HED: Beware what you want; beware whom you blame

Free sermon illustration #1:

When Grandma was overwhelmed with the demands of five kids, a husband and the complexities of feeding and clothing them all, she'd occasionally call Aunt Chaney to help.

Aunt Chaney was a fascinating creature - short and almost as dark as the washpot she used to do laundry over an open fire in the back yard. Like most people of that era and region, she could afford few luxuries, but the one she consistently bought was snuff. She especially enjoyed it when she was doing laundry in the big cast iron pot.

At age 5, Daddy was highly impressed by the ritualistic way Aunt Chaney tapped the bottle, dipped the powdery stuff out and poured it into her outstretched lip. It seemed she enjoyed her snuff out of proportion with any other enjoyment he'd ever seen.

Naturally wanting to know what he was missing, Daddy pleaded with Aunt Chaney to let him try a dip of snuff. As adults are wont to do when faced by a whiny child, she eventually gave in and allowed a taste.

At nearly 84 years old, Daddy still remembers the earth's new gyrations that began within seconds. First it tilted forward and backward, then side to side, then both at the same time, then all the above and spinning. He had to lie down and hold on to the grass to keep from falling off the planet.

It's a lesson we seem to have to learn over and over: Be careful what you wish for: You might get it.

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Free sermon illustration #2:

It's OK to smell a little on the golf course, on the tennis court or in the garden, but nobody's supposed to stink in church.

Sunday morning, we hadn't been in worship service very long before I noticed someone with a distinctly sour smell. It was a warm day, granted, and the large crowd meant the air conditioners were working overtime to try to keep it comfortable.

But someone smelled as though he'd already put in a full morning working in the yard and came to church in his sweaty clothes.

After church, our fellowship group had a picnic lunch together, and occasionally, when the breeze was right, I caught more whiffs of the offensive odor. I tried to narrow down who might be reeking thus but never could quite pinpoint whom to sit upwind from.

The epiphany came when the smell followed me home. I undressed to take a nap, and the aroma from my T-shirt practically gagged me.

Suspecting foul play, I sniffed the other such undershirts in my dresser drawer, and they confirmed that when I'd last washed them, I'd left them in the washer most of a day, giving them time to sour. After going through the dryer, the smell had been minimized, but it had only taken putting one on to renew the stench.

Very akin to removing the beam from one's own eye before helping your neighbor with the speck in his eye, the application is that when something stinks, check yourself first.

(Bonus lesson: Everyone's good for something. Some of us are just really good bad examples.)

Errol Castens is the Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter. Contact him at 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com

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