Very pretty out there, I must say. Less than two weeks ago, you could not see the ground because it was covered with inches of snow. Not "feet" of snow, as has some times been the case, but inches of it surely, enough to cover the ground to some depth. Yesterday, Dear Wife had me to open a window: complaining of the excess heat. Now, since her thyroid gland was removed, some years ago, she can't regulate her body temperature at all, and has a room air temperature tolerance of about 1.5 degrees, so such is not unknown. But we're looking at a temperature of 71 degrees today, or so the prediction out of WeatherBug has it. A positive change, I think. We'll take it.
Of course, the area has a "tradition" of a blizzard on St. Patrick's Day, just eight days off now. So we shall see. And snow in April is by no means unknown: I can recall, as a small child, snow in the first week of May! But we're headed in the right direction.
She was up and down in the night again. She moved from the bed to the recliner around midnight. Cats woke me at 04:55 for their 05:00 breakfast, she waved at me and we both went back to sleep. She came into bed after 06:30, and is there still. She took a major-league pain pill, to kill the pain enough to get at least a little sleep. Good for her.
We're continuing to find our way. And our purpose.
We're perhaps representative of the state of the nation. I grew up in a very conservative Christian home, My parents had met when working in what was then called a "Young People's Institute" , an operation that hasn't existed for 60 years or more. Church attendance was expected, missing was Just Not Done. Dad taught adult Bible classes as long as I can remember. Mom was a fill-in song leader (all a capella, instruments were somehow of the Devil), prayers at mealtime were the rule. But neither ever spoke of their personal relationship with the Lord, or of their own conversions: one got the impression it was inherited from their parents and would be to us as well. Or something like that. Family worship never happened. I could look through an open door and see Dad reading his Bible, preparing for a Sunday lesson probably, but he never spoke of that. Nor did Mom. When my kids came along, I thought I should do better, but in retrospect I probably did worse. Then again, I spent my own late teen, into my late 20's, in pretty heavy-duty rebellion, and committed enough sins for any nine normal people. "stony ground", they call it.
Dear Wife's paternal great-grandfather was a church man, a Anglican rector, first in England, then in Ohio. But his daughter, wife's grandmother, married an Austrian of Jewish descent, and ended up fleeing Austria with most of the kids after Anschluss, leaving husband behind for the Death Camps. Wife's maternal grandparents and above were a mixed breed to say the least: a Sicilian bar owner murdered by the Mafia, an Irish "traveler", and the like. Either pagans or atheists, or the like. Her mother was a ferocious atheist, and drunk. Her father a military type, always chasing the next war, and drinking in the meantime. Wife was saved in a Salvation Army outreach as a kid, but was the ONLY one of the family to go that route. We tried to raise our kids right, mostly failed.
But wife's sister is, likewise, a ferocious atheist. Her son and daughter, the wife's niece and nephew, now have their own kids. Those kids, like their parents, never grew up learning "Jesus Loves Me, This I know, for the Bible tells me so", or "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world", or memorized Bible verses or any of that. Seems odd to me.
But, in fact, that has become pretty characteristic in this area and in much of the land.
We were in the area where we now live a few years before my retirement and our relocation here. It was a near 2000-mile round trip by car, not an easy undertaking. Lacking money for a hotel, we stayed with Wife's sister's boyfriend, the one she was shacked up with while mad at her husband. He told us of a nearby church having Christmas service. We went. Other than VERY young kids, we were the youngest people present. Grandparents and great-grandparents there were, some quite feeble. But cohorts in the 12-to-50 age groups, almost none of, and those were mostly pressed into service as leaders and singers. Not good. When we got back home from our trip, I told our pastor about it, and told him, foolishly, "I don't know that I am called to address the dead 'cultural Christianity' of that area, but someone should." Brave words, and foolish. And. perhaps, correct.
I think I may have offended some people in church recently, when I said that our area is as lacking the Gospel as any foreign mission field, that there are those within a stone's throw of the church house who have never heard the Gospel, and would zip off to Hell if they died that moment. Some didn't like that. It's still true.
I don't know that I am the one to address that, but it burdens me, and someone must.
How did we ever let things get to this pass?
The Old Testament reading is chapters 8, 9, and 10 of Deuteronomy.
I find most telling the warnings that Moses spoke about the outcome if and when Israel would forget her God, and think that all they had was accomplished by their own hand, and that the Lord had no part in it. The same is happening in our own land, before our eyes, and I believe that the same disasters that overtook ancient Israel will come upon this land as well.
All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers.
And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.
Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.
Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him.
For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;
A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey;
A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.
When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.
Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:
Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein;
And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied;
Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint;
Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;
And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.
But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.
As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.
Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven,
A people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak!
Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee.
Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.
Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.
Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.
Also in Horeb ye provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry with you to have destroyed you.
When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water:
And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.
And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant.
And the LORD said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.
Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they.
So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands.
And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the LORD your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you.
And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.
And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also.
And the LORD was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and I prayed for Aaron also the same time.
And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.
And at Taberah, and at Massah, and at Kibrothhattaavah, ye provoked the LORD to wrath.
Likewise when the LORD sent you from Kadeshbarnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then ye rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and ye believed him not, nor hearkened to his voice.
Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.
Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you.
I prayed therefore unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin:
Lest the land whence thou broughtest us out say, Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he hath brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.
Yet they are thy people and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest out by thy mighty power and by thy stretched out arm.
At that time the LORD said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood.
And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark.
And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in mine hand.
And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the LORD gave them unto me.
And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the LORD commanded me.
And the children of Israel took their journey from Beeroth of the children of Jaakan to Mosera: there Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest's office in his stead.
From thence they journeyed unto Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbath, a land of rivers of waters.
At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day.
Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him.
And I stayed in the mount, according to the first time, forty days and forty nights; and the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also, and the LORD would not destroy thee.
And the LORD said unto me, Arise, take thy journey before the people, that they may go in and possess the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give unto them.
And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,
To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?
Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is.
Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.
Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.
For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:
He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.
He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.
Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the LORD thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude.
The New Testament passage is verses 28-44 in the 12th chapter of the Gospel of Mark. Heavy-duty teaching, something that, perhaps, the disciples would later think back on. So should we.
Are you familiar with the Shema? can be heard here
(it comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.
And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David?
For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.
David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.
And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,
And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:
Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.