Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lessons from the Garden

Post-revival recovery, (n.):  The week after a week- long revival.  It differs from a typical week in that, albeit with a joyous spirit and an extra spring in the step, muscles relax from wrestling children in the pews every evening, one must go to 3 stores to replenish all groceries, and you are doing 2 weeks’ worth of laundry instead of 1. Much of which needs ironed.

Oh, but SOOOOO well worth each and every effort!  Sure did have a great time in the Lord last week!

So I start an “Amusing Grace” blog, and I have nothing amusing on the first post.  Guess what?  Nothing amusing today either!  It is just that when I learn something from the Lord, it is so much more exciting to me than my crazy existence.

Today I am thankful that the Holy Spirit is my teacher.  When Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure in what I call the “Jesus Loves Me” part of the scriptures----John 14 thru 16------ He told them in John 14:26:

               But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name,

                he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever

               I have said unto you.”

Sometimes Jesus taught his disciples in very dramatic ways (i.e., walking on water, feeding the 5,000).  Other times it was through the mundane, ordinary details of life----like in sowing or fishing.  Which are no less miraculous----it is just that we have grown so accustomed to them that we oftentimes fail to see the very hand of God that designed it ALL to work in harmony and to be reflective of Him.  The creation, a Godly marriage, true church unity----these are all facets of life where there should be trouble and strife due to the complex nature of the elements in each.  But to me it is as though God designed them all to be intricate and complicated, so that when something so diverse can come together with such a magnificent harmony, it can only point to a majestic God who made it so.

And so I was tending to my garden (don’t I just sound like Laura Ingalls?), enjoying a lesson from the Lord.  I will do my very best to paint in words the picture laid before me.   

If you know me at all you have probably realized, either through observation or my confessions, that I am not the world’s most self-disciplined person.  If you, say, wanted to clean out your garage that is filled with junk, I am your cheerleader.  I’m coming over and making sloppy joes, and I would figure out how to turn your broken tire iron into valuable scrap metal, and which scrap yard you should take it to.  I would help you clean the first day and tell you how fantastic said garage will be one day.  You would be able to see the Garage Mahal in your mind’s eye----clean, painted, and organized in that expensive TLC way.  I’m your girl for motivation, and I really sincerely mean what I say. 

But on day 3, when it is hot and you are left with a stack of papers to painstakingly sort through----this cheerleader has LEFT THE BUILDING.  Exit, stage right.

My dear husband always tells me this quote by some famous dead guy, “Every success has a beginning, a struggle, and a victory.”  In this Oreo, I don’t want the cream of struggle.

You cannot garden this way.  Trust me.  I have several years of hopes and dreams that shoot up like a rocket into the sky, only to come crashing down in a field of weeds and choked out green tomatoes.  But this year is different.  God has allowed me to truly realize the benefit of a principled, self-disciplined existence. And though I am taking baby steps, I am moving forward.

Back to my lesson.

Our Christian walk is like a garden.  And the Christian life, to bear the most fruit, requires daily care and labor.  When the plants first go in the soil it is an exciting time filled with promise and expectation of a great harvest.  And that is true, if the garden is tended to, laboriously and without fanfare, in the day to day duties of June and July. Not too many people applaud the weeding and watering.  But you will “reap in due time, if ye faint not.” The weeds come up quietly and slowly at first, and then if left alone will encroach all over the ground, and shoot up past the plants until the true plants are so covered that the light can barely get in and the water just touches the root enough to keep the plant alive.  The fruits of those plants are scarce, small, and usually diseased.  Fruit, yes-----but just enough is produced to discern the plant from the many weeds around it.  The plant is almost completely camouflaged in a sea of tares.

If you are going to pull the weeds at this point, you must know what a weed is and what a plant is.  And the weeding will be very, very, very difficult.  You will work long hard hours in the hot sun tearing out each weed by your own hand.  Simultaneously, you must be watering the plants several times a day to promote their growth.  And in the end, your efforts will reap a harvest.

Sister, are you studied enough to know what the weeds are (the works of the flesh, Galatians 5) in your life? Have you been in contact with the Lord and asked Him to show you the weeds? Can you get into the Light in prayer, or are you too covered up by the dark shadows of the tares?  Are you willing to pluck those distractions, sins, and sometimes even relationships (“evil communications corrupt good manners”) in your life out by your own hand, because you would rather produce fruit for the Master than to be camouflaged by the world?  The rototiller of the spiritual garden is repentance. The light is Truth.  And the water is the fellowship of the Lord.

Are you tapping into your supply of living water, through prayer and meditation, on a daily basis? 

When you do these things, you will begin to produce fruits. . . fruits of the Spirit.  And you will GLADLY trade willy-nilly, haphazard spontaneity, and your right to do things the way that you want to do them, for a disciplined, principled life in Him. 

Because there is NO thing in this world that can ever satisfy like Jesus. And anyone who has ever truly been saved by God’s grace can attest to that.

Lord, show me the weeds in my life.  Give me courage and strength to remove them, to trust in you, and to serve you in the mundane.  I want to be a fruitful vine in your vineyard, bearing fruits of Your Spirit and the peaceable fruits of righteousness.

Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Suffer the little children

Do you have any young people in your life? If you do, I truly wish that you would take some time out of your busy life and read this.


Children are an absolute blessing from God.

But children can be trying.  They make noise, they make messes, they waste food, and they spill the stickiest of red Kool-Aid on your newly mopped floor. They color themselves from head to toe in blue dry-erase marker while you are on the phone making an appointment to have the ink pen removed from your leather couches.  They make an insane amount of mistakes.  They can’t complete a task, they are far too loud in church, and they have poor personal hygiene.

But if you are an adult, with children swirling about you in any capacity, take note:  These happy, loud, seemingly simple and thoughtless little people have many thoughts going on between the ears.  And they have even more going on in the heart.

Do you really see them?  Not the noise or the mess----do you see THEM?

There are many, many young people I know that carry burdens that I have never had to carry.  They are in unchartered territory without the benefit of someone to guide them through the murky, tempestuous waters of a life they can’t control.  They are desperately seeking a harbor of refuge, a place to rest awhile before they must once again sail on the stormy sea.  In most cases they are bearing out the effects of the sins of those who are commanded to love them, through the pain of abuse or the confusion of living in a broken home. Sometimes they are afflicted through the ridiculously shallow standards which society and the media use to determine if you are “somebody”.

Do you really see them?

They are real.  They are authentic people, with acutely real problems. 

And children, by their very nature, are not good problem solvers.  They aren’t supposed to be.  To proficiently problem solve requires experience and wisdom, two attributes that eclipse child development.  A child can’t assess a situation and measure its significance as it relates to the rest of his life, accurately.    A child can’t see things as they truly are and as a result do not place the blame of their hurts where it should rightly be. They are taught in school that they are not the result of a Creator that fashioned them in His image, out of His love, but that they sprang up from a primordial ooze with no purpose but to serve self.  They are appropriately self-centered, and so whatever problems they are subjected to must be because they are wrong/bad/ugly/too fat/too short/not athletic/not smart/not good enough/unlovable.   

If you are a child of God and know Him through His salvation, you have a DUTY to speak truth.  You have a DUTY to see a child as a person created for a purpose.  You have a responsibility to treat that child with all the respect that your heavenly Father treats you with.  You have a duty to be a safe harbor.

Have you ever once cried out to Jesus and found Him to be too busy for you?  Has He ever tried to distract you with His blessings so that you would leave Him alone?  Have you ever repented to Him of your sins and found Him to be annoyed that you failed, again?  Has He ever marginalized you because of your poor behavior?  Has He ever, ever withheld His sweet comfort when you have desperately pleaded with Him for it?

The children in our lives need caring ears and soft hearts to listen to them and to love them just for who they are.  They need to see that love, Godly true love, seeks not her own, but is patient and kind and longsuffering.  They need someone to be a voice of truth when they are surrounded by the lies of Satan. 

These children have a warped sense of “love”.  They are taught by example that “love” is self-preserving and self-serving.  That “love” is selfish, impulsive, doesn’t keep its word, and is conditionally given only to those who deserve it. 

Jesus loved children (He still does!).  The Savior of mankind came to earth on a mission to glorify His father and to make Himself a perfect sacrifice for all of mankind.  And in the midst of healing the sick, raising the dead, and walking in perfection-----He made time for children.  The scriptural account doesn’t show Him disciplining them or rebuking them.  It simply shows Him being with them.  Is there a greater gift that a child could receive, than a heart full of love and an ear ready to listen? 

Christian, be the arms and feet of the Savior.  Allow God to touch your heart concerning the needs of the hurting children in your midst.  Reach out to them, take an interest in them, and pour their needs out before the Almighty God of heaven, that He might intervene in their circumstances.  They are starving for the sweet fruit of the Spirit in their lives, and you possess an abundant orchard full of goodies that you can access for them.

I am going to end this post with a poem I stumbled upon many years ago that I can finally read without crying (sometimes), mostly because of my familiarity of the prose:

We pray for children
  who put chocolate fingers everywhere
  who like to be tickled
  who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants
  who sneak popsicles before supper
  who erase holes in math workbooks
  who can never find their shoes

And we pray for those
  who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire
  who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers
  who never "counted potatoes"
  who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead
  who never go to the circus
  who live in an x-rated world

We pray for children
  who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions
  who sleep with the dog and bury goldfish
  who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money
  who cover themselves with band-aids and sing off key
  who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink
  who slurp their soup

And we pray for those
  who never get dessert
  who have no safe blanket to drag behind them
  who watch their parents watch them die
  who can't find any bread to steal
  who don't have any rooms to clean up
  whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser
 whose monsters are real

We pray for children
  who spend their allowance before Tuesday
  who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food
  who like ghost stories
  who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub
  who get visits from the tooth fairy
  who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool
  who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone
  whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry

And we pray for those
  whose nightmares come in the daytime
  who will eat anything
  who have never seen a dentist
  who aren't spoiled by anybody
  who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep
  who live and breathe but have no being

We pray for children who want to be carried and for those who must
  for those we never give up on
  and for those who don't have a second chance

For those we smother... and for those who will grab the hand of
 anybody kind enough to offer it.
Ina J. Hughes

Lord, please help me to see through Your eyes, and love with Your heart, and care for the least of these in your kingdom.

May God bless you on this fine day. J