Will You Walk with Him?

High on a hill he stands, king over his kingdom—or so he thinks. His head is erect. His strong horns curve backwards. His tan coat reflects the yellowing afternoon sunlight. He snorts, his shaggy beard quivering. She comes, small of frame with slate grey hair, wearing navy pants and a pink shirt. Swishing through grasses damp from rain she walks, her voice carrying through the air in its sing-song way. Two heads pop up from the grass below, their arching necks lengthening and orange beaks flashing as they turn. A handful of chickens—orbs of white, red and gold—emerge from bowing bracken ferns and scurry up the slope alonside the geese.

Photo by Ellie Burgin on Pexels

Her words flow melodically in an unfamiliar tongue, the same phrase—something akin to, ‘Come here,’ perhaps—being used over and over. Affection rings in her tone.  These are her children, the delight of her heart. With rocking gait, she leads them towards their coop, offering food and shelter, comfort and safety. Her words flow like a stream over pebbles until at last the chickens answer with their rhythmic cluck-clucks and monologue turns to conversation—back and forth, her and them. A wayward goose tries to push past and the woman’s voice becomes stern, her words sharp. She waves her arms at the honking bird, quickly bringing her family into order.

Many times, when I hear this ritual begin, I stop whatever I’m doing and watch through our window. A warm sense of delight spreads through me and I can’t help but smile. Though I can’t decipher the words of either woman or creature, their relationship is clear and their dynamics often entertaining.

On a recent afternoon when my heart was heavy, I pulled out my journal and began listing all the reasons I had to give thanks. The woman came to mind and as I pictured her there on the hill, I felt a sudden surge of joy in my spirit as God breathed these words:

That’s like Me with you.

Of course. No wonder it brought me such pleasure.  

Like this woman, our God walked in the garden with His beloved ones at the end of the day, right from the beginning of creation (Gen 3:8-9). Always, this has been His heart—intimate connection, reflection on the day, a passing on of wisdom.

Now, through Christ, all of us are invited into that intimacy.

He beckons,

Come away with Me, My love

Hear Me singing over you?

I have food for you—and shelter.

Come and be nourished. Come and learn from Me.

Receive My discipline, for I see you and I know what you need.

And I will give you rest.

He’s calling us—not only to come to Him at the end of the day but to walk with Him all day every day. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus made the way for us to be in constant relationship with Him through the Holy Spirit.

What is our response to such an offer?

Photo from Pexels-Pixabay 35811

Are we like the goose—certain we know better and determined to do life our own way?

We may already belong to Jesus but we’re not always willing to follow His directions. We’re choosey about what we entrust to Him, unwilling to surrender our whole lives to His loving rule.

Are we eager to embrace the rich, full relationship He offers—to bask in His love, find refuge and rest in His presence, to feed on His word, converse with Him and learn from His wisdom?

Are we willing to run to Him and say,

Lord, it’s You I want—nothing else.

Here’s my life.

Make it what You want.

Thank You for Your counsel, Your provision, Your discipline and Your power?

If you’re anything like me, your response to these questions varies from day to day. I’m challenged as I write them. Emotions and circumstances often cloud our view and make us close our hearts, clutching at control. That’s why it’s so crucial for us to fix our gaze on the truth and listen for His song—every day, every moment. Only when we see Jesus for who He really is—the one who surrendered completely to the Father’s plan—are we able to lay everything at His beautiful, pierced feet.

With surrender comes life in all its fullness—the life we were created for—unfolding step by step as we walk with Him.

‘Why spend money on what is not bread,

And your labour on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me and eat what is good,

And your soul will delight in the richest of fare.’

Isaiah 55:2

When the Way is Hard

His hand felt so tiny, so trusting in mine as we paused at the entrance to the cobbled path. I stooped beside him, our brown eyes meeting, and whispered, “Let’s go on an adventure.”

“Yeah—adventure!” His eyes lit up and his face broke into a broad grin. I giggled as his three-year-old legs began scurrying up the sweeping slope. Matching his pace, I loped easily beside him on my lanky twelve-year-old legs. Arching branches rustled overhead and magpies filled the air with their lilting melody, urging us on. Come and see, come and see.

Up a winding curve we climbed, away from our parents and picnic blanket—into the land of the unknown. Lush ferns waved their curving fronds, blurring the path edges, and palms stretched tall, reaching for the sky. Our eyes grew wide as we crept through their shadows, intrepid explorers trekking through the jungle. Hand in hand, we scaled smooth stone steps, worn by the tread of countless feet, puffing a little and pausing to rest those tired toddler legs. Spreading trees and orb-like bushes hid our view of the way ahead, adding fire to our curiosity. Sometimes we stopped, leaning close and whispering as I pointed to a delicate flower, a buzzing bee or colourful butterfly. At one point, when my little companion grew so weary he didn’t want to go on, I swung him onto my back and bounced along the path, grinning as he giggled and chanting, ‘Wait till you see what’s up ahead.’ When he was rested, I lowered him gently to the ground and on we marched, eager to finish our course.

Photo by Marco de Winter on Unsplash

My heart thrummed a happy rhythm as vivid images from my own childhood flashed through my mind. Many times, my family had come to these gardens for holiday picnics and birthday celebrations. Many times, I’d run along these paths behind my older sisters, unsure exactly where we were going, my eyes searching for familiar landmarks along the way – the timber bridge arching over the duck pond, the stately Japanese tea house or the wishing well full of shimmering coins. The first time my parents told me I was old enough to explore on my own, my spirit soared. I stood at the edge of the lawn where several paths branched off in different directions, my mind pulsing with the possibilities. Which route should I choose? Where will they take me? And what will I discover on my way?

Time passed, leading to this day. Now I was the older one with a young sibling in tow. It was my turn to share that wonder with my brother, to open his eyes to the thrill of new adventures.

Those memories have left a permanent imprint on my heart. Because of them, I’ve always felt drawn to gardens with tall hedges, winding paths and hidden corners. The memories themselves have been tucked away in a corner of my mind reserved for precious things, drawn out only when I’ve seen old photos or driven past the gardens, which still reside in their place on a hill—until a few weeks ago, when God brought them back so vividly it was as if I was walking those paths once more.

This year—so far—has been one of challenge.  I’ve been asked to do things I didn’t think I could and ventured well beyond what I thought was my happy place. My ‘legs’ have grown weary and sometimes I’ve been afraid of what might lie around the corner. Sometimes, I’ve been head-spinningly anxious. Yet, as I’ve pressed on, I’ve marvelled at the way God has—every time—brought peace, blessing, joy and growth through those things I would rather have avoided.

Again, I’ve been reminded of how little I really understand of His ways. Like a little child, I’m not ‘tall’ enough to see very far on the path He has for me. Sometimes I question the value in the direction He takes me and, in my tiredness, want to stop, to turn back or take a shorter, faster route.

But He has a plan. He knows the best way. And challenges are vital to the journey.

This is what He spoke to my heart the morning He revived those images:

‘Continue to trust Me, to put your confidence in Me, to follow My lead and press forward in My plans. It is a great adventure. And just as you delighted in exploring all the winding paths of the gardens in your childhood, so you will delight as you see what I have around each bend for you.

I have many surprises in store, much unexpected beauty. There will be passages that seem long, steep and, at times, even dull. In those I am building your muscle and mind for the parts still to come, teaching you to drink deep from my reservoir.

Hold fast to Me and let Me take you to those unexpected places where you will experience the beauty of My presence in ways beyond what you’ve known.’

Things are not always as they seem. Like children, we are limited in our vision. God sees the whole picture and has good reasons for everything He leads us into. At each stage of our journey, we can trust Him to give us what we need to go on. And when we grow weary, He will carry us, chanting, ‘Wait till you see what’s up ahead’.

Knowing Him, it will be worth the trek.

Photo by Kyler Wilton on Unsplash

“You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”   John 13:7

“In all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

“Even to your old age and grey hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.

I have made you and I will carry you;

I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Isaiah 46:4

Hope in the midst of winter

Have you braved the outdoors lately?

It was mid-July, the deepest, darkest part of winter – the time of year when sensible people stay tucked up inside by the fire. Yet one unusually warm day the sun streamed through my window and beckoned me outside.

The moment I opened the door, the lilting warble of magpies filled my ears. I smiled and breathed deeply, inhaling the sweet fragrance of wattle blooms. I wandered around the yard, pausing in one place to watch the birds flirt and swoop, bending over in another to study the silent garden beds. Clusters of pale green spikes gave promise of daffodils and bluebells yet to come. Tiny pink buds formed little bumps along the stems of formerly naked trees.

All around me were signs of new life.

July is the coldest winter month, the one we often view as something to endure on our way to warmer weather. We bustle through the mall with hunched shoulders and pinched faces, darting from one toasty shop to the next, barely stopping to greet familiar friends in our hurry to get out of the cold. We battle coughs and colds and long for the carefree vitality we associate with summer. Yet in the midst of the chills and discomforts of our frigid days God gently whispers to us through His creation, “Winter will not last forever.

Spring is coming.”

Our family has had some difficult ‘winters’ in the last couple of years – long bouts of whooping cough, a sudden brush with death and slow recovery, cancer diagnosis for a precious grandpa followed by his rapid decline and passing.

The winters of our lives can feel terribly harsh. Unbearable. Like stark trees in the garden, we feel stripped back to bare bones. Completely void of life. We drag ourselves through each day, weighed down by the heaviness of the struggle, often convinced that it will never end.

Yet it will.

Winter, no matter how harsh, does not last forever. Spring will come. The darkness and heartache will pass and, while some things in our lives may have permanently changed, we will experience beauty and joy again.

Spring will surely come.

But here’s an important thought to ponder: The health and splendour of our spring plants is dependent on how well-rooted they were through the winter months. It’s in winter, when everything appears lifeless, that the plant is preparing for spring, drawing deeply from nourishment in the soil and forming its next season’s shoots.

We may not see much happening on the outside but there is a whole lot going on under the surface.

So it is with us. We can choose in our wintertime to put our roots down deep and draw from the living source. Or we can battle it out alone and just barely survive to emerge in the spring.

I’m reminded of a favourite passage in Jeremiah 17:7-8.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

Whose confidence is in Him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water

That sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

Its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

And never fails to bear fruit.”

I want to live a life that—like spring blooms—can bring joy and beauty to others. How about you?

For that to happen, we need to stay connected with our Maker, through every season.

Only then can we be a channel of His life and hope.