July 26, 2013

We get to do the watering!


Hot weather is wonderful for a garden as long as the gardener keeps up the watering.  I was out in the garden before breakfast this morning making sure the tomatoes got their water, and peeking through the zucchini jungle for more offspring.  Oh no!  2 going on 4 more!  Watering is one of those unrelenting chores.  It’s kind of a peaceful operation, if you’re not in a hurry to do anything but watch water be absorbed into thirsty dirt!  Soaker hoses and drip systems are great inventions.  Unfortunately I did not make sufficient use of these this year so… there is watering to be done, unendingly.

I could give it up I suppose, but what’s sadder than the sight of a dead plant, especially when you know it was due to your own neglect.  I have a couple planters even now the sight of which is a reproach; they got forgotten while we were away enjoying our carefree cycling holiday with nary a thought of home, or parched plants…My last minute watering instructions did not include the window box full of  once thriving thyme and oregano plants…nor the carefree purple alyssum blooming their hearts out on the front steps.  Sigh.  Watering is important, non-negotiable.

But watering is not the glory of gardening—it’s just the brainless part that seems to make it work.  The  real wonder is the way things grow.  Nasturtiums rise from forgotten seeds and tumble all about in vivid yellows and oranges.  Zucchini kick in high gear when the sun shines hot.  Tomatoes that grew from teensy weensy seedlings coddled indoors when summer was yet a dream now reforest the greenhouse in great green sprawling masses… Well might the nonsensical Mother Goose Rhyme ask: “How does your garden grow?”.  Can you explain it?  I can plant seeds. I can apply water.  But I cannot bring out the sun and I cannot cause a plant to instinctively rise up toward it and put forth leaves and flower and fruit.  This is the wonder that keeps me in the garden prowling about to inspect the latest bit of growth.  This is the wonder that keeps me watering.

And no wonder I Corinthians 3:7 caught my eye this week: “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”  The statement is made to quell the clamoring competition over which prestigious personage one should follow.  ( I follow Paul.  Well, I follow Apollos. Oh yeah, well I follow Christ…) Paul goes on to say that both the planter and waterer will be rewarded for their work-- in this particular case, Paul and Apollos, the church planters in Corinth,  but that they are not the main honchos.  However, get this, they are God’s fellow workers!  Isn’t that a neat picture?! What a privilege.  So what if we only get to plant seeds or do some mundane watering, God considers us his fellow gardeners!  He’s at work giving life to those seeds and making those watered shoots spring up and produce fruit, he only tasks us with the simple stuff:  plant the seed I have provided and water it well….

I wonder what that looks like?  In this context it would seem the seed is the Word of God and particularly, the Gospel. Paul’s mission was to take the Gospel where it had not yet been heard.  The watering, at least in Apollos’ case was about teaching and defending the truth against naysayers and in so doing bringing great encouragement to the believers (see: Acts 18:24-28).  In both cases these were tasks for which these men were gifted and to which they were called.  My planting and watering may look different than theirs.  I’m no skilled orator.  Nor am I a church planter.  But each of us is gifted with something to be used in God’s garden as we work alongside Him making His garden grow.  This is a wonder and a privilege.  I will gladly hold the hose if it lets me be up close to see things growing in that wonderful way only God can bring about.  I’m reminded too that holding hoses and watching water sink into dry dirt may not be glamorous and the results may not be seen straightway, but even in the mundane, I am called God’s fellow worker and that’s amazing!

Blessings on you as you ‘garden’ with Him.  Keep the water flowing and watch what God will do!


“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,  that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—  even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—  so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,  who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  I Cor. 1:4-9

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Gal.6:9

July 20, 2013

He leadeth me, still.

It’s like I’ve come to a fork in the road. There’s no going straight ahead, no going on just like always. Life is changing, whether I like it or not, and demands that I get my bearings!

Rachel turned 18 this week and took off on a camping trip to celebrate.  How empty the house seemed.  How full of minutes to spend doing something, anything! It’s not that there aren’t projects to do. I spent hours fabricating a custom Kindle cover  Smile.  And there are books to read, and gardens to water and meals to fix but I’m not yet accustomed to the freedom to do anything whenever without interruption.  I’ve got to get re-oriented here.  Make some decisions.  Formulate a plan of action.  Set some goals.  Figure out my purpose in life!

But it’s more than that, this fork in the road has everything to do with attitude.  Will I embrace the next stage of life with joy and with gratitude or with mully-grubbing reluctance, dragging my feet as if it would help time go backwards-- back to the ‘good old days’ when we were young, and busy, and so surrounded by family that there was little question of our purpose in life!

Yes, there are perceived losses.  My eyes strain easily.  My body creaks more than it did at twenty.  My ‘children’ are nowhere to be seen—they’ve morphed into independent adults. My days are uncharted. Yes, I feel a little lost some days, especially when I scan the horizon in an effort to imagine what’s up ahead. But I have a choice how I proceed.  Whining or trusting.  One way leads to life, of the eternal sort. The other just to crotchety old age.

I sat one morning reflecting on these things and I thought of Jim’s mom, now experiencing Glory.  She was very skilled and talented with her hands. She sewed Jim’s wedding suit, complete with pin-tucked shirt.  She created endlessly—knitting, crocheting, making memory albums, crafting with whatever resources were at hand.  Their house was full of the raw materials of her arts—books, machines, yarn and fabric…And then she began developing macular degeneration. And she was diagnosed with a terminal illness that drained her energy and often caused her pain.  One by one, all the things she loved best to do were taken from her.  But as her eyesight dimmed and so many of her possessions became useless to her, her spirit grew strong.  She consciously and conspicuously trusted her Creator with her incapacities and with her days.  She trusted that God’s purposes for her were good.

She got an audio version of the Bible.  She phoned and asked about the kids so she would know how to pray…and she found she had extra time to pray.  She aged gracefully, gratefully, self-effacingly.  She took the fork that leads to eternal life, this way that shines brighter as the physical grows feebler.  I thought of her, a witness gone before and knew the fork in the road I want to be on.

It will necessitate embracing a new normal, stepping confidently into change without a constant looking back at perceived loss. (Is anything really loss in view of God’s eternal purposes? Phil.3:8) It is a walk by faith, willing to believe that God’s purposes override my self serving ones.  He crafts all the days of my life to shape me into a reflection of Himself. This is His purpose for me.  His glory is the end in view, not my sense of temporal comfort or significance. 

And what a relief to know that Jesus will shepherd me through the changes.  The Lord is my shepherd still.  The antiquated words of that old hymn ring in my mind:  “He leadeth me, O blessed thought, O words with heav’nly comfort fraught…”.  [Do click here for a stirring acapella version of this good hymn]  He leads me.  I am not standing here at this junction on my own.  I don’t have to chart my course, or figure out my purpose; He’s got it laid out.  I need only to hang close to Him and He will guide me in the execution of this fork in the road, for His glory.  This is such a relief.

After all, though my life may seem to be undergoing change at an alarming rate, His purpose hasn’t changed from the beginning of time. It still stands—to bring all things together in Christ,and to conform each of us to Jesus’ image!  And His mercy and His grace have not grown thin.  Nor has the modus operandi for me changed.  It’s still by faith I must proceed.  Still walking with Him into a future I cannot see.   Hasn’t this always been the case? 

He leadeth me, O blessèd thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.  --Jo­seph H. Gil­more, 1862.


In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Eph.1:11,12

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Col.2:6,7

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Heb.12:12,13

All the way my Saviour leads me, what have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy who through life has been my Guide?
–Fanny Crosby, the blind hymn writer

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…Heb.12:1,2

July 12, 2013

Untrammeled Womanhood

This intriguing quote in a book review caught my eye this week as our tandem trip was winding down and we were relaxing on the ferry…

"I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world, it gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can't get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."
–Susan B. Anthony, 1896

My first thought, after chuckling at the notion of riding a bicycle being a display of ‘untrammeled womanhood’, was how sad Ms. Anthony never found a strong and trustworthy captain to take her touring on a tandem!  There are far greater things than having to rely on oneself.  Is the self-reliance she touts really freedom? 

And my goodness, how naïve.  Did she really believe one could come to no harm on a bike?  Just this evening on our first ride since getting home from 300 miles of accident-free riding, we were very nearly wiped out by a little red sports car that lost control while passing us on the steep switchback hill we ride so very often to get ourselves home to Wildwood.  He squealed his tires and fish-tailed dramatically as he careened onward and upward past us, veering into oncoming traffic momentarily before disappearing around the bend, leaving us (me at least) breathing hard for more than just the incline!  And spontaneously uttering thanks to God for His protection. Our lives are not in our own hands.  Self-reliance is no guarantee of anything.  I would far rather rely on Someone bigger and stronger than I, and trust that our times are very truly in His hands!

Committing my life to the One who knows me best and loves me most is my idea of untrammelled womanhood.  And just in case you, like me, are not quite clear on the meaning of that very cool word, untrammelled.  It means: Not deprived of freedom of action or expression; not restricted or hampered.  We were designed for freedom, but what Ms. Anthony failed to recognize is that true freedom comes by submitting to design.  We were designed to bow to Jesus’ Lordship. His commands reflect the principles that will free us to really live.  In Him, forgiven and accepted by the Father, we are truly set free—from fear of death, from bondage to sin and  from the dictates of our selfish misguided notions and impulses which inevitably lead us where we did not intend to go. 

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Pr.16:25

By faith we are freed to trust that God’s designs for us are always good, that in submission to a mate we are truly free, and that riding tandem in this world with Jesus in the captain’s seat is the only way we will be genuinely liberated from all that can harm us to be all that we were meant to be!  This is true emancipation.  This is ‘untrammelled womanhood’ at its best.  For this, I will pedal bravely on, the wind in my face, glad not to be relying on me!


‘…and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the LORD.’ Jer.31:14

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery….For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” Gal.5:1,6

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Gal.5:13

July 6, 2013

In Tandem

Tandem bicycles have a reputation as ‘marriage busters’.
It takes a lot of teamwork and trust to ride successfully and to enjoy the process.  The stoker has to be ok with not seeing the way ahead clearly.  She has to trust her captain to take her to the destination he has in mind (or one they’ve predetermined).  And she has to pull her weight in the process of getting there, to sit still, not to lean or make unexpected moves. She has to know too when to offer advice and when to be quiet…

The captain has the bulk of responsibility.  He has to know where he’s going, have the map clearly in mind, and be constantly on alert for bad drivers, bad roadway conditions and oblivious pedestrians…He has to have good judgment and great confidence.  Not only that but he must be sensitive to the state of his stoker.  A wise captain will know how hard to push and how far is far enough.  He bears the unspoken responsibility of keeping the stoker ‘stoked’, of keeping her content to pedal and chatter and generally be good company.  A whiney stoker is a nightmare. (Jim has had occasion to know)

And apart from all these obvious responsibilities, if the ride is to be smooth and efficient, both stoker and captain must learn technical skills of pedaling with equal force, being sensitive to each other’s preferred cadence, determining together how to tackle the hills, and what the protocol will be at stop lights: will the stoker unclip from her pedals or just stay on her ‘perch’?  All these things help smooth out a ride and keep either rider from wearing themselves out.  Contrary to popular jesting, the stoker really is expected to carry her weight, and the the captain really does know if she’s ‘soft pedaling’!

For all these reasons tandem riding is a challenge to a marriage.  It can make it, or break it as they say.  This weekend we have met and ridden with other tandem couples for the first time.  What a pleasure! A rare and beautiful thing-- a tandem couple delighted to be together and going in the same direction with great grace and skill.  We even met a family on a ‘quad’ pulling together, cheering each other on and flying up and down hill and dale together.  They’ve been cycling together since the kids were babies.  Inspiring!  But one fellow we rode with said it best, it isn’t that tandem riding is a marriage buster but that ‘wherever you’re going, it gets you there faster.’  A good marriage can sustain it and be strengthened.  An unhealthy one will reveal its fault lines quickly!

And in so many ways, tandem riding is a picture of another Ride we’re on.  We are the stokers. He the Captain… He bears the responsibility for our safety and well-being. We in turn are expected to trust and to pedal as per instructions.  And the ride… well, it will sometimes be thrilling, sometimes mundane, and sometimes downright difficult.  We will maybe feel like whining.  But better to be patient and wait for pain to pass and skies to clear.  For Our Captain is the best and he knows just what we need!

Well, it’s almost time to head out for another ride with some yet unmet riders…thanks for checking in here today.  Gotta roll!