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Sunday, March 28, 2010

What is wrong with this picture?

My neighbor tapped a few maple trees.  His method was simple and innovative.  He used copper tubing for a spigot and milk jugs to collect the sap.  He made one mistake pictured here.  Can you figure out what he did wrong? 

 Answer:  This is an oak tree!  If he were to get any sap from this tree, it would taste like vinegar. 

Sapping season is upon us.

A Very Lucky Guy

Perhaps you know of Barabbas.  He was a very lucky guy.  The name Barabbas means son of the father.  Normally, in his time men would be named Barjonas (son of Jonas), Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) and so on.  “Son of the father” may mean his father was unnamed; his father was just a man.  Possibly Barabbas did not know his father.

So why was he so lucky?   Well, first off, before he was lucky, he was bad.  By ‘bad’ I mean he was a criminal.  Some say a robber or a murderer.  He was in prison condemned to death for insurrection, leading a revolt against Rome. He was caught red-handed; everyone knows he is guilty as charged. As we meet Barabbas, he is agonizing in a dungeon awaiting execution by crucifixion, an extremely torturous form of execution. 

Again, where does ‘luck’ come in?   Wait! Here come the Roman guards, the door to the cell is opened and the outside light is blinding.  “On your feet, Barabbas, you are to stand before the governor!”  What?  What more can they do to me?  I know I am to be crucified for my crimes, but why does the governor want to see me – to further humiliate me?

Barabbas, still chained is led to a second story balcony where Pilate, the governor, stands before a crowd, no, a mob gathered on the streets below.  Near Pilate stands a man with humble appearance yet regal bearing, a man like none other Barabbas has ever seen.  He too is bound and shows the signs of recent physical abuse; even so he exhibits an aura of peace as if he were the one in control. He hears his name. The crowd in the street is shouting, “Barabbas, Barabbas! Release Barabbas!”  What is happening here?  Then he hears the Governor respond, “then what shall I do with this Jesus?’  The crowd replies, “crucify him, crucify him!”  The governor looks at the Peaceful One with pity and says, “Why? I find this man innocent.”  The mob persists, “let his blood be on us and on our children.” Pilate resignedly looks once more at the man with regal bearing and then casts a disdainful sidelong glance at Barabbas.  “Give them what they want”, he murmurs to the guards. 

Barabbas felt the guard behind his back unlocking his chains. The other man looked at Barabbas with tender compassionate eyes, as if to say, “Go, I will take your place”.  He was lead to the servant’s entrance of the palace and shoved out the door.  As he stumbled into the street, he heard the guard remark, “You are the luckiest scum in the world Barabbas, that innocent man is taking your place on the cross today.  Go out and make something of your life. Though you deserve death you are getting a second chance.”

You and I can relate to Barabbas.  We have sinned against God and man.  We deserve death and someday we will have to stand before God to face judgment.  There is no way we can justify ourselves before a holy righteous God.  Our only hope is Jesus, who looks at us with love and forgiveness.   He willingly took our sentence upon him.  Put your trust in him today.  He offers freedom from sin, abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven. 

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, I confess I am a sinner.  I need your forgiveness.  As the very Son of God you obediently gave your life for mine.  Please forgive me, come into my heart today and guide me in the life you intend for me to live so that I might live with you forever.  Amen. 

“We owed a debt we could not pay, He paid a debt he did not owe.”
(Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9,10)

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Three Amigos pose with their fine catch of walleyes, sauger and one northern.
The Lord, The Creator God knows how to paint a colorful sunset over the flat white expanses of Lake of the Woods.

Wayne, "The Huffer" hard at work. This would be the view 'Wally' had as he flew over Wayne's shoulder in his madcap attempt at escape to the safety of the icy waters.
Alex with the 'catch of the trip' - a 26" northern.

Ice Fishing on the Lake of the Woods

One Sunday morning grandson Alex, friend Wayne and I loaded up the Prius and headed for Lake of the Woods. By 3 pm we had arrived at Arnesen’s Rocky Point Resort. Our guide Joe, picked us up in his Bombardier snowcat. After loading a lot of stuff into the snowcat, we headed out onto the huge lake to our 4-man ice shack.

The shack is a red, steel sheathed building about 8’ x 18’ in size. It contains 4 bunks, a tiny biffy, a card table, a 4 burner LP range and 2 LP gas lamps. There are 4 sets of 2 fishing holes, 2 on each side. Outside a 300 gallon LP gas “pig” rests on skids

Joe gave us the ‘tour’ of the shack with instructions on the operation of the biffy, CO and fire alarms. He left us with 5 gallons of drinking water and a bucket with hundreds of minnows. He would return the next morning to see how we are doing.

After deciding on our bunk assignments, we got right to fishing. Not surprisingly, Alex caught the first fish. Over the next 2 days Alex out fished us two adults, 2:1. It was over 24 hours before I was to catch my first fish. Wayne was also very successful. We caught mainly walleyes and were able to take home our legal limit of walleyes. We also caught just a few saugers. The largest fish was caught by Alex – a 26”, 6 lb northern. I think each of us caught one walleye near the 19” size. Besides taking home our northern and limit of walleyes, we had walleye for supper Sunday night. Fishing regs required 19 1/2” walleyes to be released.

A little excitement ensued when I caught my best walleye. The measuring device was up on the wall over the table. The table was cluttered with dishes, various odds and ends including salt & pepper and a plastic container of waxies. As I was holding the slippery, thrashing fish up to the measure, he wriggled loose with a powerful thrust. The fish flopped onto the table and flopped again flying over Wayne’s shoulder and landing crosswise onto one of his ice holes. Wayne dived for the fish. Meanwhile, the items on the table were strewn across the floor.

The fish was recaptured, the waxies were rounded up and replaced into their container, salt & pepper and other paraphernalia were replaced upon the table. However, I wasn’t finished yet. The fish had to be measured. To cut to the quick, I once again held the fish up to the wall above the table. Wally the walleye decided to try his escape tactic once more. De’ja’ Vu all over again.

Mid Tuesday morning, Joe picked us up for the snowcat ride back to the lodge and we were on our way home from an enjoyable and successful fishing trip.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Whole Truth

As the nervous witness stepped to the platform and tried to settle into the hard chair, the stern-faced bailiff thrust a well worn Bible into his comfort zone and ordered him to “place your hand on the Bible and repeat after me . . . I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God”.

Serious words. The truth can condemn a man or the truth can set him free. Nothing should be easier than telling what we know or what we have seen. A small child or an uneducated person should be able to tell the truth with no effort. Then why does it strike fear into our heart? Why does it cause our knees to shake and our heart to race?

An accomplished liar is gifted, trained, self-taught, or best of all self-delusional. Well-meaning liars see this way of presenting ‘reality’ as necessary for self-preservation or the protection of another person or ideology. They view this as an artful way of justifying themselves, to keep peace or make the world a better place. On the other hand, the art of lying has been especially useful to certain politicians and sales people. Some of the best liars may be commended for their creativity. Their victims are viewed as sheep in need of shearing. Did I say ‘victims’? Herein lies the downside of lying. There are always victims.

Some lies come in the form of unsubstantiated opinions stated as fact or sometimes silence in the face of pressure.

There are moral and ethical laws of the universe. Among the most basic of these laws are the Ten Commandments. These laws are always ‘enforced’. Some people look at the Commandments as an anachronistic and irrelevant vestige of a peevish and negative God. This could be the reaction of an uninformed worldview. This is the position of the immature or those who want to be their own “god’. After all, how can I run the world my way if I have the interference of a competing God?

Many times the consequences of breaking a Commandment are not revealed until much later. The 9th Commandment states, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor”. Can you imagine a world where everyone who sat on the witness stand gave a truthful report of what he or she knew about the matter in question? This without the cajoling, badgering and leading (misleading) interrogation by an intimidating lawyer? How about a sales presentation where you heard only the facts about the product whether positive or negative? How refreshing would it be to have a government official who owned his mistakes and promised only what he could deliver and recognized his limitations.

Truth is always “enforced”. There are always benefits when it is followed. There are always negative consequences when it is not. The world would be a better place if truth were universally practiced.

Jesus said, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.

Down in Ol' Mexico

Are We Having Fun yet?

Monday morning we were there at the Pitahaya Restaurant for the “free” breakfast bright and early. It was free and it was good. We then spent the next 3 hours listening to the presentation. The first presenter was Elizabeth, a very friendly middle-aged lady who along with her husband had purchased first a suite and eventually a penthouse on the property. She was probably too nice for the job. Time to call in her boss, Gregor. I thought maybe Gregor was a native Mexican. Probably in his mid thirties with a smooth, but commanding presence, Rudy had dark hair and eyes and spoke with a slight accent. You knew he was a natural salesman. We were later to find out Gregor’s last name was Yankovich and his parents were immigrants from Yugoslavia to the US.

We were led on a personal tour of the facilities, looking at the array of accommodations available. Prices ranged from around $19,000 and up. The tour was followed with a sit down eye-to-eye discussion with Gregor doing the talking and Elizabeth sitting by with a compassionate expression. They even offered us a drink out of the kindness of their hearts. We accepted a mango cocktail sans alcohol. They called it a “virgin” mango cocktail. This was our introduction to a drink we enjoyed almost every day while at Hacienda del Mar.

At this point they left us alone with a questionnaire that asked questions leading to: “what would it take for you to purchase a time share?” Our sales resistance was holding up. We set impossible conditions for them to meet for a sale. When they returned after a few minutes absence, we gave our clear declaration of “no”.

It was a good breakfast, a good virgin mango drink and a pleasant day to sit in an open restaurant for a morning. But now we were ready to get out to the beach.

The Vacation Routine

The next few days were spent having fun in the sun. Every day was sunny with temperatures in the upper 70’s. The temperature dropped quickly at sunset. Usually, this was when we were seated in one of the open-air restaurants enjoying our evening meal overlooking the ocean. Upon request, the wait staff would bring a blanket for each to slip over our head, snug against the mid 60-degree evening. The food was excellent, abundant and expensive. We did learn to save a good portion for the ‘doggie bag’. This we put in the refrigerator in our suite for the next day’s lunch.

Our day would begin about 6:45 am right on the button for me; a bit early for Eve. We would go out to our veranda facing the ocean and check out the sunrise. I would start off the day as I do at home – by going for a 15-minute walk. I could walk uphill to the entrance gate and then about a quarter mile down the palm lined boulevard that led by the golf club. I would then go to the court of the Tomatoes Restaurant and pick up a couple of cups of coffee to bring back to our digs. A couple of times Eve joined me on the walk. We would then enjoy a simple breakfast out on the porch or in the adjoining sitting room/kitchen. Following that we would go off to the activities of the day.

“Activities” were nicely plain and simple. We would take a book and sit by the pool or on the beach, sometimes walking along the beach watching for whales or the 3-mast sailing ships that could be hired by tourists.

One day we took a shuttle bus to San Lucas. There, we walked along the large marina taking in the sights. We had arranged to take the “Yellow Submarine”, a boat that had a lower deck with large picture windows for viewing the fish and underwater scene. We also decided to live dangerously by having lunch at one of the many marina side restaurants. We didn’t get sick. Praise the Lord!

Another day, we rented snorkeling equipment and took a cab to a nearby beach. Playa Del Chileno is a public park on a sheltered beach, ideal for snorkeling. It was very nice there with decent restrooms and large thatched umbrellas for shade. I snorkeled to my heart’s delight, enjoying the colorful beauty of a myriad of fish of all shapes.

That is just a quick view of a fun and relaxing time vacationing in Mexico. We will put a few photos on the blog for you to se