Why I Won’t Stay in the Woods


Idaho profile

Before long, Lord willing, Nancy and I will return to our beloved refuge in Idaho. I make no bones about the fact that living in Florida leaves me cold. Or should I say hot. I’m no flat lander; I way prefer rugged peaks. So why stay put when paradise beckons?

Easy. I know the answer. But lately I was reminded of it in a more eloquent way than usual. It came in the form of one of the poems in the last neighborhood book club.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

“But I have promises to keep.” Those words constrain me. They will not let me go.

Jesus said in Matt,. 5:37, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Psalm 15:4 warns, “A righteous man swears to his own hurt and doesn’t change.” Paul declares in 1 Cor. 6:20, “You are not your own; you are bought with a price.” A man is known by his integrity demonstrated in kept commitments.

As much as I love the Pacific Northwest, all my obligations lie on the East Coast. Aging parents, surviving son, grandchildren – including newborn twins, and a flock to shepherd. Lovely, dark, and deep though the woods may be out west, God’s call back east trumps them all.

Does the prospect of evening snowy woods tempt you to ditch your responsibilities? Don’t even think about it. Stop by the occasional forest for sure. Take in the beauty. Enjoy the respite. But keep your promises and finish the miles to go before you sleep and hear words you will never regret from Matt. 25:23: “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Two Most Important Lessons

I love the interviews each month near the end of every Tabletalk magazine.

This month features a conversation with apologist Ravi Zacharias, president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, an organization with offices in Canada, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates,and the United States. He is internationally known as a Christian apologist and has addressed thousands of people worldwide, including students and professors from numerous colleges and universities. Dr. Zacharias is the host of a weekly radio program, Let My People Think, and serves as senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University. Among his many books are Can Man Live Without God?, Deliver Us from Evil, Walking From East to West, and Why Jesus?: Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality.

When someone asks a person with that kind of track record in fruitfulness to name the two most important lessons he has learned in a lifetime of ministry, I get interested real fast in the answer.

Here’s what he said:

The hardest lessons I’ve learned are, one, how important it is to have the right people around you, and two, to learn to face criticism and opposition (oftentimes from those who should be more understanding) without allowing it to sidetrack you from your closeness to the Lord and His call. When you’re doing very little, nobody will bother you. But when you are making an impact, the Enemy of our souls finds ready emissaries to take aim at you. It goes with the calling. Keep close to the Lord and don’t let the critics dent your calling that a gracious and sovereign God has shaped.

Good counsel on both counts. The rest of the article is worth reading as well. You can access it here.