Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/28/07

Brisk walking this morning. Monday morning I passed a lad walking to catch his bus, and I said, “Ready for the joys of learning?” He said, “I’m, looking forward to it.” “ With such an attitude you’ll go far,” I told him. Now you know, and I know, he would not admit that to his peers. It isn’t cool! But I was glad to hear it.

Well, the papers seems to be filled with news, much of it horrible. The story of Baby Grace. It saddens and sickens one to read what those parents did to that 2 year old child. After killing her, keeping the body in a plastic bag in a container in their garage before throwing it into the Gulf where some fisherman found it washed up on a mud flat. At least the authorities were able to find who this child belonged to and what happened.

Then there is the news that the Supreme Court declined to hear the County’s appeal in the Bible monument case. And the County has also to pay the legal fees of the poor woman who brought the charge, babbling about mixing church and state.

And my mind went to the Gospel of St. Luke chapter 10, the story of Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha. You may remember it. One sister is concerned about hospitality, seeing to the needs of her guest, overseeing the cooking, busy with last minute preparations. The other sister, Mary, sits quietly at Jesus' feet while He is speaking The Word.

Of course Martha is upset. In her mind the first thing is the comfort of the guest, so she cries out, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me”.

But pay attention to the answer. Jesus says that “One thing is needful, and Mary has chosen that good thing”.

And what is that One needful thing? It is hearing the WORD, paying attention to God’s will expressed and set forth in the Word.

One of the problems is that “ the unspiritual man cannot accept matters which the Spirit deals with, they just don’t make sense to him, for after all you must be spiritual to see spiritual things”. 1 Cor. 2,14. That’s how Phillips translates the verse. The Bible is just a book to so many. But by ignoring its truth we open the way to the terrors that natural man does without any restraint or any wisdom or guide.

I remember reading about an interview with Ruth Graham Lots during the Katrina Hurricane disaster. The question, “How can God allow that?” Her answer was something like this. “We have taken God out of our schools. We have made prayer in schools illegal. We have thrown him out of our courthouse. We have abandoned His teachings. Why do you ask such a question?”

Friend, remember what Jesus said, “One thing is needful”. Bible reading ought to be on the daily agenda for every Christian. There he finds wisdom, and a sure guide for living. It truly brings joy to life. Psalm 119,v.19 admits, “I’m a stranger in these parts, give me clear direction”. So He does.

GPD 11/28/07

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/15/07, Thanksgiving Day

The Day was bright and brisk, and Ruth and I spent it in Houston with the Harris and Mohr families. It was a wonderful day. We had dinner, the usual turkey with trimmings, and there were two kinds of pie with pieces cut smaller. (I had one slice). Then we spent the rest of the day visiting, relaxing, the boys threw a football for a while, checked the flowers and bushes in the yard. My mother would have used the word Gemuetlich.

The term means relaxed, sort of laid back, easy-going, [I use the term mostly ot irritate Spell Check because it is puzzled and upset when it can’t correct me, and so gets cranky once in a while.].

Even got to watch the Packers and the Lions in glorious color on a wide screen TV. The Packers won. And I thought that used to be the only game on TV and it was played in black and white either at Soldiers Field in Chicago or at Lambeaue Field in Green Bay. That field, by the way, was heated so snow would melt. Often the game was played in snow, and cold weather, always with packed stadiums.

So how was your day?

In this day when so much seems to be going wrong in the world, with troubles and disasters, we pause to give thanks, not only for the material blessings we have, but mostly for the Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins. And the judgment we so richly deserved was paid in full by that death. Blessed are we, the world’s light, placed there by our loving, caring, God.

To Him be the glory, the thanks and praise, now, and ever. Amen.

GPD 11/25/07

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/22/07

Come, ye thankful people, come
Raise the song of Harvest home,
All is safely gathered in,
‘ere the winter storms begin”.
Churches sing that . What meaning filled words these are.

The Harvest means that the Lord has not withheld the rain or the sun, and the weather turned warm and the seeds grew into a crop pf corn or wheat or timothy and that was harvested and stored in barns for the winter feeding.

It means the gardens produced bountifully and that harvest was canned and stored in the cellar for winter eating. Potatoes were harvested and stored in a cool bin, and the buildings were checked for damaged siding that might allow the rains and snows to enter.

Barns were filled with hay, silos were filled with silage, machinery was cleaned, oiled, and stored under shelter. Wood for the fires was stored in dry places, and the family was ready for the coming cold weather.

So they gathered in the Church for a service of thanksgiving to Almighty God who had been and was ever faithful.

To you, blessed of God in so many ways, a happy thanksgiving.

“With voices united, our raises we offer,
And gladly our songs of thanksgiving we raise,
With you, Lord, beside us, Your strong arm will guide us,
To you, our great Redeemer, forever we raise.”

GPD 11/22/07

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/20/07

Addition to ruminations 11/20/07
The entire prayer I quoted yesterday is:

“O Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life,
Until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes,
And the busy world is hushed;
The fever of life is over, and our work is done.
Then, Lord, in Thy mercy,
Grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last,
Through Jesus Christ, our lord, Amen.”

I used this often in late services. It so quietly and profoundly speaks to the soul troubled by sin and turmoil, finding its rest in Christ, the Savior.
Source The Ministers Prayer book (3rd printing) page 36

Monday, November 19, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/19/07, Remembrance on Birthday

And what a birthday it was, starting during the week early when son Dan gave his birthday call, early because he had to be out of the country on the day. Even before that when daughter Q came for an overnight, left us with a chicken pot pie ready to heat and serve.

Then, on the Wednesday before, we had lunch with two ladies whom I had confirmed in Michigan in their teens. One, now living in Texas had a son being married, and her sister came for this happy event. Then they got on the phone and set up a lunch date. What a refreshing thing, reminiscing and talking about their plans and families.

On my birthday our daughter and so-in-law came up from Houston and took us out to lunch. They brought along an edible arrangement. That’s a bouquet of fruit, melons, grapes, strawberries, and pineapple, arranged like a flower bouquet, Nice looking, and tasty too.

And the cards, the emails, and phone calls, almost too many to track. What rich blessing.

Now what have I learned in these years. Here’s a thought I read in the paper, “A retiree is someone who knows it all, and has plenty of time to tell you about it.”

I see where we try to fit God into our lives, instead of the other way around. Writing a message is work. Oh, there are times when the writing just seems to flow, there are other times when finding just the right word or the fitting phrase takes real time and effort. Or chasing the elusive idea, or remembering the forgotten detail. The mind seems to work in fits and starts.

The Dutch have a saying, “He who is on the outside of his front door has the hardest part of his journey behind him.” It’s that way with doing any task. The start is the hardest, so begin. It makes any task easier.

I have also learned it is better to take quiet action to solve a problem rather than allow it to fester and grow into a major danger to the Body of the Church. Really, it is better always to “forgive, as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you”.

Recently the Choir sang “I Am Forever Who I Am”. One of the stanzas reads:

“We buy and sell, we lose or gain. Our fortunes shift like sun or rain.
Sustain our lives, reward our toil, With bread and honey, wine or oil.
Save us and others from our greed, You give us always what we need,
I Am Forever whom I am… Be still, and know that I am God.”

The Psalmist declared, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere,. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the House of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Psalm 84,10. So true. So, now that the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, then in mercy grant me, in Jesus Christ, a quiet rest, and eternal peace at the last.

GPD 11/19/07

Friday, November 16, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/16/07

Brisk this morning when I started my walk. A bit later than usual because I first had to roll out the garbage container and set out the recycling box with papers, etc. So the big yellow boxes had already swept the streets clean and I was alone But not quite, for here came this dog following me. I stopped and said one word, “Home”. He listened, then went about his business checking trees, and following either close behind, or in front of me, but staying with me. I saw his collar had a nametag, so he couldn’t get lost.

Suddenly he gave a little bark and approached something on the road. Our roads are kept clean, we have these carts that run around picking up stuff. So this blob in the middle of the street was unusual. The dog sniffed it and turned away. When I got closer, I saw it was a turtle. What was he doing in the middle of Sand Pebble in Texas? On his way for a family Thanksgiving, or what? Well, I picked him up and put him on the grass across the road, and he went on.

So I came near the end of my walk when I saw a man, barefoot, picking up his morning paper. He saw that dog and said, “So there you are. Come.” And the dog did. He said to me, “He does that all the time, hitches a ride with someone walking past.” “Well, I enjoyed the company, but won’t he get lost sometime?” “Not so far”, he claimed. And I finished my walk.

And you thought I’d be reporting some deep thoughts. Especially since tomorrow is that Natal Day. But this is actually what life is, it happens while we are planning some future project, doesn’t it. Maybe that is why the Psalmist said, “This is the day that Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Savor the moment, and be thankful for God’s every blessing for they are new, and rich, to us every morning. Isn’t that a thought to carry with us? And I read this about a grandmother who was usually busy when the grandchildren stopped by, dusting, cleaning, doing this and that. One day they found her sitting on the porch and asked if something was wrong. “No, I am just sitting here letting God love me,” she said. Let’s do that more often.

GP 11/16/07

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/14/07

“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. 2 Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. 3 This is the way our Savior God wants us to live“ 1 Timothy 2, 1.2. Paul wrote that because prayer for guidance is needed in these days.

This morning the Houston Chronicle ran a picture showing the governor of Georgia with his wife and others, gathered on the capital steps, praying for rain, because Georgia is really suffering a drought. I looked rather closely at the picture and saw no one who was carrying an umbrella.

It must be hard to serve in government. But has it not always been so? Daniel, an Israelite youth brought to Babylon as a captive, ending up serving the King as chief Counselor. And jealousy enters. But he so distinguished himself that the king planned to make him chief over all. So "they sought to bring charges against Daniel, but failed to do so.” No corruption. So, this is what they planned. “We will find nothing unless it has to do with his God.” So they set a trap. Everyone, by law, for the next 30 days, MUST pray to the king, and Daniel did not. Caught. The story is in the Book of Daniel chapter 6.

It must be hard to be true in government service. Look at the problem the Presidential candidates are having with illegal immigrants. There are 12 million of them, and 8 states even allow them driver’s license, because they need them to get a job. Does that sort of ring a bell?

It should. They are illegal. Does that say something? It says they did not meet the regular requirements to become citizens of this nation. Instead of taking action, our government has been lax in carrying out the laws. Hence the problem. The candidates seem unwilling to take a stand that says, “I will try my best to see the laws are kept.”

And that is why these people need our prayers. Let’s remember what the Bible tells us: Proverbs21
“1 The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. 2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart. 3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”

Mark Twain had it right when he said, “Tell the truth. Then you won’t have to remember what story you told everyone”.

Always the best way to God. “Your laws are my delight, they are my counselors” because “I am a stranger on the earth, do not hide your commands from me.” Psalm 119,24.19. May God bless that life.

GPD 11/14/07

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/13/07

It was sort of balmy this morning, but there is a hint of more chill to come. No complaint, just a comment. That means, Chuck, soon you will be seeing that flow of winter vehicles heading south on I-75, and snow birds will be coming to the Rio Grand Valley in Texas and all along the Gulf Coast for the winter.

In the news is a probe of evangelicals by the Senate Finance Committee. That raises concerns. The IRS already has in place guidelines and rules to prevent excessive personal gain from tax-exempt work. The reaction to this news is two-fold. One is expressing concern that this is the nose of the camel, and soon your doorbell will ring with agents asking about your contributions to church and charity.

The other reaction says, “It’s about time". Which raises another question, “Why are we so often too quick to resort to the law in any such thing.” What is happening to the truth we learned in Catechism, “Put the best construction on everything”?

But politics is ever in the news. People are already running hard for the office of the President of our country. That brings up this, “How do we act in this business?” Well, study the issues, and then cast your vote. That is your Christian duty.

The other question runs deeper. How does a Christian live now? For some idea, let’s turn to the letters of St. Peter. He wrote to a people he addressed as “God’s elect”, and “scattered abroad”, and living in an environment very hostile to them. For them times were difficult because they were no longer “setting their minds on the evil desires they once did”. They were different, walking to the music of a different drummer. Christ was their head. So they were embattled. And the politics of the day did not favor their life style at all. Yet Peter reminds them that they must “submit for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men”. For Peter reminded them, as did St. Paul, “For there is no authority except that which God has established”. Romans 13,1. And then Paul adds that the government is “God’s servant to do you good”. V.4.

Throughout history, Christians have been put to death because they lived by a different standard that did not blend in. In the Roman system, any god was all right, but you had to admit that “Caesar was God”. And Christians admitted of only one. Jesus Christ, so thousands lost their lives.

We are “A chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God”. 1 Peter 2,9. “Aliens and strangers” v.11, Peter calls us. “So remember friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourself comfortable in it” v.11 MSG.

So we live like that, vote like that, and always continue to pray for “kings and for all that are in authority”. Always remembering psalm 2, “He that sitteth in the heavens” is in control.

So live like that. Cast your vote, and then pray for the government elected. Seek the peace of the city, work for the good of all, and may God ever bless your life and work.

GPD 11/13/07

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/6/07

I dress for that ‘cold front’ the weatherman keeps promising with cold air down from Canada, and then regret wearing the heavy jacket before I’m done. One of these days we will have it match, weather and clothing.

UPS, the ubiquitous package carrier, used to train its drivers with two weeks of lecture. But this generation doesn’t hear well, so the company devised hands-on training. For example, when he delvers a package, the driver has his key on his ring finger, holds the rail when he steps down, walks briskly to deliver the average of 200 packages and picks up a average of 70. Each stop averages 4.2 minutes, and when he gasses up, he drives into a station on the right side of the highway. They even devised a machine to help them keep their balance if they should slip on ice or oil in the walk. A driver who does not hold on when he steps down soon develops ankle problems and has to quit. The company has been doing this for years. And is held up as a model for efficiency.

I put down that article and picked up Habakkuk again. Here is an interesting book. This prophet asks the sort of questions we would ask. What’s happening here in the world with your people. Don’t you care? Aren’t you listening? Why is the Christian Church in such turmoil today? How can this be put right?

The prophet, of course, is concerned about the people. And God gives him a startling answer. He will send the heathen Babylonians to march through the land and bring destruction. And Habakkuk is startled, because it is not the answer he would expect. But isn’t that the way answer to prayer often comes, in a different way, but always in time, and always better than we might have asked?

Because the Bible is God’s way of dealing with his creation. And in all the seemingly random way there is always the divine hand at work. The prophet learns the lesson well. Look how the book ends. 17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 God, the Lord, is my strength;

He learns to trust the Word of His God, and so must we.

GPD 11/6/07

Friday, November 2, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/2/07

This morning a sweater would have been enough. Where is the ‘cold front’ the weather man promises? Next week I’ll probably need both sweater and jacket for my walk. Go figure.

We were uptown this morning. Here is a contrast, a young girl walks by in light summer clothes, just above her head are the decorations for Christmas! Well, the paper repots the merchants are starting early.

Here it is November, and when I was still writing and editing a bulletin about this time one line always appeared. REMEMBER NOVEMNER 17. It was sort of an in-house joke in the church family. One, it reminded them time moves along. And it gave them a chance to smile and say, “Pastor has a birthday coming up”.

The fleeting time does remind me that it does move along, bring the burden of the years. I was speaking with a friend and he told me he sold their property in favor of a condo because “the yard work was getting to much for me”. It seems to do that.

And it reminded me of Moses. He led and taught the children of Israel for their 40 years of wandering. And when they neared the promised land, he himself would not enter in. God told him to climb Mt. Nebo and showed him the land, its beauty and its freshness, and there Moses died. The Bible tells us Moses was 120 years old and “his eyesight was not dimmed, nor his natural strength abated’, Deuteronomy 34. And he had the energy and strength to climb Mt. Nebo.

I complain about the ravages of the years. And yet, I have blessings “new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness”. So many and so rich are the blessings the gracious hand of God gives me daily, I cannot praise and thank Him enough. And it is time to remember that more, begin the day with a prayer of thanks and gratitude, and end the day with the same note. For great is God’s faithfulness. Its true for me, it is true for all God’s children. A note to recall when all we see is need, or worry, or fretting, or care.

For God is rich in His blessed care in His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

GPD 11/2/07