Monday, October 11, 2010


This morning I was sound asleep when my alarm went off. What’s more, I was in the midst of a nice dream, and perfectly comfy in my bed. My first sensation was one of revulsion at the rudeness of the alarm, nagging at me that it was time to be up and going to work.

As I stumbled bleary-eyed into the bathroom, my eye fell on the devotional calendar from yesterday, which was about the value that Judas Iscariot placed on the Lord—in His eyes, Jesus was worth only thirty pieces of silver. The calendar challenged, “What is He worth to you?”

My mind leaped over the usual, obvious answers—the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me, is worthy of all my love, my means, my time, my life. Every Christian knows that, at least theoretically.

Then I thought, “Why, He’s worthy for me to jump uncomplainingly out of bed in the morning!” Duh. He’s also worthy for me to go cheerfully to work, and to carry a smiling face that betrays what a wonderful Savior He is. He’s worthy for me to deny myself a small pleasure for the sake of another person. He’s worthy for me to look dumb by refusing to laugh when other people make dirty jokes. He’s worthy for me to be thankful for the thousands of blessings that flood my life, rather than zooming in on the few annoying things that I have to deal with. He’s worthy for me to do a good and cheerful job cleaning the toilet. He’s worthy for me to wash the dishes. He’s worthy for me to be patient with my hearing impaired grandfather. He’s worthy for me to take good care of the body that He’s lent to me. He’s worthy for me to battle self pity when it comes whispering round. He’s worthy for me to give up my to-do list for the day when interruptions come.

Yes, He’s worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing (Rev. 5:12)! He’s worthy of the Name that is above every name (Phil. 2:9). He’s worthy of the crowns of glory and honor that God the Father has given Him (Heb. 2:9). Isn’t He worthy of the happy devotion of one of His children, in every area of life? And after all, isn’t an alarm clock a great reminder to begin praising the God who has given us the privilege of waking up another morning?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

When the Fog Tore

It was one of the most memorable moments of my summer. One day in June, I stood on top of Mt. Madison in New Hampshire, panting and sweating after three hours of stiff climbing. My friend Andrea and I had started hiking at 5:30, on what looked like a beautiful day in early summer. By the time we reached treeline, cold mist was swirling around us, and the sun was merely a bright spot in the blurry grey world. Now, at last, we were at the top, resting (if that’s the right word to use when you’re fighting to keep your balance and hear one another’s voices in the wind), and enjoying the view of….fog.

Andrea was digging to find something in her pack, and I straightened up to cast another look at where the horizon should have been. Suddenly I let out an exclamation and caught my breath. A slit had appeared in the swirling mist, a tear through the cottony curtain into the blueness beyond. For seconds, I caught a glorious view of mountaintops poking up through clouds, blue sky above them. Then, before I could get Andrea’s attention, it was gone. I shouted something in her ear about how there had been a beautiful view, and she turned to look, but the vista was, once again, only fog. We watched hopefully, eagerly,--and then it happened again, and we both cried out with delight at the beauty and I fumbled for my camera. But no camera could capture that dynamic moment of elation, awe, moving clouds, and clear vision. It tried, and failed.

For the next twelve hours we hiked, hopeful for another rend in the clouds or even a ray of clear sunshine. Once or twice, the veil was pulled away and we could see the panorama of splendor that surrounded us.

The rest of the time, our world was shrunk to a diameter of about a hundred feet, sometimes less, punctuated by hail, rain, and snow. We trudged on from one cairn to cairn, watching for the next one to emerge from the fog ahead. We were never lost—we always knew where we were, where we had come from, and where we were going. We simply couldn’t see any of it.

After that moment of breathtaking sight on top of Mt. Madison, I exclaimed to Andrea, “If that’s all the view we get all day, this hike will have been worth it!” And it was. Because that moment has returned to my mind many times this summer, when all that I could see of the significance of my life seemed no more than swirling mist and dull fog, annoying rain and stinging hail, trudging from one week to the next as I flipped the calendar pages.

2 Corinthians 5:7 took on a new meaning for me, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” The mountains, the valleys, the horizon, the sun, the blue sky, all were absolutely real, even when I couldn’t see them. The trail lay where it always had, the cairns were just as substantial, the map was just as trustworthy—and in this was our salvation. If we had been following our sight, we would have been lost in no time. As far as we could see, the terrain beyond the wall of fog could have been the Sahara Desert, or the Amazon jungle; we could as well have been at the bottom of a ravine as on top of a mountain ridge.

The promises and purposes of God are quite unchanged, whether or not I can see their fulfillment. The righteousness of God is as substantial and changeless as the mountains (Ps. 36:6), and therefore I do not need to fear that when the fog clears, the light of God’s smile will have gone out. His will, revealed day by day, is steadfastly leading me to the goal that only He can see. The panorama view of the purpose of God for the entire universe throughout all of eternity, is glorious and breathtaking, and when, every so often, He gives me a glimpse of my place in that plan, it sustains me for the next long trek through the fog.

Why the fog, then? Maybe it’s because when there’s nothing else to see, my eyes will learn to focus on Him, the Originator of all things beautiful. When there’s no one else to talk to, when the noise of the wind drowns out the clamor of other voices, my soul is drawn to commune with Him. The beauty of the view would be nothing without Him as its Maker, and so He teaches me to enjoy Him first and foremost. Maybe it’s because the fog is as much a part of His beautiful plan as anything else.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Handfuls of Barley

“Boaz commanded his servants, saying, ‘…you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean..." (Ruth 2:15-16)

It wasn’t the most efficient way to harvest a field, nor the neatest, nor the most profitable. Yet it was the kindest way. It was the way Boaz chose, when he saw the lonely, hardworking foreign woman bent gleaning in his field.

I wonder what Ruth thought about as she worked? Surely the labor was tedious, and as her back ached and her eyes stung with streams of sweat, she must have thought that her pile of barley was growing very slowly. Then suddenly, among the stubble, not a single stem of barley, nor even two or three, but a whole handful! How gratefully she added it to her collection, and went on with renewed energy. Perhaps, as she continued to find, here and there, these handfuls of barley, she wondered where they came from. Was one of the reapers more careless than the others, too lazy to harvest thoroughly? Then, as she caught up with them, perhaps she saw one of the reapers, and then another, pull from their bursting sheaves a handful of barley and drop it on the ground. And she knew they were doing it for her.

But they would not dare to be kind on their own initiative, for Boaz was no insignificant farmer, and it wouldn’t be good for them to be caught doing a slovenly job. The only answer, then, was that he must be behind this kindness—and indeed she could believe it of him, for he had served her so generously at the noon meal, and provided so thoroughly for her while she worked in his fields. Now she looked for the bunches of barley, and smiled to herself when she gathered them, for they were silent witnesses that he was thinking of her.

I’ve never seen a barley field, but lately I’ve been noticing the handfuls of barley that lie here and there along my path.

The other day at work, I started humming, half unconscious that I was doing it. My patient said, “That’s beautiful. It must be something about Jesus.” I was startled for a moment, and stopped to indentify what I had been humming. It was one of my favorite hymns, the first verse of which runs, “Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know, gracious Spirit from above, Thou has taught me it is so. Oh this full and perfect peace, oh this transport all divine, in a love that cannot cease, I am His, and He is mine.”

“Why, yes!” I said. “It is about Jesus! What made you think so?”

“I don’t know,” she answered. “I just knew that it was.”

And I smiled, startled by the suddenness with which this handful of barley had fallen at my feet. Somebody was thinking of me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Beauty "Wasted"

I don’t know about you, but I wonder a lot about what the coming years hold for me. My own head is crammed with ideas; I can only imagine what the infinite God has in mind!

Yet I have to say, so far His ideas don’t seem to be quite as exciting as mine have been. A couple years ago, I could have told you several rather thrilling things that I hoped to be doing at age 24, but which in fact don’t resemble my present circumstances at all. It’s been easy to question the perfection of the Lord’s will, especially when it seems like other people my age are living out my dreams.

Yet I’m not complaining—not at all. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You see, the other day I got to thinking about roses. No, not the kind that girls dream about, but rather the pesky multi-floral roses that line our fields on the farm. I was walking through the sweetly-scented evening air, and noticed the graceful sprays of roses that grew on the prickly bushes. Each blossom was so simple and yet so beautiful, and arranged so artistically on the branches, which arced so gracefully in the air.

And I thought, how is it that God puts beauty everywhere, even in the most unappreciated—even unobserved—places? A walk through the woods reveals pockets of ferns, illuminated by gently dappled sunlight. It’s quite possible that I will be the only human ever to observe those ferns before they die in the fall. They’re beautiful when they don’t have to be. Even the grass along the cowpath is stunningly beautiful when you stop to notice. Likewise the wisps of cloud in the sky, made to swirl gracefully for no reason at all but that God is the Maker.

In fact, it is hard to think of a single thing that God has made which is not beautiful in one sense or another. It’s not just that God perfectly designed everything for its intended function. That is true too, but He always blends art with science to make His works beautiful. He can afford to “waste” beauty where humans would consider it unnecessary.

I always want to laugh when I see a cell phone tower disguised as a tree. It’s a perfect illustration of the difference between the creations of God, and the inventions of humans. God builds in starry skies, grassy fields, and towering mountains. Man builds in concrete and rebar. God gives the world voice in bird songs, trickling waters, and the crash of ocean waves. The sounds of mankind are beeping alarms, traffic, and phones ringing. This is not to say that the inventions of humans are bad, nor that we cannot produce things of beauty (although the beauty we produce is strangely like an imitation of God’s handiwork). The point is merely that compared to God, our ideas don’t look so great.

That’s why, when I stop to think about it, I’m okay with letting God design my life. There’s always somebody to whisper that obeying God is a confining thing, ultimately leading to less fun and more work. But when I stop to think about it, that idea is positively ludicrous! He won’t forget to put a healthy dose of beauty and thrill into my life at the right times. In fact, when I stop to notice, my life already contains plenty of interludes of delight and just plain fun.

My observation of the lives of other people confirms the idea that God’s way is always best. When He brings about a marriage, it doesn’t just “work,” but is full of delight and thrill. When He plans out a career, it doesn’t just pay the bills, but contains opportunities that are meaningful for eternity. When He directs a life, it’s never average, but turns out to be more full, more significant, and more satisfying than anything we could have thought up. And He makes even the weeds to bear roses.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Just Wanted to Say...'s a simply splendid evening out there! I went out to bring in some laundry from the clothesline and was arrested by the beauty of the moment. The sky wasn't yet black, but salmon near the horizon, darkening to a deep blue green, and dotted by a few early stars and the diamond glint of a planet. The frogs were piping a rousing song from the pond, and lightening bugs flashed applause. The silhouette of one of the cows stood sharply against the sky on a distant ridge.

And I looked up at the giant bowl of the sky, and thought, "He loves me!" The one Who created such an orchestra of praise, and conducts its music, loves ME! Now that's a nice thought to pillow my head on as I drop off to sleep.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Yet Another Post...

I'm sorry that my posting is so sporadic--either there are no posts for weeks or three in one day! I haven't gotten to take a whole lot of pictures lately but here are some from the past couple months.

"But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?" Matthew 6:30

"Let the field exult, and all that is in it...

...then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy...

...before the Lord, for He is coming; for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness." Psalm 96:12,13

"Bless the Lord, O my soul! O LORD my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with splendor and majesty...He makes the clouds His chariot, He walks upon the wings of the wind." Psalm 104: 1,3

Ordained Days

A couple weeks ago, a little comment that I read somewhere drew my attention to look at a familiar verse of Scripture a bit differently than I had done before. The verse is Psalm 139:16, “In Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”

I had always assumed that this verse meant that God knew the number of days that my life will contain—and of course, this is true. Yet the sense in which I now saw it is that God has ordained each of my days for a specific purpose. God, as a Being Who is infinite in every dimension of His character, knows everything , so He has always known what would happen on each day of my life. Yet it brings an entirely new perspective to realize that He has designed a purpose for each of my days, and the circumstances they contain. Of course, if I choose to disobey His will as revealed in His Word, then I will miss out on some of the benefits that He intended for my days to hold. He hasn’t programmed me to do certain things, such that I have no choice in the matter. But let’s assume that a Christian is walking, to the best of his ability and knowledge, in the path that God wants Him to take.

He has some days that are obviously wonderful days. Perhaps they are days in which he accomplishes some notable victory over sin, or sees God use him in a remarkable way. Perhaps they are simply days in which he came to know and enjoy God better. It’s easy to see how God ordained those days.

Then, there are the bad days. A tragedy happens, or a great disappointment comes; it is a day of pain and sadness. Fortunately the Lord put Romans 8:28,29 in the Bible, so that we know that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose…to become conformed to the image of His Son.” It is possible to see how the Lord is using a bad day, to help us draw closer to Him and find Him sufficient.

But on the average days, it can be so hard to see God’s purpose. They are days in which we are simply doing what is our duty, going to work or school, trying to do all things to the glory of God and yet not seeing anything remarkable happening. On one such day, I rode the bus home from work, wondering what had been accomplished for God that day. I couldn’t see that I had passed by any great opportunity to serve Him, nor did I see much that I could have done differently so as to allow my day to have more eternal impact. Then verses started coming to mind like James 1:4, “and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The Lord speaks so highly in the New Testament of endurance and perseverance, as something to be sought after and cultivated—and yet how are these developed but by time? Most board games have blank spaces as well as those that say, “Congratulations! Take two tokens and move ahead six spaces.” The blank spaces don’t seem to accomplish anything, and yet they do have a purpose. Fine wine and cheeses have to be aged for many days—days in which nothing visible is happening, and yet which are vital to the aging process.

So when I see my days slipping by and think that God should have given me something more significant to do during those days, I’m completely missing the big picture. I may feel like my life is speeding by, like the hourglass is running out, and yet God has plenty of days to spare in which to develop me into the person He wants me to be. After all, He does know the number of days that my life will hold, and it’s just the right number to do the work that needs to be done.
1 Corinthians 6:19,20 reminds Christians, “Do you not know that…you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price…” If my very body is not my own, but belongs to Christ Who bought me with His blood, then my days are also not mine to spend. It is also not my place to judge whether or not God is spending “my” days in the best way possible. My only concern should be that I am walking in His will—and sometimes the only thing I understand about that will is that it is “good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

The other day I was mixing muffins. A most unfulfilling and trivial occupation in the light of eternity. Mix, mix, mix, trying to get the flour evenly blended with the liquids. Whoop-de-do. I could live rather easily without muffins, especially when I have to take the time to make them. But I was making them for my grandparents, and a fresh batch of muffins can be a big event in their monotonous days. So I found myself stopping and committing the muffins to the Lord as a tiny gift of love to Him. The words of Moses the man of God seemed so fitting for that day, and for many “average” days, “Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, and Thy majesty to their children…and do confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm for us the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:16,17)

This One's for You, Mom! :)

Mom says I need to post pictures of the "wiggles and wags" dog. So here they are...he never stays still enough to get good pictures of him wiggling and wagging, so these will have to suffice. :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wiggles and Wags

Here on the farm, we have three dogs. Each of them has a remarkably different personality from the others, and they all have their lovable and not-so-lovable quirks. But between two of these dogs, there is one striking difference.

One dog is the border collie who belongs to the farm; his job is to help herd the cows each day. If you’ve ever met a working border collie, you know that they are usually very intense dogs; they would love to be herding something all day, if possible.

The other dog is my own lovable mutt. He, like his cousin the border collie, likes to be active, but work is not so much on his mind. In fact, he’s not good for a whole lot, when it comes to accomplishing things.

If you were to drive up the hill to our farm, both dogs would probably meet you, both more or less muddy, both excited to see you, both hoping that you might have a cookie for them like the mailman always does. Both of them would be eager to leave some token of their appreciation on your clothes, the border collie in the form of muddy footprints, and the other in the form of doggie breath scented slobber on your face. But after the initial greeting was over (whew! You survived!) the difference between them would be evident. The border collie would disappear for a moment or two, and return with several sticks (he can carry up to four at a time in his mouth). He would deposit them at your feet, where he would stare at them until you, naïve visitor, would bend down and throw them for him to fetch. Thus you would become his life-long stick thrower; any time that you have a couple spare moments, he will go get you a stick to throw for him.

The other dog might have some interest in running after the sticks (especially if he felt like competing with his cousin), but would get completely distracted as soon as you smiled at him or showed signs of petting him. Then, he would be all wiggles and wags, turning his body into a horseshoe shape and going in circles in order to keep passing under your petting hands, and look adoringly into your face at the same time. If he’s really VERY happy to see you (don’t be flattered, he’s really VERY happy to see everybody), he might even pull his lips into a snarling position (it’s just a very toothy smile) and utter a joyous, “woo-oo—OOH!”

When I’m working in the garden, the one dog will be at my heels, jumping at every single clump of weeds that I toss away (they are a poor substitute for sticks, but will do in a pinch). The other will lay down in the grass near where I’m working, or come over every so often to exchange kisses. When I go for a walk, the one dog will range far and wide, chasing sandpipers or playing with his cousin until he gets bored and returns to the farm. MY dog will also go exploring in the grass, or jump into the pond for a swim, but he frequently looks back to see where I am, and if I lay down in the grass to enjoy the beauty of the day, he’ll often come find me and sit down nearby, like a sociable sentinel.

Now as I said, both dogs have their lovable points, and both fill a place in the lives of their respective owners. Of course I am biased toward my dog. Yet I have to ask myself, which dog better represents me, in my relationship to God? When I come to Him, do I always bring a project for Him to work on, a problem for Him to fix, a stick for Him to throw for me? Do I love my God for the things that He gives me, and does my love flag when He withholds some desire? Or do I come to Him full of wiggles and wags, enjoying His gifts, but most of all glad to see His Face, to give Him kisses of love and worship, and to enjoy the stroke of His loving hand?

The answer is revealed when He withholds the thing that I want more dearly, the hope that I cherish above all others. Do I mistrust His love, and take things into my own hands? Or can I face the very real possibility that He does not intend to give me that particular gift after all, and in that knowledge say, “I want You more, Beloved. Nothing You could give me would be worth more than knowledge and enjoyment of You.”

And just like I treasure those doggy breath kisses, God takes delight in even my feeble loving of Him.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Quick Erase

The other day I walked out from work, relieved to be finished with another twelve-hour shift. It seemed that I could still hear alarms ringing in my head, and the commotion and strain of a busy day seemed to be infused into my tired brain and body. Then, as I emerged from the building, my eyes fell on the flowering trees that grow by the sidewalk. Their delicate beauty was exquisite and lavish. My eyes traveled to the silhouette of the giant evergreen trees on the other side of the parking lots, outlined against a muted evening sky. A gust of wind wafted a sweet smelling kiss to my face, and suddenly, twelve hours of annoying alarms, bad smells, frustrations, perplexities, and trying to keep up with the clock, seemed but a faded memory. The beauty of the evening surrounded me and brought rest to all my senses.

How often this is so! A difficult day is eclipsed by the joy of a couple hours spent with a good friend. Memories of a less than delicious meal swirl down the drain with the dishwater, when we take the first spoonful of dessert. The pain and exhaustion of a day of strenuous labor is transformed into only satisfied weariness by a refreshing shower.

Of course, it works the other way too. There are days that seem perfect until some shock or keen disappointment comes at the end, and the knot in the pit of your stomach tells you that none of the previous pleasures can make up for this pain. The fun of a vacation is ruined by the memory of one heated argument.

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." And again in 2 Corinthians 4:17, "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison." Or, as the hymn writer said,

"One glimpse of His dear Face,
All sorrows will erase;
So bravely run the race,
'till we see Christ!"

Somehow that perspective makes twelve hours of stress and strain--or even eighty years of life in an imperfect world--seem awfully trivial!

But what of those who choose to reject God's offer of forgiveness through Jesus Christ? What will there be to comfort them throughout an eternity--endless millions of years--of anguish in hell? Only seventy or eighty years during which they got to do their own thing, a little fun mixed with a lot of sorrow--and the knowledge that they could have been enjoying the eternity of delight that God had prepared for them, if only they had taken the gift.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Varied Palette

Lately we've had some rather rainy days which, at the last minute, the Lord crowned with a glorious sunset, turning all the mist and clouds into glory.

The day these pictures were taken, it had rained dismally all day. While I was getting supper ready, Grampie mentioned that "the sky's pretty out there." I turned around and gasped at the glory that I had almost missed. Click on the images to get a better view.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


One of the skills that I've begun to learn since I came to the farm, is pruning fruit trees. I know only the most rudimentary principles of pruning, and spend at least as much time being perplexed about what my next cut should be, as I spend in the actual work. Yet already it has become one of my favorite springtime chores.

It's a slow, thoughtful, deliberate job, just right for a day when the sunshine is warm and the breeze gentle. As I work, wielding my clippers and handsaw with a mixture of trepidation and satisfaction, I think what a timeless job it is. My New England predecessors have been doing the same job, with the same tools, for the last century or two. Certainly my grandfather, who planted these trees, has often enjoyed a warm spring day in the same way. They nurtured trees that would outlive them, looking forward to the day when their grandchildren could enjoy the fruit.

And here I am, fingering the rough bark to see which wood is dead, standing back with my head on one side to see if I've missed any tall sucker shoots, and balancing on the top rung of the ladder with the exciting knowledge that I'm specifically disobeying the sticker on the ladder that says "Not a step". But more than that, I'm thinking what a magnificent privilege has been given me to spend a couple hours in something that's so purely delightful.

The air is very still, and that is one of the most beautiful things. I've come to appreciate the silence of nature in a new way. The alarms and clamor that surround me at work are far away now. No voice, however beloved, breaks in upon my resting neurons to cause ripples of thought and perplexity. The only thoughts are those that have been waiting for silence in order to surface, thoughts arising from a full heart and happy mind.

And yet it is not completely silent. For, like my mind with its pleasant thoughts waiting to be enjoyed in silence, nature has a music that is not heard until everything else is still. Here and there birds twitter sociably, and water trickles gently out of the pond. If I listen, I can hear the muffled sounds of my feet on the grass, the neat slicing of my clippers, and even my own quiet breathing.

No one enjoys lying down to rest like the one who has worked hard all day, and can feel each knotted muscle relaxing one by one. In the same way, I enjoy the leisurely, useful hours, feeling each part of my person soak in the beauty of the day. Just as my ears exult in the silence, my eyes drink in the beauty, my nose enjoys the sweet smells, my skin basks in the warmth of the sunshine, and my whole person delights in this moment of utter rest.

In my future, I may live in a war zone, or dwell in a crowded city or village. Something may take away my physical ability to enjoy the view of the world from the top of a ladder. Perhaps I'll live in a desert or a city, alike in their lack of trees and songbirds. Any number of things could happen to prevent me from pruning trees another springtime. And so I take these hours as a gift to enjoy and remember, moments of pure happiness in which I am strengthened and refreshed for the work that awaits me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Almost Two Months Later....

Well, once again, many weeks have passed since my last blog post! I'm not sure what happened to the concepts of quiet winter evenings by the woodstove, but they have been rather infrequent around here!

To be honest, though, my busy schedule hasn't been the only reason that I didn't write. There just didn't seem to be much to write about. The view from the kitchen window could be described as variations on the theme of brown, and my schedule, although full, has been the same way. At least, from the kitchen window view.

Yesterday I actually pulled on my boots and went for a walk, to explore that world of brown.

The fields and I have had a new kinship lately. An early thaw melted the snow, leaving hummocks of dead grass, punctuated by muddy patches, ingloriously exposed. When dressed by a scouring wind, and overshadowed by gray skies, the fields provide a perfect environment for musing on all that is wrong with oneself. I've come to appreciate the unadorned humility of the world at this season. Never was it more shabby and miserable. The refreshing thing about humility is that it is nothing but the truth. The exciting thing about humility is that it is all that's required for the growth that a wise God desires to bring about. Never were the fields closer to the explosion of beauty and fruitfulness that we call summer.

As I trudged along the muddy cow paths, marked with tracks that were frozen into the ground last fall, I began looking for any beauty that could be discovered. And I found it! There was beauty in the faithful evergreens, proving that the otherwise bare woods were not dead. There was beauty in the variations of dull green and brown juxtaposed on neighboring slopes. There was a certain beauty in the dark fingers that streaked the ice on the pond, betraying that the sun had begun undoing the lock that concealed the glistening water beneath. In one pond, it had already been victorious, and the open water, roughened by the gusty wind, was chewing at the ragged edges of ice that remained. I wandered toward the sound of a little brook that ran through a drainage pipe into a small area of woods. With a surge of delight, I saw that the water was running free now, leaping joyfully into the pool. The cap of ice that once enclosed it, had fallen away.

The giggling brook, the green that has started creeping into the fields, the melting ice, all betray the great changes that are beginning to come about beneath the drab exterior. The weeks seem to pass in a monotony of half-hearted frosts and dripping rain, mud that freezes at night and ferments during the day, fed by reluctantly eroding snowbanks. Occasionally a violent windstorm provides an exclamation point, tearing down some dead branches and making everything tumultuous. But otherwise, the changes are subtle and hidden. The orientation of the earth's axis to the sun changes a few degrees, the days get a few minutes longer, the ice crystals underground begin to melt.

There isn't much hope or excitement in the kitchen window view. But the rubber boot tour reveals the beginnings of something grand, something so wonderful that it seems completely impossible in such a dingy landscape.

Recently I discovered a verse that whispers of spring coming, of big things beginning to happen while the rain is still dripping and the ice melting. "For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him." (Isa 64:4)

The kitchen window view: me, in a constant battle between faith and discontentment, sunshine and rain. Spending my days cooking meals that are eaten in a flash, washing laundry that's dirty again in twelve hours, changing linens and writing down vital signs at work, trying to figure out what to cook, and dealing with the frustrations and difficulties of daily life, thinking that my share of annoyances should provide enough grit to produce several strings of pearls. Noticing how exciting and dramatically useful some people's lives are, and recognizing that there's a whole lot of the old sinful flesh in what other people admiringly call my service. Drip, drop, slip, slop, slush, slosh, brown, browner, brownest. Just like spring!

But then, there's the rubber boot tour: A loving God in heaven, Who knows exactly what each of my days hold. (Psalm 139:1-4) The sunshine of His love at work in my life, beginning to melt the icy spots, and turn hard ground into usable soil (it's in the mud stage right now). The winds of inconvenience and exhaustion, breaking off dead branches and tearing away sodden leaves. The greenness of fellowship with God, beginning to brighten the brown fields.

One day soon, I'll look out the kitchen window and be startled by fields of waving grass, fringed by leafy forests, and bathed in warm sunlight. I'll say, "How did summer get here all of a sudden?" Yet I'll know there was no "all of a sudden" about it, but long, boring weeks of dull, imperceptible change.

And I can't help but think, with a thrill of anticipation, that during these days of waiting and trying to simply be joyously faithful, God is acting on my behalf, just like Isaiah says. Someday, and perhaps it won't be long, He'll let me in on the secret of what work He's preparing me for. He's already told me His over-arching goal, which is for me "to become conformed to the image of His Son." (Romans 8:29) But even His Son had a specific work to do here on earth. At some point "beforehand," God prepared good works for me to do. (Ephesians 2:10) I'll admit I'm getting pretty eager to find out what they are!

The knowledge that summertime is on its way lends beauty and purpose to the rain and even the mud. The knowledge that God is working on my behalf, lends joy to the waiting. I'll keep my rubber boots on for a while yet.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Now THAT'S Ambition

If you had peeked into the farmhouse kitchen tonight, you would have spotted me sitting with my back to the stove and my Bible in front of me, grinning away with sheer delight. The Lord had just unfolded Philippians 3 to me in a way that I never saw it before--and it made me laugh because of how obvious, and yet how breathtaking, it all was!

Paul begins by exhorting the Christians to delight in the Lord--the surest safeguard against settling for less than God's best. Paul then describes how he put all of his natural assets into the "liabilities" column of his life's account book, because although they might take him far, it would be in the wrong direction, away from his ultimate goal.

Then, he seems to lower his voice as though he's about to share something shocking.

The people who knew him when he was a zealous Pharisee, shook their heads when he abandoned them and their legal religious system. "We had high hopes for that young man," they said. "He could have been the foremost among us--but look at him now! Ready to waste his life hanging around with these nobodies who call themselves Christians! What happened to his ambition?!"

Then the tide begins to rise. Paul is now ready to reveal to the world his ambition. Like waves crashing relentlessly higher and higher up the beach, he lists the the components of his goal

At the very outset he promises that the thing he's aiming for, is so valuable, he is glad to give up absolutely everything that he ever had going for him, and the enjoyment of every human, physical comfort. What for?

"For the sake of Christ...the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...that I may
know Him, and may be found in Him...having [righteousness] which is through faith in Christ...that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead...that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus...the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

And as his bold voice rings out, I laugh with glee--laugh at the idea that any earnest follower of Christ could ever be said to lack ambition! Why, Paul has just listed almost ten things, each one of which is unattainable by the human efforts of the best person on earth! No person can be good enough to attain God's righteousness! No one by his own efforts can know God! Certainly no one can provide themselves with resurrection from the dead! And yet each one of these things, and more, is within reach to those who have been redeemed and justified by faith in God!

Christians have for centuries baffled those who strive for wealth, power, influence, and ease. In every age, God has had His faithful ones, who were content to work hard for little money, be overlooked in public affairs, go unrecognized by the crowds, and "waste" their talents and genius, laboring in jungles and deserts, for the sake of Christ Jesus. Yet I think it is safe to say that every child of God who "suffered the loss of all things" for Him, also would join Paul in "counting them but rubbish," in view of the spiritual bounty that God gave them in return.

It makes me wonder--do I have any ambition at all?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter Sunset

I haven't been out to take a whole lot of pictures lately, but the sunset tonight lured me out, despite the frigid temps!

The birdfeeder handle provided a handy frame...

The hayrakes are waiting for summer!

Wish I could have captured the pastel colors more perfectly...

The hens are waiting for summer too!