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.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tiny Pulpits


A few months back I was rummaging through a closet at church and I discovered a tiny pulpit. It was amateurishly hand made from simple pine boards and plywood. My first thought was this is for a very short preacher. Or perhaps someone made it so children could play church. I was curious so measured it. It was 23 inches from the ground to the top lip. I discovered later that due to lack of Sunday School classroom space, someone, many years ago, had been forced to teach their class in the back corner of the sanctuary. So he made the short pulpit, placed it in the seat of probably the 4th pew from the back of the church and used it as a lectern from which he taught his class who sat in the three back pews of the church.

My junk closet discovery is physically the tiniest pulpit I have ever seen. But I am afraid I have seen other pulpits that in reality are smaller than this one. In ministerial terms to say someone occupies a large pulpit means they preach from a place of prominence and great influence. It might mean they preach to a large church. In this sense the size of the pulpit defines the size of the pulpiteer. In a more fair world the pulpiteer would define the size of the pulpit but it does not always work that way.

In terms of what I have just described I have never occupied what I would call a large pulpit, though I have occupied some that were larger than the one I currently occupy. But I have tried to use the pulpit properly, though I am sure I have sometimes failed to do so. I have tried not to think about the size of the pulpit. Instead I have tried to focus on and judge myself as the pulpiteer. I may have a small pulpit but I do not want to be a small pulpiteer.

Ever since I found the tiny pulpit in the church junk closet I have been mulling over this thought. The question I keep asking myself is “what makes, or what determines, a tiny pulpit”? Or to ask it another way “what makes or determines a large pulpit”? I have thought of about 15 answers to that question and each answer has merit. I am not through exploring this question but here is my thought for today. The size of the pulpit is determined by the heart and soul and character of the pulpiteer who occupies the pulpit. If the pulpiteer does not believe in and have passion for the truth that he or she proclaims they are small pulpiteers and have made their pulpit small. And if they have no love in their hearts for the people they preach to then they are indeed little preachers occupying a tiny pulpit.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Adventures in Pilot Station

My daughter Brittney made the move to her new home in Alaska this week. After a long flight she arrived in Anchorage last Sunday evening. She spent the next two mornings participating in new teacher in-service and spent the afternoons taking care of details like buying a semester’s worth of groceries, obtaining an Alaska driver’s license, registering to vote, etc. Then on Wednesday she made the 450 air mile journey from Anchorage to Pilot Station Alaska. The last leg of that journey was in a six passenger Cessna. She was impressed that she got to ride in the co-pilot seat. Pilot station is a native Alaskan fishing village, population 800, located along the Yukon River. There is no highway system. It is accessible by boat or by air.

The locals were out in mass to meet them upon their arrival as were a multitude of dogs with their litters of pups. I deprived her of pets growing up but as an adult she has developed a fondness for dogs. She will be living in a three bedroom house that she shares with another teacher. She says the area is pretty. She quickly went to work setting up her new home and is fast making friends with both the local population and the school personnel. The local hangout is the AC store, which is part of a chain of stores that operates in remote Alaska villages. She has made several trips there and bought a coffee mug in which she can get free refills. She has tasted pilot bread. She has learned to use a propane stove and has baked her own bread. She bought a package of Reindeer meat and cooked and sampled some of it. She went to the river at the time when the local fishermen give out free Salmon. I never taught her to fish. But with a little instruction she managed to clean her own fish “I cut its head off and took its guts out Daddy.” It was a big fish. She cut it into 11 pieces, froze 10 of them and cooked the other piece. She reported that it was good. Today she and some other teachers picked some wild berries and they are hoping for another free Salmon.


She is an adventuresome soul. I did not let her have pets when she was growing up and I did not take her fishing. But I did try to teach her to dream and to explore and to not be afraid. Next week she will fly to another village in the school district for new teacher meetings and the next week she will be making preparations at her school. Then the school year will begin. I am confidant that she will do well. She is a brave young lady. I wish I had been as brave as she is when I was her age.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A visit to My Father's Grave

It is 235 miles from my house to Georgetown, KY. Not a bad trek, especially if you have a good chauffer, which I do. My wife does most of the driving on trips. As long as I will buy her Starbucks along the way she does not complain. Yesterday after church we made the drive to KY, spent the night with my Aunt Lorna, and today went to the Georgetown Cemetery to place flowers on my father’s grave. This was only the second time I had been there since we buried him last September. The sod was growing nicely where the earth had been disturbed last fall. The date of his death, September 5, 2013 had been etched into the stone. The location is peaceful and quite. The grounds are well kept.

I am quite certain that my father was unaware of my visit to his burial site. He is experiencing a new reality in a joyful eternal place. But love and respect for my father and a lingering grief compelled me to travel the distance and spend a few moments at the spot where he is buried. I placed a simple arrangement of flowers at his stone just to say “I love you Dad”. I suppose that is not necessary. Maybe it is a lot of effort for a small and brief gesture. I guess it is a bit of an old fashion thing to do. Perhaps that is all true. But my dad was an old fashion guy and I am a chip off the old block. So I did it – one old fashion guy to another old fashion guy!

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