Archive for May, 2015

All in a Day’s Work for the Gardener

May 20th, 2015

Don’t you just love how God teaches us about Himself in the simplest but often more-complex-than-they-seem-on-the-surface type of ways? He chose to teach us so many things about His character through the simple picture of a Shepherd tending his flock of sheep. Jesus also tells us that He is the true Vine (in whom we […]

 

Don’t you just love how God teaches us about Himself in the simplest but often more-complex-than-they-seem-on-the-surface type of ways? He chose to teach us so many things about His character through the simple picture of a Shepherd tending his flock of sheep. Jesus also tells us that He is the true Vine (in whom we are to remain) and we are the branches…and that His Father is the gardener. (**sigh**) I am going to deviate for a second – but I have a point!

Since this is the first time in over a year that we are going to be living in one place for more than 18 months, I was excited to grow an herb garden to save a little money on groceries and add an extra punch of fresh nutritious flavor to our meals. So far, all I invested in was this basil plant. Obviously, it is looking a little gangly since I have not yet developed or fine-tuned my green thumb.

BASIL

When learning about my own “gardening needs” according to scripture recently, I was drawn to search for tips on helping my sad basil plant. As it turns out, harvesting basil is the key to keeping it healthy. When harvesting it, you have to cut the leaves off just above the second set from the ground. According to this article I was amazed to find that “the single stalk will now end here, and two new branches will now bud and grow from the set of leaves you left behind.” What seemed like it might kill off my plant actually doubles its productivity – wow! Unfortunately, as you can see in my loved but naively neglected little plant, I did not prune it, but only plucked some bottom leaves in efforts to not hinder it from growing…WRONG! And  – it sprouted flowers. Instead of taking action like a knowledgeable experienced gardener, I thought “good for it!” Boy was I wrong again! Apparently as I sat down to research and write this post this very morning, I learned that once the Basil plant produces buds, you are to nip it in the bud if you want your Basil plant to stay healthy…otherwise it will die as they are annual plants meaning they grow only one season before dying. ;( As I read that my mouth dropped open and I ran and snatched those stupid flowers off my plant…I will let you know I guess if I was too late. Darn.

Where in the world am I going with this? I know I know… I am getting to the point. 😉 According to the Bible, God our Father is the gardener in our hearts and minds when we follow Him, and He desires His followers to bear [much] good fruit! (John 15:8) He says that His disciples are recognized by their fruit. What is this fruit? Obedience, the spread of the Good News and addition of new believers, love, and/or Christian character most commonly known as the Fruit of the Spirit. Likewise, false prophets and those who profess to believe but do not will also be known by their fruit, or lack there of.  We can only bear good fruit or bad fruit, and in order to bear good fruit we must seek, endure correction, and be willing to be pruned of any potential bad fruit caused by sin. Like my basil plant, when we are properly pruned all potential death-causing flowers are kept from blooming. 😉

SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO ALLOW GOD TO PRUNE AWAY OUR BAD FRUIT AND NIP IT IN THE BUD IN ORDER FOR US TO PRODUCE THE GOOD FRUIT AND BE EVEN MORE FRUITFUL. AND SOMETIMES HE MUST UPROOT IT ENTIRELY.

Recently I was in need of some uprooting. Occasionally, I tend to get a decorating idea in my head and it all too quickly becomes an obsession that clouds any financially responsible, logical or reasonable judgement. Before long I was obsessed and googling some items for a perfect summer table-scape. Sounds innocent right? Yea I thought so too. I told my self all kinds of innocent reasoning to justify why I must have it and have it completed now. But as He often does, God in His loving kindness was bound to reveal some heart issues deep down so that he could begin His gardening work. Sometimes I am stubborn. After an hour of online shopping, planning, and asking for early Birthday presents from Mom and Dad (no purchases made yet), I began my quiet time studying God’s Word. It is hilarious to me that I glanced right over anything suggesting I needed to look at God’s Word regarding my heart and its temptations in this particular situation, but at one point it was so obvious I chuckled. I had decided to begin reading through the Bible on a 1 year plan, and God hilariously brought me on Day 1 (I should’ve known) to the very first woman and her fall to temptation. I have read, studied and even taught on this story in the Bible multiple times, but today it applied in a particular way. Matthew Henry’s Commentary noted

         “The place fixed for Adam to dwell was not a palace but a garden. The better we take up with plain things, and the less we seek things to gratify pride and luxury, the nearer we approach innocency. Nature is content with a little…but lust craves everything and is content with nothing.”

Okay Lord, I am listening, I wrote in my journal. Multiple and separate books I picked up kept addressing the compulsive tendency for people to crave stockpiling things. I am not usually this way, but I knew I was fitting in perfectly at this point in my mission to decorate my table. The commentary boldy went on to say that Adam when he participated in the first sin “plainly showed contempt of what God bestowed on him and a desire for what God did not see fit to give him. He would have what he pleased and do what he pleased. His sin was, in one word, disobedience.” Ouch. I realized something in my heart was off…in the wrong place…wanting something that wasn’t innately wrong, but wanting it for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately I knew I had deceived myself (since all sin involves believing a lie) somewhere along the way and that I needed God’s help to show me where my wrong thinking was rooted so we could uproot it. I prayed that through the continuance of reading He would unmask the deception in my heart.

So what is the good news in the commentary when we find ourselves walking down this path with Adam and Eve (as I sure did)? “Sooner or later, it (sin) will bring shame, either shame of true repentance which ends in glory (best case scenario), or that shame and everlasting contempt, to which the wicked shall rise at the great day (I think we can agree this is the worst case scenario). See here what is commonly the folly of those that have sinned. They have more care to save their credit before men that to obtain their pardon from God.” Wow. I realized an ugly sin struggle from my past was manifesting itself in a new way here. Immediately I believe God showed me the root of my problem. Actually he showed me the seed and the whole blasted plant so that maybe I could share it with you, share a laugh, and help us remember that all bad fruit begins deep in our hearts with a seed and whole elaborate but sneaky process before sprouting into sin. I introduce to you from my own journal – my “Sin-flower“. You love the name at least – right? 😉

Sin-Flower

1.) The Seed  of my Sin- Unbelief

I am humbled and convicted to begin more-actively exercising belief in all areas after being reminded by this article that the root of all sin is unbelief. I know this article calls it the root of all sin…but for my post and illustration – it is the seed. The very beginning. Unbelief that God is enough. In my case, it was – as the article author said – “refusal to believe in the rich provisional resources that are already ours in Christ–we’re not believing that, by virtue of our Spirit-wrought union with Christ, everything we need and long for, we already possess.” If He provides something as insignificant as table decor for me – whoopty-do. Who actually cares? What difference does it make in the grand scheme of things? I know this may be such a ridiculous example, but I believe God knew it was a teachable moment for this child and that I would share it with you! :)

2.) The Root: Pride + Insecurity

I hate this one. All of my life I have struggled with insecurity entangled with pride. I want to impress people (pride) and, when I think others will be unimpressed or that I will be embarrased, I am insecure. This struggle mainly used to manifest in how I valued myself based on my self-image and performance as a photographer and I spent a good portion last year seeking God to help free me from that wrong-thinking with the truth of who I am in Him. So having already battled this, I was less than excited to see this lack of confidence in who God says I am popping up in how I feel about my household. After 5 moves in 5 years our furniture is looking less than snazzy. Chunks of certain furniture pieces are actually missing after this last move. I knew it made no sense logically to toss our furniture and replace it since this will not be the last of our moves and life will continue to wear on any furniture, so I wanted to try and do the next best thing to try and prevent myself from feeling insecure when having visitors. In my silly little way, apparenty table decorations would save the day. Gee.

3.) The Leaves

Matthew Henry notes on this story of Adam and Eve that “The excuses men make to cover and lessen their sin, are vain and frivolous; like the aprons of fig leaves (like Adam and Eve made), they make the matter never the better: yet we are all apt to cover our transgressions as Adam.”  The leaves of my own sin-flower were so appropriately compared to the leaves of Adam and Eve. They were my excuses or reasons I needed these innocent decorations. They were my attempts to justify, or cover, my wrong-thinking. And I did such a good job at this it is scary. I mean, it took taking a long time and a deep look to see the wrong in my heart after repeating things like “I just want a pretty table setting for when my family is here,” (why I must get it NOW), and “I am not asking for new furniture, so this is minor,” and manipulating the financial responsibility of purchasing something outside our decided budget by asking for an “early birthday present.”

4.) The Stem : Discontentment + Ungratefulness

When we focus on what we don’t have rather than all God has blessed us with, how discontent we become! How ungrateful we become for what God has so graciously and generously bestowed upon us as He sees fit for our best interest. Like holding the reins of a run away horse with white knuckles, before I knew it I was in a place of discontentment, a place I did not intend to be. Once I realized where I was, I had ask God to help me to skid to a stop.

5.) The Bud : Lust for things

I know it looks like a flower in my photo. Maybe it is. But I would like to say the bud of my sin-flower, or the progression of my bad fruit bearing, was the beginning of the actual obsession – my lust for things. Funny it was the last thing produced but the first thing I became aware of – and God had to work His way backwards from there. Lusting for things has not been a frequent routine for me as much as other things, so I am praying God keeps this from becoming a pattern in my life. While I believe He could nip this thing in the bud, I pray that He help me uproot every ugly destructive part of this weed so that I can only bear good fruit to His glory (John 15:8).

Perhaps the most beautiful thing in this messy experience for me was having lies revealed and holding my situation up to the light of the truth. As true as John 8:32 says, as soon as I was reminded of the truth and I allowed it to become a lens through which to view my desires, it was freeing. I was finally able to let my obsession go. Does this mean I wasn’t curious when an Ebay seller wrote me back or that I will never get a tablescape? Probably not. But it does mean I realized that when I do make any purchases or develop a desire things, it will not be a polite demand for things my way and in my timing. I want it to be in a healthy way and purchased with a pure heart and circumstances not manipulated by me. As you might imagine, I wrote my Mom (she and Bryan always get a laugh at my painstakingly humbling struggles) and shared this whole process with her concluding with “I do not want any decorations for my birthday anymore…but I do need a prayer journal since mine is filling up faster than expected.” 😀 Oh my life – tell me I am not the only one.

John 15:2, in light of the Greek translation broken down here, can be paraphrased as “…moreover for those in Him bearing fruit He will cleanse or purge of any undesirable elements so they can bear even more fruit of higher value”  Doesn’t that sound worth it?! I think if it could, even my basil plant would agree. 😉

Do you have a similar story? I would love to hear from you! Email me! :)

 

 

 

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When I am Irritable

May 14th, 2015

**Though my example in the beginning is married folk…this one is not just for married people. Stick with me here! 😉 If you are married, you may very well experience days and weeks when things are wonderful. You and your spouse smile, laugh and enjoy fun things. You may also experience spurts of frustration. Perhaps […]

 

irritable-1

**Though my example in the beginning is married folk…this one is not just for married people. Stick with me here! 😉

If you are married, you may very well experience days and weeks when things are wonderful. You and your spouse smile, laugh and enjoy fun things. You may also experience spurts of frustration. Perhaps you aren’t full blow out angry at one another too often, but sometimes it seems like everything the other person does simply irks you. Sometimes as a wife, laundry, shoes, and dishes left throughout the house after we just picked up or cleaned can be exhausting. Yet often at the same time for men, it can be the consistent nagging or mothering lectures from their wives that makes them weary and agitated. Sometimes one or both spouses feel the loving things we do to help our better half become expected rather than appreciated which begins to make us resentful. I find in my own marriage we become most prone to irritability when one or both of us are tired, overwhelmed or under extra pressure at the time. I can only imagine (since we aren’t there yet) that this intensifies when children are involved as there can be even more responsibility and workload sharing between the two adults (a good example of this is here). Both spouses begin to seem demanding, easily angered and sensitive to each other’s criticisms that seem to just keep coming especially when life is stressful. This happens in other relationships as well. Often things at work are amiable until there is a deadline with high stakes and all of you have your own idea of the best plan of attack, share of responsibility (or lack there of), and cooperation. Or maybe it is the friend, relative, or co-worker who is always on your case, who drains you of your patience and kindness, or who has a knack for being obnoxious just enough to make your eye twitch. ;( Or maybe you have just had a really bad day and a store’s customer service rep just happens to tick you off extra when they are rude, unhelpful or even insulting.

Either way,  I hope I am not alone when I say that even though I long to show the love of Christ to everyone that I often find myself being irritable (especially to those close to me) – especially when I am having a “bad day”.

Do you ever feel justified to be irritated?

from Desiring God by John Piper

from Desiring God by John Piper

This past week I told myself – “I am just tired and overwhelmed with the mess of moving boxes still left to sort and the rest of the house being a wreck while the kitchen is installed,” along with multiple other reasons like “I wouldn’t need to nag if he’d just _A,B,C…X,Y, & Z_(Gee I guess I demand a lot sometimes)…and somehow I excused my “snappy” demeanor by just apologizing each time hoping I would cease being that way. The problem was that I knew I was disappointed when my high standards weren’t met and I knew I wanted to seek a godly perspective on how to view and handle it. My excuse that I was “just going through a lot” turned to shambles when an article writer reminded me that the worst parts of us are already in our hearts to begin with…they just rise to the surface when under pressure. Ew. I began to feel convicted about it and I knew I wasn’t doing a good job of snapping out of my snappiness on my own. So I began searching for the truth in God’s Word and what it says about when we are irritable. I hate to tell you (especially if you find yourself in my shoes) but I realized how unlike Christ we are when we allow ourselves to become and remain irritable. And particularly related to marriage, I stumbled over a verse I could probably recite to you…but in a fresh way for my eyes. You know it –

“Love is PATIENT and KIND;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or RUDE.

IT DOES NOT INSIST ON IT’S OWN WAY;

IT IS NOT IRRITABLE OR RESENTFUL; 

6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,

but rejoices with the truth.

7LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS, BELIEVES ALL THINGS,

HOPES ALL THINGS, ENDURES ALL THINGS.” (emphasis mine)

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By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

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“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.” (Philippians 4:5)

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“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak,

and slow to become angry, because

human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires(James 1:19-20 emphasis mine)

 

Right about now is when I think – gosh – I know I started this blog to share God’s truth, I just wish it weren’t so often in the testimony of the uncomfortable correction to my heart! How messy! Haha. (LORD I did ask you to rid me of any and all pride.) Anyways, those of us who do not feel like gentleness is possible for our personality – praise Jesus that – through coming to Him – He gives us what we need. A life transformed and renewed by God’s Word and loving kindness is evidenced by patience, gentleness and kindness (among other things Gal. 5:22-23) and the Word tells us we have everything we need through His power – “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness,” (2 Peter 1:3). So I challenge you as I am challenging myself – if you find yourself deceived into a spirit of irritability, let us pray for God to give us the things we need to love one another in a way that all men can see that we are truly His. If you know you have been irritable and need to make things right, God’s Word tells us how to make things right with one another, with God and in us.

  1. Reconcile with the person or people you have been irritable or angry with. According to Matthew 5:22-25, God would have us do this even before coming to Him. Sometimes the most difficult and humbling words to choke out can be an apology (especially if you are not the only one in the wrong!) but our wrongs are all that we are responsible for…and at the end of the day – they are the only part of making amends that we are responsible and accountable for. I promise it will also give you a healthy dose of godly humility and will help rid you of your pride – which will most definitely make your Lord smile to see the chiseling of godly character happening in your heart. I hated apologizing recently to Bryan because I knew I would earn a smugly pleased little smile and even worse – he would be so perfectly forgiving making his actions look even better next to my ugly ones! We laughed about this one a good bit. 😉 
  2. Be ok with whatever the result. Sometimes the offended will accept your plea and forgive willingly. Sometimes they won’t. Accept that you’ve done what is right in God’s eyes to apologize with earnest desire to be more loving and patient and gentle and that you can’t control anyone’s response or reaction.
  3. Go to God’s throne of grace in prayer, confess, repent and ask for forgiveness. And receive it! He already knows, and is ready and waiting to move forward with you to who you are becoming through this. 
  4.  Confidently receive forgiveness and cleansing and sin no more! A genuinely repentant heart will willingly walk a new path seeking to flee temptation to continue with what God has already brought to light and dealt with in your heart. You make make mistakes along the way – but keep going through this reconciliation process and praying and depending on God to help you become free of the habitual cycle. You should not have any lingering guilt or shame because God’s mercy and forgiveness are complete. If you do – it is a red flag that the accuser is deceiving you and I would suggest this 3-part blog I wrote here – #1, #2, and #3

I would love to suggest some awesome resources to help with this particular – sometimes daily – struggle. The book Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst was wonderful – I may need to re-read it time and again! These articles really opened my eyes and provided fresh reminders:

For married people in particular I would also highly recommend this article, as well as the book The Love Dare, The Love Dare Day by Day Couples’ Devotional, and/ or The Love Dare for Parents.

I choose gentleness… Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle.

If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer.

If I make a demand, may it be only of myself. ”
— Max Lucado