Thursday, January 02, 2014

2014 Resolutions

Happy New Year!  Happy 2014!

It seems funny that flipping a page on a calendar should be counted as a holiday.  I suppose that when people don’t recognize the holy, they have to find something mundane to celebrate.  So we have New Years Day.

Certainly the observance of God’s grace to us in preserving us and carrying us through the past year into a new year is a cause for thanksgiving and rejoicing and celebrating.  Certainly the changing of the calendar gives cause to pause in retrospect.

Thus people also commonly make New Years Resolutions.  They examine their activities of the passing year and determine or resolve to do some things differently.  They make resolutions and promises concerning their actions in the coming year.  Some of these they actually mean.  Some of these they actually strive to keep, at least for a week or two or three.

Soon, however, when we make resolutions to amend our lives we find ourselves unable to keep our promises.  We find that we are unable to effect true change.  We fall back into the same old errors again.  Sometimes we manage to demonstrate these failings in different ways.  Yet we still fall short of our good intentions.

Christians may fall into this trap even more so than others.  I find it somewhat odd that in teaching people concerning Confession and Absolution that people are asked to promise this impossible task.  In the Order of the Confessional Service on TLH pg. 46 ff., two formats are given, both of which call the person seeking absolution to state the intention or purpose of amending one’s sinful life by the assistance of the Holy Ghost.  Surely this is the format of a resolution.  The newer hymnals have similar statements.

Admittedly, seeing beyond this is difficult.  Certainly the preaching against sin is necessary.  Certainly the Law of God or Commandments are given to direct souls away from sin to the holiness of the Lord.

Yet in searching the Gospel accounts concerning the times that the Lord Jesus granted absolution to sinners, do we ever find Him calling for a resolution from the broken and contrite sinner?  I cannot recall a single instance of the Lord Jesus calling for a person to resolve to do better before granting the blessed words of peace and comfort, “Your sins are forgiven you.”  He does give the warning afterward that they are to go onward without adding to their sins.  But He never evokes a resolution from anyone to whom He grants remission of their sins.

We do have an example, however, where He denies this making of resolutions as justifying.  When He tells of the publican and the Pharisee, He says that the publican made no such resolution, but merely confessed his sinfulness and need for God’s mercy.  This one, Jesus says, went home justified.  The other man, the Pharisee, stated all of the ways that he had resolved to try to please God.  The Pharisee listed his resolutions quite sincerely.  Yet this one, Jesus says, did not go home justified.

What does this mean?  What is the Lord Jesus teaching us with this example?  He is teaching us that we should never look to our own works for our justification.  He is teaching us that our resolutions, no matter how noble and no matter how sincere, will always fall short.  In fact, our resolutions only lead us into more sins that we need to have remitted.  If we make resolutions that we fail to keep, then not only have we sinned, but we also have failed to keep our word.

This is why the Lord has established for us His Church on earth.  Within His Church He has ordained specific means through which He works to restore us to His Holy Communion.  It is to these means of grace and remission and salvation and reconciliation and healing that He directs us to be turned.  This is the repentance to which He calls us.  He calls us to be turned from all of our own efforts, from all of our best intentions, from all of our resolutions, to receive the means through which His Word works all things for us.  His Word and Sacraments are the means through which He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  He works regeneration unto true faith through Baptism, as He washes us with His Word with the water.  In this washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit He applies the blood of the Word/Lamb to us by which we are cleansed.  In this connection we are joined into His everlasting Communion, wherein we partake of His body and blood given and shed for us, to renew us in His Communion as our sins are remitted and taken away.  As we hear His call to be gathered into His name to receive these things, we bow the knee and confess our need for His mercy, which He graciously bestows to us as the words of absolution are spoken over us.  Then we rise up to eat and drink at His Table of renewal and forgiveness, going forth in the confidence of the good conscience into which we have been restored.

God does not call us to resolve to be obedient or to amend our lives.  He calls us to walk in the Life that is in Him in His Holy Communion.  The obedience of faith is not a choice.  It is the fullness of living in communion with God in His kingdom.  Obedience flows from the faith that the Lord works in us.  Obedience flows from the trust that is generated within us concerning all that the Lord declares.  When we receive His absolution and partake of His Communion, we recognize His will as that which is desirable and good.  We recognize the fullness of the good life to which we have been restored so that we begin to walk in this newness of life or renewed life.

This is the difference of living by faith and living by works.  Living by faith is the life that flows from the ordained means of grace.  Living by works is the struggle to resolve to do better than we can hope to do for ourselves.  Through His Word and Sacraments, His means of grace to us, we receive God’s goodness into our very being so that we are sanctified to live in the grace that flows to us freely by His decree.

Surely this is better than making resolutions that we know that we cannot hope to keep.  Surely the way of grace, mercy, and peace is far better and desirable.

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The Beauty of Creation

With the new year comes new outpouring of landscaping magazines and advertisements.  One of the advertising and propaganda magazines that has found me and continues to bombard me is Total Landscape Care.  It is basically a mechanism for advertising with a few articles interspersed between the advertisements.  This bothers me much less now that they stopped trying to trick me into paying for this uninvited mailing.

With 2004 upon us, they have begun pushing advertisements for chemical sales for landscape and turf management.  The magazine is available online, so I will post the links to the most recent publications that I received.

Of the two, the one that I find most disturbing is their 2014 Chemical Guide.

Clicking on the link will take you to their publication of page upon page of commercial pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides.  All of these are being sprayed daily on the lawns in our communities by the plethora of spray companies with their spray trucks rolling down the streets of every neighborhood.

Glancing through this publication may be an eye-opening experience for many who are not involved in agricultural and urban management vocations.  There are very serious amounts of toxic chemicals being sprayed throughout the year.

I am an agriculturalist.  I have been involved in agriculture and agricultural studies all of my life.  I was in the Future Farmers of America for six years in Jr. and Sr. Highschool.  I studied agriculture throughout those years.  My undergraduate degree is Animal Science/Pre-veterinary medicine.  Thus I have a deep appreciation for the agricultural vocations and sciences.

I understand that commercial chemicals sometimes are necessary and helpful.  However, I also know that they are very dangerous, both in the short term as well as the long term.

In my daily work as an arborist, I work outdoors.  I often smell these toxins in the air in the neighborhoods where I am working.  Sometimes they actually make me feel dizzy or even faint.  Sometimes they cause me to develop a headache.  Very rarely I have felt nauseated.

These spray companies put little signs in the yards afterward warning people not to allow their pets and children onto the lawns for a period of time.  The law limits them from spraying whenever wind conditions cause aerial drift of the chemicals being applied, but in places like Kansas, this would restrict their spray activities almost entirely.  So the spraying goes on regardless of the weather and the drift.

The second of the TLC publications for the new year includes an article on “Debugging Grub Control.”  Here is the magazine link, and here is the link to just the article, Debugging Grub Control.

It includes this photograph of one of the types of grubs that people believe that they need to control in their lawns.

These creatures certainly can be problematic.  They can do great destruction both in people’s lawns and in agricultural settings.

The question that I am asking, is whether people are acting wisely in utilizing these powerful synthetic chemicals, especially in their lawns and landscapes.  Would it not be wiser to consider landscape planning that utilizes grasses and plants that are known to be resistant to the concerns that are being treated with chemical applications?

One article that addresses this is Ask Mr. Smarty Plants.  In the first paragraph of the answer given is this portion of advice:

The City of Austin's Grow Green Earth-wise Guide to Lawn Problems lists St. Augustine, bermuda, zoysia and buffalograss as being susceptible to grubs.  Their recommendations for controlling them includes mowing high and doing effective watering.  They recommend a non-chemical method for getting rid of them by applying nematodes to feed on the grubs.  You can read an article from Texas A & M AgriLife Extension "White Grubs in Texas Turf Grass" that gives more information on controlling them without the use of pesticides including the use of nematodes and the use of spiked shoes for aerating the soil.  Both methods have claims of eliminating as much as 50% of the grubs.

Here in Wichita I met a fellow who applies organic means of insect, disease, and weed control.  His prices are slightly higher, but comparable to the companies using commercial pesticides.

It seems to me that people would do well to consider what they are doing to their own families’ playgrounds, a.k.a., their lawns.  The chemicals used within their homes also ought to be of concern to them.  After all, what is used in the laundry resides in their clothing and linens, items worn day and night and in which they wrap themselves as they sleep.  So-called air fresheners fill their homes with particulates that are constantly breathed and absorbed through the skin.  Once a person begins taking an inventory of these items, the list often is found to be immense.

Is it a coincidence that people are experiencing more and more allergies and respiratory ailments?  Is it a coincidence that people use more and more relief items from the drug store?

It seems worthy of consideration.

I am not advocating government intervention in these matters.  Keep the government in its place, out of our lives as much as possible.  Surely people are capable of evaluating these issues intelligently and responsibly so as to make healthy, wholesome, and responsible decisions for themselves and their families.

God has given us His beautiful creation for us to enjoy.  Even with the curse of sin looming over us, He still blesses us with wonders beyond description.  Many wonders have not yet even been discovered.  Surely it makes sense to work in concord with God’s creation rather than against it.  In our daily lives we take much for granted, or at least we should.  This is actually what the Lord desires, that we should receive all things as His gifts that flow from His heart of grace.  Thanksgiving begins with taking things for granted, i.e., things granted to us by our gracious heavenly Father.  This is the way that is truly meet, right, and salutary.  This is the way of healthy and happy living.

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