Have you ever felt primal hunger? It’s the type of hunger where your body is telling you to eat almost anything that looks like food. It’s the type of hunger that you see on cartoons, when two friends are wandering through a desert and you see them fantasizing about each other being a dessert.
I have gotten out of the habit of fasting, but when I have fasted and exercised, my body has started to feel that kind of hunger. At that moment, when I started eating, my body was telling me to engorge and stuff myself like a Thanksgiving turkey. Any sustenance made my hungry body grateful.
It’s the same way when I have been thirsty, when I have been sweating like a racehorse and not had any water nearby. My brain can only imagine being in some of the stories I have read – being an asylum seeker on the migrant trail, walking through the Texan desert at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I can only imagine being a hungry child in the midst of a drought and feeling my body starve towards death for want of food.
From my privileged place, I have experienced a smidgeon of physical hunger and thirst. Jesus said, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst.” Or if you read Matthew’s version “…hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
In a different sort of way, I often find myself hungry — wanting more. I remember being a high school youth and listening to Eminem talk about being hungry as a rapper. In the Ordination Process, as I have talked about in the last few blog posts, I was so hungry — wanting to be filled with affirmation from the Church, wanting authority as one of its called leaders, yearning for acceptance into an Order through which I could serve the sacraments wherever in the world I was.
When you’re hungry, you just want something to consume. Like Ezekiel eating a scroll and then telling people what was on it, I wrote poetry and then proclaimed it to my most intimate friends. Some of it I have read to different church leaders. These verses are meant to be heard more than to be read. At some point, I’ll try to record some of it. But for now, I’ll share the written words of my “spoken word” poetry.
If you ever see me in person, feel free to ask me to recite any of these. Until then, continue on to see some of the poetic meals from during my hungry time in the Ordination Process. I have eaten these, and I pray they can nourish one of you who is hungry.
“The Definition of Irony”
(The first one I wrote, about 5 years ago, and it having to do with my 2nd or 3rd delay by the BOM)
we walk by Faith and not by sight. And yet sometimes I feel like a blight,
When I Walk into a room of seasoned people, who each serve under a big steeple.
And inside i get blinded, can’t keep the pace, like in my face there gets shot mace.
The faces of the system can’t remember being like me, a candidate for “ministry”
Being inside the room for a moment, I feel like a blinded outsider saying, “i can’t see”
I am down here, but I did not trip. And if you can’t remember what it is like to be
the face of tenacity and trying to grow our Church’s capacity, beyond walls of opacity
when we’re told to do it tacitly, then that’s the definition of irony.
Because my beloved UMC, You see…or maybe you do not, or cannot see.
Once upon a pastoral prayer, you were about the same as a premature’s weighin
scantily, scarcely without apportion, scared of Anglican extortion and your movement’s abortion
Before our Movement ground to a standstill contortion, and the sounds to us newbies sound like distortion
demanding to know which side we are on for gay rights and abortion. Is Jesus still your portion?
My Beloved UMC, you were once like me, a new adoptee in the world of new devotees
Once upon a White Hair’s glair, you were outside of charm, what’s it called? Wesleyan!
There’s something you tapped into that did preexist, that you kissed but now that you’ve missed
And now the cupboard’s empty for me, and I’m pissed, because the twist is that no matter how I persist
I still feel dismissed, like i missed the gist of what we were and my chance to coexist with a Baptist
without seeing them as competition. It is and isn’t for you that I enlist. I’m trying to assist with our mission,
but with a Spirit-like twist, and I hate that when I run into you strongest children, I feel the need to resist.
God help me to walk by faith and not by sight, because what I see makes me want to take flight.
My frustration is about to ignite, and with all my might, I don’t want to make ministry about my plight.
But we have gotten so uptight, and my prayers that this Church might unite are falling apart overnight.
There is so much i don’t understand because I’m not alltogether old, polite, bold, white, cold or bright.
Please don’t let my words incite disunity. I just want to see some delight in community
and I don’t even have to be always right. But please let me know if this thing through which I have pledged
my one life, in which I’m wedged with strife, will somehow reignite and if things will be alright?
“Board’er Patrol” or “Order Patrol”
I walked up to the Land of Milk and Honey,
having heard the celebrations of newcomers.
Before me was a border fence,
that wasn’t a fence at all,
but which only existed in the minds of those
who created it and were a part of it.
The place was called The Order.
I wanted to enter the Order, but first met the Order Patrol.
“Where are your papers?” They asked when I walked up.
“I’ve come from Duke, and Chowan before that.”
We shared the first of many interviews.
I left rejoicing.
The next year I was asked more questions.
“Where did you immigrate from?”
“I’m a MethoBaptiCostal,” i said,
“We only let Methodists pass,” they said,
but somehow I was allowed to walk through.
I was pretty happy to already but not yet be there.
After my delay, the next year brought more questions.
“Do you have any useful skills? Demonstrate your education.”
I showed many good skills while being bullied by a citizen.
“You did well being bullied, but for your protection, stay here.”
I was confused.
A year later, the questions got repetitive,
asking about my background again,
and wondering what I did to get bullied.
I was allowed to stay, and kept getting paid
under the table, being used, but unofficially.
After arguing with a third generation
member of the Order, I was suspicious.
And since I couldn’t vote, I had no voice.
My past attempts at crossing made me a
marked person. I met other marked people.
Over the next year, I heard cries in the wilderness,
met many other people who were like me,
who worked for the system,
which didn’t work for them,
and I almost forgot that I had an interview
at a place called the Board’er.
I was angry when I didn’t make it through.
The next year, I was going to get through,
But I was late on some paperwork,
and even though my agent loved me,
the judge and jury voted to delay me again,
saying the next year was my year.
As I waited, I thought about the ones who’d left,
Individuals who made it through and died of their wounds,
Individuals whose hearts died in the desert,
And the ones who fended for themselves and forgot.
I was different, but I learned that the Order was once
made up of immigrants and even ruffians,
until we lost the Black Power
and also the Pentecostal Power,
and were left with willpower,
wanting to reunite with our old power,
empowered by a huge bank account.
Next year I’m going to get through,
they say. I’ll be accepted into the Order,
through and past the fence, but not my past.
I’ll never fully be inside of this Order,
because even though I belong here,
no the hell I don’t either.
And so, if they’re telling the truth,
that my immigration interview will
open the door for my entrance next year,
I’ll come in with fingers pointing,
but not at them,
uncovering the ones who are left out.
“Dearly Beloved BoOM”
(I wrote this before returning one of the times)
Even as I start prepping to speak to you, I pray you’ll be receptively pensive, but the more likely is that you’ll be defensive. I know this, because of arguments shared in my home, postures taken at Church, all learned from y’all. So before you think of a comeback, let me invite you to come back. Turn off the prerecorded actor that’s already distorted your would-be answer.
The problem with our ecclesiology is that we can’t take each other on unless there’s a flaw to the letter of the law in something someone did that we saw. When we raise our voice it’s ad hominem, when we make some noise it’s received as a person on person problem, which is to say that it isn’t received.
We can’t see ourselves as people apart from the Method any more than a book can see itself apart from the shelf.
But hear me, my gripe’s not with you, but with the way it’s done, the way people are enmeshed in the Method in a way that mashes up the newcomer without causing a stir in the otherwise opened hearts and minds, that have seen their own would-be and had-been prophets walk out the open doors.
My battle is not against you but against the powers and principalities that have quieted the disquieted, tentative personalities because they transgressed the banal legalities that we didn’t even know existed!
When you hear me, you’re not only hearing me but this spirit that’s been trying to make a dent, vying to make a vent in the airtight vacuum of legalism galavanting as legendary symbolism, what to your minorities is colonialism prancing as necessary parochialism.
You’re not just hearing from me but from every me that ceased to be in this place, from every would-be that missed the grace.
When I got my fifth letter of delay, it told me who to call if I needed clarity. But who do I call if I need charity? Who do I call if I need to throw down some pissed off sincerity? Who do I call if I disagree with your habitual decision’s severity? Who do I cry to if I read on the letter “continuation” and all I feel is “continual?”
In effort to try and find solidarity, I started Googling about my plight, and I found an answer showing that our ecology’s “early season blight”, that snuffs out the eager and bright, is an ongoing cancer. It was an article that asked, “Why are Young Clergy Leaving United Methodism,” and the article pointed to a hidden despotism within our Way. Oh, and that article was almost twenty years old.
The problem in our Church isn’t only in the BOOM, but you and I, we go way back. So I’m starting with you.
You all try like hell to stick to the letter of the law, to make sure you’re beyond reproach, because you know that so many of us have been poached, picked off, and snuffed out, and you don’t want to be culpable.
But the very sound you make to us newbies hurts the ears.
The nature of the sound of a “boom” is that it makes people lower their heads, but hearing something damaging isn’t the worst of it, because what’s cursed is the fact that even after you’ve nursed your wounds, the sound lingers in your ears.
You want to make sure that we are ready to preach the Gospel, but what’s awful is that there’s so much that you also have to patrol the fence at the border. You also have to check our Order. We gotta get our papes in by the end of the quarter, and they better not be longer or shorter than the limit, with credit scores turned in before the last minute.
But is that really the Gospel? And if we get bottled up in our regulations, are we really freed to preach the Gospel?
I feel like “freed” isn’t the same thing as liberated. We might be freed but with an imagination that’s amputated or incinerated, after it went toe to toe with one of the Conference’s watchdogs.
I might sound like an angry “fill in the blank”, but that’s because I’m speaking for those who lost their voice, who forgot how to rejoice, and who got destroyed and left the Church.
Maybe we ought to make another BOOM and blow up the way we’ve done things.
And then again, maybe not.
Maybe you’ll be prepared to follow a Gospel that threatens the way you bring in and empower people from the outside and underside of the Institution.
And then again, maybe not.
“None and Done”
(written in “rap form” about young clergy and layfolk who’ve left the Church)
— trying to grasp at truth with a handful of thumbs
having left religion that seemed half dead
you came to the cupboard and found only crumbs
trying to find the gift of life which is heavens bread
— Remembering what you used to call the dumbday drool
you cringe at the thought of another moralistic lesson
somehow all the kids peaced out of Sunday school
as the strength of institutions began to lessen
— now as young adults touting self-centered brilliance
we find a generation who barely knew the church
now in sloughs of turmoil showing lack of resilience
we see it’s hard to standalone upon a postmodern perch
— I thought the older generation who don’t like it loud
Couldn’t hear my new voice so rife with ambition
it’s hard not to turn to the wisdom of the crowd
when being outside of the box feels like sedition to tradition
Young folks these days need validation and fun
post church people with Afros and man buns
you ask about religion and they say they got none
what they’re really saying though is, “we are done!”
— Wesley warned about conversion free of holy teaching
it can make one a Christian with a lack of self-worth
Watch out for religion that can’t be far reaching
it might be born again, but it’s still a stillbirth
— we think we learned a lot, the lessons made us moral
“Do you like this or else you get a prick, like from a cactus
trading rulebooks for a story that first lived as oral;
Church formation sometimes comes to be a malpractice.
— we are trying to find the whole, starting out with shards;
playing through this game has turned into a hiccup.
you’re playing through the game and you‘re missing some cards.
then the rules turn out to be for 52 pick up.
— we suffer from a world that has a fleeting bookshelf.
It tells us we are known, because we write our own story.
how near sighted to think that life is all about the self.
we are nearly blind now, cause our eyes do not see history.
Young folks these days need education, Heaven-spun,
Post-church people who really like to shun.
you ask about religion and they say they got none.
what they’re really saying though is, we are done.
— they may be out now, but they started out as different:
optimistic, Rich, and hopeful, like one who found a pearl.
even if we are mad, please let’s not be ignorant.
Manny leave the church, cause they wanna change the world.
— when the worship house fails to be a sanctuary,
we look at dreamers, and we begin to stall.
The place then turns to be a pre-mortuary.
“We love you a lot, stained glass and brick wall.
— “ we really wanna branch out but we tried that once.
now there’s still scars for some when they see the church station.
if you wanna be prophetic, you might feel like a dunce;
It’s hard to think anew in space of disimagination
— we can’t blame the old saints who been like this for years.
but still we got to move from the mistakes of the past.
it’s hard to shift a church that’s interwoven with fears.
It’s the one thing that conserves in a world that’s too fast.
Young folks these days need dedication to come from.
All the church people trying to March to God’s drum.
you ask about religion and they say they got none.
what they’re really saying though is, we are done.
Standing atop the crest of a loose fence
both sides glaring at my inability to choose
where I’m going to set my scarred foot loose,
I am scared knowing that society chews
on anyone who is labeled as a nuisance
a decelerating fact known as “prudence”
that cautions us humans known as hoodlums
to beware the possibility of the noose, hence.
The prophet known as Martin Luther King
died early in his career, in his season of Spring
and they took the sting out of his poise
changing what he did sing to a comfortable voice,
naming long roads and wealthy abodes “MLK”,
even as they wanted him in life to go away.
From past truth tellers’ names come profits, fed
to a manipulating many who like their prophets dead.
To your face we’ll all often say a good thing,
wanting silently to rephrase truth to have no sting.
But the truth is that brazen youth are uncouth,
Unwilling to salute a statute they know to pollute,
though they may speak a fact so acute that even
while the pandering astute push it off as “cute”
and while to many it does not even compute,
it has already galvanized many a new recruit,
and caused some old hats to make the commute.
Leaving the status quo disheveled and in ruins
our truth can be to many a real nuisance.
It touches the old foundations and loosens
the age-old insights with new conclusions,
that it isn’t only about a few powerful Delusions
who’s allusions to self-empowered solutions
don’t reach out from their own illusions.
We think it isn’t about institutions’ exclusions
but the new revolutions have executions
built on life and widespread, loving inclusions.
Our truth threatens the Spirit of Chaos’ unions
because speaking about Loving the many
dehumanizes corporations selling them for a penny
and brings about broad human reunions
in the love of our Savior who was a nuisance.
Jesus Christ while young suffered many contusions
from the hierarchy’s prosecutions
against his Kingdom of God contributions.
And His Spirit empowers all our distributions.
Jesus brings many together and out of confusion,
to make a new kind of actual fusion.
How’s that for a radical conclusion?