thorns and thistles

The earth is in me.

Though my soil is deep, rich and fertile, the warmth of its dark grounds seemingly affectionate and cultivated, in it lie thorns and thistles.

The gardener scattered the seeds of His word in my fields.  My heart had been worked by the till of contrition and I was ready to receive the seeds of life.

As these seeds took root their young shoots pushed though the surface, reaching for the righteousness of the Son and seeking to drink in the refreshing rains of His grace.

The dormant thorns and thistles were aroused.

Thorny creeping tendrils of cares and fears, worries and anxiety began to twist, tangle and distort. And while I worked diligently to remove the noxious weeds, it seemed that with each one I removed, three more sprouted up in its place. Prickly and seemingly evolving in defense, they were painful to uproot.

The thistles of my doubt and skepticism were even more adept at pressing down words of life.  They were quick to choke every expectant bud as too lofty to take root and too risky to cultivate.

Soon my treasure of seed was fruitless.  Hope looked just vain. The promise of increase, harvest and bounty in the Word was consumed until the vital shoots and buds of my faith shriveled, withered and came to nothing.

I was overcome.  

In my despair the serpent slithered:

The earth is cursed.  “..thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you”

Scripture warns me of these thistles and thorns.  They are the bitter herbs that took root when along with Eve I rejected God’s provision and questioned his motives.

They are the weeds of discontent and distrust.

They are the root of all sin that continues to distance us further and further from the certainty of the gardener’s love and intentions for us .  They spiny stalks are the cause of pain, suffering and death that we experience in our lives.

God saw all of this.

We were overrun by thorn bushes, suffocating and seemingly defeated.

Then God, in His unfailing love and never-ending compassion, sent His son to free us all.  Christ gathered up each thorn of sin and He laid them on his head.  He bore my shame and endured my pain and sorrowed all of my failings.

He succumbed to my death.

Reaching down into the depths of all sin, he paid the price of the curse.   And in rising again, he defeated it.  Breathing life into his lungs he breathed life into all humankind.

He made all things new.

And through Him, and with Him, I can hope again.

I can believe that those seeds of promise in me will one day birth fruit to perfection.

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of shadows and light

I don’t remember much. 

The doctors and nurses asked me repeatedly about what had happened that afternoon.  And to this day I have no recollection of it.  My consciousness stops when we rolled under the shadow of the maple tree at the end of the street, and resumes much later in my mother’s arms.

She was crying.

I couldn’t speak.

But I could see the sun peeking through the trees as we passed beneath them.   Their shadows invited me into unconsciousness.  And with each slip it seems my subconscious buried the truth of what had transpired deeper each time.

I couldn’t breath.

The blood was choking me.

I slipped in and out of light.

Urgent voices surrounded me.

I awoke abruptly.

My mother was gone.

The sterile white light was terrible and now I couldn’t speak or move.

I was strapped to a metal table.  Strange men and women with surgical masks surrounded me.  I heard one say “she’s awake.” And another respond, “we’re almost done.”  And then there was pain, and I succumbed again to sweet darkness.

Confused, afraid, in pain, alone, believing I was abandoned, my heart was broken.

That was the day I met fear.

We all meet fear at some point in our lives.  It lies and it bullies and tells us that there is no good in the world.  It says there is no freedom.  It says there are no safe places.  It tells us our hearts will forever be broken and that we are abandoned.

That little girl accepted these lies as truth.

Truth had not yet been fully established in her mind.  How could it? She was 5.  She had no idea who she truly was or the potential and the power that was within her.   And fear made sure that with each slip into unconsciousness she buried any knowledge of it along with the pain and the hurt.

Knowing from the start how her path in life would be altered, the devastation that heartbreaks, broken trust and suffering would cause, could I call it good?

God knew.  And He did.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good. – Genesis 1:31

He knew that His perfect creation would become imperfect. He knew that His image bearers would become disfigured.  The beginning, knew all the mess of the middle that would ensue and yet He stilled called it good, very good.  He still loved us and believed in us.  He allowed the story to unfold.  He knew He still held the end in His hands.

It is so difficult to embrace the wounds of the past.  To accept that they are an important and integral part of what is good in me.  It is easier to despise all the imperfections that were left behind and the intimidation that fear can still threaten.

The darkness still presses and tempts me to give in.

But I remember the light peaking through the canopy of trees.  And while I do not recall how I suffered lacerations to my hands, feet and face,  I do remember the warm light cutting through the shadows.

Why?

Because God was there. 

He embraced me each time I slipped under, and whispered:  Don’t fear.  I am with you.  I will always be with you.  With every fall into oblivion, he was constant and lifted me from the abyss.

He never left me.

I didn’t know it then, but I know now what I cannot deny:  my wounds brought me into the light of God’s love and the beauty of His grace

Because I suffered confusion, pain, isolation, abandonment and a broken heart so very young, I learned early to rest in the arms of my Father and press into the comfort of his unfailing love.

Yes.  I can call that good.

…………

Today I’m linking up with the Story Sisters on this International Women’s Day as we tell stories of the girls we once were.

be gentle

Lent is upon us.

We withdraw.  We look inward.  We reflect.  We go deep.

Lent is a time for prayer, repentance, sacrifice and good works.  It is a time when we deny ourselves that which is taking up the spaces where we need more of God.

In my deep there is darkness.

His deep is pure light.

In me there are shadows of fear and doubt.

In Him only trust and hope.

And while I want to enter into great spiritual exercises, measure out disciplines, and enter into a deep mourning and grief over the shortcomings and failings in my life, a tender voice sighs:  Quiet.

It’s the whisper in the frigid wind, the blinding sun reflecting on a frozen landscape, the deafening silence of the earth buried in a heavy blanket of snow.

It is still winter.

And while I am inclined to strain myself in the birth of spring, with rituals of purification and cleansing, He gently persuades…give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live…for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.

It is not yet Spring, but it’s coming.  And we must prepare,  not by human force, but by God’s own gentle path.

He calls me to his tender, merciful arms.  He invites me to walk in communion with His Holy Spirit.  He encourages me to abide in the aroma of his goodness and illuminated in His refining light.

Because where there is light the darkness is pushed out.

I cannot win this struggle by my own might.  I will achieve nothing with my own spiritual calisthenics.

Only the light can overcome darkness.

I cannot do what only He can do for me. But I can heed his voice.  I can abide in Him, so that He in turn can abide in me.

Then, when I am in full communion with the love and peace of the Holy Spirit, and I’ve invited Him to tame the monsters of my deep – doubt, control, anxiety, ambition, pride – then I can exist as He intended:  to know Him, to receive and speak life, to love.

Spring is coming, and we must prepare, so that Christ can resurrect again through each one of us in our words and in our service.

“I choose gentleness… Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. ” – Max Lucado