Big Papa, Are You Fat?
“Big Papa what are ‘ose?” My small grandson was pointing at some tall Woolly Mullein that had taken the neglected garden by storm. “Those are weeds,” I said with a painful twinge of guilt. He would not leave the subject alone. “’Ow ‘ey get ‘ere,” he wanted to know? “Well they just kind of show up when no one is looking,” I said. “’Ey are high as your ‘ead,” he observed. “Well, I don’t think they’re quite that high,” I mumbled. “’Ets get ‘em outta ‘ere,” he continued. So we did. We attacked them with great vigor. He was right. Some of them were higher than my 6 ft. 3 inch frame. We soon had large piles of Woolly Mullein, thistles and other unwanted pests stacked in the garden.
Later that day we were sitting at the dinner table. My grandson looked over at me as I leaned back on my chair. “Big Papa are you fat,” he asked? For a moment I was without words. I realized that in his world everyone was very trim and fit and I must admit that a little middle age spread had set in. “Probably so, a little.” I admitted. “’Ow you get ‘at way?” he persisted. My first thought of devious wit was, “It is something I caught from your grammie.” But I held that thought in check and congratulated myself that I had done so. “Well, its like the weeds. It just kind of happens when no one is looking, ” I said with a smirk. I chuckled at my own humor. His mother, however, shot me a quick glance and said, “Oh Dad, don’t tell him that!” I should have remembered that he was at the innocent age where he believed everything. He might have gone around the house watching his tummy to make sure it did not suddenly take on the shape of a melon. Faced with reality, I had to admit that I had no doubt lingered too long at the nut bowl.
The horrible truth was underscored when my year and half old granddaughter was looking at some vacation slides her father was showing. There was a shot of people going down a water slide. One man displayed a very portly belly hanging over his trunks. She excitedly pointed and said “Big Papa!”
The only force more powerful than grandkids to give us an honest opinion of our real selves, is the Holy Spirit. He first reproves the world of sin. The Holy Spirit helps us to take an honest look at our inner self. The truth is not always funny, but the good news is that the Holy Spirit does not leave us without hope. If we confess and repent and ask for the Holy Spirit,
He refines and removes the dross so we can be free and light-hearted.
How to Pray Without Flinging the Cat
The transition from African to U.S. time was abrupt. I was obliged to be in the office at 7:30 am sharp. It was a 25 minute drive. Funny the way cats help a man develop character at a time like that. The morning was already crowded with a flurry of excitement and the cats didn’t help.
We inherited an old Tom named Raymond. He must have had a traumatic potty training or none at all. What!? Why use a box when the floor will work?
Stop and think about it. What do you do with a cat like that? Yes that thought crossed my mind, but it didn’t seem Christian. Give him back? Yea, I thought about that too, but it was a long way from Washington to ship him to his former owners who had moved to the deep South. He would be just the one to make an incredible journey home.
His inside accidents were problem enough, but he somehow got the idea that I would yell and lunge at him when he looked like he had the urge, so he would find something to hide behind for the accomplishment. Excitement seemed to loosen him up and the mornings were frantic.
This is when Raymond took over with a little help from a black Kitten named Blytharb. Now Blytharb was very special. She had been ordered by a wonderful daughter because her precious little black kitty in Africa had been killed by wild dogs. She had been named by the daughter and her little brother who had a language of their own (Try and spell Blytharb for the vet who insists that the cat must have a name). Blythe had to stay in the garage, because there were owls outside that could eat her. Raymond had to stay outside because of his uncouth manners. So we had an outside cat and an inside cat.
More than once I ran to the car in the garage at 7:10, only five minutes late, with a tie in one hand, suspenders in the other, carrying a coat and holding my pants up with the hand full of suspenders. I know I should have done all that before, but I had been up at 5:00 am, with a jog and shower, devotions, breakfast and chores. I could finish dressing on the way to work.
The fun started when I opened the garage door. That is when the outside cat ran in, and the inside cat ran out. Yes, you can ferret out a cat from behind the table saw with one hand while holding up your pants with the other, but how are you going to get the car out while holding the cat?
This is where the wife comes to the rescue. She drives the car out. The only problem now is that the inside cat has darted outside and is under the car trying to keep from being put back in.
Yes you can chase one yowling cat out from under the car with a broom while holding the other one, but it is more difficult to hold onto the tie, the suspenders and the pants. Then try to catch the inside cat again and hold one in each hand while holding up pants with elbows. With a yell over the shoulder to my wife to put the garage door down with the opener in the car, I try to escape major claw damage. When the door is about six inches from the floor on its way down, I fling the black cat inside, and throw the outside cat away from the closing door. I didn’t know how else to deal with the cats and still be Christian. It doesn’t seem like cats would do those things if only they could be more like Christians. Uh Oh, I will have to get by without suspenders. We would be only ten minutes late.
How do you find time for meaningful devotions in the midst of mad rush of life? Great inventions designed to give more free time often become the greatest time grabbers. One can spend a lot of time trying to learn the ways of new devices, computer programs, electronics etc. However, electronics can also help our devotions. Here are a few examples:
- Pray and play Bible and Spirit of Prophecy CDs or tapes in the car on the way to work, on the tractor or truck or shop cd player. Stop the device after a meaningful passage and talk to God about it. Meditate by comparing it with other passages that come to mind.
- Combine Bible memory and prayer with walking, jogging, or riding a bike for exercise.
- Use the time when you wake up at night and have trouble getting back to sleep for prayer and meditation.
- Have memory cards of Bible verses over the visor in your car to use while waiting in traffic or for others to return from shopping.
- Place your favorite outdoor scenery on you computer as background slide show changing every 20 minutes. Write your conversation with God using a split screen so you can drink in the beauties of nature. When questions come up or desires to understand passages, link to Bible Gateway https://www.biblegateway.com/, where you can access multiple versions of the Bible. You can also access EGW writings at https://egwwritings.org/. It is amazing how these sources will feed your devotions. Save and you have your informed spiritual diary for future reference.
- Find special refreshing spots out of doors to visit often, like hilltops, meadows, near streams or lakeside. God communicates His love through nature. Repeat memorized scripture and meditate on it.
- Pray the scriptures that you know and meditate on them. Martin Luther said that the Lord’s prayer is an excellent springboard for meditation.
Lessons in Faith from a Lose Nut in the Woods
The bushes parted and a short red-faced forest officer appeared out of nowhere. The pistol on his right side flopped and slithered as he crawled over a log and through the undergrowth. His trigger hand was shaking. I stopped shouting “Glory, Glory, Glory to God!” and stood there in a state of shock, amazement, embarrassment, and fear.
It had been a morning when everything had gone wrong. I had started by demonstrating to my partner Jon how to make a tree fall where you wanted it to. It didn’t. I had cut a grand undercut as my dad had taught me, but the tree branches caught in other trees and it would not go down. No problem, now I could show Jon another great trick. I had seen my dad make a slanting cut on the side where the branches were caught so the tree could swing free and fall to the ground. I made a nice cut but it did not work. Well perhaps if I cut the other side it would swing the other way. It didn’t.
I needed to hurry in order to get a load of wood before dark, so I left the tree standing like a pointed pencil on a stump, much the way a beaver would fell a tree.
As if that were not enough, Jon had started cutting a large dry Tamarack that leaned against another tree. It settled backwards against the green tree and would not fall. We had signed a statement with the forest service that we would not cut green trees. So we took the jack from the truck, made a slot in the dry tree and jacked it away from the green one. It had fallen where Jon could cut it into lengths for stove wood. His chainsaw was droning nearby. All this had taken time. Now this.
But why was the officer of the law so alarmed? Let me back up a bit. The chainsaw had snarled loudly as I placed the teeth against the trunk of a Tamarack tree. All of a sudden the chain had jumped off the bar, flown through the air and landed in a heap. I had placed the saw on a log, located the chain and my tool kit and began removing the sprocket cover. I removed the two nuts holding the cover and fitted the chain into the slots of the bar. When I picked up the nut that holds the sprocket cover, it slipped out of my fingers and disappeared under the log.
I thought about praying but told myself that it was not fair to always ask God for things like that. He must get tired of helping find keys and wallet etc. “Did you see where I put my keys?” “Do you know where my wallet is?” Questions better suited for spouse rather than deity. God had given me a brain and expected me to use it and I had not done a very good job of it that morning. He must have more important things to do besides find a nut. Besides I was not so sure I was doing a Holy work by cutting wood in the first place. No it wasn’t Sabbath, and yes God honors good honest work, but after all it was for myself and my family. I was hoping to save money by burning wood. Perhaps I was trying to get rich. It did seem like getting something for nothing to show up at home with a giant load of fresh Tamarack for only five dollars and a little gas money. I should have tightened the chain before it came off rather than been in such a hurry. I know God wants us to be careful. Why should I ask Him to make up for my mistakes? All these thoughts ran through my mind.
The nut had rolled off the side of the log and underneath. The log lay slightly above the ground forming a hollow beneath. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. I said to myself “Jim you are big, that nut is little. You have a brain, that nut has none. You have eyes, hands, feet and that nut has none of these. There is no reason that little piece of metal should spoil your day. I am surely competent enough to find it.”
I began carefully feeling around in the soft moss under the log. I felt nothing. Then I began sifting the moss and dirt by rubbing my hands together. The nut had no choice but to show up. After about 15 minutes of careful sifting I had a pile of sifted dirt and a clearing under the log about two feet in diameter, but no nut.
I thought and thought and the only thing that came to mind was to take the other nut, hold it exactly where I had dropped the first one, and drop it too. I thought “if I carefully let it go, it would surely roll to the other nut. (I am not necessarily recommending this.)
I knew I must watch closely. I put on my glasses, riveted my eyes on the nut and let it go. Buuutttttttttttttttttttt zip, it disappeared instantly. I carefully searched every inch of the bare sand beneath the log; nothing. Another ten minutes provided another pile of sifted sand but no nut except the big one sifting sand.
I began to debate with myself about whether or not I should pray. Was it not a selfish prayer? Was I asking God to make up for my foolishness? I had utterly exhausted everything humanly possible and if God were to show me now, the results would be so proof positive and dramatic that it wouldn’t be fair in the great controversy. He wants me to trust Him because of who He is not because I ask Him to be my personal valet. If He answered every prayer just as we prayed we would soon begin to use Him for our own sakes.
Then I remembered a story I had read recently about an evangelist who had gone to Russia for evangelistic meetings but the people were not prepared. There was no translator. He had prayed and the Lord showed him a man in his dream who would translate for him. The next night the very man in his dream walked into the meeting, sat down next to him and asked if he knew Ken Cox (the evangelist). He had been sent by people in America and told that he might be of help by translating, but Ken had no knowledge of his coming. I remembered that the time is coming when the Lord will do more dramatic miracles because the enemy will be doing them as well. I remembered that the Lord does love me and pity me and He cares about little things.
With confidence I prayed. “Lord I know I am a sinner but you are gracious, please help me find that nut.” Immediately the thought came to mind out of the blue. “Go to the other side of the log and take off the bark.” I did so and there was one nut. I said. “Lord, the other one.” I looked and it was about two inches from where the first one had been. They both had rolled all the way through the hollow, and had lodged beneath the loose bark on the other side.
I have had many wonderful answers to prayer in my life, but after all the debate with myself, to have such a dramatic miracle was almost as much manifestation as if an angel had suddenly appeared. I thought, “Why not express the way I feel? I can be uninhibited out here by myself. Jon’s saw is running he will not hear.” I began jumping and shouting at the top of my lungs. GLORY, GLORY TO GOD, PRAISE GOD, HALALUYA! GLORY! GLORY! I thought this must be what the servant of the Lord experienced when she could only say GLORY! GLORY! and I added a few more.
It was in the midst of this manifestation that the officer of the law had appeared. Not long before, some North Idaho religious extremists had shot and killed a forestry official. In a quivery voice he squeaked “How are you doing?” Ever since literature evangelist work I have not been one to miss an opportunity to witness so I said, “I am doing a whole lot better since the Lord helped me find those missing nuts for the chain saw.” He had a look on his face that said: “Buddy, you are not the only one that found a loose nut in the North Idaho woods.”
He interrogated me thoroughly as to whether or not I knew anything about all those green trees that had been cut. He had been carefully watching through binoculars to see if I would fell a green tree. I wondered why anyone would want to cut a green tree. He said they were selling the wood to unsuspecting folks. I got on his good side by expressing wonder how anyone could do such an evil, half-witted, un-American, and despicable deed. By this time he was becoming my friend and he joined in. “They sure don’t know what they are doing either. They left one tree hanging down there like beaver.” I remembered the tree I had left like a pencil on a stump and pictured it through his eyes. It had no undercut or back cut, it was just whittled to a point like someone might do if they had no experience whatsoever. It was dry however. I meekly told him that I could figure out a way to get that one down.
Jon was cutting wood all the while and didn’t know any of this had happened. When we sat on the back of the pickup and ate lunch I told him the events of the morning. We laughed and laughed for about an hour or more. And yes, we did get two loads of DRY wood.
I suspect you have never read anything like this before. Probably, it is because you don’t know how anyone could do such a foolish thing, or if they did they wouldn’t put it in print. However, I believe it underscores several powerful truths. Why do we play into the devil’s hands by reasoning our way into doubt? We will always find grounds to proclaim ourselves unworthy of dramatic answers to prayer. We do not find the solution in ourselves. We are never too foolish to stop and pray. Elijah was a man of like passions as we are yet he received the most spectacular answers to prayer in history. Perhaps you have read why it took Elijah seven times to bow in prayer before the rain cloud appeared.
“The servant watched while Elijah prayed. Six times he returned from the watch, saying, There is nothing, no cloud, no sign of rain. But the prophet did not give up in discouragement. He kept reviewing his life, to see where he had failed to honor God…. As he searched his heart, he seemed to be less and less, both in his own estimation and in the sight of God. It seemed to him that he was nothing, and that God was everything; and when he reached the point of renouncing self, while he clung to the Saviour as his only strength and righteousness, the answer came. The servant appeared, and said, “Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand.” 1 Kings 18:34 (OHC 133).
When I look back, the greatest miracles in my life have taken place when the task was most impossible, the web most tangled, the danger most threatening, and yet when I fell helplessly into the merciful hands of God.
When we pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we need to pray expectantly and confidently, trusting in God’s promises, regardless of how unworthy we may feel.