Tuesday, April 24, 2007

An Earthy Commision

Perhaps I'm exceptionally eccentric (this is quite probable, however I will leave you to your personal conclusions) but especially as the earth warms I get an irresistible urge to have dirty fingernails! Startling statement? Well, do you ever just want to play in the dirt?

Maybe the roots for this instinctive desire reach back to my earliest memories of toddling about our family garden. Maybe this is why I find that gardens have a grounding affect on my faith. Something about the damp earthy scent, the cool rough soil between my toes and fingers, and the prospect of each potential-filled seed to sprout up into the sunshine.

A few evenings ago I meandered my way off campus for a much needed study break, and I happened to walk past the home of a pleasant couple with the most beautiful gardens. They were both out working together in the duskiness of the twilight hour. I almost walked past, but felt God nudging me to talk with them… after my short-lived protests; 'but I don't know them' 'this is weird' ext. I walked over and asked if there was anything I help with.

Our conversation was simple and quite common. He offered me a package of pole beans to plant, kindly letting me finish the row, and water the newly planted seeds and small flowers. A comfortably subdued peace settled into my soul as I nudged the little seeds into the dirt, praying for Gods blessing of life to spring up within each one.

Watching the water soak into the soil, I smiled to myself at the ironic spiritual implications of planting seeds in the garden of a stranger, who was no longer a stranger.

The world is Gods garden, and what a privilege it is to work along side Him! He hands us packages of seeds (labeled love, joy, peace ext.) and kindly allows us to "help" plant them in the hearts of the people we meet. In the process of planting our own sense of purpose is deepened and peace pervades our beings.

God promises a haven of security for those who trust Him, a place of nurture and growth…
"They shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid. I will raise up for them a garden of renown, they shall no longer be consumed with huger in the land, nor bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore. Thus they shall know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are My people," says the Lord God." Ezekiel 34:28-30

Our churches should be like a "garden of renown", a secure and nurturing place where spiritually starving and shame-filled people can begin to live again – and truly flourish!

The gospel commission to go and make disciples is really a call to get dirty!

We are commissioned to get down on our knees in the dirt of this world, to plant seeds of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

We are challenged to persevere; "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." Galatians 6:9

We are reminded to praise God for every measure of growth for "Neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers." 1 Corinthians 3:7,8

So don't be afraid to enter the garden (life) of a stranger! Seek to sow the seeds for the fruits of the Spirit, and have patience – the promised harvest will come with blessings pressed down and running over!

Get on your knees in the dirt of the world and prayerfully plant peace into the hearts of those suffering around you.

Believe me – you will find that working in Gods' garden has a grounding effect on your faith and your joy will multiply exponentially!

Cradling Miracles

Surrounded by miracles, I feel hushed and hesitant to even breathe for fear that I might somehow break the tenuous thread of life… So small… these babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, many only 20-some weeks when they entered this world.

Frail, fragile, yet fiercely fighting for freedom…
At this age many cannot effectively breathe on their own because their lungs are under-developed, and their hearts cannot pump effectively enough… this necessitates the need for multiple IV's, oxygen, and other types of tubes and monitors.

Helpless, vulnerable, and completely dependent they have two options; to tenaciously fight for life, or to give up and die. Thankfully, God has installed an instinctive desire to live within our human genes – to strive for life with every fiber of our being.

As I observe one tiny girl, who has recently reached 100 days old, my heart twists with concern – she has to fight for every single breath she takes. Fervently I wish that I could somehow share my life with her so that she could breath easier and rest. As I watched her, God brought the orphan story from Ezekiel to my mind.

God explained His loving care for Israel by saying that He had found her – a discarded orphan in an empty field, "And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, 'Live!' Yes, I said to you in your blood, 'Live!'"

Our human plight becomes more obvious to me as I care for the infants… we are helpless, vulnerable, and completely dependent - with only two options; life or death. God alone can breathe life into our fragile existence, steady our fluttering hearts, and nourish our souls. As He does, we flourish into the realization of the reality of His dreams come true in our lives. "I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful."

There are not a lot of procedures that I am allowed to do as a student nurse on such a specialized floor, so one of the nurses instructs me to try to quiet one of the fussy babies. Although this little one has improved a lot and will be able to go home soon, he is still is perhaps only 4-5 pounds - so tiny… taking him in my arms he quiets down.

The nurses are so busy they don't have time to rock him, and he just needs to be held.

So many people are alone, and those of us around them too easily miss the loneliness because it is camouflaged by layers of business, complicated schedules, emotional facades of all kinds, and sometimes just because we choose not to see it.

Hands hardly bigger then the end of my thumb, so perfectly formed… how innocent this sleeping child is. My thoughts swirl in wonderment of God's creativity, and my heart trembles for what the world may do to him… What will his home be like? How will his friends influence his life? Will he be taught to love or to hate? Who will show Him Jesus? As these questions and all their possible outcomes begin to torment my mind, I recognize that there are only two things I can do; pray, and hold him.

So I pray that God will guide and protect every step of this boys' life, that he will come to know Jesus as his personal Savior, that he will cling to truth with the same tenacity he has for life, and that he will become a man of God. But even deeper then these wishes, I pray that no matter what turns his life may take or what failures he may face, that someday I will meet him in heaven.

"Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you… Then you shall know that I am the Lord" Ezekiel 16:60, 62

And I hold him... cuddled close into the warmth of my arms, and wish for a pair a little wings that would carry him above the storms of life…

Do you feel helpless, vulnerable, and as if you must fight for each breath? Or do you feel alone, misunderstood, and confused about this often-cold world?

Listen closely to Gods' heart as He thinks of us; "I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love… How can I give you up? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred. I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely… (I am) with you, (I am) mighty to save, (I) will take great delight in you, (I) will quiet you with (My) love, (I) will rejoice over you with singing." Ezekiel, Hosea, Zephaniah

Please let Him cradle your heart close, let Him remind you of your identity in Him, and relish the warmth of His love. Then as we grow in His love He will teach us how to hold others, and through our hands life can be shared.