Monday, January 31, 2022

A Calloused Heart


Where do callouses come from?  My understanding is that they are the body's healthy response to pain, friction, pressure, irritation...  Callouses on your feet and hands can protect you.  But they can also make the affected areas unfeeling, hard, insensitive, and numb. 

A Calloused Heart

I wouldn't have considered myself hard-hearted.  At least, not until I read these verses from Isaiah - but it didn't use that term.  The line 'Make the heart of this people calloused...' got my attention.  In a sense I may not be hard-hearted, but in a different light...    

This scripture, along with most of the other references to 'hard heartedness' in the Bible speak to this issue from the context of religion and relationship with God.  And that's how I've always considered/measured whether or not my heart was 'hard'.  Pondering this further however, using the 'calloused' connotation, I realized I can also develop callouses on my heart from disharmony, contention, hurt, and strife in a variety of areas:

  • My own, personal relationship with God.  Have I ever questioned or blamed God for certain circumstances in my life?  God isn't afraid of honest questions, but as soon as that changes to me blaming Him for a circumstance I find myself in....
  • My relationship with my family.  Are there unspoken thoughts of 'why can't they do this?' that boil over into arguments?  Or areas of conversation we intentionally avoid?  Do I ever think 'Why are they bringing this up again?' or 'Why can't they be more....?' or 'That's not fair!'
  • My relationship with my church.  Have I been hurt in the past by spiritual leaders I looked up to and respected?  Have I ever felt like I was manipulated, discouraged, taken advantage of, or disapproved by them?

Has hurt, friction, pain, or pressure from any of these areas calloused my heart? Ugh.  Suddenly I feel like David in Psalm 51 - 'Create in me a clean heart, oh God...'  I need a heart transplant.


How can I tell if I have a calloused heart?  Well, how would I (even mentally) respond to some of the questions or circumstances above?  For me, almost all those hypotheticals bring specific circumstances to mind.  Additionally, I have a couple of litmus tests...

Callous Removal

How does one remove callouses?  The best way I know is a soak in water, and then scrape.  I didn't research that answer, it's just the simple and pragmatic solution that has worked for me (I'm a guy, what can I say?)

What about a callous of the heart?  First and foremost, I need to understand that its the kindness of God that leads me to realize I need a renewed heart.  His desire is for my heart to be healed, soft, and whole.  He understands that I didn't intend to get callouses on my heart.  I need to remind myself the He loves me and wants the best for me - His best!  Then, I think I need to:

  • Acknowledge the hurt, turn back to God and trust that He is good and has my ultimate-best destiny in His hands..  Basically saying 'Your will be done, God, not mine.  I submit and surrender control of these things that have calloused my heart over to You.'
  • Be washed (soaked) in the water of the Word - read and ponder the Bible.  
  • Spend time in His presence - in singing worship songs, praying, or simply hanging out with God doing every day things.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Psalm 23 - Part 8 - Dwell In the House of the Lord

   Often, I don't sleep very well.  I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I regularly wake up in the middle of the night and then struggle getting back to sleep.  One of the things I've found recently that helps me return to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible.  I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it.  This is part 8 of my 'meditations' on Psalm 23.  

I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  What does it mean - to dwell?  

Dwelling (housing - a noun)

Our house is getting close to 25 years old.  In the last couple years we've replaced the roof, the hot-water tank, and the guts of the furnace.  Additionally, our living room window tends to leak when precipitation is blown at it, and all the windows have frost issues in the winter when its cold out.  The pipes to our kitchen sink can freeze if we aren't watching them carefully, too.  We've put a lot of concerned thought into our house in the past couple of years.  Upgrades and window replacement costs aren't trivial.

What a dream - to live in someone else's house rent free and not have to worry about mortgage payments or maintenance!  That's what I imagine its like 'dwelling in the house of the Lord.'  Living care-free, debt-free, responsibility-free.  

Dwelling (thought - a verb)

I can also 'dwell' on a thought.  In doing so, my mind rests on a thinking spot.  And its a thought I keep returning to.  A delightful or passionate meditation.  Its like the 'dip' gravity makes in the plane of space-time around a large object like the sun.  Because of this dip, objects are either drawn to the sun, circle it, or keep returning it from a far distance.

Shepherd Dwellings

I assume shepherds in David's day often slept out in the open with the sheep.  A fire would be going for warmth, but I don't think there would be a comfortable 'dwelling' for the shepherd.  One doesn't get a great rest when you have to keep a fire going all night and lookout for predators or strays.  I imagine a dwelling for a shepherd would be like a day off, or retirement.  A place to return to where everyday worries and concerns can be left behind.  Where one can really rest.

The phrase 'I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever' reminds me of Hebrews 11 where, several times the author speaks of heroes of the faith '...longing for a better country - a heavenly one' and '...looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.'  I can totally see that shepherd thinking... longing for that better place to lay his head.  And what better place than a dwelling that is designed, built and maintained by God, the Good Shepherd?

Freebie Thought... Identity

In the 23rd Psalm, there really isn’t much spoken about what a sheep does other than normal living... it lies down, it walks, it eats and drinks. It’s a ‘being’ rather than a ‘doing’. Interesting. Oxen pull a plow or a cart. Horses carry people or pull chariots. Sheep... don’t really ‘do’ anything. Today we’re very consumed with who we are, what we’re doing or what we’ve accomplished, and what people think of us. You don’t see any of that in this psalm. It’s all about who God is and what he’s doing for us.

Other posts in this series:

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Sparks and Smoke at the Sawmill

 I worked as a weekend oiler at a local sawmill in my last three years of high school.  As a grease monkey, my assignment was to ensure the chains and machinery on the outside log decks, cut-off saws, and 2 debarkers were greased and lubricated.  I worked the early shift on Saturdays, starting at 5am and getting off work at 1pm in the afternoon.

There's a lot of potential to get a workplace injury at a sawmill.  We had to be well versed in lockout procedures that turned off the electricity and air (as some of the log kickers were pneumatically powered) and 'lock it off' so someone didn't accidentally turn it back on while you were working in the machinery.  Often times some of the larger machines like the barkers had whole panels of switches (see image below) that one had to turn off to ensure it was safe to work in and around.  For these larger machines, we were trained to turn all the panel switches off, run a cable though them in the off position, and then put our lock on the end of the cable.  That way no one could flip any of the switches back on again unless they had the key for your lock.

MCC Panel

One particular Saturday, I was wrapping up my work on the 26 inch barker and removing my cable from all the switches on its MCC panel.  Once I pulled the cable free, I threw it on the ground so I could wrap it up nicely before turning the switches back on.  As it hit the ground, sparks shot up in the air.  Something around me was electrified and I didn't know what it was.  I surveyed my surroundings, trying to see where the sparks came from. Seeing nothing obvious, I kicked at the cable I'd just dropped and noticed it was 'stuck' - actually spot welded - to a pike pole that was sticking out of a welding cable.  
Pike PoleDebarker (not installed)

A pike pole is a long pole with a point and a hook at the end, for moving logs around.  They should never be found stabbed into live welding cables.

Realizing I was in danger with this live current around me, I tried to see where/how I could turn off the electricity to the welding cable.  While I was doing that though, the lock-out cable I'd originally thrown to the ground started to smoke, and then burst into flames.  A fire in a wood framed sawmill is a not good at all.  I quickly found a fire extinguisher and put out the fire.  By this time there was a large cloud of smoke at my end of the mill and people came running over to see what was going on.  When I showed my boss what had happened, he was quite relieved I hadn't been hurt and said I was very fortunate as there had been a lot of electrical current energized around me earlier.  God's protection surrounding mePsalm 91:9-11

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Saturday, January 8, 2022

God's Protection With Vehicles Growing Up

 Remembering how God protected me in vehicles growing up, I'm conscious of how things could have been much worse given the accidents I was involved in.  I've already posted about the very first, worst one here.  With the other three, I think if my position, the vehicle's speed, or the timing had been a little different, the outcome could have been much worse.  I believe that I walked away from these accidents unscathed because of God's protection.

Flipping a Honda ATC

When I was in grade 10, our high school band got a government grant to be part of an exchange program with another high school band on the other side of Canada in Nova Scotia.  We hosted them in our community in BC during a week in February that year.  They played their repertoire of songs in schools and community centres in the area and experienced life in Western Canada.  Then later in May we travelled out to Nova Scotia to do the same.

I was hosted by Kyla Woodworth's family on their apple farm while we were in Nova Scotia.  The farm had been in their family for more than a generation and they had many of the usual tools and implements one would see on a farm like that, including a couple of Honda ATCs.

ATCs were gaining notoriety at the time because, being 3-wheeled, they were easy to flip.  And if a large one rolled on you it could be bad news.  The first full day I was there, Kyla and I took those ATCs out to a back field to burn around.  I had grown up driving a dirt bike, so I wasn't too far out of my element with this motorized trike.  What different for me was steering - on dirt bikes you can steer at speed by leaning and turning the handlebars very gradually.  Leaning on an ATC does nothing except move your centre of gravity.

Returning to the farmstead after burning around in the field, I chased Kyla down a dirt lane that was lined on either side with young saplings.  At one point I found myself going at a good clip drifting towards the saplings on the left side of the lane, so I leaned right.   Nothing happened - I continued my trajectory towards the saplings on the left.  Starting to panic and forgetting steering was different, I leaned further right.  Still no change in direction, and as a result I plowed into those saplings.  Because I was already leaning right, the ATC flipped, landed on me and rolled off.  

It took Kyla a minute or two to realize I wasn't behind her anymore.  I'm sure her heart must've come close to stopping as she drove back to where I was.  There were a couple of fender parts on the ground and the ATC was upside down.  I was a little bruised and muddy, but otherwise fine - God's protection!  She helped me roll the bike back on its wheels and we headed back to her house at a slower pace, and we didn't ride bikes anymore that week.

Dodge Aspen Accident

For a number of years while we were in high school, Mom and Dad had a 2-door Dodge Aspen with a 318.  That car could motor!  Generally Mom drove it, and one Christmas holiday she was driving us to the community ski hill for the day.  My brother and I often got season's passes to the hill during high school and spent most days and evenings during the holidays there.

This particular day there was a bunch of snow on the roads from the snowstorm the night before.  The drive to the ski hill had a significant downhill section with a sharp curve at the bottom.  My mom refrained from pressing the brakes to hard going down the hill to avoid skidding, but unfortunately that meant we had too much momentum to safely make the turn at the bottom.  We fishtailed into the opposite lane going around that turn.  Fortunately, there were no oncoming cars.  Still trying to control the car, Mom fishtailed back into our lane and then did a 180 across the road into a telephone pole.  Again, no oncoming cars had impeded our slide into the telephone pole. God was protecting us with good timing!

Rolling the Toyota

My Dad had a small Toyota pickup that he used as a commuting vehicle for work when we were growing up.  We also used it to haul the wood to heat our house for the winter and go on fishing trips up in the mountains.  It didn't like road salt that much, so by the time my Dad was ready to give the truck to me it was 'well used' and in rough shape.  Originally the truck was yellow, but by the time I got it, we called it 'the overripe banana' because the rust on it made it look.... well, like an overripe banana.  Additionally, the engine wasn't running on all its cylinders - so much so that when I drove the truck to work I had to take a run at larger hills to ensure I didn't slow down too much before getting to the top.

One of the 'fun' things to do in our small, remote community was to take old vehicles out on the logging roads and do fishtails and doughnuts.  We'd 'take our beater out for a dig' - basically all the fun stuff that was not really legal on a paved road.  

The summer after I graduated, right before the August long weekend Dad signed the truck over to me and then promptly left with Mom for a weekend getaway.  I lost no time in picking up Shane M., a friend from school and church, to take the 'yellow banana' out for a dig.  I didn't have a lot of experience doing intentional fishtails and donuts in a vehicle, but did my best trying to impress Shane.  At one point, I found a gravel pit that looked fun to burn around in.  We drove in there at a fair speed and I pulled the emergency brake an yanked the wheel sideways.  As we started to slide sideways, I began to question my judgement as rocks the size of softballs were kicked up over the passenger door by the leading edge of the truck.  Immediately after that the front tire right tire caught an edge, dug in deep, and the truck rolled over onto its roof.  

Fortunately we had our seatbelts on.  I don't think there is a graceful was to unbuckle your seatbelt when your hanging upside down by it.  We got out of the truck, a little scratched from the broken glass, but otherwise fine.  Again, God's protection! I walked to a nearby house and called for help.  The policeman that showed up was my brother's girlfriend's father.  He thought the whole thing was rather funny but warned me it could have been much worse.  Then he called the tow-truck and drove us home.

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A Real Escape - Journal Early 2020's

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