Wednesday, November 12, 2014

POEMS BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL - Introduction

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(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 first book of poems. To read the posts from my others, click on these links:
Poems Between Darkness and Light;
Poems Between Death and Life;
Poems Between Birth and Resurrection;
Poems Between Here and Beyond;
Poems Between Fear and Faith.)

“Introduction” to
 Poems Between Heaven and Hell

I was born half way through the most noisy, confused, and dangerous century this world has known, yet also in the century that has seen the greatest advances in science, medicine and global education. As a Christian, I realize that no century has seen a more rapid spread of the Christian faith throughout the world, yet I am saddened by the fact that no century has seen such devastation of human life through famine, war and willful infanticide. It is appropriate that I call this collection Poems Between Heaven and Hell, for that is where they were written. That is where this planet spins. That is where this world struggles to survive. Each day I am more acutely aware that our world basks in a shower of Divine Grace keeping it sprinkled with reminders of Heaven. But at the same time we totter on the hellish brink of damnation and destruction. We are not in Heaven, nor do we experience the utter doom of an eternal Hell. We are somewhere in between.

I used to believe that Heaven and Hell were totally future states, and that people who said, “Hell is right now!” were just reacting emotionally to unfortunate circumstances. The older I grow, the closer I believe such people are to the truth. Aging does something to you. Youth focuses zealously on the hopeful prospects of the present and an unknown future. Years tend to thin out the thick tangibility of the present and render the future more transparent and realistic. At least for me, and for many who are older and wiser than I, maturity brings greater insight into the spiritual realities of this life. The material world of humanity once held so much promise, but the traumas of change, illness, and accident bring in a new understanding of our mortality. The “ultimate” questions gain new significance. How the spiritual world touches this world becomes so relevant and meaningful to daily life. The future is built on the present, and the seeds of Hell and Heaven started sprouting yesterday.

These are poems from the earth, where we waver between good and evil in the choices we make day in and day out. Here the populations of the afterlife are being created in the wills of individuals. Today's earthly inhabitants are the future citizens of a divided eternity. Much of my poetry is an appeal to the reader to open up to the Divine Grace mentioned above. I have an evangelistic intent in some of my poetry, because I believe the acts of God's love toward humanity are “good news” for this planet. The responsibility of human freewill is awesome. The consequences of human choices are ultimately final. But there is still time for anyone “between Heaven and Hell” to choose differently, to choose more in line with the Divine Grace that God has caused “to fall upon the just and the unjust.”

I experienced that Divine Grace early in my life. These poems form a chronological sketch of my reflections and musings since age thirteen. My encounter with God has patterned my view of life in this world. It has focused my meditation on the spiritual and ultimate realities behind what our world considers common business. It has sharpened my appreciation of the beauty and value of God's gracious acts toward humanity. My poems deal with love, human and Divine, with Christ and His work, with philosophy and philosophers, with worship, with sexuality, with sickness and healing, with life and death. I wrestle with ideologies old and new. I touch on the dilemmas and trials of God's people. I confess my own failings and my aspirations in the Christian life. I comment on the problems of a society alienated from God and from itself. I do have a lighter side, and you will find a few poems of humor and satire. But for the most part, poetry has been my channel of expressing the insights and wisdom gained by trying to seek the mind of God throughout my own pilgrimage on a planet that hangs between Heaven and Hell.

I want to thank all the friends who over the years have encouraged me to publish my poetry. I thank my precious wife Rosemary for her patience with me. I often neglected other important duties when inspiration for a poem came and all else was set aside until it was written. I believe poetry is like any other creative skill, a gift of God to those who write it. But more often with me, it has been like what the Old Testament prophets have described as the massa (burden, or word) of the Lord, which they felt internally when a prophecy was to be proclaimed. That is what it is like for me when I feel compelled to put down on paper a message in poetry: a burden. Peace from the burden is found only in its proclamation. I can say with the prophet Amos, “A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8, NASB). So, I thank God for the gift, though it comes as a burden. And finally, thank you for taking the time to read me. The Lord be with you.

David L. Hatton

*    *    *    *    *    *    *


                    THE ANSWERING

Is there any meaning, a purpose why we’re here,
A reason for our living and dying day by day?
Could there be a message that comes from the beginning,
Outside our world of striving? Is someone there to say?


If it is all illusion, if we are just machines,
How can we measure value? Are we worth more or less?
If we are merely atoms that clumped by time and chance,
Why deem ourselves so precious upon vague hope and guess!


If only Someone’s out there to speak His love by word,
To tell us who we are; if only Someone came,
Then we’d have an answer. (Religion gave too many—
Science forgot our souls), but He’d have to leave His name.


Science said, “Keep searching.” Religion said, “Try harder.”
Some said, “Do your own thing.” And others said, “Be brave!”
But tell me how to listen. The voice of pain is loud!
The wounded scream around us. We face an open grave. . . .


But One came speaking purpose  and wept at pain and death
And healed the brokenhearted. “A lunatic,” said some.
But He said Someone sent Him named Father God and Love.
He claimed to seek the lost ones; that One who came said,
                                      “Come.”


                          — David L. Hatton, 8/23/1978
            (Poems Between Heaven and Hell,  © 1991, 2014)

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

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