Words of Wellness

June 02, 2011 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner

"Sharpening Our Saws"

    I have always enjoyed driving a car with a manual transmission because I like to feel the shifting of the gears as the car changes speeds.  As we round the corner on the beginning of summer, I sense that most everyone I talk to is slowing down, taking a collective deep breath, and shifting into a slower gear.  Summer is a natural time for recreation, a natural time for us to literally think about taking time to renew and “re-create” our selves.  


     A story comes to mind that illustrates how important it is to take time for renewal.    The story is from long ago and involves two lumberjacks who are near the end of a long day during which they have been cutting down large trees since just after sunup, using an old fashioned two-person hand saw with one of them on each end pushing and pulling back and forth.  As the day comes to a close, a passerby happens upon the two lumberjacks and pauses to watch them work their craft.  The passerby looks around and sees dozens of large trees that have been felled just that day, but at the same time notices that the lumberjacks are making absolutely no progress on the last tree of the day.  They are half way through the tree and no matter how hard they work, they cannot make it through this last tree.  They finally call it quits and begin to strike up a conversation with the passerby.  They point proudly to all the trees that they had cut that day, but then explain that the last several trees took them twice as long to cut and that the last tree was impossible for them to get through.  They were perplexed as to why this was, but figured they probably just were worn out from all the effort they had exerted, even though they had taken several rest breaks.    It was just then that the passerby asked them a key question, “I'm just curious, how many times during the day did you stop to sharpen the saw?”  


     Summer is a great time for us all to take time to sharpen our saws.  Take a moment right now to think about what helps you sharpen your saw.  And as you do this, think about it from a holistic perspective.  What helps you sharpen your soul? ..... your heart?.....your mind?.....and  your body?    The answer to these questions will be different for each of us, but each of us knows what sharpens--and what dulls--our soul/heart/mind/body.  Proactive wellness involves knowing what choices and habits we can make to keep us sharp and then following through on the commitment to do those things.  


     Please notice the importance difference between rest and “sharpening the saw.”  Making time for “down time” and rest is certainly important, but it is not the same as sharpening the saw.    I enjoy resting on the couch and watching a good TV show or an hour of a good ball game, but when I want to sharpen my saw I'll go for an hour walk or run, or I'll read an inspiring book, or get together with some close friends for some great conversation.  In the lumberjack story remember that they took several rest breaks, but what they forgot to do was make time to sharpen the saw.


     So have some fun thinking about what you might do this summer to re-create, renew and sharpen your soul, or your marriage, or your physical wellness, or an important friendship.  And after you think about it, be sure to do it!  All this talk about lumberjacks has just reminded me that something I love to do, and something I find very re-creative for my heart/soul/body is to chop wood.  So this weekend, I'm going to go to the garage, find my long handled axe and chop some wood, and then I'm going to enjoy the fruits of my labor with a nice camp fire.  I think I'll remember to sharpen the axe before I start.  

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