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In late April, we attended an interactive calligraphy show by Kana Ikemoto, a professional calligrapher and friend whose husband is doing research at Harvard.

The theme was cherry blossoms and dragons. Conflicting themes? Perhaps, but not really.

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Cherry blossoms are gorgeous, delicate, pastel petals that beautify the world for roughly two weeks each year. We anticipate their arrival as the coming of spring, and fete their annual debut with parties, walks and photo ops as we revel in their breathtaking but fleeting charm. Their beauty is timeless but their visit is not; 340 hours give or take a few. They are harbingers of hope, warmth and celebration of new life and opportunities to spend time outdoors. When they bid us adieu, they tease us with a faux falling snowflake exit.

Dragons are another matter. Whereas cherry blossoms bring a sense of warmth after the cold of winter, dragons arrive breathing fire and increasing the temperature, fear factor and tension in our lives. They are snarly, beastly and territorial. They are demanding, scary and out to kill. Fortunately, they are mostly mythical, but all of us can think of several dragons in our lives, both past and present, that were in need of being slain.

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What do the two have in common? Influence. Reflect on the emotions and images that the two evoke in our minds and hearts. What is a full bloom cherry-blossom day for you? How about a stormy dragon day?

I am thinking about how we navigate living, because both types of days arrive on the doorsteps of our hearts, often unannounced. Joy can be fleeting like cherry blossoms, but we nonetheless embrace a bittersweet journey of preparation, anticipation, attentiveness, marvel and then farewell. There is a seasonal rhythm surrounding cherry blossom season. It is much like God’s work in our lives. He wants to meet, guide, encourage, convict, challenge, love, bless, change and even hug us, but it requires that we join him in seasonal living. God’s presence and activity are of course unceasing and not fleeting like that of the cherry blossom, but it is we who often miss the opportunities to rest in His warm presence as we busily pursue all the events on our iCal calendars with titles other than God. Why not make one with “God,” and intentionally schedule heart-time with him?

Dragon days are by their nature, hot and humid, no matter the season. We do not usually plan for them, other than quick avoidance. The dragon greets us in the form of difficult people, relentless deadlines, failure, misunderstanding, misaligned passion, betrayal and pride. Not something to enjoy, or even tolerate. If we do, it is to our own detriment.   Sometimes, alas, we are the dragon!

So why this collaboration of cherry blossom and dragon? Kana’s artwork was a beautiful picture of white and pink delicate blossoms with the sumi-black powerful portrait of the dragon creature breathing fire lurking amidst the cherry trees. Is it not a picture of our heart, at once kind and beautiful yet soon revengeful and fire-breathing? How do we navigate this?

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.  Psalm 40:1-3

The takeaway from this exhibit? Enjoy God’s cherry blossom invitations for relationship and overcome dragon attacks through praise and God’s transforming power.

John Houlette

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