What We Can Learn From Wally, Part 3

In this, the last of 3 posts about Wally, a Mexican-American friend of mine while I attended New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1968 and 69. I knew he was a neat guy alright, but I did not yet know where he gained his nourishment, where his roots were. In my short visit to his home in Cuba, New Mexico, I found out. I cherish the memory. Now, in this third and last post about the weekend, shall we continue (sticking with the tree metaphor) where we left off from my last post on what we can learn from Wally:

I must tell you about the bed. Have you ever experienced a massive feather mattress with multiple feather quilts lying on top? I hadn’t. We climbed in and sank, only to be swallowed up by this hungry bed. I mean, you don’t lie on a bed like this, the bed’s feather mattress shallows you whole so that the feather quilts lay perfectly flat on top of the bed. There was absolutely no evidence that anyone was actually in the bed, and forget about rolling over. We were like mummies all in a row.

That night I heard the pack rats. I gazed at the stars glistening in a clear black sky…framed by the missing shingles of an old roof. It was cold and the feather quilts were most welcomed; I had never experienced anything like this before. I was a “city-slicker” now in this poor mountain environment, with this awesome family; it was wonderful! I felt really blessed. The next morning, we had snow, which had no trouble finding its way into the cabin, piled upon our feather quilts. Snow! No plumbing…I had to go to the bathroom! Everything was a new adventure.

The rest of the short weekend visit was as the first part, awesome, what a family! I reflected on what an experience I just had as we drove back across New Mexico to Las Cruces. This, the poorest family I had ever encountered from a monetary point of view, was actually the richest family I had had the good pleasure to experience. I found out why Wally was such a good guy, such a warm spirit; it was that his roots which had found nourishment in his family and in his faith. His mom and dad clearly were fine mature trees, having the proper structure and root system. Wally was a good tree from which I had received beneficial shade and shelter on a wonderful weekend.

Growth: Are you searching for better nourishment?

As tree roots perform the tasks of food acquisition and delivery to the tree trunk, they also provide the structural support to resist wind storms pushing against the tree. The roots also resist the overturning by the cantilevered weight of the branch growth of a healthy tree. As a branch grows out, it is in search for life giving light. Light is the engine that powers the tree; light is critical to a healthy tree.

A person’s roots are the same. No matter where the tree grows, your roots provide for the nourishment of the soul. It does not matter if you grow in the desert of the urban slums or the desert of an area of affluence or within the lushness in the region of a loving family. Following the tree metaphor, you are engaged in a search for light. Many seem to look for their light in all the wrong places; in other people, in sex, in drugs, a booze bottle, or their work. The true light is only found in Jesus Christ.

Roots in rocky ground produce dry blinded amoral selfishness, which most often hurts everyone. The person that comes to his or her senses will actually wish to search for something better in life. At some point any soil is going to be better than rocks. So now, could this soil, let’s call it “regular ground”, be the ticket to happiness and fulfillment?

One should ask, what does “regular” mean? Regular to what? Regular to a nun in an isolated convent would be grossly different from regular to a member of a street gang. Whose definition should we use for what is to be considered regular? Regular, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is something that is “constituted, conducted, or done in conformity with established or prescribed usages, rules or discipline.” Rats, we are back to what the culture tells us is regular; what if the culture is off track or worse yet, wrong all together? A wrong datum or benchmark produces wrong information and a grossly wrong reality.

Do we follow the majority consensus? Or do we follow in the words of Robert Frost in his poem, “The Road Less Traveled”; that is, take a different road – a less traveled road that has made all the difference? The Bible tells us that the road to hell and destruction is wide and crowded, but to find real life in Christ, you must enter the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13+14).

So what then is your “regular ground”? Where have you found nourishment? What do you feed on? Is your ground fertilized with E! on television, or the written manure of Cosmopolitan Magazine or worse yet, The Star? Or, do you feed on the Bible? Which text has the best food? That is…the most long lasting nourishment? Which produces the most worry and envy? Which produces the most peace? Which shows how you are loved? Which heaps the most burdens on you to be perfect as prescribed by the culture? Which shows you how to love? Which shows you selfishness? Which shows you how to be concerned with self instead of with others? Which shows the most grace and which shows the most vanity?

When I was very young, maybe ten or twelve years old, I had the feeling that I was not alone. I’m not talking about family and friends; I’m speaking of a feeling of a higher power. I felt that “something” was going on from a religious point of view. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I needed to find out. During my youth, my family did not attend church on a regular basis. Our attendance was better than the “Christmas and Easter only families,” but not much better. We attended an Episcopal church in Oklahoma City. The church service, one I like to call “high church,” was filled with cool ritual, though not as much as the Catholics. I loved it. There was a hymn before the sermon during which all the children had to leave the Sanctuary and go to Sunday School, I mean to play school. When I attended, there was no “school” in our Sunday School. It was strictly playtime. I would beg Mom and Dad to let me stay so I could hear the priest’s sermon. It moved me; it filled me but I knew there was much more. In comparison, it was only a sip of sweet wine. But it was indeed a big fat taste of the good stuff. As the Spirit started to fill me over the next 25 years, I came to understand how empty I truly was; but more importantly, I came to realize how much I was loved by Jesus!

I set up a footlocker in my clothes closet with a table cross, a couple of candles and a Bible. As an early “closet Christian,” I knew something or someone was talking to me and I wanted to know more. It was a miracle that I never caught my clothes on fire with my candles in my closet; my parents never knew or maybe just didn’t think about the risk of a kid in a closet full of clothes with a candle. Perhaps I was protected by the Holy Spirit, about whom I was just learning.

I was baptized by sprinkling as an infant and later confirmed in the Episcopal church and became an acolyte. I loved it; it moved me. I still didn’t know much but, of course, Saint Paul once said similar words (1 Cor. 13:9). It didn’t matter to me as “let the little children come to Me” rang in my ears (Matt. 19:14).

There are some Protestant denominations that believe your change by the Holy Spirit is immediate; they talk about knowing the exact time you were saved and received the Holy Spirit. If you can’t name the day and the hour, many believe you are not saved. Hogwash! While there can indeed be immediate change like that, I don’t believe it happens that immediate way to the majority of Christians. Of course, I would never limit the Holy Spirit in how He elects to act. Most Christians grow in the Spirit over time as they mature (Ephesians 4:13) as they come to personally know Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:13) and become a Child of God and a joint heir to the Kingdom of God.

Growth is a wonderful thing! Are you doing it? Are you searching for better nourishment or are you fighting against Jesus by making up some ridiculous argument? It is an insane argument for those wishing to reject God and the Church, by spewing the worn out cliché that the church is full of hypocrites, as if there are no hypocrites outside the church. At least we Christians know we are sick and where to find the one and only doctor that can save us, Christ Jesus (Mark 2:17)! My belief remains that you doubters of Christ are sick much more than we; my hope is that you too will desire to seek the only proper medicine, the only proper nourishment available to you. It is my firm prayer that you come join us instead of fighting us.

Metaphor: You are a Tree, what Nourishment are your Roots taking in?

What do you do with another chance? If you are smart, you will not do the same dumb thing that created your last nose-dive. Oh, I had already tried that dead-end street earlier in my own life…I wasn’t smart…then. I found my roots taking hold in better ground and they were taking in some good nourishment – still not the best, but certainly good.

As tree roots perform the tasks of food acquisition and delivery to the tree trunk, they also provide the structural support to resist wind storms pushing against the tree. The roots also resist the overturning by the cantilevered weight of the branch growth of a healthy tree. As a branch grows out, it is in search for life giving light. Light is the engine that powers the tree; light is critical to a healthy tree.

A person’s roots are the same. No matter where the tree grows, your roots provide for the nourishment of the soul. It does not matter if you grow in the desert of the urban slums or the desert of an area of affluence or within the lushness in the region of a loving family.

As a tree, you are engaged in a search for light. Many seem to look for their light in all the wrong places; in other people, in sex, in drugs, a booze bottle, or their work. The true light is only found in Jesus Christ.

Roots in rocky ground produce dry blinded amoral selfishness, which most often hurts everyone. The person that comes to his or her senses will actually wish to search for something better in life. That search might just lead them to better soil to improve their growth if they stay on path. You must want to find better nourishment, and the pain of your present condition usually spawns “the want”. At some point any soil is going to be better than rocks. So now, could this so-called regular ground be the ticket to happiness and fulfillment?

One should ask, what does “regular” mean? Regular to what? Regular to a nun in an isolated convent would be grossly different from regular to a member of a street gang. Whose definition should we use for what is to be considered “regular”? Regular, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is something that is “constituted, conducted, or done in conformity with established or prescribed usages, rules or discipline.” Rats, we are back to what the culture tells us is regular; what if the culture is off track or worse yet, wrong all together? A wrong datum or benchmark produces wrong information and a grossly wrong reality.

Do we follow the majority consensus? Or do we follow in the words of Robert Frost in his poem, “The Road Less Traveled”; that is, take a different road – a less traveled road that has made all the difference? The Bible tells us that the road to hell and destruction is wide and crowded, but to find real life in Christ, you must enter the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13+14).

A Child of the Sixties Compares with the Culture Today

In the sixties, we had parents too full of themselves to parent properly – just like today. In the sixties, we had bullies and hazing – just like today. In the sixties, we had classmates that would tease and do pranks on each other – just like today.

So, what is the difference between then and now? The situation is clearly shown in Marybeth Hicks’ article entitled, “A Sad True Story Shows Morality Lacking,” published March 22, 2012. It is a story about two young university freshmen roommates, one spied on his roommate and published a webcam video over the Internet of his roommate’s gay sexual encounter, which drove him to end his life by jumping off a bridge. The insensitive spy got 10 years in prison; a great way to begin a life wouldn’t you say? Every college campus these days should absolutely be considered rocky ground.

In the sixties, we had child suicides, drugs and drug overdoses – just like today. So, what is the difference between then and now? The answer is found in the sense that life has no meaning. Often we see children lacking a sense of life and death and what death actually is; many times believing there is no value in whether they exist or not, so who cares? Many children believe their parents don’t care; and with the breakdown of the nuclear family unit, many children feel on their own. The ease of getting in and out of marriage, the lack of penalty of failure, and the freedom many welcome for “alternative coupling” is destroying much more than is currently being realized. Future generations will be paying the price for a long time. Children coming out of this abyss lack sensitivity and self-esteem, which reveals itself in the extreme level of coarseness, brutality and selfishness we see today! It is indeed very rocky ground.

Now common language for adults and young children as young as a single digit in age (and even used on television commercials) is the use of the word “freaking” or “fricking.” You have to be totally unobservant not to know that the word “freaking” has become a socially acceptable replacement for the F-bomb! We see the wide-spread use of the WTF acronym for “what the f___.” Who are they kidding? Because it isn’t the actual word, it is okay? I don’t care; the word is a most ugly symbol. If you know how the symbolic word is intended, then it too has all the ugly coarseness of the original “hidden word.” Our speech makes a big difference in who we are.

But Haven, those of you old enough to know would say, in the sixties there was a lack of morality while coarseness and selfishness became the norm. Yes, true, but back then we knew there was a right and a wrong; we knew a decision had to be made to be bad or to be good, and the decision had nothing to do with “feelings.” There clearly was a line in the sand; we knew when it was crossed. We knew it was wrong to cuss. Oh, people used profanity, but it was not every day normal speech as we see today. It was consciously used by decision to be explosive and only used for impact. We talked politely to girls; never would we have talked so-called “boy talk” to a girl. Today, the “girl talk” is just as ugly and filthy as any gutter-mouthed boy.

If you wish to be a better person, you must gain our nourishment in more fertile ground…ground found in the Bible. There are indeed absolutes…absolute right and wrong. Decision-making is not relative to your own definitions; there are ramifications to our behavior. Our culture is becoming more rocky, and we know that a tree grows all twisted, dry and ugly in rocking ground.