Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Like a bird he was, like a long-limbed bony bird. 

He sat on the edge of his sagging recliner, peering into the TV. A constant flash of images flickered across the screen, and from his rapt concentration you would guess he was beholding the Burning Bush. 

Light glowed and played across his face. It dipped across wrinkles that had sunk silently into the boy's cheeks over long years, after hot summers and frigid winters and long decades that passed like episodes in a ceaseless marathon. 

His hand dipped into a Bojangles box and pulled out a piece of fried chicken, his fingers like claws from age. A gold ring still hung around his thin left ring finger, placed there in some previous century by a girl who since had wrinkled and faded from sight altogether. 

His teeth bit into the chicken, nose still sniffing at the faint smells it found, eyes never leaving the screen except once, when they glanced minutely at the chicken leg as he turned it in his hand, and bit again. A bit of grease was somehow on his shirt, and his cheek. He wiped a napkin across his cheek, but didn't notice the stain on his shirt as he leaned back at last, breathed a deep breath, and closed his eyes to sleep.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Another Glorious One

"As for the saints who are in the land--they are the glorious ones, in whom is all my delight." 

                                         -- David, Psalm 16:3

She had her most fashionable outfit on. She stood up from her desk and walked to the front of my classroom. It was her turn to give a persuasive speech, and she was visibly nervous.  Before she even opened her mouth, tears of nervousness and emotion welled in her eyes.

She played a 30-second Youtube video. The speaker on it said, "He's the centerpiece of civilization. ...He is the loftiest idea in literature. He's the highest personality in philosophy...He's the only one qualified to be an all-sufficient savior..."

And then she began her speech, her voice often breaking, to persuade us that a personal relationship with Jesus was something worth having.

It was one of the bravest speeches I have ever seen, and she showed the courage to face her nervousness like a lion.  Despite her emotions, she shared her heart with other students, and in such a way that they knew she cared about them, loved them--that she wasn't just doing some religious obligation. She judged no one--she just poured out herself in her desire to tell others about God's love for them. 

I didn't give her a great grade for the speech. She received high marks for passion, for her introduction and conclusion. She lacked some of the depth of outside research I demanded for the activity, and her nervousness didn't win her points for her vocal performance.

But I felt privileged to be in the same classroom with such a beautiful and brave person.  Actually, I felt privileged to be walking on the same earth.

"As for the saints that are in the earth, They are the excellent in whom is all my delight." 
                                                                                                    -Psalm 16:3 ASV

"I say of the holy people who are in the land, "They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.""
                                                                                                    -Psalm 16:3 NIV

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Old Testament God of Wrath

It's been popular for the past hundred years or so to say "The Old Testament God is a God of Wrath."  Even the best of Christians seems to wriggle uncomfortably and feel unable to deny it. After all, there were all those genocidal purges when Israel went in and wiped out the Canaanites (men, women, and children) at God's command. Or when the Israelites began worshiping local idols or having sex parties, and God wiped them out with plagues or whatnot.

And then we have Jesus, prancing about in his white toga and gentle blue eyes (?), kissing the little children and petting donkeys.  It's a conundrum.

Unless of course, you pay attention to two things.

First of all is historical context.  As Americans we enjoy believing that all people everywhere are exactly the same, completely equal in all ways. But the truth of it is that what works on prissy American might not be as effective on say, a bloody viking warrior.  If God was going to deal with whole nations and cultures in different eras of history, it's very likely that he would have to roll up his sleeves with thunder in his footsteps and lightning in his fists. The people in early Israel were an uneducated, recently enslaved collectivist group, who lived in a primitive world completely soaked in idolatry and bloodshed.  It's probably beyond our ability now to make judgements on how God should have dealt with people in that brutal era of history. But we can judge the fruit. Did he successfully set apart a people for himself, the Jews? Do they survive to this day? Did they record his words and begin the process of revealing God to the world?

Secondly, we need to take a second look at the Old Testament.  The real theme of the Old Testament is not wrath, but "'hesed" which is the Hebrew word for unfailing faithful love.  The pages of the Hebrew scriptures from Genesis to Malachi are soaked with this word and concept--that God was faithful to his people to covenant with them, to bless them, to never abandon them no matter how much they deserve it.  The deeper you dig into the Old Testament, the greater the wonder of God's goodness becomes.  Job (and Habakkuk) are God's word to us that doubt and questioning are natural in the life of faith. Habakkuk the prophet cries out "How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?" As Global University's Old Testament Survey points out, Habakkuk's honesty teaches us that "believers do experience doubt. Doubt is not a sign of a lack of faith" (p.184).  Hosea marries a prostitute and remains faithful to her even when she continues sleeping around on him. Even take a grim book like Judges.  It shows how willful and rebellious the people were, and even though God would allow them to be conquered by oppressive nations when they turned from him, he was faithful to raise up Heroes of faith to deliver them when they repented.  The more one studies the Old Testament, the greater will be the deep impression of God's amazing patience and 'hesed towards the people of Israel, and through them, to the pagan world at large. (Ever read the book of Jonah?)

On a final note, the Jesus of the New Testament is exactly the same God represented in the Old. Jesus compared his second return to a master and warned of being an unfaithful servant: "The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  As you study the life of Jesus a certain fear of his perfect veracity and righteousness will come on you.  And don't forget the New Testament's portrait of Jesus in Revelation, with a sword coming out of his mouth, riding the white horse in Judgement on the whole earth.

The God of the Old and New Testaments is one and the same. At times he gave different strokes to different folks, as their time and place needed.  But he himself is terrible in purity, perfect in holiness, and faithful in love. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Perhaps it is hard for us to believer demons are real, not only because we don't see them in the world around us, but also because they are generally held back from harming us.

Whether you take it poetically or literally, a fellow I know well awoke one morning at 4:00am from dreams of devils chasing a crowd of helpless people across wet fields at night, delighting in torturing, maiming, and killing the children and old people who couldn't keep up. He sat up in bed, sweating. Then he got out of bed and went to the kitchen to get a glass of milk. It was about 4:00am in the morning. He calmed down as he drank the milk and after a few minutes felt fine, but as soon as he walked back into his bedroom a sickening wall of horror overwhelmed him again, and he "saw" (he has difficulty explaining it) a demon at the foot of his bed. It was just like a man, but something about its head was reminiscent of a lion, and a sphere glowed around him. It didn't seem to be quite in touch with the physical floor of the apartment--it was mostly in the room, he says, but partly overlapping into the apartment below.  Evil and hatred radiated from the being like a furnace, but he seemed to be in a cage or in chains.

My friend knew that he would be torn to shreds in a moment if the being, radiating hatred and power, were free to do so.  A great fear continued to wash over my friend, but no physical harm came, though the being pulled his chains taut and stared with furious hatred at my friend, who was the very next morning planning to send a letter re-committing to another term on the mission field.  My friend knelt beside the bed and prayed Psalms, while a small presence like a candle in his heart glowed and held back the worst of the terror. At last the awareness faded or the being left, and my friend simply fell into fitful sleep again.  In the morning he went to the office, where a co-worker, who lived in the apartment and in the bedroom directly below him, asked why he looked so haggard.  "Bad dreams," was all he said. "You looked tired also."  "I had bad dreams, too!" she exclaimed. "Really horrible dreams."  "What time did you have them?" he asked. "About 4:00 in the morning," she replied.  He said nothing else at the time.  How do you casually explain an event like that in the cheerful light of morning?

In the book of Job, Job had lived a happy and prosperous life until Satan at last obtained permission to "touch" all he owned. Satan proceeded in a single day to destroy thousands of cattle, sheep, camels, and brought a windstorm to knock down the house with all Job's children in it.  After obtaining permission to "touch" Job himself (but not obtaining permission to kill him), Satan covered Job from head to toe with painful boils.

It would appear that were Satan free to do everything he liked, he could literally tear us to shreds in minutes. Again with Simon Peter, Jesus said, "Satan has requested to sift you like grain. But when you have returned, strengthen your brothers."  Apparently Satan's request was granted, for Peter's fervent faith in God turned to three denials and deep depression.  But neither Job nor Peter were left in the hands of the evil.  It is instructive to realize how great a power leans toward us on its chains, longing to destroy us.  It is comforting to realize how thoroughly God has bound the enemy in regard to us.  Yet He has let the enemy have his voice, it seems. Satan cannot thresh the nations with his own power into a bloody pulp. But he can deceive them into doing it to each other. And God seems to allow him the chance to test our obedience and trust in God, just as he tested Adam and Eve long ago. Though held back by chains from torturing us slowly to death in delight, Satan can speak lies to us. We have the choice to believe God's truth or the devil's lies.  Even such an enemy with his hands tied behind his back can wreak horrors and havoc on those all too willing to listen to his deceit.  "You can't be forgiven for those'll never be free of that have every right to think about yourself before others...just a little dabbling in that won't hurt very have destroyed every chance of happiness in your life and your only choice is to wallow in your one cares or understands...God must not really love you...your prayers must not really be working..."   The list goes on.

Our enemy is chained and double-chained from harming us, except for rare occasions when God lets him off his chain, with restrictions, to test and refine us. (Remember, Jesus was tempted forty days in the desert--and Jesus bore our shame on the cross.)  Afterwards, like Job and Peter, we are stronger.  Brothers and sisters, let us not doubt the reality of the enemy of our souls. And let us not doubt God's great kindness in powerfully holding them back from us. Let us not listen to their furious and crafty whisperings as they resent being so held. And if we have, let us simply run back to our heavenly Father, and ask him to forgive us and lead us in the way everlasting.

"You are good, and what you do is good.  Teach me Your commands."  Psalm 119

Sunday, July 20, 2014

How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them.   

I reflect at night on who you are, O LORD; therefore, I obey your instruction.

pondered the direction of my life, and I turned to follow your laws.

I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done.

                              (Psalms 111:2, 119:55, 119:59, 143:5)

What's the use of a significant event in our life if we don't reflect on it?  

As Americans we seem to be always rushing forward and stressing when we meet new challenges. But if we send our roots down into the events of God in the past, won't we be strong to face the present and future?  In the rush of modern life, we need to consciously set aside time (even "at night"), to ponder and reflect on what God has done. 

What he has done in creating this huge sphere spinning through space. What he has done in giving us these amazing bodies and our nation and family. What he has done in sending his dear son Jesus to take on human form and suffer for us, and die to wash us clean and save us from this present evil generation. How he raised him from the dead! And what he has done in the short history of our own lives.  I'm very poor at remembering all the answers to prayer God has granted me in the past. When I get the job or money or someone comes to salvation I tend to think: "Phew! Problem solved. Now what's next?"

But I wonder if God wishes I would allocate more time to simply chewing on what he has already done for me than worrying about what's coming next.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Lift Up Your Hearts

Lonely tempest-tossed children of God
Lift up your heads and your hearts
How great the affection heaven has for you
Tears fall from the cheek of the Almighty at the thought of you
Jesus is moved as He rises from His throne
His pierced feet are shuffling, his eyes closed
As he begins to sing
And the angels fall silent
The planets whirl as he dances
The oceans of stars burning with joy
For his great plans for you are beginning
Here in your suffering and in your sin
This is the infancy of your eternal days
Every cell of his Bride he loves
And he will kiss her until she awakens
From her dreams
To see his face.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I said 60, and tomorrow I turn 61.
All year I have whispered to myself--next week,
"Next week I will end my life."
My resolution began at twenty-five
When I watched my grandfather disentegrate
Wiping drool from his mouth he struggled to stand
The smell of soiled pants rising in the air
Inching his way uncertainly across the kitchen
Palsied hands grasping the counter like a child
And I swore in my heart
Swore deep in my heart
That I would never suffer myself to this.
"At sixty," I said. "At sixty I will leave before this comes."
But now sixty is almost over.
Yes, my back aches and my joints are stiffer than before
At night I struggle to stay asleep
And at breakfast I eat mostly pills
But there is still life in these bones.
The will to live is strong
And my balding head is not yet ready to lay down
Or lie in a box beneath the earth,
And the moments of joy were unexpected
The sear of love when I see my grandson toddle toward me
Words blurring on his lips,
And somehow this increased fragility of age
Has only seasoned the world
Made cold mornings more fresh
Each breath of steam a gift
Each scent of burning leaves a blessing.
The old grasshopper dragging himself along the branch
Is more blessed than I imagined.

Poem © 2014 Daniel Routh

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Giant pillars of smoke billowed up from the rails and buildings, and a smell like sulfur was in the air.  Explosions rumbled up as the B-17's began to bank and turn back towards Britain.

"Yeehaw!" shouted Shorty from the tail.  Rudy wasn't sure whether to cheer or weep. He craned his neck left as the plane turned her outspread wings towards home.

Some hours later, Catch radioed back.

"We're over England. You ready to come out of your bread basket, Rudy?"

"Well, I sure don't want to land in this thing," Rudy radioed back.

"Grimy, would you do the honors?" Catch said.

"Roger," Grimy said.

Rudy swung his turret to face rearward, and then aimed his guns straight down, putting all his body weight on his foot stirrups. The metal seat behind him was now the hatch back up into the plane.  There was a creaking turn of a handle, and it swung open.  Grimy's huge smile grinned down at him.  Grease stains covered his face and jump suit, as usual. He held out a hand.

"Welcome back," he said.

Rudy snorted, and took his hand, and climbed back up into the plane's tail.  Then he slammed the hatch back down and turned to find his seat.

"Don't forget to crank the guns up," Grimy said.

"Thanks," Rudy said fervently.

He had almost forgotten, and then the plane would have landed with its belly guns pointing straight down. He'd heard about one ball turret gunner in the 860th who'd forgotten to crank the guns up after he climbed out.  It had torn the guns off and messed up the whole ball turret assembly. The plane had been grounded for a week and the gunner had almost been demoted to infantry.  Instead he'd sat out his crew's missions for a month while a temporary gunner filled his spot.

Might not sound like punishment, but just try sitting in your barracks while the guys you care about most are out risking their lives. And when they get back with stories, you have to sit quiet while they roar with laughter or cry. No gunners since had forgotten to crank the ball turret guns to tuck up just beneath the tail assembly. And Rudy didn't want to be the next gunner to forget.

He sat on a jump seat and stared out the open slot in the side of the plane.  Grimy's gun poked out through the slot, aiming out into the blue sky.  Grimy scanned the skies through the long narrow slot with a casual eye.  They were over England now, but occasionally a German straggler fighter might want to take some potshots before it fled back to England.

Poem © 2014 Daniel Routh

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Standing Up

The pleasure of standing up
After growing restless with repose
(Lying like a bag of potatoes scattered across the sheets)
The joy of stretching muscles knotted to bones
Unfolding legs and toes
To press against the earth
And filling lungs upright with air
As we stand to our feet

Poem © 2014 Daniel Routh

Monday, March 10, 2014

Laying Down

The pleasure of laying down
After fighting gravity all day
(The skyscraper of our vertebra holding us towering into the air)
The bliss of sleeping on the soft belly of the planet
Which spins quietly under us
As we sink down
And gentle mattress hands push up
To hold us motionless
At rest.

© 2014 Daniel Routh

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Clouds Passing
  by Daniel Routh

The skyscrapers could only stare in awe
Holding each other's hands like children
At a Macy's day parade.

Photo by Easten Law

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Loud cries and tears...
All creation is in labor pains
Until the children of God are revealed

Half-sobbing rivulets dribbling from my lips
Eyes thrown back in their wet sockets
Knee ligaments stretched painfully against hardwood planks
Philanges and other finger bones shaking with the violence
Of being born and born and born again today.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A New Chapter

Good evening.

This blog is beginning a new chapter of its existence. For the next month, I'm going to experiment and post snippets of whatever I've been writing that day, or recently. These will often be rough--a first draft at best. That will be rough for me too, sometimes, knowing that if I wait several months and edit the poem, story, or essay several times it will be more effective. However, for the next month, this blog is simply the rough drafts. I'm hoping it will encourage me to keep writing, to have an audience however intimate. And I hope it may draw you into the conversation of what I'm writing. I need you, too. Thanks.


Today's snippet:
(From "Death in the Sky," a historical fiction novel in first draft)

A wave of homesickness washed over him for a moment there, in his ball turret. Angrily he jammed at the microphone button.

"Anybody know how much longer to target?"

It crackled back in his ear. "Sounds like our little friend down below is getting antsy," Catch said.

"Stuff it in your eye," he said back.

"Hang on to your pants," Catch said. "We're almost to the drop."

The plane bucked in the wind. Rudy swung the turret around to face front, looking forward between his legs at the vista before them. Far below, railroad tracks converged out of hills and forests into a giant train depot. Turning his head, he saw that the bombers all around them had opened their bomb bays as well.

"Drop in one minute," Catch said in Rudy's earphone. "Get ready to lay some eggs on Hitler."

The seconds rumbled by as flack puffs began appearing around them, at first silent. Then came rumbles and pops of thunder.

"Ten seconds."

Rudy scanned the sky below them for enemy planes. None.


The plane bobbed up as their eight 500 pound bombs released, dropping in a cascade from their bomb bay like a bandolier of fat bullets. All around them other B-17s streamed strands of bombs. Rudy watched, mesmerized, as the neat lines of bombs shrank to little dots far below them. Then, sudden and silent, explosions erupted all over the landscape below them. Bright flashes, bursts of cloud and debris lit here and there across the hills and train depot. Train cars flew into the air like tiny toys, flipping and whirling far above the ground as more and more bright flashes broke out. Then the sound, a deep, terrifying rumble, reached up to them and shook the plane. Giant pillars of smoke billowed up from the rails and buildings, and a smell like sulfur was in the air. Flashes continued as the B-17's began to bank and turn back towards Britain.