In 1962 there was a little house near the top of Miller Mountain whose yard was bursting with stunning gladioli. My dad and his soon to be mother-in-law appreciated them as they drove to and from Webster Springs as they took garden produce to sell in town. With the wedding only a few days away, they stopped and asked the homeowner if they could buy some of her beautiful flowers. Miraculously, she said to take all the flowers they needed for free and when dad returned home he presented mom with a colorful gladiolus serenade. It was music to her ears!
Serenades are usually expressions of love to draw one closer to making a vow but Mom recalled an old tradition of a post-wedding serenade. About a week after their wedding, neighbors and friends came down the driveway banging on pots and pans and making a loud ruckus. The newly-weds got carried around the house, Mom in a big galvanized wash tub and Dad straddling a fence rail. Then, as expected, Mom treated the women to candies and Dad gave the men cigars. Entertaining is a healthy part of marriage as long as you don’t get carried away.
In the spirit of nuptials, here are other fun lessons I’ve learned over time. When my grandpa’s sister, Lucy, got married, she and her groom, Dencil Craig, rode horses to the parsonage where the preacher came out and married them whilst still sitting atop their steeds! Spontaneity is good in a marriage.
When it was Pap’s turn to marry, he and my grandma Olga held their “ceremony” in the front yard at the Balli Farm with a makeshift altar table decorated with dahlias. There, a more recent bride and groom opted for a panoramic cow-pasture setting instead of the yard, but first had to implement Operation Manure Removal. As any seasoned spouse will tell you, a key to a happy marriage is learning how to get rid of “it” as best you can.
Years ago, in a baking frenzy prepping for my cousin’s wedding, we ran out of salt, and one of the guests (Mrs. Ramey) went to the bedroom and retrieved an entire pound container of salt from her suitcase?? Also true; two of the guests got new false teeth for the wedding! And the river was high, rendering the ford impassable, so the tent poles and boards for the dance floor had to be carted across the swinging bridge in a wheelbarrow… Marriage begins with plenty of salt, a good smile, and balance.
For my sister’s wedding cake Mom made traditional sugar bells. It’s a delicate process of taking egg whites and sugar (with a little food coloring to match wedding colors), pressing the mixture into bell molds, drying them upside down, and finally hollowing them out ever so tenderly to about ¼ inch thick. From this we might be advised marriage likewise is fragile.
Also at my sister’s wedding we stretched a large banner from tree to tree across the road proclaiming “Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Miller!” Banners of declaration are actually biblical. Songs of Solomon (one of the best serenades ever written by the way) states, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (2:4) Ancient people fully understood the purpose of banners, which they carried into battle to rally the troops. The signs lifted up high boosted their morale and reminded them who they fought for and why. In some of my friends’ homes they have framed photographs on their walls from their weddings, which to me are like banners, reminding them daily of the Who? and Why?.
Jesus says in John 12:32 “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Would you like to live forever under that banner of perfect love? Can you hear Jesus calling your name in the sweetest of all serenades? “I do”.
It was so windy the day we laid my dad to rest the tent at his gravesite nearly blew away. Funeral home representatives and a few tall cousins literally had to hold onto the four poles and even then I think I saw one of them lift into the air with their feet off the ground. A pastor suggested the weather phenomenon could be a thousand angel wings carrying Dad home, and asked if we could feel them. I could. God’s presence was felt on that hill top even though our hearts were in a valley shadowed by death. After the service I overheard two country men, who’ve always lived close to the earth, comment they’d never seen the wind blow hard and steady all day like that.
Could it have been the presence of God? I get teary-eyed thinking about how God comforts us. John 14:16 reminds us of Jesus’ words, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” The Helper is the Holy Spirit (aka the Comforter), who has arrived before on the wings of the wind. Acts 2:2 describes the arrival of the Holy Spirt, “And suddenly there came from Heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.”
I recently heard a story about how sheep in the dry desert appear to be grazing on rocks, but upon closer investigation, they are actually nibbling small blades of grass. There is a wind that blows off the Mediterranean Sea carrying moisture into the desert causing vegetation to grow enough to provide substance for the sheep. Every afternoon the hot sun destroys any remaining blades, and every morning (like with manna) the wind once again brings moisture thus producing substance just for that day. May we likewise be sustained, one day at a time, by God’s comfort and love.
A few days after the funeral, we were writing notes of appreciation and recording all the ways people have blessed us during this difficult time. If someone gave us flowers or sympathy cards, their name got written in a memorial book we received from the funeral home. My 6-year-old great nephew took great interest in the process and was determined to get his name in the book. He borrowed some paper and crayons and after a few minutes returned with a card he gave Nanna that read, “I love you no matter what.” Then he stood there waiting, until she wrote his name in the book. It blew me away. I wondered if that’s what Jesus meant when He said we need to come to Him as the little children do…We need to do all we can to get our name in THE Book.
To be clear, I don’t believe for one minute we get in that divine registry by our own works…but it does require our response to Jesus. We’re not perfect, but Jesus fixed us a way into salvation.
As a side note, my dad understood fixing things. He fixed a chimney top using a hubcap. He fixed a hole in a muffler with a soup can that had both ends cut out. And I even saw him fix Nanna’s broken toe at the beach with a pair of underwear and two Popsicle sticks!
And Jesus—how did He fix our imperfection problem? He paid the price for our sins on the cross. Maybe we have a sordid past, are in a current lifestyle we weren’t designed for, have an unhealthy pattern of returning to a vice, or are broken by the loss of someone who was a big part of us. Some things are hard to talk about, but I thought maybe someone else needed to hear this. Whatever our brokenness is and whichever way the wind blows, Jesus’ response is always the same, “I love you, no matter what.”
A steady stream of cars and pedestrians pass by Metrobot every day without so much as a glance. The large robot-like statue stands on the corner of 6th and Walnut Street in Cincinnati and seemingly leaped out of the pages of my college art history book and my memory. I recall Dr. Gillespie telling us how it was created by Nam June Piak, one of the first cool artists to utilize technology in his creations. Even though Metrobot is 27 feet tall, throngs of people are just too busy to notice him.
Busyness isn’t always the problem. Sometimes we can just be standing around and still be oblivious. I discovered this when I darted into the Scripps Building downtown hoping to powder my nose. While the security guards were conveying they had no public restrooms, a large painting at the end of the lobby caught my eye. Forgetting my mission, I asked them, “Is that a real Lichtenstien?!” They shrugged as if to say “Don’t know. Don’t care.” So obviously I had to investigate. As I left the building, I told the guards it was indeed the real deal and commented jokingly “Sometimes we’re in the presence of greatness and don’t even know it.”
It’s safe to say occasionally we have identity issues. One source growing up that taught me a lot about identification was 4-H. We learned about various plants, trees and bird species. There’s bedstraw, used by the pioneers to make mattresses because it has a natural insect repellent. Those are touch-me-nots, which means, of course, you have to touch them and watch the fun way seeds disperse. And have you ever heard the legend around one of my favorite wild flowers, the Queen Anne’s Lace? Usually, the more we learn about something and gather details, the greater the appreciation.
This becomes even truer when we consider people. I’m convinced everyone has an interesting life story and often the seemingly ordinary people who cross our path might just be the real deal so to speak. Hebrews 13:2 tells us, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” What if we treated everyone as though they might be angels? We’d probably be more patient and hospitable and more humble in our responses.
When my sister, Cindy, was a high schooler she worked as a waitress in the restaurant at Holly River State Park. During an annual Youth Conservation Day held there, she actually knew she was in the presence of greatness because her customer was none other than the great Maxine Scarbro. Her name sounds like a superhero, and to us 4-H kids she sort of was. She was the director of the WV Youth Conservation Program, sponsored by the State of WV Department of Natural Resources and The Sears and Roebuck Company. Out of the 3000+ people in attendance that day, Maxine Scarbro ended up at Cindy’s table…and in her awestruck adoration, Sis poured her a cup of coffee…and kept pouring and pouring until it overflowed onto the table. Like the end of Psalm 23:5, her “cup runneth over”
I propose our cup too will runneth over when we recognize we are in the presence of Greatness. We just have to open the Bible and read scriptures which will teach us identification. Instead of various leaves and plants, we’ll learn to identify God’s character and our purpose. And we learn the greatest things around us aren’t statues or paintings…There’s 100 percent probability that even right now you’re in the presence of Greatness. Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I pray we’re not too busy or too carefree to notice Him.
In the suburbs restless and wayward kids play a game called Ding Dong Ditch where one of them is dared to approach a house, ring the doorbell and then run away unseen. The homeowner opens the door puzzled to find nobody there. If it’s repeated, it quickly becomes annoying. This game was certainly not part of my childhood growing up in rural WV. First of all, the hunting dogs would have announced your presence long before you even got to the house. Then there was the likelihood of getting shot for trespassing…so Ding Dong Ditching never really caught on.
I have learned a thing or two about ditches though. Our driveway is steep and if the ditches aren’t kept shoveled out, the water will wash away gravel and erode the tire paths. For anyone feeling inspired to clean, we keep a handy shovel stuck in the ground next to the pieces of guardrail (open culverts) laid across the driveway. I’m always amazed how even a few tiny rocks can clog up the flow of water. It’s very satisfying to clear the path and see water diverted to a better location.
My infatuation with ditches started when we were little and walked to church around the bend. On warm spring mornings we would stop on our way home and catch penny back newts hiding under fallen leaves in the ice cold ditch water. Where the ditch widened at the top of the driveway, there were usually spring peepers. During my teenage years that same beloved ditch stole one of my sneakers when we were chasing cows--and I had to keep running barefoot when the mud would not surrender the shoe. We never did find it!
Daughter Alex got familiar with the ditch recently driving Nanna back from the post office and meeting an enormous log truck in a sharp curve on the one lane road. She bravely drove into the ditch (her only option), and when the truck passed, put the Jeep in four wheel drive and skillfully drove out of it. Her tracks were there two weeks later, reminding us of God’s mercy.
One time my sister and her husband were driving back from town and something in the ditch caught her eye so they went back to investigate. It was a woman passed out amongst the leaves! She began to stir when they asked if she was alright and started to grab for a nearby, almost empty, bottle of whisky, which my brother-in-law quickly kicked it out of reach as they phoned for help. It’s interesting how sometimes when we find ourselves in a ditch, we reach for the very thing that got us into the ditch in the first place.
I’ll conclude with a happy ditch story. The year was 1959 and Dad was driving Mom to meet his parents for the first time. Due to heavy rains, the dirt road had been carved into deep ruts and the mud pulled Dad’s 1950 green 4-door sedan into the ditch. “As not to get his shirt dirty”, he took it off, much to Mom’s embarrassment. Flustered, she remained in the car while Dad jacked it up and pushed it over, jacked it up again and pushed it over more, until he finally got it (and her) out of the ditch.
What have I learned from all this ditch talk? Like my daughter with 4X4-Drive and Dad with his muscles and car jack, we need to be equipped to get out of the figurative ditch. Simply put, that preparedness comes from reading scripture and praying. We also need a friend (or be that friend) to help us out--to kick things that hurt us to the curb and tell us when we’re reaching for the wrong things. And I say this as much to myself as to anyone else, when it comes to “ditching”, don’t be a ding-dong!
Family vacation is often the place where rubber meets the road. We discover who we are, growing in a rolling petri dish of personalities. One particular station wagon odyssey I remember my younger cousin grumbling and giving voice to all of our miseries, “Even my hair hurts!” she whined as she begged my aunt for a Band-Aid.
Road trips are still part of our family tradition and I’m pleased how well my teenage kids travel without complaint--except when the dog’s digestive system takes a wrong turn. Without warning there will be intermittent expressions of putrid hell-stench, which causes us all to gag and grumble.
My mom on the other hand gives us a proper example of tolerance for life’s minor inconveniences. It was the big family vacation at Kings Island Amusement Park and Campground. Uncle Jack had meticulously made a military-style canvas tent large enough to shelter two families. It didn’t have a floor, but we didn’t mind. In the morning when we all rose, Mom casually asked sweetly without angst, “Has anyone else been bothered all night by the ground fleas?” Nobody had, and when we returned from the bathhouse, we saw the problem. She’d placed her pillow directly in an ant trail! Poor thing swatted at them all night as they made their way determinedly over the treacherous terrain of a giant Mt. Rushmore that was her face.
Now imagine an epic family vacation that lasted 40 years, required walking in the hot sun with 600,000+ cousins, and lots of pets. One might expect some grumbling. But God doesn’t give them a pass. Instead He uses His chosen people as an example to show us how complaining can be a serious offense. In His eyes it shows lack of gratitude and trust, which damages any relationship. If we think whining is merely annoying, we need to think again. On that desert journey, the Israelites initially complained and received substance of bread and water which was good (Exodus 16-17). But when they became dissatisfied again, God rained down FIRE! (Numbers 11:1)…And when they grumbled yet again He sent a severe PLAGUE! (Numbers 11:33)…And when they were still whining impatiently a few chapters later, God sent VENOMOUS SNAKES and many Israelites died! (Numbers 21:4-6) It’s seriously offensive to Him.
I am convinced the problem in our country is we have lost our fear of God. We have been a grumbling group of grouches for too long (some for the past four years and some ever since last November). The good news is we have a chance to recognize this flaw in ourselves and ask for God’s mercy and grace to rain down on us.
In Chris Tomblin’s contemporary Amazing Grace he sings, “And like a flood, his mercy reigns, unending love, amazing Grace.” The song’s original version was written by a captain of a slave ship who converted to Christianity, became a minister and helped abolish slavery. His transformation came as a result of a violent storm at sea. I pray ours is less harrowing yet equally effective.
One possible way to transform our negative thinking is called “rubber band therapy”. Simply place this unassuming office supply around your tender wrist and snap it smartly when a complaint is on the tip of your tongue or has already escaped. It’s called aversion therapy and is supposed to break unproductive thought patterns. I think it’s humorous but at least it’s effort. Perhaps more effective would be memorizing Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, If there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
May we march on Christian soldiers to fight the good fight…like ants undeterred by obstacles in our path. And when it comes to complaining or whining, let’s try and avoid it like the plague! Snap!
We arrived a few minutes early to our scheduled meet time and eyed every black truck suspiciously as the potential drop. It started a few weeks prior when my daughter and I were looking at home interior designs and discovered the popular Victorian trend of decorating with majestic peacocks often perched atop a grand mantle or cozy library bookcase. We quickly decided our home needed a peacock as well, but preliminary online searching had our wallets saying something else. $8,000-$10,000??? Who knew taxidermy was so expensive! Because of our Christmas budget ceiling, we lowered our expectations to a possum…and then to a squirrel. Lucky for me, Facebook Marketplace listed an affordable one and we arranged a meeting--Lowe’s parking lot at high noon. It was glorious when a perky little stuffed squirrel standing on wormy chestnut emerged from the drop-off truck. I handed the seller $30 and walked away with a big smile on my face. My daughter, who was filming the entire exchange from the back seat, commented “This is the most redneck thing we’ve ever done.”
I’m generally okay with the term redneck. It’s evolved over time to mean many different things. Originally it described farmers working in fields getting their necks sunburned. Then in the early 1900’s in West Virginia, coal miners wore red bandannas as a sign of solidarity as they fought for social justice and a better life out from under the harsh (and armed) control of big coal companies. This helped identify who was on their side when gun fighting ensued. And now? Well, it depends on whom you ask. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy made it humorous and acceptable to laugh at our rural nuisances in his bits that began “You might be a redneck if ...” And while outsiders might use the term in a derogatory manner, there are many who proudly self-identify with it.
The neck name we really need to be avoiding is “stiff-necked”. Neck stress is such a common issue these days with what they call tech-neck, which we get from looking down at our phones all the time. One of the finest husbands in the world who shall remain nameless was fussing about his aching neck muscles and happened to read that changing sleep positions would help. So he slept upside down with his head where his feet should be and his unsuspecting wife woke up to his big ole man feet in her face. They were also doing a rhythmic sleep jig on her lavish My Pillow which did not bode well either. While this situation might depict a pain in the neck, it’s not the kind of stiff neck the bible talks about.
The scriptural stiff-neck which makes God angry was a term biblical people understood because they saw how a stubborn ox would refuse to turn its head and take a different path even at the coaxing of its master. Humans likewise can be difficult. Here are some clues: You might be a stiff-necked person if you:
If you find yourself suffering from “stiff neck” like I do from time to time, a remedy is in Proverbs 3:3. “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee; bind them around thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.”
Happy New Year everyone! May 2021 bring blessings to your neck of the woods!It just might be the year we Fliegels look into raising peacocks…
During hunting season, a man and woman were driving down the road in their pick-up truck and passed a herd of deer. The woman said with amusement at her husband’s reflex, “There you go a breathin’ heavy.” Now while deer season might get some fellows all riled up, you have never seen a man pant quite so much as when he’s trying to give birth. I guess you’ll need that explained.
The year was 1999 and we were expecting our first baby. We were late scheduling birthing classes so while all the other moms sitting around on the floor listening to the instructor were barely showing, I was near the end and could have had the baby right then and there if prompted. And because I was just plum wore out, everything was funny. My husband, on the other hand, was taking things seriously. His mother often brags, “Jeff always gives 110 percent!”, so he went into the birthing class focused with enthusiasm that extended the bounds of reason. He knelt at the end of my raised knees and began to coach me in rhythmic birth-breathing. The instructor guided us moms (who apparently would lose our minds and forget how to breathe during actual childbirth) to match the dads’ controlled breaths. Have you ever had one of those moments where the world happens in slow motion and you’re not aware of anything else outside your little sphere? This was one of those times. I looked at Jeff over my bulging belly and the soon-to-be father of my child had turned into a crazy man panting the likes you have never seen. Because I was wore out, I laughed until I cried and was forced to shut my eyes to block out his hilarious face. Hoping to regain composure, I peeped through tiny slits to see if ole Huff-n-Puff had calmed down any. But he had sensed my breathing was compromised by the laughing fit and was in the middle of a panting frenzy working feverishly to get me back on track. It was so bad I thought he was going to have the baby himself! Even funnier is that he never even coached me when the actual time came! I was having contractions and he was building himself a nest out of chair cushions saying how he was going to sleep because he “needed his strength for tomorrow.”
The preacher this past Sunday quoted Psalm 42:1 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O, God.” I looked around at the congregation seated apart for social-distancing, all wearing mouth coverings and I realized we were like that deer--all figuratively panting in some way behind the masks. Later, I asked Dad why a deer would be panting and he said “because it’s wore out. Something must have been chasing it.” Yes. Something has been chasing it... I wonder what has been chasing us this year. A pandemic? Fear? Social unrest? Anger? Hopelessness? Disappointments? Sure, there are always blessings and bright sides, but truth be told, lots of people are wore out from 2020.
Like a panting deer longing for streams of water, all this running from something has our souls thirsty. There are plenty of ineffective substitutes, but the best solution to refresh those of us who are parched is Jesus. You may have noticed many people putting up Christmas lights and decorations extremely early this year. I believe it’s directly connected with our need for hope and hydration for wore out souls. We realize Christmas season, with baby Jesus at the center, is not merely a mirage on the horizon, but it’s an oasis. And we can’t get there quick enough! I don’t know about you but I’m going to take a deep breath (as best I can behind a mask) and drink it in…because I’m going to need my strength for tomorrowJ
As we round the corner at my friend Colleen’s red brick house near the entrance of our neighborhood, I throw up my hand in greeting even when there is nobody outside. My husband used to ask doubtfully, “Who do you see?” but now he remains quiet and silently judges me. Growing up along a WV one-lane country road, we were all loyal wavers. Each local has an individual signature wave. My dad’s is a confident yet friendly right hand finger roll with a gun point at the end. Mine is a fast back and forth motion, a wave much like the shaking of a squirrel tail which incidentally got my buddy shot when he went squirrel hunting with his apparently blind brother. (He’s full of lead but OK now.)
On family vacations we kids, along with Mom and Aunt Hilda, were stowed in the back of the station wagon or a truck bed and to pass time we would wave to other cars. They always waved back, probably because we were facing them out the back window and we simply wore them down. One car sporting a beautiful rainbow flag merited extra flailing and the two ladies in the car smiled with obvious appreciation at our stuffy vehicle full of wiry kids and tired haggard women. Especially fun was pumping a fist in the air and pulling it down when we passed 18-wheelers. The truckers rewarded us with loud blasts on their air horn, which in turn also helped Dad and Uncle Jack stay alert in the front seat. When we were older girls riding the 4-H float in the Woodchopping Festival parade, we learned to do the pageant wave to appear sophisticated.
Knowing the right wave is imperative! A few years ago there was a man stranded in the Alaskan wilderness who perished because he mistakenly gave the signal for “ALL OK—DO NOT WAIT” to the rescue plane which then flew away! Knowing what signals you’re sending can be a matter of life or death. We have friends who recently started boating and discovered it’s a federal law they must have an orange distress flag aboard to wave in case of emergency. While our friends are merely lake boaters with unrivaled survival skills the law recognizes different people hit their distress level at different points. As in life, even when dry land (comfort and peace) is in sight some panic because they’re afraid of sinking before they reach it. On the other hand, sometimes strongminded and calm people don’t think they need Jesus to save them. Believing they can get to Heaven on their own good works, pride won’t allow them to wave a “rescue me” flag.
My sister, Cindy, and I didn’t have a distress flag on a kayak outing down the Little Miami River but clearly we were in need of help. Our vessel had taken on too much water and was going down. Notability the degree of distress was lessened because our feet could still touch bottom, which was another lesson learned-- It’s vital to stay grounded.
Admittedly it’s been harder to stay grounded in 2020, but one thing that has helped is knowing/showing love. “…and I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…”(Ephesians 3:17&18) Being grounded in that soul-saving love provides us some genuine security. When we are in over our heads, we have a lifeline. And whether our hands are waving a friendly greeting to connect us, or waving an orange distress flag, we can best be served if we take time to fold them in prayer. Isn’t it interesting that S.O.S., although not an abbreviation, is often associated with the phrase Save Our Souls, which therein recognizes our biggest crisis? We all need saving.
“You’ll come to a place where five roads meet called 5-Forks. Take the one that goes up the hill. There used to be a sign there, but no more….And don’t use your GPS! It will take you where you don’t want to go.” As I listened to Mom give phone directions to the electric company I chuckled to myself imagining some poor innocent soul attempting to jot down notes in some faraway place like India, or Oregon. Don’t use your GPS. It will take you where you don’t want to go. If you’re driving through West Virginia it doesn’t take long to realize GPS isn’t reliable. There are obstacles prohibiting a clear path. And herein lies Driving Life-Lesson ONE: I can’t always go by what someone tells me. I need actual written directions or a map (The Holy Bible). The voice on my phone used to tell me she was “recalculating” when I made a wrong turn…and likewise sometimes I need to reassess where I’m going.
Another parent in our family once dispensed important driving instructions, of the four legged kind. It was during the Civil War and my great-grandpa Albert and his dad were plowing with oxen on a steep field at Red Gate Farm. They paused to speak to a neighbor taking a sack of corn over the hill to the grist mill to get it ground into cornmeal. As they were talking, a group of Union Soldiers came down the road across the valley. The neighbor got frightened and began to run but my great-grandpa’s dad told Albert to keep working and the soldiers would see them as allies and not harm them. The soldiers shot at and chased the fleeing neighbor, and with bullets whizzing past them, great-great-grandpa kept plowing all the while shouting “Drive em up Albert! Drive em Up!” Life Lesson TWO: Drive smart and keep going even when you’re afraid.
Here in the USA it’s a rite of passage to drive. I’ve been driving the farm tractor since I was eight years old, and my job in the hayfield ever since I could reach the pedals was to drive the truck while the stronger bodies loaded hay. There is something powerful about changing gears with a floor stick shift. I learned to ease off the clutch to get a smooth start or let it lurch forward depending on who was stacking bales in the back. And with my own kids, I prayed with them when they went in for their driving exams and now pray every day because they got them. Driving Lesson THREE: Life goes smoother if you can switch gears easily, and be mindful of people counting on you for balance.
Some cars have a dashboard filled with gauges so complicated you need a pilot’s license (or a tech savvy child) to read them. Recently my digital display accidentally got set to directional coordinates when I tried to turn on the radio. Knowing what degree North-East I was headed provided me with zero assistance. I could already tell I was headed west if I needed sunglasses. The information I really needed on this long journey was how many miles before I ran out of gas. Driving Lesson FOUR: Know your fuel levels at all times.
There’s a lot to be learned when we look at what drives us and little lessons along the way. After we arrive at our destination, we let our loved ones know we made it and the natural response is “Glad you made it safe and sound”. Some of us aren’t afraid of getting lost, but Lord, I sure hope we have enough gas in the tank to get us home…Another thing Mom said when she hung up the phone after giving cryptic directions to the power company, “It will be a miracle if he makes it.” And that’s what I’m counting on:)
There was no chance of taming the wild stallion, but undiscouraged, I hung onto the saddle and prayed my scrawny little arms wouldn’t fail me now! The saddle was a folded paper grocery bag and the bucking horse was the baby blue ice cream maker being propelled across our front porch by whoever had energy to turn the hand-crank. My job was to add some stability and resistance to the runaway steed but realistically, what could 50 lbs. of giggle actually accomplish? Every so often the cranker would get tired and pause to add more salt to the ice inside the bucket. Salt helped the ice melt and freeze the milk mixture into ice cream faster.
Salt’s a funny thing. We’re told to monitor it and minimize it in our diet, yet some people don’t have enough and must take salt pills! Tears are salty, but if sweat (which is also salty) drips down into your eyes, it burns.
On the farm, when we put up hay in the barn that was a little bit green, we’d sprinkle salt on top to cure it and when the sheep or cows got that hay, they appreciated the extra seasoning! Mom recalls her dad buying 25 pound bags of salt and scooping some out on a rock for the sheep which would eagerly gather around and “fuss about it all”.
Later the industry made salt blocks, which a couple years ago I thought was going to be our demise. My daughter’s college art professor thought it a good idea to have students carve organic shapes into blocks of salt. Imagine a whole heard of young people carrying their 50 pound salt blocks to and from class! Over the next month, there was neither a family member, friend, nor enemy who happened to stop by that didn’t take a stab at carving that block of salt. We tried files, grinders, and chisels-- and when we toted the evil mass to New Jersey, a circular saw was implemented. At one point someone suggested throwing hot water on it to no avail. One fateful day, university administrators in dark suits, like the Men-In-Black walking in front of a Hollywood fog machine, strolled through the fourth floor hallway which was now filled with a salt cloud. Peering cautiously into the studio classrooms, they witnessed students all gnawing away with artistic abandon. Salt covered the tables, carpeted the floors, and thickened the air…and by the Grace of God, the assignment was halted immediately. Good thing too, because while we all attempted to stay within the bounds of Alex’s vision of an upside down water drop (or tear drop as the struggle wore on), the block of salt on turn-in day looked pretty much like a salt block with the corners knocked off.
Salt is mentioned over 40 times in the Bible, and possibly the most well-known reference is Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of it when she disobeyed God’s instructions and longingly looked back at her old life (Genesis 19:26). It might be tempting in 2020 during these “unprecedented times” to look wistfully toward distractions, but Matthew 5:13-14 is a good reminder to stay the course: Be salt and light. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid”
I’m encouraged that while we are riding atop this wild stallion of political and social unrest, Colossians 4:6 helps us hang on, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” We have to ask ourselves: Am I salty --but in a Godly way?
Janet Cowger- Fliegel