Saturday, October 31, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/31/09

“From goulies and ghostiest
And things that go bump
In the night:. . .

So the day began at the grocery, shopping for some food. When I get to the checkout another was also aiming for that line. A lady with a black dot on the nose, several whiskers painted on, carrying a banana and a power bar. I told her to go first and she gave me a Cheshire grin and a purred thanks. The Cat Woman, this early?

It reminded me of nights when the moon shone brightly and threw shadows from the tree outside on our bedroom wall, and my older brother delighted in imagining shadows turned into monsters, and it scared me, and I fussed enough to make father come and ask what the matter was. He told my brother to go to sleep and stop ‘this foolishness’. Next morning I complained to Mother, she consoled me and said, “Let me give you a secret. Next time he does that turn on the light and the monsters will go away”.

Amazing, isn’t it, what Light will do?

That’s what the REFORMATION we observe October 31 is about, Luther turning on the light of the Gospel again. He was not trying to start a new church, he was in all earnestness and seriousness trying to return the Church to the truth of the Gospel.

The Light does that, it helps straighten things out, gives light and so direction because we can see clearly what was amiss. An illustration is the young man who planned to treat his girl friend’s sister, mother and her to a steak dinner, cooked on their grill. The directions weren’t there, and he did not know how to start that fancy grill. So, she called her father, deployed to Afghanistan, and got the directions. Simple, when he knew how to do it. Light, you see, was helpful. (The steaks turned out well. As did the baked potatoes.)

When the child Jesus was brought to the temple, Simeon in prophecy called him “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel”. Luke 2,32. And in his first letter the apostle John writes, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1,5. Just as Isaiah had predicted long before, “I will give thee for a light to the Gentiles.” Is. 49,6.

Because we do believe He is the Light of the world, we are also called to be a light of the world, to”shine before men”. Matt. 5,14.

That is what The REFORMATION is and means. Light came back, threw its beams into the world, and brought men who “loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3,17), into the Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, finally, Jesus teaches , “I Am the light of the world, He that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8,12.

And that is what Light is for, to lead us to salvation.

GPD 10/31/09

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/29/09

“No matter what the circumstances”, said the Apostle Paul one time, “Live life as unto Him”.

I can think of no better word than that for this time and place. Right now, I stepped out into a sauna, humid, hot for this time of year, rain hangs in the air, weather more suitable for the middle of July than the end of October. But we are living on the Gulf Coast, so I do not complain. There’s no reason to complain, for He has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

I have in mind Paul’s letter to the Philippians. A Happy letter, indeed, filled with joyful suggestions and supporting words. This from a man who is in jail, after all. And even that, he says, turned out for the good, for “My imprisonment here has the opposite from the intended affect. Instead of being squelched, The Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here and everyone else, too, found out that I’m in jail because of the Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about Him.” 1,12-13.

Then he adds, “Not only that, but the followers here have become more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah”. V.14

So, the morning news brings the sad fact that two hunters arguing over deer stands are killed, one suicide, the other shot. Then I read the rains are making the feed growing in the lowlands where wild fowl eat inaccessible because of 3 feet of water, rivers are at flood stage and disaster faces the wild life, all because of the aftermath of IKE. And the news agencies are at war with the White House. What next? I wonder.

History informs us the world of the Philippians Church was just as upsetting as is ours today, maybe even worse. And what does the Apostle say in his letter? Do we read, ‘Poor people, just hang in there, it will be O.K.?” No, read it for yourself in chapter 2,13-16. “It is God who works in you both to will and do His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining. Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people a glimpse of living with God. Carry the light-giving message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns.”

What a line, “as lights in the world”. An example, a picture of what life in Christ is, can be, ought to be.

That’s aimed right at us who are God’s children by Holy Baptism. Ask, do I do “all things without complaining or disputing?” Especially, for example, after a worship service that “ran five minute over time", or something? Our record is not very good, is it?

But, you are LIGHTS in the world by God’s work and Will. You are blessed.

GPF 10/29/09

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/26/09

Well, right now it’s raining, and it is predicted for the day. “Stormy”, the word reads.

But, did you see the sunrise the other morning? “Rosy-fingered dawn” came to mind. The words were used by Homer in his Odyssey as an epithet, as help for the singers who recited the poem.

But they are so descriptive of the majestic colors and simply awesome display in the Eastern sky. I’ve seen a rising sun over the waters of the great Lakes and of the gulf Coast, over the Atlantic ocean and over fields of waving grain in Nebraska, as well as often over the fields and woods of Wisconsin . No matter where, it is ever an inspiring sight. (Sleep till noon, you simply miss it. I cannot describe the sight to you. It has to be experienced.)

Another descriptive phrase that came to mind is “the dawn comes up like thunder out of China 'crost the bay”. The text comes from Kipling’s “On the Road to Mandalay”. The poem ends like this.
“On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flying fishes play,
And the dawn comes up like thunder,
Out of China ‘crost the Bay.”

Which brings to mind the first time I heard it sung. It was while I was taking six weeks of summer courses in Seward, Nebraska. One of the students was working toward a degree in music, and one of the requirements was to plan and give a vocal concert before a live audience. The exercise was to show what talents he had in selecting and presenting a program that showed his musical ability and his vocal range. One of the songs he picked was this one, and the phrase stuck, “The dawn comes up like Thunder out of China ‘crost the bay”.

All that, together with the gentle rain falling still, is the Lord speaking still. St. Paul said, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1, 20.

The promise, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter day and night, will not cease.” Genesis 8,11. Indeed, “There is no speech, or language, where their voice is not heard”. Psalm 19,3.

So the rain, or the sunrise, is God still speaking to us. Just don’t forget that.

GPD 10/26/09

Friday, October 23, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/23/09

Boy, the jacket really felt good this morning when the air was bracing and the sky was clear. Finally, some October weather, welcome indeed. And I celebrated by extending my walk a bit.

I see the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston will open a refrigerated storage facility to offer some competition to Miami for the business of importing flowers and other perishable cargo including fish, fruit, and vegetables. One advantage Houston has is that the Federal agency for inspecting and fumigating imports is next door to the new storage facility. They feel this is a real ‘selling point’ because it moves imports to stores faster. We shall see.

Meanwhile, there is a small Lumber Company in northwest Houston that specializes in salvaging trees for furniture and other special building material. They take trees – and there are many great hardwoods, oak, pecan, cypress, cedar, cottonwoods in the area. When they fall, or need to be removed, the company takes them and mills them into wide planks for high-end meeting tables, benches, beds, and such. When word got around they started selling wood to woodworkers. The Company takes urban trees. Most companies do not like to take such trees, because they are more likely to have nails, bits of wire, or bullets imbedded in them, and that breaks saw blades. Architects also use such special wood in their designing. Such wood ages, and adds character to a home or piece of furniture. So the company is flourishing. I wish them well.

Some welcome rain fell, but the record-keepers tell us we are still some 5 inches behind the normal fall for the year. Never satisfied, are they.

And finally this bit. Invasive plants, like the giant salvania, are wreaking havoc on the waters of East Texas. Recently, a duck hunter scouting river bottoms for hunting sites found an oxbow lake and the surrounding shallows wetlands covered by a mass of floating plants he did not recognize. The plant had carpeted much of the prime waterfowl habitat – shallow, backwater areas. He contacted the head of the Parks and Wildlife Department, and he identified the giant salvania. The clot of salvania is poised to be carried into Sam Rayburn, one of the State's finest freshwater fisheries and a major economic force in the area. The threat is real.

Education, and perhaps strictly enforcing major fines on careless boaters who spread the plant by carrying sprigs of the plant stuck to their trailers or boat motors, will preserve the waters, and finally overcome this plague.

So, is there hope? Yes, the Bible offers hope always. “The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day after day uttereth speech, night after night showeth forth knowledge, There is no speech, or language where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19, 1-3. Bless His Holy Name.

GPD 10/23/09

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom – more on question – 10/18/09

Questions often reveal truth. Like when you were out last night and there was a terrible happening and the next morning your father asked, “Were you there?” and with relief you could say “No, I was at the ball game”.

I recall Samuel the prophet gave king Saul a commission from the Lord. It was to destroy the Amaleliktes totally, because “they waylaid Israel when they came out of Egypt.” 1 Sam. 15,2. So Saul took his army and defeated the Amalekites. When the task was done, Saul reported to Samuel that “I have carried out the Lord's instructions” v,13. Samuel asked one question: “What then is the bleating of sheep in my ears? What is the lowing of cattle that I hear?” v.14. It showed that Saul had not “utterly destroyed their possessions” as commanded.

Which leads me to another question that is relevant with us. When the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a sign, He said there would be none except that of the prophet Jonah. Then Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Matt. 16,13. They told him some spoke of John the Baptist, some of Elijah, others Jeremiah.”

Jesus then turned to them and said, “What about you, Who do you say I am”? Peter answered for them all, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 16,16.

It’s easy to give an answer like that. But later, did they look at what they had said, and really believe it? If they did, why were they later so confused when He was dead? And why did it take so long for them to really understand? It wasn’t till the Holy Ghost came to reveal the truth that their faith really became solid, wasn’t it? But it did.

There are bad reports also. In his Colossian letter St. Paul sends greetings from “Our doctor Luke and Demas” as fellow workers. But later, when he writes to Timothy he reports, sadly “Demas has forsaken us, having loved this present world.” 2 Tim. 4,14. How sad such a statement is, “Forsaken the fellowship, having loved this present world”.

That leaves yet one question to address. That is, “What about you, what think you of Christ?” I leave you with that thought.

GPD 10/18/09

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/17/09

The cool air is welcome, and delightful and so much different from that humid heat we have had for several days. And it is much more conducive to thought.

Benjamin Franklin, in his autobiography, is talking about debating or discussion clubs. He found, he admitted, when he made a strong statement that it often sort of dried up any real discussion. So he started to begin his answers with “It seems to me”, or just to ask “What do you mean?, or simply “why?" And he said he discovered the value of debate, and the real value of questions.

That reminded me of a little poem by Rudyard Kipling that started this way:

“I keep six honest serving-men,
(They taught me all I knew);
Their name are What and Why and When,
And How and Where and Who?”

Questions. Remember the TV detective Columbo? He always left a scene with “Oh, by the way", and ask one more question. That often gave him the clue he needed to solve the puzzling case.

Indeed, questions teach, help us understand, learn from one another, so establish relations that go deeper than the meaningless, “How are you doing?” Questions expose hidden motives, real feelings, and deep wounds. Questions help identify dreams or disappointments, and hollowness or insincerity.

One Pastor once answered when another accused him of teaching false doctrine. He answered this way, “A long time ago I learned that before accusing anyone of anything, I should always ask them clarifying questions.” The ‘conflict’ was resolved when both sat down for such a question session which brought a totally reasonable and acceptable explanation. Because someone asked questions.

Through the years I make it a practice to look to the Bible for light. Look at the questions one finds there. When Jesus asked questions, they cut to the heart. “Where is your faith. Wherefore did you doubt?” “Who do men say that I am?” “Who do you say that I am?” “What good is it if you gain the world and lose your own soul ?” “Would you really lay down your life for me?” Or, to Peter, asked three times, “Do you love Me?”

Or the Lord asking Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Or think of the seven words that brought down Saul’s carefully constructed world of hard-nosed religion. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?"

So questions, these “six honest serving men”, use them to learn, to examine, to illustrate, to enlighten. And in this, may God give you peace.

GPD 10/17/09

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/14/09

It is kind of hard to step out the door at 6 to meet July humidity. But the forecasters do predict a cooler and sunnier weekend, and that is nice to look forward to.

The news has a story of a girl who was kidnapped from her bedroom when she was 8, driven to a field, raped and left with a slit throat. It was 14 hours before children playing saw the body and reported it. The victim was rushed to a hospital and survived the ordeal. Now DNA found a match from some clothing the perpetrator left behind, and arrested a man in north Little Rock. He waits extradition to Texas, held under a million dollar bond.

That reminded me of creation, and the migration of the Monarch Butterfly from Canada to the Sierra Madrid Mountains in Mexico. This butterfly is the only insect that migrates both north and south, and such a distance, over 3,000 miles, each season. They use wind and thermals. They cross the Great Lakes, and when the wind goes in a wrong direction, they find a ship to rest on till the wind changes again. In the Mountains they cluster in oyamel fir forests which shelters them, and they stay there for five months.

Then the homeward journey begins. Now they are mature, mate, the female lays from 3-400 eggs, then dies. When the eggs mature, the butterfly continues the migration. The mystery is that it is the third and fourth generation that complete the journey home. While the journey to Mexico is done by the same insect.

They don’t fly at night, but usually find fir, pine, or cedar trees for the night. This migration is so amazing, and scientists have not yet found just how they do it, and return to the same place they started from.

It is one of God’s creations, as is the DNA, or the fingerprint, different for each person.

It just brings us back to Genesis. “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” And “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing, so on the seventh day He rested from all Hs work.” Genesis l,31;2,2.

GPD 10/14/09

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/12/09

Columbus Day, do you observe it, or celebrate it? It really was an achievement. We had the privilege of seeing the replicas of the originals when they were in Corpus Christi . Maybe they still are there. But that tiny vessel, not much larger than a standard life boat for a modern liner. Carried, what, 60 crew, and food enough to keep them? Yes, it was an achievement, regardless of how it is regarded today.

Here is one good note from present day events. American homes being built today are smaller. People want to buy only the homes they need right now, they’re not going for the extra 1000 square feet any more, said Stepehn Melman, an Economist with the National association of home builders. Average American homes peaked in 2007 when they reached 2521 square feet. Compared to other nations, in Germany and France the average size in 2007 was 1200 square feet, in England , about 700. Quite a difference.

Here is a horror story from Sunday’s paper. A Pasadena , Texas mother who is a school Board member found her 17 year old daughter dead from strangulation. Police speculate she had been playing the “choking Game”, which seems to be the rage among teens today. Usually more teens are together. The deal is to choke someone till they pass out. They say thy enjoy the brief feeling of euphoria that comes when the blood rushes back to the brain. Children are not aware that each time they do this, denying blood to the brain, they are destroying brain cells. This mother believes many children who would never ‘do drugs' are playing the game to experience a ‘high’. How sad this is, and how rampant in society. Parents are more and more being alerted to watch for warning signs, red marks on the necks, or teens locking their bedroom doors for long times etc. And remember, it is God who made them too. “Thou hast made man a little lower than the angels”.

And one more note, I do not see it as a cheerful note. The article began on the front page of Sunday’s Houston Chronicle that tells us, “Twitter goes to Church”. This has been met with some skepticism. One pastor of a nondenominational church sees it as a distraction. Craig Hayes says, “If two people are talking at the same time, somebody’s not listening. You cannot do two things at once and expect you’re not going to miss something”. It bothers me, where is the “Be Still, and know that I am God”? Psalm 46,10. The Liturgy helps separate us from the world when we enter God’s House to hear what we need, what we are, and what God has done for us. A Worship service is not meant to be about ME, but about GOD. And twitter ignores this basic reason for worship, does it not?

“God is our Refuge and Strength; an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore will we not fear.
Be still, and know that I am God,
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our Refuge.” \
Psalm 46, 1.2a.10.11

GPD 10/12/09

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Shade Tree isdom 10/10/09

So, the cold air from Canada reached the Gulf Coast last night and did bring some much looked-for relief from the heat. The Predictors tell us this will remain for a bit. Feels wonderful after the hot so late in the season. We thank God for His care.

Our world is filled with change. The Hymn says, “Change and decay in all around I see”. And the older one gets, the more one resists change. The old, familiar places look best to us. I think of sheep. In Israelite times flocks were kept in villages in a common fold. When each Shepherd came to take his flock to pasture, only his own sheep followed him out. They knew the voice, and trusted it.

That’s the picture Jesus also uses when He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and they know Me.” In John chapter 10 we read that Jesus is like the shepherd who “brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and sheep follow him because they know his voice”. V.4.

Recall what Moses told his flock just before they came to the promised land? He said, “Deuteronomy 11:18-21 “18 Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. 20 Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities 21 so that you'll live a long time, and your children with you, on the soil that God promised to give your ancestors for as long as there is a sky over the Earth.“ In brief, make the words clear to your children by teaching them, talking of them, meditating on them. So make a real effort to walk God’s way because you KNOW His Word.

The Psalmist said, “I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Ps. 119,11. And says further, “I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.” V.30. Why, “That I might not sin against you.” So, in this life, when things seem to change from day to day, the Word is the One Constant to direct our path, to guide our steps, to give us assurance of His presence and care in our life. So Jesus called His disciples and said, “Follow me.” The words used means to follow closely. That is the only way to safety in these troubled times when we pray, “Lord, be our Strength and support among the wearisome changes of this world, and at the end of life grant us Your promised rest and peace at the last. Amen

GPD 10/10/09

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/7/09

Did you pay attention to that date? It feels like late August out this morning and not even a slight breeze there to mitigate that feeling. But, promised on the horizon, though yet a few days away, some lower temps and a cold front coming. Thank the Lord for this. Lest we get used to such warm weather in October, and relax our vigil and preparation for the colder weather to come, (I’m speaking here like one born in Wisconsin ).

The news seems mostly depressing. Unrest and disturbance, killings and bombings daily, robberies seem on the upswing, and evil seems to hold sway no matter where we look. The world news isn’t much better. On every front there is either an uprising, or leaders gathering to plan to stop some disturbance here or there.

And news from the Christian front reports persecution – some say our age is seeing more of this that any other. One declared this to be the worst ever. I believe Tetrtullian said it centuries ago that “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”.

So I read St. Peter’s letters again. He wrote and said, “I think it right, as long as I am in this body to stir you up, by way of minder, since I know that putting off my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” 2 Peter 1,11-15.

These letters are written to new Christians who struggle because they are citizens of heaven living in a sinful world. He writes that God in mercy “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1,3. That brings a change, for the Holy Spirit is now living in them.

So “Prepare your mind for action, be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1,13. That results in living a life that others “think strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation”. 4,4

He is writing this to people he now calls “A chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. . .now you are people of God.. .who have received mercy”. 2,9-10. And as such, you are also invited to “cast all your cares on Him, for He careth for you”.5,7. And because this is true, St. Peter encourages them, finally, to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2,18.
Reading such a letter should and will bring us comfort and strength for this day. Because St. Peter is writing about the same God who made us a promise. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will not cease.” (Gen.8,22) And each rising and setting sun reminds WHO is looking after us, loving us, and has sent His Son to die for us. May your heart find rest in that truth.

GPD 10/7/09

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/6/09

Well, talk about turn-around weather. Reaching over 90- today. It hasn’t been this warm this late since, they say, 1928. But there was a breeze during my early morning walk, even before the yellow boxes made their runs.

Much ado about this skeleton they found which they claim is the oldest ever found, etc etc. You can fill in the rest of the statement yourself.

Mankind always flounders when it starts on such courses. The simple story of the Bible Creation of an Almighty, all-seeing God is just TOO simple.

Recently I saw some pictures. One is of a Blue-footed booby. That’s a water bird. Another is an ashy-headed goose. Yet another a picture of a bald eagle in flight. Why look beyond the marvels all around us. There is enough to keep us occupied for the rest of our days. Isn’t there?

A look at Psalm 8, well, let’s listen “You have set your glory above the heavens.”. . ."When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the work of the stars, which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him. You have made him a little lower than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor.”

Then, finally, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth”.

GPD 10/6/09