When you look at this bouquet, some might see flowers, some might see weeds, but I just see God and his people.
These flowers came from one of my favorite places on earth: Schwarzwaldeckhaus. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?! Sitting on top of a mountain in the Austrian Alps is a three-story cabin that serves as a retreat center for youth camps, church retreats, and other fellowship times. It is a place that has been very near and dear to my heart for many years.
Because the house sits on top of a mountain, the views are breathtaking, the cows are entertaining, the sunsets are exquisite, and the stars are indescribable. The quiet is deafening, but the time there–no matter how it is spent, alone or with others–is refreshing. It truly is a place to breathe in God and all that he creates for us to enjoy. If God were to have an earthly throne room, I think it would be here, on this mountain top.
A while ago, I had the honor of taking two dear friends, a son and his “seasoned” mom, up to the house (haus, in German). For one, it was a time to reminisce about her experiences from her younger days; for the other, it was his first view of the mountains. Like many before them, their reaction was similar to most–awe.
She related memories of being at the haus with college students and how they would walk the mountain trails, breathing in the clean air, and the soul-refreshing moments with God and each other. But one story in particular caught my attention. On one of her early morning walks, she decided to pick one flower, and only ONE, of each kind she found growing on the mountain. By the time she got back to the haus, she had a large bouquet of flowers in her hands. The week after their visit, I was blessed with time on the mountain by myself (well, and a black lab named Cara) so I decided I was going to test her story myself. You know what I found? The Church. I found God.
Cara and I started our walk down the mountain trail and I began to do the same thing my seasoned friend had done those many years before. I picked one flower of every kind I could find. It was amazing to notice how many different kinds there were. Although I walked only twenty minutes away from the haus, my hand was getting full of flowers so I decided to turn around and walk back.
I began to really admire all of the variations in my hand: the diverse, rich, and beautiful colors, the different shapes and sizes, and the beautiful intricacies of God’s designs. It was fascinating!
As I walked back towards the haus, I found other flowers I hadn’t noticed before because my perspective had changed. And, when I started to REALLY notice ones I had never seen up there before, it made me want to look even deeper into the fields of flowers. It became a source of joy and reflection of how powerful God’s hands are and the creativity in his creation.
But then, I realized I was putting God in a box by even saying he was “creative”…that was almost too “human” of a word to describe him. It’s cool to know that he didn’t really have to “think” about his designs–he just spoke the words, and they were! Admittedly, the designer in me loves to think of God, sitting in front of an enormous marker board, dreaming up every flower imaginable. A storyboard for every season, every climate, every country.
Cara and I returned to the haus with our bouquet of flowers. I was curious to see how many different kinds there were, so I laid them all out on the kitchen counter. There were thirty different kinds of flowers, some with many similarities between them, but they were all still different.
After arranging them into a bouquet, I put them in water and enjoyed them the rest of the week…and what God was teaching me.
I’m sure you can extract your own faith-building moments from the story, but these were some of the things God spoke to me about:
The Lord has no equal and all that he has made is good!
Isaiah 40:14 and 26 says, “Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing!”
You could say the same thing about the flowers…he created all of them, they all have a name, and they were created exactly for where they belong, and even for the proper season to flourish in.
Now compare that to God’s people and his church! We are all created differently, each of us with our own particular details and intricacies given to us by God, and that is what makes us unique.
“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it!” Psalm 139: 14.
God has placed us where we need to be to bring him the most glory.
John 17:4 says, “I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”
And while he may only put us where we need to be for a season, his ways are always higher.
“Who knows if perhaps you were made for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14).
God doesn’t call us to understand the season, he calls us to be faithful!
1 Peter 5:12 encourages us, “…what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace.”
And another favorite of mine: “Now if you will obey me and keep my commands, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me.” (Exodus 19:5)
Perspective is also beneficial as God’s people
We all come from different situations and life stories. Yes, they make up a part of who we are–or at least who we were–but looking at people through eyes of love and God’s grace allows us to see the embraceable differences we have that make up the body of Christ. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multiple of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8.
Looking deeper into people’s lives also opens up the door to ministry and sharing the Gospel, as Philippians 2:4 suggests: “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too.”
We are unique, we are different, but when we are all put together, we’re beautiful because of Christ! That “green stem” is Jesus. As a body, we have in common the forgiveness he offers us and the ability to live for him, bringing him glory. What a humbling honor! That the God who knows my name calls me to be his own: “…he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing (righteousness), he gave them his glory!” (Romans 8:30)
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
I have a bunch of college "kids" I call my own, 2 dogs named Abby and McGee (yes, I love NCIS) andI get to be "the cool aunt" to 2 beautiful nieces and 3 handsome nephews.They make great play dates!
Given the opportunity, I want to encourage people when I can and remind them of the power of God in their life...or help them find Him in different ways.Fair warning:I'll ask you the tough questions!I treasure deep relationships - especially ones that will allow for "iron sharpening iron."
I love being outside, and I'm a huge fan of turning off the phone whenever possible to soak up God's creation! Actually, I'm a huge fan of turning off the phone in general...as the phrase goes: "Wherever you are, be all there", and if you are where I am, then I'm going to be all there!
I'm flawed, but saved by grace and learning daily to be loved by God.I'm thankful for the times he lets me wrestle with him because he knows my heart of hearts, and I'm ok with my hip being messed up (Genesis 32: 24-26) because growth comes from it.I encourage you to join me in the journey!
Love well...breathe deep....show mercy!