i have counted the hours between belief, where peace reigns quietly. and then dark spaces hover breathless, belief slams back into my mind. i am ghost haunted every day. even though i know i do not believe, even though i long to be free, it haunts me.

i have heard it said so easily ‘you just quit’, or ‘you didn’t give g-d a chance’, or ‘you never really believed’, as if that explains what i have done. as if i can be labeled, set aside as one more false believer, a liar. neatly packaging me away as bitter, or lazy, or angry.

it makes what i have done to be petty.

i prayed the prayers, and believed the words. i held every thing i was told as truth, and i listened to the preaching. i believed with all my heart, even when it cut me soul-deep. even when its words gave shape to my nightmares, even when the words left marks on my skin.

i believed.

i believed in the darkness, i believed in my own evil heart. i believed in a g-d that would love me anyway, and in a g-d that would somehow, someday save me from my own wretchedness.

i believed.

until the words cut me too long, too deeply. until i looked a little harder and found… nothing. when i looked past the words, past the bible, past the strings of the world that g-d was supposed to have created, there was nothing.

past my faith, there was only emptiness.

i had to stop believing. i took all my questions and my doubts, i took them all up to the g-d i had been taught to trust. and i trusted past the point of soul ache, past the point of bruises and broken bone hopes. i trusted pain over gentleness.

i took all the questions and found nothing.

the truth is that once i saw the nothing, i could not keep believing. because i cannot lie to myself. in belief, i was doing harm to my self, my soul.

maybe the g-d i grew up on is a false g-d, but it ate my soul. it careened from heaven, left me in hell for being evil. it celebrated the darkness that fed upon my body. it demanded everything from me, it gave nothing but more shame, more fear, more pain.

i have waited, thinking that if i were wrong, g-d would show up in one form or another. no other g-d has shown up for me to see, no other g-d has shown up to give anything.

i believed, and now i cannot.


the truth is, i would rather believe.

he manages to hold onto faith, delicate mysteries, a gracious view of the universe. acknowledging the bulk, the grit, discarding the fear and despair. he makes g-d seem possible.

he makes it beautiful.

if i could make it work, i would hold belief as gently and wildly as i see people doing. every approach leaves the dark yawning back at me. even knowing, even seeing how he does it, faith gapes laughing.

fingers sore from holding edges against the words i remember, i forget prayer used to hurt. i find words, reasons, belief surging up against light’s promise. i try to pray.

words are still blackbird broken, drifting just past skin’s border, graceless leaves.

the choice to not believe was never the simple one.

even now, a year later, the pull exists. i keep thinking that somehow it should not have ended. that i walked away too soon, too simply. that i have not given faith enough of a chance. i see him believing, it seems so gentle and possible. he makes it look kind.

but every time i fall into the words, they still burn.

bible still runs acid along my soul, eating away the hope of goodness. until all that is left is the ache for repenting forgiveness, and a someday wishing that i will be good enough again. even rejecting g-d, i ache for the idea that if i had worked enough, i would have been loved. i am still running from belief, still running from the idea that i am evil.

confession still comes too easily.

their songs, their melodies still run counterpoint to new ideas. word for note, they weave in and out of darkness. how can there be so much beauty mixed with such pain? how can it poison me, and yet be lovely to someone else?

the truth is, i would rather believe.


‘Reveille, reveille, up all bunks,’

intercom’s voice split up morning into sharp cornered awareness.

night was just pulling away from sun, dark shedding light. it was time to get up.

her eyes met mine as she stripped the bed for the wash. we looked away. we never talked about it, we all had secrets. sometimes silence was the only privacy we knew.

intercom told all, a direct line upstairs.

so our secrets hovered, closer than the prayers we tried to pray.

‘Let’s go, let’s go. Stop lollygagging, People, Have I raised a bunch of lazybones?’

he sounded happy.

dropping all our secrets to the floor, we raced upstairs.

‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Let’s see. Who’s been good enough to go on a trip today?’

side by side, wall holds us all silent. we wait for judgement.

‘Well, I suppose you’ve all done well enough. Go get in the van.’

and we were driving. road to road to road, we all bend and turn in sun’s new light. green paints all the fields, they grow and grow. no one ever counts the stars, no one  ever remembers the dark. sun comes back, and we all pretend dark never came.

telephone poles mark the miles, but i do not count them. he is happy. saturday suddenly felt as wide as sky’s soft blue.

we stop.

‘Well,’ he says. ‘Why don’t you look around.’

and puppies were running everywhere.

there was brown, brown and white, gold and gold, four feet and barking.

‘do you mean it? pick one?’

‘Yes, yes. Hurry up, I don’t have all day.’

they ran and ran, so many small barking noises. how could i ever pick?

one puppy, wild and free raced by me. wheeling back around, he stopped, sniffed my hand, and lay down.

‘this one. i pick this one. i will call him fierce.’

‘Fine. You’d better take good care of him. Let’s go.’


her eyes are blue, not like mine.

she is faded and brown. she calls it ‘honest brown’, and it comes from laying in the sun.

‘In the winter, my skin is clean and white. In the summer I let it get an honest brown from the sun.’

mom is always brown, she never fades.

we are two, kelp to sand, against sky and wind.

wind tatters my hair. i feel it flying, wild and free.

‘It’s too bad, really, that you’re not more like Jaeger.’

her fingers blur over the shrimp. head, tail, head, tail, tail, head, head, head, fistfuls of leavings drop to the sand.

grandma promised shrimp creole tonight, if i could only learn how to behead the shrimp more quickly.

‘Here, why don’t you do it faster? Honestly, they were right. you are lazy. But you can overcome that, learn to be better. Not like she is. She hasn’t worked at all to be a better person. Don’t be like her.’

my pile is smaller, messier. i am lazy.

gulls shriek overhead, flying close, closer, closest.

their wings beat prayers to silence. i try to tell my hands to tell my fingers to work harder, faster. but her pile is bigger, and grows with every minute.

gulls hover, hungry.

their voices shake between breathing. tired of trying, i hold my fists to sky, they are filled with heads, tails, heads, tails.

gulls swoop.

i am a hurricane of feathers, a shriek of lightning. they move so fast. they know wind, they know air, they know life. g-d never cared about gulls, only sparrows.

i like the gull, fierce, selfish, strong.

‘you may as well go play on the beach, you’re no use to me here.’

wind catches my hair, i race the tide coming and going. shell after shell traces from sand to pocket. their muffled roar to my ear tells the secrets of tide and salt.

they have no need to pray.

they beat against the reef until shattered, they tumble into salt until softened, then fill my pockets with silence. i am barefooted free, almost wind-flung into sky.

maybe i do not need to pray either.

her eyes are blue, not like mine.


it’s thanksgiving, and they are all together, house filled with laughing and talking. there are round pies, cakes, turkey, probably 2 kinds of stuffing, and gravy. the salad is fancy, the kids are all dressed up in cute outfits. they are together.

they are healing without me.

it’s his birthday, so there’s also cake and a stack of presents bought in the proper manner, to respect him.

i remember those holidays, how they crackled with hope and fear. tangled up together, the hope that this time i could be good enough they would be proud of me. fear that i’d misstep again, and there would be cold silences, and angry words. fear that the kids would somehow do something childish, and be hurt before i could prevent it.

constant watching, these were the holidays i knew.

we are not there, we are here.

mist floats from my breathing, in and out. it floats up, up, up, trading secrets with clouds. they tag moon, stitching up light into the night. wind pushes me through the water.

and i float.

half caught between the now and the then, breathing out poisons. water’s warm against me, wind’s cold on my face. here, on the water, there are no words. it keeps the secrets of salt. my fingers touch tile before wind floats me back to the center.

trees touch sky, bending, bending.

here, i am free. no gravity, no scars. all the dark is held back by trees and the delicate misty steam circling before me. today, i am free of the owing, of the thanking, of endlessly being sorry.

water ferries their voices, bright happy chatter.

‘daddy! daddy! look at me float!’

my gift to them today was not perfect turkey, and multiple side dishes. it was not china and special forks. it was not a fancy table set for us to perform at. it was not a loud gathering of uncertain people, who could not be trusted.

i gave them safety.

we gave them love.


romans 12

1. i ask you, by my mercy and g-d’s, present your body a living sacrifice to me. it is the least you can do.

2. don’t be like everyone else. be transformed by my renewing of your mind. so you will prove that you have learned what is good and acceptable, and perfect in my eyes.

3. for i say to you, g-d gave me the grace. do not think of yourself more highly than me. think carefully, modestly, because g-d gave me the faith to know truth.

4. even though there are many people, none are equal with me.

5. we, being many, are one body. and everyone’s body belongs to me.

6. there are many gifts, according to our faith, but mine are the most important. if i prophesy, it will be good. because my faith is pure.

7. or ministry, minister to me; and i will teach you.

8. and exhorting, exhort me: give to me with simplicity; and i will rule you with diligence. i will show you mercy with cheerfulness.

9. let your love be without hiding, without lies. i will know. i abhor that which is evil; cleave to me. i am good.

10. be kindly affectionate to me with brotherly love; in honour, prefer me.

Buckner Baptist Children’s Home

i received this story anonymously today, and they asked me to tell. i'm still shaking from reading it, because i have heard of this place too.
these 'homes' are sold to the parents, and churches as ways to help their children. before g-d, it is promised that their wayward ways of rebellion, anxiety, eating disorders, survival of abuse (although abuse is generally thought to be the fault of the child), drinking, rock music, homosexuality can be 'cured' with prayer and g-d.
these children are often removed, without protections from the legal system, and placed in these facilities.
i've seen the inside of them, and they are not homelike.
there generally is an aura of despair underneath a pretty surface of obedience. between the prayers and preaching, there are so many punishments disguised as help. all too often, the children's spirits are broken.
if you survived, if you're reading this, and you survived, i am so glad. 
you deserved better.


 Buckner Baptist Children’s Home – Anonymous


‘And don’t come back until you’re done crying.’

she slides around the door, face dripping with the remains of words and anger.

‘what do you have?’

‘it’s mine.’

wall behind me, holds my secrets. she and i, we look across the gap.

‘what do you have?’

she’s walking across the room. floor muffles all her steps, she’s so quiet. bird-sweet, she smiles. she is green-green with happiness now, all the sad is dried up under rainbow smiles.

‘i won’t tell. what do you have?’

and i believe. i believe the smile, and i believe the soft words.

chocolate smears my hands, and i show her – cookies.

‘those aren’t for you. give it to me.’


‘i will tell.’

before she can reach, i cram them into my mouth. they taste like soap now, chocolate and the soap that will come. mouth all full, we stare at each other.

smile’s all gone, she is thunder and ice.

i chew, chew, chew, and swallow. i want them to last, i want them to be mine. selfish, greedy, the chocolate is stronger than the soap taste.

i read in the dictionary a word, defiance.

i roll it around, chocolate and soap, d-e-f-i-a-n-c-e. warm crumbling cookies, and  mouthfilled with stubborn. the dictionary says ‘open resistance, bold disobedience’. today i’m tired, tired of being afraid, tired of obeying.

the cookie tastes like defiance.

‘i’m telling,’ she says.

she’s reaching across, and 10 little red moons rise. sharp and slicing, arms’ burning.

she smiles.


[shepherd’s gospel]

psalm 1

1. i am blessed for not listening to your sinful counsel, you are ung-dly. you are a sinner, kneel before me. i scorn you.

2. i delight only in g-d’s word. day and night, i learn how sinful you are. it makes me happy.

3. i am like a tree, i drink of your tears. i will never die. whatever i do, i will succeed.

4. you are not so. you are the dust under my feet, the wind blows you away.

5. you will always be judged. you will not be welcome with me, for i am righteous.

6. g-d knows that i am righteous. and you will die.