Wartime Stories from the South Pacific – 91 year old vet

Dad invited his friend, Ray, to our Memorial Day gathering last night. Then, he sent his Boomer kids another email this morning… more memoirs from the WWII War in the Pacific. Together, they’ve been harvesting freshwater pearls embedded in their minds each time they talk. Dad joined the Merchant Marines at eighteen—while Ray stationed for island combat in the Pacific.  At 91 and 93 years young their favorite topic?  Here’s the newest catch for those of you who do not have the privilege to hear these stories rolling fresh off active thinkers, God bless them!

 

I’ve told of my meeting a 93 yr. old Wartime Marine, Ray, who left that duty he’d volunteered for in 1942 after coming to California from the Midwest. A Missouri farm boy he was trained in Camp Pendleton and went on from there in a hurriedly leased Dutch flag tramp steamer quartered in the cargo hold with 300 other Marines.  They were new replacements to the 2nd Division in camp 30 miles outside of Wellington, New Zealand.

The 2nd DIVISION along with the 1st had retired there after their bruising hard won victory in the vicious battle over the last stop in the Solomon Islands – GUADALCANAL.  That named legendary jungle Island is still remembered as the 1st American assault on the seasoned Japanese forces. The enemy protected by a superior battle fleet, had been readying in that steaming equatorial island for their coming invasion of Australia.

Our friend among the fresh Marines arrived in New Zealand in August of ’43 aboard the escorted merchant ship to beef up the battle worn 2nd division after R&R stationed in tent camps near the Coast.

After 3 months of training and practicing landings they took off in November for the yet unknown South Pacific island of TARAWA.  Theirs was an initiating trial by fire since it didn’t go easy.  In the annals of Corp history it went down as a damaged reminder of the fickle tides of war.  The tides and a reef were against them besides a waiting well-fortified enemy’s machine guns and 1,500 of those that slipped down from cargo nets onto waiting landing craft were casualties overnight.

But last night on the phone while inviting him to a BBQ he was remembering how much he loved his M1 rifle with him constantly for over 2 years. He slept and ate with it. He kept it clean and shiny. He felt sadness recalling giving it up at wars end. He went on to stay and marry in California, worked for the State starting with Board of Equalization and then transferred for his remaining working career to the state Dept of Real estate.

Yet, he returns to thoughts now of his fellow Marines of 70 years past – the half American Indian guy on Saipan who carried 25 pounds of dynamite on his backpack for blowing up caves. He got a Navy Cross for personally attacking a group of small Japanese tanks and his use of the dynamite without any thought of personal destruction.  And, he thought of the BAR GUYS WHO WENT OVER THE SIDE heading for the beach WITH THAT 17 1/2 lbs. of firepower strapped to their backs plus ammo. He exclaimed we couldn’t have beaten the enemy and taken those mean places without the mobile BROWNING Automatic Rifle.

Anyway Ray has some physical challenges this week and won’t probably make the Memorial Day BBQ – but said “Have a good one.”

A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor    Proverbs 29:23

A good name is more desirable than great riches, to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.    Proverbs 22:1

The Value of a Tree, You and Me

IMG_7074

Recently, the news reported those who live among trees will breathe air up to 25%  richer with oxygen. Trees nourish us and remain a daily reminder of God’s love for people. Even in the midst of cement city, a tree refreshes weary eyes and lifts our spirit.                                                                         A tree that may in summer wear,                                                                            A nest of robins in her hair…    

House hunting in the suburb sprawl, my second time around, I became obsessed with finding a home with a view- of trees.  Trees above the roofs.  I wasn’t alone.

Walking down the old Sac T street area after work one day, a young man sat on the porch steps stroking a cat sprawled across his back.

“I love to look at all the beautiful trees and little homes on your street,” I smiled.

“We all moved here for the tree-lined streets.” He didn’t skip a beat. I understood.

                         I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree…

For me, the love of trees really burst into my psyche with the lovely stanzas by American poet, Joyce Kilmer. My 4th grade class was required to memorize his poem and recite it aloud… a tree who looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray. (Yes, public school.)

Living ten years in my first house, a new development where none on our cul-de-sac could grow trees, appreciation for nature heightened with each neighborly conversation. We’d  scope our barren fencelines and commiserate. “My three birch trees died”…”My maple couldn’t grow. I’ve tried multiple types–they all die.” And remember, no trees, no birds.

One afternoon relocated in my second home, I pulled up to my shady haven to construction crews and whirring sounds. A large truck blocked my driveway. Suddenly my stomach felt empty as I looked up at the large hot blue sky, once laced by pine branches from my vantage point. Two large stumps remained on my neighbor’s front lawn where once stood gorgeous Redwoods I adored.

“Why did you cut them down?”  I later asked my new neighbor in the midst of mass remodeling. “Oh, they were making cracks in the cement.  And they were old nasty trees anyway.  We knew you wouldn’t like it.”

“I used to covet those trees and wished they were mine.”

“Well, we wish we could have moved them over to your property.”

Sometimes I don’t understand how we all have such different values of beauty and nature.  Why am I so upset! ?

IMG_7421

Working with incarcerated youth, one summer day a young woman showed me her wrists,  slashed and healing. The scar lines reflected her self-esteem. I pointed out the window to the graceful branches of a  tree dangling its leaves like a beautiful fringed blouse.

“See that tree? Isn’t it a beauty?” Together we gazed at its weighted limbs and peaceful presence. “Would you cut a branch off that tree?”  She silently stared as it’s shadows silhouetted and cooled the walls.

“No. It brings us shade and pleasure, just by being near it. You are far more beautiful and complex a creation of God? Cut yourself? Your worth is priceless.”

Her face relaxed. A word of truth, conviction. An added positive to overcome the negative messages in her head, her past, one few of us encounter.

Senseless, difficult things happen in life. And we ask God to help us all live together and continue to value each other even when the things we value may be so different.

The  Psalmist in Psalm 73 had been plagued all day long in his attempts to live above the evil he saw around him, the things that didn’t make sense. Sometimes there is no place to go here where our feet are grounded in dirt. But then we found relief in simple beautiful ways.

I stop writing and just gaze at the sunshine beaming off the ash leaves dancing in the wind. Or the heavier pine branches swaying nearby, their pinecones positioned to please the squirrels scampering busy at work and play. Gazing at the beauty of nature is always one simple way of escape to dwell on the positive in spite of the political and business news, the drama, the illness, and troubles that court us from all sides.

Times with God affords peace and a time to offer to Him all the situations only He can control or tend. Times spent sharing life and praying with those we love relieves burdens. Reading the Word brings stability. Gratefulness, from seeking to be thankful for the goodness and beauty we do possess and know of, acts as branches blocking the ugly and senseless people and acts beyond our mental and emotional capacity to comprehend. Thanking God for nature and resting our eyes, our soul and spirit from too much bombardment from every direction, political, social, business, medical….

Today I thank God for the intrinsic value of a tree, free for all socioeconomic groups. Trees that provide nesting places for the songbirds, food for the squirrels and a haven for our soul and spirit.

“When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me, until I entered the sanctuary of God….” verse 17

“Yet, I am always with you, you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward, you will take me into glory…My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ”  v 26

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 

 

The Light of Christmas

 

fullsizerender-1

“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

 

 

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

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.

 

 

 

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.

Single with Dog, One New Year Eve Past

Today, the first of 2016, I wanted to post this for the single’s who I love and pray with and for, as I am still newly married, and still remember….

I lived single a long time, longer than most, desiring marriage. One New Year I returned home maybe more disappointed than I should have been. After all, logically I knew we meet someone special usually unexpectedly. But, I was hoping against hope…once again.

Maybe it was a particularly difficult holiday season desiring a mate –someone special to share these life marker, time line events with—that prompted a silent sadness upon my return to an empty house… but then…my wandering blasé thoughts enroute home proved false.

Someone met me at the door and soothed my heart. That someone was Sam, my yellow Lab.

With Sam there I didn’t feel lonely. He was ecstatic to see me, per usual and followed me to our room, where my evening gown would fade into a photo album memory.

Sam there I had someone to wake up to who cared about me. With Sam there… I could make it without the empty feeling I would never meet anyone I could relate to or live with 24/7, someone I hoped to share the coming years activities with, to plan and dream together.

No matter how many long seasons I would navigate while waiting for Mr Right, I could live without the gape of isolation in my home. I had someone special to plan with, to be with. I had my dog.

No, but I returned to Sam…my old faithful.

The disappointment ebbed. The cheer bubbled up again.

I was not alone. I had someone to wake up to and who would accompany me as I took out the garbage.

Who would be there when I returned from the next dance, as loving and loyal as he was tonite?

And yesterday. And would always be.  I could count on that. He belonged to me. My dog is reality. We are bonded as Family.  Our home feels safe. We are blessed.

Getting Through the Holidays When Your MIssing those in Heaven or Dodging those on Earth

“I just have to make it through the holidays.” A single friend dropped these words annually about the same time the leaves began to fall in clumps. “I dread this time of year.”

It isn’t easy to forget the impending doom and feeling “less than” if holidays became a cycle for pain. If siblings were shown favor during gift giving. Or family gatherings invited a troubling party environment of disjointed relationships and ugly personalities rather than a festive celebration of support and love.  If estrangement and alienation continue into adulthood, the holidays can evoke a feeling of emptiness when the reality of a fragmented family haunts the air by absent invitations.

I have a friend now, who is struggling with the loss of her immediate family. The pain of Christmas past, Christmas’s that can never be relived the same. Because those who loved her so greatly for so long are absent. Her original family are all in heaven and the children are adults with lives of their own. The pain of loss begins about now.

“I struggled for years at the holidays,” a woman gave a knowing nod as a group of us reflected on the heightened grief during this holiday time for many.“It’s different now because I remarried and have a new family…but it took time.”

“I struggle.” The soft voice of a widow wafted across our table. She lowered her head.

I’m just praying we can all get through the holidays with as little stress as possible and as much peace that all is at should be at this moment, wherever we are.  But how do we feed our souls the good stuff that will stick in our mind and carry to our emotions to help bridge the gap of our heart and our head? It starts with the Word of God. True. Tested. Timely.

“Your Word is my comfort in my affliction,” the Psalmist declared in Psalm 119:50 as he endured his personal desert by writing songs and prayers to God that filled his heart and mind with chords of strength

This morning, a dear friend sent a verse, a melody. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope , in the Power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Our peace comes through trusting God, His faithful presence, His promises.

Jesus walked amidst illness and death just as we do. It’s the same world. He is in heaven now and He is coming again. (John 14:1-6) One day He will make all things right. How? Because He is our Savior. As Christians, we celebrate the same good news the angels pronounced at Christmas. “Today in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord,”(Luke 2:11) Today, we experience His love. He is alive. It gives us hope in our journey toward the Heavenly City just as it did for the saints of old. (Heb 11:16)

The Fog of Numb

Isn’t hope a blessing? It’s the light of God in our darkness—like a Lighthouse beacon when we’re nosing through the fog on a dark sea knowing the shore is ahead. Knowing what we are experiencing now is not what will be.

So, the holiday season resurfaces feelings of grief and loss from our human brokenness and mortality. (and our pets) We need the Heavenly presence of God to see us through.

It’s as if we stood on the ship deck inching ahead, there is nothing we can do. We can’t hurry time and make the ship go faster. We have to ride out the days and nights and just stay afloat. Until the ground is at our feet, we must focus on the beacon that keeps us steady—we are able to wait. To navigate the rough waters of memories and “missing”—the fog of numb.

There will be a morning after. We will walk again on solid ground, soon. The haze will soon pass into a new year and new beginnings.

How to Get Through the Holidays Halfway Decent

Rest through the season, as much as possible. Cut out the extras that spell s-t-r-e-s-s.

Do what you can. No need to plop guilt on yourself if you can’t make a function—If it’s too much energy just to get ready, don’t go. (and stop worrying what people will think- endless pit) Is there something you can attend that would relax you and you are interested in? a play, a symphony, a community fundraiser?

Be thankful as much as possible. For anything and everything. Lights. Fragrant pines. Heat. Shoes. Good books. Work. Friends. Family. Critters. Refrigeration. Sight.

Make Someone’s Day Better. Be aware of others in your daily rounds. Let the guy bagging your groceries carry them to the car and ask him how his day is going, or what he’s doing for the holidays. Wave to your neighbors or stop and say hi. Tell a child they have a beautiful smile. Or they are smart. Feelings rise when we show care.

Evaluate – Is it solitude or isolation? Solitude recharges so you can be with others. Isolation steals—you away from yourself and others. No man is an island. If gregarious groups are too overload, pick up the phone and arrange to meet someone whether planned or spontaneous. If the phone takes too much energy, email or text.(if you send to more than one person you have a better chance of connecting with someone if it’s unplanned) Coffee? a walk or movie? Can you invite someone over to watch a game or movie at your house? Make popcorn or throw a pizza in the oven. It doesn’t have to be fancy.

Exercise, Engage. Get out even if a ten minute walk a day. Bike to the haircut. or library. Go to the gym. Walk the dog. Build a planter. Garden.  Is there a parent who needs to run errands, or have a break. Can you watch their kids? That will burn calories. Children bring a trust and candid curiosity—a genuine character that refreshes.

Serve others in some way, if possible. However you do not need to serve to be loved by God or prove you are a good person. Only serve because it is something you feel God wants you to do for others and for your emotional health. Contributing, whether in the form of service or financial, must be given without resentment. God loves a cheerful giver. There is a time to give and a time to receive. Be mindful of enough. Volunteering for one thing at one time slot is okay. More is not necessarily better.

Know you are greatly loved by God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit. (John 3:16, 14:23) You are never alone. There is a family of God that you belong to. Meet with them, whether in homes or at church. The Lord is with you.

Read God’s Word. The Psalms. Luke. John 14-16. Romans 8. Hebrews, 1 Peter 1  or           Listen with Bible Gateway (free app). Charles Stanley, InTouch.org or Chuck Swindoll InsightforLiving.org (podcasts, radio)

Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.    Romans 10:17

 

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