I got stumped recently.

That happens a lot as a writer, but I mean this one literally: I was mowing the lawn when I hit a stump.

A mower blade is an unstoppable force against grass and people’s limbs, but a stump is much more an immoveable object.  A horrible, long sound declared the middle blade broken.

In my rush to get everything done, I didn’t take a moment to remind myself where to be careful of that stump. I misremembered by about five feet and added a lot of work to a list that was already bigger than the time available.

“If I hurry,” I thought, “maybe I can swap the blade and still keep mowing.”

However, rushing to solve the new problem only made it worse.  In focusing on the first thing I saw, I might as well have been playing Whack-a-Mole (which one does, sometimes, while mowing).  The mower blade was spinning loosely, so I removed it. The spindle that holds the blade was obviously ruined, so I went inside to find the part online.

A delay of several days should’ve cured me of rushing, but it only seemed to make me feel more hurried. Without thinking ahead, I removed the bolts holding the spindle housing – snapping every corroded one off at the head. Four more little stumps.

Not being able to reuse those special bolts was another delay, but my rush to take the bolts out had also caused a bigger problem: I couldn’t even get the part out. The housing was detached but not free; it couldn’t come out because I hadn’t thought to take the pulley off the top first. Instead of an inverted mushroom that I could pull out the bottom of the mower, I had an hourglass loosely trapped in a hole too small for either end to pass through.

If I hadn’t already removed the blade and housing, I could have leveraged the blade to hold the spindle still and removed the pulley in about 30 seconds.

There was nowhere to put an opposing wrench, so I couldn’t hold the spindle still to remove the nut. I couldn’t reconnect the housing for better grip because its bolts were all broken. I couldn’t put it in my vise because it was still trapped in the mower deck. I even took my vise off the bench and tried clamping the spindle with it, but it couldn’t get enough grip.

Stumped again.

Fortunately, my friend Carl was there to help. He owns a mowing service and had kindly squeezed us into his schedule, because the lawn was growing bold without its mechanical adversary to keep it in line. Carl said he and his assistant would take a look while I wrote the check. By the time I came back outside, their two heads, four hands, and many years of experience had the pulley off and the housing freed from the mower deck.

*   *   *

It’s easy to get so rushed that we stop thinking about what we’re doing and the likely outcomes of our actions.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough time to finish everything we have to do (let alone enough to add in things we want to do), so we rush and wind up giving ourselves more to do.

That’s not God’s plan, though. God told us to keep a day of rest (1) and reminded us that He made it for us and not us for it (2). God told us to be still and know that He is God (3), not to rush through things as if we have to do everything ourselves (4) and solve everything today (5). God told us to put Him first and let other things be (5).

After all, sometimes a stump is just a reminder of what’s really important (6).


  1. “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8)
  2. “Then he [Jesus] said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27)
  3. “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’” (Psalm 46:10)
  4. “Trust the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)
  5. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:33-34)
  6. “The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules” (Daniel 4:26)

And Carl, thanks for demonstrating Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.”

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