Rooted Around a Rock

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Have you ever seen a full-grown tree whose roots wriggle across a rock outcropping or wrap around a huge boulder?

In the Maine woods, one of the most fascinating phenomena is the tree that is rooted in or around or atop a rock. Often a boulder. Or a large outcropping of granite. The rock crust of our earth is close to the surface here and our landscape lives in accordance with its terrain.

Above-ground roots are as well protected by bark as the rest of the above-ground tree. That jumped out at me when I saw these white birch roots — every bit as “birch bark” as the tree above.

Rock-wrapping roots are still the tree’s anchors to earth. The rock itself is part of what the tree experiences as supportive earth. If you had a magic rock-dissolving elixer, the tree would teeter on its root tippytoes, with no adequate support for its core. If you tried to remove the rock with an earth mover, you’d sever the tree’s roots, creating a rock-free log, not a living tree. When a tree is full grown on top of a rock, the rock must remain as part of the tree’s life.

For those of us whose lives are full of rocky moments, the full lives of these trees are inspiring. They were born to difficulty and they have overcome difficulty. That means if God has designed you as a tree, you can grow to amazing heights rooted in a field of boulders.

Maybe it’s time to reconsider whether the parable of the sower is the best way to think about all our life struggles. The sower, you remember, lost much of his crop to rocky soil where the seed “sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root” (Matt. 13: 5-6).

The trees I found on top of Maine’s granite boulders are survivors. They have found ways to root, despite their inhospitable ground. And from them, I see that some rocks can even help keep us upright. Like these trees, perhaps we can “place our feet on the rock” of our own challenging lives– as well on as the Rock who supports us all — and find there a “firm place to stand.”

Weird Research: Take 2 Aspirin, Feel Less Lonely in the Morning

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Part of why lonely people remain alone is because the physical impact of loneliness — inflammation, in particular — makes them irritable and hard to get along with, researchers suggest. Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Some of you know I’m working on a book for Herald Press about best ways for Christians to support people (like me!) who live with mental health diagnoses. I keep running across fascinating stuff in my research. This week: a report by AARP that describes using painkillers to assist people who are lonely.

Loneliness is epidemic in the US, and was long before COVID forced many of us into physical distancing from each other. It seems that the psychic experience of loneliness shows up in the body as inflammation and a surge in white blood cells seeking to attack the loneliness threat. But when the body reads “threat!” the psyche is less able to do relationships effectively.

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Escaping the Dark Closet of Suicide Grief

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May 15-17 is the National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope and Life, designated as a time to pray for those like me who have survived the suicide death of someone we care about. Find my reflections on opening the door to grief at The Perennial Generation.

Today’s Biblical ‘Bucket List’ for COVID 19

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Maybe it’s just me, but I like having a “bucket list.”

Every year, instead of making resolutions, I make a bucket list of goals to give my year meaning and purpose. That way, I know what I want to get done, not what I’m going to strain to avoid doing. And I also know, on a given day, that I can choose among a whole bunch of things I care about accomplishing. Some have deadlines. Many call for weekly progress. But they’re goal focused, not deprivation focused. And that makes it much easier for me to keep going toward the purposes that give my life meaning.

Indoor enjoyment. Image by khamkhor from Pixabay
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The Beautiful Burls in My Brain

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Science teaches us that our life experiences are reflected in changing brain structures. Trauma creates enduring damage, they believe, even over multiple generations, but our brain’s ability to continue changing (“neuroplasticity”) can help us find recovery to a “healthy” brain norm.

But what if the way that distressing experiences affect us is more akin to growing protective burls in our brains? If that’s the case, trauma may make us unfit for cheap, ordinary use but ultimately far more valuable in the hands of those who know how to work with our unusual beauty.

The artist who created this astonishing burlwood bowl used semiprecious turquoise and malachite in resin to fill cracks and splits in the original wood. Image from Pinterest; artist unknown.
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How Will COVID Change Us?

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Clutter is Good Again: Finding Security in the Stuff We’re Saving

Last week, I was talking with a younger friend (via Zoom, of course) about how COVID 19 might change our lives going forward. The changes are likely to be big: many expect the impact on Americans now living might compare to the impact of the Great Depression or World War II.

Extreme thrift is one of the habits Americans in those generations learned.

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