Fooled ’em for Another Week

“that all too familiar fear of failure and judgement hit the pit of my stomach.”

14 how much more shall the blood of Christ,… cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14

How’s your conscience? Now there’s a loaded question. “What? What do you mean? What do you know, who told you…?” We all have secrets, insecurities and guilt over something or other—don’t we?. It’s like the joke I’ve heard at work a few times and have even said myself, usually on pay day; “Well, fooled ‘em for another week!”

The inference being that if the people you work for knew just how unqualified, insecure and hapless you are they would get rid of you immediately. Of course it’s meant to be a joke but like any good joke, especially the ones based in sarcasm, my specialty, there is always a nugget of underlying truth that makes it funny in the first place. The reality is, most of us are a little insecure in our jobs, relationships, positions or what have you, and feel like if people really knew the real you, the secret battles that go on in your head and heart they would be aghast and ask you to hit the road Jack.

I know I find myself often lately in rooms full of people with engineering degrees, architectural degrees, PHD’s or whatever, owners of big companies and CEO’s and I think, what am I doing here?

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Especially when they are looking to me for input on how to make things happen on their big construction projects, like I’m the expert on every aspect of the project. Sometimes I just want to say; ‘I’m just a carpenter, don’t ask me’, but I can’t say that so I silently pray Lord help me not to make a fool of myself and I say what comes to mind.

Sometimes that leaves people a bit astounded, like, did you really just say that? Because I’ll tell you what, if you’re leaning on the Holy Spirit to guide you, combined with experience, truth comes out and it’s not always comfortable—yet it always gets the desired results and I walk away respected. Which, I suppose, is why I keep finding myself in those circles. But I’m always a bit insecure.

Or I’ll find myself surrounded by tradesmen, business owners and craftsmen asking me how they are supposed to make things work according to the plans that I am supposed to know every aspect of, and have or know where to get all the answers—and I think, How in the world did I get into this position? I just set out to be a hard working craftsman, to build things efficiently and with pride, and now I’m the Superintendent responsible for all this? Yikes!

The other day my boss called just on the heels of working through issues with the electrician, drywallers and plumbers back to back to back, and asked how it was going and I replied, “Well, I’m just solving all the problems of the world one subcontractor at a time.” Which it seemed to me at the time was exactly what I was doing, and he replied “sweet!”

That’s what I do most of the day, run around in circles and answer questions and solve problems all the while thinking; I could really mess things up here if I’m not paying attention or if I give answers that are beyond my authority or understanding to give. So, I’m still employed as of Friday—fooled ‘em for another week. And every day I continue to pray, “Lord give me wisdom to do my job well and bless my ministry as well, make sure I have plenty left for my church and family.”

Grandpa n Quiny

I often go home at the end of the day and wonder, and even cringe sometimes, thinking about some of my interactions with people throughout the day—I’ll tell you what, I don’t always feel very ‘pastorly’ when I’m pushing a big job and having to be the driving force behind a whole bunch of often difficult personalities all trying to work around, over, and with one another all day every day with the shared goal of meeting a deadline that always seems way too close.

Buttons

Buttons sometimes get pushed, and some people’s button are much easier to push. It takes a lot to push my buttons anymore to bring out the—“you don’t want to mess with me or you’ll be out of here in a heartbeat”—old school—“I don’t give a rip who you think you are” —foreman in me. But he’s in there and he serves a purpose. But I try to live by the old proverb that ‘a soft answer turns away wrath’ first and foremost because a hard answer invites push back that does indeed force your hand to play the hard ass card, and when that happens then I go home thinking, “Lord, did I totally just blow any chance of ever witnessing to that person?”

Are they now thinking, if they even know, ‘what kind of  pastor is he?’ What would the people I pastor think? ‘What do you think Lord?’ ‘Oh, man I’ve blown it again.’ —Here comes the accusations, the guilt and the temptations to just give up and give in.

Funny, I got home the other day and grabbed the mail. I noticed that I had a letter addressed to me from Foursquare, the big headquarters office in LA. That’s not unusual, but this one, this one made me uneasy right off the bat and I first didn’t realize why. I looked at it again and it was addressed to Dan Swaningson, yeah so? Well, most everything I get from Foursquare is addressed to Rev, Dan Swaningson. So you know the first thing that came into my mind? ‘Am I fired?’ Foursquare finally figured out that I am not qualified or worthy to pastor and they are stripping me of my title?

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I knew that wasn’t the case but isn’t that the way our minds work?-instant guilt, instant fear. My mind instantly flashed back to something I had written on a monthly report a couple months ago about the tight winter we had here—instant guilt and conviction. They’re going to replace me with a charismatic millennial in skinny jeans and a Prius rocking a man bun, and… Birkenstocks? —I don’t know, I’m not even hip enough to know what millennials wear, if it doesn’t say Wrangler, Stetson or Carhart on it I wouldn’t know if it came from the Dollar Store or from 5th Avenue, nor would I care.

So, I’m getting a it off track here, my point is, I panicked just a bit as that all too familiar fear of failure and judgement hit the pit of my stomach.

We are always a little afraid of getting into trouble, of maybe being found out like we have to hide who we really are, what we really think and probably some things we say or do, maybe I’m worse than most because of my codependent tendencies, but overall I think this is just human nature and part of our spiritual makeup. As we talked about last week, that’s the conscience pricking us, something it’s really good at.

Some of that may be the accuser whispering in our ears that we are miserable failures doomed to fail and to be cast aside by everyone who matters and by our God. And some of it is the legitimate feeling of guilt we have by virtue of having God’s laws and ways written in our minds and on our hearts.

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Heb 8

We who know the law better than most because we care to read it and study it from our Bibles, often experience that guilt, fear and panic more than most. But that’s not the way it should be. We need to remember who we are, loved children of the Living God washed and guiltless before our Father by the blood of the Lamb of God—Jesus.

So, anyway, I didn’t get my ordination revoked so my church is stuck with this old redneck, cowboy shirt wearing preacher for now with no tattoos, an Ironworker vocabulary that I work hard to suppress every day, and a Pickup truck powered by Ford.

Turns out that letter was just a notice of some changes to my 401k and was from the financial dept at Foursquare, and their services being available to all paid staff across the board they don’t necessarily know or care who’s ordained and who’s not.

So, I’m fooled ‘em for another day. I’m still credentialed and okay to preach on Sunday—whew!

Barbarian meme

The Work of my Hands

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 John 1:2

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Midnight Sparky

Do you believe that the Lord cares about your life and will intervene on your behalf to prosper the work of your hands and give you success in your endeavors? I believe he will—so long as we acknowledge his help and recognize that we must praise him regardless of whether we feel we had a good day or not.

It was 2005. I was in my fourth year of serving as the children’s pastor at Hope Center and in my third decade of working construction. I was doing some remodel work at the United Methodist church in downtown Billings. Because the church had a day care center that was open all day and the work we were doing was noisy and messy we were working nights—never fun, but whatever it takes to get the job done and done right.

Part of the job involved putting in an elevator for handicap access to the lower level. To do this we had to cut a hole in the concrete floor of the basement to create a pit for the Hydraulics that would run the elevator. I had a concrete cutting contractor come in a saw the floor, and in the midst of the cutting there was a loud pop, a puff of smoke and sudden darkness.

We immediately knew what happened, we had cut through a conduit under the floor cutting the power to many of the basement lights. Luckily it threw the breaker right away and no one got hurt—no one but the power feed anyway. We plugged in some temporary lights and finished the job, pulled the concrete from the hole and sent the cutting contractor on his way.

So then, I’ll never forget this, it’s about one o’clock in the morning and I’m standing there looking at the severed conduit in the bottom of my hole thinking, ‘now what am I going to do?’ Even if I could fix this myself I cannot get the stuff to do it, it’s the middle of the night and everything is closed and all the electricians I know are no doubt home in bed.’

It wouldn’t matter so much except that the basement was where all the rooms were that they used for the day care and the dozens of kids would start arriving bright and early—to a dark basement. So while I’m standing there pondering this, and halfway praying at the same time, more an expression of exasperation: “Lord, now what do I do? I need a sparky!” Suddenly someone walks into the room and says, “Hey Dan, how ya doing?” It’s Jamie, a sparky!—an electrician I know from previous jobs whom I know is also a believer. I looked at him shocked and said, “What are you doing here?”

He said, “I’m doing some night work in the bank across the alley and I recognized your truck so I snuck in the back door to say hi.”  I said, “Boy am I glad to see you! I have a little problem here.” I pointed down to the severed conduit and said, “Do you have time to fix this for me?” “Sure, it’ll just take a few minutes, let me run out to my truck and grab some stuff.”

Problem solved. There was no doubt in my mind that God sent Jamie there at just the right time to take care of my problem, not just that, but to remind me that he is always looking out for me, and that he indeed hears my prayer every day before I go to work that he “bless the work of my hands.”

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I could tell you many stories just like that, and I could also tell you stories about the times things have gone south because I got cocky and started thinking my efforts prospered because I was awesome, I’m not awesome but I have a God who is and that is much better in the long run, and the short for that matter.

Fast forward to this week.

I had my mind blown this week, what started as a seriously stressful week with all that’s going on in my job and ministry, God showed up.

Wednesday I got a call from the owner of the company I work for—Jim. He asked if I could come to the office after work, he needed to talk to me about something.

I said ‘okay, I’ll swing by on my way home.’ It sounded way too serious so I was suddenly real nervous racking my brain, “What did I do wrong? Or, maybe he wants me to do a funeral or something for someone in his family, uugh, no fun.”

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So a couple hours later I jump in my old work truck and head to the office. I pull in the yard and walk into the shop, just as I’m about to pull open the door to the office area the door opens and there’s Jim, the big boss. He says, “I saw you coming. Come with me and he motions me to the back door.” My heart starts racing and I’m thinking, “Oh no, it’s so serious he wants to make sure no one else hears.”

We walk out the back door to where his big fancy truck is parked and he abruptly says, “get in.” So we’re going for a ride. Now I’m thinking, okay, he has some nasty welding job he wants me to look at, just what I need on top of the big job I’m trying to ride herd on now. We start heading west on East Laurel road and just before we get to King Avenue he says, “I suppose you’re wondering where we’re going?” —Uh, yeah.

He says, “I don’t know if we tell you often enough how much we appreciate you and all the hard work you do for this company. We consider you one of the big dogs. You always get your jobs done and done well and everyone wants to work with Dan.

I said, “Wow, thanks but to tell you the truth that kind of adds to my stress, that’s a lot to live up to. But I also have to tell you that I cannot take the credit, the Lord just blesses the work of my hands, I pray that every day, and I just show up and do the best I can.”

He says, That’s what we love about you.” He then reaches into the cup holder in his console and hands me a fancy electronic key fob and says’ “Here’s the key to your new truck.” My jaw dropped and I stammered something or other, we then pull into the local Ford dealer and he says “There it is. If you push that button right there is will start remotely.”

I push the buttons and all the lights flash and it starts. We walk to the truck and he tells me to get in and starts to run through all the bells and whistles, it pretty much has them all. It’s a 2019 F250 with an extended cab, four wheel drive of course, back up camera, an activated Sirius radio with Bluetooth hook ups, and myriad other things I am still trying to wrap my brain around–I mean, my old work truck didn’t even have power windows and locks, let alone rear window defrosters and power side mirrors–It’s just big and bad and beautiful.  He says ‘Drive it home and show Donna and tomorrow we’ll take it in and get it outfitted with a grill guard, tool box, floor mats and, the company logo.’

I don’t own it but as long as I work for them, I can drive it like I do.

I tell him, “I don’t even know what to say. I have never had a new vehicle in my life.” As I’m driving home in shock I think to look at the odometer and it has 12 miles on it and I am overwhelmed. “Thank you Jesus!” You have indeed blessed the work of my hands and caused me to prosper.

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And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Gen 39

I continued to pray: “Let me never forget that the primary reason I am here, that my work is being blessed, is because I am yours and you are mine and my primary mission is to be a light for you in all I do and say. Thank you that my diligence is a reflection of you and your character.”

Barbarians in the Kingdom by Dan Swaningson

Choose Joy

Jolene Meme

Down in my heart

The other day I was driving home from work, honestly, my job is intense, both physically—making every joint in my body hurt—and mentally, as I deal with people who are all driven, busy and under pressure all day long. Running a multi-million dollar project, trying to keep all the pieces and all the players moving in the right direction at the right time, while still being a craftsmen working with my hands can be hugely stressful.

So I was driving home from work with all this stuff running through my mind, my back, knees and neck killing me, trying to shift my focus to the sermon I know I have to start writing when I get home. I already knew I was supposed to talk about joy and I’m thinking; I sure don’t feel very joyful right now.

I thought of that new song from King and Country, kind of a play on the old children’s song I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. . . and I remembered my daughters singing along to this song on a cassette tape they had full of silly Sunday school songs. I can still hear their high little girl voices singing, I think it was Cally, not really sure of all the words, but she would hardily sing the last few words “. . .down in my heart Tuesday” And of course the ‘Where!’

And I started to smile.

So I started to sing; I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, where, down in my heart, where, down in my heart. . . to stay.

After a few choruses of that I was actually laughing, how can you sing that and not be happy? Especially with everything that is associated with it, especially the truth that it espouses. A simple song reminding us of the most significant truth we can know as human beings.

I’ve got the wonderful love of my blessed redeemer way down in the depths of my heart. Where?. . .  Just singing about joy, about the Lord brought the lightness back to my heart. Light always displaces the dark.

Sing it with me; Now I’m so happy, so very happy, I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart! Yes I’m so happy, so very happy, I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart!

If that did not make you smile, you could be a fuddy duddy.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Gal 5

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In praying about this message the Lord told me; “Joy is a byproduct of being loved.” Which explains why it is the second fruit of the Spirit right behind love. If you know you are loved by the one who created you and holds your fate in his hands, if you truly understand the depth and the significance of that love, how could you not have joy?

And if you have joy you will have peace and as a result of that joy and peace you will have no reason to be anxious, in a hurry, so you will be patient—long-suffering— and a happy patient loved person is more inclined to be kind and gentle, putting others before himself leading to self-control  which is simply telling the flesh to be patient and kind, that there are more important things than fulfilling it’s selfish demands.

Which means in a sense, a very real sense, that Love and joy has crucified the flesh with it’s passions and desires. The passions and desires that unchecked will leave us with no joy, no long-suffering patience and no self-control.

Wow, I never looked at the fruits of the Spirit as being dependent on each other like that before. The fruits are not just a list of virtues that God decided one day he would just give us if we asked for the Spirit, it is an understanding of who we are, who he is, our relationship with him leading to a chain reaction releasing one fruit after the other.

Joy Meme

Distress

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You.
12 For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield. Ps 5:11,12

Joy can maybe be defined as a lack of stress. I mean, think about it, if you are not worried, if you are not losing sleep over an issue, fretting and anxious, what are you?

So, why are you not happy, why are you not joyful? —Because you are afraid, worried, stressed. And why are you these things? It boils down to one thing to me, something I come back to over and over again in my walk with the Lord and have since the very beginning because it really is the very definition of salvation—and that is trust, trusting his love for us.

We must trust the Lord for our salvation, with our hearts and with our lives. And if we are truly trusting him in all of these things, then why, pray tell, do we stress?

The Lord has been working on this with me lately, big time. If you want to discover a whole new level of potential stress try pastoring a bunch of people, real people with real problems and issues, whom you have come to love, who have become a family, not just a church. A church that is just a church can only cause you so much grief because you can walk away from it. But you cannot and should not walk away from family.

Not if you have a heart that is attuned at all to the Holy Spirit with the instinct he plants in all hearts to defend their own.

But, I have to remember that you, this church, and my family whether blood or spiritual, are not my own, it all belongs to Jesus—I am just a steward, a shepherd, a father, a husband, brother, uncle grandpa, friend—what have you—all titles I am proud of and take seriously, but if I am not trusting all of those whom call me by those various things to the one who loves and knows them better then I could in a hundred life times, then I will only drive myself to drink, or worse, trying to protect, build and nurture them all.

My church belongs to Jesus. My family belongs to Jesus. My future, my hopes and dreams, my vision for this ministry, my job, my finances, my health and well-being—they all belong to Jesus and he alone is able to care for all of them, to strengthen me, to guide me, to quicken my soul in the right times and still it when need be.

The more I realize that, the more I trust and let go of the stress, transfer the burden over to Jesus, the more joy I am able to feel in my heart, the better I can sleep at night and the more able I am to love those around me who need loved, we all need loved.

Love brings joy.Just ask my Granddaughter Jolene whose picture graces the top of this blog.

Joy by King and Country

Shield Wall Mentoring

What does it mean to be a man? The barbarian of old had little trouble with this notion; there was little confusion over what it meant to be a man in the barbarian tribes, wherever and whviking-armyenever they were found. The barbarian man’s measure was taken in large part by his strength- physical prowess, his courage and his ability to defend and provide for his family, his home and his clan.

He was not ashamed to be a man nor was he discouraged from being a man—in all his testosterone driven fury and glory. What a difference in where we are today where being a man is almost something we have to apologize for as traditional manly traits are being frowned upon.

Society would make you believe that all women want men who are not just in touch with their feminine side, but live there most of the time and that most men are stupid, bumbling or egoistical idiots who need to be retrained and tolerated, softened and civilized; interesting, you never see a pencil necked geek wearing skinny jeans and wielding a smart phone on the cover of a romance novel– just saying.

Does the barbarian in the heart of all women really want a man to be just a woman with a deeper voice? I think when it comes down to it, a woman wants a man to be a man, a man wants a woman to be a woman and that’s a barbarian notion that’s hard to shake, and I contend should not be shaken, in spite of what the world tells us.

I think many of our young men today are having an identity crisis. I see it at work, I see it in the churches—everywhere, young men getting more and more frustrated, confused and angry because they aren’t allowed to be men.

Most of them don’t have real men teaching them how to be a man- how to contain and direct the barbarian inside aching to be loosed, so they either act like immature idiots or they just become subjugated doormats wondering why the woman they have bowed down to does not respect them. Women, whether they admit it or not, need heroes and leaders. And men need to be heroes and lead, this goes back to that love and respect thing we find spelled out in the scriptures; a woman needs to feel loved and a man needs to feel respected.

…let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Eph 5:33

Barbarian Mentoring

I think we need barbarian mentoring. The barbarians in the kingdom need to rise up and take the next generation under their wings and show them what it means to be a man, we need to invite them to stand with us side by side in the shield wall. This sounds like a huge task but it’s really not, unless of course you do not know what it means to be a man. Guys my age or older—baby boomers—had an advantage, we were raised by the generation of warriors that saved the world from Nazism and Imperialist Japan.

We had fathers or grandfathers, uncles and bosses who fought in a world war, together as men with a single simple purpose; to save the world, including their own homes and families, from an enemy that they were allowed to call an enemy, to fight a fight that they were allowed to win, and did win. And they returned home from the battlefields with that same spirit of accomplishment and pride and together build a better life for their families.

They were allowed and encouraged to work hard, and the harder they worked, the better off they were. These men were raised during the great depression so they never took work for granted, nor anything else for that matter—they were men who raised sons to be men. Where did we lose that? I contend that we didn’t, it just got tucked away as we got too comfortable living the fruits of what those men, and women, built for us. We just need to allow ourselves to once again be the men that our collective fathers and grandfathers were, God fearing, hard-working, sacrificially loving men, that’s all.

But that’s not enough, here is the key element; men need to always affirm the next generation of men. It’s a curious thing that a boy will never feel like a man, until someone who is a man in their eyes, tells them they are a man, preferably their father. We no longer have rites of passage that mark the day when a boy becomes a man. We no longer expect anything of our young men and we no longer demand that they act like men. Personal responsibility and accountability has gone out the window and we have become an entitlement society ‘I am entitled to a pay check, I am entitled to health care, a smart phone, a car, an education, a place to live, internet—you name it, even if I didn’t lift a finger to earn it.’

On the other hand we don’t acknowledge hard work and responsibility like we should either—it just wouldn’t be fair to everyone else. ‘Here’s your participation trophy and a Pizza.’ We need to tell a young man when he has done the right thing, to acknowledge and affirm; ‘I sure appreciate the hard work you did, nice job.’ I always thank the guys who work on my construction jobs at the end of the day. If a guy knows you appreciate the effort he put into doing the job you asked him to do, he will come back the next day and work at it even more diligently. You have to give respect to get respect.

Respect is the food that fuels the heart of the man. A boy looks for material gain and only takes, a man looks for and gives respect, and a man who is respected is able to love.

So what gets the boy across the line to manhood?—like I said, affirmation, that point in time when he was respected and affirmed as a man. Women won’t understand this and that’s fine, we’ll talk about the barbarian women next time, but right now trust me that you also need to hear this for the sake of the men in your life– a man needs to hear these words or he will struggle with being a man for the rest of his life- here are the words; I am proud of you. And they need to come from a father, or at least a Father figure. It doesn’t hurt to hear them from his wife either.

You can take that to the bank. That is the respect pivot point between being a boy and becoming a man. Affirmation. Ladies, don’t doubt me on this and don’t poo poo it as silly.

Only a man who has been affirmed as a man can stop acting like a boy who is trying to get attention. Only a man who is comfortable in his manliness can be tender to his woman without seeming like a girly man. Only a man who is secure in his manliness can see the world through the eyes of his children without being immature and childish. Only a man who has been affirmed can rest at the end of a hard day without feeling like a loser. Only a man who has been affirmed can look in the mirror and like what they see.

 

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.