Thursday, December 31, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/31/09

Written to assure us God is forgiving always.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/28/09

Walking was pleasant, no rushing traffic, no yellow boxes yet, just calm and cool, nice fresh air. Just two walkers who stepped along at a lively pace to keep warm, but they were bundled up, each wearing a stocking cap.

And today is my Dad’s birthday. I always remember it because it fell during this week, and it meant relatives came to visit. Not so much to celebrate the birthday but to break the winter dullness by visiting. Teens went skating to the lighted rink in Brown Deer, returning just in time for the midnight lunch. All the aunts brought either a cake or a plate of sandwiches, and we tried our best to get one made by Aunt Lydia, roast beef on home made bread slathered with butter. Boy, I can taste it still. The ground was always snow covered, and the air was frosty. But the timing was right for winter visiting, and all enjoyed it. Several uncles always played chess and kept track year to year as to who won! It was intense, but relaxing fun that made the rest of the cold winter not so hard to live through.

And how was your Christmas? I hope you had some visiting and family affairs to fill the time, and that exchange of presents, and did you get what you wanted or needed, or just something.

My grandchildren come along with something I can use, cards at McDonalds or Safeway or Starbucks. That is wonderful, order, and hand a card, the clerk swipes it, grins, hands it back, and says thanks. Because the grandchildren don’t know what I might need. They do understand I have all the sox and ties I will ever need, and of books they have no idea where my mind might run. They have yet to understand that ONE Book really fills my need at this stage of my life, and I already have that one book.

But being able to swipe a card reminds me that is just why Jesus came as the Babe in the manger in Bethlehem. It was to give me something free, my salvation. The Book of Hebrews was written just to remind Israel there was no longer need for daily sacrifice for sins, because Jesus said, “I have come to do your will, O God. . .and by that will we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Heb. 10, 9.10.

That is the message of the Bible, that “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only begotten Son, whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him”. John 3,16,17.

The Bible teaches this so clearly. Paul, in Ephesians 2, 6.7. declares, “By grace are you saved, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” So we do sing, “Go, tell it on the mountains, over the hills and far away, that Jesus Christ is born.” May your Christmas bring you “Peace with God, which passes all understanding”.

GPD 12/28/09

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/22/09 Christmas Letter

Christmas Eve when I was seven or eight was cold, but clear. Stars shone in the night sky, and then snow started to fall, softly, lazily, the flakes drifted down. We were on the way to Church for the Christmas Children’s Service, and since Father's farm abutted the village on the north and a bit on the east, we lived within walking distance. Snow flakes falling, and I remember the windows of the Church glowing through the night, and then as we came near, the bells rang out. What a wonderful sound on the frosty air.

Then the Service, and the school children sang familiar songs and recited the ancient story. “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered, and she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn”. Luke 2, 6.7.

After the Service each child received a bag with nuts, candy, an orange, and a small gift from the teacher, perhaps a book. Then off for home. Father had rushed ahead, lighted the tree and placed packages under the tree, and when we came home, we opened them and had a fine family time. Mother had a plate of cookies, and we had some milk. Then off to bed, for the morning came soon enough and chores needed to be done. Then off again for Christmas Day Church Service.

But of course then I had no idea what kind of a world it was that Jesus was born into. Rome ruled. Rome ruled from the Atlantic on the west to the Euphrates on the east, from the Rhine and Danube on the north, to the Sahara desert on the south. All Rome needed was the taxes, and they had a system in place for that too.

So, when Caesar called for a census, no one knew or understood that he was really God’s agent to see that the prophecy would be fulfilled to the letter. Sure Augustus was powerful. Men trembled at his word and lost their heads at his command. Yet here he is doing what GOD wanted done.

It is always so. Amid the pomp and ceremony, the powerful make their boast, but under the endless procession God is at work, tirelessly and carefully bringing the lambs to the care of their Shepherd, leading people to faith in Christ as their Savior, opening eyes to see that wonderful message of salvation that this birth brings to the world, carrying out God’s Plan exactly, on time. For us.

Family for Christmas gave me a copy of the N Y Times dated the day of my birth. No mention of China or India, trouble in the Balkans, unrest in Ireland, the DOW at 38, and a report that a waitress carrying a piece of pie and a dish of ice cream slipped, and in trying to catch her balance the ice cream landed on the pie and she served it, pie-a-la-mode was born!

BUT, The Birth reminds us that “God is not dead, nor does He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth”. That peace which man has with God because sins are forgiven because Jesus Christ “made peace through the blood of His cross” Col. 1,20. That is my Christmas message of hope and joy in this world you and I are living in. May God bless each.

GPD 12/22/09

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/19/09

It promises to be a rather pleasant day today. High of some 60 and sunny, about right for this time of year, the weatherman says. What kind of spoils it is that I read where it will cost up to $2,995 to see Texas and Alabama at a football game. I do not plan to go.

I have a choice. That is ever a problem. The other day I was at the grocery store standing in the cereal aisle. There was a man, white-haired, a little stooped, looking at the display and he said to me, “I can remember when there were Corn Flakes, Quaker Oats, and Post Toasties. Now look at it.” “Well,” said I, “at least General Mills reports they will be adding less sugar to their cereals.” So that’s one plus.

But the modern shopper is faced with many choices. P&G produces an amazing 110 variations of Tide detergent, and there are 25 different ear plugs, and 256 kinds of deodorant! The good news is that stores are starting to shrink selections, so shopping will be a little easier.

What brings all this to mind is the fact that we are now nearing Christmas, the celebration of the Birth if Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the Babe in the manger in Bethlehem.

For Christians this means that God is carrying out His plan to save sinners. This plan of God was set and is going on as scheduled. For Christians this is the basis of their faith, and their hope for eternal life. It gives them strength, guides their way in this life, and offers sure hope for eternity.

And this faith is no longer held by many Americans, who call themselves ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’. They tend to mix all manner of beliefs and make that their own, instead of accepting what the Bible teaches.

A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found Americans' personal belief often combine aspects of major religions such as Eastern and New Age beliefs such as reincarnation and astrology. Somehow, the culture we live in dictates that such beliefs are more acceptable today.

It disturbs me, because the Lord Jesus, the very Son of God, teaches, “I am the Bread of life”, and “No man comes to the Father but by me”. Jesus, the “Light of the world”, came to do a work that God had set for Him, to live and then die in our stead, to pay for our sins, so we can and do have forgiveness, and the cure and certain promise of Eternal life. “Believest Thou this?” That is the Christian faith.

GPD 12/19/09

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/17/09

Put on my jacket, got the gloves and opened the door, ready for a brisk bit of walking. And it was dripping out. No, not any gushing rain,. Just the kind that sits on the edge of the collar, and then makes is way down one’s spine with its icy fingers. So I grabbed the umbrella, got the paper, did not get in a walk, and felt grumpy. And that’s no way to be, is it, especially for a pleasant fellow like me. So I simply accepted the situation and read the paper early.

And what did I read? That municipalities are into saving money by installing led bulbs in their stop and go signals. These lights last more than 7 years and save 90% in electricity, while the other bulbs had to be replaced on average every 18 months, so the cities are saving big bucks. And then the snow came. Some snow was blown into the shielded light and obscured them enough that people could not see if they were red or green. Sadly, a lady could see the light, and it gave her the arrow to turn left, while the driver coming from the other direction could not see the light, ran into her, and she was killed.

The problem; led bulbs do not heat up enough to melt the snow while incandescent bulbs do, so cities are spending their saved money sending crews out to clear lights after a snow fall. The problem will be solved, maybe with a heating element. I remember when my uncle bought a Dodge touring car that had real windows, and he used to heat a brick to place at grandma's feet when they drove to church. I remember grandma remarking, “I shouldn’t wonder if the boys in Detroit wouldn’t figure out someday to put a heater into this car.”

Not only did the “boys in Detroit" figure out how to heat the car, they also put in air conditioning, heated seats, individual comfort zones for left and right side, and much more. When we have it, it seems not so extraordinary at all.

I wonder how Abraham felt about God’s promises that “You will have a son, and your descendants will be as numerous as stars in the heavens” when he was nearing 100 years if age?

Yet later St. Paul would write in Galatians 4, 4-5. “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

And that is what we look forward to celebrating just days now. Is the heart ready for this news?

GPD 12/17/09

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/15/09

Lots of winged winter visitors are dropping in. It’s time for flocks of geese to arrive from the north. They spend the winter on the fields from the coastal wildlife refuge near Houston to the fallow farms near Choke Canyon west of Corpus Christi, and the agricultural fields between San Antonio and Uvalde.

They travelled, some of them 2500 miles, from the arctic Tundra and Canada to get here. Snow geese, Canada geese, Cackling geese, and the greater white fronted geese. The last two species come from the Arctic Tundra near Hudson’s bay to as far away as Russia. Probably best known to us are the Canada geese, known as “honkers” because of their call while flying. Experts tell us these calls says “I need help here” from the leader, or “How are things going” to flock members or only “going well”. Interesting, if true.

For Migrating birds Chicago is a deadly obstacle. The city is a sky-scraping, crazy-making obstacle of light and glass and building blocks thrown into the path of their flyway, the air space that stretches from the northern forests of Canada to the rain forests of Peru. So thousands of birds die by flying into glass they can’t see to reach a fountain or tree in a building lobby. The city’s night sky sees them mistaking kilowatts for stars. And Chicago is doing something about it.

These days, building managers by the hundreds are turning off lights during migration. Ever since Chicago’s huge convention center began tuning off its light in 1998, bird-crashing deaths have dropped from an average of 1500 to 600 per year, and when all lights are out, the fatalities drop by 80%.

Besides this, Chicago has a large number of “Chicago Bird Collision Monitors” who are called when a bird crashes. Often they are able to rescue and send the bird on its way. Their phone rings with calls from homeless people to lawyers on their way to a busy day in the office. One security guard who works downtown often finds birds and makes the call. He says they are the most reliable people we know. You call them, they come. Seven days a week, rain or shine.

I find it heartening to learn such things. There are yet people who care, even when all that is involved are birds doing what they have always done, follow their instincts. And that a great city like Chicago stands ready, from Mayor Daly to a homeless person, to show concern.

GPD 12/15/09

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/12/09

13 They sent some Pharisees and followers of Herod to bait him, hoping to catch him saying something incriminating. 14 They came up and said, "Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don't pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" 15 He knew it was a trick question, and said, "Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it." 16 They handed him one. "This engraving—who does it look like? And whose name is on it?" "Caesar," they said. 17 Jesus said, "Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his." Their mouths hung open, speechless.” Mark 12, 13-17 MSG

So I paid my yearly taxes to the county this week. These taxes fund 662 law enforcement officers, 7 libraries, 4 road and bridge budgets, 7 district, 5 county, and 2 JP courts. Included in the total for the year is $ 23,191,701 for debt services.

St. Paul wrote about this subject also when he called the Christian to be a “good citizen.” In Romans 13,1. this is what he said “1 Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it's God's order. So live responsibly as a citizen. 2 If you're irresponsible to the state, then you're irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. 3 Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you're trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you'll get on just fine, 4 the government working to your advantage. But if you're breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren't there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. 5 That's why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it's the right way to live. 6 That's also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. 7 Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.” Romans 13, 1-7 MSG.

Part of our trouble lies in the great amounts of monies being spent. And much of it nationally comes under “ear marks", that is moneys voted to be spent on programs that the US Government was not meant to fund. No, you can’t convince me that my tax money was meant to be spent on building a turtle tunnel to cross some highway in Florida. And whose fault is it finally? It is the voter who keeps on voting for these people because they “bring home the bacon” with pet projects for their areas. The solution, of course, lies in what St. Paul taught in 1 Timothy 2,1. Let’s hear what this is. “I urge, then, first of all, that prayers be made for everyone, for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may live quiet and peaceable lives. . .this is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved.”

GPD 12/12/09

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/7/09

The reading from Malachi chapter 3, v.7 reads, “I, the Lord, change not”, and adds, “Therefore are you not destroyed”. Let’s keep that promise of God firmly in mind as we notice they’re at it again, running ads on busses reading, for example, “No god? . . . no problem”, or “be good for goodness sake”. Such signs will appear on busses in various cities, and probably will draw strong reaction again, as they did last year.

Matthew Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative religious law firm called them “insensitive and mean”.

How ought we react? Let’s first of all pray for them, because “none so blind as they who will not see”, is a truth that applies. Even on the cross Jesus prayed for His enemies “for they know not what they do”.

We are on our Advent journey, and we meet those with spiritual needs, and physical needs. Was the man of John chapter 9 already along the road when Joseph and Mary went by? Jesus met his need, remember when he restored his sight.

That is why Jesus came after all, to be “A Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel”. He is the Light of this world. Let’s just be busy introducing people to this light, instead of bewailing ads and signs that are so fleeting.

“How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given.
So God imparts to human hearts,
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The Dear Lord enters in”. LSB 361,3.

In these busy times, do not allow the devil to take your eye off the Savior, who comes as a Babe in the manger at Bethlehem. Rejoice, rejoice, for he is your Savior, your Lord, as He is mine. And with that, I am content, as you should be too.

GPD 12/7/09

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/3/09

Still mighty cool, but no wind to speak of, so the walking is fine. Well, no sooner mention running dogs then this happens. I was just leaving the house when a car came drifting slowly by. The driver rolled down his window and said, “Have you seen my dogs around anyplace? They got out because someone left the gate open. They are friendly.”

“No,” I said, but as I looked up the street I saw two dogs trotting along and said, “Could that be yours?”

He looked, whistled and called them, and they came running. He opened the door and they jumped in and left. Meanwhile, I retreated to the safety of my front door. I’ve been nipped by “friendly” dogs, and I’m wary of them.

And it made me think, “If I had a choice in which age I would want to live, which would it be?” I have no choice, really but I do have control of the attitude I take about the life I am living. I remember, - when the years take their toll of strength and health, one tends to remember. There were good days. And there were days not so pleasant at all. There is always a mix, of times, and of people. And other ages had other distractions, because the devil is always at work trying his level best to pry us away from our faith In the Lord Jesus Christ.

What brings that to mind is the season we are observing right now, the Season of Advent, the time of waiting for the coming of Jesus. Or the Season of Lent. Churches were filled, we even held two special midweek services to accommodate the worshippers. And the worship, sermons to be remembered and savored. I do not believe any worshippers will ever forget the series preached by the Rev. Dr. O.P.Kretzman, in the chapel of Valparaiso University. He titled the series, “Voices of the Passion”.

But this day sees so many other attractions, and distractions, to take our eye and our thought from the Main Event, the Savior.

Let us never forget in the history of the world, powers have come, been strong and mighty for a little time, and faded away. And all the time, quietly and without much ado, the Lord is at work, doing His will, blessing His people in serving Him. St. Paul in his lonely prison cell writing, “They threw me into this place to shut me up, and it worked to my advantage, because many of my jailors are now also Christians.”

So it always is. The Lord is at work, and whether I get the credit, or see the outcome, let me just be Content. Quoting St. Paul again, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.” I pray God will grant this for my life, and for yours.

GPD 12/3/09

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/1/09

Brisk this morning, and just a bit on the windy side, nice walking weather. And when I returned, there, waiting for their inevitable yellow Box ride, were two students, one with bare arms. I shivered, but then remembered my father used to say, “If you keep your chest warm, the rest will be warm too”. At this late date I really don’t plan to test his word anymore. I’ll keep a warm jacket on, thank you.

One thing that is no bother here while walking is loose dogs running about. I recall in Detroit a couple a few block over acquired a Doberman trained as a watch dog. They kept him in a fenced back yard along which the sidewalk ran. The fence was a six foot high chain link fence, sturdy and safe. But if he was out and you walked along the fence, he accompanied you on the inside, teeth bared and snarling a warning. But the fence made it safe for the walker.

That’s what fences do, they make things safe.

That’s why memorizing the Word of God and understanding its meaning is vital to Christian safety in this world. In his second letter to the Christians, St. John, who is now an old man, writes this: ”My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin”. 2 John 2,2. Then this aged Christian who has lived and seen much writes, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world.. . for everything in the world, it’s cravings, it’s lusts, it’s boasting, comes not from the Father, but from the work, and the world and its desires will pass away, but He who does the will of God lives forever”. 2 John 2, 15-17.

The fact is that we live in a culture that really has different values than the Christian does, and this culture presses hard to make us conform. St. Peter mentions this fact. He says, “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and so they heap abuse on you”. L Peter 4,4.

And that is the reason for the fence we call God’s Law, or the Ten Commandments. They are there to guide us, direct us, and give us an understanding of the right way to go. So, you’re celebrating your team’s victory. There stands the word that says, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, instead be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5, 18.

I said you are armed. You have the “Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God”. Learn it, be familiar with it, use it. There it stands, ready to be the light and guide, to direct to admonish, to hold back. It is God’s grace that arms you so, dear Christian. And for that we give him thanks, praise, and glory.

GPD 12/1/09