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.

Gaps and Grace. Growing in Marriage.

winding path in NZ

“You need to give each other more grace.“ Our marriage counselor intentionally looked each of us in the eye last week.

Gaps. My gaps stare at my mate. His stare right back at me. And our marriage counselor sees it all.

“Grace to focus on the motives and attempts. The grace to ease up on each other with patience and perseverance, instead of addressing the Gaps. “Lots of grace…” the message comes through no matter what the issue of the session.

“Honey, I’m sorry you’re having a bad day and I hope the rest of the day is better.”

This is the note I keep on my desk to remind me how to speak words of empathy.

Brilliant if I remember when the occasion actually arises

These are not words that spill from my mouth when my spouse is under fire from within or without. I have questions and advice or suggestions. Not this.

Gaps. Gaps and more gaps. In bad times they expand. In better times they shrink.

Recently I ran into a boomer newlywed who asked how I was doing two years into my marriage.

 “My husband is my iron man,” I winked quoting a verse… “as a friend to a friend, so iron sharpens iron.”

“This is hard!” The second-time arounder’s eyes widened, “We are going from Bible study to Bible study trying to figure this out.”

A professional communicator told me awhile back, “It took me ten years to learn how to communicate with my husband.”

Why does communicating—talking, listening and understanding each other have to be so hard?

 “Men’s and women’s brains are different,” our counselor relayed again last week. When we forget—we judge incorrectly.

The male mind sequences events and words in order—one event and action followed by the next, logical. He processes one thing at a time well and focuses on one project at a time. That allows him to complete his work.

Women’s brains have neurons that shoot from side to side and connect both sides of their brains at the same time. They can multitask because of it. They can have a few things going at the same time, whether conversation or projects, leave various ones and pick up where they left off on others, easily. It’s a brain function.

Some of our adjustments are because we have different personalities and methods of assessment and decision making.

“You are random—he is linear.” No protest.

“Steve can’t understand you when you make comments aside from a spoken context or speak quickly and change topics. You need to slow down, pace yourself and give what you say a context. It’s not a group of women chit-chatting away and running off on a hundred rabbit trails that intersect and eventually wind up complete.”

“Don’t talk to me like you talk to your girlfriends,” my husband kindly reminds me…often.

One thought at a time?  Easy to say. It’s easy to think I can but as I’m thinking and speaking of one thing, other thoughts pop up that add reference. At least I think it does? My husband says they are another topic. Hmm. A woman and ADHD. God help me, because I have to change…and I have always been this way. And so I pray and ask God to change me. When I married Steve, I committed to be the best I can be for this man, for our marriage. And he, me.  We are both so thankful we have a person who gives us wise counsel and feedback we sometimes can’t receive from each other.

“You have a different style. You need to find a compromise. Your way is not better or worse than his/her way,” we have both heard this reminder multiple times. It means dying to myself and what I want, including waiting to address issues he is not at the moment ready to address! I am the spontaneous—not the diplomat. It means Steve bends also in his time and focus. Humility and pleasant words, promote instruction. It is the growing ground for couples. “I can grow. You can grow. We can grow together.”

When one of us is in a dormant season or having a bad day, the other will have spaces and gaps that are not filled.

We will fail to meet each other’s needs and feel empty spaces in those places. We need to forgive the neglect and forget the bleakness of harsh words and bad attitudes.

Grace from God who loves and accepts us in our crazy ins and outs—is what fills the void. His unconditional love and presence makes up the difference every time and carries us through to the flowers. To the love that blooms again.

A love that is intentionally voiced or texted daily in our marriage simply as “I love you.”

Why? Because as we decided in premarital counseling to take this advice. It restates commitment to each other in good times and bad. Loyalty. Perseverance. Dedication to devote ourselves to being present even when we don’t feel like it. Presence. 90% of life is showing up,” I have posted in my bathroom.

But the future of our marriage is more than being around. It is actively planting seeds of love and kindness, of talking and listening, of apologizing and weeding—when the time is right. Seeds planted today, irregardless years of marriage, will sprout and blossom into fragrance we can each enjoy season by season and flowers we can each touch. Sowing seeds reaps real life displays of colorful growth in our garden of love.

At two and a half years young we are feeling less gaps, as we give each other the learning time God gives us. When I feel the Gaps within myself (or Steve’s) are expanding—I spend more time with Jesus. And so does he. We each need our Mediator, our most Wonderful Counselor who is always available 24/7.

We receive His grace to say the words, “I love you” daily. As we allow the Lord to fill the gaps with His love and comfort, unconditional love we don’t always give to ourselves or each other so readily—Jesus gives freely. Our hearts needs are soothed. His grace fills the gaps as we grow closer to God… and closer and more patient with each other.

 

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

 

Prayer and the Land of Entitlement

Yesterday my husband told me about a middle aged man who started a Christian motorcycle club for his friends. He planned trips and it started to grow. It was going really good for awhile. But then one man had a heart attack. Another took a spill on his bike and broke a leg. Someone’s aunt had cancer and asked him to pray for her. Pretty soon, he had so many prayer requests he felt burdened. Too many people having issues. It wasn’t fun—so he stopped. Why?

This morning I was thinking. The worst place for my mind to wander is into that Land of Entitlement. Have you been there?

It doesn’t matter how old we are, when that thinking starts discontent begins.

The thinking I don’t want a life of any problems or to hear about any more problems.

Well, we all know the truth is there is a circle of life we live in and so do those in our circle!  It goes like this:  “WE are either going into a trial (problem or testing) and amping up courage and wisdom to face it. We are in a trial and taking life daily, leaning on God to get us through. Or we are coming out of a trial hopefully having developed insights and character and a closeness with God—being the better for it. It is the circle of life.

“I have worked hard and put up with alot. I need to be able to rest without responsibilities.”

“I don’t want any drama. Just quiet and control—not controlling chaos. ( or listening to it.)”

“I have had financial difficulties before. Do I have to deal with them again God?” or someone else’s?

“Okay, I know my back is an issue, but not my knee…Really? “My spouse, child, nephew, neice , grandchild, co-worker, friend, dog, cat, just got well. What is going on now?”

“I brush my teeth every day! How can I have a cavity?”

The list goes on. And the older we get…every decade has a new set. I thought it would lessen when I reached a certain age, had a certain job, lived in a certain place, changed people around me, etc. etc. We cannot escape the unescapable. We will never be entitled to any benefits on this side of heaven other than the blessing of belonging to God, experiencing His love and the people He has given us to love.

Love means not only do we cast our cares on God because he cares for us, but we share care with our friends and family, because we care for them. We care about our parents, we care about the kids. We care about our friends and their kids. One prayer is sent out and five boomerang back. There is no motorcycle ride away from reality.

Instead more than ever, God is calling us to stay engaged. To trust. To keep sending up prayers to Him. Shooting star prayers, a friend once called them. Not prayers to load in our pockets and carry around all day. Release them to God in the morning in the evening, in our car on our breaks. Just shoot them up to God… and Let go. Honor Him with trust.

Only He is Able. Only He can help. It is a blessing to text my prayer requests to friends and feel physically eased and mentally relieved as the burdens lift. It is a blessing to give as I have been given and reciprocate for others. All of us depend on Him to answer sooner…or later. How we hope or surrender to even the worse case scenario, He can bring good in ways we cannot envision, determines our peace. A rainbow after a storm is a slice of beauty, even standing in wreckage.

“I will rescue my flock” Ezekiel 34:10

He is our Shepherd. He is our Rock, an anchor when the waves roll into tropical storms. We need to let the One who can walk on water lead us on and keep our eyes fixed on Him. Even if we see another storm rising in the horizon. Roll our eyes off the dark skies and rising winds and look at our Help. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Let the other sounds mute. Reach for the helping Hand of our Almighty God, not the almighty dollar or Uncle Sam. Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you have not seen. Jeremiah 33:3. Look for the unexplainable and the miracle which can’t be reckoned.

I recently read how a tourist in Jerusalem watched a little Jewish boy panic, separated across the street from his dad. “Abba , abba” he cried. A man crossed the street and swept the little boy up in his arms. The boy quieted, safe in his daddy’s arms.

WE are safe, our friends and family are safe, when we yell “Help” to our Abba Father. He has the whole world in His hands. His eyes are on the faithful in the land. He knows what to do. He has the wisdom and guidance to light our way through the darkness of difficulty and crisis of challenges in our lives. He has the counsel, He knows the connection to a multitude of counselors who can lead us safely with perspective and wisdom to make those decisions precisely at the Y in the road we need to navigate with jurisprudence. He will not let us stumble. His Word is a lamp to our feet and light to our path when we need to make good choices regarding health, finances, work and relationships.

We will never find refuge from care by dropping out or planning escape—watching reality shows about Pleasure Islands. Rather relief and comfort come when we call on Him for help like that little boy. Let God be to you the Father Jesus came to tell us about. “I am always working and my Father is always working,” he explained then as now (John 5:17) . Behind the scenes, upstream and out of sight. Just around the bend…He is working His will in all things as we ask and pray and believe.

Suicide and Sympathy


I don’t blame Robin Williams’s daughter for wanting out of social media sites after she received discouraging posts/ unwanted trolls. People will be judgmental in the face of suffering.

Last week visiting a group of friends the topic of suicide emerged in light of the beloved actor’s untimely death.

“I am tired of the comments some visitors make to those suffering from chronic illnesses, “my nurse friend sighed—the undue guilt thrust on a patient when they don’t get well—labeled lack of faith.”

In the book of Acts Paul was hailed as a hero to islanders after he survived a horrific storm at sea and helped rescue all aboard. However, as soon as a viper bit him at a group campfire, his admirers abruptly changed their opinion. Obviously, Paul wasn’t in God’s good favor or protection or he wouldn’t now face a torturous death from poison—which he survived. Superstitious and judgmental, Paul quickly became the brunt of his host’s unmerciful criticism. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust. At some point stuff happens to all, in this imperfect atmosphere called earth.

When I was twenty-something, a Christian friend from high school committed suicide. Tormented by the mental disease that had aborted his mother’s life, he won a football scholarship pointing toward a promising future—but lost the battles in his mind. He had a deep faith. He loved Jesus and literally handed his jacket to a cold homeless man on the street. He was loved and he was judged.

“He is not going to heaven,”

“How come?”

“Because he murdered—himself.”

How would that theology play out with Jesus who walked with us according to God’s sovereign plan of redemption? He himself endured scathing critics and yet consistently showed compassion to the sick of all categories: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.

 In Luke 18:1 he said, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.”

Do you think if a person faints that God will then turn his back on them?

It is always difficult to navigate questions that torpedo in bringing a myriad of emotional fallout in the face of unexplained human hellholes. The devil advocates falsely to God’s lack of love and goodwill toward the weak or burdened, sick and harassed.

Yet, According to Isaiah 42:3 the Anointed One will not even throw out a damaged plant. “A bruised reed He will not break. And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish…” He tends the plant and flames the fire.

Isn’t it interesting this prophetic verse is recited by Jesus in Matthew 12:20 in-between healing two illnesses, one physical and one spiritual? Targeted, Jesus is rebuked for healing a man’s hand on the wrong day of the week and criticized for delivering a man who was demonized.

 Biblical references abound where God addresses our human fear. Jesus admonishes His disciples to trust and not fear throughout the gospels. Would His character be consistent to punish the timid? Didn’t he reach out His hand to Peter even as he began to sink with anxiety on the sea, after an initial burst of courage?

Those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord, wear His robe of righteousness. The moment we reach to Him for salvation, for help and deliverance from the ultimate darkness of eternal life without His love and eternal presence, we are forgiven. If we deny we need His Act of Mercy at the cross for us then we are on our own. We have no High Priest to cover our sin, our failures, and our junk. If we believe we are good enough to worship at the Throne of God with all the angels of heaven who adore the Lamb who was slain for us ( Revelations 5:11,12)…then we are truly done.

King David expresses many prayers to the Lord for strength as in Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Again, what happens if our hearts fail and weaken and we lose hope and courage? Is our Savior One who is unmerciful and unforgiving, non-compassionate and judgmental of our human flaws?

Rather, the Scriptures teach eternal Death comes by pride. And separation from God by haughtiness, not by weakness. 

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

Christmas Reindeer – remembering Sam

“Every Good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the Heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17  

Two weeks ago I thought about this verse as I  pulled two metallic outdoor reindeer and a strand of colorful lights out of my green and red outdoor box  in the garage rafters. I fastened Benji to the leash to watch in the annual tradition—placing two reindeer, one big and one little on the front hill. Each  are named.

 “Good to see you Sammy reindeer,” I felt a surge of joy as I pounded the tent stake into the ground to hold his bent feet in place.

Sammy, my beautiful Lab who gave me ten years of incredible love died in May. I stopped and gazed at the star studded sky. Your watching me  from up there instead of from next to me like last Christmas! I thought about Sam in his tie walking down the aisle in our wedding party last year, with his little brother Benji. His love and friendship and companionship brought soulful significance to a season of my life.

God, thank you for the wonder of animals. Thank you for the joy they bring to our lives . I am so grateful to have had a joy like Sam  for a decade of my life. He was such a gift, a heavenly gift. Life wouldn’t have been the same without him..

 As I scanned the stars that night, I felt a sense of wonder how God created Sam, just like he creates all our creatures , it seems just for each of us. What a wonder, that we have a Heavenly Father who gives such precious gifts money can’t buy.

Each relationship that fills our hearts with joy, whether friend or family or furry critter… all are the perfect gifts from our Heavenly Father.

And the gift of His Son Jesus,  has brought  love and forgiveness, meaning and purpose to every day of my life, through all times and weather and seasons of gain or loss strung together.

In Him was life and His life was the Light of men.  John 1:4

Merry Christmas Everyone.  May God shine His light on you today and grace you with His  love, comfort, hope and presence daily…

our Greatest Present .

 

Dee Aspin

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

Getting Ready and Getting Out…the Single Life

I have been asked often and recently, “How did you finally get married? What do I need to do?”  This and next week I will post some thoughts.

lovebirds

Ultimately it is all grace… a God given gift that I met my mate. I still consider marriage a miracle at any age, after waiting for decades to meet and marry the right person.

However, knowing the ruts we can get into I did find a poem written years ago after talking with a friend and some observations on grief that seemed to coincide well with it. Because there is a grief in an unfulfilled desire as the verse says, “A desire unfulfilled makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”Proverbs13:12

I share those now to encourage singles to take the path less trod as they socialize and live their lives with their God-given bends and interests. Ultimately it is what turned my relationship with my husband to a romance. One broad social email  to ten friends to attend an outdoor concert turned to two – me and him. And driving to the hills that night alone and content, he texted…”I think I can come.”  So Don’t Stay in A Corner!! Get out , at least once every week or two….and be open, and brave 🙂

The Corner

It’s hard to hear you talk

About this problem you have got

About how you can’t meet men

When over and over again

You go to the corner.

 

The world is full of places

And there are plenty of Godly faces

But you always see one or two

Because all you ever do

Is go to the corner.

 

And I bet for you my sister

That when you meet your mister

He’s running free and out of view

Not waiting there for you

In the corner.

 

So when you’re feeling some adventure

Even daring to go alone

It may be just the time

He’s looking and he’ll find

You- when you’re not doing time

In the corner.

The same conversation with a friend lamenting, discouraged and hopeless is a grieving- it is the single lament, the song of a bird looking for a mate alone on a telephone wire. I had my lovesick moments too!!

“Crazy is doing same thing over and over expecting different results”- I have a hard time listening

Some thoughts  from the book Experiencing Grief  (pp 5,6) by Norman Wright which apply to singles in a corner from fear or pain of rejection or loss of relationship (s)…

“A multitude of emotions is involved in the grief process- emotions that seem out of control and often appear in conflict with one another.  With each loss comes bitterness,emptiness, apathy, love, anger, guilt , sadness, fear, self-pity,… and helplessness.  These feelings have been described in this way:

These feelings usher in the emotional freeze that covers solid ground with ice, making movement in any direction seem precarious and dangerous. Growth is hidden, progress seems blocked, and one bleakly speculates that just because the crocuses made it through the snow last Year is no reason to believe that they can do it again this year. It’s not a pretty picture.”

I pray for all the wonderful singles who are looking for a mate. There are so many wonderful people of both genders waiting and wanting to meet a companion for life. It is honorable and natural. But when we get discouraged…we can become our own worse enemies. And beware of self-pity.

Self-pity is the worse when we are at these points. We are not clams stuck at the bottom of the ocean to wait for food to come to us. We are more like  turtles who have legs to move,  even if slow …  forward!

We must pray for courage and move out beyond our borders and our self-imposed corners. Jesus is always with us. We are never alone…