We went through a course at work many years ago on Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the habits was: “Begin with the end in mind.” In the postscript, beyond the business aspect, of his book, he explained the life aspect rather starkly. What do you want people saying about you at your funeral? Figure that out and live toward it.
Along those same lines of thought, my Uncle Ivy once told me he had spent a night in his recliner praying and meditating while considering much that same question—what kind of man did he want to be? He concluded that he wanted folks to think of him and say, “Ivy Spivey is always willing to help in any way he can.” (And he always was.)
In another course at work we were required to develop a personal mission statement. I didn’t think a lot about it and just took the Boy Scout Oath as mine. That is a great statement and living by it is certainly a good “mission.”
But, through the years I’ve thought more about my life’s mission, as Steven Covey suggested and as Uncle Ivy did. My latest rendition is:
- The only things that really matter in life are God and other people – so live like it. (You may recognize this is a paraphrase of the two great commandments Jesus gave – Love the Lord, and Love your neighbor. I was thankful when I realized that.)
- Do the right things – for the right reasons. (It’s obvious The Bible tells us to do the right things and not do the wrong things. But 1st Corinthians chapter 13 (“the love chapter”) makes it clear that without the right motivation, particularly love, doing the right thing means nothing. See also the Sermon on the Mount and what I call the “woe” chapter—Matthew chapter 23)
- Pay Attention (If we don’t, we’ll miss opportunities to do the first two. Isaiah chapter 42 mentions looking but not seeing and listening but not hearing.)
I’m not writing those points here because I’m always successful in following them – The older I get, the more I realize how pitiful my results often are. And, I’m not saying you should take them as yours. I’m just suggesting as we go into this New Year, along with making resolutions like eating healthier and exercising, which are still good resolutions, we also spend time in prayer and meditation and, as Jesus said, consider the “weightier matters of…justice, mercy and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:23)
Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
(Written last Spring)
I had never been inside a drive-through car wash (outside the vehicle) until yesterday. With all the pollen on the truck, I decided to stop by Enmark and get a wash during my usual Friday afternoon grocery run. There were several vehicles in line so I pulled in to wait.
After a minute, the door of the car ahead of me opened and an elderly woman got out and slowly walked toward me. I rolled down the window and in a strong Indian accent she haltingly said she had never been through a car wash before, didn’t know what to do, and was scared. I told her not to be scared and said I’d walk up to the machine and get her started. When we got there, I saw the taped-on sign saying the machine couldn’t take payments so you had to go to the kiosk to get a ticket.
So, after a bit of cajoling and explanation, I convinced her to drive through the car wash (“yes, without a ticket, and without getting a wash this round”) and go to the cashier and get a ticket. I needed gas, so I went to a pump and paid for the car wash with the gas, but got the notice to “see cashier for receipt”.
I went over and told the cashier I needed my receipt. The lady was still standing by her car by the kiosk so I asked the cashier to get her a car wash. The lady handed me her credit card, so I bought the wash, gave her the ticket and told her to go back to the car wash and I’d be right there. As I walked toward my truck, I saw I had the wrong receipt so went back to the cashier. She couldn’t find mine in the system, so I asked her to look while I hurried to help the lady, who by this time was parked at the machine by the car wash.
I entered her code and thought I explained OK to go forward until the green light turned red. But, she continued slowly through as the light turned red and then back to green. So, I walked in the car wash and after several times of her backing up and creeping forward, got her stopped at the right position and the car wash started. I waved as I quickly headed out to avoid getting soaked. I went back and got my receipt (the cashier had found it by then), got my truck and got back in line. I realized the lady hadn’t come out, so, I walked in the car wash again and told her it was finished and it was OK to leave. She waved, thanked me and headed out.
The incident was funny in some ways, but not really in the important ones. I wrote this because just before it happened, I was stuck in a drive through lane at a bank across the street getting aggravated and impatient (mostly calling myself stupid for not paying attention and going to a bank at lunch time on a Friday afternoon.) And, once you’re in the line, especially if a car pulls up behind you, you are stuck.
I was still grumbling at myself as I pulled in the car wash line. But, thankfully, when the lady got out of her car, God’s Holy Spirit took over. C. H. Spurgeon once wrote of the Holy Spirit, that “There is no spiritual good in all the world of which He is not the author and sustainer.” I’d have to say Amen to that, Brother Spurgeon!
(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.”
(Fallow ground – ground left unplowed and unfruitful)
Here’s a view of my garden from a few years ago. When I looked back on how things were and considered how it looks now, it was easy to see the goal behind breaking up my garden’s fallow ground. Looking back can help us focus.
I started my engineering career as a Cooperative Student working at Savannah Electric. (Meaning I went to school for a quarter and then worked for a quarter, then went to school, etc. for the first 3 years at Tech.) My job for much of that time was designing service to new residences. Typically, it was only installing a pole or two with a transformer and a service to the mobile home or house.
That was no big deal for the experienced engineers in the office, but it was exciting to me. Something new – and I had the chance to make a difference. I even would take Sharon out to the jobs to show her the finished products. Ah, the enthusiasm of being new to something wonderful.
Jesus’ letter to the church at Ephesus (Revelation Ch 2) reminded them of that. He told them to return to the enthusiasm of being new to something wonderful. After commending them for their works, toil and patience, he added:
“But, I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”
Sounds to me that He’s telling them (and us) to look back, and then break up some spiritual fallow ground.
Here’s a section of the vegetable garden as it has looked since last Summer, and the rest of the garden and the flower beds look much the same. Some of the beds are overgrown. Weeds have punctured the landscape fabric in the walkways and the cypress mulch that once covered them has disintegrated.
Last summer I listed all the things I needed to do in the garden – in addition to new walkways and rebuilding beds, it needs an irrigation system, the pump house needs rebuilding, the blueberries need something to keep the deer out, and on and on. I realized I had no extra time to work on it, so I decided to let the ground lie fallow (remain idle and unproductive) until my planned retirement in January and then I could begin rebuilding it all.
January came, and I retired (about 90%) from “work work” (my term for paid work), and I began work on the garden to-do list. Since there’s a long to-do list of things not involving the garden, and the weather hasn’t been cooperating, the garden progress has been slow. (I’ve found if you don’t have to go out in the cold and wind, it’s pretty easy to choose to stay inside.)
I’ve been pondering what I’ve left idle and unproductive in the garden and figuring out how to address the different pieces and parts (or pieces and plants?) My thoughts eventually led to considerations about other areas of my life that I might have also left idle and unproductive (or perhaps underproductive.) While full time work work was a great blessing in its time, it also kept me from doing other things – most often for valid reasons, but it also can be just an excuse.
So, I wondered what other “fallow ground” I had left that should be addressed now. I thought in those terms because of my project in the garden, which clearly is fallow ground, and I was remembering a recent sermon by our Pastor on breaking up your fallow ground and one Scripture that he used:
“Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap steadfast love. Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12
I took those thoughts of the garden, my life, and this verse and decided to make “Break Up Your Fallow Ground” the theme of this beginning of my retirement. One section of fallow ground is my writing and this blog. So, after several unproductive years, I’ve decided to write about breaking up fallow ground – literally and spiritually and wherever else it might lead. I hope it will give you something to think about, too.