Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dragonflies and Bears

Today I hosted a potluck meal for a dragonfly and watched a black bear stretch her legs. It was a good day.
My sister planned this girl’s weekend with our friends from high school. In fact, we’ve known these friends ever since I can remember. Together, we soaked up the sun as we floated down a river on inner-tubes surrounded by the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. I told Charis that I think today will be my best memory of the summer. One of the pleasures in life that I treasure is being on the water under a beautiful blue sky. The weather has been perfect, despite the prediction of rain.

For some reason, as we drifted downstream, I was a Mecca for dragonflies--they all seemed to be drawn to me. I had as many as five at a time resting on me once. One even brought an insect to feast on while perched on my arm. Apparently, insect-wings are not tasty, as he left those behind. Dragonflies are one of the few bugs that do not come around to bite or annoy, so I enjoyed watching these beautiful little creatures as they fluttered on my arms and legs.

Then this evening we took a drive through Cade’s Cove. In several places, cars were stopped as people gawked at feeding deer. At one point, we saw a couple of wild boar chasing each other through a field. That was unique, but I told the girls that I have been on a quest for the past three summers to see the elusive bear. Although I did not think it likely that I would see one today, I made my desire known amidst assurances from my friends that it was not likely and quite uncommon there.

I’ve been to Yellowstone twice now—each time hoping to catch a glimpse of a bear. We saw elk, deer, antelope, eagles, bison, foxes, and even a bull moose, but no bear, despite all the signs and warnings that created fear and anticipation. (By the way, did you know that the population of elk in Wyoming is higher than the population of people?) On both trips to Yellowstone, we camped in the area where a grizzly had been spotted, we heard reports from people all day long of bear sightings, and we fervently scanned the woods along the road for a momentary glance at a bear. Not a close encounter, but a distant observation, of course. But I never saw a bear. Until today.

As we drove around Cade’s Cove to see the beautiful scenery, we were annoyed by the cars slowing down and blocking the road when they spotted an animal. We were almost through the cove when others said they were watching a bear, but we didn’t see anything and didn’t want to waste our time staring at a black shadow by a tree that may or may not be a bear (as we had done earlier). Yet I rolled down my window and stuck my body outside the car with a fleeting hope, when suddenly she rose on her back legs, stretched her body out to its full length, and then took a stroll to find a more comfortable spot to lie. It was thrilling to finally see a wild bear. Everyone around was awed at this rare sight. I know black bears are fairly harmless, especially compared to a grizzly, but all wild animals demand a degree of respect—even those who are "more afraid of you than you are of them."

It made me think, once again, of our true home. A place without fear where the lion lays down with the lamb, where we will be able to pet the bear’s oily fur and admire his teeth and claws up close. What an amazing world God has given us to enjoy. I look forward to the day when we can truly take pleasure in it as we were meant to, when there will be no enmity between us and the rest of creation, when a prowling bear causes us no more trepidation than a perching dragonfly.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11:6-9

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Plastic Fruit Shortcuts

"Healthy things grow. Growing things change. Change challenges us. Challenges cause us to trust God. Trust leads to obedience. Obedience makes us healthy. And healthy things grow." James Ryle

Do you ever get fruit envy? You see the fruit of the Spirit alive in someone else and you want it? I do. Someone recently pointed this out in me and reminded me that those people have the fruit because they’ve gone through the hard work in their spiritual journey to get there—the hard work which I have habitually avoided. It made me think of something I just read—that some people seek the fruit, not the Spirit. They look for peace, joy, love, etc., but they don’t want to make the necessary sacrifices to get there. So, we look for easier ways to get at it or we imitate the fruit to make it seem like we’re there. We may even fool ourselves. It’s like that fake fruit my grandmother always had in a bowl that looked so tasty, but was plastic. (What’s up with that anyway? Are they trying to appear healthy or is it some sort of decorating fashion statement?) It’s not really fruit at all.

I’m learning (or should I say relearning?) there are no shortcuts to the real thing. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t natural and instinctive. It comes from a life surrendered fully to God. It comes from daily submission to the Holy Spirit’s work. It takes time to work out all the rotten stuff that has accumulated. It requires paying attention and getting rid of distractions so that God can do the work He wants to do and develop the imago Dei that is within us. I would much rather reflect the image of God in me than my self-created image. I am especially aware of this lately as the Spirit has exposed all kinds of debauched things in me that I’ve never seen before. I had myself fooled with plastic fruit. But only as I recognize the repugnance of my own fallen image do I see the beauty of His. His image is everything that is good, right, and true. I want to be beautiful. Only He can make me beautiful as I spend time in His presence, letting Him change me into His image (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." Ephesians 5:8-11