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.

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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.)