Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cleaning the Flower Beds

In last Saturday’s early morning fresh air, I cleaned the flower beds. First I tackled the tall purple coneflowers, whose seed heads had provided the birds with winter food. With my handheld, small shears, I quickly cut. Snip, snip, down they came.

Next came the yarrow: snip, snip, the old dried stalks were quickly removed. From there I moved to the bee balm, then the snapdragons and the daisies. Soon all the dead flower stalks from last summer were cut and removed. Once the dead stalks were gone, the new growth underneath became more visible. Over the next few days, all the tender new plants grew quickly, for they now received ample sunlight.

In the same way that I prune the dead stalks from my flower bed in the spring, I prune away the dead habits from my soul and make room for God’s Holy Spirit to grow and flourish. I take the shears to my independence and pride and cut them down, allowing God’s strength to grow from the roots of my weakness. Snip, snip, down goes the pride. Next, cut down time wasted in useless pursuits. Snip, snip, get rid of the wasted time and allow time for study of God’s holy word and quiet reflection of His greatness. Next, prune a complaining spirit and a willingness to gossip. Snip, snip, down go the negative words and thoughts, allowing God’s love for others to grow strong and vigorous in me. In the last flower bed a healthy crop of doubt and discouragement grows. Snip snip, cut down the doubt and discouragement, allowing faith in my awesome God to grow to a mighty tree.

Oh God, author of wisdom and truth, prune away my dead branches. Eliminate the old, useless vines so your new growth will flourish.

John 15:2 “He cuts off every branch in me that bears not fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

Early Spring

As I sit on the brown, lifeless grass, its crispy blades crunch and break beneath my weight. High atop Vesper Hill I can see for miles in every direction, the surrounding gently rolling hills the same dun color as the grass where I sit. Dotted along the tan hillsides, dark green cedars raise their pointed heads skyward. The peaked ends of two white farm houses reveal man’s presence in this pristine world.

The breeze blows through the three-foot-high dried Bluestem grasses, bending and rustling them along its way. The cloudless sky stretches bright blue in every direction, a treat for eyes more accustomed to the gray, overcast skies of winter.

This peaceful setting soothes my harried soul. My heart slows from the frantic pace of the past week, its rhythm now more in tune with the occasional bird call and the soft rustling of the grass. It’s appropriate, somehow. Just four days ago we buried my father-in-law. Yes, he was old and had lived a long, good life. But it’s still hard to say goodbye. And the caring, for years, the waiting for death to release his body has been difficult. All the busy week of funeral plans and a house full of company have left my body tired, drained. Physically and emotionally drained.

The rustling grasses draw my focus back to where I sit. Right in front of me, so close I can reach out and touch its branches, sits a leafless plum bush. At first glance it seems lifeless. Looking closer, however, I notice red in the branches, and small buds growing all along its notches. New life and growth will soon unfurl on this bush.

I examine my own life’s winter. Frequently leafless and bare this past winter, I spent much joy-sapping energy watching my father-in-law’s health slowly decline until finally, after 91 years on this earth, he breathed his last. With a flurry of activity my family and I planned the funeral, prepared for guests, and buried Dad, high on a wind-swept hill much like this one.

But I know the life cycle continues. The plum bush will sprout new leaves and bear fruit, my body and soul will find rest and rejuvenation, and Dad, freed from his feeble earthly body, will live a glorious new life in heaven. The peaceful scene in front of me is appropriate for this difficult time in life. Finally, after a long winter of life, my father-in-law has passed to the spring of his new life.

It’s early march—Spring has not yet displayed her green finery or her bright splashes of flowering beauty. But Spring has sprung early this year for the beloved father recently buried. I look to the distant horizon, beyond the dried grass-covered hills, where the cars scurry, speeding off to some unknown destination and I’m grateful I know my father-in-law’s final destination. The cars hurry. I sit, enjoying the quiet, enjoying the solitude. I am at peace.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy Faithfulness

The hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” keeps running through my head. Over and over I think of the “new mercies” God provides every morning, and I’m amazing at all the gifts His “hand hath provided.” What a wonderful God we serve.

This evening at 6:30 a van load of people from my church, including my husband, Scott, pulled out of our church parking lot headed for Matamoros, Mexico for a week long mission trip. I was supposed to be on that van with them. Unfortunately, I’m fighting a bug and am tired enough to know I would be of little service to them in Mexico. My service will be one of prayer. I can rest and pray. Envisioning them driving down the highway as the sun sets, I pray for clear vision on the road. Thinking of drivers’ eyes getting heavy with sleep, I pray. I pray with the full knowledge that God is, indeed faithful. He is faithful to bring our loved ones safely to their destination.

As I picture them arriving Saturday morning, weary from the all-night drive, I pray, claiming God’s faithfulness to His servants. He will provide them with energy for their tasks. When, in my mind’s eye I see the shining faces of Sophia, Antonio, Gilla, Rafaela, and other friends we met on last summer’s mission trip, I rejoice at God’s faithfulness to them, guiding and encouraging them in spite of difficult situations. I am so thankful He has brought our small group to join Him in his work in Matamoros. I pray that the work God intended for this group will be accomplished in His will.

Remembering our last trip to Matamoros, I see the eyes of the children, peering through the church windows, shining brightly as they played games, made crafts, heard stories, and sang songs. I thank God for His faithfulness to these young souls and I pray for their salvation. I pray they may live productive lives in service to their faithful God.

To my loved ones in Matamoros, both American and Mexican, may God give you great gifts as you minister. May He give you the courage to step forth in faithfulness. May He give you physical, emotional, and spiritual health and endurance. May you be a blessing to all you encounter, including the young men who visit the drug houses. May our faithful God protect you in all your travels, both in the car and in the church, neighborhood, the city and the mercado.

What a faithful God we serve. Thank you for stepping out in faith. Know that many loved ones back home are praying for you.

“The Lord’s compassions are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Faith...Mightier Than the Wind

Wind: odorless, colorless, tasteless, yet we know it exists. Even though we cannot hold it in our hands, we feel it. We feel its gentle breezes cooling us in the heat of summer; we feel its icy blast stinging us in the chill of winter. Even though it has no voice, we hear it. We hear it rustling in the cottonwood trees; we hear it roaring across the plains. Even though it has no form, we see its effects. We see the grasses gently swaying and mighty oaks bowing low. In the mightiest wind we see telephone poles snapped, homes destroyed, and a beautiful church reduced to a pile of rubble. Yes, we know the power of the wind!

Faith: odorless, colorless, tasteless, yet we know it exists. Even though we cannot hold it in our hands, we feel it. We feel it in the depths of our hearts, knowing God will meet our every need; we feel it in the quiet confidence that we will live in His presence for eternity. Even though it has no voice, we hear it. We hear it on Sunday mornings proclaimed from the pulpit; we hear it in the quiet voices of prayer and in the reading of God’s holy word. Even though it has no form, we see its effects. We see the eyes of a trusting child holding her father’s hand; we see the peaceful countenance of our brothers and sisters who lean on God in times of need. We see improved relationships, changed lives, and a beautiful new church built to honor God. Yes, we know faith; we know faith is mightier than the wind.

Lord of my life, sometimes my faith wavers. Keep my faith strong, even when the winds of fortune blow against me.

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”