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Wow, time flies whether you are having fun or not. So many challenges and unknowns have come our way in the last 3 months, but God is faithful and His providential care and guidance is unerring even when we can’t see it. We are thankful that our house sold, but we don’t know where we are going next. Houses are hard to get in this rarefied real estate market, and direction for where we should be is even harder at the moment. I am by no means a control freak, but I like a little predictability and consistency in my life, and that is all out the window at the moment. My climbing partner said just today that I seem to handle uncertainty (“the unknowns” as we called it) pretty well. I testified to God’s work in my life to make that so. If I say that I trust God, then I need to prove it by not fretting and by waiting for His guidance.

Having said all of that, I am also thankful for decompression times like hiking hard on an approach to a cliff and climbing hard on climbs that are very challenging for me. That was today. Last week was more chill (or was it?) on a bright sunny day and friends trying hard at the boulder field. Check out a few pictures of that trip at Bouldering with Friends.

Girls are becoming more common in the Francis Clan. Our 10th grandchild was born on 2/23/22. We met her on the Greenway the other day, all bundled up and sleeping as we strolled along. As I held her, I said, “God bless you little girl.” And, as is my custom, I wrote a poem intended for the purpose of saying a blessing over this young one who are our posterity.

May God bless you little girl
With early knowledge of Him
Seek out the greatly priced Pearl
In this evil world that’s grim

Heidi be of noble kin
Who serve God, a priestly race
Quell temptation, quiet din
In the home with love and grace

Louise a famed warrior be
This world is no friend to you
Pray hard and live righteously
Know and teach the Word as true

May God grant that you live free
All your children’s children hold
All following God you see
None to unbelief may fold

As I stood praying with several brothers and sisters after service, a young sister prayed with fervor and striking wisdom for one so young. The latter is largely the result of her good Christian heritage, parents and grandparents. The former is because she “owned her faith”, as her grandmother said. It was not just her parents’ faith, it is hers.

Suddenly, an analogy flashed across my mind.

Young Christians (specifically, I mean young in Christ, young in the faith) are like Igneous rocks, newly formed and fiery, that is, passionate about their faith and progress in it.

Mature Christians are more to be likened to Metamorphic rocks, who through heat and pressure of this life are become purifying factors making the believer hardened and weather resistant to the wiles of the devil, the world, and the flesh.

Carnal and Disobedient Christians are similar to Sedimentary rocks, who once were living stones, but now have retreated to being mere history lessons of past events recorded in layers of deposition or fossils of mineralized bones of past failures of belief.

The analogy can quickly breakdown (erode) if pushed too far, particularly with inclusion of rock cycle transition. However, I think one transition in the rock cycle that should encourage us in this analogy is that even Sedimentary rocks can be metamorphised into more stable forms, just as Carnal and Disobedient Christians may repent and pursue maturity. Then the history lesson of their sediments is both a precautionary tale and a picture of God’s grace in bringing us to completion.

As I listened to the pastor preaching on the parable of the Lamp in Luke 8, my heart was stirred to further consider the truths of the passage. In the Gospels, Jesus is constantly urging His listeners to hear Him or else affirming the value of doing so. Following are two examples where He does the latter, revealing the relationship to God and blessing that comes from listening to His Word.

“But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:21

“But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:28

What does Jesus mean by hearing? Certainly He does not mean merely receiving vibrations of air into one’s ears or even registering their reception or even focus on the communication. Jesus warns against this type of hearing in the preceding parable in Luke 8. “His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, ‘so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. [Isaiah 6:9]'”” (Luke 8:9-10) Jesus is defining ‘hearing’ as understanding and acting on what you understand. In the continuation of Isaiah call in chapter 6 of that book, God continues with what Jesus has quoted above (v.10):

“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull, and their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

‘Return’ is an action of faith. Jesus makes a hard connection between hearing and heeding in the Word, His Word, God’s Word. You “hear…and do it” (Luke 8:21) and you “hear… and observe it.” (Luke 11:28) When you hear and heed, then you will highlight the goodness and power of God to change your life. You will be His “mother” and “brother” and “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) In John 15:7-9, Jesus calls this hearing, heeding “abid[ing”, which then results in highlighting the Father (glorified by this”) by “bear[ing] much fruit”.

Of course, this brings much blessing (Proverbs 4:4, John 14:21) to the one who truly hears, faithfully heeds, and graciously highlights the goodness of God.

Soon after my last blog entry (Transitions), I had a realization about my thinking processes. See if this assertion rings true for you. I frequently think more clearly and find more insight into a subject if I am not directly focused on it. It seems that when I set to determine a course of action, develop and idea or conviction, or gain deeper understanding, I get bogged down in my thinking processes or research when I concentrate on it. If I, instead, look at it as if with peripheral vision, listening to others discuss the idea, having previously considered the subject, allowing rather than pushing my mental wheels to spin and weave a coherent answer or summary, I think and formulate more clearly. If you carefully read, I do not mean haphazardly blab opinionated platitudes, but rather having previously considered the subject and raised it to the light of Scripture. In fact, it is at the moment of so raising it by myself or others to the light of Scripture that I seem to make connections. And connections are the stuff of analysis leading to synthesis.

Transitions

When I was an educator by vocation, one of the frequent comments in meetings was “Change is your friend; get used to it because it’s here to stay.” I am here to say that change is no friend of mine and never was. Change is a sometime enemy that stalks my peace, effectiveness, efficiency, stability, and progress as a teacher* and person. It cannot be avoided but it should not be applauded, lauded, and promoted. In education, I think change is probably an excuse for never settling on a good and meaningful curriculum and pedagogy. Good teachers who are allowed to teach the same subject will reflect on their craft and better it in delivery, content, and relevance. Bad teachers will not be jolted by change to better their approach, but will find loopholes to continue their poor delivery. (2) I am not quite sure where all of that came from. It must have been latently hovering below the surface for a while.

The real subject of this post is change that really is unavoidable if more beneficial outcomes await. Change, just because it is or because we refuse to resist its eroding influence, is frequently contemptible, but change resulting from a transition which leads to a better place may be hard, but good. (3)

So, my wife and I are in a major transition. At our age, 60’s, these are usually to be avoided for settling and security. In our case health, finances, and pursuits are driving change. The basement of our home of 22 years was growing in water content and mold. Given my wife’s health and blood tests identifying mold as a partial culprit of her symptoms, we decided to sell our house. Some of the pictures (click on “Parting Shots“) reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly. We could have spent the rest of our days in this house, given its wooded yard, quiet neighborhood, familiar surroundings, and good community facilities. (4)

Financially, it may not be reasonable or possible for us to live at our accustomed and desired standard of living in terms of housing in this town. Anyone at all aware of real estate at present is aware that it is flat out crazy. Pandemic paranoia and panic has doubled the price of houses in our town. The only house we were able to get as far as bidding on was gone by the next day. We cannot compete. But God’s providence, rather than more direct means, very frequently guides those who are trusting Him to where He wants them. To where might this lead?

That brings us to the last transition driving point, pursuits. In this context, I mean what I (we) desire to do with a part of the remainder of our days. For that you must wait until we discern where and how God is leading us, be it down the block or across state lines.

  1. Fill in the blank with your profession.
  2. Certainly opinion but one gathered from 28 years of being in the trenches.
  3. Many of the educational elite would say that this is what they are after. I do not beg to differ; I insist upon it. If transition to a better place was what was sought after (aka reform) then education would be better, but much of “educational reform” is a smoke screen for covering incompetence and wrong presuppositions. Leave the good teachers alone to settle in and improve their craft. Help the bad teachers to see they may need to find other work. Maybe this should have been a post about educational reform (or lack thereof).
  4. We agreed and I said, “I think that perhaps what I like best about this town is the [6 mile] wooded trail by the river”. I have run, walked, biked, explored, photographed, read, disc golfed, played with grandchildren and friends, picnicked, and talked on this greenway for 15+ years. I have not yet seen another one of equal beauty or variety.

Jury-Rig 1.01

I have not written here for just over a month, but it seems longer. My wife and I have gone through a period of difficulty and transition. Just after Thanksgiving we both had COVID. Then our house, sold, we moved into a rental house, and the closing on our house was delayed by a failed structural inspection. During the process of moving, I borrowed a trailer from a friend of mine. We met at dusk about halfway between our houses, so I needed the trailer lights. The problem was my truck’s plug did not mesh with his trailer’s plug. How was I to get it home without him spending an extra hour of driving to deliver it to my house?

When your ship is floundering in the swells because of storm damaged rigging and masts, you put up a jury-rig, an improvised, temporary sail that gets you into port. You use what you have. Check out what I had that worked at Trailer-rig.

Partial Obedience

Partial obedience precipitates lasting consequences.

Do you remember Saul’s debacle with Amalek (1)? In First Samuel 15:1-3 the Lord spoke to Saul through His prophet: “Then Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

He did not kill all the people of Amalek nor their livestock. It came back to haunt him and all Israel.

My pastor was teaching from I Samuel 30 and 31. Amalekites burned Ziklag and took David’s and his men’s possessions and women and children. David attempted to kill every Amalekite (2), for it says he fought from twilight until dusk of the next day. But 400 young men escaped on camels. Now there must have been at least some Amalek women and children at home and other men, too, but this band of young men could certainly repopulate Amalek in time.

Then comes I Samuel 31 and II Samuel 1. Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle by horrible means and their bodies hung from the walls of Beth-shan. When a messenger tells David what has happened, David has him cut down for killing God’s Anointed, Saul (3). The messenger, euthanizer was an Amalekite. So, Saul’s failure to fully obey God in the beginning came back to cause him problem in the end.

And the difficulty did not end there. One Amalekite, Haman the Agagite (4) set out to destroy all Jews in the time of Esther. His designs were foiled by Mordecai and Esther (Esther 9), but he came close to succeeding.

Partial obedience seems like full obedience to the half-hearted disciple. This word is hard. Sinner that I am, I have been there working my half-hearted obedience. And God says, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.” (I Samuel 15:22-23) Oh, God give me a whole heart like David’s, so that I may be as him, a man after God’s heart. (Acts 13:22)

  1. Amalek was the grandson of Esau, so Amalekites were Edomites. (I Chronicles 1:36)
  2. Amalek was stubborn in resistance to God and His people. God hardened their hearts and, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”” (Exodus 17:14-16) When Balaam prophesied the final time before Balak, he repeated the idea of Moses’ prophecy, “And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, “Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.”” (Numbers 24:20)
  3. Neither the Philistines’ arrows nor Saul’s own sword, but the Amalekite at Saul’s request killed him.
  4. Agagites were descendants of Agag, king of Amalek, at the time of Samuel and Saul. Saul foolishly spared him but Samuel cut him down. (I Samuel 15:8,33)

Deck or Porch?

The owner built his own house with many days of sweat equity for him and his wife and subcontractors for various major steps. The house is 98% done inside but needs some work and finishing touches on the exterior. The couple enjoyed their deck so much and love to entertain that they decided to add onto their deck, or outdoor living space as he called it. Being from farther north, they were amazed at the fierceness of the summer sun. So, they decided that they would use a covered deck more. For that reason, the most recent deck that I worked on might better be called a porch, because we put a roof over it. The outdoor living space changed the character of the house, giving it a more homey and inviting look and feel. The owner, with whom I have worked, has appreciated my attention to detail. He says most everyone who sees it comments on the quality. Check out a few of those details at “Outdoor Living Space“.

Lay Hold of Grace

My pastor’s teaching is sound biblically and practical. He was teaching from Philippians 4:20-23: “Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Packed into these closing words are a doxology, a greeting, and a benediction. He pointed out that we should make use of these words to affect how we live in the following ways. The doxology focuses us to “live for God’s glory”. The greeting encourages us to “love people”, especially the saints. The benediction blesses us to “remember the grace of Christ.” He encouraged us to pray these three things before we arise in the morning. Now I had thought at the time that this was good instruction but that the third word, “remember”, was weak. This morning upon rising I was looking for a different word or phrase. In synch with preacher language I decided upon “lay hold of the grace of Christ.” I think that I thought to pray when I awoke because he asked what we should pray before we arose. In my then present frame of mind, I suggested “In the difficulties of this day…” So, I composed my thoughts before God and hope that He will work these truths into my life this day and for many to come:

“Dear Lord, in the midst of today’s joys and difficulties, help me to live for Your glory, love people, and lay hold of the grace of Christ.”

Sanctifying Word

Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

Reading in the Proverbs lately, the sanctifying role of God’s Word to bring understanding and wisdom has captured my notice.

The confused understand; the despondent move toward hope; the fearful find security; the naive accept knowledge; the conflicted settle into peace; the foolish walk in wisdom; the sad perk up with joy; the timid boldly tell of the Savior; the persecuted receive comfort; the sinners dodge wrath and bask in blessing; the righteous are clothed in discernment and eternal riches.

Our God through communicating to man imparts life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11) “I wait for the Lord, my sol does wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

May you discover more of His grace and glory, and may His blessing overtake you in His light and protection that surround you, as you seek to walk uprightly before Him in 2022.

Cup of Salvation

I only visit with my brother about once or twice a year. He is kind to let my wife and I stay in his house when we come to town for family functions. It was Thanksgiving week and we sat reading in the living room, and my daily reading was Psalm 116. When I read verse 13, “I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord,” I mused that I did not know what the psalmist was referring to. Up to this point in the psalm there is not the least context hint of what the psalmist is doing or where he is. The rest of the psalm does give hints but could be taken several ways. So, I asked my brother if the cup of salvation was a celebratory cup at a feast or a cup of oblation before the altar. He whipped out his laptop and went commentary hunting on his Bible software. A number of commentators offered both possibilities as explanation, but there began to be a weight of evidence from the cross-references to other Scripture passages that leaned heavily toward cup of oblation. Scripture is always the best way to interpret Scripture, because it never contradicts and always tells the truth. Psalm 16:4-5 says, “

“The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, nor will I take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.”

David gives hint at two types of cup here, both the drink offering of idols he will not sacrifice and the cup of abundant supply he has been allotted by God. A quick survey of the uses of cup throughout the Bible reveals that cup is a symbol for God’s provision. The majority of its uses are for the provision of wrath and judgement for the wicked. Other uses include drink offerings of idols, abundant provision of health and supplies for living, and soul salvation.

In Leviticus 17:11 it says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” Here God is explaining why the blood is drained out of a sacrifice and why He commands that blood be drained out of a slaughtered animal before cooking and eating it. The priest would lift up the cup of blood collected from the sacrificed animal, sprinkle some of it on the sacrifice on the altar, and pour most of it at the base of the altar. (ex. Leviticus 4:7,18,25; 5:9) Some small amounts were used for various ceremonies of sanctifying (setting apart) by sprinkling or rubbing some the blood on the the person or object (ex. Leviticus 1:5, 9:12, 14:14, 16:14). This cup of blood is very significant to the understanding of the sacrifice and its symbolic nature. God clearly explains why a sacrifice is accepted in place of the death of the sinner: “to make atonement for your souls” (v.11). God is accepting a life sacrifice in place of the life of a guilty sinner.

But, “Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.” (Hebrew 9:9-10) Old Testament sacrifices were temporary “sweeping sins under the carpet” as it were. A better sacrifice was needed.

David mentions the context of the cup. He is fulfilling a vow in a certain place and way, in the temple:

“in the presence of all His people,
In the courts of the Lord’s house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.” (Psalm 119:18-19)

It seems that His vow is to publicly thank and worship God as David raises the “cup of salvation”, the blood to be sprinkled by the priest on the offering.

And this cup of salvation has its fulfillment in Christ, who “not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”(Hebrews 9:12) The blood of Christ is an abundant supply that satisfies the wrath of God for everyone who believes. At the Passover meal, the Last Supper, Jesus “took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Jesus raised the cup of salvation which He explains symbolizes His blood.

Our worship is a raising of the cup of salvation in thanksgiving for what He has accomplished. David raised it before the fact. Jesus raised it just before the fact, then raised it by His own sacrifice. We raise it in memoriam of what Christ did for us.

The Word of God is one whole story written by an Infinite Author. Therefore, it should not surprise us when we study it, it yields ever more connections and truths about anything and everything. So, great is the Lord, His name, and His works. As it says in Psalm 111:2:

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them.”

I was reading Psalm 149. It calls loudly for the praise of God. It has a secondary theme as to why “His godly ones” should praise Him: “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.” (v.4) Is “His people” all Israel, godly Israel, or all His people for all time? It certainly is not all Israel for He says through Isaiah the prophet,

“Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men,
Nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows;
For every one of them is godless and an evildoer,
And every mouth is speaking foolishness.” (Isaiah 9:17)

I don’t believe that He is speaking of merely godly Israel either. Here is the reason. Because He “takes pleasure in His people” the psalm reports two results: 1) “He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation” (v.4b), and 2) “This is an honor for all His godly ones” (v.9).

Oh, what a privilege and joy to be beautified with salvation. I am afflicted and needy and unworthy and sinful, and yet He has lavished His grace upon me, and all those who submit to His rule and trust in Him, by beautifying me, us, with His salvation. Praise God!

But then comes the deep and glorious connection to future events. What is this “honor for all His godly ones”? This phrase is the conclusion of verses 5-9:

“The high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand,
To execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,
To bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,
To execute on them the judgment written;” (v.6-9a)

God is going to lead them in judgements. I see here some detail filled in for a verse in Revelation 19:

“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. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

Obviously, the emphasis is and should be on Jesus, but verse 14 includes us: “And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.” I believe that Psalm 149: 6-9 is telling us what we shall be doing as we follow “Him on white horses”. Even as Christ has had us, “the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions,” so He will have us fill up His judgements at the end. And it will be an “honor for all of His godly ones.” We follow Him through thick and thin for He is worthy.

Warmth and Light

Our 9th grandchild arrived Monday morning, healthy and calm, weighing 7 lbs 9 oz and and 20.5 inches long. Click 9th Grandchild to see a picture.

Like the winter sun upon the plain
The warmth and light of the Gospel train
To its life and knowledge sinners point
By basking in it rays anoint

Miriam, a drop from the sea
Leading women in praise to Thee
Protecting Moses when so small
Likewise may you trust God, stand tall

Sing sweetly little songbird do
No guile but only right and true
So others may hear from Linette
Truth in a way they’ll not forget

Little Miss Francis early know
The Savior and in Jesus grow
Be wise and kind in all you do
And most of all your God pursue

Out of the Fog

This is the first day in more than a week that I have been motivated to think. My wife and I have COVID, identified Wednesday morning but probably resident within us for 3 or 4 days before that. The Wednesday before we had been tested because we were sick. I had a bacterial sinus infection and my wife had a non-COVID viral infection. I had heard that these associated bacterial infections were common, and I think it is the worse part of my sickness and symptoms.

Being nearly 62, but in relatively good health, the thing that has surprised me the most is how this disease zapped my motivation. I am highly motivated, though not Type A Business motivated. If there is something that I want to do or see that I need to do, I usually spend inordinate amounts of mental and physical energy accomplishing the task. But several days ago I was lying in bed and managed only one coherent thought. I was only motivated to do two things: breath and lay down. Sleep followed for 15 to 16 hours a day, but when I had to get up it was with much labor and the first thing that I wanted to do was lay down again. I certainly did not want to eat and even small amounts of food nauseated me. I didn’t want to start a fire, though I managed to twice in every 24 hours. I think that I did that for my wife, though it may have brought me significant benefit. I was forced to be upright, take on bracing fresh air, exert myself to carry in two loads of wood, and remain in front of the stove long enough for it to heat up so that I could close the damper. Then I went and lay down again and promptly fell asleep.

I have began to reflect on whether this is the sickest that I have ever been. The answer is a definite “no”. I will not recount my numerous sicknesses over 62 years, but I will quickly relate what seemed like the most life threatening sickness at the time. When I was in the 10th grade, which would be the winter of 1976, I came down with a flu that had me in bed for a week. I had a fever of 104 degrees for 4 days. The only thought I can remember from that time was that my mother seemed worried in such a way that she wasn’t sure that I was going to survive. Besides being massively behind in school, the worse problem was that it reduced me to a literal 90 pound weakling. When I got back to school, I had difficulty walking up stairs. I waited for the bus to go home out by the double doors to the weight room. The football players were in Spring training. At first I watched, but slowly I began to lift a few weights. Many of the athletes were my friends and seemed pleased that I was willing to try their strong suit. In a year and a half I went from being the weakest I ever was to probably the second strongest (must be a story for another day). About half way through that period of time, the basketball coach caught me lifting weights. I’m sure all kinds of liability specters danced before his eyes. A combination of much explanation, pleading, and his knowledge that I was an honorable student and person caused him to allow me to continue with restrictions, the most of which I was already following anyway.

Well, I have made it further mentally that I expected at first sitting, so I think that I will just go take a nap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gathering

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

Thankful Praise

Check out my Christmas Cactus.

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

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

Have a blessed, praise filled Thanksgiving!

Exclusive Claim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overflows from the Heart

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

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains