Tag Archives: truth

Elephants

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Here’s a new poem — it needs some polishing, but here’s the first draft.

elephants thunder
marking their presence in my mind
thick calluses imprinting the carpet
wrinkled trunks swaying widely
as they try to change course
360 degrees with a wide turning radius

locked away in their minds
hidden by giant leather ears
memories
which trap my pain
haunting restless nights
trunks snaking across
reaching pails of water
sucking it up
and spray it forth
an endless stream of tears

they huddle in rooms
stomping out truths
imagined to be invisible
an SOS
to those clinging against the walls
pressed against the boundaries
searching for an exit
from this crowded room

Scum Sucker Versions of Truth

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My grandfather always kept fish
twenty or thirty swarming creatures
in a medium rectangle of water
When I was young I used to sit on the arm of his chair
lightly place my palm on the glass
watch them flip their fins back and forth as they glided through the water
Grandpa always had a rotating roster of species—
one month beautiful blue scales with yellow fins
complimented by orange gold fish
And the next something new when the weaker fish had passed through the sewer to their eternal resting place
But there was always one constant—
a large, ugly, lizard-like fish we called
the scum-sucker
ten times bigger than even the largest of the other creatures
It’s purpose: to eat the crud and slime that built up in the tank
To my eight-year old eyes it was terrifying, hideous
I begged my grandfather to get rid of it
he insisted it remain
in all its beastly glory
While all the other beautiful specimens swam by
he slowly lugged himself along the sides of the glass
Whenever he came near my palm I would screech and yank it away
Grandpa said he served a purpose
he cleaned up the mess all the beautiful fish left behind
the other fish might seem superior to my untrained eye
But it was the scum-sucker who restored balance to the fish tank

And I wonder, now,
over twenty years later,
how many times I’ve been the beautiful fish
and how many times I’ve been the scum-sucker

And you, beautiful fish whom I swam with for years
I wonder how long you will continue to captivate those outside the tank
and if they’ll ever appreciate the scum-sucking
so many did on your behalf
all the while being labeled
the ugly, clumsy, awkward ones
the ones
who clean up your mess

*This poem was originally written in 2009, and today I pulled it off the shelf, dusted it off, and decided to offer it up to you.  I hope you enjoy.

You’re Fat

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One of the things I love most about kids is their honesty.  True, at times it can be quite brutal, but I’ll take brutal honesty over sugar coated lies and misleading half-truths any day.  I have the privilege of working in children’s ministry, and so I am frequently blessed by hearing the truth–sometimes brutal and sometimes beautiful.

Many years ago I was preparing to transition from my first church to a new assignment in another state.  My church lavished me with so many incredible blessings — fond wishes, goodbye parties, generous gifts, kind words — it was amazing.  During that time period I was hanging out with one of “my kids.”  She was about six or seven years old at the time and I was especially close to her family.  We had shared holiday meals, birthday parties, late night meals, endless conversations, and deep friendships.  That day she looked at me and said, “Pastor Amanda, when I first met you I thought you were soooooooooooooooooo . . . . ”  (I was waiting for it.  I was so what?  Awesome?  Incredible?  Fun?) “Soooooooo . . . fat.  But now, I just love you.”

Yep.  True story.

You just gotta love the honesty of kids.  Whether it’s your weight or the latest program you just spent a hundred hours creating, kids will let you know where things really stand.  And I can’t help but think our world would be a better place if we could all live like that–no matter what age we are.  Work would be simpler, financial decisions would be easier, dating would be less complicated.  Imagine what our world would look like if we all not only spoke honestly, but were able to hear truth from others.  Can you imagine what would happen if the next time you received an application for a credit card in the mail it gave you a completely honest list of the consequences that were likely to follow if you opened the card?  Or how much heartache would be saved if every date you went on was filled with honesty–the good, the bad, and the ugly?

Instead we all parade through our lives wearing masks of deception and disguise.  Sometimes the dishonesty is a blatant lie, but many times it’s the omitted truth or the twisted half-fact.  Sometimes our motives are good–we want to spare others hurt.  Sometimes we’re just doing what we have learned is the social norm.  But probably, more often than not, our motives are purely selfish.

I know we’d all like to think we’re completely honest, but ask yourself this question: How did you respond the last time someone asked how you were?  If you’re answer was any variation on “fine” or some other standard answer you always give, chances are it wasn’t the whole truth.  (I mean seriously, what does it even mean to say we are “fine?”)  Or how about this, the last time you were mad at someone in your family, and they asked you what was the matter–did you tell them?  On varying levels we are all dishonest–whether it is with our anger and pain, or with our frustrations and fears.

Do you remember that story about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?  There’s this captivating line in Genesis 2:25 that says this: “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”  You’re probably trying to figure out why the heck I find that line captivating.  I’m not even married.  And the last time you heard some unmarried person excited about that Bible verse was when you were in high school youth group and the wise mouth of the group thought it was fun to fluster the youth pastor.

But here’s what our English translations fail to tell us:  the word “naked” means so much more than “without clothes.”  It means “to be transparent.”  Not hiding anything, not covering up any truth.  Who you are as a person–all the beauty and the brutality–all exposed in honesty.  Can you imagine that?  A marriage where the husband and wife don’t try to hide anything from each other?  Don’t try to cover up the truth, but live in honesty?  Doesn’t that sound like a beautiful thing?  And isn’t there something in that picture that makes you believe that’s how God intended for all of human relationships to be?

And then the fall from grace happens–they believe the lie, they eat the fruit, and their eyes are opened.  Within an instant Eden transformed from a garden of perfection to a fallen planet–the beauty of God’s world already beginning to unravel with that one snag in the fabric.  And what was the very first thing Adam and Eve did in this new fallen world?  They went into hiding–first they hid themselves from each other, and then they hid from God.

Here’s a radical idea: What if we all stopped hiding?  (I don’t mean under clothes.  Trust me, the girl who’s “soooooo fat” is definitely NOT advocating for nudism.)  What if we stopped hiding the truth?  What if we started being honest with ourselves and others?  What would our world look like?  What if we were willing to hear the child telling us “I thought you were soooooooooo fat,” because we could hear the end of the sentence “I just love you.”  Isn’t that the important part after all?  What if we could hear God saying that to us too?  “Amanda, sometimes you are soooooooooooooooooo screwed up, but I just love you.”  And maybe we would discover that if we were confident enough in that love, we would have all the grace we need to deal with the first part of the sentence–no matter what it is.