Thankless Thanksgiving

An atheist’s life must be trying indeed
with no end of strife and yet no faith to plead

with moral compunctions that have no real source
and choices at junctions but no certain course

surrounded with beauty and no One to praise
no feeling of duty, no paean to raise

awash in abundance yet no One to thank
swayed by the influence that God is a prank

tempted to be hateful or angry or vexed
still moved to be grateful yet somehow perplexed

on thankless Thanksgiving, the atheist’s need
– forgive my forgiving – must be trying indeed.

The Laws of God, The Laws of Man

A.E. Housman’s Original:

The laws of God, the laws of man
    He may keep that will and can
Not I: Let God and man decree
    Laws for themselves and not for me;

And if my ways are not as theirs
    Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and most condemn
    Yet when did I make laws for them?

Please yourselves, Say I, and they
    Need only look the other way.
But no, they will not; they must still
    Wrest their neighbor to their will,

And make me dance as they desire
    With jail and gallows and hellfire
And how am I to face the odds
    Of man’s bedevilment and God’s?

I, a stranger and afraid
    In a world I never made
They will be master, right or wrong;
    Though, both are foolish, both are strong

And since, my soul, we cannot flee
    To Saturn or to Mercury
Keep we must, If we can
    These foreign laws of God and man.

My version:

The laws of God, the laws of man
    May all discern who will and can
And find that God’s grace sets one free
    From laws that tutor you and me;

Grace teaches care as His heart cares,
    And bids us share as His love shares,
Where man’s law would but judge, condemn,
    and favor these, or those, or them.

Love God; do what you please, I say
    For He loves, and won’t look away.
He always has and always will,
    Though men won’t see; feel they must still

Make you to dance as they desire
    With jail and gallows and their ire
God’s law is love; what are the odds
    God won’t obey a law that’s God’s?

If you, a stranger and afraid
    Love in this world that God has made
He’ll help you master right and wrong;
    Though weak and foolish, you’ll be strong

And then your soul will someday flee
    To God’s own home, eternity
So keep we must, if we but can
    This law of love for God and man.

And It Came To Pass

I’ve published the first verse of this item at the end of a post before – because it was all I could remember of it.

I just ran across the whole thing, which I wrote in 1983 not long after my divorce from my first wife became final. (I’ve been writing bad poetry for a long time.)

Here’s the entirety of it. Strap on your anti-Vogon earplugs and eyeshields.

And It Came To Pass

” ‘And it came to pass…'”
the old man would say
was his favorite Bible verse.
“The best times and the worst;
all the last things and the first:
not a one of them comes to stay
but they come to pass.”

So she came to pass
one day, into my life
and found her way to my heart.
Our love grew right from the start.
I never dreamed we’d grow apart
when we promised as man and wife
that our love would last.

It takes more than fate
and more than love to be
truly one from troth to dust.
It takes honesty and trust —
and commitment is a must.
All of this we came to see
but we came too late.

It will come to pass
that I’ll be old some day
and I, too, will prize that verse.
The best times and the worst
could have been shared if we’d first
known that not a one came to stay
but they came to pass.

The Truth About Halloween

There once was a holiday
that honored God’s saints
that merged with a pagan day –
dread had no restraints.

The Samhain* commemorates;
bad spirits are feared …
All Hallow’s Eve celebrates
His children revered.

How the clean and the unclean
could blend in a mess?
But the truth about Halloween:
It’s anyone’s guess!

As if what’s in our own mind
isn’t frightening enough,
in the scriptures you can find
plenty scary stuff.

Though there once was a witch who
called up Samuel’s ghost,
it was what King Saul might do
that scared her the most! [1 Samuel 28]

There may be many curses
and threats to our cheer,
but in dozens of verses,
our God says, “Don’t fear.” [Isaiah 41:10]

Of ghouls, vampires and mummies
it can just be said
that, in spite of those dummies,
only God wakes the dead. [Ezekiel 37]

It’s fun to dress and be seen
in costumes arrayed
But the truth about Halloween?
“Do not be afraid.” [Genesis 15:1]

It’s exciting with masks on;
it’s fun to know thrill –
but there are evil persons
who hurt and who kill.

So caution has always been
the best trick you’ve got
But the treat about Halloween
is God says, “Fear not.” [Isaiah 43:1]

Satan, who was prince of the air,
sent evil, no doubt,
to give a child a bad scare –
Jesus threw him out! [Matthew 17]

Then, that prince-who-had-not-been
nailed Jesus to a tree …
and the truth about Halloween
was Easter, you see. [Acts 2:24]

To those who would cause harm
and bring terror near,
God sends this solemn alarm:
“It’s Me you should fear.” [Matthew 10:28]

For His children, always seen,
who hold His truth dear,
Here’s the truth about Halloween:
“My love casts out fear.” [1 John 4:18]

*Pronounced “Sow-win.”

© 2009, W. Keith Brenton

The Bread And The Wine And The House That Christ Built

This is the life
that Jesus laid down.

This is the bread
that pictures the life
that Jesus laid down.

This is the body
consumed by the bread
that pictures the life
that Jesus laid down.

This is the church
comprising the body
consumed by the bread
that pictures the life
that Jesus laid down.

This is the life
required by the church
comprising the body
consumed by the bread
that pictures the life
that Jesus laid down.

This is the God
providing the life
required by the church
comprising the body
consumed by the bread
that pictures the life
that Jesus laid down.

This is the life
that Jesus laid down.

This is the blood
that nourished the life
that Jesus laid down.

This is the wine
that pictures the blood
that nourished the life
that Jesus laid down.

This is the people
revived by the wine
that pictures the blood
that nourished the life
that Jesus laid down.

This is the vessel
composed of the people
revived by the wine
that pictures the blood
that nourished the life
that Jesus laid down.

This is the pouring out
of this lowly vessel
composed of the people
revived by the wine
that pictures the blood
that nourished the life
that Jesus laid down.

These show the life
that Jesus laid down.

Minute by minute.
Day by day.
Year by year.
Lifetime by lifetime.

Poured out and broken.
Given and taken.
Passed among thousands.
Multiplied amply,
Like the loaves and the fishes.
Each one a gift.
Each one a sacrifice.
Each one a new life:
Hungering for righteousness.
Thirsting for faith.
Fed and replete.
Lived to the full.
Offered back freely.

These are the lives
that Jesus takes up.

Onesimus

This was the start of what I had hoped would be a longer set of verses, but it didn’t happen. I just didn’t perceive a direction to take from here:

Paul:
I’m in chains, bound to You, Lord
with a ‘son’ who slaves for me
I return him to his master
Set him free

Onesimus:
I ran away from a brother
who has always enslaved me
now my ‘father’ sends me to him
Set me free

Philemon:
I once owned this useless one
who now bows and offers me
a plea from my dear brother
to set him free

Break me now, break me always
when my heart’s too hard to see
that I’m the point of grace
Lord, set me free

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” ~ Galatians 5:1

Help me out with this, will y’all?

HeartWorship: The Way He Spoke

I heard Him speak upon the hill
Though He was meek, He spoke God’s will
My heart awoke; I wanted more
For no one spoke like this before

(Matthew 7:28-29)

I saw Him throw some demons out
Told them to go; put them to rout
We common folk saw our Savior
For no one spoke like this before.

(Mark 1:27)

I knelt to share a fragrance sweet
And with my hair I wiped His feet
My guilt lay broken on the floor
For no one spoke like this before.

(Luke 7:36-50)

They sent us out to take Him in
He said no doubt we would lose Him
We took His joke; we took no more
For no one spoke like this before.

(John 7:30-49)

Though I am weak; and my words poor
His words I’d speak; His praise outpour
His Name invoke; His strength implore
For no one spoke like this before.

(I Peter 4:11)

(It’s been a while since I’ve rubber-banded you to a column and forced my Vogon poetry on you, so when I ran across this HeartWorship article that I hadn’t posted, I thought it was time.)

What Do I Lack?

Good Teacher, I run to You, kneeling
I am young, I am rich, I have power
I have kept all the rules, yet I’m feeling
that there’s something inside me gone sour

So I come to you, yearning perfection
I have longed for a life without end
And I bring to You one burning question
What good thing can I do to ascend?

You ask why I call you “Good Teacher”
Only “good” can be equal to “God”
But Your goodness is Your best-known feature
Don’t look down on my question as odd

I am down on my knees and at Your feet
I am looking up into Your eyes
I see a love there that is complete
So Your answer, I know, will be wise

You must see that I give much to the poor
Yet You tell me one thing I still lack:
I must sell all my things and give much more
And Your answer just takes me aback

Sell my things? All my worldly possessions?
All the things that I treasure so much?
Could You not make a few, small concessions?
Would a few put me out of Your touch?

Do You know what it’s like to lose power?
Do You know what true poverty does?
Do You know how to need every hour?
To recall just the way Your life was?

But I see that Your answer is wisdom
And the choice to be made must be mine
If I follow You into Your kingdom
I must trade the world for the divine

I can feel, as I rise, my face falling
Now I find myself turning my back
I would lose myself, heeding Your calling
Toward the very One thing that I lack

As I leave, does Your heart break inside You?
Did my answer come as a surprise?
If I sold out to come walk beside You
Would a look of love still light Your eyes?

©2005, WKB | See also What The Rich Man Lacked

HeartWorship: He Runs To Me

I squandered youth in distant lands
And spent my fortune with poor friends
Now I feed pigs in filthy pens
They run to me
They run to me

At home, the slaves eat better food
My Father never treats them rude
Were I His slave, he’d treat me good
I’ve come to me
I’ve come to me

“See! My Father, waiting, stands;
See! He reaches out His hands;”*
And then He does what love demands
He runs to me
He runs to me

I’ll never see Him quite the same
While I sought wealth and power and fame
He watched at home, and called my name
Then ran to me
Then ran to me

*This couplet is borrowed from the hymn “Love for All” by Samuel Longfellow
(with a tune by Xavier Schnyder). Remainder ©2005, WKB

What The Given One Gave

I have no need He cannot fill
I have no hunger He can’t feed
I have no anger He can’t feel
I have no wound He cannot heal

He left a throne, born in a stall
He left it all for flesh and bone

I have no fear He cannot quell
I have no hell He can’t defeat
I have no hate He can’t out-love
I have no fate He cannot mete

He learned afresh of want and pain,
His loss to gain for bone and flesh

I have no thirst He cannot quench
I have no tears He cannot dry
I have no thought He cannot know
I have no word He cannot hear

From birth in creche to cross of wood,
Sin He withstood for blood and flesh

I have no work He did not give
I have no will His love can’t move
I have no love that can match His
I have no sin He can’t forgive

His tears a flood; His bones to crush
He gave His flesh; He gave His blood

It isn’t just that He would die;
That it was He who had to give;
Or that He’d live to make all just;
It’s that He’d do it all for me
It’s that He’d do it just for me