Saturday, April 30, 2011

Garden of Growth

Green beans! I have green beans growing in my little balcony garden! This past week I discovered that a handful of green beans have sprouted from my little garden. So far I've pulled two, but there are plenty more that need to hang on for a little longer. Last year only three sprouted so this is an incredible jump in growth! OK, I know some of you are laughing. Yes, it's kind of pitiful if you think about it, but I love the idea that something edible is growing in my garden. Actually, I love the idea that something is simply growing! It's been a lot of hard work. Watering daily and making sure the sunlight is just right is not always easy to remember. But what a rewarding moment it is to sit back in the lawn chair and realize for the first time that there are actual beans hanging from the stems of the once plain green plant! God is so good! I'm sure He's smiling and laughing with me at this small yet powerful discovery!

Something very similar occurred in my heart over the past several weeks as well. The 21 day Daniel fast ended last week and I've been allowed to have practically any food that I want for the last several days. Granted on Easter I ate my fill of wonderful strawberry cake, carrot cake, and cookies, but other than that the sweets are limited and the junk food is remaining off limits. A treat every now and again maybe, but surprisingly I don't miss it! What I do miss are the quiet mornings of devotion time with God when I took extra time to meditate and think over the purpose of the fast and the opportunity to grow closer to  Him. It wasn't anything new. I've always started the morning with a quiet time, but the last three weeks there was a clear focus and an open heart. Not a major change, but definitely some growth going on in the garden of my heart. Sadly, when the fast was over it was like everyday life just fell into my lap and I've been trudging on ever since.

Praise God for this time now to sit and share the experience and receive a gentle nudge of a reminder that I can always go back. Do I need to fast again? Well, maybe for a day or even a couple of hours to help re-set my focus, but what really needs to change is my perspective. During the fast it felt like God was carrying my burdens for me. They were still there, but I was looking to Him for advice and guidance on how to handle them. When the fast ended, I (for some reason) assumed I had to take the load back since "fast time" was over. The truth is, God wants to be our guide, comforter, friend, Father, Savior, and yes, burden carrier all of the time. The purpose of the fast was to re-discover the amazing relationship He desires to have with each of us. The challenge after the fast is to allow continual growth by keeping the garden of our heart open and receptive to His voice and will.

It's not always easy, but the growth and leaps forward down His path are definitely worth it. So here we go to another 21 days and more of leaving the burdens and problems with God, taking extra time to literally stop and smell the beauty of creation, and enjoy times of prayer and devotion with the Father!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do You Hear It?

Do you hear it? Do you hear the sound of creation singing to the Father? Do you hear the heavenly hosts singing? Do you hear the chorus of praise? Listen carefully. Listen closely. Stop what you're doing. Sit quietly. Silence the thoughts in your head. Stand still and listen. Do you hear? The silence is singing. The busy city streets are praising Him. The wind is rushing to His throne. The children are sending up cries of laughter. The earth is moving in rhythm of glorious exaltation to the King of Kings.

It's day 17 of the 21 day Daniel fast. I'm in the midst of the third and final week and the focus is hearing God and Him alone. It's hard. Earlier all I could hear was the noise around me, but then God spoke. He told me to listen harder. "All I hear is noise," I replied. "Noise to you, but not to me, listen," He said once again. So I listened and I realized the noise and craziness going on around me is all to His glory. The sounds of the people and the congestion of busy city streets are translated through heavenly realms into praise to His Holy Name. Even those who do not choose to worship; they can do nothing to deviate the praise and exaltation to God.

Whether we deny Him or embrace Him we are His children and He loves us and is constantly speaking to us. Believers automatically translate the sound and understand His calling. Christ has opened our hearts, eyes, and ears to the sounds of Heaven. Unbelievers can't hear it. They don't stop long enough to allow their heart to listen. They're in a tunnel of darkness and it's up to us to shine the light of Christ and help bring them out of the mist and into His presence. But we can't do that if we aren't taking time to listen ourselves. We can get thrown back into the cloud of darkness just like unbelievers when we fill ourselves with the ways of this world. Don't get distracted. We "are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light" (I Peter 2:9). Sing loud and clear! Praise Him in all circumstances. Shine the light of Christ into the darkness of this world. Listen for the praises and join in!

Below is an awesome video about praising God in the midst of the noisy world around us. Enjoy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

God Reaps What He Sows

God reaps what He sows. That phrase may sound a little strange. Many of us are used to hearing the phrase "we will reap what we sow" meaning if we judge others we will be judged or if we treat others harshly then we will most likely be treated the same. The phrase is more of a warning than anything else. Yet in this case, God reaps what He sows is a beautiful promise to hold on to.

If we plant green beans we expect to sow or harvest green beans in a matter of time. If we plant tomatoes then we will get tomatoes. Flower seeds will grow flowers, herbs will produce herbs, and so on. We expect to reap what we sow into the ground. We expect the package of seed with green beans written on it to actually contain seed to produce green beans. Of course there's always a small chance we might not get what we thought we were planting. Human error in the factory, in our own garden, or even in our own pantry can change things up very easily. With God; however, it's 100% every time. He will reap what He sows.

Jeremiah 1:5 says "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." When God planted us inside our mother's womb, He knew exactly what He was getting. He created the seed, designed the package, and made sure all the inner ingredients mixed to form the exact being He wanted. I recently read a testimony about a woman in Asia who was told by her mother that she was conceived through witchcraft and offerings to idols. The woman was at first scared by this, but upon hearing the words of Jeremiah 1:5 she realized that it was God, not the idols, that allowed her to be conceived. No matter the actions of her parents, God controlled the entire process. He planted a seed that would one day become this woman and He destined her for great things for His Kingdom. Today she is serving Jesus and sharing His love with her family and friends. No amount of evil can change God's plan. He reaps what He sows!

Golden Sprout Award

Golden Sprout award given by Debra Elliott at Writing with Debra

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

What an amazing honor! Forever In Him has been awarded The Versatile Blogger award from Debra Elliott over at Writing with Debra! Thank You Debra :)

There are rules associated with the award which are...

1) Link back to the person who gave you the award...

2) Tell 7 things about yourself...                    

3) Award 15 recently discovered bloggers...

So okay there are rules with this award so I must follow some guidelines here.

Seven things about me:
1. I've been writing since I was old enough to hold a pencil.
2. I applied for my passport just so I could visit Canada.
3. I have two sons - both have four legs each!
4. I cried at the end of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
5. I can't stand the new Gain commercial that uses the word "gooder" instead of  "better"!
6. Up until 2002, five generations of my family lived within a five mile radius of each other!
7. I was blessed to have weekly family reunions growing up - they were known as Sunday dinner at Grandmas!

Now to pass this awesome award on:

1. A Beauty Glorious: Absolute Certainty
2. A Look at Life from a Deerstand
3. All in a Summer's Day
4. Chocolate and Coffee / A Pastor's Wife
5. Footprints in the Mud
6. Heading Home
7. Out of the Closet and Into the Light

Friday, April 15, 2011

Don't Forget the Corners

Corners; every yard, home, and heart has them. They're the places that we often overlook and the places where the most dust, garbage, debris, and sin can gather. We tend to send different things to the corner in hopes of hiding them or at least getting them out of the way for a later day. The problem is that the "later" day never comes and things put in the corner tend to stay there for a very long time.

This afternoon I was putting away dishes and wiping off my kitchen counters when I suddenly got a good look at the tops of the cabinets and drawers. These particular cabinets and drawers have an indented top and a groove in the wood that serves as a handle or leverage to open and close them. I have no idea why I've never looked before or even how it caught my eye this afternoon, but what I saw was one of the biggest collections of dust and "catch all" areas I've ever seen. If I placed food on the counter then it most likely dropped crumbs into the grooves of the drawers and cabinets. If I spilled something sticky then it eventually made its way into the grooves forming a sticky residue. It was really gross! I got a scrub type cloth and pressed it into the grooves of the cabinet and started cleaning. Funny thing, it only took a few minutes to clean these unnoticed areas.

The corners of our heart can look the same way as the grooves in my cabinet tops. I don't know why, but we often let the corners be a "catch all" of junk, garbage, and sin we just don't want to deal with. We convince ourselves that it's not that bad and we can fix or clean it later. In reality, however, the dirt starts piling up and before long starts to grow into different types of bacteria. Proverbs 4:23 reminds us that "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." When sin builds up it multiplies and spreads bacteria of hate, bitterness, jealousy, and anger into all areas of our life. 

Thankfully, we don't have to let it get that bad and if we do there's still a way to clean it up. Jesus died so that we might have life and freedom from the dark corners of sin in our heart and life. His blood shed on the cross has wiped away all sin whether it's in the corners of our heart or right out in the open for everyone to see. Cleaning up the dark corners of our heart is simple. All we have to do is admit and confess that it's there and ask for forgiveness for allowing it to be there. Then in Christ's strength and not our own, the sin will be removed and the corners will be sparkling once again! "Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7b).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baby The Garden

Florida winters are usually cold and damp. We may not get snow, but we do get plenty of cloudy skies and lots of rain. Last fall my granddaddy (grandfather) planted tomatoes. His plan was to have tomatoes to serve at Christmas and another round to give to family at the end of February. Friends of his also planted tomatoes around the same time hoping for bright red juicy tomatoes for the holidays. By Christmas as well as the end of February, my granddaddy was passing around beautifully plump tomatoes. His friends, however, had very few tomatoes.

What made the difference? My granddaddy babied his tomatoes all winter. On the coldest nights while his friends covered their plants to protect them from the frost and hard freeze, my granddaddy was out in his garden wrapping his plants with sheets and setting up incubator lights to keep them warm. He kept watch over the plants throughout the night and the following day. The extra care and hard work paid off and we all enjoyed tomatoes at Christmas and in February.

Throughout this 21 day Daniel fast I'm learning that there are times when the gardens of our heart need similar care. This past Sunday was one of those days and I wasn't prepared. I found myself tired, irritable, and on the down side. I caved and had a few chocolate chip cookies thinking I shouldn't have to feel lousy. What I didn't realize until later that night was that during the beginning of the second week it is completely natural to feel this way. I felt horrible for caving and giving in. If I would've read my daily fasting devotional I would have been warned and taken extra precautions asking God for strength to overcome temptation.

The point of the fast is to draw close to God and learn to lean on Him at all times in life good or bad. I missed that point in the beginning, but thankfully God was patient and brought me full circle. I confessed my shortfall and spent extra time in prayer. It was definitely not the easiest way to learn the lesson, but I thank God that He didn't give up on me. He ended up being the one to baby my heart and teach me that it's OK for me to do the same.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Let the Rain Fall

The rains poured out on my little balcony garden at the beginning of April and the plants were overflowing with water. The rains, however, haven't been back since and the soil has grown dry and the little vines of my burgundy shrubs are dropping. I've been on the look out for overheating and I do my best to water every day. The plants and the shrubs especially soak in as much water as possible. They thirst for this nutrient like nothing else. By the time I'm finished watering, the shrubs have started to perk up and glow again in the sunlight.

Our heart gardens are also susceptible to overheating and drying out. In Luke 8, Jesus shared the parable about the sower with the people. "A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed...some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture...Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God...They on the rock [are they], which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:5-6 & 11,13).

When we don't keep ourselves in the Word of God and find continual nourishment from Him then we will slowly wither away. It can happen to any of us. We find ourselves enjoying the fresh rains of the Holy Spirit pouring down on our soul, but the moment we leave the prayer meeting or step out of the church service, we go our own way never looking back to the life source. We get distracted and tangled into routines and tasks of the day. Before we realize it another morning or another evening has passed and we haven't stopped in our day to spend time feeding on the Word of God. In Psalm 143:6 David writes, "I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah."

This is the beginning of the second week of the 21 day Daniel fast with my church. My prayer is that this week my focus will be fixed more on spiritual food and less on the physical. My church started out the second week of the fast with a service of song and prayer. The preacher didn't preach as planned, but instead invited us to sit, stand, or kneel before God and listen for His voice and the leading of His Spirit. What a remarkable time of quietness and awe before God. His spirit was raining down upon our souls refilling and refreshing us!

Whether we're fasting or going about our normal dieting routine, let's take a moment to remember that our spiritual heart garden needs as much nourishment and water as our physical body. Invite God's Holy Spirit to rain down and be prepared for an outpouring of His strength!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Growth in the Garden

It's day six in the 21 day Daniel fast (fasting from junk). Today was a tough day to get through. I was surrounded by snack foods and sweets most of the morning and by the afternoon I was so tired all I wanted to do was eat a pizza and drink a soda. The strength of God alone through the power of His Holy Spirit within me kept me from giving into temptation. In it's place, He began to direct my thoughts to the areas of growth in my life. I was feeling that my life was busier during this fast instead of more calm and devoted to prayer and time with God. While going through the fridge, of all places, God showed me just how much He is working in my life and especially in my heart.

If you've been on my FaceBook page you'll see that I've been blessed with a new four legged son. I have Dakota, my dog, and now I have Toby, my horse! It's unbelievable how it all came about. God just opened one door after another until my family grew from two to three. That's not all that He's been growing either. My heart has been opened up to new areas of growth through the process. For so long I've been stuck in a rut of working, staying home, and working more. I've been praying for a distraction or something to get me out of the house and out and about with people my own age, etc. It's hard to break habits and routines, but that's just what God has been doing. My schedule is unpredictable. My evenings are spent working the horse with a good friend of mine. (And let me tell you, tonight we really worked the horses and ourselves!) It's a complete change of pace for me and a growth I feel in my heart is from the Lord!

I'm totally enjoying my time restoring old friendships, building new ones, and learning to let go of my routine. Growth is not always fun and it can be painful, but the end results are such a huge blessing. Ask God to reveal the areas He is growing in the garden of your heart. We don't always recognize these areas as places of growth, but when we stop long enough to take a look from God's perspective, we'll be amazed at just how much He is working. We'll also be more aware and more willing to submit our will to His and allow Him to continue working in us. We're all a work in progress and what a blessing that progress is!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Taking Inventory of the Garden

This morning I spent some time on my balcony taking inventory of my little garden. It's not much, but I have a few tomato plants, green beans, bell peppers, flowers, a little palm, and some shrubbery growing. Some of the plants looked great, some needed water and a few of the tomato plants actually looked like they had received too much water from the recent rains. All in all, the garden wasn't too bad, but it was definitely evident that I had not stopped to give it some much needed attention. I've been distracted and a little unorganized lately, mostly because I've been trying to do everything on my own. Thankfully it wasn't too late for the garden! With a little extra work the garden was back in shape and looking lively in no time.

I found my heart to be in a similar situation this morning as well. I woke up with a thousand things running through my mind. I got out of bed and was about to begin my daily routine when I realized that I didn't want to just go through the motions. I was tired of all the craziness going on. As much as I was trying to gain control myself and put things in order, it just wasn't working. The main idea of participating in the 21 day Daniel fast is to spend even more time in prayer and quiet surrender with God. Even though I was doing that each morning, it was becoming part of my routine instead of a time to unwind and seek God's direction. I decided to sit down on the couch, take a big time out, and just read a devotional and wait for God to speak. I had the time and it was time I took it!

Before long my eyes grew heavy. I leaned back against the couch pillows and closed my eyes. Immediately I envisioned a picture of Jesus and a young girl sitting at his feet resting her head in his arms. I could just imagine the girl sharing all of her worries, hopes, and dreams with Jesus and He in return holding her hand and gently reminding her that He would take care of everything. It was time for me to do the same. I mentally placed my head in the Savior's lap and began sharing my own thoughts. I did an inventory of everything that I was worrying about, was upset about, and even what I was thrilled and excited about.

Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, but He invites us to open up and communicate with Him anyway. I took a look at my heart and the distractions around me and asked Him to help me stay focused on Him alone. What a huge relief it was to share and allow Him to take each thought from my shoulders and place it on His own.  Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).  "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (I Peter 5:7).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bring God the First Fruits of Your Heart

Walking in the my grandfather's garden admiring the luscious heads of cabbage, enormous onion bulbs pushing their way out of the ground, sprouting beans, tall tomato plants, and lettuce leaves, I am reminded of the scripture where God tells the people of Israel to bring to Him the first fruits of the harvest. "The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God" (Exodus 34:26). God asked for nothing but the best. He wanted the people to remember where the blessings of such a harvest came from. Imagine the pride filled heart of the farmer as he plucked the first bright red tomato of the season from the vine. My grandfather says those are the best and sweetest of the crop. What devotion to swallow that sense of pride and satisfaction by bowing before God and giving it back to Him.

It's Day Four of the 21 day fast and the Lord continues to reveal to me areas in my heart that need to be weeded out as well as areas in need of extra nutrients for continued growth. Today, the area of my heart garden in need of attention is the act of praise and thanksgiving. I have much to be thankful for. God has blessed me beyond anything I could imagine, yet the day to day chores of life often block that praise and pull my spirit down into darkness. Complications come up, temptations cross the way, and last minute distractions push their way to the front of my heart. Before I realize it, I've become focused more one what needs to be done instead of what God has already done.

Through prayer and fasting; however, God is breaking through those barriers and filling my heart with joy and thanksgiving. He reminds me that when I come to Him with praise and thanks "the Light of [His] presence pours into [me], transforming [me] through and through" (Jesus Calling, p. 101). The things that need to be done are still there, but I am assured by God that they will get done in His timing and in His way. For the moment, I am in the garden with Him and I'm bringing Him the firstfruits of my heart.

"I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD" (Psalm 116:17). At my former church, we used to sing a song of praise with the following lyrics:

We bring the sacrifice of praise
Into the house of the Lord
We bring the sacrifice of praise
Into the house of the Lord
And we offer up to You
The sacrifices of thanksgiving
And we offer up to You
The sacrifices of joy
We can bring God the firstfruits of our heart by offering to Him sacrifices of praise. We have so much to be thankful for that our hearts should be overflowing with joy and thanksgiving whether we think about it or not.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nourish The Garden

Today is day three in the 21 day fast I'm participating in with my church. Last night I cooked a large head of cabbage for supper along with some red beans and rice (strange combination, yes, but so delicious). The cabbage was fresh from my grandfather's garden and tasted amazing! Tonight, just when I thought I was going to cave to the junk food temptations, God brought to mind an amazing Greek salad at a local restaurant. It was just an ordinary salad filled with nothing but vegetables, but it hit the spot!

I realized that even though my diet is primarily healthy, it has not always been focused on the most nourishing choices. I couldn't believe how good the vegetables tasted! Along with the great taste, I've already noticed how much better I feel since paying more attention to what I'm eating. Choosing the right foods really makes a difference in how we feel physically and mentally. It's surprising how the distractions of the fast food industry and quick to prepare meals have filled our minds and our kitchen cabinets. We've really been missing out on the best food out there!

 The same is true in the spiritual garden of our heart. Jesus tells us that we can't live by bread alone, we must feed ourselves "on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Spending time in God's Word pours nourishing principles and truths into our heart allowing it to grow and flourish. Ever notice how life seems to move along so much better (maybe not easier, but definitely clearer) when a steady diet of time spent in the Word is followed? When we let the junk food of the world (television, Internet, books, magazines, etc.) fill the hunger in our hearts then we find ourselves spiritually drained and making some pretty poor choices. 

Matthew 12:35 tells us "a good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things." We are what we eat physically and spiritually. Join with me in making a positive choice when it comes to nourishing the body and the heart!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Solitude in the Garden

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" (Mark 1:35).

Group prayer meetings and time spent in prayer with one another is a crucial part of the Christian life. We are encouraged to come together as a body of believers and make our requests known to the Lord. Likewise, we are also encouraged to take time out to be alone one on one with the Father. Several times throughout Christ's public ministry, we read that he made time to be alone in prayer.

In the final moments before his arrest, Christ went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me' (Matthew 26:36-38).

Making time to pray with God one on one in the quietness of the garden of our heart is essential to growing in our relationship with Him. God invites us to share all of our thoughts, worries, and anxieties with him. He wants to hear from us and the best way to do this is to establish a daily time of solitude with Him. "I meet you in the stillness of your soul. It is there that I seek to commune with you" (Jesus Calling, p. 99).

The stillness of our soul can be found in the solitude of the garden of our heart. As we ask God to continue to weed and prune the areas of our life, we should also invite him to sit with us in the stillness of the garden. Imagine having tea or lemonade with a close friend under the cool shade of a large oak tree. That is what it's like to sit with Jesus and open our heart up to Him. Share everything both good and bad and allow Him to comfort, work, and move within.

2 Chronicles 16:9 tells us that "the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him..." He will come to us, sit with us, and give us rest. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Psalm 23:2-3).

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Garden Is Better Than Yours

Day one of the 21 day fast has officially started. It's not a typical "don't eat" fast, although I do hope to work up to juices and water only on the last three days. I'll let you know how that goes :)

This morning I went for a walk and as mentioned in the previous blog, I asked God to start revealing to me places in my heart, His Garden, that need to be weeded out and places that need extra time and care. This morning He reminded me of my judgmental heart. As I was walking along the path with my dog about 7:45 this morning, I noticed several cars going by carrying passengers dressed up for church. They looked my way and I thought, "They better not judge me, I don't have to go to church until 10 a.m. I've got time to be out here walking and still go to church." No sooner had the thought entered my mind then I realized that I was guilty of the very same thing. Many times I've pulled out of the community headed to church and have seen walkers enjoying a morning stroll. My thoughts, "I wonder if they've been to church yet. They should go. I can't believe they're out walking and not getting ready for church." I have no more right to think those thoughts then the people who passed me this morning. I don't know any of their stories. The people I see at 10 a.m. could very well have been to church at 8 a.m. Instead of judging I need to be praying for them. Not praying in criticism, but just taking note that I've seen them and ask for a blessing on their day.

Judgment, one of the first weeds to pull from my heart garden. Nothing gives me the right to stand around and say that my garden looks better than yours. Likewise, there is no reason for me to sit around sulking that your garden looks better than mine. Matthew 7:1-2 says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." How can we grow beautiful gardens in our heart that are pleasing to the Lord if we spend all of our time focusing on the gardens of others? Matthew goes on to say, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" (Matthew 7:3-5)

We are most definitely welcome to lend a helping hand to one another, but make sure not to judge and step over the boundary line. If we call others out on their faults, we're sure to be called out on ours. All of us have a beautiful heart garden in the sight of God no matter what we're going through. He is the only one who has the authority to reveal areas of weakness. "But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up anothe" (Psalm 75:7).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Our Heart is a Garden

This month's theme for the National Blog Posting site is "SPROUT" so I thought I'd post a heads up that many of my devotional writings just might be along the lines of gardens, growth, plants etc. during the month of April :)  

"I have planted Peace in the garden of your heart, where I live; but there are weeds growing there too: pride, worry, selfishness, unbelief. I am the Gardener, and I am working to rid your heart of those weeds." (Jesus Calling p. 97). 

Everything that we do, think, or say starts not in our minds or our brains, but within our heart. God doesn't send us an e-mail that says "today I want you to talk to your neighbor about me." OK, so He might send a reminder that way, but more often than not the little small voice and that inkling of a feeling that we should speak to our neighbor starts with a feeling in our heart. You know the feeling....tightening of the chest, pounding heartbeat, a sense of urgency like we need to move forward in some way; an anxiousness that cannot be calmed until action is taken. It's that overwhelming connection we suddenly have that causes a lump in our throat and a pain in our chest and it doesn't stop until we ask of God what He would have us do.

We may not always recognize this prodding within our heart. Like the passage quoted above says, our heart is filled with peace and love from God, but it's also filled with weeds of pride and selfishness. Weeds grow pretty fast and when not taken care of, they overcome and choke the life out of the rest of the plants in the garden. They fill our heart to the point that there is no room for the nourishing gifts from God. It's important that we learn to take time each day to examine our hearts and ask God to reveal what's growing there. We need to be on guard and cautious of what we're bringing into our hearts on a daily basis. What are we feeding our heart? Are we watering with God's Word or the voice of the world? What does the Gardener see when He takes a survey of our heart each morning and evening? What's growing in our heart?

Starting tomorrow I will be taking part in a church wide 21 day fast and I'm making it a goal of mine to take time each day to examine my heart and find what is really growing there. I don't have a green thumb and I definitely need some guidance so I'm asking God to reveal the areas that are in need of weeding and to pour His "miracle" grow on areas in need of growth. I look forward to sharing more on our heart as a garden in the days to come. Until then, here's a thought to ponder. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). What's growing in your heart?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Darkness and Light

It was noon, but the skies were black. I've never experienced such a darkness. The morning started out with typical Florida thunderstorms, but it was clear by the early afternoon that the weather was about to turn not so typical for the last day of March. My Nana (grandmother) said if March doesn't come in like a roaring lion then it will surely leave with quite a commotion and that is just what happened. An incredibly large portion of central Florida found itself covered in the darkness of powerfully strong winds, thick clouds, and sheets of rain in all directions imaginable. One weather station reported that it was a weather system similar to those of Kansas and Nebraska. Pitch black as the saying goes would accurately describe the world outside that afternoon.

About half past noon the heavens roared and poured out heavy, thick rain with hail in some areas. The skies remained black as (what we later learned) a powerful tornado and series of funnel clouds made their way across the state. Trees bent with little effort. Patio furniture flew across the yard. The ground felt like it was trembling. Extensive damage was done around the area as the storm system quickly moved along heavily populated roadways and interstates. The aftermath was both small and large.

Surprisingly, the next day dawned with partly cloudy skies with a few rays of sunshine peaking out every now and again. By noon the skies were completely clear. A bright beautiful blue spread as far as the eye could see. The sun shone brightly and darkness was nowhere in sight. A local airshow could be heard in the distance. Loud noises, yet nothing even close to the terrible sounds of wind gusts measured in some places at 90mph. It was an incredible contrast and unbelievable to be honest. So much had happened the day before, signs of debris still evident, yet nothing but bright skies and glorious sunshine.

One day we will see a similar contrast when we are reunited with our Lord Jesus Christ. He will come for us with a glory so bright that our world will vividly look dark and bleak. We will awaken to a new heaven and a new earth and the darkness of the past will be gone. John 1:5 tells us that "the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." I can't tell you how many times I've overlooked this verse. Coming back to it though, I found myself truly intrigued by the simple fact that the darkness "comprehended" not the light. How amazing is that. The light comes into the picture and the darkness not only cowers in fear, but completely vanishes. It doesn't know what to do in the presence of such power. It understands nothing about it and flees. Kind of like the storms that passed through that day. They poured their furry on the state, but once the sun broke through, it fled. In all its supposed strength and might, it was powerless against the bright shining sun of the new day. It comprehended it not and vanished.

Praise be to the Father of lights. Praise be to God for His great power and might. He alone deserves our admiration and praise. The light of God's presence shines through each of us and through His light, darkness has no power. When we stand strong in God, there is nothing to fear for He surrounds us with His light of protection. Stand as the noon day sun and watch the powers of darkness flee!