Monday, March 29, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/29/10

It really, really is getting a bit warmer each day, and spring flowers are showing their colorful faces to make it feel like Spring here. And people are beginning to get a handle on just how much plant life they lost in their yards during the cold spells just past.

Palm Sunday, the beginning of passion week. Pastor pointed out that palms were a symbol of political independence which had been used in the Maccabean revolt in 141 B.C. It says the crowd looked at Jesus as a King who would come to overthrow the hated Romans. So the crowd that first Palm Sunday was expecting a different thing altogether.

As we know, even the disciples did not really understand. We remember the incident St. Matthew reports in chapter 16 where Jesus told them He “Must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and raised again the third day .” and Peter’s reaction was, “This shall not be unto thee’. And Jesus called him Satan, because he did not understand the things of God, but was thinking as a sinner. Matthew 16, 21 – 23.

For us, let Holy Week prepare us, and this happens when we see sin as the horror it really is. One hymn has this stanza:

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed,
See Who bears the awful load,
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God. TLH 153,3.

Think of these things during this week. In his sermon after the Resurrection Peter said that what had happened was this. “Being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God you have taken, and by wicked hands, have crucified and slain; Whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” Acts 2, 23.24.

And when we so prepare, the joyful resurrection news at Easter becomes much more meaningful, for we truly have been given “peace with God because this happened for us. Thanks and praise God for His mercy.

GPD 3/29/10

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/24/10

Warmer today and sunny, though they do predict some showers, and that we can accept at this time of the year for growth and moisture for the starting plants and gardens. Though I do very little work outside, let the yard man take care of it.

The market we use is only two miles away, mostly local driving. I had to run there this morning and on my way I passed four – count ‘em – four white Cadillacs. Is that some kind of an omen, or am I reading too much into this as a sign of recovery?

Now here’s a story that always disturbs me. Seems this lad has been disruptive, a trouble-maker, and is hitting little girls in the face, causing bloody noses and other harm. The teacher has spoken to the principal, she has met with the mother numerous times, she has even approached the school board, no avail. So finally, when another child hit this kid, she allowed it. Storm of protest, led by the mother, of course.

And the end result is that the Board of Education did what such spineless boards, threatened by a lawsuit, always does – the right thing, they fired the teacher. Never mind that this teacher has been patient. Never mind that she has a Masters degree from Rice University, never mind that her lasses are always well prepared and learn the subjects, never mind that she has never taken the easy way out and used the Texas Law that allows a teacher to simply say she does not want this child in her class. (When she mentioned this to the mother, the mother said this might appear on the record and hurt, so she, softhearted person, did not use that law).

Let me play this out a bit. A the end of the school year a number of the better teachers at this school did not sign a new contract, and left for other positions. The new staff hired was not as competent or experienced , the Principal remained, the end result is that the school rating deteriorated, people moved to different districts, and the mother with her disruptive son soon left this school “Because he isn’t learning anything here.” And of course the lad grew into a sort of troubled teen because he had never been properly taught.

Long years ago Moses had laid down a directive that parents do well to remember and follow.

This is what He said. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God is One Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words shall be in thine heart. . .and thou shalt teach them, diligently unto thy children, and shall 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.” Deuteronomy 6, 4-7.

Simple, but hard to do, and so often neglected. God is simply asking parents to teach their children while they have them at home. This work God blesses.

GPD 3/24/10

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/23/10

Sort of pleasant this morning, still, calm, some twittering of birds, not computers.

That’s the second time in a week that a shooting, random, done in anger, killed a child. This time age three. How long will this go on before we lose sight of what civilization is all about, law, order, common sense, decency and peace.

I want to remind us again what Scripture does say about government.
Romans 13,1. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no power but of God, the powers that be are ordained of God.”
Titus 3,1. “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.”
L Peter 2, 13. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme;
14 “Or unto governors as them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and the praise of them that do well.”

That’s one of the reasons we have laws, and keep order, so that the citizens, you and I who live under it, may, as Luther said it, “Live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty, and each love and honor his spouse.”

That’s sort of the kind of world it was when I was growing up. Oh, there were guns around, but they were used to hunt game food for the table, or to shoot pesky rats invading the corncrib, not other people. I remember Officer Schaeffer. He was around, but didn’t seem to have much to do. Always had time to chat. Until I understood that he nipped miscreants in the bud, as it were, kept his eye on things, and settled stuff before it got out of hand. Rarely did someone get into real mischief, because the good officer had been doing his job, and talked with the unruly ones, and settled things, before they reached a boiling point. And everybody liked him and respected him for what he was doing for us all. Government of the best kind.

Let us stand close to God, hear His Word to us, pray to him and bring our cares, concerns, worries, and needs to lay at His feet, and be content “with such things as ye have. For we have learned, in whatever state we are, therewith to be content.” May God bless your day richly.

GPD 3/23/10

Friday, March 19, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/19/10

Nice rain yesterday, and the gutters were running yellow, because this rain washed those pesky pollen off the trees and makes the air easier to breathe again. Thank you, Lord. And made walking this morning quite pleasant as well, and quiet, since spring break is going on.

When I was growing up there was a fellow, I’ll call him Klem, because that is what his name was, Klem. He was average, but observant, and stuck with it when something interested him. So, one day he was driving along and he noticed the needle on the gas gauge wasn’t moving. He pounded on the dash a few times, and wondered, when the engine sputtered once, and died. Out of gas. “So that’s why that needle wasn’t moving’ he mused, “ well, now I know.”

I think life is sometimes like that. What we forget about the Bible is that it tells the history of life. It is more than a blueprint to show us the way of salvation, it goes into great detail about the workings of God in history. When we forget that, it surprise us when things in life often do not go the way we’d like them to go.

So let’s take a look at one man who saw exactly happen what he did not want to happen. That man is the prophet Habakkuk, the fifth last book in the Old Testament. Judea lay under the threat of the Assyrians, a warring people, and the prophet cries out “How long to I cry, and you do not answer?” And the answer he gets surprises and dismays him, for the Lord tells him He, the Lord, will raise the Chaldeans, a new and strange force, to punish the land for the sins they had committed. Chapter l describes them in detail, but then the Lord also says, this in reply to Habakkuk’s second complaint, God’s judgment is sure and always right on time.

The Book ends with an expression of joyful confidence no matter how bad things look, for “I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength”. 3,18.19a.

I thought of this as I observed the maneuvering and posturing that is going on in Washington over Health Care. And we cry and ask, “Is the best for this nation being planned here, or is it all about power and image and ‘being in charge’?”

I watch and pray, and understand that the reason Paul and Peter urge us to pray for the government “established by God” is because they have such great need for prayer to give them wisdom, patience, and understanding.

Here endeth my musing for this day.

GPD 3/19/10

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/16/10

Quiet morning, so I spent my ten minutes filling out the census form and doing my civic duty. Just hold the applause, please. Then too, the envelope the form came in has printed in bold letters, “Your response is required by law”.

So the day lies ahead. I remember Walter Cronkite’s description of retirement. He is quoted as saying, “I get up in the morning with nothing to do, and by nine o’clock I’m already 3 hours behind”. Well, I do have some things to look at. I was remembering those Burma Shave signs along the highways. When they stopped erecting them in 1963, there were 7,000 across this country. Not in Wy, NM, Utah, or Mass. It all started when Allan Odell persuaded his father to try that kind of advertising for their new product, Burma Shave. The father peeled off 200 dollars and the campaign began, very successful, it turned out.

One sign I remember,

At crossroads,
don’t just trust to luck
The other car
May be a truck.

Or this,

Do not pass
On curve or hill,
If cops don’t get you,
morticians will

For more, google Burma Shave signs.

In our time when the Church seems to matter less and less, I got to reading the letter to the Thessalonians again. St. Paul had been hounded out from his work there, and now he writes them to encourage them. It strikes me how wonderful the power of the Word really is. For here there is a major city, sort of a trade center with some 200,000 inhabitants. The city is filled with idols, and that is the sort of people St. Paul is talking to. “That’s what some of you were”. Their entire lives had been lived worshipping idols of all kinds. Now they had heard the Truth of the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit dwelt in them. But the devil is busy. Relatives, friends, fellow workers, people they met everywhere still worshipped ‘the old way’. So he urges them to walk “so as to please God, just as you are doing, do so more and more.” 1 Thess 4,1 Then, in both letters Paul talks about the last days, and assures them they will not be left or forgotten. He ends with the blessing.

So rich, filled with longing for their souls, and yet trusting that He which has begun the work in you will fulfill it in the day of Jesus Christ. And I thought, what an encouragement for us in today’s culture. For we do not need any reminder that reads, “this is required by law”, for the Holy Spirit teaches and guides us in the faith, calms our fears, and strengthens our faith.

GPD 3/16/10

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/15/10

Nice walking this morning. Moon still beaming a bit, busses weren’t humming, traffic was light, weather was exactly right for March 15th. So I enjoyed the start of the day, though, since it was cloudy, it was on the dark side.

The census, mandated by article 1, section 2 of the Constitution, is the oldest continuous counting of a population in the world. The first one was conducted in 1790, the first to include Texas was in 1860, and the forms are in the mail. The cost to get them to us is 45 cents. If they have to come and count you the cost rises to 35 dollars! So fill in the form and send it in. The census will show how many congressional seats each state receives, and it will also provide the information that will determine the distribution of 4.3 trillion dollars over the next decade.

We seem to be inching toward universal knowledge of each person, there’s no place left to hide, is there. So let’s take a look at what God has to say about secret places.

Look at Psalm 91. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of His wings, I will say to the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’. Surely, He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the perilous pestilence. HE SHALL COVER YOU WITH His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.. . .because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you. . .for He shall give His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

So it is. Man may count, use the results of the count to measure and make plans and try to look ahead, but you and I are there where God looks after us, and we need fear no change, or fear, for He has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”. And that we can rely on. Bless His name, and may your day be rich with blessing.

GPD 3/15/10

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/10/10

The first issue of the 2010 Lutheran Witness wrote of how the church can best navigate in the post-church world of today’s culture. The articles are most interesting and informative, and have a pressing need for a solution, because it seems what the church stands for, and what it has to offer, matters less and less.

I thought of this during my walk this morning, warming up, by the way. And my mind went back to a sunny September morning when a little girl woke up and asked her mom in an excited voice, “Is THIS the day I get to go to school?” The answer was “of course”, so she went, and she is still, in the classroom, now a teacher of, of all subjects, math. A subject that has not changed. One and one still equals two. But the methods for teaching certainly have, and this teacher uses the latest and best technology available for teaching her classes.

And she is successful. During the school year the powers that be decided to visit classrooms to see what was happening. A staff member from the State and one from her Distinct planned to come to visit, and they planned to stay in each classroom 45 – 50 minutes, and then move to the next. They arrived first thing and landed in her classroom, and got so interested in methods she was using to teach math concepts that they stayed till lunch. [An interesting sidelight - during this time, the teacher had left her watch somewhere and wondered aloud what time it was, they do need to watch the time, and a lad sitting just in front of the two visitors said to his classmate, “who cares, we are learning stuff here”.]

It strike me that is the sort of the thing the Church is facing in this time, finding and using different ways to “preach the Word”. The Lutheran Church has used radio with great success for years, and has tried TV. Many churches have a website. Pastors use email and the network in many ways. And the object is to have people come to “taste and see that the Lord is good”, as the psalmist said 34,8.

In a sense, the task of the church is the same one that a teacher faces in the classroom. Math is the same, but the methods used to teach it are surely much different today.

So the WORD, which is Truth, remains the same, and the message is always that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. But the methods we use may be quite different than the ones used before. This is a serious matter for concern. It needs, first of all, prayer, earnest prayer that the Lord might give us wisdom and direction, guidance and strength, to carry on the work Jesus gave us just before He left this earth.

Yes, how does the Church do its work in this post-church culture? Will you pray also?

GPD 3/10/10

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/3/10

Nice walking, birds chirping, and my faithful companion appeared for a bit again. He found no untoward stuff in the bushes so he meandered back home. In this age when one reads of joggers killed and buried on a lonely beach front that dog is sort of a warm, and welcome, presence.

What’s happening to our world? There seems to be a spirit of meanness, of unrest, floating about. Is it just that columnists need to fill up space and editors accept anything offered to them, or is this the spirit of this age?

Where have good manners, a simple “thank you”, or a “please” gone? They seem to missing. I was thinking of all this today and then read something in "Dear Abby” about holding the door for a lady. One sophomore held the door for a lady burdened with three bags of groceries, and she (the article uses stridently) said, “Listen, Sonny, I can handle the door myself”. He replied softly, “I’m sorry, I’ll excuse your rudeness if you’ll forgive my courtesy”.

As an aside, I notice at Church, and I do it quite often, simply hold the door for people approaching the entrance, instead of leaving it shut just before they arrive. No one has yet to snarl about that, they usually smile and offer a quiet good morning, or simply, “thanks”. By the way, I notice that the youngsters waiting for their bus ride give me a ‘good morning, sir’.

One writer characterizes it so, “The sickness of our age is we have fit bodies but flaccid minds and vacant souls.” Biblical knowledge is lacking, and there is a blurring of right and wrong. There is a movement away from a wholesome standard of morality to an undisciplined emphasis on tolerance which accepts anything because you accept it.

Taking a stand on what Scripture teaches makes you out as ‘old-fashioned’ or simply being intolerant. We have replaced common sense with political correctness.

Witness, for example, Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning holds a vote because we need to have the means to fund his bill, and he is derided as standing in the way of “feeding hungry mouths” and “withholding needed funds for living”. [as an aside, where was the outcry when they voted nearly 19 billion in ear marked funds in 2009 for ‘pork barrel projects’?]

We are so easily swept along by the culture we live in, so it is imperative that we first study the Scriptures for wisdom, for direction, for guidance, and for that sure word that is ever true.

“Thy Word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path”. Psalm 119.105.

GPD 3/3/10

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/2/10

The weather people tell us this is one of the coldest winters in the Gulf Coast ever. “As a matter of fact,” he said rather plaintively, “we had 12 days when the temperature dropped below freezing!" I see you smile tolerantly and I understand, but that’s what the man said.

But this morning, yes, it was still cold. But wind and walking was just fine. The birds were out in force, twittering and singing and sounding as if they, too, were welcoming the coming of Spring soon now.

The thought entered my mind that deep in the innards of your washing machine there is a small tube connected to a valve. That valve controls how much water enters your machine, and if it fails, look out, water will come till you turn it off. But that happens so rarely then when it does, you will remember it. You have never had that happen, did you?

And that reminded me of the earthquake that shook Chile. Conception was hardest hit, I understand. We hear stories of rescue and other events. One story is about a father and his 7 year old daughter sleeping in their apartment on the 7th floor of their building. When the quake hit, the building started to tremble and shake, so the father rushed to pick up his daughter, and while they were clinging to each other the building collapsed. When they regained consciousness they saw stars, so they climbed out of their window to the ground and were safe.

But then the other, looting was rampant, and police seemed to be absent, so when things settled down a bit it was discovered that stores had been stripped, and there was no food or water available. And I wonder, how would we act, join the thieves, or desist?

St. Paul had a word for us in times like that, or any time in life. He writes, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Philippians 2, 13 – 15. May we really “shine as lights” at any time.

In the morning, the bus loads children right at the foot of our driveway and often is doing that when I am returning from the walk. I have this insane desire to leave out the cattle drive shout, “Load ‘em up, get ‘em out”. In a way that is what this is too, loading and getting to a destination, except they use busses instead of horses. But I desist, people think it is strange to be out walking in the dark already. And I remember “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven
. . .I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives.” Eccl. 3, 1.1…2. So enjoy the day which the lord has set before you.

GPD 3/2/10