First United Methodist Church, Lewistown, PA 17044  ~  717-248-4618   ~  fumc200@outlook.com

Thankful for storms.

April 21, 2017

A long time ago I had a special place I would go to escape the problems of life. Our family farm had a small orchard with a few pear trees, and several different kinds of apple trees. I adopted one of those apple trees that afforded my safe space. I would climb that tree all the way to the top and it felt like I was on top of the world. Never mind the nearby spruce and white pine trees that towered above my safe perch.

    Somewhere along the journey I hatched a plot that sounds sinister but for a 7 year old was probably fairly normal. I was a second grader and coveted my classmate's abundance of school supplies. They had far more pencils and fancy erasers than I had and I wanted some of their belongings. So, I nonchalantly lifted some of those fancy pencils and erasers and carried them away from the classroom. Nobody was any wiser to my devious action.

                                                                     (stock photo, www.bing.com)

    Previous to the crime, I had found some scraps of wood and had fashioned a small tray to be fastened to the tippy top of that apple tree. It would be the perfect hiding place for my stolen spoils. Upon arriving home, I playfully ran to my favorite safe space and cached the items in the tray. I felt as though nobody would ever know. Each day after school, I would climb that tree and admire 'my' stuff. And then one night a ferocious storm hit. How the winds blew and the trees swayed.

    Imagine my surprise the next day when I arrived home to be asked this by my mom, "I found pencils out underneath the apple tree, do you know where they came from?" Funny thing about kids and parents; they (parents) can always seem to know when you (kids) are lying. My facial expression and piecemeal explanation must not have tracked well, because mom pressed a little further. It didn't take long for me to crack under the cross examination. I admitted my crime and accepted the ensuing punishment.

    At the time, I would have rather walked across hot coals than have to return the pencils to my classmates and inform my teacher of what I had done. It has been 49 years ago since that temptation and I'm thankful for the outcome and hold that moment as one that strengthened me (Talking about the punishment and not the crime).

    Temptations can often be blamed on a hundred different things. We try to point anywhere but toward ourselves to explain the crime. In the end, our response to temptations rests squarely on our own shoulders. We choose to act upon the temptation or remain strong, be happy with what we have, and move on. 

    "Consider it pure joy, my sisters and brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.   (James 1:2-4, 13-15, NIV)

    The shame I felt for getting caught in a crime boiled over into shame for committing the crime in the first place. I decided to do the crime and I had to accept doing the time. The safe space that started out as an innocent place for me turned into a den of thieves. Thankfully, God provided a storm to bring the truth to light. Life is like that; just when we feel smugly comfortable then a storm descends.  Have you had storms in your life? Have they completely destroyed you or did some nugget of golden truth emerge from the carnage?  Stop to consider the temptations facing us and choose to follow God's leading. It is far better and less shameful.

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