The Extravagance of God


I am familiar with the scientific explanation of why the leaves of deciduous trees turn color in the fall. I know that chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green color, breaks down in cooler temperatures, letting the colors of other pigments show through. But that is not my first thought when I gaze upon the flaming yellow and gold of the elm tree in my backyard. Like sparks from a fire, it drops bright leaves on the grass where they glow against the green, warming my heart. Rather than science, I think about the extravagance of God who delights in making beautiful the dying of a leaf.

His extravagance, His generosity, His abundance is revealed in all of nature, from the unending vastness of the universe to the complexity of a single cell. When I am delighted by what God has made, I think how much delight He has in making it. Holy joy is imprinted on every created thing, springing from His fingers in unending originality, beauty and grandeur. I do not think God creates as He does just for Himself. His nature is to give and give and give, so He does in all He has made.

In Psalm 145 David praises God’s bounteous nature and goodness. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom. (vs.3) They will celebrate Your abundant goodness. (vs.7) The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. (vs.13) NIV

The extravagance of God revealed in creation is but a three dimensional picture of His boundless generosity of spirit toward me, His child. He created me in His likeness. (Gen.1:27) He crowned me with glory and honor. (Ps.8:5) He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Ps.86:15) These are a few examples of the generosity of God in the Old Testament. The ancient books also foretell the coming of His greatest outpouring of love, a gift beyond anything we can think or imagine. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel, God with us.” (Is.7:14)

God’s unfettered love reveals itself most purely in the gift of His own son, Jesus Christ. Extravagance is often thought of in negative terms, but with God it is the sacrificial giving of Himself in the person of His Son, which portrays holy extravagance at its ultimate. “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all — how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom.8:32)

Autumnal colors around my home are lavish, festooning the hills and fields with extravagant sweeps of gold and orange. I look up often to see skeins of Canada geese stitch V’s across a sky blanketed in blue. I choose to read this abundant beauty as one of God’s messages to me of His lavish, extravagant love. Nothing is wasted in His message, because the beauty of dying leaves symbolizes the potency of Christ’s sacrifice, a paradox of the purest love given in the most brutal death. In laying down His life He gave us forgiveness, mercy, grace, eternal life, adoption into His family, His Holy Spirit and unending love, to name only some of His gifts. It doesn’t get any more extravagant than that.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

Not-So-Fond Farewells

IMG_1739The quicker, the better is my motto when it comes to saying good-bye to someone I love for a long time. I dread the moment when I will have to release them from my arms and watch them walk away. It feels like a part of my heart is being torn out, leaving a big aching hollow. I am not so fond of farewells.

This summer has been one of good-byes. My daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter moved to Africa for 3 years with little prospect of trips back home. And after I said good-bye to my son when visiting him in a distant city, he sent me a note within the hour saying he missed me already. Every parting takes a piece of my too-tender heart with it which, I’ve come to realize, is the price for loving completely.

Of all the imperfections and missed marks in the world, this is the one I find the most arduous, sometimes to the point where I don’t want to say hello because I know a good-bye must follow. We say too many good-byes in this transient society where jobs require transfers to other cities, and rending divorces result in constant partings between parents and children.

The truth is, we were not designed for good-byes. In the perfection of this world before sin entered, God made man and woman in His own image. And God walked companionably with His creations in the garden in the cool of the day. (Genesis 1 – 3) God’s original intention was for an everlasting relationship with man, no good-byes required. Don’t you think it wrenched His heart to send Adam and Eve out of the garden? To say good-bye to the creatures He designed for relationship with Himself? The sin which broke man’s connection with God continues to throw good-byes in our path, causing hearts to break a little with each one.

So I wonder, how do I navigate those good-byes? Do I withhold myself, protecting my heart from painful partings? Not possible. I love those I love without reservation, making vulnerability part of the package. So I’ve decided to live in the good of the moments I have with each one I love. Some moments may be longer and some shorter before parting but each one is precious in and of itself. After His resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days saying good-bye to His disciples because they were so slow to believe and understand what He had done. During that time He made special memories with them, walking and talking on the road to Emmaus, visiting them in the upper room, making them breakfast on the beach. The disciples would have those memories to warm their hearts when He was gone.

Good-byes are an infinitesimal portion of my time spent with those I love. I choose to make that time rich, full of love and laughter, shared experiences, long talks and lots of hugs. It will still be hard to say good-bye but only because our love for each other will have deepened in the time we are together. Good memories don’t need good-byes.



© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Signature of the Divine

signatureAs a left-handed child, I found learning cursive writing to be a challenge. Writing flows from the left side of the page to the right, which meant I had to hook my left hand over the line of writing or slant my letters in the wrong direction. Neither satisfied me, so I determined to practice until my script looked like it was written right-handed. I began with my signature. For the first letter of my given name I developed a leaning V with a dramatic upstroke at the end, arching over the rest of the letters. I still sign my name that way, many years later. It is my original signature, distinctive to me alone.

God inscribes His indelible signature on the vast canvas of creation. He first declared Himself by what He created from nothing. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 NIV) Every mountain, every tree, every animal, every grain of sand is imprinted with God’s signature. Like an artist signing his painting, God reveals who He is in all He has made. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.”  (Psalm 19:1-2)

Even those who deny the existence of God must question their unbelief when they survey the world in which they live. From vast galaxies in space to microbes invisible to the naked eye, each unique aspect of creation displays the signature of a divine Designer. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:20)

A signature is a hand written depiction of the signer’s name on a document as proof of identity and intent. God has written His name on every person He has created. We are made in His moral image as proof of His identity. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”  (Genesis 1:27) We are not some hastily scribbled postscript; we are God’s ultimate creation, intended for relationship with Him. A signature on a work of art verifies its authenticity. Proof that we come from the hand of God is found in our desire to reach out beyond ourselves for connection with our Creator. “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:3)

God’s signature is everlasting, becoming more legible as we allow His Spirit to transform us. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)  As we grow closer to God in our walk with Him, His signature will be clearly evident for others to read as the beauty of His flowing script is displayed in how we live.

Study a Snowflake

snowflakeThe grass is still green and some leaves yet on the trees when the first lazy snowflakes come drifting down. It is early for snow, even here on the Canadian prairies; just a tease of what is to come, I think.

Like white feathers shaken from the wings of angels, the flakes float earthward. I go outside, turn my face up to the sky and get lost in the swirl, entranced by each crystal kiss upon my cheek. Remembering that every snowflake is unique in design, a combination of crystals only made once, intensifies the wonder.

No amount of cold, hard scientific explanation can detract from the intricate beauty of a magnified snowflake. Technology has equipped scientists to photograph individual snowflakes with precise detail. They are microscopic works of art, beautiful symmetry too small to see with the naked eye.

Author and naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, said of snowflakes, “How full of the creative genius is the air in which these are generated! I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat. Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity, so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.” The “fashioning hand” he refers to belongs to God, the Creator. Even a man steeped in Indian spiritual thought recognizes that snowflakes could only be divinely designed.

Such is the unlimited imagination of our Creator God. “He says to the snow ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ so that everyone He has made may know His work. – (Job 37:6-7 NIV) The Creator shows Himself to His creatures through His creation. So the question arises, why does God make something unlikely to be seen in its minute beauty so ephemeral? Does it really matter that each snowflake is beautiful in its own form, no two alike, when it is destined to melt away?

As with so many questions about God, I believe the answer is love. By placing His fingerprint on every single snowflake He is saying to us, “See how I love you! I want everything around you to be beautiful, to bless you and cause you to see Me and turn to Me.” A snowflake is only one wonder out of the myriad of His creations which speaks love in its beauty, intricacy and purpose.

In one way a snowflake resembles God’s ultimate creation, man. Each single snowflake, like each human being, is original, genuine, one of a kind. “For You shaped me, inside and out. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath. I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.” (Psalm 139:13-14 The Voice) Every one of the seven billion people on earth today is unique unto themselves, formed by the loving hands of their Creator to be an individual like no other. Does that not speak love?

A snowflake cannot wonder about its maker, but I can. I wonder what He was thinking when He formed me in my mother’s womb? Did He stretch out my fingers to make them long and narrow? What shade of autumn leaf did He imagine when He chose the color of my hair? Did it give Him pleasure to plant joy with each word I would someday write?

Having come from a temperate climate to a place where there are four distinct seasons, snow is still a novelty to me. I hope l never lose the wonder of a fresh snowfall. May each minute snowflake remind me of God’s limitless capacity to create distinctiveness in nature and people. The fact that we cannot fully comprehend the vast diversity displayed in the universe should be sufficient evidence of God’s existence for those who doubt.
Just study a snowflake.

(photo courtesy of

The Sound of His Roar

prairie thunderstorm

Light leaches from the sky, absorbed by dense, roiling clouds heavy with rain. The air holds its breath yet emits a sharp metallic scent, a forerunner of the storm to come. The long, flat horizon of the prairie is suddenly transformed into a vast stage on which sheets of lightning streak and flash. Frozen by brilliant light, trees, fences and farmhouses stand out in brilliant relief on the edge of the world. Then the curtain drops and miles away another silhouetted scene blazes forth.

I count after each lightning flash, waiting for the sound of thunder. At first it is a distant rumble, a growl far off. But as the storm draws closer, agitation in the clouds breaks out in fury close behind each burst of lightning. I feel the power of cosmic sound waves reverberating in my chest; I thrill at the forces unleashed in the heavens.

A scientific explanation of thunder does not capture it for me. “Thunder is caused by the rapid expansion of the air surrounding the path of a lightning bolt.” (Library of Congress) Not nearly dramatic enough to define this amazing phenomenon. I need to dip into my allegorical imagination and describe thunder as the voice of God in nature.

“Listen! Listen to the roar of His voice, to the rumbling that comes from His mouth. He unleashes His lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of His roar; He thunders with His majestic voice. When His voice resounds, He holds nothing back. God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding.” – Job 37:2-5  NIV

A thunderstorm brings me up short out of my small, self-absorbed life. Each day I make decisions, perform duties, seek knowledge, seldom looking beyond the next item on the agenda. I live with an air of entitlement, a smug expectation that all will continue as it has been, not often remembering at whose hand the universe holds together. But when my ears ring with primal thunder, I snap to attention.

This is His voice; the voice of my God, the voice of my Creator! I need to be reminded in just such a dramatic way. I need to know in the depths of my soul the answer to all the questions the Lord asks Job in chapters 38 to 40.  “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm?”  And to the myriad of other rhetorical questions the Lord asks Job there is only one answer … El Shaddai, God Almighty.

The reality is, this God of thunder Who moves vast forces of nature at will is also the Lord Who is mighty to save, Who takes great delight in me, Who quiets me with His love, Who rejoices over me with singing. (Zeph. 3:17)

Come, thunder! Come, lightning! Proclaim the power of the Almighty before the whole earth and remind me Whose voice you speak with. I delight in the sound of it.