Autumn’s Aroma

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Today the temperature says summer but the aroma says autumn.  Though it’s unseasonably warm, the air is fall-scent infused. I soak in the sweet, musty smell of fading flowers mingled with sun-drenched leaves and pine windfall baking in the hot sun. It’s the smell that takes me back to jumping in leaf piles and making playhouses from fall’s litter.

My garden says it’s autumn, too. I’ve harvested and preserved more than we can possibly use in a year… and given a great deal more away. My string beans are finally strung out. My cucumber vines are in a pickle. And my sweet corn is earless. Only my cold-weather vegies are still cranking out crops. Now I look forward to putting up the fall fruits: apples, grapes and cranberries.

These days my body agrees autumn has arrived. It would be an overstatement to say I feel old, but I certainly don’t feel young anymore. My energy level is falling with the leaves. My memory is decaying with the windfall. And my body is fading with the flowers. My only hope is in knowing God has preserved my soul.

Our culture makes getting older out to be some kind of cruel curse. Marketers make millions on products purported to preserve youthfulness. Fitness freaks try to dupe death by always eating and exercising just right.  This nation is preoccupied with trying to cheat time… and people get sucked into it. Eating right, exercising and staying young at heart are all good things, but make no mistake about it, aging and death are inescapable.

I’ve never viewed getting older as a bad thing, just a different thing. I relish the good and accept the not-so-good in every season of the year. Likewise, I am relishing the good in this season of my life, and learning to accept the challenges. It’s much different than the carefree springtime of my childhood or the adventure-filled summer of my young adulthood. But I’m enjoying the fruits of my earlier years of labor, and the autumn aroma of security in Christ. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV)

Sowing and Growing Seeds

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Today I harvest seed beans. Some of the thin, brown pods crackle and pop open as I pick them, scattering their precious seeds over the cold, black earth. I try to hunt down all the speckled ivory seeds. Any I miss will come up as volunteers in next year.

Seeds are amazing little things. God made them in all shapes, sizes, colors and textures. Then He equipped them to spread in different ways. There are spring-loaded seeds that spray everywhere when the pod dries; clinging seeds that ride piggy-back from place to place; parachute seeds that ride the wind to remote locations; and seeds that simply fall. Some germinate readily while others are more reluctant. Jack Pine cones, for instance, stay tightly closed until the heat from a forest fire forces them open. They drop their seeds and begin reforesting the scorched earth.

Believers, like seeds, come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. They also have different approaches to spreading their faith seeds. Some are bold, springing at every opportunity to proclaim the good news. Some build solid relationships with non-believers, demonstrating and declaring Christ’s love as they move through life together. Others fly to the remote corners of the world, carrying the gospel seeds with them. Many plant their seeds close to home, right in their own neighborhoods. Sadly, there are too many jack pines in the church (myself included) — reluctant souls who only sow God’s Word when the heat is on.

Here’s one thing every seed has in common. It must die to live. When a seed germinates, a shoot breaks through the seed’s outer coat. A vivacious green stem pushes through the dark soil and unfurls two tender leaves.   The plant lifts its leafy arms toward the sunlight. If properly nourished, it will grow, and bloom, and set seeds of its own. And the original seed? It gave its life force to the new plant and the outer husk rotted away. So, it died to its old self and took on a new living nature.

Here’s one thing we, as Christ followers, have in common. We must die to live. Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9:24) What a paradox!

Frankly, sometimes it scares me. Okay, in one sense I lost my life for Christ’s sake the day I put my faith in Him. Paul put it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Christ’s new life in me shot through this fleshly husk and began growing. My life force began nourishing the spirit rather than the flesh. I took on a new living nature that’s vivacious and fruitful.

So, my flesh was crucified, in one sense, a long time ago. But it still needs to be crucified regularly. I must make daily choices whether to nurture the fleshly husk or the new green shoot. My lack of faith sometimes leaves me feeling like I’m fighting for my life, fearful of complete annihilation. I must remind myself God’s way is the better way; that contrary to all human reasoning, dying to myself brings life. Each time I choose to honor God, rather than feed my flesh, the husk fades a bit more, and the eternal shoot grows.

Redeeming Time

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Today I have a couple of hours to kill while the kids are busy at church. I head for one of my favorite haunts I discovered in college, a series of little pull-off picnic areas along the river. It’s not exactly a well-kept secret. Most of the locals know about it. But it has remained a quiet place where life, like the river, flows at a more peaceful pace.

I throw my blanket on the bedrock outcropping at river’s edge. The ancient pink granite, marbled with white quartz veins, is wrinkled and worn, its face wearing splotchy patches of green and gray fungus. Where rock merges with water, ripples and swirls dance silently along an eddy line. Water bugs drift downstream, then suddenly dart back up. They have one goal: not to become food for the fish that frequently surface in search of a snack. At moments like this, I’m reminded how good it is to be at the top of the food chain!

Of course, being at the top of the food chain carries with it some heavy responsibilities. We’re created in God’s image. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;”(Genesis 1:26a) We each have a soul, a will, a conscience, and a creative intellect unknown to the animal kingdom. We’re not merely highly evolved mammals, driven by instincts and urges.

In Ephesians 5: 15-16, Paul reminds us to “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time because the days are evil.” Unlike the rest of earthbound creation, we’re accountable to God for our choices. That means we should be deliberate about how we use our time and resources, right?

Lately, that’s a real challenge for me. It feels like life is passing me by. I can’t seem to find time for the things I feel compelled to do because I’m preoccupied with the things I must do. When I have free time, usually at the end of the day when everyone else is in bed, I’m too tired to tackle much more than a movie and some embroidery. I wonder what I’m accomplishing that’s of eternal value. Friends tell me caring for my family is my current calling. I know that’s vital. I don’t want to minimize my role as wife and mother in any way. But somehow it doesn’t feel like enough.

The river flows onward like the march of time. This water, which holds me spellbound, has just begun its long journey to its union with the Mississippi River, then journey’s end at the Gulf of Mexico where it will be lost in oceanic vastness. It will never pass this way again. My days are dancing swiftly, steadily, silently by, carried along on the current of time. The wasted days can never be reclaimed. The missed opportunities may never come again. There are no “do over’s” in life. Each tick of the clock brings me closer to eternity.

The thought compels me to pray, “Lord, am I being obedient? Am I doing what You’ve called me to do? If my current task is solely being devoted to my family, then give me peace. If not, show me what I’m missing and empower me to do it.”

There is no immediate peace, no immediate answer. One question lingers, as food for thought from the Heavenly Father. When I leave this earth, will I leave any mark behind to commemorate my existence? Or will I, fly away and soon be forgotten.

               Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away;

              They fly, forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day.

              (lyrics from Our God, Our Help in Ages Past, by Isaac Watts)