Ah, the Lord’s Prayer.
This is is the second-to last in a series of entries, and as in those prior (and the last to come), my hope is that you may join me to just sit, soak and soar together, and knit our hearts closer and closer to our most wonderful Gardener.
Oh Father, in Your proven kindness and mercy look upon us, and with tender pity forgive us for all the things we do wrong. And Papa we mess up so much! We mess up on our own, in ourselves and with others! We need You! We need Your Spirit to guide us! Show us Papa what Your forgiveness looks like, and what it looks like to forgive for us to do the same so that we can be free, free as we choose to do the same over and over, free from the poison and weight and chains of unforgiveness. Father, fill our depths with the full knowledge of the utter scale and deepest depth of Your grace and relief offered for us, of Your eternal heart that beats with never-ending love for us! Help us to be merciful and forgiving of those who wrong us, who irritate us, who grieve us, so that Your mercy and Truth and Your restorative justice wins over bitterness, judgement and condemnation – and transforms the earth!
Help me to live in your atmosphere of tender love so that I drop all the extra carry-on baggage of my personal issues, all my pretense, my pride and ego, my ugliest of the most foul parts of my thought patterns and actions and habits, and work instead in cooperation with You, and your Spirit. Oh Father, have mercy and forgive me when I do wrong – deliberately in stupid rebellion (I mean, honestly!) and when I don’t have my wits about me, and help me to recognize and be merciful and forgive others, for sin is sin no matter the measure. Help me to push past the temptation to hold it against my offender and to look down on them as if I’m better than them (!!), to be instead tender and forgiving, to hope in the best, and to leave their transformation in Your hands and care. Help me as I struggle with leaving their transformation in Your hands.
Spare us all from the bad things that might happen to us, and from the stress and pressure that comes when we’re under trial and crushing worldly burdens. In these moments especially, I have absolutely no confidence in my abilities, nor even in my reserves of faith, for they will never be enough without Your Presence and constant care. Protect us from circumstances that threaten to destroy even an iota of who we are as Your children, for there is not one of us who can, in our own humanness, in our own power, overcome them.
And Papa, keep me from wandering off to the bright lights, the decoys, the traps and tricks that tempt me away from You. Keep me focused and alert to the triggers and lures, discerning and wise to the methods of the one who seeks my destruction above all else, in circumstance and in heinously using me and others to do his dirty work, his evil. He hates me because I love You. Keep me alert to all his sneaky, snakey and despicable ways. Save me and set me on higher ground. And if it’s Your will, be in my outstretched hands to pull others up with me.
Your strength, Papa, is perfected in my life precisely in and through my weaknesses. When I am weak, and Papa that is often!, somehow, I manage to get through the circumstance that would otherwise crush me. That has to be You! It is in this atmosphere of faith in You and Your Plan that I wish to live – hopeful faith, that hope that never ever disappoints!
Soil and Seed
I am a bit of an amateur photog. I started the hobby as a young girl, taking photos of my Mom’s garden – those beautiful patches of graceful and sprightly flowers – that I would zoom in to as close as my Pentax K100 would allow to freeze the sublime majesty of their extraordinarily exquisite detail. I particularly enjoyed taking pictures early in the morning to capture the jiggling dew still perched upon quivering and laden emerald leaves, or at dusk to seize that perfect moment when the warmth of the golden sunset seeps through paperlike petals just-so. I would take close-ups of stamen, of roots, of leaves, of bugs, of dirt, and I became more and more fascinated. So much stunning beauty in the tiniest corners of creation, right before our eyes and under our noses that we’re largely too busy and preoccupied to see! Perhaps it was in one of those early days that I decided I would have a patch of beauty for my own, whether in apartment planters, or a postage stamp garden, or a modest plot.
Recently, I was looking over photos that I’d not too long ago taken, and one seemed to stand out in particular. I was transfixed by its every detail.
How rich and varied in depth and shades of yellow, with tips and licks of melon-orange and buttery blonde! How the sun illumines little patches here and there, enough that the whole is warmly lit, framed in glowing and inviting radiance! Look at how parts of this little retreat resemble somewhat the inside pin-stripes of a lemon. I am spellbound by the different textures all seamlessly woven together: the ottoman-shaped soft and lushly padded cushion punctuating its center flawlessly sewn together with the raised variegated streaks, harmoniously flowing into the Tuscan-sun yellow awning of delicate and broad petals reaching beyond the frame of the picture. Look at how the transparent glow of the walls seems to highlight the contrast and draw the eye to the little creatures and their loveliness! How delicate their legs, and how handsome their stripes! How at home they look, and how secure they appear to be as they walk about in freedom, totally unruffled by my presence.
What struck me too is how this little corner, in all its elegance and beauty, is but a tiny part of the whole elegant bloom! Who is so much Greater who could imagine such a creation, and carefully and precisely shape such beauty and purpose?
And oh, at the heart of the flower is the softest and most vulnerable of places embued with light! Here, a deep butterscotch quartet of trumpets rise triumphantly in the center. It is not protected or walled off from these or any little critter, but is open and inviting, accessible to the touch, ready to be snuggled up close to.
A perfect sanctuary!
Could it be that He who created this exquisite refuge waits to envelop us with such radiance, abiding in plain sight to welcome and draw us even closer into His powerful and tender hiding place, His very own bosom? Could it be that He is always ‘right before my eyes and under my nose’; immediately accessible – extending his heart to me; a sanctuary in which I can snuggle up and rest? And this place He would draw us into – would it ignite within us a sense of familiarity, of belonging; a place in which to linger and drink deeply; a hearth in which to be free and to relax in safety? Could it be that this place is right here, right now, directly in front of me, clearly visible to my innermost if I would only pause and look?
The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of trouble;
he protects those who take refuge in him
(Nahum 1:7, New Revised Standard Version)
It does take effort, doesn’t it? Effort to pause and look? Laborious effort to shift the focus away from the cacophony of distractions from it? Effort too to avoid taking its nearness, its availability for granted?
Do you ever feel as if you’ve gallivanted way too far, have let eyes and ears stray and saunter away from Refuge’s gentle call – and felt as if you’ve gotten irretrievably lost? What am I doing? How did I get here? Where am I going? Oh my Lord Jesus – is the way back too far? And then the sigh of relief as the meager effort to refocus is rewarded, and the heart in thankfulness swells. No, we are never too far. There is no place we can wander where He will not find us, or even be waiting. The Gardener’s steady hands and tender heart are always right there, right in front of us, welcoming and inviting back into a place of such spectacular warmth and beauty, of complete replenishment and restoration: nectar to our spirit, mind, body and soul.
You know, I wonder if perhaps one of the reasons I am so captivated by such striking artistry and mind-boggling weaving of detail is because of Who it points to, and just how very close He really is; the grasping of the staggering gift of His ever-present majesty, and His comprehensive attention to all His creation. Perhaps that wonder-ignited is divine providence – for me, for everyone – activating the connection between the created and Creator, its broadband a conduit that nourishes we beloveds with His vulnerable beauty and tender Love-liness. Perhaps it winks of the grace and glory that is present in the now for all of us. All. the. time. If only we would pause and look.
So, let’s hit ‘pause’ button more often! Let’s stop, taste and see how amazing and Good the Creator is! Let’s reawaken ourselves to His majesty – and let’s rejoice! Let’s consider preoccupation an opportunity for reorientation, a tip-off to cue realigning of bearings and readjusting focus to the Gardener’s promise of ‘Come and See’. Let’s accept His invitation more often for a stop-over, to linger in the present of His Presence, this sanctuary of unconditional provision rooted in unlimited Love. Let’s answer the call, wherever we may be to re-root and re-fill our spirits, souls, our all, deep within the magnificent hearth of His tenderest Heart.
Oh friends, the wonderful thing is that right here is where He always is and will always be! In all our moments! Right in front of us, beside us, behind us, ahead of us, in magnificent glory! For this is our Gardener: the most wonderful I AM!
A man who has friends must be a friend,
but there is a friend who stays nearer than a brother.
(Proverbs 18: 24, New Life Version)
But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” (Genesis 22:7, New King James Version)
“Teacher, where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They followed Him and saw where He lived. They stayed with Him that day.
(John 1: 38-39, New Life Version)
Soil and Seed