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

What if I Mess this Up?

“Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:5).

Years ago, a mom-friend of mine sat on the big blue couch in my living room and confessed, “I feel like all I do all day is tell my kids what to do and how to do it. I’m constantly in teaching and correction mode.”

I nodded my head knowingly and sympathetically and absolutely had no idea what she was talking about.  At the time, I had a baby less than a year old.  Our conversations usually went like this, “Momma loves you.  You’re so sweet.  Where’s your nose?  Oh, you’re so smart.”

And then she’d respond with, “Mama” or something else equally superior and I’d just know we had connected and that she was a genius bound for great things.

But now I’m older and my kids are older.  One day at dinner I remembered the words of that mom and realized that she could be describing my life.

Wash your hands before you eat.  Use soap!  Sit like a lady.  Talk like a lady.  Eat like a lady.  Chew with your mouth closed.  Use a napkin.  Don’t spill your milk.  Clean up the milk you spilled.  Clear your place when you’re done eating.

Brush your teeth.  Up and down.  Front to back.  Don’t forget your tongue.  Brush every single tooth.  Don’t leave globs of toothpaste in the sink, on the wall, or on the floor.  Hang up wet towels; towels can’t dry all crumbled together and thrown on the counter.

Don’t hit your sister.  Don’t yell at your sister.  Don’t manipulate your sister.  Don’t push your sister. Don’t boss your sister.  Don’t roll your eyes at your sister.  Don’t tattle on your sister.

Do your homework . . . neatly.  Take pride in your work.  Practice the piano.  Study your memory verses.  Put your shoes away—shoes and socks do not live in the middle of the kitchen floor.  A place for everything and everything in its place.

At times it feels like we’re prepping kids for the standardized tests of life and that means covering table manners, relationship skills, character issues, faith lessons, and more.

This isn’t just about the Mom-life.  Teachers, church leaders, aunts, grandmas, big sisters, small group leaders and more all have speeches we’ve mastered and a curriculum to cover.

But what if we miss something?  What if there’s a question we don’t know how to answer?  What if we get it wrong and miss out on cultivating one of their gifts or fail to correct a character weakness?

What about the fact that I can look at my daughters and marvel at how God has made them and yet be scared out of my mind when I think of the herculean responsibility of molding their character?

This week, I was praying for the summer plans for my daughters, for their next school year and the teachers they will have, for how to connect with them and how to be the mom God wants me to be in their lives.

Then I read the account of Samson’s birth in Judges 13.

In true Biblical fashion, Manoah and his wife hadn’t been able to have kids.  And, just as you might expect, an angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and told her she would have a son and he would be set apart for God from the very beginning as a Nazirite—no alcohol, no cutting his hair, nothing unclean.  From before conception, God had a plan for Samson: “He shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).

What an honor for Manoah and his wife to parent this future leader of their nation!

And what a huge responsibility!  It must have been overwhelming as parents to wonder if they could mess this up.  What if they parented poorly?  What if they failed?  Could their mistakes prevent God’s plans?

So, Manoah “prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born’” (Judges 13:8 ESV).

The truth is that God has given all of us ministry and responsibility and it’s all too much for us.  In our own strength and ability, we’re absolutely not enough to parent our kids, teach our students, run that ministry, serve the needy, organize that relief effort, instruct that class, write that devotional, lead that worship, speak to that hurting friend.

We’re just not enough for any of this.

Manoah, however, set an example for us by asking God for help.  He turned to God, His Master, and asked, “teach me how to do this!”

And God did.

We serve that same Master, our Lord, our Adonai.  When He assigns a task, when He places these children in our lives, when He puts it on our heart to start that ministry . . . He doesn’t just dump it on us and run.

As our Master, He commissions us, directing us where to serve, assigning us ministry, determining our life-effort.

As our Master, He trains us, guides us and instructs us.  He gives us the tools we need, equipping us for the job He’s assigned.

When it all seems too much for us and we feel overwhelmed by the task, we can pray with honesty:  “God, I’m clueless.  I don’t know where to begin.  I don’t know how to get it all done.  I don’t know where to go or how to make this happen.  Please teach me.”

And He will.

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