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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lessons Learned in the Garden

Most people who know me know I have a beautiful garden in my yard. I did not plant it, nor was the garden even my idea. I usually don't even tend the garden because we have a wonderful man from our church who has a landscape business and a very green thumb, so we pay him to tend it for us. It is a win-win situation. We help him financially, and he helps us physically. However, with the monsoon rains we have been having of recent weeks, he has been very busy trying to keep up with his many clients, while the weeds have been very busy trying to take over in my garden.

Now this garden has become an integral part of my life. Can't say I wouldn't be able to live without it, but it would not be pretty. It has become my spot. My place to rest my soul and refresh my spirit. To interact with my Lord and hear from Him on a daily basis. I love my little bit of heaven.
But for the last couple of weeks, my little garden has been sadly in need of some weeding. It was bad. Really, really bad. Dismal.
I had been procrastinating, hoping Mike would come and do the "dirty work" for me. And the longer I waited, the worse it got. And the bigger the job. 

So this morning, I could stand it no longer. 
I decided enough was enough, and I tackled the mess. 

Really, it only took me about 45 minutes to do the part that is in the photos. The part that I see when I sit on my bench and look out. But you know me, I God had some spiritual lessons for me tucked in those weeds. There were many, so I think I will share one each day this week. That way, you don't have to read all day to get to the end of this post. And it will force me to think about it all week, too. And maybe help me to attack the rest of the garden that is also being threatened by the weed monster. 

Lesson 1

Weeds are much easier to conquer if you get them when they are small and few. 

We have been dealing with some overwhelming family issues of late and the pain of it has shaken me to my core. And the enemy has tried to steal my joy in the midst. But just because I don't see God working doesn't mean he isn't. So if I let those thoughts of "what if He doesn't do something" or even the thoughts of "if you love me so much, why is this happening" take root in my heart, I will not be able to survive this. I have to remember my adversary is out to destroy me along with my entire family through this situation and if I give those thoughts root, he will bring other thoughts, feelings and seemingly harmless imaginings to validate my feelings and inhabit my mind. 

The temptation becomes sin when I give these seemingly harmless, self pitying thoughts life in the garden of my mind and heart, and they becomes rooted there. That is why Paul says to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." I have to uproot those suckers as soon as they come. That doesn't mean I can't be sad. Even Jesus was sad, and He knew the end of the story! Remember the shortest verse in the Bible? Jesus wept. Why? Because his friend Lazarus had died. He knew He was going to raise him from the dead, yet He wept over the loss. He even delayed in coming to heal him so that He could raise him. But it still caused Him distress in His heart. Partly because it caused his friends Mary and Martha so much sadness. And my sadness causes Him sadness, too. But I have to remember that my Hope is in the Lord. He is my living Hope. And being in His presence, not in the pit is what changes that. The situation may never change. But my perspective will. He is still sovereign. He still sees, knows and IS. He is still I AM. 

It is the same with other sins. If we nip them in the bud, we do not give them place to grow. We have to remember that for one thing to take root, something else has to go. For a sin to take root, a truth has to be uprooted. This is why Paul says we need to be "rooted and grounded in the Word of God". So that when a temptation comes, we can recognize it and pull it out before it blooms into sin. We have an enemy. A Hater. And hater's gonna hate. His goal for you is to destroy you. But God is bigger. And His goal is to mature you into the image of Christ. So in His infinite wisdom, He gives you a choice. And lovingly He presents you with the opportunity to define your love for Him in a tangible, and often difficult way. 

 It would be much easier for me to coddle these feelings I am having and just lay down and have a big ole pity party. It would be easier to hate the people who are hurting me and my family than to love them. And as I am finding out, it is true that there is a "fine line between love and hate". But I have to remember that THEY are not my enemies. And even if they were, Christ commands me to love my enemies. To do good to them who hurt us. Who use you and say hurtful and untrue things about you. (my paraphrase!) For in loving them, you are loving Christ. You are being obedient to Christ. You are identifying with Christ. Because it was for me He took upon Himself the form of a man, and was obedient to His Father, even to death on the cross. And if He did that for me, it is the least I can do for Him. And it brings me closer to Him as I choose to "Deny myself (my desires, my feelings that I should wallow in hurt and pain and let it swallow me into the pit of despair), take up my cross (and do what I cannot humanly do: love unconditionally) and follow Him (closely, desperately). And when I focus on Him and His Word, "renewing my mind" he changes my thinking, my patterns of thought that are ungodly to His thoughts And poof! I can see the temptation for what it truly is: an ugly weed that will give birth to something that will suck the nutrition from the soil of the garden that He has been tending in my heart. It will suck the life out of me. So as painful as it may be, when I recognize it, I must pluck it up and cast it and my real enemy, the enemy of my soul, into the pit where they belong.

Is it easy to uproot a sin that has taken root? No, it isnt. But for the sake of Christ, we must. That is why it should be done when the temptation is just a thought. And that is the subject of tomorrow's post. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

God is.

It has been my practice for several months now to go out and watch the sunrise in my front yard. I have a beautiful view, and it is very picturesque to watch it come up with palm cypress trees in the foreground. 

I go out to watch because I feel like it is better than the best movie. Every day it is different, and every day I sense God's presence in a new and tangible way. 

My favorite color is pink. And most every day, in my front yard here in sunny south Florida, I am surrounded in pink sky. As the pink hues of sunrise envelope my little world, I come face to face with the reality that I am loved so deeply by my creator, the God of the universe. I truly, with all my heart believe he creates these beautiful "skyscapes" just for me. Really. Because he can, and because he loves to show me just how much he loves me. I just have to get up in the morning and look for it. 

Anyway, the last two weeks have been particularly difficult ones, because of a family situation that is vastly painful beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I have been grappling with it and trying to see God's plan in it, but it has been so hard. And it has been rainy here, so the sunrises have been non- existent. They have really mirrored my emotions. Gray, and seemingly shrouded in sadness. Sometimes, it seemed that God himself was weeping along with me. Which is a great comfort to think that my sadness of heart could touch the heart of God. After all, what is happening in my family saddens his heart too. And the hard part is that I am helpless in this situation. I must sit back and watch it all unfold. 

But God has been faithful in reminding me that I am not without hope. Especially this morning. 

I awoke early and went outside, where the sunrise was just beginning. It was beautiful beyond words today. Pink was all around, and as I looked straight up, there were a few puffy lower level clouds that were pink. They were right over head. And as my eyes traveled around the sky, the entire horizon to my left and to my right turned a subtle pink. And I looked behind, and it turned pink, too. So I looked back up at the clouds overhead, and they had formed a circle of pink-ness. 

And thats when it hit me. 

God was surrounding me.

 As I watched, He was engulfing me in his presence and telling me, "You may not see me working, but I got this. You just need to rest and remain in me. See, I go before you, and I guard you on your left, and on your right. I have set my rear guard behind you, and I have covered your head. Don't worry, child. I am in The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I see, I know, and I AM."

I stood there, worshipping him with a grateful heart. And as I looked around, the sun was again covered by the clouds. And the sunrise, a brief interlude today, was over. The cloud cover blotted it out, and soon, it will begin to rain again today. 

But that's ok, because God showed up today, big time. And my joy cup is filled to the brim and overflowing because He came to me in my sadness and met me there. He lifted my spirit in the way that only he can. And although my heart is still sad and hurting beyond words, I am no longer overwhelmed by it. He lifted my head above the waters that were threatening to drown me, and breathed his breath into my lungs. And my strength is renewed. My hope is shored up again. And I can go on with great joy, because he loves me. 

The song on my heart today as I woke fit this, too. It was one the worship team sang this weekend at church. An old one, that I am sure now that was chosen to strengthen and encourage me this week.

Wow, God. You really want me to get this message today.

Strength will rise when we wait upon the Lord. 
We will wait upon you Lord. We will wait upon you Lord.
Our God, will reign forever. 
Our Hope. Our Strong Deliverer.

You are the Everlasting God. The Everlasting God. 
You do not fail, You won't grow weary. 
You're the defender of the weak. You comfort those in need. 
You lift us up on wings like eagles. 

Thanks, God. I am humbled and amazed yet again. I love you, too. And I will hope in you all the day long. I trust you.