Saturday, December 28, 2019

POEMS BETWEEN FEAR AND FAITH - Introduction

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(Before becoming a preacher, a nurse, an amateur artist, or a massage therapist, I was a poet and 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. This is not my sixth book of poems 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 first book of poems. To read the posts from my others, click on these links:

“Introduction” to
 Poems Between Fear and Faith

When compared in general, fear paralyzes, while faith motivates. Fear erodes; faith edifies. Fear drains emotional energy; faith re-charges our batteries. Fear can lead to despair; faith can encourage hope.

Such contrasts easily multiply, because the experience of these two different attitudes is part of the human condition. God created our potential of either fearful flight from or a faith-filled fight with various challenging situations. Both are familiar responses to encountering hostile circumstances.
These two opposing states of minds may not always fit into vice-or-virtue categories. Just as pain alerts us to health issues needing attention, so fear can warn of real dangers to avoid. At the same time, faith in a deception can also be dangerous. Acting on a false belief can even be lethal.

In other words, healthy fear can be good, and inaccurate faith can be bad, not based on how we react to something but on the reality behind the reaction. Faith and fear cannot turn whatever initiates them into authentic realities. But they can transform unreasonable worries and unfounded hopes into powerful, mind-controlling factors in the way we live life.

When approaching a narrow trail on a steep cliff, a hiker is wise to cross it with caution. The object of concern is the real possibility of a deadly fall into the ravine below. But if, on coming to a calm, ankle-deep stream, that same hiker is frantic at the possibility of stumbling and drowning while wading across, we would call his fear childish. Objectively, the narrow ledge is a real danger, but the far-fetched threat of the shallow stream is totally subjective.

Faith’s situations are similar but not as easily evaluated. Beliefs are not considered to be absolute knowledge. The hiker’s friend might have told him earlier to go right, when the trail divides. But if he finds a sign posted at the fork telling hikers to go left, he must make a critical decision. Will he believe his friend’s word or the authority of the sign? Both are appealing for his subjective trust, but one direction will be objectively right and the other objectively wrong.

Based on a modern denial of absolutes, there is no right or wrong. Progressive thinking’s popular motto is: “The way you choose for yourself is the right one.” Maintaining a loyal confidence in his friend’s mistaken directions might feel like the right choice, but that feeling will last only until the sun begins to set on him and his unattained destination.

As in these illustrations, subjective experiences of faith and fear can misguide us. Fears spawned from nonexistent dangers or groundless worries may be emotionally felt but are falsely trusted. Likewise, faith in fictitious information or unsound instruction may be deeply sincere but can steer us far off course, sometimes into disaster.

God offers a divine solution to our debilitating fears and disappointing faiths by divinely wedding fear and faith into a life-affirming union. These two opposites can join in a happy marriage, if we learn how “to have and to hold” both godly fear and holy faith, while avoiding their false counterparts.

Did you know that we use the muscle of faith, when we cry out against the perplexing pains and recurrent griefs in the human condition? Suffering arouses our inner being to look up to God and say, “This ought not to be so!” That’s a good first step in proper faith, as long as we await His reply. Anticipating our Creator’s answer is the second step, and an essential one for our faith’s ongoing growth and health.

In nature’s beauties, God’s voice whispers only hints. When His Spirit anointed on the lips of prophets, He gave directions in signs and metaphors. But when He assumed our very nature and became one of us, His love shouted to us in perfect clarity, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.” (Mat 11:28-29.)

By heeding those first two voices, a faith rooted in the soul’s authentic longings, will choose to walk in the light of that last invitation from God’s incarnate Son. It would be not only foolish to reject His offer but a real spiritual danger.

This is why Lady Wisdom in Prov 9:10 says, “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Without godly fear, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” The human condition offers abundant clues that something has definitely gone wrong. To disregard God’s personal involvement in resolving what went wrong is to ask for even more trouble.

Those who believe that only this material world exists imagine that death will end all troublesome human concerns. But their chosen faith is based on ignorance of humanity’s real nature and future. Suddenly, one day, they’ll be shocked to find that they have survived death. If they lived their lives without a morally wholesome “fear of the LORD,” dying will leave them in a truly dangerous predicament.

Fortunately, life offers instruction about moral choices. Most grow up learning that both action and inaction can have painful consequences. People shirking moral responsibility often find their evil choices catching up with them in their lifetime. Death, instead of alleviating this possibility, insures that this catching up will be absolutely unavoidable.

The inevitability of death calls for a serious and sober response to God, yet many are prisoners of unconcern. Their false faith inspires false courage. But the afterlife will correct their unbelief. They will experience the same dread known by their deceiving captors, the demons who “also believe, and tremble,” (James 2:19). The only hope for unbelievers is a present one. During this earthly life, they must embrace a reverential fear and turn in faith to God with repentance [metanoia, a Greek word meaning “a change of mind”].

Although godly fear grows into an ever-deepening love for God, worldly dangers may nag believers with worry. As depicted by my optical-illusion painting on the front cover, such fear looks dark, when it invades the light of God’s promised care. Conversely, when surrounded by threatening darkness, true faith glows brighter. Some day, in Heaven, dark danger will flee away and faith will become sight. Obviously, we’re not there yet. But, while we await our eternal home, faith can live life fearlessly, if we maintain our awareness that the Lord of Heaven indwells our hearts.

As with my other poem books, some poems here have nothing to do with the title or this introduction. While I’m still on this whirling globe, worldly fears continue to vie for control over my heart and mind. Some of these poems were written to encourage myself and fellow-believers to keep a faithful, steady pace in our journey with Jesus. A few others were merely for comic relief along the way. You’ll find experiments with haiku and brevity, on both light and deep subjects. Walking life’s narrow path between fear and faith is serious business, but not morose. Faith can be lighthearted, especially when enjoying a good laugh at a silly fear.

My hope and prayer in sending forth these poems is that some of them will reach those still wavering in their faith, whether non-christians or straying believers, and help them make that wise decision to respond to Christ’s invitation, “Come unto me . . .”

David L. Hatton

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

 LETHAL GUESTS

As hungry, burrowing worms gnaw through,
destroying the plants from which they grew . . .

As rust reduces to soft red earth
the mighty iron that gave it birth . . .

As moths lay larvae in woolen wear
to ravage the threads that feed them there . . .

As ashes fall in a fiery flame
from the fueling wood from which it came . . .

So pride’s long reach for its haughty goal
consumes the life of its host, the soul.

                          — David L. Hatton, 2/20/2019
            (Poems Between Fear and Faith, © 2019)

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #20 - “Christmas Presence”

This last poem for this blog posting series—written only 2 days after “Peace and Good Will” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #19)—offers solutions to the relational difficulties that some may face at social or family gatherings during this season, even on Christmas Day itself...


CHRISTMAS PRESENCE

Don’t fail to give the gift
that no one else can bring.
If there’s a former rift,
Let love remove its sting:
    All grudges find release
    when bygones rest in peace.
Your joining in can lift
a broken tune to sing.

You may cause ice to melt,
if you are truly there.
No matter what life’s dealt,
Stay present with your care.
    Meet eye-to-eye, as planned—
    no smart-phone in your hand.
Your self’s uniquely felt,
when you remain aware.

As get-togethers mount
at Christmastime each year,
your heart can be a fount
to draw the thirsty near.
    The smiles and hugs you give
    must flow while people live.
So, make connections count
before they disappear.

— David L. Hatton, 12/09/2018

(this is in Poems Between Fear and Faith
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #19 - “Peace and Goodwill”

This very short poem, written during Advent of the same year as “From Crèche to Cross” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #18), is a brief expansion on the implications of the message announced by angels to the shepherds....


PEACE AND GOODWILL

Since Adam ate from off that tree,
Earth spins without tranquility.
No golden age of ancient Greece
Nor Pax Romana gave us peace.
The Son of God and Mary brought
The hope that midnight angels taught.

If you’d find peace from Heaven’s King,
Then join the song the angels sing:
“To God the highest glory be!”
That’s goodwill’s faithful melody!
All sinners, willing to believe,
Alone that Prince of Peace receive.

— David L. Hatton, 12/7/2018

(this is in Poems Between Fear and Faith
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Monday, December 23, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #18 - “From Crèche to Cross”

Next in chronological order, after  “Ever-Circling Years” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #17), is a Christmas poem I wrote during the Lenten season, mixing themes from both Advent and Calvary....


FROM CRÈCHE TO CROSS

Amid the mishaps, plight and pain,
Or when grief’s prayer gets few replies,
Some doubt there lives a God above;
Some hearts despair of Heaven’s love,
As swollen eyes search silent skies
And stress besets their brow and brain.

Yet in this wayward world of woes,
From Virgin seed and Spirit breath
Was born a New Humanity,
To rescue us from vanity
And from the grasp of endless death:
The worst of dreaded human foes.

Before His Advent’s humble birth,
He caused the starry host to shine
And spread abroad the galaxies.
But then—His Father’s will to please—
The Son forsook His place divine
To don our flesh and dwell on Earth.

While on His trek from crèche to grave,
Christ showed our race the way to live.
Commending by compassion’s work
The labors some might loathe and shirk,
He shamed all hands too tight to give
By how He cared and what He gave.

He came to bless, not to condemn,
But was condemned for how He blessed.
Enduring ridicule and scorn
To win a world in sin forlorn,
He bids our weary souls to rest,
By choosing life filled up with Him.

Made blind from sin, misled to roam
Like faithless flocks, we wandered off
From Shepherd’s fold to danger’s loss.
It’s by His Incarnation’s Cross—
At which so many skeptics scoff—
That Jesus brings His lost sheep home.

— David L. Hatton, 2/10/2018

(this is in Poems Between Fear and Faith —
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Sunday, December 22, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #17 - “Ever-Circling Years”

For 5 years after “Gifts of the Magi” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #16), I wrote no Christmas poems. But in the 6th year, after news of several deaths crowded our holiday season, this sonnet came to me....


EVER-CIRCLING YEARS

Our noisy table brood has slipped away,
This roof, its rules and rituals outgrown. . . .
Yet we still light the wreath that waits the Day,
Content to celebrate as two alone.

As Advent marks the end of every year,
So lately it has brought a final word
About dear friends who’ve quit their journey here,
Whose “Merry Christmas!” won’t again be heard.

Despair makes hope and peace seem overdue
Within this weary world, so worry-worn.
But Advent shines its starlight ever new
And welcomes love divine to be reborn.

Grace greets our griefs with Advent’s sacred call.
The wreath’s four candles? We’ll ignite them all!

— David L. Hatton, 12/11/2015

(this is in Poems Between Here and Beyond
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Saturday, December 21, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #16 - “Gifts of the Magi”

Not all are ready for a “Christmas Eve Communion” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #15), until they respond in faith as the Magi did, which is the prayerful goal of my chronologically next Christmas poem....


GIFTS OF THE MAGI

Three Spirit-drawn astrologers,
Sincere and sage philosophers,
Brought precious tokens from afar
To Him they found beneath the star:
Their frankincense, as to a Priest,
As to a King, gold from the East,
And myrrh to bless a Prophet’s tomb,
They gave this Son of Mary’s womb.

Such gifts as these might likely show
The path a common child might go
Through twists of time or whims of chance
Or Heaven-guided circumstance.
But just before they turned to part,
These Magi bowed, with head and heart,
To worship Him on bended knee,
As though this Son was Deity.

Today we know the claims He made
That matched the gifts the Magi laid
Before this Prophet, Priest and King.
But can you do that final thing?
Will you bow down before this One
And worship Him as God’s own Son?
These wise men did. They somehow knew.
Will their example speak to you?

— David L. Hatton, 4-30-2009

(this is in Poems Between Birth and Resurrection
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #15 - “Christmas Eve Communion”

The therapeutic value of my previous poem “Wait for Christmas” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #14) points to the relationship where the believer’s individual need is met—uniquely manifested at a very special Meal, which I observed the night before writing this poem....


CHRISTMAS EVE COMMUNION
(Gospel of John 6:54-56)

Last night I fed on Christmas in the broken bread and wine.
I tasted sacred nourishment that brought God’s life to mine.
With thoughts of Mary’s holy Child, by candlelight and songs,
I worshiped at the Table where all Adam’s race belongs.

I pondered how the sweetness of our Lord’s nativity
Should never be seen separate from His death upon the tree;
How God, wrapped up in human flesh, sojourned with human need,
How hands that sculpted human form could feel our pain and bleed;
How incarnation taught Him through life’s weariness and sweat;
How only after learning these, He chose to pay our debt.

Last night I fed on Christmas, and the strength I gained was real.
Our present peace and future hope draw meaning from that Meal.
Our banishment is ended; our empty lostness gone.
The Babe and Lamb of Bethlehem is Whom I feasted on.

— David L. Hatton, 12/25/2006

(this is in Poems Between Birth and Resurrection
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #14 - “Wait for Christmas”

This next poem, written after “Advent” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #13), addresses the therapeutic value of anticipating the hope brought by Christ’s 1st Advent....


WAIT FOR CHRISTMAS

If you would bless yourself and us
By calming down a nagging dread,
Or breaking up a needless fuss,
Or drying up a tearful bed,
Whatever be the threat or doubt,
Speak forth an early Christmas gift:
“Leave this with God, and sit it out
Until December twenty-fifth.”

If you have slipped or messed things up,
Assist your worried soul to cope:
Forget the spilled and empty cup,
And bathe your spoiled plans in hope.
For all concerns you’ve ever owned
Are lightened by this little lift:
“Just pray, and let it be postponed
Until December twenty-fifth.”

When loved ones leave, not to return,
No heart is doomed to drown in grief,
Nor must we fret, despair, or burn,
When friends act cold beyond belief.
In time God heals all wounds, and more. . .
His presence spans the broadest rift:
You’ll know the grace He had in store,
When it’s December twenty-fifth.

If difficulties try your strength,
Or worries plague your search for peace,
Remember: trials end at length,
And daylight causes night to cease.
The Advent of God’s Son brings near
Our godly goals and dreams that drift.
Procrastinate your anxious fear:
Await December twenty-fifth.

So, if you tread in trouble’s tide,
Or feel that you might lose your mind,
Or toy with thoughts of suicide,
Or need some space just to unwind,
Mark down December twenty-five
And count your blessings, as you wait
To see what burdens still survive,
When Christmas Day you celebrate.

— David L. Hatton, 3/15/2003

(this is in Poems Between Birth and Resurrection
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Monday, December 16, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #13 - “Advent”

If my last poem, “It Happened One Night” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #12), attempts a realistic depiction of the shepherds, this one tries to depict the realism of our present situation....


ADVENT

The night was dark,
The world was cold:
His natal star began to shine.
The sin was stark,
Rebellion bold:
The night was yours and mine.

Our darkness spread . . .
Its wages? Death.
Our human length and breadth were bound.
No wise man’s head,
No prophet’s breath
Could make the lost the found.

God’s holy plan?
The source of good?
Run, find creation’s starting place:
Both God and Man
In crèche of wood
To bathe the world in grace.

Behold, the light
Of daybreak’s ray,
As angels’ voices blend in praise!
From Heaven’s height
Descends the Way
Of Life, the dead to raise!

The night was cold,
The world was dark,
As glory then began to shine.
To break sin’s hold
Love left His mark:
The gift is yours and mine.

— David L. Hatton, 12/29/2001

(this is in Poems Between Birth and Resurrection
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #12 - “It Happened One Night”

This next poem after “Mary at the Cross” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #11) is an attempt at a realistic focus on the lowly shepherds who first heard and first spread the news of the newborn King....


IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT


It was the fourth watch, and we were alone,
Minding our business and chilled to the bone,
Doing our duty of guarding the sheep,
Each taking turns for a smidgeon of sleep.

Suddenly, there in the dark of the night,
We were engulfed in a radiant light!
Right in those fields of our common routine,
We were caught up in a glorious scene.

Our knees were knocking! All heaven broke out!
Then came an angel who started to shout:
“Don’t be afraid! I have Good News to tell,
Not just for you, but the whole world as well.

“Go to the City of David—not far.
Search in a stable beneath the bright star,
Look in a feeding trough, humble and cold,
There you will find what the prophets foretold:

“Yahweh’s Messiah! The Savior at last
Comes to the Earth! Be no longer downcast!”
Then with the angel an army on high
Sang as they swarmed overhead in the sky,

“Glory to God! To the Lord, highest praise!
Peace in God’s will for the rest of your days!”
Quickly they’d come, and as quickly they fled.
We ran in search of the crude manger-bed.

What a surprise! Amid dung and wet straw,
Animals crowded around what we saw:
Just a small baby, wrapped up in rag—
Parents asleep on a worn saddlebag. . . .

This was the Savior? Then this was the news!
So we all scattered, this tale to diffuse.
Folks were astounded that such was revealed
To simple, poor shepherds out in the field.

— David L. Hatton, 12/16/2000

(this is in Poems Between Darkness and Light
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Saturday, December 14, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #11 - “Mary at the Cross”

This next poem after “Christmas Longing” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #10) depicts Mary grieving through scenes at the Cross interwoven with flashbacks of the Nativity story, beginning and ending with her hope-filled Magnificat....


MARY AT THE CROSS

Time suspended, time that stops
In between the crimson drops:
As they tumble to the ground
Somehow she can stare around
Seeing scenes of yesterday,
Hearing angel’s words that say,
“Highly favored, have no fear!
From your virgin womb this year
By the Spirit’s power alone
Comes the King for David’s throne,
Sinner’s Savior, Holy One,
God Almighty’s only Son.”

Then, the words her cousin told
(As it trickles red and cold,
His life-blood before the tomb),
“Blest, the fruit that fills your womb!
Blest are you of womankind,
Mother of our Lord Divine!”
And her song sung in reply,
“My soul praises God on high!
In my Savior I rejoice!
Making me His humble choice,
Causing all to call me ‘blest,’
God has done for me the best!
Mighty is His holy name,
Ageless grace, and endless fame!”

As she stands before His cross,
Feeling pain, heart-rending loss,
She remembers public shame,
Pregnant with no man to blame.
She recalls dear Joseph’s care:
Taught by dreams her task to share,
How he guarded her from scorn
Till the baby boy was born . . .
Worried when her pains began
As they came to Bethlehem,
He implored each house and hall
Just to find a stable stall.
In its filth the baby came
’Neath an oily torch’s flame.
Wakened by a holy light,
Shepherds visited that night.
Angels beckoned them to run
To the town to find the One
Called the Christ whose wondrous birth
Brought down Heaven’s peace to earth.

On the hill called Calvary
Witnessing his agony,
Aching with a dreadful sob,
Hearing laughter from the mob,
She, with other women’s tears,
Weeps and dreams back through the years
To the visit of the Three:
Magi from the East to see
Little Jesus on her lap
Swaddled in a woolen wrap.
Frankincense and myrrh and gold,
“Royal presents,” they were told.
One day he would reign as King. . .
How could they have said this thing,
When with torment now he cries
Up to cold and silent skies?

Darkness gathers, shadows fall,
Thunder echoes with his call. . .
Mournful cry: “My God!  My God!”
She falls prostrate on the sod.
Then she somehow overhears
Whispered words that ease her fears,
Words that re-ignite the dream
Shattered by her son’s last scream.
“It is finished!” he had cried.
Now the guard that pierced his side
Whispers when the deed is done,
“Surely He was God’s own Son!”

Mary keeps that faithful word
In her thoughts until she’s heard
Peter tell her, “He arose,”
Smiles, and nods as if she knows. . .
How could it be otherwise?
And again her heart replies,
Filled with overwhelming love,
“My soul praises God above!
In my Savior I rejoice!
Making me His humble choice,
Causing all to call me ‘blest,’
God has done for me the best!
Mighty is His holy name,
Ageless grace, and endless fame!”

— David L. Hatton, 2/8/1992

(this is in Poems Between Darkness and Light
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Friday, December 13, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #10 - “Christmas Longing”

Keeping my posting in chronological order . . . after “CHRISTMAS COLORS” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #9), I wrote a post-Christmas Day poem on Epiphany (Jan. 6), which is actually after the “12 days of Christmastide.” It’s both a psychological and spiritual reflection....


CHRISTMAS LONGING

What is it, yuletide lad and lass,
That thirsts beyond the bottomed glass,
That whispers under wrap and band
But disappears with gift in hand?
What child is this within the soul
That craves surprise, as if a goal,
Yet once desire is quenched in time
Seeks on for wonders more sublime?

With drying boughs and dying scents
The tree that shadowed presents hints
Persistent longings we perceive
As time ticks by toward New Year’s Eve.
Bright ribbon dreams unleashed with glee
Postponed the real expectancy—
It lingers, yearning deep inside:
“What have I missed at Christmastide?”

We knew it in the token care
Both cards and presents meant to bear,
A Love Divine the season brings
Just whispered in the gifts and things.
These kind thoughts stay on shelf and wall,
Or line a drawer or deck a hall,
But are not quite the heart’s delight
As wrapped to strains of “Silent Night.”

Eternity with Endless Love
Is what our hopes were thinking of—
A heaven-wish for where God dwells
Reverberates in Christmas bells.
God’s Gift of Love in human wrap,
Who laid in Mary’s gentle lap,
Completes the dream within our hearts:
The longing ends, fulfillment starts.

— David L. Hatton, 1/6/1991

for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #9 - “Christmas Colors”

A full 9 years after “CHRISTMAS MESSAGE” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #8), I wrote one of my favorites, which I printed out in color (link to printable PDF file) and recorded my own reading of it on YouTube....


for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #8 - “Christmas Message”

My previous year’s poem, “THE THREE VISIONS OF BALTHASAR” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #7), highlighted implications of the 1st and 2nd Advent. This one focuses on the time in between them, where we can embrace the work of Christ in His 1st Coming, as we anticipate His return....

CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

Dark shadows of a dying age
Where selfishness has prominence
Are broken by the memory
Of ancient astral radiance.

The Star announcing human hope:
The writhing race not left to span
Alone the history of pain—
He, the Maker, was born a man. . .

Hope, not just words and not just prayers,
But living hope, because He paid
The penalty of death for sins
Committed by the race He made.

Yet search for meaning, joy, and peace,
And lasting happiness without Him,
Goes daily on in loneliness,
While rays of time grow quickly dim.

They label Star and Birth both “myth”
But drink with optimistic cheer
To drown their hurt and failure’s past,
To dream a brighter coming year.

As tears pass by, the thirst unquenched,
All chapters close with fears ingrown,
And Mary’s Child who died and rose
Reigns gentle peace, or goes unknown.

Remember Him, dear child of dust:
Before He comes to judge this earth,
Don’t let your heart say, “There’s no room!”
Receive the King who gives new birth.

— David L. Hatton, 12/2/1980

for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Sunday, December 8, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #7 - “The Three Visions of Balthasar”

Written 7 years after  “THIS CHRISTMAS WHY NOT. . .” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #6), I was 29, beginning nursing school. This Advent-centered poem interweaves both 1st and 2nd Advent themes, coloring the Nativity’s prophetic anticipation with an apocalyptic, end-time premonition....

THE THREE VISIONS OF BALTHASAR

When Gaspar, Melchior and I
Had journeyed long toward the Star,
A vision came to haunt my heart;
I heard a voice call: “Balthasar!”
My world grew empty, dull and dark,
The thrill of magic left my soul,
The Star that glittered up ahead
Became in me a burning coal.
The voice that called spoke yet again.
“Behold,” it cried, and I could see
That wealth and fame and wisdom’s store
Began to faint and fade and flee,
And all I sought for years before
Seemed useless now within the night
That closed about my trembling breast,
As we rode on toward the Light.
The two Magicians heard this tale
At dawn before we stopped and slept.
They nodded silently and stared,
And Gaspar bowed his head and wept.

A second night, as we went on,
The mystic Light became a stream
That swirled and churned into a flood
That filled the smiles of every dream.
Then tragically it turned to blood,
And darkness smothered all the sky,
Until the flood began to gleam
And once again swirled up on high!
It brightly shone upon the earth
As if its beam of living Light
Would somehow give my life new birth!
And when I shared with Melchior
The second vision from the Star
He said, while gazing to the West,
“It’s well we came, O Balthasar.”

That night of brightest astral glow,
Before we came to Palestine,
My eyes upon the Silver Glare
Beheld a final startling sign:
I saw our world was filled with vice—
How rich had trampled down the poor,
How women’s flesh was sold for lust,
How every land was red with war,
How good men’s hopes were turned to dust.
I watched a billion infants scream
And starve, while cattle fed on wheat.
But some were killed before they cried,
While help to spare them met defeat.
I saw how love and justice died;
How men in passion laid with men;
How violence ran the village street:
The planet staggered in its sin!
But suddenly the Star burst forth
And many sparkles left the earth
And rose to join the raging Star.
The world below had lost its worth—
It moaned in self-made misery.
Then, purging flames fell quickly down
And quenched man’s tragic history.
A voice called softly, “Balthasar . . .”
And I looked up with fearful eye
To see the peaceful, faithful Star
Shine gently in the Western sky.

When my companions heard this too,
We vowed to leave our magic arts
And serve this King the Star announced,
To bow to Him with humble hearts.
And you who hear my mystic song,
If you are wise, as I am gray,
Will also seek to find that King,
And worship Him, and wait His day.

— David L. Hatton, 11/24/1979

(this is in Poems Between Heaven and Hell
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Saturday, December 7, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #6 - “This Christmas Why Not...”

The same year I wrote “The Mystery of Christmas Love” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #5), I did another homemade Christmas card, using this poem. Again, I was using the occasion of our common Christmas celebration to tell the whole Gospel story....


THIS CHRISTMAS WHY NOT. . .

    Think about the Savior,
    Descending here to earth
    And trading Heaven's glories
    For lowly Virgin Birth.

    Think about the Savior,
    About the truths He taught,
    About the sinless life He lived . . .
    The miracles He wrought.

    Think about the Savior
    Arising from the dead
    And going back to Heaven,
    Thus, proving all He'd said.

    Think about the Savior
    Who's waiting to receive
    Each sinner who is willing
    To trust Him and believe.

    Yes, think about Christ Jesus,
    This season, with concern;
    For He is not just Savior
    But Judge, at His return.

            — David L. Hatton, 12/1972

(this is in Poems Between Death and Life -
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Friday, December 6, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #5 - “The Mystery of Christmas Love”

After “The Why of Christmas” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #4), I put more effort into poetic structure. This next poem is in iambic pentameter, seen so often in Shakespeare. But I had developed an “interlocking” rhyme pattern for long stanzas (abacbdcedfegfg), such as the following example. It was tedious work but I enjoyed the challenge....


  THE MYSTERY OF CHRISTMAS LOVE

Though kings may don poor clothes to know their lands
And cross the hierarchal breach of man,
Though men many sail in vessels built with hands
Around the world or to another star,
And though they were all distances to span,
Their exploits are all dwarfed and seem so small
Beside the greatest journey from afar—
When Jesus came two thousand years ago,
He stripped Himself of glories, wealth and all
To take upon Himself the dust we wear,
To bear all earthly hardships humans know,
To give us life that we knew nothing of.
How could He leave His Father’s presence there
To take on flesh in this vile world of sin?
That is the mystery of Christmas love!
But stranger still, which none can understand,
Is how by death Christ spanned the gap to win
The sinner to Himself and pay sin’s debt.
All this is wondrous, great, but sad, though grand,
For we reject, neglect, let pass. . .forget.

                        — David L. Hatton, 1972

(this is in Poems Between Heaven and Hell -
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Thursday, December 5, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #4 - “The Why of Christmas”

Another old one for a homemade Christmas card, as was “Merry Christmas” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #3) the year before. Obviously, I used the tradition of sending Christmas cards to share both my poetry and the true “glad tidings” of Christmas....


THE WHY OF CHRISTMAS

Mankind will never comprehend
The greatness of the Father’s love.
How marvelous that He should send
His Son from Heaven’s courts above.

It all was mercy, love and grace!
For sins we could not pay the price,
So Jesus Christ, to take our place,
Became the Perfect Sacrifice.

Right now and for eternity:
TRUE LIFE!! And yet, so few receive
This Gift that God has offered free,
For many say they can’t believe. . .

Each man and woman, girl and boy,
Who long this Christmas for God’s peace,
By faith in Christ may have the joy
Of life in Him and sin’s release.

      — David L. Hatton, 11/6/1970

(this is in Poems Between Darkness and Light -
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #3 - “Merry Christmas”

I am trying to post these Christmas poems chronologically, but this one—written the year after “Christmas Poem” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #2) for another homemade Christmas card—was revised 22 years later for publication.


   MERRY CHRISTMAS

When all is lost, there is no hope. . .
So when Man fell in sin and fear,
The Lord dropped down the rescue rope
By letting Jesus enter here.

Without this hope—without Christ’s birth—
No “Merry Christmas” would we know,
And not one sinner on the earth
Could join God’s heavenly afterglow.

But many treat His birthday trite,
And honor less the Cross He bore.
They grope about with blinded sight
That He intended to restore.

But there’s no cure for any heart
Except in Jesus’ healing breath,
Which He’s still blowing to impart
His life on all who’ll turn from death.

Within this season’s full routine
May other merriment grow dim
And bow before the Manger Scene,
Behold the Lamb, and worship Him!

— David L. Hatton, 1969 (revised 12/31/1991)

(this is in Poems Between Darkness and Light
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #2 - “Christmas Poem”


Five years after writing “A Christmas Thought” (see MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #1), I wrote the following, if I remember right, for a homemade Christmas card. I was 18, just starting college.


   CHRISTMAS POEM

As we recall our Savior’s birth,
How God in flesh came down to earth:
What wondrous Love was then made known,
What wondrous Light from Heaven shown!

And let us think not only of
His natal day, but of the Love
That led our Lord to Calvary
To suffer death for you and me.

Remember, too, that three days hence
Our Lord arose: what excellence!
For Christ therein erased death’s chain,
That we might rise to join His Reign!

So let’s rejoice this Christmas time
And praise God for His Love sublime!
Remembering for what He came,
Let’s magnify our Savior’s Name!

          — David L. Hatton, 12/13/1968

(this is in Poems Between Death and Life
for purchasing it, go to My Books for Sale)

Monday, December 2, 2019

MY POEMS OF CHRISTMAS #1 - “A Christmas Thought”

This December, I'll be posting the poems I’ve written on the theme of Christmas. They’ll be in chronological order, giving readers a chance to see if I’ve improved over the years. I say that honestly, because my first Christmas poem set a standard that was hard for me to surpass.

I wrote “A Christmas Thought” at age 13. Its message foreshadowed the serious disposition that would mark the rest of my life. Even now, I wonder how I could have been so deep and analytical at that age, but it was authentic. I remember, some time after writing it, my mom asked me to read it to some visiting relatives. I actually broke down in sobs and could hardly get through it.


  A CHRISTMAS THOUGHT

When Christmas comes with Christmas trees
And Christmas gifts and fine candies,
I wonder what the Savior sighs
As He stares down from Heaven’s skies.

Not many people dare neglect
To pay this day its due respect
By the exchange of gifts in turn.
But of the meaning, what concern?

    A time for fun, a time for play,
    A jolly time is Christmas Day!
    Look at the gifts beneath the tree.
    A gift for me! A gift for me!

  What happened years and years ago
  That we do honor this day so?

  I think it’s kept to give applause
  To some old man named Santa Claus.

    No school next week, it’s Christmas time,
    So class, let’s sing the Christmas rhyme;
    “Oh hurry, hurry, Christmas Day!
    Please hurry, Santa, on your way!
    Bring with you candy canes and toys
    For all the little girls and boys.”

  Oh, this wicked season’s chills
  And Christmas cards and Christmas bills!

  The party’s still young, pal, don’t leave.
  Have one more beer; it’s Christmas Eve.

Yes, the memory of the Son,
Who is the Christmas Holy One,
Seems to have found a minor place
Behind the mask of a Christmas face.

  Tell us, Grandma, we want to know,
  At Christmas time, why does it snow?

  Someone up in Heaven, my dears,
  Cries many sad, unhappy tears
  And as they fall, the cold world’s air
  Freezes them all without a care.

      — David L. Hatton, 1963

(this is in Poems Between Heaven and Hell
for purchasing it, go to My Books 4 Sale)