The closing

wood 2In January of this year, the gavel at Wall Street fell for the first time on 20,000.  20,000 what, I’m not quite sure; I just know that it was the historic high water mark of the Dow Exchange to that point. 

Now, I have lived through more than one recession, and my parents through “the” Depression.  Our personal investments are modest, but I suppose we have done our middle-income capitalist part of moving the American economy forward through our adult years.  One thing I do know is that once you invest, at least wisely and conservatively, it is important to leave it there; that is, it will need to weather some ups and downs.  Constantly pulling it out and plugging it in somewhere else, similar to the relationships showcased in the grocery store tabloids, is not typically considered wise investing.

Alright, I know this is not a perfect analogy, but it does help me to understand this other concept that comes from the Old Testament prophet, Malachi.  God is lamenting over His people (again) concerning their unfaithfulness, and since at this juncture they don’t even recognize how they have been disloyal, which is even scarier, God has to spell it out for them:

 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands…?’”

It’s those words, “what have we gained” that really get me.  They (like me) miss the whole point when I look at my temporal ledger sheet instead of my eternal one.  OUCH.  Our culture’s mantra “he who dies with the most stuff wins” tries to infiltrate my thinking in very pernicious ways, and I’m not just talking about material stuff here.  In other words, I’ll be the first in line to protect my reputation, my relationships, my home, hearth, job, etc.  But, (and here’s the rub) what if God calls me to an act of obedience that puts even those things in direct opposition to His expressed purpose?

In the first century church, Paul puts it this way:

“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” 

Those are tough, tough words.  But intelligent investing can be costly and takes sacrifice.  It takes diligence and wisdom and counsel and (here’s a fun one) patience persistence in the face of those who choose to buy on credit and go into moral debt.  And our culture is deep, deep into moral debt.  Just turn on the news.  

The same Old Testament prophet goes on to say this… 

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

newspaper-1834656_1920And when it comes to smart investing, it’s the end result that counts.

Malachi 3:14; Philippians 3:8; Malachi 4:2   Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Good fences make for good gardens

garden lastThis place is a wreck.  Sitting out here on the patio in the early morning Missouri summer humidity, I’m looking at the weeds resolutely poking through the already treated pave stones.  There’s some unwanted green stuff growing amongst the begonia pots, and the garden hoses are in dire need of mending.  On top of all of this, a brown leaf just now floated gently down (to meet the weeds on the pave stones, I suppose.) 

Now wait a minute!  It’s only July!  I’m not ready for Autumn yet!  Besides, no fair, since I’ve been out of town for a week, which gave the weeds and their comrades free reign.   Continue reading “Good fences make for good gardens”

I made a meme!

Look!  I made a meme!

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Ask me how I know this!  And since 99% of the time I play a 12-string, where most guitar-players have one indentation per fingertip, I get to have two! 

So, right, forget the diamonds; for me, calluses are a girl’s best friend, at least they have been since I was about 15 years old, when I semi-attached myself to my dad’s 12-string guitar.  And I can sure tell when I haven’t been giving enough attention to “toughening up the tips”.  It takes pretty consistent Continue reading “I made a meme!”

“Combining” us together (excuse me, couldn’t help it…)

This is a combine:

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This is a header:

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Actually, that’s only one kind of header; different headers are needed for different jobs.  It’s a far cry from the old back-breaking scythe of past centuries.  Not that modern farming is a walk in the park, since I’m talking about the folks that put in 14-16 hour days to put bread on our tables. 

My friend (who farms) told me recently of a little 2-year-old boy whose mom (another farming family) picked up a toy combine at a garage sale.  Obviously, it was used, and was missing the header, but the boy was so young, mom didn’t think this would be a problem.  Kids that age have great imaginations anyway, right?

Until she gave it to her son, and he remarked, “Where’s the header?  How do you expect me to get any work done without the header?!?”

In my defense, I’m from the ‘burbs, and my milk and bread came from the grocery store.  So evidently, a combine is not as effective (like, at all?) without its header.  Missing pieces in farming equipment mean no more bread on my table, and imaginary bread doesn’t fill the stomach very well.

All this brings to my mind what the Apostle Paul talks about when he compares the Body of Christ to an actual human body.  It’s that crucial idea that we need each other to be fully productive.  If the hand says to the foot “I don’t need you”, then the hand probably isn’t going anywhere!  Finally, Paul makes this simple but essential conclusion:

“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

That word, together, is highlighted in my brain.  Even if I’m just a little screw that helps hold the header in place, when I take my part away, (perhaps due to offense, neglect of my health, complacency, whatever), the harvest is at risk.  Of course, this also applies to those around me, the one in the next pew whose part seems dirty and squeaky and maybe even a little rusty.  I need—no, I am accountable, to allow the Lord of the Harvest to put my piece in place with all the other pieces.

So we can get some actual work done, without just pretending.  Even a two-year-old could tell the difference.

1 Corinthians 12:27  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

More than tomatoes

garden lastI was interested in canning a long time ago.  I saw what one of my friends was doing to “put up” fresh tomatoes; talk about a LOT of work!  The boiling and peeling and grinding and washing and timing…

I’m not so much interested in doing it anymore.

But I’m still mightily impressed with the process and commitment of those who do their own food storage.  Back before the days of Walmart Superstores, if you wanted to feed your family, you either canned, or you didn’t eat very well after harvest season was over.  But, oh! what a feast you could provide for your family in the dead of winter with fruit preserves, canned vegetables, dried homemade noodles, and the potatoes snuggled in the nice, cool cellar.

Kind of makes me think of what Paul is trying to get at here with the people in Galatia.  When the apostle was writing this, these folks were under a serious attack in the form of (once again) legalism.  Let’s eat only these things and celebrate these certain days and keep these special regulations to get in good with God, and oh yeah, then there’s the Cross, let’s not forget that…

…except that Paul knew there was no such thing as a Cross-plus gospel.  The Cross plus not wearing makeup.  The Cross plus which day of the week you assemble for church.  The Cross plus not stepping inside a bar or a theatre or listening to that “devil rock music”.

 But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you.”

The Truth of the Gospel.  THE Gospel.  The only good news that God provides for our acceptance by Him, and purely good new it is: the Cross and Resurrection…period. 

It’s not that I throw behavioral decisions to the wind of culture and narcissistic whims, far from it.  Rather, only in the preserving of (and subsequent feasting on) the true good news of God’s acceptance only through Christ can I have the wisdom to know HOW to behave in the ways that honestly please Him.

Whew!  What a relief.

But here’s the kicker—how crucial (pardon the wordplay) it is that I preserve this truth, not merely for myself, but for those around me!  Like my friend and her tomatoes, it takes skill, knowledge, passion, and persistence.  Thankfully, Paul had plenty of all four, not just for the Galatians, but for me as well.

And, oh, what a feast it provides.

Galatians 2:5  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

In other words…

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“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

1 Corinthians 9:19-22  Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

RED ALERT!

IMG_20150103_172451138No, that was not a reference to any political affiliation, but any true Trekkie would recognize that phrase as the warning signal on the Starship Enterprise, which might be followed by such notable quotes as “shields at full” or “fire proton torpedoes”. 

However, the term is a good illustration of a deep-seated anxiety plaguing our American society right now, one of many in fact.  The election of 2016 is being touted as one-of-a-kind, and to some degree rightly so.  On the other hand, the angst and rancor are nothing new, but a fine old American tradition dating back at least to Rutherford vs. Tilden of 1876.*

Of course, the political climate is only one example of the generalized apprehension that is so much a part of our culture.  It’s unfortunate that, as a Christian, a purported follower of the Creator of the Universe, I have a tendency to acquiesce to some of the same anxieties.  I say unfortunate because a) I should know better, b) I know WHY I should know better, and c) I have been given sufficient Power to act on that knowledge.

In reality, these fearsome “what ifs” are the 64-color crayon box version of worries, complete with the sharpener on the back, just in case the particular color of the day becomes a bit dull in our Enemy’s hand as he tries to scribble on my world.  And my Enemy is not the government, the boss, or even the neighbor next door. 

There’s the rub, the real point.  The apostle Paul wrote that we “war not against flesh and blood, but against the unseen powers of darkness”, and when it came to supernatural antagonists, if anyone knew what he was talking about, it was Paul.  I have an Enemy far more seditiously subtle than anything I may read or hear on the news.  And if I get wise to one of his colors, he’s got plenty of others to choose from, unless…

As I write this, I am at a nursing conference.  Here is a piece of scientific wisdom from Dr. David Schramm’s session:

reality2

Hmmm…sounds familiar:

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

That doesn’t mean I ignore all the bad news in favor of the good.  But it does matter what I choose to focus and reflect on, since it helps determine what my responses will be to all things, both good and bad…

…no matter what color the next “alert” is.  (And there WILL be more.)

Philippians 4:8 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

* http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/11/28/im-democrat-heres-how-hillary-and-recount-campaign-leaves-me-feeling.html)

Somebody pass the dill

newgarden
Things are growing in the new garden!

Once again, I was outside conducting my annual experiments that I presumptuously refer to as “gardening”.  This spring I put in a new plot, and dumped in a bunch of store bought dirt, sorta/kinda had a ever-expanding design of what to plant where.  

I love fresh herbs.  Even just watering them releases a beautifully refreshing scent into the air.  One thing that I was wanting to add to my stash, but have had difficulty with in the past, was dill.  So this year I thought I would just sow a short row of seeds (rather than already half-grown plants from the store) right into the fresh dirt, and “see what happens”.  (Such is my typical gardening strategy…)

What happened is this: Continue reading “Somebody pass the dill”

Find me on page 12

wood 2

Billy Graham was probably one of the first evangelists to use that new social media known as television.   I remember watching with a certain sense of awe as hundreds of people left their seats in a huge auditorium, making their way to the stage upon Dr. Graham’s invitation to give their lives over to Jesus Christ, as ‘Just As I Am’ was playing in the background.  Even watching on TV, it was seriously impressive.

Impact: to influence, alter the course of something (or more importantly, someone.)  Yup, that pretty well describes Billy Graham’s ministry.  Funny to think that he touched more lives during his lifetime than Jesus did during His own.  And yet, who had the most impact?

I remember hearing Dr. Graham say (and I paraphrase) that once in Heaven, he expected to pick up the angelic Continue reading “Find me on page 12”

Blogging Blast #6: I like big BUT’s (not a typo…)

animals-985500_1280(So just what is a Blogging Blast??)BLOGGING BLAST #6

“Your mother’s great-uncle-twice-removed named you in his will, but…”

“Everyone gets an extra vacation day this year, but…”

(And one of my personal favorites): “I apologize, but…”

Sometimes we only want to hear the first part of a sentence and go no further, which can cause, dare I say it, “a failure to communicate”. That little word “but” is a conjunction that Dictionary.com defines as “except, on the contrary, otherwise than”.  Alright, so I really did know that; I’ll admit I had to check the same source to remind myself what a “conjunction” is.  I quote: the act of  Continue reading “Blogging Blast #6: I like big BUT’s (not a typo…)”