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

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/10/08

Hurricane Ike is moving into the Gulf where it will find deeper, warmer water to strengthen again. The projected course seems uncertain, and we wait and see what happens. But if and when it strengthens and hits the coast, it will strike and maul and destroy without favoring one over another. Its brute force will bully everything in its path.

It reminds me somewhat of behavior today. It seems to be more rude, ill-tempered, discourteous. From loud cell phones to indifferent store clerks to unpleasant waiters to aggressive drivers. Our society seems to be getting ruder by the minute.

And there may be reasons for this. We are stressed at work, harried by extra errands, over-burdened by worry. And, we are becoming increasingly anonymous. When the children were growing up, they interacted with children in the neighborhood. We knew everyone on the block because our children played baseball together in our side yard. No longer, recently a neighbor moved out. I met the lady of the house one time, at the mailbox where she was chewing out the mailperson for something or other, then took her mail, and stormed away.

We wouldn’t dream of going to a bank and forcing ourselves to the front of the line, but we do it on the highway. An example is a construction area where the cars need to take the left lane. There is usually a sign half a mile before urging drivers to merge left. You've had the experience, dutifully got in line, and watched several cars pass and force their way into the front, making you stop and go. Once, in all our travels, have I seen troopers at the first merge sign forcing cars to merge, and the result was an even flow of traffic, no stop and go. But States don’t have the manpower to do that, so we all suffer.

And politics. It seems to be more personal in attacks, more unpleasant in speech, more shrill in manner. Where is the reasoned discussion of issues? Where the calm debates over ideas, where the courteous exchange and debate of thoughts? Instead, we have lines like this, “It’s like putting lipstick on a pig.” What it means is left to imagination, but it is meant to sting nastily.

Is there a solution? Indeed there is. Remember what St, James wrote, “The tongue can no man tame, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison”. James 3,8.

The Psalm said it best, “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile” Psalm 34,13. St. Peter said this, (The Message) 10 Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here's what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; 1 Peter 3,10.

In short, always stay calm, practice good manners. A simple rule of using good manners over time teaches also that actions have consequences, and we should care about that. This is one basic of ethical behavior. So, “laying aside all malice, and all guile and hypocrisies, and envies, and evil speakings” 1 Peter 2,1. So, in this world of storm and unrest, you be the calm one, the one who really does “live as unto Him”. May God bless your day.

GPD 9/10/08

Friday, September 5, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/5/08

Weather is pleasant, cooler and nice for walking. But don’t get carried away and overdo it right away, OK?

In 1953 three technicians at the San Diego Rocket Chemical Company began to try to find rust preventative solvent and degreaser to protect missile parts, or a ‘water displacement’ compound. They succeed in their 40th experiment, so we have WD-40. The Corvair Company bought it to protect their atlas missile parts.

Wonderful stuff for many uses. Ken East, one of the founders, says there is nothing in WD-40 that will harm you. Here are just some uses: Keeps flies off cows. Protects silver from tarnishing. Loosens stubborn zippers. Untangles jewelry chains. Removes tomatoes stains from clothing. Keeps water spots off glass shower door. Gets bugs off a car finish. Removes spatters from stove. And there are many others items to clean with it.

I know something else that also cleans. This goes much deeper than surface stains and defects, this gets to the bottom of things.

St. John, St. Paul, St Peter all speak of it. St. John says it most clearly when he writes, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sins: 1 John 1,7. The word John uses means to deep clean, to purge, to purify. In the sense of really getting rid of the sin.

St. Peter writes (Let me use the Message here:), ”18 It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. 19 He paid with Christ's sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. 20 And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. “ 1 Peter 1, 18-20.

Luke, writing of His Church in Acts 20,28, says: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseer, to feed the flock of God, which He has purchased with his own blood.” While our Lord says during Communion, “This is My blood of the New Testament, shed for many for the remission of sins,” Matthew 26,28.

So its not man’s invention. It was planned by God from eternity, to cleanse us from the sin and guilt we bear. All this was brought to mind when I was reading about that wonderful invention, WD-40. I pray none of us will ever forget that or lose sight of the grace and love that provides it daily for us. Praise His Holy Name.

GPD 9/5/08

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/3/08

It’s a nice, cool, sunny Saturday morning. The son is sitting in the lounge when the father comes out of the house to run some errands. He stops, looks at his son, and smilingly says, “Son, will you please mow the lawn? It needs it”. The son replies with a smile, “Sure, dad”. Then the father leaves. When he returns 3-4 hours later the son is sill lounging, the grass is uncut and the father says, “Son, you said you’d mow the lawn.” The son replies, ”Did you mean today?”

We smile, because it happens all the time. We use the fancy term miscommunication. It means we’re not really listening or hearing what is being said. We miss the meaning altogether.

It happened with Jesus too. Remember the time his disciples didn’t wash their hands and the scribes asked why they broke the tradition of the elders. Here is the exchange: 3 But Jesus put it right back on them. "Why do you use your rules to play fast and loose with God's commands? 4 God clearly says, 'Respect your father and mother,' and 'Anyone denouncing father or mother should be killed.' 5 But you weasel around that by saying, 'Whoever wants to, can say to father and mother, What I owed to you I've given to God.' 6 That can hardly be called respecting a parent. You cancel God's command by your rules. 7 Frauds! Isaiah's prophecy of you hit the bull's-eye. 8 These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn't in it. 9 They act like they're worshiping me, but they don't mean it. They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy." From Matthew 15, 3-9 The Message Jesus accuses them of misusing is the Scriptures.

The tragedy is that this happens all the time. People misusing, using improperly, or mis-applying some Word of God. And when that happens, the Truth becomes clouded, is weakened, or lost altogether.

Maybe the clearest word in the Bible about making the word plain is in Nehemiah when Ezra read the Book of the law in the hearing of all the people after they had finished rebuilding the walls. It’s in Nehemiah chapter 8. v.3 “The ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law”. Then explains that Levites “caused the people to understand, gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading’.v.8

So it was not enough simply to hear it, they wanted them to understand it too. The earnest Bible teacher does that exactly. He finds out what the words mean, what they mean to us today, and how we can make use of what we now know. There are many teachers who do not do that, and they either miss the message or discard it because it doesn’t fit in what they think, or fit the present day. So it becomes “out of date” and unneeded. That’s tragic, for our God, through Jeremiah, speaks of this exactly. ‘I am against the prophets that use their tongue and say ‘He saith’.” 23,31.

So listen to the word. What does the text of the Bible actually say? And what meaning is there for me in my life today? Essential, and I pray you are such a Bible student.

GPD 9/3/08

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/2/08

Well, it’s really nice out this morning, cool air, sunny weather, and we are far from any hurricane devastation though expecting some rain, welcome rain, later in the day and week.

Meanwhile, Hanna is moving closer, and Ike lurks in the distance, and other storms are forming in the Atlantic. It may well be a busy season, and we pray the Lord will preserve life and use the storms in the way best for all.

Meanwhile, my attention is directed to pills. A favorite columnist speaks about pills the other day. He expressed the hope that he might end his days without using them, but finds himself popping pills regularly.

But what caught my attention mostly was the reading the pharmacy sends along with any prescription. It’s usually in small print, and seems to cover every possible side effect. Some to be taken at bedtime only, others the time of day doesn’t matter, with others you need to wait 30 minutes before taking others, some each week on a certain day, others again have no such schedule.

Like most people, I often take several at once, and leave them to sort out where they belong and do what they are intended for. And I guess that happens, because I am still here.

In my lifetime I spent many hours in various hospitals visiting, praying with, having bedside devotions, private communions, or just being there for a moment. And it was my boast that I had been in the hospital hundreds of times, but never as a patient, till about 6 months ago, when I had a stent placed. And when I told the nurses this was my very first time as a patient they’d glance at the chart and say, “Hard to believe”.

I consider it a rich blessing from the hand of my gracious God. So I am not complaining about the pills now. But the thought never fails to remind me of the truth expressed in that Psalm most people know. Psalm 23 says “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leadeth me beside the still waters,. . . he restoreth my soul. And . . . . . . . .surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The promise is never failing, and it always brings renewed strength and hope to the burdens that life may have in store for me. Because it tells me that the Lord, the faithful Shepherd, leads, guides, and keeps us in His tender care.

So Hanna may be getting closer, and Ike lurking in the Atlantic, and other storms forming, and pills never seeming to end, but He keeps me always. May the Lord keep and bless your day, every day.

GPD 9/2/08

Monday, September 1, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/1/08

It’s cool this morning, altogether pleasant, no yellow boxes roaring to add to noise and confusion. One would hardly know that there is a major hurricane roaring in the Gulf, heading, they project somewhat west of New Orleans. Yet New Orleans has evacuated l.9 million people; their thinking, better too soon than too late. So now it’s a matter of ‘wait and see’ what develops.

Ever have days like that? Days when nothing seems to go right, you overslept, are running late, the toast gets burned, the gas needle is on empty because you forgot to fill up last night. The time drags, no matter how hard you try, nothing seems to work right, and the day seems to go endlessly.

Finally, at home that night, you face some ‘end of month’ financial chores, and the check book just won’t balance! And such an odd figure, too. Finally, you check against the online bank report and find the error, forgot to add a little check.

We all have days like that. And there is help and hope for us. David knew them too. Psalm 2, 1-2, David cries, “Give ear to my words, O Lord. Consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray”.

David, chased by King Saul, faced down and defeated Goliath, confronted by his own sin, and blessed beyond imagination. In it all he remembered one KEY truth, God hears our prayers and answers the prayers of his people.

We pray. I hear us in the worship service, “Our Father, . .Thy will be done”. But do we often think our stuff is too little for God’s attention, and I had better work it out for myself?

Remember, God has given us his gift of prayer. God invites us to “Cast ALL your cares on Him, for He careth for you”. And in this gift of prayer God gives us all the things we need according to His divine will. For the words “Thy will be done, on earth, as in heaven” are never empty. No matter how small we think our need, His answer is always filled with the things we do need to answer that need.

Weary and sad? Remember the Psalms. The prayers of David help us all often express our need, our want, our care, in His eye. He wants us to ask. He has promised “And it shall be given to you.” May the Lord bless your prayer life.

GPD 9/1/08