Tuesday, February 28, 2012


February 28 is the last day of the month, at least most of the time. This year February 29 is the last day which we call "Leap Day." Leap Day is placed on our calendars every four years to correct a variation in our earth's annual journey around the sun.

Our earth revolves around the sun every 365 1/4 days, so every four years one extra day is added to correct our calendar. We use the Gregorian calendar adopted by Pope Gregory 13th in 1582. That calendar calls this year 2012 and is used in most countries around the world, although there are other calendars. The Chinese calendar calls this year 4710, and in the Hebrew Calendar it is 5772.

In the 1990s an unsuccessful attempt was made to develop a new international calendar through the United Nations. Some nations use two calendars, the Gregorian and a calendar tied to their ancient culture.

But what happens when a calendar comes to an end? The Mayan calendar was developed during their cultural era (250 - 900 AD), and it ends this year on December 21. The Mayans of southern Mexico and Central America left evidence that when its calendar ended, the world would also end. I guess they felt that time would stop when their calendar stopped.

But time as we know it will end only when God ends it. No calendar is perfect. All are based on the earth's irregular revolution around the sun and require corrections to be accurate.

This is also true of people. Humanity is not perfect and requires correction to exist. No matter how carefully we may plan our lives, we all need correction. No matter how perfectly we may attempt to set up our systems of government or behavior or organize our ideas, we cannot do it perfectly. Only God possesses perfection and can establish perfect laws. People are imperfect and sinful, so we all need corrections in life.

The Good News today is that our salvation does not depend on our making all the necessary corrections, but on God who has already made all the necessary corrections in Jesus Christ. God requires perfection from people, and He provides it for us in His Son Jesus.

God loves His creation, including His people, and He loves us no matter what. He considers us worth dying for, and so has paid the price for our sinfulness through the death and resurrection of His Son. All that's left for us is to trust Jesus - and He even gives us help doing that! Faith in Jesus comes from the Holy Spirit, and faith in Jesus is all the correction it takes.

This is why St. Paul tells us, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Happy Leap Day - tomorrow!

Monday, February 20, 2012


This year February 21 is Shrove Tuesday (aka Fat Tuesday or Pancake Day) and is always the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Among Christian cultures pancakes are eaten because they are made out of the main food items - eggs, sugar, butter, flour - whose consumption was often restricted during the fasting of Lent.

Among the Pennsylvania Dutch today is known as Fastnacht Day. Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian cultures call today "Carnival," from the words "carne levar" which mean "to take away meat." Carnival often includes street processions and fancy dress, such as in the New Orleans Mardi Gras.

In Hawaii, Shrove Tuesday is "Malasada Day" which dates back to the sugar plantations of the 1800's when workers used up their butter and sugar prior to Lent by making large batches of fluffy fried pastries called malasadas. In Iceland it is called "Bursting Day" and is marked by eating (too much?) salted meat and peas. Lithuanians today eat rich doughnuts, and Swedes eat sweet pastries.

In some Canadian cultures, today's pancakes have small tokens cooked into them to be collected by the children. Some English towns hold Shrove Tuesday football games and a Pancake Race which dates to a time long ago when a housewife ran from her house to get to her church on time while still carrying her frying pan and pancake. The pancake race at Olney, Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. The children of Whitechapel, Lancashire, go around asking "Please a pancake", hoping to receive oranges or sweets, a practice that arose from when workers visited manor houses to ask for extra food on the holiday.

And this is only a partial list of celebrations for Shrove Tuesday. Do you have a special way to celebrate the day before Lent?

God told His covenant people, “Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me." (Exodus 23:14) Those were the Festivals of Harvest, Weeks and Pentecost. It is still a good thing to join together with other Christians and celebrate the goodness and providence of God, especially when it comes just before a time when we are more somber and reflective in practicing our Christian faith.

I think I will make pancakes for breakfast today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I hope all who read this will have an enjoyable Valentine's Day. I wish I could give you an accurate history of the original St. Valentine who was martyred in ancient Rome for his Christian faith, but historians say there may have been as many as 14 martyrs during that era named Valentinus. Accounts get rather complicated as historians try to separate one Valentinus from another, as well as explain a little about the churches dedicated to them.

February 14 is set aside to honor St. Valentine, but the date of its first use is also unclear. Early believers "christianized" Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival on February 15, established to honor Faunus, Roman god of agriculture, as well as Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. At some point February 14 became the date dedicated to Christian love and exchanging expressions of it.

The oldest known written valentine still in existence today is a poem written in 1415 by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. His greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of London's British Library. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois who became his wife. So began a practice still enjoyed today.

Carol came home from two weeks of inpatient physical therapy last week, and it is good to be back together again. Over the years we've learned our home is wherever we are together, whether being in Arizona, Iowa or Colorado, and whether staying in a house, motel or trailer. God gives His people a home, whether single or married, wherever they live in the love and providence He so generously gives.

"Home is where the heart is," we often say. Home for many of us is where we were born or lived our early life, but it can have changed so much it is no longer recognizable. Grown trees make the old house look smaller, and change or decay make it unfamiliar. Home ought to be wherever you are, where you enjoy the blessings of God and the love He gives that you cherish.

Psalm 68:6 says, "God places the lonely into families." I have always treasured that passage because it shows how He cares for us in such a practical manner. God's love is, I believe, very precious and helpful in the Christian family.

I have a special Valentine this year for Carol and I hope she enjoys it.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Do we know what is going to happen to us today? Are we sure we have a plan? Do we even know what will happen in the next hour or two?

It was afternoon when the young man exited the freeway. It had been a busy day at work and he was taking sandwiches to his fellow workers who had missed lunch. The older vehicle in front of him also drove the off-ramp and slowly stopped in the right turn lane at the signal light. The young man waited to proceed when the light changed, but when it did, the vehicle in front did not move. Another light change happened and still there was no movement. After the third light change, many drivers were getting impatient, so the young man got out and approached the vehicle. Its motor was still running, so he tapped on the window.

Opening a car door, the young man caught the elderly driver as he nearly fell out. The young man realized something was very wrong, because there was no response from the driver or the elderly passenger. The young man found no pulse on either of them, and police and EMTs who came immediately pronounced both occupants dead. Somehow the driver had slowed down for the signal light, stopped his car, and died.

A coroner later said the woman had died of a stroke and the driver of a heart attack. He surmised the woman had a stroke first and died in the car. When the driver, her husband, realized she was dead, he suffered a fatal heart attack right there at the signal light. The couple had just left the freeway, car still running, and both were dead. And the young man who found them was very much shaken.

Do you know what is going to happen to you today? Are you sure you have a plan? Do you even know what will happen in the next hour or two?

James writes in chapter 4:13-15, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that'." I quoted this verse in my August 31 Weekly Message. No matter how many times I read or study or merely remember these words, I am taught by them.

Life can seem to us like a mist that vanishes, but to God, we are His beloved creatures. That's why He sent Jesus to save us. If we were nothing more than a dying animal on the roadside or a bug headed for a windshield, He would not have gone to such great lengths to create us, forgive us, teach us or prepare an eternal place for us.

God had a reason for the true story above. The young man is still seeking it.