“What happened?”

I picked myself up off the ground. Everything seemed to still work but how on earth did I wind up face down, arm bleeding? My brother Marvin told me that after I had given Apache his carrot, while I was walking back to the gate, he just turned and ran over me. I never saw it coming.

Apache was the biggest horse I ever had. He was 16 ½ hands tall and easily weighed 1200 pounds. I was 13 years old and a runt.

The day after he ran over me I sat on the fence watching Apache. I had a lead in my hand and I knew what I had to do. I had to walk out there, put a lead on Apache and bring him in so I could ride him. What good is a horse if you can’t ride him?

But I wondered, what if he ran at me again and tried to kill me. What would I do?

I must have sat there a half hour, my heart in my throat. Finally, slowly at first, then with firmer steps I walked toward Apache with a peace offering, a ripe red apple in my outstretched left hand. In my right hand, behind my back I firmly held a baseball bat. I had decided that while I hoped for the best I had to be prepared for the worst. The worst never happened.

Fear. What will happen if the government shuts down, my 401k tanks, I lose my job, I get sick… We all know this scenario. “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:34)

My greatest fear at thirteen, being run over by that huge horse, never came about. Today our world seems to run on fear. Fear of the shutdown, fear of war, fear of a lack of something or of someone. Everyone is afraid of something.

I didn’t know God well back when Apache ran over me but God was surely with me. Perhaps you don’t feel particularly close to God right now. But God knows you and God loves you just as you are. What are you afraid of? God knows just what you need. Ask Him. Thank Him.



Whew! I was soaked with sweat, and around me lay piles of dirt, wood chips, a pry bar, bow saw, shovel, spade, ax, blocks for a fulcrum and… a stump removed from the ground. It took all my effort, a variety of tools, four hours of work and a LOT of energy. When I finished I was exhausted but satisfied.

Last week I wrote about that stump and how it was held by something unseen beneath the surface of the ground and that, after digging down almost a foot and cutting every root in sight, it remained firmly entrenched in the landscape.

Removing it took persistence, patience, rest between attempts and a variety of tools. At last, after digging deeper than I thought I would have to go, using a hand spade, to uncover a large tap root going directly down from the center cutting most of it with a saw and then, putting all my weight on a 6 foot steel pry bar… it broke free!

Like stumps, conflicts and other problems can be deeply rooted. During my span of 25 years serving churches I have witnessed many a conflict in church. Whether the conflict was over theology, programs, buildings or personalities in every case I have seen that all ‘sides’ seemed to possess a portion but not all of the answer. When the conflicts have not been resolved it has been because people could or would not work together.

We are too ready to speak and too slow to listen. We are too convinced we are right and ‘they’ are wrong. In our failure to listen; in our failure to consider that we don’t know it all; we reject the people and the perspective of others without which we will never find the answer to our intractable problem.

In the Church God has given gifts to each of us so that together we become more, much more than the sum of our parts. I kept going back to the tool shed for something else. I kept going back to that stump over several days until it gave way.

Without the strength, gifts, understanding and presence of some of the most unlikely and even the least favored we may never resolve our most difficult problems. Jesus was murdered by those who exclaimed, “Can any good thing come out of Galilee? … Search the Scriptures and they will tell you that no prophet comes out of Galilee.” (John 7) They were sure Jesus was NOT the answer, to their own loss.

We need each other. We need those we think most likely to succeed and we need those who seem least likely to succeed. We need the most gifted among us and we need those who may seem to be the least gifted among us. No one among us has all the answers or all that is needed to find solutions in our world and in our lives. I needed many tools to break that stump free. We need all the gifts God gives us to uproot the problems in our lives.



After a morning of chopping, sawing, digging, and prying it is still unmoved!

At first I thought it would be an hour long project. That was before I dug down and looked at what was below the surface.

Let me back up. I cut that tree down over a year ago to make way for planting grapes, blackberries and blueberries. Since then I have repeatedly cut away new growth emerging from an ugly stump barely six inches across. So I decided I would get rid of the thing. How hard could that be?

Before I cut it down this tree did not stand out as different from the others. But on the morning I decided to get rid of its stump I discovered a real difference in this tree just below the surface where no eye had seen. Beneath the surface there were huge roots, nearly as big in diameter as the stump itself stretching in every direction. After cutting each one (with considerable effort) it still would not budge! Obviously, deeper still there are roots holding it in place, tenaciously to the ground in which it once emerged as a tender, young sapling.

This week we learned of yet another mass shooting at a Naval yard in Washington. Other weeks we are faced with healthcare problems or the threat of government shutdowns and war, or a recessionary economy. We struggle with broken homes, wayward children, or a shocking diagnosis from the doctor. The list goes on. How can we be prepared for such a world as this? These problems seem intractable because there is more to them than meets the eye.

I believe the answer is in that tree stump. The word “stumped”, meaning there seems to be no easy solution to a problem, emerged during the days of building our national rail system. As the tracks expanded great trees were encountered. There was no way around removing the stumps but that was easier said than done. The setting of the sun on many days left the workers “stumped” with how to remove them.

Jesus came not as a general, a president or a philanthropist because God knew the solution to a troubled world could not be found in war, politics or finances. Our world is “stumped” because we have not learned to look beneath the surface. When we allow God to probe our hearts and reveal to us our broken human nature which is beneath all our problems we are taking the first steps. Only the God who made us, and who loves us can root out all that keeps our lives and our world broken.



Looking out my window I see billowy clouds on a beautiful afternoon. I see a bright yellow goldfinch check out the bird feeder and then flit away without eating.
I walk out on the deck and looking up I see three vultures soaring overhead. In a thicket next door I think I catch a glimpse of a hawk. I stop to listen and the chorus of songbirds around me seems to have silenced as if feeling the threat from these birds of prey.
When it comes to the world around us, or something much smaller, our own life, we really see only a snapshot view as if peering though a window. We talk or text a friend. We eat a meal. We run an errand. Even the bigger things like finishing school or landing the right job are really just slightly bigger windows. Only when we can see our life through another’s perspective, particularly God’s, do we begin to see beyond our small window.
If we really want life to be different we have to get a bigger view. We have to learn to listen to others, try to understand others, and most of all hear what God says about us and to us.
I go back inside and look out the window but I can’t forget what I saw when I was outside. In the same way we must listen to those who are wiser and who care. We must learn about God’s perspective on life and we will never be the same