Monday, August 27, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom - Home 8/ 27/07

There’s something about home, isn’t there? I remember topping the final hill from which one could see the Church steeple and the children getting all excited because “we’re almost to Grandma’s house!” when we were on a vacation trip to our homes.

And our own grandchildren knowing they were getting near when they started to drive on roadways surrounded by trees in The Woodlands where we live now. (“Fair are the woodlands”.) indeed.

Home is familiar. We know where things are. We know how things work, or are supposed to work, and we know how to get there from here. So home has value because it is a basic that remains the same in our minds. And that is what is the best part of it.

Because we do live in a world that seems to be changing overnight. New things spring up to amaze or delight us, or tend to confuse and cause anxiety for us who are along in years. Just the other day I learned of a device by which we will be able to call any place on earth with no help from AT&T at all. Amazing, and the cost is negligible.

And we get used to change. For such new things do make our lives easier. This computer I am using mostly as a writing instrument has capabilities that I have not even begun to explore. I simply like the fact that with a key stroke I can change a word or dress a sentence. And it’s Spell Check helps with the spelling. And I never have to use carbons to make copies or re-write a page because of a spelling error.

What troubles me is that by eagerly accepting new things we are in danger of losing the “old things’, our heritage, if you will. Many churches offer several different types of worship services. Insisting, of course, that this does not change their teaching.

Is this true? I read just this morning a think piece about absence of “holy fear”.
Our life style tends to do this. And one must ask, “where will it really end?”

Yesterday the Sermon text came from the section of Hebrews that spoke of discipline, and offers us this wisdom, “Whom the Lord love He disciplines”. And discipline simply means learning that the sinful reach of man must be curbed and changed, and allow the Holy Spirit to change us into His children. Unless this happens, we will live lives that always reach for things it ought not reach for.

As that think piece I referred to ends “Funny, how the older one gets, the ideas you once dismissed or forgot about turn out to be the most important ones of all.”

For us who believe Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, we know, simply, this truth, “Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” Knowing that makes any change bearable, does it not?

GPD 8/27/07

Friday, August 24, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/24/07

This morning on my walk I met a school bus, empty, just cruising slowly along.
I suppose checking a route, or a new driver, or just using tax payers' funds to see if the bus ran OK. After all, the Conroe ISD equipped every bus with machinery that will cause less harmful emissions.

But it did remind me that schools across the land are opening.

School days, school days,
Dear old golden rule days,
Readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmatic,
Taught to the tune of a hickory stick.
You were my queen in calico,
I was your tongue-tied bashful beau,
You wrote on my slate, ‘I love you, Joe’,
When we were a couple of kids.
And I wondered, do children still memorize? And have a time on Friday afternoon for reciting to the class? Girls used to recite love poems, boys choose such things as The Charge of the Light Brigade.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do or die,
Into the valley of death,
Rode the six hundred.
And I believe everyone was asked to learn the 16 lines of Sir Walter Scott’s Innominatus;
Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself has said,
This is my own, my native land
Whose heart has ne’er within him burned,
As Home his footsteps he has turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand..
And of courser, there was also the class jokester who recited such lines as this:
Methuselah ate what he found on his plate,
And never, as people do now,
Did he note the amount of the calorie count,
He ate it because it was chow.
And when the class a settled back down Miss Kuehner said, quietly, “Hal, that isn’t quite what I had in mind.”
Do schools still do that? Ask children to memorize? We, and I was greatly blessed in this, had religion also, and so added memory work of Bible verses and sections. Yes, I can still recite some of them in the language I learned them in. Can you?
How blessed we are to have this Word in the heart to direct, guide, and bring us God’s peace in Christ.
GPD 8/24/07

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Note & Comment – cost of food 8/21/07

Have you noticed the price of food? Slowly rising. Statisticians tell us food has risen by 4.4% in a year. Not much, except when you remember what was $ 100.00 last year now is $ 104.40. Still, American households spend just 9.9 cents of every dollar on food, down from 23.4 cents in 1929. In Great Britain households spend 16% of every dollar for food, in Brazil it’s 23%, in Thailand 29%.

Still, why does food cost so much. We spend close to $2.00 for a can of soup while Grandma made a kettle of soup for pennies. How come? She had the ingredients at hand, home grown. Ours comes from distant places, involving many people and much labor.

Take a can for corn, for example. Grown on a Wisconsin farm. [Wisconsin is that wonderful, grand, state somewhere north of here.] Picked by summer help – I was part of such help for several years earning my Seminary funds – processed, canned, labeled, trucked to a warehouse, reshipped to other places near you, and eaten in your dish without giving thought to everything involved to get it there. Your roses for Valentines Day were grown in Peru and brought to you by air freight nearly overnight.

So it costs to eat. So why am I grousing? It’s the “flesh” showing itself. It’s always there. And that why I pray daily “and forgive us our sins’. And the Lord does forgive, fully, graciously, completely, for the sake of the blood shed by His Son, Jesus Christ, for me. And I am thankful God does provide me the funds to buy the needed food daily.

GPD 8/21/07

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/19/07

Why are they so different?

History shows that when religion is involved, terrible things often happen. More people are abused and exploited in the name of religion than in any other way. That is a terrible truth. And that is why God sent prophets to bring people back to HIS way, walking His truth, living under His direction.

Prophets sniff out injustice, especially the kind dressed up with religious garb. Prophets see through hypocrisy, they are not impressed by power or authority. They listen to God only and test language and action in light of what they hear.

Amos in the Bible is such a man. And if we hear him talk, maybe it explains why they are so different. I mean people who claim to be religious. Why are there so many different churches, each claiming the one truth? Why do they often misread what seems to be so plainly written?

Well, Amos had a word about that. He said to the people, “You act as if the day of destruction is far away, while you have crime sitting near you” Amos 6,3. Then He added this terrible threat: “The days will come, says the Lord GOD, when I will have a famine come into the country, not of hunger for food or thirst for water, but of hearing what the Lord says.” Amos 8, 11.

It can’t mean us! Why, look at all the churches we have. Look at the many TV and radio programs going on. And look at all the programs we have for children, even, little tots, for youth, for adults,. And for the seniors. And, as you must know, the Bible is the most printed Book in the history of this world.

That brings up the question, why are they so different? Jesus did say, and anyone can read this in their own Bible, “No man cometh unto the Father, BUT BY ME”.

So explain.

There is a truth held among all honest Bible scholars. “Scripture interprets scripture.” This simply means if one passage is not clear, another in a different book will make it clear. God is always clear in teaching us. And that is what many forget, to seek the whole truth, to read it all for understanding. Not take some single line, or part of a verse, and say this is what it means. Have a care, because God’s will is to save all nations. He wishes to save everyone, and when they are lost, it is because they do not pay attention to His call in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

May our ears be open always to His Word.

GPD 8/19/07

Friday, August 17, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/17/07

My grocery bill this morning came to a sum ending with 34 cents. I had just been reading that it costs 2 cents to make each penny, so I offered the manager who happened ot be checking out at this early hour if he would take two for that. No, said he, we are living in the real world.

So I paid him the 4 cents. But the government spends almost 2 cents to make each penny, and given the fact that nearly 8 billion new ones are placed into circulation each year, that’s real money! So some in Congress are suggesting using steel blanks instead of zinc to bring the cost down. The sole supplier of that zinc is, of course, lobbying heavily not to make any change. Now there are a number of bills floating around to give the Treasury Department the right to use the best metals. By the way, it costs nearly ten cents to make each nickel, so passing such a bill might save as much as 100 million annually.

And here’s an item saying Cary Malchow of Muncie, Indiana had paid his semi annual real estate taxes on his home, business and rental properties he owns, by bringing $ 12,656.07 in bills and coins to the treasurers office. He said it was worth it to see 3 clerks, guarded by deputies, working 3 hours to count the amount. And, of course, what he did was perfectly legal.

In our lives, not everything is as promised. I was reading about a product called Alli – said to be wildly popular and sold over the counter and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The article said that everything said about the warning on the label is true including that “Until you have any senses of treatment effects, it is probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes to work”. Reason for this is using the drug might lead to loose stools.
So my informant, a Chronicle columnist, said he and a friend were having their Sunday breakfast at Whataburger. So when his friend got up to get a refill, he had a “treatment effect“ in his pants, and was not even aware of it, though everyone in the restaurant was. Embarrassing indeed.

So not everything is as it seems.

But in all this, you and I can live and work, enjoying the day that the Lord lays before us, and rejoice in this, that as His Baptized Child, you are ever in His care. Thank God for this daily.

GPD 8/17/07

Monday, August 13, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom – Storm Sleeping 8/13/07

I’ll start with this. Uncle Emil needed a hired men, the work was just getting too much for him. So he left word at the Mill and the General Store, and pretty soon a fellow showed up asking about the work. His name was Hank. Hank is a good name for a hired man. He knew how to do the work, seemed willing and eager to start, and Uncle Emil hired him. Hank also said, “And by the way, I can sleep with the wind blowing.” Well, Uncle did not really understand that, but hired him anyhow.

Hank proved a real treasure. He was knowledgeable about machinery was always willing to do the hardest job without complaining, did his work well, and was the kind of help Uncle Emil needed to get control of all the things needed doing on this dairy farm.

Then one night a sudden summer storm came along and woke Uncle Emil up. He heard the wind blowing strongly, so he got up and checked the barn, the doors were firmly closed. Looked at the chicken house, found doors shut and locked. Checked the machine shed, and found all equipment safely under roof. Suddenly he understood what Hank meant when he said, “I can sleep when the wind is blowing.” He was prepared for it.

If you understand that story, you will understand what I mean when I can say, “Me Worry? Never”

Sunday’s readings were about Abraham’s promised son, and stories from the Faith chapter, and the Lord teaching His disciples how they were not to worry about the morrow. For the “Father knows that you need them. Seek His Kingdom, and all these things will be given you as well”.

Our God means for us to plan, yes, but, leave the rest in His care. We do what He means for us to do, and we can leave the outcome to Him.

As an example, a scholar in class does his/her work well, takes the exams in turn, and is finished. Doesn’t spend sleepless nights worrying about the result.

So live your life like that. Do each day what lies at hand to do, do it to the best of your ability, and go on with your life. Worry, Paul calls “idolatry”, for it means we don’t trust God. Just for a moment spend time meditating on Abraham, and Sarah, living with the promise “your own son shall be your heir”.

And Hebrews writes, “Abraham believed the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

So, I pray your life will be so worry-free because “You believed the Lord’s rich promises.”

GPD 8/13/07

Friday, August 10, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/10/07

When was the last time you heard a lad whistling as he walked down the street? Probably never, simply because you don’t have a front porch where you sit and watch the world go by, do you?

Philip Gulley, who gives us the Front Porch books, claims that when the Levitt Brothers started building Levittown on Long island and left off the front porches because they wanted to save some money, our troubles began, because we no longer had a place to sit and visit with neighbors and friends after dinner and solve the world’s problems.

OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but think about it!

Where do we spend time after dinner? Watching the tube with its slanted news and often biased and cockeyed opinions. And our children? They’re being watched by their latest computer games and doing their text messaging away from your supervision.

I remember reading Tom Sawyer. He wanted to play, his aunt wanted her fence white washed, and she set Tom to the task with dire threats. So he started, reluctantly, till he saw a buddy coming down the street whistling, and an idea struck Tom. He started to work, very carefully, touching up a place he had just done, and stepping back to check his work with a critical eye. His friend stopped and said, “Got to word on the fence, eh Tom? Too bad”.

Tom acted surprised to see him and said, "No, this takes real care to get it right.” So the friend, sort of intrigued, said, “Let me try”. Tom started to hand him the brush and then said, “No, I better not. Aunt Polly is real proud of this fence. So the friend begged and said, “I’ll trade you my tiger eye shooter”. So Tom reluctantly allowed him to set to work.

Well, that’s the way it went all afternoon. Tom got rich trades. Aunt Polly’s fence got three coats of white wash and she was properly astonished, and the afternoon was pleasant for all.

It reminded me of other years, sitting on the front porch with uncles and aunts chatting, exchanging views about the products of the various mills that ground their grain, exchanging views about affairs in the township, and getting up to date on the latest news from Madison. Quite often they even debated a point from the morning sermon or discussed other religious issues.

Front porches and whistling, things of the past, aren’t they? Yet to remember such things is good. The Psalmist said:

I remember the days of old,
I meditate on all your works,
And consider that your hands of done”. Psalm 143,5.

That’s good, to remember what God has done.

GPD 8/10/07

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom – diary 8/5/07

Many people find asking this question a good conversation starter with older folks. “Is there anything you would do different if you had life to live over again?


One of my favorite columnists, Leon Hale, recently talked of this, and put this thought into his words. “I believe, if I had to do it again, I would write about things that happened to me each day. Even if it was just the same thing over again.”

I agree, because one tends to forget many things as the years add up.

Then I remembered that for years, I wrote our children a letter weekly. I did it on Monday mornings around 6:30 and got it on the way. [That ended when we got into this modern age and had computers to communicate. We can easily, but often don’t, and it’s too bad.] Because I kept a copy of all those letters and find that in each I wrote about our life, or what the Church was doing, how things were tending, what difficulties we faced, what was going on . I mentioned stuff I had forgotten, and re-reading them now brings things to mind again.

In today’s letter, for example, I would probably make a comment on the recent craze called ‘zorbing’. It’s such a wonderful thing that I am sure I would have forgotten what it is about in a few days or weeks. What is it? You get strapped inside a huge ball and rolled down a hill. Isn’t that wonderful? Now don’t rush out and try it. I imagine those balls cost quite a bit, and where would you store such a thing?

Anyway, such comments on the passing scene, and remembrances of little surprises, an unexpected visit, a special gift, a warm day on a family picnic, or the time we were driving on vacation along the upper side of Lake Superior, and the children just ‘had’ to stop at a little park and try the water. And made a discovery. Lake Superior is cold even in August!

So, what do you think? What would you change if you had days to live over again? It makes an interesting study, doesn’t it?

GPD 8/5/07

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom- Rain 8/1/07

Too much rain? We were happy because the rain does replenish underground water supplies. What I did not know is that too much rain water discharged into the Gulf creates ‘dead zones’.
That’s what Texas A & M University oceanographer Steve DeMarco reports. Data gathered by a National Marine Fisheries Service boat when it was making a fish count and also measured oxygen in the water.

The data astounded DeMarco. Texas rivers typically do not carry enough discharge to cause a dead zone. For the Brazos average discharge for July is a mere 4,700 cubic feet per second. This year it rose to a record 57,000 cubic feet per second, a flow that would fill Reliant stadium in 11 minutes.

Since fresh water is less dense that salt water, it spills on top of the salt water of the Gulf and depletes the oxygen. Dead zones are most prominent in summer when winds, which aid in mixing, are weakest. It gets mixed when winds freshen or a hurricane stirs the water off the coast.

And the moral of this study?

That can happen to the soul, can it not? I enjoy reading some of the writings of a person who shall remain nameless. I enjoy his philosophy about some things. But then at times he meanders into religion, and I find him swimming in a dead zone where his lack of knowledge and understanding of Scripture shows a severe need. So I stop reading there.

It happens slowly, imperceptibly, unless we continually refresh our soul by regular feeding, reading the Word, studying it, meditating on it. I urge this, my friend, always.

GPD 8/1/07