Why, Poet?

Why, Poet?
Are these your Psalms?
Like David, have you felt
you don’t belong?

Have you felt your words
float into the ether
without a corresponding hail?
Have you expressed desperation
when especially assailed?

Chin up, poet!
For like the bards of old
God won’t leave you
because you’re bold.

Continue to sing,
without notes, just words.
Continue to speak,
though you feel absurd.
Continue to shine,
even when it rains.
Continue to share,
’cause we all feel pain.

© Joel Tipple 11/17/2018

A Gift of Kindness

Christmas tree

He has told you, oh man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

Justin sat on his bed with a pad of paper and pencil, his legs crossed and eyes drawn together as he concentrated on the task at hand, writing what ostensibly was to be his yearly Christmas list. He’d been following what was now his yearly tradition for some time, since he decided he was too old to ask Santa for anything directly but not too old to make a list and hint to his parents that they could pass on ideas to the jolly one if they wanted to. It was normally as easy a task as you’d expect it to be for a boy his age. Just like anyone else he was bombarded with advertisements for this toy and that, games galore, electronics sure to make him the envy of his friends. Those things still held a strong attraction, but his perspective on the world and his place in it was changing. There was something in the air, something tense, like the feeling he got before a test at school when he hadn’t studied enough. It seemed like he was noticing the adults in his life getting more and more irritable, a little like when the flu went through his school and so many kids were out sick.There was this mean way people were treating each other that was going around. Once, when his grandfather caught him being mean to his little sister he sat him down and said, “Justin, do you know how important you are to your little sister? “No,” he said. “Well, you are. There are some things that she will learn best if she learns them from her family. If you teach her how to be kind she has a much better chance of growing up to be a kind person. That’s very important. It’s what Jesus taught. It’s also a fruit of the spirit.” So, it was with these ideas that seemed on the verge of being a little too big for him and God tugging on Justin’s heart that he began his list, though, as he wrote, it seemed more of a plea.

Justin’s Christmas list.

Mom and Dad would you be kind this Christmas?
Please, for that day set aside the words that hurt.
I’m sure you plan on giving us the best of all the toys,
but maybe you forgot what little girls and boys
need most of all.
Please be kind for Christmas.

In Sunday school we’re singing
Peace on Earth.
If it’s not too hard,
I wonder if God could start
in our house?
I don’t know exactly how it all works.
It takes all I know to write this verse…
I just hope he understands, anyway.

Could we maybe talk about being kind
for Christmas?
I know I’m just a kid,
and it might be a big thing,
but if it’ll help I’ll clean my room…
How about that?
For Christmas, could we please be kind?

Yesterday at the store, Mom,
you used your outside voice
with the lady who was helping us.
I think her kids
go to our Sunday school.
She looked really sad.
Did she do something bad?
Please if it’s alright,
could we get her
some of what I want
for Christmas?
I could share.

Will there be extra kindness
for Christmas?
I think all my friends at school
could use some too.
If we have some to share
I’ll bet we could.
If I ask real nice
I think you would
for Christmas.

How much does kindness cost?
Here’s my piggy bank.
That should be a good start, I think.
How much is enough?
Quite a bit, I’d say,
but just how can you get more of it
by giving it away?

If I fall down
will you kindly pick me up?
If I can’t reach
will you help me be tall?
If I don’t know the answers,
will you help me
ask better questions?
Then, maybe my brain
won’t feel so small.

Will you be the one
to tell me all about Christmas
by showing me how Jesus lived?
I’d rather know all that
from you, Mom and Dad.
For me it would be
the kindest thing you ever did.

©Joel Tipple
#14/15

The Heart of Thankfulness

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What qualities do you admire most in people? Friendly? Funny? Outgoing? Kind? Intelligent? Certainly I think you’d discover one common denominator would be the quality of thankfulness. While the most miserable people seem best at finding the worst, the happiest ones have a way of tapping into an attitude of gratitude that buoys them even in difficult circumstances and similarly lifts everyone around them. No matter their physical appearance, they somehow manage to be the most beautiful people in the room.

In his first letter’s exhortations to the Thessalonians, chapter five, verses 16 through 18, Paul says to “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Note that he says, “in everything.” The circumstances may be horrible, but an attitude of thankfulness can keep hope, essential as breathing, alive even then.

How can we break out in thanksgiving
even in the middle of mourning, grief and pain?
How can we be there for the living?
If God’s commanded, he’ll surely provide a way
to be thankful.

Lord, maybe I’ve taken leave of my senses,
to be joyful, in a world missing paradise,
but since you’ve given me permission
I’ll swing for the fences,
and be so thankful.

No matter how the earth groans,
no matter whether man
tries to destroy all you’ve given,
I know you’re sovereign, Lord.
No matter how dark the news,
and evil seems to win,
I’ll search for the way…
to remain thankful.

I’ll enter your gates with thanksgiving.
I’ll enter your courts with praise,
for you are good and your love is eternal.
I will not fear what I can’t see in the night,
I won’t fear the dark in the day,
for you remain Lord no matter where or how I am.
For that and so much more I’m thankful.

Lord heap my heart
full of thanksgiving,
Heap it up till it overflows.
Heap it so I can’t keep it to myself,
The whole world has to know.

God’s word helps me to perceive,
we must be illuminators of his love,
justice and hope.
Circumstances will change,
our health may ebb and flow.
The world’s economy might fluctuate,
but that won’t change what I know.
So I’m thankful.

Whether we face plenty or hunger,
abundance or need,
we can do all things
through Christ who strengthens us.
He is our sufficiency
and we are thankful.

Though we’re persecuted, we will not be abandoned;
Though we’re struck down, we will not be destroyed.
we lift our hands and rejoice
because we look toward the one who does not change
and give our offering of thanksgiving.

Lord heap our hearts
full of thanksgiving,
Heap them up till they overflow.
Heap them so we can’t keep it to ourselves,
The whole world has to know.

Take over the places in me
that are not all about you,
like the place that calculates
what’s owed me
and from whom.
If you would, Lord, make it over… Lord, make me over.
You know God, we’re pretty selfish
and we’ve all got our wish lists.
It seems they’ve changed only little
from the days we were kids.
But Lord, among those qualities I value,
grow in my estimation that of gratitude.

Imagine the world like that,
thankfulness,
spreading like a good disease.
I can’t possibly overestimate
what it could mean.
All that taking turning into giving.
Ground zero right here.
That’s a funny thought…
infectious agents for Jesus.
Ha!

Lord, heap our hearts
full of thanksgiving,
Heap them up till they overflow.
Let the good news
from our overflowing grateful hearts
draw those we meet
to your kingdom.
Lord, heap our hearts.

©Joel Tipple
#13/15

What If Wonderful?

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Remember when you were young

and with the car window rolled down

your hand could fly in the jet stream

almost breaking sound?

God gave you imagination

to see more than with your eyes.

So if a still small voice is saying so,

maybe you should fly.

What if wonderful?

It’s more than just a word.

What if God’s best you rehearsed?

What if fantastic and amazing occupied your mind

instead of just existing,

getting by.

What if wonderful?

Think beyond the tried, it’s true,

you won’t always know how the Lord can use you

until you step out.

What if wonderful?

Not just another day.

What if amazing? A highlight reel play.

Jesus lives in you, if you believe.

He wants the best for you, so conceive.

Build something

with your two hands.

Make reality

out of your plans.

Write a book,

or paint a scene.

Give arms, legs and a brain to your dreams.

What if wonderful?

Don’t let lack of trying

make you set your goals aside,

and don’t ever let dream breakers

cut your imagination down to their size.

What if wonderful?

Ask questions of your direction;

do you have one?

Or are you adrift, without oars?

Have you sought God’s will for your journey?

Without his direction you’ll surely drift off course

and miss the wonderful.

What if exciting? Life lived to the fullest.

What if energy infused your walk?

What if every day, or at least most

it matched your talk?

What if wonderful?

What if you started each day, seeking God’s face,

expectant and childlike, no matter your age?

What if the most high God, full of justice and grace,

were to mold you?

What if now?

What if astonishing?

What if wonderful?

©Joel Tipple
#6/15

Home For Christmas

I’m not sure when I first came across the old newspaper. It was in a chest of drawers in a hall closet where our family kept mementos: old photographs, report cards, etc. Most families have a place like that. Somewhere to store memories. For photographs anyway, I suppose that place now is the hard drive on your computer. Back then, for us, it was still a chest of drawers. Today, either someone else in the family has ended up with the newspaper or it’s gone missing, but I was able to find the newspaper article with an internet search. Computers aren’t very romantic, but they are very good at saving information like that. For this I’m grateful.

The newspaper is The Humboldt Standard, December 20, 1955, four years before I was born. Dominating local news at the time was the largest flood the Eel River valley had ever experienced. Thousands were made homeless and there were many many acts of heroism as the area was largely cut off from the rest of the world except by air. Christmas would be spoiled again by an even larger flood nine years later. A pole near Miranda shows the 1964 flood crest at an amazing 46 feet above the highway surface. In ‘55 it got to just shy of 43. The story I refer to begins on page one and continues on page five. One of several large pictures on that page shows the tops of two cars as they are about to disappear under water. Two white arrows point to the roofs as they are difficult to see in the night shot. A good part of the left side of the page is taken up by a picture of two men standing next to a rowboat. The taller man on the left with a concerned look on his face is identified as Chester Goble. The man on the right, his head turned toward Chester, is holding a flashlight in one hand and one of the boat oars in the other. He and Chester have just saved the lives of eight people, two adults and four children from the first car, and two 18-year-olds from the second. A 70 year old man, who was also in the first car, didn’t make it out that night. His body was recovered from the car the next day. The man standing next to Chester is my dad. In 1955 he was 28.

I don’t remember asking my dad about the photograph. When I was growing up he could be intimidating, hard to talk to. I wish I had tried, because I might have more details. But it’s clear that the little my mom volunteered when I asked about the newspaper at the time was true. She said, “He and that other man saved those people. They were heroes.”

When the Eel River floods, it spreads out through the valley. That night in ‘55, a low spot on Waddington road on the outskirts of Ferndale began to cover with water. A normal wet year might mean driving through a few inches of water, but as the rain continued to intensify this swath of road through dairy pasture became what it really always was, a branch of the Eel River. Since my dad’s business was automotive repair and towing, I suspect what brought him to the scene was a call to rescue a car, but as the water quickly rose and surrounded two cars along with their occupants, the situation changed dramatically.

Fast forward to about ten years ago.. One evening when Lori and I were having dinner with my parents the subject of the rescue came up. Dad related that the day to him was a series of miracles. At the scene, it became clear to get to the cars a boat would be needed fast, so Dad took off in search of one. He eventually found a suitable row boat in someone’s yard, but no one was home and he didn’t have a way of getting it back to the scene. So he took off again in search of something to transport the boat. In another yard he found an old flatbed truck that looked like it hadn’t moved in ages. Again, no one home. Growing more desperate, he opened the driver’s side door of the truck, and to his wonder there was a key in the ignition. But would it start? He got in, turned the key, hit the floor starter, the engine turned over… and caught! He was in business. My dad, now a truck thief, soon to be a boat thief, continued back and managed to load the boat onto the truck. Back at the road/river, somehow, the two managed to get almost everyone out of the two vehicles before they were completely submerged.

Dad’s story ended at this point and no one pressed him for details. Later, talking to Lori, he expressed how he had never gotten over not being able to get the last person out. He said he tried to go back, but Chester stopped him and said, “Jack you can’t. You’ve got a family, and it’s too late. You can’t save him.” Apparently for the rest of his life he carried the burden of the one life out of nine they were unable to save. While I’m sure he could appreciate what he and Chester were able to accomplish, he never really stopped grieving over that one life lost. Many rescuers would take to the skies and water before the ‘55 flood was over, then, once again in ‘64. As illustrated in the parable of the lost lamb in Luke 15, I believe God has implanted in our hearts the desire to always bring back the one who is lost.

Lost lamb at Christmas,
What kind of lost are you?
Have your feet taken you far from home,
or has your hardened heart left too?

The door to home is never closed
the fireplace always warm
for those who would repent and turn,
and come in from the storm.

Rejoice for the rescued.
For those no longer astray.
We have all at one time
been unable to find our way.

May God give us a burden at Christmas
to reach out to the lost,
to the young and old with ravaged minds,
and bodies torn and tossed.

Jesus was born into our world
to shepherd us back to the fold.
God, don’t let us rest until we’ve reached
every wayward and wandering soul.

©Joel Tipple
#41/14

Somewhere A Prayer

Somewhere a saint is praying.
Somewhere hope is held out to the night.
Somewhere a restless soul is stirring,
gearing up for a spiritual fight.

Somewhere a child is kneeling,
A little one’s prayers have wings to fly.
Forbid not the children, Jesus said,
for of such is the kingdom.
Uninhibited,
their pleas to God,
no limit to their sky.

Somewhere a prayer of thanks goes up.
Somewhere a fearful parent cries out.
Somewhere a soldier’s spouse prays alone.
Somewhere a family prays as a loved one breathes their last,
while next door joyful prayers greet a newborn.
Prayers go out to save a marriage, a home, even a life.

Someone questions and prays for an answer.
Someone prays in the sand, drawing like a dancer.
Someone prays with groanings,
unable to find the words.
Some pray with desperation, not knowing where to turn.

Somewhere someone’s interceding,
standing for those who can’t.
Some pray sacrificially
putting themselves in the gap .

Somewhere a saint is praying
Somewhere hope is held out to the night.
Somewhere a restless soul is stirring,
gearing up for a spiritual fight.

© Joel Tipple #35/14