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I was nine years old. Four or five of us boys from the neighborhood were out riding our bikes on a summer day. We didn’t have anything special to do; we were just out. One of the nice things about growing up in a small town when I did was if your parents didn’t have any particular chores for you to do, you were given the freedom to just go be a child and explore, so that’s what we were doing. Beyond making sure we got home by dinner, all we had to do was try to stay out of any trouble we’d have to explain to adults later. Little did we know as we set out that soon we’d all be caught up in a sting operation.

At the end of the street where I lived was a field with some scrub trees and berry bushes fronting a little hill. The area looked interesting enough, so we all dropped our bikes at the fence in front of the field and made our way to the other side. After we’d walked around a bit, one of my buddies tossed a can he’d found at one of the berry bushes. That’s when our lazy summer day got a little more lively because the bees that we’d apparently disturbed saw my friend’s can as their very own personal Pearl Harbor. At this age, all I knew about bee attacks was what I’d learned from cartoons. That is, if you made bees angry, they formed a central squadron that you could see coming toward you. Then, all you had to do was run faster than the bees could fly. I’m pretty sure Yogi Bear did it a couple times. However, in our case we had no warning. One moment we were laughing and talking. The next, we were screaming and frantically running toward our bikes. Looking back, they must have been honey bees because their barbs were getting pulled out after harpooning us. I got most of my stings on one arm, and the bees were falling out of my sleeve as I pedaled home. One friend was actually stung by a bumble bee. I don’t know if it was a mercenary or just doing the right thing by supporting its local bee friends. Thankfully, none of us were allergic, and we all recovered from our bee experience fairly quickly in the days that followed, but we discovered that sometimes even if you’re not looking for trouble, trouble will find you anyway.

Right now, we’re all in the middle of one sort of trouble or another, many of them related to a central cause. There’s even argument over whether we saw it coming. But whether we did or not, it’s here. Our physical and financial health is under pressure worldwide, either directly related to covid 19 or the governmental response to it. Once again, political disputes over how to react appropriately threaten to cause irreparable damage to relationships that are already under pressure, all the way from personal to international. How do we react? How do we conduct ourselves during great times of stress? God has taught us we are to confront trouble in our lives not with our strength but with the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way we will stand firm, and not lose heart but rather exercise the fruits of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:9-10 ESV

Lord, give me courage
when it seems that I’m all out
give me answers
when I try to make my own
When I’m at my wit’s end
calm my mind
hold me safe
a branch of your vine

You are light
where there is darkness
where there’s confusion
where there is doubt
help me abide
a branch of your vine

© Joel Tipple 4/19/2020

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