Two Trees … Two Lives

As we walked through the Redwood Forest in Northern California, we were awed by the beauty, the grandeur of these magnificent trees that average 240 feet in height. I grew up in Southern California but rarely did my parents have opportunity to go that far north. Eight hundred miles was a long way in the 1950s, and I saw the Redwoods only one time in my childhood.

But this was 2018, Carol & I were on our year-long jaunt around the US of A, and childhood memories came flooding through the canals of my mind. On November 14 we visited the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and on December 8, we visited the Calaveras Big Trees State Park – in the snow, of course – with our son, Ron, and his family.

There are basically two divisions of giant Redwoods: Giant Sequoias (sequoiadendron gigantem) are found in the California Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Coastal Redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) grow near the Northern California coast.

Some Giant Sequoias grow 300 feet tall, have a diameter up to 35 feet (that’s almost 110 feet in circumference!), have a root system which can cover several acres, and be more than 3,000 years old. For history buffs: a tree that old sprouted about 100 years after Charlemagne died, the timeframe when Eric the Red (Viking) established the first colony in Greenland, and the beginning of the Mayan Post-Classical period. The Coastal Redwoods can grow 370 feet tall – the tallest trees in the world – with trunks up to about 30 feet in diameter (95 feet in circumference).

Loggers had cut about 90% of these colossal trees for housing, furniture, etc.; but various conservation groups appealed to Congress to preserve the Redwoods, and the state and national park systems succeeded in rescuing the remaining 10%.

 As Carol and I walked among the trees, we saw a number of them that looked as though two or three had been planted together. Standing very close together with 8-foot diameter trunks, it looked as though someone had poured liquid bark on the trees ten feet off the ground which solidified, connecting the trees. Looking at this photo carefully, you can see where the bark has joined the two trees.

Yes, they had grown up together – the seeds having landed about ten feet apart. As seedlings, ten feet is a long distance. But as they grew and their trunks began touching, a phenomenon called inosculation took place. This funny word means to connect or join; to become one or make continuous; to unite.

As each of them grew in width at about an inch per year, they began touching in 120 years. As the trunks or branches rubbed together and wore off the bark, the live fibrous tissues touched each other and began intertwining. They didn’t get infected, and the trees became one plant, sharing nutrients and water.

Depending on how close trees are, either the bark joins and becomes one covering around both trees, or the tree trunks themselves physically join and become one tree. The trees that fuse together like that are called Hugging Trees. And together, they are stronger than individual trees.

Trees and bushes are not the only organisms that experience inosculation. This interesting phenomenon takes place when a person receives a skin graft. Through inosculation, the blood vessels and skin tissues connect, intertwine, and become one.

As I stood in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park gazing at these two magnificent works of God that had become one, I began thinking about my relationship with Carol.

We were born in different states. Eighteen years later we met in Southern California in college. Both of us lived on campus, and – attracted to each other – we saw each other in classes, during meals in the cafeteria, and in the choir.

Married August 22, 1966, we began growing together – yes, including rubbing each other the wrong way sometimes. But we didn’t allow the irritations, the inconveniences, the frustrations, and occasional anger to infect us as we wore off the rough edges; and over the years we became one in many ways.

We share the same house, the same joys, the same children, the same grandchildren, the same church, the same God. We have the same basic goals in life. We even react in much the same way, and at times spontaneously come up with the same ideas. We’ve grown strong together.

Two trees…two lives. It’s amazing how two individuals can develop a strong marriage if they stay together, weather the storms of life, and learn to truly love each other.

Reaching for Life

I’ve been looking at my pictures of the redwood forest in Northern California. The trees are big! Our pine tree in back yard that is over two and a half feet in diameter looks big; but it is small compared to a relatively small five-foot diameter redwood tree. Amazingly, redwoods that are 10-18 feet in diameter are common, and it staggers the imagination knowing that the diameter of the General Sherman Redwood is over 32 feet!

A typical farmed redwood tree may weigh 50,000 pounds, but some redwoods weigh over 2,000,000 pounds! Interestingly, about half the weight is in the water. The redwood bark may be 2-feet thick, and a huge redwood tree may provide wood to build 30-35 homes.

Water is necessary for life. The redwoods grow to 250-350 feet tall and require over 100 gallons per tree per day. But it rains a lot in these forests, snows in the winter, and fog is prevalent; therefore, they are seldom thirsty. The root systems of redwoods are shallow, and that would mean a heavy wind or flood could topple them easily. But as they reach for life-giving water, a mature tree spreads its roots over 2 to 4 acres; and with 8 to 20 trees per acre, the root systems overlap and intertwine which results in a strong foundation for these top-heavy giants. They effectively support each other in rough times.

Light is also necessary for life. God engineered plants to reach for or aim toward light. This is called phototropism. The same is true of these giant trees. Programmed to be tall anyway, they continue to reach for life – for sunlight. Lone trees out in the open will not be as tall as those in the forest with a thick canopy of foliage; and they are also open to more danger. There is protection among its neighbors.

The mature redwoods are basically fire-resistant. The thick, fibrous bark does not burn easily; and as a protective shell, it insulates the tree which allows it to survive most fires. The thick bark also provides protection of another kind: it has the ability to withstand fungus, disease, and insect attacks. This is why these trees live so long. The oldest known redwoods are about 3,000 years old. Only the bristlecone pines (about 5,000 years old) are known to be older.

Looking at the pictures of these magnificent trees, my mind gravitates toward humanity. I see similarities. No – not about size, but about other features and qualities.

The redwood’s root system covers a wide area which gives it stability in inclement weather. In the same way, our roots in healthy relationships with family, church, and society give us stability during “inclement” situations such as death, job loss, health deterioration, and more. In our many storms of life, we need each other for emotional and physical support. But our strong roots in a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ will help us even more in this life on earth, as well as throughout eternity.

 A straight tree is stronger than a crooked tree, and its wood is useable in more situations. Likewise, a morally and intellectually straight man is stronger, trustworthy, where an immoral or double-minded man is weak, confuses people, and leads people down the path of destruction.

Trees must reach for the light to survive. In the same manner, man must reach for light – truth – to survive. We cannot survive very long, either societally or spiritually, if we live in spiritual and moral darkness. We cannot mature as morally strong individuals if we resist truth.

As the thick bark protects the trees, living in truth will protect us. Knowing the truth about various aspects of life – food, environment, chemicals, health, morals, physiology, and a lot more – can help us live safely. And purposefully living according to the truths found in the Bible will protect us in many ways most people don’t yet understand.

As the trees depend on water from the sky for life, man depends on guidance from the sky – direction from God – for life. Psalm 1:1-2 tell us not to follow the advice of ungodly people, but to meditate on and live according to the words of the Lord. Psalm 33:11 tells us that God’s plans are good, healthy, and beneficial. And Proverbs 14:11-12 warn us that man’s apparently powerful plans will fail in the end, but God’s seemingly weak plans are actually strong and will stand forever. Trust in Jesus: Reach for Life.

Don’t Oil the Roller!

One of my occupations in our early marriage was home appliance repairman. Although my journeyman certification was with the Frigidaire Company, I repaired all makes.

We lived in a town of about 20,000 population, and with only three repairmen in town, I often received calls in the evening. Depending on planned family activities or the nature of the call, I would either go to work after dinner, or schedule it for later.

One evening, Carol prepared a Chef Boyardee dinner. I remember the slogan: “Thank goodness for Chef Boyardee.” Two-year-old Jeremy was doing quite well maneuvering his spoon to his mouth without spilling too much nourishment; but as you can guess, some portions were reaching the floor. That was okay because our Maine Coon cat, Taffy, was on duty.

After dinner, all six of us – kids, parents, and cat – were having a pleasant evening playing Toss-Across. That’s a game of tic-tac-toe played by tossing small beanbags to flip the squares (with Os and Xs) on the large plastic frame ten to twelve feet away. During my turn, the phone rang.

“Good evening.”

“Mr. Linzey, do you work on Frigidaire washers?”

“Sure do. The company calls them Roller-matic machines.”

“My machine is squealing – how does the thing work, and can it be fixed?”

“Number one: Don’t oil the roller! There are no gears, belts, pulleys, or clutch plates – just four rollers that are operated by the direction of the spin of the motor and action of the solenoids. When the motor spins clockwise, the machine agitates the clothes. When the motor reverses, the tub spins out the water. But don’t oil the roller.”

“How do I get it to stop squealing?”

I told him the part number of the complaining roller, where to order it, and how to replace it. Since it was a difficult procedure, I also told him that if he ordered the $24 roller, I could replace it for a service call of $30 if he wanted me to. Then I warned him, “If you oil the roller, the machine will stop operating altogether.”

“Thank you, Mr. Linzey. I’ll think on it.”

I turned to Carol and said, “He’ll oil the roller.” Then we returned to the game. Carol won.

About 20-minutes later, the phone rang again.

“Good evening.”

“Mr. Linzey, the squealing stopped, but now the washer won’t do anything.”

“You oiled the roller, didn’t you?”

“Yes, to stop the squealing. What do I do now? And can you come over tonight?”

“There’s nothing I can do for you tonight. But now you’ll order all four rollers for $98, and if you want me to replace them, my labor will be $90.” He hung up, and we continued our family night. I never heard from him again.

Six-year-old Darlene asked, “Daddy, why didn’t he do what you said?”

“Good question, Sweetheart. Most the time when something squeals, squeaks, or whines, a little oil will reduce the friction, the noise will stop, and things will run more smoothly. That man figured he knew more than I did, and probably thought I was just trying to get some business for myself.”

“He messed up, didn’t he?”

“He sure did.”

That was over 50 years ago, and since then I’ve met many others who ignore truth and choose to do things to please themselves. The following are three well-documented examples.

Tobacco killed over 480,000 people in the US in 2018, and Vaping is now killing people, but people still suck on those things. Drugs – both legal and illegal – and alcohol kill people by the multi-thousands, but people either don’t care, or think they’re immune to the results. Immorality of all kinds has been ruining lives, families, and societies for millennia; but instead of facing the problems and correcting them, many people choose to live a raunchy life and hope they don’t get caught in the aftermath.

But when they reap what they sewed, they try to “oil the roller” to make the results of their immoral, senseless, and irresponsible decisions evaporate. They think hiding the symptoms will change the results. But that never solves the problems.

Proverbs 16:25 tells us man’s way of thinking often leads to death. Therefore, we need to face up to the truth found in the Bible and in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Romans 12:2 encourages us to change the way we think (change the roller), and Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to trust in the Lord with our whole life.

Do not attempt to erase the symptoms of sin and evil. Don’t oil the roller. Instead, turn to Jesus; He is on-call 24/7, and ready to help, and He’ll meet you right now.

The Positive Side of Life

Have you noticed that I like to be joyful, happy? I like to laugh and have a good time. I learned that from my dad who used to say, “We’re only going this way once; we might as well make the most of it!”  Of course, Dad meant that within a totally Christian lifestyle.

Should we be serious? Yes, but we don’t have to somber to be serious. Just after the North lost a major battle in the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln told a joke in Congress and was challenged by his Secretary of State.

“Mr. President, don’t you think you ought to be serious in a time like this?”

President Lincoln replied, “If I took everything serious, I would lose my mind.” Lincoln understood that a little humor alleviated a lot of mental turmoil.

We sometimes forget that God’s original intention for all mankind was to be joyful, happy while we fulfill His will for our lives – even if we encountered difficulties.

Do you know that the word joy, its derivatives, and related words are in the Bible over 250 times? God approves of joy and happiness as we serve Him. One of the words is rejoicing which is “celebration of thanksgiving; making happy sounds; laughing, having a good time; being cheerful.”

Proverbs 15:13 tells us that a cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.

Proverbs 18:14 informs us that the will to live can get you through sickness, but life is difficult with a broken spirit.

Proverbs 15:15 tells it from the opposite viewpoint: “Every day is hard for those who suffer, but a happy heart is like a continual feast.” In other words, even if we’re poor and are struggling, a cheerful heart fills the day with song.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A happy heart is like good medicine, but a broken spirit drains your strength.” And I have found that a cheerful disposition is good for our health, but gloom and doom leave us bone-tired.

If you find that the cares of life are getting you down, remember the prayer of Francis of Assissi. It goes something like this:

          Lord, grant me the strength to change the things I can change;       

          Grant me the courage to accept the things I cannot change;

          And grant me the wisdom to know the difference.

Keep in mind that facing each situation with a cheerful disposition can make the difference between success or failure.

A truly joyful person is one who can enjoy the scenery even on a detour. Some of Carol’s and my more enjoyable traveling moments have been on routes we didn’t plan on, and it happened again just today. When things seem to go wrong, we try to find the good in it.

Normally, joyful people are healthier, they are more creative, they are more alert, and are more fun to be around. Why? Joyful people enjoy life! And joy is contagious. (So is depression, and that’s a problem!)

Joyful people don’t usually get stopped by negative influences, but more freely release or express the creativity that our Lord placed within them. Joyful people are generally more productive because they are prone to stay focused on what God wants them to do in this life.

It says in Nehemiah 8:10, “Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

That last phrase could be translated, “…for the joy that the Lord gives you will make you strong.”

Forget Murphy’s Law that says, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. That’s pessimistic and can slow you down. Instead, think about how you can make things right.

Let’s focus on and dwell on the last part of Romans 8:28, “…And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  

So let the joy of the Lord saturate your bones, your mind, your spirit. If something seems to go wrong, turn to God and ask Him for understanding and guidance; and then you be the human element that turns things around for the better.

Join me on the positive side of life.

Hardships

The word hardship came from England back in the 1200s, and it described sturdy ships that endured the brutal storms of the North Atlantic.

Today it’s defined as a condition that is difficult to endure. It refers to suffering, deprivation, and oppression: something hard to bear, lack of comfort, constant toil or danger.

As we think about hardship, we need to remember that life is not supposed to be about us. Life, including eternal life, is about Jesus and our relationship with Him. However, although Jesus should be the center of all human existence, most people put Him on the sidelines, or not in their life at all.

Then, generating our own hardships, people get all limp and wishy-washy about life, or get hard and bitter. We have a difficult time doing things God’s way because we don’t spend time getting to know our heavenly Father.

But God has been saying all along: Please give me the reins. I can tame this team of horses, but you need to cooperate.

A young woman who didn’t know how to cooperate with the Lord told her mother about how life was so hard for her. There seemed to be no end to her problems, and she wanted to give up. She couldn’t understand that she was creating most of the hardships for herself.

Her mother sent up a silent prayer, then took her daughter to the kitchen. Filling three pots with water, she placed them on the stove and turned the heat to high. In the first pot she placed carrots; in the second, she placed a couple of eggs; and in the last, she poured a cup of coffee grounds.

Without saying a word, she let them boil for about twenty minutes, then turned off the burners. She fished the carrots and eggs out and placed them in separate bowls. Then she ladled the coffee grounds out and placed them in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she said, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee grounds.”

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots and peel an egg. The daughter noted that the carrots were soft and the eggs were hard boiled.

“Now, check the coffee grounds and water.”

The daughter smiled. “The coffee grounds look the same but wet. But the water was now … coffee, and I think I’ll have some. Mother, what are you getting at?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the very same adversity: 212-degree boiling water for twenty minutes. Each reacted differently. The carrots went in strong, hard, and stiff, but after sitting in boiling water, they softened and became weak. Inside the shell, the eggs had been fragile. Their thin outer shell had protected the liquid interior, but after bumping around in the boiling water, the insides became hardened. The ground coffee was unique. The oppressive adversity (boiling water) released color and flavor.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When hardship knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg … or … coffee?”

The daughter, drinking her coffee, understood the lesson.

So I ask you, dear reader: Are you the carrot that is strong when there are no problems, but with pain and adversity you wilt and lose your strength?

Are you the egg that starts with a malleable attitude, but becomes hardened with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a break-up, a financial hardship, or some other trial, you became cynical? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside are you inflexible?

Or are you like the coffee? Do you change the circumstances that bring the pain? When things are at their worst, do you cave in or help change the situation around you?

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, how do you handle adversity?

Remembering that hot water releases the fragrance and flavor of the coffee grounds, perhaps you can remember to sincerely turn to God for guidance. He is always willing to help us. God tells us in Isaiah 43:2-3, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

That is true if we cooperate with God. How do you respond to hardships?

The Calaveras Jumping Frog

I had no idea what to expect when Carol and I went to San Andreas to visit our son and his family. Our first three nights were in the town named Angels Camp just eleven miles south.

No; that isn’t a place where celestial beings hunted and camped out. It is a town started by Henri Angell in 1848 as a gold mining town. Originally named Carson’s Creek, the town was incorporated under the name Angels in 1912 (located in Calaveras County) and eventually renamed to Angels Camp.

Although more than $20,000,000 in gold was processed there in the middle to late 1800s, one thing brought fame to both the town and a man: a story about a frog.

Sam Clemens, under the pen name of Mark Twain, was down on his luck and came to try his hand at panning for gold in the winter of 1864-1865. He didn’t do very well during his 88 days here in the California hills, but he heard a story in one of the taverns about a jumping frog. The veracity of the story is questionable; but embellishing it even further, Mark Twain wrote it up and sent it to his newspaper, The Territorial Enterprise, in Virginia City, Nevada.

That story, only 2,637 words including the title (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras by Mark Twain), brought him immediate fame and fortune; that story became his “gold mine.”

Our son, Ron, took me to visit the site of his cabin on Jackass Hill where Mark Twain lived for almost three months. The hill received that name because at least once a week, a caravan of up to 200 donkeys with supplies for the miners in Carson Creek (Angels Camp) would stop there for the night.

Today, the main feature of the Calaveras County Fair is the frog-jumping contest. It is called the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee and is one the longest-running events in the state of California—going back to 1893. Of course, as with any good county fair, it includes entertainment, livestock, food, music, and crafts.

The frog-jumping contest is usually in the third weekend of May; and in a town of about 3,900 population, about 50,000 visitors attend the jubilee. People can bring their own frogs or rent them from a company in town (who catch the amphibians in the local ponds). The winner of the contest each year gets a plaque and $900 in cash. But if a frog beats the world record of 21 feet, 5 ¾ inches, the owner gets a World Record Holder title and $5,000 cash. Now maybe you can see why this is a big deal in Calaveras County.

Frogs are placed at the starting line. They get three jumps. The actual distance they jump is immaterial – it’s how close the critter gets to the finish line that counts. They seldom jump in a straight line, but you should hear the noise of the crowd as they both cheer the critters and scare the daylights out of them.

Another event that takes place is the Mark Twain Wild West Fest on the third Saturday of October. Gold Rush village is a kid’s area with fence-painting, knot-tying, a petting zoo, historic town with candle and soap-making, and more. There is gold-rush era music, and in honor of Mark Twain, a liar’s contest. That’s a real hoot!

Mark Twain was a good story-teller. In 1899 he wrote an article titled, “How to Tell a Story.” He said, “The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic and the witty story upon the matter.”

Twain learned to tell stories in a dead-pan manner. The audience would be in a gale of laughter while Twain would sit there and watch them. That made it even funnier.

Mark Twain sent his story about the Calaveras County frog contest to The Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada. I read recently that although the paper had gone out of business sometime ago, it is now back in operation. It was in this newspaper that Twain wrote, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

Angels Camp is about 132 miles east of San Francisco by road, and about 80 miles southeast from Sacramento. My favorite eating establishment in town is called Round-Table Pizza, and the best ice cream place is called Yummy Ha-Ha.

Jesus Overruled Physics and Politics

Before Jesus was born, His title was “The Word.” John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 tells us that the Word became a human and lived among us. God, the Word, was born under the name of Yehoshua (the Lord is Salvation) and translated into English as Joshua. Translated from Hebrew into Greek, his name is Iesous, and then translated into English is Jesus.

Historical records verify that Jesus was born in Bethlehem; lived in Egypt, Nazareth, and Galilee (and several other places), and His vocation was carpenter and stone mason. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus was no wimp. Although He had a gentle disposition, He was muscular, physically tough, and had a will of iron. Those who were hurting or oppressed received gentle looks of compassion, but some of His adversaries shriveled under his steely glare!

Jesus had no identity crisis. He knew who He was and knew why He left heaven to live on earth. This was verified in Luke 2:48-49. Joseph and Mary were looking for Jesus and found Him in the temple bewildering the teachers of the law. When Mary asked twelve-year-old Jesus why He didn’t stay with them, Jesus responded, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus never did anything worthy of execution, so why was He crucified?

A sacrifice had to be made to rescue us from the black hole of oblivion called hell so that we could live with God forever in heaven. But to complete this liberating task, the sacrifice could not remain dead. Only God could accomplish this other-worldly task, and that’s why Jesus came.

Historical records verify that multi-thousands of people, including the Roman Emperor, heard that Jesus had risen from the dead, although most folks didn’t want to believe it. When the guards told the leaders of the Sanhedrin that Jesus had left the tomb, the leaders paid them to lie and say that Jesus’ disciples took His body from the tomb while they were sleeping. But that lie was absurd. Any reasonable child understands that we don’t know what’s happening while we’re asleep.

In 1546 AD, John Heywood said, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” That reminds me of the verse in Jeremiah 5:21, “Listen, you foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear” (NLT). Both Jeremiah and John were speaking to people who refused to believe the obvious: those who closed their eyes and ears to reality. But Jesus was seen by many hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people during the forty days after He left the tomb. Jesus is alive!

Myths and legends have been created by those who refused to accept the fact that Jesus is alive, and I’ve been asked a number of times what happened to Him? The greatest history book in the world – the Bible – answers that question.

In Acts 1:9-11, after Jesus gave parting instructions to the hundreds of people standing with Him on the hill, He left earth under his own power. The verses say, “…as they were watching, He was lifted up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. As He was going, they were looking into the sky. Suddenly, two men wearing white clothes stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? Jesus, whom you saw taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you saw him go’” (NCV).

Not only did innumerable people see Jesus for forty days after He walked out of the tomb, but hundreds of people also watched Jesus overrule gravity and ascend into the sky. As He disappeared into the clouds the angel told them how Jesus would return.

Return? How? Why?

Jesus was not ruled by the laws of physics nor the pressures of politics, and the same will be true at His next appearance. Accompanied by myriads of angels and people, Jesus will come out of the sky under His own power. He will end the prevailing wars and put an end to all evil empires, corrupt democracies, and inadequate kingdoms. Jesus will set up His own Kingdom, and those whom He calls righteous will rule with him.

This is not the end of the story: read the Bible for more.

Suicide Doesn’t Help

Carol and I had been at the Niagara Falls for five minutes when the State Trooper walked up and asked, “Sir, I don’t understand a thing any these folks are saying, but you look like you speak English. Have you heard anything about a man jumping over the edge?”

“No, sir. I’ve been here for about five minutes, and I haven’t heard anything about that.”

 “The rumor is that he jumped over about seven minutes ago. If you hear anything about it, I’d appreciate it if you’d find me and let me know. I’ll be in the State Trooper booth over there.”

“Yes, sir. Will do.”

An estimated 12,000,000 people visit the Falls annually, and every year about 40 people are killed going over the Falls – most of them suicides. The horrendous water pressure mangles the person against the rocks below and sometimes the bodies are never found.

We walked to the railing that is supposed to keep people out of the Niagara River. Here is basic information about the Falls.

The water plunges onto the rocks and slowly erodes the cliff at the rate of less than a foot per year. The confluence from the Canadian Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls creates the large whirlpool below. The American Niagara plunges down a total of 167-188 feet (depending on the specific location), but the water hits the mound of boulders around 70-110 feet.

The river flows about 25 miles per hour with an average of 150,000 gallons going over the edge each second; but the highest recorded volume was about 700,000 gallons per second. Its speed is estimated to be 68 mph as it hits the jagged boulders with multiple tons of pressure.

On the lighter side: As I read other information about the five Great Lakes, the Niagara River, and the Falls, I leaned back and laughed. For an unknown number of centuries, the Laurentide Ice Sheet covered Canada and a portion of the Northern US. According to one theory, the last ice age ended about 18,000 years ago, and the ice sheet which gouged out the lakes began receding.

I read: “20,000 years ago, earth started to warm, and the Laurentide Ice Sheet began to disappear. By approximately 10,500 BC, the Niagara Peninsula was free of the ice.”

This is why I laughed. Man is accused of causing global warming, but man wasn’t capable of generating substantial local heat until about 1500 BC, and no substantial regional heat until the 1700s AD. But the ice sheet began melting around 18,000 BC.

If man wasn’t the culprit 20,000 years ago, what caused the global warming back then? For that matter, what caused the earth to warm and freeze to generate the multiple theoretical ice ages? If the earth can cool and warm by itself, why blame man now? This is simple logic and easy to think through.

Back to Niagara Falls.

Carol and I spent the next four hours looking at the beauty and wondering about the power of nature on this spot on the map in northwest New York. Standing on the observation tower several hundred yards away or at the railing a few feet from the water’s edge, the sight of the water plunging over the edge and the roar of the cascading water crashing on the rocks was almost mesmerizing. Is that what prompted the man to take the leap? Or was it sorrow, loneliness, embarrassment, or emotional pain that prompted him to end his life?

The Niagara Falls is called The Honeymoon Capital of the World, so why do so many people end their lives here?

For the western mindset, the thought might be, I just can’t take the pain any longer; I’ll end it all. For the New Age or oriental religions, the mindset might be, This life hurts too much; perhaps it will be better next time.

But suicide neither solves nor ends any problems; it only creates more. Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “Just as everyone must die once and then be judged, so Christ was offered as a sacrifice one time to take away the sins of the people. And he will come a second time, not to offer himself for sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Suicide will not help anyone, but Jesus can help whoever asks Him for help. Turn to God, and to friends, for help, comfort, and direction for life, because you are loved. Your life is valuable, and people need you.

John 3:16: For God so loved the [people in the] world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Legislating Morality?

Some time ago, a friend and I were talking about our nation’s problems and how they could be solved. His position was that new laws need to be created for every new situation, and I said multitudinous comprehensive laws were already in place – but needed to be enforced.

When the discussion turned to morality, Henry became agitated and blurted out, “You can’t legislate morality!”

Surprised, I asked what he meant.

“Outlawing alcohol – you know, prohibition – in the 1920s didn’t work; outlawing gambling didn’t work; and outlawing prostitution, drugs, and other activities won’t work; so we need to change the laws. Those things should be legalized so the government can collect taxes on it all. You just can’t legislate morals!”

But the young man had no idea what he just said. It takes legislation to make something either legal or illegal, and our government has legislated morals since our nation’s founding.

Morals is defined as: relating to or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct; the distinction between right and wrong; concerned with the judgment of right or wrong human action and character.

By the way, most verdicts that judges or juries give are comments on legislated morality. Who or what made the distinction between right and wrong? Let’s look into it.

What about taking a life? Homicide has commonly been called 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree murder, and it’s against the law in the US to murder someone. What about theft? On the books we have petit larceny, then four degrees of grand larceny: also, against the law. What about lying? Perjury is spelled out in the US Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 79, § 1621. You guessed it: illegal.

Nevertheless, lying is prevalent in our society – especially in government and the mass media. However, some rename it and call it disinformation.

Here are several disinformational methods:

Telling a big lie openly, then retracting it quietly. Giving erroneous reports as fact. In a valid report, omitting data needed to make a proper and correct evaluation. Quoting others out of context to give an erroneous viewpoint. Over-publicizing a news item in order to ignore or cover up something more important. Denigrating the integrity of one who is telling the truth. In all situations, disinformation is a means of hiding truth.

Let’s see now: morals is the distinction between right and wrong. And we just identified three moral activities which we have outlawed by legislation. Murder, stealing, and lying are also prohibited in the 6th, 8th, and 9th of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 34); so our government does agree with Scripture – sometimes.

Obviously, we can and do legislate morals; so the question is: what morals do we choose to legislate? The answer: many! We legislate (make law) many good, honorable ideas; but we also approve anti-Biblical and anti-American laws that nullify constitutional rights.

Ravi Zacharias, on his radio program titled Let My People Think, said, “The non-Christian world politicizes morality while they moralize politics.” He is correct. Some of our politicians favor good morality and truth while others outright disdain truth. What baffles me is that sometimes our leaders and judges listen to a small minority on the fringe of society and make or break laws that override the desires and morals of the voting majority. What kind of democracy is that?

We also have a built-in dichotomy in our government. Some well-known government officials can commit crimes and lie about it, and we overlook it; while other well-known officials commit crimes and lie about it, and are prosecuted. Yet other officials are prosecuted when there is no evidence for prosecution. The morality of the issue seems to depend on what side of the political fence the official is on. They moralize politics.

However, if it’s a hate crime, that is bad! Amazingly, that is a double-legislation of morals.

Friends, we legislate morals all the time. But we have a problem. Often we’re outlawing wholesome, healthy core values, while approving anti-Biblical values and morals. This goes against our national heritage and weakens our nation: both spiritually and politically.

Morals – right versus wrong – is both a Biblical and political issue. Galatians 6:7 says, “Don’t be misled. You can’t ignore or mock God and get away with it.” Therefore, if we don’t revert to using Scripture for our legislative standard as we formerly did, our national problems will become more profound than they are now. It’s time to wake up and turn back to God.

What Do You Want in Life?

Matthew 13:44-46 is our starting point for this topic. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (NLT)

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you would do almost anything to get it?

Little Joe grew up in Pennsylvania near a coal mining town. He was skinny, not very tall, and didn’t look like he could take the pounding that high school football players take; so the coach put him on the sideline.

But Joe wanted to be a football quarterback.

He practiced for hours every night after school throwing and catching the ball. His dad became his personal coach and created difficult practice sessions for him. Joe strenuously pushed himself, and his skills exceled. The coach noticed Joe’s improvement and asked him to play on the starting team, and they won the state championship several years straight.

At graduation, a Notre Dame university scout recruited him, and Joe took the Fighting Irish to several national championships. After graduating from Notre Dame, the San Francisco 49ers hired Joe Montana, and the rest is Football History.

Here’s another story.

All his life, Harry wanted to be an actor, but at every interview he was told he would make a good blue-collar worker.

However, he hired out as an apprentice carpenter and brick layer. He eventually learned the carpentry trade so well that he formed his own company, began designing houses, and hired his own workers. But he never gave up his dream, and he practiced acting in front of the mirror … in the woods … in the houses he built. He never quit.

One day when a movie director hired Harrison to design a new house, the director said, “Haven’t you interviewed for one of my films?” When Harrison answered “yes,” Mr. Lucas said, “Please come for another interview in the morning.”

So Harry, Harrison Ford, interviewed and became Hans Solo in STAR WARS!

What did Joe Montana and Harrison Ford have in common? They had a goal. They set their minds to accomplish that goal. And they made it.

What do you want in life? When I was asked that question as a teenager, I refined the question. “The more appropriate question for me is, what does God want me to do.”

When we enter God’s family, He gives us several gifts (I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4) and asks us to put them to good use; and those gifts are the tools we need to accomplish what God has asked us to do.

If you know what Gifts God has given you, and you know what God has asked you to do, have you set your mind to accomplish it? If not, why not?

Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT).

Here are six others who set their will to obey the Lord.

The Apostle Peter broke tradition to offer the Gospel to the Roman rulers.

The Apostle Paul took the Gospel to the entire gentile world and wrote much of the New Testament.

Martin Luther rediscovered the truth that we are saved by Grace: not by anything we can do.

John and Charles Wesley took the Gospel all through England and eastern America. They wrote over 500 hymns, and many are in our hymnals today.

Charles Finney was a lawyer. When he discovered that most of our laws were based on the Holy Bible, he studied it to increase his wisdom in court. Becoming a Christian, he devoted his life to preaching. Soon, the Holy Spirit generated true revival in many towns and businesses that Mr. Finney entered.

God wants persistent, unwavering, confident people in His church. He wants people who will remain loyal and obedient to Him no matter what opposition, storms, or blessings come our way. You can be one of those people.

Are you willing to cooperate with God? If so, what do you willing to do? What do you want in life? Ask the Lord to guide you, and He will.

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