The Virgin Watchman – A Poem

Out upon the rocky rampart

Unnoticed and alone

Sits the virgin watchman.

Her tears do not distort the view;

She waits and through them watches

Like Anna and old Simeon

Knowing day does come.

She waits and works and watches

Writing plain upon her tablet

Crying for the day

When sons shall run

And read

And conquer

And darkness flee away.

Habakkuk 2:1-3


The Broken Soldier – A Poem

With a huff and a groan, on a prosthetic leg,

He jerked painfully down the aisle to his seat.

He stopped,

Holding his COVID mask to his mouth

In a grimace.

The pack on his back

thudded heavily down.


“You okay, brother?”

Called a man from the rear.

Quick strides brought the speaker

To the seat with the pack.

“Hey, brother, it’s hard.”

– A cough and a groan –

“Is he drunk?” asked the flight attendant.

“No, worse. It’s withdrawals.”


“Brother, it’s hard. I’m not gonna lie.

It’s bad, and it’s gonna get worse.

Where’d you serve, brother?”


“Four tours in Afghanistan,”

He sputtered through tears.


“Brother, I’ve been there.

It’s bad, and it’s gonna get worse,” he kept saying.

“It’s bad, really bad.

You don’t have to stay here;

You can get out before we take off.

If you stay,

You’ll get help when you get there.

I’m not gonna lie.

It’s gonna get bad; it’s gonna get worse.”


A whisper and groan,

“I can’t, really can’t.”


He lifted his head from his hand on the seatback,

Then scanning the cabin, he looked up at me.

Our eyes met

In the red-rimmed gray ocean

Of his clearing and glowing blue eyes.

I wanted to strengthen him,

To shout,” You can do it!”,

But all I could do was just stand there.


“I’ll pray for you, brother,”

The helper was saying.

Another man, too, had offered to pray.


“Do you want to get off?

If you want, you can do that.”


“I’m going to stay on,” he said firmly,

And all of the passengers cheered.


The plane ride was rough.

Several babies were wailing.

Three rows behind me

The soldier was heaving.

The helper stayed with him,

His hand on his back,

And holding the bag he coughed into.


All finally quieted as we came in for landing.

Quickly the helper walked to the attendant,

And came back and told him,

“They said you’ll be last. It’s okay.”

Then off whisked the helper to catch his next plane.


We waited to see him

When he walked through the gate.

He was last, and they brought him a wheelchair.


With muscular arms

He hoisted his pack.

Standing up straight and tall he said,

“I’d rather walk.”


That’s all we knew

about the man with the pack,

But that man gives me hope

in my country.

He knew it was bad

And that it’d get worse.

He had said that he couldn’t,

But what he meant was  “give up”.

He couldn’t give up.

With one leg or no legs

He’d stand up and walk.


Why a Roman Cross?

Why did Jesus die on a Roman cross?

The cross was a Roman invention for cruel torture and slow execution of state criminals and foreign rebels. It was intensely feared in all regions of Roman domination.

There is no provision in the criminal law codes of Israel for execution by hanging on a cross. The Law of Moses prescribes stoning for criminals in Israel. Murderers, as well as all for whom capital punishment is required, were to die by stoning at the hands of the community. In especially heinous crimes, the executed criminal would afterwards be hanged on a tree, but the body must be taken down by sunset. They did not hang criminals “by the neck until dead” as in the American West.  A foreign enemy could be slain with a sword and sometimes also then hanged on a tree to be displayed until sunset.  No other form of execution is mentioned.

How did Jesus’ death on a Roman cross fulfill God’s Law?

Let’s deal first with a more basic question. Why did Jesus have to die? There are many facets to the answer to this question. For now we’ll aim at understanding the Laws of Sacrifice for Sin. We find that Leviticus 4 delineates sin offerings according to the social position of the sinner. For example, a common person was to bring a female kid of the goats. A ruler of the people must bring a male kid of the goats. A priest who sins must bring a young bullock. If the whole congregation sins, they must offer a young bullock, in the same way as a priest who sins.

In each sin offering, except one, the sinner must lay hands on the head of the victim, i.e. kid or bullock, and then the sinner slays the animal whose blood is offered on the altar. The exception is for the situation in which the whole congregation has sinned. In this case, Leviticus 4 designates no one to slay the victim. We are left to find a precedent to discover who must slay this victim for the whole congregation.

In Leviticus 8, Moses is performing the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests. For a sin offering Moses brings a bullock. The priests lay hands on the head of the bullock, and Moses slays the bullock continuing according to the previous prescription for the sin offering in Leviticus 4.

Moses was not a priest. He was the civil leader and the spiritual leader of Israel. The precedent seems to be that when a group sins, as opposed to an individual, the highest authority must slay the victim.

The order is clear according to Leviticus 4:15.
And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD:
and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD.

Now we have one facet of the answer to our second question,
“According to the Law of Sacrifice for Sin, why did Jesus have to die?”

He died as the victim in the case when the whole congregation sins. Jesus himself in the Gospels, as well as the Apostles in Acts, give ample witness to his being the offering for the whole congregation.

This is how Jesus could prophesy that “the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed,” Mark 8:31. In fact, the elders did lay their hands on Jesus, and they took him to Pilate. “When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:  And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.” Matthew 27:1-2

Jesus knew that they had to reject him because they had to turn him over to the governing authorities to be slain. They had to “lay hands upon” him. Their laying hands upon him imparted their sins and, representatively, the sins of all the people upon Jesus as their victim. As the Victim, Jesus could forgive the sin. Jesus fulfilled both the role of the victim and of the priest who forgives.

God’s Law could not execute the Holy Son of God; Roman law did that.

It was a Roman cross because God’s Law has no such provision for execution.

It was a Roman cross because Rome was the highest civil government over Israel at the time, and the highest authority must slay the victim of the sin offering when the whole congregation sins.

There are many references to the necessity for the elders to reject the Messiah. They had to be responsible for his death in order for his forgiveness to apply to them and to all the world as the “whole congregation”.

Matthew 16:21; 17:22; Mark 8:31; 10:33; Luke 9:22; 18:31; 24:7; 24:20

Acts 2:3; 3:17; 4:10; 5:30;7:52; 10:39; 13:27

Spirit Creators


World Renowned Cellist Yo Yo Ma in Concert


When an artist creates a work of art, we sometimes say it takes on a life of its own. It moves people in one way or another, often in ways unexpected or even unintended by the artist. This phenomenon is most easily seen in music.

One artist composes a musical piece. Another artist, or group of artists, performs the piece. In the case of a group, there may be a conductor or band leader who interprets the spirit of the music in the performance. One performance differs from another, even when the same artist performs. An artist may interpret the spirit of a piece differently at one point in his life than he does at another.

Is any one interpretation the correct interpretation? May the composer alone perform his work in the full spirit in which he composed it? May the piece grow beyond the vision of the composer? May each artist’s performance release its own spirit of the work? Did the composer create a living spirit – the spirit of the music? Does the interpretation of each later artist create and release a related spirit of the music? If so, does this become a family of related spirits?

Does this apply to every artistic creation and idea? I see the same effect in a philosophical idea and a scientific or technological idea. Those ideas surely take on a life of their own and grow in ways their originator could not have imagined or, even possibly, desired.

Are human beings spirit creators?

Am I then, as spirit creator, the father, so to speak, of my spirit creation? May I direct my spirit creation to go in a certain way? May my spirit creation choose to go in a different way, as children inevitably do?

We have established that a creation may go in a way unintended by its creator. That is precisely what we mean when we say it takes on a life of its own. Did I create a sentient, able to choose? Is it alive in itself, or is it only an effect? Maybe it’s just an effect, like toxic gas dissipating into the environment.

But what if my idea or artwork is like a dog? My spirit creation may be like an animal bred and trained for a specific purpose, yet it may or may not fulfill that purpose.  It may be used for another.

Who chooses the purpose for which the spirit animal is ultimately used? As I said, each artist interprets or directs it in one way or another. It may lie dormant for decades or centuries, and then rise again with old and new effects.

Once the artist’s idea is created, can it ever die? A work of visual art may be destroyed. A musical creation can go unrecorded and be lost. All those humans who were touched by the art may die without perpetuating any effect of it. So, yes, it may die.

This fact is the very reason human societies tend to value and preserve art. The artistic creation is more than just an expression from their history. It has a living effect on all who interact with it. It transcends both time and space. It is spirit.

Young Yo Yo Ma gives a Demonstration

How to Get a Job Done

You have an idea. You feel called to your  purpose. You start out with excitement and imagine great things to come.  Then you hit a roadblock. Many decisions have to be made. Which way do you go when no way is exactly right? What if you make the wrong choice? Your progress is threatened. What will you do? God must be against your project! You are tempted to quit. Maybe you should quit.


Roadblocks cause stress that can distract you from your goal. For every good plan there is wisdom to navigate each roadblock. Accept the good plan to which you are called, and pray in faith for the wisdom that God will give in answer to each roadblock. 

You don’t know the future.

The end product of your plan may hardly resemble the image in your mind at the beginning or even along the way, but your good plan will have a good product if you proceed in wisdom and faith. The end product may turn out to be greater than you could have imagined.

I didn’t make this up. King Solomon wrote it in the 10th Century BCE for me to read in the 21st Century CE . Take a tip from Solomon.

“A wise man’s heart perceives both occasion and procedure because to every purpose there is occasion and procedure; therefore the distress of man is great upon him because he does not know the future.” Ecclesiastes 8:5-7

Okay, I know that’s not exactly the King James Version. I don’t even know if any version translates it quite like I have.  You decide whether or not I have translated accurately. Here you go; below is the KJV with portions of Strong’s definitions inserted in brackets.

“…a wise man’s heart discerneth [perceives] both time [occurrence; occasion; season]
and judgment [process; procedure] because to every purpose [desire, plan was my word]
there is time [occasion; season] and judgment [process; procedure];
therefore the misery [distress] of man is great upon him.
For he knoweth not that which shall be, for who can tell him when it shall be?”
Ecclesiastes 8:5-7

STRESS!!! I can’t take it!

Solomon understood the stress of a big project. He was responsible for building the Temple with its massive columns, the huge brass pool held up by twelve gigantic brass oxen, and the two cherubim overlaid in gold stretching from wall to wall (I Kings chapter 6). He also built cities, fortifications, and towers throughout his kingdom, including the surrounding nations of his dominion.

Okay, Solomon knew stress. How did he deal with it?

Solomon said a man gets distressed because he doesn’t know the future.
-What if this? or What if that?- So what did Solomon do to relieve his stress?

Solomon prayed for wisdom. We know his prayer, recorded in I Kings 3:5-15. As the crown of his father King David was placed on his head, the responsibility of leadership weighed heavily upon him. Did God hear and answer young Solomon’s prayer?

“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.  And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt … and his fame was in all nations round about.
[He wrote books of philosophy, music, and science]… And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.”
1 Kings 4:29-34  

Are you under stress? Do you fret over the “what-if’s”? The opportunity for wisdom is yours too.

Wisdom?  Me???

“If any of you lack wisdom,
let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 
But let him ask in faith”
James 1:5-6  

Has God called you to a task?  Take the bull by the horns.

Jesus said it this way.

“So then, do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew 6:34, New English Translation  

Do you get it? Every day has its own roadblocks. You will get stressed out trying to figure out tomorrow’s difficulties today, before you really know exactly what they will be. Remember, nobody knows the future.  

It is good to have a plan, a project, a purpose. Even God has plans. “I have formulated a plan, yes, I will carry it out.” Isaiah 46:11, NET   Planning is not evil. Planning is not “taking thought for tomorrow”  that Jesus warned about.

So what do we do?

The Plan + Wisdom and Faith = Great End Product 

  • Hear a call, get an idea.
  • Each day pray for wisdom to accomplish the work of that day.
  • Each day accomplish something toward your
  • Tackle roadblocks one at a time as they come.

A day will dawn when you realize the job is done. You may be amazed at the end product.

 “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.
This too, I see, is from the hand of God”  
Ecclesiastes 2:24, NIV

Solomon knew what he was talking about!

God Needs No Defense

This image is used to emphasize helping the needy. Disaster relief is one way an army of humans helps to relieve suffering.

Almighty God does not need an army to defend Him. God’s army defends the weak and relieves suffering. God Himself needs no defense.

In God’s Kingdom the innocent are defended, the needy receive help, orphans and widows are supported. All work to relieve human suffering is the work of His Kingdom.

The folly of Christian scholars has been the defense of doctrines at the expense of human suffering.

In so much as our Christianity seeks to relieve human suffering,
the Kingdom of God has come among us.

Language is Not Mathematics

123 or ABC

2+2=4 in every language, in every culture. Even among people with no written language, a girl having two sheep who gets two more sheep always ends up having four sheep. There is no room for ambiguity or nuance. The numbers don’t lie; they don’t hide the truth.

Language, however, cannot claim to be so straightforward. There are always two participants in language, the speaker/writer and the hearer/reader. Language always has nuance.

One could say, “He went to the store.” -Seems simple and straightforward, but the understanding is affected by the emphasis of the speaker. HE went to the store. He WENT to the store. He went TO the store. He went to the STORE. These all have different nuance of meaning.

More than speaking, writing adds another level of complexity. While the hearer has audio emphasis as well as possible facial expression and body gestures to aid understanding, the reader must gather by context which emphasis the writer means.

Language is always a conversation. Even a soliloquy must have a hearer. The hearer must always intuit the speakers meaning to some degree.

We come to the problem with translations.

The translator studies the context, and deciphers as mathematically as possible, but he can never translate without the bias of his own understanding, his own intuition.

I am not a language expert, but in my limited experience it seems that some languages are more mathematical than others. For instance, Latin is very mathematical in form and order while English leaves much freedom of order and even of form to the speaker/writer. Still, Latin is not as clearly unambiguous as mathematics.

A few years ago a series of tornadoes blew destruction across the southeastern US. Some of my neighbors discovered windblown mail from other states dropped by the swirling clouds into their backyards. Some letters were actually returned. Had I discovered a letter out of the blue and had read it, no doubt I would have found nuances that I could not intuit because I do not know the writer.

Here is my point. In order to fully understand a speaker, a hearer must know the speaker. Also, understanding is more apt to be accurate when the hearer is actually in the presence of the speaker, face to face, so to speak. Again, this is a problem for translators.

I can fully affirm my belief that the Bible is the “only infallible rule of faith and of practice.” Yet, I do not find a translation that I can fully trust to be infallible due to nuances intuited or not intuited by the translators. I study the text using several translations, paraphrases and lexicons, but none of them will ever yield a mathematically accurate understanding. I have resigned myself that I must know the speaker.

My father was a gentle, empathetic and kind man. If someone brought me a letter written in my father’s handwriting that could be interpreted as harsh, vindictive or unkind, I would reject that interpretation. Those characteristics were not in his nature. I would look into the context and the history to find clues about his meaning.

We have such clues to be used in Bible interpretation. The greatest clue as to the character of God is Jesus himself. In his own words, “If you have seen me, you have seen my Father also.” God is a spirit. It is hard for us to see Him. Jesus was “the image of the invisible God”. The best interpretation of any passage will be found by seeing God through the character of Jesus Christ. It reminds me of  the old saying, “What would Jesus do?”

 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
John 1:18