When Your Elephant Drops

Take the time you need to refresh and revive yourself and your teammates, particularly your life-mate and then, when the time is right, your signal to rejoin the forces on the field will come… I knew when my elephant dropped it was time to get back to work.

 

 

When your elephant drops the time has come to change what you were doing and move on to what you should be doing. That is a wise piece of sage advice that I made up just a few hours ago. I have no doubt it will last for centuries and grace the finest of Chinese cookie emporiums the world over, especially those whose home base is somewhere in upper New Jersey.

“What brought me to this amazing revelation? You ask. Okay, so you didn’t ask; but you are curious enough to keep reading. Perhaps you know my legendary wit; well, half-wit. Maybe, you are hoping that if you read this all the way through you can help my family get the evidence they need for a permanent commitment. Whatever your reasons, I encourage you to read on. I believe it will be worth it.

When your elephant drops the time has come to change what you were doing and move on to what you should be doing. A very simple piece of logic really. All of us need a cue to know when it is time to move on in life. Maybe we need to move on to a new job, a new home, or perhaps, a new fiancé’ (I’d be careful on that one). It might not be something nearly as earth shattering as that. You may need to move on from one normal, everyday task to another in order to try to accomplish as much as possible before the day winds down unto its coming night. No matter the size of the task, it is important to know that when the elephant drops, that is your cue to move on.

Wisdom, the Bible tells us can be found with many counselors. It can be found with age and experience. Sometimes wisdom is born of trial and error, with the emphasis on the error. I have found, over time that I learn much deeper lessons from my mistakes than from my successes. Success seldom requires a review, a debriefing to understand the why of it. Although it is a good idea to do such an evaluation, normally, we accept the fact that if we were successful it is because we were right or good and as long as we are our amazing self then we will continue to be successful. At least that is the reason I don’t re-evaluate a great many of my successes, at least not like I evaluate my failures. The failures I prefer to limit from happening again; so, I evaluate my process to learn how to avoid the same mistakes a third or fourth time. (I did not say, ‘second’ because I usually don’t decide to re-evaluate until I have failed at least twice. My first failures are always accounted to ‘the wrong part’, ‘the wrong instructions’, ‘the wrong day of the week’ – certainly not anything I could have done! After the second failure I grant, begrudgingly, that perhaps it might be something I am doing incorrectly.

Yes, wisdom comes from a multitude of sources. I have found, as a grandfather now for nearly eight years, that wisdom comes to me through the eyes, the insight, the lives of my grandchildren. I don’t think I learned nearly as much from my children for two reasons. First, I still thought I knew a lot about life and things. Second, I was just trying to keep up with them most of the time. The song, “It’s a Wonderful World” sung best, I think, by Louis Armstrong; allows us to see life through the eyes of the song writer and looking at the children, he says, “They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know…” and that is so true. So, our grandchildren can teach us once we have reached an age where we realize we don’t know nearly as much as we thought we did. They can teach us, too, when life has slowed enough for times of introspection and taking stock of where one is in life’s journey.  Sometimes such lessons are prompted by a statement, bluntly spoken by our grandchildren. Recently, my eldest told me that I can really take on the role of Santa now that my belly has gotten as big as it has. Good, honest, tongue-biting truth. It’s great!

By now, the number of surgeries I have had in the past fade in memory, overtaken by the pain that arthritis can bring to those same areas that surgeons fixed so effectively decades ago. A police service related shoulder repair, now needing to be a shoulder replacement has enough arthritis to keep Bayer in production; except that a previous perforated ulcer make aspirin a no-no. My spinal fusions from police related injuries and the bone taken from my hips for those repairs now provide plenty of opportunity for creaking and popping as I try to move stealthily through the night on my way to the bathroom for the fourth time, trying not to wake my wife or the dogs. To interrupt either is not good. If I wake the dogs I have to take them outside in the cold and wait for them. If I wake my lovely wife, she doesn’t get enough rest with as hard as she works now without me waking her; so I try to let her sleep whenever she can. Then there is the arthritic knee that the ‘Doc’ recently told me has to be replaced. I tell you that to say that if I could find a way to do all of my work and social engagements, business meetings, phone calls and meals within the confines of my Jacuzzi, I would.

Warm (to boiling) hot water is the only real relief. I am very thankful for the medications and all the other things that are done to keep me functional; but it is the escape in the warm water where my brain is freed up to think. Our thirty year old Jacuzzi hot-tub downstairs gave up the ghost some time back so I am relegated to our garden tub Jacuzzi in our bathroom; for which I am eternally grateful. It is, however, garden sized. As my grandson will tell you, I am built something more like a “Horse pasture –long in the inseam, wide across the shoulders (and belly) with the pasture taken in just a little around the hay feeder” – I will use the garden tub as long as I can fit in it and get out of it. Silly us to allow the design of our bathroom to include steps up to the Jacuzzi tub. When we built it no one needed hand rails or maybe a floor level entrance to step in and out of without trying to go over it like a high hurdler at the Moscow Olympics. Still, if there was a Nobel Prize for pain relief, Jacuzzi get s my vote and that is where the elephant comes into the story.

I share my Jacuzzi with an elephant. I know that sounds a little crazy but, I also share it with two ducks, one rubber one plastic. The elephant, too, I should clarify is a one piece plastic mold elephant about the same size as the rubber duck. I don’t get much time to play with them but from time to time one of my grandchildren will ‘visit’ with me while I am catching up on my Weekly Standard, National Review or NewsMax. I also do many of my Bible devotional readings there, too. As I said, if I could, I would work throughout the day there. Electronics however do not fare well in warm water. Even my revered Weekly Standard et al., have succumbed to the water on more than one occasion.

When my grandchildren pay me a visit and it becomes ‘grab a bathing suit and sit with Papaw in the Jacuzzi,’ invariably along with the rubber duck, out comes the plastic elephant. Known best for his ability to spring to the surface after being held at the bottom, he is an all-around favorite. If we had a large swimming pool, I fear they would want a real elephant to see if he, too, would spring up from the bottom of the pool! When the grandchildren are not around, the elephant stands guard at the edge of the Jacuzzi as if looking forward to the time that the children play with him again.

Elephant

It would be too easy to escape my on-going pain by keeping myself as long as possible in the Jacuzzi guarded by my trusted elephant. However, there comes a time when all of us have to step out of our comfort and be about the business to which God has intended us.

The disciples and others loved to listen to Christ teach. His sermon on the mount as recorded in Matthew was a time of great spiritual learning, encouragement and challenge. Eventually, though, they all had to come down from the mountain and be about the ministry set before them. It is a true joy, at times, to remove ourselves from the hectic world of ministry or other life challenges that come before us; work, family turmoil or illness, difficulties with finances, friends, even schooling and preparation for future ministry. All of these things take a toll on us. They can, too, take a toll on our relationships; particularly those involving close family members. Retreating from the daily stressors is sometimes absolutely essential for us to be able to carry on and to prepare to meet the next challenge. The temptation to not re-enter the fray is high. Some of us have the option to completely step away from some of the areas that cause us the most difficulty. Sometimes that is what God intends for us to do but, most of the time, God intends for us to recharge, regroup, and regain our hold on the reins and be about our Father’s business.

Take the time you need to refresh and revive yourself and your teammates, particularly your life-mate and then, when the time is right, your signal to rejoin the forces on the field will come. For me, today I knew it was time because, my elephant dropped. I never saw him move on his own, but somehow, that little gray plastic elephant worked his way to the edge of the Jacuzzi and plunged trunk first into the water. I knew that when my elephant dropped, it was time to get back to work.

When Your Faith Is Not Strong (and for good reason!)

“For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”

pocket watch quarter

 

Habakkuk 3:17-19

New King James Version (NKJV)

A Hymn of Faith

17 Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

19 The Lord God[a] is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills[i]

Don’t you wish you had Habakkuk’s faith?  He is so sure of himself. He is so confident. Well, maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. So often we look at “heroes of the faith” and we picture them with halos over their heads, going about in white robes, hands neatly folded, going around blessing people like a Franciscan Friar. The truth be told these were men who struggled with worry and doubt. They had friends turn on them; political trouble, headaches and stomach aches, sore feet and knees and sometimes they were just down-right crabby.

In this particular Bible story, actually in this particular account, when the doors first open and we meet Habakkuk in his prayer time, he is surveying the political and military mess that Israel is in. Habakkuk was making sure God understood the plight of Israel. They were completely surrounded with what seemed like every enemy Israel had and they were coming to annihilate them. It was not a good position to be in and Habakkuk was not entirely sure that God truly appreciated their predicament.

God had one a wonderful reply to Habakkuk, much similar to when He asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?[ii]God told Habakkuk, For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”[iii] And with that reply, Habakkuk declares that he will remind himself and others that God is on His throne and that he would watch and see what God would do.

Eventually, and I say eventually because it was not until Habakkuk had the opportunity that God gave him time to consider what God had said.

It is possible for us to need a little time to consider what He has said.

The title of the article says ‘for good reason’ because Habakkuk chapter 1 is Habakkuk explaining or more likely complaining to God that: 

O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgmet proceeds.[iv]

 

That may describe well the circumstances you find yourself in today. It seems like no matter what you do there is someone close-by that is there to tear you down, make your success seem like a failure, to make us feel like all our trying is for nothing. Allow me to ask you, the reader, a question. When was the last time you went out of your way to encourage a fellow believer along his or her journey? (That means not just conveniently mention it when it is ‘greet your neighbor’ time on Sunday Morning!) One of the toughest things that can happen to a believer is to face struggles that during his time passing through them he never hears from those he was closest, at least when you are up to your nostrils in deep water, if they won’t throw you a life-preserver; it would at least be nice to get a snorkel!

Recently, I had the opportunity to relate to someone an event that happened to some of us who were ministering in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Traveling one wintry night up the mountain that makes up Tuzla’s main residential area, we were in a van that was not designed for the winding, steep roads. We had finished or visit at the top but our van, unfortunately was facing the wrong direction and the chances of getting it turned around to come down the way we came up was nearly impossible. We opted to continue down the mountain by going ‘forward’ along the road in uncharted territory. When we came to an area that was quite steep and it was impossible to see on ahead, one of our party felt an uncanny sense of alarm, and asked he driver to stop immediately that they would walk out on foot to see what was ahead of our headlight beams, because, of course it being Bosnia, a fog had settled in!

After walking only twenty-five yards ahead, this one turned and came back to share that within 30 yards was a steep embankment where the road had stopped. May cultures would use the term: “cliff.” As we tried to ‘back-up’ and go  back, up the hill the van just spun its tires on the icy roads and at one point nearly struck one of the group as the van suddenly caught dry pavement and lurched to the side. He jumped out of the way into a ditch. That having happened I said a quick prayer under my breath, “Lord, we need help and we need help now!” There was scattered on the mountainside about four houses, al dark and quiet being late into the winter night. Suddenly, (and I mean suddenly) about six young men were there, (supposedly from the houses), and the pushed us up to an area where the van was able to turn and go the safe way up and then down the mountainside. Now, this next part is true and because the Bible says that we are not to swear upon stars etc., for vows; I promise you readers, it is true! I turned to thank   the young men; they were gone, nowhere to be seen!

Why share that story here? Well, as I mentioned, I just had a chance to share that event with a brother who was feeling very blue and without hope and the lesson we gleaned from it was that God is paying attention to our needs. He does hear our prayers and He responds to the cries of His children!

The author of Hebrews writes:  Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.[v]

Isaiah wrote:  “Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.”[vi]

 

Note: All Scripture references NKJV