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NIV is used unless otherwise noted.



Once Upon a Garden: Day 5

Then the man and the woman heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” 
Genesis 3: 8-10


The God we worship, the God of Scripture, is a lot of things: wise, powerful, omniscient, omnipotent, loving, forgiving... And on any day, most of us a need a God who possesses these qualities and more.

However, there is a one quality that is not often named on a list like the above; yet, it is perhaps the most significant attribute of all. God is relational. We were created by Him for loving fellowship with Him.

The Trinity’s eternal state is Spirit and Spirit is, to the human eye, invisible. The Son took on a human body for our benefit, not because it was an upgrade for him. Whatever “the sound of God walking in the garden…” was, it was an accommodation to Adam and Eve. His “walk” was a distinctive occurrence, but certainly no indication that God had just arrived on the scene and needed to be briefed. Even as he asked them questions (“who told you that you were naked?”), He knew the answers.

The above passage occurred after Adam and Eve had chosen to disobey God and sin entered the world. It is the first time that “afraid” is used in Scripture. Up until that point, Spirit God and fleshly man had enjoyed unhindered communication. Our fear of God, our hiding, our shaming, our blaming—were the relational first fruits of the fall. Their root goes deep into our sinful condition where they obtain their life. Past formation or former relationships may have been unhelpful, but the solution is the same as every other action and attitude: confession, repentance and dependence on the redeeming power of the cross.

One day in heaven, we will have renewed relationships—with man and with God--without shame or blame or fear. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22) will be the natural outflow of our heart.

But here is something else: one day in a new heaven, the dwelling place of God will be as it was in Eden: With His people. (Revelation 21:3) And we will walk with God and talk with God in just the dearest way—and He will tell us that we are His own. For all eternity.

Nancy Shirah

Once Upon a Garden: Day 4

God saw all that He had made, and it was very good… 
And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested 
from all the work of creating that He had done.
Genesis 1:31, 2:2


On the seventh day, God, in a sense, stood back to look over Creation and pronounced it “done.” He rested from His work because there was nothing more to do. And, Creation “rested” also because it was at peace and in perfect balance within itself. Then God blessed it—“sent it forth for abundance and enrichment” and hallowed it—“set it aside for a sacred purpose.”

The purpose of God’s rest was to establish a pattern, but not only a pattern of physical rest. As He rested in a perfect Creation, we are to rest in the finished work of Christ in our lives, and remember how all who believe in Him will rest in God for all eternity.

In 1802, the English poet William Wordsworth wrote these words in a sonnet entitled, The World is too Much with Us. It begins like this:

The world is too much with us; late and soon, 
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours…


Those words, written by a man who wasn’t a Christian, are prophetic. If they were true 215 years ago, they are a stunning description of our life today. Wordsworth saw, even then, the erosion of spirit and soul that occurs when we exhaust all our energies trying to find meaning in the creation rather than the Creator; in what was never meant to last or bring us lasting fulfillment.

God hallowed the seventh day, He made it holy and set apart for a special purpose. The blessings of the creation, food, clothing shelter, are great gifts are worthy of our thankfulness.

However, on the seventh day God blessed and hallowed Creation for a more enduring purpose: to lead every member of the human race to a knowledge that there is Something greater, wiser, more beautiful and more powerful than they are. Creation is not only the universal starting point to God for all of humankind, it is the timeless reminder, the fallback for feeble faith when “the world is too much with us” and we forget where—and in Whom—true rest is found.

Nancy Shirah

Once Upon a Garden: Day 3

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. 
Genesis 2:19, 20


“Well, what did He say? What did He say your name was? Tell me, tell me, tell me!”

“He said my name would be ‘elephant’.”

“Ohhhhhhh! I love it. It is the perfect name for you. You know what? I am going to call you ‘Elle’ for short.”

Note: The above dialogue, found absolutely nowhere in Scripture, is brought to you by someone who has probably seen Bambi and Dumbo way too many times…

The naming of the animals is Adam’s initiation ceremony into image bearing. Such an act required intelligence and creativity. It was also an ability that showed Adam’s autonomy and free will. (“whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”) And this one situation demonstrated how God would interact with His creation. Although He has made everything that exists, in His graciousness He has allowed mankind to enjoy it, shape it and care for it.

Mankind can create nothing—all we can do is manipulate the materials that are already in existence. As that eminent scientist Julie Andrews said in The Sound of Music, “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.” It is also true of our gifts and talents. What we have or don’t have are equally from God; how we choose to use them is our prerogative. Even the mental and spiritual abilities that allow us to accept or reject Him are due to our uniqueness as bearers of that image.

And something else. When He [God] brought them to the man to see what he would name them, I can imagine Adam looking over each creature with great tenderness and reverence for the distinctive beauty or special attributes given them by their Creator.

Our parents may have named us, but God has called us to a time and place intended for no other. Right now, in this moment and in our situation, we may not feel very special; we may have lots of questions and few answers. However, one day in eternity, we will understand how perfectly suited we were created to be to live for His glory in the “environment” in which He placed us.

Nancy Shirah

Once Upon a Garden: Day 2

So God made man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the seas and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.
Genesis 1:27-28


What is the image of God? Because God is Spirit, we know that it is not a physical likeness. Because He created both male and female with this image, it is not confined to a gender likeness.

God created a world of creatures who were capable of living in a wide variety of conditions. They were made with unique and amazing instincts that enabled them, not just to survive, but to thrive in their particular environment.

Here is the line that separates mankind from every other being on the planet. Humans are capable of conscious reflection, creative problem-solving, advanced planning, and so many other kinds of original thought not shared by any other living being. In this, we share a likeness to our Creator. The image in us, may be blurred and faded, but it is a singular reflection of the mind of God.

God’s instruction to our first parents was not about dominance, but dominion. They were given administration over a perfect world where there were no thorns or thistles, no rotten fruit. A world where the lion did lay down with the lamb. They were, by design, to use their unique gifts, not only for improvement of what they saw around them, but for the endless delight found in doing so.

Have you ever watched children engaged with Legos or a paint set? What is produced is not a one-time solution to a problem. It is only limited by the number of Lego blocks or the variety of paint colors. Imagine a literal world of possibilities and a mind unhampered by sin. It is just one thing that was lost when mankind fell, but something we will re-capture—to our eternal delight—in eternity.

We are designed to make sense of the world around us. We are fashioned to redeem our time on earth. Senator Ben Sasse

Nancy Shirah

Once Upon a Garden: Day 1

Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. However many years 
a man may live, let him enjoy them all.
Ecclesiastes 11:7



What is it about the summer?

We can look on the calendar and, with some accuracy, predict when it will arrive; but, until it is actually here, we forgot how special summertime is.

For nine months, the “summer section” of our closet is hardly worth a glance. Then sometime around the first part of June, white slacks, strappy sandals and pretty dresses are reborn.

Our food preferences undergo a change from the old standards-- meat and potatoes or chicken-something (as it is referred to in our home), to seasonal vegetables and fruits, and just a big salad for dinner. Try that in November.

We forget how good the hot summer sun feels on our skin and how wonderful it is to sleep through a summer thunderstorm.

This week, with summer as our backdrop, we will take a journey back to a time of eternal summer in the most perfect place that has ever existed on this earth: the Garden of Eden. From two little chapters in Genesis, we can gain so many insights about life as God created it to be.

There is something else about Eden. It is the best idea we have of what heaven will be like: If you haven’t done so already, jettison the harp-playing-cherubs-sitting-on-puffy-clouds version of eternity. In heaven we will experience a meaningful life, a world free of sin and death and joyous fellowship with God and each other.

And for you who suffer through the summer heat in anticipation of autumn leaves and a brisk winter walk, let me say that, I, too, am a lover of seasons. However, there is something about a blooming, fruiting garden and mandatory nudity that tends to make me go with summertime as the setting for Eden’s story.

So, who’s to say—not me, for sure-- that there won’t be snowball fights in heaven?

Nancy Shirah