Slow walk to Refreshing

Antsy…! That was the word! I had stuff to do – projects to start or finish – but wandered around the house dictated to by the demands of existence rather than accepting the invitations of Life. My devotional routine seemed fine. I was keeping up fairly well with the church’s Bible reading project (I had made it to Leviticus, for Heaven’s sake!). I was feeling productive at church, and home felt on fairly good footing; yet, feeling like a starving soul, seated without appetite at a feast, I hungrily scanned a friend’s blog site – ‘Set Apart Warrior‘.

Aliyah wrote winsomely of taking a walk with The Good Shepherd; she kept wanting to climb mountains and ford streams and find dreams. He just wanted her to tarry awhile with Him by gently running brooks and savor His beauty all around her — the profound beauty He liberally wove into the created order, that we daily overlook though our souls ache with the need for a sip of it.

walk in nature1That was it!  I realized that I had not taken a slow walk with the Lord out in Creation in the longest.  The Winter temperatures, the flu, the daily grind, the world, the flesh, the enemy, all conspired to keep me diligent, indoors and dry …physically and in spirit. Alive but not lively, I ached to write but inspiration eluded me so when Aliyah’s blog post showed up in my email I grasped at it in hope.

The child-like voice of her post lured me back to a place of wonder reminding me of days hiking in the foothills of the Blue Mountains with friends, to a place where we paused for food and unashamed worship sessions.  We had tasted of that Beauty and love of the Lord, that source of spiritual vibrancy and were ‘ruined for the ordinary’.  Just like my post-Winter garden needed some aeration, hydration, and fertilization, so my hard-packed soul longed for gentle rains, erupting buds,  birdsong and waving wisps of forsythia to awaken me to the presence of the One who turns Winter to Spring in climes tropical, temperate or frigid.

I needed a walk in the woods.  I purposed to do so first chance but till then I pulled out a poem from the Fall to tide me over, like the last of Winter preserves.  I remembered His Beauty then and anticipated the rejuvenation of His coming reign, in the Spring.

walk in nature2-cropped

I WATCHED THE MORNING KISS THE WOODS

I watched the morning kiss the woods

Dispensing Golden grace

And knew the washing of the Word

That lets me see God’s Face.

Like precious ointment on the head

A-coursing down the beard,

It slowly leached the night-pall-grey

And Mercy’s story mirr’d.

Salvation’s miracle early wrought,

Like earnest: promise paid,

Descending upon Adam’s head,

Before his feet had strayed.

This, God’s Good Work, that saved our souls,

Displayed upon a tree,

That took the curse and drank the night

That Day on Calvary.

The Dawn is His and His alone

Who layers on the gold,

Who paints our dark with Glory’s light

Till Life’s full day is told.

 

“The path of the righteous is like the light at dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the Full Day” (Prov. 4:18)

 

Denise S. Armstrong (early morning, the day after Thanksgiving 2017)

The Danger (and Safety) of Burning Evergreens

IMG_0867    A few years ago, having given in to our nature-loving daughter’s pleas, we once more purchased a natural evergreen for our Christmas tree. Truth is I could hardly wait for the twelve days of Christmas to pass to move the shedding alpine from the living room. Then, in my pragmatic, Jamaican, ‘Tu’n you’ han’ mek fashi’n’ mode (patois for re-purpose and recycle), I thought cutting up and then burning the tree in the fireplace was a perfectly frugal and efficient idea.

     Mercifully, the outdoorsman and the Eagle Scout in the house were quick to put the quabash on that evidently hazardous suggestion. To which I am sure our first-born safety guru gave hearty agreement. They explained that the pine-oil in the needles and branches makes them super flammable & fast burning and that the creatine produced would leave a sticky deposit on the walls of the chimney — a nightmare to clean off etc. So, limbing it and saving the trunk for our Easter Cross, we hauled the bramble off into the woods where our cul-de-sac dead-ended.

     This event came to mind recently for two reasons. The first was the ease with which we now put away our Christmas tree – because it is artificial! – a few quick folds (after removing ornaments of course!) The other was the Bible read-thru journey on which our church has embarked; reflecting in Exodus 3, I have become freshly enamored by Moses’ encounter with God in a bush that burned but that was not consumed. Trying to picture the scene, I have wondered, was it flame-colored like the animated movies and book illustrations portray? Or was it ever…green, though burning with God’s glory, flaming fiery golden, all around it?

     The speaker I heard address the story recently on the radio was not my favorite, as far as style of delivery, but I listened and was blessed to share in his revelation that God did not speak out of that burning bush that was ever…green until Moses turned aside to see.

IMG_0866

     Bushes catching fire in the dry heat of the Judean wilderness was not an uncommon occurrence, he rightly explained. But mercifully, in God’s eternally good providence, Moses was paying enough attention to notice that this one was not being consumed. How long did Moses watch it from the corner of his eyes, I wonder? All day? Half-a-day? How long did it take him to decide that the trouble of securing the sheep prematurely or else of risking leaving them untended for a while was worth taking a closer look at that bush? Again I am filled with gratitude for the persistent, pursuing love of the Divine Trinity who hovered in radiant glory upon that bush until Moses, like a fly to a flame, was drawn irresistibly.

361C9377-7D34-4060-8B8E-C643F6A60914    Except, this was no fatal attraction that ran the risk of crisping a critter, setting a forest aflame or of burning a house to the ground, like my burning evergreen bid threatened to do a few years ago. Rather, it was God’s redeeming love and His holy restraint revealed simultaneously. He was following up on promises made Millennia and centuries before – from Adam and Eve to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and now his progeny – that would have repercussions for the redemption of all who will believe in the Messiah issuing from this people. That Burning Ever…Green was not about saving energy, but saving Mankind from the consuming fire of God’s righteous holiness; not to destroy but to restore fellowship with Himself and secure a return to the sweet communion of Eden. Praise the Lord!

     Despite the trouble of using a live Christmas evergreen, from purchase to disposal, I must admit that like fresh flowers, its fragrance and vibrance add an amazing element of life to Christmas decor. My reflecting on it in the light of Scripture, proved the radio preacher right – turning aside from the daily grind, in faith-filled anticipation of encountering the God who is there, ever seeking our errant hearts, prepares us to experience a foretaste of that Day, while yet here on earth. Elizabeth Browning and Ann Ortlund lyricized about this (the latter inspired by the former):

     Omnipresence

“Oh praise the Lord!

The earth is cramm’d with heaven!

Oh praise the Lord!

And Christian look around!

For ev’ry bush with Fire is flaming!

And ev’ry place you walk is Holy Ground”

Praying a season of constant turning aside to see the Lord, during this first round of Ordinary Time.