Posted in fear, life, sovereignty of God, wisdom

Poison Ivy

 “Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet?” Proverbs 6:27-28

I should have been more careful.  I should have known better. I have a long history of cutting firewood and being around the woods.  For the better part of 17 or 18 years, wood was our primary, and sometimes only, source of heat.  It all started back in LaMonte, Missouri and continued when we moved to Cobden, Illinois…in fact, that is where it really became a part of our lives.  We lived in a large Victorian home and our heat was whatever was piled in the driveway.  So, with the help of a very good friend named Gerry, virtually every Saturday we would go and “cut wood.

As the years went by, I learned a lot about safety in the woods.  I remember the first time I used a chain saw back in LaMonte.  The guys told me to be careful and never pull the saw toward you.  Yeah, well, one of the first things I did was pull the saw toward me (call me a slow learner) and nick my leg.  I learned about how to notch a tree, sharpen a chain and how to load and stack wood.  I learned a lot.  But one thing that I never paid much attention too was poison ivy.  While I never intentionally rolled in it, it seemed for the most part I was one of those lucky people who it didn’t affect.  Well, fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.  I was wrong.

It turns out, I guess, that I was indeed lucky but not in the way that I thought.  I was lucky that it never “got me” and somehow, someway, recently it did.  We were sitting around the other day, and I was wearing shorts.  I noticed on my left leg several (five to be exact) small red dots.  I told Judy, “Look at these bites on my leg.”  They were in random places, and I thought that a mosquito or two had decided to have lunch.  Well, again, I was wrong.

In a very short time it became evident I had somehow, someway, gotten into some poison ivy.  Those five small dots grew into narrow strips of angry, red, raised, skin and it was very apparent that what I thought couldn’t get me…did.  Now as outbreaks go, this one wasn’t very bad but for a guy who never had it, for a guy who thought it wouldn’t, couldn’t get him, it was bad enough. It itched, then itched some more, and then just for fun…itched some more.  So far, and notice that means it is still going on, I have managed not to scratch it, but I will be very glad when this is in the rearview mirror.

The crazy thing is I really don’t know when or where it happened.  We have a little bit in our yard but even though I didn’t think I was allergic, I was also pretty careful.  I hadn’t been in the real woods, but one thing is for sure…I got too close somehow, somewhere. And, because of that I have some pretty unpleasant circumstances.  Maybe I wasn’t careful enough.  Maybe I thought it might get you but not me.  Maybe I didn’t look close enough in the flowerbeds around our yard.  All that really doesn’t matter I suppose.  What does matter is that it got me.  It.Got.Me.

Did you know that sin, those things that God and culture both warn us about, can and will get us?  Did you know that even though we think it will happen to someone else and not us…it can…it will?  Did you know that regardless of how “innocent” we think we might be…the consequences are the same?  Judy always told me about poison ivy.  Being a garden person, she told me, “Leaves of three…let it be.”  I clearly heard her but frankly, since it seemed I couldn’t get it, I just didn’t pay close attention.  Now, oh yes now, I know differently.  We would do well to treat sin the same way.

The Bible, in the Old Testament part, asks a really good question.  In the Book of Proverbs, it asks if a man can hug fire to his chest and not be burned?  Of course, the obvious answer is no, you can’t.  But it turns out the writer isn’t talking about fire…he is talking about sin.  Mess with sin and you are going to get burned and with the burn comes the consequences and with the consequences come misery.  It is true with poison ivy, and it is true with sin.

Well, the bottom line is regardless of my long history with not getting poison ivy, I now have a new history and trust me I am going to be a lot more careful around my three-leaf adversary.  Green and lush or not…it is not my friend…and neither is that thing we often run to…sin.  By the way, if you stumble into poison ivy there are a few things that can help with the itch.  And, if you stumble into sin, well, His grace is more than enough.  Just ask the Heavenly Father and He will be more than willing to help.  You might say, “He’s got this.”

Posted in food, life, Scripture, Southern born

Stupid Watermelon

For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:3-4

I should have just stayed home.  You probably don’t know there is such a thing as a stupid watermelon but if you live long enough you will surely run into one.  In my case it happened just a couple of weeks ago at our local grocery store.  Before I begin the story you need to know that I am one of those slightly older people who has “old people’s skin.”  In case you don’t know “old people’s skin” happens as a person ages.  The result is skin that bruises and wounds easily.  Let me just say, “It ain’t fun.” It goes like this.

You are opening the storm door with one of those automatic closing things.  The wind catches the door, banging into your arm.  Congratulations…you are the proud owner of a new bruise.  You are carrying a pile of limbs to the rubbish pile and one shifts in your hands and against, or rather into, your arm.  You win again.  You are going up the stairs…yes, I said up the stairs, and your foot catches on the riser and you fall against the wall.  Double congratulations…you win a bruise and cut.  Sigh.

And it is always the hand you use the most.  In my case I am left-handed so my left arm continually looks like I play major league football or have wrestled with a full-grown lion.  Either way…its’ not pretty.  And mark my word, just about the time you get it healed up…bam…you start all over again. That, dear friends, is where the stupid watermelon comes along.

I don’t do grocery stores.  I definitely do food…I just don’t do grocery shopping.  Well, one evening I was feeling pretty jovial and decided to go to the grocery store with my wife Judy.  We enter the store and get one of those cute (on no…I said cute again) mini baskets and off we go.  We are heading back to the bakery so I am in a particularly good mood.  I can already taste the greasy, fried dough.  Then…it happens.  There is a sign that says, “Watermelons – $3.99.”  Judy loves watermelons.

We pause and begin to study the watermelons.  She thumps them.  She pats them. She caresses them.  After several minutes the winner is chosen.  “I want this one” she declares.  Her galant, strong prince, hoists the winning melon out of the bin of losers and prepares to put it in the buggy.  Because we have a mini-buggy, I decided to put it in the bottom rather than the top.  That is where things got ugly.

I bend over and prepare to slide the watermelon into the too small bottom portion of the buggy. Just at the time of releasing the melon and removing my hand—it slips. As it falls into the too small bottom portion it rolls on my hand and catches my finger between the basket and watermelon. “Ouch,” I said.  When I was able to maneuver my finger from between the basket and melon—I saw it.  Not a bruise…oh no…but a nice ¾ inch skin laceration.  It was bleeding. Badly. Profusely.  It was then the true nature of the melon escaped my lips, “Stupid watermelon.”  No wonder they were on sale for $3.99.

It seems at least they could have put a sign up that read, “Stupid Watermelons – $3.99.”

Well, I quickly became obsessed over the true nature of the evil watermelon.  “Hey Judy, do you have a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from the stupid watermelon?” “Honey, do you want some cheese to go with the stupid watermelon?” On and on it went and the watermelon and I became mortal enemies.  And the coup-de-grace?  Not only was it stupid…it wasn’t even sweet.  Sigh.

But no, I had to find out the hard way.  About then Judy said something like, “Well, it really wasn’t the watermelon…it was the buggy.” I began to protest but I think she said something like, “And you know it happened because it slipped out of your hand.”  By that I assumed she meant the one that was cut and bleeding.  Somehow it didn’t make my hand feel any better and two weeks later I still have some healing to do.  But…she was right.

It wasn’t the watermelon, it wasn’t the buggy it wasn’t even me.  It was just one of those things that happen.  I just needed to blame something because my hand hurt and 746 people were going to ask, “What happened to your hand?”  Blaming it on a stupid watermelon just seemed easier.  The truth is, it is easier to blame than it is to own.  It has been that way since the beginning of time.  In the garden, Adam blamed Eve and God for the hot mess they were in after they chose to sin.  Eve, of course, blamed the serpent and the serpent, well, he just smiled. Whether it is broken skin or a broken heart; whether it is someone’s fault or not; whether you own part of the skirmish or all of it—why not take a moment and own it. Press the pause button, calm down and then just eat the watermelon.  That way, you will get the last laugh.  Then, tell God about it, all about it and take a rest in Him.  He’s got that and this.