"Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony?" (Job 28:29)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Creamsicle Cruiser?

 A STROLL through a car show last summer offered me views of a wide variety of tasteful vehicles. On a day of relaxation that I shared with my wife, our attendance was like a youthful visit to a local ice cream store. We found all sorts of wheeled delights; small and large, fast and slow, old and new, deep and bright. The vehicles at the show made me remember sights in a long-gone candy store located on the road near my elementary school.
 This became especially so as we made our way through the throng of people attending, my mouth began water. I smelled food, and was getting hungry… and some of the cars likely reminded me of treats. First, a lowered all black, licorice-stick looking ’57 Ford hardtop complete with bubble fender skirts caught my eye. I had once owned a tasty just like it a long time past… in my more youthful days. Also a huge, green super-charged-gasser sporting big flames made me think of the spicy hot sausages I used to get at Greenwood Dairy in Langhorne, PA... eaten just before ordering the Pig’s Dinner Sundae. However, none of those delights spoke to my gastronomic self like an old, four-door ’49 Plymouth.
 Though somewhat odd for my taste in classic cars, the old Mopar sedan caught my hungry eye. The car had a distinct family-style. It carried a dated, sweet protective windshield visor and four side window rain shields.
 I ask myself now why I even considered the car, “Who would be that interested in a common family-style, four door with a flat-head, six-cylinder engine?” It seemed that the car was all stock… but nicely restored and very clean. The car, somewhat feminine for my automotive tastes… sat somewhat demure in the midst of many high powered, beautifully-customized automotive samples. I thought about that particular car’s attraction as I powered up my camera. After a few photos, it hit me. The car was just pretty… deliciously pretty.

 “It’s the color combination!” I told my wife. What a great choice of colors it showed... in two-tone orange and creamy white. The old Plymouth wore the same, delightful Creamsicle colors that made me chase after the ice cream truck though late summer doldrums years ago. My mouth began to water just by looking at the old Mopar.
 Oh, don’t get me wrong… regular popsicles are still great. Popsicles are cooling ice for hot summer days, sometimes flavored like the tasty dark raspberry color seen on a late model Mustang that was parked nearby. But the Plymouth was delightfully tasty! It was the kind of orange color that made it worth carrying Mrs. Peterson’s groceries home to get a tip… one that would let a growing boy calculate a popsicle’s cost against ordering a Creamsicle. The drool the car caused at that show yet makes me remember pedaling my Schwinn bicycle on hot afternoons to deliver newspapers.., just so I’d have enough cash for a Creamsicle and a Royal Crown cola.
 Ah yes! Memories bring back the taste. Now, this is exactly what car shows and classics are supposed to do! Even better, the car was colored in so much orange and white both inside and out, that you’d get a little sweet-sick if you looked at it too long. It seemed that my wife and I gained a few pounds of body weight just looking in the window. In doing so, I remembered impatiently waiting to lick a Creamsicle’s orange coating away to get the soft vanilla at the center. And then there was the popsicle stick! I would lick the vanilla ice cream from the stick and chew on the wood until my tongue got splinters.

 Near the rear bumper of the four-door family sedan sat a companion exhibit. To make the display complete, a similar period pedal-car was positioned sweetly. The little car was painted to beautifully match the Plymouth. Seated behind its steering wheel was a little “Teddy” bear. Together the cars were set like a sweet mother and following child… blessed to be really cool and moving slowly in a hot, busy world.

 The spectacle of that car and the family thoughts it fostered made an impression on me. Those thoughts still remain. Being a churchman often wandering through car shows in the warm of summer, I thought of families who would gain a lot of togetherness by walking a car show. I thought of mothers…. and of little tag-along children. Had I the presence of mind and the car owner at hand. I’d have invited that display to attend an upcoming pro-life event.
 In a few weeks many persons are planning to gather for a national “walk-a-thon”. That old sweet Plymouth would be a great attraction to park alongside this month’s protest against “Roe vs Wade” legislation. The march is planned to be held during the last week of January in Washington, D.C. Many folks from our Christian church denomination hope to walk along with others, in support of lives given by God to mothers and children... and especially those who are not yet born.
We walk for the life of babies that may one day sit in a county fair’s pedal car, or drive their parents dry-mouth crazy when they rip across the parking lot in a battery-powered toy Corvette. An event like the one we attend puts a good taste in a person’s mouth. We are called with new appetite to remember the generations of goodness that came before us. We can dream about such as the taste of a cool Creamsicle eaten on a hot afternoon.
 If you have this taste for eating good things and doing right things… come out with us and participate in the “March for Life” on January 27th… or simply click on the call out at the right column of this page to donate to “Lutherans for Life”. May your assistance be rewarded greatly by our Heavenly Father.

May the Peace of God that surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Epiphany Light!

 SOMETIMES IT takes a while for the light to dawn upon us. For example, thoughts about our failings in care for others came slowly to me as I sat waiting for a turkey to cook on a past Thanksgiving Day. I thought about how we can be distracted by the advertising media. We get lured away from knowing how things really are.
 You see, in the fall and early winter television is set to feed us regular appetizers of football. On that particular day, I sat contentedly watching a college game, and an automobile commercial came on the screen. Then another came on shortly thereafter.., and yet another followed shortly. They became somewhat annoying in their frequency as they interrupted the game. All of these commercials tempted the viewers with acquiring a gift. . . the gift of  a new car for Christmas!
 Each ad gave us wondrous views of the coming holiday season. Ribbons draped and glistened and snow fell gently… while a new silver, gold, or cranberry metallic red vehicle sat waiting in the holiday drive. One happy setting even showed jolly Saint Nicholas working feverishly with a acetylene torch, putting finishing touches on a wondrous new Mercedes. Another depicted him rolling in a new red sports convertible, whipping the roads behind a line of reindeer imitating cars. However, during these football interrupting times I also noted that almost all the vehicles being advertised were Cadillac, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Lexus and other high-end luxury or sport-type vehicles.

Being Bothered!
 “Why so?” I wondered back then. To me, it seemed to be far from the true meanings of either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Certainly the marketing minds obviously had corporate CEOs, managers, and other bounteously-gifted persons in their holiday marketing sights. Questions arose in my mind with a clatter.  “Just where is the true meaning of Christmas in all of this?” Then I further mused, “Are we all kings like the Wise Men who rode on camels? Why do they focus on the top-of-the-line luxury vehicles, rather than also showing their gifts offered for poorer folks who were watching?”
Bothered a bit by the seeming bias of the advertising, I sought an answer. The very next day, I went to see John. He is a wise man in his mid-60s who works in a car dealership. John is not yet ready for retirement, but his arthritic hands hinder his mechanical prowess. For the reason that he could not maintain his flat rate auto repair skills, his employer had appointed John as a “New Car Get-Ready Technician”. With years of experience behind him, John was excellent at this new job.
 However, I sought him out not because of his mechanical skills, but because John was a long-lived Christian who I admired for his walk of faith. I went to him for his unique wisdom. I wanted to explore the faith perspective as experienced by an automotive brain.

Magic Wisdom? 
 A wise one of old, John stood smartly beneath a new car that was raised high upon a lift, spraying the underside and inner panels of the vehicle with a milky substance. After some conversation about the nice new car that he had in the air, I asked, “John…, Why do you think all the pre-Christmas TV commercials focus on the real expensive models?”
 He stopped spraying the milky colored mist for a moment, and looked at me. “That’s an easy one,” he smiled.
 “They push the top end luxury cars to clear the old inventory before the new calendar year is over. If a customer’s company has been profitable, a person with a high echelon position can buy a new car. It will be owned by the company and can be partially written off as a business expense for the upcoming tax filing year. The deal must be made before the year’s end. The commercial is not about Christmas giving. . , but more so about a New Year’s getting. The ad is aimed at college graduates who have done well.”
 I stood there for a moment, thinking about what he’d just said. He then told me a bit more.
 “But don’t you be too judgmental now. For no one, not even we ourselves, can give a Christmas gift like God gave. All of us have more than a bit of dark self-interest in the things that we do.”
 I thought about those words that he spoke and watched his work as he sprayed.
 Changing the subject, I asked, “What are you doing?”
 “Rustproofing”, he said.
“But that’s not undercoating?” I queried.
He said, “No. . . it’s not. Undercoating is the devil’s covering for cars. That black tar seals real good for a while, fooling you into thinking that your car will last a long time. Then, like your own sinful life, the tar coating eventually hardens and cracks. Eventually corrosive road spray gets beneath the tar and attacks the metal. Holes will soon appear as the trapped corrosive chemicals take their toll. Your car becomes unsightly and may be made unsafe.”

 “Devilish!” I echoed. I’d not thought of the tar product as representing human sin in that way. I thought of how the Satanic.., the “Prince of Darkness”, fools us into thinking we can preserve ourselves against all comers. Subsequently we are “undercoated” from below until our substance rots away into uselessness.
 John disrupted my mental musings.
“This wax oil I’m using is thixotropic.”
“Thixotropic… I am spraying a milky wax coating on. The wax is like that found in Advent candles. The coating travels like the Wise Men seeking Christ. It flows into nooks, wrinkles and welds of the car to cover everything vulnerable. The oil protects everything it touches, just like the oil put on your forehead when you are baptized. You can’t see it but you know it is there. Everytime it gets hot, it flows a bit farther. Baptism guards you for your whole life much like this thixotropic rust proofing.”

 Cross Purposes!
 He wiped a few drops of wax oil from the tip of his spray wand. Then he continued, “The child of Bethlehem came to give his life for you. So forgiven and baptized into his life, marked and covered with that blessed oil… you are preserved by the Spirit for eternal life. I just coat these cars with wax oil that they will serve the customer for a long time, not because they are fancy and worth more… but that we may know they’ve been made right by the gift of this special oil. The big difference is that I can only prolong the car’s service life; whereas, God provides believer's with eternal life.”
 With that, I thanked John for his opinion and the wise theology lesson. He continued his work as I went on my way, thanking God for the wisdom. Using a spray wand he’d pointed beyond our mutual sin to the Divine One who came to earth on Christmas Eve.
 You see, now in this Epiphany season just after Christmas, I understand that Jesus, the Light of the world, was born into this world to enlighten us and save us. He frees us from making crass judgments about such things as car commercials and the people who make cars, but more so. . . he enables us to express thankfulness to God for grace freely given.
 Now, for those who wish to explore more about using the light of faith freely given, just click below to view a home church worship video....

May the blessings of Almighty God enlighten your days and nights in the coming New Year.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

White Whisker!

ENTERING THE repair shop, my ears immediately heard music. The sound came from the radio sitting over the workbench. The station had been changed from its usual down-home country twang. Instead, an old Christmas melody rang out. The hymn playing had no words to the music. Just bells tolled the tune “Silent Night”.
 Rudy, the shop’s owner, was obviously getting into the Christmas spirit. He hunched over an engine nested beneath an opened hood. Not having seen such a nice MoPar since I’d walked a late-September car show in central Pennsylvania, I asked, “Rudy, where in the world did that neat Dodge come from?”
 My friend Rudy is an elderly and much bewhiskered automotive craftsman. He stood up straight and wiped his dirty hands on the belly of his dark blue mechanic’s shirt. He said gruffly, “The guy that owns this sled comes from a suburb near Buffalo. There’s a lot of snow up there just now and more coming. He wants this ghost fixed to put it in storage.”
“Is that a Hemi engine?” I queried.
 Wiping his hands with a red rag, he said, “No, it’s a worked 383. The car is restored really nice. Though these light-colored Mopars often rust quickly, the body of this one is really clean. He only takes it out of the garage to use it once or twice a year.”
 I looked at the classy car, and said, “White metal tends to rust more quickly than dark-colored car bodies, because they don’t get as hot in the sun. This is a really tough color for a car up north where harsh chemicals are used to melt snow.”
 I kidded him by saying, “If you drive one of these in the winter, if it wasn’t for rusty spots you couldn’t tell an old white car from dirty winter snow.”
 Rudy chuckled as he returned back under the hood. He said, “This isn’t the original paint. Maybe it should’ve been redone in bright red… like Santa’s sleigh. This car couldn’t do a Christmas Eve run though. I’ve got a sick reindeer somewhere in here.”
He pointed to the spark plugs. “There’s Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, and Donner and Blitzen… and I think hard to-get-to old Donner back there in the corner has a misfire. The engine shakes a bit when climbing a hill.”
 “I’d never be able to recite all those reindeer names.” I observed.
 He said, “I memorized the reindeer names. I have to play Santa each year at the VFW’s Christmas Party’, so I read up some and know the whole Santa story. Santa Claus’ was a real person. It’s the nickname given to Saint Nicholas by northern Europeans.

 I found that Old Nick was a stubborn and well-known Greek bishop of the early church. His legend says that he’d leave gift socks for children on chimneys and front steps of houses all over the town of Myra. He did the route religiously each Christmas Eve. The gifts that he left were meant for the poor folks in his parish.
 After he died, both his name and reputation were eventually picked up as a holiday habit by the Dutch, Germans and many others. His legendary name changed just a little but into their own languages."
 Rudy continued, "As I hear it, in the 1800s, we Americans finally gave him the reindeer and red sleigh.”
 Figuring that he would know, I asked, “Where did the reindeer names come from?”
  “Ah, that’s our modern stuff … a wrapped present we might say.”
 He continued, “We recite “The Night Before Christmas” written by a guy named Clement Clarke Moore. It could be that the reindeer names really represent some ancient gods who’d been tamed by Jesus. Remember, I said Saint Nick was stubborn. The gods were made to serve the will of God after Jesus was born. We aren’t supposed to worship anyone other than Jesus. He’s the Son of the one true God. Because of this Santa whipped them old gods into shape."

“Really! I never knew this…” I chuckled.
 Rudy snickered and winked. “It could really be so… cause an elf told me.”
 I offered, “Old, white-bearded hot rod elves like us should be the ones to run Christmas. I know that to be a Christmas sleigh, that snow-white, limping MoPar won’t plow through the snow. Santa will need a bit more speed. How about we borrow a big cube, bright red one for the night. I know exactly where one is located. I’ve been told that it’ll fly.”
 I then buttoned my coat and reached to the door knob to leave him laughing, but Rudy snorted out to quickly to me… “Maybe we can get it gift wrapped. Brother, you have a very blessed Christmas at your house. Naturally.., I hope to see you in church.”