Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Did Ya Plant?

Late last fall, my son and I planted bulbs...plenty of bulbs!  The only requirement was that small marking on the box, showing a deer with a circle and a slash through it.  I didn't want the deer to think that we added some new menu items to the "salad bar" that they consider my raised beds to be. 

So, after buying about ten boxes, away we went.  We both dug holes into the raised beds, and within about a half of an hour, we were done.   I tore the lids off the boxes, just so I could remember exactly what we planted.  I put the lids on my bulletin board, and awaited the magic of spring.

One problem:  I didn't mark on the beds what we planted where.  Sure, I had the lids to remind me, but no little signs in the soil, designating what was under the surface.  The snow came and went, and then in early February, we had a few intrepid sprigs rise up.  I was concerned, and had a chat to those early risers.  It was too early to come springing up in the world...the winter leaves the mountains not until middle May.  Did my early risers listen?  Nah, but I figured the ensuing cold would dampen their enthusiasm and slow them down.  And sure enough, that's what happened.

Then finally April brought enough warm days to encourage more peeking up through the soil.  The problem is, what am I looking at?  Without a beautiful flower to identify the plant, I am not such a good gardener that I can look at a stock and say, "Oh, that's going to be a so and so."  Nope.  Not me.  So, I must keep waiting until the flowers make their appearances.  Even then, we planted some flowers I couldn't identify and I had to go get the lids and see what these wee beauties are.
 I thought about our life as Christians.  When we are young in the faith, many things get planted:  sermons, fellowship and discussions with other believers, movies, and music are sown into our hearts and take root.  We may not always remember what we read or what we saw, but then it flowers into our lives and can bring beauty to those around us. 

I went to a small neighbor church as a young believer and had beautiful role models all around me, who planted good seed in my young heart:  how to love as a believer, how to model Jesus to a hurting world, and how to care genuinely for those around us.  I got a good Biblical grounding and spent many mornings at prayer meetings, listening to older saints pray for themselves and others.  Sure, not everything was rosy; there were some people there who were more concerned about themselves than the tender heart of a teenager, but the love I felt overshadowed these folks.  My family was falling apart and this church truly became a second home.  I had a new family and felt love and acceptance that my chaotic home couldn't provide.

The flowers in my life today I see having sprung forth from those early years.  The verse from Galatians 6:7 comes to mind:  "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."  I think we always read that in the negative sense:  sow sin, reap pain.  But I also see God's justice operates on the positive side as well:  sow love, reap peace.  His justice is breathtakingly simple:  if we seek to do His will, He will walk with us, sustain us and give us peace.  The inverse is equally true:  if we avoid His will and seek sin, He will stand at a distance, wait for us to "come to our senses" and will grieve over the pain we feel.  He will patiently await our repentance. 

Sometimes we don't remember what we've planted...and the resulting harvest can be a mixture of peace and pain.  Or sometimes we are careless and the pain springs up and we blame God.  And yet, the Bible can be our "lids"--it shows us the way we are to go, what to plant and what to expect:  "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God"  (Micah 6:8).

That's fairly straight forward.  That's doesn't mean that life will always be perfect--our peace comes from the Father through His Son, not from our circumstances.  The world will give and the world will take away--more often it takes away painfully.  Jesus plants within us the one thing that the world cannot plant in our hearts:  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).

Plant love.  Plant forgiveness.  Plant a garden of patience with one another.  The love of God is always the perfect item to have blooming in your heart:  "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God."  (1 John 4:7). 

In a world of pain and darkness, can God's love be shared too much?  That would like saying there are too many daffodils in the world...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Be A Finch

The winter is slowly leaving the mountains.  The mountains are starting to green up--there's  a faint green tint to the surrounding hills.  The wildflowers haven't shown up; the days are still not warm enough.  The soil is quite moist, but the warmth is compromised by cold winds and low temperatures during the evening.  

So, the colors are rather muted up here.  My daffodils are popping up and giving me a splash of yellow.  But one wee splash of color outdoes them all--the arrival of a goldfinch.
The gray skies, the leafless trees, the dried dead grasses that cling to a cold soil...and then magic!  A goldfinch comes to my feeders...a drop of sunshine in the Russian olive tree outside my kitchen window.
I am delighted that he has arrived and he is delighted that a lunch awaits him.  I stare out the window and he has no fear, just an earnest desire to eat what he can to stay warm.

I thought he is so representative of how we can be a drop of sunshine to a cold world that awaits the spring.  Look at Galatians 5:22-23:  
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."  

Think about it:  everything the Spirit wants to grow in our lives is in direct opposition to what the world offers.  The love the world offers has strings--you do for me and I might do for you.  Love really boils down to:  if you are meeting my needs--if I don't feel love or you are not pleasing me, my love for you grows cold.  Not so with the love from His Spirit:  we love because He loves us and knowing how unworthy we are of His love, we are humbled.   We are loved, so we can take our full cup and offer some of what is running over to someone whose cup is empty.

Joy.  Wow--the world says that joy comes from stuff--bigger houses, better jobs, nicer cars...and once we have what we thought would bring us joy, we find we need more.  The joy God gives is not based on external gratification, but on the knowledge that He has us in His hands.  A favorite quote is "I may not know what the futures holds, but I know Who holds the future."

Peace.  No surprise there--with the world motivated by self, it's little wonder that peace is elusive here.  Jesus gives us a peace based on Himself--He love and provision for us.  The world giveth and loves to taketh away.  Not so with God--He loves us and always has our best in mind.

Forbearance.  "Hurry up!" screams the world.  With a toddler-like mentality, we want it now, yet beg others to be patient with us.  God's love is long-suffering.  He watches and waits.  He suffers with our griefs and pain.  

If just for one day, everyone on planet Earth practiced goodness (thinking of others), kindness (treating others as we like to be treated), gentleness (treating each other with tenderness), and faithfulness (standing by through thick and thin), what a day that would be!  A little like heaven, don't you think? 

Self-control.  Road rage, war, violence, hatred, hurt...if we lay down arms, and trust the One Who stands by us to stand for us, then we can act graciously, knowing He will bring all things to right some day.

If we are growing in His Spirit and seeking His fruit to hang from our branches, think of the beauty we can bring to others.  Notice, however, one thing about our finch--he is not yet in full spring plumage.  He still has sploshes of white and gray in his yellow feathers.  He's not perfect, yet in the gray world of late winter, his yellow with all its imperfections is still beautiful.

No, we aren't perfect yet...we certainly won't be perfect this side of heaven.  But think of it--in a gray world, still laboring under the deceitfulness of sin, even a wee splash of yellow to a weary soul is delightful.  You don't have to be perfect to show Jesus' love.

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