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“The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God” (Psalm 19:1-2).

Tender grass bursts from the earth. Glimmering beetles scurry up to lily pinnacles and raise their antennae. My favorite gnarled oak ascends from a velvety ring of petunias. Its branches wield leafy poufs as live, rain-guzzling, sun-swallowing pom-poms.

Meanwhile, a masterpiece rolls overhead.

Coral rays claim the heavens, staking dawn’s entry. Glorious brilliance floods the earth with awesome energy, both life-sustaining  and requiring the respect rather than scrutiny of mortal eyes. The light reigns undaunted, despite the morphing hues of its backdrop and fleeting clouds to veil its position. Ten thousand bird species laud the majesty in song and aerial dance. Crimson explodes across the skies as the sun descends to meet the edge of our perspective. The world blackens against a fabulous gleam of twilight. Predators crawl out into the shadows, anticipating easy prey in the sun’s absence. The light never abandons us. A silver orb rises against the darkness to reflect the sun’s continued presence. Crickets and cicadas praise its faithfulness. It continues to guide and shine upon us in this new form as we hope for the new dawn.

Before a single word of Scripture inked the ancient papyrus, God authored creation as a living testament. The Bible anoints modern Christians with immeasurable benefits and deepens our understanding of God, but He foresaw those without access to the written word. The Father did not leave anyone bereft of His message. Creation’s magnificent design proves His sovereignty. He reveals Himself and His attention to us in the artistic, majestic, and whimsical elements of nature. The progress of each day reflects the gospel, a Son who remains with us and bestows His life upon us that we might represent Him to the world.

As we continue to cherish Scripture, let us also remain aware of its earliest writing–God’s love letter crafted upon the world around us. The story nature has read aloud since the dawn of creation.

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Yellow and white blooms wilted under the blood moon. Their papery remnants clung to the vine until autumn’s breeze tore them away. For a day or two, the evidence of fallen beauty littered gardens across the countryside. Within the base of those flowers who had used their season to pollinate beyond their temporary moment of loveliness, something more substantial had developed.

Lacy petal-cardigans slipped away to reveal which ones carried deep-colored treasures. Gourds expanded from the places once held for them by passing flowers. Skins thickened and bubbled with warts and valleys, guarding the prize within. Stout and solid, their weight anchored them more and more in steadfast positions. Each tough vine-dweller grew while patiently awaiting the harvest.

One must look deep to find the gourd’s riches. Beyond the tough, uneven skin lies a wealth of nourishment. At its life’s end, the harvester breaks open the body to feed his family with vitamins, minerals, seed protein, and fiber. Extra seeds and inedible matter provide an entire garden from one individual hull. He wastes nothing from the pollinated vinedweller’s life.

I gaze across the pumpkin patches and butternut squash displays, considering the investments of my time dwelling on Christ’s vine. Have I pollinated the inner station of my soul so it will bear lasting fruit for generations to come? What part of my life will feed the family of God after my body’s earth season has ended? How much have temporary things distracted me from investing in the eternal?

Lord, help me stay focused on things of lasting value instead of the less important matters which pass away. Pollinate my spirit and expand my heart. Let my thoughts grow solid and steadfast in Your Truth, impenetrable to the pestilence of toxic attitudes. Cultivate rich nourishment within me until I am beautiful in Your sight, regardless of how I appear to passers by. Make me gourdgeous to You, Lord. Thank You, for planting me in Your garden.

What about you? Ready to grow gourdgeous on His vine?

 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. . .I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. . .This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:1-8

“I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. . .Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” – Phil.1:20-27

“if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” – Phil. 2:17

Light brushed past textiles with little more than a shimmer. It glanced off the cutlery and passed by the china with a glare. After searching the store, the rays met the crystal and danced. Wavelengths caressed each stemware pattern and filled them with prismatic wonder. No vessel glorified its brilliance more than the elaborate pitcher. Intricate etchings revealed light’s amazing facets and it offered an immense capacity for sharing the blessings.

While I once admired the goblet above all crystal vessels, I now hope to model my life after the pitcher. The goblet allows its owner to retain a prosperous serving and bears lovely design for him to enjoy. It benefits its holder, sharing its carvings and blessings with no other thirsty guests.

The pitcher centers its etching beneath the light source for all to see the effects of glory upon its scars. It remains open to receive a deep capacity for light-infused blessings which it never intends to keep for itself. The pitcher extends itself and remains engaged. Self-aware, yet not self-centered, It recognizes a pitcher fulfills its purpose when pouring itself into other vessels.

I pray for a successful life as the Lord’s pitcher, pouring out His blessings without holding back a single drop. Let me assure the concerned; no pitcher of God stands empty. After dispensing blessings, a pitcher centers itself under God and stands filled with light.

“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” Luke 8:16

“They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.” Psalm 36:8-9

You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28

“But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” Philippians 2:17

A Florida sunset blazes across the horizon–our effortless version of the summer campfire. Temperatures hover near ninety degrees, and customer traffic doubled at the neighborhood pool store. Yesterday’s evening breeze swept away the last remnants of spring. While Midwest residents continue salting icy walkways, we’re dipping our toes into the next season.

Not that there’s any hurry. Life strolls along at a casual pace in the sub-southern peninsula. Flip-flops clap along the sidewalks year-round. On special occasions, ladies switch to heeled sandals. A number of fair-haired drivers refuse to accelerate for the sake of impatient youngsters. Don’t bother honking to rush them. They either can’t hear you or will enjoy the pretense of deafness at your expense.

The tropics harbor unique creatures and comforts. Our kids weather hurricanes instead of snow days and build sand castles instead of Frosty men. Northern children make jewelry from fireflies, but here we have lizards to hang from little earlobes. When asked about sharks and alligators, natives shrug.

“Stay out of their way, and the neighbors won’t bother you.”

Cockroaches pose a more imminent threat. At least the larger predators won’t invade homes. Unless you have a doggie door, of course.

Battling insects and minding the local monsters–small sacrifices to preserve us from scraping, plowing, and arduous winterizing. When the long yard work season tires us, vacation options abound. Dreamy weekends beckon, less than a gas tank’s trip away. From world-class theme parks to sugary beaches, we grin at those who ask why we choose to reside in the lightning capital of the world.

When visitors bemoan rattlesnakes or the free outdoor saunas, it fails to lessen my appreciation for home. I imagine such dubious folks could experience the same epiphany that once struck my parents during an ice storm. Perhaps then they would join the highway’s right-lane caravan. Straining to see over the steering wheel, their questions might change from, “Why would anyone live there?” to “Are we in Florida yet?”

Quality of life hinges on perspective. Each can opt to embrace or despise his circumstances. The key to a satisfying life rests in recognizing and joining God’s magnificent work. The Lord created beauty in nature and within our hearts to be celebrated, participated in, and shared.

There might be some who fail to appreciate the Sunshine State. I hope they find beauty and joy in their hometown. As for me, I gotta love Florida.

 

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” – Deuteronomy 8:10

Rejoice in the Lord always…in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” –Philippians 4:4-8

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” — 2 Peter 1:3-4

 

Sunshine honeys the rain-washed oaks. Clover patches huddle among blades of rye grass. The breeze whirls across varied shades of green, stirring the earth to behold the infinite blue marvel overhead. Jasmine blooms near the mailbox, drawing brilliant hummingbirds to visit my lawn. I search the landscape, but fail to pinpoint the hue I seek. Nature’s kaleidoscope erupts before me on this magnificent spring afternoon. Yet, all the colors in the world fall short of a ray of hope.

Sparrows twitter alongside the doves’ cooing. A tree frog resounds from the puddle near my doorstep. Wind-strummed reeds complete the melody. Yet, all the world’s harmony falls short of  the song of hope.

Sourdough bread delights my palate. Creamy chai mingles spices across my tongue and warms me to the core. Bits of chocolate swimming in cream whirl me into a decadent food buzz. Yet, all the world’s culinary treats cannot satisfy my hunger for the flavor of hope.

I miss the brush of a baby’s cheek against my face. Orchid petals slide against the tip of my nose,reminiscent of that infant silkiness. I savor the grip of a friend’s hand and cherish a lingering hug. Yet, all the world’s most precious touches cannot compare with the embrace of hope.

Resurrected souls bear witness to a broader spectrum of color, music, and comprehensive joy than our experience on earth permits. Scripture promises God’s glory illuminates heaven, so we will require no other light than His presence. Creation’s majesty remains a mere echo of the true satisfaction for which our spirits yearn. 

I long for hope, but won’t find it in the world around me. I must search beyond the tangible to attain true fulfillment. The Creator sculpted these surroundings as arrows to point my gaze toward Him, after all.

 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

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