What is manly?

What is manly?

I’ve recently been in conversations about manliness and masculinity, which has me thinking about roles and stereotypes.  Like…

Real men don’t cook or clean…

Gordon Ramsey, Chef
Mr. Clean

Real men don’t wear jewelry…


Ream men don’t wear make-up…

Karowai Tribe, Papua New Guinea

Real men never cry…

Iron Eyes Cody

Real men don’t have long hair…


Real men don’t like to share their feelings…

Soldier writing home from battle field

Real men aren’t into poetry…

King David – warrior, harpist, and author of many Psalms

Real men are independent…

U.S. Marines raising flag over Iwo Jima, World War II

Real men aren’t into artsy stuff…

Workers on Mount Rushmore

Real men aren’t affectionate…

Super Bowl LII champs, LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long 

Real men don’t dance…

Na Kamalei: The Men of Hula

Real men never show weakness…


Clear enough?

Predictable Growth

Predictable Growth

Though I’ve attempted growing bonsai trees for more than a decade, my botanical interests have expanded in recent years.  Last year, I added cactus and succulents.  Six months ago, I added orchids.


Besides the beauty they bring to my home, I’m fascinated by the daily growth, development and changes.  Especially in the Spring, I can discover a new sprout, bud, or bloom every time I look.

Just this week, some of my orchids have started blooming, and others are getting close.  The Desert Roses I pruned and repotted, are just beginning to show signs of new growth.  The bougainvillea, that looked sickly last month, are blooming.


Given the right amount of sunlight, water, fertilizer, pruning and care, plants grow and blossom in fairly predictable ways.  Barring strange weather, or insects, or disease, plants bloom when they’re supposed to bloom and bear fruit when they’re supposed to bear fruit.


My life doesn’t seem nearly as predictable.  My growth, development, and fruitfulness seems much more random and sporadic.  Sometimes, when I want to grow, I feel like I’m hopelessly fallow.  Then, other times, growth sprouts unexpectedly, unpredictably.  In either situation, I certainly don’t see signs of new growth on a daily basis.

But, if I’m honest, my personal seasons and rhythms of care aren’t nearly as consistent as my gardening.  I see what my plants need, and do it.  They’re watered, on a schedule.  They’re fertilized, regularly.  Pruning and trimming is performed as needed.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in that.  If I want to see more regular growth and development in myself, I need to schedule more purposeful and intentional routine in my life.  Could it be that fruitfulness in humans is just as predictable as in plants, if we’re attentive to the seasonality of our own needs for care, nourishment, and pruning?


Pulling Weeds

Pulling Weeds

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”  C.S. Lewis

I grow bonsai trees – little trimmed trees in little pots.  Though I’m only an amateur, I confess I’m obsessed.  I have juniper, adenium, cypress, spruce, crepe myrtle, sea grape, rain tree, acacia, box wood, ficus, mandarin orange, bougainvillea, buttonwood, fukien tea, podocarpus, joboticaba, calliandra, holly, escombron, aralia, elm, and a few others, whose names are escaping me.

As Spring approaches, they’ve needed some extra care – pruning, trimming, repotting, fertilizing, etc.  But, the care I enjoy the least is the tedious work of weeding.

I don’t know where the weeds come from.  I mix the soil myself.  I keep them in a screened-in porch.  How do they get in there?

Wherever their origin, they spring up suddenly, and in abundance!  If I’m not careful to pay close attention, they can sprout up quickly, and become larger than the bonsai tree, itself!

Besides being unsightly (after all, with bonsai, aesthetics is the whole deal!), weeds can actually harm the tree.  Since the trees are growing in small pots, without much soil, the weeds compete with the tree for water and soil nutrients.  I actually have a tree in distress, because I hadn’t noticed some weeds that popped up out of nowhere, before they did their damage.

And, the job of weeding is so tedious.  It’s critical to pull the weed out by the root, or the weed will grow back.  But the weed’s roots tend to intertwine with the roots of the tree, making weed eradication a challenge.  Weeding requires going slow and using tools to gently pull each individual weed.  Even then, it’s impossible to get them all.

Weeds are a pretty good metaphor for my life.  When I’m not paying attention, weeds can unexpectedly pop up, crowding into my life, sapping energy and vitality.  Sometimes weeds are bad habits.  Sometimes weeds are unhealthy emotions.  Sometimes weeds are negative, self-defeating thoughts.  Sometimes weeds are painful memories.  Sometimes weeds are sin.

If I’m not careful, weed roots can grow deep, and entangle my soul.

So, I have to pull my metaphorical weeds too.  And, I think the weeds growing in my soul are even more tedious and challenging, and sometimes more painful to pull, than the weeds growing with my bonsai.  But, if I don’t pull them, they’ll just keep growing and growing and growing.  They’ve got to go before that happens.

Pulled any weeds lately?

An Embarrassment of Riches…

An Embarrassment of Riches…

I’d never heard that idiom before today – “an embarrassment of riches.”  But, it perfectly apropos for today.

But, first, a backstory.

A couple of weeks back, I saw an ad for 4 large bonsai trees for $90.  Frankly, the pictures didn’t look great.  But, the pots were large, and the trees looked like they had potential with a little love and care – and a lot of pruning.  The pots alone were worth more than $90.  But, I really didn’t have $90 to spend.  I inquired, and was told that I could have them for $70.  I agreed and made arrangements to come the following day.  By the following morning, I received a message saying, if I was stilling coming, I could have then for $60.  I did have $60.  And, I was already planning to buy them.

The only problem was that I was going to need to drive an hour to get them – which in South Florida is not that unusual.  But, still far.

About mid-way to the place of purchase, I received a call from the owner, saying that some of the trees MAY have already been sold.  I think that’s what she said.  She had a very thick accent that was difficult for me to understand.  She said she would call when she knew.  I told her I was half-way to her, but that I would wait at the next exit.  It turns out that she had also sent me a text, saying that all four trees might have been sold, but she wasn’t sure.

I waited.  I waited.  I got gas.  I waited.  I walked around Home Depot.  I waited.

Did I mention that these trees didn’t really look that great?

Finally, she texted me:  “Sorry.  The trees are sold.”

I was ticked.  I was ticked that I had wasted time and gas.  I was ticked I had missed out on a good deal.  And, I was a little ticked with myself for being ticked.

Did I mention that I really didn’t need them, anyway?

Fast forward to today.

I had the day off.  I noticed an ad yesterday, that someone was giving away some plants – for free! – some of which could be used for bonsai.  I could tell by the ad that this person knew his plants (he named the species) and that he loved them (he used the word “adopt” in reference to taking his plants.  He also required an email, explaining why I wanted to the plants, and that I had adequate knowledge to take care of the plants.  I explained that I work with bonsai, and that I am new to South Florida, and that I would like to work with some of his material, if he would be willing to trust me with it.

We exchanged emails and texts, and arranged a meeting time.  But, before I arrived he called me to let me know he was home and ready.  He also said that, in addition to the plants he was giving me, he was going to give me all of his old bonsai pots.  He used to grow bonsai trees, but had given away his entire collection the previous year, due to health limitations.  But, he still had a few pots and he was giving them to me – for FREE!

I walked away with over 20 pots of plants – really, REALLY nice plants! – and about 30 nice bonsai pots.  All in all, he gave me way over $500 worth of stuff – not to mention a really nice conversation and some great plant tips.  And, he even offered me more, and told me to come back!

As I am riding home, with my Toyota CR-V packed with plants and pots, I heard someone on the radio say something about “an embarrassment of riches.”  I wasn’t only struck by the turn of phrase.  I also recognized that I was the unexpected recipient of “an embarrassment of riches” today.

A couple of weeks ago, I felt like a victim because I was inconvenienced and because something I wanted – sort of – was SOLD to someone else.  Today, I received at least 10 times as much – and more – for FREE!

The biggest lessons I learned today was generosity and gratitude.  I know my new friend HAD to give his stuff away to someone.  He just can’t take care of all of it anymore.  But, still, I hope I will be as generous when I have the opportunity!  And, I am grateful.

Anybody need a plant?

Waiting for Signs of Growth

Waiting for Signs of Growth

I grow bonsai trees.

In South Florida, some kinds of trees grow year round.  Some never lose their leaves or foliage.  But, some, need an annual period of dormancy – typically, the winter (though, we don’t get much of a winter in South Florida!).

During the holidays, I visited a bonsai store in Orlando, where I have purchased a number of trees.  This time, there was a gorgeous, mature, specimen Bald Cypress bonsai.  It was already dormant, but had a beautiful, well defined shape.  I loved it.  I knew I couldn’t afford it, but I had to ask anyway.  I think the price was about $1000, which was about 4 times more than what I had guessed, and at least $950 more than I could afford.

Knowing I wasn’t going to spend $1000, the store owner (who is also a friend), pointed out a smaller Bald Cypress, in a plastic pot, that could be trained to become a bonsai – eventually – for a lot less money.  It, too, was already dormant – basically just a stick in a pot.  But, it had potential – sort of.  And, it was affordable.  And, I’m a compulsive bonsai-ist.  So, I bought it.

I brought it home, put it in a nice bonsai pot, wired the bare branches, and waited, and waited, and waited.  For four months I’ve waited for some sign of growth.  Honestly, I’ve wondered if I’d killed it.

Earlier this week, I saw the first sprouts of new, green growth.  There’s not much to see yet.  But, there’s enough to show me that the tree is alive and well, and that the potential I saw when I bought it might still become reality – eventually.  That potential will take many years, through many seasons of growth and dormancy.  It may never be as impressive as the $1000 tree – I can almost guarantee that.  I may even kill it, as I have too many other trees with “potential.”

But, for now, I see signs of growth.  Growth means life.  New growth means future possibility.

As a Christ-follower, I also believe we are called to continuously grow and develop.  There have been seasons in my life where growth has been obvious.  But, more often than not, I have trouble seeing it.  At least in my own eyes, I’m often like that dormant bonsai tree.

Several years ago, during Lent, I prayed for God to show me the areas of my life that still need growth, and to help me do it.  I felt a very strong impression that God was telling me to trust him with the growth, and that my job was just to stay close to him.  Like Paul said, “Only God makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

Just like that dormant tree, I can’t force the growth.  My job is to water it (the tree – not me), fertilize it, keep it in the sunshine, and be patient.  Growth will come if the tree is properly cared for.  Similarly, my job – spiritually – is to keep pursuing my relationship with Jesus, my knowledge of his Word, and to keep weeding out the stuff that gets in the way.

Nevertheless, I watch and wait for signs of new growth to come in my life – for the potential that is yet to be developed.  I may only be a stick in a plastic pot, now – metaphorically speaking, of course – but someday I could be that $1000 specimen!

Seen any signs of growth in your life lately?