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.

 

Tis’ the Season…a Prayer

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I believe most people, regardless of religious affiliation, want to live in peace. This is preciously why Jesus came to earth. The angels announced when He was born, “Peace on Earth and good will towards men” (women, too). Why there is so much division among various peoples of the earth can be easily explained. Man is inherently selfish and prideful, and wants his own way regardless of who is afflicted or abused. In fact it is those whom Jesus focused on the most-the downtrodden and forsaken.

I sincerely want everyone who reads this post to know that I pass no judgement because of one’s beliefs (or lack of beliefs). And, I am very, very grateful for those who follow my blog and for those who stumble upon it. I find it gratifying to know that even one person finds either what I have to say or the the photographs I take to be of enough importance to stop for a moment and sneak a peak at one of my posts. I certainly enjoy some of my fellow bloggers’ words and pics, and am especially grateful for the regulars who visit me. As always, I welcome your comments. Now, for my prayer.

Please Lord, let there be peace upon the earth, and let it begin with me.                                                                                         

 

 

Overcoming

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To overcome any obstacle requires courage. We may not even be aware that this inner strength exists. Whether on the battlefield of war, fighting cancer, dealing with abuse or a host of other serious issues, at some point in our lives we will have an opportunity to overcome or be overcome. This is not an indictment of those who are overcome by something. None of us are Superman. It is simply a fact of life. Sometimes we are victors, and sometimes we are not. No judgement here. I am personally acquainted with both aspects of overcoming, yet I am not without hope.

 

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These wonderful sculptures are located within a fountain called the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain at a prominent point of the Country Club Plaza, a Kansas City landmark. They are spectacular. The artist who designed these is Henri-Leon Gerard, a Frenchman who was commissioned by a wealthy family in New York in 1910. Some years later the estate fell into disarray and the four bronze horses were sold. The Nichols’ family located these magnificent sculptures and had them shipped to Kansas City in 1957. There are four smaller fish-like sculptures which were added to the fountain which was officially dedicated in 1960, in honor of J.C., the visionary developer.

 

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To have such foresight as J.C. Nichols, who developed The Plaza in a Seville Spain motif in the 1920s, and the talent of Gerard simply astounds me. Kansas City is nicknamed The City of Fountains, and there are (48) city owned and maintained fountains within her city limits. This fountain (the most visited of all), and particularly these horses in full battle positions are a treasure. Because they reveal such intense conflict, the men and equines become one against their foes. These memorial sculptures tell a story far deeper than when casually viewed for the first time.

 

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No matter how determined one may be, to vanquish an oppressor takes more than courage and will…it takes help. Where does your help come from? For many, it comes from family and friends. For some, it comes from community. And for others, it comes from a force not easily identified, yet real to those who claim it. Depending on the circumstances, I have called upon all three of these helpers. Yet, there is always one unseen companion who stands by my side no matter what the obstacle. He has a name-Jesus-and through his spirit I am reminded that I am never alone in facing that which seeks to conquer me. I hope you have such a helper. And, I hope you visit this fountain and Kansas City some day!

 

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Where Did The Wonder Go?

I wish I could take credit for the title and idea, but that honor goes to my pastor Nathan Miller who preached a superb message about losing the wonder, the awe about God as we age. For those who are interested, he referenced Mathew 13: 53-58   which is a short excerpt in the Bible where Jesus is preaching in his hometown. All who heard marveled at Jesus’ command of scripture, but they rejected him because he grew up among them and was familiar to them, therefore not accepting his message or ministry. In the end, Jesus said that a prophet is not honored in his home town. Of course, he was much more than a prophet which increased their rejection of the message, and ultimately him. I felt a tinge of remorse as I realized I often regard Christ through too familiar eyes.

Please hang with me as I share some thoughts about life using this theme. As much as this message applied to people’s relationship to God, it also applies to so many other critical aspects about our daily lives. Wonder can be defined as “a feeling of surprise mingled with  admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar or inexplicable“. The photos I will be sharing are of Elliot, my grandson, who is full of wonder. These images are cell phone shots taken impromptu, but I believe they get the point across as you watch Elliot in fullness of wonder. And yes, I don’t mind sharing him with you!

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It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt. I know that is harsh and not always the case, but there is a ring of truth to this statement. Familiarity also results in boredom and a withdrawal from what we once cherished. This is probably the most common result and occurs over time. It is seldom intentional. In fact, we don’t usually know we have reached this stage until we are either confronted by someone who remarks about our adjusted position about something or someone, or we have an epiphany of sorts and realize that what used to excite and engage us does so no longer. However, there is hope!

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Wonder is a beautiful thing! Whether we are experiencing something for the fist time or the hundredth, when we capture the essence of what it is that thrills us we become filled with awe and joy. The key in keeping ourselves from falling out of this mindset is rather simple, yet in reality so difficult to maintain.

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To view life through the eyes of a child is one such key to maintaining wonder for the sublime which surrounds us each day. I am not speaking of what some consider to be a foolish Pollyanna who blindly sees life through rose colored glasses. I am speaking of the Pollyanna who believes that good things will happen rather than bad, and remains optimistic even during adversity. To wake up each day with the expectation to simply enjoy each encounter and experience is a good start. Elliot is quite adept at this. I didn’t say perfect, though!

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Ah, but there is a battle raging all around us, as well as inside of us. There are so many enemies which seek to rob us of our joy and the wonder of life which God has so graciously given us. We fight pain and fatigue, money worries and relationship hassles, poor health and fear of death. Negativity and chaos bombards us from every outlet possible: social media, politics, war news, seeing poor sportsmanship, experiencing greed and corruption, and on and on. It seems for every positive there are three negatives. However, that is not reality, but what we are lead to believe is our reality. We must change our perspective and rise above the debris which has caused us to become bored and afraid. Circumstances may not change, but our mind and hearts can.

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We must strive to rid ourselves of cynicism, malice, bigotry, inflated egos, fear, exaggerated regrets, unrealistic expectations, and all that is unhealthy to our souls (it’s not the same for all of us-only you know what stirs your soul). Perspective is borne from hope and appreciation for what is rather than what we want. There is nothing wrong with desiring more or better things in our lives as long as we are balanced in seeking such. Wonder is not easy to maintain because life can be cruel and very hard at times. But, anything worthwhile takes effort. Personally, I want to expend my efforts as Elliot does. I want to train my mind to view each day as a gift just waiting to be opened! Yes, I am an adult and have adult responsibilities which I take seriously, but that shouldn’t prevent me from having the heart of a child. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these“.

 

 

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.

 

 

Success: One More Definition

“Success is achieving my full potential while fully surrendering to God”.     J.B. Wood

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When I came across this quote, I was taken back by its simplicity, and at the same time, its profoundness. Hence, I decided to share it. I realized that this quote relates to the first success quote I shared in my previous post. That definition by Whit Hobbs is about excitement, confidence and the joy of being enthralled with something you love to do, and do well. The first part of this definition concerning achieving one’s full potential corresponds well to what Whit described.

It is the second part of J.B.’s definition which makes me pause. I believe his statement is biblical, and is also necessary for God’s people to grow in their faith. But, the term ‘surrender’ doesn’t sit well with most of us. Don’t we equate surrendering with defeat, weakness, loss of power, and the removal of one’s personal rights and privileges? That form of surrender is anathema to our survival instinct and sense of well-being.

Of course, God quite often puts a different spin on many ideas and principles we are familiar with. When Jesus walked among us, he turned the culture upside down by making proclamations which were often difficult to comprehend or were in conflict with current thought and practices. As an example, he said, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect”. Taken at face value, most of us know intuitively-and by experience-that this imperative is impossible for man to achieve. Ultimately, he was implying that we should strive to be perfect by following his lead and seeking his help. Perfection comes later.

Hence, we come to the meaning of surrender as Wood used it. His intent is positive rather than negative. To surrender to God is to place one’s self directly under the power and influence of an entity far greater than mere man. God is nothing less than the Creator of the universe, as well as our personal friend if we chose to accept him as such. Anyone who can create an atom or cause an embryo to be formed in a womb must, by deduction, be able to govern all things far better than even the wisest of mankind could ever do. Where God is infinite in all things, man is finite. He is superior while we are inferior. Nevertheless, we struggle not only with this concept of surrender and putting it into practice, but also with the very concept of an all-powerful, all-knowing God.

If we believe that achieving our full potential leads to a form of success, then we are on our way to something good. If we realize this potential while submitting and surrendering to God, we will achieve something even better than good…something  extraordinary. I have been trying to meld the two together most of my life, and still struggle with both parts of Wood’s statement. However, I am not without hope. I am not alone.

 

 

Lost and Found

Carson 10-12-12 Recently, I found myself in a real pickle. One cold and rainy evening I was alone with Carson, our five-year old Westie. Cheryl left for an outing and I decided to leave the gates open to our back yard because I wouldn’t be letting Carson out-unless he was on a leash-on such a poor weather evening. Carson likes wet weather, and he loves to dig, which equals a muddy mess of a canine. Our garage is in the back of our house which is why we have gates to block off the back yard for Carson. Well, as I was multi-tasking (yes, men do this, contrary to what is often stated against this possibility) I forgot that I left the gates open (consequence of multi-tasking). Carson was really bugging me to go outside and the rain had let up a bit so I let him out. I had resigned myself to the fact that he would need a good dip in the tub after he came in. Herein lies the problem…Carson didn’t come back in a reasonable amount of time so I stepped outside to see where he was. Gulp. I saw the open gates and knew that Carson was long gone. I didn’t panic, but I was pretty upset. I immediately went into action, donned my coat, and grabbed my super spotlight, leash and car keys. Off I went scouring the neighborhood with spotlight illuminating every yard, fence, doorway, tree, etc. It’s a wonder someone didn’t call the police on me for voyeurism! After about a half hour of searching from the car I decided to go home and walk the area closer to our house; the more familiar locales. Much to my relief, as I pulled into the driveway, the Jeep’s headlights illuminated my bright white pooch grazing under our neighbor’s pin oak tree. I jumped out of the car with the leash, fully expecting a chase to ensue. Rather than run away which he would have done two years earlier, Carson actually came to me. I cannot adequately express the relief I felt at the moment I saw him and then held him. I was overjoyed! I actually rejoiced. And, yes, he needed a dip in the tub which I gladly provided. However, by this point I was exhausted so we just chilled together on the couch which was a rather satisfying end to this affair.Jan. 1, 2012 Is There a ProblemI recall another incident many years ago which involved my son when he was a toddler. We had taken a driving vacation throughout the Southwestern United States and stopped in Winslow, Arizona to spend the night. After checking into the facility we unpacked the car of luggage and necessities for the night. It didn’t take long for an inquisitive little boy to stray from us, and before we knew it, we couldn’t find our son. The hotel was relatively close to the highway which increased the urgency to find him. Our imaginations ran wild. Did someone grab him? Is he near the highway? Will we find him in time?  I panicked. The emotional angst I felt was horrible. I have little doubt that all who have raised a child have had this type of experience at least once, and perhaps many times depending on the child! Fortunately, we found our little guy exploring near a rear door which was walled off from view. I snatched him up and hugged him tight. I’m sure I did the usual parent thing wherein I scolded him for leaving us, but inside I knew I should have kept a better watch over him. I was overjoyed to have found him okay and in time before something bad could have happened. I rejoiced that I found Jared alive and well.Carson's View 4-6-12

Perspective is everything when it comes to life. While contemplating these incidents, I was reminded of a story from the Gospel of Luke which speaks of the lost and found. The story in Luke’s narrative (chapter 15) focus’ on a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. All three were found and there was much rejoicing. I love rejoicing! It is the opposite of despair and gloom. I have an observation about being lost, and I see a parallel between my stories and those told in Luke’s gospel. In the incidents where Carson and my son were missing, they didn’t know they were lost. The sheep, the coin (if it could reason) and the wayward son didn’t know they were lost. In the case of the prodigal son, he eventually realized his dilemma, but clarity only came about after great trial and failure. So, if they didn’t know they were lost, were they? Objective reasoning tells us, yes, they were lost even though they weren’t aware of it. If that is true, how about you? Are you lost in your life? I used to be, but I didn’t know it. I suspect most will say, “No, I know exactly who I am and where I am going in life. I’m not lost at all”. Remember these examples. The missing didn’t know they were lost until they were found. I was found (rescued) many years ago by a man named Jesus. Once I understood what he had done for me by giving away his life for mine, did I really comprehend how lost I was-all the time not knowing it. You may be confused, lonely, hurt, depressed, exhausted, poor or overwhelmed…in all circumstances, Christ knows you and your situation. If you accept his invitation to join him then you are no longer lost. That’s great news for all to hear! As we prepare to celebrate Christmas (which was meant to revolve around him, but actually resembles more of a consumer festival without the guest of honor), I ask that you search your heart and be honest about your state of being: lost or found. If lost, turn to Christ. If found, thank Christ. Either way, he is the answer and the true reason for the season we call Christmas. May joy be your hallmark this winter and in the coming year. Merry Christmas, and peace on earth, good will toward all people.751