Friday, January 25, 2013

Don't Stay Too Long in Your Hole

The winter is hard on everyone...whether it's the cold, dark days we awake to, or the cold, dark days in our spirits, winter is a challenge.  The little Oregon juncos have arrived at my feeder.  They look like wee executioners, with their little black hoods.  This little guy arrived and was eager to find some lunch. The feeders were empty (oh, the shame!) and all of the seed on the ground had been snatched up.  So, what was our wee bird's idea?  Keep digging until you find seed under the snow!
Yes, that's a solution, but the deeper he went, the less he could keep track of predators, such as our small hawk that loves to alight on the tree that holds the feeders.  This little guy was more interested in getting at the seed than being safe.  So, he kept going deeper...
And vanished.  I laughed because he normally would bob up and down, trying to simultaneously look for seed and the hawk.  But once he went too deep, he couldn't see.  

I thought, how so like our lives.  We look for those things that we need and also want, and keep getting deeper and deeper in, looking for more.  The original reason may be a good one, but the deeper in we get, the less we see of our bigger world and our vision is narrowed down to just our pursuits.  In Jesus' day, things weren't any different: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." (Matthew 6:23-32)

If we keep pursuing the very things that our Father already knows we need, soon we are in so deep, we lose track of the larger horizon of His love.  And equally as sad, we lose sight of the dangers--how what was once a reasonable need turns into an obsession, stealing away our joy and marring our walk with Him.  We are also more vulnerable to attack--our inability to see the Lord's provision leads us to try to take even more control of our lives and do it ourselves.  The more we do ourselves, away from the Father's plan, the deeper in we go.  Instead of broad expansive joy, we see the walls of our hole, imprisoned and unhappy.  

Solution?  Jesus states it simply, as all profound things are:  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  (Matthew 6:33).  Wow!  That doesn't sound like digging a hole, but building a relationship with the One Who loves us so.  That doesn't sound like looking down at our need, but looking up to His provision.  That doesn't sound like work, but sounds like a celebration--we are His children, and He knows what is best for us.  He knows where the seed is, where the hawk is, and knows that too long in a hole is a lonely, closed-in existence.  Look up.  He is waiting with open arms.

Prayer:  Father:  I am in a hole of my own digging.  I started out fine--I could see out beyond it, but now I am confined in it.  Please, be the lifter of my head and give me strength to fly out.  Your love never ceases to wait.  In Your Precious Son's Name, amen.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Be Ever Green

"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."  Nehemiah 8:10

The New Year has arrived with cold winds.  When the sun makes a rare appearance, the ice crystals glint like diamonds in the snow.  The land's harsh edges are softened.  The snow blows about like powdered sugar, with drifts forming and reforming as the winds change direction.  Amidst the cold, stand my three evergreens:  my blue spruce (small but mighty) and two Austrian pines.  Everything else is dead, or at least appears to be so.  The grasses are buried under the snow and the sunflowers are skeletal remains along our road.  If you didn't know better, you'd think we live in a wasteland.

It is desolate right now.  The landscape is barren and rather foreboding.  But my evergreens remind me of the beauty of the land to come in the spring.  The green will return.  The Lord has designed the planet to operate like clockwork, so I can trust the return of the spring. 

The landscape of the nation is rather desolate now.  It is winter in America.  The cold winds blow.  What is the Evergreen of our hope?  It is God.  Listen to the words of Habakkuk, who was told that punishment was coming to his beloved Judah:  
16 I heard and my heart pounded,
    my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
    and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
    to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

The joy of the Lord is our strength, our evergreen tree of hope in the desolate winter landscape of these times.  He gives us strength so we can stand in the snow, green and hopeful because of His faithfulness.  We can remind each other of His presence, so we can "go on to the heights."  We don't ignore the landscape, but we can stand in it with confidence.  The days are hard, the days are dark, but we serve a mighty God!

One last thought:  under the snow, the seeds sleep.  The many bulbs that my son and I planted in the fall are still there, deeply buried in the frozen earth.  When we had a few days of a rather warm sun a few weeks ago, one little plant dared to poke up through the forbidding snow and seek the sun.   If we don't find ourselves as evergreens--yet--dare to lift up your head, look to His warmth, and seek the Son.  Your efforts, even if you take them to be small, will encourage others.  Whether tall or small, we are to live in this current landscape like we mean business--our Father's business.   

Prayer:  Lord, the days are dark, just like the depths of winter.  Help me to be ever green, resting in You and trusting You to sustain me, so I can be truly joyful.  Not with a joy born of ignorance, but a joy born of confidence in Who You are:  the One Who loves us.  In Your Son's most precious name, amen.

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