Weather in the Heartland

A dying monsoon storm

 

Slowly,

in growing heat with

dark clouds building

it approaches

and grows.

I can see it,

feel it

and smell it.

Clouds with misty

crew cut tops

extending to heaven

and roiling dark

shapes at the bottom.

Energy stored

in a cloudy mass

strikes with jagged fingers

of destruction.

I wait with concern.

Will it come here?

Will it strike the earth,

my house,

me?

This storm has built

and is ready

to send a  charge

to the earth.

 There is a hope –

a thin rod planted

deep in the earth

and rising upward

 toward the sky

stands between

me

and the storm.

It will take the storm’s wrath

and send it safely

into the earth.

We will be spared.

We huddle in hushed hope

 with whispered prayers

to let the storm

pass over.

(In thinking about wrath and love meeting at the cross, i thought of the power of summer storm clouds being like stored up wrath, and a lightening rod being like the cross that averts the stored up wrath of God. David E. Carlson 3/16/2016)

Sticks & Soil – Making Connections

walking stickIn the last two days I was able to speak to a group of ex-offenders and to a group of kids at church at an awards banquet.

I took a walking stick to the first group.  this was carved in a piece of curly willow that I had harvested from my front yard. It is a joke that I walk a little on the slow side – mainly because I am looking at things – gardens, trees, birds, bumper stickers.  So I put on there a tortoise and a hare.  The verse is from Ecclesiastes 9:11

The race is not to the swift
    or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
    or wealth to the brilliant
    or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

The point is that we can not expect to rush, rabbit like, to the finish line, but it will take some time.  This lead to several interesting conversations about wood carving.  It was a nice way for folks to connect.

At the awards banquet the decorations were pots and seeds.   I talked about what was needed besides the pots and seed packets. The Kids figured out we needed good soil – not the sand and rock salt I had first suggested.  The point here was that we need to be receptive soil to the scriptures – as Jesus taught int he parable of the sower. (Mark 4)

So in these examples a stick and some dirt became ways to connect.  We all do things that help us connect to the scriptures – areas of interest in our lives that connect to specific scriptures.  Walking Sticks and Ecclesiastes 9 or Psalm 1.  Gardening and a number of parables of Jesus and Isaiah 55.

Think about what connects with you? What do you know that helps others make connections?

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Nature in John’s Gospel

earthWe think of John as being a very spiritual book – there is a lot of discussion of the ministry of the Holy Spirit (baptism, upper room discourse in chapters 13-17). And yet we also see that John is connected to the physical world.

So Let’s not become Neoplatonists who seek escape from the world.  Jesus in John’s Gospel was not about escape, but rather restoration.

Consider:

  • The Word as Creator: 1:3
  • The Word became flesh 1:14
  • Submitted to baptism in water 1:33-24
  • “I saw you under the fig tree.”  1:50
  • Water changed to wine at a wedding 2:1-11
  • Personally clears temple with a whip 2:15
  • Uses natural birth, wind, Israel’s history to talk to Nicodemus 3:1-20
  • Is tired and thirsty and really does ask for water 4:6
  • Feeds 5,000 with actual bread and fish 6:1-15
  • Really walks on actual water 6:16-21

To be sure John presents Jesus as the Son of God, but not so that he is detached and dismissive of the world he had co-created with the Father.

A Visit to the Ant Hill – Proverbs 6:6-8

ants.3A little preaching before FR takes a vacation:

A Visit to the Ant Hill – v. 6-8

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;

consider its ways and be wise!

7 It has no commander,

no overseer or ruler,

8 yet it stores its provisions in summer

and gathers its food at harvest.

             There are thousands of species of ants in the world.  There are very small ants that can build a colony between sheets of office paper.  There are ants that heard insects called aphids, the way people heard cows for their milk.  There are ants that cut leaves, and grow fungus on them as a form of food.  Some ants live in small groups, others in huge colonies.

            The ants that are referred to in Proverbs 6:6 are called Harvester Ants.  They live along the Mediterranean Sea in the land of Israel, and they go out and gather grain.  They remove the grain from it’s husk and store it in their colonies storage area.  They can be seen working all though the harvest seasons, so that they have food to eat in the winter.

            Maybe because I was about to speak on this subject, we had an invasion of ants in our house.  It is not a bad invasion, but there are some little black ants that appear about this time of year every year.  They look around for anything sweet – spilled sugar, a cookie left out,  a drop of honey.  When they find it they somehow call on their brothers and sisters who come to have a feast.  I don’ tknow how they communicate – they do not have tiny little cell phones.  Scientists say that Ants communicate by giving off chemical smells.

            Well, we are not that happy with this lesson in proverbs in our house, and will be making sure we remove all the tasty things and wash all the counters.  It sometimes helps to wash the counters and window sills with vinegar.  They don’t like vinegar.

             Go to the Ant, O Sluggard.  There are two specific lessons that Ants teach.  

            The ant has no commander, overseer or ruler.  Now it is true that the Ant Colony has often a queen ant.  And there are different classes of ants with different jobs within the colony.  However, the point here is that the ants do not need someone watching over their shoulder.  They do not need a boss or a foreman to keep them busy.  They are busy by nature.

            This is compared to the Sluggard. What does the sluggard do? He sits in his easy chair and says, “Oh, I will just take a little longer nap. I will just stay in bed a little longer.”  It takes the alarm clock to wake up the sluggard.

               I once had a job as a security guard.  The job started at 11pm and continued to 7am.  I would go to work at night, then go to classes in the day, and then sleep in the afternoon.  Two times I did not hear my alarm clock.  My co-worker got mad at me for being late.  So I learned an important lesson.  I got two alarm clocks and I put both of them so far from my bed that I could not just turn them off and fall back asleep.

             Do you need a commander?  It ought to be that as a follower of the Lord, you do not need to have someone check up on you.  You should not need toe pastor or an elder or your Sunday school teacher come knock on your door and see what you are doing?

            We can all learn something important from the Ant in our spiritual life.  Do not lay about expecting other people to provide your needs.  You need to do the gathering and storing.

             Every day you should gather some of the Word of God from the Bible in your daily reading.  You should not just look at it, but you should take it home and store it away.

            Some Christians rely on others to keep them fed.  They only go to church, or they only listen to the radio or TV messages. 

            But you need to gather the word of God for yourself as well.

             I started something new this year during the season of Lent.  I read in my Spanish bible from one book and then I write out my thoughts in Spanish.  This is interesting for me, in that it helps me read the bible closely.  I have often noticed things in the Spanish that I did not notice in the English.

            This is one of the things that I do.  What do you do?

             He Prepares for the Future.   The ants know to gather food while it is available, so it will be there when it is needed.  So harvester ants gather in the summer and fall, and eat from their stores in the winter.

            The natural temptation is to eat the food when it is available.  So if you have a garden you can be eating the early tomatoes and the lettuce and spinach.  Summer squash is starting to come it.

            These will not be here this winter.  This is why the food is harvested and stored.  In years past, our ancestors would gather the food and dry it, or salt it, or smoke it.  They found a way to store it.         We depend on the grocery store and the refrigerator.  It would be easy to think that there will always available food.

            We will be wise to store for the future.  You should have money saved during the good times to help when times are leaner.  We have the old English proverb:  “Save for a rainy day.”

             The Scriptures tell us that we need to be aware of the seasons.  We will have times in our lives when we have easy access to teaching, fellowship and worship with God’s people.  That is wonderful when it happens.  But there will also be dry times.  So you need to be storing up spiritual strength when you can, so that we will not starve in the dry periods

            This takes many forms. 

            We need to learn how to pray – so that when we need to we can.

            We need to develop good Christian friends – so that one of us is in need, the other is there to help.

            We need to know that the scripture predicts times of hardship and persecution.  Are we headed toward a season of hardship for Christians?  I can not say, but I can say, that now we ought to be gathering the harvest.

Smart Birds? Proverbs 1:17

Proverbs 1:17 is an interesting case where there was some disagreement over it’s meaning.  Would a bird avoid getting caught in the trap and thus be a positive example, or would a bird obviously stumble into the net because it is, after all, a bird brain? 

So a little education in bird biology was needed.  From Sunday’s message….

The Father illustrated his warning with a proverb about a bird. Most commentators read it one way – that is if a bird sees you laying out a net, he will not get trapped by it. However, one commentator found that hard to believe, because he thinks all birds are basically dumb.

I went to the Biology Library at the University to see what I could discover about bird intelligence. It tunes out some birds are dumb. The Dodo bird had no fear of humans, and was soon hunted to extinction. However, I discovered some amazing indications that birds do have intelligence:

• The oldest human sport is probably Falconry, where these birds of pray are taught to hunt by their human trainers.

• Crows and parrots are as smart as dogs, and smarter than cats. There are crows in Japan who walk out into traffic during a red light, drop nuts in front of stopped cars, walk back and wait for the cars to crush the hard shells for them while they wait on the sidewalk.

• A Raven learned how to pull up a long string using its beak and foot in order to retrieve a piece of good tied to the end. Some crows use sticks to catch bugs in crevices. One bird even was able to bend a hook in a wire to make a tool to retrieve food.

• House sparrows have learned how to open grocery store doors by flying in front of the electric eye. Once inside they feast.