Tree Dancer…One Arborist Story

tree dancerFearless and hanging from trees with the greatest of ease, the agile man dangled high from a branch of our 70-foot heritage ash tree, rigged in some form of human pulley sytem.

Feeling angst and admiration, I cupped my hands like a megaphone. “As a nurse I saw many patients in the trauma unit who fell out of trees attempting to trim them.”

“My wife says I dance in the trees.” He grinned down at me as he stabilized the unpowered chainsaw against the thigh of his saggy blue jeans. This was his second visit to finish trimming the massive sentry poised in our front yard.

“Don’t worry.” The tree dancer wiped his free hand across his blue polo shirt. “I started trimming redwoods in Northern California when I was eighteen and now I’m thirty-four.”

“I guess it’s OK because you have a harness and ropes.” I tried to convince myself.

“I won’t fall…I’ve only fallen once. My buddy had called me one evening to come trim his tree. He was in the middle of it and needed help.” My wife had pleaded, “Don’t go! We’re just sitting down to eat dinner.”

Now, he shook his head and continued the story from the heart of our ash.

“So I went over… and ended up falling twenty-five feet.” He held up a loose section of rope…“The rope snapped. I hit the roof, my neck bent and then I fell to the ground, mangling my hand. I had to go to the ER and then trauma unit for four days.” He sighed deeply. “It was my fault… I know never to use another man’s equipment.”

“I don’t really know anything about tree cutting,” I said. “What do you mean?”

“I always buy good rope,” he pushed the rope he clenched toward me. ‘This rope can hold 5000 lbs per square inch.’ He pulled the bright fuschia colored cord taut between his greasy hands and re-braced himself against the tree. ‘My friend’s equipment was some cheap rope he got at Home Depot that holds 250lbs per square inch.”

“Really? I would never have known the difference.”

“I buy rope every six months, it’s very important.” He dangled his leg over a small branch ready to pull out and cut. Other rope was around a larger branch and some went through his harness.

“Is that limb large enough to hold your weight?” The thin branch gave me the jeevies…it was hard to hold back my apprehension.

“Even though it looks like I’m sitting on this smaller limb, it’s actually only taking about twenty pounds of my weight!” He pushed his feet against the trunk. “Actually,
the heavier portions are spread by the ropes to the other larger branches.”

I followed the crisscrossing lines, not really sure how it all worked, but amazed at how he rigged it all up.

Minutes later, after the whirring sound stopped, he lowered a huge limb slowly to the ground by rope beside a chainsaw, now swinging slightly on a rope from another branch adjacent to his dangling legs. It looked like a juggling act.

“You like your work don’t you?” I yelled toward him.

“Oh, I love it!” And, I like working for my boss because he sets the price so I can just do the work. When I had my own business I lost money because I just couldn’t charge these little old people who hardly had anything… I ended up doing it free.”

“Then, when I worked for Smud it was terrible. People hated me. They would get so upset that I was coming to cut their trees because they were near the power lines.”

“You’re kidding?” I felt truly surprised.

“No, I’m serious.” I had ladies crying and men would get angry. People even threatened some SMUD workers with guns.

“Why?” I asked incredulous.

“Because people are very emotional about their trees.”

An hour later, grounded and off the tree, he sawed wood and stuffed it in his SUV while I raked around the front yard. Sammy and Benji both chewed on a couple nice bare branches they had found.

He continued to teach me how important it is to cut a tree correctly, “People can kill a tree if they cut it in the wrong spot. For instance, just cutting a branch, even a small one in the wrong way at the wrong time of year, can lead to infection and a sick tree.”

“People can kill a tree if they cut it in the wrong spot. For instance, just cutting a branch, even a small one in the wrong way at the wrong time of year, can lead to infection and a sick tree.”
Stilled by wonder for a moment, I studied the long lanky branches as the sun shone through my special tree. I felt really, really good, like I did something special for something that deserved it.

“Your tree will be happy now,” he said positively. “It will grow and fill in the gaps and balance itself out. And, it saves you a lot of money by shading your house—it really makes a difference.”

“You know, I bought this house mainly because of this tree and the trees in the backyard.” I felt sentimental recalling the difficult search to buy a home, and the joy when I first sighted leaves dangling in the breeze above the modest suburb roof coupled with a for sale sign on the front lawn.

“I know what you mean,” the tree dancer smiled.

And so, we love our trees just like Adam and Eve did in the garden. God created them for our pleasure, to enhance our life. They remind us of our beginnings, the roots of our past. They represent shelter and relief, and the steadfastness and endurance of their Creator…and ours.

And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground–trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. Genesis 2:9 

 

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The Light of Christmas

 

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“Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

What does this mean to you? I love this quote, yet without a light how does it work?

By thirteen, my parents war-zone marriage and divorce left my Mom’s emotions shattered.  I was her primary support.  Burnt out at fifteen, I journaled, “I feel like a candle that has not been lit.”

After I left my religious upbringing, I bumped into a believing neighbor and inhaled the gospels with young people who loved Jesus. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 

I read Jesus’ words and they drew me to His light, Biblical truth and insight into behavior from human feelings. “The flesh wars against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh…” Galatians 5:17.

Who doesn’t struggle with the effects of their own and others vices and destructive choices? We have all succumbed to anger or withdrawal and control instead of humility, courage and love. The battle inside wages war—daily actions, rational choices, guided by our limited selfish and torn human nature or by the divine Spirit of a loving, just, and merciful God clarified in the book of Romans.

Drawn to Jesus’ truth, His wisdom and kindness as evidenced in the gospels, as His warnings and insight to deceit and fear, I asked Him into my heart. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in…” (Revelations 3:20 NIV)

Peace settled in my mind and spirit, sleep ensued, and I experienced harmony with others closest to me. I woke daily and read my Bible like a first cup of coffee in the morning. I couldn’t start the day without it.

 “For you Lord will light my candle. The Lord my God will lighten my darkness,” a young King David sang in Psalm 18:28 (NKJV)

The music in my soul stirred. With unexpected wonder. I read these words, aware of the new song rising inside me. I met the same Wonderful and wise God to follow into forever, who loved me and everyone in my world with forgiveness, healing and hope. He pierced my darkness and continued to do so. Through the darkest nights, I have always known His light.

Candles bring comfort even in death, as we note at vigils surrounding grief.

As you curse the darkness know there is a Light. He made the stars, including one that shone over His birthplace 2000 years ago—wise men followed that star to find Him.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

 

 

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December Blues – When Single and Waiting

The yearning to build our own family is as natural as the birds gathering twigs building their nests for spring in anticipation of their brood coming.

It can feel futile in fall anticipating holidays that represent the presence of family and loved ones—if we are single and waiting to meet someone and start our own family, it can feel like it is happening again—a Christmas without the mate we have praye

December, a long time ago I journaled the difficulties of my heart. Though time has passed and I now enjoy the daily presence of my faithful mate, I still remember the dead-end dating situation at the time and how I tried to guard my heart and stay open! Looking back how I journaled it was a constant meditation of good thoughts and quips that buttressed my hope to not settle and waited for or hoped to meet and share life…and these significant family times.

“Lord, I’m so tired of men liking me for what I can give them. Prayers, spiritual support. Let this man’s intentions be revealed

Isaiah 62:12 “and you will be called sought after, the city no longer deserted”

Chuck Swindoll wrote, “the enemy will play tricks on you while you wait. “You see, it’s not worth the wait! “

Remember, God is not accidentally late. His delays are intended. Never does He forget. He definitely delays the fulfillment. He knows what He’s about.

“Be Still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him” Psalm 37:7

“There is no God beside you who acts on behalf of those who wait patiently for Him.” Isaiah 64:3

Wait to let God act on our behalf.

After a night shift at the hospital, I listened to lyrics from a song from the radio on the drive home. “Breaking my heart again, I needed to cry.” It paralleled my current situaion, “Yes, I am back in the same place again. The same song with this man.”

I had been in a vicious cycle. Making men my trust and then disappointment. Despair facing me again. Only God can be the One I lean on. And yet I had to believe there were men of integrity I could trust. God used Chuck Swindoll, who is still on Christian radio KFIA. “God doesn’t like to see us squirm. He’s waiting to fulfill those desires He put there.”

And my Each New Day devotional by Corrie ten Boom. “Keep constant guard over your heart and mind as they Rest in Christ Jesus. Worries carry responsibility that belong to God, not to you. Worry does not enable us to escape evil. It makes us unfit to cope with it when it comes. You may see all the reasons for failure, but God sees all the reasons for success. CTBoom

When Abraham was given the promise of children, he waited with Sarah.for years. He tired in the process and as customary took his wife’s maidservant to have his first child. Abraham should have told Sarah when she tired of waiting. “Wait. Let’s not walk out on our own. Let’s get on our knees and tell God how hard it is to wait. Let’s take it to God.”

The prayer with that devotion from Each New Day, hit the nail again. “Give us willingness to wait. Quiet our spirits. Grant us faith. Bring us to our knees in trust. You make all things beautiful in your time. Helps us to wait. Not try to hurry the process. Trust God more than our own understanding with a ruthless trust.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction that by (our steadfast and patient) endurance and the encouragement drawn from Scripture we might hold fast to and cherish hopeRomans 15:4

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Prepare-Enrich Conflict Resolution

             Today’s class on resolving conflict at our church really punched a pack. Hard to believe I do not remember learning these stages of conflict resolution when my husband and I attended our pre-marital counseling, Prepare-Enrich. It was refreshing to hear couples married a decade or two or three say they have revolving issues, and to see them practice some of these stages also. No doubt, we will all be able to practice these better in the weeks to come… and maybe some of you may want to try also.

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Notes from Prepare- Enrich Marriage Mentoring course 

CONFLICT- RESOLUTION

All couples have disagreements.

Studies show they are not related to marital happiness as much as how they are handled. Happy couples do not avoid disagreements, they resolve them while remaining respectful of each other, therefore strengthening their relationship. The first person sets the scenario for the other person’s response by the tone of their voice. ( if accusatory, sarcastic, derogatory)

The following stages provide an effective way to resolve conflict: Step by step.

1  Set aside a time and place. Agree to a time and place for discussion.                                                             Ie. “Can we find some time to talk about this?”

2  Define the issue/situation -be specific                                                                                 “I know you get a lot of enjoyment from watching sports, but I have felt we’re not                     connecting enough lately. I miss quality time with you.”

3  List the ways you both contribute to the problem.  This was the most difficult step for most in our class. To take the time and see how each contributes. i.e. The upset person contributes by not being open and honest, if, instead, they are seething inside…allowing thoughts like “he doesn’t even care about me.”

4  List Past Attempts (if any) to resolve the issue that were not successful.

5  Brainstorm possible solutions. Try to come up with 10 possible solutions to the situation. Do not judge or criticize any suggestions by each other. Don’t shut down brainstorming before it’s done. Write List.

6  Discuss and evaluate possible solutions. (be objective and give useful, constructive feedback)

7  Agree on one solution to try, and agree how you will work toward the solution. Sometimes it takes many attempts to find something that works and these problems repeat themselves.

8  Set up a meeting to follow up: Date , time, location. How is it working?

9  Be intentional– plan to meet again in a week or a month for follow-up.

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How to Use Time Out’s

Even with great communication, we still have conflict- because we can disagree. The point is it doesn’t have to be heated. Great communication is listening to understand. Avoid you statements, use I statements.  No you always, you never statements.  Start with affirmation. “I appreciate how you groom yourself and keep a nice appearance but I feel resentful when I have to pick up your clothes, feel I am the only one doing the laundry, etc.”

TIME-OUTs are from 20” to calm down up to a day… It takes 15 minutes for an anxiety attack to pass.

Recognize the need for time-out if : Face red. Breathing fast. Tears streaming. Fists clenched. Feel like screaming or throwing something. Afraid of partner’s intensity. Feel emotionally closed off.

Request a time-out–  for yourself. “I’m just too angry to talk right now. Please give me time to calm down and gather my thoughts”

Relax and Calm down. Deep breathing. Go for a jog or drive. Journal. Read. Pray. Don’t use the time to gather ammunition to come back and use against your partner!

Remember what’s important– identify what you’re thinking and feeling that became difficult to discuss.

Restate you are both a team. Your relationship wins when you both work toward solutions both of you feel good about!

 

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The Pearl and the Worm. Five Wisdoms When Working Faster isn’t Helping

Have you ever sped up to accomplish tasks only to find you’re even more behind? Has the inefficiency of hurry led to greater worry? One frustrated 9 am hour God used two phone calls and uncomfortable questions to convince me to stop, step out of the chaotic current, and get still before God. I grabbed my Bible, a cup of coffee and let the story of a beautiful pearl and a worm–reorder my day to reasonable.Oahu water

1) Drivers feel guilty when timetables we set up are moved. We easily give into feelings that a day is ruined by our wastefulness, bad choices, etc.

Amy Carmichael talks about a marine worm that bore a hole from the outside of a shell into the heart of what would have been a great pearl, ruining it. A ruined pearl is worthless. That hole is wrought by a single tiny worm. She explained the moment we feel a worm crawling on our shell we can get rid of it. Ask God to sweep it off the moment it is there.

In the book Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis wrote about an elderly devil’s advice to his young nephew,Wormwood, in the business of shipwrecking Christians. We can all plain forget our enemy plants lies to worm his way into our psyche. The antidote is to stop dwelling on our shortcomings, which magnify the more we continue, but to dwell on the Word of God. He would rather we live at peace with Him and the acceptance His love produces, than chide ourselves for not checking off a list of unrealistic goals. It begins with simple prayer.

 

2) Recommit the day to the Lord with a Surrender of Time. “In Your time, in Your will now God. I offer my expectation for when these goals are completed. Do what You want through a restful spirit, a spirit whole in Christ not bore with frenzy and nothing-being-good enough—because I’m already behind schedule.” In this surrender of time we can experience what God wants us to have above all, the peace of Christ.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. Colossians 3:15

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly… (Col.3:16), not the voice of Wormwood, but the voice of God.

 

3) Question what is the work God has given? What is it, really?

It’s easy to feel we’re not doing enough if we are overachievers, especially if there are times in our life we have seemingly stretched time to the 25th hour… and God has been gracious and allowed it. Now with an unrealistic picture, negativity and feeling inadequate, can pervade everything. Everyone around us is affected also. It’s the worm conjuring up the unrest of underachievement.

Paul wrote to Archipus, See to it that you complete the work you have been given (Colossians 4:17)  Would God give me more than I can handle? He knows my body aches, the child’s sick…or the dog, the paper’s due, the car light’s out. Would He give grace? Does he know me better than me? Does he love me, more than me?  Could it be possible that the work God has given to me to do today is only 2 out of the 7 things I wrote on my list the night before? Could  I go about my day a bit more unburdened without the pressure of those 5 things on that piece of paper I planned to finish.

Do we overload ourselves? (Imperfect pearl created and infinitely loved and cherished by  Creator God)  If His grace is not keeping up with these burdens—maybe it’s time to Let Go. Let go of burdens too heavy to carry. His grace is not sufficient for my goals. Who is in the driver’s seat?

As one mother of seven explained in her Letting Go moment, “We don’t have to have it altogether. It was an illusion to think we were that perfect pearl anyway,”

 

4) Give the power back to God. Acknowledge anything that happens today is because of God’s power, will and intervention—not by my abilities or strength.

Even the worm is bigger than us… without God. His ability to invade our mind with doubt, unbelief and all the self thoughts: self-will, self-centered, self-pity, self-loathing are endless and persistent. Amy Carmichael talked about the flood of God.

Isaiah 59:19  For he (God) will come like a pent up flood, that the breath of the Lord drives along.(KIV)  God’s flood sweeps the worm off; he disengages that sticky stubborn worm by His command. His power wash can blast that worm from our shell much more effective than our tedious scraping or pathetic poking in our own efforts.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:9 Paul addresses our enemy’s undoing; “Our Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” It is Christ in us now, the one greater than us, who is greater and able to overcome the worm crawling on our shell.

My mother-ship friend mused, “How horrible we start to feel about ourselves if we engage in that battle. If we tend to go, go, go with our own agenda and think it’s us (ordering our days) and then we crash… and it’s not us. We don’t have to do it in our power, like 2Corinthians 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. It’s always His power anyway, His ability to work through our inability, His grace in our weakness.”

The whole message of our Christian life is I can’t do this. Living outside of Christ  lacks life—the eternal values of living in His love and loving myself and others. Of  acting and living by faith that He is working and moving with me in completing the tasks given, and the feeling of hope, that hope does not disappoint.

 

5) Trust in the Lord and Lean not on our own Understanding

As reasonable and rational creatures we think, OK, so if I give up this time here, then there goes that time there. And if this doesn’t happen, how will that happen God?

So God reminds us He is the All-Wise God. He lives in a Higher place and sees the broad perspective that defines wisdom. His mind is not stuck, clogged with dirt or corrosion over time when we have piled up unconfessed sin and clogged our mental filter. Who is better equipped to make decisions for the day, the week… this season?

When we download our mess and confess. When we can offer Him a cleansed heart and opened Mind again as He restores us and renews us. Then we give Him the worth of His Crown, Lord of Lord, and King of our life. We are re-instated to the vital fellowship and connection to Him above the daily connections we think we must make before we can freely accept the gift of His love. We cast our cares on God. If He rearranges our week, what an adventure it will be. Corrie ten Boom says that the life of faith, is a Fantastic Adventure In Trusting Him.

We live in trust all things, even convoluted days, will work together for good in some way by His power and grace. It is a daily release of our plans. A release of our weakness. A trust His Might and love are enough to cover everything that happens in a day committed to Him. Trust all things work together for good to those who love God… and who are called according to His purposes. Romans 8:28

 

No little worm can mess with God’s pearl of great price. His mind and His Words are too strong. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Heb 4:12,13

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The Last Word – Opposites Attract and Opposites Attack

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“You always have to have the last word.” My husband says this to me, well, I won’t tell you how often.

The last word  can stem from impatience. Trying to push with words. It’s one last push.

“Let’s do it—now!” on my end. The men I dated as the one I married, seemed to always say, “later.”  Whether planning for an outing, picking up groceries or looking at a broken sprinkler, nothing seemed to happen exactly NOW.  I always liked men less driven than me.

Opposities attract. And opposites attack.

Frustration breeds conflict on both sides. Conflict is not bad. It drives us to compromise. When we do our part and acknowledge our timing is not always the best, whether early or late, we can get to the middle.

I looked at a graph of the consequence to those who do not work out conflict. One side of the graph shows isolation, shutting down and worst case scenario, suicide. The other side showed anger leading to violence leading to homicide. We all know the jokes about that side!

“You’re like every other couple,” our marriage counselor moved her hands from the right side of the table to the left. “One is a slow processor and needs to think about things, the other is a fast processor, who thinks and moves quickly.”

It’s the speaking quickly and jumping to conclusions too fast—that gets us in arguments.

Steve, the slow one is in his head adding up numbers and scenarios…and comes to decisions slow. I think out loud so even if something isn’t quite where it needs to be, I’ll tweak it while I’m thinking out loud. NOught! Steve asks, “How could That work?”  Well, my first thoughts don’t always reflect the final conclusions I’m coming to—because I’m thinking out loud. This leads him to frustration.

I have to prequalify my verbage with “I’m not coming to conclusions yet, I just want us to do something about this and think with you.”

Steve must question me, “Do you really mean you are going to sell that to get this? before he shoots down my ideas. They are ideas, words not set in cement yet…I’m brainstorming.

I’m always encouraged when I leave our counselor. We have been learning to communicate for 3 years now. I don’t feel bad about that. One woman told me it took her ten years in her marriage.

“If you were alike, you wouldn’t need each other. He brings balance to you, because you would be all over the place—he slows you down. And you give him the little push to get going—you put a little light under him.” Our counselor smiled at both of us sweetly and added. “I was really happy when my husband was late this week to an event, so it isn’t always me.”

Wives..”adorn yourselves with a precious inner self, unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (para 1 Peter 3:4)

Husbands…”be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect…so nothing will hinder your prayers.”  (I Peter 3:7)

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Don’t take the Wind out of their Sails- Communicating God’s Way

 

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Dad warned me in my single years, “You take the wind out of their sails.” Whether I asked for his advice or not—like father, like daughter. “You talk too much. You don’t always have to have the last word.”

This week I found a journal entry, Rolling, written those years. Timely in light of my recent daily prayer …for humility.

Rolling—

I’m so controlling,

I’m a ball that’s rolling

Over my man, again,

Taking the wind out of his sail.

My mouth,

A forceful gale.

God I need help…to stop myself,

I must lose

for us

to win

I don’t know what spurred this poem in those days, but we all know words have the power to build up or tear down. I’ve been working on my heart-mouth sync since I accepted Jesus Christ as Lord at 17. Then it was sarcasm and gossip. My delivery can take a twisted turn pretty quick.

Nowadays, I have a husband who picks up on the tiniest attitude, my sacred mirror. Bummer for me. I have to speak from a heart of respect and a thoughtful mind for a gracious delivery if I’m feeling at all tweaked.(impatient, judgmental, sarcastic,petty). Many times, silence is golden.

Pastor Greg Laurie gave a sermon at a harbor in Crete, Greece. Pointing to docked sailboats he explained in Ephesians 5:18 when Paul spoke of us being filled with the Spirit—it had the  meaning of these sails filled with the gusts of wind and ready for the journey.

James 3:4 says “although ships are large and driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go…”the tongue is like a little rudder that steers a great ship—

If any of you have struggled for a lifetime with mouth problems, I have found practicing spiritual disciplines really helps.

Start the day asking for humility and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we’re emptied of pride and selfish ways (impatience, judgment) we can be filled with His Spirit and gentleness—strength under control.

Jesus loves to be walking with us on this journey. He helped Peter, the impetuous apostle. He can help any of us who have the uncanny ability some will never know….to speak before thinking. Did I say that?

 “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”    Psalm 19:14

 

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“Sometimes I wonder where are the fruits of the Spirit in my life?” A friend recently expressed frustration…not feeling joy or peace or patience…fruits of the spirit.

“I know I’m feeling sorry for myself, but sometimes I just let myself go there.”

Of course I said what she knows, “the pity pot is a dead end road.”

Trouble is, it’s easy to rest and hang in that space…even when we know better.

Always remember there is always someone somewhere else in the world who would be happy to change places with you.  I read that last week…just when I began to throw myself a pity party.  Watching the news, I am daily reminded of my blessings. (that I don’t always count one-by-one)

“I am so tired it seems I don’t have time to hardly pray anymore.”

We can all get there, with good reason. Kids that demand care and nurturing day in day out. Add social or learning difficulties, mental or physical handicaps. Parents that require attention and caregiving…and their own sadness. Grieving their friends or family members dropping like leaves daily from their once thriving tree of life. Spouses dealing with demands and life transitions that drain them or dull them or tweek them.

Somehow, we have to find the time to water our souls.

Today I have to water my Dad’s pine tree.  I will leave early on the way to the gym and stop at Lowe’s for a long soaker hose. The pine tree is dropping mountains of brown needles now and I can see the poor dry branches praying to the heavens.

Unfortunately, LAST SUMMER a friend, an arborist, told me to buy a 50 foot hose and irrigate the pine for several hours every two weeks. Lay it around the base of the tree spreading it several feet apart. Cover the hose with mulch and leaves which will improve the soil.

Have I done it?  No. Until today, it hasn’t been bad enough. I felt really sad for that tree looking at it.

I think we do the same things to our souls.  Given particularly long seasons of giving and caring, dry, with children, aging parents, or trying times in marriage….sometimes we get tired of nurturing. So we don’t even nurture ourselves. We dry up and wilt on the pot. WE know it. Others see it. Our behavior displays it.

Trouble is, no one can water us, unless we do. Our arms are that handle to the watering jug just like it was once the arms of the little teapot. Remember the song we sang growing up?

“I’m a little teapot short and stout (isn’t that the truth), here is the handle here is the spout, tip me over and pour me out.”

We’re still children. We’re God’s children and we need His care.

When I am feeling dry as the summer heat, it is time to sit in the backyard early morning. Birds sing there. Shade shields the sun while the air is cool. The Psalms sing God’s loving kindness and I can be still enough to inhale trust in my Heavenly Father, like a little child again, enough to last the day.

I can inhale grace that brings compassion for those around me who need me to be there for them today.

And I can exhale criticism that leads to complaint and discouragement and disease in me.

No, I, we don’t need to curl up and turn brown like an unwatered rose bush. So I prayed with my friend this morning.

We watered ourselves with the fountain God provides daily. His grace like a fountain, His grace sufficient for the day. We will continue to live and thrive even in the drought.

Just because it’s a dry spell doesn’t mean our plants have to wilt and brown and curl up. I just finished watering the roses. I’ve filled a large cup with ice, water, coffee and mocha mix. I’ve got my Bible and devotions, my journal and my pen. My guitar and my chords. It’s my turn.

Jeremiah 17:7   But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

Psalm 87:7  As they make music they will sing, All my fountains are in You.

Psalm 1:2,3   Blessed is the man whose…delight is in the Law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruits in season and whose leaf does not wither.

 

 

 

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How does Your Garden Grow?

crabgrass plot

That nasty grass is back? Wow.

Yesterday I hunkered in the little patch across from the sliding glass door where our rose tree fell in the dirt midweek. Steve propped it up with a stake. Once again, I stood in the plot where I’d spent hours alone removing stones and crabgrass. It felt sweet to have a husband beside me now to tend our garden.

Spring a decade past I wrote my single’s book to the daily mantra, weeding and writing, as I tackled the backyard of my newly acquired fixer-upper. When someone suggested, “You have a garden with every person in your life,” I became more thoughtful while I weeded. How was I doing maintaining the garden with various friends and family?

I first practiced weeding sessions when I dated. We would share observations, disgruntled and negative emotions evident through body language—words and actions. Hidden grudges, like crabgrass roots, strangled our potential for growth. Once exposed and removed, seeds could be sown. Loving thoughts, kind words and acts could once again, nourish our heart.

Desire, time and commitment are necessary to create a fragrant garden.

Is there a child we are at odds with? An estranged sibling? Difficult parent or spouse? Every relationship requires maintenance. Critical thoughts as weeds, will be resistant. God counsels us through His Word to forgive misunderstandings or insults, wounds caused from ill-spoken words or apathetic responses.

Forgiveness yanks the weeds out immediately. If we clip the top and leave the root, though unseen, it will prevent our garden from flourishing.

 People are fragile. Handle with care. Hearts tended by affirmations and prayers will respond. We must move beyond the doubt of negative memories to the hope of belief for new tomorrows so we plant new experiences and rebuild damaged relationships. Cleared soil once dominated by weeds can blossom.

As we process our feelings and rehearse our thoughts with prayer, we become more skilled at speaking the truth with love. Words framed with respect and gentleness diffuse anger. Christ will teach us humility if we ask Him. He will show us the beam in our own eye before we confront the beam in someone else’s. When  stubs of pride are uncovered, the stranglehold of judgment, like stubborn deep roots—release. When judgment dies, mercy lives—mercy that triumphs over judgement. (James 2:13 KJV)

Gardening in the rain is so messy, I wait for better weather conditions.

Likewise, I am learning to observe the sunshine or dampness on my husband’s face. It’s like God saying When. Wait means more time to pray we are each receptive to the other. To be diplomatic goes beyond an agreement to discuss an issue. It is the intention to understand the other’s viewpoint, as well as to be heard. I love to weed after a good rain. When the ground is soft, the weeds come out so easy.

How do we live without grace? Not only offering grace to someone else but to ourselves? Each situation is different, even if it’s the same person. New information is needed. If we avoid conflict resolution or have not pursued building a relationship garden for awhile—our tools will be rusty.

When we pull unused tools out of the shed, we must trust God to begin.

He has equipped us with two patient ears to listen, one mouth to say less and a heart that beats to love as God designed. God, our Master Gardener. He knows how to prune anything and how to grow every flower and fragrance we can imagine—or can’t.

Pursue (think plant!)  righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness of heart.

  1 Timothy 6:11 

copyright 2016  Dee Aspin

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Forgive Again? Yes, it is Good Friday

Bay bridge day

 

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”(Matthew 18:21, 22 NIV)

Peter had been traveling with Jesus and eleven disciples—so many personalities, habits and moods to contend with daily. Some are flexible and spontaneous, above board and honest, like him…or so he thinks.

Others are quiet, thoughtful, and slow to move and speak. They question everything and seem resistant, even critical of anything Peter says.  Peter is learning from the Master, but he’s struggling with the brothers, especially one. And this time Peter runs to Jesus, tired of forgiving over and over. The guy just doesn’t care about Peter’s feelings.

Downton Abby, a famous PBS series, just played episode seven, where Mary, the older sister brings pain to her younger sister, Edith, once again. She humiliates her in front of her family and betrothed catalyzing a break-up.

Edith lashes out and calls Mary on her horrible behavior. Hurt, she flees to another city. The rift between the sisters is strong. Yes, Mary is remorseful but sees no way to fix the trouble she has caused her younger sibling. She is not a people pleaser. Nor does she like to admit fault. It is easier to wait, and in time….

In a surprising turn of events to Mary’s benefit, Edith forgives Mary—unasked. She is not ruled by pride. Always the humble one, she closes the breech by coming to Mary.  Longing to bridge the gap, Edith declares the importance of keeping their bond, despite their innate differences.  Their upbringing and family history, their parents and Granny, their deceased sister and children—no one else could know the nuances of their family, the way they both understood.

Isn’t it interesting? It seems in life, the people hardest to forgive are the people closest to us. A woman married fifty years once stood in a church foyer and stated how she made it—“breathe forgiveness.”

Sounds a lot like seventy times seven.

Jesus knew the value of forgiveness and our human feelings.

            “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27 NIV)

A blessing for a curse?  It sounds paradoxical. Jesus knows forgiveness is a decision and love is active. He knows, as we do, we all need His forgiveness for our wrongs and we rely on His love and mercy to cover our mistakes. He paid a price for us to be forgiven, and expects us to be merciful to others in turn—to sacrifice pride and judgment, even pain—and choose to forgive. It is never easy. There are depths to pain and forgiveness like the depth of the ocean, the deeper the pain, the darker the water. But forgiveness releases the victim as well, from misery and hate.

Matthew 5:45 reveals when we forgive we are behaving like children of our Father in Heaven. We bring God honor through forgiveness. We release others from guilt.

Yes, sometimes the people closest to us, spouses, siblings, children, parents—can seem like the enemies Jesus said to love. Their words pierce deeper because they are the closest to our heart. They are the ones we have decided to trust with our thoughts and emotions. We want to believe they are always safe people to live with and love us as we love them.

“My daughter is breaking my heart,” a tearful nurse erupted as she arrived at work. Her fourteen-year-old had said goodbye with the words, “I hate you.”

It’s hard to love and feel loved when actions and words flip day to day, or week to week. Love and hate, blessings and curses. The wheel spins inside the brain and words fly off at alarming rates sometimes. There is an enemy of our soul who loves to surprise us with a hit, when we least expect it. Ambushed, we can feel like we are battling something unseen. We are.

Mary, was in pain and inner conflict when she callously opened Edith to humiliation. Those closest to us, in their pain, can cause ours. “Wounded people, wound people.” And those with deeper wounds are often not aware what they are doing. They are minions of emotion and confusion, creating crazy circles of crisis for themselves and others.

Enemies may come from horrible bosses or backstabbing, burden laying peers. I have prayed Jesus’ words to cope with an unsavory work environment. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35, 36 NIV)

Attempting to do my job clear-headed without having to constantly address the virus of emotions running in the background, spurred by comments and actions unrelated to our job positions, I prayed to love them.

Daily I had to shake the bird nest of bitterness trying to camp in my mind. “You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep him from building a nest.”

Just this morning a friend told me her work has improved. “I decided to forgive my boss, carte blanche. I just don’t let it get to me anymore.”

There is power in forgiveness, not just for us, but for those around us. We are not expecting them to be something they cannot be. Because we are praying, we are not as easily disappointed or frustrated by their behavior.

Our unseen enemy, Satan, is out to divide—to bring pain and build walls with pride and animosity. Hatred is the opposite of love. If we give into hatred we cannot do the good Jesus asks of us. We cannot walk worthy of our calling as believers or help those we love, because we are not able to use the greatest power given to us by God—the power of love.

Love is stronger than hate. God’s way is stronger than the way of the world. He can empower us through the Holy Spirit to forgive, because we are attached to the Vine. The Vine is Jesus who hung on a tree and died for our sins, while forgiving those who drove the nails into his hands on the cross.

Today He is alive, and the power to love pours through His veins. Apart from Him we can do nothing. But with Him, we can choose to forgive—simply by asking Jesus, the One who knows how best to help us.

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