Out On A Limb

Out on a Limb

The iguanas of St. John–

St John USVI Iguana

St John USVI Iguana

We were warned before we went: they’re all over the island; AND–they love red. We didn’t know why, I only knew that I’d  forgotten to change my RED toe nail polish…So, as we explored on our St. John trip, me and my red toes avoided the iguanas until we could find out more. We asked a St. John local and found out that the red hibiscus flower is the iguanas’ favorite treat. The red blossoms are absolutely intoxicating to them. Soooo–they associate all things red with intoxication and, like the moth to the flame, they feel drawn to pursue it. I wanted to keep my toes, so I continued to avoid the iguanas, but they are EVERYWHERE on the island!

And these guys are truly fascinating.

They look like a mini Jurassic World exhibit with their sharp claws, scaly, spiny bodies, their bulging eyes and slow blinking eyelids, their tongues that lap out like a lazy snake tongue and their whip-like tails.

What surprised me most is their agility.iguana dragon

Figuring me and my red toes were safe in the pool, I went for a swim. The Westin St. John’s main pool is lovely: the warm waters, the waterfall features, the mini oasis in the middle of the pool with a water bench shaded by the palm trees and foliage that it houses. It became my favorite hang out, until…

I flipped around on the bench and lifted my toes to prop them on the side of the oasis wall. This way I could semi-float and look up at the palms swaying in the Caribbean breeze. I saw people walking around the pool and floating on their floaties doing the same thing–looking up. I followed their gaze. Those iguanas apparently can swim. Not only can they swim, they can climb! My gaze locked on the iguana napping in the luxury of a large green palm frond about twenty feet directly above my head. And, if he swam out to the oasis, then my red toes were no longer safe just inches away from the dense foliage that could’ve housed many more of his camouflaged green friends!

We left this pool and found another Westin pool located on the hillside with nothing but time shares and concrete to threaten us.

As I sleepily floated around this tiny pool on my float, I looked up at the Caribbean clouds floating by and the branches of what appeared to be bare trees across the street up the hillside. My eyes popped wide open as I realized who was there—another tree top Jurassic friend! I breathed deep, relaxed and observed this creature from the safety of my pool float.

This determined dragon scaled the 30 ft up to hang out in what appeared to me to be a bare branched tree.  There were no red hibiscus flowers or luxurious leaves of green on its branch arms; just bare, spindly branches.  I understood the palm frond locale for an afternoon nap, but why hang out in a bare tree? I watched as he expertly made his way down one of the tree’s crooked limbs. As the breeze kicked up and he made his way toward the end, the branch bounced up and down. The elements threatened to blow him off or to be just enough to break the branch, but it didn’t. And he progressed.

I watched amazed as minutes ticked by and this daring creature patiently balanced his way almost completely to the end of the limb. His tenacious claws held fast to the branch; his long tail skillfully balanced the weight of his body; and my heart skipped a beat, as each whispering wind and movement bounced the branch beneath him. I thought surely, any instant, I’d hear a crackling and watch this amazing creature plummet to the depths.

LOOK CLOSE!

LOOK CLOSE!

I didn’t want to miss a thing.

I couldn’t tear my eyes away; witnessing the patience and determination of this creature!

What was worth this journey to the end? Why the risk? I focused in on him. Then, in the blink of an eye, his tongue whipped out and latched on to the tiny white flower that I hadn’t seen at the end of that tree’s limb. Wide eyed again, I swear I saw him smiling at me as he chomped and chewed the fruits of his labor.

Still not tearing my eyes away, I watched him, inch by inch, retreat and repeat this same journey on a different limb. I now could see the tree that I once thought was barren, housed at least a dozen lightly colored, teensy flowers at the end of its limbs.

I later learned that these guys do this to many trees and all across the island.

And, every so often, you’ll hear a crackling and the plummeting.

I must admit it–I’m more like the pool iguana; choosing the comforts of a large, luxurious palm frond where, if I’m startled awake or if the branch breaks and I plummet, it is into a nice splashy pool where I can swim to safety.  This life can be quite exhausting. It’s really tough to beat a good nap.

But then there’s the daring, skillful, hillside iguana. My heart just beats faster as I remember witnessing him risking it all; traversing out on that skinny limb to secure the succulent flower bud for a snack. Time after time. More risky, but also yielding a reward.

Are we really that different than the iguana?

How often do we sit idly by, in the comfort of whatever palm frond, couch, job, relationship, etc., and not take the chance because of not knowing what is at the end of that branch? And what if you plummet?

Or, how often do we watch others taking great risk or making sacrifices, without understanding that what they are striving for is so worth it to them?

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.—Jeremiah 29:11

God has great plans for each of our lives.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.—Psalm 37:4

God created us each with different dreams, ambitions, thirsts, skills and talents.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. –Romans 8:28

He will make a way for us. He clears the path before us and helps us when we plummet.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.—John 15:7-8

Agile, swimming, risk-taking, hibiscus loving, daring, fascinating!

Agile, swimming, risk-taking, hibiscus loving, daring, fascinating!

I believe that God will place in you a tenacious hunger for something that will require a leap of faith.

Whether you are a risk-taker or not, I encourage you to use the God-given talents you possess to pursue what motivates you.

You have no idea who might be watching or who YOU might inspire.

Go ahead. Go out on that limb.

Because you know how many hillside, succulent flowers the napping “palm frond iguana” enjoyed and savored?

Not a single one.

THIRST

Thirst via flickr.com

THIRST
Sometimes a thirst is so ragged and entrenched in the soul that NOTHING seems to satisfy.

“Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again…” (John 4:13)

I live in the desert. I always carry water with me.
Because I once made the mistake of not carrying water.

It was during the running part of a triathlon. It was September and late in the morning; the sun was a blazing fireball in the sky. The course map showed several water stations along the run. I left my water bottle tucked nicely in my bicycle and, right before I headed out on the “out and back” trip, I stuffed two gummy sharks (for quick energy) in my mouth. After a chaotic swim and surviving the bike, even though it was hot and uphill, I looked forward to what is usually my strongest event.
Huffing up the desert mountain trail left no saliva to digest the sugars and those two gummy sharks became plaster in my mouth. Over the next mile of the steep run, my sandpaper tongue attempted digging those Sharkies away from my teeth in a fruitless attempt to dislodge them. Their indigestible shark bodies taunted me for 1.6 miles until the first water stop at the peak of the hill and the turn-around point of the trail.
The miniscule amount of water I was given at the first stop barely made a difference, like two rain drops falling on an encrusted desert floor.
And all those water stops on the course map?? There was ONE.
I tried to focus on waterfalls and drinking fountains, rivers and aquifers, children dancing through sprinklers…but my mind overpowered my will. My mind instead brought me all the scenes from the movie “127 hours.” Remember the story of Aron Ralston? He went out on a summer hike in the Utah desert and got trapped/pinned in between rocks for days and nearly died of thirst before he cut his own arm off to escape? That is what I couldn’t pry my thoughts from.

“… But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13)

God nudged these words into my conscious. I let go of the nightmarish visions of “127 hours” and held fast to this verse.
Even as I crossed the finish line and chugged three bottles of water, my thirst lingered. This verse had a hold on me—it was what brought me through. It had brought me through before…

My father’s final days on the earth; he lay in Collier Hospice center in Wheatridge, CO. His skin, bones and organs were overtaken in malignant tumors winning their battle for his body. The friends and family visits had subsided except for those closest. The nurses/“experts in dying” told us his body systems would be slowly shutting down.
He was sufficiently drugged up with whatever concoctions they give to make the body more comfortable, but his face told a different story. He had lost the ability to communicate and, because he could no longer digest and swallow, we could no longer nourish him. The last friends who came by, dabbed the mouth sponge with rum and we all toasted with a shot of Captain Morgan’s and they swabbed it into my father’s mouth.

It was the last pleasant look I saw on his face.

Days passed. No water; just the moist sponge (that got really nasty after about two swabs) and his favorite lip balm-cherry “liprageous.” The things we remember… (and maybe should’ve re-thought that Captain Morgan’s).
When his eyes would open, they shone with fear and confusion. As he “slept,” his body writhed against some unseen enemy. His breathing was sporadic, sending my sister and me into panics. His existence appeared steeped in absolute torment.
In the quiet of the late nights, I sat in the chair beside his bed praying for life’s hold to let go, and for him to find peace. It was not to be so for several more days…
Every night, through those last few days of his earthly life, I prayed the same prayers–for peace and release.

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” ( Psalm 116:1)

Ever wished someone you loved dearly would leave this earth?? Don’t judge—it is TORTURE to watch them in pain and wish yourself in their place, and yet be absolutely powerless to make that happen. I thought my heart would shatter in pieces. My anguish was inconsolable.

Yet, I know Jesus. I know the love of my Savior. I know God’s love is what did this very thing for us with His Son on the cross.

It is written that no angels or demons will separate us from that love. (Romans 8:38)

He quenches the soul-thirsty. (And no “sacrificial” arm is required from you!) 😉

It appeared that God was working His magic on my father’s soul. My friends and my study of His Word all tell me that there is none too lost and it is never too late to accept the everlasting forgiveness, love and life offered through Jesus Christ. I was reminded of the one repentant thief that hung on a cross next to Jesus. His last minute change of heart and acceptance brought salvation and peace to his soul.—He would dwell with the everlasting. He would get to see his family again.

Could this be what was happening with my father? My father was a man who dedicated his life to science and engineering and who needed an explanation for everything. Faith was too murky for him. But, as his last days approached, (and it just happened to be Easter) he opened himself to the immeasurable, unfathomable faith and love of God.
As I watched the struggle between this world’s hold on him; his body and his spirit, it was the thirst that bothered me most. To be without water and with nothing but drugs and booze as the last “soul nourishment” that one experienced? Agony.

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow river of living water.” (John 7:37)

My father found release days later as the world’s hold finally set his spirit free.

“… But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13)

My thirst is quenched.

In the days following my father’s passing, I was given so many “coincidental” occurrences pointing to his salvation that even doubting Thomas would have been convinced! (The trains, the flower, the song, the cross on his brain scan…Creepy, but awesome!)

With Christ, I have hope in seeing my father again. It’s where I find refreshment. I live with it now tucked in my heart.
I will never be without it again.
It’s what my heart needs to survive the desert days ahead.