Sunday, March 31, 2013

First Day of the New Creation - Marvelous and Messy

The day didn't start too well.

The women got up that morning and went to the tomb with certain expectations. They had a job to do and they were worried about how they are going to do it.

Who will roll the stone for us?

When they arrived at the tomb, the stone was already rolled away. Now, that's strange... And when they poked their heads into the tomb, the body was... gone. The job they came to do... well... there was no job to be done!

So, they went from expectations to assumptions:

Somebody stole the body!

What an awful thought... Desecrating the tomb and stealing the dead body?!!! Mary wept and wept. She was so grieved that she didn't recognize Jesus when He stood next to her.

Now, I do that a lot.  So taken by my thwarted expectations that lead to false assumptions which lead to blinding grief encasing me like a tomb...

Until Jesus says,


Until Jesus says my name.

His voice... like no other.

And then, Duh!,  I remember His words.  I remember what He said. And I want to cling to Him and never let go.

But, He sends Mary away to His disciples, to the grieving, unbelieving, fear-ridden crew, who think that what the women are saying is crazy, that they are talking nonsense.

Such is the story of the first Easter - marvelous and messy.  The beginning of God's new creation. The beginning of the wonder of God's amazing love and patience towards stubborn, unbelieving, slow-to-get-it, confused, terrified, grief-stricken humanity. Me and you.

But messy is O.K. For this is not the end.  This is only a beginning... For, there was some unfinished business that needed to be taken care of.  There were some second chances that needed to be extended.  There were some expectations that needed to be realigned... There was a lot of growth that was still ahead... But, that will all come in time... For right now, we can finally stop looking for the Living One among the dead. For He is not dead.  He is alive just as He said.

I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Revelation 1: 17-18

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Final Week of Jesus - When Tomb Becomes a Womb

Lazarus spent four days in the tomb.

During those four days, his sisters, Martha and Mary, each experienced deaths of their own.

Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a large fish.  During those three days and three nights, the unwilling prophet actually begun to pray.

Three days, four days is a long, very long time. 

Especially when you are the one marinating in the digestive juices of a sea monster. 

Especially when the one you love is in the tomb.

It’s the time of waiting.  The excruciating in-between time of darkness and silence.

Jesus’ dead body was taken off the cross, wrapped in linen cloth and laid in a brand-new tomb (Luke 23:50-55). The grieving friends did what they could,

And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. Luke 23:56

They rested.
According to the commandment.

The discipline of rest. 

The grueling exercise of trust and hope when all hope is lost.  It's the place where I am at the end of myself, and there is nowhere else to look but God.

To God who creates the world out of nothing.  To God who raises the dead. To God who breathes life into a field of dead dry bones.

If He doesn't do it, it's not going to happen. If He doesn't fight this battle,  it's a snowball's chance in hell to win a victory. 

I want to skip this part.  I want to jump from crucifixion to resurrection in one acrobatic swoop. 

Ha! See what MY God can do!

But, during this time… three days, four days... three eternally long days... during this forever stretched-out dark night of the soul,  the tomb is somehow being transformed... the tomb is transfigured and becomes a womb...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Beautiful, Broken ... Beloved

Final Week of Jesus - The Day That Changed Everything

Who would have thought that God’s saving power would look like this? Isaiah 53

The miscarriage of justice so that infinitely greater justice could be served?

Abandonment of the Righteous One so the unrighteous ones can be embraced?

The innocent punished so that the guilty could go free…?

Betrayed by a kiss.

Deserted by His friends.

The travesty of the ‘court proceedings’.

The scourging, the spitting, the beating. The thorns, the nails, the thirst.

And then, during the long hours on the cross, the mocking and jeering. This really gets to me.

People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament:

You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!

The high priests, along with the religion scholars and leaders, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him:

He saved others—he can’t save himself! King of Israel, is he? Then let him get down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then! He was so sure of God—well, let him rescue his ‘Son’ now—if he wants him! He did claim to be God’s Son, didn’t he?

Even the two criminals crucified next to him joined in the mockery.  (Matthew 27:39-44)

Save Yourself! And, while you are at it, save us! Save us  from this pain and shame and suffering.

Save Yourself! Right NOW! 

Avoid the cross.  Avoid the shame.  Anesthesize the pain.

Take a shortcut!

And to think of the love of God the Father that watched all this. And that kept Him from ripping the heavens open and roaring at the mockers, roaring at the murderers, and delivering His One and Only Son…

But, He unleashed the fury we deserved, we earned on Him. Made Him sin,  so that the mockers and the murderers, thieves and liars, gays and straights, Muslims and Christians, Jews and Atheists, pastors and predators, missionaries and perpetrators – all of us alike - can be forgiven.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Final Week of Jesus - The Traitor Within

The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?

The Passover meal was prepared.  The bread.  The wine. The lamb slaughtered.

And then, Crack!  The bread - broken.

Truly, truly I say to you, that one of you will betray me.

The traitor?!! Within?!!!

It was night.  The hour of deep darkness.

But, it wasn’t just Judas.

It was Peter.

The cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.

It’s all of us.

One way or another. This day or the next. Asleep when we should be awake to pray. Keeping busy when we should stop and rest. The way we wield the sword to defend our Lord, as if He needs us to defend Him. The way we speak when we should be silent. And the way we remain silent when we should be speaking up.

All of you will fall away…

Denial. Betrayal. The bitter cup…

My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death...

Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me.  Yet not My will, but Yours be done.

Jesus took the cup and drank it to the last drop.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Final Week of Jesus - Seekers Finders, Keepers Losers

A-midst all the malicious scrutiny and opposition of the religious elite hell-bent on destroying Jesus, a group of foreigners, God-fearing outsiders, came to Philip with a request:

Sir, we wish to see Jesus. John 12:21

The contrast was startling.

He came to His own and those who were His own didn’t receive Him. But as many as received Him, He gave the right to become children of God. John 1:11,12

The episode echoes the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, the madness of King Herod determined to destroy the Child and the wise men travelling far to see and worship Him.

Jesus offers no sugarcoated promises to the seekers, neither then nor now:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. John 12:24,24

The way, the only way to life and fruitfulness is through death. 

Death to this old, crusty shell of a life of isolation, fear, insecurity, hypocrisy and greed.  

Death to pride and independence. 

Death to the shriveled up quasi-life of my right to my rights, my point of view, my claim to justice, fairness, pursuit of happiness, recognition, reward and reputation. 

But out of these millions of gut-wrenching deaths - all wrapped into the one death of the Son of Man once-for-all - comes a new life, an indestructible life of love, freedom and forgiveness. Life where grace and mercy are greater than sin and punishment… Where we are overwhelmed by the glorious surprise, the outrageous marvel, for we are not orphans, we are not bastards anymore.  We have become beloved children of God in Christ. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Final Week of Jesus - Grumpy Fruit Inspector or...?

In the Gospel of Mark the story of the cleansing of the Temple is framed by a curious incident involving a fig tree.

On Tuesday before Passover, Jesus got hungry and saw a healthy looking fig tree at a distance, but when He searched for fruit He found none. He said something along the lines, I am through with you. Went to the temple. Created an uproar. Went back to Bethany.  The next day they walked by the tree and found it withered from the roots up.

What is going on here?!!! Was Jesus...just grumpy... the way I get grumpy when I am hungry?!! Or was there something more than meets the eye (and the stomach) here?

Doubtlessly, fruit-bearing is a non-negotiable in the Kingdom of God.

You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. John 15:16

Abide in Me and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.  John 15:4-5

The Law, the Temple, the sacrificial system clearly failed to produce the kind of heart change necessary for us to have a relationship with God. In reality, these were never intended to make us right with God but rather to expose our desperate need for Him. For, the only way to produce fruit is by sticking with God as He sticks with you and me.  We can't do it on our own. It is His Spirit and His Spirit only who produces His fruit in our lives Galatians 5:22-23

We can’t manufacture it.  

We can’t fake it.  

We can’t force it.  

We can't demand it.

We can’t even time it! 

For those of us accustomed to purchasing hydroponic GMO produce wrapped in plastic, stored in supermarket coolers or on shelves ready for us on demand, this might be a difficult concept to grasp (it is also a topic for another blog entry!). But any organic gardener knows it very well! Just as in a garden the fruit is a miraculous result of intrinsic life of the plant rooted deeply in the soil, so fruit-bearing in a disciple of Jesus is a result of intrinsic Christ-life miraculously manifesting Himself through our body-life. 

By His death and resurrection, Jesus abolished the old and inaugurated a new, living way of drawing near to God.  The old system of sacrifices and ordinances, works and brownie points has become obsolete. It has withered from the root up to make room for the new, glorious reality of God-with-us and now, God-in-us

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Final Week of Jesus - Ticked Off!

With the Passover just days away, the temple business was at its peak. It is the season of tremendous influx of visitors needing to exchange their money for the temple currency, needing to buy sacrificial animals. It’s a free flow of cash and merchandise - a religious black Friday of a sort.

The outer court of the temple was intended as a space for prayer and reflections for the non-Jewish God-seekers, a place where those who are far away can come near to the God of the whole earth. By this time, however, it was converted into a bustling market.  The convenience of the location eventually trumped any last remnant of sensibilities toward the spiritual needs of foreigners. The original intent was either ignored or forgotten. The site effectively re-purposed and nobody seemed to mind or care.

That is, nobody until Somebody came along who actually took God at His Word.  Who made a connection between what was written:

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations,

and what He saw and heard:

But you have made it a robbers’ den.

And suddenly the infinitely patient Rabbi, the gentle lamb of God transforms into a roaring lion of Judah. His actions calling the religious professionals on the carpet.

And they did not like it.

Not one bit. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Final Week of Jesus - Of Donkeys and Papamobils

Five hundred years before Jesus fulfilled them on Palm Sunday, prophet Zachariah penned these words:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

A king… riding on a donkey?!!!

Only a few days ago we had an opportunity to see freshly inaugurated Pope Francis cause quite a stir by going against Vatican's procedures and traditions when he chose to ride a bus rather than the papamobil. The actions of the new pope are so refreshing because they go against the established religious and political institutions where those in power enjoy certain rights and privileges and generally take full advantage of them.

Jesus turned this world of power and entitlement upside down. When His disciples were arguing over which one of them was the greatest, He changed the playing field altogether:

The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the youngest, and he who governs as he who serves. Luke 22:24-26
Sadly, we Christians haven't modeled this very well through our spotty history.  My own dad, who had been raised in a Catholic family, became an atheist when he observed greed and hypocrisy of those who named the name of Christ. 

If anything was being served, the young boy noticed,  it was the priests' insatiable appetites.

Pope Francis recently said that authentic power is service.  One might also add that true, authentic service is the real power. Through genuine service we touch each other in the most profound ways, restoring value and dignity to God's sin-ravaged creation. Authentic service is never about earning God's favor or building a resume and a reputation.  It's always and only a tiny reflection of God's own heart towards His hurting, broken, needy world.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Final Week of Jesus - The Price Tag of Love and Betrayal

Six days before the Passover Jesus is again with His friends in Bethany.  On the outside everything appears the same.  Great food, great company, great hostess.  But, on the inside, much, so much has changed.

Although doing what she does best - serving - Martha is not frazzled and stressed out, angry and demanding as when we first met her. Lazarus, freshly risen from the dead, still rubbing his eyes in disbelief, savoring in bite-size pieces every delicious moment of his new lease on life.  They listen to the disciples rehashing the latest stories of Jesus’ miracles, the blind Bartimeus receiving sight, the party Zacchaeus threw for them in his home in Jericho giving money away like it's going out of style. Amid all the excitement, conversations and laughter, one can’t help but notice that certain topics seem to be carefully avoided that night.

Mary appears to be listening and laughing with the rest, but the food on the plate in front of her has hardly been touched. Then, she quietly slips out and returns with an alabaster jar, her hands gently shaking.  Breaking the seal, she begins pouring the perfume on Jesus.  The house explodes with intoxicating fragrance.  It probably smelled for days, even weeks… Jesus’ perfume-drenched body probably smelled of it for days…through the hours of prayer in the garden….? Through the hours of whipping and questioning….? Through the hours on the cross…?

The stunned guests are still in shock in shock when the traitor speaks up and scolds the woman’ irrational wastefulness. He cloaks his sharp criticism with threadbare, tattered garb of altruistic compassion, concern for the poor. He quickly calculates the value of the wasted treasure to 300 denarii – an entire year’s worth of wages.

The next time we see him, he is weighing the best offer for the price of the Son of God, as if he is a garage sale item. The value is totaled to 30 pieces of silver. A price of a common slave. About two months worth of wages.

Jesus receives the wasteful worship of the scolded woman as a beautiful thing.  For she recognized that there are some things in life you can’t put a price tag on. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Final Week of Jesus - The Blind and THE Blind

As He was making His way to Jerusalem, Jesus went through Jericho.  A blind man sitting by the side of the road heard all the hubbub and commotion. When he found who it was that was walking by, he became quite a commotion and disruption himself. He must have heard reports about Jesus and he knew that this was his lucky – if you believe in luck – day. He wasn’t going to waste it.  He yelled and cried out from the top of his lungs:

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! 

Again and again. Apparently without a trace of self-conscious embarrassment, he made quite a scene. He created so much racket some people felt compelled to intervene and shut the nuisance up.

Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet. Luke 18:39

I always found this statement so… insightful. 

Those who led the way were on a mission. They knew where they were going. They had single-minded focus to accomplish their important goals.  They would not be distracted or delayed by some… insignificant bottom feeder… by some blind beggar.

And what did Jesus do?

He stopped. Luke 18:40

And then He had a chat with Bartimaeus, for that was the blind man’s name  (the leaders, mercifully, remained anonymous). As a result of that conversation, the blind man received his sight. His darkness was swallowed up by Light and he begun to follow Jesus. 

Clearly, Bartimaeus wasn't the only blind person in this scene. One can’t help but wonder about other blind men and women who witnessed the entire event… those who just saw an interruption and disruption, an interference with their important goals and plans but missed, even mistreated a son of Abraham, a child of God inside the broken man. 

Sobering thought, indeed. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Final Week of Jesus - When Friends Weep

When Jesus finally makes it to Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days already.

One can only imagine what must have been going through the sisters’ minds as they watched their brother suffer, as they saw him take his last breath. As they wrapped his body along with their hope and prepared it for the burial. As the stone was rolled over the gaping mouth of the tomb, sealing it shut.

The two sisters, as different as night and day, greet Jesus with exactly the same words:

Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. John 11:21, 32

Lord, in Your presence death has to flee…but in Your absence…

Where were You?

What took You so long…?

You cleansed the lepers, gave sight to the blind, opened the mouth of the dumb, made lame walk… 

Couldn’t You keep our beloved… Your beloved from dying…

Couldn’t You… ? Wouldn’t You…? Why wouldn’t You…?

Faith and heartbreak pour down the sisters’ grief-carved cheeks.

The great equalizer of all humanity brings the two sisters –

the Doer and the Listener…

the Activist and the Pacifist…

the Server and the Worshipper…


Both at the end of themselves.

Both at the crossroad of their faith in Jesus.

Both at a loss to understand His love. 

Both weeping.

And what does Jesus do?

He weeps with them, too.

He weeps?

But, He knew what He was about to do. 

He knew that in a few short minutes Lazarus would be alive and well and back with them.

And still...

He wept.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Final Weeks of Jesus - The Love's Reasonable Claim

I always wanted to follow along the final days of Jesus, matching the events with my desk calendar, immerse into those last couple of weeks leading up to crucifixion. For some reason, so far this has escaped me. But, I see no good reason why I shouldn't attempt to do it this year. Because of this, I temporarily interrupt the Gardener from Outer Space story and will resume after Easter.

We don’t know the exact timing of the events described in John11. The intensity of opposition Jesus faced had already reached the boiling point and the plot to kill Him was already on the way. Public knowledge, in fact. During this tumultuous time, as His own last hour is very quickly approaching, Jesus receives a personal message:

Lord, he whom You love is sick.

‘He whom You love’…  

What a way to frame a person’s identity. Jesus loved Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary. He also loved his sisters (John 11:5).

Here is a family loved by God-in-the-flesh.  He considers them His beloved friends.  

So, when one of God’s special friends is sick, you would think that that one has… certain special claims. Perhaps even assumptions. That’s what love is for, isn’t it?

Lord, he whom You love is sick.

The unspoken might go something like this.

Lord, hurry up.

Lord, You can’t let the one You love die. ...

Lord, You can’t break the hearts of the ones You love....

There is urgency in the situation. 

You gotta come now Lord… before it’s too late and all is lost, Lord...

What does Jesus do?

He resets His clock.

He waits two full days.

It makes no sense. The disciples are confused. They quietly conclude that Jesus doesn’t want to go back to the wasp’s nest.  Who could blame Him?

Then, He says,

Let’s go.

Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again.

Rabbi, are You out of Your mind?  It’s a suicide mission. You have the right to protect Yourself. Rabbi…??!!!

It’s no use arguing with the Rabbi. He may be hard to understand sometimes, but He knows what He is doing. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On Dubious Nature of the Use of a Microscope

Since it’s next to impossible for me to love what I can’t see, as soon as my kids trot off to school, I plow my way through a blizzard of LEGO® blocks in my son’s bedroom and grab an old microscope off a dusty bookshelf.

He really needs to clean this room
, I grumble, which, of course, when used by a mother is very different from whining and complaining habitually practiced by her children.  I slam the bedroom door shut behind me, wondering where in the world did he pick up his housekeeping habits.

Armed with the microscope I step outside into the blazing sun.

With all the weeds popping up left and right, focusing on anything desirable growing in our yard is like finding a screwdriver when you need it inside our garage. So, I swing the microscope around and am blinded by the sprawling emerald of the thick lush lawn of the honorary lifetime member of Better Homes and Gardens Yard of the Month club – AKA my next-door neighbor Bob. The sight generates waves of nausea interspersed with a desire to leave this world and attend to the greener pastures thereafter.

Feeling green with queasiness and an emotion I can’t quite identify I sway back and forth, with the microscope still attached to my eyeball.  Suddenly, Ka-booom! I spot an enormous mutant weed – and flowering weed at that!

I am horrified and strangely pleased at the same time.

Hah! I knew it! I knew there were weeds in HIS yard!

I drop down on all fours and start carefully inspecting his turf with the microscope. Sure enough, there are about SEVEN superhumongousy enormous mutant weeds – located mostly next to my property line - and the total of three of them about to bloom and spread their nasty seeds all throughout the neighborhood.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Love, Hate, Truth, Pain

Hearing him talk about good, and right and true, and even REAL in the amoral world of social media and cyber space, I sense tectonic plates shifting under my toes.  So, I do what I do best whenever I sense tectonic plates shifting under my toes.

I change the subject. 

I clear my throat before I ask:

How do you know the difference?

The difference?
He repeats my words clearly uncertain as to what I am talking about.   The difference between truth and lie, right and wrong, good and evil? Illusion and reality?

Nooo! I shake my head, for he is obviously confused. I mean how do you know which weeds to pull and which to leave in the ground? Yesterday you defended the right to life of that weed as if the fate of the universe rested on its survival. Today I caught you red-handed pulling weeds in my yard. What am I supposed to do – pull them or leave them? How do you know? Is there a manual I can read?

From what I understand  you don’t care much for the  manuals. And I know that following instructions is not your strong suit. That's why I came.
He grins with a mock infomercial style grin.  Your very own, living, breathing personal manual.

You are kind of hard to read… and follow.

Only if you already made up your mind what you want and don’t want to do.

Guilty as charged. Call me 'Opinionated'. Anyway… we were talking…

Your favorite subject – weeds.

Help me out here.

You need to learn to love growing plants more than you hate weeds.

Hmmm… love growing... more than I hate….
 I repeat slowly after him.  Wait, that sounds familiar… once I heard somebody saying that we need to love the truth more than we fear pain.

He seems amused.

Same difference.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Speedy Stampede to Succeed

I close my eyes as I savor the unspeakable relief, the marvel of the incredible deal, and the freedom, all dancing together somewhere deep down, threatening to bubble up to the surface, knock down my self-possessed exterior and burst out into the sunshine… It smells like rain and grass and star jasmine and …a ham sandwich!

He interrupts my internal foxtrot,  I stopped by Subway on the way here… I am kind of hungry. It’s already after noon. Wan’na eat?

We sit down on the damp grass under the tree and unwrap the sandwiches.

Have you ever thought of starting your own business? 
I ask between the bites. He looks at me like I have just landed from a different planet.

Why in the world would I ever want to do that?!!!

Spread your wings. Branch out. I see that you are good at what you do. There is a method to your madness.
I smile sheepishly, before continuing. You could get on Facebook, post your success stories, advertise your trophies, invite a bunch of people to like you, hire a marketing guru and web developer - they could really help you spiff up your image. Become successful. Famous. Independent!

I am getting quite excited thinking of all the ways I can help him succeed.  

What does any of that have to do with gardening?!!!  

I am so carried away that it takes me several moments to be able to even compute his question.  Taking advantage of my stunned silence, he adds,

Plus, I really enjoy working with my dad. Everything I know, I learned from him.

Now, see… in my book, that’s classified under ‘weird’.

Oh, really?!!! I didn’t realize you wrote a book. And you don’t think there is anything weird about inviting people to’ like’ you on Facebook? Or’ follow’ you on Twitter? Do they really like you? Would they follow you in real life?

I stare at him at a loss of how to respond.  Then I begin slowly,

Well, if I were to be really honest, I would admit it does feel a little awkward… self-promoting… but everyone is doing it.  It’s the age that we live in.  It's all a part of the game. You gotta keep up…

You do?!!! And since when ‘everyone is doing it’ has become the measure of what is good, and right, and true?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Who Got the Short End of the Stick?

The next morning I wake up and something tells me it’s almost noon. I jump out of bed – I don’t even need my coffee - and open the blinds. The sheer volume of photonic activity causes fireworks to explode inside my brain sending shock-waves throughout my body. When all the noise subsides, a thought finally crosses the threshold of my consciousness,

There was no tap on my window this morning,
 immediately followed by a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I remember how mean I was to the space gardener, telling him what to do and how to do it. I remember his impassionate speech about love and mystery and barefoot gardening and the defense of the life of a weed and I know he’d left me. Never to return again. Despite the fact that I was called Opinionated and Obsessive-Compulsive Weed Exterminator; despite his unorthodox approach to gardening, I realize I can’t bear a thought of never seeing him again.

Then I hear a soft rustling in the bushes in the back. I look out of the window and there he is! I am so relieved to see him I want to hug him and punch him at the same time. I linger undecided as I watch him quietly behind the window.

He walks slowly, bending here and there to pick up a dead branch, pull a weed, pausing frequently.


What does he see?


What does he hear?

I hesitate before I open the door and venture out, then clear my throat with a mock cough.

I overslept today. Why didn’t you wake me up?  I muster as much normal out of my voice as I can, trying to suppress the bubbling mixture of terror and relief.

You needed rest.

I guess I did. But, ... I find all my defenses and pretenses melting in his presence. I thought you’d left… never to return again. … I was scared...

I thought we had an all-inclusive no-end contract deal,
 he states matter-of-factly. Then he adds with a wink,

I guess you are stuck with me. … And I with you.

I think you got the shorter end of the stick. I am so happy I can’t even explain it. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rx for Addiction

I scowl at the Sorry-Excuse-For-a-Gardener in front of me, horrified at his lame We-All--the-Snow-White-AND-the-Witch--Live-Happily-Ever-After approach to landscape management.  I see I am stuck with a loser.

How can you allow…even tolerate the weeds in MY garden? I spit-and-sputter the question again, demanding the answer.
Thanks for asking.  I wondered if you ever would…
He is utterly unperturbed by the antagonism oozing from every sweaty pore of my body. Well, let me explain to you…if  you care to HEAR  it

He says the word the way you would hit a nail on the head and then continues softly. 

If you pulled the weeds right now, you would uproot the good grass along with it. You must leave it alone. This poor weed is not the problem. The  problem is that you have reduced the glorious mystery and the exquisite art of gardening into an obsessive-compulsive weed elimination rampage. He pauses as if expecting me to butt in again but this time I refrain.

There is more – much more - to gardening than having a weed-free lawn. Gardening is about entering this amazing world you didn’t create with your mouth shut and your shoes off your feet. It’s about listening and letting go and yielding of control rather than bulldozing in oblivious to the rhythms and seasons, climate and soil, and all the magical creatures finding their shelter in your own back yard…Most of all, it’s about love and friendship…

His voice trails off as if he fears he said too much... at least too much for my crusty ears.

I've never heard anybody fight with such intensity, passion and grace for the life of a... weed

Part of me wants to take notes of every word coming out of his mouth. The other part wants to sit down and absorb it all in by osmosis. I want to hear more about this outer space gardening even though I understand only about every tenth word he utters.

There isn’t a tiniest doubt in my mind that on the planet where he came from, they do gardening a little different than over here. A lot different.

And I am not quite sure anymore whether I have a stomach for it or not.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sir, We Got a Problem!

I am amazed that the tiny trickle from the old garden hose can affect so much change in our landscape in such a short time. Having suffered through years of severe drought, I thought that even the Niagara Falls wouldn’t be sufficient to quench the thirst of my parched lawn. But, today I begin to notice a discernible difference, for there are little soft tufts of genuine green popping up throughout our yard. The sight makes me more ecstatic than winning a Better Homes and Gardens Yard of the Month award.

I am a REAL gardener now!
 I am so absolutely beside myself that I can’t wait to get on line and share my most recent success with all my Facebook friends. I take carefully framed pictures of my yard to upload as evidence. While standing precariously on my head, looking for the best angle to capture my astonishing feat without disclosing too much of the rest of the story I see something that threatens to pop my bubble.

Sir, we GOT a PROBLEM! 
I announce in an expert voice. Having just grown my very first green thing I officially crossed over into the murky waters of the certified Know-it-All.

We do? He tilts his head sideways, trying to look me in the eye as I am still in my awkwardly contorted position holding the camera for that just-perfect Facebook shot.

Yes! Can’t you see this?? THIS?
 I point at the green stalk growing right out of my nostril. This, Sir, is a WEED! Genus -Digitaria Haller. Family Poaceae. Order Cyperales. That water of yours presumably can't tell the difference between a weed and a plant!

I see…
 He is neither impressed nor defensive.

So, what are you going to DO about it? 
I demand, finally straightening out, cracking the stiffness out of my neck.

What do you suggest that we do? He answers the question with the question. I hate when he does that.

It’s a no-brainer. We deal with it as we should with all the weeds. We kill, destroy, uproot, annihilate… There is a whole big-buck industry devoted to...

Leave it alone. 

Excuse me?

I said, Leave it alone. 

I heard what you said. Remember, you just cleaned my ears. 

I just started cleaning your ears… you have…

What kind of gardener are you?!!
I interrupt. How in the world can you put up with all these weeds?!!

Friday, March 08, 2013

Then the LORD God Fashioned a Woman

You know her when you see her.

She may be young or middle-aged or older; the truth is that she appears timeless in her beauty regardless of her chronological age. There’s simply something about her that you can’t quite put your finger on.

In her eyes you see a full range of emotions burning in a complex conflagration of passion for life. There’s a twinkling hint of humor, a compassionate spark of understanding, a flicker of attitude, a blaze of humility and a touch of confidence fueled by a lifetime of faithfulness to her unique calling and to her Lord.

Like a vintage wine crafted with care from the finest grapes of the heartiest vineyards, this kind of leading lady becomes only more exquisite as she ages. She has learned to give herself away to those around her and beyond, pouring the sweet essence of her wine into each glass at her table.

Men find themselves attracted to the vitality and unself-concious ease with which she returns their gaze.

Women find themselves wanting to draw closer to this magnetic creature’s radiant femininity and undeniable strength.

There’s no sense of regret or resentment clouding her eyes about what might have been in her life. For she knows that her God has allowed all the odd assortment of events and emotions, losses and gains, to shape who she is, as His beautiful creation.

Adapted from “God’s Leading Lady” - T.D. Jakes

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Auditory Detox

For the next couple of weeks I am awakened at the crack of dawn by a gentle tap on my window. Some mornings I find myself awake before the tap comes and actually wait for it. Even look forward to it. Other mornings I bumble around totally unprepared, my head perched on my neck like a deserted heron’s nest, my eyes squinting unaccustomed to so much light so soon in the day.

The Space Gardener and I have a little routine going. He always waits for me to get my second cup of coffee.  Then, I grab the hose, and he opens the valve. After that we listen.

As my ears go through an auditory detox, I slowly begin to hear things I never heard before. Even I know the difference between an airplane above and four-wheel drive below. I can also tell apart a riding mower from a weed-whacker. But rustling of a lizard’s feet in the dead leaves?!! The scampering of squirrels little claws as they race each other up the trunk of our huge oak? A woodpecker in our neighbor’s backyard tree?!! There IS a woodpecker living in my neighbor’s back yard!

Some mornings I feel like I walk in on a congress debate going on in the branches of our maple. Other times it’s so quiet I can hear my own thoughts. I swiftly avoid those and eavesdrop on a good-natured marital banter between Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal. Then the neighbor’s lawnmower drowns all other sounds and we shut off the water, put away the hose and are done for the day.

I feel like somebody took a plunger, unplugged and deep-cleaned my ears and I can hear, really hear for the first time in my life.  I wonder what else I've been missing out on, with all the loud noises drowning the sounds of life all around me?

The Lord God ...awakens me morning by morning,
He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple.
The Lord God has opened my ear... Isaiah 50:4,5

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Brown Thumb Syndrom

You know..., I follow right behind him, the cup in hand, the more I think about it, the more I realize that there was a huge mistake. I do appreciate your amazing offer, you showing up here at the crack of dawn… But you got yourself a wrong person, sir. I don’t have just a brown thumb. Every finger and every toe and every bone in my body is brown. I have killed, mutilated, and murdered every green thing that ever showed up within our property lines. I walk by a TrueGreen sign and it wilts and withers. Get it? It’s hopeless. Leave while there is still time…

He looks at me and hands me the hose, straightening the kinks as he unrolls it off the hose hanger. 

Apparently he is quite deaf, in addition to being crazy.

I’ll turn on the water… He walks behind the fence and opens the valve. The hose coughs and sputters for a few seconds and then the water begins to gush out. I am getting quite drenched, but I don't see how that's going to help my yard. 

I don’t see how in the world can this do any good…?

If you stop being so opinionated, we might actually get somewhere…

You just called me opinionated! I’m deeply offended!!

True or false?

Well… I admit… I can be… sometimes… Alright, … most of the time. But, still…

Now we are getting somewhere.
 He chuckles and takes a deep breath. Without realizing, I do the same.

I love mornings,
he says and  I am about to launch into Why-I-Hate-Mornings debate. As I open my mouth, he closes his eyes. With his eyes closed, he is a picture of such restful bliss that I forget about the argument. I desperately want what he has, and try to close my eyes. Too scared that I am not coordinated enough to juggle a gushing hose in one hand and a coffee mug in the other while standing with my eyes shut, I chose to be on the safe side and keep them open.

You hear it? He whispers.

I hear nothing, other than the shhhhh of the water…

Just listen…...

It’s very quiet. 
I finally say. It’s actually… nice.

We stand there a while. No words between us. Just the stillness of the early morning.

This feels… good,
I mutter, I could stand here forever. 

I feel mildly intoxicated, unaccustomed to all the fresh air and quiet.  Then, there is a soft sound of shuffling of the feet in the grass.

This will do. We are done for today,
 He says and shuts off the water.

Done?!! Already?!!! 
I gasp. I thought…

I’ll be back tomorrow, Ms Opinionated.

I open my mouth in protest but he is already gone.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The D Day

The next morning I wake up with a massive headache. Normally I don’t wake up with a headache. Normally, I need to look around for my head, usually rolled under the bed, and reattach it to my neck before I get up. 

Then, I remember. 

I have a crack-of-dawn date with a crazy gardener from outer space who expects me to baby-sit the old garden hose for five hours every single day!

I pull the covers over my aching head with a loud groan and wish somebody would turn off the lights so I can go back to sleep and wake up in a perfect world where there are no weeds and no crazy gardeners from outer space. There is something else I wish I could eliminate from this world but I can’t remember right now.

I wait for a while, but nobody is turning the lights off, and the annoying chirp-chirping of birds seems to get louder making my head throb. I roll out of bed like a dead log, except for groaning. I fix myself an extra strong cup of coffee and take it intravenously.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, the cup in my hand, waiting for my brain to reboot at the speed of a garden snail, I wonder …

How did I get myself into this pickle? How did it all start?

Suddenly, with intense clarity I remember that somebody suggested a whining fast. The whining fast that I didn’t think I needed.  My kids, on the other hand… I remember the weeds, the rabid-squirrel habitat yard, the despair, the prayer, the white truck, the guy who offered an all-inclusive special…

I also realize that this so-called whining fast has turned into a whining fest, for now I see clearly that in the past 24 hours I’ve done nothing but whine and complain… It must be just a coincidence…

Have you had your second cup of coffee yet?
 A familiar voice jerks me out of my ruminations.

How do you know about the second cup of coffee?!!
I jump off the bed,  glad that the cup in my hand is almost empty, except for the grounds on the bottom. 

It’s public record, silly… C’mon. just grab it and bring it with you. You can finish it while we are watering…

Monday, March 04, 2013

No Better Time Than... Next Week!

When do we start? I ask, doing a quick mental scan of my schedule. Perhaps tomorrow? Or maybe next week – yea, that’s definitely better. My schedule is pretty full….

Today… we start today… in fact, right now. 
He says matter-of-factly and walks toward the trailer.

Right now?!!! But… but… 
I stammer suddenly at a loss of all the brilliant reasons why this is not a good time. I can’t…

I thought we had a deal.

We DO. Yes.  Absolutely. But, right now?!! This is not the most convenient time…

Who said anything about convenience? 
He reaches into the trailer, grabs a small toolbox and looks at me.  I look at the box. Then I look at the trailer with all the cool apps and widgets and power tools. Then I look at him.

Aren’t you going to use some of your power tools… that’s what all the pros do?

Nah... I use those only when absolutely necessary. They raise way too much dust and make way too much noise. I prefer working in the quiet.

Isn’t that a terribly time-consuming and inefficient way to run a business?

Actually, it’s more efficient in the long run… plus I have all the time in the world…

Well, I don’t. I snap, feeling quite restless all of a sudden. If you want to start now, we start NOW with… repairing the sprinkling system. I keep running over the heads with the lawnmower…my husband can’t keep up with the repairs. And, as I am sure you already know, it’s impossible to have a lawn without a sprinkling system…

It is?!!  His eyes spring wide open in mock surprise. I didn’t realize that. Don’t you have a garden hose?

Of course we do. At least four... maybe six.

One is usually enough.

For what?!!

For watering the garden.

And who is supposed to stand here with the garden hose and water the garden every day?!!!

Who do YOU think?

Certainly not me!

It’s YOUR yard.

You are crazy! I don’t have that kind of time on my hands!

We always have time for what we love… In fact, this is my prescription for you for the next several weeks. Do not use sprinkling system. Just the garden hose. Every morning… or evening.
 He added, If you prefer. I’ll be here with you.

Now I know for sure that you have landed here from a different planet! For no person on this planet has this kind of time to waste on such frivolous activities.
 I fume under my breath.

It’s not going to be wasted. He says. I promise.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Not So Tasty

Today's post is written by Dayle.  I've heard of Dayle long before I met her in person. She is one of those rare people whose genuineness meets and exceeds her great reputation. Dayle captures some of her journey with Jesus on her blog Tip of the Iceberg The Value of What's Unseen. I hope you enjoy her insights into the humble nature and delicious hope for all the nasty chards like us.

I stared at it.  Red and green, scalloped edges.  It looked like a leaf from some tropical plant.  But I wasn’t planting it–I was supposed to cook it.


Even the word feels less than inviting.  Chard sounds more like a weapon or an act of violence than a vegetable.  I’ve never eaten it, cooked with it or have even seen it before this day.  As it lay there, it dared me to make something anyone would like from it.  I questioned whether I was up for the challenge.
I’ve wanted to up our eating of healthy whole foods for a bit, so I’ve been participating in a buying club, where each week we receive a box of selected fruits and vegetables.  Yes, I knew I’d have to deal with whatever I received.  Trying new recipes on foods I wasn’t familiar with sounded fun.  A bit exotic.

But chard?

I nibbled a leaf raw.  Bitter as the day is long.  I took a small bite of the stem.  That was worse.  So I did what every technologically savvy person does when finding themselves with inedible food.

I googled it.

You know what?  Most recipes add something substantial to change the taste, to take away the bitterness, to soften the bite.  It’s a tremendously healthy green, but I figured I might as well be grazing in my back yard as eating this.

I am that chard.  You think that a stretch?  No, no, it’s a logical analogy.  In it’s natural form, chard is bitter and unpleasant.  Fairly inedible, unless you’re a bovine or a bunny.  (I actually gave some of this stuff to Midnight, the rabbit.  She thought it delightful.)  On quite a number of occasions, I find it rather easy to fall into an attitude of bitterness and unpleasantness.  I’m not an unpleasant person by nature, but it always amazes me how the slightest thing–like someone cutting me off in traffic or a thoughtless comment from someone I care about–can move me into that “chardness” place.

And like the chard, it takes something outside myself to make me different.  If I add a little garlic, olive oil and some seasoning to this green, cook it up slowly, it actually is flavorful–surprisingly so.   I can’t determine to be better just by making up my mind.  That lasts all of a few minutes.  But if I allow Jesus to deal with my issues, trusting Him to change my heart by faith, allowing Him to alter my focus from me to His truth and His character, He can and will change that unpleasantness.

It doesn’t happen overnight.  He seasons me with His love, marinating me in His grace, which softens up the tough parts of me in a way that redeems my basic nature.  That unpleasantness may not be totally gone, but I become more like the One who made me, the One who created me to be a fine piece of His workmanship, reflecting Him.

And isn’t that a tasty bit of hope for this chard.