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

 

Seasons – Glory Through the Pain of Division

creator-master-artistMy hostas were just lovely this year! They grew profusely, and were wonderfully lush, with their beautiful lavender sprigs of bloom and waxy emerald leaves with streaks of cream and white fanning out in easy mounds. But it’s now Fall, and it’s time for me to set about dividing.

Apart from the task at hand, I don’t do much thinking when I divide plants. But consider what it involves: driving the razor-sharp blade of a spade around the luxurious emerald leaves to cut off the path from its outward stretching tender roots, ripping the plant from the rich soil it has so far flourished in, wiggingly and shaking and tapping that earth from its roots, slicing the plant into quarters with another keenly-honed knife to separate it, and then tearing and ripping tubers apart from their closely braided kinsmen.

As Jar-Jar Binks would say, “Ouch time!”

th-72
According to seasoned gardeners, dividing certain plants, like hostas, keeps them healthy. Its keeps them from overcrowding themselves and other plants, from otherwise producing smaller and smaller flowers and foliage as they grow in the shrinking space that affords them, crowding out and starving their centers from air and nourishment. Dividing can keep them from gobbling up and diminishing the space of other plants, and from growing completely out of control. The process of dividing though is just a bit brutal for the plant.

“In this world, you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have ovecome the world!”
(John 16:33)

We will have trouble. We will have shaking and wiggling and slicing and tapping. We will be driven from the quiet and perky beds of contented tranquility, sliced apart and thrown onto the hard pathway stones of not. Life will hum with peace, and then … !!! We will all struggle inwardly between what we believe and what is actually happening. We will all ache to find answers to the why? what? when? and search the depths and skies for saving relief as we sit in it. Oh, but friend! What immense potential lies here; lush fertile ground for the growth of my character. And more than that, I think it could very well be essential for me to grow, for without facing adversity, we would never develop, never learn, never stretch or spread out or mature to flourish further from where we are.

“Sensitivity and reactivity to noxious stimuli are essential to the well-being and survival of an organism.”
(http://neuroscience.uth.tmc.edu/s2/chapter06.html)

No one argues that physiologically, and spiritually, pain is a very unpleasant signal – a blaring call to attention, a yelp for treatment and help for the threshold that has been breached. But what if it’s the next chapter in our life-story, a twist in the plotline of our character that brings us to the crossroads where faith and distrust collide, or a cliffhanger that hints a celebration of glorious transformation? What if it is the stage and grounds of discovery of new buried-deep treasure, hidden as golden seeds far below in the garden beds of our spirits and souls? What if how we approach and move in the trouble, and through it, will cause a ripple effect that washes outward, far beyond ourselves and our imagination? What if our own little response could even begin the groundswell metamorphosis of phenomenal widespread change? That change we hope for in others, and in ourselves?

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13, The Message)

Who, or who, we consider to trust, to turn to as that trouble throbs determines how we approach it, what we do with it, how we recover and heal and where we go – if it is forward into a more textured landscape of wisdom and rounding-out faith, or spinning in place and languishing in our overcrowded mob of thoughts. And that mob of thoughts is such a heavy and burdensome place! I find that if I obstinately refuse and deny my mind and heart to acknowledge and answer the call to step into the mysterious freedom of patient, kind, believing and hopefilled Love; if I squeeze my eyes shut to the Presence of my dedicated Gardener, I always lumber and stagger under the weight of lingering hurt and unanswered questions.  Ah, but if I turn to the Gardener though! I begin to feel strangely much lighter, more at peace and oddly confident in His presence as the Overseer of every detail of my life. He knows. He. Knows. and I find assurance in His knowing.  I just might well be able to endure this separation or division! I can even snatch faith in the glimpse of hope in its outcome!

IMG_3328I wince and feel my hostas pain, but not so much that it stops me from proceeding, for splendor lies ahead! I know what I’m doing will make the principle plant healthier, and will spread the beauty of its waxy emerald leaves to other parts of the garden, serving to provide shade for Impatiens, and contrasting texture and pop among the Shasta daisies! I know the timing is right, for the conditions are cooler and the air moist to alleviate the stress and encourage quicker recovery!

Likewise the Gardener must know, must see, must want for me, for us. How much more must He feel my own troubles, and yours my friend – for He has felt and lived the same! How much more must He hover and surround, must design even a peep of His Presence for us at the darkening sunset, in the discovery of His treasure planted deep within under the cover His star-light twinkle of the overnight hours, and in our stretching out transformed by growing warmth of the coming sunrise!

And friends the sunrise always comes – and with it, the hope of the breathtaking view that awaits to be shared in the fullness of the sunshine!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal, “plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope—never forget that!” (Jeremiah 29:11, The Voice)

Erin
Soil and Seed

 

Preparation & Enjoyment – Work in Progress

The sun rises later and sets earlier now. The days are cooler, and the nights cooler still. Fall alights our landscape.

As my eyes followed the sunrise’s warmth stretching over the back garden this morning, I thought about how many transitions this precious little patch of land has undergone and how many memories it has been stage to and witnessed. Though still a work in progress, this past summer it has greeted many a bloom, many a bbq gathering, many a lingering in wonder in its sounds, smells and sights – and has even been a part of wedding pictures!

It has long been host to many a heart-felt discussion, multiple moments of silent tears and contented joyful contemplation, and many a gathering of fellowship and celebration. And, of course, it has been playground for our children and their posse of friends, taking full advantage of the small ‘treehouse’ and slide and swing we once had. As if it were yesterday, I can still hear them as youngsters holler and hoot with joy.

“Again! Again! Again!” my guys as toddlers used to whoop with glee when my husband or I would swing them high in the air, flip them upside down, or spin them around. And each time we did, their delight would tickle our hearts and warm our souls. We found as much merriment in these moments as they did, both as reliving bits of our own childhoods, and as parents relishing their children shimmer with joy. Their cheers and chortles have transformed as they have grown older, finding things that delight and thrill them deep into their bones, and we are still just so blessed to share in their fun.

Our Gardener too is all about “Again!” and  I suspect His heart swells with joy when we whoop with glee as He tickles our delights and ignites our hearts and minds! I suspect too, that He is right alongside and enjoying it as much as we do! Granted, there are some again’s we’d rather not be subject to (nor really would He for us either I suspect), but if we push and persist through their itchiness and discomfort, we will find occasion to again join in with Him in shouts of triumph and delight.

Not so sure? Take a look around and take your hint from the shouts of triumph in all our Gardener’s Creation!

“Look!” He exclaims:

autumn-rain-and-spring-rainIn the Fall, when diverse leaf after leaf is soaked and sun-dyed in mind-blowing variations of reds, garnets, scarlets, mahoganies, ochres, butterscotches, lemons, ambers, and saffron.  When the leaves softly drift to the ground to spread protection from the coming cold.  When tree after tree is laid bare to reveal the beauty of the undulating landscape dotted with winding fences and secret paths, puffs of scrub and store of stone.

“Faith!” He cries:he-orders-the-snow

In the Winter when flurries of unique flake after flake fall on our noses and pile layer upon
glistening layer atop cars, streets, hills and valleys. When the sun warms us through our winter packing during the day and bursts through the trees creating a glittering pathway on the ground that directs the eye to the glory of His warmth in the sun. When the sparrow fattens, and the skis glide effortlessly over the crunching fluff, or skates gnaw into milky ice.

“Hope!” He calls out:

In Spring when the heat of the pattering and glistening rain melts the snow like butter, and buds begin to yawn and stretch to peak through the soggy ground. When chartreuse shoots spring from damp tree branches, and robins quarrel over nesting territory in their limbs. When the geese noisily reappear after their vacation south, and the squirrels stand back to remember where they’ve buried their nuts. When the air begins to soften, the sunrises greet us earlier and dip on the horizon later.

“Believe!” He declares:

Rain in Abundance!In the Summer in the smell of freshly-cut grass and new dewy rain, and in the heat of the noon-day sun. When foliage and posey open in crescendo after crescendo, when a lettuce leaf sprouts, a flower appears on the tomato plant, a strawberry peaks from its bloom, and a bird finds another worm to feed her family. When the cardinal serenades and the cricket chirps. When the nights are comfortable and warm, and barbecues, balconies and backyards are gathering places for leisurely meals, laughter and easy conversation.

“Again!” He announces:

sunset

When the sun rises each morning and awakens His beloved, His Creation, and sinks into the hammock of the horizon each night in rest.

When the clouds one by one skim across the sky, playfully shaped for our imaginations drifting together in a slow dance, and evaporating into and then reappearing to transverse the powder blue, azure, or Persian blue sky.

When the waves of the mighty ocean sweep in to lick the shoreline, and back out to add to their strength in the sea.

When there are wee chicks peeping in nests, babes gurgling in their cribs and bouncing on knees.

“Triumphant!” our glorious and generous King exclaims, lavishing again and again His love and celebration as every chapter comes to a close and harkens a new, glorious and surprising twist in character development and plot line! And just as my husband and I delight at every phase along with our boys, so I am convinced our King does with us.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Proverbs 4:23)

So, just as some ‘agains’ we might be far from enjoying right in this moment, take heart and dare to hope in the nod to His heart in all of His Creation.  Look and see, and consider.

Fear not, Earth! Be glad and celebrate! God has done great things. Fear not, wild animals! The fields and meadows are greening up. The trees are bearing fruit again: a bumper crop of fig trees and vines! Children of Zion, celebrate! Be glad in your God. He’s giving you a teacher to train you how to live right— Teaching, like rain out of heaven, showers of words to refresh and nourish your soul, just as he used to do. And plenty of food for your body—silos full of grain, casks of wine and barrels of olive oil. (Joel 2:23, The Message)

Let’s not only marvel at this season of Fall as the Father’s triumphant and celebratory firework finale, and debut of  yet another ‘again’ in the majesty of an additional, fresh, completely new and marvellously distinctive season. Let’s likewise consider our own ‘agains’ – our own autumns – as with intrinsic beauty and as debuts of coming most assured and spectacular glory! Let’s allow Fall to remind us to look upon this very season in our lives as one with mysterious beauty and with inherent purpose, and look ahead and forward with expectancy to the splendour that awaits anew, that renews soul, and shapes spirit!

For aren’t we all His gloriously redeemed Work in triumphant progress?

life-path-sun-joy“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”
(Isaiah 43: 18-19, The Message)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has great mercy, and because of his mercy he gave us a new life. He gave us a living hope because Jesus Christ rose from death.”
(1 Peter 1: 3, International Children’s Bible)

 

 

Erin
Soil and Seed

Maintenance – The Water of Encouragement

My heart is safe with Jesus,
of this I can be sure.
He knows my deepest sorrows,
His love for me is the purest pure.

He knows my deepest joys and hurts;
my wounds he gently holds.
My past, my present, my future,
all in His devoted care enfolds.

My steps and path are fragrant;
a sacrifice as myrrh.
He walks and talks with me, cries and laughs with me.
In Him, with Him, and by Him I am secure.

He is my light and safety,
on Him alone can I rely.
Whatever harms or afflicts us,
these things He hates, derides.

These gardens of our hearts and souls, our spirits –
our landscape – its fellowship He most fervently loves.
He jealously protects and keeps us;
His goal: our complete (no less!) restoration – for us the bestest of the best thereof!

His is no absent Gardener!
Just look around and see!
Oh! How our Savior loves us!
His magnificent Creation outspread and cheers in all glorious glee!

Oh friend, in Him we find our refuge!
His voice let us harken, let us receive:
for if we are to truly, really flourish
not the world’s, but His ways must we enweave.

Our hearts are safe with Jesus –
of this we can be most confidently sure!
He is our only Saviour,
for in Him most fully, most surely, is our strength, our energy and stability to endure!

Exuberance!

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7: 7-8)

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:1, The Message)

Erin
Soil and Seed