My cheerful winter friends

As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among the young women.
(Song of Solomon 2:2 ESV)

Near the entrance to the building in which I work is a patch of irises. I particularly like these irises because they flower during the winter, adding a splash of cheerfulness on gloomy days as I head to work.

I’m no gardening expert, but to the best of my knowledge these plants would normally flower in spring or summer, but for at least 12 years that I know of this clump of greenery has flowered right in the coldest part of winter. I feel like they have been my little cheerful friends for many years now, even when I have worked in other parts of campus these flowers boldly send a message of beauty and hope during the dreariest part of each year.

Somehow these small, fragile living things displaying their beauty does more to lift my heart than all my own efforts to do so. As I near the one thousand mark on my eucharisteo list I notice that many times I have given thanks for the fresh air, sunlight, plants, birds, insects, hills, and water that is given by God to all of us to partake of.

These flowers remind me of God’s extravagant love. His love in placing reminders of Him and His creative power in my path. His extravagance in that even though flowers wither within days and may not be seen by many, it is God’s pleasure to make them. Within the thorny brambles of life in a sin-wrecked world God creates stunning beauty for everyone if they will look for it.

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
(Luke 12:27-28 ESV)

Gifts I have noticed recently:

  • Frost crystals on a sunlit rock {973}
  • Irises blazing midwinter colour {976}
  • Dozing in the sunshine {978}
  • Being less then 1 metre from an adult fur seal {980}
  • Enormous ice creams {983}
  • Very silly, giggly girls at bedtime {990}
  • Three-year-old son ‘reading’ the dictionary {995}
  • A quiet cup of tea with my wife after she finished work {997}

Whats the story

This week’s 5 Minute Friday prompt: ‘Story’

Go:
“What’s the story?”

I hate those words.

As a kid it usually meant I was about to be busted for my latest misdemeanor and had to think real fast to generate an explanation both plausible and least incriminating.

Even as an adult the phrase causes anxiety like seeing a police car in the rear view mirror. It causes my failings to surge into my consciousness – can I blame not meeting a deadline on something other than my own incompetence?

Years pass, my story gets longer, murkier, messier. The stuff I’d like to have left behind twenty years ago surfaces at inopportune times and mistakes I should have learned from end up repeated. New chapters are written containing a distressing mix of beauty and weakness, love and lunacy.

It would be nice to live even a short chapter in this life without failing, stumbling or stuffing up. Fortunately the Author and Editor has chosen to expunge the bad bits from the new me He is creating.

Stop

Sorry for having been erratic in writing lately, a good thing about 5 minute Friday is I feel less internal pressure to write well – the point is to just write! Have a good weekend those to get to have one (I have to work 😦 ).

 

Dance

Five Minute Friday:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat on the prompt: “Dance” with no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

Go:
I am not really given to dancing. Gracefulness is not a description I’d easily wear. At a guess I would probably look like a midget immitation of Peter Garrett if I tried to dance.

The closest I’ve come to being graceful was many years ago when I was a rock climber, control and concentration made something very difficult look easy to others. A faster moving version was skiing, an exhilarating experience of being in the mountains and flowing down their flanks.

Now my moves are less agile, a lot more puffing is involved now as I walk in the freedom of fresh air and only nature’s eyes watching. Still, in such places where no one is watching, my soul still exhalts in God as at least feels like I could dance.

Stop

Praying is weird

People who have conversations with someone that nobody else can see are not normal. They are usually sent to a psychologist and prescribed medication to control the hallucinations.

When we have a phone conversation, we hear a voice and can respond. When we pray we are talking to air. Only crazy people talk to themselves. How do we talk with a Spirit, with someone who doesn’t speak with an audible voice?
And if we believe that God can talk to us in prayer, how do we distinguish our thoughts from his thoughts? Prayer is confusing. (A Praying Life, p16)

I am conservative at heart, weirdness freaks me out.

As a Christian one of my fears has long been that I might turn into some odd religious nutter (and some of you will be thinking, “too late, you already are one”). Having seen some folks do extremely peculiar things (e.g., falling over, laughing hysterically, barking like dogs, chasing demons)  in the name of ‘worshipping’ God, this is perhaps a reasonable apprehension.

Why then, do something as odd as praying?

The exact reasons for undertaking such a peculiar activity may vary from person to person, but here are the reasons I can think of:

We are told to/God expect us to:

Paul gives us specific instructions to pray always, and Jesus simply assumed (knew) we will pray.

 Desperation:

As the saying goes, ‘there are no atheists in a fox hole’. When in extremis worries over being weird are superseded by the desperation of having no earthly help against our own disintegration.

I trust in God, even though prayer seems silly:

When my faith in who God is – His love, power, mercy and grace – is strong, it is easier to ‘get over’ the oddness of talking to the ceiling. If I am convinced God is listening, prayer seems rational.

It is part of our human nature to cry out to God:

I am not so sure of this one but mention it because this is a common thought in a lot of Christian books written prior to about 1960. The idea possibly stems from an assumption that all people have an awareness of God. In secular, post-postmodern NZ this is no longer a valid assumption.

Praying gives me peace:

Sometimes when I pray, a sense of peace and being ‘right with God’ washes over me. This is a pleasant experience and I’d love to have it more often. Whether this is a good motivation to pray is not my point today, it is simply one reason why I pray despite the oddness of prayer.

Praying makes stuff happen:

While this will not convince an atheist, something happens when I pray that would not happen if I didn’t. I can testify that God has answered at least some of my own prayers is very tangible ways. An example would be the many times my wife and I have prayed for my work and in over 20 years I have had many jobs yet God has ensured continuous employment for that entire time.

No doubt there are plenty of other reasons why Christians pray, but this should at least indicate that despite seeming to be an odd thing to do, praying to God is not as crazy as it may first appear to be!