Unexpected glamour

I went to a wedding today – not as a guest, but to play the piano for the service. I dressed up in a nice skirt and top, tidy shoes, my pearl necklace and a bit of lipstick – quite unusual for me!  I looked quite good, I think!

When I came home, I changed out of my pretty top and skirt, into my casual clothes – I wanted to mow the lawn. I put my nice shoes away and got out the terrible old gardening shoes that have holes in the sides, but are strong enough so I won’t cut off my toes should I run them over!

I mowed the lawn. (Why I did this myself with at least 2 kids at home I’m not sure…)

When I came in after finishing to wash my hands, I caught sight of myself in the mirror.

Did you spot what I forgot to change?

Yes, I was still wearing my pearls and lipstick with my gardening clothes! I was quite struck by the effect – certainly not conventional dress!

I wondered why it seemed significant. Maybe God was trying to tell me that we can find the glamourous among the ordinary – we just have to be open to the possibility.

Have you ever looked closely at the bark of a tree? It’s amazing, so beautiful, so intricately patterend, even if the leaves and fruit might be what people expect to admire.

Have you ever looked really closely at a forget-me-not flower? They are tiny, and intricate, with a miniscule flower of yellow in the middle of the blue. Almost like a millefiori glasswork.

Be open to unexpected glamourous sights, to beauty where it may not be expected. The lined skin of an elderly person’s hand as it clasps yours – the warmth of a smile from a stranger – there are so many. God speaks to us thorugh everything around us – we just need to tune up our listening.

Pink ragwort

My favourite wild flowers

You may have seen these flowers. They are originally from South Africa, and they  seem to be spreading all over the lower North Island. They started appearing in the area I live when the first South African people settled here, bringing with them biltong – thankyou!

There has been a tense relationship with South Africa and New Zealand – when I was 14 the country was divided by a rugby tour from then apartheid-supporting South Africa, and some thought that it was just sport, no problem. Others wanted nothing to do with anything South African.

How times have changed, and many changes have happened in both countries. I often think of those times, and the strong feelings, when I see these flowers. They are for me a symbol of forgiveness, of healing, of reconciliation.

They are spreading all over Wellington, favouring the rocky cliffs where nothing else will grow. They show a tenacity which is admirable. They symbolise beauty in the rocky places.

They also join in the great chorus of wildflowers in the better soil, with wild turnip’s pale yellows, the golden yellow of gorse and broom, deep carmine and white valerian, and white daisies, all against a backdrop of green grasses. Gorgeous!

If forgiveness is part of the wildflower garden, beauty is the result.

Thirst

My soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Ps 143:6)

I was watering my garden today. Spring here in Wellington is often dry – the wind carries away the moisture, and threatened rain is often just clouds. The garden needed watering, not for the established plants, but for the new vegetables that we put in last week, and for the seeds that are just starting to appear – radishes – or are yet to appear – beans.

I was thinking about this scripture – when we need God with such a thirst as the Psalmist has, it may be that somehting new is on the way, somehting delicate. The old things are established and soldier on through the drought – the old habits of prayer or scripture reading, of living your Christian life as you have done for a while, but for something new and thirsty a fresh anointing is needed. Instead of the deep thirst being a sign of feeling God is far away, it could be a sense that something new is about to germinate – a rootlet is pushing through a hard seed-case, and exploring the fertile soil.

When the rain first hits the parched land,baked hard, it often runs off, taking the top layer of soil with it. Is your soul parched like that, so that the Holy Spirit cannot soak in? Or is it cracked, broken, with deep channels which hold onto the water, giving it time to expand the dried-up soil? It is often when we are most aware of our brokenness that we let God soak in the most.

Complicated or complex?

columbine honeywort and daisies

Columbine honeywort and daisies

I picked some flowers from my beautiful spring garden today. There are daisies, honeywort and columbine.I put them in a vase on the table, and sat looking at them really closely with my husband, and marveling at their complexity. A simple daisy flower is really lots of flowers! And the honeywort has leaves that look like petals. Strange. The columbines come in several sorts – the most basic one, that hasn’t been selected by the plant breeders for double petals, is still complicated. There are five petals like tubes, with a green spot on the end, and five others that flex backwards. All with little curvy bits on them. Continue reading

Blackbirds and trust

Blackbirds_3Oct2012

Blackbirds 3 Oct 2012

This is the view from my son’s window – first we saw a nest, then Mama blackbird, then chicks, and then Dad feeding them. I was so surprised that they nested so close to the house- just 4 feet away. I started to think about trust.

These birds must trust the humans if they are prepared to nest so close to us. They must know that we won’t harm them, and that there will be food for them.

If we want people to trust us, and come close to us, they need to know that we won’t harm them. Is this something we do in evangelism? Or are we so keen to get people in the church door and ‘saved’ that we don’t ensure trust is part of the picture? This is what ‘friendship’ evangelism is about – building up relationships before we start to tell the great story of God’s love. Or maybe, building up relationships is how we share God’s love. For many  people these days, finding someone they can trust and rely on is difficult. Families are spread throughout the country, and it’s easy to get isolated.

The church has a reputation in the community, and it’s not a good one. There is a mistrust of the institutional church, because of past abuses, and a sense that the church is just out for money. These are areas that are being dealt with, and having recently been through the discernment process, I know how robust is the testing to see if candidates for ordination are ‘safe’ people.The challenge is, how does the church then re-establish a sense of trust, so that people will want to ‘nest’ close to us, or even with us?

In my garden, I am often digging the soil, in vain attempts to remove dandelions, and make a loose structure to plant something. The blackbirds know that whenever I am doing this, there will be worms and other tasty grubs for them. In our churches, as we turn the soil of our local communities, maybe we expose the food too – the areas of interest and concern, things to think about, thinks to rejoice about, and things to fight against.

I encourage you to look around your ‘garden’, till the soil, and let the birds nest.

The Power and the Glory

Abutilons in my garden, click to enlarge.

This is a photo of one of my favourite plants – abutilon, or Chinese Lantern flower. The orange flowers really glow, and you can see them from a long way away. But there are other flowers in this picture – there is a native shrub, whose name I don’t know, with shaggy insignificant flowers behind each leaf. These other flowers take a bit of looking for, and they’re not very pretty. But do you know what? These scruffy flowers get pollinated, and set seeds in orange berries, which by the way look quite good with the abutilons, but the birds love them! Net result, the seeds are spread everywhere- little shrubs sprouting up all over the garden, and even in the lawn.

It seemed to me that God was speaking to me through these flowers. The showy orange lanterns are all very well, and arrtactive, but they never go anywhere. The humble little ones whose name I don’t even know are the ones which really go places. They are carried everywhere, and grow into persistent woody shrubs. Maybe the sort of celebrities who have very public charity work are like the abutilons. And maybe the sort of people who work quietly away in the background are like the shrubs – their work isn’t showy – it’s very mundane really, as they feed schoolkids, help addicts, care for children, teach Christian Religious Education  and a myriad of other hands-of-Jesus ministries. It’s these ministries that bear fruit! Just as our shrub has lots of berries with seeds that are carried everywhere, so the Christian workers, which should be all Christians will bear fruit that carries, and spread, even if it isn’t obvious in the community.

It’s a bit like the pharisees who give while blowing trumpets, isn’t it?

Sin and convolvulus

I’ve been enjoying getting into that garden, now that spring is finally here! The soil is dark and rich, the weeds aren’t too big to get out, except for that sneaky character convolvulus! I’ve gone all over the raised vegetable bed, removing the thick white roots, but just when I think it’s all gone, I find another bit, right in the middle! It’s always worst by the fenceline, and it’s very easy to blame the neighbours for not attending to their own weeds, but letting them infest my place.

I was looking along the weedy fencelines, and it struck me that sin is like these weeds. It’s easy to spot sin in the middle of the freshly- and frequently- attended vegetable gardens of our life – the parts of our day that come under regular and public attention. But how about around the edges? In the dark corners? In the shadow of the fences? We can blame the neighbours, or those around us, for sinful habits and attitudes sneaking in below the radar, but as Christians we have the responsibility to hold all our life under the scrutiny of God;’s holiness. It’s easy to spot obvious things in other people’s lives that we regards as sin, but how about the attitudes, the judgmentalism, the pride, that can so easily sneak in, take root and become habits of thought, and, worse, of speech?

Next time you’re weeding along the fences and spot those tendrils snaking underneath, think about what could be coming into your character from outside. I have seen the effect of television on my children’s language and speech habits – it’s an outside influence which needs to be weeded. What is there in your life? How about that drink, that turned into three drinks, that happens every day? New Zealand culture is full of excessive alcohol, and it becomes an idol, it makes people behave in ways displeasing to God, and it wastes resources.

 

Weed your garden, not just the obvious bits, but shine the light into the corners.