Fertile soil

The wind is howling outside of my Iceland hotel room.

I am finishing up four days here, working at an event, and there has hardly been a moment of sunshine. Or a break from the wind. We are staying in a hotel that juts out from the volcanic mountains like a Bond villain’s lair nearly void of neighbors – it’s hard to count the geothermal power plant.

Perhaps the lonely location influences me, but this landscape is bleak. There are a few scrub trees outside my window, but they are the exception. For as far as the eye can see, there are only hills of moss-covered rock.

As a poignant underline of this desolation, the friendly dog that hangs around the outside of the hotel has only those volcanic chunks to play with. He places them at strategic points to entice a potential playmate.

Yet, there is a fierce beauty to the country. The mountains, still striped with snow, are majestic. The gray hills are like are like a lean and hungry man awaiting food. I find that the loneliness of the landscape provokes a yearning in me – for lush green, for the movement of birds, the hint of wildlife.

When I turn to Scripture, I find the same contrast and yearning. Isaiah beautifully prophesies that a barren land will be re-awakened when the Lord arrives:

            The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
               the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
             it shall blossom abundantly
               and rejoice with joy and singing.
            The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
               the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
            They shall see the glory of the LORD,
               the majesty of our God. (Isaiah 35:1–2)

So often in these promised transformations, water is the catalyst. Dry lands turn into gardens when the rivers flow. But here, water is everywhere, melting in the heights and racing in rivulets over the jagged rocks. Here, water isn’t enough. The soil is missing.

But not in the greenhouse where we ate dinner one night. With the heated water from the earth and the carefully monitored soil, tomatoes are grown by the tens of thousands. The brilliant green is somewhat overwhelming after our long, gray drives.

And so, coming off of intense days of work, I am wondering how much I let the life-giving water of the Lord’s presence and teaching soak in.

How ready am I to let his glory transform me?

God, we thank you for landscapes that remind us of our need for you. Come with your glory and turn our lives into an abundant garden. Forgive how often we let your word run through us without soaking in. Make our hearts fertile soil!

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it!

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

Today's ReVision

Seeing is Believing

Grace is something you can see.

Join the Ailbe Community

The Fellowship of Ailbe Newsletters