What Time Is It? That Clock Can’t Be Right! I Surely Have More Time Than That!

The county we live in is located in the Central time zone, but the Eastern time zone begins about 20 miles north and 30 miles east of us. The line between the two time zones zigzags throughout the state.

Usually, my phone receives a signal from a tower located in our county so that the phone displays the correct time; Central time.  However, occasionally, here at the house, it displays Eastern time, or one hour earlier than it actually is.  This discrepancy isn’t a major problem as long as I am in a room that contains a manually set clock, because I can reassure myself of the correct hour.  But put me in a bedroom in which there is no stationary clock, and let me awake to find that according to an inaccurate phone I am supposed to be at an appointment in 3 minutes, and then we have a problem.

Spiritually, many of us accept the fact that we have an appointment which we must all keep.  The Bible says,  “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27).  Most of us accept the fact that we do not know exactly when that time is, nor through what means we will leave this earth.  All we know is that one day we will exit this life for eternity.

However, our mortal mind just can’t seem to grasp the fact that it could be at anytime.  It’s as if there are signals coming in from two conflicting towers; one showing that we have plenty of time to get ready and the other warning us that at any point in time, we are just seconds from eternity.  For most of us, we like thinking that the signal from the slower tower is causing our minds to display the “correct” time.  We don’t like to think about death. We don’t like to meditate upon the brevity of life. We want to believe that we have many more years to inhabit and explore this world.

Even as we get older and the inevitable wisdom that comes with age tells us that our appointment is just a few more moments away, we still want to argue with the clock and say, “That can’t be right!”

Yet it is, and it continues to click off those precious seconds until one day it truly is time for our appointment with our Creator.

The best advice anyone can give us is always be ready.

Are we heeding that advice?

4 “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! 5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah 6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! (Psalm 39:4-6 ) ESV

14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:14, 15 ) ESV

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Jigsaw Puzzles Can Never Be Perfected When A Piece Goes Missing

Our family enjoys putting together jigsaw puzzles each Christmas.  There’s something special about cooperating in reconstructing a picture, piece by piece, until the beautiful landscape, lighthouse, or flower garden is complete.  The challenge of finding that one elusive piece draws even the most reluctant from his/her electronic device just long enough to reap the glory.

Once the project is completed, everyone basks in the joy of success and then our  grandson stops his playing long enough to ask, “Is it time to wreck it now?”  It takes him about a minute to tear apart that which several adults spent multiple man-hours assembling.

A few years back, we assembled four different puzzles of various piece counts.  We enthusiastically began a fifth one on Christmas Eve; a thousand pieces. We only succeeded in assembling the easy parts before everyone had to leave.  I suggested tearing it apart, but everyone insisted that I should finish it.

I worked on it off and on for about a week.  When I finally got down to the point that about 30 pieces remained, the colors and shapes were so similar and difficult to distinguish that I simply began trying to fit the leftover pieces in every available slot.

Six pieces seemed to have no where to go. Due to this difficulty, I thought that I had misplaced other pieces, forcing them to fit my idea of where they should go.  However, at the end, each piece found its home and the picture was perfect.


There was one piece missing.  With that piece gone, there was no way that perfection could be obtained.  Sarah and I both looked for it and thought it must have been swept out, but she happened to spot it hiding in plain sight in the middle of the floor.  She allowed me to complete our version of a masterpiece.

There are many spiritual lessons that one can draw from observing and participating in a family tradition, such as “jigsawing”, but there is one lesson that has stayed with me over the past few years.

What happens when we get to the end of life, after we have assembled all the many moments of time which God has blessed us with, and we find ourselves missing a piece or two?

What happens when we stand individually before God in judgment, answering for all of the things we have or have not done in this life? (2 Cor. 5:10)

What happens when we find ourselves imperfect? (Rom. 3:10-18)

Each of us will long to present to God a completed life of perfect righteousness, but each of us has lost pieces of our own life; we have each sinned. (Rom. 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10)

Christians, and only Christians, have the hope of presenting a complete, perfect life to God. (John 14:6; Col. 2:9,10)  They will not do so by their own efforts (Phil. 3:7-15), but by the blood of Christ. (Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 1:21-24)

How does that work?

Many seem to believe that the piecing together of their lives is totally in their own hands. That when the end comes, God will use the blood of Christ to gloss over the mistakes they have made and to mold new pieces in order to fill the voids of their lost moments; much the way an auto body technician uses Bondo or a drywall worker uses drywall mud.

Others believe that God is solely responsible for the planning and assembling of each life. He perfects the ones He chooses and leaves all the others marred and incomplete.

The Biblical truth lies in the middle.

We are responsible for assembling our lives according to the truths and pattern God has given us. (Mt. 19:17; John 14:15, 21)  Yet God has not left us alone but helps us by making His providence (1 Cor. 10:13) and Spirit available. (Rom. 8:26)

Finally, when we still fail, the blood of Jesus completely covers us so that our imperfections are no more. (Rom. 4:7; Gal.3:27) Jesus does not simply fill in the gaps.

Were I to compare this to assembling a jigsaw puzzle, I suppose I would say each of us is given a blank slate of cardboard which has been cut up into many pieces.  We spend our lives trying to fit those pieces together through trial and error.  Sometimes it gets frustrating and we want to give up.  Sometimes we think we’ve inserted some pieces in the wrong place or that some just don’t fit our life at all. Sometimes we beg for a peek at what the whole picture is to look like. During those times, God encourages us to continue examining the size and shape of the different pieces and to continue fitting them together as best we can.

When our feeble efforts here are done, for those of us who have submitted our lives to Christ, God completely covers that basic, bland, piecemeal, cardboard life with the perfect, uncut, beautiful picture we were trying to achieve. The fibers and colors of that picture will consist of His Son’s blood.

Once covered, we become God’s masterpiece.

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When The Need to be Needed Needs to be Reassured.

This morning, as I stood at the kitchen counter watching our 20-month-old granddaughter spoon-feed herself milk-softened cereal, I couldn’t help but feel proud. But at the same time, I felt a little empty.  Not too many days ago, she needed me to feed her.  Not too many days ago, she needed me to sit by her so that she felt secure.

Not too many days ago . . . I felt needed.

But this morning, our grandaughter demonstrated the skill of using both her left and right hand to feed herself without spilling the bowl’s contents. This morning, she never whimpered when I rose from my seat to fix my own breakfast and coffee.

We all need to be needed, to feel that we are important to someone else in this world.  Perhaps that’s one reason we marry and have children. When our children are small, the degree to which they depend upon us sometimes overwhelms us. Yet the fulfillment of knowing that we are essential in insuring another person’s health and happiness supersedes the overwhelming load of responsibility.

We take great pride when our children learn new skills which demonstrate that they are maturing. We snap photos and send out snapchats of our children practicing their newly developed abilities. Yet each attained milestone produces a certain amount of sadness because it grants the child more independence.  In our minds, we are no longer needed; at least to a degree.

I have felt this pride and this emptiness several times throughout the years.  I felt them the first time that our oldest daughter bravely walked into daycare by herself. I felt them the first time our son motionlessly sat alone in the barber’s chair. I felt them the day my wife told me that she had enrolled our youngest daughter in the county’s head-start program.

These same feelings sent shivers throughout my body each time we added a new licensed driver to our insurance, each time a new university was chosen, each time an off-campus housing contract was signed, and each time our end of a phone call began with, “Where are you, who are you with, and how long will you be there?”

This morning, as I watched our granddaughter feed herself, those old feelings of pride and emptiness sent shivers through my body once more.  But this time, the emptiness didn’t stay with me nearly so long.  Why?  Because experience has taught me that each new level of independence simply brings new levels of dependence.

Our children never outgrow their need for us.  They will simply need us in a different way.

Today, our children are all mature, responsible, and educated.  Each has established his/her own family.  Each has at least one child that heavily depends upon him/her. Yet each of our children still need us.

This morning’s opportunities and observations proved that to me.  May we be given many more chances to experience these warm feelings of pride and brief pangs of emptiness.

“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6) ESV

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The Beauty of a Country Sunrise Can Transform the Most Hardened Farmer Into a Thankful Poet

Gradually darkness gives way to daylight, almost as if God slowly increases the intensity of a dimmer switch. The clouds hide the rising sun, but its ever-increasing brightness betrays its presence.  A soft, cooling rain peppers down upon the dairyman; the kind that falls as if a caring gardener is providing her thirsty plants with life-giving H2O; the kind that never really soaks into and saturates the hairs on one’s head, but beads up until the swipe of a hand distributes the moisture over the oily strands.

The cattle stir, rising one by one, until the whole herd has stretched and begun meandering through the pasture field. With heads down, they graze as if they do not have a care in the world.  Truthfully, what cares do they have? No bills, no appointments, no obligations, no concerns about tomorrow.

The dairyman stops briefly to enjoy the sights and  sensations.  A shiver courses throughout his body, so he raises a styrofoam cup to his lips, sipping its sweetened, heated contents. Then the thanks-filled prayers begin. Oh, the blessings of being privileged to call such a wondrous place home.

“1 Praise the LORD.Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. 2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. 3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. 4 Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for at his command they were created, 6 and he established them for ever and ever— he issued a decree that will never pass away. 7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, 8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, 9 you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, 10 wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, 11 kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, 12 young men and women, old men and children. 13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. 14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the LORD.” (Psalm 148:1-14) NIV


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Electricity! The Best Labor Force Money Can Buy.

Electricity tempts me to sin about once a month. It’s not the electricity itself that tempts me, but the bill which I am obligated to pay.  The sin I am tempted to commit is grumbling or complaining.  This was especially true when I was operating the dairy. Those bills seemed extremely high.

At least they did until I stopped to consider all the work the electricity performed.

During the time of my dairying days, 1 milk barn and 2 residences were powered by electricity for an average cost of $500 per month.

This included 40 cows being milked every day, twice per day, with automatic milkers, which kept  me from having to squeeze the milk out by hand. Two hundred and fifty gallons of milk was cooled from about 100 degrees to about 35 degrees within minutes, thus preventing its spoilage. Several hundred pounds  of feed was augered into the barn each day, keeping me from having to manually carry it. Three electric fence boxes kept the cows enclosed in a safe and protected environment.  Four 50 gallons water heaters supplied the barn and both houses with hot water.

In the houses, electricity powered a combination of 2 cook stoves, 4 refrigerators, 2 freezers, 2 clothes washers, 2 clothes dryers, 1 dishwasher, 2 microwaves, 3 TV’s with accessories, and 3 computers. Numerous hairdryers, curling irons, crock pots, coffee pots, etc. were used daily. Electricity provided 100% of the cooling for both houses and 100% of the heating for one house, 70% for the other. It kept the basement dry by powering a sump pump

Electricity lit any room, shed, or barn with the flip of a switch.

Reading the monthly electrical bill has always tempted me to sin. However all it takes is a brief moment of counting the blessings electricity provides, and I realize that it’s actually the cheapest and most highly diversified on-demand labor force money can buy.

Spiritually, giving our lives to Jesus may seem like an extreme price to pay.  But when we stop to count the blessings we receive in Christ, it is the best deal we will ever be offered.

“1 Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5) NIV


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Fair or Not, Some People Just Need To Be Moved To The Front Of The Line.

From the time we are in preschool and kindergarten, we learn that “first come, first served” is the fair way of doing things. We are taught not to cut in line, even if our best friend saves a place for us or  let’s us in front of him, because our actions affect everyone in the line, especially those behind us.

Several years ago the front wheel drive went out of the 4 -wheel-drive Suzuki with which I twice daily rounded up my cows. This was my open-field protection from the herd bull. Like so many vehicles of it’s kind, the Suzuki  spun out in muddy fields if its 4-wheel-drive were not operational.

I went to our local mechanics shop to get my name on his repair list. I expected to have to wait several days before he could get to my vehicle. After explaining the situation, he told me that if he could get the part, he could repair it the next day. There were many cars in front of mine, and I told him I understood if he couldn’t get to it until he had repaired those vehicles. He responded that my situation was more of an emergency since I used my vehicle every day, and the other owners had backups available.

As promised, I used the Suzuki to herd the cows the following evening.

Today, my family and I experienced something very similar to this. Someone very dear to us needed emergency surgery.  There were others already scheduled, but she was moved to the front of the line.  This kindness may very well have saved her life, or at the very least aided in her recovery.

These examples raise the question,  “Is first come, first serve always the fair way of doing things? Or is it a basic principle that, like so many other principles, must be tempered and adapted with love, grace, and compassion?

Maybe we didn’t learn everything we needed to know about life in kindergarten, because sometimes life just cannot be fit into a one-size-fits-all set of rules.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! ” (Matthew 23:23-24)


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