Saturday, March 28, 2015

We and God

A couple of weekends ago I performed a wedding ceremony for my grand-son and his bride. My local readers will remember the weather was not the greatest and Friday evening at the rehearsal it appeared that rain was going to spoil the bride’s plans for an outside “country” garden wedding. The yard out back of the reception hall was well maintained, packed solid and in spite of all the recent rain the ground was still firm and able to support chairs and such. But, what were we going to find the next day after an all night rain? Saturday morning was dismal and cold with rain falling and a forecast of continued rain. Arriving at the scene of the 3 p.m. scheduled nuptials, rain was still prevalent at 1p.m. and arrangements to wed indoors were continuing. At 2 p.m. the sky lightened and the rain turned to a sprinkle, but the cell phone weather radar showed more rain on the way. At 2:15 the bride sent word that if it wasn’t raining any harder by 2:45 the wedding was going to be outside in the garden. The call went out for “all hands on deck!” Groom, groomsmen, father-of-the-bride and all able bodies, dressed for a wedding, hit the ground running, setting up chairs on the lawn, in sprinkling down rain. The husband to be ordered his groomsmen to stand firm during the ceremony even if the rain pours down and everyone else heads for the barn, “My beloved is going to have her outside wedding. I like to be prepared so hid an open umbrella out of sight behind the decorated arbor backdrop which we would stand in front of during the ceremony. Well, to make a long story short, the bride had more faith than anyone else and it paid off to fulfill her dream day. The rain completely stopped about 2:50 for the rest of the day! Her country wedding, including a crowing rooster and his harem wandering the grounds, went off without a hitch. It is said to be good luck if it rains on your wedding day and if that’s true it’s going to be a great marriage. I do know one thing; if their optimism of life holds true, God will continue to bless their union.

The story is told of an encounter between a high school principal and a young ninth grader. The principal noticed the young man in the hallway with a very defeated and frustrated look on his face. He asked, “Is everything okay?” The boy replied sternly, “No! I don’t understand all the stuff the math teacher is trying to teach us; all the letters, formulas and logarithms. It’s impossible!” With an encouraging tone, the principal said, “I’m sure we can work hard and do it, can’t we?” With a condescending tone the boy quickly replied, “Well, I guess ‘we’ can say that, because the ‘you’ half of ‘we’ doesn’t have to do the homework and take the tests with the ‘me’ half of ‘we’.

[Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24] God, being the author of both marriage and the church, has outlined very similar behaviors to be conducted in both families. ‘We’ have to work together in love and forgiveness, all the while teaching, learning and correcting one another that ‘we’ may always glorify God in all ‘we’ do. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to find that the happiest married couples are also faithful, obedient, active Christians. Don’t think for a moment they don’t have problems, but a successful marriage and family looks to the Word of God for strength and guidance just as the church family does. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire …test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

Sunday, March 22, 2015

They've All Got To Go!

Well, we’ve seen a pretty dismal winter this go around, but not to complain because the cold is quit beneficial to the fruit trees stimulating new growth, producing more fruit and Lord knows we needed the rain. Now the weeds I could have gotten by without. I thought in years past I had worked hard enough pulling and doctoring weeds that spring-time would get easier preparing for a nice summer lawn. Forget it this year! I pulled up burr clover runners until I was blue in the face from bending over, but it’s that or contending with those illusive little burrs in the carpet a month from now. Those things can sure make you light on your feet at two in the morning when you step on one somewhere between the bathroom and the bed. So, about the time I thought I had the clover beat back the weather started to warming up some and out popped those little thistle trees with the decorative yellow flower on top, not to be confused with dandelions. Those crazy things look like a miniature evergreen and have tap root like a tree. The ground is wet enough that, with hands adorned with gloves, most can be pulled out of the ground. With the help of a little gardening spade the rest can be persuaded to turn loose and be placed into the trash can. But, every now and then one can hear a snapping sound deep in the ground when the little tap root breaks off and some of it remains in the soil. That’s generally followed by a little voice heard to say, “I’ll be back!” and rest assured, that root will grow again, maybe not this year, but... If you’re a weed puller you soon discover there’s no shortage of what you’re trying to rid your yard of. It seems one can fill a whole “Homer Bucket” with pulled weeds only to turn around and see just as many waiting to be pulled. I’ve noticed that the small weeds I pass over getting to the big ones have become the eye sores that need to come out of the ground next. I guess there’s no such thing as a little weed. If you want a clean lawn, all the weeds have got to go! Oh, I can’t wait for the crickets and mosquitoes to come.

[2 Peter 2] From the “Out of the mouths of babes” department: A family is riding in the car when an ad for a current movie comes on the radio. At the end of the advertisement there is a disclaimer; “Opens Friday in a theater near you! This film contains intense thematic material, graphic violence, nudity, strong sexual situations, drug content and coarse language. May not be appropriate for children under thirteen.” The family’s young son sitting in the back seat asks, “Mommy, who would it be appropriate for exactly.” The apostle Paul writes; “Everything is permissible for me” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me” but I will not be mastered by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). “Everything is permissible” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” but not everything is constructive (1 Corinthians10:23-33). So just what is appropriate for me in this sinful world that would justify my character and please my God? One only needs to look to God’s Word for those answers. God helps us get the weeds out of our life. There are the obvious sinful practices that do not please God and with those out of the way we allow the Word of God to examine us closer where we discover inappropriate actions we may have never considered before, or just past them over as, “that’s just the way I am” sort of thing. Like there are no little weeds, once discovered growing about in our life, there are no little sins. If you want a clean heart, mind and soul before God, all your sins have to go.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

You're Being Called

My wife and I got the call the other night form our daughter and son-in-law asking if we would baby sit (Chihuahua sit) for the weekend. How can you say no to the opportunity to spoil a couple of little dogs like grand-children? Princess is a reserve matriarch rescue, found on the road one rainy night, pregnant, cold and scared. They took her in, helped her with her first litter of pups, and her second, and her third. She’s my little Bella’s grand-mother. Her whole purpose in life now is to find someone to cuddle up next to, content to watch the world go by. Dog number two is from the same litter as my Bella. My dog would be considered the runt of any litter, but her little brother looked like the period at the end of a sentence when delivery time had ended. His was appropriately named Little-Bit, a quiet black and tan, short-legged and barrel shaped pup, totally content to be wherever Princess is, doing whatever she’s doing. The two of them are always welcome at my house where we have neighborhood dogs to play with in a big fenced in yard, lots of food and regular naps. Princess gives that look of that’s okay for the kids and finds a place to lie down in the sun. Little-Bit really doesn’t know how to play, being raised by and living with his grandma, but he eventually warms up to the idea of almost romping about, yet always looking into the direction of Princess to see if it was alright for him to do so. It’s a funny but obedient relationship. My dog just goes about her business letting the two guests share her bed and water dish. Food bowls are a different thing all together, but we all seem to manage the situation in the long run without squabbling over proprietary issues. One can tell they miss their mommy and daddy as they look to the door every time it’s ajar.

[Matthew 19:16-30] We are all out in the world looking for a comfortable, secure place to be, preferably with a guarantee of happiness. I wish to pass along this list, compiled by Thomas Massaro, placed in his local church bulletin, to echo my personal invitation to come in out of the cold and enjoy the warmth of God’s love. “We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo yo hable lngles. A special welcome to those who are crying new-born’s, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds. We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our preacher who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing”, just woke up or just out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s baptism. We welcome those over 60 but not grown up yet, and teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians and junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are recovering and still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, or you’re down in the dumps, or if you don’t like “organized religion” (been there too). You’re welcome here if you blew all your offering money on a bet. We especially welcome those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church. We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We especially welcome those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a child, or were lost in traffic and got here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts …and you!” God knows and loves you.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Are You Clock-eyed?

Like it or not, it’s Daylight Savings Time (DST) again. As far as I can tell the practice of turning the clock forward one hour began in New Zealand around 1895 and was adopted by Germany and Austria-Hungry in 1916 and has grown to be used in many parts of the world since then. Where I grew up, and parts further north, DST was a welcomed part of the summer months after experiencing sunset about 4:00 all winter. Closer to the Arctic Circle I can definitely see the advantage to more sunshine hours in the awake hours of ones day. Personally, I don’t care if the sun is shining at 5 a.m. or not, but I do enjoy the after work time of several more hours of daylight. The whole purpose of DST in America is to extend the daylight time into the late evening, benefitting those who wish to engage in extra curricular activities during the summer months. Not all of mainland United States participates in DST which tends to make me think the people there are early to bed and early to rise. I don’t know if they are healthy, wealthy and wise, but that might be something to look into some day next winter when I’m sitting in the cold dark. Some people say it messes up their internal clock and the Greek word for that is “hogwash”. If you’re tired, take a nap; go to sleep.

Shortly after he opened his first plant, Thomas Edison noticed that his employees had gotten into a bad habit of watching the factory clock, which was the only clock in the plant. To the indefatigable (tireless) [I had to look it up too and will probably never use this word ever again.] inventor who never thought about how much time a task took, this was incomprehensible. He did not express his disapproval verbally. Instead he had dozens of clocks installed all around the plant. His goal was not to make it easier for his workers to see a clock. He did make sure that no two clocks had the same time and soon the clock watching led to so much confusion that nobody cared what time it was. I’ve been self-employed most of my life and much like a farmer watches the sun and can guess the time with great accuracy, I always had a radio playing in the background and I could tell what time it was by the programming every day. I still use the radio but my cell phone has spoiled me to doing specific tasks at precise times by setting alarms to regulate my day. Ohhh, so much to do, and so little time to do it in.

[Matthew 24:36-51] “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father… Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” I have a suspicion that one reason God does not tell us when the second coming will be is that He knows we are clock-watchers. Just as people were busy thinking about how much time they had left at work until lunch break, so we would be tempted to focus on only getting ready when the time was near. Instead, we are called on to be the people of God every minute of every day - not to get ready - but to be ready. Mature Christians have been “…put in charge of the servants of his household to give them their food (preach to them the gospel) at the proper time… It will be good for the servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.” Sooo many lost souls to save and so little time to do it in.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Band Is Playing

Today is cold and wet, a repeat of several days we have experienced this winter. I sit here thinking and writing, praying I’ll submit something entertaining and worth the time it takes to read it. This sort of weather awakens memories of past winters being experienced by our fellow northern citizens this very winter. I can testify to dealing with snow-fall shoulder deep to a giraffe and using so many no school bad weather days it was the end of June before we were out of school for summer vacation. Well, Uncle Sam moved me out of that region of the U.S. in 1969 depositing me in South Texas where I discovered there was actually somewhere in the world it didn’t snow. I stayed! Call me Yankee if it makes you feel better, but my message is, “Y’all can keep your snow!” Once in forty something years snow has fallen and accumulated to a little over a foot deep, reviving my primal instincts of dealing with it, but oh so happy to see it melting and gone in two days. Been there; Done that; Got the hat; Ain’t going back.

Here is an excerpt from a speech given by former First Lady Barbara Bush at Kennebunk High School in Maine. “We get on board that train at birth, and we want to cross the continent because we have in mind that somewhere out there is a station. We pass by sleepy little towns looking out the windows of life’s train, grain fields and silos, level grade crossings, buses full of people on the road beside us. We pass by cities and factories, but we don’t look at any of it because we want to get to the station. We believe that out there is a station where a band is playing and banners are hung and flags are waving, and when we get there that will be life’s destination. We don’t really get to know anybody on the train. We pace up and down the aisles looking at our watches eager to get to the station because we know life has a station for us. The station changes for us during life. To begin with, for most of us, it’s turning 18, getting out of high school. Then the station is that first promotion and then the station becomes getting the kids out of college, and then the station becomes retirement and then – all too late we recognize the truth – that this side of that city whose builder is God, there really isn’t a station. The joy is in the journey and the journey is the joy. Sooner or later you realize there is no station and the truth of life is the trip. Read a book; eat more ice cream; go barefoot more often; hug a child; go fishing; laugh more. The station will come soon enough. And as you go, find a way to make this world more beautiful.”

[Psalm 30; Psalm 121; Psalm 118] “…his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” “…the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore.” “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” There’s nothing wrong with striving for something in life, but it’s easy to get caught up in trying to reach some milestone. We could become guilty of missing God’s will for our lives by our pursuit of happiness so we need to be careful to not let those pursuits interfere with or override what God wants for us, and from us, as we journey through life. Remember that today is all we really have (James 4:13-16) and we are where we are because the Lord has led us here to serve in His name. It’s His train and he’s the engineer. He switches the tracks and the cars at will for our own good. I’m looking for that station where the band is playing and banners are waving, welcoming me home in glory (Psalm 116:15).