Sunday, December 25, 2011

WITH WARMTH AND JOY (A Love Poem to God for Janet)

Just as each year brings round this time
Of Christmas cheer and grace, so I’m
Reminded how You brought to me
Your gift of life eternally
But grace was not exhausted there
Awakened then was I to where
I came to see in sweet details
Your multi-faceted grace prevails
In every heartbeat, every ray
That gleams the glories of Your Way.

Oh, Thunderous Love and Awesome Might
Thou Flowing River of Delights
How wondrous does Your grace appear
And sweeps away the thin veneer
Of shallow songs and mindless love
That spring so easily above
From hearts not filled with proper awe
From blinded minds that never saw
With eyes of faith your grace displayed
In microscopic gifts conveyed.

Inadequate now as I may be
To adequately express my thanks to Thee
I’m struck by thoughts this twentieth year
Perhaps from me You’d like to hear
A true expression of grateful praise
For one who’s life has filled my days
With warmth and joy abundantly
A gift from You passed on to me
For 33 years so faithfully
With complementing clarity.

So where does one begin to list
Magnificence — lest some be missed
And how can grace be itemized
Though each example...treasured, prized
And where does one enough portray
A life of warmth and Love’s display
Of graceful opulence wrapped up
In one delightful precious cup
Of blessing given to warm my life
A gracious gift — my love, my wife.

From this dear gift I’ve learned so much
And watched as Your perfecting touch
Controls, transforms — Her pliant heart
Conforms to mine as much a part
Of all that You have made of me
And so much more than that is she
But still she loves and grows along
With one so slow, at times so wrong
Her smile still melts enchanting me
Her strength from You is strength to me.

One of my greatest joys with her
Comes each Christmas season sure
As I behold amazingly
How she transforms our home to be
A sanctuary of warmth and joy
That comforts husband, girls and boy(3)
Each decoration, each personal touch
Have mostly come as gifts and such
From special folks who love and care
That God has placed our family here.

My love creates a spirit warm
Our home reflects her heart and charm
She models for me that right response
To those she loves and knows that once
The time is gone to show her love
There’s no more chance for her to prove
That love comes easily for those who know
The grace of God must through us flow
And reach to all around us here
Who in our home can find God’s cheer.

Oh, God of grace and glory please
Grant to my life that I might seize
This opportunity to show
My love for You through her and know
That in my life there’s grace and care
That longs for Your abiding here
I hope and pray that You will sense
A sweet obedient reverence
That fills my heart with warmth for You
And glorifying praises, too.

Who could have known 33 times ago
Of how our lives would deeply grow
Through laughter, tears the years would bring
To all that You designed, oh King.
So deep within this gracious heart
A sacred song serenely starts
Erupting forth delicious praise
For Your great gift, this hymn I raise
With gratitude before You bow
And for my wife I thank You now.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Choosing a Good Name

A breath of fresh air has wafted over the college football landscape. Oh, it's not the first time, but it is extremely rare. Matt Barkley has announced that he will stay in school. He's not the first (others come to mind like Peyton, Matt, Tim, Jake, Andrew) and probably won't be the last. But, again, he demonstrates that rarest of qualities in sports of any kind. Some call it loyalty, and that it is. However, a better understanding would be the long lost virtue of keeping one's word. In an age when "me-first, last & always" reigns supreme it is refreshing to see someone live by the proverb: "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches."

What an oddity. In an age that is rampant across the board with a lack of this quality, Barkley's decision almost boggles the mind. The most damning issue in all of this is what we so easily overlook and constantly deny to ourselves that, given the same opportunity in our own life's work or situation, almost none of us would have made the same decision that Matt did. We would all, for the most part, take the money or fame and run. Just like the coaches, teams, players and, yes, fans at all levels of sport.

Let's scan the sports horizon and be reminded how rare this is.

Coaches: Long ago we lost the notion that coaches are loyal to their schools. They recruit players with the idea, but as soon as the bigger better program comes along, forget contracts, forget giving one's word. Bye bye! Remember, all those grieving, angry fans would do the same thing in their own jobs.

Administrators (and influential supporters): Certainly no better. Let a coach go from a winning record to a losing one and forget contracts, forget giving one's word. So long!

Players: Who could expect players to do little else when the example they have from those above them is so obvious. They learn these things at an early age. Families with star players show no loyalty to hometowns and schools, changing schools and towns with impunity (or abandoning them altogether for club teams where there is even less loyalty), some having played in four different locations in a four-year high school career. Why should anyone expect that kid to stay in college for the agreed upon time?

Fans: Here you say is where real loyalty lies. Stick with my team through thick and thin we cry. Well that may be true for a small contingent of fans but for the most part, fans are just as disloyal as coaches, administrators and players. Or haven't you noticed the empty seats when a team doesn't win often enough. Or the empty seats in the second half when the team that does win is suddenly losing badly.

Owners & Player Reps: While we're at it, let's at least point out the hypocrisy and mockery of the professional sports bargaining charade. Both sides long ago lost the respect of sensible people. From both sides of the table the other is demeaned in every way and then when it's all over there is supposed to be team unity? What a joke! And while I'm at it, I'm so weary of hearing the caveat: "It's a business." So? Why does that justify doing everything in one's power to renege on one's word and make the other side look bad. I know plenty of business people, employers and employees, who honor their word and do their jobs faithfully and diligently.

From the first day Matt Barkley walked on the USC campus he has been a role model for young people everywhere. A fine young man who handles himself with maturity and modesty. Though I might not have made the same decision he made (I would hope so but I'm fallible too), I admire him for his. Whatever one says about Matt Barkley in the future for now one thing is clear — he is a man of his word. What a rare commodity in today's sports world.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Thing That Was Killing Them

"Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died....And the Lord said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.'" (Numbers 21:6, 8)

We are all familiar with the story of the Israelites in the wilderness with their impatience before God and their rebellion against God. God's judgment was to send the fiery serpents to bite the people and kill them. But when they cried out to the Lord, God provided a way of salvation. His answer was the snake on the pole.

While reading this story again recently a question surfaced in my mind of how odd it seemed (at first) for God's remedy to be what it was. He told Moses to put the very thing that was killing them on the pole to provide them a way to be healed from death to life. Why, I asked myself, did God not instruct Moses to put a lamb on the pole? The obvious symbolism of this Old Testament story is Christ's saving work on the cross for us. He himself tells us that in John 3:14-15: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." If Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, why didn't God use that typology for healing from the serpents' stings?

As I continued to meditate on this Scripture God graciously directed my mind to other New Testament passages to show that His choice of the serpent on the pole was the exact representation of Christ's saving work on the cross. For not only did "He himself [bear] our sins in his body on the tree," but God also "made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." God made Jesus "to be sin," i.e., He became the very thing that was killing us on the cross in order to bring us life from the sting of sin, death.

Moses' message to the dying Israelites was: "Look to the serpent on the pole and you will be saved." Our message is the same to a dying world as we plead with them to look to Jesus and be saved.

Sunday, April 24, 2011



The cross is empty
The tomb is full
The dream was shattered
Upon the Skull

Disciples huddled
Their hope is gone
Returned to normal
The world moves on

But veiled in darkness
Unseen to them
The Power is lurking
To rescue Him


Out of the stillness
As morning comes
The power is loosened
And Death succumbs

The Grain was planted
And from the tomb
Undying Flower
Begins to bloom

And now I’m singing
With Gospel glee
Christ died and risen
To rescue me