238. thuffering thistle thorn thermon


[Purple haired Thistlus puncturus Americanus, stinking punk for short]

I was gardening barehanded recently in the back yard, out beyond my usual plucking zone of weeds. The smorgasbord of undesirable greens had gotten ahead of my good intentions. Rabbits, squirrels and groundhogs ignored these leafy dishes. I figure these weeds must taste as bad as they look. Mostly it’s the thistles that are repulsive with their fine needley leaves. They appear soft, but whoa Martha Stewart, they have enough tensile strength to penetrate thick fingers and palms and embed their unwanted syringey selves into one’s flesh. Unlike a bee’s stinger, there is no plunger on the other side; the bare, ignorant gardening hand does all the pushing. All the thinking or lack thereof belongs on the ungloved human side. [ It appears that my anti-melodramatic prescription needs a refill.  I need to call the Wal Mart automated pharmacy line immediately or bad things will happen.]

So last Sunday I was standing in church singing a praise song and “ouch!”, wouldn’t you know it? One of those tiny, almost invisible, eyelash thin thistle thorns in my left thumb was pressed just enough to set off a nerve signal of pain to my distracted brain. Dang! it sent a tiny but nasty bite up my arm, stinging, like tender flesh caught in the zipper signal to my brain. If I had been spirit-minded, I was suddenly flesh-focused on that nasty little zinger in my thumb. I explored the source, pushing around my thumb to find the exact puncture point.  “Douhoughouh”, I ejaculated, which is the phonetic spelling of Mandarin Chinese for “That’s it, Jerry Jeff Jesus!”

Throughout the next few songs and well into the sermon, I explored the surface of my thumb with the index finger and thumb of my right hand. “Douhoughouh” again. I connected this pain signal with the concept of sin as I mentally dipped into the figurative  pool of prickly pain and that other pool of spiritual protection. I don’t recall if the pastor referred to Ephesians 6:10, but I will. “Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities.” Well, at that second I was holding a  tiny though bloodless skirmish against my flesh and nervous system. I wanted that little demon irritant out of my body. As I sought to get rid of the annoying penetration, I pondered if this was a mini-sermon on sin.

[Elvis and Priscilla in a fairy garden, waiting for Frank Sinatra.]

After all I had done the stupid thing– barehanded weed plucking. I should have used protection. I was impatient, impulsive and did things my way. That’s always a good way to get bad results. I applied all the careless pressure and ignored the lessons of my past. “In my own will”… that’s the mantra of the sin-filled man. Whether Sinatra or Elvis sings, “I did it my way”, it comes out the same. Pain and irritation if you are lucky. Of course it could get worse with allergic reactions or infection later on. As I know full well, there is a crop of poison ivy loitering along my back fence line. That would have been unnerving if I’d grabbed onto some of that. My Broken Blog Farmers, sin and weeds are out there. You don’t have to look too hard to find a pile of either. But God gives us “gloves” to handle such things.

As I was analyzing this analogy, I pinched the puncture point and got lucky or blessed since I was in God’s house. I pulled the offending zinger out of my thumb. I couldn’t believe it at first, so I pressed the puncture again. A sense of soreness had replaced the stinging sharp prick that had been whining at my brain from that area code. The nearly microscopic thorn was too fine for my eyes to see in the dim church light. I just knew by feel that it was gone. Amen.

Now about those holy gloves, what would they be?  Let’s start with discernment. Not every prickly thing is a sin just as not every prickly plant is a thistle.  Take pineapples for example. No, I mean for real. Pick one up. Ahh, not so fast, right? You could saw your arm off trying to harvest one of those juicy wonders. So you need some careful discernment, friends.

You need protection. Ephesians 6:10 tells us to put on God’s armor in preparation for the darts and verbal volleys of the enemy. Put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the shoes of peace in God’s gospel, the shield of faith, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. But you might say, “I’m just going out to pull a few weeds, man. Who needs all that?”  You do. I do. We all do. It’s a battlefield out there, especially when it appears calm and lovely. Do you put on your seatbelt and keep your airbag activated? Do you keep your car inspected and your brakes working?  Well, sure you do. Why? For your protection, my friend. Accidents and stupid human tricks are not hard to find. And God, do they hurt.
And after all of this preparation, what to do?  Stand, pray, be alert. Don’t become complacent and/or smug in your protection. That’s when the camel gets its nose under the tent. The next thing you know, the camel is ordering off the menu and smoking at the table over coffee. Keep your camels tied firmly outside your tents, my blognomads. For they are unclean beasts. As Moses told his brother Aaron, “Get that filthy beast out of here.” This incident did not make the final cut of the KJV Bible, but I’m sure it happened a time or two.   Anyway, weeds are sin; sin is bad; camels are dirty beasts. Amen.

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