Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shade t\Tree Wisdom 10/30/07, The Secret

So, what’s the secret of finding this happiness you mentioned in the cheese factory visit, some of you have asked?

It really was a relaxing sort of day. One item. When we stopped for our lunch, Kay had called the restaurant to tell her we would be there, and how many to look for. So the place had tables arranged for, utensils placed, tea glasses ready for sweet or unsweetened.

As it happened, mine was the first order the waitress took, and mine was the LAST meal served. In other circumstances and times you may believe I would have been ready to see about this lack. But this time, we were so relaxed, enjoying each others company, no sweat. Besides, no one would be leaving till we were all ready to go.

But the real secret in such a life, I believe, you will find in Psalm 131.

Let me try to explain. Remember when you visited with family at Thanksgiving. You visited, ate, chatted some more, while the children were playing around. Then it was time to go home. You got in the car and drove the 20 or 30 miles, and when you got back home you said, “We’re home. Time to go to bed.” And there was no answer. The children were sleeping. So you carried them in, undressed them, and got them into bed and they never woke up. They had complete trust in your skill with driving, finding your way to your home, and doing that all safely. They trusted you.
Psalm 131, one of the Palms of ascending sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, writes:

“O Lord, I don’t feel proud or look haughty,
Nor meddle in things too great and wonderful for me.
No, I’ve calmed down and silenced my ambitions,
Like a child to its mothers bosom.
My spirit in me rests like a weaned child,
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
Now and forever.”

And there, friend, lies the secret.
Faith in God. You must believe there is a God who is over it all. It’s just as simple and straightforward as that.
GPD 10/30/07

Monday, October 29, 2007

Thoughts on Reformation 10/29/07

“A Mighty Fortress is our God, a trusty shield and weapon.”

“Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us,”

And then,
“The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it,
He’s by or side upon the plain, with His good gifts and spirit.
And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife,
Let all these be gone,
Our victory has been won.
The KINGDOM ours remaineth”.
(Lutheran Hymnal)

I remember when I was in grade school the school children sang as a choir with the congregation, and it was truly a joyful sound.

And I also remember as a Seminarian celebrating the Reformation in the chapel in St. Louis. 400 young voices raised in song, famed Organist Rechlin at the organ, tears streaming down his face as he played and we sang, a glorious triumphant sound to the glory of God.

It is always a good thing to celebrate, and remember the Word remains, to hold it in truth, to walk by its teaching, and take comfort in its rich promises of salvation. God giving us strength for the days to come. I pray your day was a blessing to you.

GPD 10/29/07

Friday, October 26, 2007

Note & Comment 10/26/07

Yes, there is a Cut n’ Shoot, Texas. It lies along hgwy 105 some 9 miles East of Conroe, the County Seat of Montgomery County. We passed through Cut n’ Shoot yesterday morning on our way to The Cheesemakers, Inc cheese factory. That is about 2 miles further east just off 105 on Walker road.

Just how a cheese factory got to Texas is the end of a series of circumstances which started because a U of Texas engineering graduate saw a need, filled it, and ended selling a machine to a cheese factory in Kiel, Wisconsin. He installed it and remained around several days to make sure it worked as it should and all the glitches were worked out. What to do meanwhile. Sightseeing in Kiel was rather limited, so he, out of boredom, attended an auction of a cheese factory, made a bid, found it was the only bid, and owned a cheese factory. To pay for it he called his grandmother, she was a sort of Warren Buffet in the stock market, made money, and offered her two grandsons if the need ever arose, to supply the funds. So he called, she wired the funds, and he bought the factory, and then he enrolled in cheese making class at Wisconsin U, then loaded his factory on 3 semi trucks, hauled it to Texas, and erected it on a property he owned near Cut n’ Shoot.

The reason for this telling is that the Senior Basic Group from Living Word toured that plant yesterday. It was an outing long planned, and turned into one of those days that slow, relaxing, satisfying, and easily classified as happy.

Funny, isn’t it. How we long to be happy. For many, the chase for happiness becomes the reason for their very existence, and the more they plan to be happy, the more it eludes them. Why, Paul said it in one sentence, “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content”.1 Tim. 6,8. And the letter to the Hebrews writes, “Be content with such things as you have, for He has said, never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”. Heb 13,5. And that should be enough.

We often forget that happiness is usually a by product. It happens while we are busy with life, doing what lies before us. When such a day ends, as did yesterday, we really have the feeling of well being. And it is there. Unplanned, just happened.

Thank God for such times.

GPD 10/26/07

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/24/07

Jacket sure felt good this morning. This cool front makes it seem a bit as if we are moving away from the heat. Even had to turn on the furnace a bit. But the morning walk was fine. Brisk and pleasant. And there is much to think about, and pray over.

David started his day that way, you recall? “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice”. Ps. 5,3 And the news certainly gives us much to pray about. The wild fires raging in California, for example, lives lost, property destroyed, nature in upheaval, and winds making the fighting of the fires nearly impossible.

And on the other side of the county rejoicing over a Perfect Liftoff for another space endeavor.

Meanwhile, right where I live, and you live, real problems little and big to keep us maybe upset, or at least interested.

Is it any wonder Paul writes to the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4, 6.7. And later he adds, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength”.v.13

There is so much on our plate that we do well, and find comfort in this, that God also says, “Be Still and know that I Am GOD”. Psalm 46,10a.

May this word bring ease to your aching heart and wondering mind, thou who does what the Apostle urges, “Pray continually” 1 Thess 5,17.

GPD 10/24/07

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom – on walking 10/20/07

Here comes an article on walking sent by a friend. It quotes ‘experts’ who are asked where ideas come from. German physicist, Hermann von Helmholz, speaking at a banquet in 1891 on his 70th birthday said, “Happy ideas come unexpectedly, without effort, like an inspiration. They come especially readily while I am walking”. And a modern mathematician, Princeton’s Andrew Wiles, said, “when I get stuck on a problem, I take a walk. Your subconscious mind is at work while you are in a state of relaxation”.

And it’s true. I do get ideas during my morning walk. The idea is there, to express it in an email is harder. I sit there often and wonder, is this the right way to say it, will they understand what I am trying to get across? Is it making sense, and is it easy to understand?

Is the thought worth saying in the first place? And is it brief, to the point, and contain a lesson or moral? Readers need to have the feeling of getting something to make their life better, stronger, or come away thankful for the reading.

Wordiness is deadly. So, do I sound like a politician, a person with nothing to say using many words to say it?

So there are lots of things that go into communication. I pray always that you will continue to find the things I send your way worth the while.

Just by the way, When Dr. Walther, our churches first president, was a theological student in Germany, one of the requirements for graduation was to serve as tutor for a family. During that year he regularly walked 4 miles one way to attend a church where the Law and Gospel were clearly taught. He used that time to think deeply about the faith. One result may be the classic work on LAW & GOSPEL he later wrote and that is still being used.

So, try walking for your health, and for thinking clear thoughts about any problem you might be struggling with. The Lord answers such prayer in His time.

GPD 10/20/07

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/18/07

No, planning on winning the lottery is not a good retirement plan. It is interesting that today, when foreclosures this year are up some 67% over last year, Countrywide Financial, the nation's largest mortgage lender, comes up with a curious idea. It plans to take in deposits from small savers to lend out to other people who will actually pay back the money. Just like George Bailey did in “It’s A Wonderful Life’.

Thrift, historically, meant a wise use of resources. It means no waste, whether of raw material, time, energy, or money. It meant being conservative in the best sense. It meant Americans understood that getting out of the slavery of payday-to-payday meant saving some of what one earned.

I remember going to the bank with my father. The object, to open a savings account with some pennies I had been given. Banks were the place to keep money, and the Bank President himself, an imposing man dressed in a suit and wearing a white shirt and tie, called me over, gave me a savings book with my own name on it, and showing a deposit of one dollar, a gift from the bank to start me out. To this he added the money I had and gave me the filled book to bring back every time. Later a bit interest was added. Wonderful! My money was earning me money. What a fine system. Can’t beat that.

Well, that system still works, and there is hope that Americans will finally see the wisdom in this terribly mundane thing. This simple process.

Sad to say, we are living in a world where our government itself leads the way, borrowing from earmarked funds like social security to pay for its excesses, and even promoting such anti thrift institutions as lotteries as a way to pay expenses.

Our Lord has wisdom here also. Jesus told the story of the foolish farmer whose fields yielded abundant harvests, so that he planned to build more storage so he could “Have thine ease.”: Jesus said it is more important to be “rich toward God” than to worry about money here. Luke 12, 13 – 21. And being ‘rich toward God’ simply means that we believe His word, trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord, and live “as unto Him.”

And God bless that sort of life.

GPD 10/18/07

Monday, October 15, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/15/07

It struck me this morning on the refreshing time outdoors, what future do they have? I mean the youngsters gathered to be hauled away for the day to the halls of learning. Here is a quiet lad, he has a little device in hand that he pays attention to. Here is another, shy, always ready with a smile and a quiet “good morning’. She carries an instrument case which might hold a flute or piccolo. Another, larger lad, also quiet, shouldering his book bag. And then there is Brandon, exuberant with his greeting, always running hard because he nearly misses the bus each morning.

Then the bus sweeps them up and they are gone. And I wonder what is in store for them in life? Will they graduate High School, enter college somewhere, win a scholarship, find their career path easy, or harsh, have friends, family. And what is their background? Do they have dreams and plans for their future?

And I say a quiet prayer for them. I pray they will know the same God I do, the One to whom I can say,

The Lord is MY Shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside the still waters,
He restores my soul.
Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me,
All the days of My Life.
And I will dwell in the House of the Lord,
Psalm 23 excerpts
GPD 10/15/07

Friday, October 12, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/12/07

Really cool this morning, but a few minutes of brisk walking made it comfortable and really enjoyable.

And I got to thinking of harvest time, and the end of things. I was reminded of this whole thing by a book I just read by Robert Fulghum – He of the “All I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten” fame. He just wrote “What on Earth Have I Done?” He heard an exasperated Mom say to her son as she was dropping him off at school, “Billy What on EARTH have you done now?” It’s a Mother question, Fulghum writes, and there really is no answer.

But he says it is also a profound question. What have I done with my life? Most gravestones I see have two dates on them separated by a dash, the question becomes, “what happened then?” People wonder, and the Scripture offers answers here. The prophet Micah offers this, “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”. Micah 6,8. Quite a statement. And we fall short of it.

Or Ecclesiastes offers “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work, or thought, or knowledge, or wisdom, in the grave where you are going.” Eccl. 9,10. Now there’s a truth worth considering too.

Then comes Jesus, “And THIS is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent.” John 6,29. Now we are closing in on a thought that gives us some comfort.

For here comes St. Paul in Ephesians 2,8 “For by grace you are saved, through faith, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”. Ephesians 2, 8 – 10.

What on earth have I done? God planted faith into my heart in Holy Baptism. God directed this life according to the works He planned for me.

About 15 feet away from my window as I write stands a Loblolly Pine. The trunk measures nearly two feet in diameter, so it’s been standing and growing there for what, more than one hundred years? It just does that till I suppose a storm sends it toppling. (I just pray I won’t be sitting here when it comes through that window).

The question is really not, what have I done, but do I believe what God teaches me about His Son dying on the cross is true for me. Do I believe Jesus is My Lord and Savior? That is the ultimate, and saving, question, is it not?

GPD 10/12/07

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/10/07

Soon now, very soon, the morning walk will require a light sweater. Nice. And the paper tells us the peek season for Fall color in Vermont is right now. Reminds me of the colors behind Christ Lutheran Church in Augusta, along the Missouri river. It was situated a bit above the road which ran along the river, and behind it was a hill just covered with Aspen, Maple, and other trees that gave rich Fall color. Each Fall the color section of the St. Louis papers featured Christ Lutheran with its background of color. And the drive along the river was a Sunday afternoon favorite that time of year. Along the road lay the Church, further along a farmer had a field planted with pumpkins which people picked. He also usually had a small patch of those colorful gourds people used for table decorations around the Thanksgiving holiday. Still further along was an apple orchard featuring fresh cider, and still further was a vineyard featuring wine tasting. Made for a nice afternoon away from the city.

But listen, Texas does have color. The Lost Maples State Natural Area west of Boerne near Kerrville offers colorful display during October and November. Lost Maples is small, only 2,174 acres, but it has probably the only bigtooth maple trees in the entire southwest. The area has several walking trails, some of them challenging, some camping area, and a small parking area for 250 vehicles. It gets most of its visits in the Fall. But the area is attractive for hikers and nature enthusiasts any time of year.

Another place for color is the Mast Arboretum of Stephen F. Austin University situated in Nacadoches, Texas. It is the first arboretum on a Texas university campus. It began as a land-scape materials class project in 1985 and grew into a 10 acre classroom of themed gardens. Great place to visit.

We can figure out WHY the color comes with the cool fall weather. But do we stop to remember who put it there? I think of Job when the Lord asked him, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” and “Where were you when all this happened?” Job chapter 38 gives more detail.

The hand of the Creator is plain here. He made this beauty, and He made us and gave us the emotions to want to see it and enjoy it too. Another blessing we so often take for granted. But do stop and remember. The gracious hand of God lays out such beauty for our eyes to see and rejoice in. It’s one of His gifts that become so second-nature that we fail to be again astounded at the richness of it all. That’s what Fall color ought to do. It gives us reason for trips, but more, it gives us reason to develop a thankful heart. May God bless this to you.

GPD 10/10/07

Monday, October 8, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/8/07

Nice cool breeze this morning, and it reminded me that Fall is here. One reminder was the LWML Fall Rally here at our church. What a wonderful organization, this Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. Its beginnings came when some folks got together and asked, “What can we do?” Their answer was partly to do the work at home, in their own churches and places, and then they invented the Mite box. This was to raise funds for more work.

I can remember seeing these boxes on kitchen window sills where the ladies placed mites, pennies, nickels, dimes saved and scrounged out of budgets already pretty bare. These mites grew into a mighty stream, and that is being used today for all kinds of mission effort. A mission starts somewhere, often the LWML steps in to buy needed furnishings for the altar and for the church, hymnals, prayer books, devotional materials. The list goes on, heartening to hear about, and blessed of God.

The fellowship you find in such rallies is heartwarming. Women from different churches and encouraging one another in their different places. Praying for, encouraging, a struggling mission in many parts of this globe. Supporting their Church in ways often not even noticed. Yet ever blessed by God.

The Rally was well attended, and ended with a bit of luncheon. And just as this neared its end and women were starting to leave, it rained. A nice, sunny, warm Fall day, and then it rained, but it doesn’t last, so a five minute wait was all that was needed. And ladies left to go home, encouraged and strengthened to the work. And that is part of what makes the work of God grow, isn’t it, under God’s blessing and direction.

And for me, the interesting thing is that the international President of this LWML is a lady from Grafton, Wisconsin, just some 10 miles from the Church I grew up in. Well, lots of good things come from Wisconsin.

GPD 10/8/07

Friday, October 5, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom – the Internet10/5/07

“It just sort of got out of hand”, and “I had no idea it would go that far”.

Those are some of the lines in a report of the anonymity of the internet where many vicious blogs are anonymous. The article in Forbes reports that many such blogs are mean, degrading, and cruel. Instead of being self-policing, the system has become an instrument for unlimited meanness and cruelty. Authorities admit that when it is anonymous, one removes the need to think and reason, because accountability brings civility.

And the world does not seem to be able to understand that such a thing would happen . This invention, the Internet, which could be such a blessing, and serves for much good, can also become an instrument for great evil.

It does really bring out the truth of what the Bible so clearly teaches. “LIGHT has come into the world, and men have preferred darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” John 3,19. It turns our attention to what St. Paul was greatly concerned about. In his letter to the Ephesians he tells them that now they are God’s children. “Children of light’, he said. Now they are Christian, “do not live any longer as the gentiles live, for they live blindfolded in a world of illusion, and are cut off from the life with God through ignorance and insensitiveness.” Eph. 4,17.18.

And that’s hard. Psalm 129 speaks of life under God. “Persecuted from my earliest youth. . . but not destroyed.” The MSG says, “They kicked me around since early youth . . . but they could never keep me down”. Psalm 129, l.2.

We live in the same sort of climate. A climate where Satan is loose, always “seeking whom he may destroy”. And our weapon still is that we “Resist him steadfast in the faith’.” Knowing that the same kind of thing is happening to your fellow Christians throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5,9. For the battle we fight has been won.” Take heart, I have overcome the world” John 16,33.
“Take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife,
Let all these be gone,
They yet of nothing won.
He’s judged, the deed is done,
The Kingdom ours remaineth.”

So we live in hope, because His promises, rich and firm, and ever true.

GPD 10/5/07

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/2/07

The morning walk is becoming more pleasant each day. Nights are definitely cooler, so at 6:20 or so it’s really nice. Often the moon is just waning, and the air is fresh with birds welcoming the day, as do the yellow boxes that sweep each morning, hauling eager scholars off to their daily learning.

I was delighted to see the Religion section of the daily paper devoted the lead article to signs of faith flourishing all over this land. Author of a book on “Bible Road, Signs of Faith in theAmerican Landscape, Sam Fentress first became interested when a student brought him a picture of a farmer’s barn covered by scripture verses. So, for the next twenty years, he sought out such pictures in his travels. From a silo in Monroe, Ohio that reads simply, “John 3,3”, to rocks etched with “Obey God or burn” found in Harlem. People express their faith in signage along the way.
It interests me that the new Hymnal for the LC-MS makes some prayers easy to find and use by printing them in the very front ofthe book. So prayers upon entering church, before and after worship and communion, lie right at hand.

But religion is more than a sign, isn’t it? James said, “Pure religion and undefiled is this, to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1,27.

Here is a word, found, printed and framed above a visitors book: “Let the peace of this place surround you. The hurry and worry of life fall away. You are God’s child. Speak to Him in prayer, and give yourself time to hear what He has to say.” Then depart in His peace.” Wise words indeed.

GPD 10/2/07