THE BROAD-LEAFED CAC­TUS

Activated - - NEWS - By Iris Richard

Walk­ing along a nar­row path in the trop­i­cal for­est we of­ten visit for a Sun­day walk, un­der the ra­di­ant early-morn­ing African sun, I no­tice a mag­nif­i­cent cac­tus and stop to take a closer look. The dark-green rub­bery leaves are fat and oval and in­ter­spersed with large pointed thorns. In con­trast to the feisty ex­te­rior, ten­der blooms emerge from the tips of some leaves. Shades of yel­low and an in­tri­cate de­sign make these lovely flow­ers daz­zle. How like Je­sus’ pres­ence af­ter a thorny stretch of life’s jour­ney. Just like a flower ap­pear­ing in the most un­ex­pected cir­cum­stances, He re­as­sures me of His love and care. 1

Round­ing the bend, we saw a flame tree stretch­ing its leafy arms high above. Each branch is crowned with a flam­ing or­ange-red flower, and the back­drop of the sky’s cool­ing azure blue soft­ens their flam­ing red. When the fierce­ness of dan­ger, sick­ness, or strife shoots flam­ing ar­rows my way, God, like the eter­nal cool blue sky, calms each fear. Feel­ings of dis­tress dis­ap­pear as His pres­ence shields me.

2 Then my fa­vorite stretch of the trail passes un­der the shadow of re­gal bam­boo plants. Their broad stalks reach far above, form­ing a green arch over the trail, which pro­vides shel­ter from sun and rain. Je­sus is my pro­tec­tor and shield, and when I find my­self in a tun­nel, He is the light at the end of it.

3 The wind­ing path now leads down a slope to­ward a brook. Since there is no bridge, lo­cal farm­ers have placed two logs over the stream. As we bal­ance along the trunks, I am re­minded that Je­sus has pro­vided step­ping stones in His Word.

A steep in­cline leads to the road. Breath­less and sweaty, we reach the top. To help me over the last boul­der, my friend reaches down, grabs hold of my hand, and pulls me up. Je­sus is at the other end of each prayer and lends a help­ing hand through a friend, a spouse, or even a stranger.

At the top of the hill, a re­fresh­ing cool breeze fans our sweaty brows, which en­er­gizes us in­stantly. A breath­tak­ing view un­folds in front of us, with a range of blue moun­tains in the dis­tance. Je­sus is a cool breeze that brings respite af­ter each chal­lenge, giv­ing new hope and strength to carry on.

4 Je­sus is my rock—strong, de­pend­able, un­mov­able, un­change­able, and eter­nal. 5

Iris Richard is a coun­selor in Kenya, where she has been ac­tive in com­mu­nity and vol­un­teer work since 1995.

1. See Psalm 46:1–2. 2. See Isa­iah 43:1–2. 3. See Psalm 23. 4. See Isa­iah 40:31. 5. See Psalm 18:2.

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