Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 1/29/08

Drizzly this morning, so my walk was cut short. But that’s OK, because today is Ruth’s Birthday.
Now, instead of spending time telling you how wonderful she is, let me just fill in some recent stuff.

Last Friday friends invited us over for dinner to celebrate it early. On Saturday our daughter Rhoda and her husband came up from Houston to take us out to for birthday lunch. Sunday after Church Ruth and I had Brunch. Today we invited a friend to join us for lunch. Thursday we go out for lunch with the Senior group, and next Saturday daughter Quinta plans to come over with this in mind, “To celebrate Mom's birthday”. And for me the best part is I get included in all this!

But birthdays are surely a time to reminisce. We count all the joys and the sorrows that have come our way in our life together. We stop often to thank God for this gift, this marriage begun on a July afternoon in Trinity Lutheran Church, Freistadt, Wisconsin. Just by the way, Trinity is the oldest Lutheran Church in that State.

Nor did we have an inkling where we would be living, and serving the Kingdom. But as we look back, we see His hand always there, strengthening, comforting, encouraging, urging us to finish the task He gave. We have learned how true David spoke, “Wait for the Lord, be strong, and take heart, and wait for the Lord. Ps. 27,14.

Yes, today is Ruth’s birthday. I pray God’s blessings today, and ever.

GPD 1/29/08

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 1/28/08

Pleasant this morning, and a bit warmer, but tending to get cooler toward the weekend. But let’s enjoy the day, for truly “This is the day that the Lord hath made, we will rejoice, and be glad in it”. And the bus is coming, and one of the riders is yelling, ‘Tell her to wait”, as he comes running hard with coat flying, and he does.

But it strikes me that life is sort of messy, isn’t it? And that is the sort of day the Lord tells us to rejoice in. So do, rejoice in it, I mean.

Some get fussy when things aren’t the way they like it. I know the place I work in is like that, here are two books leaning against a chair leg, there are some papers needing to be filed away again, and magazines to be read, or discarded, or put into the recycle bin. It just seems to get awry that way, and I don’t quite know how that happens, except that life is messy. And here’s another batch of mail.

Take a look at nature. Some friends remarked several winters ago driving through Arizona after there had been much rain and seeing wild flowers all over, a thing of beauty they called it. God did it. And few saw it.

Then look at Matthew 13 where Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is like” and tells the story of the seed, some even falling on rocky and shallow soil. Or the weeds sowed by “the enemy”. Jeus said, “Let them both grow until the harvest, then I will separate the good from the bad”. Or the yeast working, or the net catching all kinds of fish. The story is the same, Jesus sends His children out to be witnesses, and the harvest is His. “My Word will not return unto Me void but accomplish that which I please, and prosper in the thing whereto I send it”.

We need to learn to accept that in people too. None are the same, and thank God for that, but accept the differences, and enjoy the day God gave us, in short, live with it. It’s the same in any church. People are different, and yet they are all baptized children of God. But the differences at times provoke unrest, and in the Church people recognize this, they are sinners, and come here for the cure, forgiveness of sins, and so peace with God. So enjoy your day.

GPD 1/28/08

Friday, January 25, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 1/25/08

It was just as cold today as yesterday, but it felt quite pleasant because there was no drizzle with it. Later the drizzle started and the cold went to the bones, but early on, when I was walking, it was nice.

Today is our youngest daughter’s birthday. It brings back so many pleasant memories of growing up and visiting and watching her grow and making her way in the world as Christ’s child. And Mom’s poppy seed cake with cream frosting.

How the time flies. The time is past to look for someone to blame, isn’t it? It always is. And yet we seem to be living in a time when “It’s not my fault” is the norm. What happened to responsibility. What happened to taking charge of my own life, instead of blaming anyone or everyone else for my mistakes, my errors, my failings.

Let’s be on guard. When push comes to shove, think independently. Think biblically. Lead with your head, rather than your feelings. It is easy to lose our ethical compass somewhere between longing to be liked and wanting to do what is right.

As an example, when Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. And outsiders, seeing this, conclude that there really is nothing good about religion. Insiders see it differently, they see a hospital where sick people come to get well. And that is what a Church is.

So Christian Churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. Instead they are places where such behavior is brought out in the open, and dealt with. James has some good advice here. He is a Pastor going about his work, confronting, dealing, forgiving in Jesus name, as one of God’s Shepherds does.

James starts with this, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance” which leads to a mature faith. He speaks of asking God for wisdom, for seeing temptation for what it is. Then he urges them to really listen to the Word, not just in one ear and out the other. In chapter 3 he speaks of the tongue, and how hard it often is to tame that. Then this bit of wisdom in chapter 4,7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil. And he will flee from you. Come near to God, and He will come near to you”.

As I said, this is the wise Shepherd looking after this “Flock of God, which He has purchased with his own blood”.

In Our day we can do no better than to look to this rich letter for guiding and steering in the troubled world we live in. Here lies the wisdom that God offers. We do well to listen, and do. And may God bless the doing.

GPD 1/25/08

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 1/23/08

Raining this morning so I did not take a walk. Really typical January Texas weather, cold, rainy, cloudy, and then some sun. I read a line the other day that says it for me, “I have reached the years that, when I wake up and nothing aches, it’s a good day”. Truth.

My son sent an email after Sunday that read, “The Packers lost , on their home field, at zero temperature, with Brett Fabre at the controls, and the wind chill at twenty below, and the sun rose this morning just the same”.

Perspective. That’s one secret for keeping one's balance in today’s world, isn’t it. Put it into perspective, and it starts to look less overwhelming.

Look at the news. The financial world is in turmoil, the running for candidate nominations is getting more acerbic, the Homeland Defense Agency is suing to take land from cities along the border so they can build their fence, that billions of dollars boondoggle that will be an embarrassment for us for generations to come. A lady in Colorado is selling Tasar units that pack 50,000 volts of power as defense units to women. The Harris County DA’s office is under fire for forgetting the paper work that makes the Grand Jury legal, so endangering the legality of some 40 cases.

Well, you can read stuff like that every day. Has our world gone mad, and where do we find strength to go on, or comfort for the journey, or hope for tomorrow.

May I point one way. A surer way? One that helps you put things into proper perspective? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. All who follow His precepts have good understanding, to Him belongs eternal praise.” Ps. 111,10 Or check out Psalm 119,18 & 19. “Open my eyes, and I will see wonderful things in what you teach. I’m a stranger on earth, Oh how I need a map”. And finally, “I treasure in my heart what you say, so I won’t sin against you” Ps. 119,11.

Just as an exercise, why not sit down with Psalm 119, use a marker, and look at all the wise advice you’ll run across. Remember, too, the promises of our Lord Jesus, “I will be with you to the end of the world”. Then pray that this Lord, who gave us these words, these rich promises, does carry them out in our life today too. May He ever be YOUR God.

GPD 1/23/08

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 1/20/08

We had rain again Friday night and my morning newspaper was double bagged again. That’s twice in three days. I can’t figure it out. I didn’t think our Christmas tip was quite that generous, or is the price of the paper about to go up? Anyway, it’s chilly today, and the old truth my father used to intone on such mornings, “When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen” seems to hold true.

Well, it’s true in Green Bay, Wisconsin anyhow. They are playing a football game in the elements and the temperature will be around zero. The grass on Lambeau Field was grown in New Jersey, and the field is heated by underground pipes. I, meanwhile, will be warm in our Texas home, probably doing some reading of the Bible and maybe watching a minute or two.

But this Bible reminds me of a truth we easily forget. “I am a stranger in the earth, how I need a map.” “Friends,” said St. Peter, “this world is not your home, so don’t make yourself cozy in it” 1 Peter 2,11. And St. Paul calls us Christians “Ambassadors for Christ” 2 Corinthians 5,20. As such, we represent someone else. But the Ambassador lives away from his home. He lives in a distant country to represent his King. The picture is that of one who is “stranger and foreigner’ here, and really has a different home altogether. And you have a message. The truth. That’s why Paul warns in Colossians, “8 Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that's not the way of Christ. 9 Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don't need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. “ Col. 2, 8.9. MSG

Now, God’s sun is shining, and it is warming up. So I shall end this with a word from David, Psalm 37,25. ”I was young, and now am old, but never have I seen the righteous forsaken, or His children begging for bread”. What a word of peace.

GPD 1/20/08

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 1/17/08

We had an inch and a half of rain last night, so this morning, for the first time I can remember, the paper was double-bagged to keep it dry. And it did. Keep it dry, I mean.

There was an army commander who was intelligent, competent, able, an excellent commander whom his king trusted completely and set great store by. The one problem, the commander had leprosy.

Oh, he had tried all the cures that were offered, spent much money and time, but he was still not cured.

This is one of those stories where the impossible becomes possible. For in this commander’s household was a servant girl. She had been caught in a raid and taken from her home. Now she worked in the kitchen. She knew her Boss’ problem, so one day she said to her mistress, the commander’s wife, “If he would travel to Samaria, there is a prophet who can cure leprosy.”

That night the wife and husband discussed this strange statement. The commander told it to the king, and that king said, “Go, I’ll write a letter to the king of Samaria asking him to make you well. I’ll give you leave of absence to make the trip. And take what you need from the royal treasury.”

Well, when he got to the royal presence in Samaria, that King read the letter and showed his dismay. “What’s he trying to do, start a war with us? I can’t heal anyone.”

But Elisha, who was the prophet the servant back in Syria was speaking about, heard this and sent this message to the king, “Why tear your clothes. Have the man come to me, and he will know there is a prophet in Israel”.

So Naaman, that was the commander, came to Elisha’s house. Elisha did not go out to meet him. Instead he sent this message. “Go bathe in the river Jordan 7 times and your flesh will be restored and you will be healed.”

Naaman was upset. He said, “I was sure he would stand there, wave his hand, and cure me. But this? Rivers at home are much cleaner. At least then I would have a clean bath”.

But his servants pleaded, “You’ve come this far. If he had given you a great task, wouldn’t you have done it? Why not do this simple thing since you are here.”

So he did, and was cleaned. (There’s more, but read it in 2 Kings chapter 5)

The point to remember is this. “Obey what the Lord asks”. We find that so hard to do. Jesus complained “Why do you call me Lord, and do not the things that I say?” Luke 6,46. And Samuel said to Saul, “Do you think God wants sacrifices. Empty rituals to show. Obedience is the thing, do what He asks”.

We find it hard to do. He tells us that He has done it all. It is His gift to us. Ephesians 2,. 8.9. Hear Him, and praise and thank Him. Your salvation is done.

GPD 1/17/08

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 1/15/08

Brisk again, and that makes walking in the early morning a refreshing experience. Haven’t been doing it? I trust you get some moving around in other ways then. And it struck me, I sure missed a lot of things when I was growing up, but being active wasn’t one of them. We had chores to do, we walked to school, we played at recess time, we were expected to run errands, look after the growing garden, feed the chickens, clean the barn, help with the weekly wash. No time to sit at a computer for hours looking at a screen. We did not have computers, our generation invented them, as President Reagan used to say.

But I do not remember feeling deprived. I believe we simply lived life as it came our way. I do recall twice during my grade school days I served as a pall bearer for a schoolmate, one was a cousin. It was a confusing and solemn time. We had been playing on the school yard just last week. How could this be?

So the Undertaker gave us grey gloves to wear, and he told us in hushed tones when we were finished at the graveside we would throw the gloves on the casket. I do remember after each of the funerals, the mother came to us, tears glistening in her eyes, shook each of us by the hand, and thanked us for doing this for her little one. It touched us that she would take the time and remember to speak a word to us.

And after the funeral, back to school, where our teacher spoke about death, and what the Resurrection of Jesus Christ meant for us who believed in Him. The passage he quoted was from the raising of Lazarus. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in Me, will never die.” John ll,25.26.

I’m nearing the end of the walk. The yellow boxes are busy gathering their precious cargo, and I am ready to stop a bit and rest. May your day be rich with blessing.

GPD 1/15/08

Friday, January 11, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 1/11/08

Brisk this morning, and now its sunny, and they predict a bit warmer this afternoon. So the day seems normal for this time of year, though a bit on the dry side.

Well, does your email contain all kinds of stuff about this person running, or that one? I checked some of that out, and quite often it is not true at all.

I do want to warn one and all about such things. We live in two Kingdoms, of power and of grace. Keep that in mind. And it means “best construction” thinking always.

I know all of us wonder where things are going. All of are praying that the Lord will send wise and dedicated leadership to this country for such a time as this. And it is really hard to see a person who will prove to be statesman and a blessing to right the wrongs, and to bring the ship into safe harbor.

But there is no need to panic. I am a child of God by holy baptism. I read Psalm 125, one of the ascending Psalms sung as they made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and its truths are there for us.

Like most people, I have my ups and downs, times when I wonder whether the pain will ever leave, and things will be bright again? But in the life of the Christian there is always serenity and confidence. The Christian is in a secure fortress. That’s what the psalm 125 tells us. Listen.

“Those who trust in God are like Zion Mountain.
Nothing can move it. A rock-solid mountain,
You can always depend on.
Mountains encircle Jerusalem, and God encircles His people.
Always has, and always will”. Ps. 125, 1 ff.

So learn that, “the fist of the wicked will never violate what is due the righteous”.
The word refers to ‘cancel’. What God offers us is secure. It is safe.

This is true, not because of the way we feel, but because GOD SAYS SO.

The present upheaval and angst is quite normal for sinful mankind. Yet this is sure, “The LORD knows those that are His.”

May God give you such serenity ever.

GPD 1/11/08

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom Musings on Epiphany 1/6/08

The Church celebrates the coming of the wise men from the East, and rejoices that The Christ is born for “All Men”. Christ is not exclusive, Christ is inclusive.

But it is a warm day. And my mind runs to mundane problems.

I just upgraded my WordsearchBible program. It offers some neat stuff, like being able to place several translations on the same page at once, and other features. The only trouble is I need to take the time to work with it and find the way to do it. In short, I need gumption.

It’s a word my mother had in her vocabulary when we sort of dragged into a job we disliked, like weeding the garden. And the problem from our point of view was that she had us under her eye when we were working the kitchen garden. So now and then she would appear at the back door and remind us to show some gumption.

It’s a word I haven’t heard much lately.

And reading Isaiah 66,12 brought another word to mind, it’s dandle. You know, grandma used to ‘dandle’ her grandchildren on her knees. Some translated this word ‘bounce’, some said ‘cuddled’. Luther used the term “freundlich halten”. That’s good enough for me.

The Big News is still Epiphany. The light is come. And I leave you with that news, for this same Christ has come for you, and for me.

“As with gladness men of old, did the guiding star behold. . .
So most gracious Lord, may we, evermore be led to Thee.”

GPD 1/6/08

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 1/3/08

Talked with my brother yesterday. It was his birthday. He told me of 20 inches of snow and weather in the teens, so I don’t feel quite so cold now, though I do miss that fur hat!

I have a confession to make. I have kept one New Year’s resolution all these years. I have always paid my taxes on time, and never once waited for the interest to kick in. That’s a lesson my father drilled into us because, he said, “That interest can kill you, and it’s your own fault then”.

No, they didn’t write that song for me. You know, the one that starts “Oh, it’s hard to be humble, when you‘re perfect in every way”. You’ll have to type that line into your net, I’m just too humble to write it here.

So the year offers fresh starts. The news is filled with articles and stories about uncluttering your life and living a simpler life style.

May I offer something for you to consider? It’s really quite simple, and gets to the basics. It is to listen and do what the bible teaches. No debates, no arguments, no “But this is 2008”. Just do it.

It sounds easy, but its hard to do simply because we are sinners, born that way. We have the example of Adam and Eve, who ended up blaming God for their disobedience. Excuses. And sinful man has been too ready with excuses ever since. I am not chiding you, but I do ask you to consider, pray, and live to honor God in your life.

GPD 1/3/08

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 1/1/08

I do wish you a Happy New year. May it be filled with many blessings, a fine year for you and yours, one long to recall fondly and cherish in memory.

Beyond that, it’s the same old, same old. Walking this morning made me long for that Cossack- style fur hat I had in Detroit. It was warm, and I left it there. (Well, people told me it was warm on the gulf coast.)

Then, at 6:30 this morning, still dark, I met a FedEx truck. Inside light on, nearly empty of packages, sweeping around the corner as if he knew where he was going. Was he lost, merely running kind of late, or starting early. I didn’t ask, just waved, and he waved back with a grin.

I don’t know what the year has in store for you. But here’s a bit of advice from a New Testament writer whose name is James. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways .“

The hymn sums it all up so:

“Jesus, lead Thou on, till our rest is won;
And although the way be cheerless, we will follow, calm and fearless.
Guide us by Thy hand, to our fatherland”. 718 v.1

May God richly bless your way in 2008, and be your guide.

GPD 1/1/08