Dry Creek’s finest and biggest pine knot pile in the yard of my friends, Mark and Kari Miller.
The following is a short sad story on how I lost my own pile.
Earthly treasures, pine knot piles, and 401 (K) accounts
All of a sudden, the February wind picked up and turned out of the south. Instantly what had been a small controlled fire in my back field became a raging monster.
The flames spread rapidly through the dead knee high grass – as fast I as I could, I ran ahead with a wet grass sack. But no one person, nor any wet sack, was going to curtail this fire.
DeDe and the boys came running out of the house. Armed with brooms, buckets, and a shovel, they ran to join me but were also driven back by the raging racing fire. All five of us knew exactly where the fire was going – right toward my pine knot pile.
When they cleared the land I now live on in the early 1970’s, the pine stumps and knots were piled in an impressive twenty-foot high pile in the corner of the field.
I inherited this lifetime supply of pine when I purchased our home and the surrounding acreage. With pride I pointed this treasure pile out to my family and friends. I could feel the envy of men as they commented on this vast and valuable pile.
However, this hot runaway fire in my back field, started by me, was approaching my pine knot pile, and was going to make more than a dent in it. As suddenly as the brush fire got to the pine pile, it was completely engulfed in flames.
If it’d been anything but my pine knot pile, it would have been enjoyable to watch … But it was my “lifetime supply” of pine literally going up in smoke as we stood and watched helplessly.
It was over in a matter of minutes. There, where fifteen minutes ago my pine knot pile had towered, was now only charred ashes and smoking chunks of wood.
I think back to my precious pine knot pile when I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 6. He reminds us that all earthly treasures someday will rust, corrode, rot, or as in my case – burn up.
Jesus told us to hoard heavenly treasures – the things that really last: eternal things. The only things I’ve seen that really last are God’s word, His love, and people’s souls. Therefore, that’s where our treasures should be.
Earthly treasures have their place, but we should never forget they are only temporary. Just like my pine knot pile, they can so quickly and unexpectedly leave us. However, the things of God are the only things that really matter – and they last forever.
Recently, I’ve thought about my long-lost pine knot pile a great deal– especially when I’ve been brave enough to read my 401 (K) retirement statement as well as our IRA balance. Like most of you reading this, our current recession/depression has knocked a whole in our savings.
However, as I look around, I’ve still got the treasures that matter: my sweet wife of thirty years, good health, a home in the country, three sons with fine families. We’ve got our faith and enough friends to make our life blessed.
As the Robert Duvall character in the fine movie, “Broken Trails” said, “It’s always wrong to measure a man’s wealth by how money he has.”
I can echo the words of Lou Gehrig at Yankee Stadium. Because of the disease that would shortly claim his life, “The Iron Horse” was forced to retire. As the huge crowd at Yankee Stadium saluted him with a long ovation, he uttered these words: “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
So pine knot piles, retirement accounts, land, and fame aren’t the measure of wealth and success. It is more true that the “things that really matter aren’t things.”
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21
A longer and earlier version of this story is found in Stories from the Creekbank (second edition) by Curt Iles.
Visit www.creekbank.net to learn more.