Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rock of Ages

                                                   Rock of Ages

Ok, so I shot myself with a cannon ball. It is true. No, Iwas not hurt seriously. Due to my superior reflexes and athletic ability I was able to minimize the damage. It would take more than a mere cannon ball to get the Cos.

Still, how did a 16 lb. cannon ball end up attacking me? It was simple, I was gardening. What, you don't garden with a 16 lb. shot put? Why not? It only makes sense. I live on a rock. There is a song in most hymnals about where I live: The Solid Rock. Except for the big tree in front of the house there was no vegetation on the lot on which we built. Plants, at least pretty ones, don't like to grow on rock. Some soil was brought in for a yard but about six inches down you hit rock. So every plant, shrub, flower, and tree I have planted has to have rock displaced to put it in the ground. Most of the vegetation we planted goes to the front yard. There is not much else to do in the front except offer yearly $50-$60  sacrifices to the gardening gods with annuals that last a month and perennials that last two months. The back yard is pretty bare.

So the wife decides we need something more back there, some color, some texture, some interest, something else for the dogs to pee on and something to die a slow agonizing death on the rock. We found a crepe myrtle that matched the type in the front yard. We picked a place along the back fence. I begin to dig.
The hole will be about 18 inches around. It will need to be about 18 inches deep for this crepe myrtle. The 18 inches around are a cinch, easy. I'm not even sweating. The first four inches down are just as easy and then it happens. I hit rock. A friend calls it "chunk" rock. It comes out in chunks. I've come prepared. Hammer, nail pry bar, and shovel. The shovel is finished at six inches. I hit a large solid rock at 8. I hammer, pry, dig, curse, dig, pry, cry--nothing. Time for the shot. I find my 16 lb. shot from college that I have carried with every move we've made through the years. Only my wife has moved as much and been more faithful.

The plan is to propel the shot with great force into the hole, strike the rock a mighty blow, crack the rock,  use the hammer to fragment the rock, and pull the dislodged pieces of the rock out of the hole. With the first heave into the rock I have some success but find I have two large rocks in there, not one. I go to work with shot, hammer, bar, fingers and after 45 minutes have the right side of the hole cleared of the big rock to a depth of 12 inches. Now the left side rock or the rock that's left, if you will. It is bigger, deeper. I lift the shot high over head and bring it down with such force that as I propel it into the hole my feet are lifted off the ground. Thud! Nothing. No cracks, chunks, no movement. Different angle. Thud! Same results. Move around the hole. Rare back. Dead aim on the center of the rock and swhoosh.....THUD! The shot bounces off the dead center of the rock and comes out of the hole faster than it went in. I know from physics that this is impossible but you don't know this rock. It flies out zeroing in on my knee which I am able with my cat-like reflexes to turn just slightly so the projectile glances off the outside of my knee.

Lamentations. I am defeated. Wife administers Gatorade, cold towels and Aleve. I channel Douglas MacArthur or Gregory Peck,"I shall return."

Retiring the shot, I employ new hardware next evening.  A long "rock" bar with a wedge end is used with  some success. After an hour of pounding, hammering, prying, crying and cursing, the large rock is out. The hole for the crepe myrtle is now sixteen inches deep and eighteen inches wide. It is lined with garden soil mixed with what dirt I could dust off the extracted rocks. The myrtle is planted. It will live this year but it has no promise of a long, tall future. It's future may not blossom but if plants have a soul, then it will know of the supreme effort made to give it life.

Sitting exhausted in the grass, I figure about four-man hours of labor was put into one small hole in order for me to kill an $18 plant. Then it dawns on many hours, nay eons, did Jesus invest to break through the hardness of human hearts to  plant the seed of the gospel? The Rock of Ages busting through the rock of hardened hearts. It brings life, promised, guaranteed, and delivered. I see the crepe myrtle and am pleased. How much more the Lord when He sees His truth growing well in hearts of faith.  Our hope is built on nothing less.

Rock Gardening,

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


PastorCos has had it pretty quiet as of late. Unless, you count the church members with cancer, the traffic accidents, a friend's son going to Afghanistan, the church having its first Sunday contemporary service (and no one got hurt!), running out of communion cups during the Lord's Supper, shooting myself  in the knee with a cannon ball, discovering my summer visitation list went from 25 to 65, people continually asking questions about mass shootings, war, radical Islam, politics and a harder group to pastor being the ones who don't question such things, all in all a pretty easy stretch (tongue in cheek). Then disturbing news came from around the corner, literally.

The bridge close around the corner from our chapel, the one that connects the back half of our community to the front half and the rest of the world, is collapsing. A temporary fix keeps us out of the creek and going to the grocery store but what happens next? Questions fly. When will it be fixed? How long will it take? How do we get out when its being repaired? Will they pave the county gravel road we will have to use while the bridge is being repaired (no!) Who will pay for it? Will our maintenance fees go up? How will I get to the new course for my 8:40 tee time?

Meanwhile, a fissure developed along one of the cliffs in our development overlooking beautiful Lake Whitney and the cliff is falling into the lake. Oh, yeah, its taking a house with it. Its all over the news and the house is over the cliff. I feel sorry for the homeowners, they hadn't owned the home too long.  Somebody's probably going to get sued and I have no idea how all that will turn out since the only one who actually knew how everything would end up was God.

Oh, maybe that's a good point, the only One who really knows is God. Now I don't know if He answers questions about when your house will fall into the lake but maybe He gives geologists, engineers, and builders science and skills to predict such things. Maybe He doesn't tell us everytime we are going to have a wreck or get cancer but surely He knows how to help us navigate through such things. Maybe in the inconveniences of life when man-made things break or erode, He reminds us of how spoiled we are and how to look not to temporal things nor to store up treasures on earth where moth and rust (and fissures) destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matt 6:19-20)

As I looked back over all the troubles going on all over the place, both near and far, I remembered a Psalm. It is one of those Psalms that sadly are too often relegated to funerals. It fits there but it fits even more when applied to living. It is Psalm 46. Listen to verse 2: "Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."

Bridges give way, cliffs give way, health gives way and one day life in this body will itself give way and we are told not to fear. Why? How can we not fear when so much falls in or apart?  Because "there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall."  The best, safest, most secure place will not ultimately be on this earth. The earth will melt (Ps. 46:6; II Peter 3:10-13.) The best place where you cannot be touched in a harmful way for all eternity is in God's city, in God's house, in God's heart.

When the bad times hit, when they come, begin your next sentence with Though and end it with I am in Jesus' heart. Anything that comes in between those points you will survive.