Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Being an Hilarious Giver

My autistic son Brock likes to go to a small lake not far from our house and feed the ducks. So this afternoon we grabbed a sack of old hot dog buns and head to the park. Ducks must have good eyes because when we get out of the truck they start swimming toward the shore. They are always anxious to see Brock and enjoy the stale fare he has brought them. We walk to the shore. I hand Brock the buns and he breaks them apart and tosses the pieces in the water and the ducks scurry to retrieve them. Today Brock is in a giggly mood. With each piece he throws he lets out a chuckle. How many times do we laugh when we give something away? But today I got a gentle reminder that God loves a hilarious giver.

Laid Out in a Straight Row

Brock and I just got back from a walk in the cemetery. I noted that the graves were all lined up in a straight row. Maybe that is why the heart monitor shows a straight line when a heart stops beating. It occurs to me that I am destined to lain out, flat and still, in a straight row. That is death. Some people suggest we live that way. And some folks do. But since I will have forever to lay flat and still in a straight row I prefer to live with a few zigs and zags and curves and swirls. I choose to do a few things contrary to the norm and explore things out of the ordinary. I want to take a few risks and sometimes just land wherever the wind takes me. I might die sideways or upside down. But so what? There will be someone there to pick me up and lay me out in a straight row.

What is Love

What is Love?
                                                                   Brent Cloyd 2015

Love is a kiss
            A prelude to the dreams we hum
            A postlude of what has become

Love is a wine
            Intoxicating heart and soul
            Over the mind it gains control            

Love is a song
            A melody to remember
            Forever a burning ember

Love is a light
            Dispelling darkness in the night
            Keeping hope of morning in sight

Love is an ointment
            Soothing discomfort through the years
            Healing our wounds, calming our fears

 Love is a nourishment
            A meal giving comfort and strength
            Encouragement for the day’s length

Love is a refreshment
            An oasis along the way
            A cool drink at the end of day

Love is a Faith
            Bearing hope in the worst of times
            Always waiting to hear the chimes

Love is a Jewell
            A dangling necklace of fine gold
            Staying the same as it gets old

 Love is a perfume
            A fragrance seeking our favor
            An aroma we can savor

 Love is a curtain
            Protecting our secrets and pride
            A shadow where we can confide
Love is a banquet
            An emotion to celebrate
            A good reason to Decorate

 Love is a banner
            Appreciating our worth
            Expressing our value on earth

Love is a flower
            A lily growing from the pond
            Beauty that expresses our bond
Love is a voice
            A call to the places we roam
            An invitation to come home 

Love is a guardian
            Protecting us from things that spoil
            Watching over the fruits of our toil

 Love is a rock
            In whose cleft we obtain refuge
            Granting us strength for battles huge             

Love is a covering
            A quilt hand pieced with perfection
            Stitched with peace, hope, and affection         

Love is a garden
            A soil where our lives can take root
            A fertile place producing fruit         

Love is a spice
            Amending the ordinary
            Bringing taste to the contrary

Love is a tree
            A gentle breeze providing shade
            A place for the stories we’ve made
Love is a seal
            A room that captures and confines
            A lock that holds us and refines

 Love is a comfort
            A shelter from the wind and cold
            A blanket when sick and old

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Let's Go to Bethlehem and See

Recently I traveled to Israel. I had the opportunity to visit Bethlehem. In preparing for this event and because of this event I wrote the following poem.

Let’s Go to Bethlehem and See

By Brent Cloyd, 2014

Come travel to the town of Bethlehem with me
Let’s observe the venue, reflect upon what we see

 I see a place where politics is harsh and shrewd
Where feeling forgotten, people have a vile mood

I see an Emperor who made a great decree
Go home take the census; you owe taxes to me

I see a young man, responsible, able, and proud
Who complied with the order, did not complain loud

I see significance in his ancestral line
The connection must be claimed, they could not decline

I see a young woman, greatly pregnant with child
Her time would come soon; the journey would not be mild

I see a man and woman, tested but in love
Confused, yet convinced of their mission from above

I see a crowded town without a lodging place
For poor strangers there was little mercy or grace

I see the pain of labor, loneliness, and stress
With groans, desire, and effort; a birth did progress

I see a happy face, immaculate with joy
Overflowing with love for a her baby boy

I see a stable, filled with the stench of manure
No place for a new born, vulnerable and pure

I see a child lying on a mattress of hay
Who humbly had arrived in the natural way

I see a baby wrapped securely in strips of cloth
One sent from heaven resting in a feeding trough
I see a proud mother gazing at her first born
Unaware that others will stare at him with scorn

I see a town that ignorantly missed the sign
Thus ignored the presence of this infant divine

I see shepherds on guard in the dark of the field
Keeping watch over their flocks with protecting shield

I see night interrupted by an angels face
As the glory of the Lord was shone in that place

I see heavenly beings with great news to proclaim
The joy of one who surpasses every name

I see a choir of angels as their voices ring
Glory to God in the highest heaven they sing

I see them praising God in sounds of sweet release
God sends His favor, in Messiah there is peace

I see shepherds, curious, gazing, with minds stunned
Leaving their flocks at night to see what had been done

I see action, let’s go to town right now and see
This savior the angels sang about with such glee
I see a young family, a man and his wife
Loving and guarding their child, in a world of strife

I see shepherds, with amazing joy in their eyes
Who left telling a story of this great surprise

I see a mother treasuring the day’s events
Pondering her involvement in God’s great intents

I see myself, a sinner, as part of the story
Praise Jesus my savior, to God be the glory.




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Thanks, Mrs. Griffin

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Wilma Griffin. We were kin. She and my Dad were first cousins. I was somewhat proud of being related to my teacher. But I was also a bit afraid of her. Though I held our kinship in my back pocket not once did I ever play that card. I had a lot of respect for Mrs. Griffin. Even as an adult, if I were to see her in a family setting I could not call her by her first name. She was always Mrs. Griffin to me. I learned a lot of things in that first g...rade classroom in the basement of East Bernstadt School. I had perfect attendance and made decent grades. But the lessons were routine enough and came easy enough for me that the specifics of them do not stand out. But twice that year Mrs. Griffin stood before our class and made an announcement that left an indelible impression on me. One day she got our attention and told us that President Kennedy had been shot and killed. Later that year she told us that our school would be integrated the next year meaning that we would have black boys and black girls in our class the next fall. I do not remember raising my hand and asking any questions about either of these announcements. I think I had a pretty good understanding of what they meant. I knew they were both big events that altered my world.
Mrs. Griffin died this last week. She was 92. I had not seen or spoken to her for close to 30 years. But in the course of those years my mind has gone back to that first grade class room many times. Yes, teaching is important. Teachers do make a difference. Thanks, Mrs. Griffin.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Not Schmoozing but Snoozing

My flight this past Tuesday evening from Anchorage to Minneapolis left at 9:50 PM Anchorage time to arrive in Minneapolis around 5:50 AM central time. It is a red eye flight and I am hoping to catch a nap. I am grateful that I have an aisle seat. I board the plane, find my seat, and take note that the person I will be sitting by is a distinguished looking man. As the plane begins to taxi to the runway I engage in conversation with him. “Are you from here or going home"? I ask.... “I am from here in Anchorage” he replies. “What do you do”? I ask. And he replies: “I am the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. But my term ends in December”. I ponder in my mind the chances of my meeting this man in this way. I continued the conversation by asking him his thoughts on the upcoming election. We talk about politics for a couple of minutes. But it is time for take off and he seems more interested in getting his nap than in continuing the conversation. So after we are in the air, I unfold my blanket, put my seat back, and try to catch a few zees. So I really cannot say that I schmoozed with the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. But I did snooze with him.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ole Jacks

On Tuesday I had seven hours from the time I arrived in Anchorage from Pilot Station, AK where daughter lives until my flight back home to Illinois. So I left the airport, took a cab to downtown and explored a bit of the city. I visited a museum and then walked down the street to the mall. I visited every floor but I am not a mall kind of guy. I left the mall from the 5th Avenue exit. I immediately saw a sign that read “Fur Alaska”. I found my way across the street and entered the shop. There I met “Ole Jacks”. That is how introduced himself when I asked his name. He said I used to be “young Jacks” but now I am 80 so I am “Ole Jacks”. The store appears a bit cluttered. One whole wall is covered with newspaper clippings and pictures from times past. Jack himself is sitting in a tiny passage way between two counters partially hidden by a stack of magazines. We begin to visit and he tells me his story. He is native Alaskan. He has lived here all his live except for the time he worked for President Truman during the Korean War. When he came home he went in the fur business trapping and buying furs, selling some and making others into clothing. He got his pilots license so he could travel into far away and remote places in the Alaska interior to buy furs. Alaska is God’s country he tells me at least a dozen times. “Ole Jacks” is good at what he does. I am guessing that fur coats are his specialty. He has made fur coats for Presidents Ford and Reagan and for a Japanese president and for former Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev. He proudly shows me a picture of Brezhnev wearing his coat in the presence of President Ford. “If I can measure a man I can make it fit” he says. He asks about where I am from and what I am doing in Alaska. I tell him I have come to visit my daughter who is a teacher in Alaska and he is interested in how she is doing. We visit for probably 20 minutes. I am pretty sure I cannot afford one of his fur coats. He must know that as well because he does not try to sell me one. Before I leave he says “I think you are a salt of the earth man from Illinois”. I am thinking this man is a salt of Alaska’s earth. I have traveled a lot of places and what I enjoy most about travel are the people I meet, often by chance encounter, along the way. Cab fare from the airport to downtown cost me $40 but meeting Ole Jacks is far more valuable than that. If you go to Anchorage you ought to stop in at Fur Alaska 329 W. 5th Avenue. Maybe Ole Jacks will be there.

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