’God is glad about a cheerful giver.’
(i. 2 Corinthians 9:7)
Middle of February
It is late afternoon, and I finally take time to clean my garden of the leftover waste of the neighbours’ New-years-eve-fireworks, which ended up in my lawn and was hidden under the snow. While I collect the trash I refuse to be in a bad mood, it rather is fun to be in the garden! The weather in the past days was mild and altogether too warm for this time of the year. The snow has completely melted, late sunbeams make the rooftops of the houses around glow, between faded winter-grass some new green blades can be seen, and it is so good to breath in the mild fresh air and the scent of the dark- green spruce-trees, to enjoy the blue sky with its white fluffy clouds, and I know our heavenly Father is with me.
Suddenly I notice some little white chips in the grass across the lawn, and I walk over to pick it up, assuming they are plastic pieces. But while I come closer I realize: No, these are little white daisy- flowers blooming! Even so it is still winter! What a wonderful gift of our Father! And what a nice reward for cleaning the garden in a good mood. While I pick them another thought flashes through my mind: Wouldn’t it be a special Sabbath-joy for my friend in Church? Yes, I will keep them as a little present for her. Back in my apartment I arrange this gift in a tiny vase. Now I have seven little white daisies with pink tinted blossoms on my kitchen table ...
End of May
It has become spring, and I had to find out that the daisy story wasn’t finished in February. Why?
Whenever I am in the garden, I am very much reminded of this little present, since the patch where I picked the daisies ... it is now covered with daisies! In the years past there have been some daisies too, but never such a numberless amount of those little flowers. There are so many that they are like a white carpet in the green lawn! Hundreds and hundreds of daisies with pink tinted blossoms! Sometimes I just sit down beside them, marvelling at the wonders of God.
And a thought comes in my mind: It is for me like a gift from our Father, given because of the decision that I didn’t want to keep those seven February-daisies for myself. And it reminds me of some Bible verses: When our selfishness dies, and we give – like the little grain that falls on the ground – it will multiply, and it shall be given to us too. I just was giving an afternoon of work with a cheerful heart, and some little flowers, and our Father gave to me joy in hundreds of daisies. It is plainly awesome to me. And it teaches me: When we are willing to take care for ‘unpleasant’ things, and deal patiently with the problems in our lives, even if others have caused them – like the trash in my garden – and when we hand it over to the Lord, He can give us peace. When we let our selfishness die in a cheerful heart and give, He will multiply it in ways we never will imagine ... and He will multiply along with it the joy in our hearts.
Everything we will give, even if it may be burdensome and troublesome, our Father will reward it. And more over, you may think with the little you were able to give you could sow just a few seeds, but you have no idea how our Father can multiply it without you knowing. In heaven you will speechlessly watch and marvel with a joy in your heart that cannot be compared with anything else ... and it makes my heart rejoicing when I look at that little foretaste, that carpet of hundreds and hundreds of pink tinted little white Daisies.
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.
Since his invisible attributes, his eternal power,
have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.’
(Proverbs 3:5; John 20:29; Romans 1:20; Nasb)
A wonderful sunny day in May has drawn me outside, and I enjoy the warm air. Hearing the call of a falcon I lift my head. Up there the bird sweeps the clear sky, circling up higher and higher. Suddenly it folds its wings, falling almost like a stone, but quickly it spreads its wings again, and by the speed it gained it shoots up into the air like an arrow. The bird repeats it time and again and sometimes even turns a somersault. One can almost imagine, how the falcon takes joy in being carried by its own wings and playing games with the air.
High above it an airplane draws its milky line across the blue firmament. And even though I know that its flight can be explained by the laws of aerodynamics it still makes me wonder how a thing so big and heavy can stay up there, just being carried by something totally invisible: the air.
It is really remarkable if we think about it that the falcon as well as the people in the plane entrust their life to a strange thing which is completely invisible. The falcon even seems to enjoy it to be carried by it, and is completely sure of being safe in this phenomenon called ‘air’.
And suddenly I feel a bit embarrassed in view of this bird and especially of those people in the plane, who evidently trust that invisible element most likely without knowing the laws of aerodynamics, while I sometimes do have so little trust in my invisible but almighty God whom I should know. How often are we humans faint-hearted, only because we cannot see Him yet ... but already today we could experience Him in our lives if only we would trust Him.
Lost in thoughts I watch the plane until it disappears in the distance. Just the milky line testifies of its existence. And the falcons call above me sounds almost happy, as if it would like to encourage me.
Yes, the bird is right; his visible example may encourage us. Since far safer than the air carries falcons and planes with people inside will our God carry you and me. And like the falcon we by experience can be completely sure of being safely kept by the invisible One called our loving caring Father! Since what is the air against Him who created this element? How much certainty can we learn of the aerobatics and somersault of the falcon. This bird and the plane want to give us courage to trust even more our invisible Father who once will be visible for us.
“Thank you, dear falcon, for your encouraging call towards me. And thank you, Father, for the vivid invitation by a falcon, a plane and the invisible air to really trust you.”
‘Those who love God will rise like the sun in all its brightness.’
(i. Judges 5:31)
It is a grey morning in early spring, but still I am happy since I am sitting here in the kitchen of a befriended couple I visit for a weekend. They truly show wonderful hospitality and I am looking forward to a delicious breakfast with them together. Through the open door I can hear them finishing their morning toilette in the bathroom. And suddenly it happens: Irene’s elbow must have hit some kind of lotion, it falls on the bottom, and along with the natural laws the lotion liquid begins to spread on the floor. “Oh no!” Irene laments.
“Don’t worry. No reason for panic.“ With these words her husband Tim tries to comfort her. “We will solve that problem.” According to the noises I hear he arms himself with lots of dapping paper. “Let’s get down to business and attack the problem. First we surround the enemy.” I can envision him wiping in a circle around the lotion puddle. “And we corner him in.” By this he reduces the size of the puddle. “Watch. This way. And that way. And if the enemy is not willing to surrender, we simply pounce on him.” With a loud shout he probably hits with the dapping paper vehemently the leftover lotion puddle on top and wipes it away. “See? Now the enemy surrendered and waves the white flag.” Most likely he waves with the white dapping paper to make Irene laugh.
While listening I too have to laugh quietly. That’s so typical for Tim. Where others would get angry, he takes it with humour and made his wife laugh ... and without knowing me too. And it makes me think: Instead of taking such small accidents of life with anger and sorrow – things I anyway can’t change by a bad mood or anger – it’s much better to solve it with humour. Along with it we will lift our own spirit and do something good to others. By this a small accident may become a blessing.
And something more comes in my mind. The true enemies in our lives are our own weaknesses like being unkind, selfish and angry anyway. God wants to ‘wipe’ these enemies away, but if we refuse to look into his mirror and wont let Him work with it, the ‘puddle’ will grow bigger and bigger and we will be the losers. But if we come to God, He can circle these enemies in and cleanse us, and in Him we will be victorious. And instead of being angry we will be joyful.
Tim did practise this morning the wonderful habit of not getting angry over something but making others happy. I truly can learn from him. So let’s practise circling enemies in and be victorious in the Lord!
‘At your side, Lord, I am safe.
You are my strong refuge
and with my lips I sing your praise.’
(i. Psalm 71:1,7-8)
The fragrance of spring is in the air: The sky is perfectly blue, the sunlight is flooding through the old orchards in the hills around my village, bees are humming, and I take advantage of that wonderful day to go for a walk in the orchards while humming a tune too.
Suddenly I discover that one of the old apple-trees has a hole in its trunk. Long ago a branch has been cut off, and now that area of the trunk seems to be hollow. More over I notice that the lower rim of that hole is covered with white spots, which tells me, that the hole most likely has a feathery content. So I walk over to the tree to examine it.
And sure enough, right in that moment I peek in, an almost grown-up starling chick hops expectantly into the entrance while chirping loudly. But as it sees itself unexpectedly confronted eye to eye with an enormous and strange bird, it closes its bill, freezes in place, and is stunned. We both stare at each other in surprise. It is as if the little fellow would gulp and if thoughts would rush through his little head: “Oh wow, what is this? It has two eyes, and also has something like a bill. But this is absolutely not Mom or Dad!” Then the chick seems to take a deep breath and clear its throat, “Excuse me for the error. It was nice to meet you. But I think ... hum ... I have to say goodbye for now and return to my nest. May I?”
With this, the little chick shakes off its paralysis and hops slowly backwards into the tree while it keeps an eye on this featherless marble-statue outside. Finally it disappears from view. Gone it is back in the dark depth of the hollow tree trunk ... but I can’t help smiling. The astonishment of both of us was just funny. And the baby chick was so cute.
With a thankful heart I lift my eyes to the blue sky. “Thank you, Father, that You have shown me one of your little treasures.” And I am certain God enjoys his little treasures too. He is the almighty God who created a Universe, and nevertheless has a love for the smallest details – such as this little chick hidden down in the trunk. And as much as the trunk of that tree provides security, protection and safety to the little bird, so God himself is our protection and safety as well. Whatever we may face in life – whether it is confusing, frightening or perplexing to us – we always can turn to our God. In the surrounding arms of his power our heart and mind is safe and protected. He is our fortress, and in his care we have a home.
While I continue my walk, I am humming the songs: “You are my Hiding Place” and “Be still my Soul”. These songs did accompany me in my life’s journey. When I was scared, hurting, felt insecure, or didn’t know what the future holds, these songs were my prayers. And God always encouraged me.
We do not need to fear the hard times, since God is with us, surrounding us with his presence. Our heart will be at peace ...since He is our hiding place.
“I do not want to let them go hungry
that they may not collapse nor break down on their way.”
(i. Matthew 15:32)
The peace of lofty trees surrounds me, and in spite of the chilly grey day some birds sing their carols. I sit down on a tree stump which is left of a tree, which has been overthrown and broken. “And Lord, the promises you have made in your Word sometimes seem to me also like being broken. Of course I know that you always care for us. But sometimes I just can’t see it.”
I take my small Bible out of my pocket and open it. The story on this page tells of a gentile woman coming to Jesus while He was in a region outside of Israel. She pleaded with Him that He may heal her sick daughter. And He didn’t at first. Why not? What has happened?
Short before that the Jewish teachers had charged the disciples they would eat bread with unclean hands. Jesus explained to his disciples that not neglecting traditional rites would make a man unclean but the bad thoughts in one’s heart would do so. Still it was obvious how much also his disciples shared these opinions on traditions of clean and unclean, which also view the gentiles as unclean. So Jesus decides to show them clearly their prejudices.
He knows that foreign woman too, and that through her He will be able to educate his disciples. He trusts her that she will be strong enough to bear it, when He would turn away from her in order to demonstrate to his disciples how cold-hearted they treat those who God wants to save. And sure enough the woman is not discouraged by his unusual behaviour, which didn’t fit his usual kind and sympathetic manners, and when He finally cites the self-righteous people in Israel: “It is not nice to take the bread away from the children and give it to the little dogs.” Even then she replies, “Yes Lord, but also the little dogs eat it of the breadcrumbs which fall under the table of their masters.” How well does she know already Jesus’ love and mercy towards all men! And Jesus knew that she would make it possible for Him to show his disciples how much their bad thoughts do make their hearts unclean. He knew He can trust that women, and finally heals her daughter ... with all his heart.
And I know that through this story He wants to encourage me to go through difficulties with Him too without giving up my faith in Him. He cares with sympathy for us. “Father, I do understand now that you trust us enough that we would have perseverance which could be a help for others too. And I do not ask for a whole bread, but please give me at least some tiny breadcrumbs.”
“Did I give to that woman only some poor breadcrumbs?” He seems to tenderly speak to my heart. I have to smile, “No, You did perform a precious and tremendous miracle for her.” And He will also reward us richly for what we experienced here on earth. As if He would like to confirm this thought He shows me in his Bible, that the next miracle He did on his way back to Israel: He multiplied seven little breads to feed thousands of gentiles! Where we see only broken promises and miseries we will see one day the harmony in God’s plan. No cry unanswered, no need unseen. He keeps his promises ... and multiplies breadcrumbs into thousands of breads ... Trust Him.
‘Jesus came and said: “Peace be with you.”
(John 20:19 Nasb)
The tomcat of my sister is around and comes to me, while I sit on the sofa. How else can it be, purring he steps with his soft paws on my lap, and lays down, searching for the most comfortable position, while I stroke his velvet-like coat. It is a beautiful cat, striped in all tones of reddish and orange. Therefore my sister named him ‘Tiger’.
Since my early childhood I am fond of animals. And I still like it when a kitten or cat trustfully comes to me, rolls up on my lap, and purring falls asleep while I pet its soft coat. Those moments are so peaceful for me. The picture of a cat sleeping on my lap reminds me of security, of being at home and in safety, protected in a place of refuge and rest. And it somehow reminds me of heaven. And when things got hard for me in life I sometimes asked our heavenly Father, “Just let me be near You. Let me lie down like a little kitten on your lap, and be at home.” And I felt peace again by knowing me near Him.
Tiger also rolls up on my lap, and sure enough soon falls asleep. I watch him for quite a while, enjoy the peace ... and suddenly become aware of something astonishing: The cat and I, we both are breathing in exactly the same rhythm! And we do so until Tiger wakes up some minutes later. Now this perfect harmony is interrupted, and we are breathing in our own rhythms again.
I have heard of something similar before. When a mother talks softly to her baby, their hearts soon beat in the same rhythm, while normally a baby’s heart-beat is much faster. And also the Bible-verses came in my mind, when Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection and said, “Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit.” while He was breathing on them. He knows we are in need. We are searching for peace and safety, and only in Him we can find it. And when we come to Him, when we are near Him, his peace will enter our hearts by his Spirit. Since when we are so close to his heart our heart-beat comes in tune with his heart-beat. In other words: Through his Spirit He writes his law of love in our hearts, we start to breath in the rhythm of his breath. And isn’t it often so true? Exactly the sorrows and the hardships we have to fight with are time and again the ones which drive us in his arms, where we begin to learn to breathe in the rhythm of his breath...
May his peace carry you through times of difficulties. While we are learning to be in harmony with his love, his heart-beat, his breath. When we are close to Him, we are able to feel his breath on us... “Peace be with you, my child.”
“Lord, give us more faith.”
(i. Luke 17:5)
The sun with its warm rays shines down on me, while I am sitting on the balcony working on my mail. There I suddenly I hear an insect buzzing by. I lift my head. A bumble-bee flies across my balcony and finally hums busy along the railing. I have to smile. Somehow I like these rotund little animals with their velvet coat.
Once someone told me, as children they for fun would let bumblebees crawl over their fingers and did stroke the bumblebees’ coat. That is something I haven’t dared to do yet. Bumblebees very seldom make use of their sting, but I nevertheless have a huge respect of stings – and probably too little trust in the good-naturedness of these little creatures. Therefore stroking bumblebees in my childhood days I only know of bumblebees which weren’t alive. I collected them like a treasure in an empty box.
I always considered the best looking bumblebees those kinds with an elegant black velvet coat and an orange coloured tip of their abdomen. Other kinds have additional yellow strips or white coloured tips at their abdomen. They all build their nests in burrows under the soil or under tree roots. I once read that they accept also flowerpots turned upside down having a hole to crawl in. But especially remarkable I found a short article, which showed that bumblebees are one of the most amazing animals. Since if the size and the weight of the bumblebee’s body, as well as the size of its little wings and the frequency of its wing-movements are calculated,according to the laws of aerodynamics it shouldn’t be impossible that a bumble-bee can fly … until scientist found out, that it is the kind of movement of the wings and the circulation of the air around them, that makes it possible. But fortunately the bumblebee does not know of all of this. It just simply flies.
And there I begin to understand, what God tries to tell me by this: The bumblebee does not feel restrained by this human calculation laws … and just happily flies! In spite of it’s little wings. God takes care of this little fellow and makes it fly! How often do we just see our humans standards and our ‘small wings’ and thus conclude we are unable to do several things. Instead we can ask God according to his will, and He can make things possible with us which seem impossible to us. He will do everything which serves for our best. He encourages us to have faith. We shall believe what He says, and we shall believe that He can save us. If we look at our faint-heartedness we concentrate ourselves on ourselves. But if we look at our almighty and omnipotent God, we turn away from ourselves our own restrictions. In steadfast faith we may live and experience how He works with us and in our lives. And we do not need a huge faith. Jesus said, we only need the faith of the size of a mustard seed. So even with ‘small wings of faith’ we can fly like the bumblebee. Since what we need is not a big faith, but to have faith in an ALMIGHTY GOD. He makes bumblebees with little wings fly!
And yes, I think I should learn from bumblebees. God can give us through them more faith. And maybe I should trust them really too … and finally stroke a bumblebee …
“Look at the birds of the sky. Your heavenly Father feeds them all.
Therefore do not be afraid, you are much more valuable than many sparrows.”
(i. Matthew 6:26; 10:31)
As fast as I can I rush to the window, open it quickly and clap loud with my hands. The magpies sitting in my spruce-trees immediately fly away. Those spruce-trees at my garden-fence are the home of my beloved blackbirds. Their nest has been ravened last year by the magpies; therefore I am more on guard this year.
Mild spring-days arrived and I take the chance to work in the backyard, harvesting some asparagus stems. Suddenly I discover a brownish round thing between the plants of my flower-bed. Curious I come closer since I want to know what it is ... Oh hello! That’s a little blackbird chick! It watches me with its cute black eyes while I kneel down beside it. Having already a complete coat of feathers it still cannot fly. Blackbird chicks leave their nest early, and hide on the ground. It still has some of the fluffy baby-feathers sticking out left and right of its head. It is such a funny sight – like little ears – it makes me laugh. “Hi, what are you doing here? You are a sweet little thing, you know?” I say to my blackbird baby. It just watches me without any sign of fear. Obviously I am known for being a harmless fellow. And while I talk to the baby, it seems to be so bored of my entertainment-program, that it closes its eyes for a nap. What a respect towards my person! I smile, and leave it alone. At least I now have introduced myself to the first one of the blackbird chicks ... and my new employment begins.
In the meantime I learned how the warning cries of the blackbirds sound; therefore I quickly get to know when danger for the chicks is around. Mostly I have to chase away magpies. One time, the blackbird parents even ‘scream’ on the top of their voice, and I know it’s time for me to get some exercise! With a glance out of the window I see how the courageous blackbird daddy is attacking a cat! If he does so, the cat must be close to one of the chicks, very close! No time to lose! I open the window, clap with my hands making all kinds of noises and movements, hoping nobody will see me. But it doesn’t help; I even have to rush out to the balcony in high speed, since the cat is just about to jump on one of the little chicks, and not at all willing to care for my shouts and funny exercises at the window. But when I appeared with shouts on my balcony it convinces the cat that I am the more powerful one. Reluctantly the cat leaves the garden. The little chicks flutter with wings wide spread across the backyard to a safer place. And I am relieved, especially because my house is at the end of the village. Nobody can watch my strange use of arms and facial expressions. There are only barns and trees behind my back-yard, and I think those don’t mind my behaviour.
But for sure it can be seen by my efforts how much I care for my blackbird family. I try to support them, I am concerned for their lives and even willing to look like a fool. But how much more does God care for our life and safety! The little blackbird chicks most likely will never understand that my interference and my strange behaviour saved their lives. Isn’t it similar with us? We hardly can imagine how often our heavenly Father has saved our life without us noticing. And more than once Jesus did things, where He risked looking like a fool in human eyes – because He was willing to do this for every single one of us. God is fighting for us, against seen and unseen dangers, and against Satan too. We have no idea, how harshly Satan would attack us if he could as he would like to.
Sometimes I wish we could peek behind the veil which divides the visible from the invisible. Since we can’t, we have the impression only our visible world and life is the reality. But it is only a little part of all the actions, fights and tears beyond our perception, only a small part of that life which is the true reality behind the veil. One day we will know it, and then we will be astonished and touched by the revelation how much our Father did protect us and kept His promises in most special ways. We just shall not give up but have endurance, and then we will get to know the truth. Still I wish we already today would draw the veil aside, and see with our inner eyes, in order to have our trust in God grow, and that we may again have courage for life. Since often we stare just at the magpies called ‘frustration’, ‘long waiting times’, ‘fear’, ‘sicknesses’ and ‘obstacles’, not noticing the One at the window to our world, ready to fight for us. Nothing escapes His sympathizing eyes; He does not slumber nor sleep. Far more than I ever may be able care for the little blackbird baby-chicks He cares for us ... and so much more He cares for you.