Continue Self Examination

Complimentary Story
March  2022

       It is awfully easy to be critical of others and do an examination of everyone else’s shortfalls, so hopefully that’s all I will say about that. 
   Step Ten of the AA Twelve Steps is “Continue to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”  For those of you who remember, over a year ago, I had very bad liver tests, with a diagnosis of extreme fatty liver disease. I needed to do a re-examination of how much food and homemade wine I was consuming on a regular basis. My liver was stockpiling fat at an alarming rate. My task was to lose weight by changing what and especially how much I ate and sugary products I drank. After a story shorter than it seems, I have lost 20 pounds and my liver tests are now normal. Praise to God!  So, is the self-exam over, for me? Not in this life.

   I was born and raised on a dairy farm. However, for 29 years of my life I made my living, primarily, by owning and operating a restaurant, daa, ya think I like to cook? The past 17 years I and my wife Terry have had a small certified organic farm. The larger farmers, we have for neighbors, call our farm, “a big garden.” There is some truth to that, at only 15 tillable acres and 141 acres of maple trees and alder brush, we are a hobby farm. I do love to garden though. Every day, all winter, we enjoy eating a variety of canned, frozen or dried products from our “big garden.” Any of you who have a garden, know the work involved. There are big, life lessons to be learned from the garden. 

   One lesson to learn: the first thing happening in the spring, is to plow under and till in the winter rye, cover crop, that should be growing wildly by May. Weeds don’t like winter rye or the organic matter left behind by it. Any plant or organic product that helps control weeds, in my garden, is on my list of “best friends.” Weeds are mean, and I don’t like them, not even the eatable ones! They owned my garden in it’s beginning.  I cover crop, rotate plantings, use mulch and dull the sickle sharp blades on my hoes fighting the takeover of weeds from spring planting until fall harvest. Weeds never give up, they want to come back, take over and rule the garden like they once did. Just leave them alone and they will completely take over. I know a man that lets them go and then uses his Weed Wacker to knock them down to ground level. I tried that, one year, in our 1000 crown asparagus patch. However, the weed roots still get most of the nutrition that should have been going to the desired plants. So, last year we worked up the soil in the asparagus patch and seeded the walkways and the rows heavily with White Dutch clover. The clover is supposed to be low growing and suppress weeds. In May we will find out how well this new war on weeds is working. 

   There are no short cuts to controlling weeds, organically. Just like there are no short cuts to continuing to do personal inventory or self-examination. Our bad habits, character flaws, our sinful nature just wants to come back and take over, if we leave it unchecked. Paul said, “I do the thing I don’t want to do and not the thing I want to do. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7:14-25).  Another, self-exam verse Paul gives is at 1 Corinthians 10:12, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”

  You, most likely, have never had my never-ending stew or home raised chicken noodle soup with my grandmother’s recipe for her special home-made dumplings. That pot can easily last 5-6 days now, IF, there are no seconds. There is a weed I don’t want to pull. You probably don’t know, but back in my old restaurant days we would do 90 pounds of pork sausage, dice 50 pounds of onions, shred 120 pounds of get the idea...every week. Plus, a lot of other products. Just the lettuce for salads was prepped in 5-gallon pails. Every Friday and Saturday night we would serve 400-500 people. We didn’t do anything small. Even the home-made dressings were in 3-to-5-gallon batches. It has been hard for me to downsize. And, after all, I was probably only 6 or 7 years old when my German grandmother started teaching me the special way of making “dumplins.” Can’t I just have one more? I like this portion control about as much as I like weeding plantain from the garden. 

   Plantain has tiny little roots and if you don’t get them all, and you can’t, within several days you have another full-sized plantain plus a whole bunch of its relatives who have moved in to take over. It’s the same with portion control, I take a 4-ounce extra portion for dinner, I get on the scale the next morning and I gained 3 pounds!  How does that happen!? The total of everything I ate didn’t weigh 3 pounds. My dietian, you know the skinny twig, looks over the top of her glasses and calmly says “no seconds.”  I don’t like her, she’s mean, like those weeds. But she has a rare physical condition, in that, the only way she can maintain optimum weight is through portion control, not physical exercise, and she has been doing that for 20 years or so. She practices what she teaches. I guess she’s not mean, she knows what she is talking about, I just don’t like weeding out my old bad habits. Like the garden that has to be maintained by regular weeding, fertilization and watering so that you can have the most attractive, healthy and productive garden. So it is with our life, in Christ. Through consistent self-examination we see our faults, admit them, practice replacing them with Godly characteristics, praying for the Holy Spirit to enable us to carry out God’s will in our life, which is to become more like Him. Then we will reflect the attractiveness of a well-maintained garden. When people see us, they will see Jesus and be attracted to know the One Who’s life we reflect and represent. We will be productive for His kingdom and ultimately, His great garden paradise. 

  I had a neighbor who told me that I had one of the best gardens he had ever seen. Yep, a couple of buttons popped off my shirt. My garden reflected the effort that goes into a well- maintained garden. Sadly, he didn’t say that my life and neighborliness reflected the character of God. He has long since moved away. 

   A new neighbor has moved next door and as we get to know one another, he learned that I needed all the brakes replaced on our car. It was going to be very expensive. He is a mechanic and offered to fix my car. All I needed to do was pay for the parts. The bill would be ¼ the cost. He said the reason he wanted to do this was because he wanted to use his gifts and talents to demonstrate God’s love to my wife and I. He and his wife have been living next door for over 3 years now, and he regularly demonstrates God’s love to us. The church they attend is about 40 miles away and is no doubt the fastest growing church in the area. I asked him why he thought their church was so popular. He kind of chuckled and with a big smile answered, “We will do anything and everything, short of sin, to demonstrate God’s love to others and the reason we have that love for them is because of the relationship we have with Jesus Christ and the love He has demonstrated to us as our Savior.” Now there is a well-maintained Christ follower, reflecting the One he follows. 

   I really believe God will be with us in the process of continuing to do self-examination and replacing our character defects with Godly characteristics. One of God’s promises is in the first chapter of Joshua. God tells us to be strong and courageous. Do not turn from the left or right of God’s Word, meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. I think we see a similar promise in Paul’s teaching in the Romans 7 context. As we lead the Spirit-filled life, we will have more and more victories over the sinful nature, but ultimately, we have been freed from the law of sin and death. Jesus paid the price and rescued us from the law. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can overcome more of the sinful nature and reflect the Spirit filled life. God is with you, trust Him, He will direct your steps as you practice, practice, practice becoming more like Him.

  Lynn Fredrick is the author of Stand Firm, a program to work for bringing about life transformation through the power of God’s Word. 
 W8756 Townline Road
Ladysmith, WI  54848

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