Many times on the farm you’re called to do a task that you’ve never done before. Occasionally it’s risky, but somebody has to do it. Mom and Aunt Hilda’s super power has always been the ability to talk us girls into doing these type of tasks. One in particular was painting tin roofs at the Balli Farm. Making themselves feel better, they’d agreed to stand safely on the ground and keep us anchored by holding the ladders. They even sweetened the pot by convincing us we could wear bathing suits and work on our tans. There was little opportunity to consider how our peers were tanning on relaxing on coastal beaches because we were too busy risking our lives. Painting along the top ridge roll and close to the edge was the most dangerous as we couldn’t easily move the ancient roof ladder (merely a meager wooden ladder with an extra board nailed at the end to catch over the roof comb). I remember at one point holding a paint brush in one hand and leaving the ladder to shimmy like a monkey to the edge and paint a hard-to-reach spot. Looking back, it’s a miracle we didn’t get hurt. The only casualty from that task was our sunbathing experience. Of course working atop giant sun reflectors all day, we got sun-burned…except for the spots that were covered by the thick silver aluminum fiber paint. One thing to note about my cousin Brenda and me, we were not neat girls, so you can imagine after cleaning off with gasoline, we had a good laugh admiring our red and white polka dot “tans”.
There is real danger when living on the edge but half the battle is identifying it. When our daughter, Alex, was little and first moved to her “big-girl” bed we had a mesh net attachment that fit under the mattress on one side to prevent her from rolling off when she slept. She looked at it fearfully and finally asked, “Why do you put that net up? What are you trying to keep out of my bed?” She didn’t understand the protection or the danger of falling off the edge…and sometimes I bet we don’t either.
That same little girl fearful of imaginary monsters under her bed matured, and learned discernment and bravery along the way. She jumped (voluntarily) out of an airplane for her 18th birthday. When asked if she was scared, she said not until she was right at the edge ready to jump. Again, it’s the edge that gets us.
Last Sunday after church we lingered and talked to a beautiful grandmother, discussing the breathtaking photos her grandson in Arizona posts on social media…multi-colored canyons and wind-cut rock formations against perfect blue skies… The grandma shook her head telling us how she shudders each time she sees him close to the edge of a cliff, and he always dismisses her concern with an “I’ll be fine. I know what I’m doing!” Maybe it was because we were in the Lord’s house, but I immediately felt a little self-conscience wondering how many times I’ve said the same thing to God.
Living on the edge requires equal amounts of discernment and bravery…and trust. We must listen to the voice of wisdom drawing us back a few steps when we get too close. Or maybe we have to bravely take that next step. Just like my daughter Alex sky-diving in tandem with a professional, the good news is we don’t have to take that leap of faith alone. Isaiah 41:13 “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” It’s comforting to realize even if we don’t know what we are doing all the time, like two country girls on a hot tin roof, there is Someone who does.
People who say “everything in moderation” aren’t thinking it through. Ingesting gasoline or wearing fire ants “in moderation” isn’t wise. Having said that, desiring balance does often mean we seek moderation.
Going home for Christmas this past December reminded me of the difficulties of moderation. For us suburban family members, ruined by the limitations of electric heat, it took a few days to acclimate to wood and coal, which is very effective yet hard to moderate. Christmas sweaters frothed a person into a constant sweat, and woe to those of us openly experiencing hormonal hot flashes. (We nearly burst into flames!) Years ago my cousin and her newly wedded husband had to occupy the same room as her parents because every bed was full. Adding to the discomfort, it was also the room the stove pipe ran through. Back in those days I think we burned bituminous coal and in order to get the downstairs comfortable, we stoked that old Warm Morning stove until the pipes almost glowed…and heat rises. Now picture my cousin’s city-slicker groom upstairs in the hot stovepipe room, under a couple Swiss wool “comforters” dealing with the various sleep sounds of his nearby in-laws. When he was no longer able to suffer in silence, he declared in a fever pitch “It’s like sleeping on the surface of the sun!”
Sometimes we strive for moderation, but things can easily get out of hand…apparently like my food intake. Recent blood work showed climbing numbers and my doctor said I had to make a change. I told her I was pretty sure I was already in one but she didn’t see the humor. So this new year I’m supposed to exercise and eliminate certain foods. There are interesting methods of weight loss trending like the social media sensation where a Chinese woman bends her torso back and forth while chanting to rhythmic music. Another one says you’re supposed to tap yourself in the face and armpits to achieve weight loss “through emotional freedom”. But I figured I’d better avoid these, however tempting. If Jeff came around the corner and saw me gyrating, and chanting while tapping my arm pits, it might be the final straw.
One of the foods I’m supposed to stay away from is bread and it breaks my heart. Bread and I have always been good friends-- it’s even biblical! Jesus is described as the Bread of Life, and in the perfect storm God had it rain down bread from Heaven (Exodus 16:4) Another favorite bread story is found in 1 Kings 17. Elijah is hiding near a brook and supplied with bread and meat delivered daily by ravens! And when the brook dried up, God had Elijah visit a widow to sustain him. The widow was so poor she was preparing a last meal for her and her son. Regardless, Elijah asked her to prepare him bread and water and assured her that her pantry would never go empty. She did as he asked and they indeed had bread until the drought was over. In fact, God further rewarded her obedience and hospitality in another way ---her son became ill and died and when Elijah begged God to restore him, God poured out His love in excess and did so. Excess is defined as the lack of moderation.
We too are the recipient of God’s excess love—from Him coming to Earth as a baby in Bethlehem (which literally means House of Bread) to His taking our place on the cross, and providing everyday guidance and comfort from the Holy Spirit. “Everything in moderation” becomes less of a mantra depending on what we are focused on. This new year may we avoid what’s bad for us, trust God to provide during the dry spells, and be obedient so we might fully experience His lavish love…because there are some things we don’t want in moderation.
Janet Cowger- Fliegel