I’m finishing a carpentry project that began when I harvested a cedar tree from my sprawling ¼-acre estate. I have new respect for adventurous pioneers who furnished their homes using only trees and hand tools.
At Hayes Junior High School shop class was a requirement, even for nerdy types like me. To escape that experience without a negative impact to my GPA, I had to construct a foot stool. I think I used a band saw once, but most of the work was completed with blood, sweat, and hand tools. Although my brothers were natural carpenters, I struggled to cut along a straight line. I did learn to sharpen plane blades and chisels. Dull tools are hazardous and require more effort to use.
We have a superfluity of tools available to help us live life. Some grow dull, not with use, but with disuse.
Has my technique advanced beyond “God is great, God is good…”? What happens when I skip my prayer time? How long before I grow rusty? How long before I stop missing it altogether?
When I pray without ceasing, as the Bible instructs, I find the practice becomes indispensable, and I miss it when I skip. Alarms sound inside my thoughts warning that I’m leaving something valuable behind. I can ignore those alarms, and they will grow quiet.
Consider Bible reading.
If I do not schedule a reserved time, Bible reading falls into spare moments. I read with an eye on my watch, hurried, knowing other things need to be done. For this tool to grow sharper, I need to go deeper, beyond mere reading.
I need to study, look up words I do not recognize, investigate when I have a question, and memorize special passages. Remember English classes and the time analyzing novels, poems, and short stories? What did the author mean? Why did he choose this analogy? What’s the historical context? That’s the idea of effective Bible reading.
Some recoil from the word meditation but that is exactly what is needed. I need to turn the verse over and over in my mind and look at it from every angle. No, I’m not looking for loopholes. I’m giving the Bible time to speak to me.
A friend gave himself a Facebook challenge to present a new list of reasons to be thankful each morning for seven days. What a fascinating read, and what a conviction for me. Do I start each day, or at least set aside time, to count my blessings? Or am I focused on what I see as shortfalls in my portfolio? Many negative thoughts and emotions flow from an unthankful heart.
Close connections with others do not happen naturally. We have to invest, cultivate, and nurture the relationship. These practices require time and must move up the priority list or they will not happen. Exchanging the boilerplate greeting (“How you doing?” “Fine. How about you?”) with another person once a week is not friendship.
Contemplation. There’s a word to think about. Switch off every noise-maker (spouse and kids included) around you and attempt to sit in complete silence for an hour. If you must, hike into the woods, leave the trail, and find a rock to occupy. Mark your way home if you are not an outdoor type!
The world around us is screaming. Making decisions in that din is tough. Setting direction in that hubbub is risky. We need to deliberately stop, shut out the noise, and consider our path. Without course verification and correction we may not reach the desired goal.
Quite a list, isn’t it?
Do my tools need sharpening? Remember. Dull tools are hazardous and require more effort to use.
Unused tools are just a waste.