Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Poetry in Motion

OK, so I stumbled on a few poems I wrote about ten years ago, and I thought I'd share them with you. Some are about Jesus, others are about relationships, and others are about finding your way again after you've fallen. I just hope they make sense!

I hope you enjoy the poems below. I know it was a lot of fun for me to find them and post them for you. If you're impressed by them, just remember I probably looked something like the picture above when I wrote them. Now, that's impressive!


Doug Hess said...

Hi, Steve-o. I really liked your poem about Jesus. You and I have pretty different ideas about who he was, but I think we have the same idea about what he would think about things today.

Just out of curiosity, how is it that a rabble-rouser and radical finds himself working in the religion business? I remember some conversations you and I have had about these kinds of things, but maybe I don't see how your specific job fits with who you are and your views. What is it you like about what you're doing? What keeps you doing it? If you were in charge of your own church--complete with the financial obligations--what would you do differently than you're seeing today?

I think I'm fascinated by you because you're a rebel inside a system you seem so desperate to rebel against.


Steve Hayes said...


So good to hear from you again. Thanks for checking in!

You ask a fair question. Sometimes it's odd even to me that I'm a pastor. You're probably right in that I don't much fit the mold of a preacher. I've always known that, so it's been a somewhat strange journey.

The Christian church has always had rebels as pastors. It's only recently that Pastors have been viewed as charicatures and narrow-minded fundamentalists. In times past, they were agents of cultural change, and people of great risk.

Martin Luther, for example, flew in the face of the political and religious powerhouse of his day: the Roman Catholic Church. He risked persecution and death for his actions, but in so doing, he changed the world.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian, actively protested the Nazi regime during Hitler's reign. He was imprisoned for his views, and was eventually hanged for his opposition. His works are still being read today, and he is viewed by Christians and non-Christians alike as a radical defender of human rights, and one of the brightest minds in theology and philosophy.

Many of the great hospitals in our country and abroad were started by pastors who had a heart to bring others the same kind of healing that Jesus had brought them. The majority of charitable organizations in this country were founded by Christians who sought to make a difference in the world.

I guess my point is that it's not at all unusual for true Christianity to be a catalyst for change and social upheaval. The problem is that Christianity today has lost sight of its radical roots, and has instead become polarized by peripheral moral issues. Don't get me wrong, morality is extremely important, but Christianity is about much more than behavior modification. At it's core, Christianity is a radically different view of life that requires risk, faith and great sacrifice. Unfortunately, it has become marred by a defensive posture and a "circle the wagons" view of culture.

I do this, Doug, becuase I find in Jesus a reason for living. I find a man who defied the religious leaders of his day, and who was able to rise above the political fray. I find a man who loved people unconditionally, and sacrificed himself for the good of humanity. Ultimately, however, I find a man who claimed to be God. As C.S. Lewis said, Jesus was either who he claimed to be, or he was a "mad man." He either is the Son of God, or he's David Koresh. I believe he is who he said he was, and I think he's the savior of the world.

I do what I do because I believe in Jesus, not because I believe in "the religion business." I could care less about the religion business. I just want to follow Jesus, and that's exactly why I'm a rebel.

I currently work at a church that I think is doing it right. It's a church that is focused on being a benefit to the community at large. One of the questions we always ask is "Are we making the kind of contribution to our community that would cause our community to raise the money to rebuild our church if it burned down?" In other words, do people inside and outside of our church view us as a benefit to all people? That's the way the world viewed Mother Teresa, and because of her life, people knew the true love of Jesus. I'd like for people to say that about me.

I like doing what I'm doing because it affords me the opportunity to be a part of something that is life changing. I've planted churches in Germany, Africa and Corsicana, TX. As a result, thousands of people will come to see the unconditional love of Jesus, and it will change their lives. I love being a part of something that will truly impact people, and I beleive that impact will be eternal. Now, that's exciting!!

I know we don't view things in the same way, Doug, but just think about if you had the chance to lead someone to a truth that would change their life for the good for eternity. Wouldn't you be excited about that? Wouldn't that make everything else seem insignificant? I don't expect you to believe what I believe, but I think you can see where I'm coming from.

I do think the church has to be reformed, and that's where you're getting the rebel aspect of my personality. I hate how impotent the church has become in culture because we're more concerned about political platforms and moral platitudes than we are about people. I don't think you mind the fact that we disagree on many things, because you know I love you. In the end, you know I'd go to bat for you if you needed me, so it's not essential for us to agree on everything. If, however, you thought that my friendship and love for you was based on your view of homosexuality or politics, you'd view me as a biggot, and rightfully so!

I don't think most people would care if the church had views that they didn't agree with if they knew the church loved them. The woman at the well (in John 4) was living a lifestyle that Jesus disagreed with. Instead of judging her lifestyle, Jesus offered her "living water", and loved her unconditionally. That's true Christianity. That's what I want to be a part of.

OK, sorry to write for so long. I hope that makes sense. Thanks for stopping by, Doug. I miss you and would love to visit sometime soon. Tell your wife hello!! I hope the new house is serving you well!!

Doug said...

Hi, Steve. There are times I wish I had the clarity that you seem to have. You may not always be sure of the path, you always seem to know the destination, and I both admire and envy that.

You're right that you and I see things pretty differently, but I also admire that you don't let that get in the way of our friendship. My father is a very spiritual man--I'm not sure I'd call him "religious--and that relationship has taught me that very intelligent people can disagree with you. My father believes all kinds of things that I really don't understand, but given what I know about him, I've learned that that's okay. The more I get to know about you, the more I feel that way about you, too.

This may surprise you, but I actually miss church very much. I have very warm memories of my youth group and the relationships I formed that existed both inside and outside my church in Cincinnati.

You're right that there have always been religious rebels, and they've done an amazing amount of good. But if you think about the word "rebel" you'll see that those people by definition worked outside the accepted boundaries of the church. We admire people like Martin Luther today because we have come to see that he did the right thing by posting that note on the church door, but to say that he was unpopular at the time is a bit of an understatement. Your story of the German man is a perfect example as well.

I know there are lots of good churches and good people working in them, Steve, but what I find interesting is that religion is about tradition and unchanging values. It often takes people who are willing to die for their beliefs to affect any change, and that's got to be hard for you. I know your heart and I know you want to make a difference. I just hope you're able to find peace where you are and that, when necessary, you're able to make the changes that need to be made without too much heartache.

In reading over this message I can see how jumbled it is. I've chosen not to change it in any way because I think it is the perfect depiction of the struggle in me. I know what I don't and can't believe, but I'm honestly not sure what I do believe. Nothing shows conflict better than a mess like this post.


Steve Hayes said...


What a brave and beautiful response. Thanks for being so honest.

It's not surprising to me at all that you miss church. Church can and should be a wonderful place of relationship building (both with God and others), exploration and awe. Unfortunately, many people have tried to make church an institution of rules, regulations and narrow-minded ideology. That's what happens when the church becomes a monument instead of a movement.

My experiences with the church have been vast. I remember when I was in college and I toured with a singing group. We went to churches all over Louisiana, and we stopped at this one church for a concert, and they wouldn't let us sing because we had a black person in our group. I was appalled. It was the worst thing I've ever witnessed, and it made me ashamed to be a Christian.

I've worked with youth groups for as long as I can remember, and I've had the opportunity to plant churches in Germany, Africa and Texas. I'm on the board of directors for a ministry that seeks to educate and embrace the 250 - 300 million people in India who are referred to as "Dalits". They are broken people who live like animals because they weren't born into the proper level of the caste system (initiated and maintained by the Hindu priests). I spent part of the summer building an orphanage in Acuna, Mexico for unwanted children.

I'm really not trying to brag about these things at all, Doug, but I'm sharing a few stories with you to demonstrate that I've seen the very worst parts of religion, as well as the very best. I have a hope that one day things will be set straight, and God has placed within me a desire to be involved in that process. I believe He's set that desire in all of us.

That doesn't make me certain of what I believe, but it does awaken something within me that I couldn't muster myself.

I believe certainty is a myth. It's the most overhyped myth around. Think of all the uncertainty that you went through in the process of building your home. You're certain that you live in it now, but anything could happen at any moment to change that. For years we were certain that Pluto was a planet. We are now certain that it's not. We were certain before 9/11 that our country was secure. Now were feeling as vulnerable as ever.

All this to say that you don't have to be certain about things to trust them. You trust something when it ignites a passion within you that you can't otherwise explain. Trust is far more radical than certainty, because it isn't dependant on empericism (by the way - where has empericism gotten us? We're more confused than ever!) Martin Luther King Jr had no empirical idea whether or not non-violent protest would end oppression, but he trusted that God was up to something, and he believed - in spite of all the contrary evidence - that his people would be "free at last."

I don't think you're a person void of belief, Doug. I think you are looking for all the right things to fall into place before you can trust. I submit to you that it may not work that way. I have so many questions about God and life, but I trust. I still can't figure out, for the life of me, why my Dad had to go out like he did. It still - 28 year later - haunts me. I've asked God about it a million times, and there's virtually no response. You'd think that in itself would be enough to turn me away.

But I still trust, and I'm trying to obey. Not because I'm some great guy who has this wonderful balance of belief, but because I NEED something to believe in, and Jesus has met that need. I have called to him when I had no place else to go, and - in the core of my being - he has given me peace. I have a reason for living, but it's not because I have achieved certainty. I have been rescued by faith. All I did was grab the life preserver and float. I believe that same option is available to you, but I'll never try to grab it for you.

My story is my story. Yours is different. I believe the same hope that I've found is there for anyone who believes. I don't KNOW that it's the truth, but I trust that it is.

Thanks again, Doug, for being so honest. I know the struggle of belief is not an easy one. I know how complex it is emotionally and intellectually. I pray that you will experience some rest in areas of belief, and if I can help, please feel free to let it all hang out. I won't be shocked, and I'll never try to make you feel like a lesser person because you struggle with faith. I'd only think less of you if you didn't.

Doug said...

I've struggled with how to respond to your post for a while now and just can't come up with anything worthy of the conversation that won’t be taken as divisive. I thought about talking about my beliefs--such as they are--but I'm afraid that would come off wrong. I'll just post what I have so far and leave it at that.

Hi, Steve. I'm not sure I'd call my last message brave. While it's true that I admire and envy the sense of peace and strength your faith gives you, I firmly believe that you can't choose what to believe. I simply can't believe what I don't.

I can't say my beliefs are changing as I age, but I do continue to refine them based on what I feel is reasonable and rational. My belief system boils down to this: I don’t know. I actually got that idea from Phil Donohue, but the whole quote was “I don’t know and you don’t either.” A tad presumptuous, I feel, so I adapted it.

I think the thing I struggle with most is the idea that so many people believe that I will go to hell because I don’t believe something. That can’t be right, can it? I can’t decide to believe things that make no sense to me.

I think I’d better stop talking now.


Steve Hayes said...


I know this is a sensitive issue, and I don't think you are tryng to be divisive. Trust me, I don't feel defensive about this. I want you to feel free to discuss without feeling attacked. I just appreciate the fact that you're willing to talk about this. It's a difficult issue.

Some of your thoughts remind me of what the famous atheist, Bertrand Russell, said (not an exact quote, but pretty close): "I want to believe in God, but he won't give me enough evidence!"

I can't and won't try to give you air tight evidence about my belief system. I do think that I can expose you to some thoughts and writings that may help in your struggle with belief. Here's an article that I hope you'll read, and I think you'll enjoy it a great deal:

Now, as far as hell and judgement go... It's really not my place to make that determination. In my belief system, God is the one who makes those calls. He seems to give some pretty clear determinations about heaven and hell, but he also clearly tells us that we are not to make those kinds of judgements. I try to steer clear from all of that, Doug, because it's just not up to me.

I do, however, beleive what the Bible says about heaven and hell, and I think it's consistent with God's character to judge both the living and the dead. It would be logically inconsistent for a perfect God to skimp on his own clearly defined standards. In other words, I do believe in a literal heaven and hell, and I do believe that God determines the final, eternal destination of all humanity.

I know that's not a popular belief, but that's what I hold to. Shoot, it's not the first time I've been unpopular!

Thanks for the conversation, Doug, and feel free to keep kicking stuff around. I think Phil Donahue had a pretty fair assessment. Please don't think that I'm claiming to know all of this stuff with certainty. I take it on faith, but I don't believe it's blind faith. Heck, when it comes down to it, I take pretty much everything on faith. I'm not sure there's any way you can answer the questions of life and existence without faith. That's kind of the way it works (Read the article above).