A minister was returning from a successful tent meeting in the mid-west. He was looking forward to a long, quiet and uneventful train ride home to Jacksonville, Florida. He took a seat beside a young man who was staring out the window. This went on hour after hour and mile after mile. When the minister did finally engage him in small talk, this is what he heard.
“Mr. ‘Minister’, I want to admit that I have not been the ideal son. I left home many years ago with all I thought I would ever need. Yes, I had all the answers, no one dared to tell me a thing. I never listened to anyone and that included my parents. It has been a long time and I have become very successful but I am lonely. I wrote my mother and father that I would be on this train. Would they somehow leave a sign in the backyard that I would be welcome to visit them.”
Well, you know what happened. The whole small town had turned out and mother and father were camped in the back of the house as close as could be to the tracks. The favorite apple tree near the house was decorated in all kinds of ribbons. You would have to be blind to miss the message,”Come on home!!”
While I was in grade school, a hail storm wiped out the crops for that year. This caused my parents to seek public jobs; father became a knitter and mother took a job as a hosiery inspector. They were on the 2nd shift. For almost two years I was coming home from school to an empty house. I did not like it at all! I could have stayed at my grandmother’s home but that would have meant getting up earlier in the morning and walking an extra 1/2 mile to meet the school bus (total of one and a half miles). I soon became adept at staying by myself till my parents arrived near midnight. I never did get used to the idea that coming through the woods and around the curve of the road that I would not see the car or see someone out doing chores.
It seemed not too long ago that I had some days to use or lose. My lovely wife suggested that I drive to Kentucky and visit my parents. She would pack a suitcase and that I should surprise them. My parents always expected us to visit in October this was April. Leaving after 4 o’clock in the morning I could usually arrive Kentucky time at 4 p.m. (losing an hour due to daylight savings time). From the small town of Auburn to the farm is about 5 miles. When I turned off the main road , and came through the woods and around the curve, that old familiar feeling came back “Would I see the car and would someone be out working!!” Sure enough my dad was working on equipment at the farm shed, he was happy to see me. Together we walked across the farm lot to the house to surprise mother in the kitchen. I will never forget her smile. They are gone now but the memory of that day eases the loss.
(A retold story loved for its many versions of Luke 15:11-32)
The Cracked Acorn: Coloring
Oh my!!! When it happens: The gravy on my best tie or the favorite ballpoint pen in my shirt leaks at the wrong time. Take it to the cleaners and ask them to do their best and not always does a stubborn stain disappear. My father in the fifties worked as a knitter in a hosiery mill, making seamed ladies nylons. When they came off the machine they were white and had to be sent to the dyer. Here the hose was submerged in a vat for several hours to change the white to rose or beige or the latest colors that the market demanded. I was told that white nylon was the strongest and could be weakened by the dyes. Supposedly this art appeared in the Middle East about 5,000 years ago and our word “dye” is in an English word.
In Biblical times, garments of beautiful colors were very expensive, both for the cloth and for the dyes. A garment signified importance or elevation in respect. “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.” (Genesis 37:3,4)
The Egyptians were the masters of color and the Hebrews may have brought this to perfection when the tabernacle was built. The Lord told them to “make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet” (Exodus 26:1), “And they shall take gold, and blue, and scarlet, and fine linen. And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work.” (Exodus 28:5,6) and in the vail “And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fined twined linen of cunning work,” (Exodus 26:31).
This veil was torn when Christ was crucified. (Matthew 27:51) Purple was seen as a royal color and desirable to buy, one of Paul’s converts at Thyatira was Lydia, a seller of purple. Today, all these wonderful and bright colors are easily found on all our clothing.
Some translators have attached meanings to certain colors, such as WHITE-purity and innocence; BLACK-mourning, affliction, and calamity; RED-bloodshed; PURPLE-royalty, luxury; BLUE-deity, sky, and heaven; SCARLET-war, valor; GREEN-life, youth, and abundance. The red, white, and blue are on our flag. The book of Esther is a “colorful” book of the Bible and worth reading and re-reading especially the description of the palace of King Ahasuerus.
Our hymnal has two songs that reflect color. BEAUTIFUL ROBES OF white, Beautiful land of light, Beautiful home so bright where there shall come no night; Beautiful crown I’ll wear, Shining and bright o’er there, Yonder is mansion fair, Gather us there. and BEHOLD A STRANGER AT THE DOOR! He gently knocks, has knocked before, Has waited long, is waiting still; you treat no other friends so ill. But will He prove a Friend indeed! He will-the very Friend you need!The man of Nazarene ‘Tis He, With garments dyed at Calvary.
Older gentlemen might still wear ties -remember: “If your children see you get a spot on your tie they’ll send you to a nursing home!”
May the good Lord bless an’ keep you, Whether near or far away. May you find that long-awaited,
Golden day today . . .
May your troubles all be small ones, And your fortune ten times ten, May the good Lord bless and keep you,
‘Til we meet again . . .
The Cracked Acorn: Door
Weekends and holidays are the prime times for advertisers to stuff flyers into the daily newspapers, adding to what I call the “pulp padding”. You can’t escape a peek at the ones that are the home suppliers. I like the nice color photos of doors of all types. Some of these beauties can stop a vacation to Disney World. If one is installed for your front door I am sure you will fall down and worship its varnished wood and stained floral glass panels. Fingerprints will never mar its glossy sheen and you will hang a sign on its brilliant brass knob requesting everyone to come to the humble back door. A door of this quality could even go as a birthday gift, think about it!
The word door may have entered our language through an English family name, Dore, meaning the entrance to a narrow valley. We use the word every day: Close the door when you leave. She forgot to lock her car door. They live two doors up the street from us. His office is the third door down the hall on the left. A day cannot go by without the use of the word “door.”
The Egyptians put into their tombs a false door. It was to serve as an imaginary passage for the deceased between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Lavish inscriptions were on the false door referring to the countless offerings that the deceased is about to receive. Sometimes a life-sized statue of the deceased was placed before the door as if it had just stepped out of it. (Ancient Egypt From A to Z , Internet Site)
We can’t live without them. They keep the cold drafts of winter outside and the cool air inside during the hot sultry days of summers and keep the swarms of hostile insects outside. Properly fitted, a door can be locked for security purposes. Doors keep us from falling out of our cars. Closed doors can stop the spread of a home fire. Doors give us privacy and absorb outside traffic and neighborhood noises. A door can have many names: trap, stable, barn, French, garden, pet, revolving, and automatic door. Whatever its name, a door serves a very distinct and useful function.
James Rowe (1865-1933) came to America from England in 1889. He settled in Albany, New York. He worked for the railroads and later for music publishers in Texas and Tennessee.
He wrote the words for I WAS SINKING DEEP IN SIN and JUST OUTSIDE THE DOOR (1912) O weary soul the gate is near, in sin why still abide? Both peace and rest are waiting here And You are just outside. Just outside the door, just outside the door, Behold it stands ajar! Just outside the door, just outside the door, So near and yet so far!
An old saying in the south “Katie bar the door” meant “something unstoppable is coming!” and “Katie bar the kitchen door” suggested that you had better watch out!
(May God bless you and all your loved ones!)
The Cracked Acorn: Heartburn
It could be due to that one extra slice of New Year’s pizza that should have been ignored. I have been there and paid my dues to “Heartburn, Inc.” but never received the t-shirt. You can go to your physician as I did and get a prescription when I had over-indulged in the office coffee. Recently, I was told to avoid anything acid in my diet. This includes tomatoes, spicy foods, some fruits and juices, coffee, tea, and caffeine drinks.
The list grows. All the good things in life I like to eat and drink seem to have the skull and crossbones implanted on them. The second time around my medicine man suggested that I try and use over-the-counter (OTC) tablets. I went to the store and started with the cheapest and worked my way up in price, finding no relief as the advertisements promised. At last, I decided that it was time to purchase the most expensive which even on sale was a shocker. The instructions said to take with a glass of water at the start of the day and continue for 14 days. This was to be a complete treatment session.
Day 1, then day 2, and on day 3, I felt much better. When 14 days were completed, I wondered does this work but is this for real? When I fell back into my old ways, I once again went to the 14-day plan, and again it worked. I have to admit that this product does what is printed on the box. I could be a salesman for this company because I can say, “I used this product and it really works!” These are not sugar-coated pills.
Over the years, I have heard the old old advice given to those who are struggling to get control of their lives. Read your Bible! The easy-to-read Word of God has the instructions for daily living and how to become the victor. The Scriptures given to the writers thousands of years ago are still the prescription for comfort and strength today. When administered in the youth of life and continued on through adult maturity, a Biblically founded Christian will be able to say, “I have used this book and followed it and it really works!”
Our nation is anemic when it comes to prayer and even the Saints have to be reminded occasionally that prayer is so necessary for our lives. We must believe that prayer can do many wonderful things for us, or why pray? Heartburn is a physical ailment and can be treated. The relief is affordable and available nearby. Once we know the cause, steps can be taken to eliminate or slow its spread. Heartburn of the spiritual nature is very severe and means that drastic measures are immediately necessary. Its effects are eternally threatening while its death means a whole new world of growth that leads only to our heavenly Father and to the home He has promised to those who believe in Him. (Revelation 2:10)
It is no secret what God can do.
What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.
With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you.
It is no secret what God can do. (hymn- Sacred Selections)
The Cracked Acorn: New Years
New Year’s Day fell on December 25 until Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar in 1582 and changed it to January 1. Janus the god of beginnings and endings had two faces; one looked into the present and the other looked into the past. We may hold an affection for the past that is why we traditionally sing AULD LANG SYNE about “the good old days.”
New Year’s Day on the farm was a quiet day. I remember fallen snow and crisp air. You could shout and it came right back to you. If my uncle was visiting, we would call up Jughead, our dog, and tramp into the fields to scare up a rabbit or two. The day passed quickly walking over the farm. Our first big meal of the year would be a pot of cooked turnip greens seasoned with a ham hock. There was always a bowl of black-eyed peas and plenty of cornbread fresh from the oven. Dessert was bread pudding, or maybe a berry cobbler. My grandmother made fried apple pies from her own dried apple slices. It was still the season for lots of sweet potatoes.
In other countries, New year’s Day is observed in many ways: Austria-they have a roasted pig, Wales- they leave the back door open for the old year to leave, and the front door is opened to admit the new year, In Spain, it is grapes for the day, Sicily- Garfield’s favorite, lasagna, and in China- it is to paint the front door red for good luck and don’t cut yourself with a knife on this day-this means bad luck.
This is also the time to look over the list of the 2021 resolutions and decide if we deserve a passing or a failing grade. The list may have noted these: exercise more, stop some bad habits, be more friendly, improve the mind, and start a new hobby or even try to learn a foreign language.
The New Year may not be our Promised Land. The children of Israel looked forward to the land flowing with milk and honey. It was only after the spies had returned and told of giants in the land that they felt afraid and lost faith in God. Every year may not come up to our expectations but time spares no one and we have only one choice and that is to cross over into a new and yet unmarred year.
The Bible offers these encouragements for the New Year:
“Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,” (Psalm 105:5)
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
“Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
The Cracked Acorn: Christmas
It is God Himself that has made us what we are and given us a new life in His Son. – Ephesians 1:10
Christmas, the holiday season, is the time of the year that seems to come earlier and earlier. No matter how you prepare and plan it seems to elude you and sneak up on you and MERRY CHRISTMAS!
This time of the year brings back memories and gives us the chance to create new ones before the end of the year.
Seeing families shopping for gifts at the major stores, I wonder what their children will remember of the year 2021. We who are older will remember the severe winters with lots of ice and snow. Schools never closed; it was up to you to make it to school. It was still the time when school programs went all out with all kinds of Christmas plays and decorations. There was even a gift exchange for every student and a visit from Santa Claus. I liked the gifts but was never able to become his personal friend and climb upon his lap. There was always lots of good food.
The American family has undergone drastic changes since the start of the nuclear age. Hard times for many have disappeared. If you have a job you have a car so one TV advertisement says. The stores are stocked with every imaginable gadget known to mankind. The fact that we have deep problems in today’s world is ignored by our seemingly prosperous economy. As I write this the sounds of blasting for a new shopping center keep echoing.
The family is in trouble and has been under fire to share its time with other interests. The families of 50 years ago ate daily meals together. More than one-half of the population eat one or more of their meals at fast food places every day. Building relationships takes involvement and attendance. Absent fathers or mothers and even children just do not cut it. Sorry, I did not intend to preach!
Family is what the church is all about. The growth of churches that offer everything is evidence that society is suffering anemically for closeness with others of like thought-regardless of the spiritual damage. As a child, I often asked my father, “Why is the church helping a person or a family that never comes at all to the church building during worship and partake of the Lord’s Supper?” He always answered, “That is what the church is there for.”
Dad is gone and I now answer – THIS IS WHAT THE CHURCH DOES FOR ITS FAMILY & OTHERS!
“we’re part of a family that’s been born again; Part of a family whose love knows no end; For Jesus has saved us and made us his own, Now we’re part of the family that’s on its way home.
What’s for Christmas dinner, Grandpa?”
“taters, possum hearts fricasseed in hog renderings, collard greens, rhubarb pie, and chickpeas fried with breadcrumbs, and also three-bean soup with green onions and ham cookin’ on the front burner and Grandma’s cornbread or freshly baked biscuits. There’s apple and cherry pie served with iced tea or all the hot coffee you can drink.” HEE-HAW!
The Cracked Acorn: Recall
A newspaper article stirred some of my past memories. It caused me to ponder over the wonderful gift that God gives us all; the ability to keep and recall our memories, good and bad. Some of us can recall quickly names and associated information. A fellow worker once brought his retired father through the USGS survey computations section. I told his father my name and the son later mentioned that a month or year from then his father would still recall my name.
It was 1965 in Ethiopia, We were on a project for precise earth shape studies. This required us to be on certain ground points for several days; our work was at night. We had started northeast of the capital and was to end at the port city of Assab on the Red Sea. The people everywhere seemed to be content with the worst conditions of disease I had ever seen. I have often wondered about the small boys with their slingshots tending the family flocks. Had they risen from their lot to positions of power in their government. These youths could have turned the world upside down in these past years. (I Samuel 16:11-13)
There was a pair of young girls with their goats; they had discovered us on our hilly desert survey point. I think they were not only curious but had a need for the large ration metal cans. We could not converse in the Tigrigna language but knew that they did not like, peanut butter and left those cans. Maybe one of them used the metal containers cans to water the goats of a fellow tribe member and as a result, was married into wealth, also, it could be that they are both advocates of women’s rights. The ladies of this country could have used more freedom. (Genesis 24:19-22)
Ethiopia is a beautiful country with its jungles, mountains, and desert scenes. The tourist trade is a big part of their economy. Ethiopians are mentioned 40 times in the Bible. “Can an Ethiopian change his skin, or a leopard his spots? [Then] may ye also do good, who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23) is one mention. In Acts 8:27, Philip baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch, of the court of Candace the queen, scriptures indicate he was her treasurer. Some think that the eunuch went home and later converted the queen to Christianity.
In the years following, sources indicate that not too much has changed in this country. Life expectancy is about 41 years. Disease is still on the rise, especially with Aids. The government has changed. I don’t know if the Church of Christ umbrella factory is still in Addis Ababa. At the time of my visit, they had a small church and were growing. Unfortunately, Ethiopians trained in the USA usually find a way to remain here. Those educated and trained in medicine found it too much a “culture shock” and tried to leave the country for greener pastures. It is a country that needs lots of help to become a major player in today’s market. Our workers and brethren in Ethiopia definitely need our continuing prayers “Of one the Lord has made the race, Thro’ one has come the fall; where sin has gone must go His grace: The Gospel is for all. eely, freely give, From every land they call, Unless they hear they cannot live? The Gospel is for all.” ( Sacred Selections)