Sorting and sifting…

Sorting through and folding a laundry basket full of clean clothes the other day, I came across a couple of socks with holes worn through them. They were not repairable and so the decision as to what to do with them was easy. Oftentimes in life, we face similar decisions in terms of deciphering what to get rid of and what to keep. Sometimes it can be as clear cut as sorting through laundry and other times it can be difficult to see the way to proceed.

When it (the net) is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. – Matthew 13:48

The above Scripture verse is part of a passage in which Jesus is giving comparisons as to what the Kingdom of Heaven is like and states that in the end, the angels will be separating the good from the bad. However, as we walk through life on earth, we also need to separate the good from the bad and the good from the better, as we strive toward Heaven.

Frequently, what is less than good, parades around in disguise and can slowly and subtly pull us inward, or downward and away from where we seek to be. On top of that, what enables one’s soul to shine most brightly and what is good for us, often goes against the grain of the world in which we live. It is challenging to say the least and perhaps, even discouraging at times. Still though, we are called to be aware and to choose wisely, whether we are sorting through the obvious or sifting through the “not so clear.”

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Solomon answered:

“You have shown great kindness to your servant, David my
father, because he walked before you with fidelity, justice, and an upright heart;
and you have continued this great kindness toward him today, giving him a son to
sit upon his throne.

Now, LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:

“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.” – 1 Kings 3:5-12

Fortunately, we are not alone in this endeavor of trying to choose what is good, and to choose wisely. There is aid around every corner and in each nook and cranny there is Wisdom waiting to be had. All we need is to ask.

 

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Waiting for the Dough…

I recall being surprised as a child, the first time I observed pastry dough and a particular pastry being made from scratch. To start the process, some warm milk was added into a bowl that contained yeast. Just prior to the water being added, I remember curiously smelling the yeast and turning away as the aroma hit me. I found the odor rather offensive.

I also found myself impatient at having to wait for the dough to rise. Why did we have to wait so long? And how could yeast, having such a bad smell, possibly make good dough? As a child, I did not know any different or understand the process. However, I had a desire to learn and as I followed the process from start to finish, I was thrilled with the end result—Ka’ak! A family favorite enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee.

There were many steps in the making of this Lebanese sweet treat and each of them seemed to take so long to complete. I remember the pleasant smell wafting through the house as the dough and the dipping “sauce” cooked. There were hours from the rising of the big batch of dough to the second dipping of each piece into the sweet milky liquid that would provide both a glaze and a sweet mild taste that lingered ever so gently with each bite.

As a child, it seemed like a painstaking process, taking an eternity to get to taste a piece of Ka’ak. All those steps and all that time though, were necessary, and the wait always ended up being worthwhile… the taste heavenly.

Sometimes it can be hard to wait, and perhaps even harder to trust that what’s happening, or not happening now, is part of the process. It can be difficult to believe that what may seem unpleasant or far less than ideal may need to occur along the way in order to get to a sweeter place.

One must remember: There is no sense in trying to bake the Ka’ak before the dough rises.

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Wonderland…

In the 1800s, Charles Lutwidge Dodson was born, lived, and died in England. He was a writer, photographer, mathematician, logician and more. He was also an Anglican deacon. However, he became best known as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. His pen name was Lewis Carroll.

Through the years, there have been a number of misconceptions and myths about Lewis Carroll. Through it all though, and while he has been deceased over a century, his words and works have remained as popular as ever. His writing is captivating and thought provoking. In both his well-known fictional works and in letters to friends there is depth… there is truth… there are roots.

Lewis Carroll wrote, “One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.” In other words, there is something greater than “myself.” While it is important to be the best I can be, it is even more important to know, and to be rooted in, why, and for whom, I am striving to be the best I can be. Is it for myself or is it for the greater good? What is it that is truly in my heart as I go along?

Jesus said, “… Some (seed) fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots” (Matthew 13:5-6).

We all need roots in order to be faithful and true as we stand, and withstand, whatever comes our way. However, roots cannot grow and take hold where there is not fertile soil.

We are not the seed. We are the soil. The seed is the image of God in which we are created. It can only grow and flourish when we use our free will to nurture it. It is our calling to provide an environment that allows the seed to catch root and grow. This happens through the grace of God.

Most often, when we truly turn our will over to God, we find ourselves growing in our capacity to experience life with a joy and love that reaches out and touches others. Maybe that is God’s way of saying, “Nurture the soil, and leave the rest up to me.”

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On a Whim…

We had not intended to head to the top of the mountain, but there we were, venturing toward the summit on an almost sunny day. At first, I wondered what impact the pockets of hazy fog would have. How far would we be able to see? Was it worth the trip? Then I thought, if not now, when? According to all accounts, tomorrow would be raining and the day after we would be leaving.

Despite the unknown degree of visibility, we decided to make a go of it. The ride to the top held both anticipation and peace. We started out very chatty, but quieted down some as we approached the tree line and rose above it. The fresh air and sense of freedom that often accompany the feeling of “being on top of the world” in wide-open space, whether on the ground below or high above, were abundant. Both permeated the mountaintop and seemed to be with us as well as all who chose to rise to the top that day.

Once there it was stunning. Looking out across the mountain’s peak, through the hazy spots it seemed almost like a dream as I took in all that was around and far away. There were people here and there traversing along the bedrock, taking heed of the signs seeking to preserve and protect all that might be fragile in this shared ecosystem. Toward the far reaches of the bedrock, there were a series of cliffs and beyond the edge, the ocean and a number of islands.

After soaking in all that was offered, or so I thought, we took the pathway back. It was then, when least expected, from one side of the path to the other and back again, we saw a yellow and black butterfly fluttering along, joyfully…hope filled my heart went along with it. As it landed, I watched and smiled. It was icing on the cake. All that we had seen, so wonderfully made.

It was quite a mountaintop experience. While it was both exhilarating and joy-filled it was also peaceful and upon further reflection it was once again all these things as well as sobering. With the uncertainty with which the journey was embarked upon now a distant memory, it became clear that the place in which we were standing held many gifts, even on a hazy day.

Life, whether at the top of a mountain, at the bottom, or somewhere in between (and regardless of the weather) has so much to give, when we are open to receive.

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Along the Path…

Stepping out for a walk, not too far along the path, there it was, a most beautiful tree. It had a strong, healthy trunk and rather smooth bark, a bounty of branches and countless leaves of green. I had noticed it previously, but today, with the light from the morning sun it captured my attention more fully, beckoning for me to come closer. In doing so, I found myself under a canopy provided by the branches and leaves. Looking up, I was filled with awe.

At the base there appeared to be two trunks that, not all that high off the ground, had changed course and melded into one, continuing to grow strong for many, many more feet toward the sky. From the trunk, it was striking to see the branches of varying size growing out in many different directions and all holding leaves of green – full of character and life. And though each branch and leaf has its own peculiarities, essentially every part of the tree shared the same essence.

Marveling once again and breathing in, I think, “Freedom.” This is what freedom is. It is to stay connected, drawing strength and sustenance, inspiration and wisdom… to hold fast and firm to authenticity in environments of all kinds. Truly, freedom is to choose and walk the path, ever mindful and ever faithful to the Source.

But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. – 1 Peter 2:9

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