Since moving into our home a little over a year ago, we have been on a mission to keep the grass alive, plant a small garden area in front and maintain several containers on the back patio......all alive and well. Simple, right? I can confess it has been nothing short of a gargantuan-sized rock, smack in the midst of our path fraught with more failures than I care to count. I firmly believe that God has placed us here to make the world a better and more fruitful place, so I keep trudging along, learning one hard lesson after another. You would think at my age I should have had plenty of experience, but I am woefully behind the learning curve, having spent almost 30 years out of country where others took care of the green areas where I lived. That was probably a very good thing!
Most recently, I have been researching the need for good soil, which everyone with any knowledge of gardening will agree is of primary importance. Unfortunately, however, we have been given a clay dominant soil which seems to only be hospitable to various species of cacti. The good news is, that soil can actually change and become loam. For you gardening novices like myself, that is what we are shooting for. So.......how does one get from rock-hard clay to loam?
Well, not so much unlike how our hearts change from hearts of stone to tender and responsive hearts of flesh. Little by little and bit by bit through sweat and tears and patience and heartache and suffering and death. If all those elements are not present, we simply will not reach the goal. Don’t you wish that positive growth would come about without any discomfort, or pain, or sickness or loss? Yeah, me, too, but it is just not the way it works.
In our garden area in front, we purchased some healthy soil to have at least a top layer of nutrients available. We also bought some organic food because all living things need food, after all. We dug out large enough holes, mixed everything together and gently
planted our new little green babies and gave them a good watering. I was so pleased with how it looked on the surface! Then, within only a week or so, several of them started to wilt and die. It was painful to watch. I suffered along with them and felt so helpless. Some of them survived and some of them didn’t and we couldn’t figure out why. When all hope was lost, I bought new plants, did more research and hoped for the best. Still more loss and disappointment and more plants needed to be replaced. I was heartbroken. And then it occurred to me..... God was teaching me an object lesson!
We go throughout our days planting seeds and watering and fertilizing and we expect that vibrant, green and fruitful plants will spring up because we have done “our job”. We even get a bit resentful of God when things go south and wonder “why aren’t you doing YOUR part?” But the thing is, He IS. The hard and the disappointing and the failures and the loss is exactly how our hearts are changed. It’s the sleepless nights, the pain, the exasperating co-worker......these are the things that little by little change our soil so that we will be fruitful and strong.
We live in an upside-down Kingdom. So, I will keep on learning and tilling the dead matter back into the soil and I won’t resent one more hard thing or failure, because I know that is how verdant, organic life is formed. And I will give thanks!
Written by Pam Box
I have participated in Moms in Prayer for about 15 years. Each prayer time begins with praising God, usually by focusing on one of His attributes. I have had the privilege of teaching Sunday School at CrossPointe, and one of my favorite curricula is the “ABC’s of God.” In this study, the greatness and worth of God is revealed as the children (and teacher!) learn about His different attributes. And now I am in the Wednesday night women’s Bible study, where we are studying—the attributes of God.
It sure feels like God wants me to know more about who He is! I am glad that He keeps setting these lessons in front of me. There is no way to fully comprehend Him, so I will never run out of things to learn. And the more I know about Him, the better I can love and trust Him. Do you feel like God is trying to teach you something? Perhaps that’s what He wants us to ponder. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Written by Sarah Jane Todd
It is impossible to arrive at midwinter and not eagerly look, through the cloud of cedar pollen borne on the wings of an arctic front, toward Easter. Easter, heralding the spring, renewal and revival. We are so anxious for that day, we turn out our winter décor a little too soon, grasp for pastels and bunnies and flowers, attempt to brighten our lives. Here in central Texas, the false promise of spring occasionally tempts the trees to bud a few weeks early, only to be cut off by a late freeze, an ice storm at an inopportune time.
Patience, breathes our God, the promise warm. He will not leave us in the wasteland.
We are just about to enter Lent – the forty days before Easter in which we commemorate Jesus’ time in the desert. The meaning of Lent is easily distorted; legalism relishes a time for rules and regulation, after all. I grew up in such a tradition, plunking dimes into a box for every piece of chocolate I snuck or curse word I let slip. The entire point was lost on me. As I entered into a relationship with Christ, this was one of the biggest things He redeemed for me; there is a purpose in “giving up” the things of this world, to admitting I have idols and forcibly turning from them, tossing them on the fire. That purpose is to take my fill of His word and His presence.
Just as CrossPointe will take a day to fast, to draw closer to our God, so Lent is meant as a time to focus on spending time with our Lord. We were asked at our retreat – is there something you are willing to give up in order to spend MORE time with Him? That question stayed with me. There are so many things, worldly and material, but also on my heart, weighing my soul. So I will challenge myself in this, and put some parameters on it. For the forty days of Lent, beginning on February 14, what will I give up – or even add to my life – in order to spend more time at the feet of Christ?
That has the power to change me. I have to be willing, eager, to let it. To let Him.
My impatience for spring can yet be softened, I believe. It can be anticipation, for the glory of the Risen Christ. I can take the time to think and pray on the meaning of His sacrifice, in order that I might appreciate the reality of His glory.
When spring arrives, as gentle as a lamb or as mighty as a lion, it will be as God intends it to and in His time. All I can do in response is to temper my impatience – a thing of this world, remember, a sin born at Eve’s feet – by seeking the safety and assurance of His presence.
Written by Michele Samuelson
I love sunlight. I do. I crave it. Like a plant, I turn my face to the sun and soak in its goodness. My blinds and curtains are open. My chair at the table faces the window so I can see the sun. As someone who has struggled with depression and other mood disorders throughout my adult life, I know how vital getting my daily dose of vitamin D laden light rays is. When the skies turn grey for an extended period of time or when the days grow short and the hours of sunshine are limited, I turn to my artificial sun, my lightbox, for a shot of bright light therapy. It helps. The cosmetic damage to my skin is more than outweighed by the psychological help to the rest of me.
But what about when the whole world seems dark? When the daily news is full of hatred and pain. Or when shadows and gloom darken your own personal situation. The solution is the same: turn to the light. Jesus tells us in John’s gospel “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).
Light has long been seen as a symbol of God’s presence. Whether it was the burning bush that attracted Moses, the pillar of flame that guided the Israelites at night through the desert or the burning of a candle on an alter today, the flame reminds us of God’s everlasting presence with us and of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. Seek the light of God’s presence.
John’s gospel tells us that “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:19-21)
What about you? Are the blinds and curtains of your mind and heart open to receive the son? Are you positioning yourself to face him? Friends, there is darkness in the world. But there is also light. Step into the light. His love is radiant and his power to overcome the darkness is absolute. Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5). Let his light shine in and through your darkness.