The Frost of Heaven

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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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Watching Cardinals

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Psalm 71:18

Amplified Bible (AMP)

18 Yes, even when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not, [but keep me alive] until I have declared Your mighty strength to [this] generation, and Your might and power to all that are to come.

My 80-year-old-plus relatives are living in their own homes. My father’s youngest brother, age 87, is a widower who cares for his brood of school-aged grandchildren each day after school. He picks them up after school and brings them home until their parents get off work.

A visit to my uncle’s home is like going to a daycare center. Kids are every where and toys line his hallways. However, I have friends who live in residential care. They live quiet lives of solitude and their hallways are lined with carts full of medical supplies.

My lady friends, in their residential homes, find safety and security within the walls of the monitored living arrangements. They are entertained by the activities of care executed by the staff, the birds kept in a large cage in the foyer, or the flurry of activity around the outside bird feeders strategically placed in front of the windows of fortunate residents.

These women I knew from church cooked and served at banquets and functions. They participated in every civic club in town. All of these women were wives, and many of them are mothers and grandmothers. But, the pace of their lives has come to a standstill. Their adult children visit daily; it’s not the same as having a blood relative live under the same roof.

My friends have been Christians since childhood or their teen years. Their late husbands were deacons and faithful church members. They served along side of their men for decades. Now, they spend hours each day sitting alone, eating alone, or watching the television alone, usually not paying attention to the program. Their vision has dimmed and it is difficult for them to read even a large print Bible.

It is hard to visit these friends who were once so active and lively, full of laughter and great wisdom. Several ladies are still sharp-witted; sadly, a few of them have succumbed to levels of dementia. Each visit raises a question in my own mind: will I still have one, a mind that is, when it is my turn to move here?

A family of one of the women shared that their mother now feels useless. She wondered what she can contribute to her world any more. A Sunday school teacher, a mom and grandmother, and wife to one of our most beloved and active deacons, her life has been spent telling others about Jesus and His wonderful ways.

As long as we have any life in us, God still can work His purpose through our lives. The verse above from Psalm 71 tells us that our purpose is to proclaim His wonderful story until our last breath. I have no doubt that my friends who are still capable to do so are telling the staff, their grandchildren, their doctors, and every visitor about how God has worked in their lives. They may appear to be sitting mindlessly in their chairs as they watch the cardinals, but they are engaged in active warfare on the behalf of all those they love and know. They are doing some of life’s most important and difficult work in their time of greatest infirmity.

Of course, my church has ongoing ministries to our residential members, but they are still in a position to minister to us through their prayers and support. The church can benefit from the unbounded love of their shut-ins. Their prayers can be the fuel of ministry. Their petitions can intercede for the lost and the burdened.

We who love the gift of life have a great opportunity to support and love our elderly friends. I realize how important it is for me to develop friendships with younger women; someday I will be the one receiving the birthday parties, singings, and free manicures that I am handing out today.

A few years back at the Southern Book Festival in Nashville, Tennessee, I purchased a book from Missy Buchanan. Her words of encouragement to an elderly aunt have been made into a book.  Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body is available through Upper Room Books. Just shy of 100 pages, Missy writes in large print a selection of prayers and poems to encourage those who feel they may have stayed beyond their welcome.

Ms. Buchanan’s book will be the perfect gift for my friend who wonders if God still finds purpose in her life. I plan to tell her that I wrote a blog post about her and that her story has reached an audience around the world. I hope at 90 she can comprehend, and will find comfort that she has declared His mighty strength to this generation.

And they thought she was just watching cardinals…

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevewall/3336811446/”>Steve took it</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;