God and Gardening

I always feel closest to God when I’m outside, particularly when I’ve got my hands in the dirt or am messing with animals. Jesus always used a lot of farming-type metaphors, and of course humanity’s first task was tending a garden, so maybe that’s why. Or maybe it’s just part of how I was made. Regardless, it often ends up being a spiritual exercise for me. 

Today, I was doing a lot of weeding. I’ve neglected my flowerbeds over the last few months: the grass started growing in with the flowers, then I didn’t want to pull the grass out b/c I knew most of the flowers would come with it, but it finally got to the point where the grass was definitely choking out the flowers. So today was Weeding Day. And as I was weeding (and feeling a bit sad as I ripped out some beautiful flowers with the weeds), it occurred to me that the weeding process is a lot like what God does with my life as he changes my plans for his plans. Out come the weeds, out come some pretty flowers with the weeds, and everything looks empty and ugly… prepared for fresh flowers, fresh mulch and something much better than what it was before. 

So here’s to remembering that, especially when God’s ripping out my flowers along with all the weeds.

Your eyes

Give me your eyes for just one second

Give me your eyes so i can see
Everything i keep missing, give me your love for humanity

Give me your arms for the broken hearted

The ones that are far beyond my reach

Give me your heart for the ones forgotten

Give me your eyes so I can see.

– Brandon Heath

Why is it such a constant struggle to see things with God’s eyes instead of our own? Why is it that a dozen times in a day I look at people with my own eyes, in terms of my own frustrations with them, instead of through God’s eyes as hurting, broken sinners? Why is that so hard to do? And will it ever become more natural? Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother 70×7… but it wasn’t for Peter’s brother, it was for Peter. It was Jesus saying: look again. Look a different way. See through my eyes. Judge by my standards. Not yours. Quit trying to approach the world on your terms and start approaching it my way. So when will I ever start doing that, instead of keeping on trying to do it my way and failing? When will I ever start seeing things through Jesus’ eyes?

Being conformed

“Do not be conformed to this world.”
– Paul to the Romans

“That I may know him, and the power of his ressurection, and the fellowship of his suffering, that I may be conformed to his death.”
– Paul to the Phillipians

What does it mean to be conformed to Christ, to be conformed to his death rather than being conformed to the world? If I am living– really living– as I ought to be living, as someone who has died to self and lives to Christ, who is transformed instead of conformed, who knows nothing but Christ and him crucified… then the myriad “I’m a Christian…” conversations I’ve been having in the last week are stating the overly-obvious. And if it’s not obvious, then I’m missing it. Again.

Why is it so easy to be conformed to the world, and such a challenge to let go and let myself be conformed to the image of Christ? Why, even knowing the greatness of the riches of God, is it such a continual struggle to let go of myself, my dreams, my way of doing things? Why do I hold so tightly to the things of this life that I know are of no lasting value, instead of reaching out to the One who is greater than this life?

And of course there’s a part of me that wishes it were just that easy, that just doesn’t understand why I struggle so much with what should be simple, obvious choices to die to self and conform to the will of God… why I have such a hard time making the leap of faith that faith demands. That the commitment and surrender and death to self were a one time deal instead of a day by day and moment by moment choice to make. And then, of course, I have to laugh at myself for thinking that following the Crucified should be easy. And of course it’s not… self doesn’t die easily or quietly. No, it begs and pleads for its life… making reasoned arguments and emotional ones, and arguing against being made a fool for Christ. And I listen. Far, far too often I listen and become Judas, betraying my Lord for own desires. But my desire is to be transformed and conformed, not to this world, but to the suffering of Christ. “I do not think that I have yet laid hold of it, but this one thing I do: forgetting everything that is past and stretching toward what lies ahead with my eyes fixed on the goal I push on to secure the prize of God’s heavenward call in Christ Jesus….” Thank God for grace.

Going through

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.

— Adrienne Rich

I read this poem a few days ago on The Velveteen Rabbi and it’s really stuck in my head. If the door is the decisions you make in life, how do you know when to go through the door and when to back away? If it’s not one of those situations where the will of God is clear, do you go through the door or not go through? And is one choice better than the other, or are they simply different choices, with different costs and outcomes? How do you count the cost of a decision without knowing what the outcome will be? And in the end, maybe any choice is just a leap of faith… a step forward or backward into unknowns. And why do I always want to stare down the doors as if they have the answers that really only exist in the heart of God? It is only a door, but I struggle to remember that and keep things in perspective.

Lord you know how much,
I want to know so much,
In the way of answers and explanations.
I have cried and prayed, still I seem to stay
In the middle of Life’s complications.
All this pursuing leaves me feeling like I’m chasing down the wind
but now it’s brought me back to you
And I can see again

This is everything I want.
This is everything I need.
I want this to be my one consuming passion.
Everything my heart desires,
Lord, I want it all to be for you.
Jesus, be my magnificent obsession

Capture my heart again.
Take me to depths I’ve never been.
To the riches of your grace and your mercy.
Return me to the cross,
Let me be completely lost
In the wonder of the love that you’ve shown me.
Cut through these chains that tie me down to so many lesser things,
Let all my dreams fall to the ground until this one remains

This is everything I want
This is everything I need
I want this to be my one consuming passion
Everything my heart desires
Lord I want it all to be for you
Jesus be my magnificent obsession

You are everything I want
You are everything I need
Lord you are all my heart desires
You are everything to me
You are everything I want
You are everything I need
I want you to be my one consuming passion
Everything my heart desires, Lord I want it all to be for you
I want it all to be for you Jesus
Be my magnificent obsession.

– Steven Curtis Chapman

Tonight’s blog features pictures of the frogs in my yard. Be forewarned that these are mature froggy-pictures. The long story short of these pictures is that I found Scooter-the-wonder-schnauzer in the backyard tonight doing an awful lot of circling and barking about what appeared to be nothing… but turned out to be these frogs. Since I’d never seen this precise phenomenon before, and the frogs were being so photogenic, I thought I’d share:

Frogs 1


 Not that Scooter and I were the only ones interested in this phenomena… there was also a peeping-tom frog watching from the pond:

But he swam away after being photographed:

For what it’s worth, the two main characters were apparently unbothered by the barking, the pawing, and the flashing. No frogs were harmed in the making of these pictures.