• Jim Farrell

We All Need A Staff

You can understand my title statement in several ways. If you oversee people in a work situation, those people may be referred to as your “staff”—people whom you supervise, whose labor you coordinate for the good of the organization who employs you and these people. Hopefully their skills and gifts are individually and collectively employed to enable the whole organization to function well and accomplish its purpose.

A “staff” may also be a rod or scepter, and understood as a symbol of authority and/or discipline. An individual holding or employing this “staff” may be one who rules, who has authority to lead, make decisions, apply justice. In Psalm 23 at verse 4, the Hebrew word “shevet” means rod. A shepherd used it to count or protect the sheep. For a king it was a symbol of power or rule.

Looking down into Outlaw Canyon from the rim

A “staff” may also be “a long stick carried in the hand for support in walking.” Think about this one for a bit. I recently had the joy (and challenge) of fishing with my friend Chris in Outlaw Canyon outside of Kaycee Wyoming. Descending nearly 1,000 feet to the bottom of the canyon, one finds the Middle Fork of the Powder River, nicely populated by trout. Outlaw Canyon is thought to be the place in the 1890’s where Butch Cassidy and his gang found refuge, hiding out in what is called Outlaw Cave at the bottom of the canyon. (I wonder if he caught trout while he was there?)

Chris headed down the trail

Outlaw Canyon is probably one of the most barren, rough, rugged, and rocky areas I have ever seen. It is certainly one of the most difficult trails I’ve ever hiked, and Chris and I did it twice in order to fish in the river at the bottom. Was it difficult? Oh my, yes! Was it worth it? Oh my, YES! Not only were there trout in the river, but at the bottom of the canyon the landscape changed to a beautiful, emerald landscape of river, trees, and other wild plants. (We even experienced a thunderstorm while at the bottom of the canyon, and wild wind all night while sleeping in a tent at the top on the rim of the canyon.)

Our campsite at the top of the Canyon

Chris adding a fly to his line

I could not have made the hike down and back without my staff! I wore a weighty fishing vest, had my staff in my right hand, and fishing rod in the left. My staff steadied me. My staff supported me. Yes, it comforted me, gave me confidence to negotiate steep and narrow ways along the trail. It assisted me in lowering my weight going down, and hoisting my weight going back up. I even hacked a few weeds and branches with it that blocked my way. My staff also supported me while wading and fishing in the stream. Yes, it was in the way sometimes as it hung from my side—I had to occasionally move it to avoid getting entangled. But it was the first thing I reached for to safely wade over the rocks and through the water.

My net hangs on my left, my staff on the right

You may know where I’m going with this, and if you do, good for you! Praise the Lord! We all need a staff! Life is not meant to be lived on our own, by ourselves. “I’ve got this,” may be a popular phrase of boastful confidence, but it is also telling of a foolish arrogance. We all need a staff, a support system, others to come alongside to comfort, folks we lean on and lean into when the trails of life go down and up. Chris provided a literal hand of support to me now and then as we hiked the path in and out of the canyon. We were mutually blessed by our conversations. How are you supported by someone or give support when you have opportunity?

The Lord God is the Ultimate Staff! “Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your ROD and STAFF—they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 CSB) God's rule, discipline, protection, yes even punishment—they mean to comfort me. There is care and protection, comfort and discipline, steadiness and confidence, and yes, some hacking away of interfering, weedy-like things, to be known in fellowship with the Lord God.

By faith, lean on and into the Lord. He is to be counted upon, along, and through the roads (and canyons) of life. Thanks be to God!

… and the journey continues,

Pastor Jim

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