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Archive for May, 2013

I am not an expert gardener, but one thing I do know is that most plants have specific needs regarding where they are planted.

Although a dandelion will grow just about anywhere, a rose is more fickle. Sedum will grow in a plastic bag, stuffed in a box, under the deck (true story), but impatience will wilt under direct sun.

Sometimes I am like that fickle rose. I need lots of sun, but not too much, lots of water, but at the right times. If you uproot me, and place me in new soil, I am likely to reject my new soil.

Sedum Autumn Joy 2

I wish I were more like Sedum. Sedum is a hardy plant that will grow in sun or shade, in heat or cool, with lots of water or in dry soil, in a pot or in the ground, in sand or clay. With leaves that hold moisture, it is self sufficient, and thrives when most plants wilt under the hot summer sun. It is the plant you just cannot kill!

In the spring it emerges from the ground in a perfectly formed mound of lovely light green. As it grows it’s leaves darken and white blooms push forth, seeking the light. Then, as summer moves on towards autumn the white flowers change to pink, then salmon, and finally to a deep burgundy before the cold of winter causes the plant to become dormant. Even in the midst of winter, the flowers that remain are a visual distraction from the wilted plants around it.

No matter where you plant Sedum, it will bloom.

I wish I were more like Sedum. I wish that I would grow and thrive and blossom and bloom wherever I am planted. I wish that I could rely only on the sustenance that I was created for, and not continually stretch my roots out for more. I wish that even when all around me is death, I would still stand tall pointed to the sky.

We all have all that we need within our reach. God has granted us His Spirit to dwell within us, and we, like a succulent plant, need only to rest in the assurance that our needs will be met from within, through the thirst-quenching of the Spirit. With the Spirit dwelling in us, we simply have to bloom … right there (right here) where we are planted.

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shiloh on dandelionsRecently as I was spending quality time with my beast out on our trail, I realized that there is so much I can learn from her.

She loves to walk! Even though she is my fair weather walking friend, rain will rarely keep her from exercise in the fresh air. I could really learn from her in this. She could be a mail carrier, because neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen my beasty from their appointed rounds an exercise walk. If I was not such a conditional walker, and was more like the beast, I would be more fit, and probably more relaxed.

Then I started to think about other beastly activities and how they reveal her approach to life.

My beasty has herder blood coursing through her veins, and we, her family, are her herd. She follows us from room to room, resting in the doorways of the rooms where we rest, cook, eat and spend time together. She barks when anyone (flies included) steps one foot onto our property. She always lays between us and guests, until she has reached the point that she accepts their presence with us as safe. She struggles to relax when one of us does not return home for the night, pacing from door to door, sniffing the air, and listening with the greatest effort to discover why her person has not come home. I admit that I too easily forget how important time with my herd is, how my presence with them does not have to be about what we are doing together so much as just being together.

From those who adore the beasty to that certain one or two who wish she would go for a long walk, and not be able to find her way home, whenever any family member returns home she greets us joyfully. It does not matter if we pat her head, speak to her, or walk right past her with no acknowledgment at all, she follows us, wearing the look we call the ‘happy dog look.’ If we have been gone for a number of days, she greets us with excitement, pawing and noises that sound like cries of joy. Her love for us is not dependent on anything … not how we smell (and some of us smell), not how well we respond to her needs, not how often we take her for walks. Her love for us is only dependent on one thing …

we are hers, and she is ours.
(sounds like
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine”
Song of Solomon 6:3)

That is the meat and potatoes of why she loves us … she is committed to us … it is her job, and she would fight to the death to protect any and all of us.

Imagine how our world would be different if we humans took on that perspective with those who are ours, and whose we are? I think we could all learn from such commitment.

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Does today, the present circumstances of your life, ever seem like an all-consuming eternity to you?

Do you wonder how you will get through whatever you are going through?

with your finances

your marriage

your children

your parents

your job

your health

the health of a loved one …

As I was listening the song above, by Casting Crowns, I was struck by how my concerns today for the future, are indeed something that God is looking back at. He not only knows what will happen today, but He already knows how my story (our stories) will end.

It is so easy to get so focused on the trouble of the day and our obsessing draws us in to those trouble like a vortex. The next thing we know we are dizzy from the action of the vortex, and we cannot see above the surface.

God sees …

He sees not just us in our present circumstances, but he also sees the calm waters on the horizon. He sees it all in the rear view mirror!

“The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:5-7

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Today we celebrate Mother’s Day!

I have been blessed with a great mom. Although I will not be with her in body, my love and appreciation are being transmitted across the miles, from coast to coast, from heart to heart. I have also been blessed to be called mom. It is my most favorite title, name, and calling. It is the experience that has changed, not just my life, but me, the most.

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As I think about this annual celebration, it seems that there is a baby boom all around. Although not many ladies that I know personally are expecting, it seems as though every shop, restaurant, park and bus stop is full of them!

With each exposure to pregnancy, I am realizing that something within me is changing. I no longer look at the expectant mom, and think:

‘how exciting for her.”

Now I look and think:

“does she know?”

Does she know of the miracle of this entire process, from conception to birth?

Does she know how surreal it will be to watch a perfectly formed human being emerging from her own body?

Does she know the mixed emotions of wanting to hold this child in her arms, and knowing that with each push, she is closer to that moment when she will no longer feel him or her moving around … within her very own body?

Does she know that her child will be born with a scent uniquely their own, and if she were blinded she could surely pick her own child out of a crowd just by their scent?

Does she know that ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes will be the only thing she will count on that first day she holds her baby?

Does she know that, no matter how tired she is, she will choose to watch her baby sleep peacefully, as she stares in awe and wonder?

Does she know how holding her sleeping child will create the most deep feeling of warmth?

Does she know how a smile from her baby will erase the fatigue of sleepless nights?

Does she know the changes to come?

As the years pass …

As her child grows …

As busyness takes over …

As independence, and school, and part time jobs, and friends come between them …

As her job, her husband, her house maintenance, her meal preparations, her friends come between them …

As growing up can mean growing apart …

The moments of inhaling their scent, wondering at God’s handiwork in their form, watching them sleep. The moments of rapt wonder, just at the existence of this miraculous removed part of her, dim somewhat from her memory.

And then …

a phone call

a text

a note left in haste

a shared laugh

a glace at their adult body sleeping

a hug

an I love you

a momentary pause when looking at the size of their t-shirt, she remembers how tiny their t-shirt was many years ago.

And it will take her back to those early days of wonder at this piece of herself walking this Earth.

And it … all … comes … back.

And all she wants to do, is to hold that overgrown child of hers, and feel the warmth, and inhale their scent, and trace the outline of their lips with the soft of her finger.

Does she know?

A woman,
when she is in labor,
has sorrow because her hour has come;
but as soon as she has given birth to the child,
she no longer remembers the anguish,
for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”
John 16:21

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images

As I was preparing a post for today, my attention was diverted (in true undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder fashion) to a video, that moved my intended post to another day.

I am not a teacher, I have no calling to become a teacher, but I work in a high school. Although my ‘title’ is Educational Assistant, I prefer to view what I do as that of a ‘reINFORCER’ (I’d love to see that title on the school website … I wonder how many parent calls the school would get). You see I take what a teacher teaches to a full classroom, and then I reinforce the meat of the lesson to a few students in a variety of ways.

This video reinforces my heart-cry for the necessity of relationship within learning. As a ‘non’ teacher I have more freedom to look at the students as a whole rather than look at them through their academic, intellectual or social achievements.

About ten years ago I was introduced to a teacher who was leading a workshop on behavioral issues in the classroom. She started her workshop telling us her philosophy:

“If you want to change a student’s behavior,
you need to first convince them that
(real or perceived)
you like them.”
Carol Griffiths

After that workshop, I did not miss one of her workshops again for many years. She gave words to the cry of my heart for the students that I encounter each day. From that point on, I changed how I did my job, because now I had words to keep me intentional in the focus of my job.

This TED video reinforces that message. I cannot say that this change in my focus will improve the academic scores of the students I encounter (but how could it not?), but I do believe, with all my heart, mind and soul, that it will improve their future life.

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“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

When I read the above quote by Friedrich Nietzsche I was certain that it was an example of Luke 19:40, “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

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Nietzsche, a brilliantly knowledgeable man who lived in Europe in the mid to late 1800’s, did not believe in absolute truth. Although born to parents who sought a life of faith with Christ (his father a Lutheran pastor), Friedrich believed that, “Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life’s nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in “another” or “better” life (Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy). An atheist most of his life, Nietzsche is probably most known for the phrase, “God is dead,” which is included in a couple of his books.

The passage from Luke 19 is the story of Jesus entering into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey (much as his mother who rode into Bethlehem on one, carrying Him in her womb). The people thought that He would fulfill the hope that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once (v. 11).

As He came close to the city people were shouting”

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (v.38)

It is then that the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

They did not get it. Although, like Nietzsche ,they were probably very well educated, knowledgeable men, probably even men who were raised with the law, and the stories of generations past, they did not believe that Jesus was indeed who He said He was. They thought that the crowd, no doubt a large and loud crowd, were claiming Jesus as the royalty that the Pharisees did not believe was king.

They saw Jesus as a man, they did not see him as their Savior.

It reminds me of when the ark was being brought into Jerusalem. David, like this crowd hundreds of years later, could not contain his excitement that the ark of the covenant was coming into his holy city, it was coming … home. As David removed his royal robes, Michal (Saul’s daughter) was disgusted by David’s ‘unkingly’ public behavior.

Michal,

like the priests,

like Nietzsche

could not see how worth celebrating

the God of the promise,

the God of redemption,

the God of Creation.

Why David danced as the ark entered Jerusalem, and the crowds of people sang as Jesus entered the same was

simply

completely

sincerely

thanksgiving.

May the beautiful and great art of our singing and dancing always be with thanksgiving!

Otherwise,

the rocks will cry out!

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

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A few weeks back I wrote in the post Memorizing by Heart, about challenging myself to memorize Psalm 139.

I had no idea how fantastic this self-challenge would be. The more verses I memorized by heart, the more burned into my soul was the richness and depth of the message of them.

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I knew this recently as I stood among the beauty of creation, feeling a lacking in hope in an area of my day. Standing there, beneath the tall trees, hearing the birds chirp and the squirrels chatter, the message of that Psalm started to flow from my lips, as though an ‘on’ switch was pushed automatically.

“You have searched me Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.”

How comforting those words, which reminded me how intimately the Creator of these tall trees and carefree creatures knows me.

“You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.”

As those words came to my lips I sensed the communication that He is not just with me, but His presence is like a protective, fatherly embrace.

“If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”

Even when I feel that I am surrounded by doubt, by discouragement, by darkness, He is the light that I can see in the shadows.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

He has been with me since before Creation, He knows what tomorrow, and every tomorrow after it, holds for me.

” when I awake, I am still with you.”

When the bad dreams, the nightmares of this present day, this season of life that you and I might be going through, and we awake … we will see that He is still with us. He never left our side.

But, before the nightmares end, the words hidden in our hearts can remind us of the promise of His presence … even when our eyes are too consumed by the dark.

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