When Boughs Break…

For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining, is to let it rain.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Throughout the past few days as I have been out and about, I have seen a great number of damaged trees from recent storms. Among many branches, there have been toppled trees, exposing the underside of the root systems that used to hold them upright. Then there have been trees leaning and resting upon the trunk or branches of a nearby tree. Finally, I have seen trees where the trunk simply snapped, leaving an inside view of what seems to be sturdy, living wood. Clearly, the root systems of these snapped trees were healthy; otherwise, the trees would have toppled.

However, even if a tree trunk is in perfect health, its root system is top notch, and the ground around it is not over-saturated, it can still withstand only so much force before succumbing to it. In fact, scientific studies have shown that once wind gusts reach 94 miles per hour, healthy trees with good ground conditions begin to snap and/or topple. Now, thankfully, the storms that blew through the area I live in did not have wind gusts that high. For these snapped trees, it is likely that there was some sort of imperfection, even if slight, causing weakness in their trunks. With time, culminating with the recent storms, it led to their downfall—through no fault of their own.

Taking in the view of these fallen trees, I cannot help but think that there is so much more to them than wood on the ground. At times it can be tempting to think that strong, healthy roots—a strong foundation—is the cure all. However, these broken trees are a good reminder that very few things are set in stone; also that black and white always make a shade of gray, whether we like it or not.

It is not very different with faith. There is so much more to it than any formula could ever capture. Whether high up in the sky or on the ground, there is always so much more than what meets the eye.

I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

– Jeremiah 31:33-34




“Sometimes it’s best to start moving in the direction you think God may want you to go, and then trust Him to lead you—closing doors He doesn’t want you to go through and opening up others.” – Billy Graham

As I entered the room, a plant across from me caught my eye. Despite regular watering, it did not appear as healthy as it was previously. In looking more closely, I thought, “Oh. I know.” It was time for me to move the plant to a bigger pot. If left unchanged, the plant would be sure to slowly wither and eventually die. With a new, bigger pot, though, the plant would have the proper environment within its immediate reach in order to not only survive, but also to thrive once more.

I remember years ago, purchasing and planting a bleeding heart plant in the front yard during the spring. However, the following spring it seemed to have died so we pulled it out from the ground and got rid of it in the woods behind the house. As seasons changed and a few years passed we had forgotten about this plant. Then, however, one day when disposing of grass clippings, my husband came across a flowering bleeding heart plant in the same area of the woods. The plant that we thought was dead, was alive once more.

For whatever reason, the initial planting spot that we had picked, was not capable of providing the amount of nutrients and light that this plant needed in order to grow, and grow well. How important the immediate environment can be in determining whether or not, and to what extent, growth occurs. Even though both plants had good soil and light, in the case of the bleeding heart, it was not at the right levels in the front yard, and in the case of the potted plant, it outgrew the pot and needed more room in order to continue to be healthy and to grow.

In both cases, all the love and care in the world, would not make a difference unless it included some sort of action toward change. Oftentimes, in life, there are situations that challenge one to stay in a particular environment, and that can be very good. However, there are also times that call for making a change so that the life and light within cannot be hindered, trapped, or stopped from coming to the surface. Look toward the places where you feel free to shine as well as welcome to do so.

“I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
Whoever follows me will have the light of life. – John 8:12


For example…

As I looked around, I saw so many faces. Some were familiar and some were new, but all were listening with great interest and intrigue. I felt overwhelmed with a sense of joy and gratitude. How good it was to be in a place that seemed to be filled with openness and a deep desire for good.

As we all listened, we were reminded of ways in which God is ever-present. Not only is God always with us, but also constantly emanating a love for all creation… a love that is boundless, alongside mercy and compassion that is endless.

We sat and listened to experiences that were shared and our hearts were touched as we marveled at the manner in which God brings people together for more than the good of just a select few or a particular group. Again, reminded of a Love that is not only beyond limit, but also beyond compare… a Love in which we share.

It was good to listen and to remember, but perhaps most important, it was liberating.

It is amazing what the power of example can do when there is openness to receiving it. Sometimes it helps to ask, “What am I holding onto? And how is it affecting me, and those around me?”

Let go and let God. Oftentimes, that is all that is needed.


If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”

If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.

— Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9.

Seek Face…

In times when violence and injustice seem so prevalent, one can become disheartened, disappointed, and/or a number of other words that could aptly describe the different levels and ways that the human spirit can be affected. Disturbing news comes at us and is thrown in our faces over and over through various forms of media. Amongst all the mayhem that seems to abound, it can be challenging to see or to be aware that God is continually sowing, and bringing to life, seeds of love, hope, and faith.

When Peter, James, and John accompanied Jesus up the mountain (Mk 9:2-10), they had no idea what was in store for them. They did not know what they would encounter as they journeyed or when they reached their destination, or what would happen afterward. They did, however, have faith… a faith that led them to recognize and to walk with the Lord. In doing so, they were not alone. God also gave them each other to lean on and to help along the way. Similarly, God gives us each other.

Together there is so much we can overcome and achieve. Together, the face of God shines more brightly and can be seen in and through each of us. To seek God’s face is to seek the best in each and every face… in each and every situation… to trust that God is with us as we walk up the mountain and back down, or through the valley, into the woods, and out the other side.

“Of you my heart has spoken: Seek his face. It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face from me.” – Cf. Psalm 27 (26):8-9

Making Music…

There is something so beautiful about an instrument played as intended. That is, played with heart and soul. Whether a simple tune or a more complex piece of music, the manner or spirit in which an instrument is played adds a lot, including depth and width, to the overall performance. Not only does it affect how it is received, but also what it touches, moves, and brings to the surface in those who are present.

If one were to break it all down, fundamentally, playing with heart and soul begins with a desire or a love. The more one can stay connected with this, the more it can unfold and blossom, eventually burning with a passion, so much so, that it cannot be contained. More fully awakened, it overflows, touching in some way, all who come into contact with it.

While there are varying views on different religious traditions and practices, if one were to strip away what might be readily perceived or that which might be disputable, essentially, they seek to bring out, and to help one to live out of, one’s heart and soul.

One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. – Matthew 4:4b

In a world that has a great many things to distract us from being our best, it can be hard at times to hear music in the midst of all the noise. If you can hear or sense it, though, you can embrace it, and live it. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, in their multitude of forms, can be of great use in helping one to turn down the volume, tighten or re-establish the connections, and proceed with heart and soul.

Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude, we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. Jesus himself entered this furnace, and there he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world: to be relevant (“turn stones into loaves), to be spectacular (“throw yourself down”), and to be powerful (“I will give you all these kingdoms”). There he affirmed God as the only source of his identity (“You must worship the LORD your God and serve him alone”). Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter—the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.

– Henri Nouwen


Better Than Gold…

This week the winter Olympics being held in South Korea began. As a child, I remember the first time I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on television. I found it exciting to see people representing so many countries from around the world in their various styles of clothing, together in one place. I also recall being struck by the way the flame spread around and across the cauldron when the Olympic torch was held to it. The flame burned with greater intensity and was there for all to see.

There is a beautiful spirit that comes with the Olympic Games. While there is competition and sides to choose and for which to route, it is interesting to see the ways in which a shared goal, interest, or experience can bring people together and enliven them, no matter how far apart they may be, whether geographically or otherwise. Oftentimes, it shines through brighter than any medals that might be won or any honor that might be awarded.

The passion and intensity of the Olympic Games give us a view of what is possible when seeking and striving to honor and celebrate the use of God-given talent and calling. Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.” He also said, “I am still far from being what I want to be, but with God’s help I shall succeed.” Vincent Van Gogh, completed over 900 paintings and while they are highly valued pieces today, during his lifetime (1853-1890), it is believed that he sold only one, a painting done in 1888.

He did succeed, and although perhaps in the eyes of humankind it was not during his earthly life, the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh and the spirit in which they were done, is inspiring. They live on, touching countless hearts and souls around the world. Vincent Van Gogh carried the torch and protected the flame, with passion, by recognizing his gifts, staying dedicated to being who he was created to be, and trusting that, that was all he needed to do. Perhaps this is part of what draws so many to some level of interest in the Olympic Games. They touch upon the flame within each of us, reminding us of how good it is when we embrace the Spirit and use the gifts we have been given.


Take time…

It is amazing how electronic devices have advanced over the years and how the technology keeps evolving. There is a lot of work and so many hours of programming and testing before devices and apps are released from the development environment out into the real world. Once they are out, though, they are used in various ways, some of which the development teams working on them had not anticipated and that may require the creation of an update to the operating system.

Once the update is created and released, in order for it to be implemented, it requires an exit from all programs and for the electronic device to shut down and restart. Without this step, the programming changes cannot be completely installed; certain files can only be changed when they are not in use. While I may choose to ignore an update and my device may still work, it will not do so in a way that is optimal. Not only that, but also, depending on what the update contains, I may be putting my device and the information on it in jeopardy by continuing to operate without the update.

It is necessary to shut down and restart the operating system every so often so that updates can be applied and it can continue to run as smoothly as possible. It is not that different for human beings. If we are to process all that comes our way and continue to evolve and function at our best, we also need to take time for periodic updates, shut downs and restarts… time to step away, give pause, remember, give thanks, prayerfully reflect, seek insight, re-focus if necessary, and allow ourselves to be renewed and refreshed.

Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.” – Mk 1:35-38