Dry…Watering our Soul in a Seasonal Drought

dry

“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.

 

 

 

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

Knights of the Light, a Star Wars devotional

shield
Knights of the Light

The Jedi knights in the Star Wars films  are brave guardians of the Universe destined by blood lines, they train from youth at the Jedi Academy through the power of the Force to defeat the tyranny of the Dark Side.

Recently while my husband and I watched the series, spiritual parallels surfaced.

In the New Testament Jesus states, “I Am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness…” (John 8:12)

Who is the Prince of Darkness? Satan. Deft at mental warfare, he throws fiery darts of doubt, fear and unbelief to keep us from completing God’s purposes. He intends to stamp out the Light of God’s presence, diminish God’s goodness and benevolence to man and steal the peace and health God gives His people.

Targets of the Dark Side

The Emperor taunts Luke Skywalker to react emotionally when he attempts to do what is right. If Luke reacts in rage, fear or pride, victory is aborted. In the same way Christians daily gird our minds to overcome the Accuser who lurks at every turn. Not until the End of the Age will we be free from Satan’s strategies to sideline us from accomplishing God’s goals.

We are Satan’s targets. He is like a “roaring lion who prowls” (I Peter 5:8) seeking to devour us. We call upon God to warn us internally, by the Spirit’s nudge, to avoid traps and temptations the enemy uses to weaken us.

How the Spirit Leads

Paul, out martyred leader of the faith, aware of his own tendency toward pride taught young believers, “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10)  “In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord.” (I Peter 3:15)

When we decide to follow Jesus, we experience the force of His love and power of His words. Only then, will we obey what He says instead of what we feel. We trust Him more than ourselves.

When we walk in the Spirit, God may lead us in ways we can’t understand. The Jedi closed their eyes, shook off fear and doubt and let the Force lead them. We must shut off our barrage of thoughts. Stop the anticipation and internal conversation and ask God to lead us, and help us to hear the voice of His Spirit. Often His principles and ways may not sync with our human reason or the timing of those around us.

Those closest to us, even our leaders, can crumble with fear under duress. All can drift from the truth found in the pages of the Book, from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) We all face dark principalities that seek to undermine humanity and destroy God’s Kingdom. But each of us are equipped with divine spiritual armor.

Saber Lights and Teamwork

Jedi’s pursued the discipline, focus, and skillset to handle their saber lights—amazing laser-like swords which deftly destroy creatures of any composition. The Believer’s sword is the Word of God. To grow strong in their faith and deft with their sword, they must desire to know the Word as a baby craves milk. (1 Peter 2:2)

Unity, teamwork and trust within the Jedi Council is imperative in decision making and a successful mission. Suspicion causes hesitation and can undermine a timely strategy. Guided by the will of God to serve Him and His purposes, we will care for one another and refuse unhealthy competition and pride.

Maturity helps us to share our victories and exalt our Commander. Our motives are transparent, our actions reveal integrity.

Obedience to God’s command to wait or stay, rather than move out of His will provides peace and safety when pricked by darts of restlessness. The discipline of restraint produces composure in anger, reason in conflict, and effort over ease. It creates the character necessary to persevere through crisis and challenge.

  Shield and Helmet

Wear the shield of faith. When we accept His wisdom, and act and speak accordingly, we retain dignity. If others are given assignments we desire, fiery darts of jealousy or self-pity stop when we raise our shield of faith. When we deflect those poisonous darts—the enemy is disabled, unable to sabotage our trust in God and loyalty towards each other with lies, the way the Emperor poisoned Vader toward the Jedi Council.

“Now faith is being certain of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Similar to Jedi, each of us are open to attack through our mind. The helmet of salvation safeguards our identity when we are assaulted by thoughts of inadequacy. We belong to the One who has the power. “In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.” (Psalm 89:7 NLT)

We must keep a strong mind when any voice assails our faith. When we are surrounded by unfamiliar people in new territories, we center our spirit by acknowledging the presence of our Master and positioning ourselves to listen.

Time is short—our eyes must rest on the Light of the World, His voice and instruction. Sharpen our sword of truth to forge our destiny as it once did for His disciples in centuries past.

“Go then, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold I am with you ‘all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion) to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).” Matthew 28:19,20  Everyday Life Bible

.                                                                              © Dee Aspin

 



 

Failing an Interview and Gaining Perspective

Today my friend asked us to pray for her daughter, a new college grad who has a panel interview upcoming for her first job.

A memory triggered of me as a twenty year old student who stood at the top floor of the university library. The best vantage point to overlook the treetops and see beyond the grounds of the campus surroundings where I wanted to obtain a degree.

A paper dangled from my hands, my second rejection letter in two years. I had applied the second time to our California State school, hoping for acceptance to the nursing program. This time, I had all points for completed classes but my interview points were lower. One point from the cutoff, to be exact. The struggle was knowing the previous year I had received those extra interview points. And I felt better about it this year!

Thoughts barraged me.

Should I keep waiting and apply again next year? Why couldn’t I score better at my interview this year as last? I would have gotten in… one point away?

I questioned God.

Couldn’t you cause one of the interviewers to subjectively give me 7 instead of a 6?

What is the wisdom now to my last resort, of accepting the invitation to the JC nursing program for an AA?  For the same time commitment to either program, yet two years of study at junior college and I will graduate with an AA, instead of a BA?

Disappointment. Dismay. Discouragement. Eventually, I pulled out the Bible I had begun to use three years before, when I accepted Jesus at seventeen. My life manual. Where God guided me and counseled me. Where I found courage hope and strength.

“Help me Lord to feel better about this.” I felt so heavy.

Opening to Psalms 75:2 , I read;  You say, I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly. When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. Selah.

On verse 5, the words jumped from the page. I felt deeply God was speaking directly to me through His Word.

No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges. He brings one down, he exalts another.

I reread and pondered the Scripture. I had given God my life and asked Him to guide my path. He had heard – and He answered. No, to this place for me. If He wanted me in this program, it would have happened.

He did not… It was someone else’s spot to fill. The JC was the best place for me to learn and obtain my degree. My place in the program was already there waiting, and the people I would be involved with for the next two years. His reason and comfort lifted the weight of doubt.

I left the library that day and wondered if I might someday understand why I didn’t get in, but accepted the decision as sovereign. I now felt ready to pursue the path and course God had laid out for me at the JC.

Two years later I graduated with my AA, passed boards and moved to other cities and traveled, eventually returning to my hometown years later.

Then, I pursued another course of study at that same university for a different BA program that was terribly impacted. Many students complained waiting semesters for the class they needed. The people who did not already have a BA had first choice. I breezed through.

Now when I returned to that library floor I smiled. God helped a young college student grasp the message of His Word and the way He can speak through Scripture very personal and very real.

The perspective I gained years before, how He alone is The Judge behind any human judge or court, brought an understanding to my heart and spirit,  beyond what my human eyes could see.

I would return to this passage in the years to come, in seeking acceptance quicker of His will…not only for myself but for those I love and rub shoulders with. After all, there is no end to opportunities afforded to all of us to step into new territory at any time of our life, and be at peace with whatever the outcome…knowing, God is in control.

He is the blessed controller of all things

 

Framing the Picture with Patience

I am quick to toot the horn at the left turn signal, to my husband’s chagrin, if the person in front of me doesn’t step on their gas pedal around three seconds into green. So I read again recently, The fruit of the Spirit is Patience. (Galatians 5:23)

A fruit of the Spirit? A virtue from God? How many times have any of us had to pray for patience because we have run out? Some people seem to have more than others, but I have noticed it is definitely not in me to be patient too long. Anything longer than 3—3 seconds, 3 days, 3 months… and the three of us have had it… me, myself and I.

God gets that, and so He sprinkles throughout His Word these pinpricking verses as, “The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8)  God pricked my conscience with that one once, before I  picked up the phone to call a friend—ripe to complain so they would prod their family member who was behind on a project. Did the verse work? Yes. I stopped myself and prayed for the person instead. In God’s time, the project completed without my help or ill feelings.

Patience is a bitter plan but it bears sweet fruit. There are rewards to patience. Recently, I watched a couple of young athletes impress their viewers as they championed their sport in playoffs.

Patrick Reed was 4th back at the 17th hole in January’s PGA Hyundai Tournament in Maui. “He’s just plodding along patient and steady,” the announcers mentioned as an aside to the other top three contenders at that point on the course. The time came and Reed tied for 1st with Jimmy Walker and plodded on into overtime. He won.

“I tried to stay patient” he said when asked how he felt through course and what he did to get to champion spot.

Later that night during the NCAA championships. the announcer stated the Ohio States sophomore quarterback had to take over the last 3 games of the season after the starting quarterback was injured during playoffs. He had given a remarkable performance and their team won, his talent shining through. How was his game critiqued by announcers?

“He displays patience—rare in a young quarterback. Seasoned vets learn that. You have to be patient enough to wait for the pockets of opportunity to appear as the game goes on. Wait for the receiver to appear that will give you a possiblilty that didn’t exist a second before. Patience makes the difference in a quarterback leading a team to victory.”

No matter what the goal before us the presence of patience is necessary for completion, whether in sports, work or in our personal lives. We must establish our hearts with patience (James 5:8) and continue to rejoice in hope staying patient in tribulation, (Romans 12:12). In other words keep a good positive attitude while we plod along, like the golfer, step by step, or the quarterback, play by play.

We must be patient to wait for God to move in the heart of a spouse, child or friend for goals we are hoping they succeed in. We give grace to ourselves to falter and learn from our mistakes as we learn and grow in becoming more mature and diplomatic individuals. We must be ready to respond with the deeper fruit of patience when opportunities arise to reach personal or relational goals

Patient perseverance reasons not to throw in the towel. Not to give up—drowning in doubt or apathy from ourselves, others or difficult situations. We must speak intelligently to ourselves and not let disappointment turn into discouragement. Instead, let disappoint keep us in the game, change our strategy and polish our performance. What tools can we use? What truth will prevail if we persevere and overcome being battered by impatience?Emotional and mental sobriety are gifts that are given by the Spirit of God as we trust in His ability to work in and through us, others and changing winds.

We want to know the outcomes of life. Of relationships. Of challenges. What will happen?We must be patient and trust God, and as James 1 says, “count it all joy when you encounter various trials….and let patience have its perfect work.

Patience is the frame around the picture. It is the finishing touch to times in life when no one, even ourselves, knows the whole picture and how it will turn out. We are not expected to know the outcomes in life. But we are expected to be patient and use the tools God has given us to move forward day by day responsibly and with trust.

The God who gives patience knows when its time to frame the picture.

 

Wings of Hope

  One morning  I visited the boys lockdown unit at Juvenile Hall and stepped on a folded paper. Curious, I picked it up—I could only imagine what it might contain. To my delight I stared at two penciled sketches of birds hovering in the air. How appropriate and beautiful. A young delinquent dreamt of winged creatures and drew them thoughtfully, now stuck behind cement walls.

Wings. Maybe he will never look at wings the same again.

I was mesmerized by the beautiful wings so viciously separated from Malificent in the recent Disney movie. Displayed in a glass barred case, secured and chained to prevent their use—all seemed wrong. Once restored and united to Malificent—surging  with power and expression and purpose—all seemed right again.

During wait for our nephew Patrick’s lungs, over a year ago, my husband and I found shells joined together at Laguna Beach. The shape of the shells resembled wings—even, lungs. Shells washed ashore as a gift from the sea, became a symbol of hope  to us from our Creator. Lungs on Wings became the prayer expression of thegift of lungs we knew could only come from heaven through the great exchange of life. Other times at other shores accompanied by prayers, we would collect more gifts from the sea and wait expectantly.

“What wings are to a bird, prayer is to our soul,” Corrie Ten Boom said. Prayer brings wings to our faith, to soar above our circumstances. The prayers crisscrossing from earth to heaven since my nephew needed a bilateral lung transplant as a result of his congenital disease of cystic fibrosis—echoed from thousands of people around the world. God sent Lungs on Wings and in His divine providence, granted Patrick the freedom to breathe, the gift of life—only two weeks ago.

Two days after his miraculous surgery of Monday, July 7th (which happened to be the very day of his true love, Nicole’s birthday) I drove past Daly City enroute to Stanford. A lone gull, wings outstretched in calm peace, glided on an invisible current above me. As I scanned the Bay cities from my vantage point, the nose of a plane pointed down, down toward a San Francisco airport runway. I focused on the dominant wings, that would land that heavy plane at it’s journeys end.

Wings.   I will never look at wings the same again.

Wings that soar above the daily traffic of life. Wings buoyed by wind, created by God and man who is made in His image and intellect.   To transport, to move beyond the immediate—the terrestrial…into the the realms of the celestial sky.

Wings are freedom and strength   Created in love. Intelligent design.   Wings mean purpose, provision and peace.   Power and Hope. Wings represent God’s heavenly existence, His presence on earth.

Are you feeling grounded? Stuck? Hopeless? Take a moment to be still today. “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 admonishes. Cease striving is the Hebrew translation. Look up. Pray. Ask God to renew your hope—a simple prayer that works in the deeps of our soul. Miracles never cease.

Jesus lives. Healing, leading, loving, comforting. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless.” Psalm 108:12

I will say to the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress. My God. In Him I will trust… Surely He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge.” Psalm 91:2-3

A Song , A Psalm for the Weary Soul

 

desert storm

“I made it through that difficult time by praying and putting on praise music,” a friend recently shared when asked how she walked through a time of depression and angst.

I myself have found the Word of God and music to move beyond reason and my limited understanding to provide water to a dry soul.

How many times when our hearts are weary or low do we put on music that soothes our hearts?

In the book of Job, 9:27, the man afflicted with the loss of his children, home, health and business said, “I will leave off my heaviness and comfort myself.”In Isaiah 61:3 the great prophet wrote, “God consoles those who mourn by giving them a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.” When we reach for the earpiece or headphone or cd…it is a step toward serenity.

King David, warrior, King,writer, shepherd, worshipper of God wrote over 3000 Psalms—many reflecting troubled times. From the age of twenty-something, he cried out to God sharing his souls anguish and embittered mind,  only to consistently end his songs with comforting thoughts. A will to hope and express faith in a Mighty God beyond what his feelings dictated. A trust God would contend with enemies that assailed him relentlessly. The upward gaze was modeled byMoses too, the oldest author of the psalms who wrote Psalm 90 !

The Psalms, also called the Psalterium “ A Collection of Songs” to be used with Musical instruments, are located in the middle of the Bible. They were written by various men of God, but we can experience our own peace in the twenty-first century by reading them, singing them to musical instruments or by stringing them together –pulling out the verses that mean most to our particular situation and writing them out.

Recently I found a medley of Psalms I puzzled together in my late twenties after returning from overseas as a  traveling missionary–completely on empty. The job market had changed, I needed to adjust to new surroundings, friends, church ill with some bug that lasted a couple months. Unsure what my new direction was … the psalms helped express what I needed to say. Here is what I came up with and as timeless as music is…still comforts today.

“When I am afraid I will trust in you. In God whose Word I praise. In God I trust. I will not be afraid for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until this disaster has passed. I said, “oh that I had the wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert. I would hurry to my place of shelter far from the tempest and storm. But I call to God and the Lord hears me. He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged before me. I give vows to you O God, for you have delivered my soul from death and my feet from stumbling that I may walk before you in the light of life. Cast your cares upon the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.

 Your love O Lord reaches to the heavens.

Your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains.

Your justice a great deep.

O Lord you preserve both man and beast.  How priceless is your unfailing love?

 Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. You will cover us with your feathers and

Under your wings we will find refuge. Your faithfulness will be my shield and rampart. He who dwells in the secret place of the most High will rest in the Shadow of the Almighty. The Lord our God in the midst of us is mighty. He will save

He will rejoice over us with joy. He will rest in His love, He will joy over us with singing” (Zeph 3:17 last verse)

If you are weary and wondering and praying…try going through the psalms and finding relief through prayer. God hears you and loves you.

Japanese Garden SF

How to Weed Hearts and Grow a Garden for Two

 

Japanese Garden SF

Yesterday I weeded the little patch across from the sliding glass door where our budding rose tree dove toward the dirt midweek. Steve propped it up with a stake again and I yanked at crabgrass ½ inch round and 6 inches under—that nasty grass is back? Wow. I’d spent hours removing stones and crabgrass many springs ago.

 

Now, it felt right to have my  husband working it too—two tending their garden together.  Spring a decade past “weeding and writing” filled my days in the midst of writing my book and acquiring a fixer upper.

 

Gardening invadedmy thoughts after hearing “You have a garden with every person in your life.”  How was I doing maintaining the garden with various friends and family? I hated weeding which was a chore growing up.

 

Pondering this concept, I first practiced “weeding sessions” when I was dating.  We would share observations, disgruntles and negative emotions that were hiding dormant (unseen) by the other. Of course, many times we knew something was up because although hidden by silence, nonverbals would creep through like crabgrass roots strangling any beneficial growth. I knew once exposed and removed, seeds could be sown, beautiful thoughts and good acts and deeds to nourish the soil of our heart and create a fragrant garden together. It required care and commitment.

 

Every plot of land, every relationship or garden between two people needs maintenance. Is there a child we are at odds with? An estranged sibling? Difficult parent or spouse? Critical thoughts, like weeds must be chucked. God’s counsel, His Word, encourages us to forgive as Christ forgave us insults, being misunderstood, harshness, apathy. Failures, mistakes, and wounds from ill-spoken words or none at all.

 

People are fragile. Handle with care, a saying from my teens, reminds me of flowers. Hearts must be fertilized and tended, seeded by affirming thoughts and prayers resulting in spoken affirmations and validations. Making plans and creating good memories replants the ground of our heart with fragrant blooms where once weeds stood dominant. We must get past the past to plan and create thriving gardens, joyful flowers.

 

As we rehearse prayerfully and practice speaking the truth in love, we become more skilled. When we measure our words with respect and intentionally speak in a gentle tone, anger defuses. When we allow Christ to teach us humility, God’s ways, to practice understanding—we look at the beam in our own eye before mentioning the beam in someone else’s. The rubble and weeds of pride break free from our hearts. When judgement dies, mercy lives, mercy that triumphs over judgement.

 

I never garden in the rain. Nowadays I am learning to observe the sunshine or dampness on my husband’s face—like noting the weather condition in his life. It’s like God saying when. Wait. Not now, means more time to pray for softness for both of us. Ground that is ready. Diplomacy means we agree to meet… and weed. Without agreement stubborn weeds resist. Timing is everything. I love to weed after a good rain- the weeds come out with half the effort.

 

How do we live without grace? Not only being gracious with someone else but with ourselves. Each situation is different even if it’s the same issue whether with the same person or someone else. If we have avoided resolving conflict from fear of how-to, if we haven’t pursued building a relationship or garden with someone for awhile—our tools will be rusty. It starts with asking God for help and courage to start.

We are equipped with all we need—two ears to listen patiently, one mouth to say less over more and a heart that beats to love as God designed. We must let go of the outcome before we start, but not let go of an attitude of  faith, hope and love. It is impossible to plan a conversation or control it. We must trust  our Master Gardener to help us get in and start when he says now. 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 

 

 

 

 

Japanese Garden SF

Shame, a Spiritual Battle

 

When God breaks

the Silence of Shame (haunting actions, thoughts and words hiding in our heads)

There is no End

To  GAIN

No End to AIM

only     An END to PAIN.

Humility and Shame can’t live together.

Humility shares what shame hides…from God, from man, from us.

When we receive, embrace and squeeze

the Gifts of Forgiveness,

Acceptance and Unconditional Love from our Creator…

Something breaks inside

Chains

that bind,

And wind us up tight

Into silence—begin

to slip

and slide.

Motivation returns,

Dreams,Plans, exploration…

life re-surfaced, renewed.

Once the barriers of self loathing vanish

so go

Cocoons and other dark things…

Love and Acceptance brings

Hope with Wings—

 

Shame seems to be one of the most useless, disabling emotions. It taunts “you are made of bad stuff” and there’s nothing that can be done about that.  It neglects the great gift of forgiveness and salvation.

It does not teach, “you are doing bad things and you can stop those actions and replace them with good ones.” It does not grace, “You used to act destructive toward others, but that is not your m.o. anymore.” It is the voice whether in ourselves or coming from the enemy of our souls that takes guilt and twists it all around inside of us, as one friend said so well. It is the voice that jeers, “you can never change what you will always be” and drops you off at the recycle bin.

 The invisible cloak of shame is worn daily by people of all ages and life callings.

Recently I sat across from a good friend, a really loving Christian woman. She shook her head, “I feel so much shame from my past.” She looked sad and I felt sad for her. How many of us can struggle with shame? Need to break free of the “bad” branding? Is the act of forgiving ourselves  and receiving God’s love and mercy long overdue?

Our accuser would love to pin us on a wall and leave us there, stuck with this label so we cannot walk or move about as loved and loving people of dignity and worth.

“I should be ashamed of myself!” a businessman spouted, “for not making a deadline.” Cringe. Yes, learn from the mistake, then let it go and time yourself better next time. That label can act like a weight around your neck and drag your head to downcast position for tomorrow—your new day!  

Last year I sat across from my husband at the kitchen table one morning. We had been going to counseling and I felt particularly ashamed of my eruptive temper that led to mistrust. Newlywed bliss had turned to daily banter. We prayed for courage and faith to overcome the doubt and despair in this season of crisis. We continued to work with God on changing our ways, but I needed to say something aloud to my husband. And say it with a conviction God inspired. It was the beginning of a turning point.

“I won’t stay in shame. I may have done a bad thing, but I’m not a bad person.

I forgive myself and God forgives me.”

“I have to build trust and work on forgiveness.”

We listened to each other and agreed as the sunshine beamed over our coffee. God heard our talk and our prayers. It was a new day and the beginning of a new way through our struggles.

Scriptures and thoughts to help you shine on the shame:

“If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1;9

If God forgives us, why can’t we?  If Jesus died for our sins so we can have forgiveness, and we don’t receive it, we are saying, “What you did on the cross isn’t good enough for me Jesus.”

Why would Jesus die for me and my sins and freedom?

Because we are His treasured possession and He loves us. (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)

God began declaring His love for His people generations ago when He provided escape via the Exodus of His people from slavery in Egypt to freedom.

God shows and clearly proves His love for us by the fact Christ, our Savior died for us (Romans 5:8) when we didn’t even love Him or care). “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus died on the cross to set us free from sin and shame. He said He came a light into this world, so whoever believes, cleaves, trusts and relies on Him—will not continue to live in darkness— but have the freedom of forgiveness and light of life to live under. No more darkness, shame and hiding and no more pining away in remorse and regret, dark shadows of the past. No more feeling like a walnut shriveled up inside its shell, but rather a branch that is laden with life and fruit!

 “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not obtained mercy, but now you have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10)

Confess. Receive. Let Go. Live. Jesus our Redeemer said, the truth sets us free…He did not come to condemn…but to save. Now that’s good news any time of the day.

 

HANDLEBARS …Asking God for Help to Try Again

                                 

This morning I rounded the corner of a new neighborhood walking the dogs. A little girl wearing a pink bike helmet walked a small pink bicycle.

 

Her Dad balanced his cycle pedaling inches at a time.

Oh, learning to ride a bicycle?

“Yep, she just had an accident. She’s got to get back up on the horse.”

Hanging her head, she glanced up at me and then focused back down at the pavement. She wasn’t positioning herself to ride again. She walked beside her bicycle pushing it as if it were a pink metal pony.

Haven’t we all been there done that?

Falls hurt. Who wants to get up and back on the horse that just kicked us off?

It takes courage to overcome fears and past defeats and to go for what we want. It doesn’t matter if it’s seconds later or years later, perseverance and self-coaxing is necessary to create a new outcome, to forge a new possibility. But where do we get the courage when we are afraid or weary? The same place those before us have gone for help. To the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

In Psalm 42:5 the discouraged psalmist talks to his soul, “Put your hope in God, I shall yet praise Him my help and my God.” God could help him and give him strength to do the next thing next. He praised God for His power, stronger than the sweeping white rapids. Hundreds of years earlier, Samuel, the prophet cried to God for the Israelites victory from enemies. God thundered with a great voice during the battle. Samuel honored God with a stone memorial and called it Ebenezer (stone of help), saying “thus far the Lord has helped us.” (I Sam 7:12)

We need help to face work the next day after an error or oversight the day before. It shakes our confidence. Or to send another resume or prepare for another interview when the phone call inviting us aboard never materialized last time—or the time before. Will we be rejected? Or to re-enter the ring of tedious legal paperwork or court costs to battle unfairness and inequity—seems an unbeatable foe. We ask God for help.

We must decide to approach a new relationship if our last one failed—or to mend one that is torn when we are weary. We face feeling unlovable or unable to love.

But on the other hand we can find love and be loved. We can find a job and have provision. We can value our lives and what is ours and defend ourselves with God’s faithful help.

Back to choices. Are we circling like a wheel? Couldn’t we just walk the bike and grasp the bars and feel the brakes admiring the color and pain—and avoid the pain of falling? Yes.

But we will never experience the wind on our face, or the strength of our body core creating balance. What speed feels like or the power of turning and control? New places and social opportunities, nature outings and discovery. A world of adventure begins with the courage to take one risky step of faith over that bicycle bar, grip the handlebars and sit back down on that seat feet determined to push the pedals forward once more.