No need for a boil order?

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280Cultural differences aside, Old Testament prophets were, um…a little weird.  I say that respectfully, but I can only imagine they may not have been at the top of an invitation list to any aspiring social event.  Things like walking around naked, burying underwear in the dirt (and retrieving it some time later!), marrying a prostitute, and a list of the bizarre continues—it certainly caught the people’s attention.

It would’ve caught my eye, to say the least.

Not respected, rarely believed, probably ridiculed, and usually hunted down, the job description was not for the faint of heart.  Clearly, one was not chosen by Continue reading “No need for a boil order?”

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Hand me the hose

garden last

Water.  Simple H2O.  We drink it, fish in it, splash each other with it in the summertime.  Then in the winter, we shovel it, make snowmen out of it, and sometimes shovel it some more.  And most significantly, at least here in the US of A, we tend to take it for granted, (our brethren in California notwithstanding.)

When the girls were in school, we were flying over St. Louis on a family vaca.  It was just after an unusually disastrous downpour in the Midwest, and the aerial view of the city was amazing, sad, but amazing.  St. Louis was basically under water.  While up in the air, I was perusing a newspaper.  Someone had taken sequential photos from the same deluge, again from an aerial viewpoint, of a beautiful big farmhouse next to a dam.  The photographer caught it all: the dam breaking, the water rushing unrestrained toward the now-unprotected home, Continue reading “Hand me the hose”

Hate those #weeds !

(Excerpt from God Loves Gardens, by Dawn Jones)

Weeding.  Yuck.  Why is it that during a drought, weeds still grow? 

I love the flowers and the plants; I love the tomatoes and the fresh herbs.  But let’s face it, weeds are the pits.  Some of their roots go so doggone deep!  And they spread, underneath the surface where you can’t see them, until they pop up somewhere else.  They suck up water, a precious resource by any definition, but especially “tres chere” during July and August in southern Missouri, and especially this year.  Weeding is in the “not fun” section of my gardening book.

“Not fun” is, however, usually a prerequisite to “fun”. 

I now have certain pieces of equipment to take care of said weeds:

  • Thickly padded knee pads. This shows that I mean business. I hate to admit it, but getting down on my knees is not as convenient as it was 20 years ago.  And then there’s the getting up part.  So “knee work” takes effort, as well as, at times, more than just a little discomfort.
  • Weed fork. At least that’s what I call the wicked looking thing. It has sharp little fangs that penetrate deeply into the weeded area to help pull up as much of the root as possible.  It’s a merciless piece of metal, probably invented by someone without knee pads who wanted to spend as little time as he could on his knees.
  • Chemical herbicide. Yes, I know, not exactly eco-friendly, but you don’t know the extent of the weed habitat in my yard. I don’t use it much, sparingly, but it is part of the heavy artillery in my arsenal.
  • Sometimes I wear gloves, but even with those, I always—I mean always—manage to get dirt under my fingernails. So really, I should also here mention my fingernail scrub brush, which sometimes even itself doesn’t fully complete the cleaning up job 
  • Timeliness – rather than put it off until another day, telling myself that I’ll do it all at once, (ha!), it is so much better to see a weed, and pull it on the spot. When it comes to weeds, procrastination only allows them to grow deeper and sprout additional “weed-babies”.

Weeds are a pain, no doubt, but they must be dealt with unless I want to allow them to dominate the garden.  And that includes the weeds in my life-garden as well.  Unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy—these are some big ones.  Then there’s deception, slothfulness, and gossip.  Unkind words are really ugly weeds whose roots can really go deep and pop up when and where we absolutely don’t expect them.  All of these, and more, (since there are many species of “life-weeds”), suck up the precious water of our existence and threaten to dominate our days…unless we take diligent action.

  • Weeding in our life takes commitment—commitment to the point of discomfort, and often times, more than just a little. The writer of the book of Hebrews warns that “for the time being, no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful”—now there’s an understatement! But he goes on to say that “afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Okay, I like that part.  If makes sense that if I don’t want the weeds listed above, or any other species of unwanted harvest, there is only one person responsible for eradicating them—me.  The same writer then adds this encouragement: “So then, brace up and reinvigorate and set right your slackened and weakened and drooping hands and strengthen your feeble and palsied and tottering knees.”  (Has he been spying on me while I’m gardening??)   Although that may sound a bit harsh to our sensitive 21st century ears, it’s actually quite helpful.  There are time when, oh yes, I can feel very tottering and weak, even discouraged when I work, and work, and yet keep seeing things in my character and personality with which I am sorely displeased, a weed popping up when I thought I had taken care of it or a new unknown weed that I’ve never seen before.  What the writer is saying here, however, indicates that this courage, this strength is, in fact, available to me.  So brace yourself (or pad yourself!) for the impact, expect the pain, but know that the results of our hard work will be rewarded. (1)
  • We need to go as deeply as possible to the root of the problem. Surface weeding may allow the garden to appear well-tended, but as the saying goes, looks can be (and usually are) deceiving. I think of my weed fork, a sharp and menacing-looking tool that, in the right hands and wielded skillfully, can bring up roots while yet sparing the precious soil. This kind of deep life-weeding takes time and effort, and we may need the help of a friend, or sometimes even a professional.  It is here that we must be willing to allow God to search and reveal as only His light can do. As the Psalmist said, “Search me thoroughly, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me…” (2)  And then let Him have control of the tool.
  • We must not disregard the heavy artillery of spiritual warfare. As Keith Green so aptly illustrated in a song that is supposed to be Satan himself singing to us:

                          I used to have to sneak around,

                          But now they just open their doors! 

                          You know, no one’s watching for my tricks

                          Because no one believes in me anymore! (3)

One of the enemy’s main tactics is deception.  Our Lord uncovered this by describing Satan as a liar and even the father of lies. (4) This age-old adversary will try to convince us of everything from false guilt feelings lingering after true repentance, to thinking we have committed the unpardonable sin.  Yes, I’ve been there too.  But God says otherwise.  We must arm ourselves for continued battle, and learn to use this critical piece of spiritual artillery. There is much well balanced writing on practical, Biblically based spiritual warfare.  In our culture, we are many times uncomfortable with this aspect of what used to be assumed in the early church as a normal part of Christian life.  The Bible makes it clear that it still is. (5)

  • Certainly, we cannot be afraid to get our hands dirty while we dig about in our lives, removing the weeds with the help of our Holy Gardener Himself. Sometimes it’s also a matter of getting our hands dirty helping weed around someone else’s life, after which are just as concerned with keeping ourselves cleaned up! Paul, in writing to the church at Corinth, reminds us as he reminded them, to be careful to watch ourselves, especially when we think we are doing well.   We are just as prone, whether we like to admit it or not, to lapse into tempting thoughts and behaviors as the ones we have been helping.  Maybe not the same temptations, but sinful dirt under our nails nonetheless.  Our Lord promised to wash us clean when we bring this dirt to him, and surely it pleases Him to do so! (6)
  • And, of course, when the Master Gardener points out a weed, we must not delay in getting it taken care of as quickly as possible, so that successful growing time is on our side, not the weed’s. When God calls us to a specific repentance to a particular life-weed, procrastination is not a good idea. The longer we wait, the deeper it grows, and the more resources it wastes on itself. Most gardeners have seen this happen over time in flower beds that are habitually untended—yuck!   And one of the unhappy consequences of such neglect is that the seeds of the weeds float into my yard, (and honestly, I have enough of my own to deal with), then I have to tend to those as well!  Gossip, for example, spreads into others’ minds and hearts and begins to root (very quickly, I might add) unkind thoughts concerning the victim being gossiped about.  Another culprit is irritability—that one spreads like dandelion seeds!  (7)

In seasons of plentiful water, or in times of difficult drought, weeds seem to flourish both in our gardens, and in our lives.  Yet we are not without the proper tools to deal effectively with them.  The alternative is to ignore them or to pretend they don’t exist.

And, really, a weed would love nothing better… 

  • Hebrews 12:10-12 (Amplified)
  • Psalm 139:23-24 (Amplified)
  • No One Believes in Me Anymore, by Keith Green, c. 1977
  • John 8:44
  • 2 Corinthians 10:4, Ephesians 6:11-12 (For a good resource in this area, see Neil Anderson’s Victory Over Darkness, and The Bondage Breakers, both from Harvest House Publishers. Another good resource is The Handbook of Spiritual Warfare, by Ed Murphy from Nelson Publishers.)
  • 1 Corinthians 10:12-13; Ephesians 5:26-27
  • Proverbs 15:1

Still pouring….

pixabay
pixabay

There’s a small(er) town near here with water that, um…smells.  Water isn’t really supposed to taste, much less smell, at least in my thinking.  I would go on record by warning anyone who visits this place to definitely not buy a fountain drink in town.  I am told that our town used to have water-plus also.  Sometime in the semi-recent past, the town fathers decided to go with something called “third-stage water treatment”.  I don’t know what that means, and although I still like to have bottled water in the house when we have guests, I’m definitely okay with drinking our H2O for myself, especially after visiting our little neighbor a few miles away.  Water of course, even the odiferous kind, is life-sustaining. Perspective, I guess.

Water is an apt comparison that Isaiah uses when he speaks of “pouring out that with which you sustain your own life”, as mentioned in last the couple of blogs.  We have important talents and experiences and qualities that help make us who we are, and we need to unafraid to share those when the opportunities arise.  But here’s an additional thought:

Lest I think Isaiah’s encouragement is giving me carte blanche for making my big splash in the world, a cautionary note is in order.  It can be quite tempting, after identifying  what seems to be a special talent or personal  “pearl”, to allow (or even worse, promote) myself as the focus in the situation.  I love the account of Peter and John after Jesus had risen, hung out for a few days and then returned home.  These two newly renewed men were walking into the temple when they saw a beggar, lame and sitting by the building asking for money.   Now lots of us grew up with the Sunday school song that was Peter’s reply, “silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”  And the end result was pretty cool.

But what a lot of us old time Sunday-schoolers might have missed, is actually the first thing Peter said to the beggar.  He said,

“Look at us!”

After which, he proceeded with the other words (although I doubt that he sang them….)  My point is this—the reason for any attention being on me is not about me, at all.  I may have the best tasting, thirst quenching water ever created, but the water itself belongs to the One who created it; in fact, to put it succinctly, Jesus calls Himself the “living water.”  Now, I am to allow myself to be “seen”, which speaks to a certain level of vulnerability of course, but this personal visibility is to be immediately reflected upon God, who alone knows how to utilize the gifts He so wisely puts within us.

So, yeah, bottoms up!