MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
Thy Strong Word: The Efficacy of the Word http://www3.cybercities.com/t/thystrongword/index.html
Bethany Church site: http://www3.cybercities.com/b/bethanylutheranchurch/
Very Unofficial WELS: http://www3.cybercities.com/e/efficaciousword/index.html
Very Unofficial CLC: http://www3.cybercities.com/a/aclc/index.html
Very Unofficial ELS: http://cfwwalther.tripod.com/
Lutheran Book Treasury: http://www3.cybercities.com/l/lutheranbooktreasury/
Tuesday, December 26, 2000
Lightning is striking around our home. They are predicting one inch of rain in our area, welcome news for those of us with the foresight to plant a pound of seed recently. I always water newly planted seed every day at first, but I really welcome a long soaking rain.
One reader responded to recent bulletins by saying she enjoyed the beauty of a garden, including many of the weeds. (My garden would be paradise for her.) Another reader wrote about her love of chickadees and goldfinches, two of the most delightful birds in the Midwest. The goldfinches even had me buying thistle seed, the porterhouse steak of birdseed, in terms of cost. No other creature will eat thistle, the bird books said. Only squirrels, who broke open thistle feeders to fill their rodent bellies. I have been gone from the Midwest long enough to miss the squirrels! But I miss the chickadees and goldfinches even more. There is nothing quite like the sad sounding “chickadee-dee-dee” song and the friendly, cheerful, and brave aerial acrobatics of the little bird.
People love to see chickadees and goldfinches cluster at their feeders, but they often seem annoyed that starlings, grackles, and doves will also come in groups. One blue jay seems to be too many for the finicky. I like them all, including the wary and sinister crows. Each species has its own personality, habits, and benefits for man. The grackle is a saucy loud mouth, but he plunges his powerful beak into the soil to get grubs. Jays are aggressive at the feeder, but they are also uniquely designed by the Creator to tend and create stands of oaks. Mourning doves are fairly large and hungry, eager to eat in groups and deplete the feeder. But watch one sitting in a birdbath – the only bird I know to sit in the bath quietly and enjoy the water, a proper and regal lady. Doves are seed eaters, so they devour weed seeds. Starlings are bug eaters, so they consume insect pests. Flickers (woodpecker family) like ants. All woodpeckers are bug eaters.
A bird may be common and numerous, but we can enjoy it just as much. I picked up a feather in my yard and remembered what one evolutionist said about that item: “The bird feather is a miracle.” I thought again, “It is a miracle. Some feathers keep the body warm. Others serve in flight. Feathers keep birds dry. Every single feather has a zip-lock (copyright, Dow Chemical) feature to keep the feather in working order. A large bird can have almost a billion of these, all fitting together.” Give the evolution some credit. The feather is a miracle. No one can explain its origin unless we are explicit about Who alone can perform such a miracle.
As one gardener said, there is great beauty in the weeds of the yard as well. Weeds are always common plants, numerous to the point of distraction. Weed flowers are seldom glorious in size, but a tiny flower can be just as striking as a large one. I will never forget the putdown of a favorite rose, Tropicana: “It’s a fine rose if you like something that can be spotted from 200 yards away.” (I do. The best one I have seen is growing in my sister-in-law’s front yard.)
In New Ulm I had goat’s beard growing. Goat’s beard looks like a large dandelion. The flowers and seeds are similar. In Midland we had some shepherd’s purse and cat’s paw, both attractive in their design. Now I have seen too much of shepherd’s purse. But it was fun to spot some in Midland and feed it to our hungry rabbits. I would be trimming the grass and run into cat’s paw on the shady side of the house.
The bark of trees can be quite attractive. My favorite food is tree bark – cinnamon. I used to stick my head in a barrel of cinnamon at my father’s bakery and inhale. Then I would open the large wooden barrel of nutmeg and take another lungful of air. The coffee barrel was my third stop. The sycamore tree has interesting bark, always revealing subtle shades as it peels off. The sycamore is the ultimate bee tree and justly famous for having leaves that never seem to break down in the soil. (They do, but a sycamore leaf can be just as tough in the spring as it was in the fall.)
If I had a huge estate in an area with lots of trees, I would have sections devoted to those with beautiful bark and interesting shapes, such as the bush called Winston Churchhill’s Walking Stick.
Even grass has a flower. Lawns bloom once a year. Most people do not care or notice. But they often see the results when the whole lawn is in seed at once. It just bloomed and went to seed. In a desert area the flowers (if they show up) are quick and showy. One of the great pleasures of Phoenix is watching the flowering and fruiting of all the various cacti around town and in my yard. The famous and majestic saguaro can produce one million seeds, but all the seeds can be eaten by ants and other creatures before they germinate, as one study revealed. The purple sage bush seems to bloom only when it rains well. Then the ordinary green bushes are full of tiny flowers worked by bees. If someone is on the edge of town after a considerable spell of rain, the desert turns purple with the blooms, each tiny flower a pixel of beauty uniting with millions of blooms to repaint the earth-tones of the desert.
God provides beauty in our lives as well, usually in the most common (and therefore least appreciated) ways. Much of what we do in the worship service is to turn our attention away from ourselves as toward God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth, God the Son, Redeemer of the world, God the Holy Spirit, Who works alone through the Means of Grace.
I was going through photos of our recent vacation with our son’s family. My agony was to pick photos worth enlarging. I had the assortment down to 100 of the best ones. Do not laugh if you are without grandchildren. I picked a few worthy pictures. But then I found another one that will be blown up as well. The photo shows Josie holding on to her father’s knee. All that shows is Josie standing by a pair of legs, her arm around one. The look on her face is priceless. Similarly, I have a close-up of her baby sister Danielle eating and wearing spaghetti. Many of the photos have the oversized Disney characters in them. Pocahontas was the least convincing. She looked like she was thinking, “I am going to blow this town and go back to my gig in Vegas.” But the true cartoon characters—Buzz Lightyear, Pooh, Chip’n’Dale—inspired such looks of awe and delight in the photos of Josie that I am frozen with indecision about them. My solution is to project each image on the face of the moon when it is full, so everyone in the world can enjoy them as well.
That is why we have such problems in our society today. People say, “Oh children. They are so common. We need fewer, not more. They cost money and get things dirty.” They say, “Marriage is a drag and a bore. It is best to avoid it as long as possible.” I think it is significant that the E! TV channel features two daily shows about partying. One is “Wild On” and features parties and drinking all over the world. There is another party show as well: “In Search Of.” A familiar statement is, “The people in _______ really know how to party!” One interesting technique shown was emptying a large amount of beer into the stomach with a funnel, skipping the time consuming task of swallowing. The lawlessness seems so glamorous compared to being at home, tucking the children into bed after their prayers, doing the laundry, and mowing the lawn. I recall one mother saying sadly to her children that they used to go dancing before they had children.
I propose showing “Wild On” between episodes of “The Jerry Springer Show.” Then people might see the connection. The rest of us could then find beauty where God places it, in the ordinary but special events of life.