Devotions from My Garden: Seed Identification

The Lord answered, “I will be with you”
Judges 6:16a

She stands under 3 feet tall, this baby girl of mine.  With one hand tossed up to her hip, she stomps her feet on the ground twice, three times perhaps for emphasis, and screams, “Never Again!!!” in a voice that commands attention, if not respect.  If she’s really upset, she might even engage in some finger wagging.

My husband and I stifle grins at the sight of her: two years old and she could command an army.

When she was born, my mother-in-law was away on a missions trip to an Indian reservation out in the Dakotas.  We made the call announcing our youngest daughter’s birth just in time to reach Grammy before she left for her missions work that day.

As any proud Grammy would, she shared the news with her roommate that baby Catherine had arrived.

Hearing the name we’d given our daughter, the woman declared, “Oh, a woman of authority.”

It’s something I’ve pondered as I watched my baby–so assured of her own mind—turn into a toddler—set on sharing her mind. I can see the hints of leadership, yes, even authority crammed into the body and soul of a toddler.  Tucking away memories, impressions, and glimpses at her developing character, I feel a little like Jesus’ momma, Mary, who treasured things up in her heart.

My Catherine reminds me so often of the seeds we planted in pots on our deck this year.  They appear so small and yet inside an explosive force lies dormant, ready to break out of its shell and grow and grow and grow . . . and hopefully produce much fruit.

Holding that ordinary seed in our hands, we can’t begin to imagine the potential for beauty and nourishment within once it receives proper care and tending.  The only hint we have of the future is the picture on the package and sometimes even then we’re surprised.

When we planted this year, we set aside one long planter for carrots and excitedly covered over about 20 seeds with 1/4 inch of dirt.  Within a few days, shoots of green appeared, but strangely enough, they didn’t look like carrots.  In fact, they looked identical to the radish sprouts now growing up in other pots.

I think perhaps my daughters got a little ambitious with the radish seeds and planted them in places I didn’t expect.

Sometimes we look at people or ourselves and see plain, brown, ordinary, small, and insignificant specks.  Mystery seeds.  If we’re particularly imaginative, we might even think we see the potential for carrots, only to learn later that God really designed us to be radishes.  Surprise!

Ultimately, God sees what we cannot.  He recognizes all our potential for growth.  He sees beyond our insufficiency and the trappings of our untrained immaturity and chooses circumstances, people, and training that will nurture, prune, and tend us into fruitful vines.

This is what God did for Gideon.  In a time when the nation of Israel was oppressed by the Midianites and foundering without a king or judge to lead them, God raised up a teenager to save his people.

Scripture tells us:

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. ”  (Judges 6:11-12).

Mighty Warrior?  Who could the Lord be talking about?  Surely not this youth doing chores for his dad!  We read later that Gideon destroyed his dad’s altars to the false gods, Baal and Asherah, so Gideon wasn’t even a child of a faithful and righteous man.

Even Gideon thought God meant someone else, answering, “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family”  (Judges 6:15).

He said, “I’m a nobody from a nothing family.  I’m no Mighty Warrior.  You’ve got the wrong guy.”

We may think he was right as Gideon puts God to the test repeatedly, asking for signs and reassurances of God’s command (Judges 6).  Then on the eve of the battle, Gideon still feels afraid and God offers him further comfort and confirmation by allowing Gideon to overhear the enemy and how assured they were of defeat (Judges 7).

In fact, even when the battle is over, won with only 300 Israelite soldiers against an overwhelming Midianite army, it still seems odd that God could call Gideon “Mighty Warrior.”   After all, there’s no question at all who was the Mighty One.  The battle was the Lord’s; Gideon was just yielded and usable.

The truth for Gideon and the truth for us is that God looks at us and sees beyond all of our failings and fears.  Not only that, but He’s also not limited by our skills and talents.  He doesn’t see the potential of what we can do on our own; He sees the potential of who we are with Him.

With God, Gideon was indeed a mighty warrior.  That’s why when Gideon asked how any of this would be possible, “The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you” (Judges 6:16).

That is the promise He has for us–His presence, His help, His guidance, His reassurance when we are afraid.  All He requires from us is trusting obedience and the willingness to embrace His plans and His designs for our future.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Devotions From My Garden: It’s Crowded In Here

My daughters and I reached a compromise.

I announced that I didn’t want to grow a vegetable garden this year.  It was too much work for too little result.  It didn’t save money.  It started out fun in April and ended up a horrible, rotten, ugly chore by the middle of July.  Various ravenous insects destroyed and devoured my plants.

Their response was unanimous.  “But Ma—awm.  We like to grow our own food.”

So we narrowed down the lists of vegetables we would grow and planted a container garden on our deck.

On one of the warmest and sunniest days in April, we filled large wooden crates with garden soil, vegetable food and the tiny plants of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers we had chosen.  Then we dropped the carrot seeds into the dirt, following exact directions on how far down to push them and how far apart they needed to be spaced.

Mostly we worked together, but after a while my daughters disappeared to work on their own project. They held out the result to me with pride.  It was a small planter with dirt in it.

“We planted radishes,” they announced, “all by ourselves.”

I shrugged.  The radish seeds were leftovers from last year.  It seemed unlikely they’d grow.  Yet, the girls faithfully watered that pot for days and surprisingly they were rewarded by the first hints of green.

A day later, the pot was crowded by infant radishes.  The girls must have dumped 20 seeds all into the same tiny space in the miniature pot.

It was going to be really crowded in there.

Unfortunately, even though it is hard and a little sad, we now have to make some tough choices.  If all the radish plants remain in that pot, none of them will grow correctly.  Some of them have to come on out of there.

Sometimes our lives are just as crowded as that tiny radish pot.  Every single seedling may have potential for beauty, growth, and produce, but nothing can grow when they are all shoved into the small space of one simple life and the restriction of 24-hour days.

Even though it’s hard and a little sad, there are times when some things have got to go so that other areas of your life can grow to their full potential.

It’s not always a mystery when choosing what to toss.

When Jesus walked into the temple and saw the vendors hocking their wares–doves for sacrifices and loans for people needing money for their offering–He responded immediately.  It didn’t take a second’s thought for Jesus to overturn their tables and chase the mercenaries out of the holy space of the temple courtyard.

He threw out sin, contaminated worship, and the profanation of the holy.

As soon as Jesus cleared the place, the blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them” (Matthew 21:14).

The only reason they could seek healing in the temple, the only reason there was room for the blind and lame to worship, was because Jesus had thrown out the tainted and unholy.

The Message emphasizes this when it says, “Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in.”

Until Jesus cleaned house, there hadn’t even been room in the temple for those who needed God the most.

Will we allow Jesus to overturn the tables in our heart where sin and the unholy have set up shop?  Will we clear out the trash and the disgusting, so that we have room to come to Jesus—and to bring others along who need Him the most?

Of course, it’s not always so easy to tell what has to go in our lives.  We have a million choices of how to invest our time, energy, talents, and money, and all of them could be good.  We could lead hundreds of crusades against a world of evil.

But if we crowd out our lives with too much that is good, nothing will grow as it should.

Jesus Himself exhibited the kind of focus we need, to hone in on our purpose and refuse to be distracted by every demand and need.

During His ministry, mobs of people sought out Jesus for healing.  He lived in a world of need, need, and more need, and He frequently healed those who sought out His help.

But He didn’t heal everyone.

In fact, when the crowds grew too large and people sought Him out for healing alone, He moved onto another town or He escaped the crowds in order to pray alone on a mountain or by the sea.

Healing was fine.  Miracles were part of His ministry.  But it was not His main purpose for coming and He never wanted that to be the focus of His presence.  Instead, He had come to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and “to save the world” (John 3:17).

Maybe it’s time for you to pull out some of the extra radishes from your pot.  The first ones to go are easy—yank out the sprouts of sin, the unholy habits and the remnants of the flesh life.

Then prayerfully ask God to help you focus.  What seedlings should you tend and invest in until you harvest their potential?  What seedlings need to be set aside so that other areas of your life can grow?

Determine to live an uncrowded life, a flourishing, growing, fruitful life of produce and harvest, made possible by intentional focus and the pursuit of purity in your life and worship.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

One Minute Devotional – Devotions From My Garden: Invasion

It’s an invasion and I knew it was coming.

About three weeks ago, one lone pioneer ant bravely marched across my kitchen counter.  I squashed him, even though I knew it wouldn’t do any good.  He was a scout, a forerunner of things to come.  His presence there meant many more ants were on their way . . . soon.

Slowly, they’ve arrived.  An ant on the windowsill.  Another on the computer desk.  My baby giggled and waved at an ant adventuring across the bathroom floor.  Then several more trekked across the kitchen counters.

Last night, the official invasion party arrived.  Now there is a steady stream of ants climbing on, of all things, my beloved books.  They’ve created their own ant superhighway, running up and down my bookshelf in regular battle formation.

As I weeded and turned over rocks in my garden last week, I discovered their mega-city.  It’s located in the entirety of the garden beds around the perimeter of my home and its capital is the dead tree stump in my front yard.  They’ve taken over my gardens completely.

These ants are the pesky annoyances of my every spring and summer.  They make my skin creep and crawl and they are my obsession as I battle over dominion with them year after year.

But, what if my life were invaded in this same way not by a pest or bother, but by God Himself?  What if every rock you overturned in my life revealed God?  What if every room you entered in my heart showed His presence?

When the angel announced to Mary that she would conceive a son, the Savior of the world, he promised: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

In her study Jesus: The One and Only, Beth Moore notes that the translation for “come upon you” is “arrive, invade, rest upon, and operate in a person.”

Oh, if only God would do this in us—arrive in us, invade us, rest upon us and operate in our lives!

The group Watermark sang a song called “Invade” that said:

Come, come in
Invade all You see of us
Any man, who’d walk Your road is welcomed here
And You’re the only one

Jesus, come and walk the halls of this house
Tread this place and turn it inside out
With Your mercy…
Jesus, teach us the prayers that open these doors
Until Your light floods in and illuminates these floors
And let Your truth be on our steps and in these rooms
Jesus invade…

Reach, reach in
With the hand that heals all our suffering
Conquer all that is not of You
Bring Your spirit through
As we fill these walls with Your praise

It’s time to pray for an invasion, asking that the Holy Spirit take over our lives.  Let Him conquer everything that is not of God and fill us completely with God’s presence and all that brings Him praise.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

One Minute Devotional – Devotions from My Garden: Season of Prayer

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16)

We’re captivated by butterflies at my house.  The elegance and beauty of them, the colors and patterns, the transformation they go through—it all enlivens our imaginations.

We’re big fans.

So, last year my daughters begged me, real, true, actual begging, for the five caterpillars you order through the mail and then watch transform into butterflies.  Thank you, TV commercials.

Our cup of painted lady caterpillars arrived and we enjoyed watching them transform and releasing them into our garden in the spring.

This year, the begging commenced again, although my daughters mentioned how nice it would be to grow monarch butterflies because they were, in fact, my oldest daughter’s favorite.

It turns out, however, that they won’t send you monarch butterfly caterpillars unless you have milkweed growing in your garden to feed them.  Seems fair that you feed the butterflies after you grow them.

Here’s the thing, milkweed seeds have to lie dormant in the ground all through the cold of winter before they’ll grow in the spring.  Just like many spring bulbs, they require a season of germination.  So, I can’t –say–magically grow milkweed in two weeks to feed baby monarch butterflies.

Thus, our cup of painted lady caterpillars arrived last week.
And I’ll be planting milkweed seeds in November.

Now, during those winter months, those milkweed seeds will seem utterly useless and far from life.  Yet, water is penetrating the outer shell and ultimately the new life will crack the dead casing and push through into the soil.

When God has given us a season of waiting, perhaps even what looks like death and cold, it doesn’t mean we do nothing.  Instead, we can fill ourselves with God.  We can immerse ourselves in prayer, until life breaks through.

In his book, Nehemiah tells us that when he heard about the ruin of the Jerusalem walls, he “sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).  Ultimately, he invested three to four months in what Kelly Minter terms the “pre-work of prayer,” before ever acting on his passion.

My husband probably cringes every time he hears me say these few words: “I’ve been thinking . . . ” or “I have an idea.”  For all my ideas, though, I find that God isn’t often in a rush.  He gives me the time I need to pray, sometimes for months, sometimes even longer.  He gives me the assurance that this is right.

It’s not doing nothing; it’s doing the most important thing needed to make any ministry or project successful.  It’s the season of prayer that precedes the season of growth.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

One Minute Devotional – Devotions From My Garden: Whatever It Takes

A few summers ago, I tried my gardening hand at tomatoes for the very first time.  I was pushed into it by my tomato-loving daughters who wanted to grow their own food.  Loving mom that I am, I trekked to the store and returned home with soil, two tiny plantlings, and some plant food.

Through the summer months, my tomato plants grew full with abundant leaves.  You couldn’t see any space between the branches, just all green and all beautiful.  I was pretty proud of my gardening prowess.

But my mother-in-law showed me that some leaves weren’t producing any fruit.  They just looked beautiful and diverted nutrients from the shoots that actually had baby tomatoes on them.  So, she encouraged me to trim the plant.

This was hard.  And sad.  I sucked in my breath one day and finally started snipping away with my scissors.  The leaves fell to the ground.  My tomato plant that was once so full and beautiful now looked spindly and bare.

Yet, just as promised, within a week or two it grew bigger and more green.  More flowers appeared to produce fruit.

Drastic measures that seemed so harmful at the time produced a greater harvest.

When I read through the Lord’s Prayer, it strikes me that we are petitioning God for some drastic measures at times.  Do we really mean it?

When we pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” are we willing to let God trim away the dead, the diseased, the unfruitful, and the wasteful so that He can really be holy in our lives?

“Thy will be done.”  Are we ready for His will to be done–regardless of our desires or expectations?

Max Lucado wrote, “The phrase is a petition, not a proclamation. A request, not an announcement. Hallowed be your name. Do whatever it takes to be holy in my life. Take your rightful place on the throne. Exalt yourself …. You be Lord, and I’ll be quiet.”

We can look beautiful and full, untrimmed by God, allowed to grow as we see fit.

Yet, if we let God cut and prune, painful as it is, as harmful as it first appears, the end result is His holiness, His glory, His lordship in our lives.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

One Minute Devotional – Devotions From My Garden: Underneath the Dirt

I cleaned out my garden last week, clawing at the dirt to extricate the weeds, moving plants around, and spreading mulch.

It turns out that the miniature roses that I thought would stay, well, miniature, grew far larger than I ever expected.  They are dwarfing all of the plants behind them.  After years of watching these rose bushes grow exponentially each season, I’ve finally realized that “miniature” just means the size of the bud—not the size of the bush.

So, I finally broke down and moved one of the rose bushes to the back of the garden where it didn’t look like anything was growing.  But it’s March and many of my perennials and summer bulbs haven’t poked their heads above ground yet.

Sure enough, I pushed my trowel into the dirt only to overturn a bulb.

I guess something was growing there after all.

In the garden and in life, it’s so often the hidden things we can’t see that produce the life we do see.

In his devotional book A Year With Jesus, Eugene Peterson wrote: “Jesus’ work was not always public, out where people could see it.  There were also quiet interludes of retirement and rest.  The quiet asides are as characteristic of his ministry as the glorious signs.”

Jesus not only valued the moments of solitude and quiet, but He also called His disciples away when they were weary from service:

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest
(Mark 6:31 NIV).

What is “characteristic” of God’s work in you?  Is it just the visible that matters?  Is it the Sunday masquerade or the busyness of church life?  Is it committee meetings, ministry sign-ups, the quantifiable and the identifiable?

Don’t mistake this.  We are to serve God where He has called us to serve.  We shouldn’t linger on the pew when He’s asked us to step out and get busy.  Be assured that He will equip you and strengthen you when you act in obedience.

But don’t scorn the quiet, hidden work of God, either.  Don’t get so wrapped up in doing that you fail at being at the feet of God.  The Master Gardener may be growing something great in you just beneath the soil, something beautiful that you haven’t yet seen.  And it begins with you sitting before an open Bible, with your prayers laid down at His feet, with your songs of praise during the morning commute.  It begins in the hidden places alone with Him.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

One Minute Devotional – Devotions From My Garden: Growing

“He has made everything beautiful in its time”
(Ecclesiastes 3:11a ESV)

I’m a gardener who loves color, soil, blooms, and fullness, all without spending much money.  So, I’m an anti-annual gardener mostly, although I break down and buy some Gerbera daisies every year.  I can’t help myself!!

My modus operandi is usually to buy small, inexpensive perennials or bulbs that barely show up in my garden the first year.  Two years later, though, my $3 plant has now spread across the ground, covering every available space.  The coneflower I first planted several years ago grew over my head last summer.  The Black-Eyed Susans with the original circumference of my hand now span about 3 feet.

But it takes time.

Unfortunately, time is the one thing we don’t often give life—give God.  We want Him to renew us, restore us, change us, perfect us, and use us immediately, when we’re still tiny little plants who haven’t grown into maturity.

In her lessons in James: Mercy Triumphs, Beth Moore said, “We demand a holy SPRINT; He gives us the Holy Spirit.”

When the Israelites finally stepped foot into the promised land after 40 years of wandering, God told them from the beginning that conquering would take time.  He said, “The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you” (Deuteronomy 7:22).

If they had rushed God, they would have been destroyed and overrun.

In the same way, James writes:

Be patient, therefore, brothers,until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful (James 5:7-11).

Don’t rush the journey.  Don’t run ahead of God.  Be patient.  Establish your heart.  Remain steadfast.  We don’t always see the reason for the slow pace or the delays, but God is working for our protection and benefit because He is a “compassionate and merciful” Master Gardener.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Devotions From My Garden: Be An Original

 “Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t”
(Romans 12:6 MSG)

I am a passionate gardener from about March to June every year.  It feels refreshing, good for the soul, full of life, and peaceful to push my trowel into the dirt in the cool morning air or in the breezy moments before twilight.

During those months, I fancy myself a real gardener as I spread the mulch over the newly weeded flower beds and stand back to survey my plot of earth.

Then it gets hot.  All my gardening ambition dies.  When I weigh weeding in the heat with working in the comfort of air conditioning, my inside work wins every time.  So, my gardens transform into jungles as weeds brazenly shove aside my mounds of mulch.  Massive spiders take up residence in undisturbed webs.

Two years ago, I had an epiphany in July when my gardens were just taking on that forlorn abandoned look.

After a quick trip to the Home Depot for a super sale, I toted home some $2 pots of ground covering.  They started small—these tiny plants of phlox and candytuft, but over time I hoped they’d cover the expanse of the garden.  And if it worked, there’d be less space for weeds. (Crosses fingers and digs into the dirt).

Yesterday, I worked in the flower beds with all my usual spring passion.  I fingered the tiny green sprouts just peeking up from the dirt and tried to remember what perennials should reappear in the next few months.

I yanked the viny weeds away from my radiant tulips with their bold colors. In these early spring months, the tulips are the stars of the garden.  They are fabulous.  They are eye-catching.  They are royal show-offs.

Next to them, though, are the bright and cheerful phlox and candytuft, the simple plants that have now quadrupled in size.  No one has ever told them they are just ground covering and I’m not spilling the secret.

Every glance around my garden testified to God’s creativity.  The beauty of this world is so vast and varied.  And I wondered—is it possible to say that this pure white candytuft, all fluffy and bright, is less beautiful than the deep purple tulip blooming next to it?

They are both unique testaments to God’s design.

So are we.

The flowers aren’t bothered by their variety or the specific beauty God’s given them.  The tulip rises high and blooms bright, giving glory to God by being a tulip—as it was designed.

The candytuft spreads across the ground with simple and sweet blossoms stirred slightly by the breeze, giving glory to God by being candytuft—as it was designed.

We, however, so often stunt our growth and destroy our own service by becoming ministry busybodies and nosy talent scouts.  “She’s better than me.  I’m better than him.  I wish I had her gifting.  I wish I could do that.  I’m great.  I’m nothing.”

It’s spiritual gift envy and it’s destructive and dangerous.  It takes something beautiful—the variety of spiritual gifts God has given—and twists it into ugliness and pettiness.  We might as well trample all over the gardens of faith God has created, stomping on the blooms of others and smashing down their leaves.  Meanwhile, others are ramming their big boots down on our own petals.

Paul wrote in Galatians, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:26 ESV).

I love this passage in The Message:

That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life (Galatians 5:26, 6:4-5, MSG).

You are an original.  So is the person next to you in Sunday School.  And the lady who cares for the babies in the nursery, rocking them to sleep.  And the guy on the stage singing.  And the artist arranging the flowers in the church windows.  And the couple who houses missionaries during their visits.  And the man who comes early to unlock doors.  And the servant who gives his time to set up the chairs for covered dish meals.

All of them original, all of them part of God’s amazing design.  We can trample all over each other, vying for personal glory, attention, and the best gifts in God’s bag of talents.

Or we can “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. ”  We can “do the creative best you can with your own life.”

We can also seek out every opportunity of pointing to the beauty of God in others.  Don’t worry if people don’t always see your own beauty.  Whether you feel like groundcover or like a tulip taking center stage in a spring garden, you’re blooming for God’s glory.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Devotions From My Garden: Peppermint in the Spring

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!  (Psalm 141:2)

I bought it on a whim and I’m so glad I did.

Years ago, I was filling my garden with herbs.  I bought the tiniest pots of rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, oregano, basil, parsley and chives for $2 each and just hoped they’d grow larger over time.

Then, as I left the garden center one day I walked by another table of herbs.  I thought there’d be nothing among those leaves to entice me—now the proud owner of herbs I knew how to cook with and some I didn’t.

I almost passed by without even looking, but as I did a breeze blew through and I caught the hint of the most heavenly scent ever.

It was a tiny pot of peppermint.

I fell in love.

Over the years, some of those miniature $2 herb plants have overtaken my garden.  The rosemary has invaded the entire back left corner.  I keep cutting it back and still it grows undeterred.  The basil last year towered over my six-year-old daughter and made me crave Italian food every time I climbed the steps to my back door.

Then there’s the peppermint.  It quickly spread and overtook every available space in the right corner of my garden plot.  Now, as I sit here typing away next to an open window, I can smell the scent of fresh peppermint even with the gentlest breeze.

I’m pretty sure heaven smells like peppermint.  And if the aroma of heaven is sweeter than that, it’s aromatherapy at its greatest.

There’s no “if” about it, though.  We know for sure that God has His own brand of Scentsy and His own favorite aroma.

And believe it or not, it’s sweeter than fresh peppermint dancing in a spring breeze.

The Bible tells us that in heaven there are “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8) and that:

“Another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel” (Revelation 8:3-4).

Our prayers are being mixed with incense and wafted before God’s throne all the time.  It’s the cries of our heart and the pleas for grace, the humble praising of His name, and the intercession on behalf of others that fills the throne room.

They are a continual offering to God, a sweet-smelling sacrifice that brings God joy.

This, then, is truly my heart’s desire.  I want to smell nice for God.

Sound foolish?  Perhaps it seems silly at first.  And yet, what I really mean to say is that I want to be pleasing to Him.  I don’t want to be the foul odor among the incense of the saints’ prayers. I don’t want to be the one lone stench among the sacrifices offered up to my God.

I want Him to receive my prayers with pleasure and to take joy in the life I offer to Him, in the planned prayer times spoken at my table, in the heartfelt cries I send up to heaven without premeditation, and in the thousands of conversations and the running dialogue I carry on with Him every day, all day.

This isn’t a mystery, either.  We aren’t left to guess what life-scents God enjoys and which of those He finds distasteful and nauseating.

In Exodus and Leviticus we read that the sacrifices burnt on the altar before God could be a “pleasing aroma” to Him (Exodus 29:18, Exodus 29:25, Exodus 29:41, Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 1:13 . . . ).

When offered with obedience, these burnt offerings brought God pleasure.

Yet, God told the Israelites “if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me . . . I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas” (Leviticus 26:27, 31).

Lives of disobedience and idolatry became the stench of garbage and death before God.  He held His nose at their offerings and didn’t receive their sacrifices.

So when you choose to obey Him, even when it doesn’t make sense and doesn’t fit into your five-year-plan, you are spraying on the perfume of the God-life.

When you pray with humility, when you commune with Him continually, and when you offer up praise, your prayers drift through heaven like peppermint on a breeze and like the candles making my living room smell like honeysuckle on a summer’s eve and my bedroom like gardenias in bloom (my favorites!).

This has become my prayer for today and the days ahead, that the life I lay on the altar before God, the offering up of my actions, my words, my thoughts, and the hidden motives of my heart, will be acceptable to Him.  And that the prayers I place at the feet of His throne are a pleasing aroma of incense to my God.

With David, we pray:

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!  (Psalm 141:2)

and

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14)

Amen.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Devotions from My Garden: Soil Samples

Last year, I decided to expand my back garden by about two feet.  This grand scheme seemed urgently necessary.  My daughters had been begging me to grow tomatoes and cucumbers so we could “eat our own food” and my garden was packed full already.

Besides that, my girls live on strawberries and I had, in a moment of frugal inspiration, decided that growing our own berries would be cheaper than paying someone else to grow them for me.

Within a year, those determined little strawberry plants muscled in like they owned the whole joint.  They spread into every corner and began popping up in random unclaimed territory.

We needed more room.

So, I bought some inexpensive garden fencing, pulled on my gardening shoes and rolled up my sleeves for the job ahead.  I figured I’d dig a little and then plant and mulch.  In about two hours I’d be kicking back with a lemonade and surveying the finished product.

It only took one shovel dug down into the dirt to realize this may have been a bad idea.  At the very least, it would take much more work than I planned in order to create my idyllic backyard Eden.

Apparently, only about the first half inch of earth was actual dirt.  After that it wasn’t so much soil as pebbles, clay, and yes, even broken up blocks of cement.

This was not good earth.

It took intense digging out of the old mess, which had me on Motrin for a week afterwards to combat the back, leg and arm pain.  Then I dumped in bags of topsoil, manure, and fertilizer and mixed it all around to form an “earth soup” of sorts.

That was all just prep work before I planted and mulched, fenced in the area, and then kicked back to enjoy a cup of hot tea before bed time since my morning job had turned into an all-day project.

The truth is sometimes we God has to get down and dirty in our lives, too, digging out the pebbles, clay, and even cement that hinder what He intends to grow.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus reminded his disciples that there are different types of soil—people who are variably receptive to God’s Word.

The seed is scattered on:

  • Hard road with no growth: Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them
  • Shallow Soil: And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
  • Weedy Ground: The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.
  • Good Earth: But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams (Mark 4:14-20, MSG).

This is a challenge to us as we share the Gospel with others.  Sometimes we are frustrated with a lack of growth and we keep shoving seeds into the soil.  We get pushy about it, edgy, and feel as if everything depends on us.

Yet, God patiently engages in intense soil preparation long before we see the first shoots of green push out of the earth.

This isn’t just about others, though. It’s also about the quality of the earth in our own lives.

The seed in the shallow soil and the weedy ground began to grow—a relationship with God had sprouted.  Yet when the initial emotional highs and excitement faded, the shallow-rooted plants didn’t last.  Then there’s the weedy ground where the sprouts of life were choked out by stress and busyness.

I’m content to live with weeds too much of the time, too “overwhelmed with worries about all the things I have to do” to stop and listen, receive, and act on the work God is doing.

So, He pulls out a shovel and starts digging out my mess of pebbles and cement.  He pours in fertilizer and rich dirt.  Then He yanks out the crabgrass and clover threatening to choke out life.

It’s like when you have all these plans and scheduled activities and your daughters get sick one . . . after . . . . the . . . . other, staking a claim to the couch and a bucket.

Instead of rushing here and there, I’ve pulled my most comfortable sweatshirt over my head and my favorite white socks on my feet.  I’ve brushed my hair back into a loose ponytail.

I’m prepping soup for the Crock Pot and bread for hot ham and cheese for the perfect dinner on a cool, gray and rainy day.

I’m cleaning up messes and  destroying germs with Lysol and Clorox.

And I’ve settled down at the kitchen table ready to sit with God for a while.  He’s been pulling weeds out of my life this week.  That means changing my plans and interrupting my schedule.

It also means, He’s trying to make something beautiful grow.

What’s He doing in your life?

Is He reminding you not to give up on others and what appears to be the hardened soil of their heart?

Is He asking you to dig your roots deeper in the ground so that you won’t topple over at the slightest wind or dry spell?

Is He yanking out some weeds that have been choking out His work in your heart?

It’s time to let the Master Gardener work unhindered so that we can become good earth and “produce a harvest beyond (our) wildest dreams.”

Here’s What I’m Making For Dinner:

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King