J.R.R. Tolkien, in his book “The Fellowship of the Ring” writes,
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.
We are all familiar with the opening lines of this poem: All that is gold does not glitter/Not all those who wander are lost…and while I like those lines, I am more drawn to the words of the poem that speak to me…
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
And that is my thought for today. As we are coming into the autumn months (my most favorite time of the year), and I feel the world is slowly slowing down, heading into winter, I like to slow down and rest in these darker days and breathe in the cold, crisp air.
As I was thinking about this idea I had to ask myself, do I have deep roots that are not reached by the frost? And I believe that frost can be whatever issue you struggle with, whether it is your issue with anger or wrath, selfishness or greed, laziness or idleness, overweening pride or arrogance, or (for some) the allure of lust or desire, envy or jealousy and gluttony (or what we would call greed). As you can tell, I’ve gone through what is considered the seven deadly sins, which are also known as “…the capital vices or cardinal sins,[which] is a classification that has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct concerning fallen humanity…” (Wikipedia) So the idea of frost for my thought today is anything that is in your life that may be seen as a surface issue but is deep within your soul; that takes you off the path you need to follow, or if you don’t learn to control it, it will wreck your life.
What I see is that there are a lot of people who seem strong on the outside, but when the storms of life rip into them they crumble and fall. Sometimes they fall neatly to pieces and sometimes they just fall apart losing it all with no way to recover because they had no roots deep enough to anchor them in the storm.
Last week, I admit my show on Turn Yourself Around might have been a little tough with my admonition to turn yourself around if you’re headed in the wrong direction…. it’s just that I hate to see good people make wrong decisions when a little clear thinking and a strong root base of moral consciousness could pull them back onto the right path for a lifetime of success.
And let me say that, when I speak to you, I am speaking to myself, and I (like many of you) hope and pray that I don’t make a bone-headed decision and fall. I cling to the line, There, but by the grace of God, go I.
Ah, friend, deep roots are not reached by the frost. And that is my thought for today, because I believe it is an issue we need to address today and every day, if we want to make good decisions that will leave a legacy and will hold us safe and sound when the winter winds bring the snow and frost into our lives.
I am blessed to live in the South. I had a few years in upstate New York when I was a child, but even then I did not like cold weather, and I am not a fan of snow and ice. So when I think about the directive that deep roots are not reached by the frost it is a reminder for me to grow deep with strength and power—as any plant or tree would do, to reach deep down for water and sustenance so it can be nourished and hold strong when the winds of life blow against it.
The way we hold strong against hard times, and without a doubt I believe we are seeing the hard times in real time in America today, is that we need to anchor onto the values that we believe hold us to a higher standard than what we are seeing in the world today—values that for some reason seem to be forgotten, or ignored or just set aside in our words and actions.
I’m very concerned about what I consider the vulgarity of people with their words and language. Add to this that it seems we’re becoming a lawless society that calls good, evil, and evil, good; frankly, I am concerned for our kids and our elderly population in the world that they will grow up or grow old in if we don’t re-direct our sails and get back on track with respect for our elders, the law and our government.
A while back I spoke on having a moral compass—the idea that you have the ability to judge what is right and wrong and act accordingly. Your moral compass should function as a guide for morally appropriate behavior. (Definitions are from the dictionary)…and that guide shows its worth when you stand against the frost of your loser friends, your dishonest boss or the world at large, because you have—either by education or upbringing—let your roots grow so deep that they are not reached by the damaging frost of those around you who are not going in the same direction.
In order for you to survive the winters of life, let me share a few ideas to help you grow in the quiet season.
The first is, think about the values that define you.
Think about the value you place on others.
Think about how to live your values daily.
So what are the values that define you? Most of us would say honesty, fairness, maybe kindness and generosity. Those are all great ideals that we can strive for, but at your core have you thought about what do you really believe? Do you really think we are all equal? Do you think that your actions don’t have consequences? Or do you think you can get by doing little with the expectation of receiving a lot. Only you know what really is in your heart. I know that many people overinflate their ideal values—it’s just human nature to think of ourselves first—and that’s probably fine if it is balanced with reality and reason. For myself, as I have matured in life and have made it through some hard times, I have established the values that I hold dear enough to stand for in good times and bad, and those are values that I believe in—that define me—when I am in public or in my private life. We all have values; it is in the standing or holding on or persevering during the frost that defines us.
How about the value you place on others? In a May 1994, an article in The Atlantic, titled “The Code of the Streets,” sociologist Elijah Anderson points out the sad and backward reasoning of today: “The extent to which one person can raise himself up depends on his ability to put another person down.”
As heartbreaking as that statement is, it’s true in today’s society. You see it in the news daily, or at your office or with your friends. And, since it is true, it plays out against itself in heartbreaking ways. See, if we placed value on others, we’d see the world in a different way—a way that I believe would allow for safety and security for all of us vs. the fear and disruption that seems to plague our families, our cities and the world. If your roots are deep enough, the frost of dismissiveness or jealousy or hatred of others will never seep down into your roots or, better stated, your values, when it comes to others.
So how do you live your values daily? Some would say they are considerate or kind or generous—and that’s great—continue on doing “…all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” (John Wesley)
I would just ask that you consider taking it one step further with my favorite quote,
Live in such a way that if anyone should speak badly of you no one would believe it.
That is living your values daily for others to see and believe and then, hopefully, follow and emulate in their own lives.
Deep roots are not reached by the frost—they don’t let the winds of drama and current situations change them, they don’t bend or break—they grow strong and deep to hold fast when the winter comes and goes and spring awakens them to a new day to bloom where they are planted.