It’s Hard.

dualing dinosaursIt’s hard to not grow weary of the fight. It’s hard to be faithful, at least faithful as we see it, you know what I mean? To maintain a mindset that is set on the Lord and the things of the Lord, to keep our eyes on Jesus. It’s hard to not get discouraged and not give in to the notion that we must have missed it somewhere, that all our struggle is for naught. It’s hard to be the responsible parent, the loving supportive spouse, the story book endings always seem to be for someone else.

It’s hard because we know what it is supposed to be, what it can be if Jesus is kept the center of all, if the world had not chosen to turn away from God and choose its own path. We know because we have that knowledge planted in our hearts, it is alive in us through the holy Spirit, we have tasted the Kingdom and it is ours but we are still stuck in this one where the Devil still runs roughshod- apparently laughing with glee, as we all struggle with; “Why? Why is it so hard?” -Or maybe it’s just me.

Feeling discouraged a few weeks ago I was praying on my way home from Miles City: “Lord, it seems I have so many promises that have yet to be fulfilled, it’s getting harder and harder to keep trusting the promises, and the struggle to be godly never seems to get easier. Have you given up on me?”

And the Lord answered;

If you don’t give up on me, I won’t give up on you.

Back in 2003 I was doing a job at the Billings water treatment plant. Long story short, one of the things we had to do was to fill a couple of 5 foot square holes in a 2-foot thick concrete wall in the lower level of the pump station to accommodate the new pumps that would draw water from the Yellowstone River. So we drilled holes in the perimeter of the openings for rebar dowels and tied the rebar into place, formed up both sides of the opening leaving a small opening in the top of one side for the concrete to be placed via a concrete pump.

The only way to get the hose from the pump truck into the form was by dropping it down the 30’ deep shaft on the river side of the walls after pulling the hose through the front and rear doors of the pump house. As usual we are on a tight schedule and we have to get this done and get the new pumps on line for the city.

So I schedule concrete for mid-afternoon, the soonest we can be ready. The trucks arrive and we got the 4” rubber hose from the pump truck dragged through the building and down the shaft and start pumping concrete. I had an older hand named Dennis helping me wrestle the hose down in the shaft and to run the vibrator.

Dennis was a good hand and reliable but not a real ball of fire. I used to tease him, “Dennis, you’re not very fast but you sure are slow!” He knew I liked him and always chuckled when I told him that. I liked Dennis because he mostly just kept his head down, his mouth shut and did his job.

Up above I had another hand whom we’ll call Benny. Benny was a good hand, a hard worker and got stuff done but he was ornery and liked to grumble a lot and never stopped talking, mostly about all his concrete expertise.

So we’re filling the hole with concrete. I had to really wet it up to get it to pump through 80’ or so of hose and you know what happens when you add water to concrete? It knocks down the air content. We had a spec that said we had to have a certain amount of air in the concrete and an inspector who never gave an inch on anything and I had told the batch plant to make sure there was good air in the mix.

When the first form was about two thirds of the way full I got word from the tester that the air content was a percentage point or two off so I was forced to reject the load and had no choice but to pull the hose, now very heavy with concrete, out of the shaft, back through the building, pull off the form and clean the freshly placed concrete out of the opening we were trying to fill.

This of course did not make anyone, especially me, very happy. Apparently I said a bad word or two in the process of yelling instructions up to the folks above and arguing with the truck driver while Dennis and I were frantically trying to pull the forms and dig all the mud out of the hole before it set up, because, yes, it is hard to be godly all the time in the construction world.

It was about 4:30 or so by this point the end of a hard day and we just wanted to be done but I was grateful that Dennis had stayed to help me as we ended up digging the concrete out with our bare hands from around the rebar in the hole, having to get every last bit so that it wouldn’t contaminate the rebar when we re-poured it the next day.

It took a while but we got it all cleaned out and scrubbed off the rebar with a wire brush and ready to try again the next day.

I say I was glad Dennis was there because Benny had deserted us. I had called up for him to help and was informed by the pump truck driver that he had left. What!? We’re not done, who does he think he is?

The next day he simply said; “Hey, it was quitting time.” I heard him tell someone some time later that he knew “If things are bad enough for Dan to start cussing, it’s time to leave.” I try not to cuss and I usually don’t, but as I told Donna, sometimes shucky darn just doesn’t cut it in the world of construction where yes, try as I might, it is hard to always be godly. But at the end of the day, the job has to be done, happy or mad, easy or frustrating, is irrelevant. Quitting time comes when the job is finished.

So, who is the real concrete hand here? The one who spend all day telling stories about what a great concrete hand he was yet left before the job was done, or the quiet slow one who was as dependable as the sunrise and stayed till the job was finished no matter how unpleasant it might be? Guess who was still with me a couple of months later when I only need one helper.

At the end of the day, it is not who talked the best game, it’s who is still there, the ones left standing.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Tim 4:8

 

Things will go wrong and yes, it’s hard, and can be frustratingly difficult but it’s not about being perfect and always having a sunny attitude; it’s about being there. The true church will prevail, and the true father, the true mother is the one who is there for their family- no matter how hard- it’s worth it.

 

Love Completes Us

I realize it’s the middle of a hot summer but please indulge me a bit as I take you back to a cold February night- maybe it’ll cool you off a bit.

Welcome and good morning baby-

It’s just after 11:00 on a cold late February night and I go down to the barn to check on a heifer I had locked in a stall because I saw earlier that she was thinking about calving.  I could tell because she had gone off by herself, as cows do, when they are getting ready to calf. Because she was a heifer I wanted to have her in a place where I could help her should she have trouble.  Well sure enough, she was having trouble.  Her water had broken some time ago and she was up and down- alternating between laying down on her side and walking around in circles mooing for her, as of yet, unborn calf, a sure signMoultonBarnNightClouds1.

Now, this heifer knew me as the one who fed her in the winter and kept her in good pastures in the summer but she was still not totally trusting of me, she was after all a range cow, spending much of her time totally away from all human contact.  I did not have a head-catch at this time so I had to use a lot more finesse in doctoring cows, getting them to trust me enough to help them.

I could see she would be needing help soon so I quietly slipped into the large stall and squatted down with my back against the wall at one end of the stall while she eyed me nervously to see what I was up to.  I just sat there on my haunches and waited, reassuring her now and then, letting her hear my familiar voice, low and calmly saying; “its ok girl, I’ll be here when you’re ready.” 

So I settle in and wait and as I sit there I become acutely aware of the stillness around me.  No sound but the occasional rustling of the heifers’ shuffling feet in the straw I had thrown out in the stall for her. It’s like there’s no one in the world but me and this heifer right now.  I turn off my glaring flashlight and let my eyes adjust to the dim light from the moon that’s filtering in from outside through the unfinished barn walls.  I see that the heifer is starting to worry less about me and getting back to the business of calving.

It’s cold but I’m warm in my insulated Carhartt coveralls and wool Scotch cap.  The cold crisp air mixed with the musty smell of the heifer and the dusty straw gives me a sensation that all is right with the world.  A feeling that really can’t be described but once experienced is never forgotten.

The heifer lies down again as the contractions come hard and heavy, the steam of her breath coming in sharp bursts like a geyser that can’t decide if it’s ready to blow or not.  Then I see a small hoof appear under her tail, she is oblivious to my presence now as she alternates between pushing and just laying her head heavily in the straw to catch her breath.

It’s time- I crawl on my hands and knees through the straw, which is now becoming well mixed with the manure beneath, to the rear of the heifer, I take off my gloves and slowly slip a hand into the heifer to feel a velvety nose lodged firmly in the birth canal.  I work both the front hoofs of the calf out as far as I can while the heifer lifts her head to look at me and then pushes once more.  I reach into the back pocket of my coveralls and pull out a zip-lock bag containing the O.B. chains as the steam rises off my hands now covered with warm amniotic fluid.

I work the chains onto the small hoofs being careful to get them above the fetlocks, I hook the hand held puller to the center of the chains, brace my feet against the rear of the cow and working with the contractions of the heifer I begin to pull.  We are totally in this together now and after several pulls with all my strength timed to coincide with her pushes we suddenly have a head.  I get up off my −back where I landed when the shoulders cleared and quickly get to my feet to easily slide the calf the rest of the way out.  I catch my breath as the heifer−now a cow−relaxes, and the calf, a coal black bull with a bright white face, takes its first gasping breaths.

I wait only moments before I drag the calf around to the front of the cow to make sure she gets a good snoot full of her baby’s scent. She soon gets to her feet and gives the calf another good sniffing before she begins gingerly to clean him while mooing gently with the moo that cows only use for their babies.  Praise God!  She’s accepted the calf and has the mother instinct.  I get out of the stall and hang around only long enough to make sure the calf gets up and stumbles over to where the milk is, amazed once again that a minutes old calf always knows where to find the milk.

“Welcome and goodnight baby, see you in the morning.”

 

Thoughts

Sometimes we just need to be there.

Being the church of Jesus Christ means loving our neighbors and – one another, learning to take care of those who are right in front of us.  Jesus said go and make disciples of all nations… we make disciples by sharing the good news and then by being there to encourage them on. New believers will quickly wither and die if they are not loved into health and seasoned believers will not continue to grow and bear fruit if they are not continuing to be loved−and sharing the love.

As we mature in our relationship with Christ it is sharing the love that really keeps us healthy and fulfilled, that encourages us, no matter the cost, the fulfillment that comes from living a life of love is priceless.

I was sitting in that cold barn in the middle of the night because I cared, sure that calf was worth 500 bucks at weaning time but that’s not what I was thinking about; there isn’t a rancher around worth his salt who doesn’t genuinely care for his animals.  And when I left the barn that night I felt good, real good, even though I was covered with manure and afterbirth and had missed several hours of sleep.  That is not the kind of feeling you get from simply earning a buck, it’s the kind of feeling you get from making an impact on another life. It’s a deep down satisfaction. 

It is the same feeling that comes from doing something good for someone who has entrusted you with their friendship and their heart. It’s the unique deep down soul satisfying feeling of being blessed because you allowed God to use you to be a blessing to someone.  It’s not about conquering the world, it’s about saving and discipling individuals, it’s about being there.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:11

Love completes us.