Halloween, Reformation, All Saints Day

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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.

One Hundred Year Floods

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Guadalupe River Flood Damage in 1972
Credit: Wikipedia

The Guadalupe River runs 230 miles, from its origin in Kerr County, Texas, to San Antonio Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. My now sainted mother and father bought and moved into a home at 1480 Sleepy Hollow Dr. on the river in New Braunfels following the 100 year flood of 1972.

That flood ruined the interior of the home but its structure was sound. Mom and Dad spent weekends and summer vacations for several years driving 175 miles from their apartment home in Houston to New Braunfels to restore the home to livable condition.

They made the permanent move to Sleepy Hollow after Dad’s retirement April 17, 1979, and resided there together until he died January 1, 1983. Mom lived there, alone, for nearly 16 more years, enjoying the beautiful white water rapids and huge cypress trees lining the river.

Then came October, 17, 1998, twenty-one years ago today. The Guadalupe River in New Braunfels experienced its second 100 year flood in little more than a quarter of a century. The raging waters of that flood rose eight feet above the roof of Mother’s home. It left a trail of damage, destruction, and putrid silt that covered literally everything in its wake.

Huge bulky items such as automobiles, player pianos, freezers, etc., were washed down the river, some of them never to be seen again. Amazingly, fragile items like drinking glasses and Mother’s prized possessions of about 100 intricately and delicately decorated emu and ostrich eggs were still intact, but buried in black silt. Family, friends, neighbors, and strangers helped recover many such items.

Mom was alerted and evacuated by her insurance agent just before the flood arrived. She took with her the rolls she had made for a church bake sale and her purse, but not much more. Exactly four months later, February 17, 1999, she suffered a minor stroke. By the grace of God it left no major effects.

After a period of homelessness, waiting for payment of flood insurance, and buying a permanent home in a local subdivision, Mom made the decision to demolish her spacious home on the river, which had been damaged beyond repair, and build a summer home in its place.

Shortly after its completion, that home was destroyed by the third so-called 100 year flood. Mom relinquished the remains of that home and sold her irreplaceable lot on the Guadalupe River.

That beautiful body of crystal clear and refreshingly cool water turned into a raging, mean, ruthless, agent of destruction again in 2004, 2010, and 2015. Not all these floods were as disastrous as those of 1972, 1998, and 2002, but still caused significant flooding.

These disasters, like the hurricanes and floods we’ve experienced in Texas and beyond in recent times, are stark reminders of the value of life and the temporary nature of things we own.

Though I thank God for both, life is most certainly of greater value than even the sentimentally and emotionally valuable possessions destroyed in hurricanes and 100 year floods.

Praise God for the precious gift of life!

The Washington Monument

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Credit: Wikipedia

Did you know there’s a cross on the top of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.? Here is information from various public sources about this little known fact:

The Washington Monument is 55 feet wide at the base and 555 feet tall. It is constructed of 36,000 blocks of marble (from Maryland) and granite (from Maine) and weighs 90,000 tons. About 800,000 people a year visit the monument.

On the aluminum cap on top of the monument are two words: Laus Deo. No one can see them from the ground and most people have no idea they are even there. They are 5.125 inches high, perched atop the monument to the father of our nation.

Laus Deo! Two seemingly insignificant, unnoticed words very meaningfully placed at the highest point over what may be considered the most powerful city in the world. And what might those two words mean? Very simply … “Praise be to God!”

Construction of this monument began in 1848 when James Polk was President of the United States. It was not until 1888 that the monument was inaugurated and opened to the public. It took twenty-five years to finally cap the memorial with the tribute Laus Deo! Praise be to God!

Equally noteworthy is George Washington’s prayer for America: “Almighty God, We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection, that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United states at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

A study of history shows that America is one of the few countries in the world established under the guidance, direction, and banner of Almighty God, who was recognized, honored, and worshiped by the great men who formed and fashioned our country.

That historic reality needs to be remembered, proclaimed, and celebrated, especially at this time in our nation’s history. One way to do so is to observe the inscriptions found in public places all over our nation’s capital, including the top of the Washington Monument.

Laus Deo! Praise be to God!

 

Don’t Let the Old Man In

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Credit: Wikipedia

Several days ago my second cousin once removed John Kieschnick forwarded to me a link to a song inspired by Clint Eastwood and sung by Toby Keith. The song resulted from a story.

One day Toby Keith, the country-western singer, was playing golf with Clint Eastwood. At one point, Eastwood said to Keith, “I turn 88 on Monday.” Keith asked, “What are you going to do?” Eastwood replied, “I’m going to shoot a movie.” Filming was to begin the following week.

Keith asked him, “What keeps you going?” Eastwood replied, “I get up every day and don’t let the old man in.” Keith went home that day and wrote a song. He sent it to Eastwood, hoping he would approve it. And, he did. Here are the words:

Don’t let the old man in, I wanna leave this alone
Can’t leave it up to him, he’s knocking on my door,
And I knew all of my life that someday it would end
Get up and go outside, don’t let the old man in.

Many moons I have lived, my body’s weathered and worn
Ask yourself how old you’d be if you didn’t know the day you were born.

Try to love on your wife and stay close to your friends
Toast each sundown with wine, don’t let the old man in.

Many moons I have lived, my body’s weathered and worn
Ask yourself how old you’d be if you didn’t know the day you were born.

When he rides up on his horse and you feel that cold bitter wind
Look out your window and smile, don’t let the old man in.
Look out your window and smile, don’t let the old man in.

Whether we like it or not, someday the old man will come in. It’s simply a fact of life that people grow older, every day. It’s important to live each day with the kind of positive attitude reflected in this song. Yet someday, even Clint Eastwood will meet his maker.

This brings to mind the seventh and final estate planning myth I promised months ago to share: “It’s too depressing to make plans for my funeral service. I’ll let my kids make those decisions.” The fact is that making advance plans relieves loved ones of that burden and allows them to celebrate your life and home-going to heaven.

Celebrating Victory in Christ is the name of Legacy Deo’s Funeral Planning Guide. It’s available for the asking in electronic fillable format. Request your free copy at info@legacydeo.org.

In the meantime, between now and the day the Lord calls you home, don’t let the old man in. Keep living your life, every day, to the glory of God and to the joy of the people you love.