Devotions from my Garden—Sacrificing Violets

Just over eight years ago, my husband and I packed a UHaul with our belongings and made the long drive from New Jersey to Virginia, settling into our new home.

At the time, a towering oak tree stood in front of our house with English ivy spilling over the roots and along the base.  It was a sad day when they told us the tree had to come down; too close to the house, too close to the septic system, too dangerous in a hurricane.

Such a lovely, stately tree.  Such quaint and romantic English ivy.

But we made the sacrifice to avert future disaster and the tree company hauled its branches down and then the trunk itself.  But they left the stump in place, which still sits even now as the centerpiece for my front garden.

Over time, I realized that the tree had produced offspring before the men attacked it with their chainsaws.  On the corner of my front garden grew a baby oak, not a tiny sapling easily yanked out by bare hands.  A thick sprout of a tree with roots down deep.

It was ugly there.  It was off-center and inconvenient.  After each rain it seemed to grow exponentially overnight, overshadowing the blooms of nearby calla lilies and violets.

It annoyed me.

I tried pulling it up, but I’m no Goliath.  I couldn’t even budge the stubborn baby oak an inch.  So, I compromised, cutting it down every few weeks so it was slightly less conspicuous and ugly than before, but never fully uprooting it.

Today, I stared at the towering leaves of my garden enemy once again in disgust and frustration—and determination.  It just had to come out!

I attacked it with my shovel, digging deeper than I ever had tried before and hurting my back while yanking and twisting its roots every few minutes.

Then I realized the sad truth.  In order to dig down to disengage the tree’s roots, I had to dig up my sweet violets growing nearby.

I had to make another sacrifice in order to accomplish the work.  After a tiny moment of sadness, I sunk the shovel deep once again and finally heard the roots snap before I pulled the tree free from the ground.

It took me about five years of battle with stems, roots and offshoots, but I finally won the day and victory was sweet.

Despite all the assertions to the contrary, the Christian life is and should be a life of sacrifice. It’s not a guarantee of abundance or comfort, coziness or material success, health, wealth, prosperity and all the trappings of “the good life.”  Jesus never promised the American Dream.

Of course, the sacrifices we make are almost always greater than digging up violets in order to oust an inconvenient tree.  Yet, they do often involve uprooting and turning over our hearts.

That’s what sacrifice does—it demands that nothing else at all matters more to us than God–not sin, not personal comfort.  Sacrifice ensures that we can give any of that up, even if it’s painful and difficult, for the sake of His name.  It’s a way of knocking over the idols and false gods that take precedence in our time, resources, and priorities.

It’s acknowledging that He is God alone.

But it only happens when the sacrifice is truly sacrificial, when it actually costs something.  Anyone can give to God out of our abundance and excess and we might feel an ugly sort of righteous pride about it.  Look what we did for God.  Look how generous we are.

Yet, when King David longed to build an altar and give an offering to God, he searched for land on which to build.  The owner of the chosen plot, eager to help out the king, promised the land as a free gift to David.

David refused, saying,

“No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing”  (2 Samuel 24:24—HCSB).

In the same way, after rich and powerful men paraded into the temple and loudly plopped their tithe into the box, looking for praise and accolades from the bystanders, a widow walked behind them.

Without showiness or shame, she gave her offering of two coins and Jesus noticed.  Others fawned after the wealthy who had done little more than give to God what was leftover after they paid their dues to the country club.

Jesus said, “she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on” (Mark 12:44).

This isn’t a devotional about money.  Sacrifice isn’t limited to cash and coin.

This is about giving to God every part of us, every stronghold, every dream, every luxury, every need and trusting Him with it.

Maybe it’s how we spend our time.  Maybe it is about money.  Maybe it’s about what we watch, read, and download onto our iPod.  Maybe it’s being willing to lay a dream at His feet and walk away, leaving it in His hands instead of your own.

How are we giving to God in a way that costs us?

After all, Christ gave His very life to us.  Surely we can give more than violets in return.  Surely we can refuse to sacrifice to God an offering that costs us nothing.

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

Weekend Walk, 06/02/2012

Hiding the Word:

It’s a season of celebration.

Our family is celebrating graduations and the end of the school year, ballet recitals, concerts, plays, birthdays, and the 50th wedding anniversary for my husbands’ parents.

So, on a bright and beautiful day like today, a morning of sunshine and cool breezes on the day after torrential downpour and tornadoes hit our area, it seems fitting to meditate on a Psalm of celebration.

Our verse for the week is:

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
    you cover him with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:11-12 ESV).

Last night after my daughters’ ballet recital, families hovered under umbrellas and still arrived soaking wet to their cars.  One man stayed long after most others had left, offering to walk people to their vehicles if they didn’t have an umbrella, holding his over their heads so they could escape some of the drenching.  

I can imagine God covering us with “favor as with a shield” in a similar way.  How it’s all about his grace and kindness to us. How it’s self-sacrificing.  How it offers us more perfect protection than any umbrella off the shelves of Wal-Mart.

Now that’s something to celebrate!

Weekend Rerun:

My Two Cents

Originally posted on May 9, 2011

 

With beach season approaching, I’ve been thinking . . . I’d like thinner legs.
While I’m placing orders, I’d also love to have wavy hair with no streaks of gray in it.
No glasses would be nice, too.
Yes, then I’d look really great . . . not at all like me, but great.

Fortunately, I don’t really like the beach, so I don’t dwell on these issues for long.  It’s dangerous really to look around at other people and compare ourselves to them, not just physically, but spiritually, too.  While I’m baring the deepest, darkest parts of my soul with you, I might as well honestly admit that I struggle with this at times.

For me, the trap comes primarily when I’m reading.  As a lover of words, I tend to fill every available minute with reading of some kind, even if it’s just five minutes while standing in a line.  And as I read, there are moments when I think, “If I could just change myself in this way or that way, I’d be better able to serve God.”

I don’t have the impact of this woman, the poetic mastery of language like another, the scholarly education like her, the testimony of this woman or the vast Scripture memorization like another . . . When it comes to spiritual matters, I confess I sometimes want to swap out parts of me for what looks better, not really out of jealousy or pride, but just because I long to give to God the best offering possible.

For most of us, our deep down motives are pure and true.  Out of a desire to worship and give glory, though, sometimes we glance to our sides at the offerings of others and feel we fall short.

What about you?  Have you ever looked around and wished you prayed like her, knew exactly what God called you to do like him, knew Scripture as well as she did, or had the same spiritual gift as a friend?

The eye in the Body of Christ wants to be the foot or the hand wants to be the mouth.  Imagine the Body of Christ as a Mr. Potato Head—now how silly would we look?  Unfortunately, when we eyes spend all our time trying to be feet, the Body of Christ is blind and clumsy, tripping all over itself.

“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20). 

Your gifting, your passion, your past, your experiences are all uniquely packaged together by God to form you and mold you into the vessel of His choosing.

And all He asks is that we raise our hands to release what He has already given to us:
the fullness of the talents He has bestowed
and the passions He has stirred up deep in the fires of our hearts
the issues that make us raise our voices as we step onto soapboxes
the service that we wake in the morning excited to perform
the experiences from our past that soften our hearts and make us tender to those hurting in our midst.

Our arms heavy-laden with all that we have received from Him, we then lift it all back up in worship.

We’re the only ones at times looking around to compare the gift we bring to the presents of the other worshipers.  God isn’t sifting through the gift table, shaking packages and estimating value or peeking at the cards looking for the names of the gift-bearers.

It’s just us—watching the gift table and shifting our gaze with embarrassment when another attendee brings in a cumbersome package wrapped in paper all silver and topped with a ribbon so fancy.  Then another lays on the table a gift bag filled to overflowing, tissue paper barely covering the treasures inside and we want to take our gift back.  It’s not enough.  Not for a King so worthy.  Not for a God we adore.

The widow in the temple, though, knew that true worship simply meant giving all that she had, sacrificially placing her “two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents” as an offering to God (Mark 12:42).

Others had given more, even ostentatiously so.  “Many rich people had thrown in large amounts” (Mark 12:41).  She could have watched from the corners of the temple in shame at the earthly value of what others gave and walked away clutching her cent pieces, confident that God would despise a gift so meager.

And yet, she didn’t.   And nor did He.

She gave.  He noticed.

He called His disciples over to learn from her.  Men who would eventually be asked to give up everything—even their very lives—-learning how to give sacrificially from a pauper widow almost lost in a crowd of those richer and more important than her.  All because she “put in everything” when she gave to God.

What two cents are you laying at the altar?  Your spiritual gift, your ministry, your service to your church, your sacrifice for your family, your care for another, your laying aside of personal dreams, your causes, your secret encouragement for a friend.  It’s being a hand when He made you to be a hand and being an eye when He asked you to be the eye in a body of Christ that is so dependent on every organ.

Your two cents is a gift precious to God; He only asks us to give what we ourselves have been given.

As I finish up today, I’m listening to Paul Baloche sing Offering.  I hope you take a moment to worship with me.

Offering
by Paul Baloche

I bring an offering of worship to my King
No one on earth deserves the praises that I sing
Jesus may You receive the honor that You’re due
O Lord I bring an offering to You
I bring an offering to You

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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