Tag Archives: spring

A Season for Faith

Spring is almost here again! Here in Georgia, we are already enjoying our first blooms—daffodils, irises, redbuds, camellias, and more are brightening Atlanta neighborhoods. Even in our own yard the beauty—some of it “volunteer” and some of it intentional—is plentiful. Here are some glimpses in photographs I took this morning.

The turning of the seasons is a time of revelation. But what does the turning of the seasons reveal? Your answer to this question will reveal the state of your heart. Two people can look at same thing and see something very different.

Some people observe the ceaseless rhythms of the seasons and see only mindless, physical cycles—matter in motion through space and time. They see nothing of God. Here is how Peter describes such people:

Scoffers will come in the last days… They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Pet. 3:3-4)

Others look at the same seasonal rhythms and catch a renewed glimpse of a faithful Creator who sustains all that he has made, caring for it until he brings it to consummation. These people remember God’s promise to Noah, given after Noah had emerged from a catastrophic flood when all such gracious natural rhythms had been upended:

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Gen. 8:22)

Strikingly, both groups observe the same reality—that things are “continuing as they were,” with patterns like seasons that do “not cease.” And yet, while observing the same phenomena, what they actually see is very different.

Paul tells us that all people are without excuse, for God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:20). But some people have “suppressed” this truth (Rom. 1:18). They no longer see God through his creation. Both Paul and Peter warn that these people, having lost sight of God, must now serve “the lusts of their hearts” (Rom. 1:24), “following their own sinful desires” (2 Pet. 3:3). Their end is wrath and death.

The ones who see God in the turning of the seasons, however, live “lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:11-12). They “honor [God] as God” and “give thanks to him” (Rom. 1:21) as they watch the snow disappear and the buds burst anew with familiar green. Each virgin leaf, though matching millions of leaves from centuries past, brings them fresh evidence of the Ancient of Days. The turning seasons remind them that their heavenly Father will never again “strike down every living creature” as he did in the flood (Gen. 8:21). They know he will preserve this world until he creates “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). For this, through every season, they longingly wait.

Oh, but the turning of the seasons requires no Guiding Hand, right? Isn’t it all just a matter of planets obeying inertia and gravity, and living creatures obeying the directions of their DNA?

Not so fast, O my soul.

With amazing regularity, in a predictability of cycles, meals appear on my table. Most of the food has been cooked or baked. In the process, each loaf of bread, cut of meat, or bowl of vegetables has undergone very complex and yet very natural transformative chemical reactions. The rising of bread, the browning of meat, the softening of vegetables, the hardening of eggs—each follows laws of nature as surely as do spinning planets and spring plants. Yet I do not doubt the loving hand of my wife behind each natural process. Is it not equally reasonable to believe that a loving God is behind the turning of seasons? Being a spiritual being, our Creator hides himself better than my wife does, but “in him all things hold together,” we are told (Col. 1:17).

Chesterton pondered the turning of days and saw a young, playful Father:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.1

Maybe monotony is no proof of atheistic materialism. Maybe daily cycles and turning seasons both spring from a playful Father “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).

If it stretches your adult imagination to picture God as playful, then at least ponder James’ claim that all God’s good gifts, including the gift of seasons, spring from a divine heart that knows “no variation”:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

Is this what you see revealed in the unvarying turning of the seasons—an unvarying Father? Or does the turning of the seasons reveal that your heart is unable to see?

As I near my mid-forties, I find it easier to see how some lose faith mid-journey. My youthful dreams of doing great things for God (though I seldom knew exactly what) now appear quaint. I increasingly feel great admiration for those who “only” have a record of a lifetime of faithfulness toward God and humanity.

“Life has seasons,” I like to say, usually as a solace for hard times. But is there Anyone supervising the seasons? Or are the seasons of nature and of my life merely mechanistic or random rotations?

Will I let myself fade into the fancy that my life is Fatherless and futile? Am I only able to see mindless matter moving through space and time? Or will I allow the turning of the seasons to renew my faith?

Will I bend to examine a familiar new flower? Will I note the spring’s first sounding of an old bird song? And will I breathe new thanksgivings—each breath of thanks pumping fresh faith into my lungs?

The Book of Nature points me to a powerful heavenly Father. The Book of Scripture tells me he is a “faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love… to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9). I will trust him with the unending seasons of our lives.


What are you thankful for as Spring nears again? What are you doing to renew your vision of God through the cycling seasons of life? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

  1. G. K. Chesterton, ‘The Ethics of Elfland,’ Orthodoxy (House of Stratus, 2001), p. 41.

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Like Spring [Poem by Mom]

Georgia vines cover our backyard like love covers a multitude of sins. At least that is the natural order of things—with the vines, as well as with true love.

We are slowly learning about southern biology. My wife’s daily devotional times are suffering thanks to the babbling birds boldly blaring their boom boxes behind our brick abode. I’m noticing—I think, I hope—that Georgia grass grows just a bit more gradually than Iowa varieties.

I might be wrong. Either way, I know that my love should look more like Iowa grass and Georgia vines, and that forgiveness should grow more quickly in wounds of my heart.

Mom talks about these things in the poem she shares this month. If you are struggling to forgive, or surprised by your own capacity to hate, then may her words give you fresh courage.

Mom’s poem is old—first written when I was only eight. (I recall the geological events she describes from the time, but was blissfully unaware as a boy of the concurrent ecclesiological disruptions motivating her poem.) Mom has written a new introduction to her old poem. But first, here is the poem. Enjoy!


Photo Credit: Dainis Matisons via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Dainis Matisons via Compfight cc

LIKE SPRING

How persistent Spring is,
Untiring in her zeal
To carpet all that’s barren,
To beautify and heal.

Even into gashes
That man has blasted out,
Peninsulas are greening
And tiny islands sprout.

How forgiving Spring is
Of winter’s wasting shocks;
Ferns trail her every footstep
And moss adorns the rocks.

Oh, if man would mellow,
Forgive as joyously,
And seek to heal old wound scars
As conscientiously.

—Elaine Gingrich, January 1982/1985. Published in Ontario Informer, 1985.


Ken and I have been marking Bible courses for prison inmates for over twenty years. The very first lesson in the first Gospel Echoes Team course asks the student to name the most forgiving person that he knows other than God. Another question I marked last night: “What have you observed in Jesus’ relationships that could help you get along better with others?” The inmate responded with “Forgiveness is key.”

Forgiveness! This theme appears again and again in the inmates’ responses and comments and prayer requests. “Pray that my family, my wife, my children will forgive me.” “ Pray that I can forgive myself.” “I am finding it easier to forgive those who have hurt me.” “Studying these courses is helping me to forgive others.”

One student had wanted his life to end but reading the Bible showed him that he could turn his life around. He asked forgiveness of God and his loved ones and was finally able to forgive his girlfriend who left him while he was in jail. Forgiveness is transformative.

We all know forgiveness is not essential only for prison inmates. The scars that I write about in this poem have nothing to do with crime or incarceration. Sadly many Christians live imprisoned far too long in the grips of unforgiveness and bitterness. No wonder the epistles command us over and over to be tenderhearted, to forgive as Christ forgave us, and to return good for evil.

“Like Spring” was written after a discouraging season in church life. Differing opinions on church affiliation had caused our beloved pastor to move on. A few members moved away. Ken wondered why he was building our new home. The images for the poem grew out of the road construction occurring that summer past our property. The cottage trail winding between the northern lakes was redirected, blasted through the rocky hill between our circle drive. Several times rock-drilling and blasting sent us out of our trailer home to safety, and the dust and rumble of huge dump trucks and power shovels entertained my three young sons who had a front rock seat to all the action.

It was the next spring, as I walked and prayed, that I was amazed to see how soon the barren disturbed patches of earth and crevices in the rocks were again sprouting with new growth and green beauty. But then, of course, Christ is the giver of life, of new life, in nature and in human hearts. And God is love and has called us to love and forgive as He does, to join Him in the ministry of reconciliation. I think of a simple poem I wrote in my teens: “Hating Those Who Hate.”

HATING THOSE WHO HATE

The times when I most see the need
To love mankind,
I feel like driving this great truth
Into man’s mind.

The passion of this growing lack
Of love grips me.
I see it is our foremost great
Necessity.

And yet the times my being throbs
With pain at hate
Is when my heart most tends to hate
Those men who hate.

You cannot hope to help someone
You do not love—
The only answer to this need
Comes from above.

Yes, God’s way and nature’s way is better.

—Elaine Gingrich, May 26, 2016


For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.

And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!


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Spring Leaves in Rain [Poem by Mom]

Mom’s poem this month is too good to miss, even if I’ve left it for the last day of the month. The poem grows from the image of “spring leaves in rain.” So I’ll surround it with photos of life outside our Iowa windows on this rainy spring day.

cowsdeck

“If haply…

cowbackground

they might feel after him,…

cowleaves

and find him,…

playset

though he be not far from every one of us.”
—Acts 17:27 (KJV)


SPRING LEAVES IN RAIN
(
Acts 17:27 KJV, Prov. 11:28 NLT)

Spring leaves in rain nourish me—
More skin than paper
They hang in soft folds
Of translucent baby green—
The colour of hope,
Draped like a lady’s delicate fan
From the old maple’s branches
Waiting to catch the breeze.
Pulsing with the potential
Of butterfly wings emerging
Flawless and limp
The doeskin softness fits with ease,
An almost transparent glove
Over my hand.
I trace the flow of life:
Liquid-sunshine slips
Through yellow-green veins
From stiff stem to tender leaf tips,
Through sturdy midrib lanes
To fragile feathering netted threads,
To waiting capillaries in weathered skin
To the deep veins feeding my hungry heart,
Blending with my warm blood life-red
To visit every cell that craves a reason to live.

Spring leaves in rain comfort me—
The softness is something I can grow into—
The feel of hope,
A kid-leather glove
Hiding my scarred skin
With a layer as vulnerable as love.
I would hold life as a pale young leaf,
As tender and unguarded,
As knowing as they are, as free of grief—
Fearing neither tear nor fall,
Knowing next year’s leaf already waits—
Winter bud of determination,
The Creator’s caring provision
For life’s scars and seasons.
I too can survive and reappear
Soft as a baby’s cheek,
Demanding no reasons;
Feeling after Him,
And finding Him, not far away, but near;
Tracing the abiding flow of life-sap—
The Sonshine in my veins—
From source to need,
As godly as a growing leaf.
             

—Elaine Gingrich, June 10, 2013/ February 2015


roadcorner

“The godly flourish…

wetleaves

like leaves in spring.”
—Proverbs 11:28 (NLT)


For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.

And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!


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