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The atmosphere has always fascinated me. As I sat in the sunshine eating lunch the other day, I noticed the contrast of deep blue to the pine needles of the surrounding pencil straight conifers surrounding the house. A few moments later as I relished my lunch and the opportunity to sit down in the midst of a day of labor, I saw a soaring bird up very high. It appeared black but with no gray wing feathers, which would have identified it has a Turkey Vulture. It could have been a Black Vulture, Golden Eagle, or Raven, though the latter is unlikely that far from the mountains. It wasn’t an Osprey because the wings were too broad. Next I spied a commercial jet very high en route to some far away city. I started. I knew that the deep blue meant low humidity, but here was an airliner with no contrail whatsoever. I made comment to my work partner, and he replied by reminding me we were under a severe fire hazard warning and that Pilot Mountain was even now burning.

For all our efforts to insulate ourselves from the changes and extremes of the atmosphere, we still are waylaid by its sudden and violent outbursts and subtle intensities. Low humidity is certainly the latter of the two, quite enjoyable for the blue skies and warm afternoons but endangering our forests and sometimes homes with the potentialities of dryness.

California is an example where this subtlety all too often becomes an intense extreme. The Chaparral Climate* there is generally dry with rainfall ranging from 10 to 17 inches of rain annually. Most of the moisture falls in the winter, causing the summers to be extremely dry. If that were reversed and the rainfall was in the summer, fires would probably not be a serious problem there. But the shifting ocean current, which is determined by the tilt of the Earth and therefore the Sun exposure, controls when it is wet and dry and there isn’t really a climate with limited rainfall and wet summers. A little less winter moisture than usual and wildfires abound.

I am so thankful for the temperate climate in which I reside. The weather and the woods are most usually friendly with just enough change to draw one’s attention to changing seasons and weather patterns.

Though I bring up these details in retrospect, as I concluded my lunch on that day, I decided to forego the cost/benefit analysis of dry weather and enjoy the day while I labored on. Solomon agreed: “Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.” Ecclesiastes 5:18

*https://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/chaparral_climate.php

The Gathering

For various reasons it was decided that we could get together as a family for Thanksgiving again this year. We enjoy the time together and I hope you will enjoy my pictures at “2021 Thanksgiving and Hike.”

Thankful Praise

Check out my Christmas Cactus.

“Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
Splendid and majestic is His work,
And His righteousness endures forever.
He has made His wonders to be remembered;
The Lord is gracious and compassionate.” Psalm 111:1-4

The giving of thanks, or thanksgiving, is the praise to God for who He is and what He has done. It is appropriate to be done in all circumstances, but particularly “in the company of the upright”, the body of believers, because of the encouraging fellowship of agreement and amen. God’s works proceed out of who He is, so that thanking Him in praise for what He has done is commensurate with praising Him for who He is. His works are the tangible manifestations of His attributes. He is great and we see in all around us and within us who believe.

Have a blessed, praise filled Thanksgiving!

Exclusive Claim

I process my greatest joys and deepest trials and conflicts by writing. I don’t always communicate those on my blog, but here goes.

I was reading as the young couple entered the doctor’s office. Both tall and slender, dressed in black and gray, he walked with a bit of a swagger. I glanced up from my reading and offered for one of them to take a seat as I cleared my personal effects from the chair beside me, mumbling an apology for all my stuff. She bade him to sit down, which he did and turned to me and said, “Hi brother, my name is …”, extending his hand. I returned in kind and we began talking about his first visit to the office. I made a comment about his girlfriend’s (as it turned out) accent, to which he rejoined that she is a citizen of Kazakhstan, later showing me her passport with the Cyrillic lettering. We discussed her native Russian language, homeland, Tartar heritage, and travels.

In the course of the conversation I offered for him to read the first sentence of the book I was reading, published in 1833 but written in 1562, with the warning that the one sentence goes on for a page and a half. Seeing that the sentence was an introduction and authorization by counselors of Queen Elizabeth I under her authority to read the following sermons in the churches in the absence of a proper sermon, it precipitated a spiritual conversation. He commented that he took his girlfriend to church recently, seeming to imply that she had not been before as she thought it was curious. I asked him if he was a believer in Jesus to which he replied yes, and continued by describing his church attendance and regular reading of God’s Word. Now his girlfriend got involved in the conversation. As that progressed she ascertained me that she has a relationship with God. Pressed as to what kind, it quickly became evident that she thought herself god and communed with God and that any sincere belief in God was a path to God. I quoted John 14:6, which says, “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by Me.'” She rebutted that it was a very exclusive claim. “Yes, it is,” I replied. There were many more rejoinders, so I am giving the essence, most intense parts, and highlights only. “So, then you are saying that a Muslim (remember that she is from Kazakhstan) who has never heard of Jesus is doomed to hell.” I replied that many churches are springing up in Muslim and tribal and isolated places all over the world. “You are saying that I am going to hell.” I explained that is what the Bible is saying, for anyone who does not trust Jesus. Jesus is claiming to be the only way to God. “That is a very arrogant statement,” she said, looking me straight in the face. I replied, “I would agree with you if it were just me saying it, but that is what Jesus is saying. I am only the messenger.” She continued with the skeptic’s angle, saying that anyone could know that their way was right, and that there were many ways to God. I rejoined with evidence of the resurrection. “People don’t just rise from the dead.” The boyfriend ended the conversation by interjecting a possible way out, that Jesus was only referring to His immediate audience. I tried to reply with Scripture, but they both lost interest and the moment was ended. He and I trailed off into polite conversation about our mutual love of nature and exchanged contact information for a possible hike together in the future.

Had not several of the workers in the office been close by to hear most of the conversation, it might have ended with that. But I had seen the receptionist glare at me several times during the conversation and leave quite quickly as the conversation died down. In a few minutes the doctor called me aside, instructing me to not ever talk about religion or politics in his office again. What amazed me most was his previous claim that he is a Christian.* The conversation had not been loud, and though we vehemently disagreed, it did not end in ugly words. Had the doctor asked me to be careful about overheard conversations or to take care in how I talk to the people I meet in his office, I could have understood, but for him, claiming to be a Christian, to require me to not talk about God because it would upset some people who were there for healing was shocking to me. Have we become Christians in name only, fearing and revolting at the possibility of confronting people with the truth? He was trying to be forceful to get me to agree to not talk about these subjects. I was just replying “OK”, intending only to acknowledge his words. I may need to go back and clarify that I can not agree to not sharing Christ if the subject should come up. I wish that at that moment I had remembered the reply Peter and John had given to the rulers and elders: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)

Several hours later I was assisting my wife and saw the young woman sitting in a nearby therapy chair. She smiled at me and gave what appeared to be a bit of a wave. I smiled back. After I had helped my wife, I went over and spoke to her, both of us agreeing that we enjoyed meeting each other. She gave no sign of awkwardness or disapproval. Given her total rejection of our discussion about salvation earlier, at least outwardly, I wondered who the conversation had been for: her, her boyfriend, the receptionist, the nurse, the patient assistant, or all of the above.

*I had a friend read this article before I published it, asking if I was out of line or missed something. He cautioned that I needed to see the situation from the doctor’s point of view. Perhaps he had a bad day, or maybe he just wanted to calm his employee who had just complained to him. I then realized that he had gotten the conversation secondhand and not accurately at that.

When the pastor preached from 1 Samuel 1 yesterday morning, I was particularly struck by Hannah’s response to Eli, the High Priest: “Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord. Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.”” (I Samuel 1:14-16) She uses drinking wine as a metaphor for how she is presenting her request to God. As I contemplated this turn of words, I considered how we so often get it backwards.

We pour comfort into ourselves that results in pain when we should pour out our pain before God that results in comfort from Him.

The comforts we seek are drink, drugs, food, sex, attention, things, excitement, accomplishments, money, relationships. Some are bad in and of themselves, but others are not inherently bad, but we sour them by our selfish pursuit of them. Instead, you should be “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) And “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) As the pastor pointed out, what we need most is God. He is our source of peace, even when there is no resolution of the problem, not our comfort food or drink, not a psych evaluation.

The result in Hannah was as follows: “So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” (I Samuel 1:18) Did she just pretend that she was not distraught? Did her troubles vanish in a moment? No, her faith in God that caused her to pour out her spirit to God, had resulted in the comfort from God. She did not even know at that moment if God would answer her request for a child in the affirmative, but she trusted God to do what was best. As pastor pointed out, she was a type for Mary, who had a strange and stressful pregnancy and birth, but trusted God through it all. And when she visited her cousin Elizabeth in Luke chapter 1, Mary quotes or alludes to much of what Hannah prayed in praise to God in 1 Samuel 2, both speaking boldly of God’s salvation.

In my times of stress and strain, I need to pour out my spirit to God concerning my troubles and trials. As Corrie Ten Boom said at the end of the “Hiding Place” that she and Betsy learned from concentration camp to tell others, “However deep our suffering, God is deeper.”

Table Deck

I try to do what the customer asks for. The house is a remodel with new vinyl siding. Attaching the deck to the house would mean putting holes in the new siding and crushing it to the wall. Additionally, he wanted the posts set on concrete footings. I said on, not in. The combination of these two requirements meant a deck with very little lateral stability. To solve this problem I installed twelve diagonal braces with copious numbers of screws. Along with the stairs, the deck ended up quite stable. Check out the pictures at “Table Deck

I am thankful for awareness to perceive the small little wonders that God has placed in my path each day. As Anne of Green Gables said that there is so much “scope for imagination.” But these wonders aren’t pretend. They are real, interesting, and point up. Check out but a few at “Random Wonders“.

Reformation 2021

While the Papists and Heathen celebrate All Hallows Eve, many believers across the world remember Reformation Day when a struggling monk was seeking the truth and setoff a firestorm of changed hearts and minds.

We must all as believers relive times of revival and reformation, for as the nailing of the Ninety-five Theses to the Wittenberg Church door was only a beginning, so our day of salvation and moments of rededication are only beginnings. It is usually at this moment that we quote II Chronicles 7:14 about the the people of God humbling themselves and calling on God’s name or Hosea 6:1 in which we are admonished to return to God. These are worthy of deepest consideration, as we are so often self-deceived about the depth of our walk before God.

But today I call to your attention the words of Daniel 9:3-5: “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.” The church in America and our church specifically has seen a period of barrenness and declension in numbers and depth of spiritual life. We need revival. We need restoration. We need reformation.

It is appropriate that we should sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther on this day. Not only is it appropriate to remember the work of God through a humble monk, but even more so to recall that God can and will overcome the forces of Satan, the world system, and our sinfulness. We need to call on Him to be gracious to work it powerfully in us now, in this day, in our church, in our country, in our hearts.

Man of Sorrows

Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Certainly Psalm 22 conveys Christ’s death in sorrowful and grief ridden detail. It is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament (NT). But He was not esteemed and was despised in His life which increased His sorrows and grief as conveyed by the second most NT quoted Psalm, 69. (1) It is interesting that these two Psalms are the most quoted in the NT. The NT writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit thought it most important that we understand how Jesus fulfilled the role of Suffering Servant and what it means for us.

I should count, but it seems like David is repining and distressed at least as often in the Psalms as he dwells on a “good theme” (Psalm 45:1 (2)) It is obvious from these most NT quoted Psalms that David is acting in the capacity of a prophet concerning the coming Messiah, but also he is simply stressed and strained. (3)

Concerning the prophecy, since so much of Psalm 69 is quoted in the NT as referring to Christ (4), it seems reasonable to think it most all refers to Him. The deep waters that threaten Him in vs.1 and 2 are in deep contrast to the deep thirst He experienced on the cross. What were those deep mire and deep waters that threatened Him? Was it the wrath of God poured out on Him for our sin? And what was He restoring (v.4), other than our relationship with the Father, that He had not stolen? Verse 5 obviously does not apply to the Perfect, Holy One, and you might think that v.6 doesn’t either. But Isaiah says, “Kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth and lick the dust of your feet; and you will know that I am the Lord; Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.” (49:23), and Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (1:16) When we trust in Him, we do not find ourselves ashamed of Him. Death loses its sting and trials have purpose and are ultimately for our good, (James 1:2ff, Romans 8:28)

On the subject of David’s complaint, I wonder at the spiritual battle going on while he was trying to be a righteous king trying to do justice. All of the “dogs” (5) bay and howl when their sinful scavenging is called into question. How were the evil doers blaspheming God concerning His sanctuary that caused David’s zeal to flare up? We know what caused it with Jesus: money changers. People were making up excuses to accuse David. In the midst of these trials, God knows that we are but dust, so we may call out to Him as David did. He called out in complaint. He called out in faith. He called out in praise. He called out in curses upon His enemies. He called out, pleading with God to answer him quickly and decisively.

God knows my frame, too, that I am but dust. I must call out to Him for help with my challenges and problems and weaknesses. For “The humble have seen it and are glad; you who seek God, let your heart revive. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise His who are prisoners.” (Psalm 69:32-33)

  1. http://e-mechanika.pl/ryq4jqn/096575-most-quoted-psalms-in-the-new-testament Psalm 110:1 is the most NT quoted verse in the Psalms.
  2. And Psalm 45 is not even written by David, but the sons of Korah.
  3. In Physics stress is causative applied force and strain is the resulting deformation. Psychophysically we can have stress, troubles and trials, and either be strained, worrying or sick or depressed or complaining, or not.
  4. Verses 3, 4, 9a, 9b, 21, 22-23, and 25 are quoted in the NT. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psalm_69#New_Testament
  5. “Dogs” was a Jewish derogatory term for Gentiles in Jesus’ day, but the insult had a wider meaning for any evil doer (see Isaiah 56:11, Philippians 3:2, Revelation 22:15)

Odds and Ends

I like to build decks, but lately I’ve been the home repair guy. It started with cutting up a tree and felling a massive dead white oak. Then the question came, “Can you fix our rotted second story porch? And we have some doors that won’t shut properly (three to be exact), and can you replace a doorknob? Our kitchen cabinet doors are about to fall off. Can you repair those? Our entryway side walk has drainage problems. I’d say so. It slanted toward the house and there is no where for the water to go. Do you do concrete?

The day the big tree hit the ground a neighbor came out of his basement to see what had happened. He walked out into the street at about the same time I was bringing my chainsaw up to the truck.

“Oh,” says he, “did you just cut down a tree?”

“Yes,” I replied, “It was a big one.”

“It must have be a been,” he chuckled, “because it shook my foundation.”

That introduced me to my next set of jobs: replacing a rotten window sill, repairing rotten corner trim, building and “planting” a mailbox, installing a divider board between kitchen and dining area, replacing an exterior light fixture, repairing a cabinet shelf and door, fixing a lamp, replacing a toilet seat, repairing closet shelving in two closets, repairing a unique (and therefore irreplaceable) and old-school (which means it was made to repair) doorknob, and installing a new skylight in place of a hopelessly fogged and smoked one.

I was told on the final day of installing the skylight that the neighbor is supposed to call me. I wondered if the neighbors had seen me since I was at eye level with their upstairs windows.

Other than my Facebook page, which serves more as a way to show people who are asking what work I’ve done, and occasional business cards that I pass out to people who are curious, I don’t advertise. Word of mouth is keeping me plenty busy.

And I am building a deck now and am supposed to start on another one as soon as this one is done.

If you would like to see a few pictures of the aforementioned odds and ends, then click hereafter.

End of an Era?

I have talked about heating with wood several times over the years of writing this blog. Particularly at this time of year, it is entails a significant input of time, energy, and mental focus. You might wonder why anyone would expend so much energy over the course of 38 years heating their house. In generations past is was, no doubt, a simple necessity of life. It certainly has saved me thousands of dollars in heating bills which I would have struggled to come up with in certain years of the past and always preferred not to spend.

But even more than that, it is a lifestyle. David Thoreau was generous when he said that heating with wood warmed you twice. Cutting, loading, unloading, splitting, stacking, carrying in, starting and maintaining fires, enjoying the heat, carrying out ashes, and cleaning the chimney are a few ways it warms me. I think it probably warms me nearly ten times. Central heat is good, but I don’t know where to go to warm my hands or dry out my wet clothing. And when the blizzard of ’93 hit, we were warm for the 8 days that the power was out and cooked beans and soup while we heated the house. My boys split wood while they were home, but I even participated then. I have been loaned a hydraulic wood splitter thrice that I recall, but never split all of the wood that way for a season. At my latitude the winter is not long or bitterly cold. 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cords of wood is sufficient for the warmest and coldest winters we have. I prefer taking dead wood over cutting live trees and the majority of trees here are oak.

I have gotten to where I can smell what kind of wood is being burned and whether it is wet or green or dried. When the first fire of the season is lit, the smell of dust burning off of the stove brings warm reminiscence of past years. For all of this, the 39th year of heating with wood may be the last. I am not tired of the work and fire making effort. If you had asked me 5 years ago what would cause me to stop heating with wood, I would have said ability and energy to gather it. The real reason now seems to be that all of that smelling of fires, and more specifically chainsaws has had a bad repercussion. Between mowing, weed eating, leaf blowing, and chainsaws I have become “allergic” to combustion products, particularly 2 cycle oil. An hour or so exposure brings on aches and sometimes debilitating joint pains. So, since I haven’t converted over my heat source, still mow and weed eat and blow leaves, I have to wear a organics fume mask. Try working in that on a hot day. And since I don’t sport a Hitler mustache (regulation for gas masks), The seal on the mask is not ideal and I still get some mild ill effects from the fumes. So, check out my latest foray into the woods to cut and split wood here.

I thought as I pulled my truck out of the woods and passed a super duty four door diesel truck that I am thankful to have an old truck that is still functional and being used for what it was designed for. I guess that I like working, even though I want to do it at a slower rate these days. What’s the rush? Of course, there is the need to get wood in the dry before the wet and cold days when very little dries out. I believe I am ahead of that curve this year.

Unexpected Chute

There are few trails in my neck of the woods that I haven’t been on. And when I’m next to a creek, I’m always looking for a cascade or waterfall. A little while back my daughter and I went for a hike on a trail that I determined that I had not been on for perhaps 20 years. We were only gone from the house for 4 hours, but it was such a blessed time. To see the pictures and find out why, click on Hidden Cascade.

In a previous post (My Lord Draws Nigh), I shared my attempt to put a poem by the hymn writer, DW Whittle, to music. Having sung the second verse, my nephew asked me if I would sing the rest so that he could hear how it sounds.

Understanding Mr. Whittle’s words requires a knowledge of Scripture. Specifically, he refers to bells spoken of in Exodus 28:33-35: “You shall make on its hem pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material, all around on its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the hem of the robe. It shall be on Aaron when he ministers; and its tinkling shall be heard when he enters and leaves the holy place before the Lord, so that he will not die.” “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31), so that the priests had to approach an holy God with much reverential fear and caution.

But the text turns this fear to a joy, because our gracious “Heavenly High Priest”, “Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” (Hebrews 7:22) This high priest of Hebrews is superior, as it says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

In the words of Mr. Whittle’s poem I have inserted dashes where two notes are needed to sing the word and braces for words that I have dropped out in the singing because they don’t fit the meter. I believe that these deletions do not significantly change the meaning of the text.

“Swift, with melodious feet,
The midnight hours pass by;
As with each passing bell so sweet,
I think, ‘My Lord draws nigh.’

“I see Hea-ven’s open door,
I hear God’s gracious voice;
I see the blood-washed ’round the throne,
And with them I rejoice.

“It may be – that these sounds
Are [the] golden bells so sweet
Which tell me of the near approach
Of [the] Heavenly High Priest’s feet.

“Not every night is thus;
Some nights with pain are drear.
[Then] I join my moan with crea-tion’s groan
[And] the chimes I do not hear.

“[But] the Lord remains the same;
Faithful He must abide;
And on His word my soul I’ll rest,
For He is by my side.

“Some midnight sleepless saints,
Made quick by pain to hear,
Shall join the glad and welcome cry,
‘The Bridegroom draweth near.’

“Then I shall see His face
His beauteous image bear;
I’ll know His love and wondrous grace,
And in His glory share.

“So sing my soul in praise,
As bells chime o’er and o’er,
The coming of the Lord draws near,
When time shall be no more.”

Major D. W. Whittle died March 4, 1901, at Northfield, Massachusetts.

I am greatly encouraged by courageous Christians of the past and commend to you the reading of biographies of past Christians. I re-watched the movie, “The Hiding Place”, with my wife a few nights ago. Betsy and Corrie ten Boom became deep in the faith because of how they entrusted their very lives to God in the midst of suffering. We may learn much from these faithful ones concerning how to live for Christ. I was struck by two things about DW Whittle’s story: 1) He was so focused on Christ that in the midst of pain that would lead to his death in two weeks, he could compose such deep trust and worship of God, and 2) “In speaking of his hymns he once said, “I hope that I will never write a hymn that does not contain a message — there are too many hymns that are just a meaningless jingle of words; to do good a hymn must be founded on God’s word and carry the message of God’s love.”” (by Jacob Henry Hall). Let us seek to write and speak and sing act in every way based in God’s word with the message of God’s love.

If you would like to hear my singing of this poem to the tune that I wrote, click on My Lord Draws Nigh.

Family Reunion 2021

My oldest brother and his wife decided to have a big family reunion of both sides of their family. They had planned to have it at their house where many years of Thanksgiving gatherings have occurred. Those gatherings had brought upwards of 30 people, but this one garnered replies of attendence from 70+, threatening to overwhelm their residential infrastructure. They had rented an event tent for the occasion, but that fell through. Their youngest son acquired permission for them to have it at their church. It was best that it happened that way. It was roomy and quite nice.

My wife and I headed out on Friday morning, going to a doctor’s appointment on the way to Knoxville. We met two of our sons and their families at Austin’s Steak and Homestyle Buffet in Knoxville for an early celebration of my wife’s birthday. What better gift than seeing six grandchildren, two sons, and two spouses. It was all you could eat and I was up to the task, filling 4 plates and concluding with two more partially filled.

The morning of the reunion, my wife got together with her four sisters. With me and two brother-in-laws, we had a mini-reunion. Seven of us went out for lunch at a Mexican restaurant, sitting outside under cover with pleasant breeze. It was so encouraging to hear my brother-in-law pray over the meal, not just for the food but for the physical and spiritual well-being of family members. After many years of atheism he came to Christ in his early 70’s. I was among many who prayed for him over the years. Keep praying for those loved ones. Importune God based on His grace to save those around you and be bold to share your life and the Gospel.

The big reunion started around 2 PM. People trickled in and children took up playing GaGa Ball. Including children, my count of attendees at the Francis-Whaley Family Reunion was 51. We met people, set-up, re-acquainted, caught up, played kickball, ate, ate some more, learned family history, reminisced, perused family histories and photos, talked some more, took down, and cleaned up. In one real sense, that’s all we did, but that doesn’t communicate the feelings and emotional connections that were made and strengthened which constitute family. It occurs to me that pictures, though better at conveying those connections, still fall short. I guess you just have to have been there. So, the next time it happens, come along. Concerning the pictures, you can see those at Francis-Whaley 2021.

During the kickball game, I was running to second base and trying to slide so I wouldn’t be put out. My oldest nephew scooped up the ball and smashed it into my face and close range. Impulse and heat of the moment he called it, but in a bit of rebound I’m reminding him that it was just a friendly family game of kickball. My niece reminded me that it couldn’t be a Francis family gathering without me getting hurt. Over those many years of Thanksgiving gatherings we would play touch football, and given my personality, I don’t really play half-heartedly, so her comment was justified. I guess my nephew is of the same tribe.

The Whaley family tree stretches back quite a ways, verifiable back to Charlemagne. So does the my mother’s family Shelton, though we are missing a few generations of making that connection to my family. Oh well, we are all connected to Noah and Adam. And more importantly my wife and I and our five children are part of the family of God. We will just keep praying for those grandchildren.

“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8

Consequently, don’t be surprised when God accomplishes His will in what seems like to you a totally novel and unexpected way. Consider the following description of what God accomplished through Paul:

“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” Philippians 1:12-18

So, you see, a seeming hindrance to the Gospel God used as an advancement of the Gospel. And Paul “want[s] them to know” (v.12), not because He is bragging, but always because he wants them to be encouraged about God’s glory in His character and works (provision, guidance, enabling, etc). The result for the hearers would be faith rather than fear.

Paul’s “circumstances turned out” (v.12) is not an admission of fortune (luck) or coincidence but a declaration of providence, which is “divine guidance or care” (Merriam-Webster). God carries out what He designs to do according to His Word (Isaiah 55:8-11) and for His people: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

The enemies of God tried to silence Paul by false accusations concerning desecrating the temple by bring Gentiles inside and inciting riots (Acts 24:5-9: Tertullus before Felix). The result for Paul when he wrote Philippians was house arrest in Rome for two years, always chained to a Roman soldier. The result that God brought about for the Gospel and the people of God was two-fold. Firstly, Paul had a captive audience with the chained soldiers and others who could come and go. This situation exposed the Praetorian Guard assigned to guard him and Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22) to the Gospel which may not have happened otherwise. Secondly, believers who heard of God’s protection of Paul, Paul’s boldness, and people being saved, were encouraged and emboldened to share the Gospel in the face of difficulty. Paul later said in 2 Timothy 2:8-9, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.” The Gospel cannot be stopped, even if Christians are silenced, imprisoned, or killed.

We think that God saves in a certain way, but He is sovereign in salvation and may accomplish an individual’s salvation by many, varied, and frequently unexpected means. “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife” (v.15). What these people meant as a distressing situation for Paul, he instead saw as assistance in spreading the Gospel. It reminds me of the Proverbs: “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” (16:1), “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (16:9), and “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.” (19:21) God’s counsel overcomes men’s plans in order to accomplish His will. Jesus confirmed a similar situation to His disciples: “John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” Even the best of preaching is a form of foolishness for Paul says, “ For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (I Corinthians 1:21) That does not mean that well-studied, well-intentioned, and well-delivered preaching of the Gospel is not valuable and not used of God, but only that man’s best is far short of God’s glory.

I glean two encouragements from this passage: 1) Even when everything seems to not go well and even appears to be a failure, God is not hindered from accomplishing His purposes, and 2) I am humbled because God is gracious to use me and pleased when I obey, but He does not need me and my best efforts do not impress Him.

Ginger Snap Cascade

Some people cherish the opportunity to hang out, lay around, not do much. I do when I am incredibly tired, but otherwise I prefer to be active. Lately that has been difficult because of my lower back. However, firstly, it is getting better, and secondly, though any lifting, twisting, fast movements, or long strides are out, walking actually makes it better. Today my youngest son ask me to go canoeing. Nope! that involves lifting a canoe and twisting to paddle. How about a hike? Yes, I can do that. So while he was on his way to pick me up, I went to pick up two ladders I had loaned out and pick up a few things at the grocery store next door. I had loaned the ladders out to the local climbing gym (Bigfoot Climbing Gym) for a route setting clinic While there I saw a very interesting climbing hold (Click on link below for pictures.).

My son likes to hike for solitude. Today it was not to be. We hiked down a section of the Mountain to Sea Trail on a gravel road and then down into the woods. We passed 15 mountain bikers and then a refreshment station for a 50k race. Soon afterwards we began passing runners/walkers both coming up to the station turn around and back away from it. When we cut down the trail, it was part of the race course, too. Oh well, everyone was polite and busy.

At one point I spied a possible cascade through the underbrush. I asked my son if he’d like to check it out. Being on Ginger Cake Creek, I suggested the name Ginger Snap Cascade. My son said he might come and camp there sometime where there was a campsite across the creek. There was a decent little swimming hole at the base of the rock and a nice place to lie down in the water at the top. The woods and underbrush were thick and there was only a little sky visible overhead. And that began to get dark and a breeze kicked up. So, we decided to turn back before the afternoon thunderstorm arrived. We probably hiked less than 5 miles, but it was a good leg stretcher with a nice little reward at the turn around point and good conversation throughout. The temperature and humidity hearkened to more Autumnly feel. It was good to get out again. I am once again thankful to be able to come back from health difficulties. Sometimes it is hard to do so, but the rewards in health, being able to stay active, and well-being make the effort worth it. God has been good to me in my health even through the downturns.

Click here to see the pictures.

My Lord Draws Nigh

My oldest brother sent out a family email with a link (Major DW Whittle) and a “hope they will encourage you…” concerning the last words penned by D.W. Whittle, who wrote some 200 hymns. Well they did indeed encourage me for reasons of knowing at present a minor bit of the pain from which he must have written these faith filled words and his focus on heaven and God’s presence then and now. But I was also challenged by the words, “The last words he wrote have never been set to music.” I determined the meter to be 6, 6, 8, 6. I looked in one of my hymnbooks and did not find a tune that fit the words. There was not an exact match of the meter to this this poem, but even if there had been, tunes don’t always fit the syllable emphases. So, foolish neophyte songwriter that I am, I wrote my own tune. Singing it through, I realized that the first line needed an eighth note couplet for differing phrasing in different verses. Then I realized that in three of the lines Mr. Whittle had not been so exact in his number of syllables. In one of these the eighth note couplet took care of it, but in verse 4 I could find no other way to fit the words to the tune than to eliminate two words and add two tied eighth notes that are used in this verse. The deletions I made don’t significantly change the meaning and are shown in parentheses below. Still, line 3 has 9 syllables so “cre-a” in “creation’s” is divided into the two eighth notes.

“Not every night is thus;
Some nights with pain are drear.
(Then) I join my moan with creation’s groan
(And) the chimes I do not hear.”

If somehow my tune might introduce this encouraging poem to singing it for some number of Christians, it would have been well worth the effort. It was worth it anyway as I reflected on God’s goodness to me communicated through the words and sang about it.

My Lord Draws Nigh tune is a link to the melody written and a short mp3 file of me singing the second verse. Enjoy and be encouraged by considering the goodness and nearness of our God.

On this Labor Day, after chores were done and the moderate heat of afternoon had come, I decided to take a walk. Having focused too much on circumstances and societal ills recently, I was reminded by hymns and prayer and preaching of the Word and reading of the Scriptures and fellowship with brothers and sisters yesterday that I needed to once again renew my perspective in things that are “true, …honorable, …right, …pure, …lovely, …of good repute, …any excellence and …worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). As I began my walk, parts of my body aching, the sun heating*, and my thoughts melancholy, I told God that I wanted His peace and joy. In fact, I pleaded, “I needed Your peace; I need Your joy.” As I thought about why, the following words began to come:

I need Your peace; I need Your joy
Though trials come and storms destroy
Forever on this hope depend
That I am Yours; You will defend**

This world with sorrows ever bent
To rob our joy to full extent
Broken relationships and plans
Beg for a healing from Your hand

Your purposes are hard to see
Sense of security can flee
I on this confidence rely
My soul will to You upward fly

My health and body will decay
Unless suddenly in a day
And some loved ones before me go
We saints ever with You, I know

So frequently with sin beset
With worries frequently I fret
Temptations against me array
Through Your Word and Spirit I pray

And by these means I overcome
And more like Jesus I become
More victory through You I win
And peace and joy in You begin

I am so apt to be drawn to the difficulties of any situation and must constantly place before my mind, my eyes, my ears, and my heart the eternal truths of God’s grace in salvation, past, present, and future. I am thankful that “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14) And even more so that “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3) My hope, our hope, is in Him.

A writing note about the order of the verses. If you number the verses as seen, 1 – 6, the original order as written was 1,2,,3,5,6,4. I cannot decide if the beginning of peace and joy should be the end or if the order would better be 1,2,4,5,3,6 so that heaven is last. If you care to think about it, I would appreciate some feedback.

.

*for which I had come out for a “therapeutic sweat”

**”I am Yours whom You will defend” was how I originally wrote the line, and I think it may more clearly communicate the intent, but “That I am Yours; You will defend” seems to fit the meter and flow better.

Adventure Climbing

Adventure Climbing was until recently an odd term to me. What climbing is not adventuresome?

My last day out changed my mind about that a bit. If you go to a crag where the climbs have a well worn and relatively short approaches, are bolted, well chalked, cataloged, described, and frequented, that is not adventure climbing. Conversely, if you lose the approach trail multiple times because it is fully grown over, the way is steep and sketchy, the climb you intended to do is flowing with water and you select another climb with little description and no familiarity, one pitch’s crux is wet and another requires going around extensive wet rock, the heat is challenging, and you are not sure if you will find placements for protection or your stashed packs at the top, that seems more like adventure climbing.

Well, I am generally up for a challenge and an adventure, so we had a good day. I am thankful to God for affording us good weather, safety, and good challenge.

If you want to see some pictures of the adventure, click on Dirty Corner.

Tight Place

Recently I wrote an entry entitled of “Fear or Faith?” I had seen a picture of one of the boards that I needed to replace which was rotten and cracked. At the moment I stepped down into the hole that was the entrance to the crawl space, I had a sudden jolt of panic. I have worked in very tight crawl spaces in the past, and when I was young I used to spelunk.

At the moment of panic, the man I was working for was surprised and reminded me of a long past adventure that I had told him about years ago. On an underground adventure I explored a set of side passages off of the main entrance room of the cave. My partner, in years to come a MAF pilot, decided that the entrance to the passage looked too small. It turned out that was not the problem. Unlike the rest of the cave which was mostly one room about the size of a three car garage, these small passages were a labyrinth of parallel and perpendicular passages. After a time, I had exhausted the directions I seemed to be able to go and my interest in them. I began to attempt to retrace my course to the exit, but could not remember the route or gain the entrance. I periodically had been conversing with my friend about what I was finding. Now I told him that I was confused and that he should keep talking so that I could come to his voice. One or two turns of crawling and I could see the light of his headlamp. It was at this moment that we both realized that there was more than one entrance to this labyrinth and that I had come to a different one. The second discovery was more disconcerting. The opening looked too small for my slight 150 lbs to shinny through. He told me to go to the other entrance. I replied that I had no idea how to get there. So, I put my arms above my head and acted like a worm. I discovered something else about myself. At this juncture in my life, my hips were a larger circumference than my chest. My hips became stuck. In this position I could neither move forward nor backwards. I began to breathe faster. My friend and I both knew that panic would only cause my body to swell. He talked me down and began pulling the pants and my flesh through the hole. It was for me a tense several minutes. The entrance was only feet away and sunlight never seemed so warm and inviting.*

So, my recent below floor crawl fest was not exceptional in some respects, but it was tight and there was potential for harm. I had to dig out a place for my shoulders and hips so that I could turn on my side to work. I successfully corrected the floor problem and was able to jack it to within 1/4″ on 4′ from level. The floor resisted any further leveling and closing of the gap between counter and tile on the wall. I think that it was because the wall was rising with the floor. Being a two story house, that quickly maxed out the two car jacks I was using. To see how tight the space was click on “Tight“.

I am so, so thankful for God’s mercies in various kinds of tight places. He gives me peace in the midst of panic, security in shocking situations, and direction in desperate need.

  • There, I told you. I have told very few people that story in full until now.
Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains