Monday, April 25, 2016

Just After Hitting "Send" to God

"Nalia, look!"

I called her over and we both stared into the rumpled earth.

"I planted these last year and they hid under the snow all winter."

"What are they?" she asked in ten year old curiosity, as my seven year old Daniel peeked over her shoulder too.
Photo Credit: Flickr User: See-Ming Lee, Creative Commons, cc license
"They're parsnips; kind of like a white carrot," I laughed. Plunging my fingers deeper into cold spring soil, I traced dirt away from the white round vegetables in the ground.

Feathery green plumes marked each veggie treasure. I tugged and gently loosened them one plant at a time, before ripping them out of the ground. Black dirt crumbled and tumbled from the round tubulars and I laughed to see food and life burst from underground.

Because the truth was I had forgotten about them. Twelve months ago I had eagerly torn open the paper packet of seeds and stared in dismay at its contents.

"They're so tiny!"

Round brown flakes swirled and mounded inside the seed packet. Pouring a handful into my palm then, I had been afraid the seeds would blow away in a May breeze or be snatched up by cardinals and sparrows. Poking tiny finger holds into cool soil up to my knuckles, I slid one or two lightweight seeds inside, hoping at least several would grow.

Like a Bermuda Triangle in my garden, that corner of raised beds stayed stubbornly bare that spring, while Queen Ann sugar snap peas, Early Contender bush beans, and the butterfly-seedling life force of morning glory flowers had sashayed out of the ground.

In early summer, tall fern-like plants had stood up and crowded that corner of the garden, bowing heads conspiratorially, and I had hoped parsnips were fattening underground. Summer had swelled, crescendoed, and abated. Autumn's trees had dropped reds and yellows that crumpled into browns and tangled in the parsnip greens.

"Parsnips are better after several frosts," I told Mark as we peered out the living room windows in November and December. Snows fell.

This week, the soil warmed and ready, my red tulips bobbing in the breeze, I walked barefoot to my garden and tugged curiously on a parsnip's green top. Wiggling, prying, I pulled up a plump white parsnip.

"Nalia, come see!"

A small mountain of white parsnips mound up on my patio table now, the rain washing them nicely for me. And the parsnips suddenly remind me of my prayers.

Like tiny tremulous seeds I shake out and hold in small hands, they feel so paltry to the task. I plant them and wait, and time seems to slow some days. There are days when I wonder what will grow to fill that space. And as I wait, wonder, and trust the Grower's instructions, seasons pass. 

Life unfolds beneath the surface. In the dark, treasures swell and mature. In the time I've forgotten them, God hasn't. They are sweetening, ripening, growing better by the day. It's in the frost that kills and in winter's long nights that the parsnips grow the sweetest.

After winter's thaw, petite purple crocuses and grape-like hyacinth clusters mark the passing time. Greenery emerges new life from the parsnips corner and I'm suddenly reminded of prayers and plantings from a year ago.

Crouching to my knees, I dig and pull, finding the treasures God has been growing all along.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pheasant-Hunting with a Pen & Author in Turkey

Stabbing in the black plastic fork, I pulled it back. Speared green spinach leaves, tangy apple squares, and salty slivers of Swiss cheese dangled haphazardly for a moment. Self-consciously helping a few stray spinach stems back into my mouth, I pulled the Bible closer with my other hand.
Photo Credit: Flickr User K. Hurley, Creative Commons cc license
Paul, one of the authors of the Bible, had penned words from ancient Turkey. Their poetic beauty and powerful life-changing truths grabbed me, yet I found myself stopping to read and re-read them.

Do Bible sections trip you up sometimes too? Paul's long sentences drip with parenthetical clauses and commas. I find myself tracking subject-verb trails like a pheasant hunter or an editor with a red pen. As the words-lover in me grows and stretches taller each year, I discover that my method of studying and learning has changed too.

Armed with pens, colored pencils, and endless notebooks, I've learned that writing out Paul's sentences and diagramming them reveals new beauty and understanding to me. Dissecting his subjects, verbs, prepositions, and clauses, I suddenly see his passages flood with clearer meaning. Patterns and repeated words pop out. Joy pours in. The words hum with intensity, and my eyes trace and re-trace the lines. "Wow, look at this!" I point to friends and family nearby.

Today I diagrammed four verses from the book named after the Turkish city of Ephesus. Sentences by a Roman Jew, imbued with the Creator's Spirit, sizzled excitement and truth to my European-American heart. Grab your plate and join me?

I pray that out of his glorious riches
he may strengthen you with power
through his Spirit in your inner being, 
so that
Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 

And I pray that you, 
being rooted and established in love,
may have power
together with all the saints, 
to grasp
          How WIDE
          and LONG
          and HIGH
          and DEEP
is the love of Christ,

and to know
this love that surpasses knowledge 
--that you may be filled
to the measure
of all the fullness of God.                              (Ephesians 3:16-19)

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