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Pruning

I’m a wanna-be-gardener. I just play at it, but I have fun doing it. 

I don’t prepare my soil well enough, adding compost or checking for proper alkalinity or acidity. I’ve planted things in the wrong location for it to flourish. I’ve let some plants stay out all winter which has sapped them of strength and beauty. Miraculously, some have survived. And I am amazed.

Sill, I’ve had some success with my accidental way of putting things into the ground.

I have a few early bulbs that surprise me through a late season snowfall. In spring my yard glows with all shades of pink, red, and purple while the azaleas are in bloom. All summer and fall I enjoy how the colors change from season to season.  It’s God’s lavish way of producing fruit from my shabby labor. 

I’ve got plenty of garden books and read them randomly when I need information. When I follow the directions, it seems to help. Go figure.

So I had these two blank canvases on either side of our garage door, all white and asking for something colorful there. I tried placing large clay pots in the area one year, filling them with annuals that bloomed and looked pretty for a season. But then I moved the pots somewhere else.

Later I envisioned small topiary trees growing all perfectly round and proportional, looking artistic and lovely. Ah, but what I wanted would cost more than I wanted to spend. I needed another idea.

On the back side of our house grows a very large Rose of Sharon bush. It has a purple double bloom in late summer that is gorgeous.

It has dropped seed over the years and stray bushes have grown up. Two particular small ones were growing right next to the house along the foundation. They needed to be removed, and frugal one that I am, I figured these two little saplings would be perfect for my project. 

Just the right size to start my own topiaries, I set about to remove their roots from the soil where they were firmly attached.  It was no easy task.  I dug, pulled, dug some more, and pulled some more until they loosened their grip and let go.

I planted the little trees on either side of the garage door and commenced the pruning process to help them take the shape I envisioned. It was snipping here and there, cutting back hard in places, positioning a stake and tying them off so they would stand tall and straight. Somehow they survived the first season.

It’s been several years since that planting. There have been many clipping of branches, shaping these small trees into slender trunks with nice roundness to their leaves and flowers. They are beginning to take shape. The one on the right side really looked pretty last summer when it bloomed.

They other one, however, wants to take its own shape. It seems a little rebellious. I let it grow as it would through summer, allowing the flowers to flourish. But I had my eye on it, knowing when blooming season was over, I would be grabbing my pruning shears.

And that’s just what I did. When the flowers had faded and were hanging dead and brown, I began to clip away. I staked it again and pulled it into a more upright position. That little tree was pruned hard by my own hand, but by the time I was finished, it was more rounded like its sister tree a few yards away.

I think I am that little rebellious tree, pulled up from a comfortable place where I was content to grow, my roots dug in tight. I want my own way, my routine, and my plan. I like it when other people cooperate with my ideas.  (anybody else?)

The Lord takes us as we are but does not intend to let us stay that way. 

There is a pruning process going on in me. It is painful. I’m trying to be submissive. My “will” wants to; my “flesh” struggles.

My Father knows best and does what He does for my good and to fulfill His greater purpose. He has a vision of what He wants me to become.  I know that with all my heart, even when it does not feel good at all and I cannot understand the purpose for the pain.

I have to remind myself (often!) that it’s not all about me even though sometimes I just want it to be.

I am trusting that the pruning will produce the beauty He desires, that one day He will look at me and be able to say, “Now she is growing nicely, just the way I planned.”

My little rebellious tree bears the mark of the cuts, the wounds.  But spring is coming, the hope of life renewed.  Spring is coming for me, too.

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A check-up for the soul

 

I went to the Lord’s Clinic to have a check-up. I was hoping to get a pat on the back for lots of good works and a “well done.” Instead it was confirmed I had some major health issues.

When Jesus took my blood pressure, He confirmed I was low in tenderness and compassion.

He took my temperature. The thermometer registered 102 degrees of anxiety.

He ran a heart catheterization and found I needed several bypasses since my arteries were blocked with envy and hatred.

Next I went to orthopedics, complaining of some pain in my legs. Jesus said I had not been bowing on my knees in prayer enough.

After an eye examine, Jesus told me I was shortsighted, not seeing past myself. There was also a tendency to magnify the shortcomings of my brothers and sisters. Plus there was this great big beam in my eye causing me to be very critical.

When I told Him about some deafness I was experiencing, the diagnosis was that my ears were stopped up with the world’s message. It was keeping me from hearing the Truth.

After the exam was complete, I asked about the bill and was shocked by how much it was. It was way beyond what I could pay. Then I heard the good news . It had already been paid by Jesus.

Jesus then took me aside for a consultation. He gave me His healing remedy which was in the shape of a cross.

He said I should call on Him frequently since He is available day and night, at just the whisper of His name. Why, He even makes house calls at all hours.

He gave me some instructions to follow each day. Here they are:

I absolutely must start exercising my faith on a daily basis.

Every morning, take a full glass of gratitude.

Before I leave the house, take a couple of large spoonsful of brotherly love.

Every hour, sip from the Fruit of the Spirit and receive doses of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

At midday, drink one heaping glass of humility.

When getting home, take an extra dose of love for one another.

Before retiring, have a bedtime snack of the Bread of Life. Wash it down with an ample amount of the water of the Word.

When ready for bed, kneel and lay everything at Jesus feet. Then receive two caplets of a clear conscience.

For so He gives His beloved sleep.

Dear Readers, a sweet friend sent me something similar to this, and I made a few changes to it.  I do not know the originator, and I do not mean to commit plagiarism.  I wish to thank the author, whoever you are.  If you’re out there, please step forward.

I always enjoy hearing back from you.  Please leave a comment.

Where joy and sorrow meet – December 4

I woke to a light dusting of snow with flakes still falling.  In the still-dark morning, it was a lovely awakening.   The day seemed promising and full of anticipation.

But a shadow clouded my sleepy thoughts.  My sweet William and I would go and share a great loss with dear friends this morning – a loss that cannot be explained, a grief that surely seems unfair.

As I sat in a small chapel crowded with friends and family, I thought, “We cannot take their grief away.  We can only share it.”  And then the Holy Spirit whispered, “God does not take our grief away either.  But He did come to share it.”

My mind went back to another December in 1982 when I waited in a hospital room while my dear mother endured a treatment on her lungs, by now infested with cancer.  The treatment was simply temporary relief to her breathing.  The doctor had told us she only had three months to live.  His diagnosis/prediction was very accurate.

It was Christmas time but there was no Christmas spirit in me.  Thankfully, my extended family took my nine-year-old son with them so he could enjoy the holiday festivities.  I certainly was not interested in shopping, baking cookies, or putting up a Christmas tree.  My mother lay dying in a hospital bed.

She wanted me with her while the treatment was being administered.  I sang to her, quoted Scripture, held her hand, and tried to appear strong for her sake.  I was anything but.  I was falling apart on the inside.

While she rested awhile after the treatment, I looked out of the hospital window and wondered where God was in all of this.  How could people be celebrating the joyous season, how could I? The sweet whisper of the Spirit spoke to my heart, reminding me that Jesus came to the earth in human flesh for just such a reason as this, because of sin, sickness, and death.  He came to share in my humanity with all of its joys and sorrows. 

I am comforted to know the prophet Isaiah called Jesus a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with my grief (Isaiah 53).  While Jesus lived on this green and blue planet, He purposely clothed Himself in blood cells, nerve endings, human emotions and skin just like mine.  He subjected himself to life and death, to friendship and betrayal, to joy and sorrow.

And He did it all without sinning.  I cannot say the same.

This is what makes my Savior the Great High Priest that He is, the One who entered the inner sanctuary behind the curtain on my behalf; the One who lives to intercede for me, the One who runs to my cry when I am tempted, tried, and suffering.  (Hebrews 7:25, 6:19-20; 2:18)

Don’t we anticipate the days leading to Christmas as being joy-filled and happy?  It is just not so for countless fellow travelers on this road called life.   Even Mary the mother of Jesus, in the midst of her joyful moment of dedicating her precious baby at the temple, was given a grave prophecy by Simeon.   “A sword will pierce your soul, too,” he told Mary.

Sorrow is part of life just as much as happiness and joy and peace and celebrations.  The final Word on it all for me comes from Hebrews 13: 5b . . .

” . . . for He Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support.  I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake nor let you down, relax My hold on you — assuredly not!”   (Amplified Bible)

There is no greater assurance than that.  And no better reason to celebrate.

Empty?

I just have to make one more comment about Naomi’s homecoming to Bethlehem.  Her complaint about God reveals her deep emotion, her great sorrow for the past, and her hopeless view of her future.  Ruth 1:21 says,

“I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.”   

None of us can deny the truth of Naomi’s loss.  I cannot even imagine what she must have felt after having lost her husband and two beloved sons.  But examine her statement about being “empty.”

Close beside her stood Ruth, the daughter-in-law who had proclaimed her love and determined faithfulness at the beginning of the journey to Bethlehem.  Ruth had suffered loss herself.  She too experienced the death of her husband, and she was childless after years of marriage.  Her heart was broken like Naomi’s.  But it is apparent that she was in this thing with Naomi to the death.  As the story unfolds, we will see that Ruth is the source of Naomi’s life changing direction.  Naomi will be restored.  Her heart will be full again.

We can feel completely devastated, drained of our very lifeblood, and yes, empty after a tremendous loss.  It is normal to experience that kind of emotion.  But don’t miss the fact that God brings life from death.  He is the very source of Life and Resurrection.  If we stay too long in the empty, bitterness of our own pain, we may not see our own resurrection though it  stands as close as Ruth was to Naomi.

Lift your eyes from your weeping, dear sister.  No one denies you have a right to cry.  Just acknowledge that there is One standing close by you.  Consider Jesus.  Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning.  There is still life in your future.  Look for the sunrise!

Someday I’ll understand

How are you doing with your Bible study in the book of Ruth?  Dealing with the losses in our lives can be tough work.

I’ve mulled over day one of Kelly Minter’s study guide a couple of times.  Thoughts are swirling.  Painful things surface to the top.  And one more time I pour out my heart to God.  Reading the study’s suggested scriptures, I identify with Job’s pain while he feels so forgotten by God.  I can see his life from the perspective of knowing how it will end.  And I want to tell him, “There is hope, Job.  There is a Redeemer!  God will make it clear, maybe not in your lifetime, but someday.  Your great trial will encourage me thousands of years later.” 

There is so much I do not understand.  So many questions I would like to ask.  Too much suffering I cannot explain away.  I imagine and I wonder if perhaps that great cloud of witnesses spoken about in Hebrews 12 would like to tell me, “There is hope, Peggy.  God will make it clear, maybe not in your lifetime, but someday.” 

And so I press on with the knowledge I do have:  

  • that God is faithful
  • that He is good
  • that there is a purpose in pain
  • that I may confidently approach His graceful throne and expect to receive mercy and grace enough
  • that my Redeemer lives and identifies with me
  • that my great High Priest runs to my cry (Hebrews 2:18, see below)

There is comfort in that knowledge.  And so I wait with hope that someday I will understand.

Hebrews 2:18 For because He Himself in His humanity has suffered in being tempted (tested, and tried), He is able (immediately) to run to the cry of (assist, relieve) those who are being tempted and tested and tried and who therefore are being exposed to suffering.   (Amplified Bible, emphasis added)

Monday morning

Yesterday Little Flock Baptist Church began a four-day revival.  I wonder if anyone else sensed that Jesus was in the House yesterday?  There was such a powerful presence during the praise and worship.  I had to lift my hands in praise to the awesome God I serve. 

I was moved by the sermons both in the morning and evening by Dr. Ronnie Hill.  I had the privilege of being on the encourager team and was able to talk with a teen who wanted reassurance of her salvation.  As she reiterated Dr. Hill’s sermon, she wanted to be sure she “hadn’t missed first base.” 

I knelt at the altar in the PM service asking God for the heart of an evangelists, naming the people I want to tell about Jesus.  I expect the Lord takes that kind of prayer seriously, which means I am in for something!

As I wake from sleepiness this morning, some of my first thoughts are on the ladies of the Ruth Bible study.  We will  not meet for class this Wednesday because we will be attending the revival service that night.  I pray they are continuing their journeys with Ruth and Naomi this week.  I pray for their special requests.  I pray for a healing touch.

My long-time friend, Elaine, shared one her books with me.  I’ve just started reading it.  Mary Beth Chapman is the wife of singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman.  He is, by the way, one of my husband’s favorite guitarists.  Ms. Chapman’s book is Choosing to See, her own story after the devastating loss of their little daughter, Maria, a few years ago.  Early in the book she made a statement that I have to share with my Ruth Bible study classmates.  She said,

 “What I’ve found is that it’s in the most unlikely times and places of hurt and chaos that God gives us a profound sense of His presence and the real light of His hope in the dark places.”     

I have found this to be so true.  In the darkest night, Jesus shines brightest.   In my great weakness, He is the strongest of the strong.  When I am desperate and helpless, He alone is my Helper.  May you find Him to be so to you this day, this week, on this your journey.

Blessings to you all on this Monday morning.  Go with God.