Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Deer and Mystery Flowers--Pruning Ain't Pretty

I have no need to prune my plants.  The deer do that for me.  They come to up to my raised beds and not just nibble at a plant or two...They shear the poor plants down to the ground.  So, for many summers, I have had no flowers in my raised beds.  The roses were completely nibbled away as soon as they appeared.  I have some plants in one bed that I have never seen bloom, because the deer don't allow it!  

Last spring, we put up a fence.  It surrounds the beds in the front yard.  For the raised bed in the back, I have placed a garden flag that is always flapping due to the ever-present breezes up here.  I also placed an owl-shaped sign that ironically says "Welcome" on it--hopefully it's menacing to the deer who can't read.  I placed those tempting feeders with their luscious seeds further into the Russian olive, so they are not so visible.

Result?  No more pruning!  The deer no longer come into the front yard.  The day lilies are happily blooming and growing rather large and my teacup rose brush is lush with flowers on it.
It is true that some of my plants have not yet recovered from all that pruning.  This wee rose brush is a good example:
Maybe in a season or two, it will bloom as happily as its counterparts.  Then, there is the mystery plant in my backyard bed:
This is about how big it gets, then BAM! sheared to the ground without mercy.  But this summer, with the "owl" and the flapping flag, this is what I am finally (!) seeing:
Beautiful...the stalks are tall and flowers are about to appear...but until recently, I had no idea what they were.  Then, one day, while browsing at Home Depot in the garden section, I recognized the plants...Asiatic lilies!  They were stunning at the Home Depot and I am so excited to see them when they finally burst forth in all their glory.  I laughed--it had been so long since I planted them that I forgot what I had planted there, and now I get to see the final product!  

Life prunes us.  Pure and simple.  Sometimes the pruning comes again and again, and each time, we are sheared to the ground.  Maybe we are still recovering from a previous pruning, and like my wee rose brush, we only have a few tender leaves present and no flowers.  Sometimes, we think, "Hey!  It's my time to bloom!" only to face pruning in another area of our lives.  Some of us have forgotten joy...we are so used to being sheared down to the ground that we forget what our flowers are supposed to look like or if we even have any flowers in our future at all.  

Sometimes the pruning is because of poor decisions we have made. We have failed to pray and keep on focus on Him.  God's Word exhorts us:  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 4:6-7)  

Prayer and walking in Him is our fence. Again in Romans 12:2, we read:  "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." We, in our weakness, can pray for fence-building strength: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right (or steadfast) spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10)

What are the "deer"? God's Word is specific here: "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5) 

Yup--those are powerful deer that invade us, but we are not alone: "But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one."  (2 Thessalonians 3:3).  Building a fence to keep out the deer is not easy.  Last year, when the fence guy showed up, it took him all day to put a rather small length of fence.  Why?  Just below the soil of our area is nothing but shattered basalt.  He had to stick the auger in and try to dig a hole in broken ROCK.  He persevered and modeled steadfastness to get the job done.

The result of all of this? I now have blooms, beautiful color and future see what is going to spring up! I know it will bring joy to my heart!

Pruning isn't pretty, but Jesus doesn't fail us. He's already brought the wood--the cross--and He delights in our growth.  He rejoices not in the pruning, but in the flowers to come. 

If the pruning is due to us, then build a fence. 

If we are being pruned for His glory, then persevere: "My son, despise not you the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and whips every son whom he receives. …"  (Hebrews 12:6)

If we are overwhelmed, NEVER forget:  "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them [evil doers], because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."  (1 John 4:4) 

Deer are strong, but He is stronger still:  "There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." (Corrie Ten Boom )

Thursday, June 20, 2013

God's Schoolroom, Part II

To continue with the idea of how God uses His creation to speak to us, look at Job12:7-10:

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every creature
    and the breath of all mankind."

Job is asking his friends to inquire of the Lord about what has happened to him--his loss and his suffering.  I find it fascinating that Job points his friends to inquire of God's own creatures to answer about his loss.  The animals go from day to day, surviving and yes, suffering, too.  Yet, all remains in God's hands--humans and animals alike.  So, is the suffering caused by God?  Allowed by God?  Directed by God?  Neglected by God?

It is a troubling question.  In the movie Creation, about Charles Darwin and his search to explain the natural world, there is one memorable scene where he takes his children into a forest.  A rabbit is feeding and is brutally attacked by a fox.  His children winced and cry and such a cruel scene seems to banish the idea that the world is a lovely place.   Darwin stares at the scene as if to say that Biblical account of God's creation being "good" is a lie.

Darwin then goes on to experience the most devastating blow of all--the loss of his daughter to an unknown disease.  He takes her to a doctor who had treated him successfully and hopes the doctor will do likewise for his daughter.  But she continues to decline and then die.  He is absolutely drowning in guilt and breathtaking pain.  His wife is a devoted Christian and she has the hope of heaven in her heart for her and her family, but she is gravely concerned about her husband's repudiation of his faith.  Darwin cannot reconcile the death so appallingly evident in the natural world and then the death of his child with a loving God.  He gravitates more and more to a universe where God is not present and creation is a series of random events, equipping creatures to survive in such a brutal world.  He then blames himself even further, for his wife is his cousin, and although allowable by English law, he wonders if he has violated a divine law, and is being punished for it.  

Anger at God and anger at oneself is a faith-shattering experience.

Job is pummeled with the same loss as Darwin--the loss of his home and children. And unlike Mrs. Darwin, Mrs. Job is not supportive of her husband: "His wife said to him, 'Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!' He replied, 'You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?' In all this, Job did not sin in what he said." (Job 2:9-10)

Yet, the creation seems to still echo the voice of God as He pronounced it "good" in the Genesis account:  
"Yet He has not left Himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:17)  And the creation speaks of Who God is: "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

So, how do we reconcile a universe that speaks of His majesty, yet also cries out in pain and suffering? 
"For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." (Romans 8:20-5)

It would appear that not only did sin pollute us, it polluted creation.  So, not only do we await for that glorious day when we will be completely restored, but also the world as it was originally--"good" in the words of our Creator.  Isaiah gives us a beautiful picture of what this restored world will look like: 
"The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
    and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox." (Isaiah 11:5-7)

Until that Day...Go out into a field, stare into the night sky, look carefully at a flower and ask yourself:  if this kind of beauty can still be found in fallen world, the restored world will be beyond glorious!  The rainbow, a beautiful flower, a sunset and the risen Christ all speak to our hearts a promise.  I will, in faith, continue to wait, look and listen!  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

God's Schoolroom: Part I

     Psalm 19:1-6 captures so well the textbook that is God's creation: 

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
   It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth."

     What is the "knowledge" that we may gain through observing the heavens?  May I offer a few interpretations?
1.  God is a One Who desires order:  If you look up every night, the same basic constellations appear, season after the season.  We are blessed to see the Milky Way, a gossamer curtain of stars waving across the heavens, as if a cosmic wind is gently carrying it along.  It appears every summer, and never ceases to amaze us.  The heavens shows order and design--not a randomness.  
     The Hawaiians have a legend about the Sun, who loved to dash about the sky, sometimes scorching the Earth by coming too close and sometimes freezing the Earth as he wandered too far away.  The god, Maui, takes the matter into his own hands, and beats the Sun, punishing him for not staying in place.  To have the stars dash about and the Sun not rise consistently would make for a fearful universe.  
     God's creation speaks of order:  planets and stars in their place and the laws of gravity conducting the dance of the heavens every night.
2.  The heavens speak of God's presence:  How often is our breath taken away by the beauty of the heavens on a summer night?  Or looking up on a quiet chilly winter's evening, don't we marvel at the diamond-like twinkle of the winter constellations?  To look up and not see the Hand of Someone would be the same as going to the Sistine Chapel and saying that with enough time and paint, that magnificent ceiling "just happened."  If we just listen, we can hear creation saying, "Look to the One Who is still here..."  
     Unlike the idea of the Divine Watchmaker, who was seen to just have started up everything and then walked away, the Creation speaks of His enduring presence:  
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:15-20).  
     God is so involved in His creation that when man chose to disobey, and sin entered creation and defaced it, God's presence did not depart.  He made a provision to reunite Himself and His creation through His Son--we choose to sin and we can choose to take hold of His Son.
3.  God is there, but you have to look for Him:  The heavens do not use words, but they still tell of His presence.  God's "words" if you will, are an indication of His provision--without the Sun, there would be no warmth, no crops, and survival would be close to impossible.  Mars is a balmy 50 degrees in the summer, but at night, the temperatures will plunge to an uninhabitable -50 degrees.  In the winter, it is below freezing, even in the daytime.  Why?  Because the Sun's warmth does not remain captured by its all-too-thin atmosphere, and it is much further away from the Sun as us.  The Sun for planet Earth is literally God-sent; without it, we would be doomed.  But the Sun itself is not what gives life:  God does. 
      Yet, God gives us the choice to believe in Him:  we can walk outside and feel the warmth of the Sun.  For some, sadly, that's all they want.  But God is there, waiting for us to seek Him.  He does not force His way into our path and says, "Hey!  Look!  You need to love Me!"  But, under the warmth of the Sun, we may feel stirred to seek the One Who made it and like the sun's journey through the heavens, we too may journey and find Him:  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7-12).
     God's creation speaks to us:  it invites us to come and know more of the One Who put it altogether.  While God doesn't impose Himself into our lives, His creation is one big invitation.   And yet it is more than that:  it's a love letter written on the parchment of the planet.  He is plain sight!

23 “Am I only a God nearby,”
declares the Lord,
    “and not a God far away?
24 Who can hide in secret places
    so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord.
    “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the Lord (Jer. 23:23-24).

Friday, June 7, 2013


I have been away for awhile.  I am amazed that it has been two whole months since I last blogged--where did the time go?

Well, I am an instructor for the College of Western Idaho, and the end of the semester is a busy time for us.  So, no time to blog.

I had shoulder surgery as soon as school was over--no time to blog.  Really, I couldn't type with a shoulder in a sling!

It strikes me as I sit down today to blog how busy our lives are and how "the best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry."  Robert Burns wrote that--he's the national poet of Scotland, and what inspired that line and the poem it's from, was one day, he was out plowing.  He was a farmer's son. His plow blade soon struck a mouse's nest.  Of course, the wee mouse went scampering away, all in a panic, and he was saddened at what he had done.  The nest was the mouse's protection against the cold and it had put a lot of work into creating that little shelter.  He grieves that all that work should be undone from one swipe of a blade and he muses how so much of what we do can suddenly become undone as well.  Here is the poem, in English, and it is a delight.

Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic is in your little breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With argumentative chatter!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December's winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!

You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.

That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

The one thing the mouse is not concerned with is either the past nor the present--the wee thing lives only in the here and now.  The poet is not so lucky--nor are we.  We look back at the time we have lost and we look forward to what may be--afraid that the unknown will be unhappy.

But, as a Christian, I know where I have built my "nest"--on Christ's words. 

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

Notice that the wind and the rain hits both houses.  It's not the house itself (how good you are) but what you build your house ON--Christ's words of promise and strength for the fight.  

Yes, life's plow blades might take out your house, leaving you in a field, afraid and feeling alone.  But remember this:  "I may not know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future."

It's good to be back writing and sharing with you!
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