Monday, December 29, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/29/08

Remember the song, I think in 1955 or so, that began, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me”? Does that come o mind when you hear the angel chorus “Praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men”. Luke 2,14

It’s not the same peace. The song speaks of peace between men, neighbors, countries, factions, quarreling families, or whatever. The angels speaks of the peace we have, now, as His children. Paul says it very plainly, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with god through our Lord Jesus Christ?” Romans 5,1

That fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah (53,6). “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

It is the very same peace that the Lord Jesus speaks about when He said on leaving them, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.: John 14,1.

The peace speaks about the rift that was torn between man and God when Adam and Eve left the perfect world, dissatisfied that God was doing what was best for them, and followed the devil’s tempting. That created a rift, tore them apart, and Jesus, by His coming, living, dying, and rising again, healed that rift by paying for the sins we are guilty of. So brining peace.

That is the peace the angels sing about.

Now, as we come to the end of this year, may I just close with words you have heard many times at Funerals “For as much as it has pleased Almighty god, in His wise providence, to take out of this world the soul of the departed, we therefore commit the body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change this vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.
May God the Father, who created this body,
May God the Son, who by His blood redeemed this body together with the soul,
May God the Holy Ghost, who by baptism has sanctified this body to be His temple,
Keep these remains unto the day of the resurrection of all flesh, Amen."

May the Lord ever bless all who remain in the faith.

GPD 12/29/08

Friday, December 26, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/26/08

Have you seen one yet?

A red swing hanging where you did not expect to see a swing hang?

They’re starting to be seen all over. It began when a professor of architecture assigned his class to dream up ”an urban intervention”. He challenged them to find something to make city dwellers take a fresh look at their surroundings. Something out of the ordinary that will evoke hindsight or thought of something else.

Andrew, - he doesn’t want his last name used - imagined red swings. His friends liked the idea, so they sold an old TV set for $25, and used the money to buy wood, rope and red paint. In the middle of a February night they launched the first salvo, hanging red swings in Austin, Texas. They developed a system for getting ropes slung over tree limbs. Each swing took about 15 minutes to hang.

UT employees quickly removed the swing dangling in front of Goldsmith Hall, evidently the school of architecture did not appreciate “urban intervention”.

Most of the swings were used, well used, and the project acquired a name – The Red Swing Project – and a website where interested people could suggest places to hang a swing, or donate the $2 cost of one.

Interesting, a swing on Harvard’s campus barely lasted two days.

New Orleans, on the other hand welcomed the swings. They are used wherever they are hung, something in this woebegone city actually works.

In Houston the Chronicle chronicled the swing hung on Menil Museum property. Ralph Ellis, manager of properties, was first inclined to take it down. You know managers of property are ever alert to suits. But then, it was nearing Christmas, and he did not wish to be a Grinch. The swing, known officially as Swing 054, is admired, and used.

So have you seen one? Just a simple red swing, reminding of a playground in our youth, or other joys of days long gone. Reminiscing is good for the heart, and the life. Sometimes it helps slow us down just a little bit, and maybe give a boost to the flagging spirit today. Often so surrounded by bad news, it needs to be reminded again “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief.” And HE is indeed “The Prince of Peace”.

GPD 12/26/08

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/23/08

The financial air is gloomy. The word is out. “We have to cut back this year”. The news is grim, it could not be any worse, and will I still have work in 2009? Or not? Yet, people are determined to make the best it, celebrate just the same, though more subdued than other years, fewer frills.

But Christian, hear this, familiar words to you:
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is given,
So God imparts, to human hearts, the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear His coming’ but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls may receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.” LSB 361,3.
Then think of the glorious end of it: “O come to us, abide with us, Our LORD, Immanuel”.

What a Gift this is. He comes, Jesus, as the Babe at Bethlehem. Born to give us life. Jesus Himself said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8,12.

So, with that News ringing in our ears, Ruth and I wish you a blessed Christmas, join us as we sing:
O rejoice, ye Christians loudly,
For our joy has now begun.
Wondrous things our God has done.
Tell abroad His goodness proudly,
Who our race has honored thus,
That He deigns to dwell with us
Joy ! Joy beyond all sadness,
Christ has done away with sadness,
Hence all sorrow and repining,
For the Sun of Grace is shining.” LSB 897

GPD 12/23/08

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/18/08

Sort of drizzly and dreary these early mornings, and foggy with it. But then the sun comes out and it usually turns into a pretty nice day after all. It is tending to get warmer for the rest of the week, and then, on Sunday down to 40 again, a drop of some 40 degrees from Saturday. No wonder we feel it. Dan, stop giggling.

But the weather made me think of the North East which had a considerable damaging storm, leaving one and a quarter million without power. And work crews often had to work in stormy conditions, making the work slower and harder to do. Now you know, without power, stuff doesn’t work. So let’s continue to pray for their rapid recovery.

I rarely go to a mall these days, since I have reached the years when my wants are few and easily satisfied. But I had an errand for Christmas, and the other day I was on the ring road, so I thought I’d skip in quickly and get it out if the way. Lo and behold, I looked in vain for a parking space. All were taken, so I came away, errand undone. (P.S. I asked a friend to see if she couldn’t do this errand for me, and I pray she has better success than I did.)

And have you noticed, people seem to be friendlier these days. Maybe it is the time of year – No, not when we are aiming for the same parking space, then friendly flies out the window, doesn’t it? But in general, the air seems more pleasant. A study I read recently says if one says ‘hello’ to a stranger on the street, more often than not that stranger will return the greeting with a smile. I’ve experimented with this at church when the crowd sort of looks past others without seeing anyone. Say the name and a hello and see what happens. The same study also shows that a teacher who greets her class by name as they come into the room will have a class doing better work by some 37%. The pupils simply do better work because they feel they have been acknowledged. Simple, isn’t it?

And talk of friendly and helpful, I find in a grocery store people go out of their way to be helpful. Recently I was looking for an item and before I found it there were 4 shoppers helping me look, and rejoicing when we had success.

Soon we celebrate Christmas. The prophet Micah said, “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Micah 4,3. He was foretelling the coming of the messianic age. The first stage is the birth of Christ. Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My Peace I give to you.. . .let not your hearts be troubled.” John 14,27. That is what we celebrate now, and we join in the angel chorus, “Peace on earth, good will to men”. Because His name is Jesus, who shall save His people from their sins.” That is what the peace consists of, peace with God because Jesus settled our sin account. Praise His Holy Name, and rejoice.

GPD 12/18/08

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/15/08

The man checks with his boss to see if he could have the next day off saying, “We’re doing some house-cleaning tomorrow, you know, getting the house ready for the Christmas visits, and the wife needs me to help with the attic and the garage“.

“We’re short-handed, and I’m sorry, you need to be here, Christmas rush, you know.” The boss says.

“Thanks, boss,” said the man, “I knew I could count on you”.

Sorry, it’s the best I could do on short notice. But you have noticed the TV news and the papers are tending to mention holidays more and more. Just this morning the Houston Chronicle devoted an entire section to exercises most helpful for stress and weight control. As an example, they said if you eat a 6 ounce slice of ham with 280 calories, you needed to exercise 43 minutes to burn those calories. The exercise they refer to is a brisk walk. And they list other foods, sadly including green bean casserole. (A 6 ounce portion equals 30 minutes!) And that’s really sad, green beans?

And then the family visits. To get away for a bit, take a nice brick walk in fresh air to clean the lungs and do some thinking. Walking, by the way, is one of the best ways I know for deep thought, isn’t it?

But here is something you can use when you are baking those cookies. You are doing some of that, aren’t you? Anyway, when you measure something like honey or syrup, grease the cup lightly, and the stuff will flow out more readily. I learned that from my mother! ! !

And the best news yet. We are nearing the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. That news remains ever fresh and useful, for it brings us the best news of all, we are saved because HE came to suffer, die, and rise again in our stead.


GPD 12/15/08

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/14/08

We are moving closer to the time of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. The wonders of this amazing Gift cause me to think of others of God’s wonders that we so often ignore or take for granted.

For an example. Here is a bird, the Arctic Tern, that flies some 22,000 miles round trip for its annual migration, from Cape Cod they fly across the Atlantic ocean to Africa, from there across the Pacific to the Antarctic Circle, and the young do this at just about three months old.

I mention this because today the National Audubon Society begins its 109th annual Christmas Bird Count. It runs from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. In the first count, organized by New Jersey ornithologist Frank Chapman, the bird counters covered 25 North American locations and counted 90 species and about 18,000 individual birds. In 2007 nearly 60,000 people counted in more than 2,000 locations. They tallied 2,267 species and 57,000 individual birds. The Houston and Galveston areas rank high in numbers of species and number of birds counted. Reason for this is the mild season, the network of bayous, ponds, lakes, and marshes, and the abundance of wild berries, seed, and insects. So the area is the winter terminus for many migratory birds.

And this passage comes to mind, “Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are you not much better than they?” Matthew 6,26

When you look out and see the birds at your feeders, think of what an amazing creation it really is.

Then remember this same heavenly Father has you, and me, in His care, providing for us the salvation only He can provide.

With that thought, enjoy His coming in the flesh, The Babe at Bethlehem, Our Savior.

GPD 12/14/08

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/11/08

What joy is this. I come out of church last night after midweek Advent devotion and I find the car covered with a light dusting of snow! We have not seen snow since the first winter we were here. One Sunday it had snowed overnight and everything was covered, and people were out with cameras taking pictures as we were driving to church. When we came home at noon, the snow was already gone. But snow has a way of covering up and making even the worst stuff pretty nice, doesn’t it?

The snow reminded me of when we returned from winter vacation at Concordia, Milwaukee then,( Now it’s in Mequon.) The city had flooded our baseball field and this served as the neighborhood ice rink. I do not remember anyone suing the city or the college when little Suzy fell and scratched her knee. Nor do I believe the college got any pay for that use, or did the city charge for the water. But the college had a good relationship with the city, and that reminds me of our annual “Gym Nite”.

The coach and his staff planned a weekend for showcasing what the students were doing in athletics. Our play was mostly intramural except for basketball, we had a team in some league or other. But this gym nite was offered over a weekend, and tickets were sold, the event was so popular it was always sold out. And the funds went to pay for the entire athletic program and equipment needed. One year it featured the very first trampoline in the city. And there were students who were very talented athletes.

And that, finally, brings me to the latest Lutheran Witness. It has several excellent articles and is quite newsy. But lately I turn first to the “In Memoriam” page. It lists another classmate called home by our Father. He was one of those excellent gymnasts on the trampoline. The item has maybe ten lines and covers 40 years of active work in God’s Kingdom. Just the bare facts, not any of the results, or the efforts, or the prayers, or the care and concern and shepherding of God’s flock. Just bare dates and names. Maybe that’s as it should be, ever giving God the glory.

For that, finally, is what we celebrate at Christmas time. Christ Jesus was born so we could live eternally, and in the great plan He devised, He sends people to invite other people to the wedding feast He prepared for us. Just as the angels said, “Unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord” Luke 2,11. And the message to Joseph, “You are to give him the name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins”. Matthew 1,21.

That living, vital, life-saving message is ours to cherish, and to share.

“Down in a lowly manger, the humble Christ was born,
And God sent us salvation, that blessed Christmas morn.
So go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere,
Go tell it on the mountain, That Jesus Christ is born.” LSB 388

GPD 12/11/08

Monday, December 8, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/8/08

The news is starting to reflect that we are officially in a ‘recession’. One columnist figures the total cost of attending the inauguration of president-elect Obama would be $10,000.00, and they are not going. Hotels in DC have hiked their price, some double, some triple the normal rate for the event. Peter Funt, son of Allen Funt of Candid Camera fame, writes an article suggesting the Democrats stop fund-raising please. He says the funds from under the mattress have been spent. Yet Austin reports lobbyist are still busy sending emails to raise funds.

And here comes an article about how parents are trying to get the message across to their children. One father in Webster Groves, Mo, (a suburb of St. Louis), suggested his sons also put down the price to things on their Christmas wish lists, and his 8 year old was amazed to find his came to $906.00. Other parents are cutting back on snacks and other ‘extras’ in lunch, and some are starting to carry brown bags to work, instead of going to a nearby restaurant. And many teens are looking for after school jobs! ! ! And the paper boy sticks his usual Christmas card into the delivery.

And December the 7th passed without so much of a mention that I noticed. And I can still hear the voice of our then president FDR intone, “December 7th, a day that will live in infamy”, as he called on the Congress for a formal declaration of war on Japan. A declaration that sent the country on a different course and changed so many lives in so many ways.

BUT, here is some news most of you won’t really care to hear. The Houston Texans played the Green Bay (Wis) Packers at Green Bay yesterday, the temperature was a frigid 3 degrees, and the Texans won with a field goal kicked when time was running out. In the course of history, an event that is soon forgotten, not “long remembered”. I just threw it in to sort of change the course of the dreary news I have been talking about.

Because there is Good News, the best. The shepherds heard the angel give them this direction, “And this shall be a sign unto you. You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger”. Luke 2,12. And after hearing the multitude of angels praising God and singing, they “came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe, lying in a manger”. V.16.

So familiar, we heard it so often. Doesn’t it move us? The fact that things had come to such a pass that Almighty God had to take on human flesh in order to save us from the sins we do and are daily engaged in? That fact ought to shock us to our roots. God comes to us, and we, sin-drenched and bedraggled, say proudly that “I accepted Christ”? What amazing thinking leads to such a conclusion. St. Paul had it absolutly right when He said, “It is a GIFT of GOD, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2,8.9.

This is the Gift we celebrate, and rejoice because He came.

Down in a lowly manger, the humble Christ was born;
And God sent us salvation, that blessed Christmas morn.
Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere,
Go tell it on the mountain. That Jesus Christ is born.
LSB 388

GPD 12/8/08

Friday, December 5, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/5/08

What is the Christmas Spirit, and do you have it? I believe I caught a bit of it in action just yesterday. I was driving on the way to the market, and as I rounded the curve I saw, about a block ahead of me, a truck pulling a trailer loaded with bags of leaves. This was followed by a car. Just as I rounded the curve I saw a bag slip off the trailer in front of the car, which hit the bag and split it open. The truck driver didn’t notice and went on. But the driver of the car pulled over, put on the flashers, got out, picked up as much of the broken bag as she could, and placed it neatly on the side of the road. Yes, It was a lady, dressed for lunch or a meeting, and driving a Mercedes. About this time I drove by, gave her a big smile and a thumbs-up sign, she smiled back, got in, and drove off.

Is that it?

After Thanksgiving it begins, the rush and anxiety of getting everything ready for Christmas, the shopping, the baking, the decorating, the cards sent and received, the letters and notes addressed and sent, the choir practices and seemingly endless chores that need doing. We are so used to this that we take it for granted. Yes, we get a warm glow and a caring feeling, we send checks to needy causes and we try to visit a friend who is shut in. But there seems to be something missing in all this activity and busyness.

Many really do not understand what the Spirit is. They just get caught up in all the activity connected with the Season and enjoy it for its presents, parties, visiting, and gifting.

So maybe, if we re-read the story again, and really try to understand what it says, maybe then we can catch the Christmas Spirit.

Usually you can count on it. Every Christmas about this time, it starts. The public debate about manger scenes. When I as a child, nearly every city hall had one on display. But no more. While many want them, the anti-Christians, the atheists, the ACLU do not, and are vocal about it.

Many homes have them. Some simple, others quite elaborate. I have seen manger scenes carved by artists from Bavaria and the Black Forest. But we have seen them so often we are sort of immune to the real implications. Instead of putting us into as ‘holiday mood’, it ought to shake us to the roots of our souls. That’s what it was intended to do. And maybe that is the real reason for all the fuss about manger scenes. It comes from folks who, while they don’t believe a word of it, are still disturbed by its implications.

Because here is the message of Christmas, told to the shepherds. “You will find the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger”. Our GOD, lying in a manger. Think of that. Our need was so great that God humbled Himself to take on human flesh. He loved us in our need, and came to rescue us. And in believing that, we begin to understand the real Spirit of Christmas.

GPD 12/5/08

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/3/08

The report is that Hormel in Austin, Minnesota, has added a third shift. They make SPAM. Remember it? It seems to be selling rapidly these days, and Wal-Mart can’t keep its Romani noodles in stock. So the paper said this morning we are in a depression.

And one of the signs of the season is every mail brings appeals, for this and that, with your name tags printed as their “free gift” to you as their lure.

I suppose you do what most of us do. Select several dear to our hearts and ignore the rest, which seems a logical choice to make.

But on this matter of giving let me tell you a story. It happened many years ago in a time when there weren’t so many Pastors retired and ready to serve as needed. So, my neighbor in Missouri asked me to fill his pulpit on a Sunday afternoon while he took a much needed vacation. He said he would have the worship set for 2 o’clock if I would fill in. I said I would, but said there probably would be few here since it was a hot day and afternoon yet. He told me not to worry about that.

So after my morning services and a quick lunch, I set out. It was a drive of some 35 miles, mostly rural roads, and so I took son Ned, who was maybe 4 at the time, to keep me company. His lively chatter made time fly by. We arrived at the church a bit early. The door was open, so I took my Bible and robe to the sacristy and came back to the front. Meanwhile Ned has been looking around and spotted a little locked box with a slit in top marked “for the poor”. He pointed that out and said, “Dad, we should put something in here”. So I took a quarter and a five dollar bill, all the money I had, and asked him to make a choice. He took the bill and stuffed it into the box.

Well, people started arriving, so I greeted the Elder on duty and prepared for worship. The church was full. And their choir, consisting of 12 men and women, were
a really fine group (Our choir director would take them all in, I am sure).

So after worship I greeted the people, and after they left prepared to leave for home. Then the Elder stopped me, and said while unlocking that box, ‘we give our visiting preacher whatever is in this box for his gas money.” And handed me my five dollars.

So I ask you, even at this late date, what should I have done? But does it not say
something about this whole business of sharing what we have, and doing it cheerfully
and gladly?

God bless the day.

GPD 12/3/08

Monday, December 1, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/1/08

This is what the Psalm teaches:
“The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord,
And Thou givest them their meat in due season.
Thou openest Thine hand, and
Satisfiest the desire of every living thing”. Psalm 145, 15.16.

And a phrase from the favorite Psalm teaches that my cup runneth over.” 23,5.

We need not search very far to see stories of God’s rich goodness to all his creation. When Jesus fed the 5,000 there were 12 basketfuls left over! Plenty. “All things are ready, come to the feast” invited the King.

God’s provision is always in full measure, as he assures his hearers. “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For in the same measure you measure, it shall be measured.” Luke 6,38.

So there is always lots. And when the Lord asks us not to worry He uses the fowls of the air as example. They don’t “gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them” Matthew 6,26, and then asks us, “Are ye not much better than they?”

So take it as a given, that this is true of squirrels also.

Squirrels live on nuts etc. One nut they prize is the Pine nut which grows at the base of each cone. They shuck them out and chow down. Get the picture?

Now, our home has Pine trees, and they have lots of cones each year. So,
naturally, squirrels gather to harvest and enjoy the feast. And I am glad they do.

But I do have this problem. They sit up there, shuck out the pine nuts, and drop the leavings down. That is OK, because eventually the leavings decay and become mulch, enriching the forest floor. The trouble is they aren’t in the forest, they are sitting over my concrete driveway and littering like crazy. Why, the other morning I think I even overheard them tell some newcomers to move to the tree they were in because “it bugs this guy no end to have to sweep his walk all the time, titter, titter”.

But then, squirrels have been sort of getting to people all their lives. I remember one in Michigan who would come down a tree and tease a cat till it tried to chase it, and ended up frustrated because the squirrel was too nimble and always eluded that cat. Or those who clean out bird feeders, even those constructed to be “squirrel proof”. None ever are.

So, instead of frustration, I really ought to be thanking God that He does provide for His creatures, just as the Scripture teaches me that He does.

The Word is still true, “You remain the same, and your years will never end.” Ps. 102,37.

So I am content.

GPD 12/1/08

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/25/08

When Jesus asked, “But where are the nine?”, He pointed to a problem that has always been with us, ingratitude. Almost from the beginning, right after the flood, the Lord promised “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is only evil from childhood”. Gen 8,21.

So here it is nearly Thanksgiving Day. And the troubles of the world do not seem to be getting any less. Even such common manners as saying ”Thank you” gets “no problem” as a response, and sets teeth on edge. Of course it ought not be a problem to the waiter, that’s his job, after all. But saying “you’re welcome" doesn’t really make much sense either, since the Dictionary defines “you’re welcome” as “You’re under no obligation for a favor given”. Saying “no problem” is a sort of phrase to cover the lack of ability to find an expression that is really suitable (Born of laziness).

Which reminds me of the story of a man who goes to his doctor with all sorts of complaints and asked for checkup. That done, he asks the doctor “What’s wrong with me? Give it to me in language I can understand, and not in some medical terms”. The doctor says, “You’re lazy”. “OK,” replies the man, “Now give me the medical term so I can tell my boss”.

More than simply ingratitude, the world is getting bolder and more active in attacking Christianity. A British Humanist organization campaigned with this slogan, “There’s probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy life”. Which was followed in America with signs on busses reading, “Why believe in god, just be good for goodness sake”. That’s in Washington. In the west this, “Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone”.

Well, they say they are planting “. . .a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people’s minds”.

Let me suggest another thought, from God’s Word. It reads, 1 “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works; There is none that doeth good”. Psalm 14,1 (see also Ps. 53.)

Instead, this week, “Let us make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands, serve the Lord with gladness, come before His presence with singing. Ps. 100,1.2.

Yes, “Come, ye thankful people come.” For our God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in my place, so that I can have life eternal.

For this, most of all, let’s be thankful.

GPD 11/25/08

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/22/08

Ode to a Tooth
(At an extraction of impacted tooth)

We travelled far, my tooth and I
I really hate to see you die
I tended to your every need,
And when you hurt, I paid the deed,
To have the Dentist drill the root,
And clean infection clear, to boot,
Then capped the whole thing with a crown,
Achievement worthy of renown.
We went together, you and I,
You helped me eat much apple pie
You never asked, “What is he eating”
You simply chewed, just never cheating.

Nurtured, fed, with thoughtful care,
Cleaned, flossed, and brushed with fervent care.
But now, my friend, you had to go,
To end my pain and constant woe.
The price to bring you heath was high,
A messed economy said loudly – die.
I pray I’ll never rue the day, I chose to have you put away.
But now, at last, the deed is done.
So on that note let’s end this run.

GPD 11/22/08

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/20/08

The headlines scream, “Bailout of Auto Industry in Limbo”. The news picture shows the heads of the Big Three at the hearing table and a congressman asking with a sneer, “We’re supposed to give you 25 billion so you can repeat the same stupid errors you’ve been making for the past 20 years?" The end is not yet in sight.

Many voices say the only answer to resurrect the American auto makers is to declare bankruptcy, that they may emerge better, and stronger companies for the effort.

Other voices say give them the money lest many other related industries go down the tube as well.

I can not say who may be right, but I do know as human beings we are facing problems that seem to be nearly beyond solution. I think of the story about the man they called “Desert Pete”. He is a thirsty cowboy crossing a desert and comes to a pump. Nearby he finds a jar of water with this note, “Don’t drink this water, use it to prime the pump”. Well, Pete is thirsty. The sight of the water is almost too much for him. But he understands what it means to prime a pump, so he carefully pours that water down the pipe, and then, by pumping, he gets water gushing forth to slake his thirst and fill his canteen and refill that jar for the next person. But that took faith, didn’t it?

And that is what these times call for. Faith in the promises of God. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”

When Israel was on that desert journey they ran out of water and cried to Moses, who was told when he prayed to God, to strike the rock at Horeb.(Ex. 17, 1-7). He did, and water came in plenty to supply their thirst. But the problem with Israel was they did not always listen to God’s word. So “The word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith” Heb. 4,12.

And that is our danger exactly, we trust things, our selves, our intellect and problem solving ability, instead of turning and leaning on God who created us and said, “I am Thy God, hear me.” Or, as the Father told the disciples at the Transfiguration, “This my beloved Son, listen to Him.” Ah, the blessing that lies there? Let it be yours as His obedient Child.

GPD 11/20/08

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/17/08

Who would ever have thought that I, born on a snowy night in a Wisconsin farmhouse, would ever one day be sitting in a place called The Woodlands, Texas on a bright and sunny day these many years later? The snow kept on falling, but the way, and had turned into a regular snow storm by Sunday when ‘they’ took me to Church for my baptism, to begin my journey as God’s child.

So, what thoughts come to mind on this Natal day? Well, are there are regrets, any ‘might have beens’, or things I might have done or planned differently, any corner not turned, or road not taken? Such thoughts do float around, and they could make life uncomfortable, but isn’t that what such a Psalm as number 51 is all about? David speaks of the results of his sin with Bathsheba. He calls for mercy “according to your great compassion, blot out my transgression”. V.1 He bases that plea on God’s compassion, and what we all need to admit, “I was sinful at birth”. V;5.

Yes, such thought may trouble, but “there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared”. John teaches in his first letter, ”If we confess our sins, God is faithful and good to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all transgression”. 1,9.

I look at the world and its many pressing problems, the future seems murky and clouded with uncertainty. Our world has been changing, and the morality of mankind has really not kept pace with the technology. Just recently I read an article about how by some of these programs people slander or lie about others with no way of telling who did it? Totally anonymous. Horrible results. [If you want to make your fortune, devise a program that will sniff out such perpetrators].

Let me tell you a story as to why I am heartened no matter how it might seem. It happened one Sunday while we were living in Missouri and I had consented to help my neighboring Pastor by preaching in his church while he was on vacation. During the service in this little country church in my prayers I included this, “For the President and the congress of this country, for kings and all that are in authority.” After the service, one of the Elders approached with this question. “Pastor, you were praying for people in authority. Why do that, nobody pays attention to what may happen here.” So I opened my Bible to Proverbs 21,l and we read this together, “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will."

I think often of such words. For example, “Hast thou not heard, the everlasting God. . .neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.” Is. 40,28. Or this, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Is. 55,8. So no matter how it looks, I know my God is there to save. So I am content.

GPD 11/17/08

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/15/08

Ever since the state of Texas said I could no longer use their state’s highways unless I got some glasses, I have regarded passing the eye test for my driver’s license renewal successfully as a sort of Rite of Passage.

Well, my birthday is Monday, and this year my license expired, so the state sent their renewal postal, and I obeyed, and passed the eye test – again successfully.

And it brought to mind that poem about harvest time by James Whitcomb Riley titled, “When The Frost is on the pumpkin”.

“When the Frost is on the punkin, and the fodder’s in the shock
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ Turkey cock”
That funny looking word, kyouck, is the best the poet could do with the sound the Turkey makes just before he starts to gobble. Trust me, it’s that way.
Anyway, the poem goes on about the harvest ending, ‘the apples all is gathered, and the ones a feller keeps, is poured around the cellar floor in red and yellow heaps.’ Then “Your wimmen folks is through with their mince and apples butter, and their sauce and sausage too”.
So the harvest is done, and the farm is ready for winter, crops harvested, apples gathered in, the land plowed and ready for the winter cold and snow.
There is something so satisfying about a hard job finished, isn’t there? That is what I mean by “Rite of Passage”. It’s done, well done, successfully done.
And for a Christian that always calls for thanksgiving.
“Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home.
All is safely gathered in, ’ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide, For our wants to be supplied,
Come to God’s own temple, come. Raise the song if harvest home” 892
And may God bless with rich harvest and thankful heart.
GPD 11/15/08

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/10/08

On Luther’s Birthday, and the day president-elect Obama sits down with President Bush in the White House, it seems a ready thing to speak about.

When the King dies, there is always haste to stand ready with advice for his successor. The event that comes to mind is the time when Solomon died. He had ruled Israel for 40 years. They were years of prosperity, peace, and when a man could ‘sit under his own fig tree and rest’. Now the record says it simply, “And Rehoboam, his son, succeeded him as king. 1 Kings 11,43.

Now when this happened, Jeroboam, who was son of Nebat and had been in charge of some of Solomon’s work, came with all Israel and asked, really, how will you run things? They said “Your father sort of taxed us hard, lighten the load, and we will serve you”. Rehoboam asked for three days while He consulted advisors.

The King consulted with the elders who had been serving his father, and their advice was “If you give them a favorable answer – less taxation – they’ll serve you always.”

Then the king consulted younger men, men he had grown up with, and asked their advice. If they had grown up with a king’s son they were probably favored, so they said, “Tell them my father used whips, I’ll use scorpions. My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist.”

So Rehoboam’s answer was harsh. The result was to split the Kingdom. Ten tribes said, “To your tents, O Israel. Look to your own house, O David.” Read the entire sorry tale in 1 Kings chapter 11 and 2 Chronicles chapter 10.

Right now the air and the papers and magazines are filled with advice. The President-elect is surrounding himself with advisors, seeking the best he can possibly get, to direct his administration successfully.

Barack Obama in his speech spoke of ‘sacrifice’. He was really addressing the wrong crowd for that. Sacrifice ought to begin with our elected leaders, Senators and Representatives, who are much too quick to add their own pet project to any spending bill, and always end up spending billions more of unnecessary and unaccounted for tax monies. I sometimes have expressed the thought that what we need are some housewives who lived on a strict budget.

But in it all, it is for us to follow St. Paul’s message to Timothy. This was and is, “First of all, requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and honesty, this is good, and pleases God our Savior.” 1 Tim. 2m 1-3.

Then may God give us peace to sit under our own fig tree to rest.

GPD 11/10/08

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/7/08

Here it is, a nice, brisk, sunny November morning. It’s the kind of day one longs to visit an orchard and get a bushel of apples to set on the back porch for the children to snack on when they came home from school. We used to do that in Adrian, and that ‘apple a day' helped keep the doctor at bay.

What a week this has been. Early Monday it started with my regular six month visit to the doctor. He checked all the labs he had received, noted “your cholesterol is good, and blood pressure is excellent”. I think you might need some iron since you appear a little anemic! Otherwise, just keep on doing what you are doing. Things are fine. I’ll see you again in six months.

Then off to see the heart doctor. She too was pleased with everything, and said also, “just keep on doing what you are doing, and I’ll see you in six months."

Then the historic election.

Then the eye specialist. He cut down the drops per day because I was doing so well.

I felt like rejoicing with the prophet when he said, “Our God was with us”. Because, well, there is a little test I need to take Monday yet, but then the doctor is always a bit on the “better safe than sorry” frame of mind.

A friend reminded me of the passage in Daniel where a heathen king, the same king that had constructed a statue of himself and commanded that people worship it or be thrown into the blazing furnace – that king said of God, 35 “Everyone who lives on earth is nothing compared to him. He does whatever he wishes with the army of heaven and with those who live on earth. There is no one who can oppose him or ask him, “What are you doing?” Daniel 4,35.

It is fitting to close with that reminder that we are truly in His hands and under His daily care and blessing.

GPD 11/7/08

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/4/08

Starbucks will hand a cup of coffee to any voter who stops in and asks today. I was out and about early this morning but did not stop in, because when I drove by the entire block was solid with SUVs and I reasoned I stood no chance at all.

Today voting is on people’s minds. Reports speak of ‘records’ being set etc. As if that were an achievement when it is really only, as Jesus said, “ye have done what it is your duty to do”. Sadly, many do not do their civic duty and then grouse over results they might not find to their liking.

Christians are praying what? That the vote might go “their way”, or that the will of god be done in this matter also?

I turned to Daniel, the man who had been taken into captivity to Babylon, landed as a King’s counselor, and lived his faith surrounded by heathen. Many of them terribly jealous and bitterly envious of Daniel and his position.

Chapter 9 gives us his prayer. He begins with “And I prayed to the Lord my God and made my confession´9,4. Then “We have sinned and have committed iniquity, done wickedly, departed from judgments.” Then v.16, “O Lord, according to all Thy righteousness, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away. . .”

And then I turn to Psalm 46, for example, which assures me “God is our Refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. “The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our Refuge.”
And Psalm 8, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.”

My friend, in all the noise and furor of these days, remember that. God is in heaven, He does whatever He wills. Let it ease our anxious hearts.

GPD 11/4/08

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/1/08

Strange, how a line from ones reading suddenly jumps out and strikes a cord. Recently in my reading a man in the story loses his wife and new born child thorough one of those senseless, and tragic accidents. It had been a happy marriage. He was climbing the corporate ladder and the future looked so bright. Friends commiserated and tried to console him, but gradually he drew into himself, and his work became his obsession. His best friend tied hard to take him to social events, or neighborhood meetings. Nothing. He worked seemingly 18 hours a day.

Then one day the friend, in worry and fretting, said this:
“Fred, find something to believe in, other than your work. Because when you leave this life, you leave work behind. If that’s all you have, then you have Nothing, and Eternity is a long time for nothing.”

Today is All Saints Day, in which we remember those who have died. In heaven St. John looks, “and behold a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb.” (Rev.7,9).

Christians belong there. In Baptism they have become one of Christ’s Own. We use the phrase, “Receive the sign of the holy cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified."

The mark of Christ is on us, and by His grace we receive this heavenly peace.

I remember as a young child standing at the graveside with my parents and others and singing “Nun lasst uns den Leib begraben”. You will find it # 759 in LSB. The hymn expressed the hope we all have because of our faith.

“Thou hast redeemed us by Thy death
From endless death and set us free,
We laud and praise and worship Thee.”

Yes indeed, Eternity is a long time for nothing. Thank God we have something, a Savior with precious promises.

GPD 11/1/08

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shade Rree Wisdom 10/29/08 Of Baptism & Confession

Funny how important some things seem. This Saturday Texas Tech will play the U of Texas in Lubbock, and one writer calls this “the most important game in their 84 year history” for Tech. And most of you don’t even know Texas Tech existed, or where it is located. Well, Herb knows. He’s an alumnus.

And the “most important election in history” is about to take place in less than a week. Already pundits and reporters are speaking in glowing terms of voter turnout in record numbers and massive spending on TV ads especially, as never happened before. And it’s all a record.

And in all the noise and hoopla we sometimes forget the importance of ONE. You are the important one, and you are the one God is speaking to and dealing with. You’re not just a statistic, a voting presence, an addition to the numbers in a football stadium on Saturday. You are in God’s eye. Cherished, nurtured, loved, and cared for.

The Devotion in Portals of Prayer this morning speaks of our Baptism as working daily for us. The story is of a man who was baptized, left the church after service, and soon came rushing back and said, “Pastor, I just had a nasty thought, so why didn’t my Baptism work?” The Pastor asked if he wanted that thought washed away and for pure thoughts to come, and the man said he would. Then the pastor said, “Your baptism is working just fine.”

That’s what God does in Baptism. He brings the Spirit who drowns every evil thought and desire, so that the new man can daily rise. Our sinful hearts may despair and rage, but God gave us new hearts that long for freedom from every sin and vile thought.

Christ lives in me, as St. Paul teaches in Galatians 2,20, so I am a new man.

More than that, we have, in our regular service, a treasure that many do not have. Let’s call it Corporate Confession. In which we confess that “we have sinned against you in thought, desire, word, and deed, done things we ought not to have done, and left undone things we ought to have done.” When we speak the words, our heart is reminded of all the many failures in our lives, the little things left unsaid, the mean things blurted out, and pleads for forgiveness for Jesus' sake. And our prayer is granted by our Merciful Father in heaven. And most precious of all, God grants the lips of man to utter His forgiveness, “Whatsoever you forgave, I forgive also”.

Take heart then, good friend. In all the noise and confusion, you are loved as a person, treasured, sought out, cherished, forgiven, His Lamb. Thank God for this.

GPD 10/29/08

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/28/08

Such a nice, brisk day, to be bothered by so great a trouble. I hardly dare speak of this because it is so rare, especially when the tire that went flat while I was trying to get to my lab appointment by 8:15 had only 10,000 miles on it. So I drove this flat into Goodyear and got It replaced (It had a slash cut in it!). That, by the way, is the first flat I experienced since 1949 when I had one half way to my Vandalia congregation on a Sunday morning, and got a veterinary to change it for me. On my way in less than 5 minutes! God is good to me.

Now, when I was getting ready to print this out, the power failed. Ike aftermath, or just someone slamming into a system somewhere, so it will wait till tomorrow. (Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen).

But this Saturday’s paper carried an article about a new translation of the New Testament, and we say, “Again?” William Tyndale, who lived 1459-1536, was martyred because he translated the Bible into English. One of the lines he uttered that has endured is this one, "If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou doest."

That is what Luther wanted also when he translated the Bible into German, his native language, so the people could read it for themselves.

That is the reason new translations are made every generation or so, to keep the Bible in the language of the people who use it today. Because language usage changes. Our study of ancient documents change and grow, and we can learn from them what St. Paul was saying. And the wonderful thing is that the language used is the common language of the street and the market place. Does this fulfill maybe God’s word through Moses that “The word is right here and now – as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest, just do it”. Deut 30,14.

Nor should this surprise us, for God used common means to work out our salvation. He sent His Own Son to suffer, die, pay the penalty for sin, and rise again. So it ought not surprise us either that the Bible world is not a ‘nicer’ world, it shows injustice and suffering and ugliness. Nothing is glossed over. It shows God at work, patiently and deeply, often in hidden ways, in the mess of our humanity and history.

And as we read, we see ourselves in what they are doing. The Bible clearly and plainly shows God at work in His love and care. God never forces anything, our obedience comes from the faith He plants in our hearts. Some words and sentences you read will stab you awake to a beauty and a hope that connects us with real life. The Bible is more than a list of “Do” and “Do nots” of maxims and quotable words, it is the story of God at work in this world, working out His plan for the eternal salvation of lost mankind. Of love and forgiveness, and how God works to repair this broken world and restore man to health through His Son, Jesus Christ. Read it often, meditate on its truths, let is guide your life. May God bless this work.

GPD 10/28/08

Friday, October 24, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/24/08

An archer unstrings his bow when it isn’t being used, for the tension left too long is harmful to the bow. Just like a rubber band, stretched and left that way, loses its elasticity and becomes useless.

So one wearies of incomprehensible and ponderous words, uttered by government and financial ‘experts’ who don’t understand them either.

Laughter is a must, and so this brisk morning calls for us to relax, relieve the tension, and throw off the stress. Look at some of the brighter side of the news, check some of the human failings and foibles which make life so entertaining and livable.

The family spent the morning doing chores around the yard. Now they are enjoying a relaxing lunch together. The son asks, “Are caterpillars good to eat?” Father: “I’ve told you before, don’t talk about such things at the table while we’re eating”. Mother: “Why do you ask, son?” Son: “cuz I saw one on Daddy’s salad, now it’s gone”.

Here is a note that the bar-tailed godwit sets a record for nonstop, muscle powered flight. In their annual migration from Alaska to New Zealand, they fly the 7,242 miles non-stop, a study just completed shows. God's creation that man can only marvel at.

When animal crackers came to the market, there were only four; lion, bear, elephant and hippopotamus. Now there are many.

So life goes on, and the things that bother us later seem so trivial, so common, that we wonder later why they did bother us. For we are God’s children, and we can and ought to remember that “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Is. 40,8. As St. Paul reminds us, “think on these things,” and remember that God is the One Who is always there for us, and
“Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh,
His the loving purpose solely,
To preserve them, pure and holy.” LSB 725

GPD 10/24/08

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/22/08

Cool, brisk, sprightly, are words to describe this fresh morning. It’s delightful to be able to bid farewell to the hot, humid months. Praise God for His faithfulness in the changing seasons.

Integrity, the dictionary defines at as a “firm adherence to a code of artistic or moral values”. It means an honesty in which there is nothing false. What you see on the outside runs all he way through. A person with integrity has a standard that comes from God.

Of course, the Bible is filled with such. The first that comes to mind is Joseph. The story is in Genesis. He was sold by his brothers, ends up in Potiphar’s service, and is the steward of all this man owns. This man’s wife propositions Joseph, young, virile, in his young manhood. The temptation must have been enormous, the pressure for a romantic fling nearly overwhelming. Joseph refuses. He says this – listen to how its done – “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God” 39,9. He spent some years in an Egyptian dungeon as a result. That’s integrity.

Then Daniel. A war prisoner dragged into a foreign land, ending as a trusted servant to the king. The king, Darius, trust him so much “he planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom” (Dan. 6,3). Jealous, his enemies won’t have it, they try to drag him down by finding chinks in his armor, weak spots in his life, little ‘mistakes’ they can point out to the king. Nothing. “But they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.” Dan 6.4. That’s integrity.

Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5, 1 – 11) did not have it. They sold a piece of property and brought part of the price to the Church, claiming it was what the property sold for. They wanted to be known as a generous couple, but lacked integrity. They paid a terrible price – death.

Integrity means not having to look over your shoulder. And notice how both for Joseph and for Daniel, they struggled alone. No wise counselor to turn to, nobody to give them calm assurance, they struggled alone, with the Holy Spirit as their counselor.

At the last supper Jesus singled Peter out and warned, “Simon, Simon Satan has asked to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not” Luke 22,31.

The temptations that come to all Christians always look alluring, yet they offer us a slippery slope, and once we fall the first time, the next comes easier. In a mountain climbing lesson the experienced guides teach their students, when they are on a slope and lose their footing, to use their ice picks and quickly sink it into the snow, meanwhile kicking as hard as they can to gain a hold. For, they warn, “Once you start to slide, it’s almost impossible to stop unless you do it quickly”.

Integrity, so often lacking. Just a glance at the news shows a world filled with compromise, scandal, dark secrets. Integrity means keeping the promises we make, either it is at the marriage altar, the confirmation service, the membership commitment.

It’s what we look for in these elections also. Let us pray for the officials who are elected, and let us continue to pray for the country, and for the Church in this world standing as a beacon of Saving Light in Jesus.

GPD 10/22/08

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/21/08

I do not like thee, Dr. Fell
The reason why I cannot tell,
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell.

I do not remember where I first read that bit of nonsense, but it does seem to sort of describe the incivility we so often encounter in daily life. The surly clerk, the slow waitress, the uncivil civil servant at the license counter, the noisy co-worker, the neighbor whose sound blasts through the wall, the driver who gives us ‘the finger’, the unruly child in the restaurant, etc. etc.
And when we run into rudeness, we feel abused, punished, violated, deeply hurt, and often very angry for not defending ourselves.
As a courtesy to the
Next passenger, May
We suggest you use
Your towel to wipe
Off the washbasin
I saw such a sign in the washroom of an airplane. It is extraordinary, but it is the voice of society reminding us that we are to care for one another. We are reminded, not required. No law or regulation cited, the key words are “as a courtesy” and “we suggest”. Nothing more than gentle prodding. But why clean it for a perfect stranger to use it next? Because it is the right thing to do. Being courteous to the next person is its own reward.
Several decades ago, Sir. John Fletcher Moulton, a distinguished British judge, spoke of action he called ‘obedience to the unenforceable’. Such actions are not prescribed by law. They are influenced by our sense of what is proper, responsible, and decent. Like giving your seat to another in a crowded subway car, or allowing another to take precedence at a service counter.[It’s the sort of behavior your mother insisted on.]
The rude disregard the unenforceable and insist on ME.ME.ME. They flout the rules of civility while counting on others to follow them.
Rudeness grows when we are unwilling to keep our needs and desires under control. It may be such a simple thing as stepping away when the cell phone rings. Restraint makes life possible. When we lack restrain, we hurt others, and usually ourselves. Think, for instance, of the car crash caused by a drunk driver.
Ben Franklin had a habit of argument till he decided this. I quote from his biography;
“I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting or showing the absurdity in a proposition. In answering I began by showing that in certain cases or circumstances such an opinion would be right. But in this case there ‘appeared’ or ‘seemed to me’ some difference. The conversation I engaged on went on more pleasantly; the modest way I proposed my opinions got them readier reception and less contradiction.”
So, by less assertiveness, more humility, he learned to be less rude, and became a more pleasant companion and conversationalist. What this does is allow the other person to feel important also.
And there is the solution. We are anonymous. We don’t know each other, the neighborhood we live in, or often even the people we work with, and we don’t care! We have learned to like it that way. Children who used to play till twilight with others now spend their time tweaking their computers, isolated, alone.
So, when confronted by rudeness, do not fire back. Think before you take any action, and often take none, or take it away from the situation, when both have had time to reconsider. Stop, ask, slow down. Do not be quick to take offence when none is meant. You have to live with yourself.
To conclude this, remember this from “Drop A Pebble Into The Water”
Drop an unkind word, or careless, in a minute it is gone.
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading from the center as they go,
And there’s no way to stop them, once you’ve started them to flow.” James Foley
GPD 10/21/08

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/19/08

We are starting to think ‘depression’. Things are troublesome and strange. Financial matters almost overwhelm election matters.

I find it useful to hear what God has to say on this subject of finances. Listen in as God instructs Israel through Moses:
1 “At the end of every seventh year, cancel all debts.
2 This is the procedure: Everyone who has lent money to a neighbor writes it off. You must not press your neighbor or his brother for payment: All-Debts-Are-Canceled—God says so.
3 You may collect payment from foreigners, but whatever you have lent to your fellow Israelite you must write off.
4 There must be no poor people among you because God is going to bless you lavishly in this land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, your very own land.
5 But only if you listen obediently to the Voice of God, your God, diligently observing every commandment that I command you today.
6 Oh yes—God, your God, will bless you just as he promised. You will lend to many nations but won't borrow from any; you'll rule over many nations but none will rule over you.
7 When you happen on someone who's in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that God, your God, is giving you, don't look the other way pretending you don't see him. Don't keep a tight grip on your purse.
8 No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs.
9 Don't count the cost. Don't listen to that selfish voice saying, "It's almost the seventh year, the year of All-Debts-Are-Canceled," and turn aside and leave your needy neighbor in the lurch, refusing to help him. He'll call God's attention to you and your blatant sin.
10 Give freely and spontaneously. Don't have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God's, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. 11 There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors“. Deut 15 MSG

That is directly from Deuteronomy chapter 15. Isn’t it interesting?

No, Scripture is not silent about debt, generosity, open-handed giving. “Owe not man anything except to love one another.” Rom. 13,8. Then Hebrews 13,5. “Be content with such things as you have for He has said, never will I leave you, never will I forsake you“.

St. Paul says simply, “I have learned in whatever state I am, therewith to be content”. Philippians 4,11. And he writes to Timothy, “godliness with contentment Is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we will take nothing out. 1 Tim. 6,6.7.

Finally, our Lord Jesus Himself spoke of it when He taught us about worry. In Matthew 6, (part of the Sermon on the Mount, verses 25 to 34,) Jesus teaches us to seek His Kingdom, then “all these things will be added unto you”.

No, I don’t believe we’ll have the sort of depression we endured in the 30’s, but I do think each of us needs to have a care how we handle matters, not only with our own saving and spending, but also our sharing with others. May God bless you, each, in the life you lead and the decisions you make under His tender eye.

GPD 10/19/08

Friday, October 17, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/17/08

If I were to wear that special shirt, made to order, Egyptian cotton, white on white, French cuffs, button down collar, initials on the pocket, nobody would notice. Such a shirt can be had as a bargain for under$300.00. And it would be most comfortable to wear. The problem is who would wear such a shirt? And nobody wants to stand around saying, “My shirt is custom made and costs real money”. Well, such shirts are available, and there are people who buy them. I am not one of them because other uses for my small funds always are at hand.

It is all part of the financial trouble we are experiencing right now. There are many complex strands involved, but maybe Columnist Thomas Friedman put his finger on it when he says we disregarded the basics, and found out the laws of gravity and common sense still apply. We got away from the HOW and WHO. Who is responsible, and who will assume the obligation, and who has the character to do what he promised.

From the fundamentals of prudent borrowing and lending. The sort of thing that sat down face-to-face with a banker, explained what one needed the money for, and how one expected to repay it.

But we departed from the course. The bank selling the mortgage simply sold it to someone else, who sold it again, and nobody seemed to be responsible as long as the fees were paid, and the fact that the person who made the mortgage in the beginning did not need to pay any money down, and was promised two years with no interest before he needed to start repaying his loan. Things just don’t work that way we are finding out.

In my growing up years households lived with budgets. They did not buy simply because they wanted something. Money was not spent till it was on hand, and the need was there.

Sad to say, our government is the worst at over spending. The philosophy seems to be”you’ll be gone and I’ll be gone before the bill comes due.” So billions of tax dollars are wasted each year by something called ‘earmarks’. Nobody seems to be accountable, and as long as money can be borrowed from China or elsewhere, nobody among the leadership seems to be much concerned about debt loads.

Friedman quoted Charles Mackay, who wrote a book titled:” Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds” published in 1841. He quotes, “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

Even for this, good friends, “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?” The answer is, of course, nothing is beyond His care. So, we turn to Him in prayer and seek wisdom, guidance, and an end to the woes man-made.

GPD 10/17/o8

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/14/08

Lately prayer has been much on my mind. I keep urging you to approach this election with prayer and thoughtful care. Are we? What do we really do when we pray?

Jesus taught us the Lord’s prayer, Matthew chapter 6. He warned against ‘much speaking’. Paul talks about groaning in the spirit, weighed down with our needs and burdens, so heavy we can only groan in our misery.

Prayer is simply talking with our Father in heaven, who hears us and knows or needs.

Most of us have prayer we use daily, at mealtime, at bedtime, when getting up etc. It is good to have such prayer, the one warning I might raise is that they often might tend become ‘rote’. Get them out of the way sort of obligation.

Think when you say the words of a memorized prayer. Let your mind rest on one phrase or another, and meditate briefly on what you are saying, and praying. Keep in mind always that we are in God’s presence, asking Him for what we need or thanking Him for the blessings He has given us.

Sure, use printed prayers. Reading or speaking them thoughtfully does mention the concerns and cares you might have to address. They also keep us from saying the things we want to say in the same old wording, nothing fresh or stimulating.

Having favorite prayers also is good. It tends to focus the mind and your thoughts on the issues you are concerned with.

A favorite I have often used in evening services, I took it from “The Minister’s Prayer book” and the source is unknown.
“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,
And holy rest,
And peace at the last.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

GPD 10/14/08

Monday, October 13, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/13/08

Cool and delightful this morning with the promise of maybe some thundershowers in the later afternoon. Such a day to rejoice and be glad in. And we do, for it is a day with some good news on the athletic front around here. Texas beat Oklahoma in their annual Red River Valley shootout, and the Houston Texans finally won, by the skin of their teeth, and at the last 7 seconds. But they won, after they had lost the week before in some really inept and ill-conceived final 4 minutes in which the Colts scored 17 points and won! It was the kind of game that owner Bob McNair said, “That kind of a game is hard on old guys like me”.

But beyond that, news is of the kind that caused the Psalmist to say, “I say to God, my Rock, why have you forgotten me? Why must I go mourning, oppressed by the enemy, . . . as my foes taunt me saying all day long, ‘where is your God?” Ps. 42,9.10.

Because it does seem as if all good values are under attack. Here is a film deriding our President, another makes a mockery of religion and sneers at what I hold of great value. It does seem as if religion is under harsh attack, bold and centered. And the financial crisis looks worldwide. The elections near which we approach with prayer and care, The Psalm resounds a truth that we see worked out in our lives.

And my thoughts go back to the Book of Solomon’s that seems to express such futility. Ecclesiastes, in which Solomon looks at the world and sighs, “Vanity, vanity, All is vanity.” Look at one finding. “I have seen. . .God gives man wealth, possession, and honor” [ this is an exact quote that God said when God promised him this in addition to the wisdom to ‘rule this great people’ (See 2 Chron.1,12.)] and then adds, “but a stranger enjoys them”. Eccl. 6,1.2. We know that stranger too. The Bible calls him, “the devil, as a roaring lion walking about, seeking whom he may devour, whom resist steadfast in the faith”. 1 Peter 5,8.

It leaves me with a puzzling thought, often near despair. But I remember that Solomon sees what he sees “under the Sun”. That is not taking God into the account. And when we do we hear Him say “Do you not know, have you not heard, the Lord is the everlasting God . .His understanding no one can fathom”. Is. 42,28, or this word, Is. 55,8, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”.

It was an ancient heathen king who said: “He does as He pleases. . .and no one can hold back His hand or say to Him, ‘what have you done’?” Dan. 4,35.

An unknown poet wrote “The Loom of Time”. I quote a selection:
“Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God reveal the pattern, and explain the reason why.
The dark threads were as needful, in the weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver, For the pattern that He planned”.
What we see now is the tangle of the underside, he twisted knots and frayed ends that lack meaning or beauty. But from God’s perspective, it is all under control. God is the potter, I am the clay. So the Psalmist whom I quote in the beginning ends like this:
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42,11 I end with that comforting word, rich in hope with my future in God’s loving, caring, hands.

GPD 10/13/08

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/7/08

What a fine, gentle rain this morning. Started with just a very slightly felt drizzle that ended with a shower that dusted off the trees and made the colors shine brightly again. The day ahead promises to be sort of cloudy. No, just now the sun is breaking through.

But what of the day. The Lord tells us, “Give your entire attention to what the Lord is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6,34. (MSG)

That verse is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, in which the Lord is teaching about the tendency of people to strive always for more. He points out that the flowers of the field are more colorful than “Solomon in his glory (who) was not dressed like one of them”. If God takes care of that, don’t you think He will and does take care of your needs. And if this is so, then spend time “Seeking first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you “. V.33.

A truth we tend to ignore. Put yourself in Moses’ shoes. He’s in charge! How am I going to feed this crowd? What about tomorrow? Etc. etc. But He found that God supplied, and just enough every morning for that day. Check Exodus 16,4. If they tried to save it for tomorrow, it decayed. BUT, on the 6th day they took in enough for two days and that did not decay! God’s providence.

The Book of Ecclesiastes, follows Psalms and Proverbs, is famous for exposing man’s futility. It exposes our total incapacity to find meaning and fulfillment in our lives on our own.

Understand me, it doesn’t mean we should not work hard at what lies at hand to do. We are to do our best, but never with an eye always on ‘getting ahead’, but in doing what we do to ‘please God’ as Peter and Paul suggest. It’s the conniving and effort to undermine another that is condemned. “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands striving after the wind.” Eccl.4,6. Proverbs has this word: “Better is a little with fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith” 15,6. And also: “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right”. 16,8.

Ah, to be content. St. Paul writes, and we might say it after him, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content”. Phil 4,11. Isn’t that enough? “And be content with such things as you have, for HE hath said, I will never leave you, or forsake you”. Heb. 13,5.

With such promises to live with, the kind of day it might turn out to be really doesn’t make any difference, does it, my Christian friend?

GPD 10/7/08

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/4/08

Most of us know lots of people, either they look familiar, or we know their names, etc. But we never really know people till we get a chance to sit down for a length of time together. (I often found the best time for exchanging confidences was at 2 a.m. in a hospital waiting room).

But we look for clues, for little things, to show who the real person is. Lucy asks Linus why he only shined the toes of his shoes, and he replied, “I care what people think when I enter a room, who cares what they think when I leave”. He was wrong. People noticed the backs of the shoes well before he left. As a matter of fact, for decades it was precisely to a man’s shoes people looked to determine his station in life. He might be wearing a gold watch on a fine chain, have rich looking silk ties for years, but he might skimp on replacing the heels of his shoes when cash was short, thinking no one would notice.

But people did notice. They learned to look for that very detail. So we have the expression, “well heeled”, or “down at the heels”. People looked at this tiny detail to check their financial status.

In the Mattlock series on TV, Mattlock is often shown busily shining his shoes. One of his staff asked why he did that, and he replied, ‘Because when I conduct a trial, the first thing people look at is my shoes, especially right here”, pointing at the instep, ”to check me out”.

If you visit a Nordstrom store, check out the chairs in the shoe department. They are a little lower than an ordinary chair and have a firm seat. Nordstrom designed those chairs because they noticed how hard it was for customers to get up from a heavily padded chair. Why do that sort of thing? Because the little things attract and keep customers.

Do little things matter? They form and shape us, they leave a bit of trace deep in our being, so maybe the next ‘little’ sin becomes easier, and we fall more easily into Satan’s traps.

That is why the Christian lives with the constant reminder that “Thou, Lord, seest Me.” And that God’s promise is this, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the earth”.

Little things. Details. Omit them not, because life is really made up of little things isn’t it?

May the Lord bless you ever, in all your life as you glorify His Name.

GPD 10/4/08

Friday, October 3, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/3/08

Who gets your vote in this Fall’s election?

Here’s a lesson from History and Scripture. One time Spain was a force to be reckoned with. Her ships roamed the seas, her armies won battles. Every ship that came to port was loaded with gold stolen from the Incas and others in South America and Mexico. She got her wealth in the wrong way – to much, too quickly, and it destroyed her. Ferdinand and Isabella, who financed explorers like Columbus, were deeply in debt, always spending way beyond their means and mortgaged to the hilt. The living was easy. The great fighting men who graduated from the ranks of the army that fought the Moors disappeared. Politicians and courtiers, the gentle ones, the conniving ones, took over and destroyed all that the men of valor had won. Strong people like Cortez and De Soto were replaced by weaker men, grown fat with easy wealth. History shows this always happens so.

From Scripture, turn please to Romans 12, 13 & 14 especially. Here St. Paul is struggling with the fact that the new Church was of diverse background, from different races and places, creeds and customs, yet he speaks of them as “One in Christ”. In chapter 12 St. Paul had been speaking of various gifts people had, and started by saying, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold”, “Don’t become to well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God, you’ll be changed from the inside out”.v.2. He ends that by urging them to “overcome evil with good”. Then he speaks of government and its purpose. It’s to keep the peace, that we might live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. So he might say, “vote for the leadership whose aim is just that”.

But while he is on the subject of behavior, he tackles the issue of cultures. They are a diverse group, both Jews and Gentiles, and from different backgrounds. One keeps certain days and eats certain foods, another does not. And that is just where the problem rises. They were chiding one another for doing something other than what they were used to from their background and training.

Sounds much like our congregation, differing in background, in training, in outlook, in experience, in education, in life experienes. St. Paul suggests the one we are responsible to is God. There is the story that one Sunday the Duke of Wellington knelt at the communion railing when a commoner started to kneel next to him. An usher rushed up and chided him saying, ‘That’s the Duke of Wellington”. However, the Duke took the arm of his fellow communicant and said, “Stay, we are all equal here”. That’s the lesson St. Paul is pressing on us.

I know it seems hard to make a choice, but do pray over it, examine the words, and remember, it is God, finally, who places government over us to see that our lives are lived to His glory. May God bless you daily.

GPD 10/3/08

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/2/08

This morning the paper poses an interesting question, “How do those ‘keep off the grass’ signs get on the grass one is supposed to keep off?”

Now isn’t that something to be puzzled about when there are so many other strange things going on? Here is a column supposed to be a sort of eulogy for Paul Neumann, taking time to dig at the President’s policy? And the news people are all in a tizzy about a debate between Biden and Palin which they say will draw 50 million viewers world wide. And the government placing blame when they vote for a bail out.

I think of a quote from Eric Hoffer, that longshoreman turned philosopher, who said, “An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head.”

Time to turn to the wisdom of Agur. He is the son of Jakeh. You will find his words in Proverbs 30. His words read: “Every word of God is pure, and He is a shield unto them that trust in him.” Then he adds this, “add thou not to his words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar”. V.5.6.

Politicians speak today of using ‘spin’. With that they mean the words they use to cover a bad situation. To try to make the best of something bad and turn it into a good for their side. You know, practice the ‘blame game’, as old as the First Fall into sin.

That’s what Agur warns against, as did Moses in Deuteronomy 4,2, “Don’t add anything to what I order you to do, or take anything away from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God I order you to keep”. And nearly the last words in the Bible speak another strong warning about making any changes at all, ever, in God’s Holy Word. ”Every Word of the Lord is pure, a shield unto them that trust in Him.” V,5.

In all the words that will float around, here is one to stick to. God says of His word, “It is like a fire, like a hammer that shatters rock”. The Word is pitiless in revealing sin, it is strong enough to shatter the hardest rock. That Word shows us sin, it shows us the WAY to salvation. It is true. We can trust it, no ‘spin’ involved at all. Just plain, straight-forward, true, trust it. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and Thou shalt be saved”. That’s His promise, and God backed it up by allowing Jesus Christ, His Son, to die on the cross, for sinners. Thank God for this Truth, hold on to it. God bless.

GPD 10/2/08

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/30/08

Fresh pictures and stories about IKE surface almost daily. Here is one that I would list as a miracle of survival. Two men opted to remain in their cottages on Bolivar peninsula because they thought the storm was heading further south. They guessed wrong, and the storm caught them, swept them with much debris across the 14 mile East Bay, and landed them in Chambers county along with other trash from Bolivar cottages. One said he would never return to live on Bolivar peninsula unless it was in a motor home he could move at the first sign of a storm approaching.

Stories of death and destruction abound, and the aftermath and the cleaning and rebuilding will take years.

But we did note one article with a sort of positive spin on IKE. The storm surge, with its nearly 20 feet of salt water, flooded the low lying marshes and simply killed the invasive alien water hyacinth that have choked life from so many waterways, Chinese tallow trees, and some other stuff that had been making steady headway in destroying these marshes.

The affected areas will not hold clean water and aquatic vegetation required by the flocks of waterfowl that typically winter here. It will be hard for them. But in the long run, scientists who study marshes, say they will recover, and give management a chance to get ahead of invasive plants and not let them take over again.

In short, the ecosystem will be more diverse and better able to serve the purpose for which the Lord created marshes. Needed now is a good slug of rain to start washing away the salt.

There is always something if we look hard enough, isn’t there? What came to mind is that hymn that Ruth and I used as our wedding march. “So Nimm denn Meine Haende”. The music is the same in English. The hymn, and we used it as a closing hymn on Sunday, is “Lord, take my hand and lead me, upon life’s way.”

For me the words are true, “And when the shadows lengthen, and night has come. I know that You will strengthen my steps toward home. Then nothing can impede me, O blessed friend, so take my hand and lead me, unto the end.”

It is a prayer the Lord has kept for us, strengthened us during times of trial, blessed us so richly through the years. Indeed,
Though He giveth and He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh.
His the loving purpose solely,
To preserve them pure and holy.” LSB 725

So endeth the month of September.

GPD 9/30/08

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/27/08

Yes, we’ve been to Disney world in Florida. We were there right after they opened, right after new year when the playground was on the radio asking people to come because there were few visits after school vacations. We were there before we needed to take out an extra loan to have the funds to pay the entrance fee.

And when you visit, did you notice how main street looked? Nicely and freshly scrubbed and painted, yet the buildings are not full size. The Disney architects have discovered if they make buildings a little smaller, they give people a sense of well being. They feel as if they belong there. It gives people a homey feeling of belonging.

That’s what the world does best, try to make us feel ‘at home’ with its wayward ways. And, strange as it sounds, the world does watch how we act. Jesus spoke of this in His sermon on the Mount when He said, “You are the salt of the earth”, and He also called us “The light of the world’. Matthew 5, 13.14. So “let your light so shine before me that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven” 5,16.

A prison chaplain tells of a prisoner who came to believe. One fellow snorted and thought to himself, “Yea, he just wants to get out early”. But later this man wrote a letter to the Christian prisoner. “I watched you at work in the machine shop, I watched you as we were eating. I watched you in your talk and the stories you told, and because I did, I am now a Christian”.

IKE did some of this, sort of brought us together. Neighborhoods came out of their homes and shared food they cooked, helped clean each other’s yard, acted like neighbors, talking and exchanging small talk and experiences.

Does it need to take such disaster to bring out the best in people? The Psalmist mentions this, when he says, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word”. Psalm 119,67. He then goes on, (the Living Bible), “The punishment you gave me is the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to your laws.” 119, 71.72.

But this change, to be a “salt of the earth”, and become a “Light of the world”, does not happen because we try to become a light, it happens because, as St. Paul reminds us forcefully, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2,20. The change comes from The Holy Spirit placed in us by Baptism.

Oh, we do not come up to what we need to be, and yet, we know God sees us always through the blood of Jesus, and so we say, calmly, “I confess my transgressions unto the lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin”. Psalm 32,5.

GPD 9/27/08

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/25/08

There is a Chinese saying to the effect that if anyone could concentrate for as much as three minutes on a problem he could rule the world. That’s hard to do, and few can do it. It takes real effort and long practice to apply all our intelligence to any given situation. Our minds tend to wander, other thoughts crowd in uninvited. It takes long practice and much effort to close out everything but one idea, and concentrate on that.

Maybe that is the reason we really tend to overlook those three chapters [chapters 5 – 7], in St. Matthew. The ones we call “The Sermon on the mount’. It is a sermon preached by an unassuming carpenter from Nazareth, on a Galilean hillside. Simple, yet profound. They really do set out the foundations of the Christian life as it is meant to be lived.

The beginning verses we know as The Beatitudes (Matthew 51-12), simple, yet for-reaching in their implications. For instance “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”. (5,6). Jesus is not talking about only increasing knowledge, reading the Bible much. Instead, He is talking about getting into line with God, not just knowing his will, but doing it. Becoming more and more Christ- like in our lives. It means taking God seriously and finding out how perfectly God’s truth fits into our real world existence.

And the end result of such a life, ‘They shall be satisfied.” Well fed, completely nourished, able to stand in any storm and live through the direst emergency. Even IKE.

But isn’t life like that. Not to accumulate things (which IKE can destroy in a moment), but in a better, richer understanding of the life we live in, of being aware of the world in which God has set us, and there, in that world, doing His will.

With this in mind, we can understand how the simple truths of the Sermon on the Mount are not heeded much. Here the Lord Jesus lays bare the fundamental hypocrisy of the religion of His day, and thus does it for much that we call religion in our day. The words strike with precision of a surgeon's knife and reveal what we often assume is real. These words strip away the excess baggage of much what we call religion and bring us back to the basics.

St. Paul sums it up when He said, “This one thing I know, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief”. That truth is enough for us, or should be.

May God bless your day as your walk always “as unto Him”.

GPD 9/25/08

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/23/08

Finally, after 10 days in Killeen, and our welcome was warm and friendly, we are home again. Everything is in good order. People from the Church came by to pick up debris, and we are thankful for that. Even though there were no large trees down, only little pieces and small branches. Quinta drove us back to The Woodlands. We saw some large trees down, lines down, schools still without power, but here everything is rapidly getting back to normal. Thank God for that.

The authorities report that there was very little flooding even with some ten inches of rain. Of course, there was stuff like a limb on a roof. But for some small leaks, no damage at Church either.

So Quinta cleaned out the refrigerator. We tossed all food stuff, and then she cleaned that refrigerator as it had never been cleaned before. So we’re starting with a clean slate.

The weather is serene. We are now in the Fall season, and it just astonishes me how serene and calm the weather now is, and that this space saw some real wind and rain just days ago. You’ve seen some of the pictures of the damage worked by IKE? The one that intrigues me most is one showing a house, sitting all alone, seemingly untouched, and surrounded by what looked like miles of rubble. Amazing.

And the small loss of life in the States shows that people do listen and try to pay attention to warnings when such a storm nears, and make efforts to be safe. Others, of course, ignore any warning.

And that reminds me of people. So many tend to see God as a sort of benevolent grandfather who smiles when we sin and murmurs, ”well, children will be children”. Then they think of verses such as “He shall give His angels charge concerning thee, they shall bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone”. Misquoting psalm 9,10.11, as Satan did when he tempted Jesus.

We tend to forget the Psalm also says this, ”Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation”. V.9 and also, “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge, my fortress, my God, in Him will I trust”. V.2. It is to such God addresses the words about sending His angels to look after our safety. It is This God who looks after us during times of strife and turmoil as well as always, for His promise is, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.”

Bless His Holy Name, and may He send you peace this day.

GPD 9/23/08

Friday, September 19, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/19/08

Strikes me we need one another, and IKE showed this. But isn't that how the lord made it and planned it to be? He said to the first man, "It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him an helpmeet for him". So God created the first woman, and established the family. We, of course, since we are sinners, have managed to mess things up. Really to be expected.

Then along comes a massive storm like IKE and sort of makes it quite clear that we do need each other. In Switzerland scientists have conducted an experiment that did not do what they had hoped. But they will finally learn that creation is really out of their reach altogether.

So we clean up, and that will take weeks and in some cases years to undo. Meanwhile, there are people who take advantage - as there always are - and so the police make extra effort to prevent looting. Neighboring cities have bolstered their ranks to keep property safe.

Laws are made for one reason, to keep us safe. Well, we learn, often slowly, but we do learn.
And that leaves us with lessons learned, often at great cost, and things left to do. So slowly, slowly, Texas and other states recover from IKE, thanking God it was not worse, amazed that we survive that, and other disasters as well as we do.

The Psalm is still true, "to keep thee in all thy ways, lest you dash your foot against a stone".
So may God yet hear our prayers and save us for eternity through Jesus, our Savior.

GPD 9/19/08

Monday, September 15, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/15/08

Well, Ike is slowly leaving the country. The experts say it was fortunate that it moved and didn’t hang around once it made landfall. Yet the damage it did was tremendous. Someone told us they had seen one picture showing a yacht on top of the causeway to Galveston. The storm surge caused that, if it is true.

As a matter of fact, the storm surge did the most damage right along the coast, and wind - well, they keep showing a pictures of the ChaseBank, tallest in down town, with all the windows out on the east side. Then the wind tore up the offices, threw furniture into the street together with computers, files, and other stuff. Leaving a total wreck.

Houston has declared a curfew for the next week to keep down looting etc. Cleanup started, but will take real extended work.

Meanwhile, Ruth and I are in Killeen where Gene and Quinta welcomed us and are keeping us till power is restored in The Woodlands. Our neighbor there was kind enough to check on the house and says she saw no trees on the roof or damage like that, Thank God for His care.

By the way, while guest here I had a ripe tomato picked right off the plant in the kitchen. It was a tiny morsel, but delicious.

So the house is quiet. Ike veered so quickly to the East after making landfall that Killen, predicted for 6 inches of rain, got a mere drizzle. So there was no excitement here excect for the evacuees in the convention center here and in many other places throughout Texas.

Merlin and Rhoda braved it in their home in Houston. They lost a shingle or two and had a neighbor's tree limb in their front yard, otherwise OK. No power, of course, so they are staying with friends who do have power.

The authorities really were organized for help and effort. Now they are doing their search and rescue work. Deaths so far attributed to the storm are minimal, and thank God for that sort of planning.

Over all, Ike affected the entire Eastern half of this nation. Chicago right now was reporting flooding and rising waters.

The report is that the refineries around Beaumont will be back in full operation in 7 or 8 days. But gas is tight in places, and some are using this to do a little gouging.

And our God is in the heavens and hath done whatsoever He hath pleased. So, we are grateful for His mercy, and thankful for all the help and support we are receiving now.

GPD 9/15/08