I have discovered over the years, that life can be challenging. God desires to sustain us as we look for "splashes of His grace" every day. My desire is that through posts, or book reviews, you may find something that points you to the grace of God, and that He ultimately will make a difference in your life.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Walking Barefoot in the Grass

When I was a child, I enjoyed walking barefoot in the grass. There was just something about it on a warm sunny day. Somehow, the grass stayed cool and it felt almost velvety under foot. Even to this day, I love the feel of a lush green lawn under my bare feet.

When we first moved into our home here in Ft. Worth, we had that kind of lawn. It had just been sodded and the hottest part of summer had not yet hit. I walked out into the backyard and thought, "we finally have a soft lawn!"  Well, over the years things have changed. Not all at once, but slowly, weeds have invaded the lawn, and have become the "healthiest" part of it. It was sad when we realized that now, almost nine years later, the only really green parts of the lawn were the weeds.

Over the last couple of weeks, my husband has been diligently trying to deal with the weeds that have overtaken our front and back yards. Instead of mowing them down like he had been doing to "hide" them, he decided it was time to take action and UPROOT them and KILL them. He even contacted a lawn care company to help identify the problem, spray the weeds, and he will soon fertilize. Since these weeds had no business being in the lawn, action had to be taken, and the time was NOW. Was it easy? No. Will it be worth it? Yes!

This past Sunday my husband preached about those "weeds." In his sermon he went on to make the analogy that sin in our lives can actually be like weeds in our lawn. If we do not deal with sin, it will eventually take over and destroy the lawn of our lives. We can try to "hide" it by mowing the sin down every so often, or we might choose to call it something else (dandelions could be called "flowers").  We may even compare our lawn to our neighbor's and decide that at least our lawn doesn't have as many weeds as theirs does, but the fact of the matter is, we all are susceptible to weeds (sin) and we must be vigilant to get rid of them as soon as they appear. It may even be beneficial to enlist some help as we identify the problem.

In addition to destroying the weeds we also have to cultivate a healthy lawn. As the lawn is well fertilized and watered, it becomes thicker and stronger and more able to choke out the weeds that so desperately want to reappear. In a similar fashion, a close walk with the Lord and choosing to do things as He prescribes, helps us to not allow sin to take root and spread.

My husband used Colossians 3:5-10 to illustrate the things that need to be removed from our lives (things like sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, malice, slander, etc.) and then Colossians 3:12-13 to suggest those things that need to be cultivated into our lives (heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance, and forgiveness). Of course these are not exhaustive lists, but they can give us a starting point.

As I thought more on the subject of "weeds/sin" this morning, I wondered if we truly understand the impact sin has in our lives and the lives of those around us. When we lived in Bluegrove, my husband was playing a game of softball with the youth of our church, in the field behind our house. I was busy in the kitchen when my little daughter ran in the house to say "Daddy is hurt!" Without thinking twice, I ran out barefoot into the field. Before long I realized there were "stickers" on the way to that field, and most of them were now in my feet! (I don't know the technical term for those "stickers", but for those of you who don't live in rural Texas, they are a weed that have little burrs that are sharp and stick into or onto anything they come in contact with!) They hurt too!! Sin can be like that. Sin brings pain into our lives and can also cause pain to those we come in contact with.

When we tolerate sin in our life, we may never fully realize the hurt and damage it causes in our own life and in the lives of others until it's too late. When you think about your life, can you say that people can walk "barefoot" on the lawn of your life without the fear of discovering "stickers" hidden in the field?  The end result of sin is never good. We must be diligent to keep our lawn weed-free!
This week our church was challenged to ask God to reveal those weeds in our life that need to be uprooted. We may be surprised that what we thought were little flowers were really undercover weeds. We were also asked to prayerfully cultivate one of the seven positive characteristics of the Colossians 3:12-13 list each day for the next seven days. Will you also take up that challenge? When God shows you what needs to be removed, uproot it!! And when your lawn is weed free, be diligent to keep it that way. Oh there will be seeds of sin that will try to take root again, but don't let them linger. They are easier to dig out when they're small.

May the lawn of our lives be lush and green.
And may you enjoy a barefoot stroll through the grass this summer!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An Abundant Harvest

The last couple of years I've attempted to have a vegetable garden. When I was a child, I admired my grandmother's garden.  She grew some vegetables, strawberries, and peach and apple trees in her little backyard. She definitely had a "green thumb"! We often thought that if she stuck a dead stick in the ground, it would sprout leaves!   My sisters and I would survey her garden almost every time we visited, and couldn't wait until it was the right time of year for us to enjoy an apple or peach pie as a result of her harvest!
I don't know if it's the Texas heat (instead of the more moderate summers of Michigan), or if I haven't quite inherited the "green thumb" of my grandmother, but my garden has been hit or miss these last couple of years. It usually starts off pretty good, but by July, the plants have seen better days! I get some produce, but I wouldn't say it was abundant!
This year has been even more of a struggle. I've been doing square foot gardening, and decided we would build another box and expand the amount of gardening space. I purchased the seed, some tomato and pepper plants, and embarked on the great adventure. I had great expectations!  This would be the year of a great harvest!  Then it happened -- a frost!  I knew it was coming, so I tried to prepare for it by covering the plants.  I lost one pepper plant, but the rest of the peppers, and the tomatoes survived.  Phew!!  Then it happened again --  a couple days later, another frost!  This time I wasn't so lucky.  Even though they were covered, the tomatoes and remaining pepper plants didn't look like they were going to make it.  Well, at least my green beans, cucumbers and squash were safe.  They were just seeds and protected from the harsh weather. Or so I thought!
I replanted my tomato and pepper plants and waited for my seeds to sprout.  The germination time was supposed to be about a week to 10 days, and I assumed since we had the cold weather, they just needed a little more time.  Every day I would check the garden to see if I saw even a bulge in the dirt that would give me hope that something was growing.  Nothing!  After 3 weeks, I decided it was a lost cause and I needed to replant the seeds. I dug up the dirt, still anticipating I would find something starting to sprout, but to my disappointment there was NOTHING!  I diligently planted the seeds again, wondering if it was even worth it.  For the money I have invested in the garden this year, I could have bought baskets of fresh veggies from the Farmer's Market!! Nevertheless, I planted the seeds and then began to wait again.
Well, that was five days ago, and when I went out to my garden this morning I was encouraged! There were about four cucumber seeds sprouting, and though I don't see them yet, there are a few little bulges in the soil where the green bean seeds were planted.  My squash have sprouted, and I have renewed hope. There are still times of heat to come, along with the threat of bugs and the need for water and fertilizer, but there is hope.
Isn't that like life?  We think we're planted, maybe even a fairly "established" plant, and then a frost comes, or maybe it's the heat. If the weather doesn't get us, we feel like we've been eaten up by the bugs, or feel so malnourished or thirsty, we don't think we'll survive, let alone produce any fruit.  I have good news.  There is still hope.  We have a "Master Gardener" who tends to us. He knows exactly what He's doing.  He knows when we need water or fertilizer.  He knows when we need to be pruned.  He longs for us to produce an abundant harvest. John 15:1-8 describes Jesus as the vine and His Father as the vineyard keeper. We become fruitful when we abide in Him.
I was further encouraged by a passage I recently read in Luke 13:6-9.  There was a fig tree that hadn't produced fruit in three years.  The man told the vineyard worker to cut it down! He said, "why should it even waste the soil?" The vineyard worker requested one more year to dig around it and fertilize it. He had hope, he was not willing to give up. Perhaps you've been unfruitful for years.  You think you are just "wasting the soil" you stand on. You wonder if God has just given up on you. The answer is NO!  He continues to work the soil of your life and provide the spiritual nourishment you need.  He may have to prune you or kill off a few "bugs," but the result will be an abundant harvest if you're willing to submit to His tending.
Perhaps you have felt the Lord leading you to do something new, or to try something you've been too fearful to try before. You've planted some "seed" but haven't seen anything "sprout" yet.  Don't give up! Even if the seed needs to be replanted, there is hope! Trust in the Lord of the Harvest!

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green.
                                                                                Psalm 92:12-14

Get ready!  The harvest is coming!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Unglued Devotional by Lysa Terkeurst

How quickly do you become "unglued" when trying circumstances and situations arise? Are you trapped in an emotional cycle? Through this devotional, Lysa Terkeurst gives insight and wisdom into how to handle "life" through personal stories and examples of how God has taught her to handle these circumstances without becoming unglued!

Lysa wrote a best-selling book, Unglued, to encourage women to experience greater peace and calm in relationships.  The Unglued Devotional is a companion book that takes the reader on a 60-day journey toward emotional stability, which can be seen in everyday actions and in healthier personal relationships.

Each day includes a daily Scripture, thought for the day, the devotion (a "personal story" related to the topic), and a closing prayer.  Unlike other devotionals I've read, Lysa does not necessarily expound on Scripture, but rather, her devotional uses situational examples for the reader to identify with.  The "Thought for the Day" was a concise statement that encouraged the reader to step back and realize who she is or can be with the Lord's help. These daily readings enable the reader to pause, look at the problem clearly, and then evaluate what your response should be, rather than reacting as you always have.

To me, the book could be helpful, but it was not what I expected as a typical "devotional".  It was more of a collection of stories (perhaps even taken directly from the book, Unglued) with the thought, verse, and prayer tagged on. I think most women will identify with these stories and will benefit from the encouragement to be more in control of their emotions and reactions in order to live their lives in the way God intended, but perhaps just reading the book could do that.

I received this book from BookSneeze in exchange for my honest review.