Thorny Situation –
Today working in a friend’s yard I came across several thick, thorny, vines. They were growing up from the ground and had worked their ways into several trees wrapping themselves around numerous limbs. I found the source where they started and sawed it as close to the ground as possible. Then, with a pair of thick gloves, I grabbed and pulled. I was able to get almost ten feet of the vine dragged down before the vines drew a bunch of limbs together and wouldn’t go any further. I asked another friend who was helping to grab a saw and cut the vines as high as he could. He did and the remaining vines popped back up into the trees. Eventually, since they have no connection to the ground, they will rot and die. At the source, a vigilant eye will be needed to make sure it doesn’t start growing again.
Wisdom teaches us there are thorny issues in our lives. They intertwine themselves into many parts of our lives and begin to choke us. They’re sharp and we’re sensitive to the impact they have on us and others. To rid ourselves of them we have to find the source and cut it out of our lives. We also need to be untangled from the hold they have on us. Thorny issues are not easy to get rid of. It will take perseverance and patience until they are fully gone and a vigilant eye to make sure they don’t return.
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This morning the pastor began his sermon by quoting my favorite Psalm;
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
He had my attention. Then the reverend told the story of a logger challenging another to a contest of chopping down trees. “The one with the most chopped wood at the end is the winner.” The challenged accepted and they met the following morning at dawn. The challenger yelled; “Go!” and began swinging his axe with all his might and at great speed. The challenged swung his axe at a steady, but slower, rate. The challenger went as hard as he could all morning, ate a short lunch, and then resumed his feverish pace until the sunset. He knew he had won. How could he not? His speed, strength, and stamina were unmatched by the challenged. In fact, during the day, when he’d stop to wipe his brow, it seemed every time he looked the other logger was sitting down and resting. However, when both men looked at the two piles the challenger was flabbergasted and admitted his opponent’s pile of wood was bigger than his. “How could that be?” he asked. “I worked longer, stronger and faster!” “True,’ said the winner; ‘but when I rested I was sharpening my axe.”
A simple but important lesson. Sometimes we are so fixated on “what we have to do!” that we forget to rest. We are overworked and overwhelmed. What we need is rest. Rest restores the body, mind, and spirit. In our culture, resting is frowned upon. This is because we’ve forgotten the difference between being at rest and being lazy.
Small Things –
It’s the small things that get us. A careless word, a roll of the eye, an exasperated sigh, a forgotten date, a critical comment when kindness would be better.
I spoke to a group of men this week about the importance of body language. It is estimated that 80% of our communication is done through hand gestures, facial expressions, posture, animated arms, and legs. Often, before even a word is said, we’ve said plenty. The “vibe” we give off from the way we stand, cross our arms, refuse to make eye contact gives messages of distance, frustration, and anger. Whatever our chosen words may be we’ve begun a conversation simply by being in the presence of others.
Small things can encourage or discourage dialogue. Tiny twitches can mean the difference between hurting someone’s feelings and lifting them up. Miniature motions can give away our opinion of another prior to us getting to know them.
I watched a video this week of a woman pontificating on Hillary Clinton and the rumor of the former presidential candidate. Her words were sharp and judgemental and her body language said even more. The spark of sarcasm in her eyes, the shaking of her head, the impish smirk, almost everything about her spoke of her disapproval. Toward the end of the video she spoke of love, forgiveness, and grace but nothing about her showed true humility, one sinner telling another where to find grace.
“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Last week, while mowing the grass, I ran over a large rock and bent one of the blades. I could tell something was wrong by the sound of metal rubbing against metal. On Thursday, with two newly purchased blades in hand, I replaced the old blades. When I took the old ones off I was shocked by how beat up, worn down, twisted and broken they were. I had noticed the last few weeks the lawn wasn’t cut as cleanly and evenly as it should be but had no sense the blades were in that bad of shape. After I had the new ones firmly affixed to the mower I took them out for a test spin. The difference was incredible! The yard looks better today than it has in a long time.
As I finished up mowing I reflected upon the fact that all of the damage done to the blades hadn’t been done by a single rock. The mower’s manual says I should regularly check and sharpen them to ensure their effectiveness but it’s easier to just turn the mower on, start cutting and settle for mediocrity.
Wisdom teaches us that we too need to set aside extra time to keep ourselves sharp, clean, balanced and whole.
Too often we wear ourselves out, do our best to keep going with broken, damaged, unstable lives and sooner or later it shows. Setting aside extended moments, seasons and occasions to repair and recover from the damages life can bring is essential to love, serve and fulfill our purpose.