Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/31/10

“Lost – Brown Cocker Spaniel”. Signs like that appear in the Woodlands from time to time. Sad, but often useless, the lost dog is never found. What happened was they were taking their dog for a walk, and since there was no one else near, they removed the leash. Suddenly the dog spots a rabbit, or squirrel. Something to chase, so it does. Its having fun. Follows unheeding of the owners calls, and becomes lost. It is not used to the place, it wanders around, lost.

Yondering! A word meant to speak of far places, and wandering there I search of something. Fulfilling a longing, looking for something else in life. Wanting freedom, and ending up entangled in a total disaster.

It’s all part of that “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" syndrome we all seem to have. In the beginning, the Lord gave Adam the garden with this word, “to dress it and to keep it”. In short, take care of it. That ended with the fall into sin. Then he order changes, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns and thistle shall it bring forth to thee and thou shalt eat the herb of the field, In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread till thou return unto the ground”.” Gen. 3, 17-19.

But people have always tried to turn that around. For example, ever since New Hampshire (I believe) first introduced a lottery because their leaders were afraid to raise the needed taxes, this country has been suffering under the curse of a lottery that promises to relieve want, give many benefits, “without any cost.”

Right now many look to government to ‘give people what they need’. That frees us, does it not? Until we remember that government can ‘give’ only what it takes from us.

So “Yondering” really leads to sadness, for it never promises what it seems to.

There is but one way, and that is the way of God, following His Word, accepting His promises, so that we can say with St. Paul, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content”. Philippians. This is written after he suffered shipwreck, was jailed, beaten, scourged, stoned, drive out of town. Then, He could say, “I am Content”. Because he truly believed that God supplied every step of his way.

Take that path with me. We do have peace with God because our sins have been paid for when our Lord Jesus died on the Cross, for me. Thank God for this assurance.

GPD 8/31/10

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/25/10

Nice walking again, why not join me for a step or two some morning, you leave your door, I leave mine, and we both get deeply immersed in the wonders of God’s creation that lies just at hand.

And that’s why this bit of wisdom today.

This morning’s newspaper reports that the oil plume, which was reported to be 22 miles long and 3,600 feet deep, is now “undetectable”. It’s been eaten by a voracious species of oil-eating bacteria that has largely consumed this large plume of oil spilled into the Gulf since April.

Scientists tell us the such bacteria have since the beginning been eating oil that seeps from the sea floor regularly. But this study has discovered a particularly voracious bacteria that multiplied rapidly after the spill. Now their hope is to identify the bacteria and culture it, to use against future spills.

If such activity has been gong on since creation, isn’t it reasonable to assume that the hand of God is here also?

At least for this writer, it brings a “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” to the foreground with heart-felt thank you, Lord God.

GPD 8/25/10

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/24/10

The walk was just delightful this morning because of a slight breeze, this in spite of the heat yesterday. Have you noticed too how the TV weather people seem to delight in reporting a new record for heat and humidity? And the ‘heat index’ to top it all off.

Well, let them have their hour. Let’s go on to what came to mind now. We once lived in Mexico, Missouri. The place listed itself as the ‘saddle horse and fire brick capital of the world’. Quite a pretentious title, but they did live up to it. So the county fair featured horses. I remember always being impressed by the dressage events. We had the good fortune to have a friend offer us seats in his front row box, but he did stipulate that I wear a tie and jacket. “Wear coat and tie to a county fair”? I asked. It was required, he said. So I did. (How many of you have ever gone to a county fair wearing a coat and tie?) But I digress.

Dressage is a kind of riding that is judged by the way a horse performs in showing its training. That training is rigorous, and a finished product has the horse and rider performing the required steps with only gentle knee pressure to guide the horse, and it is a delight to watch. Requirements are strict, and the closer they are met, the better the final score. (And riders wear top hats, snazzy.)

It reminds me of a truth. The farther we drift from the prescribed way, the deeper the trouble we get into. You know the joke, the husband and wife are driving somewhere, and they are lost, simply because he “knows the way” and does not need a map, and so really gets himself lost. The result is anger, quarreling, and trying to explain to friends when they finally arrive. I know, GPS, get one and use it.

Here is a truth. Leave the WORD of God to follow advice of the world, and go wrong. It is always so.

I am thinking of discipline. When this subject is discussed and someone asks “Did you spank your child?” there is always a flurry of, “studies show this. . .’ or “The experts agree. . .” The final expert, the Lord God, said this in Proverbs chapter 3, 11-12. “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary of His correction. For whom the Lord loves, He corrects even as a father a son in whom he delights.” Look at what it says, correcting comes from a loving father to a son he delights in.

The Book of Hebrews speaks of this subject also and says baldly, “If you are not being disciplined, then you are not sons.” For he writes that discipline is “for our profit.” Heb. 12,8.10.

The truth remains constant, “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22,6. That remains true. And the further truth is that children need and want guidance, direction, help. After all, remember they are new to this world, help them find the right way. God bless this effort.

GPD 8/24/10

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/19/10

So, I left a rug we have in the garage in the driveway to really dry out. It was nice and dry, I left it out, and it rained nicely last night. Well. Hey, we retirees have our troubles too, you know. You are not alone at all.

I spoke of The Way. Jesus said to His disciples when they asked, “How can we know the way?” John 14,5. Jesus’ answer that resonates through the ages and rings true still was, “I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE, no man comes to the Father BUT by ME.” John 14,6.

That sounds simple enough, does it not. Here is the blueprint, the map, just follow it, and you will come to the Father.

That way has many ramifications. Since we are living in the world, and have a life to live here, we have to deal and tussle with various kinds of problems along the way. One example that shows us this is the life of Abraham. (Genesis 12 – 25 or so). The moment I am looking at is in chapter 22. We read that “God did tempt Abraham and said unto him, Abraham. And he said, behold, here I am.” And the answer is that he should take his only son, the son who was born according to God’s promise, and sacrifice him on Mt. Moriah.

This story has gripped the imagination of countless Christians and forced them to come to grips with the mystery that is God. There is so much here we simply cannot comprehend. Much that defies our imagination and refuses to fit our expectations. We question, how can God, who notes the death of a sparrow, order this? How can He go back on this miracle-born Isaac, born of promise, born to joy? There is nothing here, the story is just essential, without explanation.

An answer lies in what St. Paul wrote about Abraham. He said, “Abraham, believed God, and he counted it to him as righteousness”. (Romans 4,3) God’s very first to Abraham in chapter 12,1 was “Go”, and he went. He was on The Way. Along the way had had many tests, and failed some, with Gerar, and the king of Egypt, but he learned also. And when we come to Moriah, Abraham hears God’s “Go”, and he goes. No question, no argument, no hesitation, he obeys, and that is faith.

And the Jesus Way can by done only this way. We obey His Word, even when we find it hard to understand, or difficult to do because we live in a world that sneers at such obedience. That is what Abraham teaches us.

I pray it helps us walk the Jesus Way in our life too. Often hard to do, sometimes it even seems to make no sense, but God’s is the way God blesses. Walk it with me, and let us march together.

GPD 8/19/10

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/11/10

I am thankful that there does seem to be just a slight breeze stirring in the early morning. Outside of that, it’s simply hot. Will it help cool you off if I tell you the Bright family of Hope, Arkansas, in 2005 raised a watermelon that weighed 268.8 pounds?

And, since we are at it, the word coleslaw comes from the Dutch ‘koolsla’ meaning cabbage salad, introduced to America in the 18th century, now a staple for picnics, of course.

Our Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the way, the Truth, and the life, No man comes to the Father but by Me.” Walking ‘the Jesus way’ is what many people consider being a Christian. Fine, except for one thing. The Jesus way is not a supplement to our way of life, but is a different way altogether. We cannot use impersonal means to do or say a personal thing, and the Gospel is very personal.

The paper offers a column that suggests that the Church is a failure. The writer bases his judgment on the action of a writer of vampire novels who had a much publicized return to the Catholic Church in which she grew up. Now she rants, “I am an outsider. I remain committed to Christ as always”. I want Jesus, but on my terms.

Then the writer goes on to offer reasons why the Church is failing.

An unknown author in the early part of the 2nd century describes Christians. He wrote in part ” The Christians are not distinguished from others by country, language, or civil institutions. . .they follow the usage of the country they live in in dress, food and other affairs of life, yet they give a wonderful paradoxical conduct.. . .they are in the flesh, but do not live after the flesh. . .they live upon the earth but are citizens of heaven.”

A Christian congregation is a gathering of people who follow Jesus, because they are washed in “the blood of the lamb” in Holy Baptism, so are different. The Holy Spirit teaches them, and guides them to "follow Jesus”. Such a congregation believes God does something in them, and this leads them to follow a different drummer than the world does. So they are different. Indeed, “In the world, but not of the world”.

Unfortunately, some of the brethren have learned the American way and turned the fellowship into a consumer organization, wanting more, doing it like the world, and in the process forgetting the Jesus Way.

St. Paul describes the result of being Baptized when he writes, “Be not conformed to the world, But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12,2.

Yes, the Church lives, and continues, because we have this promise, that “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16,18.

GPD 8/11/10

Monday, August 9, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/9/10

It promises to be in the high 90’s all the week, and the heat index is such that weather people warn about danger of getting too much sun. Watch it is the watchword. So we remain inside for the most part, and if we do venture out, our car is equipped with that modern invention called air conditioning. And that always brings to mind my Grandmother D. When Uncle Oscar, who made a home for her, bought a new car which was glass enclosed, he would heat a brick and wrap it in a towel to keep her feet warm when they drove to church. She said to him one day, “Your know, Oscar, it wouldn’t surprise me if the boys in Detroit would figure out how to put heat in this car one day. She was right.

“Music has charms, To sooth the savage beast,
To soften rocks, Or bend a knotted oak”.

Music is an important part of Lutheran Church worship. Well, during the worship yesterday we paused a moment to acknowledge ten years of dedicated service of our Music Director. Music is sort of all too often taken for granted, yet it enhances the service, ties it all into one unit, and makes the service more memorable. One comes away refreshed, strengthened, and ready for the week.

I remember one August, a neighboring pastor needed to leave to be with his mother who was sick, and she lived in another state, so he asked me whether I might serve his congregation one Sunday. I agreed, but reminded him my morning was already filled with several church services. He assured me his congregation would be there at 2 in the afternoon. I wondered aloud if they would come then. He assured me they would, so I agreed, went –this church, my nearest neighbor, was 27 miles away and really in the country, surrounded by bean and oat fields and pasture. We had the service, and that congregation filled that church. But what stayed with me was the choir. It was small, and I later learned consisted of members of three families, all related, but blessed with voices any choirmaster would wish he had. They were really untrained except such as they may have picked up while in high school, but the sound was one I still remember. It enhanced the worship.

Hymns and choir anthems play a strong part in Lutheran worship. Many hymns by Paul Gerhard, have enriched and strengthened the faith for many during the years. Luther left us hymns still often sung. Music still plays a part to strengthen and feed the faith during the week. Many people remember their mothers singing while at work doing their daily chores around the house. Or a father whistling some hymn tune.

I am glad the Church took the time to mark the occasion, for music is often in the background, and provided by people who get no acknowledgement, nor want it, but it is appreciated just the same. I thank you, EP, and all others who are involved in the music program. “Now thank we all our God.”

GPD 8/9/10

Friday, August 6, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/6/10

The weather people tells us it is still brutally hot, and the Texans in the morning practice, from 7 to 10 outside, use Gatorade and water, up to 50 gallons of each. But, the walk this morning, early, of course, was rather pleasant, and uneventful.

The news is, as usual, filled with grim stuff. So I offer something, by our friend “anonymous”, to think about. Titled: “They said It Couldn’t be Done”

Somebody said it couldn’t be done,
But he, with a chuckle replied
That “Maybe it couldn’t” but he would be one,
Who wouldn’t say so till he tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace if a grin
On his face. If he worried, he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing,
That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

Somebody scoffed, “Oh, he’ll never do that,
At least no one has ever done it”.
But he took off his coat and took off his hat
And the first thing you know he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin, and a bit of a grin,
If any doubt rose he forbid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing,
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it couldn’t be done
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that want to assail you.

But just buckle right in with a bit of a grin,
Then take off your coat and go to it.
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing,
That couldn’t be done, and you’ll do it.

Now, if that isn’t a plan which St. Paul would endorse. He said, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthened me”, Phil;. 4,13. Bless you when you tackle “the thing that couldn’t be done, and go do it.”

GPD 8/6/10

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/4/10

Well, this morning I stepped out for my walk, and stepped right into a spider’s web. Ugh. So I stepped back in, got a washcloth and towel, and fixed the damage. That’s about the only way one can remove that sticky web. I enjoyed the walk, temp in the mid 70’s, a bit on the humid side, but with just a tad of a breeze.

Now and then I receive a note thanking me for a Shade Tree Wisdom thought, or expression, or something else they appreciated. That is one reason I keep composing these random thoughts, for maybe a phrase will open fresh lines of thought, or add some insight, or bring new light to a subject, or refresh your memory for some blessing God has daily given. Or even remind you of a task left undone.

We are all on a journey through life. We meet problems, and solve them; we suffer loss, and overcome it, we have much joy and happiness in each other, and often don’t stop to appreciate that. And for our journey we need a map, guidance, direction, and, above all, wisdom.

Mostly, I want to remind us always there is God whose children we are by Holy Baptism. For that is where the strength and urge for living comes from, and is centered in.

St. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Philippians 4,13. Paul also said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I would rather boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12,9. And one more from St. Paul. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to endure it”. 1 Cor. 10,13.

Do you get the message? God has given us strength for the life we face, so we can do it successfully. God changes our “I Can’t” to “I will”. The non-believer often may say “I can’t” because he really can’t. The Christian, however, is empowered by the holy Spirit who dwells in him, so when he says “I won’t, he is being disobedient. The Christian often is disobedient because he wants to; he selects that as a choice, not by force, but by his own sinful will.

So, turn with me to Habakkuk 3, 17 – 19. Read it, and find new strength for today’s journey. May God bless your journey.

GPD 8/4/10

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/1/10

August already, and the weather tells it. August also means time really does fly, and the end already nears of those long summer days. Well. According to some studies, summer vacations for so many are a time to slip behind and lose what they have studied.

So there are programs in place in some areas now to stop this eroding, and build on knowledge and find easy to use it to make it stick.

Before the service this morning I was reading one of St. Paul’s letters, this one that he had written to the church at Galatia. The thought occurred to me, “When was the last time I got a letter written and meant for me alone?” When was the last time you received such a latter, one that commented on things in Your life, and expressed some thought or sentiment you shared, a letter that refreshed your day? One that brightened a gloomy moment and simply delighted you?

I know, I know, we have hundreds of ‘friends’ on face book etc. But are they?

St. Paul’s letter, well, read it again for yourself, written with them in mind, teaching, guiding, scolding, instructing, encouraging, strengthening, and showing them that Jesus Christ really does change them from inside so that they no longer are the kind of person who says, “I must do this to have salvation”. No, He brings us to understand that what Jesus has done HAS won salvation for us.

So He writes, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh . . .(for) the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” 5, 10.22-15.

Can you imagine how that new congregation of believers felt when they received such an encouraging letter? That’s how God comes to us, in words easy to understand, to strengthen our faith and refresh our struggling souls. May God bless Your way with His light and truth.

GPD 8/1/10