Friday, June 19, 2015

"Baby Daddy Poems:" A Poet & First Time Father Pays Tribute To His Little Girl

Christal Cooper

article w/ excerpts 919 Words

Baby Daddy Poems by Scott Kaestner
The Tsunami of Fatherhood

       When Scott C. Kaestner and his girlfriend Jamie Karshen first learned she was pregnant he responded almost immediately by writing the poem “game changer”, which is now part of his poetry chapbook collection Baby Daddy Poems by Wasteland Press.

game changer

my girlfriend is pregnant, holy shitballs

can’t say it’s a surprise, we were trying
there were afternoon delights and nightcaps
and nooners and at all hours we were busy getting busy.

yet I thought many dizzy experiences on my way
would have prevented this from happening so easily
wrong…apparently a few swimmers still swimming strong.

now here we are and literally my life will never be the same
don’t know what’s going to happen but know
it’ll never be the same.

i am inquisitive, ecstatic, in a bit of panic
but arms open wide in anticipation
and love plenty.

my girl and i plus baby makes three
hard to believe, holy shitballs

“game change” from Baby Daddy Poems
Copyright granted by Scott C. Kaestner

       Kaestner soon thought the process of becoming a dad for the very first time would be fitting for a chapbook.  In Baby Daddy Poems Kaestner writes poems about experiencing Jamie’s pregnancy, the birth of his daughter, and the evolution of his baby girl into a two-year-old toddler.

       Baby Daddy Poems were written as reflections during the process of becoming a father for the first time in my life.  It chronicles, through poetry, the experiences and emotions I had as I entered the wild, wacky, and blissful world of fatherhood for the first time.”

Kaestner lives in Los Angeles where he works in IT handling procurement and asset management at a local non-profit organization.
Kaestner has published three previous collections of poetry:  Angelend A Go Go, Stardust & A Soul, and A Life In The Day Of A Poet.

The poems in Baby Daddy Poems were written in chronological order, as they appear in the book, except for the third to the last poem, ““That Was Then, This Is Now.”
“It was written maybe two weeks before the collection went to my publisher. The poem has a yin/yang vibe to it and is incredibly reflective of the changes that happen in a life, my life in this case, when you become a parent and this emotional tsunami runs through your being.  With that said, there are hints of loss therein and I wanted to end the collection on a completely sunny sort of way thus the poem found its place in the third to last spot.”

       The most emotional poem to write was “Man At Birth” in which Kaestner describes that moment when his daughter Kendall came into the world on April 27, 2013.     
“I can close my eyes and go right back to that moment for it left an indelible mark upon me, seeing the doctor holding Kendall in her gooey newborn glory and hearing him say, “Mr. Kaestner, meet your daughter.” The sterile smell of the room in the hospital, that feeling of warmth holding your child for the first time and the subsequent taste of becoming a parent, I can close my eyes and feel them all, makes the hair on my arms stand up just thinking about it.  The poem itself is the shortest, most succinct in the collection, because when trying to describe the indescribable, less is more.”

man at birth

there are no words
to be spoken here

this moment simply
must be felt

with your heart
your soul

feeling like no other
casts no shadow

sheer, pure

speechless witness
the miracle

“man at birth” from Baby Daddy Poems
Copyright granted by Scott C Kaestner

In the beginning of Baby Daddy Poems Kaestner quotes William Wordsworth:  “The child is father of the man.”  This quote applies to Kaestner both as a father and as a poet.

“I love this quote and always a fan of layered brevity when it comes to writing. What I interpret it to mean is that in the process of becoming a father you learn the nuanced art of selflessness and therein realize your child is leading you into a whole new realm of existence and in many ways is now in control of you.”

“I think having a child opens up a whole new world in terms of sensitivity as a human being and a poet.   That moment you welcome your child into the world and meet the person you’d give up your own life in the blink of an eye (which) introduces sensibilities previously unknown. As an artist and poet, all that feeling becomes a deep well from which to draw your art.”

       Becoming a father has been like that of a journeyman on the ocean side, walking footstep after footstep:  the first step is The Awakening, the second step The Responsibility; and the third step is The Moment Lived.

“After that (The Awakening and The Responsibility) sets in and is tangibly felt, it’s all being in the moment with your child as a nurturer, a role model, as an ally, a teacher, a trusted partner in good times and bad, through thick and thin, and in spirit eternally."

Photograph Description & Copyright Info

Photo 1
Scott Kaestner and daughter Kendall
Copyright granted by Scott Kaestner

Photo 2
Scott Kaestner with his girlfriend Jamie 
Karshen during the pregnancy
Copyright granted by Scott Kaestner

Photo 3
Jacket cover of Baby Daddy Poems

Photo 4
Web logo for
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright 

Photo 5a
newborn photo of Kendall
Copyright granted by Scott Kaestner

Photo 5b
Kendall on her 2nd birthday
Copyright granted by Scott Kaestner

Photo 6
Scott Kaestner, Jamie Karshen, and Kendall
Copyright granted by Scott Kaestner

Photo 7a
Jacket cover of Angelend A Go Go

Photo 7b
Jacket cover of Stardust & A Soul

Photo 7c
Jacket cover of In The Day Of A Poet 

Photo 8
Scott Kaestner, Kendall, and Jamie Karshen
Copyright granted by Scott Kaestner

Photo 9
The moment after Kendall was born
Copyright granted by Scott Kaestner

Photo 1l
Jacket cover of Baby Daddy Poems 

Photo 12
William Wordsworth
Oil on canvas
Attributed to Benjamin Robert Haydon in 
Public Domain

Photo 13
Father and his daughter
Painting attributed to Norman Rockwell
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright 

Photo 14
"Poet" sign from Scott K Kaestner's Facebook 
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright 

Photo 15
Scott Keastner in the background watching his 
Kendall run on the beach.
Copyright granted by Scott Kaestner

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Minister Steve Wickham: A Father's Day Prayer

Christal Cooper

Article 547 Words
Guest Blogger Steve Wickham
A Father’s Prayer

Our Gracious God

Father, Son, Holy Spirit; our Rock, our Salvation, our Hope; our God, our Lord, our Comforter; we bless You as You bless us with goodness and power and provision. You are our Everything; Father, our covenant Parent who loves us so unconditionally. We give You our heartfelt praise for all that You are!

Lord, we want to honour our fathers for Father’s Day. We bring our fathers before You and thank You for the strength, time and energy they have for their children, and for their fatherly wisdom. We bless our dads in the name of Jesus, for their most sacred of ministries — to their family — a godly work.

But that’s not all, Lord. Some of us — if we are honest — are sad, some of us are angry, and some of us feel wretched when it comes to our fathers. Help those of us in this place even as we pray this prayer.

We want to pray for those who are sad on Father’s Day; for those who have lost their fathers and miss them terribly even though, and especially if, there may be so many great memories of past. Help those of us in this place be gentle with ourselves.

We pray for those fathers who have experienced the grief of loss; who have lost a child; a pain that ever lingers in sorrow like sea billows that roll. Bless these fathers with a hope.  We thank You, Lord, that You hold these children until the day You have appointed when these fathers might finally be reconciled with their little ones and older children in heaven. We pray also for the dads here, Lord Jesus, who won’t have or don’t have children, and we pray into their sadness, of that ambiguous loss — an incomprehensible grief — the loss of a dream. Help them be fathers in other ways. Stretch out within them a hope for expressing their fatherly heart.

We pray Your grace be over these people in their longing, for exactly where they are this moment. Be the God of comfort and peace for each of them this day and all days. We ask that You walk with them and be inside them with power by Your Spirit.

We must recognise those also, Lord, whose fathers let them down — when memories of pain and perhaps memories of abuse or neglect emerge for thought of Father’s Day — fathers who defaulted on the task; who weren’t there for them as fathers should be. We also pray into the guilt fathers might carry; guilt that is able to be reconciled at the cross — and take them there, we pray. We pray that Your Spirit would draw all these people aside and provide the way to forgiveness, healing, restoration and wholeness.  And, in honest, we thank You that without our fathers we would not be.  Help those, Lord, who have scant meaning for life.  Help them know their value for being here.   

We pray for those fathers, and for those children, who are far from each other right now; that You would stir within them love that transcends distance and overcomes the limitations of space and time. Create a yearning for and an actuation of closeness.

Finally, we pray for our new fathers and those expecting their first child; that You would bless them with every confidence of capacity, knowing with peace that they have been called by You, to be a father — with mothers, the most sacred of human roles.

We lift our fathers before You, Father, that through Your Holy Spirit You would encourage; that as they give their sacrifices of provision and strength — in their devotion to care for and be there for their children — that You would continue to equip them for the tasks of today and the fathering ahead of them, and to empower them to be all they can be for their children and families, and give to them the energy, strength, and confidence they need.

We pray all these things as a requiem of praise for our Fathers, in and through the name of Jesus... AMEN.

*Steve Wickham is a Baptist Pastor who holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counseling.   He lives in Pert, Western Australia with his wife and children. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Guest Blogger Brandon Hooks on his Happy Day of Surrender . . . .

Christal Rice Cooper

Article 1,326 Words

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

I grew up in a wonderful family who loved me and always encouraged me when I needed it. We didn't go to church often, but always did on Easter.  I always believed in God. I was never an atheist. And I was sure I would go to heaven based on just that belief alone.

 I was incredibly shy, awkward, and battled depression, which would eventually be diagnosed in my early 20's.  I was a good student with average grades, and at times struggled. I got along with everybody, and rarely did anybody not get along with me. I never had a girlfriend because of how shy I was. To this day I wondered what it would have been like to have taken a girl to the prom. Even though I was socially awkward, I hoped I would have treated her like a queen.

My Granny Betty loved watching Billy Graham crusades and other Christian programs.  In high school I became drawn to watching the same Christian programs.  

While watching Christian television I heard the gospel for the first time.  I heard I was a sinner and Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Hell was mentioned on TV and at our church. At the end of church services the pastor would give altar calls to accept Christ. The same thing on TV, and they would invite listeners to say the "sinner's prayer." 

One night before bed, at age 16 or 17, I got on my knees and remembered the sinner's prayer.   I said the prayer as if I was reciting a poem, and then went to bed. I told my parents about it and decided to be baptized.

After that I started to pray every night before bed, but I never cracked open a Bible.  The Bible, for the most part, was boring to me. The praying eventually went from occasionally to nonexistent all together. My depression and low self-esteem increased. I only tolerated going to church.

I continued watching televangelists. Some were offensive to me when they preached on sin, hell, God's wrath, etc. I only wanted to hear that God loved me. Don't talk to me about that other stuff. I was offended at evangelists who street preached. I thought it was wrong that they were shoving their beliefs down people's throats. I said the sinner's prayer over and over. I needed to keep "rededicating my life to God."

Years later I met Sharai. We became best friends. She was strong in her faith as a Christian. I told her I was a Christian as well, not knowing that I was tangled in a web of deception.  I had no relationship with Jesus Christ.

All throughout dating she talked about God.  I saw God as almost malicious, who would send anybody to hell at the drop of a hat.  Sharie would continue to reassure me of God’s love towards me.  I continued to be blind towards it. 
We became engaged and got married.  Me truly being lost began to affect our relationship.  I never prayed. Never once listened or had a shred of desire to listen to Christian music in the car. If I did it was to please her and almost get her off my back about it.

I began to drink. My tolerance of alcohol increased. So did my low self-esteem and now diagnosed depression. I developed an angry spirit. I remember on my 21st birthday my cousin taking me to a strip club. I got drunk. My lifestyle was hurting mine and Sharai's relationship.

After we were married, over the years, my lack of relationship with God and Christ's lordship over my life made my life take a turn for the worst. I began to lie about small things. I remained depressed, sometimes angry. I developed suicidal thoughts.

Every time Sharai talked about God to me and the fact I never prayed, read my Bible, listened to Christian music, I felt defensiveness rise up in me. I tolerated, almost hated hearing about it. Every time I would tell her I will do better. I never did. I did not know Jesus like I thought. I was the chief of all liars. I basically claimed the name of Christ to the world and HIM when in reality I was a fake.
I remember thinking about my late Granny and Paw Paw who were a godly couple, and wondering what they could possibly be thinking if they were looking down on me from heaven. Would God have told them their grandson was not going to heaven like he thought??? I didn't heed the warnings and the tugging of God on my conscience.

I lied about our finances. We were in a deepening hole. I pretty much pulled the wool over Sharai’s eyes about the severity of it. All these years up until this point, my conscience was steadily speaking to me, telling me things were not right about my claims of being a Christian. It never died. I grew increasingly aware in my heart and mind that something wasn't right.
My deceit finally caught up with me when we hit near financial ruin and could not afford the apartment we lived in. I had to break the news to her of how bad we had gotten financially. When we were as close to divorce as ever my conscience bothered me to the point I gave up. I was not right. I was a liar. A phony. I had to settle the matter.

Around the beginning of 2013, while driving home from work around 1 a.m. on a dark interstate, humility filled me. I opened up my heart, man to God, and I cried out to Him. Nearly raising my voice, I admitted I was a sinner destined for hell. I was not saved like I claimed for so long. I was going to lose everything and everybody in my life. I repented of my sins.   I asked God, “How could I think I was a Christian?!”  I told Him I was miserable. I surrendered my life to Him that early morning.

In all honesty I didn't expect much. Didn't expect a work of God in my life. I thought it would just be business as usual for me. It was probably a few weeks to a month later when I began to fall in love with God. I wanted to worship Christ. All I wanted to do was be in His presence, to pray to Him, share my heart with Him. I began to hunger for the Bible. I loved reading it. I loved going to church now.  The anger, depression, fear of the future was GONE. The world was different.  I was passionate for Christ and the things of God.  I now knew all those years I was not just an immature Christian.  I was lost, but today I had been born again.

Sharai even noticed I had peace and joy and that I was no longer angry. I saw everything differently now. I had a deep, abiding love for people:  for other Christians and especially the lost. I went through a period of weeping for sinners and I wanted them saved. My heart ached. I wanted to do evangelism.

 A few months later, on September 15, 2013 I was re-baptized. I was excited to do it to show my love for Jesus Christ publicly.

Now, I continue to live for Him by His grace. He is my everything. For many years He was long suffering towards me. I can never thank Him enough. In 2013 God began His work in me, and I know He will finish it on the day of Christ Jesus.

Photograph Description And Copyright Information

Photo 1
Brandon Hooks
Copyright granted by Christal Rice Cooper and Brandon Hooks.

Photo 2
Brandon, Second from right, with his (from left) Sister Lauren, Father Dan, Brother Adam, and Mother.
Copyright granted by Brandon Hooks

Photo 3
Brandon Hooks and Sharai Hooks at his college graduation on May of 2013.
Copyright granted by Brandon Hooks.

Photo 4
Granny Betty, Brandon Hooks, Aiden Hooks on Easter of 2011
Copyright granted by Brandon Hooks

Photo 5
Reverend Billy Graham at Cleveland Stadium in June of 1994
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 6
The Sinner’s Prayer
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 7
Oil on Canvas Painting Fallen Angels In Hell
Attributed to John Martin (1789-1854)
Public Domain

Photo 8
Sharai Hooks
Copyright granted by Sharai Hooks

Photo 9
Brandon and Sharai Hooks in 2005
Copyright granted by Brandon and Sharai Hooks

Photo 11a
Brandon and Sharai Hooks on their wedding day.
May 21, 2005
Copyright granted by Brandon and Sharai Hooks.

Photo 11b
Brandon and Sharai Hooks
May 2015
Copyright granted by Brandon Hooks

Photo 13
Fresco of Judas Iscariot from Tarzhishte Monastery 
16th Century
Public Domain

Photo 15
Brandon Hook and his PawPaw Earl
Copyright granted by Brandon Hooks

Photo 17
Theatrical masks of Tragedy and Comedy
Roman Mosaic
2nd Century AD
Public Domain

Photo 18a
Judson W Van Deventer
Author of the lyrics of “I Surrender All”
Public Domain

Photo 18b
“I Surrender All” Lyrics and music notes
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 19
Attributed to Curt Hammell
Public Domain

Photo 20
Oil On Canvas, The Four Evangelists
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
Attributed to Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678)
Public Domain

Photo 21
Brandon Hooks at his baptism on September 15, 2013
Copyright granted by Brandon Hooks

Photo 22
Sharai, Aiden, and Brandon Hooks
Attributed to Courtney Myers

Copyright granted by Brandon Hooks.