Bruised Reeds

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“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out”.        Isaiah 42:3

We, the human race, are all broken (bruised) in one way or another. Sure, we can create facades that vault us into super stardom appeal, but in the end we all face issues that we simply cannot overcome in our own power. Try as we may via manifold self-help strategies, the latest diet and fitness plans, seeking advice from others who may or may not be qualified to give it, and on and on it goes.

Rather than spend your time on all of the reasons as to why we are bruised and broken, I want to state a few simple thoughts which compliment rather than deride this human condition. First, we are beautifully and wonderfully made (Palm 139:14). Period. Whether a model or a paraplegic, a millionaire or a homeless junkie, a child with AIDS or an Olympic star, we are all basically the same once we overlook the obvious differences on the outside.

Secondly, we have a hope which transcends this earthly existence. This hope is called Love and came to us in the form of a man. He set the world upside-down with His teaching and is either praised, loathed or ignored…Jesus is His name. Because He loves us so much He has chosen to not condemn us, but to save us from ourselves. Rather than break the reed or snuff out the candle, He strengthens the stalk and fans the flame to burn brighter. It may not always feel like it, but it’s during the tough times that faith grows and hope is renewed.

So, the next time you see the stalk of any plant think about the bruised reed, about yourself and have faith that both will outlast the storms of life and the foibles of the human heart.

When in Drought

Iris Rising

We in the Kansas City area have been in a prolonged drought for months. Plus, we have had extremely hot temperatures during this time. By looking at my yard one would think grass is meant to be brown rather than green…assuming there is any grass !

There are all sorts of droughts in life: spiritual (that’s a big one), relationships, health issues, job, work associates, financial, no change of scenery, hopelessness…and the list will become larger given enough thought, but you get the idea.

Some droughts last longer than others and some are more difficult, as well. What we do during a drought tells us a lot about ourselves. Droughts test our strength and resolve and reveal our limitations. I have been through several seasons of prolonged and difficult droughts and have learned a great deal about myself that I didn’t realize prior to those experiences. And, some of what I learned I don’t like.

Sometimes we come through a drought stronger, and sometimes not so much. However, we do come out of them as changed people. I share this iris with dew on it to remind me that droughts don’t last forever and that there will be times of joy and beauty and purpose. If you are currently in a drought think of this flower with wet petals gleaming in the morning sunlight. Hope is what we need and hope is what I seek for all of our lives. Tomorrow is a new day !

Your Song

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It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside

I’m not one of those who can easily hide

I don’t have much money, but boy if I did

I’d buy a big house where we both could live

If I were a sculpture, but then again, no

Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show

I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do

My gift is my song, and this one’s for you

And you can tell everybody this is your song

It may be quite simple, but now that it’s done

I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words

How wonderful life is when you’re in the world

Elton John

For better or for worse is what we spoke

Time has a different version than what we hoped

We’ve been through much pain and I’ve caused quite a lot

But we’ve also had much joy since we tied the knot

So you can tell everyone this is your song

I sing through my words to my most wonderful doll

I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind, but I can’t help myself

You’re the most precious thing in life…in the whole wide world

Michael

BLUE SKIES

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I can see clearly now the rain is gone                   

I can see all obstacles in my way                                             

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind,

It”s gonna be a bright (bright)

Bright (bright) sun-shiny day

It”s gonna be a bright (bright)

Bright sun-shiny day

Oh yes I can make it now the pain is gone

All of the bad feelings have disappeared

Here is a rainbow I’ve been praying for

It”s gonna be a bright (bright)

Bright (bright) sun-shiny day

 

By Johnny Nash in 1972 & then Jimmy Cliff in 1993

 

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S A P

 

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When I think of the term ‘bleeding heart’, I simply look at one of our Ponderosa pines we planted over 25 years ago in an environment which they weren’t meant to thrive in. The prolonged drought which ended about three years ago almost killed all of them. Today, many bleed sap. Sap covering trunk bark is usually a sign of a tree defending itself against invasive insects and fungus’s. Pruning also causes sap to occur to cover the wounded trunk and branches. Since these pines are mature and were weakened by the lack of water and extremely hot summer temperatures, they are unhealthy. At this stage in their lives, there is little that can be done to make them thrive again. They have already exceeded their life expectancy for our temperate zone. They are not native to Kansas and are more vibrant when located in cooler and higher altitude climates. Yet, they have survived. Speaking of survival, pine tree sap is an excellent wound salve and has other beneficial medicinal uses.

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It is wonderful how nature protects herself. From a strictly vision perspective, the bleeding sap looks like an abstract painting of sorts. All of this gooey, slowly dripping sap gives the pine a fighting chance to survive another year. Although their branches aren’t as full as when younger, and the ability to withstand drought and pestilence aren’t as good as they used to be, these out-of-place trees know a thing or two about life and stress. They adapt. The sap is like liquid artwork to me-gradually changing color and shape as time marches on. Although I know something is wrong, I can’t help but admire the ever changing covering of bark. Strange, perhaps, but also encouraging.

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So, why talk about sap? Because it reminds me of people…of me. The bark of a tree provides an outer protective shield much like people do with their words and actions. Get too close and the bark may scratch. If one could peel off or bore into the bark then the tree (person) becomes vulnerable to a host of problems. Since sap is created to protect the tree when the bark has been damaged (much like people respond to pain and injury as they reveal their emotions in a myriad of ways)  a protective balm is produced. People  will do almost anything to protect their souls from being injured further.

Often, we lash out against those who have injured us-and in the process create more harm to ourselves by striving to keep them away. Sometimes we curl-up emotionally and drive away those who care for us by simply closing them out. If we understand our condition and desire healing we are usually clueless as to where to find it. So, rather than produce sap, we humans look to other methods to bring about wholeness. Occasionally, we get it right and bounce back, but this is not easy and usually requires the aid from others.

There is something magnificent about the human spirit…each unique spirit God has given to mankind. We so much desire to be vibrant. We desperately want to be noticed. We vie for attention and when we don’t get it from where it should come from we do all sorts of silly things. We want to be understood, and appreciated simply for who we are. It doesn’t matter if we are fifteen, twenty-two, forty something, sixty or eighty-eight. We all crave the same thing-to be acknowledged…to be appreciated…to be recognized (with or without fanfare). Validation. We simply want to be acknowledged and valued.

So, we instinctively protect ourselves when our egos have been walked on or our ambition has been perceived as arrogance. Whether we are hurt, belittled, misunderstood, have been treated unjustly or are ignored we struggle to deal positively with what has been done to us (or perceived to have been done to us). Hence, sap. Just like these pine trees striving to live-we humans go through all sorts of mental, emotional and physical exercises to survive, as well. Being very complex beings, most of the time our self-protective actions are misunderstood or self-destructive. Quite often, our defense mechanisms return to a default position that only ourselves or a few others are even aware of. How sad. How true.

So, rather than end this post on a negative note, I choose to flip the record over and play a happier song. Sap is a good thing. Period. If God didn’t give each human the ability to produce ‘sap’ then we would be doomed to a life of pity…often self-pity. This statement is not to imply that some injuries are beyond our control to heal. However, each of us experiences a suppository of defensive mechanisms to deal with the pain; whether they be crushed egos, betrayals, personal attacks, mockery, physical deformities or a myriad of other conditions. We are resilient.

My God has stated that we are the Apple of His eye. In other words, the most vulnerable place in the human body is valued by the Creator in such a way that He loves us and desires to protect us. I admit that I am not an expert in this area. I know His love, yet fight to make things better by my  own will. The result is usually not so good. However, when I release all to Him, the result is one of inner healing which, in turn, results in outer blessings for others. To be human means to be a family. It doesn’t matter what one’s philosophy is, nor what religion, nor what influence one may have achieved. I wish there was equality among all people everywhere, but such is not the case. We all know this.

Let us become the Sap for the sake of others. Practice applying the balm of forgiveness, of understanding, of empathy, and sacrifice when it is called for. Go the extra mile as Jesus preached and surrender yourselves to the greater good…mankind. I speak to myself most of all. Do not despair, my friends, for there is a power far greater than our own which governs all things. In particular, this Power loves humans more than trees or sap. He loves each one of us simply because He chose to. You are wonderful.

 

Paradox ?

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I must admit from the start that this is an unusual post for me. True, I have submitted several posts about Carson over the past two years, but today is different. Obviously, I am (Cheryl is, too) crazy about this canine. At the same time he is a great source of occasional irritation…love him anyway.

The Paradox for which I titled this post may not be so much a paradox, but a simple reality.

We adopted Carson after he was a breeder dog in a puppy mill in Nebraska. There are these wonderful people who keep distressed dogs until they find a new owner. And, there are organizations which give folks like us the opportunity to see such dogs who need a home. In our case it is called Little White Rescue (we were interviewed before acceptance to bringing Carson home). So it should be.

We were told he was about three or so years old, but time has shown us that he was more likely six years old. Today, Carson is close to ten years…not a big deal for most dogs. However, he is 95% deaf, is developing cataracts so he cannot see that well, and has a terrible hacking cough as a result of an attack by a pit bull several years earlier. His trachea is collapsing so he has to take steroids more often than we like.

Now, for what I entitled as a paradox may simply be a matter of the circle of life, so-to-speak. Our two grandchildren are spending the night with us! Elliot is almost three and half years and Audrie seventeen months young. How fun, is right! I might add, exhausting, too. They are pure joy.

So, I walked today with an aging pupdog (as I call him) who may not be around much longer, and will engage with two very special children for the next twenty-four hours or so. The wonderful thing is that Carson has accepted the kiddos while they have learned to like and interact with a mammal of a different species. They really seem to like him. To watch their encounters together is priceless.

Well, there it is…my paradox of sorts (but not really). I simply love them all and want them to remain with us forever. We have had other animals we wish the same for, as well.

I am comforted by the words I read in my Bible which go like this, ” The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6.

So, I am encouraged that there shall be a reunion in Heaven with man and his beloved animals. This is not meant to be a theology lesson, but a point of hope for future blessings to abound. Thank you for reading and contemplating that which may be.

Rose of Sharon

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Hibiscus syriacus is a deciduous flowering shrub with large blossoms of various colors. These exotic looking shrubs can be found all over the world, and produce flowers from Spring to Autumn. They are a hardy plant and require little to no maintenance.

 Symbolically, in The Song of Solomon, Jesus is referred to as the Rose of Sharon. Sharon was a lush plain in Palestine at that time. The rose is considered by many to be the most perfect of all flowers. Since Christ is the only perfect man to walk upon planet Earth, the use of the rose in describing Him seems fitting. However, rather than Jesus (as the bridegroom) giving His people (the church) roses as a man would offer his beloved, He became the gift as well as the giver through His sacrifice.

 Hence, when I look upon our shrub producing a plethora of blooming roses throughout the warm Summer months, I smile and think of Him. Christ’s love and mercies-which are new every morning-refresh my occasional weary soul and remind me that life is a gift to be enjoyed daily. Just as hope springs eternal with each bloom, so His love endures forever. I hope you experience the Rose, and in doing so find peace and contentment.