Friday, May 25, 2012

Purposeful Planting

I am, admittedly, not much of a gardener. I do best with things that grow on their own, like weeds and perennials. However, one of my favorite sayings is "Do not confuse enthusiasm with talent", which I usually use to refer to my singing abilities. It applies to gardening as well.

Each spring, I survey the remnants of last year's garden, deciding what I should plant for the upcoming season. Last year, I planted peas, beans, lettuce, and peppers. Although I didn't plant it, I also had a bountiful crop of skunk leaves, those giant leaves that look sort of like rhubarb but aren't. My method for choosing what I will grow involves considering what my kids might eat, what is easiest, and what will fit together in the space allotted for it. If I was a real farmer, I would probably analyze the soil, deciding the acidity of it and whether it has lots of clay or whatever in it. (I almost had you thinking I knew what I was talking about, didn't I? Not a clue...)

Ready for a mental leap?

I'm looking at the garden of my life right now. All kinds of things are growing in it...varioius commitments and involvements, dreams and desires, hobbies and pastimes, and people and relationships. Lots going on in my little garden of life. The issue is that most of it just took up residence because there was open space. When the time comes to "plant" something purposefully and intentionally, there isn't a lot of room.

The answer? Weeding. Serious, prayerful weeding. Sometimes the easiest things to grow aren't producing the harvest you are looking for. Let me encourage you to take a good look at your garden...are the things that take up space providing a bountiful harvest? Is it something you even want to be growing?

Will you join me in seeking God this summer and ask Him what you should be cultivating in your life? Each of us only has so much garden space to work with, and only God knows how long our growing season will last. I don't want to grow the easy stuff, the good stuff even, because I can, and miss out on growing the best that God has in mind for me because I didn't make room for it.

"Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you.
Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you."
Psalm 143:8

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Holy Burden

You know the saying "You can't unknow something"? Ok, so that isn't a direct quote, but you get the idea. Once something has settled in your head, or even worse, on your heart, it is so hard to shake free, even though our lives would be easier if we could live like we never knew "said something" in the first place. The burden of the knowledge that you carry weighs on you, directs your thoughts and decisions, becomes the lens you view your life through.

In Christianese, we might describe that as a "call." When the Lord so thoroughly saturates your psyche with His vision of a situation, it is soul-consuming. Oswald Chambers puts it like this:
"It is easier to serve or work for God without a vision and without a call, because then you are not bothered by what He requires. Common  sense, covered with a layer of Christian emotion, becomes your guide. You may be more prosperous and successful from the world's perspective, and have more leisure time, if you never acknowledge the call of God. But once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God asks of you will always be there to prod you on to do His will."
God has a call on my life, to share the message of His Good News with those who think they are beyond His reach. There is so much pain, dysfunction, fear...utter this world. He has squeezed my heart for one particular section of our city, and given me a front row seat to see the need. I cannot walk away from the vision of what could be, neighborhoods transformed by the love of Christ.

I don't know what to do with this.

But, I know I can't "unknow" what I know. Follow me? I am trusting God to provide the next steps. He would not have put this burden here if He didn't have a plan for it, right?

How about you? What Kingdom need has He burdened you with? What breaks your heart? Where do you long to make a difference? God would not have settled this on you if He didn't plan to use it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

I hurried home from work yesterday, gathered my kids from their schools, fixed a meal for a new mama and dropped it off, raced by my mom's for a quick visit, dashed home to cook a decent dinner for my own family, then got ready to go to an important meeting at my son's school.

I am out of breath just typing this.

I waited for a friend to drop off her child to babysit mine. And waited some more. Finally, I texted her and got no reply. Quickly calling the neighbor kid over, I bought myself an interim sitter and left for the PTO meeting.

And found the door to the school locked. I checked in with the custodian and he said the meeting was on his calendar for today, not last night. I brought up the email on my phone and confirmed that nope, it was supposed to be happening right now. Since I was the only one there for the meeting, I assumed there was some sort of miscommunication.

Ultimately, my friend sincerely apologized for forgetting me in the midst of her own chaos of shuttling kids to various locations. The person in charge of the meeting felt awful for forgetting to tell me the date had changed due to her work schedule.

Technically, I would have been justified indulging in a little self-righteous snarkiness, don't'cha think?

Instead, I was able to see it as an opportunity to offer grace to two people. What are the odds that two things would get hosed up on the same night? I felt like it was too big a coincidence to spend time playing the victim. I also looked at it as evidence of God's mercy towards me. In a busy week, I got to spend an evening at home playing games with my kids.

Sometimes, everything is just a matter of perspective. If we could learn to view the events in our lives as opportunities to serve and glorify God instead of ourselves, this world would be a much better place.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Room Furnished and Ready

"Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water, follow him; wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says,"Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?" And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready." Mark 14:13-14

Reading the text, it is evident that Jesus knew what the plan was. The room was furnished and ready for Him and His disciples to celebrate the Passover, what we know today as the Last Supper.

How about the man who owned the house? Did this man, his name lost to history, know why he was making a room "furnished and ready?" I wonder if he had other plans for the room. We don't know if he was preparing for a bride or children, other guests, or if this was just the home of a man rich enough to have unused space. I can't help but wonder at his thoughts as the events of the next few months unfolded, from the arrest and crucifixion to the resurrection, and beyond. When Jesus was appearing to crowds in His resurrected body, did the man tell anyone who would listen "He ate His Passover at my place!" Whatever his plans for that room were, God used it for His glory.

I consider the "empty rooms" God has used in my life. Time set aside long in advance for one thing becomes exactly what I needed for some unforeseen event. Money often travels this way...a bonus or tax return is on the way and we anticipate all the ways we will spend it, only to have something major break. God knew why we would need the money or the time and already had it being prepared, but we are the last to know. "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the Lord's purpose will prevail. (Proverbs 19:21)"

Sometimes we feel the urge to build in a certain direction, and we knock ourselves out trying to figure out what it all means. Reading this story of the "furnished and ready" room encourages me to keep going, listening to His voice, even if I'm not sure why. When the Lord shows up on my doorstep, asking for a place to show His glory, I want Him to find everything just as He needs it. The dark nights, the sunny days, the incomprehensible, and the routine... it all goes into  preparing the space that He will use. Perhaps every week that man made sure the room was clean and dusted, with no idea why.

How about you? We know that "God causes all things to be used for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)" Will God find your life, your space, furnished and ready to be used for His glory?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Gentle Reminder

Someone asked me the other day if I always knew I wanted to be a writer, and I wasn't sure how to answer. I like the creative process, starting something only to see it take on a life of its own. Some days I have felt like I would burst if I couldn't get my thoughts out, and some days feel like I've entered a season of drought. That's kind of where I'm at now. Not that I don't have a desire to write what God puts on my heart; I just can't seem to make it happen. Ever have days like that? Anyway, in an effort to relight the fire, I read some of my old blogs tonight. I think I saw a little smoke curling upwards in the distance as I read this one...

Stories To Tell (January 2011)

I'll be honest, I am really excited by the thought of new readers stopping by my blog. It is like having company over...I feel like I should be proofing, tweaking, and dusting all my previous posts so you'll want to come back. I want you to like me. Why do I feel like I just stepped back into a high school hallway as a freshman, hoping to find a friendly face, or at least not have my books knocked to the floor?

If you are here in my little cyber house, picture yourself sitting at my dining room table. It's big...used to be my grandma's. My kids have almost wrecked it already, and my dog has a taste for the knobby wood feet. We're sipping some tea, hot if you live in Wisconsin like me, sweet if you're visiting from the South, just chatting it up a little and getting to know each other. There's banana bread on the counter and if you don't eat any, I will probably finish off the loaf by myself this afternoon.

The conversation circles around to why I write, especially why I write the things I do. I have a story to tell, and so do you. God has done amazing things in our lives, with our lives, and it just wouldn't do to keep keep it to ourselves. My heart breaks for the woman who thinks God only wants her if she is perfect, following a set of rules that someone else made up. I want the whole world to know that Jesus saves, that He heals, that He transforms, and that He is the only one who can make that happen. I love the saying that God has called us to be His witness, not His reporters. The only way we can be a witness is to share what He has done in our lives, in our own messy places.

As we visit through my blog, I wonder if I'm sharing too much. I can be a bit of a Tigger sometimes. But then I remember, be His witness. My life has not always been pretty...some of it has been downright ugly, but it is this life that God has chosen to work through, to shine His light in some of the darkest places, and if I don't share His Truth, then the lies continue to live.

May I encourage you, no...too soft a word...challenge you, to let the world know how God has changed your life since you met Him? I know it's scary, to let others who know you now see where you have come from, but we are the walking, talking, living, breathing evidence of a god who transforms lives, one day at a time, from brokeness to wholeness.

Shine that light, girl. Shine that light.

Just an afterthought, if you are not a writer, but want to tell your story of how God has worked in your life, it would be my privilege to post it on my blog.

That was from last January, but the offer still stands. Have a story to tell?