Advent Prequel to Footprints

YouTube video of the poem’s text with Christmas soundtrack:

(Read the preface to this poem here.)

Based on Mark 5:25-34:

A woman suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” She came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. Immediately she was healed. Jesus, perceiving that power had gone out from him, turned and said, “Who touched my garments?” His disciples said, “You see the crowd pressing around you?” The woman came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace…”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened…” (Mt 11:28)

Adeste fideles. (Come, faithful).

Advent Prequel To Footprints

(Neil Durso)

Energy, misbalanced.
Self-centered lifetime.
Other-centered lifetime.
Tiresome battles lost.

Shameful failure.
Wasted toils?
No. Delivery to the now.

A curled, sobbing heap,
Writhing on sands of self-desertion.
A finger trembling, raised to an eye…
Tap its pool of tears, running them thin,
Glimpse through the blur:

A shadow over tears on dead sand
Shades the relentless brightness of scorching shame,
Revealing a garment’s hem resting on sandaled toes.

Stretch out of despair a hand.
Touch a finger to the coarse fabric.

From that cloak, a hand extends,
Re-flavoring tears that flow still.
From a spring deep within, never fully felt.
Feel it now. Don’t wrestle floodgates inside.

Epic struggle.
Ordained end.
Rivulets of tears baptize anew.
Every ounce of unrequited effort poured out has prepared the way

Enormous fruitlessness was the way.
En route to the quenching fruit of energy exhausted.

The garment takes you up, in its arms
So gentle, their power feels misplaced.
You tremble at tenderness so unfamiliar.

From this bottom, from this birthplace,
In His wake are one set of footprints.

At cool evening’s arrival,
You’re lowered lovingly
To your own feet.
At His side.
He at yours.
Two sets of feet imprint the sands.

Onward in silence.
For a time.
The silence drips into distant song
On fleeting breezes.

Whispering beneath the rising chorus,
“Whither, Yeshua?”
“The City of David.”

A bright star draws your gaze.
And He is gone.

Shepherds appear.
On pilgrimage.
To Light.

Above the sonorous din of lambs’ bleating,
Lyrics grow clearer…

Carried by the parade, your heart then
Your tongue join the hosts’ song.
Reborn of unshackled brokenness,
The beckoned joins the calling:

“O… O… come, all ye faithful…”

(Read the preface to this poem here.)

-Neil D. 2019-12-16
(revised from 2018-12-24)

Preface to poem, “Advent Prequel To Footprints”

Skip to the poem


Prostitutes, beggars, addicts (the “possessed”), the unclean and depraved, the lowest of the low, and the most shameful were His preferred company. He rebuked others who thought themselves better and less in need, with no radically unmet need(s).

Not only were the lowly most in need, but they were also the best to go forth with the good news and spread it to earth’s ends. They have powerful “street cred,” and authentic, abundant empathy for shame and emptiness.

To set yourself free as newly created takes no effort as enormous as the overwhelming energy of avoidance and denial, hiding and nurturing shame, comparing and pursuing your righteousness versus others.

That battle happens in your ego, where wrestling with the Spirit happens. None of it is even real, objectively outside of you. It is on your inside. You find it by looking within. Interior life. To free yourself from denial and avoidance, ironically, all you must do is stop battling. For control. Simply allow. Permit. Accept. That should be effortless–to stop doing something.

Let yourself be the ultimate *victim* you were created to be.

A victim of an infinitely relentless, perfectly seeing, irresistibly jealous, ultimately inescapable Love. The Son submitted to being a victim so that we can trust His “street cred” when it comes to believing that God understands our suffering as victims. It’s not as if He didn’t suffer!

Enormous effort is not required any longer. You have spent that effort, and it WILL be fulfilled; just perhaps not as you thought. All that remains is effortless acceptance. Accept that the life you have spent in denial and avoidance has been Watched and Known — intimately — all along. You have not — as you might think — suffered alone.

All of that shame, pressure, stress, and unhappiness amounts to immeasurable energy. Has all of that been a waste?

Hell no!

Time to say, “No!” to hell.

If that monumental lifetime investment now feels fruitless, that’s EXACTLY as it is to be. You are EXACTLY where you are ordained to be. All of your painful effort and suffering was SUPPOSED to lead you to this point of insufferable need. Of rockbottom despair. Removing your choice to let go, and forcing you to let go. What force can be greater than a lifetime of fortified ego?



(continue to “Advent Prequel To Footprints“)

[Neil D. 2019-12-16]

Thanksgiving in hurt

“You’re going through a hard time, but you have this and that to be thankful for.” I will probably hear that a few times today, or “feel” it being said with eyes or unspoken avoidance. Both of those things are true–the hardest time of my life, and much to be thankful for. It sounds better to me with the “and” than with the “but.” It strikes me that the “and” makes it reversible. “I have much to be thankful for and I am going through a hard time.”

These semantics are important to me. I call these coexistent truths. The “but” means I am doing something wrong. That I am wrong to be depressed when I have so much to be thankful for. Coexistent truths are important to me because I am learning about my goodness while not forgetting my badness. I am experiencing happy times amongst my sadness. Smiles and tears are mixing together. I can feel unworthy and worthy, because I have all of you–my angels, whom I value deeply, and who value me. I am going through a hard time, and I have each of you to be thankful for.

If I cry today, and my tears drip from my chin onto my heart, they will land where they belong, where they are welcome, where they can be held in vastness, because my angels have softened and swelled my heart, where I carry them, even apart.

Doubting Worthiness

How can it be that such an enormous God seeks you and me personally, with unfathomable passion?

“…doubting Thomas … is not really a story about believing in the fact of the resurrection but a story about believing that someone could be wounded and also resurrected at the same time!” (

Great stories have many meanings. I love that one. And thought about my own spin. Maybe what Thomas couldn’t believe was that Jesus died. Not that he thought the crucifixion was a staged act. But he was just “blown away” and incredulous, like when we say, “I don’t BELIEVE this.” Overwhelming.

Why the NEED to probe wounds? The doubt was maybe overwhelm about the suffering and humiliation his lord endured. Thomas and all who witnessed miracles wondered silently what the mockers said aloud: Why can’t/won’t he save himself. “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the DEAD.” (Jn20:9)

Understanding. More than proof that Jesus was wounded and dead. When Thomas probed the wounds, his reaction was not, “Damn, it is you!” or, “You ARE alive!” Or, “You WERE dead.” Instead Thomas professed:

“My lord and MY God!”

THAT is what Thomas doubted, then came to understand. Before that profession, he may have accepted in his mind what Jesus told him–that he is the Son of God. He heard/understood in a shallow but non-understanding way, because he trusted his friend and teacher.

At the moment of his profession, not only was he with Jesus, but — maybe more importantly — he was with other disciples, affirming that he wasn’t hallicinating in delusion. Sometimes my belief is actually reduced to only the affirmation by other witnesses: “We can’t ALL be crazy.” But sometimes being part of a worldwide movement of billions over 2 millennia isn’t enough inside my shallow mind and heart. That large company doesn’t entirely comport with a personal God. It’s too big to be small like me. It’s overwhelming, so *could* be unreal. Doubt.

Maybe Thomas doubted — in the sense of being overwhelmed — his own faith that his beloved friend and teacher was one with God. Who can fault him? Despite witnessing miracles your friend performed, if he told you he was one with God, you’d have doubt too, wouldn’t you? God seems bigger than a personal friend.

To say the obvious, our doubt is inside our own head and heart. A hesitation or reluctance to believe. Or? An overwhelming awe at the immeasurable magnitude of the proposition to be believed:

I am a beloved friend of God?


Thomas, you, and I, are much, much more than just a good ‘friend’ of God.

Earlier in Jn20 Jesus instructs the Magdalene: “Go to MY BROTHERS and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and YOUR Father, to my God and YOUR God.’” (v17). As Jesus was a child of God, we are too!

Thomas was “blessed” even though he doubted his own belief. Would Jesus have called him blessed if his doubt wasn’t forgivably understandable? I get comfort from that. John “the beloved” fell to sleep in Gethsemane. As did Peter who later thrice abandoned his beloved friend. I wonder if those figurative deaths were more painful to the sweet and gentle Nazarene than death by Roman wood and nails. And how did he react? With the tenderness of true love.

I have not walked with the rabbi as those beloved friends did, yet by blessing “those who have not seen,” he holds me with the same naked compassion. I can deny, abandon, and doubt 7 times 70 times. But I am delusional to think I can prevent his word (Jn18:9):

“I have lost none of them, … … not one.”

You are “one of them.” I am one. We might feel lost. “Peace” might not yet “be with you.” We may yet be unable to “be not afraid.” Maybe because “as yet they did not understand.”


{Neil D., 2019-04-28}

{More on how hard it is to believe that God covets a passionate love affair with us: “The human soul is being gradually readied so that actual intimacy and partnership with the Divine are the result… most of us won’t allow ourselves to think of an actual intimate relationship with God. Only God in you, “the Holy Spirit planted in your heart,” can imagine such a possibility… It is important not to confuse divine union with human perfection. The choice for union is always from God’s side; our response is always and forever partial and feeble… Divine Love has no trouble loving imperfect things! That is just our human problem. If God could only love perfect things, God would have nothing to do.}

Where will I meet God today

Last night, I interrupted my youngest’s immersion in homework anxiety to share a short passage from the book in my own lap. What followed was one of those great gifts of paternity, as his active, young teenage mind probed mysteries I haven’t visited for a very long time. This morning, as he readied to leave for school, I asked him where he might meet God today.

Many months ago, Kevin waved his arm in a large arc, asking, “Isn’t this church beautiful? … Look at the size of those organ pipes… The soaring height of this ceiling… [etc.]” He explained their intention to raise our spirits to a certain sense of awe, but lamented that sometimes God seems too big.

Of course, God cannot be contained. Not in an enormous, magnificent cathedral. The oft-forgotten mystery of the Trinity means God is even too infinite to contain Godself. For all eternity God has flowed between three Persons. The notion of only Parent and Son is inadequate–even metaphorically.* No, God’s third dimension (The Spirit) unleashes God into all levels of creation–in God’s fullness, not separate from God’s other selves. It’s impossible to talk about this mystery with boundaries; and metaphors are always bounded.

Holy cow, this God is gigantic. No wonder we have to bow down to “Lord.” God is separate from me…

I don’t think so. That’s no fun. So if God is not too big for me:

Where will I meet God today?

I have a business flight later today, and surely God can be experienced in the awesome clouds through which I will pass. But maybe that will be too big for me. Instead, today, within my grasp:

I hope to pause, if just for the briefest of moments, when I meet the eye of another. For those instants, I hope to see souls. That is where I will look for God today.

And, I hope, at a few points today – maybe as I wash hands before a bathroom mirror – I will have the courage to look past my bad shave and unruly eyebrows, and stare into my own eyes. For I, too, have a soul…

As they departed for school, I asked: “Noah, where will you look for God today?” His older brother, not intended as part of the conversation, but being his older brother, of course, despite having a mouthful of toothpaste, interrupted: “I hope I’ll find him taking my physics test for me…”

Neil D. 2017-10-25