A Hard Nut to Crack

 

I like to pick our macadamia nuts while they are still on the tree and in the husk. With 14 trees to harvest, we cannot pick them off the trees fast enough, and many fall to the ground. Once on the ground, they are prey to a variety of different bugs, birds and creatures of the night. Macadamia nuts are known for their ridiculously hard shell; they are practically impossible to crack. Several of our good nut crackers have been literally broken in two while unsuccessfully trying to crack a mac nut. With such a hard shell, it amazes me that these bugs, birds and creatures are able to penetrate not only the husk, but the shell, and devour the sweet meaty nut inside.

Tropical nut borers (TNB, yup, it’s a thing!) such as the Koa seedworm lay their eggs on the husks of macadamia nuts. The larvae then bore through the husk and into the heart of the shell where the tender meat is. The site of entry is nearly undetectable, but that little tropical nut borer gets in and wreaks havoc on the sweet, tasty nut inside. The seemingly impenetrable shell is no match for the tiny Koa seedworm.

Many TNB’s such as the Koa seedworm patiently wait on the orchard floor for a nut to fall to the ground, and then they begin the destructive process of boring into the heart of the nut. More than a few times, I have picked up what appeared to be a perfectly healthy macadamia nut, put it in the nut cracker, cracked it open and found a Koa worm nibbling away at the nut; other times, no nut, just the silky web of a tropical nut borer’s nest. Note to self: Never, EVER, eat a mac nut without a thorough visual inspection!

Macadamia nuts are much less likely to fall prey to a TNB when they are on the tree, but even nestled in the branches of the mother tree, they are exposed to fruit rats and crows. Crows pick them and throw them to the ground. Then they break them open with their beaks and eat the meat. The crows also devour our pecans. Fruit rats pick them and take them into the warm engine compartment of my husbands truck to dine on them there. We often find nut shells, along with empty snail shells under the hood of the truck; the aftermath of the predator’s escargot and macadamia nut feast! If I was a fruit rat, I’d definitely want to live at my house! Most people don’t eat as well as the fruit rats of Calmin Cottage!

Like a macadamia nut still on the tree, when we are nestled in the branches of our loving Father’s strong arms, we are in the safest place we can be! But even then, there are those who desire to snatch us away from that place and toss us to the ground. There are proverbial tropical nut borers that want nothing more than to bore straight into our hearts and take residence there. Hatred, bitterness, envy, unforgiveness, betrayal, grief, jealousy, guilt, disappointment, and the list goes on. These TNB’s can destroy us. They can fester and grow in our hearts until they have taken full residence there. Eventually, they  turn our hearts into a nest where the things that want to destroy us can grow; things that steal our joy, our contentment, and even try to steal our soul.

If you are like me, you may have had seasons in your life when one or more of these TNB’s gained access to your heart. On the outside, we may appear to be perfectly healthy and well put together; someone who has a charmed life, perfect family, dream job, dream home, etc. etc. etc. There may be no outward signs of penetration whatsoever. But when we get cracked open, there’s a TNB living comfortably in a silky web, entangling us, destroying the tender meat of our heart.

The bible says “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flows springs of life.” We must find a way to guard against the devil’s heart-boring seedworms of unforgiveness, grief, hatred, bitterness and all the other literal heart-wrenching emotions, attitudes, actions or habits that gain access to our heart and reside there. We must also recognize that sometimes, sadly, we open the door of our hearts and invite them in.

Macadamia nut farmers can remedy their tropical nut borer problem by purchasing tiny parasitic wasps and releasing them in the orchard. TNB eggs are parasitized by the wasps, and killed before they can hatch. The wasps kill the eggs and larvae before they can bore into the heart of the nut. We, however, can’t just purchase a bunch of parasitic wasps to protect our hearts! So how are we to keep the devil’s heart boring TNB’s from gaining access to our hearts and residing there?

Ephesians 6:11-17 tells us how to protect our hearts from tropical nut borers:
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. And sometimes that sin nature causes us to harbor, well, sinful things in our hearts. So put on the full armor of God! Be battle ready! Recognize when you are allowing the devil’s little TNB access to your heart through your own willful choices. Repent, and ask God to restore you to Him! Keep your heart and mind stayed on Him! It is a very dangerous mistake to acknowledge the Lord and keep our eyes on the devil. Far better to acknowledge the devil while keeping our eyes on Christ. Follow Him so closely that your nose is in His back, and you cannot see to the left or to the right. All you see is Jesus!

Psalm 51:10-12 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord, and take not Thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and renew a right spirit within me!”

Jesus is in the business of restoration. When we call on Him, He will hear us, forgive us of our sins, cleanse us of the Koa seedworm, or anything else that tries to bore into our hearts. He gives us armor, which is impenetrable. Satan may bark and lunge, but when we’re battle ready, wearing the full armor of God, he cannot penetrate our heart or take residence there.

In God’s full armor, by His strength, we are . . . wait for it . . .  a hard nut to crack!

My Powerful Father, Please strengthen me to rise from my failings, turn from the deceptive voices of those things that bore into my heart, whose promises are impotent and empty. Those feelings and emotions that steal my joy and contentment. Through Your son, and in Your armor, I am surrounded and protected by Your might.

Step Away From The Toilet

I have three dogs who compete for a drink from the toilet.  Two are tall enough that they can just put their head right in the pearly white porcelain bowl and lap up that delicious water to their hearts delight! My third dog, however, is a little Chi-weeny, and can’t reach the toilet bowl. His name is Cabo. Cabo will loiter under the two big dogs as they drink, eagerly waiting for them to pull their heads out of the toilet, (literally) and drip some delicious wet drops of Eau de Toilet Water on the bathroom floor, then he excitedly licks the drops off the floor.

Yogi is a 180 pound Bouvier des Flanders. Bouviers have a long beard, so, whatever water he doesn’t drink, gets pulled out of the porcelain pit by his beard. After Yogi’s drinking binges, he leaves a tell-tale trail of water droplets similar to the bread crumbs of Hansel and Gretel, throughout the entire house. This makes Cabo very, very happy, and he faithfully follows the wet trail, licking up every drop. If he gets really lucky, he can stand under Yogi and enjoy a complete shower courtesy the run-off  from Yogi’s beard! Remington, on the other hand, is a tidy toilet bowl drinker. He’s a German Short-haired Pointer, no beard, so when he drinks from the toilet, he comes out pretty dry, but he can drink practically the whole bowl by himself! The danger for Remington is that he gulps the water so fast that he chokes and hacks and coughs after binge drinking in the bathroom.

There’s always a dog drinking from the toilet. Always. I give them clean, fresh, cool water everyday. In fact, they have water in the back yard, and in the front yard, but they want to drink from the toilet. Why do they drink from the toilet? This is something I cannot answer, but I’d like to get to the bottom (pun intended) of it!

Do they not want to make the trip to the two outside water bowls? Are the bowls too far away? Do they not like using the doggy door to get to the water outside? Does the porcelain make the water colder? Fresher? Warmer? Do they prefer the toilet just because it’s forbidden? I need to know the answers to these questions!

 

If the seat is down, Yogi will stand there, in the bathroom, looking longingly at the toilet until someone comes and opens it for him! What is the draw? What draws them away from the clean, sparkling water that I serve them – to the toilet! Now, don’t get me wrong, I keep the toilets very clean, but I wouldn’t want to drink from them, and for the life of me, I cannot understand why my dogs continue to forsake the good, clean water I provide, for the water in the toilet. It makes me think of how Jesus Christ offers us “Living Water”, yet we so often choose our water from some proverbial toilet instead.

Living Water (Hebrew: מַֽיִם־חַיִּ֖ים‎ mayim-ḥayyîm; Greek: ὕδωρ ζῶν, hydōr zōn) is a biblical term which appears in both the Old and New Testaments. In the book of John, Chapter 4, Jesus offers Living Water to the woman at the well. Jesus was traveling through Samaria on His way back to Galilee. Jesus, who was tired and thirsty from His journey, sat down to rest by Jacob’s well. While resting at the well, a Samaritan woman came to draw water:

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone to the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you Living Water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this “Living Water”? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus was talking about Living Water which will be a spring of water welling up to eternal life! Yet, we allow ourselves to be drawn away; away from the life-giving water to a place where we dip our heads and hearts into water that never quenches, cannot quench; yet we are drawn to it, and if the seat is down, we stand and stare, waiting for someone to come along and lift the seat for us. When it’s available, we drink it. “I’m not hurting anyone but myself!” we say, “No one will be hurt by my decision to drink from the toilet!” we say, but we are wrong. As we leave the toilet after bingeing on worthless water that cannot quench, we drip and drool all over those who are around us. Just like little Cabo gets dripped on by Yogi.  We leave a trail of our mess that causes others to slip and fall.

Come to think about it, we are much like Eve in the Garden of Eden, selfishly taking and eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, not realizing or caring about how it will impact others – in Eve’s case, the entire world! Who are we impacting? Our families and children? Friends? Co-workers? Neighbors? Who is being impacted every time we allow ourselves to be drawn away from the good, Living Water that God wants us to have? Who are we causing to slip and fall because of the slippery aftermath of our behavior? Who are we hurting when we forsake God’s clear and simple instruction to “eat of any tree in the garden” except the one in the bathroom? Step away from the toilet!

Back to the woman at the well. We don’t know what the “woman at the well’s” name was, so I’m going to call her Wellma for ease of writing and understanding. Wellma, in her  life time, drank from a lot of toilets, and I mean A LOT. Now, remember, she didn’t know it was Jesus who was asking her for water, she just knew that the guy sitting at the well was a Jew, and she was a Samaritan, and the two were like oil and vinegar. As their conversation went on, Jesus talked to her about the toilets she’d been drinking from, and directed her to Himself and the Living Water that comes from Him alone. Here’s how it went:

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am He.”

Wowza! Wellma just realized that the guy sitting next to her at Jacob’s well knew everything about her! He knew she was drinking from the toilet of immorality, He knew that she’d already had 5 husbands and was now shacking up with a sixth guy! Wellma left Jesus and went back to her people and told them everything Jesus had said to her. She told them that she thought the guy at the well might be the Christ!

Wellma’s people went to the well and saw Jesus, and they asked Him to stay. Jesus stayed another two days among the Samaritans, and Wellma, as well as many of her people believed that this man was indeed the Christ, the Savior of the World! They partook of the Living Water Jesus offered them! They put the toilet seat down and drank the Living Water!

Chuck Smith says this about that:

Thirst Again“. An extremely profound statement: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again.”This statement should be written over every ambition you have. What is it that you are hoping to attain in life? What is it that you think will bring you satisfaction and fulfillment? What goals are you pressing toward? What possessions are you striving to acquire? Whatever it is, write over the top of it, “Drink of this water, but you will thirst again.” There is nothing in the material realm that will satisfy our spiritual thirst.

So step away from the toilet!

 

 

The Deep End

I was drowning.  Surprisingly, I felt calm and peaceful.

blue blur color dark
Photo by Blaque X on Pexels.com

Quiet. Such Quiet. Weightless. Such weightlessness. Quiet, weightless, calm. One would think that I might be afraid of the water after nearly drowning, but the truth is, I love it! I love to be under water! Calm, peaceful, quiet, weightless and still. Nothing. Nothing could penetrate the deep, deep quiet. Nothing, that is until my mother jumped into the pool and rescued me!

It was like waking up after having been somewhere between awake and asleep, suspended, floating, quiet and calm. What I remember about my mother rescuing me is just that, quiet and calm. One minute, I was sinking, the next minute, I was sitting on the edge of a hotel pool next to my mama, who was quiet and calm. Maybe she didn’t feel quiet and calm, but that was the vibe in which she blanketed me. There was no condemnation. No condemnation for the behavior I chose that would result in me slipping away into the deep end of the hotel pool, and her having to dive in to save me. No condemnation for my choices, just rescue. Rescue.

I was young, elementary aged, and my memory may not be exactly accurate, but it is my memory.  And ones memory can not be disputed. My family;  parents, older brother and younger sister were moving to a new home in a new state and were staying in a hotel. This hotel had a soda machine that took nickels. It had grape soda and orange soda for a nickel! On this particular day, I was enjoying an orange soda when I decided to make my way back in the pool under the watchful eye of my mama.

Fascinating, just fascinating the way other people in the pool were stretched out like the horizon and moving across the water; something I couldn’t seem to accomplish. Every time I took my feet off of the pool floor, I began to sink. So I kept my feet on the pool floor.

Being a young child, I was proficient in thinking within my desires and dreams rather than within my reality. I decided that it would be a good idea, a smart option, to start walking from the safe shallow end of the pool, step by step, into the deep end to see just how far I could go.

Psalm 1 – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he mediates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither. And whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the winds drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous! For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Step by deadly step I walked into the depths of the deep end. I found myself bouncing, as it were, on my toes, to keep my head above water, until that one step. That one step that was just a little too deep, and I couldn’t bounce back up to life-giving oxygen. That one step when quiet weightlessness took hold of me and put me into complete and total submission to the thing into which I was walking. The deep end.

It seemed like an eternity. An eternity in which I was suspended in the grip of the deep end and unable to breathe, completely enveloped by the water into which I willingly and purposefully walked. Quiet, weightless, calm, as the water claimed me.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, there were strong arms around me! I could feel gravity pulling me down even as strong arms defied the pull and brought me to the surface of the water which had completely engulfed me, drawing me down, down, down . . . . . down.

My sweet mama had not for one second taken her eyes off me, and before any lifeguard could even think about jumping in to rescue me, she did! Fully clothed, quite possibly fresh from the salon, my mama dived into the water and brought me to the surface where I would find breath. Life. She brought me to the surface where I could find life.

I clearly remember the moment I found myself sitting on the edge of the pool with my mom. She was drenched, sitting there next to me, both of us with our legs hanging over the side of the pool. I can still envision her clothed legs and feet in the water, and I thought I was going to be in BIG trouble! But all she said to me was “Are you alright baby?” as she placed one hand on my thigh and the other around my shoulders. No questions. No condemnation. Grace. Just grace. And love. Grace and love.

How easy it would have been for her to scream accusations at me! “Why would you?” “I told you not too!” “How could you?” “Do you know what could have happened?” But she said nothing. Nothing – which screamed in my ears louder than words ever could! Her nothing said “I love you!” Her nothing said “Regardless of your choices, I love you!” “I will always be there for you, no matter what! I love you!” “I would gladly give my life for you! You are my precious child!”

Fast forward 25 years. I was sitting on the beach in Hawaii on the North Shore. I was 7 months pregnant with my second child. I had my sweet one year old on my very pregnant lap when I noticed my husband, who was in the water, frantically signalling me with his arms. There was a giant rogue wave coming into shore that was sure to take me, my unborn baby and my one year old out to sea! I tried to get up and run, but it was too late.

Before I knew it, I was being dragged to sea! I dug my heels into the sand and fought against the pull of the water. In my hands, I tightly gripped the hands of my one year old son as the sea tried to rip him from me. I could feel the sand disintegrating around my dug-in feet, but I held on to my son as tightly as I could, his little body being ripped from my grip by the torrents of the powerful rogue wave.

In the midst of the torrential pull on my son from my hands, I felt arms around me. Big, strong, all-encompassing arms around me! Strong arms pressing my son, whose hands were now embedded in mine as though they were one, securely against my pregnant belly.  Peace. Calm. Quiet. Weightless. I found myself, and my son, being brought against the current to the shore in the arms of strong men whose faces we would never see. These rescuers whom we would never be able to properly thank.

Without explanation or pause for thanks, our rescuers disappeared into the Hawaiian rain forest. These were big Samoan men. Extraordinarily big men. They rescued us. If my memory serves, there were two of them helping me, and two helping my friend. But they disappeared before we could acknowledge or thank them. Saved. Rescued without a word. No word of condemnation, no exhortation about how we should not have been on that beach on that day, nothing. Nothing but quiet rescue.

frozen wave against sunlight
Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

It was my mother’s love for me that caused her to dive into the pool the day she saved me. Love that was much deeper than the water which so effortlessly held me. There is no doubt in my mind that the giant Samoans were literal angels who saved me, my son and my unborn child. Again, a rescue fueled by deep, deep love. My mom and my angels saved my life and the lives of my children.  But the deep, deep love of Jesus saved my soul.

There are times when I am tempted to walk into the deep end of some hypothetical ocean and find myself bobbing up and down on my toes between my choices. There are times when I feel I am being dragged into the depths of the deepest sea by a rogue wave. One I never even saw coming. I am very aware that there is someone who would like to see me drown. Someone who would like to see me slip away into his snares. But guess what? I have been rescued! I have been saved! Jesus Christ, God’s Son, my Savior, willingly, quietly and calmly left the grip of His Father and came to my rescue on the cross. And He came for you too!

Do you find yourself bouncing up and down on your tiptoes in the deep end trying to get a breath of air? Are you suspended in the grip of something that is pulling you down, deeper and farther away? Do you need to be rescued? Turn to Jesus! He will bring you – against the current – to the surface of your situation and to the shores of His love and grace! In Him there is no condemnation, just rescue. Be rescued today.

And if I Die Before I Wake, From My Ashes a Cyclamen Make!

img_79345

Psalm 63:4 Thus I will bless Thee while I live; I will lift my hands in Thy name!

 

With our recent move and purchase of a new (old) home, it was time to update our Living Trust. The whole process of updating the trust was very time-consuming, costly, and one of great frustration. There’s so much involved in updating a trust; for example, there’s the trust itself, the wills, the general powers of attorney, health care directives, community property agreement, assignment, certificate of trust, and last but not least, the actual funding of the trust and asset list. Grueling, to be sure.

One of the issues we had to discuss while updating the trust, was our last wishes. I’d always known that I would prefer to be cremated. The thought of rotting away in a coffin has never appealed to me. I’m sure the morbid song from my youth about being buried, “The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout!” didn’t help. As well, my husband was part of an Urban Search and Rescue Team sent to New Orleans during Katrina, and the stories about the bodies and empty coffins floating away was pretty much the nail in the coffin (pun intended) for my decision to be cremated. Then there’s those TV shows like “Bones” or “NCIS” where they find skeletal remains or have to exhume someones body; all these things have made me pretty certain that I want to be cremated and have a clean and permanent end to my corpse. No floating away in a hurricane for my old bones! I’ve often thought I’d like to be recycled and have my ashes buried with seeds that will grow into something beautiful!

Our Estate Planning Attorney told us about these wonderful biodegradable urns in which family members can place the ashes of their loved ones. These urns can come with seeds of favorite trees or bushes! So, clearly, I opted for the biodegradable urn. My family can use the urn to recycle me!

The first choice of tree or bush I wanted to be recycled with was a lilac. The beautiful fragrant flower has been a long time favorite of mine. They are very hearty, and don’t need much attention, just a little sunshine and water, and they flourish pretty well. Sadly, they do not love to grow in Fallbrook.

Lilacs require a freeze, and Fallbrook doesn’t provide that. Fallbrook’s average temperature is 71. No freeze, no frost. Nada. An expert botanist at Myrtle Creek, the local botanical garden here in Fallbrook said that she too loves lilacs, and planted one. She tried to trick it into thinking it was getting a freeze by packing it in ice. The lilac was not fooled, and after struggling for a few months, it died. I do not want whatever plant is nourished by my ashes to die.  That would be so . . . redundant . . . so lilacs are not an option.

I thought of being recycled as an apple tree, fig tree, passion fruit, or boysenberry bush, but felt it might be a little morbid to have my children and my grandchildren and great grands eating the fruit that grew from my ashes. Call me silly, but I want to be a non-fruit-bearing tree or plant. Non-fruit-bearing and beautiful!

Many years ago my boss gave me a live plant for some special occasion, it was a Cyclamen. It had a beautiful bright pink flower with leaves that had several different shades of green in them. What struck me about the Cyclamen, was that the stem grew up, straight up, as stems tend to do, but when it produced a blossom, the stem did a U-turn and grew straight down! When the blossom bloomed into a flower, it was pointing straight down to the ground, but somehow, the petals of the flower defied gravity and the direction of the stem, and grew straight up to the sky! Its beautiful petals reaching for the heavens!

img_79331

I want to be recycled as a Cyclamen! The beautiful flower reminds me that when things are looking down, we need to raise our petals to the Lord on high!

Job 22:26 says “Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty and will lift up your face to God!” Psalm 3:3 says “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high!”   Isn’t that a beautiful fact? The Lord is a shield around us, He is our glory, He’s the one who lifts us!

This is fact, this is truth! And when we find ourselves face down in the mud of depression, addiction, anxiety, sadness, loneliness; when our grief over a prodigal child, barren womb, or seriously ill loved one overwhelms and overtakes us; when we find ourselves taking a sudden U-turn toward thoughts of self-harm, there is hope! He is your shield! He will lift your head and rescue you from hopelessness into hope!

Psalms 121:1-3 says “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth! He will not let your foot slip.  He who watches over you will not slumber!”

Against all odds, when we feel that everything is looking down, He will give us the strength to lift our faces and our hands and our very souls to the heavens and praise Him for His goodness and mercy which is ours all the days of our lives! Psalms 86:4 says “Rejoice in the soul of Thy servant! For unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul!”  God rejoices in my soul.  God rejoices in your soul!

I know there have been times, and there will continue to be times when I make a spiritual U-turn away from God. But God is good, and He will redirect me every time! As the Cyclamen lifts its petals to the heavens so we can lift our hearts and hands unto God in the heavens! Lamentations 3:41 says “Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens!”

img_79321

Yes! Let’s do! And in my case, I will continue, metaphorically, after death to lift up my face, hands, heart and soul to God in the heavens through the uplifted petals of the beautiful Cyclamen!

Lord, How you love to see us bloom! How you love to see your creation lifting our hands, hearts, heads and our very souls to You! In fact, You love it so much, that You intercede and lift us into Your presence when we are too down trodden to come to You on our own!  You are a shield around us, protecting and deflecting and holding us close!  Father God, when we do an abrupt U-turn away from You, find us, lift us, bring us home, into Your presence.  Thank You for your faithfulness to us, Your humble creation!

Dry Roots to Roses

Remington is 16 years old. He’s a German Shorthaired Pointer, and is a very healthy and happy senior dog! If you were to see him running though our vineyard and grove, you would probably think he was about 6 years old. There was a time when I didn’t think Remington would make it to the ripe old age of 16. His puppy years were full of death and destruction!

When Remington was a puppy he was into everything, and I mean everything! Thankfully, he outgrew that stage and is the best dog one could ever ask for! He had lots of friends in our yard; birds, rabbits, squirrels, mice, snakes and lizards, but those friendships never lasted long and Remington would be sad and bored.

“Remington!” I’d say to him, “If you would stop killing all your friends, you wouldn’t be so sad and bored!” But like any good puppy, he continued to kill his friends, old and new.

One sunny day when Remington had no friends left to play with, he took interest in a new rosebush that I had recently planted. He dug that rosebush up, chewed it up, and left it lying on the cement walkway with its poor tender roots exposed to the High Desert sun. By the time I found the rosebush, it was all but dead. What few leaves were still on it were shriveled and dried, and I could see where Remington’s puppy teeth used the tender stem as a chew toy. I was sure the rosebush was beyond saving, but I decided to try.

Google told me that sugar-water will boost the plant’s metabolism so it can convert sunlight to energy and absorb water and nutrients, so I placed the rosebush in a bucket of sugar-water. The bucket of sugar-water was the hospital room for my poor rosebush for the next 48 hours.  Carefully, I placed the broken rosebush in the bucket. Soon, all the dead leaves fell off, and new growth bumps began to show on the now leafless stems.  When it was time to replant the rosebush, I prepared the hole, poured the sugar-water into it, and planted the rosebush.  Unlike Remington’s other unfortunate friends, it looked like the rosebush was going to make it! It looked like Remington might live as well!

A week or two went by and the rosebush continued to mend and grow. I thoroughly enjoyed looking out my kitchen window and seeing the lovely rosebush thriving! One day however, I looked out the kitchen window to enjoy my rosebush, and it was gone! My rosebush was no where in sight! I ran out back and began searching, and finally found the rosebush near the wood pile, 1/4 acre away, partially covered in dirt, laying in the direct sun with what was left of the chewed up roots exposed! AGAIN!

I picked up the wilting rosebush and considered beating Remington with it, but decided that would be counterproductive, so I brought it back to the hospital bucket on the patio. I filled the bucket with sugar-water again, and carefully placed the rosebush inside. 48 hours later, the rosebush was not responding. The roots had been chewed down to practically nothing and the sugar-water was not enough to help it this time. But I wasn’t ready to give up on it yet.

After emptying the sugar-water from the bucket, I refilled it with a mixture of phosphorous for root development, and nitrogen for healthy growth of the leaves and stems. I placed the rosebush back in the bucket and waited another 48 hours. To my surprise, after another 48 hours the rosebush looked a little better and had some new growth bumps! It was amazing to me that this rosebush and been violently ripped from the ground, dragged around the yard, left naked in the hot sun, had its roots chewed up, not once but twice, and was still alive!

As before, I prepared the hole where I would replant the rosebush, and I poured the phosphorus and nitrogen water into the hole and gently replanted my little survivor rosebush into the ground. Again. The rosebush was not thriving, but it was trying. At least it wasn’t dying! I treated it with potassium to help it resist disease since it was in such a weak state. After a few days, I was again able to enjoy watching my little rosebush grow from my kitchen window. The rosebush had become a symbol of survival against all odds, and I loved to look out the window and see it!

One morning I poured my first cup of coffee and wandered to the window to see how my rosebush was doing, and you guessed it, it wasn’t there! It was nowhere to be seen! In my slippers and robe, I scoured the yard and found it. It had been ripped out of the ground again, and it was laying on the cement walkway! It had to have been there overnight, its roots exposed to the chilly night air! I had little hope for the rosebush this time, I mean, how much can this little rosebush take? It had been planted and uprooted too many times and this time it was out in the cold air all night! The little rosebush was a survivor, a fighter and I was not going to give up on it yet.

Back to the hospital bucket it went, this time with a mixture of calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, zinc, copper, manganese and iron, with a dash of sugar thrown in. That little rosebush sat in that hospital bucket for 72 hours before giving me any signs of life! But sure enough, by the end of day three, new little growth bumps appeared! Those bumps soon became tiny new stems and leaves. Once again, I prepared a hole for the rosebush, and carefully replanted it in the ground.

Have you ever felt like my little rosebush? Just when you find yourself in a comfortable place, firmly planted; whether planted in a new relationship, a new job, a new home or any other new season of life, you get viciously ripped out of the ground, chewed up and tossed about, eventually being left in a heap on the ground,  a quarter of an acre away, with the heat of the sun scorching your tender roots?

It’s during those times that the Lord searches for you! He will leave the 99 and search for the 1! You! He will find you and tend to your broken heart, your anxiety, your loss, your fear; He will lovingly pick you up, and replant you. Your Father in heaven will place you in the bucket of His mercy and grace and get you through that broken relationship, that divorce, that betrayal, that financial crisis, that addiction, that illness or loss. And when He has begun the healing and mending of your heart, He will prepare a place to replant you, where you can grow, blossom and bloom!

My little rosebush was uprooted, chewed up and left for dead three times. Each time, I found it, tended to its needs and replanted it. We too may be uprooted numerous times.  But our God is faithful! Consider Job who lost everything!  In Job 18:16-19, Bildad describes Job’s roots as being dried or withered.  Bildad basically says there is no hope for Job’s family tree because God is about to wipe the memory of Job from the earth, and has already removed his descendants.

But Job didn’t lose heart, in Job 19:9-10, We learn that Job’s hope, which had once sprouted up like a new tree from a stump (Job 14:7-9) had been totally uprooted. His children were all dead, his family tree all but annihilated. But Job knew, and we know, that God our Father, the lover of our soul, will continue to pursue us and bring us home.

Although Job had been dug up and spit out over and over again; many more times than my little rosebush, the Lord restored Job’s losses and gave him twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:10) And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. (Job 42:12) Job’s family tree took root again, and blossomed. Job 42:13-16 tells us that “Job had seven sons and three daughters. And in all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days”.

My Study Bible reminds us that at one time or another, almost everyone has felt like Job. While going through trials and times of suffering, we are often overwhelmed by self-pity. We want an explanation for why God allows trials to happen to us. The Book of Job records the troubling questions, the terrifying doubts, and the very real anguish of a sufferer. The Book of Job can help us in the time when we are surrounded with troubles by giving us a glimpse of God’s perspective on our suffering. God is the sovereign and benevolent Creator who continues to determine the course of the universe according to His own hidden plan. Just like Job, we must learn to submit to the Almighty God and accept by faith that He has a good plan for us.

I will never forget the day I looked out my kitchen window and saw beautiful pink roses blooming for the first time! Like Job, my rosebush thrived in the latter part of its life, having survived attack after attack on its roots during its early years.

Surprisingly, Remington survived as well . . . . .

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones and Words Hurt!

(I was the guest chapel speaker at a private elementary school on the anniversary of 9/11. This was written for those elementary aged children.)

Some people say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”  I have heard that saying many times but I don’t believe it at all! Sticks and stones hurt all right, but I believe words can hurt just as much or more!  I’ve been hit with stones before, and I’ve been scratched with a stick too!  I have a scar by my eye that reminds me of a day long ago at a bus stop when a mean boy hit me in the face with a stick! And someone threw a baseball at my back, and it HURT!

But one time, long ago, when I was about your age, I got hit with words, and those words hit me hard! Those words hurt way worse than any stick or stone! It happened at school, a small private school very much like this school! Sadly, like any school, private or otherwise, there were some mean kids who said hurtful words to me. Those words hurt so badly that I could barely breathe.

The halls at this school were outside and had cement floors.  The halls were covered to protect us from weather, and there were big arches that supported the roof of the halls.  These halls had great acoustics so  words and sound resonated within their walls.  Sounds that I can still hear today.

It was in those walls which were supposed to protect me, that the kids laughed at me.  They called me horrible names and pointed at me.  More than once, when no adult person was looking, this one mean kid would come up behind me and push me down.   The sound of my body slamming on the cement and echoing throughout the entire hallway is recorded in my memory as if it happened yesterday.  Kids stepped on my arms, legs and back as they stepped over me.

The most powerful muscle in the human body is the tongue!  In Proverbs, the bible says that mean words are like a sword thrust!  A sword can really hurt someone!  A sword can kill someone!  In James it says “For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.  If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.  Look at the ships also, though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the captain directs.  So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts great things.  How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life.” 

Your tongue can destroy someone like a sword, it can set a field on fire, although it is very small, it is very powerful!

If you put a bit in the mouth of a horse, so their tongue can’t move freely, you control the whole horse.  If you control your tongue, it will help you control your whole life so that it is pleasing to God, and does not hurt other people, rather, enriches the lives of those you meet.

Psalm 141:3 gives us a “bit”, that we can put in our mouths to help us control our tongue.  The verse says, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”  We must remember every day to pray and ask the Lord to put a bit in our mouths, and to watch over the door of our lips so we don’t open that door in a way that will hurt others!

Although the tongue is the strongest muscle in our body, our heart is the source of the mean things we do and the things we say with our tongue.  So before we can think of really taming our tongue, we must guard our heart.

The bible says “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.”  Well, if guarding our heart makes “springs of life” flow from it, then if we don’t guard our heart, springs of death and deceit will flow from it.  The bible says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” 

This all sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?  Our hearts are “desperately wicked”, and our tongues destroy people!  That sounds terrible!  The truth is, that’s exactly right!  That’s why we need Jesus!  Jesus loves you so much, and He doesn’t want you to be sad, or hurt, and He certainly doesn’t want you to hurt others or make them sad! I bet most of you have been hurt very deeply by a friend or family member, and you know that it does NOT feel good!  And I bet most of you have hurt someone with your words before too.

This month is the anniversary of 9/11, the terrible terrorist attack on America.  On that day, some very bad people with desperately wicked hearts and destructive tongues came to America. They stole some planes and flew them right into two very, very tall buildings in New York called the Twin Towers. Thousand of people were killed because those people had ugly wicked hearts and they did not love Jesus.  Those bad people did not control their tongues, and they did not guard their hearts, and they did the worst thing possible, the worst form of bullying I have ever heard of.

The bible says “From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  If our heart is full of Jesus, and the love and joy and kindness He brings, the words of our mouth will be words of love and joy and kindness!  But if our hearts are filled with wickedness, then wickedness will pour out of our mouths.

We have talked a bit about our tongue being the strongest muscle in our body, and our heart being the source of what our mouth says, now let’s talk a little about our brain!

The bible says “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think on these things!”  Think on these things, let them fill your heart so that from the abundance of your heart, your mouth will speak love and life to everyone you meet!

Dear Jesus, Thank You for giving us your Word so that we can learn what we need to do to control our tongue and speak kindness to those around us.  Remind us every day to guard our hearts from anything that would cause us to have an untamed tongue and hurt others with our words.  Hide Your Word in our hearts, so our words won’t hurt others, but will point them to You!  We love you!

Getting to the Root of the Problem

My husband and I moved to Fallbrook, California about a year and a half ago. Having moved from the desert, Fallbrook feels like the Garden of Eden! We love being able to graze through the yard from breakfast to dinner, enjoying the fruits of our little plot of land. We have learned much about farming and the individual requirements of each variety of fruit and nut that we grow. We have much more to learn.

Our avocado, so far, are the most problematic. Clearly, they had been neglected when we bought the property, but we did our research and gave them the TLC they needed, and they rewarded us with hundreds of big, delicious, sweet and meaty fruit.

We spend hours inspecting our trees, their leaves, buds, blossoms and fruit, and we fertilize and water exactly to the specifications of the local professional we consult with.

Beautiful plants and flowers tend to grow under our avocado trees. They are not terribly interested in growing under our citrus or nut trees, but they love to volunteer under our avocados. Some of the volunteers include wild tobacco, with its lush pink flower, the forget-me-nots, evening primrose and, of course, the beautiful but invasive alyssum. l love the wild flowers, but my husband does NOT love having these volunteers under his avocado trees. He feels they are stealing the water and nutrients from the avocados. He wants to dig them up and replace them with mulch. One by one, my husband started ripping out the volunteers and replacing them with mulch. This is homegrown mulch, made here on the property from the branches of trees that we’ve trimmed.

One day, we noticed that 50-60 tiny avocados had fallen from one of our trees. More and more fruit dropped over the next few days. We were baffled, and began to research exactly what would cause such a dramatic fruit drop. We learned that avocado trees do not like it when you disturb the ground where the roots are, and they have many roots quite near the surface. We learned that an avocado tree whose roots have been disturbed frequently drop their fruit.  I like to envision the tree throwing its fruit at the one who is disturbing it’s roots, but I think it is actually dropping its fruit in a desperate effort to cover and protect it’s roots from whatever is invading the precious, life-giving top soil.

In Pat’s Garden Forum, we read “If you ever cultivate under an avocado tree, it will drop all it’s fruit. If you have a hired gardener tell him never to rake up the leaves under the avocado, they look messy but must be left to lie on the ground under the tree. . . . . raking under, or digging, or cultivation is the usual cause of serious fruit drop.” In the same forum, we also read “Switching to drip, lack of water, or quick swings in temperatures can cause more than the usual numbers of fruit to drop off.”

As new farmers, we had unwittingly disturbed the ground where the surface roots were. We removed the blanket of wild flowers which had volunteered to protect the roots. This exposed them to weather, temperatures, and changes in the amount of water they were getting. Our intentions were good, we wanted to protect the roots with mulch and get rid of the volunteers that were taking both water and nutrients from our avocado trees; but we learned very quickly that nothing good comes from disturbing a healthy root system.

Ephesians 3:16-19 “That according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Part of the fullness of God is to enjoy a life in Him which bears the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If we are rooted in Christ, and filled with all the fullness of God, others will be able to see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Others will benefit from our fruit, and grow from partaking of our fruit. If, however, others look at us and see our fruit dropping onto the ground, it indicates that we have allowed someone, or something to disrupt our spiritual roots.

How about you? Have your roots been disturbed? Has someone or something come along and cultivated the soil around your roots? Are you experiencing fruit drop and wondering why? If you are not experiencing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in your life, I encourage you to consider these questions, and get to the . . . .wait for it . . . . root of the problem!

California avocado growers can prevent excessive avocado fruit drop through good cultural management. This means the farmers carefully and intentionally tend to the soil in an effort to produce fruit and protect the roots of the tree. They do not disturb the soil or the root system. They cultivate it in a manner that will enforce the roots, compel them to behave a certain way, make them stronger, and encourage them to produce beautiful fruit. Fruit that benefits anyone who tastes it.

Like the farmer, we can prevent spiritual fruit drop through good spiritual cultural management. We must carefully tend to the soil and remain fully rooted in Christ. Our roots need to be covered with the beautiful wildflowers who volunteer – the blood of Jesus. We need to nourish our roots with Living Water, feed our roots the Word of God and guard against anyone or anything who might try to cultivate the soil with something that does not honor God. Our roots must be deep and firm in order to be able to withstand the wiles of the devil and the winds of the world.

Just as the volunteer wild flowers were a protective covering for the roots of our avocado trees, so the blood of Jesus is a protective covering for the roots of our lives.  Guard your heart against anyone or anything that would try to replace God’s covering over your life with mulch.  That mulch could be drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, whatever your personal “mulch” might be, don’t let it cover your roots. Jesus is the only covering you need.  Let Him produce in you fruit that is delicious and beneficial to any and all partake of it!

Lord, help me to root more and more deeply into You. Help me to stay grounded in Your love. Cause my fruit to be beneficial to those around me.  Reveal to my heart when something or someone attempts to tamper with my roots, and give me the strength and wisdom to recognize when my fruit drops.  Lord, You are the vine and we are the branches, we can not survive if we are not securely attached to You. Prune me, cultivate the soil I am in, and renew a right spirit in me.  I love you!