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

 

 

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

 

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

Japanese Garden SF

How to Weed Hearts and Grow a Garden for Two

 

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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

Dealbreakers, Unity and Minoring in the Minors

I wrote this as a single woman 3 years ago and now as a married woman..it still rings true. So I decided to repost it.

Dealbreakers. A counselor stated the Biggies, the ones difficult to overcome Anytime are the three A’s: Addiction. Adultery. Abuse.  But what are smaller ones that can tip the tea for two?

Do we know what we need to find peace and maintain stability before God and man on a daily basis?

What lifestyle choices  do we live out weekly, seasonally, annually that defines much of our activity in life—affecting those around us?  In relationships where we learn of one another and begin to grow together, we process more what our majors and minors are. Our dealbreakers. For any relationship to move forward we must major in the majors and minor in the minors.

For example, some people see their homes as a private place, their sanctuary from people. One of my first roommates was like this; she didn’t like visitors to come to the home. She would meet them somewhere. It floored me at the time. Some see their home as a place of comfort for friends and family and treat those who visit as extended family. They like lots of interaction outside and inside the home.

Are we active, outdoors people or homebody, gardener types? Homebodies enjoy their home on their time off. They don’t want to be running around busy on the weekends. They want to relax. Active people can feel trapped by walls. Which leads to the definition of relaxing. What is calming to one person is not calming to another.

Consider sound. Hard rock, jazz, country, quiet classical- tastes in music . HOw and when we listen to music can cause strife. Is it all day constant or just at mealtimes? I knew a man who waited for the days he had off and  his wife was at work so he “didn’t have to listen to his wife’s music.”

Is the television on all the time or never? Do we use the television like white noise to sleep or relax? Or does the sound of the television set drive us crazy?

How do we spend money to relax? Rented movies, big toy shopping trips… How do we spend money, period. Saver, spender, bargain hunter, tightwad? Do we view money as ours or see ourselves as stewards of the finances God gives us?

So many areas of a relationship can rock the boat of contentment and harmony and ultimately end the time a couple spends together. If they decide it is not something they can live out on a permanent basis.

Once I dated a man who had such a conviction about alcohol he did not want me to cook with it. Being Italian and cooking with garlic, onions, and wine felt natural. It was a difficult decision for me coming to terms with the extent of his addiction and my small sacrifice, which at the time, I resented. God changed me. This was a minor. He convicted me to stop trying to change his mind about the effects of cooking on alcohol. Instead I wrote a poem, which is what writers do with their feelings. Love demands of us a series of small commitments and sacrifices of time and effort to demonstrate love in action and shows God is working in us to create unity.

Accepting you, accepting me,

Discovering Places we agree,

Allowing differences to be.

Not trying to change, the path you have lived,

The convictions that give

You the power to walk,

In your faith….dearly sought

At peace in God’s sight as before Him you stand

I need not be right, for I do see His hand

Upon you, upon me,

Creating

Unity.

“If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love….for the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:15,17

Staying on the Same Page: Questions to Focus a Relationship.

Staying on the Same Page:  Questions to Focus a Relationship.

Recently a friend, Cheryl, shared questions she adapted from career goals to focus her relationship with a man she has been dating.  It was a good way to review and refocus their growth goals as a couple. What I like about it is taking the time to build  a good foundation takes, just that—time.  Evaluation and re-evaluation.  I remember a story where a builder being prompted to hurry the foundations of a stage in time for production asked,” Do you want it done fast, or do you want it done right?”  They postponed the play until the following week. Continue reading “Staying on the Same Page: Questions to Focus a Relationship.”