Tag Archive: forgiveness

Hunting Catfish

Cyndy and the boys with fishIt is not a trick title . A friend of mine who is visiting in Tennessee at the moment was sitting in the house, minding his own business watching tv one evening. Suddenly, without warning, he heard shotgun bursts not far from the house. He was accustomed to his son-in-law firing shots into the woods and at trees to “calm down.” But the sounds did not emanate from one person.

My friend went out and discovered his son-in-law and compadres at the small pond. They had become irritated that the lone catfish in the pond had eluded capture. They were annoyed that the catfish was eating the smaller fish – which is a part of nature. They had worked themselves up to the point that they were shooting at this poor fish with shotguns. I cannot imagine that they did the smaller fish a whole lot of good themselves.

The friend said something I will not repeat here, but that seemed appropriate given the circumstances – and God’s tendency for forgiveness. It does seem rather excessive behavior to conceive of firing a shotgun at one catfish in a pond. Accidents do happen and people could be hurt. It is certainly a frame of mind that I would not entertain. And we will not mention the shooting at small animals with assault rifles.

(The picture is of Cyndy and the boys with fish they caught quite a few years ago. The fish were caught with fishing poles, not shotguns or AK-47’s.)

Peace be with you.

Pretzels Dont PourTo begin at the beginning, in case you didn’t know, pretzels don’t pour. To which you might reply with “who would expect them to?” Well, I would. In case you haven’t noticed, the bags that pretzels come in are considerably more fragile than regular chip bags. Regardless of how careful you are, if you are lucky enough to open it without tearing it down the side, the second time you reach in for more pretzels (again carefully) a jagged tear will appear.

The tear is always such that any further handling of any sort will cause the bag to begin the various stages of disintegration. When it happened again the other day, I grabbed a quart size baggie and attempted – for the umpteenth time – to pour pretzels into a baggie. At first, they poured as easy as stick-shaped objects can. Then they began to catch on the curled up edges of the pretzel bag.

I tried to gently jerk the bag to coax the pretzels into falling into the baggie. At which time the bag began to give way further, sending pretzels onto the counter and – to my chagrin – a few onto the floor. The more I tried to be careful, the faster the bag fell apart. I ended up having to pick handfuls of pretzels off of the counter and put them in the baggie. Which worked only a tad better than trying to pour them out of the bag.

I finally got the pretzels into the baggie. Minus, of course, the few that fell onto the floor. But not without some serious consternation on my part. A major cause of the consternation was the fact that I saw it coming. But even though I saw it coming there was little I could do to alter the circumstances.

And that is one of my pet peeves – I firmly believe that you can have more than one. When I see a situation coming in which I’m sure things will go awry, it ticks me off. I sometimes think I’m daring the situation to prove me wrong for a pleasant change of pace. Then, by God, it goes awry just like I thought it would. Which ticks me off even more.

I have other pet peeves as I’m sure you do. People refer to someone’s pet peeve. As if there is only one peeve and that one is the pet or favorite. It sounds as if it is special rather than a pain in the ass.

I’m sure God has quite a few pet peeves. The Old Testament illustrates a few. Breaking a commandment is a safe bet to touch on the real favorites. That is, if you equate “pet” with good or favorite.

But at the same time, God is forgiving. While I can be forgiving, I’m not as forgiving as I should be. If I was, it wouldn’t bother me as much that pretzel bags tend to disintegrate as one is simply getting another small handful of pretzels. It wouldn’t bother me that pretzels don’t pour. And when I can tell someone is going to do something stupid, I would forgive them ahead of time. Unfortunately, I’m not that forgiving. But I’m working on it.

Peace be with you.

The month of August was the most boring part of the summer when I was growing up. And, judging from my daughter and now my sons, it has not changed a whole lot – except for school beginning before Labor Day, rather than after. Were it not for football workouts, the tension would be unbearable. Even with cell phones, Facebook, email, and so on, the circle of close friends is smaller during the summer than during the school year. Partially because some of those friends are only close friends when you see each other at school. After school, they are not so close.

The only technological device I had was a transistor radio (not complaining – just explaining). There was as yet no such thing as FM radio. Since the few close friends I had during the summer planned their vacations for August, I was forced to resort to my “B” list. You know, the friends that I could put up with if I had to. But B list friends could lead you to do things you would not ordinarily do.

One particular August, hot as usual, I was stuck with a B list friend. He lived next door and I think his name was Jeffrey. He was a little younger than I was, which was partly why he was on the B list. Across the dirt alley behind our homes was a fairly large park without many trees.

Part of the park doubled as the schoolyard for the elementary school on the left as we walked out the back gate. A creek ran along the other side of the park across from the school. The alley where we were standing formed the eastern border of the park and ended on the right at the creek which was the northern border. A few houses to the left, the dirt alley ended when a side street between two houses became the drive behind the school.

The back of the cafeteria was at that corner of the building. There was a short stairway leading up to the kitchen door about a hundred feet from the corner. The door was only used for the kitchen personnel and smaller deliveries. The truck delivery door was to the right, between the stairway and the end of the building.

Jeffrey and I were walking through the parking lot from the alley, bored as always in August. We noticed a wooden “door” of sorts in the side of the building under the floor of the cafeteria four feet past the stairwell. An open lock hung in the latch of the door. We took out the lock, opened the door, and crawled through the 3′ x 3′ space, finding ourselves under the cafeteria. I worked my way through the pipes to where I figured the cafeteria was and found another door above me in the floor.

Surprisingly, that door was unlocked as well.  We climbed up into the middle of the kitchen. We headed straight for the refrigerator. Jeffrey and I helped ourselves to canned fruit,  olives, and pickles. Maybe a few slices of cheese – they were not individually wrapped then. After we had a snack, there was not much else to do. We had no interest in any other part of the school and we were not completely sure no one else was there.

Getting out was a little different than getting in – we did not know if anyone would be looking. But we made it out without incident and walked away quickly. We revisited the kitchen a few times that August – all without incident. I noticed after school began that the custodian had fastened the lock.

I have no doubt Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn engaged in the same type of questionable activity – the mischievous behavior of bored children. But I do not know how much guilt they felt. As for myself, I did not think about it too much, but I knew deep down that I was sinning at the time. Which made it worse that I did it anyway. I probably rationalized the actions by thinking that no one was hurt.

Yet it was a crime (albeit a misdemeanor) and a sin. Ironically, since I lived on the edge  of the schoolyard/park, I always went home for lunch. I was saved the feeling of regret when returning to the scene of the crime. Other than a cursory view from the kitchen, I never saw the cafeteria – just the kitchen and under the floor.

I could not be legally prosecuted now. The statute of limitations on school cafeteria theft of produce and condiments has surely expired. But God knows. It may be low on my list of sins in order of importance, but it is still on the list. Just another one of the things I continue to ask God’s forgiveness for, and that I have in common with Tom Sawyer.

Peace be with you.

* –  Tom Sawyer was one of the first books I read growing up. Things I Have in Common with Tom Sawyer is a series of posts about the activities of prepubescent and adolescent youth – mostly mine. Times when I was in a “Tom Sawyer” frame of mind. Read the first post here.

I wrote an earlier post about the hens next door (the rooster, thankfully, has found a new home elsewhere). Our neighbors now have four different colored hens which are white, tan, black, and grey-striped. The black hen recently discovered she could fly over the fence into the front yard. Her choice of direction for her escape was quite intentional. Dogs could be heard barking on the other side of the fence of the other three sides of the backyard.

The hen has taken to wandering from her yard through our yard to the yard on the other side and back again, pausing at length under the bush at the far corner of our house. She also likes the bush next to the front door. She struts so close to the house that we can hear her clucking from inside. When I walked out the front door the other day, the dust flew as she scampered away from behind the bush. Unfortunately, she gives our dog, Misty, added incentive to try to escape when someone opens the door.

In the past few days, the black hen has become more curious and adventurous. She was wandering across the street, exploring the entrance to the driveway across from ours. But she mostly hangs around our front yard and her own. However, when I walked out into the backyard this morning, my assumption that her direction of escape was intentional was torn completely asunder.

The hen was strutting away from me about ten feet ahead. I was glad I had not brought Misty out with me. She strutted around the yard and seemed to be trying very hard to ignore the fact that I was there. As if she just ignored me, I would not notice she was there. She did not cluck at all, presumably so I would not hear her and become aware of her presence. She had acted the same way in the front yard. Yet, even though the hen tried to ignore me, she had to face the fact that I was still there and was not going away.

Which I tend to think is how we are with God at times. “I am just one person out of billions on the planet. Maybe if I try to be insignificant, God will not notice my presence or recent transgressions.” Then, at other times, we wonder why the Lord does not respond when we pray. We cannot have it both ways.

Try as we might, it is beyond our ability to fly underneath God’s “radar.” No matter where we go, God’s presence is always with us. He knows our smallest transgression – and forgives us with his grace. He is present when life is most difficult – supporting us with his grace. We just need to have faith, ask for God’s forgiveness, and accept his grace.

Peace be with you.

My family moved to Wichita Falls just before I started fourth grade. After we settled in, I became friends with the three boys that lived next door. The oldest of the three boys was a few years older than I, the second oldest was a year or two older, and Jeffrey, the youngest, was a year or two younger than I was. Jeffrey’s is the only name I can remember and I am not one hundred percent sure that was his name.

Be that as it may, Jeffrey and I became friends. Particularly when friends my own age were out of town or unavailable. We had several notable adventures, but one in particular comes to mind that involved matchbooks. Matchbooks were still commonplace items, more so than lighters. Disposable lighters were not yet readily available.

The two of us were in the alley behind our houses. The alley was dirt, full of ruts most of the time from the garbage truck and city vehicles. But grass grew in the four or five feet between the alley and the backyard fences. It was late fall without a lot of rain and the grass by the alley was dry, brittle, and brown in spots . And we were bored.

We thought we would experiment with the matches and fire. Holding the matchbook with the striking strip on the bottom, we held the head of a match on the strip with our index finger. Then we would light the match while flipping it toward the ground. If the grass caught fire, we would let it burn, watching the circle of fire grow for a bit, then stomp it out with our foot.

As one would imagine, we kept letting the fire get a little bigger each time. After all, it would not be a challenge otherwise. As fate would have it, and you would guess, one of the fires got out of hand. When we stomped on the fire, ashes jumped, starting another little fire that soon became part of the larger one. It was not too terribly long before we began to panic.

The faster and harder we stomped, the faster the fire spread. When the fire was about three feet across, Jeffrey took off his jacket – which as I remember was brand-new – and began trying to put the fire out with it. At first, he only succeeded in spreading the fire more. I seem to remember coughing and screaming a lot. But he could not hear me, because he was screaming and coughing, too.

We finally put the fire out. Leaving a five foot circle of burned and smoldering grass as a monument to our stupidity. That and the rather large hole of burned fabric on the inside of Jeffrey’s new jacket. He asked me to take it home so he could tell his parents he loaned it to me and buy him some time to confess.

He did not get that chance. The jacket smelled distinctly of smoke and my parents asked me why I had it. I told them he had forgotten it and I would give it back to him. I went out in the backyard and threw the jacket over the fence to Jeffrey, who was in his backyard. His parents had asked him where the jacket was and told him to go get it. Following the rendering of his punishment, his parents talked to my parents. I did not escape unpunished. It was impossible to explain the five foot circle of burnt grass without telling the truth – which was ridiculous enough.

“Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” Ecclesiastes 11:9

Qohelet’s God was a vengeful God. Making a list and checking it twice, as it were. But, with the New Testament and the life of Christ, we know God as forgiving and as a God of grace. While I certainly received my comeuppance for my part in the temporary fascination with fire – giving me a lasting respect for its power – I do not think that any further punishment is forthcoming. It is not a layer in the pile of bad or stupid things I have done in my life for which I will be punished for its totality.

Free will is offset somewhat by our conscience. We may still decide to sin, but we will feel remorseful about it. Each time I have recalled our venture into stupidity, I have received sharp pangs of regret brought on by my conscience. The recurring memories along with regret and feelings of stupidity are sufficient punishment, thank you very much. I do not think I need a final hammer coming down at the end of my life to punish me further for my collective sins.

God may indeed bring us into judgement, but it will be with grace and a forgiving hand of redemption. All will be taken into account, not just our sins. Which is a wonderful thing because no one is without sin. It is easy to understand David singing praises to the Lord. We should sing our praises and thank God with our prayers for his grace, forgiveness, and redemption. Because, in my case, if I was to be held accountable for my sins, the grass fire would be the least of my worries.

Peace be with you.

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