Woodcraft: A Reminiscence

13 10 2017

Woodcraft shares reminiscences of childhood experience, dating back to the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, as if told by a grandfather to his grandchildren during meals, just before bedtime, and while walking in the woods.

As may be surmised, the stories come through the perspective of a member of America’s Boomer generation. Many Boomers remember hearing stories from those in the previous Builder generation about their childhoods. We heard the now-cliché, “I used to go to school every day in sub-zero weather, knee-deep in snow, walking two miles uphill, both ways.” This anecdote would usually be employed by people who had experienced the Great Depression and World War 2 to remind younger people to put experience into context. Indeed, the Boomers have been among the most privileged generations in human history.

From time to time those of every generation ask themselves, “Which of the aspects of our past ought to be relegated to the rubbish heap of history, and which are valuable heirlooms that ought to be passed forward into the future?”

Jesus said, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household who brings out of his treasure things new and old”  (Matthew 13:52 NAU). Not everything old-fashioned is old. Not everything old is old-fashioned, which is to say that not everything old is obsolete and out-of-date. Indeed, some things old are better than the same things new.

Consider a tree. What’s an old tree got that a new tree hasn’t? Plenty. More leaves for air-conditioning shade and for the release of air-improving oxygen. More wood, and often more wood of a higher quality, for the production of lumber. More sap for the manufacture of syrup or naval stores. More nuts, more fruit for use as food by wildlife and by humans and their livestock. More seeds for the reproduction of forests.

Woodcraft does more than ring chords of nostalgia. It looks back not just to induce good feelings of old vibrations, but to remind that some things old ought to remain because they are vibrant and vivacious and vital, because they remain new.

Woodcraft may itself be a new kind of writing in its blend of literary fiction and creative non-fiction. It deals with facts of faith, with theology and philosophy and ethics. It also touches upon a number of other subjects: German-American history, mathematics, music, carpentry, woodworking, forest ecology, plant physiology, silviculture, and popular culture now half a century old. The entire story celebrates education in matters both natural and supernatural, temporal and eternal, physical and spiritual.

The narrative reflects the traditional human desire to pass knowledge and wisdom from one generation to next. More specifically, in this narrative a boy hears and learns things from his father and grandfather about the extended family enterprise. The author realizes that many contemporary readers will not care much about that enterprise. The author has, therefore, chosen to publish the text in an unusual format.  The essential story is printed using 14-point type. That which may be termed scholastic detailing is printed in 12-point type. This format makes it possible for a reader easily to skip over what may be considered TMI (too much information) and track the mainline of the story. Others more inquisitive can read the finer print.

Radio producer David Isay has said that, in a culture that idolizes athletes, popular singers, movie stars, and fashion models, it’s good to hear the stories of ordinary people because their lives and contributions are at least as important, if not more so. Certainly, while celebrities may stand in the limelight, the people who stand in our memories with greater significance are parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, best friends, and mentors. Most of these people have likely been, employing a couple words spoken by the late Andy Griffith, “just folks.” Yet they have been the ones who made the big differences in our lives.

The big difference in Woodcraft is this: a grandfather employs lessons in arboriculture to teach his grandson the meaning of “I in Christ, and Christ in me.”

For those who don’t cotton to Christianity, try tolerating it here. If nothing else (and that’s a big if), remember that Christianity has been woven into the warp and woof of the American experience from the first days of the Plymouth Colony. Recall how fundamental Christianity has been in the lives of great Americans from George Washington to George Washington Carver, as well as so many others before and after them. Realize the past pervasiveness of Christianity in the cultures of various communities. The culture of the state of Wisconsin, for example, cannot be appreciated without at least apprehending the massive influences of Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist, and Baptist forms of Christianity. Consider this reading, then, an exercise in cross-cultural appreciation.

Now available at Amazon as a paperback and as an e-book. If you like what you read, do tell others. Feel free to let these words inspire you to tell your own stories to the members of your own household, stories that edify and encourage and enlighten.

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Steeds 29

16 05 2017

Sarah asked, “Why do we kill so many animals?”

Lee said, “I presume by ‘we,’ you refer to humans. Why do we human beings kill so many animals?”

“Yes.”

“The short answer is this: humans kill animals for food and fiber.”

“But why? Is it really necessary? And at such a high … how do they say it in war?”

“Casualty count?”

“At such a high cost in casualties, yes.”

“I’ve wondered about that myself sometimes. Perhaps not often enough.”

“How so?” Sarah asked.

“Well, as much as I regard these two horses, you’ve noticed that Freyja and Isolde are both loaded with leather. I wear leather boots and belts. That all came from cows not nearly as well liked. And I like the taste of steak as well as the next man.”

“I like fried chicken. And bacon. Even so, why is that? It wasn’t that way in the beginning.”

“You have in mind the Genesis account.” Lee pulled a book from a saddlebag. “ ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat:” and it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.’ ”

“That’s it,” said Sarah. “If we were made to eat seeds and fruit and herbs, and if we were commanded to eat seeds and fruit and herbs, why do we eat meat? And why do we have such a taste for meat?”

Lee turned pages. “ ‘And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.” ’ ”

Lee said, “One might reasonably think that God allowed Noah and his family to slaughter animals for food because, after the Flood, they couldn’t afford the time it would take to plant, tend, and harvest crops; they’d starve. As I think about it, though, they would have had to kill quite a number of the animals they had just saved from the Flood while waiting for crops to harvest … unless there was already enough edible vegetation growing to meet their needs. They did wait months in the ark after it had come to rest in the mountains of Ararat.

Sarah said, “As I think about it, how could they have gathered enough food to store for that many for that long?”

“You have read that God put Adam to sleep when He took Adam’s rib to make Eve. Perhaps God put the animals on the ark to sleep in like manner, and they all went through the Flood in the way bears go through winter.”

“Perhaps.”

“As I think more about it,” Lee continued, “I wonder if humans had not already acquired a taste for meat by the time of, and even long before, the Flood.”

“Oh?”

“It is written that Jabal was the first to live in tents and tend cattle, otherwise known as livestock. Why would a man become a stockman?”

“Probably not just to produce milk, butter, and cheese,” Sarah said.

“So think about it. After the Fall, God cursed the ground and said that Adam would thereafter work by the sweat of his brow: work became drudgery, toil, slog. You’re a farmer. Well, at least you’re a farmer’s daughter. You know how much time and trouble it takes to get food from field to cellar and pantry.”

“I do.”

“Think of this. You’re a man or woman having a hard time of it, harder than usual after the Fall. You’re donkey tired and you’re still hungry, even starving. You see a fox take down a prairie chicken. You see a bobcat take down a rabbit. You see a cougar take down a deer. You see a pack of wolves take down a bison. And you say, ‘That’s ever so much faster, if not easier. Maybe I should try that.’ And you do.

“You might say, ‘But why would people used to eating seeds and fruit and herbs like the taste of meat any more than would a rabbit or deer?’

“What saith the Scripture? ‘Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron…’. The Apostle Paul at the time was speaking of the future, but I suspect the same thing happened leading up to the Flood. How many cuts can a man inflict on his heart and mind before those wounds require cauterizing? How much blood can a man spill before his conscience is seared?

“What did God say? The whole earth was corrupt and full of violence. This after what God had made was good and very good.”

Sarah said, “You think part of that violence was the killing of animals?”

“I wouldn’t preach it from a pulpit, but yes: killing beyond whatever may have been ordained for religious sacrifice. As you may know from family experience, hunting isn’t as easy as wild cats and dogs make it look. It requires skill, patience, and quite often courage.”

“So does farming,” said Sarah.

“True, but that’s so slow. Compared against taking on a boar or a bear, who notices the performance?”

“Is that why predators always get more glory than planters?”

“And if you’re an intrepid hunter who wants still more glory at less cost, well then: take on the farmers. Says the hunter, let husbandmen do all the drudgery, and then prey on them; the dullards can’t defend their crops, their livestock, or themselves even as well as turkeys and geese can defend themselves. And if they try?”

“Violence,” said Sarah. “More and more violence.”

“Lamach bragged that the homicide he committed was worth eleven times what Cain did to Abel. That kind of corruption was more than wicked enough. Add what men did to their fellow, non-human creatures, and you get an earth reeling with violence.

“What saith the Scripture? ‘And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.’ The Apostle John at the time was speaking of the future, but I again suspect the same thing happened leading up to the Flood: men worked to destroy, not just their fellow man created in the image of God, but the earth and its creatures made by God, too.”

“So why didn’t God destroy only wicked men … and women? Why destroy everything?” Sarah asked.

“I don’t know. One the on hand, God was reluctant to destroy wicked Ninevah in the days of Jonah, not only due to His concern for the people, but also out of concern for their animals. On the other hand, God executed judgment on everything of Sodom and Gomorrah, on everything of Jericho, on everything of Amalek, to include their animals. The answer may lie in this. Wickedness of heart and mind can and will deprave a body. Even so, corporate wickedness of hearts and minds can and will deprave a community and its environment.

“In the days of Noah, the earth needed to be washed clean. And maybe, just maybe, while that was happening, Noah and his family had to care for a number of animals in a manner similar to that which had been the responsibility of Adam and Eve as stewards of the earth given the task to dress and keep. Can it be that Adam and Eve, and all mankind, were intended to care for God’s creatures the way you cared for Daisy, and the way I care for Freyja and Isolde?”

“So,” said Sarah, “after such a cleansing, why not return to the way it was supposed to be?”

“The Devil wasn’t executed. Sin wasn’t destroyed, as Noah himself soon experienced. And the earth wasn’t transformed back into a Garden of Eden. God told people to spread out. At Babel, He coerced them to do so. People then eventually migrated to places all around the planet, to include many places unsuitable for agriculture: deserts, taiga, tundra, mountains. If those people were to survive, if not thrive, they then had to rely on animals for food and fiber.

“And remember: Jesus Himself ate fish. And as a Law-abiding Hebrew, He was at least present at the sacrifices ordained in Leviticus. He also ate the Passover, which included lamb. Indeed, as the eldest son―or perhaps the only son, depending on your religious instruction―in the family after the passing of Joseph, He would have been the one to slay the Passover Lamb. If so, I doubt that He, knowing He would become our Passover sacrificed for us, killed His creatures with the bloodlust of Nimrod.”

Said Sarah, “Maybe that is the attitude we should have at the death of any animal.”

 





Greater Than Galaxies

29 11 2015

15-066

 

The night,

It feels as cold as the near-desert day was hot.

Yet the sky blazes with light

The darkness of blackness cannot blot:

Dots of white silver bright,

Each still and silent to my short sight.

With the prophet poets of old I myself again ask,

“How long, O Lord? How long?”

And then, at long last,

With speed comes the shout,

As stars suddenly startle with lightning:

“To God, Glory in the highest!

Upon earth, peace!

Among men, good will!”

There!

As small as the star seen farthest in the firmament,

Into the village of David the prophet poet king,

Comes the Creator King of all

Large and small

In heaven and on earth:

Greater than galaxies,

The very Sun of Righteousness

Rising with healing in His wings!

“Let us go… and see….”

D.Raymond-Wryhte

 

References

Luke 2: 8-18

John 1:1-5

Colossians 1:15-20

Psalm 6:3

Psalm 13:1-2

Psalm 74:9

Psalm 79:5

Psalm 80:4

Psalm 89:46

Psalm 90:13

Psalm 94:3

Jeremiah 12:4

Habbakuk 1:2

Malachi 4:2

Psalm 19:1-14

(Photograph courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States of America.)





Life Together

25 08 2015

The pastor of the church I attended while a student at university often mentioned the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This charismatic Swedish Covenant pastor spoke of the ecumenical German Lutheran pastor with so much respect that I decided to buy some of Bonhoeffer’s books.  These included The Cost of Discipleship, Ethics, Letters & Papers from Prison, and Life Together.

Decades have passed. Recently, I was inspired to pull that last one listed from the shelf and take a new look at it. Even though the book was first published in English by Harper & Row in 1954, reading it anew in 2015 has been a renewing experience.

As the blurb on the back of the Harper Jubilee edition says, “This story of a unique fellowship in an underground seminary during the Nazi years reads like one of Paul’s letters. It gives practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained in families and groups. The role of personal prayer, worship in common, everyday work, and Christian service is treated in simple, almost Biblical, words. Life Together is bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship.”

Many fine Christian scholars over the years have taught that, in this Age of the Church (which is also called the Age of Grace), the office of prophet is performed by those who preach and teach the Bible. In Pastor Bonhoeffer’s case, that title is indeed befitting. He really does sound like a New Testament apostle speaking with the authority and accuracy of an Old Testament prophet. In this epistle on how to be a church, and how to do church, Bonhoeffer’s words become, in those of an earlier minister of the Gospel, “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

This is due in great part to Bonhoeffer’s reverence for the Word: Christ Jesus the Word of the Triune God, and the words spoken and written by the prophets and apostles on behalf of the Triune God. As Bonhoeffer insists, not a person and not an assembly can be any good in the Church of our Savior and Lord Christ Jesus without centering in thought, speech, and action on the Word.

“The Christian lives wholly by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. If somebody asks him, Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself.  He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness. He is as alert as possible to the Word. Because he daily hungers and thirsts for righteousness, he daily desires the redeeming Word. And it can come only from the outside. In himself he is destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside, and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

“But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”

Bonhoeffer presupposes this occurs in church … that is, within what we typically designate as church: services and ceremonies both formal and informal conducted inside ecclesiastical buildings.  But Bonhoeffer has other assemblies in mind, too, such as monasteries and convents, communes, families and households.  As Jesus Himself said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

And Bonhoeffer has much to say to individuals. “We recognize, then, that only as we are within the fellowship can we be alone, and only he that is alone can live in fellowship. Only in fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in fellowship. Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.”

Life Together is not one of those books to be skimmed and then cast amid the jetsam navigated by garage sailors. Read it and read it again. The book is worthy of the kind of meditation encouraged by Bonhoeffer.

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Holy Water

16 08 2015
Holy Water

Holy Water

 

“Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born of water and spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Jesus the Nazarene





Merry Christmas!

19 12 2014

Cranberry 2

And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring good news to you of great joy which will be for all the people: that today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.  And this will be the sign for you: you will find the baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:10-12  (Lexham English Bible)

 

 Think this in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

 who, existing in the form of God,
    did not consider being equal with God something to be grasped,
 but emptied himself
    by taking the form of a slave,
    by becoming in the likeness of people.
And being found in appearance like a man,
 he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        that is, death on a cross.
 Therefore also God exalted him
    and graciously granted him the name above every name,
 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow,
    of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth,
 and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 (Lexham English Bible)

 

 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace
    among people with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:14 (Lexham English Bible)





True Love

6 09 2014

Before the JESUS film can be dubbed into any language, the essential work of translation into the mother tongue must occur. Our partners at Wycliffe Bible Translators are instrumental in the work of helping us translate JESUS into new languages. Because nearly every word that Jesus says in the JESUS film is taken from the Biblical book of Luke, we take seriously the importance of communicating clearly and accurately what Scripture says. The pursuit of just the right term for a theological concept is critical for a culture truly to understand the Gospel. Sometimes the treasure is present, but prayer and God’s directing hand reveal the awaiting gem.

Lee Bramlett and his wife are Wycliffe Bible translators in Cameroon who have been working on Scripture and the JESUS film translation into the Hdi language. Lee was confident that God had left His mark on the Hdi culture somewhere *, but though he searched, he could not find it. Where was the footprint of God in the history or daily life of these Cameroonian people? What clue had God planted to let the Hdi know who He is and how He wants to relate to them?

Then one night in a dream, God prompted Lee to look again at the Hdi word for love. Lee and his wife had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?

Curious, Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, “Could you ‘dvi’ your wife?”

“Yes,” they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved, but the love was gone.

“Could you ‘dva’ your wife?” Lee asked.

“Yes,” they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.

“Could you ‘dvu’ your wife?” Lee asked.

Everyone laughed. “Of course not!” they said. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say ‘dvu.’ It just doesn’t exist.”

Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God ‘dvu’ people?”

There was complete silence for three or four minutes, and then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded. “Do you know what this would mean?” they asked. “This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

One simple vowel, and the meaning was changed from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you based on who I am. I love you because of Me and not because of you.”

God had encoded the story of His unconditional love right into their language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable. When the word was finally spoken, it called into question their entire belief system. If God was like that, did they need the spirits of the ancestors to intercede for them? Did they need sorcery to relate to the spirits? Many decided the answer was no, and the number of Christ-followers quickly grew from a few hundred to several thousand. One word. One vowel. All the difference.

Praise God for His Unconditional Love.

Reprinted from a prayer letter recently issued by Bryan Augsburger, Cru studio technician for The Jesus Film Project.

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John 3:16  King James Version (KJV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

* For more on this concept, see Don Richardson’s book entitled Eternity In Their Hearts: Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World, published by Regal Books in 1981 and in revised form in 1984.

D. Raymond-Wryhte