Sunday, April 28, 2013

New Growth

I love springtime!  Overnight the world changes from dull, dry, and dead to colorful, vibrant, and alive.  The trees, which stretched their bare arms heavenward all winter, are blessed with a pale green blush.  The Bradford pear tree in the front yard nods its white, blooming head gently in the spring breezes.  Yesterday, the grass was brittle and brown.  Today it is soft and green.  Even the dandelions look beautiful nestled in their greenery.

How exciting it is to examine new growth in the gardens!  The phlox, low to the ground, carpets the yard with purple.  The huge forsythia bushes glow a vivid yellow beside our gray house.  Everywhere signs of new life abound.  The greenery of snapdragons, daisies, hostas, bee balm, and yarrow all promise future blooms.  The clematis vines, recently just dead sticks, sprout new growth at every intersection; some are already three feet long, loaded with buds.  Dozens of purple cone flower plants already climb several inches high, assuring a future of beautiful flowers for us and nectar for bees and butterflies to enjoy.  In Spring excitement grows as the perennials burst forth with new life and a promise for beautiful, fragrant summertime blooms.
Do you feel spiritual new growth and springtime revival?  Deep within our hearts we recognize growth, its green tendrils growing ever closer to God, seeking His face.  The palest green blush of revival is evident as we stretch our arms heavenward.  While we work, pray, and seek God’s guidance, we can almost feel the flower buds forming on the green plants of our spirits.  We eagerly anticipate the new blooms filling our lives with God’s beautiful purpose and the fragrance of His sweet spirit.
Oh God, our master gardener, nurture the growth of our souls.
John 1:1, 4 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…. Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ahh, Spring!

Spring is in the air.  The sunshine draws me to the nearby nature trails.  As soon as I enter the park, serenity covers me like a blanket.  The trees, still black and bare of leaves, stretch high above my dirt pathway.  The winds blowing high over my head sway the trees, causing their bare branches to clack against one another.  On either side of my path, green shoots poke tentatively from the ground.  Frogs in the nearby pond sing, “Spring is coming.” 

Soon these trees will wear lush canopies of green, and violets will dot the countryside.  Glancing to my left, I am startled to see a white tailed deer staring at me.  A mere ten yards away, blending into the barren trees, her huge brown eyes watch me pass.  As I continue rambling, I notice two of her friends, also carefully inspecting me.  They, too, must appreciate the coming of Spring.

After forty-five minutes, I step under overarching branches to exit the park.  The city streets loom hard and barren in contrast to the park.  Walking home, I vow to take the beauty and serenity God’s world home, allowing its beauty to awaken Spring in my soul.
John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Ice Storm

On Tuesday, January 4, 2005, the worst ice storm in decades hit Wichita. Over three quarters of an inch of ice coated the area, downing power lines and plunging more than 60,000 homes and businesses into darkness. The icy outdoors created a surreal fantasy world, with homes, grass, trees, streets, and mailboxes painted with a clear, icy glaze. Trees bent over, their limbs dragging the ground under their heavy loads. Many, unable to bear the load, snapped, littering roofs, yards, sidewalks, and streets with their crystal branches. By Saturday, the clouds cleared, and the sun on nature’s ice castles sparkled brilliantly, their prisms of ice flinging crystal colors everywhere.

Saturday afternoon, feeling housebound, I ventured outdoors to watch the sun glisten off the icy trees. In my backyard, everything drooped under the weight of the ice—according to newscasters the ice was four times the weight of the trees it covered. The mulberry trees bent so far over from the weight of the ice, the tips of their branches brushed the snow-covered ground. I stood in the middle of the back yard and gazed at the trees surrounding me. The sun, striking the ice-covered branches, turned my back-yard world brilliant, but what really struck me were all the new sounds. As I stood there watching and listening, a whole chorus sang. The main melody: the constant drip, drip, drip of water falling from thousands of icicles. All around me I heard this constant dripping as the sun melted the ice. With the breeze, the click and clack of ice-covered branches brushing each other added to the tune. Plop!  I turned and looked behind me at trembling tree branches, freed from their weight of ice. Every few seconds I heard another plop as chunks of ice tumbled to the ground. Occasionally a loud crashing resounded as a larger ice fragment hit the branch below and tumbled from branch to branch before landing on the softer earth. Looking at the ash tree by the corner of our vegetable garden, I witnessed hundreds of drops glistening in the late afternoon sun and plopping to the ground; the tree wept. Before long, I noticed the lower branches of the mulberry tree no longer touched the ground. I wondered how long it would take before all the ice melted from the trees and the branches, freed from their burden, and would once more reach heavenward.

How often do our souls become ice-coated?  We are burdened and bent over, not with the weight of ice, but with the weight of our guilt and our sins. Heavy with guilt, we labor to lift our arms heavenward. Some, unable to bear this burden, snap and break. Others merely look down, unable to praise God. Fortunately, we can eliminate the burdens weighing us down. Like the sun shining on the ice-laden trees, God’s grace frees us from our burdens. When in repentance we sincerely beg God’s son to shine his light of forgiveness, the hard shell of guilt begins to crack and stir. Soon, tears of gratitude flow, just like the weeping trees. Before long, the hard shells of ice coating our souls come crashing down. Soon we can once again raise our arms heavenward, look up and praise our maker.

Father, thank you for melting away my heavy burden of guilt.

Psalm 38:4 "My guilt has overwhelmed me like a guilt too heavy to bear." 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Let Spring In!

In my mind’s eye I see the car rolling up the highway. I hear the whine of the tires as they eat up the road. From the outside, all is calm. Inside, turmoil. Inside, parents clinging to their Jesus, seeking His wisdom. Desperately seeking His wisdom. They drive on, heading to the institution far away, a place they pray will keep their daughter alive.

How will she respond? Only God knows. Only God can provide the healing for a tortured young soul. Only God can bring peace to a family in crisis. Only God can bring the help she so desperately desires.

I weep for my friends. And for so many others who quietly, desperately deal with crisis. May they all seek God’s goodness, seek God’s wisdom, seek God’s grace.

Needing a break from my thoughts and prayers, I step outside. Opening the front door and walking onto the front porch, I run right into it. Spring. Hope. It blooms in my front yard, right outside my living room window. Quickly, I capture the Spring on film, allowing the beauty to erase the fear. Smiling now, I feel peace. Peace in my own heart, peace in the car rapidly eating up the miles.
Back in the house, I open the drapes and let Spring inside. Peace enters with it, for I’m now confident that Hope exists in the car as it eats up the miles. Hope exists in the distant city. Hope exists right in my front yard. Hope exists in my heart. I only need to open the windows of my faith to experience its blooms.

Isaiah 61:1b-3a “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”