We Ought To Remember

Posted: July 23, 2014 in Politics

Mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is a bronze plaque. On this bronze plaque are engraved the words of a poem by Emma Lazarus. The poem is titled “The New Colossus.” It reads as follows:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The character of a nation is both formed and revealed by what it remembers. Some whit renamed the 4th fo July “Blow stuff up but not your fingers Day.” Is that Independence Day has become. Just an excuse to blow stuff up? One the morning of the 4th my oldest child asked me what I felt when I looked upon our nations flag. After a moment’s thought I answered, “Sadness.”

It seems that we, citizens of the United States of America, have lost our past. The last stanza of Emma Lazarus’ poem are very poignant to me. Unless you are full blooded Native American, you are here thanks to the sentiment expressed in The New Colossus. My ancestors left “ancient lands” for a variety of reasons. They all came to the U.S. for one reason: Freedom.  What happened to the attitude of inviting the “tired…poor…huddled masses…[t]he wretched refuse…the homeless” which is expressed in these lines? Instead we now say, “Keep you problems. We might take your wealthy and self-sufficient, your well educated and skillful, if they can prove their worthiness to set foot on our soil.”

I don’t imagine the U.S.’s past as some glorious utopia. Our nations policy toward Asian immigration has always been broken despite the clear benefits such immigrants have provided the U.S. This too we ought to remember. We ought to remember our own pasts and the lives our ancestors sought in this land. And we ought to declare boldly and clearly to all peoples and nations:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


Verses from Today’s Reading

Posted: July 22, 2014 in Faith

Below are some verses from my scripture reading today that leapt out at me. They reminded me to trust in God, to dedicate myself to the study and application of His Word. These passages also reminded me of the times in my own life when I was at peace even though circumstances were difficult because I was dwelling in His Word, abiding in Christ.

Isaiah 40:8
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah 40:14
Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?

Isaiah 40:28
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable. 

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 41:10
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

Isaiah 42:8
I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.

The Scent of Legacy

Posted: July 13, 2014 in Family, Life

2014-07-13 12.23.01

I’m reading one of the ministry books my grandfather allowed me to plunder from the library he built over an extensive ministry career. As I read it I noticed the very smell of his library accompanied this book. Just holding it takes me back to his office and a scent that I’ve come to associate as “Opa”.  I am so thankful for the legacy that he has created and for his allowing me to benefit from the library he assembled.


Posted: July 11, 2014 in Faith, Family, Life

My grandfather (Opa I call him) was a pastor and missionary. His father (Matt Bunyan Smith) was also a pastor. This week I spent time going through my grandfather’s library. He has a plethora of excellent books which still speak today (just because a book is old doesn’t mean it’s outdated). In several I found inscriptions from his father. One particular book was given to him on Christmas day in 1949.

Today I read a post by a somewhat distant cousin. He wrote about my great-grandfather’s life and ministry. As is described in the post, M. Bunyan Smith was a pastor of a poor church in a poor section of town and served faithfully for many years. He was a humble man, serving his Lord and without meaning to, setting an example, establishing himself as a beacon for a great-grandchild he would never meet.

Here is a link to the article on M. Bunyan Smith by his grandson Fred Smith.

An Unremarkable Life

11 Things I am Thankful For

Posted: July 6, 2014 in Life


“Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 5:19b-20 ESV)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor in any particular order. These are just a few of the things that I am thankful for at this moment.

  1. A wife who works so hard to take care of me and the children.
  2. The way my children hug me when I leave for work and cry out excitedly when I come home.
  3. Friends who will cover needed pastoral duties while I am on vacation.
  4. Parents who raised me in the Christian faith.
  5. A God who has called me to be His, has justified me, and refuses to give up on the process of sanctifying me.
  6. A House big enough for my large family.
  7. Grandparents who have supported me over the years spiritually and financially.
  8. A company which is willing to allow me to work remotely so I can pastor this church.
  9. A church willing to call a young(ish) visionary.
  10. My youth pastor who invested in me.
  11. A mentor pastor (and friend) who showed me how to shepherd God’s people.


In the mid 80’s I cut my Role-Playing teeth on Dungeons & Dragons. It wasn’t until 1988 or 89 that I discovered GURPS at Games Unlimited in Concord, California. It remains one of my favorite Role-Playing Games of all time. GURPS stands for Generic Universal Role-Playing System and, in my opinion, lives up to the name. Using the system I’ve played high fantasy, low fantasy, sci-fi, wild west, swashbuckling pirates, super heroes, and the list goes on. I run into people frequently who seem to despise GURPS. I don’t really understand why. I hear their rants, smile, nod, and promptly forget them. (So, if you’re one of the GURPS haters, please feel free to no post a reply. I really don’t care.) The purpose of this post is not to convince non-RPGers to play, nor to convince non-GURPS players to try it (thought that would be cool). It’s my blog, and I’ve been re-reading GURPS Fantasy 4th Ed. and I just wanted to write about the game. As I said, it’s my blog, and honestly I really don’t care if no one reads it…so there.

Where was I? Oh yea. GURPS is a game that allows players to try any genre imaginable. GURPS is a creative GM’s dream come true. As I mentioned above, the impetus to this article was my re-reading of the GURPS Fantasy supplement. Frankly, I’ve always had more fun creating worlds than running adventures in them. I have over twenty fully formed worlds that have never seen game play. I pull them out every once in a while, just to read through them, gaze at the maps and occasionally, rarely to make adjustments. These are my worlds. I made them. For my own good pleasure.

As a rabbit trail, I happen to be a Christian of the Evangelical Calvinist persuasion. This concept of creating a world simply for my pleasure happens to also be entirely in keeping with my theological view of God, the Cosmos, Reality, and humanity’s relationship to all of the above.

As previously stated, GURPS is a creative GMs dream. The 4th edition Fantasy supplement does for the Fantasy game what even the 3rd ed. Space supplement did for Sci-Fi. Inside it’s leaves is a robust guide to creating a fantasy world that makes sense. I’ve read (and written) an innumerable amount of articles and pdf booklets on the topic of fantasy world building. GURPS Fantasy 4th Ed. combines most of that into one neat package. I’ll add that GURPS Space does the same for Sci-Fi. And the plethora of books and online resources is absolutely amazing.

While GURPS doesn’t hold for me the same nostalgia that D&D and AD&D 1E do, it is still by far one of my favorite RPG systems.

Hull Zero Three

Posted: June 10, 2014 in Books

I used to feel guilty about not finishing a book. Not any more. Some years ago I read a book on reading (kinda meta) which, among other things, advocated for giving oneself the right to not finish books. The method recommended was to subtract ones age from one-hundred and read that far into the book. If the book hasn’t grabbed your attention by then, drop it and move on. Part of the idea is the older you get, the less time you have to waste on literature which doesn’t speak to you. (It also means that when you reach 100, you have permission to judge a book by its cover.)

That brings me to Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear. I read a great review on it and noticing it was in my local public library I checked it out. I’ve read other books by Bear and enjoyed most of them. This one just didn’t move me. It’s probably just me, and the place I am in life right now. I’ve found that lately I’ve enjoyed more action/adventure (be it fantasy, sci-fi, cliffhanger, etc.) and cozy mysteries. This book is neither. I really wanted to like it (I pressed on to page 223), but it’s just too strange for me right now.

I shall be returning it to my library and trying another.