Little Things –
While I was outside mowing today a big shadow went across me and when I looked up it was a Turkey Vulture. It hovered and landed on a high branch of the Oak Tree outside our front door. It wasn’t long before it was joined by another who was surveying the area for anything dead and rotten. My focus went back to mowing until shadows appeared overhead again. It was the Turkey Vultures being chased away by a Mockingbird who has a nest in an adjoining tree. The Mockingbird was relentless, swooping up and then dive bombing both Turkey Vultures that had to be five times its size. I watched until the Turkey Vultures were out of sight and the Mockingbird perched high on a tree scanning the horizon for their return.
I found it comical and awesome that this small bird could put the two large ones to flight. Then I thought about the Turkey Vultures and their appetite for spoiled, rancid, deceased things. I also reflected on how in our lives there are times the Vultures are circling. We’re tired, weak, worn out, done for and the scavengers surround us. Then, when it seems the end, someone says or does an act of warmth, love, empathy, and chases the Vultures away. It may be a small act but it has a great impact on us. We are renewed and able to keep going.
No act of kindness no matter how “small” is ever wasted.
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I am not a mountain. Today I yielded to the wind.
When I first went outside this morning the air was still and cool. A few hours later I went out again to go to a luncheon and the wind was blowing wildly and powerfully. I knew quickly I would need a jacket. The wind was powerful, forcing me to lean into it as I made my way to the truck. The cool wind made quick work out of my jacket and soon and felt as though it wasn’t even there.
A young man spoke with me a few days ago. He’s been having a rough time and he’s at a loss of knowing what to do. He’s not a mountain either. The winds have made quick work of the ways he protects himself and is blowing him around with no anchor to tether to.
As we talked I helped him separate what he could do with what he had to accept. We aren’t mountains. When the winds come billowing we can feel at the mercy of them and to an extent this is true. However, there’s almost always something we can do. We might feel weak compared to the power that’s blowing against us but this doesn’t mean we are powerless.
Firstly we accept the storm, the wind, the hardship and challenge they bring. We cannot stop the wind but accepting it, respecting it, allows us to stop trying to control it. We don’t have that kind of power. Secondly, in the stillness of acceptance, we discover what we can do and we act. We might not be able to do all we want but we do all we can. We can lean into the wind.
Last night Beth and I went to Madison, Tennessee to pick up a few items from friends who are having a garage sale this weekend. I always keep a bungee net in the truck bed for when items are placed in the bed and need to be held securely.
Once everything was situated I grabbed the bungee net, hooked it to one side, threw it over to the other and walked around to the other side to set the hooks in place. However, when I pulled the net tight it broke in my hand. Figuring it was just a weak spot worn out by time, weather and use I grabbed another piece and it did the same thing. The net, which I bought several years ago had begun to break down and though I was able to finally find enough strong places, to hook it to the truck, it is time to buy a new one.
On the long drive home I thought about the net and how we too can become worn out physically, emotionally and spiritually. We long to be a source of security and strength to others but seasons of use and stress have taken their toll. Giving up, hopefully, isn’t an option, but as we get older, become more self-aware, we know where our strengths are and the weak places. With this wisdom, we are better able to be a source of security and strength to others and discover we are still capable of being used to help others feel and be secure on the road of life.
Last night a front of mighty thunderstorms came roaring into our area. They were complete with strong winds, many lightning strikes, hail and a couple of hours worth of a drenching rain.
There are not too many other things which can make you feel small like a thunderstorm. The sheer power puts you in a state of awe. The four elder trees on our property which are at least 40 feet tall were shaking as though they were saplings. The water which fell made a stream where there had been only dry land. The wind blowing loosened and felled many branches while shaking the house.
Beth and I could only watch, listen and hope nothing would be damaged by the storm. We were safe as possible and everything else in our lives is replaceable. After a while, the storms passed and this morning I walked out to survey any lasting impact from the night before. Nothing more than a few limbs downed and dirt from the driveway moved about.
Wisdom teaches us that storms come into the lives of the “good” and the “bad”. They blow us around and seem to shake the very foundations of where we place our faith and hope. Storms make us feel small, insignificant and powerless. Wisdom tells us that’s one of the benefits of experiencing storms. Too often we forget how weak we truly are and storms bring; humility, silence, and teach us appreciation for what we should value and a thankful spirit when what we love most isn’t swept away.
I could tell she needing something without knowing how to ask for it. Finally, she began to say a few words, jumbled, somewhat coherent, and then blurted out a need her husband had and could I help? Responding in an assuring voice with, hopefully, peace giving words I told her; “Yes” and “would she like a card?” She smiled affirmatively, took the card and said; “Thank you.” “Anytime,” I replied back. “I hope you have a nice weekend.” I don’t know if I’ll hear from her or her husband again but it was not my first time I’ve encountered someone looking for assistance and yet hesitant, resistant, to ask for help.
I reflect on our brief conversation and wonder; “Why is it so hard for some to admit need?” I think part of it is our; “Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps” culture. Folks who need a helping hand often feel they are somehow “less than” others.
Maybe it’s the thought that; “Others are so much worse off.” It seems selfish to take food out of their mouths, clothes off their backs, a roof over their heads.
Might be, perhaps the darkest reason; “I don’t want to be lumped in with the people who ‘have their hands out.'” They are judged, looked down upon, seen as lazy, under-achievers, taking advantage of people, churches, community organizations and the government.
Being in need is nothing to be ashamed of. Whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual we all need each other to make it. A wisdom proverb states; “No one can navigate the road of life alone.” In truth, we are all needy, weak, impoverished and cannot do it on our own. Asking for help is not helplessness it’s having the right balance of strength and humility to admit we are flawed, defective, deficient, have shortcomings, imperfections, in short,we are all; human and to be so is to be in need.
“Someone asked the great Master one day; “What is the gospel?” The Master replied; “The gospel is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.” Wisdom Proverb
When Beth and I made an offer on our little farm-house one of the provisos we placed in the contract was that an old, red, riding lawn mower be included in the purchase. Since the previous owner was going to be living in a camper in Florida he had no problem with this stipulation. I used it all last summer but during the fall problems began to plague the mower and late last year it died. It was going to cost almost as much to fix it as buying a new one. I had a relatively new push mower and when spring arrived I decided to use it to mow the grass. It wasn’t easy. We have almost 2 acres and the back yard has a good slope to it.
I would split the chore into two days. The front part of the yard took over 2 hours and the back, with the incline, was closer to 3. For almost two months I used the push mower but as temps began to climb and the humidity level rose I noticed by the end of the second day I was so tired I couldn’t do anything else. I was whooped, spent, done. It took almost everything I had to do this one thing. I could do it but nothing else. Finally, the Mrs. and I decided to buy a new lawn tractor. A couple of weeks ago I used it for the first time and it was a relief to have help, to not rely solely on my strength to do a relatively simple chore. I could now mow everything in one afternoon, do the weed eating with strength left over to work on other projects.
Last weekend, while using the new lawn mower, I reflected on my journey with severe depression and anxiety (https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/04/27/my-depression-and-anxiety-story/). I thought about the struggle to make it on my own, not ask for help. Trying to carry the burden of depression and anxiety took everything I had just to get through each day and the truth is that I was losing the battle. As hard as it was to admit I needed help. Finally going to see a specialist, talking about what these diseases were doing to me, agreeing to take meds, wasn’t easy, still isn’t, but it’s what needed to be done.
Understanding we can’t do it alone, asking for help, depending upon and trusting others to walk beside us, maybe carry us until we can walk again doesn’t make us weak but instead allows us to be strong again.
The lawn caretakers for the church next door came early this morning, before 7AM. Luckily I was already up and taking the dog outside for his morning routine. As I stood there, in my bathrobe, I heard a noise over the sound of the zero turn lawn mowers. At first I couldn’t make it out but as I focused on the sound it became clear someone was singing. It was one of the men on the mowers. He had headphones on and whatever song was playing he was singing along with it. I began to smile. He hadn’t seen me and continued for a while bellowing at the top of is lungs. Before long he noticed me, quieted down until me and the dog went inside.For a lawn jockey he was a decent singer. He didn’t need to be any more talented than what he was because his purpose was to mow grass, take care of lawns, not entertain folks with his musical abilities.
The incident reminded me of a professor I had in college. I asked him one day; “How can we, who are so frail, weak, selfish, short-sighted and sinful, so human, ever please a God who is so good?” He smiled and took a pen from his shirt pocket and pointed out the scratches, dings and dents, faded color of the imitated gold casing and asked me; “What is the purpose of this pen? Is it to look good? Impress by its shine? Cause awe to all who behold it? Or, is it to write when pressed on to a piece of paper?” “To write.” I said. “Then it is a perfect pen because it fulfills its purpose. As long as it writes, its perfect no matter what it looks on the outside. In the same way our purpose is to love and be loved by God. Oftentimes we aren’t much to look at but if we desire to love and be loved by our Heavenly Father we are fulfilling our purpose and His love is what makes us perfect.”
He was a wise man.