Now it isn’t easy to tread water, in fact, it’s hard work. Experts tell us to remain upright in a vertical position, head high, breathing slow and regulated, making use of all four limbs at once. We’re in a state of readiness, prepared for rescue, but not the one in charge.
Sometimes I clear my thought collection by writing poetry. I un-jumble the jumbled mess by sorting, eliminating, and re-arranging words on paper. Recently, I captured the words thistle thorns and placed them in my reject section. However, they persisted and insisted on space in my poem.
I’m of Scottish descent and somewhere in Scotland, there’s a clan chief and a run-down castle that bears my name. Enter the lowly thistle, scorned by gardeners, despised by children in bare feet, and just below dandelion on the least wanted list. It also happens to be Scotland’s oldest recorded National Flower. A 13th century legend tells of Viking invaders, who hoped to capture the Scots as they slept. Their plan failed when a barefooted soldier tromped on a thistle, cried out in pain, and woke the sleeping Scots. If I’m any example, Scots are not morning people, and the Vikings were quickly overcome by enraged clansmen.
The thistle is a symbol of tenacity. It’s both a humble weed and a complex entity composed of soft downy flower and sharp thorns. Its roots reach deep, it keeps a stubborn grip on the land, and flourishes in adversity. I’m aware that God hands me flowers with thorns now and then. The beauty of the flower is a blessing, but it’s the thorns that make me strong.
I wish that I could learn to “leave well enough alone.” It’s a beautiful thing for those who can do it. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. I’m the type that must add one more, adjust just a little, and pull the thread that unravels the sleeve. Let’s just say I’ve ruined more than I’ve improved. What to do with me? How do I transform my compulsion to make everything okay?
The Apostle Paul put it this way: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. Philippians 4:6-7
And may I add, if you’re like me, say to thyself, “DON’T TOUCH THE CROOKED PICTURE.”
By Sr. Nun Other
Baseball season opening day. Defined by colorful uniforms against green grass. Flags unfurled and the Star Spangled Banner sung by someone famous or a regular person deserving a chance. A Blue Angel flyover, and the two best words in all of baseball, “Play Ball!”
And right there, lurking in the background, are the naysayers. They’ve already predicted the third baseman (who they loved three weeks ago) is a huge mistake, the #2 starting pitcher will breakdown mid-season, and at best, your team (fill in the blank) might have a shot at the wild card.
By Sr. Nun Other
During this morning’s exercise class, I considered the phrase full range of motion, pretty certain I didn’t have it. It’s medical definition is “the full movement potential of a joint, usually its range of flexion and extension.” I discovered that flexibility is the key – and most neglected – component for general good health, injury prevention, and outstanding sports performance. In my case, that would be ping pong. As I stared at the ceiling, rotating my left ankle, I had this thought:what about full range of emotion? Isn’t that equally important? Emotions are a persistent companion, closer than the air we breathe. They help define and provide commentary on life around us. And we need them flexible and healthy as well.
I’m convinced God isn’t anti-emotion. In fact, I printed seven pages listing 190 emotions mentioned in the Bible. Here are some of them: affection, anger, arrogance, bitterness, compassion, confusion, cruelty, defiance, delight, disappointment, eagerness, embarrassment, enthusiasm, exaltation, greed, impatience, kindness, laughter, loneliness, and optimism. Though sometimes fickle, misinformed, and prone to jump to conclusions, emotions are the color and substance of who we are. They join the clay of body, mind, and spirit in God’s patient hands.
Someone wants to trade a handful of change for a dollar bill. You say yes and he hands you 100 pennies. Or 4 quarters, 10 dimes, 20 nickels. Doesn’t really matter. Although the value is equal, it’s not the same and never will be. Maybe you loved that dollar bill. It was the first you ever made or a gift from your grandmother. You know it’s too late but you want it back. Now.
How do we reconcile the feelings that come with change? Especially when it’s an uninvited addition to our journey. I humbly offer some still-working-on thoughts: Step 1, admit you’ve lost something comfortable and familiar; Step 2, face that the present is now the past; Step 3, don’t pretend to like it; Step 4, accept its necessity and inevitability; Step 5, acknowledge God loves you and pray for an infusion of hope. Whatever your change is, it needs time to unfold and define itself. Be patient, be kind to yourself and others, and grateful to God for forward motion.
The earth is composed of layers: surface, crust, mantle, outer core and inner core. And so are we. I have a surface-self, carefully constructed of what I want others to see. Successive layers, less in my control, lead to the heart of the matter. Psalm 51:10 petitions, Create in me a pure heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. God promises in Ezekiel 36:26-27, A new heart I will give you; and a new spirit I will put within you. While I’m busy trying, God is busy transforming. And I hope He finds my heart, fallow ground, plowed and waiting for the essence of Christ to grow.
By Sr. Nun Other
I recently helped remove strands of Christmas lights from a forty-four foot fir tree. I had the simple job of plugging in each strand – close to one hundred of them – to test and eliminate any that were defective. The tree climbers expertly coiled ropes of light, then piled them beneath the tree. As I retrieved them, I noticed how much each circle resembled a crown of thorns. It was a fascinating physical transformation and conveyed a distinct change in emotion that I wasn’t expecting. We rightfully honor and proclaim Christ’s birth with our best attempts at majesty and beauty. But look closely. Tucked within the ancient story are reality reminders. His life was rugged, filled with conflict, rejection, and suffering. All for us.
By Sr. Nun Other
I’m told by a sister of Chinese heritage that I practice feng shui. And I thought I was merely rearranging furniture! I convinced her to join me, and, as we worked together, I periodically asked, “What’s that called again?” Feng shui, pronounced “fung shway,” the study of the relationship between environment and human life. It’s composed of two Chinese words, feng (wind) and shui (water), two life sustaining natural elements that flow and circulate throughout the Earth. It is also referred to as the art of placement: how to place furniture, possessions, and yourself within your surroundings to best achieve balance, comfort, and harmony. The wing of the Convent, where my Chinese sister and I live, leans toward early American design. Matters not what your particular decorating taste is. With prayerful consideration, we can create a space of beauty that reflects God’s presence in our lives.
By Sr. Nun Other
We did some fall housecleaning last night, starting with kitchen cupboards. Threw out some “lids to nowhere,” a melted turkey baster, and an old plastic measuring cup. It feels good to have dust-free, clutter-free cupboards, and a mental inventory of what’s available. I sometimes wonder what Mary’s house looked like. As Jesus’ mother, her life was always eventful, with an expectation for the unexpected. I imagine her home to be clean, orderly, and ready to welcome. But then I have a reputation for obsessive neatness. I prefer to think of it as stress avoidance. Friends with busy lives sometimes ask for advice, and it’s very basic: remove clutter, which I define as anything not necessary or beautiful. Beautiful is up to you—could be children’s art—or any number of things. To truly save time, avoid short-cuts—an oxymoron but true.
Psalm 84 tells of God’s lovely dwelling place, a place of peace and beauty that draws our weary hearts. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. “Selah.” Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.