Weekend Walk, 08/11/2012: Devotions From My Garden: Beautiful Attraction

We enjoyed a special visit with grandparents this week and they brought with them gifts, as is the way of grandparents.  One of our surprise presents were two tiny plants that they grew from seeds.

They are butterfly plants.  I looked them up online and saw into our future.  They bloom with brightly colored purple, pink and blue flowers.

And they attract butterflies.

This, of course, is the most exciting kind of plant we can grow in our garden that blooms right outside my daughters’ bedroom window.

Pink, purple and blue . . . and a butterfly magnet?

That has “King girls” written all over it.

I’ll be transplanting these tiny green plants into the garden this weekend and then we’ll watch and wait for the day that the first butterfly visits our flowers.

Of course, these aren’t the only kinds of plants that have a peculiar attractive quality.  Some flowers catch the eye of hummingbirds and the shoots of dill and parsley in our garden are the diet-of-choice for the Easter black swallowtail.

In the same way, we as Christians are to have an attractive quality about us that draws people to stop a while, turn aside, glance our way and choose to linger in our presence and know our Savior.

But if we’ve let our life plants wither and die, grow scrawny and unattractive, or deprive them of the necessary nutrients for our fruit of the spirit to bloom, then we’ll fail to attract others to Jesus.  Even worse, we might repel them.

So, this week, I’m meditating on a verse that reminds me to be a sweet scent of Christ in the world, a reminder to others who meet me and know me of God’s love:

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

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: 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

Devotions from My Garden: Breaking Ground

It is an annual ritual in my house.

The first time I push aside the leaves and mulch in our garden and discover tiny green shoots in the earth, I call for each of my kids.  We stand around in awe and anticipation, just spending a few moments looking down at our first sign of spring.  It feels so wonderful, so hopeful, to see physical evidence that the coldness and deadness of winter will be ending soon.

So far, my youngest daughter is the only one I haven’t yet put to work in the garden. Although, even she was beginning to carry weeds to the wheelbarrow and dig into the soil last year.

When my baby girl sees these little green leaves, it may seem almost like magic.  The rest of us, though, know that before we can enjoy the fanfare of brightly colored spring tulips and daffodils, we had to plow up the earth, plant the bulbs, weed, and protect them from weather that is too harsh.

Our efforts didn’t produce much at first.  These bulbs didn’t grow all fall and into the winter.  We’ve endured a full season of drab brown and gray.  It’s only now, months after their original planting, that we see evidence of growth and life.

As Christians, it’s easy to forget that in order to grow and produce life, we have to let God work in our hearts.  It’s sometimes painful and we don’t always see the purpose of this work right away, but our fruitfulness depends on it.

Last year, I felt God turning over the soil of my heart, sifting out the deep-rooted sins that have to be removed before I can produce fruit.

From the surface, I may have looked like good soil before this.  Sometimes it’s the sins that we can easily hide from others that are the hardest to dig out.  Yet, He knew about those hidden sins that I manage to keep so private—sins like pride and jealousy, and He’s been digging them out with firmness and yet with so much grace.

We may think we’ve given over all of our lives to God.  We may see some fruit and think that it’s enough.  Yet, God will always ask us to draw closer to Him, to give more of our lives, to break up unplowed ground and allow Him to work in the areas we’ve previously kept from His hand.

Sometimes in real life, I’m tempted to just dump a whole bunch of mulch on top of the weeds, hoping they suffocate under the load.  It’s that way in my heart, too.  It seems easier somehow to just dump a righteous façade on top of my bad attitudes, lack of trust, and other heart problems and hope that those sins remain hidden.

Any good gardener, however, will tell you that the only way to get rid of weeds is to completely remove them, roots and all.  It’s work—hard work—but it is what needs to be done to ensure the quality of the soil and to produce the best harvest.

In Hosea 10:2, it says, “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers righteousness on you” (NIV).

If God has been urging you to “break up your unplowed ground,” allow Him to work.  It might hurt as He uses circumstances and other people to break up the hard rocky places in your heart.

Yet, when He has uprooted the weeds of sin in your life and turned over soil, unsettling your ground and disturbing your status quo, “sow for yourselves righteousness . . . and seek the Lord.”  Protect your heart from those same sins taking root again by filling up that dirt with His Word and with time spent in His presence.

He is a Master Gardener.  He doesn’t just plant without tending.  Instead, He “comes and showers righteousness on you” so that you can “reap the fruit of unfailing love.”

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

Tomato Plant Prayers

Last week, my daughters and I spent a picture-perfect day outside planting in the garden.  As I pushed the dirt around each  of our tomato plants, I whispered a little prayer for God to bless it and let it grow strong and healthy to produce much fruit and to be protected from weather and pests (those nasty huge green worms that appear every year) and also to be protected from my ineptitude (I’m no expert gardener).

My daughter giggled at me.  “Why are you praying over a tomato plant, mom?”

I stopped to think.  Why was I praying over a tomato plant?  Earlier that very day, I had prayed for the names listed in my prayer journal.  For job decisions.  For financial help.  For needed housing.  For strength while caregiving.  For a broken marriage.  For children growing up with instability.  For a small girl with cancer.

Now, here I was just hours later, asking the God of the Universe to care about my tiny garden.  Did it seem presumptuous of me, selfish perhaps to think that the small things that mattered to me, mattered to God, as well?

Yet, I looked up into my daughter’s face and said, “God cares about us.  He cares about every little thing, so it’s okay for us to pray about all that is on our mind and heart, not just the big stuff.”

I believe that.  Sometimes we see God as too wrapped up in world affairs, global weather patterns, and hospital rooms to have time for the daily thoughts and concerns we face each day.  Somehow we think we’d just be wasting his time, taking His attention from those who really need His intervention if we prayed about “silly” little things.

Satan has great success defeating the prayer lives of Christians by making prayer seem so complicated.  He tells us prayer is hard and it has to be done a certain way and for a certain length of time.  He tells us we don’t pray as well as other Christians we know.  He tells us we are lacking and we fall short.  He tells us God doesn’t care about our concerns and needs because they are too insignificant for God’s notice.  So, with all of that pressure and the feeling that we simply can’t measure up, we sometimes don’t pray at all.

And yet, Scripture tells us to “pray continually” (1 Thes. 5:17).  It’s not that we need to quit our jobs and devote ourselves to on-our-knees intercession all day, every day.  It’s that our every thought and emotion can be turned over to God in prayer, living in continual conversation with a listening and caring God.

I am reminded that the Psalmist told me to “cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22) and Peter told us to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).  Cast all my anxiety—-not just the big life-altering problems, but everything that puzzles my heart and occupies my thoughts.

Honestly, there have been few more stressful seasons for me than potty training my children.  Nothing made me feel quite so much a failure as those months of accidents and pleading and systems that didn’t work and children who refused.  God has endured many a potty-training prayer from this crazy mom and as silly as it sounds now in retrospect, those days were anxious for me; diapers and potty chairs were constantly on my mind.  I scoured the Internet for advice, talked to every mom I knew (who all had miraculously potty trained their children by 18 months with no effort, making me feel even worse), and spent an hour or more of my every day sitting on the bathroom floor singing Old MacDonald while trying to convince my child to keep sitting and trying while singing just one more verse of the song.  Old MacDonald’s farm for us was expansive, holding animals that didn’t even make noise (making the song difficult) and housing exotic breeds more often found in zoos than in an average barn.  But, if Old MacDonald needed an elephant in order for my child to use the potty, he got an elephant.

In a world where we are constantly reminded of need and hurt, when wars and revolutions are started everyday, when tornadoes and tsunamis wipe out homes and countries, when our email boxes fill up with prayer requests for the homeless and the sick, it may seem so foolish to lay at God’s feet the little things like tomato plants and potty training.

And yet, Isaiah 63:9 says, “In all their distress, He too was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them.  In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”  Isaiah here is writing about how God carried Israel in the past.  During all those days in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan He delivered them from Pharaoh’s mighty army, He carried them across the Red Sea on dry ground, He gave them the Ten Commandments, but He also made sure they had food and water to drink and led them to an oasis to refresh them when they were weary.  He cared about every event and every need—big or small—that mattered to them.

About a week after I had knelt in the dirt to pray over my tomato plant, my daughter and I sat next to each other talking about a birthday party she was going to the next day.  I looked up the directions on the computer and realized that this family lived exactly in the middle of the hardest hit area of tornado damage from the storms a week before.  My daughter announced, “Well, my friend says that she could hear the storm and it went right by her, but they were okay.  I guess God knew she was having  a birthday party and didn’t want it to be ruined by her house being broken.”

Sweet innocent faith!  I had told her that God cares about every little thing, and she believed it.  If He cares about tomato plants, why not a birthday party?  If He cares about my daughters potty training, why not the worries on your mind?  Your decisions, your financial needs, your relationship problems, your job choices, your shopping list, your schedule for the day, whether your kids behave in the store (I have prayed that prayer many times).  Isn’t it one of those miraculous aspects of God’s nature that He cares about the big and small, the world events and the personal concerns, the global crises and the daily struggles?

**********************************************************************************************************

Now it’s your turn:

How have you learned to pray through your every day life?  Have you ever had a prayer breakthrough, something you learned that really changed your prayer life?  Please post a comment to share with others!!

**************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

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 © 2011 Heather King

May the God of Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit
Romans 15:13, NIV

Today, I walked close enough to my front garden to catch the strong perfume of hyacinth carried by the wind.  It was delicious and relaxing and full of hope.  Those early spring flowers remind me that spring and new life are coming and maybe even here!  That after months of dormancy, a seed buried deep within the frozen ground is now beautiful, colorful, fragrant and abundant.  They remind me that our God is the Creator—able to make something truly wonderful out of nothingness.

And all of these things give me hope. 

It means that I am never trapped or stuck in the relentlessness of my everyday because God brings abundant new life and seasons of blessing.  His mercies “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23, NIV).

It means all of my time in the wildernesses of my faith when I saw no visible evidence of God’s plan for me were not wasted.  He has cultivated my heart and brought to life a beautiful “planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3b, NIV).

It means that even when I am in an impossible situation, God, who created everything out of nothing, can create a rescue for me.

All day today, I’ve been meditating on and unpacking the truths in a verse that similarly brings me hope: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NIV).

May the God of Hope: Our God is a God of hope.  Even when we feel that there is no rescue for us and no way out, we can trust in Him to save us.  We are never stuck, abandoned, lost or beyond His reach because our God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV).  When circumstances are at their most impossible, we have hope because “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, NIV).

Fill you with all joy and peace: Because we have hope, we can walk through disaster with joy and peace.   In the book of Nehemiah, Ezra reads the book of the law to the people for the first time in years. They had returned from exile away from their temple and homeland and now faced the long process of rebuilding.  The people wept with remorse over lost time and out of true regret for turning away from God, but Nehemiah and Ezra reminded them that “the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV).

As you trust in Him:  My joy and peace come from my connection to God.  They aren’t fake or self-motivated.  I can’t wake up in the morning and determine in and of myself that “I’m going to be at peace today” or “today, I’m going to be joyful.”  Instead, I ask God to please fill me with joy and peace and to help me stay connected with Him every moment of that day, so that I don’t begin to replace joy and peace with discontent, worry, or shame.  God can keep me filled up only as I trust in Him.  When I trust in others, in circumstances or in myself, I will be disappointed and my faith shaken.  Instead, we must “trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

So that you may overflow with hope: God doesn’t just fill us up for our benefit, but so that we can overflow for others.  He places us in community with other Christians so that we can journey together, encouraging one another and bringing hope to others when they need it.  He places us in the world so that we can offer hope to those who are hopeless.

Like the hyacinth in my garden, we are to let Christ manifest “through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15, NASB).  We are like Christ in a perfume bottle!

By the power of the Holy Spirit: It is the Holy Spirit at work deep within us that allows us to be filled up to overflowing.  As Christians, the Holy Spirit is within us, constantly at work in our heart, and present as we face every life circumstance.  There is nothing in this life that we ever face alone and so we have hope, joy and peace.

I am always amazed by Paul and his prayers for others.  Most of the time when I pray for people, I ask God to meet their need, give them a job, heal their sickness, provide for their finances, direct their steps . . . it is always specific and practical.  These prayers are important and necessary, but I shouldn’t stop there.  The vast majority of Paul’s prayers for the churches in his letters were for spiritual blessings.  This verse in Romans 15:13 is just one example, in which he prays for hope, joy and peace and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives.

So, today, I am taking my cue from Paul and praying for you:
Father God, I pray now for those reading this devotional.  Please let your Holy Spirit be at work in their lives, filling them to the point of overflowing with hope, joy and peace.  Help them know that whatever they are facing in life can be entrusted to You and that nothing at all is impossible with You, our Creator God.  You bring beauty and life out of darkness and dormancy.  Give them an excitement about Your work in their lives.  Help them live in joyful anticipation of what You are going to do next.
Amen.

******************************************************************************************************,

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 © 2011 Heather King