It’s Worth the Investment

This time of year, I love looking out on the hillsides and fields and seeing the many wildflowers bloom all around.  It amazes me.  The entire process amazes me.  Simply from the wind blowing and the April storms, we see flowers that have spread and reproduced.  It’s almost as if it took nothing for those flowers to appear.  When I try to plant flowers, or anything for that matter, it takes a lot of hard work.  Usually what I plant doesn’t even survive.  It’s amazing how the wind blowing can move a flower from one place to another, and it not only survives; it thrives.

We used to live in Northeast Texas, and our yard was beautiful.  It was landscaped with trees, bushes and flowers that just made my heart happy when I looked at them.  Every year I would add a few new flowers around our tree in the back yard, and I would hang some plants from the porch.  My plants were always inspiring.  Then, we moved to the suburbs right in the heart of Texas.  We’ve lived here for 6 years, and each year I plant something new.  Why do I do that?  Because everything I plant dies within a month or so.  Well, that’s assuming they ever grew in the first place.  I dream of a vegetable garden, but I can’t seem to keep anything alive other than my crape myrtles that were planted a few years back.  I was a little unhappy when I noticed my 5 year old broke down our largest and prettiest crape myrtle a few weeks ago.  It is now a stump rising just a few inches above the ground.  I finally planted something that lived, and my son decided to use the branches as a baseball bat.  Hmm sounds familiar.  I recall my husband telling a story of two boys using a bat to hit their grandmother’s beloved crape myrtle one summer until it became a stump.  Those boys were my husband and his cousin.  I guess it’s genetic.  But I digress. . .

Why is it that I can’t have a great looking garden here in our suburbia home?  I wonder if it has anything at all to do with the clay-like soil we have?  I didn’t have to work very hard at our old home.  The flowers just grew.  I keep hearing people talk about how you have to “work the ground” before you plant.  What in the world does that even mean?  Shouldn’t it be as easy as the wind blowing beautiful flowers to my yard, and I turn my sprinklers on?  What I’ve learned is that it isn’t always as easy as it was in our old home.  The soils are different.

It reminds me of the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13.
What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.  

Depending on where the seeds fall, they may not be able to survive.  This is true not just for plants and vegetables.  It’s true for people as well.  We share God’s love and mercy to the people we know, but have you ever thought of how you share it? 
*The path: If you just say something in passing and never say it again, it’s like the seeds that fall along the path that they birds eat.  The knowledge is gone before it ever has time to sink in. 
*Gravel: Sometimes we have a good conversation with a friend, and we may even help lead them to God.  Wow, isn’t it amazing to see how on fire they are?  But what happens, when there is no follow up or no areas for them to learn more about being a Christian?  They usually burn out.  They need to find something new to give them that energy.  They don’t realize that there is so much more than just learning who God is.  If they only knew, it would help them grow, survive and thrive.
*Weeds: Then, there are those who are fired up and plugged into all the right places, but those old habits die hard.  They run into old friends doing the same old things, and they get back into their old routine.  There’s nothing we could have done differently.  It’s just the environment they are in.  It’s the environment filled with weeds.
*Good soil:  But then there are times that everything is right.  The person you’ve invested time in has found a relationship with God, gotten plugged in, stayed on a high and are now thriving and leading others.  How wonderful to see the fruits of your labor turn into something beautiful!

The key here is that very rarely can you just throw some seed on the ground and see something grow and survive.  You have to invest time and energy into it.  You can’t forget about what you’ve planted and expect to walk outside one day with beautiful flowers covering your yard.  You really have to spend each day paying attention to the needs of each plant.  Just like the garden you invest in, people need even more of an investment.  Pay close attention to the needs of those you’re leading to Christ, and sacrifice your own time and needs for them.  You will be amazed at the outcome and realize that it was completely worth the sacrifice. 

Go ahead.  Try it out and see what blooms!  Share with me if you would like.

What Does the Cross Mean to You?

We wear it around our necks and on our ears. We have them on our walls at home.  For many of us, today is the day to remember the cross.

We emphasize the meaning of this weekend in our home. Our sweet little Elijah gets truly sad thinking about what Jesus did for us. If you stop and think about the reality of it, do you find yourself getting sad?

I know my blogs are usually long, but I really want to open it up to you. Share your thoughts. What does the cross mean to you personally?  Is it just something pretty you wear around your neck, or does it mean more?

You Can Always Come Back Part 3 ~ The Father

Of all of the the people in this parable (referring to the blog post from April 19), I think the father is my favorite.  My husband and I were talking about this the other day, and we were trying to figure out why he gave the son his inheritance early.  Was it because he didn’t want his son to be mad at him, so he gave him what he asked for?  Was it because he just didn’t want an argument?  What do you think?

I think he felt the need for the son to learn the lesson on his own.  The father probably talked to the son for a while explaining to him the importance of why he shouldn’t take the money.  He  knew that it was a bad idea and that it would only get his son into trouble, so he didn’t want to give it to him.  However, the son probably continued to ask for it, and the father finally gave him what he wanted knowing that the outcome wouldn’t be pretty.

I think about this on so many different levels.  As a mother, I can certainly see where the father was coming from. My husband and I try to explain to our kids that we don’t always let them do what they want because it is our job to protect them.  Because we have lived life a lot longer than they have, we know what will happen, and we want to keep them from any hurt or harm.  However, there are times when we have to allow them to fail in order to learn from natural consequences.

I remember when Elijah was a little younger than 3.  We got him a chocolate shake after lunch, and he had already eaten a lot of food.  Since sweets are a rare treat for our kids, he was overjoyed.  We told him that eating too much of that chocolate shake will make him sick.  It didn’t matter, though.  He just kept slurping away.   Sure enough he threw up not long after finishing it.  We could have taken it away when we saw he kept drinking it.  We warned him a few times, but he thought he knew better.  Even though it was 3 years ago, he still remembers it.  He now knows to stop eating/drinking when his tummy is full no matter how good it tastes.  Had we taken it away from  him, he would never have known why we didn’t want him to finish the drink, and it would be something we would struggle with again.

I know it’s nothing as big as what happened between this father and son, but it’s the same principle.  The father didn’t want his son to hurt.  He wanted him to be successful and responsible, but a parent can only do so much.  The father let him learn the lesson on his own.  I would bet the father prayed constantly for his son.  Yes, bad things happened, and he was miserable.  Even though he may have had moments thinking he was going to die, or even wishing he would, God kept him safe.  Keep that in mind when you’re going through struggles and wonder why God is punishing you or why all the bad things seem to happen to you.  Things are not always how they appear, but I’ll go into that with another post one day.

As the father prayed for his son, God was listening.  God was probably the one who put that thought in the son’s head – Why don’t I just go back home where my dad can hire me?  His servants have plenty of food.

But look at what the dad did.  He didn’t point fingers or say “I told you so.”  He didn’t turn his son away.  He embraced him and celebrated his return!  It’s difficult for us to relate to this because our fathers are all sinners just like we are, and this is not the typical way they would respond.  The reason Jesus told this parable was to show that he receives us with open arms if we come back after turning away from him.

Have you been at a place where you’ve made such bad decisions that you think God doesn’t want to have anything to do with you?  Please know that’s not true.  Please know that God loves you so much.  I don’t know of anything my kids could do to make me not love them.  I love them more than I ever knew I could love.  God, however, loves us even more than that.  It’s unimaginable for me.  This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt him when we rebel or turn away from him.  It also doesn’t mean that we have free reign to do what we want with the plan of coming back later to be forgiven.  That’s completely taking advantage of what he does for us, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

If you have made some decisions and feel like God doesn’t care about you anymore, I ask you to step back and pray for forgiveness for those sins, and be still and feel God’s love surrounding you.  If you would like prayer but just don’t know who to go to, please don’t hesitate to contact me, and I would love to pray for you.

*****This parable always brings a story to my mind.  I grew up in a small, country church, and there was a song that they often played while reciting a story.  I haven’t heard it in a long time, but even after all these years it brings tears to my eyes.  Whether you’ve heard it before or not, I ask that you watch this video of a group reciting this same story.  It’s called The Apple Tree Story, and the song in the background is called Lord, I’m Coming Home.  Enjoy your day today, and remember that God tells you that you can always come back ~ You can always come home.