Cattle Crossing –
Today, traveling the back roads of South Central Tennessee, I saw a “Cattle Crossing” sign. It was funny at first, the thought of having a cow in the middle of the road or a group of them causing a traffic jam. The more I thought about a cow jumping, waddling, out of nowhere on the road or stepping out from a hidden place the more I slowed down. A cow would cause tremendous truck and bodily damage. I’ve seen the toll a deer can put on a vehicle. I can’t imagine what a cow would do!
Wisdom tells us that we are given insight and warning signs for a reason. It also reminds us that it is our choice whether or not to take the warning seriously. We proceed at our own risk. Too often we ignore them and suffer the consequences of wrecked lives for ourselves and those we hold dear.
Our lives are not to be lived waiting for the next disaster, challenge or difficulty to come our way. However, if we learn to look for the warning signs and trust the wisdom we have gained through experience and knowledge we can avoid a lot of pain and heartache.
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Post Storm –
This morning I had to pick up and drag to the burn pile all of the debris left over from yesterday’s storms. It was a lot of broken limbs and several large branches. It took a while to get all of it collected and deposited. I had a good sweat going after finishing. Then I mowed and trimmed. It was a lot of work, picking up the junk, cleaning up, what’s left over from the storms that blew into our lives.
As I sat on the riding lawn mower today I was reminded that we cannot control the storms and most of the damage they do. We aren’t in charge. We don’t have the power. We can, however, pick up the junk, dispose of the debris and clean up as best we can. Tragic events, unwanted surprises, ordinary life has a way of blowing into our every day and leaving a mess. We can’t stop it but we can react in positive or negative ways.
Last night I stuck a bag of trash on the porch. Living in the country and not placing garbage in a receptacle is like playing Russian Roulette. Sometimes a varmint gets into it and other times they just pass it by. Unfortunately, last night something got into the trash and scattered it all over the driveway. It was the first thing I saw when letting the dog out this morning. I went inside, grabbed a new bag and began recollecting the trash. There’s nothing quite like picking up frost-covered garbage at dawn.
As I was gathering it and stuffing it into the bag I began to recall a Jewish wisdom tale;
A woman repeated a story (gossip) about a neighbor. Within a few days, everyone in the community knew the story. The person she talked about heard what had been said about her and she was very sad. Later, the woman who had spread the story learned that it was not true. She was very sorry and went to a wise rabbi and asked what she could do to repair the damage. After giving this some thought, the rabbi said to her, “Go home, get one of your feather pillows, and bring it back to me.” Surprised by the rabbi’s response, the woman followed his advice and went home to get a feather pillow and brought it to the rabbi. “Now,” said the rabbi, “open the pillow and pull out all the feathers.” Confused, the woman did what she was told to do. After a few minutes, the rabbi said, “Now, I want you to find every one of the feathers and put them back into the pillow.” “That’s impossible,” said the woman, almost in tears. “The window is open and the wind has scattered them all over the room and blown many feathers outside. I can’t possibly find them all.” “Yes,” said the rabbi. “And that is what happens when you gossip or tell a story about someone else. Once you talk about someone, the words fly from one person’s mouth to another, just like these feathers flew in the wind. Once you say them, you can never take them back.”
It was a great reminder that not only every word but every action has consequences that we cannot foresee. Our lives should be lived mindfully aware that our scattered thoughts, words, and actions will impact the world for evil or for good.
Last night a fierce thunderstorm passed through the area and downed a huge branch off a tree right outside our bedroom window (see photo). The size of the damaged area leaves doubt as to whether the tree can be saved or if we will have to cut it down when removing the limb. I love trees, flowers, grass, spring, and summer, nature at its absolute best. It hurt my heart to see the beautiful tree, which is much older than I, with such a gaping wound.
I spent the week helping friends whose world, like the tree, has been torn apart. Two months ago everything seemed on track and then one of life’s damaging storms ravaged their lives and left them in doubt and afraid. They are looking at incredible odds against survival itself. They stand in the midst of what used to be their normalcy and are surrounded by debris, devastation, and the possibility of death.
Life is never predictable. It doesn’t have a reset button, can’t go back and fix things or jump forward to see how it ends. We weather the storms of life, pick up the pieces and pray for the strength, stamina, and the will to survive.
Several weeks ago, before our first cold weather of the season, we brought in the flowers which aren’t made to withstand winter’s wrath. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring in several Aloe vera plants (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloe_vera). They look terrible; drooped over, a brownish green, with no signs of vitality or health. The question is; “Did the winter weather zap these plants with enough cold that there is no hope for revitalization?” We’re going to put them on a counter in the kitchen that gets plenty of sun for the rest of the winter to find out. Hopefully, with care and attention, they’ll bounce back.
Wisdom teaches us that life and its harsh seasons can zap us too! In one we’re thriving then another comes full of challenges and difficulties and the vitality and health seem to be drained from us. We may wonder; “Is there any hope? Will we bounce back? How much can we take before it’s too much?”
Like the Aloe vera plants, wisdom tells us to find a place to recuperate. We are to care for ourselves paying attention to the damaged places and let time, rest and the warmth of love and grace help us recover.
Left Overs –
It’s now the third day after my oral surgery this past Wednesday. After a numbing gel on the impacted areas, shots of Novocaine which deadened gums, nerves, tongue, nitrous oxide which made me loopier than usual and a painkiller prescription, all that’s left over, 72 hours later, is the swelling and tenderness. I do have a few powerful pills but use them with extreme caution and sparingly for fear of becoming dependent. Even bread is hard to chew! The dentist said; “It would take time, not to rush it, invest in some ice cream.” Ice cream? Perhaps the dentist isn’t all bad. 🙂
There’s something about a part of your mouth feeling different from normal that makes you want to rub your tongue over the impacted area. With it I can tell where the surgery happened but must be gentle not to cause further pain. The first two days the ache wasn’t so bad but now that all the other desensitizing agents have worn off there’s only swelling, aching and waiting that’s left over.
Wisdom teaches us that traumatic and painful events, experiences happen to us all. We may have ways of coping with the hurt, masking the discomfort, ignoring the suffering, however, sooner or later, we must acknowledge the damage which has been done. We must accept the left overs in our lives that heartbreak and distress cause. Only then can we know the wound’s severity. Only then can we treat ourselves with gentleness and patience. Only then can we begin to heal.
This morning I burnt my tongue. I drank too much coffee, too fast and am paying the price. I’ve scalded my tongue before and it hurts, every time. I don’t like the pain or the sensation when I rub it against the roof of my mouth. There are treatments I could try to dull the discomfort but, from experience, time is the greatest healer.
As I’ve dealt with my injury this morning I’ve reflected on both the damage a tongue can receive and deliver. What if hot beverages and spicy foods weren’t the only ways to harm our tongues? What would happen if our tongues were burnt when we used words that were too hot, highly charged, and injured another? What if our speech inflicted wounds upon us when they did to our brothers and sisters? How much more careful might we be with careless, rushed, rude, insulting, judgmental language if we too felt the pain our words can cause?
I spent some of the morning and most of the afternoon filling in holes in our walls left by the previous home owner; who seemed to never meet a nail they didn’t like. There were big and small holes, deep and shallow ones. Each needed to be repaired with spackling and sanded down so that the Mrs. and I can begin painting and, hopefully, make something beautiful out of someone else’s mess.
As I moved from one hole to another, patching and fixing, I reflected on the holes which are left in our lives by others. Some of the damage is done purposefully, others by accident. Motives are notoriously hard to decipher but the hurt to our hearts, spirit and faith is much easier to gauge.
Repair work is also difficult. The holes left by family, friends, co-workers, strangers range from bruised feelings to hearts so injured they may never be able to trust again. If only there were soul spackle, an easy way to fix what’s been broken. Alas, repairing holes in our lives only come with time, grace, forgiveness and a willingness to be patched up people.
A mighty storm front moved through our area last night, snapping a few big limbs and uprooting a few small trees in our area as it passed. Fortunately we were spared any real damage save a couple of lawn chairs blown off the porch, some empty flower pots scattered in the yard and a big limb laying beside our driveway this morning.
I didn’t realize storms were in the forecast until my wife informed me after she arrived home from work. I quickly finished mowing the front yard and coming into the house I noticed the Mrs.’ car needed to be moved. She had parked it under a large tree to unload some flowers she had bought. I considered leaving it overnight but thought, with the heavy winds and rain coming, it might be best to park it elsewhere. It was a good decision. This morning, where the car had been, was a large branch broken off during the storm. Whew!
Too often storms, without warning, come crashing into our lives, leaving damage and destruction in their path. Today I am thankful not just for the warning but also the ability to think and plan ahead.