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Posts Tagged ‘Relationship’

Paisley and Plaid
Complimentarily clad
Two who became one
Someone’s daughter and son

Opposites attract
Differently act
Conflicts not abstract
Proceed with much tact

Love is a commitment
A selfless deployment
Not for the faint of heart
Pray from the start

It is not all pain
Nor expect constant strain
There are many a joy
Each other to enjoy

Loneliness at bay
In your heart night and day
Find the other’s delight
In darkness be a light

Not good to be alone
God made from Adam’s bone
A helper and a friend
Each other love, attend

A lifelong partnership
On a common trip
Where paisley and plaid
A reason to be glad

Almost always I either write a poem based on a rhyming couplet that pops into my head or an idea that I want to explore. The preceding poem is an example of both. Hopefully the reader can visualize the metaphor that I intend by envisioning a couple, whose female is wearing a dress with paisley that color matches the plaid the male is wearing. We males and females, as God has created us, are far more different than our physical differences suggest. We have different needs and desires and abilities. In this fallen world of sinful people that can and does increase conflict in relationship, it is because we don’t understand each other and probably don’t want to at some level.* But marriage is not meant for pleasure and pro-creation alone. It is meant to refine and remake us. I am thankful that God has given me a godly wife who has been faithful and diligent for more than 38 years now. At times throughout that journey, neither one of us has been easy to get along with, but by God’s grace we still love each other and are nicer to each other than we have been sometimes in the past. That is God’s work in our life together. And as time goes along, you come to realize that the differences are a good, complementary things that have built you both up.

*The world, the flesh, and the devil are all against marriage with a vengeance. I highlight the part played by flesh here.

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I don’t know if I have enough time even now, but I have wanted to share some thoughts and pictures concerning my second son’s wedding that was on August 24th. The typical wedding comment is, “It was a beautiful wedding.” or “It was a beautiful ceremony.” There are two things that can be meant by that. It was visually beautiful and/or it was beautiful in content. Certainly my son’s wedding was visually beautiful: sunny day, aesthetically pleasing, hilltop venue (Whitestone Chapel), and beautifully dressed young people. But I see the true beauty of a wedding to be in the genuineness of the ceremony, which I define as a combination of giving glory to God, the creator and sustainer of marriage, and matching the couple’s personality by revealing a heartfelt commitment and participation in the ceremony (they are not rote repeating spectators).  And it was that. Beyond the traditional vows which they repeated, they had written what they called promises to one another. My son asked me later, “Do you think we collaborated on those?” I said that it seemed likely since they followed the same line of thinking and simultaneously were complimentary to one another. No, he said, “We wrote them separately and then read each others.” He said that the only change she made was to add a comment about coffee similar to his, a moment of levity in the covenant of their promises. The two hymns, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” and “Amazing Grace” focused our attention to how gracious a God we have, Who not only saves us but gives us all good things to enjoy. The pastor directed our thoughts to the reality of how difficult marriage is, “two sinners living together”, and how the need for love is not just a feeling but a commitment to do what is best for our spouse. The ceremony was God glorifying throughout.

Another thing for which I am very thankful is the number of family members who were able to attend. Many family members from my wife and my extended families were able to attend. The reception afterward was held at a barn at the bride’s family property with 150+ people in attendance. All had feared the August scorching heat, but some clouds and a cool breeze prevailed and it was quite pleasant. I felt that the happy couple were carried along by God’s blessing the whole day, and may it be true throughout their lives.

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Rehearsal

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Pianist

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Bride’s Oldest Sister and Family

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Mamaw and oldest grandson

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Bride’s younger siblings

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Amazing, long preparations and carry through

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‘We’re happy but it’s a long day.’

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Bride’s mother and the Pastor and friends

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My wife beside Bride’s parents

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Taking it in stride

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Fellowship

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Uncle with the little chunk

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Hilltop Venue

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Overlooking the Lake

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The Wedding Party

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My Oldest and Family

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My Youngest and Wife

Bean Family

My Daughter and Family

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My Third Son and Roommate (This Son got engaged the next weekend)

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The Growing Clan minus the Married Couple

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The Grandchildren

5 Children

The Children

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Always in Costume

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The Groom with the Pastor and His Wife

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A Portion of My Family

 

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When I am walking in an unfamiliar part of the woods, I give attention to my feet to avoid snags and stumbles, what is beyond a log I am stepping over, the topography, stream flow direction and size, water, food, daylight left, cloud cover, and sounds. The quietness and loneliness of the woods encourages a tendency toward introspection. But these observations are needed focus; one needs to be circumspect. It is important to give attention to these variables. And it does not mean that I am paranoid or overly worried. Most of these observations are part of the enjoyment of being outdoors. Nature is enjoyable to observe because God has given it much beauty and intricacy. But I have been in enough potentially harmful situations in the woods to look around and take calculated risks.

“The basic meaning of Latin circumspicere is “to look around.” Near synonyms are prudent and cautious, though circumspect implies a careful consideration of all circumstances and a desire to avoid mistakes and bad consequences.” Math students know that a circumference means around a circle. And many types of training from military to pilot to driving to playing sports involves keeping one’s “head on the swivel”. It is important to have situational awareness for many pursuits, both enjoyable and serious.

But this way of walking in the woods is but a metaphor for the more challenging spiritual walk. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.” What brought this word to mind happened just last Sunday at my church when we recited our  covenant together,  which includes the phrase, “…to walk circumspectly in the world…” What is the practical outworking of these ideas? Following are a few Scriptures and thoughts on walking circumspectly.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” Proverbs 3:7

“Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.” Proverbs 8:33

“prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3

“And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

There are many hundreds of verses that could be quoted about walking circumspectly. The focus that I intend here is care to avoid pride in the areas of truth and relationship. Or to state the idea in a positive and more casual way, be humble about what you know, teachable, convinced of God’s truth, and be humble and kind in how you relate to others.

We are given many good gifts. One is life. God has a purpose for us being alive.

Another is time. We should use it efficiently. I don’t mean by being a workaholic because of some vague guilt that you must utilize every minute in profit making pursuits. Instead, seek the deeper profit of following God’s leading. It may seem a circuitous route, not at all according to your day planner. Rest is profitable. Stopping to converse is profitable. Enjoying a few moments of contemplating nature is profitable. Completing a job in a timely fashion is profitable.

Another gift is work, because it gives purpose. “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” (Proverbs 18:9) 

So, my preliminary, totally non-exhaustive definition of walking circumspectly is be observant and prudent in how you handle truth, relationship, and pursuits so that “whether… you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31) May God grant us each a deeper, more careful, more enjoyable walk with Him through this world.

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…and probably the final beach trip of 2018 for me. It was both profitable to my mind and invigorating to my emotions. The previous initial visits, I walked the beaches by myself. I took lots of pictures of the surroundings. Then I went several times with people and took pictures of the surroundings, except I did take several pictures of my wife when we went. This last time I realized that I wanted to get pictures of my newfound, fast friends. Fast has two meaning here: 1) quickly gained, and 2) firmly fixed. Because of the circumstances of meeting these friends, that is, at a seminar in a state far from either of our resident states, it seems somewhat unlikely that I will see them again. On the other hand, since God orchestrated these meetings and good fellowship with them, He may intend for it to happen again.

The horseshoe crab was, sadly, dead. I tried numerous times to take a picture of the flag unfurled just so. This close-up is the best attempt. It had a particular aesthetic appeal with the tall parallel lines of the Palm trees surrounding it and the foreboding thunderstorm backdrop. The foreground Palm trees increased the effect. Sometimes I don’t know how to take a picture of what my mind’s eye is seeing. Perhaps the mind is perceiving more than the light reveals. One of the guys and I went swimming. After just a few minutes it started raining. Wet is wet, right? Well, no, not really. Rainwater is cold, and this time of year, refreshing. But then there is the cellphone and camera sitting on the beach. I managed to wrap them up in my towel and tuck them under my arm so that no harm was done. I should get a waterproof camera for all of the humid and wet days I take pictures. Then I could snorkel with it as well. Speaking of wet, I had a student ask me facetiously if water is wet. My reply was not always. You see, water beading up on a well waxed car is not wetting the surface, so it isn’t wet.  Flying birds among the hardest things to take pictures of. There is so much going on in one cycle of the wings.

I experienced the beach more this summer than in many years past, and I saw things in terms of wildlife and thunderstorms that I had not seen before. It was icing on the cake of learning new things at seminar and meeting new friends. God is good all of the time. Remember His goodness in the difficult times by focusing on His character, on the promises of His Word, and on the good gifts of relationships with people, experiences, and things He has given you.

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Old Glory Stands

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Unfurled for Battle

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Eventide

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New Friends

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Swim anyone?

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More New Friends

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I just now noticed the curious pattern of shells around the horseshoe crab

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On the hunt but gliding with ease

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I came to Clearwater for the third out of four training sessions. I convinced one of my classmates to take a walk on Sand Key Beach after class. The weather was perfect for a walk on the beach: cloudy, raining offshore, stiff breeze. He and I had good, substantive conversation. We began noticing medium small conches in the shallow water. They were actually coming to shore and gathering in pods of 3 or 4, presumably mating. We witnessed one hopping along the bottom by a quick flip of its foot that propelled it forward 2 to 3 shell lengths. I had never seen that before, assuming that they scoot along the bottom by foot pressure in the sand. When I picked up one of the shells, holding it upside down to see what was in it, the gastropod (snail-like mollusk living inside the shell) kept extending its bony operculum and running it quickly halfway around the shell to snag my fingers. It didn’t like me holding it upside down out of the water. I also observed several burying themselves in sand in less than 30 seconds. They are amazing animals.

The next evening we gathered a couple to go with us to Honeymoon Island State Park. The beach is strewn with much more shell debris, washed up coral and seaweed, and rocks. I saw a mostly buried “rock” and mused to my friend whether or not it was really a rock. Pushing at the sand to dislodge it, a crab crawled out and back seaward. We found others. Their backs looked similar to limestone but with small projections on their backs. Just back from the beach was a large pond with hundreds of very small crabs scurrying  away as I approached.

My only regret is that I didn’t get into the water. We sure sweated quite a bit on our walk. But it was good to share the beach with new friends. I like new adventures, learning new things, and meeting new people. And I am thankful that God created all of it with beauty, complexity, and variety. One day He will make “all things new”. (Revelation 21:5)

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Godwit? Common Greenshank?

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Cormorant

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It’s alive!

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How do you identify varieties of coral?

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Just as I found them

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It is nice to see a live sea star

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It’s not a rock

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Abundant life

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Put me down!

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It leaves quite the impression

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I think that I like beaches on cloudy days better.

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I had asked my fourth born son to come to town one weekend and go for a hike with me. It has been a long time since I have hiked with any of my children. He decided to invite a friend from college days. Since it is summer, I thought it would be nice to visit one of our adventuresome swimming holes at the base of Babel Tower in Linville Gorge. It is a steep hike down for two miles. I love to stand on top of the tower, which sits in a severe turn in the river and look down at about 60 degrees to the right and then the left to see the upstream and downstream legs of the river. After we looked around, we went down to the river where we swam, jumped, and sunned. My son waxed reminiscent about past trips that challenged and pleased us.

He said that he liked the other swimming hole we used to frequent better. We still have a lot of daylight; we could go to that one, too, he suggested.

So we hiked as quickly as we could back up out of the gorge. This brought on a discussion (when I had enough breath to talk) about how he and his brothers learned to hike fast, trying to keep up with dad. “I remember the very hike that it changed. You could no longer keep up with us. To be fair, my younger brother and I could not keep up with our older brother either.” But I am thankful to God that I can still hike, and especially since I had a knee injury seven months ago. I have not run since then and could not walk any distance or speed for many months because the back of my knee would swell. But this time I almost kept up.

We went on to Wiseman’s View and took pictures there and told stories. Then we started the car ride around the top end of the Gorge and down Hwy 181 to Mortimer Road and cut across to Wilson Creek in order to hike to Lower Harper Creek Falls. There are few swimming holes so versatile as this one. There are two pools separated by a gentle cascade that you may slide down seated. In the middle of this cascade is a pothole of four foot depth and diameter that the water swirls around in. You can stand in it and even submerge into an airspace under the falling water to hide. The upper pool is narrower and deep with a forty foot waterfall coming into it. Along side the falls you can run off the steep incline at about twenty-five feet up and hit the pool beyond the sloping rocks. The water is quite cold, but the rocks warm up nicely in the afternoon sun.

My son wanted to do everything that we “used to do”. I figured out that between the swimming and jumping and eight miles of hiking to three locations that I was exhausted. On top of that we took very little for lunch. My wife had a three pound roast and plenty of vegetables prepared when we arrived home. There were very few leftovers after three hungry men ate supper. I am thankful to God for the mountains and the health so far to enjoy them, the memories we have of playing there, and the opportunity to show them to others. I need to do more of that.

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I wonder if this is where the Babel Tower separated from the Gorge wall.

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Friend from college days hopping around on the Tower

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Hawk’s Bill and Table Rock

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Beautiful day for a hike with friends

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Upstream of the Tower just below the swimming hole

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Frequently you can see people on top, but I don’t today.

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The Tower has 100′ cliffs on one side and another 100+ foot drop to the river beyond that.

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Deep pool, various jumps, current, decently cold water

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It has been a wet season

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from Wiseman’s View

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Lower Gorge with Shortoff on the far downstream side

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Brings back memories; makes new ones.

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Lower Harper Creek Falls

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The cascade into the lower pool

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The way in and out to the upper pool

 

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I have 6 grandchildren when you count the one due in September. Following are pictures of five of them, four very recent and one several months ago. For you or I months or even several years make little difference in a picture, but little ones change so fast. I think several things draw us to little ones: They are growing and changing so fast, they are generally happy and curious, and they learn new things all of the time. The feeling of connection and posterity also make them very precious to grandparents. I pray regularly that God will keep them safe and grow them strong in body, mind, and spirit.

The pictures are in order of age, the first one with her uncle belongs to my daughter who is pregnant with her second. The other four belong to my oldest son.

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Eat, tell stories, find out what’s been happening since we last gathered, and eat some more pretty much sums it up.

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The following poem may be the biggest mistake I’ve ever made on this blog. It could draw some significant ire. However, if those who read it, read it carefully and understand its intent, it may help someone reconsider how they are doing things. The poem came as a result of a conversation I had with a decent young man who at present has no prospects for marriage. What he said could be interpreted as so much sour grapes, but I don’t think so. He wants to be a godly husband and is waiting for a godly spouse, but inside and outside the church, young women seem suspicious and disinterested in commitment to young men. (Switching gender in this statement is sometimes true as well.) One statement he made struck me as instructive: “The American Woman (I’ve decided to call her) expects that a man meet all of her emotional needs, but she sees it as optional to meet his physical needs.” I thought several things after he said this: 1) The full pendulum swing from the man as ruler of his house to the fully liberated woman has occurred.  2) Neither extreme is biblical and both are damaging to all parties involved. 3) This statement illustrates the age old difference and misunderstanding of differences in needs of the two genders.

This society belittles males as nothing more than animals, blathering, hormonal driven fools. What we expect and inspire is what we get. We need to change our expectations and encouragement of boys and men.

American woman why do you flounce?
Look on with disapproving eyes

Every male reject and renounce
Belittle in jest and despise

You practice no modesty before guys
In speech and action or in dress
Putting out honey will draw flies
Complicit are you in this mess

(Now it’s true that men should not lust for girls
Treat them as objects, as mere tools
But made in God’s image, real pearls
Honoring her, not acting like fools)

So build up young men; don’t tear them all down
Declare to them their great value
Help them step up to be renown
Sober of mind and always true

Thus the benefit for all and for you
Respect your man and serve him, too
Modest in dress says you are true
He will arise, protect, love you

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It was time for Monday morning parking lot duty again (for more see “Marvelous Mondays“). “We shouldn’t even be here, it’s snowing.” I had my full rain suit on with a little less than comfortable amount of clothing underneath. That slight discomfort added a bit to the melancholy of the streetlights and angled snowfall that resulted in light splatter sounds on my hood. Water droplets flashed like Advent lights on tree branches and pavement as their moving form refracted the artificial light source. I always station myself at the center of the parking lot under six trees planted there a mere eleven years ago. They have produced their own microcosm. The birds love to come early and sing from their branches and feed on insects under the shrubs below them. I am constantly amazed at how lively the little space is. I have long observed the disparity of growth among these six trees, but the stark and beautiful scene of this morning caused me to contemplate their survival and interaction in a rather curious way.

 

A small island in the parking lot
A heavily mulched and shrubbed plot
Reprieve from the barren blacktop
Place of rest and food where birds stop

Six Pin Oak trees were planted there
Shade and shelter where birds repair
One grew fast, rules over the rest
Two compete, the larger one test
Two struggle, healthy but not strong
One not thriving, everything wrong
Disease, breakage, the bark looks old
Misshapen, stunted, soon may fold

All are needed, the plot complete
The strong, the weak, those that compete
The weak need so much extra care
How will we help them to repair?

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“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.” Psalm 94:19

There is peace and rest and joy for the anxious soul here. But how do you or I access it?

I don’t know if I have ever had what would be clinically considered to be a panic attack, but I have had significant feedback loops where disturbing, worrying, debilitating, anxious thoughts accelerated in my mind, even giving me the shakes or rendering me sleepless. These are rare events for me, as I usually keep very busy and my family can attest to how fast and how soundly I sleep. But I do have garden variety worries and feelings of inadequacies for tasks at hand. Some people genuinely don’t have trouble with anxiety. I say honestly, good for them. I am told that I come across as a confident person. I am not intending to fake confidence. I know what I believe and “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 2:12) But even so, I have anxious thoughts, and particularly thoughts of inadequacy. I think that it is a residual of my upbringing that will never go away.

Does that mean I can never have victory over it? Not in the least. And that is where this verse comes in. If there was reason for worry the psalmist had reason. Evil people were being arrogant in every way and harming God’s people and the destitute and there was no visible evidence that God was paying attention. The psalmist goes on to declare that he does believe that God hears and will act in judgement and will support the righteous, but that doesn’t negate the present difficulties nor the “anxious thoughts” that “multiply” (v.19)

For any activity or thought pattern that needs to cease, there needs to be a replacement. To just say to someone or to yourself, “Stop that,” and not give an alternate path for thought or deed is useless. But what is the replacement? “Consolations”? What are those? I understand that God provides them in at least three forms (that are significantly overlapping): promises, practices, and presence.

Following are but a few examples of each one:

     Promises

“Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.” Psalm 94:18  

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” Psalm 34:18      

” Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10                

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:7-11                                                                                                                     

   Practices

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

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

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is ]lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith,love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” I Timothy 6:11-12

   Presence

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

” But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all the I have said to you.” John 14:26

“He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraidWhat will man do to me?”” Hebrews 13:5-6

” then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”                   I Thessalonians 4:17

God’s consolations are many and ever present to those who by His grace belong to Him. When you and I get caught in moments of worry or waylaid by anxiety, replace it with the promises of God, the life giving practices He has provided for us to live before Him, and the knowledge of His continual and intimate presence as we call upon Him.

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Pastor preached on Proverbs 27:17 this morning: “Iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.” He spoke about the need, purpose, and process of believers helping each other grow spiritually. I enjoy extending metaphors, which requires care not to come up with analogies not there or elsewhere delineated in Scripture or life. The usefulness of such an enterprise may be to help those who hear to further understand the importance of the concept portrayed by the metaphor.

Why does the Scripture say iron sharpens iron? That has long bothered me, because anyone who has sharpened a knife or tool knows that you use a whetstone, grinding stone, or ceramic sharpening tool which are harder than the tool.  And such tools existed. I Samuel 13:20 records the desperation for Israel when “all Israel went down to the Philistines, each to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, and his hoe.” These events were more than 300 years before Solomon wrote the proverb. For that matter, why shouldn’t I use modern technology, the diamond sharpening stone?

The proverb is a metaphor for fellowship and discipleship within the congregation of believers. God doesn’t give us any other choice. We must sharpen each other. And we are not back at the castle. We are in the battle, so the grinding wheel is not an option. We go to our brother, cross swords in a mutually beneficial way and come away sharpened for more battle. Fellowship is the non-optional, God-ordained means for being honed to battle readiness.

Those who want to exclude themselves because of “hypocrites in the church” or “I can worship in nature” just fine or “all I need is Jesus” are dull or more likely twisted and unbalanced weapons. The problem is everybody wants to be sharp but nobody wants to be sharpened. When you are sharpening a blade, one swipe of the finger near the edge will reveal why so few want to be sharpened. Your finger will come up with a dark gray dust from the sharpening process. Sharpening removes material. Bad material and excess material must be removed from your life. It can be painful and humbling.

For some it’s rust from lack of use or exposure to corroding influences that needs to be removed and is hindering the cutting edge. For others, it is good material, all be it not according to faith or God’s direction, that needs to be removed to reduce the fat edge of dullness.

When two materials of equal hardness are used to do the sharpening, material is removed from both edges. Discipling and being discipled means involvement in another person’s life with all of the mutual messiness and need for honing away spiritual dullness.

And some of us are more of a mess than others. I own a double bladed axe. The way that I came into ownership of this axe goes back to the beginning of my wood heating days. I borrowed this axe (first mistake) to split some of the first wood I cut. While attempting to split some very twisted forks, I got several wedges stuck in a piece. I used the axe to attempt to get the wedges out (second mistake). I bought the axe, that is, I replaced the friend’s axe and kept the broken one. The strike took out a half-moon divot in the blade about the size of your thumbnail. In years since I have used the good blade to split and the broken blade when risking to remove wedges or cut roots near metal or concrete. No other sizable divots have been removed but the the edge has been bludgeoned a few times. I have tried for years to sharpen that divot out of the blade. For the longest time my efforts were to no avail, but now, years later, that blade is reasonably sharp while still having somewhat of a dent in the edge. It took years and that blade is possibly an inch shorter than the other one. That blade is me. The difference is that I have multiple divots. God has had to work for years to grind away the dullness of my spirit due to sinful habits and difficulties of life. I still show the scars and I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, but neither am I who I was. And much of that has been because God has used brothers and sisters in my life to remove rust here and dullness there. I doubt seriously that I will be admired as a shining blade of perfection, but I do pursue a cutting edge pursuit of God in the battle of life. And for that I give Him all of the praise.

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We had such a blessing around the table and advent wreath last evening with three of our sons and future daughter-in-law. My personality hardly even knows how to do unhurried time, but it was so good, good conversation, good food, good consideration of both advents, good singing, and good gifts.

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Let us remember that among the other blessings that Christ brought was His rescue of us from under the Law as slaves to sin so that we might become sons of God. He accomplished all of this through His incarnation, sacrificial death, and resurrection. The penalty of sin is gone because He eliminated the legal problem by satisfying it. Now His Spirit indwells us so that the power of sin is retreating from our lives. And we have hope of His second advent that will bring judgement so that we might live in His holy presence apart from the presence of sin. May your New Year be prosperous in health, relationships, finances, and most of all, your knowledge and service of our Savior.

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I was asked, as one of the guests requested by the Eagle Scout candidate, if I would like to speak during the ceremony. I asked if I would be allowed to share Scripture. The response was, “That would be good because the pastor had a conflict and can’t come.” Following is an approximation of what I said then:

Eagle Scout Candidate (ESC- I used his name where this appears), congratulations on your accomplishment. I am here to give you a challenge. Your Scout Oath speaks of duty to God, Family, Country, Others, and Self. Life is about relationships. I add family to the list because, even though it is not included directly in your oath, it is the most fundamental unit of society, even above government, and is surely included in “others”. The Scout Promise and Path is about fulfilling these duties within these relationships.

My challenge today, ESC, pertains to the question, What is our duty to God?

Micah 6:8 says, He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” In the context before and after this verse the prophet points out that this requirement is not being fulfilled. Is it an unreasonable requirement? Paul quotes King David, the prophet (Psalm 36) when he says,There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands,there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does goodthere is not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12) Paul summarizes the problem just a few verses later: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (v.23) Is God being unreasonable to require what we cannot do? What is the solution? The solution is relationship with God. Hear what Ephesians 2:8-9 says: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The first step in duty to God is to know God through His Son, Jesus.  The next step is to live for God. These two steps cannot be reversed. You cannot simply serve God and be a nice person. You must know God through Jesus first, then He gives power to those who know Him by providing everything they need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:2-3).

ESC, my challenge to you is this: Know God through Jesus, not know about God. Know God by receiving Jesus as your Savior. Secondly, know God regularly through His Word and through worship. Thirdly, serve family, country, and all people through the power God gives, giving Him the credit. This is your duty to God.

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After a fire in 1925 the stumps of the recently logged area appeared as grave markers to some and the eroded soil and shallow bedrock prevented the forest from coming back in places, thus the name. 100_9964100_9963

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Upper Falls

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From the top of the Upper Falls

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Light rain, fog, lush spruce and wildflower growth

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Viburnum sp?

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Any idea which species?

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Just above the Lower Falls

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Looking down over the Lower Falls

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Lower Falls

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Enjoying some time together

The day could have been a wash, driving 2 hours to see it rain. Upon approach, the fog seemed unavoidable. The light rain started soon after we started walking and continued almost the whole time. When we got to the top of the Upper Falls, thinking to just take a  quick look and head for the car, we found a spruce tree, rhododendron combination that was keeping the rock at creek’s edge dry. We sat down for a lunch and snooze. I walked upstream a bit while my son snoozed on. It was a quiet time together with no one on the trail all the way back. In route to the Lower Falls we crossed the “fields”, heather thicket really, with scattered wildflowers. The hike was shorter than we had planned because we didn’t really want to get up on bare, Black Balsam with the possibility of heavier rain or lightning, but it was pleasant and relaxed. We both agreed it was an enjoyable time together and in the woods (fields).

 

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To paraphrase, children and grandchildren are a gift from the Lord. As distance and years pass it is harder to have quality time with either. My daughter commented that with a child you can do things that most adults (so called responsible adults) wouldn’t do. It is good that my grand-daughter has a mother who will play with her in the rain. It has been an exceptionally wet summer where I live, but 4 hours away where my daughter lives it has been an exceptionally dry summer. I’m thinking, “Oh, rain again.” My daughter is thinking, “Oh, rain again!” You have to supply intonation based on context.

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All the political hubbub with no real solutions. All the anxiety ridden news reports without real hope. All the suggested intrusions on freedom with no real security. We are not going to make progress and are going to regress rapidly without turning to the one and only solution. 

This poem actually began as two conflicting thoughts and considering the circumstances under which they came about. It seems to me now the first verse does not even go with the rest of the poem so I will separate it with extra space. See what you think:

I write poetry to keep from being bored
Focus mind when feet are nailed to a floorboard
Teasing out thoughts that are both far flung and near
Sorting through the hurtful and that which is dear

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When I think of all the wrong that’s in the world
Murders and abuse and war banners unfurled
My mind grabs for solutions to bring to bear
All beyond reach in a world cruel and unfair

There’s the pain to loved ones from me and others
Scarred relationships start with father, mothers
Friends and neighbors had words and are offended
Words out, actions done, cannot be rescinded

Is there no hope for mankind, is it all gloom?
Tearing down self and others, is this our doom?
No, there is hope, but it’s not in self-help plans
Nor is it in the police state or gun bans

Our hope is in God’s Son through His sacrifice
His death on the cross for sin paid the full price
By trusting in His work we have peace with God
Relationship growing in place of the rod

Repentance and forgiveness we have in Him
We may pass to others as a precious gem
When seeking to forgive and be forgiven
We have with sin and disharmony striven

This makes possible reconciliation
Moving past hurt beginning restoration
Extending peace to strangers and enemies
Doing right by neighbors knowing that God sees

Hope for the future and for the present too
Pointing people to purpose both real and true
Spending time and resources to relieve pain
Pointing to the Savior in Whom is real gain

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I kept wanting to go to the mountains but people, responsibility, and other priorities kept preventing it. Seeing my repeatedly frustrated efforts my wife said that I should go tomorrow. I wasn’t going to second guess the cessation of chores and her encouragement to go. Besides, after taking a walk with her early on this August 1st I knew that it was an exceptionally clear, low humidity, and cool day. (65 degrees was enough for several people to say it felt like the first Fall day- wishful thinking with August and September ahead.) So a hasty breakfast and quicker packing job and I was gone. I like solitude but I like company, too, but the whole reason I was going alone was because I couldn’t find anyone and one had even backed out. 

I even enjoy the drive up on a very curvy rode in a small, good cornering car with a clutch and adequate power. The air was crisp, the sky totally blue, and my heart was light. Bouldering by yourself is considered to be quite risky by some, but I have observed others doing it with care. You only attempt climbs that are straight up over the pad with no barn door potential. The weather meant exceptional friction, almost unheard of in the humid South in the summer. I was climbing well, but I can’t say if I was climbing exceptionally well because I couldn’t try anything really hard because of the ground rules for climbing alone I’d set down. During rest breaks I took pictures of fern and tree leaves.

Rockcap Fern (Polypodium virginianum) I believe

Rockcap Fern (Polypodium virginianum) I believe

Frazier Magnolia

Frazier Magnolia

I set up several videos of me climbing (I just admitted to a selfie! I will not let this become a regular event and certainly not an addiction. I must keep this under control.) You may check them out by clicking on the names below. It will be immediately obvious that I’m no rockstar, but I enjoy the challenge, nonetheless:

Disc and Throw

Chainsawleft

Trillium fruiting

Trillium fruiting

American Chestnut "bush"

American Chestnut “bush”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After bouldering around until my forearms were quite tired, I walked up to the top of the ridge, sat down, took in the view, ate lunch, and read my Bible. Actually, when I first arrived up top I lay down on the bouldering pad a prayed for awhile. There was such a rest in telling my Father all my burdens about work, family, and internal stress. I have been enjoying, not just tolerating reading Leviticus and Numbers. Numbers 2 and 3 seem like lists of camp arrangement and numbers of fighting men, and numbering religious servants, but they reveal several things about God’s character. He is orderly and efficient and given to detail.  The arrangement of Levites reveals His concern for His holiness among the people and grace to not destroy them with His fierce justice. The taking of the Levites in place of the firstborn and the redemption of 273 additional Israelites by a gift of five shekels each reminds us of the depth of our sin problem and the gloriousness of God’s solution in salvation. The more I read the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy) the more I feel like Jesus is repeating Himself when He points to God’s holiness and the Law. As a man did He have “aha!” moments of learning the Word from His parents or the synagogue teachers, moments when He said, “I remember saying that.”? All of His Word speaks of His character and what is important to Him. Are we bored with it because we have little passion for knowing Him and what He cares about? Knowledge of Him is our ultimate goal here. Beautiful days in the mountains and hard days of difficulty or frustration are profitable and meaningful if we allow them to direct us to knowing Him more. Yeah, I prefer one over the other but I am slowly learning to muse, “Hmm, I wander how this situation may draw me closer to Him?”

House Fly

House Fly

 

Evergreen groundcover

Shining Clubmoss (or Shining Firmoss) Huperizia lucidula (Thanks for the ID help Sister L)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view up top increased my enjoyment of my time concentrating on God. He created all of the beauty around us to remind us of His beauty and the enjoyment we may have from these gifts from His good hand.

Left to Right: Table Rock, Hawksbill, Gingercake

Left to Right: Table Rock, Hawksbill, Gingercake

Exceptionally Beautiful August Day

Exceptionally Beautiful August Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tradition has frequently gotten a bad rap and frequently with good reason. Tradition as an excuse not to move forward, not to learn and grow, is a hindrance to be done away with. But tradition that strengthens relationships and belonging and remembering what is good and right and passing these on to the next generation is good. I think where this good kind of tradition goes wrong is when it is not explained to the new people (children in this case) and when it becomes more important than the truth it is supposed to point toward and when it becomes an excuse to be lazy and not grow. My family’s Thanksgiving traditions have changed slowly over the years growing into a 2 1/2 day event. Wednesday night is soup dinner and games. Several people usually run and race on Thursday morning. As many brothers (there are 4) as can come to the eldest brother’s house with children (8) and grand-children (12 + 1 on the way so far) to eat at 1 PM. In the late afternoon the willing and able (male and female, young (about 6) and old (oldest this year was 54) play flag football. On Friday we go for a hike and then meet again for one last dinner of leftovers. Those able to come, willing to participate, and able to participate changes from year to year and each event within the set of events and some sit and talk rather than participate, but the general way of things remains the same. Conversation is lively and involves catching up. It is a good constant in my life and I am thankful for the stability of my extended family. God has been good to us in so many ways; a godly heritage is much to be sought after. It is good to hear conversations about God’s provision and elements of our faith. It is good to celebrate and have fun.

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I have not blogged since August, the longest time off since I started blogging in 2007. The pace of life always seems on the uptick and where are the moments for musing? God is at work and life is still a challenge. I want to relate His goodness, provision, direction, and discipline in my life, but it is more important to live out what He has set before me than always write it down.

I had a dream the middle of this last week. I probably dream frequently as do most people but I infrequently remember that I have dreamed at all and even when I do the dream is vague and fades quickly when I awake. When I have a vivid dream I pay attention.

In the dream I was sitting in a chair at a white, plastic round table surrounded by chairs perhaps large enough to seat 6. The table sat near the inside to an entrance to a business, perhaps a department store or the entrance to a mall, but I could not tell which one because I was faced toward the multiple sets of double doors through which many people were passing. It was a hectic scene but I was focused on a piece of paper on the table before me. With a pencil I kept trying to organize how to pay the doctor bills, complete all of the tasks required of me by home and work, and fulfill all of the commitments I had made to people. As I struggled over the list occasionally I would glance up to see one or three or two people sitting at the table across from me. Every one of the people that would come and sit for a moment was someone I know and can name. Some would be saying encouraging words to me and others would just smile. These were all people who have and are helping my wife and me since her stroke. I could not understand their actual words but I understood the content of their words and smiles to mean that God was working it out and that they were there to see us through. I continued to fret and pour over the list. One couple who has helped us in various ways came separately to the table, first the woman and then the man. She smiled at me with an ever growing smile as if to say, “God has this under control, trust Him.” After she left the man came and lounged, legs crossed, telling a story as he is apt to do, interjecting my name with “It will work out.” Others came who have blessed us with their presence and concern and prayers and help and financial assistance and encouraging words.

When I awoke I had several immediate conclusions that seemed abundantly evident from the dream:

   1) God was saying to me that He had sent all of these people to help us.

   2) My fretting was useless, distracting me from blessing, lacking in faith, and sin, and I need to repent of it. (I didn’t even think that I was fretting or scheming but it is so easy to to fall prey to that lie. I knew God was in control and providing but I still was adding my “two cents worth” of figuring it out.)

   3) I need to thank some people who I have not really thanked for all of the help they have given us.

We need the church. You can’t fellowship by yourself. You can’t glorify God to the full extent and in the way He has ordained without believers’ input. The people of God help us in so many ways through prayer, encouragement, admonition, teaching, and material help. We miss out by not growing relationships with fellow believers in a local body of believers, worshipping, praying, working, witnessing, crying, and laughing together.

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