Surround Sounds

The street that I live on runs the entire length of our city.  Because it is so long, there are many streets that connect to it and it tends to   be busy.  My house sits on a corner lot with a four-way stop sign.  On working days, it is busy but I seldom
“hear” the traffic. Well, to be correct, I seldom listen to the traffic.    There is a difference.  I just ignore it. When the street next to mine was under reconstruction and all of that traffic joined my street, I did notice every fire truck and ambulance that went by.  Sirens are unmistakable.
Back when my son was still at home and his job was to cut the lawn, portable headset had become popular.  Oh, how he wanted to use a headset for his music while he cut grass.  His dad said, “No.”  The “No” was so stern, Dave hardly knew what to say, but he approached the “Why” question anyhow.  There was a good reason.  “Everyone needs quiet to think, to be alone. If you always have something going into your ears, you rob yourself of good thinking time.
Once the traffic is not as busy on my street; it seems to also be popular for walkers.  My attention is often drawn to talking.  As I glance out to see who is talking, I see one person walking along, and talking—on a phone.  If they initiated the call, they are also robbing themselves of thinking time.
Night before last we had a thunderstorm.  My window was open, a breeze was blowing the curtains out and a good soaking rain was falling. It was dark, in fact, nearly midnight.  I heard that sound.  Thunder was rumbling steadily and lightening flashing all around.  I didn’t have any other sounds in the house.  It was like a symphony of sound coming right from nature.  
The quiet falling of a steady rain was soothing to my soul.  We need the quiet. We need to think.

Psalm 1:1-2” Blessed is the man. . .whose delight it in the law of the Lord and in His law doth he meditate day and night.”

Between Lines

After an extended lapse and two computers, it is time to resume The Shepherd’s Presence.  Fortunately, when my computer of ten years of faithful service went down, I was happy to have put most of my files in the cloud storage provided by Microsoft.  It has been a long road to getting back and on a new improved highway to writing.   Never stop learning, someone advised me a few years back. 
I could function on my tablet but clumsily.  I have taken to writing a piece with no regularity, on Facebook that I call, “My Two-Cents Worth” and it is fairly well received.  I’ll be transferring some of them to The Shepherd’s Presence from time to time.   Most of those pieces spring from just daily life.  Seems I find life is just one object lesson after another.  Here’s a sample:

Wash your Hands!

At our local senior center we do more than sit around drinking coffee, playing cards and playing bingo. Some sort of exercise meets each  day of the week. I had not stopped to visit at length with a friend and took the opportunity to extend our conversation this morning.  In our chat, we discussed how to stay away from seasonal flu as well as the dreded associated flu virus.  Most of us are vaccinated so we are not required to use face masks. Some wear them voluntarily. 

One of the first ingrained habits my mother formed in me was hand washing.  The habit was fortified in school where our one-room school teacher provided aa wash basin  and a bar  of soap for us to wash our hands before eating lunch and sometimes after recess. (Our only source of water was an outdoor hand pump.) It makes sense.

The classic biblical value of hand washing comes when Pilate called for a basin of water and symbolically washed his hands of ordering the death of Jesus.  It was also customary to provide a basin of water for guests to refresh themselves by washing their feet after a long walking trip.   Socks had not yet been invented.

There are several rules of hygiene listed in Leviticus.  God intended for us to follow common sense rules to keep ourselves healthy in both hygiene and dietary laws.  

One of the first things to do upon arriving home after a shopping trip is to wash your hands!  Yet, already, I see people being careless in stores with shopping carts.    When an alcohol wipe is available to wipe down the cart, use it! I carry my own just in case the store is out or  does not provide them. Stay safe during the coming seasonal  flu season.


And that’s my Two-Cents Worth for today.

A Dream Doodle

Dreams come in an assortment of views. Funny, peculiar, frightening, puzzling, entertaining, and you can probably add to the list.  Some people seldom dream while other people dream nightly. Some people seem to be able to interpret their own dreams while others, like me, can seldom make any sense of dreams.   Some of my dreams reoccur.  They are like old TV show reruns! When I video Chatted with my granddaughter today, she pulled out an “American Girl” book that had some meanings of dreams!  There was no answer for a room full of cats all purring so loudly it shook the room. Sigh.

Last night I had a nightmare.  Sleep experts properly call them “night terrors” but I really did have horses in my dream last night, so it does qualify as a “nightmare.”  I have these kinds of dreams about every five or six months.  They apparently are typical of me because I have had them since childhood.

Cartoonists display dreams as a conversation bubble that is connected by smaller bubbles over the head of a sleeping character. Charles Schultz depicted Snoopy dreaming while he lay sleeping on top of his doghouse. Our family dog occasionally barked in her sleep, and we wondered what she was dreaming.

One dream in the Bible is particularly challenging.   It is found in Daniel chapter two.  Nebuchadnezzar had a strange dream and when he called his wise men and magicians to interpret it for him, he refused to tell them the dream. He tried their authenticity by making them tell him the dream and then interpret it for him. They protested so King Nebuchadnezzars pushed them by adding a death sentence to them if they could not produce both the dream and the interpretation. He was serious.
When the situation and penalty reached the ears of Daniel, he went to work to spare a whole lot of lives. In all seriousness, Daniel approached God for an answer. God delivered. When Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel how he figured it out, Daniel replied with six profound words:  THERE IS A GOD IN HEAVEN.

Yes, Daniel, there is. I’ll not try to figure out last night’s nightmare, but I do know that in my perfect body in Heaven where there is no night, I won’t fuss about my weird dreams any longer.

Getting back to where you were. . .

A program on my computer just about wiped everything I am familiar with off of my computer.  Or maybe is scrambled it at the very least.  It is a bit frustrating.  To make matters worse, what I expected to find on my WordPress site is not the same.  It may be partly my fault for not reading the informative blog WP issues almost every Monday without fail.

Am I the only one who gets stuck in a rut?  Truth is, I feel comfortable in my rut.  In all my life, I have not liked surprises that tend to “broadside” me.  Good friend usually give me a gentle warning when a change is in the works.  It takes a bit of time, sometimes short, and sometimes lengthy, to mentally meet the challenge of change.  Once I get used to a new method, guess what, I just make a new rut!

Expectations, in my opinion, need to be realistic.  I am not an optimist, nor a pessimist.  Somewhere in between lies realism.  Most people who face life realistically also can roll with the punches, so to speak. We quietly adjust while we inwardly cope with a surprise.  So, I may have found my way back on WP, maybe.  I’ll see when it goes into the “publish” stage.  I do not fault WP at all.  It was the click of the mouse, and an over-easy egg turned into a scrambled one.  Perhaps I needed the challenge today. And I am reminded that the Bible warns me, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow, because you don’t know what the day will bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:1)

Well, here goes. . .

 

As the Waves

Recently I took a trip to see my daughter and family who lives in Florida.  I went with two intentions:  to see their new house, recently built, and to see my great-grandson, Kyle, who was born last October.  I did not go to be entertained.  However, my son-in-love, Gary, insisted we take an afternoon to go to the beach. My guess is that it is about twenty miles or so to the beach from where they live.

Upon reaching the beach, I had forgotten how unstable the footing is in the loose sand, but I managed, carefully, to stay upright.  The vastness of the ocean, even on the gulf side, is always amazing.   Once more I always think of the explorers who set out on those high seas to find the other side of the world defying the thought that the world was flat. I have never seen the Pacific but have seen the Atlantic several times.  Yet, each experience is a bit individual. 

Today I read the book of James and was drawn to the verse in chapter one that holds the phrase, “. . .like the waves of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed.”  The time I so recently spent at the beach came to mind.  The waves were not enormously high, but not gentle either. I saw kids playing in the water trying to withstand the power of the waves.  Since each wave was a bit different in height, sometimes they withstood it, but other times, they went down.

Although gentle in his admonition, James tells his readers to pray with faith, nothing wavering. Then later in the same letter, he gives the example of Abraham in obedience offer his only son, Isaac.  Abraham did begin the offering with an unwavering faith—and of course, God stopped him.  Nothing wavering.  When I grow weary in praying, I am wavering.  Wavering in prayer is to doubt in the power of God.  When I am convinced that God is willing to do something if I ask, I cannot be as unstable as the waves of the ocean. 

So, my trip to the beach was not unfruitful.  Now, weeks later, I am still thinking on that sight. God’s creation does show his handiwork.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  We need to see God in everything.

As an addendum I also am glad that they took me to the beach that they often use. Seeing it, the beac house, walkways, and the rolling waves helps me connect to them even when we are several hundred miles apart.

Panoply

If you think “I wonder what that means. . .” join me and others in our church auditorium when the word came up in the song, “Soldiers of Christ Arise” when it appeared on the PowerPoint screen Sunday.  On the ride home from church, it was a matter of discussion, in fact. As soon as I put down my things, slipped off my shoes, I headed for my Noah Websters 1828 dictionary.  There it was:  Panoply:  a full or complete suite of armor for defense.  The sentence Noah Webster used as an example referred to the whole armor of God found in Ephesians 6. 

Curiosity must be quenched, so I went a step further to research the word in the new Merriam-Webster dictionary online.  It was there too, and here’s the surprise:  the word is not used in technical terms to describe the full array of storage found in cloud storage.  The old becomes useful still in the modern times.  Why?  Words don’t wear out. Speakers tend to subtract words that seem no longer in use for the audience to understand. Writers tend not to use what they think of obsolete words because most people comprehend easily at a sixth-grade level. Panoply would not be considered a sixth-grade vocabulary word.

Since I want to remember this word, I am using it today.  Since it now has a modern use, I need to know it.  Next time we sing “Soldiers of Christ Arise” I will also recall this great old song of challenge, written by Charles Wesley in 1749.  He wrote it during a time when England was severely punishing anyone opposed to the Church of England. Persecution against the Methodists was intense.  The words remained in poetic form until 1868 when a gentleman named Elvey set the words to a classical piece of majestic music.  It deserves to be sung today during this time in America when God’s Word is challenged daily by politicians, socialists, and journalism.
Now I did your homework for you. Here is a link for the song.  Let it soak into your soul.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44GUiMdFApA&ab_channel=MartijndeGroot

Bloddied, Broken, but not Dead

My favorite animal is the sheep.  You might easily surmise that by the very title of this blog site.  Sheep require tender care and are quite helpless. They don’t seem very smart. Yet, God looks upon us as sheep. We need tender care and leadership. Sheep are also led but not driven.  There are so many beautiful portions of Scripture that lean the readers into a relationship of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and we, the needy sheep.

Awhile back, I took a simple drawing class, and my one accomplishment was drawing a cartoonish sheep that one of my girls put on a coffee mug for me.  Someday I’ll figure out how to get it on a tee shirt too. This morning as I was deciding on a worship point for my morning prayer time, I settled on Jesus as my Shepherd. Along with my family, we become a small flock. Once I have a worship point decided, I move to putting on my armor for the day.  It tickled me when I thought of my cartoon sheep dressed in armor ready for battle. Nonetheless, that’s where my mind went. Then sometimes I stop and write a personal headline for the day in my journal. Today’s headline:  “Shepherd boldly protects flock from fierce lion.”  The lion, in my wild imagination, ran off, still alive but bleeding and torn, tail dragging.


Now you know what my mornings are sometimes like! But on the serious side, let’s remember that Satan, the roaring lion of 1 Peter 5:8 can be defeated.  God does not leave us defenseless.  Alas, we never seem to put him to death.  He has many faces and the most frightening is the angel of light.  Satan slips into false doctrine that is subtle and sometimes takes months to win us over if we are not careful.

We can see him flee if we but resist him, James 4:7,  The prerequisite  is included for doing that: “Submit yourselves, therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

Submit. Yield. Be willing to allow God control. Then the adversary, the devil as roaring lion will slink away bloodied, torn, bedraggled, to recover. Until the day he is finally cast into the lake of fire, he will return again, and again, and. . .

A Spring Doodle

The appointment calendar on my desk is all doodled by this time of the month.  Before the page turns, there will be added flourishes, circles, flowers, and hearts.  When I am forced to take notes, the corners of the pages are elaborately filled in with curious scribbles.  Even the church bulletin does not escape!  The doodling isn’t caused by boredom.  Somehow, it comes with thinking. 

So, I have scattered thoughts about spring today.  The sun playing hide and seek with clouds this afternoon and the temperature is warming, but still brisk.  It is only March. The calendar and the meteorologist came together to announce the first day of spring last Saturday. Soon it will be nice enough to wash winter blankets and hang them outside to dry. Birds are singing at sunrise with their Heaven-made chirping. Spring is my favorite season of the year.

Some line from some sonnet somewhere, written by Browning I believe says of spring: “And all the earth was good and green again.” The line has stuck with me for over fifty years. I heard it first in a speech recital in college.
With spring comes Easter and with Easter comes hope. Bare branches bring forth buds that burst into leaves that provide shade and life-giving oxygen. That, my friends, is the Creator’s intent!  God created animals to instinctively bear young in the spring, not in the dead of cold winter when the chance of survival is lower. The long nights for rest are in the winter to naturally aid our immune system. Our infinite God put all of nature into motion for our preservation. It is part of His plan.

On these lovely spring days, let your hope soar. The coronavirus is creeping away. Dig in the dirt, plant some flowers, or tomatoes, get out the patio furniture, and live anew in Christ!  Happy Spring!

Music Fundamentals and Parenting

Sometime in the last six months I have used the feature on my computer to play music during my prayer time.  Instrumental music of course, so words are not distracting.  I have a classical guitar recording but I have never ripped it to my computer drive, but I have both Dino and Greg Howlett piano arrangements in my music spot.

Howlett is a master of arpeggio  while Dino is a master at chords.  Both make marvelous arrangements.  Both use scales effectively for music expression and their dynamics express the lyrics of the arrangements so well. 

In their youth, both men must have had music teachers that drilled the fundamentals of music.  The ability to use the fundamentals of scales, arpeggio, and chords in all key signatures is a mark of professional sound. How do they do it? Practice.

How does a Believing Christian walk according to the fundamentals of God’s Word?  Practice. 

We must practice, practice, practice.  We never mature to a place where we automatically do the right thing. The forces of ease and worldly pleasure will always surround us.  My challenge to parents is to warn the children of pitfalls and praise them when they successfully make their way through a maze of temptations. Children have a natural heart of foolishness as Proverbs 22:15 tells the parent. Every parent is faced with the responsibility of using the means of correction to drive out that foolishness.  It is a fundamental of parenting.

The expectation of God is our own self-governing practice. Learn it yourself, then teach it to the children. Practice, practice, practice!

Let the Children Come (book review)

The full title of the book is Let the Children Come:  The Life of George Muller. It is a relatively new book published in December of 2020.  Its print length is 367 pages.  The publisher is Crown Publishers, Reedsport, OR, 97467. The author is Tom Fay.  The price is free if you already have a Kindle Unlimited membership. If you do not participate in Kindle Unlimited, it is $4.99.

Although the title looks like a biography, the book is fictionalized and modernized into today’s setting instead of 1800’s England.  This book is considered a novel; however, the characters are not created.  The central characters are George Mueller, his wife, Mary, and daughter, Lydia.  Supporting characters are also real people.  The setting is what is fictionalized.  The author’s preface tells the reader why the book is presented this way so it is essential to read the preface or the reader will be sadly confused.  It is not until the epilogue that the writer tells the reader what is fact and what is fiction.

I usually give a book thirty pages and if after that I just put it down if I have not gained interest.  In this case, I am such a tightwad that I was not going to pay five dollars for a book left unfinished.  I was well past half of the book before I settled in some enjoyment. I find deep disappointment that I do not have the full, real story behind this remarkable person of George Muller. Had I not selected this book so soon after having read the Elizabeth Elliot story, which was superbly written, I would not have been as disappointed. It was difficult not to compare. 

I don’t think I’ll be a fan of Tom Fay’s writing.  I enjoy history and think there is so much to learn from those who contributed so much to the Christian faith, that I won’t be trying this route to history again. Now, this is just my opinion and you may feel entirely different.  I put out these book reviews so that you will have access to different views.  My prediction for this book having lasting value is dim.  I came in contact with the book through Amazon book recommendations, so they did their job!  Their promotion was a bit overrated, in my opinion. If you want an honest, well researched biography of the orphanage builder who operated his ministry solely by faith, Tom Fay’s book is not the answer.

Turn to the Light

A theme has stuck in my head, fallen to my heart, and perhaps leaked  out of my fingers on the keyboard this week.  It is LIGHT.  In the events that have evolved since November 3, 2020, Americans have experienced the sharp contrast between light and darkness.  While those who are deceptive love darkness because their deeds are evil (John 3:19) the bearers of the light of righteous living turn to the light.  In fact, they are natural light carriers. There is no doubt that if both sides of the news were covered honestly without readers and listeners having to search for truth, the contrast between light and darkness would be unmistakable.

The propaganda machines have, in some instances, been turned onto high speed. Those who choose to stay in the darkness of deceit offer up methods of blinding eyes.  But this is not new.  It is as old, probably, as the Garden of Eden.  If I were going to do a thorough study on the topic, it would take me so many pages, I would develop a book.  My goal here is to inspire the reader to search for a way out of darkness into light.

  I have a philodendron in my office.  That plant has a history now of eleven years, but I won’t bore you with that.  This morning when I poured the remains of my bottle of water on it, I also gave it a quarter turn on its stand.  If I did not turn “Phyllis” every two or three days, she would lean sideways to the light from the window and be all lopsided.  I want her to full, well-shaped, and glamourous so I give her a twist every third day or so.  The same is true of my “Sophie” the spider plant in another room.  She is outside in the summer and gets balanced light, but in the winter, I must do the balancing for her.  And yes, I also have “Gertrude” and “Gracie” which are geraniums I am wintering over, and a few other plants that so far, are nameless.

Some plants thrive in low light but most plants like sunlight, water, and no weed competition.  It is important to plant our annuals and perennials where they will thrive.  But humans, well, they must take themselves where they will thrive.  Wise and loving parents will guide their children to make the better choices between light and darkness.  Once the child grows into young adulthood, parents can hope that the child will make independent choices to do what is right.

To get into the nitty gritty of these past six months or more let’s look at choices.  A majority of those in destructive riots are young adults.  The family has failed them.  Otherwise, they would not be setting fires, looting, breaking windows, and throwing frozen water bottle at law enforcement officers.  Protesting is acceptable if the protest is controlled and can be controlled by law enforcement. It has been my observance that the more peaceful protesters are older.  They consist of people above age thirty and some into their sixties.  They don’t set fires, loot, or carry weapons with the intent of killing. All they want to do is make their voice heard.

In the most recent protest that has drawn national attention, that protest was infiltrated with the wrong crowd.  That’s a problem.  Acts to deceive even the innocent is borne of the darkest of hearts.  It is not new.  I have read and heard the stories of such infiltration into the opposition by the enemy as far back as World War II.(Just for fun, recall to memory “Hogan’s Heroes.”)  It probably goes back further. 

Eternal vigilance is the only solution for those who use a cloak of darkness to conceal their evil intentions.  That vigilance starts in the home.  It starts in the highchair when we fold little hands together in prayer and thank Jesus for food to eat.  It starts when mothers sing “Jesus Love Me” to an infant during a diaper change.  It continues when we quote Bible verses from the book of Proverbs as we lay the bricks of good character. 

If I neglect to turn my plant every two days or so, I will have a leggy, unbalanced plant. 
Parents teach the precepts of God’s Word.  Nurture with light, love, and character-building control.  Follow the child with prayer every day.

Only when parents stay together and rear children with decent character will America change. It takes Light.
Jesus is the Light of the world.  Lean into Him.