Are You a Wise Guy?

My unique father used to use the term “Wise Guy” in a derogatory manner when he referred to me. A conversation would go something like this:

Dad: “Are you wearing that to school again?”

Me: “Yes.” I’d say in my lofty teenage-girl-voice.

Dad: “So you’re wearing overalls so you can be different like all the rest of the kids?”

Me: “Whatever you say, Dad.”

Dad: “Don’t be a wise guy,” he’d say as I slinked out the back door for school  dressed in my jean overalls for the fifth day in a row.

As I look back on it, I think he was the wise guy.

Really.

The older I get, the less I know, and the more I  realize how much my parents knew. They were wise.

Something else my dad used to say was, “Sometimes, people get dumber by degrees. They might have a PhD, or an MBA, or an MSW, but they don’t necessarily have a J-O-B.

I used to think he was talking about the book in the Bible. I think I’d graduated from college and had a J-O-B before I understood he meant occupation.

I want to be wise. I wouldn’t mind being knowledgeable, but my desire is wisdom.

So when my pastor, David Brady decided to preach through the book of Proverbs, I got excited. I figured it would be something like Become Wise in Ten Easy Lessons. 

He began with an unexpected question, “Do you fear God?”

From that thought-provoking question he took us to several references in the Bible, beginning with Proverbs 1:7,

“Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge.” (NLT)

True wisdom begins with fearing God. It’s like the foundation of the house. No foundation–no house.

We definitely don’t see much in the news or on TV about fearing God. If anything, they make fun of it. Most try to separate fear from God. My pastor said, “Separating fear from God is like taking the word butterfly and separating the syllables. In other words, flying butter.

I’ve never seen that.

Many people who say they believe the Bible say God is love and there’s no need to fear Him. Kind of like a big, heavenly, Santa Claus.

That’s not what the Bible says. His Word, both the New and Old Testament emphasize fearing and loving God.

When I honestly questioned myself, I knew I feared God. I know one day I’ll give an account of my life, but it seems so far off, and this world seems so real. Often, I fear man more than I fear God. But I don’t want to. I want to be a truly wise guy.

What about you? Do you fear God?

Come along with me as I blog through Proverbs and maybe we can share a cup of coffee together and become wise.

Although it might take more than ten easy lessons.

And the first lesson is fear God, not man.

Are you with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life’s Season of Winter

Yesterday, it snowed.

Barely.

Just enough to cover our meager lawn and dust the stark trees.

Beautiful.

I think winter has a bad reputation. Of course I don’t live in Milwaukee where your lawn is covered with snow in September and you don’t see it again until March. Or April.

I lived in Florida for almost thirty years and maybe saw snow once for about fifteen minutes. You could predict the weather almost everyday–sunny and humid with an afternoon shower.

Since calling North Carolina my home almost three years ago, I hadn’t realized how much I missed the seasons. They give a kind of cadence to life.

I thought of that yesterday when I stayed home from church to care for my 95-year-old mother. We observed the white ice drift down on the front porch railing. We smiled as small birds searched for food while our wily cat watched carefully from afar.

Since becoming a farmer, winter takes on new meaning. Shorter days and cold weather prevent much in the way of crops. (Although, miraculously my chickens are still producing eggs.) I’ve gotten some much needed rest.

Because of the weather, my life slows down and gets simpler. If I can’t make it to the superstore, I open a can of soup or have a bowl of cereal.

Sure, Tom and I watched four NFL playoff games over the weekend, but for the last few months we’ve mostly been watching reruns of the fire in our new wood stove. Sometimes we drink hot coffee or sometimes we read, but often we just stare at the flames and discuss how beautiful and unique they are.

I’ve noticed during the winter I can see more. During other seasons of the year, I notice several shades of green from my bedroom windows. In winter there is some green, but mostly I see weathered trunks, and brown leaves, and intricate twigs on bare branches.

I can also see farther. In front of our house, I catch sight of two tobacco barns hidden behind our forest. If I stare into the woods I view trees I’ve never noticed. Small ones that stretch for the sun. Beyond them is a mystery of gray. I can only guess at what lies beyond.

Mom is in the winter season of her life. Most people dread it or avoid it all costs. Some even avoid those who are in winter since it reminds them of the mystery after their lives are over.

I’m beginning to embrace life’s winter season. I look at the intricate lines on Mom’s face and see time and years have worn her soft young skin away. In those creases, I see wisdom, and strength, and love.

Both our lives have slowed down out of necessity. Mom can’t walk anymore so her movement is limited to her bed, the wheelchair, and a big chair in front of the fireplace.

Often in the evening, she sits in her chair while Tom and I watch reruns of the fire. I don’t know that she can see the fire much but she feels its warmth and she is content. She has to be fed now and the food must be easy to swallow since swallowing is difficult. Her food choices are limited–simple.

Her life is simple. She has few possessions and even fewer clothes. She doesn’t need them.

I’ll sometimes ask her how her days has been. “Good,” she’ll reply.

She can also see farther. She looks back on a life filled with lots of color and she looks forward to the mysterious gray of the woods. She can see the trees better and understands their intricate designs. Mom appreciates the gnarly trunks and weathered branches.

She’s lived them.

Her winter forces me to examine mine. It compels me to slow down and enjoy the day. To understand that under the green canopy are sturdy trunks and elaborate designs that are meant to be appreciated and enjoyed.

It also reminds me that soon Mom is headed to the mystery beyond the gray.

And I’ve heard it’s spring there.

It’s just in a different place.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.” Ps. 23:4-5 (ESV)

 

 

Jesus is My Mouthwash

Recently, while reading through the Psalms, I noticed the reoccurring phrase of how man is just a vapor, a fleeting breath.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had bad breath. Serious. Bad. Breath.

It made me wonder what kind of breath I’d be if my life’s breath could be smelled and rated on say a 1-10 scale. Or for that matter, if all our lives could be rated on our life’s breath, maybe like the Olympics–cards would be held up with 7.5, 8.1, 6.3… (Of course the Russians would always be lowest.)

Some would say my cards would be high and my heavenly breath good because of caregiving or other good works, but I know better. I know my hidden thoughts and insidious pride.

I’ve thought about life’s breath a lot lately. One of my new friends in North Carolina died Friday. Her death came both suddenly and quickly. One day she was at church, and over the next few weeks, she went from the hospital to home to Hospice to heaven.

I miss her.

She wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. A rather ordinary-looking, middle 70-ish woman who of course drove a Buick.

She was the first to greet us in our new church. Each week I could count on her pleasant smile and kind words. She always asked about my bed-bound mom or how farming was going with us. Or how my son was doing in Florida.

But it never stopped at just words. Her actions backed up her strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

She called almost every week to check on Mom and update the prayer list. One evening, on a particularly difficult night for me, she corralled chickens and even helped me make a gallon of salsa for an event I attended.

There were other acts of kindness that I am not allowed to discuss because those were her terms. If she did something for us, Tom and I couldn’t tell anyone.

She had fresh breath. It was made fresh by Jesus.

Mine, too.

Our human effort smells foul to God. Isaiah stated that all our best works are like filthy rags. A negative number on the vapor/breath scale.

Yet, by Christ’s atoning work, he makes our life-breath clean. Pure. Acceptable to God.

I’ll miss my friend, but I’m not sorry she’s gone. She’s breathing heavenly air. Air I long to breathe one day.

Fresh. Eternal. Jesus-filled.

But for now, I’ve got to think about my breath here. Do I smell like heaven, or do people move away?

What about you?

 

 

The Ball Drop Has Nothing On Me

I’ve been to Times Square. My kids and I climbed out of the subway as a wave of people threatened to carry my children down Broadway.

“Quick, grab my hand!” I managed to shout to them. My 8-year-old, Micah had a confused look on his face, while my 12-year-old gazed up at a sky-scraper-sized picture of a Victoria Secret model plastered above her head.

“Sarah, pay attention and follow me!”

Our visit lasted two days.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Especially at New Year’s. The thought of thousands of people crowded around, invading my space, waiting  for an enormous ball to drop is frightening to me. I can’t even handle Disney on a crowded day, much less Times Square at midnight.

You couldn’t pay me enough.

Besides, I’ve discovered something better.

The first time I experienced it, I couldn’t help smiling. I stood on fresh mulch inside a metal quantum hut, gazing into a white 5 gallon bucket. Feathers faced me as I leaned against the wall. Then it happened.

The Egg Dropped.

It was a golden brown, covered with a wet substance which immediately dried. The hen shook her bottom, turned around, and promptly exited the coop to look for bugs.

Amazing.

Here are 5 reason I prefer the Egg Drop to the Ball Drop any day of the week.

1. You don’t have to stay up until midnight. In fact, chances are minimal that any Egg Drop would occur at that time. First, you wouldn’t be able to see it and second, chickens–or the ladies as we call them–sleep at night and wake up at dawn. I prefer that time schedule for my past-menopausal-life. Plus, Molly, my Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian Dog, (LGD) does not take kindly to anyone or anything in the coop after dark. (And she has very big teeth.)

2. No parking problems. We tried parking when we visited the Big Apple. My friend drove around for hours until finally we found a space about the size of a glove compartment several blocks away from our destination. My capable friend parallel parked us faster than you could say Kelly and Michael. Good thing I wasn’t driving since I now live in Mayberry where people think it unnecessary to use their turn signals and no one gets upset when you sit at the light ’cause you’re changing your country western station and didn’t see it turn green.

For the Egg Drop you don’t even need a car. You can walk directly to the coop through the pasture and stand for a few minutes or even bring a lawn chair. Of course, besides mulch, there is a variety of organic matter on the floor, so don’t bring your favorite beach chair.

3. The third reason to forego the Ball Drop for the Egg Drop is to avoid the crowds. Sure, a Golden Comet “lady” might perch on your lawn chair bringing with her more organic matter and Molly the wonder dog might even lay her huge white head on your lap and stare up at you with her soulful eyes. It’s much more relaxing than a drunk singing a song in your ear to the tune of b-flat, whiskey.

4. Another reason to attend the Egg Drop is it’s free! Sure, they don’t actually charge to watch the Ball Drop, but if you want to have a Coke or adult alcoholic beverage, you’d probably have to take out a second mortgage on your own coop. Taking a cab would be a fortune, and who knows whether the Uber could get through the traffic.

5. Last and most important reason to skip the Ball Drop and attend the Egg Drop, is you can eat the egg. I’d like to see you do that with the Ball. Although I heard that the man who sings to the tune in b-flat, whiskey has tried.

Seriously, come to Peeled Poplar Farm next year and you too can experience the Egg Drop for yourself.

You can have it hard boiled, or over easy.

How I Met My Mother

Mom and Silas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I surprised my parents with my birth when Mom was pushing forty. They thought the child-rearing role was behind them with my two older sisters. The Almighty had other plans.

My memories of Mom are vague until I reached almost school-age. Even then, the pictures in my brain are foggy and mysterious. Always a sturdy woman, she towered over me. Her stomping walk resembled that of a duck–feet turned out, head erect, eyes forward–she moved so quickly my two little legs could never keep up.

No one is stronger than my mom, I thought.

I moved through the terrible teens, and managed through my twenties. After my first child was born, my parents retired from serving as officers in The Salvation Army and moved about four miles up the street from our family.

Fast forward a few years and our roles began to change. I accompanied them to doctor visits as their health declined. I checked on them and made a few of their weekly meals.

Fourteen years ago, they moved in with our family of four and it felt right.

But it was hard.

My uniquely passionate father died six years later after two leg amputations. My mother stood by him through it all–his rock–although she wasn’t as sturdy as she’d been. Her shoulders slumped, her hands didn’t work, and she walked with a cane.

It’s like I met her for the first time. Although she appeared strong, she wasn’t. She simply did what needed to be done. Caring for my dad–a full-time job–her family, and her congregation from the Salvation Army where my parents served.

Now I’m caring for her.

She’s ninety-five years old and probably doesn’t have much time to live. Through these fourteen years of caregiving, I’ve experienced a range of emotions from anger to resentment to deep sadness, even despair. But recently, when I look at my mama’s creased face, I’m filled with love and compassion and mercy.

It’s a God thing.

In fact, the similarities between how I feel about my new grandson and my mother are astounding.

The time with Silas as a baby is quickly slipping away. The time left with Mom will be over soon. Both are precious.

Both are completely dependent on someone to care for them and protect them. They each have personality traits to be discovered and encouraged.

I know I’m a writer, but I couldn’t possibly put on paper the emotions I experience with them on a daily basis.

Each evening I’m with Silas I sing a special made-up song and watch him smile and try to sing along.

Every night, I slip into Mom’s room, hold her hand and sing, All night, all day, angels watching’ over me, my Lord. All night, all day, angels watching over us. Then I pray.

She used to sing with me each night, but lately she will sing a word or two or not at all, but I know she hears.

What am I trying to say?

Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.”

And both should be experienced and treasured to their fullest.

Happy New Year! I pray that your lives will be lived in the light of the joy of eternity.