Springtime. It is only one word, but yet so many thoughts tend to come to the forefront of our minds when we linger over the memories of this season.
Springtime in the south of France is one of the loveliest times of the year. Flowers are blooming, trees are budding and everything is green. Because this is a semi-arid area, the summer months bring less of the color green and more of the earthy tones of browns and yellows, with just splashes of color here and there. But for right now, vivid "green" is on display for all to see.
On my daily walks, I have been struck by not only the new budding plants and weeds, but also by the textures that they display in our world. With the beautiful green weeds growing right alongside the wild roses or the quintessential red poppies of the South, one needs to stop and just look at the beauty that is found in the “texture” of the picture.
This image of texture in nature, draws me to linger on the correlation of texture that we find in our ministry to the international community here in the region. People from all over the world come to our city and what a wonderful sight it is to behold. Just sitting on our city tram and observing people, one can take in a myriad of cultures, languages and ethnic differences. Much can be learned about a culture by just sitting, listening and watching!
But for me, as much as I enjoy seeing the “texture” that is displayed by the people around me as I walk into the city center, it does not compare with the beauty showcased in the depth of “texture” as I walk through the doors of our church. That is beauty, my friend. Not because we have all the elements that make for grandeur or elegance in our facility. No, instead the beauty actually comes from those who walk through the doors with us. People from every tribe, nation and language, worshipping the Lord together. Unity amidst diversity… Beauty found in the texture…
We have often described our ministry as a small glimpse of heaven. John and I will recount to people the vivid image of the scene set in Revelation 7 where those who know Christ as their Savior will be found worshipping at His feet and around His throne - A myriad of people from every tribe, nation and tongue. What a humbling honor and extreme privilege we have to be able to catch a glimpse - if just only a fleeting glimpse - of what God will see before Him on that day… beauty found in the “texture!”
Spring has arrived or at least that is what the calendar currently tells us! The rain during the month of March broke long-standing records in our area, but they also have helped to water the spring flowers that we have been desiring to see as we look for visible signs that the long winter is over.
One of those "signs" that I look for each spring to tell me that winter has retreated is the budding of the poppies. I don’t know what it is that attracts me to these beautiful flowers for they do not differ in their colors, at all. There is only one color that dots the countryside and that is the color “red.” For me, just seeing one of these beauties standing alone beside the road nestled in the bright green grass with a clear blue sky above is enough to tell me that “Yes … indeed winter is over!”
This fascination with poppies actually began when we first arrived here in France. I was so enthralled by this tiny and delicate wonder that I really wanted to have one in my own tiny garden. Being one who would rather find something for “free” rather than pay for it, I proceeded to look for just the right specimen to call my own and bring it home! So one day I went equipped with a tiny shovel and a bag on my bike to gather up my new find along a back road. I dug carefully around the entire plant and gently placed it in the bag for safekeeping.
During the entire “gathering & transplanting process” I was greeted by many stares from people who were passing by me, however I did my best to try and ignore them and focus on replanting my new spring flower. It was days later that after talking with some of my French friends that I realized that these tiny little wonders of creation that encourage my spirit so much after a long winter were actually viewed by the French people much like I would view a dandelion that would appear in my yard back home. It was at this point that I began to understand why I received so many stares while planting my poppy! I, who was being so careful and gentle with this delicate flower so as not to disturb it’s root system, was actually just transplanting the local weed!
I can confidently say that I have learned my lesson in regards to the poppy. Sometimes the Lord only desires for me to gaze on the beauty of His creation, instead of trying to replicate it somewhere else. It was never meant to be duplicated, but was given to us as another opportunity to thank the Lord for His beauty in creation & His faithfulness to us as we pass from one season to another. Winter will disappear … spring will arrive and all the beauty that comes with it. The poppy no longer draws my heart to want to capture it, but to glorify the Maker of it!
There are days in life when you just have to stop and watch what the Lord is doing in the lives of the people around you. Yesterday was such a day.
I stood, with camera in hand, taking in all the activity that was surrounding me. We were celebrating as a church the baptism of two individuals and the Lord’s work of salvation. How does one illustrate through photography the movement of the Lord in the lives of people? Ministering in an international context as we do, how does one intentionally grasp each moment to plant seeds for God’s Kingdom in an environment which is in a constant state of movement?
There was a point yesterday as our church stood at the edge of the sea watching the baptism take place that I just needed to stop. This was a sacred moment. A moment amongst hundreds of thousands of moments where John and I have been seeking to serve here in Montpellier.
Sometimes it is so normal in a fast-paced society to want to grasp and hold onto people and experiences for as long as we can. How exciting it is to be able to obtain that communicative photo for Instagram so that you can remember the good times for years to come! Yet, yesterday I took a moment to look out over the people surrounding me - people from South Sudan to England and from Indonesia to Vancouver, Canada. People who are just passing through my life for a season. Still here we were on the same beach, witnessing the same wonderful event of newly surrendered lives in Christ, and praising the same God for whom together we will all bow before one day.
So I stopped. I stopped looking for that great photo shot to express the day. I stopped fussing with the food table to make sure it was replenished. And I just took in that sacred moment. This was God at work and I was given the opportunity to witness it.
As John and I continue to try to live & serve intentionally here in France, we lift our hands up praising the God who is alive today and is still moving in the hearts of people. Yet, we also want to keep those hands opened. Opened - so as to allow God to move people in and out of our lives as He sees fit … so that His Kingdom can be advanced around the world.
To be honest, as the day progressed I did continue to look for that photo to express the day & I did continue to fuss with the food table. (no big surprise!) But now I had a renewed sense of God’s presence, knowing that He is building His Kingdom and we have the privilege of watching Him do it!
This is the sacredness of international church ministry.
Wife, mother, teacher & friend who loves to "do life" alongside others as we journey together in seeking to know God more fully and deeply. Feel free to join with us as walk through a few "French fields" ...
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