Monday, July 18, 2016

The Secret Power of Unknowing

I really don’t know why God answers some prayers and some He appears to ignore.

As a parent, I leave a number of prayers of my children unanswered.


Mom, is it O.K. if I kill my sister? Or,

Why can’t I play with the butterfly knife? Or even,

But I am starving, why can’t I have raspberry-cheese roll five minutes before dinner?

Clearly, I am a mean parent.  If I was a good parent, all my children’s prayers would be answered with unequivocal “YES!”

Still, some prayers appear to demand answers.

Take Jesus. He was God’s good kid. His only good kid. Still, He prayed, and at least one of His prayers seemed to fall flat on God’s ears.

Father, if you are willing,remove this cup from me

This is where we stumble upon mystery.  This is where we fall headlong into a mystery.

A mystery of trust even when it hurts.

A mystery of hope even when everything seems hopeless.

This is where the sidewalk ends and faith-thicket begins.  

Where the beach ends and ocean begins.  

Where the roof ends and sky begins.

But, I digress again.

I have no idea why God decided to answer that prayer of mine:

God, You who created this world out of NOTHING, make me a gardener.

Maybe because the impossible is His specialty... ?

Maybe He has a soft spot for gardening, as that’s the first thing we see Him do after the amazing feat of creation – He plants a garden!

I have no idea.

Or, perhaps, there is always a long line of people praying to God to change the world by making them successful missionaries, preachers, pundits, experts, know-it-alls, writers, talkers, speakers, politicians....

... and the line is woefully short of those brought to such despair that they are willing to let go of who they thought they were in order to allow God to change their own pathetically insignificant tiny back yard....

I don't know....

But, for whatever reason, that tiny little acorn prayer landed on the good soft soil of God’s gardener’s heart, and He said,

I’ll take THIS one!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Secret Power of Prayer

The one lonely desperate thing that was left for me to do – and it wasn’t pointing a gun and pulling the trigger, as many these days interpret as the only thing left to do – either at themselves or another person – but that’s a different topic for a different story… But,  I digress… I did that one desperate thing from the bottomest rock bottom of my hopeless heart.

I prayed.

I know.  It sounds so revolutionary.

Some would say, Big deal. People pray all the time.

Which is true. They do.

There are all kinds of prayers and all kinds of people.

But this is not a study on prayer or study of people, just an account of one single prayer and the effect it had on one single people that is me.  

It’s more like a story about an acorn and how it became a tree than anything else.

But, again I digress…

This is what I said to God that day:

God, You who created this world out of NOTHING, make me a gardener.

Looking back, I could have prayed a slew of other things… But at that moment of hopelessness, it boiled down to…

Who God is and what God does. 

Namely, omnipotent Creator God doing the impossible.

And then, the inexplicable,

Make me a gardener!

What was I thinking???

Most honestly, I don’t know.

I don’t know why I prayed that. I had no gardening aspirations whatsoever. I am a city girl not a farmer. A writer not a dirt-digger.

But, maybe somewhere deep down, beyond the threshold of conscious understanding, I knew that it would take a radical change of identity to change my dire dismal yard/neighbor situation.

Maybe I knew beyond logical explanation that it would take a different person than me to accomplish what I wanted to see in my garden. With my current resources and the current persons at hand (namely me and our two highly destructive toddlers) the only way a change could happen would be if I was willing to change my identity.

And with this prayer, I was saying an unequivocal O.K. to God to do the impossible and change me. 

I think only absolutely completely totally desperate people are truly willing to become the change they want to see in the world. 

Sunday, July 03, 2016

The Secret Power of Despair

Most of my life, I lived on the 5th floor of an unattractive apartment building on the outskirts of Belgrade.  My mom was a plant fanatic and we had greenery growing in every corner of our tiny apartment, crowding the balcony and climbing the walls on both sides of our front door.

I neither inherited nor shared my mom’s enthusiasm for horticulture.

On rare occasions when she left her precious plants into my care, they suffered greatly. Seeing their wilted dying state, she would invariably ask me the same question,

Don’t you have any soul???

I never understood how watering soulless vegetation had anything to do with possessing a soul.

When we got married, I moved from the 5th floor of aforementioned apartment building into a 4 bedroom house with a front and a back yard.  It took us less than a year to kill just about everything green that grew in our yard without even trying.  

The concepts like ‘lawn’, ‘mowing’ and ‘irrigation’ were completely foreign to me.  In fact, they were so foreign that I didn’t even notice the slow and steady demise of our once well-manicured green property, compliments of the previous owner.   That is, I didn’t notice it until our next door neighbor Bob, who shared the same fanatic gene with my mom, started dropping hints. 

Helpful suggestions. 

Discount coupons on blow-out specials in our local home and garden center.

They all fell on death ears.

Over time, the hints and suggestions deteriorated into silent treatment (apparently I was deaf already, so why bother saying anything at all) dirty looks and formal HOA complaints about our crappy yard (his words!).

That got my attention.

OMG, our neighbor must HATE us!

This was so contrary to my Christian beliefs and it broke my heart. I knew it wasn't Bob's fault. We were the ones who were not good neighbors.... 

...But over a stupid grass??? I tried to rationalize. 

Irrational as it seemed to me, we've become those neighbors with a trashy yard everyone dreads to have.

There are no words to describe the depths of despair I felt. 

You see, this wasn't a matter of trying harder. I'd already tried as hard as I could.

This was a matter of identity. I knew who I was.  I was a city girl who grew up on cement and asphalt, loving it! I was the hater of all things creeping and crawling. I was a serial killer of all things green.

I was a writer, for God's sake, not a gardener!

We were doomed. 

There was only one thing left.  One lone last-ditch thing I could do and I did it from the rock-bottom of my heart.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

The Secret Power of Tranformation

I've been going through a box of old photos, scanning some for use in a secret Shutterfly photo book project (I guess it's not so secret any more :-)).  In this both exhilarating and tedious process I came across the above photo of my parents helping us build a garden edging.

It stopped me in my tracks.

In addition to the three treasured people, pausing briefly from what they were doing for me to snap the shot, each holding a tool in their hand - a circular saw, a post digger and a shovel, the photograph captures in embarrassing detail the landscaping condition of our back yard at the time.

I was stunned.

We forget so easily. I forget so easily! Our memories inevitably fade with time - not necessarily a bad thing, since we are to live in the present and not in some idealized (or demonized) form of our past or idealized (or demonized) form of future.

But it was good for me to see this photo, and be reminded of the humble beginnings of what now looks like this:

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. At least!

But, as I reflect on both these photos, one taken years ago, and the other just yesterday, I can't help but think that in a certain sense, no picture and no word can give true justice to the full story I know exists behind this dramatic transformation.

The story that can be captured neither by a crafter of words and sentences nor by the lens of the point-and-shoot camera.

The story of transformation that only the all-seeing God knows, quietly unfolding day in day out, under the sometimes sunny other times stormy skies, on this tiny plot of land, without audience except for the squirrels and hawks, blue jays and cardinals...

The easily-ignored miracle unfolding slowly and unpretentiously, undetected by the noisy world attracted to flashy appearances, demanding easy fixes and instant miracles.