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Archive for February, 2010

THE BEAVER SLIDE

Earlier in the week I was reminded of a time when I was about ten or eleven years old and my brother, Andy, was two years younger. My Father was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed fishing, hunting and camping. If he was unable to be involved in one of those forms of recreation, during whatever spare time he had, he enjoyed simply getting in the car and going for a drive into the mountains.

One Saturday evening during the summer my Dad asked my Mother if she would not like to go out and see if there were any huckleberries on the bushes yet. He suggested we take the "grub box" and have an evening meal of hamburgers cooked on a cast iron skillet over an open fire. The grub box was a large container my Dad had made in which everything necessary for preparing a good meal in the out-of-doors could be stored and carried. Today we have our nice coolers of every shape and size, but this was in the days of the canvas water bag, you understand.

My Mother was ready to get away for the evening so the old blue grub box was filled with the necessities for an evening meal in the woods, we hopped into our old 1949 Chevrolet, and headed for the mountains.

Later, the sun having set a good while earlier, darkness was beginning to cast its cloak over the mountains. We had collected a good supply of huckleberries and my Dad decided it was time to head for home. We had travelled quite a distance into the mountains and were high up on the side of a rugged peak. It was going to be well after dark when we arrived home; in fact, it would be way past two young boys’ bed time! Hey! My brother and I didn’t care! We were having fun.

But, since it was late, my Dad attempted to take a shortcut during the drive off of the mountain. Have any of you ever gotten into trouble taking a shortcut? Men, have you ever gotten into "hot water" with your wife for taking shortcuts? Say, let me tell you—my Dad did!

We came to a spot where there was an old logging skid road that turned off the main road and went down an extremely steep hillside. In fact, the local people familiar with the mountainous area in those parts referred to this spot as the "Beaver Slide"! Once you started down it, there was no turning back! You had to keep going—down!

My brother and I thought this was just great, as my Dad slowly maneuvered the old car down that steep "trail" (you could hardly call it a road!). We watched over the back of the front seat as my Dad turned one way and then the other, careful to keep his foot on the brake.

My Mother? She sat silently, staring straight ahead, saying nothing. Looking back, I now wonder if maybe she was praying!

We were about a third of the way down that hill when we approached some huge ruts and deep ditches in our path, caused by water running off the mountain side during the wet seasons of the year. Some of them were 3-4 feet deep!

My Dad was carefully maneuvering alongside one of these deep ditches when our car suddenly began to slide. In an instant, before Dad could do anything to stop it, the soft dirt at the edge of one of those ditches gave way and our old 49′ Chevy lurched over to the side and down, coming to rest at an uncomfortable and crazy angle in the deep ditch. Oh, boy! Now what?

In the Bible translation The Message, in Proverbs 21:5, we find the following words: Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind.

I like those words, “Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run.” That usually rules out most shortcuts. Even though we live in a world that is “full of hurry,” we need to be careful that we are not placing ourselves, or those we love and care about, at risk by taking shortcuts. Sometimes slower really is better. I doubt that God takes shortcuts, nor does He hurry. So, what does that tell us?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to be a careful planner and one who is not in the habit of taking risky shortcuts. Cause me to always include you in the planning of my life and future. Thank you for traveling through this journey of life with me. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group."

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You have had them, I’m sure. In fact, some of you have had more than your share of them. I am talking about those days that come along occasionally when it seems that everything that can go wrong—does! If it were just one day out of say, one hundred days, it wouldn’t be so bad. But sometimes we have the misfortune to have an entire week which we hate to even look back on they are so horrible.

A children’s book was published a few years ago titled “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No God, Very Bad Day,” by author Judith Viorst. The first sentence of the book begins with the young boy, Alexander, stating: "I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day."[i]

My wife and I are acquainted with a young woman for whom the story about Alexander would seem like old stuff. As we visited with her recently she began to relate some of the “stuff” that was taking place in her life. Now, I must tell you that her life is busy enough when everything is going at its best, let alone to have a day or a week when things just seem to fall completely apart.

For this young woman it all began when one of her boys went to use the kitchen range and none of the burners would turn on—none of them. All the lights came on when the controls were moved but no heat came from any of the four burners. Well, they could use the oven for preparing some of their meals for a few days but, wouldn’t you know it—the oven would not heat up either. It appeared as if their trust and faithful kitchen stove was “toast.”

The young woman began to put menus together where the meals were prepared using the microwave and a toaster oven they were fortunate enough to have. When the first of the month arrived and hubby brought home his pay check, they would have to look into purchasing a replacement for the old kitchen range.

The family was beginning to get used to microwave meals, looking forward to the end of the month, when the young woman’s dear, sweet husband announced that something was wrong with the clothes dryer—the same clothes dryer that they had just picked up less than six months earlier. It had quit doing its duty. It no longer dried the clothes put into it. Oh, it still turned and squeaked and all that stuff but heat resulting in dry clothes—no way! It appeared this dryer wanted a rest or a new element. Well, the first of the month was coming. Clothes would just have to be hung out to dry.

The young woman was now beginning to walk through the day wondering just what else could go wrong. She didn’t have to wait all that long. Her dear, sweet, adoring husband brought her the news—again—of the next catastrophe. The washer was not spinning the water out of the clothes. It seemed to simply be skipping that cycle. It would wash the clothes and rinse them but that was it. No more spinning for that old washer. Oh, well, the end of the month was coming.

The next night, with all the kids tucked in bed, the young woman was dragging herself towards some relished sleep herself when she noticed water on the floor in a room at the back of the house. That blasted washer must now be leaking! Only it wasn’t the washer. As she began to investigate she saw that the water on the floor was coming from beneath the chest freezer! What now? She raised the lid and found the top layer of frozen foods had already thawed. As she tried to find out what had caused the freezer to quit operating she found it had become unplugged. By the time she had cleaned up the water and plugged the freezer back in she was wondering again what might happen next.

She didn’t have to wait too long. The next day as she was driving into town in the family pickup a warning light on the instrument panel suddenly caught her attention. This was the kind of warning light that couldn’t be ignored and it was obvious that they needed to get the pickup to a shop soon. Oh, well, the end of the month was coming.

So, okay, what’s next? The week is just getting started!

In the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 31:8, we find these words: “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

There were folks during Bible times that had days, and sometimes a week, like Alexander—and you—have had. But our Heavenly Father is our constant companion, friend and encourager. He knows what you are going through right now. Stick with Him. He will see you through!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, whether it is during the best of times, or the worst of times, cause me to remember that you will never leave me nor forsake me. You are walking each and every step of this journey with me. You will see me through it all. I trust in you, Father. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group


[i] Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst, Published by Atheneum (July 15, 1987)

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THE MOUSE

It has been a number of years ago that my wife and I were seated in our living room, quietly visiting with a couple from out of town who had stopped by. Suddenly, as if the two ladies had been given a cue from somewhere, they both let out ear-piercing shrieks and pulled their feet up into the chairs they were each seated upon. In a panic-stricken voice my wife squealed out, "Bill . . . . . a mouse just ran out of the heat vent over there! . . . . . Do something!"

Do something. Do something? I was just hoping the beating of my heart would slow up after being kicked into overdrive from the panicky shrieks of the two women! My wife did not seem to think I was reacting to her anguished cry for help quickly enough. Before I could even begin to respond she put her finger in my face, pointing across the room to my left, and stated in a commanding manner, "There! There! There he is! Do something! I can’t stand mice! Ugh!"

All this time the visiting lady was bouncing up and down in her chair, her feet now pulled up tightly beneath her, her rapid-fire squeals of such a volume it made you cringe from the pain it inflicted upon your ears.

I finally began to recover from the shock of the screams and wails of the two women enough to look across the room in the direction where my wife was pointing. Sure enough, the ladies were correct. There was a mouse. Probably all of four inches long from whiskers to tail, and he was not moving. He had stopped in his travels across the room, appearing to be frozen in fear from the blast of sound which had just wreaked havoc on the quiet atmosphere of the room. As I continued to look at the tiny creature, it suddenly recovered and with speed I imagine is even uncharacteristic of these small animals, it literally shot the remaining distance along the wall, went skidding around the corner and out of sight into the next room.

I looked back towards my wife and said, "You’re right, it was a mouse." My confirmation of her "sighting," of this little creature did not seem to be the response she had expected! She looked at me, giving an involuntary shiver accompanied by a long, anguished moan, and then said, "I can’t stand having those things around! I can’t stand them! You have got to do something . . . . RIGHT NOW!"

By this time the husband of the wife who was squealing and bouncing up and down in her chair had gained his composure, after the two ladies had gained his attention in such a harsh manner, and he said to his wife, calling her by name, "It’s only a mouse."

Oh, my—the look she gave him. There was really no need for any words but she fixed her eyes on her husband and it was obvious he felt he needed to reinforce his position somehow. He repeated himself as if that might help in some way, "It’s only a mouse! It’s just a little mouse!"

"I don’t care if it is only a mouse," she replied, "I can’t stand them!" She then shook herself as she breathed out a low moan ending in, "Ugh! I hate em’!"

I can’t help but wonder if that mouse, after the shock wore off, was not just a little bit proud about all of the commotion he had caused. He had really stirred things up and all he had to do was stroll through a corner of the room just long enough for a couple of people to see him. Do you suppose he went back and told his friends about the ruckus he had been able to raise with so little effort?

Well, I realize this has been somewhat of a "tongue-in-cheek" account of what my wife believes to be a serious matter but, have you ever thought about what little effort it takes in the world in which we live to get folks stirred up? It typically requires only a short statement or, better yet, a question, to get things rolling; something which begins with a comment like, "I can’t believe what I heard about Mrs. Smith," or maybe something like, "Did you hear about old Fred?" Or sometimes it is started by an innocent-sounding comment such as, "Say, now. It is sure something about the Jones’s isn’t it? You did hear what they are supposedly doing, haven’t you?"

In James 3:5 we read, ". . . Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell."

People are really not much different today than they were when those words were written. Yet, if you and I wear the title “Christian,” we need to be so very careful that those things which come out of our mouths do not result in harm or hurt to another. Christ likeness in speech, as well as every other action, must be our goal.

Prayer: Lord, help me to be so very careful regarding all the words that come out of my mouth. Don’t allow me to cause harm or hurt to another because of my words. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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LISTENING DISTANCE

Several weeks ago I had the good fortune to experience one of those mornings I often yearn for in the midst of winter. I awakened long before daylight and sat down in our living room, leaving the lights off. After a few moments the coffee pot signaled it had completed its first task of the day and I soon had a hot cup of French roast coffee warming my hands. I sat staring out across the valley at the myriad of lights. Occasionally I would see the lights of a car or truck moving along a street or the highway as it ran along beside the river, signaling that there were other folks up and about.

As my eyes scanned the darkness I noted the reflection of lights on the other side of the river as they bounced off the smooth surface of the water. By the time I had begun my second cup of coffee I saw that there was just a hint of light beginning to show in the sky to the east. It was obvious that the sun was working its way towards the horizon and it would not be all that long and its warmth would begin to bathe the valley in front of me. It was an absolutely beautiful morning! God’s handiwork was showing in this scene I was watching. As the minutes continued to pass and I prepared for the day, thinking about the various things that needed my attention, the sky continued to grow lighter until the sun finally began to cast its light on a few scattered clouds in the eastern sky. Once again I found myself thinking, "This is beautiful!"

Later on, as the day passed by with all its busyness, I was reminded on more than one occasion about the goodness of God. He has not simply provided us with just the very bare necessities of life with which to exist, but He has given us exquisite jewels of time like I had experienced watching that sunrise. Our Lord is truly a loving God and He gives us periods of time, some which may seem somewhat brief, but yet still times of rest and relaxation which can help erase the tiredness we be experiencing. Most importantly, He provides us with the peace, joy and spiritual rest only those who know His forgiveness experience.

Knowing the love of Jesus is unforgettable; and it does not pass quickly by to remain only a memory like that sunrise I watched. Yet, to ensure that His love is never lost, I must remind myself on occasion that it is imperative to always stay within “listening distance,” of my Lord—always!

So, just how do I do that? How do I stay within “listening distance” of the Lord? First, I need the direction, instruction and encouragement found in the Scriptures. I need to make certain I set aside time each day to read and absorb His Word. Second, I must have regular times of prayer and meditation—talking to the Lord about the things that are on my mind and on my heart. Third, I need to have times of quietness where I simply “listen” for His still, small voice and allow Him to speak to me. That can sometimes be the most challenging part of the time I spend with the Lord. Yet, it is essential that I have these times of quiet listening. I have learned that our relationship with our Heavenly Father is two-way. It is not just me talking to Him, but also allowing Him the opportunity to speak with me. He wants that!

It is not unusual for us to find ourselves getting very tired; there is so much to do and a multitude of things requiring our attention each day. Yet, we must determine to make a conscious effort to stay within “listening distance” of our Lord.

In the Old Testament, in First Samuel, chapter 3, there is an account that involves an elderly pries, Eli, and the young boy, Samuel, who was being taught by him. Listen to what takes place:

Then the LORD called Samuel. Samuel answered, "Here I am." And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down." So he went and lay down. Again the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." "My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."

Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy.

So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." (I Samuel 3:4-10)

It took some time before Samuel realized who was speaking to him but I doubt that his life was ever the same again following that encounter with God. Let’s determine that we will stay within listening distance of the Lord!

Prayer: Lord, help me to be careful to always remain within “listening distance” of You. Don’t allow me to permit “things” to get in the way, or take away from time spent with you. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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I have talked about remembering days when I was young and the winter snows would finally melt and spring would come to the small town I grew up in. It was the kind of town made just right for little boys, with all kinds of things to do—all kinds of places to explore. There were all manner of things which only seemed to come at this time of year—spring—just inviting little boys to get involved!

Spring always brought a few extra ponds. You know what I mean; with all the wet weather there were several low-lying areas around town that became nice little ponds. They were not around too awful long because warmer and drier weather caused them to disappear fairly rapidly. But, early on in the spring some of them became pretty good sized ponds! And where there are ponds and you add young, adventuresome boys to them, you usually have something else. . . . . . . . Rafts! That’s right, rafts!

Somewhere around our house I have an old black and white photograph which pictures my older sister, my younger brother and me on a home-made raft out in the middle of a pond near the center of town. It is made of a few old logs and timbers and what looks to be some old and weathered boards off the side of a farm building. My brother and I are each standing with a long pole poked down into the pond and we have a look of the cat’s meow on our faces. Hey! We must have been having a ball! Now, I can’t remember what kind of a look my sister may have had on her face but she was probably irritated at Andy or me for some reason or another. Big sisters are that way, you understand.

I remember that there were occasions when other boys in town would build their own rafts and we would all get out on the pond and would—well, now, what do you think a bunch of high-spirited boys with a lot of energy to burn would do in such a spot?

Sure! We would begin to splash each other! And we would run our rafts into each other, ramming them just as hard as we could. Sometimes those old rafts were so rickety that they would begin to fall apart. Say, did we ever have a blast! I don’t remember what my mother might have said when we returned home, drenched from head to foot, but, man, was it ever fun! But, I am sure my mother must have said something. And I am pretty certain I worked hard to lay all the blame on my younger brother. That’s what brothers do, right?

Did you know that they had rafts in the Bible? Sure, they did! I spoke about that a bit last time when I was talking a little bit about lumberjacks, loggers and sawmills. Let me tell you about a place in the Old Testament and you will see what I mean.

The verses we are going to read deal with King Solomon, again. Remember that he was King David’s son. He was rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem and it was going to be quite the task. So he was seeking some help. This time I want to look at some verses from the Old Testament book of 1 Kings 5:8-10:

8 “So Hiram sent word to Solomon: ‘I have received the message you sent me and will do all you want in providing the cedar and pine logs. 9 My men will haul them down from Lebanon to the sea, and I will float them in rafts by sea to the place you specify. There I will separate them and you can take them away. And you are to grant my wish by providing food for my royal household.’

10 In this way Hiram kept Solomon supplied with all the cedar and pine logs he wanted,”

Hmm. Interesting, isn’t it? Did you notice the part about the rafts? Do you suppose those fellows who worked around the logs, as they were making them into rafts, ever splashed water on one another? Even grown men, and women, enjoy having fun almost like little children at times, don’t they?

But, let’s get serious for just a moment. God directed Solomon to use the very best of materials to build the temple. He used the best and strongest of wood and stone. And he was so very careful that the foundation laid for the temple was strong and sure and one which would last year after year. He used the best of timber even though it had to be brought over a long distance and required much effort on the part of many. Solomon used materials which would last! He built the temple following God’s plans, not his own or the plans of other men.

When we ask Jesus Christ to forgive us of our sins and to come into our heart, we have just laid a foundation for our lives with the very best and strongest of “materials” and we are following the plans of God, not men. And the “building” which begins to take shape lasts . . . . . for eternity.

I trust that your life is built on a foundation established in a close relationship with God. If that is true for you, you will live forever and ever in eternity with Him! If not, you can ask Jesus into your heart right here—right now. Simply ask Him to forgive you of your sins and come into your heart—and He will!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the multitude of stories and illustrations You provide us in the Bible, and the way in which we can apply their truths to our very own lives. I pray that the shape of my life will always mirror the influence of my Heavenly Father. Keep working on me, Lord! In your Son’s Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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OLD TESTAMENT LOGGERS

Some time back I was out on a walk and I began to reminisce as I strolled along, remembering days when I was young and the winter snows would finally melt and spring would arrive in the small town I grew up in. It was the kind of town made just right for little boys, you see. There were all manner of things to do—all kinds of places to explore. There were all kinds of things which only seemed to come at this time of year—just inviting little boys to get involved!

The little town I grew up in had only about 100 people living in it. That was on a good day, you understand! And I am not so sure you would not have had to count all the dogs and maybe even the cats in order to reach 100 on some days!

But even though there were only a relatively small number of people living in that town, there always seemed to be a lot going on. I began to think back and remember some of the things which helped make up the character of that little town.

For example, there were two gas stations—a Chevron station and a Signal gas station. Some of you have probably never heard of a Signal gas station. Hey! They were all around when I was growing up. Anyway, that Signal station was right across the street from our house. If we somehow became bored my younger brother and I could simply sit in our front yard and watch the things going on over there. It was a pretty busy place a good piece of the time.

The town also had a small grocery store, post office, cafe, frozen food lockers, a small school for kids from the first through the eighth grade, a blacksmith shop, farmer’s co-op, a grain elevator, a tiny railroad depot, a grange hall, tavern and one church. And there was something else. It had sawmills. In fact, I seem to recollect that there were five sawmills in that little town at one period in its history! That’s right, five sawmills.

Do you know what each one of those sawmills had in the days when I was a kid? I mean each and every sawmill seemed to have one of these! They all had a log pond! Sure they did—a log pond!

The logs were brought into town and to the mill on logging trucks, or log trucks, whatever you prefer to call them. The trucks would drive up to a particular spot next to the pond, and the driver would roll his load of logs off the truck and into the pond. Hey, it was always fun to watch that operation and see the great splash made when the logs rolled down the ramp and into the water.

I used to enjoy watching the men who worked on the ponds. It was their job to separate the logs into the various species and then to move them to the edge of the pond closest to the mill. That is where a long, moving chain would pull the log out of the water and into the mill. Hey, let me tell you now, those men were something else to watch. They would hop from one log to another, shoving logs here and there, and I don’t remember ever seeing one of them fall in. They always carried long poles, pike poles I believe they were called, which had a sharp point on the end and a sharp hook, as well, so they could pull or push the logs around the pond.

My little brother and I always liked the ponds. Only thing was, we were not allowed to fool around those mill ponds much. Apparently my folks thought it was too dangerous. Now, we were allowed to do a little fishing in them after we had moved from spring into summer. But we were always warned to stay away from wherever the men might be working. Fishing for bullheads was always great sport, especially in the evenings about sundown. It seemed as if many of the ponds had bullheads in them. They were fun to catch but not so fun to take off your hook.

But thinking about these log ponds and the men who worked in the sawmills, as well as the loggers who worked in the woods to cut the trees and get them hauled to town, reminds me that loggers and lumbermen are spoken of in the Bible. Sure they are!

There are some verses in the Old Testament, in 2 Chronicles, that deal with King Solomon. Now, he was King David’s son. He was also a very wise man who asked God to give him discernment and wisdom—and God did! King Solomon was rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem and it was going to be quite the task. Listen to these several verses from 2 Chronicles 2:5, from the Bible translation, The Message:

3-4 Then Solomon sent this message to King Hiram of Tyre: "Send me cedar logs, the same kind you sent David my father for building his palace. I’m about to build a house of worship in honor of God, a holy place for burning perfumed incense, for setting out holy bread, for making Whole-Burnt-Offerings at morning and evening worship, and for Sabbath, New Moon, and Holy Day services of worship—the acts of worship required of Israel.

5-10 "The house I am building has to be the best, for our God is the best, far better than competing gods. But who is capable of building such a structure? Why, the skies—the entire cosmos!—can’t begin to contain him. And me, who am I to think I can build a house adequate for God—burning incense to him is about all I’m good for! I need your help: . . . . send cedar, cypress, and algum logs from Lebanon; I know you have lumberjacks experienced in the Lebanon forests. I’ll send workers to join your crews to cut plenty of timber—I’m going to need a lot, for this house I’m building is going to be absolutely stunning—a showcase temple! I’ll provide all the food necessary for your crew of lumberjacks and loggers: 130,000 bushels of wheat, 120,000 gallons of wine, and 120,000 gallons of olive oil."

I am struck with the thought that God can use all manner of folks to do His work for Him, and that includes loggers and lumberjacks! And if you get to thinking about the few verses we just read you can see that King Solomon was going to need farmers, ranchers, cooks, and the list goes on and on.

It frustrates me when I hear someone say, regarding their occupation or work, “Oh, I am just a ……..” There are no “ordinary” occupations or jobs when a person has chosen to live their life for the Lord. He can, and will, use each one of us—wherever we are at and in whatever manner of work we may be engaged.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to never see myself as being in an occupation, or working at a job, that I view as second-rate or unimportant. Cause me to realize, Lord, that You want to use me, where I am at, to demonstrate God’s love to the world around me. Thank you, Lord, for placing me right where I am, for this period of time in my journey through life. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group."

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SUNLIGHT + PINE NEEDLES = RENEWAL

I would suspect that, if you happen to be a regular reader of this blog, you are aware that I have a love for the out-of-doors.

I remember one spring afternoon a few years back when I was in the mountains and walking through the trees on a trail near the top of a ridge. It was one of those days when the temperatures are still cool if you are in the shade but nice and pleasant when the sun is shining on you. I suddenly found a beautiful, open area beneath some tall yellow pines. This was too attractive a spot to just rush through. I decided it was time to take a break.

I found a spot where the sunlight reached the ground and lay down on a thick carpet of pine needles that was colored with bright green blades of new grass poking up in many places, and allowed the sun to begin warming me. As I stared up through the branches of the tall pine trees, watching an occasional white and fluffy cloud drift by, I found myself beginning to get sleepy. It was only a brief time and I found myself barely able to keep awake. This was nice! I put the thought of all those important “things” on my calendar that needed attention out of my mind for a time and simply began to soak up the fresh, pine-scented air. With my eyes closed I began to listen to the sounds of birds chirping high in the tree branches overhead, and the occasional chattering of a squirrel. This was the kind of rest I really needed. By the time I had to return to “civilization” I was absolutely refreshed.

On another day I recalled being out in the woods and seated on a log reading my New Testament while enjoying the spring weather. Even though the sun was shining it was somewhat cool and I had built a small fire to warm myself next to. I have always liked the smell of wood smoke. My wife, Bonnie, is really not fond of it at all. I simply can’t understand that!

After a time I realized the sun was dropping rapidly towards the horizon and evening was not far off. It was time to return home. I put out the fire and began to move away through the trees towards town when I heard a noise. I stopped, looking intently through the trees and brush and suddenly spotted a small cow elk moving hurriedly away from me. It appeared as if she may have been bedded down close to me throughout the time I had been seated on that log and only when I got up and began moving towards her did I get her attention.

Oh, my! I must tell you that I surely do enjoy the spring time! I enjoy the occasions when it begins to warm up and I can go out into the mountains and walk slowly along beneath the tall evergreen trees. I so enjoy those occasions when I can step aside from the busyness of life, experience the beauties of the outdoors, and sense the closeness of God. In fact, it is often during times like these I have described when I choose to talk with God. He is always there, waiting for us and hoping, I think, that we will take time to visit with Him. It is during times like these when I find myself returning to the regular routines of life having been renewed and restored, ready for whatever is ahead.

You know, the Bible often speaks of people who are in need of rest and renewal—and the Lord offers that to each of us. In the Old Testament, in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 40, beginning with verse 28 and continuing through verse 31, we find these encouraging words:

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

You know something? I am convinced that these verses come true for me when I choose to step aside for even a brief time, outdoors in God’s beautiful creation, and spend some quality time with Him. Have you done that recently? Hey! Why not try it? You will be glad you did!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the occasions when you so willingly restore, refresh and renew us when we simply take time to “get away” and spend time with you. Please, Lord, help me to make a conscious choice to do that often in the weeks ahead. And cause me to do it with the expectation that You will be faithful—just as I have read in your Word. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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e’ve lost the brakes!” Old Henry yelled over the rattle and shaking and hissing of steam coming from the big locomotive. “You boys jump! Hurry! Get offa’ the train. Get offa’ the train! Now!”

Those were the words the engineer, Henry Jones, yelled out to the fireman and brakeman with him in the cab of the locomotive pulling the long train of railroad cars loaded with logs. The runaway train was traveling down Yale Hill at an ever-increasing speed.

Warren and I drove along that afternoon, with me sharing with him the story about the runaway on the old Yale Hill. I paused for a few moments, picturing that speeding train barreling down the tracks as they wound through the forested mountains. Warren was obviously becoming a bit impatient and he finally asked me, “Well, what happened?”

Hmm. Do you remember what happened on the night that Jesus went to the cross? Do you remember what his closest friends did? You remember Peter; old Peter the Rock. Oh, sure. Peter, the one who said he would even die with Jesus if he needed to. Oh, yes. Sure, you remember. Peter and the rest of them—they all ran out on Jesus. He was left on his own. I guess we might say Jesus stayed with a “runaway train,” while his friends jumped off.

That crowd surrounding Jesus had gotten out of hand, hadn’t they? They had gone berserk. They wanted to kill Jesus and for no good reason other than, if we are to tell the truth, for fear that He would outshine them. They didn’t need to fear that. He already had outshined them! They didn’t have a chance.

Anyway, all the disciples “jumped from the train,” so to speak. Jesus stayed on. Because He stuck with it, you and I now have the hope of heaven. We can look death square in the face and say, “I’m ready for you, buster!” Eternity no longer holds the fear it might have, because of what Jesus did for us.

But, now I suppose you are wondering what happened to that runaway on the Yale Hill. Well, Old Henry Jones stayed with the train. He didn’t jump off. He kept pulling on the brake, and doing everything he could, hoping to slow the incredible weight of that long trainload of log cars behind him. That old locomotive was bouncing up and down and from side to side. What a sight it must have been. Finally, it approached that last corner, the big one, where the tracks finally straightened out and leveled out as the railroad approached the river and the rails went out onto the trestle that crossed over that slow-moving stream.

I imagine Old Henry’s heart was really thumping by that time. But he had made up his mind. He was not going to jump. He stuck with it and, you know something, that big black locomotive stayed on the tracks as it careened around that last curve. As the long train finally straightened out after crossing the river Old Henry was finally able to begin slowing it down and before long, he brought it to a stop. He hadn’t lost a flatcar or even a single log, from what he could tell. All that was missing were the fireman, the brakeman, and the conductor and a couple other fellows who had been in the caboose. Henry sat and waited till they had walked all the way down the hill to the train and, once they were all back on board, he took them on into the station.

Two things happened that changed Old Henry Jones’s life as a result of that wild ride that day. First, everyone began to call him Casey. No longer was he Old Henry Jones. He was Casey Jones! And second, the company was so appreciative they gave Old Henry, I mean Casey, a passenger run which was much nicer than the logging trains. He stayed on that route till he retired.

Yep. The Yale Hill runaway.

You know something. At least 2 things happened as a result of Jesus sticking with God’s plan and going to the cross. First, because of what He did, for us, we can each be called a Child of God—a Christian—that person who has whispered a prayer and asked Jesus to forgive them of their sins and asked Him to come into their hearts.

And second, as a result of that first Easter, we all have the promise of the resurrection and life for all eternity, with Him! We can live with the assurance that we will live again—really live! Forever! It doesn’t end here. When this “ride” is over we will be brought to a safe stop in Heaven if we have Jesus in our hearts.

Prayer: Oh, my, Lord. Fill me with the necessary courage to always stay on track with you as I travel through this life. Thank you for all you have done, and continue to do, for me. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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It’s been some time ago that I was visiting relatives in an area of the Idaho Panhandle not too far from where I grew up. I began to think about that little town which had such an impact on my life during my years of adolescence, and I asked my son-in-law, Warren, if he would like to go for a ride with me. It would be nice to get out of the house for a while.

Several hours later we were winding along narrow mountain roads and the scenes around me caused a multitude of memories to flood my mind. When I was a boy and we drove along that same road the surface had been gravel and you didn’t dare follow anyone too close because of the cloud of dust which chased along behind each car and truck bouncing along what we called the washboard surface. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. It was the kind of road where the rows of bumps would bounce your car around as if it had a mind all of its own! Now, I hate to have to tell you this, but the road is paved, now. Even the folks who live up in that hill country have gone modern. You really have to get off the beaten path now, to get the kind of road we were driving on when I was a kid. Oh, well. And now they have straightened out a bunch of the curves which has made it even less exciting to drive on.

As Warren and I drove along on this particular day the sky was overcast and the clouds lay close to the tops of the mountains around us. It wasn’t real cold, but it wasn’t real warm, either! We came to a spot the local folks referred to as the Yale Hill. I asked Warren if he had ever heard the story about the runaway on Yale Hill. He gave me kind of an odd look, “Runaway? What do you mean runaway?” he said.

Now I should tell you that Warren had been working as a counselor in a children’s home where they had—well—runaways. But it was a different kind of runaway I was talking about on this particular day and I knew I had him by the way he looked at me and asked, “What do you mean runaway?”

Ah, yes. I knew I had him now, and I began to tell him about the runaway on Yale Hill. It happened back in the 30’s at a point along this particular highway where the railroad passes through a cut in the mountains and, for a brief time, follows alongside the roadway, the same highway we were now driving on. The old steam locomotives used to pull long lines of heavily laden flat cars loaded with logs, on their way to the sawmill, up the backside of the hill and then stop at the top where the ground became level for a short distance. This was the place called Yale Hill.

It was right at this point on the railroad where it made a turn, away from the highway, and began winding down a long, long hill, with many curves, several miles in length.

Old Henry Jones was the engineer that afternoon as the lumbering old steam locomotive screeched to a stop at the top of the hill and the two brakemen, along with the help of the conductor, all who had been riding in the caboose, began to move along the line of cars to check to make sure all of the air lines for the brakes were set properly. Finally, the conductor signaled to Old Henry that they were ready to move and the engineer released the brakes and opened the throttle to get the long train started down the hill.

Smoke began to pour out of the smokestack atop the train engine’s boiler as the chug, chug-chug-chug began to smooth out as the train began move more rapidly.

The train began to gain speed as it dropped further over the top of the hill, and began heading down the long grade towards the river. The fireman and the brakeman stuck their heads out into the wind, enjoying the freshness of the cool breeze after having ridden the slowly crawling train up the back side of the mountain. The cab of that old locomotive could get downright hot on a day like that.

Old Henry pulled back on the throttle and as the train began to pick up speed and he reached for the long brake handle and began to pull back on it. Suddenly, old Henry began to get a look of concern on his face. He had released the throttle and was pulling back on that large steel brake handle. But something was wrong. The train wasn’t slowing down. In fact, its speed continued to increase. Old Henry had hold of the brake handle with both hands, pulling back with all his might, but it did no good. The big black locomotive was being pushed faster and faster by the long line of heavily-laden railroad flat cars loaded high with logs.

“We’ve lost the brakes!” Old Henry yelled over the rattle and shaking and hissing of steam coming from the big locomotive. “You boys jump! Hurry! Get offa’ the train. Get offa’ the train! Now!”

You see, there was a long sweeping curve at the bottom of the hill where the tracks came around a bend, traveled across a long trestle over a river, and then began to straighten out as the grade leveled out, as well. Once a train reached a certain speed it could not make that last turn.

With hardly a second glance the brakeman and the fireman scrambled to the door of the cab and down the ladder, trying to see in the rush of wind whipping at their faces if there was any kind of a soft spot they might land. But the train wasn’t waiting for them to make up their minds. It continued to gain speed, traveling faster and faster. First one of the men went and then the other. Henry didn’t get to see the men flying head over heels into the weeds and brush along the tracks. His attention was focuses straight ahead. Henry was all alone in the cab of the locomotive now. The noise was incredible and his heart was beating like everything. Should he jump or should he stay on board? He had been pulling the chain for the whistle to let the boys back in the caboose know they had a runaway so they could get off. Old Henry wondered if they were still there.

Hmm. I wonder if those guys in the cab with Old Henry asked him if he was going to jump with them. Why wouldn’t he? If the train’s brakes were not working and you didn’t know if it would make that curve at the bottom—shouldn’t you jump off with the others?

I have no idea whether or not Henry was a Christian. If he was, a verse he could have claimed that day were from words that the Apostle Paul spoke in his letter to the church at Philippi. In Philippians 1:20 he wrote: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

What do you think; would that have been a good verse for Henry? Well, I wonder if it isn’t a good verse for all who claim to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

Prayer: Lord, please instill within me the courage to live my life in such a manner that I will never have to fear being ashamed when I stand before you at the end of this life. May I always be ready to share the reason for the hope that I have. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

 

 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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DUST AND DIRTY DISHES

I imagine a good many of you have brothers or sisters or both. But let me tell you about mine—my brother, anyway—for a few moments.

My brother was a "rat!" At least that is what I often thought as I was growing up with what I saw as the terrible burden of having an older sister who was always bossing me around, coupled with the near atrocity of a younger brother who always seemed to get his way. The way I saw things, not only was he a rat, he was a spoiled rat!

Have any of you ever been in a similar spot as you were growing up? Hey! Some of you know exactly what I am talking about.

It seems that when you are in the middle of a family, many times, you become the forgotten one—until it’s time for some very unpleasant task such as chores, of course!

You would not believe some of the bum raps I seemed to get when the daily chores were passed out. My little brother would get the easy job of sweeping off the front and back porches of our home, for example. He would be out in that nice, clean, fresh air where he would make sure he took plenty of time so that he would not be given any additional tasks to complete just in case he finished sooner than our mother might have expected. And he did not do good job, either!

For some reason, the porches never seemed to come under the close scrutiny that some of the jobs I was given received—like when I had to sweep our living room floor and then dust the furniture afterwards.

My mother seemed to have eyesight that would make an astronaut jealous. If I missed even a speck of dust on the piano, she found it! And if I happened to miss dusting off a leg of the coffee table I had made for her—that’s right, it had been a gift to her from me—she could spot the dust on that small skinny leg from the other side of the next room! I still don’t know how she did that!

And doing dishes was always another great frustration in my life. We did not have such a thing as a built in dishwasher—(sometimes I may have felt that way, but . . . ) You see, we did not have running water in the home in which I grew up. That kind of thing was for "city slickers," you understand. We had a wood kitchen range upon which a large "boiler", as we called it, continually heated water for the various kitchen chores.

On a regular basis, especially when my sister supposedly had something to do she just could not give up, my brother and I would end up doing the dishes. It always seemed to happen on a night when we had something for dinner that stuck like cement to everything it touched, from the pan it was cooked in to the plates it was eaten from, as well as on every piece of silverware and utensil which might have touched it. This was long before the days of things like "Teflon" and "PAM," you see.

And it was always on evenings like this that I would end up having to wash the dishes! You see, on the flat surface of that wood-burning kitchen range we were required to place two large, round metal pans. One pan was for the rinse water and one was for the soapy water in which the dishes were washed. Whoever did the washing part had to have their hands buried in that soapy water throughout the job. Your hands showed it afterwards. In fact, for a young boy, it was almost embarrassing.

Your hands always came out kind of "pinkish" looking with a lot of little wrinkles in them. And there was no way you could keep any dirt under your fingernails that "tough" guys always had! It was downright humiliating, let me tell you! But, it was not the same for the guy—usually my little brother—who got to rinse the dishes.

That individual, because the water was always kept so hot, used a long wooden spoon or some other utensil to dip into the steaming water and bring out the items which had just been washed. They were then placed into a drain rack where they dried on their own.

In looking back, I suppose I really did not have to wash those blasted dishes many more times than my brother. But, as a young boy, it sure did seem like. Having had my suspicions confirmed by other boys who had to live with younger brothers, I was certain that little brothers always got the best deal. And if you were so unfortunate as to have an older sister—oh my! That was really tough, let me tell you!

Now folks, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about what I have been saying. It may have seemed like my parents were ruthless rulers of our roost where I, the poor, unfortunate guy caught in the middle, was always feeling the rough edge of life. I think most of you realize that this was probably not the case. I was just a young boy growing up with an older sister and a younger brother, and my life was unfortunately tainted by the order in which I had been born into the family!

A good many of you have been in a predicament similar to mine. You can relate, as they say.

So, what am I getting at in describing some of the rougher aspects of my childhood in this manner? Let’s look at what the Apostle Paul is saying as he closes his letter to the Philippian Church. In chapter 4, verse 11-13, he includes these remarks: “……I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. . . . I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. . . . . I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Hmm. Maybe my mother should have had me memorizing those verses when I was dusting or doing the dishes as a boy, huh?

Prayer: Father, forgive me for my complaining when things really are just not that bad. Please, Lord, give me a spirit like the Apostle Paul had where I will truly be content in any and every situation. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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