Monday, October 11, 2010

God's Garden

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year here. The trees are magnificent with their palette of colors, like God took his paint brush and splashed the most brilliant of colors He has all over them. The sky is the most pure of blues. The sun, while still warm, is gentle on your face. But it is also a time of transition - transition into winter.

It can be bone chilling cold here in Michigan in winter. The kind of cold that takes your breath away. The kind of cold that makes you feel like your bones could just snap. The kind of cold that makes you long for spring. The blue of the sky is rarely seen. Instead it is usually a dark, heavy gray that you can feel weighing down on your shoulders. But every once in a while there is a day that is sunny & warmer than normal and teases you that spring is on the way, a promise of things to come. But winter here is much longer than the calender tells us, lasting sometimes into mid April, so you know you must wait a little longer. But then......

The days get longer, the temperatures stay warmer for days at a time and the wind blows in the smell of spring. The smell of wet, dark earth and the fresh, clean, smell of green. The rains come and wash away the leftovers of winter. Things that were brown begin showing tinges of color. Branches that have been bare become heavy with buds. Spring bulbs poke tentative, tiny green shoots up through the ground. And you long to be out in God's creation. The time of self-imposed hibernation is over and the outside beckons.

When I pull those dead leaves off & uncover tender, new green shoots poking through the dirt, I am always reminded of the work God has done in my life. Of how He rescued me from a very long, dark winter season in my life. I had buried myself in more than leaves for several years. God gently uncovered all the dead & dirt from my life to show me how I could become new in Him. He breathed new life in me through His Son.

And yet, the gentleness and newness of spring does not last. Soon, the sun will become fierce and the rains that were so plentiful dwindle or stop all together. If these new plants are not watered and fed, they become wilted and brown. New growth dries up and if not tended and cared for, dies. Yet if nurtured and tended to, these plants become strong. They grow tall, reaching up to the sun and can withstand the heat it will soon bring.

Very much like my soul. If I do not let God nurture and tend to me, my soul dries up, withers, becomes brown. I do not grow tall or strong and cannot withstand the heat of the circumstances of my life. God does not wish for my soul to become brown and brittle. Jesus said ,"I am the vine and my Father is the are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;.....This is to my Father's glory that you bear much fruit..." (John 15: 1, 5, & 8)

God, this is my prayer:
Tend to my soul and nourish it. Remind me, when necessary, that I cannot feed myself, only You can reach those places in me that need tending to the most. Help me to remain in You, so that I can bear much fruit for You, no matter what the season of my life. Amen

Please, God, can I stay up on this mountain top with You?

We've all been there.....

You have been to a worship service or a retreat or a concert that has so uplifted you, has so inspired you, that you know this time it will stick. You feel like you have been to the mountaintop. You feel so connected with God. You can see the woman He wants you to be all the time and you know you can do it!

You will write those notes of encouragement, you will be a nice to your husband and kids no matter what their attitudes are, you will keep your house in order (after all, God is a God of order, not chaos, right?), you will pray daily for all the people on the prayer list, you will take time to visit with that neighbor you don't know very well but seems lonely, you will not join in the gossip at work, you will share your faith with others...And the list goes on and on - the things we know we are supposed to do, but don't always because life and our own stuff gets in the way. But you know this time will be different from the others. This time, you won't let anything stop you - you are on fire for God. You are ready to be used for great things.

And then you get home......
Back to real life....
Home to the same dishes that were in the sink when you left....
Home to homework left until late Sunday night to finish....
Home to an urgent message from work that has to be handled now...
Home to crank, needy kids...
Home to .....lots of things that weren't up there on that mountain top.

And you feel your inspiration and resolve deflate a little, but that's OK. You take a deep breath, breath a little prayer, paste a smile on your face, and dig in to what ever needs to be done and try to stifle that little feeling of resentment that you feel building. That feeling that tells you that these things could have been taken care of without you. That feelings that says "Do I have to handle everything myself?" That feeling that says, "I was created for bigger things than this."

And that feeling of connectedness with God seems a little farther away. But once you get all this mundane, every day stuff handled, you will get it back. That connection you felt. That inspiration you felt. That feeling that God was about to use you for BIG things.

But what if the great things God wants to use you for start with the little, mundane, every day things like being patient with cranky kids and co-workers? What if the great thing He wants you to do is to write notes or make encouraging phone calls? What if this - your every day life -is where God wants to connect with you?

Many Scriptures talk about "everything":
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets -Matt. 7:12.
....and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.Matt. 28:20I
Do everything in love. I Cor. 16:14
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. II Cor. 7:1,
Do everything without complaining or arguing, Phil 2:14,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil 4:6,
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness,... Titus 2:7

Does God mean everything that we think is worthy? I don't think so. If that was what He meant, wouldn't He have said that? God can surely use us for BIG things, but since He is the God of all things, can't He also use us in mighty ways in all the things that seem not so mighty to us? If He had intended for us to be on the mountaintop all the time, that is exactly where we would be. But instead He put us in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our jobs, and even in our churches, where we can make a mighty difference in sometimes very small ways.

I think He takes us to the mountaintop sometimes to give us a little preview of what Eternity with Him will be like. But for now, in this earthly life, He has placed wherever we are to be His light in both big and small ways.

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness! Matt. 25:23

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Remember when you were little and you would share secrets with your best friend? You would tell your secret only after your friend had pinky-sworn not to tell anyone. Sometimes, it was at a sleep over and you were in the dark under the covers, which made the shared secret seem even more special. There was power in that shared secret that only the two of you had -you had a special, often fragile bond formed by that secret. There was also the potential for betrayal with a shared secret, so you had to pick who you shared with very carefully. Sharing a secret implied trust in the person you were sharing with. Sometimes that trust was betrayed bringing embarrassment and anger. But for the most part, when we were young, secrets were special - something to giggle over in the dark or behind the school.

And then there were the secrets we didn't dare share. Dark secrets that were somehow our fault and we were warned not to tell as no one would understand and it wouldn't be special anymore. The longer a secret is kept, the stronger it becomes and the more the power the Enemy can bestow upon it. Power to make us feel ashamed and guilty. Power to make us feel unworthy of any of the good things life has to offer. Power to make us unworthy of any kind of love, especially the most powerful love there is - the love of God.

We hide our secrets in deep, dark places inside. And they become deeper and darker until there is no deeper, darker place they can go and they have to come out. They come out in anger and rage and bitterness, they come out in control issues, they come out in depression and eating disorders, they come out in addictions and broken relationships. Because we don't deserve any better - we have become the shame of our secret. We have believed the lies the Enemy has whispered in our ear for years. You see, the Enemy thrives in the dark places of our life, the places we have shut out the light.

We may or may not be successful in hiding our secrets from the people in our lives, but there is One we can never hide them from. He is there in the darkest, deepest places we can find to bury our shame and hurt. He is there and waiting - waiting to light the darkness; waiting to mend the broken, torn places; waiting to the expose the lies we have been told and believed and replace them with Truth. But we are the only one who holds the keys to those hidden places and we have the choice whether to unlock the door or keep it locked up tight. We have the choice to accept the love & grace he offers or we can choose to be a prisoner of our past, whatever it holds. He sent His most precious offering, His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we no longer have to be in bondage.

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.", in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, (absolutely nothing - the Message) will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 NIV- italics mine).

Read that again & let it sink in - if the King of the Universe, the One who set the stars in the sky, is for us - for you and me - then who can dare to bring a charge of shame or guilt against us? He longs for us to give up our darkness and to give it up to Him. Somewhere along the way, amid the lies, we have convinced ourselves our secret is so horrible and so big that He can't handle it! Or, even worse, that He doesn't want to! So, we think we have to handle it in our own broken ways - ways that always harm us and usually those around us, too.

Will it be easy? No - putting broken things back together is never easy. Will it be terrifying? Yes - but "perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4: 18b) Will it hurt? Yes - Light always hurts after darkness until we become used to the light. Will it be worth it? Absolutely - "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." (John 10:10)