On the Eleventh Day of Summer…

IMG_9493.JPG…my camera gave to me,

Eleven butterflies a-sipping.

A tiny parable for you:

“Come with me!” called one butterfly to another as she floated past on the soft breezes of a bright June day.

“Where to?” the other asked from her perch on a clover bud, “Why should I leave this perfectly good flower?”

“Because I want to take you to the most wonderful flowers I’ve ever had the pleasure of landing on,” she replied joyfully.  “They’re like big round tables spread with the finest lace tablecloth, with room for the largest of nectar-sipping parties.  The nectar served is the sweetest for miles—and it’s free for the taking!”

She believed her friend, and followed, and having reached the patch of cow parsnip and finding everything just a wonderful as she had been told, never once regretted the clover bud left behind.

And, so it is for us, when we take God at His Word, and forsake what does not satisfy for that which eternally does.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…” (Isaiah 55:1-3)

“Jesus…cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink... (John 7:37-38)

“…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

 

 

 

Narcissus

IMG_2867Whenever I watch green shoots rise from dry, brown bulbs buried in the earth and burst into triumphant bloom, it’s hard not to see a picture of the Resurrection.

It was no exception when I planted a pot of narcissus bulbs at the end of February, looking forward to a little jump start on spring while the tulips still waited under the snow outside.  I took photos as they grew, hopeful green rising to the sun, and then blossoming fragrant white in the center of the table in our sun porch.  This would be the perfect set of photos for Easter, I thought, and had every intention of posting them on here in time for the holiday.

But then, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of early-morning church breakfasts and services and a house full of feasting and family for a whole day, I never even touched the computer.  The fact that I had missed my intended holiday posting date didn’t occur to me until the next morning—and then it was too late.IMG_2983IMG_2981At first I was disappointed.  But then, as I sat in the sun porch the next morning, watching a wet and pearly gray dawn wash over the dining room table still wearing it’s candles and best white tablecloth from Sunday’s celebration, I suddenly realized that it was okay after all.  Maybe, even, it was for the best.

Because while Easter Sunday is full of celebration, and multiple reminders at every turn to rejoice, this ordinary gray day with the raindrops making dents on the mud puddles in the brown yard and the pile of dirty dishes staring at me from the sink was decidedly lacking in reminders.  There were no happy church breakfasts, with the men in aprons flipping pancakes in the kitchen and the ladies dressed in bright spring pastels sitting around tables set with jars of fresh-cut pussy willows.  There were no jubilant strains of “Up From the Grave He Arose” soaring to the church rafters while the white lilies nod in front of the pulpit. The quantities of ham and cheesy potatoes that got served to a houseful of family had been consumed and we were back to oatmeal for breakfast.  How quickly the spirit of celebration had faded away into everyday humdrum!

But as another favorite Easter song goes:  “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow…and life is worth the living, just because He lives.”  Though practically we can’t spend every day of the year dressed up in our best clothes, sitting around white-clothed tables laden with pots of yellow tulips and two whole mocha brownie tortes served on best china, I think it goes without saying that, deep down in our hearts, this spirit of joy and celebration should carry on into every day of the upcoming year.  Because if it wasn’t for Easter, everyday life literally would not be worth the living.IMG_2952And so, I’m here to wish you a Happy Easter with my flower photos after all, with no apologies for the fact that it’s a whole week late.  Or, more correctly, to declare, as many pastors did last Sunday around the world, “He is risen!”  Because it’s still as true today as it was that day and every other day of the year.

And may you be reminded, on this ordinary day of the week, to echo back with assurance:

“He is risen indeed!”

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”  (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

 

 

 

Snowy

IMG_2109 editI’m sitting here, gazing out the window, watching lazy flakes drift to the ground, gently highlighting the forms of dark spruce across the field.  It seems strange that they’re forecasting temperatures above freezing for the next couple weeks, which means our world of white may soon be turning to soggy brown.  But it’s March, after all, that indecisive in-between month that (where I live) is never quite winter, never quite spring.

With all this uncertainty, then, it seems like I’d better slip in this last ode to the beauty of winter before it’s too late—and with it, excerpts from a most appropriate psalm.  IMG_1579 edit“Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting…winter shed…He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly…IMG_2049 editIMG_1573 edit
He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes…IMG_2120 edit…He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold?…Praise the LORD!”  (Psalm 147:1, 15-17, 20)

If you get a chance and need something guaranteed to lift your spirits (who doesn’t?), slip out your Bible and take a moment to read through this psalm in it’s entirety—I’ll just say that it’s not only about snow and ice, and it’s pretty magnificent!

Light After the Storm

storm clouds at sunset / rejoicing hillsThis was the light that broke forth after the storm, making the fields sparkle golden-green and the daisies by the roadside glow shining white.  The contrast was spectacular between the lowering navy underbellies of the receding storm clouds, and the land beneath suddenly bathed in the piercing evening light.

We, on our walk through the fields, stopped and caught our breath in wonder.  The ordinary grasses and trees were highlighted in stunning relief, and for a few minutes, the landscape was almost surreal in its beauty.  The splendid effect of the most brilliant light is always the most striking when contrasted with the darkness it chases away.

daisy after storm / rejoicing hillsroadside daisies / rejoicing hillsSo was the coming of the Messiah into the darkness of our world:

“The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great Light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a Light has dawned.”  (Isaiah 9:2)swans on lake at sunset / rejoicing hillsAnd He, the Light of the world, continues to shine, the glory of His brilliance all the more breathtaking when contrasted with the darkness it chases away.  He beckons all to step into the piercing rays of His light, and let Him wash away their drabness, robing them in the stunning beauty of His holiness.

“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”  (John 12:46)

Come to the Light of Christ—it’s shining for you and no one is ever turned away.  And if you are already walking in it, take a moment to rejoice in the wonder that you no longer “walk in darkness, but have the Light of life” (John 8:12)!  How glorious to be His child!

Wild Calla Lilies

wild calla lily / rejoicing hillsI was never overly fond of calla lilies—until the summer we moved to our current home and I found them growing wild in the swamp down the road.  They quickly became my favorite new flower.  They are much more diminutive version of the cultivated versions, little white points of petals peeking out from amidst the brilliant green of arrow-shaped leaves, growing up all along the watery edges of still brackish pools.  They bloom just as the lilacs are beginning to fade, so it’s become my tradition to walk down and pick a handful of these when it comes time to replace the wilting lilac bouquet on our table.  There are so many of them in this spot, I call it the Calla Lily Pools—it’s so lovely!

“Why take you thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.  They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all His glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  (Matthew 6:28-29)

The Gift of Violets

purple violet / rejoicing hillsFor years, it’s been my personal goal every spring to find every color of violet native to our area.  (There are actually up to 17 species, but I limit my goal to the four colors—lavender, purple, yellow and white.)  Some years, I have time to actually go search the woods for them, some years, I don’t—and this has been one of the latter.  So you can imagine my delight when, over the last couple weeks, I stumbled—sometimes literally—across every single one without even trying!

purple violet / rejoicing hillsblue violets / rejoicing hillsyellow violet / rejoicing hillsI was the most excited, however, when I happened upon the sweet tiny white violets, which have always been the hardest for me to find.  They are the smallest of the violet family, and the least showy—often their humble little faces are sweetly inclined toward the earth, hiding their purple-streaked hearts until you get down very low.  They are so diminutive and unassuming, it’s easy to walk right past them, or even step on them without realizing it.  But that makes them all the sweeter to me—and they’ve become my personal favorites.single white violet / rejoicing hillsAren’t they exquisite?

To me, the discovery of each of these little blossoms was a gift.  A gift from a loving heavenly Father who knows the desires of my heart, even the small ones, and delights to give His children good things.  I think He knew that all-four-colors-of violets were just what I needed to lift my spirits this spring.  Whether He caused them to grow just where I would look, or guided my footsteps and eyes to just the right place at just the right time, I don’t know.  But I do know that they caused me to smile and remember His lovingkindness as I knelt low to take their portraits.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights…”  (James 1:17)

What gifts has He given you lately to remind you that He loves you?

Springtime In An Unlikely Place

IMG_6004 editwhite blossoms / rejoicing hillsI’ve been seeing these little clouds of flowering white trees popping out all over the woods this week, and I’d been planning a hike out to where they’re blooming far across the field near our home—but then I spotted this lovely vignette of white tree trunks and blossoms while I was out driving, just exactly what I was looking for, and I swung in to snap some pictures.  At the dump.

It’s ironic, isn’t it?  I thought I would take my photos of gorgeous pure white blossoms out along the edge of a beautiful wide open field, to the gentle music of the creek flowing past nearby.  Instead I stood behind the peeling paint of a sign that detailed accepted and unaccepted waste for this facility, only a few feet from mountains of filthy garbage, listening to a different creak—that of the metal entrance gate in the wind.

There’s a little picture of something really big here, you know.

We’d all like to imagine our selves and our lives as idyllic and pristine as that pastoral scene I had in mind.  Lovely.  Serene.  Peaceful.  Picturesque.  In reality, though, we’re all a lot more like that dirty garbage dump.  Stinking, ugly sinners with messed up hearts and lives.  Not pretty at all.

But—

God can take the filthiest, ugliest waste of a life, wash it whiter than petals on those blossoms, and make it burst forth into life and beauty far beyond anything that I could ever capture with my camera.

white poplars and blossoms / rejoicing hillswhite blossoms / rejoicing hillswhite blossoms / rejoicing hills

Ignore my photos—and think about the incredible beauty of that!

“Something beautiful, something good

All my confusion, He understood,

All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife,

But He made something beautiful of my life.” —Bill Gaither