Four playgrounds in five days because we have hope

Four playgrounds in five days.

Last week, the forecast finally felt like spring.  Spring!  Sunshine, warmth,  sun,  blue skies and more sun.  I could almost feel  my vitamin D levels rising.

I packed some snacks, sunscreen and a Batman hat for my son and we visited playgrounds all week.  Anytime we could go, we went.  We walked to the playground in our neighborhood, we stopped in at the playground in our hometown, then  we picked up my daughters from school  and drove directly to a playground half an hour away just to enjoy it.

We even headed for the beach on Friday and we found a playground there, too.

I’ve always been such a task-oriented person; playing hookie from the to-do list so we can visit another park isn’t normal for me.

But it feels like this spring has been a long time coming and I am ready for it.

Anytime the wait feels long and the winter feels interminable, spring is the most welcome gift.

That’s how I feel:  Struck with wonder at the gift and deeply grateful.  I’m spilling over with praise and gratitude that our good God gives such gifts to those who wait with expectant hope.

That little taste of spring has me wanting more.  I’m insatiable now.  I’ve carried paperwork, writing, and even sewing out to the porch so I can work outdoors instead of inside.   I’ll take a walk  in the morning and will want to walk a few miles in the evening, too.

My son feels it, also.  We leave one playground and he’s ready to  move onto another one.  We are loving it.

I’ve  been reading Psalm 71 and the subtitle for this Psalm stops me right from the beginning:

Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent

It’s a prayer for the weary and a request not to be left alone, or abandoned, or forsaken.  It’s holding out for God’s strength amid utter weakness.

It’s a cry for hope. from someone stuck in the middle of that winter that seems to never end.

This Psalm is for the poured out and the emptied, for those who have hung in there with determination and are ready to collapse into Jesus’s arms.

And this is the reminder the Psalm gives us:

God is faithful.

The Psalmist prays:

Be to me a rock of refuge,
    to which I may continually come (Psalm  71:3). 

He asks for God to be an inexhaustible source  of safety and strength.

I don’t just come today.  I come tomorrow, too.  I  come running to Him day after day, time after time.  This disappointment, this struggle, that mistake, that frustration, that delay, that season of waiting—where does it send us?

To our Rock of refuge.  We come and we come continually, because we cannot get enough of Him.  We’re desperate for His presence and we’re lost without His help.

Here’s the hope we have:

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
    will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will bring me up again.
 You will increase my greatness
    and comfort me again (Psalm 71: 20-21, emphasis mine).

He will revive us, lift us up, and comfort us anew.  He has done it before, and He will do it again.

We know His faithfulness, His  steadfast character.  We see the testimony of God’s goodness in the past…in OUR past.

That’s why we praise.  Not only do we  run to our Refuge continually and trust Him to save us again, we keep the praises coming, too.

My praise is continually of you…

 My mouth is filled with your praise,
    and with your glory all the day.  (Psalm 71 :6, 8 ESV) .

We continually come.

God continually rescues.

We continually praise

and we continually hope.

But I will hope continually
    and will praise you yet more and more (Psalm 71: 14 ESV). 

This is what I’m feeling as I’m driven to playground after playground, taking walk after walk, dragging all of my inside work to a porch so I don’t miss a minute of sun.

I’m giving thanks, because again and again He does this, taking us through the winter, through all the cold and the wearying darkness, through the toil and the waiting, through the hard.

Thank you, Lord, for the warmth. I can’t get enough.  Thank you for the sun.  I don’t want to miss a minute of it.

Thank you for the scent of lilies in the breeze.  Thank you for mornings at a playground, picnics in the park and an afternoon at the beach.  Thank you for evening sunshine.

Thank you, Lord, for  being faithful.  Thank you for being our continual refuge.

Thank you that because of your faithfulness, we can have hope, not just for a moment, but in all seasons and at  all times.

Why knowing takes so much more

“I’m Andrew Christopher King.”

This is my son’s opening gambit in any conversation.  It’s a quick progression from there into what he considers all of the essential information about his life:

“I’m four.  When it was my birthday, all my friends came to my birthday party.  I’m strong.  I have big muscles.   I am the king  of Batman.  Batman is my favorite character.  I have three sisters.  Their names are Lauren, Catherine and Victoria.  My favorite colors are blue and red.  Lauren’s favorite color is purple and Catherine’s favorite color is yellow.  I am not a baby; I’m a kid.   I’m medium.”

Usually by this time, I’ve moved the conversation along and whatever random fellow-shopper  or cashier he has cornered in the grocery store just smiles sweetly as he finishes his autobiography.

These  listeners  still don’t know him, of course.  He’s the little  boy (the super adorable one) in the shopping cart who likes to talk about superheroes and his sisters.

But to know him, really know him, takes so much more.

This knowing and being known, this sharing deeply and listening well, this uncovering of hidden places, takes,  quite frankly, time.

Oh, how I want  to know Jesus.  That means time and also not being satisfied with the superficial

I let myself get sidetracked sometimes.  It’s so tempting to stop pressing in for more, maybe because of the rush and the speed of things, maybe because everything else and everyone else in life can be noisy and demanding of my attention and time and others need bits of me so much of the time.

So it’s easy, far too easy to relax into knowing about Him, but not to press in more to actually know Him.

I’m a good Christian girl, so I do all the good things:  Stock up on the essential facts and details . Fill up on the Bible knowledge and the Bible stories.  Check off the daily Bible reading plan and fill in the blanks in the Bible study workbook.  Take the sermon notes.

These are all the good things and doing good things is….good.

But there’s got to be more.

Hosea the prophet wrote:

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
“He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:1-3 NASB). 

Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.

It’s an effort, a decision, a pushing forward against adversity, a fight for faith, a discipline.  We choose to press on.

We don’t faint when it’s hard or when trouble thrashes at the foundations of our faith.

We don’t falter and trip up with weariness when we’re bogged down by the mundane (and oh how the daily can wear us right down and tire us completely out.)

We aren’t satisfied with what we know of Him already or how far He’s already brought us.

We don’t let sin and temptation grab our attention and set us off on a detour.

We press on to know Him.

And it comes not just from facts and figures, memorization and note-taking . It comes from getting up each day and walking that faith out in all those everyday moments before us.  In the thick of the afternoon busyness and the packing lunches and the cooking dinner, in the chores and in the conversations, in the minivan rides and the coffee with a friend.

It comes from not stalling and stagnating. I

t comes from letting go of all the legalism and stretching out to rest in the fullness of His grace.

It’s not all easy, of course.  There’s the wounding and the tearing sometimes.  Hosea wrote of Israel’s sin and the discipline they received because of it.  But they returned to Him and they knew God better because He stayed with them in the hard season and brought them to the place of healing and bandaging, of reviving and raising up.

Now they knew, truly knew, how steadfast and faithful God was, always there, certain as the dawn, steady as the coming rain.

And this is what the rain of His presence brings:  Refreshing for the dried out, parched, dehydrated parts of our soul.

And also this:  Abundant fruitfulness.

If I’m in the weary place, in the hard season, feeling emptied out, feeling like heaven is silent, then I return to Him.  I press on to know Him and I look for His rain.

 

What caterpillars remember and I sometimes forget

There’s always a rebel.

This cup of caterpillars arrives in the mailbox and I set it up high so we can watch them grow.

And do they ever grow.

Within a few days, they start scaling the walls of the plastic cup and demonstrate their acrobatics by clinging to the lid and hanging upside down.  First one caterpillar, then another.

Every year, this one lone caterpillar delays.  All four of his roommates hang over his head and tuck themselves right up into a chrysalis.

The rebel caterpillar enjoys the food down below, munching at leisure, no more competition for the bug buffet.

Sometimes we wonder if he’ll ever climb on up there already!!

But inevitably he does.  One morning, he pads his way up to the top and drops himself upside down just like the others.  He wraps himself in the brown chrysalis and waits for the change.

Now all five of them hang in their mesh butterfly house, waiting to emerge.  Mostly they rest there, perfectly and completely still.

They look dead.

Totally, completely devoid of all life.

But we move their home just slightly and we see one caterpillar wiggle and squirm inside the chrysalis.

A sign of life now and a sign of life to come.

Could it be these insects know more about hope than we do? 

That even in a season of waiting, a time of rest, a moment of seeming-death, still they cling.  They submit to the dormancy for the beauty that is to come.

Maybe they know there is something more.  That hope and future God promises us, that’s why they climb on up, that’s why they hang themselves right upside down.

Because of what is to come.

And in the middle of the death seasons, the long waits and the God-mandated resting, sometimes we forget this.  We can abandon all hope of future, of promise, of new life and the return of joy.

It’s Holy Week.  Last Sunday, we waved those Palms and we sang, “Hosanna!”  Today, I prepare my heart for Good Friday to come, for Communion and remembrance and meditation on the cross.

I read this morning:

Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).

Jesus knelt in that Garden and He prayed, “not my will, but Yours be done” despite the pain, and the humiliation, the torture, and the death because of the joy to come.

He submitted because of resurrection hope.

And we have this.  That empty tomb is our hope, too.  Our God, who defeated death and the grave, has a plan and a purpose, a hope, a future.  We are never alone.  We are fully loved and redeemed, forgiven and set free.

All that is dead can become life in His hands.  All that is broken can be beautiful.  All that is lost can be found.

He can make all things new.

Even the impossible becomes possible with Him.

That is resurrection joy.

Those caterpillars don’t abandon hope of life.  They don’t linger in that tomb of a chrysalis.  In due season, they push right on out and stretch and dry those wings so they can fly to freedom.

Jesus didn’t die on that cross hopelessly uncertain of the future.  He had his sights set on Sunday morning and the “joy set before Him.”  That’s why He endured that cross.

But we sometimes lose hope.

 

Just like the demon-possessed man who “for a long time …had not lived in a house but among the tombs” (Luke 8:27 ESV). 

He lived life in the tombs.  Maybe the sorrow felt more comfortable than the joy?  Maybe death felt less painful than life?

He preferred the grave.

And then there’s us

In seasons of waiting, maybe of sorrow, perhaps even of death, do we abandon ourselves to the bitterness and make ourselves cozy among the tombs?

Or do we cling to Christ because of resurrection hope? Do we hold on for dear life to the Savior who defeated death?

Do we hide away in the shadows and settle into the despair or do we run like crazy into His arms when He calls us out of darkness and into light?

So I remember what the caterpillars have known all along: even what seems like death is truly just waiting on new life.

Hold on tight, dear one.  He brings new life.  He brings beauty.  He brings you wings so you can soar.

Originally published April 14, 2014

Hang on to the Vine (and do not let go!)

It was an epic battle.

I still even bear the scars all the way down both of my arms and it’s been a week since the fighting ceased.

Vines!

Vines, I tell you!

My husband and I have been cleaning out the overgrown hedges beside our home and tangled in these branches beyond our wildest expectation were these pesky, stubborn, unbelievable vines.

Some of them were spindly and fairly easy to yank out.  Others had grown into monstrous, tree-trunk-sized plants that had to be sawed out of there.

We had to untwist each of the branches where they wound around the bushes.  Then we had to yank out the roots wherever they had clamped down into the earth.  They splayed off into every direction and created one gigantic tangled mess.

I started calling them demon vines.  They certainly felt possessed with evil.

But they have given me an entirely different perspective on Jesus’s teachings to abide in Him like branches attached to a vine.

He said:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 ESV).

Whenever I’ve heard people talk about “abiding in Christ,” it sounded so easy.

Worrying?

Just abide in Him.

Stressed out?

Just rest and abide in Him.

Struggling through a tough season?

Keep abiding and it’ll be fine.

It sounds like a fairly passive spiritual state.  Just hold on to Jesus and you’ll be just fine.

And I try to “abide,” I do.

But life has a way of stepping all  over peace and trampling over our joy.

There are these annoying stresses.  These unexpected pits that trip us up.  There are conflicts that derail our focus on Jesus and His love for us.

What if I re-consider what it takes to “abide?”

It’s not some relaxed, ideal state of non-worry and general passivity.

It’s active and full of effort.

After all, the branches on these vines in my yard are tenacious and unyielding.  They can endure fierce opposition without budging.

In order for me to get rid of these things, I’m having to hack at them with a machete and I’m digging down into the dirt and pulling them out by their roots.

So if I’m going to be like the branches on the Vine, I need to cling to Jesus for dear life, refusing to let go, making every effort to stick as closely to Him as possible.

I’ll put down shoots into the dirt to keep a solid foundation, so I can be fruitful and filled with life.

This is what Jesus said abiding looked like:

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love (John 15:10 NASB).

The abiding life means obeying what God says, following Him wholeheartedly and recognizing that He is my Strength and my Source.

Oh, how my heart so easily slips into  anxious fretting.

Oh, how easily I get caught up into wanting to defend myself or in efforts to do things my own way, to fix problems in my own strength, to provide, to make the good happen and fend off the bad.

So as soon as I start making plans for my own salvation, I need to stop and hang onto the Vine.

I can’t do this–all of this and any of this–apart from Him.

As soon as I find myself  turning circles of worry, I need to get hold of the Vine!  Meditate on Scripture.  Turn up the praise music.  Anything to keep from getting my focus yanked off Jesus.

This is what keeps me alive.

This is when He gives me abundant life and fruitfulness.

Abide.

Spring Cleaning is what I need in my heart

Declutter my heart, Lord.

That’s what I pray as I sort through papers and throw out broken toys and rummage through the board games in the closet to find the ones we no longer play.

There’s so much stuff.  So much build-up over time.

We can start to feel bogged down.

Worried.  Tired.  Weary.  Disappointed.   Uncertain.  Lacking direction.

Lacking perspective.

Every single day we can get up and go through all the motions but not have purpose or passion for any of it.

After I finish decluttering inside the house, I clean out the garage and haul all the trash away and I marvel at how the finished product looks with all the muck cleared out.

This is what I want.

Clear out the cobwebs and the mold and the trash in the corners and the piles of junk, Lord.

We’ve been working on projects all over our home.  Besides the organizing and cleaning, we’ve powerwashed the deck and the house.

This little machine is  like  a magic wand, wave it over a surface and it changes colors.  Our gray deck turns a honey golden brown wood again and our house shines white instead of being splotched with the green of pollen build-up from nearby trees.

I love the instant feedback of this, shoot the water in the direction of the dirt and it comes clean.  It’s washed away in an instant and shines like new.

Make me new, Lord.

Here’s the build-up again, how dirt collects over time and I don’t even realize it.  Slowly, slowly, slowly it covers over the surface.

Until one day, it’s grimy and dull and it needs a water jet to show the difference.

Yesterday, I was on my hands and knees painting the newly washed deck with a stain to help protect it from water and dirt.

And this is also what I need:  to clear away the dirt first before painting on any fancy finish or coating of shiny color.

I can try all I want to shine myself up on the outside, to look perfect and put-together.

But what I need is a deep cleansing.  A de-cluttering and a washing down that only Christ can do…..and then I can put on the new person God plans for me to be.

I need a spring cleaning in my life and in my heart.

Declutter my heart.  Clear out the distractions.  Make me new.

Paul described this to the Ephesians:

 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV).

He used the same idea in Colossians:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. .  Colossians 3:5, 12-14 ESV).

Put off.

And then put on.

Maybe sometimes we forget the process,.  We layer on new coats of varnish hoping we’ll look cleaner, brighter, shinier, and new, but it never works.

 

Before we can put on the new self…

Before we can put on compassion and kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and love….

We need to put off the old self.  We need to put to death all the earthly muck that builds up over time.

The Holy Spirit can do this work, but it takes us yielding.

We can ask Him to throw open the windows and let the fresh breeze blow through.  Sweep out our corners.  Throw out the broken and unnecessary.  Use lemon-scented cleaners that mingle with the breeze and let us start fresh.

Give us a fresh perspective.

Reveal to us a fresh vision.

May we have a fresh start.

Re-fresh us with your Holy Spirit, Lord

When Wonder Never Ceases

psalm 71

Every spring for the past five years or so, we’ve watched caterpillars climb to the top of a tiny cup, flip themselves upside down, spin a chrysalis, and emerge a week later as butterflies.

This year, though, my daughters suggested doing something different.

After all, we’re old hands at this metamorphosis thing.

How about something new?

What if we ordered a frog kit instead?  The company sends us a tadpole. We watch it become a frog and then we release it in a local pond.  Perfect!

So, I started researching frog kits and we were all excited until I read the comments.  These frogs live for 20-30 years.

I wasn’t sure I wanted such a long-term commitment.  My children should be off living adult lives by then and I’d still be home tending to our everlasting frog.

And we couldn’t release this frog to any old outdoor body of water either.  The frogs in the kit aren’t native to our area, and that could devastate the local wildlife population.

So, we decided that unless we found a local tadpole who we could raise to become a local frog, we’d stick to caterpillars in a cup.

I’m so glad we did.

Those caterpillars arrived and my son watched their centimeter long bodies creep around the plastic.

He learned how to say ‘caterpillar’ and he said it over and over and over, pointing at them to make sure I’d seen them and knew they were in our house sitting on our fireplace mantle.

He couldn’t wait to share the good news about the caterpillars. He told me. He told his dad.  He told his sisters.  He told the air.  “Caterpillar, caterpillar, caterpillar.”

And then each caterpillar spun into a chrysalis and my son learned a new word and made more grand announcements.

The translation went something like this:

“Caterpillar go up.  Sleeping in chrysalis.”

Who knew an unmoving chrysalis could be so entertaining?  He’d watch the cup just as happily as if the caterpillars were still crawling around in there.

Then the most exciting day came.  We peeked into the bug carrier and saw our first butterfly, completely still, waiting for his wings to dry.

My son now had big news.  Big, big news.

“Caterpillar go up.  Sleep in chrysalis.  Butterfly.”

As more butterflies emerged, they began fluttering around and hopping onto the flowers we’d left for them.

And my son giggled.  He just laughed and laughed at the sight.

In all our planning and thinking that maybe the butterfly thing was old-news and maybe we should try something different, I’d forgotten that even though we’d seen the butterflies transform year after year, he hadn’t.

For my son, this was newfound joy.  This was childlike wonder and living amazed at the beauty of new life.

In Luke 5, I read about the disciples limping onto shore after a long and unsuccessful night of fishing.

They’d caught nothing.

Yet, Jesus sends them back out.  He tells them to set down those same nets into that same water.

Simon Peter protests at first but chooses to obey.  They take the boat out.  They put down the nets yet again.

And they haul in the catch of all catches.

Their nets broke with the weight of the fish.  They yelled for partners to join them out on the water to haul in the load faster.

Luke writes:

…he (Peter) and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they took  (Luke 5:9 HCSB).

They were amazed.  They were flabbergasted and overwhelmed by awe.  They were made breathless by the wonder.

I bet they were pulling with all their might, load after load, like the fish just wouldn’t stop coming, and they must have been breathless and laughing in astonishment.

They’d yanked nets of fish into their boats many times before.  This was different.  This was God-at-work.

Years from then, those disciples would see the lame dance, the blind see, the deaf hear, food multiplied to feed a crowd, and their crucified Savior resurrected.

But right at this moment, they marveled at a boat weighed down with fish.

I pause and ask for this:

Lord, help me be amazed. Like my son standing on a kitchen stool so he can watch butterflies bounce around their home…..like the disciples exclaiming over an inexplicable abundance of fish….let me rejoice in you.

Don’t let me lose the wonder, not the wonder of the cross, the wonder of your creation, the wonder of your grace poured out in every detail of my life.

Help me to see afresh.  Help me to consider anew.  Fill me with such childlike joy in the Good News that I can’t help but share it over and over and over.

This is the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes (Psalm 118:23).

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

Garden Devotions–It’s Crowded In Here

Originally published April 27, 2012

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.

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.

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, 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 escaped the masses 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?

 

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