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June 27, 2010

Your Hidden Heart

We leave an indelible picture of ourselves when we finally get to leave this failing body behind. It may take various forms -- Frances Havergal's was poetry. But she realized that what others see is only a surface glimpse of a heart fully seen by God alone.

Frances was a prolific poet and decided cheerleader for the Lord whom she loved.


by Frances Ridley Havergal
June 18, 1872

I have filled my book,
In odds and ends of time,
With fancies and reveries
And careless scraps of rhyme.

It is,—and yet it is not
A transcript of my soul;
For the passing gleams of light,
And the passing clouds that roll

Like an unwilled photograph,
Have printed their image clear;
And the echo of many a laugh
And of many a sigh is here.

But words are cold, dead things,
And little they tell of the heart,
Or the burning glow
Of the fount below,
Whence the glance and the cheek-flush start

I feel there is more within
Than may lightly be revealed;
What the spirit itself hath but dimly seen
To the pen may well be sealed.

Yes, I have filled my book,
And another will soon begin:
But no venturous guess may say
What shall be traced within!

Shall its songs be all of joy,
Or of deepest and keenest woe?
I dare not anticipate,
And I'm glad that I do not know.

Shall its yet unwritten page
Be filled by my restless hand?
Or shall I be called away
To the shores of the Silent Land?

One thing I would hope and pray,
That its record may brighter shine,
That an onward and upward course
May be traced in every line.

And that some of its words may cheer
Some troubled and weary soul,
Or point as a waymark clear
To the distant yet nearing goal.

Then I shall not begrudge my thoughts
Their robing of careless rhyme;
Or deem them a useless waste
Of the priceless gift of Time.

June 20, 2010

One Out of Seven Ain't Good Enough

I use a stock photo website to submit photos for sale. An average sale is about $.50 to $1.00 each. After three or more years I've netted about $48, $18.50 of which I have to wait until it totals another $13.50, I guess. It has been more of an experiment than anything. When I first started uploading pictures, they took anything and everything. At this stage in the game, they've limited submission approvals to a small percentage when it comes to the kind of style I shoot. Only one photo was approved out of seven in my last upload.

I can understand their reticence: their servers are bulging with ridiculous, unsaleable material and they don't want to add more to their hard drives. And with the economy in a downturn, only VERY specific styles of pictures sell well. And I HATE those types of pictures.

So the experiment has ended for me because it takes a LONG time to work a photo to get it just perfect, then upload it, then go through all the hoops (info) they ask for EACH picture. If time is money, then I'm making a few cents per hour, hardly worth the effort.

Oh, the picture you're looking at of the leaf? It was rejected because it wasn't sharp enough.

June 12, 2010

Fully Set Toward Evil

The Wild West is alive and well in Stockton, CA. Shootings, muggings, break-ins, murders, rape, you name it. It is so bad, local police officers are putting up signs around town advertising the fact.

Drifting from the moral and spiritual moorings of the past, America is reaping the rewards of a people who have no fear of God. There's a verse in the Book of Ecclesiastes that comments on our condition: "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." (Eccl. 8:11) Many get away with their crimes without being punished and when punishment is exacted, the penalty is inequitable and far less than "an eye for an eye." Crime pays. It's as simple as that.

There is still hope for our great nation, but it doesn't lie in education, jobs, or political parties. New hearts are needed. Hearts filled with a fear of and love for the God who gives life, the God who forgives the evil we do and gives a joy that is unspeakable.

June 10, 2010

Go Ahead and Park It!

Thanks to copious private donations, the city of Stockton won't have to spend any money this year to support the summer concert program. The first aired last night in Victory Park as music (and dog) lovers enjoyed the Valley Concert Band at its finest. Great music and a docile crowd (except for the kids) added to the pleasure of listening to classic stuff (old and new) without too much distraction. The kids played in back of the folks, while people strolled with pups and partners here and there. Just bring a chair, a blanket, some friends, something to eat, and listen to the repertoire.

There will be a wide mix of performers, everything from polka to jazz to latin to classical to whatever. Sorry, no rap!

June 6, 2010

The Lamb of God

When we lived in Paso Robles on Buena Vista Drive, our neighboring farmer, Mr. Houghton, would let sheep graze his alfalfa field at various times. I took this picture when some curious lambs wandered to the fence line, wondering who this creature was pointing a camera at them. Lambs portray all that is innocent in this world. God planned it that way.

The following is taken from Tabletalk Magazine, June, 2010 publication. The author is Iain D. Campbell, minister of Point Free Church on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. He is also a conference speaker and author.

The Lamb of God

One of the first references to a lamb in the Bible is in connection with the story of Abraham, when God tested him by requiring of him that he offer [his son] Isaac. On the way to the place of sacrifice, Isaac said to his father, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" To which Abraham responded, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." (Gen. 22:7,8).
Throughout the Old Testament, as God revealed His plan of salvation stage by stage, He continued to provide a lamb. When He was to redeem His people from Egypt, God instituted the Passover, and stipulated that "on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb" (Ex. 12:3), which was to be sacrificed and eaten to highlight the substitutionary death that would be the means of releasing Israel from captivity.
When He instituted a sacrificial system that was to be fundamental to Israel's religious life, God stipulated that lambs were to be sacrificed: "two lambs a year old day by day regularly" (Ex. 29:38). When the sheaf offering was given to the Lord at harvest time, God said, "On the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord" (Lev. 23:12). Fifty days later at Pentecost, Israel was to offer "seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD" (v. 18). Throughout the Old Testament period, the blood of lambs stained Israel's altars, part of the elaborate ritual that showed the seriousness with which God took sin, as well as the way in which He was to deal with it.
Yet there was an inadequacy to each sacrifice offered in the Old Testament, an inadequacy evident in the fact that each sacrifice had to be repeated. The Mosaic law could never "by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near" (Heb. 10:1). God had to provide a better lamb, one whose sacrifice would end all sacrifices and whose blood would deal finally with sin. The answer to Isaac's question, "where is the lamb?" is ultimately answered by John the Baptist as he points to Jesus and says, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). The story of Jesus could almost be regarded as an elaboration of the promise in which Abraham said more than he knew: "God will provide for himself the lamb."
This theme runs through the New Testament. In presenting the good news to the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip the Evangelist expounds the reference in Isaiah 53:7 to Jesus: "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth" (Acts 8:32. Paul encourages the Christians in Corinth to discipline themselves to holiness because "Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed" (I Cor. 5:7). And Peter reminds us that we have been redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (I Peter 1:19).
But it is John the apostle, in the book of Revelation, who really answers Isaac's question for us and shows us the glory of the Lamb of God's provision. The Lamb stands before the throne and among the elders who worship Him and who sing, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" (Rev. 5:6-12). It is this Lamb who opens the seals of God's infallible counsel (Rev. 6:1) and pours His wrath on an unbelieving world (v. 16). It is this Lamb who gathers His blood-washed redeemed (7:9) and shepherds them to the glory-fountains of heaven (7:14). It is this Lamb who enables His people to triumph (12:11) and whose Book contains the names of those who will finally be saved (13:8; 21:27).
Where is the Lamb of God's provision? He is in heaven's highest throne, where He receives His bride (Rev. 19:6-9). He is heaven's temple (21:22) and heaven's lamp (21:23). There, in that glory, His people worship Him (22:3). God has provided a Lamb for Himself. God is the Lamb of His own providing.
At the center of the drama of redemption is a Lamb, prepared to be offered, dying so that others will live, bearing away the sins of a people whom God determines to save. We are like sheep going astray (Isaiah 53:6); yet the one sheep, the Lamb, which never went astray, God is going to make into a sacrifice. And He will do this in order that straying sheep might be recovered and their sins removed forever. The Lamb of God will be treated as if He had never been holy, so that the lost sheep He came to save will be treated as if they had never sinned. [emphasis mine]
The biblical image of Jesus the Lamb of God is not just a convenient illustration: it brings us to the very essence and heart of the gospel, where the God-man is held accountable for the law-breaking of sinners, dies as their substitute, and provides a way of salvation through His own shed blood. That is the only gospel the Bible knows: the good news of a Christ, dead at Calvary for the salvation of sinners. God has indeed provided for Himself a Lamb for a burnt offering. Come, see the place where the Lamb lay!

June 4, 2010

The Silent Refugee

Barb and I were invited to a neighbor's high school graduation party this evening across the street. Tons of food - a mix of Vietnamese and American. We've watched young Khoi Nguyen grow up, living under the roof of his grandparents and aunt and uncle. A smart kid, ready to go to Sacramento State after the summer break and major in Engineering. Wants to be an air traffic controller.

They had set up tables for about 35 people or more in the garage and on the driveway. The breeze had just picked up and the weather was beautiful. Our other neighbors joined in awhile. We two couples were the only white Americans attending. A dozen or more kids were jumping in the jumpy thingy. Tran had bought flowers and made her own arrangements for each of four tables. Just beautiful.

We sat with graduate Khoi and his cousin, Dino (who is finishing his second year of college in SoCal). We cajoled, encouraged, preached, and prodded. Khoi's hobby is a Honda. No girlfriend is in the picture. He'll live with another aunt and uncle in Sacramento. He's shy and has a wonderful smile and deep voice.

We also talked at length to another uncle (I think) who works for the City of L.A. The man is driven. Escaped Viet Nam with his family when only 14 or so. He has no reservations about telling those who have a welfare mentality to get over it and get to work, to get an education and contribute, to learn English and be a true American, and to come to this country legally.

He also talked about the other boat people and those who stayed, saying that for every one who escaped, one was executed who stayed. Then he started talking about "grandpa," the old man who lives in the house across the street. Grandpa is shy and talks very little. His English is hard to follow, so I hadn't talked much with him over the past 15 or so years he's been living here. But we learned that he is a math tutor, loves math, still studies math books all the time to keep up with his teaching. But we also learned that he was in President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu's cabinet before the country fell to the communists.

I did a quick look-see online when we came home and found this picture of him. It's not dated, but it looks like a reunion picture taken in the 90's.

Some of us could write a book.