Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Soil Surrender

I love to dig in the dirt and get my hands in the soil.  To watch as one, tiny plant becomes part of the Father’s landscape is a feast of wonder.  More amazement comes from beholding a portrait of an entire garden and realizing it is an artwork, not only of an earthly gardener, but also of the master Creator.
My journey with Jesus shares much with the love and labor a gardener places into her soil.  I often have to dig to prepare my heart so that I can grow into stillness or rejoice with illumination.  It takes precious investment of time and requires work, as I surrender to the Father and allow His holy hands to tend the soil of my soul.  His tending is a humbling experience, and it provokes a change in my personal lifestyle, which is only lived by God’s gift of grace.

After walking with Jesus for a number of years, I am finding, more and more, that with the Trinity, quality is much more important than quantity.  Spending hours with Jesus is good, but so much more important is soil surrender - giving my whole self to the hands of my Gardener.  Being relinquished to him.

I'll never forget the time I first heard the word "relinquishment."  I was a young wife and mother and often grew disillusioned with my role as a pastor's wife and as a mother.
According to The Free Dictionary, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/relinquishment, relinquishment means to give up or abandon; to let go; to surrender; and, my favorite, to cease holding.

Relinquishment is the key to walking with Jesus.  It is the path to the Lord's path.  The more I give up of myself, the more I experience peace, hope, faith, love, and all the enduring qualities only he can give.  Relinquishment is abandonment of my own and reception of God's own.

Father, help me to listen with intention, to give less of my voice and hear more of yours; to be less focused on doing and more focused on being; to let you lead me to your word, rather than allowing the selfish desire for knowledge to rule me.   
As a teen, I had an inspirational poster on the wall of my soft pink bedroom.  The poster had a lovely picture of a large, ravishing tree, with the following scripture from Colossians 2.7:
Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him—in simple faith. Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.
Those words from Colossians became the anchor of my young soul.  I meditated on them daily and have never forgotten them, and they are yet my mainstay because of their prolific truth.  I often find myself telling my Gardener, as Simon Peter did long ago, “Where in the world could I go but to you, Jesus?  You are the only One Who has anything worthy to offer me.  You are the only way to eternal life” (John 6.68, my paraphrase).
Father and Creator of life, place your hands into the soil of my soul and create in me a well, wherein my roots will run deep.  Lord, give me grace to yield to your tender care so that real peace will reign in me and real life flow from me.
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” Psalm 42.7, NIV.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mama, Me, & Stretching

...I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

~ 2 Corinthians 12.7-10, The Message

“Oh, Andrea, I can’t; I can’t; it hurts.….”  My mama’s call not only struck chords in my ears, but also bore holes in my heart.”  She was in severe pain, suffering the agony of a broken hip.  I squeezed her hand and told her she could. That she had to.  She had to do as the physical therapists told her or she would not get well.  

Later that day, I spent moments in reflection.  I thought of how my fingers had brushed through Mama's white hair, my lips bent to her ears, and my hand grasped hers so tightly and Mama’s grasped back.  

Progressively, my thoughts journeyed to the season of her fair hands brushing my hair for church and school.  How they touched my forehead with tenderness when my body was fevered.  How she took me to the doctor.  How she made biscuits every morning and took me to piano lessons.  I thought of how she told me I could….

In the stretching days of my youth, Mama was there to hold me. 

In the stretching days of her senior season, I was there to hold her.

The power of holding and helping my own mother created an immense well within me.  Tears easily find their way past that well and into my eyes and down my cheeks. 

As I now sit, touching the computer keys, she is in rehabilitation at a nursing facility.

I am in her house with my husband.  We are in her home.  Alone.  Without Mama.

She has many stretching days ahead of her before she returns to this sweet, small rancher that is surrounded by nature and quiet.  When Mama returns, she will not be the same.  Her separation and stretching will mold her anew, as she adjusts to living alone again.

I am like my mother.  I cry when I’m in pain.  I ache when I am stretched.  I scream when I think it’s just too much for me to handle, when I think, “I can’t.” 

I suppose we are all a bit the same.  In the frailty of our flesh, we cry and resist, whether we are being stretched in the physical or being stretched in the spiritual. 

Physical stretching is felt in the body.  Spiritual stretching is known in the soul and felt in the natural.

I truly do not know a time in my life when I was not being stretched by my Father.  And, so many seasons of stretching have included cries of doubt.  “I can’t, Lord God.”  “It’s just too much.”  “Please stop the suffering.  Stifle the pain.  Cease the Season.” 

And, into the depths of my comfort zone, He then breathes into my ear and soul, “You can “and reminds me of the Spirit-inspired words of the Apostle Paul, that God's strength is perfected in our weakness.

In one of the loveliest pieces of scripture given to us by God, Paul tells the truth about stretching and the key to surviving its agony.  Paul shared deep, godly truth that is hard to hear.  His response to his own stretching, “thorn in the flesh,” was one that challenges me today.  “I will most gladly rejoice in my infirmities….