Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Parable of the Ubiquitous Ferns

I had no idea what I was up against when I set out to get rid of those pesky ferns that had spread through my garden like predators on the hunt during my three and a half year excursion into academia. Several hours later I wasn't even close to getting the job done.  For every handful I pulled, five or six more lurked in the shadows, taunting me with their persistence.   

                            along with my aching back. 

I collapsed in sheer exhaustion days later when I finally yanked on that last leafy stem,  my body hurting in places I never knew existed. Still, looking out at the now the barren hill, I was filled with a pleasant sense of accomplishment.  

My reverie was short-lived, however.  At dinner that night Joe mentioned in passing that if I wanted to keep those ferns from coming back, I needed to make sure all of the roots with their bountiful propagating balls were dug out and discarded.



Not only were there scores of tenacious tentacles burrowed deep in that soil, but hundreds of brown balls had left the landscape looking like the aftermath of a muddy hailstorm.  So I collected and shoveled and pulled and wrestled like a mad-woman, swearing under my breath at the fern gods, and if I'm honest, my beloved husband (what was he doing all this time while my head was buried in books?)

Feeling desperate I even paid my grandsons a nickle each to collect those rootballs, which they did with glee for about five minutes, earning a hefty sum before they tired of the task.
I knew that having come this far, there was no turning back, so I bravely soldiered on, painfully aware that Dr. Rhodes or not, no one else was going to do this job for me. 

 A funny thing happened as the hours stretched into days. Gently the Lord began to write a parable on my heart about those persnickety plants.  It happened as I was pulling up a cluster of new growth and realized it had no root balls.  I couldn't believe how easily it came out of the ground, and lamented to myself how I wished they could all be this way.  That's when my little hill became a metaphor for my soul.
You see what had frustrated me most about the whole fern adventure was that I knew that had I simply spent a few minutes dealing with those wayward stems each week, I would never have gotten in this predicament.  Indeed, that garden cleanup might have lasted an hour or so rather than an entire week.

Once the Spirit began to drive this home, every single stem, root, or hairy string of balls I excavated from that hard ground reminded me of what happens when I fail to care for my soul, when I let things go, when, out of sheer neglect, I wreak havoc on the most important part of my being (never mind my family and friends). 

Here's the thing.  It really doesn't take long to tend our souls, to give them the attention they need so that the beautiful fruit of God's Spirit can take root as He cultivates the soil there.

But what frustrating fallout when we fail to take that time!  I know, we all intend to get to it, but what we don't realize is that with every delay, things like those seemingly innocuous sins, unhealthy attitudes, bad habits, inappropriate actions, or unwise decisions are slowly seeping into our souls, spreading out their tentacles, securing their nasty hold.  Then one day we are miserable and we sorely feel our sorry state, but the last thing in the world we want to do is take the time to clean up that mess.  The enormity of the task seems debilitating, to say the least.

Deuteronomy 4:9 puts it simply: "Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently."  Truth be told, it does take a measure of diligence to attend to our souls, but my friend, have you considered the alternative?  May the parable of the ubiquitous ferns serve us all as a ready reminder in the days to come.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

A Personal Note and the Beginning of Lent

a personal note...

This week my life took a dramatic turn when I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation and became Dr. Rhodes after four arduous years of study.  During that time devotionals from the Soul at Rest website have been few and far between  I hope that will change now that I have a little more time on my hands. 

I wanted to write now because we are in the beginning of Lent, and this is such a special time.  My first experience with meditating on the passion narratives was almost 20 years ago, and I can honestly say that every year since has taken me deeper into the wonder of what the cross really means.  After that first experience, I wrote:  God beckons us to gaze in awe at what we see on Calvary’s mount. He challenges us to bathe in the wonder of such love until we lay ourselves down, weary with unworthiness, yet cleansed and renewed in the healing stream of blood shed there.

I look forward to keeping in touch.  If you have any suggestions or questions, please feel free to email me at

about lent

Often the Lenten season creeps up on us as Protestants, and we wish we had been a little more spiritually prepared.  My philosophy is that it is never too late to start.  While Lent officially began on Wednesday, March 5, you can still make plans to set aside a period of time--days or weeks--for focus, spiritual renewal, and a fresh vision of crucified love.
Some ideas to help you focus: 
  • Fast in some way--a meal a day, a full day each week, eating out, pleasure foods etc.--and use that time to read the passion narratives reflectively (for guidance on how, click here
  • Let go of media--TV, facebook, twitter, instagram, web surfing--an evening or a day a week, or even the entire season, and use the time to pray and read. 
  • Work through a devotional like Contemplating the Cross by yourself, with your family, or in a small group (The publisher no longer allows me to make these available online, but click on the title for a sample devotional and ordering information. 
  • Set aside a block of time each week to focus spiritually. Use it to get away from the busyness of life to read, pray, and contemplate Christ's death (Catholic churches are almost always open and available for quiet meditation).
These are just a few thoughts. May you be drawn to greater intimacy with Christ during this very precious time of the year.