I am writing today’s post a little later than I usually do. Piper and I spent a good portion of yesterday in the backyard. First, I pulled the battery off the riding mower so I could charge it and then mow the lawn later this week after the long winter dormancy. As I opened the double doors of the shed I immediately noticed that our newest resident, a 5’ Rat snake with his shiny black and silver coloring was sitting up on the side wall checking out the disturbance to his afternoon siesta.
I first spotted him last week and decided that if he didn’t bother me, that I wouldn’t bother him… since they are not poisonous and keep good control of the little varmints around the property. So, I stepped into the shed, looked him down and let him know that I was coming in and that he needed to move on… and he did!
After getting the battery on the charger I felt ambitious, grabbed my shovel and dug the hole for our new Golden Delicious apple tree which adds to our “orchard” of a Colette Pear, Santa Rosa Plum and also soon to be planted Brown Turkey Fig (to replace the one we Iost last year). Once that was complete, I pulled out the bare root tree and placed it into a bucket of water in order to hydronate the roots before planting.
Since I still had some energy left, I then put together the new 4’ X 4’ raised bed planter and lined the bottom with ¼” hardware netting to keep out the moles! By the time I finished the assembly of the planter and cleaned up, I still had about three hours before the tree was ready for planting so we retired into the house for lunch, figuring that we’d quickly plant the tree afterwards… Well… guess what? Yep! By then I ran out of steam and decided to plant the tree the next morning… which brings us back to why I am writing the blog so late in the day! You shouldn’t keep the tree soaking for over 24 hours so I wanted to get it in right after breakfast! And here we are…
When I was out back an hour or so ago, I began to think about how much I enjoy gardening. There I was sitting on my knees on the grass putting up a 3’ chicken wire fence to protect the young tree from any hungry rabbits who might come out looking for new delicacies during the night… and I was having a good old time!
I grew up in a family that loved to garden. Planting veggies, flowers, trees and almost any other thing that would grow was a normal part of my childhood and continues in my adult life. Some folks thought that I was kind of crazy for buying a house with this much property, but in doing so I KNEW that I would be surrounding myself with lots of hours of stress-relieving garden and lawn care! Some times I have to force myself outside, but I am always thankful for it when I am done with an outdoor project.
After all those years of watching my Grandfather putter around in his beautiful gardens and growing up with parents who spent most of their spare time in the front or back yards, I guess you could say I’ve been conditioned to act and think the way I do when it comes to gardening. My most enjoyable times when I worked at The Home Depot was the multiple seasons I spent working in the garden department.
The truth be known… looking back now, I regret making the decision to go into management for the last two years of my career there. It was much more rewarding for me to be working around the plants, trees, gardening equipment and the happy-to-be-gardening customers than making a few more bucks in supervision.
I received some similar thoughts from reading once again, from Philippians 4:7 in The Message Bible where the translator describes Paul’s thinking in modern vernacular as: “It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” A couple modern English dictionaries define “worry” as “to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulties or troubles; to torment oneself with disturbing thoughts” or “to harass by repeated biting, snapping etc…” (Oxford Online Dictionary and Dictionary.com)
I thought that the ideas presented by the words “allow, torment” and “harass” were right on… at least in Piper’s and my experience over the years. As Pastors we ministered to many individuals who had allowed worry to come in and torment and/or harass them. With the initial reports coming in from the tests with Piper’s health awhile back, we also saw some individuals who allowed worry to overtake them which resulted in their personal torment and harassment which oftentimes was also projected toward us.
As I meditated on this earlier today, I realized that much of the way we all respond to the various situations in our lives has to do with the way that we have conditioned ourselves to react! Philippians 4:6-7 describes the one who has been training themselves to respond to life with the peace of God. The opposite result is found in the ones who have not been practicing peace in their daily lives.
I believe that this repeated practice of peace should take place in everything we do during any given day. From the stubbed toes… like last night when I wheeled Piper’s chair over my shoeless foot… to the more annoying things like my knocking over a glass of grape juice all over the floor, cabinets, refrigerator and dishwasher… when I was very tiredly preparing dinner on Saturday night.
My first thought was to scream out, but thank God I have conditioned myself enough to know that this particular reaction would do no good… and I could also hear my wife’s sweet tender voice in my head saying; “Jim, it is time to praise the Lord!” So, I did… I wasn’t really happy with it at first, but after awhile the joy of the Lord finally took over and I began to laugh at my predicament.
It is all about conditioning! How you handle the little disturbances in your life will be the same way you handle the tough situations. Like my mother always said when she was teaching me piano lessons back in my elementary days, “Practice makes perfect!” Today, I am very regretful that I didn’t realize the importance of her words as I can barely play the scales on the piano. But on the other side, if you ever heard Piper play the piano you would KNOW that she spent countless hours from about when she was six years old through her college years taking piano and organ lessons and practicing at home.
I have many fond memories of attending her piano recitals when we were dating, picking her up at her piano teacher’s studio, or looking through the tiny window in the practice rooms in the music hall in Junior College and at Chico State University. She also kept it up throughout our marriage. In these last few years when she couldn’t figure out the music sheets anymore, she would sit at the piano and just play from the heart… which was funny because she never really could do that when everything was functioning normally. She could sight read anything, but to just sit down and play without music… well… not so easy!
As I have mentioned many times before, I firmly believe that our three-year saturation-in-the-Word stint at Bible School in Oklahoma really conditioned us for what we are facing today. Many of the ways we think and act now, are done without much thought. We have been well-conditioned to think, act and speak like the Word says to! Like Jesus did!
What about you? What kind of conditioning have you had… or need to bone up (ie; to try to master necessary information quickly – Merriam Webster Dictionary) on? In certain situations… it could be the difference between life or death… victory or failure… enjoying the life that God desires for you to live, or barely getting along!
What will it be… for you?
Have a great week ahead, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting to react to life’s situations today?”