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Monday, September 8, 2014

Just Bare-Foot Theology for the Likes of Me, Please

Four stepping stones to my victory garden. Four long strides away; and it's only four-foot by four-foot. Small. But it's there, and that's better than last year because it's growing tomatos and basil and, yeah, the zucchini is just a lot of leaves and not a single squash. It's August and I don't think I'll harvest zucchini, but I'm enjoying it for what it is. And every time I stoop down to finger through large leaves for hint of squash I remember the snake that likes to hang out there and think "The Savior squashed the serpent." I know. Corny. Grainy. But this is a victory garden and so was the field of grain where the disciples walked with Jesus on a Sabbath day and heard the heart of Sabbath, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27-28). Corny, grainy, squashy, it doesn't matter. It's Sabbath talk and victory reminder in earthy speech that doesn't require big theological words and a degree to understand.

There was serpent who tempted in the Garden of Eden; and there was great fall. The Fall. In a manner of speaking, Eden summer ripe turned fall fallow and so did human heart. Eve heart, Adam heart, turned from ripe green and crop cultivated by God Himself in those walks through Eden at the cool of the day, to fallow soil when the walk was without God and, I imagine, in the heat of the day because Serpent is present in the heat of the moment and I'm reminded of this, too, because the  one in my garden is no different. Snakes like the heat of the day. They soak it up.

And I wonder, "Was there serpent in the last earthy garden, too?" Surely. That was Gethsemane heat.

"Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation," Christ warned His followers. He knows about serpents. And Serpent.

They were His followers who fell asleep in the heat of the moment. I am optimistic that they tried to stay awake and watch and pray. But, "Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?" And, "Are you still sleeping and resting?" (Mark 14:37-41)

I read His warning about temptation and think, "Serpent." I read, "watch," and think, "eyes." And wonder, "Was there Serpent hissing hypnotic till Christ followers' eyes closed to God, again?

The Serpent is hypnotic. I think I know what "hypnotic" means, but how is it defined? I google it and find, "tending to produce sleep," and, "readily holding attention." Well. That figures. Two opposing concepts to work in favor  on one opponent. Of course. No wonder Jesus said in that Garden of Gethsmane, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation."

Sleeping Sprawl

Four large six-foot something men, young but men, snore heartily on upstairs floor. Just sprawl and cover square footage. I listened last night into the morning wee hours to six nieces and nephews and one daughter. All upstairs enjoying summer freedom to stay up late and sleep in late, because life with one another is too good to close eye on. Too good to shut out.

I'm a morning person. So I'm tip-toeing crazy pathways over wood floor because I know where it complains when stepped on. Complains loud enough to wake the sleeping. I zig-zag to bright red coffee maker. Then step odd pattern to back door. Yellow dog grins around the stuffed bunny in her mouth, and we step outside backyard. 

I go to check the zucchini because I'm forever the  optimist, even in August garden. Maybe one morning I'll be doing victory dance and zucchini jig up and down those four stepping stones. But this morning I don't actually make it straight to victory garden. There are weeds choking the stones. Sprawling over the step-way. Rock-way that gets me there. Rock and Way. To victory. It's how I see it.

I set coffee down in dirt and sacrifice bare fingers nipped earlier in the season by something
finger is still recovering from, praying against my own foolishness. And God is glove. I pull weeds. Clear rock-way. And I wonder, "Why do I think about holy Sabbath when I garden? And, apparently, when I'm just gardening on my way to the garden? I do, for some reason. And I'm doing it again. "What's the connection?" I ask God. "Connect Sabbath and these thoughts I save for garden work," I say to Him with my bare feet on the smooth rock and weeds drape between bare fingers..

"Oh, My girl,  My barefoot lil' bit, you're standing on it." I hear Him, but I'm barefoot and bare fingered, and slow.

"On what?" I look down.

"On the connection," He says.

I quirk my head at tilt, not getting it.

He regards my body language, "On Me, dear girl. I am the connection."

"Oh!" And it's really more than I can fully grasp. I grasp another handful of weeds, instead, and think about those in sprawl on my floor upstairs, and these weeds sprawling over the stepping stones.

I think about sprawl, growth. Weeds and these nephews who have grown like them. And zucchini not with-standing, the plant is vine and so is tomato plant; and how they sprawl up and out and right over edges of planter. I think about these simple things of this morning; and what did He say? I'm standing on Him. On the Rock. He is the Sabbath answer for daily, weekly, life that sprawls weedy on this suburban pavement kind of rock-way, and Sabbath answer for life that sprawls viney beyond reason, and for six-foot something lengths of young men who love Jesus.

I find the connection like this. Since the Sabbath was made for man, then it was so for the first Sabbath when God rested. So I ask it, "Did You rest at least in part, for man? Did You rest for man to enjoy the fruit of Your labor and so, to worship You? Because isn't it reverent worship to stop our labor for a day to recognize and enjoy Yours?" I've never looked at Sabbath from the 'Sabbath was made for man' perspective.

It feels a tad backward to think that possibly God rested from His labor, for man to enjoy it. But doesn't this perspective keep man in his place? Keep me in my place? Keep me awake to the fact that what He has done on my behalf brings Him greater glory than what I do on His behalf? That I can, must, afford a day to get it straight, again, that the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way around? It's must-need and begs rhetorical questions like, "Did You delight when You made Adam in Your image, and even more delight when You made Eve the day before declaring the Sabbath, knowing that they would enjoy one another because You were resting that day?" It is rhetorical, but I ask because I need to hear myself say it.

"I was sacrificed on the Preparation Day before the Sabbath. I gave up My life on Preparation Day." His response takes me aback.

"The law keepers crucified the One who came to fulfill the law," I see it different on this smooth rock between the driveway and my victory garden. And I wonder, "How did they manage to observe the Sabbath just hours after taking the crucified down from the cross? They must have barely had time enough to wash the blood off their hands before the sun set and Sabbath began." All I can think is that it was blind observance. And it still is for most and I don't want to be a blind observer, so here I am on the second stone pulling up weeds on my way to the garden so small I painted the word "Produce" on an old fence slat pointing straight to it, lest it go unnoticed. It's a sign pointing straight to what I call "Victory Garden."

Get the Sabbath straight, and know the victory of it. I'm getting it straight because God Word is sign, too, pointing straight to it. Clearly God had reason to create the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden the day before He created the Sabbath. It was Day of Preparation for Sabbath victory! Man and woman created by God, in God image, to bring forth sons and daughters to know the Father and His kingdom!

And then there was Golgatha Day of Preparation when the Lord of the Sabbath was crucified. What strange perspective to underscore the words of the Lord of the Sabbath to Moses, "Surely My Sabbath you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you" (Exodus 31:13). It's sign, Sabbath is, pointing straight to the Lord of it. Miss the sign and miss the meaning of God's rest.

I'm getting it, sort of. "You didn't rest to make Sabbath for man, as if observing the Sabbath makes man holy; but You rested to make man for the Sabbath to keep the Sabbath holy." Is that it? I'm sure there's more, but I've got dirt under my fingernails digging up weeds to see this Rock I'm standing on with greater clarity.

"The place of My rest is the place of your true worship," says the Rock. "It's the inner place of a poor and contrite spirit where trembling at My word happens." He's talking from Isaiah chapter fifty-seven, verse fifteen.

"I make Your word the words I speak till Your word is my pleasure and till Your way transforms my way. Is this it? True Sabbath? Sabbath that I find delight in because I find my delight in You?" I answer Isaiah fifty-eight, verses thirteen and fourteen. It's heart to heart with God.

"You shall be like a watered garden and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail," He speaks  verse eleven.

     Dirt Gets Under my Fingernails
It's old hymn, "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand;" and "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotton Son" love sprawled across John chapter three, verse sixteen and all the lengths that Love went to till Sabbath and life all weedy and tangled and some of it bearing fruit and some of it not even a squash, connect. Connect. On the Rock and on the Way to victory that cannot be contained in the planter.

Sabbath. It's victory. It's the jig and dance that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit must have done on their day off that first week of life as we know it. And Sabbath is victory Vine reaching far beyond the cross and death that could not contain Him. And Sabbath is victory over unruly living that would choke the way to the One who gives the kind of rest that is worship and love, that roots perspective and replenishes purpose. Sabbath and garden work connect like this for me, on the Rock.

It's just so simply answered for me right now. So clear and so normal and just alive and breathing and snoring and in the zig-zag and the tangle. It's bare foot theology. That's all. Laughable wonderful grace answer for Sabbath wonderings by those of us who grasp weeds and who pluck grain like the disciples did right off the stalk while walking with Jesus through grain fields and Sabbath becomes topic. And isn't grain field, garden? It is! I'm not alone in my garden thoughts! The disciples learned Sabbath while talking with Jesus and plucking grain. And were accused of unlawful garden work by plucking so, on the Sabbath, by Pharisees. That just says it all. Secures the connection for me. I triumphantly progress to the third smooth rock on the way to my victory garden and there are weeds here, too.

"Sit hear, while I pray," He chuckles because He's praying for me as I progress and it's delightful. I know it. I sit. Aware all wonder that He can say it so, like this, the "Sit here while I pray," when the first time He said it was to His disciples at Gethsemane garden.

"How can You say it like You do, now, to me?" I awe it as I sit all obedient on rock-way. Only now it's Rock-Way.

"I can," He smiles reminiscent tender, "because the Rock was struck and then water poured out from His side; because the Shepherd was struck and then His sheep were scattered; and because I am the Rock beneath your feet and the Rock that reflects sunlight every night above you just all moon rock; and the Redeemer of everything in the heavens and on this earth. The Rock has risen. See Me, Light risen over the dark, and you will not stumble." He's speaking Gethsemane language, "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night." (Mark 14:27)

He continues as I sit two steps from victory garden, "I can say, 'Sit here while I pray,' with light tone because I am both Shepherd and Lamb. Both struck and sacrificed."

I get it. He's glorified. And I'll see reminder of this again, tonight. Because that's what moon is to me. Reminder of risen Rock to give light in darkness. It's marked. Pocked. The moon. The Rock. Pock mark scarred. He's risen and still bears scar.

Could it be because the pocked Rock reflecting the very glory bright of God Himself is strongest intercession for me before Him? Could it be that one look from Father eye at Son scarred on my behalf and for His kingdom is all the intercession needed? Does the Lamb of God carry those scars still, for that very reason? Still on my behalf?

The sun is beating down on me heated, and tonight it will illuminate and cast shadow defining the craters on the moon; and I'll see the scars on the Rock.

"The Father takes one look at My scars and hears My Holy Spirit groan," He says.

I finish the thought because it's God Word that I know, "Your Spirit groans the words I cannot express." It's too glorious for words. And that gets groaned, too. Glory beyond words in some holy language known by Spirit and God.


Just silence.

And breathing.

I pull weeds away. I step reverent on rock-way till I stand at victory garden. Pluck a tomato. It's red. Ninety percent water, I've read. I place the tomato on my tongue and hold communion at victory garden. In remembrance of Him. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Amen"

written by: Carolyn~Elizabeth Roehrig

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