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Insane-Loving God: I.M.O. Spencer Perkins

January 28, 2016

mteThanking God today for dear friend and yokefellow Spencer Perkins, who passed into heaven too suddenly 18 years ago. I so wish I could hear what he would preach and write now, in this new time of polarization.  A poem I wrote, a year after he died.


Hymn to an Insane-Loving God

In memory of Spencer Perkins 1954-January 27, 1998

For him it was always hard, accepting who he was,
Even in your eyes.
So I do that today,
For he was much greater than he knew.

For his undeserved embrace of prodigals,
Despite their spit, persecution, flight, hubris,
Betrayals, stealing, addictions, lies,
From boyz in the ‘hood gone astray
To countless white eager-beavers busy disappearing.
For soothing souls with the balm of forgiveness felt,
Thus propelling them forward to make new history.
We thank you, insane-loving God.

For keeping his vows to his little postage stamp on earth,
West Jackson, in sickness and in health,
In Christmas robberies and barbecue throw-downs,
Over decades long enough to uncover all our masks,
and his:
A fellowship of recovering sinners
Freeing from addictions seen and unseen:
Self-condemnation and privilege, winos and egotists,
We thank you, insane-loving God.

For his Labrador-like patience, stability, devotion,
Sticking with impossible people
And even a measly stray mutt we called Bebe—
Car-struck, we wanted her put to a restful end;
He couldn’t bear it and, without permission,
beyond reason,
Spent $300, enduring our wrath,
And Bebe wiggled her way into our extended family.
Even for that, we thank you, insane-loving God.

For his restless truth-seeking,
No matter where it led him,
Whether seen as prophet or traitor,
Whether he liked it or not.
“Loving neighbor means especially loving white folks,” his parents had told him.
Refusing justice or refusing mercy was not a choice, he told us,
Nor facing down race or race fatigue,
Nor being free of the power to exclude nor of the power to not forgive.
Yes, this was bearing a cross, yet:
“Reconcilers don’t die, we multiply.”
For enlarging us all, for making all of us more holy,
We thank you, insane-loving God.

For yoking with me to the end,
Dragging the plow through sin-thick sod,
Never, either of us, easy to love.
The fragility of our yoke gave way,
Only to reveal a greater one, invisible,
Binding us mysteriously to you
And so, somehow, finding the way back to each other.
I miss that holy, muddy ground,
The jokes that only we shared,
His warm hug that day after we fought, and his promise:
“Chris, I love you like my own brother.”
I thank you, insane-loving God.

For, out of nowhere, bushwhacking him by grace,
And carrying him to the top of the mountain,
Moses-like, to glimpse wondrous new territory
And there, finally, to see himself with your eyes,
“My beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”
For sending him back down, for a moment,
To describe the view,
We thank you, insane-loving God.

What he saw from afar
Is now for us to possess.
To cross treacherous rivers,
To embrace strange territory,
To cultivate the culture of grace,
Sowing with love beyond reason, unfair, undeserved—

The way you love.
Like you, he showed me how to love insanely, too,
And he was greater than he knew.


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