Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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Shape Shifter

September 25, 2023

Susan Cowger

To embody the heart of Jesus is a great and perennial longing.  More difficult than can be imagined, like Paul, what I want and what I do are opposite. The Lord is gracious in this matter. He helps me—albeit against my hardened ways. Oddly, I find myself shape-shifting in & out of Jesus’ heart.

Shape Shifter

I wipe steam from the mirror and our eyes meet

me watching myself washing    tweezing    & squeezing 

inspecting between brows the skin of doubt    the crease of conviction


Why just this afternoon    my magna cum laude version of tough 

love showed up at Third and Division    just off the freeway    where I ignored 

the sign of need    the backpack & pup & cigarette butts 


me staring straight ahead    headphones wedged in with the wax

and the far-away devotion of old-time hymns    Theology is an organ 

grinding away in my brain    I call it knowing 


as Vonnegut opined    the essential proof of God 

is music    however ridiculous I find it to open a window & give

my left ear bud to that man    Who does that    But this was me


in Africa    me ignoring warnings tips omens    Untroubled that handouts 

draw a greedy crowd I gave in & gave out    shillings    I touched lice-filled

hair and animals    slept with no mosquito net    Protect yourself    Save yourself


meant losing my camera that first day in Kenya    As if erased    at last

I could give    live    without record    be of no account    I found myself 


               and good    Good for about 17 days

The featured image, “Kenyan Sunrise,” is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and is used with her glad permission for Cultivating.


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  1. Laurie Klein says:

    This poem! I find so much scope here for taking personal inventory: how I embrace whatever sphere God opens before me—in prayer as well as “place” (location and soulscape)—at home or abroad. How I need these glimpses of humor. Grace. God’s patience.

    You and Paul expand my notions on embodied witness, service, and faith. Thank you.

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