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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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.
Last week was a mess! Weather-wise it rained a lot, the wind blew, the skies were overcast. As a result of the drenched soil and the wind, several of our young trees were tilted and needed to be straightened. To make them upright is more than grabbing them and forcing them back to the desired position. What needs to happen is for two or three stakes to be driven in the ground around the tree, a rope or string tied from the stake to the tree so that it can keep it straight. So, Beth and I went out Sunday and did this to several of our trees in need. As they grow the strings and ropes will need to be adjusted, the stakes repositioned and anchored until one day the tree doesn’t need the support any longer.
People in our lives are like these trees. The storms of life come and blow them off-balance, weakens their foundation, makes life skewed and pointed in the wrong direction. What we can do is come alongside these needy ones and be their support, giving them the additional strength they need until one day, hopefully, they are ready and able to stand straight on their own again.
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 Beth boiled tea and I prepared it to be put it in the refrigerator. I had to remove a pitcher half filled to put the full one with tea on the back part of the shelf. I’m still not sure what happened but when I put the half-filled container back in it didn’t sit fully on the shelf. As soon as I let go the pitcher I watched it fall and spilled its contents under the fridge and all over the kitchen floor. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement. This morning, the wind was blowing quite hard and I went to get a sheet we’d hung up outside. I grabbed it and began folding it as I went inside. I wasn’t watching where I was going and stubbed my toes on a big rock! They’ve been sore all day.
I told Beth last night my brain was tired. I confirmed it with these two incidents and others. It’s been tough focusing on reading or even watching TV. My brain feels as if it’s in a fog. Grief, stress, trauma, life’s challenges can sap us physically, mentally and spiritually. We must be careful to take the time needed to recharge, replenish and renew or suffer the spills and stumbling along the way.
Last night a mighty storm with fast blowing winds and rain came through our area. I sat in the house listening to dead limbs being shaken from the big Oak tree in our front yard, the rain pounding on the roof. There were a few times I went outside to see the storm but the sun had already set and with the clouds overhead there wasn’t much to view. Then the power went out. It wasn’t surprising because of the fierceness of the wind. I went outside again and nothing could be seen but I could feel the wind threatening to blow me over as it had a couple of our potted trees. Finally, after a few hours, the storm had passed, the lights were back on, and I was thankful the storm has passed.
I don’t like storms at night. The biggest reason is that I can’t see anything, not even the direction of the blowing wind. As I sat in a candlelit living room, everything quiet but storm raging outside, I was reminded of life and the storms we face. There are times we see the storm coming but there are other times when one comes out of nowhere. It’s ferociousness rocks our lives and we feel blind as we try to feel our way forward. These can be the scariest of all because there is seemingly no light to see by, to make us feel safe, or to tell us we are nearing the end. The only thing we can do is wait, trusting that no storm lasts forever.
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.
Old and New –
Yesterday, on my Facebook memories page, was a picture I took of a wonderful couple Beth and I know in Pennsylvania. It was taken in March of 2014 just after beginning my sabbatical. The smile on both their faces portrayed the genuineness and kindness they had shown Beth and me for many years. They were only in town for a Sunday and after church, we went out to eat. As usual, they picked up the tab and the photo was snapped before we said our goodbyes.
I was in all kinds of pain at that time but didn’t have a real grasp of the mental and emotional toll the previous years had taken on me. I’m still coming to grips with a lot of it.
We had moved from a people, place we loved and had no idea what was ahead. Everything seemed to swirl around us and we could not seem to find a place to plant our feet and get our bearings. Then, along came this couple back into our lives. It was a reminder that love, grace, kindness were still present even though the winds of upheaval seemed to strip away all we held dear.
Most of 2014 seemed like the end of life as we’d known it. It would stay that way for next year. However, slowly we found our feet on firm ground and began building something new.
This evening I am thankful for old friends and new beginnings.
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.
Blown Away –
Earlier today, after mowing the back yard of the Loging homestead, I grabbed my leaf blower, leaned a ladder against the house and climbed up on the roof. Using the blower I cleaned off the limbs, leaves and gunk that had collected over the past couple of months. Carefully navigating our steep roof I made my way to each side, and with wind power, rid the roof of some unnecessary and unsightly junk.
Last night, I spoke to a group of men about emotions. We discussed how men have a difficult time showing what they’re truly feeling. “We often avoid our emotions, ignoring them, letting them build up and then releasing them in ugly ways with negative results. As men we must have a method of processing, showing and releasing our emotions in ways which do not harm ourselves or others.”
On the roof today I was thinking about these men and the need for all of us to occasionally have a fresh wind blow through our lives. A stormy and chaotic world can often leave debris, junk, littering our spirit and having the unnecessary and unsightly mess blown away is good for the soul.
I heard someone today say; “All they’re doing is feasting on the wind.” That I can remember, its the first time I had heard this particular saying. I like it, a lot. Its powerful imagery. The wind comes in many forms. From summer breezes to tornadoes, limbs lightly swaying to hurricanes, wind can tickle our ears or tear apart our worlds.
As I reflected on it, a picture materialized in my mind of someone, on a hill, mouth open trying to catch as much wind as possible, swallowing hard and then repeating. However, no matter the effort they remained empty, void. You can’t feast on the wind. I then thought about our desire for control, power and recognition. These are indeed powerful forces and many chase after them assured they will satisfy. Instead we’re left empty, starved and still searching for that which will satiate our deepest hunger.
Yesterday afternoon I sat on the hill behind our house reflecting on the week. There was a stiff wind blowing and I was thankful for a jacket and a toboggan. It has been cool and rainy most of the week but at that moment it was warm and sunny. According to the weather forecasters the strong breeze was bringing with it warmer temps for a few days. Though the air was cool the sun shining on my face felt nice and my spirit brightened at the thought of spring; long days, green grass, trees brimming with leaves, shorts and t-shirts. It isn’t here yet but I believe it’s on the way.
Winter is a long and difficult season for me. Being inside, sheltered from the cold, short days and long nights spent covered in blankets, sends chills into my soul. However, yesterday, sitting on the hill, I felt different, more alive and hopeful for better days.
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.