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: Time Wings
What time am I afraid? I will trust in thee. (Psalm 56:3)
I’ve heard that time can move fast or slow. I think that it moves the slowest when you are in a store line waiting to pay. This would be at eleven in the morning on a weekday. I have been caught in these and try to reason it out and think that this is life. I do begin to wonder why this person is returning the third time to the car to ask their mother for more money. I notice that the lady in front of me has a fifty-dollar bill ready to pay for a pack of smokes. In the other line (this is a two-line gas convenience store), a patron is turning out his pockets to pay for gasoline. He is beckoning his fellow passengers to come in and help with the money. The person at the head of my line is using a credit card to pay for a loaf of bread. Wow! At card rates, this loaf may become rather pricey. (Oh, I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away and be at rest. – Ps. 55:6)
When I finally pay and escape this store, I wind up in another line at the grocery store. No 10 or 15 items line here! You wait your turn. Carts are piled high. Food has not gone out of style. Are these people inviting everyone in the nearby town to lunch and dinner? I begin to think of ways to let management know that life is threescore & ten. I am there in life, so could I cut to the front line and enjoy my remaining time elsewhere?
The news media tells us that there are more senior citizens yearly. Well, I think that there should be stores for us. We should be able to have all the time we need to pick over the shelves without concern about those long lines. It is cutting into our time when we observe the weather and watch the clouds. Someone close to me will also mention that it is probably shortening my naps. I would miss the little ones. I couldn’t go without all the cellphone conversations that I am party to while in line.
When the cell plays its merry tune, the rest of us become invisible. “Yes, Aunt Bea is doing better if she would only take her pills and follow the doctor’s advice. Yes, I know the new Mercedes is in the showroom.” Parents are using the cell to track the kids at home, or are they at home? I can’t help but wonder if our native Americans did the same thing with smoke signals. Two puffs-your mother-in-law is here from Shawnee. Three puffs-are you on your way home? Four puffs-it’s buffalo again tonight. One puff- a long and slow one meaning “I still love you.”
Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? (Psalm 89:47)
So be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good. (Ephesians 5:15,16- The Living New Testament))
The customer ahead of me at the supermarket checkout counter had written a check for her purchases and was waiting for the clerk to package them. Instead, citing “company policy,” he asked her for identification. The shopper looked astounded, then finally managed to say, “But David, I’m your mother!” ( SUPERMARKET humor)
The Cracked Acorn: 2 or more
Memory took me back to my childhood school days. Students were seated alphabetically. This was the seating arrangement for the year. Attendance was called before the start of class every school day. It was the duty of your parents to get you to school in all kinds of weather. Two-foot snow could close schools. At the end of the year, attendance awards were given.
After worship service long ago at Great Falls Church of Christ, a lady visitor asked if I would write in her journal that she had attended the church with us that day. I directed her to one of the elders, and whether he signed, I don’t know. I had never heard of a church that demanded proof that you were in worship on a Sunday morning.
Church attendance has become a concern, not only in the U.S. but beyond our shores. Total commitment programs, care groups, and other good ideas to improve attendance do help but eventually peak and level off. Many are placing the blame on the numerous secular activities that overlap or happen at the same time as worship.
We could also add cell phones, television, and the internet that have their tentacles into our prime time. Sports place stress on members to enjoy seeing a good Sunday game in person. Our fast-paced society calls for many to have a varied work schedule, and often Sunday is the only day off to rest up for the next work week. Shopping centers and many stores are open every day and even 24/7. Newspaper chains are crying the “blues” that people are not reading, and we are getting the television news from our recliners.
This is interesting! An issue of U.S. News & World Report stated that Europe may be Islamic by the end of the 21st century. This is linked to the banning of religious symbols and the failure to mention the effect of Christianity on the populace. Humanism has given rise to the worst ideologies of the 20th century. Spiritual boredom has given rise to hyperindividualism and a lack of confidence in the future. Many have turned away from the faith of their forefathers and have become involved in mystical ecstatic forms of spiritual experience. Populist Christian movements have claimed hundreds of thousands of young followers who are seeking to make Christian beliefs real in their lives and work. Christianity has become diluted with diverse issues.
This is supposedly happening in Europe, should we be thinking it cannot happen on this continent? Time will tell. God knows the future. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” (Matthew 6:34)
I LOVE THY KINGDOM LORD, THE HOUSE OF THINE ABODE; THE CHURCH OUR BLEST REDEEMER SAVED WITH HIS OWN PRECIOUS BLOOD. I LOVE THY CHURCH O GOD! HER WALLS BEFORE THEE STAND, DEAR, AS THE APPLE OF THINE EYE, AND GRAVEN ON THY HAND. FOR HER MY TEARS SHALL FALL, FOR HER MY PRAYERS ASCEND; TO HER MY CRIES AND TOILS BE GIV’N, TILL TOILS AND CARES SHALL END. BEYOND MY HIGHEST JOY I PRIZE HER HEAV’NLY WAYS, HER SWEET COMMUNION, SOLEMN VOWS, HER HYMNS OF LOVE AND PRAISE. ( SACRED SELECTIONS )
Satan exists and eternal salvation is possible only through His Son. Jesus lived a sinless life on earth. God is all-knowing, all-powerful, the perfect deity who created the universe and still rules today. “Happy is that people, in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 144:15)
The Cracked Acorn: Silence
A fellow lady employee has severe hearing loss. When she got married, and the children came along, she had to resort to an aid to hear the children at night in their bedroom. She was so adapted to silence that the least sound now kept her awake; she could hear all the household and neighborhood noises. (She was willing to take a giant step to have a family and children!)
We live in a noisy and busy world. Places that promise peace and quiet are almost nonexistent. Out of the turmoil of “Why can’t we pray in the public schools” has come “the moment of silence.” I am all for it. But it cannot last since silence is defined by the absence of speech or an agreement not to speak. We are warned that this interferes with our country’s right to free speech. One poll brought out that it was “cool,” it brought into the school a sense of unity among the students, and that it was a good time to reflect on nice things.
Those against the “moment” say that it is an open field to spread religion during the silence and bring their own materials that could conflict with school policy. If prayer in any form is allowed on school grounds, then all persuasion groups must be allowed to pray in their own ways at some time during the day. We worship God but find out that it is not the same God to some. What happened to ONE NATION UNDER ONE GOD?
Paul tried to reason with the Greeks on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-31), drawing their attention to their noted “unknown God.” If I have fallen off my soapbox and can’t get up, it is because the “moment of silence” is a speeding bullet deflected into the public school system that should have stayed in our homes. If we had turned off the TVs and stereo systems and enjoyed the “silence” with our families, this would never have become a national issue.
“To sit silently takes a lifetime to learn. It seems that only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young must break the silence. Silence is pure and holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. ” (from The Notebook)
And the people bowed and prayed;
To the neon God they made,
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming, and the signs said,
‘The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls.
And whispered in the sounds of silence! (Simon & Garfunkel)
The Cracked Acorn: The Foot Step
The day had been busy and very rewarding. Uriel’s talent with wood had finally begun to pay off with work that took several days to complete. The latest was to start repairs on one of the Jerusalem city gates. The advance of money for materials had enabled him to hire an extra man to help to hew the rough wood before placement. Sunup till sundown was about all the body could stand. Uriel was all smiles when he saw his young son and daughter run to meet him. Ezra and Naomi liked to be around the shop but never were allowed inside during the busy hours of the day.
There were always plenty of wood chips and bits of leftover lumber to grace the home fire. Days were very hot but could be chilly after dark. Yes, they were having a fun time hurrying about the shop sweeping and tossing cedar bits at each other. Life was good.
Uriel’s wife Mary had never felt better. She had overcome her illness of several months. One day she was near collapse, and the next day, humming about the house. Busy with the shop’s work, he had never asked and was never told if the doctors had found a cure for her mysterious sickness. Yes, God was good to his family, and Uriel thought he should offer up the proper sacrifices at the temple to express his thanksgiving for all their blessings, but why at the moment – soldiers at the door?
“Uriel, the carpenter?” asked the soldier in charge.
“Yes, I am he. ”
“I have been sent to ask you to prepare three crosses to be used on the morrow to crucify two thieves and a condemned man.” The soldier, his stare, was telling Uriel that it would be done without question.
Uriel did not know why his shop had been singled out for this odious task, a waste of energy and time. “Yes, I will do my best. I think that I have some rough timbers that can be sawed and nailed together within a few hours.” He would have contributed to the cause of ridding the area of criminals.
“Sergeant, may I ask who the third man is?”
“Carpenter Uriel, the man is the Nazarene who preaches that he is the son of the Jew’s God, known as Jesus by his followers.” The soldiers left.
“Ezra, would you help your father and bring back one of the workers. We may have to burn the oil lamps into the night to finish this extra work.” The son was glad to help his father with the important task.
Uriel felt a tug on his arm. It was tiny Naomi, upset and close to tears.
“Father, the man Jesus is the one who helped mother. She got through the crowd at the market and pulled on his robe. Jesus turned and saw her and healed her.”(Matthew 9:20-22)
“Naomi, are you sure ?” Uriel had never known his daughter to bend the truth.
“I am sure I was right behind mother and saw him. The touch of his clothing healed her. Isn’t there anything we can do?”
Uriah was not sure what he could do. “Jacob, do we still have the extra cedar logs we smoothed for my house. Please bring those out and make sure that there is not one splinter or rough edge to be found on them. I don’t wish to add to this man’s pain and make a small wide footrest. (This may have happened.)
“And when they had mocked Him, they took off the purple from Him, and put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him. And they compel one Simon, a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear His cross.” (Mark 15:20,21)
The Cracked Acorn: Three Crosses
On July 7, 2022, I drove to see one of the remaining Cross Clusters south of Culpeper. The history of this landmark is:
On October 6, 1993, Bernard Coffindaffer died. He was 68. This was the end of an ambitious project that came out of “a genuine, marvelous, glorious vision” to plant crosses throughout the world. He obediently spent 2 million dollars in the last years of his life, putting these clusters in 29 states, the District of Columbia, Zambia, and The Philippines. There are at least 1,864 and may be more since he listed their locations on small pieces of paper.
The Cross Clusters represent the two thieves and Christ. Coffindaffer said that the crosses infer, “Not for saints or sinners but everyone that Jesus died for our sins and He’s coming again.”
These California Douglas Firs stand at 20 and 25 feet. The outside ones are angel blue, and the center is Jerusalem gold. At the erection of each Cross Cluster, a service was held. He said unto the people and His disciples, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34)-was often quoted. Prayers for repentance and forgiveness of sins were offered. Coffindaffer once said, “The Crosses speak peace within as we struggle without.”
Mr. Coffindaffer was born in West Virginia and was left an orphan at an early age. He graduated from high school at fourteen and spent six years in the Marine Corps in the Pacific theater and was at Iwo Jima and Nagasaki, Japan. He graduated with a business degree from the University of Charleston. He massed a fortune in the oil and coal businesses. At forty-two, he declared himself a minister and served seven small churches in West Virginia. The Cross Clusters have been the subject of a documentary “Point Man for God” and part of a public television series “Different Drummer.”
On this foggy morning, I thought of pictures I have and visioned what it would be like to be crucified and lifted 25 feet in plain view for anyone to see.
Like all plans of “mice and men,” the crosses are being lost now in the hustle and bustle of our world. This cluster is fighting to stay visible among commercial motel and restaurant signs. I saw how hard it must be to appreciate it at 55 mph. You can easily miss this one set in a low valley.
The center cross is gold, while the outside ones are white. All three are peeling. Christ’s cross is wrapped in strings of small lights that may have been on during the Christmas season. If you mention crosses today to someone, they will talk of the recently made roadside memorials where fatal accidents have occurred.
The original statement of the Clusters was to remind travelers to never forget the OLD RUGGED CROSS. The problems of our society have attempted to “fog over” the Crosses, but if you know where to look, there’s still hope, and the ONE who hangs there still loves you and cares. It will always be the first thing you will see when the dew and fog have gone away for a new day.
“To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).
The Cracked Acorn: Memories
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” – 1 Peter 5: 8
Long before politicians paved the county roads, I was in grade school, on the Kentucky farm, walking the mile across the fields to catch the school bus, rain or shine. I eventually had several years under my belt and I talked my father into a visit to the Western Auto hardware store that sold bicycles. My father soon saw that the price for a new one was too much, fortunately, a used one was there taken in on a new one. I didn’t care new or old if it rolled, I wanted it. It may have been $30 dollars. Now the way to the school bus was at least a mile and a half but easily conquered on my bicycle. Father told me to chain it to the utility pole at the bus stop and never be out on the road, and I did.
When the school bus left me at the end of the day, I was on my bicycle and down the county gravel road, there was a small hill with a steep grade where I would get off and push the bicycle to the top and off down the farm road to the house. It happened that one of these afternoons, I was off, pushing the bicycle and a car came along on the other side and stopped. The driver was eager to engage me in talking about what was my day at school and so forth, and kept mentioning that I was probably in a rush to get home and have a sausage biscuit and he talked on, returning to the sausage biscuit.
I was getting leery of the vocal routine, so I jumped on the bicycle and willed all my might to spin back on the gravel and up the hill, never looking back and never, later, mentioning this event to my parents. Kids do that for fear that this could lead to tightening liberties. Thereafter, when I was off the bus, I pumped as hard and fast to spin up the hill and a left onto the home farm road; in later years, the school bus route changed and then stopped at the farm road . by that time I had moved to a used motor scooter. I never forgot why the man kept talking about the sausage biscuit, my parents and I never ate between meals, no sausage biscuits, obliviously this motorist was not well acquainted with farm life.
The wheel of time spins rapidly to Herndon, I am now married; a wife and son, a nice home, and a new VW bus. It’s the end of the school day, I am grilling steaks outside. I look up and a small school girl with her backpack is coming down the driveway. Her words, ” I think someone is following me!” She had seen the Red sign inside the window that we are a “safe” place for children. “Go inside, my wife and son are watching TV, give me a few minutes and we will take you home.”
Have times changed, “Maybe, but play it safe!”