So Who Needs Crayons??

Here‘s the scenario: I’m in the back yard early in the morning trying to have some undistracted time with the Lord, but my attention is consistently drawn to the sensate beauty around me.  Albeit my patio garden couldn’t hold a citronella candle to some of the other gardens around in this area, yet the songs of the birds, the wind in the trees, the morning sunshine dappling through the leaves, the color and contours of the flowers and the cool of the morning air all combine to lure me away from exercising the discipline I had intended.  Adding to that, my imagination now wanders to various projects I would like to work on next to improve certain areas of my little spot: weeding, fertilizing, installing liners to prevent runoff when the summer rains make their appearance.  So, yeah, I’m definitely having some difficulty staying mentally on my original task this morning.

Then it hits me—wait a minute!  This is how God Almighty thinks of me!  Psalm 139 tells me that His thoughts are continually toward me, and that if I could count them, they would outnumber the sand!

He sees me as more beautiful than a garden’s beauty, more distracting (if that were possible for God) than the delights of my own current diversions.  His mind is consistently excited about the work He intends to accomplish in me next: shoring up the new plantings of faith and growth so that the inevitable rains of life will not wash the progress away, rooting up the weeds of shame and fear that cause damage to the mind and heart, watering and feeding for greater growth, and, yes, pruning, which is necessary for new branches to appear and for increased productivity.

But what is even more amazing is that this work of the Master Gardener is NOT due to any anger or frustration on His part.  It is, much to the surprise of many who would consider themselves “religious”, an expression of His joy, just as it is a joy for me to work in my garden!

  • I’m not angry at my garden because of the weeds and the poor soil, or the rocks in the wrong places. Of course, I don’t want it to stay that way. So also does God Almighty, in His wisdom and sovereignty, make decisions about what needs to be changed and rearranged in my life to fit His grand, overall design. Now, I can submit willingly to His decisions, or I can choose not to.  Have you ever had a weed that “fought back” when you tried to pull it?  When it didn’t just slide out with the first yank, what happens next?    When the weed refuses to be pulled, it gets uncomfortable for the weed, as well as all the ground around it, at least for a while.  Ouch.
  • I certainly don’t give up on my garden during the winter seasons of dormancy, but cover up the roots to keep them warm and alive until the inevitable return of spring. Neither does my Heavenly Father disown me in the winter seasons when it “appears” that nothing is happening, or it looks like all the former beauty of passion and enthusiasm has withered away and disappeared.
  • It is my pleasure to work in my garden heartily to spread the ashes of “recycled soil” from my burn pile to other areas for increased nutrition. Ashes are not pretty; and the burning process gets pretty hot, and then smolders for a long time creating even more ash. The pile itself isn’t much to look at, but the soil is some of the most fertile in my entire yard.  So also does my Father consider when He views the ash piles in my life—the heartaches, the disappointments, the bad decisions, even the sin and corresponding consequences— to give me “beauty for ashes”.  (Isaiah said that…)

Here’s to the beautifully distracting colors of spring!  And the reminder that we are even more beautiful to our Gardener.

Hey!! Where’d the #moon go??

I love the night sky.  I love sitting under a quiet canopy of stars in the early pre-dawn morning before the tree frogs have stopped their singing and the birds kick in with their own.  When I was a kid, I thought I wanted to be an astronaut.  I grew up with Captain Kirk, and the Starship Enterprise, and “live long and prosper” and all that.  Forget Barbie and Ken; that final frontier was what I was about!

That is, until I told my mom, to which she insightfully replied, “Oh, so you want to be an engineer?”  That’s all it took to crush my dilithium crystals to smithereens. 

Needless to say that I never pursued my dream—no, I should only refer to it as a fantasy—of galactic exploration.  Even so, as I said, I still love the night sky, that time of the earth’s rotation when we get a glimpse of spatial eternity.  As I look up, the moon is a mere sliver of reflected light in the sea of dark nothingness.  At first glance, it would seem like the moon has been disappearing.  Now, if someone had been enjoying the night skies for the first time over that past thirty days or so, this apparent lunar exit could cause several things in the uninitiated observer: disappointment, fear, frustration and confusion, to new a few.  How unfair for such a beautiful thing to only last but 30 days!  But to someone with even a very limited experience with astronomy, like me, this phase is, well, just that,..a phase… 

…which brings two thoughts to mind:

  • Although I can barely see it now, yet because of my history with the moon, I know that this illuminated piece of rock will come around again. Actually, it has never left; it’s still up there. In fact, it’s still up there in its entirety, just hidden, and only temporarily at that.
  • Secondly, the waning of the moon isn’t the end of the moon. It’s only the present completion of the moon’s natural progression. It’s not dying, not disintegrating.  On the contrary, this progression is an important part of its existence, its identity.  The moon is preparing for the next appointed phase.

Writing this very sentence, I am 53 years old.  (I just had a birthday this month, thankfully, as they say, considering the alternative.)  By this time in my tenure on the planet, I have learned a little about phases.  Some are inevitable, some are not, but one thing remains true of both—they pass.  We can learn to recognize and navigate through them by learning from experience (that of others or simply our own).  Or we can deny their existence and pretend nothing has changed.  Either way, similar to the “immutable changes” of the moon, phases will come and go, and will inevitably leave the marks of change in their wake.

This is where it gets sticky, this change thing, since we tend to cling to the emotional status quo, even if the status quo is toxic.  Change brings uncertainty, which in turn, if we allow it, can breed fear.  That is another reason why some things in our lives must be as immutable (and in this case, more so) than the moon itself:

  • With God, sometimes our “seeing” Him, sensing His involvement and His control over our circumstances, is eclipsed by other things. Whether our spiritual senses are dulled by physical/mental components such as fatigue, stress, (or even hormones), or whether the cause is more seditious, like sin, God is still Jehovah Shammah, the great “I Am Present”. (1) And He promises to never leave us or forsake us, as we continue to cling to Him. Period. (2)
  • Like the progressions of the moon, the God of the universe is always progressive. Not that God changes, as He is Himself unchangeable. (3) He doesn’t go through “phases”, but He knows that we have to.  It is a necessary component of who we are.  If a project or a ministry or a relationship has seemingly disintegrated before our eyes, it is wisdom to “fret not”, (it doesn’t do any good anyway), and to remain faithful and humble and, yes, maybe even courageously inquisitive as to what God is doing and going to do on our behalf.  This will allow God, in His loving sovereignty, to take us through the progression He has designed for us.

The unfortunate one viewing the waning of the moon for the first time is unfortunate only if he believes that what he sees happening if all there is and ever will be of the moon.  His perception, as is ours, is tainted with inexperience and impatience.  Giving in to our limited perception (and the emotional response that frequently accompanies it) is like turning my eyes from the night sky forever, since there will obviously never be another moon.  How silly!  No…how tragic.

Patient waiting, as for the return of the moon, is the mark of someone who understands the concept of phases.  Because God is always preparing, never retreating.

  • Ezekiel 48:35
  • Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrew 13:5
  • Malachi 3:6
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