Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tools of the Trade

One of the joys of rural living is the constant stream of projects to occupy the homeowner. The biggest drawback is the relative inaccessibility of handy support services not only for the work at hand but for the occasional surprise job created by either unforeseen circumstance or faulty maintenance. Out of necessity, then, nearly every endeavor has become a “do-it-yourself” adventure. A recent project—building the office where I write—prompted me to make a list of the building trades that were required for its completion. At least a nodding acquaintance was required as “procurement officer” to “dry wall installer” to “electrician” with over twenty construction specialties making the final list. The bottom line is simply stated; you had best be a jack-of-all-trades if you are going to live in the woods.

An additional requirement is having the appropriate tools for the project, whatever it may be. I am always amused when I hear others complain that they need a large separate room (note: I did not say closet) for the sole purpose of storing their wife’s shoes. Granted; having a hundred pairs of shoes is not a mortal sin, but, as I examine my own personal fetish, perhaps I should examine “the beam in my own eye” before I chuckle over her “mote.” Since my first home owning experience in 1955, I have been collecting tools.

The current home for my collection is a 650 sq. ft. garage with one 7’ and one 9’ door. The walls are lined with cabinets, shelves, drawers, benches, power tools and the floor space occupied with other “stuff.” To the casual observer it appears to be utter chaos. It is! It is also my first line of defense in the on going war against mechanical and functional breakdown on the property.

Earlier this week, I attempted to balance the demands of accommodating the weather and juggling three projects at once. The new deck was an impossible place to work in full sun. The temperature hovered around the 100ยบ mark. The lawn could not be mowed while wet with dew. I also couldn’t do any mowing while the mower had a broken mandrill housing anyway. As I ploughed through the day, I marveled that I had adequate tools for each and every job I attempted even to the inclusion of a three foot section of pipe with the dedicated purpose of extending the leverage of the wrench to gain a physical advantage over a rusted on 11/16th nut.

I retreated to the office for yet one more glass of water and rejoiced that I had in every circumstance the appropriate set of equipment for each individual job. Some of them have seen no activity for months—even years—at a time. Others seem present as part of nearly every job; multipurpose cordless drill, hammers, screwdrivers, tape measures, clamps, etc . . . . As I cooled down, I thought further on the parallel to scripture.

I am not a Bible scholar. I am always somewhat embarrassed when I am in the presence of men and women who are. I envy (think violation of a commandment here) those who have acquired a ready familiarity with and can quote endlessly from the Good Book. They have become wonderfully adept at offering up its wisdom, love, and example at every turn. It has provided them with endless solutions and comfort facing the vicissitudes of life.

What they have accomplished is not unlike having the right tool for every job. They have become equipped, by searching for Biblical truths in the scripture and finding in that truth an appropriate application for each situation. If they come up short in personal knowledge of exactly where to turn they take the Book from the table (bookcase, nightstand, desk, or left hand) and look it up. They have the all-purpose manual for life in their hands. They don’t have to “run to town” to get what they need. Although dog-eared and probably well marked, it has become an integral part of their lives. It is their first reference and not a last resort.

Some of us, with a lesser knowledge, see the Bible as chaotic as my shop is to the occasional visitor. Who among us makes the jump from Joel to Jude with ease? Would flipping between Ephesians to Ecclesiastes be any easier? We have suffered the occasional preacher who urges us to open our Bibles to one quote after another and races on to the next before we have found the first. The fault here is in inexperienced usage and not his ardor to cover all the bases. I always use those ribbon place markers because I just know he’s going to return to a former verse.

As the analogy continues we find the depth and variety extremely useful in both the shop and the scripture. Each tool and each verse has an assigned purpose. Using a ratchet wrench as a hammer is destructive to the wench and ineffective for the purpose. Taking isolated scripture out of context can be equally damaging to both. Understanding purpose is dependent upon a close examination of the complete circumstances of its presentation. I will concede that there are some scriptures which can form a sound basis for belief. In the KJV the first four words set the tone for not only the book but also for a successful understanding of our lives” “In the beginning God. . .” For the Christian we have; “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

In their brevity, both quotes appear to be a summation but they are both best understood when the adjacent verses are read. Scattered from verses 3 through 21, Christ’s words to Nicodemus synopsize the actions necessary for salvation. In them, he provided the “tools” for redemption and acceptance in the afterlife. John recorded these words in realization of the fact that Christ was speaking to the world and not just to a ruler of the Jews.

While I treasure the association I have with my fellow believers, I fully realize that in the final analysis, I will have to do it myself. In either case, completing the deck or fixing the lawn mower to finish mowing, or readying myself for the final judgment, I will have to use the tools available and do it myself. Others may lend a hand on occasion in either endeavor but in the end it is my responsibility. It’s up to me to have the right tool for the job.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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