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Archive for the ‘Remembering’ Category

The ability to remember and associate smells is one of the most powerful forms of memory, enhancing a sense of time and place and visual cues. The Olfactory Glands are located in the sinuses very close to a part of the brain that processes and retrieves memories and emotions, the amygdala. Scientists have isolated a thousand different enzymes that bond to odiferous chemicals in the  identification of smells in humans.

 I’m originally from East Tennessee where the clay is nearly as orange as this print and hard enough so that you are not be able to stick a mattock into it more than 2 to 3 inches no matter how hard you hit it. There is abundant clay where I live now but it is most usually infused with muscovite mica (the silvery sheet mineral that you can see through) which makes it much easier to dig in.  My number three son and I are building a deck for a colleague of mine. Where the deck is located there is no mica in the clay (odd) so it digs like East Tennessee clay.  On the way home the other day I inadvertently put my hand on to my face and smelled the clay/dry grass mixture on my fingers. Memories began to flood in from so many times and places that I couldn’t ruminate before the next set of life experiences were upon me. Being dirty is repulsive to many but when it reminds me of things I have enjoyed doing it becomes a perfume. I immediately thought of helping friends and strangers put up hay on a hot or balmy June  or September day. I thought of setting fence posts for a horse training ring and the one hole where the Sassafras root filled our noses. Or the many fences I have built or repaired over lawn and woods when the scent of clay on the posthole diggers is matched with leather warming up on the wooden handles.  I thought of collecting spiders for research and digging in the back yard where I grew up to make a hide-out with my brother. I remember tilling in the garden in The Horseshoe and caving in a number of East Tennessee sinkholes or repairing pipes or foundations for many evenings and nights until a dropped into bed. All of these thoughts flooded my mind in less than a minute. Odors can be very subtle and yet bring back some of the most vivid memories. I was surprised by the sudden onset and pleased by the thoughts of life lived to the fullest.

When I was a youth, I once prayed that the Lord would let me experience life to the fullest. They say you should be careful what you pray for but I believe you should be bold in what you pray for when your heart is right. God is wise and kind enough to sort out how He should answer. God has abundantly answered that prayer, but of course, not in ways I would have ever expected or wanted. With the many good and significantly pleasant memories are the hard and mundane and heartbreaking ones. You can’t really experience all of life without difficulty. I’ve never been afraid to work hard, so many of my good memories are high energy, even difficult experiences, that only later mellow into good memories. I am thankful to God for allowing me to experience so many varied activities and interactions with people over the years. He is good to me far beyond the necessities of physical and spiritual life. I have truly enjoyed life and want to share my love of the outdoors and science and beauty and solid thinking with others. Though read by few, that is the reason I write this blog, to point to the One who creates, saves and sustains so abundantly.

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Worked, played, napped, read, ran, and just now I sat on this cool, exceptionally clear summer night listening to the distant fireworks of my small town. How could freedom not come to mind, but I’m concerned. As the rockets burst 10 blocks away my thoughts went to how freedom is abused and misused:

Always free to do what is right

In dungeon dark or Main Street bright

Don’t take license and act the fool

For righteousness use God’s gracious tool

Or else He’ll take it from us all

And great will be this nation’s fall

Which once so brightly shone for good

Frequently for justice it once stood

Not without fault or blemish there

But most citizens gave a care

Whereas now we say right is wrong

Parade evil in our law and song

Oh, once free land turn back to God

Give freedom more than a yearly nod

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Here are some random funny and profound moments in public education from Tuesday two weeks ago now:

1) As I arrived from my first school at my second school today I could here the chemistry teacher waxing eloquent about highly energetic chemical reactions. So, I went up to the door and said, ” Mr. V, like it not, you’re going to get a reaction out of me.” He replied, “That was spontaneous!” “Yes, totally spontaneous”, I reiterated.  His students sat dumbfounded, not knowing whether to laugh or question my sanity. Several minutes passed while I opened my room and settled in. All the while Mr. V was talking about the energy of spontaneous reactions.  I went back to the door, pointed to my brain case and said, “Mr. V, I just wanted your students to know that I am more stable after that spontaneous reaction.” The students just stared, and one or two began to giggle. Mr. V said later that the whole class broke out laughing after I left. They all thought I am crazy. It may be true, but I’m stable.

2) While I was teaching later in the day my teacher’s assistant (TA) was grading bellwork questions. These are review questions that the students complete at the beginning of class and hand in all together at the end of the week. One girl had written on a bellwork early in the week, “you look nice today.”  The next day she wrote, “you look sharp today, Mr. F”. By now I was embarrassed, but my TA showed me the third comment: “I don’t understand what you are asking in this question”, to which my TA had written in red pen, “What’s wrong, is my beauty distracting you?” It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction I get out of that one!

3) On a bit more serious note, I have this student in my 1st period class that is frighteningly perceptive as to how I am faring emotionally. She almost daily asks me how I am doing by predicting how I feel: “Are you angry today, Mr. F?” Are you having a good day, Mr. F?” Are you frustrated about something?” What are you so happy about? What are you worried about? Did you get some good news or something? Now I am the first to admit that I am the type of personality whose emotions are easy to read- wear them on my sleeve, as the saying goes- but some days I try to hide my emotions because I have a job to do, or because I don’t want to talk about it, or because I want to be encouraging, but she will have nothing of it. Her questions persist. It caused me to realize just how the stresses in my life are straining me, causing me to effectively deny my faith to this perceptive girl who knows when life is getting to me. I claim to be connected to the One Who is the source of all peace, joy, and comfort, and yet I am frequently stressed out. As I thought about this on the way to school the next morning I began praying that God would cause me to experience more of the peace He had made available to me. In the next two weeks up until now I have been making a habit of singing a hymn on the way to school and praying for my students, my family, and whatever fruit of the Spirit seems most lacking in me. The stresses have not gone away but I have a genuine confidence that God is helping me. The next day after I had the realization of what this girl’s questions said about me, I began calling her ‘Thelma’, which is my mash-up of Thermometer Lady. I didn’t explain the meaning of the nickname to her but I meant by it that she was taking the temperature of what the teacher was feeling so that she knew how to react. More than likely she learned this is some situation where it saves her considerable difficulty to know what the temperature is. I decided for my part to let her be the thermometer and I would be the thermostat, regulating the temperature of the room by calling out to my God to be the source of power and heat sink (“cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you” I Peter 5:7) I need before I enter class. I am amazed at what I know to be true can become so clouded by the immediacy of difficulty. ‘Thelma’ gave me a little perspective that I needed.

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A student “set me off” thinkin’ about old sayings yesterday in class when she arrived, sat down and ask me how I was doin’. “Fair to midland”, I replied, “I’m tired from running and not sleeping.” She laughed, “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say that other than my grandfather.” (Regretfully, I’m old enough to be her grandfather, but I left that out of the conversation.) “So is that good?” she inquired. “It’s OK, I reckon.” “Well,” I began, “I don’t wish my life away, but everybody needs a Friday now and then.”

Then I began thinking of some of the sayings I learned from my mother, but I got “bumfuzzled” tryin’. Oh, well, “six of one, half-a-dozen of the other”. My mother was not much for sayings involving “outlandish” people like “faster than a one armed paper hanger” but she could “teach an old dog new tricks”. I wish I could remember more of her sayings; “one will come to me” “every once in a blue moon”. When they do and I voice them, my students think that they are funny or they just look at me “sigogglin'” like I’m “a few bricks minus a load.” My father-in-law was a good one for sayings. He’d “treed more than a few pole cats” “in his day”, been “up the creek without a paddle” on a few occasions, and gone a whole day with “narey a bite to eat” “more times than he cared to remember.” That was because his father was known to “not hit a lick”, working “narey abit” for “as long as he could remember”, better than “a month of Sundays.” 

Youth have sayings, too, but for the most part they lack the richness of the old sayings. I suppose that is because language is far less isolated to regions, changes faster, and is abbreviated electronically down to acronyms and buzz words, the sayings of the day that “I can’t make hide nor hair of.”I wish I could remember a few more of my mother’s sayings but “for the life of me” I can’t think of another one “even if my life depended on it.” I wish you’d “help me out” and suggest a few you know in the comments. “Whewee!” I guess I did remember one more “by the skin of my teeth”. Let’s hear a few of your sayings.

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Having reviewed the biblical doctrine of the Trinity I now turn to its application by God to all God-ordained social institutions. Because we have refused to understand how God’s character is expressed in what He has created and ordained we try to re-invent social institutions apart from God, effectively destroying them.  I will allow several days for study before I fill in the blanks. (Lest I be called for plagiarism, I must acknowledge the ideas of Del Tackett in “The Truth Project”. I have digested and added my own study and organization to his framework.)  Click on Outworking of the Trinity to start the study.

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God definitely brings special people into your life, but He also takes them out of your life at times. As we discussed today we Christians are just sojourners in this world passing on to the next. When we cross paths in a significant way with other sojourners, however briefly or long-term, it is a privilege, and we will meet again in the country of which we are permanent citizens. Knowing that we may well one day have to part ways with a new or old friend is no reason to hold back from becoming as fully invested in the relationship as time and personality permits. Giving yourself away is the best way to also be given to. So I wanted to spend one more day with this friend and colleague of six years doing what we both like to do, be outdoors to see the beauty of God’s creation and challenge our bodies. We were able to do the latter by the added challenge of time constraint, hiking 9 miles on Grandfather Mountain in 4 1/2 hours. If you have not been on this trail the pictures cannot do justice to the view or the roughness of the trail.  Enjoy the pictures.

Sitting in the middle of the trail

Sitting in the middle of the trail

View East

View East

Calloway Peak southwest toward Attic Window

Calloway Peak southwest toward Attic Window

From Calloway Peak

From Calloway Peak

Attic Window

Attic Window

Attic Window from MacRae Peak

Attic Window from MacRae Peak

Swinging Bridge and building

Swinging Bridge and building

Beacon Heights

Beacon Heights

East end of MacRae Peak Outcropping

East end of MacRae Peak Outcropping

Northeast view toward Calloway Peak and Profile Rock

Northeast view toward Calloway Peak and Profile Rock

A moment's respite from a blistering pace

A moment’s respite from a blistering pace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No, I’m not Buzz Lightyear but I do have a story. I have trouble remembering my age when the following event occurred, eight or nine years old, but I can narrow it down because of the left over beginning writer’s paper I used. One day, probably a Saturday, my father was trimming the English Ivy that lined either side of our driveway and cascaded over the stone wall extending halfway across our front yard. My brother and I were cleaning it up as he cut the ivy, hauling it to the leaf pile in rear. I asked my father, “What is the biggest number that exists?” He replied, “It looks like an eight laid on its side.” That got him off the hook and me in a pickle. I now imagine him grinning to himself about what I would do with that. Afterall, I had expected a name: thousand, million, billion, and so on. It took me several years to realize he had described the symbol for infinity. So I decided to write to the biggest number I could on my leftover beginner’s writing paper from 1st grade, that tan colored paper with dashed lines for forming letters properly. I would write to each 100 on one side of a piece of paper. I vaguely remember knowing questions from my older brother or mother to the effect, “How long are you going to do that?” I remember that I made it to several hundred past ten thousand. I’ve always wanted to understand infinity.

Recently on a hike with my two youngest sons I asked the 19 year-old who is conversant in Calculus and particularly related to my question, limits, “Is it possible to have +∞ (there’s that silly sideways eight: read “infinity”)?”After some exchange back and forth, we agreed that it is mathematically possible. My son then added the insight that it is possible because “we created zero.” Immediately I saw that zero is the center of the mathematical universe. But the question persists: Is it possible to have +∞? Afterall, how is something infinite if it leaves out half of all that exists, namely -∞?

And this contrast is the difference between God’s eternality and our eternal life in Him. He is self-existent always (-∞ to +∞), period. We are finite, existing in Him, having a beginning, and if we be saved in Christ continuing forever to +∞, well past a few hundred over ten thousand. 

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The first poem I wrote this past week is the last one I am posting because I had to reflect on its content abit. It could so easily be seen as insensitive, or premature, but I consider it neither. I think it is just honest in a constructive kind of way. We have questions; we should voice them and find answers rather than silently or violently remaining agnostic about what is real and true. I offer this poem as a balm to many hurting loved ones who are truly asking. The eleven year old girl who died of leukemia and provoked my mind to write it has God’s best as I understand because she accepted God’s solution:

A purpose in life to glorify God
To enjoy His gifts, obey His commands
Accept hardships and the correcting rod
Challenge potential and all life’s demands

What’s the way forward when we’ve lost such life?
Then come tears and doubts and questions abound
Mind and heart struggle with internal strife
About ultimate issues, life profound

How is God good when there is so much bad?
God’s not the author of evil and wrong
Man disobeys, consequences are sad
Overtaking the ‘innocent’ and strong

God provides a way to overcome death
To have peace with Him and eternal rest
Bought by His Son, finished at His last breath
Now and forever have life and God’s best

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It has been a good week for poetry. I end on an encouraging note. I owe all that I am, have, and will be to the gracious Lord Who enables me to serve Him. His Benefits are far more than I can tell. I want others to bask in His goodness by submitting to His Son. The benefits are eternal.

Father near, sovereign will
Chosen in Christ, what a thrill

Rest from work, all is done
‘It is finished’ by the Son

Peace with God, free from guilt
All because Christ’s blood was spilt

Strength to live, sin abate
His Spirit does motivate

Stress and strife, like a knife
Spirit purifies my life

Help in trials, answers prayers
God is gracious and He cares

Hardship here, glory there
Joy, comfort beyond compare

Tell good news, with you share
Eternal life here and there

Purpose now, glory then
Live for Him, soon free from sin

All that’s good, all that’s fair
Is found in Christ, jewel so rare

Come again, at the end
In His glory, sky will rend

 

Forever with Him then
Perfect in Him without sin

 

 

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The resurrection is the pinnacle of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He exhibits power over death and sin. But it is the beginning of a the great transition of the glorious Son of God. There is a definite connection made between resurrection , ascension, exaltation, and the Holy Spirit being given. Peter makes this progression quite clear to the Council of Sadducees and Pharisees in Acts 5:30-32,“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” As “Prince and Savior” He is both ruler of all and priest to all who believe. Again Peter is explaining the Scriptures about David’s descendant and says, “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” (Act 2:32-33)  We need the bodily resurrection to understand the power of Jesus and to validate it to the world, but it is only the beginning of His show of power. Paul expands our idea of His power in Ephesians 1:  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church.”  Why do we not see this overwhelming power exhibited in the world today? Jesus is working out the details of His victory incrementally through the filling up of His sufferings in us (Colossians 1:24). As Peter takes great pains to establish in chapter 1 of his epistle, God has established our imperishable inheritance to strengthen our faith so that we “prepare our minds for action”(I Peter 1:13) against worldly lusts and intense suffering. Many great shows of power will come and for the saints  bring great joy: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war”………Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years,”….. and…..“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death” (Revelation 19:11; 20:6; 21:3-4).  Yes, the resurrection demonstrates unsurpassed power overcoming death, but even as He is the first fruits of those from the dead so His resurrection power is a first fruits of His unsurpassed power in victory over death, the world, all creation, new creation. He worked at the cross to accomplish God’s plan; He marches in victory to complete all that plan reveals and enables. Let us follow in His train now as at His second coming!

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We don’t know how, when, or why
The timing of our demise
Whether slow and painful, cry
Sudden horrible surprise
 
Or to loved ones good-bye say
See a vision from above
Then in peace just drift away
To glory fly as a dove
 
 But, oh, our pain is so slight
Compared to burning below
That will give the hardened fright
Pray for souls that they not go
 
 To avoid death’s awful sting
Look to Jesus’ sacrifice
Daily to His promise cling
Thankful for the purchase price
 
By His sacrifice we win
Heaven for which praise we give
Away from trials and pain and sin
In His presence there to live

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Faith or fear, which will it be?
Fixed on Jesus, wait and see
What provision or rescue He will bring
Or falter by small degree
And fret and fail to stand free
By looking to yourself where sin will sting
 
Trust  or retreat on the way
Trivial pursuits that may
Distract from weightier tasks to be done
Or track with His plan today
With the Spirit always stay
Until the path laid out for you is run
 
Practice evil no one should
Pass judgment that you could
Wrath and indignation eternal night
Persevere in doing good
Pursue glory all you would
By grace enabled to do what is right
 
Make His resurrection known
Share your faith eternity sown
Not afraid to live and speak out for Him
Or just keep silent or moan
Seeds of discontentment grown
Timid, no purpose and your joy is dim

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Following is a slightly expanded version of what I said at B and K’s wedding, mostly because I read only Matthew 22 since Ephesians 5 had been read before I got up to speak:

A Wedding is a day of celebration that has greater and deeper meaning than the happy couple, as significant as they are. God has designed and ordained the various types of human interaction to reflect His character and government within the Godhead and His interaction with His people: government, family, church, and marriage.  In the Old Testament God refers to Himself as the One who rescued and loved a wife, Israel. But she was unfaithful and preferred harlotry (a picture of idolatry rather than worship of God). Many passages present this scenario. Among them, Psalm 45 is a positive one that seems to speak of a king and his queen and the King of kings and His wife. We learn that the wife is the people of God who are frequently unfaithful, as in Hosea and Ezekiel 16. Hosea 3:1 clearly communicates God’s persistence at loving His wife despite her waywardness.

In the New Testament God shows us another ordained allegory which is not a plan B or afterthought in the light of Israel’s unfaithfulness but a long pre-determined picture of what He is about in this time, that of Christ and His Church. The clearest pronouncement of this picture is given in Ephesians 5:22-33. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.  So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;  for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,  because we are members of His body.  FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.  This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.  Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”

 To summarize the allegory, marriage between one man and one woman producing offspring and interacting through roles of leadership and submission by mutual commitment and sacrifice concretely demonstrates the relationship of Christ and His Church. This picture brings much glory to God.

Therefore, we should expect that the enemy, Satan, would like nothing better than to destroy this picture. By so doing he destroys people and a reflection of God’s glory. I think his tactic can be seen by an analogy: Even as the glare of the city lights obscure the beauty of Moon and stars, so the glitzy show of sexual perversion and marital unfaithfulness attempts to block the God glorifying purity of a man and wife faithfully and lovingly representing Christ and His Church through their marriage. How does this apply to you and me? Young men and old, I’m speaking to you. Have you made the covenant that Job did? “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job31:1) You must avert your eyes and work hard a being pure of eyes and heart. Young women and old, I’m speaking to you. Have you heeded the directions in I Timothy 2:9-11, “I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.”? Do you cover yourself? The passage does not just speak of modest dress, though. It also speaks of modesty in conduct. Do you flirt with your eyes? Do you manipulate with your speech? Men and women, give glory to God in how you act and speak.

So how does this picture of Christ and His Church work? The wife’s role is a responsive role. Why should she do this? “As the Church” (v.24), so the the wife is representative. I Peter 3:1-6 shows that her witness is foremost for her husband to win him over to doing what is right even when he is disobeying the word. And the epitome of this submission is seen in Sarah “calling him lord” (v.6). Because this relationship points to the relationship of God and His people, this degree of submission makes sense. Certainly the Church calls Christ Lord. Just now the world is speaking frequently of the leftovers of a “patriachal society”, referring to any degree of gender role, but the Bible clearly teaches it for the purpose of marital unity and glory to God. Consider the English word husband. It literally means manager. We accept managers in business because they bring order and profitability, so why do we reject them in God’s economy? The wife is responding to the husband’s headship role, representing how “Christ also is the head of the church” (v.23).  How did Christ carry out His role as Head? First of all as Savior (v.23).  “He gave Himself up for her” (v.25). I believe this refers to much more than committing His body to die on the cross. He took on the wrath of God which was our due, a much greater torture than physical pain and death. Why would He put Himself through this torture? That He set the Church apart for Himself, both cleansing and presenting her to Himself (v.26). He valued His people so much as to take God’s wrath. Having cleansed her from sin, He now continues setting her apart by His Word. Practically this is accomplished through Bible preaching, God-centered fellowship, Spirit-led praying, and Christ-centered evangelism. Then in the future at His wedding feast it shall be declared, “‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready’. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:7-9) The bride arrives dressed beautifully in white representing purity, the light of her husband’s eyes. She is glorious, spotless, without wrinkle, or blemish. Jesus has far more than just reversed death. The Church that the bride is representing is not rescued from hell and death to an ugly, scarred existence. The Church is called upon and must work with this pruifying work of Her Lord Jesus. He will present us to Himself cleansed, beautiful as this bride appears before you today.

The man is further to be a servant of his wife pursuant of the end of cleansing her. He accomplishes this role by loving her as himself (v.28-30). This is a difficult and daily role, who is sufficient for these things? And the relationship is intimate and permanent (v.31). To be sure that no one misunderstands that Paul is talking about the marriage relationship as representative of the Christ/Church relationship he interjects verse 32. Then he summarizes with verse 33. Why is there a different command for man and woman? Humanly speaking it is because each has different needs. The man’s greatest need is to be respected; the woman’s greatest need is to be loved. But again the picture of Christ and His Church is in full view. Christ did and is loving His Church. How can our response be anything other than respecting and reverencing and obeying our Lord?

One other passage that I would like to consider related to this picture is the Parable of the Wedding Feast found in Matthew 22:1-14:  Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.  Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’  But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business,  and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.  But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.  Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’  Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.    But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes,  and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  For many are called, but few are chosen.” In this passage, Jesus assumes the picture we have been speaking of even before Paul had written about it. He goes further to deepen the meaning and change it slightly from what we have spoken of. The feast is initiated by the king who has a son getting married. But where is the bride? She is here, represented by the individuals. This idea is consistent with what we read in Revelation 19:9, “the fine linen [of the bride’s dress] is the righteous acts of the saints.”  And verse 14 says these individuals are both chosen and called.  

Not all of those called heed however. Some of those invited actively reject the invitation, refusing to come, scoffing, and beating and killing the king’s servants. Others more passively refuse, having other things to attend to which they evidently consider more important.  The King, obviously God, is angry at all of this God-hating and destroys them.  But there is another kind of person at the feast who is self-deceived. This person, representing many in the church today, has a more subtle problem. Unlike those who refused to come, he desires to be at the wedding feast. As revealed by the king’s question, he has a problem. He is not dressed in wedding clothes which those who attend must receive. Instead he is dressed in self-righteousness. If this represents you, you might be one who says, “I’m a church-goer. I’m a good family man. I’m a submissive wife. I’m a decent, upstanding citizen. I acknowledge God.” But God says of your good works, “All our righteous deeds are a filthy garment…” (Isaiah 64:6). The problem may be subtle but that does not make any less serious considering the results to the man. Hell is a real place.

The problem needs a bold solution. “For by grace have you been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is a gift from God, not as a result of works that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The wedding clothes are a gift. You must repent of your dead works. This means that you must turn away from your own righteousness and declare with God that it is sin and turn to what Jesus has done on the cross to rescue you from sin. This is God’s grace: ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.’ He gives those who trust in Him eternal life. Repent and receive the gift; you cannot buy it. I know that B and K would like nothing better than to know that someone came to receive the gift of eternal life from Jesus because of their wedding ceremony. May God bless B and K’s marriage and may He bless the Church’s purity and may He open your eyes to your need for the Savior so that you may be clothed and ready to come to the wedding feast that will be held one day. 

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There are so many good hymns. As with most things we have a tendency to rush over them as if to extract the sweetness without savoring the deeper substance. So as time allows on occasion I try to assimilate a little more of the spiritual nutrients from these poems that we sing. In poetry I like completeness of thought with conciseness of language. Of course that is a challenge. The hymn “One Day” seems to be just such a hymn, surveying the incarnation, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and second coming of Christ. Emphasizing this idea of these events happening on a certain ‘one day’ each produces a unity of the verses and points to the historicity of the works of Christ. In each of the verses Christ and His work are exalted and personalized to the person singing the song. These are all wonderful elements, but I’m rarely quite satisfied, so I thought that it covers from Christ’s incarnation at Bethlehem to the beginning of eternity, shouldn’t it include eternity past forward to Bethlehem?  I sat down and wrote two more verse to “complete” the thought of salvation history conveyed in the song. I was unable to bring in the element of personalizing the work of Christ to the singer and I’m confident that my poetry is not so good as the author, J. Wilbur Chapman,  but I enjoyed the effort and contemplation anyway, and so may you.

One day the Godhead took counsel in heaven
One day the Christ was appointed to die
Jesus submitted in full to His Father
While He still sat on His throne up on high
 
One day Christ Jesus created first Adam
One day He walked in the garden with him
Then Adam sinned and all mankind was fallen
As second Adam He would rescue them

One day when Heaven was filled with His praises,
One day when sin was as black as could be,
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin,
Dwelt among men, my example is He!

Refrain

Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever;
One day He’s coming—O glorious day!

One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain,
One day they nailed Him to die on the tree;
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected:
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He!

Refrain

One day they left Him alone in the garden,
One day He rested, from suffering free;
Angels came down o’er His tomb to keep vigil;
Hope of the hopeless, my Savior is He!

Refrain

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer,
One day the stone rolled away from the door;
Then He arose, over death He had conquered;
Now is ascended, my Lord evermore!

Refrain

One day the trumpet will sound for His coming,
One day the skies with His glories will shine;
Wonderful day, my belovèd ones bringing;
Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine!

Refrain

I noticed something after I wrote the first two verses. The refrain repeats and reviews the five themes of incarnation, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and the second coming of Christ presented one at a time in each of the five verses. I guess the hymn was wonderfully complete and filled out after all. Oh well, I reviewed all the more God’s wonderful grace in the process.

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What do you do on a less than profitable day?

You search for the hidden, more lasting and substantial, intended profit for the day.

When all goes awry
And my spirit wants to fly
His calling on my life
I must recall amidst the strife
 
When there is stress
And my spirit feels duress
His goodness every day
I want to graciously display
 
When hard things come
And my spirit would succomb
His strength is my stay
I need each step of the way
 
When joy comes to me
And my spirit knows it’s free
His all sufficient grace
I am keeping before my face
 

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Two days ago I began my 29th year of heating with wood. Of course there is the cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking of wood, all good in its time, but heating with wood is the really philosophical part. Early mornings and late nights sitting around the stove reading or praying or exercising or just listening to the quiet as the fire pops and smokes to life. I do some of my best thinking hunkered down in front of the wood stove waiting for it to heat up sufficiently to close down the dampers. Sometimes the thinking is intentional and sometimes laced with far off vague thoughts of what might be or should have been. Then there are the times I make better use of the time and pray, filled with thanksgiving or desperate for help. And God is faithful in His love and provision, and salvation, and guidance. I can tell when the stove is heating up because the metal expansion tunes up as it clicks. Almost immediately I can tell if it’s not heating up because the clicks begin their contraction down click. The first fire of the season cooks dust off the stove and brings far away memories of the sitting in front of the same stove in different houses under different life circumstances. After trips away for more than a day or two the house might be anywhere from 35 to 50 degrees F. I try to make the front of the stove top glow a dull orange to warm the house quickly. I have taught whole science lessons about observing stove and chimney and room. It works especially well for convection and Bernoulli’s Principle but also for radiation (blackbodies) and conduction. I frequently know what kind of wood is burning in some else’s wood stove by the smell. Smells bring back memories better than most senses. Coal, white oak, black locust, red oak, pine, fir. I could be in a mountain town or weaving a basket or setting fence posts or planing wood or clearing brush or backpacking in the mountains above 5000′ just by memory of the those smells. And those who know their wood, know that I just sequenced memories with the woods listed just before. Wood heat is a heat you can go to when you enter the house and are cold. It makes you much more aware of the temperature inside and out today and this month and this winter compared to past winters. It causes you to mark time in different ways than most people- there is wood gathering season and heating season. My two youngest sons split most of the wood these days. The one turning 18 next month despised splitting wood when he first had to work up a big tree but two months later when it was all split he was no longer a boy. Then he liked splitting wood and is ready to split when the occasion arises. Their splitting hints at another season coming, the days when I am no longer able to heat with wood. But that may be “aways off” because I can take it at a slower pace when they are gone. I’m not ready to give up this warm habit just yet.

Ask me about sincere fires another day for that is a different story.

The Fisher Grandfather burns a sincere fire!

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I’m happy that snow is white. In fact I don’t believe there is anything whiter. Paint store white, white white, ultrawhite don’t compare and everything else looks dingy.

Ibex sp.? (anyone know?)

“‘Come now, and let us reason together’, says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow…'” (Isaiah 1:18)

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.” Psalm 51:7

The wet Christmas snow comes down in the wind

The roadway with its sand and salt and slush is nasty but the snow reminds me that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

The White-headed elders guard town hall

Forgiven and reminded by snow and happy for its stilling and brightening effects I agree with the purpose of this messenger as with the one in the proverb: “Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him, for he refreshes the soul of his master.” (Proverbs 25:13)

White Christmas

White Christmas is rare in these parts but not so rare and fine as the time when the Glorious One comes Whose “head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and HIs eyes were like a flame of fire…” (Revelation 1:14). This whiteness will have been dimmed; this joy trivialized, but as it reminds me of my freedom from sin and the sight the pure in heart will one day see, I enjoy it all the more.

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Like most anyone else I have experienced ambitions to succeed at this or try that or do the other.  As the years have passed my thoughts of ambition have continued to some small degree though experience has quelled the impulse to apply action to those desires.  The desires to do something noteworthy that have most bewildered me are those I thought to be directed at glorifying God.  Evidently all too many of them were colored by personal ambition I did not understand.  As I reflected on God’s goodness, my failure to take ahold of Him to the degree I desired or serve Him in the way I thought desirable, I saw in my mind’s eye what my ambition should be.  I possess because of His gift a most precious resource.  I don’t want misunderstanding of my poem so consider that holding the jug means to possess the gospel while raising it refers to witness, that is, offering the gospel, and pouring would equate with praying with someone to receive Christ:
Only a lowly servant holding a water jar
But oh, refreshing contents rescued the very same
Now to offer water to travelers near and far
Brings joy to him and to his Master fame
 
Standing by the seated Master pouring on command
As one by one thirsty souls file past the servant there
Water offered unto all, received by those pre-planned
Await the Master’s nod, then pour with flare
 
Why so rarely raised the jug Master offers to all?
Servant holding back more for self that supply not fail?
The joy is more when raised or poured, not one drop will fall
Every single draught will for sin avail
 

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One of the ways that God has given us to communicate with people is through words.  Body language and acts of kindness, hatred, or neglect are other ways.  Not only kind, encouraging words, but constructive criticism words and instructive and insightful words that build someone up and demonstrate concern are helpful.  As the Proverbs say, “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad,” (12:25) and “A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word,” (15:23) and “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” (27:6) and “Heed instruction and be wise,” (8:33) and “the tongue of the wise brings healing,” (12:18), and “he who forsakes reproof goes astray,” (10:17) and many more good words. 

But I have observed that though the eargate be open and the volume be sufficient and distractions be few, many good words are not heard.  In fact, the emotional baggage and relationship histories can shut a mind down to where it not only refuses to accept good words, rejecting them or twisting them to have some nefarious meaning or intentions, but such a mind can deny before witnesses that the words were ever spoken.  Though this is an amazement to me, I have both observed it and commited this crime of unkindness to the speaker.  So, I am resolved to hear better and attribute intentions as purer to words that are of benefit to me while understanding that discouraging or untrue words may well come from a speaker who does not fully understand the source of their own intentions.  To this end I have composed a poem:

What is the need for a stern word
From loved ones, colleagues, or stranger
A cautionary note not absurd
When it rescues one from danger

 

What is the use of a taught word
Is it something you need to know
Keep you from running with the herd
Help your mind continually grow

 

What is the goal of a wise word
Of discernment that penetrates
So that on your life you may gird
Tools for living, such worthy traits

 

What is the help of a kind word
With regular sincerity
Just like a beautiful song bird
A seasonal sound rarity

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Father, we look forward to a good school year, but we won’t have one without Your active presence.  We acknowledge Your goodness, and request that Your hand of protection be upon us. We ask that You teach us truth so that we may communicate it to students and adults.  And all of this we ask for the glory and in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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