Trying to be a Tree

I spied the little fella yesterday as I was cleaning out a flower bed, noted his beauty, and since then at length have considered  his lesson. This morning as I set out for another day of yard clean-up, I carried my camera down the stairs with me for I was remembering from yesterday this little creation.

He is trying to be a tree.

He was ordained to be a tree, and somehow in his “guts” he knows he is destined to be such a living thing. It is in his genes, his DNA. Even so, it has not been easy for him. He has fought obstacles including the beating about of fierce winds that come off Lake Gregory and that tear around the corner of our house. Through the winter months cold, edgy snow piled high over him, drenching rain poured off our roof at the spot where he lies, and even sometimes after walking Winston if the garage door is closed I toss a little doggie business bag in that area, that stays there until later when I will retrieve it and plunk it into a trash can. Even that, as you can see, did not deter him. He pushed and shoved. He grew, he grunted, he persevered until finally he was strong enough to crack open his restrictive acorn walls, to flaunt his bright green oak leaves. For you understand, don’t you, that God designed him to be a tree.

DSC_7141 I actually did not know he was there until yesterday, and even then I paid him scant attention. It was only when my rake hung up on him, and I found him to be well rooted into the ground that I considered him. It matters not to him that neither Jerry or me, or anyone else for that matter, had taken note of him, that no one encouraged him with pep talks, or strokes, or positive words. Alone, he continued on his way toward being a tree. He’s a winner, this little seedling of mine. He’s rare. Rare, you say? An acorn? There must be millions in existence, or billions. Yes, there are, but I tell you that out of the mounds of acorns I bagged today, only this one will be a tree. The others have lost their way. Their dreams have died. Their visions of soaring into the sky, of birds nesting among their leaves, of little boys climbing and building club houses in their branches have vanished. Tonight they nestle against the other losers in black trash bags that set near the fence on the east side of our drive way.

And what of you? Of me? What of the gifts God and genetics have placed inside us? What of the urging to break through the binding walls that threaten our going to our graves with our potential unfulfilled, our talents silenced, the world deprived of our gifts. Let not the wind, nor the cold, nor loneliness, nor pressure, nor agedness, nor youth, nor past mistakes, nor anything else now or in the future defeat us.

. . .for even a few rare acorns become trees.

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My little fella is growing in a place that is undesirable. That I now consider him special, I will transplant him into a container. Because we have many oak trees and no room for another, I’m offering him as a gift to you who live close by. Any takers?

Leash

20150219-untitled (35 of 45)Usually I walk Winston along our street, sometimes going into the woods that is a part of Thousand Pines Christian Conference Center here in Crestline. Yesterday, though, I put him in the car and drove the mile or so down to Lake Gregory, where, in an area near the San Moritz Lodge, we accomplished our morning walk.While he nudged small stones, and snuffled around fallen leaves, trying to sniff out at least one of the myriad animals who prowl about the area, I reveled in the day. Getting on toward the end of February, the weather should be described as storms of snow and rain; instead we’re having Spring, and although I’m wanting the cold weather, I’ve decided (since I can do nothing about the amount of heat or cold that stacks up about me) to enjoy these gorgeous days, and to avoid too much whine about the other stuff.

Winston walks on a leash. A leash that I control. I snap it on him, and take it off him. I’m in charge of Winston, and I tell him where we’re headed, when to go, and when to stop. Sometimes he obeys me. Others times not. Sometimes he doesn’t want to come for the leash and he’ll dance around, and tease, but before we head out for the walk, he is securely tethered by his leash–the leash that is in my hand.

20150218-untitled (2 of 45)I  wear a leash too. Despite, though, how closely you look about my neck or how thoroughly you peer about my shoulders, you will not see my harness. It is invisible, rests easily about me, yet is highly effective. I’ve worn my leash a long time now, and should it slip away, should it be lost, I would suffer. My leash is of The Spirit. My leash is the Holy Ghost. I cherish this restraint, for it guides me through this very treacherous life, along roadways littered with stumbling stones, through neighborhoods of evil report.

With David, I cry:

Prepare my goings in your paths and do not let  evil rule over me. Psalm 119:133 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

And to my Savior, I lift my hands, and extend my body for the leash for He has said:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go. Psalm 32:8

20150218-untitled (3 of 45)We care deeply for Winston, we provide for him, we pamper him. Despite being the smart little rascal he is, without us he would lose his way. One day he would frolic away to the camp or to the lake, not remembering the coyotes that prowl our woods and our streets, nor the occasional huge cat who might very well rest in the limb above his furry little head.

20150219-untitled (40 of 45)Sometimes he’s in danger and has no sense of it at all.

And so Winston wears a leash, as do I. For sometimes I’m in danger, sometimes I head toward the wrong path, sometimes ungodly creatures lie in wait for me, but I’m safe, for I yield to the leash.

My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. Psalm 17:5

Seven Thousand and Counting

It grieved me to hear that a highly respected elder minister of the Gospel felt in good conscience he could no longer attend the church he had pastored for many years. The relative who had followed him as pastor has chosen a “new” gospel. The names lack significance. The message cracks with consequence.

As a counterpoint to the short piece above that I recently posted on Facebook, and which received many affirming comments, I present a young couple. Their names are Anthony and Shauna Allen.

ImageAnthony Allen is a young minister, and he and his darling wife stand as the antithesis of the relative noted in the paragraph above. On Sunday at the conclusion of their (and his parents) short visit in our home, Jerry spoke a short devotional.

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ImageAs I gave a final hug to Shauna, she spoke soft words me: It is such a blessing to be in a home where I feel so strongly the presence of God.

Image Our Sunday morning devotion in our living room ended in this way and I was reminded again that across the world there are innumerable honest, ethical, God-fearing people who are not deviating from the doctrines found in the Bible. Young ones, middle-aged ones, and older ones. I recalled that great prophet Elijah who once got to thinking he was the only one doing right. God rebuked him and cited 7000 who had not bowed their knees to Baal.

I smiled. . . and decided to tell you about it.

Sage Buxton and Mary Birchett

During the morning as I contemplated that this is the day that will contain the ending moments of the year 2013, and as I thought of my considerable blessings during said year, indeed, throughout my entire life, my mind nuzzled down and settled on Sage.

ImageSage is eleven years old and is the daughter of Chris and Christina, which makes her my great-granddaughter. She is a changeling. Yesterday she climbed into this tree with her brother and boy cousins, and she grinned down at me as she held Winston, and as I snapped her picture. At other moments, though, it is evident that she will soon leave rank childhood behind, and in its place will embrace the lady-hood that is nipping at the hem of her skirt.

I stood in a large group gathered at the altar Sunday night, and in a few minutes I sensed that Sage had moved from her parents who also worshipped at the front of the church, and now sidled close to me. She wept. I laid one of my hands on her back, then she raised her own arms in worship, and I saw that she was crying. It was a precious moment as we stood together enveloped in the presence of God on the last Sunday of the year 2013.

Later I was reminded that Sage’s great, great, great grandmother, Mary Birchett, was also a recipient of the precious gift of the Holy Ghost, and that such a remarkable link, such a treasure of heritage has been passed not only to Sage, but to all my other great grandchildren. Have there been failures in our family? Of course. Is there shame in our family? Of course. But overriding this negative reality is the sure Word of God and His sure Spirit that has been protected and treasured by many in our family.

With joy I write this year-end missive, with joy I speak of God’s Spirit, and with joy do I celebrate my remarkable heritage.

Onward! 2014 stands at the door.

The Cusp of Wonder

Edgy. I live on the edge, the glorious edge, where every day I am astonished—I never take it for granted—at the beauty, the success, the hint of the hereafter that surround me. For in all areas of my life I find myself balanced on the cusp of wonder. Rising from my bed in the predawn hours of the newest day, I finagle my clothes, flip on the coffee pot, and settle into my favorite chair in the dining room with its wide windows that look across the chasm of Lake Gregory to the untitled (4 of 4)trees of the alpine forest that rise as a standing army on the other side. I read, think, pray, write, contemplate, cry sometimes, and frequently take on a heavy feeling of compassion and concern, and my chest compresses, and at times my heart breaks, but there is nothing I can do about that. I smile occasionally, though, at what I read, and sometimes at my own thoughts. Jerry comes and I pour his coffee, or he pours his own, and he sits in his chair . . .

“It’s just over 70 miles to Palmdale,” was the first thing I said to him this morning as he stood by the coffee pot, “but it will take us about two hours to get there.” He sweetly grunts, (his becoming fully awake is a slow process that can’t be rushed) and hugs and kisses me.

Other points of wonder around me go to political insanities which daily assault my listening ears, disappointment that my beautiful squash plants produced only gigantic yellow blossoms but no zucchini or yellow squash, and discussions with Jerry about buying some kind of screen to secure over the tubs and pots where I will untitled (3 of 4)again plant spring-flowering bulbs. The screen bit is in hopes of keeping the mountain critters, throughout the winter, from filling their little bellies with dinners of un-blossomed tulips, hyacinths, and allium.

Drops of anointing will splash about me during the next many hours, for we are off to Lancaster today to help celebrate with Pastor Sean Manzano and his family the 7th anniversary of the founding of Rushing Wind Worship Center.

We’re leaving early–around noon–for I want to take a little time to photograph the Mormon Rocks and the trains that are always chugging around that area. The massive rock formation is named for a group of Mormons who traveled through the Cajon Pass in covered wagons on their way from Salt Lake to southern California. We’ll get to our hotel room in time to rest a bit before the service tonight.

I live on the cusp of wonder. Tonight I will sit with life-long friends in a congregation of Apostolic believers, and we will worship and sing and listen and talk. There will be a rush of the Spirit of God, and we will clap and rejoice, and around me will settle as points of light the holy presence of God.

We’ll be tired tonight, Jerry and I, and I will lie on my bed ready to fall asleep, and as I often do, I will think of the comfort of sleep and rest. . . and will anticipate the morning, another day on the edge of wonder.

 

The Catch of Friendship (Part 2)

Not enough to serve us a dynamite meal on Wednesday evening, and to engage in hours long sweet conversation, but breakfast on Thursday was in the friendship plan. So at 10:30, we gathered back at the Johnny Hodges place to delve into a sumptuous breakfast; fresh fruit, juice, Eggs Newport, sausage, English muffins…..

It was the middle of the afternoon before any of us made a move to leave. It had been a time of reflection, of reciting the wonders of God, of delving into our pasts, of bragging on Jesus and His people. So overcome with emotion he could hardly speak, Berl recounted how God moved to bring his grandson to be the pastor when he was ready to retire. He opened his heart as he told of the beauty of the transition and their remarkable relationship now as Bishop and Pastor, grandfather and grandson. He wept. . . as did I, and as did others.

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A circle of elderly friends were we. And then Johnny told of the time he and Elaine had been in Israel, and from a distance he had pointed to Golgotha. “That’s where my salvation was purchased,” he said.

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And on yesterday afternoon, we all gazed as he recounted the event, and we were moved to our core, and knew it to be so, and recalled that such a knowing was the glittering, silver cord that connects us six friends.

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We prayed . . . and then left.

Catch it if you can . . . the spirit of enduring friendship.

A Thousand Pieces Anniversary

At the recent camp meeting in Santa Maria, (which by the way was off the charts in excellence,) a lady came to me wanting an autograph of my book on backsliding, The Bitter Bite of Beelzebub, which she had purchased from the Pentecostal Publishing House booth at the camp meeting.

“Do you have more books,” she asked. I told her I have written three other ones, but was not sure if they were available at the camp meeting display area. Others have asked, so I’m taking this opportunity to give you a link to my site where you may order any of my books.

It so happens that today, August 6, 2013, is the 19th anniversary of the event that led to the writing of my first book, A Thousand Pieces. That book is in its 4th printing and has proven to be a faith-builder of rare effect. A quick summary is that my husband Jerry was struck by a truck driven by a drunk driver as he stood by our disabled car. He was knocked 86 feet through the air and landed in the street, dead. A lady revived him, but he had almost unbelievable injuries including a broken neck, bleeding into his brain stem, compressed spinal cord, bruised kidneys, bruised heart, punctured lung, broken hip . . .and more. He was paralyzed, only able to move his toes and a couple of fingers. He spent five months in the hospital, but through the mercy and healing power of God, coupled with excellent medical care–if you saw him today, you would never know anything had happened to him. Many people refer to him as a walking miracle.

It’s all in the book, A Thousand Pieces, whose opening lines are:

Screaming brakes slashed the afternoon air. Tortured wheels whined at high pitch digging into the hot pavement as the truck careened crazily, strewing debris in its path.

Closing lines:

Life beats us all. Mysterious and vaporous in creation, a new being spurts forth, its plump flesh rosy, gushing with Adam’s juice. The quick intake of breath and the sharp wail are but the front edge of a grim continuum. Invisible yet, the deadly claws have revealed their tooth, for insidious and relentless, they work their scheme of death and decay. For now, though, Jerry and I had escaped. Just ahead of the whirlwind, we had danced a frantic cotillion, swinging always toward the passage of life and avoiding that of death and its greed.

That it was done with grace, let it be said.

We are forever grateful.

Fathers and Sons

A father who has a son who says, “Let me pray for you Dad,” is blessed beyond description. If he has three who do so, it is as though rubies have been heaped about him, and he is a rare man, indeed.

A father who has a son who then says, “Pray for Shawnna and me, Dad” and then the two kneel before him, has been granted life in an elevated plane.

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Pieces of Wonder

Part of the amazement is of me–my body, mind, memory, emotions. That I came fully formed from the simple love of my mother and father, and that now I too am a mother–of four magnificent beings who have beautiful bodies, minds, and spirits truly amazes me.

Outside my windows tonight the wind blows, and though even on sunny days I cannot see the wind, I know it is there, for it lifts tree branches and puts them down again as easily as I flag a silky scarf through the air, and it tears around the corners of our tall house and howls. I hear the wind. It’s raining too, soft rain. They had said there was only a 20 percent chance of rain, but we are of the 20 of the hundred tonight, the lucky ones. untitled (6 of 15)I imagined I heard rain against a bedroom window a while ago, so I peered out and saw that the driveway was wet and that the bushes that are illuminated by the yard light were shiny and drippy. “It’s raining, Jerry,” I said. It has been clear though. Just a few nights ago, the moon was so bright through our high uncurtained windows, I believe I could have read a book page at midnight. This early morning as we drank coffee I looked through the ascending branches of a wide oak tree just beyond our front deck, and there in the branch tops I saw the moon. It was not fat as before, but a fragment of itself.

It takes faith to believe in God and I have that faith. If I did not, logic would nevertheless pull me into the believer’s corner, for it is much more sane to believe that a Creator is responsible for the glory and wonder of the earth and for the beauty of our bodies and minds, than to think all this came from nothing and from no one.

Near our front entrance stairs is a large stone planter which in summer is a riot of flowers–annuals which I change out each year. In the late fall, I pulled out the remaining dried-up fragments and planted bulbs in there. I don’t remember what kind of bulbs I planted, for within a short span, Jerry and I planted 200 bulbs. But in a loose-leaf binder in the potting shed, I have a list of everything we planted, so I will find out what is to grow there. The potting shed is really not a shed at all, but is actually a basement room with an exterior untitled (13 of 15)wall of glass and door. I call it a potting shed because it has pots in it, rakes, planting mix, the wheelbarrow, shovels, and such. But, back to the stone planter. 🙂 We’ve had record-breaking cold here in the San Bernardino Mountains this winter, but mixed up with days of very warm weather . . . so we have flowers blooming, even though it is projected that in a couple of days we can expect a storm to dump several inches of snow on us.

. . . the stone planter. Around Thanksgiving I piled on top of the dirt in the planter a mound of huge untitled (1 of 15)pine cones, and during the days of Christmas, I tied one of them up with a wide red bow. A few days ago when I noticed a sweep of blooming yellow daffodils, I got to thinking about the bulbs in the planter. I moved aside the heavy cones, and there poking up from the earth were determined, green shoots. untitled (2 of 15)

If there is anything that reinforces my belief in God, it is a flower bulb. They’re brown, wrinkled up, and papery when you dig a hole in the fall and stick them into the ground. Down inside those little morsels, though, is magic. Surprise. Determination. Plan. They know to push up when it’s time, They know to be a yellow daffodil or a pink tulip, or a lily, and though I’ll have to check my notebook to know, they already know who they are, and what they are to do. God made them that way.

It takes faith to believe in God. I have that faith and lots of evidence. Pieces of wonder.

Of Chance

When a person is successful; healthy, has plenty of money, and contributes to society, we can rightly say he has been blessed by God. The converse is not true; some people have ill health, never have enough money, and their ministries never seem to excel, yet they too may be blessed of God, and may be doing everything exactly right. It is even possible–quite likely–that some members of the first group are not doing their best, and they may not be following the path God has laid out for them.

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Chance plays a big role in our lives: The families into which we are born, opportunities that may or may not present themselves, disease and accident which stalk us or ignore us, our innate intellect, the teachers who are assigned to our classrooms, the preacher who stands in our pulpit; the country of our birth and its government, the crust of bread we are given for the day, or more likely of those who read here, the whole buttered loaf. Much is of chance.

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What of you? I would so enjoy hearing your response to this subject. Agree with me? Disagree? Why?  Thank you for your time here.