Life Finds a Way –
Outside of our bathroom window, there is a huge limb that was torn down by a massive thunderstorm last year. I was able to get most of its almost twenty-five-foot length sawed off and hauled away but the chainsaw I used stopped working. It was my intent to get to the last, biggest, ten-foot portion of it but never did. Yesterday, while mowing the grass, I noticed there was a plant growing out of the long-dead limb. What was lifeless and useless had become home to new life.
Today is a friend’s birthday. It is a bittersweet day because it is the first one she’s had in over forty years that she cannot share with her partner who passed away. It has been a hard day for her. She has friends who are looking after her, a family that’s doing their best to care but it’s not the same. There’s not an hour that goes by she doesn’t think about him. Not a day where her heart doesn’t ache from the hole death has left in her life. However, in the midst of loss, new growth has begun. It’s slow and most days unrecognizable but it’s there; a new courage and a new strength. The new life doesn’t replace the loss. It grows partly because of and in spite of it.
In the midst of heartbreak that is this world, life finds a way.
Today I am feeling the impact of three intensive days of training. My body hurts and my mind hurts. My eyes are tired from staring at a screen for too long. I have both a migraine and fuzzy brain. It’s hard to process new information today because of receiving so much from earlier in the week. The data and detail are still bouncing around in my noggin and hasn’t found a place to settle. New thoughts and ideas are like puffs of smoke that never quite become solid enough to grasp. A couple of days of quiet and rest should do the trick but until then giving it my all will be less than.
Growing in our learning, understanding, and wisdom takes a toll. Its tough work which may be why we are hesitant to do it at times. Immersing ourselves in new thoughts, ideas, studies, to become more capable in our personal, relational, connections and jobs takes commitment and courage. Commitment because growth is effort and energy. Courage because when we dare to learn, understand gain wisdom, we change and we’re never sure who will be on the other side.
In Memory of –
This is a strange holiday for me. It’s not strange in the sense that I don’t understand it or think it necessary but strange because I did not serve in the armed services nor lost a loved one while in military service. I don’t know what it’s like to charge up a hill with my unit, share foxholes with people who I depend on for my life, find the courage to carry out orders that put my life and others in danger and know not everyone is coming back from the mission. I don’t know what it is to get a knock on my door, a phone call, by servicemen or women to inform me a loved is not returning home. I can’t imagine the pain, heartache, loss, or pride that comes with Memorial Day.
I once served on a staff with a war veteran and we liked to talk politics, history, and war. He had seen action in the military while I sat in the safety of a university classroom. We’d have conversations about the justifications of war. I’d voice my opinion that Christians should follow Jesus’ example and be pacifists, opposed to all violence and then he’d tell me when and why I was wrong. I didn’t agree with everything he said about the military, nation-building, and protection but I was also humbled and silent as he spoke. I understood that he had served, put his life on the line for us to disagree and still be friends, still call ourselves by the same name; Americans.
“The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Blessings & Thank you,
I think I’m in love with the electric-heated fleece throw my wife bought me for Christmas. It is wonderful! Especially when it is cold outside like this week has been. Instead of putting over me I’ve tucked it in and around the place I sit on the couch. I come home, turn it on, throw a blanket on top, change and by the time I’m ready to sit down the blanket is warm. It’s like sinking into a soft cocoon of heat. The room and house don’t feel as cold when I am wrapped in the throw.
There are also people and places who make us feel this way. There’s something about their presence which makes us feel good and safe. I’m not a hugger but I love getting hugs from my wife. She’s the type of person who portrays warmth and acceptance. My aunt Evon, who passed away several years ago, was the same way.
In a world which seems to be increasingly divided, we need more warmth, more acceptance, more love. Our crazy mixed up world thinks there are other ways to heal the divisions, start over, bring peace. Truly, only love has that power. It takes more courage to love someone than to hate them, let go of prejudices than keep them, listen and build relationships instead of keeping everyone who disagrees with us at arm’s length.
Warmth. On a cold day in December, it’s a needed and comforting thought.
There are three kinds of problems; those we can live with, those we can do something about and those we must separate ourselves from.
It’s the last one which gives us the most trouble. Living with something aggravating and, at least in the present moment, is unchangeable can be a challenge. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we can tolerate a lot. This approach can create more hassles if something needs to be changed and we lack the direction, motivation or passion to do something.
Taking control, bending problems to our will, throwing our shoulder into a problem is an attitude we find easy. There’s nothing like grabbing a difficulty by the throat and forcibly doing away with it, changing it to our liking. The risk here is we can make a situation worse if we are too hasty, too stubborn or not wise enough in our decision-making.
Leaving it, for most of us, takes the greatest strength. To be faced with a problem and not change it but change ourselves, how we approach it, takes courage and trust. When we put up with it we are sullen and prone to negative thoughts and spirits. When we take hold of it and wrestle with it, we feel we are in control. When we decide to let go, step back, allow the problem to exist and find contentment at the same time, we have reached a place of genuine spiritual and intellectual maturity.
There are seasons of life where nothing feels certain. Times when you aren’t sure what happens next. Places on the road where the truth of life’s unpredictability is too real.
This is where I am now, at a place where many things are uncertain, challenges and difficulties are everywhere. Worry and frustration over people I love hurting and going through difficult times and trials, no way of knowing how it will all work out in the end. Concern over other aspects of life that are out of my control. Finding my way slowly and, at times, painfully through circumstances I wasn’t expecting or desiring.
In seasons such as these being open, staying open seems a humongous task. My wants and needs are not evil or bad but I know they will only bring suffering if I choose to believe they are the only way. Accepting whatever life throws at me, walking life’s path not being able to see far ahead, letting go of anything preconceived and accepting what is given will take courage.
It seems to always come back to trust and acceptance.
Head On –
On Friday, my chores included riding the lawn tractor around the property picking up limbs, leaves, trash and other debris. I was finishing up just as it was getting dark. There were a couple of pieces of trash on the corner end of our yard which is next to the road. I stopped, picked them up, threw them in the trailer attached to the mower, checked both ways and drove the lawn tractor up and on the road. I had the headlights on and as soon as I made it on the road a semi-truck turned and began driving toward me. I was a spot where I couldn’t stop or pull back in the yard because of a steep grade and tried to figure out how far I had to go before me and the large truck would be at an impasse. I was going as fast as I dared and the semi didn’t seem to be slowing down. With my limited headlights on, while being blinded by the brightness of his, I searched for a location to pull back into the yard. Looking, longing, becoming anxious at the thought of being flattened by the truck I found a safe place to get off the road and avoid anymore; “playing chicken with motor vehicle” scenarios.
After breathing a sigh of relief I reflected on my; “Fast and Furious” moment. There are times, on the road of life, where there is little light by which to see. We are blinded by what’s coming our way and helpless to stop it. We do everything we can to find a safe place but disaster, danger, difficulties are looming and we don’t know if we’ll make it. Sometimes, at the last moment, we discover a safe spot a place out of danger. Other times we keep going, hoping, praying, there’s more strength, power, and courage in us than we’d ever imagine.
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” -Book of Proverbs, chapter 13, verse 20
Walking With –
The above scripture was included in my morning prayers today. As I meditated on it, I thought about the men and fathers in the addiction groups I lead.
One of the steps to becoming and staying clean and sober is to understand that those you consider friends, love like family, perhaps are family, if they use drugs or alcohol, can no longer be a part of your life. It seems harsh but staying on the path of sobriety tales tremendous courage and fierce determination.
This is truth not only for recovering addicts but for us all. If we aren’t careful with who’s a part of our lives we’ll find our lives falling apart.
It floated effortlessly in the air across the opposite lane of traffic. It caught my eye as it passed over the left lane of my side of the highway and a gust of air lifted it up just enough to get over the hood of my truck and became stuck on my antenna. “What are the odds?” I thought, “that this plastic bag and my truck antenna would meet at the exact time and place where it would be snagged and now dragged?” It made an awful noise flapping in the wind. There were too many vehicles on the road to stop and of course a traffic light or stop sign was nowhere to be found. The antenna bent abnormally and because of it’s style the bag was gripped and not going anywhere. Finally, I arrived at a red light and when the truck came to a halt the plastic bag slipped from the antenna and blew away to aggravate someone else.
After the light turned green I made my way to an appointment and reflected upon the way life brings both good and bad things into our path. We aren’t expecting, nor could we arrange the blessing or perceived curse coming our way or manipulate the circumstances to embrace or avoid what we encounter. What we have the power to do is move forward, accept what comes and hope for the courage and humility to deal with the things which float into our lives and attach themselves to us.
It was mumbled under his breath. Almost indiscernible but I caught it. “Most of them are just using the class to have something to do, get out of their cell.” My insomnia has hit almost 3 weeks with precious few hours catching “Zzzzzzzzzz’s” and my reaction could’ve been harsh but I took a breath of calm and let out a silent exhale of exhaustion and experience.
I’ve heard it before. “You’re not doing any good. You’re just wasting time. They should be doing hard labor. They’re using you.” I was too tired to counter with my usual; “Maybe you’re right, but as long as they’re coming to class, shouldn’t we try? Maybe, possibly, they’ll hear something, learn something, feel something which changes their lives forever?”
I didn’t have it within me to go back and forth with him so I simply said; “Hopefully. Hopefully they’ll learn how to choose better, learn how to be better, learn how to live a life of purpose and progression instead of impulse and regret. Hopefully.” I hadn’t convinced him. I wasn’t try to. I smiled, turned around and left. I believed what I had said and that was enough…hopefully.
“A gentle rain falling on a high mountain in a distant land. The rain was at first hushed and quiet, trickling down granite slopes. Gradually it increased in strength, as water rolled over rocks and soon it was pouring, pooling together as swift currents of a moving river. Down the mountainside, over cascading water falls, submerging all in its path.
Finally, having left the heights of the distant mountain range, the river made its way to the edge of a great desert. Sand and rock stretched beyond seeing and as fast and hard as the current splashed into the desert it was absorbed into the hot, burning sand.
Unsure how to move forward the river heard a whisper; “If the wind crosses the desert, so can you.” “Yes, but the wind can fly!” shouted the river. “You’ll never cross unless you let the wind carry you.” echoed the voice again. “But how?” begged the river. “Let go and the wind will guide you.” replied the voice.
The river could not accept this. After all, if it gave itself to the winds, could it ever be sure of becoming itself again? “Is this the only way?” it weakly asked. Ever so wisely a voice resonated within; “You cannot remain what and where you are, you must let go and give yourself to the wind.”
The river was silent for a long time, listening, fearing, deciding. Finally, from the depths of stillness, the river released itself, trusting the voice, and its vapors rose to the welcoming arms of the wind. Gradually, being lifted up higher and higher, it was carried along on clouds over the wide desert wasteland.
After a season it approached distant mountains water began once again to fall as a light rain, hushed and quiet, trickling down granite slopes. Gradually it increased in strength, rolling over rocks and across the terrain, countless drops coming together and soon swift currents flowed, a river would soon be reborn.” – an ancient wisdom parable
There was a time when each of us didn’t know who or what we were. Nothing and no one had placed labels upon us. We were carried along and trusted, knowing the way would reveal itself. However, eventually, society, family, would assess strengths and weaknesses, assign identities and aliases and these would become who and what we were to the world, to ourselves. They became our boundaries, our beliefs and we could go no further.
Then, if we have ears to hear, wisdom begins to whisper our name. Deep calls to deep. A stirring begins in our souls and an ancient voice tells us to release our misconceptions, perceptions of life, fate, reality, eternity. It is a calling to see power and control, not as forces to wield or weapons to coerce, but as the ability to let go and be swept away by the wind, the breath of creation, to an unknown place and truly know ourselves for the first time.