Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/31/13

          Well, honestly now, how has it been?  Nothing that was simply too much for your puny strength, and the Lord did provide as He promised.  There were some disappointments, every life has them, doesn’t it?

          I would turn you to an ancient bit of wisdom from the prophet Habakkuk. You don’t often go there, do you?  But he sounds really modern in his questions to God.  He learns that the Lord planned to use an ancient power, the nation of Babylon, heathen to the extreme, to punish Israel, a godly nation, and he struggles with that concept.

          It’s something like the life we are living when it often seems as if the wrong remains unpunished, and the good is not recognized.  St. Peter in his letters warned that such events will come.  Jesus reminded us, “In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16,33.

          So Habakkuk ends his chapters with these hopeful words:
Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes, even if the olive tree fails to produce and the fields yield no food, even if the sheep pen is empty and the stalls have no cattle-
18even then, I will be happy with the LORD.  I will truly find joy in God, who saves me.
19The LORD Almighty is my strength.  He makes my feet like those of a deer.  He makes me walk on the mountains.  For the choir director; on stringed instruments.
Let us then take heart and trust in Him who is our God and Savior.

GPD 12/31/13

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/26/13

Birth of Jesus Christ
    1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration whena Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,b who was with child. 6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
          Read it again, please. 

          Our Lord is born.

GPD 12/26/13

Monday, December 23, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/23/13

                                      At Christmas 2013

          The news is of storms and bad travel conditions for this season.  I look out of my window and see a sunny day, cold, but calm and nice.  The week here promises much of the same.  But there are many areas with snow and icy driving conditions.  I pray your travel will be pleasant and right on time.

          The holiday decorations and the many ads, the busy shopping and the many stories of helpful hands proving meals for Christmas and gifts for children remind us that Christmas is here.  [ an aside – a FedEx survey finds that 33% of holiday gift-getters complete all returns before New Year’s Day].

          There is a much deeper meaning for those who believe in Jesus Christ.  For the birth of the King is our Savior, Jesus Christ, sent to save us from sin.  “For God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us that, whether we wake or sleep, we shall live together with him” 1 Thessalonians 5, 9.10.
          That news is always the best news.  For “God so loved the world, that He sent His Only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3,16.  St. John writes on, “for God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” V.17.

          The longer the Lord allows me on this earth, the more I appreciate this good news.  And more, Ruth and I are deeply grateful to belong a church whose Pastors teach the truths of the Gospel with sincere firmness and with deep conviction.

          The news in the world is mostly depressing. Wars, rumors of wars, dishonesty, corruption rampant, and a government that seems to hesitate in its leadership.  We pray for the leaders of this nation, for wisdom to lead and give us indeed life that is lived in a way of quiet and pace with boldness and confidence.

          May your days be filled with the faith that the Spirit plants, and may this celebration strengthen and bless you each day.

          A Blessed Christmas with His peace.

GPD 12/23/13

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/17/13

          A prayer for this (or any) day.

          Grant us, O Lord, to pass this day
             In gladness and peace,
          Without stumbling
            Without stain, and, strengthened by Your Spirit,
          Reaching the eventide victorious
            Over temptations always present.

          And so we may praise Thee, the eternal God,
            Who governs all things and are
            Blessed forevermore.

          In Jesus name we pray, Amen


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/3/13

          Here at Living Word a small group meets every Saturday for some Bible reading and study. To get into the building we not only need a key, but also a set of numbers for the keypad inside to turn off the alarm. You know where this is going, don’t you? Last Saturday we had the key, but the member who had the key pad numbers was out of town visiting family.  Well, there are some pretty sharp people around, so, being Lutheran, we did what any Lutheran would do.  We elected  to go to MacDonald’s nearby which had recently been remodeled. We found a large booth in an away corner and had our study there, together with, as needed, coffee or hot chocolate.

          It got me to thinking of changes in my lifetime. When I was a lad, churches generally, at least in the country, never were locked, or rarely.  I remember on some vacation trips stopping at a country church grounds to eat our sandwich and taking a look at the church, open to any visitor.

           How different today.  I read the other day a Houston church had been broken into and its generators stolen.  Many times the copper coils are ripped out of an air conditioning system and sold.  In my last parish the copper gutters and drain pipes were stolen.

          There is another change I find sad.  President Abraham Lincoln formally set aside a day for the nation to stop and give thanks, simply because we are Americans.  This is what we do.  And the day sets aside a time for family together enjoying a meal and each other.  That is what we do, and it ought to be more important than any bottom line.

          Not all stores opened early.  The CEO of one said, “Asking people to run out and shop seems disrespectful somehow.”  Ace Hardware said simply, “some things are more important than money”.

          A holiday shared with family – so rare these days - really is more important than any bottom line.  We ought never be so busy with ME that we forget the warmth of family life.

          And you and I, “Come, ye thankful people come,
                                 “Raise the song of harvest home.”

          I thank God for the day, for being with family, for enjoying hearing how things are going, and I rejoice in my faith, God given by grace, for letting it grow and flourish in the place I am in, thanking Him.  

GPD 12/3/13

Friday, November 22, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/22/13

          More thoughts on reaching 93.

          Joshua had an interesting life, didn't he. He was one of the spies Moses had sent originally to spy out the land, and he and Caleb had tried to get the people to enter then, but were voted down, loudly. He was Moses’ right hand man and when Moses died, Joshua became the leader who led them into the promised land. When he reached 110, he called the people and said to them, “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you, not one thing has failed.” Joshua 23,14.

          Joshua speaks for many of us. “Not one word has failed of his promises”. For the years have been rich with blessing. So as Pastor I could always speak truth. Truths we find in the holy Bible. The Gospel of John tells us that “many others things Jesus did that are not written in this book, but these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, you might have life through His name.” John 20, 30-31.

          The LCMS clearly states what it believes. Not only do we have the Bible, we add to that the written confessions and books like Luther’s Small Catechism and the Hymnbook. All alike teach the same truths, that we believe and teach and live by.

          That was the message St. Paul and the Apostles carried into their world. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Sinners, Solomon speaks about men’s heart. He writes, “The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they do to the dead.” Eccl. 9,3.

          Mankind, since the fall into sin, had a need for salvation, and since he is a sinner born, he is helpless That is why Jesus came as the Babe born in Bethlehem.

          It was starting to snow the day I was born. That was a Friday. That Sunday it was still snowing and they took me to church to be baptized.(My first ride in a car, my uncle Ed’s Model T). So I became an “heir according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3,7. Now Psalm 139, says, “In thy book all my members were written, when as yet there was none of them.” V.16. So the time has extended to this moment, and no matter what, “How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them.” V.17.

          And He blesses me still.

GPD 11/22/13

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/18/13

            Thoughts on reaching age 93.

            Where have the years gone? Down which avenue of time have the years fled? Life lies before us, hours to work, to plan, to dream. Suddenly they have dwindled to a precious few.

          These words come to mind
          “When days dwindle down to a precious few 
           September, November, and these few golden days I'd share with you 
           Those golden days I share with you”

          So we were met at Living Word by Quinta and Gene. Before worship began Pastor Quinn announced to the assembled congregation the day was my 93rd birthday and asked them to join in singing “Happy Birthday”. They did so, with gusto.

          Some of the family came to bring dinner, so we ate together, then visited till it was time for them to leave. Several phone calls along the line made the time fly by.

          So what thoughts come to mind now. Different moments. I remember one morning in my walk, starting to cross a side street when a car stopped to enter. I looked and then I held up my hand and gestured. It was a young couple leaving to go to work, and each had a cup of coffee sitting on the roof. So I gestured, they checked, got their coffee, and thanked me and went on their way.

          Or walking on one 4th of July and starting to sing a chorus of “It’s a grand old flag, she’s a high flying flag, and forever in peace may she wave”, and having several join me and clapping. Simply fun, early morning.

Church affairs bring many warm remembrances. Or today, a good brother remembering with a selection on his birthday wish. A fine one, and so fitting. Psalm 27,4. A fine reminder.

And remembering all the work, the teaching and the visiting and the preaching and the weddings and the funerals. (At one wedding the groom fainted during the service). But he survived and the couple is living still. And the funerals and the hope that we all hold by our faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

It was hard to be a Christian in the first century. Roman law demanded people say “Caesar is lord”. The Christian would not, could not. Because he knew it wasn't true. Jesus is Lord, there is none other. So what did they do? Many died. Because they believed in “That Day”, as Paul writes to Timothy. “I don’t care what Nero, this particular Caesar plans for me, but I have my eye on “That Day”.

Their belief on That Day made them different. Its the thing that ultimately shook the Roman world. These Christians had something that set them apart, for they knew how to live and how to die because they believed in Jesus as their Savior. And that is the story that drove Paul on his missionary journeys to proclaim the Savior.

And that is, in the final analysis, what fills my mind in these precious days, as I pray it does yours. For Paul reminds Timothy that “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” II Timothy 4, 3.4.

I pray that the Lord who planted the faith in Holy Baptism, will help you and me “Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And may God bless.

GPD 11/18/13

Monday, November 11, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/11/13

God bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her,
Through the night with the light from above.

From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, wide with hope,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Veteran’s Day, a time to remember and be thankful for the thousands upon thousands who went to war to keep us free. Take a moment to stop, and give thanks.

GPD 11/11/13

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/5/13

I believe the headline in the Houston Chronicle was “Night of Anguish” when it was reporting on the NFL Texans and how they fared the night before. In summary, they lost the game and their coach was taken to the hospital at half time with what looked like a heart attack. Turns out it wasn't, and early treatment should have him on feet shortly.

And the team, leading by 21 – 3 at half time and losing 21 – 24, and the kicker missed three kicks. The season that started with such high hopes seems a total loss and no one can really understand, given the team they have, what happened.

All this doesn't really concern you Packer fans, does it? But I mention it because it strikes me life is often just like that. The plans we have fail us, the goals we set vanish, life goes awry and we just don’t understand what went wrong?

Things happen we have no control over and we say, “How can God allow that to happen?” You've heard that question, and maybe even asked it yourself. That just isn't fair.

St. Paul in his letter to Timothy writes, “Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof public sinner number one - someone who could never have made apart from sheer mercy.” 1 Timothy 1,15
For God is love, as St. John teaches, and in His love he gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die on the cross to pay for the sins we commit.

That is the Christian Gospel, and the claim we make for it is that it works.
It does what it says it does. It is the very same claim St. Peter put to the authorities at the very beginning of the Church when he said, “There is none other name given among men whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4,12. There is only one Savior, One salvation, one teaching that enables us to meet the various and often strange events in this life and in this world.

          The Gospel has the answers that we need. The claim that it helps a man to live in a real sense in this world. It alone does that, so that St. Paul can say, “All things work together for them that love God, for those who are called according to His purpose.” When we believe that, we do also believe that God knows exactly what happens, and it is always for our good. That is what makes the Christian life secure in God’s care. Blessed life so lived.

GPD 11/5/13

Friday, November 1, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/1/13

          November first the Church observes All Saints day. It is a time to remember those who have come before, “For all the saints who from their labor rest, Who Thee by faith before the world confessed, Thy Name of Jesus be forever blessed, Hallelujah, hallelujah”. Is a favorite hymn for this day.

          Scripture writes in Hebrews 12, 1.2. Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith “(1) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

          On this day Christians remember the lives of dear ones who have died, their lives, their struggles and joys, and ,mostly the faith they held firmly in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Yet we are here, with our own problems, struggles, joys and lives. St. Paul speaks of these when he writes to the Romans 8,18 “(18) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”

          So All Saints Day. Use the day to remember, but “Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith”. Let it also be a time for growth in faith and knowledge unto the day of His time to return.

GPD 11/1/13

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/29/13

          Warm again today. Always something. A neighbor asks for a tree trimmer because she had a tree on her house from that storm. Meanwhile, I had a person seal my dry deck. He claimed it was so in need he could just hear the boards slurp the material. Well, it’s done for the next five years or so. Looks fine.

          A news report speaks about the problem Australian farmers have with wild dogs killing sheep. Across western Australia the loss is estimated last year at 42,000 stock, mostly sheep. Since Australia is one of the largest producers of fine wool, that loss affects everybody, not just one farmer in the outback. One solution to wild dogs is donkeys. Farmers are adding donkeys to their flocks, and once they are bonded with the flock, farmers report no loss at all to dogs, because donkeys have an innate hatred for canines. One section of western Australia is offering bounties for dogs, but it seems the donkeys offer a better solution.

          All that interested me since we are nearing the Reformation. Because, in one sense, we are under attack all the time too. But the Reformation reminds us that we have a solution. One that is absolutely perfect, it works, because our God provided it for us. It is the Cross. It is the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross marked our sins “paid in full”. As St. Paul writes in Colossians 1,20, “Having made peace through the blood of His cross”. “At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly. . . But God shows how he loves us by this, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5, 6.

           Dr. Martin Luther expressed it so well in the Hymn. “Though devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us. We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpower us. This worlds’ prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none, He’s judged, the deed is done, One little word can fell him”. LSB 565,3

          Dangers abound, but remember always that our Lord promised “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world”. So live in faith and trust with His attending blessing.

GPD 10/29/13  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/23/13

          Ah. Its pleasant in Texas in October. Weather is moderating, the extreme heat is gone at least for the most part, fishing seems fine, deer hunting season gets underway and the harvest outlook seems OK. Dove season is also for the Fall. And it’s a special time for drivers to be on the lookout for crossing deer since its rutting time and deer are not as cautious. And we know from reports that when a car and a deer meet unexpectedly the outcome is not pleasant for either. We sighted a deer browsing in the trees back of the house, They just browse along the fringes, and unless one watches them, they disappear from sight, blending in the browse and the bushes.

          Hunting season brings to mind a nephew who hunts with some friends, and to make sure no one gets shot by accident, he lays out a plan for their positions. The result is a safe, and very often successful, hunt. 

          And that reminds me of a Scripture. It’s Psalm 119,11. “Your Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against you.” To make sure this one is walking as a Child of God should. He has memorized the Word of God. He sees and follows God’s direction and God’s commandment.

          Sadly today I see that way sneered at, derided, ignored and totally forgotten. And often so by the very people who claim to be Christian, attend church, and live, on the surface at least, fairly decent lives, productive, keeping the law, being upstanding citizens. But the word of God that one “hides in he heart” arms us against temptation (See Ephesians 6,17). Then, as we meditate on His word, we get to know God better for we have the word etched in mind and heart and can “hear” God more plainly. For that Word of God is “living and powerful” Hebrews 4,12.

          October is pleasant here in Texas.  I hope that is true of weather where you are. So, let’s enjoy it together, and, better yet, let us also “Hide that Word within our heart, that we might not sin against God.”

          God bless the day and this hour.

GPD 10/23/2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/15/13

          There is a large number of people, many unheralded and unsung, who belong to a special group called the Church. To them I belong. I belong not because I wanted it, but the Holy Spirit, through Baptism made me a member, because in Baptism God washed away my sins and called me righteous before Him. St. Paul in his Galatian letter said, “for you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Gal. 3,26-27 

          And Titus has this: (5)he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, (6)whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (7)so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (8)The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3, 5-8. 

           So the Christian confesses, as we do in Mozart’s Requiem, “I am the reason for your journey to the Cross.” 

          God is at work. Jesus said to His disciples, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” And then said, “If ye were in the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 15, 16.19. 

          St. Peter calls you “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2,9. 

          Baptism introduces us to a host of relatives, all forgiven, all called to be God’s holy family. All to be loved and cherished and treated as brothers and sisters. There is a bond fixed because they are all God’s children by His grace. 

          As church members they attend worship to be fed and their faith strengthened and enriched by the Word, and by the Holy Sacraments. They attend also to give thanks for God’s daily blessing. They are reminded that Christ is their Good Shepherd who watches and cares, and helps them when they become entangled with things in the world in which they live. 

          Church Membership is a special blessing. It says, “I belong”. I am part of God’s people by His grace. I am part of the flock to whom God said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Mark 1616. 

          We are truly blessed. 

GPD 10/15/13

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/9/13

                A letter to the editor recently about the current state of affairs. It contained this paragraph, “all of this is reflected in our elected public officials who regard us as a bunch of nincompoops without a memory”. (Chronicle l0/8/13 pg. B13)

            The writer sounds a bit like Solomon when he begins his journal on life with “Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity” Eccl. 1,1. He is speaking of “life under the son”, meaning a life that is lived without acknowledging God at all. Such a life brings frustration, meaninglessness, and pain.

            In these chapters, now and then Solomon offers insights that affect our own journey. One of these sections starts with chapter 5, where Solomon moves from secular to religious. Look at it like opening a Book for our reading. When we unfold its truths, it is surprising what sort of truths (and sometimes stinging) things come out. Just really think about the first line of chapter 5. “Watch your step when you go into God’s temple, draw near to listen rather than give the sacrifice of fools.” 5,1.

            Do we? I mean remember that we are trying to leave the noise and turmoil of daily living, and are stepping into the presence of our Holy God, ready to hear truths from Him to strengthen our daily walk in Christ.
            So enter His House “ready to listen”. Leave everything else outside, and listen to the Word of God, meant to strengthen and delight you, Christ’s child and His “Light of the world”.

          Solomon goes on. “Don’t be in a hurry to talk. You shouldn't be quick with words, because God is in heaven and you’re on the earth.” V.2. So be still and listen to God’s Word. Someone said of this, “Don’t daydream”. We tend to use worship time to wrestle with problems that nag us, or just drift away from the thoughts being expressed.

                Then, “When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it, for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than to vow and not pay.” 5,4-5 These words are overlooked in these days of shallow roots and superficial commitments. What commitment have you broken lately?  

GPD 10/9/13

Friday, October 4, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/4/13

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel
Of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners,
Or sit in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on
His law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by the streams of waters,
Which yields its fruit in its season, and whose leaf does
Not wither.
Whatever he does prospers” Psalm l, 1-3 NIV
St. Peter’s final word to the Christians “scattered” throughout the world is “now you, dear friends, are warned. Be on your guard. Don’t let men without principle sweep you off your feet by their errors, but grow in God’s love and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3, 17.18.

          It does seem strange that in this age of discovery and fresh insights in the way things work, things seems to be going so wrong. We are addicted to email and twitter and texting; we have machines that has the coffee ready freshly brewed when we awaken; we set our TV to record programs we are not at home to watch. Yet we tend to regard TRUTH as something sort of relative. Our attitude seems to be “truth is what I want it to be”.

          Josh Billings of another generation had it right, “It’s Better not to know so much than to know so many things that just ain’t so”.

          That is especially true in things religious. Everybody is an expert here, and the attitude seems to be “And what’s your feeling on this?” So everything said caries the same weight because there is no touchstone by which to measure.
          So, may I ask, “what is your guiding principle? What is your North Star. What directs your daily life and sets your footsteps on the way you are walking? And are you sure? St. Peter calls on believers to be “ready to defend your confidence in God when anyone asks you to explain it, but make your defense with gentleness and respect.” v.15. He is asking us to explain why we believe as we do. Tell the story of Jesus Christ plainly, why He came, why He died, and why he rose again – all to pay for our sins.

          And so long as we are living in the world, but not “of the world" we have it to do. There is TRUTH, Jesus Christ is our Savior. That is the word we cherish, that is our guiding principle. That is the word we have for this sick culture we live in as “Shining lights of the world.” God bless that life.

GPD 10/4/13

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/1/13

          By God’s grace we are entering the month of October in the year 2013. This is the month in which the Church observes the Reformation. The Church relives and rejoices over the scene where Dr. Martin Luther gave his confessional. “Here I stand, unless convinced by the Holy Scripture, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” (The words may differ, but the sense is contained therein).

          My mind goes back to my Seminary years when the 30th fell on a Wednesday, afternoon classes were dropped, and a special service scheduled for the chapel. Neighbors were invited to join us, and the student body rose to sing “A Mighty Fortress is our God”. Famed organist Rechlin was at the organ, and he said later he played from memory because his eyes were streaming tears because he was so spiritually moved by the event.

          Lutherans around the world still are energized from such an event, because it heartens them to living now, today, “As unto Him”. To bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by His life, death, and resurrection, paid for the sins we are born with “In sin did my mother conceive me.” declared the psalmist.

          For the Word still is used by the Holy Spirit to move hearts to faith in the Savior. Recently the devotion of Dr. Klaus mentioned an Iranian Pastor who was jailed just because he left the Muslim faith. In prison, he was the Spirit’s instrument to open the eyes and hearts of 20 of his jailers, just as St. Paul’s imprisonment at Philippi opened heats there, and just as the Spirit opens hearts today in our midst.

          So October, let it be a time for renewal for us too. Standing on the Word of truth, because God helps us also.

          In His name I pray this for us all. “Now You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusts in You”. Isaiah 26,3.

GPD 10/1/13


Friday, September 27, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/27/13

        Grant, Oh Lord, wisdom, guidance, and direction to those in government. Fill them with the zeal for fairness, that their decisions may reflect to the good  for the whole country. Take away any bitterness or unwise speaking, and bless the work they do in this land under Your care.

        This I pray in the blessed name of Jesus, my Savior.

GPD 9/27/13

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/24/13

          Nine Million!  That number is simply astounding, and yet is the number Apple reported it sold of its new iPhone in the first three days, and the experts who have used it report is far surpasses the last number.

          The entire process is simply amazing, at least to me, and people waited in line long hours – some were even robbed while waiting in line – a real slap in the face.

          We live in a frightening world, don’t we?  And unsettling things happen much too regularly and easily, and we wonder “Is the Lord really aware of all this?”

          A correspondent reminded me of Hezekiah when the Assyrian king threatened Jerusalem. Hezekiah took the matter to His God, and God told him that the Assyrian would never enter the city, and he would be killed by his own sons while at worship in his temple. Just so it all happened. God was there, even when the outlook was desperate. (11 Kings 17 & 8).

          Our circumstances may change, but our God gives this promise, “I am the Lord, I do not change”. Malachi 3,6. And because He remains the same, we can always rely on Him in the shifting events of life. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46,1.

                                   “A Mighty Fortress is our God,
                             A trusty shield and weapon”.

GPD 9/24/13

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/16/13

          So, the question before the house is “Are you a hugger”, or where do you stand on the thing of hugging?

          Personally, I never thought about it much. If someone wanted to hug, my personal system was always “let ‘em” or endure it gracefully. Now I see an article that mentions that we have become a hugging culture, He points to ceremonies as the Awards where every participant gives hugs from seat to stage, or sports events where a score results in a round of general hugging. Many schools have established policies, ‘never hug a child.’ That’s kind of sad, because there are times when a child really needs a reassuring hug.

          For men, this is new terrain. Handshakes are scripted, a firm grip, several quick pumps, and done. There is evidence that the handshake started  in the fifth century to show there was no weapon being held.

          Hugging at the work place gets this advice from a senior executive, “Don’t yell, don’t cry, don’t hug”. Maybe that pretty well covers it.

          And then, we probably are over thinking this, and making the usual mountain out of a mole hill, as we tend to do.

          My advice, that of St. Paul (2 Thess 3,16) “The Lord of peace always give you peace in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

GPD 9/16/13

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/12/13

          Just observed the 68th year of my ordination into the Holy Ministry, and it brings all kinds of memories. The country was at war during my Seminary years. Students were classified 4F, but the Seminary had to add a quarter of classes each year. That explains the date of my graduation, Friday, July 13, l945.

The war was drawing to a close, and the country sighed a sigh of relief and spoke prayers of thanksgiving. Troops were coming home and making the difficult adjustments that meant. The Church was active and much involved in helping  get things back to normal.

I remember the excitement of graduation, and looking forward to the next phase of my life. Some of my classmates elected to become chaplains. As a matter of fact one of them ended his career as Chief of Chaplains in the Army. I accepted a Call as assistant Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church, St. Charles, Mo. From that beginning other parishes followed, ending the final 11 years at Bethany Lutheran Church, Detroit, Michigan. I retired on my 65th birthday and then moved to Texas in order to watch our grandchildren grow.

Now our nation just observed the anniversary of 9/11/01. An event that changed our country. And the prophet Habakkuk comes to mind. Living by faith is a bewildering adventure, for we seldom know what lies in the future, And Habakkuk gives voice to our bewilderment. The events from which he spoke came when he saw that God was going to use the godless military machine of Babylon to punish Israel. Using a godless nation to punish a godly one didn't make sense and Habakkuk said that to God.

But then he did more. He Listened, and he began to understand the sovereignty of God. That God is in this world, rules it, and every detail of our lives is worked out to something good. So He ends by saying, “I’m singing joyful praise to God. . .counting on God’s rule to prevail”. Hab.3,18

So the years have been richly blessed. And I also “count on God’s rule to prevail” always.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/5/13

          Have one of those days? The one in which the alarm didn't go off and you ran late and missed an early staff meeting, a project you were working on just didn't come off, lunch was a hasty snack, and the afternoon ended with a traffic jam because an 18 wheeler had capsized and you sat waiting for it to be cleared for nearly an hour.

          So how do you relieve the stress? One lady I know cleans the bathroom, another goes for a long walk, still another takes a nap. Yard work relieves stress for many, or just relaxing with a cool drink for half an hour.

          The times we are living in cause lots of stress, and I am here to offer help.  Just read an article about Ax throwing as a way to unwind. Toronto’s backyard ax-throwing league was started 7 years ago in the backyard of 34-year old Matt Wilson. It has now a membership of 128 and is growing.  Mr. Wilson says, “Everybody on earth loves throwing an ax. They just don’t know it yet. Once you throw one and sink it into wood you’re hooked.” 

          Mr. Wilson has established regular lanes, and scoring rules. One bonus, each target has 2 small green dots painted on it, hit that, and you score 7.  But for this, you need to go to the place where they throw axes.

          The other suggestion is something we Christians have learned at our mother’s knee. “Cast all your care on the Lord, for He careth for you.”1 Peter 5,7.  St. Peter was following his own advice when Herod arrested him. Herod “killed John’s brother with the sword, and when he saw the people liked that he arrested Peter too.” Acts 12,3, Since it was Passover, he “set 16 soldiers in squads of 4 to guard him for he wanted to bring Peter before the people after Passover. So Peter was put in prison”. v.4.5.       

          Now here’s something to worry about. But when the angel came to rescue Peter, he found him sound asleep, so soundly that it took a smack in the ribs to wake Peter up.

          Now that’s how to deal with stress. “Take it to the Lord in prayer”, and leave Him take care of it for you. Stressful times do come, things something go awry, or someone lets us down, or something wasn't done in time. The list goes on. But let’s always remember, we are Baptized Children of God whose eye is on us. He is indeed, our Good Shepherd, so “I shall not want.” 

          May God bless the day.

GPD 9/5/13

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/3/13

Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work 'mid springing flowers;
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man's work is done.
          -Anna Louise Coghill

            That poem came to mind when I read Genesis 2,15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work and take care of it.” And then, after the Fall into sin this, “In the sweat of your face you will eat bread till you go back to the ground, because you were taken from it. For dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3,19.

            A person is a creation made to be busy, to be involved in something useful. And when this is the sort of work that benefits mankind, the satisfaction is the greater.

            Right now there seems to be a sort of uneasiness in our country. We see much joblessness as an economic crisis and we talk about the implications of high unemployment. That isn't wrong, but the point of the matter is this is also spiritual. A job is more than a means to a paycheck. There used to be a saying, “To work is to pray” God made us to be useful to ourselves, and in the world we live in; to contribute to the greater good.

            There is pride and satisfaction in doing something well, and even more so if it  is something to will make another happy too. To work is to grow, and find out who you are and what you can do.

            Work gives us purpose, stability, integration, a shared mission. We belong. And when we are unable to work, not able to find a job, it is sad for a human being. That is the real reason jobs are the no. 1 priority in our domestic life.

            We all have heard this saying, “The devil finds work for idle hands to do.” Because when hands are idle, when there nothing to keep us occupied, we tend to mischief. Think about that a bit, for it is so true.

            So, this Labor Day weekend, when we again celebrate the working man, it behooves us to say, “Thank God I have a job.”
            Because God is He “whose mercy endures forever.”

GPD 9/3/13

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/27/13

Poet James Russell Lowell is quoted:
"In vain we call old notions fudge.
And bend our conscience to our dealing.
The Ten Commandments will not budge,
And stealing will continue stealing.”

          God gave those commandments, written in stone, for use as a guide for his life. If we understand rules are the lubricant of society, and really understand they are there to make life easier for everyone, conflicts are fewer and life is more pleasant for all.

          But our culture has spawned a Me First age that ignores the day-to-day rules for personal living. Ever follow the arrows to a parking lot only to find someone else did not follow the arrows and, because he did not follow the rules, got there to use that spot? Or ignoring the handicap parking spot to get to the store sooner with less walking? Or stand in line behind someone with 30 items in the 10 item line? Or try to watch a movie with a person behind you incessantly chattering away? In themselves, small things, yet such infractions erode the fabric of a society.

          That accounts for road rage, heated exchanges, unnecessary confrontations. Worse, little breaks lead to larger ones. If it’s OK to cheat in line, why not in a test. And if that, why not cheat on income tax. And why not inflate our insurance claim. That company has lots of money and can afford it. And on it goes down the slippery slope.

          How bad has it gotten? In St. Paul, Mn, two girls pulled into a KFC and got a bag of cash ($3,000), instead of their chicken and fries. [The manager had put it into the bag to take to the bank after the lunch rush.] The girls returned the money, and people admired and derided their honesty. Sure, KFC could have offered more than a free meal, but the world makes KFC the villain. A company that makes such an error is not evil, or mean-spirited. Stupid maybe, but not an object to be scorned.

          I want to live in a world where it is routine to return what is not mine, and where honesty is so well practiced that the story would not have made national news at all.

          And that can only happen when the world really understands that Jesus Christ is, indeed, “The Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

GPD 8/27/13

Friday, August 23, 2013

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/23/13

          The Psalm, 36, had it right when we read:
“The wicked man has rebellion in his heart, 
God doesn't terrify Him.
He has no regard for God,
He stands insolent before Him.
He has smooth-talked himself
That his evil will never be noticed.” Ps. 36,l.2.

          It seems to me those words describe exactly the culture we live in. Just pay close attention to the 6 o’clock news. Nearly everyone reports a police chase, a smash and grab, a break in and theft, or more violent crime. And the problem is that we are getting so used to it that it just doesn't seem to bother much any more. That comes when we tear away the family, erase moral codes, leave the Church, disregard local custom, and the person will be free.

          Now it is clear when we remove bonds of church, family, neighborhood, it does not lead to freedom, it leads to loneliness, disorder, crime and despair. The dream has turned into a nightmare of chaos.

          There is a family in Melbourne, Australia, who are mourning the death of a son they had sent to America to follow his dream of becoming a ball player. They were unaware that our President has declared “America is not a Christian nation”, or of the nearly daily killings, or of all the unrest that seems rampant everywhere.

          So they mourn the death of a son who was shot because, as reported by the police chief, for “the fun of it”. Has our culture sunk so low that it produces teenagers for whom the prospect of shooting an innocent man raises not a scintilla of conscience.

          That is the deeper tragedy and the real scandal, of what we have done by really forgetting that, at the very beginning, there were Words written in stone to lead us to a better and finally, in Christ, eternal life.

          In Australia that shooting was national news. Here, hardly anyone noticed. God help us all.

GP 8/23/13