Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Restacking the Firewood

“Now therefore amend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the Lord your God…”Jer. 26:13 Yep, the change needed to happen. But I told myself a thousand times to let it go. I tried to convince myself I was too concerned. Maybe it was just my OCD kicking in. But if I was honest, truly honest, the change needed to happen. And I knew it. Change is like that. It’s tough because there is always a price to pay for correcting any mistake. But the cost of the change is always less than the price of neglect. A few months ago, when I had stacked firewood in my backyard, I was in a rush. I knew I was stacking it on the side of a hill, but it seemed OK. My friend and brother-in-law, Brian, was helping me. As the stack got higher, the lean became more obvious. Brian even commented, “that wood is kinda leaning.” “Oh, it’ll be fine”, I said and we finished the chore, marveled at our handy work, and feeling very manly, returned to the Saturday afternoon basketball game on ESPN. As I retrieved firewood this winter for the fireplace, I noticed the lean, but I wasn’t overly concerned. “It will straighten up as the pile decreases,” I rationalized. Instead, the lean got worse. And then came the puppy. Our precious lab, Maisy, had died four months earlier. And the time finally came for us to add another dog to our legacy of labs. Sammy would be number five. As we played in the backyard one afternoon, I threw her ball up by the woodpile. She ran to retrieve it and I looked up and noticed the leaning woodpile. Her playing by the pile could cause it to fall and easily kill a small puppy. That was enough. I hurried in, put on my “play clothes” (as Jeanie calls them), grabbed gloves and got to work. I restacked the whole cord of wood with wooden slats on the downhill side of the bottom logs. The new stack was level and Sammy was safe. As I finished the job, I petted Sammy and reflected on what I had just done. I made a change. My back was sore, my hands a bit scratched and my foot hurt (I had dropped a log on my left foot- ouch), but the job was complete. The chore I had so vehemently resisted was done. I reflected on why most of us resist making changes. We tend to be lazy. Yep, I was looking to do the best job in the easiest way, never a good combination. When it came to stacking the wood that day, I wasn’t as concerned about doing it right as I was about doing it quickly. Most mistakes happen when time becomes THE factor. Slowing down and “being present” equals a job well done. We don’t listen very well. Wise counsel makes all the difference, but we only listen if we want to. Brian gave some good perspective, but I was so focused on finishing, that I didn’t truly entertain his thought. Remember, when we’re “entertaining” someone, they are getting all of our attention and focus. We’re willing to live with mediocrity. Of course, I’m a paradox. I can be extremely picking about things that concern me directly, but very passive if they don’t. But the truth is, any time I take a short cut, it affects those around me. It was only when Sammy entered the scene that I saw the potential consequence for my mediocrity. But the pile could have fallen on lots of people. We don’t like being humbled. Pride “rules the roost” for most of us. To admit to making a mistake is difficult. It means we “messed up.” But a humble heart is willing to admit to the mistake and make the change. Mistakes pave the way for progress, if positive change occurs. May we all be willing to admit our mistakes and be willing to make changes. Heed the advice of Godly, wise counsel of true friends. Have a humble heart. Keep an eye out for things that are “leaning” in your life. Make the adjustments to straighten them out… …and avoid the fall out. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Applying the Seasoning

“He will be like a tree…which yields its fruit in its season…” –Psalm 1:3 We’re enjoying a beautiful warm spring day here in the Ozarks. We’re in the middle of season transition- cold one day and warm the next. The seasons are so pronounced and unique and beautiful- each one worth embracing, none worth skipping. I’ve had so many seasons in my own life: coming to know Christ, the Baylor years, marrying my best friend Jeanie, moving to Branson, the birth of our beautiful children, my dad passing away, our kids leaving for college, our kids marrying wonderful people, our two grandkids being born, being trained and discipled by Richard Beach, Richard passing away, my oldest brother dying of cancer, the list goes on and on- the seasons go on and on. Take a moment to reflect on the seasons of your life. Like me, I bet you’ve been through the crisp days of spring and the cold days of winter. No mater the seasons, we have been blessed throughout. Every year, fall comes after summer and spring comes after winter. Every single year! The pattern never changes. No disrespect to Al Gore, but the globe has always warmed and cooled. God created the cycle of seasons for a reason. I wonder sometimes: why can’t we have spring all the time? Why can’t we always have warmth and sunshine and prosperity? The truth is, God knows what He’s doing. We need the seasons because, in the end, seasons produce growth. Winter is a dormant time of rest and stillness. We’re reminded that on the seventh day, God rested from all his work (Genesis 2:1-3). He created nothing. He simply enjoyed His creation and saw that it was good. It was enough. We miss God’s goodness when we’re moving all the time. Spring is a new, fresh time of growth. We’re reminded that when a man comes to know Christ, old things pass away and new things come (2 Cor. 5:17). All is changed. Newness prevails. It is a time of change, from what was to what will be. It’s a time of fear of unknown being replaced by enthusiasm for the new. Summer is a turbulent time of heat and storms. We’re reminded that Shaddrak and his buddies were tied up and cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire (Daniel 3:29). Though the fire was hot, they were not. They were resting in God. They chose not to live under the circumstances but above them, in God’s peace. Fall is a time of loss and despair. We’re reminded that Elijah went a day’s journey, hid under a Juniper tree and requested of God that he might die (1 Kings 19). Jesus struggled in Gethsemane as well, but never lost His trust in the Father. We don’t have to deny difficult times but rejoice when we take refuge in Christ, even when nothing makes sense. Seasons are sometimes fertile, sometimes still, but are always God’s seasons with a purpose, whether fruit is being produced or not. Maybe that’s the problem. We want fruit all the time. We are gluttons. We want more and God says, “You have enough.” He provides and then we compare. “They have more,” we say and God replies again, “but I’ve given you enough.” Someone said, “The secret to contentment is wanting what we have.” Some seasons produce fruit and some do not. But there is growth in every season. Our challenge is to be present in every season- not wish it away for the next one, but embrace it. Pull out the sled in the wintertime, enjoy the beach in the summer, plant like crazy in the spring and jump in a pile of leaves in the fall. May we embrace every single season God brings our way. May we let the seasons produce their growth. May we “apply the seasoning” and let it improve our lives. May we trust God in every circumstance… …no matter the season. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com