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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

I built my second handicap ramp this year (see 1:12). It was bright and sunny and when the afternoon came a shade tree covered the spot, cooling the worksite. I would have liked to start with a landing at the door but the practical use of space necessitated dropping immediately out the door to fit the space and stay within the maximum 1:12 pitch of a handicap ramp.

I have taken to tarring the posts in the ground to lengthen the effective lifespan of my structures. A project coming soon will reveal why I set the joists on top of the posts rather than bolt them to the side.

There was some custom cutting and fitting to run the sloping ramp over the existing stoop. I felt that the thinness of the joist at this point compromised its strength sufficiently to need support, so I added a support on the step below.

I like the baluster shadows in this next picture. One should be able to tell time by them. Let’s see, Daylight Savings Time? I probably took this picture just before I left for lunch at around 12:30.

I usually put a toprail on ramps and decks, but we were keeping the cost down as much as possible. That is, of course, hard to do when lumber prices are out the roof.

The evening glow and shadows say that it is time to head for the house, another job complete. Notice the scrap boards under the landing. The two children who frequent great-grandmother’s house had already been playing under the deck.

It was fascinating to see the four generations of this family interacting and coming and going as I worked. What a blessing is a godly heritage, children to keep the elders young at heart and elders to impart wisdom and a sense of belonging and origin. I pray that I might be able to see some of my great-grandchildren and impart some wisdom for life and salvation to them.

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Adorable may be defined as

“1: extremely charming or appealing” [examples:] an adorable child, an adorable cottage
2: worthy of adoration or veneration” (1,2)

Notice that the charming definition comes before the adoration one. I assume that this preference is based on the amount of usage in the English language. Interestingly, the etymology (3) of adorable and its base word, adore, is based entirely in worship of God. To find one’s spouse or child or anything adorable is secondary and found arising in language 3 centuries later. So, it makes sense that the definition of adore reflects this origin:

“1: to worship or honor as a deity or as divine
2: to regard with loving admiration and devotion [example:] He adored his wife.
3: to be very fond of [example:] adores pecan pie” (4)

More than likely this order of definition is also based on usage. In present culture, I dare say that you have heard the word adorable in its primary use more than adore in its primary use. With this in mind, consider that it is reasonable that I was struck anew with the following phrase from the hymn, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”:

“Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,

Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight.”

Now you may wonder what the purpose of my introduction is. Obviously, this sentence is talking about God. But I didn’t have the definitions and preferences of use in mind at the time, just the cultural tendency to think of adorable, for example, adorable grandchildren (5).

But then I thought, “Wait, these angels believe God is adorable, that is, lovable, beautiful, worthy of veneration and devotion.” And they do not worship Him out of compulsion or duty, afterall 1/3 refused to and became demons (6). No, they veil their sight, for though they are powerful and beautiful and pure beings among whom humans faint and tremble, their power and beauty and purity is trivial compared to God’s. Are they ashamed to look upon Him? Probably not, since they are pure. But He is so holy, so other, and so glorious, so heavy, and so pure, so full of light. They adore Him because He is worthy and they want to, are privileged to. That will be heaven, worshiping before Him because He has enabled me to and with a pure heart I will want to and it will be blissful.

  1. Adorable | Definition of Adorable by Merriam-Webster
  2. It may surprise you to know it is an adjective only. In the sentence, “The puppy is adorable.” it is still an adjective.
  3. Etymology- the history of a word or linguistic form
  4. Adore | Definition of Adore by Merriam-Webster
  5. I have eight grandchildren, so it is natural for that to come to mind immediately.
  6. Revelation 12:3-4

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I can frequently do spontaneous. I guess my children know that. My youngest son called me last Friday morning and said, “Do you want to go camping in the Gorge tonight.” Well, that took some rethinking the day, but I was in. By the time he got off from work, drove home to get equipment, drove back to my house, and we drove to the trailhead, it was nearly 7 PM. No worries, it was only 1 1/2 mile downhill romp to the river on the Pine Gap Trail. I really like the late evening light and shadow in the this picture with the diffraction blurring around the shadow.

I feel like they should have replaced the post when they replaced the sign. That post is on the way out.

This is a frequent scene with my sons. I can’t keep up anymore. Additionally, I don’t even want to since I am looking around and taking pictures. At one point he said, “I thought we had lost the naturalist there for a minute.” The trail, as do all of the Linville Gorge trails, starts off flat for a short distance and then plunges down between the cliffs in switchbacks or rock scrambles.

This Pine Tree had some fungal “foam” inflating on its side.

Catawba Rhododendron are not as large as Grandifolia, but the blooms are very beautiful.

We passed many looming giant hulks of dead Hemlock trees. It is sad that another grand tree has been essentially eliminated from the forest.

This may be the best picture of a trillium that I have ever taken. It is Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum).

Here is the first sighting of the river. Notice the blooming Doghobble in the next two pictures.

Just before dropping down to the camping site next to the river, the trail wound through the rhododendron, pine, oak, and Galax thicket at the top of an eighty foot cliff that was immediately over the river. I was almost made for a movie scene, but better.

The river was not as loud as it frequently is, since the water was low, but it still is exciting to hear it as you get nearer.

Following was our view from the campsite at the river when we first arrived.

Linville River

Since it is a frequented campsite, I had to range out 1/4 mile to collect down and dead branches for a fire. I saw that the sun was getting low and I must return to camp.

We sat around and enjoyed the glow of our carbon footprint accelerator. I thought about it and remembered that if you leave the wood on the ground to rot it released the carbon dioxide all the same, only slower. It warmed us, occupied us, and warmed us up to good conversation about history, new horizons, family, and even a touch of science.

Just above waterline was a mound of moss crowned with clump of bluets.

Violets are such a simple flower, but they always remind me of my wife since it one of her favorite flowers. The composition of the picture is so warm with rock, wood, lichen, Galax, violet, and even a touch of fern.

Electronic zoom on a phone camera is almost useless, but it did allow me to capture a hawk on a branch the next morning as we hiked out. Though blurry, can you see it?

After we exited the Gorge I directed my son to drive to the Linville Falls Access in order to show him the little jewel that I had discovered recently. (see “Underappreciated Little Jewel“)

We even had the privilege of seeing two young deer on the drive out. Wildlife is so hard to capture. I am amazed at the talent, persistence, and equipment that professionals use to bring such amazing images of wildlife to us. Even so, I like to see it for real in nature.

From start to finish, this little overnight outing only occupied sixteen hours. Don’t say you don’t have time to get out. Make the time to exercise the body, rest the mind, and inspire the spirit. God has made us a whole person in need of Him and desirous of the beauty of His Creation.

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I renewed another deck near ruin. I had been asked to come and cut off the deteriorating beveled tops of the 6 x 6 posts so that a friend of the owner could install caps to protect the posts. Caps or top rails are a good idea because water and fungi will root a post from the top down. The owner asked me about the longevity of the deck. Upon quick inspection I saw that it had 8 to 10 16′ decking boards with rotten spots and some at ground level post deterioration and some top rail warping and rotting. Following is my effort to renew the deck.

The owner requested that I pressure wash the deck before repair and restaining and provided a pressure washer borrowed from a friend at church. The deck had not been stained in five years, a time well within the stain can’s recommendations and “guarantees”, but the elements know no such time scales. This deck is close enough to trees, though not overhung by them, to get their leaf litter, catkins in Spring, and Yellow Poplar samaras. These get down between the decking boards and collect moisture, fungi, and bacteria (read “rot”). Particularly on this deck the gap between boards was not sufficient to allow this detritus to fall through, so it collected. You can see from the picture that the stain acted more like paint, clinging only to the surface and peeling when pressure washed. That is not good and may have been a large part of the deterioration. I would not have thought much of which deck treatment to use before I started repairing them, but I have some strong opinions now.

So, time consuming and tedious as it was, I got down with my knee pads and wire brushed and whisk broomed the boards.

This deck had been put together with screws, square drive heads, so there was no warping in the decking.

I ended up replacing ten decking boards and was pleased with the ones I was able to pick out.

The caps are plastic and functional and I had to replace only two top rails and two balusters.

I feel like the end result looks like new and will last another good many years. I suggested to the owner that she treat the top surfaces yearly to prevent the deterioration that was happening. With a roller and stain the decking and top rails would take no more than 1 1/2 hours to treat. The look and longevity will be satisfying.

If you look closely, you can see the tar that I put around the base of the posts. In my experience, the interface of post to ground, an inch or two above and below grade is where the most intense deterioration occurs. Though the treated lumber is rated for below grade, and actually does fair quite well in the ground, it does not do so well at the interface. I guess the conditions of moisture, air, and temperature are conducive to rotting bacterial and fungal varieties.

By the time it weathers and she treats the decking boards again in a year, you won’t even be able to tell the new boards from the old as in this picture.

I am reminded of the preacher in Ecclesiastes who is reciting a polemic on the vanity of life. Several times he softens the blow of the discouraging speech with a commendation similar to the following: “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24) At a later time He even calls this enjoyment of life “the gift from God” (Eccl 3:13). So I end with thanksgiving to God for giving me strength to work, money for bills from my labor, and satisfaction that I have renewed a product to increased usefulness and slowed the deterioration in this fallen world for the benefit of a fellow being (in fact, fellow saint in this case). It is a gift from God that I can pass along to someone.

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The sun was out, the breeze was cool, the sky was clear, then variably and partly cloudy, and the climbing was good. Showing someone climbs on a crag is fun, and I even climbed one I had not climbed. We got in ten pitches in seven hours. It wasn’t a record pace, but we weren’t in a hurry. I never get tired of this view from the top of Black Fork Cliffs. It is in my county and yet it seems worlds apart, so secluded and isolated.

Two fires in the last dozen or so years have robbed the cliff base of its shade, but that in turn is generating a fast renewal. It seems early for Frazier Magnolia to be blooming, but there it was.

Psyched again and doing new pitches he’d never been on. Notice that the rope is already on the wall. How did that happen? It’s called stick clipping. In my case, I used an extendable painter’s pole with a device on the end that holds the quickdraw (shown on the bolt in the picture). This makes the climbing safe from ground up.

We refer to such climbs as next pictured as “one move wonders” because most of the climb is very easy except for the one move he is trying to make over what looks like a “warped wall” from Ninja Warriors.

The stainless steel rings at the top of a sport climb are secure, giving a comfortable stance for looking around. The black lichen looks like pits in the rock, but aren’t. I cannot figure out the dead pine tree. Am I seeing another tree behind it cause the bizarre shape appearance of the trunk, or is it really that odd looking?

Contemplating.

Lunch snack and belayer rest. Maybe that’s what he was contemplating. When is he going to get up? The Komodo’s (a defunct brand similar to Crocks) keep my climbing shoes clean between climbs.

This rock formation looks like a spire or tower, but on the back side it really only sticks up about 10 feet above its attachment to the wall.

It looks cool even if it is an easy climb.

Notice in the next two shots my right hand, brake hand, position, as I rappel. Brake.

Feed rappel.

Broadhead Skink (Eumeces [Plestiodon] laticeps) (1): Such creatures make our attempts and pride about climbing seem rather pointless.

This is the second, and I might say, successful attempt. I couldn’t touch the move over the vertical section just after the second bolt. I saw him do it and still didn’t know what to do.

Another day out in the woods and fresh air, on the rock, thankful for the “One Who made, saved, and sustains” this world, and more specifically, me. May you see His care for you and choose to follow Him, too.

  1. Species Profile: Broadhead Skink (Eumeces [Plestiodon] laticeps) | SREL Herpetology (uga.edu)

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In this day of record high lumber prices, many people are opting for deck restoration rather than replacement. It is still not cheap since there may be nearly as much labor in restoring a deck as in building a new one. Following is an example of restoration and addition.

But how many boards do you replace? Is structural integrity the only criteria? Where does longevity or appearance or smoothness come into play and to what extent? Beyond structural integrity, the owner has preference and say that should be considered. For instance, this owner specified that the surface be smooth enough of children’s bare feet. But that still doesn’t answer how many boards should be replaced and how many should be sanded or screwed down better. How many boards would you replace in the following picture?

Notice also in the preceding picture that the deck was constructed with nails, and that via nail gun. The young girls of the family regularly pounded the nails down. Expansion and contraction and warping can work the nails out where they can snag a shoe sole or strip off some foot skin. For this reason, I prefer building decks with screws. I get it. A crew is supposed to put up a deck in a day and half and move on, but the result is not the best long-term. Screws cost more and definitely take longer to install, but the result is superior. The best new deck screws have star heads, called torx screws and the most common is T-25. They are so much easier to install than Philip’s Head screws because you don’t have to hold the tool perfectly perpendicular to the screw head and press down so hard. I added some additional screws to the deck and instructed the father to have the girls extract the nails as they come up so that he could replace them with screws that I left behind for that purpose.

The railing was particularly rough. In fact, all top surfaces are typically hard hit by the combination of UV radiation, heat, , heating-cooling cycles, moisture in terms of amount, wetting and drying, frost, and freeze-thaw cycles. For this reason I advise people to treat the top surfaces once a year to increase longevity of their deck. Railing balusters and undercarriage take by far the most time to stain and amount of stain, but the railing needs to be done initially for appearance and probably not more than once every 5-8 years afterwards depending on radiation and moisture exposure. Quick visual inspection will reveal if it needs to be done. Notice that I did not say anything about the undercarriage or joists. I’ve seen 20 year old decks that were not treated and are still sound with only the slightest deterioration between the decking boards. A deck that gets considerable leaf and litter fall is in more danger of joist deterioration, but that depends on how well the decking boards are maintenanced and if the gap between those boards is sufficient for litter to fall through. Boards placed to close together gather organic trash.

The cracks in the following post are not the biggest concern. The post was merely nailed on, and over time worked loose from people using it to steady their ascent and descent and temperature variations. For this reason I bolt railing posts on with a 3/8″ galvanized carriage bolt and screws. My father used to say, “Nothing holds like a nut and lockwasher.” Nails certainly do not. The staircase railing was shaky and that made the steps shaky. I ended up completely rebuilding the stair railing and more firmly attaching the stair stringers to the deck. (1)

I thought that it was quite creative to but a planter pot in the hole and under a table until the hole could be fixed.

The new railing looks nice, is smooth, and is well attached. It bothers me that people who stain decks are so sloppy. There are products that will clean stain off of vinyl siding without damaging it.

The new stair railing bottom posts are planted two feet in the ground, painted with tar, and concreted in. The railing is solid. The old balusters were fine and reusable, which saved more cost in re-cutting than materials.

The owners also wanted a privacy fence and specified the height. I set three 4 x 4’s in concrete and bolted them to the deck. The slat boards were 1 x 4’s ripped on a table saw, meaning they were 1 11/16″ wide. (2) I might have built with wider boards but the owner had a certain aesthetic in mind. Notice additionally that I have begun the framing for the skirt to keep the dog and other critters out.

Yes, there is a 2 x 4 missing in the privacy fence. I had to take a second run to the lumber yard for a few missing boards. It is nearly impossible to go just once, especially on a repair job where new realizations of deterioration become evident. I put it in later, but didn’t want to stop work late in the day for a run to the lumber yard when I was making good progress. Also, this is the only picture where you can glance the result of the floor sander I rented.

Following are the results of the repair. Given time restraints I did not stain the balusters or skirt. The owners did. I like their taste in decor and stain color. To save the lawn and prevent wet or muddy feet, they also added stepping stones.

In two respects I had to be creative concerning the skirting. One was the transition from privacy fence to skirt. I opted for a water shedding wood ‘shingle’ that encased the uprights. The other is not pictured, a screwed in access ‘gate’ at the other end of the deck. If I hadn’t told you, you would never know it is there from looking. You never know when someone might throw or drop any number of things that go through the slats and need to be retrieved or some maintenance needed on the house that requires access under the deck.

Some of these old boards were installed incorrectly, crown down, so that water gathers on the deck. This is major reason to re-stain the deck yearly.

This flowering bush unknown to me is a great way to decorate in front of a garbage can fence. Functionality is great, but appearance is inviting. Extend this idea to God’s Creation. Ecologically self-replicating and self-cleaning and simultaneously visually inspiring and health-giving only begins to describe the depth of God’s gift to us of functionality and beauty in nature for which we should regularly give thanks and praise. Decks and such are only a vague reflection of that creativity.

  1. stairway parts- https://www.mycarpentry.com/image-files/xstair-diagram-solid-risers.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Pc601Vrgj6.jpg
  2. A 1 x 4 is actually 3 1/2″ wide (dressed lumber). If you subtract the 1/8″ of sawdust made by the blade width and divide by 2, you get 1 11/16″. The lumber yard did not have the 1 x 2 inch stock and ripping produces straighter boards anyway. Being from out of town on this job, I asked the owner if a friend had a table saw that I could borrow. A brother in Christ was glad to assist.

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We need hope, but from whence does it come?

Certainly a sense of purpose or destiny or family and friends bring hope, but what about when these fail or seem distant? Hear what source of hope the Scriptures give us:

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:4-6

Given that this was written before any of the four Gospels and the book of Acts, it must refer to the Old Testament from which Jesus had “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”” Luke 24:45-47 Now, I am not excluding the great encouragement and instruction given by the New Testament, but I magnify the value of reading and studying the Old, especially for those many of you who don’t spend much time there or see much value in it, thinking I’m “not under law but under grace” Romans 6:14 (1) It was written for our instruction, so read the instruction manual before assembly.

Now we get to the meat of our source of hope. The passage reveals a two-fold instruction on hope from God with an ancillary instruction on hope from fellow believers.

Those who are blood bought, Holy Spirit sealed believers (2) increase in hope of their relationship to God and future rescue through persisting in faith in the midst of difficulty- perseverance. In fact, the teaching of perseverance of the saints is pointing out how believers persist in belief to the end while “the Spirit explicitly says” of those who do not truly belonging to God through belief in Jesus “that in later times some will fall away from the faith.” I Timothy 4:1

How does this strange occurrence of hardship increasing trust in God work? As the believer comes to understand that he or she does not deserve anything and yet God is carrying him or her through difficulty and revealing Himself in the process, the believer trusts more. The unbeliever begins to doubt that God cares and pulls further away. Many a believer will also struggle with doubts and be estranged, but it will not persist. In the end faith will persist. The believer perseveres.

The greatest help to perseverance is the Word of God. For this reason, Open Doors, a ministry to persecuted believers all over the world, frequently reports how believers ask for Scriptures over security, food, or shelter. The Bible brings hope and especially when we are paying attention during difficulty. The passage says “the encouragement of the Scriptures”. As we read of others who struggled but found God’s grace to persevere, we find strength. Promises of God impart strength. Ultimately, the excellency of the character of God imparts strength. Strength comes in the form of hope. When we are hopeless, then we are weak. When we are full of hope, then we are strong, strong in the Lord.

But God gives yet another avenue for increasing hope- fellowship. The passage speaks of “same mind”, that is, unity of belief and purpose. Then it says “with one voice glorify”, which is unified worship. When we worship together in unity and convey how God has increased our faith in difficulty and have comforted others in their difficulty with the hope of God and shared Scriptures of encouragement and instruction, then true fellowship and encouragement has occurred and hope is increased. For this reason “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

The other disciplines of the faith like prayer, witness, fasting, service, and so forth, are all a part of this perseverance-Scripture-fellowship encouragement that strengthens faith leading to hope. What a good God we have who for His glory and our good by “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3

And one day we will be removed from all difficulty and spend eternity in His presence. That will be glory!

  1. In context, this verse has nothing to do with the value or truth of the Old Testament. Rather, it refers to the source and power for overcoming sin, grace applied by the Holy Spirit and not striving to fulfill the requirement of the law. Why? Well it is because “a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 2:16
  2. These are not a special breed or dispensation of believers, just plain believers. I use these adjectives to exclude those who have mental assent to the things of God and are spectators in the church, but not saved.

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On my bucket list of climbs I’ve wanted to do was The Nose at Looking Glass Rock. Today I led all four pitches. This brave fellow was psyched to do it with me.

The gravel road approach was gated and we didn’t know that there was another way closer, so we walked in three miles from the Education Center.

Along the way was a nice waterfall, but checking it out would have to wait until later.

The parking at the approach trail is about 0.3 mile from the base of the rock, though quite steeply up, especially with a pack of climbing gear.

To my eye this rock face is odd both in overall shape and features called “eyebrows” throughout the rock.

I wanted to lead the climb, which is a 5.8 and well within my wheelhouse. It is a different style of climbing, however, because one must use the ‘eyebrows’ as underclings (1). The weather was pleasant for hiking and climbing, but unexpectedly cloudy, cool, and breezy at times.

It is always good to see that your belayer is alert and paying attention. You can clearly see that this climb is the most popular by the impact of foot traffic at its base. Certain climbs are called “classic”, which I have never quite understood. Does that mean people like it, it has been around a long time, that it is interesting or otherwise aesthetically pleasing, or some vague combination of all of these? After some difficult climbs we could not complete later, mostly because of lack of good protection (2), I commented that perhaps the reason you only ever hear about half a dozen climbs out of several hundred is that most are crazy hard or too run-out (3) for most people to want to climb them.

When you trad (4) climb you place protection devices like stoppers, hexs, tri-cams, slings, or cams like the one pictured here. Then you clip your rope into a carabiner attached to the end that catches your fall. This was a solid or ‘bomber’ placement. There are sections on this wall and this climb where there are handholds but no placement for protection. This results in a run-out situation. By the way, do you see how I mark my equipment?

Following is the view at the first set of belay anchors about 90′ up. Spring has just begun at this level but not much higher. My partner commented on how he likes the contrast of fresh green and gray limbs, because the gray accentuates the bright green of new leaves.

I was the lead climber on this climb. My partner was the follower. He is seen here cleaning the route, that is, collecting the protection that I had set. Notice in some of these pictures the visual illusion that the surface is not very steep, as in the foreground here. None of this climb is truly vertical, but except for a few ledges, it is a 60 to 85 degree wall.

And here we are on one of the ledges transitioning for me to begin leading the next pitch (4).

Being such a popular and old climb, I saw several old and broken pieces of pro along the route. The piton pictured is really old school.

The views were great. Note the occasional evergreen amongst the bare deciduous expanse.

It is always nice to have a comfortable place to sit when you are belaying, though it is not frequent. Notice the parked cars at the Looking Glass Mountain Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had stopped there many times in the past, had a picnic with the family there once, and several times thought that I’d like to climb this rock. I wonder if any tourists with binoculars were spying our progress this day? I think that the peak behind the peak behind the overlook is Richland Balsam.

I gave my partner a hard time, saying this picture looked like he was a model for outdoor clothing. You can see some older, though quite sturdy, bolts he is tied into. This location is the lunch ledge which is still not level but reasonable to walk around on untethered away from the edge.

The following four images from the top combine to make a 180 degree panorama from south through west to north. We didn’t stay here long because it started sleeting. Yes, it was sleeting in late April. Well, it does happen rarely on the high peaks in mid-summer.

Time to rappel back down. Once again it looks nearly flat in the foreground but isn’t. The blue device through which there are two bites of rope in his left hand is called an ATC (5).

In the following selfie you can see the reflection of not only the phone with which I am taking the picture but also one of the bolts to which I am attach and my partner is rappelling and the tree line at the top of the peak.

On the hike out we saw some wildflowers like this blue flag and May Apple.

I got closer to the waterfall, which had a 20′ overhang to its right.

This day was the first time I have climbed at Looking Glass Rock and the first 4 pitch climb I have completed. It was a pleasant day with lively conversation. I see endless views of God’s beauty in the rocks and trees and sky and flowing water. It gives rest to my mind and challenge to my body to be out in His Creation and sharing it with someone. Perhaps that is part of the reason that I share it with you. I want to you to enjoy it with me, acknowledge the beauty of God’s work with me, and resolve to get out more and enjoy it yourself. Come along with me if you like.

  1. undercling- fingers and palms facing up and pushing up to counteract downward foot pressure for stepping up.
  2. good protection- strong enough to catch you and frequent enough to prevent long falls
  3. run-out- excessive distance between climbing protection that may result in a long and dangerous fall.
  4. pitch- the distance of climb between two belay stations equal to less than the length of the rope
  5. ATC- Air Traffic Controller was named by Black Diamond and now colloquially referred to for all similar devices, sorta like Kleenex is for all facial tissue.

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I was in need of going over the mountain a couple of days ago. I have done the trip so, so many times. I decided that I needed to stop on the way back to take a little hike and break up the trip. I appreciate scenes I have already seen and return to many frequently. I especially enjoy showing others little wonders of nature that I have seen. But I was alone and I longed to see something new, and it did not have to be big or impressive. I found what I suspect to be an underappreciated little jewel off the far end of the Linville Falls Access Parking Lot. Old growth forests are few in the Eastern United States. I content myself with enjoying the occasional lone larger tree. This Eastern White Pine is a healthy example.

The trail is very short. By the time you walk to the far end of the parking lot, you are half way there. The trail goes up over a little hump past several large trees and then down into a narrow notch where the park service has a bridge just right for viewing and walking up between the boulders.

In the middle of the bridge, voila’, Dugger’s Creek Falls.

On the far side of the bridge the steps go up between the boulders in such an inviting way.

Always desirous of a little adventure and a better picture, I got off trail just at the base of these stairs. Inviting though they be, they were a bit too civilized for my present frame of mind. Instead, I battled a bit of rhododendron and some small drop offs. The falls, in the 12 to 15 feet wide notch and cloaked in rhodo’s was not having it.

So, I went to the top of the falls in order to check out how and where the water squirms between the cracks and voids of the notch. If you look closely, you can see the bridge. If it were summer, I would probably wade up the stream to the base of the falls, but I don’t have a waterproof camera, so that would not be recorded.

Above the falls the creek comes rushing down into the notch, still a steep pitch with more broken boulders along the sides.

The scene is green with Galax and fern and moss.

The rock form is definitely foliated metamorphic, the layers curiously formed in waves.

The trail exits the woods onto the road just out of sight of the bridge or falls, but just before it does you get one more good view.

Not quite satisfied until I have explored every little turn and divot, I crossed the creek and worked my way under the bridge and edged up along the small cliffs. It was no use. The likelihood of wet feet or more (e.g. wet cellphone) stopped me short of completing every inch. I was satisfied with one more picture and a rock scramble back up to the trail.

On the beyond the bridge side of the trail are several plagues with quotes. The following was apt to my present situation.

The author does not say why we are in need of these things, and it is certainly true that many never consider that they are. But when I muse upon why this quote is true, it seems to me to point to the beauty of God as the why we seek the beauty in nature. We cannot now see Him, though Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) We want to see His beauty and seek it in nature. But “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:9) But no one is able apart from the righteousness that Christ imparts, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:230 As He told those questioning Him about the work of God, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29) Therefore, I look forward, not based on my merit, but His in which I trust, to seeing His beautiful, awesome visage one day, just as I seeks its tarnished and veiled reflection in His Creation I so enjoy experiencing.

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I recently completed the book, “Visual Theology”, by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. I can recommend the book as a good overview of practical theology and encouragement in godly thinking and living. The book has colorful, well explained diagrams, infographics as the author calls them in keeping with the latest buzzword. A friend at church gave me the book because she knew that I like to teach using diagrams. I pursue diagram making to organize, simplify, help memory, and give insight into complex or voluminous concepts. I think my diagrams and tables have insight and are useful, realizing they may not communicate to all minds. A few examples include “Effort and Empowerment“, “Spiritual Growth“, “God’s Word and Community“.

A number of the diagrams in “Visual Theology” are instructive, convicting, and sufficiently deep to draw you into figuring them out. The one I found most useful and convicting was the one on pages 96-97 that is a flowchart about “How to put sin to death” by biblical thought and action. It rightly does not let one get off the hook with excuses. It does this by directing you to see that either you aren’t a Christian, you aren’t believing what God says about His power to overcome sin, or you don’t believe in the seriousness of sin. The flowchart then cycles back around to how to confront these problems.

Also, the summary diagram on pages 104-105 that shows the spiritual disciplines enabling movement from “putting sin to death” to “putting on the new” is beneficial. The color scheme of red to green speaks death to life. I only wished the diagram had started low with “putting…to death” and come up to “putting on…new”, instead of the other way around.

Perhaps the best infographic is the very simple one on page 108, “True Life Change”. It features two arrows cycling around amongst four major spiritual changes continuously going on in the believer’s life: “spiritual awakening”, “true repentance”, “new behavior”, and “receiving forgiveness”.

I am disappointed with the scope and depth of many of the other infographics in the book for three reasons. First of all, as my son-in-law commented after a cursory glance through the book, “It has too many words and not enough diagrams.” After reading the book, I saw the words were indeed good explanations of the points, but they did make the diagrams seem less useful. Perhaps the diagrams should have spoken for themselves and then minimal explanation given for the purpose of preventing misunderstanding.

Secondly, I feel as though several opportunities to deepen the diagrams’ messages by multiple levels interaction between the parts rendered many of the diagrams monochromatic or merely one-dimensional. For example, in the last section on vocation, the authors have a diagram called “The Work Of A Christ Follower” (page 122) that diagrams the three areas of vocation, “being”, “calling”, and “passions”. These are connected by lines to various vocations of the Christian like artist, father, husband, neighbor, athlete, etc. These vocations are placed randomly on a circle around a center circle labeled “You have many vocations”. Why not rather make the center circle say something like “What God has given you to do.” Then each concentric circle could be a priority list of vocations. In my case I would diagram what God has given me to day in this order from the center outward: Christian, husband, father, grandfather, church member, citizen, neighbor, carpenter, rock climber, writer, etc. Then connect the three areas of vocation to these. The only real difference I have made to the diagram is priority ordering the vocations rather than randomly listing them. To me that gives the diagram more depth.

Thirdly, I reflect that many of the infographics were merely pretty bulleted lists. They did not in themselves communicate or extend the concepts they presented. An example of this is the diagram in chapter 5 titled “Doctrine Leads To” on pages 82-83. These words form the center of the circular diagram with the words “Love”, “Humility”, ” Obedience”, ” Unity”, and “Healthy Growth” surrounding the title. On the adjacent page the words are bulleted with explanation. On the pages before and after this diagram explanation is given for how each of these words proceeds from doctrine. The explanation suggests a much more in depth diagram that shows progression.

Following is my attempt at making a diagram that represents the author’s own explanation of the benefits of doctrine in the life of the believer and the church. Notice that “Knowledge”, “Assent”, “Affection”, and “Trust” are not in the above list of items on his diagram. But these words do appear in his explanation and I think are the key to the sequence of changes that begin to take place in the believer that result in actions. Notice also that I do not say that this process is one-dimensional, always following this single pathway. “Doctrine” results in an acceleration of “Growth” in many areas at once. I also began to see that doctrine changed the will which changes the emotions which results in right actions. The penciled in “trust?” and “humility” are suggestions of friends as to possible changes to the diagram. And that is the benefit of more extensive diagrams of ideas: thought, discussion, musing, critical thinking, deepening.

The husband of the lady who gave me the book reflected that the book was “ground-breaking” in the area of communicating theology using graphics, and it would lead others to do more and better efforts at diagramming theology because the idea had been initiated and because we have become such a visual, quick information acquisition society. He urged me to write a follow-up book, which I said I would call “Theology Diagrammed”. The main problems with that are lack of time and a lack of completeness and coherence to the diagrams I have made. But perhaps with time, encouragement, and help, it might happen.

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Here it is!

The owner installed the chain to hang the net swing temporarily, then asked me to move the swing. An outdoor aerial silk is supposed to reside here one day.

Check out the plans. The basic concept is there, but the homeowner wanted the addition of a climbing net, a zipline, a beam for the aerial silk, and a good place to mount the net swing. For cost reasons that eliminated the slide and monkey bars. The fold down table became a doorway for the climbing net. The climbing wall got lowered from 9′ to 8′ and 7′ wide to 8′ wide. The zipline resulted in changing from 4 x 4 posts to 6 x 6 posts and adding all of those diagonals.

The zipline, due to height of the playhouse and surrounding topography is steeper than suggested. So we began to look for a way to slow the ending. I added a spring and a friend added a magnetic break. They work on the same principle as dropping a magnet down a copper pipe. Copper does not magnetize but it does conduct electric current well. Therefore, when the magnet is moving down the pipe a current is induced which has a magnet field which just happens to be counter to the magnet’s field. The magnet is slowed by this counter-EMF. So is the magnet surrounding the zipline cable. The black bungee brings the magnet back to the point for the next braking action. So, the zipline is fast but has a controlled stop.

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In the last blog entry, “Something New“, I began revealing my designed big playset coming together. Now we begin to get past mere structure and on to how it will be used.

There are three doors into the playhouse level. These are for entrance and exit but also to act as railing should S and her friends want to spend the night aloft.

The climbing net will go here. The gate doubles as a table in the playhouse.

On a rainy, cold day I worked in the block shed you see in the pictures. I drilled holes and mounted T-nuts, installed 2 x 4 supports and mounted hinges on the treated plywood on my saw horses. A few days later I mounted the wall onto the footboard. The railing was a whole day job, too.

T-nuts allow moving the climbing holds around for new climbs and no boredom.

I designed the climbing wall to meet the owner’s requirement that the playhouse “grow with her.” I told her that meant that I needed to build a serious climbing wall. To wit I installed a winch in order to lower for overhanging climbs out to 40 degrees above horizontal.

Since the winch cable is only one mounting point, I installed to latches, one on each side to stabilize and strengthen the wall when slanted.

You can see the zipline is up and staining has begun. There are so many surfaces and angles that the staining took about 2 1/2 days. The A-frame for the rings and swings is in place as well.

The 4 x 6 x 20 treated beam was special order and took one month to arrive. It came straight from the sawmill they said. Notice the smooth bar in the A-frame. It is for spinning around on.

Picking out and ordering the climbing holds proved a challenge for the owner, so those came finally.

Soon I will reveal the finished product and the plans and how they changed throughout the project and why. It was slow with various delays, but it came together nicely.

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I just finished a large project that took several months. Other responsibilities, weather, special order lumber, and specialty hardware delayed progress but did not prevent completion. It was an intense and satisfying project. Follow me as I show you the progress on S’s new playset.

How do you haul and install 6 x 6 x 20 poles? Picking them up saved time in getting them and money for the customer.

I had help getting them in the hand dug 3′ deep holes.

The homeowner was amazed.

Next, the local lumber company delivered the majority of the lumber.

Because the winter was very wet, the truck could not bring it to the backyard, even though there was access. I hauled two or three boards at a time on my shoulders the next day.

Even though this is in the city, a vacant lot behind the worksite conceals a family of 7 deer. There are some very nice trees and thick underbrush to conceal the Whitetails.

Day 2 involved more digging and considerable plumbing (not water, but vertical with the world) and bracing.

My two helpers were always ready and waiting when I arrived, regardless of time of day or weather.

On day 3, I put in joists, the footboard for the climbing wall, and concreted the posts. The reason for the overkill on the posts’ depth, size and concrete was the planned zipline. Take note of the copious diagonals as it comes together. This structure is stiff.

Some days were longer than others and some saw more progress. The floor was satisfying and very useful for further progress. Hanging out on an extension ladder leaned against a single post putting up long boards is difficult for one person.

The double 2 x 8’s hanging 5′ off of the back will support an aerial silk. S, who is the ten year old girl this is being built for, is taking lessons.

Day 5 saw the roof go on just in time to keep the floor dry from several days of torrent.

At about this point I lost track of what day I was on, since there were doctors’ appointments and multiple days of rain, short days and long days. I had nearly a whole day devoted to installing diagonals. The other part of that day saw the trapdoor go in. (1) I had to think like a kid when I designed this project. The trapdoor is an entrance from the top of the climbing wall. Think fun and adventure.

Can you guess where the zipline will attach? Diagonal City! Leaned against the shed are the 3/4″ treated plywood for the climbing wall.

We are along about day 8 so I will sign off for now. Another day I will show more progress on this cool playhouse. If you are interested in a playset, climbing wall, deck, and any number of other wood projects contact me through my facebook page, ww.facebook.com/decksandsuch

  1. The trapdoor image appears upside down when I load it, even after flipping it in the file. What is that about?

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Preaching from John 20:19-23, my preacher asked, “Do you feel overwhelmed, uncertain, and afraid like the disciples on the day of the resurrection? Jesus meets us with a message that overcomes.” He went on to explain that Jesus provided forgiveness, peace, joy, purpose, and help through the power of the resurrection. I had already been thinking about Resurrection Celebration, but this gave so much more fuel for musing and giving praise.

Risen, oh risen from the dead
Joy in our hearts is widely spread
Death now forever overcome
For those who trust Him, rescued from

Without death no resurrection
His sacrifice, our protection
From God’s retribution and wrath
Giving us new life, a new path

His rising shows His power to save
Power to quell fear of the grave
Securing true peace for His own
The Spirit now sent from the throne

And by this power we now live
Witnesses who the Gospel give
Others know this peace and power
Stand unscathed in the judgement hour

Christ the first fruits to rise anew
Harvest of saints will not be few
On final resurrection day
Peace, joy, and nothing to dismay

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The opportunities to do things with my children have been spread out more as time has gone along. People get busy, new responsibilities and challenges come along, and time is stretched. So it was good to take two short hikes with my youngest two sons and a daughter-in-law. Coming from two hours away and a half hour away, they met at my house at just after 10 AM. We drove to Catawba Falls, seeing four waterfalls in a mile and a half stretch. Along the way there is an old powerhouse built in 1923 by Daniel Adams. (1,2) My son inspects the foundation and well where the generator once resided.

His wife awaits our return to the trail and bridge on this bright, crisp day.

Right next to the powerhouse is a recent pedestrian bridge from which my son is considering the course and flow of the creek. These new alloys of steel that corrode protectively are a boon for non-maintenance. The trees in this area have been left alone for probably 70-80 years and are beginning to grow decently large.

A tributary crosses the trail a little further up. Just below the trail is a large pile of boulders and little waterfall tumbling between the boulders.

To the right of the falls and pool is a curious little cave that would be a good home for a water side creature. Tree roots provide a eerie entrance curtain.

She patiently awaits our silly exploring again. The boulders are fascinating with their significant overhangs.

The Lower Catawba Falls is a double falls, the upper part caused by the remains of the powerhouse dam. The dam is perhaps a 1/4 mile upstream from the powerhouse. I feel sure that this distance along the creek is to gain sufficient head (3), and therefore pressure, to run the generator. The water looks inviting, but icicles lined the edges of the falling water from the 20 degree morning.

The biggest show is the Middle Catawba Falls. It is said to be a 105 feet cascade. I don’t know where that is being marked from, but I’d say more. I have some better pictures of it when I went with my church group in September. (see “Cascade, Not Falls“) Today I was capturing our enjoyment of the scene.

It’s good to see the guys together and happy and enjoying the outdoors.

In this picture of me you can see icicles just up and left of my head. Pictures of falls in full sunlight are hard. In person the ever changing crystals of reflective light are enlivening to the eyes and mind, but my cellphone doesn’t know what to do with all of that light.

I wanted to see the Upper Catawba Falls. So my sons and I figured out a way to get safely above the middle falls. Recorded as 55 feet high, it is the most beautiful and symmetrical of the three.

I learned a little fun activity when I was at Machu Picchu, Peru. (“Peru 4“) I would go around and ask couples if I they would like for me to take picture of them with their camera. Being a cameraman, I know you can’t take the picture and be in the picture effectively (4). Several people offered to take my picture in return. Being by myself and wanting to record my presence there, it was a welcome offer. So this time I offered an exchange. I took their picture with their phone and they took our picture with my phone. Try it sometime. People are appreciative.

On the way back down there are good views and it is steep.

Next we took a 50 minute drive to the Bearwallow Mountain Trail. I should have taken a few pictures of the very open (no underbrush) woods on the way up (5). The large field at the top with the closely cropped grass and numerous variety of towers, both old and new, was a surprise to me. The short grass turns out to be the result of regular pasturing of cattle.

We lounged and ate in the grass and calm air. There had been a cold wind on the north and west slope on the hike up, but it was calm here.

My cellphone telephoto is not good but it does reveal mountains in the county where I reside some 45 miles away ‘as the crow flies’. The little pointy one is Table Rock and the asymmetrical one two peaks to the left is Hawk’s Bill.

The soil is very shallow at the top of this peak and the metamorphised granite pops out here and there.

Sadly, the old firetower is fenced off. It must provide a truly unobstructed 360 degree view.

The largest domed shaped peak on the horizon is Mt. Pisgah. Even my old eyes could discern the huge tower that resides thereupon.

I present this similar picture for the purpose of showing how large the field is. My three hiking companions stand halfway between the two power poles awaiting my return from picture taking.

The wind was still cutting on the north aspect when we descended, but the conversation was warm and lively, like the greening grass and bright sunshine in the pre-Spring higher elevation we enjoyed this day. I am thankful to God for time outdoors with family and hope that more will come with more of my family many times in the future.

  1. catawbafallspowerhousesidephotobuck.jpg (800×498) (wordpress.com)
  2. Catawba Falls Trail Map (hikingupward.com)
  3. Hydraulic head – Energy Education
  4. I don’t consider most selfies to be effective, that is, good picture taking, and certainly not to be compared to a good portrait.
  5. I commented to my sons that the “woods is sure clear.” My youngest pointed out that it should be “woods are clear.” He was right, but it caused me to be amazed once again at the crazy language we speak. I think that the reason I didn’t have subject verb agreement was our use of the word woods. Based on reading, I am confident that past usage was “wood” rather than “woods”. Therefore, the “wood is”, referring to the forest.

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At my son’s church recently, the words to this hymn were projected on the screen while the pianist played the tuned. I wanted to sing it, but the reflection of words and music while I held the cup was intense and instructive.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
‘Tis the long-expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
By His Son, God now has spoken
Tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear him groaning,
Was there ever grief like his?
Friends thro’ fear his cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress;
Many hands were raised to wound him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ’s the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on him their hope have built.

Thomas Kelly, Psalms and Hymns, 1802

The tune is wholly appropriate for the words: The Cyber Hymnal 6349. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted | Hymnary.org, a dirge tune if there ever was one. God made a most terrible event on a dark day (Matthew 27:45) into a glorious rescue mission (Acts 2:22-39).

“Here may view its nature rightly” struck me with considerable force. We play around with our little white lies and fleshly indulgences, but my sin caused the Savior’s cruel death. And then on the heels of this hard and convicting news is the strong hope and confidence we have in “Christ, the Rock of our salvation.”

Seeing how sinful, low, and helpless we are exalts the greatness of His mercy and grace all the more. We should dwell on the utter sinfulness of our sin only long enough to repent of it and see the height of salvation to which we run for refuge, comfort, and power for living.

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Our eighth grandchild arrived on March 9th at just after 4 AM, weighing 8 lbs 2.5 oz and 19″ long. He and his mother are healthy. I write blessing poems for my grandchildren (“Blessing of ERB”, “Be Strong”, “The LORD Has Remembered His Love and Truth”, “Work With God”, “Favored Pearl”, “Joined to God”, “Little Miss Bountiful”). This one, due to my physical and mental fatigue I suspect, took longer to come. May God bless this child for His purposes.

Joel praise the God who is
And was and ever will be
‘Yahweh is God’ this name His
Covenant Keeper is He

Trust early God’s saving grace
Pursue Him with all your might
Unencumbered run the race
By laying aside the trite

Valiant for eternal truth
Defending it by His Word
Brave to stand up from your youth
With discernment early gird

This world is no friend of yours
Trust always in God’s great strength
Its siren songs bring no cures
His rewards will come at length

Master Francis be alert
Act like a man and be strong
Stand strong in faith, sin avert
His coming will not be long

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Why haven’t I written a blog entry in awhile? Work has been intense. After a long week of work and an 11 hour Saturday repairing a deck, I took a Sunday rest. The week before an urgent situation caused me to have to pack and travel on Sunday. I was much in need of a break. I walked about 100 yards into the woods at the house where I was staying and leaned up against a tree. Lying down soon followed. I observed the surroundings for a short while and then took a solid nap. Only the first few lines of the poem came to me then. The remainder followed a few days later after two more 12 hour days to finish up the deck repair. I was away from home and appointments forced my hand to work such long hours.

My body is tired, spirit too
Quiet rest, think things through
The treetops sway, dry leaves rattle
Pond frogs peep, crows far off prattle

Sunshine is warm, the breeze is cool
Pushing so hard, oh, what a fool
Working so hard, no time to play
What’s the purpose, what is the way?

I sense just now the air is hush
The leafy bed is soft and plush
God helps His own in the their sleep
Provides strength when the road is steep

Busy the ant upon my knee
Still dormant branches above me
What’s the balance of work and rest?
Wait in trust or rise to the test?

Too tired to figure it all out
And can’t know all God is about
But on this quiet, pleasant day
I will sleep right here where I lay

I made a few switches in word order after talking to a friend about our minds so often working from the concrete to the abstract. We see something and respond, “Oh, that reminds me of what I feel or need or how I relate to someone.” God has been good to me to provide health and work and skill to make money for the ever rising bills. I am trying to steward (manage) my blessings, not complain about them.

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Last Sunday as I entered the church auditorium, I greeted a couple and conversed with them for a moment. I complimented the lady on her coat, which was sorta of a yellowish-tan, not quite gold or orange color. So, I followed up my first comment with, “What would you call that color?” Without hesitation she responded, “I’d call it sunshine.” Her husband and I chuckled and I said, “That sounds like it should be the beginning of a poem.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning. I was driving my wife to a doctor’s appointment 1:15 minutes away. About a third of the way into the trip I told my wife about the conversation on Sunday. She said that was cheery. We both went back to our thoughts and the following poem began to come. I didn’t write anything down until we reached our destination. I had composed the 1st verse and two lines of the 2nd verse by the time we arrived.

“I’d call it sunshine”
Even though the day be drear
I’d look for joy
In the midst of trial and fear

Not pretend it’s fine
When hardships are all around
But peace with God
Is settling and profound

Can’t keep it in line
There is so much going on
God controls all
It’s trust and rest I must hone

I am His, He’s mine
Though life is full of trouble
Unchanging grace
And His Word are comforts double

This poem is not about pretending everything is OK when it is not. It is not an Optimist’s perspective. Instead, this is a reminder for those who know God to look at the unseen realities that God has revealed and living based on that. And it is a reminder for those who have not come to know God that there is a spiritual reality that they should consider and seek to know God.

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I have recently determined that there are several ways of asking why of God. “God, why is this happening to me?” is the simple question, but the intent behind asking reveals the heart and faith of the questioner.

“Why?” is frequently an accusation that God is being unfair to strap you with a particular problem or difficulty. You lose your job. “Why did this happen to me, God? I’m supposed to support my family, pay my bills, and pay my taxes. How am I supposed to fulfill my responsibilities.”

But “Why?” can be asked in a different way to mean “What do you want me to learn from this difficulty?” and “How will you get glory from this difficulty?” That is, “Why is this difficulty occurring to further Your kingdom and glory in me and those around me?” You lost your job. “Why did this happen, Lord? Were you trying to get my attention because I was doing something wrong, or are You trying to increase my faith, or do You have a better career in mind? Be glorified through Your provision for my family during this difficulty and in my reactions and trust in You. Bless my wife and children with provision and security. Bless those looking on with a sense of Your goodness to us.”

There is a third, mixed reaction to difficulty that involves asking “Why?”. I am reminded of the honest answer of the father in Mark 9:24, “I do believe, help my unbelief.” I can relate well to this response. I frequently respond initially with “Why…that’s not fair?” but then consider God’s goodness in times past and the Scriptures about His faithfulness and moderate my stance to “Why is this happening in this way for my instruction and Your glory?” In reality, it usually comes out in more colloquial language: “God, what are you up to?” or “What am I supposed to learn from this?” or “How do You get glory from this?”

I mark my progress in the faith largely by how quickly I move on to trust. And at times I am finding myself responding in faith immediately. Perhaps because of a sense of inability or defenselessness, I seem to respond in trust more immediately the more drastic the difficulty or disappointment. And that is the good in trials for us, learning to trust without accusations of “WHY?”

But lest you think I am saying that I have arrived, I also shrink back into discouragement and complaining all too often. A circumstance, a Scripture, my wife, a friend, or even a stranger communicate how blessed I am and how foolish ungratefulness is and I am set, sometimes hard, back onto the path of faith. May God patiently work His plan in me and through my circumstances, and I would append that request to say, may He do it gently because I am frail (“For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust,” encourages Psalm 103:14.).

I have been thinking about Job lately. Do you feel like Job whose friend, Eliphaz, encouraged him by saying, “For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7)? That’ll put pep in the step, not! I keep having to “humble [myself] under the mighty hand of God,… casting all [my] anxiety on Him, for He cares for [me]”.*

As I told my Sunday School class, “Resist temptation and replace it with something better.” Jesus is always better. Thanksgiving diverts my attention from temptation to Him. I’m preachin’ to myself. You can listen in if it gives you any help. Maybe I will even get to the place of saying with James, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

*I inserted personal pronouns in place of yourself, your, you.

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Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains