Fireflies

A friend recently told me about taking a group of Texas teens to Nashville for a mission trip. As they sat outside at an evening devotional, the group became fascinated when one by one fireflies emerged from the grass and shrubbery to soar around the darkening sky. The majority of the mission team had never seen fireflies before. My friend showed them how to catch the insects without harming them and how to capture them in empty water bottles (from which they eventually released them). She told me that one of the girls in the group began to cry. The beauty of these tiny insects overwhelmed the Texas teen who’d never witnessed their brilliant dancing in her hot, dry hometown.

 

As someone who has spent each and every summer in places where fireflies are common, I was amazed at their reaction. For me, it is a case of the extraordinary becoming ordinary through repetition and the assumption that it will always be there.

 

Later that day, after I had told my family about my Texas friend’s story, my daughter was standing outside with a group of friends. Prompted by my friend’s experience, my daughter asked a guy who had just come to Middle Tennessee from another country if he had ever seen fireflies before. They were outside, so she pointed to the flying dots of light.

 

“No,” he said. “I’ve never seen them before.”

 

“Aren’t they awesome?” she asked.

 

He shrugged, unimpressed.

 

His reaction surprised me. Is he so accustomed to seeing strange insects that this particular species failed to astonish him? Is he so well-read about the cold light of bioluminescence that seeing this energy produced right in front of him left him unmoved? Whatever may be the reason for his indifference, it’s a cautionary tale for me. I don’t want to be a person who loses the wonder. I don’t want awesometo turn into boredom.

 

And if you’re thinking that it can’t happen to you, beware. The Israelites had seen amazing things in the land of Egypt: the Nile turned to blood, three days of total darkness, a river that was split for them to march through just in the nick of time. And yet, they complained that the manna—their food which fell from the sky—just wasn’t tasty enough. “We don’t want to sound ungrateful or anything, but this bread that we’ve been gathering every day just isn’t cutting it anymore. We know that all we have to do is pick it up from the ground and eat it, and don’t get us wrong—it was great…at first—but we could really go for a hamburger. Actually, a cheeseburger would be even better.”

 

How could they have lost the wonder so quickly? Who has the nerve to complain to a God who had produced these miracles?

 

I wish I could say that I’m always in the “Awe Zone,” but it isn’t true. I forget to be grateful, forget to see how far He’s carried me, forget how I didn’t get here on my own, just forget.

 

So when I look at those fireflies, at least for this summer, I’ll remember the wonder.

Volunteer tomato plants

I aspire to have a magnificent garden someday. In my imagination, I grow heirloom tomatoes, delicate lettuces and beans with cranberry speckles. I know just what to plant and where to plant it and when to get the plants in the ground. I can identify any insect that might enter the domain of my beloved garden and the best way to eradicate the sinister ones. I can feel an approaching storm in the marrow of my bones, accurately predicting the rainfall my plants will receive.

 

Unfortunately, this is all in my imagination. If only dreaming were the same as doing. Instead I spend most of my outdoor time in the spring at soccer games. Someday…

 

In the meantime, I have been able to grow one thing abundantly—cherry tomatoes. There are few foods in this world that I love as much as fresh-grown tomatoes. In the summer, we eat a lot of BLT sandwiches and green salads with homemade ranch dressing and pasta tossed with sliced grilled chicken, olive oil, chopped garlic, ribbons of fresh basil, halved cherry tomatoes and a bit of sea salt. But I’m just as happy to eat a bowl full of sliced tomatoes topped with a big dollop of cottage cheese.

 

Because of this great love of the tomato, it’s such a thrill when I see a tomato seedling pop up which I didn’t plant. It’s a bonus plant, an unexpected gift. As I watered my little row of cherry tomato plants this morning, I found the little fella, trying its best to grow in the shade of its bigger and more productive brothers. I spoke to it (I’m that Crazy Tomato Lady you’ve been hearing about), and told the baby plant to keep on going so it could give me some of those ruby-like tomatoes which I crave.

 

This was a good kind of surprise, one that I didn’t see coming but welcomed with open arms (or, in this case, open mouth). It made me wonder if I had ever been the volunteer tomato plant for someone else. Wouldn’t it be nice to give someone a good surprise? How many times have I overlooked or ignored an opportunity to go out of my way to do something for a fellow human, not out of obligation or personal glory, but only because I had a chance to brighten that person’s day?

 

This week, let’s look for an opportunity to be an unexpected surprise for someone. It can be a stranger or a neighbor or a person you’ve known your whole life. Don’t let them know it was you, but do let them know they are loved. It doesn’t have to cost anything. It just takes a little effort and selfless motivation and a desire to bloom where you’re planted.

My God is so big

I have the great blessing of leading the preschoolers at my church in praise time on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. We bring out our “Little Christian Light” and we get “wrapped up, tied up, tangled up in God.” We sing about having a joy down in our hearts and building our houses on rock, not sand. The songs are upbeat, action-packed and repetitive.

 

One of my standard, go-to songs is “My God is So Big.” To explain just how big God is, the kids will spread out their arms and show me their muscles. To show that He’s the God of everything, they get to place the tips of their fingers together to create a mountain and push them down into a valley. Then they wiggle their fingers in the air to convey the effect of blinking stars.

 

Oftentimes, after the song we’ll discuss how God is bigger than whatever they’re scared of. This declaration is a great reminder for myself, too, the grown-up in the room who should know better but still sometimes forgets that God can handle all of my worries.

 

When those times of doubts come and, instead of believing in God’s mighty powers I start singing “My God is Too Small,” I wish I could be a fly on the wall for the story that we can read in 2 Kings 6.

 

Elisha, God’s prophet from the Old Testament, has been giving the king of Israel insider information and guidance for his army which is completely baffling and infuriating the king of Aram, Israel’s enemy. Elisha offers military strategies which generals and spies couldn’t predict. His intel comes from God, the God Who’s So Big who can be everywhere and see everything all the time.

 

The king of Aram finds out where Israel is getting this information which keeps spoiling his invasions. He sends soldiers, horses and chariots to the town where Elisha lives. They surround the city during the night, all to capture one man.

 

Early the next morning, Elisha’s servant woke up and started his day. He was probably whistling a carefree tune, thinking about the chores he needed to complete. Then he saw them—an enemy army circling their little town. No doubt he dropped his water jar and ran to Elisha, crying out to him in fear and desperation.

 

But here’s what Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

 

Elisha prayed and asked God to open the servant’s eyes. Then he was given a gift, a supernatural sight. That humble servant could suddenly see something extraordinary. The hills beyond the enemy’s army were filled with horses and chariots of fire. A greater army was at the ready.

My God is so big!