Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, travel

Patience or “Not”

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3

At first it seemed unfair but then, there it was, conspiracy.  There is a lot of talk today about conspiracy schemes.  When and whatever happens there is someone who will say there is a dark diabolical reason for it happening.  I wasn’t sure about it until it happened to me.  Yes, there was a conspiracy.

As you may remember, my wife and I were able to attend a pastor’s conference in North Carolina.  It was so good to pack a few things, jump into our 44 mpg Jetta and hit the road.  Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” was ringing in my ears.  We cruised across Tennessee and were heading toward North Carolina when it happened.  About five miles from the border, our GPS talky thing said, in her most gentle voice, “traffic ahead.”  Well, it wasn’t like we were in Chicago or something so that could only mean trouble.

Soon, very soon, trouble was staring me in the face.  Brake-lights and slowing vehicles were everywhere.  We were in a slowdown—we were in—traffic.  Signage and the talky thing confirmed my worse fears—there was construction ahead.  Now you need to know something.  First, I am not patient in traffic.  Ok, that wasn’t totally transparent.  I am totally impatient in traffic.  In fact, I’m not patient period.  Whether it be in traffic or at the store, I am changing lanes like a one-armed paperhanger looking for the shortest and fastest lane.  The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made but I must have missed the patience part.

Have you ever been driving and the traffic going in the opposite direction is stopped and you are feeling sorry for them?  Well, I was the one stopped and I could just feel the empathy of the other drivers.  It turned out to be about a 45 minute stop and go.  The amazing part was I did pretty good.  Judy was beaming at my surprising patience.  I even said, “Well, at least going home we won’t have to deal with this.”  Soon (though not soon enough) we were through the construction—we were on our way.  Hit the fast forward button.

That was Wednesday.  Too quickly the days of the conference went by and in no time it was time to go home.  After the conference ended at noon we jumped into our 44 mpg Jetta and hit the road toward home.  Willie was once again whirling around in my head singing “On the Road Again.”  We were nearing the site of Wednesday’s lesson in patience feeling confident and glad that we were heading in the other direction.  And then it happened.  The GPS talky thing mentioned traffic, 14 miles per hour, and delays. Wait. What?  We were not supposed to have to deal with this. And that is when I knew there was a conspiracy.  They had changed sides.

Here’s how I think it played out.  The North Carolina Department of Transportation called the conference center, asked when I was leaving and then quickly moved the construction to the West bound side so they could get me again.  I am sure of it.  So, another slowdown, another wait in traffic, but this time they were merciful since it was only 27 minutes and 14 seconds.  Oh yes, I was counting.  And the people going East, they were zooming by with looks of mercy for those of us stuck.  It just wasn’t fair.

I know the Bible well enough to know that you don’t pray for patience.  That is one prayer you won’t hear passing through my lips.  Pray for patience and you end up with traffic. Pray for patience and you end up locked in your house with three kids for three months.  So I get that.  But there is a pesky couple of verses found in James 1:2-3 that say, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” I really like the Bible but I really don’t like those verses.

Of all the emotions I feel when I am sitting in traffic, joy is not the one that comes to mind—and especially not great joy.  But then I read verse 3 and it gives me pause.  James says I should appreciate the moments in traffic because it helps me to grow. It helps me to be a better person.  It helps me be stronger—it builds endurance.  Like lifting weights at the gym strengthens muscles-—so trying situations strengthens our faith in God.  Which means part of this whole pandemic deal might be to make us stronger in our faith.  Hmmmm. Well, in the end I did pretty good through traffic lesson number two and we managed to get home that evening just about on time.  Truth be known…God was good, God was faithful and even in traffic, God can be trusted.  No matter what, He has my good at His heart.  He wants me to thrive in this world and not just survive.  And that means sometimes learning patience sitting in traffic.  As you travel today wherever and however that looks, just know God is the traffic manger of your life.  Just sit back, enjoy the pause and rest in Him. He’s got this. Honk, Honk.

Posted in Family, life, Scripture

One Big Earthworm

Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” Proverbs 6:27-28

That’s gotta be one big earthworm.  It was a great spring morning.  Judy and I were living in Cobden, Illinois and over the years we had put together a really beautiful yard.  Judy can visualize how something is going to look and then has the knack to make it grow.  I do the grunt work.  I’m the yard man and she is the architect. That day we were putting some mulch around the flower beds.

Our yard had a retaining wall at one of the front corners and the yard sloped in that corner.  I would mulch leaves (we had four large maple trees) and put them there in the fall.  The next spring we would use it as free (and I love free) mulch.  I would take my trusty pitchfork and our oversized trash can down to the corner, fill up the can and take it to wherever she wanted it dumped.  Then we would spread it out.  Great plan.  Beautiful day.  All is well.  And then he showed up.

I went to the corner, loaded up the can, brought it to the middle of the yard to one of our flower beds and she said dump it.  I dumped it.  I was about to use the pitchfork to start spreading the mulch when I noticed the tip of an earthworm barely sticking out of the mulch.  In order to appreciate this, you need to know that earthworms, in Judy’s eyes are held in very high regard.  It’s something about they aerate and loosen up the soil making it better for the flowers.  I thought they were just fish bait. Silly me.

“Hey, there’s an earthworm” Judy exclaimed with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning.  “Grab him and put him in the garden.”  So, hey, I’m just the grunt man so I reached down and pulled on the little fella.  The little fella didn’t move.  I looked at Judy with a quizzical look. My thought was that if he wanted to stay that bad he could just go with the next pitch fork load.  No…that wasn’t gonna happen.  So I gave it another shot and this dude wasn’t moving.  “Poud (that’s Judy’s nick name) this guy isn’t coming.”

I took matters to the next level and took the pitchfork and shoved it into the mound around the earthworm and gave it a lift and a flip.  Well, shoot that thing, there was a stinking snake.  It wasn’t some innocent “let me aerate your soil” earthworm it was a 14 foot boa constrictor.  Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration.  But it was a snake, it was about two feet long and it was moving and so was I.  Now both Judy and I were a lot younger than but even for our age we were out of there.  And I do believe the grunt man outran the pretty little architect.

You ask, “What kind was it?”  Don’t know. Don’t care.  There are only two kinds of snakes—living and dead and this one was definitely alive.  Honestly, I have blocked out what happened next.  I can’t tell you if we went back and he was gone.  I can’t tell you if I got a shovel and in pure self-defense ended the life of the slithering creature or what.  I can only tell you that he was no longer a threat and I never, and I mean never, looked at the pile of mulch in the same way.

If I learned anything that day…and trust me I did…it was to be careful what you decide to pull on because things are not always as they seem.  Ask Eve.  The Genesis account of creation and the fall of man says that the serpent (that’s Bible code for snake) was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. The Hebrew language implies that the snake was beautiful, appealing. Intrigued she decided to strike up a conversation with him.  “Bad idea, Eve.” Just run. But she didn’t and now we have this messed up world and it was all because Eve grabbed a hold of something she should have left alone.

There’s an old tale about a man who was walking up a mountain and it was getting cold.  The man saw a rattlesnake and the snake said, “Please put me in your coat and take me down the mountain.”  The man said, “No way, you will bite me.”  The snake assured him he would not.  He picks the snake up, puts it in his coat and goes down the mountain.  As the temperature rises the snake gets a little more frisky and bites the man.  The man, shocked, says, “You said you wouldn’t bite me.”  And the snake replied, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”  So true. So tragically true.

The Bible also says this, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?”  “What does that mean?” you ask.  It means the next time a snake wants to strike up a conversation, run.  It means the next time you are tempted to sin, run. It means the next time your wife wants you to grab the tail of an oversized earthworm, run. No…it doesn’t mean that but it does mean be sure you know what you are grabbing before you take hold. Fortunately, our Abba Father knows all about snakes and sin and grabbing hold when we shouldn’t.  He also loves us enough to give us wisdom to know the difference.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.” With wise counsel like that we don’t have to fear oversized earthworms or the other stuff we are living through right now.  No, we can rest in Him.  He’s got this.