Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Fruitcake

"A hungry stomach cannot hear."  --Jean De La Fontaine

The Fruitcake
The noble cake filled with fruit has a special place in my memory. It has a spot of such honor that I hold this humble, and often maligned, item of food in high esteem. The stories of the cake that is sent from family to family each year because it is unappreciated and thought worthless as a gift do not cause me to smile. I frown at the notion that a blessing such as this should be looked upon with such disdain as a nuisance. For it was a fruitcake that saw me through a lean November day when I was but a young married parson.
            Fruitcake humbles me. It reminds me of my pride and of my imagined sniveling self-sufficiency. The sniveling isn't imagined, but the self-sufficiency is. I had it in my mind that I was a man able to meet the needs of myself and my family. To be in such a financial strain at such an early age was probably the normal course for other young men. But I had been taught that once one departs his father's house, he is not to return except to visit.
At the time I was living some distance from those who had provided free room and board for all of my early years. I could not simply jump in the car and head for the nearest relative. That would have required gas, and money for gas I did not have, for I had no money for food. The bills had been paid, but cupboard and refrigerator were as poverty stricken as I had ever seen them. Yep, I was too proud to ask for a handout.
            There were two gallons of milk in the icebox. And the only bit of food in the house except for a box of noodles was a fruitcake we had shoved toward the back of one of the cabinets. We had almost forgotten about it. Someone had bequeathed it as a present. It looked extremely familiar. Was that the same fruitcake we gave to my in-laws two Christmases ago? Surely not. My checkbook barely had enough balance to pay for the service charge. It would be five more days 'til payday.
            The thought of fruitcake rarely entered my head. When I did think of it, bad memories flooded my mind. As a lad of three or four I had eaten too much fruitcake at aunt Benna's house and ended up with a terrible tummy ache. I sacrificed all that cake and my dinner to the great water bowl in the bathroom. For the rest of the day I was various shades of purple and green. From that day forward I was unable to entertain the thought of fruitcake. The very sight of it put me in a hostile mood. If someone close to me was eating fruitcake, I had to dismiss myself. Memories have a way of prejudicing us forever, especially bad memories.
You can imagine my consternation when I found that large, and heavy, fully wrapped fruitcake sitting there quietly in my kitchen cabinet waiting to be discovered. My dear wife was the one who took it out of its hiding place. I could barely bring myself to look at the thing. It had been in a beautiful tin. We had used the tin for storing some crayons for the boys. There the cake sat on the kitchen table all wrapped in red foil with a cellophane top so someone could see some of the fake fruit oozing out of it. Shudder. The very idea of eating some of that cake brought back all the stomach-churning memories of my boyhood ordeal at aunt Benna's. I couldn't do it. I just couldn't.
            My wife opened the wrapper and took our bread-slicing knife to it. She had no aversion to fruitcake. Neither did Matthew or Mark. They sat transfixed in their little bathrobes as each slice was made. With a glass of milk beside them, my beloved sons devoured their slices of cake and begged for more.
            "This is really good, Daddy," Matthew announced. "You ought to have some."
            "No thanks, son," I replied. "You boys can have my share."
            After my wife cut two more slices for the boys, she served herself a piece. I looked away. She began to eat with the words, "I hate to have this in front of you. It doesn't seem right."
            "That's okay," I explained. "I'm really not all that hungry."
            I lied. Why do people do that? Why do Christians do that? Why do preachers of the marvelous gospel of grace do that? It's because we are stupid and
weak and don't want to admit the truth. How would it look if I said, "I'm a total wimp. I'll not bring myself to eat something that I have decided in my mind is so thoroughly disgusting." Besides, to me fruitcake has always been sort of like eating hash. I never eat hash away from home because I don't know what's in it. And I never eat hash at home because I know what's in it.
            I went to bed early that evening after drinking a large glass of water. I dreamed about cake. German chocolate cake. Mississippi mud cake. My favorite was angel food with banana icing. I even dreamed of vanilla cake with coconut icing and bits of pineapple all over it. My dream was so realistic that when I awakened my mouth was watering.
            I glanced at the clock. It was only 3:30. in the morning. I looked outside. Snow was falling gently on the yard and trees. I tried to go back to sleep. Couldn't. So I got up, put on my slippers and robe and meandered through the house. I went to the bookshelf, but my feet really wanted to go to the kitchen. I guess the idea of vanilla cake with frosting and pineapple sort of opened my mind a bit. "Even if they were little pineapple candies instead of the real thing, at least it might taste like pineapple," I spoke to myself out loud.
            A moment later I found myself sitting at the kitchen table about to do the unthinkable. I had the knife in my hand and the rest of the cake unwrapped ready to slice. I promised myself I'd never eat another piece of fruitcake as long as I lived. There I was about to break my vow. I was glad nobody was there to witness such lack of self-control. I sliced a very thin piece of cake. A glass of milk was handy to wash down the awful stuff. Shiver. I bit into the cake without saying a prayer of thanksgiving.
            God must not have been pleased with me that moment in time. Perhaps he was teaching me a lesson my thick skull had resisted in times past. That first bite seemed almost tasteless in retrospect. I suppose it should have tasted like all the best food I had ever eaten since I was so ravenous. It was that second bite that captured my heart and soul. Rather than gulping it down like I had the first bite, I chewed it for the longest time, savoring the nuances of mingled flavors. I drank several swallows of milk and then took a third bite. Ahhhh! It was even better than the second. A smile came across my face. It was then I said a prayer to God and asked him to forgive me for my stubbornness and thanklessness.
            As I was about to take the last bite of that first slice of cake, I sensed a presence. When I turned around to look, there stood little Matthew. He was about the same age I was when I had my terrible fruitcake experience.
            "It's good, just like I said, hungh, Daddy?" he encouraged.
            "Yes it is, Matt! It's very good."
            "Can I have another piece with you, Daddy?" Matthew asked.
            "You sure can," I beamed.
            I cut two more slices; mine was a bit thicker this time. Even so, Matthew didn't complain that his piece was smaller. We had a good time of it there in the kitchen, just the two of us. I almost forgot I was broke. Matthew was oblivious to such financial concerns. One thing I knew for sure at that moment in time with
my beloved boy beside me---I was rich in the kind of wealth that has nothing to do with ownership of land, bloated bank accounts, and diversified stocks.
            You might not believe this, for I find it absolutely astonishing myself. The very next day in the mail a royalty check arrived I had forgotten. It was more than a week's pay. Soon after that some of the sisters from church came by the house and gave us a pounding. If you don't know what a pounding is, I'm about to tell you.
            The women had intended to have that surprise immediately upon our arriving to work with the church. But they had been busy and got behind on their good intentions. So, even though it was delayed a few months, they finally had gotten together with all those who were in cahoots with them and delivered to our door 25 grocery sacks full of all kinds of food. Peanut butter. Bread. Spaghetti. Canned fruits and vegetables. Even junk food. Potato chips and dip. Pretzels. A bag of candy for the three boys: Matthew, Mark and me. We had never had so much food in our kitchen cabinets. Oh, yes. That's what a pounding is. Pounds and pounds of food given to someone who is loved. Oh, my!
            You're really not going to believe this! Guess what was sitting on top of the groceries in the last bag we brought into the house? It was one of those long rectangular shaped Claxton fruitcakes. Matthew spied it first. "Look, Daddy! Another fruitcake!" Does God have a sense of humor? Surely so.
            I admit it. I love fruitcake. If you're engaged in sending those dear fruitcake presents along to somebody else, include me on your mailing list. They will cease their circular journeys at my kitchen table. For fruitcake reminds me of so many things that even preachers can forget. Fruitcake reminds me of the giver of all such delightful gifts. Fruitcake reminds me of how subtly pride can get a strangle hold on someone. Fruitcake reminds me of simple pleasures.
            I'd love to relive that moment during an early winter morning with my four-year-old and nothing to eat but a slice of cake and a glass of milk. Fruitcake also reminds me never to give up when times are tough. My Father promised me that he would not allow his children to go begging for bread. And sure enough, young Goad didn't beg.
            Thanksgiving is now a matter of thanksliving with the Goads. And from that chilly early morning on, whenever I am served a piece of fruitcake, I always remember to say my prayer of thanks before taking that first bite.
            Behold, the fruitcake.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Defense of the Defenseless

In Defense of the Defenseless
We refuse to applaud the continuing slaughter of unborns while abortionists
engage in bravado over the "medical service" they are providing

by Steven  Clark Goad

I have never been more disappointed or appalled at an article than the "My Turn" piece by Dr. Morris Wortman in the December 14th  issue of Newsweek. Dr. Wortman is an abortion provider who is proud of his profession of terminating the life of defenseless infants. In the wake of the recent Dr. Slepian killing not 60 miles from Wortman's own home, Wortman attempts to solicit our sympathies because, as he informs us, his life is irrevocably changed by the killing so close to home. Does he give any thought about how he "irrevocably" changes the lives of every unborn infant he kills? At first reading I thought his article might have been a parody of sorts, with the angst and self sympathy expressed more like something from Saturday Night Live than genuine ethos emanating from the psyche of a baby killer.
Dr. Wortman lets us know immediately that Slepian's demise came on the heels of Wortman's seven-day mourning shiva for his dearly departed mother. Is his shiva involvement supposed to let us know that he is a pious and devout human being? We wonder how many shivas he has held for the countless lives he has take by abortion. It occurred to me that had his mother been aborted, such a shiva could not have been celebrated. Dr. Wortman tells of the heart wrenching emotion of his daughter not wanting to lose her father to an early demise at the hands of some lunatic who might "take him out" because of his penchant for terminating the life of babies en utero. Wortman expresses pride in his training of others who will keep the baby-killing profession alive and well into the future. He tells of his wife spontaneously shielding him when they get out of the car to go into the house and how friends confided that they were afraid to come to his house for dinner, for fear of their own safety. Who, pray tell, shelters these unborn ones who are of all creatures most helpless?
Wortman attempts to garner more sympathy by speaking of all the recent deaths in his family, which has absolutely nothing to do with his profession of terminating lives. He is now the only survivor in his family who can carry the torch to assist mostly women inconvenienced by an embarrassing pregnancy. His parents used to joke with him about keeping his weight down. They would laugh when he would remind them that instead of dying from natural causes, his family died from gas chambers or bullets. Strange indeed to resurrect the spectre of Nazi Germany in an article promoting abortion, when his profession is engaged in the taking of life, not with gas or bullets, but with saline solutions, surgical knives, suction devices and incineration. Why is the killing of his Jewish relatives more a holocaust than the killing of millions of unborn babies every year? Couples wanting to adopt are on waiting lists for years and cannot because doctors like Wortman and his trainees are taking lives before they can even begin them.
Wortman informs his audience that he has been paralyzed by the recent death of his baby-killing colleague, Dr. Slepian. I doubt that the paralysis will keep him from paralyzing more unborn permanently. Will someone who is not afraid of risking being politically "incorrect" please inform me what the difference is between what Dr. Wortman does than what the prom attendee did who placed her baby in a trash can in the rest room and then proceeded to dance the night away with her date? The difference, if I may answer my own question, is that Wortman is supposed to be applauded and paid for his dastardly deed, while the girl in question is considered a murderer. Well, this lone dissenter isn't buying it! And I suspect the majority of thoughtful and spiritually devout people aren't buying it either.
Dr. Wortman uses a euphemism for abortion that apparently is intended to soothe the obvious. "Pregnancy termination" by any other terminology is still the sapping of life from the most innocent of human beings. The good doctor, now bemoaning a life having to be led in fear of termination, attempts to garner sympathy for poor women who want to kill their babies but have to do it in hospital areas not brightly colored as those in the delivery areas. What would Wortman have us do, have balloons and a party for every baby killed by him or one of his colleagues? He cries for those women who don't get much sympathy and support when they come wanting to "terminate" the babies they are carrying. He thinks we ought to give them encouragement with nicer accommodations and sympathetic understanding. Would a yellow wall with a Winnie the Poo mural on it make the taking of new life any less reprehensible?
This physician, whom I presume took the Hippocratic Oath, asks for us to understand his struggle in providing what he refers to as "modern medical procedures" to help women control their inconvenient pregnancies. If this is where modern medicine has advanced, I  want no part of it. He presents his determination to keep killing babies as if it is a matter of honor with him. "Is there any chance I will stop doing abortions?" he whines. "No, not as long as I have something important to offer women in this community." Something important? He pleads for our pity for having to fortress himself within his home and office just in case some baby lover might decide to terminate the terminator. I would be concerned as well if I were Dr. Wortman.
Of all the things to bring up in such a horrifying and self-serving piece of propaganda, Dr. Wortman pines for the time when he can be a better father and perhaps travel to the Holy Lands. The irony of mentioning the Holy Lands reminds many of the infanticide carried out by King Herod during Jesus' infancy. How dare this "medical provider" attempt to sanctify the killing of unborn babies by referring to a future trip to the Bible lands.
A rose by any other name is still a rose. Killing healthy fetuses is hardly a vital medical service, unless some of us believe the kind of spin doctoring that has been taking place in Washington recently where words cease to mean what they have always meant. If nuances of meaning are dependent upon what "is" is, then perhaps the killing of unborn babies is indeed a vital medical service.
Ironically, in his last paragraph, Dr. Wortman confides to us the death of relatives at Treblinka at the hands of the Nazis. It occurs to this scribe that we may owe an apology to Hitler and Nazi Germany if we continue to shudder in horror at what that kind of atrocity wrought upon a people such as the Jews but cannot weep for the most defenseless of all creatures, precious unborn infants whose holocaust is perpetuated every day in abortion clinics across the land.
Almost defiantly, Wortman declares, "My would-be assassin may yet determine how and when I die (sic) but not how I live." If I may speak for the multitude of aborted babies since Roe verses Wade, "We not only were assassinated before breathing air outside our mothers' wombs, we never had the opportunity to determine how we lived or died." So, Dr. Wortman, as you stand tall in defense of your marvelous profession, do you mind if one lone citizen doesn't get too choked up at your fear of someone terminating your life? One would suppose that you think your life is worth more than those you kill. God have mercy on all murderers, whether they perform their service by way of infanticide in a sterile clinic, or by genocide in a horrible prison camp in Treblinka.

A Woman's Place


Steven Clark Goad

Why do we sometimes feel that the more things change the more they remain
the same – even in the church? Why are we coached that all people are
created equal but somehow can't escape the feeling that some people seem to
be "more" equal than others? And why is it that many Christian women can't
sense the equity that the scriptures teach is theirs in Christ Jesus? Aren't
these questions that trouble us?

If there truly is neither male nor female in Christ, then why are women in
the church relegated to mute spectatorship? Do we really think female
disciples are less articulate / intelligent and are thus somehow inferior
teachers and servants? If Priscilla could help teach a gospel preacher more
perfectly then why have some among us decreed that a Christian woman must
stop teaching a class of boys and girls when one of the boys obeys the

Why do we speak so glibly of usurping authority as the reasoning behind
women keeping "their places" in the family of God? Can anyone among us prove
that a woman leading a mixed group in prayer is somehow exercising dominion
over men and usurping their "authority"? Does anyone among us actually
believe that "serving" communion is an act of dominion over those served
when serving at home and for other occasions is seen for what it is –
service? Where is scripture that says women dominate men when they lead
singing or pass emblems? When selecting a song leader would we prefer a man
who can't read music or maintain a melody to a woman who has mastered music?
What sense is there in allowing a newly baptized ten-year-old boy to wait on
the Lord's Table while never allowing a sixty-year-old elder's wife? Why has
tradition got us all hot and bothered over who is "up front" in our

If the two scriptures that appeal to women's silence in the churches are
used to muzzle God's feminine disciples then why don't we enforce silence?
Why make all kinds of exceptions for singing and confessing sins and
confessing Jesus? Shouldn't women either remain silent or be allowed to
speak and participate as their gifts and insights prompt? Why were
Corinthian ladies allowed to pray with their heads covered? Why were they
allowed to prophecy if silence was a blanket mandate for then and for all
time? What of Phillip's four prophesying daughters? To whom did they
prophecy? Only to women and children? And shouldn't we posthumously rebuke
"the Samaritan well" woman for presuming that it was her prerogative to
introduce Jesus to her fellow townspeople? Shouldn't someone have explained
the laws of marriage-divorce-remarriage to her before she was allowed to
evangelize the entire town?

Who among us genuinely believes that our daughters and wives may teach men
through poetry and songs and books and articles in our religious journals
but could not rightfully teach the same men in a class setting? Why is it
"scriptural" for a woman to lead a song in a small congregation from her pew
yet somehow "unscriptural" and male dominating if she stands? Who among us
makes the laws regarding such matters as standing and sitting and passing
emblems and usurping? Why may a Christian sister pass the fruit of the vine
from side to side but cannot pass it down an aisle (the very same aisle she
passed it down when she prepared the table before the "worship service"

When scripture speaks of man being the head of woman, does it mean all men
are heads over all women? Or does it mean all Christian men are heads over
all women? Or does it mean all Christian men are heads over all Christian
women? And what right does one man have to be head over another man's wife
or daughter or sister? Isn't it more accurate to translate that a "husband"
is the "head" of his own wife? And if this be the case, how could a wife who
is asked to lead a prayer at the family dinner table be somehow wresting
dominion or headship from her mate in so doing?

Who have generally been the leaders of factions and rebellions among us; men
or women? Haven't preachers and elders and editors done the most damage and
dividing rather than the women? And how have we arbitrarily specified the
pulpit (a non biblical term in itself) area as the domain of men only and
the pew the place for women? And haven't most of our haggling and divisions
been over what can be done in and about areas and things not even mentioned
in the New Testament (pews and pulpits and church buildings and worship
services)? How have we been so duped into believing that serving in worship
roles must mean the exercising of "authority" over others? Do slaves really
have authority over their masters? Do servants somehow create dominion over
those they serve? Isn't this kind of thinking absurd?

Why should men servants of Jesus have any vested interest in maintaining
their bastions of male supremacy in the Christian family? Is the kingdom of
God the proper forum for power struggles and keeping spiritual sisters in
their places? Are men better worshippers and leaders than women? Did
Priscilla really have nothing of value to share with Apollos? Did Phillip's
daughters merely teach the kindergarten class?

Is the cause of Christ well served by a man teaching a Bible class who is
ill versed in scripture than by a woman who is well versed? Is a prayer
somehow superior falling from a man's lips rather than from a sister's? Why
can a man make announcements before "worship" begins and not usurp authority
over elders but if a woman makes the announcements she is exercising
dominion over every man and boy present?

Where are the texts that differentiate clearly between a "Bible class
assembly" and a "worship assembly"? Are such expressions even biblical? And
why may a feminine disciple speak up in a Bible class assembly if she is to
remain silent? And why must she remain silent in a worship assembly if she
may speak in Bible class assembly? And why may she read from scripture in a
Bible class with males present yet cannot read the same scripture in worship
assembly? What law can bind such arbitrary traditions on others? Why is a
stammering uninformed and inarticulate male preacher more pleasing to God
than an articulate, informed Christian woman?

Why may women vacuum, paint, clean and carry communion trays to the "pulpit
area" yet not be allowed to share their insights from the same area? Can we
continue to subjugate women of the kingdom and promote the notion that they
are somehow not really one with their male counterparts? How much longer
will we perpetuate the patriarchal system in which the kingdom of God had
its birth upon God's women? Is the kingdom culturally static or may it grow
and thrive no matter what the culture or time?

And would you please not Judge me too harshly for asking rhetorical
questions my devoted Christian sisters have been too polite to ask? I
strongly recommend "I permit not a woman ... TO REMAIN SHACKLED" by Robert H
Rowland, well respected educator, preacher and elder in the body of Christ.
This book may be purchased for $10 from Lighthouse Publishing Company, 525
N.W. 57th Street, Newport, Oregon 97365.

A Heavenly Christmas

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

A Heavenly Christmas

by Steven Clark Goad

          “The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.” Thus are the words of a favorite Yuletide song. A baby in a manger makes for quite a story. Everyone loves babies. Jesus was once a baby. But he grew up and became a man. Most people can smile at an innocent child. How many can worship a crucified Savior on a cross who stated clearly that no one could approach the Father except through him?
No wonder Christmas is easier on some minds than Easter. Babies make few demands. God on a cross is another matter entirely. The claims Jesus made boggle the mind. Either Christmas is a heavenly story of the coming of our Savior, or it’s pure fiction. Either the babe the son of Mary is a liar, a lunatic or Lord God in human flesh. There is no middle ground.

Maker of Wombs & Things

          As I was meditating recently a thought occurred to me in a more dramatic way than ever before. Not only was Jesus born of a virgin, he created the womb in which he gestated and out of which he was born. Awesome! “Without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). He created the straw that was in the stable where he made his appearance. He designed the tree from which the wood was taken to make the cross on which he would later die. Did he and Joseph chisel out the beams for the cross-tie that would become his means of execution? We can only speculate about such matters.
          Does the manger scene prove Jesus as Lord? Maybe not. But surely history does. A stable is one thing, but an empty tomb is quite another. Christianity is unique among all other religions in that it gives us a resurrected prophet. Buddha’s grave is with us to this day. So it Mohammed’s. Over 500 souls witnessed his resurrected body. He ate with his disciples before ascending to heaven. Why would so many be martyred for a dead man? Thomas was not a doubter. He just wanted proof like so many of us still desire. When Thomas saw the risen Lord all he could say was, “My Lord and my God!” Awesome!

Show Me!

          I’m not from Missouri, but I do like to be convinced before I will believe just anything that comes along. I will even drive a car before I buy it. It seems only sane to investigate the serviceability of something so costly. Is it wrong for us to want to be convinced of who Christ claimed to be? After all, he is the one who said when you had seen him you had seen the Father. No wonder the baby seems more attractive than the Savior. “You are being extremely exclusive, Lord. After all, we live in a pluralistic society.” Yep, we sure do. And secular humanism has us by our throats as we continue to make God in our image instead of the other way around.
          Victor Knowles has recently pointed out that over 300 Messianic prophecies can be found in the Old Testament. That our Lord fulfilled them is a monumental achievement in itself. The very day our Savior died he fulfilled 33 prophecies. Peter Stoner said, “The probability of any man who has lived fulfilling just eight prophecies has been calculated mathematically as 1 in 10 to the 17th power.” Do we really want to count that many zeroes?  I’m not a mathematician, but I’m able to grasp the significance between happenstance and fulfilled prediction of God’s prophets.

The First Noel

          Joseph and Mary. Chosen. Blessed. A virgin. A pregnancy. An angel puts Joseph’s mind at ease. “…because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Gabriel announces John’s birth to Zechariah. Six months later he announces Jesus’ coming. “Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Awesome wonder. “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most high. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).
          The angel told Mary this was true because nothing is impossible with God. So John is born. Then cousin Jesus. Under duress. Taxed and in transit Joseph and Mary find her in labor at an awkward time. No room in the inn. A borrowed stable. The very creator of the animals whose bleats and brays could be heard in the stable was now with them as a baby. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). Truly a heavenly gift.

A Heavenly Christmas

          Jesus lived a perfect life. He grew in statue and in favor with God and man. He developed a trade in his father’s carpenter shop. He was a social creature. People were drawn to him. His ministry years were short and dynamic. He invited a few men to join him for three years in a hands-on training school. Before them he performed signs and miracles and wonders. He spoke as no man had spoken before. He healed the blind, the lame and the deaf. He walked on water. He calmed the storm. He raised Lazarus. He wept. He was no longer a baby.
          The Messiah of God was among the very people who looked for his coming. Most missed it. Pharisees resented him for the most part. Political leaders were fearful of his influence. No wonder they call him the Messiah, since the world was in such a horrible mess. Tempted of Satan in every way. He wept as if he were bleeding in the garden. “Let this cup pass from me,” he cried. Angels came and ministered to him.

The Manchild

          The baby has grown into manhood. The Christmas saga unfolds. Betrayed with a kiss. The guards and holy men seek him out. “I am who you are looking for.” They fall back. His awesome presence is powerful. Willingly and voluntarily he gives himself to them. He could have called ten thousand angels to come and rescue him. Yet he went eyes-wide-open to the cross. No wonder the baby story is more enjoyable than the man story. The baby says nothing. The man says, “Take up your own crosses and follow after me.” He declares, “If you love me you will do what I say.”
          The cross is ugly. It reveals humanity at its worst. It displays God at his best. “Father, forgive them.” “I thirst.” “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?” “Today you will be with me in paradise.” “Mother, behold your son. John, behold your mother.” “It is finished.” Even Mel Gibson with his The Passion of the Christ could not fully portray the agony of that six hours one Friday. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Awesome God

          Can I prove Christmas? Maybe not. But I know Jesus is Lord. And I know God loves me. Blaise Pascal wagered that it’s far easier to believe in Jesus because if it turns out there is a God we have everything to gain, but if there’s isn’t a God then we have nothing to lose. Christmas is a matter of blessed assurance.
                May I tell you why I believe in Christmas? Because of my grandson’s giggle. A lone desert sunset. Green pastures. A kiss. Still waters. Family. A galaxy millions of light years wide. The church. Penicillin. Pizza. The moon. Dad. The manger. The cross. Don’t ask me why I believe in a heavenly Christmas. Let me tell you. I would be a fool not to believe.

On Being Attractive

 The following is from my new book Seeking Asylum In the Savior. It is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other booksellers.

"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2).

            There must be glory in the ordinary. God has chosen some of the most common of his creation to hold hostage our attentions. Weeds for example. Why do they fascinate us so? They grow wild in the desert and we call them flowers. When they grow wild in our flower garden, we call them nuisances. A weed is merely a flower that wants to live. And so we arbitrarily select the weeds of our choice and fawn on them and grow them and trim them and cross-pollinate them so that we create varieties that practically take our breath away. The others we try to kill. That is what we have done with the ordinary weeds of creation.
            Surely it is a blessing of God that I have never been attracted physically or romantically to another male. Genetics didn't cross any of my wires nor did environment foist upon me an unnatural tendency to want to hold hands with fellows while on a date. Girls have always been a feast for my eyes. And so it was designed to be. Guys are to be attracted to gals, and vice versa. My beloved still lies to me on a daily basis to bolster my fragile ego. As I hold a picture of some male model in the face of my wife and ask, "Now, isn't he a good looking chap?" she barely glances at it and replies without skipping a beat, "He is absolutely not very attractive."
When I pursue the concept of attractiveness, this is when she really turns up the veracity monitor.
"Honey, I find you especially attractive. Your features are what I find irresistible in a man. You, my handsome darling, are all that a woman could possibly want in a sweetheart."
As my ears turn read with delight, I realize that my wife's vision perhaps has been impaired from her youth or that God somehow has made it possible for my beloved to find short, bald, and thick appealing attributes to be sought after and applauded.
Me: "Baby, do you think Tom Selleck is handsome?"
Her: "Absolutely not!"
Me: "What do you find attractive in a man?"
Her: "What did you say?"
Me: "Oh, forget it."
            When movie producers are looking for someone to play the hero or the knight in shining armor, whom do they seek out? Short, bald, compressed guys, right? When they were looking for some image to portray Superman in the movies, whom did they call? I noticed my agent didn't get a call. They got Christopher Reeves instead of Steve Goad because he was, uh, he was, er, hmm, short, bald, and swarthy. No, they got him because he was tall, dark, and handsome. Weeds are definitely not created equal.
When God chose a form in which to house my beloved Savior, on what did he decide? The incarnate Word of heaven would be housed in a Jewish baby. His maturation would find him nondescript. His nose would be like so many others and his complexion and hair color and eye color and height and manners would be so like the ordinary others of his day that he would almost be unrecognizable in a crowd without a betrayal kiss. If I had been casting that performance I might have chosen someone a bit more glamorous. Perhaps a Robert Redford or maybe a Brad Pitt. At least he would have been someone who could have carried the part with the flair of a Laurence Olivier or a Charlton Heston. Who would think the skin that housed the Savior of the planet would look like a blue-collar worker from Nazareth? An ordinary weed.
            I still have trouble thinking of my Lord with sawdust in his hair and calluses on his hands. Hollywood must have had the same problem as I. "Jesus must be a beautiful person. He must be as handsome as we can find. The Messiah of God has got to be able to play the part and look the part." So who does Hollywood chose to portray Jesus? Jeffrey Hunter. When one looks up the word handsome in the dictionary, surely he will find Mr. Hunter's likeness beside the word. Yeah! That's my kind of Jesus. Yet what was the persona and appearance of Christ our Lord? I hate to bring it up, but he wasn't even attractive. There was nothing in the least about him that hinted of royalty or majesty. He not only didn't look like a god, he didn't look like anyone special. But oh, how special he was.
            What does the word attractive mean to us today? A man leaves his wife and explains to the divorce lawyer that he no longer finds her attractive. What does that mean? Is she a different person than she once was? He is saying that attractiveness to him is like it is to Hollywood and to others who judge by mere appearances. Why is slim beautiful and stout merely stout? Why is bottled hair color better than natural? Why are painted toenails and tweezered eyebrows and glommed up skin and padded clothing and pierced ears/noses/lips/navels (I doubt my Savior thought much of body piercing, come to think of it) and razored legs and designer clothes so attractive while plain Jane isn't? Well, I have met a few Jane's and found them to be extremely attractive. For their beauty was not a matter of adornment or liposuction or skin peels. They were attractive because they glowed with the same countenance that our Lord possessed during his short life span walking the dusty footpaths of Galilee.
            When I first read C. S. Lewis I thought to myself, "Here is an attractive man of God. Here is a man in whose company I might enjoy myself." When I later saw a photograph of Clive Staples Lewis I was surprised to find him looking not at all the way I had imagined. He was, well, he was short and bald and thick. Just my kind of man. Show my wife a picture of Lewis and she says, "Now that is the sort of man I really find attractive." Thank you, Lord, for making one woman in particular blinded to the uncomliness of a man who more and more is looking like a combination of Alfred Hitchcock and Don Rickles.
            Jesus is my handsome Savior. He is the weed most sought after. Of all the people who lived this veil of tears, he is the one most attractive. His life and heart and mission and sacrifice are so attractive to some of us that we are delighted to mimic him in every way we possibly can. Our wardrobes need not be opulent. Our living quarters need not rival the Taj Mahal. Our diets may remain simple. Jesus is so attractive to some of us unattractive ones that Scripture tells us if he would be lifted up all such as we would be drawn to him. My Lord is John Wayne and Han Solo and Captain James T. Kirk and the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers and Sargent York and Audie Murphy and Christopher Reeve and all other handsome heroes, real or imagined, wrapped into one individual. The carpenter's son. His human image may not have impressed those who saw him, but his beautiful life has changed the world forever. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
--Steven Clark Goad