Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/29/10

On the sunny, but cool fall Saturday morning, they had come to town to do some shopping and now were waiting to pick up the Mother and maybe have lunch at the Coffee Cup and then go back home. Now the father had parked in the shade of a little park with his son. They were watching ducks in the pond, and hearing children on the swings, and the son asked, “Dad, why are we here?”

“My chance to do a little teaching here” the father thought. And so he started with the creation, and how Adam and Eve had been disobedient and so had fallen into sin. And how Jesus Christ had then rescued us from this sin by dying on the cross. He went on for a while and then asked,
“Does that sort of answer your question?”

“No,”, the son said, “I want to know why we are we here when we were supposed to pick up Mom from the beauty parlor thirty minutes ago?”

Now that sort of thing never happens to you, does it? I know the mother will be a bit upset for having been kept waiting, for no reason, it turns out, except he forgot! But it’s the sort of thing that happens, and years later they will recall it with a fond smile.

Because it’s one of those circumstances that happen in life which can and does have a lasting effect, either for good, or bad. For either Mom treats it as a thing that happened, or she treats it as a forgetting that she will never allow him to forget, and throws it around in every conversation. She uses that instance as a tool to really destroy her marriage and her life.

Those negative results are so bitter that God has given us words about just this. Jesus taught us, in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Then Jesus added this word, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6, 12.14

And St. Paul, writing in the letter to the Romans, says “Owe no man anything , but to love one another; for he that loveth another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13,8. And writing to the Church at Colossae, Paul says, “Even as Christ has forgiven you, so also do ye.” Col. 3,13. And to Ephesus this, “. . .forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4,32.

So, when son asks, “Dad, why are we here?”, remember to pick up your wife and go have a nice lunch at the Coffee Cup and go home, loving one another. That is what God blesses, and what adds the sweetness and joy to your life together, making it stronger and richer.

GPD 9/30/10

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/28/10

Ah, walking in the really fresh air is just fine, and it must have been catching, for I spotted several walkers I hadn’t seen before. Or are they just looking for a bit of health enhancement? That’s OK too, isn’t it?

I have been reading “Ten Lies About God” in which the author tackles some of the common wrong ideas about God. Lines such as “God helps those who help themselves”. Many people (according to Barna research, 8 out of 10), really believe that the bible has that line in it. It does sound so right, after all, and seems to make a lot of sense. But it comes from pagan religion. 500 years before Christ, Aesop wrote, “the gods help them that help themselves”. Euripides, a Greek philosopher, wrote "try thyself first, and after, call on god”. Our present line was formulated by Ben Franklin.

The problem with that is what St. Paul teaches us; “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Eph. 2, 1.2.
The truth is, without Christ, spiritually we're dead, helpless, and cannot lift a finger to help ourselves. We all have had an experience where we simply could not ‘get through’ to another about some truths we would wish to share. They just did not hear. Why, “they were dead in trespasses and sins”. The Psalmist writes, “Even from birth the wicked go astray, from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.” Ps. 58,3. For unless the Holy Spirit teaches us, we are blind. St. Paul again, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”. 2 Corinthians 4,4.

So St. Paul teaches us that “By grace you are saved through faith. That not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”. Ephesians 2,7.8. For God does not and did not leave us to work things out. Instead, “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth Hs Son”. Gal 4,4. At just the right time, never late, never early. Then “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, it teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.” Titus 2,11.12.

Indeed, this final truth. “When the kindness and love of God our Savor appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy, He saved us by the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior.” Titus 3,4-6. Thanks be to God.

GPD 9/28/10

Friday, September 24, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/24/10

The weather doesn’t yet speak clearly that it is fall, but the markets certainly do. Tubs and pots filled with colorful mums that will soon grace patios and front doors and other spots around homes to say to one and all, “Welcome to our house”.

One sad bit of news one reads more often than not is home break-ins. Here is the story of a 12 years old girl and her sister, home alone, hearing the front door being smashed in and seeing a thief coming up the stairs. The girl went to her father’s bedroom, picked up a shotgun, and shot the intruder, wounding the second one. What they did not know was that this girl had been skeet shooting at a range with her daddy since she was seven, and had won championships.
Another, the son of a Deputy Sheriff, also shot and killed such an intruder, and such stories are becoming more frequent these days.

Let me tell you a story. When I was growing up in a farming community, I suppose most homes had a rifle or shotgun for shooting varmints that got into the chicken coop, and many went deer hunting in the Fall. We had a neighbor whose house had a dug out cellar under the kitchen for storage. This cellar had an outside entrance, and the mother complained of rats down there. So they set some traps, and got a few, but she still worried they would get into the stored produce. They also had a son, maybe 14 or 15, he meant well, but did not always think things through. One night after chores, without telling anyone, he got the shotgun, sneaked into the cellar from the outside, and waited for rats to show. He saw several come out of their holes, so he blew them away. As I said he did not always think things through, and when that shotgun went off in that confined space directly under the kitchen where his mother and sisters were doing the supper dishes, you can imagine the BOOM, scared them nearly to death. But he managed to shoot three rats with one shot.

Well, the story just came to mind when I was reading about the recent shootings - God help us when we live where life means so little, when what we want seems to be whatever I want I take, regardless.

May God give us His direction, His constant care, and His eternal salvation in Jesus Christ.

GPD 9/24/10

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/23/10

Welcome, the first day of fall.

I was just wondering this morning as I thought of geese flying over at night in my Wisconsin boyhood whether one of the speeches they were exchanging was one saying, “Are we there yet?” What do you think?

The beauty of the fall colors may not be as intense here as in the north but the air is just a trifle cooler, so walking was pleasant, and a cold front is promised in the next several days. One blessing of this coming front is that it tends to keep any hurricane activity farther south, or steers it elsewhere, away from the Texas coast.

But soon the Whooping Cranes will arrive to the Aransas reserve to spend their winter. The people who keep count hope they will see an increase in the flock size again, an encouraging sign.
The time of migration reminds me of the Arctic Tern, which winters in the Arctic, then flies 14,000- miles to summer in the Antarctic. What a distance. William Cullen Bryant wrote “To A Waterfowl”. In it, this stanza,

“He who from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,
Will guide my steps aright”.

Reminds us there is a Hand here that directs it all, and cares.

I believe Nehemiah, in rehearsing the history of God’s Way with His people in their 40 year trek, points out that “For forty years You sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet become swollen”. Neh. 9,21.

Another migration is underway here on the coast. White shrimp, that spent the spring and summer in the marshes rimming the bays, begin a migration. They move from the protection of the marshes where they grew from larvae into juveniles, eventually to the Gulf, where they spawn and the cycle begins again, for tide and current push the eggs back into the marshes.
But white shrimp lead a tough life. They are not good at evading predators, so they move in clusters, fish feed on them from below, birds snatch a meal from above. Many survive to grow and finally become your dinner at Babins.

And just by the way, fishermen who know this find some serious fishing activity in such situations also.

And so the Fall begins, with the change of seasons work takes more of a place in lives, summer picnics are behind us, school and college get our attention, and in it all is God, for the Christian always the center of life. He remains “The faithful God, eternal.” Praise His Holy Name for providing all that we take so granted, but that goes on on a regular basis because God so ordered it.

St. Paul describes it. “What may be known about God is plain to them, for God has made it plain to them.” The Creation is His handiwork.

GPD 9/23/10

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/21/10

When you need one, it always seems to be missing. And you search and find and lay them handy for the next time. It’s that ubiquitous pencil, you know, the item people thought would become obsolete with the computer age.

Not so, the pencil, used by General Grant to jot down battle plans, and by Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismark to tamp down the tobacco in his pipe, is still very much alive today. Abraham Lincoln probably composed the Gettysburg address with a pencil.

And as a matter of fact, roughly 15 to 20 billion are made each year, some half of them in China. Craftsmen have made pencils in Stein, near Nuremberg, for nearly four centuries. The world’s biggest branded pencil manufacturer is Faber-Castell, a German firm in business since 1761. The great grandson of the founder of the company invented the hexagon pencil in 1839, by doing that, it kept the pencil from rolling off the school desk.

“Do you have a pencil handy?” Isn’t that the question a person asks when they want you to make a note of something? And we have them around at home and at work.

Lately, an innovation is to make the case three cornered, and add small rubber dots to make the pencil easier for small hands to hold.

Such a common item, but so useful, and necessary. No, I do not believe it will be replaced by a computer, at least not for a while.

To me, it is a reminder that some things remain the same, cannot be improved, and never change. And the first among those truths is the truth that God speaks, and the Truth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God died on the cross of Golgotha to pay for the sins of the worlds.. 1 John 2,2. “For Christ died for the sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteousness, to bring you to God.” 1 Peter 3,18.

That Truth remains the Truth for all time.

GPD 9/21/10
Facts about the pencil gleaned from the Economist 9/18/10

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/19//10

More on Worship
It’s a bit cloudy right now, but still warmish, even though Fall starts in just a few days now.

Before worship this morning, from where I usually sit, I see the walk leading from the parking lot, and so can watch people arrive. In some families, the children are running ahead, in others, kids twaddle, and they’re usually boys. Why is that, I wonder. And I see the faces, some eager, some worried, all coming because they are looking for a Word for their lives.

Then, as people arrive, there are murmured greetings, some small talk, worship folders distributed, and everybody settles down. Some prepare for worship by reading a hymn. Or reading some Passage from the pew Bible at hand, or just sitting quietly, waiting, and meditating.

The pace is leisurely, life slows down a bit, nothing is rushed, there is no hurry, we begin to understand what is meant by “Be Still, and know that I am God.”

And the thought comes that this is one reason for the worship hour. It is really to give us the time to hear God, to take time, without butting in with our inanities, to pay close attention to what God said to us, remembering that what we learn “was written for our learning, on whom the ends of the world are come”. And its important that we hear what is said without butting in with some senseless thought, or twitter, as one church encourages. How sad a commentary.

But the hour at worship brings a sense of peace and then of belonging, for I hear Jesus say “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one can snatch them out of my hands”. John 10,27.28

So I can leave that hour knowing again I am not a number, but a name for whom Jesus died, and for whom God cares. What riches are mine, and yours, Baptized Child of God.

GPD 9/19/10

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/18/10

Some years ago several of us had been invited to spend some vacation days at a friend’s cottage on Lake LeALanau in northern Michigan. We spent time visiting, boating, sight-seeing, and enjoying some sports. Our final evening there we were sitting on the front lawn, enjoying the lake, while the women were preparing something to eat. Night was nearing, and the sunset over the lake was simply spectacular. We called to the wives to come and watch it too.

The sun set, and the afterglow was red, then shaded to purple, then slowly ended. All of us were struck with the majesty of that sight that really left us speechless. It was grand. Too grand for words.

The Psalmist declared, “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showed knowledge. There is no speech, nor language, where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19,1.2.

I believe worship is like that.

Worship is that time when we stop to remember who we are, and how we fit into God’s plan. E.C.Peterson, in his “Leap Over a Wall” writes, “Worship-is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves, and attend to the presence of God. It is a time we assign for deliberate attention to God. . .because our self important is so relentless that if we don’t deliberately interrupt ourselves regularly, we have no chance of attending to Him at all”.

So the worship hour is at hand. The acolytes have lighted the candles, the Pastors have processed and spoken a word of welcome. Perhaps, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Then the invocation. We are doing this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. That brings us to the repentance, and the forgiveness. The load of sin is lifted “by the authority of Jesus Christ Himself”.

Several Bible readings follow, and then comes the Sermon, God’s Word explained and laid before us for us to consider, think of, praise, and give thanks to God for His guidance, assurance, and presence in our life.

That brings us to our offering, and then the Lord’s Supper, where we receive the real Body and Blood offered and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. The prayers and the Blessing send us out, back into the world, strengthened and refreshed and renewed for the week of living in an often uncaring world.

But for that hour, our attention has been on what God is, has done, and what He has told us for our living. And we are reminded again that “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever. The purposes of His heart for all generations.” Psalm 33,11.

GP 9/18/10

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/13/10

Yesterday the Senior Ministry held a cake reception for my 65th ordination anniversary after the early service at Living Word Lutheran Church. It was nice, but you know how those things go, people mean to, and still they need to get back into the class for study. That is fine with me, because that’s where they learn stuff to help them grow in knowledge and strength for faith. Presently they are reading the Augsburg Confession? Makes wonderful reading, and shows why we believe as we do.

But it was kind of bittersweet also. It reminded me of so many blessings through the years. Years have taken their toll, now about all I do is write a Shade Tree Wisdom now and then with my comment on the passing scene. I avoid politics, except, of course, urge prayers for all those whom God has placed in authority.

I thought of the hymn

“Lord, when the shadows lengthen, and night has come,

I know that You will strengthen, my step toward home.. . .

So take my hand and lead me, until the end”

And that brings to my mind St. Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans, chapter 13.11ff.

“Understanding the present time, the hour has come for you to wake out of slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand, let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day. . .And put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think of how to gratify the sinful nature.” Vv. 11-14.

It is fitting that the text uses the term “put on the armor”. That, I suggest, is a fitting word, because while we are here, we are surrounded by the enemy, as a matter of fact living in ‘enemy-held territory’. The world is not a friend to faith. The world about us would rather see us stumble and fail; it would rather have us join them in their senseless activity, than spend time in worship, or Bible reading, or doing God’s will in this place.

St. Peter warned when he wrote, “They (that is, the world in which we live) think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” 1Peter 4,4. Peter reminds us that “Once we were not God’s people, now we are God’s people; once we had not received mercy, now we have received mercy” 1 Peter 2,10. Because we are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect”. 1 Peter 1,19.

Thinking of that makes the day ‘sweet’, added to the fact that we are members of a Church that believes that Jesus Christ is our One and Only Savior from sin, makes the day “sweet” in retrospect. A Church that makes every effort to “arm us with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

GPD 9/13/10

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/9/10

Hermine, the tropical storm passing through, left us with over two inches of rain, but no more, wind or storm damage.

Today is a special day, because it is the 65th anniversary of my ordination into the Holy Ministry. The place for it was Immanuel Lutheran Church, St. Charles, Missouri, which had called me to serve as their assistant Pastor. There were 850 people in church and I hardly knew anyone there. Just my wife, Ruth, my parents, and I knew the pastor and his family. But God blessed.

And so He has through the years. I stopped a bit to look back, and there are some memorable moments, and some in which the hand is so clear.

But now,
“as the shadows lengthen, and night has come,
I know that You will strength, my steps toward home”.

And with Joshua of old, I can say what he said in his farewell speech. “I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Joshua 23,14.
And it is a delight to know our Church still teaches and preaches the Gospel Truths with passion, understanding, clarity, and sincere conviction. That is satisfying to know, and it is a rich blessing of our God, whose mercy is new unto us every morning.

God bless us all.

GPD 9/9/10