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.

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