This is the time of year when all the plantings in the Spring have grown to their fullest beauty, and when what I see rolled out for me like a carpet of color and texture feeds every one of my senses. This is the time of year when I delight in drinking it all in, marveling at how the Gardener allowed me to partner with him to make it soo lovely! Honestly though. I may have cooperated with him, but I certainly didn’t do the Lion’s share of the work in spite of my sore muscles and dirty fingernails. What I see on display before me was originally nested deep within the mystery of the seed, burrowed deep within the cultivated ground, springing forward in sprout and plant at just the right moment, a gift for me to enjoy!
I may plant seeds, and fertilize and water them, but I’m not the One Who fashioned these little dynamos of creation, nor am I Maestro of the orchestra that brings about rich growth and glorious bloom. I may mix nutrients into the soil and hope to have the right combination, but I didn’t create the soil, nor do I really fully understand the chemistry of how all the molecules come together to produce fine fertile ground for abundant growth. I may water, but the composition of water is not of my design, nor is how this fascinating clear substance that somehow nurtures sprouting and multiplication, dropping from weightless clouds in heavy pearls into the welcoming terra firma. I’m not the one that decides a tomato seed must grow into a tomato plant rather than a sycamore tree, or an apple seed into an apple tree rather than a hibiscus.
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
(Colossian 1: 16, New International Version)
And for that matter, I didn’t create me. I didn’t fashion myself in my mummy’s womb, deciding on the color of my hair and eyes, and how many strands on my head and in my eyebrows there should be. I didn’t make sure that I should be daughter to this man and this woman, to be born on this date at this time, and grow up in this environment. I wasn’t consulted on how tall I should grow, how long I should live, what talents and gifts I should have to accomplish what purpose. Nope. That wasn’t me. That was and is all God. He synthesizes and symphonizes every single detail of me, of my life, and of my purpose. Some may call me a multi-tasker – God, though, takes it to a whole new level!
Oh friends! Just as he created each seed to produce sole and incomparable glory, and the proper conditions for them to grow in loveliness and nourish the world, so he created each of us entirely unique from one another, to each fully flourish as His child, and to flourish with one another, and most especially to flourish with Him! Just as each plant within its family, each family within the flower beds, each flower bed within the garden, and garden within the vast garden of the Gardener flourishes, so we within our space and time. Fully growing and blooming! And just Who, or who, do we decide to listen to in order to assist in that flourishing?
Fully flourish. Fully live. With Him. Can you imagine? As really you, as really me. That deep part of me that restlessly and excitedly bubbles up, that I interrupt and rush ahead of to fill by my own often misguided and driven desire. That me that I get distracted and side-tracked from, and I incorrectly assume and anticipate for. That me that is protected by warning signs that I often blissfully or defiantly ignore; that me that I head away from off on this detour, and from the very One who knows and calls me by name. What’s the bright and shiny thing over there? And there I go, attracted to glistening lights of promise, assuming that must be what I am cut out to be, wanting to be a daisy when I am really a rose bush, or a rose bush surmising I need this soil when it needs that. And what happens? Exhausted dissatisfaction. Missing something.
Listen, the whisper persists. You seek what is not meant for you, nor will you find what you seek apart from me. I have been deliberate in creating you, and have taken great care in fashioning every tiniest part of you. I have a perfect purpose and plan for you – that only you can fulfill, just as it is for each of my children. Yes! There is more! Much more within you, and to you, and for you that awaits than what you can possibly imagine. But only I know what you need. I know you. I know where you are. Be patient. Wait on Me. Yes – listen . Listen and risk, but also learn and return. Remember Whose you are and trust in the far superior ‘Best’ I have for you. I will bring you to the fulfillment of your deepest longing and being, fulfillment of spirit and soul and body and mind and purpose. Listen and learn from my Son while you venture out protected by my Love.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
(Matthew 11: 28-30, The Message)
Trust in the promises of our unseen God Who releases us from the ill-fitting, the grown-accustomed-to, the fallen-prey-and-bought-into! Trust in Him as we recover our unforced rhythms, as our yearnings are answered, as we walk and work with Jesus as He does the Lion’s share of re-centering our minds and reshaping our hearts! Lean heavily into Him as we step out of our lesser selves into our meant-to-be’s and come to grips with the reality that this world’s definition of “life” and “living” is not even the palest in comparison to His. Lift up our parched and exhausted hearts to Him, and rely on His strength to persist in undoing and untangling what I’ve sought out that has grown over, that has deformed and has suffocated the Tailor-made me. Recognize that what I need needs to come not from the created, but the Creator. Learn and know and there is real Life in His ways. Surrendering. Surrendering to the I AM my I am.
Oh Jesus, quickly come into the deep and private places of our souls and spirits, and reveal yourself, your most splendid Character and Love to us! Be our Maestro over our hearts and minds and souls and bodies! May your beauty sprout and grow to bless in unrestrained exuberance, and bless abundantly in this world! Help us to really, really trust You; to rise again and again to stay the course of transformation to the “me’s” You deliberately and excitedly created on purpose, and with a purpose. Reposition me in spirit and mind to be the most glorious rose, or daisy, or fern, or hosta, or whomever I am meant to be, growing where I’m meant to be!
Yes! I want Your beauty above to shine through me, through all of us, here below! I want that fullness and fulfillment you offer! And Father, that’s what I want for everyone!
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10, New International Version)
“Then Jesus told Simon, “Stop being afraid. From now on you will be catching people.” So when they brought the boats to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.”
(Luke 5:11, International Standard Version)
“Immediately the man could see again and began to follow Jesus, glorifying God. All the people saw this and gave praise to God.”
(Luke 18: 43, International Standard Version)
Soil and Seed
“Do you ever remember there being such unrest and turmoil when you were a kid?” my youngest son asked as he and his brother and I began our Scripture study together. My heart broke. To be honest, I can’t remember the groaning of the world being brought as close to me as it is for this generation that bravely battles for hope. I don’t remember such a preponderance of 24-hour news channels: the hour’s news in my day was at 6am, 6pm and 11pm. Our internet was the morning paper that spoke of events of days before with a smattering of heartwarming stories. Today we have newsfeeds that incessantly scream of the ugly side of humanity in its every facet. It would appear that hope is a preciously rare commodity these days! We need to dig deep to find good news and glad tidings that we insist must far outweigh the less-so! Save for a 30-second sound byte at the end of the broadcast, these rarely seem to see the light of day in the feverishly frenzied goal of garnering more views. We are doused and inundated with 24/7 communication that for now seems to seed hopelessness and continue to paint a very grim picture of the world, and human-far-from-kind within it.
And yet. As the boys and I continued to ponder this together; as we considered how thousands open up their homes in the midst of devastation, how many courageously step into the fray to watch over and care for the wounded in body and spirit, how even one supports and encourages and tends to another affected by an act of hate, it became clearer to us that hope is still out there even though we may see shadows.
And that made us think.
Have you ever taken a good look at packed flowerbeds, or even a bouquet of flowers? Do you remember the kaleidoscope tubes of childhood? Have you ever looked at a painting on the wall, or studied a photograph? Have you ever noticed that there are always shadows, thin strips or spots of black between petal and background, between bed and distant landscape? Smudges of shadow behind mountain, or scattered around a still-life? Do you remember how each jewel of rich color in those kaleidoscope tubes was framed by a very thin line of black?
Shadows. Darkness serving to bring color into sharper focus and greater intensity, to lift the subject matter up and out and give it dimension.
In photography, as much as in painting and other art forms, we are told that shadows add contrast and drama, and they help us to draw clearer focus on the content and composition. Each streak of color, each shape has more pop, and each pop reveals its form with greater clarity. Your eye is drawn to detail you wouldn’t otherwise see, texture that would be otherwise hidden. Shadows help to define an object. According to the Swiss painter Johannes Itten, “the contrast between light and dark is one of the most expressive and important means of composition.” (http://bit.ly/29SGanZ). Isn’t that interesting!
Yes, there is purpose to the shadows, to the smudges of charcoal and ink, and our Master
Artist, our Gardener uses our experiences within these cloudy places for good: to add to our definition, to add texture and highlighting dimension to our hearts and minds and souls. So, when we step out of the shadow to open up our hearts and homes, our time and resources with he or she who is affected by an act of hate or indifference – our jewel glistens and glows that much brighter. When someone extends a helping hand to us in the midst of our own troubles, an encouraging word or warm comforting hug of support – our jewel tones warm and shimmer that much more. When we renounce further seeping-in of the poison of hate, when we turn our backs on retaliation, when we move instead toward the Gardener to ask for His guidance and perspective – our jewel’s hue deepens in rich blaze.
The light shines in the darkness. But the darkness has not overcome the light.
(John 1: 5, New International Reader’s Version)
You know, if we consider whatever the form of kaleidoscope, be it the flowerbed or bloom, the vista or the portrait, the expansive measure and extent of color always far outweighs in intensity, magnitude and vastness than that of the darkness. We can thank our loving Gardener, our victorious Lord for that! And as we wait for His return, we can remain renewed, emboldened and triumphant in the obscurity. So then perhaps, just perhaps, shadow and various degrees of darkness are used for and are subservient to the good of our glow and undertones, for our texture, our shape and form, our composition. They are used in service of the ultimate shout of glory that explodes in the sparkling prism that is us, that radiates with the awe of His glory!
“Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. So don’t be afraid. The Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.”
(Joshua 1:9, International Children’s Bible)
God saw that the light was good. He separated the light from the darkness
(Genesis 1:4 , New International Reader’s Version)
Soil and Seed