WEEDS, BOUNTY and THE KILLER OF GREEN

Image

WEEDS, BOUNTY and THE KILLER OF GREEN

It was/is harvest time (depending on where you are in the world!) and this photo is the actual bounty taken from my gardening. What you see is the evidence of the extreme care, the hard work, the diligent planting, seeding, weeding, watering and toiling over that I did this year for my new garden.

It’s all relative, isn’t it?

I was overjoyed over my harvest! I can usually kill anything green just by looking at it! So, it was with trepidation that I even bought seeds, planted them and thought anything besides death would happen.

But the tools of God (sunlight, earth, rains and His power) brought forth fruits (OKAY—vegetables!) from those seeds planted!

I learned so much for next year…

What I didn’t take a picture of is the bounty that I extracted and swore to never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again replant– THE MINT.

For all you gardeners:  laugh all you want, nod knowingly as you read on– and for those who told me—go ahead and say it, “I TOLD YOU TO NEVER PLANT MINT!!”

I learned this the hard way. Three chiropractic visits later, I can sit upright in a chair and write to you about it.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” (Matthew 13:24)

First, for you who are intending on planting a garden—DON’T PLANT MINT (or oregano for that matter!) THEY ACT LIKE WEEDS!

After I harvested my beautiful vegetables, (took about 10 minutes), it was time to deal with the maddening mint (took the rest of the day.)

All plants, save the oregano, were overtaken by the mint. Four seemingly healthy other plants, that had been it’s good neighbors, had perished. Don’t get me wrong, I planned for this (remember—I am the killer of green,) but I couldn’t kill this green mint to save the neighborhood! As I began the removal process, I was nearly overtaken by it myself.

I tugged at stems, just to be pulled down deeper–(Think of the movie Poltergeist, when the tree comes through the window for the boy.) That insidious mint would surface for a bit, then dive down into the garden box, twist around the roots of a good plant, choke it out, root it’s self and then resurface. Like a pool of swimming piranha: up and down, around and through, over and under, until all in its wake is destruction of all other living things (again, except the oregano that held fast.)

As I was battling this beast, I had all but forgotten of the sweet victory of my other bounty.

What started out as a lovely little herb was winning the battle over my joy for the harvest.

And isn’t that how sneaky sin can be in our lives?

It starts out with an innocent thought that can quickly turn into a joy stealing, all encompassing, relationship destroying action.

After I (hopefully!) successfully removed all the mint’s massive amounts of leaves, roots, off shoots and appendages, I turned to the oregano.

I have to hand it to the oregano. Even as it witnessed the devastation of its garden box neighbors and was surrounded in the waves and torrents of mint, it held its ground.

“The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one and the enemy who sows them is the devil…The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:38,41)

The weird thing— it was the oregano that nearly did me in.

We battle against an enemy that came to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10)

Something that we could’ve handled at our full strength, can drop us to our knees and take us out when we aren’t on guard…

After dealing with the multitudes of mint, I should have known the oregano would be challenging.

I began tugging. I mean, there really wasn’t much left in the box for it to hold on to, so it should just lift right on out of that box.

I stood on the side of the garden box, both feet anchored as I put all I had into it. I hung suspended above the earth, holding to nothing but oregano. I groaned and grunted (it works for tennis players, so maybe it would help give me some gusto!)…it wouldn’t budge. I flexed and pushed, got down and tried at all angles.

I nearly gave up. Would it really be that bad to allow the oregano to hang out?

But, hadn’t I had those same thoughts about the mint?

I had to admit I needed help. I turned to the garden tools.

As dusk approached, I shoveled, chopped and dug up that oregano and piled it atop the carcass coffin of mint. I gave my apologies and condolences and went inside to cook up my bounty…and to call the chiropractor.

 “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

For whatever the weed is in your life, there is Help.

AUTHENTICITY – Part 1

Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth-So…Help Me GOD!

CENTRAL PARK

CENTRAL PARK

You’ve heard it. You know it from courts of law, swearing on the Holy Bible in a country where Christianity and beliefs get blurred and kicked out of any public or political place.
What do you believe?
WARNING: This blog post contains some harsh truths
JOHN 8:32—“Then you will know the Truth, and the truth will set you free.”
My friend and neighbor, Heidi Rosner, (and the artist behind the cover of my first novel “grace,”) sent the above picture from her most recent visit to Central Park. Her text said: “Looks a lot like your cover?!”
I was stunned. It really did look a lot like my cover. As writers, we are continually on the quest for authenticity. The cover that I created in my mind’s eye—morphing the Applegate River with the events in my book; calling the river in the book The Rogue River, adding a bench and a bridge…totally unique. I was searching for an authentic cover (which is why I had it created instead of using one of the publisher provided images).
What Heidi created with her translation of my descriptions and desires for the painting truly blew my mind. She has authentic talent: morphing water, brushes, color and a two dimensional surface into depth, beauty and captivating emotion that brushes the soul with magic.
Then it hit me—Like the ugly truth—words from Dr. Jared Aragona the instructor from my most recent writing course at SCC, “There are no new ideas. There are archetypes that are generally appealing and re-used in new ways. You will not come up with something that has never been thought of or already created.”
This mirrored a truth I have found in movie productions. There are usually two movies released close together; two competing studios trying to capture your attention and your dollars. Think about it–Remember “Stir of Echoes” and “The Sixth Sense?”—Two very similar movies released within weeks of each other and both embodying quite similar stories. Or, how about “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist?” and “Wyatt Earp” vs. “Tombstone.” More recently, although I didn’t see either of these (nor do I think I need to) “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached.” These are just a smattering of genres and types but the list goes on and on, seemingly proving Dr. Aragona right—no new ideas.
Gloria Steinem—“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
It was like the first time I heard the awful truth of Santa Claus. My older sister and I huddled in the living room after asking the hard question—our parents huddled in the kitchen, awaiting our answer.
My sister in a hushed whisper, “We need to know! All those nights we spent waiting for him? They said they would tell us the truth.”
I was too young to really get what my sister and parents were talking about, but I felt the foreboding in my gut. Truly, though young, I already knew the universal truth that, indeed—Ignorance is bliss. I didn’t want to know, but I wanted to be brave like my big sister.
We squared our tiny shoulders and approached the kitchen. I love how my parents handled it—my sister, driven for the truth gave them our answer—we deserved the truth. She folded her arms across her night gowned chest and lips quivered slightly with the words, “We want the truth.”
“First understand that, no matter what we tell you, there is still magic in Christmas — if you believe. It is more about belief than the truth…The truth is — there is not a Santa Claus. Also, the truth is—if you don’t believe—there just might not be the magic…or the presents.”
I saw my out, “I will believe! I believe!”
Fast forward–back to truths and authenticity—is this a myth? An unachievable platform that people somehow grasp at but it slips by them as they await up late at night, trying to stave off the sleep-laden eyelids long enough to get that glimpse of it? Does what one believe even matter?
I believe there are fakes and forgers; you can’t work in my profession at the police department and not see this truth. But there is also the scientific truth that no two fingerprints are the same—Each of your ten fingers’ prints are unique and different, and these are different that anyone else’s ten fingers, and those are different that anyone else’s created, EVER.
“We are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)
As I studied the photo of Central Park and thought about the creation of “The River” by Heidi, I was struck with another truth—Beauty is beauty. Beauty is true and we are simply God’s unique creations trying to interpret, translate and relay His beauty. Truth is, even these ideas I was “stumbling across” were not new. As I studied this phenomenon in these two pictures, pondered the duplication of movies, and thought on my beliefs, I also came upon these words—

“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.” Piet Mondrian
“The music of this opera was dictated to me by God; I was merely instrumental in putting it on paper and communicating it to the public.” (About Madame Butterfly) –Giacomo Puccini
“It is the creative potential itself in human beings that is the image of God.” Mary Daly
So, God helped me. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but…
And, indeed, it is free.

THE BEAR

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

Getting ready to head out on a “maiden” run along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, we stopped to look at the map and trail. What we found was a warning—Just two weeks earlier a black bear had been sighted in the area.
We set out anyway.
By the time we had meandered up the winding trail, viewing massive scenic expanses of water sparkling like diamonds across the sky, greenery reaching up, up, up into the billows of blue overhead, that bear was all but forgotten. I don’t take my camera on most runs—I like to capture the moments in my heart and my mind’s eye—like taking the time to try to capture the AWE will scare it away like the mist of breath on a cold night.
Seven and ½ miles later we had witnessed a skunk blaze the trail ahead of us and two deer bravely traverse a cliff. Our senses were mildly alerted to the wild life, but our perception of danger was overpowered by the beauty of this place.
Then we heard it.
Straight from Friday the 13th, the crisp and foreboding break of a branch on the forest floor—broken by something heavy and halting our journey.
“The bear!” it was a hush that felt like a scream to me.
I stopped dead in my tracks for just one moment that felt like eons.
“There –just to the right—about 50 yards up from us—“
That’s all I need to hear. My sights never locked on that bear, but I didn’t need to. The ominous echoing crack of that branch and the sudden memory of every bear mauling I had ever read about, heard about and seen on TV. came pushing through my body propelling me toward the safety of the trailhead and the protection of the car.
It was easily a quarter of a mile before my more adventurous bear seeker caught up with me. “Did you see him!? Did you see it!? I didn’t see any cubs…I wish I would’ve taken its picture!” The words came out in excited bursts…
We continued our escape and warned all below us of the sighting. The rest of the trip I heard about how much he wished he would’ve taken that picture.
Hindsight is 20/20—especially from the safety of your car.
What if? What if he would’ve got that perfect shot?
I am glad he didn’t. Like I said earlier, I am okay with not having the photo— Seriously; it is okay to miss some shots in life. I have the story to tell.
What if he’d stayed just long enough for the bear to get pissed at us in his territory…What if?
I have a picture of another bear.
It was mid 1980’s and my father spent three years bear hunting in the woods of Colorado. Three seasons of baiting, waiting, re-baiting, more waiting and nothing, nothing, nothing.
All the hours spent preparing: practice shots at the range, canvassing the perfect area, months spent reading about the most aromatic and appealing black bear baits. And then–the season comes and all that waiting–crouched for hours, with black bear shot gun loaded and ready–finally pays off.
His first black bear! Large nose sniffing the air and moving ever closer to that perfect bait, branches breaking beneath the weights of those grandiose paws getting closer and closer and closer!
Breath is suspended, muscles peak and moving ever so silently (especially after three years of practice!), he prepares to shoot. There is something untold that happened right then. What will all the men say! The pride of shooting this creature, the pelt, all that meat for black bear burgers…I think not. I think it was awe.
He shot it. With his 24 exposure Fuji disposable camera. Got three wavering shots off before the rest of her cubs came into the view–two babies trampling behind her. (This was way before digital, so there was an actual wait time before we could see the evidence!) The film was so fuzzy and the pictures only showed the mother’s behind and the babies’ beginning.
I know my dad got a lot of crap about that moment. The moment he made the choice to not shoot—it was the last year of his preparing, baiting and waiting.
I was never more proud of my dad for shooting his first (and last) black bear.

DIVINE IN THE DESERT

THE DIVINE IN THE DESERT

I have a friend who hates the desert—it’s extreme temperatures, the unfriendly cactus, trees with hidden thorns and landscape filled with animals and bugs that makes you go–”Hmmm?—What was God thinking when He created the hairy, snouted, smelly javelina (a.k.a. the skunk pig)? Or those seemingly death-defying, flying, hissing cockroaches?”

I have heard several unhappy desert dwellers say, “There are two colors in the desert—brown and blue.”

And when my flip-flops nearly melted as I walked across the parking lot the summer when temperatures approached 120 degrees—I get it.

Being from Colorado, I am used to beauty. The Rocky Mountains, soaring bald eagles, the four seasons that create and renew the landscape every year—I respond to Dumb and Dumber –“John Denver isn’t full of sh@*?”

However, after nearly 30 years there, with its eight months of winter, my new reply is, “You can’t shovel sunshine!”

“He holds in his hands the depth of the earth and the mightiest mountains. The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.” (Psalm 95:4)

The desert is different. I am in awe of the extreme beauty in the desert; rugged and rough. Take, for example, the jumping cholla that shoots out spiny chunks of itself to ward off predators when triggered by vibrations. A plant with a self-defense plan against a smelly javelina or a burrowing bird?! Wow.

Right now in the desert, the “winter rains” have filled the desert landscape with a rainbow of colors. When I go out running, I witness blooms covering and spilling off of those thorny trees, callous cactus and barbed bushes bright with blossoms in every shade of the rainbow.

When I studied nutrition and holistic health, I learned that a plethora of these desert plants are components of many natural remedies. It would turn out that, living in these rugged extremes actually creates healing properties in the organism. Western medicine and science often attempt to chemically reproduce the healing capacities of these plants. 

Remedies are often found in the most unlikely…

When I moved to Arizona from Colorado, I remember driving down HWY 87.  Alongside the road, lined up in formation, stood a multitude of the cactus most associated with the Sonoran Desert–the saguaro. I later found out these massive structures are protected by law. Crews working to expand and repair the highway couldn’t just remove these prickly plants but had to ensure their survival.  If a person is found cutting one down or harming it, it is a felony offense.

According to Wikipedia, this special species of cactus are only found a few places in the nation and the Sonoran Desert boasts the most and the largest saguaro in the nation measuring at an impressive 45 ft high and with 10 feet across.

To survive the extreme desert conditions, this plant has adapted a system of survival. When it rains, it absorbs and sucks up into its body and woody internal system as much moisture as possible.  The saguaro swells and expands and stores away its life blood. It had learned from the desert droughts. As it swells and stores, it also blooms with its reproductive flowers and will often house the desert dwelling springtime birds.

The saguaro seems to understand life’s extremes; the droughts and the downpours. Because it takes nearly 100 years for a saguaro to grow an arm, when you see the portraits of the standard saguaro, with its two arms reaching out and up, stretching toward the sky, these giants have stood the test of time. With or without their legal protection, they not only survive, but these kings of the desert thrive in the parched, rugged environment.

And when the landscape around these dwellers is changed over time, sometimes (like the photo) they get by with a little help.

I think we have much to learn from this God-given example whose life-span nearly mimics ours. As we experience the extremes of life, suck up the goodness, it will be your lifeblood when the droughts come. As the landscape of our lives change, we will be protected. Our God is ever-present and He might just send help, cleverly disguised in the form of a friend, to support us when we have been shaken through to our very core. But the best example is, through the storms and the extremes, as we thrive and adapt and grow, let our own arms reach out and up and praise the very One that provides us with everything we need.

 

“Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being.” (Psalm 148:5)

Haboob

Haboob and palms

I just went on a lovely spring run in the desert. It appears the entire desert is in bloom: prickly pears sporting purple petals, trees covered in blossoms of yellow, pink and white, bottle brush in red, and wild flowers bursting through the desert floor in a rainbow of colors. Scents of orange blossom waft through the air and a junior bunny rabbit crosses my path with its white tail bouncing behind it. This would all be wonderful, except a rare, rather blustery, spring breeze is also flowing through the valley of the sun and, it just so happens, I am having the worst allergy season of my life.
I wipe at my sand paper crusted eyes, and hold my breath as I pass a young man trimming all the desert foliage and further adding to the “particulate pollution.” As I look over to the McDowell mountains, the haze of pollens obstructs my view, reminding me of the “Claritin clear” commercial. It looks like a hazy old romantic photograph or a doctored up “glamour shot”—I can barely see the outline of the mountains against the sky. Seeing very few of the usual dog walkers and joggers, I am certain that, had I had watched the news, I am venturing out in a “HEALTH ADVISORY” kind of day.
As I plug along, determined to burn off last night’s carb’s, all these pollens trigger something in me besides a histamine response. I think of sin. How it can cloud our ability to see things clearly; our ability to see truth. How sometimes we don’t even know how bad it is for us or how slowly it has creeped up on us and invaded our lives. Suddenly we find ourselves “in it.”
The subtlety of sin is like pollen. Some have an immediate reaction to it. For others, it doesn’t seem to faze them. But it seems to be seeping into our culture.
When did this happen? When did kids stop saying the “pledge of allegiance in schools?” When did it become a “holiday party” instead of “Christmas celebration?” In a world with pornography at our fingertips, violence splashed unabashedly in nearly every movie, and the “F-word” as common in conversation as allergies in the desert, I think we are all under attack.
Casting Crown’s lyrics from “Slow Fade” tell a haunting tale:
It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

Oh be careful little eyes what see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see”

When I first moved to the desert (some fifteen summers ago), I got sick: fever, chills, coughing, stuffy head, achy, etc., It lasted for days before I went to the doctor. No antibiotics for me. Diagnosis: Allergies. They told me everyone in Arizona either has them or will get them and I would just have to get used to it.
I didn’t accept that. A week later I still had the same symptoms. I got a second opinion. Antibiotics took care of it. After that, I took matters into my own hands. I exercised, ate right, took supplements and did what was in my power to stay healthy. I still occasionally will get ill. And, after fifteen summers, I now truly have those dreaded allergies. Some things are beyond our control.
Last summer, we had a record monsoon season. The term “haboob” became a part of every valley residents’ vocabulary. These massive walls of dust have been featured on national news and to see them coming toward you is very foreboding! Unlike the allergies and the winds blowing pollens, with haboobs at least you have a warning for these storms as they head at you like the wall of sand in “The Mummy.” I have just heard forecast of a possible haboob/dust storm for today.
Whether we are caught unawares in our sins or have had our lives disasters broadcast on national news, we don’t have to stay accept the slow fade of sin in our lives.
In Acts, The Bible tells of how Paul, a killer of Christians was transformed from his sins: “What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16)
We can come to the feet of Jesus, call out to Him and be washed clean of our sins and selfishness.
“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)
Although sin surrounds us, we can take matters into our own hands:
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8)
Usually after one of these massive dust storms, the desert is drenched in a monsoonal downpour. The streets flood with muddy waters and by the next day, the evidence of the haboob has been washed clean. All that remains is the news story and pools of waters in the washes newly afloat with ducks and geese.
Like a spring rain in the desert, dousing the pollens in the air and replenishing reservoirs, Jesus renews our lives. He sprinkles refreshing, cleansing, purifying water that is new life flowing through us.
I hope you never get caught in a haboob. I hope you never suffer from allergies. Above all, I hope you choose to not accept the slow fade of sin in your life and you will make the call out to Jesus.

HE STILL SPEAKS

HE STILL SPEAKS

I have a friend who believes that God speaks to her through license plates- those personalized plates. It may sound silly, but I totally get it. – She has shared so many stories of the evidence of this that it is hard to dispute!
For me, besides the Bible, church and prayer, I believe God speaks through nature. There are so many times when something in nature simply blows my mind – a spectacularly painted sunset, a tiny flower intricately designed with such beauty and care, the fragrance of purple roses…I wonder how people can experience the grandeur of nature and not understand that there is a loving God that designed all of it and can speak to us through it all. Yet, I also am grateful for all those scientists, archeologists and non-believers who set out to prove their lack of belief and end up finding evidence or artifacts in the natural world that end up proving supernatural like found in The Bible. (Check out Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ.”)
The other day I saw a covey of quail. Living in Colorado most of my life, I didn’t know about this bird.
When I moved to Arizona and saw my first, I thought, “God sure has a sense of humor!” This silly plume placed atop its head; how they just hang out in the desert all day in their gang of goofy followers; how they have the ability to fly, but yet I mostly see them crossing streets and braving traffic on foot!
God equipped this bird with everything it needs to survive, yet it’s like they forget, “Oh yeah…I can fly!”
If one of them cuts it a bit close or they get frightened, they sometimes take flight together – but mostly they travel on foot –And this can be a costly mistake for them.
I have heard and read that there are certain traits and characteristics that, if left unused for long enough, will deteriorate and no longer be useful. Just take the Mexican blind cave fish. Evolutionary biologists still study this. In 1872 Charles Darwin wrote, “As it is difficult to imagine that eyes, though useless, could in any way be injurious to animals living in darkness, I attribute their loss solely to disuse.”
They still had their eyes, but have lost the ability to see after living in darkness so long.
I don’t doubt that things in nature are intended to show us something about God.
In Matthew 6:26 Jesus tells us, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
This weekend, my pastor, Jason Daye, reminded me of how Jesus sees each of us.
The Bible is filled with stories describing Jesus seeing value in people when others didn’t. The Samaritan woman at the well, the prostitute about to be stoned, the Roman soldier begging for the life of his son, the thief on the cross, the lepers, the children, the hungry and those that thirst, the lost, the broken, the meek, the merciful, the peace makers and the persecuted, those living in darkness, you and me – all valuable in the eyes of Jesus.
My hope and prayer is that – the next time you see a quail, crowned in glory with that royal red plume or you witness the majesty of an eagle taking flight and spreading its wings – you will remember that God values you even more than the birds of the air.
Isaiah 40:31 – “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles”

And don’t make the tragic mistake of the quail and forget that you were meant for flight.