Ahhhhh! Sitting on the deck, soft breeze gently blowing, sun shining and warm, birds peeping, flowers illumined with splashes of light. Coffee steaming, reading glasses clean, fresh journal and new pen. Now this is the life!
Sabbath: a word often sadly brushed aside in today’s world. But if you observe today’s world, surely the very thing we frequently avoid might be amongst that which we need the very most?
And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
(Genesis 2: 2-3, New Revised Standard Version)
A recent Sabbath morn I spent studying Genesis 1 – 2:3 with my son Greg. As usual, much like every young person I’ve ever come across, he fired up my imagination. I just had to share. It was his analogy as to why it’s important to carve out time for Sabbath, why there was deep significance in God’s command to keep it holy that had me fascinated. And not just to keep a day especially reserved on the weekend, but seizing moments during each day of the week to touch base and steal time to spend in the company of the Gardener. It was the significance of the very terms used, their definition and specific functions that struck me.
Greg is studying to be an Electrician, and for illustration for his point, he used the concept of electrical voltage in a power supply. (I suspect our Gardener happens to also be The Master Electrician!)
First, he explained, the goal of every electrician is to channel the wildly fluctuating Alternating Current (AC) in his power supply into a smooth Dependable Current (DC) using specific tools to achieve the task.
“If we look at a typical Alternating Current at any given cycle,” he explained, “you observe great positive charges at their peaks that dramatically proceed to dive to significant negatively charged depths. This is a lot like each of us, either during the course of the day, or a string of days that make up one or several weeks. We Alternate with great highs with God, then somehow we respond to triggers that bring us way down into the negative area of distraction away from Him and his Dependability, often falling into some kind of sin.”
“So how does an Electrician fix that current? Well,” he proceeded to explain, “he uses a Rectifier. This object serves as a tool to reduce the dramatic swings of the current. There are still dips, but they don’t slip below into the negatively charged area. As a Christian, a Rectifier that could help us from falling so far below into the negative in our walk could be a tool like regular morning, or evening, or daily periodic touch-bases with Jesus, or a combination of all three. It could be studying a passage from the Bible and journaling thoughts, or memorizing a particular verse of Scripture for recall later.”
“But remember, the ultimate goal of the electrician is to achieve a smooth and uninterrupted current in his power supply. We’re almost there. Next,” he continued, “we would apply a Capacitor to the circuit. This calms the current, smoothing out the dips into less theatrical rippling. For us, this kind of calming measure could be something like snatches of prayer before or after a meeting, at lunch or other time of day, breathing Jesus’ Name while we’re driving, recalling a favorite Scripture verse when we’re stressed, maybe even allowing ourselves to be blown away by something in Creation.”
“The last step in bringing the Alternating Current in line to become a Dependable Current is to apply a Regulator. This takes the rippling current and ‘straightens it out’ if you will. It applies the last calming measure to make the current flow more efficiently and the device that is being powered to run effortlessly and well. For me, my Regulator is Jesus; focusing my attention, my “current” on Him – Who He is, Who He is to me, how He knows me better and more deeply than anyone, is right there as my calming force, and how I have absolutely nothing to fear when I hand my life over to Him. He is my Source, my Regulator for living well and productively.”
“God tells us to take a Sabbath day of rest, and we need to listen. But you know,” Greg continued, “if you look at the Gospels, Jesus was often also taking mini-Sabbaths. He would rise early before any in the household got up and go and have a One-on-One with His Father (Mark 1:35). He’d take off in the dark of night (Luke 6:12). Jesus connected regularly and depended on God throughout the day, and so should we! And Jesus’ days were full! He was a popular guy – a guy people wanted to be around! He was constantly surrounded by crowds vying for his attention, grabbing at his robe, begging for His mercy and healing, and hanging onto His every word. ‘He was made man,’ so He must have gotten tired and worn out, physically and emotionally. Teaching, healing, feeding thousands, washing feet, dealing with evil spirits, calling the dead to come out – all done with such profound and authentic Love that came from His very depths! He must have needed refilling! I wonder if he wasn’t in need of a recharge after He fed the 5,000? (Matthew 14:23) And just look what happened after He did! He walked on water! (Matthew 14:25)
I think we need to have a day of Sabbath, just contentedly sitting with God, reviewing together the week that has past and the one to come and giving Him thanks and praise for moving us through the past several days and into the next. But I also think we need the mini-Sabbaths modeled by Jesus – in the quiet of the early morning before the noise starts, stealing time away during the busyness of the day for a quick “Hey, Jesus?”, and at night to review the day together with Him. We are all “highly charged”, and it’s important that our “voltage” follows a good straight path to be truly productive, to use our talents and skills to their best potential. It’s hard, but we really need to keep from depleting and wasting away our “charge”, instead taking regular intervals to be strengthened and dependable to handle the wild ups and downs with a calm head and passionate heart.”
Wow! Thanks Greg! AMEN!
And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place,
and there he prayed.
(Mark 1:35, Revised Standard Version)
And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray.
When evening came, he was there alone.
(Matthew 14: 23, New Revised Standard Version)
Erin – and Greg!
Soil and Seed
For years, our basement would provide the means for the spring thaw to trickle back into the earth, seeping through the walls to belligerently steer its way down the slight decline to the drain. No need for pre-soaking those laundry piles! No need for what’s in those storage boxes! We fast became accustomed to prepare in expectation of the thaw’s royal procession.
We assembled early summer to draw up a battle plan. The boys and my husband would, come spring, dig down to the footings of our near-century-old house, repair and seal the foundation, and then fill up the trench with earth and rocks. I glanced out the window at the lush display this side of our fence. Really? The dignified hydrangea was laden with lime green and creamy white poufs. Mummy’s lily of the
valley had been sprightly and fragrant, its waxy leaves now framing where the delicate white bells had been. The day lilies brought robust punches of cheerful deep ginger and orange. The variegated hostas opened their lush mounds of leaves in applause to victorious stems with their crowns of mauve-blue trumpets. The lemon verbena beckoned with its gentle waft of citrus. The clusters of coreopsis turned cheerfully to me and smiled. “It will be alright!” they squeaked. Really? Everything was just so perfect! Soooo beautiful! But. Everything. Would. Need. To. Come. Out. Everything. Clay pots would provide temporary housing to select residents, mindfully attended while the mighty men did their work, to find new ground when the job was done.
Setting the stage for new ground. Digging up the perfect. Waiting for the fixing up to be fixed up. But while the digging occurs, am I hopeful or fearful? While I wait, do I trust or do I waver? Am I faith-full or faithless?
Has that ever happened to you? Have you found yourself in that happy, contented and perfect place, only to be forcibly uprooted, hovering it seems in a netherworld, then transplanted to unfamiliar territory? Oh, the odious lay-off! I have felt the dread as I walked into the boss’ office to hear those fateful words that briskly elbowed me off into a new direction. I’m not ready for this! Why me? What do I do now? Will I get a job before the unemployment premiums run out? Will we be able to make ends meet? How do I move forward?
Have you ever sucked in faith, pushed out fear, and shoved yourself forward out of amazing fulfillment into the fog of God’s vague call? Oh, the rewarding perfect-fit job! What do you do when well settled into that environment you have this thought that tickles, nags and nudges you to leave and move beyond? Why, ponder it for at least a few years to make really, absolutely, decisively and unequivocally sure of course! Nah, it couldn’t be. If that’s you, God, give me a sign. Was that a sign? I need another one. If it was you, you’d be clearer, right? Would it be enough if I let go of this corner? More? All of it? Oh. But this feels tailor-made for me! Will the new be better? I need a sign that it will be better. I need more time. But, aren’t I too old? Ok Lord. Let’s do this. A strange thrill bubbles up and charges through. I close my eyes and take a leap into uncharted waters, following a voice on the wind that seemed to say “Let go, and let’s go!” And here I am. Exploring. Writing really long-winded thoughts. Blogging and having so much FUN! Is this what God had in mind for me? Maybe it’s something for whilst I’m in that clay pot? Maybe I’ve always been in clay pots? Do I have what it takes to do this, even in an interim? I don’t know, God. But, if you say so, ok. You know what will come of this, and where I am meant to be to fully be me. Oh, and Lord? Thank you for being soooo patient with me!
Sometimes the open sea of change is calm, and I can focus clearly on the lighthouse on the horizon. Maybe my faith is such that I can even venture out of the boat. But what does it say of this kind of shallow faith to step out into deep but calm waters? Sometimes change is a stomach-churning, all-hands-on-deck-head-spinning voyage on choppy seas, where rogue waves threaten life, where I stress and struggle to keep my stomach down, the mast up and water out of the boat. Sometimes it’s a dizzying combination of both, or something in between that has me yowling out to God above the gale of the wind. There’s no way I’m stepping out the boat, God! Uh huh.
Whether I welcome it or not, plan for it or not, change seems to arrive like a surprise houseguest, and always returns to become a regular lodger. There’s no condition I can create that will make it feel unwelcome enough to stay away. But really. Why would I? Like it or not, life is an ongoing symphony of change, percolating with the beneficial power and potential of stretching aptitude and refreshing attitude. Change is the water that tests the foundation and signals new layers of growth ahead.
“It’s amazing. Life changes very quickly, in a very positive way, if you let it.”
– Lindsey Vonn
Can I focus on the shimmer of light through the storm clouds?
Will I choose to consider change a tool that can loosen and uncover, and bring very-much-needed inner review and revision, attitude re-alignment and adjustment? Can I see that more and more change can help me to step more and more into who God wants and helps me to fully be? Will I trust in God, the never-ever-changing Captain, who supplies the boat and has the map, calms the sea and directs the wind, and who knows me, and my destination? Will I trust, and weather it all with confident hope, and patient perseverance?
“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”
– Frederick Douglass
Change is transplanting and branch-pruning; maybe even in-gathering of this season’s crops. It is the lifting of cramped roots through fresh air and into new dewy acreage, ushering new tender sprouts to grow, containing vision of many more abundant harvests.
New sprouts of confidence in adventure, opportunities and possibilities.
New roots in hope and dreams, faith and patience.
New flexibility, experience and strength.
New reserves of excitement, anticipation, discoveries and treasures to uncover.
New willingness to give my toe, my foot, my fingernail, my hand to partner with God to uproot, and transplant me.
New depths of love for the Gardener who hovers over me, on tiptoe with excitement, basting me with hope and faith as I sit in the pots of uncertainty, who soon gently spreads my clumped roots out across a wide swath of rich renewed earth, covering me with the cool of rejuvenation. When I have outgrown that environment, even while he harvests, his eye is on the new plot.
I imagine flurry of excitement in the unseen. The delighted Father rubbing his hands, says “Yesss!”, and reaches out to grab my toe that ventures over the precipice. He whisks me even closer to himself in tight embrace, pointing to our destination, and declaring with confident authority, “Forward! Together!”
We finish repairing our foundation this year. More upheaval. More plants in pots. More mud and vision. More excitement and experience. More joy-filled expectancy … and new harvest!
God is the one who saves me. I trust him. I am not afraid. The Lord, the Lord, gives me strength and makes me sing. He has saved me.
Isaiah 12: 2 (International Children’s Bible)
Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Hebrews 13: 8 (Complete Jewish Bible)
An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get ready and go south to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.” … So Philip got ready and went …
Acts 8: 26-27 (Good News Translation)
Soil and Seed
It’s all a matter of what grows best in what condition, and in what climate. Each plant requires specific nutrients found in specific soils. Most need help, my Mum explained as I unloaded bag after bag of peat moss, wood chips and fortified earth. Mine certainly did. No loamy soil in these thereabouts!
Many of us have an idea of what kind of soil nourishes our gardens. I’d been told, well before I began gardening, that much of our community was built upon clay. Dense clay. Slimy, slip-and-slide-in-your-rainboots-clay. Stubbornly-cling-to-your-spade-clay. Spit-and-splatter-on-your-basement-windows-clay.
Apparently clay has a great deal going for it. Clay is a super foundation for some plants, since they acquire strength as their roots forcibly thrust their way through, and firmly grip the soil. Because of that determined and unyielding grip, plants can weather extreme conditions, and become hardier, stronger. Perfect for asters, day lilies, black-eyed Susans, coreopsis and yarrow, among other things I was told. Clay soil needs a bit more work, but it keeps moisture well. Add a good rich compost to increase nutrient value and aeration, and my garden will flourish, I was told.
I find that the Gardener needs to work my soil too to see His dream for me realized. Too often, after he removes the concrete slabs atop, there can remain directly beneath a layer much like pure, dense clay beneath, unresponsive to his abundance of refreshing water. Like clay, I often dry up in the sun and harden in its pressurizing heat. But we have a tender Gardener. He knows the potential. And that potential he wants realized for us for he loves us that much.
I think all soil in every garden is eager to receive and nourish plants and fauna to growth. I think it’s in its nature. Perhaps it even shares in the joy of the splendor that it helped to realize. The question is, once God has worked my soil (and guaranteed he will), what do I wish to produce from it? What will be its harvest? Will it be resentment or will it be joy? Will it be jealousy or will it be love? Will it be fear or faith?
I hope that as he works my soil, the Gardener leaves a good trace of his DNA, his character mixed and blended into the quality of soil that promotes healthy, robust and resilient growth. He knows better than I that surface work is only the beginning, that in the deep parts there are too many toxins, contaminants and other bits and pieces of garbage. I imagine he knowingly discovers sharp, hard, abrasive materials over which scabs have grown. Still I know I need the Gardener to plunge his digging fork to do some deep-soil tilling, turning it over and over, so he can sift and lift out all the uncompostible, to liberate and transform my soil and blooms into more than clay and weeds. I need his aeration, amelioration and augmentation.
At regular intervals, he blends in the rich compost of discomfort, of challenge, of lessons to be learned and theories unlearned. He softens the scabs and dresses the wounds. Painful, for often they are so deep and so encrusted and caked that I’ve grown used to them. But he persists. Seeds of his Truth are planted with generous abandon, moistened by tears of compassion, and generous forgiveness. He showers them with his refreshing and sanctifying water, his liquid love. Gently he pulls out tares from his crop of wheat, so they don’t damage the good that has taken root. Sometimes he sows more seeds so that his Truth crowds out intruding weed to starve it of nourishment. Slowly, what had been planted beneath begins to stretch and breathe and curl and bend upward toward the breath of his heart.
Till. Compost. Turn. Weed. Lavish sowing of Seeds. Water. Son-shine. He is the Good Gardener, full of tenderness, full of grace. He knows the kind of soil needed to produce a garden that flourishes in his Kingdom. And he prizes abundant flourishing!
My soil needs work. A lot of work.
Will I allow the gentle-hearted Gardener to turn and till my garden’s soil? To weed it of seedlings and mature plants that choke out the Son-flowers? Will I welcome the compost of trials? Will I persevere and withstand the heat and blistering cold, to push my roots down further through the softer layers he’s prepared to the deep streams of water to strengthen them?
My soil needs work. A lot of work. Thank goodness there is One who loves deeply, gives cheerfully, knows fully and who heartily and eagerly undertakes my underneath!
Some seed fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much dirt. That seed ·grew [sprang up] very fast, because the ground was not deep. But when the sun rose, the plants dried up [were scorched and withered], because they did not have deep roots. Some other seed fell among thorny weeds, which grew and choked the good plants.
Matthew 13. 5-7 (Expanded Bible)
“‘O my people Judah, those of you who have escaped the ravages of the siege shall become a great nation again; you shall be rooted deeply in the soil and bear fruit for God.'”
2 Kings 19: 30 (The Living Bible)