Tuesday, December 9, 2014

POEMS BETWEEN BIRTH AND RESURRECTION - Introduction

Signed copy can be purchased through Tictail
(Before becoming a preacher, a nurse, an amateur artist, or a massage therapist, I was a poet. I still am. Getting my poetry published in more than homemade binders had been a dream for years. Health challenges and the rise of modern book-publishing technology merged to motivate me to make the effort. Now all five of my poem books are published in paperback and Kindle editions.

I wanted to put the introductory essays for each collection on my blog. If you want to know what makes me tick, my poetry tells it better than a biography.

This "Introduction" and the concluding poem are from my fourth book of poems. To read the posts from my others, click on these links:
Poems Between Heaven and Hell;
Poems Between Darkness and Light;
Poems Between Death and Life;
Poems Between Here and Beyond.)


“Introduction” to
Poems Between Birth and Resurrection

My life journey has brought me delightful discoveries, all of them best described in their relationship to love and truth. Loving brings joy, whether through sending a check to a worthy cause, putting extra care into someone’s body-work massage, or holding my wife in an affectionate embrace. Joy rises especially strong when a sudden burst of love for God overflows in silent, verbal, or poetic praise. But love’s nature is fully experienced only when fully reciprocated. I find the same joy in loving as in being loved and appreciated, whether by my wife, family, Christian friends, hospital co-workers, or grateful new parents I’ve helped with newborns. Love returns to us in sincere “thank you” notes, in spontaneous hugs, in a silent presence at times of grief. The God of love has prescribed equally mixed proportions of loving and being loved as the divine epoxy glue that binds human hearts together. He ordains this mutually reciprocating love to characterize our journey from the womb to the tomb. It’s our calling during this present life and for the eternal glory beyond it.

In a similar way, love itself must be tempered with truth, and vice versa. As loving draws us closer to the God of love, so discovering and embracing truth draws us closer to the God of truth. Truth liberates love from the dysfunctional rut of sentimental lies. Love emancipates truth from the chains of stifling legalisms. The wedding of love and truth gives birth both to an abundant life and to an authentic lifestyle.

Two special theological truths make the Christian Gospel the most alive and human-friendly faith in existence. One is the Incarnation. God, our Creator, “became flesh to dwell among us.” He was born into this world as a real human being to teach us, as our Master; to die for us, as our Redeemer; and to restore us and the rest of creation, as our Deliverer. The other human-friendly truth is the Resurrection. This same incarnate God-Man was physically raised from death to be the body-spirit Mediator and priestly Ruler of all worlds, cosmic and celestial. His bodily resurrection is the guarantee of our own, for which the whole “creation waits in eager expectation” (Romans 8:19-23). In His own physically resurrected human body, God—as King of the universe—will forever lead the rest of redeemed and resurrected humanity in ruling over the whole material and spiritual creation. Nothing is more human-friendly than these two truths: in His Incarnation, Jesus is Savior; in His Resurrection, Jesus is Lord.

In my journey of digging out rich gems from these two deep mines of doctrinal truth, I’ve had to grapple with some human-unfriendly attitudes toward the material world, and toward our physical bodies in particular, which seem firmly embedded in the popular “Christian” view of earthly life. This first happened in my job as an RN, when my frank view of unclad female bodies didn’t arouse in me the immoral, lustful thoughts that all my life had been faithfully preached to me as inevitable. Many years of experiencing this discrepancy between religious teaching and realized truth led to intense research about the phenomenon of human nakedness, not just by a careful review of Scripture, but by a laborious investigation of various historical, aesthetic, and psycho-social disciplines. The resulting fruits of this educational pursuit was nothing less than a major paradigm shift in my thinking. That bold intellectual endeavor helped me see the heretical Gnostic influences behind the “body shame” issues in the typical modern church. It led me full circle, back to the awesome implications for human destiny in those two doctrines, Christ’s Incarnation and His Resurrection.

Some people do personal journaling. I do poetic journeying. My poetry often records personal experiences of love and truth during my earthly sojourn. The title of this fourth book of my poetry, Poems Between Birth and Resurrection, describes the source of many of the themes in my poetry since the turn of the century. Much in the world has changed, especially in this last decade, and much has changed in me. A poet’s poems cannot help being autobiographical, but I’ve always wished mine to be prophetic, in the sense of proclaiming truth that corrects and reforms.

Contemplating the truths of the incarnate birth and resurrection of God’s Son have brought my theological thinking “down to earth,” where it belongs. I’ve gained a new awareness of humanity’s original, God-given responsibilities as body-spirit beings, and of our duty to recognize the God-pronounced goodness of this physical world, even while it still groans under sin’s curse. These twin doctrines have dramatically changed my attitude toward the wholesomeness of the human body, with or without man-made, fig-leaf dress.

This shift in attitude toward human embodiment led me into taking art classes, learning massage therapy, and trying to practice natural ways of health maintenance. These involvements, overflowing into my poetry, reveal the direction and depth of this conceptual shift. If I sometimes sound radical and startling, it’s on purpose. Shocking minds to alertness is often the only effective prelude to dislodging long-believed lies and sacred half-truths. If the surprising reality about the human body hadn’t jolted me awake, I couldn’t share some of these poems. I felt consciously called to write them, and now feel relieved of a prophetic burden in publishing them. Through them, I hope my readers can experience an epiphany similar to what gave them birth.

God bless your journey between birth and resurrection! May these poems inspire your life as they have mine. Don’t miss any of your life’s mission in the here-and-now by an otherworldly focus on the hereafter. God intends our eternal life in Christ to be lived out with overflowing abundance in these “fearfully and wonderfully made” earthen vessels from the cradle to the grave, and beyond.

— David L. Hatton

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GOD’S NAKED LAMB


When Jesus died stark naked on the Tree
Prescribed by Roman minds for cruelty,
Shrewd Pilate had his will against the hoard
Who pushed his hand to crucify our Lord.
Above Christ’s head he made the placard stay
That said, “Here dies the King of Jews today.”

Stripped to the skin of every Jewish thread,
His body, bare, had one thing left they read
That marked His place distinctly by the sign
Of promise in the Abrahamic line:
That tender cut received eight days from birth
To seal God’s vow of blessing all the earth.

But we, who like to cover up His loins,
Forgetting how He went for thirty coins
The way nude slaves did in the marketplace,
We blush to look, so miss the glow of grace
That shines from His exposed humanity
To light salvation’s path to sanity.

The unclad body of our Lord displayed
That God took up the very flesh He made
To show by sacrifice without His robe
That every human tribe around the globe
Was purchased in a body like their own.
We see this in God’s naked Lamb alone.

— David L. Hatton, 2/14/2008
(Poems Between Birth and Resurrection,  © 2013)

For more single poems from this volume, visit my website's “Poetry Page.”

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