Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/30/09

End of the month and the first half year is already gone. How quickly time does fly. Indeed, the hymn has it right:

“Change and decay in all around I see,
But Thou who changest not, abide with me”

And how wonderful and strengthening it is to know that He does indeed abide with us. His promise is, “I will be with you even to the ends of the earth.”

The end of June really evoked a sort of pensive mood, and this morning during my little walk – it was really pleasant out early, a slight breeze, cool and refreshing – so that I could really appreciate St. Paul’s word from prison, “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, but to remain is better for you.” And St. Peter in his second letter (1,12) chimes in with “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body”.

Both statements express a longing for eternity, for being elsewhere, do they not? They remind us that our stay here is brief, and we have another home.

And yet . . . and yet, we still need to live here in the place where God Himself has placed us, doing daily what lies at hand to do, till that moment when He calls us home. Meanwhile, faithfulness and patience are the need for the day. Let us then be up and doing, with a heart for any fate, still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor, learn to wait.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day,
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away,
Change and decay in all around I see,
But Thou who changhest not, abide with me.” LSB 878,4.

Because “Tempus fugit” “Sic transit Gloria mundi”.

GPD 6/30/09

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/28/09

Well, it seems to be hot all over, so let’s just accept it with thanks, it is summer, after all, and go on with life.

Today I offer a section from the letter of the Apostle Paul to the little church at Colossae. He’s writing to people who are being subjected to all kinds of new and dazzling ideas offered by false teachers. Paul says to them, “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 get anywhere”. Then he says, “Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They’re lots of hot air, that’s all they are”.

You Colossians have been baptized, and so God brought you alive in Christ. Now,
1”if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides.
2 Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ — that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.
3 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life — even though invisible to spectators — is with Christ in God. He is your life.
4 When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too — the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.”

That applies to us as well. We have been baptized, so we are “in Christ”, and as such, “love as unto Him”. We know the truth, and we live it by His grace and always under His blessing.

Yes, I know how hard that is. But the problem is summed up in a prayer by Reverend Billy Graham offered for the nation. Pastor quoted it in our newsletter, and I offer it here.

“Heavenly Father, We come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good', but that is exactly what we’ve done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reserved your values. We have exploited the poor and called it lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor’s possession and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with pornography and profanity and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today and cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen."

GPD 6/28/09

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/25/09

One of the rites of early spring in churches throughout the South was fan delivery day. The day when the local Funeral Homes delivered the yearly supply of fans to churches. Everiss and Hackman-Baue and Precht and Baue were names familiar to me. I can see it now, standing in the pulpit. Facing a sea of fans slowly waving to move the air. And churches were full. Today we have air conditioning, and churches are often half empty.

I often wonder about that. One truth stands out, then people still believed there was a God, and they were close enough to nature to accept what was at hand for them. They believed what the Bible taught them because they could see and daily experience the handiwork of this God. Their very livelihood depended on the hand of God and they prayed, and believed what they prayed, “The eyes of all wait on Thee, O Lord, and You give them their meat at the proper time. YOU open Your hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing”. Psalm 145,15.16. Now our food comes from Krogers and our other needs from J C Penney or Lowes. So our need for God lessens, and we can drop “In God we trust” from our newest coin.

Here is an example. In Harris County (Where Houston is), flood control is an on-going struggle. Engineers have usually relied on deepening and straightening the bayous and plastering them with cement. The result was ugly, and expensive, and useless, for floods came when heavy rains fell. So when the Sims Bayou project was being planned (Bayou is a slow-moving river), engineers planned to deepen and widen the channel, plaster it with cement, and carry flood waters safely to the Gulf. Sims would become more of an ugly drainage ditch.

Then landscape architect Kevin Shanley drew up a plan that allowed the Bayou to meander and remain a slow moving river. The engineers made a computer model and found the plan moved more water faster and more safely, and it provided a place for waters safe storage till the river could move them. The result, 30 miles of new beauty, a place for parks, wildlife thrived on the banks, and the neighborhood adored the project. So working nature’s way was the best way, and the Bayou projects planned for the future will always follow such a plan.

It’s hot, and the weather people speak of new records while sitting in their air conditioned places. But remember what the Lord teaches? “The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day puts forth speech. Night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech, or language, where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19, 1-3.

And let the heat remind us of the questions to JOB. “Who is this that darkens my council with words without knowledge, brace your self like a man, and answer me." And then follows a volley of “Where were you?” when the world was created. Job 38, 1ff.

Yes, Our God reigns still. Thanks be to this God for His daily benefits to us.

GPD 6/25/09

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/21/09 Father’s Day

The first Father’s Day was observed by Dr. Robert Webb in 1909. But the first Father’s Day observance was promoted by Mrs. John B Dodd of Washington. She had been one of six children raised by a father when the mother died giving birth to the 6th. Mrs. Dodd simply wanted to honor the work he had done for them. So the first Father’s Day was observed on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington.

In 1913 a Bill was introduced, but it died. President Coolidge supported the idea of a national day in 1924, but it was not untill 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson made a proclamation declaring it a Federal Day.

But Moses had already taught it when He wrote the Jewish Shema. “4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” And then Moses wrote,5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. Deut 6, 4-9

I find this teaching very instructive and helpful. Have the words always before you, think of them, discuss them, use every “teachable moment”. Make sure the children KNOW the instruction from God, for they will live by them, find them useful and a rich blessing.

A little item I read tells of a father who often used simply letters for “Don’t lie, Don’t cheat, Slow down and think, and Don’t panic”. He wondered in later life If they would prove helpful. Till one day he had taken his son to a field to watch some deer, and suddenly noticed a fire under the hood. He panicked, because he didn’t have his cell phone handy and no help seemed near. Then he opened the hood and saw the fire was a squirrel’s stash of nuts burning. So the “Slow Down and Think:” sounded clearly in his mind..

That’s what the words written by an inspired Moses teach us. Make sure your teaching sticks. That’s what God blesses.

GPF 6/21/09

Friday, June 19, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/19/09

If you go out at 6:20 or so, you’ll usually find a slight breeze and the air seems fresh. Later on, of course the heat and humidity sort of take control, and we pray the Lord to send the needed rain. And in His time, He will send it. Right now some counties are already declaring a burn-ban because things are so very dry.

Well, this morning I met two. One was really steaming along and will surely need a shower when she gets home. The other had a large dog on a strong leash and was going at its pace, sort of half way fast. When we met, the dog wanted to check me out, as is its nature, but she firmly held it back and apologized to me. She had control, but as I walked, I wondered whether she really could control the dog. She was a small lady, and the dog was big, healthy, and strong.

Then I thought of our life. How we think we have control of something when suddenly it jerks free and we fall. C.S. Lewis, in his The Screwtape Letters [you may recall this book pretended to be letters from an old experienced devil teaching a young devil how to tempt people], writes this about temptation: “Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings , without milestones, without signposts.”

That’s what signposts in life do. They help us, guide us, keep us safe from harm. The Psalmist said it like this, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”. Psalm 119,105. Psalm 119 is filled with such wise advice. For example, and we can feel this as well, “I am a stranger in the earth, Oh, how I need a map.” V.19 Or this, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against it” v.11. And such a bit of wisdom, “I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.” V.30

Someone has said that life is lived on a slippery slope because of the many sudden and often unexpected pressures and temptations. How right that is. Accidents happen when least expected and when we are least prepared to deal with them. The knock at the door always comes at 2 o’clock in the morning, doesn’t it?

So the Christian does well to arm himself before hand. Indeed, “I gain understanding from your precepts, therefore I hate every wrong path”.v.104, and “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word” v.147 So the Psalmist can pray, “Delver me according to your promise” for “great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble”. Yes indeed, for the Christian, God prepares him with word and promise and the Christian is in God’s hand. I pray such is your life.

GPD 6/19/09

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/16/09

It remains hot. The weather people on TV explain this so lucidly with their diagrams and their maps. Wonderful. Anyhow, we understand there is a high pressure system sitting over Texas and as long as it remains, the Gulf can’t get into the act with some possible rain or even heavy dew. Clear?

Now, are you a localvore? If you insist on fresh vegetables grown within one hundred miles of where you live, you are. That strange name refers to people who eat only fresh vegetables grown on farms within in a hundred mile radius. I guess knowing you are a localvore hurts more than eating fresh strawberries, doesn’t it? Or the blueberries you are picking even now for pies, muffins, and other delectable deserts.

Picking blueberries always reminds me of a friend in Michigan. The family owned a little hunting cottage in the north woods that was in the middle of several patches of blueberries. Dorothy used to run up there at picking time and harvest a nice gathering. But one year she noticed the crop in the first patch was very meager, so she moved to the next. Here she found the usual abundance and started to pick. She happened to look up, and there, on the other side of this same patch, was a bear busily harvesting too. So, she said, “I came away with what I had and didn’t challenge him at all”.

And Sunday, June 14th, was flag day. A day when in 1777 the Continental Congress adopted officially the stars and stripes as the Flag design. The Day is remembered more in hindsight than in actual fact. The Flag, the symbol of the freedoms we stand for and daily enjoy. We salute it as it passes by.

“Hats off, the Flag is passing by”.

Or sing,

“So proudly she waved

O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave”.

We, as His people, back up this proud speech by prayer and supplication.

And it is right that we do so, Let us never forget to pray “For kings, and for all those in authority: that they might have the wisdom, the insight, the foresight, to lead this Land in the direction that is blessed of God".

GPD 6/16/09

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/14/09

I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one Head, even Christ. This group is called together by the Holy Spirit in one faith, one mind and understanding, with many different gifts, yet agreeing in love. I am also a part and member of this same group, a sharer and joint owner of all the gifts it possesses.

I am brought to it and incorporate into it by the Holy Spirit through baptism, and having heard and continuing to hear God’s Word, which is the beginning of entering in.

In the past, before we had attained to this, we were altogether of the devil, knowing nothing about God and about Christ. So, until the last day, the Holy Spirit abides with the holy congregation or Christendom.

Through this congregation He brings us to Christ and He teaches and preaches to us the Word. By the Word He works and promotes sanctification, causing this congregation daily to grow and to become strong in the faith and its fruit which He produces.

Large Catechism II 51-53.

GPD 6/14/09

Friday, June 12, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/12/09

An article quotes President Calvin Coolidge. He said, “If all the people in the United States would do the few simple thing they know they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves.” [Just by the way, there is another Coolidge quote. One Sunday he went to worship alone. When he returned, one house guest asked him what the preacher had as a topic. Coolidge replied, “sin”. “Well, what did he say?” the guest asked. The President said, “He was against it”.]

There is a world of wisdom buried in that sentence spoken many, many years ago. It is a bit of wisdom still exactly true. And it zeros in on the “what ifs” of life. The regrets that come when our mistakes catch up with us.

Solomon speaks of this sort of regret when he is offering advice: “my son, pay attention to my words, listen well to my words of insight.”

Why? Later regrets for not doing so. He said: “At the end of your life you will groan, 11 You don't want to end your life full of regrets, nothing but skin and bones, 12 saying, "Oh, why didn't I do what they told me? Why did I reject a disciplined life? 13 Why didn't I listen to my mentors, or take my teachers seriously? 14 My life is ruined! I haven't one blessed thing to show for my life!" Prov. 5, 11-14

People often do rue actions which they did in the exuberance of youth, or simply ‘just because’, or on a dare, or out of ignorance, or carelessly, or in haste, mindlessly, thoughtlessly. They ignore the teachings of a loving mother and a caring and concerned father. And what Solomon says becomes true.

Now consider again the Coolidge quote, “if all the people in the United States would do the few simple things they know they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves.” Isn’t it the same with your life in Christ. To do daily what He lays at hand for you to do, do it faithfully, with your best earnest effort.

The seed grows, “he knoweth not how”. Peter said, “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 peter 3,18.

GPD 6/12/09

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/11/09

Going to be warmish today again, and that, I imagine, accounts for the heavy traffic on the street this morning early. As I was leaving the driveway two ladies swept by and said their usual cheerful ‘good morning’. They don’t appear till school is over because one of them is a teacher. Then a solitary biker, followed by another walker, moving briskly. Then, as I was ending my morning stroll, in the distance two more appeared. There was a slight, cool breeze. Maybe that accounts for this early activity.

And a news item this morning about an Israeli lady who bought a new mattress for her mother. They threw out the old one, well used, and worn. Then, after the trash had been picked up, the mother remembered that she had her savings stashed there. One million dollars in US and other cash. Now there is a frantic search underway on various garbage dumps where the mattress might have been hauled to. One can empathize with her sick dismay.

It does reminds me that whatever we do is always under the eye of God. As is our life. A group of Christians were in Mexico helping build a school. As they were painting the outside in the back, one remarked, ‘Well, nobody is ever going to see what kind of painting we do here in the back”. And he started to sort of slap paint on carelessly till Melissa, one of the group, remarked, “God will see what we do”. So they did the best they could.

That reminded me of the artist who crafted the Statue of Liberty in France. People who have seen it report that every hair is meticulously in place on the head of the statue even though, when he crafted the work, nobody would ever see it up there over 150 feet in the air. Today, of course millions see it by means of aircraft, long range photography, etc. daily.

That is what St. Peter had In mind as well. Listen: “8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4,8-ll.

Often our work is “behind the building", and we start to think nobody cares what we do. Yet I expect my computer to do what I ask of it, which means somebody somewhere did the job assigned carefully and well. I strike one key and wipe this page empty, then strike two others, and it comes back. Amazing, isn’t it?

And your life is like that also. Now, back to that mattress. The Lord says this, “Good will comes to him who is generous and gives freely. Who conducts his affairs with justice.” Prov. 112,5. Remember, the way you live your life matters.

GPD 6/11/09

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/6/09

his is the 65th anniversary of ‘D’ day when Americans landed on Normandy’s beaches, established a foothold, and began their successful march to final victory in Europe. The day will be marked with special observances. Included will be a very small number of veterans who were there, survived the terrible opposition, and are with us today to remember.

“We just did it. It was ours to do, so we did it”. The cost was high, and the freedom they fought for for us is still precious. But is it, really? When we see today so many who don’t know the price they paid, and now expect others to “do it’ for them. Hand it to them as their due.

Ah, “Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never-ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine”.

So let this be a day we remember both the reason for this effort, and the terrible price paid, and be refreshed that freedom is yet our heritage. For we do live in a country where it is still possible to worship without hindrance, and live our lives mostly in peace.

So, “O God our Help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guide while life shall last,
And or eternal home”.

As “Heirs of the kingdom of God” we cherish the promise of our Lord,

“Let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself. That where I am, you may be also.” John 14, 1 – 3.

GPD 6/6/09

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/4/09

The last days of school are welcome to teachers and scholars alike. The paper reports School principals doing some rather silly things because their school achieved better than average, or did something successfully that the principal challenged them to do. And Dan Green is retiring from 33 years as track coach for the Woodlands High School track team. During these years he has taken the team to state 30 straight years, won 15 cress-country championships, and finished in the top four 10 other times.

But school’s over, and its vacation time. What are your plans?

Saturday is National Trails Day. This annual event encourages the goal that every American be able to go out their front door, and within 15 minute, set foot on a trail that is Tax payer supported, plus an understanding that physical activity is essential to good health, has led many states and cities across he country to invest in trail systems that approach the 20 year-old goal.

Best known of many is the Appalachian Trail, which runs 2,175 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Katahdin, Maine. It has 260 shelters, and camp sites set a days hike apart all along its length. It is maintained by many volunteer organizations plus the national Park Service.

There is also the 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail running form Canada to Mexico. This is about 70% complete. As well as the Pacific Coast Trail, 2,700 miles long.

But in Texas, plans are underway to extend the famous river walk in San Antonio along the river across four counties all the way to Goliad. Dallas is at work on the Trinity River Corridor Project to transform the flood protection solution into a greenway.

But in Houston, the “can do” place, collaborating groups and individuals are in the midst of setting a 650 mile Trail and Wilderness Preserve, linking regional parks, walkways, and bike trails as well as river and creeks. When finished, it will offer paved and unpaved bikeways, hiking paths, and paddling and bridle trails. Soon a 130 mile paddling trail connecting various waterways and creeks, making them accessible.

So, travel is out because a teenager has a job, so how about visiting a park nearby, or taking a picnic lunch to the lake shore, or just taking a book – might I suggest the Bible – and relax in the back yard with a glass of iced tea or a cool Pepsi?

I remember some days doing this in Detroit. We would pack a lunch, drive to Belle Isle, spread a blanket under a tree, watch the Great Lakes ore carriers glide by on the Detroit River, and just enjoy a quiet hour.

One thing, if you do that, leave any cats at home, locked in the kitchen or some such. But DO NOT take a cat along on a picnic. They will get scared by some sound, climb a tree, and you will stand there pleading and feeling he proper fool. Leave the cat at home.

Then enjoy the nature that the Lord so lavishly provides.

GPD 6/4/09

Monday, June 1, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 6/1/09

Lord God of hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science has an exhibit of terra cotta warriors produced to guard the first Emperor of China in his afterlife. Emperor Qin Shi Huang completed the conquest of warring Chinese states in 221 B.C. He burned books and executed scholars opposed to his rule, but he also brought the newly united China into a new era. He undertook vast construction projects, and also standardized weights and measures, coinage, scripts, and even the width of axels for chariots.

His tomb – a monument to his obsession with immortality – took 38 years to build. More than 1000 people are thought to have been divided into 87 teams to produce the army of an estimated 8,000 warriors to guard him in his afterlife. Each warrior weighed between 3 and 400 pounds, and it took a team 12 years to complete 7.

The figures were discovered when farmers of China’s Yigang Village were digging a well when they faced serious drought.

This exhibit just emphasizes that mankind has always been concerned about the hereafter. So an emperor makes such provision as seems good in his sight, which is limited by what he knows, or doesn’t know. It points up that man’s sight is limited by the world he lives in, and the world he lives in is scary, isn’t it?

Well, look at it right now. GM went into bankruptcy this morning. GM, a major force for so long, largest car manufacturer, world-wide strength and power. Bankrupt?

And our own government, which always showed April as a month in which it took in billions more in dollars than it was spending, this year did not. And studies of cell phone use shows that the average teenager sends 2,700 text messages a month!

Another study shows children who were not allowed to watch endless TV programs and were set to play by themselves with simple toys developed more and better growth in activity, showing a better grasp of life, than those who simply were set to watch TV.

“Change and decay in all around I see, but Thou Who changest not, abide with me.” That hymn line is more true today than ever.

Especially in this day when man seems set on going his own way, throwing off all restraint, setting aside ancient land marks and guidelines, deliberately throwing out of his schools and places of instruction any teaching about God. The Psalm faced this. He writes: “Your foes roared in the place where you met us. . .they burned your sanctuary to the ground, they burned every place where God was worshipped in the land” Palm. 74,4.7.8.

They went so far as to say, “How can God know?” Psalm 73,11, “does the most high have knowledge?” But the Psalmist goes on to claim, “Thou art my God” and “I will remember” what Your hand did work.

So St. Peter, who also lived in a world of change and decay, writes those truths one more time and says, ”I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body.” 2 Peter 1,12.ff. And so do I.

GPD 6/1/09