Friday, June 11, 2010

The Value of Roots

Have you ever seen a tree that's been windblown for years?  The branches can be flattened on one side and the primary growth of the tree extends out the other side of the tree leaving it with a lopsided look.  We get a fair amount of wind here on the Central Coast of California. Over a few months, its relentless buffeting has killed a few of our newly planted shrubs in the front yard.  It has the power to carve the shape and determine the direction of growth of all kinds of vegetation.  At times, the wind takes down Monterey Pines whose roots are very shallow and give way when the soil around it becomes rain-soaked. 

Strong roots are essential to the life of a tree.  Even though it gets pounded repeatedly, it can emerge with new growth and resilience thanks to its root system.  So it is with us as people navigating the changes in life.  Those who have strong roots are better able to hang on in tough times when unexpected challenges, adversity or setbacks come our way. 

In a recent conversation with a young woman, I learned about her childhood and adolescence with parents who abused drugs and whose lifestyle provided no roots or guidance for the young girl.  Now in her 30's she is finally learning to put down roots.  She is aware of life's pitfalls after observing her family's sad choices and the consequences they've faced.  Those lessons now give her wisdom about her own choices and a root begins to grow when she makes healthy decisions.  Her life may be windblown at times like a bad hair day that lasts for months! But as long as she has a healthy root system, she has a better chance of survival.  The winds don't diminish her in any way, but they do test her and her root system. 

My guess is that those lopsided trees in my part of the world must have some strong root systems which have grown in the direction needed to keep the tree stable.

Life Coaches come alongside people in windy times and help them as they strengthen their root system.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Compassionate Comrades & Hot Cocoa

The setting:  The Dining Hall at Camp Bighorn in Western Montana. Rich and I were there for a week last month doing coaching and consulting with the staff.  About twenty of us were sitting in a circle one morning having a devotional on the topic of compassion.

In the midst of the discussion I leaned over to pick up the mug of hot chocolate sitting to the right of my feet and as I raised up with the mug in hand (held by the top of the mug, not the handle...big mistake!) I accidentally hit the silver rim of my chair.  The impact made me drop the mug to the floor. In the hundredths of a second that followed, I watched sugary hot cocoa spill out into the middle of the circle all over the hardwood floor. UGGGG.  That 8 or so ounces of liquid seemed to expand endlessly before the twenty sets of eyes that were on me and the mess.

What followed was a demonstration of compassion.  My husband, Rich, immediately got up to help me clean up followed by two others, Josh and Trina, who went to the nearby kitchen to get rags, and promptly began to wipe up the mess by hand.  Josh did most of the work and as I humbly worked alongside him watching his wide sweeps with a rag through the liquid chocolate puddle, I was so grateful for their compassion on me.  They didn't just feel compassion, but demonstrated it. 

I had been thinking, just prior to that incident, that it can be hard for us to be compassionate towards someone unless we've been in a place of needing it ourselves. 

Showing compassion toward another may not come easily for you if you haven't ever been in a place of want.  In Matthew 9 Jesus looked at the crowd of people and felt compassion for their current state in life. This was the focus of our devotional and I got to be the recipient of a living example of compassion that morning.  Sometimes good lessons are learned in the unsuspecting moments of life.