Just throw it out there

garden lastIt’s March—woo-hoo!!  Know what that means here in the lower part of the Midwest??  Okay, yeah, tornadoes…but besides that?  IT’S PLANTING SEASON!!  Bring out the seeds and point me to the dirt!  (Bob, honey, if you’re reading this, go ahead and just TRY to keep me away from the Walmart garden section…!)

I have some good friends who are professional farmers.  The term, “professional farmer”, distinguishes them from gardeners, even Master Gardeners (which, as Bob will tell you, I am not.)  Master Gardeners have it all together, but farmers, that’s a whole different category.  We’re talking equipment that costs more than my house and car put together. Unfortunately, last harvest season our friends’ combine had an oil leak and caught fire…. 

Yeesh!  Before it got this far, one of the guys was crawling through the machine trying to salvage some of the expensive equipment, like the GPS they use to know where to plant the seeds.  Thankfully, there were no casualties, except the siding on the house nearby that melted, and the bank accounts of those involved. 

Once again, farmers just amaze me, and have my upmost respect.  Of course, in Jesus’ day, they didn’t have the fancy tech like my friends have today that helps feed the world. Planting was done much differently, and Jesus seemed to think it an apt metaphor for spreading His very good news:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.  As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them.  Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow.  But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.  Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants.  Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!  Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

At first glance, this seems quite wasteful—even I know how be a little more careful in my planting (not much, mind you, but a little.)  And yet, Jesus likens this to teaching us to become “fishers of men”.  Huh?

Here’s the point.  Among my other temptations to not “sow” His good news is my own hidden selfish (and yes, even bigoted in some ways) perspective/bias/expectations that just out right get in the way.  Here are some of things the Enemy might whisper in my ear:

  • Don’t waste your breath.
  • They already hate your guts so why would they listen?
  • They’re too far gone. (This can be applied in a variety of ways, BTW.)
  • I’m too far gone. (This one can also be applied in a variety of ways, particularly after working all day.)

Here’s what I seem to hear my Lord saying: Sow liberally, knowing that some of it will fall on unfruitful and even hostile ground.  Sow anyway.  Making the determination of what the soil of someone’s heart is like is not up to me. That’s in the Holy Spirit’s job description. 

When it comes to planting the Gospel, He alone is God’s heavenly GPS.

kevin

Matthew 13:3-9  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved

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I love my dirt

garden lastMy birthday is smack-dab (great vocabulary word, BTW) in the middle of Spring.  This past year, I asked for one thing.  Just one. 

Dirt. 

And lots of it.  I have been working on putting a new garden in, and since we live within the city limits, it’s not like on one of the nearby farms where you have dirt to spare (as well as other biologicals that enhance the soil, if you get my drift…) And to boot, the dirt in my yard is not particularly conducive to growing vegetables and such, which calls for a little more intentionality and strategy when putting in a garden, at least if I have high hopes of producing nutritious edibles. 

I let my desire be known to my husband and progeny.  I even held off buying dirt, hoping that the truck from one of our local home and garden stores was going to show up with bags and bags, but alas, it was not to be.  Bob did not consider “dirt” to be an appropriate birthday gift for his wife since, to him, it smacked of “work”….(sigh).

So I bought myself a gift—dirt.  Yes, I did.  Twenty 2-cubic-foot bags, in fact.  (That’ll teach ‘im, right?? Nah, probably not.)  And when it’s delivered, either from the store or

dirt
Happy birthday to me!!

in my old suburban, I hadn’t decided which yet, I would empty most or all of it into the new garden plot and “start to begin to commence” planting.

At least, that was the plan.

Of course, there are lots of other things that can be done with dirt.  Like playing in it, building mud pies and such.  It’s a bit messier than a sandbox, but quite do-able.  Naturally, cats and dogs find dirt most helpful also (as with sandboxes).  Worms also appreciate the dirt, which in turn makes the robins appreciate it also.

But that’s not why I’m spending a pretty penny (several thousand pennies, truth be known), on good soil.  The purpose of this birthday gift to myself is to grow things!

So why do we do we tend to have a similarly skewed attitude with the gifts that God gives us?

So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.”

Just a thought: whether it’s a bags of dirt, a new trowel or shovel, or fresh gloves, you don’t buy them to admire them, but to USE them for their intended purpose—to grow and produce, not to play around making a mess to simply get dirty. 

Although I certainly do enough of that in the process….

The wonderful gifts God gives us—relationships, talents, time, health, experiences, forgiveness, supernatural or natural—all are for the building and nourishing of His church.  Or as Bob likes to say, they’re tools, not toys.

So just a thought: what kind of steward are you with God’s gifts?  Best not to get your hands dirty unless you plan on getting some work done.

1 Corinthians 14:12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)  Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

Good Samaritans live!!

garden lastAt this writing, March is decisively budding into April, and my initial bruises from the new garden plot are healed while new ones have emerged.  The railroad ties are secured in place, sort of, and the new drill I purchased for that part of the project (with which I sprained my wrist—also healed) is put away for the time being.  One thing I recognize is the importance of keeping my eyes on the prize—the vision I have for the productivity and beauty of this new green space.  I’ve gone through my Plan A to Plan B to Plan C and might actually be ending up with something I like. 

It’s good for one with my limited skill set to be flexible in these things, you know.

I’m now trying to fill in the terraced area with appropriate contents amenable to growing things, preferably flowers, and strategically place in a few containers for edibles.  I’ve spent more than Continue reading “Good Samaritans live!!”

Somebody cut me a stick for this marshmallow, please.

(Full read at dawnlizjones.wordpress.com)  I have mentioned the “bush that ate Nevada” previously.  This gorgeous spectacle of botanical proliferation still, at this writing, thrives at the end of our driveway.  Its blooms are, unfortunately, not quite as astounding as in the past.  Some of the inner, older core of the bush/tree have died away, but not before sending out plenty of new shoots in every direction. Of course, these new shoots, which have now redefined the bush itself, are impinging upon other places that, well, should not be impinged upon.  The end of the driveway, the asphalt itself, seems to be sprouting forsythia (life is so tenacious), and it had become a safety hazard when attempting to pull into our street, since my beloved, little $5 sapling has succeeded in semi-hiding oncoming traffic.  There was only one thing to be done—prune. 

Even the most uninitiated gardener may have some cognizance of the first advantage of pruning; that is, it only makes for a thicker, more luxurious plant.  I will admit that I probably have not been as consistent in my pruning process as needed, so when I did “get around to it”, it would generally be a fairly massive, (and messy),  project.  Getting rid of at least some of the dead wood, recovering at least some of the driveway, and clearing visual space for motor vehicle safety— these took some serious effort.

We all know about God’s pruning in our lives.  Sermons are preached on it, we are encouraged to recognize and embrace the process.  But it doesn’t make it any easier.  Sometimes the pruning project isn’t even about us personally; it may about an organization, a group, even a church.  As God allows a particular entity to prosper, the core sends out new shoots to continue the work of the bush as the older core finishes, having done its previous part.  And sometimes the old needs to be pruned away so that the new can redefine the life of the bush—new wine in new wineskins, and all that.  Now, this is not to say that the old is useless; no, far from it!  Although the old branches may not continue to produce the bright yellow blossoms as in the past, yet they are extremely useful in other and very important ways, (and this is where our culture misses it so often!)  The old branches on my forsythia still support life—nesting and hiding places for the birds, support for the new living branches, and when placed in the fire pile, they help become dirt for the other areas in the garden.  How we so often waste the precious resource in our zeal to accomplish so-called “greater” things!  Oh, that we would recognize and reap the benefit of what the older generations have to give to us!  We frequently prefer the flashy over the stable, the things that catch our eyes, rather than the things that enlighten our hearts. 

Additionally, God’s life-pruning process also includes a safety factor.  Sometimes our quest for big-ness prevents us from seeing oncoming danger.  I can think of more than one specific plan I had that was not allowed to happen, due to one circumstance or another, and I praise God (from this side of the idea) that it was not allowed to happen!  What we sometimes see as road blocks to may actually be God’s “bridge out” sign, and we are wise to heed it. 

One last thought about the Bush-That-Ate-Nevada.  Our cycling club had a nighttime ride that ended at our house for a marshmallow and s’mores bonfire.  So much fun!  However, I did not have enough roasting sticks for everyone.  What could be done?  I trimmed off several green limbs from my mega-bush, some that even had multiple “ends”, and we could roast two or three marshies at a time on one stick! 

Shouldn’t we allow our Master Gardener to do the same thing? We may be planted and growing and producing what is “normally expected”, and He may come along and seemingly cut us down from what we anticipated His work through us to be. The main bush still survived, but the severed sticks have been commissioned for a new project, and are exactly what is needed.  But rest assured, it is only so that He can use us in a different, more creative capacity.  He promises that, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” How wise is our Gardener, and how perfect is His plan! 

(The s’mores are really good, too….)

Fire Up the Christmas Tree…in #March

(Excerpt from God Loves Gardens, by Dawn Jones)                                     I let the dog out on this beautiful Sunday morning as the sun was coming up, the birds were waking up, and the new flowers are starting to push their way up.  I look across my yard to the unsightly large black spot next to the fence where I finally got to burn the annual Spring cleaning—leftover leaves, twigs and branches, and, yes, even the old Christmas tree. But I don’t have to see the blackened area to remember my efforts from the day before.  My 50+ year old frame is reminding me enough!   Initially, the left over burn pile looks like an ugly scar on my landscape, until I realize what it represents.  This spot will be where I plant my tomato starts again this year.  And they will become monster bushes due to the wonderfully fertile soil provided by the after effects of my efforts from yesterday’s hard work.

We know that burning adds the nutrients into the soil, and this can be likened to the process of consecration, A.K.A. dedication, of ourselves to God. (I like the word “consecration”.  It’s a good old-fashioned churchy sounding word that’s packed with meaning.)  It’s only when we are truly consecrated to God that we become pretty useless TO the world; that is, the world cannot use us for its own purposes, and we become liberated from the shackles of their devices, such as the need for popularity, status, wealth…fill in the blank. Not that these things are intrinsically evil, but the “need” for them sure is!   Likewise, it’s when we are completely devoted to God—His honor, His plan and purpose, His timing—that we are, in a very real and spiritual sense, burned up to Him in a way that we become “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” described by Paul, and we become useful FOR the world in the way God intends.  And lastly, if we neglect this consecration process, this burning sacrifice of our lives to God, then we can be assured that we will, indeed, be burned out by the world and its effects upon us.

Having said that, as I contemplate the black spot in my garden, several things come to mind:

Leaves: (many of which have been sheltering the gardens to keep the roots warmer over the somewhat brutal winter we just had)  We also can tend to hide under some of our past comforts for fear of the winter storms in our lives  Life is cold at times, bitterly so.  We naturally seek to protect our inner selves.  But I also knew it was time to rake away the leaves, because they were now preventing the full warming rays of the sun to nourish the new plants.  Same with our souls.

Twigs and branches blown down by the storms which are no longer able to produce life:  Left to clutter the yard, they will make it easier to trip and fall, and more difficult to mow, to play with the dog, and do the things that a yard is for.  Like the personal offenses held onto and residual guilt feelings of my own past offenses forgiven, yard waste is simply in the way of progress.

Muscle aches from the effort:  I can’t sit inside and expect it to just happen on its own.  Similarly my personal cleansing is a cooperative effort with God.  The word effort is important here.

My burn pile is ringed with stones and brick to contain the burning process:  I also watch over it carefully, spraying outside the stones as need should the fire jump into the grass and spread where it is not appointed to go.  Personal boundaries are important.

The ongoing process – just as each new season here in southern Missouri brings more leaves and twigs to be processed, so our lives are a continual cleanup project.  Pull out the rake!

A gardener by any other name….

Not being a gardener by natural intuition, I have had a propensity to plant things in less than ideal places and in less than ideal conditions.  All a plant needs I learned in grade school science classes: dirt, sunlight, and water, right?  With this unimpeachable wisdom I have destroyed many an unsuspecting specimen of innocent flora.  And destroying plant life can become an expensive hobby.  My lack of foreknowledge and pre-planning has caused me a certain amount of anxiety over my green (sometimes brown) friends. As one insightful person once put it, rather than the conventional “ready, aim, fire!” kind of gardener, I tend to be more of the “ready, fire, aim!” variety. I like to think of my ‘scapes’ as controlled chaos, which at times may be more chaos than control. Then I get disappointed when I find my beauties are just not living up to my grand expectations.  Too much sun, too much shade, too much water, too little water; why does life need to be so picky?!  So I uproot my little designs to rearrange their environment, water others, improve the quality of the dirt overall, little by little.  I invest in soaker hoses, and then I can’t divine where I’ve planted them, so they end up with punctures and ruptures as I try to plant over them.  Does any of this sound familiar…to anyone?   Autumn comes and I’m happy about the plants that have survived the brutal late southern Missouri summers (as well as my decidedly lacking gardening prowess) , while other plants seem to just give it up and die off.

Sigh, yet another failure.  Mulch what I can to protect for the winter season and retire the tools until spring with a certain determination to try, try again.

Then March and April finally arrive, and with it tiny green things begin to emerge, miraculously, unexpectedly, where apparent death had conquered just a few months before!  And not only do they emerge, but explode onto the scene, taller, stronger and more vibrant than when first planted!  I guess some living things are just made to keep living, despite my inexperience and ignorance. And, of course, others don’t.  But I have an important hypothesis: if the roots are good, the plant will try again, because that’s the way it’s designed.

I have also learned, am learning, and will continue to learn, the importance of working with, not against, the natural environment.  I can increase the soil quality, I can irrigate (until my dear husband frets over the water bill), but I cannot control the sun, the rain, or the temperature.  God may have put me in charge of a few things, but the weather is not one of them.  And evidently working with the environment would include:  a) being flexible, b) considering my timing, c) increasing my creativity, and d) seeing the beauty and usefulness in what God supplies in my particular garden, even if at first it appears inconvenient or uncomfortable.  Incorporating these four components—skills they are actually—will not only increase the productivity and loveliness of my garden, but also decrease the stress and anxiety associated with my new hobby.

Hmmm…

Now, God has a time-honored way of communicating with us on what could be coined as a “natural level”, in the sense that what we see in nature corresponds many times with lessons that are extremely applicable to life in general.  The tangibles can help us to understand the intangibles.  For starters:

  • Lack of knowledge has a way of messing things up. I realize that is not a nice theological way of putting it, but if for any appreciable length of time you have been a card-carrying member of your local garden club, (or of the human race for that matter), you understand this concept. There is biblical precedent to back it up.  In the Old Testament, God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (1)  Yes, well, clearly this includes my plants.  But of infinitely greater significance, our lack of knowledge, wisdom, and insight can severely and adversely damage those around us.  Human relationships are costly, and foresight is expensive than hindsight.  I need help, I need correct information, but recognition of my need is the first step toward wise cultivating in my personal people-garden.  (For what it’s worth, one my on-going prayers is that God would grant grace to those who have to encounter me in any way today…)
  • I understand—yes, even me—that roots do more than hold a plant down should the gravitational pull of the universe change. There’s the hydration issue, the nutrition issue, and even the reproduction process in some plants is in the roots. I am told there are plants that, because of the way they are designed in their root system, are made to die off just up top, and relax for a while underneath the warm soil until it’s time to make their way to the surface again.  My husband, Bob, who has an alphabet of letters behind his name with his multiple science degrees, gave me a fancy name for this, but I’ve since forgotten it.  It’s the idea of programmed rest that I’m interested in—what appears to be dead is merely dormant, and given time and patience, and adequate supply for basic needs, it will return and flourish.  That’s the way it’s made.  People are amazingly resilient also…amazingly.  What seems to be dead, whether a dream or a vision or perhaps even a relationship, may only be dormant.  When God, as our Master Gardener, plants a root, we have only to nourish with faith and water it with patience, and what He has planned for that root will erupt.  That’s the way we are made.  I love how the Amplified Version puts it: “I [God] create the fruit of his lips, and I will heal him, make his lips blossom anew with speech in thankful praise.” (2)  It’s all about timing—God’s, not mine.
  • And concerning those roots, I sense that I have some responsibility in acquiring and properly using that aforementioned knowledge. This includes working WITH my environment, and not against it. Compromise is not always a bad thing, and as a wise wit once penned: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall bend and not break.”  Jesus didn’t demand an air-conditioned conference hall and catered lunch for his hillside audience of 5000, but did just fine with rural setting and a few donated loaves and fishes. (3)  I would say that also qualifies as pretty creative.  And as much as I would love to have a full scale garden of blooming beauties, patience for the proper timing is part of the program.  So many times I want what I want…NOW.  How I thank my Lord for what I sometimes have regarded as a ball and chain, but has actually turned out to be a life-saving anchor!  Granted, it can seem inconvenient and heavy at first, but the benefits are enormous.

And so I love spring all the more as remarkable rebirth occurs sometimes to my delighted surprise, but I also find an increased appreciation of winter—not just a season of death as so many have unkindly marked it, but a season of rest and rejuvenation.  Such wisdom could only come from the mind of the Master Gardener, the One who planted the first garden, the One from whom I can learn as I dig about and get grass-stained in my own garden of life…if I will but make myself teachable.

–signing off for  now—-dawnlizjones

  • Hosea 4:6
  • Isaiah 57:19
  • Matthew 14:13-21