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BLOSSOM OF HOPE

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This week has felt like I was navigating upstream without a paddle. The onslaught of business issues coupled with the loss of a dear friend to cancer had drained both my mental and physical energy. I needed a distraction from life so I went outside and pulled weeds.

The Barren Tree

The barren weeping cherry tree.

I’m not sure why, but when faced with life’s difficult moments, I find comfort in pulling weeds. I many not be able to control situations in life, but I can control the unwanted growth in my flower beds. And so, with garden trowel in hand, I walked through my flower beds looking for weeds. Every turn of the blade and scoop of dirt would help my plants thrive.

As I worked my way around the property, I approached the final flower bed. It is my favorite flower bed and home to a weeping cherry tree I planted many years ago. Every spring its pink blossoms cascade downward in an effort to kiss the ground below and has been the backdrop of my daughter’s many prom pictures. But today, there were no pink blossoms as it struggled to survive; it was slowly dying and its days were numbered.

Sadness overwhelmed me much like it did when I heard the news of my friend’s death. No amount of weeding, feeding or care would revive or extend the life of my beloved weeping cherry tree. There were a few signs of life, but for the most part, the barren branches told me its days were numbered.

I wrapped my arms around the base of the tree trunk and prayed silently. It wasn’t a prayer for a miracle and certainly not a prayer filled with much faith. It was more an outcry to God for assurance. I needed to know I wasn’t alone in the midst of the difficult moments and challenges before me.

It was a simple prayer,
“Heavenly Father, I am overwhelmed by life right now. I am broken, drained and barren just like this weeping cherry tree. I am being choked by weeds and need your divine intervention. There are no blossoms on this tree that I embrace, not one. If you are here with me, if there is hope beyond today, let me see just one cherry blossom on this tree. Amen.”

For me, one cherry blossom would signify hope endures even in life’s darkest moments. When I finished my prayer, I looked upwards. It was then, my eyes were directed to one lone cherry blossom and I knew God cared about every detail of my life.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Whatever difficulties and trials you face in this life, embrace hope in things eternal. When weeds seek to choke your hope and peace; when you are overwhelmed with sadness, anxiety and the uncertainty of the future, know this: God has a plan for your life.

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THE LAST GOODBYE

exhaustedI slumped onto the sofa like a wet noodle after the last few guests departed our annual holiday party. It had been a success with plenty of food, beverages and outdoor activities for every age group.

The day concluded with family sitting around a fire pit where big kids set off fireworks and little ones waved sparklers. It was a wonderful family day, but after the last goodbye, I collapsed in total exhaustion like it was my last hurrah.

I have always considered myself to be tenacious, ready to take on any challenge or task with everything I’ve got. However, the next day when asked to help disassemble the outdoor party canopy, I quickly realized my body parts had finally caught up to my age. Unable to lift the heavy framework, I was assigned a new job of grouping the pole extensions by their assigned number. Even that required reading glasses due to the small print size.

My giddy-up was gone and I no longer possessed the strength needed to complete the task at hand. It was time to say my last goodbye to youthfulness and accept the limitations that accompany the aging process. Don’t get me wrong, we should do our best to stay fit, eat healthy and seek out life adventures; but we should do so with an acceptance of our limitations.

Jesus certainly experienced what it was like to collapse from total exhaustion. Look no further than the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed,

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42

Jesus wasn’t assigned a new job just because the weight of the cross or the sin of mankind was too much to carry. The outdoor activities planned for His party included torture, beatings and being nailed to a cross. In light of this, my exhaustion and limitations pale when compared to what Jesus accomplished as his body collapsed in death and spoke His last goodbye, “It is finished.”

Jesus’ last goodbye to us gave birth to eternal life; my last goodbye to guests gave birth to a 2-hour nap.

While putting away tables, chairs, food and outdoor games from the weekend party, I considered that I am not being nailed to a cross, eating my last supper or sentenced to death for my religious beliefs. Yes, I may be weary, tired and aged; but I’m not wearing military dog tags, navigating through mine fields or looking at my child’s photo inside a combat helmet.

Our youth may fade, but the glory of the privileged life we enjoy remains intact. Because of the selfless acts of love imparted by others and their allegiance to uphold our freedoms at whatever cost, I am able to sit by a fire pit with my family, watch grandkids light sparklers, eat from a bountiful table and curl up on the sofa like a wet noodle at day’s end.

When faced with utter exhaustion and your strength seems like sand in a sieve, you are not alone. Our ability to face life’s challenges and understand all the fine print it entails requires the help of others and an acceptance of our own limitations.

The last goodbye doesn’t mean we can no longer function, it only means we may require the strength of others or a higher power to get the job done. All we need to do is ask.

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LET’S TALK KARMA

I believe karma goes hand-in-hand with scripture,

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“Be not deceived; God is not mocked for whatever man sows that shall he also reap.”
Galatians 6:7

Each of us have faced situations that resurrect thoughts about Karma and how each of us has the potential to willfully use deceit to serve a personal agenda or vendetta. What might surprise you is what scripture has to say about our reaction to this bad karma.

“But I say unto you who hear, love your enemies and do good to them which hate you…”
Luke 6:27

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”
Matthew 6:14

Let me share a story:

At one time they were close friends. They worked together, shared family weekend excursions and had built a friendship on camaraderie and common interests. As educators, they considered themselves equal and gave no consideration to the power struggles that often occur in parallel careers.

But over time, one friend allowed envy to enter her soul. She noticed her friend’s leadership and administrative skills far surpassed her own. Staff and students loved her friend more than her and she quietly opened the door to jealousy.

Hanging out after work slowly ceased as did invites to social events.

As the jealous friend became self-absorbed a power struggle began to erupt within her and anger consumed her; it was her constant companion. Her good friend continued to have a heart bent toward goodness, kindness and forgiveness, but there was one thing her friend didn’t have and that was POWER.

The jealous friend held the reins of power with the decision makers. She would conveniently keep upcoming meeting dates, important emails and shared information from her friend to make her appear uninformed before peer groups.

But the jealous friend’s best revenge was not coming in to work, or responding to phone calls and emails. She left her friend alone to oversee two buildings, staff and students for days at a time; only to find her friend seemed to handle all the administrative duties without a glitch. In fact, no one missed the jealous friend at all; it was a welcomed reprieve from her angry verbal assaults and inept administrative skills.

I would love to tell you my story has a happy ever after ending, but it doesn’t.

In the end, the jealous friend dismissed her loyal friend. Of course, she lacked the backbone to do it herself and found it much easier, or perhaps it was to ease the guilt, to have her hand-fed HR members handle the duty. She stood nearby as her friend was summoned to a mock meeting. It was like a lamb being led to slaughter.

The sacrifice was to compensate for the jealous friends lack of integrity, leadership skills and administrative abilities. But the blood spilled that day will never atone for the lies, deceit and jealousy that brought an innocent person to slaughter. Only the blood of Jesus can do that.

So where does that leave the loyal friend?

In the hands of God who is faithful to those who believe upon His name. When God closes a door it means He is ready to open the flood gate on the dam. And with all this Michigan rain, the river is up and a flash flood is roaring. WATCH OUT, the floodgates of Heaven are about to open.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:10

God’s blessing reigns in our life when we are obedient to his call, seek to forgive others and give from the heart. As for karma, it is best left in the hands of God.