Fathers That Know the Father

By reader’s request, I am reposting this piece for Father’s Day.


This is another commissioned work, this time in connection with the Art and Craft of Writing Kickstarter. The poem includes numerous inside jokes, personal memories and details of family history provided by the client, a wife and mother wishing to honour her aging father (and from what she told me about him, he is more than worthy of such a gift), hence some of the curious asides and word choices. I hope that general readers will still find it enjoyable and uplifting.

Fathers That Know the Father

Fathers that know the Father are such a special breed,
Though success in their endeavours is far from guaranteed;
They are not granted super strength, immunity from harm,
Super speed, astounding wealth or overpowering charm;

What they do receive instead is far more precious still,
A spirit touched with grace and a calling to instil
A love of God and truth and life in his children’s souls,
That they may lift their heads to aim for high and worthy goals.

Even in his absence, his influence is strong,
His loved ones know they always have a home where they belong,
Where they are known and cared for, and greeted with a smile,
Hoping that that their current stay can stretch a little while.

Far from our shores, you harnessed mighty atoms in the deep,
Ensuring that ten million children could stay safe asleep.
The sacrifices that you made leave echoes in their wake,
Clearing noble paths for other, younger feet to take.

Discipline unasked for, and even fought outright,
Is now appreciated in a wholly different light.
Prayers and verses planted in a mind when it is young
Grow into fruitful wisdom that flows in its own tongue.

Standing at attention while my tidying was checked
Has led to strong self-discipline and stronger self-respect.
You drilled me to work hard, in all things seek to learn and grow,
Aim for excellence, but never bask in my own glow.

A leader and great teacher in every port you called,
You had so many ways to keep your students all enthralled
As you passed on knowledge that was more than just a hunch,
Such as the laws of thermo forbidding a free lunch.

I wish I’d been less stubborn and took the time to hear
The wonders of the universe that you so loved to share;
When you said your expectations of me were too high it hurt;
When you took it back and were proud of me, I thought my heart would burst.

A sweeping gift you gave me on the 8th year since my birth,
And we took turns adventuring all over Middle Earth.
So many books we’d share with joy, I even got some signed;
You always were so loving, so insightful and so kind.

A fluffball called Salami nuzzled past your stubborn gates,
Moved you in a way your heart could not anticipate;
And so when perched upon your leg in good old Morro Bay,
He became the furry lord of all that he surveyed.

Our stomachs stuffed with tacos, we’d waddle up the hill,
Half-regretting extra bites when we had had our fill,
Back home to talk, to laugh, to revel in our family life;
Moments I still treasure now as a mother and a wife.

Black Mountain’s view enchanted us each time we scaled its slope,
Guests were met with signal flags along the yard arm rope,
Grandparents teaching step-ball back at 512 South Clay,
A family determined to all walk the narrow way.

Your love of God infectious, your love of us so clear,
Each time you wrote us letters it would fill our hearts with cheer.
No one on this earth could ever hope to fill your shoes;
No one we would rather join us on a fun-filled cruise.

Because of you, our families walk and prosper in the light,
Gleaming like Alaskan gems of purest tanzanite.
Whether it is of the Apes or of the Caribbean,
All of us are certain you are worthy of this paean.

You showed us what a father is, what we should aim to be,
Reflected glints of glory that shine eternally,
Helped us in our crises, gave us strength to cope,
And led us to the One who is our everlasting hope.

You taught us to be humble, to never put on airs,
And of course, most importantly, to not forget our prayers.
For this and more we’re grateful, in more ways than you know;
So in this and other ways, we’d like to let it show.

Two Decades Since My Quest Began

It has been twenty years since I first contacted the girl who became my wife. Here is the song I wrote and sung for her today to commemorate the occasion.

When I see the ways we’ve changed,
The things that we’ve gone through,
The treasure that you are to me,
The joy I bring to you;

I still fail and let you down,
I’m not all that I should be;
Sometimes I find it hard to grasp
That you can still love me.

The Father watches over us,
The Son still leads us on,
The Spirit gives us strength to love
And know that we belong.

Two decades since my quest began
To reach out and connect
To a funny, kind and loving
Female intellect.

But you are so much more than that,
My friend, love, confidant;
He has blessed our lives with so much
More than we could want.

The Father watches over us,
The Son still leads us on,
The Spirit gives us strength to love
And know that we belong.

When the Shadows Ruled the Day

When the shadows ruled the day,
Their triumph plain to see,
Good men sat shaken with dismay
At crushing Calvary.

Despair was now their daily bread
And bitter tears their drink
The one they followed is now dead,
What were they supposed to think,

That this was part of a great plan?
No lord would choose that death!
Forgive his killers to a man
With ragged, fading breaths?

“No, we were fools to trust his words
And now all hope is lost;
We’ll go back to our shoals and herds
And start to count the cost

Of standing up to Rome’s great might
And the Sanhedrin’s scorn;
Hide from the harsh revealing light
Of the coming dawn…

If I Had Seen Him…

It was my sin that pinned him there,
My blows he chose to take;
The insults I deserved to bear
He suffered for my sake.

If I had seen him on the cross,
Would I have turned away?
Would I have joined that ugly mob
On that horrific day?

Would I have fled and hid in fear
That I was next in line?
Would I have seen the signs appear
When noonday ceased to shine?

Would I have stood and watched and wept
As his blood was shed,
My heart unable to accept
That my lord was dead?

Would I have understood the gift
That he was giving me,
The price he paid to heal the rift
And set my spirit free?

Do I now live in thankfulness
For all that he has done,
And joy that words cannot express
At all his death has won?

When the People Saw Their King

When the People Saw Their King

When the people saw their King
And shouted praises in the streets,
Laying cloaks as offerings
Before the donkey’s humble feet;

The nation’s healing was at hand,
Vain men dared not stem the flow
Of joy their pride could not withstand,
For fear the people might outgrow

Their iron grip upon the minds
Of the faithful, good and true,
And leave their twisted souls behind,
As God poured out blessings new,

And heaven would come down to earth;
All their hopes would be fulfilled.
All would see their own true worth,
Broken lives would be rebuilt.

As He revelled in the cheers
That greeted Him along the way,
Perhaps He shed an inner tear
At what awaited in five days.

The Day is Coming

Another song I might record one day:

The Day is Coming

My friend was mentioned on the news,
Misrepresenting all his views.
As they piled up lie on lie
I shook my head and gave a sigh.

Sometimes it seems like the devil is winning,
But I know in the end that he won’t be grinning

Oh, the day is comin’
So no, I won’t be runnin’.
I’ll stand, not hide or cower,
‘Cause my Lord, He has the power.

The innocent are torn to shreds
Some in the womb, some in their beds
And in the streets as their blood flows
Some celebrate this horror show

They love the darkness, despising the light
But that won’t be me, ‘cause I know what is right

Oh, the day is comin’
So no, I won’t be runnin’.
I’ll stand, not hide or cower,
‘Cause my Lord, He has the power.

In the kingdom that’s to come,
We’ll see the glory of the Son;
With justice that his foes all fear
And mercy for his bride so dear

United in joy that mere words can’t describe
‘Cause He cleared the Way thought His great sacrifice

Oh, that day is comin’
So no, I won’t be runnin’.
I’ll stand, not hide or cower,
‘Cause my Lord, He has the power.

When it Seems…

Another song I might record one day:

When it Seems…

When your nation’s soul is crumbling
As its purpose slowly dies;
A man of principle can’t find
A sight to soothe his eyes.

All around are trace reminders
Of the way things used to be
When honour, fortitude and trust
Were found abundantly.

Now the enemy is laughing
And his power seems secure,
Your allies are collapsing
And it seems you can’t endure:

There’s a hope that will never fail
There’s a power that’s above the sky,
You are part of a wondrous tale
Of love that simply will not die.

When the sickness overwhelms you
And your body’s wracked with pain;
The strength that always got you through
Has been completely drained,

There’s a truth that keeps you going
Through the fury of the storm;
There’s a kindness overflowing
That will all these woes transform

Into scars of pride and glory
In the kingdom that’s to come
As we witness the full story
Of the Father and the Son:

There’s a hope that will never fail
There’s a power that’s above the sky,
You are part of a wondrous tale
Of love that simply will not die.

And Yet…

And Yet…

When faced with a true master,
My words fall flat as stone;
No great deeds they accomplish,
No great sins they atone.

And yet a simple glimpse of truth
Is all a dark place needs
To show the walls are crumbling,
To plant some healthy seeds

That sprout and grow so strong they change
The world in ways profound;
Such as when a shepherd shod
His shoes on holy ground.

So take that little step with me
To truthfulness and light;
Who knows where that tight path will lead,
What otherworldly sight

Will greet us on the noble way
To love beyond our ken,
Where treasured souls we thought were lost
Shall reunite again?

There He who wipes our tears will smile
With arms thrown open wide,
Show us to our special place,
And welcome us with pride.

A Hope That Burns (Finally Recorded)

A Hope That Burns

As I indicated back when I first posted this, I hoped to participate in a local training weekend for musicians and sound engineers in collaboration with Visible Music College in Memphis, Tennessee, that included the professional recording and mixing of songs that we the participants wrote (one each), as well as basic instructions on techniques, tricks and resources for mixing and producing music professionally.

That recording went well (though it very nearly didn’t happen at all*) and in due time I received a mixed and raw multitrack version of the song, so I could practise the mixing techniques I’d been taught. I then had some vocal instruction from the amazing Moira Greyland Peat, who’s strength, grace and generosity of spirit despite a truly harrowing childhood is an inspiration to many, and resung an improved version of the vocals at home, then mixed it together to produce this final version that I hope will be enjoyable and uplifting.

For the rest of this month it will be available via the CD Baby store for the princely sum of 99 cents, (all other outlets are the same price, but the CD Baby store link above gives the best royalty per sale). Clicking on the image below shows all the outlets where you can stream or download the song.

A Hope That Burns

Melody and Lyrics by Ben Zwycky, accompaniment by Tomas Pavlicek

Vocals Ben Zwycky, keyboard Tomas Pavlicek, guitar Michal Petras

(*I completely lost my voice a week and a half before the weekend, only heard its musical accompaniment for the first time about an hour before we were supposed to demonstrate our songs to show that they were worth recording, while my voice was still shaky, and a scheduling conflict meant that we ended up doing our full recording half an hour after the window for recordings was supposed to close.)

The Scandalous Humility of Christ

I forget the precise context of the conversation, but several years ago I used a simplified form of this analogy to describe Christ’s mission on earth:

A prince falls in love with a common girl from a distant province of his kingdom, but she rejects him thus: “I no more belong in your world than you do in mine; with all your wealth and finery and power, your palaces and servants and armies, you will never understand how poor people live.”

So the prince disguises himself as a serf, telling no-one but a few trusted servants and taking no money or other possessions with him, learns a trade and goes off to live where his face is not well known, supporting himself and working his way across the country. Where he spots an injustice against others, he has his servants secretly report it to the king to be dealt with, but gives them strict instructions to not intervene on his own behalf, no matter what, merely record how people treat him and only deal with such matters after he has decided to reveal himself.

Over three years he meets with both kindness and cruelty, generosity and greed—dishonest merchants, corrupt sheriffs, hospitable paupers and violent bandits. He is insulted, robbed, beaten, wrongfully imprisoned and tortured, yet not once does he invoke his authority to spare himself, not once does he call out for his nearby servants to intervene, he endures it all quietly.

Finally he arrives at the girl’s door, his simple clothing torn and scars visible on his face and hands, and asks her to reconsider, that his offer of life with him at the palace still stands.

Can you imagine what those servants must have felt, watching their beloved prince be so mistreated, suffer so many affronts to his honour, endure such undeserved pain and degradation, yet with strict instructions to not defend him, and all for the sake of some common girl. Scandalous!

Christ’s sacrifice for us is even greater than that, in that he is far further above us than a prince is above a commoner, and He took the punishments for our crimes, enduring even separation from the Father and excruciating death. At any moment during His earthly ministry, he could have called down legions of angels to defend him, yet He did not, only using his divine authority to help others, to heal the sick, free the oppressed, bring hope to the fearful and light to dark places. We are utterly unworthy of His generosity, of His scandalous humility, and each day we should remember and be grateful.