Sunday, April 28, 2013


(Part 1 of 3 parts)

I have written before on this blog about some of the dangers of working in the woods. Logging is one of the most hazardous of occupations. Even if one is careful and has experience, the unexpected seems always to be lurking not very far away. Disasters happen quickly; or as one logger told me, “They don’t happen quickly. They have already happened before you know it!” So it was with me earlier this spring.
I was cutting down a tree in the woods. As always, the tree needed to fall in exactly the right direction so that it would fall all the way to the ground and not get entangled in the top of another standing tree. This particular tree that I was felling was about sixteen inches on the stump. The only obstacle in the path where I wanted it to fall was a limb growing out of standing tree and reaching across the falling zone, a limb with the diameter of about four or five inches.
I thought that the tree I was felling was large enough that when it fell past that limb, it would surely just break it off and fall all the way to the ground. The tree that I was cutting did fall all the way to the ground, but the limb of the other tree did not break.
          Although at the time I saw none of what occurred, a few days after the accident I went back to try and figure out what hit me. To the best that I could determine, here is what took place:
As the tree fell past the limb in the standing tree, that
limb bent back and caught a smaller, dead branch from the falling tree and snapped it off. The limb from the standing tree bent back like a spring; then, when it was released, shot the dead branch back at me.
The small branch came at such a velocity, that it broke the brim of my hard hat and drove the pieces of the brim into my upper cheek, just below my right eye. I think that the branch itself must have also hit me directly in the cheek, right on the cheekbone beneath my eye. The snow around me was instantly red with blood. I do not think that my eye was directly impacted, although there were a few small shards of the plastic from my hat that flew into the eye.
At the moment that I was hit, I did not immediately know what had happened, only that I needed to get out of the woods as quickly as I could. Fortunately, my tractor was nearby and pointed in the right direction to go out of the woods. I started for home. Blood was running down my face, and by the looks of my tractor, it must have been spraying out somewhat. There was blood on the hood of the tractor and on the rear-view mirror ahead and above my head.
As I drove toward home, I tried to determine the extent of my injury. I could not tell, only that there was a lot of blood. However, I was a bit dismayed to discover that I could see nothing out of my injured eye. When I closed my good eye, I could see nothing. It was not black, but I could only see white.

Once in the door at home, Vivian came running in to see what was wrong. At the sight of all the blood, she started to become faint. However, she helped me clean up the best that we could. The bleeding continued but we bandaged it heavily. Her biggest help was to get the shards of hat out of my eye. They were sharp and very irritating.
          As I looked at a light bulb with my injured eye, I noted that I could distinguish the difference in brightness between looking directly at the light and looking away from it. I hoped that this was an indication that my eye and optical nerve were alright and probably just clouded with blood. The eye itself looked fine, except that it had undergone some trauma. I could move my eye up and down and to the side, although I had no vision in it. My face had not yet swollen much, so I could see the injured eye with my other eye. Vivian was also able to clean it out with a tissue.
          We were able to get most of the bleeding stopped, but there were a couple of lacerations that were deeper and continued to bleed. With compresses, the flow was slowed considerably.
          Up until this point, I did not feel terribly bad, but now the shock of what had happened began to impact my body. Interestingly, the thought that struck me at this time was what a wonderful thing adrenalin is. The sudden surge of energy that the adrenalin gave me allowed me to run to the tractor and drive it home, all without too much stress. Once I was home and cleaned up, I found that I had no strength. I thought to myself that if I would have had to drive home then, at that point, I did not know if I could do it.
          Although in my case is not exactly the best example, in many circumstances it is the adrenalin that enables someone to get out of a dangerous situation before the he feels the full impact of his injury, such as in a wild animal attack. Despite all the teaching of the wonders of evolution, to me the very existence of such a thing as adrenalin is yet another example of the wonders of an intricate design. Designs do not happen by chance. Designs can occur only if there is a designer. It was to that Designer that I now prayed.
(Continued in a few days)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013



I once spoke with a woman who had just returned from a vacation where she circumnavigated the Mediterranean Sea by air, stopping for a few days each in many of the countries that bordered the sea.  Then, on the return trip home, she stopped for a couple of days at the Canary Islands.  It is a trip that most will only ever dream about.  It is an ancient and beautiful part of Western and Near Eastern civilization.
It is a journey through the old charm of the cities and castles of Spain, the beaches of Southern France, and the historic and enchanting cities and countryside of Italy.  Besides these, there are the very ancient remnants of history in Egypt and the mysteries of the northern coast of Africa.  And, of course, there are many of the roots of our civilization to explore in Greece, as well as the roots of our faith in Israel.
I asked her about her trip and was myself excited to hear of her impressions.  I wanted to listen to the wonder of the days of her trip and what images of the past her expedition invoked.  To my great surprise however, what she told me were not her thoughts as she walked through the ruins of Athens or the old city of Jerusalem.  She did not tell me of the beauty of the beaches and the climate that many consider the most pleasant in the world.  I heard nothing about the marvels of the city of Rome and the wonder of the remnants of the old empire, nor about the pyramids of Egypt.
When I asked her about her trip, she reiterated to me her itinerary – the date when she left her home, her stops in each country and how many days she spent in each place, and the date she returned.  I learned about her flight plans and connections, her hotel accommodations, and how well her schedule worked or what faults she discovered.  The next time she would know better how to plan the agenda and the itinerary so that there would be less delay.  She told me which hotels to which she would probably return, and which she would avoid.
I was astounded by our conversation. It was really little more than a recounting of flight and time schedules and hotel ratings.  Her criteria for a successful and rewarding trip were not what she was able to see and experience, nor the thoughts and meditations that went with her adventures.  To this woman, everything depended upon logistics.  If the itinerary worked, it was a good trip.  If there were too many failures in the schedule or (heaven forbid) a missed flight, the trip was a disaster.
Although few of us will tour the Mediterranean, to some degree we all may be able to understand this perspective.  Ours is a country blessed with many very beautiful national parks.  The trouble comes in trying to plan a trip to visit these sites because ours is also a very expansive country.  Many families try to take in as many parks as they possibly can in one summer’s vacation. 
The planning and the itinerary become everything.  “We will leave early in the morning and try to make the Badlands of South Dakota by nightfall.  The next day we will drive through the Badlands and the Black Hills.  Then it is on to Devil’s Tower and the Tetons before we head down to Utah and Arizona to visit some of the parks like Arches National Park and the Grand Canyon.  Then, to complete the loop, we will head up to the Colorado Rockies and then back home.” 
On the map, it looks like an exciting vacation, but as the miles beat by, it simply becomes an endurance test and one more park on our agenda to check off.  A flat tire or a blown radiator hose can ruin the whole trip.

Unfortunately, this is the manner in which some Christians live their lives.  The logistics of life take up so much of our energy and planning that there is no time simply to enjoy the journey.  We have mapped out so much for our lives that we have not a moment to lose.
          Since early childhood, we are asked to think of what we want to be when we grow up. Later, our high school counselors help us to list our life’s goals and the steps that we must take to achieve them.  All of this is fine, but there is an ingredient that is missing.  There is a perspective that we are not considering.
It is easy to look at our lives as being greatly limited by time.  We make goals for our lives based on the assumption that we only have a limited number of years in which to achieve these objectives.  We have a goal to be out of debt by the time we are 25 years old, make our first million and own our “dream home” by the time we are 35, and retired at 50.  If we are able to retire young enough, we think, we have more years simply to enjoy life.
That is the world’s perspective.  It is understandable that it is this way, because coming from this viewpoint, the short years that we have here on earth is all that there is.  Our life becomes a race in which we hurriedly attempt to do the work that is necessary so that we can have a few moments to do the things that we think we would enjoy.
However, even if we do achieve those years in which we are able to do these things, we are so accustomed to our racing lifestyle, that these patterns continue.  Now we are trying to pack as much fun into our lives as we possibly can before we die.  We fly around the Mediterranean, ticking off all of the tourist spots that we can in our agenda.  Or, we drive long, laborious miles over the freeway system of the United States in order to visit as many sites of natural beauty as we can.  But there is no time to really enjoy these sites.  We must get on to the next one.
The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes gives us another perspective in living and in enjoying our lives.  In teaching us this point of view, he first poses a question and then states an observation:

“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given the children of man to be busy with” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-10 ESV).

This is the dilemma in which the world finds itself.  Each of us has been given our 70 or 80 years of life.  In this short life span, we have our work and other things with which to occupy ourselves.  However, when we have said and done everything, what is the ultimate benefit of these years?   How is it that we should view our years here on earth?
The writer then gives us this perspective:

“He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

I think that the word “beautiful” was specifically chosen by the writer because he is not talking merely about “getting things done,” as one would be if he were approaching the subject from the viewpoint of the world.
Rather, he is attempting to unlock the puzzle of how we are to enjoy life.  If our years are so few and if our tasks have no lasting benefit, what then is to be our attitude toward them?  To gain this benefit of the enjoyment of each part of our lives, we must see things from a new perspective.  This perspective is what the author of Ecclesiastes tells us next:

“Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV).

God has placed within us an amazing perspective, which tells us that this life is not all that there is.  The reason I say that it is amazing is because this perspective is universal among men, no matter what their culture or faith.  Not only is it universal, but it is not based upon anything that we can understand.  We cannot even conceive of the concept of eternity, much less comprehend it.  And yet we long for it.
It is this perspective of the eternal that really is the key to unlock the aforementioned puzzle of how we are to enjoy life.  Recognizing the eternal perspective is not only necessary for us to have proper priorities in our life now, but it is also necessary if we are to learn even to enjoy our life.
Paradoxically enough, however, as much as we desire to know and understand eternity, with our actions we show that we are trying to extinguish that desire.  We may not realize it, but we battle against the very thing that will teach us to enjoy life. Our culture battles against the perspective of eternity.
          We believe the lie of materialism and we are sold every imagined type of consumer item so that we are able to wrench as much enjoyment out of this present life while we are still able.  Our homes are full of every type of electronic gadget duplicated many times over.  Our closets are full of clothes we never wear and our garages full of vehicles we use only a few times per year. 
What are we to make of this?  Are we then not to enjoy earthly things?  If we are viewing our lives from an eternal perspective, does that mean that we should deny ourselves enjoyment here in this life?  Well…no, it does not mean that:

“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor-- it is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 NAS).

Viewing our lives from an eternal perspective means instead that we understand that there are appropriate times for each thing, and that the time for each will come.  Moreover, when we allow events to happen in their appropriate time, we will see that each event also becomes beautiful.
          We do not have to pack everything into one summer’s vacation.  Life does not have to be an itinerary list or a schedule of timetables.  Each event and each stage in life, and indeed our work itself, becomes enjoyable because we allow these things each in their appropriate and beautiful times.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I know of a ridge of maple trees
Long covered deep with snow.
Their branches stark against the breeze,
Their fallen leaves below.

But last September, did we not know?
Did we not speculate?
As the gold in the leaves began to grow,
We began to anticipate
That if we were patient, if we would wait,
If we could last ‘til spring,
Our maple trees would initiate
An even greater and more wondrous thing.

Now in April we see birds on the wing.
Now the snow is melting away.
The long-silent brooks are beginning to sing,
And we believe it might be any day.

The trees, we think, will not much longer delay.

We have heard that our maples begin to lift
The groundwater from deep in the clay.
Yesterday this water was a snow in a drift,
But now the trees endow that snow with a gift.

From out of the sky, radiant with blue,
And by using a unique tree kind of thrift,
The maples take the sun’s sweetness, let it accrue,
And in their deep roots, they make a sweet brew.
Then the next day (it seems too good to be true)
The maple trees share what they create!
They’ll give a bit of that sweetness to me and to you!

So this is the great wonder that we await.
Come, let’s go out to our maples.  We dare not be late!
It seems incredible, but they say it is true –
The freshness of the snow, with tree-honey imbued.

To the sky, snow and trees, we warmly thank you.
And to the Maker of these, we humbly thank You.

Donald Rhody, 2010

Saturday, April 13, 2013


The apostle Paul writes the following to the people of churches of Ephesus:

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19a NAS).

Although the phrase, the eyes of your heart, is meaningless in a physical sense, it is not difficult for us to understand what Paul intends to say. In contrast to physical things that we can see with our physical eyes, spiritual truths must be discerned by other means.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in much the same way when he talked about the fact that the things of the Spirit of God seem like foolishness to the “natural man.”  These people, using only their natural senses and human intellect, are not able to see and to understand those things of the Spirit because, Paul tells them, those things are “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). That is, these are the things that are seen with the sight given by the eyes of the heart.
This ministry of opening the eyes of the hearts of

The Conversion of Paul on the Road to Damascus (Caravaggio)
people was specifically given to Paul when he was first called into service as he fell before the great light on the
Damascus road. At that time, Paul was not a follower of Jesus Christ but was, in fact, a persecutor of the church of Christ. He was on his way to the city of Damascus armed with the authority to throw the Christians there into prison.
However, as Paul approached the city, he was struck blind in his eyes by a bright light that suddenly flashed from out of the sky. So overwhelming was the shock of the light that it threw Paul to the ground. The whole account is recorded for us in the biblical book of Acts.
The way that Luke, the author of the book of Acts, describes Paul’s condition at that event is interesting when it is compared with how Paul himself describes the experience. Luke writes that when Paul rose from the ground, “although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing” (Acts 9:8). This was the perspective of someone else observing what was happening to Paul at the time. Paul was blind, and like any blind man, he could not see anything.
However, Paul had a somewhat different description of what happened to him. Sometime later, in telling about the event, Paul said that it was during the time when he was struck blind in his eyes that God had told him, “Rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you” (Acts 26:16 ESV).
The comparison in the two accounts of the event is significant. While Luke noted Paul’s physical blindness and how he could see nothing, Paul says that it was precisely at this time when God appeared to him. It was during the time of Paul’s physical blindness that, in a way that we cannot know, he actually had a vision of God.
In fact, it is interesting to see that in this first sentence of Paul’s, relating what God told him, a word relating to vision is mentioned three times; “I have appeared to you…the things which you have seen…I will appear to you.”
This is what it means to see with the eyes of one’s heart. Physical sight means little in these times. What is important is seeing God and hearing what He says to you.
As God continued to speak to Paul during this time of physical blindness, the thrust of God’s words continues to be sight instead of blindness. In all of this, God gives Paul spiritual awareness. This spiritual awareness always involves the eyes of the heart. In God’s statement, the operative words are to open ones eyes and to turn to the light. God told Paul that He was sending him to the Jewish people and the Gentiles “To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18 NAS).
A couple of blog posts ago I spoke of walking by faith instead of walking by sight (to read this post, click here: JACOB - EYES OF FAITH). This is done by learning to see with the eyes of our hearts and is what Paul prayed that the people of Ephesus would be able to do.
What Paul wanted the people to see is quite extraordinary. If we read the following sentence slowly, and think about each phrase, we will see how extraordinary the vision is as seen by the eyes of the heart:

“That you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19 ESV).

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Some months back (on January 20, actually), I wrote about Cora’s Predicament. Cora is the name of one of our
Scottish Highlander cows that I bought last autumn. When I bought Cora, she was pregnant. The seller thought that she would be due to freshen (give birth to the calf), sometime in January. It was difficult to tell, however, since Cora had not been bred by artificial insemination, but had been with a bull.
In Cora’s Predicament Part 1, I pondered the difficulty of a cow giving birth to a calf on a minus 20 degree night in Northern Wisconsin. Every day, I advised Cora to wait until the weather warmed a little. January came and went, and no calf was born. I liked to think that it was because Cora listened to my advice, but we know that babies (baby cows or baby anything) wait for no one or no thing.
February came. Every day I continued to ask Cora about her calf. She just looked at me through the long hair hanging in front of her eyes. I think that she was getting tired of me asking about it, as if she could do anything to speed things along. February came to an end and no calf was born. That was fine. It had been a cold month.
March usually brings some first signs of spring to our farm. This March did not. Despite all the talk of global warming, this has been one of the coldest springs that we have had in many years. One day Cora was lying in some old hay on the field and she looked to me like she was beginning to go into labor. I needed to leave the farm for a couple of hours, and was really hopeful that by the time I returned, there would be a new calf walking beside a proud Cora.
When I came home, Cora was on her feet, contently eating hay from the feeder. There was no little calf at her side. I was beginning to wonder if Cora was pregnant at all.
Remember that in Cora’s Predicament Part 1, I talked about the natural round shape of the highlanders. This made it difficult to determine just by looking if Cora was pregnant, especially for a novice like me.

Now it is April. We still have snow on the ground, but as I write this, it is night time and I can hear the rain on the porch roof outside my window. Spring will eventually be in full bloom. The weather is warming.
Cora, it turns out, heeded my advice.
Today (Saturday) I was out in the woods with my tractor, doing some last things before the snow all disappears. As I worked, I heard my name being called. I looked up to see Vivian coming to see me. With her was our dog Tilly.
“Cora had her calf!” Vivian called out as she came near. “Cora had her calf! All is well with both mother and baby!”
I finished the load of logs that I was loading, then as quickly as I could, headed home with the tractor. As I pulled in the driveway, I saw the proud mother. Beside her was a curly-haired little highlander calf. What a nice sight to greet me!
I wanted to see if it was a bull calf, or a heifer. As I walked up to mother and calf, the little one came up to me as if to introduce itself. Cora, in a display of motherly protection, lowered one horn as if to say, “Be careful with what you do to my baby.”
But Cora is all bluff. I must say that she can be a little ornery at times, but she would never be malicious to me with those horns. I looked at the newborn one. It is a little bull calf. We will give him a provisional Scottish name, but we will not be keeping this calf. When I bought Cora, the agreement that I made with the seller was that he would get the calf when it was weaned and on pasture.

As I petted the little calf, Agnes and Effie looked on. They also are both pregnant.
“Agnes,” I said, “You’re next.”

(for the first part, click here: CORA'S PREDICAMENT, PART 1)