Marching

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”(Philippians 4:8) (KJV2000)

On the first of March I woke up to the sound of buckets of rain being poured over my house and couldn’t go back to sleep. By five thirty in the morning there was a seemingly endless parade of thoughts, to do lists and concerns marching through my mind. I was also listening, on edge, to the rain and the thunder because we were under a tornado watch from late evening until seven a.m. I was running scenarios on how best to get Ethan safely to the basement if the siren went off and what I should or shouldn’t grab on the way. I had left the carseat in the car when I came home sick from work on the 27th of February, so I couldn’t  very well grab that.  (Who has tornado watches in February? Honestly? It doesn’t seem fair.) I was also listening for the sound of an approaching train. I have heard that tornados sound like trains. I was also running scenarios of keeping Ethan safe if there was no siren. I was also thinking about ways to rebuild the house if it got flattened and wondering if there is any way to protect a physical possession–like an old family photo album from wind, flood and fire.

All this was marching through my mind at 5:30 a.m.  (And I wonder why I am tired.) In a few minutes the morning rush would begin again. The child asleep on my chest would wake up and need to be snuggled, dressed and fed. All my morning tasks awaited. I knew that I was weak and I hoped I could complete them as quickly as I normally did. I decided I should take soup for lunch. (After so recently battling a violent stomach virus, I didn’t think my stomach was ready for broccoli.)

The day passed and on the way home from work I took the back roads. It was a gray day, very damp and blustery. I was feeling rather dismal as the wind grew chillier and occasionally smattered my windshield with tiny almost raindrops. My world was bleak. And then on my right appeared acres and acres of beautiful emerald green! It was so beautiful that I actually made an involuntary exclamation. Oh! It was so unexpected I felt like something had physically jarred me.  

(This was taken on a slightly brighter day, but it is the same field.)

Thank God for winter wheat! Where I live, it is the first big green of Spring. In March the little greens will appear, tiny sprouts of daffodils or tulips, but the grass is pale and the deciduous trees are bare.  The beginning of Spring around here usually looks like gray skies and mud until about April. But if I can find a field of winter wheat–my winter weary soul can find new hope.  Winter wheat reminds me Spring is waiting in the wings, the green is spreading, it cannot be delayed forever!

What a difference it makes when we shift our focus from worry to hope. The exact same circumstances can take on a whole new meaning in a moment. My whole experience of March is completely reflective of what I choose to focus on. Around me the sky is gray, the ground is muddy, the wind is cold and mean. Also, around me, the trees are budding, the wheat is growing, and the smell of Spring is swirling. Where will I place my attention? 

Winter is not over but Spring is coming will not be stopped, no matter how many more times it snows. When I focus on the coming of Spring, I feel uplifted and hopeful. Lilacs and roses are coming, along with green grass and softer air. When I focus on what is left of Winter I feel tired, like I am carrying a heavy and cumbersome chain. Winter of itself is not bad, but it is dark and cold and I am weary of it. Both things are true in this moment. The choice is mine.

 

Paul reminds us that we need to focus on the good stuff. Truth. Honesty. Justice. Purity. Loveliness. Good reports. Virtuous things.  Praiseworthy things. He is laying out instructions for the Philippian Christians on how to live in this world and he polishes off his recomendations with an admonition on what to think about.

What we think about is important. What we think about, what we meditate on, determines our mood, our attitude and our actions.  A person might think, “We cannot ignore all the bad stuff in the world and only “think on these things”! Our outrage and negative emotions are what move us to action to make things better!” There is some truth in that.  But when I focus on the good and lovely things I feel more positive, more hopeful, more energized. When I focus on the horrible things and the sad things I start feeling hopeless, helpless and overwhelmed. In which state I am more likely to be kind to others, to lift up those around me or to take any positive action? 

There are so many things going on around us, so many voices screaming for attention. There is so much information, most of it of questionable quality, constantly before us. Where shall we look? The world is filled with war, strife, division, hatred, despair, violence, and loss. The world is also filled with beauty, hope, wonder, kindness, love, generosity and grace. We will see it all but we must “think on these things.” That does not mean we close our eyes to the ugly things because we must see them before we can change them. We can work toward a better world–we must help others and we must stand up for what is right–but to be able to do that we must think on “these things”.  When we think too much on the dark side, when we meditate on the horrible, unimaginable and seemingly hopeless, it fixes nothing and even does damage. We can easily become immobilized in the face of what seems like overwhelming evil.  

So, I am choosing to think about all the wonderful things about March. I love the crazy, wild winds. I love the new green around me. I even love watching the battle between Spring and Winter. (New life will win eventually, of course, but when?)  I choose to lift my eyes from the mud on my boots and look across the fields of wheat. When my eyes are focused on the beautiful, makes it easier to keep marching. 

Hovering

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (GEN. 1:1-2)(KJV)

    I ask that the Spirit of THE LIVING GOD hover over me and this blog as I begin and as I continue to write. The ultimate source of creativity can be none other than CREATOR OF ALL THINGS so to HIM I must appeal for grace, truth and beauty in my expression. In the name of YESHUA, THE MESSIAH, THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISSAC AND JACOB. Amen.

    It is almost mid-January but today it feels like March. The wind is bringing in a front of warm, damp air from the South and, after a few days of living in the Artic Circle, it warms not just my face but my heart. It even smells a little like Spring. 

    On days like today the wind makes me feel like I am being lifted up. Up out of myself, up out of the cold, up above my troubles. I get a strong urge to raise my arms up to shoulder level and run into it. As if I could take off like a plane….

    When I was a kid I would always wait for a windy day to attempt what I called “building a fort.” (This consisted of placing a large cast off couch cover over my mother’s clothes line and making a tent using strategically placed bricks and then furnishing my shelter with the comforts of home, like old throw rugs laid over piles of leaves.) I waited for a windy day because it was more fun to do this when I was facing a little resistance. It felt like I was winning a game against the wind. Also it gave the shelter I created a purpose. It would have never kept out rain or cold but I could keep out the wind! 

    I don’t always like the wind. Sometimes the wind just downright hurts. It makes the cold colder and it can damage exposed living tissues in mere seconds. It steals your breath then makes your eyes water and promptly freezes your tears. Other times the wind carries dust or sand–unpleasant at best and blinding at worst. There are also the moments when the wind seems to rage, frighteningly flattening or removing anything in its path. 

    But whether the wind is warm and caressing or a cold wave of misery it is always bringing something with it and it is always going somewhere. The wind is never still or stagnant. You can feel the wind. You can hear the wind. The wind is an unseen and powerful force. The wind can come in a million different combinations of strengths and temperatures. The wind in all of the manefeststations I have ever encountered has never left me indifferent.  If I notice the wind, I have a response. 

    When I think about the wind, the following often will come to mind:

    The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell from where it came, and where it goes: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit  (John 3:8)(KJV2000)

    John 3:8 seems to tell us that those born of the Spirit are like the wind. That sounds really poetic and pretty, but check out this more literal translation :

    The Spirit breathes where he will, and you hear his voice, but you do not know from where he comes and where he goes; thus is everyone who is born from the Spirit.(John 3:8) (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

    That makes it sound more like those born of the Spirit are like the Spirit. That would make sense. We see that reflected in other areas of creation. Man was made in God’s image. Our experience tells us that human children tend to resemble their parents. Lions give birth to baby lions and so on. So to be born of something would give one a reasonable expectation of a resemblance between the progenitor and the progeny. 

    So, now I wonder if the Spirit of God is really like the wind? Is that scriptural? Is there any other place in the Bible where God is described as being similar to the wind? 

    The wind is a powerful symbol in the Bible. There is a strong theme that the the wind is God’s obedient servant. He uses it to express His judgements. He keeps it in His storehouses. In Acts a gust of wind brings the Holy Spirit to the upper room.

    Like the rest of creation the wind does paint us a picture of some aspects of the character of God. The wind is a powerful force that we cannot see. The wind is mysterious. The wind moves in ways that are hard to understand.  However, throughout the scriptures the wind is presented over and over as a servant or a tool and not as a descriptor of God. Because of this pattern I start to prefer the second translation to the first.

    But the first one is more familiar and sounds so nice that I almost don’t want to give it up.  I think in Greek the word for spirit and breath are the same word or very similar words. I am sure that the translators had great arguments for the way they chose to present the verse. Something that breathes/blows where it wills and no one knows where it came from or is going…that does resemble our human experience of the wind.

    So next I turn to another tool for understanding the scriptures: Context. If we back up from our verse about the Spirit a bit into the chapter of John 3 we find we are smack dab in the part of John where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about being born again. If we go forward a bit we end up at: 

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life,(John 3:16) (KJV). 

    This is an important section of scripture! A red letter section. (You should go read it.)  And then flip back. Way back. To the beginning. Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Before God created the wind. Before God spoke. Before light. When the only thing moving was God Himself. Some translations say He hovered or fluttered. In the beginning God hovered over the formless, dark void.

    Do you ever feel like a formless dark void? Chaotic? Empty? Hopeless and helpless and lost? That’s a good time to ask the Holy Spirit to hover over you. Because we all know what comes next. God hovers and then He starts speaking. And He makes light, and order, and life– SO much life, and He makes beauty. He starts creating and He creates perfection. He creates good stuff, where there was a formless dark void. A whole amazing UNIVERSE of good stuff. Because that’s His nature. That’s the nature of love. 

    So, if I had to choose between being like the wind and being like the Spirit of God I would choose the Spirit. I mean the wind is great, but I would rather be Love. It’s like the difference between a reflection of a thing and the thing itself.  I think of my son. He can use a crayon to scribble on a piece of paper,  and I love his drawing. He made it. It is an expression of him. But I’d toss that lovely piece of paper in an instant to hold my son.   Perhaps there is no perfect analogy for what I am trying to say, but I have a feeling you understand in your heart. There may be Love in the wind, God can use the wind to express His love,  but the Love itself is what is important. Just like we can see Hope in the sunlight, Grace in the rain, Beauty in places you would never expect. The message is more important than the messenger.

     You know that breeze– it’s warm but not too hot, with just a hint of rain, the one that brings the promise of tiny green things bursting to life after a long cold winter?  That’s a love wind. Or that wind that catches you by surprise when you turn the corner of a tall building –it tosses your hair in the sunshine and ruffles your clothes and for a second it feels like you will come right up off the ground and float right up to the sky like a helium balloon–and you laugh?  That’s a love wind too. It gets your attention, it refreshes you, it reminds you to breathe. It blows a little hope your way. I hope this blog will be a little bit like a love wind blowing over you. Blessings.