You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2011.

I clearly remember the first time that I heard of a “stumbling block.”  Let me give you a little background… 

I was quite young at the time and was visiting my grandparents, Josh and Louetta Pyles, on their farm in Giles County, Tennessee.  Like most farmers, Granddad and Granny worked hard all their lives.  They ran a dairy (milking twice a day, 365 days a year), raised Charolais bulls, and grew some small crops.  There was always work to be done: fences to mend, cattle to vaccinate, equipment to repair, a garden and orchard to tend, hay to be baled, etc.

I don’t know if Granny had anything that could be considered a hobby.  When she wasn’t doing farm chores, she was cooking, cleaning, canning, and sewing.  Granddad, however, enjoyed coon hunting and re-loading rifle shells in his “spare time.”   But, if there was a pastime that he was truly passionate about it was shooting groundhogs, by the dozens and the hundreds.  He was a groundhog-killing machine.  Farmers around a four-county area knew that they could call on him to help eradicate the destructive, overgrown rodents from their fields.  In 1972, his best year, he shot nearly 700.  There was never any charge; he was just happy to be of service to the community.  His preferred way of shooting them was from the cab of his truck, resting a high-powered rifle (.222, .243, .30-30, .30-06, or 8 mm) on a custom-made, padded block that fit on the half-lowered, driver’s side window.  Years of this practice led to significant hearing loss (it was like a bomb going off in the truck!), and he always hedged a little when I would ask him about the legality of shooting from the roadside.

During Sunday dinner one week, my soft-spoken grandmother said to my grandfather, “Josh, I don’t want you to go groundhog hunting this afternoon.  In fact, I want you to stop shooting groundhogs on Sunday, period.  This is the Lord’s Day, and it bothers me that you spend the afternoon hunting.  It’s a stumbling block to me, and I want you to stop.” 

I remember how utterly blown away I was when Josh Pyles, the Groundhog Slayer, said, “All right, Precious.”  To my knowledge, he never hunted on Sundays again.  Unbelievable!     

This one event shaped my concept of “stumbling blocks” for a very long time.  I could only assume that it meant, “something that you do that I don’t like, so stop it.”  And, somehow, the other person was Biblically obligated to accede to your wishes.  Cool!

It was years before my study of passages like I Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 caused me to realize that my initial understanding was extremely simplistic and way off the mark from the actual meaning and intent of those texts of Scripture.  Yet, such notions and misconceptions persist widely in the body of Christ.  I’ll leave to a future post the discussion of “Stumbling Blocks: Real and Imagined.”

Was groundhog hunting on Sunday a spiritual “stumbling block” for my grandmother?  No.  This was not some matter of deep, personal, moral conflict in which the actions of another were leading to the wounding of her conscience, the ruination of her faith, and stumbling (sin) on her part.  Granddad wasn’t leading her, against her better judgment and convictions, to personally take up arms and join him in blasting away at the little critters on Sunday.  So, no, this wasn’t really a stumbling block to her in the true, Biblical sense.

Was she within her rights as a wife to express her displeasure over something her husband was doing and ask him to stop simply because it bugged her or got on her nerves?  Of course!  Happens all the time!  It’s called marriage.

Did Granddad make the right decision in humbly agreeing to her request without arguing or insisting on what he could do as the “man of the house?”  You’d better believe he did!  It’s called love.  I would like to believe that his decision had nothing to do with the fact that the middle of the afternoon is the worst time of the day for groundhog hunting anyway. 

The week between Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day seemed like a very appropriate time for this post.

Since two of my last three posts featured pictures from the turtle/tortoise family, I thought I would complete the trifecta by re-posting a Thinking Out Loud entry from July of 2009…

Back in 1986, I had an opportunity to visit a nature preserve on the east coast of Australia near the city of Bundaberg. This stretch of protected beaches served as a favorite nesting area for sea turtles. When nesting time arrives, female sea turtles pull themselves onto the beach, safely out of the reach of crashing waves. They use their flippers to dig a sizeable hole into which they lay 150-250 eggs, then cover their clutch with a heavy, sandy blanket. After a couple of months of incubation, the young turtles tear through the membrane of their shells and struggle their way to the surface of the sand. Once on the beach, they instinctively head for the ocean. Researchers have discovered that it is not the sound of the surf or the smell of the salty spray that lures the little turtles into the sea. Rather, they have an innate drive that directs them to the distant horizon. Even at night, they can distinguish the barely visible line between the lighter sky and the darker ocean. God has given them a divinely-implanted GPS to lead them to their home.

Occasionally, a careless sea turtle will dig her nest beyond the crest of a dune. The sad result is that the hatchlings will totally ignore the roar of the ocean behind them and begin scampering toward the inland horizon, away from the protection and provisions of the life-giving water. Armed with flashlights that night on the Queensland coast, my friends and I assisted park rangers in looking for poorly placed nests. We picked up hatchlings that were headed for certain doom, carried them back to the sea-side of the dunes, gently placed them on the sand, then watched in amazement and amusement as these darling little turtles waddled their way into the waves.

God created us to be in fellowship and relationship with Him. He “set eternity in our hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) so that we might look to the Horizon beyond this world of danger, despair, and death. Yet, our view of Home is frequently obscured by the dunes of this world that place idols before our eyes and fan the flames of sinful desires within our hearts. Ignoring His will, we have sought our own, foolishly setting a course that will only bring us harm and destruction. Rather than just leaving us to the consequences of our own devices and decisions, our Father graciously and mercifully sent His Son to seek out the misdirected, the wayward, and the lost. If we allow Him, Jesus will gently turn our hearts toward Home and lovingly lead us to the river of the water of Life.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 177 other subscribers


February 2011