Let my prayer be set before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
Welcoming the new year with a fresh coat of snow.
A while back I wrote about the tree that fell down in the playground at my apartment and how they had to cut the rest of it down.
This beautiful tree lost a huge branch.
So it had to be cut down because it was rotting on the inside.
So to recap, large branch fell causing the tree to be cut down, chopped and ground to nothing. This tree is gone, or is it?
Here where a tree had fallen and was cut down to nothing is life shooting up out of the ground.
Many times in our lives we feel the pruning sheers of life cutting away at us. For some of us we feel like we are cut down to nothing and there is nothing left. Yet looking at this tree sprouting out up from the ground I am reminded that even when you seem to have lost it all and there is nothing left, do not give up and hold onto hope.
Job 14:7 For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
Photography by Julie Sheppard
I took this picture after the memorial for my mother in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. She had planted this rose bush in her yard. After the service this beautiful rose stood out against the desert that surrounded it. At that time my heart was broken and my grief was overwhelming. I saw only a rose and knew that she had planted. Today this picture spoke to me. Her life had many harsh times and she survived and even bloomed.
She was an amazing woman and she made sacrifices that cost her more than I had ever known for most of her life so that I could live and still be here today. Now as I look at this rose I see more than a rose. I am learning a lesson. Life can be harsh and cruel for many of us. Yet no matter where you are or what cruelty may surround you, love and life can still prevail.
I still miss my mom and always will but my thoughts of her bring me joy and she is still in my heart. She was a loving mother and a beautiful and hard working lady.
The tree that fell in the playground of the apartments I lived in continues to teach us lessons. Today as I looked at the branches cut and in piles and looked at the tree that they came from I received another lesson.
Fallen does not mean useless it also does not mean that you have changed who you are. Your purpose may have changed, and your location may have changed and you may even feel separated from the source of life with your creator but you still have purpose and you are still His creation.
He can take the broken pieces of your life and use them for many new purposes. One thing that you can easily do with a fallen branch is cut it into firewood. This of course would be a one time use. Yet this wood can become so much more than that. I have already gathered branches from this tree and put them to use.
They now have my grapevine growing upon them. Supporting life that is already growing its fruit.
Previously I have used a fallen branches and turned them into walking sticks like my other had done when she was alive. Here are a couple I have previously made.
The wood that is used to build homes and and furniture all came from a tree. This chair, shop, barn and home were all built from wood that was once part trees. They all serve a purpose. A place to sit and rest. A place to work. A place to shelter animals and store supplies and equipment. A home to shelter a family or even an individual.
Whether that tree was cut down or fell that was used to build these I do not know. What I know is wood comes from a tree and eternal life comes from Jesus. There is one piece of wood that was used to bring us salvation. It was used to make the cross upon which our Savior was crucified.
This cross is not that cross but it is a reminder to us of the price He paid for us and how He has forgiven us. Another tree that gave a piece of itself to be used for the greatest purpose in any trees life.So if you have fallen or someone you know has fallen do not write yourself or them off. You are useful and you have a purpose. Let yourself be picked up and make a new start. Become something new.
Proverbs 24:16 for though a righteous man falls seven times, he will rise again, but the wicked stumble into calamity.
Psalm 37:23-24 The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.
Psalm 145:14-16 The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
Okay it was not the whole tree that fell today but a large portion of tree did fall into our playground today. I actually heard a loud crack that sounded like lightning than a woosh as I watched it fall. I am thankful that all the children who live here in the apartments were not home but at school today. This however has lead me to a few thoughts. Here is the first of those.
Thankfully when this large branch fell no one was hurt and no property damage was done.
It missed the cars parked next to the playground.
No children were on the playground and it even missed the jungle gym and slide.
As I thought about how thankful I was that no one was hurt I began to think about what happens when a brother or sister in Christ falls. Yes they are hurt and much damage is done to their life but how does their falling effect those who are near to them? Does anyone truly care or do they just receive judgment and condemnation from those who had said they loved them? Are they left alone to their destruction or does someone come and help pick them back up and begin to put back the pieces?
Here you can see our handyman Sam cutting the branches and clearing the debris.
Putting the branches in a pile after cutting them.
This man came on his time off to help clear up a mess. It will take a couple or more days to finish the work but he will get it done because he cares about us and our safety.
Sam is more than our handyman here, he is a brother in Christ Jesus. He is one if he sees someone down he comes and helps them up. He does not leave them lying on the ground. He sees a problem and he does not ignore it he does what he can to fix what needs fixing. Being a handyman suits him. Those of us who know him count themselves blessed. He loves Jesus and the love of Christ flows through him.
So what if you or me falls who will be there to pick us up? If we fall how does this effect those who are close to us.? How many get hurt by our falling? Who will care? The unfortunate part of life is we will occasionally stumble and even fall. Sometimes we can keep the damage minimal and are the only ones who get hurt. To get back up we may need to be trimmed back. Cut some things loose so we can lift ourselves back up. Other times we will need help and God may send us someone like Sam. People who love Jesus and when they see someone down they go to them and help mend them and get them back on their feet and on the right path, like the parable Jesus told us about the Samaritan.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
A thought just came to me. There are plenty of things that happen in each of our lives that hurt us and even turn our lives upside down. Things that we cannot stop and are out of our control. Tragic things happen and we do not know why. This is an unfortunate part of life. We ask God, why and we do not seem to get an answer. We wonder if God is mad at us and some may even think that He doesn’t love them. This is not true. Bad things happen and there is no explanation that I can give you. I know however in the darkest moments when all is wrong He is there with us. He cries with us and grieves with us. He does love each of us more than any of us will ever know.
Yet what about the things that we make happen? We know not to do something yet we do it anyway. We get into relationships that turn our lives upside down and tear us apart. We make choices both good and, right or wrong. Then when things fall apart and we get hurt we blame the other person or situation we willingly got ourselves into.
A relationship that already has problems yet the couple chooses to get married believing they can make the other person change or having a child in a vain attempt to hold on to the other person. Then the relationship still gets worse and we then continue to blame the other not taking any accountability for our own actions and choices. We work against each other and fight. Tearing each other apart and blaming each other never fixes anything. Homes, communities and nations are torn apart because we choose to fight against each other and demand our own ways. Refusing to listen or work with each other.We are right and the other is wrong. Proud and arrogant is what we have become. We lack responsibility and accountability. Matthew 7:5 teaches an important lesson Look at ourselves and actions and fix what is wrong with our own selves. Then we can be better help each other.
Photography by Julie Sheppard edited with paint.
I cannot honestly blame all my pain and suffering on other and definitely not God. I am responsible for my own choices and actions. Yes I have been abused and this I am not to be blamed for, but what I did in reaction to the abuse is my responsibility.
The sun melts into the horizon
The golden sun leaving the last warmth of the day
Blue sky stroked with vibrant colors
a beautiful sky marks the end of the day
night is coming
and the first star appears
Photography by Julie Sheppard / Evening sky March 13, 2017
I was inspired to take a walk as the sun was setting and the moon was rising and this song came to mind.
As I looked out my back door and this was my view. So I went outside to capture the beautiful sky.
Then I turned to go back into my apartment and I see that the moon is rising. I thought, ‘I say hello and you say goodbye’ beginning the song in my head.
So I take an evening walk to get better view. The moon is so bright I am even able to capture the water tower next to the moon.
The moon is in the perfect place to see between the branches of a tree as I walk closer to the west. The view reminded me of lace.
I turned back facing towards my home and this is the view I see in the sky to the east.
The last traces of the sun on the horizon as the star first star shines bright in the evening sky.
The streetlights come on as the sun disappears from the horizon and the stars come out.
Goodbye day, and hello night.
As the day says goodbye and the nights says hello I can’t help but think about all the senseless hatred and strife that is going on today. We are missing the beauty of God’s wonderful creation. Not only in nature but in the people all around us. We are all different but all created equal in God’s eyes. Our Creator who has given to each individual free will. Does this mean each person will agree? Doubtfully, but that is okay. I do not have to agree with you and you do not have to agree with me. The only one who is every truly right is Jesus. For He is the Truth, the Light, and the Way. No one came come to the Father except through Him. No religion or doctrine can get me to my Fathers home. Only Jesus. I can argue with you until I am blue in the face and I will never be able to change your mind and guess what? It is not my job to make you do anything. I can share with you all of the wonderful things Jesus has done and continues to do in my life, but I will not try to force you to believe in what I believe. I do hope though when you look around this world and the mess it is in that you can see the beauty and His love despite what man has done to one another and to this world. It is still beautiful, and His love amazes me everyday. I am just thankful that He gave me eyes to see all the beauty and love that surrounds me.
Photography by Julie Sheppard/Bridgeport, Texas 2/10/2017