Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/30/11

          Nice walking, and I fell to pondering. I often do that while walking because the quiet seems to be conducive to that. It means to weigh in the mind, to reflect quietly, soberly, deeply about a subject. And what engaged my attention this morning? I was reflecting on some verses from Psalm 119.

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.

10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.

11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

12 Praise be to you, O Lord;
teach me your decrees.

13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.

14 I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.

15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.

16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

          There is rich food for thought. Isn’t there.

          Our trouble today is that we rarely take time to ponder such issues because we are so busy simply getting through the day. The jobs at hands needs our best efforts, and then the evening lies before us, but there is a game to play or a show to watch or a friend to call, and before we know it, it’s time to retire.

          We are not in the habit of just doing some quiet thinking, are we? And the lack is our loss, for when we do finally to some pondering, we often find truths that are hidden to the casual eye, but suddenly strike us as important.

          The Psalm writer was aware of that, so he says,
               “This has been my practice,
                I obey your precepts.”
               “Your Word, O Lord, is eternal,
                It stands firm in the heavens.”  v.56.89

          All I can suggest is that you do take time each day for a quiet moment to ponder. (Thus endeth November).

GPD 11/30/11

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/29/11

          Walking is pleasant these days. No breeze to speak of, just nice and cool. Finally feels a bit like Fall.

          With the first Sunday in Advent just behind us, we are reminded that the Church year is stating anew. And we are planning for the coming of the Lord Jesus as the Babe in the manger.

          The world around us is, of course, bent on celebrating, buying, preparing for entertainments of all kinds, meetings with friends and neighbors, and all the rest of it.

          The local paper recently carried an article on just such invitations. It aimed to offer some hints to either accept or reject such invites. If you turn one down, do it with grace and never ever tell a lie. If you’d rather just stay home and listen to music or read a book, it is perfectly fine to say, “I have other plans, I’m sorry” and stop there.

          But the year’s beginning suggests some cleaning up too. Because we live in a world that offers many fine things, but also quite a bit of ‘drek’, stuff that we would rather not have around us. However, just living means our hearts and minds can accumulate clutter. By rubbing shoulders with the world, we may unknowingly and inevitably pick up thoughts or develop habits that are not at all in keeping with the Christian life.

          St. Paul spoke of this when he says to the Christians at Corinth, “Do you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.” 1 Cor. 6,19-20.

          So we can and do look eagerly to the birth of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.

GPD 11/29/11

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/25/11

          I pray your Day was filled with everything good; family visiting, eating together, maybe sharing recipes for leftovers, and all that the Day promises. Good. It was a nice, sunny day here and we did see family to visit, catch up, and, well, eat a fine meal.

          An item in the news caught my eye. Seems Georgia pecan growers are having to hire protection firms to watch their crops, because stealing pecans from trees is on the rise. One 5 gallon of pecans selling for as much as $ 175.00. One reason is the demand from China. Seems the Chinese have developed a real taste for pecans.

          The item above simply shows the world in which we are to live “as children of light”. In his letter to the Church at Thessalonica, St. Paul is urging the people who are children of the day to “act like it”. The end of chapter five of the first letter lists the behavior patterns Christianity will bring. High among them is this word, “And in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”. 1 Thess 5,18.
In everything give thanks.

          We take so much in our lives for granted, don’t we?

          Recently a pastor friend reported with joy they had found a talented organist for their worship services.
And that reminded me that in the entire 40 years of active ministry, I always had an organist. Some had been trained by our Colleges, others were self taught,. One was a lad just entering High who went on to study music at Indiana university school of music. My input, have the hymn selection in their hands a week before so they could practice.

          There are so many other things in my ,life, as I am sure they are in yours, that we simply take for granted and hardly ever stop to say “I thank you for the work that you do”.  So, when you finish reading these lines, do take the Bible, turn to the first letter to the Thessalonians, and read again the fifth chapter. Then may God bless your doing as “the children of light.”

GPD 11/25/11

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/20/11

          Isn’t it funny what affect a birthday has? This morning – and it was warm and pleasant here on the Gulf Coast where it seldom snows – I found myself grumbling to people about the lack of snow, just because I was born during a snow fall in far off Wisconsin.  Outside of that, birthdays aren’t bad.

          Quot libros, quam breve tempus.  Translation – so many books, so little time.

          I throw that bit of wisdom in because the birthday netted two books.  One, a Baldacci, one of my favorite mystery writers. Gripping tales.  The second has this title, KILLING LINCOLN by O’Reilly and Dugard.

          Yes, that’s the O’Reilly with Fox News who used to teach history.  It purports to dig into the history of the rebellion which backed Booth in shooting the President.

          I also helped assemble a 300 piece puzzle – a genuine Ravensberger, and there sits a yet to be opened jar of honey roasted cashews.  No, I don’t plan to bring them along next Sunday to share.

          To top it all the Sunday gave us a time to worship, praise the Lord, take time to meditate, and be glad that “This is the day that the Lord has made,
We will rejoice, and be glad in it”.

GPD 11/20/11

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/18/11

          Many of you mentioned blessings and events.  The day set me to remembering what life has taught me. No, I won’t share the whole load, but just some things that stick out.

          Duane Brown is a left tackle on the line that protects the quarterback on the Texan football team.  He said, “It was a rude awakening. You work so hard to get here, and then you find the hard work is just beginning.”

          Life is like that.  You work hard to achieve a goal, graduation for instance, and get a job, and then you keep on working to improve your work ethic and grow in knowledge and understanding of what that work requires, and how to do it better.

          The ministry is that.  You finally graduate and are called to a church.  Then the real work begins, daily reading and study and prayer, weekly intense study for a sermon, Bible classes, and confirmation classes. And the sick and the shut-in calls, and the plate gets kind of full.

          But such effort finds its daily blessings also.
The poet said it.
               “The heights of great men reached, and kept,
                Were not attained by sudden flight,
                But they, while their companions slept,
                Were toiling upward in the night.”

          Another lesson; learn to listen, really listen.  One sage said, “I learn much when I listen, nothing when I talk.”

          God’s complaint to Israel, ”My people would not listen to Me; Israel would not submit to me, so I gave them over to their own stubborn heart to follow their own devices.” Psalm 81, 11.12.  The lesson, learn to ask questions and then really hear what the reply is.  For often just the right question will open the door to what the problem really is.

          So finally, 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land”.  And when the Lord hears, forgives, and heals, we are blessed.

GPD 11/18/11

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/17/11

          Today is November 17th, and according to Google’s age calculator that makes me 91 today.  And I am ever thankful for the years the Lord has allowed me.  I ask myself how have I used these years?

          My father remembered the date well because it was the day in which he first was able to use the new barn for his herd of dairy cows.

          One of the highlights of my early years was reaching age 16 and getting my first driver’s license.  Just sent a quarter to the state capital and back came this bit of paper.  All they wanted was proof of age, no eye test, no driving test, just US mail.  The cost has increased considerably since then, and the State of Texas demanded that I get eye glasses.  I guess that happened around age 85 or so.

          And going to Concordia in Milwaukee to start the long trek that ended when I was ordained into the Holy Ministry on September 9, 1945.  I, who had never slept in any place but the quiet country, suddenly transported to a noisy city where a streetcar clanked past every half hour day and night.  What an adjustment.

          Then graduation, cum laude, and the first call as assistant at Immanuel in St. Charles, Missouri.  Then to a dual parish in Mexico and Vandalia, Missouri.  Happy years of work and blessing.

          The next move was to northern Michigan, then nearly 17 years in Adrian Michigan followed by some 11 years in Detroit, from where I retired on my 65th birthday.  Then we moved to Texas because we wished to see the grandchildren grow up, and they have.  I guess they are all taller than I am, much so.  And a source of blessing and contentment..

          But the world has changed since I came into it.

          Then most people still believed there is a God, and most had a conscience, knew the basic Scriptures, probably could recite the ten commandments, and tried their best to use them as a guide for the way they lived.  So they knew the difference between right and wrong.  And had a guide to give them direction.

          I find today people are often simply content to “follow the leader”.  Someone called this a herd mentality, never looking to see where it would lead just going the way the crowd did.  Without asking whether it might be right or wrong.

          An ancient prayer of confession includes the lines, “we have erred and strayed from Thy way like lost sheep”.  The great temptation today, it seems to me, is not being willing or able to make such a confession.

          But I have also found there are still many good, honest, people, quietly serving their God, living their Christian lives, and having a quiet influence on their world.  That is our hope for which we pray.  They are the ones who believe, “His eye is on the Sparrow, and I KNOW He watches me.”  Bless God for His faithfulness.

GPD 11/17/11

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/16/11

          It seems to defy all reason, but there it stands tall, in the middle of the backyard, a red Cana blooming in the middle of November.  Where did it get enough moisture to do that is a mystery I will not solve for you.

          It reminds me that God’s nature is sort of a thing that God works, “we know not how”.  But it also points to a great truth we sometime forget.  God did say that “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt.16,18.) He was speaking of His Church.

          In an article in the November Lutheran Witness, President Harrison harks back to Emperor Constantine who converted to Christianity A.D. 312.  Shortly thereafter the Church received all kinds of privileges from the government, and forgot the One Thing Needful, and as a result lost its strength and weakened.  The State church in Europe, Harrison writes, is “a theological disaster”.  It is always so when a church forgets its mission, to preach the Gospel.

          Today the Church faces all kinds of difficulties, often direct opposition.  So we tend to say “poor me”. When we do have at hand what the first President of the Church said in one of his first convention addresses. “The Only weapon we have is the Gospel.”

          So let us take courage in this time of change and challenge.  The Lord’s promise is still true, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it”.  And the times to the end are filled, for us, right at hand, with opportunity to tell the good news that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, paid for the sins of the whole world.

          In it all, remember the lines from an old Gospel song?
               “His eye is on the sparrow,
                And I KNOW He watches me.

          May the Lord bless your day and fill it with treasured fruitfulness.

GPD 11/16/11

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/11/11

          I started this on 11/11/11, but is now11/12/11. The first date is a palindrome.  Numerologists rate it highly as a date to start something new.  So the news today reports a flock of people rushing to Vegas to be married.  But this date has no magic in it.  It happens that way because of the calendar.

          I prefer another claim for blessing, that is written in the Psalms especially.  I offer Psalm 62, 5-6, as a promise to believe and live by.  It reads so:
               “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.
               My hope comes from Him.
               He alone is my Rock and my Salvation,
               He is my Fortress,
               I will not be shaken”. Psalm 62, 5.6.

          Now here is a promise with some substance, one to lean on, one to trust, because it is from Almighty God.

What more need we, my friend?

GPD 11/12/11

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/8/11

          It had rained a bit just before my morning walk, so it seemed muggy, and if there had not been a pleasant little breeze now and then, it would have been unpleasant.  But for today the weather people say 50% chance of thunderstorms in the late afternoon, and we will take that.

          Suppose if I had stuck my nose out before venturing forth I might have procrastinated, and finally did no walking at all.  Look at what it brought to God’s children at the entrance of the promised land.  God had said, “You have stayed here long enough” Deut.1,6. So Moses sent 12 good men to spy out the land.  They were amazed at what they found, but ten of them gave a bad report, “They’re giants.  We can’t possibly beat them”.  Joshua and Caleb reminded them of God’s promise.  We can do it because God promised.  But they hung back just the same, and taught us.

          Procrastination always leaves out God’s promises.  And so causes things to look different than they really are.  AND, procrastination is contagious.  Fear begets fear.  So it misses the Lord’s blessings.

          Their procrastination cost them 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  It is always easier to put off, to make plans, to say “tomorrow”.

          In “The Wealthy Barber” the town barber asks Mr. White, the richest man in town, the secret of wealth.  Mr. White said, “wealth beyond your wildest dreams is possible if you follow this golden rule.  Invest just 10% of all you make for long term growth.  If you follow that simple guideline, someday you’ll be a very wealthy man”.  (Pg 30 The Wealthy Barber-David Chilton).  The secret is to begin.

          To drift is simple, and easy, requires no backbone, no skill needed, no backbone needs stiffening, needs no planning, no effort, no work.  No goals to meet, no deadlines set, no work to finish.  To say “Tomorrow I will begin” is always the talk of weak people.

          In Ecclesiastes the Preacher writes,
               “Whatever your hand finds to do,
               Do it with your might.
               For in the grave, where you are going,
               There is neither working,
               Nor planning,
               Nor knowledge,
               Nor wisdom”. Eccl, 9,10.

          Finally, remember,
               “the quiet words of the wise,
               Are more to be heeded,
               Then the shouts of a ruler of fool.” 9,17

GPD 11/8/11

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/2/11

          We recited the Creed in the service on Sunday.  We do it every service, and I am glad to join those other millions to confess our faith out loud and boldly.

          It is not so much that we “put Jesus in the center”, but that God reminds us again how things simply are.  It reminds me who Jesus Christ is, and what God planned to heal my sins and bring me to eternal life.

          To hear all those other voices chiming in so that the sound is loud enough, is a bold thing to do.  Especially in this culture where everything seems to go by vote and nothing is taken as true any longer. To stand and say, “I believe” means that I am saying out loud and before everyone that I find this truth TRUE.  I am doing what Jesus said,
               “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men,
               Him will I also confess before My Father,
               Which is in heaven.” Matthew 10,32

          And St. Paul when he writes his letter to the Romans, said to them – and they were living when confessing Christ might prove fatal, said,
               “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth
               The Lord Jesus,
               And shalt believe in thine heart that God
               Raised Him from the dead,
               Thou shalt be saved”. Romans 10,9

          So when I recite the Creed I am given a touchstone by which to guide my days, one that does not change, and that is true direction for the living of my days.

          When I say, “I Believe” I am reminded again that my God is Eternal, a caring, loving, personal God to whom I matter.  I am not alone, I am never alone, because the One of whom I say “I believe” has promised that He would be with me “even to the end of days”.  God bless us all as we recite and confess our belief.

GPD 11/2/11

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/1/11

          A little heavier jacket was welcome this morning, but the air was so fresh and the morning a delight. Fall weather is moving in at last.

          Yesterday was Reformation which we observed on Sunday.  It is good for a church to stress that Day, especially if it turns our thought a bit to the history of the Church, and her work that lies in our past which assures us that we, at this late date, still have the Truth of Scripture.  That the faith alone in the work of Jesus Christ done for us is what bolsters the faith and the Lutheran life.

          So when we sing that great Reformation Hymn of Dr. Luther, the words mean much and shows the dangers they faced when they fought for the Truth of the Gospel, and tried to show false teaching and false practices.  With that in mind, these lines mean much.
               “And take they our life,
               Goods, fame, child and wife,
               Let all these be gone,
               They yet have nothing won,
               The Kingdom ours remaineth.”  LSB 636,4

          In 1877 Rev H. C. Schwan, who would be elected as president of the LC-MS a year later, preached for the 300th anniversary of the Formula of Concord at the Synodical Conference in Ft. Wayne. He showed that soon after Luther died the church faced all kinds of problems.  Many led it in false ways, chose different directions, wrangled about procedures, and the Formula of Concord brought the Church back to the truths of Scripture.

          Throughout our history there have been dark times, and the need always is to remain true to what God set down in His Holy Word.  “Add thou not into his words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Prov. 30,5.

          I am glad this is My Church. One that holds to the truth of the words expressed therein, for that is what promises me salvation and eternal life.

          I have been doing much reading in “At Home In The House of my Fathers”, a collection of essays, sermons, convention addresses from the first hundred years of our existence as the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  They show how through times of stress like the civil war and the first world war, Vietnam, the rise of modern technology, the Church has been faithful to its roots.  Rev. Mathew Harrison did most of the work to gather this material.

          I pray your celebration reminds you, too, of God’s rich blessings to our Church in Christ Jesus.

GPD 11/1/11