B A R K

Bark.

Not the sound dogs nor people make, but the type of thing that protects the living part of trees and certain plants from harm.

There is rough bark, smooth bark, serrated bark, peeling bark, multi-colored bark, black bark, white bark, wavy bark, thick bark, thin bark, edible bark, tough-as-nails bark, prickly bark, paper bark, fire-resistant bark, and even twisted bark.

The beauty of bark is simply this-it protects. It can be quite enjoyable to view and to touch.

Bark reminds me of the way we humans try to protect ourselves. Some of us reveal a tough outer texture while others display a thin veneer. Doesn’t matter whether the bark becomes more brittle with age or is supple when younger. Bark is bark. Sometimes our bark is very pleasant to look at and enjoyable to spend time near. Some bark is simply painful to be around and is unattractive. Either way, bark is bark.

What lies beyond the bark is what matters most. Take a tree for example. Just beneath the visible outer bark is a layer called the phloem or inner bark. Beneath it is the cambium and behind it, the sapwood (live xylem), then the heartwood (dead xylem), and finally at the very center is the pith (medulla). Without writing a biological thesis about the genetic makeup of a tree, I simply wish to state that each layer performs a vital function in order for the tree to develop and thrive over time. Much like our bodies do.

As a tree naturally ages and begins to die, the various parts (layers) of the trunk and branches change. As I study a transverse slice of a tree trunk and look at the growth rings and various layers decribed above, I focus on the very center, the core. The once fibrous medulla becomes brittle as it ages, often changes color, and sometimes desinigrates completely over time. The tree rots if left on the ground. Upon death the human body starts the same process of decomposition. Eventually, even our bones turn to ashes. However, the similarity of trees and humans ends at this point. The tree morphs into soil from from whence it came.

The human soul lives on, but not in the earth. Depending on one’s spiritual perspective, our souls may journey to a place called Heaven, turn into angelic beings, reincarnate or be transformed into a variety of possibilities. My belief as a Christian is in the resurrection of the soul. As the Apostle Paul stated, “We know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”. For me, and many others, death will be an instantaneous moment of eternal bliss, even though those left behind may suffer the loss of a loved one. Dear friends of ours recently lost their daughter to cancer. She left behind three children and a husband, sister and parents. For this family, they believe in the promise that one day they will be reunited again in a glorious reunion. I hold to the same promise. I hope you do, too.

L A Y E R S

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Sunrise, Lenexa, Kansas, USA, at approximately 7:30 am or 0730 hours, January 31st.

Walked to my car from the health club after a workout and this is what I witnessed.

The actual sunrise was much more outstanding than my photograph, especially as it changed colors and shapes by the second.

After downloading this image to the computer, the layering seemed to magnify itself.

So, I thought about layers. We sometimes hear that certain things are only skin deep. At other times we hear that some things are buried so deep they can’t be found.

The reality is that when it comes to life, most everything that lives has layers: whether it be physical, emotional, mental or anywhere outside these realms. Life is complex.

I would like to limit this post to humans. We are fragile, yet flexible. We are strong, yet weak. Courageous, yet cowardly. Compassionate, yet cruel. Kind, yet mean. We are amazing. We are a mystery.

Like an onion which has a layer of silky skin upon juicy layers of zesty fruit, we can peel away and come to the heart of this vegetable without really understanding its uniqueness. We simply take for granted that is how all onions are and so be it. Like them or not. I venture to say that people are similar to onions in that we possess a complexity of layers.

We are not single cell organisms like some bacteria, but complex in every discernible way. This complexity is patterned after the Creator of the universe. Appreciate the commonness as well as the uniqueness.

If you can relate, I am so tired of the charade that is taking place in our world-especially in America. So many are divided. So many are angry and critical. So many are giving up. And, so many feel lost. This doesn’t even cover the majority of our world who don’t have a clue as to what I just stated-they are simply trying to survive. Can you imagine that…existing each day merely to make it to the next?

So, I return to the topic of layers. Explore the diversity, the uniqueness, the amazing in others, and in yourself. This may take some time as you peel away each layer, but discovery awaits. But, please, do not forget to explore the oneness we all have as human beings created in the image of God. May we all experience, and exercise, more peace and patience each day. The world needs it, you need it, and I definitely need it, as well.