Wisdom from Three Very Wise Men

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The past few weeks I’ve written about the bad stuff going on in our country and the world, including COVID-19, violent protests, statue destruction, culture cancelling, law enforcement denigrating, etc.

Today I’ve chosen to lighten up a bit on those topics but still go deep by sharing some simple but sage advice from three very wise men.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) about life:

  1. Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.
  2. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
  3. A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
  4. You never stop failing until you stop trying.
  5. Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
  6. Two things are infinite–the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe.
  7. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
  8. Weak people revenge. Strong people forgive. Intelligent people ignore.
  9. Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
  10. You have to learn the rules of the game, and then play better than anyone else.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) about growing older:

  1. One day you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.
  2. The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.
  3. When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to your youth, think of algebra.
  4. You know you’re getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.
  5. I don’t know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.
  6. One thing no one tells you about aging is that it’s such a nice change from being young.
  7. One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.
  8. Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable and relaxed.
  9. If you don’t learn to laugh at trouble, you won’t have anything to laugh at when you’re old.
  10. Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it’s called golf.

Jesus Christ (4 B.C.?-30 A.D.?) about faith, life, love, and trust:

  1. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.
  2. Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will open unto you.
  3. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious enough for itself.
  4. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
  5. Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone.
  6. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  7. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
  8. I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.
  9. Your Father in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
  10. God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.

I pray that your day and your life will be lightened and brightened by these three very wise men.

Nothing

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Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Nothing on grocery store shelves. Especially in toilet tissue and hand sanitizer departments. But things have improved in the past few days.

Nothing going on in schools. They’re closed for at least the next two weeks. Some longer. Parents juggle regular chores, work, and other duties with unexpected home schooling.

Nothing happening in churches? Gatherings of 10 people or more are discouraged. Crowds of 50 or more are outlawed. Public worship services have been shut down. Live streaming is in. Christian love is being shown in many ways every day. By pastors. And by other godly people.

Nothing in the offering plate? Maybe not nothing. Just not enough. Now’s the time to start electronic giving. Try it. You’ll like it.

Nothing on TV really worth watching? At least for sports enthusiasts. Sports events cancelled. Netflix and Amazon movies abound.

Nothing to hope for as high school and college athletes look forward to being recruited or hired? Won’t have the exposure needed to get recruiters’ attention. Life goes on.

Nothing to look forward to as a senior in high school or college? Commencements probably won’t take place. At least not on time. These memories will last.

Nothing to alleviate the sadness of brides and grooms whose weddings have been in the planning stages for months if not years? Private ceremony? Honeymoon postponed? What to do with the cake? And the flowers? And the tuxedos? And the mothers’ dresses?

Nothing to take the place of spoiled vacations? Cruises. Flights. All cancelled. Staycations are in.

Nothing going on in thousands of businesses shut down for the foreseeable future? Will they be able to bounce back when COVID-19 is gone? Time will tell.

Nothing in the bank account? Stock market debacle. Businesses closed. Employees laid off. No paycheck. Unemployed workers left to fend for themselves. Facing real financial challenges

Nothing.

Oops. Almost nothing: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35, 37-39)

Nothing. But hope and confidence in Christ!

The Legend of the Christmas Tree

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Credit: Sapan Patel on Unsplash

Due to Christmas schedules, this week’s Perspectives comes a few days earlier than usual.

Lucy Wheelock (1857-1946) was an American early childhood education pioneer, influencing the American kindergarten. She was founder and head of Wheelock Kindergarten Training School, which later became Wheelock College in Boston, Mass. Lucy wrote this legend:

Two little children were sitting by the fire one cold winter’s night. All at once they heard a timid knock at the door, and one ran to open it.

There, outside in the cold and the darkness, stood a child with no shoes upon his feet and clad in thin, ragged garments. He was shivering with cold, and he asked to come in and warm himself.

“Yes, come,” cried both the children. “You shall have our place by the fire. Come in!”

They drew the little stranger to their warm seat and shared their supper with him, and gave him their bed, while they slept on a hard bench.

In the night they were awakened by strains of sweet music and, looking out, they saw a band of children in shining garments approaching the house. They were playing on golden harps, and the air was full of melody.

Suddenly the Stranger Child stood before them, no longer cold and ragged, clad in silvery light.

His soft voice said: “I was cold and you took me in. I was hungry, and you fed me. I was tired, and you gave me your bed. I am the Christ Child, wandering through the world to bring peace and happiness to all good children. As you have given to me, so may this tree every year give rich fruit to you.”

So saying, he broke a branch from the fir tree that grew near the door, and he planted it in the ground and disappeared. But the branch grew into a great tree, and every year it bore wonderful golden fruit for the kind children.

This somewhat fanciful little legend is a simple reminder to enjoy the blessing of giving to those with little or nothing to satisfy their needs, as taught by Jesus in Matt. 25:31-46.

Last week our family and a few wonderful neighbors joined hands and hearts in blessing two families with special needs. Terry and I also sent our end of year gifts to a number of charitable causes near and dear to our hearts. Both were meaningful ways of living the spirit of Christmas.

Terry and I pray for each of you a very blessed Christmas! Welcome to our hearts, Baby Jesus!

Life

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Credit: Pexels from Pixabay 

These brief statements about life are attributed to Mother Teresa:

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is life, fight for it.

To those statements I add these from Jesus:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. John 3:36
Life is not measured by how much you own. Luke 12:15
I have come that you may have life, in all its fullness. John 10:10
Life is more than food and the body more than clothes. Luke 12:23
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matt. 10:39
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

And here are a few more statements. From me:

If you love someone, say to him or her “I love you.”
If you appreciate someone, express that appreciation.
Life is a blessing from God. Thank Him for that blessing.
Don’t just send flowers for a person’s funeral. Send flowers to the living while they’re living.
Spend each day is if it were the first day of the rest of your life, because that’s exactly what it is.

God bless your day! Every day! And thank Him for your life!

Christmas Cards and Greetings

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It’s that time of year when our mailbox is the recipient of scores of Christmas cards and greetings. Terry and I enjoy reading every one of them and place them in a special receptacle on the hearth of our fireplace. They are warm reminders of friends we’ve made throughout the years.

Your mailbox probably also receives Christmas cards and letters. Those of you who know us may be wondering why one of the greetings you receive does not come from us.

The reason is quite simple. Over the nearly 53 years we’ve been married, Terry and I have been blessed with a formidable number of friends. The question is who should be included on our Christmas card list and who should be omitted. We have found no easy answer.

To include everyone we consider our friends, the printing, signing, addressing, stuffing, sealing, stamping, and mailing of Christmas cards would be a huge task. And Terry would find it difficult to resist the inclination to add a personal note to each one. Sending electronic greeting cards is an option but we have not yet been persuaded to go in that direction.

Instead, over the years we’ve discovered great joy in redirecting to our favorite charitable causes the money we would otherwise spend on Christmas cards and letters.  Accordingly, please consider this article our way of saying we love you and thank God for you.

Terry and I are well, enjoying the special blessings of good health and happiness. Our daughter Angie, her husband Todd, our grandson Kolby, our granddaughter Kayla, and our son Andrew are all doing fine and bring us great joy. We love them dearly and thank God for each of them.

My mother Elda is still here at the tender age of 102 years, 8 months, and 10 days. She prays every day to go to heaven to be with Jesus and her dear husband Martin, my Dad, who has a 36 year head start. We tell her that Jesus is not yet ready for her but that she gets closer each day.

We’ve been in our “new” home in Georgetown, Tex. 3 ½ years. It’s a new residential area in the country but still close to town. Our neighbors are wonderful people who love to socialize and genuinely care for one another. We are some of the most senior citizens in our subdivision, yet Terry and I find great joy in sharing Christian love and concern. We’re not alone in doing so.

So please accept this sincere and heartfelt greeting, with its mercifully brief personal and family update, along with our prayers for a blessed Christmas celebration of the birth of baby Jesus!

Not One Sparrow

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Early one morning last week on the way to the office I was traveling at 45 mph on a two-lane road. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, two small birds flew from the grass and trees on my right, directly into my path. One flew at an altitude that allowed it to continue its flight. The other one flew directly into my right front fender and fell to the ground.

This was not the first time my vehicle had accidentally and unintentionally become an instrument that terminated the life of a living creature. Over my 59 years of driving experience, I’ve hit other birds and a few squirrels. Transparency requires me to confess that willfully and intentionally I have also sent a few rattlesnakes to their eternal destiny. Scold me, if necessary.

The day of my encounter with the bird in question turned out to be the same day of yet another school shooting. This one was in Santa Fe. Not New Mexico. Texas. Frankly I don’t recall ever knowing there was a Santa Fe in Texas. It’s just a few miles south of Houston, my hometown. Sadly, Santa Fe is now known around the world as the site of a willful and intentional eruption of evil activity resulting in the death of eight students and two teachers.

As soon as the bird fell to the ground I remembered the words of Jesus: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” Matt. 10:29

And when I heard the news that ten people had died that day, I immediately recalled more of Jesus’ words in almost the same breath: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt. 10:28

But the words that have stuck with me even more poignantly are these: “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matt. 10:30-31

Is it possible to compare the life of a human with the life of a sparrow? No way. In God’s eyes, all living creatures have value. But Jesus says the intrinsic value of human life far outweighs that of many sparrows.

That’s why many more tears are shed when a human dies, regardless of the cause of death, than when a sparrow dies. Yet God’s love is so magnificent that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father.

Answered Prayers and Unknown Angels

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This is purported to be a true story by an author named Catherine Moore, found in my file. It’s longer than my normal articles, but worth the time to read. It was untitled, so I created the title above.

“Watch out! You nearly broadsided that car!” My father yelled at me, “Can’t you do anything right?”

Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head toward the elderly man in the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn’t prepared for another battle.

“I saw the car, Dad. Please don’t yell at me when I’m driving.”

My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really felt. Dad glared at me, then turned away and settled back. At home I left Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my thoughts. Dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain. The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil. What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon. He had enjoyed being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions, and had placed often. The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his prowess.

The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn’t lift a heavy log, he joked about it. But later that same day I saw him outside, alone, straining to lift it. He became irritable whenever anyone teased him about his advancing age, or when he couldn’t do something he had done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack. An ambulance sped him to the hospital while a paramedic administered CPR to keep blood and oxygen flowing.

At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an operating room. He was lucky; he survived. But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone. He obstinately refused to follow doctors’ orders. Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors thinned, then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left alone.

My husband Dick and I asked Dad to come live with us on our small farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him adjust.

Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation. It seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became frustrated and moody. Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Dick. We began to bicker and argue.

Alarmed, Dick sought out our pastor and explained the situation. The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for us. At the close of each session he prayed, asking God to soothe Dad’s troubled mind.

But the months wore on and God was silent. Something had to be done. It was up to me to do it.

The next day I sat down with the phone book and called each mental health clinic listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered in vain.

Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, “I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the article.”

I listened as she read. The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression. Yet their attitudes had improved dramatically when they were given responsibility for a dog.

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon. After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels. The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of pens.

Each contained five to seven dogs. Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black dogs, spotted dogs, all jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied each one but rejected one after the other for various reasons – too big, too small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen, a dog in the shadows of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat down. It was a pointer, one of the dog world’s aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed.

Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His hip bones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed to the dog. “Can you tell me about him?” The officer looked, then shook his head in puzzlement. “He’s a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim him. That was two weeks ago and we’ve heard nothing. His time is up tomorrow.” He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in I turned to the man in horror. “You mean you’re going to kill him?”

“Ma’am,” he said gently, “that’s our policy. We don’t have room for every unclaimed dog.”

I looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my decision. “I’ll take him,” I said.

I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me. When I reached the house I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch. “Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!” I said excitedly.

Dad looked, then wrinkled his face in disgust. “If I had wanted a dog I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don’t want it!” Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me. It squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my temples. “You’d better get used to him, Dad. He’s staying!”

Dad ignored me. “Did you hear me, Dad?” I screamed. At those words Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate. We stood glaring at each other like duelists, when suddenly the pointer pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in front of him.

Then, slowly, carefully, he raised his paw.

Dad’s lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw. Confusion replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited patiently. Then Dad was on his knees hugging the animal.

It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne. Together he and Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes. They spent reflective moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty trout. They even started to attend Sunday services together, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at his feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable throughout the next three years. Dad’s bitterness faded, and he and Cheyenne made many friends. Then late one night I was startled to feel Cheyenne’s cold nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never before come into our bedroom at night.

I woke Dick, put on my robe and ran into my father’s room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly sometime during the night.

Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad’s bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favorite fishing hole, I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in restoring Dad’s peace of mind.

The morning of Dad’s funeral dawned overcast and dreary. This day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the pews reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and Cheyenne had made. The pastor began his eulogy. It was a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had changed his life.

Then the pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels without knowing it.” “I’ve often thanked God for sending that angel,” he said.

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle I had not seen before: The sympathetic voice on the phone that had just read the right article; Cheyenne’s unexpected appearance at the animal shelter; his calm acceptance and complete devotion to my father; and the proximity of their deaths.

And suddenly I understood. I knew that God had answered my prayers after all.

Now you know why I titled this story “Answered Prayers and Unknown Angels.”

God bless your day!

Resurrection!

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As most Americans are aware, this is Holy Week. The days ahead include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord, aka Easter.

Amid all the aspects of the secular observance of Easter, Christians focus on the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It’s an awesome story, recorded in the New Testament in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20. I highly recommend you read all four accounts this week.

Lots of people will be in church this Sunday. Some are those lovingly referred to as CEO Christians: Christmas and Easter Only. Be that as it may, I hope and trust that pastors will focus not on the sporadic attendance of some but on the reality of death and our belief in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” (Apostles’ Creed: circa 390 AD)

This statement of belief in the resurrection provides hope and comfort, especially at the time of death of loved ones and friends. Earlier this week I wrote a letter to a friend whose wife passed away suddenly last week. Here are some of the words I wrote:

The author of Ecclesiastes writes: “There is an appointed time for everything  … A time to give birth and a time to die … A time to weep and a time to laugh … A time to mourn and a time to dance …” (Eccl. 3:1-2, 4) The times of dying, weeping, and mourning are not happy times.

That’s true whether a loved one dies after a lengthy illness or with no advance warning. At a time like this we echo the words of Simon Peter to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) That’s where we go at a time like this. We go to Jesus.

Many years ago his loved ones went to his grave, grieving deeply. They had lost the one who had been expected to change the history of the whole world. But he had died, as all men do, and his was a bitter and painful death.

Yet as those mourners came, by a miracle of the grace and power of God, their grief was turned to joy, their despair to faith and confidence! Jesus had risen from the dead!

Ever since that first Easter morn, believing people have come to the grave of their loved ones in confidence and trust … weeping, mourning, but not despairing, not lost, awaiting the promised resurrection of their loved one and the new heaven and new earth that lie ahead. (Rev. 21:1)

Terry and I pray that your times of weeping and mourning will be mitigated by the joy and hope that come from the peace of God that passes all understanding. We love you and thank God for you! A Blessed Festival of the Resurrection! That’s what I mean when I say: “Happy Easter!”

The Gospel According to a Deck of Cards

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This sermon outline was shared with me by Pastor Jim Fandrey, who served on the LCMS Board of Directors during my years as LCMS president. I thought you might find it of interest.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

God gives us his Word in the Bible, Holy Scripture.  There’s a lot to absorb in all 66 books, from Genesis through Revelation.  We cherish and revere the Bible, because it tells us about what God has done for us and for our salvation.  But there is so much to remember.  Maybe this morning, we all would be helped, if we would learn . . .

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO A DECK OF CARDS

  1. God reveals himself to us through his Word
    • Ace: one God
    • Deuce: Bible divided into two parts: Old Testament and New Testament
    • Trey: Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
    • Four: Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
  2. Are we wise or foolish, when we hear God’s Word?
    • Five: five wise virgins, out of ten; faith was burning and they entered the kingdom at the Lord’s invitation
    • Five foolish virgins, with faith extinguished, were locked out
  3. God promises to provide us with all that we need to support this body and life
    • Six: the days of creation
    • Seven: God rested, the model for our Sabbath rest
  4. God assures us: his mercy never ends, and we must be grateful
    • Eight: the people saved on Noah’s ark, the people who received the promise
    • Nine: the unthankful cleansed lepers; only one returned to give thanks
  5. In God’s Word we receive both Law and Gospel
    • Ten: the Ten Commandments
    • Jack: knave and devil, defeated by Jesus
    • Queen: Mary, mother of our Lord
    • King: Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords

Perhaps you’ll think about this the next time you see a deck of cards. God bless your day!

Last Words

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This week’s quotes are the seven last words of Jesus from the cross:

  1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
  2. To a thief on the cross: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43
  3. To Mary: “Woman, behold your son.” To John: “Behold your mother.” John 19:26-27
  4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
  5. “I thirst.” John 19:28
  6. “It is finished.” John 19:30
  7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46

As you contemplate these words and their meaning in your life, Terry and I express to each of you our prayers for a blessed Holy Week and a joyful Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord!