Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Trust in the root


Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, 

so walk in Him, 

rooted and built up in Him 

and established in the faith, 

just as you were taught, 

abounding in thanksgiving.

~Colossians 2:6-7

"Trust in the roots."

These words have echoed in my mind on a number of occasions this summer.

We started the season with two very late killing frosts.  Aside from one of six marigold seedlings out of a six-pack, everything survived the freezes.  Although things were delayed, they were coming back.  As I worked to encourage growth, the words emerged into my consciousness: "Trust in the roots."

Then, in the second week of May, we experienced a micro-burst tornado, which dumped truckloads of hail on my gardens, stripping newly sprouted lilies and shredding hostas.  I was sad, but I soldiered on, trimming dead leaves, feeding with SuperThrive, watering, cultivating, and above all, praying.  "Please," I said to the Lord.  "Trust in the roots," I heard in reply.

In mid-June, we hired landscapers to mulch for us.  They used a technique I had never seen nor heard of.  It involved using turbo-powered blowers to clear old mulch and fallen plant parts out of the beds, followed by dumping large quantities of mulch right on top of everything, and using the same turbo blowers to blow the new mulch back until the plants appeared again.  Except, as tender, weather-damaged perennials (and a few annuals), many of them stayed under the thick layer of bark chips until the landscapers left and I carefully worked them free, lifting them with trembling fingers.  Some never appeared again.

It has been a rough year for the flowers.  

One plant seemed to be thriving in spite of it all, a pink agastache.

I thought, "This is a good plant, beautiful and tough.  I would like to have three of them in this front bed."

Even then, damage was happening; the leaves started showing white markings almost as soon as the blossoms came out.  But I didn't figure it out until after I came home after a week away.

Upon arriving home, I went out to check on my plants.  The agastache was crispy and actively dropping leaves.  My heart sickened.  

I didn't know what it was.  It looked like it could be anything from root rot to dehydration, or a disease or a bug.  After much examination and reading, I determined that it was spider mites and began treating aggressively with neem oil.  

The dead parts of the plant stayed dead.  Infested leaves dried up and fell off.  But that voice kept telling me, "Trust in the roots.  Trust in the roots."  Since it was spider mites, and not root rot, there was hope.

Over time, I noticed that new growth was indeed coming up from the base of the plant, from the roots.  My agastache will not look good this year, but there is solid reason to hope that it will do much better next year.  This was not a good season; it was not one of flourishing.  But next summer could be much better.

It makes me think of people who falter in their faith.  In a very rough season, it may appear that faith has failed, departed altogether.  This is when we have to trust in the roots.  Truths taught long ago have a way of settling quietly under the refuse of false presumptions during a bad season, but that does not mean they are gone, only buried by careless, even angry and destructive winds of wayward ideas.  But the truth will emerge, by the grace of God, in His perfect time.  A barren season does not mean the end of life, but it does mean that when life re-emerges, we will celebrate all the more.

Some of my annuals fizzled in the heat of August, leaves browning, stems lying prone on the ground.  Now that September has brought cooler temperatures and shorter days, new shoots emerge from the bases of these plants, lush and green.  Autumn buds are forming.  Again, it's the roots.

...that according to the riches of His glory

He may grant you to be strengthened with power

through His Spirit in your inner being,

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--

that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

may have strength to comprehend

with all the saints

what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

and to know the love of Christ

that surpasses knowledge

that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

~Ephesians 3:16-19

Jesus, Immanuel, never leaves nor forsakes His people.  He will be with us forever.  May the power of His precious Holy Spirit overcome all the evil and falsehood, all the doubts and despair.  May He open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, and communicate the wonderful truth of who He is, the glorious life He has for us.

May those who are bent and broken under an unfruitful season find their cure in Jesus who loves us and gave Himself for us.  May those who have gone astray in their spirits come back to understanding and stand in awe of the Lord who created and redeemed them.

The root is Christ, and Christ is God, and God is love.

Trust in the root.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Japanese beetles and the mercy of God

 I hate Japanese beetles with an ungodly hatred.

When I see them gnawing on my plants, forcing their stupid, elliptical, black bodies of destruction into what was, a few hours ago, a gorgeous rose just beginning to shyly unfurl, I feel physical distress, heat boiling up in my jaw and nausea in my throat.  The back of my neck and my arms prickle as I remember the feeling of their tiny barbed legs between my fingers when I have sometimes desperately reached to pick them off and crush them.  My head literally pounds, my heart races and my breathing accelerates.  I run for the garage to search for a cure.

Neem oil does not bother them a bit.

This is a rose leaf after Japanese beetles savaged it.

A cluster of Japanese beetles ravages what was recently 
a glorious white chiffon Rose of Sharon blossom.

One day, in a panic, since nothing else was working and Japanese beetles were swarming thick on a defenseless potted rose, I grabbed a can of Cutter aerosol insect repellant, the kind you spray on yourself before you go out into the deep woods.  I sprayed the rose with Cutter until liquid trickled down in rivulets.  The beetles left, but the next day most of the leaves on the rose turned crunchy brown. 

And this is the thing.

It is very hard to kill only the Japanese beetles.  When I try to kill them, I am always at risk of killing something else along with them.

Last year, the potted tomato plant on my deck grew large and lush, but did not produce any tomatoes.  When I told my dad, he asked, "Do you have any bees?"  As far as I could tell, all the bees were in the front yard with the zinnias, so we carried the tomato pot around to the front and let it sit among the zinnias for a few days (much to the consternation of our HOA administrators).  We moved it back to the deck, and it grew one tomato.

This year, I tried to plant a row of pollinator plants along the back of the deck, to help the tomatoes along.  Trouble is, it has been a battle trying to protect the flowers from slugs, snails, and Japanese beetles (and careless landscapers who nearly killed the whole row with mulch and turbo blowers, but that is a different story).  There are products, insecticides, which would kill the beetles.  But if I use them, they will kill the bees, too, and the dragonflies and the butterflies.  Since the whole purpose of the flowers is to bring pollinators to my tomatoes, I cannot take an action that would kill the pollinators.

So what does one do?  I read forums of what others do, and they say, over and again, you can't get rid of Japanese beetles.  You just have to figure out how to mitigate the damage. 

While I garden, I ruminate, and this is perhaps why I love gardening.

When I battle Japanese beetles, I sometimes think about God, and sin, and how very much God hates sin.  God hates sin because of what it does to people, His Creation, just the way I hate Japanese beetles because of what they do to my garden.

And yet, I have to let the Japanese beetles go.  I cannot attack and lay them waste, or I will devastate the rest of what I am working to accomplish.  This is not to say that I ignore the beetles, only that I will not be completely eradicating them any time soon.

Similarly, God is patient, waiting for the right time to eradicate evil. He allows it to exist temporarily, because it would damage His other purposes if He were to wipe it out immediately.

Jesus told a parable about this in Matthew 13:

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in a field.  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

The owner's servants came to him and said, "Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field?  Where then did the weeds come from?"

"An enemy did this," he replied.

The servants asked him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?"

"No," he answered, "because while you are pulling up the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time, I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn."

Matthew 13:24-30 NIV

Why is there evil and suffering, sorrow and pain? Because the enemy of God planted a selfish, God-doubting thought in the mind of Eve, and she acted on it, and Adam joined her, and sin has plagued the world ever since.  God will eradicate sin at just the right time, but because He is loving and merciful, and wants to give many, many people many, many opportunities to be saved, He is waiting patiently.  When God destroys sin, He will also necessarily destroy all those who cling to sin, who insist on wrapping up in it.  This is why God waits so patiently for people to turn from sin and come to Him for freedom and cleansing.  "The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance," 2 Peter 3:9.

The mercy of God waits, and mitigates the troubles of His children with the presence of His Holy Spirit and the power of His perfect promises.

They say you can hand-pick Japanese beetles off your beloved plants.  You're supposed to do it at dawn or dusk, and carry a bucket of soapy water to drop them into.  To me, this is an overwhelming and unpalatable chore.  So many beetles, so full of sticky prickles between my fingertips, and a host of them are on the top of the crepe myrtle tree where I could never reach or climb.  I do not go that far to take care of my plants.  But God goes to all lengths to help us escape the power of evil.  He is never overwhelmed, exhausted or discouraged.  Though He waits, He constantly mitigates.  This is the nature of our wonderful heavenly Father.  May we praise Him forever.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

A repost about being in God's hands

I wrote the post below at a time when we were in a sort of limbo, in the middle of a circumstance which I hoped would rectify a tragedy.  It was a couple of weeks before the winter solstice, and even as the days shortened to their briefest length, I had hope.

Things did not unfold as I had hoped, and yet God has not abandoned me.  The journey of life is harder and more heartbreaking than I ever imagined, and yet peace and joy continue wherever the Spirit of the Lord dwells.

Here we are just a week after the summer solstice, and we find ourselves in the middle of a different circumstance.  This circumstance also has the potential to bring about much longed-for healing and great relief.  I could prepare myself for the worst, the worst possible outcome, the worst possible news.  Or I could hope for the best, the new start, the relief, the healing. I will endeavor to simply keep my eyes on Jesus, and trust in His mercy and kindness, neither demanding nor doubting, simply trusting and knowing that He has good plans for us, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give us hope and a future.  Yes, the future is ultimately glory in the presence of God for all eternity.  Either we get to serve Him for awhile here, before we get there, or we go early.

Ultimately, healing is the presence of God.

The presence of God.

"I will never leave you, nor forsake you," He promises.  "I will be with you wherever you go."  He is present.

"How much more will the Father from heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" Jesus promises.  This is a specific promise, straight from the mouth of the Lord.  If we ask Him, He will give Himself to us.  He bestows His glorious presence on us; all we have to do is ask.  He will come. Indeed, He is already here.  He will awaken our awareness of His presence.

Enough.  I've already written a whole extra post, before the repost...

     * * * * * * * * * * * *

A Prayer for December

from 12/6/2017

Dear Lord God,

I can't remember a December so filled with bright blue and gold as this one.  You shine from beyond the cerulean sky, illuminating dried leaves and grasses so they move in the wind like living lights.  Without you they would be mere straw and chaff, but under your presence they appear as precious metals.

You are the God of all Hope.  Thank you for all the words you have given us about hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy, because you trust in Him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13)

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.  (Psalm 31:24)

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.  (Psalm 33:22)

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.  (Psalm 65:5)

It is right to hope in you, Lord.  It is right for us to believe that you are good, and that you have good plans of salvation for the men of earth.

The angel said, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people!"  (Luke 2:10)

Jesus has come.  You have come.

You are the Light of the World, illuminating truth and driving away the dark of doubt, the dark of despair, the dark of the devil's deceiving schemes.  Your glory utterly undoes the darkness, shining in clear revelation.

You are the Living Water, reviving and refreshing parched, weary souls.

You are the Bread of Life, filling and nourishing those who hunger.

You are the Good Shepherd, leading us by quiet waters, making us lie down in green pastures, restoring our souls, and guiding us in paths of righteousness for Your name's sake (Psalm 23).  You gather us like little lambs in your arms and carry us close to your heart (Isaiah 40:11).

You love us with an everlasting love, and draw us to yourself with cords of lovingkindness (Jeremiah 31:3).  Thank you, Lord Jesus, thank you for your great love.

Thank you for your mighty power, which will never be overcome.  You yourself are the Overcomer.  You have even overcome death itself, and the sin that begets death.  I praise you, Lord Almighty.  I praise you because you died and rose again, so that we could be redeemed for eternal life in your presence.  The victory is yours, and ours, too, because of your unfathomable grace.

You are King of kings and Lord of lords.

Thank you for your sovereign, faithful power over all creation.  You tell us that you know the end from the beginning.   Your purpose will stand.  You will do all that you please.  (Isaiah 46:10)

No power can stop you, Lord.  Thank you.  You are worthy of all praise.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your providence and for your miracles.  I've read a little bit about these things, and from what I can tell, although theologians go to great lengths to distinguish between the two, the only difference is that your providence is the miracles we are used to, because you do them most every day and wire them into the way the universe works, while "miracles" are the unusual events you bring about, surpassing the boundaries of nature and only happening at rare intervals in our lives.  It is all your work, all from you.  I am thankful that you are with us all the time, and every sunrise is as much a gift as an unexplainable healing.  Thank you that you both provide for us and do miracles for us.  Thank you that your hands are always at work around us, feeding, healing, comforting and protecting.

Oh Lord God, how I love your hands.

You formed the world with your hands. 

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place... (Psalm 8:3)

The heavens declare your glory, and the skies proclaim the work of your hands (Psalm 19:1).

You are the one who made the earth and created mankind upon it, stretching out the heavens by your own hands and marshaling their starry hosts (Isaiah 45:12).

You bless and feed us with your hands.

All of creation looks to you for food, which you give at the proper time for us to gather up.  When you open your hand, we are satisfied with good things (Psalm 104:27-28).

You fill me with joy in your presence and eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:11).

You comfort and protect us with your hands.

When I take refuge in you from the foe, you save me by your right hand because of your great love, keeping me as the apple of your eye, and hiding me in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 17:7-8).

I cling to you, your right hand upholds me (Psalm 63:8).

You deliver your people by your hand, and your mighty outstretched arm (Exodus 3:19-20, 6:6, 13:16, 15:12).

You heal with the touch of your hand.  Your hand has healed lepers, blind people, deaf people, lame people, and people with broken hearts and malignant souls.  Your hand continues to heal, every day.

You reach out with your hand to pull us up out of the miry clay, out of the raging waters.  You grasp us with your strong hand when we are too weak to hold on by ourselves, and you lift us up to safety and restoration.  You lovingly chide, "Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31)

You saved us when you stretched out your hands at the cross, allowing them to be pierced for our sins, your precious, nail-pierced hands.

You have thus engraved us on your hands, written our names on the palms of your hands (Isaiah 49:16).

I am yours.  Thank you, Lord Jesus.

O Jesus, help me trust you.  Help me to be better able to perceive your goodness and your love.  Help me to walk in your Spirit, filled with your Spirit, conscious of your Spirit.  Please radiate the beauty, peace and joy of your Spirit out through me.  Let me carry your presence wherever I go.

Thank you for your promises.  Thank you that you hear and answer prayer.

Thank you that you are always with me.  You go before me, leading, forging the path.  You come behind me, protecting my back, shielding my blindside.  You cover me with your feathers, shelter me with your wings, protect me with the armor of your faithful promises (Psalm 91:4).  Thank you that you never leave me nor forsake me.

Thank you that you promise that I will bear fruit as I abide in you, that joy comes in the morning, that your plans are good and certain to come to pass.

Thank you, Jesus.  Help me Jesus.  I praise you, Jesus.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Missed May

This blog is almost dead,

like the sixth of my six marigold seedlings, the tiniest and hardest bit by our two very late frosts.

Almost dead, but still a sprout of life hangs on with stubborn perseverance, not dying, not living, just surviving.  I have come to see this tiny piece of flora as a microcosm of myself presently.  Hanging on.

I used to use a subscriber service to email my blog to roughly 20 subscribers.  Awhile back, this service sent me a message telling me to get myself a record of my subscriber list, because the service will be discontinued.  I was at a point of ennui and despairing overwhelm at the time, and didn't bother.  So now I have no service to send out my blog anymore, and no record of who used to receive it, even though it was a short enough list that I probably ought to know it by heart.

It's okay.  I do not blog to make money, and truthfully, I don't think my blogging is worthy of being read most of the time.  Now I can ponder and muse in peace, without the pressure of writing for an audience.

I'm sick to the point of migraines and nausea of the way things change.  It's all about money.  Jonathan was the one who told me that, as he walked away from our faith, but he was right.  Everything people do in this world is for money, from the clothes they wear to the friends they choose, and the jobs they do, the strategies they adopt, the way they spend their time and structure their days.  My point is that people are all trying to make money, and so they change things, which forces other people to keeping buying and upgrading, and one upgrade leads to the need for ten more, or fifty.  They rub their greedy hands together with glee and collect, collect, collect, like sharks in a game where they slyly drew all the wild cards early on, and left me with a worthless hand.  "Upgrade" does not mean any increase in quality; it actually means a decrease in quality and an increase in cost.  The upgrade only belongs to the seller, who has me pinned in his vice like a live frog on a dissection board.  But he'll give me some free services if it means he can commandeer my personal information, because that is a commodity he can both use and sell.

As I've come to understand the truth of this statement of Jonathan's--"It's all about money"--two threads have spun from my mind.  

First, I am grateful for Jesus, who was uniquely not about money.  Jesus did not come to take from us, but to give to us, to do for us, to serve and to save.  "I do not give to you as the world gives," He said (John 14:27).  The world gives away a little in order to get back, to gain, to exploit--an email service in order to spy on all your correspondence, or a GPS service in order to track your location.  In the world, there is no such thing as a free lunch, but Jesus said, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.  Whoever believes in me with never be thirsty," (John 6:35).  Jesus gives freely, for our benefit, because He loves us and wants us to find freedom from this oppressive world system.  Jesus longs for us to accept His gifts of peace, abundant joy, and fellowship with the Creator of the Universe.  He made us to dwell in paradise with Him, and that's what He wants for us, that we would experience the perfection of living according to His perfect, all-wise plan, to enter into an ever increasing cycle of blessing, praise, thanksgiving and joy.

Second, I am sensitized to the places where so-called-Christians are all about the money.  When the biggest icon on a church's website is the "GIVE" button, I cringe and navigate away.  This type of publicity is not seemly.  This is not reflective of the face of our beloved Savior.  But it isn't only churches asking for tithes and offerings.  It is a whole aspect of competition between and among ministries.  Who held the biggest event, who sold the most tickets, or the most books, or the most albums?  So many so-called ministries are really businesses, cashing in on the glory of God and the beauty of Christ for personal gain.  I see it most clearly in the Christian music industry, where, just like all the worthless-no-good-upgrades rolling out for computers month after month, "Christian musicians" churn out hundreds of tunes every year, like so much sickly-sweet soft-serve ice cream, like milkshakes produced from chemicals in plastic bags, dropped into a vat  and drawn hurriedly from a machine with a spout, consumed from plastic cups with plastic straws which are then cast into the ocean to strangle God's creation in the secret depths.  Yes, I am mixing metaphors, but it is all apt.  When Jesus came upon the religious leaders in the temple, cashing in on God's sacred system of sacrifices, He took action, scandalous action. He found cords to use as whips, and drove the money changers right out of His Father's house.  

There is one reason to go to church: to meet with God.  Money is the great enemy, the great imposter, the great temptation.  In our human weakness, we look to money for security, provision, comfort and joy, but all these things are truly only God's to give.  God's people should be beacons to show the way to the Father, who is the perfect source of all the goodness we long for.  When "God's people" use "church" to make names and fortunes for themselves, it is an atrocity against the greatest force in the Universe, and it cannot come to a good end.  We expect that the world would serve money, and material gain.  This is neither surprising nor even particularly unfitting.  The broken and unredeemed seek self; this is the crux of what it is to be cursed, a tragic misfortune but not a gross misappropriation.  However, when those who have been redeemed by the God of Heaven and Earth, the One who gave up His majesty in order to die on their behalf, to pay the price for their brokenness so that they could be made whole, when people who claim to have received this gift and live in this privilege then go on to pursue selfish gain and self-interest as they cloud and obfuscate the glory and all-surpassing worth of the Father and His Only Begotten Son, this is a perversion that cannot be allowed to continue.  We must not presume that God, whose purpose is to save humanity from the curse of sin--from selfishness and from being blind to what is truly beautiful and desirable--would long continue to allow people to march forth in His name, under His banner, while they actually raise up material prosperity, earthly riches and human desire as more to be sought than He who is Lord over all.  The children of God must be different.  The children of God are different; if they are not, they simply cannot be His children.

When I sat down to write today, all I wanted to do was tell a story.  

A couple of weeks ago, Shawn and I took Duffy to walk at the park.  The park where we walk is in Chapel Hill, and we park next to a dog park.  We do not take Duffy into the dog park, because he is small and foolish, and would be quickly trampled.  Nevertheless, we park next to it, and thus begin our walk, about 1.67 miles up to a small bridge and then back again.

On the particular day we arrived at the park, the world was just opening up after a long winter of Covid isolation, and the park was packed.  The parking lot was packed, too.  We entered it at one end, driving slowly as we looked for an empty space.  In front of us, a huge, gaudy van maneuvered clumsily around.  It was bright orange and blue, with two huge siren horns stretching from front to back across the top.  Music blared from speakers mounted somewhere in its recesses.  Duffy was agitated, prancing and scratching in my lap, whining and barking in a high pitched tone.  Although distracted by Duffy's behavior, I noticed that the bulky van had large letters spelling out THUNDER BUS across its side.  An attractive young man and young woman, both wearing sleek fitting jeans and bright shirts that matched their vehicle, hopped out and tried to direct the driver into his too-small parking spot. 

I awkwardly climbed out my own cramped car door, while Duffy shrieked and scrabbled and tried to jump to the ground and run, as he simultaneously squirmed to maintain his position in my arms where he felt secure.

The young man from the THUNDER BUS ran excitedly over to Shawn and me as we attempted to get set for our walk.  "Hello!"  He called in an eager, friendly voice.  "Is your dog anxious?"

There I stood, car door ajar, my dog literally melting down in my arms.  I was dumbfounded, but before I gathered my wits enough to respond, Shawn said firmly, from the other side of the car, "No."

And that was that.  The young man slunk away like a dog with his tail between his legs.  I set Duffy down, and we dragged him, whining and fussing, off to the trail we regularly walk.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A song

This song started coming to me in the night.  When I woke up, I grabbed a notebook, trying to work it out and write it down.  Honestly, I woke up praying for God to help me remember it, and He said, "Get up and start writing, and then you won't have to try to keep it alive in your head."  I wrote it in my prayer journal with a red pen, because that is the pen that worked.

I can kind of hear the melody in my head, but I'm not sure I hear it consistently.  It has similarities with "Only a Holy God" and "Look to the Rainbow."  I don't know exactly how the tune goes, but I'm pretty sure it's in 6/8 time.  I tried to plunk it out on the piano, and I can catch a phrase here and there, but I am miserable at writing music out. It takes me literally hours, so long that I forget what it's supposed to sound like in the process.

The lyrics, however, are in hand:

The Way the Truth the Life

(vs 1)

You are the One who knows right from wrong,

You are the wisdom in every good song,

Your staff guides us back when we wander astray,

You graciously lead us in Your righteous way.

Your way is a river, flowing with might,

You carry the humble who long for what’s right.

The prideful and wicked cannot see Your face,

They struggle against your current of grace.

Surrender to you, paradoxically sweet,

Brings freedom from strife as we bow at Your feet.


You are the east, and You are the west,

You are the One who loves me best, 

Infinite, reigning above all the rest,

You are my Shepherd King.

You are my Shepherd King,

Utterly better than anything,

You are my treasure, desire of my heart,

I cast away all that would keep us apart,

I die with You, live with You, dwell in Your presence,

You are my Shepherd King,

You are my Shepherd King.

(vs 2)

You tell us the truth in a world of lies

To free us from bondage to sin’s demise.

The blind cannot see ’til You open our eyes,

So speak to us clearly, and please make us wise.

The truth is that You are the King above all,

You made us, You love us, You grieve at our fall,

But from the beginning You planned a good end,

Foreknowing that Jesus would be our best friend.

You laid down Your life, with Your blood You did pay

To free us from sin, there was no other way.

(vs 3)

For sin ends in death, but life comes from You;

You fought death and beat it, to make all things new.

A new seed, You plant Yourself deep in my soul,

You root out the evil, Your love makes me whole.

Eternally living in You, the true vine,

I will be made holy, Your righteousness mine.

Right actions and thoughts are all founded in love,

And love is humility, learned from above.

Your will is the life of each woman and man

Who listens and follows and treasures Your plan.

(back to Chorus to end)

You are the east, and You are the west,

You are the One who loves me best, 

Infinite, reigning above all the rest,

You are my Shepherd King.

You are my Shepherd King,

Utterly better than anything,

You are my treasure, desire of my heart,

I cast away all that would keep us apart,

I die with You, live with You, dwell in Your presence,

You are my Shepherd King,

You are my Shepherd King.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Newness of life

My roses are starting to grow new leaves.

Spring comes much earlier in North Carolina.  Before many more days have passed, the magical misting of green will appear across millions of lacy twigs that spread out above us.  Right now is the time for daffodils and Spanish bluebells to grow for all they're worth, before the canopy of leaves arrives and shields them from sunlight.

This is my fifty-fifth spring, and I am happy to be able to experience it.  I love spring, and babies, and puppies: new, small, sweet, tender, fresh things.  New beginnings.

August tomatoes are a delight, homegrown, juicy and full of flavor.  Yet, even though I can't eat a peony, no tomato has ever thrilled my soul the way a fluffy pink peony blossom can.  Autumn is for tomatoes and apples, pumpkins, cukes, carrots and peppers.  Bountiful, edible blessings, they fill our stomachs with plenty and our hearts with gratitude.  But spring is so full of hope and promise, all the things that might be but are not yet, as new life emerges, untainted, innocent and eager.

Roses begin to sprout new, tiny leaves.  They are, to date, perfect, unsullied by black spot.

Spring is newness of life, which always points my mind to Christ, who is making all things new.  All of us who are in Christ, who depend on Him, listen to Him and abide in Him, are new creatures.  The old has gone, the new has come.  He has given us new, fresh garments of righteousness to wear.  Our old garments of sin and death are put off, rolled up, thrown away.

In Christ there is no decay.  In Christ there is no deterioration.  The infinitely abundant water of life flows into us through His Holy Spirit, our gift from Him at the point of our conversion.  His Spirit renews, refreshes, nourishes and cleanses unceasingly.  The gift of the Spirit is His kept promise to us.  His Spirit comes into us when we first believe, enabling and augmenting that belief, sealing us as God's immortal children forever.  He brings His everlasting life into us, right into our being, and He generously offers to refill us with more of His Spirit whenever we ask.

God is life.

He created us and gave us life.

Everything God created was good.

God, the Source of life, created male and female, biology,

so that life could continue,

over years and generations,

newness arising in miracles of tender leaves unfurling

as the infinitesimal stalks of close-wrapped columbine shoots starting to unroll in my plastic pot, 

and slippery babies emerging from wombs,

some tiny, wrinkled, ready to be plumped up with good milk,

others so round and lush, they need a few hours to fluff out after being crushed inside close quarters.

All gorgeous.  All brimming full of potential.

God is life, and God is righteous.

Righteousness is love and health, 

faithful obedience to God, 

connection to truth,

and sincere appreciation for everything good and pure.

God is righteous, and righteousness results in life.

Righteousness results in flourishing life, abundant peace, overflowing joy.

But sin leads to death.

Sin came to us through the Curse of Adam,

and the way of sin results in death and eternal condemnation.

God hates sin because He loves us, 

and sin hurts us.

In His love, God desires that His children

would live and flourish,

protected from the ravaging destruction of sin.

Sin is all based on a lie, 

so its foundation is deception.

No-one who is grounded in the truth

and focused on the all-surpassing glory, beauty and worth of God

is drawn into sin.

We are drawn into sin when we forget the truth

and believe the lie that things other than God are more satisfying, more worthy than God.

At the root of the the lie that leads us into sin

is pride.

Pride tells us that we know better than God.

Pride tells us, "You are the only one who can decide what is right for you."

And pride tells us, "You have the right to decide what you need and then fight for it."

Pride tells us, "Nobody knows how hard your life is.  Your life is harder than anyone else's."

And pride tells us, "It was too hard for you.  It's not your fault.  It's God's fault, actually."

Pride convinces us to confuse the Curse of Adam with the Creation of God,

and lay the blame for the problems that result from the Curse of Adam 

on the shoulders of God.

It's very appealing, to think that we are so important, so innocent, so maligned.

And it's rampant.

Everyone thinks he is the protagonist in his own story;

it goes with the internal monologue that our thoughts narrate to us each day.

Even when we behave heinously--

lying, cheating, stealing, coveting, idolizing,

indulging our sinful desires,

selfishly seeking what we think will bring us pleasure,

hurting people, influencing people to sin, casting wicked words around like chaff--

we fail to look beyond our own blinded viewpoint, 

striving to justify ourselves,

and imagining ourselves to be the one who was wronged.

When we run out of people to blame,

we blame God Himself,

and then, in our irrationality, our deepening delusion,

we deny His very existence.

How can you blame One you don't believe exists?

We are pitiful, in our sinful state.  Sin does that to us.

The paradox of pride is that it robs us of our dignity.

Sin disfigures our souls, turns us into monsters.  

The Bible compares sin to leprosy,

a disfiguring disease that ruins lives, forces people to live "outside the camp"--

isolated from purity, limited to relationships with others who suffer from the same disease.

We don't know much about leprosy, but we know cancer.

Sin is also like cancer, the spiritual parallel to cancer.

Often, it creeps in invisibly, quietly,

damaging in secret,

leaving only small signs that are easily ignored,

remaining hidden until it goes metastatic and lethal.

It kills: slowly, steadily, painfully, tragically.

God sent Jesus to release us from this wasting disease of sin.

God sent Jesus to bring us life.

Life is the result of righteousness, 

the result of connection with God through His indwelling Spirit.

For when you were slaves of sin,

you were free in regard to righteousness 

[i.e. you could focus on yourself 

and ignore God's calling 

for you to live a life of sacrificial love].

But what fruit were you getting at that time

from the things of which you are now ashamed?

For the end of those things is death.

But now that you have been set free from sin

and have become slaves of God 

[who is the kindest master, Matthew 11:29],

the fruit you get leads to sanctification

and its end, eternal life.

For the wages of sin is death

but the free gift of God

is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:20-23


"Today if you hear His voice, 

do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion."

Hebrews 3:15

He is making all things new.  He offers new life, righteousness, holiness, peace and joy.  He holds it out to you.  You must repent.  You must grieve because of all that you have done wrong, and surrender to His healing hands.  It will involve pain.  It will be hard.  But it will be good.  It will be good.  He promises that He will give you so much more than anything you lose in the process.  Oh, please come to him in faith and humility, repentance and hope, today.

//(Note as of 4/7/2021 -- I have given up writing posts of 75 words or less.  I am not a good enough writer to keep that up.)//

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A poem prayer

 Dear God,

When the sun shines,

it feels as though You are looking at me.

And when clouds cover the sky,

it feels as though You have tucked me into bed.

I know You are infinitely bigger,

but the sky is the biggest expanse I can see,

and the sun is the largest object my eyes perceive.

Infinitely smaller than You,

they make me think of You,

Who are infinitely bigger than all the Universe,

which is incomparably larger than our galaxy,

which is incomparably larger than our solar system,

which is exponentially larger than our dear planet earth,

on which we exist like tiny specks traveling hither and yon.

Like the exponentially tiny particles that comprise us,

we are tiny particles on earth,

under Your wise watch and care.

You know everything from the quarks that form a neutron

to the light-year distances between galaxies.

You made it all.

You track it all.

You direct it all.

You are too much to comprehend.

Silly me.

I simply imagine You smiling on me when the sun shines

because that is the warmth I feel on my face.

I love You.

Thank You that You are faithful and good.


//(Note as of 4/7/2021 -- I have given up writing posts of 75 words or less.  I am not a good enough writer to keep that up.)//