Maintenance – Weak Spot

You know, I don’t remember watering or misting those flowers on the kitchen window sill. So what are all those lovely little iridescent bubbles doing on the leaves? The sunlight guided my eye to a barely visible, yet faint stream and I followed its trajectory to a small, barely visible pinprick hole in the neck of our faucet. How in heaven’s name did that happen – and when?

th-106Water is amazing isn’t it? What a treasure it is!  This clear, odourless liquid contains no protein or fibre or calories, and yet it is a potent life-source that is crucial to our well-being. It is the carrier of nutrients and the cleanser of waste. It regulates our body’s temperature and has the perfect blend of minute trace minerals that it picks up in the mystery of the hydrologic cycle – each point in which has deliberate design and purpose!

And its force! The power of the sea, of rapids, of a flood, of rain! There is no obstacle that isn’t eventually worn down or pushed aside. It will find crack and crevice, pin hole and pock, and its muscle will press in and through. All obstruction, all gap is overtaken sooner or later.

Clearly our faucet has a shortcoming in its construction, and the water has found it. I suppose I could ignore it and the implications for now. Patch it up and fix it properly later. Delay the inevitable. Hmmm. I think if I do, this minor inconvenience will literally swell into a much bigger fix-it job as it slowly rots the window sill, causing greater and greater damage to the frame. The cost of repairing or replacing a faucet is far more affordable than replacing a window and its frame!

Weak spots.  Much like this faucet, there are most certainly weak spots within the fabric of my being that, if left unattended and untreated, will eventually be exploited by the enemy of my spirit to produce a pinprick hole in my assembly that will decrease the effectiveness of the Spirit’s flow of nourishment and nutrients, and burgeon to a much bigger problem. And much like there is a cost associated to the what and when this faucet’s condition is treated, so there is with my own particular weak spot and its treatment. Do I handle it right now, when it is obvious and fresh in my mind, when I have an inkling or know it is wrong, or do I justify ignoring it and borrow on an unknown future cost?

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?
(Luke 14:28)

Cost. The cost of ignoring its signs and delaying inspection. The cost of listening to competing opinions, of listening to self-confident and exaggerated and justified self-opinion that convinces it’s still fine, and to enjoy the view. The cost of reduced power and effectiveness, and the greater and much more pricey repair when left neglected.

Cost. The cost of acknowledging the signs and submitting to immediate inspection. The cost of standing up to and casting aside the competing and divergent worldly opinions that bombard, the pain of rejection, the crowd of protest and scorn, and the whine for immediate gratification. The cost of the mediocre dribbly mist that is packaged as just fine in favour of the Voice Who thoroughly invests in my future, Who soaks me with everything I could possibly need; the cost of yielding to unseen promises of fullness and benefits.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
(Matthew 16:24)

inmost-being-living-watersCost. The cost of obedience to the Master Plumber. The cost of allowing Him to trace the path of the flaw to its source. The cost of allowing Him to clean out the gunk, to apply His solder under the heat of His Flame. The cost of His Spirit moving freely, deeply, intimately and with full energy to drench, provide supply, maintain and sustain for the long haul.

Better to consider where the best return on the investment lies, yes?

The foundation was of costly stones, even large stones, stones of ten cubits and stones of eight cubits. (1 Kings 7:10)

For the redemption of his soul is costly…
(Psalm 49:8)

Erin
Soil and Seed

 

 

Seasons – Safe Harbour

shelter-of-the-most-high-1Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s that time of year to ready the garden for the (long) winter. It means cutting back and covering over, and it often means wintering over. I’ve not had much success with wintering over plants, but this year I have renewed enthusiasm to give it a try, to provide safe harbour from the winter’s cold for my geraniums and hibiscus that have blessed me with such beautiful blooms and luscious leaves this summer.

Harbour. The word brings visions of boats tucked in and moored within the protection of a small cove while the storm passes. Ships clinging by tether to docks, passengers and captains and pilots bustling up and down the gangway, the smell of fresh paint and the sound of hammers swooshing and drills whining, the weaving around hobby fishermen with their lines dipped in lapping water. It too gives greater texture to the expressions like safe harbour, harbouring a fugitive, not the brightest light in the harbour, and harbouring a grudge or resentment.

“Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.”
(John 14:27, The Message)

Much can happen while in the harbour. The wise use of time spent there can be to great advantage. Vessels can be repaired and renewed and restocked. Plans and course direction can be revisited and revised. Opportunity for renewal, if you will. But does the vessel remain forever tethered in a harbour? Unlikely. Ships are meant to lift anchor and set out to sea; meant to sail to fulfill their purpose. If they remain forever in the harbour, they become at best dormant tourist attractions, at worst chunks of rot and rust floating in the water.

Hmmm… I often spend waaay too much time dry-docked on judgement in the harbour, on unforgiveness and nursing wounds so much they can become grudges. Clinging to the dock of guilt, of resentment. Surely not a wise use of my time whilst in this safe and protected cove of recovery, of opportunity for renewal. No, many of those times whilst anchored I’ve failed to seize them as moments to rest, recoup and review; to reap godly wisdom, to develop godly character and integrity, to learn and lift anchor to move on; to hoist the sails and catch the winds of new vision that carry me to ports unknown, to embrace with renewed enthusiasm that which the Lord offers out to me like a treasure map.

“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?”
– Captain Jack Sparrow

Where I am, where I stay, is my choice. Mine, and no one else’s. Mine. Independent of circumstance and situation and what’s in other people’s heads and how they act. I am responsible for my choice, and its harvest. To remain anchored is to rust, at worst to be pointed at as a tourist attraction. To untether is to set the sails into the winds of hope and potential of adventure into the unknown. But to be very honest, I don’t know that choosing to untether and move forward means that I can force myself to fully forget what storm anchored me there in the first place. I don’t know that most of us are honestly entirely capable of that. Just yet anyway. What I think it means is this: strengthened by the Captain’s Hands around my own, stocked by Him with greater awareness, with greater wisdom, with seeds of integrity and godly character planted or fertilized or watered or a combination of all three, He and I together untie the tether that anchors me down to the dock. Freedom is mine in the choosing, in the agreeing to loosen the knot with the Captain’s help, in choosing to pardon: an act that will and really does liberate me too I soon find out. Freedom is mine in what follows that choice, for it ultimately brings relief as it releases responsibility into Hands that are more just, more willing, more able and more knowing than my own. I can use my freedom to choose to shout, “Lift anchor!” and to move forward in freedom, into freedom.

“If you choose to lock your heart away, you’ll lose it for certain.”
– Captain Jack Sparrow

freedom-from-slavery

Friends, we are not meant to stay anchored in the harbour! We may spend some time there, but we are not meant to become its permanent residents. Just as the geraniums and hibiscus are meant for the outdoors in the Spring, we are so meant for the wide open, to bloom and spread in the glorious vistas. We are meant to sail on the open seas, to breathe in the healthy salty air, to enthusiastically say “Aye!” to the Captain and trust the great Plan He steers by.

And His wind in our sails cannot move us if we choose to remain tethered to the dock.

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
(John 8:36, New Revised Standard Version)

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

(Galatians 5:1, New Revised Standard Version)

Erin
Soil and Seed

 

Maintenance – We Have a Place

th-86Have you ever dared to allow your inner child to imagine what it might be like to sit on God’s lap on a big comfy chair with Him, or to sit across the table and share a cuppa with Him, to lean against the doorframe and have a casual chat with Him, or even to gab with Him as you drive? I confess even as an adult I have. And regularly. I’ve imagined Him sitting in on a meeting, gardening with me, folding laundry with me, making dinner with me, even shovelling snow with me. This time though I was swept up into more than just my own imaginings, and I’m convinced what I experienced is as much for your benefit as for mine, which is the (gulp) why I’m sharing. If these words manage to bring any comfort, any hope, any wonder to even one searching heart, it’s worth my taking the risk.

If I dare reduce the very real, very tangible impressions to a soundbite, what would it be?

Quite simply:

We are loved, and more, we have a place.

Come. Risk reading the following in first person, as if it be you recounting it, for my friend, this truly is as much for you as it is for me.

“I was sound asleep, but in my dreams I was wide awake…”
(Song of Solomon 5:2, The Message)

It was as if I had one foot in the bedroom this nighttime, the other in a stunningly spectacular Palace, so dazzling it takes the breath away. I am abuzz with excitement and eagerness, dusty and sweaty as if returning from travels, standing in the arches ready to enter an absolutely strikingly splendid Throne room. There is no palace, no golden ivory arches, no garden on earth that matches the utterly stunning magnificence! I am hugging my Bible (though I know I am welcome without it), and looking directly at my King, my Lord, resplendent in His richly elegant long and stately and radiant robes, sitting on the throne with majestic and welcoming ease. Ah, how I am filled with an inexplicable and beyond-words, beyond-deep love for Him! I am so excited to see Him, so utterly excited that it hums in me. And oh my stars He is excited to see me too! I am at home. These pillars, this floor, this whole experience – all have an inexplicable familiarity to them. “Family” and “wanted” and “Mine” seems to ring and mingle in joyful song in this place. I am relaxed, filled with the serenity of unrestricted and unlimited love, with utter security in Whose I am, with where I am. I have a place. And this moment is mine. Mine alone with Him.

He looks directly at me and in His eyes and His body language, His whole manner really, I see and am immediately drenched in a love so real, so deep, so broad, so high that I know that I can and never will see its limits, for there are none. I have the impression that we have spent time together before: out and inside the archway, on the steps, over there in the chairs surrounding that rather large and substantial round table. A flash of Him walking beside me in my garden, lifting my arms as I shovel snow, holding me as I cry, sitting with me at my computer, hanging onto the strap beside me on the crowded bus, laughing with the family at the dinner table.

“Come,” He calls me by name. “Come, dear one. Come, my precious child,” I hear in my deeps and am soaked in the warmth of the real and kind and broad and inviting smile. “Come, and take your place and sit with Me.” Ooooo! I have a place, I thrill and I can feel myself squeal with delight! I have a place with the King Most High who calls me His very. own. child!!  With arms open wide, He gestures that I come close to His bosom, up upon His lap where I long to be.

I ignore the inner jeer that tries to yank me back down to the bed: Tsk! What are you doing? You’re an adult and don’t sit on anyone’s lap! and besides you’re not yet worthy – and really, let’s face it, won’t ever be. I wave its vapour away and leap forward. I just don’t care. As I run toward Him, it is as if I’m running through and am soaked in a translucent gossamer veil of Love, and all the soot and dust and smelliness of my travels seems to wash away, evaporate behind me. As I bounce forward, I am clean, sparkling even, and am covered in soft, comfortable, and humbly splendid robes. How did that happen? Surprisingly, I’m not really consumed with wanting to know, and my now soft and un-calloused feet press on the cool cobalt-blue marble-like floor as I bolt in sheer delight toward Him, the K.i.n.g., and gleefully snuggle comfortably into Him. He is delighted! This is how He sees me – how He sees us all; this is the relationshipthe culmination of the Plan decided at the foundation of the world so long ago, that our Father and Jesus and the Spirit had prepared all along, and made happen by His Life and the Cross and His resurrection. I am filled with deep, deep gratitude beyond all human expression, so much so that I feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust!

I sit on His lap as He sits on His throne, my back leaning into Him as He is leaning forward around me, His Face pressed to the side of my own. His right arm is wrapped in a loving embrace, a hug around me, and His left holds the Bible that I have since opened in my lap. I have my King’s full and complete attention. He affectionately whispers my name, and I feel His breath warm not just my cheek, but radiate to consume me. I feel and hear His Heart beating.

“Show me. Show me, Papa, my King. Read its words into my mind and heart and spirit and soul and body,” I ask of Him, as eagerness to absorb what He is about to say overwhelms me. I am impressed again with the notion that to come empty-handed would be just as welcome: to come as I am, wherever I am is the most important. I have peace in where I am in the bumpy, sometimes jarring and choppy journey that brought me here, and in what I am about to learn. My eyes easily focus on the Word, and my ears on His deep and soothing voice that at the once fills the whole space and soaks my whole insides and outsides. My heart and spirit and soul lift and open themselves like a bud reaching and opening up to warmth of the sun, to the dewy rains of Spring. Even if it is correction that is coming, there is no fear bubbling up within me, no anticipation of condemnation. Rather, I know that I am truly loved, and with that there is only His honest and True wanting for my utter fullness to come to be, and so the need for – and help in – the correction of errant habit or manner in me. It is for my good, to prosper me. I swell with a whole host of emotion. With utter tenderness He wipes it all away, and fills me with His teaching and His encouragement literally lifts me up.

What other word is there than Joy? Joy watered and saturated in Love? Everything embodies Love and I am swept up in Joy in my every iota, every atom, and we share and savour and relish in it together. This, He impresses on me, all of this, is for everyone!

the-narrow-roadOur time is drawing to a close. I don’t really want to leave, but I am comfortable that I must – at least for now. The joy has not lessened in the slightest; instead another layer of contentment is added and renewed purpose is poured into me. I have a place, an important and specific place meant just for me – in this world, and in His Story: a place along my own journey with Him, intertwined with all friendships and acquaintances, and woven together within the greater and vast masterpiece that is all of His Creation, His Narrative.

Re(a)lationship” – this I am to continuously consider. With Him. With everyone.

I am caught up: He has something exciting on the horizon! He leans in first and we share a deep, deep hug as He tenderly whispers my name. Though not sure of the details of steps ahead, their duration or direction, it doesn’t seem to matter. I am oddly content with not knowing the minutia (!!), and am cheerful and I agree to whatever He has for me yet to do. And I want to live long to do for Him! With almost a nod to the Father, the Spirit in my deeps assures me that He knows the way.  I am covered. In many ways it seems.

As I bound toward the archway, clothed in freshly cleaned travel clothes, I look back and we exchange wide smiles. I will tell of this!, I promise Him. He holds my eyes, my spirit, my mind and heart and body in a crazy-loving gaze. Though I have a notion that He doesn’t really need them (after all, He is everywhere at all times I tell myself), I am captured by His delight in my sharing with Him ‘progress reports’, my ‘this and that’. Today, I am to continue to discover His Presence in my everyday, to practice ‘re(a)lationship’. I am to come back often. And He is so looking forward to the next time. I am to come as often as I wish and need, in whatever position – plight or praise, shattered or searching or singing, or anywhere in between. But I am to come. At any time. I won’t ever be interrupting Him. Never bothering Him. And never, at any time, at any moment, will I ever be alone.

Ever.

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God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”
(Exodus 33:14, The Message)

Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. (2 Corinthians 3: 16, The Message)

Erin
Soil and Seed

 

 

 

Celebration – Gratitude, Grace & Glory

seedtime-and-harvestThe table groaned under the weight of the fare upon it. Roasted turkey, golden and crispy with a ruby red collar of cranberries. Gravy boats brimming with creamy and silky caramel-brown sauce. A tumble of glistening steamed vibrant carrots and French beans with tanned almond slices. Brussel sprouts piled high with crispy bacon chips. Mounds of steaming creamy-soft whipped potatoes. Heads bowed as Grace was said. “Amen.” Platters were passed around the table, and each of the many plates filled as we expressed gratitude for someone, something or some event in our lives. Oh Father! Really! How utterly blessed we are!

Amidst the clatter and chatter of the clean-up following, I was struck with the thought: Why do we thank?

Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
(Psalm 50:14)

Yes indeed, we thank as an expression in word, or in act, in gratitude for a provision of some kind. In fact, we’ve been taught since knee-high-to-a-chick to always remember to thank. And so we should, I believe. But I’ve come to think for reasons more than just being polite. And yes, there are a whole host of benefits that accompany thankfulness. In fact, according to Amy Morin, contributor to Forbes Magazine, scientific research has proven that there is definitive physical, social, physiological and psychological benefits to thankfulness (http://bit.ly/2coJ6ay): better sleep, increased empathy and reduced aggression, and of course, better relationships to name just a few. I wonder though if all these benefits aren’t birthed of something more going on; something supernal that erupts from inner recesses of the garden of our spirits and souls.

I wonder. What is really happening, what is really going on when we express what bubbles up from our deeps, or act upon what fires up our hands and feet to move to thank? Could gratitude and thankfulness actually be a form of transcending affirmation of holy connection, of existing relationship with our Father, an offering of worship, that unbeknownst to us, is sparkling and bobbing to the surface? Could it be that these cousins of joy very directly connect us with our Gardener, our God, our Father? Could we be travelling a glistening road toward a more rounded, organic and complete relationship with Him when we thank?

Psalm 104Gratitude must be birthed somewhere, must originate deep in the belly of our being, our spirits. And expressing it, just as key to ignition, must somehow discharge a spark that animates a hum that mysteriously breathes more life into, and expands to fill, the furnace of our faith, enlarging our spirits and beings with inexplicable joy and praise and wonder.  And if we fan the flicker and flame of thankfulness, I wonder if it doesn’t also crowd out, or even extinguish self-righteousness, selfish expectation and entitlement, and other sinful attitudes that could infect, damage and sabotage.

Could there then be hidden within thankfulness blessing and nourishment not only for the receiver, but the giver as well?

To remain grateful, it would appear, helps our hearts and mind to avoid hardening, to slip and slide on arrogance head-long into judgement and self-centredness. Thankfulness, it seems to me, shifts the focus from my self-seeking planned-out wants that elude me over there in the distance, to remaining rooted in the present and its many many blessings. Gratitude and thankfulness keeps my heart in the now-relationship with God, and keeps me from veering onto the harmful byways that eventually steal my peace away.

And what about when, but all outward appearances, it makes no worldly sense at all to be thankful, to express an iota of gratitude? Could it possibly be that my spirit and faith expand even more when I choose to be gracious in the midst of those circumstances? Could it be that gratitude and thankfulness is actually a facet of the diamond that is faith, and in those moments of tethering to the power of unseen belief, that power sweeps us up above the circumstances to live in confidence, (in victory?) whatever the outcome? Could it also then … make it easier to forgive?

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
(Colossians 3: 15)

Let your roots grow down in him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
(Colossians 2:7)

Choosing to be grateful and to have a thankful heart must benefit the growth of the sacred within, which can’t help but permeate outward into our bodies, and manifest as an inviting fragrance beyond. It must open wide communication with our Gardener, connecting us and augmenting our part of relationship with Him, nourishing our fellowship with Him.

And I wonder if there isn’t joint joy found in appreciating and sharing in the delight of His provision, in experiencing His captivating gladness and pleasure in providing for us, and we in our delight and thankfulness to receive.

Oh friends! Let’s tiptoe onto the dance floor of the mystery of thankfulness in a position of shared thrill with our Gardener to dance close and tender, with newfound nearness and rapport with Him! Let’s take His outstretched Hand as He sweeps us up in His delighted and lavishing Love as we offer our little gestures of recognition of His incredible Grace! Let’s share in His joy and pleasure, His captivating gladness in providing for us!

Let us always be thankful – and grateful!

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.
(Hebrews 12:18)

Erin
Soil and Seed