Thursday, April 17, 2014

Everyday Miracles

There was so much I wanted to write about as the summer begins to take its hold, and I find it far less enjoyable to sit in front of a computer screen for any length of time.  But, this subject was too unformed in my mind; that subject was too in need of better research; those subjects needed me to actually finish the books  I was reading before I could broach them.  Plus, you know, life in all its glory comes crashing in from all sides like the relentless waves – leaving my life a breathless, wild, holy mess! So, what to write, what to write as the rains begin to fall less often and a middle-aged, web-footed Pacific Northwesterner’s fancy turns to thoughts of sun?  Why, I shall write about seeds.
Gardening, like playing guitar or writing blog posts and NaNo novels, is one of those things where my desire far outweighs my talent, but that I cheerfully pursue, nonetheless.  When I see a grand and bountiful garden, something leaps inside my heart.  Perhaps it is the echo of a memory of the Garden of my forefather and mother that brings that sudden stab of joy. To see that immense goodness filling a well-planned and ordered space is to wish to create my own; and so I try year after year.  Some years go better than others, but every garden I’ve ever planted starts in my mind as a stray piece of Eden and ends up a bit of a disappointment. I guess when you set your sights so high, you’re looking for a letdown.   
This year, I am gamely trying again.  I convinced my long-suffering husband (who points out every spring that we live within walking distance of not one, but two major grocery store chains, both of whom are stocked year-round with every imaginable type of produce) that I needed an enclosed raised bed.  The enclosure will serve the dual purposes of insulating seedlings from our chilly spring days, and later keep out the neighborhood deer that feast off of the yearly buffet.  After we had set up the bed, which I will refer to as VegTrug, because that is its name, I stared into the mixture of garden soil and compost that reached, as we had been instructed, to within 2 – 4 cm of the top and felt a thrill of anticipation.  What scrumptious veggies would I harvest in a few months’ time from its fertile reaches? What ought I to plant?
So, it was seed shopping spree time at Lowe’s.  I came home with a veritable cornucopia of possibilities.  Beets, Swiss chard, eggplants, carrots, butternut squash . . . all danced before my eyes, fully grown, ripe for picking, delectably juicy and crunchy.  But right now they were tiny, numerous, blink-and-you-miss-them seeds.  Scratch that.  Right now they were tiny everyday miracles.  And, as I poked and scattered them into the rich soil of my VegTrug, I realized that I most wanted to write about these everyday miracles – the kinds that turn seeds into smorgasbords, acorns into oaks, farmers into poets, fighters into friends, and sinners into saints.
 L.M. Montgomery wrote a trilogy about a girl named Emily Byrd Starr.  In the first book, Emily of New Moon, eleven-year-old Emily experiences “the flash.” “It had always seemed to Emily that she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty.  Between it and herself hung only thing curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside – but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond – only a glimpse – and heard a note of unearthly beauty. . . And always when the flash came to her Emily felt that life was a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty.” When I read those words as a teenager, I understood them without really knowing why I did.  I had always felt, too, that there was a kingdom of wonder just beyond my fingertips.  It surrounded me, called to me, led me gently to itself, though I could neither name it nor express it.  When I came to know Christ, it fell into place.  That “thin curtain” that separated me from the “very near world of wonderful beauty” was torn in two by my Savior, as surely has He rent the veil the terrible Friday so long ago. When I catch those glimpses of the “enchanting realm” nowadays, I know that I have just had the experience of placing one foot momentarily into eternity through His grace and love.  I live on those moments.
The thing about those moments, though, is how grounded they are in the everyday.  A seed is a wonderful miracle – something that, if contemplated long enough, would make any philosopher weak in the knees.  Yet, what could be more deceptively ordinary, more fundamental than a seed?  Reams of information are packed into the tiniest vessel that can lie dormant, inactive, and to all eyes dead, until it meets with sun, soil, and water – then, voila! You have beets!  What an amazing Creator to have thought of that!
An acorn, buried for winter to sustain a squirrel, lost and forgotten, lies under the snow.  The snow melts in spring and gives water to the acorn; it awakes and sends forth roots and stems.  Left alone, it will be an oak tree.  A rodent’s neglected snack may become his great-grand-progeny’s home.  The Father must laugh to see it happen again and again, just as He planned.
A man arises at dawn and labors his days away under sun and clouds and storm.  As he works the land, it gets into his blood; when it gets into his blood, it becomes a part of him; when it is a part of him, he needs to put it into words. We are people of the Word, that sustaining mark of God, whose ever-unfolding revelatory Word writes His redemption on our hearts. We put into words whatever we can, and give a tribute of silence to whatever we cannot.  So, the farmer becomes a poet, caught up in the grand song of life that awoke the stars and formed the mountains.
“Peace, peace,” was the cry, but there is no peace for the two sworn enemies. Their quarrel was commissioned by persons unknown to either.  They fight for God and country.  Yes, even for the same God.  And Christmas comes and falls upon them both, as quietly as the winter snow. “Peace, peace,” the angels sang near Bethlehem, “and goodwill to all men.” And one soldier picks up the old tune and begins to sing.  The other hears and joins in.  Their languages are different; their songs are the same.  They lay down their arms – and, if it is only for a night, at least it is one night where the memory of a Baby’s birth turned fighters into friends.

There is no “burning bush moment” in any of these examples.  (I have always secretly wanted a burning bush to come and tell me what to do.  I say that, though a real encounter like the one on Mt. Horeb would surely leave me singed to the soul.  I do not think I could stand the holy fire like Moses did.) There is no sun standing still in the sky. There is no parting of the Red Sea. There is no water-into-wine, no bodily resurrections, no speaking new life into existence.  There is only the wonder of the everyday; the wonder that permeates everything our Lord touches. He touches us.  And when He does, the foremost so-called everyday miracle occurs: He turns sinners into saints. 
I pray that, even when I am aging and fading from this world and finding both feet straying ever further into eternity and ever more reluctant to return into time, I never forget that first miracle of my life.  Without that transformation, without that piercing, consuming  encounter with Christ almost twenty years ago, I would not even see the miracles all around me.  I feel so sorry for people who do not know the Lord and who might look at my VegTrug full of seeds and say, “Miracle?  What are you talking about?  That’s just science.”  Just science.  Sheesh.  As though all of science were not God’s giant treasure hunt to lead us to greater awe in His astoundingly creative glory! Or for those who cannot see that a farmer who recites poetry that is a paean to the One who first thought of the land that fills his soul is a more complete man than one who composes verse on nothing beyond his own belly-button lint.  Or for a man who might discount one moment of true peace in the midst of war, because war still rages on – not understanding that one moment of true peace is worth a year of a fool’s paradise. Not that I mean to be harsh to anyone. Until I knew Jesus, I might have said the same. Not now, though; not now.  One of the best gifts, of oh-so-many-wondrous gifts of belief, was when He opened my eyes to see that all that lives and breathes does so at His command and for His pleasure in a glorious harmony. There is not one mistake; there is not one forsaken. Then, by His grace, He brings us, sinners like you and me, into the dance.

If you are reading these words, I hope you have a beautiful summer, filled with times of refreshment and renewal.  Hey, I’m feeling generous: I’ll wish the same for you, even if you’re not reading these words!  In this world that truly is “a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty,” I pray that you are blessed by those everyday miracles of seeds and songs and salvation.

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