Saturday, December 15, 2012

When the Innocent Die

I had been working on my Sunday morning sermon when my daughter called and asked if I had heard about the school shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. I had not.  School shootings strike a somber tone for our family because in 2007 my niece Austin Cloyd was killed in the shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech University. Turning on my television and learning the details of this most recent murder of young innocents and their teachers brought me a deep sadness and an overwhelming sense of numbness. No words that I could use would adequately express my disgust and horror. I had lots of questions. Why? What happened? What can we do in our society to protect ourselves from this kind of violence? I had no answers. I shook my head and said little. I feared that anything I might say at the moment had risk of being filled with meaningless platitudes.

It is being suggested that it is time we have serious discussions about gun control and mental illness in our nation. I think that is a good idea. That discussion might help us come to some sensible conclusions that would lessen the frequency and magnitude of this kind of massacre. If we could lessen the damage of events like yesterday it would be wonderful. But I think we all understand that stricter gun laws and more help for the mentally ill, while they may help, will not eliminate such violent acts. Sick, disturbed, and wicked people will find a way to hurt other people. Humanity was created in the image of God but in our depravity we have fallen far short of that mark. We live in a broken, groaning, evil world. Sometimes this leads to deranged activities of the worse kind. I wish that were not so. I wish I knew how to fix this problem, but I don’t.

But what about God; can He fix it?  If He can, then why doesn’t He? Those are good questions that have been asked through the ages. When Jesus went to Bethany after the death of Lazarus, Mary said to Him “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” Later the Jews asked “Couldn’t He who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?” Could not God have stepped in and stopped the horrible killing in Newtown, Connecticut? I believe he could have, but He did not. For whatever reason when God created humanity He granted us more liberty than any government ever dreamed of granting. He made humanity free moral creatures capable of choosing to do either good or to do evil.

There is so much I do not know and so much I cannot change. But there is one thing I do know and that is that God cares for us. God loves this world so much that He gave his son Jesus for it. In the person of Jesus we can see how much God cares. The scriptures tell us that Jesus went with Mary to visit the grave of Lazarus and when he got there “Jesus wept”. From the depths of His soul he cried over the loss of His friend and because of the grief of the family. I believe that Jesus is weeping today with the grieving families in Newtown, Connecticut. His soul anguishes with them. He loves them and wants to help them. I wish I had more understanding, but I find great comfort in the fact that God cares. I serve a caring God. I will preach tomorrow about a caring God. I pray to a God that cares. As Peter said “Cast your cares upon Him, because He cares about you”. (I Peter 5:7).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My 2012 Christmas Poem

God Gave in Order to Save
©2012 C. Brent Cloyd
It is Christmas time, for what do I wish;
For what hope or dream does my soul anguish?
Is something from my list under the tree;
Something chosen especially for me?
I wonder what good things we’ll have to eat.
Apple cake with walnuts would be a treat.
Some peanut brittle or chocolate fudge,
In pecan pie with whip cream I’ll indulge.
I’ll hope to have my family gathered around
Opening gifts making a paper mound.
We’ll take a drive, enjoy tinsel and lights,
Make memories as we gaze on the sights.
Yet midst the holiday laughter and cheer
There are lonely masses living in fear.
Poor, worried, abused, tired, haggard, and spent
In search of cash to buy food and pay rent.

Where is hope for these lives torn and shattered;
Who live each day, depressed, weak, and scattered?
Perhaps abused by those proud and greedy,
Who use their labor yet leave them needy.
God promises good things to these oppressed,
His merciful love will not be suppressed.
The wealth of the rich will be adjusted,
God’s balancing justice can be trusted.
Others are trapped in our sin sick culture
Where dark sadness hovers like a vulture.
Guilty of trespassing, hence they must pay.
With so large a debt they wilt in dismay.
Is there hope for these who have misbehaved?
Is there any way their souls can be saved?
Is help on the way? Then let’s hear the story!
Tell me please, is there a word from glory?
Yes, to these lost, broken, sinful forgotten,
God sent his son, His only begotten.
From the crib to the cross his life he gave,
All our mistakes and failures He forgave.
We need not perish in this world of strife,
But with faith in Jesus have eternal life.
God sent His Son, the world not to condemn.
It’s Christmas, may the world be saved through Him.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Bug at the Back Door

I walked to the church this morning and took out my key to open the back door. As I was inserting my key into the lock I noticed a horrible looking insect on the ground. Not sure what it was. It looked like a cross between spider and a granddaddy long leg. It was ugly. I reached out my foot and stepped on it.  I squished the life out of it. Then I wondered. How many people have we stomped on at the door of the church? A few I am sure. Sometimes it has been by mistake. Sometimes out of ignorance. Sometimes because they just looked like detestable creatures. And yet our Lord has anointed us to preach good news to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim freedom to the captives. To help the blind recover their sight. To set free those who are oppressed and proclaim the grace of God.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

"The Secret Revealed to Joseph" A Christmas Poem I wrote in 2011

The Secret Revealed to Joseph
                                                                ©2011 C. Brent Cloyd

About the birth of Christ men have much to say
But the Bible says it came about this way
Joseph proposed and to Mary was engaged
But then he received news that left him enraged

She was pregnant, Joseph, surprised, discovered
A cloud of fear and shame around her hovered
Joseph knew that to him it did not belong
His natural response was “she had done wrong”
Embarrassed, Joseph needed to save some face
Yet wanted to spare Mary public disgrace
It was decided they would quietly divorce
Live separate lives on a different course

Considering this option, he had a dream
An angel revealed “things were not as they seem”
The child she carries was not seeded by man
The life planted in her was by divine plan

That conceived in her is by the Holy Ghost
A gift from on high, wrapped by the Lord of host
Now take her as your wife and be not afraid
The prophets foretold that this plan had been made

A son will be born; Jesus will be His name
A much needed savior who will merit fame
Misunderstood, earth’s favor He will not win
But He will save man from penalty of sin

His true identity known only by few
His childhood well-being I entrust to you
His worth and character men will much discuss
They will call Him Immanuel, “God with us”.






Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Off the Exit and Over the Hill

The Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway was opened in January 1963 and became a much needed conduit of transportation into the mountains of east Kentucky. I traveled this road west on my way back from Virginia earlier this week. I took a slight detour at exit 60 and traveled highway 191 north over the hill to the small unincorporated hamlet of Cannel City in Morgan County, KY. I have been there many times before but this is the first time in nearly 30 years. It has not changed much. Most things are recognizable though perhaps looking a little tired for the years. The village got its name from a type of coal extracted from the area known as “cannel coal” which contained highly volatile constituents that burned brightly and was used to produce light for homes and businesses. The market for that type of coal is long past and a once thriving village has become a small residential area. Yet if one looks around and will take the time to be inquisitive they can still explore some of the artifacts left from the town’s heyday, including an old bank vault that still stands in the local park. I made the stop in Cannel City in order to say hello to my cousin Donna and her husband Bill. Donna works at the post office which is where I found her. The Post Office sits in the middle of the parking lot of the old Cannel City School, a historic block building built by the WPA in 1936. The school building no longer serves as an edifice of learning, her students having been transported to a more modern facility. But the U.S. Post Office Cannel City, KY 41408 sits proudly and noticeably right in the middle of the parking lot. It is perhaps the smallest free standing post office I have ever seen. I would guess the structure to be about 10’ x 12’. It is painted grey and has a front porch adorned with benches where people can sit and chat. I sit on the porch and visit for a while with my cousin Donna and a few of the local folk who come to pick up their mail or to just drop by and catch up on the news. The flag of these United States of America blows in the November breeze above our heads.  It occurs to me that I am experiencing something small and something big at one and the same time.  I am in a small place talking with ordinary folks in rural Appalachia while sitting on the stoop of a building operated by the largest government in the world. This kind of scene is perhaps fading quickly from the nation’s landscape and I fear there is not much I can do to change that. But this week I got to be a part of a special moment. It was well worth the detour.

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