Original Christain Poetry by Mark Phillips
(Here's what I propose: Don't hit back at all. If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. Matthew 5:39 [The Message])
an enemy's slap is sweet to take,
a foe who all know is a foe is a fool in the eyes of those who watch a quiet and rollover rebuke
but let a friend strike me,
a trusted ally, a well-liked neighbor,
a former comrade and confidant,
let him misuse my private confessions
and scatter my dark heart over the landscape, let him spew my failures back in my face till his spit runs down my cheeks mixed with hot tears and earthly fears
and i faint to stand there and take it
let me box my way out of just this one, remind him of his stupid blunders too,
his slight truths, his pretending at promise keeping, his smug appeal to holiness and blame to show how the religious really hate righteousness after all
but if i bruise his ears
he'll batter my ego
till i'm dead twice at his hands
sweet friend, has my offense caused your distance, has my weakness paralyzed your affection, has my sin caused your silence in withdrawn separation?
i have no heart for defense,
no strength for counterpunches,
my cheek-turning is not Christlikeness now, only distaste for the battle and weariness of war
hear my heart beat like yours, friend,
take my breath and feel it on your face, we inhale molecules of each other.
Take my hand, squeeze it hard till you feel the blush of my pulse with blood like yours. Touch my face till my tears run down
your fingers in reunion longing.
i will not fight you, friend,
nor carry on the war one battle longer
but wave the white flag above our cloud of unknowing till you see i never wanted a fight
i always wanted a friend
Copyright © April 1999
Hanging Up the Gloves
what impresses me about Stephen is his unpretentiousness
("As all those who sat on the High Council looked at Stephen, they found they couldnât take their eyes off him-his face was like the face of an angel!" Acts 6:15 [The Message])
While I sometimes shadow-box my eclipse opponents
to everyone's floating spot appreciation,
days go by when I cannot find a single victory
over my shady outlines.
I'd rather shine than box,
like Stephen, the artist,
the surrealist bending the big guysâ
reality till they shrank from their
But they don't stone pugilist pretenders,
only transparent shiners who can't help
because their soul's been daily
stoked holy ablaze.
Excuse me while I lay my gloves and make-believe
down awhile to
sit at the same fire
that caused pretend priests to
growl that there was no room
for amateurs in their ring!
Excuse me while I humbly
find a shadow of a Stephen
to sit in
Death UnmaskedJesus has conquered our darkest fears
("But God set him free from death and raised him to life. Death could not hold him in its power." Acts 224)
When canyons of termination stop hearts
with lifetime fears,
and echoes crash loudly on the chasm's floor.
When fatal madness drives us to assumptions
and no letters are sent from across the divide,
we look at cliff walls hanging on nothing,
we stare death in the face and blanche at fate,
our hearts stop,
our lungs collapse
and the feeling flees our calloused hands.
We beg the dark specter to refund our
Death's laughter is hollow,
his judgment a farce,
his costume is patchwork
his future foreseen.
Fiercely he struggles and rips men's hopes
from their dreams,
dashing them down the abyss
of foolishness and shadows.
Face your foe, deathly disguise;
He has pierced your craving with His own death
and silenced your lies with His life.
Your canyons are shallow,
your shackles paper,
your endgame cancelled,
your terror unmasked
By the Flesh-and-Blood Dying Once Son of God
Who left the tomb airy and cold,
And filled our canyons with His touchable light
And our days with His triumph bold.
I heard this verse quoted the other night and was
strongly moved by Joseph's "righteousness"
("But as Joseph her husband was a righteous man
and did not want to expose her to public disgrace,
he had in mind to divorce her quietly." Matthew 1:19)
There is a righteousness that parades the
and calls sin on the carpet
(the crimson carpet, lining the front of the church,
just between the pews and pulpit),
and watches the sinner blanched and fainting
explain his horrid addictions.
There is a righteousness that wears morality
like war medals on lapels,
displays obedience like chevrons on sleeves,
and tows the line
(the fine line, undotted, never gray, that separates
the righteous from the rest),
and lockstep walks mainstream aisles.
There is a righteousness that Interprets every verse and
and calls it Truth,
and calls it the holyghost
(the anointing, the opinion well-boxed, well-wrapped,
well-preserved, king-james-english and nevermind contrary views)
and frightens doubters to their darkness.
There is a righteousness found on radio pulpits,
irritated benches, deaconsâ mandates, pastorsâ pounding,
woodpews getting their cues from intolerants wearing
like a greek tragedy.
But on the blue and pink horizon,
just beyond reason's periphery,
and often well-hid from Sunday's regular crowd,
are a righteous people infused
by God more than dotted lines
see the sinner,
know the darkness,
let the accused go free.
God, give us more "righteous" people like Joseph,
a ragamuffin privileged to serve
("they are before God's throne, and day and night they serve Him in His temple, while He who sits on the throne spreads His tent over them." Revelation 7:15)
I am a rolled-up newspaper that
missed the porch and
skidded on the sidewalk and
landed in the mud.
I am today's news with skinned knees,
scraped words and spattered bylines.
Take me into your confidence,
unwrap me, unfold me, read me openly,
only do not reject me for my occasional
obliterated words or the thinness
at my edges.
Lay me by your favorite chair
next to the hearth and let me
serve you there.
Well, Saidwas thinking of the value of longterm friends,
Lifelong faces on longterm friends are unfathomed wells
that take our heel-scuffed dirt deep and still reflect
our best profile. The dirt dies safely below
Acquaintances are mere reguttered rain-puddles,
shy and shallow, ruffled by wisps, dirtied
by the merest mention of dust.
But those ancient wells are springfed,
so deep their black is invitation and their
When I lean to look with my frightened face,
dark and wandering,
their reflection paints puff-cloud reminders on
an acrylic sky.
When my countenance drops crumble-rocks depressed
they absorb the understood sighs and offer
for my eyes and tears.
When my dreams fall quenchless accidentally
beneath the mirror surface,
only a smile is enough to return me
to dream again and
trust the years.
Lifelong faces, longterm friends,
never divulge what they know at the
bottom of their soul,
but like mirror's contemplation,
cast truth's artesian dignity to the
surface, reflected without
Longterm friends sparkle my
thanks to all who qualify,
some are healed
Let's make healing our chief objective....Please!
("Everything He has made beautiful in its time; He also has planted
eternity in their heart." Ecclesiastes 9:11a)
When I was starving they fed me poison,
when I was broken the mendacious set the bones
unmended in a dark corner for storage,
when I was sick with sin they meddled in medicine
that mutilated the beauty I sought.
For hours I mindlessly ramble,
run numbers in my head,
words across a screen in inane comparisons
trying to ignore the hunger still unmet,
the mending still undone,
the illness still begging for the physician's touch.
I long to taste each day fully before
reflexing yesterday's poison,
I long to squeeze the juice completely
from the fruit fully ripened for today.
I long to savor the nectar sweetly
before attractions carry me away from the table.
Yesterday's balm, tomorrow's strength are
hidden in the select sweetness of today's fruit.
Starving soul, ravenous hunger, taste the syrup slowly,
let it drip down your chin in healing delight before you
fill your appetite again at drive-thru moments of distraction.
We are wed to the earth, built out of clay,
but have heaven in mind and soul.
How dare we destroy the slightest beautiful light
with our judgment minus mercy.
We send mendicant souls spinning down
punishing trails and call it good enough for them.
Good enough. Justice enough. Just enough.
Enough, enough, enough!
Feed the starving, heal the ailing,
mend the broken who limp from sin till
the beauty of eternity planted deep within
grows to seed another's begging soul.
Feast at today's table to satisfy the craving
of our stuck-to-earth souls
before we harm another seeker whose
only drink is from the judgment well;
who needs mercy's meal and
Father, make my hands Your hands to heal,
Hill: First and Last
I don't know, but perhaps sometimes our patience isn't revealed till the last...
("Something completed is better than something just begun; patience is better than too much pride." Ecclesiastes 7:8)
I was surprised how the hill overtook my valiance
my first trip out of the valley.
The wind was no object, it was at my back;
the sun only warmed my adolescent expectations;
and the distance was a distance I had run with friends before.
Breathing was easy at the beginning, and my heart was with me in the race,
till the base
of the hill met me like a dragon with scales and flaming breath.
But my youth was my sword,
my confidence the dagger to slay the menace that would steal my pride.
that first day.
and the next day.
till the third day and fourth.
I failed to slay the slope I eagerly challenged in zeal.
Nearly a week of exuberance gave way to resigned reluctance
the Friday I met the mount more slowly.
The wind reversed to taunt me,
the sun burned my last youthful trust
and the distance was now forever from start to last,
but I would last.
All vigor spent and hope deferred
dealt a dizzy victory over the hill so proud.
Days of defeat only trained my legs and heart,
spirit and self, for a sweeter stance atop the hill.
Exhausted, humbled, wiser and quiet,
I continued where once I sprinted and bragged
No Mark Remains
it's both scary and cleansing to come into the light...
("This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but
men and women everywhere ran for the darkness." John 3:19a [The Message])
Late night, stealth flight,
ignite Your flame inside.
When the roundspun corners are more inviting
than broadstreet life, kill my instincts
for hiding in shadow's casualities.
Free grace, embrace
my face transformed by light.
When cruel thoughts, claustrophobia constraining truth,
infiltrate the sunny meadows You've made,
dismiss their swarming indictments with rays and warmth.
Pierce me, slay me,
place me open fearless.
Bowed and silent, no wind, nor storm, nor threat,
I ease my sticky wings from the dark chrysalis and
slowly wave them sunward,
bathe them showered in light,
point them brilliantly new,
use them freely in flight,
soar them from heaven's view.
Cell dark depart,
no mark remains, nor blot.
how silly we sometimes are, turning down life's best offer...
("So if we refuse this great way of being saved, how can we hope to escape?" Hebrews 2:3a)
The curtain's up, the show's begun,
the proscenium's full of joy without lecture.
So how can you stand at the back
picking at gnats,
and tossing your hat neatly in the air?
The Son's up, downstage center,
how can you fidget, refusing to stay
till the end,
No better place to be...
("You've come to Mount Zion, the city where the living God resides. The invisible Jerusalem is populated by throngs of festive angels and Christian citizens." Hebrews 12:22b,23 [The Message])
Oh happy holiness that invites us to dance the festive
With celebrant angels before we get there.
Oh bursting bloom in concrete on withering days, display
Your blossoms and fragrance where waste and temporal riches fade.
Oh children of God, once frightened of the dark, shine your
Refined lives more like morning stars before dawn.
Oh careless wanderer, lonely vagabond, join your dreams
With the waking truth of unity midst fearful chards.
Climb the mountain already conquered by Love's highest display.
See the standard already raised; a cross in bloom, sweet bouquet.
Sing with the souls set free, skip like calves round the mountain
Claimed for travelers weary of the monotony of sin.
let's go mountain climbing,
But for the Moments
Looking back, what seems a lifetime is but a breath...
Moments seem larger while we wait for them,
More brickwork than elastic,
More determined than sudden.
Moments fade like sirens once we move past them,
More lacework than canvas,
More vagabond than sojourn.
Brides shine their finest down the aisle with radiance
Poured from eternal springs,
Babies gurgle forever the moment they emerge from
Dark and warm wombs to be held in exhausted arms.
Daughters dance their way to kindergarten laughter
And toe shoes,
And sons learn wrestle-moves on amateur carpets
Where kittens once played.
But for the moments, where would we go when mothers die,
When daughters sigh their lovelost boys,
When sons leave their rooms unlocked and lonely behind them.
But for the radiance and gurgles,
The dances and wrestling,
The tears at forgotten phone numbers and
But for the moments,
we might never hope for
eternity's snapshot forever.
keeping moments dear,
Thanking God for His greatness
("Reverence for the Lord leads to life, and such a man will remain
satisfied; he will not be visited by harm." Proverbs 19:23)
What calamities or collisions,
inequities or decisions pass unnoticed
by the untroubled Eyes of the Lord.
What dire straits or freefall,
dictates or slow crawls happen beyond
the hearing of the Ears of the Lord.
Waste your breath, sarcastic storms,
in hollow attempts to shove my enraptured
soul into gaping ditches, yawning detours
from my daily Love.
What help-cry or cry-long,
New-sigh or thanksong escapes untouched
By the embracing Hands of the Lord.
Please do read this one *all* the way through
("without bloodshedding there is no forgiveness." Hebrews 9:22b)
Who left this mess on the ground,
cutting people down to size,
piercing wounded hearts,
letting slashes crash through flesh and bone?
Who dismembered the foes,
beheaded the heretics,
left the failures in the snow alone?
Why do soldiers crack the necks
of independent thinkers
and rest after the bloodshed like virtuous
Why do we proudly torture every liberal enemy,
contorting their bruises till we feel taller and
paint the town red with the blood we spilled
from their open wounds.
Who used the sword sickly today?
Who wrung the neck of the not-so-true?
Who wielded sickles like bludgeons in the fields?
Who strangled struggling souls and left
their bloodless carcasses alone unfamiliar?
While we bang our drums loudly,
shoot our guns wildly,
declare our perfection proudly
and step on the heads of the disobedient
The blood flows
That needs not flow
For the Blood flowed once
so thankful for His shed blood,
Who's ready to trust like Caleb?
("Caleb calmed down the crowd and said, 'Let's go and take the land.
I know we can do it!' " Numbers 13:30)
Why do some rise from a bed of pain,
unfolding like rusty hinges,
scarcely new enough to wink toward the east,
yet laugh at mountains,
and create causes where others see blockades?
Where do the merest men find the time
to fearlessly face the monsters at the top
of the stairs
while basements are full of families huddling
What fascination ignites new flights toward destiny
while others chew on blades of grass in discontented ease.
When will we warm the cold feet,
animate the petrifaction,
disarm the defensive postures,
calm the shaking voices and
start the quivering hearts toward
continents of grace afforded beforehand.
Wake, arise, follow the Conquering Lamb
into chosen pasture
And overflowing with milk, honey, cream and berries.
And with childlike gusto that trusts God's simplest word:
that's exactly how I want to be!
Can we dare see the possibilities in the lives of those at the "bottom"?
("God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start
to those ready to quit." Psalm 145:14 [The Message])
Did you see the weary, tear-stained life,
the abolished amendments,
the listless drifting and giving in to
circumstance and consequence?
Every drug, every high,
every kiss, every try at
love ended with separated
apartments filled with borrowed furniture
and government bread.
While the children cry,
she pleads over phonewires filled
with familytalk, cyberchat, instant-credit
and overdue birthday greetings in lieu of
The faintest promise that tomorrow might
start without shivers
drives the cries
to barely friends for help.
Have you seen the partygirl stranded with
babies tugging at her youth, hopes, dreams and
the weightless is lead around her vanity?
Have you seen her hold her life together like a fawn
challenges the grizzly then hopelessly lies on
the forest floor in deathly surrender?
Then you've seen the miracle-seed buried
deep where death holds sway and witnessed
Of life from pain's deepest wound.
wanting to see more fresh starts,
The Shape of the Call
Sometimes discomfort is the very thing that wakes us to His call
("Don't drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith
and then get everything promised to them." Hebrews 6:12 [The Message])
Outer life read by eyes, tasted by duty,
scrubbed by constraints, numbed by sheer numbers
of daily duties and routines.
Outer life forced into molds and
forged like every expectation.
Inner life heeds the promises, craves the passion,
covets the faith that sent Abraham wandering mapless,
Moses traversing dryland water,
Daniel praying with lions and
Paul riding a horse of a different color.
Inner life be still enough to be brave where worlds
be stretched enough to seize the aerial promises
be strong enough to grasp prayer from spinning time
So when unease disarms the outer recital of creeds
inner life hears the call too foolish to be deception.
willing to go knowing not where I go,
willing servants, not slaves . . .
Restless sleep and a headache bullseyed over my left eye
fogged the intentions of morning bliss.
I would smile at the retreating night,
listen wiser to my aging father,
encourage truer my marrying son
and kiss my wife just before leaving
while she still slept.
I would, without the weary pain over my left eye.
Some servant, calling in sick to life,
arriving late to listen to the Loving instructions
from my Master in whispers.
Distant heart-rumbles, vague apprehensions,
echo around my soul like silly bellows inside a
I would quiet them, except for the nagging pangs
over my left eye.
. . . Some servants never show up. My eye-ache mixes the
elixir of ready comparison.
Annoying gnat of human exhaustion, how can you
compare yourself with the vultures of torture your
Master suffered in love.
This servant readies himself for vigilance and bidding
of his Master's desire and weighs the wounds against
his slight eye-pain and sighs.
This servant, unworthy, bows sleep, bows ease,
bows dreams, bows knees before Holy Affection
wounded for me;
and serves, still weary, achy
learning service to the loving King,
A Confection Rarer
Just one look at Jesus crucified can put all of life into perspective...
Why do you keep sowing the wind,
Reaping breathless, restless days?
Why do you reach daily for never
When now is offered free?
Why do you ignore the whisper but
Drink your laughter where shouts aren't heard?
Why do you enlarge your importance
When you're a spot on the dot of a planet?
Why do you hold your money, hug your position,
Kiss your pile of plastic, plaster, mortar and meetings,
Enhance your opinions; puff your position;
Spin your imperfection; then nod off when eternity
Suggests a confection rarer than your combination
Of exaggeration and fear.
Turn, impatient machine, to a slow and human pace,
Where creation sings with dew and mist,
Where morning rings with brisk and breeze,
Where rivers bring messages from God,
Where wheat fields fling praises abroad,
And every child plays free, every son of his Father
Finally unwinds beneath spiraling clouds and
Look deeply into the face of Love hanging
Deliberately on the carpentered
And ask again
"Why do I sow the wind
When Eternity waits for my grateful return."
trying to live at His pace,
("Pursue a righteous life--a life of steadiness." 1 Timothy 6:11b [The Message])
neither ecstatic nor despondent,
the placid fisherman casts for love of the venue
(a wonder-tailored day with flat-jade water and bursting sky)
and does not broadcast each catch
nor despair at a weightless line.
this verse describes much of what I love about Jesus...
("Then Jesus, seeing His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing there, said to His mother, 'Woman, see your son!'" John 19:26)
see the center of turbulent pain,
the dizzying agony like a top barely tottering at the end of a schoolboy's string
see the hurricane fury,
the battering of needle-like shafts of rain, diagonal rays in sheet after sheet of suffering
see the cyclone on display,
a world destroyed in a single body,
killer waves upheave over the perfect soul
hear the mournful thunder,
like a grieving father's moan,
watching the burial of an only son
see the angry flashes in the wrathful sky, blinding the perfect eyes, single vision, of the perfect son buried in sin's residue
see the eyes that see in that agony
with love's unbearable beam,
hear the voice that quivers in the pain
see the eyes that see His mother's ache, with lines etched by trust and puzzlement over a perfect Son's determined dying
hear the voice that commanded friends from the grave, that pounded waves into silent submission, that demanded demons flee their dungeons
hear the voice now strangled but strong, nearly silenced by the suffering, speak
with the same tone He used with banned children
"Mother, your son"
eyelids nearly failing in death, tongue parched, the same tone to His beloved friend,
"see your Mother"
and died with the words still flying above the heads of the divided crowd
Jesus, teach me Your "other-love"
Copyright April 1999
I wear my quiet disguise while
waiting on this thin margin of time.
On the outskirts, in the basement,
outside the circle, a round peg begging
to be square
Not brave enough to shout "foul" at Pharisees,
not good enough to be one,
I wait my exile out in lonely cells
while preachers better than I
judge the nation,
and pray for its dirt to be exposed.
Even my anger at their anger is too much like notes in the margin,
someone's comment on what's written indelibly.
The type is set and my pencil scratch
etchings on the edge of existence
my complaints are self-righteous soliloquies
from the borders of existence,
peripheral cries for prayer that has
pain in its heart.
I have no heart remaining, my pencil is a stub,
my lines are written, my protests erased
from the yellow inked margins where I wait
and reveal nothing of this poorly written life.
God, if I open these minimal pages will You
rip them from my spine?
erase my edited questions?
Will I hear You laughing from the center
of the universe at such silly lines?
Someone give me a room and a friend
quiet enough to hear God talk.
Copyright May 1999