Thursday, March 15, 2012

All choked up

I encounter all kinds of people throughout my week, with all kinds of moods. The individuals I am baffled by the most are the bitter, hateful, rude ones. I always wonder what must be going on in their lives that made them that way. Was it a past hurt? Were they told a strong obnoxious character is what they must show or the world would walk all over them? Was it simply because someone was unkind to them?

There is a small, pretty tree called the Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana. It grows in open areas like plains, foothills or mountainous regions and it spreads pretty easily.  Like many plants, the Chokecherry starts to bloom in the Spring and its blossoms then reveal its fruit a little later.


Looks yummy, huh.

The thing that many don't know is that the Chokecherry is toxic to ruminant animals like horses, deer and cattle. In addition, to humans the fruit is very bitter and the seed is inedible without being cooked and completely dried.


Because the plant contains amygdalin which breaks down into cyanide.

Did you catch that? Cyanide.

Cyanide is a poison that can bring great discomfort and pain and in the right amount, has the power to kill.

I am reminded of a verse in Scripture that says:
"Look after each other so that none of you fails to recieve the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many." Heb 12:15 (NLT)
In some translations, for "grace", the Bible says "kindness", "love", "unmerrited favor and spiritual blessing".  Is it then possible that some of the people I encounter during my week have at some point missed God's grace because someone else has failed to extend them kindness?  Is it possible then that the bitterness inside them is what poisons my experience or others?

I believe it may be so.

I have another set of Nine Little Words I use while I'm out. They are:
"What is the most loving thing I can say?"
Often times it's just a "thank you", or using a person's name, or a smile.  I try to never go to a store in a hurry and always try to genuinely ask how the employee I am interacting with is doing.  Trust me, I've gotten the grumpy "not as good as you" remark but often times I've gotten a smile in return.

Like the Chokecherry, I have to remember that my outward appearance may look safe but if my words tear down and don't build up and my fruit is toxic, then I just might as well feed someone cyanide.

I must remember that even in myself, if I allow bitterness to grow and am unable to extend kindness, the very life I may be choking out is that of my own.

Remember to always extend someone kindness. You never know, they may be needing to feel God's grace and love.  If you need to, start today. Look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself of God's favor.

Blessings for your day,

Friday, March 2, 2012

Do you hear what I hear?

Have you ever heard the expression "A thankful heart is a happy heart"?

I've had the great fortune and abundant blessing of experiencing that truth for the past six months.  I am living and breathing a heart of gratitude every day.  Now this may sound like I'm getting ready to sell you some kind of "happy juice".  The fact is that I was very ill last spring and summer.  I suffered a relapse of a very annoying and pointless disease.  Essentially, my sleeping Epstein-Barr virus "woke up" and put me to bed...for months.

Unfortunately in my case, it causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was diagnosed with it when I was 15yrs old and every once in a while it rears it's ugly head.  I usually know when it's coming and I take some time to rest so it doesn't take over my body.  Well, last year I was just "too busy" to rest.


My body didn't take that thought process too well and decided to remind me that if I don't slow down, it is going to rest anyway.

And rest it did.

But this post isn't about last year, nor do I like to reflect on the negative things from the past. This is about every morning...and especially this morning.

Ever since I got my strength back, I started to walk again while always being mindful of any possible joint pain.  At first it was just a block but eventually I was strong enough to walk the children to school every morning AND it has been the greatest gift.

Our morning routine is to read the children's devotional -- which is actually all about nature. Then we leave for school. We sing two short praise songs and then start to pray together. We thank God for everything we can think of, starting with our family to finishing up with the school and everyone and every detail in between.

I enjoy this period of time with the children because it opens the eyes of my heart and reminds me to be thankful for the things I often overlook -- not because I'm ungrateful but because I am moving too fast.

This morning we were flooded with things to hear and see. Immediately, one of the praises said was "Thank You God we have ears to hear! How boring would everything be if we couldn't hear!"  We proceeded to thank God for all of our senses, including feeling a little cold and being thankful for warm clothes and shoes and a home with heat!

After I say goodbye to the children, it's my turn. I continue to worship and pray throughout the rest of my walk.  At one point I noted a Blue Jay (our daughter's favorite bird).  It seemed to be following me from point to point. I could hear it singing and then just a little while later I could see it fly in front of me and call out again. By the time I was finishing up my mile, I was laughing.

He really WAS joining me on my walk!

Did he not hear the "thank you" we gave the Creator earlier?  Did he want me to acknowledge his beautiful blue plumage? Was he trying to get me to remember the devotional we read about Blue Jays?

Finally, through a grin and a giggle I said "THANK YOU!"

And that is when I began to hear.

I heard the Blue Jays:

and Cardinals,

and Song Sparrows,

and Robins,

and Black Hooded Chickadees,

and Starlings,

and the first Grackles of spring,

I heard Squirrels warning each other,

neighbor's dogs barking,
cars driving,
trucks passing,
planes flying,
school bell ringing,
keys jingling,
footsteps on pavement,
a passer's "good morning",
trash truck serving,
my heart beating,
phone ringing,
police siren,
helicopter passing,
pedometer counting,
breeze moving.

I heard God say, "I am here. I am in all these things, in all of your steps, in every breath."

Before sitting with the children this morning, I had began my own devotional time thanking God for all of my senses. I thanked Him for my physical hearing and my spiritual hearing.  I had asked Him that my spiritual eyes see His love. That my hands and feet become His hands and feet. That I love with a passion that is only possible through Him, for Him and because of Him. That I see Him in the sinner and not just the saint.

And yet, it took a little Blue Jay to get me to slow down and remember...and truly hear.

Do you hear what I hear?

Be thankful in everything. Everything. No matter the joy or the hardship. Bringing Praise builds a fortress of Love. Being grateful is a powerful tool against any darkness that wants to overshadow you or your day. Know that to God even the darkness is light. He can see you, find you, bring you out of your despair and lift you higher than any discouragement.

Do you hear what I hear?

Sing in your OWN voice.  You are not a Blue Jay or Cardinal, or Robin, or Chickadee, or Song Sparrow, or Starling, or Grackle. Nor am I.

Do you hear what I hear?

He is not the CAUSE of my affliction but He is the SOURCE of my restoration.  I can rejoice and sing just as great as any bird I may see or hear. He is the same SOURCE of restoration for those around me who desperately need Him.

Do you hear what I hear?

If I am well then I can rejoice and be even MORE grateful and share that joy with others. I must remember that along my walk, this Christian pilgrimage, there will be times I need to slow down and look around and listen. Often times I don't have to leave my own neighborhood to find an opportunity. Most times, I don't even have to leave my own home.
"speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" Eph 5:19-20 (CEB) 

Slow down to listen today. Give thanks for everything around you. Even the smallest of smalls. May your grateful heart bloom into a happy heart.

Blessings for your day,