Friday, June 19, 2009

OnFire #193 One Shovel at a Time

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #193 One Shovel at a Time

Hi Folks:

Jan and Taka are away with the international students in Quebec City so I’ve been working and trying to take care of the boys at the same time. Its not always an easy task but we’ve had some good time together barbequing.

Something else we’ve done together is to move a pile of crushed rock. Earlier we moved a 20 foot round flower bed and levelled the ground. Then Wednesday I arranged for 13 tonnes of crushed rock to be delivered to our neighbour’s yard. Its not that we’re generous, but the truck wouldn’t fit under our carport, so our neighbour was gracious and allowed us to dump it in his gravel driveway. The fact that it was the same mix helped.

At about supper the load arrived and at first it didn’t look like much. It didn’t even fill the truck and I secretly wondered if I had underestimated my requirements. But then as we filled the first wheel barrows, I realized what we were in for. We could hardly tell we had removed anything at all.

Last night we moved about 65 loads, which put us a little over half done. The pile we thought was so small had somehow grown and what remained still looked like a lot. I guessed we had moved about 7 tonnes, or a little over 2 tonnes each.

Wanting to be a good neighbour, I pushed the boys tonight (Thursday) so that we could get rid of the pile in our neighbours driveway. He told me it was OK there for a while, but I don’t want to take advantage of his generosity, so we went back at it, finishing at about 9pm. What a relief to finish. The driveway extension is done and the pile is out of our neighbour’s yard.

When we started this project last fall, I knew it would be a big job, but it turned out to be tougher than I thought. In total we moved 7 or 8 yards of top soil and 9 yards of crushed rock. Sometimes I wondered if I was too ambitious in planning and that we might have a muddy hole in our yard forever.

But as I look back on it, it all happened one shovel full at a time. Sometimes the boys helped, and sometimes I was on my own. But one by one, the dirt was scooped into a wheel barrow. We moved 25 tonnes one shovel at a time.

As I filled my wheel barrow last night, it occurred to me that there are a lot of situations in life like that pile of crushed rock. They seem big at the time, maybe even too much to handle. But when we break them down into small bits and steps, we find that we can finish even big things if we just keep at it.

James writes, “We consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (5:11*)

The end of that verse is the key to perseverance. If we try to do it on our own, perseverance is impossible. But with the strength that comes from God’s compassion and mercy, we can keep on. One day at a time. One step at a time. One shovel at a time.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published June 18, 2009. *Bible references taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

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