Saturday, February 6, 2010

MELODY IN F (Author unknown)

Dear Reader: This is an excerpt from my book, HEADING HOME -- Essays and Poems, by Steve Moore (although this is the one "poem" in the book that isn't mine -- read explanation below. Feel free to read, copy, quote and enjoy it! Someday in heaven we'll find the clever guy who put these words and thoughts together in such a wonderful -- and hilarious -- way...and then we can congratulate him. He did a fine job of staying within the point of view presented by Pastor Mark (of Sierra Bible Church, Sonora, CA)in his series on the Prodigal Son, which says we really don't know what the older brother -- or even the younger brother, for that matter -- did after receiving such grace from their father. The "rest of the story" is written in the individual lives of you and me. The only thing we know for sure (even more than "death and taxes") is that we have a benevolent, loving Father, who always welcomes us back (the FUGITIVE), and welcomes us in (the FAULT-FINDER). And that's got to be the best lesson, among the many lessons, of this parable of our Lord. But I tend to favor the positive hint this author gives at the end: Not telling us the "feather brained fellow" actually received the full pardon offered to him by his "far-sighted and faithful father" -- nevertheless he says the foundation was laid for this boy for some wonderful "future fortitude." Who would not receive the grace of our great "prodigal God" (prodigal in the sense of His extreme and surprising unconditional love for mankind) Hopefully...surely...not you or I!

Someone might say this poem isn’t really a poem, because it doesn’t rhyme. But then another might say, “I took a poetry class, where I learned that poems don’t have to rhyme. So it IS a poem, a different kind of poem called “Free Verse.” But to that person I would have to say, “I’m afraid you missed it, too!” Though it’s true that some of the best poetry doesn’t rhyme, still there are certain characteristics required for a poem to qualify as free verse, of which this work has none. But I’m still including “Melody in F” in my book of poems because it has “the endearing quality of telling a story with a very clever use us words that tickles the ears even while it inspires the heart and informs the mind” (another good definition of poetry, by the way). The ear-tickling technique used in this poem is a hilariously extreme use of a literary device called alliteration: the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. This is comparable to rhyme, which is the repetition of vowel and consonant sounds at the end of words. I call this poem mine, not because I wrote it, but because it’s one I “do” – you know, like at parties…or at church services! That’s right, this poem has that rare quality of being not only inspiring but entertaining, too. And it’s G rated: acceptable everywhere. It presents the lesson of forgiveness and reconciliation that Jesus told, but in a way to make even the most bored church member or hardened unbeliever laugh right out loud, in spite of themselves. This is the first reaction, but then, if they’re not careful, they’ll find themselves sitting up and taking notice concerning the truth it contains. I wonder, if Jesus were a standup comedian, appearing before an English speaking crowd, if He would tell this favorite parable by means of the “Melody in F”! Back in my college days I came across this poem in a published compilation called PHIL KERR’S FAVORITE POEMS. Phil didn’t know who wrote it, either, but the author had to be a wordsmith of the highest order. Or maybe he was a man with just an average knowledge of vocabulary, but enabled to pull off a poem like this one by the aid of an uncanny use of the dictionary – no doubt aided by an endless flow of caffeine-laden coffee! Hats off to Mr. Anonymous for giving us this delightful tongue-twister that both tickles the ears with the desire to hear it again and again, and also inspires the heart to quit running from God, but turn around and run back to Him, knowing He’s ready and rarin’ to throw a party…nastily needling naysayers notwithstanding! (Editor’s note: An analysis of this poem reveals the use of 117 words beginning with the letter F, with very few of them used more than once. The word beginning with “F” that IS repeated several times, very appropriately, is the word Father. There are only 24 other words used in the poem, and most of these are simple prepositions and pronouns, contributing almost nothing to the content, but present mainly just to aid the flow. This poem reveals another fascinating bit of trivia: the English language seems to have quite a love affair with the letter F, as it has with no other letter. I discovered this quite by accident, through my failed attempt to write an alliterative poem on the Prodigal Son with an alternate letter of the alphabet. And speaking of F words, isn’t it refreshing how “The F Word” never needed to be used here. It never does, in any context, print or conversation, in my humble opinion! The apostle Paul encourages us to “not be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Memorizing and then reciting the “Melody in F” at every appropriate opportunity would be a good start at overcoming evil both in choice of words, and in nurture of relationships, replacing the evil of foul and offensive language with this good and very funny rendition of the story of God’s restorative forgiveness and love. And so now, for your listening pleasure, I give you…

(The Prodigal Son)

Feeling Footloose and Frisky, a Feather-brained Fellow
Forced his Fond Father to Fork over the Farthings,
And Flew Far to Foreign Fields, and Frittered his Fortune
Feasting Fabulously with Faithless Friends.

Fleeced by his Fellows in Folly, and Facing Famine,
He Found himself a Feed Flinger in a Filthy Farmyard.
Fairly Famishing, he Fain would have Filled his Frame
With Foraged Food From Fodder Fragments.

“Fooey! My Father’s Flunkies Fare Far Finer,”
The Frazzled Fugitive Furtively Fussed, Frankly Facing Facts.
Frustrated by Failure, and Filled with Foreboding,
He Fled Forthwith to his Family.

Falling at his Father’s Feet, he Forlornly Fumbled,
“Father, I’ve Flunked, and Fruitlessly Forfeited Family Favor!”
The Far-sighted Father, Forestalling Further Flinching,
Frantically Flagged the Flunkies to
Fetch a Fatling From the Flock and Fix a Feast.

The Fugitive’s Fault Finding brother
Frowned on Fickle Forgiveness of Former Folderol.
But the Faithful Father Figured,
“Filial Fidelity is Fine, but the Fugitive is Found!
What Forbids Fervent Festivity?
Let Flags be unfurled! Let Fanfares Flare!

Father’s Forgiveness Formed the Foundation
For the Former Fugitive’s Future Fortitude!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

TIME TAGS: "WAIT FOR THE DING!" -- Devotional for April 13, from Good Seeds"

Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her. (Genesis 29:20)

I am the father of three daughters. I remember telling them, when they got to their teen years – when they started noticing the boys who had started noticing them – something I heard from Christian psychologist, James Dobson: “What’s reserved for the future will not spoil with the keeping.” Young love is often called “puppy love,” a term far more innocent sounding than what it actually refers to: “animal instinct.” The kind of love that draws the sexes together (eros) is not the kind that keeps them together (agape). Though both of these Greek words are translated love in English, they are at two opposite ends of the spectrum: the one has absolutely no patience while the other will wait as long as it takes; the one can think of nothing but self while the other thinks only of the other; the one wants man’s best while the other wants God’s best. I remember when our oldest daughter, Holly (whose birthday we celebrate today), finally reached that wonderful age when she could be read to. I was a schoolteacher then, and read to my fourth graders every day, so I couldn’t wait till I could set my own child on my lap and lift the characters and stories off the page and deposit them, through the magic of books, into her eager mind. But of course these were picture books, and the thousand words spoken by each picture were deciphered by my daughter more quickly than I could read their captions, and so she was ready to turn the page before I could read all the words. So I would tell her – and this became the rule for two sisters that followed, and the eleven grandchildren they gave us – to not turn the page until they heard the “ding” (me, going: “ding!”) This is the Rule of Time Tags: learning to wait longer than we might think necessary, so that everything is ready for the right result. Just because a fourteen year old may have the coordination, strength and skill to drive a car doesn’t mean we would trust him behind the wheel. And just because young teens have all the right parts, in perfect working order, doesn’t mean they are ready to raise up the next generation. There’s a world of difference between “fathering” a child and being a good father to that child, between giving birth and giving worth to your own little one. When Jacob saw Rachel he immediately “fell in love” with her. Was it puppy love? The answer comes in how long he was able to wait – and how hard he was willing to work – for her. Seven years hard labor seemed just a moment to him. And I know from my own long and happy marriage, that waiting five years to love the girl that I loved at first sight was well worth the wait. And so, let us learn – and teach our children – to “wait for the ding.”

A "GENKI" CHURCH -- Devotional for February 29, from "Good Seeds"

NOTE TO READERS: Though I finished for the year, there are two more entries I am submitting now: 1) Feb 29: for "Leap Day" occurring once every four years, and 2)a changed one for April 13, spinning off of our eldest daughter's birthday, as I did with birthdays of my wife Karen on Aug 30 and our other daughters Heidi, Jan 19 and Heather June 26.

Those who are far away will come and help to build the temple of the Lord, and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the Lord your God. (Zechariah 6:15)

Today is “Leap Day,” a day we have added to the calendar to keep our human accounting of time in line with the heavenly. This added day synchronizes life on earth with the movements of bodies placed and set in motion by the Creator and Lord of the universe, which dictate the constancy of the seasons and of day and night. In all their detailed search and study astrophysicists have come up with no other place in the universe that could even remotely touch the minimum requirements for the sustenance of life that we enjoy on planet earth. The Bible says that not only was it by Christ that “all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth,” but also that “in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17). Just as the health of our planet is maintained by a certain divinely appointed equilibrium, so is the health of our lives, whether in the physical, mental, social or spiritual realm, all under the concern and care of a loving God. He expects us to do our part, of course, both as careful custodians of our physical environment, but also as good stewards of our own bodies and the family of man. Just as God sent His Son from far beyond the universe to come and dwell with man for the purpose of calling the wanderer back to his Creator, so God has ordained that we, too, in microcosmic imitation, come from afar to build up one another, bringing the loving grace of God to the suffering race of man. After a lifetime of ministry and while contemplating retirement, an American pastor and his wife sensed the call of God to move to Japan to help a missionary pastor with his struggling church. In the months of preparation (and silent grappling with indecision) the pastor received this message from the missionary: “My wife and I were reading in the minor prophets today when we came to Zechariah 6:15. It stopped us cold as it fairly shouted at us a great blast of encouragement – for it made us think of you two coming soon to help us! We have the physical buildings, but our spiritual body is not all that genki (“healthy”). Please pray for us, during this time of constant struggle, that our Lord’s work among the people will draw them first to Himself, and then together as a body, purifying us all to be clearer and better lights in this dark, idolatrous land, at this rather dark time.” Since February 29th only touches down once in four years, this devotional will no doubt be touched upon just as infrequently. But you’re reading it now, right! So as you do, let it remind you to uphold missionaries and pastors with your prayers, and with your help – all for the sake of a genki church!

Friday, January 1, 2010

TETELESTAI -- Devotional for December 31, from "Good Seeds"

NOTE TO MY READERS: Today ends this one year project. It has been a challenge and a joy for me. Karen has endured the role of a "writer's widow" as I have spent an average of two hours every day of the year, mostly in the evenings, sometimes late into the wee hours, on this project. I will now take the files to my publisher, Lady Bug Press and very soon, I trust, GOOD SEEDS will be available in hard copy form. For those interested in purchasing the book for yourself or as a gift, contact me at, or at Karen and I are leaving for Japan in February, to serve as a co-pastor of International Chapel in Kyoto. We will return in July to serve at Sugarloaf Camp, and then we'll see if God sends us back to Japan or not. Wherever I'm serving and living, I plan to be writing. My next project is to complete my Christian novel, SECOND WIND.

God bless you as you walk and talk with him, one day at a time, in 2010. Maybe you'd like to take GOOD SEEDS along with you on that journey. Steve Moore.

And He said to me, “It is done. I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of water of life without cost. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”(Revelation 21:6-7)

It takes three English words to translate this one word from the Greek New Testament: “It is finished!” This was the last of the “Seven Last Words” of Christ, spoken just before “He bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30). Is this not also what He will say at the end of time, as prophesied in the last chapter of the Bible: “It is done”? When the apostle Paul came to the end of his life of witness to the world concerning the person and work of Christ, he said a similar thing: “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the course; I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7). There’s something to say about sticking to a job until it is done. Of course the world is full of hard-working people, who create and fabricate and dedicated their lives to competent production and service. But how much of mankind’s blood, sweat and tears are poured out on projects that serve no more than the present? Indeed, how many of the clever people invest their competence only in the service of evil? “He is a really good burglar,” someone says. What does this mean? Simply that this fellow’s skills at thievery are highly developed, and thus far he has gotten away with…a lot of merchandise that isn’t his. James writes, ”When lust has conceived, it brings forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death” (1:15). Paul warns, “Brethren, in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature” (I Corinthians 14:20). How many professing Christians are experts in the ways and the wonders of this fallen world, in its science and technology, in its music and movies, in its heroes of sports and screen, while remaining mere apprentices in the things of God? It is good to be “good at” something, to be sure, but it is crucial to choose carefully your specialty, that which will occupy your life and define your legacy. Is it something that honors God, serves others, and lasts past today, maybe even on into eternity? “Do not be weary in well doing,” wrote Paul in Galatians 6:9, but there’s no point in doing well what we should not be doing at all, right? If we continue in work that is God ordained and Spirit empowered, we can be confident that wherever we are in that process when God calls us home we will have finished our course. And now, Lord, as we round out the year, let our thoughts be drawn back to You – You who are the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Author and Finisher of our faith – the Satisfier of our thirst. Tetelestai! Your work is finished! But we press on. Even so, Maranatha! – Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

"YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!" -- Devotional for December 30, from "Good Seeds"

Do not judge one another (Romans 14:13). Do not speak against one another, brethren, for he who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law of God, to judge it. But if you judge the law you are not a doer of the law. There is only one Lawgiver, one Judge – the One who is able to both save and destroy. So who are you to judge your neighbor! (James 4:11-12)

This is one of the favorite phrases heard in childish sibling rivalry battles. Unfortunately we never seem to outgrow the tendency toward bossing other people around. Was it to children that James wrote this stern admonition, this negative member of the “One Another” family of biblical admonitions? No, it was to adults who in the midst of their God centered worship became distracted by their man centered irritations – and before they knew it, they set themselves up as judges of one another. We need to see that this is not only wrong, but foolish. Why? Because anything less than perfect judgment is failed judgment, and only God can judge perfectly. There are two pre-requisites for being a judge: 1) Perfect Knowledge and 2) Perfect Righteousness. As far as humans are concerned, none of us knows enough and none of us is good enough, to be a judge of others. Any judgment we make will of necessity be based on incomplete information. And, because we are sinners, it will be based on faulty motives and attitudes. Only God knows everything, and only God has a pure heart, untainted by sin. He “does all things well” (Mark 7:37). When we judge others we set ourselves over them as if we were God. But only God is GOD: “Let God be God, and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). To “speak against” someone may not sound so bad, but the literal translation of this phrase in James 4:11 is “evil slander.” We can slander as effectively with our eyes as with our lips – when we look down upon someone. God is high enough to see men with no obstructions blocking His vision, seeing them as they really are, whereas when we “look down” on others we don't really see them, viewing them only through prideful, haughty eyes. We must realize that only God can look down upon a person with impunity, because He alone stands as the one perfectly wise and righteous Judge. We tend to make premature judgments. In I Corinthians 4:5 Paul says, “Judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time God will give to everyone what praise is due.” We must wait until Jesus comes to hear the final verdict. Until then, seek to see others through the goodness and wisdom of God. If you step down from being judge of your brother, only then can you step up to being his friend!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"'JOIN THE CLUB!' -- Devotional for December 29, from "Good Seeds"

We are members of one another. (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:25)

Isn’t this what you say whenever someone says something about himself that sounds just like you? “He’s talking about me, describing me to a T.” Someone complains, “Why do I get sick every time I have a little time off work?” and almost as a knee jerk response someone else says, “Tell me about it!” – which is just another way of expressing that common sentiment, “Misery loves company,” or, “No one likes to drink alone.” We all know that while success attracts many admirers, "nobody knows you when you're down and out" – nobody, that is, but genuine friends. You may have fewer real friends than you thought, but those few true blue friends are probably more loyal and loving than you might have thought, too. So, what do we mean when we say, “We are members of one another”? Well, we share membership in the body of Christ with other Christians, but that’s not quite the same as saying we belong to one another. Both statements are true, but most of us still have much to learn about the latter. “I go to church to worship Christ,” someone says, and then continues, “and if you’re there, I’ll be glad to see you, but I’m not going for you, but for Him.” Well, that’s a crucial priority, of course, but too many well-meaning believers unknowingly become saintly snobs as they play down the importance of their fellow travelers on the road to glory. When answering a Jewish scribe’s question, “What is the greatest commandment of all?” Jesus couldn’t seen to narrow it down to just one, as requested. Why? Because He knew that “loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” means nothing, and cannot be authentic, apart from “loving your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-31). Remember the song that said, “I am a rock, I am an island”? Let that not describe you! Even though God loves each of us individually, and would have died for just you – or just me – if you or I had been the only one needing saving, the fact is we who love the Lord are legion! Although we can only receive salvation one at a time, through the turnstile of faith in Christ, what a comfort to know that millions have done so – and they keep coming! When my pastor baptized me along with a few others, I still remember him saying, “These have come to Jesus, responding to His grace, receiving His forgiveness, and now obeying Him in the waters of baptism – and yet there is room.” It was that last statement that sticks in my mind: “and yet there is room.” A song says, “There’s plenty of room in the family!” Will heaven be over-crowded? We can only hope so, but I’m afraid an over-populated hell is by far the greater concern. What can you do about that? Just make sure you join the club, the right club, and pay your dues. Remember, we are members of one another!

PROPHET, PRIEST AND KING -- Devotional for December 28, from "Good Seeds"

Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the priest, and he said, “Listen, all Israel, thus says the Lord unto you: “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” (II Chronicles 20:14-15)

These are three titles of our Lord Jesus. A prophet, by definition, speaks to people on behalf of God; a priest speaks to God on behalf of the people; and a King, well, he rules. As PROPHET, Jesus came from God to men with a message. But He was not an angel, a mere messenger – He was the message! The apostle John appropriately called Jesus the Word. His very life: His miraculous virgin birth, His amazing miracles, and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, spoke God’s Word to men – without a word! But He spoke words, too: words of instruction, correction, warning, and comfort. As PRIEST, Jesus “prayed without ceasing,” bringing the needs and hurts of others before the throne of grace. While His friends were sleeping, He was praying – for them; while His enemies were planning His destruction, He was praying – for their welfare! Our Lord was prophet and priest during His earthly ministry, and remains so on our behalf since returning to heaven, but someday the Father will “put all things under His feet” and Jesus will reign over the universe as KING. But even while a humble servant on earth, His kingship was suspicioned, if not outwardly recognized. Even during His brutal execution, an inscription was placed on His cross – a sort of epitaph before His death: “Here dies Jesus: King of the Jews.” Just as Christ delegated His work to His followers before returning to heaven (John 14:12), so He shares these three roles with those worthy of His trust. Though we recognize Jesus as our true King, He delegates His authority to lesser “kings,” such as governors, prime ministers, presidents – earthly rulers of one description or another – for the welfare of society. Though some view it as the enemy, human government really is designed by God to be our friend. But sometimes – at the more benevolent times of history – a king rises to power who also serves his people as a priest. Ronald Reagan was such a man of prayer, following in the path of Jehoshaphat of old. And just as a ruling king may pray like a priest, so a commissioned priest may preach like a pastor. Such a man was Jahaziel. After his king led the people in prayer, this priest heard God’s answer to that prayer and, speaking now as a prophet, proclaimed it to the people. O that pastors today would be so clear and bold in their proclamation: Thus says the Lord: “Why are you dismayed? Are you not My people? Are not these who are accosting you My enemies? This is not your battle, but Mine! So step aside, and get ready to rejoice!”