While in Arizona recently, I learned about a type of cactus called saguaro. While the name (pronounced Sah WAR oh) may not be familiar, its appearance certainly is.
Easily recognized for its height, which can be over twelve meters or forty feet tall, as well as the arms coming out of each side; this tree-like cactus is often depicted in artwork. Many years ago I purchased a wall hanging with a saguaro as part of the design.
I found it fascinating to learn it can take up to fifty years before the plant blossoms and approximately seventy-five years before appendages sprout. After the first one appears, there is no limit to the number it may produce. We counted twenty arms on one!
Looking at the plant, it appears to have accordion-type pleats. These expand as it stores water. This method of self-preservation is able to keep it alive for an incredible two years without moisture.
What have I learned from these facts to apply to my life?
I expect to achieve my goals in a minimal amount of time. In reality, it can take many years to blossom and grow into my full potential. Once I’m mature enough, there is no limit to how productive I can be.
If I store up things that nourish me, such as the beauty of nature, wisdom of those who have gone before me and encouragement from friends and family, I am able to draw on these to keep me going during the dry spells.
When I model my life after these truths I will be committed to do what is necessary to reach for my goals and dreams. Then I will be able to stand tall and proud with outstretched arms to welcome whatever comes my way.
What is that, I wondered? Is it some type of cactus? Or, maybe it’s a tree. In silent awe, I watched as a few of these large plants, scattered through the desert landscape, became an unusual forest of vegetation.
Eventually, I turned to my husband and said, “I’ve never seen anything like those before. I wonder what they are.” He had seen a sign saying we were on the Joshua Forest Parkway and suggested maybe we were looking at Joshua trees.
I took a picture as we drove so I could research them later.
Not only did I confirm that these were indeed Joshua Trees, I also learned some interesting facts. The Joshua tree, also known as a yucca palm, is an evergreen plant belonging to the lily family.
Even more interesting to me was how they got their name. Legend has it that in the mid-nineteenth century, a group of Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert came across these plants. The erect branches reminded them of the biblical story of Joshua, reaching his hands up to the sky in prayer.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were like Joshua trees and our appearance reminded people to lift their hands in prayer and praise? Unlike the trees which only inhabit a specific area, we can move about impacting others with the message of love and hope found in the Bible. So, if you see me with my arms lifted high, you’ll understand why.
“Pray in the Spirit in every situation. Use every kind of prayer and request there is. For the same reason be alert. Use every kind of effort and make every kind of request for all of God’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18 GWT)
A dull grey sky and a cool breeze greeted me when I looked outside. The weather forecast for the next few days didn’t appear any more promising.
However, the view from my window did nothing to dispel the joy in my heart.
My husband and I were nearing the end of our vacation. We had experienced the diversity of God’s creation. From the colourful rocks of windswept canyons to more variety of cacti than I knew existed, we saw beauty displayed.
Friends just met, offered conversation and companionship.
Time spent with distant family staying only an hour away rekindled shared memories.
The bonus of friends from home visiting the same area gave us adventure and laughter that caused tears to run down our cheeks.
An added blessing was the hospitality of a fellow writer who welcomed us into her home for a meal.
Deep contentment as Brian and I walked down the street, hand in hand.
I was able to pick oranges and grapefruit from neighbouring trees and enjoy the fresh, juicy taste.
Challenges presented by new pastors in a much larger church than we were used to gave me a new perspective.
Quiet moments with my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ restored my soul.
Scripture says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” and I have received life-restoring, energizing medicine.
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 NIV)
“For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15 NLT)
Please welcome Kim Louise Clarke as my guest blogger today. Kim and I met through Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship. Her first book came out in 2016, a devotional travel memoir, entitled The French Collection – Moments with God in Paris.
Outside my friends’ house, I waited for her in my car. Across the street, the movement of a swinging birdfeeder suspended from a tree caught my eye. It was a simple design: an open tray suspended by ropes from a branch about a metre above the snowy lawn.
The cause of the movement came, not from a bird, but from a squirrel rummaging around in the feeder. Nearby on the ground, a bird—a magpie as big as the squirrel—seemed to be pacing as if waiting its turn. No sooner had the squirrel hopped off the feeder to scamper down the road, than the magpie jumped up to see what it could find. And no sooner had the magpie flown away, than a tiny bird that had been waiting on its perch high in the tree, darted in to have its turn.
Because I’ve seen how magpies can torment squirrels, with three of them squawking and hounding one poor squirrel fleeing along a fence, this was like a peaceful scene out of Narnia. It was a short animal dramatization of I Corinthians 13, focusing on love. “Love is patient, love is kind. … It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered” (verses 4, 5).
How appropriate for February, the month of love, to see this reminder of how we should treat others. Even doing the little things, like patiently standing in a cafeteria line, waiting your turn, and letting others go first does not go unnoticed by God. It is by our loving behaviour that He is glorified.
My friend arrived and got into my car. We drove away with me chatting about squirrels and magpies. Having been exposed to one sermon, we drove off to church for another.
You can find out more about Kim through her website: www.kimlouiseclarke.com
To contact her email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please welcome Lynn Simpson as my guest blogger today. After you enjoy her words and her photographs you can find out more about Lynn in the brief bio at the bottom of the post.
Lifeless leaves in colours of blood and coffee on a dusty footpath crush beneath my worn hikers. I pull my wool hat lower over my ears with one mittened hand, the other grips my camera. Ahead, I know, is a low lying
bridge, over a cheerless pond, just four steps wide and seven steps to the other side.
I’ve been here before, on this trail in this national park close to my home. Been here too, during the times of chirping frogs and singing sparrows.
But today, under a silvery sky, the life sounds seem hushed. And this feels right. As my brother of only a few years longer in life than me, was recently stilled and silenced. His path moved now beyond this world.
My downcast eyes wander to lanky, burnt mustard grasses. I halt, grasp my camera in both hands, adjust the dials, kneel and frame the scene. Click. Reframe. Click. Capture a moment. Now. And then gone.
And I wonder, in this moment, what is the point really? A captured moment just changes in time. And is lost. Gone.
Does it make any difference, to do this or that in this moment?
Do I make a difference?
I shake my head, try to clear of it of this melancholy. Fingers seek for tissue in my coat pocket.
Crush of lifeless leaves interrupt, from steps that are not mine.
You must be a pro, he says. I unbend my knees, stand. No, I reply. He is tall, slender, like my brother (my late-brother) with midnight black hair that matches the camera he clutches in bare hands. My friend gave me his camera to try for a day and I don’t have a clue what I’m doing and my pictures look terrible, he tells me, his face crimsoning. Can I see yours? he asks. I show him, am warmed by his delight. How did you capture that from that? He points to the field of littered grasses. It’s about the angles, and the scene, and the light, and the imagination, I tell him. I show him a few tools, a few features and simple ways to set the light, to frame the scene.
He clicks. Reframes. Clicks. Captures a few shots with the new settings.
Wow, he says, his grin infectious. That totally made a difference! Thank you!
There is a wooden bridge that crosses marsh-like waters just up ahead, I tell him. You may want to try there too.
He takes a few steps backwards, on this ginger path, waves a free hand. Great! I want to be able to show my friend later what moments I captured here. Thanks so much! he says.
I watch him turn away and move on. I look down. Auburn and chestnut coloured leaves stir from a light wind. I kneel, position my camera. And click, capturing a new moment.
Lynn J Simpson understands the need for creating spaces for rest, renewal, and transformation both personally and as a Professional Life Coach. Her own journey is rarely without a camera in hand, capturing breathing spaces to share. Her recent publication, Breathing Spaces-a 21 day journal of rest, reflection and renewal is used by individuals and groups to help create healthy mindsets. You can read more of Lynn’s musings on faith, hope and love at Inspiring Hope (lynnjsimpson.com), and connect with her on Facebook and YouTube.
Nature has many lessons to teach us. I heard an interesting story about fear and survival in the wild.
When a zebra is grazing and hears the roar of a lion, it runs away from the dangerous sound. This decision often proves to be fatal.
You see, the male lion roars from behind the prey while the lioness, who is the hunter, waits ahead. In its fear reaction, the zebra runs directly into the path of the lioness and is caught.
Fear can also cause us to run into danger instead of away from it. No matter how hard we try, it isn’t possible to outrun our fear. The best option may be to face the fear head-on. We may find that it is nothing more dangerous than the roar in our mind.
God knew we would face many fears in our lives. That could be why the most repeated command in the Bible is Fear Not. Over one hundred times the words Fear Not or Do not be afraid are repeated.
We are also told the enemy prowls like a roaring lion. He wants to frighten us so we run into his trap. If we remember to trust in God rather than giving in to our fear we will remain safe.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)
A light snowfall covered the ground during the night. The next morning we stepped out of the house and into a winter wonderland. Tree branches that had been bare sticks the night before were now covered on one side with a layer of white.
I turned to my eight-year-old granddaughter and said, “Isn’t it beautiful? I think I’ll take a picture.” Her reply took me by surprise. “It looks like an art project,” she said.
She was right. I thought about her words over the next few days and thought of the many projects the Master Artist has shown me. Everything was created by God. He designed the colours and then arranges them in spectacular fashion.
Today I’m going to share some of His art projects I’ve enjoyed over the past few months. All glory goes to the Creator of heaven and earth.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 NIV)
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4 NIV)
You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. (Nehemiah 9:6 NIV)
This was the first major snowfall of the season. There had been a few that didn’t leave an accumulation, but this one was different.
I was attending a silent retreat and the blanket of snow seemed to also silence the land.
The sun appeared mid-afternoon, beckoning me to brave the cold and partake of the beautiful surroundings.
The only sound I could hear was the squeak of my boots on the snow. The pristine white surface sparkled with ice crystals looking like millions of pieces of glitter sprinkled before me.
I walked toward the evergreens dressed in their winter gowns.
The snow lay thick on the branches and I saw some weighed down by this heavy burden. Not only was this a photo op, it was also an analogy of life.
Too much of anything can weigh us down. A little guilt here, a touch of regret there and soon we are tired from our heavy load. We bow to the ground, unable to carry the burden. Without relief, we are in danger of breaking.
Jesus has promised to give us rest when we bring our burdens to him. First, we have to silence the noise in our minds. In the stillness will we be able to discern his voice and allow him to lighten our load.
When the sun shines on the tree branches the snow starts to fall away. In the same way, the Son of Man takes our worries, allowing us to stand straight and tall once again.
“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 GWT)
Picture this: I’m sitting on my deck in Mexico, overlooking the sea. My view is of water that changes from green to blue and stretches as far as the horizon, where it meets with a cloudless azure sky.
Three pelicans float on the water. Suddenly they dive under. As their heads emerge I can see the silver glitter of fish in their large beaks. I’m close enough to see them swallow their catch.
A bit farther out, gulls flock around a small boat, hoping to enjoy some of the fisherman’s catch. The only sounds are the lapping of the tide along the shore and an occasional bird call.
This sounds idyllic and it is, but from this vantage point, you haven’t received the full picture.
A few days before strong winds blew in masses of seaweed. It came in with the tide and temporarily has been deposited on our beach. In order to get to the water, I have to walk through piles of seaweed. Some is dry but closer to the water’s edge it is soft and spongy underfoot.
This picture is an analogy of life. I have the option as to the picture I show you. Will it only be the pretty picture; the idyllic one that leaves you wishing you could experience the same as I am?
How well do you relate to someone who always seems to be under clear, sunny skies? I find it much easier to connect with people I have something in common with. Shared struggles promote closer relationships.
At some point in our lives, all of us have had to walk through weeds to reach our desired destination. The question is, do we turn back or make our way through the unpleasant areas?
I have found it much easier to navigate the rough spots when I’m not alone. The support of others helps me find the strength I need to keep going. When I stumble, it’s nice to know someone will be there to help me get back on my feet. In turn, I can do the same for my companions. This won’t happen if you think my life is perfect.
So, the question is, what picture am I showing to those I want to connect with?
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown
Initially they thought the sudden pain was caused by an encounter with a stingray. A few had recently been seen in our area. When his foot became swollen and the pain was more than he could bear, the couple headed for the hospital.
A doctor cleaned the wound and removed a piece of spiny barb. He then informed this man that the injury was caused by a sea bass.
Information was given on how this happens. The sea bass has a boney spike under its dorsal fin. When it is threatened or inadvertently stepped on, this spike shoots out as the fish turns. The barbs stick into your flesh, causing pain that lasts for hours. If the wound is not properly cleaned, infection can set it.
These fish are bottom feeders and easily stepped on when wading into the sea. The attack in question happened about ten feet from the shoreline. The fish was reacting to danger by fighting back in self defense.
In a way, I’m like this fish. I don’t like to be stepped on either. Even the thought of danger has me heading into self defense mode. The barbs I send out may not pierce the flesh, but they still cause injury. Mine come as sharp words which leave wounds not visible but still extremely painful.
Sometimes the person who suffers the attack is caught by surprise, not even realizing they have stepped on me. Hearing the story of the sea bass attack has been a good reminder for me. Unnecessary injury is caused when I strike out because of fear.