Friday, March 28, 2008

March…I don’t always like it

Sometimes March in Minnesota is a cruel master. I remember as a kid, working through a cold winter grinding feed, hauling manure and lugging pails of feed and water. When March rolled around, I was tired of the work, the cold and the mud. Then the first days of March came warm and sunny with gentle warm south breezes, tempered by the melting snow. Spring was on its way. I felt optimistic. Then the hammer would drop, the wind would switch to the northwest. It would become bitterly cold in just hours; the cold would wring every ounce of water out of the atmosphere and dump 21 inches of misery in drifts and piles much deeper than that. It was disheartening.

I remember one March I did not go to school for a whole week. All I did was pray we would not lose power so we could keep feed and water in front of the animals. It was a boring, miserable life. I didn’t like March.

March is the month of my Mother’s birthday--March 2nd. One reason I probably don’t like March is that it is the month that Mom died, March 4th and we buried her on March 7th. I remember those days—cloudy in more ways than one; cold, actually more than cold, it was piercing cold—the wet cold that cuts to the bone. It was the type of cold that you don’t warm up from, it’s the type of cold you must forget.

Do I have any right to complain about March weather? Actually, no. God in His creative genius, His sovereign hand creates the weather and March. It would do me good to quit complaining.

Fast forward forty-some years; it’s March, and March still can’t decide if it wants to be winter or spring… Judi and I watch as the pups play outside. In the early morning, the large mud puddle northeast of the house is still frozen. Pups fight and wrestle on the ice, slipping and sliding in gleeful mayhem. We laugh at their antics. None of them have any footing, slipping and sliding it’s a comedy of errors. Sven chases Tubby behind the bird feeder tree and they come running back together to the frozen mud puddle with the sole intention of steam rolling the other three pups only to lose their footing and the pups crash together in playful anarchy. What a hoot! We can’t help but laugh at their antics.

The day warms up, the temperature rises, the ice turns to water, the frozen soil turns to mud and Duke and Sven decide to lie down to cool off right in the middle of the mud puddle. When they finish cooling off, they join the other three pups in the sun on the south porch and fall asleep. Yes, for 15 minutes they sleep or slumber, worn out from the previous antics. Even muddy pups are beautiful when they are sleeping. This day truly is a March Day in Minnesota.

When we went to church at Lake Jennie, John Johnston, an Irish man and old missionary to China came to speak. He was in China before World War II, was captured by the Japanese and was a POW. He grew up in Ireland, the son of an Irish farmer. During the service, someone asked for prayer for the weather. We prayed. After church John spoke to the adult Sunday School class and commented on the prayer request for the weather. He said that when he was a child, whenever anyone complained about the weather, his dad would say “Who is this who riles at God’s providence?” In other words: “who is this telling God what to do?”

Jerry, quit complaining, God’s still on the throne. I would do well not to comment on His sovereign rule. Who am I to rile at God’s providence? I may even come to like March; as a matter of fact, I better like it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Easter

Wishing you all a Blessed Easter.

Please click on the Title above to link you to a remarkable phone call from a 12-yr old boy to Houston radio station KSBJ FM 89.3. So profound, the station has it posted on their website. It is the Easter story in a nutshell!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Irritabilty and a soul-searching conscience

Did you ever wake up irritable? Are you irritable for no specific reason? Over the years I’ve quit trying to figure out why these “irritable days” come into our lives. One lesson I have learned is that I must work hard not to make that “irritable” feeling ruin my whole day. At 11 o’clock yesterday morning I had to take an adult “time out” to gain proper perspective. I’ll tell you why…

Earlier I received a call from a trash hauler saying our recycled cardboard container at one of the smaller properties that we manage has been overflowing and that we need to increase our service. I asked her “What constitutes an overflowing container?” Her answer was “Anytime the lid doesn’t close completely.” “As a matter of fact” she said, “you were one ton over on the pick-up this week.” I told her I found it hard to believe we would get one ton of cardboard out of a 25,000 square foot building in six months much less be over one ton in one week.

A friend of mine happens to have a son who is a former driver for the company and is now the current Safety Director. I called him about the situation. He said the recycled cardboard is never weighed and felt that the comment was a total lie.

I called the lady back and confronted her about what she had said. She finally admitted that the only purpose of the call was to intimidate me (my description, not hers) into signing up for more service. What concerned me was this—she was not the least bit contrite. What has happened to us as a society and a nation? When a nation loses its conscience, hard tough days are ahead. Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky said: "If God does not exist, everything is lawful."

There is a limit to God’s patience. In Romans is says: “God gave them over…”; over to what? Romans 1:28-32 (NIV) says: “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

In light of the truth of these verses, I need to do some personal soul searching, an “adult time-out” as it were. I read Romans 2:1-4: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?” What have I done to bring this lady the truth of Jesus Christ?

No, I may not do exactly as this woman did but I need to be reminded that I sin also, and every day, every hour, I need God’s grace and forgiveness. Yes, I do, and I’m grateful.

This week it would be easy to point our finger at Elliott Spitzer. But before we point, let’s do some serious soul searching.

Thank you Jesus, forgive me. Don’t give me over. I thank you that you love me not for what I’ve done or not done but you love me because I’m yours. Amen.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Clinging to our average days or pleasing God

W. H. Auden wrote a poem entitled “September 1, 1939” it says in part:
“Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day
The lights must never go out
The music must always play
Lest we know where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the dark,
Who have never been happy or good.”

Is your life boring? Do you cling to your average day? Is your life so routine the sameness drives you up a wall? Do you appear to the world as if you “have it all together”? Yet, in the words of Thoreau, “you are living a life of quiet desperation.”

We of all people are blessed. And even with this in mind, some days I feel guilty about how little vision and purpose I live out my life. In many ways our lives are routine and boring but what are we looking forward to?

Do you have any plans to march into hell for a Heavenly cause? Do you truly believe, with God’s help, that we can impact our society for Christ? Or, do we cling to our average days just running out the rest of our life, living as Auden would say “in a haunted wood, afraid of the dark.” Don’t be afraid of the dark. Share Christ, the light of the world. Proverbs 15:33-16:7: The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor. To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue. All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. The Lord works out everything for his own ends-- even the wicked for a day of disaster. The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil. When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.”

Do you have any vision for the future? Commit it the Lord. Remember in all you do, “fear the Lord” but never forget to please the Lord. In the end, in all we do, our overriding ambition should be to please the Lord.

The question was asked: “what is the purpose of man?” The answer: to know God and enjoy Him forever. Do away with your average days. Let’s enjoy God forever. Have vision. This is the vision: Zechariah 9:16-17: “The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be! Grain will make the young men thrive, and new wine the young women.”

Lord, by your power, turn our average days into days where we fear you and please you and may we enjoy you forever. Amen