"I love this town," Naomi said to me tonight.
She might as well have read my mind just then. "Me too. The whole Bohemian, funky, offbeat soul of it."
We were standing in the wind and the dark downtown, waiting for a light to change. Our small group had spent the past fifteen minutes walking around in pairs, praying over the city. Praying aloud doesn't come naturally for me, but somehow conviction came over me in the act. Not simply conviction as in knowing what I believe, but conviction as in knowing that I fail in this town--fail to see the needs of others, fail to overcome my innate hesitations and act.
I'm not sure exactly what that means.
After prayer, we all headed into Stuart's at the Market, where I discovered they make superb hot chocolate and we hung around for a spoken-word-only open mic session.
This being Bellingham, I was prepared for pretty much anything, especially politically speaking. Although anyone supporting Bush probably would have been chased out of the market in a storm of fresh produce.
To my surprise, though, the participation didn't really come from the stereotypical angry twentysomething poet, twisting rage and obscenity into tortuous lines of chaos-themed free verse. Justin got up and read a couple of beautifully-worded pieces on the value of a human life and worship. Erland recited "The Road Less Traveled". A mother with her four-year-old son in tow read some of her own work on different themes, as did a girl of about eleven. One neatly-dressed man, obviously experienced at the whole open-mic thing, did offer a piece he'd written about refusing to pledge allegiance to "our blood-stained flag." Another girl, just a few years younger than me, spoke into a microphone for the first time in her life.
Generally speaking, I enjoyed it far more than I'd thought I would. And that piece Justin read called "She's Beyond All This" connected deeply with my heart. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening, though, and one of the most powerful moments for me, came through the words of a gentleman named Gary Wade, who recited a poem he'd written called "I am War."
I will clarify here that I am not a pacifist at all costs. I do believe that there is a time for war--despite the fact that the whole idea of shedding blood is absolutely foreign to me, heart and soul. But this poem spoke to me because it captured, better than most Christians have ever put it, the "wages of sin."
Gary Wade was kind enough to give me a booklet he carried of his poetry afterwards, and it contained the poem. I won't quote all of it (that probably transgresses copyright law), but here's a few lines:
"I am War!
I am the fruit of injustice
sown on fester-ground
where you had not the courage to weed...
I am your reward for tolerating tyrants
and disarming yourselves in front of them.
I am War!
I am your price for greed,
and for not caring..."
He pointed at the audience as he spoke. Pointed right at me when he said "For disdain." Do I disdain? Sometimes. Perhaps more as a sin of omission, rather than commission. Perhaps I should have been angry, like a Pharisee, when he pointed at me. After all, he has no idea who I am, or what I've done. But it didn't matter. He might as well point at me; I'm human, I'm guilty as the next man, or woman.
Later, I drove past the Western campus. That school calls to me, begging me somehow to participate in it--the whole aching, rebellious, idealistic soul of it--bringing with me, of course, the Christ who died for every aching and rebellious and idealistic soul in town, starting with this one. And again, I haven't figured out entirely what it means to do anything about that. A lot of my feelings come from my own romantic reverence for the halls of learning.
Not having practiced much today, I had started singing "Panis Angelicus" in my car. As I drove by the school, the words struck me. I don't know Latin, but have researched enough to know that, roughly, part of the stanza works out to "Bread of angels, given to men... Oh, wonderful that the Lord becomes the food of the poor, the servant, and the lowly."
I'm not an evangelist. I can't go to school right now, and have no idea where to start in this town beyond what I already do. But if Jesus is the food of the poor and lowly, God grant me the wisdom and courage to serve to them. In whatever ways he asks.