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

 

Going to the City!!

Lillyann ran ahead of Mylah this morning, and she was out of breath and talking a mile a minute when she arrived in my room. Luckily, I was on my second cup of coffee and fully awake so I could enjoy her excitement. When mommy and Mylah came in, Lillyann told mommy that Mylah was going to Mere’s, and she was going to the city!! If you aren’t familiar with Bryson City, you may not appreciate her remark. Our little town is beautiful, but it is very tiny. Gina and I smiled and enjoyed the joy:) I love the perspective children bring to life, and I love the effect the girls have had on me over the past year as I’ve had the privilege of keeping them while mommy was in school. I’ve learned so very much as I’ve gotten closer to them.

Witness is about loving, and children love as God desires. They are wonderful witnesses. Christ loves that about children and asks us to be more like them. They love simply and find joy in life. I pray my witness will be as enthusiastic as Lillyann’s was this morning as she talked about going to the city. She made me want to go to, and that’s what witness is all about. Matthew 19:14 says it simply and beautifully,

But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” NASB

The world says to grow up, be serious, stop daydreaming, and straighten up! Jesus said the kingdom is more like children than adults. I pray I will see life through the same lens Lillyann sees it now, and I hope she never stops getting excited about going to the city. 

As I look at our beautiful town, I see why Lillyann is so excited.  Folks come from all over the world to visit Bryson City, NC. I am very blessed to live and love here:)

Going to the City

Decisions, Divisions….

Life is a series of decisions that affect all those in my path. Every decision I make puts me either closer to God or further away from Him. It is impossible for me to make the right decisions without the help of the Holy Spirit. The old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is wise indeed. Doing what I think is best isn’t the way to go. I have to listen to God and trust His Spirit when it comes to decisions. If I allow His Spirit to help me obey when I don’t understand, I will find joy and peace. Good intentions often lead to divisions as differences of opinion abound when it comes to what is right and best.

Being still for an instant before speaking or acting allows time to pray and gives God space in which to work. I have always been a go-getter and a doer, and I can get a lot done in a little time when motivated. The practice of stillness in each moment allows me to do what God has in mind. I still get much done, but those tiny prayers leave me less frazzled. God has given me many opportunities to practice that stillness this week, and I can tell a big difference in what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. That’s a big step on the path to a praying life.

One beautiful side effect of the new way of praying is the quality of my sleep. Racing thoughts are gone because they are all about plowing through the day without those still moments of prayer. The stillness before each decision takes care of them one at a time throughout the day, and the time of prayer before sleep finishes off any loose ends. I’m finding there aren’t very many left at the end of the day. I’m busier than ever, watching only a few minutes of TV each day, and more connected than ever. The images God gives are clearer without all the static, and His Word is alive in a new and beautiful way.

Decisions still divide, but the divisions are ones I need. I have the tendency to make connections that are unhealthy, but I’m finding it is much easier to connect as God desires when I practice those moments of stillness. The battle is always between what I want or what someone else wants and what God desires. Selfishness and the desire to please are powerful forces, but they do not hold a candle to God’s love. Seeing Christ’s love in each decision brings a sweet unity with Him that makes each decision a little easier. My praying is often simply saying, “I love you Lord, Thank you God, or Help me Spirit.” Simplicity is best when it comes to praying; the same is true for talking:)

A sweet sense of peace comes with each decision that brings me nearer to God. That helps me know I’m going in the right direction, and that makes this journey a joy:)

Sweet Simplicity:)

As I cleaned, packed, and unpacked yesterday, I thought of how much stuff I have. Ten years ago, I made an important step in the right direction. It was freeing to leave my stuff behind, but I wouldn’t have if given a choice. I have accumulated more stuff in the past decade, but I find it much easier to let go now. I have learned not to attach to stuff, and that’s a beautifully freeing feeling.

Stuff complicates and gets in the way of simplicity.  I plan to make sure that I don’t get buried by the desire to hang on to anything other than God’s love. Now is the perfect time to pass along those things I don’t need and find new uses for what I do have. There’s a sweetness to simplicity that I crave more and more.

At the heart of simplicity is knowing what’s important and letting go of all that isn’t. It has taken a long time for me to come to that place of understanding, but I suppose it’s all part of growing up. Christ knew what was important and lived a simple life, and so did John the Baptist. God’s message was, and always will be, a simple one that appeals to simple folks.

My lifestyle will change dramatically in the coming months, and I’m looking forward to the lessons and the love that God has in store. I pray I will remember that simplicity makes life much sweeter and allows God the space He needs. I’m finding that I literally have to stop what I’m doing and look at the view from time to time. As the sun set yesterday, I realized that I didn’t need to worry about hanging my pictures on the wall. God already painted an amazing landscape that changes by the second. I also don’t think I’ll worry about cable or internet service for a while:)

Psalm 116:6 says, “The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.” and Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” 

As I humbly look to God’s words for light and understanding, I will be brought low. It is a good low that puts me in the perfect position to learn  from and love Him. We are all “the simple;” we just don’t all know it. I’m learning that simple is a good thing, and simplicity is very sweet:)

Simple Worship

I love First Tuesday Communion and Prayer because it is a perfect example of simple worship. The first worship services involved sharing the Lord’s Supper and pausing to remember the mystery of Christ’s gift of salvation. We get further and further away from that sweet simplicity in our worship services. The intimacy of the First Tuesday meal touches my very soul, and I told a friend yesterday that I wished all our worship was as simple and beautiful.

I look at the church publications and get dizzy with all the plans. Plans for this, plans for that, plans for this month, plans for next month, and plans for six months down the road. I get overwhelmed as dates run together.  It is important to have opportunities for fellowship, and I enjoy being part of many of those activities, but the message on Wednesday night reminded me that we are here to proclaim the good news.

Perhaps it’s a sign I’m getting old, but I found myself wishing this week that worship was less complicated. As we sang “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”  Wednesday evening, I felt a sweet sense of His Holy Spirit as our hearts and attention turned away from all the busyness and bustle for a moment. God often only ends up with a moment here and a moment there. I wonder at His love and patience and pray that I will let the things of earth take their proper place.

Worship gets to be work and arranging and planning when it should be stillness and turning. Repentance allows the turning, and turning enables connection. Obedience opens the door to both peace and joy when I stop listening to the squawking noises of those determined to distract and let the still, small voice have center stage. As long as people gather together, there will be a battle for attention. Jesus didn’t need accolades or attention so He didn’t seek a favored spot on the stage. He turned His attention to God, and that’s what simple worship is all about:)

Simplicity

Finding simplicity in this complicated world is almost impossible. It’s illusive and quickly flees as soon as I reach for my planner. Simplicity is essential when it comes to witnessing, and opportunities are lost as I rush in and complicate God’s plan with my wonderful ideas. His plan is a simple one to which I add my own bells and whistles. The first step in finding simplicity is renewing my relationship with God. Connecting to God allows a wonderful fullness that spills over and enables my witness to become His.

Connecting to God is as important to my heart as drinking water is to my body. Being dehydrated last week reminded me of what happens when I don’t get the water my body needs. My spirit also gets dry and craves the living water Christ offers. Sabbath is is a long cool drink of living water that gives me the strength and love I need to connect to others. God refills and restores my sluggish soul and spirit as I take the time to be near Him and drink in His love.  As I’m recharged, His love spills over into all I do. A beautiful regenerative cycle begins.

My life has been about making others happy and fixing whatever’s wrong. It’s no wonder I found myself emotionally and physically drained. That’s not the love Christ showed. I’m not sure where I got my model for expressing love. Perhaps it’s just the nature of a middle child. I see clearly the futility of that cycle now, and I’m glad to be out of it and into the regenerative one. True love knows that fixing and doing debilitate and end up hurting rather than helping. I’ve done enough enabling in my life to know it doesn’t work.

Loving is so much more than enabling. Love spurs me to do for those I love, and Jesus makes it clear that all are to be loved. I find I am actually doing more for others than ever and enjoying it more as I let God lead and ignore the pull for attention and the yank of guilt. Taking them out of the equation leaves a beautiful open space for love. Love requires space; that is another simple truth I’ve learned this month.  Love grows, blooms, and is able to form deep roots when given space, and love that grows deeply is love at its very best. Love that does indeed last forever:)