in the garden ...
In the beginning
And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. Genesis 2.9
Last spring I took a few days off for some quiet study and to enjoy the beauty of the creation at this time of year. As I meandered through the East Texas countryside, I imagined a conversation that must have taken place during the forming of our world.
Picture this if you will…
God: Okay, Mother Nature, I've finished the water, the sky, the moon… How are you coming with those plants?
Mother Nature: Well, I know we've done several trees, but I still think we need at least two more.
God: Two more! Are you kidding! We've done thousands of species of trees, surely that's enough! I'm ready to get to the inhabitants of the world, the reason for the creation itself and you're still talking about plants!
MN: I know, I know, but just two more please. I want one that is very tall and has long very spindly needles, and another that will have beautiful deep pink blooms before the wide leaves appear.
God: Needles instead of leaves! Mother, why would you want that? Man and woman don't need something that will cause unnecessary pain! I'm creating this world for their pleasure, a place of safety and you're talking about spindly needles!
MN: I know, dear, but sometimes the pain of life is necessary to produce the full bloom of creation. This pine tree will provide the necessary acid for the lovely azaleas we created. The second tree, the redbud, makes itself so apparent, it will be a very visible sign that winter is past.
God: mutter, mutter, mutter.....
MN: Come on, Father, we really need them! People may come upon sorrow in their lives and they will need regular reminders that the world has goodness. They will experience your love for them in the beauty of the earth. Trust me, beauty has healing power. Your children need to know we spent much time and effort creating the spring landscape with so many different shades of green, with the warmer sunshine to melt the snow, with the fresh smells of flowers….
God: Healing power… you're right, my dear, I do want mankind to remember that there will always be a time to celebrate change, a time to anticipate the coming of new seasons, physical comfort and esthetics being of importance in the creation… I suppose we DO need to go a little overboard with the beauty, for I'm afraid our children may be exposed to some elements of their own making which will not provide joy and comfort for one another. Wartime will be easier to endure if there is certainty of coming peace. Man's inhumanity to man desperately needs to be tempered with very visible signs of My reminders of My Love. Perhaps the green hills, the blooming trees and the children playing in the sunshine will remind man and woman of the overwhelming amount of goodness they have everyday.
Okay, Mother Nature, two more trees… but after that... PEOPLE! What an adventure that will be!
Note: My dear husband,Dennis, wasn't so sure there actually was a Mother Nature …I assured him that she definitely was around during creation, for if God is only of the male persuasion, He would have thought one moon, one flower, one tree would be quite sufficient! It definitely takes a woman to come up with the "need" for such variety! Our world is the very expression of the wholeness of God, The Creator's careful consideration to meet all of our needs….even the esthetic ones!
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Meandering about taking risks
Much Meandering of the mind… about taking risks
If you walk in the garden without your shoes on…
Don't be surprised if you get bit!
If you never wear gloves…
Don't be surprised if your skin gets tough and leathery.
If you always wear thick, protective gloves to keep your hands "soft and supple"…
Don't be surprised if you can't pick up a dime, or feel a kitten's soft fur.
If you hoard the last piece of chocolate cake…
Don't be surprised if it no longer tastes very good when you finally eat it.
If you never try pronouncing a word in Spanish…
Don't be surprised if you never become fluent in the language or become best friends with a Spaniard.
If you never introduce yourself to a new person,
Don't be surprised if you begin to feel bored.
If you isolate yourself from others,
Don't be surprised if no one ever gives you a surprise birthday party… or knows when you need help.
When our adventuresome son, David, was in high school, he told me that I wanted him to read about life, not live it. I was indignant! … til I was realized he was right. I want my children safe all the time… However, I think our desire for excitement is God given for without the risk takers we would never make giant strides in our society, in our medicine, in our faith. He wanted us (maybe just some of us??? No probably all of us!) to enjoy living on the edge a bit. But is difficult for a protective parent to allow our children to experience danger.
Knowing when to protect ourselves and our families is tricky business at best. We caution our children to stay out of the sun without sunblock, then wonder why they want to spend all day in front of the computer.
I often forget the example God, through His Son, gave us for letting our children live life to its fullest. I want everyone safe and sound. As Ben so ably taught in the sermon on Sunday, God wants us to know it all, sorrow and joy, dark and light, empty and full.
I've discovered that asking for God's guidance helps me when making decisions about living my life, and while He sent me challenges in my life's garden, He also expects me to use the mind that He gave me… He wants me to be a good steward of the blessings He sends. Wear the gloves, but not all the time. Is that His message? I'm not quite sure…. Consider Jesus and the disciples in a boat during a storm. My inclination would have been… forget the fish, just get back to land! But the message He sent was in the storm itself. Look at Him, trust Him, all will be well.
On Sunday, I asked that prayers be said for a good friend's grandchild. Little Christopher was born 3 months too early. He weighed 2 pounds 4 oz .and for a day or so was holding his own. I knew he would be okay, but I had fear for his family members. Saturday we got word that he had a serious brain hemorrhage and Sunday afternoon, he died. Christopher was and is okay. His family is in sorrow, but report they have experienced much love in the midst of their tears. The family gave permission to take him off life support so he could live a free life…. At their expense - the loss of a child. Witness the cross. Great risk for God, great gain for us.
We don't always have to be taking giant risks to see Him, to feel Him, to learn about Him. In the big risks and in the small, His creations teach us about living a full life - and I am sure that is The Plan. It seems that on the days that I feel the most in tune with Him, I find myself walking barefoot in the yard, just so I may feel the dew on the grass….
I think we all will have questions about risks and gains, safety and danger during our time on this earth, but I don't think He wants our questions and our fears to overcome our willingness to be risk takers. So, while I walk barefoot in the garden, I have learned to listen carefully for low flying wasps or watch for those sneaky little fire ants.
God made those, too…… I wonder why?
More Meandering of the mind… about music
It occurred to me one morning that God is directing an orchestra,
not just a series of solos.
create an entirely different sound than when practiced individually.
I am certain He is with us during our own private lessons,
but unlike us,
He knows the overall score
and knows exactly how our sound will fit it.
A single part that often sounds "un-melodious"
or even off-key
may provide just the structure needed to carry a piece through in a rhythmical way
or provide the dissonance necessary to keep a piece interesting.
(If you've ever played a tuba or a french horn during marching season, you know exactly what it is to play nothing but ompahs
or _tah, _tah, _tah, tah, tah's on and on and on…very dull indeed to practice!)
But when played with the group, those of us playing those strong droning notes enable the marching members to feel the beat strongly.
It wasn't until I was an adult that I understood the reason for my single note soliloquies.
I've discovered on occasion one of the great joys of life -
catching a phrase of the orchestra as a whole,
hearing how my part fits in with the rest of the players.
Perhaps it is God's gift to me,
a reward for my practicing,
or perhaps ….
it is simply that I came in close enough to the Director
to hear more than my single part.
Like our music,
I suspect our prayers,
may create a symphony of sound, not just a cacophony of noise
when we say them in His name,
with His will in mind.
The Composer, the Director appreciates my willingness to practice,
for it adds to the beauty of the piece.
My prayer today is that I will not be lazy in my practice sessions,
not just a clock watcher, waiting for my practice time to pass,
but rather a true musician,
working to play to the best of my ability,
according to the score I was given,
ever mindful that my part is very necessary,
but not the entire symphony.
What a relief! (I don't have to play all the parts!)
What a challenge! (The orchestration requires my part… however, odd it may sound!)
Meandering of the mind… about life's lessons
Some lessons of life's we seem to have to learn over and over. I’m not sure if that is because we forget what we've learned (which is certainly a possibility in my case!) or if it is because the lesson is not one we wholeheartedly embrace. One of those things you know, but would like to change….
So here's a couple of lessons I of which I have yet to fully learn or promptly remember:
The purpose of life is not to enjoy it…. it's about the pilgrimage. It's about the learning we need to do along the way. A friend reminded me the other day of the book, "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden." No matter how many times I am reminded of that fact, I still keep looking for a "thorn-free" garden. I want an easy life, not a journey requiring hard work and vigilance ('course then I wonder why I'm bored on a Sunday afternoon with nothing going on but a football game or a nap on the couch.)
Among those lessons I simply would like to change is the one I fight most often. I still get angry over injustices. Rather than learning to adjust my life to them, I rail against the fact that “Fairness is a myth".
I expect all to be treated equally.
I expect my life to deliver what I give. If I never hurt you, then I think it is only fair that you never hurt me. I expect safety, kindness, and honesty from all. And I get exceedingly unhappy when I am disappointed to find danger along the way, or mean hearted or dishonest people.
My plan: If I try to “play nicely with others”, I expect them to "play nicely" as well. It's part of my perfectly planned life. How dare God not protect me from those elements that create havoc, or people who can and do hurt me! I thought He loved me! No, life is not fair….
I may still have to be reminded of that fact, but in truth, the older I get, the less shocked I am by the lesson and the more quickly I rally from the blows of injustice.
But, I also have to be honest myself and tell about something else that happens on the pilgrimage: Sometimes the unfairness swings in my direction. I get something good I really didn't deserve. I find a secret passage to a journey's destination. I have a gift fall into my lap, one that makes my journey easier or reminds me that some days the lessons learned on the pilgrimage are not all difficult or unpleasant ones.
I suspect that if life really were fair, my life would be far less pleasant. If I had no lessons to learn along the way, I suspect my life would be far less interesting, and my understanding of God would be far more shallow.
Ah, life's lessons… can't live with them…. Can't live without them.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Meandering of the Mind... about daring to love
As humans, we spend our lives looking for people to love. Young adults search for the perfect person with whom they may share the remainder of their lives - often they move on to dreams of parenthood, searching again for still more perfect persons whom they may love. We reach out eagerly in those years, looking forward to decades of "wedded bliss".
If we were very fortunate to have had a stable, healthy childhood, we might imagine that loving someone else is easy to do. Especially if those who chose to love us (our parents, our friends) shared only their favored treasures with us rather a larger, truer scope, which includes painful lessons. Without the fuller understanding of the elements of love we may not have perceived that to love envelopes both joy and pain and that trust is necessary to both. We might envision that the person we chose to love will safeguard that trust by remaining the same as when we first met, thus not becoming someone we did not choose to love. We might expect someone we love to provide comfort and protection from pain, to never be the source that would create a frightening storm that could blow into our lives. In short, we might come to only know that love is only patient and kind, never rude.
But my experience has told me that loving someone is not always joyful or easy. And sometimes I'm not sure it is something I even want to do, for I have learned that when I choose to love another, I am laying out my self, my time, my energy, my soul for another to use … or abuse. I know for a fact, that if we remain open for embracing all of life, we are much more vulnerable for attack.
When we have only had experiences from those we love that were positive and made us happy, our understanding of love is at best immature. We see love as only presenting one element of the world. We may not welcome the balance of life, only choosing the sun of day, not the stars of night - not knowing that they are both sources of energy. We let our fear determine the hours we spend open for new experiences. If we are cautious or inexperienced with challenge we choose the light of day for there are fewer secrets hidden, fewer "tigers under the bed" in the day. In the dark of night, our risk for hurt becomes greater with each step. It requires the element of faith as we risk a stubbed toe or a fall into an open, unseen abyss. Often I choose only the sunny side of life and would choose to hide away safely in my own bed during the night, resting peacefully perhaps, but never experiencing the stars.
We want Jerusalem rather than Gethsemane.
C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. . . . If you want to make sure of keeping [your heart] intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken - it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the danger of love is Hell.
Those of us who spend our lives constantly protecting our hearts, live lonely lives, but perhaps those lives are not as tumultuous as those of us who take risks are. Risk-takers will find great sources for exhilaration and laughter, but will more certainly also cry more than their "fair share" of tears. Risk-takers have experienced the beauty of the tears and know that they cleanse our eyes to see the reality of the world. Tears keep us honest by washing away the daily debris that gathers there. Our ability to continue to include those who hurt us (because they became ill, because they went away, because they changed, or chose to embrace another) is exactly what love is. Love rejoices in the right, hopes all things, endures all things. It does not pass away.
Certainly we can try to hide in the darkness, but not if we choose life and love. For to truly love another, to experience their joy and their sorrow, we must not close our eyes to opportunities for sharing other's lives.
Years ago, our son David, taught me a life lesson. His past experiences with pain and loss along with his knowledge of trust and fulfillment opened my eyes to a new perception. I had asked David what his life was like as the older brother of a sibling with exceptional challenges. His reply was memorable. David explained that having Kate as a sister was much like taking a difficult course at Harvard versus an easy course in high school. One required little, but you gained little, the other was rigorous, requiring much energy, time and denial of other pleasures. David chose Harvard. He decided the struggle was worth the effort, for he found he is a stronger, fuller person for having chosen to remain in the difficult course of study and not ignore it or run away. Did Kate intentionally hurt David by being autistic? Of course not, but she did hurt him. His hurt intensified because he could not take away her pain. He did choose to walk beside her and take on her weakness by sharing her load, learning her lessons. Lessons that are sometimes learned in the light of day, but more often stumbled across in the dark of night. David, our courageous son, has learned to embrace the night.
Those people who live with significantly painful elements in their own lives provide for us the impetus for growth (that very element of creation!)… and by allowing for growth, we embrace the Creator. These people, those who live with painful sorrow yet joy become our tour guides to mysteries of life and when we choose to share their nighttime adventures (often scary, uncertain and painful though they are) we get to see the beauty of the night and learn the glories of the stars!
Portions of this piece will be included in the book Sighs Too Deep for Words copyright May 2005 by Martha Kate Downey