[*The following is by Allen Elston. He is a retired country preacher that led a congregation on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation for 30-plus years. He is also a friend and mentor, and I really like his rural/country wisdom, and way of viewing things.]
Recently, just before sun-up, Juanita came running into our outside room all excited: “Did you hear that? Come to the bedroom and listen!” Then I heard the machine-gun staccato chatter on our tin roof that would have awakened the dead, followed by another similar sound answering from the other end of the house. I slipped outside and around the corner just in time to see the whole drama reenacted. Two cock flickers (woodpeckers) were staking out their territory, and without a big tree for miles around to echo their reverberating challenge of territory, they were taking what they could find and using it to get their message across.
The next morning was even better. The winner was on the dome cover of our stove pipe with an encore, followed by a few bars played on the ridge cap of the barn; then with an undulating dive to an old truck cab, he let out a squawking call and hammered out the hallelujah chorus. But the message remained the same: “I don’t have a big dead tree, so I will use whatever I have to get the message across!”
Using what we have available, where we are, is the essence of giant killers and little boy’s lunches. God has gifted us with certain spiritual abilities that make each one of us unique. He has placed us where circumstances blend with ability, and then with His power permitted to work in us, He accomplishes His work. This surprises us sometimes, but it should not. He has told us that He is at “work within us both to will and to do His good pleasure.”
We frustrate the will of God and lose direction when we start comparing and competing with others. It may be subtle, unmentioned pressure to be as successful as the spot-lighted people and churches at our conventions. Encouragement may be their motivation, but often it has an adverse effect on us with less enviable records: good news becomes bad news to me. And yet, as Mark Twain said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” I’ve had to deal with comparisons as a motivation throughout my years of ministry, every time I wrote a monthly report. In my mind I would say, “I could do that if I had all the help they have, or all the financial support.” When I needed to have asked, “Have I been sensitive to what the Lord is trying to do around me and through me, or have I given excuses about my circumstances and failed to do what was possible, even with what I had?” Oh, what a place for discouragement to stand!
Surely, if an innovative woodpecker can do it, so can I.
(Allen Elston, at 90-plus years old, at play and work on his spread in Central Oregon.)