Season of Change

Spring in the Agape Garden, Upper Room
Spring in the Agape Garden, Upper Room

Lately I’ve been reflecting that my time at The Upper Room has given me more than a just steady job for more than 20 years. I find myself talking to my web development colleagues about organizing a web page using “The Mind of Christ,” “The Heart of Christ,” and “The Hands of Christ.” Or I’ll discover that I’m trying to figure out the right web application for teaching Lectio Divina. “Weird!” I think to myself. “I sound like Stephen Bryant [the boss of The Upper Room]” It’s not a bad thing … but when did that start?

Even more than the breadth of knowledge about spiritual things, my spiritual self has been formed by working here. I don’t know why it surprises me that my relationship with God has been influenced by this place and these people. In my time working here, I’ve been mentored and nurtured by some of the most knowledgeable, creative, and humble spiritual leaders in the Protestant world.

I’m grateful for these gifts … and extremely sad that we are going through another round of layoffs of our staff. Since the beginning of the year, we have lost 14 staff people, whose jobs have been terminated because of the sinking economy. We are in a time of great change, great grief. We cherish your prayers … and we need God’s love, presence, and healing.

Good Friday

Dogwood blooms
Dogwood blooms

Today is Good Friday. The dogwoods are in full bloom today. There’s a legend about the dogwood tree — that it was the tree used to make Jesus’ cross, but that his crucifixion transformed the tree to its current size, form, and blooms. It could never be used for that purpose again, its blooms a reminder of that event.

My mom loved dogwoods, but they weren’t native to Oklahoma. I remember that she tried to grow one in Mangum (just about as far as you can go in Southwest Oklahoma before you get to Texas). That little, spindly tree hung on as long is it could in that hot, flat land. I think it got run over by kids on bicycles a couple of times and then it died over a dry winter.

Thank you, God, for dogwood trees.

Forgiven

Bluebird box
Bluebird box

Last week I emptied a chickadee nest out of the bluebird box. And I’ve been feeling terrible about it ever since. Every spring, the cavity-nesting birds stake out potential homes and build nests in them. When I found the chickadee nest in the bluebird house, I did what a bluebird house landlord is supposed to do — empty the box so that a bluebird can build there. But who am I to say who should live there?  I’ve been debating this in my mind every since I dumped out that beautiful nest of grass, fur, and moss.

But today I looked in the box — and there’s a chickadee nest there again. Thank goodness … I feel as though I’ve been forgiven. Grace abounds.

Visit the website of the North American Bluebird Society.

Yearning for Spring

Bradford pear blossom
Bradford pear blossom

It’s been cold and wet here in Nashville. For a long time. Seems like the whole earth has been holding its collective breath waiting for spring to burst forth. We’ve been in slow motion … watching, waiting, barely daring to breath … hoping for the trees to open up their blooms and announce the end of winter. This week, spring is finally here.

I went out early this morning to shoot some pictures of the ornamental pear tree across the street. Nashville is full of these trees. They are almost the first tree to bloom in the spring and nearly the last tree to turn red in the fall. I don’t think I’d ever noticed until this morning the variety of colors in their blooms. Their white outlines dot the dormant, gray hills of the entire city. Once the pear trees are in full bloom, the redbud trees are soon to follow and spring is well underway.

Today, the day was clear and the sun was warm. I could almost hear the sighs of satisfaction from all of creation. Whew. Spring and her flowery beauty have finally arrived.

Signs of Spring in Nashville

I get to work at home every so often — it’s a wonderful perk of my job. Today I spent the day writing, doing some finish-up work on the manuscript of my upcoming Advent book — The Uncluttered Heart (watch for it from Upper Room Books early this fall).

I heard the tree frogs this afternoon and the second daffodil was blooming in the front yard. I first noticed the tree frogs Saturday or Sunday night — it was about 25 degrees and just a few hardy frogs were peeping. The first daffodil was blooming on Saturday, when a cold front came through and  dropped a dusting of snow on it and the rest of Nashville.

I love to write while sitting at the kitchen table. The table looks out on the back deck — the feeding birds, the tops of the trees which line the hill below our house, the occasional squirrel getting a drink from the bird bath or hopeful cat hanging out under the deck railing. I’m grateful and mindful of God’s awesome creation.