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Red, …, and Blue

The transition of power has occurred. We look forward with hope or dread or some ambiguous go between.

With all of the wrangling and division that has gone on, politics is about the last thing you want to read about right about now. But I kept having a thought run through my head during all of the insanity: This reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book, “One fish Two fish Red fish Blue fish”.

“One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish,
Black fish, Blue fish, Old fish, New fish.
This one has a little car.
This one has a little star.
Say! What a lot of fish there are.
Yes. Some are red, and some are blue.
Some are old and some are new.
Some are sad, and some are glad,
And some are very, very bad.
Why are they sad and glad and bad?”

Was Dr. Seuss only talking about differences in people or was he also making a political statement?

Well, “One fish…” was published in 1960, the year I was born. The present color scheme for Elephants and Donkeys solidified in the 2000 presidential election. So, no, Dr. Seuss was not being prophetic about politics.

But “why are they sad and glad and bad?” Politics is broken in America. Many, not all, are “very, very bad”. Contrary and contradictory worldviews have separated us into camps so that we don’t even know how to understand each other, let alone want to. There is very little talk about what God would have us to do that would work. And since He knows best, this lack of acknowledgement and seeking of His counsel will spell disaster, even if ever so slowly. There is non-stop wrangling about how the other side is stupid or trying to cheat or lie into power (see my blog called “The Basis of Civil Debate”). The words “public servant” are used but the idea and the sacrifice are missing.

So we have red fish and blue fish all living in the same pond trying to eliminate the other population in a feeding frenzy brought on by the very, very bad blood in the water and fear mongering croakers and immoral snappers dragging us down. The only hope for clearing the waters so that various stripes of fish can live in this habitat is a return to the ecologically sound living of repentance and acknowledging the Caretaker, Creator God.

Repair the Supports

I could be talking about the underpinnings of society, but that seems to be going no where at the moment. So, I’ll just talk about a recent deck repair that I did.

Two of the posts had significant bows due to warping at a knot or knots. The first one pictured is the worst since a crack goes almost all the way through the two knots on either side. Gravity is persistent and will overcome any imbalance eventually. For that reason I hand pick all lumber when I am building a deck and take back boards that are not looking like they will go the distance. Nothing is permanent and decks can be expected to last 20 to 30 years depending on how often you stain it, the quality of the original boards, maintenance, and how it was designed.

Here is it close up. I should have shown the other side so you could see how serious the problem was to the structure of the post.

The other one looked as follows. If the grain at the top of the knot split to combine the two cracks, the post would not be far from gone.

The first step was to install a temporary support. A few posts from a previous job and my trusty persuasional tool (sledgehammer) served the purpose well. I hammered the temporary up to plumb, allowing you to see just how bowed the post was.

The next step was cutting the post off and rigging a way to pulled it out of the concrete slab. The slab was added after the house and deck were built, so they poured it around the posts. My car and truck jacks worked slowly but surely.

I was surprised how shallow the post was set. The aluminum plate, badly corroded, was sitting on gravel in the hole whereas these plates were usually used to set posts on concrete. There was not too much cracking of the concrete.

I filled the hole with concrete and inserted a “J” bolt that would later secure the bottom plate.

Two days later I installed the new posts. You can see in the background that I had not yet installed the second post.

A post whose bottom can dry out will last much longer.

Next I went around and clamped together joists which had warped and separated and screwed or bolted them together as needed. Some just looked ugly and others presented possible structural problems.

That does not look good from a structural standpoint. I had to jack up the left joist a bit to clamp and screw it together.

This one looks bad but is well supported so I don’t believe it caused a real problem.

However, real or perceived, I was tasked with fixing it.

My father would always say that there was nothing better than a nut and lock washer. I have a son and son-in-law, who are Materials Joining Engineers, who would likely differ. At any rate, I must not have quite learned the lesson. However, in my defense, I find that a flat washer crushed slightly into wood works quite well.

Decks And Such (https://facebook/decksandsuch), be the job small or large, fixes the prob lem (prob-><-lem -> problem) and gets the results.

I am pleased to thank God for the strength and experience to work in this way and the flow of work that has begun in 2021. When work slacked up in December, I became concerned, but it was all part of the plan. I had back problems soon afterwards that prevented me from working. As soon as that subsided, the work started coming again. We can depend on God to provide; we need to trust Him even when things get lean.

1:12

1 to 12 is the maximum steep ratio of rise to run for a handicap ramp, which means that for every 1 inch the ramp needs to rise it must have 12 inches or a foot of run. I needed to build a ramp up onto a porch 29 inches above the gravel driveway. Following is my solution for the limited space available. It is a very little slope that feels almost like walking on the flat.

I had to double the joists at both ends of the eleven foot span. Notice in later pictures that one of the occupants began washing the siding. It looks so much better now. I also had to reroute the downspout and extend it to again reach the drain pipe it had not been draining into recently. The little details matter.

Notice the tar at ground level. Even though treated wood is rated for below grade (underground use), I have noticed numerous times that it does not particularly rot below grade but does at ground level where it mildews and grows algae prolifically. I do all of the posts with a good quality tar, too. I did not run the deck all the way to gravel so that I would run a mound of gravel to redirect water which was washing out near the foundation. Some little details are not so little.

I detest wasting material. The lumber yard didn’t have 10′ decking boards that I wanted so I had to cut off nearly 3′ of board that was not long enough to use on the 4′ wide ramp. I used some of the scrap for erosion control. A little scrap is a big deal- don’t waste!

I was pleased with the result and so was the homeowner. She gets up and down easily now. The little things make it worth doing a good job.

Classic Pine woodgrain that almost looks like plywood. Would you notice such a little thing?

This turn was the most challenging part of the railing, but it sure makes it sturdy. Notice that the siding is cleaner. Turning every board so that the good side shows takes a little extra effort, but it reaps big benefits in appearance.

Based on what I just said about turning the boards, can you imagine how many knots I hid? The little detail that should also be considered when selecting the side up is the crown or dip of the board. Lumber is cut out of a more or less cylindrical trunk. The grain curves in the board. If the crown is down, the board will bow with a dip in the middle across its width. This can hold water on a flat surface and increase deterioration.

The day is nearing an end and I have a little clean up to do before I talk to the homeowner and head for the house. Another project completed for Decks And Such (www.facebook.com/decksandsuch).

A Random Day

I share a random day in my little town. Actually, the following pictures are a composite of several days. I like to take walks in my neighborhood. It’s my constitutional, a time to think and decompress, and I always look for something new, be it ever so small.

I went out early to go to a jobsite. The Eastern sky was aflame.

After work I went for a walk. The head welder at a nearby muffler shop finds time for more creative uses of his talents than muffling exhaust. A quick Google search in images informs me that other people are doing this kind of thing, but I see some real creativity in these “Tin Man” models. This lady, out for the day shopping, was the welder’s first attempt.

Sponge Bob and friends came next. The color really adds something to the art.

My favorite part of the boy is his skateboard, which I think is made from a catalytic converter.

The wry grin, copper corded beard, and fretless electric guitar are quite the sight. The alien looks like something straight out of Star Wars. I like his manifold pants.

Brenda the Good Witch or the Wicked Witch of the West?

Rudolph parked in the corner for next season.

Simple decorations for the Advent Season are the most appealing to me.

Cascade Park is a quiet little piece of woods in the middle of town. Different seasons, temperatures, and flow make it worth coming to see many times over. It is a good urban space to take first time visitors to when you go for a short walk.

Each type of tree has its own form of crown, which if not disturbed by trimming reveals the species. Pitch Pine is a well shaped tree.

Southern Magnolia was originally only native to the Gulf Coastal Plain. Now it is an ornamental all over the South. Since it can live and compete successfully in all of the growth zones, why didn’t it? I suggest it is evidence that the period since the Flood has not been so long. Starting from some few plants it spread over the deep South but didn’t make it any further in the time allotted. It is easy to see why Dogwood is an understory tree. They don’t get much larger than the one pictured.

Oaks trees are ubiquitous in this part of the country. But which of the 15 likely varieties is this treeform? It certainly is of the redoak rather than whiteoak grouping. It is quite large with a spread crown so it is likely Southern Red Oak, Black Oak, or Northern Red Oak.

I took this picture for three reasons. Firstly, you can see that the hour is past midday and the low angle winter sun never shown on the heldover snow. Secondly, the front porch canopy is unique and nice. Thirdly, the old fashion window awnings are a Southern touch to keep out the hot summer sun.

Long may it fly and what it symbolizes stand. “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Thomas Jefferson

In order to highlight our town’s diversity, the local business commissioned this mural on the side of the local climbing gym. I shows a very Latin American woman in a very Western North Carolina habitat.

I could do a whole blog entry or two on the local architecture. I love big porches. This house also has local fame because a former president sat on the porch during a campaign rally.

Genuine randomness here. Did you know that the color of the hydrant cap reveals the flow rate it can generate so that the firefighters know what they have available?

Red: 500 gallons per minute Orange: 500 to 999 gpm

Green: 1,000 to 1,499 gpm Blue: 1,500 gpm or greater

Also, did you ever consider that hydrants have not changed form substantially for a century?

The sky alight with setting sun and condensation trails is an interesting sight.

A walk by the river at dusk is always pleasant, even though it can be quite chilly this time of year. Cold drainage and moisture from the river seem to make the cold penetrate more.

This is proof that old dogs can learn new tricks. In fact, I really like the new garlic press that got online. It is soooo much simpler to clean.

I hope you may have as nice of random days as I have. I am so very busy and blessed and challenged.

Celebrating 61

I worked on a deck project for about half of the day before my son and his wife came for lunch. I thought we would be sitting around and talking, but he declared that he, his wife, and his brother had planned a hike for the afternoon. I asked to come along for what was a surprise outing on my birthday.

My youngest son decided that he wanted to enter the woods downstream of the main parking lot. The lower lot was full so we had to walk down the road a bit to get to where we wanted to begin on the trail.

I guess they didn’t want their picture taken.

For a change of pace we did the usual trail to the falls backwards, hiking up the long, steep, old logging road to a point above the falls. On the way up there is one small view of the waterfall, which was further obscured by fog this day. The backlighting of the fog caused outlines around twigs in the following picture- odd.

High Shoals Falls through twig and mist

Fog precludes panoramic views but it quietens and narrows the woods down to a more introspective view.

I think that my earth tones blend well with the trunks and leaves.

Sometimes bridges are provided which helps when the water is up and cold. This has been another year of excessive rain, so clogged and sand lined creeks are common.

There is always something foreboding about the top of a waterfall.

Most rock can hold its own weight up, so what level of forces are needed to crack boulders in this way and what supplied it?

The following picture has a number of curious elements. Check out the lower trunk on the small tree a the right. What happened to cause that? The moss testifies to the fact that this area is always wet, not just during a damp fog. The couple are frame perfectly, observing nature, and yet seem out of place somehow. There has been much slippage for these boulders to lie just so. The noise and action of a waterfall never ceases to grab our attention, but there is so much more going on if we look closer.

The splash zone of this waterfall and rapids below is quite large so there are plenty of Hornworts, Liverworts, Mosses, and Ferns. Check out the Doghobble at the right.

We came across some friends, all girls: a mother, 4 daughters, and 2 cousins.

Watching over the brood

There is plenty of Doghobble and Rhododendron, too.

We took a new side trail to a small waterfall as well.

Above the waterfall

River rocks are so good at revealing the geology above their resting place. Though colorful in variety, they speak loudly of the regional metamorphism that shaped these mountains.

My young friend took the following pictures. She is improving regularly in her framing and composition of her photographs. I wear the sunglasses on my head out of habit even when there is little hope of the fog clearing.

I did not expect a hike on my birthday. I mused later that God is good in the little details as well as the big. I enjoyed the day with a few of my children.

I want to give glory to God for my brother and sister-in-laws’ Golden Anniversary. The following is a tribute to their faithful union enabled by God’s faithfulness in theirs lives. So many of my memories of those years are deeply personal, but with a slight bit of vagueness, making it public seems no breech of trust to me.

As I consider the blessing of your 50 years of marriage, I know that your commitment to God resulting in your commitment to each other and God’s work and in and through you has brought about much blessing for others. I am one example of that. It seems that one of my characteristics is that of having been a struggler, sometimes because of poor choices and other times just as the result of life in this world. Through all of that you have supported, encouraged, counseled, and prayed for me and my loved ones. Whether it was teaching me to throw a baseball or strengthen relationships in my life, you have helped me repeatedly.

As a brother in blood and in Christ, you have always encouraged and supported me. I think perhaps you saw that in my struggling that I desired to do what is right though with much floundering and confusion at times. You quietly helped in any way that you could. You performed the marriage ceremony uniting me to my lifelong partner and counseled me in relationships within my family. We enjoyed the outdoors together and reveled in the truth of God’s Word and truth of His creation of all things in the way that He said it happened. You opened your home and helped me financially and many times offered to.

Your testimony to God’s love is strong. You came along and did not merely own your husband, but owned his family as your own. As we have agreed, we are as big sister and little brother. As sister-in-law and sister in Christ, you have always been a great support to me and my family. You have brought much encouragement to our struggling family and provision and laughter to our gatherings. You have not been afraid on occasion to say bluntly that I was pursuing a wrong course. I know you have prayed for me and you are ever an affectionate sister. We enjoyed discussions of wildflowers and trees and singing of hymns.

Because, as you have said, you have put Christ first in your lives and in your life, your union these 50 years has been a blessing to me and to many. It is and will reap deep benefits to your children and grandchildren for generations to come. This is what we mean by a godly heritage. As the psalmist said of Israel, “God blesses us, that all the ends of the earth may fear Him.” (Psalm 67:7) Your marriage is and will be a blessing as you run this race well to the end.

Forever Raise

Listen closely! The heavenly messengers melodically announcing ‘High praise for the weightiness of the freshly arrived sovereign.’

You know that as “Hark the herald angels sing. Glory to the Newborn King!” My interpretation of the excellent poetry of Charles Wesley is pedantic but also calls attention to the meaning of the phrase. This hymn of the season is my favorite. I like it so much because of its dense theology. There is nothing trivial or lightly thought out about it and it demands thought to understand which raises high praise for God’s work in Christ on our behalf.

It had been my intention to discuss the “dense theology” of this beloved hymn, which I will do at another time. This morning as I contemplated its meaning other praise came to my mind. It is not so dense in content but it is of some value I hope:

Oh, that more praise were lifted up
That more souls of salvation’s cup
Would drink and raise their voice in song
Harmonize with heavenly throng

For God is worthy of all praise
Loud shouts and quiet voice we raise
That more may know His holiness
And live for Him in righteousness

A God transcendent above all
Yet stoops to save us from the Fall
His Son in flesh to recue man
Christ’s death brought life, a gracious plan

Creating all was just a start
Sustaining it in every part
Reversing corruption of sin
Those who trust Him, He now calls kin

We see His goodness in this life
Not despite but in midst of strife
We by His Spirit overcome
Submit to His rule and kingdom

All things His power and beauty show
The heavens and all things that grow
Design complex and delicate
Ever studied, how intricate

His Word reveals all we must know
To serve Him well and in Him grow
His peace and joy will through us flow
The world His praise and glory show

All our worship to God should be
From a heart that has been set free
In spirit and truth ever praise
His name and works forever raise

Joy to the World

It is time for a seasonal entry. I start off with a little “bah-humbug”, but hang with me, because is is short.

I have long been disturbed by the a phrase in the third verse of the Advent hymn, “Joy to the World”:

“No more let sins and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground.”

As if we could prevent these problems or as if they will be quelled this side of His second advent. And yet, by the power of the Spirit, we can and should reduce sins (1 Corinthians 10:13), and that will reduce sorrow (Proverbs 13:15). But deceivers will go from bad to worse (2 Timothy 3:13) and the world problems will increase (Matthew 24:7-8). The post-millennial view (1) that things will improve until Christ’s return just does not fit Scripture (Matthew 24-25 and many others). Thorns, both literal and spiritual, will increase. (Isaiah 51:6, Jude 1:14-15)

So how do I sing this verse? In times past I have hummed this line, but I realized last evening that the majority of this hymn is about the Second Advent. Consider Psalm 98 from which Isaac Watts is said the have been inspired to write the hymn. It concludes, “For He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.” (verse 9) Yes, we received our King with the Magi as vanguard, in our hearts individually as believers, and intermittently in various societies, but the level of fulfillment of His reign herein sung about occurs during the time of the Second Advent.

That being the case, I will sing this song with renewed and greater joy this season because celebration of the First Advent should always point to the Second.

“Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.” (2)

  1. 3 Views on the Millennial Kingdom | Christopher L. Scott3 Views on the Millennial Kingdom – Christopher L. Scott (christopherscottblog.com)
  2. Isaac Watts, 1739

Kindness and Truth

 “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, so that you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4

There resides deep within our collective thinking a dichotomy that somehow there is a separation between love (or kindness) and truth. The word dichotomy comes from the Greek and means literally “to cut in two”. This implies that love and truth are mutually exclusive, that is to say, the only thing they have in common is that they have nothing in common. You know this in daily conversation. “Oh, she’s just a bleeding heart liberal who couldn’t see the truth as plain as the nose on her face.” Or “He is just bullheaded (1) and unkind and only cares about the facts.” “She thinks she knows so much, but doesn’t care a bit about people’s feelings or how much people are being hurt.” “He is gullible but such a helpful and friendly guy.” We evaluate churches and ministries in a similar way. “I love that church. They are so caring and help people regardless of their lifestyle or beliefs.” “They uphold the truth but there’s no spirit in their worship.”

I see four possibilities here: 1) Kindness and truth are two different concepts with two different ways of applying them to life. 2) There is a societal dichotomy in thinking, speech, and action surrounding kindness and truth. 3) Personal perspectives and biases cause us to see a dichotomy in kindness and truth where there isn’t one. Or 4) there is no dichotomy apart from our misunderstanding and application of these two concepts.

Even with all of the biases of perception, it is obvious that there are significant differences in how people do life, and some lean toward kindness more than truth and others toward truth over kindness. But are these two concepts poles apart or two sides of the same coin? Have we misunderstood what they are and how to apply them in our lives? I try to find answers to my questions in Scripture, which communicates the truth and love of God. Let’s look at some things it says.

Proverbs 3:3-4 says, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, so that you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” The verses are explaining that both are important and should go together in your clinging to them. You should take both to the seat of your emotions and will and make them visible in how you do life. God will be pleased and you will gain a good reputation with people even if you don’t always please everyone.

Romans 3:24-26 “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” I see truth in His righteousness and being just. I see kindness in His grace and being our Justifier. There would be no need or love of His kindness if there was no truth and He was not just. There would be no need or love of His truth if there was no kindness to rescue us and restore us to that truth.

Psalm 145:17 “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.” Only He could pull off both at the same time. That is what “just and the justifier” means in the previous verse.

Psalm 116:5 “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.” Righteous means “morally right”, which then is based on truth. Compassionate means feeling and showing concern for others, which is based in kindness toward others.

Psalm 5:4 “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You.” Wickedness and evil necessitate a right and good, which means there is moral truth. But we see here and in the Luke verse below that because of God’s goodness, He acts kindly and rejoices over sinners who turn away from wickedness.

Luke 15:10 “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” God loves those who love truth. He knows you cannot pay the price for your sin, but He does require that you admit to guilt before Him and call on Him to save and change you.

Micah 7:20 “You will give truth to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old.” There it is, the strongest most straightforward statement that truth and love are merely two sides of the same coin. Hebrew parallelism (2) helps us to expand our concept of truth and our concept of love. They are part of each other. The reference to Jacob and Abraham, both mean their descendants, the nation of Israel. (3) When God gives one, He is giving the other.

II John 1-6 “The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.” Truth and love are intertwined and of equal standing and part and parcel of one another. Love is to obey truth; truth is to embrace love.

I Corinthians 13:4,6 “Love…does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” Love is not merely a warm fuzzy feeling. It is a way of thinking about what is right and true and therefore best for someone with whom love is felt and expressed in words and actions.

Ephesians 3:19   “…and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” This love of Christ does not mean that knowledge is useless by comparison, but rather there is a higher knowledge, loving Christ.

Colossians 2:2-3 “…that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”   The love that is knitting their hearts together is resulting in full knowledge.

These verses make a very strong case for kindness and truth being inseparable concepts. They are not the same but are like two sides of coin, facing in opposite directions, holding equal value, and part of one another. That being the case, what can we do about the tendency to treat them as mutually exclusive?

We pursue them equally. It is not loving to allow someone to continue in ignorance or wickedness. Supporting evil in society that is clearly counter to the truth of the Word of God is not loving and tolerant. It is wicked and unloving. Jesus did not say to woman caught in adultery, ‘I know your upbringing and circumstances were difficult so I forgive you of your sinful lifestyle that you continue in because you can’t help it.’ Rather “Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) They both knew she had sinned, but Jesus extended forgiveness for repentance (“sin no more”). This does not mean we excuse wickedness and that there are no consequences for evil acts. It means we work with people who are repentant to live through and above the consequences. It is not truthful to overlook people’s needs and pleas just because you can or the law supports you in it. Have compassion and empathy in feeling and action. It will reveal deeper truth and benefit the recipient and benefactor. 

  1. not the term usually used but I don’t repeat the ones that are
  2. Hebrew Parallelism – The Christian Researcher provides a very good article on this concept.
  3. The context assures us that this refers to the people of God- Micah 7:14: “Shepherd Your people with Your scepter” and 7:20: “Which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old.”

Harsh Teacher

We don’t enjoy harsh teachers, but we can learn from them nonetheless. “But it isn’t fair”, “such a teacher shouldn’t be allowed”, and “we must do everything in our power to rid the system of such teachers”. Unless of course the teacher has tenure with no intention of retiring any time soon.

Pain is just such a teacher. Now I’ve lost some of you. We want the fun, picture filled blog entries. But life has not been so fun lately, and that is not the goal of life anyway. So I decided to share a little of the less pleasant side of life, not for pity or running readers off, but because it is part of life and part of my life at present. And there are lessons to be learned from this less than favorite teacher.

I started having mild back pains about three weeks ago. I have had back problems all of my life and I think there is evidence of it being genetic since my three brothers have and father had back problems. I do exercises to keep my core strong and avoid extreme motions.* However, this time I didn’t do anything that I could have avoided to prevent the problem. I guess if I had been able to see the future and its ramifications, I could have worked around it, but I don’t have that ability. Sometimes it is just small things that trip us up.

Anyway, I have these down periods with back maintenance, but this was a perfect storm. The two most painful things were getting in and out of bed and putting shoes and socks on. Function and activity came to a standstill.

In the midst of this particular storm**, my attention was riveted by the frequent bolts of lightning running along my lower back. The teacher had my attention. When in pain, you pray more. Certainly a prime topic is relief, but I found myself praying for others I know who experience constant pain and wondering how they cope. And what of people who have reduced functionality because of pain? Couldn’t I be more compassionate and helpful? And the thought occurred to me several times that at my age, when a significant regression in health occurs, is this the downturn from which there will not be recovery or serious reduction in functionality? And if it is, what is my new focus? What would be my purpose? What new goals do I set? In short, I found this bout with pain highlighting (throwing a shadow on?) my mortality. Life is short and the end is coming, sooner perhaps rather than later. Don’t think so darkly you may say, but in the midst of the pain, lighter thoughts are hard to come by, and they may be no more than whistling in the wind anyway.

So here are the deeper and brighter, not lighter, thoughts that resulted from what I am going through. Life is good, because God is good. I have purpose and meaning because He has assigned those to me. Even if my body wears out or continues in pain, I can pray for others, for my family, the infirm, this sick nation, my lost friends, and my church. I have peace with God even in the midst of turmoil within and without. I am more content when I am thankful, even in the midst of difficulty. Even though I knew all of this beforehand, I know it at a deeper level now. I suspect the lessons are not done since the holidays (the second advent) have not come, but I will have to focus on these and like thoughts as soon as the next lesson starts rather than days into it.

That should make the teacher and lesson seem less harsh, even though still uninvited and unwanted.

.

I should report that my back has shown some improvement in the last few days, though I don’t know what that means for work and play just now. I am privileged to be able to start again, but wary of the fact that physically that is not sustainable in the long-term. Life is full of ups and downs, but I don’t have to pin my hopes on the ups nor dread the downs. I belong to God.

*I hear some of you snickering (LD and BF, for instance).

**See “Midst the Storm”.

Midst the Storm

Have you ever smelled rain? Have you been exhilarated by lightning? Have you ever been fearful in the wind or awestruck at the rising waters? The power of the storm both attracts and repels. Why might that be?

The air of rain does smell
All birds’ songs it does quell
The nerves of grazing beasts try
When a fierce storm is nigh

Of sudden does it burst
Relieving ground’s long thirst
Overtop river banks
Calamitous flood pranks

No way to stem the tide
Or break the waves’ wild pride
Neither calm the screaming wind
Nor many trees defend

Where can one find shelter
Midst the helter-skelter?
Or from much loss be spared
No matter how prepared?

The Maker of the storm
Who gave to all things form
He our refuge always
To Him for help one prays

He may deem things be lost
Great material cost
But rescue of the soul
Is the reward and goal

Though many troubles come
Storms that frighten and numb
Yet He is gracious still
Your heart with thankfulness fill

.

We are awed by the wonderful, the powerful, the overwhelming, and the strikingly beautiful. The God who created the world is all of those things and more and He has made us for Him. We have then an inbred desire to seek for the glorious*. I believe that it gives glory to Him to see the superior in Creation. We must, however, make it our goal to see Him in all that He has created and done, so that all glory and honor goes to Him as is due Him and beneficial for us. Fear of harm must surely be the main reason we are repelled by storms. God is merciful to those who trust Him, but He is powerful and not to be trifled with.

I read poetry online infrequently, but recently I did because of a poet’s name that came up in conversation. One of the poems was about storms. It was good poetry, but it was atrocious theology. I don’t like poetry with bad form but I really don’t like poetry that tells lies or misses the truth. So, I set out to write my own poem about storms. When it flows and conveys deeper truths, I am happy with what I have written. Given the constraints of poetical form I place upon myself, it is difficult to convey the ideas in the way that I want.

*from Hebrew kabod, meaning weighty and the Greek doxa, meaning of honorable reputation

I love words. God has graciously created language so that we may commune with Him and with each other. Language enables us to think and create abstractly.

Certainly language is changed and molded by culture, but culture is profoundly and deeply effected by language as well. For example, as my pastor is preaching, he will occasionally explain how a thought is put at the beginning of a sentence in Greek for emphasis. English generally places the subject and verb at the beginning or in the place of prominence in a sentence. In this way the language influences how the conveyed thought is perceived by the hearer or reader. I think that means that our language is an action language. Subject, action, emphasis- how do they influence our communication, intent, and meaning? In another example, Don Richardson in the book “Peace Child” says, “The Sawi have no word for nor concept of God; they believe only in disinterested or malevolent demons and spirits of the dead.” (1) The result was an elevation of treachery and revenge killing in their culture. But their culture also had a redemptive analogy, the “peace child”, that Richardson utilized to teach them of the ultimate peace child, Jesus Christ.

I have favorite words. Some because of meaning or usage or connotation and others because of sound. Below I list a few of these with explanation for why I like them. (I have already discussed my liking of many of these words, and I have links to some of my past blogs. But some of these terms have categories of their own on the sidebar of my blog. For instance, you can click on “Grace” here or on the sidebar for articles that specifically include the idea and workings of grace in Scripture or in my life.)

So: (“So..?!”)- I like therefore also, but so is a more intoned, intense than therefore in my mind and usage. I can hear it being pronounced “soooooo” or “so?” or “so cool”. Or it can mean “therefore” of “in conclusion”. It seems to function as an idea conjunction. (2) In short, I am fascinated by the multi-function of this short word.

Copious: An abundant supply of examples has been my usual use of this word. Newton’s Third Law comes to mind, in that every action is met with a reaction. You cannot touch without being touched. A normal force as read on your bathroom scale in the morning is also weighing the Earth. (3) The word itself has a narrow meaning, but the focus of that meaning possesses a cornucopia (4) of extent.

Ubiquitous: “Everywhere all the time” is how I think of this word. By example, most of the fundamental forces (5) are very short range. Gravity is by far the weakest but exerts its influence beyond galactic distances, and therefore may be said to be ubiquitous in the universe. I am seeing a trend in my liking of words: I seem to like words that reflect the big, complete, and abundant. Let us see if this continues.

Colloquialism: I am neither from a big city nor a rural life. My home town has grown into a small city after I left it, but when I was there our family lived in the older middle class suburbia in houses many people wouldn’t even look at on a real estate sales sheets these days. The houses were not run down but neither were they fancy. So, where did that come from? I have never felt like I grew up with nearly so much culture as I would have liked nor devoid of much culture that I only became aware of later. TV (now streaming) and cultural elitism have greatly damaged cultural diversity. Regional sayings and idioms seem to hold on most tenaciously and tenuously. Some of the language needs to go because of its crudeness and disrespect of others, but many sayings are informative of meaning and perspective, “I reckon”. It is more interesting to have different perspectives, ascents, and ways of saying things.

Jesus: I am forever and always thankful that the meaning and power of this name has been revealed to me. His name means “to rescue”, as the angel said, “for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) “For this reason also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11) At the mention of His name the demons obey (e.g. Acts 16:18) and tremble (James 2:19) for they “recognize Jesus” (Acts 19:15). I call on His name when I am afraid, when I am thankful and excited, and when I am confused or needy.

Grace: (“All of Grace” and “Of His Grace” and “Grace Enough” are blog examples) When speaking of it, I define grace as “getting what we don’t deserve”, while mercy is “not getting what we do deserve”. Where would I be without grace? I am grateful for God’s saving grace, His “manifold grace” (I Peter 4:10 KJV, NASB1995) for serving Him in the church and the world, and the abundance of grace for living (II Corinthians 1:12). It is my desire to make grace my life theme, but it is a struggle since everything in my upbringing seemed to speak otherwise.

Apropos: The word means “being both relevant and opportune” (6). Both of those ideas are connected to time and context. Speaking the right words at the right time for the right reason to a hearer in the right frame of mind to receive them in the right way is crucial for wisdom to be imparted rightly. I feel deep contentment when those moments occur. In fact, I hope that such a moment has occurred as you have read this blob entry.

If you have made it this far into my ramblings, I have a request to make of you. Put in a good word for me. That is, comment on this entry with a word that you like or is your favorite with a reason why. I look forward to seeing what you have to say.

  1. Peace Child (1974) …review and/or viewer comments – Christian Spotlight on the Movies – ChristianAnswers.Net
  2. Idea conjunction is my thought on connecting ideas as opposed to word or phrase conjunction like “and”, “or”, and “but” So is considered to be a regular ole conjunction, too.
  3. As I taught my students, weight is not gravity nor the pull of gravity, but the measure of the pull of gravity. Because of the interaction of Newton’s Third Law that measure may differ between the two objects because of distance, relative motion, and the mass of the two objects.
  4. Etymology is an interesting study, too. The “copia” part of the words comes from the same Latin word for abundance.
  5. three, four? It changes, but I think in terms of Strong Nuclear, Electromagnetic, Weak Force, and Gravity, recognizing that Strong and Weak have theoretically already been combined as Electric and Magnetic were many years ago.
  6. Apropos | Definition of Apropos by Merriam-Webster (merriam-webster.com)

Earnestly Contend

My recent reflection on the hymn “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (“The Only Begotten of the Father”) had a precursor thought to it in the form of a poem. I noticed the late 4th century date of composition and reflected that there was much heresy in the church then that centered mostly around the person and work of Christ.* True believers are called upon to always “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3) Considering both the earnestly contending for the faith that has occurred in times of challenge to the truth and the person and work of Christ as revealed in Scripture, I wrote the following poem:

Songs, sermons, various creeds
Born in time of heresy
For those moments and those needs
Help us all their truths to see

To the Christ of Scripture point
The One Who God did anoint
God the Savior did appoint
He beginning and endpoint

Our focus must always be
Second person of the Three
In Jesus the Father see
He bought grace so rich and free

By words and deeds we defend
Truth of Christ against new trend
Knowing truth will transcend
Not allow with error to blend

New songs of praise we should write
With Scripture truth, never trite
Sermons preach with Gospel might
Know the creeds, why they are right

*In reality, there is always a focus on destroying our knowledge and faith about the person and work of Christ. This early time was just when many of the heresies went through the church the first time or first became public.

While preparing to lead two songs for Sunday worship, I was drawn to the words and odd tune*, by Western standards, of the first song, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”. The three verses translated and frequently used in English hymnbooks of the nine originally written by Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius in the late 4th century focus on Christ’s eternality and the praise due to Him. My meditation focused on the first verse:

“Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see,
evermore and evermore!”

The concept of begotten of the Father is indeed a mystery. Mothers bear children and fathers beget children, but Christ was not created, so what does it mean? Afterall, this idea is used by the skeptics and cults to deny His divinity and eternality, both of which Scriptures clearly teach. I sought out commentary and interpretation but most importantly related Scripture passages. I discovered two ways in which Jesus Christ is “the only begotten” of the Father.

In the story about Abraham being commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac, God uses the term only son when He commands the act and after He prevents him.** As it says in Hebrews 11:17-18, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” (Hebrews 11:17-18 NASB1995) How was Isaac his only begotten son when he had an older son, Ishmael? Verse 18 gives the answer: “In Isaac…” In other words, Isaac had a special relationship with his father. We are brothers and sisters who are in Christ by faith in Him. Therefore, since Christ is our older brother (Hebrews 2:11), God the Father has many children also. But there is little doubt that Christ has a special relationship with the Father since He is the second person of the Godhead. So the first reason Christ is the only begotten is the uniqueness of His relationship to the Father.

Jesus says something in John 8:42 that has long bothered me because I didn’t know why He seemingly repeats Himself. Does He repeat for emphasis, because that was a cultural way of focusing the hearers’ attention, or because it really isn’t repetition? “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.”” As I considered this turn of words, I considered that “proceeded forth” is a good definition for begotten. In eternity past, and therefore not marked by time, Jesus proceeded forth from the Father. This is not a moment of production but of introduction as God, being one in substance with the Father. Having “come from” God is the act of having “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7) I think that Jesus was declaring to these unbelieving Pharisees that He was both God and Man- God by way of “proceeded forth” and Man by way of “have come from”. The second way in which He is the only begotten of the Father is proceeding forth from the Father and revealing “His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father” when “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Jesus is Eternal God, revealed in the flesh. As “Alpha and Omega” He is the “Source” of all things and the “Ending” point of all that ever will be. To Him be praise and glory!

*It was written as plainsong, which means that it has no meter.

**Genesis 22

The tradition in my family for about 30 years has been to gather at my oldest brother’s house for Thanksgiving. Numerous traditions grew up around this basic idea. One of the most enduring is the day after hike (see “Cascades and Escapades” and “Ebb and Flow of a Tradition” as two recent examples).

Of course, you can guess that this year was different. We didn’t meet at the elder brother’s house. His immediate family did. They also went on their hike. A good portion of my immediate family met at my house on Friday for thanksgiving reflections and a meal. There was plenty of good food prepared by numerous hands. We read psalms of thanksgiving and sang hymns and shared things we are thankful for.

On Saturday, prompted by two of my sons, we took a hike. My youngest and a young friend were beginning a one night backpacking trip, and the rest of us were along for the views and conversation. The slope had been burnt over twice about 15 years earlier and eliminated much of the topsoil. Regrowth has been slow, but the views are good.

The backlighting turned out OK, but since we did not know that at the time we shifted 180 degrees and posed again for the friendly hiker that I asked to record the images.

My son admitted that he was overly packed for a one nighter.

There are patches where it was not completely burned off and the younger trees come back faster here with the presence of more soil.

New growth is heartening.

The previous pictures show the relatively shallow slope the southeast face of the Shortoff Mountain. The next one shows where the trail comes along the edge of the vertical northwest facing precipice.

Table Mountain Pine predominates the stressed conditions of shallow soil, wind blown and otherwise drying conditions.

You wouldn’t be surprised to discover that this young friend is a tri-athlete. He stands upon metamorphized layers that are common to the Gorge.

Lake James actually dams three parallel streams, two of which are visible here. The South Mountains are visible in the background, being the last foothills before subsidence into the Piedmont region.

Wind is a creative and random sculptor of trees, imparting to this specimen a bonsai appearance.

There are many lone trees hanging onto the cliffs but the pine on this vertical section seems somehow “braver” or “more determined” as anthropomorphisms would have it.

Table Mountain Pine is also one of those species that require fire to open the cones and germinate the seeds. The cones appear to be fortresses against their time of opening.

Shortoff Mountain is amazingly flat on top as seen in this view along the Mountain to Sea Trail.

I know that fire is necessary and unavoidable, but I hate what it did to this little pond. First of all, it is amazing that a pond exists at the summit of a flat-topped mountain. It is not a mere wet weather pool. It used to have shade, open water, abundant frogs, small fish with only minimal vegetation in the water. Now the pond has eutrophied to such an extent as to hold no discernible animal life.

Not knowing that it was there, I had to point out to my young friends that we should stop and look at the best view of Linville Gorge available. Because the Gorge turns slightly at the mouth, you stand here on the rim looking straight up the majority of the length of the Gorge.

You can tell by the quality of the colors that this picture was not taken with my phone. I credit my daughter-in-law for this good picture.

And here she is with her husband.

Near the previous view is another one facing out of the mouth of the Gorge, revealing ridges more than 30 miles away.

I conclude with a picture of me contemplating the change and continuity of God’s nature. We can design our Biosphere 2 in an attempt to copy the real thing*, but our attempts cannot hold a candle to the ability of God’s designed Biosphere to absorb stress in the form of weather and natural disaster and human pollution and still recover and adapt. Man may have caused the fire that so affected this pond, but lightning could have just as well accomplished the same thing during drought. The pond may be changed for the duration of its existence or it may eventually recover its shaded, lively charm. Either way it is and will adapt well.

*If you don’t believe in design in nature, just consider the extent to which scientists go to design experiments like Biosphere 2 and they don’t even work that well.

Two trees down, and what do you do with the wood? Neighbors came for some of it. The woodworker snatched away the trunks. The city took the branches. The compost is chewing on the leaves. The friend of a friend ground the stumps. But those pieces in the range of ten inches to two and a half feet in diameter and many with multiple forks were still around. I had suggested to my friend that he borrow a hydraulic log splitter, but he could not find one. Then I remembered that a recent acquaintance, a brother in Christ with whom I hit it off well at first meeting, had recently offered me the use of his wood splitter in an unrelated circumstance. The problem had been that his splitter was at the back of a large workshop that had been converted to temporary storage. It had wood and tools and equipment stacked in front of the wood splitter. So, my homeowner friend with the two big trees on the ground and I offered to help him dig it out. That was an adventure in old wood, old tools, old memories, and dreams for future projects. With a will to get it out, we dug it out in under an hour, inflated the tires and off we went. It appeared that the woodsplitter had been used very few times and it had been stored for several years. Thankfully the gasoline had been drained out of the tank, as that can gum up the carburetor over time. It wouldn’t start anyway. There was definitely fuel in the cylinder. There was no spark on the plug. There was spark from the coil. We took a trip to the Tractor Supply for a new spark plug. It still wouldn’t start. We took the air filter off, found a neighbor with starter fluid, but it still only barked once or twice. I prayed more directly about it starting. The neighbor put his hand over the choked intake. It sputtered. It sputtered a few more times and then started up with very little smoke, running well the rest of the day, and restarting easily after refueling. Those pesky double problems can take time and troubleshooting skills.

We split wood for more than six hours. The claim and assumption is that a hydraulic wood splitter takes all of the work out of splitting wood. It most definitely makes it easier and splits twisted and forked pieces that are hard to do manually, but it does not remove all work. And, there are pieces that can only be done with sledgehammer and multiple wedges. Following I have two sequences of the splitting process. The observant viewer would figure out that these are not actually sequential pictures, but ordered from various images to show the process. Most of the work of hydraulic wood splitting is getting the log under the wedge.

The fun and easy part is pushing the lever and watching the wedge split, mangle, or destroy almost any piece of wood put beneath it. I found that on the tougher pieces, when the splitter was straining to go through the wood, that I would press harder on the lever as if that would make a difference. Part of the trick on the larger and more twisted grains is “reading the grain” as I call it, or “grainology”, as my friend termed it.

Sometimes the wedge goes through but the wood is not fully separated. Here we are determining what to do next.

Since the piece is heavy you want to avoid having to flip it around or over. Frequently the answer is a well placed blow with an axe or sledgehammer.

We were very tired after so many hours heaving the pieces into place that we totally overlooked one last big chunk. When I returned several days later to load another truckload of wood, I assured my friend that we could split it with sledgehammer and axe. The next sequence of pictures arose from my friend trying to time the shutter of the camera with the blow upon the block of wood. I’m glad he missed numerous times so that you could see what goes into a swing. Splitting a piece of wood is not a strength move but a power mover. Therefore, the power is produced by the whip you give to the axe handle from about its highest point to just before the impact. There was not need for great power in these straight grained pieces I was splitting for this sequence, so my swing is not quite what makes for the most powerful swing. If I was producing more power, I would slide my top hand (right hand in the pictures) down the handle to increase the whip and thus the power. The reason the whip is so effective is that power is how fast work is done. I have a limited ability to increase strength, but the whip can greatly increase speed, reducing time and increasing power.

The other factor in a good blow is hitting the right spot at the right angle. The next picture captures that moment when I focus on the spot to be hit before commencing to swing. I find that I must focus there all the way through the swing and that distraction or fatigue decrease my likelihood of hitting my intended target. Basically, you are trying to strike parallel to the radial grain toward or away from the growth center.** On smaller or thinner pieces you can strike along a ring to split a piece. It is more tricky with forks, but there are places and directions to hit that make those more likely to split as well. It is all in reading the grain.

Splitting wood is both an athletic move and an endurance move in order to keep repeating it.

I attribute my next stance to both the partial stiffness of age and the positioning of the axe for a powerful blow. My young friend takes a similar stance just before striking but with a little less evidence of stiffness.

Proof of the ease of the pieces being split is the axe going all the way through and into the ground. This does not often happen. After the photo op we split the fork with wedges. It took quite a few blows to go through that.

I love this next picture. It shows my friend’s determination, focus and strength. He was amazed at the first decently large piece that I split cleanly with an axe. I felt like I had done a Hollywood stunt*** and quickly explained that I was able to do that because it was so straight grained. These pieces are the joy and fun of splitting wood before the real work commences.

There’s that stance again.

It is amazing how fast the wood can pop sometimes. The piece has flown off to his right before his axe hit the ground. He learned something else this day. Though plastic handled axes and sledgehammers have the advantage of being hard to break, the handle pounds the daylights out of your arms all the way up. I swung his axe a few times and then went over to get my wooden handled axe for the remainder, as you see above.

White Oak wood has such a pleasant smell. I actually took a cup full of ground stump mulch home as a potpourri for my livingroom. The wood has the property of cooperage, swelling to seal fluids in barrels and buckets. It makes lovely, sturdy furniture and provides much food for woodland animals. Its foliage is beautiful and especially in the Autumn when it turns yellow. It can live to a ripe old age five or six times what any of us will. It makes for good shade and grows in rich or poor soil with less water than most hardwoods. It is, in short, another of God’s good creations with much beauty and utility. I enjoyed observing and extracting some of that goodness for multiple people’s use.

*I hope you don’t think my pun inappropriate, based on 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV). He does own both after all.

**The growth center is where the rings come together, that is, where it began to grow, and is not the same as the geometric center because trunks and branches frequently grow faster on one side than the other based on tension or compression caused by holding weight.

***Have you ever watched an old Western movie with someone splitting wood? They go through every time. Why? They use straight-grained, dried Western varies of wood like cottonwood or fir that you could split with a hatchet.

Hanging Out On Top

I enjoy relating to serious, fun-loving young people. How can they simultaneously be both you may ask? A person can know what is serious, consider and muse on it and discuss it and act on it, and still have a good sense of humor and enjoy fun challenges and take reasonable, considered risks.

The climbing partner with whom I have been out the most in the last six months is just such a person. He is a former science student of mine who loves to climb, is getting married soon, just started his first nursing job right out of college, and most importantly shares the same faith as me. Life still challenges me with work and play and relationships and worship. As a result, there is plenty to talk about.

Because of where we now live, we meet approximately halfway in between at Rocky Face Mountain Recreation Park. The old quarry has numerous and wide ranging difficulty of sport climbs. I usually post pictures of one or both of us actively climbing, but the mood of the weather, the climbing, and the conversation had me pointing my camera elsewhere.

Reorganizing equipment at the top of the first pitch.*
Happy, but on edge on the first pitch
Shutdown, resting, and figuring out where to go.

On the point of climbing, I suggested that we climb two pitches to the top of the second tier since I had never been there. I bit off more than I could chew on the upper tier and had to traverse left to an easier climb and then far back right further up. You can see this in the following picture.

Check out the rope at far left and stretching across the middle to the right, and me sitting on top under the tree.
Hanging out on top
No easier approach to a climbing area can be had.**

As I said earlier, this climbing area was an old quarry. One of the biggest needs for infrastructure is gravel and stone. The hole pictured below between my feet is the remnants of a bore hole. It is an added boost to perspective to see both my feet and my belayer on the ground.

For the next climber, climbing is no big deal with the right equipment. I think that it is an Eastern Fence Lizard, though arguably out of its habitat if that be so.

*Yes, we are tied in to rope and/or anchors the who time for safety.

**The temperature changed from mid-thirties when we arrived to lower sixties with high solar gain. I am actually getting ready to rappel down, so I have two shirts that I took off stuffed into the shirt I am wearing, giving the appearance of a beer belly.

I have a desire to write my blog to give glory to God by relating everyday events, intermittent musings, scriptural insights, and special privileges/opportunities in my life. There are, of course, some things too private to share, but there are others that I am not sure if I should share. Consider pictures of a worship service, for instance. Video, if done discreetly, for the purpose of conveying a sermon or song to encourage or instruct someone not in attendance seems appropriate to me. But I simply took pictures during church which could have distracted others and certainly my own worship. Actually, only three of the following images were taken during the service, at the very beginning of the speakers’ comments. The rest were captured before or after church.

And I did know what the sermon was about. Our pastor finished a series on Second Peter with the last five verses of the third chapter. He reiterated that the theme of Peter’s second epistle is godly living in an ungodly world. No more apropos subject could be addressed in these times. In these closing verses, Peter gives four closing commands to his Christian readers. Firstly, be diligent to be found in peace and live godly. Secondly, account or regard the patience of God for salvation for the lost. Thirdly, beware of false teachers. Fourthly, grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. I take Peter’s words to mean that sanctification is a work of God but not a passive pursuit on our part. We cannot work apart from God but God most usually does not work apart from our participation. He is not restrained by us but He does frequently choose to work through us. He receives all of the glory; we receive the benefit.

I especially find the third chapter of Second Peter challenging and satisfying. It delivers much fodder for thought about godly living and about apologetics of the faith. Verses about the true history of the world and the canon of Scripture are very instructive.*

Congregants arriving
Fellowshipping before service in the seating area
Front row seating
Soundman, Music Leader, and Pianist

You can see several people visiting around to various cars. Church is not just about hearing a sermon. It involves fellowship, which is the sharing of Christ’s life lived out in the individual’s life with others of like mind and belief. That includes but is not limited to songs, sermons, prayer, sharing, giving, and serving others. You can’t do that in front of a screen.

The podium is a tad bit scary to mount. Take note of the tall green tree over the rooftop.

Behind the podium
One pastor welcomes with Scripture
The director of the local Preganancy Care Center encourages the church because of God’s work there and the church’s generosity.
The pastor concludes Second Peter.

All during the service, a tree removal service was taking down a tall tree just beyond the first house from the church property. The tree at the far left is the one pictured earlier. Once upon a time in our culture, such loud work on Sunday would not have been dreamt of, especially on Sunday morning, and during a church service. The whole of the culture is responsible to acknowledge God. I couldn’t help thinking that the enemy of mankind did not want someone in the neighborhood to hear the service. Thankfully, apart from momentary cut-outs of the microphone, the communication came through loud an clear.

We were also thankful that the chipper did not begin until the benediction. It was truly loud.

It was quite a tall tree, probably a yellow poplar, before the service.

Pastor standing with Pregnancy Care Center Director

Be aware that the culture in subtle and not so subtle ways is trying to discourage and prevent worship of God. The difficulties so far are mild, but God may well be preparing us for much more difficult times. We belong to God. We must worship Him corporately because He commands it, because we need it, and because our culture needs it. As our church motto says, “”Loving God, loving one another, serving the world”. It is a tall order and our aspiration in knowing and serving God.

*2 Peter 3:5-7,10,15-16

K2

…that is, Kerplunk number 2, not Karakoram Mountain #2, the second highest peak in the world above sea level. After the first tree fell without warning, being a seemingly healthy tree and not on a particularly windy day, my friends began to suspect another White Oak tree in their front yard. Was it similarly diseased and fated for freefall? They had a company drop the tree and then called on me to cut it up. I observed that the outer dozen or more rings were indeed darker as if diseased, which you can see in the first picture. It took me over six hours to cut up the branches and part of the trunk. It would have been longer but the local ironworks/woodworker agreed to get the main trunk. Because the tree felling company did not report grounding until late morning, I did not start cutting until 11:30. My friend, the homeowner, came home from work early to clear away brush and firewood. I was cutting pretty much non-stop for 6 hours. My forearms were very weak and achy the next morning.

My stance indicates to me that I was cutting upward to prevent pinching of my saw by the weight on the branch.

Because I knew the iron/woodwork was coming, I cleared the branches off of the main trunk first. I left outriggers to keep the trunk off of the ground and prevent it from rolling over. Then I began to clear the driveway.

I spend a considerable amount of time working outside for which I am thankful. I have however, began wearing light, long-sleeved SPF-50 shirts and hat to protect me from the Sun. My forearms indicate that I spent far too many years baking in sunlight.

There were many forks up the tree because it had been severely topped some time long ago. Don’t trim more than a little from a tree, especially oak trees. It uglifies them and shortens their life.

The ironworker/woodworker has all of the toys. Below he is clearing the smaller pieces in order to drag the trunk down to the driveway. The front and rear wheels of the forklift steer. It is not quite “zero-turn” but close.

I thought that my Husqvarna Rancher 460 with the 2′ bar was quite a lot of saw, but the Stihl was far more powerful and appears to have a 30″ bar.

He cut two logs, a ten foot one and a twelve foot one and loaded them in 30 minutes. I estimated the larger of the two logs to be 3500-4000 lbs based on size and typical weight of green oak wood.*

While I was editing the next picture, I zoomed in to count rings. This is about 22 feet up the trunk on the smaller of the two trees (2 1/2 feet in diameter instead of 3 1/2 feet in diameter of the larger tree). I counted 70 rings. Even if the base revealed 90 years of growth, this was a mere youngin’ in White Oaks trees that can live for 500-600 years.

*60 to 70 lbs per cubic foot- wow! Especially amazing considering the dried oak is 48 lbs/cu.ft

Kerplunk

A neighbor said it sounded like a huge car crash when it came down. There was little to no wind when it happened. The roots were rotten. White Oak trees don’t usually fall over from a rotten base. The wood is more rot resistant than the red oaks, but I guess most any tree can rot.* My friend and former colleague’s wife found it lying on the ground when she arrived home. She reported that the tip of the branches were 10-12 feet from the house. She also said that her husband commented on the tree appearing to be leaning before he left for work. The base was about 3 1/2 feet in diameter with a dense crown from having been topped many years ago.

Though you cannot see much progress, I am already hard at work in the following picture. In fact, it took me 7 hours to clear all of the branches to the point seen in last picture. I had abundant help from my friend and his brother and their wives. They kept the area clear for me to cut non-stop.

I delight in the light gray, “alligator skin” bark of a white oak that wraps around.

A good stance, concentration, ear and eye protection, awareness of what can go wrong, and always God’s grace have kept me from major injury chainsawing for 37 years. The closest I ever came** to major cut injury was a six inch gash in my left pant leg below the knee. Near misses are instructive and precipitate thankful exclamations and further caution.

Awkward positions are unavoidable at times, but having an escape plan and hazard avoidance help. Notice, though it works me harder, how I am instinctively holding the saw away from me. This position avoids the potential kickback of the limb and dropping the saw onto myself.

I took home a truck and trailer load of wood. The homeowner set aside wood to split later and 8′ to 15′ pieces to make a barrier for erosion control. A local welder/woodworker came and got the lower ten feet of trunk for boards. Not wasting resources does my heart good.

Here I avoided reaching overhead by cutting further down the trunk. I dropped this section onto waiting logs below so the I could cut it up without striking the ground, which is the worst enemy to a chain.

Hopefully I will remember to take a few pictures of the end result when I am there again. It was a hard, but a good day’s work. I am thankful to God for continued health to be able to work this hard still outdoors.

*Is Cypress an exception?

**How many major injuries has God kept each one of us from that we knew nothing of?