Ready, Set, Wait

Ready, Set, WIMG_7323ait!

Well, the last job is done for the winter—tilling the garden.  Dear old Tilly is out there now, purring away until the gas is gone.  A good wash and she gets to rest for the season.

The garden is ready, but for what?  It’s ready to rest; however, any seeds that are still in the ground are also ready to sprout as soon as the weather gets warmer.  Even while the snow is on the ground, that seed is ready—ready for the sun!

Luke eight begins by telling us that Jesus and His disciples went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. Verses 2-4 tell of Mary Magdalene’s deliverance from demons, the care given to Jesus and his disciples by new converts, and that a crowd had gathered to hear Him speak. It’s not by accident that the next few verses  in Luke eight are about soil. As though to encourage the sowers, Jesus tells the parable of the four soils: wayside, rocky, thorny and good. Our responsibility is to give the Word–spread the Seed.  There’s nothing wrong with the seed—the Word of God, and there may be nothing wrong with the sower—YOU!  Doing a heart-check is always good to be sure that the Spirit has free reign and our motives are correct, but the fruit of the hearer is not our responsibility.  I can no more make someone respond to the Word of God than I can make my tomato plants grow!  How comforting!

HOWEVER, when we ARE the soil, we are the receiver of the seed—how we respond IS our responsibility.  1 Corinthians 15:58 gives us some pointers:

Therefore, my beloved brethren,

be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,

forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Did Jesus see fruit for His labor? Absolutely; however, He also wept over Jerusalem because He knew the condition of many hearts and that His own people would soon demand His crucifixion. Jesus knows everything. He remained faithful to His calling to the very end of His earthly life.

Always abounding in the work of the Lord is the fruit of always bounding in the Word of the Lord! Be ready.  Even though you may be in a “winter” time of fruitfulness, know that God is always working in your heart, your children, your ministry. There’s something beautiful about a garden lying fallow. The summer work is done. The harvest has been gathered. Snow is on the way! Even so, as the ground rests, it waits for spring. As we ‘wait’ for the moving of the Spirit, may we realize that ‘spring’ may be just around the corner!

Be ready!  Be set! Be willing to wait!

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Success!

Well, for the first time ever, we have grown cantaloupes—just had one tonight for dessert, and it was delicious! I’ve tried before, but they never completely ripened before our sunshine and warm weather gave way to fall. I love living on top of a mountain, but it cuts our growing season by two weeks.  So, what made the difference?

Putting paper down. I had a 4×8 foot sheet of the black stuff left from planting our roses, so I put it in the garden and covered it with straw.  As the vines grew, I added newspaper and stretched out the straw. (The straw was really just for pretty!) I guess it worked because we now have fifteen cantaloupes! Yum! Can I find a spiritual application?  Need you ask?    cantaloupe

  1. Find what works

We have cooler temperatures, about an average of five degrees, than the surrounding lower altitudes; so covering their little roots made all the difference. It retained the moisture and the heat. How is your spiritual growth progressing? Are you faithfully spending time alone with God? Perhaps you have always done your devotions in the morning, but now that is not possible.  Have you always read through the Bible every year?  Perhaps it’s time for a change.  Something that has really helped me is to read through the Bible every other year, and then have a different plan for the alternating year.  For 2016, I’m studying the Gospels using commentaries and the Amplified Study Bible. Just seeing different words has really been helpful. The Bible contains everything we need to live a successful Christian life. Sometimes we just need to dig in and find what works!

  1. Know your situation/circumstances

Everyone is different.  We try to make the Christian walk a one-size-fits-all.  God has placed you into your circumstances and given you your set of difficulties and challenges, as well as blessings, to teach you something. The fifty-year-old woman is facing a totally different set of issues than the thirty-year-old new mom. How wonderful that we can all go to the same Source for strength and wisdom, as well as help each other.  That’s why we have this thing called church!  It’s a place where we can help each other along the way. We can read the same passage, hear the same sermon and each come away completely refreshed, challenged, and blessed because God’s Word is all-powerful! This is NOT situational ethics, but it is applying God’s Word to your situation which may be very different from mine.

  1. Be faithful!

I’ve been tempted to plant grass next year in my garden! It’s so much work and, at times, produces little fruit.  But then the Lord sends a bumper crop of cantaloupes!  Isn’t the same thing true in our Christian race?  At times, it seems all uphill with no end in sight! We’re tired, discouraged, lonely, depressed, frustrated, confused, and just plain worn out! Don’t give up!  Ask God for a little “shower of blessing.” He is SO faithful and He has given us countless promises to claim. Just when we think the race is not worth it, He does something extraordinary. Perhaps it’s just a smile from a stranger, but it’s all we need because we know Who sent it!

 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

 Success to the end. King Ahab is not known for many good things, but this statement is always a challenge to me. When a neighboring king was threatening to annihilate Samaria, this was his response:

 Tell him, Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.

1 Kings 20:11

And don’t forget those famous, encouraging words from our little, blue friend:

Keep on swimming!

I HATE WEEDS!

IMG_7554 I hate weeds!  Do you mind if I say that a little louder?  I HATE WEEDS!!!! We have had a bunch of rain, so much that I couldn’t even get into my garden without sinking into the mud!  Finally, today was the day to weed; however, by now, the ground was still wet and hard! It was A LOT of work just digging up the ground!  And then there are the weeds!  IHATE WEEDS!  Why do there have to be weeds?  Why do I even do this to myself?  Why plant a garden?  Those are the questions I asked my dear husband who was kneeling at the raised bed and weeding it for me.

So now the job is done, and when I look out the window and see those beautiful rows of various shades of green, AND NO WEEDS, I love it!IMG_7555

Weeds. They have taught me so many lessons that I really should be thankful for them!  Today’s lesson is this:

Do I hate my sin as much as I hate those weeds?  If I could come up with a way NOT to have any weeds, I be so happy (and rich: who wants weeds?)  I know they make herbicides, but I really don’t want to fill my garden with chemicals.

Is there a way to keep sin out of my life? No—this side of heaven, we will ALWAYS struggle with sin.  Both weeds and sin are part of the curse.  However, I have learned that if I hoe hoe hoe my garden once a week, it nearly eliminates the backbreaking task of pulling weeds.

Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow!  AND it will keep sin at bay!

Who could love weeds?  Who would love sin? ME!  Ugh!  Do you have a “pet” sin that you just don’t want to part with? Wouldn’t it be ridiculous to have a “pet” weed in your garden?  And then there’s that “besetting” sin – the one that keeps coming back!  That would be the mint in my garden!  What an annoyance!

There are so many “kinds” of sins: sneaky sins that catch you by surprise; little sins (in our eyes) that we are tempted to ignore; secret sins that really aren’t that secret because God knows everything!  I shudder to think how the garden of my heart looks to God at times!

IMG_7556Praise the Lord for 1 John 1: 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Confessing sin, keeping our hearts right is an even more beautiful sight than a weed-free garden!

Ready, Set, WAIT!

IMG_7323Well, the last job is done for the winter—tilling the garden.  Dear old Tilly is out there now, purring away until the gas is gone.  A good wash and she gets to rest for the season.

The garden is ready, but for what?  It’s ready to rest; however, any seeds that are still in the ground are also ready to sprout as soon as the weather gets warmer.  Even while the snow is on the ground, that seed is ready—ready for the sun! The question is: Am I ready for the Son and His Word to sprout in my life?

It’s not by accident that the next few verses in Luke eight are about soil. The chapter starts with an account of Jesus and his followers going from town to town “preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God.” As though to encourage the sowers, Jesus tells the parable about the four soils: wayside, rocky, thorny, and good. Our responsibility is to give the Word.  There’s nothing wrong with the Seed—the Word of God, and there may be nothing wrong with the sower—YOU!  Doing a heart-check is always good to be sure that the Spirit has free reign and our motives are correct; however, it is also good for us to remember that the fruit of the hearer is NOT our responsibility.  I can no more make someone respond to the Word of God than I can make my tomato plants grow!  How comforting!

SOOO, what about when WE are the soil, we are the receiver of the Seed–what is our responsibility to the Seed of the Word?  The question becomes: Am I responding to God’s Word correctly?  1 Corinthians 15:58 gives us some pointers on the issue:

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

  1. Be steadfast—unwavering, unfaltering, resolute, persistent, committed, dedicated, unswerving, firm. (Aren’t synonyms helpful?)
  2. Unmovable—unaffected, unmoved, untouched, unbothered, unbending, inflexible, unyielding, unwavering, rigid, obdurate (that’s a new one to me!), adamant, unreceptive (INTERESTING!), unrelenting, not influenced or swayed
  3. Always abounding in the work of the Lord IS the fruit of always bounding in the Word of the Lord! Be ready. Even though you may be in a ‘winter’ time of fruitfulness, know that God is always working in your heart, your children, your ministry. Be ready!  Be set! Be willing to wait!

Beauty for Ashes

There are so many lessons to be learned in the garden.  I’d say we all have a bit of the farmer in us – who doesn’t like to see things grow?  And even if you don’t have any desire to develop your green thumb, it would be worth it to allow your kids to have a small plot somewhere in the back yard.  The lessons in diligence, persistence, and rewards are invaluable; and it will teach them how to work!  AND if you really want to teach them patience – plant carrots!

We had a late start with the garden because of Tilly’s time away in the shop, so when I planted the onions, lettuce, corn and beans, I left three rows for the tomatoes; however, later, when I started planting the tomato plants, I dug up a corn kernel!  Inadvertently, I had planted one row of tomatoes in the same row of corn/beans! DUMB!!  How can I be so stupid?!  (Actually, for me it’s rather easy!)  Now what?  Really, there was nothing to do but wait until the beans and corn showed up.

When they did, I noticed that in the other three rows, some of the seeds hadn’t sprouted, so I dug up the little plants and placed them in the empty spots.

And isn’t that just like our dear Heavenly Father?  He takes our mistakes and makes them profitable to us!  Doesn’t He promise “beauty for ashes?”  (Isaiah 61:3)  While we’re kicking ourselves for making such foolish mistakes, God has already planned how He will use our “mistakes” to show us another wonderful little facet of His great design.

So many lessons!  Doesn’t it just make you want to go out and dig?! 🙂

 “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,
to give unto them beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”
Isaiah 61:3

Too Much Green in My Garden?

ID-10013392 (1)“Your carrots look really good,” my mom said as she looked out my kitchen window.  Ah yes, two lacy green rows of baby carrot tops all in a straight row – nice and thick.

“Yes, I bought my seeds from the local hardware store,” I said.  “Only paid fifty-two cents for a half scoop of seeds.  That’s a quarter of the price I would pay for a seed packet and four times the amount of seeds; so I planted them really thick.”

If she looked out today, she’s say with alarm, “What happen to your carrots?”

Today, I thinned my carrots, because I’ve learned that if they are too close together, there will be no room for the carrot to grow. Now maybe it’s the Bambi Syndrome, but I hate pulling up those tiny little carrots and discarding them!  Murderer!  It’s not their fault that I planted them so thick.

While thinning them I need to make the decision as to which one stays and which one goes.  It’s not always the biggest plants that stay.  I just need to have a row of well-spaced carrot plants when I’m finished; so any plant that is too close to another, no matter how big, good, or healthy, has to go!

I couldn’t help thinking that our lives are a lot like those rows of carrots.  So many good things press into our schedules, often keeping us away from what is really important.  As born-again believers, what is most important?  Being a good worker, or being a godly worker?  Raising good kids, or raising godly kids?  Having a great marriage, or having a godly marriage?

Good things make good kids.  For example, dance lessons are a good thing; soccer is a good thing, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H, family reunions, camping, skating, working… these are all good things.  They can build character into our children and can build strong families, but when anything gets in the way of godly “things” like church attendance, our personal or family devotions or prayer time, then that good thing must go.  Our lives may look great – lots of green tops, but when the harvest time comes, will there be a carrot?  Will there be any fruit for Jesus? Do I need to “pull out” some of the good things to make room for the godly things?

“Yea, but you don’t understand.  Susie would die if I pulled her out of softball and said that she had to go to Wednesday night Children’s Club at church.”

Well, here’s the deal.  I KNOW that I MUST pull those good carrots out to get fruit, so even though I hate doing it, I did it because I wanted the fruit at harvest time.  The real question for you is, what kind of fruit do you want in your children’s lives and can you accomplish that with your present schedule?  Too often we are fooled into thinking that we’ll get the desired result of godly children even though we don’t do what God requires.  And, at the risk of being too harsh, the problem goes a bit deeper – as adults, our hearts are not really “panting” after God as the deer thirsts for water.  Can we really drink of the Word without being under the preaching of the Word or without reading the Word?

I love growing root plants.  It’s so exciting to think about what’s happening under the ground!  About six weeks from now, I’ll be out there brushing the dirt away from the tops of the carrots to see if there’s any orange coming!

As we raise our children or walk our own path of sanctification, I think we should do the same check: brush away the “cover-ups” that we may create, the false impressions that we are giving, and take an honest hard look at what’s happening under the “dirt.”  Man sees the outside, but God sees the heart.  He knows what’s truly in the garden of our hearts and in the garden of our children’s hearts. When Judgment Day arrives, will any of us regret any decision we made to draw our families closer to God?  I seriously doubt it!

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.  Psalm 42:1

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Hidden Blessings

“Once I cut down the weeds, I found that the ground was red with wild strawberries.  I guess you’d call them a hidden blessing.”

As this dear man shared his testimony in Sunday school a few weeks back, my husband replied, “That will preach!”

Hidden blessings: How many blessings are hidden from our lives because of the weeds of sin that have crowded in and taken over the ground of our heart?  Jesus promises showers of blessings await the heart that is obedient:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;

and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6: 33

And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents,

or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake,

Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.

Luke 18: 29, 30

And in the Old Testament, our heavenly Father also promises loads of blessings:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house,

and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven,

and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 3:10

And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee,

if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Deuteronomy 28:2

A faithful man shall abound with blessings:

but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. Proverb 28:20

Does God hide or keep these blessing from us because He is mean?  Never. If you are a parent, you may understand this concept a little better.  You love to shower your child with blessings, but if there is disobedience in his heart and hands, the blessings stop–sometimes for correction, sometimes as instruction.  We don’t taunt our children saying, “I have this for you, but you are not good enough to have it.”  The blessings remain unseen until the problem is corrected; then comes the joy of pouring out the blessing!

God never dangles the reward before us like the proverbial carrot, bribing us to be good, because He knows the obedience will be for the reward and not for right.  Likewise, we would do well not to bribe our children for the same reason.

Hidden blessings.  It’s like a wonderful treasure hunt, seeking to do His will and searching our hearts for the weedy spots, so that we may please the Master.  I just finished weeding the garden…again!  It’s a lot of work!  I am always amazed at how quickly those nasty weeds show up!  If I don’t keep after it every week–what a mess!

Our hearts are even more susceptible to sin than my garden is to weeds.  Just as the roots of those weeds are hidden beneath the soil, the roots of sin run deeply in our hearts, part of our very nature.  All around us, the seeds of sinful thoughts blow, ready to take root at a moment’s notice!  No wonder we are told to “pray without ceasing,” and, like the Bereans, who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Ac 17:11

And then they come – the bountiful blessings from our God!  The blessings of the soul are much sweeter than fresh wild strawberries, and more beneficial than the freshest picked vegetable… “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10