Friday, August 27, 2010

Life Imitates Art

God creates art through nature. We as humans try to recreate that art with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and buildings. But no matter what colors we brush across our canvas, we are simply imitating God’s creation in nature.

I believe there’s a lesson for us in nature.

Trees are just one example. These magnificent giants have a rich history embedded with human tradition. The Bible talks of the mustard seed that blossoms into a tree, Jesus mentions Nathaniel being born under a fig tree, and then there is the troubling tree which Jonas sat under which withered away.

Loreena McKennitt has written many songs with the symbolism of trees including All Soul’s Night and Ancient Pines. Tolkien included talking, feeling trees in his Lord of the Ring’s classics.

I’m beginning to see how life is reflected in trees.

Saplings reflect man’s desire to start new. There’s so much promise in a new tree. There’s hope. It’s almost as if the tree is saying, “I’m just starting, but someday I will be great. I will stand tall.”

As trees grow their tender bark turns rough and cracks to deal with the harsh realities of nature. The growing tree says, “I’ve grown accustomed to these conditions and I’ve acclimated.”

Then there are the mature trees of many shapes and varieties and they all have stories to tell.

There’s the tree who’s grown in age and wisdom. Their branches reach tall and they have sturdy trunks. “I’ve lived well,” they say.

Then there are the trees that show emotion. Looking at how their branches reach out, they embrace the trees next to them, dancing in the breezes of the day. It’s almost as if they are saying, “Ah, I have loved well!”

But not all trees are so lucky. There are some that wither and die from disease just as humans. There are some that do not receive the nutrients that help them grow. Though they fight to survive, their trunks, branches and leaves reveal their battered existence.

Then there are my heroes. These trees grow tall and strong and they experience life in all its glory and in all its pain. They feel the joy and warmth of the sun, and the harshness of the bitter winters. But they survive and they live well. These trees have made adjustments.

I hope to be counted someday among these giants. I hope that I can say, “Life showed me what it had, and I made adjustments.”

(Note: this unusual tree is the same tree as shown in the top picture, it's just a different angle. No different for people...some adjustments you can't see unless you see the person from a different angle!)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Life of the Seed

My latest harvest has been plums, juicy, sweet plums! The flesh of the fruit peels right off, leaving only the small pit which inside contains an even smaller seed.

I start out slow and taper off.

I’ve been listening to a song in church for quite a while and though I understood the words and their meaning, it didn’t hit me until yesterday how intertwined we are with nature.

The lyrics to the song I am thinking of goes as follows:

“Unless a grain of wheat shall fall upon the ground and die, it remains but a single grain with no life.” (Bernadette Farrell) It’s a paraphrase of John 12:24.

Until now, I’ve considered that I must die to self in order to live. That’s how I’ve viewed those words.

Now I realize that it’s saying much more. Now I get it!

God has provided each of us with a seed of Him. Unless we nourish that seed by dying to self, we can’t be fruitful to others. We are like a gong in the night if we only seek life only for ourselves. But if we give our lives for others, that one grain grows and produces an entire head of wheat!

I’ve always enjoyed service to others in whatever fashion it comes. And I know that sowing those seeds of joy help others understand the greatness of our Lord. But it never occurred to me that I have no life unless I engage in service, that I cannot be truly Christian until I spread the love of God to others and they in turn love Him. As a single grain, I can bear great fruit because in turn they bear great fruit and it continues to multiply.

Fruit trees are an even greater example. One little seed gives birth to a seedling, then sapling, then tree. If nurtured, that tree will produce for years! It doesn’t have to be the “one and done” concept. If we nurture our lives with the Truth of the Lord, we can produce for many years!

So don’t hide in your pit! Open up, let the seed be revealed and plant it in rich soil. Water with prayer and let it grow!

This picture is from a two-in-one plum tree I have in my yard. Yes! It’s grafted so there are two types of plums on one tree. It’s sweet!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Missing Words of Life

It's highly unusual that I post twice in one week, but I had something to share and needed your help.

The other day, I witnessed a mother screeching through a soccer field parking lot, not following the rules, but barreling through the parking spaces in an effort to get her daughter to the field on time. I could hear her screaming at her daughter and simply not paying attention to anything else around her. How did I see it? She almost rammed into the side of my van as she passed as well as almost hit a teenage girl making her way from the parking lot to the fields.

I dropped off my daughter (close to the fields) and then decided to proceed to see if I could find the “scary mom.” As I drove through the parking lot, I considered how I would address the woman once I caught up with her.

As God would have it, she had parked and scurried out of her car. I watched as she crossed the bridge out of sight.

The question still haunts me, how would I have addressed the situation? This is how I imagined the conversation might go:

Me: Did you know that you almost hit a young girl back there?
SM (Scary Mom): No. (OR) I didn’t come close to her.
Me: Why were you unable to follow the arrows and make your way through the parking lot like the rest of traffic?
SM: We were late and there weren’t that many cars. What is your problem?
Me: You!

I’m sure it would have spiraled from there.

Today, my husband and daughter were talking about the concept of self-esteem and how the world has twisted the idea of self-esteem. Society tells us (at least in this privileged American value system) that we are special. Psychologists have noted the increased rate of suicide and problems like anorexia, bulimia, self mutilation and drugs. They see there is a problem (as do all of us), and envision the solution as low self-esteem.

So while the world tells us that we deserve all we can get and that we are special, it has left out the most important factor of all. Why we are special.

We are special because we are created in the image of God and because He has created us to be special. Just as there are those who believe that we need to rid our monetary notes and coins of “In God We Trust,” as a separation of church and state, our societal system wants to rid our conscience by leaving God out of our self-esteem.

We water plants to nurture them to grow. But if we don’t feed them with nutrients from rich soil or fertilizer, we run the risk of not seeing a fruitful harvest.

It is no different with human beings. If we don’t feed the soul with Truth, we will not be fruitful either. We need to amend the self-esteem phrase to say, “You are special and important to God. You are made in His image.” Without the addition of God, the phrase, “You are special” rings hollow.

Why is this important? When we consider that Someone Eternal loves us, then we begin to foster the idea that others are special as well. We look outside ourselves and realize that everyone is made in God’s image and that nature itself comes from a loving Creator. We begin to treat others with respect. Of course the next step is that we consider nature as a gift from God as well. We can then make the transformation from those who care about the environment to stewards of the earth. The world then becomes an avalanche of respect instead of a cesspool of hate and disdain.

So what would I say to that mother after reflecting on this?

Me: “Did you know that you are as special to the world as the young girl you almost ran over?”

How can I improve on that statement? I would love to hear your respectful answers.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Art of the Green Bean

Today I picked seven gallon bags of green beans from our garden. I love the fresh summer produce!

Since we didn’t get our garden in until later this summer, we’re just receiving the first fruits. These are the best. The plants are still young and the beans are tender.

As the summer progresses however, the beans change too. They are still tasty but you have to pick them before they grow too large; otherwise they’re a little tough. Also, as the plant starts to mature, the bean size and shape change. Instead of the smooth long thin bean, most of the beans have a variety of shapes. Some bulge at the end and remain skinny at the stem, while others are formed well except for a scrawny part in the middle.

I’ve always wondered why this is and what I can do to prevent it. Then it hit me today. Once again nature mirrors our human condition.

When we are young, we are strong and lean and nothing can stop us. As we age, we tend to bulge in the middle or sag in other places. When we are young, we are idealistic about ourselves and others. Age however, changes us too. We become pessimistic, we doubt our fellow man and we typically become jaded by life experiences.

I can’t help but wonder if my bean plants are a gift from God to remind me to remain tender and strong. I can’t help but think they are a gentle reminder of what happens to us when we take life too seriously or engage in experiences that are not good for us.

So the next time you eat a green bean, know that not only has God provided you with a nutritional supplement for your body, but a spiritual reminder that life should not always be too serious and we cannot allow ourselves to become jaded by everyday events.