Common Sense & Providence

Providence and Common Sense

Gusts of wind topping forty miles an hour

send wisping streams of powdery snow

snaking across the frozen tufts of pasture,

across the bare planks of the deck,

across the winter-caked crusts of mud and gravel

that make up what we have left

of a driveway in January.

By afternoon, the wind chill will be well below zero.

In the dim dawning of such a storm,

small drifts form in the lee of tree trunks,

fence posts, clumps of grass,

and anything else offering a chance

for the slightest break from this lancing.

Down the hill below the house,

Randa’s palomino Foxtrotter,

coarse hair dinged by weeks of winter,

stands in the doorway of the shed,

hindquarters stuck inside toward the hay,

head lifted in the direction of the highway,

ears tilted back but not flattened.

He has learned in his eleven years

that it is good to have something

like a barn or at least a grove of trees

between you and winter’s worst days.

Even the sparrow knows

that some hours are better spent

scratching for seeds beneath the interwoven branches of the thicket

rather than hopping about in the marrow of the storm,

cursing the cold and pining for summer.

The God Who Gives Us Seasons

also gave us Reason.

Or at least has made the offer…

H. Arnett


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Even in Winter

Even in Winter

An under-stated twilight under overcast skies

softly reveals the splotched remnants

of last week’s ice and snow.

To the north and in the shadows,

white beds cover the underlying grass and leaves

in the places where the wind did not blow.

Paw prints trace a path

from road bank to barn to the treeline

that lifts bare branches stark against a muted sky.

Just west of the house,

hundreds of bird tracks and scratches

mark patches of once-buried seeds.

In the thin stretches where January sun

etched its warmth through the needs of thin cover,

winter stubble and bare earth show their girth.

In every storm and every season—

and not always by reasons easily seen—

not every piece and place will feel the same the same weight.

And though some may find the sun sooner than others,

there are none who are not touched and tested;

even those burrowed beneath the snow

will know that winter has come

and visited its sting against the marrow.

And even yet, the eye of God is still upon the sparrow.

H. Arnett


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Straightening Up the Place

A combination of different factors had us making our recent move back to northeast Kansas in a bit of a hurry. None of those factors included the FBI, DEA, or other federal agents. Mostly it was because of some uncertainty regarding having a new roof put on the house we sold in Ark City quickly followed by urgency to get it done.

Moving at any time in any place can be a bit of an adventure but moving in Kansas in November can offer some special weather impacts. Our particular route made it especially possible that we could head out in the Sunny Forties and hit Snowy Twenties before we got to Wathena. We were fortunately blessed with good weather. Nonetheless, using a horse trailer as moving van required a few trips on a very short time schedule.

So, we didn’t do any strategic maneuvering when it came to unloading. “Just stack it wherever there’s space to stack it” was our basic approach. As a result, the garage and nearly every room on the first floor of the house were pretty much crammed with stuff. It wasn’t pretty and it’s taking a while to get things unjammed. But… we got moved… almost by the deadline.

The guy who bought our place in Ark City was very understanding and accommodating and everything got taken care of at that place within a reasonably short time. Seven weeks later, I finally made an opportunity to work on creating a bit of moving about space in the garage. Relocating a couple of relatively large items and some reshuffling of other things means I can now use a few of the power tools that I’ve been missing. Lord willing, the table saw, jointer and planer will contribute to the trimming project that is a key part of finishing out the mudroom.

Might be a good time of year to also take emotional inventory and get rid of some other stuff that’s been taking up space without contributing to the cause. Things like resentment, jealousy, regret… No matter how well-justified they might seem, things like that just take up a lot of space that could be better used by things like gratitude, appreciation and patience.

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Quit Limping

Several years ago after I had knee surgery, my physical therapist happened to see me walking in from the parking lot for my session. She startled me with a very firm, non-debatable directive: “Quit limping.”

Apparently, my accommodation of temporary injury would result in permanent malfunction. As the muscles, tendons, and skeletal alignment adjust to my attempt to ease the pain and discomfort, they create more problems. The only way for me to achieve full body recovery and proper joint functioning was to “quit limping.”

You know, I suspect that I’ve limped through several periods in my life; reactions to disappointment, grief, heartache, and other such things can cause us to adopt ways of adjusting that actually interfere with long term satisfaction, fulfillment and even achievement.

Because of our hurt, we starting avoiding others or changing the way we interact. We adopt long term ways of living that cheat us of rewarding relationships. Believing that we are protecting ourselves from future pain, we actually increase our own isolation, distance, and lack of engagement.

Of course, when I first started following Patti’s admonition, it hurt a bit. But walking “normally” forced my body to begin adapting to the demands. The therapy regimen that Patti designed strengthened my muscles and tendons—in alignment with a healthy posture and mode of walking. Now, five years later, my knee is even doing stairs without any pain.

If we trust in Christ and cooperate with his healing power in our lives, we will be amazed and grateful for the recovery he will bring to us. Provided, of course, that we stop limping and go back to living the abundant life that he came to bring us.

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A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance

We must not let the measure of regrets

make us forget the times

that we have stepped up and stood in the gap

to protect those that we love,

to defend the cause of truth,

to pursue the course of honor.

Without undue shame,

we should forgive ourselves yet still remember the names

of those we failed,

those we hurt,

those we slighted in some unthinking rush

to gain our own advantage.

It is a fine balance,

but one steadily gained with more practice:

to accept our limitations,

to reject undeserved humiliation,

yet walk humbly

in ready appreciation for others,

To be neither crushed by our own shortcomings,

nor puffed up by our own accomplishments,

to give due weight to the incredible grace

that has given us this present place in our lives,

and to walk in perpetual amazement

of the glory of God and the frailty of humanity.

H. Arnett


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Love That Lasts Beyond All Passings

Even though we’re still having spikes of daytime temperatures into the eighties here in south central Kansas, the cool evenings and chilly mornings are serving fair warning that the season of autumn is progressing. Based upon the lessons of the past, we know that fresh tomatoes and ripe sweet peppers won’t last much longer. That’s just the way it goes when you live halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.

Same goes for the flowers growing in sun or shade. The giant impatiens that flourished while sheltered from the sun during the sweltering months will too soon be cut down by frost. The caladiums with their bright colors and dramatic stripes will also be wiped out. Even the sprawling bee balm, six feet high and five feet wide, will experience its demise in the coming cold.

The warrior poet from long ago reminds us that our lives are not unlike those passing plants: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-17) Kind of sad and sobering, isn’t it? To think that our bodies will one day decay and we must leave this realm of passing seasons.

But that’s not the end of the story.

In the very next verse David reminds us, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

Unlike those fading flowers and the withering grass, we whose hope is anchored in the eternal God will never experience death, even though our bodies return to dust.

H. Arnett


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He Remembers That We Are Dust

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

                                                                      (Psalm 103:13-14)

It is a frustration as ancient as the earth; we long to live as gods and angels yet find ourselves sometimes acting more like animals. The longings of the flesh, the desires of this body, the ambitions of ego, draw us into actions that we often regret and sometimes abhor. Even the Apostle Paul expresses the consternation of “… the good that I would do, I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19)

How comforting it is to know that the God who has called us to holiness and righteousness does not look at us with disgust when we fail to emulate his nature. He understands the nature of our nature and chooses rather to have compassion on us. Compassion even to the point of giving his son, Jesus the Christ, as the atoning payment for our sins.

Knowing how we are formed, he chooses to be patient and forgiving. Remembering that we are dust, he does not treat us as our sins deserve.

Being human is never an excuse for us to choose evil. But it is always a reason for us to remember that we serve a compassionate God.

H. Arnett


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Searching the Heavens at Four in the Morning

A half-moon waning

high in the eastern sky,

the silhouettes of black branches

stretching above the neighbors’ houses,

patterns of the brighter stars

glowing above the lights

of this small town.

There is no breeze stirring,

no murmuring of traffic on the bypass,

no dogs barking.

In this welcome quiet,

I stretch back above the slatted deck,

soft towel under the aching neck

that has woken me again

long before I am ready for rising.

I think of coming chores and choices,

a soft clamoring of voices

inside my head.

With the moon suspended

between two horizons,

I marvel at a tiny constellation—

six stars tightly clustered

in the path of an October moon

whose greater light

will soon make it impossible to see

but I am convinced

they will still be there

behind the glare

of an infinitely smaller

but much closer sphere.

It is easy for the nearness of a thing

to make it seem much larger

than it truly is.

H. Arnett


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Mid-Week Blessing

May this day’s dawning

find you warm and safe.

May you have all of wisdom and grace

that you need to face whatever this day may bring.

And when this day is done,

may you lie down safe and warm,

and may the thanks you give

be sincere, simple and genuine.

May you be better for having lived this day,

and may this day be better

for having had you in it.

H. Arnett


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Good Tools in Good Shape

While cutting down a row of dead pine trees at our place in northeast Kansas, I was reminded of how much difference a good tool makes. I started out trying to use my old, cheap Poulan saw that I’d bought at Wal-Mart fourteen years ago. When it’s running well and outfitted with a sharp chain, the little saw does pretty well. On small stuff.

For a logger, these pine trees are small stuff; the largest one was only about twenty inches thick at the base. For a wimpy Poulan with a dull chain, they were monsters. I managed to chew, gnaw and nibble my way through the first one. It took twenty minutes. As Randa and I were trimming off the limbs and hauling everything over to the burn pile, I told her, “I’m going to get a new chain saw.”

The next morning, I picked up a new four-horsepower Stihl with a twenty inch bar and a brand new chain. Took about two minutes to cut down the next tree.

When we face life and deal with situations using faith, hope, and love, we will see better results than when we use doubt, cynicism, and indifference. When we rely upon truth and follow the leading of the Spirit, we will achieve better gains. When we zealously practice the teachings of Christ rather than mindlessly adopt the carnal practices of the world, we will enjoy more powerful lives. When we focus on conquering our own spirit rather than on judging and/or controlling others, we will find deeper satisfaction. 

We may often feel frustrated and even helpless in our lives because we continually engage in spiritual battles using carnal tools. It’s hard to build a nice coffee table using nothing but a sledgehammer. 

H. Arnett


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