Sunday, March 29, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Rivers ran through the low places a week ago. After a few days, they subsided into streams, where sunlight winked lazily off the trickling water, like the slowly blinking lights of traffic, when you look down from a high hotel room. Now, only beds of silt remain, sculpted into long curving lines, and dotted by well-washed pebbles.
The pond, so recently glazed by old, rotting ice, is now a glossy, liquid pool. I spent a long time there this evening, trying to capture the magic of reflection with my camera.
The wildlife is betraying spring’s stealthy approach, too. Scores of robins hopped ceremoniously in one field, listening for their supper. I spotted four deer feeding on the grass (I told you it’s getting green!) in next field over. Cutting over to where a row of trees would block their view of me, I stalked closer. When I emerged into view, they had already heard me. One stood stock still, staring me down. I froze, my camera halfway to my eye, and stared back, determined to wait until she decided I was a tree and would glance away for a moment. She seemed unconvinced however, of my vegetative identity, and kept watching, while the light faded, and with it my chance of a good picture.
But not only the robins and the deer know that it’s springtime. I looked at the sky, marveling at the bright blue that seemed so unmatched with the dingy beige and green of the fields—I would never have put them together if I were painting the world, but yet, the combination is beautiful. Then I spotted, far in the distance, a dotted line of geese. Something in their dogged, unswerving pilgrimage always seems so solemn. To my mind, they have the final word that one season has ended, and a new one has begun. When I saw them pressing on, their lines undulating slightly with the beating of patient wings, I nodded quietly within myself, “Yes, it’s spring!” For the geese made an arrow pointed north.
Monday, March 23, 2009
I don’t remember what Psalm I was reading, but one phrase jumped out at me, “The Lord of the whole earth.” The Lord of the whole earth! I think the most powerful person, in terms of governing power, that I’ve met, was probably the first selectman of our town, as he stood in the campaign line while we filed by to place our vote. Thousands of people crowd together for a glimpse of the president of the United States. Some of them even shake his hand, and feel that they will never forget that moment for the rest of their lives. If there should be a single ruler of North America, think what honor should be paid to him! How people would vie for the opportunity to meet him (or her), or even to touch such an important person.
Yet God is the Lord of the whole earth! Every person, from the indigenous tribespeople of the Amazon jungle, to the New York City executives, is under His dominion. The land and resources of every country belong to Him; He knows where every diamond is hidden, the source of every stream, the contour of every unexplored mountain and valley.
But that’s not all! For the earth is only a speck of dust in the galaxy, a small point on one arm of that gigantic rotating collection of stars and planets. And God is the Lord of that galaxy, too! He knows the exact number and even the names (Psalm 147:4) of every single star. But more than that, He is the God of the entire universe, however far that universe lies beyond the discovery of mankind. All of it is within His hand, His power spoke all that grandeur and glory and immensity and beauty into existence.
But that is not the limit of God. For the Bible shows Him not only as Lord of all creation, but also as the Baby Who was born in a manger. He is God Who took upon Himself a human body, with all its physical limitations. He is the Man Who rode on a donkey through dusty streets. Whose tired feet traversed mile after mile of rejection and scorn and misunderstanding. The One Who touched and healed lepers, who wept at the grave of a dead friend, Who sought the outcasts of society to speak grace to them, is no less than the Lord of the whole universe. And it was He who gave His life, dying on a cross made of wood, for the sake of men and women who had refused to be in subjection to the Lord of the whole earth. His justice and righteousness demanded that all sin be paid for by death, and rather than exact that gruesome price from us, the Lord Jesus paid it Himself. He provided forgiveness as a gift to anyone who would take it by faith, simply believing in Christ Jesus and His work on the cross, to take away their sins.
And so, as I lay down on the bench by the window for a short rest, I pillowed my head on the knowledge that the Lord of the whole earth, the Lord of the galaxy, the Lord of the whole universe, knew where I was, and in fact was with me. No longer His enemy, fighting a one-sided battle against a God of love, I am now His joyful subject, His intimate friend, His beloved child. What better thought to be able to enjoy at 3:00 AM?
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Taken from where I was laying in the grass, dozing in the sunshine. I happened to look up, and the contrast of white and blue caught my eye. Doesn't the tree trunk look like an upside-down bolt of lightening? (or did I just get a little too much sun? =)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
However, I decided today to find out if perhaps the key to enjoying spring, like winter, is to get right out in it. And wonderful discoveries did I make!
I first headed out through the fields, where I heard the sound of water running. No, not just sloshing under my boots, but actually running. It turns out that what is in the summer just a slightly inconvenient dip for the hayrake to bump over, is a regular stream in the springtime! Having grown up with a brother who found great fascination in running water and the concurrent erosion patterns, I stopped to notice how the water would run in a little rivulet, disappear under a mini glacier of snow, then reappear further down the way, hurdling over snowmobile tracks in a regular whitewater display!
I spent a while loitering in the hemlock forest, listening to the squirrels scold each other, and enjoying the greenness of the branches amidst a world of brown and black and white. It was really beautiful there, even though I saw my the first mosquito of the year!
After supper, I went out to pile up some of the branches that snapped off our giant pine tree in the big ice storm. The wind had picked up now, and whatever smells it had borne before it reached the pine tree, they were dispelled by its tangy fragrance. That smell makes me think of lazy afternoons at a campground, when there's nothing much to do and one can be perfectly relaxed.
When it was time to quit, I thought about heading inside, but then I saw the ridge behind the barn silhouetted against the darkening sky, and decided I had time for a little stroll up there. As my boots sloshed and slurped through the mud in the barnyard, the wind carried all sorts of smells, some of them pleasant, some of them, well, not so much. But once I was on the hill, the wind just smelled like wind. It was beautiful up there! Ducking under a couple fences, I went right to the highest point on the farm, and stood there on a piece of ledge, right out in the midst of a springtime evening in March. The wind came streaking across the fields, surging against my eardrums, making my ponytail whip with a hissing noise, knocking me off my center of balance, and then, when it seemed that it could hardly move any faster, it whirled around with a boisterous "Haha!" to smack me with another gust. Strange that the touch of moving air can seem so fierce, almost frightening, and yet be thoroughly exhilarating.
I sat down for a little while in the midst of the tumultuous evening. The first star of the evening had appeared, and shone, serene and quiet up in the heavens, seemingly oblivous to the hurry and flurry that surrounded me. It was a speck of clear white light, in the midst of a sky that was painted with greys and muted blues, faded orange and sedate yellow set off by burning pink. The verse came to mind, "then I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12) How good to know that I am fully known by God, and that knowing me, He loves me and has forgiven me because of the Lord Jesus. And what a wondrous hope, that someday I will know fully the One of Whom the power of the wind, the glory of the sunset, the promise of springtime, are just the faintest shadows.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
But then I realized that God creates every season of life, every set of circumstances in the life of an individual, to bring glory to Himself. I can bring just as much glory to my Savior in my present circumstances, as I shall be able to at any other time in my life, married or not. As long as I am walking in His will, each phase of life will have equal opportunities to serve Him and glorify Him. God has me where I am because at this time in my life, this is the setting in which He will most be glorified, the setting in which I can most please Him and serve Him and enjoy Him.
God can receive as much glory from the life of a teenager working to get through high school, as He can from a missionary serving Him in the jungles. That seems kind of remarkable, at least to my mind. But then I have to ask; was God the Father more glorified by the obedience of the Lord Jesus on the cross, or His obedience in the carpenter’s shop? Was the Lord Jesus more pleasing to God at any one time in His life than at any other? Was not each day of His life in perfect harmony with the Father’s will for Him that day? To have gone to the cross before the appointed time would have been disobedience, as much as it would have been disobedience to shrink from the cross when the hour had come.
How I wish that this truth was more lived out in my life! Today is the day to give God my utmost, to serve Him the way I want to when the time comes for me to enter into “real service”—because that time is already here. It began the day that I came to know the Lord Jesus as my Savior. I don’t have to wait for anything to begin to bear fruit for God, because bearing fruit is a matter of abiding in the Lord Jesus (John 15:5), not of being in particular circumstances. It is so beautiful how the Lord Jesus could say to the Father, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given me to do.” (John 17:4) Every single day of His life, He accomplished the things that the Father desired Him to do that day.
What an example He is—one that I know I can never live up to. But then I discover that He knows my helplessness, and He doesn’t intend for me to pull this off on my own. He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in Him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) He is a vine that produces fruit in every season, under any circumstances, but always with the same result: the Father’s glory and delight.
Friday, March 6, 2009
He wasn’t my patient, but I couldn’t help but think about him, as doctors gathered in solemn clusters outside his room, and nurses exchanged significant looks as they glanced at the monitors that condensed the dying process into sets of numbers. Most tragic of all, his family and friends, their faces drawn with weeping, their smiles wiped away, filed in and out, in and out, of his room. The women were shaken and frail looking, the men troubled and awkward.
I thought a lot about death this week. I thought a lot about life, too. Life, which, at least in a physical sense, never extends past today. I don’t have life for tomorrow. Life tomorrow, if I reach it, will only be life today. I cannot live in tomorrow, and I will never die in tomorrow. On whatever day I die, my death will be today.
Today is the day to do the things that I would want to do tomorrow. We see them in the ICU, family members who cling to their dying loved one, desperately watching for a moment of consciousness, a chance to say the things that should have been said long before. Today is the day to be a blessing, to give a hug before we aren’t able to, or before there are tubes and wires in the way. To say every goodbye the way we want to say our final goodbye. To do our best to ensure that we won’t one day be left saying, “If only I had one more chance to….” Today is the day to take advantage of tomorrow’s opportunities.
Today is the day to live life to the fullest. And here I propound my argument that the realization that there may be no tomorrow, while it is sobering, also fills today with multiplied delights. God has given us so many legitimate pleasures to enjoy, why should we not make His heart glad by rejoicing in His gifts? How many thrills and delights sprout up beside my daily path, when I enjoy each experience as though it is my last chance. There can be such pure pleasure in everything I do, from the time I wake up in a warm bed, to the time that I dive into it again at night.
I love how my job reminds me to take nothing for granted. How splendid it is to be able to move and talk and breathe and sing (and whistle =), and work, and play, and see, and hear, and eat, and interact with people who love me, to explore life and enjoy new experiences. How wonderful to not be in a coma, to not even be in pain! I suppose some people will smile when they read this, will think that perhaps a Pollyanna perspective isn’t made for real life. But real life happens at the intersection of life and death; it is there that priorities and true worth become evident.
I enjoy the little pleasures of life now more than ever before. Even when I need to do a very distasteful job, I am reminded that if one day I am bound to a wheelchair, one of the hardest things will be that I won’t be able to serve my loved ones as I used to. I’ll miss being able to clean the bathroom or do the laundry or wash the dishes. Today is the day to enjoy the delights that may be gone tomorrow.
But really, I can only fully enjoy today because the question of my tomorrow is settled. Today has great significance. It could be my last. It will be the last for millions of people. We shrink from this line of thought, and call it morbid, but really, is it so morbid? Solemn, yes, but melancholy and distressing? Maybe it depends. It depends on what the future holds when there is no today left. For me, and for every person who has put their trust in the Lord Jesus to be forgiven of their sins, life is today, but the full enjoyment of eternal life is after today. I’m not eager to die, but I sure am eager to enter into the explosion of life that I’ll be enjoying with God in heaven, when this physical body dies. There’s just no comparison!
But how different it is for the people who have never believed that the Lord Jesus paid for their sins by His death on the cross. I remember how before I put my trust in Him, I was conscious that if I was to die, I would find myself in hell, the place of torment that God prepared for the devil and his angels, the place to which men and women choose to go when they reject the salvation that God provided through the Lord Jesus.
God gives great significance to today. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “Now is the day of salvation.” Today is the day to agree with God that we are sinners, and any good things we do can’t make up for the bad things we’ve already done. Today is the day to believe that the Lord Jesus paid for our sins by dying on the cross. Today is the day to receive “the gift of God…eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Today is the day to decide about tomorrow.