Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 2/26/11

Much depends on perspective, on how we look at things. I was reading about an American agricultural study group spending time in Europe. One Texas rancher met with a German farmer and asked, “How big is your farm?” The German told him it was all of a mile square. He asked the Texan, “and how large is yours?” The Texan told him “if I get in my truck and start at one side, when the sun goes down I won’t have reached the other side.” The German, not to be outdone, said, “I had a truck like that too once”.

It all depends on perspective.

The news last night reported that the father of Rachel Joy Scott, one of the girls shot in that Columbine tragedy several years ago, has been touring the country, addressing school staffs, administrations, and assemblies of students with what he called “Rachel’s Challenge”.

The challenge is to do a good deed somewhere to someone without asking or receiving any recognition for it. Such a good deed will be the start of such activity, and the end result will be a better world.

You may remember Rachel’s father spoke out at the time of the tragedy when finger pointing was at its height. He had written a poem that read:
Your laws ignore our deepest need,
Your words are empty air.
You’ve stripped away our heritage,
You’ve outlawed simple prayer.
Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question “Why?”
You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what you need.

The world hasn’t changed since then. Just gotten worse, if anything, with unrest and uprisings almost everywhere we care to look. And my point is that simply saying do this in memory will not begin to fill the need.

It is really that change within that only the Holy Spirit can make that is what we need, is it not? St. Paul defines it in Romans 12,1.2. ”I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world.” When your perspective begins here, you are seeing correctly.

GPD 2/26/11

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 2/22/11

Today is the anniversary of President Washington’s birthday which was observed yesterday as President’s Day, probably little observed any longer, unless of course, governments give employees a day off so they can save us poor tax payers some money. Thus being “Prudent” for the cause.

Theodore Roosevelt spoke about the affect solid leaders have when he said, “It is not only the country which these men helped build that is ours; we inherit also all that is the best and highest in their characters and in their lives.”

Which leads me to integrity. I remember homes often had wise sayings or mottoes hanging on their living room walls. One I remember read,

“Life is like a field of newly fallen snow;
where I choose to walk every step will show”.

People knew instinctively that integrity meant a personal standard of morality and ethics that does not change with each situation. It is, rather, an inner standard for judging behavior. Unfortunately, such integrity seems to be in short supply today.

Integrity means having standards and convictions and using them. It means learning words such as psalm 119,105 “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”, and using them as a guide. Of such a man Job said (17,9, “The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that has clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.”

I remember one Sunday we were leaving The Woodlands for a preaching engagement. The rain had washed the trees, which now sparkled in the morning sunshine, the scene was so peaceful and quiet and I remember thinking, “I wish we could transport this scene and keep it like this always”.

But of course that isn’t possible. God never promised to sweep us behind locked doors and keep us always safe. Instead, He said, “You are in the world, but not of the world.” Then He promised, “In the world you will have tribulation, but fear not, I have overcome the world.: John 16,33. How comforting to know this, Jesus has overcome the world.

That is so in the world we are living in where there seems no end of pain, of problems, of trouble, of needless and mindless hurt we cause one another. In this world, God’s promise to Joshua still rings true, “As I was with Moses so I will be with you; I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Josh.1,5.

That is part of your strength under God. So live with integrity, and serve as the “Salt and light of the world" as the Lord sent you to be.

GPD 2/22/11

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 2/15/11

It was really pleasant this morning, and I even finished just before the yellow box came roaring along to pick up its precious cargo for the day. And even better, the forecast is for more of the same all the rest of the week, so it is a good time to trim those bushes out front. It was so nice after this period of cold, even my friendly dog appeared for a while to check the bushes and stuff for possible what I know not.

And that got me to wondering why there is such unease and unrest all over. Is it probably because we really have lost our way? There is much talk bout ‘spirituality’ around today. This spirituality replaces religion and is so much better than the old model because we invented it, don’t you see? Or did we. Is it new, or just ‘the same old’ in a different dress?

I remembered the story Jesus told about the king who invited guests to his son’s wedding feast. They refused, since they were busy with other things. So the king ended up inviting all those “on the highways and byways”, so the wedding "was furnished with guests”. When the king came, he saw a man “not wearing a wedding garment”. Evidently the king had supplied proper dress, and this man elected to use his own. I hear him say, “No, I’ll wear my J C Penney suit”. AND “He was cast into outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth:.” (Matthew 22)

Rather harsh, don’t you think? The man meant well. In the eyes of others he was dressed quite nicely. What’s the big deal? Why throw him out? That’s just the point.

The story is about “The Kingdom of heaven”, and there is but one way in, by wearing what the King already supplied. Jesus Christ, the King’s gift to the sinful world. It is the death of Jesus Christ on the cross that paid the debt the sinner owed. It is this death that is the proper wedding garment to attend the feast. Nothing else will do.

Spirituality is men’s invention. It is the JCPenney suit people wear, instead of admitting their sins, we call it confessing them, and receiving forgiveness offered because Jesus paid the price.

St. Paul in his letter to Titus explains. ”We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. BUT, when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward men, appeared, not by the works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Saviors, that, being justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3, 3-7.

There it is, God’s gift to us. “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” God bless this faith.

GPD 2/15/11

Friday, February 11, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 2/11/11

These cold days here along the Gulf Coast are making me long for the Pancake House in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. They offered an apple pancake that was our standard fare each Friday night. Boy such eating. That’s all they had, pancakes and waffles, but they were always busy, especially after a football or basketball game.

Party time reminds me of another party given centuries ago by a successful king. The guest list includes leaders in business and in government. There’s lots of food and drink, music and dancing girls, and the mood is festive. Celebrating another victory. As the night wears on, the party gets more boisterous, as such events often do. And finally the king, for it is Belshazzar of Babylon (grandson of the king who defeated and sacked Jerusalem), called for the golden temple vessels which the army had carried off as loot. And they used these gold vessels to drink toasts to their gods. The insult supreme, using holy vessels to drink toasts to false gods. The party grew wilder, but suddenly it grew quiet, and the latest filthy witticism never was uttered. For there, on the wall above the king’s head, just where the light fell, a hand appeared, and wrote several lines on the wall.

The king couldn’t make it out, so he sent for his wise men. They came hurrying, this group of wise men, solemn in their robes, and clustered around the writing. Finally they turned to the king and admitted they did not recognize the language. Then the queen remembered Another time, and a man named Daniel who had come as a captive, and risen to the role of trusted advisor. The king called him, and he came. He read the message, because the Lord revealed it to him, and this is what he read.

“Mene. Mene. Tekel, Upharsin.” Then he told the king its meaning. And this is it: “God has numbered your kingdom and finished it. You are weighed in the balances, and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” Daniel 5, 25 – 28. The story ends so. “That night was Belshazzar slain, and Darius the Median took the kingdom”. V.31-31.

Everything in Scripture is written for our learning, as the Apostle teaches, so what lesson do we learn from this?

We stand accused as sinners, as falling short also. For “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Found wanting, yes, but also forgiven. Hear this truth, “For God made Him to be sin for us, who had no sin, so that, in Him, we might be become the righteousness of God. Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come, and all this is of God.” 1 Cor. 5, 18-20. So, we join the host of those who “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” Rev. 7,14.

So shall it be, because of Christ’s blood shed on the cross, for us. To God be the glory. Amen

GPD 2/11/11

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 2/8/11

After the momentous events of the hanging on the cross, the death, the burial and then the resurrection, two of the disciples were on their way home to Emmaus. On their way, they discussed the events that had just happened and Jesus joined them, asked what they were discussing, and then “opened to them the Scriptures.” Explaining it all.

They had just been married that summer, and this would be their first Christmas together. She wanted something special, so she went to the shop across the street from where he worked that handled such special items. She found just what she wanted but did not have the money to pay for it all. So she started to arrange for time payments.

But the owner of the shop told her, “You take it along. I know your husband, just pay when you have the money.”

So she thanked him and took it home and wrapped it. She was so happy about the gift that she gave it to her husband that night. “Merry Christmas”, she said, and kissed him. It was the end of September (We’ll come back to this).

In the poem Maud Muller, a judge and a country lass meet briefly, he to ask, she to offer, a drink of cold water on a hot summer day. Then each went their way, he to marry in society, she to marry a youth she grew up with. Each has moments of introspection in which they dream of what might have been. The poem concludes (you’ll recognize the lines)
Alas for maiden, alas for judge,
For rich repiner, for household drudge!
God pity the both, God pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.
For all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these, ‘it might have been’..

But we tend to do that, look back, wonder. We are glad of the progress we’ve made, the goals we’ve reached, the friends we have, but there are always the regrets, “if only I did not. . .”, or “I wish I had. . .” or some such words, and it’s too late.

So it’s good to hear the rest. On October l of that year, officer Neil Schaefer, (he’s the husband), was on routine patrol in Elyria Ohio. He got a call a bank rubbery was in progress, and he reached the bank just as the robber fled in a blue car. The officer called for backup, and gave chase. A mile down the road the robber missed a curve and hit a tree. Backup had arrived, so the Officer did what the manual teaches, he barked “Hands where I can see them”, and reached to open the door. The robber had a cocked revolver on his lap, and shot officer Schaeffer in the stomach from 3 feet away. The robber was apprehended, an ambulance rushed the officer to the hospital.

The Watch Commander himself went to the door and when she opened it, he said, “Sue, Neil’s been shot and is in the hospital. But I have good news. The new bullet proof vest he was wearing saved his life. All he’s got is a deep bruise. But they want to keep him overnight for observation. I want to take you to him”. That was the early Christmas gift, so lovingly selected, and worn for the first time that night.

And that is what Jesus explained when He opened to them the Scriptures. Hebrews says, “Christ offered Himself unblemished to cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death”,9,13.

So for us, Baptized believers and children of God, there is no need to wish “if only”, for us the vest is already in place. Paul calls it “The breastplate of righteousness”, the garment Jesus won for us when He died For Us.

GPD 2/8/11

Friday, February 4, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 2/4/11

Yes, I took a short walk this morning, but I did not wear my glasses because the nose piece makes the bridge of my nose freeze and that brings on a headache. But there was no wind to speak of, so it wasn’t bad at all. As I said, it was a short walk.

And the cold causes this query, “Where do birds go when water is frozen everywhere?” It comes up because friend Doug has been breaking the ice in his bird bath and the birds are sending out the word, “Come over here, he’s broken the ice so we can drink”.

But, $100,000 for each second of ad for the Super Bowl. The name, by the way, comes from Texan Lamar Hunt, whose team was involved in the first planned game, and his wife had just bought a super ball for the children to play with, so he started using that term for this game, and it stuck.

Now every 30 second of ad on the game sells for $3,000,000.00, and GM is buying ads for the first time. Agencies plan and work on these ads for months, and if they do not bring applause, the team working on them might not be having a job on Monday. Tough game to be in. But if you have a winner, a pat on the back and a bonus in the pocket.

And the storm. The news this morning reported that the highway department said they were running short of wreckers, and they urged people to stay off the highways unless they really had to go somewhere. How snow, wind, and ice can upset plans, even the best-laid ones, is amazing With all our technology, all our knowledge, all our expertise, we are held captive by a storm.

So experts warm again that people pay attention to their driving, make sure there is room enough to stop safely, and all the rules we learned in driving classes. When we drive, do what a poem by W.H.Auden suggests when he writes about people at work and says, “all wear a rapt expression, forgetting themselves in the function”.

St. Paul said it like this:
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interest,
But also for the interests of others.” Phil. 2,4.

So friend Doug chips the ice so the birds can drink. And maybe that is what the lord has in mind for us all, to serve others.

GPD 2/4/11

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 2/1/11

A cold front is sweeping down from the north and it brings us here along the Gulf Coast some wintry weather, and this morning early, blowing rain, so I got the paper in and stayed in. Especially so since this is the height of the flu season.

Here we are on the first day of February and winter is still with us. I can remember mother insisting we wear a scarf when we left for school on such mornings. She said we could always take it off, but “you never know what the day will bring and it’s nice to have a warm scarf to wrap around your nose when it gets cold in winter.”

I think we could get through just about anything if we only knew ahead of time what the outcome would be. We know the word of God that “All things work together for good to them that love God”, but God never shows us the outcome. He is with us during the dark times though, and He asks us to trust him.

Something like driving a car at night. Our lights show us maybe 160 feet or so, but we trust that the pavement does not end there. But we do need the light to keep driving forward.

That is exactly what the Word of God is and does, it gives light and direction that is sure. The Psalm says, “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path”. Ps. 119,105. This Word promises that He will never leave nor forsake us (Heb.13,5), and it assures us His plans for us are for good and not for evil. (Jer. 29,11) And He tells us that our trials are to make us better, not defeat us. (James 1, 2-4).

“I am a stranger in the earth, Oh how I need a map”. Psalm 129. And thank God the map is there. The Bible, God’s Word, leads, directs, guides. It allows us to live with hope in this dreary, terror-filled, disaster riddled world. A world that seems bent on following its own mind, do what it pleases, and ignores the will of God given us in that Word. This Word that tells us the one thing we need to know forever, that “Jesus Christ died for our sins”.

Mother did know best, for when school left out on these wintry days often the wind was blowing, a cold wind, and it really was a comfort to wrap that scarf around our noses. So wrap your mind around God’s Scarf, His Holy Word, and survive the wintry blasts of the evil one.

GPD 2/1/11