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

 

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

Seasons – Digging up the Beautiful

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.

IMG_0402-2We 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

IMG_0403-2

Mighty Men Team 2

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!

IMG_7647 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? IMG_0327
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.

IMG_5810New 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!

IMG_20150621_170055

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)

 

Erin
Soil and Seed

 

Seasons – The Promise of Spring

Four o’clock. A.M. Wide awake. Save for the occasional snuffle and snort, the quiet of the house wrapped around me like a soft and comforting blanket. As I pad downstairs to make myself a cup of tea, I can hear the faint tinkling patter of rain on the skylight.

th-83For many years, I would gripe, grouse, and go on, and on, on rainy days. But in the last several years, I have learned to appreciate quite a few things that I’d either taken for granted, or found otherwise inconvenient. Like rainy days.

Were you like me, grumbling and groaning when you would awaken to a misty day? Were you unlike me, greeting it with fascination, a sense of wonder, and perhaps allowing a smile to creep up on you? Did you choose to find the beauty and joy, or would you ruefully decide to bear it?

I have found there really is such exquisite beauty in a rainy day, if I take the time to appreciate it. I have come to like buffet offered to the senses, the sights and sounds of rain that, in spring and fall herald the anticipation of a new season, and in summer refresh and renew.

In spring, everything seems to come alive in a great festival of enthusiastic vitality. Raindrops kiss the fragrant moist dirt, and then burrow and sink deep within. A rich brew of musky and savory, and the sharp scent of damp cedar chips along with the sweet earth drifts past nostrils. The meandering stone pathway finds itself the center of a harmony of celebration as rain ticks, plops, skips, dances and jumps from its surface. Tufts of bright IMG_20160422_184802chartreuse dotted with glistening drops are delightful hints of an awaiting explosion of radiant color that will roll and undulate across the flowerbeds. Brilliant green blades of grass peek through the soft carpet that seems to yawn and lazily rouse from its sleep. The morning’s overcast sky provides a silvery velvet background to the massive maples, their compacted florets perched upon moistened branches, sweeping across the sky in the gentle breeze as if to stretch open the heavens. To the background of the pit-pat on window sills and pavement, and the tinkling sprinkle on the neighbor’s wind chime, the bright red cardinals sing their scales atop their roost. Brown speckled sparrows pip and squeak while they hunch together on the fence, glistening clear droplets struggling to hold on before dribbling down. Cars and bicycles slice pinstripe streaks down the length of the damp street, punctuated by the off-beat cymbal splash through a puddle. Raindrops hang like weights from the wrought-iron table and chairs, anticipating spirited gatherings and quiet times of reflection in the soft air and warm sunshine. Each drop seems to count down toward God’s glory in the infinitely small and magically veiled to soon crescendo in a display of jaw-dropping kaleidoscope in color, texture, tastes, sounds and bustling activity. Activated and animated by aqua.

Water is in just about everything, and is needed just about everywhere, not just my garden. We’ve all heard that just over roughly 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water, and that our bodies are made up just about the same percentage of water (about 10% less than what we’re born with). “By the time a person feels thirsty, his or her body has lost over 1 percent of its total water amount. Pure water (solely hydrogen and oxygen atoms) has a neutral pHth-85 of 7, which is neither acidic nor basic, and dissolves more substances than any other liquid. Wherever it travels, water carries chemicals, minerals, and nutrients with it.” (allaboutwater.org). Life comes from, flourishes and is cared for through the existence of water!

Water is mentioned over 700 times in the Bible, referring not only to its requirement for meeting many of our physical needs, but also as imagery to quench our spiritual needs, and to embody our enmeshed resemblance with God. It illustrates and gives expression to God’s drenching us in the life-blood of his Word, to describe his lavish and provisional character and nature, and his likeness entwined within us. We are repositories, vessels ready to collect and appropriate his liquid love, the effusion of his life-spring that moves and oozes, swells and ebbs within us. No wonder then my aching thirst to break free of anything that hinders that tide and current, for the refilling and renewal of this intimate connection. No wonder the thirst to wash and refresh myself in the Gardener’s provision and care. The more I am soaked like a drenched sponge, the more easily I drip, dribble and refresh others in need of refreshment. But do I wait too often until I feel thirsty to cry out to the Gardener? Do I consider the rain a trial or an opportunity for thanksgiving?

IMG_20160422_081236Oh the power of rain! Thank goodness for the reviving nutrients and nourishing minerals the Gardener showers me with on those cloudy days! Our Gardener dissolves many a malady, cleanses and heals many a wound, quenches and tends to many an ache, all to bless and grace me with his tenderest of care. I long for his drenching with an unrelenting thirst. I need his living water. Perhaps this is why he suggests I regularly hydrate throughout the day, every day, in intimate conversation with him as I would my dearest companion, and before I thirst, before my wanting becomes panting. I can begin with the sights I see, and the sounds I hear. As I enjoy and allow myself to sit deep in the wonder of his creation, lift my face and listen for him in the peace of the patter of the rain, tip my ear to his cheer of the bird’s lilting song, his streams of living water beckon and draw me further in, closer. I am won over, and soon find myself beside he who opens storehouses of abundance. Perhaps then what seems like a relentless deluge is more a lavish blessing that soaks me through to the bone? Perhaps I can even venture welcoming it? Oh, the Gardener does bless, with showers as much as with sunshine – sunshine that so often is much the sweeter after a spell of rain.

Through both rain and sun, the Gardener is orchestrating the great and vigorous animation of what seems to have been mysteriously dormant for a season. He is birthing and rebirthing through cloudburst and floodgate a jubilee of splendid flower and bloom, scent and sound, abundantly flooding his world with his plenty and glory through you, through me. And, as if in an exquisite finale, the sun perforates all veil of pain and sorrow, evaporates deluge of adversity and trial, catching reflection in every last drop of rain and tear, only to have the pearly beads disappear in a joyful burst of gentle and vanishing irridiscent mist.

IMG_20160422_184910But those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.
(John 4.14, New Revised Standard Version)

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
(Isaiah 55: 10-11, New Revised Standard Version)

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
(Hebrews 10:22, New Revised Standard Version)

As the deer pants for water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God.
(Psalm 42: 1-2, The Living Bible)

Erin
Soil and Seed