Monthly Archives: November 2013

Poetry And Philosophy

      Roy & Pearl Moss a O

 As I was growing up I never thought of my parents as particularly poetic or philosophical.  They were down-to-earth people concerned with raising a family and taking care of business. Since they passed away (Mom in 1990 and Dad in 1991) I have realized that their oft-repeated sayings have found lodging in my psyche and directed my steps far more than I used to realize.

         My mother, Pearl, operated by a principle that I find myself emulating to this day.  When preparing for a trip or a project she would frequently say, and always act upon, “It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”

This uncomplicated saying holds a bucketful of advice in a thimbleful of words.  An even greater simplification – without as much punch – is simply, “Be prepared.”  Sometimes we returned from an infrequent vacation with clothes that had never left the suitcase, or a picnic with unopened cans and sacks, but no one ever lacked, at least in my memory.

This type of thought process carried through for these children of the Great Depression in preparation for business and retirement.  My dad always had cash hidden somewhere for an emergency or a good deal.  At the estate auction my wife and sister-in-law were doing some last-minute cleanup of a steel plate desk my dad had made and used in his shop.  As one of them took out and turned over a drawer to empty the last remnants of whatever from it, she found a magnetic clip on the bottom of the drawer with a few hundred dollars in it.  If he found a bargain, he was ready to deal and knew that cash brought the best price.

This would not be a bad philosophy to apply from a childhood piggy bank to the halls of national leadership.  Working the other way of winging it and hoping may turn around to bite a lot of people real soon.  Hoping for the best is not a plan.

Another saying my mother used frequently was, “Pretty is as pretty does.”

I was so young when I first heard this that I had no concept of what she was saying. Now it is obvious to me that face and form are merely external and slowly, constantly changing.  Time and gravity win over all of us eventually.  But a gracious spirit, a good attitude, and kind actions are a beauty that time and gravity cannot mar.  The entertainment world is a constant reminder that good looks do not always, or even often, indicate good judgment or a pleasing private personality.

Though my dad (Roy, Sr.) was a hard-working, no-nonsense kind of man, many of his teachings that left the most lasting impression were expressed in simple poems that I first heard from him in the 1950s.  I include the three which had the most impact here.  You will notice the theme.



Good, better, best,

Never let it rest,

‘Til your good is better

And your better is best.


As I look back over a fifty-eight year working career from the time he first put me to work in a welding shop at the age of ten, I can see that – though I sometimes fell short – his poetry goaded and directed my steps.  I generally stayed productively busy, though I do not think there was a time when I held more than six jobs at once.

This first poem spurred me to reach for excellence.  Our mindsets help determine what information sticks with us as important.  What my dad taught gave power to Paul Harvey’s comment that, “There is always room at the top.”  The poem helped me understand that the room was reserved for those who tried a little harder and worked a little longer.  Dad’s voice ringing in my memory gave import to the fact that in the Olympics the difference between silver and gold is often measured in hundredths of a second.  Just a little extra effort can make a world of difference.  I never heard him say that anything was “good enough for government work.”  He was not working for the government.  He worked for his family and his own self-respect.



A good thing to remember,

A better thing to do,

Is to work with the construction gang,

And not with the wrecking crew.


Though just a child at the time, I remember the tension in our home while my parents were deciding for my dad to leave a good, steady job with Shell Oil and go into partnership in the oilfield welding business.  As a result of their decision I spent several years working in the oil field as a welder – when I was not going to school, being a salesman in a dry goods store, or spinning records as an announcer (disc jockey) at the local radio station.

This welding experience taught me to build and build well, or Papa would cut it apart and direct me to start over.  The oil business is dangerous, and people’s lives can depend on doing the job right.  We did many kinds of shop and field welding.  My dad not only wanted things done; he wanted them done right, and right now.

Even a small town has vandals and thieves who ‘break through and steal.’  My working youth taught me the satisfaction of doing something constructive.  Though I did not hear him say it, I think my dad would have heartily agreed with a sentiment he would have known well from growing up on a farm: ‘It takes a wise farmer to build a barn, but any old mule can kick one down.’



Early to bed and early to rise

Once made man healthy,

Wealthy and wise.

But now days the man

Who would fain make his mark

Has got to keep hustling

‘Til long after dark.


My dad lived this one.  One summer evening I was at the shop welding atop a tanker truck.  During a break to change rods I saw my dad giving the signal to roll up the cables and head for the house.  Surprised, I looked at my watch and discovered that we had only put in eleven hours that day.  I climbed down from the truck with a slight worry on my mind: “Why were we shutting down so early?”  I never did find out why we quit when we did, but it was nice to have a short day once in a while.

One thing that has bothered me in my years of ministry is that I seldom felt like I was working.  From my youth, work meant getting dirty, sweaty, burned and tired.  Many nights after work I stood in front of the bathroom mirror so covered with dirt and grease that I could hardly recognize myself.  My thick glasses were about the only thing that gave a hint of who I might be.  After wrestling iron objects, fighting with an electric hand grinder, and sometimes losing, or swinging a sixteen pound sledgehammer for hours, sitting reading, or planning, or dealing with people and their problems hardly fit my internalized notion of ‘work.’  Reading, writing, studying and socializing were things I did related to school when I did not have to ‘work.’

That part about “hustling ‘til long after dark” would not have been so bad had we not usually started before daylight.  For years I have joked with people by asking the question, “You mean six o’clock comes TWICE a day?”  More than once I have, after a long day of preparation, taught the Wednesday night Bible study in uniform, and then gone straight to the police station to ride the 10 P. M. to 6 A. M. shift as chaplain.  Then I would be up around 8:30 or 9:00 to help with the weekly church bake sale at Phillips Petroleum.  I think my dad would have smiled at that.

He was a great one for getting the job done whatever the difficulty.  I was nearby once when one of the hired hands came in from the field with a story about how he could not figure out a way to cut into two pieces of pipe so that he could then weld them together at about a thirty degree angle.  My dad listened to his story, got up and went to the office, only to return with a final check for that worker.  When the man was gone my dad climbed in his truck, went to the location and finished the job.  His often repeated advice to me when I was stumped by a problem was, “Don’t say can’t.  Say ‘can’t hardly,’ and then do it.  Remember, success comes in cans.”  Under that kind of tutelage and example, excuses are not of much use.  You just do not get a chance to develop skill at using them.

My parents were not slave drivers or hard people with whom to live.  They were God-fearing, hard-working, salt of the earth types, forged in depression and hardened by war.  They had to struggle to survive the challenges of their times.  But they never asked anyone to do what they were not willing to do, and probably had already done, and more.  As long as my days frequently were, Dad’s were longer and a way of life, not just weekends and summers.

I do not know that my parents ever read the great philosophers or studied the poems of Joyce Kilmer or Robert Frost.  Their philosophy and poetry were as practical as a pair of work gloves.  The implementation of their ideals produced things solid as iron that have already endured for generations. Their philosophies worked for them and produced a poetry of life that still reverberates.

Roy & Pearl Moss b O




Filed under Reflections, Wisdom

Patriarchal Genealogy


Patriarchal Genealogy 



In this study we will take a look at the genetic beginnings of the nation of Israel.   I have attached a chart of the family of Terah, Abram’s father.  (Click  here on Patriarchal Genealogy for a larger PDF version of the chart.)  In the Bible Abram and Abraham refer to the same man and Sarai and Sarah is the same woman.  You may find even more things in the chart than I will point out, but here is a start.

Abraham and Sarah were half brother and sister, having the same father but different mothers.  Abraham’s brother Nahor married their other brother Haran’s daughter Milcah.  Milcah’s siblings, Lot and Iscah, were not allowed to become part of the nation of Israel.  The single Biblical exception to this is Ruth the Moabitess who married Boaz and became the great grandmother of King David.

Abraham had eight children by three wives: Sarah (Isaac), Hagar (Ishmael) and Keturah (Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah).  Of these eight only Isaac was accepted by God as the promised seed.  The descendants of these other children became, to a greater or lesser degree, enemies of Isaac and his descendants.

Isaac’s uncle, Nahor and cousin, Milcah, had a son, Bethuel, who in turn had two children: Laban and Rebekah.  Isaac married Rebekah and they had twin boys, Esau and Jacob.  Esau wound up married to Canaanites and was a great grief to his parents.  Because of major problems between the twins it became necessary for Jacob to leave home and go stay with his uncle Laban for about twenty years.

Meanwhile, back in Mesopotamia, Laban had married and fathered two daughters, Leah and Rachel.  Through a series of deceptions and jealousies Jacob got married to both of these girls, his cousins, and to their handmaidens, Bilhah and Zilpah – a total of four wives and thirteen children, twelve boys and one girl.

Now that we have the basics of this family tree down, (and this one hardly forks at all), let me draw a quick conclusion of the matter.  Am I the only one who has looked at this family tree and seen what appears to be a breeding chart used to fix certain characteristics in the offspring?  It seems to me that those who had the traits God wanted were kept in the breeding program.  Those, like Lot and Ishmael, who did not possess those qualities were shunted to the side.  Then after four (through Abraham), five (through Nahor) or six (through Haran) generations the attributes were so firmly fixed in the family that there was not a need for such intense inbreeding, though of course it did continue as they became slaves in Egypt.

This inbreeding was for a purpose.  Ranchers reinforce characteristics of their stock for their own purposes.  We are not entirely sure for what or how God was selecting characteristics for His chosen people.

Even though the Bible makes plain that there were pleasing physical characteristics in the family (Sarah – Genesis 12:11…a fair woman to look upon:..,”  Rebekah – Genesis 24:16 “very fair to look upon…,” Leah – Genesis 29:17 “…tender eyed…,” Rachel – Genesis 29:17 …beautiful and well favoured…,”          Joseph –  Genesis 39:6 “…a goodly person, and well favoured.”) this was obviously not most important to the Creator.

It was not a matter of good decisions.  Abraham and Isaac were deceptive about their relationships with their wives.  Rebekah and Jacob conspired in chicanery to obtain the blessing of Isaac.  Jacob and Laban (one accepted and one rejected) deceived each other, each giving about as good as he got.  Jacob was not wise is showing favoritism to Joseph.  Joseph was unwise in the way he shared his dreams.  The ten older brothers had fratricidal jealousy.


The Egyptians built better buildings (pyramids).  The Hittites were better fighters. The Greeks were better at math and philosophy.  The Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Greeks and Romans were more advanced in human governance.  All peoples outnumbered the old couple that started all of this.


If there is a way to transfer an inclination to faith thru DNA modern science has not discovered it.  We may not figure out all that is involved here, but we can trust God to do all things well.


A continuing tragedy is that once someone was culled from the chosen group, their descendants, with the exception of Ruth, were cut off through succeeding generations.  Do not cull yourself from the household of faith and deprive your descendants of a contact with the holy.  Do not break the chain.



* Remember this – God will have his way in the midst of the confusion of our lives.


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Who Killed Goliath?


         On the face of it my title question seems silly.  David did it with rock and sword.  But go with me into the society of that day and see what led up to that momentous event.  Let us start with a look at I Samuel 13:19-22

19 Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:

20 But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock.

21 Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.

22 So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.                (KJV)

A clearer phrasing can be found in the Good News Translation.

19 There were no blacksmiths in Israel because the Philistines were determined to keep the Hebrews from making swords and spears.  20 (The Israelites had to go to the Philistines to get their plows, hoes, axes, and sickles sharpened; 21 the charge was one small coin for sharpening axes and for fixing goads, and two coins for sharpening plows or hoes.) 22 And so on the day of battle none of the Israelite soldiers except Saul and his son Jonathan had swords or spears.


Can you imagine an entire army, nay, and entire nation disarmed by its enemies until only the king and most prominent prince even had a sword or spear?  Things were desperate throughout Israel.  An entire generation was untrained and unequipped to wage conventional war.  The Philistines seemed to have placed their enemies, the Israelites, in an untenable situation.  Even if somehow they learned to use swords, they had no swords to use. If they had swords they would not know how to use them.  They were in a circular quandary.  Any weapons Saul’s army might have could only be crude farming implements ill suited to battle.  This makes it very clear why David, when dressed in Saul’s armor declined to wear it to battle.


I Samuel 17:39            And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.                     (KJV)              Or, as it says in the New International Version: “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.


No wonder the entire army was frightened.  There were none of them skilled with a sword.  Even if they had been, the giant had them on reach and strength.  They would be smitten dead before they could get within striking distance.  However, the lack of conventional weapons had forced certain Israelites to develop unconventional skills for self defense and protection of their flocks and crops.  David was among those who had become expert with the sling.

Long hours of practice in the Judean hills had honed his ability to put a stone exactly where he wanted it.  A sword would have forced him in so close it would have been suicide to try.  The sling gave him the advantage of working room and a stand-off distance for safety.  I am sure God could have brought deliverance some other way, but because the Philistines had forbidden the ownership of swords David had been forced to learn a skill that made his victory over Goliath possible.

In the long run it was the Philistines who killed Goliath.  Their policy put the sling and its skill in the hand of David.


Remember this: Every excess has within itself the seeds of its own destruction.


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