Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in all the earth. (Psalm 46:10)
The fields are green again.
Because I spend a lot of time on the road these days, driving between New Bern, where we live, and Wilson, where I’m currently serving as the interim lead pastor of a downtown UMC, I’ve had ample opportunity to observe the fields of eastern NC. There are basically three routes (plus minor variations) that will get a person from one location to the other, and all those routes pass alongside numerous fields. When I first started making the drive, the fields were bare and, not infrequently,
rimed with frost. Then came Mud Month, when for 4 weeks in a row, many of those fields couldn’t be seen at all, because they were masquerading as ponds or even lakes. (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so much water before, even during the annual spring rains.) Eventually, though, the ground began to emerge again, at first so waterlogged that it was literally too wet to plow; later, the ground began to grow green as seeds became seedlings...and weeds became weedlings! For the last few weeks, I’ve been noticing the tips of tree branches turning a rosy red, and then a golden green, as buds swell and finally burst into life. Every time I make this drive, there’s yet another fruit tree that has just come into blossom, Bradford pears, tulip trees, and the such like. Of course, the other infallible signs of Springtime in NC have also occurred: (1) I keep getting stuck behind agricultural equipment; and (2) my sinuses are driving me crazy. But both are small prices to pay for the earth’s annual reassurance that new life does, indeed, follow death; and that God is still making springtimes. After more than a year spent in pandemic, it is unusually comforting to know that some things, like the coming of spring, remain constant. Yes, I do realize that “I will be exalted in all the earth,” almost certainly refers to God’s rightful expectation of the exaltation of humans all around the globe; but when I see the fields returning to life again, it sometimes feels to me as if the Lord is exalting “his own self” in the beauty of the earth.
The least we can do is notice. If you’re old enough to remember the book and the movie “The Color Purple,” then you may remember a line spoken by the protagonist: “I think it ticks God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and you don’t notice it.” (OK, so the actual word used by the author, Alice Walker, is somewhat stronger than “ticks”...but this is, after all, a church publication. Google it if you’re still in doubt over the actual word.) And yet, that’s exactly what we often do. A few days ago, when the fields between Wilson and Snow Hill went purple in what seemed to be a matter of hours, I found myself wondering if the purpling had actually been the work of several days, and I had just missed it. I tend to live in my head too much. If I’m chewing over issues that need resolving, or problems that need solving, I can very easily drive blindly past all manner of divine wonders without even noticing them. It is when I am feeling quiet and still on the inside, when my mind is actually occupying the same space as my body, that I am capable of noticing all that God is doing right around me.
Last week, watching a sermon online, I heard a sentence I cannot forget. It’s a quote from author Kate Bowler: “Gratitude is the child of attention.” Of course, so is ingratitude. It’s all a matter of what we’re paying attention to, what we’re focusing on...and that is usually a matter of choice. Much that has characterized the last year is not anything you or I would have chosen; we don’t always get to choose what happens. But we almost always get to choose what we pay attention to - which is why people start gratitude journals. When we look for things to be grateful for, we will surely find at least a few; and the more we keep looking, the more we will find. Gratitude births more gratitude. The good news: yes, gratitude is the child of attention; but it is also the mother of joy. Thanks be to God!
UMH #92, For the Beauty of the Earth, vs. 1 & 6
For the beauty of the earth
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise
For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.
Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood