The farm road has a steep hill. This makes it difficult to get in and out when it snows. But what the heck! We didn’t have anywhere to go anyway. And the markets in the US were closed for Presidents’ Day.
And so it was, we put another log on the fire…and looked out on the falling snow like a 10-year-old watching his school burn down. What a delight! We had nowhere to go…and no way to get there.
Maryland farm in winter
Him alone shall you serve
We are in Lent.
If you don’t follow the church calendar, this is the season between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It commemorates the time Jesus spent fasting in the desert.
According to the accounts given to us in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Satan tempted Jesus three times.
First, he invited Jesus to turn stones into bread to relieve his hunger.
Then, Satan urged Jesus to put his God to the test by jumping off the pinnacle of a temple; angels were supposed to save Jesus so he wouldn’t ‘dash his foot against a rock.’
Finally, Satan told Jesus that if he worshipped him rather than God, he would be given all the kingdoms of the world.
‘All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me,’ said the devil.
That always seemed like a pretty good offer to us; we would have hit the bid button. But not Jesus.
‘Get away, Satan!’ he shot back. ‘It is written: “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”’
Turn off your iPhone
We have heard this story many times. It comes up about this time of year, as priests and preachers try to make sense of the Lenten season.
They urge us to turn away from vulgarity and mundanity and focus on a purer, simpler relationship with God.
‘I know a lot of people who are giving up social media for Lent,’ explained our young parish priest on Sunday.
‘The social media is a form of temptation…a distraction from what is important in life.’
‘I didn’t give it up because I think it is useful,’ was my reply. ‘But I’ve stopped using it so much. The other day, I decided not to look at it at all. So I went around town…I went to the mall…and I was shocked…
‘Instead of looking at my little messages, I looked at the faces of the people I passed. And I can report to you that there are other human beings on this planet! Real people. Whose faces tell a real story. I mean, there’s a reality out there far more real and more important than what you see on your iPhone.’
After church, a cousin remarked, ‘Amen to that. I mean about turning away from social media. A big waste of time. When you and I were young, we went outside. We swung on vines in the summer. If it snowed, we put on coats and gloves and went sledding. When the river froze, we went ice skating.
‘Now, nobody ever goes ice skating on the river. It’s too dangerous. I don’t see any kids sledding either. They’re inside. They’re looking at their cellphones…or whatever.
‘They don’t know how to do anything. Even making a fire is a major challenge. I had a new kid over at the shop. I asked him to make a fire in the stove. He put some wood in and tried to light it. He didn’t know he needed kindling. He just had never done it.
‘I sometimes ask questions to see if they know anything about the area they live in…you know…I’ll ask them to identify a tree…or ask when they put out their crab pots…or whether they got a deer yet this year. They don’t know anything. It’s sad.’
Tempted by the Devil
Sunday was also St. Valentine’s Day. Your editor took his valentine to a restaurant in Annapolis, overlooking the harbor.
It was full of couples, like us, enjoying the evening and generally taking a break from the rigors of Lenten fasts.
At one table, a couple in their 50s held hands and looked into each other’s eyes. Both dark haired. Both plump. Each looked down at a telephone. Minutes went by. Neither looked to the right nor to the left…nor straight ahead…but down at the little electronic screen.
Maybe they were texting each other. Maybe they were on call at the local hospital, checking to see if there were any accident victims to dissect. Maybe they were re-reading Janet Yellen’s remarks…checking their stocks…and making a few leveraged trades on the Tokyo exchange.
‘Get away, Satan!’ we wanted to yell…
For Markets and Money, Australia
From the Archives…
By Vern Gowdie | Feb 10, 2016