Day 1: Look at the Birds of the Air
Our day may have started with anxiousness just to get to this place, and all that was real. The arrangements, the hurry, the wait. Now that we have arrived, let’s take a long, deep breath and ponder Jesus’ words:
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? There do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ Or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. — Matthew 6:26-33
Jesus is not discounting the values of work and preparation, but what he is saying is that God knows we have real needs of clothing, shelter and food, and he will help us with those needs. But he wants our hearts first; he wants us to trust him.
So look at the birds of the air, how they soar through the sky, created just for this moment for you to ponder. Consider the wildflowers that speckle the landscape, each arrayed in colors and designs that tell of the Father’s creativity and beauty. Take in the lushness of the grassy fields, how each blade dances in the wind, joyously proclaiming the goodness of God.
We are of more infinitely more value than the birds, the flowers and the grass. May they remind us that we are precious to the Creator, and just as he provides for them, he will provide for us.
What is making you anxious right now? Why?
How are you more valuable than the birds, the flowers and the grass?
Jesus, I leave the source of my anxiety at your feet. I believe, but help me with my unbelief. I humbly ask for the gift of faith to trust that I am so precious to you that you bore my sin on the cross and to see myself the way that you do. Amen.
Day 2: I Lift My Eyes to the Hills
I lift my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121: 1-2
The hills of Western Kentucky are made of limestone, a sedimentary rock that was left behind by an ancient sea. It is rich in minerals and easily molded. It tells the story of the earth.
In some ways, we are like the limestone that is the foundation of these hills. We are not what we once were, and we have been hardened by time. We have been shaped by the past, but we are complex and in our new form can nurture new life and tell a story that has purpose.
But we need a Helper. We aren’t shaped into new creations without help from the One who created us. And we are in desperate need.
These hills that surround us may be silent but they still proclaim. As we lift our wondrous eyes to them, they are reminding us of the Creator who knows every rock that lies on their slopes, who carved out every cave for their animal inhabitants to shelter, and who fashioned every creek that channels life-giving water through their valleys. He commanded these hills to rise up, knowing that today, we would be here to marvel at them and to explore them.
And if our eternal God, who made heaven and earth, can do that, what more does he long to do for us? What story are we telling of what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do when we seek him?
Where does your help come from?
What is the Lord whispering to you when you lift your eyes to the hills?
Jesus, you are my Helper — all that I need can be found in you. You told us that even if we are silent, the stones would cry out to worship you. So why do I so easily forget who you are? You were there when the foundations of the earth were laid, yet you love me. You grieve every wound that has hurt me. You know my every thought and have seen me at my worst. Yet you sing over me with delight. You created me and fashioned every hair on my head. And you know the number of my days. Teach me to trust your sovereignty and your love so that I look to you for my help. Amen.
Day 3: I Am the Vine
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is throw away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. — John 15:4-6
Jesus was probably referring to a grapevine, as vineyards were common in that place and time. But we can observe all sorts of vegetation around us that also serve to instill his teaching.
“To abide” means to “continue to be in place for a significant amount of time.” The verb implies home. Jesus invites us into a relationship with him. Not a show of religious activity, but a personal and intimate relationship that is raw and worshipful, honest and devoted. He tells us to stay close, as close as a branch is to the vine. He asks us to live in his presence and to make his presence our home.
Earlier in the summer, the fields here were dotted with blackberry bushes, and the branches that carried the biggest, juiciest and most plentiful fruit tended to be those deep inside, protected and closest to the center of the bush.
When we remain connected to the Vine, we produce fruit that Paul describes as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
But we know from experience a branch that is cut will wither and die. Apart from him, we are in peril. As long as we draw breath, his invitation to a relationship stands. The sooner we accept, the sooner we will bear fruit.
What can you do to abide in Jesus?
Take a moment to reflect on one fruit of the Spirit listed above. How you experienced this fruit in yourself and others?
Jesus, teach me to abide in you and to be in relationship with you. In this moment, I never want to be apart. But my flesh is weak, and the enemy wants to cut me from you. Keep me close so that I can bear fruit of you. Amen.