American Pharisee 2016

Throw him in the big boy pond
Watch him thraw about
Pretend he knows just how to swim
Ignore that ling’ring doubt.

Conscience screaming otherwise
O ignore that spirit’s song
Take off your vest and dive right in
Insist others come along.

Wear his death whene’er it comes
I will call you to account
Why when he looked right at you
You pointed no weakness out.

Bravado, pride, such arrogance
Thin armor in any war
Your human shield as battles rage
No clue which way the shore.

Console yourself – for he’s a man
Forceful, bold, and sure
But you’ve been given eyes that see
On you this guilt secured.

Fear’s the Foe

Fear can be no force for good
Beware its friendly words
It hides behind its muscled wall
And flexes as it’s heard.
Dense its view, arthritic like
Its future without grace
It turns away and locks all gates
It bears no human face.
Do not act from its say
Avoid building on its ground
A sentinel whose path to hell
’round evil’s thumb is wound.
The human being must nurture hope
Though weak at times its glow
For fear’s appearance is only that
And wicked its undertow.

©September 20, 2016 kelleyrenz

Black and Blue

Blue swag hits long before his coming
There is no face, no heart now, just a gun
Vacuum’s sucked away all air for breathing
Muscles taut for fear – stand ground or run?

Can’t help what comes in fueled projection
Trust no longer what rushes in
Can’t wait for moment’s revelation
So loud the color of human skin.

Peel prejudice from today’s prediction
See the ones whose hearts are pinned to him
A mother’s view so ready for the taking
Replace his face with what fear’s letting in?…

Loud he laughs complete with plastic microphone
Pants sagging; shoes so proud, so clean
A brain, a heart; he has no pick with anyone
But paint him dumb, lazy, no good, and mean.

Project a record, time in jail
Project children in his wake
Project he won’t measure up; he’ll fail
Trust not permitted in his resume.

But wound around him, too, a mother’s care
A God’s delight; a call already planned
Cut through the thick of projections’ damning dare
Help bring to birth the rising of a man.

Blue meets black to what? Crash, collide
And mothers’ hearts do not beat until they see
The consequences such collisions bring
The cost, the loss, the sheer stupidity.

Not this time; no arms are brought to bear
Familiar words exchanged between the two
No territory’s marked by color one
But claimed and named by both black and blue.

See! Mothers met; they laid down new law!
In one another’s homes they talked and prayed
For love of sons, a common ground was found
Tragedy’s been checked; now empty is the grave.

The Scale

The Confederate Flag…

It’s “history and heritage”
It’s “proud Southern song.”
Hoisted high and held aloft,
An agony prolonged
Beneath its spread,
Hiding true intent.
An entire race upon one plate,
The other weight’s descent.
Down, down, crushing sounds,
The race falls to one side,
Where human heart beats apart,
Victim of misguided pride.
Dimensions, units bend and break,
Gaulded is the arm
That tries to fly what clearly defies
Our vow to do no harm.

God Cannot Breathe?

Following Eric Garner’s death, someone commented, “God cannot breathe.” Why assign to God our own despair and inability to right this massive wrong? If we would all have the courage to live as radically as God calls us to, might racism itself suffocate?

What a mortal prediction
This saying, “God cannot breathe.”
Poignant in its profundity,
But, oh my God, it leaves
    so much room for unnecessary despair.

We stifle ourselves,
Shoving vinegar soaked rags into our mouths and biting hard
Making God into our image
We pretend to be Spirit’s bard
    We welcome the confines of hell.

God breathes just fine!
And He’d roll His eyes if we hadn’t made it such a wounded mess,
Our pointed fingers on hollow hands
Insist on capturing in words what refuses to be confessed.
    We pretend to lose our minds.

We’ll return to laugh with God.
His rumbling roar will knock our Babel down,
Our tragedies will shrivel on their vines
As Spirit – who is Breath itself – comes ‘round
    This suffocation’s fraud.


Twenty-six mass shootings in our country in the last eight years….

“Whose gentle God are you?”
We ask through gritted teeth.
A metaphor of great compassion
‘neath our feet.
Madness has come to change us,
Put questions in our mouths.
We fling them at You with such force for
We want answers now.
You pick them up. You cradle them
As heartbreak makes us shout.
Trauma fills our outstretched arms.
O God, send evil out!

We pull you down, O Gentle Shepherd.
We throw stones, O Prince of Peace.
For Your sheep are no longer with us
And we who live find no relief.
You make no sound in Your defeat?
Our agony too much for metaphor?
We wipe our hands of fairy tales –
Can we follow You no more?

But what through tears our visions focus,
What is this wood thrust into ground
That shakes our earth around its setting
And Son of Man hangs from it down?
There are no scars; His wounds still fester.
A crown of thorns sits upon His head.
New soldiers now, they circle ‘round Him.
Like us, all He can see is red.

Awake! We sleep. Our anger blinds us!
His mystery courses through our veins!
The cross still stands, the nails still fasten –
But this is not all that remains.
Time’s no matter in God’s thinking
For that Sacred Heart still beats!
Our anger silenced, our faith kindled
As Christ climbs down from that damned tree.

His passion adds sense to what we suffer.
His rising takes sorrow and eases its bite.
His justice stands guardian to every life’s value.
“It is finished…”
      We can rest –
          God will make it all right.

An Awkward Kingdom’s Coming

The Syrian refugees, the poor standing in the street begging, the people pushing at our border — what if these were not just signs of God’s kingdom coming, but the kingdom itself and our chance to be a major participant in that kingdom?

The refugee, the homeless
Intrude upon our stage.
We are not prepared; this isn’t expected
It prompts in us a rage—
This is not to be; this isn’t right!
This second coming cannot be!
But God’s kingdom comes in disturbing guise
And upsets what we thought we’d see.

The hungry on our left, and see
Dead bodies on our right.
Mass shootings, make-shift memorials,
Harbingers of awkward light.
We insist on clean and crystal clear;
We resist it looking like this.
But His kingdom comes with thunder anyway
To forge, to purge, to shift.

The proud, the tall, the know-it-alls
Fall from upended chairs,
As curtains close on the upturned nose,
Crushing thrones they thought were theirs.
No time for applause, no ceremonies
No banquets for ribbons or awards,
Just one last chance to join His dance
For this kingdom’s now keeping score.

Vast the need; it’s in our face!
We haves can close our doors,
While an act of God goes on outside
And will wait for us no more.
See! Hear! Grab the lamps!
Leap through the needle’s eye!
For kingdom’s coming, veiled brilliantly
In those we thought we could pass by.