Tornado Trees

Tornado Trees

It has been almost two years now since a devastating F5 tornado tore through central Oklahoma leaving a 22 mile path of destruction. Recovery has been slow, difficult, and for those that lost loved ones, near impossible. While waste and debris have been cleared and houses and businesses rebuilt, there are still many reminders of this storm that remain.

Because my home lies uncomfortably close to this 22 mile path, I pass by these reminders on a daily basis. A mere three miles from my driveway, I pass what remains of the historic steel truss bridge that ran parallel to the existing bridge. The tornado twisted this old steel bridge as if it were made of aluminum foil.

One of the most striking reminders that I see each day are what I call “tornado trees.” I guess in all actuality, it would be more accurate to call them “tornado survivor trees.”

During the massive tornado, many trees were completely uprooted. Trees were stripped of their leaves and much of their bark. Branches were twisted, gnarled and broken. Many that initially survived died later due to the extensive damage. But some survived in spite of all of this. They held on firmly rooted. They bent but did not break. They survived to sprout new growth, new life.

These trees are an impressive sight to behold. Even though they have grown new branches and sprouted new leaves, they will never be exactly the same as they were before the storm. They are still twisted and contorted. They are still predominantly stark and barren. These trees are scarred and damaged but they are still alive. They have weathered the storm and they survived.

These majestic trees serve as a constant reminder and example to me. They remind me that no matter how powerful the storms, I can survive them. The storms of my life may leave me scarred and weathered. They may leave me feeling stark and barren for a time, but no matter how fierce, no matter how frightening, they are temporary.

In time, the storms will pass, and when they do, like these steadfast, invincible trees, I will still be standing.

Posted in Trials | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Lesson from “The African Queen”

I spent some time battling a brutal virus recently. I fought valiantly, but in the end, I was defeated. The virus won. While recuperating, I managed to muster just enough strength to work the remote control. As I surfed a multitude of television stations in an attempt to alleviate my boredom, I happened upon the old classic movie “The African Queen” with Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

For those unfortunate few who have never had the opportunity to see this movie, it is the fictional story of British missionary Rose Sayer and river boat captain Charlie Allnut. It is set in German East Africa at the onset of World War I. As war breaks out, Charlie and Rose attempt to flee the Germans by traveling down the river in Charlie’s steamboat the African Queen. While almost complete opposites, the two grow closer as they face the dangers of the river together and eventually fall in love.

I have always loved this movie but for some reason, this time it had a profound affect on me. I continued to reflect on one of the last scenes of the movie for some time after the final credits rolled.

In this scene, the African Queen is stuck in dense reeds in the shallow water near the mouth of the river. Charlie and Rose attempt to tow the boat but all their efforts fail and they eventually give up. They go to sleep emotionally and physically exhausted with little hope of survival. During the night however, heavy rains fall raising the level of the river and floating their little boat out onto the lake.

I was struck by the fact that they gave up when they were so close to their goal. Their freedom was just a few feet away but they gave up all hope and resigned themselves to die because some reeds and brush hid it from their view.

It occurred to me that we often do the same. We let the “reeds and brush” of this world cause us to give up on our dreams and goals even though we are so very close to achieving them. We give up, because with our limited vision we cannot see how close they really are. Like Rose and Charlie we become emotionally and physically exhausted and feel that we can go no further.

It is at these times, after we have done all that we can, our Heavenly Father will send the “rains” that will float us the rest of the way.

Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Greener Grass

Recently, my morning drive was slowed by a couple of young cows endeavoring to make their way to the pasture across the road. I’m not sure how they escaped the confines of their own pasture. I’m also not sure why they wanted to escape. But whatever the reason they left the safety and comfort of their own pasture.

The little cows made it safely across the road, I made it safely to work and I quickly forgot about them.

Later that week, in another pasture, across the road from the first, I saw a little cow stretching its neck through the barbed wire fence. The little cow was trying to reach the grass on the other side of the fence. It appeared it was stretching its neck as far as it could possibly stretch. It looked uncomfortable and painful, but it just kept on stretching.

As I thought about these cows, I wondered what would make them want to leave or stretch their necks out beyond the safety of their own pasture. The pastures they call home are vast, green and lush even in the dead of winter. To me, the two pastures looked equal in every respect, yet these cows risked their comfort and safety trying to reach the grass across the street or on the other side of the fence.

It occurred to me that we are often like these little cows. Even though we are greatly blessed ourselves, we sometimes believe that our neighbor, our coworker, or even someone we just met has “better” blessings than we do. Instead of being grateful for what we have, we take our own blessings for granted. We waste precious time envying blessings that appear to be more desirable on the surface.

Every morning and evening now when I pass these little cows, I take a moment to reflect on all of the many blessings in my life. Then, I say a prayer and thank my Heavenly Father for each and every one.

Posted in gratitude, Miracles | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Remembering the tiny gnat

You know the people you see standing on corners and at intersections holding signs and asking for money? I see them all the time and sometimes if I have a little cash, and I am at the intersection at just the right time, I will roll down the window and give them a few dollars.

A few days ago, I had no cash and the light turned red just as I approached one of these intersections. As I sat there trying to avoid eye contact with the young man holding the sign, I felt a terrible uneasiness. As I looked up our eyes met, and I saw a sadness in the young man’s eyes that haunted me for the rest of the day.

That night it was bitterly cold. The next morning, I looked for the young man but he was not there. As I sat at the intersection, I wondered and worried about him. I hoped that he had found a warm place to sleep and a warm meal to eat.

A few days later my electricity went out in the middle of the night. As I considered whether I would need to get some extra blankets out of the closet or build a fire to stay warm, I saw his face. I wondered if he were warm.

The next day, I had a pleasant lunch with friends. Afterward, while complaining about how full my stomach was, I saw his face. I wondered how long it had been since he had a meal and how full his stomach was.

As I continued to think of this young man, I wondered what more I could do to help him. I wondered what I could do to make things better for him and for so many others like him. As I pondered this question, I became overwhelmed. I felt so small, so unequal to the task.

Then I thought of the tiny little gnat.

Last summer, I visited a beautiful wilderness area. It was quiet and peaceful there and I sat silent and still trying to appreciate the tranquility. My solitude was quickly disrupted by a tiny little gnat flying around my face. I was astonished that something so tiny, so miniscule as this gnat could have such power, such influence.

I attempted to ignore this little gnat’s intrusions for a time, but soon it was joined by many friends. I quickly found that it was impossible to ignore an entire horde of gnats, so I soon gave up and left.

As I thought about the power of this tiny little gnat, it occurred to me that while I may not be able to do everything, I can do something. While I may not be able to help every homeless person or every person in need, I can help someone. And like these little gnats, if each person does something, no matter how small, it can add up to something huge and powerful.

I still see the face of this sad young man. I don’t know exactly what I will do to help yet, but I know that no matter how small it can make a difference.

I can make a difference.

Posted in Change The World | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Prayers of Bedford Falls

I know that Christmas Day was over a week ago and even New Year’s Day has come and gone. But today, it is a Christmas movie that is still lingering in my thoughts.

The movie is one of my all time favorite Christmas movies “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I love this movie for so many reasons. I love the star of the film, Jimmy Stewart. I love the story, the characters and the setting. I especially love the message of the movie that every person’s life is important and has value. Each of us touch the lives of so many others often unseen and unknown to us.

But today, I am reflecting on the message this movie teaches about prayer. One of my favorite parts of this film is the very beginning where the people of Bedford Falls are praying for George Bailey. I love how the movie shows these prayers being heard in Heaven and then answered when Clarence the angel is sent to help George during his time of crisis.

I was impressed that these people did not just pray and then leave it to Heaven to help George. They prayed for God’s help and then did everything they could to help him on their own. It was not just Clarence the angel that was answering these prayers. He had the help of George’s friends and family.

I love this movie and the message that it shares. I know that just as Heaven heard and answered the prayers of the people of Bedford Falls, our Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers too.

I am grateful for this knowledge. I am grateful that I know that even when we are facing our darkest and most difficult times, we can pray and He will always be there to answer.

Sometimes these answers will come through angels sent from above and sometimes they will come through angels that we call friends.

Posted in Prayer | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

My Gift

This is the last weekend before Christmas. For the past several years, this has traditionally been the weekend that I have traveled to Texas to visit my mother and deliver her Christmas presents. This year, my mother is in Heaven, not Texas, and on this, my first Christmas without her, I have been feeling a bit lost.

This is the first Christmas that I can remember not giving her a gift, and I have struggled a bit because of this. I like to think that she is watching over me from Heaven. So I have been pondering what I could possibly do from here below to still give her a gift this year.

My mother taught me so many things through her words and through her example. She taught me to work hard. She taught me compassion and empathy. She taught me to love and to serve others. So, this year, I will give her the gift of trying my best to live my life the way that she taught me to—the way that she lived hers.

As I reflected on this, I thought about the first Christmas gift, given over 2000 years ago. On that very first Christmas, our Heavenly Father gave us the gift of His son, our Savior.

The Savior then gave us the gift of His life, His teachings and His example. He lived a perfect life of love, compassion and service and then freely gave His life for us. Because He did, I know that I can return to live with Him again… I know that I will see my mother again.

I am so very grateful for my Savior and for the great gift that He has given to me. This year, and every year, I will try harder to follow His example—to love as He loved, to serve as He served, and to live as He lived.

Living my life for Him, will be my gift to Him.

Posted in Christmas | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Objects in the Rear View Mirror are Closer than they Appear

I spend a lot of time driving. Commuting back and forth to work five days a week racks up a lot of miles and translates into a lot of hours spent behind the wheel.

I consider myself, for the most part, to be a friendly, courteous driver. I slow down to let people merge onto the highway or into my lane. I try to get out of the way of someone who wants to drive faster than I am. I use my turn signals and maintain a safe distance from the car in front of me.

I also consider myself, for the most part, to be a fairly kind and understanding driver. I try to remind myself that there are blind spots and other factors that cause some drivers to attempt to share my lane. There are medical and other emergencies that cause some people to drive at dangerous speeds. I remind myself that we are all human and we all make mistakes.

I try to remember all these things, but I have to admit that sometimes it is still difficult. Sometimes, when other drivers tailgate or come close to running me off the road, I get irritated and feel anything but kind and understanding.

One morning this week, while I was driving to work, a car began to pull into my lane. As the car got dangerously close, I noticed that it was a car very much like the one my daughter drives. I wondered how differently my feelings toward this driver would be if she were my daughter. Would I, instead of anger, feel concern? Would I worry about the cause of her actions instead of attributing blame? As I pondered these questions, the irritation that I had begun to feel for this driver instantly vanished.

For the remainder of my drive to work, I tried to remind myself that the other drivers were all someone’s daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. When they did something that would normally cause me to be angry or frustrated, I tried instead to be patient and considerate. I tried my best to give them and their actions the benefit of the doubt. As I did, I found myself becoming more courteous and friendly and less stressed and irritated.

Later that day as I reflected on the experience, I wondered how different my daily commute might be if everyone treated the other drivers as if they were someone they loved and cared for.

How different might the world be if we extended this to include not only those we share our drive with but also those we share our walk through life with each day?

Posted in Kindness | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment