Yesterday, we ended a lovely family weekend with a walk to The Museum of Natural History. Hidden behind the museum is a small water fountain park. Our grandson excitedly ran through the soft green grass towards the water and right over a swarm of yellow jackets. Surprisingly he didn’t get stung. But like all New Yorkers, I expected at minimum a warning sign to be posted about the danger.

Penny’s yellow jacket experience turned out quite differently. Her daughter’s dog went all crazy dog on her…you know that enthusiastic running around that terriers, labs, and other breeds do when they are excited to be able to stretch their legs? Tearing the yard up, running around in wider circles. Well, Aubrey included a couple of laps that incorporated squeezing herself into a 14” space under the shed. Lord only knows what lives under there.

So Penny did what any woman would do, unless of course you live in my neighborhood: find something within reach to plug up the hole. “I turned over and rolled a sizable log from a nearby woodpile to the space to prevent Aubrey and her cousin dog from crawling under the shed and rolling around in snakes, skunk scent, and what ever is in the darkness under there.

In disrupting the woodpile I happened to upset an unknown nest of yellow jaIMG_0427ckets. Before I heard the buzzing I felt the sting on my forehead simultaneously with the “zzzz” of the wings. I turned and screamed for my grandson to run for the house. Once there I explained “Nanny got stung by a bee”.

Two hours later. The sting on my forehead reminds me I crossed an invisible boundary. Sometimes, when I cross a boundary and get stung it’s a good reminder to stay away from that place. I found my heart praying that the ‘stings of life’ when I break God’s commands, would remind me to run.

I know the yellow jacket was defending his territory. However, it’s “MY BACKYARD”. I am already plotting on how I can take back my yard and make it safe for my grandchildren (and me). It may mean all out war and loss. There is a sizable woodpile I may need to hire someone to come remove and that will cost cash since it is dangerous now. It also will take strategy. I have an arsenal of insecticide and know the time to do this is at dusk”.

The analogy for Penny was deep and so are her questions:

  • What sting have you recently endured that reminded you of a boundary you innocently crossed?
  • Is this territory that requires wisdom to stay away from; or is this territory that by prayer and careful arming yourself with the Word, you need to go in and move those pests out of your yard?
  • What do you have in your arsenal for the battle?

At parakaleo, we often refer to building an arsenal of truth and beauty. We know the power of the sacraments, of God’s word, of prayer but we need reminders, unique to each of us. A mat similar to a rug yet the size of a coaster reminds me of the paralyzed man whose friends lowered through the roof to Jesus. I keep one of those mats on my desk reminding me to contact gospel friends when I am paralyzed by fear. Or when I’m messing with something I shouldn’t be and I need help to get out. Another item in my arsenal is walking. When life stings me, a walk quiets my soul like nothing else. Scripture, comfort or the need for repentance most comes to mind when I’m walking.

As we head into a new school and ministry year, we know the stings of life will come. Consider reinforcing your arsenal with how the truth and beauty of the gospel can be accessed when you need it the most.

Shari Thomas and Penny Freeman