Enjoyment – Grafted to the Vine

Cut flowers from the garden in the home bring such cheer don’t they? I enjoy picking a variety of lively and multi-textured blooms to enjoy them even closer at hand indoors. Apart from the VineMmmmm! Their fragrance is a whiff of hope and encouragement, tickling the senses and lifting the spirit! During the warmer seasons, they provide hints of what awaits a mere step outside the door, and the occasional treat of a bouquet I purchase during colder months winks at the whimsy to come just over the season’s horizon. Whenever I look at them, I can’t help but allow a smile to bubble up and boost my spirits!

But! *Sigh* Within a week, two weeks if I’m really lucky, my vibrant bouquet too soon begins to show signs of fatigue as it strains to absorb scant nourishment from water, eventually drooping and flopping prostrate over the vase. Clipping stems and refreshing the water never seems to keep the inevitable farewell at bay. In a most untimely yet inevitable fashion, what remains is but a languishing, ghostly and wistful memory of once joyous perkiness; collapsed and washed out, to eventually withdraw into a clutch of anemic pastel petals and mossy-taupe spaghetti stems.

That’s the thing about cut flowers isn’t it? For a while, they stand cheerfully beaming upright in the vase, but they fail to last nearly as long as we’d like. After all they can only draw on the vitaminized water for so long. Soon, they seem to sink into a long wistful sigh as they ache to remain vertical, and groan as they bend, sweep and then collapse on the final resting place of the tabletop. And within the vase, bloated stems seem to erode, wasting away, starved for nourishment.

Flowers will not thrive cut apart from their plant, apart from the stem and its shoots and roots sunk deep within the nutrient-rich soil.

Sounds familiar.

For a while, I stand upright, confident and enthusiastic, convinced that I am sitting pretty and prospering without the Vine, but my confidence wanes along with my strength as I inescapably discover I won’t last much longer disconnected in my self-sufficiency from Branch, Trunk and Roots, and separate from their consummate life-giving supply. Still, I obstinately persist, somehow persuading myself I can survive on my own. Yet, I always reach a state of exhaustion with tell-tale signs of anemia or starvation. Worse, my malnourishment and deprivation can soon become my only inward focus, rather than focusing upward to the assurance of sustenance and a wonderful possibility of bearing fruit!

The longer I am off the Vine, away from the Vine’s solid trunk, choosing to separate myself from it and soaking instead in worldly waters, the more I bloat in a bog until I can take no more. The longer I am without proper hydration, the faster I wither and faint, and am open and exposed to the pollutants that dry me up to brittle that quickly snaps under the least of pressure.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.” (John 15: 4-8, The Message)

Intimate and organic relationship with the King – the King of all Creation! How’s that for sustenance? How refreshing as we allow our hearts and spirits to be swept up in His own Heart’s invitation and promise, sipping on and gulping in the Living Water coursing through the Vine! How nourished and alive we become, filled with the zing, zip and zest of that bubbling Source, so much so that it saturates our life to shimmer with difference, and can’t help but leave a fragrance of hope and joy!

Friend, let’s look to our Gardener, our King, our Vine for our providing rather than stagnating in our own independence and self-sufficiency. Let’s wrap ourselves tight around the Vine, to fuse and melt with His strength, to sup and drip with delightful heavenly food, to joyfully bound forward, released into this beautiful world to produce rich and luscious fruit for the Gardener in and to Whom we are gloriously and intimately entwined!

I am the Vine

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
(Psalm 80:8, New Revised Standard Version)

“But things have changed. I’m taking the side of my core of surviving people: Sowing and harvesting will resume, vines will grow grapes, gardens will flourish, dew and rain will make everything green.
(Zechariah 8: 11-12, The Message)

Soil and Seed



Seasons – Out of the Sun

I enjoy every time of day.

Morning_Sunrise_2I enjoy an early morning sunrise as the garden seems to stir and rouse from a rest, yawning and stretching as it awakens, branches straining their tips way out, buds slowly opening up to the warmth of the rising sun, dew bidding its farewell until another day as it evaporates like sparkling pixie dust. Mummy birds fly from ground to nest with a fresh breakfast of wriggly worms to the delighted tweets and twitters of their broods. Bugs seem to venture out, travelling stem and leaf for a quick bite before they head off on a busy day of scavenging and gathering. Scarlet cardinals and cobalt bluejays engage in a duel of song. Heat bugs quicken to attention and begin their mournful song. Captivating!

To be honest though, I’ve never really taken the time to sit back and observe what happens in the garden at night. I’d often think that the explosion of a colorful sunset was signal to garden life to head to bed until it circled around to wake and warm it up once again, to please my eyes and comfort my soul and spirit … 😉 Does the nighttime shimmer with as much activity as day? Is it just as magical?

To the backdrop of the crickets’ squeaky sing-song, I quietly sauntered past a patch of bumblebee-yellow blooms as the neighbor’s calico zipped past me. Not only were these blooms open, but their glorious citrus evening-primrose-flowerfragrance seemed far more intense and rounded. Up ahead, a couple of moths flit and flew to perch and rest on the single bloom of milky porcelain-white clematis which seemed to have taken on an almost fluorescent glow as the moon began to shine. What was that little creature in the far corner of the garden? He froze in place, hoping I suppose that I didn’t see him huddled beneath the hosta leaves, the quivering of his nose tremoring through his fuzzy weeness like the aftershocks of an earthquake. I closed my eyes to the symphony of gently rustling leaves, the odd chirping, and the squish of stealthy padded paw-steps. The sky soon became an inky sapphire, stars fading in and blinking silently as I quietly tiptoed toward the door. I startled a pair of raccoons who seemed to be strategizing the physics of overturning our garbage can, conspiring the distribution of the feast within. The beginnings of nighttime in the garden. What else happens in the darkness whilst I slumber, I wondered. Creepers must still creep; burrowers must still burrow. Life and activity surely continues, even in the dark hours! A snippet of research revealed that some varieties of flowers only release their nectar during the darker hours, attracting a whole new breed of pollinators! These bugs are stronger it seems than their daytime cousins, and can handle cooler temperatures.  But, I wondered, do plants actually need darkness to grow? Read on, courtesy of user aazainal of Yahoo Answers (http://yhoo.it/1OdanYj):

Yes, plants do need darkness to grow. First, in the photosynthesis process itself, there is a reaction known as ‘dark reaction’ pathway or lately known as ‘carbon reaction’ pathway where the free energy of ATP and reducing power of NADPH, are used to fix and reduce CO2 to form carbohydrate. This is very important process to release Oxygen into the air. This happened in the dark or at night. Secondly, for inducing the plant to initiate flowering process. This phenomena is known as photoperiod, ie based on the ratio of the daylength to night length over 24 hours. Plants reaction to photoperiod can be divided into 4 groups.

  1. Day-neutral plants – the plant has no effect on photoperiod. They will flower when the plant reach physiological maturity.
  2. Short day plants – plants will only flower when daylength is shorter than nightlength. This group of plants will only flower in late summer or fall or very early spring, when day length is shorter than the night period. e.g. strawberries, potatoes, chrysanthemums etc.
  3. Long day plants – plants that flower in spring or early summer. eg lettuce, spinach, radish etc. Flower initiation will begin when the daylength is getting longer than the dark period.
  4. Intermediate day plants – These group of plants will grow vegetatively when daylength is either too long or too short. They will only flower when the day length is about 12hrs of daylight and 12 hrs of darkness.”

Purpose to the light. Purpose to the darkness. There is splendour in its every facet, and splendour growing within each facet it to bring about loveliness in the day. The Gardener has use of it to bring about His glory. Hmmm… Interesting! What about our periods of what seem like dark nights? It can be hard to imagine that He has purpose while we’re in the gloom of their midst, especially in what may appear to be a string of them. But could it be that He does have purpose in, and can use, these moments? While we wonder where God is in all of that apparent murkiness, when our eyes see only dimly, are our prayers truly absorbed or bounced off a glass ceiling?

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars. The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

I wonder. I wonder if darkness is only so if it is all that I focus on; is only so when I forget His promises. Is only so when I forget Who He is? And Whose I am? Perhaps darkness does have purpose, even for us. Perhaps it too can be a magical place of secret growth, of developing vitality! Perhaps we are brought to such places for a Greater purpose; a place far from distraction and beguilement where a private audience with the loving Gardener is all we have left. A place of sifting. A place where we search and find God not as we imagine Him to be from wild imaginations and rumour, but as Who He really is. Love. Vigilant Love. What would happen if, in the midst of our goop, we re-considered our Gardener’s character, His eye on our full restoration?

How would I then regard Him, my “all I have left”? There is really nothing like realizing that there is nothing like God! The All, who is all-ready, and already there! Eager to draw me to brush up against His iridescence, to be engulfed in the cheerful fragrance of His gladdening! And there is no place that He is not. So then, if He is here, if He stands as our Shield between us and whatever threatens, if He is Light and Love, what does that say of darkness? Of it ever truly overcoming us?

 “You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.”
2 Samuel 22: 29 (New International Version)

Remember and recognize there is always Light that darkness cannot and will not ever overcome. Hope will always hum in the flame. Take it. Focus on me, and rejoice! Look! I bathe you entirely in my Light, for the Light is my Love that cannot ever be snuffed out. Yes, allow this joy to rise up from your deepest parts and envelope your heart, and sing as all flickers of light melt together to absorb the darkness in your mind in a flood of brilliant radiance! This juncture is occasion for profound intimacy with me; an opportunity for you to behold my love, my glory, and to allow my love and glory to shine through you. Do not worry. Worry is addictive and draws your attention away from Me and from the freedom I offer out to you and enslaves you in fear, shrinking, deflation, and withdrawal. This is not where I want or have designed for you to be. Trust in me. Trust that even this will be used for my Good in you, and in this circumstance, and that it pollinates future growth in splendour. I am here. Always. I am I AM.  Acknowledge that I am present at allth-86 times, in all ways, and use all things for a good purpose. Allow me to help you to grow in it and from it, and up out of it. You will see its purpose when I know it is best! I will choose when. In the meantime trust me, and only me, and not your own understanding. 

Seeds and plants in the garden of our spirits and  souls need – and still yet grow in – darkness. I wonder… I wonder if we can seize the faith that Light is bathing us, no matter how we feel? I wonder if I can rest in Who God is, and not what I want Him to do or to be? I wonder if I could focus on the Son’s closeness to me, even though I may feel far from the sun?  I wonder if I can settle my heart and mind on the assurance that He who ensured the hope of glittering stars in the night’s navy sky is in absolute control of all things in all situations – and that I just might not need to know every reason why things happen the way they do? Perhaps I could even consider .. perhaps even .. dare? .. to find darkness is alive with His good purpose? I wonder where such thinking would lead Father?

Jesus, help me to choose to consider dark nights and overcast days as places where just you and I meet privately; places where you shine your Light on the pathway out of my worry and self-absorption; places where you trim me down and muscle me up to take the better path illumined by your Light; places where I yield to and trust in you, in your greater purpose, and ask you what you want to accomplish!  And when and where you will it, allow me to be the warmth of your Light to peak through the darkness for others!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
(John 1: 5, New Living Translation)

 “He reveals tth-88he deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light.”
(Job 12:22, New International Version)

Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”
(Matthew 26: 36-39, The Message)

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

(John 16:33, New Living Translation)

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)

Soil and Seed