I love living in Southwest Lower Michigan– especially in the spring. We have blossoms everywhere– apple blossoms, cherry blossoms, dogwood, red buds, tulips and irises, hyacinth and daffodils. The rich earthy smell of freshly plowed gardens and fields permeates the air, and rides on the breezes coming off Lake Michigan. Birds, newly returned from their winter wanderings are busily building nests, chirping away, while the sun’s rays chase away the last of the winter chill each morning. There is color and new life everywhere you turn.
We have a lot of spring festivals in the area, most of them centered on the blooms and blossoms that fill the countryside. Gardens, orchards and fields are not just for show around here– they are also important parts of our economy and eco-system. Without a good spring full of blossoms, buds, and blooms, we may have a disastrous harvest in the fall, and run-off of the soil; bees will die off, wild and domestic animals will have less grass and fewer berries to eat. A late spring can shorten the growing season and shrink the harvest; an early spring can bring buds out too soon, only to have them lost to a late season frost or to have them mature too early and be burned in a mid-summer drought.
And yet, I have seen crocuses burst through two inches of snow; buds that defy harsh weather and cruel winds. I have seen daffodils blooming where there once was a house and a yard, but now there are only brambles and foundation stones. I have seen trees twisted and split by long-ago storms– one side dead and rotting, but with buds and new branches on the other side.
It is easy to bloom when you are in a lovely flower bed, with tilled earth, fertilizer, gentle rains, just the right amount of sun, and protection from the winds and pests and birds. But it is more spectacular to bloom in the desert; to defy the odds and stand in stark contrast to brambles, a broken-up sidewalk, or a litter-filled back alley; to bloom in the snow and sleet or weather a flood or a tornado.
Not always so with prayer. Sometimes, it is easier to pray when we feel our own needs and shortcomings; when we are driven by our circumstances to call out for help. When all is well, we may be grateful, but we may also begin to slack off. We stop asking for wisdom and guidance, coasting in the beauty and ease of a good life, and forgetting that the beauty and the ease– indeed the life itself– is not our right, but a gift. Amid so many other beautiful prayers, ours seem drab and ordinary, almost unworthy of God’s notice.
But God DOES notice– he has placed each of us where he wants us to bloom and grow– to pray, to fellowship, to walk with other believers and give off the fragrance of His grace as we live our lives in obedience to Him. Have you been planted in an apartment complex? Have you been planted as a suddenly single parent of three kids? Have you been planted on a campus? In a group of friends that all have Harleys? Or one block from a rescue mission or homeless shelter? A classroom full of high-energy first-graders? A community that has had a lot of crime and blight?
God has not placed you in circumstances to reward or punish you, but to grow you in the soil that can produce the best harvest. Is your prayer list filled with needy people who live in turmoil and rebellion? Bloom where you are planted– you may be the only person praying for your cantankerous neighbor– the only raindrop or fertile soil s/he will ever encounter. Has God placed you in a family of people who taunt you for your faith? Bloom where you are planted– pray for strength to stand firm in the beauty of meekness and compassion in the face of their taunts and disdain. Are you in a greenhouse full of self-righteous orchids making you feel dowdy and wilted by comparison? Bloom where you are planted– pray for God’s eyes to see the beauty in yourself, as well as those around you, and stop trying to be an orchid where God needs a lily.
Has God planted you in trying circumstances? Bloom where you are planted– pray for God’s Peace as you face each day:
Matthew 6:25-34 English Standard Version (ESV)
Do Not Be Anxious
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. * 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.*
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.