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Life Lessons, Pt. 11: Nourishment of the Soul

There are so many things to learn from a garden, but what is its purpose? First, of course, we know that a garden nourishes the body, but it can also nourish the soul. My friends, Larry and Charlotte, were recently up in Maine visiting their children and grandkids. Larry shared his experience of waking early in the morning and sitting on the porch, enjoying Tonya and Steve’s beautiful garden.

He stated, “These beautiful plants with bird and hummingbird feeders do a steady business. Goldfinches, chickadees, titmouse, mourning doves, and others stop by for breakfast, while the chipmunks, bees, butterflies, and all types of insects resemble a busy city!” He shared the priority of allowing the Holy Spirit to give us rest, refreshing and replenishing our spirits. For them, this included family activities accompanied by hilarious discussions.

What a beautiful picture of our gardens’ purpose! It brings nourishment to our spirits. Yes, a garden is hard work. Nobody will deny that. However, in the end, God cares about our souls. He desires us to take the time to enjoy the simple pleasures splendidly clothed in an array of colors that He brings our way. I know for myself when I was out watering, I noticed a tiny ladybug on one of my leaves. I took such joy in the bright red with black polka dots against the backdrop of my green leaf. I found myself thanking God for that little bug that brightened my day!

And that is what God wants: our time and attention, not only when it comes to our needs, but in noticing the magnificent gifts He has already provided us. God could have made a world without color, but He didn’t. Why? Because life is better in a variety of hues and shades. From bodacious and bold brights to elegant and refined pastels, life is full of the splendor of our God, not only in the natural world but in our relationships, as well.

Be encouraged today! Use the wisdom God has so graciously bestowed to ensure that you are taking time to reflect not only on God’s work but His gifts. Your garden is bursting forth in glorious color, from the golden marigolds to the purple pansies. Your garden is full of delightful relationships, forming beautiful bouquets that enrich your life. We’ve heard the phrase “Stop and smell the roses.” I desire that you rest in your relationship with God and make the time for the lovely spirits with which He has surrounded you! I am planning on spending the rest of my summer doing so.

May God bless you all, and I look forward to writing something new after taking a couple of months of rest, enjoying the garden God has given me to tend! To all of you who have participated, thank you! You are fragrant flowers in my bouquet!

Hebrews 4:9-10, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.”

Let’s Pray:

Father, forgive me for being so consumed with work that I haven’t taken notice of the beauty You have surrounded me with in the world You created and the relationships You’ve provided. Holy Spirit, help me to rest, allowing You to refresh and replenish my spirit. I want to enter into Your glorious rest. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Life Lessons, Pt. 10: Those Pesky Weeds!

Weeds – I hate pulling weeds! It takes time and energy, and I would much rather do something else, but it’s necessary. I don’t know of anyone who enjoys it. My great-aunt used to say you could tell a weed by its smell. Whether this is true, I know not, but many that I have pulled do have a stench to them. When you pull them, though, you can’t just cut them down with a mower; you have to get the root if you don’t want it to grow back.

Just as established roots cause a plant to thrive, they also allow weeds to thrive. I have noticed some weeds poking through my garden the past couple of weeks, and as I have seen them sprout, I have pulled them up. When they are young and the soil is wet, the root comes out very easily. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to pull up a young weed. However, a well-established weed is another matter altogether. It’s unlikely that you will pull up the roots with your hands; sometimes, you need special tools. I have a garden tool that, if you center it above the weed, when you press it down into the ground, it catches onto the root and pulls the whole thing up. However, if you don’t have it centered correctly, it won’t pull up anything. Hence the saying, let’s get to the root of the issue.

It doesn’t matter what the symptoms are of the weeds in our life if we aren’t willing to get to the root. The problem is, some weeds are pretty, and we don’t want to pull them up, but all the time we are admiring them, they are slowly creeping across our yards and gardens, choking out the life of what is healthy. Other weeds are prickly, and you have to wear gloves to grasp hold of them.

In His parable of the seeds and soil, Jesus said, “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones that hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19). If fruitfulness is our purpose, weeds in our life can prevent us from stepping into it. It is easy to become consumed with this life, but we need to remember it is temporal. Therefore, we must protect the Word sown in our lives – it’s of paramount importance.

Colossians 3:1-2 tells us, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Our focus should be on that which brings forth the eternal. Jesus was clear that the Father already knows what we need before we even ask and that if God is concerned about clothing the flowers, our well-being is as important to Him (Matt. 6:30-34).

If we desire the Word of God to thrive in our lives, we need to pull the weeds, confident that God is watching out for us. When you can’t get to the root, the Holy Spirit is faithful to show you where it is and assist you in its uprooting. We can’t afford to be lazy gardeners. We must pay attention because there’s an enemy out there who wants our gardens destroyed, and we must be vigilant to watch and discern those things that will choke the Word out of our lives.

Let’s Pray:

Holy Spirit, please help me discern between what is a pretty weed and a healthy plant in my life. I don’t want anything to come between me and seeing God’s Word flourish in my life. Assist me in uprooting anything that is not of You so that my garden will be fruitful and multiply for the Kingdom. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Life Lessons, Pt. 9: Learning to Wait

I am so excited! Last night I harvested my first zucchini. It wasn’t hard work; I just gave a slight tug, and it broke off of the plant. I’m still trying to decide what to do with it. How do you tithe on your vegetable garden? It is gratifying to see the fruit of your labor ready for your table.

I planted, I watered, and then I waited. Nothing else was required of me – so similar to the Kingdom of God. Sometimes we (particularly ministers) grow discouraged when we don’t see growth and blossoms. Some even begin to wonder if you should till the whole thing up and start over again, but the entire time, God is at work. Within what you have planted, He has structured the plant’s DNA to know its rate of growth, when it will blossom, and how long it will take fruit to come forth. It has very little to do with us; we are just co-gardeners with God, doing what He has asked of us.

Interestingly, each fruit has its timetable. There is no one set time for harvest, and with some vegetables, if you harvest them correctly, they will continue to bear fruit that can be harvested over several months.

My question today is, what is it that you have planted and watered that you are still waiting to come to fruition? What are you speaking life into? Be patient. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 states, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which has been planted.” This time is a set occasion designed by God, and He lovingly placed this timetable inside of you.

Like all of you, I, too, await. While we wait for the timing of the Lord, we must faithfully water it with His Word and be patient, knowing that in due season we will reap – if we don’t faint. Choose within yourself that you will be resilient and keep watch over the garden you are growing. Allow God to have His way in you, and in His time, something extraordinary is going to begin to bloom in you!

Let’s Pray:

Father, I don’t know why I have worried when I can’t make anything grow faster than it does. Forgive me for not waiting patiently for Your timing. You are the One who brings forth the harvest. Holy Spirit, please help me develop the patience to see all that has been planted of You come to maturity in my life. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Life Lessons, Pt. 8: Speak Life!

How many of us have heard about the effects of speaking life over our plants? Some gardeners swear by it. Many have studied this, and it does seem to have an impact. I will leave you to research those for yourself. But is there a Biblical basis for speaking life? The answer is an emphatic “YES!” Proverbs 18:21 states, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those that love it will eat its fruit.”

For my birthday this year, my sister gave me a travel mug that says, “Crazy Plant Lady.” Every morning and evening, when I water my plants, I speak life over them. I declare the purpose of God for their existence: to bear much fruit. But it’s not just plants that we make declarations over. I do the same over our family: Walter, myself, Ezekiel, Joshua, Gary, and Samuel, and then add extended family members and people the Lord brings to my mind. I speak fruitfulness and purpose.

What we speak reflects what’s in our hearts. Jesus makes this clear in Luke 6:43-45 when He states,

“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Our spoken words mirror what we are already thinking. That’s it can be dangerous when people are derogatory towards themselves or others. There is no “Just kidding.” If you say it, you’ve thought it and dwelt on it.

Life and fruitfulness have always been God’s plan for us. The confession of our mouths needs to reflect that plan. What do you believe for your family, your nation, the world, and yourself? What are your expectations? This is much more than the theory of positive confession. It is life and death, and you control the tongue that holds power.

Let’s Pray:

Father, I choose life! I choose this day to agree with Your plans and purposes in my life and the lives of others. Forgive me for the times I’ve spoken death to situations and circumstances surrounding my family. I want the fruit of my lips to bring glory to You. Holy Spirit, help me put a watch over my mouth that I will only bring encouragement and life to myself and others, especially when my emotions tell me otherwise. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Life Lessons, Pt. 7: Don’t Pick the Flowers!

As a young girl, I don’t know how many times my mom scolded us for picking the “pretty flowers” from her squash and zucchini plants. I think they look a little bit like lilies when they open and possess such a beauty of their own. We also liked to eat them! We would dip the flowers in batter and fry them. It’s my understanding that you can also stuff them with a favorite filling to enjoy them. What kid can resist that! But my mom had an excellent reason for preventing our harvest of flowers. If we picked them, the fruit wouldn’t grow, and, alas, no squash would make its way to the family table.

While this may seem elementary to veteran gardeners, I’ve discovered that the fruit develops AFTER the blossom in most vegetables. I have beautiful flowers of different sizes growing not only on my squash but on my tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, as well. Isn’t it just like the Lord to make the growth process beautiful?

I find that the same is true spiritually, too. Often we see a pretty flower growing from our lives or that of others, and the temptation to pick that blossom is difficult to resist. We want to display it in a vase on the table for others to enjoy, but it quickly dies, never fulfilling its true purpose. The purpose of the blossom is to bear fruit, and interestingly the flower must die on the vine for fruit to grow.

Jesus explained the seed dying in John 12:24, which states, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” The same is true of the flowers. Unless it dies on the vine, it will not bear fruit. I have some flowers that have fallen away from the vine, and I will never get any fruit from them. They wither away in the heat and absorb into the ground.

We, too, must die attached to the vine. Only in relationship to Christ can our lives bear the fruit. In reality, our entire Christian life is a cycle of living to die. Once the fruit develops, it is picked for consumption, and the seeds are retained to die once more and bring forth another harvest. Jesus said it this way: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:24-26).

You see, it doesn’t matter if you are a seed in a packet with a pretty picture on it or a blossom on a branch. If you don’t die to yourself, you will never fulfill your true purpose of glorifying God by bearing fruit. John 15:8 recounts Jesus’ statement, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” It’s time to do some self-examination and question in what ways we have prevented ourselves from bearing fruit. It’s time to die.

Let’s Pray:

Father, I want to glorify You, and You have made it clear that can only happen as I die to self. I want to remain attached to You, Lord Jesus, and in doing so bear much fruit for the Kingdom. Today, I choose to die in every area I have refused to give You. You deserve all of me, not just the parts I feel comfortable releasing to Your care. Holy Spirit, reassure me that as I die, You will increase my fruitfulness, and life will abound in because You are a loving and faithful gardener, tending to me and all I entrust to Your care. I ask in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Life Lessons, Pt. 6: Developing Strong Roots

My friend, Mary Beth, has a sapling peach tree she and her husband planted in their yard. Upon purchase, they were advised that when it begins to bear fruit, to pick it immediately so that the tree’s energy can be focused on developing a strong root system and bear a greater harvest in the future. It seems counterproductive and the antithesis of what you are trying to achieve. After all, a fruit tree’s purpose is to bear fruit.

This principle is mentioned in the book of Leviticus 19:23-25, which states, “When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you. It shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the LORD. And in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase: I am the LORD your God.”

Root systems are paramount to ensuring the plant’s survival and the time given for its development. For instance, in peach trees, even though they may have fruit, they must be removed so that the tree and the branches can grow to maturity. After about three years, it can produce a crop provided that the crop doesn’t damage the tree branches.

The root system fixes the plant to the ground, stabilizing it so that when harsh weather comes, it can survive. The roots continue to grow undetected beneath the earth, searching for the water necessary to sustain the plant’s life. They grow in the direction of the water and nutrients needed for growth and then store it. Additionally, while acting as a storage mechanism, they also expel any toxins within the plant to prevent damage. As the roots grow more robust, some can be cut to develop another plant or used for medicinal purposes.

Scripture often discusses the roots of the Christian. Consider the following:

  • Jeremiah 17:7-8, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”
  • Proverbs 12:3, “A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous cannot be moved.”
  • Colossians 2:6-7, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”

It may seem counterproductive to discard a fruit tree’s early fruit, but remember, the goal is the tree’s growth so that it can hold and sustain the weight of heavy fruit as it ripens to maturity. It is crucial that branches don’t break trying to support fruit they cannot yet care for because of an undeveloped root system. Give it time. You and I were called to fruitfulness, but that requires a maturity lovingly developed by a caring gardener who wants your crop to flourish even when storms come.

Let’s Pray:

Loving Gardener, thank You that You are allowing my root system to grow. I desire that I will be able to bear the fruit of righteousness and be firmly affixed in Your garden. Forgive me for my impatience with Your methods in my life. I reach for the water of Your Word that I may grow strong and withstand the onslaught of every storm life sends me. I choose today to submit to Your process. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Life Lessons, Pt. 5: Pruning

Yesterday, we discussed tomato suckers that we need to prune from our lives effectively. The Lord is Master Pruner, diligently cultivating us to fruitfulness. I have an older apple tree in my yard, and this year Walter and Sam went out and removed the dead branches. While we removed many branches throughout the tree, I was sad to see my tree looking so forlorn. I was afraid it wouldn’t bear any fruit this year.

However, when spring came, a fantastic thing happened. For the first time in several years, my apple tree was full of blossoms! I haven’t seen it look so beautiful since we moved into our home, and despite the frost later in spring, we now have many, many baby apples all over our tree. I am so excited: applesauce, apple butter, apple pie, apple chips – the options are endless! The cutting away of what was dead prepared the tree to bring forth an abundance of life in this mature apple tree. The same is true spiritually.

According to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, to “prune” means to “lop or cut off the superfluous branches of trees, to make them bear better fruit or grow higher, or to give them a more handsome and regular appearance.” We all have stuff that needs to be lopped from our lives. Nobody wants to bear the rotten fruit of the flesh. Instead, we desire to bear fruit worthy of the Kingdom of God. Additionally, we should expect consistent character, uniform in all that we do. Jesus said it this way: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2).

God will inevitably take out whatever doesn’t bear fruit if you are in Christ. But, if you are bearing fruit, rest assured, you will be pruned – not because you are being punished, but because it increases your capacity to bring about mature fruit. We all have both types of branches. We all need to have dead things removed from our lives. But, praise God; we don’t have to do it by ourselves! Our Faithful Pruner, the Holy Spirit, lives in us, convicting us, pruning us to be people who bear much fruit!

Let’s Pray:

Faithful Pruner, thank You that You care enough about me to remove what is superfluous in my life so that I can bear much fruit. When I do, the possibilities with You are endless! I want to live and bring forth an abundance of life that brings nourishment to those around me. Please help me submit to the pruning process, even when it is difficult and painful, knowing that You have my best interests at heart. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Life Lessons, Pt. 4: So Long, Suckers!

My friend, Mary Beth, came over to help me plant my first garden. As we were planting the tomatoes, she explained to me that tomato plants could have what are described as “suckers” on them. These are shoots directly between the stem and a more developed branch that take the water and energy from the main plant and create a bushier plant that is more susceptible to bugs and disease. When you pull them off, it allows all the water and energy to focus its attention on the main plant so that it will grow taller.

Now I know from research that this can be one way to deal with suckers, but it teaches a valuable life lesson. These suckers are part of the plant but take up resources that the plant’s body desperately needs to thrive. The same is true in our own lives. I don’t know how many times I have heard people (and honestly, myself at times) say, “That’s just the way I am – deal with it.” But that is not Scriptural.

We were designed to grow spiritually, reaching for the Son and being watered by the Word. When we allow our flesh to grow and subvert resources meant to facilitate said growth, instead of a plant that glorifies God, we attract the bugs and diseases that can eventually overtake and ruin us. That is why we must continually evaluate our lives to see what we are allowing to grow. Psalms 119:59-60 states, “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies. I made haste and did not delay to keep Your commandments.” Likewise, Lamentations 3:40 tells us, “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord.”

Scripture tells us to examine and think about how we go and grow. By allowing unholy characteristics to flourish in our lives, we make way for the enemy to come in and sabotage our growth. This takes work, and at times, seems contrary to the goal of being fruit-bearers. However, we must take heed lest we fall (I Cor. 10:12). As Paul admonished the Corinthians in his second letter, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves – that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Cor. 13:5).

Can I encourage you today to examine your life and remove the “suckers” that stubbornly hold fast to the stem? Where are the parts of your flesh that need to be snapped off so that you can grow up in the Lord? You can do it with the help of the Master Gardener. He is patient. He desires that you be fruitful.

Let’s Pray:

Father, I want to be fruitful. I desire to see the multiplication of Spirit life in me. Help me to exercise discernment and judgment over my life so that when things pop up that are of the flesh that fosters an environment conducive for the enemy, I quickly eliminate it so that I mature in You. I love You and want to grow into every purpose and plan You have destined for Me. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Life Lessons, Pt. 3: What am I Diffusing?

Yesterday I discussed how the manure of our lives creates the perfect soil for our lives to thrive. Holiness is not native to the flesh. But the stench reminded me of Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthian church. He stated,

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life,” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16a.

It’s all a matter of whose perspective you choose to align with when it comes to gardening and life. When I smell manure, do I dwell on the negative, death, and flies? Or do I sense that which brings forth beauty and focus on how my light affliction will nourish myself and others one day? Will I choose to triumph over the substance and stench of my circumstances? That is, after all, what God calls us to – victory.

What are we allowing to be planted in the soil of our lives? You see, every seed bears something. You choose whether you are cultivating bitterness and resentment or life and joy. God asks us every day to choose between life and death. We are told in Deuteronomy 30:14-15, “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.” The water of the Word is close. You know it. Romans 1 tells us that “what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Rom. 1:19-20).

God shows Himself to us through the processes we observe in nature, even our gardens. We must choose whether we will allow the manure of life to create death or life. It all depends on the seed we sow. God wants you to triumph and excel. He created you to reach for the Son and grow in the light of Christ! He alone makes you flourish!

Let’s Pray:

Father, when the enemy seeks to bury me in the dung of life, I choose to reach for You. I choose life. I choose to flourish. No longer will I allow bitterness and resentment to ruin what You desire for my life. Lord, I want to grow strong in You and be the fragrance of Christ to those who are searching for You. When others see me as the fragrance of death, remind me of what I smell like to You! I give You praise, in Jesus’ Name, amen!

Life Lessons from the Garden, Pt. 2: Manure Stinks!

The night before Joshua’s graduation party, Walter, my dad, and the boys were busily setting up my two raised garden beds. (Two is plenty for this novice gardener!) My beds were constructed, and it was time to empty the particular soil I had purchased, specifically formulated for raised beds. As they opened the bags, the most horrendous smell emerged! What was it? The smell of manure! YUCK! At that point, I was having severe doubts about my ability to get very close to my new enterprise. Literally, it stunk!

From what I understand, that’s pretty typical. Soil, fertilizer, and manure mix to make a garden bed ready for plants. As bags of soil were dumped into my beds, I recalled Romans 8:28, which states, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Even manure, with its origin and stench, can be worked to bring about something good.

It’s easy to complain about the situations and circumstances surrounding our lives. I think we’ve all heard or used the phrase “That stinks!” multiple times. Yes, it probably does. What has transpired in your life may not have been your fault. It could have been a wrong decision; it may have caused you to question God’s ability to create good. Maybe you’ve sown by creating a place, giving your time and energy to people whose attitudes stink and have seemingly despised all that you’ve planted in them. God’s faithfulness does not change! All it takes is a seed watered by the Word of God to bring forth something not only beautiful but nourishing.

No one is questioning the hurt and suffering you have experienced, but the Apostle Paul tells us earlier in Romans 8:18 that “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” God wants to take the manure of your life and use it to bring about something glorious, but you have to let Him. I know firsthand: the fresher it is, the greater the stink, but nothing significant has ever come of camping in it. Rather, the opposite: disease. So leave your cares at the cross, and allow God to make it beautiful in its time.

Let’s Pray:

Father, I have a lot of stench surrounding me right now, but I give it all to You – the hurt, the pain, the frustration. I give it, Holy Spirit, knowing that You will take it and create a testimony that will cause growth in me and others as they see Your transformative work in my life. When the enemy reminds me of the stench, remind me that You are creating something beautiful and good so that You are glorified in me. In Jesus’ Name, amen!