January 2020 The Piddling Pond by Dan White Look Up by Cynthia Saladin
February 2020 A Tale of Two Americas by Jim O'Brien Yes, There is Good News by Bill Rollins
The Piddling Pond Homeschool Helpers Newsletter Issue #359 - December 29, 2017 By Dan L. White
Some days are just tailor made for a walk. Before this recent cold snap, one was and I did.
And at the end of that walk, I passed an impromptu pond that had popped up overnight. Actually it was just a piddling puddle about a dozen feet round, where the water from a recent rain drained into a swale. But to the score of birds bathing in it, it was the Riviera. Owing to my ornithological ignorance, I don’t know what kind of birds they were. They were just medium size birds, dark color, fast flyers, bustling bathers. Oh, yes, and here and there a blazing cardinal dipped in, just to show off. Even I could recognize him.
Autumn was been exceptionally dry in the Arkansas River valley, with burn bans, and wildfires from those who spurned the burn ban. So two days of medium rains were more than welcome to the people, the plants and those birds. The winged marvels flew down and filled the whole puddle, splashing and dipping in the impromptu pond as if they hadn’t bathed for weeks. The water depth, or lack of depth, was perfect for them, because they could stand in its shallows, dip their feathers and then shimmy and shake water all over the place and each other. The piddling puddle pulsated with the happy birds, splashing and laughing.
Yes, I’m sure they were laughing.
On this walk, the mid-December air was sixty degrees warm and the clouds from the rains were delightfully dissipating, leaving a bright blue sky behind them as they faded away. The air smelled wet and warm, and a tiny bit of breeze barely nudged the cedar limbs, all of which dangled with heavy drops of sunlit water, sparkling with an unelectrified glow. The bare ground squished a little, not enough to be mud, just enough to know that life-giving water had again returned to the earth.
As I first left the yard, I stepped off the still greenish grass and trod onto the pavement, which resembled a two lane road because of a painted yellow line in the middle, but with no white lines on the side for lack of room. I passed the house and a stand of trees until I was by the hay fields, with an open view. Both to the north and south of the wide Arkansas River valley, hills rise and border the valley for miles and miles. The difference in temperature between those hills and this valley is often about ten degrees, good in summer, less so in winter. They’re not high hills, maybe a couple thousand feet elevation, but when you’re starting at only a few hundred feet, they’re still hills. Sometimes the clouds hang on those hills and leave the valley open, but this day the clouds did not hang heavy. They were just pleasantly puffy, not dark gray but merrily outlined in white from the ascendant sun. If clouds could smile, these did.
I did, too. No one was with me, no conversation to laugh at, but I smiled to myself.
And myself smiled right back.
I did notice one thing, though, that disturbed me. As I walked in this glorious creation on this warm, wonderful morn, through this picturesque valley left after Noah’s flood, I found myself –
I was walking on pavement, not on clumpy grass. I faced traffic, but the only traffic was one car ambling along, the driver waving at me as he passed. There was really no chance of me tripping on the road because there was nothing to trip over. I did not have to spy the pavement to find my way. And unlike dancing, I did not have to eyeball my feet to have them go where they needed to. In spite of all that, I walked head down, seeing only the pavement and missing the fields, the hills, the clouds and the encroaching blue sky.
Then I had an idea.
I looked up.
I lifted my gaze and instead of seeing just my feet, I saw the Head of the universe, surrounded by all that He made, and ended my walk by the piddling pond with the bevy of birds bathing.
Some days are just made for a walk. Maybe they all are.
Leisure by William Henry Davies, 1911
What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this is if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.
"The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will make you an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you." ~Werner Heisenberg, father of Quantum Physics
Look Up by Cynthia Saladin
My labs are now twelve years old. They both have torn ACLs, which don’t seem to cause them any pain. It just makes them slower. They both have noticeable cataracts, especially Velvet who runs into things now quite frequently. But in this season of their lives, an amazing thing has happened. Their primary focus is no longer the squirrels to chase or the smells to investigate. They just want to be near me. That means when I go outside and call them, they come. Long gone are the days when they would lift their head to see if what I wanted was more important than what they’re doing. Gone are the days when they would disappear for a couple of hours, exploring who knows where. These days they poke around the barn and the trees close to the house, and then they take up their watchful positions on the front porch, content to be together.
This is not what I would really want for them. I miss those days when I could let them out and in 5 seconds they’d be out of sight. I miss the days when they were young and spry and full of youthful enthusiasm. But God is using them to teach me something again.
I can’t help but think about the young person who knows that perhaps they’re not making the best choice, that it’s not really the direction God would have them to go. But much like my younger labs, I was willing to postpone what was pleasing to God in lieu of chasing the equivalent of squirrels, my own idea of fun in those days. But as I get older and experience more problems and trouble, I find myself desiring just to be with God, in His word, thinking about His ways and what pleases Him.
I like Dan White’s article from December 2017 because it’s another analogy to express the same thing. We too often spend our time looking down, looking at our world, our agenda, our squirrels to chase. What we really need to do is to look up, focus on what pleases God, and seek to follow His direction for our lives, regardless of the troubles and sorrows.
This world is not our home. And we can’t live like it is. We can’t spend our time acting as if this is all there is., as if this were the goal. We are given this time, as a gift from God, to become His Bride, to be prepared for what comes next, and to share His light with the people around us. We can’t get so distracted by this life, with its pain and trouble, that our light grows dim. Or as Kent Hovind used to say, You can’t be “so earthly minded that you’re no heavenly good.”
Or perhaps you want it expressed in song:
Lift up your head. Redemption draweth nigh.
To the hills I’ll lift my eyes. Ah from whence shall come my help. My help comes from the LORD, maker of heaven and earth.
The turning of the calendar from 2019 to 2020 is not God’s calendar. But it is still another marker in the passage of time. It’s also a really good opportunity to evaluate where we are, where we’re going, and take some necessary steps to refocus our eyes on the Master. God can use all of what we’re experiencing in our education as disciples, in our purification as the Bride of Christ, in our sanctification as the people of God.
Just saying: Ban pre-shredded cheese. Make America grate again. The first five days after the weekend are the hardest. I child proofed my house, but the kids still get in. The past, present, and future walk into a bar. It was tense. They’re not going to make yardsticks any longer. I checked into the hokey pokey clinic and turned myself around. What happens if you get scared half to death twice? Went to the air and space museum, but there was nothing there. Frog parking only; all others will be toad. If your car is running, I’m voting for it.
February 2020 A Tale of Two Americas by Jim O’Brien, February 2, 2018
There are lots of theories about how it happened, but there is no doubt that America is anything but united. We're split. One need only look at the Halls of Congress during the Presidential State of the Union address. Or follow the news media. Are they talking about the same country? The same President? The same constitution? The same values?
There is a cyclical pattern in the history of God's people. It is expressed in the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Joseph had died and the new generation forgot that he had saved their nation from famine. The history classes in the public schools edited that part of their history out of the textbooks. So the new king put the Israelites to forced labor. "The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and...looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them." (Exodus 2:23-25)
God called Moses saying to him, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians" (Exodus 3:7-8)
Like it or not, God does not do that for every nation. Lots of people have suffered under tyranny and were never delivered. But the people that God called His own He delivered. I realize that some people can't accept that kind of a God but He doesn't need the approval of man.
The big question is, why would a nation that was so blessed by God ever reject the God that blessed them? Where on earth was there a nation with better principles? Where was there a more virtuous nation? Was ancient Egypt with its slaves more virtuous than Israel? Was Pharaoh who customarily had his wives and servants buried with him more civilized than Moses or the Prophets? Was Babylon that believed in sacrificing children on an altar to a pagan god more honorable than Israel? Where were the Israelites going to go to find this nation of supreme virtue that would make the lives of the citizens better?
Consider the people who suffered under the heavy yoke of the Philistine oppressors and cried out to God for relief. Will they not rise up in the resurrection and condemn later generations who basked in wealth and prosperity but then rejected the God who delivered Israel?
Is America different than ancient Israel? Of all the people who appear to hate America, who protest and demonstrate-where is this nation of perfect virtue they seek? Is it Russia? Or Mexico? Or China? Or one of the Arab countries? Or North Korea? Then why do citizens leave those countries to come to America?
We were having church services a few years ago during a 4th of July weekend. As it happened the song leader chose “God Bless America” as a congregational hymn and a young man, new to the congregation, walked out of services. I called him later and he angrily responded that he was offended by a hymn that gave thanks to God for our country. In a free country a person has every right to walk out. But, I wonder-if the day comes that America is enslaved to a barbaric tyrant, will such a person cry out for relief from oppression? Will he call on God to intervene and provide a nation of virtue where he can worship in peace-where his children can grow up without fear of the Nazi heel at their throat? And if God hears his prayer, and grants him such a virtuous nation in which to live-will he then sing praises of thanksgiving to the God who provides such a blessing? Will he be moved to sing a hymn asking for God to bless the nation that makes his life better?
Maybe the tale of two Americas is the one that is grateful and the one that isn't.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism. STRENGTH VS. COURAGE cybersalt.org Issue #4321, 12-28-17
It takes strength to be firm It takes courage to be gentle.
It takes strength to stand guard. It takes courage to let down your guard
It takes strength to conquer. It takes courage to surrender.
It takes strength to be certain. It takes courage to have doubt.
It takes strength to fit in. It takes courage to stand out.
It takes strength to feel a friend's pain. It takes courage to feel your own pain.
It takes strength to hide your own pains. It takes courage to show them.
It takes strength to endure abuse. It takes courage to stop it.
It takes strength to stand alone. It takes courage to lean on another.
It takes strength to love. It takes courage to be loved.
It takes strength to survive. It takes courage to live. ~Author Unknown
Yes, There is Good News! - By Bill Rollins, Jan 21& 28, 2017
Do you know that God is good? There is a song that, for the most part, our grandchildren taught us to sing. The first few words are, “God is good, all the time; He put a song of praise in this heart of mine.” It is a delightful song, and I find it rolling around in my head from time to time. For me, it is a reminder that, not only God is good, but that He is good all the time. He is good even when I don’t feel good. He is good even when things around me seem quite troubling. He is good even when the nightly news tells me that the world seems to be falling apart. Yes, God is very good!
The good news is that this God and Father of ours has all things under control. As the scripture says, “He knows us, that we are but dust.” That quote is from Psalm 103:14. For this week’s article, I would like to look into Psalm 103 to see just how good God really is.
It begins by telling us to “Praise the Lord,” and to do it with all of our “inmost being.” It tells us to praise His holy name and to forget not all of His benefits. He forgives all of our sins, heals our diseases, redeems our lives from the pit, crowns us with love and compassion, satisfies us with good things and renews our youth. That’s quite a list! Some of us who are of a hoary head might question David’s enthusiasm.
In the opening words we are told to “praise the Lord.” The word “praise” is most often translated “bless.” Have you ever felt that you could bless God? In Hebrew the word literally means to bow or kneel. Have you ever bowed your knee when you approach God in prayer? Have you ever humbled yourself, in such a manner, before the mighty hand of God? When you approach the throne room of our Father to ask for forgiveness, healing, redemption, a crown of love and compassion, so you look to blessing Him, bowing before Him, kneeling in His presence? He is the creator! In Verse 6 of this Psalm we read, “The Lord works righteous and justice for all the oppressed.” Some might say that they have felt oppressed, and yet God never worked these things for them. But when we do, who “are but dust,” kneel before the one who created all the hosts of Heaven, do we do so in poorness of spirit, meekness and purity of heart? (See Matthew 5:3 - 8.)
David goes on in Verse 7, to say that He made His ways known to Moses. Can we pause here and ponder this? God, the Creator of all things, who’s ways are higher than ours, stooped down to make His ways known to Moses, then allowed Moses to write them down so as to be passed on to us.
I, for one, am amazed at how King David, in verse seven, lets us read that God made known to Moses “His ways!” It has been said that Moses is the author of the first five books of the Bible. (Actually God is the author and Moses the scribe.) And as we consider what these five books contain, we see a beautiful preface to the entire Bible. God revealed to Moses first of all, the creation, then the flood, the calling of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt and finally, the Exodus from Egypt with Moses as leader and, of course, the wanderings in the wilderness. As an overview, we get to see the perfect will of God in action.
But let’s get back to Psalms 103. Verse eight begins. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.” A couple of comments here are in order. First, this is a reiteration of God telling Moses, on Mount Sinai, what His name was: Ex. 34:5, “The Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him (Moses) and proclaimed His name, the Lord (Yahoveh). ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger abounding in loving kindness and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.’” David, of course, knew this scripture. And secondly, David gives us a beautiful description of how he saw the awesome attributes of the wonderful God we serve.
Verse nine: “He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever.” Yes, God is patient with us, and always willing to reinstate us into His good graces. The Israelites certainly tested God’s patience over and over again. His patience did seem to wear out when He first allowed first Assyria and then Babylon to take His people into captivity. But even then He says through the prophet Jeremiah, “Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing ... But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds ... I will restore the fortunes of Jacob ...” (Jer. 30:12 - 22).
Our God is more than just a loving Father, He is perfectly loving Father. He wants us to succeed and to be with Him in eternity. Remember how we started this article, “He knows our frame, that we are but dust.” We will see this phrase a little later on as we continue our look at the 103rd Psalm.
Until next time remember, “God is good, all the time.”