A Time to Give

It’s hard to believe December is already here. Thoughts of giving gifts to loved ones and friends are on the minds of many. Anticipation of receiving gifts creates hope and expectation.

We just finished “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” In addition to ordering stuff online, massive crowds of people spent billions of dollars shopping in a real old-fashioned building called a store. Some of you may remember those places where we used to do all our shopping.Not everyone loves to shop, but my dear Terry surely does. In addition to planning and cooking special festive holiday dinners for family, friends, and even people she has never met, Terry loves to decorate our home and shop for special gifts for our family members and friends.

Not so much with yours truly. It’s always been difficult for me to come up with creative ideas for Christmas gifts. It’s pretty easy to choose the wrong size or color. And did I mention that I really don’t enjoy shopping? For me. For you. For anybody. I like to give. I just don’t like to shop.

That’s why for the past decade or so my Christmas giving has consisted of a personal letter to each member of our family, with a reasonably generous check in the same envelope. It’s always the right color and at least fairly close to the right size!

The spirit of giving is contagious. This week a neighbor asked if I knew of needy folks his family could support in a special way this Christmas. I called another neighbor who serves on the board of directors of a social service organization I helped start 34 years ago. They will suggest a family in need. My friend’s gesture of generosity has prompted our family to do the same.

It’s hard to talk about giving without mentioning the wisdom of planning to give gifts to loved ones and favorite charities when our shopping days are over. Someday the good Lord will call us home. That’s the time the plans we establish now to make final gifts later will be implemented.

For ideas, suggestions, and assistance with planned giving, go to www.legacydeo.org.

Whether giving now or in the future, Christmas is a reminder to celebrate the greatest gift of all, the birth of our Savior Jesus. He gave himself for us. In a spirit of love, it’s time for us to give.

 

Thanksgiving Attitude: Grumpy or Grateful?

Last Thursday Terry and I left our home in Georgetown and spent the next five days at a series of conferences in Houston. All three gatherings we attended were inspirational and productive. It’s always good to be in the presence of fellow Christians, friends, and colleagues.

The downside of trips like this one is the drudgery of staying in hotels. For four nights. Some like to get away from home and go to a hotel. Perhaps because of our work related travel the past three decades, going to a hotel is not a mountaintop experience for us.

The quality of a hotel is often commensurate with the price of the room. Not so much on this trip. For example, one of our fairly high quality hotels had the following deficiencies:

  • The bathroom sink didn’t drain
  • There was no hair dryer in the room
  • It took forever for cold water to get hot
  • The TV remote was not functioning properly
  • The bathroom electrical outlet was poorly placed

The last morning away from home I was grousing about three of the items listed above. Then it struck me. Here I am in a safe and secure hotel room fussing about inconveniences, while many people in our country and throughout the world are sleeping on the street, in the cold, having no job or steady income, not knowing where their next meal might come from, not having had a bath or shower in days or weeks, having very little to which to look forward except a turkey meal at a homeless shelter.

That realization included the recognition of how prone I am to expect everything to be right and how little I ponder the plight of people who don’t even have most of the stuff about which I complain. Too often I’m grumpy about things and not grateful for the bountiful blessings of life.

On this Thanksgiving Eve, Terry and I extend to each of you our heartfelt love and gratitude for your friendship and, especially, for God’s grace in our lives and yours.

I pledge to work on mitigating my grumpiness and multiplying my gratitude! I’ll need your prayers!

An Old Doberman

doberman-1177929_1280.jpg

Credit: patstatic / Pixabay 

An old Doberman starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that he’s lost.

Wandering about, he sees a lion heading rapidly in his direction with intention of having lunch.

The old Doberman thinks, “Oh, oh! I’m in deep trouble now!”

Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat.

Just as the lion is about to leap, the old Doberman exclaims loudly, “Boy, that was one delicious lion! I wonder, if there are any more around here?”

Hearing this, the young lion halts his attack in mid-stride, a look of terror comes over him, and he slinks away into the trees. “Whew!” says the lion, “That was close! That old Doberman nearly had me!”

Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the lion. So, off he goes.

The squirrel soon catches up with the lion, spills the beans, and strikes a deal for himself with the lion.

The young lion is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!”

The old Doberman sees the lion coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, “What am I going to do now?” But instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet.

Just when they get close enough to hear, the old Doberman says, “Where’s that crazy squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another lion!”

The moral of this story? Don’t mess with the old dogs. Age and skill will always overcome youth and treachery!  

The Bible says: “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old. But true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are his.” Job 12:12-13

God bless your pre-Thanksgiving week!

Texas Population and Traffic

File:FEMA - 15803 - Photograph by Ed Edahl taken on 09-21-2005 in Texas.jpg

Credit: Wikipedia

You can see it. You can feel it. You can experience it. Just get on a road many places in Texas. Any day. Almost any time. Bumper to bumper. Parking lot. Delays. Wasted time. Frustration.

Those are words describing what most people living in Texas know firsthand, especially folks in the “Texas Triangle” — the megaregion with Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio as its vertices, including Austin about 80 miles north of San Antonio and 180 miles south of Dallas.

That region is projected to have 35 million residents by 2050—75% of the Texas population. Residents can readily attest to the rapid growth, visibly apparent nearly everywhere.

Recent information published by Wells Fargo Economics Group says that of the 50 largest metro areas in the United States, none has grown faster since 2010 on a percentage basis than Austin, whose population is up an astounding 25.5%. Texas dominates the rankings with Houston and San Antonio filling out the top five along with Orlando and Raleigh. Dallas-Fort Worth ranks sixth over this time period, with its population rising a mere 16.9%.

The Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area, home to the state capital and the University of Texas, continues to attract a steady stream of business and tech investment as well as large numbers of migrants. Years of red-hot growth have driven housing prices sharply higher and raised concerns over congestion and gentrification.

Higher home prices and increased congestion have pushed growth out into surrounding cities, making Austin suburbs such as Pflugerville, Georgetown, Cedar Park, and San Marcos some of the fastest growing cities in the country.

The 7.5 million Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has 11 counties and numerous cities. In addition to Dallas and Fort Worth, it has four cities between 200,000 and 500,000 residents (Arlington, Garland, Irving, and Plano), and eight more with over 100,000 residents (Carrollton, Denton, Frisco, Grand Prairie, Lewisville, McKinney, Mesquite, and Richardson).

In light of this rapid growth, accompanied by the growing pains cited above, I’m inclined to discourage from doing so anyone considering a move to Texas. Yet I know that attitude is largely selfish, for Terry and I are among the native and longtime residents of our beloved state who wistfully recall the days when living in Austin was much more enjoyable than it is today.

When I think that way I’m reminded of King David’s words in 1 Chron. 29:15: “We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.”

I just hope there’s no traffic in heaven!

Veterans Day

November 11 is Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I. The war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919 (my father’s third birthday) but combat ended about seven months earlier. The Allies and Germany stopped fighting on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Accordingly, November 11, 1918, was considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and in 1938 it became an official holiday. But then World War II and the Korean War happened. So on June 1, 1954, Congress amended the commemoration by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” in order to honor American veterans of all wars.

Sometime ago I came across the poem I’m sharing with you today. It’s simply called “A Veterans Day Poem.” A portion that’s overly derogatory to politicians has been omitted.

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies, they were heroes, every one.

And though sometimes to his neighbors his tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly, for they knew whereof he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer, since old Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many, just his children and his wife.
For he lived a very ordinary, quiet sort of life.

He had a job and family, going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing, though a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran goes unnoticed and unsung.

The politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate to the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps a pension small.

He was just a common Veteran and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his likes again.

If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.

Perhaps a simple headline in the paper that might say:
“Our Country is in Mourning, for a Veteran Died Today.”

Especially next Monday, join me in thanking the women and men respectfully called “veterans” and remember with a thankful heart those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.

Halloween, Reformation, All Saints Day

File:Luther95theses.jpg

Wilhelm Ferdinand Pauwels

Full disclosure: Seven years ago in the Nov. 1, 2012 Volume IV Number 9 Perspectives article, I began with these words, slightly updated to fit this year’s calendar:

Today is October 31, observed in our country as Halloween. In recent years I’ve become increasingly concerned with the growing focus on macabre manifestations and excessive expressions of spiritual darkness associated with Halloween.

My concern is that most celebrations of Halloween do not recognize what St. Paul said centuries ago: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12)

Thankfully, October 31 is also observed by many Christians throughout the world as the Festival of the Reformation. Catalyzed by Martin Luther’s struggle with his personal faith and escalated by the Roman Catholic Church’s emphasis on salvation by works and purchase of indulgences, the Reformation claims October 31, 1517, as its date of origination. That’s the day Luther posted his 95 Theses against indulgences on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Certainly not to be forgotten, November 1 is All Saints Day—an opportunity to give thanks to God for all believers in Christ who have gone on before us to an eternity of life in the presence of God himself. Our family, like yours, remembers those saints in whose footsteps we follow and with whom we will be reunited someday in heaven.

Those truths remain and my observations have not changed. On the contrary, my perspectives regarding these three days have intensified:

  • The Reformation blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation are gifts of God’s grace.
  • Halloween observances need to become less pagan in character and costume.
  • All Saints Day is an opportunity to remember loved ones who await our heavenly arrival.

Happy Reformation, Halloween, and All Saints Day! Observe them all, safely and reflectively, with joy and thankfulness in your heart!

Teeth and Tires

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 9.56.02 PM.pngYou may think teeth and tires are an odd combination having nothing to do with each other. Stay tuned. We’ll get there.

Nearly four decades ago the Lord called me to leave an established congregation in southeast Texas to start a new church in central Texas. From scratch. Terry and I took a big financial hit to make this move. She went back to work outside the home and I took on a part time job.

It was 1981. We had taken a 25% cut in pay, it took eight months to sell our home in southeast Texas, and we were also renting a home in Georgetown. Interest rates were 16-18%!

How clearly I recall having to decide every month which of our bills would be paid and which would need to wait till next month. Late fees and penalties had not yet emerged but the interest kept accumulating on outstanding obligations. Times were tough.

One expense we simply chose not to incur for a number of years was regular family dental checkups and cleaning. Just didn’t fit into our budget. By the grace of God, we were able to get back into that routine and our teeth and gums seem not to have suffered permanent damage.

Teeth are important. We use them every day of our life. They need to be taken care of. A dentist friend of mine says, “Floss only those teeth you want to keep.” Good advice.

New topic. Most Texans drive a lot. We live in a large state, with 268,597 square miles and many roads. A study 10 years ago says Texas has 679,917 “lane miles.” That’s a lot of highway and is the highest number in the U.S. Next largest is California with a mere 394,383.

From pickup trucks to SUVs to four door sedans to buses to 18 wheelers, people are going from one place to another. One thing all these vehicles have in common? They all need tires.

Yesterday on the way home from a pastors conference in Flower Mound, a suburb of Dallas, all the cars in front of me on I-35E, traveling south at 75-85 mph, were swerving to the left or to the right. After the SUV right in front of me had passed the object everyone was trying to avoid, it came right at me. A big chunk of rubber tire had obviously broken loose from the 18 wheeler parked on the side of the highway several hundred feet ahead.

By God’s grace I was able to avoid that hazardous obstacle. It reminded me of the importance of maintaining those black round rubber things that connect a vehicle with the road beneath.

Tire pressure, rotation, and balance. Wheel alignment and suspension checks. All important for safety, comfort, and longevity of the tires we all need and take for granted.

Teeth and tires. A couple of God’s unique and sometimes neglected gifts. What would we do without them? How necessary is it to take care of them?

It’s part of our multi-faceted responsibility for care and maintenance of everything in life that’s important for our health, safety, and well-being, including teeth and tires. Not to be taken for granted but appreciated and cared for. Regularly. Faithfully. Thankfully.