Reflections from the Wood Shed
A couple of years ago a member of the Foundations Sunday School class asked me about my references to firewood, splitting logs and the like as I had mentioned such to make a point in class. She asked if we had a wood stove. That got me to thinking that our wood shed reflects a lot about life and in particular living a Christian life. We have heated our house with the wood stove for some 34 years now. We began by purchasing bundles of slab wood from a saw mill, cutting and stacking stove size pieces. Then we covered the ranks with plastic tarps. This was okay but there was a limitation as to how high one could stack, the tarps always leaked, the wood was right on the ground, etc. Seemed liked every time I would try to get ahead in stock piling losses to rot made inroads on the pile. Now that reminds me of the Israelites coming out of Egypt and collecting manna. God told them to take as much as they needed for the day but only that much. Anymore and it disappeared. He wanted them to depend on him as each day would take care of itself. I related that early wood pile to my early years as a Christian husband and father, I attended church but really didn’t study Scripture, didn’t try to know the Lord let alone Jesus and didn’t get involved in church activities. I had to pursue other sources of firewood as for one thing slab wood with all the bark involves a lot of material with relatively little heat value and two the supply was less plentiful. Some years I would purchase a tri-axle load of logs, and have it delivered to our driveway so I could work it up. Or, I salvaged trees from construction projects, cutting, splitting, hauling and then stacking at home. One project was the building of the Sam’s Club and Walmart stores near the mall. When I-99 was built just down the road from us I had unofficial permission to haul away trees felled for the new road. I would come home from work, pick up the saw, and cut lengths as long as I could handle, load, drive home, unload and return for more. I had truckloads of firewood piled all over the driveway waiting for me to split and stack! It soon dawned on me that it took quite a bit more effort to get the free wood than it did the purchased logs. The same applied to living a life without Jesus and one with him. God’s grace and His son Jesus are free for the taking yet require dedicated time and effort to live as Jesus would have us live. Yes, as part of the initial process one needs to own up to being a sinner, ask for forgiveness and ask for strength to repent meaning to change. But, living a Christian life involves work but not the kind of work that might be considered a means to heaven. It means living a life reflecting the values Jesus taught, resisting temptation, and staying connected with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What form of temptation might occur? As simple, as turning on the computer so I could type this message. I enjoy playing some computer games or checking on a forum regarding African travel. What could hurt about a few minutes on the Internet. The message could wait. What began as a few minutes lasted half an hour. Then…well you know. By now you might be wondering about the wood shed as we left off with just as wood pile. About twenty years ago we build the shed with poles and a trussed roof with the idea of keeping a couple years of wood out of the weather and even parking my truck out of the elements. It was a family process with Beth and her older sister helping to mix cement for holding the poles and Darla and I hoisting trusses onto the frame. Ah the memories, much like those of family efforts in church activities. Seeing the entire Laubsher family serving Christmas dinners or hearing of our daughters Beth and Val and the Waugh ladies trying to dig holes for shrubs at Redbird Mission only to hit veins of coal. Or, the Henry family playing the bells. Great examples of staying connected with one another and the Lord. Now with the wood shed I could store lots of wood with ranks maybe 8’ high. And, I filled it! But new issues came with the full wood shed losses to insects and rot. On the forest side of the shed, fast growing Virginia creeper made inroads into the shed and increased the rate of rot. Such reminded me of practical advice in the Bible. Take Matthew 6:19-20. While Jesus was speaking about our relationship with money and material things, he made a good point about caring for what we have. The more we have the more time and worry is involved. And, this brings me to the issue of how much is enough. A couple of years ago I was offered a sizeable amount of felled trees at a friend’s property as part of a landscaping project. I jumped at the opportunity to get more oak, locust, maple and the like. Darla and I trucked numerous loads to our house. But, the wood shed was full. So, I bought tarps to cover the new pile of wood and realized I just came full circle to how I began years ago! This reminded me of the parable Jesus taught in Luke 12: 16-21. The rich farmer had a bumper crop and tore down his barns and build new ones to store the crop. He was smug. Jesus was not coming down the guy for being productive rather he was concerned about the guy being covetous and prideful. The irony in the story was that after all the hard work his possessions might be frittered away by an incompetent heir or lost to nature. For me was a good time to re-evaluate my situation. About the time of my “bumper” crop I discovered the joy of sharing firewood with others who don’t have the time or means to get their own. Now it is almost an annual event to take a load to couple of people. And, has been a nice way to get closer to our son’s family. We need to periodically re-evaluate our faith and how we live it. We can get stuck in the same old routine and as such fall victim to the world as we now longer are growing in faith. The other day I went out to the woodshed to bring in a load of firewood for firing up the stove as the weather was predicted to be cold and damp. I had to move the lawnmover, the snowthrower, the old paneling from remodeling the kitchen and last years flower pots, just to get to the wood. Kind of reminds me of what we need to go thru to have quality time with the Lord whether it be during devotional time, simply prayer time or being here in service. Often it means clearing our mind of worldly things so we open ourselves to hearing the Lord. If you are focusing on yesterday’s game, what to cook for lunch today or how long is Dick going to preach you may be missing out on a message from God as to tackling an issue heavy on your heart. Also, the wood shed has been the means for me to share in other ways. God enables us to use our time, talents, and possessions to reach out to others. A couple of sermons ago, Pastor Andy reminded us of Jesus telling the disciples to “go to the far reaches of the world and make disciples. This morning I was able to use a log from our wood shed to talk to the children about God’s world. I think of David’s musical talent, Rex’s construction ability, Charlie’s computer skills, Pete’s cooking talent, not to mention the only time we get to hear our daughter Beth sing, and so forth. How many in this church share rather than store up their talents. Sometimes I sit in the wood shed and ponder my relationship with the Lord and how to grow in faith. He often reminds me in subtle ways. Besides noting the different wood types my eye catches the variety of sizes of pieces. From kindling for starting fires, to larger billets for all night burns to small chunks for Darla to feed the stove, I am reminded of the variety of persons I have encountered in my walk of faith. Up until just recently I thought the twelve Disciples (okay maybe the 11) were made from the same mold. Boy, was I wrong. Jesus assembled a strange bunch of ordinary but individually different guys as his A team. From impetuous Peter to doubting Thomas to John who wrote more Scripture than any of the others, look how they changed the world after receiving the Holy Spirit. I have only to look at our Wednesday night men’s Bible study group to see an equally diverse bunch of guys who have a focus on Jesus Christ. We have learned a lot about being brothers in Christ, we have laughed, cried and supported one another. I am delighted with efforts to bring people together so they might grow in faith. Pastor Andy provides us with excellent messages and with small discussion groups like the one Kerry leads enable us to dissect the nuggets of info. And, to hear how others get thru daily life. This past year Darla and I were challenged to coordinate the assemblage of daily devotions for the Faith Church Lenten devotional. I was humbled on the depth and variety of contributions from some 40 participants. Thanks to them and Betty and Barb and others, I think we gained great insight into lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. The other evening a member of our small study group who seldom says much volunteered to close in prayer. What a humbling experience for me. Again the idea of growing. As I further focus on the wood shed I see all sorts of reminders of good times and not so good times. The 8’ wall of wood that fell on me last year, the wasp nest where I got stung, the blue paint on the log marked for felling at the friend’s property and the red paint transfer on a piece of oak. It came from a new maul Darla gave me as a major improvement over the old one. Much like my walk with the Lord and service to others. This chair reminds me of seating in the old sanctuary when we first came to Faith Church. Can you imagine the effort to stack and then place all those chairs every time the use of the room changed? Seeing the room divider there in the back reminds me of being asked by then Pastors Dave McCullough and Jim Harper to lead a study on John Wesley. That class was the first time I realized we parents, we spouses, we followers of Christ shared common problems and issues. As I look around this room I see faces further reminding me of serving others. Seeing Joe Rothrock and the sorting team at Faith Centre on Monday nites, or Eileen Ranio and the delicious fried chicken dinner she, husband Mike, and Earl and Betty Smith served in appreciation of the Sunday School teachers. Or, this area of sanctuary the night of the first meeting to plan the Community Christmas Day dinner. Do you know we had to change the meeting room a couple of times as more and more people came in? Or, the call from Paul Neff from Mississippi during the first mission trip to rebuild houses destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. The church where they were staying needed a new washer/dryer combination given all the volunteers there. Pastor Klinger announced the need in first service and the response was such offers had to be refused. Who can forget Pastor Andy and Barb playing Silent Night on the bells at Christmas Eve service two years ago? By the way, being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean a rosy life. Like you we have experienced the death of loved ones, problems at work, troubles with relationships, and the like but Jesus gives us the means to cope with life. Maybe you have heard the saying about getting one’s own firewood of being warmed twice. Once as you cut/split, and then again as you feel the heat the fire provides. The same applies to serving others. Often I have heard individuals on a particular mission say the same. Recently, a member visited a shut-in with the intent of cheering her up. She came away feeling cheered up herself. Personally I have a double blessing when I lead a group in Bible study. Maybe a little selfish as I have not only the benefit of input from a great bunch of people but also the results of research in lesson preparation. In closing I have attempted to reflect connect, grow and serve as part of the life as a follower of Christ. I trust my use of our wood shed was okay in the message. And, if I “twisted” Scripture to make a point, excuse me. You have your woodsheds, hobbies, activities and the like which the Lord can use to connect, grow and serve others. Ask Him how. Let us pray.