Divine Intermission

There can be a bit of madness in trying to figure out what God might be up to in our lives. One day, it can seem so clear that he is steering us a certain way. Things seem to be falling into place like the tumblers of a great lock. We are certain that we can hear them clicking into place.

And then, an hour or a day or a week later things take such a turn that we decide, “No, those were dominoes falling.” The thing that we were quite sure we really, really wanted becomes an impossibility. Whether it was God saying “Not yet,” or “Not ever,” we feel a keen disappointment.

Most often in my experience, those disappointments have always been rooted in worldly desires, things not at all essential to my spiritual development, service or devotion. When we are quite confident that God’s plans will match up with our own, it is quite easy to pray “Thy will be done.” In the other cases, not so much…

Hopefully, it is something other than a sour grapes philosophy that brings us to a point of acceptance in the aftermath of these frustrations. Eventually we may come to see that what unfolds in the following days, months and years brings us to something far better than what we believed we desired and deserved. Whether that happens or not, quite frankly, is not really the point.

God desires—and requires, it seems—true submission from those who seek the blessing of truly serving him. My squirming and murmuring is quite likely evidence that even after over sixty years, the process is still ongoing.

At the very least, those frustrations are proof that he is still working on me!

H. Arnett
12/13/18

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Answering the Call of Beauty

On a recent ride along Cowley Twelve, I pedaled through the Little Mesas just east of the Walnut River. Not having sustained a regular discipline in recent weeks, I wasn’t in good road shape. My legs were sore and starting to cramp, especially on the uphill runs. In retrospect, riding the Flint Hills might not have been the best choice but I love the scenery.

As I headed up the second long hill past Wheat State Winery, I noticed a small pool of water collected below a large culvert. Part of the water’s surface was covered with algae, a spectacular green in the middle of December. The rest of the pool reflected a boundless blue sky and the closer surroundings of fence and pasture, brush and dried weeds. “What a wonderful picture that would make!” I thought, shifting to yet a lower gear.

“But,” I argued with myself, “I don’t want to stop here on this slope and then have to start out again going uphill.” In retrospect I realized I could have taken some pictures, then just turned around and headed downhill and back toward home. By the time I got back I would have covered around twenty-eight miles.

But I had my mind set on a thirty-two mile circuit and so I kept going. In spite of the hills.

Even on a cloudless day the sun still must set and when this day’s time was come, I was still five miles out. By the time I got back to Ark City, it was too dark to be safely seen on a bicycle without lights. I made it home okay but not without some trepidation on that last mile.

I am so used to listening for God’s voice in the call of Duty that I forget that he can also use the voice of Beauty to call us to a different path.

H. Arnett
12/12/18

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Tough Choices

Sometimes the choice is pretty clear and simple. Say, for example, I need to pick up a dozen sheets of drywall. Right off the bat I know I’m not taking the car for this particular errand. Pickup truck is definitely a better choice. It guzzles gas like a teenager sucking soda pop but it’s pretty darn handy for hauling stuff. Conversely, if Randa and I are wanting to cruise out to Colorado to go hiking on the Western Slope, the Silverado is staying at home. We’ll take the thirty-four mpg Fusion for that excursion. Like I said, easy decision.

What’s not so easy is deciding which bicycle I want to ride. My commuter bike is lighter, faster and takes less effort to pedal up the hills of eastern Cowley County. My trail bike, with its bigger softer tires and front suspension is much more comfortable. The tires and front shock absorb a very significant amount of the wretched road patches on the county’s back roads. Which means my wrists and rear end hold up a lot better on longer rides. But the legs pay the price for that comfort, having to work quite a bit harder and for a longer time to cover the same territory.

Generally I consider the planned route and the overall goals. If I’m wanting to cover more distance in a shorter time, and especially if I can cover that distance on smooth pavement, I’ll go with the commuter bike. And wear the padded biker shorts. Usually, I’ll average two-to-three miles an hour faster.

Pretty much all of our choices involve some sort of trade-off, what someone several years ago labelled “opportunity cost.” Doing the one thing means not doing the other. Some of our choices are pretty darn complex, complicated and not all that easy to settle on. But whenever any of those choices draw us mighty close to what we know just isn’t right, it really shouldn’t be that hard to decide. Integrity should never be the sacrifice.

But we should be mighty dang sure we aren’t letting pride or stubbornness masquerade as integrity.

H. Arnett
12/11/18

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Hidden Transgressions

About four miles out on Cowley Seventeen from Ark City, the road curves up out of the river bottom. For a little while, it runs right along a low ridge. A spill of old gray boulders marks the transition from upper to lower and ends up against the timbers. Riding along the route in December, you might notice a bunch of bare-branched oak and elm, maybe a hickory or two scattered in along with hackberry, hedge and what have you.

Not more than a half-mile north of the curve, there’s a spot where a culvert runs underneath the road from the high pasture on the east to the boulder-lined spillway on the west. I guess on account of its convenience and the steep drop—and the fact that it probably isn’t their property—someone decided that would be a good spot to dispose of an old refrigerator. Always works best, you know, to make sure your trash ends up in someone else’s territory.

My guess is that that old fridge made quite the noise as it tumbled down across those rocks. The most severe rains over the years spilled enough water down through there to shove the thing about a hundred feet away from the bottom of the ridge. It lies there in the woods now, rusted a good bit more than when it first went in, I imagine.

My guess is that hardly anyone knows it’s there. It’s even possible, I suppose, that the landowner doesn’t know. It’s not lying up there on the edge of the road in plain sight. But just because a thing is hidden away doesn’t make it right. And getting away with it doesn’t make you innocent.

H. Arnett
12/10/18

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Training Time

In the past three years, I’ve done several remodeling/upgrade projects that have required me to work in the crawl space under this house. The upside is that it’s probably the “nicest” crawl space I’ve worked in: the entire area is covered with tar paper, it’s dry and relatively clean, and high enough that I can almost sit up in the space between the floor joists.

The downside is that it’s still crawl space.

In some areas it’s just, you know, “crawl.” But with gas lines, drain lines and ductwork, there’s a lot of bear crawl and some belly crawl. It wouldn’t have been fun when I was one-fourth of my current age. At sixty-five, it’s somewhat aggravating and definitely body ache inducing. All that twisting, turning, bending, stretching, rolling and reaching is mighty effective at defining what parts of my body are not used to that sort of thing. Which includes most of the parts between the top of my head and the bottom of my feet.

Along with the soreness, it’s actually pretty good conditioning for the slower parts of the mud runs I enjoy doing. You know, the crawling through tunnels, slogging through mud pits, that sort of thing. If I would just spend a little more time planning out my home improvement projects, I could arrange it so they would coincide with Warrior Dash, Conquer the Gauntlet, LandRush and Burden Dayz.

That way, I’d get double benefit out of the training and the remodeling.

Kind of like scheduling your next aggravation on the road to coincide with your next frustration at work. That way you can get those patience and forgiveness muscles really stretched out and limbered up. All set for holiday shopping!

H. Arnett
12/7/18

Posted in Aging, Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Exercise, Humor, Remodeling/Construction, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

About the Neighbors

Having grown up—mostly—in rural areas, I was a bit suspicious—and intimidated—by the idea of living in town, much less in a large city. I had the notion, perhaps well reinforced by family, friends and the movies, that life in an urban area would be loud and dangerous. Well, that can certainly be true…

But I also found that living in a city could be quiet and pleasant. What I discovered is that in many respects what city you live in isn’t nearly as important as which neighborhood. While the city certainly affects many conveniences and opportunities, safety and quality of life often operate in far smaller zones.

When we lived on Mitchell Avenue in Saint Joseph, we were literally across the street from the city-designated “high crime” district. On one occasion during the four years we lived there, someone broke out the window of our car and stole the in-dash CD player. Otherwise, we weren’t targeted.

Nonetheless, there was the regular noise of neighbors fighting and yelling at each other, the constant harangue of pickup trucks with very loud exhausts and the perpetual single car drag races away from the traffic light a block away. There was also the consternation of aesthetic hostility; you couldn’t look out any window or in any direction without seeing ugly. Broken down cars sitting along the curb, trash piled in someone’s back yard, junk piled in someone’s front yard, weeds growing six feet tall along the alley, broken windows in a deserted house.

Go three blocks east or three blocks south and it was completely different. Well maintained homes, well-tended yards, cars with four fully inflated tires, etc.

Here in Ark City, we’ve lucked out again. We live in an amazingly quiet neighborhood. Very little traffic, neighbors who keep their places looking good. People who respect each other and live considerate lives. I reckon even heaven will be more about the people who live there than about the zip code. Although I hear the weather is pretty good, too.

H. Arnett
12/6/18

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The Blessing of Frustration

Having finished up a small job of taping drywall joints yesterday, I carried my tools and mud tray outside to give them a good cleaning. A fine hard spray from a garden hose does a right fine job of cleaning the compound out of all the little corners and crevices. I expected that within a very short while I would have a kit of fine clean tools.

I turned on the faucet and directed the nozzle toward the taping knife. Nothing came out of the hose. A sudden suspicion led me to give one of the loops a nudge. It was so stiff it hardly budged. When I gripped it with both hands and tried to bend a slight vee I heard a cracking sound. Yep, that hose wuz froze!

So, instead of the quick easy cleaning job I expected courtesy of the hose and faucet, I ended up pursuing my goals via a small cleaning brush and a bucket of warm water. It took a few minutes longer but used only one-and-a-half gallons of water. And, with the brush, I was actually able to clean off some old spots of dried drywall mud that previous hosings had failed to remove.

Sometimes we are forced to find a better way because the usual isn’t available to us. Might be that’s God’s way of taking us to a better result than the easier way would have brought us.

H. Arnett
12/5/18

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