Gardening Tips: No Need for Seed

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written:

“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. – 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (NIV)

Unlike those who depend on the harvest for their livelihood, we get to give ours away.  We don’t depend on storehouses where moth and rust destroy, but the storehouses of heaven.  But it is too easy in our self-centered society, to keep things for ourselves.  There has recently been much discontent among some in the United States about the inequity wealth.  They feel that somehow they have been cheated or robbed, but at the core, they believe they should have what someone else has; they are greedy.  They fall in the same trespass they judge others for and are oblivious to the irony.

This world would be a better place if we spent less time getting for ourselves and more time giving of ourselves.  Our neighborhoods and families would be all the more blessed for our willingness to give to the needs of others.  But the keys are laid out clearly in the passage above: it is a personal choice, done with confidence and without outside coercion.  Giving should be a reaction to God’s goodness to us and our giving will increase with our understanding of His goodness.

Giving, generosity, charity – they are certainly attributes of the followers of Christ, but it isn’t just what we do, but why we do it and how we do it.  We need to be motivated by the right reasons to do the righteous things.  There needs to be purpose and will behind our giving; first God’s and then ours coming in line to partner in generosity to those in need.  Too much is given to fulfill a sense of duty.  Too much is done to meet perceived obligations.  Too much is dedicated to avoiding guilt trips from those in authority.  As followers of Christ we are beholden to no one but God for what we give, but that is a far more demanding position to be in.

So if we put our giving in the hands of God, where does our confidence lie?  It lies in the promise that His storehouses never run out; that He will always provide all we need to do all He wants for everyone He loves.  The real truth is that the seeds were never ours to keep.  When we become selfish with the blessings God provides, we are thieves and robbers, stealing the blessings from others.  Let us give because we have nothing to lose.  Let us do for others because everything has already been accomplished for us through Christ.  Let us be used by God to disperse His blessings.

Lord, help me to live a generous life in light of Your gracious blessings.  May I be used by You to bless others.  Give me eyes to see where it is You would have me give and keep me rooted in Your will.  Amen.


Gardening Tips: Fallow Ground

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. – Exodus 23:10-11 (NRSV)

In the years before chemical fertilizers and horticultural sciences, it was common practice to let fields rest so that the soil could replenish and recover.  There are still many places that rotate their crops from field to field so that each crop is getting the nutrients needed for a good harvest.  This is something God has wired into us; a need for rest to replenish and restore. For the people of Israel it was a necessary and vital part of their culture; for us it is a necessary and vital part of our spiritual growth and health.

We used planters this year for growing most of our garden.  We used some of the same soil we did the last two years and thought it would be enough to mix in some compost, but we had to use far more fertilizer than normal to keep our garden going.  The soil we used was tired.  It knew it, but we did not.  As believers we need to be attentive to the soil of our hearts to know when it needs to rest, replenish and restore.

One of the most important ways to practice this is holding to a weekly Sabbath.  This is certainly any area of improvement needed for me, but I believe it is endemic to our current American culture.  We have sleep aids, technology that keeps us constantly connected and entertainment that draws us away from rest to busyness.  We need to overcome our culture and claim the rest that God has prepared for us.  We need to make holy for ourselves what God has said is holy.

Rest is not easy for most of us.  It is a discipline because we can always think of something we could or “should” be doing.  This is the handiwork of the enemy and a broken world.  There is never anything more important than doing the will of God and the Sabbath sits firmly in the center of His will.  It is the practice of the Sabbath that prepares our hearts for the fresh crop, for new seed, for the tiller in the hand of God preparing our hearts for the next season.

Lord, help us be a people of the Sabbath, resting in Your presence and power.  Let us cast aside every care and worry, trusting wholly in You to provide all we need.  You are the Lord of the harvest, but also the Lord of the Sabbath and we want to be Your subjects on that day.  Amen.

Gardening Tips: Count Your Blessings Together

Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways.

You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.

Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. – Psalms 128:1-4 (NIV)

I just finished making a batch of zucchini bread and a batch of squash bread and I have to tell you, eating the fruit of you labors is good….really good.  Tomatoes with more flavor than a juicy steak, strawberries with just the right balance of sweet and tart, and the blessing of watching my family enjoy these products from the field.  Good times.

It challenges me to find that same blessing in our life together with God.  Sometimes we all can get on our own track, concerned with the burdens of our life and responsibilities and forget about what God provides.    We don’t count our blessings nearly enough as we should.  We get overcome by our own burdens and focused on how we can take care of ourselves.  We become less like family and more like roommates.

The amazing thing about working toward the harvest is that you get to eat the fruit and share the experience.  Not only do we appreciate the bounty of the work, but we can bear one another up in the process.  I am grateful for all our garden has provided this year, but I will take laughter and conversation at the table where its fruit is eaten any day of the week.  The problem is that I don’t always do that.  I get focused on my own life and problems and forget to enjoy the blessings that are sitting at the table with me.

Lord, help me have eyes to see the blessings around me every day, especially the beautiful family you have given me.  Grow in me a desire to bless them and encourage them in their journey with You.  Make us a family marked by love and respect for one another. Amen.

Gardening Tips: It’s About the Harvest

They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest; he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish. – Psalms 107:37-38 (NIV)

Sowing seeds is always about the harvest.  There is no purpose to seeding the ploughed ground if we do not expect or work toward a harvest.  The sunflower we planted quite a few months ago has bloomed and begun to wilt.  This is actually a good thing.  The seeds of the sunflower, the part we eat, will not be ready until the flower has died and dried.  That one seed planted in the ground, watered, fertilized and tended will yield a harvest of hundreds, each seed capable of being planted in the ground to begin the process again.

This is the beauty and math of spiritual growth.  As we grow, as the seeds of truth take root and grow in the soil of our hearts, we have seeds to plant ourselves in the lives of others.  But the seeds must be watered, fertilized and tended.  The life of Christ in us is not primarily about taking in truth anymore than gardening is about planting seeds.  The life of Christ is about the harvest of those truths, the fruit of a disciplined life caring for and tending those truths in our hearts and minds.

So how is the garden of your soul?  Are you just taking in seed after seed thinking that every new and profound idea or thought in itself will fix your life?  Are you consciously pursuing the harvest of what has been poured into your life through the work of the Holy Spirit?  Is your life helping others experience a harvest in their hearts and minds?  Are you taking the seeds of your harvest and sharing them with those around you?  This is the beauty and math of spiritual growth.

Lord, help me to be a tender and sower of seeds.  Help me to be disciplined about the truths you plant in my life so that they may bring a harvest that glorifies You.  May my life in You produce seeds for other’s hearts and promote the kingdom of God.  Amen.

Gardening Tips: In Increasing Measure

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. – 2 Peter 1:5-9 (NIV)

Our sunflower finally bloomed this last week and it was well-worth the wait.  It reached a bit over 9 feet tall and the bloom is about the size of a dinner plate.  I am hoping to get a good amount of seed from the flower head and will be saving some to plant next year.  We had other plants that did not fare as well.  They stopped growing and produced little or no harvest.  To be fair to the plants, it may have been human error that caused their downfall, but they gone nonetheless with nothing left behind.

We do not have the same excuse as the plants.  Just a few verses before the passage above, Peter is clear that God “has given us everything we need.”  If we don’t grow, we have to look at ourselves.  If we don’t keep moving forward, we will move backward.  If we don’t yet have in ourselves all that is Christ, we still have room to grow.  We need everything Christ has for us.

Our sunflower apparently got everything it needed, or at least most everything.  It is strong, healthy and it is bearing fruit.  When we allow ourselves to be “gardened” by God, we will get everything we need; we will be strong, healthy and fruitful.

Lord, help me to be deeply rooted in who You are and what You desire.  May my life bear much fruit as You pour everything I need to be Your servant.  Let me have a life that reflects Your character “in increasing measure.” Amen.

Gardening Tips: Follow the Sun

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)

We have attempted a garden this year with some success; zucchinis, tomatoes, butternut squash and others. Each plant has an unique and incredible differences.  One of our biggest and most anticipated is a giant sunflower.  It has reached about 8 feet in height and a single flower is beginning to emerge.  In watching this flower develop, one characteristic stood out; it follows the sun.

This is actually a common trait among many plants, but the sunflower has the amazing ability to reset for the next day.  Once the sun has set, the sunflower turns back to the east to wait for the sun to rise. It isn’t just drawn to the light, but has an expectation of the light returning.

This is a good patern for us to follow as people of God.  We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, but sometimes we lose sight of Him.  The darkness of this world, our situation or even our bad choices block our view of Him.  In those times we need to reset our perception to look with anticipation for His light to shine on us again.  We need to position ourselves to receive His
light and love.  So follow the Son and live in such a way that even when He seems out of sight, you are still living like
He is coming back.  If a sunflower can do it….

The Discipline of Presence: Forgiveness

Matthew 6:9-15 (NIV)
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

It is interesting that the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus clarifies is the section on forgiveness.  Not God’s will, not daily bread, not temptation – just forgiveness.  It is the only prayer that is answered based on our success in doing the same for others.  Jesus is clearly speaking to the human propensity for holding a grudge that keeps us in our little kingdom-of-me instead of the Kingdom of God.

We have been doing some gardening behind the house the last few years and one thing is abundantly clear: you must tend the garden every day.  We learned this by watching horn worms devastate our tomato plants.  We took this to heart when weeds became so entangled with cucumber plants it was hard to tell them apart.  If we wanted our garden to bear fruit in season, we had to be disciplined everyday in its care and maintenance.

Condemnation, anger, arrogance and even hate can take root in our hearts if we do not tend the soil each day.  God wants fertile ground for the seeds of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (and) self-control.”  If we allow offenses to go unforgiven, our hearts are full of weeds that will not allow the fruitfulness God desires.  The ill-will we hold toward those we think have hurt us is like a worm eating at the vine that keeps us abiding in God.

Forgiveness is a daily discipline like weeding the garden. With God’s help, we can pull out the bitter roots and free up our hearts for the work of the Spirit. Forgiveness breaks the chains of judgment, pride and hate that can choke our growth in the Lord.  Forgiveness gives us eyes to see the wormy thoughts that eat away at the work of the Holy Spirit.  This is one of the ways we remain present in our walk with God.  It allows us to have an attitude toward others that reflects the attitude our heavenly Father has toward us:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

Is your compassion renewed each morning?  Do you begin each day by wiping the slate clean for others?  Maybe it is time to weed the soil of a heart that is broken and weary from the fruitless toil of anger and pain.  Maybe it is the season to prepare for new seeds to be planted, nurtured and watered with the work of the Holy Spirit.  Maybe today you can pull up one of those especially deep-rooted weeds that is keeping you from moving forward.  Maybe today is the day to move from being forgiven to being forgiving.