Dangerous Encounters Are Usually Only Seconds Away. Are You Prepared?

Life has a way of transforming from contemplatively peaceful to potentially dangerous in a matter of seconds.

A narrowed section of roadway lies at the bottom of a long hill which I walk each morning. The shoulders on either side of the section are virtually nonexistent, the sides being bordered by large holes leading into and away from a drainage culvert.

As I neared the section this morning, I saw a car heading toward me about a 1/4 mile away. This was only the second car to interrupt my peacefulness, 30 minutes into my walk. I looked up the hill behind me to make sure all was clear, then crossed the road to give the approaching car more room. A few seconds later, the driver slowed, flashed her lights and waited for a car which had come over the hill behind me. No sooner had these two passed one another, when two more vehicles entered the picture, each approaching from opposite directions. The meeting was completed successfully but only due to both drivers slowing and cautiously approaching the narrowed section which I was trying to quickly navigate. I saw no more vehicles for several minutes after that.

In a matter of seconds, and for just a brief moment, at least 5 lives were thrown together in a circumstance that presented potential danger to all. None of them had purposely planned the encounter, but it happened. Probably few other than I felt endangered, but the risk to all was real.

Thankfully, everything turned out okay.

But the lesson remains. One never knows when the joy of a peace filled day can instantaneously transform into a potentially life-threatening happenstance.

Be prepared.

“16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21) ESV

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“I Need To Work!”: An Utterance That Will Always Produce Respect And Appreciation.

“Is it supposed to rain today? I hope not. I really need the work. We didn’t get to work much last week. And I have a payment coming up Saturday. I really need to get in some time.”

The middle-aged man, slightly younger than me, sat in his car waiting for his employer to arrive. I sat on the edge of a feed bunk, taking a break from my walk. Fencing (not the sport but installing wire boundaries for livestock) is his second job; his first is milking cows for a local dairyman. Both are laborious and physically taxing.

The conversation sounded so familiar. As we talked, I couldn’t help but go back to a time when I tried to make ends meet by picking up as many jobs as I could and by putting in as much time as my employers would allow when they were paying me by the hour. Preaching, working at a local retail building supply store, stocking drywall in newly constructed houses after business hours, harvesting tobacco, installing vinyl siding, and picking up handyman jobs here and there.

A couple of memories immediately popped into my mind. There was the Friday when one of my retail employers handed me my pay check at dinner and told me to go home because they were cutting my hours that week due to slow customer traffic. I remembered the bewilderment, disappointment, and resentment. I was only making minimum wage. I remembered thinking that the 5 hours saved was not going to make or break the business. Why would they do that to me? I stayed mad all weekend.

Then there was the memory of driving 20 miles to meet another employer before daylight on a fairly cold winter morning, only to be told there would be no work that day, and that I should go home.  This was before the days of cell phones. He had told me the day before that if it snowed much, I should not come to work because we would not be able to install vinyl siding in snowy weather.  Apparently, “much” is a relative term, depending upon your need. Yes, it had flurried, and there was a skiff of snow blowing across the road in front of me. But in my mind, because the ground was not covered and since I needed the money, it had not snowed much.

Yesterday’s conversation was refreshing. I left it with a high respect for my newly found acquaintance. In a day and age when so many conversations bemoan the majority of society’s poor work ethic and lack of desire to perform any type of sweat producing labor, it was good to talk to a man who wanted to work. In a day and age when entitlement, a feeling of irresponsibility to repay incurred debts, and dependency upon the generosity of others seems to be the prevailing philosophy, it was good to speak with a man who is willing to accept responsibility in repaying a debt he willingly agreed to accept.

“If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12) ESV

“We urge you . . .to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thessalonians 4:

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It Could be Clogged Arteries, But I Really Think It’s Just my Age!

Before my heart surgery, I knew that I was becoming sluggish, both physically and mentally, but I attributed my sluggishness to my age. After all, I’ve never been this age before, and I really don’t know what energy level I am supposed to possess, nor how keen my thought processes should be.

So, though I congratulated myself for accomplishing small tasks that I once would have considered feats of minimal effort, I really thought that it was just an unpreventable, natural part of becoming older.

Before the surgery, the doctors and several people who had experienced bypass surgery told me that I would not realize just how bad I felt, or just how the clogged arteries were affecting me, until I experienced the results of free blood flow.

They were right.

Since my surgery, my energy level has increased exponentially, and my thought processes have become keener than they have been in the past 15 years or so.

That which I considered an unpreventable, incurable consequence of age was actually the result of restricted blood flow due to clogged arteries. And it could be reversed or cured.

Spiritually, as we become older and invest more and more time in the service of God, we can often become sluggish in our efforts and thinking.  We may recognize our sluggishness, but we may consider it an unpreventable, natural part of becoming older. However, many times, it is the result of spiritually clogged arteries.

Several things can clog our spiritual arteries, especially when we hit middle-age.

Fear of not having financially accumulated and saved enough to provide for us in our “golden years” can cause us to want to focus more on money than on christian service.

Applying the worldly concept of retirement to our spiritual service can cause us to believe that just as we can leave our secular jobs to travel, or enjoy leisure, so we can minimalize our service to God so that we can fulfill all the dreams we have worked so hard to achieve.

The desire to sow a few “wild oats” before we become physically unable to do so can often lead us to engage in immorality, intemperance, unwise stewardship, and unbridled rebellion.

Apathy disguised as contentment can lull us into refusing to promote or allow the church to actively grow. We convince ourselves that all change is bad. We try to convince others that the way we have always done things is the right way. We cherish tradition, routine, and the memories of the good old days. Thus, we find it difficult to embrace the use of new technology, new methods of evangelism, new programs of benevolence, or new ways of teaching Bible classes.

The desire to believe that we are not unique and that our sluggish outlook reflects the attitude of the whole congregation can cause us to hold back those who are younger or who do not have clogged arteries. We believe that because we no longer feel like having frequent fellowship gatherings, no one wants to. We believe that because we do not think a proposed activity will be successful or beneficial, no one is in favor of it.

Clogged spiritual articles can affect us in many ways. And they fool us into thinking that our sluggishness or distorted thinking is a natural part of our age.

But like physically restricted blood flow, our spiritual blood flow can be restored.

Mouse over scripture reference to view entire scripture text.

We can begin by turning our focus away from the things of this world and turning it to things that are above. (Colossians 3:1-4). We can help it by focusing on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-3) Our spiritual blood flow will continue to improve if we come to understand the true value of the church. (Ephesians 3:10).

We can continue to clear our spiritual arteries by learning the difference between true contentment and being set in our ways. (Philippians 4:10-13)

We can also increase our spiritual blood flow by realizing that the concept of spiritual “retirement” cannot be found within the scriptures.

“16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

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A Woods Without Trees Would Cease To be A Woods. Would A Life Without People Cease To Be A Life?

We have always called the three acre plot covered by trees located at the east side of the family farm, “the woods”. It’s not big enough to be called a forest; a forest is a large wooded area so densely populated that one could become lost. To some, I’m sure our 3 acres would be considered nothing more than a thicket. But to us, it will always be “the woods.”

The trees that populate the woods vary in species, size, shape, and age. Hardwoods make up most of the vegetation; red oaks, post oaks, white oaks, pin oaks, hickories, and more. Several red cedars give the underbrush a year-round green hue. In recent years, a specie of tree which we always called an “island tree” because it reminded us of the coconut trees on “Gilligan’s Island” has forged its way more deeply into the woods. And there is one stray peach tree which has sprung up from a randomly discarded seed.

From Spring to late Fall, the foliage of this hodgepodge of trees provides a beautiful canopy for the wildlife which seeks refuge beneath its shade. In the Spring, redbuds and dogwoods blossom and fill the air with a sweet aroma. Turkeys roost high in the branches of the hardwoods at night. During the Summer the varying shades of greenery ripple in the wind allowing the occasional warming sunray to reach the ground below. And in the Fall, acorns, hickory nuts, and walnuts provide much needed sustenance for the deer and squirrels which scurry beneath the trees.

Several of the trees which are growing in the woods possess potential monetary value. Throughout the years, professional loggers have asked me to consider selling the boundary of logs. A few times, I have considered the offers from the loggers.

But each time, when I have weighed the cost of losing its beauty, the cost of losing the wildlife habitat, the cost of cleaning up the residual laps and stumps, and the cost of reseeding the acreage in grass to protect it from erosion, I have decided to leave it as it is.

I’ve also considered trying to “weed out” some of the “undesirable” trees; the “island trees”, the cedars, and some of the deformed hardwoods. But this too seems to be counter-productive. If they were transmitting diseases to the other species, I would clear them out. But since they are in no way detrimental to the other trees, removing these “undesirables” would diminish the beauty of the woods and it would make it less wildlife friendly.

In the end everything which has naturally sprang up within the woods has made it what it is today.

As we apply this to our lives, the many people who surround us form our own little “woods”. Some resemble us in race, creed, color, and belief, and some do not. Some are hardwoods in that they stand firm in their system of beliefs and lifestyle which they have developed over many years.  Some are bloomers in that they occasionally seem to bring beauty and sweetness into our lives. Some are evergreens in that they always seem to be energetically alive and growing no matter what season of life they are in. Some are fruit bearing. And some are so unique that we don’t really even know how to describe them.

But they all make up our woods.

There are times when we are tempted to sell off or clear out the woods of our life. To sell off the relationships which we believe are holding us back economically or professionally. To clear out the people who are different than we are. To clear out the people who may be considered undesirable by our peers or by society. To clear out the people who are unique or odd.

It’s not that these people have an evil or negative influence on our lives. It’s just that we don’t want them around or we believe that we can economically benefit from their removal.

Before we do such, we need to take time to truly evaluate every person’s worth to our lives. We need to make sure that we consider our value to their lives. We need to make sure that we take the time to count the cost of losing the blessing of knowing these people.

Many times, when we take the time to carefully consider the situation, we will realize that each person in the vast hodgepodge of people which surrounds us plays an important role in making us who we are.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. . .this is good, and is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself up as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

 

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Those Amish Are Really Different Than Us! Or Are They?

An unusual sound emanated from one of the Amish houses I passed on my morning walk.

Normally, these homesteads are very quiet. One may hear an occasional “neigh” or “moo”, or the sounds of metal buggy wheels rolling over a graveled drive. But this sound was different.

The distinct chug of a gas-powered small engine echoed through the trees. As I drew near the house, I saw the engine anchored to a small metal plate which had been welded to a pole driven in the ground beside the house. The engine’s crankshaft had been extended through the metal siding and into the open “utility area” of the home.  It powered some type of tool or appliance located inside.

Which is highly unusual.

The Amish in our area are known for their conservative stance when it comes to the use of gas-powered engines. These sources of power may be used on hay balers and other farm implements. Occasionally, they may be utilized in the form of a chainsaw or other tool necessary for accomplishing a task on a jobsite. But until recently, gas-powered engines were considered taboo for any type of tool used for chores around the home; they could not be used for mowing the yard, generating electricity for milking a cow, powering a clothes washer, or anything else.

Apparently, changes are being made in our community’s Amish order. Now, occasionally, one will see a man mowing his yard using an old-fashioned gas- powered push lawnmower. Some things that once were considered worldly are now being considered amoral. Some things that once were shunned due to the possibility that they could contribute to worldly temptations, are now being utilized in moderation.

Which brings to mind some questions which are regularly thrown out around many a table in our area.

“Why do the Amish have such an aversion to modernization? If there truly is something worldly or sinful about it, why will they eventually change their practices?

Why are some “orders” so conservative, while others located just a few miles away so liberal; for instance, one order may not allow any use of a phone, another order may allow the use of a community or pay phone, and still another order will allow the use of cell phones, providing they are used for business purposes? Why can the members of one order only utilize horse drawn implements with metal wheels, while the members of other orders are allowed to use equipment which rolls on rubber tires, and still the members of other orders are even allowed to drive tractors or automobiles?

Why do some advocates of the Amish faith continually relocate as they search for a community which will allow them to work and live the way they want to work and live; for instance when a man desires to operate a commercial dairy but his current community will not allow him to use an electrically powered milking machine, why will he move his family many miles away into a community which will allow him to do what he wants?”

All these questions have been pondered and discussed by some very religious individuals who question the reasoning, motives, and standards of this “unusual” or “odd” sect which dwells among us.

But are the Amish that much different than most of the religious world? Do not many within “Christendom” think and act the same way?

In every “faith” are there not “conservative” and “liberal” congregations? Haven’t the core members of every church in existence at some point considered some things taboo, but later consider those same issues or practices acceptable? Doesn’t every faith have members who continually relocate from congregation to congregation, or even from “faith” to “faith” until they find a group that will allow them to live the way they want to live and to do the things they want to do?

People are people no matter where they are located, or how modernized or civilized they become. Perhaps we more readily notice the changes in the Amish community because they are more visibly identifiable. Perhaps we openly discuss these changes because more times than not, there are no Amish present during the conversation. Perhaps we sometimes can’t understand their reasoning because it resembles the same logic we use for arriving at our own religious beliefs; and we can neither understand nor willingly admit our use of such unreasonable logic.

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.” (Romans 2:1-11) ESV

 

 

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