Saturday, December 29, 2012

18)Santo Niño Dios de Las Vacas y Mulos y de mí y Otras Tonterías así by James Metelak

Originally written in Spanish.  English Version below.

Santo Niño Dios,
Ah, por Amor
Dios mío
Mierda en tu pañal
Tomando leche de mamá
Qué tontería tener un Dios así.

Bebecito Dios,
Ay, mi mente,
Ay, mi amor,
¿En qué te convertí
¿Cómo te trato
Como un fin de semana,
Una amante que visito
En las posadas afuera,
En noches desesperadas
Grito tu nombre.
Tengo mis cantos y un poco de mirra
Para darte, aplacarte.
No llores por favor.
No uses esa voz conmigo.

Santo Niño Dios
Por mí, por favor,
Duerme bien allí
En tu pesebre, en tu
Lindo pasado, tu paraíso con ángeles
Dándote luz perfecta para
Tus fotos de calendario.

Al bebecito, no despiertes.
No le sacudas, bebecitos
Son frágiles, como fe                                                                         
Ay, mi amor,
Qué lindo eres,
Qué seguro,
Qué irreal,
Qué infantil,
Ahí en el pesebre
No meces nada como mesas
Ni barcos, ni te metes con vidas. 

Bebecito Dios,
Ay, ¿cuántas de mis cajas
Quebraste ya?
Trabajé bien duro en hacerlas.
Eres demasiado grande para tu pesebre ahora
¿Cómo puedo aguantar espacio adentro
Por el bebecito quien creó el espacio?
Eres pequeño como una palabra, Adánico,
Una bomba que me convierte en una sombra
En la banqueta, gracias por la invitación al banquete
Pero no hay lugar, no, no hay espacio para ti para mi
Entre nosotros, un abismo de infinitos
No, no hay, no hay espacio, estaré borrado
En la luz en que brilla este bebecito,
Ay, por amor,
Ay, Dios mío
La sangre
Una corona de espinas es mi regalo
Feliz cumpleaños.
Sigues muriendo, sigues amando,
Aun sin sentirte.
¿Cómo puede ser?
Un Dios así.

English Version:

Sweet Baby Jesus of the Mules, me and Other Tomfooleries

Sweet baby Jesus,
Oh my love,
Oh my God,
Shit in your diaper
Sipping milk from mama.
What foolishness, a God like this.

Saint Baby God,
Oh my mind,
Oh my love,
What have I turned you into?
I treat you like a weekend
Lover that I visit in roadside inns
On a desperate night
I scream your name.
I’ve got my songs,
And a little myrrh,
To regift you, placate you,
Please don’t cry.
Don’t use that tone.

Sweet baby Jesus,
For me please
Sleep well there
In your past tense manger bed,
Your paradise with the angels
Shining the perfect light
For your calendar photo shoot.
Careful, don’t wake the baby.
Fragile, do not shake,
Babies are fragile like faith
Oh my love,
You’re so cute,
So safe,
So infantile,
So unreal
There in your manger
You don’t mess with tables
Or topsails or meddle with people.

Saint Baby Godcito,
How many broken boxes are we
Up to now?
I spent a long time on those.
You’re getting too big for your manger,
How can I make inner room for a baby who made
Outer space?
You’re small like a word, Adamic,
A bomb that leaves me transfigured as shadow
On the sidewalk; thanks for the invite,
But there’s no room, no, no space for you, for a shepherd boy like me,
We stand apart by infinities,
In the light that shines on this baby so bright.

Oh love,
Oh my God,
For you, I have this spiny crown,
Happy Birthday.
You keep on loving, you keep on dying,
Even though I don’t feel you.
How could it be
A God like this,
A baby?

Thanks to Adriana Polanco for her Spanish grammar/sense check and her artistic editing/suggestions.

James Metelak is a poet, photographer, writer, musician, and teacher, and the primary editor of Headpiece Full of Straw and the 25 Days of Christmas.

Friday, December 28, 2012

17)Kerstin Danielle: A Few of My Favorite Things

A Perfect Reminder

Adorable Sweets

Commercial Holiday Treats 


Lake Menomin


Making Desserts


Scarves and Sweaters


Kerstin Danielle works with Americorps, is a recent University of Wisconsin Stout grad, and a passionate photographer, traveller, and servant of others.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

16)Wordless by Michelle H.



Someone comes
cloaked in silence,
Crumbling concrete.
There is meaning in his steps,
pressed to the waiting dust.
Words like water
drip from his
take on shapes
that hold.
A single, simple truth
onto swollen lips,

A Word

beyond our sense,
not in our speech
into this Babble.

He has come to take
the shards of sound
into his bleeding palms
and loose our twitching
tongues and turn the
Poisoned words all
into silver seeds.

Life and death,
sound and silence.
the wordless world
will hear.

Michelle H. is a courageous woman, an excellent writer and a passionate lit teacher based in Colorado Springs.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

15)Photography by Kate M.

Photos from Lithuania, Latvija, and Romania

Click on the first photo to view as a slideshow.

The Height of Advent

Neighbor Shoveling his Drive

When putting presents under the tree became overrated...

Bundling Up

Winter Wood

Winter Fruit
Winter's Texture

When I saw this tree, the first thought that came into
 my head was "Advent, that is advent."  The branches
are so full.  Pregnant, sagging and heavy.  Expectant.
Just waiting for the moment when all would fall into place...

Making marks on a clean slate

Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden...

For many, winter is quite grey and dreary, a time when solitude is felt more deeply;
the streets are empty earlier in the evening, and cold seeps bitter into the bones.
Sometimes all is left bare and naked, unable to be hidden; one can't help but see himself for
exactly who he is.  But God didn't come so he would stay that way.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

14)Faceless Madonna by Jonathan Kusnerek

Click on the image for a larger size.

Jonathan Kusnerek is an student at the Art Institute of Chicago from Pensacola, Florida.  He is talented artist in many areas--canvas, sculpture, music, pottery--and a loyal and inspiring friend.

Monday, December 24, 2012

13)In Sickness and in Death by Chris Krycho

I nearly wept:
my daughter could not understand
why her body ached, rebelled,
suffered from the stain of sin
in sickness form
-- sin she's yet to will --
and my sorrow ran deeper than song:
she has entered now into
the pangs
that make us hunger for

I tasted then
a hint
-- one barest, infinitesimal hint --
the pain of Bethlehem

I nearly wept:
the God-son had always known
why his body would ache, rebel
suffer from the stain of sin
in sickness form
-- sin he never willed --
and my trembling ran deeper than song:
he has entered then into
our pangs
and left behind

and humanity
in hypostatic union
twain and separate
one subservient to other
perfect conjoination:
divinized flesh and enfleshed deity
mystery and paradox


Why this myth come true?

For every infant child weeping wordless confusion at first illness
For every mourning father, mother, brother, sister, friend of dead child
For every shattered marriage foundered on the rocks of selfish sin
For every woman raped
For every man abused from birth
For every sick tragedy this world spews forth
For sin
For death

God with us
among us
like us
for us

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

--Hebrews 2:14-18 ESV

Passionate for truth, Chris Krycho is composer, writer, blogger, web designer.  He also recently became a father.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

12)Пусть будет рождественская ночь--Екатерина Руденко

This poem is much better in its original Russian, but I've included an English translation below.

Пусть будет рождественская ночь

Я брожу по улицам города
Я вдыхаю запах зимы
Я не чувствую сильного холода
Не боюсь одиночества тьмы

Мое сердце трепещет в волнении
Эта ночь пробуждает любовь
Где-то тихо церковное пение
Раздается. Пульсирует кровь

Я стою, погрузившись в мелодию
Надо мною сияет звезда
Мне тепло в этом пасмурном городе
Греет мысль о рожденьи Христа

Он пришел, чтобы мир наш наполнить
Светом правды, любви, доброты
Его жертву всегда будем помнить
Эта ночь дарит людям мечты

Рождество. Ночь сияет волшебная
Я не в силах уже сдержать слез
Вдалеке слышно пенье молебное
Мне тепло, хоть крепчает мороз!

English Translation:

Through the streets of the city I wander
Breathing in winter's soft scent
The warmth inside me grows stronger
I don't fear the lonely darkness

In the silence, I hear only my footsteps
Then a hymn sounds out o'er the quiet
My heart flutters in the excitement
Of a love awakened inside

Blood pulsing, I am lost in melody
A star just above me shines brightly
Cherishing the weight of Christ's birth
I am warm in this gloomy city

Peace on earth, he came down to fill us with
Love, the light of truth, and kindness
We remember always his sacrifice
It fills us with hope:  Christmas.

I am unable to stop the tears
There's a magic out here tonight
I heard a distant holy song
And I am warm in this frosty night.

Originally from Kaliningrad, when Ekaterina Rudenko isn't studying Economics or French she is often dancing, writing, or taking walks in the Moscow snow.  

Из Калиниграда, Екатерина Руденко студентка, поэт, и танцовщица. Также ее соседка думает, что она неплохо готовит.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

11)The Letter by Greta Cydzikaitė

Greta Cydzikaitė is a student of Psychology, German, and Music at Glasgow University in Scotland.  Hailing from Mažeikiai, Lithuania, she is a talented and passionate violinist, and an inspiring friend in service, Spirit, and prayer.   

Friday, December 21, 2012

10)Ariana Helvie: Pensacola Christmas Photography

Click on the photos for a slideshow.

Ariana Helvie is a passionate photographer, blogger, and student from Pensacola, Florida, where there's generally a lot more sand than snow at Christmas.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

8)Authentic Joy by Lisa Metzler

In one of those moments when I realized my son wasn't coming home for Christmas, I wept from the very depths of my being.  As I brought myself back into the present, I realized I had a choice.   Do I give in to despondency and depression or do I wholeheartedly turn to God and ask Him to help me remember the real reason for this Christmas Season?

The only way I will be able to experience joy, be useful for God's Kingdom, and bring His joy and hope to others this Christmas Season, will be if I ask God to fill me with His Holy Spirit and depend on Him for the results.  When we truly understand the fact that God willingly gave His only Son to die so we could spend eternity with Him and with our loved ones who have gone before us; it will bring us a sense of peace and even hope.

It's like standing on the crest of a hill, seeing the beautiful peaks of the mountains in the distance, and refusing to allow our minds to dwell on the smog and muck that lies between that horizon and us.

As we deliberately keep our focus on God and ask His Holy Spirit to fill us, He will enable us to take the next step.  We must limit our perspective to focusing on one step at a time and we must trust Him to bring us the grace to take the next when that time comes. 

With our eyes focused on Jesus and our hearts filled with His Holy Spirit, He will overflow from us into the lives of those around us. Only in this way can we honestly share the joy and hope of this Season regardless of our circumstances.

With Love in Jesus, Lisa

Lisa Metzler is a devotional writer and an amazing second mom from Fallbrook, CA.  Hopefully by next year we'll be able to recommend her first book.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

7)I Heard the Bells by Julija and Dovilė

Julija and Dovilė are social workers, fellow students, and worship leaders from Vilnius, Lithuania.

Monday, December 17, 2012

6)Business by Audrey Miller

Click to view larger size.

Audrey says:   This watercolor was inspired by my current job. I am working at a clothing store in a mall and I noticed how prominent presents are. People see Christmas shopping as a duty. They feel they must get something for everyone.

Yet, Christmas is not about presents. Presents are to be merely an outpouring of joy in response to Jesus, the gift God gave us. Presents are not to be given because of duty but because of generosity stemming from joy. The first gift of Christmas often gets lost in the hustle and bustle, but if you look, our Lord is there.

Audrey Miller is a recent Studio Art Graduate from the University of CSU--Chico.   Besides being an impressive artist, the joy she finds in life and God is truly inspiring.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

5)Via by Stephen Carradini


There are so many ways we show life:
A wedding ring, spun in nervousness;
Biking at top speed down the big hill;
The family gently shuffling pinochle.
Every smile and clap on the shoulder,
wistful sighs from lovers, states apart.
We proclaim life in each season alike,
our scenes born to catch and categorize.

But there's something special about it,
this six-week span of goodwill to men.
The life that we celebrate is lighter,
New tragedies that we endure, heavier.
There's no shine as bright as the star,
and no shadow as dark as the future

of a child, born to die, bringing life,
the darkness entwined with the light.
The life, and the death, his and ours,
seen so violently, so vividly broken,
burning our feet on the ashes of our
own coals, the fires of our own hearts
that so celebrate life, so cause deaths.
And mourning, that act so conflicted:
to celebrate life or to weep for it, now,
the impervious presence of constancy.
For to see the whole scope of life is
a reminder that we will eventually not
be alive, no matter how we celebrate.

Still, not a reason to celebrate quietly.
We can reverence the giver of life and,
yes, even death (even over our brights,
the brightest time some see while here)
to know that no matter what comes,
he has seen, and known, and felt it.
Born, saw death, mourned, and died

to rise,

like a star, celebrating life over all death,
that necessary dark flag for stars to shine,
still there, but not the main point. No more.

We celebrate life with our hands and heart
a flag waved, a candle lit, a feeling known:
death to die, notice served on Christmas.

Stephen Carradini is a writer and musician from Oklahoma who currently resides in Alabama.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

3)Рождество Христово--Зоя Жданова (The Birth of Christ by Zoë Zhanova)

Zoë Zhanova is a Russian-Kyrgyz painter based in Bishkek.   

Зоя Жданова--русская художница из Кыргузстана.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2)The Man at the Well by Kelvin Folwer

God in his compassion
lowered himself
to the heights
of humanity
and became one of us

Fully God
yet fully us
God with us

The winds of change
storming in the north
led a prophet
a lonely prophet
to utter an edict

A sign will come
a sign from God
a sign that will be God
a sign

A royal bairn will be birthed
from the belly of a virgin
the sign will have a name
that name will be Immanuel

And God came to us
God in his Glory
Jesus the son
humanity in her infancy

He came into the world
the world did not recognise him
he came for his own
yet his own did not recognise him

He was a tender shoot
in dry ground
like a reed
waiting to be broken
justice being
led to victory
God with us

An age passing
an epoch folding
as heaven
intersected earth
in the form of an infant

From the throne of his cradle
with the government
upon his shoulders
our prince of peace
changed everything

He ushered the coming kingdom
the not yet
into the now
the curtain ripped
the laws of old
fell from the heights of old
and landed squarely
in the temple
the temple of our hearts

He made us holy
bore our suffering
separating our sin
like the sunrise from the sunset
and crowned us with
love and mercy

His pierced skin
delivered glorious healing
from an unjust punishment
that set us free
brought us peace
and bought us salvation
from an everlasting father
and mighty God

He trawled the depths of humanity
set captives free
and rose from his suffering
returned from the hearth of hell
to the hearth of intercession
the abode of angels
and the cathedra of his father

But the altar is smashed
in the now
between what was
and what will be
he is God with us
our wonderful counsellor

Fully human
fully understanding our humanness
honoured with a broken body
in our brokenness
yet complete
to bring our completeness
he is God with us

We are not abandoned
to our coming graves
with his proclamation
on his thighs
the lord of lords
on his cloud of glory
will ride the skies
and finally
every knee will bow
and every tongue
will worship
our king
of kings

The one who was and who is
the infant in the manger
the boy in the temple
the man at the well
and the glorious
prince hanging on a wretched cross

Jesus the Christ
God With Us

Kelvin Fowler is a Kiwi pastor, poet, writer, and artist who lives in Klaipėda, Lithuania.  His exploits include numerous publications, a poetry tour of the UK, and various adventures like those in his book "Clueless in America."  Please do not repost this poem without his permission.

"The Man at the Well" won honorable mention in the "journalezine" Christmas Competition and will be featured in his forthcoming book of worship poetry.    Check out more of Kelvin's work at

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

1)The Friendly Beasts

The Friendly Beasts are:

Alexandra Barker:  Vocals, percussion, tambourine
Bailey Berry:  Dove 1, flute
Sarah Bradley:  Dove 2, violin
Steven Kennedy: Donkey, guitar 
Katie Joy Nellis: Intro vocals, Cow, whistling, recorder 
Victoria Petway: Sheep, saxophone, whistling

Of Gordon, Massachusetts

The Friendly Beasts (Traditional French Carol)

Jesus, our Brother, strong and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude,
And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
Jesus, our Brother, strong and good.

I, said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
I carried His mother uphill and down,
I carried His mother to Bethlehem town;
I, said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

I, said the cow, all white and red,
I gave Him my manger for His bed,
I gave Him hay to pillow His head;
I, said the cow, all white and red.

I, said the sheep with curly horn,
I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm,
He wore my coat on Christmas morn;
I, said the sheep with curly horn.

I, said the dove, from the rafters high,
I cooed Him to sleep that He should not cry,
We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I;
I, said the dove, from the rafters high.

Thus all the beasts, by some good spell,
In the stable dark were glad to tell
Of the gifts they gave Emmanuel,
The gifts they gave Emmanuel.

Friday, December 7, 2012

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS 2012!!!!!

Hello all.  Merry Christmas!   There are 5 more days until we kick things off here at the 25 days of Christmas.  I've already got 5 of my 25 days ready to go, still waiting on some more submissions!  (jimtak23 AT

Hopefully you will find this year's submissions inspiring, challenging, heart-warming, beautiful, and true.  :)

One thing I'd like to do new this year is to share some collections of Christmas memories and traditions with you all this year.  So if you've got a favorite or an interesting one, send it my way as well.

Take care, and hope to see you back here in 5 days for a wild kick-off!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

22)Michelle H: Advent.

With her trembling right palm, she unconsciously caresses her swollen belly, her left wrist lightly guiding the steering wheel. I had not noticed the protrusion of her abdomen before , a curved pressure against the waffle weave of her polo shirt, a roundness incongruent with her slight and sure translucent wrists.

"Does it hurt?" I asked her. Yes, there's some pressure. "How long?"  Just a week or two since the pain.  I overheard her telling my father wryly that it was like when she was 7 months pregnant.

Advent is supposed to be a time of waiting. We don't wait much at all these days. There are Cesarean sections and instant watch movies and smart phones; we don't wait for our bread to rise or for the year of jubilee. We only wait when we're bored. Or desperate.

 The dye she swallowed confirmed a "suspicious mass", 13 cm by 8 cm in the abdominal cavity. But we didn't have any insurance, so nobody had any room in the in-patient ward for her. It took doctors breaking deals and nurses plying their power just to get the tests at a cost we could pay up-front. Mountains of paperwork, miles of phone calls, exorbitant prices. Waiting. The words 'ovarian cancer' had been spoken but it would take another four weeks before the tumor (which we didn't call it aloud) could be cut out. I tried not to imagine it pumping out cancerous cells like some burst oil main. Four weeks is a long time.

But we waited. Stuck between jobs, I was home with nothing to do but pray for the paperwork to go through and take over my mother's chores. September in Los Angeles is as listless as summer, full of         90-degree afternoons and browning grass. In my silent neighborhood, I'd squint into the glaring sun and hose the rabbit crap off the steel cage, letting it drip dry against the brick wall. I tried to revive the fragile, crisping plants, mostly dead save the tomato vine. Every day there seemed to be ten more miniature, yellow tomatoes, falling into my hands.

Mom would lie in the cool shade of her room, the one place in the house with a working air conditioner. She stacked and re-stacked pillows to cushion her sides, her hands protectively curled around her bulging stomach--attempting to sleep against the enormous pressure in her core. A perversion of pregnancy--the aches and the pain--the organs re-arranging to protect a death-dealing lump near her womb. The people I spoke to would say many women already have had their hysterectomies by now; it's common to have complications. We try to keep motherhood picturesque--the pale virgin clasping the rosy-child,
but the mechanics are messy, often fatal. This made me inexplicably angry. The beginning of life turned into a ticking bomb.

"I never thought that I would actually say I was looking forward to a surgery," she said with rye humor, "but I am, at this point." Sometimes, we would go a whole day waiting for the doctor's office to call back; we often went to sleep disappointed. Through all this waiting there was still, I think, the slightest hope the mass
might prove to be benign, some strange fiber for the book of records. Thank God, we would have said. The surgeon would have smiled gently, shook our hands and sent us home.

My 23rd birthday was spent propped between two chairs in a silent ICU. Silent, except for the beeping of machines, the steady hiss of my mother's respirator and the trickle of dripping IVs and catheters. I normally spend the night before my birthday in some sort of crisis anyway, wondering over the worthiness of my existence so I was glad for something to focus on - in this case, my mother's breath, my mother's life which swallowed up any unworthiness in my own. The gatekeeper, Fernando, made a point of asking my name and with his thick Filipinno accent insisted "You take" as he offered me juice boxes, graham crackers, cups of tea, blankets. A strange set of birthday gifts.

It's hard to explain what exactly I was waiting for. They had told my family we didn't need to be there, but we took shifts nevertheless, We weren't expecting the surgery to have taken a slice of her diaphragm and the consequent sedation and tubes and indignity.We weren't expecting a lot of things.

I don't know how to expect goodness; I think I may have learned how to wait for relief. But to wait actively with hope for health, for life to return to something better than the status quo is beyond me. I have been waiting for relief from one thing or another for as long as I can remember: the pressures of high school, the rigors of college, the pang caused by a broken home, the uncertainty of post-graduate life. With my mother, first we waited for confirmation of the tests, then too long for the surgery. Then hours for the final verdict, where the tumor had been and what it was. Then, after they scooped out her insides we waited for her breaths to be her own, for the ventilator to be removed, for awareness to return. For speech. Then a room in the cancer ward. Then for chemo. One by one we waited for the tubes to be removed, for home and then for hair loss.

It seems the best I can hope for is the next batch of relief from pain, the next wave of fresh air after a long hospital shift. I dare not even hope for healing. It is hard for me to look forward to a Messiah. For beauty. For redemption. For thicker hair growing in. Frankly, I'm afraid to ask for it. Afraid of prayers answered only by beeping heart monitors.

Advent is the time we remember waiting for Christ's first arrival, His incarnation. But "adventus" is also the Latin translation of the Greek "paraousia" - the word in the New Testament for the Second Coming of Christ. Early advent celebrations did not involve chocolate count-down calendars, but fasting and repentance. It mirrored Lent in symbolic preparation for the fiery appearance of Christ the Judge, who when he returns to earth will not come as an infant meek and lowly. This is easier for me to imagine right now.
I am not expecting redemption--I'm tensed for judgement, for the day and hour that no one knows, looking forward to the next diagnosis, pronouncement, statistic. Fifty percent in one year, seventy percent in three years. All of these numbers and falling stars and mysterious scrolls in the near and distant future.  I pray for specifics, hoping I will be able to see the light, the clear, palpable hope, something tangible, something palpable, asking for an appointment or timeline when God will explain things or make them right.. How long?

David never took these things lying down. For a man after God's own heart, he seems surprisingly impatient. He rants and raves, pushes God's time deficiencies squarely back in His face. "How long," he always asks, "how long." And he's not texting tactfully what time the surgery will be done, avoiding the question of what the results might be. He wants earth-shattering restoration, shalom that will raise the dead and restore the exiled, and David wants it now. At least at the beginning of his poems.

He never gets his questions answered. At least, not from a voice in the sky providing a schedule, which I think is what we all want from prayer. But David does answer his own questions, in a round-a-bout way. He wanders away from the whens and almost always ends with Who.

Psalm 131 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long
will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in
my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my
enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, 4 And my
enemy will say, "I have overcome him," And my adversaries will
rejoice when I am shaken. 5 But I have trusted in Your
lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. 6 I will
sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

No timeor reassurance given, but a strange proclamation of trust surfacing
from the turmoil.

And then in David's most over-quoted and under-appreciated Psalm 23, he says something that stops me flat. Not the Valley of the Shadow of Death--that needs very little reflection to have resonance. But "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me."

Follow? I asked a very smart man with all sorts of degrees if it could really mean a literal following--behind one's back, coming after. He said it's the same verb that is used of David's enemies--relentless pursuit.

And I thought maybe that's why I can't hope for goodness, or even see it, sometimes. It's behind me. All the days of our lives. Invisible as the tree in your backyard, your first laugh, your mother's care. It's the foundation, the past pursuing, the good, sweet soil we walk upon. The apex of history, the kindness of God--the incarnation and the crucifixion and the resurrection--the intention of mercy--all behind us, at the foundations of the world. Pursuing us through every dark valley, dogging our steps. The rearguard in every battle.

When I look back at that first four weeks of awful waiting, I think of those damn tomatoes, popping up like manna. If we had no money for anything else, it seems we could live on those cheeky yellow bulbs. I think also of Fernando, the kindly gatekeeper of the I.C.U. I think of the generosity of our friends and the people my mother has touched that is still following us: grocery store gift cards, pet food, meals. We're still living on the goodness of others and may have to for some time.

I wonder if this is what the Second Coming will be like. Not an emphasis on our failures, but a revealing, an unveiling of the good God who followed us all our lives. We may still be sick when he comes, but we will see everywhere his tender care, his help towards health. The exposure of our lack coupled with the incredible display of provision--the dramatic irony revealed in a burst of celebration. And I wonder if perhaps this is why we wait for the coming of Christ. When he comes, we will see that he has been behind
 us all along, sewing history with seeds of beauty, opening the windows of our petty lives and making room for light.

So we wait for the coming of Christ - for he has come and he will come again and he is here now. We trust the Who more than we hate the when. We know that here and now it is "Keep waiting--I'll be right on time" that Christ speaks to us. Come, thou-long expected Jesus. Thou art here.

Michelle H. is a writer, a distinguished graduate of Westmont College and works as an English Teacher in Colorado.