Haggai: Build My House; Build My People

These devotions were written in the winter of 2005.  Click on a chapter number to jump to the first devotion for that chapter.

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Resolution Check

Thursday, January 13, 2005 / Read Haggai 1:1-2

How are you doing on your resolutions?  Did you manage to stick with that garlic and olive oil diet?  Have you made it to the gym each and every day of the new year?  Perhaps you’ve memorized a chapter of scripture each day or worked on your stamp collection.  Maybe you’ve read a couple of those books you’d been meaning to get to or have kept the television turned off.  Or maybe you haven’t.

I’m a great one for resolutions.  Actually, I never make New Year’s resolutions.  With my birthday coming midway between Christmas and New Years, I tend to tie my goals to that date, and I refer to them as goals rather than resolutions.  Still, they’re pretty much the same.

I made several goals back on December 28.  I’m not doing so well on all of them.  Let’s take one as an indicator.  Back in October or so, I bored you with all sorts of talk about my lunch-time trips to the track at JCCC.  For several months, I ran every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at noon.  I dropped a few pounds, but most of all, I just felt better.  You’d think I’d have managed to stick to that, but, around Thanksgiving, when my schedule changed, I allowed myself to slide.  Once school was out for Christmas, the whole project went in the tank.

Now wouldn’t it be possible for me to exercise at home?  I know a perfectly good one-and-a-half-mile course near my house.  I could have easily walked or run that course each and every day for the past month.  It’s not as though I was busy.  But I managed to let other things get in the way.  Back on my birthday, I really decided to make this happen, but things seemed arranged against it.  We’d be busy.  I’d be at my mother’s through the evening.  I had to watch the kids.  We had an ice storm.  I never really turned my back on that intention to exercise, but I let all manner of things keep me on the couch.

On the other hand, the things that really matter to me haven’t gone wanting.  For example, exercise has been too much of an effort, but driving through the ice and snow to walk around the displays at the Sport Show wasn’t anything like too much effort.  I overcame the little obstacles that made that a challenge, but exercise just couldn’t get done.

Isn’t that the way it usually is with our resolutions?  It’s not that we intend to not read to our kids or to not floss, but other things—more pressing things—seem to jump in the path.  The flesh is weak, we must remember.

When Haggai came on the scene as a prophet, he didn’t find the same sort of haughty, self-satisfied folk who’d been criticized by Zephaniah and Micah.  No, he found chastened and defeated people, people who’d lived seventy years in captivity, people who were just glad to be back in the Promised Land.  They didn’t intend to neglect building God’s house.  But they let it happen.

As I neglect to exercise or eat properly, I’m failing to build up God’s house.  When I fail to exercise wise stewardship over my resources, I’m neglecting God’s house.  When I read junk rather than scripture, I’m polluting God’s house.  Rationalize as I will, I can’t get past the fact that failing my resolutions doesn’t just fail me.

Enrollment Time

Friday, January 14, 2005 / Read Haggai 1:3-6

Today, as I walk around JCCC, I know what I’ll see.  As I write this, I’m not there.  I haven’t returned to work yet, but I still know what I’ll see.  All over the campus, I’ll see people, aged from about seventeen into their forties, wandering about with hopeful looks on their faces.  Yes, each semester of the year, JCCC enrolls several thousand new students.  These fresh-faced and battle-wearied folks line up in the various offices.  You can see them agonizing over applications, queuing to take the assessment tests, and poring over course listings in their efforts to better themselves.  On the first day of class, every single of them—well almost—will be in class.  They’ll come with sparkling new spiral notebooks and sharpened pencils.  Some of them will almost be screaming the attitude that they’ve affected in preparation for the new semester:  “I’ve made a mess of things in the past, but this time, I’m really going to get my act together.  This time it’s going to be different.”  They mean it on day one.

The difference between success and failure in education is a fairly fine line.  Sure, some people, like the woman I described recently, simply get in over their intellectual heads, but for the most part, failure comes not because a student is lacking brain power but because of a lack of will power.  Failure comes because the students cannot delay their short term pleasures in order to serve their long term pleasures.

Every semester, I have students who get to the day when their portfolios are due and who don’t have the portfolio complete.  What happened to them?  On day one of the semester, those students sat in the classroom with every intention of writing those papers.  But somewhere around day fifty, when the choice was to write a persuasive essay or to go to a club, the student picked the club.  When the choice was attending class or sleeping late, they choose bed.  When the choice is reading the assigned chapter or playing Grand Theft Auto—well, you know.

The problem here is one of short-sightedness.  Going to a club, sleeping in, and playing video games are all fun activities, but they lead to the very un-fun activity of receiving that failing grade card.

Now before I seem too critical of students, we should all admit that we make these same short-sighted choices.  Let’s see—I could watch Law and Order or go for a brisk walk.  I could get my oil changed or spend the money eating out.  I could grade that pile of papers or see what’s on sale at eBay.  In the end, if I make too many of the short-sighted choices, I wind up paying a heavy price.

Perhaps that’s part of what Haggai is getting at today.  The people, by short-sightedly focusing on their own “paneled homes” to the detriment of God’s house are demonstrating the ultimate folly: emphasizing today’s pleasures over eternal pleasures.  And what does Haggai show them?  Not only are they missing out on eternal blessings, but they’re paying a price today as they “earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

I could write a hundred illustrations from my life for this truth.  Probably you could as well.  But the question is simple:  Where are your eyes focused on?

What Are You Thinking?

Saturday, January 15, 2005 / Read Haggai 1:7-8

On the playground at Tom D. Korte School in Independence, I learned something about myself.  The day was like any other.  I stunk at kickball and generally couldn’t wait for recess to be over.  This day, for some reason, the attention of the group turned to my wristwatch.  I don’t recall the details.  Probably, big dummy I was then, I started bragging about my watch.  It was waterproof and shockproof.  Yeah, it was shockproof.  To my benighted mind, that meant you could drop an anvil on it without doing any harm.  I took the watch off my wrist.  “See, it’s shockproof,” I explained, thrilled that a couple of other kids were paying attention to me.  With that, I grabbed the watch in my hand, held it up over my head, and then slammed it into the asphalt of the playground.  Picking it up, I noticed that, although not a Timex, the watch had indeed taken a licking and kept on ticking.

A couple of other kids drifted over to see what I was up to.  Had I been astute enough to read their faces, I’d have realized that they weren’t impressed with my shockproof watch.  They were baffled at what sort of idiot would be slamming his watch into the pavement.  I took the watch in my hand again and repeated the process.  Once again, it weathered the abuse nobly.

Those Swiss, they can make a good watch.  My parents bought me that watch at the home base of the Bucherer watch company in Lucerne, Switzerland.  Probably it didn’t cost all that much, but the event impressed me sufficiently to believe that I was wearing something just this side of a Rolex.  After all, it was shockproof.

By now, I had the attention of most of the kids in my class.  They had gathered around me, perhaps curious to see how far my lunacy would take me.  Once again, I set out to demonstrate the shockproof nature of my watch.  Once again, it went over my head and once again into the ground.  But this time—and you knew was coming, didn’t you?—the glass of the crystal shattered and scattered.

I picked up the watch and glared at its naked face.  Instantly I began a weird combination of crying and laughing.  I’d ruined my watch, but, you had to admit, this whole event was laughably absurd.  The other kids, still clustered around, should be commended for their reserve.  Not one of them said, “What an idiot!”  At least they didn’t say it out loud.

What would Dr. Phil have said if he could have talked to me right then?  Probably the same thing that my dad would have said, had he known about it:  “What were you thinking?”

The simple answer to this is that I wasn’t thinking.  Or more accurately, I wasn’t thinking enough.  It’s the sort of muddled thinking that makes people cover their bodies with tattoos or buy expensive sportscars they can’t afford.  There were thoughts in my head that day at Korte School, but they weren’t terribly coherent thoughts.  I certainly hadn’t weighed the possible outcomes of this event.  Let’s say I had slammed the watch on the ground five times without ill effect.  What would I have gained?

What wiser words could God give us than those in verse seven.  “Give careful thought to your ways.”  That isn’t even particularly religious thinking.  It’s just good sense.

The House that God Built

Monday, January 17, 2005 / Read Haggai 1:9-11

One the most highly esteemed public figures in Kansas City right now has to be Tony Gonzalez, the All-Pro tight end of the Chiefs.  Tony G provided some of the few highlights in an otherwise disappointing season for the team.  He broke several records and continued to set the bar by which excellence is measured at his position.

When you look at him, Tony Gonzalez seems to have it all.  He’s paid an amount of money each year that most of us won’t see in a lifetime.  He’s at the top of his profession, playing at a level that, if he maintains it for a few more years, will land him in the Hall of Fame.  He’s a good-looking guy and apparently possessed of a solid sense of humor.  He’s intelligent and articulate.  If he plays his cards right, he’ll retire in his mid- to late-thirties, buy some really snappy clothes, and make a handsome future career out of opining about football on the TV.  Man, some guys have it made.

But apparently, Tony does not have everything that he could possibly want.  Let me explain why.  Right after the Chiefs’ ignoble exit from the football season a couple of weeks ago, the local news carried a story about an exotic dancer filing charges against Gonzalez, alleging that he had assaulted her in the restroom of a “gentlemen’s club.”  As it turns out, the young woman involved seemed to have dollar signs in mind much more than justice, and the charges were dropped shortly after they were filed.  I heard some Chiefs fans suggest that Gonzalez was completely innocent.  To that, I say rubbish.

You see, if Tony Gonzalez had been at home reading, if he’d been strolling through a botanical garden, if he’d have been helping out at a soup kitchen, as the United Way’s ads portray him,  this allegation could never have been made.  Gonzalez may have been innocent of acting inappropriately toward that woman, but he certainly acted foolishly by placing himself in such a compromising location in the first place.

The same could be said of Kobe Bryant.  You’ll remember Bryant being accused of rape a year or so back.  He claims that the action was consensual; she says it wasn’t.  Who knows for sure?  Again, I have to blame him for getting himself into a situation where it became his word against hers.

As good as they are, both Tony Gonzalez and Kobe Bryant will soon come to a point in their lives where all of their touchdowns and slam dunks will count for very little.  New heroes come along each year, ready to supplant the heroes of old.  And when the records are broken and the championships are forgotten, what will matter for these two or for the rest of us?

When Haggai complains about the people working on their houses to the detriment of God’s house, I don’t think that he’d restrict his attentions just to buildings.  In a few weeks, my church will have completed an absolutely fabulous church building.  That doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to neglect God’s house anymore.  When I read Haggai’s words, I think of all the times that I focus on the things that are important to me and then shortchange the things of God.

This fleshly house that I’m living in now is fine, but it’ll only last me another forty or fifty years at best.  While I want to keep it in good repair for those years, it’s vitally important that I build up the house that I’ll inhabit for eternity.

Lay-up Obedience

Tuesday, January 18, 2005 / Read Haggai 1:12-15

Last night, I had the pleasure of watching my son Thomas at his first basketball practice.  The team consisted of seven boys.  Tom was neither the most talented nor the least talented.  In fact, the ability of the boys ranged from one kid who moved like a ten-year-old version of Kobe Bryant down to another who looked as if he’d never seen a ball of any description before.  Joe, Tom’s coach, absolutely oozed enthusiasm and confidence.  “We’re going to have a great time and you’re going to be a great team, I can tell,” he told them, before he saw them lace up their shoes.

After some quick passing drills, Joe got a little bit ambitious.  He positioned four of the boys at the free-throw line.  The remaining three he lined up over to the side of the basket.  “Okay, guys.  The first guy out by the free throw line is going to run toward the basket.  When you start running, then the first guy in line out to the side is going to pass you the ball.  Once you get the ball, you shoot.  Okay?  After you shoot, you go to the back of the passing line.  And the passer goes to the back of the shooting line.  You got it?” he explained.

The boys nodded, almost as one.  Joe told them to get started, and that’s when the fun began.  Do you think they did what he told them to do?  Heavens no.  The guys in the shooting line would start sprinting for the basket before the guy in the passing line even had the ball.  The passers seemed confused about who to throw the ball to or when to throw the ball.  One kid seemed confused about what the ball was.  But most of all, they struggled with where to go after they’d done their thing.  You do the math.  Each time we ran the drill, one kid from the shooting line should go to the back of the passing line.  At the same time, one kid from the passing line should end up at the back of the shooting line.  Since the lines began with four and three boys each respectively, they should constantly have four and three boys each.  Right?  No.  Within thirty seconds, we have six boys in the shooting line and one in the passing line.  Had one more kid “volunteered” to stay in the shooting line, the whole thing would have come screeching to a halt.

There wasn’t anything really wrong with Joe’s instructions last night.  It wasn’t like the boys heard him, understood him, and said to themselves, “I’m not doing that!”  What was wrong was how well the boys actually managed to follow the coach’s instructions.

Today’s verses from Haggai strike me as some of the most amazing in the entire Bible.  How many times in our slow march through the minor prophets have we heard a prophet deliver stern words only to be obeyed.  No much more often we see people either unwilling or unable to obey.

What a world this would be, what a church the church of Jesus Christ would be if we would simply hear his words and obey them.  What if we were to start taking seriously what the Lord tells us through the Bible?  Wouldn’t that be wild?  It worked out pretty well for the people who heard Haggai.  Maybe we ought to give it a shot.

If Roe Were Here

Wednesday, January 19, 2005 / Read Haggai 2:1-5

This last summer I went to the Boy Scout camp near Osceola for the 75th anniversary of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say.  I could tell you about Mic-O-Say, but, as the saying goes, then I’d have to kill you.  Several thousand of us who had been inducted into this not-quite-super-secret organization over the years gathered around for a very nice program.  As I went through the day’s activities, I reflected on the day, twenty-five years earlier, when I had been on the same grounds for the fiftieth anniversary weekend.

What sticks in my mind about that celebration in 1979 is not the huge number of people present or the prospect of Skylab burning up in the skies above us.  What I remember most is a little knot of grouchy old men—they were probably in their fifties—who were irritated by something.  Probably, they had to sleep in tents on the east side of the hill rather than the west.

“Well, I’ll tell you one thing,” one of the grouches opined.  “This wouldn’t be such a mess if Roe were here.”  The others quickly nodded their agreement.  Roe, I realized immediately, was H. Roe Bartle, as in Bartle Hall and the former mayor of Kansas City.  Bartle gave Mic-O-Say its start during his long tenure as Scout Executive.  In the past quarter century, as I’ve recalled the grouches’ words, I’ve learned enough about Roe Bartle to realize that had he been there, the thing would have been every bit as chaotic—which means, not very chaotic—but that he’d have probably slapped them on the back of their heads and told them to quit whining.

There’s a certain slice of the population that always longs for the good old days.  There’s no way, this group believes, that things today could ever be as great as they were way back when.  The music can’t be as good as it was back then.  The flowers can’t bloom as beautifully.  The turkeys will never be as plentiful in the woods.  And the Scout camp couldn’t possibly be as good as it used to be.

The problem with that sort of thinking is that it leads to defeat.  When you know that you couldn’t possibly make things as good as they used to be, then you’ve pretty well guaranteed that you won’t make things as good as they used to be.  For a number of years at the Scout camp, that sort of attitude prevailed.  Happily, a decade or so back, some folks decided that things could not only be as good as they had been in the Bartle days but that they could be better.  After all, the turkeys had made a very nice recovery.  Why couldn’t the scouts?

When Haggai speaks again to the people of Israel, about a month after his first message, he warns them against assuming that things couldn’t be as good as they had been before.  These guys weren’t looking back unrealistically on “this house in its former glory.”  Solomon’s Temple would have dazzled anybody.  But the real glory of the temple in Solomon’s day was not the cedar and gold architecture.  No, the real glory of the temple was the presence of God, something that Ezekiel watched depart while the temple still stood beautifully adorned.

Today, you and I have that same presence within us.  That’s why Paul refers to us as the temple of the Lord.  If you ever feel inclined to think that your best days are behind you or that you’ll never accomplish what you could have accomplished, remember the glory that lies within.

Glory House

Thursday, January 20, 2005  / Read Haggai 2:6-9

I met Mark over a year ago, when I started teaching at Midwestern Seminary.  At eight o’clock each Tuesday and Thursday morning, he would dutifully appear in his customary seat in my classroom.  What struck me about Mark, all through that year, as we proceeded through two different courses, was how he didn’t seem terribly comfortable in an English classroom.  Fixing a leaky faucet, I realized, Mark could manage.  He could no doubt diagnose and fix a malfunctioning car, and, I learned over time, he could do about anything required in the dairy business.  But writing an essay?  That wasn’t Mark’s thing.

As I got to know this man, who I learned to be very close to me in age, I realized just how much he had sacrificed to come to seminary, to follow the call that God had placed on his life.  Back in Illinois, where Mark had spent all the years of his adult life, he had excelled in his work for Roberts Dairy.  They had valued him greatly and relied heavily on his abilities, both his knowledge and his excellent work habits.

And what benefit did Mark derive from this?  He derived the benefits that most hard-working and reasonably fortunate people derive.  He had a nice three-bedroom house, a fine pickup truck, and a car for his wife.  He could afford to buy new clothes, although clothes weren’t that important to him.  He could take his wife out to dinner any time that he wanted to.  Perhaps more important, Mark had a retirement account, steadily filling with funds that would provide handsomely for him in the years to come.  He had insurance that guaranteed that he’d never be bankrupted by medical expenses.  In many ways, Mark could turn the corner of the street on which his house stood, and realize that he had achieved as much as he might have ever hoped in life.

And then came seminary.  Upon leaving his job in Illinois, Mark set aside the three-bedroom house, exchanging it for the somewhat—how should I say?—snug housing at the school.  He gave up the comfortable income and the insurance.  The retirement account stopped growing.  As if to throw a cruel cherry on top of this sundae of self-denial, Mark started to experience some health problems.  As he drove toward his seminary apartment, even this man of strong faith had to question the exchange of houses that he had made.

Mark, like all of us, has to question his place in the world.  Should he live in the gaudy and gorgeous house that the world provides or dwell in the humble abode of God’s service.  It’s a tough choice to make.  It’s a tough choice that Haggai lays before his people in today’s reading.

“The glory of this present house,” Mark needs to remember, “will be greater than the glory of the former house.”  The glory of our life in Christ, of our life as the temple of God’s spirit, will be greater than the glory of our old life, as the temple of the spirit of this world.

At Mark’s darkest hours, when the budget is stretched thinnest and his back is hurting the worst, my prayer is that he will take courage in these words.  “The glory of this present house” holds a great promise, a promise beyond all the houses of this world.

Tony Hawk’s Tires

Friday, January 21, 2005 / Read Haggai 2:10-14

I saw an ad on TV recently for the Tony Hawk Underground video game.  In this game, apparently, you ride a skateboard all over town, jumping, spinning, grinding, and falling.  Not satisfied with typical skateboard antics, however, the creators of this game decided to give it a fairly nasty edge.  The one sight that remained burned in my mind was that of the star of the game—skateboard legend Tony Hawk—walking up beside a car, sticking a knife into a tire, and then dashing off. 

Okay kids, just to be crystal clear, you don’t want to try this at home.  Wounds to the sidewalls of tires are, to the best of my knowledge, uniformly fatal.  That five second action of sticking a tire with a knife will take the owner fifteen minutes to change the flat and then an hour or so to get a new tire installed.  And let’s not even mention the cost of the thing.

Why would the makers of this game include such an image in their advertisement?  Apparently, this isn’t the only bit of destruction included in the game itself.  In an online review of the game, I read that the game’s premise is that your game character, having “made it” in big time skating, is now going around the world with your team competing with Tony Hawk’s team in a spree of chaos and destruction.  Now you tell me, if you were suddenly a big time skateboarder—or a big time anything else—would you look up immediately and say, “I’m going on a worldwide chaos and destruction tour?”  Me neither.  Frankly, I think I’d be much more tempted to abuse my power by getting good seats at concerts and sporting events, but that’s just me.

What is the appeal of vandalism?  Why does graffiti seem to some people to be a form of combined art and social commentary?  I don’t get it.  It’s not that I’m not a fun guy or that I’m an artistic Philistine.  It’s just that I learned something simple long ago.  It’s much easier to destroy than to build things up.  Breaking a window takes a lot less time and effort than installing a window.  Ruining the carpet happens easier than installing the new stuff.  Smashing up a car is far simpler than keeping it perfect.

I might be reading things into Haggai’s words for today, but I believe that he’s saying that the natural state of the world as we know it, this fallen world, is chaos and destruction and uncleanness.  You can make a clean thing unclean by touching it to something unclean, but you can’t make an unclean thing clean by touching it to something clean.

What does this mean for us?  I’d suggest that we should value the clean and the holy much more than we already do.  We’re far better at defiling the holy than we are at keeping it holy.  Why?  That’s just the way we are.  It’s only through God’s intervention that anything can be holy, but that doesn’t mean we ought to be running around tearing things up.

I wonder what Tony Hawk would think if we knifed his tires?

Defensive Driving

Saturday, January 22, 2005 / Read Haggai 2:15-19

One of my legion of admiring fans recently pointed out that if I were to take all of these devotions and arrange them chronologically, I could construct a pretty thorough autobiography.  In the interests of adding to that autobiography, I offer the following rather humiliating piece of information.

When my dad taught me to drive, he had one phrase that he repeated as a mantra:  “Defensive driving.”  As we drove through town, on the interstates, and through the backwoods of Missouri toward my sister’s house, he’d constantly point out the various things that I wasn’t noticing.  “You see that truck up ahead?  You never know when it might pull out in front of you.  See that car that you’re passing?  How do you know they aren’t going to start fishtailing and shove you right off the road?  See that barn over in that field?  How do you know that barn won’t sprout legs and come out here to squash you?  You can’t be too careful!  It’s all about Defensive Driving!”  At least that’s how I remember what he said.

So when I reached that magical age of sixteen and passed my driver’s test on the second try, I immediately forgot everything that my dad had told me about defensive driving.  After all, what could he know?  He’d only been driving for about forty-five years at the time.  What wisdom could he possibly pass onto a guy who had just gotten his license.

It didn’t take long for my wealth of driving ability to be displayed for all the world to see.  Just a couple of months after getting my license, I was driving on Noland Road in Independence.  Finding myself in the left-hand lane, I determined to move over into the right-hand lane.  On reflection, I didn’t need to be in the right-hand lane.  My destination—a stupid one, by the way—would have me turning left a mile or so ahead, but I probably didn’t want to impose excessive wear on the left lane.  So I jumped over to the right and heard a thud.  I had clipped a car.  In the aftermath, my dad didn’t yell at me, but he did remind me about Defensive Driving.

A few months later, I was heading home from school, cruising along on 35th Street.  My friend, Dan, was fooling around with the radio, jumping between stations.  I was, happily enough, observing the speed limit as I passed the intersection with Hardy.  The problem was that there was a car in the intersection waiting to turn left.  Smash!  When I confronted my dad about this mishap, I considered blaming it on Dan’s radio foolishness, but I knew better.  “Defensive Driving!” he would have said to me.  And he was right.

Eventually, I realized that my dad might have something with this whole Defensive Driving routine.  Since the car belonged to him and I was on his insurance, maybe I should give this nutty idea a try.  I did that, and, miracle of miracle, I stopped having mishaps in cars.  No more near misses and no more collisions.  Once I started to listen to Dad’s spiel, I became a pretty fair driver.

That seems to be Haggai’s message today.  “Remember when you were doing things your own way?” Haggai asks.  “It didn’t turn out so well, did it?  Well, now that you’re doing things God’s way, things are going to turn out beautifully.”  Amazing, eh?

My seventh grade teacher had a sign on her desk:  “When in doubt, follow the directions.”  God has given us directions.  Maybe we should give them a try.

Signet Ring

Monday, January 24, 2005 / Read Haggai 2:20-23

In 1996, I uttered a barbaric yawp above the rooftops of Lawrence, Kansas.  Allow me to explain.  When I started working on a doctorate at KU sometime in the early 1990s, I used to walk up Mt. Oread from a parking place far down the hill.  As I’d walk, I’d imagine myself on the day that I received my degree, the day I defended my dissertation.  I determined on one of those walks that I should go to a certain area between the Chancellor’s home and the library and shout of my joy to the wide world.

On August 31, 1996, my dissertation director informed me that I had indeed passed.  After being congratulated by the assembled members of the committee and watching them sign off on the deed, I headed across campus, my feet barely touching the ground, eager to get home and share my news.  Then I remembered my earlier plan.  I walked to that grassy spot on the south crest of the hill.  I stood there for a moment, embarrassed at what I was about to do.  And then I realized that my plan to simply caterwaul was not nearly literary enough.

Walt Whitman, in his poem “Song of Myself,” talks of uttering a “barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.”  Although I’ve never much liked Whitman and I hate to think of myself as barbaric, this seemed appropriate.  I resolved to yawp.  “Yawp,” I said.  It wasn’t nearly enough.  I glanced around to see if anybody would hear me.  “Yawp!” I tried again, my voice louder this time.  Suddenly, though, I realized that I didn’t care who heard me.  “Yawp!” I bellowed.  “Yawp!”  The entire way home, I found myself giggling and grinning in the car, barbarically yawping every couple of minutes.  It was a good day.

Nine months later, at the next JCCC graduation exercise, I had a less noisy experience of the joy of that day.  My rather drab master’s hood from UMKC had given way to the glorious red and blue lining of the KU hood.  My simple black gown had suddenly sprouted all sorts of velvet trim.  And my tassel, white for English since 1984, looked like a gold decoration from a gaudy bedspread.  “Wow!” I thought to myself.  “Between the diploma I have on my office wall, these nifty clothes, and all that yawping, I feel like a legitimate Ph.D.”  (Of course, you know what that stands for, don’t you?)

Although I like to think that my self image doesn’t require plaques and titles and all that sort of external reinforcement, sometimes it is nice to have some indication that you really are something special.  I still thrill every time I see my name in print in some magazine.  I cast my eyes over the diplomas and awards over my desk from time to time, and I still enjoy wearing that academic regalia, once every two years.

These are like the signet ring that Haggai promised to Zerubbabel.  Just as my little symbols say that I’ve achieved certain things in my profession, the signet ring of God indicated that Zerubbabel, and the Jewish people he led, were back in God’s good graces.  His seal had been taken from them for a period, starting in Jeremiah’s time (Jer. 22:24), but it had not been taken forever.

My various awards and accomplishments will fade away just as surely as that barbaric yawp faded from the air above Lawrence.  But the seal that God has placed upon us with his signet ring will remain forever.  That’s something worth yawping about!

Tune My Heart is primarily an aid to the devotional life of its author, Mark Browning, who holds the copyright for this material.  It is provided online in hopes that some will find it edifying.  All contents, unless otherwise noted, may be redistributed freely provided that you give credit for its origin and do not charge anything.