The Value of a Tree, You and Me

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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! ?

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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

Dry…Watering our Soul in a Seasonal Drought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

How does Your Garden Grow?

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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

For Those who Hold a Light of Hope…to Help

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Often we don’t hear the words. “Your voice counts. Your presence makes a difference.” So many times those beside someone digging through a dark wall, can wonder if they are any help.

 

Sometimes we underestimate the power of our presence.

Holding a light of hope while they chip away at a tunnel toward freedom feels paltry compared to their groans. Even bolstering words can sound limp. “Hang in there.” “God will see you through.”

Just being there shows empathy and value. They often feel lost and alone, too weary to respond. To say thank you one more time, in their seeming never-ending marathon.

Recently, I was surprised by a comment after a meeting, “Your voice was needed today.” It had brought change and relief to someone holed in bureaucracy.

Loyalty. Faithfulness. Love in action. Maybe you feel it is not much. After all, you cannot chip at the tunnel for another. It is their course.

They must lift their own feeble arms and use their own strength to advance through the quarry facing them daily. They must bear the weight of dirt laden boots shuffling through the quagmire of bleak circumstances day after day. It is their cross, and the Lord is with them. He has given them enough grace to fight. We are given the insight to pray.

They may face a terrific trial of the soul, oppressed by a demanding boss, unfair teachers or backbiting peers. They may fight insidious inner voices sabotaging their reason and sanity, dominating siblings or spouses, jeering bullies. Medical maladies. Another round of radiation therapy. Complications from the last surgery. A drug-addicted child…or spouse.

Grievous to them…and to us. We wonder too, when will this ever change, God?

Your presence helps them know…you believe this too will pass. It is a struggle for you not to take a boulder in your own hands. Make calls, torpedo words and create your own explosive actions—absent God’s will and plan and timing.

But you have learned about timing. You know, “our times are in God’s hands.” (Psalm 31:15 NIV)  Theirs as yours. You have learned your lessons, navigated your own tunnels.  If you slam the walls too hard from impatience, around and above, the ceiling can cave in. Tunnel passages require a slow chipping, a slow suffering, not a hasty block of dynamite.

Is your voice needed to intervene for a child, a teen, an elderly person, a single parent, those who are sick?

Prayers can take a long time to be answered. Persevere. Pray for tenacity for those moving toward their future goals, derailed easily by dark doubts and haunting yesterdays. Or those weakened from invisible battle wounds of the heart. Ask for fresh words and ways to encourage those with chronic illness or sudden physical setbacks, remembering people cope differently with loss or transition.

We watch and wait in hope. We know when the wall begins to crumble and the light angles through the cracks, they will feel a gust of fresh air shift—that first deep inhalation. We know the tunnel is ending when we glimpse tears pooling in once dull eyes, and shoulders straightening.

Then we will know, as we believe now—we are where we needed to be, doing what God has called us to do. Nothing big, nothing grand. Just to stand. Stand with them hidden from the public eye. Watch and pray trusting God until their breakthrough to hope and peace.

For, if you have been comforted by the Lord and His presence through others, if you have known His patience and faithfulness in your own life, you will be able to encourage others the same way you were encouraged. (2 Corinthians 1:4)

 

Knights of the Light, a Star Wars devotional

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Knights of the Light

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

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

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

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

Targets of the Dark Side

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

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

How the Spirit Leads

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

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

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

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

Saber Lights and Teamwork

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

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

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

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

  Shield and Helmet

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

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

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

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

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

.                                                                              © Dee Aspin

 



 

Framing the Picture with Patience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

A Song , A Psalm for the Weary Soul

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Your love O Lord reaches to the heavens.

Your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains.

Your justice a great deep.

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

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

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

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

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

HANDLEBARS …Asking God for Help to Try Again

                                 

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

 

Her Dad balanced his cycle pedaling inches at a time.

Oh, learning to ride a bicycle?

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

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

Haven’t we all been there done that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Legal Papers and Panic-a poem: Legal Nightmare

Last week my friend lamented, "I couldn't go out with friends tonite. I have to work on the paperwork for next week. I"m so sick of this. There are papers all over the living room and my other room…." 

"Don't you think some of us must know the trials of misty weather if we are to be enabled to understand when others are in the midst?" Amy Carmichael quoted. 

My friend prepared for court all over again, at her ex's false accusations. Glad to report her case went well–not a surprise considering the prayers she invoked from many and the credibility of her accuser. God was and is with her. I've never dealt with divorce paperwork, but am quite familiar with the drowning feeling and overwhelming panic under a pile of legal paperwork. ( having represented myself in a case a few years ago).  So I revisited an old poem I wrote one weary yesternight and read it to her over the phone. Now, I share it with you:

The Legal Battle

 Sometimes it seems too much to bear,

The fight that drags, that taps my veins,

Draining me of life again;

Yet demands my vigilance-

Dictates I scribe with utmost care

And diligence, the pain I wear.

 

The future is at stake again,

So I ne’re can lay down my pen.

It invades my time, tonite I’d sleep,

But thoughts and arguments are deep

Within my mind; I cannot stay confined to bed

So here I am again, instead.

Writing, writing for my life,

Fingers running, skipping keys,

Helping find some place of ease,

Away from utter helplessness,

From isolation, loneliness.

They run, they skip, they pace with thought,

And slowly I feel less distraught.

 

The night wears, on the battle lulls,

I’m tired now, my mind has dulled.

I must retire, I must return,

I know the day is coming soon;

So now I’ll head back to my room.

Where doggies sleep,

I now retreat.

Losing my Smile, this fight with Denial            

                                            Dee Aspin