How can God love humanity like he does when we are so unlovable?
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”— Ephesians 3:18-19
On an early morning walk this week, a great white heron flew in front of me. I felt the flush of wind from its powerful wingspan—it was that close. I might be misidentifying this magnificent creature, but I do know it was not a color-morphed junior—the thing was gigantic and entirely white, no black legs or darkened bill. I suppose I should have been startled by its sudden presence, but I stood in awe as it glided across my path at eye level and then soared skyward. I could have been envious of the bird for its freedom and fearless flight. Instead, I wondered curiously what the view was like up there over the treelined marsh in this Sweetwater valley of Tennessee.
I grew up mostly (or mostly grew up, haha) on Fidalgo Island in Washington State. I used to hike to a couple special spots just to watch the heron(s) in complete harmony with earth, water, and sky. I’d sit for hours as one would move in stately silence, fish with purposeful patience, pass from complete focused stillness to the majesty of commanding aviation in a blink. Strong birds. Confident loners, I somehow took comfort in watching them. Never before have I seen a white one, though, so this unexpected recent encounter was extra special.
There’s an inclination I have to read symbolism in everything, see a spiritual sign beyond the physical, spot an allegory. Probably stems from my Judeo-Christian background, and this nature is quite strong in me. My sister/BFF says that I walk between two worlds. Because it’s true, my mind and heart were heavy and I was seeking God that morning. Though my feet were firmly plodding forward on the path, my cognizance was somewhere else completely. So now I ask what, exactly, is the Lord saying to me? Herons in Hebrew culture represent long-suffering, wisdom, and protection, are forbidden to be hunted or eaten. Early Christians believed herons shed red tears when under stress and their emblem came to represent Jesus’ agony of sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet somehow there seems to be more here, something else I’m not perceiving.
“The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”—Romans 8:26
Or maybe there wasn’t meaning in that encounter at all. Maybe that moment was just meaningful in that the heron was neat to look at and nothing else hinges there. Maybe I read too much into things. Except, as the week continues to churn, images of the white heron paint my mind in pure flashes and I’m inspired and hope-filled and utter thanks to the Lord. Regardless and always, God is sensitive, compassionate, merciful, and good. I trust him. And I certainly appreciate that he created that standout heron.
Now back to my chips-n-salsa which I also appreciate. You see? Two worlds, lol.
When I touch base with somebody who I’ve earnestly prayed for, or have been praying for his/her specific situation, I tend to have high expectations. I expect to hear that they are flourishing. When I learn otherwise, that is, more challenges and unexplained struggles have arisen, I may not express my instant reaction but I feel disappointed. Immediately, I start questioning God. “What’s going on here, Lord, am I not praying hard enough? You can move mountains if you want to…I’ve asked you to!” What I forget and, due to my dogged nature, what I need reminded of, is that it’s not about me. The reasons for unanswered petitions, or for circumstances to continue on without a royal ironing out, that is, chaos is still reigning for an individual for who I’ve invested prayer, could be numerous. What I’ve noticed is that when God moves, it doesn’t just affect one person or situation. Rather, numerous are affected on multiple levels. Could be a timing issue, could be a variation in an intended path. Might be a spiritual blockage like an unaddressed grudge, could be that somebody else unforeseen needs to come into the fold and be touched through the condition. James 5:16 tells us, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
As I, feeling deflated, dwelled on these considerations, I decided I needed some fresh air. Determined to take a walk, I opened the door to sudden bad weather. “Wha? When did this storm move in? It was nice just thirty minutes ago!” Then I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me, saying to my spirit along the lines of, “What I give you when I give it is sufficient to weather the storm. I am your GPS. I am your weather app. But you cannot control the storm. I do.”
Gulp. Fair enough. Yes, I tend to want to control situations. And yes, I am a human with huge error, relentlessly stubborn, forgetful, and often weak. I needed the recap: God is sovereign. So, when things transpire differently than what I personally desire, I am reminded that prayer is a tool and a precious gift. It’s also a form of obedience. That’s right, I don’t control diddly-squat. And right now, I’m relieved. Right now, I’d hate to think how things would indeed turn out if I had the control, with my shortsightedness…can you imagine? *cringe*
God is sovereign. Hurrah for that!
Wouldn’t it be neat whenever we sense a need for renovation to do a flip? I’m not speaking in terms of real estate. Sometimes I think I’d like to trade any bad, static experiences in life for good, seeking a fresh perspective. A few words sweep into my mind for how to get there. “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” (Romans 12:2) and, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” (Romans 8:28). The motivation of flipping negatives for positives rather than flipping out holds a more promising outcome, for sure. On the other hand, the ability to appreciate the good things is oft times amplified by having encountered the bad. Yin and yang, as many would say. #iamonlyhuman
Several times, recently, I’ve been asked: “Why not share some pictures of your son on Facebook?” While I had in the past and still might do so on an infrequent occasion, I simply don’t wish to share my daily life with the entire world. To be a “friend” on social media means that we could have some things in common, might follow each other due to career paths, special interest groups, etc. But truth be told, a small percentage are people I truly know, are related to, or trust with my most precious treasure, my family.
I love this life, the diverse concepts, and the interesting people in it. It’s fun to connect! We can learn a thing or two about and from each other. But I’m not going to splatter much news on the internet about my family, or when I or my son sneezes.
Here’s something that humorously puts it into perspective. A friend shared the following with me, so I’m sharing it with you in the rare case you haven’t already seen it. Things posted on social media have a way of circulating in ways of which you might not even be aware – so, be wary! I’ve discovered some of my own author profile pictures having been unknowingly copied and used for certain non-writing advertising sites in other countries. (Regarding our children, we should be especially vigilant). So here I am sharing this popular short passage for which I don’t even know whom to give proper credit. I thank the “nameless” author for proving my point.
MAKING FRIENDS OUTSIDE of FACEBOOK
I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles. So every day, I go along the street and tell passersby what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before, and what I will do after; I give them pictures of my family, my dog and me gardening and spending time in my pool. I also listen to their conversations and I tell them I love them. AND IT WORKS! I already have 3 people following me: 2 police officers and a psychiatrist!
I like being still. I like solitude. But I like them on my own terms. Having finished a two week mandatory rest due to a back injury I couldn't decide which was worse, the pain or the fixed inactivity. Drove “restless me” a bit crazy.
Ergonomics a “back” factor as well, the suggestion to sit balanced on an exercise ball for limited computer sessions to write and meet freelancing deadlines made me feel strangely disconnected. What kind of circus is this?
Fortunate in that I had managed to remain injury free throughout my previous years of dance, this whole thing I’m experiencing now, a sprain stemmed from a developed condition prevalent among older dancers, is weird.
My nature is to plow into interests rather than ease. When I had recently decided to return to dance I plowed. When will I become a graduate of the nagging KISS principle? Now I face several months of therapy before I can venture back to dance activities (harrumph). In a fit of rebellion I had wanted to deny the back condition, plug my fingers into my ears and sing, “LaLaLa-I-Can’t-Hear-You-LaLaLa.” Except, physical stipulations speak louder; my body won’t allow the revolt. What I’m learning here – what I've had to learn before – is that there are periods in life when one must exercise patience. Not only exercise but embrace. There is beauty in being still, but you have to truly be still – mind, body, spirit – to perceive it.
“Adopt the pace of nature; patience is her virtue.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Be still, and know that I am God.”—Psalm 46:10
I grew up in a seaside village of the Pacific Northwest. It’s a place that I adore, a region endearing to my heart. While I toured the world, I always returned to what I call “home.” But I've been living away now for a long time. Seems I've been trying to get back, relocate, forever. Even visits don’t come as often as they should, and I miss my family and friends I grew up with, a concentration of the few people I trust in life.
Often, I catch myself daydreaming of being a stone’s throw away to longtime loved ones once again, never missing birthdays or holidays. Island living: residing in a cottage tucked away somewhere in a village that serves as a quiet refuge for deep thinkers. But when it’s time to come out of hiding and pay respect to society, a short stroll to the artsy town’s main street would do it. Donning a windbreaker, smelling the salt in the air, the seaweed, fish, and creosote, I’d take a brisk jaunt down the wharf to have coffee (where everybody knows your name) and reclaim my small-town-girl identity.
I’d comb the beach until an extended wave catches me by surprise, then I’d welcome it as it caresses my ankles with frigid indigo laps. Eat plump berries from the roadside stands, smiling at the stains left on my fingers. Relish the rugged outdoors that furnishes a person with a sense of hardiness and satisfaction. Only a phone call joins family and friends on chilly days in rooms made warm by boisterous laughter. I want it all back, all of us together again. It could not be beat, my little daytime fantasy.
Several times now, I've had to cancel flights home by unforeseen circumstances. This week I should have departed for the Seattle airport. Instead of filling the role as guest to family I’m visitor to disappointment. But then it dawned on me, an epiphany. In a blink, nine years have passed while residing in the Southeast. Where did the time go? Has it really been that long? I realized how much I've come to anticipate the bloom of dogwoods, fragrant hanging honeysuckle, and the vibrant and unruly kudzu. Okra prepared in any fashion. Red cardinals and mourning doves mingling daily. Tepid humidity that makes one’s skin glow. Symphonic storms, labyrinth of tributaries, low-lying hills and curving roads. I've recently reentered the arts realm and have networked with several dancers and dance companies. Familiarity makes one feel less a stranger. I've made new friends to trust. Besides all of that, my son was born and raised here. This is home to him. I've come to realize that East Tennessee has become home for me, too.
Nothing compares to being with or near family, nor can anything replace that. I don’t have extended family here in Knoxville and that makes me sad. But circumstances have played out making East Tennessee home – a home for which my heart has opened…a region I’m in love with, proud of, and if ever a trip away, eager to return to its embrace.
“You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” ~ Jan Glidewell
“One must simply take the days of their lives as they happen. If you spend time worrying over what is to come, which may or may not happen, then you will only be wasting precious days you will wish in the future you could have cherished a bit longer.” ~ R.J. Gonzales, Mundahlia
At times I've been asked why I dream and word-paint so much in metaphorical pictures. It’s the language I've known since I can remember! In some situations, times, or events, dreams are the only thing a person has, until “I have always been” knocks at your heart’s door with the proclamation, “I am here, seek no longer.” Open that door and things can happen.
There’s a saying, hope deferred makes the heart ache. Be it from a disappointing reality, a lost search for a part of one’s soul, an unfulfilled goal, or an indirect path.
I’m a whimsical dreamer and forever will I be. Because of hope. Because a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12)
My son and I stopped at the side of the road, hopped out of the car to see to a goat entangled in the wire fencing of its pasture. As I worked its horns and legs out of the mesh, we seemed to draw a small crowd - a few folks driving by, some who had been working in nearby yards.
A few minutes passed when my son questioned me about why people just stood there and weren’t offering to help us. I suppose I could have asked, but I was too focused on keeping my fingers from getting smashed before the goat decided to trust us. I muttered a quick, “I don’t know,” and went about business, finally freeing the animal from the fence.
Afterward, my son said, “Mommy, do you think God was pleased that we helped the goat?”
“Yes, son, I think God was pleased.” I held back my reflection on our little crowd of gawkers though. Really, the only thing missing was someone handing out popcorn and toothpicks so the spectators had something to keep their hands busy.
In that situation a goat one-upped people, for even the animal turned around and bleated what seemed like, “M-m-m-m-m-any thanks!” before it frolicked away and rejoined its herd.
I have a bleeding compassion for animals. I have a bleeding compassion for people, too. Yet I felt disappointed in humans at that moment. Animals disappoint less often. Stupid goat.
Seeing eye-to-eye with my old goat, Piper, before turning him out to pasture.