Pastor’s Journal – April


“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Even now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43: 18, 19a

We used to have a little garden in our backyard, under the kitchen window box. It’s pretty much a dirt garden during the winter months. But about this time last year, Diane and I were doing some work around the yard, and suddenly she stopped by the back porch and cried, “Oh! Look!”

“What?! What?!” I said looking around.

“Right there in front of you,” Diane insisted, pointing down to the dirt, “LOOK!”

“Honey, I don’t see anything but dirt.”

A bit exasperated at my blindness, Diane took my arm, pulled me down, closer to the ground, and with her finger pointing a few inches away, there I finally saw it; tiny, little green heads poking through the brown soil.

“Crocus!” she said triumphantly. I looked at her like, “Ok . . . “

But there was something else I heard in her voice . . . something beyond the mere proclamation of the end of winter and the promise of coming spring.

She said the word “Crocus” so emphatically that it seemed like an affirmation for the whole created nature of God’s world. As if it was also meant to be the spoken assurance that after death always comes life. That brokenness, sooner or later, gives way to healing. That, even at the end of the long tunnel of despair – as sure as morning follows night – comes hope.

And that, perhaps, her faint exasperation at me was that I wasn’t at the ready. I wasn’t looking for it. I wasn’t walking through the garden each and every day, like Diane had been, expecting any day, at any moment, to see the signs of new life.

My vision was still frozen over. And, perhaps, not just with winter, but by the absence of the proper modicum of hope. I looked down and all I saw was dirt, dirt, and more dirt.

And it occurred to me, then, that we largely determine our lives by what we tend to look for…what we expect to see. Just more dirt. Or budding new life.

When that first clear, warm sunny day heralding the potential of spring – when the infinitesimal signs of life begin to ride the currents of the wind – what do we expect? Do we look for the next day to just turn cold again; that warm day just another tease by Mother Nature to make the next harsh slap of winter sting the cheek all the more?

Or does that temperate promise of spring harken for us the potential of things to come? The herald of hope that strengthens us against any last barrage winter might have in store.

Do we wrap the cold mantle of despair around us like an old familiar, tattered blanket? Or search the dry, dusty ground for signs of hope?

Perhaps what we see mostly has to do with which direction we’re ultimately facing: backwards or forwards. Do we perceive our best days lying behind us in the dust of the past; or are our best days yet looming on the dawning horizon?

And, for that matter – once we’ve answered that question for ourselves – I suppose it really doesn’t matter, all that much, what the next day actually brings. At least not as much as what we are willing or able to see within that next day. Because the determining factor in the character and quality of our life has more to do with what it is we’re looking for in life.

Do we live in fear of the next wintry blast life might throw at us? Or joyfully embrace the bright potential it has to offer? Do we walk through life just waiting for the next shoe to drop? Or expecting that next door to open wide before us?

In the apparent isolation and disjointedness of life’s ambiguity, are we able to anticipate the healing of new life that is always possible as a natural principle of God’s grace? Or do we linger in the phantom pains of yesterday?

What are you looking for, as you rise up out of bed and into new life each morning? Just one more heartache? Or another promising day? What do you expect to see when you look out upon the world? Just another handful of dirt? Or the hopeful promise of budding new life?

“It’s been a long cold lonely winter,” George Harrison sang in his well-known song Here Comes The Sun. And, indeed, it certainly has. But as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, winter will give way to spring, and we’ll see, once more, those little green sprouts of Crocus pushing their way up through the frozen dirt of our snow dusted garden.

And this time I’ll be more than ready to see them!

Are you?

“For, behold! Even now . . . God is doing a new thing among us! Can you perceive it?!”

May you each see the promise of God’s renewal blossom in your life this Easter season!

In Christ’s Love,

Tom

(*Excerpts chosen from my sermon “A Change in the Garden”)