Excuse #5: I’m an expert at being a novice; Excuse #6: ….

See my garden?  Ain’t it pretty?  gardenmess

(NOT!)  Obviously, there was some needed work that didn’t happen prior to winter.  No problem, though.  The compost pile is doing its thing, and my tools (and back muscles) are getting ready to do theirs in the coming spring season.  As even an inexperienced gardener like me can surmise, the ground needs some serious work unless I want to cultivate weeds. 

weedsActually, I’m not even sure that these are…

No matter; they gotta go, and I have the gear to get it done.  My expert-gardener sister-in-law even bought me a kneeling pad to protect my knees, bless her little heart!  (I also invested in some volleyball knee pads from the garage sale next door—R-E-A-L-L-Y helps, especially on rocky soil.)

 So, why haven’t I accomplished this yet?

 Excuse #1: I have a full time job. 

Excuse #2: I have volunteer activities. 

Excuse #3: I’m a homemaker (ie, I cook real food, do the laundry, etc.)

Excuse #4: I also have other interests, (like blogging, for instance!) 

 I know, I know, I’m beginning to sound like this~~ 

But that’s not what God sounds like when He says this:

“For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: Break up your ground left uncultivated for a season, so that you may not sow among thorns.”

And then again…

“…Break up your uncultivated ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, to inquire for and of Him, and to require His favor, till He comes and teaches you righteousness and rains His righteous gift of salvation upon you.”

Same thought from two different prophets; I’m thinking God is trying to get a point across to His people.  Which, of course, applies to me, since I’m now one of “His people”.  It’s just so easy to allow issues and situations to remain buried in our hearts and souls, supposedly hidden, sometimes even hidden from our own internal vision. 

I can see this being (yet another) reason why we need each other—bumping up against others in life has a way of revealing myself…to myself.  Then there’s quantity time alone with God on my own, learning His mind on things, my things.  It can sometimes be an uncomfortable process, breaking up clods of offense and wrong thinking and pride, but to put it off is eternally unproductive.

So, when the Lord comes to pick some fruit, what will be your excuse? 

Jeremiah 4:3; Hosea 10:12 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)  Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

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Check the seed before pulling the weed!

garden lastOOPS…

That’s not an atypical comment in my gardening prowess. 

To begin with, there are only a few good things I can say about weeds, one of which is that they afford me at least a little exercise outside in the fresh air. I have some definite work to accomplish in that area, and with a bit of concerted effort, I should make some headway in today’s June morning.  But every once in awhile I’ll be out for something else and a particular unwelcomed green thing will catch my eye and up it will come.

I’m not well-versed in weed identification; if something is emerging where I didn’t plant it, it grows at its own peril.  Such was the case yesterday after coming home from church.  My eye targeted a shoot that didn’t belong, a seeming invader among my tender herbs and cukes.  Oh, the hubris of such an alien!  How dare this offensive intruder bury his tentacles into my soil, (such as it was…), gorging his rogue self on the much needed nutrients intended for my other dearies!  I did what any note-worthy gardener would do without thinking!!  I plucked it up by the root!

Oops…

The seedling still bore the Continue reading “Check the seed before pulling the weed!”

What’s in YOUR salad?

garden lastAccording to somewhere on the un-impeachable wisdom of the internet, we are told that 55 grams of leafy dandelion greens (that’s about ¼ of a cup, again, ibid source of information) can supply 112% of our daily need for Vitamin A.  This, naturally, depends on several things:

  1. That our need for Vitamin A won’t be redefined in the near future, (like it’s cousin, Vit-D)
  2. That the internet is correct (a discomfiting assumption)
  3. That we can get past our aversion to eating what we all grew up calling “weeds”.

I should insert here that I have acquired a mildly humorous reputation at work as a health nut, that is, being willing to try otherwise unconventional things in the name of “wellness”.  I’m seriously not much of a cook, I use Continue reading “What’s in YOUR salad?”

To mow, or not to mow?

Is this incredible, or what?!?  (pixabay)
Is this incredible, or what?!? (pixabay)

I visited a friend one day a few years ago who has since moved to a different state.  She had invited me to dinner at her home in the country.  She is not a wealthy woman, in terms of worldly wealth that is.  Her house was without many on the modern amenities that our 21st century sensitivities consider necessary—like an indoor shower or tub, or central heat and air conditioning.  The foundation was crumbling, but should last another fifty years (she was told).  The electricity was scary, and the breakers were so weak that she had figured out down to a science what appliances she could or could not use together.

Now this is not say that she was in any way lazy.  Far from it.  She was taking courses to become a paralegal, and had plans for starting a new career, a courageous move for a woman in her early 50’s.  At this time, she was driving a cab, received a small pension from her military husband now deceased, and although tithing money was difficult, she was very ready to “tithe” her time and talent.  She helped to build a beautiful raised garden for her church’s daycare center and procured the soil from a local contractor—for free!  (Yeah, she’ll be good at her new career in the legal system…)  And organized!  Within her home she housed two small personal libraries: the “fiction” section was arranged alphabetically, and the “non-fiction” was by the good-ole Dewey Decimal system (for those of us who still remember what that is). 

All this to say that her life is one of plentiful lemons, out of which her lemonade is sweet. And my friend is not one to complain.  However, even the best saints have times of being, well, overwhelmed.  One day in particular seemed difficult when, in addition to everything else, her lawn mower died.  Living in the country on her couple of acres, this was not an immediate problem, but when the grass and weeds became knee high and higher, it was just another brick on the load, considering her sense of aesthetic.  On top of everything else going on in her situation, couldn’t she at least have a mower so she could at least knock down the weeds?  And she told the Lord so.  I mean, really, it wasn’t like she was asking for the “Yard of the Week” award in her small rural town!  If God could bring up the sun every day, couldn’t He just give her a mower?  Was that asking too much?

Feeling this frustration, she then happened to stepped out onto the back deck, (that’s where she has to take her “shower” by pouring water over her—no neighbors, of course), and she saw one of her many weeds blossoming.  It was the most exquisite flower she possibly had ever seen!  Even exotic—and in southern Missouri??  It looked like something from a tropical paradise.  Pulling out one of her many books (from the Dewey Decimal section), she found that it was called a “Passion Flower”.  Within short order, she dug out an old trellis and supported the plant so that it could grow up the side of the house, and soon, she noticed that in addition to the beauty of the flower, the passion fruit began to develop.  (Have you ever priced passion fruit in your local grocery, that is, if you can even find it?)

And God spoke.  If He had provided a lawn mower when she had asked for one, she would have repeatedly mowed down this beautiful plant He had been trying to give her.  The “weed” was actually a gift, one of both beauty and fruit.  A few things come to mind:

  • Weeds are unsightly, unpleasant, and sometimes even harbor uninvited guests (like ticks!). Weeds in our lives are the same, and try as we might, there are times when all we want to do is mow them all down rather than actually pull them up. Unfortunately, simply mowing them down doesn’t get rid of them, it only postpones the inevitable—the weeds grow back.
  • Sometimes God allows the weeds to grow despite our best efforts be get rid of them, because there is something more important within the lawn of our life, some beautiful gift that we keep cutting down with the other “weeds”. It may be that we have to be overwhelmed by our weaknesses in order to be overwhelmed by His grace and glory, by His love and special care.
  • We have gifts hiding in us that can only be brought to life and full fruit by this grace, and by His timing and wisdom. God must break our lawn mowers (our own efforts, our pride, our selfish motivations and deeply hidden fears), allow the weeds to grow, so that he can identify the plants He plans to keep, and the ones He plans to get rid of once and for all. He is, after all, the Master Gardener.

My friend said she would like to give me some of her passion fruit—she’s like that, has nothing and gives everything.  But not until it ripens.  It comes in two different colors when it is ripe and she’s not sure yet which one she has… she found this out in her reading.  It’s a new gift from God, so she is diligent about researching it, watching it develop, and sharing it.  And she is waiting until the right time. She encourages me by her example to do the same with all the gifts God has given me, especially the ones that take me surprise.

Isn’t that just like God’s own “passion” for us???

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