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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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.
If I had a Star Wars name it would be “Brian Skywatcher” because this is what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. Looking, waiting, for the sky to open up and give the land a nice good soaking of rain. Its been disappointing the last few weeks because weather patterns would come together, storms and rain clouds lining up to unload only to dissipate at the last moment. Today, however, the rain has finally come. A nice steady rain. Good for grass, trees, bushes, plants and the soul.
Even though we need the rain I know there are parts of the country who need to dry out. They are waiting for the sun to shine, the wind to blow and chase the flooding away. I have a friend who asked me to pray today because they don’t like storms and are getting the remnants of the tropical storm in Florida. The prayer wasn’t to take the storms away but peace and presence during them.
Wisdom teaches us that storms of life will come and go. At times they bring with them what we need. At other times they batter and bruise us. We can’t control the storms but we can accept them and find a stillness deep within.
Storms Pass By –
I stood on my porch a few moments ago watching the skies turn gray and the wind blow. I had received a weather warning earlier that thunderstorms were headed our way. I was excited because we need the rain. It was a wet late winter and early spring but it has been dry lately. However, the wind picked up and the skies became darker but no rain. Now it is sunny outside. More waiting and hand watering our plants and trees this evening.
Interesting how life works. There are actually storms we hope for and need and those from which we seek respite. I read an article this afternoon about “Introversion Hangovers.” These occur when an introvert becomes overstimulated by too much time around extroverts, events, experiences. Afterward, they require a time of recuperation. Introverts need a quiet, space and the opportunity to rest. For me, this subdue weekend has been that after a busy past couple of weeks. I am thankful the rhythm of life can, hopefully, get back to normal.
Storms come and go, impact us or miss us all together. Wherever we find ourselves may we also find peace.
Old News –
The last couple of weeks of February have been a rough time for me the last several years. There are painful, heart hurting memories which seem to resurface and dealing with these challenging emotions is difficult.
Today I cleaned up our yard after a round of storms and rain this last week. I threw them on a burn pile and set it afire. I also had some old fence pieces and newspapers to burn. The newspapers are from my wife. She is doing her best to understand and begin to use extreme couponing in an effort to save money. I made sure to take old piles of newspaper and watched as the flames began consuming them. I tried reading some of the headlines and articles before the fire reached them and then they were gone.
As the fire leaped into the air I thought about it being old news which was out of date and historical. I also reflected on the memories I’ve struggled with the last few weeks and tried to remind myself that healing and time can also consume the heartache of the past and that our history enlightens our present.
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.
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.
The Risk –
There’s a bumblebee stuck on a screen of our front porch. It’s the porch we’ve been building for several months now and have almost everything completed but the doors. There will be double sliding doors leading to the front door of the house and a side door leading to the front of the house. These missing doors leave large gaps to fly to freedom, yet for some reason, for several days, the little-winged insect stays put.
The problem is we’re hoping to finish up the porch quickly so we can enjoy it these spring and summer months. When the doors go up the bee goes out, forced to face the world full of birds, bug zappers, and countless other dangers.
When I see him I think of the invisible barriers that we all place upon our lives. Most of us like the idea of a smaller world. A place where we aren’t in too much danger, there’s shelter from storms, protection from so many things which we can’t control.
However, to truly live, we must venture beyond our comfort zones and self-constructed barriers. There’s no guarantee we will be safe nor comfortable but freedom is worth the risk.
All that’s Left –
A nasty cold front moved through our area last night and it is cold outside today! The temps haven’t ventured out of the 20’s with a stiff wind and layer of ice covering the places rain fell as the temperatures plummeted.
As the arctic blast forced its way through Tennessee mighty winds shook the big Oak tree just outside our front door. For several hours we’d hear crashes on the tin covering our front porch or in the yard. Each time we’d grab the flashlight, peek outside and see another dead limb had fallen. Our Oak tree for all its beauty, has many branches, big and small, no longer alive that need to come down and the storm, for all its ferocity, did a good job at shaking these limbs from their place among the live ones.
As I stood outside today, letting the dog run, sniff and explore the patches of ice that litters the ground, I thought about life and the storms we face. Most often we do not welcome storms, we do not ask to be shaken, blown back and forth. We like stillness, security and the sense our lives are not in danger of being knocked over. However, if we are self-aware we also recognize that many times it takes these unwanted storms to rid us of the dead, unneeded things of life. The winds may threaten to topple us but they also dislodge places in which we’re stuck.
All that’s left from the storm last night is picking up the branches in the yard. May it also be this way in our lives.
The wind from a mighty storm front howled, pushed, shoved and knocked me around yesterday. I arrived home from work and the dogs were ready to go outside. I grabbed an umbrella and we made our way to the yard so they could do their business. The gusts were so strong that my umbrella knocked me in the head, pulled to the right, left leaving me soaking wet, and was basically useless. Once I was back inside I decided to do it differently next time I ventured out. A couple of hours later, the wind still shaking tree limbs and throwing branches and debris around, I bundled up with a raincoat and hat. My hat blew off my head but the raincoat protected me better than the flimsy umbrella.
Back indoors I dried off my head and reflected upon the storms of life and how at times things we hope will protect us fail, become useless and broken. It’s hard to accept what we’ve placed our faith in has let us down and can’t keep us safe. Letting go of what doesn’t work, finding new places of safety and stillness can be difficult but is also necessary.
Sunday evening a mighty storm of wind and rain blew through our area. The next morning there were several limbs in the yard and a HUGE one in the middle of the driveway. Late this afternoon I gathered them up and made a bonfire. The BIG limb required being cut up into smaller pieces in order to carry it. When I finally finished gathering all the debris I sat down and enjoyed the warm flame as the sun began to set.
Watching the flickering orange flames devour the limbs, I thought about the storm. Oftentimes in life, when storms blow through, leaving downed dreams and crushed hopes in their paths, we wonder where to start with the clean up and how anything good can come from the mess. Wisdom tells we begin by simply picking up the pieces and trust that even the mightiest winds and rains cannot quench our life’s fire without permission.
Yesterday, strong winds swept through the area. Last night these mighty breezes blew over a section of fencing we have on our property. When I walked outside this morning I noticed the damage. What was holding the fence in place snapped. The fence isn’t broken, no good, or needs to be replaced, it just needs to be set up right and secured, grounded again.
Life’s storms sometimes blow us over. No matter how secure, safe, stable or sure we are about our footing the winds of the storms of life blow us, and all we hold dear, put our confidence in, place hope upon, over. For some, this is the end of the story. They are down and out for the count.
For others it is a hard but needed lesson. The great truth that no matter how strong we are we cannot, and will not, always hold up to the strong winds of an often complicated and difficult journey.
There are days, seasons, when the winds win. However, this doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Being blown away by life doesn’t mean we can’t find our footing and continue to make our way home. The choice is ours; give up or get up.
One of my favorite things to do is sit by our fire pit after a long day and watch the flames light up the night sky filled with stars.
On Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon we had several rain showers move through the area. Finally, Sunday evening, they scattered to the winds leaving a damp chill in the air. I went out to the fire pit and uncovered some wood in a holder that’s protected from nature’s elements. The ground in and around the fire pit was soaked but placing the dry kindling in and putting a match to it I soon had a roaring fire that chased the dampness away. The area around the fire was wet but the wood was dry and this made all the difference.
I smiled as the flames leapt into the air and reflected on the storms that often come into our lives. They deluge us with difficulties and pain, heartache and despair, hopelessness and powerlessness. We may wonder if our lives will ever burn again with passion and purpose. The key to being reignited is to protect our spirits, a layer of shielding around our hearts and minds, to know at our center the rain cannot penetrate and when the time comes we will be ready to once again be set aflame and light up the night.
Trying to get a bonfire started isn’t easy when you have wet leaves from a heavy rain storm earlier in the week infesting your burn pile. This morning, however, I was determined to burn some debris whatever it took! After several matches and some dry leaves and sticks on top I finally got the flames flickering. The problem was that not long after the fire would begin to blaze a breeze or patch of damp leaves would reduce the flames to mostly smoke.
At first I tried relighting it but to no avail. I thought about getting some gasoline but then I heard the crackling of a small flame and decided to wait and see what would happen. It wasn’t quick but eventually the smoke subsided and the fire roared. I stoked it, added kindling and a few more dry limbs and “voila!” a bonfire! Patience is easier to teach than practice.
While I’ve watched the fire today I’ve reflected on how life can also drench us with chaos, confusion, change and transition. Our spirits, emotions, passions and vision can be reduced to mostly smoke from the downpour of life’s unpredictability. We may wonder if our internal fire is smothered or smoldering. Our first response might be to try harder, do better, force the flames. Many times though if we’ll wait, pause, trust, we will burn again.
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.
This morning I walked outside and was greeted by several large “surprises” birds had left on my truck over the weekend. It was unsightly and unappealing but I had no time to do anything before I drove to work. What a way to start off the week! Oy!
After a community father’s group this morning I packed up my supplies for an offsite afternoon group and headed back to my truck. It was pouring rain. One more Argh! on a Monday. By the time I got everything in the vehicle I was soaked but I also noticed the shower had washed the bird refuse off the truck and onto the ground.
I sat in the driver’s seat and reflected on how often things we wouldn’t choose, ask for, or even desire can have positive impacts on our lives. Aggravating situations, difficult circumstances, the storms of life can be the very things which wash the crud away.
A starry night thousands of years ago. The fire cracks, the smell of smoke in the air, an elder stirs the flames with a stick watching his young audience as they sit anticipating the stories that always accompany these times. The story teller looks them over, clears his throat, looks them each in the eye and begins…
“When on high heaven was not named, And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name, And the primeval Apsû, who begat them, And chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both, Their waters were mingled together, And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen; When of the gods none had been called into being The epic names two primeval gods: Apsu, the fresh water, and Tiamat, the salt water.
Several other gods are created (Ea and his brothers) who reside in Tiamat’s vast body. They make so much noise that it annoys Tiamat and Apsu greatly. Apsu wishes to kill the young gods, but Tiamat disagrees. The vizier, Mummu, agrees with Apsu’s plan to destroy them. Tiamat, to stop this from occurring, tells Ea (Nudimmud), at the time the most powerful of the gods, who, using magic, puts Apsu into a coma and kills him, and shuts Mummu out. Ea then becomes the chief god, and along with his consort Damkina, has a son, Marduk, greater still than himself.
Marduk is given wind to play with and he uses it to make dust storms and tornadoes. This disrupts Tiamat’s great body and causes the gods still residing inside her to be unable to sleep. They persuade Tiamat to take revenge for the death of her husband. Her power grows, and some of the gods join her. She creates 11 monsters to help her win the battle and elevates Kingu, her new husband, to “supreme dominion.”
Ultimately, Marduk is selected as champion against Tiamat, and becomes very powerful. He defeats and kills Tiamat, and forms the universe from her corpse. The gods confer kingship on Marduk, hailing him with fifty names.”
This is a rival story of creation told by the ancient Babylonians. It reflects their idea of how humankind began. The Earth, humanity, was created, not by a loving god but from the corpse of a dead god who was slain in the chaos of battle.
Another creation story told by other wise elders to their children and children’s children…
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be……and God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them…God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
The creation story found in Genesis is not the oldest of creation stories and found its most complete form while the people of God were in captivity in…you guessed it, Babylon. They needed to know if This chaotic god of the Babylonians, this warrior god who beat down these other gods, was now in charge?
So the Hebrews told their creation story to their children. There are many differences in the two creation stories but the resounding one is that even though we are slaves, captives, victims. When looking around all we see is chaos and defeat. Always remember that our God never vied for power, never battled for control, there is no chaos within God and with just his words he can bring order, new life, balance, an end to the storm.
The chaos of our world and life at times can be a hurricane whipping and turning, tossing and fighting. It is not easy to remember that order and balance exist. When chaos comes, tearing up our world we ask “is the storm all there is…? Does it make a difference if there is balance and order when life is blowing, battering, battling and beating me down?”
Yes, it does make a difference and the difference is all the difference.
peace and grace