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Much of my poetry is about my Christian faith, because my Christianity is such a deep part of who I am.
At the time of writing this first poem, I was continually being frustrated by my lack of self-discipline. I hated myself for asking forgiveness from God and then turning around and committing the same sins over and over again.
Songs such as "Cheap Grace" by Steve Camp would make me weep, with lines like: "Cheap grace, we've watered down the blood he shed, we say we've given all, but we have hardly bled. Cheap grace, you know it cost him everything, it's easy to abuse what you think is for free."
In 2005, my niece Jacqueline wrote music for this and turned it into a beautiful song.
I feel a failure, a constant one,
God picks me up, I continue to fall.
How is it that God ignores what I've done?
Why does he care for one so small?
I know he sent Jesus his only Son,
to save the whole world, including me.
He paid the price for all that I've done
when he died up there upon that tree.
This is indeed a great revelation,
God sees no fault when he looks at me.
My status is given undue elevation,
for he sees me how I'm going to be.
I have been changed, though not complete
I'm imprisoned within this mortal wall.
While I wait for God to finish his feat,
with his help, I'll love him with my all.
Andrew Host, January 1993
I started writing some verse to include on our Christmas cards in 1993. Originally, I'd finished at the end of the second verse. But then it seemed inappropriate for a Christmas card, and I felt it needed more, so I kept writing. "But only good comes from his hand" was written to help me remember the goodness of God at a time when Julie was in the depths of her post-natal depression, and life was very difficult for both of us.
We celebrate our Saviour's birth,
His humble entry to our earth.
He did what he set out to do,
He took the sins of me and you.
Not humble when he comes again,
For he'll return in glory then,
To judge the ones who failed to see
He is the one he claims to be.
To save the ones he calls his own,
To reap the harvest he has sown.
He'll come to give eternal life
To those who will become his wife.
"Become his wife?" I hear you say,
"You talk in a peculiar way."
Of course it's metaphorically
That we are now his bride to be.
The images are plain to see
Oneness, love and harmony.
I don't quite know what God has planned,
But only good comes from his hand.
Andrew Host, 24 December 1993
As the years went by, I constantly needed to be reminded that Satan's accusations were lies: "How could you be forgiven when you keep on sinning?", "I think God must be sick and tired of your half-heartedness, so there's no point even asking for forgiveness this time."
I needed to be reminded how complete God's forgiveness is. The scripture that inspired this poem was 1 John 1:8-9, which says: "If we say that we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. (And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.)"
Come, my child
you seem to have some troubles on your mind.
You look downcast, upset,
come on let's put all that behind.
Oh Lord, you know that sin,
I'm sorry, I've done it all again,
I can't believe I did it,
oh, I've caused you so much pain.
Now, let's see
what is that sin that you are talking about?
I'm afraid I don't remember
Come on, tell me, let it out.
Oh Lord, how can you say that?
You must know about this one.
Don't you keep a record
of all I've said and done?
Well yes, let's have a look,
your life's book will tell us all,
a record of all sins
measured by the law.
Oh Father, please forgive me,
for Jesus' sake, not mine.
With your help I'll not repeat
the ugly sins that you will find.
I cannot find a record
of any sin, do you doubt?
Come take a look yourself
the Lamb's blood has wiped them out.
Your sins are not being counted
there is no record here
they are blotted out completely
you have nothing at all to fear.
Though your sins were red as scarlet
The Lamb's blood has washed them clean
When he died for you
he cancelled every sin there's ever been.
Andrew Host, 11th June 1998
By 1998, it was clearer than ever to me how much my marriage was like an image of my relationship with God. I was frustrated by Julie's lack of communication and half-heartedness in many aspects of the marriage. And I had the feeling that God was frustrated by my lack of communication with him, and my half-heartedness. In fact, the more I looked at my marriage to Julie, the more I saw that it was like my relationship with God.
I was very aware of the passage in the scriptures from the book of Revelation, where God says of the people from Laodicea, "I wish that you were either hot or cold, but since you're lukewarm you make me want to spew."
I desperately wanted to change, to be "on fire" for God, but didn't know what to do. I wanted to pray more, but didn't know how to focus my mind. I just wanted to be right with God, but didn't know how to make it happen.
I would not be like Peter
and call you a friend,
and say that I'll stand by you
until the very end,
only to deny you,
no, that would not be me.
To behave like that,
would be a great hypocrisy.
Now I am at work
with an important client there.
He freely swears and curses
the things 'bout which you care.
I cannot speak up now, Lord,
although I don't agree.
It's just that speaking for you now
would embarrass me.
Later with my colleagues
they laugh at what I believe,
call it obsolete, so narrow,
think we are deceived.
I want to be bold for you,
argue with all my might.
But instead I keep my mouth shut
in case the words don't come out right.
At night I'll have a chance
to spread the love of God around:
loving words for my wife
and ways to love her will abound.
But arguments and fights
seem the order of the day.
Why do I feel so bitter,
when I don't get my own way?
Oh Lord, please do not love me
the way that I love her.
And Lord, when I deny you,
please don't leave me there.
Come in, Holy Spirit,
make be bold, in love with you.
so that your love flows out of me
into everything I do.
Andrew Host, April 1998.
Then one day, I had a thought, that Julie had become my god. It wasn't wrong to love her, but I'd been loving her to the exclusion of God. It sounds terrible, and I don't mean that I'd rejected God. It's just that whatever is your preoccupation becomes your god. For some it is money, for others possessions or career. Whatever you devote your time to becomes your god.
I'd originally called this "She Had To Go (for I loved her more than I loved the Lord)", but I don't think that's why God took her. For now, I'm calling this one "New Start". It was written only one and a half months after her death, and I was definitely not thinking clearly, nor perhaps was I thinking correctly.
I confess my sin,
the command was broken,
My love for God was just a token.
My love for God,
it should have been
far more important than anything.
It was not wrong
to love my wife
more than anything in this life.
But it was wrong
to love her more
than I loved God, of that I'm sure.
I can see
now we're apart,
I've not loved God with all my heart.
My heart was hers,
I do confess
'bout all I cared was her happiness
O Lord heal me,
please bring me back,
help me to love you, keep me on track.
"Love the Lord
with all your heart",
I'm ready now to make a start.
Andrew Host, 23rd January 2006
By early March, I was starting to anticipate our twentieth wedding anniversary. It turned out to be like a tropical cyclone, wreaking havoc as it approached. It didn't matter how ready I was for this day, I couldn't avoid the emotional damage it was going to cause. I was starting to become very down, and it became considerably worse during the days that followed.
I wanted to write something that acknowledged that the marriage I had was far from perfect, and that there were exceedingly difficult times, but that the worst of those days were better than the intense loneliness and longing that I was then experiencing. This concept and the desire to write a poem had been on my mind for several weeks. But the words came to me on 5th March at Church, when I should have been listening to the sermon.
Even on the worst of days,
there'd be a hug and kiss.
Her warm embrace, her laugh and smile,
I will forever miss.
The end of day, the early morn,
are times I always dread.
I stay up late, do anything,
to avoid the lonely bed.
Sometimes I smile, and even laugh,
but joy is hard to find.
Companionship, her touch and love,
are always on my mind.
There were good times, but also bad,
It often wasn't fair.
Sometimes I thought of giving up,
when I was in despair.
The worst of days when she was here,
the worst days of my life,
were better than the current days,
without her as my wife.
Andrew Host, 5th March 2006
I woke up one morning in April 2006 with poetry in my head. I should have risen and written it down straight away, but I returned to light slumber for another hour, and by the time I rose, the original rhythm and some of the words had gone. Some of what I'd dreamt up remained, and here it is.
It bothers me, the time we spend,
acquiring things upon this earth.
When our life comes to an end,
we'll leave with what we had at birth
Even faith which gives life meaning,
Hope that helps us struggle through,
Even these will have an ending,
Only one thing goes with you.
It's love that will be never ending,
making this life worthwhile too.
Love is what we should be learning,
Love in everything we do.
Love is not just liking things,
We have to love through best and worst.
Love means living selflessly,
Love means putting others first.
Andrew Host, 22nd April 2006
I wrote this in celebration of my grandmother, Elsie Tyler's 97th birthday. She is a poet, who has written poetry about all sorts of things and people, including her late husband, and each of her children and grandchildren. I thought it was time that she had a poem written about her.
What a very happy way,
to celebrate the birthday,
of Elsie Winifred Tyler,
known to most as Grandma.
We all like to come to your place,
to see your ever-shining face,
and share with you a cup of tea,
and a nice biscuit, two or three.
We love to hear the stories told,
of former times, the days of old,
of childhood memories, happy and sad,
of camping trips, some good, some bad.
No visitor can be in doubt,
before they leave you to go out,
that Jesus Christ is Lord of you,
his love shines out in all you do.
We're amazed how rarely you complain,
when you are always in such pain.
We would all make such a fuss,
but you're made of stronger stuff than us.
You're a role model to generations,
with caring, love and heaps of patience.
There's one more thing I need to do,
to tell you Grandma, we love you.
For Grandma, by Andrew Host, June 2006
Now my boy you've reached your teens,
but I still can't make you eat your beans.
Daniel, you're a carnivore,
roast lamb, schnitzel, bring on more.
Tell one and all that you like Pi.
Why is that? I don't know why.
Three point one four one five nine,
and on it goes, line after line.
I know full well what lights your face:
Music with a funky bass.
I think that Daniel you'll go far,
with your left-handed bass guitar.
Daniel you have a competitive streak,
Of what things do you like to speak?
The thing you like to tell of best,
is when you beat your Dad at chess.
You beat your Dad in tennis too,
and there is more that's in your view
Sometimes when we bowl tenpin
there are occasions when you win.
Oh yes, you're fond of sport all right
Could watch on TV through the night
But not just watching - through the day
you'd rather be out there and play.
Computer games, and books to read
Garbage out, the cat to feed.
You're very busy, that's for sure,
but do leave room for one thing more.
I know that Jesus is your Lord,
and you like learning from his Word,
always leave some time for prayer,
rely on Jesus, he'll be there.
Love the Lord with all your heart,
that's the finest place to start,
then love all others as yourself,
and you'll acquire heavenly wealth.
There's one more thing that you should know
I'll always love you as you grow.
I'm proud of what you have become
I'm proud to say that you're my son.
For Daniel, for his thirteenth birthday, by Andrew Host, June 2006