Friday, July 28, 2017

Queen Anne's Lace


I have written about the beauty and the sweet scent of the Flocks and Lilacs lining the river road on my early morning bike rides. It is now late July, the pinks and lavenders
are gone, but the white Queen Anne’s Lace now line the way. They grow thick, interlocking blossoms as if to create a long lacey bridal-like veil to guide my way. It is very ornamental and my imagination can even create bright 4th of July-like phantom fireworks displays exploding softly and silently as I pedal along the river road.

(Daucus carota) Queen Anne’s lace is said to have been named after Queen Anne of England and Ireland (1665-1718), who was an expert lace maker. Legend has it that when pricked with a needle, a single drop of blood fell from her finger onto the lace, leaving the dark purple floret found in the flower’s center. She had frailties making her somewhat delicate like the flower or weed named after her. Even Queen Anne furniture has beautiful and delicate styling to go with her lacy flowerets. The root of the flower is the wild carrot, often used in soups.

God’s incredible creations for our enjoyment have crowning features like the Queen Anne Lace or the pink and purple Crown Vetch that line many other highways and byways throughout this region of the Upper Midwest. The Ping-Pong ball sized flower clusters and their dense growth serves for erosion control.

I just returned from a second bike ride today on the same road. In the pre-dawn hours I could see the elegant Queen Anne’s lace rising up at least three feet. However, I did not see the periwinkle blue Chicory flowers at there feet. Now they are very visible and distinct.  Again what a special plant God has created for us to enjoy.  Chicory leaves and roots are used as a vegetable. Roasted roots are ground and brewed. Chicory is a sedative with potential cardioactive properties. Chicory's oligosaccharides are probiotic and are beneficial in maintaining healthy GI flora. Inulin type fractions of the plant may help certain conditions including constipation, diarrhea, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Chicory has also been noted as an appetite stimulant and for dyspepsia.

I am reminded of many trips to New Orleans where my employer’s headquarters were established. Although we did not move there, we did enjoy the cuisine and the chicory coffee unique to the Cajun cuisine in our country. I love the Cafe du Monde beignets and chicory coffee with its sharp and distinctive taste and smell along with the savory spices of Jambalaya and other creole dishes.

It is amazing how God brings us plants for beauty and practical uses too. All of God’s creatures should be useful for something and not just look pretty or not. He has made everything with a delicate balance that man has often ruined in the name of progress. That is why we continue to enjoy traveling to see our National Parks and the incredible displays of grandeur and grace from oceans, deserts, meadows, forests and oceans.


Since the beginning of creation God has called it all good and commanded us to look over and take care of all creation for it declares His glory.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Perfect

Today if you stand in a group for any time at all you will hear someone refer to something as “perfect.” It a kind of thank you or recognition that something someone else has said is good.  But perfect?  Only God is perfect. However, it seems that God wants us to strive to be perfect like Him.
“Be perfect, therefore, as your Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  The pursuit of being perfect I believe is the pursuit of holiness. “Because it is written, be holy for I am Holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Yet Scripture is full of admonitions toward perfection. But there is only One who is perfect and that is Jesus Christ, “but my dove, my perfect one is unique” (Song of Solomon). And again in Hebrews 10:14 we read, “because of one sacrifice He was made perfect forever.”

We have no power on our own it is from God. “My grace is sufficient for us, His power is made perfect in my weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul had a thorn in his side; a messenger from Satan to keep him from being conceited because of the preference God had shown him. God is working everything together for our good and His glory Romans 8:28 tells us. “He is the Rock, His works are perfect” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

Because of what Christ alone has done on the cross for us we can rejoice in our sufferings. “Consider it pure joy when you come into trials of various kinds for the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you can be mature and compete (perfect) lacking nothing” (James 1:2-3).  But if we don’t know what to do God gives it to us. “ If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given unto him” (James 1:5-6). He goes on to say not to doubt or we will receive nothing.  God is saying to trust in Him with all your heart and not your own wisdom or ways and he will direct your path in his perfect ways. We need to know His will that is written for us in the Word of God, the Bible. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2 NKJV). That is the secret of walking in God’s perfect power.

As we trust in God and His Word we find peace, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast” (Isaiah 26:3). So be at peace brother or sister and walk in His way for this is the way of holiness and perfection. But remember that there is only One who is perfect and it is not you. Paul said, “Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).  And remember not to fear, “For perfect love castes out all fear” (1 John 4:18).

We are on a journey towards perfection and we will not have it until we see Jesus. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even a I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).


“God is my strength and power, And He makes my way perfect (2 Samuel 22:33).

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mountain of Peace


Mountain of Peace

                                                         “Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!  (Nahum 1:15)

The Book of Nahum the Prophet, meaning “comfort,” nevertheless, is placed in the setting of God’s judgment against Nineveh. Assyrians prided themselves on gruesome punishment inflicted upon conquered peoples. God is slow to anger, but will not leave the guilty unpunished. God’s way is a whirlwind and a storm and the clouds are the dust of His feet. The mountains tremble and the rocks are shattered before Him. “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him, but with an overwhelming flood He will make an end of Nineveh; He will pursue His foes into darkness” (Nahum 1:7-8).

These verses speak of God’s deliverance to His people from Babylonian exile and from sin through the gospel.  And so the Lord crushed the enemy saying, “Nothing can heal your wound”  (Nahum 3:19). The prophet spoke out this destruction in about 700 B.C., which took place in 612 B.C.

Prophet Jonah arose with God’s single prophetic mission for him in 800 BC. Of course we know the story of the Prophets’ running and hiding from the Lord’s desire to bring salvation to such a heathen city as Nineveh. The destruction of the city came later because they apparently fell away from faith. Even though the revival in Nineveh is thought to be the greatest ever, it did not last.

And so perhaps this lesson of history might be for the United States today. We are a unique country founded on the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Interestingly Scottish historian Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813) wrote of the average lifespan of civilizations being 200 years and moving through stages:
     From bondage to spiritual faith;
     from spiritual faith to great courage;
     from courage to liberty;
     from liberty to abundance;
     from abundance to selfishness;
     from selfishness to complacency;
     from complacency to apathy;
     from apathy to dependency;
     from dependency back again to bondage.

He wrote of how democracies exist until the electorate realizes that they can vote for themselves largess from the public treasury, which brings destruction. And so perhaps revival in Nineveh brought complacency that ended up in their destruction. Are we going the same way? Are we asking government for all things and forgetting God?

I just read a very thoughtful but scary treatise by Eric Metaxas, If You Can Keep It. It is a view of our Republic’s founding and history.  He wrote that when Benjamin Franklin came out of the Continental Congress, a woman asked, “Dr. Franklin, do we have a monarchy or an republic,” to which he responded, “A republic if we can keep it.” Well, that is a big question as our debt rises and our nation is severely divided on many paradigms of public versus private and government versus the peoples’ responsibility. I believe like Metaxas that we are on the verge of losing our republic, unless there is a revival and a return to our original principals. I recently had such a conversation with a patient at the hospital who was Jewish sage and historian, concluding similarly.  

The One who brings good news of peace also requires repentance and turning around both personally and as a nation. God appoints and He deposes people and leaders. He rewards obedience and restores peoples. He also destroys and lays waste to the disobedient. Lessons of History, by Will Durant warns of change saying, “The fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality. East is West and West is East, and soon the twain will meet.”  

Another recent book, 12 Simple Solutions to Save America, by Trek Bicycle CEO John Burke, has many great and important solutions. However, it leaves out God, which in my estimation and also that of our Founding President, George Washington, will be fatal. He wrote, “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” We have lost our moral compass as a nation, which can be articulated easily in increased crime, division and desperation of our youth to name a few issues.

The peace that Nahum speaks of comes from praising and seeking the Lord and receiving Salvation by trusting in Him alone. An Arabian proverb puts it this way, “Trust in God, but tie your camel.” It is a time for faith in action. Psalms 121 tells us to look to the mountain, or God for that is where our help comes from. The photograph above shows a stark rock mountain, perhaps of God, with clouds of smoke rising above. I look at this as a signal of the good news of God’s peace if we will return to Him or the burning of our cities if we don’t. Our country needs a revival.



A.J.



My father, Kenneth, was the youngest of three brothers. The oldest of the three was Arthur John Frank born in 1911. He was six years older than my father. A.J. as family knew him, and I remember him, was a curious and studious man. In fact he wrote the family genealogy as well as other historical books on various  Old Milwaukee subjects, including my favorite on “Der Puddel Club.”  This was a 19th century men’s social and drinking club in which there were family members. In fact, we own two of the drinking cups, one a beer stein of our Uncle Oscar and the other a sterling silver half-gallon chalice. I suppose you didn’t need to go back to the bar as often with that one.

Through the years I saw Uncle Art twice a year, on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Thanksgiving brought us to the Tripoli Country Club where our Uncle Oc invited us each year. The Three Frank Brothers, Arthur, Robert and Kenneth brought their families while several “shirt tail” relatives celebrated with us. I just remember Uncle Art as being very tall and very stern.

 Christmas Eve was celebrated at one of either the Arthur or Kenneth Frank homes, as I remember. We would gather in our living room with the three families from Thanksgiving and the Sanbourn family, with Uncle Roy, Aunt Lou, and Uncle Frank, their son.  We children called Frank the “sunken living room” because he just seemed to sink into the couch and never move as he smoked his straight Lucky Strikes and drank martinis.

For years, that’s all I knew of Uncle Art. However, I enjoyed the time with his son, Doug and eventual classmate and close friend of mine to come who partnered as artist on my first book, Great is God’s Faithfulness. Suffice it to say, Art was just not a major part of my life.

Through the years, I learned of Uncle Art’s interest in things ancient. He was a collector of Egyptian antiquities. In fact there is a display of vases from the King Tut or thereabouts era of Egyptology at the Milwaukee Museum. So, I frankly saw him as older than dirt.

Yet as time went on, he became wiser. After my father died before him, it seems transformation took place.  It was December 1994. Uncle Art called and asked if he could come over to visit. Shortly thereafter he arrived baring gifts. He had in his hands pieces of red cedar, strung like a necklace, cut from a tree on his North Lake property. I remember spending some joy-filled hot summer afternoons in the Lake. He said Red cedar is a naturally pungent incense for starting a fire.  In fact, as someone who remembers and even learns by the gustatory sense, this was a beautiful and lasting gift. He then pulled out a quart bottle of “Old Fezziwig” Christmas ale from Sam Adams brewery. If you remember, he was the model of joy and happiness in the Dickens, a Christmas Carol. I could imagine this portly gentleman playing his fiddle and dancing in the sawdust of the shop in Victorian England. We sat for over an hour reminiscing the past and connections of family history. It was a scintillating repose.

We never had a redo of the Christmas visit. But today I remember Uncle Art with a joyous sense, even Christmas Carol-like, where a Scrooge type character, in my mind, became alive and enchanting, bringing joy and peace.  Thank you Uncle Art.



Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sweet

                                                                     
     
Sweet

I’m sure you have heard the common colloquial term “sweet” spoken about something good happening. It is off the cuff and getting old like most terms of art do. But God provides much greater and ongoing sweetness to us in the beauty of creation. He produces sights and smells that overwhelm. Take the Linden and Basswood tree blossoms of summer for example. In July each year the millions of fragrant flowers cast a melodious perfume across the Milwaukee River Valley where I live. I just finished my morning bike ride through the orchards on tree-lined roads greeting me with an almost overcoming sweet scent.

It is early on a Sunday morning before almost any sound except the birds sweetly singing in the branches of these same trees. Yet as the day opens into the bright sunlight, the blossoms will be buzzing with honeybees looking for nectar to produce the honey that sustains them and brings summer sweetness to us and bears too. What a miraculous symphony of symbiosis in nature. Yes, it is God who does it not nature, the euphemism used today to describe the miracles of our Creator working in His world.

I don’t understand why there are people who insist on killing all of creation. By that I mean the whirling dervish of lawn monks with their weed killing wands and insect repellant sprayers, clouding and smogging the atmosphere. For what purpose, except to imbalance the perfection of God’s creative genius and interrelationship between all creatures great and small? Is it power and control that they seek? For we know that none of us have that in life.  Is it to look for a sense of perfection in a yard that God had already made perfect? I hear the man say of his beautiful garden, “you should have seen it when God worked it alone.” Well, yes God did ask Adam to garden in paradise. But this partnership is not equal. He gave us work so that we might be productive and bring good things to the world, not to destroy what He had made good and perfect already.

Now, back to the Lindens. I have a neighbor who sawed down his Linden because it smelled too much. I have another friend who complains of its overpowering fragrance every year. I say to them, live in the city and drink in the exhaust and factory smoke, or perhaps that is overwhelming too. Let’s see, which is better, God’s perfect creation or man’s destruction of the atmosphere? I chose to live in the country for a reason. Don’t get me wrong, God has guided mankind has make many good things. Man has also disobeyed and ruined many good things also.


There is a balance of nature to be achieved. Start by appreciating the beauty God has made before it is too late. Give thanks and praise to the Only God and Creator of all things. Sweet!