Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by Rev. John H. Farmer

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Cobwebs

Perhaps those of you who’ve been loyal readers since back in the 1990s will remember part of an earlier story about bug wires. Reflections upon Farmer yesteryears are in actual fact what drives this weekly column.

In the early 1980s living in west Tennessee and trying to maintain a home on the Corrotoman River was more than a bit stressful. After driving some 12 hours on one particularly eventful home-return was when in early spring we unlocked the cabin, threw open the doors and realized we’d had a winter guest. A wee squirrel had dropped into the chimney, pushing away the spring-loaded flu cover, thus sealing his demise. Before he passed, he ate holes in cupboard doors, scratched window shades to tatters, munched upon some ancient drapes and digested several pieces of upholstery.

Alas his dehydrated frame lay sprawled behind my favorite easy chair. What a mess. That season was painting time; superior janitorial effort would not suffice.

For some reason a tribe of spiders, ugh, those pesky spider webs… they were everywhere. Indeed they, like the uninvited messy squirrel that had also barged in, had marked their travels all across the place. Our granddaughter Laura (now Austin’s mom) and her dad, in his youth, called them bug wires. They blotch the corners of our rooms, dangle beneath our furniture. Cobwebs, alias bug wires mysteriously appear. They suspend from the middle of the ceiling. They cascade boldly about light fixtures. I haven’t the slightest idea why they are called cobwebs, unless it is a carryover from when folks burned corncobs for heat and smoke wafted into the room was quickly identified by a spider’s web.

Beyond such superficial matters lay an even deeper problem: no one had de-pollinated the Corrotoman River view porch. Dust from the previous fall’s leaf harvest, winter spent and early spring pollen had been pasted onto every surface upon everything on the porch. Even the tiny openings in the screen wire were occluded. A crust of abandonment awaited more than a hosing down; yes, a thorough scrubbing a necessity.

Before our family bought that guest cottage we’d bunked with my late parents, Robert Luther Farmer and Grandma Rosie, in Millenbeck, when home. When a wee lad, Lee’s granddaddy had arranged a corner of his shop into a boy’s room. He’d also stock it with sufficient boy-food to stave off bouts of evening hunger. Lee had wood stove heat for chilly weather and an oscillating fan when heat threatened.

Rising early 1980s mornings, Dad walked out to the garage to check on the sleeping prince (now Pastor of Coan Baptist Church). Dad would fetch a stick by his cottage back porch and thrust it forward as he made way over the paths, brushing away the webs left by night visitors perhaps also spying upon that lad. We joked about it; Dad appeared like the Pope walking with his shepherd’s staff. Usually one trip about the place with his stick and paths were safe to traffic. I have so many fond memories about how Dad and Lee were enamored each of the other.

Back to the bug wires: how can we get those cobwebs out of their exalted positions? “Oh, just a broom, a vacuum, a cloth and some elbow grease,” you say. That is not so serious or so difficult. Did you ever hear of anyone tearing a house down to get rid of cobwebs? I think not. That would be a silly overreaction, for a house is of much more value and service than such a sacrifice, for a mere cobweb.

Cobwebs remind me of some things which are happening about us today. Sometimes we see cobwebs in the church, not only the annoying dark network in corners and hanging from ceilings, but cobwebs of opinions, prejudices, motives. They distress us. In fact, some feel that their presence ruins the church. It darkens Christianity.

Church cobwebs must be removed before unity and peace of mind can reappear. We should recognize some human opinions as cobwebs and not confuse them with matters of faith, where scriptures speak. We could be confused, though. We must not tear down the church to get rid of such cobwebs. Let them just be webs and not a part of the divine structure. There is an old Bible declaration, which separates opinions from truth—“Thus saith the Lord.”

A historic religious painting depicts the mission attitude of some church. A spider’s web has closed the money slit of a mission box in the front hall. Hmm?

Thinking people will find religious webs of opinion and will not be satisfied with everything in the church. But, if Christ is there and we try to make his will supreme, church can weather many storms and protect many souls.

My bride Hazel brought to my attention that our Irvington Road gazebo needed seasonal sprucing up. A chap stopped in a few days ago; for a fee, he would de-web and de-mold the place. Yesterday he showed up and shined up the place ship-shape and pocketed his recompense.

As I walked about this morning, with coffee in-hand, I was amused at how many shimmering fresh spider webs clung all about. God had beautifully laced them with the early dew.


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