The Winners Are. . . and Devotions from My Garden: The Storms May Come

Well, it’s the big giveaway announcement to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the blog!!!

I used a random number generator (random.org) to select two winners.  The winner of the amazing necklace and bracelet set from Rita Taylor is: Lynn Holt!!!!

The winner of the gardening gift basket is:  Theresa Nunn!!!!

Congratulations!!!  I’ll privately message each of you with more details about getting these prizes to you.  Thanks so much to all who commented, shared, and posted as part of the contest!

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

Devotions From My Garden:The Storms May Come

My daffodils were a pitiful sight to see.

Duped by unseasonably warm weather, including a smattering of 70 degree days in December and January, they had poked their little green stems out of the earth early.

Too early.

By the second week of January, their yellow buds were eagerly waiting to open.  Now it’s mid-February and these early spring flowers have been in bloom for almost a month.

All this time, my daughters have been waiting, hoping, and even calling in requests to God for snow.  Our nightly family prayer time has become more like petitioning a weather man than a Holy God.

“Dear God, please let it snow and please let it be a really good snow and please let us have no school tomorrow because there’s so much snow.”

My seven-year-old explains the intricacies of the snow dance to me as taught to her by her teacher.  Apparently it involves dancing in the shower and singing at the top of your lungs for snow.

I told these snow bunnies of mine that winter weather at this point would be devastating to my lovely daffodils.  How could they survive February frosts much less the blizzard my daughters wanted?

I said, “We can have snow or we can have a pretty spring garden.  Not really both.”

They thought snow was the better option.

Meanwhile, I mourned my daffodils when a few mornings of thick frost left them wilted and droopy.  Then it snowed, a small, one-inch dusting, and I thought my flowers were doomed for sure.

This afternoon, I plodded past them on the way to the mailbox and felt the warmth of another spring-like day . . .  in February . . . and noticed that my daffodils were standing a little stronger and straighter.  They hadn’t died after all.  They hadn’t wilted away or rotted back into the ground.  They were lovely, bright, and cheerful, just as they should be.

I didn’t know how hardy they were, how strong and and able to withstand difficulty.

Sometimes we don’t know this about people, either.  We try to shield them from trials, hard times, or tough situations.

I do this with my children.  I know it.  I try to step out of the way and let them develop character and learn lessons without my intervention.  Yet, it’s hard when rescuing seems so easy.

We do this as Christians, too.  We pray away difficulty for others and ask for safety, health, blessing and goodness.  It’s not that the asking is wrong.  Jesus tells us we can ask. But, perhaps our prayers on their behalf would be more effective if we asked God to strengthen and encourage them, to walk with them through the difficult times, and to reveal Himself to them along the way.

Perhaps that’s why Paul tended to pray for the spiritual life of his fellow believers and not for their material well-being or comfort.  He didn’t end his letters with prayers for financial abundance, a new house or a better job.

Instead, he prayed, “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).

He didn’t pray away hardship.  He prayed people through it.

In a similar way, we so often try to make the Christian walk sound easier than it is.  We want it to be appealing and simple.

So we sweep Jesus’ assertion that “in this world you will have trouble” under the rug and hope people just pay attention to lovely thoughts like “Jesus loves you” and “Ask and you will receive.”

It’s our Gospel filter.  We tell the stories about compassionate-Jesus, meek-and-mild-Jesus, “Blessed is everyone” Jesus, the great teacher Jesus and the famous healer-Jesus.

Jesus, however, tended to tell people the cost of discipleship.  He always knew the root issue, the stronghold, the one thing someone wouldn’t be willing to give up—and He asked for it.

Like the rich young ruler.  Jesus could have said, “Just believe in me.  You’re a great guy.  This step of faith is just going to seal the deal.”

Instead, Jesus saw the materialism in this seeker’s heart and “looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'” (Mark 10:21).

It says that Jesus “loved him” and out of that love, He asked for the hardest sacrifice, the one idol that would keep Christ from having lordship in his life.

In the same way, Paul and Barnabus assured early Christians that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

It’s our way with people, usually, to try to shield them from frosts and from snow storms.  We think, “Surely this weather will kill their buds and destroy their blooms and their stems will rot into the ground.  They’ll never survive.”

Jesus, though, told people in advance that tough times were coming and that the Christian life was no guarantee of perpetual blessing, prosperity, or comfort.

Yet, He assured people that the sacrifice was worth it.  Yes, it might be tough, sometimes requiring the painful laying down of idols in our lives.  But Jesus would be with them, He would strengthen them, He would take them through it all and there was eternity to gain and God’s glory as a result.

It’s not that it can’t snow on the daffodils.  It’s that Christ will strengthen them for every storm.  This is true for our kids, learning tough lessons.  This is true for fellow believers, facing hard times.  This is true for non-Christians, learning the cost of discipleship.  God can care for them, even when the storms may come.

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: May the God of Hope

Today, I’m sharing with you another devotion from last spring to go with this year’s series Devotions From My Garden.  Enjoy!

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

“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.

More Devotions from My Garden:

  • Breaking Ground
  • Tomato Plant Prayers

    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