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Archive for August, 2022

Permanently or for a while, I don’t know, but certainly for the next few months I will not be building any decks since I have started a new, fulltime job indoors helping people recover their health. It is a major career and direction change for a 62 year-old, but one I have been pursuing for nearly five years now. I agreed to this deck somewhat reluctantly because I knew that it was going to push right up to the time I would be moving. In fact, I did end up pushing very hard to complete it the day before I started packing the truck. The completion of this short phase in my life reminded me of a song on an old 78 RPM record my mother had in the Livingroom Closet. On the very static recording, Gene Autry is crooning, “I’m headed for the last round-up”. In the song, he is actually talking about going to heaven, but as a boy I didn’t catch on to that. Instead, I took it to mean that an old cowboy was riding in his last cattle round-up, meaning he was retiring. I get asked somewhat frequently how I like retirement, having retired from public education after 28 years. I don’t really know. I have built decks for two years and now end that round-up circuit in order to start a new adventure.

There were costs to building decks. I worked long hours on the clear days and not at all on the rainy days. I was totally worn out at times. Making mistakes and having cost overruns was frustrating. I was frequently exposed to chemicals that I have a reaction to. It was difficult to price things to make money without chasing off potential customers. I knew that I could not physically do this work long-term. There were benefits to building decks. I was my own boss and kept my own hours. I met new people and had many profitable conversations. I was physically stronger than I had been previously for many years. I sweated profusely which is good for a body. Solving problems was a good challenge. I had the sense of a job well done and thank you’s for accomplishing it. It paid many bills.

For a tour of the process on this latest and possibly last deck, click on Something Old and Something New.

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A Blessing

Have you ever given in to stress, let it strain you, that is, contort your deportment. I did yesterday. My wife was patient, realizing that I was stressed beyond my ability. But it really doesn’t take much when I am not walking by the Spirit. I sulked a bit, but I decided confession and pleading for help was a better way forward. I had written a thank you/comfort card the day before in which I composed the following blessing. The card had a painting of Hummingbirds on Bee Balm, which directed my thoughts toward the Balm in Gilead (Jeremiah 8:22, 46:11). The next day I knew that I was as much in need of this blessing as the person I sent it to.

May the Balm in Gilead be your comfort and stay

With peace and joy lead you in the way

May His Spirit in you always have sway

That you may please God each and every day

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I have over the years used and shared a metaphor for God’s dealing with me and directing me. For many years I traveled a curvy, steep, two-lane road over the mountains to get to healthcare and hiking and climbing destinations. I have traveled it alone, with my family, with my wife, or with friends in all conditions: snow, blazing heat, intense storm, beautiful Autumn days, full bloom of Spring, wildlife crossing the road, semi’s and cars and motorcycles (1) wrecked, and fog.

This metaphor, I believe, first began to form in my mind when talking to my former landlord about traveling this stretch of pavement. He was a telephone lineman for many years until his retirement. He once told me that he had seen fog so thick on that stretch of road that he actually walked beside his truck with hand on the steering wheel looking down to see the white stripes on the pavement in order to make progress. He was not given to exaggeration or metaphor, but regardless, the image in my mind directed me toward how I would feel many time subsequent in the midst of trying to move from one point to another in my life. As the old hymn says, “God Leads His Dear Children Along” (2), sometimes in the clear blue, sometimes in the dark, and sometimes through deep fog. He makes use of the conditions of our circumstances He has allowed or created for His glory and our good. More specifically, He may be about encouraging our souls in the crisp, new morning or slowing us down to follow closely in the fog. We may only be able to see one dashed line ahead of us on our life’s road, which causes us to pay attention and pray constantly. I have felt as though He has closed in the fog so near at times that I could only see the next step in front of me, and that light only a moment before I took the step. Perhaps He knew I would run ahead and miss the path if given more light, or perhaps He was training me to follow closely, trusting only Him.

As I have shared and contemplated this metaphor, one little detail has not satisfied me. It seems to be a mixed metaphor with vehicle and dashed lines on the one hand and footsteps and path on the other. I may tell someone the fog on the mountain story only to finish with the footsteps along the path. Musing on this discrepancy a few days ago, a more pointed application illumined my understanding. Sometimes I may go at a pace of a car in the fog and others I must pick each step one at a time, not knowing what precipice I may be traversing (3). God chooses the pace by the depth and duration of the fog and roughness of the path. The weather is not the point; following patiently and circumspectly without either running ahead or falling behind is. I long for some clear days, but I cherish the quiet intimacy of the fog.

  1. Not having gained the fame of “The Dragon”, it is nonetheless a draw for motorcyclists who like the challenge of the curvy highlighted by exceptional scenery: NC181.
  2. Colored, underlined script are links, in case you didn’t know. I am reminding myself as I tell you that I should write a blog entry about the circumstances in which I learned and sang that hymn over the years. God is good to direct.
  3. Having read the Chronicles of Narnia to my granddaughter recently, this idea reminds me of the scene when Lucy had seen Aslan in the woods near the precipice’s edge, pleading with his eyes to follow her. Her siblings, save Edmund, and the dwarf voted her down. When their choice failed, Aslan graciously appeared again, and they followed through the dark down a narrow path between cliffs to its base. At the bottom when the sun arose and the fog cleared, one of the siblings, I believe it may have been Edmund, remarked how amazing it was they navigated safely down the path. But, of course, they did, Aslan was leading.

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David (e.g. Psalm 144:1) and several of the prophets (e.g. Isaiah 1:4) and patriarchs (e.g. Genesis 22:14), even Hagar (Genesis 16:13), gave names to God for who He is and what He had done for them. I don’t know if it is appropriate for me to do that since I am not a Spirit-inspired writer of Scripture, the canon being complete.

I have been contemplating recently how God should be Lord of every area of my life, the public and private, the work and leisure, the thoughts and actions, all of it. It is so easy to then proceed in mind to all the things I have to be and do. But I am wholly incapable of the big and the small, the short and long term, the internal or external. I need Him for it all. He must be my all in all. To me He is Lord Ubiquitous. He is not merely omnipresent, but present and enabling in every area of my life according to His desire and for His glory. His power to do right is present in every challenge, temptation, joy, provision, even failure, and certainly forgiveness. As a Spirit-indwelt son of My Father I only need to obey, looking to Him in each situation. Oh Lord, keep me from neglect and rebellion of You. Enable me to trust rather than fear.

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I have not divulged the recent goings on of my wife and me for two reasons. Firstly, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. Then when it did work out faster than I anticipated, life got very busy. There was so much to finish up where we were and so much to do in transition and so much to do at our new location. As one friend used to say, “I’ve been going hard in the paint” for several months now. In fact, I just recently realized that I was truly exhausted, the kind where one or two good nights of sleep are not sufficient. But God is good, sustaining us through all of this transition, and though we are living in a forest boxes, we have moved in and slowing down somewhat. In fact, today we went to a local park and took a leisurely walk, the first time in months. Check out a few pictures of our new house and the walk we took today at ETN Move. We moved away from East Tennessee 29 years. My wife commented just today that she thought we would never return. I agreed. At my new job several weeks ago, I came into the room to meet a new client. She stared at me for a long moment. “May I help you?” I queried somewhat uncomfortably. “Did you ever teach Biology?” she questioned. “Oh yes,” I replied, “many times to high school students.” “No, I mean, did you ever teach Biology at Northeast State Community College?” “I can’t believe this is happening! I taught there for one semester, 29 years ago.” “Yes, I was one of your students. I liked you as a teacher, but what impressed me most was one night after class I came up to you and said, ‘I can’t come to the next class because I don’t have a babysitter for my 2-year old. You said it was no problem, just to bring him with me and I did. He is 31 now.” That was another significant transition in our lives. I am thankful that I could influence someone in a good way in the midst of that stressful time. Oh, that I may do so this time around as well, giving God the glory.

I hope to cycle back around and share some thoughts on several things that happened before the move and caused the move. Now we are in a new phase of our life, still moving forward, still finding purpose in what God is calling us to.

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains