Dandelions are out; Tulips are in

A confession.

Until we put our house up for sale last year, I can’t say that dandelions ever bothered me very much.

So they were weeds.   So others didn’t like them.   So what?

I barely noticed them.  When the grass got cut, the dandelions got chopped down, too, and that seemed like enough.

When I wanted someone to buy our house, though,  I suddenly felt motivated to keep  my yard weed-free.

That’s when the war started. and I’ve brought the battle from the old house to the new, only this time I refuse to give up any territory.

These dandelions have overrun yards all over my new neighborhood, but not my yard.  Not this time.

I  pop those dandelions out by the root every time I take a walk or get the mail or just  head out the door to  the minivan.

But while I’m warring against the dandelions, I’m also choosing to fight for something else.

The whole time I’m digging out weeds, I’m cultivating tulips, watching over them like a mom does a newborn baby.  I marvel at every single hint of growth. I point out the first sprouts of green to my kids, and I wait expectantly for the first blooms  to appear.

In my old house, I planted tulips nearly every fall because I love their vibrant colors. They didn’t grow, though.  In the 13 years we lived in that house, I probably only had tulips bloom two of those years.

They were eaten. That’s why.   Apparently tulip bulbs are a high-class delicacy to voles, who tunneled all through the yard and snacked on my plants through the winter.

I’m determined, though–determined to keep the dandelions out and determined to keep the tulips in.  So I clicked my way through Google searches to find some tulip- growing remedies.   Then I headed out to the garden with a bag of crushed oyster shells and containers of garlic powder and  chili powder.  I mixed that fragrant little concoction up and dumped  it into the holes before I dropped the tulip bulbs in the soil.

The garden smelled like garlic for at least a week.

Now,  it’s spring. The tulips are about to bloom and I finally see the results of all that effort.

I have fought against and I have fought for.

Maybe that’s what I need to know spiritually, too.  That battling against is fine and well and good, but it’s incomplete if we aren’t also cultivating what is beautiful and right and enduring in its place.

James wrote:

16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace (James 3:16-18 CSB). 

We dig out envy, pride, and evil.  We grow peace, gentleness, and mercy.

Paul told the Galatians:

 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy,outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar (Galatians 5:19-21 CSB). 

But that’s not the end.  It’s not enough to be rid of the flesh or pull out the sin; we need the Spirit to do a new work within us, and the fruit of the Spirit is:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 CSB). 

I can deal with sin, take it seriously, talk about sin, focus on sin, try to conquer sin, determine not to sin, read about sin, listen to preachers preach about sin, recognize my sin, and constantly declare that I’m a sinner.

But I’m still missing out.  James moves past that.  Paul moves past that.

It’s fruitfulness they describe and it’s fruitfulness I really want.   I want more than a yard without dandelions.  I want the beauty of the tulips.

And that doesn’t happen if I’m focused on myself, my own efforts,  my own failures.   Fruitfulness requires abiding in Christ, lifting my eyes from my self to my Savior.

That’s when my life begins to bear fruit, His supernatural peace, not just the absence of worry, but a heart that loves peace and pursues peace with others.

That’s when He helps me to love even when it’s hard.  That’s when He grows gentleness, mercy, kindness, and goodness within me.   That’s when I have an abiding joy that isn’t determined by circumstances.   This is the Spirit’s work.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5 NIV).

 

 

When You Have to Squint Your Eyes to See the Beauty–a devotion from my garden

Sometimes you have to fight for the glory and squint your eyes tight to find the wonder.

Like today.

My daughter woke me up early.  She was ready for the day; I wanted to enjoy a little more night, and so the morning began with a headache, fatigue and maybe a not-so-cheerful attitude.by Alexandr Rozhkov;

Then, just as I began to settle into the day, I glanced up at the calendar at 7:58 and realized the heating and air conditioning repairman was coming between 8 and 8:30 a.m.  Oops, forgot that one.

He came at 8:20 and normally that time for me is for morning tea and long devotions, starting the week with God and then writing.

But how to be inspired and still with God, how to type out these words on the computer when he’s banging parts and dismantling pieces?  Then he calls out, “Ma’am?” and I flinch because I know it’s not to tell me good news.

My to-do list was long.  The laundry piled high.  The sink stacked with morning dishes.

But I’m fighting for this, so I open to Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg:

“God desires to captivate us not just with his handiwork but with Himself–displaying facets of His character, igniting us with His fiery love, awakening us to the intensity of His holiness” (11).

Captivate me, Lord.  Right here, this tiny person in this moment when all the mundane is pressing heavy on my heart and I’m just about suffocated from the stifling weight of it all.

Feinberg tells me that this is what God desires and I wonder: If I’m not feeling it, is it because I’ve shut Him down and crowded Him out?  Is He willing to reignite me and I’m unwilling to notice?

I flip through my Bible to Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

It starts with thanks, gratitude that anything that shakes apart the foundation of my day can’t touch the foundation of His kingdom, my faith, or eternity with Him–Not early mornings, interrupted routines, home repairs, not even the incessant grinding of the daily.

It requires worship grounded in reverence and awe because my God, Savior, Friend, and Lover of my Soul, is a Consuming Fire, and even on days when I’m just seeing the tiniest ember and flicker of that holy flame, He remains the same.

In Scripture, Elisha stood with his prophet-mentor, Elijah, and asked so boldly for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9).  So, when I read Elisha’s story, I expect the miracles all to be earth-shattering, all fire from heaven with awe and wonder.

It was Elijah, after all, who staged the showdown with the prophets of Baal, who predicted a long and devastating drought over the land and then foretold the rain that started as one tiny cloud as big as a man’s fist.  He went head-to-toe with Ahab and Jezebel until he was whisked away to heaven in a flaming chariot.

The double-portion of that Spirit must be pretty spectacular.

But when I read Elisha’s story, he made foul water fit to drink.  He cursed a group of taunting boys who called him “baldy.”  He gave oil to a poor widow, made some poisonous stew safe for consumption.  And when an ordinary worker dropped his ax in the lake, Elisha made the ax head float on the water.

It was everyday stuff, most of it.  He had a few moments, like raising a boy from the dead.  Overall, though, it seems so mundane.  So everyday.  He helped people eat and drink.  Helped them work and not have to trek to Home Depot for some new tools.

And maybe that’s the reminder here.  Maybe it takes even more faith to look for the power and spirit of God at work in the smallest of needs and the most everyday of circumstances.

Swamp milkweedI look out of the window over my kitchen sink while I wash the last cereal bowl and see the plants we bought the day before, still waiting to be planted in the dirt of our garden.  We went on a hunt for milkweed to attract monarch butterflies and came home with these two green pots.

They look like the smallest and plainest of dead sticks.  My daughter was skeptical.  Could this brown spindly stalk grow anything beautiful?  Is it even alive?

But today I’ve fought for the wonder and the glory.

Today, I’ve determined to plant and nurture the pitiful, the brown, the spindly, the weak, the seeming lifeless–and wait for God to cultivate and grow the glory and the beauty.

Yes, in my garden.  Yes, in my life and heart.

Captivate me, Lord, today.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Enjoy Beauty’?

To read more Devotions from my Garden, you can click here!

Originally posted April 22, 2013

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

What are you waiting for?

I am having the best time reading your comments and hearing how you would title a book about your life or what God has been teaching you over on the Giveaway Post!
Please continue sharing your comments and posting to social media like Facebook and Twitter.  I’ll be announcing the giveaway winners of two signed copies of Ask Me Anything, Lord this Friday!  You can enter the Giveaway by clicking here and following the instructions.
****************************************************************************************************************
Originally published July 2, 2012 as Devotions from My Garden: What Are You Waiting for?

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit (Galatians 6:9 MSG).

We planted in pots and crates on our deck, tiny seedlings of cucumbers, tomatoes in three varieties and jalapeno peppers.

Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.013

We watered.  We tended.

But mostly we waited.

From one day to the next, the leaves didn’t appear to expand and the stems didn’t seem to reach any higher than the day before or the day before that.

It took standing back and surveying growth over time for us to notice we had plants and not seedlings any longer.  Then there were the first tiny yellow flowers on the cucumber plant.

The day we spotted the tiniest baby tomato, I called all three of my daughters over to see.  There we stood, a mom and three girls gently pushing aside green leaves to marvel at the promise of growth.

And then we waited some more.

And waited.

And waited.

For signs of ripeness and readiness for harvest.

Gardening, like life, is so often about waiting.  The difference, though, is that we waited for our first vegetables with anticipation and excitement.  We tracked the progress and closely watched the physical signs of a promising future because we knew the day would come when we sat down to salad and salsa from our garden.

But in life we often wait with a hopeless aggravation and a frustrating impatience.

We wait on God, tapping our foot and glancing often at our wrists with urgency.

Perhaps, though, we should wait for God, watching the signs of growth, rejoicing over every bud and clapping our hands with joy every time we see a reminder that the harvest is coming.

This is how the crowds prepared for Jesus’ arrival:

“Now when Jesus returned, the crowds welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him” (Luke 8:40). 

Can you imagine the crowd watching the road for the first glimpse of Jesus’ sandal?  Perhaps kids ran back and forth bringing news of Jesus’ journey.  “He’s coming.  He’s near.  He’s closer.  He’s just around the corner.”

He’s here!

Imagine the hush of the people.  They weren’t whining about the wait or postulating that perhaps Jesus wasn’t coming after all.

No, they were likely listening intently for the first sound of His voice chatting with His followers as He traveled on the road.

This is how we wait for God–we look forward with excited anticipation and uncontainable joy for the moment we see God at work.

And while we wait, we prepare to receive all that He’s bringing our way.

Like the kings who faced the overwhelming enemy might of Moab, we wait for God’s promise.  He said He would:

“fill the ditches in the dry streambed with water” overnight and without wind or rain.  Yes, He would bring the refreshment and victory they needed (2 Kings 3:16-18).

In the very next chapter, Elisha tells the destitute widow to gather “empty vessels and not too few” and then the Lord filled as many as she gathered with rich oil, saving her from starvation and poverty (2 Kings 4:3).

In two back-to-back passages, God miraculously fills His people up to the brim, giving them all they had prepared to receive.

So we grab as many jugs and cups and bowls and pots and buckets as we can hoping not to miss out on one drop of God’s provision.

We stand at the foot of the dry streambed and rather than complaining about our parched throat, we should dress in a swimsuit, ready to dive into the pools overflowing with His miraculous water-without-rain.

It’s waiting still, surely, as we watch for the signs, the growth, the buds, the tiniest hint of what is to come.  We look for God-movement here and there, projecting change and something new.

It can be scary.  Sometimes waiting is what we know.  Change, even good change, can worry us.

So what are we to do?

See the signs of God on the move, the promises of harvest, and yet refuse to budge?  “No thanks, God, I’ll stick with what I have and what I know because at least I’ve dug into a trench of trusty comfort and reliability.”

Or do we hang my shoulders in defeat and stomp away, not seeing the harvest quickly enough?  Tired of waiting, we dump over the vessels waiting for oil or walk away from the streambed thirsty for water . . . turning away from those waiting for the first sight of Jesus and choosing instead to complain at home that He didn’t come.

Or we could wait, joyfully and with excitement, nervous perhaps but ready nonetheless.  Jumping up and down trying to see Jesus over the heads of the crowd, we could wait for God, not wait on Him.

This is how we reap the harvest, when “we don’t give up, or quit” (Galatians 6:9).  This is how we don’t miss out on one drop of what God has planned.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King