Monday, June 30, 2014

30 June 2014



Have you ever seen a big tree; I mean a big, big tree; one that goes from here to there and takes three sets of arms to stretch around its trunk? People with a keener set of eyes than ours have told us about such a growth springing up from the forest bottoms some 3 hours to west of us here in South Africa. It has not had the lure of a giraffe or elephant ride nor, in the past, had a position on the things to do list as high as obtaining an Ostrich egg. However, on a recent trip which brought us to locality of this “prehistoric” giant, Angie’s eagle eye spotted a sign which said “Giant Tree” with a finger pointing into the forest. Since there were no Ostriches in the area to run competition with such a beckoning attraction, it moved rapidly up the list to first place and 10,000 kilometers worth of rubber became adhered to the roadbed as we slid onto the entrance road.
As we drove into the parking lot, I saw another finger pointing towards a path entering into the forest. Seeing a big tree was not what I would say was something that really turned my crank very fast but I thought it would only take a minute to stand and ooh and awe about how magnificent it was and then we would once more be moving on down the road to our objective. And, the fact of the matter was, we did not need to arrive at our objective for another 6 hours and, at best, it would only take another 3 hours even if I obeyed the speed limit. So, as you can see, I had no grounds of protest and so, off to see the “big” tree it was.
It was not long however, that I began to see I should have tried a little harder to find reason to protest the adventure. Barely had we entered on to the path that would lead us to the “Big”, than there loomed another sign that indicated that there was a fee to see Big. Now that is something that just naturally goes against my principles – having to pay to see a tree. A tree is a tree and yes, some are bigger than others but when all the fluff is scraped away, they all have roots, a truck, branches and some sort of foliage attached to those branches. But the car was parked and we were out of it and on the path towards the number 1 thing on the list of things to do. Now the only thing that stood between us and the objective was this toll booth. I tried the protest bit about how ridiculous it was to have to pay to see a tree when we were surrounded by them, but Angie just stood there gazing at me with a look that interpreted meant, “I will just let him rant for a few minutes and then he will pay the entrance fee and we will be able to proceed.” Of course, she was right, but it would make it a lot more meaningful if she would attempt to legitimize the expense. But realizing that it would be a waste of breath, she opts to just be silent. (By the way the entrance fee was 12 Rand apiece or $1.20 each so it was not prohibiting us from eating for the next week, but it was more of the principle of  it than the amount – principles have to count for something).
The fee was paid and off we went, skipping down the trail as if to grandma’s house, only this time it was Mister Squirrels house. The next sign we saw, said “see the Big Tree, 1.5 Kilometers”. “1.5 kilometers”, I said, “they should have told us we needed to pack a lunch and, for safety measures, a sleeping bag.” Another look from Angie and off we went again.
The path was one that was constructed fairly recently out of treated lumber. I thought to myself, (realizing that a further vocal protest would not even warrant a look), it was ridiculous to spend money building this path; if I am going to go wandering in the forest to see one of its granddaddy trees, at least I should be doing it on a path of native dirt. But since there were no protest boxes along the path, this is the first I have been able to share my logical insights.
At length, we arrived at the “Big Tree.” A platform was built around it so that one could stroll around it while oohing and awing – that was nice.  I do have to admit, that it is a BIG TREE. The sign which gave its dimensional and age details, indicated that the tree is over a 1,000 years old. That may be true, but my little mind asks, “How do they know that?” Normally, tree ages are estimated from counting the growth rings of the tree. However, I know that they did not do that as the tree is still standing which makes counting its growth rings somewhat difficult.
Angie took a picture of the informational sign and you can read the rest for yourself as you ooh and awe while looking at “Big’s” pictures.

 For those of you who would rather not struggle with the conversion, here it is all done for you.
                           Height              120'
                           Trunk Length    60' 
                           Crown Spread  108'
                           Circumference   27'

Monday, June 16, 2014

15 June 2014

Each year, as the middle of June approaches we are reminded that there is a day of the year set apart as “Father’s Day.” It is good that we have a day designated to reflect on our father and reflect upon him as an individual, the memories we have of our interaction with him, and the lessons he taught us. But the purpose of this epistle is not to discuss my father in these aspects but rather to discuss fathers in general; what makes a father a father, what is the role, the stewardship, of a father.
It has been said that it is easy to be a father but it is hard to be a dad. It is unfortunate that some males believe that when they help create a child that they have little or no responsibility to the child when, in fact, that is when their responsibility really begins. Providing for the temporal needs, such as food, clothing and shelter, is of course important; however, the more important role comes in providing the nourishment that helps define his/her character. Each of us is an individual with individual talents, skills, interests etc. But that which defines a person, sets them apart in society, is the moral fiber that identifies them. Things like honesty, integrity, dependability, sense of commitment, loyalty, kind, courteous, and humility are among the attributes which a father has the responsibility to help a child develop.
It is common place today to witness that some men act as if a man’s highest goal should be his own pleasure. This attitude is most prevalently displayed in the permissive social mores that “let men off the hook” as it were, so that many think it is acceptable to father children out of wedlock and to cohabit rather than marry. Commitment is not found in their vocabulary. It is even ridiculed and made light of. For many of these and others, a life of work and achievement is optional. It is as if it does not matter that their “transmission” is stuck in neutral – progression is of no matter.
The attitudes of “men” are attained largely from role models, peer groups and parental guidance for a child  in his impressionable years, emphasizing the importance of both a father and mother.
Senator S. I. Hayakawa, a noted educator, stated:
“Never has it been so difficult for boys to grow up into men. Becoming a man is not a matter of chronology, it is a matter of proof. Throughout the history of mankind, boys have had to prove themselves men. …
“Boys need challenges. If the affluent society does not provide boys with challenges, they are compelled by inner necessity to improvise their own.
“That’s what the generation gap is about. Fathers away from home, for whatever reason, and therefore, unavailable to their sons as models of male adulthood. The boys are forced to improvise their own subculture, unguided by adult knowledge or experience. That’s the problem for fathers. … How can we bring our sons into our lives?
“It takes men to develop men. Mothers cannot do it by themselves. Neither can high schools; nor colleges.” (Saturdy Evening Post, Spring 1972.)
 “It is a wonderful aspiration for a boy to become a man – strong and capable; someone who can build and create things, run things; someone who makes a difference in the world. It is a wonderful aspiration for those of us who are older to make the vision of true manhood a reality in our lives and be models for those who look to us for an example” It is a father’s duty – God given mandate – to help the rising generation to “arise from the dust of self-indulgence and be men” (Christofferson, Nov. 2006 Ensign.)
Children are entitled to belong to a family where matrimony is between a man and a woman. In that family, “fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for the families.” In keeping with that mandate, the mother and father should be committed to honor their marital vows with complete fidelity.
Today one of the most destructive influences to marriage vows is the indulgence of pornography. Pornography and perversion have become so commonplace in society that the sources of this smut material is everywhere. Although both sexes use and become addicted to it, men fall prey to it more often. Aside from the debilitating moral aspects of pornography, more often than not, those involved do not associate it with their vows of fidelity. Fidelity has to do with total honesty in every aspect of your life with your spouse – it is not just sexual faithfulness.  It is integrity; it contains our respect, our thought and actions. It is devoid of all forms of abuse, including physical, sexual and verbal.
True manhood is defined in our relationship with women and integrity is fundamental to being men. Integrity means being truthful, but it also means accepting responsibility and honoring commitments and covenants.
In defining what manner of men ought men be, the Lord defined it best when He said, “v
Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” He was obedient, rejected temptation and went about doing good.
On this Father’s day, let us commit to be men, even as He is.