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I peered over the kitchen sink to check my herbs. Spider mites crawled over the remains of yesterday’s sprouts. A few hardy gnats swarmed among the carcasses of their siblings, which I’d doused with organic weaponry two days before. I emptied the last of my seeds into the not-so-jiffy pots and pried them from the tacky sill. With a sigh, I carried the remains outside. I laid them to rest on the deck between my dead squash and withering tomato plants, offering each doomed plant a parting spritz of insecticide.

So much for growing food. I should have known better. Though farming stretches back several generations in my family, the inheritance didn’t make it into my genes. Instead of nurturing life, my fingertips beget as kiss of death on all things green. I sometimes pity new plants when I bring them home, since few survive longer than a month. A quest to provide drives me to keep trying. With my counseling practice losing money and writing career mired in the doldrums, I had hoped to create something fruitful for my family.

Weeks after the herb funeral, I strode past the wilting houseplants on my dining table to gaze at the overcast day outside. A burst of green drew my attention to the abandoned jiffy pots. Was that…basil? The herbs gleamed with the sheen of a recent drizzle. Nearby, fresh growth sprouted from the tomato stalk. My plants thrived after I got out of the way.

Discouragement burdened my soul and I buckled under its weight. Fatigue dragged my body to the couch. As I closed my eyes, a silent plea rose from my soul.

 I need You, Lord. Let me rest in You.

I longed to be held with divine tenderness while supported by infinite strength. I sank against the cushions, imagining God holding me against His chest. Only His embrace could be softer than a cloud and reinforce with more power and strength than the musculature of a grizzly bear.

A ray filtered through the window sheers and caressed my cheek. I opened my eyes to breaking sunlight. The grey clouds had dissipated. From the dark, pungent confirmations of my ineptitude, a fresh thought sprouted in my mind.

I can’t grow anything, but God can make anything grow.

Only He begets life. Our participation offers relationship, but the Lord alone wields the power to bring life. And He can resurrect things we’ve left for dead.

I closed my eyes for a few more minutes, resting in the Son’s light. I’m praying for the Lord to make me grow in His ways. And, if He wills it, to grow whatever He likes through me–green or otherwise.

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me” (John 15:5).

“Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will He do for you—you of little faith? Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you.  Don’t be afraid,little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:27-32).

“’The kingdom of God is like this,’ He said. ‘A man scatters seed on the ground; he sleeps and rises—night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows—he doesn’t know how. The soil produces a crop by itself—first the blade, then the head, and then the ripe grain on the head” (Mark 4:26-28).

 

I pry my tongue from the pasty mire on the roof of my mouth. Parting my chapped lips, I heave in a breath of sultry air. Perspiration streams down my legs as I trudge across the parking lot. I struggle with a dizzy urge to hustle out of the August glare. My body cannot muster speed as it fights through the soupy haze. I hope my lungs don’t melt before I reach shade. I stagger through two sets of double doors. Freon-chilled air caresses my sticky neck and shoulders. The air conditioning fails to quell the nausea in my core or settle my reeling head. Shelves of empty vessels, soda concentrates, and coffee pods stare at me from the walls. Packaged beverage machines line the aisles. None can rescue my parched body. I need water. And there’s none here.

In our arid world, it’s common to stumble into the wrong places seeking water. When crowds stream toward a shady spot, it glimmers like a refuge mirage. The environment hooks our senses and draws us in. The diversion promises relief from the harsh elements, but indulgent comforts prove shallow. Hedonistic balms spritz an oh-so-temporary soothing over the outermost layer of skin. They vanish into thin air before reaching the burning need within. Pleasing the senses cannot quench the soul.

Some of us grope for chemicals, alcohol, or sex as a respite for inner thirst. But false relief can take more innocuous forms, too. Shopping, food, or other benign endeavors become toxic when misused as hydration. Like salt, good things offer benefit when used for the proper reason and in appropriate doses. When poured into our spirit’s well in place of living water, even good things can parch us to death.

On my dusty journey, I often feel the heat sapping my strength. Discouragement threatens to force my rubbery legs to give way beneath me. I gasp for some fresh breath to revive me, to help me plod forward another mile. Sometimes I want to go shopping or head to the spa. If I indulge my flesh instead of praying through my frailty, I end up with a mouthful of sand. Nothing satisfies. Disappointment adds to my emptiness. Then I remember the obvious. Only the Fountain of Life can refresh my spirit. When I feel least able to pray, that’s what I need most. Turning to Scripture and prayerful meditation draws me near to Christ. He fills the dry, empty caverns of my soul and quenches my deepest need. My hope renews, and I thank Him for His patience with me.

After our reviving moments together, sometimes the Lord encourages me to visit the spa or the mall. But we go together, sloshing with the threat of splashing passersby. Instead of seeking fulfillment there, I remain piped into the Fountain so I don’t miss an opportunity to share His love and peace with someone else.

 

“All my fountains are in you” (Psalm 87:10).

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 are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:14-16

Drought left the western earth thirsty, a tinder box waiting to catch with little more than a warm breath. One stray ember sparks a relentless blaze. Forest fires rage across thousands of acres and acrid smoke plumes across an entire state. Ready conditions require little to spur great flames.

We searched through sodden ditches. Green wood and rain soaked logs filled the truck bed. After an hour of persistent effort, we nurtured forth a glimmer of light. We fed the resistant stack, refusing to lose hope. A sweet reward loomed ahead, so  we worked with undaunted perseverance. Soon, the glow warmed all who surrounded it.

On fire

Joy overwhelmed me, since I had no intention of missing out on s’mores.

Christ calls us to act as His fire starters in the world. Some territories will receive the healing light of Jesus’ grace like parched brush. Flames will blaze from their hearts with an instant wildfire and spread to thousands of souls. Other ground we must cover lies sodden with resistance, and might not respond to our friendly invitation right away. We must not give up hope on those who question the truth, but continue reaching out to build light into the soggy pits of this world. Focus on the eternal goal and persist in love.

Imagine embracing the glimmering hearts of those Christ has sparked through your life of loving friendship. What joy we have in that hope, for a reward far sweeter than s’mores awaits us.

Bruise hollows deepen my eye sockets. Despite attempts at heat-styling, my locks frazzle. I slouch before the mirror and marvel at the unkempt stranger glaring back at me.

When darkness surrounds the eyes, the body sinks into shadow. Matthew 6:23 piques my interest. Drained strength correlates with grey-shrouded lids the way focus aligns with soul health.

When I immerse myself in others’ suffering for a unrelieved stretch of months, their pain seeps into my heart and flesh. An intense gaze into evil’s poisonous spell upon this world, though studying it to devise a strategy to conquer it, can also burden my thoughts.

Heart, mind, soul, and body need divine rejuvenation. Spiritual retreats call me into the living waterfall of truth. Healthy focus requires adequate light to stave off the inky tide of soul-night. Praise and scripture cleanse me. Music, prayer, and meditation soak my mind with uplifting, scentatstic bubbles. God’s presence heals and renews my spirit and its perspective. 

He calls me to work for His glory, but at times He also calls me to rest in His arms. I cannot do one in exception to the other. 

I love You, O Lord, my strength. Illuminate my eyes and revitalize my soul, O Christ my Redeemer.

What’s your prayer of renewal this Holy Week? 

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