If Really He Has Your Ear

If really He has your ear,
O preacher–
As you assure us He does–
As you tell of having
“Heard the call”–
And as we hear your
Pious pre-sermon prayer
That He will guide your mouth
To say as He would say–
And as you have taught us
That we should pray adoringly on your behalf–
Both fore and aft–
That He should work it so
That in having listened to you,
We will have listened to Him–

If really He has your ear,
Why do you not say
What He says?

Why, then, do you sometimes allow where He prohibits–
Or prohibit where He allows?

And how can you ignore what He proclaims–
Or declare in His name what He has not?

Was not the Son himself
Diligent to say only what
The Father had told Him?

Why do you explain away some of his words,
Hand-waving their meaning into
Something that suits you better?

Why do you say, “Peace, peace”
Where we are at war with Him–
And with his Truth–
And with his Righteousness?

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Have you not read
That these things
Are a matter of record?

Do you think we cannot read
Them for ourselves?

But alas!
I know that the evils of this hour
Are rather more stinging than that,
For you have made for yourself
An audience of those who
Do dare not care so much what he said.
And I have had my seat among them–
Who conjure up,
Under your tutelage,
The “spirit” of their own will–
Calling it His instead–
And thinking it that blessed font
From which your very words flow forth.

I see now that you
Have made yourself king
Of a vain people
Who like you better than
The One whose name they
Take upon themselves.
You have taught them to
Worship at the altar of their own will.

And I,
Having finally seen you for what you are–
Having discovered your artifice and scheme,
And having wasted and risked enough of my life
In this grand pretense and charade–
I see now why you
Never seemed truly eager
That I should study for myself–
Think for myself–
Explore for myself–
But to rely on you
To do it all for me.

I must leave you now and
See whether I can learn to stand
Before him on my own,
Having been so weakened by
This life of proxy.
I must go and learn
How to make things right
With God–
The actual God
Of the Bible.

Who Taught the Christian?

Who taught the Christian to scoff
At what he does not understand?

Surely not that Wisdom,
To whom every soul
Shall bow the knee.

Who taught the Christian to be smug–
To defend and offend
with overconfidence about his knowledge?

It was certainly not that Lamb,
Who, by his own will,
Counted himself as nothing.

Who taught the Christian that
God would not let him–
Or his preacher–
Be wrong about anything?

It could not have been the Master
Whose very own disciples
He so often corrected.

Who taught the Christian
To take offense at correction?

Surely it was not the Teacher
Who taught his own to
“Go and show him his fault…”

Who taught the Christian
To be incurious about the scriptures?

It would not have been that King of Kings
Into whose affairs
Even the angels longed to look.

Who taught the Christian
That he will be exempt from the Judgment?

It could not be Him who sits on
The judgment seat of Christ–
To whom we must all give account.

Who taught the Christian that his own feelings
Are God’s only way of testifying to him?

Never would it have been the Word of God
Who had his prophets write the scriptures.

Who taught the Christian that “grace” exempts him
From having to live in the image of God?

It most certainly was not the Son–
The Radiance of God’s Glory, and
The exact Representation of his Being.

Who has taught the Christian these things–
These foolish, corrupt things?
Who has taught them
To be blind to the truth?

These things are taught
By those the ubiquitous imposters–
Those counterfeits–
Those pretenders–
Those usurpers who cannot stand
To let Him sit on his own heavenly throne–
Who declare themselves kings
With the sly edict:
“God appoints the leaders”–
And who will never
In a thousand years
See the error in their ways–
Until He makes them see it.
They are the self-appointed “shepherds”
Who assure us they
“Felt the call”
And that God now speaks through them.

Such a scheme could not succeed
in that Heavenly Jerusalem,
With God so near
And vanity so far.
But here, where so few esteem
The light that the Holy City

Sheds upon this Earth,
The preachers are the pride
And idol of the millions,
Who, themselves, will later
Have to give account,
Not only for following other masters,
But for doing it
In the Name of the One and Only.

And I, too, spent too many years
Not realizing the difference.
And then, too many years
Realizing it, but not enough.

But having finally left the crowd–
Who would not really let me listen–
I have been able to hear
What he said so long ago,
And what he seems to have
Had delivered to our time,

For our consideration.
And I now regret that I ever wanted
Anything but what He wants.

On Reflection

Reflection is not—
As some suppose—
The refuge of the weak.
It is neither the retreat
Of the cowardly,
Nor the pastime
Of the boring.

Reflection is the observatory for the heavens—
The mirror to self—
The armory for the battle of convictions—
The anvil of courage—
The sounding board of conscience—
The headquarters of personal campaigns—
The dispensary of self-correction—
The drafting table of excellence.

It is the echo chamber of speeches—
The depository of lessons—
The storehouse of dreams—
The playroom of the imagination—
The hideaway from fools—
The treasury of wisdom—
The compass of morality—
The parlor of friendship—
The den of family—
The incubator of determination—
The inspiration of art.

Reflection is the forge of character.
It is the podium for addressing self
And the auditorium for listening.
It is the proving grounds for principle—
The chalkboard of planning—
The archive of success and failure—
The clean room of reason.

It is the infirmary for injured feelings—
The time-out chair for the self-disciplined—
The situation room for the crisis—
The courtroom for our anger—
The balance for our judgments—
The camp of the trail-weary.
It is the schoolroom of habits.

Reflection is the grotto of the Image of God—
The foundry of intention—
The planning table of life—
The staging area for engagement in the world.

It is the deep soil in which the virtues grow best.

Reflection is the very wellspring of why—
The well-appointed home of the authentic,
And a mystery to the homeless of mind.

The Klaxon Culture

Mocking, scoffing–
This klaxon culture–
Ripping at the world–
Rebels with scarcely a cause but outrage itself–
Hating their shortlist of wrongs
And a thousand rights–

The songleader points a finger and screams.
And the chorus joins in.
And it echoes across the land,
Amplified a million-fold by the powers
Who take cover behind the strife.

The klaxon daily tells the fools what to hate.
And hate they do,
With insane passion–
Finding such dear promise in the notion
That they are owed revenge upon those
Who have not really wronged them–
Getting drunk on the idea that
Whatever ails them simply must be,
Without exception,
Someone else’s fault.

They tear down.
And do they ever build up?
Do they even know how?
Is not destruction all that hatred knows how to do?

They play the menace to our society–
Disturbing the peace,
Stirring the pot,
Lying the lies and even
Inventing ways to lie the truth.
Defying the Golden Rule.
Darkening the days.
Calling good evil, and evil good.
Never having their fill.

Exploding at the slightest excuse,
True or false,
Leveraging their tantrum on the world–
Running the ploy of the two-year-old
On childish parents who can be counted on
To give in most every time.

“Give me what I want or I will not shut up!”

And what champion can be found to tell them “no”?

Indeed, when what they really need is a spanking,
They are given a pulpit instead.

They are a parasite upon our own weakness–
An exploitation of our shameful lack of conviction–
A relentless enemy of truth and prosperity and justice alike.

If they find a just cause today,
They parade it like nobody’s business.
But when tomorrow, their cause du jour is unjust,
They parade it just the same.
And so we see through their game,
That they don’t care about truth at all,
But only about advantage.

But the blame does not belong to them alone,
For they see through our game, too–
That we don’t really care as much
About principle as about avoiding a fight.
So they push it to the brink
Knowing that we will not.

It is we who have dared to feed the stray,
Even though the wisdom of the ages
Has warned us against it
A million times.
And it is now we who are trained
To keep it fed
Day and night
At our own weary and begrudging expense.

And the dogs who used to bark all night on Main Street
Are now broadcast from sea to shining sea,
Magnified beyond the petty powers of their forebears,
And useful beyond the wildest dreams of those who
Loot the treasury under the noses of the distracted masses.

Perhaps our society–
Who could never bring itself
Fully to outlaw the lie–
Could use its sleepless nights
To give careful thought to its ways
As the klaxon sounds on.

Of Course He Knew

Of course He knew
They would eat the fruit.
Just as He knew ha nachash
Would want them to do.

And of course He knew
Wickedness would abound
Until He should regret having
Made them at all–
When He would at last summon the very
Waters of Darkness He had ordered
To keep back beyond his circle.

And of course He knew that
Someone like Noah would care.

And he did.

As had Enoch before him.

And of course He knew that Noah’s progeny would not
Fill the Earth as He commanded them.
And of course He knew that
Handing them over to the Watchers
Would not fix them, either.

And of course He knew that even
His own chosen people
Would scarcely follow his Law
Even under his own mighty Arm.

And of course He knew that the likes of
Moses and Joshua and Caleb would.
And He knew there would be others.

And there were.

And of course He knew that whether he sowed
Or let the fields lie fallow,
He would gather his crop in time.

And it was for their sake that He made
The two worlds, and not just the one.

And, of course, it was never any secret that
He counted the gold and silver as
Worthy of the second world,
And not the clay or the lead or the dust.

And of course He knew that
Some would pretend anyway
That in being that clay or lead or dust,
They had not forsaken a sacred trust
And squandered a sacred life
And disobeyed a sacred edict.

And because He still cared so much–
Even after all that–
He sent his Son–
His glorious Son–
That no one could miss the Gold.

And of course He knew that even so,
There would still be pretenders.
And he warned them of course
For that whole generation—

But so few ever really learn to listen.

Of course it was never about
Making this first world perfect.
It was about finding a family here
Who would belong in the second.

And now of course we are here,
Having been born in our proper time.
And of course it remains to be seen
How all we shall have lived
In the time we have left.

When Greed

When Greed
First took his stand
To take what was not rightly his,
He unleashed upon this world
A wayward bent
That has wooed the foolish
Ever since.

They think they have found
in his example the proper way of life.
And being busy with acquisition,
They shut their eyes to all else–
Except, perhaps, when Greed bites them anew
Through the teeth of another infected soul.

And then it’s not so good for them as before.

But even so,
The allure of gain still promises to fill
What it hasn’t filled yet,
And their many wounds do not break them
Of wounding others.

And thus the dastard’s empty ways live on,
Menace that they are upon this world–
Even as Greed himself stands imprisoned in the eternal flames.

And still, they go his way who had chosen his way.

If Suddenly

If suddenly we should be overcome some day
By a mysterious wave of relief–
If there should fall upon us all an eerie calming–
An instant settling in our souls–
A sudden tranquility–
A disarming quietude of the spirit,
So quiet that even the weary whispers of hope
Could be heard again–

I wonder if that might not be the day
That the lie has finally left the Earth.

What If My Dad

What if my Dad
Had quit pushing before
I had quit pushing back?

What if he had tired of me
Refusing to swing the bat
Because I was afraid of striking out?

What if he had given up the cause
Even one “Just try it!”
Before I finally did?

Then I’d have never tipped that ball in practice that day,
Nor hit that first hit in the game a few minutes later.
Nor the stand-up triple with the RBI.

Dad knew it was worth it.
He knew that the value of success
Exceeds the risk of embarrassment.

So he kept pushing.
Daring that fine line between
Pushing me and breaking me.

At first, I was senseless to everything but the fear of striking out.
Then he countered the fear with his equally troubling coaxing.
And that’s all there was.

So I swang.

Dad couldn’t have known it,
but what was for him just another afternoon of being a dad
Would turn into a major life theme for me.

And all these years hence,
Here I sit, daring the line
Between pushing and breaking
Some charges of my own.

Well, Dad’s gone now, of course.

But not in this way.

The River Doesn’t Care

The river doesn’t care
What you make of it, O man.
It has its life,
And you have yours.
Curse it all you like,
And still it will outlive you.

Or if by chance you should
Take a different mind about it,
You can learn its way
And its bounty
And its strength
And let it bear you on its back–

Though only to the places it goes.

And once you are yielded that
It only goes where it goes,
The river will still outlive you,
For it is what it is
And you are what you are.

But you shall have had In your days
Your river.
And you shall have learned in your heart
Its lesson.
And only then shall you
Discover that the river had prepared you
For what comes next.

There Come Our Summers

There come our summers and winters.
And no matter how we spend them,
In time will appear the sum of them all,
Looming nearer until its only landing,
When the number of our days is settled once and for all,
When the others will say,
“So that’s how long he lived.”

And whether any shall marvel at the sum or not,
The questions haunt the mind:
Has the sum of his days meant anything?
And has their worth matched their number?

And in answering, we shall reveal ourselves,
Each in his own way, seeing things as he does.

But the question also comes to the one Mind
Whose proper business it is to decide.
And He shall make of us what He does.
And His answer will be the right one.

He will know.

He will know what was given,
And endured,
And overcome,
And hidden,
And what had been expected.

He will know what to do.

And He will do it.

And as for the rest of us,
We can leave it calmly in His hands,
If we dare.
Or we can pretend to know
What is yet unknowable to us.

And either way,
He goes on as before,
Judging his creatures justly,
Knowing just what to think about them,
And being Himself that very great reward for those
Whose time on earth shall have pleased Him in the balance.