A Universal Cry of Joy

The message of Christmas is the same in any language;
O Little Town of Washington;
Put a Blue Light in Your Window

A Universal Cry of Joy
The message of Christmas is the same in any language

Anyone can understand
a baby’s cry. In any land
a lexicon’s not needed
for the language is the same.

And so it was when that one child
was born the night that Heaven smiled.
A baby cried and in that sound
the voice of God was heard.

In Holland, Haiti, Greece and Spain,
in Egypt, China and Bahrain
the Christmas message is the same.
In Christ, God speaks His heart.

Ironically that baby’s cry
(from one whose mission was to die)
was not a scream of grief or pain.
It was the cry of joy.

Joy to the World, all nation’s sing
and like the bells that chime and ring,
this joyful message needs no words.
That cry conveys God’s love.

O Little Town of Washington
There is no goodwill among men on Capitol Hill

No silent nights in Washington.
Obama’s world lacks joy.
The Christmas push for health reform
seems like King Herod’s ploy

to rid us all of peace on earth
and goodwill among men.
There’s devious chicanery
and very few wise men.

The healthcare war is raging strong.
It’s making me quite ill.
I’m sick and tired of late-night bribes
in back rooms on the Hill.

No chestnuts on the open fire.
What’s right is what’s ablaze.
They’re slaughtering the innocents
with toxic means and ways.

O little town of Washington,
big problems loom ahead.
A healthcare bill on life support,
come next year may be dead.

Put a Blue Light in Your Window
Honoring those officers killed in the line of duty

Put a blue light in your window
for those officers in blue
who were ambushed without warning.
It’s the least that we can do.

It’s a way of showing honor
to their families who are left
who must face the coming season
feeling lost, alone, bereft.

On these silent nights of sorrow
as we take time to be still
that blue light in the window
will recall those who were killed.

Each, with uniform allegiance
to the force they proudly served,
died committed to our safety
and the laws they helped preserve.

So… to the green and red of Christmas
let us add the color blue.
It will say to those now fallen
we will never forget you.

* In 2009 nearly two hundred law enforcement officers were killed nationwide in the line of duty (including five officers in the Seattle area where the poet lives).

It’s Complicated!
Not the movie. The Incarnation!

Did you see that scene in Rio
that recalled another day
when a child traveled long ago
to a new place far away?

In Sean Goldman’s conflicted heart,
we hear a familiar irregular beat.
It is reminiscent of the cadence of grace
that marked time and eternity
(once and for all).
It reminds us of the day
Jesus left the comfort of heaven
for the chaos of earth.

A son separated from his father,
longed for the only home he’d known.
Alone in a strange new world,
he felt emotions he’d never experienced before.
They were feelings from which
he’d previously been protected.

The journey in question
was one the law required,
but one that found the traveler
calling out to be rescued.
He missed his step-father
and his half-sister.
He missed his home.

In this reluctant trip from Brazil to New Jersey,
the old, old story is recalled.
It’s the story of the very first Christmas
where creation’s thirst for salvation
required a costly sacrifice.

It’s a story that would only make sense
years later.
And even then,
it’s a story that still doesn’t make sense
to most.

The headlines of the news
(and the Good News) isn’t all that easy
to explain (or grasp).
It’s complicated!

God’s Piggy Bank

What the Salvation Army red kettles represent;
Oral Interpretation

God’s Piggy Bank
What the Salvation Army red kettles represent

That little red kettle is God’s piggy bank
in which I contribute my spare change with thanks
for having warm clothes and a comfortable bed,
a pantry of food and a job.

That little red kettle provides God the means
to help those in crisis discover their dreams
are not vain illusions but seeds in their heart
that will (given time) start to grow.

That little red kettle invites me to share
in a way that puts feet on my promise to care
for those who are homeless or jobless or worse…
for those who are hopeless at best.

Oral Interpretation
Why a faith-healer’s legacy remains debatable

The one who prayed to cure the lame
had yet another claim to fame.
For Oral Roberts “seeding faith”
became his field of dreams.

He taught we first must give to God
as one sows seed beneath the sod,
that faith’s released and germinates
when we trust and obey.

From tent crusades to ORU,
few critics really had a clue
how God would use this homespun
Pentecostal clergyman.

I still can hear this preacher say,
that “something good is on its way.”
I heard him speak at Bel-Air Pres
proclaiming the Good News.*

A. A. Allen, Ms. Kuhlman
would pave the way for Benny Hinn,
but Oral Roberts seemed more sane
and middle of the road.

This one who blazed the sawdust trail
would minister to Tulsa well.
But that’s not all, he served the world
for which Christ came to die.

* While I was a student at Fuller Seminary in the mid-Seventies, I drove to Bel-Air Presbyterian Church to hear the well-known televangelist, college president and faith healer speak. The church’s well-known pastor, The Reverend Don Moomaw, invited Oral to be the guest preacher. While I waited in line to be seated, a black stretch limousine pulled up. Out came Carol Lawrence, veteran singer of stage and screen. She was one of several hundred who learned Oral was speaking and wanted to hear him.

My interest in seeing Oral in person dated back to my childhood. Being raised in a Pentecostal pastor’s home, our family regularly watched Oral Roberts’ healing crusades on our black and white television. While most kids played cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers, my brother and I would play “Oral Roberts.” My little brother played the invalids. I played the faith healer.

Years later as I began to sense a genuine call to ministry, I took note of Christian leaders who were making a difference in the world. I was impressed by how Oral had transitioned from a more fundamentalist fringe version of Christianity to affiliation with the United Methodist Church and a professionally produced television show featuring Hollywood celebrities. I was also impressed with the liberal arts university he began in the late Sixties. I applied for admission based on ORU’s excellent program in broadcast journalism. Although I eventually chose to attend Seattle Pacific University, several members of my extended family did attend the Tulsa school.

Sadly, not only did Oral Roberts pass away this past week, another influential Christian leader in Tulsa died last month. Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty, whose church was affiliated with Oral Roberts University, died of terminal cancer at the age of 57.

Seeing the Blind Side

Love in action brings faith into focus;
Tiger Ain’t Out of the Woods Yet

Seeing the Blind Side
Love in action brings faith into focus

There is a film you’ve got to see.
It’s called The Blind Side and for me
this true-life story illustrates
the difference we can make.

A homeless kid without a bed.
An addict mom, a father dead,
a wealthy woman with a faith
that prompted her to act.

She gave “Big Mike” a place to sleep
the night before Thanksgiving’s feast
and at the table the next day
she made a place for him.

She bought him clothes, gave him a bed
and then a chance to get ahead.
Then Leigh Anne Tuohy and her clan
helped Michael thrive in school.

That’s where he found he had the gift
to give his football team a lift.
And from Old Miss to Baltimore
“Big Mike” found new respect.

Just like Mephibosheth of old
(crippled by life, left in the cold)
Mike Oher gained a family
who kept a promise made.

When Leigh Anne gave the Lord her heart,
she promised Him she’d do her part
to care for those He dearly loves
and that is what she did.

But we can do that very thing.
To serve the poor makes our hearts sing,
for sheltering a homeless child
is giving Christ a bed.

* The story of Leigh Anne Tuohy’s family and Michael Oher was documented in the book The Blind SideEvolution of a Game by Michael Lewis (before it became a movie by the same name). The story of Mephibosheth (the grandson of King Saul of Israel) can be found in the Bible in 2 Samuel 9:1-13

Tiger Ain’t Out of the Woods Yet
The penalty strokes are more than he expected

Is he out of the woods? You kidding me?
He’s in quite deep. Tiger’s OB.
He may feel under-par for years.
His wife will see to that.

She caught her Tiger in a tale
that he made up to hide his trail
of late-night shots with lady friends
that led to errant ways.

The moral of this sordid mess
is “Run from youthful lusts,” I guess.*
The penalty for giving in
is more than what you’d think.

No matter what a person makes
they aren’t exempt from traps and lakes.
The hazards of celebrity are… well…
par for the course.

“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22) 

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright*

How to tame the beast called Lust;
Hard Knocks for Amanda;
Clemency Wrongly Granted

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright*
How to tame the beast called Lust

Tiger, Tiger, burning bright
you’re the golfing world’s delight.
Your “immortal” hands and eye
wow the crowds whate’er your lie.But off the links you burn with lustand destroy your family’s trust.In the forest of the nightyou fall prey to what’s not right. You’re a cheetah who got caughtand it’s hurt your wife a lot.But confession leads to grace.Divots are to be replaced. When you’d like to play around,
recognize it’s out of bounds.Keep your head down. Think it through.Tiger, you know what to do. *With apologies to William Blake

Hard Knocks for Amanda
Waiting for the door of justice to open

The verdict’s in
and the word is out.

Amanda won’t be home for Christmas
(unless you call her Italian cell her new abode).
But it’s not.
Seattle is home.

That’s the place for which she pines.
A city that loves her and believes in her.
A community that believes her story
and prays for her soon return
all the while weeping.

A place where weather proves on a regular basis
that Heaven’s tears eventually give way to the
bluest skies you’ve ever seen
when at long last the sun finally appears.

Although dark clouds shrouding our Mountain
attempt to hide the truth,
the truth eventually comes out.
What was wrongly assumed is proven false.
Rainier has been there day and night,
whether seen or not.

And so the falling rain of injustice
(that mingles with Amanda’s tears)
will, in time, dissipate
revealing the mountain of evidence
that was there all along.

Meanwhile, in the bleak midwinter
as Amanda spends silent nights
dreaming of joy in her world,
she is only too awareof Mary’s unenviable plight:
misunderstood and maligned,
slandered and judged,
incapable of explaining the unexplainable.
 Sadly, she has no Joseph to reassure her
that everything will eventually be okay.
Or does she?

Perhaps her carpenter from Nazareth
is a dad and mom and three sisters
who build her faith
and construct her confidence
based upon a blueprint of family love.

Loving Father, give this precious child
(so very far from home)
a tangible sense of Your presence.

Of all the names by which You’re known,
may Your Christmas name,
Emmanuel (God-with-us),
be her favorite name for You.

May You be God-with-her.

Clemency Wrongly Granted
The crime that preceded the crime

Maurice was granted clemency.
Freeing Clemmons? Tragedy!
Those four (now fallen) officers
are victims of that crime.

A three-strike felon out of jail?
What judge would let that jerk post bail?
Whose hands are bloody from this act?
Why do the worst go free?

Such questions haunt us as we mourn
the ones who died last Sunday morn
while sipping coffee unaware
it was their final day.

The fact that Clemmons was gunned down
does not mean answers have been found.
They’re on the loose just like more thugs
unjustly out of jail.

* Last Sunday, November 29, 2009, Maurice Clemmons, a convicted felon released on bail, fatally shot four Lakewood, Washington officers in a coffee shop. After a two-day manhunt he was killed by a Seattle policeman while resisting arrest. Why he was released from a life sentence in Arkansas a decade ago remains a mystery.

The Whine Flu

The contagious nature of ingratitude

A sickness rages in our land.
A pandemic through and through.
A chronic viral malady.
I call it the Whine Flu.

“Not fair!” “Oh, brother!” “Woe is me!”
We grumble, grouse and sigh
regurgitating constantly
the questions “How?” and “Why?”

Whine Flu dehydrates all our joy.
It leaves a bitter taste.
Our whining ways repel our friends.
They run from us post-haste.

Ingratitude is what’s behind
this spread-able disease.
When we forget to count God’s gifts
we start to croup and wheeze.

Lord, help us to express our thanks
for blessings you impart.
Please heal us of this dreaded flu
and give us grateful hearts.