Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/30/11

          The city of Houston is 175, and the paper printed special sections detailing some of the history and highlights along the way. My mind went to Longfellow’s Psalm of Life. Remember this?
Lives of great men all remind us,
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us,
Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

          That sort of epitomizes the culture. A sort of ‘can-do’ attitude. The history is full of events like that. When Galveston was destroyed by a hurricane in 1900, people were afraid to ship goods to Galveston, so the people of Houston deepened and widened a bayou to make the ship channel, making Houston a deep water port. This is one of the busiest ports in the country today. 2,000 trains move goods to and from ships.

          The city has also benefited from major gifts from its citizens. One Texas Governor was a man named Hogg. He had three children. The third, a girl, he named Ima. The children’s legacy was property simply awash in oil, and their gifts to the city of lands, parks, and buildings is outstanding.

          The Wortham family, among other things, gave Houston the Wortham Center for the arts. The Center was completed five months ahead of schedule and 5 million under budget.
          William Marsh Rice, whose fortune founded what is now Rice University, was murdered by his valet who was conspiring with one of the lawyers to get that fortune. They were caught before they could change the will.

          The playing floor of the Toyota Center, the basketball venue, is 32 feet below street level. Constrution of the center resulted in 315,000 yards of excavated soil, the most ever.
          There are nearly 6 miles of tunnel system under the city, and the Galleria gets about 24 million visitors each year.
          I started with Longfellow, I end with this from Robert Frost.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

          In such history, as in any history, we find reminders of great deeds as well as underhanded stuff in plenty. So for a Christian, it also reminds me of this word. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid”. Which always puts things in perspective.
GPD 8/30/11

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/27/11

          Rummaging through some files the other day netted me this. We always enjoyed it, so I am sending it along, It is a fruit plate the Hyatt in Dearborn, Michigan served for a suggested light lunch during the hot months.

Served on a small plate on lettuce leaves.
Slices of melon
Slices of honeydew
Slices of fresh peach, apple, orange,
Strawberry, grapes, banana
Maybe slices of kumquat or some such.
Offered with scoop of sherbet, yogurt, or cottage cheese.
Plus a plate of various crackers.
Coffee, iced tea, water.

          That’s it, and it was really enjoyable on a warm day.

          I know it’s late in the year, but I did not rummage sooner. So use it now, or file it for another day. But it is a tasty treat for a light lunch.

          May the Lord bless your day, and keep in mind the people all along the East Coast while Irene sweeps by.

GPD 8/27/11

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/25/11

          We did get some rain last night and this morning, but the forecast is for weather reaching 102 for several days in a row. The rain wasn’t heavy, just enough to keep me from walking. I told you I was beyond the time when I enjoyed walking in the rain.

          This morning I was thinking of anniversaries and birthdays and other causes for celebration. And one I remember was aunt Regina’s 40th birthday. The family had gathered, spent the evening visiting, playing board games, several uncles were in the far corner bending over a chess game. And time moved along. But when that time came when things came to sort of a pause, uncle Robert took out his violin and started to play. Some Straus waltzes, some German Lieder, then he started familiar hymns and people started singing.
Now you know when Lutherans sing they harmonize. It seems to be their nature. So the women started and then the men chimed in, and the house rang with the joy of it. (just as an aside, to this day I enjoy doing that when there is no one too near to hear).

          It brought to mind the Maennerchor the church I grew up in still had, just men’s voices to enhance the service. We had such a group at Living Word for several years.

          Then food was set out, sandwiches, cake, and coffee or orange soda, and that sort of brought an end to it . But when we left the house to go home, the air had a nip to it, and some frost lay on the grass, and people talked about needing to finish the fall plowing and shocking the last of the corn crop to be ready for the coming winter.

          It was such a pleasant evening, left us all with a feeling of being loved, wanted, and belonging. And it is a feeling that makes life a bit richer still.

          I hope you, each, do have such experiences to file in your memory bank.

GPD 8/25/11

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/24/11

          An earthquake in Virginia that is felt all along the East coast and causes the West coast to snicker at the reaction to this “little tremor”. What’s next? It is a reminder that we are not in charge at all.

          Indeed. Some think we are living in “last day” times because the Church and believers are under attack, both directly and slyly, indirectly. This goes back to God’s warning to Cain (Genesis 4,7). God warned, “sin is crouching at your door”.

          The truth is that the devil is always active, so our Lord has armed us for this continuing battle. Ephesians chapter 6 details our weapons, verses 10 to 20 describes our armor. One weapon is “The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

          The devil is hard at work “to steal, kill, and destroy,” but Jesus promises that the disciples will “overcome the enemy, nothing will harm you” Luke 10,19. And “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world." John 16,33.

          So where is the greatest danger? In the sneaky attack, the unexpected road, the seemingly innocent way. Satan is the one who shows us “the way that seemeth right unto man, but the ends thereof are death.” Prov. 14,12; 16,25.

          For an example, our Lord promises to forgive our sins and “remember them no more” (Jer.31,34b) Ps. 51, 1.2 tells us, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from sin.” Micah 7,19 says our sins are “drowned in the depth of the sea.” Is there anything clearer and plainer than that?

          But when our sins are forgiven, we often get the feeling of “why did I do that? What made me speak to my friend that way? I can never make it right.” Such thoughts trouble us. What they are, of course, are the “flaming darts of the evil one”.(Eph. 6,16), for which the Lord provides us with “the shield of faith”. In short, believe the promises of God with all your heart.

          For if you do not, you’ll be thinking, ‘I’d better forgive myself or I won’t have any peace’. But listen to yourself. What the Lord hears is you saying, “It’s too good to be true, my sins can’t be gone that easily.” And often you’re not even aware of expressed doubt. That’s how the devil tricks you.

          That’s how he works. Remember, he is never up to good, for he is a liar and murderer from the beginning.

          Believe the promise of God, "I have overcome the world” is the word for us to cling to.

GPD 8/24/11

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/23/11

          Please pardon me if I do not mention the Houston summer heat, the unending heat that makes people long to hear of a tropical storm entering the Gulf with its promise of rain and wind. Then it is good for us to remember these words spoken by David when he was under pressure.

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are attentive to their cry. . .
A righteous man may have many troubles,
But the Lord delivers him from them all.
The Lord redeems His servants,
No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.”
Psalm 34,15.19.22

          Maybe experiencing a summer like this will wakes us up to what technology makes us lack. Because information is so cheap, we don’t pay much attention to it. Instant information allows us to bypass the years of study that leads to real expertise. It has removed the need to engage, to be curious, to learn first hand. So, even when we know exactly where we are, we don’t really know where we are.

          Some years ago Ruth and I took a bus tour through some of the western states. I remember one person on that tour had maps of the region, and he was so intent on seeing where we were on the map and that he missed the grandeur of the scenery surrounding us. He took the tour with us, but never really understood why he was doing it.

          Technology puts much knowledge at our fingertips, but forget not that knowledge is different from wisdom. Wisdom is using that knowledge and knowing just where and how it fits into life. A thoughtful think piece last Sunday bemoaned the fact that many Universities sent graduate students to teach many freshmen classes, so, the writer claimed, really cheating the freshmen out of what they were paying for. For, the writer argued, these graduates may have knowledge, but did not have the wisdom or experience to really teach usefully and make the subject viable.

          Just this morning a columnist interviewed a local business man who gets along without a cell phone. She wanted to know how he managed that. He said, “By being on time and being patient”. He doesn't like what it’s done to American civility. “Once that rings, it doesn’t matter where you are or with whom, you answer. It’s more important”. He likes the peace and freedom it brings him.

          So back to Psalm 34, “No one who takes refuge in Him shall be condemned for His ears are attentive to their cry.” For in all this hustle and hurry, God cares, and He knows and blesses His children, and that gives me peace.

GPD 8/23/11

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/20/11

            There was a red fox in my backyard yesterday morning. He was sitting there on my back lawn, sort of medatively scratching behind his ear, and checking out the area. That is, if the nature of a fox is to meditate on anything. Traffic was bowling along 100 feet behind him and in front stood a line of occupied houses with some backyards being used for pets and play areas. It looked as if he did not have a care In the world.

          It reminded me of a prayer many use for a table prayer.

“The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord,
And Thou givest them, their meat in due season.
Thou openest Thine hand,
And satisfies the desire of every living thing.”
Psalm 145, 15.16.

          That’s the promise, and God fulfils it daily for us all.

          When Moses was preparing to leave Israel, he blessed them, tribe by tribe. To Asher he said in his blessing, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be”. Deuteronomy 33,25. Note it well, he is speaking of a day, not a week or days but for the exact  time when you need it.

          O, the Lord taught Israel to depend on His promise to care for them.

          It took 40 years, and then they still often forgot. But when they needed food, God sent them manna. It is recorded in Exodus 16. The direction was to pick enough for one day, and keep none for later. When they tried to keep some, it was bad. However, on the day before the Sabbath they picked enough for two days, and that stayed fresh and usable. So each night they  went to bed wondering if they could really trust God to send it tomorrow too. And He did, till they finally entered the promised land, where there was plenty of food at hand.

          These days sees millions of students starting a new year. Remember the word of promise, “As thy day, so shall thy strength be.” That is the promise for us all. The work we are assigned in a course, the plans we make, the life we lead, all are under His care and attention, and the help we need is always just in time.

          St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians (4,6) writes, “Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” to which St. Peter adds this, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you”. 1 Peter 5,7.

Then find Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.. . God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved. God shall help her, and that right early.  Be still and know that I am God.” Vv.1.7.10

May your life be rich with His blessing and His promised presence to give you the strength for the moment.

GPD 8/20/11

Friday, August 19, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/19/11

        So, you have never even known there is such a place as Ausservillgraten, Austria. There are people who live there, call it home, and no doubt love it. And things happen there to make the morning news in far-off Houston. A German couple was hiking in the mountains around the town when they were attacked by a goat. You heard that right, a goat. For two hours the goat hassled them, till finally the man caught it by the horns and literally dragged it down the mountain where police managed to pacify it. No charges were filed, but the owner does have to pay for the lady’s torn slacks.

        That has really nothing to do with what follows, but it will sort of stick in your memory for a while because it is unusual, won’t it?

        Memory is wonderful, we have really two, short term and long term.

        But memory does play tricks, because often we remember what we really wish were true. So many people keep a diary or a sort of day book. I remember my father used the wall calendar for his record. This date I started the fall plowing, or planted the oats on this day, and the corn then.

        And this calf was born etc. So his wall calendar became a sort of running commentary on the daily farm workings, and it helped keep him on schedule. And this record helped him understand if certain crops were planted early, they produced more and brought a better return.

        The written record proved it.
        Much depends on how we read the record, either as written, or we add to it to make it say what we might wish it said. This brings me to a little Book. The title is The Prayer of Jabez. In religious terms we speak of eisegesis or exegesis. The first reads into the record of Scripture what we might want it to say, the second wrestles with the words written to find out the meaning.

        The little book sold millions of copies, the pastor who wrote it claimed he prayed it every day for half his lifetime. The problem is that much of what he wrote about the prayer is simply what he wished it said. One reviewer said that is like saying diamonds are found in this field of gravel, then placing one in the field, finding it, and showing that as proof. He called this way of reading the Bible despicable. For one can then make the bible say anything one wants it to say, and this sort of Bible reading is ‘rancid baloney’, in the reviewers words. It is misleading.

        I pray you read the Holy Word of God as He offers it, and therein lies rich blessing. Give God the glory, and watch out for goats in Ausservillgarten.

GPD 8/19/11

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/16/11

          Well, given we set a new record for consecutive days of over one hundred degrees, the walking was quite pleasant, with a Sturgeon moon hanging low in the western sky.(An August full moon is called a ‘Sturgeon moon’ because during August the fish is most easily caught for some reason. The Sturgeon is native to the Great Lakes.)

          The moon did remind me of the ending of a bedtime prayer I learned in my youth, The prayer ended with the reminder that the moon in the sky was watching over the sleeping earth, so it was safe to go to sleep.

          It brought to mind the frantic life so many lead, our thoughts twisted and turned this and way and that by words, words, words, endless and often mindless words. Words selling and promising and enticing us to go that way, or this. Politicians have teams of advisors who are ‘expert’ in using words to persuade, allure, and sell, above all, sell, their particular agenda as the only one for the country.

          An article in the paper speaks of children learning to compromise as they start a new school year. That means finding a solution that suits each.

          That begins with listening to each other, really hearing what they are saying, instead of just waiting till they finish so you can speak your own piece.

          Jesus had this problem with the Sanhedrin membership. “You search the Scripture, for in them you think you have eternal life, and they ate they which testify of Me,” John5,39-40. They read their Bible only to see what they wanted to see, and never did discover the truths about Jesus.

          Sadly, that is too often true about religions, isn’t it? Folks just hear or believe what seems in their best interest, and they so often settle for that instead of seeing the whole picture, that where sin is, there needs to be a way for that sin to be paid for, and that way was Jesus death on the cross.

          The quiet morning walk with that full moon hanging there reminds me always that God is still in the heavens, and that things with him are right for me, and serene, and at peace. I pray this same peace of God calms your troubled hearty and brings you quiet rest.

GPD 8/16/11

Monday, August 15, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/15/11

      Well, at least you can tell your grandchildren, “I lived through the terrible summer of ’11. Let me tell you about hot and dry, trees were dying and people were sweltering, and I survived Thanks for asking, but don’t remind me again, hear?”.

      Sunday’s sermon here was based on the Gospel reading for the day, Matthew 15, 21-28, which is the story of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus asking Him to heal her daughter who was possessed. And Jesus not only ignored her, He insulted her. The sermon dealt with the testing such a situation brings with it.

      We all, I am sure, have times when it seems as if the Lord is not paying attention to our prayers, and seems not even to have us in mind, but is more interested in other things than our little problem. The problem which is so large to us, and so pressing and urgent.

      In my devotional reading this morning I read Psalm 44. He speaks there of the wonderful things he has heard “from our fathers, what you did in their days, the days of long ago.” V.1. Then this complaint, “But now you have rejected and humbled us. . .you have scattered us among the nations. You sold your people for a pittance, gaining nothing from their sale.” v.9.11.12..

      It ends in this high note,
“Rise up and help us,
Redeem us
Because of your unfailing love.”v.26.

      And that is always the word we cling too, the enduriong promises of God which say, “I am with you, even to the end of the age.”

      That, too, is a truth you must share with your Grandchildren. God is our God forever and ever. Amen.

GPD 8/15/11

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/13/11

     It continues hot, hot, hot, and dry. Vegetation is showing the effect of lack of rain, and we wonder why this drought now? It is comforting to know, then, that “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my easy your ways, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 55,8.

     Admit it, we are often troubled by the way things are going, wonder how it will all come out, and puzzled by what happens, or pleased and delighted at the way the thing does come to pass finally.

     The Poet (William Cowper), expressed the thought this way:

“God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform.”

     Then he goes on,

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace,
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.”

     Now join the disciples after Jesus left them. He had given them this, “do not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father which ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water, and you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence,” Acts l,4.5.

     They asked when? And Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in His own power, but You shall be witness to me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in all Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1,7.8.

     We don’t hear them say, ‘We’d better reserve the big arena, mount an ad campaign, and get the word out. Let’s set up teams and hit more places at once.” Jesus tells them just the opposite, “Wait for the promise of the father”.

     The world is dying. People need the message of the gospel. In our day we plan, we set up programs, we make sure everybody’s pencil is in place, but we often forget what Jesus said, “Ye shall receive power after that the holy Ghost is come upon you”. The world looks at the church to see whether the Gospel they speak of has made any changes.

     A missionary to the Indians managed to have them gather to hear what he had to say. They listened gravely as he spoke of the Gospel, that brought hope to life and made changes in lives. The listened gravely and then the Chief spoke, “We heard your story, now we will look to see if the white man whose religion this is will show these changes.”

     That is what the world looks for in the Church, and the message becomes clouded when the life does not muster up. That is the change the Holy Spirit brings to us, fellow believers. He changes the heart, and that shows in attitude, character, behavior, and life. Let us pray that this always happens to us also.

GPD 8/13/11

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/10/11

There is a picture on the front pages of the paper this morning that you probably saw on your TV news last night. It is hard to believe, but it shows a semi standing nearly erect entangled with the structure that caries the highway numbers and exits etc on the highway. No one is quite sure what happened, was it driver error, or malfunction, but the semi was one of those that has a system to lift the front for unloading, and somehow this was activated and the truck raised just in time to hit the structure crossing the highway. Traffic each way was re-routed for many hours, travel was interrupted, vacation plans changed, many were inconvenienced by the simple mistake.

Maybe this seems funny to the person watching from afar, but for the ones involved, its huge.

It strikes me life is often like that, a little mistake here and there changes into something that we can’t handle.

Turn to the Bible. Joshua chapter 9 has just such a story. Under Joshua the Israelites had complete success, destroying Jericho and Ai. The news went out, so the people of Gibeon devised a strategy. They sent a delegation claiming they were from a far country and wanted to make a treaty. As proof they offered their stained travel clothes and the dry bread they carried, which, they claimed, had been freshly baked when they left their home country.

Now listen, “Then men of Israel sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord, then Joshua made a treaty with them to let them, live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it with an oath.” Joshua 9,14.15. So, when Israel reached Gibeon, they did not destroy their cities, but “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community. So the leaders’ promise was kept.” 9,v.21. That may be true, but the command of God was cast aside, for He had ordered complete destruction lest they lead Israel into imitating their false idol worship. Which happened later to her shame and suffering.

For us, the strength lies in hearing, and doing, the Word of the Lord for His blessing.

GPD 8/10/11

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/9/11

On my way to church I had a program on the radio that features religious music, anthems etc. This Sunday I heard a cathedral choir from the north of England sing that wonderful hymn.
“The Church’s One Foundation, is Jesus Christ, Her Lord.”

The Hymn teaches that the Church is God’s handiwork. “From heaven He came and sought her, to be His holy bride. With His own blood he bought her, and for her life He died.” LS 644,1.

The words are so pregnant with meaning, and so comforting to hear and know they are true. “Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth. Her charter of salvation, One Lord, One faith, One birth.” And I thought, “I belong among them, the millions in every corner of this earth, believe Jesus Christ died for us.”

So what, when “Though with a scornful wonder, the world sees her oppressed, By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed. Yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, ‘How long’? And soon the night of weeping, shall be the morn of song.”

Yet the promise is “She on earth has union, with God, the Three in One.”

To hear these rich enduring promises sung by the Cathedral choir was an enriching experience filled for me with wonder of it all, and the comfort of knowing that every word of God is true. So I nearly missed the light, which brought us to the end of the program and brought me back to earth.

An earth that lately seems filled with dire news, the stock market is down horribly, the predictions for the future are dire, the fighting for position for the coming elections becomes more intense each day, and the times are indeed scary. And I wonder if this is how the early settlers felt when under Indian attack which seemed imminent and the cavalry was still not coming over the hill.

And then I remembered that I belong to a Church that God builds, sent His Son to die for, and that this God cares for me, and each of us. And I am still content.

GPD 8/9/11

Friday, August 5, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/5/11

The paper ran a report on water levels on selected Texas lakes. Two are over 98% full, and two are under 55% full. Which means tree stumps stick out and boats are left high and dry. This is the worst drought in nearly 50 years. Pray the Lord to send needed and wished-for rains.

Poet William Cullen Bryant observed a flock of geese on their flight to their winter range and composed “TO A WATERFOWL”. The poem ends with this:
“He who from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,
Will lead my steps aright.”

There is a truth we must pay attention to, for it speaks what the Bible constantly teaches us. That, as the song says, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I KNOW He watches me.”

What brings this to mind is my reading in the Book of Ecclesiastes, often little read, often even ignored, because the message seems so depressing. What this Book does too is simply picture what happens when people live ‘under the sun’, that is, with God out of the picture, ignored, even sneered at, and His Children, the Christian, held in derision because of their faith.

The opening, verse 2, reads, “Meaningless, meaningless, says the Teacher, utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless.” And He goes on – remember, this is a wealthy king speaking – to show how senseless and fruitless things ‘under the sun’ turn out to be.

Now and then a flash of understanding. 5,19, “Every man may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil. This, too, is a gift of God.” Then this flash from ‘under the sun’ in 5,10, “Whoever loves money, never has money enough”. Isn’t that on display in the NFL negotiations, “You can’t afford me”, and “I have to think of my family”. You hear such expressions even when many salaries have many dollars guaranteed whether there is further production or not.

So the Book ends with this note, “Fear God, and keep His commandments, this is the whole duty of man.” 12,13.

I end with this for the Christian.
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book,
Before one of them came to be.” P. 139,16.

And I am content with God’s rich and daily gifts.

GPD 8/5/11

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/2/11

It continues hot, and the paper said the weather seems to be holding older people hostage, afraid to get out in the heat. Maybe here is wisdom that comes with the years.

Here is a quote that gives food for thought.
“He who provides for this life,
But gives no care for eternity,
Is wise for a moment,
but a fool forever.”
-John Tillotsn

History shows that God’s people never have it easy. Oh, there are stretches of easier living for them. But in most places and at most times, God’s children are ever under assault. Sometimes by hostile assault, sometimes by smiling seduction.

People who believe Jesus Christ died for their sins and so offers life eternal don’t find an easy time of it. Never have – never will. Their identity or their life is under constant threat, sometimes openly, often subtly.

And yet, they survive, and thrive. The pressure often tends to strengthen their resolve and deepen their convictions. Because they are driven to look deeply at what their Lord lays before them in the Holy Bible.

An early church father expressed it, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”.

Jesus reminded us, “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16,33.

So Psalm 71 speaks to us truly.
“In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge,
Let me never be put to shame.
Rescue me,
And deliver me in your righteousness.
Be my rock of refuge,
To which I can always go;
Give the command to save me,
For you are my rock
And my fortress.”
Such a person is wise for eternity, for His trust is in God’s promise.

GPD 8/2/11