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Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

That scrumptious Sunday dinner was beginning to wind down. My brother and I ate rapidly because our afternoon was just getting started. We were headed for the hills—okay, how about the “woods.” That’s what we called it when we went to the mountains east of our little town. And we were on a mission! Well, kind of like a mission. You see, our family was heading into the woods with our old Chevrolet truck to get trees. Now, I should probably tell you, that truck was quite the thing. It was old. How old? It was old enough that it had a small hole in the center of the front bumper. Some of you already know what that was for, don’t you? Sure, it was for the crank. But some of you are thinking: “Crank? What’s a crank? Isn’t that the old guy that lives next door to Grandma and Grandpa?”

Well, stick with me a bit. First off, cars and trucks weren’t quite as dependable at that time as they are now—and that included the batteries. Trucks, and even cars during those days, usually had a crank that was carried along, often under the seat. You didn’t start that truck by simply inserting the key into the ignition and turning it. In fact, I don’t know that this old truck even had a key. Nor was there even a button on the dash like Popular Mechanics magazine may have been talking about at that time that all the really “modern” vehicles had. No, what we called the “starter” was on the floor. Sure it was. You got into the truck, turned a switch on the dashboard to the “ON” position, and then you took your foot and pushed on the starter, which was located on the floor. It took a pretty good hard push, too, before you would hear and feel the starter begin to turn, and therefore the engine would begin to turn over. And if the charge in the battery was weak and didn’t have a good charge? Hey, that’s where you got the old crank out, put the end of it through the bumper and felt your way along with it till it engaged the hole in the wheel on the front of the engine made for it, and then you put your muscle into it—and I mean put your muscle into it—throwing your weight into turning the crank and starting the old truck. And I should tell you that we used that crank quite a bit, too, from what I remember.

By the way, as I think back on that old truck it reminds me of the turn signal. And it did have one. Pretty modern and “up town,” right? Well, hardly. It was a long piece of metal, shaped kind of like an arrow someone would point with, and it hung from the corner of the cab, on the outside, behind the driver’s head. Sure, some of you folks know just what I am talking about. You can remember reaching up over your head next to the door and pulling on the cable, or chain to make that signal move so that people behind you knew which direction you were about to turn. If any of you don’t know what I’m talking about, go ask your Grandma or Grandpa, or maybe your Mom or Dad. See if they can’t describe it to you.

Say, here I go again, getting way off track. Anyway, we were headed for the woods on a mission of sorts. A mission to get Christmas trees—lots of trees. Christmas trees for nearly everyone in our extended family, or so it seemed. And we were going to get tall trees, short trees, and trees in between!

This had become an annual event in our family. I had concluded that there must be very few trees fit to serve as a Christmas tree in the state of California. I had determined that fact because most of the trees we were cutting were for relatives and friends who lived in Southern California. For a little more than a dollar or two each, my parents would wrap freshly cut white fir trees securely in burlap bags (gunny sacks to my brother and me), attach mailing labels on the outside, and they would be hauled to the railroad stop in town where they would be shipped out along with all the other items the Postal Service was handling. When the relatives received the trees they would unwrap them, shake them a little bit to allow the branches to fold back out, and before long have one of the best looking Christmas trees on the block decorated cheerfully in their living room. They always seemed to appreciate the trees.

But that Sunday afternoon trip was more than just getting the relatives a Christmas tree. We always found one for our own family, too. My Mom and Dad, with plenty of helpful advice from my brother and me, would search through the forest until we found a tree that we knew would be just right for our living room. It had to be tall and bushy. In fact, we usually had to cut a portion off the bottom to get it into our living room, and sometimes even a piece off the top so a star could be placed at the very top of the tree right against the ceiling. We liked big Christmas trees!

While my parents were looking for trees for the relatives, cutting them and dragging them to the truck, my brother and I would be scouting around for our own trees. You see, each year when we went on this tree-cutting trip we found our own trees which went in our bedroom. Since we were each determined to have our very own tree, and we slept in the same room, our bedroom had two trees each Christmas. Each was decorated in a wild sort of way and even had lights on them, as I remember. Now, these trees we picked for ourselves were never more than 2-3 feet tall. We liked them a little on the small side so we could get both of them in the room, for one thing.

It seemed like it was no time at all before the old truck was loaded with trees and it was time to head back to town, driving a bit slower as we bounced over the rough mountain roads, getting home just about the time the late winter sun was sinking below the horizon. We “men” unloaded the trees, standing them up in a corner of the yard alongside the house. They were going to be making some folks mighty happy before long. Mom stoked up the two wood stoves in the house and before long we were pulling off our mittens, stocking caps, boots and heavy clothing we had been wearing to keep the winter chill away. And then, before we headed out the door for church once again, it was time for hot chocolate. And it wasn’t the “instant” kind, you understand. They did not have instant hot chocolate in those days, as far as I can remember. It took time to heat and prepare but hey, was it ever good—lip-smacking good! And then, like I said, it was off to church again. We had church on Sunday nights in that little town—hard wooden benches and all. But those church benches being hard didn’t stop two young boys from catching some much deserved rest after a hard day getting the Christmas trees in.

You know, those trees no doubt helped some of our friends and relatives have a happier Christmas. But have you ever thought of trees being “happy”? In Psalm 96 beginning with verse 11, we find these word: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.”

Almost sounds as if creation was getting ready for Christmas!

Prayer: Father, help us to see a fresh, new reason for praise as we look at creation all about us. You have blessed us with so much and yet we often fail to really see it and understand all that You have done for us. Thank you, Father. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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SUNDAY DINNER

It was Sunday. I imagine, as I think back upon it after all these years that it was probably in early December. My mother had hustled my younger brother, Andy, and I out of church and the two blocks up the street to our home. My brother and I enjoyed going to Sunday school and church. Other than “regular” school it was the main source of social activities for us. In a community which probably could boast of 100 people on a good day, the small white church we attended was typical of many small towns across our country. It had a steeple with a bell in it. That bell did not just set up there idle, it was rung several times each Sunday, announcing that Sunday school was about to begin, and later, the morning church service was ready to start.

The church was painted white on the outside, like any good country church would have been during those days, and when you stepped inside you found yourself in a small sanctuary with a wood floor that slanted downwards toward the front till it became level a few feet before the altar. I wonder, how many times over the years I heard a penny, nickel or dime dropped onto the floor by some little urchin at the back of the sanctuary, and then listened as it rolled all the way to the front, coming to a stop against the altar. That always seemed to happen during a moment of silence or at some particular point in the pastor’s sermon where it was sure to cause a disturbance and gain the attention of the entire congregation for a few moments.

I suppose, in looking back after all these years, that the floor and the pews are the two main things I remember about that little church. The pews were made out of wood and had no cushion of any kind. Let me tell you, now, they made it difficult for a boy to get a decent bit of a nap during the pastor’s sermon unless you were really worn out from a good SS class.

Well, I am getting off track here. Let me get back to my story. Mom and my brother and I had hurried home, like I mentioned. My Dad, who did not attend church with us, had the long oval-shaped table in the dining room set with dishes and silverware upon a blue and white checkerboard pattern tablecloth. I would not be surprised if we could have smelled the sweet aromas coming from our kitchen long before we entered the house. A mouth-watering meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, and sourdough biscuits browned just right and hot out of the oven was about to be placed on the table.

My brother and I needed no urging from Mom or Dad to dip some hot water out of the boiler on the wood range in the kitchen, splash it into the metal wash pan, and quickly give our hands a washing. Sometimes we even used a bit of soap that our grandma had made! That stuff could clean your hands in a snap, let me tell you! And you “felt” clean after using it.

Dad placed the last of the piping hot serving dishes on the table. A thin curl of steam was drifting upwards from the hot mashed potatoes and, on looking closely; the same was true for all the other bowls and dishes on the table it seemed. It appeared as if all that food was just crying out for two hungry boys, fresh from napping through the last half of the friendly pastor’s sermon, to “dig in” and savor every single bite before it cooled. And my brother and I seemed to take full responsibility to insure that none of this bounty was wasted.

Say, now. What a meal that was! It was not unusual for us to be joined by extended family members or friends for Sunday dinner—they all knew about the meals my Dad prepared. And then the “old” folks would sit around the table long after the plates had been scraped clean and the food had been cleared away, just talking—just visiting, telling stories, and enjoying the pleasure of each other’s company. Those were really good times.

You know something? I believe that Jesus enjoyed the dinner table during the time when He walked upon this earth. In reading through the Gospels in the New Testament you find numerous occasions when he was seated at the table with folks, enjoying their company and, no doubt, some good food. He dined with all classes and manner of folks and the people must have appreciated that. He also used the occasions at the table to share significant teachings as well as to give some of those closest to Him important instructions. In Acts 1:4 we find these words: “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”

Those instructions, and that promise, and the impact it continues to have on the lives of Christians, was given at the dinner table! Aren’t you thankful for the dinner table? The next time you sit down at the table, whether it is with few or many, please try not to rush—take time to enjoy the company of the others present as well as the food set before you. Listen to what folks are saying. And don’t be afraid to share with them, either.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the example of the “dinner table” you have given us. Help us appreciate its significance in our lives as we begin our meals with prayer and close them with wonderful  and unhurried fellowship. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™   Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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This morning I slept in. Hey! I will agree that this is not something that happens often but, you have got to remember, I am retired now–whatever that means. Anyway, rather than awakening at the usual time of 5 AM, I did not stumble out of bed till a bit after 6 AM. I was still trying to rub the sleep out of my eyes when I began feeling for the switch on the coffee maker to fire that wonderful piece of machinery up.

Several minutes later I had splashed water on my face and grimaced back at the old guy looking at me in the mirror and I headed for the living room chair. This is always a special time of day for me. I enjoy the quietness as I sit and gaze into the darkness of the early morning, knowing it will still be some time before daylight even begins to hint that it might be on the way into this new day. As I sat in the silence with only the sound of the coffee maker interrupting the morning with its noise, I suddenly realized that the first cup must be ready. Moments later I seated myself once more in the comfort of the large recliner, this time with a hot cup of “Joe” in my hand. Ah, me! I have to tell you that, if you aren’t a coffee drinker, you just don’t know what you are missing. That first cup in the early morning hours is something to truly look forward to.

As I viewed the sparkling lights of the cities spread out through the panorama of darkness before me I began to think back over the past hours. It had been a rotten night for my wife and me. She deals with chronic pain in her legs and it seems that far too often, in recent days, the medication her doctor has prescribed simply does not do what one would expect, and hope, it would do–erase the pain. On nights such as the one we had just struggled through my wife deals with efforts at trying to become comfortable since it is so difficult for her to find any position where the pain and burning sensation she goes through can be alleviated to any degree that allows her to go to sleep.

We began the night with my wife in a living room recliner, covered with blankets, and my old retired body stretched out on the couch. After about an hour she had to get up and move around and we decided it was time to try the bed. We were up several times throughout the night–my wife more often than me, certainly. But her pain robbed both of us of a really good night’s rest. So what’s a person to do at time like this–especially when you are retired?

As the coffee began to awaken the sleepy cells in my body I began to spend some time with the Lord. As part of that I am reading through the New Century Version of the Bible and I am presently in the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles. Here are words that caught my attention on this “tired” morning:

Be glad that your are his; let those who seek the Lord be happy. Depend on the Lord and his strength; always go to him for help. Remember the miracles he has done, his wonders and his decisions.”

Say, now, I have to tell you that this is really “good stuff!” As a child of God–as a Christian, we must remember to be glad that we are His. We belong to Him–the Heavenly Father, the Master of the universe. And He didn’t say we are to be “happy” just during the very best of time. No. We are to be happy–period. But then He reminds us that we are to depend on him and to always go to Him for our help. I wonder, do we do that often enough? It would probably help us all to take occasions to look back into our past and remember the miracles and wonders He has done in our lives and the lives of those we love and care about.

Sure, let’s be careful that we depend on Him today, and He will provide us with the rest–real rest–that we need.

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PRAYER ROCK

I recently came upon this little piece of verse in some old notes. I have no idea where it came from or who may have authored it.

PRAYER ROCK

I’m your little prayer rock and this is what I’ll do.

Just put me on your pillow until the day is through.

When you turn back the covers and climb into your bed,

WHACK–your little prayer rock will hit you in the head.

Then you’ll remember, as the day is through,

To kneel and say your prayers, as you had wanted to.

Then when you are finished just dump me on the floor,

I’ll stay there through the night to give you help once more.

When you get up next morning, CLUNK–I’ll stub your toe,

So that you will remember your prayers before you go.

Put me back upon your pillow when your bed is made.

And your clever little prayer rock will continue in your aid.

Because your Heavenly Father cares and loves you so,

He wants you to remember to talk to Him, you know.

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