Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/30/10

Finally, cold for walking with a brisk wind to sort of add a bit of snap to the walking pace. Felt good though. It is the last day of November, after all, and one should expect that. Also end of the hurricane season, and the report is we lucked out. A low pressure system kept some storms steered to the north away from the East coast, and a high pressure system kept storms away from the Gulf. Thank the lord for His presence.

“God made people simple, but they have discovered many inventions”. The MSG puts this like so: “God made men true and upright. We’re the ones who made a mess of things."

The verse is Ecclesiastes 7,29. And it speaks to us of life, which is, basically, really quite simple. We sleep, we rise, eat and work, eat some more, relax a bit, then sleep again. Simple, straightforward, until we mess it up.

Remember that poem called “The Dash”. It reports on a funeral statement about someone and says the stone lists two dates connected by a dash, and it is what happened in that dash that is important.

Here is the way it ends.
“What matters is how you live and love,
And how you spend your dash.”

Micah, a prophet who burst on the world scene in the 8th century, along with Isaiah, Hosea and Amos, speaks to keep God alive before the people. They live with disaster they cannot seem to grasp, and Micah speaks to them to remind them that God, their God, is alive and active still.

In chapter 6 God speaks directly to the people. The verse that makes the plea best is verse 8. “He has told thee, O Man, how to live; and what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” 6,8. Away with all the rigermole they had been working, just do His will quietly and “walk humbly with Thy God”.

That’s what makes life simple. His commandments are not grievous, said St. John.

But we tend to complicate matters. One small example is just doing a simple task. We do it right, and the thing is done. When we make mistakes, we have to do it over, or the mistake causes other things to go wrong and we need to fix that too. Or a student is given an assignment. It takes maybe 20 minutes or so of his time, but he puts it off, and suddenly the time has slipped by and his homework is not done, and he blames what?

Finally it comes down to this, “What must I do to be saved?” and the answer is always the same, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”.

So, life is simple, don’t make it complex by adding, by all the things that get in the way of this rule. Life is simple. WE are the ones who makes a mess of things. I pray, learn this, life is simple.

GPD 11/30/10

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/27/10

Aftermath of the Day of Thanksgiving. I am reminded of that poem.
Here’s one verse.
“Over the river and through the woods,
To grandmothers house we go,
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifting snow. Oh”
The sleigh goes through the barnyard gate and they are looking forward to
grandma’s greeting and the pumpkin. The family gets out at the door, and the
hired man puts the horse into the barn and the sleigh under cover of a shed.
While the family is enjoying the company and the dinner.

It makes it sound very much like an annual ritual, as it is for so
many families in America.

How different the coming today. For many it is packing, hurrying to
an airport, parking a car, standing in lines, then spending hours flying to a
distant destination simply to have the day together. People find that worth
while still, and it is.

As is a service of worship, either on the day, or the evening
before, to give us a time to stop a little and give thanks for the rich and
varied, and constant blessings we receive from our gracious heavenly Father.

The travel reminds me of a little story I read recently. A good-ole
boy went to the train depot and said to the ticket agent, “I would like to buy a
ticket for Norwald.”

“Norwald, never heard of it, I’ll have to look that up”, said the

So the agent checked the map and didn't find it listed, then he checked the
internet with no success. “I can’t find Norwald listed anywhere,” said the
agent, “Just where is it, anyway?”

“Over there”, the man replied, “He’s my brother-in-law.”

Long before Norwald, Moses was teaching the people. “When you have
eaten and are satisfied, praise the lord your God for the good land He has given
you” De. 8,10. And much later, St. Paul advised Christians, “Give thanks in all
circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess 5,8.

And finally this word written to Philippi for our reading too. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God. . .will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil.4,6.

GPD 11/27/10

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/24/10

Quiet out this morning with no lumbering yellow boxes to sweep up eager, or reluctant and sleepy scholars, as the case may be. A full moon hangs in the lowering sky under scudding clouds, and it is warm. No need for a jacket, and the date is November 24th. A good time to think some deep thoughts about tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day.

“O give thanks unto the Lord,
For He is good, and His mercy
endureth forever.” Psalm 106,1.

Yes indeed, “His mercy endures forever”. A fine thing to remember today when there is grumbling over airport security procedures, the Koreans are shooting at each other, Ireland is in turmoil over finances, the northwest endures storms and highway shutdowns, and Houston workers are putting the finishing touches on a 70 foot Christmas tree with 3,500 ornaments and myriads of LED lights.

Now let’s go back to l636, when the 30 Years War was raging in Germany, and a young Lutheran Pastor, Martin Rincker, began his ministry in the little village of Eilenberg, Saxony. The Swedish army was at the gate. The walled city was filled with floods of refuges, so hunger and disease ravaged the villagers, and Rincker sometimes had as many as 50 funerals in one day. Finally, the Swedes demanded a huge ransom to withdraw, and Rincker, who was the only Pastor left alive in the village, went out to negotiate, to such effect that the wars soon ended, and the Pastor composed this hymn. Sung around the world by Christians ever since.

“Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands, and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in whom our heart rejoices.
Who from our mother’s arms, hath blesses us on our way.
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”

There are 138 passages in the Bible about thanksgiving, many strongly worded, as in 1 Thess, 5,18: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

So tomorrow, let us give thanks for God’s rich blessings to us in sending His Son, Christ Jesus, to die and pay for our sins. So shall it be written, so let it be done.

GPD 11/24/10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/18/10

Had lunch yesterday with a friend, and he handed me a card he had devised, using my comments about curmudgeon that I made just that morning. Clever, and one to save and display. He is retired as I am but he is working probably as hard as ever.

Many cards, letters, emails and phone calls yesterday, humbling, and kind of nice to be remembered too.

It got me to thinking about the many changes I have witnessed in my lifetime. I remember when my uncle Oscar bought a new Dodge car that had real glass windows instead of curtains. The whole body was enclosed. He used to heat a brick, wrap it in burlap, and put it at grandma’s feet to keep her warm. And she said, “My, I wouldn’t wonder if the boys in Detroit would figure out a way to put a heater in here some day”.

I remember too when we had to get up from the chair, walk to the set, and change the channel by turning a knob. And it was exciting to get Toledo, Windsor, Lansing as well as Detroit on TV. And Detroit offered three channels. Now see where we are.

In my lifetime we built a tunnel under the River to connect Detroit and Windsor, we’ve bored through the Alps and the Rockies for railroads and roads, we’ve even built a tunnel underneath the English channel to connect England and France, and we have invented devices to put in our cars to show us exactly where an address is, and we have built a station in space. We drill for oil miles underground and with success. All this makes one think there is no place left for anything.

Yet, one day Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the earth”. Matthew 28,18-20.

And just before He ascended into heaven He said to them, “You will receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea ad Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1,8.

Really quite an assignment, isn’t it? Impossible. Where are the tools for the job? Where are the plans? Where’s the back-up system, the input from exerts and all the machinery needed to carry this out? All there, empowered by the Holy Spirit and using the Word, the message of salvation in Jesus Christ, the Good News. And it is working yet.

Just the other day, for instance, I learned there are 80 missionaries in the State of Texas working with foreign languages! Quietly doing His work and Will. And all over this world there are people, we call them Christians, who live and act as if Jesus is returning today and being ready to welcome him with joy, and busy inviting friend and neighbors to welcome Him too as their Savior.

And this is a matter for thanksgiving and for joy in our Lord, is it not?

GPD 11/18/10

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/17/10

Today makes it official. I cross the line from being “that cranky old man” to being “that lovable old curmudgeon”. That line of 90.

Two Scriptures come to mind. Psalm 90,9.10 “We spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Luther translates this “Muehe und Arbeit”.

I find that to be true, the years bring their burdens of care, strength grows a little weaker, appetite so-so, and the wear of the years take their toll.

But there is another Scripture. Psalm 139,14.16. “I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well.” And “Thine eyes did see my substance yet being unperfect; in thy book all my members were written. . .when as yet there was none of them”.

Yet another Scripture stands and declares: “Do not cast me away when I am old, do not forsake me when my strength is gone", Ps. 71,9.

One word often used in the Bible is “nevertheless”. When all hope seems to be gone, when the world has done its worst, sent Christ Jesus to His grave, then we have the “Nevertheless”. At Easter we read then, “He is not here. He is Risen, as He said.” Paul used it often, and so does Peter (11 Peter 3,10) “The heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth, and the works that are upon it, will be burned up”. Disaster, utter calamity, then Peter writes, “Nevertheless, we look for a new heaven and a new earth”.

My years are filled with just such a “nevertheless”, for the God I serve and who sent His Son to die for Me is faithful, and His Word is true. My thoughts run over the years, and I see again and again the blessings flow when all I could see was failure of the plans so carefully laid.

In our confirmation class we were discussing the last judgment, and one lad asked Pastor, ‘What happens to me when I stand before the judgment seat and am a sinner?” I remember Pastor’s answer and have used it myself in class. “Then”, he said, “You will feel an arm around your shoulder and a voice saying, ‘I died for this one, Father’”, and Pastor quoted St. John, “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins; but not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world’. 1 John 2,1.2. So I am bold to Pray, O Lord, support me all the day long of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed,’
The fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, in Thy mercy grant me safe lodging, and holy rest, And peace at the last, Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

GPD 11/17/10

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/16/10

Well, when I started this morning it was blowing rather hard and I nearly turned back, but then it stopped, and it was really nice for walking, cool and pleasant.

“Give me that old time religion,
It’s good enough for me.”

Most of us are familiar with that song, usually sung with lusty exhuberance. Usually what the singer has in mind is a religion they remember from their youth, when Sunday was a day of rest, not given to football and games, but a quiet church-going, then a Sunday dinner and a restful afternoon of maybe taking a nap and visiting. And everybody went to church or at least respected it.

What happened? Where did things go so far amiss? All churches report fewer numbers and lighter attendance. How did the Church lose that initial spurt that it started with. Where is the energy those early Christians had? Where is the joy over the story of the Resurrection?

The first story of Easter always ended with someone running, to share the news, to pass the word, to get someone else involved, but they are running. St. Paul writes, “Our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit with full conviction.” (1 Thess. 1,5.) And the word St. Paul uses suggests a cup filled to overflowing so that whenever it is jostled it spills over. It suggests Christians so full of the story that they just overflowed with the Good News wherever they were. The sheer power of the Spirit in their lives drew people to Christ.

St. Mark had written, ”The Gospel must first be preached to all nations, whenever you are arrested and brought to trial don‘t worry beforehand what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Ghost.” Mark 13, 11.

What’s this? “Trial?” “Arrested” What are we getting into here? Jesus taught them beforehand, “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world’. John 16,33. Paul said it also, “We must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God”. Acts 14,22.And so also the other Apostles. Peter in his first letter, for instance, (1 Peter 4, 12ff.)

That is why Paul details the weapons we have. In his letter to Ephesus he describes the armor, ending with “The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”. Eph.6,10-17. The very weapon Jesus used in his temptation in the wilderness, He used the Word of God “It is written” and the devil left him.

So why isn’t the Church growing now as it did at the first? We have this Word, do we not. And we believe that “The Word of God is alive, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the diving asunder of the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart.” (Heb 4,12).

It is my prayer that we, each, reads and studies that Word as God’s Word to our life now. May He enrich the reading and the doing that follows as surely as night follows day.

GPD 11/16/10

Friday, November 12, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/12/10

Still warm this day, but the promise is of possible showers and some cold front moving in. We pray they have it right.

I ran across this prayer. It was written by the late Dr. Martin Franzmann which speaks to our day. It was printed in the parish Service Bulletin of the N,. Wisconsin District. I found it interesting because it speaks so well to the problems of the day.

Rid us, O Lord, of the arrogant delusion
That our age is harder to live in,
Harder to live through,and be decent,
Than in any age that ever was.
And that we are being tried as our Fathers never were.
Teach us, O Lord by Your same and eternal Word,
That we stand before you as we have always stood,
living in Your grace,
And moving toward Your judgments
That the terrible technological trifles of our time,
Have not altered, the great, plain, steady fact,
That You are the Lord.

Sometimes using a printed prayer such as this speaks of just what we want to say, and helps us define our thoughts. And the Lord wants His children to pray, speaking their needs, their dreams, their wants and cares, and He hears, and answers in the time God wills.

GPD 11/12/10

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/11/10

November eleventh is Veteran’s Day, observed with parades and observances in cemeteries. A day spent for many in memory of what might have been, and I remembered that hymn:
The world is very evil,
The times are a waxing late.
Be sober, and keep vigil,
The Judge is at the gate.
The Judge that comes in mercy,
The Judge that comes with might,
To terminate the evil,
To diadem the right. TLH 605,1
So meanwhile, how then shall we spend our days?

For an example let me introduce the Rechabites. (Jeremiah 35, 1-2).
Who are these people. The city must have wondered too. The Rechabites were a nomadic tribe, probably skilled iron workers who moved around and stopped where their work was needed, but now they had come to the city for safety. Jeremiah reports, when the Babylonians invaded this land we said, “Come, we must go to Jerusalem for safety. And we are sill here”. 35,11. Different, strangers marching to a different drummer.

So The prophet Jeremiah invited them to lunch in a public place and offered them wine. They refused it, explaining, “we do not drink wine because our forefather Jonadab son of Recab gave us this command, ‘neither you or your descendants must ever drink wine’.”

The prophet used that as an object for his sermon to the citizens. Look at this, they have obeyed a command of their parents for 250 years. But you, you don‘t listen to God, you pay no attention to His commands. “I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.” 35.17b. The people were crowd-conditioned, doing what the crowd did without thought. The Rechabites were not crowd-conditioned.

And that offers us an answer. How shall we then pass our days? A historian of the first century wrote this about Christians, “They live among us.
They are tax-paying and hard working people, friendly and neighborly, but they are different, for they do not throw incense before our gods nor do they bow. They are different. They are among us, but they are not one of us.”

That’s what Jesus meant, “You are in the world, but not of the world” and St. Paul. “don’t let the world crowd you into its mold”. You are God’s children and the Holy Spirit directs your lives In this world. That’s how we are to pass our days, under His guidance and God’s blessing.

GPD 11/11/10

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/10/10

Pleasant out this morning, and we are observing the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther’s birth. What a legacy that man provided for the Church.
Sola Gratia – by grace alone
Sola Fide - through faith alone
Sola Scriptura – by Scripture alone.
Surely, we must thank God for His gift, to bring light to the darkness, and to open eyes to the marvelous story of salvation because Jesus, God’s Son, died on the cross, for us.

November is also my birthday month, and to remind me, the State of Texas sent me a notice telling me it is time to renew my driver’s license. So I went to the office in Conroe to do this chore. I got there soon after the doors opened, and already the place was filled. “Here goes a good part of this morning”, I mused.

So, I checked in and the clerk gave me a brief questionnaire to fill out, plus a card to sign ‘in the box’. And told me they would call the number on the paper. I think it was 35. She also asked if an officer would have occasion to speak with me, was there anything to make me hesitate. I grinned and said, “Let me answer by telling you I was a volunteer chaplain for the Detroit Police Department for 8 years till I retired.” “Wow, she said, “Detroit”.
I said, “It wasn’t nearly as bad when I left in ’85.”

So I filled out the paper, and then she was at my elbow again and said, “Follow me, you don’t have to wait in line.” So she sent me to the end desk, the clerk processed me, and I was out and away in 15 minutes.

So, I am free to drive the many highways and byways of this state. It has so much to offer, from the Duro Canyon to Galveston Island. The State has 3 NBA Basketball teams, two NFL Football franchises, one plays in a Stadium built at a cost of one billion dollars. Talk about excess, eh? It has many lakes, all manmade. The one natural lake is shared with our neighbor, Louisiana.

It also has football, Texas U, Houston U, A&M, Rice, and even those Red Raiders up there. Friday nights is given to high school football. The State is football-mad.

So Texas said to me by renewing that license It said, “Son” (that’s how they talk), “Son, go, drive carefully, don’t use a call phone while driving, and don’t text either. Use your seat belt, and drive safely, and then we are glad to have you use our highways.”

I appreciate the privilege and freedom, but I appreciate the first freedom I mentioned above, the three Solas of my salvation, so much more.

GPD 11/10/10

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/3/10

Cooler, and sort of drizzly this morning so I skipped the walk.
Maybe the good report from the doctor emboldened me to this, or maybe it is just that I no longer really enjoy walking in the rain as I did when a youth.
Whatever, I skipped, and I am not sorry.

Another morning came to mind. We were visiting family and drove along when Mom went to pick up her son after high school band practice. So we drove to the school, and the members checked in their instruments and came out of the building to get their rides.

We waited, and waited and then waited some more, and finally he appeared. His Mom asked, “What kept you?” His reply – and this is interesting – he said, “Oh I was just lingering”.

Lingering. When was the last time you heard that? It means not wanting to leave, it means sort of hanging around, reluctant to leave the moment, to break away. It means to savor this moment in time for a little while longer.

Remember the last family reunion you attended. Maybe at a park somewhere, or a private place, and you met long unseen cousins and talked with favorite aunts and uncles and laughed about some of the things you did when you were kids together back at home? It was a time for lingering, and the sun was going down and twilight sort of crept over the scene and someone lighted a fire in the pit and laid out some marshmallows. The talk was of nothing much, but it was a time you just did not want to leave.

I thought of that today when life is so rushed, and we have many things to do and we can’t seem to find the time to linger any more. Here comes our God, and says to us, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Does not that leave us with a sense of calm and peace?

The Psalm says to us, “Delight yourself in the Lord,
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37, 4.7.

I suggest to you that this urges us to do a little lingering now and then to sort of let our souls catch up with our burdened and hurrying body.

GPD 11/3/10