Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hallelujah!



I normally don’t write about the everyday things I do, but this week has to be special, and an exception to the rule.  Let me tell you about my week.
Starting Sunday, we had a special guest at church.  Trinna is someone I’ve known since her childhood.  She visited us Sunday and gave her testimony in front of the combined adult class.  She has a powerful story to tell of sin and redemption.  Breathtakingly honest, Trinna captivated the class as she told of her former life and of her transformation in Jesus Christ.
Sunday afternoon, my brother, sister-in-law and I went to Nebraska for the upcoming eclipse.  We stopped in Lincoln so I could see a childhood friend who now has incurable liver cancer.  He was home waiting for us, and we had a great visit of about 1 ½ hours, reminiscing, talking about the present, and looking ahead to the future.  His attitude seems great even in the face of the constant pain and bleak outlook for a long life.  It is cliché, but I’ll say he is truly an inspiration.
To York we went to spend the night before the Great Eclipse.  Next day we went down to the Strang, Nebraska area to actually watch it.  We went there because of a sentimental attachment to the area, as our dad was born somewhere in that area and his family lived there for a time.
The eclipse was all we thought it would be…a magnificent celestial display that takes one’s breath away.  It didn’t get pitch-black, but was dark enough we had trouble making out the colors of the flora around us, and it got noticeably cooler as well.  Additionally, we could see the circle of the shadow as it approached, came overhead, and left us in the sky and clouds.  An awesome, awesome sight to behold it was.
While in Strang, we met a woman who, it turns out, lives in the very same house that our grandparents and my dad lived in in the early 1900’s.  The story of how we found this out is too long to print here; suffice it to say that we were taken aback by the coincidences that came together to put this woman and us together.  We were able to see the house, confirm it was indeed the house by comparing it to an old photo we had, and plan to come back for more research.
On Tuesday, I had a pleasant and informative visit with Stephanie, who is starting her own business consulting with non-profit organizations on best practices, and helping them with things such as grants and funding.  She would like to expand into churches and health care, and has asked me if I would be willing to help her do that.  I am flattered that she asked and will
do what I can to help, because her services, if done properly, are sorely needed.
Wednesday, I received a fanciful book about Unicorns in the mail, written by the daughter of a friend of mine.  Dayna has written a wonderful children’s book called “The Majesstic Unicorn,” which just has to become a best-seller.  I enjoyed both reading it as well as the illustrations that are part of it.  You can get it on Amazon, by the way.
Today I visited, along with Curtis, the mother of one of our Elders who is in her last hours on earth.  She has lived a rich and full life in the Lord, and is ready to go home.  We had a pleasant visit with her family, and trust we were some blessing to them and to her.
The week isn’t over yet.  But so far, it’s been good and productive.  I like weeks like that, especially ones that start out as this one did…with tangible, real-life evidence of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ can do in the life of someone who by faith puts all of her trust in the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ.  Hallelujah!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Just Be...



I attended a memorial service this past week.  During the service, the minister (our own Rick Cline) mentioned a passage in Ecclesiastes.  The wise man, in chapter 7, says this:  “It is better to go to a funeral than to a banquet because that is where everyone will end up. Everyone who is alive should take this to heart!”
At the first, this would seem an appropriate verse for a funeral, and an appropriate verse if one wanted to cause everyone to be depressed and sad.  But that’s not the intent of the wise man.  His intent is that everyone know and understand that from time to time we need to stop and think…ponder our life, our existence, and our destination.  It’s time for some quiet reflection on life lived and what remains of life.
We are a distracted and busy people.  We’re always going somewhere.  We’re always moving.  We’re always inundated with sight and sound.  Our minds are going in fifty different directions.  It’s like we don’t WANT to slow down and think, ponder, and reflect.  For if we do, we have to do some serious thinking about life.  Who am I?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?
Those questions…oldies but goodies…remain the basis for our discovering the meaning of life.  And the fact that those questions are best answered during times of quiet reflection lead me to ask you to set aside some time to just be.  Just be.  No earbuds.  No phone.  No TV.  No ROKU.  No noisy restaurant.  Just be.
And while we’re “just being,” perhaps it would be a good time to find God;  to open the lines of communication with Him.  As the old hymn says, “Take time to be holy; speak oft with thy Lord.  Abide in Him always, and feed on His word.”
It can be a scary time; this time of reflection.  It can also be some of the best use of time that you’ll ever have.  Try it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Under All Is the Land



We have just come back from a ten-day trip to the Great Southwest where there are miles and miles of canyons, mountains, valleys, and generally rugged country.  While we were there, that area was also suffering from a heat wave that even natives were complaining about.  Temperatures of 115 degrees or more were common.
When this farm boy travels and looks over the countryside, he thinks about how the land is useful in some way.  Farming, ranching, irrigation, growing things; these are things that make the land valuable.  Human beings always seem to find ways to make the land work for them and be productive in some way.
But out in the Great American Desert, there isn’t really much that can be done.  Much of that land has never been touched by human feet, and may never be.  Water remains scarce, with just a few patches of valley or mesa here and there being irrigated and suitable for some kind of crop or livestock operation.  Deep canyons, steep mountain sides, dangerous weather conditions, remoteness and lack of availability of basic services…all of this and more make the notion of putting the land to productive use even more remote.
Yes, I know there are great scenes out there.  I know there are fantastic and incredible views.  I understand the magnificence of the mountains, canyons, and starry canopy.  There are truly great wonders of the world in the Great Southwest, and you should strive to see them at least once in your lifetime.  But the thought remains…what good is the land?  Are the thousands of square miles of this kind of country useless?  Is there no purpose in it?  Should we just write off this entire area as flyover country as we travel from Chicago to Los Angeles?
I don’t think so.  I came up with a statement during our trip out that I kind of like.  “We should appreciate the land for what it is; not for what it can do for us.”
It’s great to be able to work the land.  It’s a wonderful thing to coax the land to produce crops…fruits, vegetables, grains.  It’s good to use the land in some useful and productive way.  But it’s also good to understand that we aren’t masters over the land.  The land allows us to be stewards of it.  The land allows us to work it.  The land allows us to profit from it and have better lives because of it.  And it tells us that by holding back some of itself in the form of impenetrable wilderness and wild country.  Try as we might, we find it virtually impossible to tame all of the land.  So we go for only the small part of it that it allows us to have.
Our Lord created the land for many reasons.  Among them, I believe, is so we will appreciate that we are not the masters, but the caretakers.  We aren’t the dominating influence; we are part of the whole.  We don’t dictate the eventual outcome; we ride along with the creation as God moves it through time.
The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Realtors begins this way:  “Under all is the land. Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization.”
It seems to me that the wise utilization of much of the Southwest Desert should be to remind humanity of the greatness of the God who created it (and us), and that we are the caretakers …not the masters…of the land upon which we live.  If we get it…if we understand that…the land will have done the job for which it was created, and we will be enriched immeasurably.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Little Yellow Reminders



Last Friday was a dreary day.  It was, or had been raining, the clouds were gray and low, there was no sun anywhere to be found.  It was cool, with just a hint of a breeze.  I had come to work feeling the end of the week.  It was kind of like Mondays, except I knew I had to get through this day to get to the weekend.
The day didn’t start out well.  I wasn’t feeling very well.  I was getting over some kind of virus my wife brought home for me to try on for size.  I had work that was piling up that I just didn’t want to get to.  It was the dreary day outside that I described earlier.  And besides all of that, it was Good Friday…the day Christians remember the death of Jesus Christ on a Roman cross some 2,000 years ago.
I got up from my office chair about mid-morning and walked around in the building.  Looking outside to the north, I decided to go on out and see what the weather was doing.  I looked around there for a minute and saw several bright yellow tulips in full bloom.  They seemed to be chasing away the gloom...doing exactly what the Creator wanted them to do.  They also seemed to give me a lesson that day.  Here they are in the middle of  gloomy day, doing their job of encouragement and serving to shine in nature in a wonderful way, in spite of all of the negativity, cloudiness, and darkness around them.
After I took a photo of them and sent it to Google for storage, I went back to the office refreshed and at least somewhat revitalized.  The weekend was better than I thought it would be, and Easter Sunday was a wonderful day spent with family and friends.
I won’t soon forget those tulips.  They taught me a valuable lesson.  Maybe they have something to say to you, too.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Numbers



A thought occurred to me a couple of days ago.  I was thinking about a number, and how that number fit into the knowledge base that I have in my head.  As I thought about it, I then thought how there were other numbers that also fit into my knowledge base somewhere, somehow.  I wondered how many such numbers there were, or if I could list even a few of them.  So, here goes a sort of experiment to list some of the numbers that are in, have been in, or somehow have encountered my life, either in thought or experience.

55:  The national speed limit put into place during the oil crisis from 1974 to 1995.
66.  The number of books in the Bible (Protestant version).
4’ 8 ½”.  The distance between the rails of a standard gauge railroad.
26,800,000,000.  The known breadth of the universe, in light years.
3.  Number of “persons” in the Godhead Trinity.
1.  The loneliest number, according to Three Dog Night.
100.  Highest denomination of circulating U.S. currency, in dollars.
13.  Baker’s dozen.
5.  The pink money in a Monopoly game, in dollars.
96.  The age of my paternal grand dad when he died in 1966
3.14159  The (approximate, since pi is an irrational number) value of pi.
180.  The sum of the angles of any triangle, in degrees.
10.  The height of a basketball goal, in feet.
365 ¼   Approximate number of days in a calendar year.
666   A number frightening to many, but holds no special meaning for me.
256  My EMS radio call number in Harper County.
2,000   Number of pounds avoirdupois in a short ton.
   Member of the set of imaginary numbers
50  Number of sprinkler heads on our small farm irrigation system when I was a youngster.
16 ½   Length of a rod in feet.
320   Number of rods in a mile.
(274,207,281  1)   The largest known prime number (as of the beginning of 2017).  It has over 22 million digits in it.
6   The number of my siblings plus myself.
4.  The width of overturned dirt, in feet, that a 3-bottom plow will make in a field.  Plowing a quarter-section of land with one three-bottom plow is a daunting and humbling experience.
2  The number of tools used in Euclidian geometry construction (compass and straight-edge).
2.71828   The number whose natural logarithm is 1 (aka the constant “e”).  e, like pi, is an irrational number, so this is an approximation.
24  My age when I married.  Best thing (almost) that ever happened to me.
776  My EMS radio call number in Harper County after the reorganization.
300,000,000  The speed at which my text message travels from my phone to the cellular point, in meters per second.

As you can readily see, numbers that may mean something to me may have no meaning for you.  You may not have thought about imaginary numbers recently, or the speed of light, or even a baker’s dozen.  But you do have numbers in your life, and numbers do mean something to you.
Take a little time and think of some numbers that have meaning for you and why they mean what they mean to you.  It’s a pleasant exercise, and one that is sure to get you thinking past what’s for dinner tonight.