‘Twas a cold and rainy day. Gosh that sounds hokey. But face it, more than two days of cold weather in Texas is just bad! And that sounds whiney since I lived so long in Alaska. But at least Alaska is honest about its cold weather. Texas is just plain mean! And I’m sitting here feeling the effects, all worn out and uninspired. So I was staring out my upstairs window, trying to think of something new to write in one of the three pieces I’m currently working on and I thought of a thought I had a couple of decades ago. It made me feel better, so I thought I’d share it.
Another walk in the garden with the Lord
About twenty five years ago I found myself struggling terribly with a number of stresses. I went for a walk in the Piney Woods of East Texas; actually I was trying to run away. I intermittently cried and yelled, throwing blame and drowning in guilt over things which I finally figured out were beyond my control. It took a while, walking down that game trail, but I began to calm down and see things around me. Presently I saw a huge pine tree, a Loblolly Pine that had a broken trunk and had fallen. The tree seemed healthy, all its needles were intact, green, and the bark looked good. There had been no wind, no other trees were down. I left the trail to go investigate
Now, you know that God moves in mysterious ways, and his voice is not always booming. Sometimes the message just comes through as a tingling whisper. As I studied this giant tree (the diameter of the trunk was nearly three feet) I noticed tiny bugs under the bark. They were pine bark beetles, I learned later, but for me they were a message from the Lord.
The message was this; you may look strong, healthy, and may stand tall in your community, but sometimes little things get under your skin. These little things will fester and make you sick. They will cut off your spiritual circulation. Literally they will cut you off and make you grow sick and weak inside. You may be grand on the outside, but you are dying on the inside, and if you don’t rid yourself of the little bugs which are draining the life out of you, you will fall.
I was perplexed. That tree simply had no way of defending itself against the invading beetles. I thought it was unfair, to say the least. I was also having some trouble getting past the similarity of the fate of that tree and my own life. I sat and pondered. Okay, so I have little bugs under my skin. I, at least, do have a way of defending myself, of ridding myself of those bugs. (That’s another story altogether)
I was feeling somewhat better and continued on my way. Down the trail I saw the coolest piece of vine. It had been cut from a tree by the forest service, but I liked it. I don’t usually pick up anything from public lands, but I picked up this piece of dry vine, something to remind me of the inspiring day I had experienced.
This piece of vine was only about three feet long, all curly from winding itself around the tree branch it had grown on, and it weighed less than three pounds. I continued my walk, vine happily clutched in my fingers. I was finally feeling more like myself, the walk was really refreshing. The five mile loop I chose that day took me through some of the prettiest forest in that area, and I was nearly half way through. Then my arm began to ache, just a little, sort of a stiff elbow. That surprised me since I am a strong person, physically, and can carry heavy items or work in a garden all day.
I pondered this new mystery, this tiresome ache in my arm, and it hit me. I had picked up, and admired, something that had been wringing the life out of one of God’s creations. It had been physically cut away and cast out, but here I was, picking it up and carrying it like it was something wonderful. The pain it caused wasn’t devastating, just annoying, something I could ignore if I wanted. That is, until it was too late.
I got the message from Jesus fully then. When little things get under your skin, get rid of them. He, alone, can get rid of those pesky parasites. Try to deal with them yourself and you will be choked to death, or the life will be sucked out of you. We are to lay our burdens at the cross – and leave them there. Don’t pick them back up, and don’t pick up anyone else’s burdens either. Give them to God and let him deal with it.
It still amazes me how God can talk to me, not in church, not even through a Bible, but on a sunny afternoon on a walk in the woods, or even a cold rainy day in the corner of my office.
In case you might be wondering, the photo is Denali, Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. It's one of my favorite photos taken a few years ago during a road trip through Alaska.
I'd like to hear from you, post your thoughts on inspiration.