It seems God created this world with the capacity for healing built into it.
I remember Kiki, my pediatrician friend, saying that she almost enjoyed it when she got a cut or other minor injury on a finger, because watching it heal was such a wonder. I took this statement from Kiki with a grain of salt. She, of course, doesn’t desire the hurts that come from random accidents and afflictions of this life.
When the hail storm hit in July, I did not enjoy seeing the near-golf ball size hail bombard our home and trees and gardens. In late July, when our gardens were at their lushest—when trees throughout town, flowers in front yards, fruits and vegetables in gardens, crops in the fields were flourishing—came a hard-hitting, hurling from the sky, storm of hail that broke, battered, tore, ripped. It only lasted a few minutes. But it left roofs with holes, windows cracked, siding pocked, bee hives panicked, birds injured, crops destroyed, gardens sad-looking.
Our gardens give us (my husband and me) pleasure. We love to share their beauty and bounty with others. So, in my disappointment over the storm’s devastation, for a few days emotional storm clouds threatened to descend into my soul.
Why, God? What’s the use of planting and tending and making beauty, if destruction can hit any time?
I know people who have weathered many storms—both storms of nature and stormy relationships. Some have given up or have chosen to play it safe in one way or another. Cut down the trees in their yard. Take out gardens and put in rocks. Choose to distance themselves from family and friends. And I’m sometimes tempted to react this way to life’s troubles and conflicts.
But I have been learning more and more to know God as Love. He doesn’t cause evil or bad things. He is not up there somewhere, angry and vindictive, choosing to send hail on some people and gentle showers on others, then watching to see our reactions.
I recently read the book, Does God Always Get What God Wants? by Tim Reddish. He writes: “The whole Godhead suffers to bring shalom to all of creation… To love our suffering sinful world is to suffer…. The one who does not see God’s suffering does not see his love. God is suffering love…. [However,] God doesn’t let suffering have the last word. Instead, God responds to every situation in ways that promote growth and healing.”
God is, always and everywhere, with us, rejoicing with us and suffering with us.
With that truth on my mind, I took advantage of a quiet morning to spend time in contemplative prayer. And there I regained a sense of help and hope.
I have found that contemplation often clears the way to action.
I put on my sun hat and garden gloves, took clippers and went out into my corner flower garden. I began cleaning up, clipping away broken, spent, bent branches and knocked-down leaves, twigs, and flowers. And as I did, with each clip, I said, “I choose hope.” “I choose love.” “I choose beauty.” “I choose to suffer with.” I choose to enter into even the suffering of nature. (We are in this life together, after all.) I choose to cooperate with God to bring order and beauty out of brokenness and chaos, to encourage hope, light, and healing. To expect renewal and new possibilities. I decided to try rooting some of the broken plant parts. I deadheaded to encourage new blooms. I noticed the bees were making the best of things, too, extracting juice from hail-broken rhubarb stalks. Perhaps they would process it into honey.
I will join nature in its response to our God’s ever-creating and re-creating presence. I will stay engaged, by God’s grace, open to His constant working to bring beauty and goodness and newness out of pain and loss and scars…to increase Shalom.
I grieve the losses, the hurts, the scars; but like my friend Kiki, amazed at watching her finger heal, I choose to embrace hopeful wonder.
May God’s kingdom come.
We look down on Agate Beach before descending the steep, winding trail at Patrick’s Point in Northern California.
On the pebbly-sand beach as the fog clears and tide ebbs.
Larry searches for agates in the sand.
One of my happy places, finding semi-precious, polished-by-the-waves agates glowing in the sand.
See any agates among these pebbles?
Some agates found through the years and polished in a rock tumbler.
Looking for agates on the beach is what it’s like for me, as a poet, to dig into my heart and come up with poems shaped by experiences and observations.
And this is what it’s like for me as a publisher to discover stand-out poets and their glowing poetry to share with our readers. So far, we have searched for, found, and polished a few collections of gems, which you can discover at Agates Poetry.
As we say, as
we sing, Glory to
the King almighty.
Let us sing, let
us say Christ
has risen from
the grave! The
Lord is great,
the Lord is
He forgave us
of our sins!!
—Written by one of my granddaughters (age 10 or 11 at the time) during an Easter Sunday church service as we celebrated Christ’s resurrection. I found this joyful verse written on the back of a bulletin I brought home in my purse. She gave me permission to share it but asked to remain anonymous. This child’s spontaneous expression of faith inspires me anew to praise the One who is risen indeed!
An unseasonably warm day here in Colorado yesterday prompted my husband and me to go out birding. We took our nature-loving granddaughter with us. We drove toward the mountains west of us, into a little canyon formed by a ridge along which a small creek flows, where an American Woodcock has been spotted (a common bird in some states but rare in Colorado).
Our granddaughter suddenly exclaimed, “There’s a rainbow cloud. I love rainbow clouds.”
I looked out the car window, and sure enough, all the colors of the rainbow were displayed in this cloud against a blue sky. I’ve never seen such a cloud in my life. Sometimes at dusk the Colordado sky is rimmed all around with clouds glowing orange and pink. This was about 2:45 p.m., though—not even close to sunset. The day was sunny, warm (for February), and dry. Yet this one, lone cloud contained a rainbow. We quickly and excitedly took pictures with our phones.
The three of us shared a moment of awe and wonder.
The past week I had been reading an old book by the Scottish writer and minister, George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel. In it, he quoted the poem by William Wordsworth that begins,
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home…
Then MacDonald quoted Henry Vaughn’s poem:
Happy those early days, when I
Shined in my angel-infancy!
Before I understood this place….
And looking back—at that short space—
Could see a glimpse of His bright face;
When on some gilded cloud, or flower
My gazing soul would dwell an hour
And in those weaker glories spy
Some shadows of eternity;
From God, who is our home
That sense of wonder that is part of childhood, that makes children spiritually sensitive, and that perhaps is a trailing cloud of the glory from which we each came when God created us a living soul, born into this world … I want to nurture this sense of wonder and awe as I become older. I want to see the rainbow clouds when they appear so briefly in the sky. I want to see and wonder at a little bird that surprisingly shows up in cold Colorado in February to forage along a tiny, protected, flowing stream full of watercress and fallen cottonwood leaves before flying on to its faraway spring destination.
George MacDonald wrote, “To cease to wonder is to fall plumb-down from the childlike to the commonplace—the most undivine of all moods intellectual. Our nature can never be at home among things that are not wonderful to us.”
Are you settling in to dormancy?
In November I’m reminded of nature’s cycles of dormancy and productivity. Here in Colorado, many trees have lost their leaves. Grass is gradually going dormant and turning brown.
Trees and shrubs have produced seed pods and cones; flower heads have released seeds that may sprout and surprise us in the garden next spring. Pumpkins have been cut open and seeds scooped out and roasted.
Author / scientist Carol O’Casey unwraps the wonder of seeds—using biology, literature, personal experience, and scripture—and applies this to the believer’s life of faith. In her book, Unwrapping Wonder, she writes, “Often times, in order for us to blossom into the abundant life God has in store for us, we must accept our own spiritual brokenness—just as germination requires the seed coat to be broken.”
Don’t settle into dormancy and stay there.
“Are you lacking the life-giving water necessary to initiate the germination process? Do you long for an abundant, seed-coat-busting life? Abandon your dry and routine life to [God]. Risk heat. Risk exposure. Risk growth. And take heart. Jesus tells us, ‘Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds’ (John 12:24).
Even during the dormant season of winter, life is waiting in the seeds. Some plants will sprout surprisingly early, as soon as daylight hours start increasing. Meanwhile, wait in hope and expectancy.
“Allow God to unleash his power in your life. Dream big. Grow great.” Be ready to “sprout where you are planted. And live. Abundantly.”¹
1. The quotations above are taken from the book, Unwrapping Wonder: Finding Hope in the Gift of Nature by Carol O’Casey.
Credit for photo of seed capsules of Strelitzia nicolai: Tatters/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/62938898@N00/4745843554
I’m raking leaves and raking leaves,
scrape, scrape, scraping leaves;
reds and oranges, greens and yellows,
all the crispy, crunchy fellows
in soft piles under the big
Leaves are falling all around me,
on my head, before, behind me,
making mockery of my raking,
all my nice green lawn o’ertaking.
It’s a leafy, leafy world
as the trees their glory hurl.
Oh, I need a vacuum sweeper
or a giant tree-leaf eater.
(Written a number of years ago before our neighborhood had leaf blowers. Extracted here from the book, Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems)
Photo © Can Stock Photo, BackyardProduct
“Are you hungry for a life that is more than simple existence, for something to give you hope, for surprises bathed in an eternal aura? Do you long for fellow travelers, for genuine community, a place where you can tell your story and listen to others? With whom you can share life and experience mission?”
So begins the book ON KITTEN CREEK: Searching for the Sacred by Nancy Swihart
God seems to make sacred the places where true Christian fellowship and community happen.
Inspired by Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s L’Abri center in Switzerland, Nancy Swihart and her husband dreamed of starting something similar in America, where people could come to learn about and experience—away from their usual distractions—”the God who is there.”
When the Swiharts left their thriving ministries, that were full of “promise” in Southern California and moved to a rustic, old 160-acre farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas, a missional center developed that came to be known as “Wellspring.” This loosely formed, and constantly evolving and renewing fellowship of folks experienced true, transformational community. Through the past thirty years, thousands of people of all ages have benefited from what Wellspring has offered in sacramental, creative, loving, and edifying ways.
“Nancy Swihart’s On Kitten Creek is an uplifting and thoughtful read. It will minister to your spirit and move you to give thanks for life’s simple gifts and cause you to reflect deeply about your life, as it has prompted me.” –Ken Canfield PhD., Founder National Center for Fathering; President, National Association for Grandparenting
“Let Nancy give you glimpses of His handiwork among us. Be inspired to look for sacred connections and creative opportunities waiting to surprise you within what may seem mundane in your own life.” –Kay Bascom, Author, Teacher, Missionary, and Conference Speaker
“A look over-the-shoulder and through-the-heart of someone with much to teach every one of us.” –Steven Garber, Principal of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture; author of Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good
• exalt Christ as Savior and Lord, and know God as Creator, Father, and Redeemer-King.
• witness to His presence and work in creation, and in our world today.
• encourage believers in a mind-set and heart experience of joyful faith and obedience.
• provide practical guidance for developing a life of health and wholeness.
• through the power of story, depict grace to a postmodern world.
Nancy practices listening prayer, gives of herself in hospitality, has searched for and found the sacred in her daily life, and has embraced mystery in the mundane—while caring for farm animals, taking prayer walks on the farm trails, hosting ministry events in the barn, or teaching at a Christian college and giving hospitality to students. Active in local churches, schools, and wider ministries, the Swiharts and their friends together have dreamed, laughed, cried, celebrated, served and shared the life of Christ creatively in ways we all long for.
Let Nancy inspire you to embrace the story that God is writing in your own life!
Amazon currently has the price discounted from $13.49 to $8.83. It’s also available in Kindle and Nook.
Here’s a picture of the Wellspring barn (that is on the book cover) in more recent years undergoing a remodel:
Nancy with two farm animals, including “Donk” who is in the book.
Nancy with friends at her book-signing in the barn yesterday.
A beautiful tower of books:
(Thanks to Nancy Swihart and Terri Gasser for the photos.)
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During the month of April we are Celebrating:
- National Poetry Month
- and Spring!
Take time to experience, appreciate, and meditate on Re-awakenings and Renewal:
- in Nature all around us;
- in our Relationships to God and each other;
- of our Spiritual Life and Eternal Hope.
Reading inspirational poems can help you focus, “be still and know.”