Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Ungrateful Cucumber Enthusiast

The garden produce is coming in. As has been our tradition, we bring produce to our office building to be given away. The only produce I had this week was zucchini squash; it is loved by some and despised by others. As one person rummaged through the bag of zucchini, he turned around and stated with disgust, “I need cucumbers.”

It was Monday morning, the hardest morning of the week. Busy and chaotic, the sheen of my “Sunday morning faith” had already begun to fade. Then this ungrateful lout states he needs cucumbers not this despised zucchini. Inwardly I groused, what an ungrateful person! For many years have we brought produce to the office; he has benefited mightily and we have never asked for one cent.

As I was perched on my self-righteous stool, I also decided inwardly that I would not bring any cucumbers to the office. I was going to teach this ungrateful lout a lesson.

Deep down inside I knew this was wrong. At one time I too was ungrateful of God’s love and provision. I took much of what He gave me for granted.

Later that evening I was invited out for dinner. As I waited to be picked up, I was reading in Luke 6. Verse 35 & 36 say: “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

When I read that verse, I had no option; I will bring cucumbers to work. A lesson learned by someone who should have known better.

Thank you, Holy Spirit for the reminder. Forgive me Lord. Amen

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Let the Church Rise"

We heard this song this morning at Grace Community Church in Olivia.  We thought it was so very appropriate for so many of our beloved churches at this time. 

Click on the Blog title to go directly to the You Tube video or type in:

"Let The Church Rise"
by Israel Houghton & Jonathan Stockstill

We are alive filled with
Your glorious life
Out of the dark into
Your marvelous life
We are waiting with expectations
Spirit raise us up with You

Let the Church rise from the ashes
Let the Church fall to her knees
Let us be light in the darkness
Let the Church rise
Let the Church rise

Moving with power
Bringing Your name to the earth
Singing Your praises
Lifting up glorious songs

We are moving with His compassion
Spirit fill our hearts with You

Let Your wind blow
Let Your wind blow
Let Your wind blow
Revive us again Lord

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Foreigners View of America

Last week we had a family reunion. The highlight of the reunion was the presence of a German cousin who has researched the family. After the reunion, Haldor and I road tripped to Iowa to share information with our Hawkeye cousins.

Haldor’s definition of Iowa was this: corn field, bean field, ditch, pickup; corn field, bean field, ditch, pickup; corn field, bean field… Yes, Iowa in a nutshell.

Haldor was perplexed by some things in America. He said America is a land of extremes. America has the world’s largest porn industry yet to stop along a rural Iowa road and urinate opens one up to possible arrest for indecent exposure.

In the same small town we saw people living in shacks next to houses that are empty (in foreclosure). Around the corner is a 4500 square foot house with a 3-car garage occupied by only two people.

Haldor is an international businessman who has deep concerns for America’s wild spending and borrowing. Yet he found our roads in need of repair and our towns becoming seedy. I agree we have spent ourselves into financial slavery but what have we gotten or what are we going to accomplish with all our spending?

In the same time he said outwardly God is talked about; we pray over every meal. He asked “How can you, as Christians, tolerate such extremes?” Yes, how do we tolerate this? We tolerate it by keeping our head in the sand.

We may live in the Garden of Eden (great crops in Iowa and Minnesota). We have full bellies but at the same time we have empty, lonely hearts.

“I bet your pastors have a lot to say about this,” he said. I said, “No, not really.” It was quiet in the car for a long time. Our faith was for a moment exposed as lukewarm as best. I silently prayed, “Forgive me, Lord; change my heart.” American church, wake up!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Privilege of Growing Old – A Dairy Farmers View of Life

Psalm 71:18 (ESV) – “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”

Last weekend we attended a great niece’s wedding. As they would say in days of old, “a fine time was had by all” and yes, we did have a fine time.

The bride’s father died when she was 11 years old. My niece, Nadine, the bride’s mother, never remarried but she now has a boyfriend named Karl, a Minnesota dairy farmer.

Karl farms with his brother; they live on the birthplace of his Mom. He is of German stock, resolute, hard working, with a sly sense of humor. Karl is kind and gentle but direct and to the point, no gandy dancing fluff in this guy. He is solid middle America. If you were to make a movie about the trials of farming and life, Karl could play the part. Karl was 17 when his 42 year old dad died of leukemia. Karl, along with his mother and younger brothers, took over the farm. Karl never married.

We were visiting after the wedding when I asked Karl, “Did you ever feel cheated that you had to take over the farm at such a young age?” His eyes narrowed; he drew serious and immediately he said, “No!” He never felt cheated, he loved cows, he loved farming but more importantly, it was his duty. The eldest son, even though young, felt the obligation to carry on and no, he never felt cheated.

In a way, I think Karl was somewhat offended that I would ask such a question. He is a man who would always do his best to do the right thing. Keeping the farm going was the right thing and good men would be expected to do that and Karl did. No victim here; you deal with what life hands you and he has done so, quite successfully, I may say.

Nadine visited with me recently and we discussed the wedding. We discussed how these events, weddings, births, birthdays, deaths, are markers in our life; a sure sign of getting older.

Nadine said, “You know what Karl says? ‘It’s a privilege to grow old.’” We may complain of getting old with its aches and pains and the slipping away of certain talents but Karl considers growing old a privilege. You see, his 42 year old dad never had that privilege; never saw his daughter get married; never bounced a grandchild on his knee. Oh Lord, what a good reminder. All of life is a privilege—a blessing. Yes, the Minnesota dairy farmer has it right.

Yes, Karl has taught us all a lesson. Deal with whatever life gives you but count each moment as you grow older (which is every day, by the way!) as a privilege.

Oh Lord, do not forsake me when I grow old. May we witness Your mighty power and great grace to the generations behind us. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Nation Allergic to W.A.S.P.s

On June 25, 2010, the New York Times carried an op-ed piece by Noah Feldman entitled “The Triumphant Decline of the “W.A.S.P.” W.A.S.P., White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, is a term we seldom hear today and the nation seems to be glad to rid itself of this northern European stock of the Protestant ilk. I guess as a nation we may be becoming allergic to them.

Feldman was referring to the potential confirmation of Supreme Court appointee Elena Kagan would finally rid the Court of Protestants. The Supreme Court will consist of six Catholics and three Jews.

Feldman argues that the decline of the W.A.S.P. may be their greatest triumph since it was the Protestants who are inclusive (neither Greek, free or slave) and it’s the Protestants who valued human beings on merit not the ethnicity of the blood running their veins, color or tribe.

In the same week, the not so supreme court ruled against a Christian group at a California law school who wanted its members to adhere to Christian morals. On one side of the fence, a pat on the back coupled with some seemingly private glee over the declining influence of the dreaded W.A.S.P.

At the same time Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world not the Muslim faith as the main stream media insists. In Africa alone, there are more Lutherans than in North and South America and Asia combined. The African Lutherans (and other African church groups) are now sending missionaries to America.

Our influence may fall but our God reigns. Remember, His plans are never thwarted (Isaiah 55). In these days, Christians must keep their heads. This is the time to share the hope of Jesus Christ with our hurting neighbors. Christian, do not lose your heads; God is still, and always has been, on the throne. Do I understand all of it? No. That is all right because He has and will be faithful throughout all generations—even to us W.A.S.P. Now we must pray without ceasing for our nation.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Could America draft the Declaration of Independence today?

The following is a quote from David F. Wells’s book “Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World.”

“Douglas Groothuis has made the observation that it would be very difficult for us today to write the Declaration of Independence, given its premise that there are truths which are ‘self-evident,’ such as that ‘all Men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’ Today we are a nation of relativists, as Allan Bloom lamented, for whom there are no enduring truths, let alone any that are self-evident. The distance that we have traveled in this matter can be seen in many ways, but not least in the fact that Martin Luther King’s appeal, which stirred so many Americans, was made on the basis of the existence of a moral reality larger than any private interest and to which the whole nation was to be accountable. Today, the great majority of Americans do not believe in the existence of truth which is absolute and enduring and to which appeal can be made.” (Douglas Groothuis, “Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism,” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000)
And today, we could never agree on the words of the first sentence of the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. I quote in part:

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude (righteousness) of our intentions, do, in the name, and authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be free…”
In other words, these people prayed to God Almighty that their intentions would be pure. They recognized “the Supreme Judge” not the creator, knowing they would have to answer to the Judge of the World. Time has shown their intentions were to be pure.

On this 4th of July, may we appeal “to the Supreme Judge of the World”. May God the Father and His Son Jesus with the power of the Holy Spirit receive all our honor and praise. God alone “is our ever present help in ages past and our hopes for years to come.”

May you have a blessed and free 4th of July.