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)

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.

River Taught


I came to this place to cry into the water. Sitting on a rock by the river’s edge, my tears joined the swiftly moving current and were lost, just like me. Lost under the power of a man I called my husband who was really the imposer of my pain. If I had known love would hurt this much I would have run the other way, but it was too late. The other stronger love for my children made me stay. But sometimes it all became too much so I ran here, to this verdant bower of dripping leaves hanging heavy from arching trees over raw, clean mountain water dashing over rocks. It’s roar thrummed in my chest, drowning out my sobs. A fine mist swirling up from the river cooled my tear-hot cheeks.

I could throw myself in and sink like the stone of my heart, but my children needed me. I couldn’t leave them to him. Besides, I couldn’t betray God who gave me my life, by taking it myself. Even though He seemed to have forgotten about me. Even though I was angry at Him. Even though another voice in my head sometimes questioned His existence.

But He showed up anyway, especially here where He called to me in every molecule of this teeming place. I felt Him arching up under my hand laid along a spine of rock. He chortled and boomed in the river’s voice, invigorating my senses with icy spray. Every moss and fern and bush and tree shook Him in my face. I started out running from Him, yet here I was again, full circle from where I began, face to face. I had no words for the pain. He didn’t need words. He soothed and rocked my soul in this primal place.

Close by, a fledgling arbutus tree’s few slender branches trembled over the swiftly moving water and I wondered how it survived so perilously close to the edge. I traced the amber-hued trunk back to where it sprang from between the rocks; saw how each tiny root wrapped itself around rocks and sent shoots down crevasses, holding on tightly. It needed to be near the roaring water which seemed to threaten it’s existence, in order to survive. I could identify with that arbutus tree, at least to the outer branches tossed and soaked by the mighty waters thundering past. But did I have the tenacity to cling to the rock? What if the waters rose higher? What if I slipped and lost my hold?

Then I remembered this. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you.”  (Isa.43:2, 4  NIV)

The God who brought to life this lush, riparian paradise was also the God who would help me navigate all the rapids and dangerous currents I had yet to face. My emotional pain suffered in a difficult marriage did not negate His existence. No matter how my branches may be shaken, He was still the Rock I needed to cling to. That’s all I knew for now, and it was enough. I dipped my hand in the cold, frothing water to feel its power surging around my fingers, a life-giving current moving to the sea.

(This life lesson was learned many years ago. God has since brought me to calm waters in a happy second marriage orchestrated by Him.)