When I was a young man, we had a hillside with hundreds of honey locust trees the kind with the long, thick thorns. Whenever I was in trouble or wanted to earn money, my parents would send me out to clear them out. I have very vivid memories of that hillside. It is where, after a branch hit me in the hand, I first remember cursing at my mother and her cursing me right back saying that she hoped I would have triplet daughters. As you may know, she lives with us and I have one wonderful daughter and three boys. Sometimes I remind her of those days with the hillside when I ask her to do chores like put branches in the burn pile. When I would work to clear that old hillside, she would not let me cut corners like chopping the thorn bushes at the ground—trying to make a quick buck. “No!” she said, “Roots and all!”
Now, to get out all those roots that traveled all throughout that wonderful Pennsylvania clay, you had to get your hands dirty—clearing with your fingers those stones the pick-axe couldn’t in order to expose the root and chop it off. I got $2.50 for regular trees and $5.00 for big ones. Big ones sometimes took two or three days to dig out. I had a lot of blisters which, over time, turned in to calloused hands and scars which remind me of that hillside every time I lift or dig. Rocking a stump back and forth until hearing the crack of the root which went straight down into the earth gave me a sense of accomplishment. Now, at 40 years-old, I enjoy that same feeling as I come alongside our young workers as we lift and move heavy items. It is then I realize that God had me on that hillside and, as reflected in the verses above, is why these young men are with me now on a different hillside.
David, a man after God’s own heart, with all his ups and downs, spoke only of bitterness with his last breaths. Despite all his successes, fortune, and with beautiful, young women to keep him company, his mind was on who did him wrong. Most of these young men and women have someone closer than a heckler who has done them wrong. Yet, because of your help and support, we have offered them another summer of opportunity to show them how to dig up that root of bitterness and avoid it becoming wrath. Because, with God’s equipping and your help, James 1:20-22 is what we’re trying to accomplish in our town.
“Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:20-22