I struggled with my faith, O Lord, then I
Recalled that faith is confidence in what
We hope for and assurance about what
We do not see, for though I know you’re by
Me, I don’t see you, I can’t photograph
You or observe you walk from place to place,
Yet I continue in the fight, the race
Marked out for me, your righteous, holy path
That I have stumbled on so many times,
And when I’ve fallen, you have lifted me
From muck and mire, from my entangled sins,
And when you wipe away the grit and grime
You place me on the road to victory,
Where you and I together share the win.
“We must have richness of soul.”
To Margaret Muth
“A teacher affects eternity.”
Each sunrise brings me closer to my grave,
A chariot will bear me close to God,
And God will shed His grace and light,
White light, everlasting light.
“My God, my God, why did I forsake you?”
I’ll say at the Judgment Seat.
before the Lord
who sits enthroned between the cherubim,
I’ll kneel and cry,
the fragments I stored against my ruin
a puff of smoke, a stench,
Yet, trailing aromas of roses,
the cherubim will fly near to comfort me,
four angels round my head
Who flutter and coo like human doves
And cover me with a coat of many colors,
And I’ll wonder, “Why do they care for me?
I did not expect them to sing to me,
Sweet voices, I thank them, most sweet voices.”
I am no good, fallen, a wilted rose,
expelled from Paradise Garden,
With only a carpenter’s blood to redeem me.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Tomorrow creeps in petty pace
with alarm clock, headline news,
and weather report followed
by elevators, escalators, debaters,
by titillaters and “See you laters.”
Traffic jams and diaper rash,
onion soup and diner hash
crush high school dreams
Like a walnut in a vise,
And parents’ dreams shatter
amid arthritis and Alzheimer’s,
In phone bills, tax returns, and business schemes.
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
I will not follow the rich man
who stores his grain and goods in barns
for himself alone, or the prophet of floods and storms
who heaps despair upon despair,
cold mashed potatoes on a broken plate,
enough theology to make us hate.
Let the merchants of the earth
walk through midnight streets
outside the bankers’ walls
and the Halls of Congress,
as they weep and mourn for
their cargoes of gold, silver,
ivory, apes, and peacocks,
cargoes of cinnamon and spice,
of incense, myrrh and frankincense,
of wine and olive oil, cattle and sheep,
and bodies and souls of men.
I’d rather lift the fire and the rose
against the gathering storm.
II. THE GREAT ARTIST
They laid a friend to rest.
Professor said, “He was the best,
But could not conquer his demons,”
demons down under the sea
that downward dragged him, deep down
to mock the artist’s quest.
A lonely hunter,
he did not go gentle into his good night.
His arms pounded the hospital bed
as he shouted, “Them, them, them!”
and urinated on the white sheets.
His beer and Scotch nurtured
the delirium of the brave,
and every drink lashed him with more fearful visions,
Fiends that fell from heaven above
to pay his wages and prick his nerves.
While he threatened to burn
His life’s work−
Thirty thousand prints
of a world war, a nurse midwife,
a Spanish village,
a medical missionary,
a fishing village in Japan
poisoned by mercury in the waters,
and a walk to paradise garden−
the silver gelatin prints remain,
Heat emanating from a frying soul. He shunned the Love that would have made him whole.
Lust ingratiates himself in bars and offices,
Pride adorns herself for the shopping mall,
Greed clutches the dollar bills and the charge cards,
Envy covets the wife of a mayor,
Anger batters and bruises the teenager,
Sloth rolls over on the soiled bed,
And Gluttony has gulped the crumbs of cake and pie.
Young lovers kiss in bliss, and claim they’ll never die.
III. THE ROSE GROWS
In the middle of my strife
I survived the Bronx, a lake of fire,
Left the wood-rose on its stalk,
And rented a place on East Taylor Street
near a casino where I carried, over my loins,
a belt of change, and walked
beside the slot machines
that whirred and buzzed and gobbled coins.
When called by God to write and rule world-wide,
My genius near to madness was allied
And Jesus’ blood had washed away my pride.
I wrote to join Earth,
with her thousand voices,
in praising God.
Try as I might,
I could not best the words,
Though I wrestled sleepless nights,
For, like a jackrabbit scared in the brush,
Sentences hopped and scooted away
From the meanings my heart would convey;
toads in gardens with forbidden fruit−
In Spirit’s steps, in stroke and counterstroke,
The rose unfolded over flames and smoke.
on walls of caves
where the killer
on her hand, as the jet
down the runway, the whiskeyed pilot
on the dials,
to the generations’
howl and jazz, rock and rap.
Holy man strains to hear the truth in love
from a slow train that never fails,
that rejoices in the right.
Alive by faith, and not by sight,
The rose has grown near stalactites.
IV. THE BAILIFF
The bailiff’s known both love and hate,
And love’s in flames beside his gate.
Right with God and man (he tells his friends),
His house in order, his last will
and testament signed and locked away,
Dodging his emptiness, no sins to confess,
With moderate virtue and moderate vice,
He carries cargo to the South,
And the murals on the hull of his craft
Make children smile and strike angelic poses.
Steering clear of banks, stones and wild waves,
He cultivates his cargo of red roses,
Guiding the drunken boats that trade in slaves.
He hears no cries for help, sees none to save.
V. THE ROSE BLOSSOMS
I am a cactus in the desert
Whose roots dig deep into the earth
For water, a pilgrim
Seeking the face of God.
Now that I drink from the source,
My buds will open.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
While in the garden, pray,
Pray for the teacher paralyzed in bed,
Pray for the unborn girl
knit together in her mother’s womb,
Pray for the homeless mother
who lingers by the stove
at the Salvation Army shelter,
Pray for cures to diseases,
Pray for God-breathed words
that uplift the soul and spirit,
Pray that it’s not too late to seek a newer world.
Holy servants walk in light, as He is light,
And dare to dream of new roses,
To gather the bulbs from the hills
And plant them in the earth.
You are ignorant, as I am ignorant,
And I will not ignore you
Though you and I have failed to speak our loves.
What matters most is saving many lives.
What you love well remains, the rest is dross:
Time meets eternity upon the cross.
With work and vision we can forge a ring,
And set our hope on grace: Of this I sing.
Build Up Your Faith
When you are close,
The foe attacks;
Build up your faith
And watch your back.
1 Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, then
Became the king and strengthened his defenses
Against the land of Israel, 2 and he
Assigned some troops to cities fortified
In Judah, as well as to other towns
In Judah and to towns in Ephraim
His father Asa had outflanked and captured.
3-4 When Jehoshaphat’s father had first been
Made king of Judah, he was faithful to
The Lord and would not worship the god Baal
As Israel’s kings did. Jehoshaphat
Followed his father’s model and obeyed
And worshiped God, and so the Lord did bless
Jehoshaphat 5 and helped him keep control
Of his own kingdom. Judah’s people brought
Gifts to Jehoshaphat, but even after
He was a wealthy and respected man,
6 He stayed completely faithful to the Lord,
And he destroyed the local shrines in Judah,
Including spots where goddess Asherah
Was worshiped. 7 In the third year of his rule,
He chose five high officials and gave them
Orders to teach the Lord’s Law in each city
And town in Judah. They were Benhail,
Obadiah, Nethanel, Zechariah,
And, last, Micaiah. 8 Their helpers were
The following nine Levites: Shemaiah,
Nethaniah, Asahel, Zebadiah,
Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Tobijah
Adonijah, also Tob-Adonijah.
Elishama and Jehoram, two priests,
Went with them too. 9 They brought with them a copy
Of the Lord’s Law wherever they would go
And taught the people from it. 10 Nations ‘round
Judah were scared of the Lord’s power, so
None of them struck against Jehoshaphat.
11 To keep the peace, the Philistines brought him
Silver and other gifts. Some Arab people
Brought seven thousand seven hundred rams
To him and the same number of their goats.
12 And as Jehoshaphat became more mighty,
He built some fortresses and cities 13 where
He stored supplies. He also kept within
Jerusalem some seasoned soldiers 14 from
The Benjamin and Judah tribes. These soldiers
Were grouped according to their clans. Now Adnah
Commanded Judah’s troops, and Adnah had
Three hundred thousand soldiers under him
15 Jehohanan was second in command;
He had two hundred eighty thousand soldiers
Under him. 16 Amasiah, Zichri’s son,
A volunteer in service of the Lord,
Who had two hundred thousand soldiers, was
Third in command; 17 now Eliada was
A fearless warrior who commanded troops
From Benjamin who had two hundred thousand
Soldiers in his command, all of them armed
With bows and shields. 18 Jehozabad was second
In the command, and he had under him
One hundred eighty thousand soldiers, 19 troops
To guard the king within Jerusalem,
Not counting those he set to guard and man
Fortified cities through the entire land.