Pulled Up through the Roots –
It was late last night when I finally sat down and read scripture for the day. It was Psalm 1. I read it as rain pounded on the roof, truly one of life’s most beautiful sounds. We’ve been dry lately. The storms have passed us by leaving the ground, trees, and plants desperate for water. Earlier in the evening, I thought I heard raining so I turned off all the fans and listened as it pinged on our porch’s tin roof. I checked again before heading to the bedroom and it was still coming down.
Psalm 1 says this:
-The Two Ways-
Blessed are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or be counted among the malcontents;
their delight is in the of the Lord and his way,
and on him, they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so
but are like dry leaves and bark that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not be found innocent,
nor sinners among the people who are humble;
for the Lord watches over the way of all,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
I reflected on these verses as I listened to the rain and it was a great reminder not to be an unpleasant person, not to choose a way of life that only benefits myself, to be rooted in God, pulling up through my roots; love, kindness, humility, and bloom in a too often evil world.
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Not so Fast –
Today, after a busy week indoors, I was looking forward to a day doing yard work outside. A good way to tell you’ve been inside too much is anticipating mowing grass and trimming. I ate my breakfast waited for the sun to begin to shine and then headed outdoors. Unfortunately, it was at that time the skies opened up and it began to rain. It wasn’t a sprinkle but a downpour that soaked the grass and the ground enough that I’d have to wait until tomorrow to try again.
One of my first thoughts this morning was; “It’s only Friday.” Most weeks Friday is a happy day or at least one of relief. However, this has been a long week and to know it wasn’t quite over yet was disconcerting. I sat on the couch and listened to the rain bounce off the tin roof on the porch. It is a beautiful sound. I felt myself relax and remember; “all shall be well.” It didn’t take long to realize a day of ease would do me good even if it was forced upon me.
Life for all of its chaos can also be the reason we stop, breathe, listen, sense, the miracle of life and doing nothing.
Yesterday I stepped out on to our front screened in porch to let the dog have some alone time in the yard. Immediately a frantic movement caught my eye. Inside the screen porch, trapped in a corner was a Yellow Monarch Butterfly. Big, beautiful and needing to be free. I don’t know if butterflies know when they aren’t free but I knew and was determined to do something about it. I took my hands and gently tried to close my fingers around it. Several times it fluttered away but I was finally able to catch it, gently take it outside and then cautiously open my hands and watch it fly away.
I thought about my journey with mental illness and people in my life who have struggles of their own. We might not know we are trapped or at least not see a way out. We need help, assistance that doesn’t force, grab, clutch, and drag us to where someone else thinks we ought to be. We need gentleness, someone who won’t break our wings or our spirits but show us there is life, there is freedom.
In the Heart –
Earlier this week a friend called and during our conversation, she mentioned the weather forecast called for beautiful weather now and the foreseeable future. I explained it was overcast in Tennessee and rain was expected the next several days. The conversation then turned to something she needed to talk about and as I listened it dawned on me that my outside weather was cloudy and rainy and this mirrored her inside on a certain subject.
I hoped my advice helped, at least in part, to help the clouds to dissipate and for her inside and outside to match. The experience was a reminder that we carry seasons, weather in our souls. There are times and places where things are clear, warm, light, easy. There are others where our spirits are dark, overcast, dreary and difficult. Wisdom helps us monitor, adjust, and accept our inside forecast. We change what we have the power to and trust that even the worst of our inside days do not last forever.
Everyone has a bad day once in a while. Mine was today. It started this morning and lasted all day. It was a bad day for decisions, conversations, yard working and everything else I tried. Finally, this evening, sitting in the yard of a friend, reflecting on this terrible, bad, no good day, a Bluebird landed on a branch not far from where I was sitting. I watched it. I would love to write it turned my whole day around but it didn’t. It did, however, impress me with its shade of blue. Beautiful. It was especially gorgeous against the brown yard and my dark mood. It was a reminder of spring, newness, and rebirth. I stared at it and the simple, obvious thought; “tomorrow is a new day,” echoed in my mind and spirit. I couldn’t argue with the Bluebird and as it flew off I was thankful this day was also quickly fleeting and the next one will be arriving shortly.
This morning in church we were finishing a song and the song leader asked us to be seated. Beth had on a beautiful gray, black and white scarf wrapped around her neck and as we were sitting it ended up between the person and seat back of the pew in front of us. Beth was sitting and all a sudden the scarf now pressed into the pew by the woman couldn’t sit back she was stuck, tethered to someone we didn’t know. The situation was absurd and funny and we both got the giggles. I reached over to pull it from between the woman and pew and realized there was a lot of scarf to retrieve. Luckily, we weren’t seated for long and we stood back up expecting the woman to do the same. Unfortunately, she didn’t. Argh! Beth then began to pull the scarf little by little until, finally, she had freed herself and was careful not to lean too far forward again.
In life, there are times we find ourselves tethered to someone or a group that chokes the life out of us. We might not notice it at first but sooner or later we find we must be free or suffer. Cutting the cord, letting go, escaping from a toxic relationship is hard but it is better than the life being pulled out of us.
A Box of Peace –
I received flowers for the first time in my life yesterday. Sure, Beth and I as a couple have gotten flowers and plants from family members and friends but flowers for just me? This was the first time. My wife and I opened the box and pulled out a beautiful Peace Lilly (pictured). It is a luscious green with one bloom but the potential for several more. There was also a candle and condolence card. The gifts were from my co-workers and I’m thankful to work with such kind souls.
We placed the flower on a stand near a window where it will receive plenty of sun. I’ve looked at it many times today and have reflected on the last couple of long weeks since my father passed. I like that the Lilly isn’t in full bloom yet. It’s symbolic. It’s a reminder that peace will come in its time. Right now we are in the early stages f grief and there may be moments of peace but it hasn’t healed the wounds in our hearts. However, if we give it time we will notice blossoms of peace spring up more and more until one day, hopefully, there will be more peace than sorrow.
Until then, we’ll hold to the promise, the hope, that better days are ahead.
Chirp and Chatter –
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on the front steps to our shed waiting for Beth to come home from work. Me and the dog enjoying the day when a bird overhead began to chirp loudly! It wasn’t the usual chirp and it was incessant. I looked to the limbs of our big Oak tree trying to find it. I couldn’t. The chirping didn’t stop but I couldn’t find it among the leaves. Finally, it stopped and only when it flew away could I see that it was a large woodpecker.
After watching this beautiful bird fly away I reflected on the constant chirping and not knowing where it was coming from. Some thought are like that in our minds. They chirp and chatter and we wonder, why and for what reason, they are filling our minds with noise. Perhaps its regret at an action, a question about why something is happening, puzzlement for a big decision which needs to be made, a betrayal, a hurtful word given or received, a reliving of past events, or worry about the future. Whatever the thoughts, the chirps, and the chatter can keep peace of mind and spirit elusive and unattainable.
Wisdom reminds us that thoughts are going to come and go but it is up to us not grab them and ruminate. A wise master once said; “I cannot stop the thoughts from coming to my door but I do not have to serve them tea.”
Earlier today I was weed whacking and mowing the grass. As I maneuvered around one of our smaller trees a movement caught my eye and I stopped to see a big black spider fleeing from the lawn mower. It paused for a moment and I had a choice to make; step on it or let it live.
A few weeks ago I suffered a bite from something that caused my hand to swell and turn partially red with splotches. It occurred to me that perhaps it was a spider bite. As I stood there this morning I wondered the same thing. The spider didn’t move and finally, I began pushing the mower in the other direction. I had decided I wasn’t going to kill out of fear this spider, in the middle of the yard, might bite me.
After finishing the chore I sat down with some cold water and my mind drifted back to the spider but also to the way fear can impact us. When fear finds a place in us we can become angry, vengeful, and cruel. We begin to be suspicious of things we may not consider beautiful, acceptable, normal and wanted. We allow the fear to make decisions for us and use it as an excuse for deplorable thoughts, words, and deeds.
Fear runs rampant in our world today. We can’t read online magazines, news, opinion columns or watch the news, many shows without our fear factor being dialed up to the extreme. We are told those who think different, talk different act different, look different, from us are to be feared.
As a result, our world is lacking grace, kindness, and love. The choice is ours to make; live in fear or love like the fate of the world depends on it because it does.
The Obstacle is the Path –
This afternoon I made a quick stop at the local Wal-Mart to buy a few things. I knew exactly what I wanted, where it was located, picked up the items and headed for the checkout. I am one of those people who will walk down the length of the entire front of the store to see if I can find the shortest line possible.
However, today, a nice woman in a yellow vast spotted me looking and told me lanes 19 and 21 were open with no waiting. I made my way to the aforementioned lanes and both of them weren’t empty but had only a few people with a few items. I picked one and steered my cart behind the people in front of me. Almost as soon as I parked the buggy I knew I picked the wrong one. The cashier was chatty, the customers too and there was an issue with one of the payment cards they were trying to use. “Sigh.” I thought about leaving but didn’t have the energy to pick another aisle. It has been a busy morning with back to back sessions, email replies, calendar updates, phone calls and another meeting in half an hour.
As I stood there I thought to myself; “Maybe, this is what you need. A time to rest. A place to stop. Perhaps what you see as a burden is a beautiful gifted moment.” I breathed in a long breath and let it out. Soon it was my turn, checked out, got into the truck and made my meeting with plenty of time to spare. Lesson learned, again.
“The obstacle is the path.”
For the last few days, we have had a lot of rain. It’s remnants of Hurricane Harvey the horrendous storm which slammed into parts of Texas earlier this week leaving devastation in its wake. Most of the morning and afternoon I have listened to the rain fall on the tin roof of our porch. It’s a mesmerizing and relaxing melody. There is a wisdom proverb which says; “Some people feel the rain other simply get wet.” I am of the former variety. I feel rain, storms, overcast skies. There are times when a rainy day is nourishment to my soul. It’s like the water falling from the sky is landing on my parched spirit and bringing needed comfort and nourishment. In other seasons the overcast clouds and rain dampen my motivation and put me in a trance where I get nothing done.
“Without rain, the flower does not grow.”
Like the flowers, trees, bushes, and grass we need rain in our lives. We need times of growth and blossoming. However, too much rain, as Houston and other Texas areas dealing with Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath, can drown, devastate, and destroy.
Rain, like life, can be beautiful and dangerous.
A few weeks ago I broke the wooden handle on my shovel. This week my wife bought me a new one. It’s a Kobalt and guaranteed “unbreakable“. I did bend it a little today uprooting a stubborn bush. So unbreakable? Perhaps. Un-bendable? Nope.
It was, still is, a gorgeous day outside. Tomorrow the heat and humidity are supposed to come sweeping in but we enjoyed the moment of this day by working way too hard. We’re both exhausted but it’s a good tired.
As I dug holes for bushes and trees, filled the back of the truck with dirt and planted some grass with my new shovel I thought about the digging we do in our lives. Stillness, mindfulness, reflection are basically the same discipline with its goal to remove anything that stifles the life within us.
Digging around isn’t easy on the outside or on the inside but it’s necessary if we are to make old things new, ugly stuff beautiful, and go deep enough that growth, life, is possible.
The last few weeks the winds of Fall have been blowing into our area chasing summer away. It’s warm today, summer still has some fight left, but it won’t be long until these days are but a memory. The wind has also begun blowing the dead leaves off of the trees. The yard, once green, is quickly turning brown; both the grass and the leaves falling on it.
I read a quote not long ago but cannot remember the author…
“There’s nothing like fall to teach us the beauty of letting go.”
In my life, there is a struggle happening when it comes to letting a few things go. The leaves remind me each day that sooner or later that which harms us, brings us pain, must be released. What’s interesting is that I’ve let go of these before but, like the seasons, they keep coming back around.
Inwardly, however, there is a stirring, a desire to let go, to not think of what tomorrow may bring but to be fully in the present, in the now, and today the results surround and show me how beautiful it can be to let go.
Life is never predictable.
I was talking with someone yesterday about having “blinders” on when it comes to certain people. Some folks we see in a mostly positive light. We emphasize the good, minimize the bad, expect the best and see their potential. For others it’s the opposite. We are blind to their goodness. They are viewed by us in a mostly negative way. We don’t expect the best, focus on their weaknesses, anticipate what and how badly they’ll mess up, hurt us and take advantage of our generosity.
Blinders often come from good relationships or broken ones. We put them on and rarely question if we see the whole picture as it pertains to certain people, cultures and our worldview.
The discipline of viewing life as blessed rather than cursed can be one of the hardest and most important wisdom lessons we learn and put into practice. This is true especially when our journey has been difficult and we’ve seen “more than our share” of heartache, pain and loss. To look for the good, the beautiful, the “miracle” of everyday life influences each breath and every moment.
Early this morning a truck backed onto our driveway and dumped a load of gravel into a carved out space next to our cabin/shed. We needed the rock to be in place before winter rains and snow turned the area into a pit of messy mud. Last week I ordered the delivery and had actually forgotten about it until I spied the truck while putting things in the Frontier I needed for my work day. It was a; “not really a surprise”…surprise!
Watching the gravel tumble out the bed of the oversize truck upon the ground I thought about life. Even though we know it can be hard, difficult and heart breaking, we’re often surprised when it dumps a load of grief and pain into the middle of our existence.
Tomorrow, I’m going to begin to spread the gravel, as evenly as I can, over the intended area and, hopefully, make a nice place for us to park. One of the greatest truths of wisdom is that it can take the burdens of life and make them into something beautiful and useful.