Work in the Wild

As a kid I picked blackberries with my mother and grandmother on hot Southern summer days. The blackberries grew wild in pastures and along roadsides. I distinctly remember picking with my grandma the berries that grew along a curvy country road near my home. The tall and broad bushes offered buckets of the fruit that we picked as cars passed by. Every blackberry picking outing included my mom and grandma recalling how once while picking blackberries angry bees chased them through a pasture. They always recounted this harrowing moment with such lightheartedness. They delighted in their speedy escape.

Honestly, I never did and still do not care too much for fresh blackberries. But bake them into a cobbler and top with vanilla ice cream and I can eat them until as Southerners used to say, “I’m full as tick.” Blackberry cobbler was the taste of summer. And, oh, how I enjoy it still.

The work of God into which we are invited and called is much like blackberry picking. We venture out to pick the fruit of vines we neither planted nor tended—vines that are often wild and in wild places. But pick we do and gather a harvest that is beautiful, bright and satisfying. Sure, there is some danger involved but it is well worth it at the end of the day when you enjoy the result of your labor. And all the while you find yourself filled with gratitude for what God provides and what God does even along roadsides and among wild places.

Jesus once told his followers that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. He said this as he looked with compassion on the crowds of helpless and hurting folks and then he immediately sent his disciples out to do his work. Jesus needed their help—he needed their hands, voices and hearts to heal and help. Jesus needs us too. So he sends us out along roadsides and into wild places to do the good work of God.

So, where is he sending you, me and us? Well, we may not know for certain but we can be sure it is among the hurting and helpless. So let’s go! And remember the harvest is always beautiful, bright and satisfying—and there may even be cobbler!

Seeds and Sight

seems odd where seeds sprout
amidst broken bits of concrete
in the leaf litter of a rain gutter
on a craggy cliff far from the river

yet sprout they do
and grow and bloom
they live momentarily
yet delight eternally

I wonder how often
sprouted seeds go unnoticed
as I hurry about
here there and here again
inattentive and detached

I wonder too
if only I would slow down
look above and around
what I might observe and see
when I move attention off of me

surely I would see much more
than even seeds sprouted green
and golden blossoms of light

as my mind’s eye catches a glimpse
of the one behind it all
the one within it all
the one who in mystery and might
opens my eyes to new sight

Beauty and Life

My mother-in-law, Darlene, loved daisies. My wife, Terry, tried on and off to grow daisies but despite her success with many other perennials the daisies would never establish themselves and return. Darlene died in August of 2011. The follow spring, to our surprise, daisies appeared in our yard. Season after season, they grew and expanded. So much so that we could take family pictures among them in the spring. We loved those daisies.

When we moved to Ohio in the summer of 2018, we harvested seeds from the daisies and brought them with us. We finally planted them in the summer of 2020 with uncertainty about whether they would grow. Grow they did and this spring they are flourishing. One of these is pictured above. They bring us such joy with their brightness and simply beauty and how they help us recall and remember Darlene.

Life is like that. You never know when new life and beauty will unexpectedly show up. All you can do is celebrate when they do and savor the wonder of it all.

Life is like that. You never know when new life and beauty will unexpectedly show up. All you can do is celebrate when they do and savor the wonder of it all.

As well, don’t underestimate the power of little things—of seed themselves and of collecting a few seeds and casting them on fresh soil. Our small deeds of kindness, goodness and love can really make a difference. What is small can often impact others abundantly.

So, keep a look out for new life and beauty. Do something small yet deliberate and meaningful for someone day. You just don’t know what might spring up and the lasting impact it will make.

I Wake in the Dark

I wake in the dark
to the sound of birdsong
with optimism
they sing of hope
with expectation
they sing of promise
with exhilaration
they sing of new light

They remember
what I am quick to forget
that our Creator
turns the planet
again and again
toward the light
into a new day
into a new future
into a better world

Exuberant birdsong
Emerging crocus
Emanating light
all speak of resurrection
of the promise
of life made new
of life made wholesome
of life made complete

I wake in the dark
but I step with conviction
that all will be changed
that light will prevail
that life is just beginning
for me
for you
for all of us

Seek Serenity

“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.”
Psalm 37:7

As I write I look out upon the serene snowy landscape outside my window. The snow appears gentle and light; the sunlight glistens off of the snowy surface; the winter wind moves tree branches and ornamental grasses. I know that it is bone-chilling cold out there, but, wow, is it beautiful! Such beauty helps to settle me, to quiet my soul.

The thesaurus lists the following synonyms for serenity—tranquility, calmness, peacefulness, quietness and stillness. It seems to me that these are the very things that many of us in our world today find lacking. We long for serenity, peace, claim and quiet. We long for a moment in which our minds and hearts are stilled and we can simply be—be at rest in God and in this world.

Serenity is both a moment that can unexpectedly come upon us—such as when I look out my window on a sunny winter’s day—and also a state of mind which we can create—such as when I reflect and pray. For me, I need a quiet space where I can read a short passage of Scripture or a devotional book. I need to be able to sit comfortably and breath slowly and deeply. I must deliberately center my mind on what I am reading and put away distractions. In short, I need to be fully present in the moment—aware of my own being and of the Eternal Being. I find that peace comes to me in such quiet spaces where and when I am open to both God’s presence and God’s word.

I invite you in the full mix of the chaos and craziness that is too often life in this world to stop; find a quiet space; and just be and listen. If you need a good recommendation of a book of the Bible or a devotional book to read let me know; I would be pleased to recommend. And when you pray let your heart speak to God. Do not overthink or worry about the words; instead, focus on the moment with God. Also, remain open to those marvelous, unexpected moments of serenity that will often simply show up. Be ready to see them and to fully experience them.

Remember that I pray for you—prayers for your peace.

Dreams of Spring

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
Revelation 22:1-2

A couple nights ago I dreamed of walking in a garden of spring flowers. The time was not yet spring but still January. I recall myself surrounded by all sorts of blooming flowers but I particularly remember all the tulips and peonies. In the dream I felt the beauty and serenity of the garden while also feeling some concern over the flowers freezing in the remaining days of winter. There was a certain strangeness to a place where flowers bloomed in January yet also such wonder and delight. Maybe the Spirit knew I needed such a dream—an unexpected yet welcome vision.

In the depths of winter when the cold sets in, skies are grey and the ground barren, I need some sure reminder of what will come. I need to remember that not only will these days pass but that these days are a period of preparation for the life-giving, beautiful days just around the corner. I need to remember to focus my gaze beyond the bleakness of now and watch with intention for breaks in the ground and buds on the trees. The fullness of life is upon me if I can be patient.

As readers of the Bible, we often flee from the book of Revelation—what with its signs of doom and beasts of destruction. But when we do persist to the end of the book (and the end of the Bible) we find verses that sing with promise, hope, new beginnings and peace. The verses above are a part of the final vision of Revelation—the city of God nourished by the river of life and the tree of life that gives persistent, perennial fruit month after month. This city is a place where there will be no thirst or hunger; all be satisfied and well.

The first century Christians who received and heard the book of Revelation found themselves a persecuted minority in the vast, oftentimes repressive, world of the Roman Empire. Their situation appeared bleak. Revelation promised them that suffering would not be their end; rather, a regenerated world in harmony with God awaited them. The fullness of life was upon them if they could be patient.

What about you? Is the bleakness of winter and pandemic wearing you down? I invite you to lift your gaze above what is and see what will be. May the Spirit grant you renewed vision in these days of the beauty that is to come and the promises of God to be fulfilled.

Finding the Beauty Around Us

I find it hard to pick a favorite season. Okay, winter is never a top choice, but the others all give me good reasons to be the best. I love spring for its vibrant greens and abounding new life. I love summer for its warm sandy beaches and cool mountain streams. And fall, how I love the awe-inspiring colors of autumn. Even winter, with the bright sun reflected off of freshly fallen snow, gives me such pleasure. So, in the end, all seasons gift me with joy, wonder and beauty.

Yesterday, Jadon, Ian and I went on a walk at Iron Horse Park not far from our home. Leaves of varied colors cascaded upon us and the path under our feet. The overcast skies allowed the vibrant colors of the surrounding trees to really pop. Even in the midst of all the kinetic energy of two boys I caught glimpses of the beauty around us.

These days we are in are hard, different and difficult. Yet, I still believe we can find beauty right where we are. Not only can we find beauty, we need to find beauty. Amidst the ugliness of disease and injustice, we need the joy and hope that beauty offers and inspires. Beauty cannot be beat, and neither can we.

Amidst the ugliness of disease and injustice, we need the joy and hope that beauty offers and inspires. Beauty cannot be beat, and neither can we.

The greatest beauty we can find and discover is found in encounters with God’s good grace. Sometimes that comes in nature; other times in human relationships; other times within our hearts when God’s Spirit draws near.

So, as you walk look for beauty. Expect beauty. It may not be where you first look but you will see it. And may the beauty you find give you hope and inspiration and a good, daily dose of God’s abundant grace.

The Webbed World

in early dawn light
from within to without
one can see through
the kitchen window
to the webbed world outside

the intricate strands
in the motionless air
catch the light
and radiate so
I can see before and beyond

the builder is out of sight
away for the time yet near
still captured is my gaze
and my contemplation
of the wonder and the meaning of it all

intricacy
efficiency
resiliency
temporality
mystery

I see now
through the glass more clearly
to the reality in the reality
that connects me
to the webbed world outside