Saturday, December 28, 2013

Redneck Weed Control

I tried an experiment today.  I'll let you know if it was successful.

You see, I'm very allergic to poison ivy.  I hate the stuff.  This time of year, it has no leaves, but you can still recognize the "trunk" of the vine.  The big vines look hairy.  Even in the winter, contact with these vines can cause severe outbreaks, so I try to stay away from them.

Unfortunately, these vines are all over my farm.  As I walk through the woods, I cringe when I see them.  At least they don't have any leaves right now.  And so winter is the best time to kill the stuff.  I searched the internet for ways of killing poison ivy in winter. One clip was helpful--it showed a guy using long handled clippers to sever the vine.  You don't want to use a saw or axe or machete, because these will cause the evil urushiol poison to spray out from the vine.

Clippers would work fine for small vines, but I've got some vines bigger than my forearm.  Clippers would never get through these suckers.  So, I had to think of a way to cut the vine without getting sprayed with the poison.

So here's my experiment.  I took my 12 gauge Remington semi-automatic shot gun and used it as a primitive saw.  From a safe distance--at least I hope it was safe--I fired away at these nasty vines, as close to the root as possible.  Some vines were so thick, it took a dozen shots to blow them in two.  White wooden bits of terror flew everywhere, but not near me.

In the spring when these vines sprout from their stumps, I'll hit them with Roundup to finish the job.  It's not cheap to fire so many rounds at these vines, but I'll be glad to get rid of them.

In a few days I'll know if I stood at a safe distance.  I'm itching to find out.

Epilogue:  No rash from the vine blasts!  Oh yeah, I need some more 12 gauge shells.  There are dozens more of these evil vines to kill.

Photo: Watch out, poison ivy vines...I've got a shotgun, and you ain't got one.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Church Burning Forgiveness

Riding into town on Wednesday, I heard the national noon radio news on CBS radio.  They announced a story from Stokesdale, NC, so my ears perked up.  When our town makes the national news, even on the radio, it's a big deal.

They briefly reported that the arsonist who destroyed the building of Gideon Grove United Methodist Church had been sentenced.  He pleaded guilty, and so the judge was to set the sentence.  As law allows, the pastor of the church, Wanda Lancaster, was allowed to address the judge concerning the sentence. Believing that the 18-year-old man would not benefit from a long sentence, she asked the judge to be lenient.

The judge was lenient and the young man received no prison time, but was fined and is required to do 100 hours of community service, including roof of the new building.  He also must address the members of Gideon Grove, reading a letter of apology.

Not everyone shares the desire to go lightly on the defendant.

The Rockingham County fire marshal has written a letter of protest to other fire and law enforcement officials in the area, calling the punishment a slap on the wrist.  Records suggest that restitution could have been set at about $45,000, just for the personnel and equipment needed to put out the blaze.

Others believe that a stiffer penalty would serve as a deterrent to arson in the future.

Wanda prayed and wrestled with her decision.  She spoke for herself, not for the whole church.  She spoke with courage, knowing that she would be criticized.  And she did what she believed was right.  She reflected the grace and forgiveness of Jesus.

Wanda, I appreciate your standing up and standing strong.  Some may say you are weak.  They said the same thing about Jesus as they nailed him to a cross.

May the spirit of forgiveness humble this young man and set him on a better path in the days ahead.  That day of sentencing for him was certainly a turning point for him.  Let us pray that he turns the right way.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thoughts on Phil Robertson

Good old Phil speaks his mind.  No one should be surprised about that.  Because he is now famous, more people pay attention to what he says.

A&E listens.  The broader media listens.  Everybody wants to weigh in on Phil.

Phil merely described graphically something he does not understand about the appeal of a particular sin.  He also marvels at the illogical nature of sin in general.  His graphic description pulls the curtain back and exposes the sin, while many in media seek to romanticize it.

Phil has the right to say whatever he wishes.  A&E also has the right to dismiss him from their show.

But A&E, in pursuit of profits, seeks to offend as few people as possible.  The high value of tolerance seems to have imploded.  Phil sounds intolerant, but can't we tolerate that?  Tolerance as a core value proves empty.

Meanwhile Phil seems unfazed by the flap.  He doesn't need A&E.  Even if he did, he would not compromise his values to please them.  His values are not based on polling numbers or advertising revenue.

Through it all, he seems happy, happy, happy.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I'm Pulling for You

I am a fan.  At least I have been.  I became a full-fledged fan for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons when I was in college.  I had planned not to be a fan, continuing my anti-school-spirit that served me so well in high school.  That spirit kept me negative and anti-social, and brought all the fun associated with misery.

But my suite of freshman guys helped me get a school spirit life.  I found that it is fun to have school spirit.  I liked sports anyway, so pulling for my team live-and-in-person was really cool.  So, I went all out for sports.  Although I never painted my face, I did spend the night out for tickets and even bought season basketball tickets one year, guaranteeing me excellent seats.  I went to the last Big Four Basketball Tournament in 1980, which my team won!  I never missed a conference football or basketball game in my four years of college.

Looking back, though, I see that I left some of my soul on the field or court.  That's really good for a competitor, but for a fan, it might not be healthy.  I mean, I spent many weekends in a semi-depressed state because my football team lost.  How could they throw that interception?  If only he had caught that pass.  Why did the coach call that play?  I would run those scenarios in my mind all weekend.  I would hold on to those mental gymnastics and really feel the loss.

One day it occurred to me that I did not have to think that way.  I had no control over the past, and even during the game I really had no control.  I was only a spectator, but I grieved and regretted and celebrated like an actual player.  I realized that was not healthy.  It really helped me to let go of the events over which I had no control.  I could still celebrate and enjoy the victories, but not take the losses to heart.  That badge of fanhood -- feeling depressed -- was not a badge I really wanted to wear.

I'm learning to balance allegiance to my team with my mental health.  Frankly, I don't know how those sports announcers can manage when their teams are losers.

Anyway, I see the same pattern as I invest my life in other people.  I am pulling for people to make good decisions and experience personal victory.  When they make poor decisions, from my perspective, I feel like I have personally failed.  What could I have said differently?  How could I have been a better friend?  But these are their decisions, not mine.  I don't have (and don't want to have) control over others' lives.  I may have some influence, but that's it.

So, when people settle for second best, disobey Jesus, or excuse their mixed up priorities, I take it personally.  I'm pulling for them.  I love to celebrate the victories, and I do.  But I overdo the ownership of loss.  It doesn't help them or me.

I'm pulling for you, but I'm learning how to do that responsibly.  It's your problem, not mine.  I'm here for you, cheering you on to victory.  When you lose, I want to divide your sorrows.  When you win, I want to multiply your joys.  But ultimately, your life is between you and God.  And so, my real effort needs to be in praying for you, and praying for me to be a better friend.

And obviously my problems are not your responsibility either, but you can call me out and cheer me on.

He's the One in charge of both you and me.  And we know he will win.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Running this morning, I happened to look down and see a lone jigsaw puzzle piece in the street.  Pondering its possible origins, I saw another one about 15 feet later.  These loose, displaced pieces apparently belong to the same big picture, but they were solo on the asphalt. 

Alone, those pieces are just trash to be swept up.  But put together with other pieces, they make some kind of picture.  The pieces have to come together to get the full picture.

We are all like puzzle pieces.  Some of are solo on the asphalt.  Some are beginning to connect with others.  We are all part of a big picture, God's picture. 

Unlike jigsaw puzzle pieces, we can find and pursue other connections.  We can connect intentionally with others, knowing that there is a big picture, a big story.  I wonder what part I have in God's picture, what role I have in his story.  As we come together in community, we can see how we fit together; we can see God's big, beautiful picture.

Finding the right pieces, those with whom I am made to connect, is not easy.  It takes years.  God has to bring us together.  Then God has to fit us together.  It's mysterious, scary, confusing, challenging, exciting, discouraging, and fun.  It is what life is all about.

I want to help those who are solo on the asphalt find their connections, with God and others.

As I find my part in the big picture, I want to be a piece that is on the edge.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Face of God

This morning I was praying for God to let me hear his voice and see his face. I began to wonder:  What would I see, if I saw the face of God?  What would be his expression?

I might see his pleasure, his joy, his peace.  I might see his disappointment, his pain, his frustration (Does God ever get frustrated?).   I might see his excitement, his encouragement.  I might see him cheering me on.  I might see him cautioning me or daring me.

Most of us know what we would see in the face of God.  At least we think we do.  We might be surprised.  Where we expect judgment, we may find forgiveness.  Where we expect disappointment, we may find understanding.  Where we expect approval, we may find warning.

What do you expect to see in the face of God today.  Are you afraid to look?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Soul Monitor

As we were putting up our Christmas decorations last Saturday, I thought about all the trappings of the season.  There is so much energy put into this holiday.  Christmas has become the dominant theme of December. 

I wondered, as I searched for the optimal tree branch for my ornament, "What is this doing to my soul?"  Everything we do affects our souls.  Every attitude we hold shapes us.  So, what is the Christmas season doing to my soul?  As I shop, party, eat, decorate, celebrate...what is this doing to my soul?

It's a good question, and not hard to answer.  The hard part is remembering to ask it.  When I answer the question, I often realize that I need an attitude adjustment.  Sometimes, I may need to change my activity.  But most often I need to change my heart.

Jesus came to earth to give life to me.  It cost him his life on the cross.  Christmas ought to breathe life into my soul.  It can, as long as I guard my heart.

So, I'm monitoring my heart, this Christmas, watching for Jesus to breathe
life into me.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Random thoughts on Fitness World

I go to a gym.  I run around the neighborhood.  And I’m not the only one.  Fitness has become such a fad that even sneakers now have a designer look.  Fitness is now cool.  Every weekend offers multiple  competitive events.
I like to stay in shape.

I applaud and participate in the growing world of fitness, but I keep thinking about this culture in the context of problems in other parts of the world.  What would people in the third world think if they saw all our gyms and walking tracks?

Imagine explaining a walking track to a Ugandan or an Indian.  We don’t walk enough in our daily lives, so we create these places where people walk in circles, just so they can walk.  We need a special place that’s safe and convenient.  A few years ago I heard that Stokesdale has more walking tracks per capita than any other city in the country.  I like walking tracks.

Then I ride a Real Ryder stationary bike at my gym.  It’s lots of fun and a butt-kicking workout.  We fog up the windows, as we pant and sweat.  We pay money and make time to sweat, because we don’t exert ourselves enough in our actual work. 

One day as I pedaled through Tabata intervals, I wondered how this energy could be harvested.   We burn calories just for fitness.  But people exert this kind of energy in other places to plow fields, get to school, and haul water.  What if we could harness all the energy generated in the name of fitness?  We could start with electrical generators built into stationary bikes.  The electricity could be stored in batteries and used to power, say, electric lights in a homeless shelter.

Yeah, I know it won’t work.  I can list lots of reasons.

Maybe someone else can come up with a way to harvest our sweat for the gospel.  Then burning calories will make a difference in something more than our body mass indexes.