Thy word is lamp unto my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
When I was a teenager I lived for a few years on a farm in Southern Missouri. Each of us had our own chores and mine was to milk the cow. It would have been far easier to run across the road to the milk barn when it was light out, but in order to be ready to leave for work on time, I needed to get out of my nice warm bed and get started by 4:45. If the moon was full, it wasn’t hard to see and I could easily pick my way up the familiar path. But on dark moonless mornings, though I knew the way by heart, I needed the beam from my flashlight to find where to place my feet for each step.
Now fifty years later, I am still getting up long before daybreak but the pathway of 2021 feels far darker than any of those walks to the barn. Our own family’s issues, the ever changing national health crisis along with my own personal struggles loom on the horizon feeling like the shadows of a massive mountain range. Fears and doubts, decisions and demands lie waiting to be confronted, decided and met full on. But there is hope because God has given us a promise that He will light the path. We may not see well enough to run ahead, but His word will show us the way to take the next step. Then, even more amazingly He adds the even greater promise that He will not only light our path but that He will walk with us on it ,step by step, all the way to the barn.
God bless you each of you and Happy New Year. May you find the next step that He has reserved for you in this year that lies ahead!
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6 NIV
I glanced out the side window of my car and noticed a cute little turtle slowly plodding across the road on the other side. At first I simply sped by but then the guilt of leaving undone the small good deed of helping him get safely home outweighed my brief inconvenience so I turned around and headed back. By the time I spotted him he was well out in the lane of traffic so I gingerly reached to pick up the little guy when it became immediately apparent that A) He didn’t want my help and B) My small friend was a snapping turtle!
Trying to help someone by giving free advice is a bit like trying to help my turtle buddy. Though the turtle needed my help he neither believed or appreciated it. So what can we do when we see danger ahead for a child a parent or a friend? Helping reaches beyond explaining the right or wrong of the situation to the desire of the recipient to listen. Here are a couple of ideas I learned in two minutes with a snapping turtle.
Let go! I figured this out in the split second between his lunging for my finger and my dropping him quicker than a hot potato! Getting close to the situation doesn’t always get results. Sometimes people need to be loved from a distance. Just because we feel better with our version of helping doesn’t mean it will be effective.
Don’t Give Up – Just because I dropped Mr. Turtle didn’t mean I ran away. In the same way getting out of the “Hot Zone” of the emotions of a hurting person puts us in a place just far enough away to help in a better way. For the turtle that meant I could safely nudge him with my foot. to the other side of the road.
Don’t Be Offended – When I finished my Good Samaritan task and glanced back there was the turtle angrily facing me ready to take a bite if I came closer. He wasn’t about to say thank you! In that same way, successful intervention doesn’t guarantee gratitude. I think of when our son and future daughter-in-law were first engaged. They became convinced that they should marry immediately in spite of being in their freshman year of college. They were also both astonished and frustrated that both sets of their parents insisted that they wait at least a year. What seemed obviously for their best to us as parents was not appreciated for a long time. (I think after 23 years they might agree now!)
God Knows – Though my turtle never said thanks another driver passing by noticed and smiled and gave me a thumbs up. Though it would be great getting approval from those we’ve struggled to help; sometimes the only thumbs up we will get is from God. If He says it’s been a job well done that is more enough!
Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. Psalm 25:405 NKJV
Often when David got in trouble, he went to the wilderness of Judea to hide. This Psalm is really his prayer and it had a lot of practical as well as spiritual meaning. In the desert finding the right way could mean the difference between life and death. That reminds me of one day when I was twelve. My friend and I decided to spend that Saturday afternoon exploring the woods behind his house. We loved the mystery of discovering whatever lay just over the next hill and watching squirrels playing high above us in the sugar maples.
Eventually we came out to the shore of a lake where we lingered for a while skipping stones over the water.
It was a great day until we tried finding our way home. Without fence lines, streams or other landmarks to follow we plodded aimlessly through dense underbrush without success. After an hour finally, we burst through some buses and found ourselves on the road about a mile from Steve’s house.
When life feels like wandering through a forest God knows the way. When we ask; “Show me your ways.” He answers; “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by me!” John 14:6