It's hard to believe that we are already one week into spring! Everything is blooming and color is full! The beautiful hues and fragrant aroma refreshes my soul! It's as if my spirit says, "Ah! Winter is finally gone and the dormant season is over. Arise and dance for the wind blows freely and the days are long." The newness of spring puts a bounce in my step and in my heart, a new song! Kathy's blog last week was moving right along with my own "rhythm of seasons." If you haven't read it, I encourage you to be blessed by it!
A quick visit to the beautiful LSU Rural Life Museum & Windrush Gardens awakened my senses this past week. It's amazing how quickly the fragrance of the Sweet Olive attracts my attention! I totally stop in my tracks, inhale with great force, and my eyes begin the search for the tree which is usually within just a few feet of me. Isn't that how we as Christian's should be to the lost? Grabbing their attention with the fragrance of Christ ought to permeate from even our very presence. This week's Monday Musing has been written by our dear friend, Margaret Kemp. She is a kindergarten teacher and a petite woman whose faith and trust in the Lord is giant-size! She sees object lessons in everything, too! As I thought about the beautiful smells that come with spring, I thought it would be fitting for you to read her thoughts on The Fragrance of Christ. I've also included a few images of God's beautiful and fragrant palate displayed on the ground of Windrush Gardens. If you live in BR, LA and need a quiet place to restore your soul, I suggest a little visit...by yourself! Refreshing your soul will transform and strengthen your spiritual fragrance. ~Sherry
There is a strong connection between memory and the sense of smell; certain scents have the power to evoke vivid memories, and vanilla is usually associated with positive recollections. It reminds me of my childhood, where I often woke up on a Saturday morning to the smell of pancakes, made from flour, flavored with vanilla, and topped with generous portions of butter and Steen’s cane syrup. It also reminds me of my mother’s kitchen on a Saturday afternoon, when she’d take out the big electric mixer and whip up a cake. Sometimes she’d let us help spread the gooey, sugary frosting. To me, vanilla means sweetness, nurturing, and the security of home.
So what could be better than the aroma of candy and cupcakes, waffles and pancakes? How about a person who brings the aroma of Christ into a rotten, stinking world?
“But thanks be to God,
who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession
and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those
who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
II Corinthians 2:14-15
We’re called to spread the aroma of Christ…so what does Christ smell like?
The pungent aroma of baking bread reminds me of Jesus, who called Himself the Bread of Life. When we share our faith, when we point others to Jesus, we are spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Him who is able to give them eternal life.
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me shall not hunger,
and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”
The aroma of Christ is the savory smell of a hot, cooked meal ---offered in hospitality to a friend or delivered to the homeless, the helpless, or the sick. Providing a meal is Christ-like; Jesus fed the five thousand. He fed the disciples. After the resurrection, the disciples were greeted by the smoky smell of fish cooking on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus provided for the physical needs of those around him, and if we want to show the love of Christ, we need to meet physical needs also.
James said it this way: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:17
The aroma of Christ is the pure, clean smell of freshly washed linens in the guest room opened up for one that needs a place to stay, for the Bible urges Christians to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:13
Like a bouquet of flowers delivered to a loved one, it’s a sweet floral fragrance that brings love, encouragement, cheerfulness, or sympathy.
The aroma of Christ is a breath of fresh, clean air bringing kindness, calmness, and wisdom into a room filled with the stench of arguments, strife, gossip and malice. To spread the fragrance of Christ is to desire a life of holiness and refuse to be tainted by the ugliness around us.
The aroma of Christ is the sweet smell of incense as the Christian offers intercessory prayer for his friends—and his enemies. In the book of Revelation, the prayers of the saints are described as incense rising before the throne of God.
“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creature and the twenty-four elders fell down before the lamb,
each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Revelation 5:8
“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense,
with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” Revelation 8:3-4
We spread the aroma of Christ when we pray for others. Never underestimate the power of prayer. I’ll share a personal example of a time when I could feel the prayers offered by the saints on my behalf. When I first moved to Baton Rouge, I was going through a personal crisis. My life was falling apart, and all I wanted to do was to crawl in bed, pull the covers over my head, and shut out the world. But I couldn’t do that, because I had just started a new teaching job that I couldn’t afford to lose. And it wasn’t as if I could say, “Excuse me, class, while I go in the bathroom and have a meltdown.” I had a room full of nervous new kindergarteners who needed to be reassured that school is a wonderful place and that their teacher would take good care of them. I had shared my problems with my friend Diane, a teacher at my former school, and she said she would share the prayer request with the other teachers there.
The beginning of school came, and I was amazed that I was able to greet the children with a smile, sing songs with them, and pray with them (without dissolving into tears.) Then I looked at the clock: it was 8 a.m., the time when the teachers in my old school met for Morning Prayer. They were praying for me---I could feel the strength flowing into my weary body because of their prayers.The fragrance of Christ is anything that helps others to experience the essence of Christ and to know Him better. It’s the scent that lingers when we offer words of hope, acts of love, and prayers of faith. I could, in my own power, strive to do good deeds, say encouraging words, or offer prayers. But the deeds I do in my own power don’t spread the fragrance of Christ. When I try to do good works in my own strength, it’s like spraying on perfume after a workout (and before a bath). It really doesn’t do much good.
But when I spend time with God in prayer and immerse myself in the Word of God, the fragrance of Chris lingers in my being. When I allow His Holy Spirit to have control of my life, then the fragrance of Christ emanates from within. Then it’s natural. Then it’s genuine.
Spreading the fragrance of Christ often involves sacrifice, for Jesus Himself offered His life as a sacrifice, one which the Bible describes as a “fragrant offering.”
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us,
a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2
The Bible gives us other examples of sacrificial love that can be described as a “fragrant offering.” Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, poured out perfume—expensive ointment made from pure nard imported from the mountains of India and worth a year’s wages--, on Jesus feet. The fragrance of her love offering literally filled the air. Her extravagant gift was costly, but it must have smelled heavenly, and I can’t think of a better use for her precious ointment. The world will forever remember her gift to the Savior because John records in the twelfth chapter of his gospel.
The Philippians sent Paul a financial gift, delivered by Epaphroditus (Phil. 4:18), that Paul calls a “fragrant offering, pleasing to God.” In Israel sweet-savor (“peace” or “fellowship”) offerings were sacrifices made in worship to God rather than as atonement for sin. Paul was the recipient of the Philippians’ fragrant offering to God. When we give to others, serve others, and spread the fragrance of Christ to others, it is an act of worship to God.
My “mother-in-love” (the woman who is my spiritual mentor), is someone who spreads the fragrance of Christ. Her warm and enthusiastic greeting can make the humblest visitor feel like royalty. She takes a keen interest in people; in conversations, she listens intently. Her words reveal her deep and abiding faith in God, and after talking to her, I can’t help but feel uplifted. Afterwards, a fragrance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness permeates the room.
I want to be like that. People in the world---in our community---are hurting. Many are stuck in the mire of difficulties that are the result of our fallen world, and they desperately need the fragrance of Christ. On our own, we are not sufficient to meet their need; we’re not adequate to carry out such a heavy responsibility. But, if we allow it, God will spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ through us to the world.
Last night as I sat on my patio visiting and eating dinner with my husband, it seemed spring was celebrating everywhere. Our resident squirrel was literally putting on a gymnastics show jumping from branch to branch to tree with daring leaps of faith, then balancing the telephone tight rope wire, then soaring higher and higher through the trees. I’m not normally a big fan of squirrels since they dig in my flower beds and leave a mess all over the patio as they devour my trees.
But this one just makes me laugh!
Surely there must be a squirrel olympics somewhere and he is in training!
The flowers are in full bloom, the birds are singing. All of creation is celebrating the end of winter and bursting with joy here in south Louisiana.
As I write I am aware that everyone is not there yet. My youngest daughter has endured a snow blizzard in NYC this week. Yet, all of us can relate to that spiritual longing of spring that rises within our souls. Longing for renewal, clearing out the dead season of winter, planting something new, and bringing forth beauty to the world.
It makes me want to plan a party with friends, cook a new dish, and spring clean the clutter in my house! That last one is always my challenge as I’d much rather plant new flowers or visit with friends than clear out the winter debris in my home and life.
Can anyone relate?
But it must be done.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Physically I have had a long winter, and it is so wonderful to feel the energy and expectancy of spring in my spirit. During the last few months, my body and soul have often felt like the broken branches of winter I saw fallen in my yard. But friends have lifted me up in prayer and God has poured out healing and after a season of illness, forced rest and waiting for strength, the time for planting new things in my life has at last arrived.
Our spiritual lives experience the rhythm of the seasons just like creation. But they are not always in sync with the seasons of the year. I have friends whose souls are in winter now. Their hearts are in pain, depression, or loneliness. They are in a season of waiting as I was, a season of prayer, of pruning. Often winter seasons of our souls are brought on by loss, tragedy or illness. Winter is that season where we must learn to walk by faith and not by sight.
Others I know, seem to be in a season of summer. Life is full of joy and the abundance of God’s goodness. Those experiencing summer in their souls usher in the spirit of giving, sweet rest and seem to be savoring the fullness of Christ.
Or you may be in the spiritual season of fall. It is a time for the hard work of planting in order that your life may bear fruit. Or you have planted and sown and now you are reaping a harvest in your life. Perhaps a harvest of souls, a harvest of peace or the beautiful fruit of righteousness because you have learned the lessons of abiding in Christ and waiting for His perfect timing to yield. In this season you find that your heart is full of gratefulness.
I’m learning that the Lord orders the seasons of our spiritual lives just as He orders the seasons of His creation. It is best if we let them do the work they are intended to do. We cannot force spring before the winter’s rest is complete. Yet we often need a season of rest after the hard labor of a fall season for our souls.
The big word that we hear over and over for our lives today is balance. And so we, especially women, are ever seeking to find balance in our lives. I’m not sure that is really even possible or that we will find true fulfillment that way.
Perhaps we would do better to seek to understand and live within the rhythm of the season that God has appointed for our lives. There is an order and purpose to the season you are in now. We must learn to let each season of our soul have its way within us. We must learn to listen for His Word speaking into the depths of our souls to accomplish what He desires.
Sometimes, we must endure the loneliness and pain of winter and simply wait.
Sometimes we soar with the lightness and freedom of summer.
Sometimes we must work hard and plant to yield a harvest of Kingdom fruit,
and sometimes the spring winds blow in with expectancy and hope of new life and beauty.
When we seek to surrender our souls to the rhythm of the season we are in, we ultimately experience the wholeness the Father has planned for us.
And it seems in my life, that learning to recognize the season I am in helps me look for the lessons the Lord wants to teach me through it. My journey is more significant and my faith grows deeper as I learn to live in the rhythm of each season and seek the Divine encounters found within. Then I can emerge into each new season with gratefulness in my heart because I know that it has served a purpose in my life. Jesus is always present throughout the soul seasons we experience. He has appointed each one for our good, for our spiritual needs and His Kingdom work.
The Lord meets me in different ways. Sometimes I have to look for Him under the hidden, broken branches of winter and sometimes He seems to be celebrating with me, beckoning me to take a leap of faith and soar to new heights through the trees like that crazy squirrel in my yard!
What season are you experiencing in your soul?
Are there faith lessons to learn?
The Father wants to meet you there.
Grateful to be in the soul season of spring,
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