My family just got back from a short trip to the beach. It wasn’t the waves that really impressed my 1 ½ year old as he toddled along the water, scooped sand into his pail, and ran his toy trucks over the wet landscape.
Instead, he pointed out every bird – or at least it seemed like every bird. His little finger would stab the air in the direction where the bird was flying, and his head would follow.
After my last post about Jean Fleming, author of Pursue the Intentional Life, using albatross birds as a metaphor for the Christian life’s ups and downs, I had a constant reminder of that image each time my son toddled toward another bird. The albatross can soar through great storms, but often the same bird will stumble when it gets to land, where life *should* be easy, after so much time at sea.
It made me smile. It didn’t really matter that my son wasn’t pointing out actual albatrosses. That’s still where my mind went.
* * *
Could I just admit that I have gotten a little bit behind the rest of the Bloom Book Club in my reading of Pursue the Intentional Life? I am enjoying the book so much, but I still have about 10 chapters to go before I finish it. I decided to savor those chapters over the coming week rather than rush to catch up.
Besides the image of the albatross from chapter six of the book, three other passages also stick out in my mind from what I have read thus far.
In chapter 17 Fleming writes:
Throughout his life on earth, Jesus noticed the world around Him: the farmer sowing in a field, the birds lighting on a mustard plant. Everyday objects and occurrences were windows into spiritual truths. With a sharp eye for natural revelations, Jesus challenged His disciples to “Learn this lesson from the fig tree” (Matthew 24:32). The world system loses its attraction, but as I learn Christ, the created world around me takes on new hues and dimensions. Fireflies and dragonflies, hollyhocks and corn shocks, starlight and firelight all enrich my joy in the Creator. All of life can be contemplated with value. Lord, please heighten my awareness and appreciation; make me more alert and receptive to ways the Spirit might illumine the Truth through the world around me.
I loved this quote because I am the type of person who naturally likes to observe creation anyway. I love animals, plants, birds, and trees, and often I sit out on my porch with my son and just watch creation unfold. Fleming’s quote made this time of observation from the front deck of my house take on new importance for me.
Our house is bordered by a wildlife preserve, so it’s normal to see deer, turkeys, or even foxes in the yard. Three times, I have seen bears – and one time, a bear actually came into the yard while I was outside. I remember my dog started barking from the porch. I was sitting in a lawn chair reading a magazine, with the magazine covering my face from the bear’s perspective, and I was probably being pretty still. When I looked up, my first thought was “there is a big black dog in my yard” (trying to make logical sense of it). Then I realized I was sitting in the yard with a bear, who seemed as surprised to see me look up from the magazine as I was surprised to see the bear. I got up slowly and went into the house with my dog, and the bear left the yard. That’s a nature experience I will never forget because: 1) it was neat to see a bear that close and 2) it showed me how faulty my own understanding can be sometimes, considering that I thought the bear was a dog at first glance.
Another time, I saw the northern lights while I was driving home. This was a few years ago. I live in an area where it is not normal to see the northern lights, so I wasn’t sure what I was actually seeing. It was about 9 or 10 p.m., and the sky was a bright magenta with several beams of white light coming down. I stared at it as I drove, magnetized with awe and curiosity. I told my husband about it when I got home, and he looked at me like I might have lost my mind. I thought about it the next morning and then put it out of my mind until I saw the news that afternoon – and the news said the northern lights had been spotted in extra states, including mine, because of some unusual atmospheric activity. When I think about the awe of God, that night usually comes to my mind. I’m also really glad that the news explained what happened because, otherwise, I might have always wondered and maybe even doubted that I saw the fantastic colors in the night sky at all.
I’ve seen whales and dolphins and admired them on different occasions, but sometimes the small things that happen in my own yard speak to me the most. The squirrel that has been visiting my bird feeder is one example (click on the picture of him at the top of this post to see a bigger view of him in action). The bird feeder that I bought was squirrel proof, but this guy was working so hard — stretching out his little body far as it would go — and it was so entertaining to watch him that I decided not to move the feeder. It made me think about this blog: I am putting observations out there and giving love to the world, for free, with no expectations in return, and no certainty of who will actually show up to read this. When anyone shows up, I celebrate. Like the squirrel that was so enthusiastic to get to the bird food, I may never know who I have nourished with my words – but I hope the words do some good, even if the outcome may be unpredictable.
Just this week, I had lilies that I had planted months ago – probably in April – bloom on my deck (I do most of my planting in flower boxes and containers on my tall deck so that the deer won’t eat everything). My husband started calling the flowers patience lilies because it seemed like they would never bloom. They just kept getting taller and taller and taller. Then, on July 2, they bloomed. I called to tell my mom, and she said, “Lilies bloom in July.” I even knew that, but somehow I had forgotten. The lilies popped out when it was their perfect season, and they are thriving. They look so strong and healthy, and I marvel at that because I do not have a great green thumb. I saw a hummingbird visiting one of the lilies this morning, which was funny because I’ve had a hummingbird feeder on my deck for months and hadn’t seen a single hummingbird at it. Everything has a season…
Besides Fleming’s passage about nature, the other two passages that I really liked were about hospitality and about cherishing spiritual discoveries. In chapter 16 Fleming writes:
When a teenager questioned why she should make her bed and tidy her room when she could merely close the door on the mess, her mother replied, “It is an act of hospitality to yourself.” There is profound wisdom in this mother’s answer. Our homes minister to us as well as to others… . My mother was a widow for 25 years. Although she lived alone, she cooked full, well-balanced meals and kept a neat house. Her friends asked, “Why trouble yourself to cook when you could slip something ready-made into the microwave?” The answer, I believe, was “hospitality.” It was something she could do to live a beautiful life in a fallen world.
As a full time mom, this quote spoke to me because it gives some justification for fixing myself nice meals during the day instead of just throwing something in the microwave. I enjoy cooking something healthy and delicious for myself, and my husband benefits from it when he comes home later. We don’t get to do a traditional sit down family meal because my husband works late, but there’s usually something good waiting for him to eat if he is still hungry, or he can pack the extra in his lunch the next day. Also, it really brightens my day to eat a nice meal. Right now, I’m cooking some recipes out of the Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy cookbook that I checked out from the library. The Summer Vegetable Pizza on page 119 is a real winner, and the ingredients are easy to find and not expensive. The crust incorporates wheat flour along with regular flour, so that makes the crust a little healthier, and squash, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes taste amazing on it. Delicious! Next week, I am going to make the melon and prosciutto pizza, grilled cauliflower steaks, and yogurt oatmeal muffins from his book. I will admit that Jean Fleming’s chapter has not yet inspired me to make the bed every day, but maybe that inspiration will come. Maybe I should try it for a week. Hmmm… no promises.
The final quote that I’m going to write about today from Jean’s book was about the stewardship of insights in chapter 2.
I most often hear the word stewardship used in regards to money, talents, and time. My husband reminds me to be a good steward of the insights God gives as well. Revelations are graces from God not to be received lightly. For me, that means setting down on paper thoughts that might evaporate if left floating in the air. The ideas that I explore, pray over, and chew on form a body of truth-in-process for me.
This quote encouraged me to keep writing down spiritual insights and to continue honoring those insights. I want a victorious way of thinking. I thank God for what He is teaching me.
Thank you for visiting the blog! Hope you are having a great summer 🙂