Sourly Patched Theology

This poem was written out of my frustration with comments I have heard recently from people who call themselves Christian. I am a Christian…I remember my grandmother’s faith and strength and that of her siblings. I went to what was then a small country church when I was a child…I loved VBS, Sunday school, and all things between. And I still love the words of Jesus.

But some people have left love and hope out of their faith. They use their faith to exclude others and judge others. That’s not from the faith I know and follow. My faith tells me to welcome and sit with strangers, to hug people who hav been rejected by others, to encourage and love those with broken hearts…to be a Mama Bear…to speak out against abuse…to speak out for children being harmed…to give hope…to be a light in darkness…to care…to listen…to be open to leaning something new…to embrace the diversity of God’s creation…

Sourly Patched Theology

I wade through the murky bog
filled with your misconceptions
and self-informed thoughts
of who I am and I watch you
live out your sourly patched theology—
patched together with verses
cut from the whole and
stitched together to wrap
you comfortably in your
creation that you name truth…
the sweet for those you choose,
the sour for those who differ,
and gone when we don’t bend
to the pressures of your
need for others to conform
to your convenient readings
of the Holy Word you toss
around to prove the rightness
you need to cling to so
your house built on comfort and
convenience doesn’t
wash away with the
waves of truth our presence
sends into your life, and
I wonder why you
withhold seats at the table
and close doors and build
shelters from those you
claim to fear when you
have locked yourself away
from the joys being sent your way
and from the love waiting
just outside of the walls
you say are God-designed,
and you offer a superficial smile
and quick hugs to the peers
who join you in your
steeple-topped fortress
and polished pews
often built or cleaned
by the hands you push away
and your stained glass
hides the view of the hurting
and the hunger and the brokenness
you deem deserved by those
who carry the load, and
you toss out demands
to push any wanderers
farther away from
the hope you have locked
away by your own false fears
and your moat filled
with self-ordaining
holy water
that drowns out
the cries of those
clinging to the cross
you claim as yours
and yours alone…
your birthright to
the land you claimed as holy…
your inherited right
as one of the chosen few…
your legal right
as a citizen of the inner circle…
your claimed right
as a person who deserves
to feel happy and secure.

I wade through the waters
you called baptismal
but had tainted with your
own rumors of who
I needed to become
when I arose from
the cleansing depths,
and I pushed through
the falsehoods you
heaped upon me
and spewed about me…
thoughts born of your own
prejudices and fears and
assumptions believed
because you declare that
your own opinions and
interpretations are what
must be engraved in the
stones of the foundations
of your faith,
and you fear that my
presence may unearth
the roots you grow from
and may cause you
to face uncertainty
rather than the peace
you call yours to claim…
and I break free from the cross
built from your insecurities
that you tried to nail me to
and I move into the clearer waters
that are cool and refreshing
to my soul and the waves
of hope wash over
my wounds and cleanse them
and open arms pull me
from the depths of
my struggles and into
the arms of the Loving One
who had himself broken free
from your cross you nailed him to,
and he walked across the waters
of your moat and met me on the
the other side and together
we dined on the hillside
with others you tossed aside,
and I listened to his
words of love and hope
that only resembled the
words you had said were true,
and he called me by name
and saw me and touched my wounds
as I touched his
and he built a table
for all of us and we
saved a seat for you…
we’re waiting just outside
your walls of hate and fear
and disbelief…we have shed our labels
you branded us with…and
we dance and sing and
break bread and learn from
the One who is The Word…
and with the bread,
he left a trail that leads
you to the Life that
The Word called you to…
Come to the table
on the other side…

–Chris Pepple ©2019

Fun Facts and Other Random Thoughts

Some days, life is just about the little things that make you smile…for me today it was about trivia that I found fascinating. Since my novel, Without a Voice, takes the characters from Memphis to Arrow Rock, Missouri, I thought I would give you some fun facts about Arrow Rock and the city’s famous painter who helps me tell the story:

Arrow Rock is a village in Saline County, Missouri. It is located near the Missouri River. The village has important historical significance related to the travelers who came through as they headed west on the Santa Fe Trail and related to one citizen—19th century artist George Caleb Bingham. The entire village of Arrow Rock has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Friends of Arrow Rock offers tram tours of village attractions, including the National Historic Landmark home of famous American painter citizen George Caleb Bingham, and the home and shop of renowned gunsmith John Sites. Visitors can still dine at the J. Huston Tavern, the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi. Characters in Without a Voice enjoyed the food here too.

George Caleb Bingham was an American artist whose paintings of American life in the frontier lands along the Missouri River still captivate viewers today. Many art critics credit Bingham with being the first outstanding American artist from the “West.”  Bingham’s paintings relate to life and commerce along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and to the pioneer life of the people of Missouri in and around St. Louis, Columbia, Jefferson City, Arrow Rock, Boonville, and Kansas City. His most renowned works were completed between 1845 and 1855.

in 1820, when Bingham was nine, Missouri became the 24th state. Only five years before Bingham was born, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery returned from their 1804-06 westward journey. It is possible that Bingham was Missouri’s first artist.

These facts may seem totally useless to some people. If you live in Arrow Rock or if you like art, however, you may find these facts fascinating. I remind myself that it’s all about perspective. As a mom, I have to remember to look at things from the perspective of my daughters. I remember when a certain band was all they could talk about or when they absolutely had to have silly bands to trade at school. That was what was important to them in their world of childhood and young friendships.

I often have to remind myself to remember that my perspective comes from my family, my friends, my work, my traditions, my race, my economic status, etc.…I can’t claim my perspective as an absolute truth for all people. I recently volunteered for a few hours to assist a group of people who moved here from another nation. Organizers of the event soon realized that we had set up everything from the perspective of our culture. The organizers had to make some quick changes to some foods and some signs in the bathrooms. Some basic things that we thought made sense didn’t make sense to all cultures.

So I’m trying to learn to look at things from different perspectives—from different cultures, to different time periods, to different towns. It’s making me a better me.