Bloom Anyway

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Looking back, I am unimpressed with the amount of time I spent trying to impress people who didn’t impress me. Sometimes you just need to bloom where you are planted while the storm rages.

It always blows over eventually.

People who manipulate with fear and intimidation are often fearful and intimidated themselves.

Confident peace is a weapon they don’t understand. It frustrates them.

Bloom anyway.

Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.
But when you place your confidence in the Lord,
you will be seated in the high place.

(Proverbs 29:25 TPT)

Yet

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Yet, in the maddening maze of things,
And tossed by storm and flood,
To one fixed trust my spirit clings;
I know that God is good!

– John Greenleaf Whittier

In the seven years since I started this blog I have changed.

My understanding of who God is and who he sees me as continues to grow.

Sometimes he shows me an exciting aspect of his character that fits with another piece of the puzzle I cherish.

Then the storm comes.

In the storm nothing makes sense. Until it does.

Like the girl hanging onto the railing in my painting, I can only hang onto the one sure thing I know — that God is good. In the storm, this is the most secure place in the world.

Since starting to write this blog I have seen miracles I had never dreamed of seeing. I have seen marriages restored, emotions healed, and broken trust mended. More than once, I have seen people rise up from their deathbeds and go home from the hospital to lead happy healthy lives.

I have also seen marriages disintegrate, walls go up, and emotions overwhelm. I’ve seen friends and family members die, some in joyful anticipation of seeing Jesus’ face and some with curses on their lips.

I have faced the reality of my own mortality and gained a sense of the impermanence of life here while appreciating it all the more.

I have seen gains, and I have seen losses. I have laughed and I have wept. But God has never abandoned me in the storms. He has only pulled me closer, even when I couldn’t feel him in the maddening maze. When the clouds broke and the sun came out I knew that experience established truth more deeply than any amount of study could.

Here I am. Seven years later. Still clinging by faith to that railing, in storm and in fair weather. With more assurance than ever, with greater confidence than before, I can say God is good.

Ain’t It Good to Know That You’ve Got a Friend

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June is the usually rainiest month in this part of the world. Combined with melting snow pack in the mountains it can be a dangerous season. When dire predictions of more flooding were broadcast on various media this week part of this song started playing in my head:

If the sky above you should turn dark and full of clouds
and that old north wind should begin to blow,
keep your head together and call My name out loud.
Soon I will be knocking upon your door.
You just call out My name, and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there.

Hey, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a Friend?

People can be so cold.
They’ll hurt you and desert you.
Well, they’ll take your soul if you let them,
oh yeah, but don’t you let them.

You just call out My name, and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall,
all you have to do is call, “Lord!”
I’ll be there, yeah, yeah,
you’ve got a Friend.
You’ve got a Friend.
Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a Friend.

Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a Friend.
Oh, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a Friend.

(You’ve got a Friend by James Taylor and Carole King)

 

There is more than one kind of storm. Sometimes people have no idea of the kind of storms that rage inside  our hearts. A line in another old song talks about “fightings within and fears without”  and yet, “just as I am, I come” to the Lover of my soul.

Calling out for help is not always easy, particularly for those of us who don’t want to admit we need help.

I looked at the dark clouds. I  called. He answered.

The rain was heavy, and there was some flooding, but nothing as serious as was predicted.

I looked at the raging storm within. I called. He answered.

Peace returned.

Yes, it’s good to have a Friend.

Thank you.

Storms May Come and Storms May Go, Part II/ The Storm that Came and Went This Week

Photo: The shade tree a few weeks ago

We live in a valley running north/south that receives relatively little wind. Yesterday a mighty wind blew up from the south and hit our town hard. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of trees fell.

I know there are many places that have suffered much worse wind from tornadoes and hurricanes. I know there are cities that have much longer power outages and much more uncomfortable heat. I know there were places in the world this very week that suffered much worse violence and death.

I am overwhelmed by the news sometimes. I don’t know how to grieve for those places. I can volunteer to send aid, or even go pick up the pieces myself. I can weep with those who weep but I can’t honestly say “I know how you feel.” I don’t, not really. Every heart has its own pain.

Today I grieve for my town and for my own little garden. Is that selfish?

I loved my May tree. I never planted it. Someone who never saw it in its mature beauty had the foresight to put a skinny little stick with a couple of branches into a hole in a new subdivision. They moved away before it had the time to become the shade tree under which my sweet daughter and I had tea parties, or developed the strong limbs my boys pridefully climbed, waving at their nervous mother from a position higher than the roof of the house. The planter never knew how my little grandchildren loved to drag the blue inflatable pool into its shade on hot days and splashed each other or filled plastic ice cream pails with water from the elephant sprinkler to water the big shade tree. They never saw friends sitting in its shade, drinking ice tea, combing the grass with bare toes as they talked about things that really matter. They never saw handsome suited young men and their pretty sparkly prom dates posing for portraits beside its thick trunk.  They never heard the songbirds that nested in its high branches praising their maker at the first sign of dawn. But they had faith to plant it, and I thank them.

Today instead of waking to the Saturday morning drone of lawn mowers, the people in our town woke to the sound of chain saws.

I walked around town photographing downed trees, downed wires, smashed carports, and debris and detritus caught in the most unusual places. The roads were blocked, the traffic signals hung by a cable and swung in the breeze. Everywhere people wandered about telling strangers their stories. “Where were you when the storm hit? Are you OK? Is your house OK? You think that’s bad? Why over on  14th…”

Eventually I wandered home no longer able to ignore the fact that the tree I loved buckled through the trunk and now tilted at a dangerous angle.

It had to come down.

Some friends arrived with chain saws. I covered my ears with music on earphones, or chatted loudly with friends we invited over for meals and to re-charge their phones and devices, since somehow our block still had power.

But it still sounded like a chain saw massacre in my garden.

Am I silly to grieve a tree?

I had to re-read my own post of a couple of days ago. Storms may come and storms may go. Wonder just how many storms it takes until I finally know you’re here always.

Yes He is here. We are safe. The tree fell away from the house. Our house is fine and still maintains its roof, and unlike many on our street, all of its shingles. We are still wealthier than most people in the world. The storm brought out the best in people.  Neighbours came out into the street to check on each other and help each other. We laughed and joked with relief when we heard that, miraculously, no one was seriously hurt. We pooled our melting ice cream and partied.

But tonight I mourn.

Change is seldom easy, and rarely do we feel like we are ready for it, but things change. God is still in the restoration business and He is still good. I trust him to see the bigger picture. I praise Him and bless His Holy name.

Tonight I mourn.

Tomorrow we will start to clean up.

And then I shall plant a skinny two-branched shade tree to bless somebody’s grandchildren.

Photo: The shade tree after the storm

Around town:

Related post:

https://charispsallo.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/storms-may-come-and-storms-may-go/

Storms may come, and storms may go

“Recovery”

Acrylic on panel

When I saw this tree beside a dirt road in the country I knew I had to paint it. The main trunk, struck by some calamity, had died, yet the tree was not dead. A branch, still nurtured by the roots, became the new tree.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12)

Sometimes we think our dreams are dead. Sometimes it looks like all hope is gone. Sometimes it’s our own fault and the dream looks as though it has died as a result of our own foolishness. Sometimes health fails, spouses leave, businesses crumble, loved ones die. I don’t blame God for nasty things that happen in our lives. But I trust him to turn them into something good.

We live in a fallen world where the consequences of a single sin can have a domino effect that goes on for generations. Innocence lost is innocence lost whether it is the result of our own choices or someone elses. But God can restore and build on the very things that cause us so much pain. He’s so good at using our disastrous circumstances that we may think He set them up. Not really. Jesus Christ didn’t come to condemn; he came to save. He came to set us free.

I painted a storm behind the tree. Is it approaching or leaving? Storms may come and storms may go; I leave that decision to the viewer.

The words of an Amy Grant song came to mind as I worked on this. I wonder just how many storms it will take until I finally know Jesus Christ has promised to never leave me or forsake me?

Arms of Love

Lord I’m really glad You’re here.
I hope you feel the same when You see all my fear,
And how I fail,
I fall sometimes.
It’s hard to walk on shifting sand.
I miss the rock, and find there’s nowhere left to stand;
I start to cry.
Lord, please help me raise my hands so You can pick me up.
Hold me close,
Hold me tighter.

I have found a place where I can hide.
It’s safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who’s held throughout a storm,
You keep me warm
In Your arms of love.

Storms will come and storms will go.
Wonder just how many storms it takes until
I finally know
You’re here always.
Even when my skies are far from gray,
I can stay;
Teach me to stay there,

In the place I’ve found where I can hide.
It’s safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who’s held throughout a storm,
You keep me warm
In Your arms of love.

In Him there is no fear.
No fear!