Seasons – These Times We Are a-Suffering

Sometimes I wonder if, in the time God chooses to bring about His justice in a situation, He doesn’t also bring us (offender and offended) to the spiritual maturity to be ready for it when it comes. You know that period of time I’m speaking of? That period that seems to be stretched out like an elastic band as we impatiently wait for some sort of light on the horizon; while our spirits and minds and hearts remain crushed or tied up in knots? Well, I wonder if He doesn’t use the substance of this very chapter within His timing to our benefit; to guide and bring us to a place where we can genuinely accept and cooperate with Him when His justice dawns.

I wonder … It’s as if the (often painful) process of waiting contains a process within itself: a curriculum that follows a course designed to ready us for that Bright Day we ache to see, but one that entails steps that include the eviction of the poisons that infect our hearts and minds and spirits. And much like the regimen of any healthcare provider worth their mettle, our Gardener will expulse these contaminants by gently pressing on the super-sore-tender-spots to release and drain the toxic pus within so true regeneration can begin. He doesn’t do this for perverse pleasure, but so there instead can be bona fide healing upon which proper renewal and revival can soak into our hearts and minds and spirits, setting aright whatsoever has tripped up and wounded our bearings. Maybe readiness for His reparation requires complete absence of the foulness of septicity for it to be well-grounded and on solid footing.

Perhaps once there is no more ooze, only then I am really ready. Could it be too that at that precise moment (when perhaps all is aligned on all sides by Him?), His ruling takes place, and likely in a way more complete than I could have possibly imagined – and actually welcome?

Still, surely the Gardener’s Hand is in every moment leading up to that. It must be His Love that prods me toward that maturity. It must be His Hand pressing, solely because He so wants Health for us; wants that vile poison that clouds, that darkness that shrouds fully absent and far removed from us even more than we do, so we can spring forward in cooperation with His goodness!

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8: 22-23)

sunsetWe need only glimpse at just about any newsfeed to know that we all share in the common denominator of suffering. Whether hidden or copiously obvious, each of us have an or many infected abscess(es), and judging by the groanings and cries resounding in this world founded deep in the hearts of offended and offender, I wonder and even dare to think our Father might surely be pressing on them – pressing not because He is mean, but because He longs to bring us relief, to heal us and make us whole. And with each press, we have a choice. Do I put my hand over it, rub it or stir it up and generate more poison, more infection? (and just how, do tell, does this serve me longterm?) Or do I take my hand off and let our God move in to press it all out and away?

But while He aches in our suffering, while He never turns away from us, still He remains a gentleman, urging and prodding and allowing us the choice to ease off, to relent and allow Him to step in. So, I wonder if the longer I hold my shaking hand over or rub the sore, the longer it will take …??  Hmm … Imagine though! What might happen when I remove my hand from that blistering boil? I do remember a like situation when I was suffering terribly as a child, in a lot of pain; even so I kind of did and I didn’t want the doctor to step in and help provide relief… But oh, when she did! So here too, sure there will undoubtedly be a bout of pain, but it will soon be followed by immense relief, and joy-filled thankfulness, and ahhhhh, freedom! And right then, we become at once renewed as we are a part of that renewal, at once rejuvenated as a part of pouring in rejuvenation, at once receiving Life as a one shining with it!

So maybe, just maybe, however soon we are to see restitution and resolution has a lot to do with us, with how soon we release our trembling hand that protects and defends the ulcer to God’s gentle, tender and mighty Hand … ?

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8: 24-25)

Your days of grief will come to an end. I, the Lord, will be your eternal light, more lasting than the sun and moon. (Isaiah 60:20)

Isaiah 26Lord God, we are not puppets to You. No. We are your children. And You are our Loving Father – not loving us as the world calls or does love, but as our hearts and spirits ache and groan for. And yet, you love us even more than that! And in that very Love, your eyes are transfixed on us, and your Heart breaks as it sees our brokenness, our woundedness, our tender sores swollen with poison. Oh Father, how you run to heal comprehensively! Help our hearts to hear yours, to know Your safety and to lift our hands away from these open and oozing lesions that we tremble to defend and cover. Help us to see the Love and tear-filled determination in Your eyes as You lay your tender Hand upon each one’s surface and begin to gently press out the poison. Grant us the strength and the determination to stay the course, to keep our ears open to your Voice and eyes on Yours so that we come to smile and rejoice with You as the healing sunrise dawns on fuller Kingdom character and the glory, Your glory, of across-the-board renewal. Amen.

Erin
Soil and Seed

 

Advertisements

Preparation and Celebration – What God has Joined Together!

Wedding!This past weekend, we celebrated the marriage of one of our sons, Christopher, to his glowing wife Laurin! Wahoo!! The brilliance of the sunshine was surpassed only by the sea of radiant smiles and sparkling joy. Congratulations and heap upon heap of every Good thing to our happy couple! To you both, we wish every last drop of blessing that we know our generous Father has within His vast storehouses for you! xoxoxoxo!

It was a beautiful ceremony, full of palpable love, moving music, and rich Scriptural nuggets of inspiration and affirmation in my own walk with the Gardener. But as the final acclamation of the celebration rang out, “Let those whom God has joined together, no one separate!”, another rang in and claimed my heart:

Let no one separate us from the Lord, Who, through His Son, has joined us together with Himself!
Pity the one who tries – or even contemplates – to separate us from the Son,
from the One who first loved us, in Whom lies all the Power and Authority,
and in Whose All-mighty Hands our hearts are safe!

So…

  • Let no one separate us from our introduction to Him; from His calm, imperturbable and gentle softening of our hardened and wounded hearts to endear us to His; from His meaningful Word; from His quiet persistence in pursuing and courting us, and our spirits’ shaky consenting response to His tender invitation.
  • Let no one separate us as we walk and talk with Him; as we discover and are stirred by His character and passion for us; as He reveals He is the safe place to live, land and fall; as we are invigorated, inspired and excited by His vision of our fullness so wildly above and beyond the world’s imaginations, expectations, judgements, labels and assumptions, and as we take that timid step to live and move in His deep, protective and demonstrative love for us.
  • Let no one separate us from Him as He pours His strength into our weaknesses; as He coaxes and brings out the best in us; as He stands as our security and shield against the world’s attempts to wound and destroy us; as He steps in to remove or helps us cast away all that harms or keeps us from perfect fulfillment within ourselves, and as He fill those holes to overflowing with His Goodness.
  • Let no one separate us from Him and His proven and proving promises; from His reliability and solid trustworthiness; from His patient assurance and knowing guidance through all the dark valleys and atop bright hilltops.
  • Let no one separate us from His profound affection and sacrificial love for us; from His wide and genuinely joy-filled smile and Heart; from His always-listening ear and sympathizing touch as we sigh in relief, settle and sink more deeply in our relationship with Him, and as we are strengthened by His unshakable, unmovable devotion and provision for us.
  • Let no one separate us from His tender, wise and learned influence over our hearts and minds; from the fulfillment, handsomeness, loveliness, and glistening power of increasingly resembling Him as we grow closer and closer to Him, and as we cherish Him more and more.
  • Let no one separate us from Him as He invites us to get to know His own Father, and from His encouragement to call His Father our Father.
  • Let no one separate us as we join our spirits and souls and minds to His; as we find inexplicable joy and restorative fire in Him; as we commit to live our lives in unity with Him, and as we joyfully partner with Him with fresh purpose and desire to plant, water, tend, harvest and sow His Kingdom’s seeds and fields.
  • Let no one separate us from Him as He prepares and sets the jewels in our crowns and to bedeck us in finery; as He prepares for today, and in all our moments, all that is needed within us in joyous anticipation for the day of celebration and jubilation when we rejoice in the Love of the most wonderful I AM!

The Groom and Best ManLet no one separate us!

“And the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
(Mark 10: 8-9, New Revised Standard Version)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39, New International Version)

Erin
Soil and Seed

 

 

Seasons – Shape and Shadows

“Do you ever remember there being such unrest and turmoil when you were a kid?” my youngest son asked as he and his brother and I began our Scripture study together. My heart broke. To be honest, I can’t remember the groaning of the world being brought as close to me as it is for this generation that bravely battles for hope. I don’t remember such a preponderance of 24-hour news channels: the hour’s news in my day was at 6am, 6pm and 11pm. Our internet was the morning paper that spoke of events of days before with a smattering of heartwarming stories. Today we have newsfeeds that incessantly scream of the ugly side of humanity in its every facet. It would appear that hope is a preciously rare commodity these days! We need to dig deep to find good news and glad tidings that we insist must far outweigh the less-so! Save for a 30-second sound byte at the end of the broadcast, these rarely seem to see the light of day in the feverishly frenzied goal of garnering more views. We are doused and inundated with 24/7 communication that for now seems to seed hopelessness and continue to paint a very grim picture of the world, and human-far-from-kind within it.

And yet. As the boys and I continued to ponder this together; as we considered how thousands open up their homes in the midst of devastation, how many courageously step into the fray to watch over and care for the wounded in body and spirit, how even one supports and encourages and tends to another affected by an act of hate, it became clearer to us that hope is still out there even though we may see shadows.

And that made us think.

th-107Have you ever taken a good look at packed flowerbeds, or even a bouquet of flowers? Do you remember the kaleidoscope tubes of childhood? Have you ever looked at a painting on the wall, or studied a photograph? Have you ever noticed that there are always shadows, thin strips or spots of black between petal and background, between bed and distant landscape? Smudges of shadow behind mountain, or scattered around a still-life? Do you remember how each jewel of rich color in those kaleidoscope tubes was framed by a very thin line of black?

Shadows. Darkness serving to bring color into sharper focus and greater intensity, to lift the subject matter up and out and give it dimension.

In photography, as much as in painting and other art forms, we are told that shadows add contrast and drama, and they help us to draw clearer focus on the content and composition. Each streak of color, each shape has more pop, and each pop reveals its form with greater clarity. Your eye is drawn to detail you wouldn’t otherwise see, texture that would be otherwise hidden. Shadows help to define an object. According to the Swiss painter Johannes Itten, “the contrast between light and dark is one of the most expressive and important means of composition.” (http://bit.ly/29SGanZ). Isn’t that interesting!

IMG_4427

Yes, there is purpose to the shadows, to the smudges of charcoal and ink, and our Master
Artist, our Gardener uses our experiences within these cloudy places for good: to add to our definition, to add texture and highlighting dimension to our hearts and minds and souls. So, when we step out of the shadow to open up our hearts and homes, our time and resources with he or she who is affected by an act of hate or indifference – our jewel glistens and glows that much brighter. When someone extends a helping hand to us in the midst of our own troubles, an encouraging word or warm comforting hug of support – our jewel tones warm and shimmer that much more. When we renounce further seeping-in of the poison of hate, when we turn our backs on retaliation, when we move instead toward the Gardener to ask for His guidance and perspective – our jewel’s hue deepens in rich blaze.

The light shines in the darkness. But the darkness has not overcome the light.
(John 1: 5, New International Reader’s Version)

You know, if we consider whatever the form of kaleidoscope, be it the flowerbed or bloom, the vista or the portrait, the expansive measure and extent of color always far outweighs in intensity, magnitude and vastness than that of the darkness. We can thank our loving Gardener, our victorious Lord for that! And as we wait for His return, we can remain renewed, emboldened and triumphant in the obscurity. So then perhaps, just perhaps, shadow and various degrees of darkness are used for and are subservient to the good of our glow and undertones, for our texture, our shape and form, our composition. They are used in service of the ultimate shout of glory that explodes in the sparkling prism that is us, that radiates with the awe of His glory!

“Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. So don’t be afraid. The Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.”
(Joshua 1:9, International Children’s Bible)

God saw that the light was good. He separated the light from the darkness
(Genesis 1:4 , New International Reader’s Version)

Erin
Soil and Seed

 

The Character of the Gardener

th-4I don’t know about you, but it brings me great peace and pleasure to see a garden beautifully landscaped. I enjoy strolling through the cheerful exuberance of an English cottage garden as much as I do the quiet and disciplined formal grounds. I marvel at the astonishing variety of unique shapes, sizes, colors and textures woven together in a tapestry of breath-taking beauty. There is a feeling of wholeness, of roundedness, of fullness that sinks deep into my bones and innermost, washing away all trace of anxiousness and disquiet.

I marvel too at the skill and dedication of the gardener. How is it that he or she knows what goes where to get the most of the sun or shade, what is planted when, what seedling is weed or flower? From where does the knowledge and experience come to know how to protect from pests, to allow something to remain undisturbed as it goes to seed, or to exercise the extraordinary patience to nurture each plant to its fullest and most beautiful bloom? Which fertilizer nourishes which plant the best? Why do tulips bloom best when they are planted this far down in the soil? How do they know how and where to cut lettuce so that it continues to yield a crop? What is the best technique for pruning a dogwood? They seem to connect with every detail in the complexity of gardening. They are horticultural maestros. Seed whisperers, I call them.

I’m no such maestro, largely because I get anxious and impatient. I anticipate and relish the lush, and my keen undertakings to encourage its realization tend to snuff any future th-12prospect. At best, I tend to oscillate between calm diligence, and eager hurried haste, whether in the garden, or in life. Sometimes I overwater, then underwater in anticipation of what I think the plant must need. Sometimes I fertilize when it’s been weeks since the shoot sprouted with no sign of visible growth, often over-fertilizing and burning its tender leaves and roots. Sometimes I yank it out altogether before it’s even had a chance. Sometimes I honestly forget, preoccupied with what’s happening in my life at that moment, even ignoring its withering to favor procrastination and the consequence of neglect appears. Perhaps a mental picture of my garden is coming into focus! Many a seedling has quivered in fear at the prospect of receiving such distracted, scattered and unreliable attention!  If potted perennials could sprout legs and run, there’d be a stampede to freedom beyond my garden’s gate! It’s in all too often times like these that I gather all the strength within me, take a deep breath, deny the cacophony of contradicting advice, and allow myself to relax and take pleasure. Curiously, when I do, there is newfound joy and discovery. You’d think I’d do it more often!

My immature gardener’s character is mellowing. Hopefully.

The character of the Master Gardener, though, is fully mature. Like any superb gardener, He is fully experienced, consistent and persistent. He knows what he is doing. He has a plan. A very good plan. He is The Expert Landscaper and Soil Specialist. He is always filled with eager and ingenuous creativity and lavish joy, focused on His clear and strong vision of coming splendour in His sights as He prunes or uproots, th-14clears for a new plot, transplants or fertilizes, or whispers life into the seed that He tenderly plants and affectionately waters. He is never frustrated, never complains. He is forgiving, looking upon missteps as possibility for fresh starts and new growth. He is reliable and thoroughly relishes what He is doing. He has a sharp eye, a kind heart, and a strong determination to see His project through to its end, persistently training climbers to climb, creepers to creep, and tare roots to relinquish their hold on the lush soil. There is nothing that escapes His notice, and He has a clear view, grasp and control of every detail in the interconnecting vista before him. He is The Horticultural Maestro.  Oh the relief!

It has been said that the activity of gardening has a positive effect on us, and can help transform us into better people. I like that, don’t you? I believe the Master Gardener knows it, likes it, and wills it for us too.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29: 11 (NIV)

th-21

Erin
Soil and Seed