Black Widow Bite

black-widow-spiders_thumb.ngsversion.1482872403820.adapt.1900.1My wife, Sharon, is the only person I know who has been bitten by a black widow spider. One day she took her sweater from the coat rack, put it on and felt a sharp sting on her arm. She smashed her hand on the stinging spot, shook her sleeve and the flattened spider fell out. The telltale red hourglass-shaped marking on its shiny black body confirmed what it was. Sharon sealed her attacker in a plastic bag and took it with her as she drove to the hospital.
Everyone at the emergency room was excited because no one had ever seen, much less treated, anyone with a black widow bite. It seemed to Sharon the entire hospital staff stopped by to inspect the spider and the bite marks on her arm.
I was excited too when summoned from an out of town meeting to take a phone call. Sharon told the story and assured me the doctor said everything was okay. The anti-venom was on its way from Atlanta and would be at the hospital in a few hours. Most importantly, she had no extreme symptoms. I trusted her assurances, but it was still a long trip home to see for myself.
The doctor administered the anti-venom when it arrived that evening. Sharon spent the night in the hospital for observation and was released the next morning. Thankfully, the worst effects of the bite were the five days of mental fog she endured from the prescribed mega-doses of antihistamines.
“How did a black widow spider get in her sweater?” I claim the dubious honor as the agent of that. It was winter and we were using the fireplace. At times, I brought in pieces of wood and stacked them on the floor next to the wall. If you picture the wood piled on the floor next to the wall, and move your gaze up, you come to…the coat rack. Apparently, the spider hitchhiked inside on a piece of wood, crawled up the wall looking for a dark hiding place and chose Sharon’s sweater sleeve.
Like most people, it wasn’t our practice to bring poisonous spiders into our house. However, the one that got Sharon was sneaky – we didn’t notice it because it was hiding in something useful that we often brought inside.
Spiders aren’t the only sneaky things we need to watch for. Every day we bring useful things into our homes through television, books, and the internet. These can help us learn and grow, make us think, or simply entertain us. Most importantly, these media are powerful tools that can help us as we seek to be closer to God.
But there is a negative side to the words and images they contain. Those that are blatantly evil are more easily avoided, but we might miss the sneaky ones unless we’re diligent. Subtle messages can hide among the action, information and laughter.
A scene can have a funny line, but the action may portray sex outside of marriage as not only acceptable but expected. Scripture can be taken out of context or given a slight twist to make a misleading point. Tolerance of sin (sin, as defined by God) may be constantly presented as a greater virtue than living by Biblically based standards.
As subtle messages like this sneak into our mind, they can eventually harden our heart to what is truth. Thus, we should constantly watch for them and as Proverbs 4:23 says: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” ESV
Sharon and I don’t have poisonous spiders sneaking into our coats or sweaters anymore because I carefully examine all the wood before I bring it in. Perhaps that’s the process we should follow with all things we bring into our homes.

Get Back on the Horse?

Daniel on a pony

He was a pony working at my friend’s birthday party. I was a five year-old kid sitting on his back. Something spooked him, and off he went with the pony version of a bucking bronco. Pony version or not, it still sent me flying and put me on the ground with a thud. I cried from the terror but, thankfully, wasn’t hurt.

My father rushed over, picked me up and made sure I was OK. After a few minutes, he asked if I  wanted to give it another try. I, in effect, said “let me think about that a minute – No!”

The old adage is that if you fall off a horse, get back on quickly or you never will. I guess that’s correct  because I ignored that advice and have never gotten back on a horse. At this point, I don’t have plans to.

The other time I got personal with (but not on) one was back when my cousins kept a horse near their home. They hadn’t ridden him for a while, so he had reverted into “wild” mode. We were trying to get him back in a pen. My older cousin put me in position and told me to stay right there no matter what.

As the other cousins maneuvered around behind the horse, he took off right at me. I didn’t see any hesitation in the thousand-pound animal running my way, so I didn’t hesitate to jump out of his way. My cousin bawled me out good for not holding my ground. I appropriately hung my head in shame, while thinking “I’m sorry, but I just didn’t feel that getting your horse back in the pen was worth dying for.”

It’s not that I don’t think horses are magnificent creatures. Sharon and I once spent a memorable day touring horse farms around Lexington, Kentucky. Seeing them run and play, hearing the stories, and watching videos of the exciting come-from-behind victories of the beautiful horse standing in the stall next to us didn’t make us experts. But, it did get me to the point that I can get goosebumps watching a race just from knowing a bit about what it means to the horse. (There is no cruelty there – they live to run!)

Do I regret not getting back on that pony sixty years ago? Not really. My life has been so full of blessings and opportunities from the Lord that I can’t begin to remember them all. I don’t know how I would have worked riding horses into the mix. And, at this point, I don’t think I was supposed to.

All of that can be like the Christian life. There will be times we’ll try things in service to God and people, and we’ll get “bucked off”. We remind ourselves we can’t, and aren’t meant to, do everything. But, we also have to take more consideration than a five year old boy deciding not to get back on the pony. It could be a situation where God expects us to get back on in order to be blessed and not have regrets later on.
Galatians 6:9—”Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

A World of Choices

More Volunteer Flowers – thankfully, I was paying attention while cutting the grass in the “back forty” (OK, it’s only a “back one” but “back forty” sounds neater).
The other night my wife, Sharon, and I were talking about being blessed to be able to make choices. That’s deeper than you might think – start with the fact that you have a place to live and food on the table. That opens up a world of choices on what you plan to do today.
I thought about that when I realized the long list of blessings that together allowed me to be able to choose to leave these beauties alone.

Six Month Checkup

August vegetable garden

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12 (Fallow ground – left uncultivated and unproductive)

“Hey, Bill— Didn’t you say six months ago that you were going to retire and break up your fallow ground? How’s it going on that?

Well, it depends. You can see from this photo from earlier this week, that the physical break up, rebuild, renovate of the vegetable garden’s fallow ground has stayed on hold through these six months. Now, it’s too hot these days to get started with a good spray of Roundup and have it be effective. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) This garden hopefully, will rise to the top of the list in the Fall.

But, on the flower garden side of things, the Lord has blessed us with much beauty. Much fallow ground was broken up. I’ve posted a couple of photos on blog posts, and several more on Facebook. The one below is the view from our bedroom window.

On other things, I haven’t done as much writing as I had planned (but, I have done more than I was doing, so that’s progress.) My plans to spend more time with my guitar and banjo are still in their cases, so to speak—but they’re still on the list.

I’ve discovered that what happens to impede progress—is life. Like always, there are planned and unplanned things that come up that divert attention from the to-do list of items mentioned above. Also, now that I’m a bit older, I’ve discovered that just resting and staying out of the heat are needful, too.

But, the fallow ground in the above verse from Hosea isn’t referring to these physical things I’ve mentioned (although, I would hope writing and music could fit in with it). The verse is talking about the more important aspects of life—sowing righteousness, reaping love, and seeking the Lord. I’ve been working on those, too.

I won’t mention specifics. But, there have been successes and wonderful blessings (all by the grace of God), and utter failures of commission and omission (all by the humanity of Bill). I don’t plan to quit trying, but I do get discouraged at times. Then, the Lord sends me a message, like He did through our Pastor the other night. In His preface to our church conference, he talked a bit about Galatians 6:9—
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
So, with the Lord’s help, I won’t faint.

Bedroom window view

Reblog of The Comfort of a Garden

My reblog didn’t work apparently so I’ll do it this way. Christine Goodnough posted this poem on her Christine’s Collection blog. Good poem about the garden and how so many of us feel about it.

In The Garden

by Edgar Guest

I sometimes get weary of people
and weary of being polite;
I sometimes grow tired of the dull man,
and sometimes am bored by the bright.
And then when my nerves are a-tingle,
I walk in the yard that is ours,
And I thank the good Lord for the comfort
of songbirds and blue skies and flowers.

I never grow tired of the martens
which circle about overhead;
I never grow weary of robins —
there is nothing about them I dread.
I smile when I see them returning,
I sigh when at last they depart,
and perhaps it’s because they are never
vindictive or petty or smart.

And the trees don’t expect to be talked to.
I can lie there and dream in the shade
and not have to think up an answer
to some dreary question that’s made.
So I often slip into my garden
when I’m weary of hearing things said,
and thank the good Lord for my roses
and trees and the birds overhead.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – But be careful!

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – But be careful! (Facebook folks, click on the link to see the entire post)

wheat and tares phlox 2

Here’s some fallow ground that needed breaking up in late winter. Looks like I could just go in and turn over everything and get ready for Spring. But if you look closely you see some things that aren’t weeds. So I had to be careful breaking  up this fallow ground.

This reminded me of Jesus’ Kingdom parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). There was a field a man planted with good seed (wheat) and at night an enemy came and planted bad seed (tares) in the field. When the field hands saw it (later, when both had grown enough to recognize) they asked the owner if he wanted them to pull the tares up. The owner’s reply was to wait, since pulling up the tares may also pull up the wheat.

While, I had to be careful what to pull up, and pulling some of the weeds actually unrooted a good plant, it was clear enough I could pull the weeds and leave the plants. I’ll leave it to you to study more on Jesus’ parable since it goes deeper than good plants and bad plants. But, I’ll leave a warning that we be careful when breaking up fallow ground – whether physical, spiritual, or relationships. Be sure to look closely for the good and not take it away with the bad.

It’s summer now, and here are the white phlox that were hiding in the weeds.

Phlox in bloom

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – Sometimes it’s OK

IMG_4960

(Fallow Ground – untended and unfruitful)
These Easter Lilies, planted last year, didn’t even get fertilizer this season, but they apparently didn’t mind. Sometimes things go well in spite of our neglect. But, we can’t take that for granted!
Hosea 10:12 needs to be in our mind all the time. “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy, break up your fallow ground; For it is time to seek the Lord til he comes and rains righteousness upon you.”