Yesterday I had to have something precious cut down and removed because it was no longer viable or thriving, but rather dying by degree. It was hard to part with the Purple-Leaf Plum tree I first planted out back right after my dad passed, nearly a quarter century ago, in his honor. He adored nature; and it was the closest tree I could find in Phoenix back then to the brilliant hues of Red Maples which he adored!
I must admit, I got a bit sad thinking of the tree being cut down after all this time, and then again seeing it piled up in freshly cut pieces. I had to accept its slow demise over the last few months just to get to this point where I could even consider having it cut down! It surely seemed to be the right time to remove this beautiful specimen, which once was so glorious and colorful; but it surely wasn’t easy to accept it, lying there in pieces! At some point in my observation of the tree’s remnants, my emotions shifted from sadness to a stable contentment; there was a shift in mind and mood, in realizing there was so much more than just this one failed tree of honor connecting me with my dad’s passion for nature!
I realized that all of my life I’ve sought the refuge and peace of nature, enjoyed the wilderness and appreciated the beauty in almost every plant because of my dad’s influences and preferences! He shared his heart and soul’s passion for growing plants, gardening, landscaping, exploring the wilderness and seeing all the beauty found in God’s majestic natural designs with me; so I now have that same appreciation in my soul by which to honor his life’s legacy every day! God blessed us all with hearts, minds and senses by which we may appreciate the wondrous natural world around us; and I surely witnessed that in my dad’s life by example! And in the place of that beloved tree, I will create an edible garden around an old wooden picnic table I inherited just yesterday from a dear family friend. Everything continues in its seasons, for its reasons and for God’s purposes!
It feels great to consider the possibilities of a new day joyful, even though there are many unexpected moments and uncertainties ahead. My joy is not conditional. It won’t come or go, untethered, as if adrift in some wind’s changeable currents. Joy is a state of being, a decision of one’s soul and spirit. It is not really changeable, unless the soul or spirit renounces it in favor of unease, negativity, misery and inner unrest.
Joy comes from living contentedly, at peace and in faithful rest by purposeful choice in God and His will. Joy isn’t the same as momentary happiness, it goes so much deeper than that! Real joy dwells within the emotions and temperament of a determined and disciplined soul; and thus is tied to the self-control of emotions and the attitudes consistent within. No outer influence can take your joy, unless and until you cede your joy from within as a result. Things happen which take our happiness for a time and even bring us great sadness; but joy is a rebounding state within, whereby the soul refuses to don the gown of misery, negativity, faithlessness or hardness forever as a result.
Joy is the soul’s chosen acceptance of life’s bounty, beauty and blessings, in spite of moments of unhappiness and periods of great sadness! Being joyful is to keep one’s heart focused on the very blessings of life and the promises of God with faith, hope and a sense of calm; concentrating on what is positive and uplifting rather than to hold onto what saddens, breaks or strips from us our hope. Joy belongs to the over-comer; who with faithful expectancy and hope, sees each new day as a priceless gift regardless what is looming, what actually happens or what may yet come! Consider this new day joyful, for that is your choice!
Some will never grasp how much beauty and joy there is in life. They’ve made up their minds that because they don’t live in a bigger house or have all they want or make more money or realize all their dreams or . . well, they just find endless ways or one reason to write all their life off as failed, terrible, rejected, horrible, miserable or worthless. No matter the beauty around them, the love of others, the gift of one more day or the bounty of life’s miracles played out each second, they’ve decided to view all of life as negative. Perhaps they’ve endured tremendous things which took their joy. But in letting their joy lapse every day since, they’ve given their power over to others or to situations or to circumstances which negate their contentment, joy and peace of mind for the rest of their life! If I tried to convince them that there were blessings all around them, joy in precious moments, gifts of time and breath, or a bounty of life they’ve chosen to waste, they simply would not believe me easily or readily. They’ve made up their mind, this life sucks!
Unfortunately, they would miss seeing the examples of others whom I have witnessed. Perhaps they have not taken notice of those souls, pressed with possible peril or up against unbelievable odds themselves, who are determined to be joyful in spite! Possibly they refuse to notice for themselves the very nature of life’s daily persistence; how it pulls us into each new moment we’re given whether we like it or not! How I pray daily that every soul could experience such a sense and awareness of life’s preciousness and meaning; as well as the very worth of each person, every creature, each bounty of abundance or the infinite blessings in every single day. Unfortunately, some people have made up their minds that this life wasn’t bountiful enough. Sadly, they’ve chosen to believe nothing is a real blessing, not even their own beating heart. Tragically, they don’t respect or value their own infinite worth, much less believing that about others. All of their life is lumped into the negative overall mindset they have created for themselves or experienced. Maybe it takes God’s hands and His will upon our lives to realize our own failings in that regard; for that would be my explanation as to why I see everything as I do. It would be my response as to why I refuse to give into life’s overwhelming negativity and the daily chaos which threatens my peace of mind and my positive spirit. I am not sure even then that some souls will ever understand the true value, meaning and purpose for their lives, if they refuse to let God be a part of theirs. I only know that without an understanding as to what love truly is, from Whom it comes, people feel dejected, adrift and lost more often than not. Life becomes increasingly meaningless when there is nothing of meaning to enrich it. God is my tether in calms seas and storms! He gives my life its meaning!
Without sensing a purpose greater than themselves for being, life itself must seem tragic, cruel, hopeless, fatiguing or brutal at times. God gives my life such infinite sense of worth, purpose, hope and love; like a big safety net around my soul, He gives me beauty for my chaos, a will to not cave in and a hopeful desire in His promises to faithfully expect what awaits me beyond this breaking world. Some may think me foolish for believing as I do; but if they believe THIS is all there is to life, only the chaos and madness of this world, I would believe them the fools! Comparing and contrasting the mayhem, failings and futility of humanity to the promises of God is always going to leave humanity lacking. And so we have a glaring perspective on what is happening in the world right now. Humanity is failing more and more the further it extricates itself from God! Souls are perishing in the futile void created by human will without hope, faith and an understanding of their value in life or God’s will for their lives. A life with God is not going to be trouble-free or seem idyllic. In fact, there will be challenges as a believer which often can make things seem harder! But His love, promises and the hope which He instills offsets the challenges, difficulties, trials and failures; washing over the faithful, restoring and renewing their souls and spirits. How sad for those who miss the chance to have contentment, joy and peace of mind in this life as well; in knowing God and His love!
If you want to dismiss all things Biblical as imaginary and implausible, then you have to eradicate the history of a lot of actual people referenced in the Bible and in history books as well. And although you may not have personally seen those people because they existed generations prior to our lifetime now, you cannot just automatically dismiss their reality simply because they were “invisible” to you, by way of time and generations passing! If that were the standard, every person who was deemed a historical figure, but no longer lives now in this time frame, would also be considered imaginary . . . wouldn’t they?
Perhaps many of our own distant relatives would fall into that category, as we in the present time just cannot prove by eye-witness testimony that they existed! Oh wait . . we can. We have life, we have generations of people who succeeded by birth from those who are no longer here. And in those generations, we have recorded factual history passed down from others throughout time, referring and citing the presence of those whom we still speak of or read about today. So why are some deemed imaginary now, while others are not?? Why is it so easy to doubt the stories of the Bible, though Christ walked among us, having life and living with people? Why do we doubt the writers of the various books of the Bible, whom over many years chronicled their eye-witnessed testimonies, their personal accounts of interactions with actual living souls and their very own prophetic experiences?? Why is it easy to dismiss a history-filled book and the very Subject which fills its pages?
Oh the very ease at which some dismiss God’s presence and the manner by which Jesus was not only prophesied for centuries, but came to dwell and to die for all of us. The terminology I hear used most often these days when unbelievers refer to God is “puppet master in the sky”. Is that what someone or some group is teaching them? It is so commonly used as a reference, I wonder if those same people then commonly label others they never knew or witnessed in their lives as imaginary? Because they cannot see God, He is surely imaginary to all of those of us who do! I suppose all the great explorers and historical figures have been demoted to imaginary as well then? We didn’t see them either, did we?! Was there really anyone brave enough to set upon the yet navigated seas to deem the world round not flat? Or was that just imagined? Was there anyone daring enough to build cities in the desert, pyramids of stone deemed impossible by that period of time due to a lack of engineering equipment and tools? Perhaps those are imagined too.
So much of what we accept now is truly just as random in its plausibility as is the existence of God, if we use our own eye-witness experience to render it viable or believable! I personally don’t need to have seen everyone I have heard about in this life to believe they exist, so I am able to believe by faith that Someone greater than us all exists as well! But only time will prove that to those resolute in their doubt or denial . . I look at every thing and every being around me and see God’s hand of creation. I’m not sure how I came to be so positive of His existence, much less so sure of things written in the Bible, but I am. And I am just as sure about God in His eternal majesty, as well as Jesus and other Biblical figures in their human states, as I am that various other notable human beings walked this earth at particular times to provide for us in this generation not only life but progress in that life! God’s existence is never something I doubt now as I’ve learned to have a meaningful relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. In that, I have received the Holy Spirit within me and now I am growing spiritually in ways I never imagined! I see many things by faith with eyes blinded to things of this world. And I’m happily and contentedly looking forward to my life to come! I guess when it comes down to it, I don’t mind being God’s beloved child, even if that makes me seem a puppet in another person’s eyes!
The saddest thing is to watch a world built upon miracles and Divine thoughtful creation render itself freely and by choice, more meaningless and marginalized by the mere assumptions of our mortal, human and limited minds. How can we possibly believe that we as humans stand as the ultimate end of the universal spectrum, rendering ourselves “god” and “judge” over all this world? Yet it happens, when even one of us decides himself or herself the center of his or her life.
Without God at the center of each life, life itself is marginalized to just the level we humans can assess and equate with our own limited thinking as well as our experience. Imagine the ego it takes to be so certain that no higher power or being exists which created such magnitude and majesty in every single cell, in every single being and in every single matter of creation?? What value is placed on life when only we all-too-human and flawed mortals determine its value??
I would suggest that with God, the value of everything and every creature is unimaginable and infinite. For His efforts and His estimation of worth is so much beyond our limited scope of appreciation. And so it is sad to watch the destruction and the ruination of life progressing and increasing in the hands of humans who are unable to grasp the value in each and every speck of matter, living and not. The more humans there are who ignore, renounce or deny His hand, the more ego-driven, contentious and mad the world will become! Not one of us is able to preside or rule fairly over others, nor are we capable of assigning value to life itself through eyes focused only on ourselves or the things of this world. We are designed by Him to be a part of His kingdom, for His purposes and for His will. We are meant to know our infinite value through Him, not through our own limited sense of understanding. My prayer is that more will come to know and love their Father, to have a relationship with Him, their maker and their source of love as well as value. May God watch over us all and forgive us our ego-driven insolence, thinking we’re ever capable of being the “ruler” of our own lives. Fortunately for all the world, God is patient, faithful and most of all, loving! He wants us to turn or return to Him, so much so that He’ll forgive us repeatedly for being such ego-driven, sinful and unfaithful souls.
Imagine how much joy we bring to God by taking pleasure in His world around us! Just imagine His joy when we stop to notice the smiling face of a stranger, or when we delight in petting a friendly cat or dog; imagine when we stop to smell those proverbial flowers in bloom and lay upon the cool grass, taking notice of the hue of the blue sky as well as the shapes of all the clouds passing through it!
We don’t do enough each day by way of our thoughts, words, behaviors and actions to let our heart’s fullness of gratitude and immense love reflect back into the world towards our fellow man, other creatures, nature and especially, to God. How busy we are in this world which gives us plenty of reasons to do anything but; how distracted we are from the simple pleasures and blessings. If only we thought about how much love and gratitude we offer to God when we take some time to notice all that He has given us, all that He has done for us, all the ways in which we are blessed and all the manner of life which He created just for our pleasure. If only we noticed how much He loves us! And if the love of God pours through us towards others, God must beam with fatherly pride for His children, with such loving hearts!
I get so much from those moments, that I’ve learned to savor them even more; but it gives me even more joy in knowing when I do that I am showing God a measure of gratitude and joy each and every time! Gratitude isn’t just shown in our words, our purposeful words of thanks; but our gratitude, joy and love is best reflected by our efforts to partake of those gifts which we’ve received and to share them with the world!
Yesterday a few friends and I were sharing our personal stories of extreme weather events, of enduring and surviving. It became so obvious from the first moments, that each of us was grateful for having been through what we had been unscathed. But it also became so crystal clear to us that our thankfulness went far beyond that! We were thankful, upon recollecting, for not having had to endure far worse! Each day, in every moment, lies infinite potential for better and worse. The very thing which makes it evident to us is our awareness in those moments of how grateful we are for what we have, for what we evaded and for how we are blessed!
Good could be better. And perhaps we’re angry or upset that it was not. But in that state, did we take note of how it was still good and not bad or even worse?? Were we present in our blissful awareness to also be thankful that it wasn’t negative, or just worse?! We’re fabulous at pointing out how bad things are, or how we survived or lived through; probably because our pain, struggles or our hardships seem to garner us more attention by way of compassion, sympathy and empathy. But if we truly were present in each moment, we would soon see how very blessed we are and always have been! Good might surely have been better, but for everything, time or person who represented good to us in our lives, we were spared the worse things, times and people. And even if we encounter those things, times and people which are worse, it could have always been worse even yet!
Thankfulness reminds us of the breadth and scope of our life’s events as it focuses our limited attention to a wider range of possibility in assessment. Gratitude is a practice which only leads to more reasons to be grateful! Looking back at your life, I’m sure now you can see more reasons for which your life is meaningful, rewarding and valuable than ever before if you but put on the lenses of gratitude!
Sometimes what seems so obvious isn’t. And what we think we know, we don’t. And what seems like truth is far from it. This is the world of mistaken perceptions, of unknowns and often, untruths. This is the human world, which lives by and in only limited human understanding. We may think we know how to do all, our egos may tell us we can fix this or change that; but we’re limited by our own abilities as human beings and by our own incomplete awareness. We’re not God, we’re not gods. We are all humans in a world where we and many other humans do our best and many others still do their worst. It’s the way of humanity.
The reason things here on Earth never feel quite totally safe or completely assured or in perfect working order are because they never will be when left in human hands. Someone will make a bad choice with consequential ripples; someone else will falter in their steps or another will purposefully act in discordant fashion, and others still will simply not know what to do at any given time.
Now should we be fearful of this daily reality? Should we live in complete despair at the knowledge of our own flawed humanness? Maybe and perhaps many shall and will. But for those who place all humans equally under the dominion of God, our humanity is expected and even understood. It is right, if not righteous. It is true, if not truthful. It is sure, if not assuring. So there is really no point in living fearfully, without peace or caught in the discord of any moment’s chaos. We’re not in the world of perfection or purity. We’re in the world where conflicts occur, where erroneous acts are perpetrated either purposefully or not. We’re in the world of humans, the fallen world. We’re in the world where really good, unselfish and compassionate acts of love occur as well; but that is because humans have within them the love of God. As for the rest, the negative or destructive, we have within us that potential because we’re humans.
Only God can and does provide humans their path towards righteousness, their example of truthfulness and their worldly assuredness. I would expect, in those who don’t know God, this world is unsteady. To those who do, this world is not their focus, so none of its problems or posturing is either. Keeping eyes on Him and hearts in Him is the anecdote to fear, doubt, worry, trepidation, despair, depression, feeling lost, feeling unloved, the unknown and all that is of this world.
Fear is born from our need to process what we cannot, out of our longing to seize control when we aren’t sure we have any and through our inability to imagine how everything we might fear plays out without hurting us, irreparably changing us or negatively impacting our lives. That is fear . . it’s dreading and resenting something, someone or some set of events which represent change, disturbance and discord.
Perhaps we fear a disease. Maybe we fear other people. Often we fear one thing so much, we refuse to do that out of fear – e.g. public speaking, flying, etc.. It might just be we fear all that is changing in our lives as we age, because we doubt our own ability to handle what comes our way. But fear is a liar. It doesn’t always adequately represent the truth of what we’re facing or even the truth of what will be. And fear is a liar in that it doesn’t take into account the power, strength, will and perseverance which might just see us through the times ahead. And fear again lies, because it forgets that we’re not alone. We have God!
I believe it was in the movie “Facing the Giants“, (which is all about facing our daily fears and those incredible “giants” of things and people in life which we fear just because of who or what they represent) that I saw the reference to the number of times God mentions not fearing in His Word, found in the Bible. 365 separate times we’re told to not fear. I don’t expect He thought we wouldn’t feel fear or be fearful; but I believe He wanted to assure us 365 times that no matter the fear, the size of our giants or the battle ahead, we’re not alone – He is with us! Fear and our giants are not fought by us alone, He is with us. So it’s not our size, our fight or our abilities which matter. We must face things with courage, which surely takes effort and practice these days, but we can do so because of His abilities and His “size”! Don’t measure what you fear and your giants against your ability; measure the fear, the giants you face and the ability to best it all based on the all-powerful, promise-keeping and faithful Father! Give your fears their rightful rest in Him!