Fire Up the Christmas Tree…in #March

(Excerpt from God Loves Gardens, by Dawn Jones)                                     I let the dog out on this beautiful Sunday morning as the sun was coming up, the birds were waking up, and the new flowers are starting to push their way up.  I look across my yard to the unsightly large black spot next to the fence where I finally got to burn the annual Spring cleaning—leftover leaves, twigs and branches, and, yes, even the old Christmas tree. But I don’t have to see the blackened area to remember my efforts from the day before.  My 50+ year old frame is reminding me enough!   Initially, the left over burn pile looks like an ugly scar on my landscape, until I realize what it represents.  This spot will be where I plant my tomato starts again this year.  And they will become monster bushes due to the wonderfully fertile soil provided by the after effects of my efforts from yesterday’s hard work.

We know that burning adds the nutrients into the soil, and this can be likened to the process of consecration, A.K.A. dedication, of ourselves to God. (I like the word “consecration”.  It’s a good old-fashioned churchy sounding word that’s packed with meaning.)  It’s only when we are truly consecrated to God that we become pretty useless TO the world; that is, the world cannot use us for its own purposes, and we become liberated from the shackles of their devices, such as the need for popularity, status, wealth…fill in the blank. Not that these things are intrinsically evil, but the “need” for them sure is!   Likewise, it’s when we are completely devoted to God—His honor, His plan and purpose, His timing—that we are, in a very real and spiritual sense, burned up to Him in a way that we become “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” described by Paul, and we become useful FOR the world in the way God intends.  And lastly, if we neglect this consecration process, this burning sacrifice of our lives to God, then we can be assured that we will, indeed, be burned out by the world and its effects upon us.

Having said that, as I contemplate the black spot in my garden, several things come to mind:

Leaves: (many of which have been sheltering the gardens to keep the roots warmer over the somewhat brutal winter we just had)  We also can tend to hide under some of our past comforts for fear of the winter storms in our lives  Life is cold at times, bitterly so.  We naturally seek to protect our inner selves.  But I also knew it was time to rake away the leaves, because they were now preventing the full warming rays of the sun to nourish the new plants.  Same with our souls.

Twigs and branches blown down by the storms which are no longer able to produce life:  Left to clutter the yard, they will make it easier to trip and fall, and more difficult to mow, to play with the dog, and do the things that a yard is for.  Like the personal offenses held onto and residual guilt feelings of my own past offenses forgiven, yard waste is simply in the way of progress.

Muscle aches from the effort:  I can’t sit inside and expect it to just happen on its own.  Similarly my personal cleansing is a cooperative effort with God.  The word effort is important here.

My burn pile is ringed with stones and brick to contain the burning process:  I also watch over it carefully, spraying outside the stones as need should the fire jump into the grass and spread where it is not appointed to go.  Personal boundaries are important.

The ongoing process – just as each new season here in southern Missouri brings more leaves and twigs to be processed, so our lives are a continual cleanup project.  Pull out the rake!

Between the #wax and the #web

(Excerpt from God Loves Gardens, by Dawn Jones)

As I sat in the early morning darkness, I had lighted a citronella candle—one of my several strategies to prevent mosquito bites from occurring—when I observed a common moth drawn to the light of the flame.  Moths are so fragile and beautiful, and are so unaware of both their fragility and their beauty that they are vulnerable to flying too close to the flame…as this one did.  I looked down into the pot, and there he was, overpowered by the flame he was inexorably drawn to, and now I have a moth carcass stuck in the wax!

Again, I observed another moth flying playfully around the patio light.  Granted, there was no live flame to endanger him on this occasion, but I could see what he could not—a craftily woven spider web all but hidden and well within the range of the carelessly ignorant moth.  He was potential breakfast for this spider, and he had no idea.

We are quite credibly akin to moths; that is, our generation, our culture, and certainly all generations prior to us:

  • We are beautiful, even if we are considered “common” by others or in our own estimation. So called “common” moths, though they may not be as popular as their Monarch cousins, are certainly elegant and a marvel of delicacy and intricacy in their own right. As the moth was unaware of his beauty, so are we often lacking in our own self-awareness.  Frequently we esteem ourselves as merely common, not much to look at, especially when compared to our older sister, or best friend, or the prom queen, or….most of us are painfully familiar with the mantra. This common deception, however, is decidedly contradicted by God Himself when He prompted King David to pen that fabulous Psalm 139, which tells of how we are each “fearfully and wonderfully made”.  (1) King David continues to expound on the wonders of birth and life and God’s overarching plan for each of our lives.  It’s a good read, especially when looking in the mirror first thing on a Monday morning!
  • We are as fragile as we are beautiful, and more than we care to admit. In today’s American culture, teenagers are typically pegged as being risk-takers. While this may certainly be an honestly acquired reputation, it behooves us all to reflect on our very mortal frame.  And of greater significance, I must remind myself that there are areas which are more tender to the flame and fire of life than just my skin.  The heart, the mind, the personality, the spirit, the intellect—all of these are not as resilient as we would hope, as is sorely personified in the lives of young people struggling with eating disorders, addictions,  and the various pitfalls of 21st century survival.  (2)
  • Despite our own beauty, and in ignorant disregard for our wound-able condition, we are compellingly drawn toward the things in life that seem to sparkle and shine. And most of these bring a promise that, somehow in owning them, will supposedly cause us also to sparkle and shine. We crave “bling” for our relationships, our reputation, as well as in our possessions.  Jesus spoke directly to this hedonistic mindset, when He said that a person’s life is more that those things which he possesses, and this includes all the bling and sparkle and shine that the world has to offer. (3)

Something very calculated and sinister occurs when we are unable to get a grip on how God sees us in our very own uniqueness.  Likewise, we can predict a common response when we underestimate our weaknesses.  It is that we will eventually tend to give our attention, and indeed ourselves, to the world’s definitions and promises of success. In so doing, we fly perilously close to the web of deception and compromise, and to the flaming wax of consequence. 

And invariably, we get stuck.

  • Psalm 139 (the whole chapter!)
  • Job 4:19; Psalm 143:4,5
  • Luke 12:15