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.
The sun was shining brightly today as if it had been hidden by clouds and couldn’t take it anymore. Bursting through, nothing holding it back, it lit up the blue sky. Now, after showing off, the sun is setting and only remnants of light remain of its beauty.
I have a friend going through a difficult time, battling a disease that will sooner or later kill him. He’s doing everything he can but our bodies are not made to last forever nor beat every enemy we face. I talked with him today on the phone and his voice sounded stronger than in days past. It was good to hear and I laughed as he told me one of his jokes. The last several weeks have been tough, watching him struggle, rise to meet one challenge only to be met by a new and a more difficult obstacle. No one can keep going no matter how much strength they possess.
Today for a moment he shone brightly and I will keep that memory with me as he moves forward.
Let Go –
The quote in the picture is one of my favorite wisdom proverbs. Letting go of things is as important, and as difficult, as learning and gaining knowledge and wisdom. What I have learned over the years, however, is things have a way of coming back that you are gone and forgotten.
Earlier this week I was revisited by thoughts of someone who hurt me long ago. I have dealt with these thoughts before and have let go of them. These persistent thoughts though, like toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe, have a way of following me wherever I go.
I recognize them for what they are; ruminating. “Ruminating is simply repetitively going over a thought or a problem without completion. When people are depressed, the themes of rumination are typically about being inadequate or worthless. The repetition and the feelings of inadequacy raise anxiety and anxiety interferes with solving the problem.” Psychology Today (https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwilur2Iy6rWAhXFWSYKHYxNA4QQFgg5MAI&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.psychologytoday.com%2Fblog%2Fdepression-management-techniques%2F201604%2Frumination-problem-in-anxiety-and-depression&usg=AFQjCNFQ4v7E8XRgsUr7_j6GKQIIws-W_A) Rumination is a sign of or leading to a rise in my anxiety and a rise in anxiety leads to a depressive episode. I know this and yet the thoughts, at times, keep coming.
Usually, after a bit, with the thoughts tumbling over in my head, and the re-realization there is no satisfactory conclusion I let go again. I used to hope they would be gone for good but it is not meant to be. So I try to let them be an exercise in wisdom discipline and pray I get stronger each time I release the weight.
The fellowship hall which belongs to one of the two churches next to our house had a new roof put on yesterday. As I was doing yard work they were working under the hot sun with no hope of shade. A truck pulled into the parking lot full of shingles and the driver began unloading. After he finished another man grabbed a bundle of shingles, positioned them on his shoulders and carried them up the ladder to the workers on the roof.
Watching this man and the way he handled the shingles and the ladder you might think he would be broad and muscular but actually, he was smallish in size. However, the way expert way he handled the shingles let you know he’d been doing this type of work for a while.
Impressed with his agility and strength I reflected on the burdens that people carry. Mother Teresa once famously said; “I know God says; ‘He wouldn’t give us more than we could handle.’ I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”
Size, age, education, talent, and all the accolades the world holds dear doesn’t necessarily equal great faith or perseverance. It’s the elderly woman we pass in the grocery store, the young man with the earring in his nose, the middle age woman with a tear in her eye, the man holding the door open for strangers, who carry burdens too heavy for most of us.
They are able to do this not because they are stronger but have been doing it longer.
Yesterday I wrote about changing the oil & oil filter on my John Deere lawn tractor. (https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/06/24/not-comfortable/) It was a new experience for me. Today, I continued working on the deck extension which is almost complete. As I cut, hammered, screwed and ensured the deck was level and secure I thought about the oil filter.
“An oil filter is a filter designed to remove contaminants from engine oil, transmission oil, lubricating oil, or hydraulic oil. Oil filters are used in many different types of hydraulic machinery.” #Wikipedia
I reflected on the need of a filter for our lives. We live in a dirty and difficult world. All around us are contaminants which can pollute our spirits, cloudy our vision, stain our intentions and bespatter our minds. It’s incredibly hard, if not impossible, to keep ourselves untainted.
What’s required is a wisdom greater than our own, a spirit that’s stronger, a cleaner which can keep our vision, intentions and minds clear. Being aware and admitting our need for a filter are the first steps in living a bright, grace filled existence in a too often dark and dingy world.