Monday, December 31, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom at the End of the Year 12/31/07

The year You gave us, Lord, is ending
A year of plans, and work, and strife,
Your wisdom guided wayward tending,
You kept us sheltered in our life.

In mercy, Lord, forgive our sinning,
Here Satan offers great temptation,
In Jesus’ Name we plead forgiveness,
And seek eternal peace with Thee.
O Lord keep us all the day long of this tempestuous year, 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, in thy mercy, grant us safe harbor and quiet rest, and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray this. Amen

So we end the year, as we began it. Ruth and I, under God’s eternal, loving care. Our names written on the palms of His hands. Washed white by the blood of the lamb shed for us, we pray this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
At year end 2007
GPD 12/31/07

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/30/07

“I care for every bird in the hills,
And everything stirring in the field is present before Me.” Ps. 50,11

For l08 years the National Audubon Society has held its Christmas bird count, not only in this country, but in Canada, Mexico, and other parts of the world as well. Areas are broken in areas roughly 15 miles in diameter, and volunteers count what birds they hear and see, and how many. The count in this area was done by the Piney Woods Wildlife Society on Saturday. Last year they counted more than 9,200 birds representing 90 species.

The National Society counts the totals to see what birds are affected by encroaching developments, are flight patterns changing, is migration different, or which may be in danger of extinction, and what, if anything, may be done to make bird life easier.

An interesting sidelight. The Andean Condor does not start to lay eggs till its 12th year, and then only lays one egg every 3 years! The Condor is the world’s largest bird. It was endangered because farmers used to shoot them because they thought they killed cattle. They only eat carrion.

Through it all, our God says, “I care for every bird in the hills, and everything stirring in the field is present before me”.

So, as we near the end of the year, let us give thanks that there are many, perhaps you are one, who help in the national effort.

GPS 12/30/07

Friday, December 28, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/28/07

December 28th and it’s Alvin’s birthday. A fine time. The country was clothed in white. The festivities of Christmas were ended. Boring, so the brothers and sisters and family gathered to celebrate my dad’s birthday.

No invitation went out, but everybody came. And all the aunts packed a basket of sandwiches or cakes. Several large coffee pots were put to use making coffee, and the celebration began. Visiting, some playing cards, others singing, several chess games in progress, the teenagers went to Brown Deer Park to the ice rink, aunts visiting and getting food ready for that midnight snack. It was just a time to get together, enjoy some fellowship, discuss crops, milk production, whether that new hybrid corn did better, and maybe last Sunday’s sermon, the Christmas program, the needs of church or school.

Then around ten or so food was set out, everybody ate, lots of laughing and joking, and then home to sleep and do the next morning’s chores. But the birthday was sort of an excuse to break the winter dullness and remember God’s rich blessings to them all.

Gifts were not involved at all. It was just a time to fellowship, and rejoicing together that they were there to do it.

GPD 12/28/07

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/27/07

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her king,
Let every heart, prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing. And heaven and nature sing.”

We sing that with voices ringing and joy in our hearts, for Christmas is really a happy time. A time to enjoy, to relax, to visit and exchange gifts and, more important, our presence with relative and friends. We gladly endure the hassle of packing and travel to be “home for Christmas”.

Even composing the yearly Christmas letter about family happenings, brings a warm feeling of accomplishment.

Laughter is the order of the day, merriment, mirth, enjoyment. There are many kinds of laughter.

For instance, at a wedding I conducted years ago the bride and groom exchanged vows and rings, and the groom then fainted dead away. The bride did the only thing she could do, she giggled. That’s one kind.

People giggle, they guffaw, they snicker, they cackle. They roar. Some have a musical laugh that is pleasant to hear, others have more of a snort. Others again have a nasal twang that kind of grates on the ear. Some groups, in restaurants, for instance, make lots of noise when they enjoy something, others enjoy such company with a quiet chuckle.

I’m a chuckler, my laughing is more internal.

Laughter expresses enjoyment and mirth. It involves facial muscles throat, lungs, mouth and eyes. It is usually involuntary, and sometimes the impulse comes at the most inappropriate times. [Like for the man who was attending an aunts funeral and kept wondering why they kept referring to Josephine when her name was Ellie. So when he asked his neighbor sitting next to him he found he was in the wrong church.]

We can control the volume and tone of our laughter. It’s called fine-tuning.

So enjoy the season, the visits, the exchanges, the tales to tell, the news of nephews and nieces, aunts and uncles, and long-forgotten friends of times past. And do laugh. That is, finally, a gift of God, is it not. To enjoy His creation. And most of all, to the enjoy His Birth as your Savior, and mine.

GPD 12/27/07

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom - Christmas Day 12/25/07

Quiet this morning, and crisp. Quiet that is, till that dog stared to bark a bit. We chatted and were getting along OK till his mistress stood in the doorway and called, “Bootsie, come here”. He left quickly. No respectable dog wants you to know they call him Bootsie.

But enough. It’s Christmas.

Dr. Walter Maier spoke these words on the Lutheran Hour in 1940:
“This message may be the last God Almighty will permit you to hear. I now tell you that this Baby, born in Bethlehem, is Jesus, the Savior of the world, and your Savior. And in His Name you can stand before God. Nothing else will save you.”

That is still the message of Christmas. Jesus came, and “He shall save His people from their sins”.

We join all Christians as we sing,

“O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray,
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels,
The Great glad tidings tell,
Oh, come to us, abide in us,
Our Lord, Immanuel!”
“And there is room, and welcome there for me”.

In His Name I greet you, and wish for you the rich blessings of this glorious celebration. Christ is Born. A Blessed Christmas.

GPD 12/25/07

Monday, December 24, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/24/07

December 24, Christmas Eve, and the morning had a bright moon still, nice cold air, and a quiet. Only one car the entire time I was out. And I thought of the Birth.

It struck me again how ordinary it was. Shepherds in the fields. That had been going on for generations. The air calm, quiet, nothing going on. The air a bit chilled, a sparkling night, stars gleaming, the sort of night you look out of the widow to admire. But nothing unusual.

Then in this ordinary night, suddenly the brightness of an angel with a message for the shepherds. ”Do not be afraid, for the Savior is born”. Then a chorus of angels singing the glory and praising God.

And the ordinary becomes memorable.

Think. Isn’t that the way the Word works. How God comes. How his works happen. We take them for granted, yet they happen because God is there. God comes in the common, and His most powerful tools are the simplest.

The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend.

So in His Blessed Name, we wish you all a most blessed Christmas. May Jesus Born make your faith stronger and fill you with the peace that comes because your sins are forgiven. God bless the day, and you, my friend.

GPD 12/24/07

Friday, December 21, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/21/07

Nice walking this morning. Colder, no wind to speak of, and quiet. The quiet not even shattered by those lumbering yellow boxes so necessary to our way of life. There are no classes today.

We are nearing Christmas. People have been sending and receiving greetings, doing some shopping, deciding what to give to whom this year, and how many to invite for that party. Or facing the hassle of air travel to distant places we once called home.

Churches, too, are preparing. Choirs are practicing many hours, Pastors are preparing worship hours, members are preparing to rejoice anew over this BIRTH of their Savior.

And it brings to mind those folks who rarely are seen in Church. They come at Christmas time.

Have you ever thought what they experience there? Or indeed why they come? Is it just nostalgia, family urging, or are they grasping for an answer that eludes them, seeking help and comfort from a God they seldom recognize or worship? Are they coming because they look to heaven for help with their problems? Problems for which they see no solution?

I do know Isaiah foretold that “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light”. Is. 9,2. And that “the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Heb.4,12, [God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey”]. This is the way The Message puts that.

So they come to church and do hear the real message of the Word of God, that we are sinners, born that way, and that Jesus came to shed his blood for our sins. He made the only payment that God would accept, since “the soul that sinneth it shall die”, that Word may just penetrate, create that change that the Holy Spirit can and does make, and their worship will be unto salvation. Pray that this does happen.

I do know God created a world that is marvelous. Things in our life, the breath we take, the way we think, see, experience, are all amazing events we take for granted. We stumble along, often numb and jaded, and blind to the marvelous events that take place daily. We fail to see that these are all amazing gifts from a gracious Creator.

Just as that infant lying in the manger on that first morning remained unrecognized except by shepherds who were sent by angels. But think of it, that newborn Babe was and is the Savior of this world and brings us eternal life.

Rejoice, rejoice, and sing, and learn again the deep mystery of God in sending His Only Son to suffer, die, rise again for us “while we were yet sinners”. What an amazing event this is after all.

Let’s pray that the people who come, hear that, and will have an eternal blessing.

GPD 12/21/07

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/19/07

A bit foggy this morning, just enough to make the lighted decorations have a bit of glow. I noticed this year more people have trees as their decorations. Some of those formed from wire and already ready to be lit, others set on the porch. One house has just two flanking their front door. Kind of effective.

Reminds me, the first Christmas tree in a Church in America was at Zion Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Ohio. It was regarded as sort of heathenish.

In that sense the Woodlands is sort of unique. Here builders have to take care not to cut down more than necessary. So we have lots of trees. Recently a number of condos and apartments were built on the southeast shore of lake Woodlands, along the parkway. Then one day when I happened that way they had planted a large number of trees between the buildings and the roadway. Trees already 25 feet or more.

Trees are necessary to cities, and governments are beginning to realize that and begin planting. A large maple, for instance, helps absorb carbon dioxide, removes particulate matter from the air, prevents floods, and helps moderate temperatures. But it costs money to care for trees so newer parks replace trees with no-fuss tennis courts, and playgrounds.

About the time we were moving to Detroit, the city was losing its elms to Dutch elm disease. Crews who cut trees around the church told me they had cut nearly 1,000 in a 20 block radius. It makes a difference to climate and beauty. The city had a program to replant trees, but it will take years for them to reach size.

So The Woodlands is unique in that it does have, and cherishes, trees. And today, when large buildings are planned, they build a parking structure instead of paving 20 acres for parking.

I looked forward to sitting under a shade tree, dispensing words of wisdom to grandchildren when I retired. Turns out everybody is too busy living to sit and listen, and I am too busy learning new technology to have time to sit under that shade tree. Funny about life, isn’t it? We live what the Lord allows us to live, and enjoy it with gratitude and thankfulness. That is what the Lord blesses.

GPD 12/19/07.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/14/07

Peter said to Him, "Explain the parable to us." 16 Jesus said, "Are you still lacking in understanding also?" 17 "Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated?? 18 "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man." 19 "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders." 20 "These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man." This from Matthew 15,16-20.

Pretty strong language. The sad thing is the word is true. Look at the world today.

But first, some good news. The Texans won last night, pretty impressively considering they list a number of injured on the roster. But this doesn’t matter to you, and on the whole, the news is rather local after all.

But the Houston Chronicle headlines its other sports news by declaring, “A Sad Day for baseball”. A report on players' use of forbidden steroids appears, and among them are some pretty impressive names. Now comes the name-calling and the rest of what that evil heart can cast up. Sad indeed.

In the news is Disneyland. If you’ve ever visited, you rode the “It’s a Small World” ride. Nice. That ride has been closed to deepen the water channel after some boats started to get stuck under heavy passengers. They had to ask some to leave the ride, and compensated them for their trouble by giving them coupons for free food! A nice touch, don’t you think?

And Swiss watchmaker Romain Jerome unveils a new line of watches made from steel salvaged from the Titanic. They sell from $7,800 to $173,000 a pop.

C&D Distributors rake in 20 m in shipping costs when they discover a flaw in the Defense Department purchasing system. A clerk spotted it when they charged $696,000 for shipping two 19 cent washers to an army base in Texas.

The good news is that Jesus Christ came to offer a solution to this sin-riddled world. He shed His blood to pay for our sins. We get the benefit when we believe what the Spirit teaches us. God be praised for His mercy and grace.

GPD 12/14/07

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/12/07

Boy, I got in a short walk before the rains started again. But I did get a walk in. And I thought how often we just take God’s riches and blessings for granted.

The report of the icy conditions through the Midwest reminded me of the years we served in Missouri. The Mexico/Vandalia parish was 35 miles apart, and I drove that each Sunday. The Only time I missed was one Sunday when ice had blanketed the entire area, trees were losing branches, and 21 miles of telephone wires were down when one pole broke, and the domino effect took down the rest with the lines heavy with ice. So I called Mr. M, in Vandalia and said I wouldn’t be coming. He replied, “There’s nothing moving here, Pastor, and we weren’t expecting you”. Certainly, we prayed for safe travel, but always expected to be home again for the service in Mexico.

We do tend to take God’s presence and shelter for granted, do we not?

One other thought, during all that travel, I had one flat tire along the way and had no jack. So I went to the farmhouse where it happened, and asked for help. The man, who happened to be a vet, jumped in his truck, jacked up the car, replaced the tire, took nothing but my thanks, and I was on my way in five minutes.

The Psalm has it so right.

“O Lord, you have searched me, and you know me,
You know when I sit, and when I rise;
You perceive My thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out, and my lying down,
You are familiar with all my ways”. Psalm 139, 1-3.

So He does, and God is always right there with us, blessing, guiding, leading, and keeping, so that “No harm shall befall thee”. So the rain falls, and I am dry, because God supplies all my needs. And I am grateful.

GPD 12/12/07

Monday, December 10, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/10/07

Kind of misty this morning. As a matter of fact, it was raining when I got up, but had stopped by the time I was ready for the walk. So, do I go, or not? Do I take an umbrella, or not? Do I just pick up the paper and skip the walk. Well, I walked, and it didn’t rain, but it remained misty.

Thanks to all who took the time to send a line saying my scribble reached your house. Really amazing, this stuff, isn’t it?

I notice while walking some houses leave their decorating lights on all night, some do not. It’s a matter of habit, I assume.

But it does bring to mind that yearly puzzle, why do lights we put away so carefully come out in a tangle the next year? Well, stick with me a bit, and I shall offer the solution. A solution by the way, offered after research by the U of California and the U of Pennsylvania math department. One suggestion is to hang the lights over the rafters in the back of the garage. Their study found that any string of lights, if it had one end free and was jostled a bit, would become tangled, and the more shaking, the worse the mess. So store the lights with ends joined, and the cords packed tightly, and let them alone.

Now that was simple, wasn’t it?

I was paging through a Popular Science issue lately and marveled at the advanced technology already here or just over the horizon. For an example, they are testing the scramjet engine, capable of flying at speeds up to 15 mach, 10,000 mph. Or something that will replace the cable for internet connections. It is almost too much.

Then I remember it was a little squirrel, looking for some new taste, that brought the whole thing to a halt when it nibbled through a cable.

I urge us to remember, “My times are in Thy hands”. He it is who created it all, and keeps it in His gentle care. Praise His holy Name.

GPD 12/10/07

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/9/07

First of all, let me report that the Power Company kept its promised and fixed that street lamp with two days to spare. Excellent.

Now bear with me. I am learning a different way to send emails, and I am trying something different. A person of my years already knows so much, but this modern technology – well, my family is more than patient with instructing me. And they do this with kindness and serve as excellent tutors.

So I will take it a kindness if you will let me know if this comes through, please.

GPD 12/9/07

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/8/07

I’m back. After God’s created creature messed up this wonderful technology and disconcerted me and the internet, It happened like this. When the cable was put in, either a careless workman or a lazy one did not bury the entire length, and a squirrel took a liking to that cable, chewed it, till he got through.

So I called the company whom I pay money each month, and after a while I managed to get a repair visit scheduled. Here comes a nice young man, checked the machine inside, found everything in good shape, then checked the outside and found the unburied cable nipped in several places, one of them fatal. He replaced that, promised to send a man out to bury it, received my thanks, and left.

Now that I am back, let me report on that street lamp. It is burning again, and the repair was done with two days grace. I trust that company!

But I did find a rose that I had planted two years ago. It’s a miniature rose, and it had produced a fine yellow bloom. I harvested that, placed it into a vase, and gave it to my lovely wife. And I thought of Psalm 8. “How excellent is Thy name in all the earth.” Then it speaks of man, placed here “:a little lower than the angels” to enjoy His creation. And this man has been able to invent much, and yet, that is still under God’s daily eye, isn’t it. It gives me joy to be able to celebrate Advent and Christmas again, for it assures me that God always keeps His promises to me, and on that my salvation is true, and certain.

Bless His Holy Name.

GPD 12/8/07

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/5/07 More on Heritage

The yard people were here yesterday and gave the lawn its fall treatment and used their blowers to clean the roof and yard of leaves. When their blowers blow, they blow, and leave no leaves. Most have fallen now, so that chore is done for this year.

No, that light is not been replaced. But they still have three days, and I trust the company. Because the power company has faithfully served us and has developed a backlog of trust. That comes with such faithfulness.

And it led me to think of Creed in my walk. The Nicene Creed, recited by millions every week, has this phrase, “Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. Begotten, not made”.

That phrasing was adopted by the Council of Nicea in 325 to resist the error of a priest named Arius, who taught that Jesus Christ was not God, but was created. Many followed this false teaching.

However, Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, opposed his false teaching. For years Athanasius stood alone. As a matter of fact, Emperors regarded him as a bother, a thorn in their side. He was exiled from office 5 times by 5 different emperors. But gradually Christians who believed In the deity of Christ came to see if they abandoned the wording of the creed they were standing on a slippery slope that would lead them to regard Christ simply as a high ranking angel, not God. The more they experimented, the more clearly they saw only the wording of the Nicene Creed would preserve Christianity. The Church affirmed this in the council of Constantinople in 381.

It is because such men fought for the faith that we today can still hear Him say to us, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. Matthew 11,28. We come, repentant sinners, and receive forgiveness, and his peace. God grant you such peace in these busy times.

GPD 12/5/07

Monday, December 3, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom - Our Heritage 12/3/07

One of the street lights is out along the way I usually go. Finally, last Friday it was, I called the power people and reported it. Now I am waiting to see if it will be on by next Friday, because their rule is to respond in 7 days. We shall see, IF I remember.

Because we do have trouble remembering, don’t we? Quick, tell me your mother’s birth date. See.

So the psalm said, “I remember the days of old. I meditate on all Thy works” Ps. 143,5. Or read psalm 77. Again and again it says “I will remember” or “I meditate”. He doesn’t want to forget what God has done in their history.

This is a theme for the prophets also. They say things like, “Teach them to your children” and “remind them”. “Teach them diligently to thy children” and “write them on the door posts of thy house” Moses had said in Deuteronomy 6.

So remembering became important to this people. So, when the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh had helped their brethren take the land of Canaan, they were allowed to go back to their own land on the other side of the Jordan river. But when they came to the crossing, they decided to erect an altar as a remembrance. When the rest of the people heard this, they were ready to go to war because they thought these tribes had set up their own god. They were pleased when they heard this altar was a way to remember God.

Remembering is one thing the Church ought to do. St Peter said, “As long as I am alive I will remind you” 2 Peter 1,12.13. In chapter 3 he says “I have written to stimulate you to wholesome thinking, recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through his apostles.” V.1.2.

The Lutheran Church has a rich heritage. It is exciting and instructive to read what struggles they went through to keep the truth of the Gospel pure for us today. We do well to pay attention to that, and find in such study and remembering strength for our journey, for the battle is active so long as the earth remains. But we rejoice in this, that our Lord said, “I have overcome the world”. Thank God for being able to claim that victory as ours.” He’s judged, the deed is done,. The Kingdom ours remaineth”.

GPD 12/3/07

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/1/07

There it is. A brand new month, bright, shiny, unused as yet. Just waiting for us to use. And there seems to be so much to do.

Christmas month. Already stores are filled with stuff to buy. The paper and magazines are replete with ads beckoning our dollars. Furniture stores are offering ‘No interest till 09”. Auto agencies shout with red tag sales. And the family is thinking about decorations inside and out for the Season.

Got to get the cards out, and Christmas letters prepared, and packages to buy, and greetings to send. And for many it is baking cookies and planning preparing special meals. And time is flying too fast.

I was looking at some special flyers and saw stuff about games that I do not understand, and toys that seem too sophisticated for casual play.

Then we stopped this Saturday morning for an hour of Bible study. And were reminded about the Advent season, and the promised coming of the Messiah, so long promised and now Immanuel, God with us.

What a calm this news does bring us. God not only promised the Messiah, but sent Him, and also said He will come again, soon, unexpectedly, finally.

So in all this getting ready for the Christmas celebration, stop, prepare your heart , and rejoice that YOU see in Jesus Christ your Savior. YOU know His death on the cross, that blood shed there, paid for the sins YOU do and did.

So the month lies before us. Bright, shiny, to be filled with many things, but first and chief among them let it be prayer and quiet study at the wonder of His coming as the Babe of Bethlehem who is our Savior and Lord, even Jesus.

O Come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord.

GPD 12/1/07