 I am not so different from everyone else. Once dead in sin; ruled by disobedience.  I once didn’t care much about God or Jesus and one day he blew me away with his glorious grace. If God can save me, he can save anybody. There is truly no one beyond his reach as humanly impossible as it may seem; there is always hope.

Acts 1:7-9 Although these words were to Jesus’ immediate disciples, every statement remains true in our day. The times and seasons are fixed by the Father’s authority. God’s kingdom, the success of the gospel, the victory of the Church are all under his wise control. He didn’t spell it out in detail for the apostles and he doesn’t for us, but he promised them something even better–his own Spirit come upon them so that they would be his witnesses. This is the same Spirit he gave to all believers in Jesus.

This small selection of Scriptures turned out to be a deeper treasure trove than I expected. While writing this, I was surprised at how they dispelled the guilt and anxiety that have often arisen when I’ve had to “take the empty seat” and replaced it with freedom, confidence, and desire (particularly the reflections on Mark 12:31 and Ephesians 2:8-9).

The next step for me is to test it and see how it helps me the next time I’m on the bus. If you have any stories to share about how this helped you, please leave a comment!