May 24, 2010

Lessons from the Garden: The Smell of Success!

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1 (KJV)

“…an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.” Phil. 4:18 (KJV)

Saturday I was alone. Bob is in Montana visiting family. So it was just me and the cat. But before you feel sorry for me – I wasn’t blue at all. Missing my Romeo – yes, but enjoying some household solitude as well.

I decided to spend the day creating a new flower bed just outside of my office window. It would entail a trip to Home Depot and digging out a fair amount of grass. Now I have to admit, yard work is not my forte. Very few people have ever witnessed my outdoor efforts. In fact, more people have pictures of Big Foot than have caught me gardening. However, just because I seldom engage in this task, doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it! I am a woman of many secrets! Ha!

After my trip that incurred a cost of $40 over my budget (there goes the groceries!) and 2 dozen trips from the car to my back yard, I took a break! Then I measured and outlined my bed. With the aid of a saw, I furiously ripped up all the grass and weeds. Next on the list was the careful placement and alignment of my white scalloped brick border. Add to the mix a few bags of additional soil and I was ready to plant. Of course, I used the work and hour and break for 30 minutes plan throughout my day.

My pièce de résistance came in the form of one Hibiscus (topiary style), 2 Butterfly bushes, 2 Gardenias and nine succulent bedding plants. Five hours after I started, I had a flower garden worthy of the finest blue ribbons. Next week, I work on humility.

With my flora and fauna finished, I could finally turn my attention to myself. My feat wasn’t without injury. My leg had a knot where I stepped on a rake and my shin rescued me from a would-be blow to the head. I discovered the tingling of muscles long since thought dead. My thoughts quickly turned to my heating pad.

Not to mention, I was a mess! My statuesque form (ha!) was covered in dirt from head to toe. My sunscreen failed and my back was baked. I don’t care that women don’t perspire, but are supposed to glow; I was fully consumed in sweat. Then the wind changed and I noticed one final insult to all my injury. I stunk like a skunk and that is putting it mildly. I shall not embarrass myself or upset the beginning of your day by being any more descriptive than that!

Yet, somehow when looking upon my tiny garden area, the delight I felt made all the personal sacrifice worth it. It’s funny how life can be that way as well, especially relationships.

Good relationships require work. Sometime we actually have to get dirt under our fingernails to start relationships like the one we should have with God and ones we have with others. Relationships are an investment of body, mind and soul. On occasion, they come easy. You see, I’ve planted flowers in my front yard before where it was done quickly and efficiently, and without a lot of muss and fuss. But sometimes, it requires more work, like my most recent project. Both require maintenance which can also be easier some days than others.

Bottom line, whether it’s a beginning work or a maintenance work, at some point your relationships and your “reasonable” service will cost you blood, sweat and yes, tears. That’s what it cost Christ.

I think sometimes we think our relationship to Christ and service in Christ (including service/relationships with others) should be one of those things that fall into place with no hard work on our part – I have been guilty of thinking that myself some days. What do you think?

I think sometimes we worry so much about being clean before God, that we forget it might require some sacrifice and sweat equity on our part. What do you think?

All I know is that when the hard work and dirt are gained by honest and godly means, for an honest and godly purpose, all that sweat and stink is a pleasant aroma before God’s presence. This means we can rest assured that all the suffering and soreness we experience are simply part of God’s “well-done thy good and faithful servant” and the end result – well, it was worth it all!

Plant something this week and which it grow!

May 16, 2010

Go Toward the Light and You’ll Never Be Lost!

“In Him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of all men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:4-5 (NASB)

My name is Barbara and I am a Lost-Aholic. I am not alone because there are thousands more like me. Perhaps you are one as well. If not maybe you know someone who is. We’re easy to spot. We are the ones who will not work overtime on Tuesday nights. Why? Because we are focused on one single task: a 9:00pm time slot. There will be no dinner dates, no homework lessons and no bathing of children when LOST is on television.

Okay, it’s a bit much but you know how I love to be melodramatic! Now I am sure many of you are anti-LOST but I ask you to bear with me – there is a point to today’s message. But first I must take you on a short journey, so sit back and relax, read on with me for a spell.

This is the last season of LOST. In fact, there are only a few shows left before it goes off the air. However, these last few shows explain all the mysteries we’ve experienced to date. Last week, the show took us back to explain the origins of two pivotal characters. It seems two brothers were raised by a mysterious woman who murdered their mother at birth. Now that’s a whole other story!

This woman was a guardian of the Island’s secret. Then it came time to show the boys the secret as one of them would take her place one day. She brought them through the jungle, blindfolded, to a remote and lovely stream. It was there they discovered a place where a brilliant and great light emanated. She said it was “The Source.” The light was magnificent and it totally captivated the two boys, drawing them closer to discover its secrets.

Unfortunately, curiosity about this light was not permitted. The woman held the boys back, instructing them to never go inside the light. It was taboo. However, it was to be guarded all at costs. She was emphatic with her instructions to guard the light as if were a good god but told one of the boys that going into the light would be a fate far worse than death. The image of the light and the instructions governing it were hard to comprehend. So… forward to the end of the episode where one of the boys was tossed into the light and came out a smoke monster!

Wow, I know you are thinking I must have something better to do with my time! Alas, I probably do but I must follow this dramatic work of fiction to the end. However, the island isn’t the only thing that works in mysterious ways, so does God. The last few days has kept me thinking about the light, or actually The Light.

You see, Scripture is quite clear that there is only one light of any real substance in life, and Jesus is that Light. He is the light that illuminates our path, guides our actions and provides clarity to our vision. He is the Light of the world. He is the light that lives within us as believers.

Now I believe that in a certain sense that light should be guarded. The Bible tells us to guard our hearts and minds in Christ. It is the source of our salvation and the source of all our power we call the Holy Spirit. We should guard ourselves as vessels of the Light at all costs against corruption and evil. We guard the Light by surrendering ourselves to the Light. We feed the Light when we spend time in prayer and in His Word. We fan the flames of the Light when we are in proper service to the Lord thus inviting others into the Light. Matthew 5:16 instructs us to let our light shine so others will see our good deeds in order to glorify God in Heaven.

Never are we instructed to guard the Light from us or others! Never are we admonished to stay away from its presence! Never would we be turned into a monster for coming in contact with the Light. In reality, just the opposite is true.

In fact, God gets great joy any time someone comes into that Light. I was blessed to be present when a new friend did exactly that last Tuesday morning! Coming into the Light is personally transforming in all ways wonderful!

Now there are some who come into the Light and leave unhappy. Remember light illuminates, so the sin-areas in our lives become highly visible in the light. But Jesus never lights up the lost, for them to remain lost. He lights up those areas so we can see our need for Him, then He delights in clearing those areas away. It’s a shame some folks choose to hang on to their sin, instead of letting the Light cleanse them from it.

So the next time you “see the Light” go towards it! And take someone along with you, while you are at it!

Out of the darkness and into the Light and loving it!

May 03, 2010

Go and Take

“And now, O Israel, listen to the statues and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, in order that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. “ Deut. 4:1 (NASB)

The Christian life is supposed to be one of selfless service. Unfortunately I have not perfected that standard in my life. I am still that proverbial work in progress and I do try! Although some days more than others. Still I have a great example in Christ to learn from. Jesus said even He did not come to be served, but to serve. Christ gave, so we are to give. Giving can be extremely rewarding. But it can also be exhausting. Therefore, I must admit, that hidden selfish part of my heart was delighted to find a verse where I get to go in and take.

It sounds selfish I know but admit it my friend, there are times you’d rather take than give! So why not take this verse today and let me give you what I took from it!

Okay, it’s Monday – not everyone’s favorite day. Perhaps among all the giving you will to do, you just might need a bit of “take” for your soul. There are several points for us to see today. Now I know I’m getting preachy – but this SOOO brings out the teacher in me!

#1 Listen – Spend some time listening to God. You might recognize this as prayer. Hopefully you didn’t enter the day without speaking to the Father and then waiting for Him to speak back! God has many things for you to know. Things like, He loves you! Don’t miss the opportunity to hear that. Even in the middle of all your busyness – set your heart and mind into listen mode. You might be surprised what He’ll say in-between answering the phone and typing reports.

#2 Perform – Obviously God has stuff for us to do. Maybe we need to make a phone call or speak to the person in the next cubicle. It could be a ministry or service at church or in the community. We won’t know what we need to perform, unless we first listen.

#3 Go in – I know, you don’t think you can go any more! You’re going far too much as it is. But in Christ – you can go the distance. You can’t perform without going. Once you have listened to God, who has revealed the task you are to perform – then go in and do it!

#4 Take possession - Yes, now that you’ve given yourself to God – it’s time to take! Take what? Take possession of that which He gives you! Possess what He has promised you! There is book full of promises to be had, we call it the Word. Go ahead – it’s okay to possess! Is there something you truly feel God calling you to do, but you have too many reservations? Doubts? Is there a blessing you are dying to behold but something is holding you back? Is there a ministry to pursue? If you have listened and felt God has given you the green light – go! Go in and take possession of that which God is giving to you!

I give you permission to be possessive about the possession God wants you to have! He loves you, He values your service and He wants to give to you. Then it’s our turn to give to Him – the glory that He richly deserves. Then we are better prepared to give to others. With God we can go and take so we are better able to go and give! Go ahead, it’s right there at your fingertips! What’s within your reach today?

Taking to give –