Doing a Little Gardening

When I find silence in a tumult, solitude in a crowd, or simplicity in a complicated life, I know I have come to a place of sweet intimacy with God. The peace that passes understanding in Philippians 4:5-7 becomes real in my heart, and I’m able to go forward knowing I am loved and capable of loving others.

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” NASB

I’ve also looked at the parable of the soils in Luke 8:4-15 this week and realized I am anxious far too much of the time.

When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear,let him hear.”His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” (NASB)

The thorns of doubt, fear, and worry choke my peace and hide me from God’s love. It’s safe in the thorn patch. The weeds and thorns keep me out of the open where God wants me to be. The fruit of the Holy Spirit only thrives in the open field, so I pray for the perseverance to bear love in my life and in this world. Love brings joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I need all in my life and know love will flourish as I ask the Holy Spirit to do a little weeding.

Doubts, fears, and worry are uprooted when I remember Who God is and who I am. I am loved, and I am not alone. That clears out those thorns and lets Christ’s light shine on my heart in a way that makes me want the intimacy and peace that only comes from loving God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. Then I am able to love others as myself. Wonderful growth cycle that is much better than going around in circles or hiding behind the thorns.

Photography by the New Diplomat's Wife
Photography by the New Diplomat’s Wife

 

Words Are Not Necessary

When praying and loving, words are not necessary. In fact, the lesson yesterday was that weeping is praying and loving at a deep level. As I wept, I wasn’t consciously praying or loving, but I felt a sweet sense of relief and love. God hears my heart more clearly when my mind and mouth are still, and nothing silences them like weeping. Words are not only not necessary when loving and praying, they often get in the way. When I offer consolation, advice, or comfort, I never know what to say. When I pray, I am the same way.

The most important lessons so far in the path to the praying life have been about words. All who know me, know I love words, but I’m getting better with silence and am very thankful for God’s patience in that regard. I have practiced prolonged silence at the reflection center, but I have difficulty with silence around others. I have a need to fill the space, but I’m learning to give up that space to God and be still. There is nothing like silence to help the spirit and heart draw near to God, and there is also nothing like silence when it comes to worshipping and loving Him. I love raising my voice in praise, and I will sing as long as I have breath in me; but silence is the sweetest worship.

I sat for a long while yesterday and watched the beautiful horizon. After a week of crying and a morning of weeping, my heart lifted in God’s presence. The sounds from above blessed my spirit and I thanked God for Mylah and Lillyann’s healing. They have a way to go before they are up and running, but they are on the mend. While they are sick, only mommy will do, so I know Gina is worn thin. I’ve thought of God as I’ve seen the girls cling and even fight over mommy’s lap. I am the same way when I’m hurting; I want God, and nothing or no one else will do. That was the message this week. The only way to survive grief here is to have God at the center of my heart and life. Only His Holy Spirit can offer hope when I am hurting. Nothing or no one else will do.

I may have a tough day today as two little girls go through mommy withdrawal. I’m hoping they are well enough to play and eat, so I can fill in for her while she’s away at school. I’m sure mommy will have Mylah and Lilly withdrawal as well because I’m ready for some little girl time myself:)

The Sin of Seriousness

The sin of seriousness is very serious indeed. It is not only accepted, but those who take themselves seriously are often seen as saints. I’ve taken myself far too seriously for far too long, but God gave me a wake-up call this week. I’ve seen the path to God’s presence as a path of piety, and it most certainly is about being devout and taking God seriously. The problem with piety is that it can lead to a pious attitude of moralizing which can quickly become hypocrisy when seriousness is directed inward.

When simplicity in worship is replaced with self-centered seriousness, God is lost in the shuffle. Sweet silence and time in prayer is lost in activities which put personal agendas ahead of God’s. The first worship services took place in the homes of believers who shared communion and prayer together so they would not forget the cost of their salvation. Now, it’s difficult to see God in all the busyness church has become. Pastor John often talks about the difference between an organization and an organism when it comes to church. The body of Christ is an organism, but it so often resembles an organization or a club. Exclusivity is as big a problem as is trying to please everyone.

Reading God’s Word and praying together is at the heart of worship. Music is also important for me, but only when it complements and doesn’t drown out or draw my attention away from praying and hearing God. I love to hear beautiful music, but I also like to hear the sweet silence of God’s people turning their hearts toward Him in unison. As we took communion on Sunday, I found myself wanting silence in the moment which is a time of profound seriousness to me. I suppose my need for silence caused as big a distraction in my heart as the organ music did in my ears:) Inner silence doesn’t need outer silence, and I know the problem was in me.

When I find myself judging or criticizing, I know I’m heading into dangerous territory. God always gives me a very vivid reminder of my own humanity to remind me not to take myself so seriously and to give me a dose of humility which is the only antidote when piety turns into hypocrisy:) The good news is that the lesson was a funny one that gave me a chuckle. The lesson itself was a serious one that reminded me that the only things about myself I need to take seriously are my sins and the price Christ paid so I could be forgiven of them. I know that was at the heart of my angst during communion.

It’s easier to look for excuses in the form of music playing too loudly or not loudly enough, ministers who don’t say what I want to hear, uncomfortable seating, not enough activities, too many activities, and on and on when it comes to problems with my worship. The heart of my worship is my heart, so when I am uncomfortable, I need to look in it instead of elsewhere to find the source of the distraction. When I find it and take it seriously, then I can worship with an undivided heart as God desires. Love is about unity, and what doesn’t unite me to God and Christ’s body will surely divide more than just my attention.