Against The Grain
Loren was invited to speak for Ten Mile Christian's Middle School SWERVE event in Newberg, Oregon. He spoke on Living Against The Grain and how Jesus lives against the grain of the world but more so of the religious folks. He invited the students into bigger thinking, that living with Jesus isn't just about us living all the right way...but it is a heart transformed. A heart that sees past all the reasons we shouldn't love others, and loves others well. For scripture passages, he used the parables about the Kingdom of Heaven being like a tiny mustard seed and the Good Samaritan.
He asked me if I wanted to create and give a spoken word/slam poem...and these were the words I shared.
You can watch the clunky awkward performance here...it's been awhile okay?
My Sunday church attendance is perfect.
And His Word?
I research and study it, I know it from front to back.
it sits perched near me,
always urging me to submerge myself
in its pages, purging myself of sin.
The pages are filled with big words and verses to memorize,
anyone who claims they are Christian but does not know
citations and phrases, verses, from the Bible…
well they must be outrageously faking it.
But I can declare passages and phrases, verses and declarations, I know the entire book of Revelation,
so surely I am on the right track, the road so straight and so narrow.
it is totally hottest.
So I wear all the right clothes,
covering up most of the skin I live in,
my moles and freckles and bones, from my head to my toes,
the cleavage in my chest
the crack below my back..
my goal being modesty because we all know
But I wonder…
if we were being truly honest, if we actually believe that:
that modest is hottest.
But this is what we are told
and so we gossip about those who postpone modesty
Certainly they are consciously making the decision
to flaunt and reveal, making me feel jealous, reel anger
with their clickity high heels, and high pitched squeals,
their lust and their zeal,
appealing to my brothers in Christ,
while I’m over here trying to conceal myself,
out of love for my brothers.
But modest is hottest
and so I will continue to conceal, appealing to God above all.
I only swear and curse and cuss a little bit,
my lips barely drip the words that are foul,
and when these lips spew bits of words unworthy to be His,
I plead forgiveness and move on,
knowing His grace is like the ocean and I am but a tiny ship,
and the curse words don't have such a grip on me
that I cannot control them,
no, I'm able to withhold the curse words when I am in fellowship,
fellowship with my brothers and sisters,
my leaders and mentors.
I am committed to a clean mouth
when they are around.
During worship, and in secret,
I repent, I admit, I come to grips
that my lips drip filthy.
Because in front of them, I want to do all the right things
to say all the right words
I am no hypocrite.
Inside the anxiety eats me up,
twisting into knots,
my stomach is clenched into clots of fear, unsure of myself, drenched in hidden tears.
Who are my friends? Where do I belong?
The questions are endless,
but they feel all wrong,
so I plaster a smile on my face,
plastic and fake…
...aren't Christians remade?
Aren't we supposed to be rid of and above heartache?
For His name’s sake, the smile is plastered to my face,
I nod when asked if I’m okay,
but the anxiety...it's eating me alive
and I crave for it to be replaced,
No longer enslaved.
If I go to church and read my Bible
If I mostly wear the right clothes
If I don’t cuss too much
If I learn to smile enough…
...can I confirm that I am in His will?
If my main concern is that I am doing it mostly all right,
Then surely I am, and I can be certain that I am in the light...
But what if He, Jesus, is so much bigger than all this?
What if His invite is to something much different...
that instead of looking in the mirror to ensure you are right in all the ways,
He is actually calling you to something much richer
... in Spirit..transforming to deed?
What if He is pleading that we clean out our hearts,
instead of feeling the need to perform perfectly?
What if His reign, His authority, His Kingdom is against the grain..
the grain of the world, yes,
but even more so
of the pious and “blessed”, the ones who attain right living and religion, perfect Christianity?
What if His campaign is built on grace so scandalous,
grace of welcoming the foreigner and those we deem different,
even those we deem bad, His grace so scandalous, it fans a flame to reduce shame
for all, so much so
the religious folks cast Him out as radical,
shaking their heads and tisking their fingers
claiming the King as out of balance,
as a fake, as a man of malpractice?
What if He is asking us to love much bigger…
that our holiness may be more than the clothes we wear,
than the amount we swear,
than our Sunday church prayer?
What if we declared our anxiety and despair,
instead of pretending we don’t need to be repaired?
What if being His is living against the grain of even a lot of the church folk?
What if it is breathing Him in,
confident that we are His and He is ours
regardless of how right we live,
joining Him in a space of inclusiveness,
seeing people as humans
because you and I?
This is no illusion,
I am as much human as you,
you as much human as
the criminal man facing execution,
the woman stuck in prostitution,
the communities oppressed by our constitution,
every single human facing any sort of dissolution.
We are all human,
there are no "buts,"
made in His image as He invites us
into a new conclusion
of what it means to live as His.
What if His standard of faith is active, not passive,
a life unattractive in many ways, but proactive in all the ways,
fighting for the justice of others
just as Jesus did..
He lived against the grain
refraining from fitting into a mold wrongfully prepared for Him
as He obtained a community much like Himself:
a community of people cast out by those who believed they lived right,
a community containing shame and disdain,
a community on the bottom rung of society,
chained to poverty...
but they gained The King.
Must I further explain living against the grain?
Against the grain is His path,
the road so straight and so narrow...
He explains it when He says that He came to serve, not be served,
what we do for the least of these, we do unto Him,
A refugee and immigrant, Jesus came to this earth
to implement truth and grace, grace and truth,
unlimited grace and welcome, arms wide open
to those marginalized and hidden.
His infinite wisdom is ours to keep
His scandalous grace, covering us in heaps.
Will you follow Him, against the grain if it guarantees
a seat not just for you, but for all, at The Table?
Indeed, a seat for the liars and cheaters,
the beggars and transgenders,
the prostitutes and tax collectors,
at the table with the Redeemer King?
None of these lives need be lived in vain.
Will you live against the grain?
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