There is a picture of a woodshed in my bedroom, half filled with split logs aligned as straight across as possible. You can see a golf course fairway behind it and a sunrise in the distance. A strange photograph to have in one’s bedroom, eh? It’s actually a reminder of one of the most meaningful compliments I have yet to receive: “You always try to leave things better than the way you found them,” my dad said to me once.
I enjoy chopping and straightening the wood for our woodsheds, and my dad doesn’t mind me taking care of that chore at all. Recently, we took to leveling and staining one of our woodsheds that was looking a little aged. This entailed moving all of the wood out, taking the roof off, ripping the old shingles off, aligning and stapling new shingles on the roof, staining the support beams, placing the roof back on top, and stacking the wood inside once more. While doing this work sporadically over the past few weeks, I placed the final wood in the shed yesterday (straight across, of course) and remembered this great compliment from dad. He’s right--I do try my best to leave things better than the way I found them, and this goes for situations other than woodshed management as well.
A salad dressing aisle
So later that evening, my ma needed a copious amount of salad dressing for a large batch of pasta salad she was whipping up. She couldn’t leave what was on the stove, so I drove over to the grocery store for her. While in the salad dressing aisle, a middle-aged woman and an elderly woman with a walker were perusing the bottles near me. I needed to pass the elderly woman, who was clearly losing her mental capacities from what I overheard, and she was in the middle of the aisle staring at me. She said, with a straight face,
“You think you can, but you can’t!”
“Uhhh, I’m sorry? Pardon me,” I replied in shock and scurried to her right. What just happened? I thought I could pass her but I couldn’t? I thought I could find the dressing, but can’t?
On my way home, I couldn’t shake that elderly woman out of my brain. I started to theologically think about it, as I usually find myself doing with everyday occurrences.
The devil is constantly saying those same words to us to imprison us within the confines of our minds. He spits in our face the very same foul, seething words, “You think you can, but you can’t!”
It takes active, courageous, and faithful efforts to laugh back at the devil’s words and to know that you are stronger and better than his lies. In Luke 10, Christ tells his disciples to shake the dust off of their feet when leaving an inhospitable person’s company. In other words, Christ is telling us to not allow the inhospitable attitude of a Debbie Downer to keep you from living your Christian witness. With these thoughts in mind, I still wasn’t comfortable with what had happened. A trip to the chapel was needed.
I try to make it to the perpetual adoration chapel once a day, and I usually read the daily Scripture readings while there. In God’s almighty wisdom and sense of humor, the Gospel passage was Luke 10:1-12, which contains the very verse I had been thinking of.
Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.'
Oh God, You so sly! I could have seen these events as coincidence, but sitting before the Lord and examining all that had happened just brought me to a sense of peace in knowing that it was not coincidence. What a lesson I had learned, a lesson that unfolded throughout an ordinary day. A woodshed. A salad dressing aisle. A chapel.
Don Schwager ties all of this together with the following: “When God gives us his word there comes with it the great responsibility to respond. Indifference will not do. We are either for or against God in how we respond to his word. God gives us his word that we may have abundant life in him. He wills to work through and in each of us for his glory. God shares his word with us, and he commissions us to speak it boldly and simply to others. Do you witness the truth and joy of the gospel by word and example to those around you?”
is a recent Mount St. Mary's University graduate with a B.A. in Theology, who is constantly traveling...in her mind. Emily enjoys purposely getting lost in the woods and climbing mountains to reach those Nat Geo views. She works for "the Man," Jesus Christ, and for the other man, of the adult-world, as a Catholic school substitute teacher. Just grab a cup of joe, and she's good to go.