Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cidra's Flowers

At the beginning of the Summer I preached a sermon on the Parable of the Seeds. I spoke on how I may know logically from science class and grade school projects which involved growing a seed in a glass jar but that once the seed went into the ground I really had no idea what was going on. I mentioned the my daughter had received a packet of seeds promising if planted to yield a butterfly garden. Once we got settled here in Belmont, we planted the seeds in a half barrel floor bed next to the drive. Once we put those seeds in the ground I had no idea what was going on beneath the surface. I did not know if the seeds were actually sprouting. I did not know when they started growing or when to expect them to begin to poke their heads out of the dirt.
At the time I preached this sermon not one single little green sprout had shown itself. But my daughter checked the barrel ever time we went out to the car hoping today that her little flowers were growing. The point of the sermon I preached and the parable is that God is working to further the kingdom. The kingdom will grow. The kingdom will flourish. And much like the mustard seed (another parable I preache don that morning) the growth may astonish us all. We may not really know how but God is working. Just as you don't know what is going on beneath the soil when you plant a seed, but you have to trust that it is beginning to grow and that someday you will see the "fruits" of that growth, we trust that even when we do not see God working we need to trust that God is working and that God knows what God is doing even when we don't.
I preached this sermon before the plants had even started to show their little green heads. I have to say after using them as an illustration, I prayed that they would grow into flowers. I along with my daughter watched as something began to grow in the barrel and again I prayed the small green plants sprouting were flowers and not weeds. Or at least flowering weeds. But as you can see in the picture flowers did grow. The flowers were not the plethora of brightly colored butterfly attracting flowers the package promised but they are a pair of plants which have beautiful white blooms. Cidra loves them. She calls them her flowers and goes over and smells them every time we go out. It just goes to show God is working. The results may not be what we expected. It may take longer than we wanted get any results. But God is working. And the results are just what is needed. Cidra did not need a whole barrel of flowers to make her happy. She is not at all disappointed that there are not purple and blue and red and yellow flowers. She is perfectly happy with her two plants and their delicate white flowers.
When we rely on God. What we get is what we need. The kingdom will flourish and be beautiful, even if it does not look as we expected.
My daughter's little white flowers are perfect.
God was working beneath the soil, even when I did not understand how or what was happening. But what I did not know was God was growing a beautiful smile and a very much unexpected (at least unexpected by me) for my daughter and a little bit more faith and trust for me.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A new journey

I am little more than 3 1/2 month into my new life here in the Cambridge/Belmont area and I have embarked on a new journey in my life, almost literally. The journey of learning how to be a bike commuter. I am riding my bike the 4.5 miles to and from church. I know how to ride a bike. I learned (like most of the rest of suburban America) somewhere between 6-8 years of age. I rode for fun and enjoyment until High School. I have not ridden a bike since that time. So half a life time ago. But riding a bike is well. . . just like riding a bike. You really don't forget how to do it. I got on after over a decade and a half of not throwing my leg over the rail of bike and rode as easily and as well, perhaps not as recklessly, as I did at 15. The journey is learning to ride the city street of "our fair city."
But riding my bike to work is very different than riding my bike around the neighborhood with my friends. In our suburban neighborhoods cars were sparse during the day, drove slow and did not seem to affect my childhood riding much at all. Here in Cambridge the roads are more populated with automobiles than they are are with cyclists. And to be quite frank they scare me. I am intimidated by their size and the fact they could flatten me fairly easily if they so choose. In spite of this intimidation I am suppose to function on the road as if I were a car, except I (as a bike) should stay to the right of the road. Which is fine until I want to make a left turn.
I am thankful for Bike lanes. They are my safe zone. The place where I know I am allowed to ride and autos are not. When they are are present, the is. But even when they are present, buses seem to like to nuzzle up and see exactly how close they can get to me and my bike lane without transgressing the actual line which divides us. I am also learning how to get to work. There are ways to get to work which are good by car. Taking what Mike and I call the "S" turn from Mass Ave to Garden street and then the "Y" onto Concord with it's two rotaries is a fine way (if not somewhat stressful the first time or two) to go in your car, but it would be crazy to do on a bike. So I have planned out a route which includes the most amount of bike paths as possible, while not including rotaries or "S" turns.
I travel through the streets constantly on the look out for cars, trucks, lorrys, or buses whose sole desire seems to be to take me out and pedal carefully. I watch other bikers as they seemly travel the streets without fear weaving in and out of traffic as if they KNOW that not a single one will ever touch them, or run them over accidentally or with intent. I don't know if they are the stupid ones for riding like that, or if I am the stupid one for riding with so much caution and trepidation.
It makes me think that often times our relationship with God; our spiritual journeys are very similar. We know how to be a Christian, just like I know how to ride a bike, but there are times when God calls us to begin a new part of our journey, calls us into unknown, often scary territory. We are excited to go new places with God. But at the same time we do so with caution. We are frightened by any number of things. We pull back we don't go full out because we are afraid of failing, of getting hurt, of doing it wrong. We see others who seem to being going wonderful places with God, perhaps even the places we know God is calling us and we don't know how we can ever have the confidence and the faith they have as they are traveling down their roads with God.
Sometimes it is easier to stay where we are, give God excuses, to not the risk, to keep treading the comfortable path we are treading right now. To decide that God did not really wish for us to go that way, it was too scary, had too many obstacles, to many ways of getting hurt or failing. When we do this we don't grow, we hinder ourselves. We cut of wonderful and blesses ways God was going to bring us closer to being the people God created us to be. We cut ourselves off from having a deeper more satisfying relationship with God. We stay where we are. And we know we have lost out, but we tell ourselves we have not and God keeps calling to us, wanting us to follow, to trust, to remember that God knows what he is doing. God always knows. We just need to trust and go. Get on our bike and travel the scary, wonderful roads God calls for us to go down.
I personally have found my bike rides inspiring. I have been struggling with something all week and as I rode my bike through the crisp Sept morning, I was able to work through and get somewhere. I have spent time reading, and studying my Bible all week trying to get somewhere and a bike ride, alone on the streets with my God , surrounded by fast moving cars and winding my way toward church this morning, the answer came to me. God is in the journey. God is leading. We need only follow.