The Frost of Heaven

freedigitalphotos,com
freedigitalphotos,com/”Beautiful Branch of an Apple Tree With White Blossums” by Serge Bertasius Photography

“Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb has come the ice? And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?” (Job 38: 28-29 NASB)

In the final chapters of Job, the Lord gives the suffering servant somewhat of a dressing down. At least that’s how I interpret the exchange. Job reminds me of a sassy, rebellious school-age boy receiving a lecture by his father. The answer to all of God’s questions would have to be a basic no. No, I cannot do anything. You, dear Lord, are able to do it all.

In my part of the world, the change of seasons is unpredictable from year to year. All the data confirms spring comes after the last frost, which should occur by a late day in April. But, I’ve learned to hold back before planting. I wait and see. I may purchase my seeds and transplants and keep them in my little greenhouse till I know it is safe. I avoid rushing into my garden because I’ve been sorry in the past—frosted out of fertility.

The grip of blue sky atop a ripe plot of soil, accompanied by a delicious warm breeze, is intoxicating to the point of coercion. The yearn to plant can overwhelm even the most conscientious like a drug sneaked into iced tea. However, my education in planting with the seasons allows me some control in that I have my safe place, the greenhouse, to use as shelter. For fruit trees, I’m out of luck.

Commercial growers have elaborate coverings and spray systems to protect tender blossoms and buds from pending, expected frost. As a humble backyard hobby gardener, I possess no such resources. My poor little orchard has to stand and take it, unprotected and vulnerable to the loss of fertility. Each spring I watch and pray over the timing of the frost, knowing the outcome is entirely in Nature’s hands. The Lord is in control and I am not.

Those years I’ve awakened to the dismal reality of frost on the budding trees, I’ve learned to sigh and accept with humility and great disappointment there will be no pies that year. If the pattern repeats again the following year, I may moan and complain but there will still be no pies. Like Job, I have to submit and accept I was no where to be seen when the Creator of the universe laid the foundations of the earth.

The past few years for me have been afflicted with many untimely frosts. Just as projects have been ready to launch, next steps planned to be taken, and expectations of fruition of great effort, a brutal frost descended with vigor and nipped it all right in the bud. There will be no fruit from my efforts, no delicious aroma of baking pies of success, and no stock pile of baked goods stored for future enjoyment. Just as I’ve learned to do with my orchard, I must wait out another season of loss.

The frost of heaven may have been the manna to nourish and sustain the wanderers. For me, the frost from Heaven has been an opportunity to place myself on a diet from the world and learn that the Lord is my sustenance and His word is my nourishment.

Eventually the frost restrains its painful, untimely occurrence and the Lord will once again allow fruit. There will be pies once more. I remain in my safe house, the shelter of his Hands, as I watch and wait for another run of warm inviting days. Like Habakkuk, I realize that even if there are no buds on the vine and no cattle in the stalls I will rejoice in God, my Savior. He is Sovereign and my strength.

 

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God Moves in Mysterious Ways

Deuteronomy 26:8
And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:

Jeremiah 21:5
And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.
King James Version (KJV)
by Public Domain

William Cowper is reported to have suffered from deep intermittent depression. A brief look into his life reveals the common temptations of man: loss of love, failed efforts, and unreached goals. Yet he is credited as one of the most beloved poets of his age. It has been several hundreds of years since he penned his hymns and poems but they speak to me today in fresh whispers and wisdom.

Out of the great depths of disappointment, he was able to garner tremendous strength and understanding. For many of us, this is the path to knowledge. Our trials teach us so much more about life, the Lord, and ourselves than prosperity and success.

The Lord’s mighty arm to save is always above us not only for eternal salvation but for the daily ongoing help needed to make it through each day. The same God who demonstrated His power to the Israelites in their ancient trials stands by to intercede for those who call upon Him for help.

Sometimes I forget this. I think I have to drum up solutions and resources from my own feeble reservoir and feel I am somehow outside the camp of God’s mighty army. Fatigue and despair can lead us to feel distant and outside of God’s outstretched arms. Failure and confusion keeps us from watching the battle plan unfold, and as I huddle in a bush for a moment of respite, I am tempted to doze off hoping it will all go away.

But, it doesn’t. I need a reminder to focus on a mighty God during the intensity of battle. Cowper says: “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.” His hymn, God Moves in Mysterious Ways, penned in 1744, also encourages us to look behind a frowning providence to see His smiling face. The smoke of our troubles can hide the Lord who is reaching toward us for our deliverance.
My trials rage. Sometimes I think I can hear the blast of the cannon just before I am hit with another round of pain. I have to hold fast to the fact that He ever liveth to make intercession for me. I have to believe He is my advocate and will deliver. The hymn reminds me that “God is His own interpreter and He will make it plain.” I am alone in my confusion but only because I relinquish my standing as His cherished child.

In our day of great technology, the temptation exists to forget the majesty and strength of our great Creator. He walks on the oceans and rides along the storms. As fascinating as it is to be able to read an electronic submission from any where in our world, our abilty to call upon the One who created all is much more magnificent. And, He hears. Cowper encourages us with this:
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Enjoy this link and meditate on your position in the hands of a mighty God with strong out stretched arms:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtnapVDuPfg

 

Photo Credit: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot, published on 21 December 2010
Stock Image – image ID: 10024983

Chariots of God

Image
By bigjom, published on 24 December 2010
Stock Photo – image ID: 10025270

 

Psalm 68:17

New International Version (NIV)

17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands
    and thousands of thousands;
    the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.[a]

 

Until I had re-read Hannah Whitall Smith’s “A Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life”, I thought of the chariots of God as a metaphor for the power of God. A recent re-visitation to this classic written in 1875 gave me some new, fresh insights.

 

Her chapter, Chariots of God, introduce something I had missed reading this book in 1983. My copy is a Whitaker House publication, and some sources say there has been millions of this book sold. The pages are yellowed and aged, yet I was beckoned to read them once again upon the recommendation of another.

 

Is it possible that thirty some years ago I had not the capacity to understand her metaphor? In the bloom of a young marriage and with a heart full of hope for a blessed future, I think my naïve and inexperienced mind was incapable of comprehending the depth of what Hannah W. Smith said.

 

She tells us God’s chariots do not look like the biblical buggies one might imagine, with Charlton Hesston riding and thrashing a whip behind a fine set of prized Arabians, but look like enemies of our happiness and success. They could be trials, sufferings, disappointments or even misunderstandings or unkindness encountered from others.

 

Yet, she beckons us to open our eyes and see these thorns as God’s invitation to higher living. We must make the choice as to how they will be perceived; “We can either lie down under them and let them roll over us and crush us, or we can view them as chariots of God and make them carry us triumphantly onward and upward.”

 

Unlike the chariots of transportation or a metaphor for God’s power, these chariots of God are invisible, internal, and many times unlovely. She says “they may be a nasty friend or relative… the result of human malice or cruelty or neglect.”

 

The explanation is given that our chariots, our earthly chariots, are tangible and real. She gives the examples of having a trusted Bible study group or pastor, and then being unable to participate any longer or interact with those individuals due to changes in circumstances. Having our rugs pulled out from under us, like losing our jobs, marriages, or health, causes us to see how fallible the chariots we cherish really are.

 

Encouragement is given to release these foibles and turn to the “unseen chariots” of God. She assures us that they are always sent in love, because God is love. As hard as that may be to imagine in some of the most dire situations, Mrs. Smith says: “Perhaps He doesn’t command or originate the thing, but the moment we put it into His hands, it becomes  His, and He at once turns it into a chariot for us.” Of course, she follows with Romans 8:28, which reminds us that no matter what has come into our life, God can bring something good out of it.

 

No, in 1983 I had not the capacity to understand what she meant. In the past thirty years, I have ridden in many of those chariots of God, my ride at times being grueling, painful, and devastating. What I have today that I didn’t possess then is the knowledge, assurance, and overflowing presence of a Sovereign God who never fails, is always present, and assures me of His Eternal companionship.

 

Is it a coincidence that the year this book was published is the same year her husband was involved in a scandal of sorts? She says: “That irritating member of your household, who has, up to now, made life a burden to you and who had been trying to crush your soul into the dust, may from now on be a glorious chariot to carry you to the heights of heavenly patience and long-suffering.” Could she be referring to an unfaithful mate, whose sins visited tribulation throughout several of their children’s lives, causing loss of faith and falling away from their mother’s cherished beliefs?

 

As Christians involved in the Quaker faith, the Smiths did not divorce, although some sources say they never reconciled after his indiscretions. Hannah Whittall Smith continued to write, giving her secret to a happy life, even though she did not possess one in an earthy sense.

 

Reading this chapter again, thinking of the broken heart which penned these words, I can now see what she meant. As a woman who has traveled in God’s chariots, I understand that each trial has been an invitation to trust God more deeply. Each pain has been a bridge to the arms of Christ. Every place of disappointment has been has been shared with a Savior who, as my High Priest, is able to empathize with my every weakness.

 

Let me encourage you to read this classic as well. Put it on your shelf for a few years, and read it again after you have been driven in the chariots of God sent to you to bring you closer to Him. Chose to enter, willingly and fully—”these are chariots waiting to carry you to the very heights of victory you have wanted to reach for so long.”