Friday, February 29, 2008

I Want to Be a Cowboy

No deep meaning here; just what I saw at the local mall last year about this time.

(This weekend is the opening of the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.)


I want to be a cowboy
And wear a big white hat.
I want to ride and twirl a rope
And other things like that.

I want to be a cowboy
Some day when I am tall
In fact, I am a cowboy now,
Right here in this big mall.



© 2007 Jim Swindle

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bread of Heaven - Christian poem

Bread of heaven
    Here on earth,
Wine of God
    And second birth--
All this falls
    From hands of grace
That our fathers
    Nailed in place.

Stinking sin and
    Rebel hearts
Set on fire
    By Satan's darts--
These are what
    We brought to him,
And he simply
    Said, "Come in."

"Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!..."
--Isaiah 55:1, HCSB

Note: I realize that Jesus himself did not use the precise words, "Come in." I was trying to convey the amazing truth that he welcomes us who were his enemies.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Too Much Self-disclosure?

How much of ourselves should we disclose to others? Often, the person who is more open is the person who's a Christian, who has less to hide. Still, how much is too much?

Last night I went to a community association annual meeting. In our area, quirky state laws keep us from having a city government, so each neighborhood sets up its own. There were about 80 people there. Besides the usual business, there were guests present to talk about three different subjects. One guest was a real estate broker. She was the most open person I've ever encountered. Besides talking about real estate, she told us the model and color of her car, the three letters on her license plate, her ex-husband's name, her dentist's name, her cell phone number, her age, her home town and which two deadly diseases she has survived.

It made me a bit uncomfortable, not only because I didn't need the information, but because it somehow seemed improper, unseemly. Why did it seem improper? I've been thinking about that. It may not be wise, because some people can mis-use the information, but there's more than that. When we reveal so very, very much about ourselves so quickly, I think it says we have the false impression that our own experiences are more important than they really are. In other words, it can show a lack of humility.

I tend to be quite open. After my experience last night, I'm re-evaluating that a bit. How do you decide how much to reveal and how much to keep private?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Which Jesus?

Remember the "WWJD" (What Would Jesus Do?) fad of about 10 years ago? That's a good question, but it presupposes that we know enough about Jesus to answer the question. For many people, that's not the case. Saturday I was at Wal-Mart (where else?) and spoke with two young men who were obviously doing their mission for their church. They were cheerful, polite, sincere followers of the wrong Jesus. Yet it's not just the cults who can get Jesus wrong. If your Jesus is based on what you saw on funeral home calendars of the 1950's, or on what you saw in stained-glass windows, or in Sunday-school literature, or if your Jesus is that fellow who has an electric-light heart flashing through his chest, then your Jesus may be faulty, too.

I've been reading and re-reading the first six chapters of the gospel of John. The real Jesus is amazing--fully God and fully man, fully subject to God's rules, but not to mine. At a wedding, when they ran out of wine, I would have thought, "Good! Maybe all of that noisy music and commotion will end. Besides, uncle Ebenezer looks like he's had enough already." But Jesus didn't do that. He turned water into wine, thus prolonging the party and saving the host embarrassment.

At the Temple, I might have changed some of my Roman money to Jewish money, to put it into the offering. Jesus didn't do that. He made a whip of some cords and drove out the animals and overturned the tables of the money changers, berating them for turning his Father's house from a house of prayer to a den of thieves.

When faced with a hungry crowd of thousands of people, I might have sent them away hungry, but he took a boy's lunch, prayed over it, and had the disciples distribute the broken pieces until everyone was fed. Then he had them gather up baskets full of the left-overs.

When one-on-one with a religious leader, I might have been in awe of his position. Jesus told him he needed to be born again, or he'd never enter the kingdom of heaven.

When one-on-one with an immoral woman, I might have either ignored her past or looked down on her for it. Jesus did neither. He told her of her past and present sin, while commending her for her honesty and offering her hope.

Yes, this Jesus--the REAL Jesus--is remarkable. Do you know the real Jesus? Do you trust him? Spiritual light and life are in him. Everything apart from him is death and darkness. Have you come to the light? Are you walking in the light?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Is Man Basically Good? - Christian poem

Evil lurks within,
Closely linked with sin.
We may say we're good,
Doing all we should,
Or at least, we try--
But that claim's a lie.
We have all gone wrong,
Sung the devil's song.
We have all been blind,
Wicked, dead, unkind.
Simple self-reform
Will not change our norm.
We must be made new,
Changed in all we do.
Once we've been reborn--
Spirit's seen its morn--
Then we are alive;
Then in God we thrive.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
--Romans 3:23-24, HCSB

Friday, February 22, 2008

Prairie Wife


Drifting through the days and years,
Nagged by enigmatic fears,
She took bleakness as her lot
And rejoiced in what she got.

Empty space became her friend,
Open skies that never end,
Windy fields with waving grain
Punctuated by harsh rain.

She adored the meadowlark
And her garden (her own park)
And all little beasts that roam
And her family at home...

Yet she feared the worst and best:
Storms and crowds and each new test.
Skittish like a startled horse,
Still she kept to duty's course.

Was her life a tragedy,
Or a light for all to see?
Either way, she did her best,
Then went to her final rest.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fierce God - Christian Poem

Our God is as fierce
As the lions he's made;
As fierce as a bear that's provoked.

He's wild as the waters
That cascade from cliffs
To fall in a thunderous roar.

He's not civilized,
And he's not at all tame.
He's ready to fight for what's right.

If you would dare serve him,
Then take up his sword
And conquer some space for the Lord.

...the Spirit of the Lord took control of him, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat.
--Judges 4:6

...our God is a consuming fire.
--Hebrews 12:29

Prayer: Father, forgive us for the times when we've tried to domesticate you.

Note: I wrote this poem back in 2002, after someone gave me the book Wild at Heart. I don't necessarily recommend that book, but there's a time to celebrate virile strength...both in God and in men.

Fidel Castro's Retirement

I've never been a Castro fan, but I wish him well in retirement. In fact, I would be delighted if the Lord brought him salvation through Jesus.

When Castro came to the USA nearly 50 years ago, my mother was incensed by how deferentially the US press treated him, referring to him as "Dr. Castro." She later said that (the early) Jesse Jackson scared her, because his speaking style reminded her of Hitler and of Castro; all emotion, stirring up a crowd.

As Fidel Castro nears the end of his life, several thoughts come to mind:
--He overthrew a government that probably needed to be overthrown.
--His name is Fidel ("Faithful"), but he was not faithful to the Lord. He rejected the Lord.
--I've read that during the Cuban missile crisis, he wrote to Kruschev not to hesitate to use nuclear weapons that would destroy Cuba, if necessary. I'm not positive that's true. If it is, it showed an amazing dedication to revolution and an amazing lack of love for his own people.
--I've also read that some of his medical reforms were excellent, and that the Cuban government has been excellent in evacuating people before hurricanes.
--In the end, even dictators lose their power in one way or another, and everyone will face the Lord's judgment--either as one of his own people, or as one of those who is condemned. Having been a dictator will not be a help in the day of judgment.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why Go to Church?

This morning someone mentioned that some people go to church just to get cleaned up for the week, after living wrong for six days. If we do that, we're missing the fact that we're to live for the Lord all day, every day.

If we need that cleansing, then we certainly should go to church, but there are better reasons to go to church. We go to church because the Bible tells us not to forsake assembling together (Hebrews 10:25). We go to church to use our spiritual gifts for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:10-16). We go to church to hear someone teaching from the Bible. We go to church because the church is the Lord's body, and we're parts of that body (if we're really trusting Jesus), and we don't want to be apart from the body.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Even a Stick - Christian Poem



Lord, even a stick--
Not fresh and not thick--
You playfully use
And change as you choose
To make something new
To glorify you.

When I feel near-dead--
Self-goodness has fled
To some other sphere,
And I am left here--

Then break me and take
Each sin and mistake
And make something new
To glorify you.

Yes, break me and grow
Some wonder to show
Your beauty and grace
Through my humbled face,
And make something new
To glorify you.

...God has chosen the world's foolish things
    to shame the wise,
and God has chosen the world's weak things
    to shame the strong.
God has chosen the world's insignificant and despised things
    --the things viewed as nothing--
so He might bring to nothing
    the things that are viewed as something,
so that no one can boast in His presence.

-1 Corinthians 1:27-29, HCSB

Prayer: Father, do a fresh work in many of us, your people, today; especially in any who think they are too dead and too broken and too insignificant for you to do anything with them.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Camellia



On alternate Sunday afternoons I'm normally at a nursing home for a worship service. In almost any nursing home you can see plenty of unpleasant things. One good thing at this one is the large camellia bushes beside the covered entry walk. In the late winter they are full of these gorgeous blossoms. The camellias seem especially wonderful because they bloom when many other trees and bushes have just bare stalks. Christians can be like that...bringing insistent joy to places and to times where it's in short supply.


Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

--Ephesians 4:29 ESV

Prayer: Father, thank you for placing your Holy Spirit in your people. Touch people through us today--especially touch people whom others don't want to touch, bringing joy and truth and the good news of Jesus.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Death Dropped By - Poem

Death dropped by tonight,
Just to say hello.
Death gave us a fright,
But said he had to go.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
--Psalm 23:4

(With thanks to Emily Dickenson, who wrote a better poem than I did.)

Salt



For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt should lose its flavor, how can you make it salty? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with one another. --Mark 9:49-50, HCSB

We're called to be salty--
    preserving our land
We're called to be salty--
    flavoring life
We're called to be salty--
    adding a sting
We're called to be salty--
    pure sacrivice
We're called to be salty--
    ready for fire

Prayer: Father, may we judge ourselves, that we may not be judged.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Spring Is Coming



Today I saw a sure sign of spring: the first dandelions. For those of you in other parts of the world, dandelions are a much-maligned weed, but their flowers are cheerful and their seeds are a delight for children to blow. The seeds float away on the wind, seeding more dandelions for next year, to bring joy to children and consternation to those who keep lawns.

I'm thankful for dandelions. They're a reminder that the seasons come and go on schedule. Praise be to him who sustains the whole world.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mask



I've often worn
A gaudy mask of cheap paint,
Afraid someone will see
    It's only paint...
Afraid someone will look
    Through the cracks.

And then I encounter Jesus,
Who wears no mask
And sees through mine--
    Sees every pore, every scar
And touches them with love.

Firmly, gently, he removes my mask
And calls me to live without it--
    Unmasked, vulnerable.

I'm afraid without my mask.
    He gives me no mask--
    Forbids me to make another--
But promises to live with me...
To shine through those very pores and scars
That I was trying to hide.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
--2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV

Friday, February 08, 2008

"I Want It!"



We see
And want
And want some more.
It's not wrong to see.
It's not wrong to want,
But if we want only for ourselves
And not for the Lord,
Our wanting
Is a waste.

Yet abundance
Can be a blessing
If we want God
More, much more, than any thing.
We use what we have,
Glorifying God
By his grace.

And he said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
--Luke 12:15, ESV

Thursday, February 07, 2008

In the Light of His Coming - Poem



Each day a new beginning--
We turn from all our sinning--
Receiving his great blessing
As we are yet confessing.
We wait for his appearing.
We know that it is nearing.
Corruption will be burning
Because of his returning,
And we, then, will be glowing
Because of Whom we're knowing.

Dear friends, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.
--1 John 3:2-3, HCSB

Prayer: Father, we're disgusted by our sins that keep coming up, even after you rescued us. Enable us to put them to death, so that we'll be ready when Jesus returns.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Symbolism - Poem



I sing a song symbolic
--Or maybe it's hydraulic--
Of far-off birds,
Computer nerds,
And babies with the colic.

I sing a song eclectic
--Or maybe it's electric--
Of wedding rings
And margin dings
From typewriters Selectric.

I sing a song amusing
--Or maybe it's confusing--
Of coffee beans
And well-worn jeans,
All words of my own choosing.

A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

--Proverbs 17:22, ESV

NOTE: If you don't understand this poem, don't worry too much. I plan to be back to more normal fare in my next post.

Monday, February 04, 2008

God's Pruning - A Christian Poem

Every slice
Hurts me twice:
First the sting
--The missing thing--
And then, at last,
When cutting's past,
To see my need
Of his sharp deed.

He cuts away every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit. But he trims clean every branch that does produce fruit, so that it will produce even more fruit.
--John 15:2, CEV

No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
--Hebrews 12:11, HCSB

Note: I chose the CEV for John 15:2 because I like the wording of "trims clean." In Greek, the word for "prune" or "cleanse" is the same word.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I See Friends

I see friends who'll go to hell--
Upright people I know well.
Some religious and some not;
Standard people, the whole lot.
Finest workers, or the boss,
All are equal, all are lost...
Trusting that, or trusting this,
Yet there's something that they miss--
There's a debt they cannot pay,
Due upon God's judgment day.
Jesus bled and died and paid
That men might flourish unafraid,
With joy forever, full of light,
But they are trusting lies instead
And someday they will end up dead
Unless they hear the words of light
And turn from sin to Him who's right.

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How welcome are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!
--Romans 10:13-15, HCSB

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Kingdom Comes - Christian poem



The kingdom comes in little ways
On dullest streets and rainy days.
It comes, a seed within a heart,
And sets that holy one apart.

The kingdom grows in hidden ways
Through simplest prayer or loving phrase.
From heart to heart, from place to place
It grows by God's relentless grace.

And He said: "How can we illustrate the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use to describe it? It's like a mustard seed that, when sown in the soil, is smaller than all the seeds on the ground. And when sown, it comes up and grows taller than all the vegetables, and produces large branches, so that the birds of the sky can nest in its shade."
--Mark 4:30-32, HCSB