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WPG

As my pastor prayed this morning, he extolled God for being “wise, powerful, and good”. I contemplated the intersection of those three attributes. Being wise He always knows what to do and what is best. Being powerful He can bring about what He knows is best. And being good, what He knows to do and can pull off will always be kind and just and for the good of those He loves. Therefore, we should have no hesitation in trusting Him, and no lack of energy in praising and honoring Him.

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While we were in Johnson City, we looked at several houses to possibly buy. One was near to a place we used to live, so we drove up to see what the old home place looks like now. I’ve always heard it said that real estate is about three things: “Location, location, and location.” From the prices for homes, the huge size modern homes have become and the less than desirable locations of many of those homes, I doubt that is true for many people. But for my wife and I, it is huge. And this little house had location, being situated on a small inholding of private properties surrounded by TVA land and National Forest. It sits just below a gap in the mountain between two lakes, near the Appalachian Trail in fact. Click on Cardin Place to see the pictures of the old home place. I should take some more pictures of the surrounding mountains and lakes for a better indication of location. There are few places so beautiful to my heart. It was a place of peace and nature, wherein two of my children were born with good memories of life and work and even struggle.

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I like the idea of building something unique into a deck, however, I must need to get better at estimating how long it will take to design and build something new and different. Obviously, this statement is somewhat self-contradictory. How can you anticipate and predict the length of an event, and therefore get better at estimating its length, which you have not observed before? The owners wanted clear sight of the swimming pool, so no railing. They wanted something functional but attractive. So, they came up with the idea of beveled steps and I was tasked with executing it. See how I did at Beveled Stairs.

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GPS is recognized as the acronym for Global Positioning System, an amazing gridwork of 31 functioning satellites that allow very accurate position and time information for anyone with a receiver.

gps is a new acronym I have been thinking about that orients the user to true evaluation of the source of good. gps stands for gracious providential serendipity. Grace is unmerited favor, or as I like to say, “getting what you don’t deserve”, compared to mercy, which is “not getting what you do deserve.” Providence is divine guidance and provision. Serendipity is “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for” (1) So, unmerited guidance or provision in an area unsought for is gps. God knows our need and desire and frequently graciously provides for us apart from our knowledge.

Several times recently I have been in utter need of knowledge and discernment regarding what I was doing. I prayed for clear answers. In the sense of seeking an answer, the guidance was definitely sought for, but the answer was several times surprising in content, delivery, and source. God is indeed gracious; He is sovereign; He has all knowledge and all power. I am constantly in need of His guidance but especially cognizant at the moment of that fact with significant decisions on the near horizon. I need some good gps signals.

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/serendipity

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While working and living in Johnson City recently (see Vacation Villa), our daughter and two grandchildren came to visit and spend several nights. The children enjoyed the swimming pool, of course. We spent one long morning at two different playgrounds. One had adult exercise machines. I was sore the next day.

The day before, Mamaw, Mother, grandchildren, and I went to the Hands On Museum and Gray Fossil Site. It was fun and informative. The Hands On part had many of the exhibits from years ago when we had visited it. They are good exhibits, but some need repairs, and all need educational explanations to make them, well, educational, as opposed to merely fun.

There were two new exhibits that were well done. One was the presentation of fossils found at the Gray site. It had been a sinkhole that had collapsed. I don’t accept the long time scales, and it very likely collapse in the Worldwide Flood of Noah’s day, but the variety of fossils and depictions of flora and fauna of that time were good. There were Mastodon and Tapir bones, the latter being in more profusion that any other fossil site. There was a new species of hickory tree found in the fossilized muds. Types of fossils were well explained along with small samples well exhibited with good convex lens for viewing.

The second good exhibit was one of the best combinations of hands on and technology I had ever seen. So many techy exhibits are glitzy and purely spectatorial. This one taught by doing and interacting with the both the very tactile sand and constantly adjusting video. The exhibit consisted of an approximately 4 1/2′ x 5′ sandbox with a detector/projector above that measured the distance to the sand and projected contour lines and elevation colors onto the sand. As you move the sand into a pile or scoop it out, the system adjusts the contour lines and colors almost immediately. Children and adults alike had trouble pulling their hands out of the sand. With hand above any spot, moving one’s fingers, the projector produced what looked like a lava flow that persisted for 10 seconds or so. I think they could up the game even a bit more by providing a map legend of contour lines and intervals and elevation colors for educational purposes.

We of course enjoyed time with our daughter and the grandchildren. While they were there, my granddaughter and I finished our reading of the Chronicles of Narnia which I had been reading to her over Duo (a video chat format for Android) for about six months. It was quite the enjoyable time. Check out a few pictures at Hands On and Gray Fossils.

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Some things that we say and believe are not what we presently experience in full,
but are what is true about us in our new nature, is becoming true about us through
sanctification, and will be totally true in heaven.

Never lonely when He is near
Never overcome by any fear
Always hopeful though life be drear
Always at peace even when not all is clear

Momentarily disturbed, oh sure
Momentarily give in, not pure
Eternally made right, the cure
Eternally held tight, secure

Daily the struggle goes on
Daily His Spirit I must don
Slowly sinful tendencies gone
Slowly His righteous ways in me dawn

Fearfully and wonderfully made
Fearfully work out my salvation I am bade
Joyfully go forth with His aid
Joyfully with His Spirit arrayed

Nevermore sorrow overcomes
Nevermore to sin succumbs
Forever peace until and when He comes
Forever glorious gracious outcomes

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I heard my pastor say to the several young people, whom he was congratulating for being graduated from high school or college, that it is a time for them of transition and need for guidance from God. I thought to myself, ‘You don’t have to be freshly graduated in order to be in that transition period. I taught high school science for 27 years in one school district, but now I am transitioning into a new “career”. As a part of the transition, I need to build a clientele in the new location. Apart from God’s intervention, I fully expect that to initially be a slow process. I am, however, starting off with a big bang. My boss is on a long overdue 5 week vacation, and I am seeing many of his clients. This is good training. How I was going to pull off this 5 week stint two hours from home without a place to stay was a mystery to me. But then my employer and his wife decided to graciously allow us to enjoy the comforts of their home by house sitting for them. Of course, God knew the provision He had for us, and I had to take each fog veiled step forward by His leading. That is what trust is, not knowing where you are going or how you will get there, and taking the next step as each one is revealed. Sometimes God provides a sunny view of many days ahead, but at other times He allows the fog to thicken so that we must step cautiously and confidently in the light He gives. The house we have been living in is a good provision for our needs at this juncture, but it is far from fancy. The house we are house sitting is of another sort. You can click on Vacation Villa, which is what I have decided to call it, to see a few pictures.

A funny side note. We needed to return to the other house this past weekend in order to take care of a few chores. On Friday evening we sat on the front porch overlooking the field and the trees growing off to the horizon. My wife wistfully said, “I like trees.” I replied, “Let me get this straight. You’d rather live in a shack surrounded by trees than a mansion without them.” With a very definite tone she said simply, “Yes.” I added, “Me, too.” That will help us to know what to look for and hope for when we go house hunting.

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Well, part of it anyway. We met at the Smoky Mountain Highland Festival Games. We watched some of the cabers and bails being tossed. The Border Collies are always amazing, herding geese and sheep without wearing down their charges. I talked with several clansmen in tents, particularly asking about some history of Stewart. The older gentleman recognized that I had a Stewart nose with a crease in the tip of my nose. The history of outlawed tartans for men after the Jacobite Rebellion was interesting. The women had to carry the tartans in their skirt patterns. At the Burnett tent I was gazing at the motto drawing, thinking that I had seen something similar before. A clansman asked if I had a question. This precipitated a discussion about how their motto, “Virescit Vulnere Virtus”, is the same as the Stewart motto. Both clans have the same ancestry. The motto is said to have been adopted after Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, embroidered it into one of several still surviving tapestries that her and her ladies in waiting made during her long years of confinement at the hand of her cousin, Elizabeth I. The motto translates to “Courage grows strong at a wound.” It is supposedly a political statement against her cousin. All of these tidbits, demonstrations, sport, dance, instruments, weapons, and clothing were interesting, but the main event was seeing our grandchildren and interacting with them. If you want to catch a little of the flavor of the day, click on Scottish Clad Grandchildren to see a few pictures.

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Our Rock

“The Rock they followed was Christ.” (I Corinthians 10:4) Paul is saying that the cloud and pillar were the glory of Christ and all of the provision was from Christ. (1)

“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.” (Exodus 17:6) Why did Moses strike the rock? Well, because God told him to. But the significance is seen in what Christ did for us, rescuing us from the thirst of separation from and lack of knowledge of God. Christ was struck many blows and killed on a cross.

“Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.” So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20:8-12) “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up to this mountain of Abarim, and see the land which I have given to the sons of Israel. When you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was; for in the wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to treat Me as holy before their eyes at the water.” (Numbers 27:12-14) Why was God so upset about Moses striking the rock rather than speaking to it. Firstly, it was because God told them to speak to it and they did not obey. Secondly, there is strong evidence of anger and arrogance from Moses in the passage, whereas he had been humble before. “Listen now, you rebels” sounds like he is angry with them. Righteous anger is appropriate, but “the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) Evidence for the arrogance is seen in the phrase “shall we bring forth”. God works the miracles; Moses or anyone else is the conduit or messenger. Thirdly, by not obeying God, they were not showing the people proper reverence (fear) of the Lord. Fourthly, and I think significantly, Moses’ and Aaron’s presumption twisted the meaning of God’s analogy of Christ’s work. You see that the second time that Christ comes, He will not suffer on the cross but come triumphantly in order to gather His own to Himself. As the Scripture says, “Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Hebrews 9:28) God struck Christ in order that we may go free from the penalty of sin. Now we may ask what is needful so that we may be free from the power of sin, and one day we will ask in order to be freed from the presence of sin. We ask for the what God has provided.

Christ is our provision in whom we trust. He is our protector. He is our power. David knew this very well in the heat of battle and in the intrigues of palace. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change.” (Psalm 46:1) “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge.” (2 Samuel 22:3)

Moses wanted to know more of God. He presented his case logically, concluding, “if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight.” (Exodus 33:13) “Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:21-23) As the hymn says, “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, that shadows a dry, thirsty land; He hideth my life in the depths of His love, and covers me there with His hand, and covers me there with His hand.” So, Christ is not only a protector and refuge from the evils of the world, the flesh, and the devil, but more significantly, from the wrath of God. We have far too low of a view of God’s righteousness and justice. His very character compels Him to have wrath for sin. Christ is as an indestructible umbrella shielding us from the rain of brimstone coming from the very hand of God for sin. He shields us because He has taken our wrath, and in His death is “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.” (Romans 3:26) I dare not step out from under my protection from God’s wrath, but by His help, I persevere in trust of Christ’s finished work on my behalf.

In summary, Our Rock, the Lord Jesus, was cleft by dying on the cross, so that we may have a refuge from the wrath of God and one day see Him because the Spirit is making us the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). Therefore, as one hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” And another hymn confirms, “No merit of my own, His anger to suppress. My only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness.”

“Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves judge this.” (Deuteronomy 32:31)

  1. I feel that this blog entry is woefully inadequate in the covering the scope of this subject, and therefore, it jumps around as a rough survey of many of uses of rock as an analogy for Christ. This needs to be a chapter or book. Our God is awesome!

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We don’t think of heaven enough; we are too earthly bound. We cannot imagine the glories there; we look through a glass dimly. What will be our focus, what our glory there? I was listening to several hymns on the YouTube channel A Cappella Hymns. The simple, unadorned polyphony of voices helps me to focus on the words and learn the melody and parts. Arriving at the last verse of the hymn, “The Sands of Time”, I thought, “Yes, that is what I will do there.” I won’t be glancing around at lesser glories and gifts, but upon my glorious Redeemer. Then, because of His grace through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and finished work of salvation, the phrase will be secured, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) The metaphor in the song is biblical and applied well:

“The bride eyes not her garment,
but her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
but on my King of grace;
not at the crown he giveth,
but on his piercèd hand:
the Lamb is all the glory
of Emmanuel’s land.”

And it reminds me of a similar thought in the hymn, “Oh, That Will Be Glory”:

“When by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face
Will through the ages be glory for me.”

Mind you, infinite, all sufficient, sovereign, free grace is all that you or I need to enter heaven. The preacher I heard this morning pointed out that free grace is a tautology, a repetition of ideas, since grace, unmerited favor, could be no other than free, that is unearned. But then to say grace is sovereign, meaning that God has made the free, uninfluenced choice is yet another shade of the same thing. It seems man’s mind hunts for ways to contaminate the simple teaching of Scripture and we must add modifiers to limit and clarify terms to the exact meaning within Scripture. And so with infinite and all-sufficient, the same idea is emphasized in slightly different ways. Infinite speaks to my heart of the never ending nature of grace and all-sufficient pronounces all my sin and shortcomings fully covered by grace.

A mere place in heaven, “a cabin in the corner of gloryland” would be glory, but trivial compared to looking upon His face. And”That will be glory, be glory for me!”

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The first answer that I received was, “You should pray without ceasing.” (from I Thessalonians 5:17) Yes, we should, but I am not there, though under the Holy Spirit’s tutelage, I do pray far more now than in years past. But really, under what circumstances do you pray? Frequently, we pray when we are hurting, confused, afraid, sad, or lonely. Do you pray when you are angry, happy, dull of mind and spirit, or thankful?

Listen to Jeremiah’s prayer: “O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.
For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, because for me the word of the Lord has resulted in reproach and derision all day long. But if I say, “I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name, ”Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it. For I have heard the whispering of many, “Terror on every side! Denounce him; yes, let us denounce him!” All my trusted friends,
watching for my fall, say: “Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him and take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, with an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. Yet, O Lord of hosts, You who test the righteous, who see the mind and the heart; let me see Your vengeance on them; for to You I have set forth my cause. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord! For He has delivered the soul of the needy one from the hand of evildoers.” (Jeremiah 20:7-13)

Jeremiah is clearly upset, dare I say angry, with God. He doesn’t say God has lied, but he does say He has deceived him. He is angry about the mocking, threats, subterfuge, and potential harm coming his way because he is obeying God. And unlike me on occasions, Jeremiah is not mistaken in his following of God. God clearly told him what to say and do. And he can’t even hold in the words given to him by God because they are “like a fire” (v.9) within. So, Jeremiah pours out his complaint before God. But this is not like the complaining of Israel in the wilderness, because that whining involved unbelief (Hebrew 3:7-19).

And that is the turning point of this prayer- belief- when Jeremiah says, “But the Lord…” (v.11). The simile he uses feels deep and substantial, like the tune (1) most used for “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.” God is “like a dread champion.” Despite our present society’s aversion to war (2), our God is a Warrior, and of the most fear inducing kind for His enemies. Jeremiah knows His Champion defends him, as He is “with me” (v.11), and they will fail at their scheming and threats. Even with this knowledge, in his pain, Jeremiah longs to personally, presently see their judgment, not merely in the afterlife. As he struggles his faith comes to the fore and he praises God for his deliverance. He transitions from accusation to appreciation and anger to approval. Prayer accomplishes much in the heart of the one praying.

This is not the end of his struggle in the prayer, however. I did not quote the whole of the prayer above. In verses 14-18 he curses the day that he was born in a very similar but abbreviated way as Job did in the midst of his suffering (Job 3). Jeremiah ends his curse with, “Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow, so that my days have been spent in shame?” (v.18). Shame is Jeremiah’s focus. I wonder if shame is more taxing and bothersome to us than suffering?

Oh, what is all of this complaining about? Does it show fragility of faith, or is it warranted and acceptable to God? God says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” (Psalm 50:15) And “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1) “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:6-7) (3) God wants us to call on Him in our joys and distresses. The other day, while trying to finish a deck before I was to leave town for five weeks, I did not see how it would all get done. I called out in my distress, “God, why does it always have to be so hard?” I didn’t get an answer to the question just then (4), but I did get an answer to my real need. It was a very long day, but my wife observed as we dropped into bed that night, “It is amazing how much you got done today.” It wasn’t just my hard work, though that was involved, but things went smoothly that frequently will not. God is good and He patiently hears our cries.

Indeed, Jeremiah’s prayer reminds me of many of the Psalms in which David bemoans his plight and despairs the outcome, but comes around to seeing what God has, is, or will do. Or consider Psalm 73 where the psalmist bemoans the wicked: “Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease…” (v.12) But then he says, “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; thenI perceived their end.” (v.16-17) Mysteriously, God uses our prayers to forward His purposes. God is all knowing, but somehow prayer can bring about change. Moses experienced it multiple times (e.g. Exodus 32:7-14, Numbers 11:2).

When you don’t feel like praying, pray more. Boldly pour out your complaint and confusion before Him, knowing that He cares and is pleased that you have turned to Him with your troubles.

  1. Tune: Ebenezer
  2. Not that anyone with reason or an ounce of the goodness of God in them loves war
  3. Also see 2 Kings 1, Psalm 102, Psalm 142
  4. A couple of days later I heard the Casting Crowns song, “Voice of Truth”, and I thought, “His purposes and glory were served and need was accomplished.

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I decided awhile back in writing blogs that since accurate quotes are hard to come by, especially from notes taken from live talks (sermons, lectures, conversations, etc), that I would at least communicate with myself when I was not exactly quoting, but just accurately summarizing with words actually spoken (or synonyms thereof) but not necessarily in that order, to surround them with apostrophes (‘) rather than quotation marks (“).(1) See if you think that I am wrong to pass these off as nearly quotes.(2)

In the sermon this morning, my pastor said many noteworthy things. I was dull of mind and slow of pen and didn’t get many of them down, but following are a few essentials I grabbed out of the verbal stream:

“God is Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer… These are the foundational issues we build our lives upon.”

‘In the variable winds and choppy waves of our rapidly changing culture that make us soul sick, we do not build our lives upon trends in our culture or traditions of better days, but the truth of God’s Word.’ Actually, he didn’t use ‘variable’ or ‘choppy’ but described the bounce on a small boat that made him sick. And though he conveyed all of the thoughts with almost all those words, they never appeared in one sentence. So, what are you building your life upon in these changeable time- trends, traditions, or truth? Trends and traditions may align with truth, but they are not the judge or guide of our choices, truth is.

He read about the sixth day of creation from Genesis 1:24-31. Though he said much more could be gleaned, he did offer 5 applications:

“God is our authority. Life is precious. Men and women are different theologically and biologically. We should celebrate the differences in men and women.” ‘We live within our God given callings and then we are blessed.’ I was behind on my writing and could not get down the last one exactly, but it most interested me. He talked about how obeying God’s calling, which he prefers over the word role, brings life, while living counter to it brings death. We see the promotion of so much death in our culture these days that verify the judgements of Romans 1 on those who refuse to acknowledge God and His callings. Are you as a church-goer, perhaps even devotee of Christ, following these life cursing trends in our culture? For the sake of us all, please stop!

1. That was such a fun sentence to write. I hope it is grammatically correct and easily understood.

2. Do you realize that I am suggesting a new grammatical form and use of the apostrophe? Old School Grammarians would disdain my attempt to amend the rules. They might say, ‘You do not need such non-sense. We already have quotes and summaries of ideas.’ I would retort, “That is what they said. I just am not willing to swear in court that they used those exact words in that exact order.”

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One sunny day not long ago I was resting and reading for a short period of time. After I completed the passage, a deep essay on theology, I looked up and called my wife’s name. The house sounded empty. I cruised through the rooms and she was not to be found. Then I looked out the window and there she was wandering around in the yard with her head down. I went out and made a comment about the beautiful day and asked her what she was doing. She raised up a hand grasping small flowers, most people would call weeds, and said, “They cover the yard, and they are so beautiful.” She had three different flowers. I began the search, and we found seven different types of flowers, some hardly as big as the head of a pin, but covering the yard with blues, yellows, violets, and wee little whites. All the detail for male and female flower parts and nectar production and beautiful little petals. How much of God’s beauty goes unnoticed because we are looking but not perceiving, looking inward and not around us, looking to find fault rather than encouragement, or looking to show off rather than being shown to? So small, frequently unnoticed, but declaring God’s glory anyway, quietly turning heavenward.

Many years ago I watched a program about the exploration and mapping of the cave Lechuguilla that is in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. At the very back of the cave is a room with intricate gypsum stalactites, one 20 feet long. The majority of the cave was not discovered until 1986 when cavers broke through an extensive breakdown blocking the main passage. The Cave of the Crystals in northern Mexico features selenite crystals up to 37 feet long and 4 feet in diameter. The conditions are harsh in terms of temperature, humidity, and vaporous sulfuric acid. The cave was discovered in 2000 by two miners after extensive pumping cleared the room of water.

Many other examples of once hidden beauties and wonders could be paraded before you, but these several examples demonstrate to me that God has many hidden beauties in His Creation, quietly giving glory to Him, and how many may never be discovered? Secondly, I believe it gives new meaning to why we explore at all. We don’t just climb a mountain because it is there, we seek something, something wonderful or beautiful or hidden. Our desire to discover and explore reveals God’s glory. Many explorers and exploration societies give glory to the explorers or the less than scientific explanations of what is found, but pieces of God’s character in power and design and goodness and wisdom are revealed in what we find. That is a worthy reason to explore and discover, reveal and describe.

The seventh type of flower is hidden around back and several are facing away, but they decorated our window sill for few days.

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Spring has sprung, and along the Catawba River Greenway, it is in full bloom. The years pass and I have seen every season multiple times on this 6 miles of trail by the river. To long time watchers of this blog (1), this entry might be a bit boring, but there are a few new twists and turns and the beauty of God’s Creation never grows old. I am especially drawn to its ability to regenerate and renew. I didn’t take a picture, but I observed several large Mayapple patches blooming in the middle of a died out Kudzu patch. Of course, as the weather gets warmer, the Kudzu will take over and completely shade and choke out the Mayapple for the remainder of the season. But the plants persist because they sprout, leaf, bloom, and fruit by mid-May before the Kudzu has done much more than sprout.

I found a wildflower new to me. I took two pictures and immediately sent them to sister-in-law, the family resident wildflower expert (2). Within two minutes she replied with the name and inquiries as to the presence of crossbred varieties with different color centers to their flowers. A short distance down the trail I spied a curiously marked songbird, and the two of us stared each other down for a few minutes. I made a cautious one step for a better view, and the bird flipped around on the branch preparing to fly, allowing me to see the backside coloring. After another good look I cautiously moved away, leaving the bird on his branch. I feel quite confident, after looking it up, that I was viewing an Ovenbird, a larger songbird but smaller Warbler. I haven’t the camera to even have bothered to try to take a picture, but the breast markings, eye ring, back and tail feathers were distinctive enough.

To think that this walk had come about because every effort to secure work for the day had fallen through. So, what do you do when you can’t make your best laid plans A, B, and C happen? Take a walk, pray, and look intently around at the beauty of God’s world. For a few of the pictures I did manage to take, click on “Greenway Flowers“.

  1. Some of my former blog entries on Spring on the Greenway follow: “Out and About“, “Small Delights“, “Colorful Treasure“.
  2. In fact, she is a remarkable woman. If you don’t believe me, check out this link: https://www.wate.com/news/local-news/remarkable-women/2022-remarkable-women-linda-francis/

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I previously proclaimed my proclivity for and prowess with lists. You can check that out at Lists.

The other day I stepped up my list using a notch. I now live outside of the town I lived in for 22 years. There and back that is now 50 minutes of driving. There are frequently multiple chores to do when in town. I have recently felt a mild frustration at the inefficiency of getting things done in town, increased by the price of gas. One worried little about either when things were a 3- 5 minute drive from the house. So, I thought, what would be the most efficient route for getting the chores done. I decided to sketch a map, labelling all of the places I needed to go and then mark an order of visiting various venues. It turned out to be a circle. As you can see, I have labelled highway numbers and initials of places to visit.

The oval represents the town, which reminded me of a small developmental art lesson I had one time. An artist had observed many children drawing. In the video children were shown drawing. He points out to the commentator, ‘See, she puts a circle around it.’ Then he explains that at a certain developmental stage, children circle their scribble and call it an object, a person, a thing. Before that they just scribble. After that they are trying to draw an object they hold in their mind.

In the middle of the circuit, we decided that we needed to make an additional stop. I just added it to the circuit without any backtracking or inefficiency. I wondered how few of stops need a map. Is it how many stops I can easily hold in my mind with all of the other details running around in my head and without forgetting a stop? Or is complexity of the route? Or is it the amount time between planning the trip and executing it? Is the number 2 or 3 or 5? Certainly this list of 6 was enough for me to not immediately see the most efficient route without mapping it out.

It saved time, gas, and frustration trying to figure out where I should go next. And given that I don’t just walk or drive a few minutes to this store or that business and come back home, it may become a more regular habit to map-list where to go…”Next!”

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My wife and I had a long weekend with family, the first since Thanksgiving because of sickness, finances, and business. We interacted with 8 our of our 10 grandchildren, two of our children, three of my brothers, one of her sisters, nephews and nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces, and in-laws at meals, on hikes, sitting around, and in church. Click here are some pictures of a few of the activities.

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I found the following reflection from 2011 that I never published. It still the way my wife and I do life.

One of the choices our family has made over the years is to live materially conservative lives. Obviously, if a family has financial limitations then their life must be lived frugally to maintain stability. That has been our allotment for which we are thankful to God. As I have said in times past, “Though we don’t always know how, the bills are always paid.” However, it is possible even within this forced frugality framework to choose convenience overr conservation. For instance, three of our babies wore exclusively cloth diapers and the fourth wore them until continuous diaper rash persuaded us otherwise. It began as a clear way to save money but continued as a mindset on how to conserve resources.

          Another attempt at conserving resources is the compost pile. We began our marriage with two gardens and continued maintaining one for most of our first fifteen years of marriage. We miss our gardens but our present plot is very poorly drained with very heavy soil that doesn’t grow garden vegetables well. But even now without a garden we deliver our ‘wet’ garbage to a covered compost bin that is about 3’ x 5’ x 2 ½ ‘ high. The compost pile helps return nutrients to the ground, reduces the number of times a month trash must be delivered by the rural resident to the dump, and reduces the amount of landfill usage.

          For me personally the compost has had another benefit. Though life is busy and I send one of the children out or my wife frequently took it out in times past, I actually enjoy taking out the small bucket full of scraps. In winter I most often carry it out after dark in anything but the hardest rain and never minding the cold. The smell of the air may suggest a coming snow or rain. The wind chills the nose and ears and shoulders and tells of fast changes to warmer or colder. But the best times are the clear, quiet cold nights when the stars are at full brightness. That is a time to reflect on the celestial light peering down through the bare twigs onto the detrital refuse of Earth below, and everything in between- a quiet moment to consider God and His most excellent Creation.

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I had a peculiar feeling today (1). Two people were talking about an animal that had to be put down for attacking the owner and in the past other people. The owner cried during the conversation and the other person empathized and then turned and asked if I had a dog. I do not. Because of a poor experience (2) with a dog as a child, I don’t really enjoy pets that much.

Some people have pet dogs or cats. Some people have pet hamsters or gerbils. Some people have pet fish. Some have pet rocks. Later in the day I received a strange text with a picture (click here). I had a sinking feeling when I saw the picture. I lived under that plant for 22 years. I cleaned up after it. I trimmed it. I looked up at it during various seasons and variable weather. I enjoyed its shade, its shape, and it size. The new owners had ever right to cut it down, but I was still a little upset. It was, as my wife reminded me, the largest tree in the neighborhood, and it was probably 150+ years old. I have long known that I like trees, but today I realized that I must hold some similar emotions to other pet owners of dogs or cats or gerbils. I felt a sense of loss over an old companion. (3) I responded in a quite non-committal way to the text with the picture, “Make a alot of good firewood.”

  1. Let me tell it in the present tense even though a week has slipped away since it happened.
  2. I wasn’t attacked. I just didn’t like the dog because I had to train it and feed it but couldn’t really play with it because it would always run over you when you went into the backyard.
  3. Far older than me, perhaps 120+ years old based on other oak trees of similar girth on which I have counted the rings.

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In Sunday School we have been studying Romans chapter 6. Some weeks we don’t even get through one verse. We were looking at verse 13: “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” The word translated “instruments” is frequently translated “weapons”, so Paul is using a metaphor that has the parts of your body likened to weapons of warfare. One of the drills in military procedures, particularly since the inception of the firearm, is “Present arms!”. The soldier is displaying his weapon for inspection, drill, and show of allegiance. Also, there is a significant parallelism here, and I find it easier to see if I diagram it. My pastor pointed out that presentation of your members to God is not doing good deeds, which leads to a self-righteous moralism, as opposed to sinning. Rather, we present our members to God, which means sin is everything that is not God and counter to Him. This verse is very practical when it comes to growing in sanctification. This idea is why we must put on the armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10ff. We are at war with the world, the flesh, and the devil, but “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

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I have been privileged to work on various types of projects since I began Decks And Such (see https://www.facebook.com/decksandsuch). Friends at church asked me to repair the porch on their house that was built in 1875. They built houses differently back then. Likely, the beams and boards were milled on the property. The beams in the porch were treated with tar that smelled like creosote. I can imagine a crew of workers cutting, milling, cooking tar and applying it, building the foundation and floor joists all from materials found close about. Check out the progression of my repair work at This Old Porch

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