Embracing the Chains

singing treeI went for a walk in the woods last fall and came upon an old maple tree that I fell in love with. It looked like it was singing praise to its creator. I took a picture of it and keep it on my wall near my computer. This spring I returned to those woods and found my friend the singing tree, it still looked happy and green with the promise of new life. But this time, I  approached the tree from a different angle, and noticed something new. At the base of this happy tree was a tangle of barbed wire. The rusted wire had likely used the tree as a convenient support as it kept some farmer’s cows safely contained. The fence had disappeared with no other sign of posts or wire in sight. Why had this mess of barbed wire stayed? Because the tree had grown around it. It had embraced the chains that had once bound it.

We all have chains that try to tie us down, to fence us in, to strangle us. For some of us it is poverty, for some it is sorrow, fear or resentment. Many of us have survived sickness, addiction, abuse and injustice. We all have chains, but what will we choose to do with them?

Christ came to earth to break those chains. He came to set us free and give us life in abundance if we accept his gift.

A few months ago, I believe God sent me a picture during worship at church. We were singing ‘Break these chains’ and I saw myself in a dark dungeon with my wrists shackled and chained to the wall above my head. I had given up and hung my head in despair. Christ stood before me. He had broken my chains. The thing that bound me was nothing but shadowy illusion. It was my own fear and doubt that kept me chained in that dungeon. Jesus was imploring me to step away, to follow him into a life of hope and joy. I would like to say that I have shaken the chains and left that dark place, but I am still battling those fears. I just know now that He is with me and will not give up. embracing the chains4

It was after that moment with God that I found the tree that rejoices despite its chains. Jesus has set us free of the chains, the wire embracing the chains2surrounding the tree had been cut away from other posts long since gone, but the scars remain. The scars of our past, of our present don’t go away. They help to make us who we are. It is up to us to embrace the chains, the scars they leave behind and the God who is bigger than all that would hold us back.

I choose to acknowledge my weakness and fear. I choose to let God work through them. I choose to not let the fear and doubt hold me back, but will grow around them and beyond them. It will not be easy, the barbs in the wire hurts, but I choose to leave the dungeon and find the hope that Jesus promised.

 

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Spring Break

065 (6)Ah, those word invoke visions of young bodies on warm beaches drinking in the sunshine. School is out for a week and frazzled college students pack their bags and head south for a glorious week of stress-free playtime before having to come back to face the last push at the end of the semester.

At least I assume that is what it is like.

I have never had a Spring Break like that.

Nope. My spring breaks have mostly consisted of yard work, spring cleaning and maybe, if I am lucky, a picnic lunch in a newly green park near home. I have never felt the loss. Being an introvert, the thought of crowded beaches, mobbed theme parks and packed bars made me shudder. Add to that the stereotype that all the young bodies belong to  ‘beautiful people’ intimidates me beyond belief. True or not, that stereotype has kept me safely home for decades.022

This year is no different. Instead of sprawling my out-of-shape-middle-aged body on sun-warmed sand, I am raking debris out of the yard and gardens. I am listening to the joyful laughter of my teenage kids as they play together, the battles and frustration of winter melting like snow under the warming sun. All around us the world is returning to life, bulbs are beginning to bloom, new green grass is emerging from the brown of last year’s growth and the air is filled with the songs of birds returning to their summer homes.

020I am not so good at the spring cleaning inside. It often takes me until fall to get that done. But the windows are open and warm fragrant breezes flutter my curtains. The floors are swept to clean up the mud tracked in by happy kids and dogs (not to mention the copious amounts of hair from two shedding labs!) But then the warm breezes and sunshine lure me outside once more.

So while warm sand and crashing surf are nice, I would not trade my Spring Break at home for any beach in the world.

 

 

Change of Plans

I was going to write about the ‘prodigal son’ parable today. My pastor gave a very stirring sermon on it yesterday that brought it to life for me. I was inspired to write an even deeper tale of the lost son and his father studded by friends who lead us astray and a Father who searches the horizon for our return.

But then I went for a walk. Always a good idea, I know. But today I was wading through knee deep snow trying to capture the bright morning sun glint of the diamond flakes of fresh snow on film. As I struggled through the snow, ever grateful for my snow-pants and tall boots, I began to hear a strange sound, bursts of silver melody weaving through the trees. What is that sound. Could it be, is it possible, are the birds really returning. Camera in hand, I peer through the sparkling light toward the trees.

Movement. Music.

There on that branch a flash of blue. I catch my breath in wonder and slowly bring my camera to eye level and zoom in. Click.

birds1       female purple martin2

purple martin4          purple martins2Several pairs of Purple Martins were flying through the trees lifting my spirits with their songs. Bright flashes of color in a grey and white world.

Could it be that Spring is beginning to approach the horizon?