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Because He First Loved Me

Published June 18, 2017 by Dawn

I had a very humbling experience the other day. I was lying in bed the other morning It was really early … like, the birds weren’t even up yet. I laid there hoping for the best in terms of falling back to sleep and eventually slipped into a nap. I had this dream that the Lord was looking for me, searching deeper and deeper into the depths of this really dark pit. He finally made it to the bottom, still faithfully calling out my name. There at the bottom, he lifted up this thick covering and there I was, hiding underneath it. I looked up at him with fire in my eyes and venom on my tongue as I hissed, “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”

I was a little kid who had lost a game of hide and seek. The Lord searched until he found me, and to my shame, when he finally found me, I was insolent and hateful. I had the sensation that this dream was a picture of Jesus. He was searching out the deepness of my heart, looking for me. I was humbled to hear myself whisper such a horrendous thing to my Lord. His gentle love in that moment humbled me greatly as I heard the Spirit whisper, “…because he first loved me.”

Being transparent seems easy for me, but I have to admit that this one was hard to even delve into for myself, much less admit it out loud for the world to know. I’ve prided myself for years … Is it okay if I get really transparent here? I might not have admitted this out loud to anyone before, but the truth is that me not being who I once was is a huge deal (to me). I took pride in it for years. Being redeemed, being transformed … I took pride in that. You will say to me, “That’s not Christ-like.” I know, friend. I know. I couldn’t help myself. I know that person, and I know myself now. I know the pit I came out of and I felt the weight of escaping it (though now I know I didn’t feel hardly anything compared to what Christ carried for me), but I felt it and the memories made me very proud to be where I am now. Are you hearing the echoes of pride as you read this? Is it turning you off? I am so sorry. I just want you to know what happened to me the other morning and to understand, you have to understand where I was at. I was proud. Of myself.

I have spent the last 8 years of my life in the arms of Christ. I have patiently bore the suffering for His name and His purpose in my life. I have not created my own way and called it good. I have remained as faithful as I can to His Will. Don’t abandon reading now … I know what this sounds like, but bear with me. I have, through all of this, nurtured this pride that somehow, I have attained “good enough” because I have strived for holiness, wrestled with flesh and maintained a firm hold on my own righteousness.

Yes, I credited God with my mouth. I thanked Jesus from my heart. What he did for me on that cross was amazing: buying me from the clutches of sin so I could pursue holiness. And each step forward, I patted myself on the back. That’s why Christ uncovered me. Because all this time, I have given credit to myself for something I could never have done on my own. There, in the secret place of my heart, I watched in horror as my child-like self hissed “I hate you” to the one who sought me, found me and pulled me out. What is there to be proud of when you know yourself like this?

That wasn’t the worst part, though. That wasn’t what did me in. Here’s what did it: He looked at me tenderly in that moment and I could see it on His face. He loved me in that moment.

Something happened. I broke. Jesus, hearing my rebellious heart hate Him, looked me in the eye with such compassion and reached for me anyway.

I don’t think I’ve ever fully understood the cross until this moment. I have spent endless hours reading the Word of God, drinking in the love story of He and Us, but the truth of it never hit me as powerfully until this moment, when His compassion destroyed my pride. I can’t even love Him without Him first loving me.  To me, that would be the easy part compared to some of the things I have been through. If I can’t even do that one thing without His help, how can I claim credit for anything?

I can’t.

Not only do I know now who I am without Him, I know fully what I am capable of. Without Him, I can do nothing. Without Him, I have done nothing. Without Him, I’m full of wickedness and a lover of darkness. I only have light because of Christ. I only walk in light and share light because of Jesus. Paul bids me to “take care lest ye fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12) and now I know just how far I am capable of falling. I am also humbly aware of just how much Jesus has done for me, in spite of myself. Not only am I ashamed of my pride, I am ashamed of my propensities outside of Christ. I thought I had a hold of righteousness, but it turns out I am fully capable of making the devil blush.

I’m in awe of Him. I am in awe of a God who can know this about me and still love me fiercely. He is all-knowing, all-powerful and I am so unworthy. Who could blame God for dealing harshly with someone like me? But that’s the incredible thing: He doesn’t.

He loves me.

Not just me, though. You too, friend. You too.

 

Dear Lord,

Your love is so incomprehensible. I can’t fathom the depths of your mercy. I am so humbled and grateful. Please continue to heal me and lighten what’s dark and forgive me. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your compassions that don’t fail. I love you … now, even from the depths of my heart, I can honestly say I love you. Thank you for your patience on my behalf. You are so good.

 

You Might Be a Bad Mom If …

Published June 16, 2017 by Dawn

I’m probably not a very good mom. Yesterday, my son reflected on himself while getting ready for bed and said to me, “I should probably stop lying. You would probably like me more.”

What was I to say to that? The truth is, his lying is a HUGE deal to me.

  • Number one: lies are bondage. If “you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)” then what good is a lie? It’s no good! How can you put people you love in bondage and for what purpose?
  • Number two: lies show a lack of respect and love. How can you love someone and lie to them at the same time? And when you lie to someone, you are basically saying, “I don’t care enough about you to be honest.” Or, you are saying, “I don’t think you are smart enough to figure out the truth, so…” I hate both of those things.
  • Number three: What would Jesus do? Well, he wouldn’t tell a lie …

I could go on. I hate lies. I’ve lived my life being lied to and deceived by people I loved and trusted, and I hate the brokenness and suspicion that resulted. So when my son said this to me, I did what came natural … being a good mom wasn’t it. A good mom might have started with, “Oh son … I love you no matter what, but –“

Instead, I said, “Son, that’s legit.”

I kid you not. The truth just popped off my tongue and hit my son right between the eyes. He looked at me incredulously and did a nervous chuckle. I then defied motherhood a second time and I swallowed every instinct to immediately apologize for it. Here’s the truth: the way he lies – the ease and surety that makes me uneasy because I’m afraid he believes himself – it does kinda hamper my affections. You know how it is, moms. You know you love your kids but sometimes, you don’t like  them. We all feel this way at some point, right?! So it was truth and I delivered it unapologetically.

He just shook his head, chuckling, and said, “Mom, I can’t believe you said that!”

I sat down on the edge of his bed and said, “Son, your lying really needs to stop.”

I’ve been thinking about this all day, praying about it, because naturally, I’m always nervous about how badly I’m screwing my kids up. I wasn’t looking to justify myself, just exploring my own lack of good parental etiquette. Instead of finding myself coming  up short, I recognized a little of my own Father in it. You see, God hits us with hard truths sometimes. He allows things to dawn on us and when we begin to sense the Holy Spirit directing change in our lives, God guides us to that change with a healthy dose of truth that He doesn’t apologize for. He doesn’t even cushion the impact. If the truth is going to set us free, it has to first illuminate the bondage and break it. Being broken is hard, but freedom … who can deny it’s preciousness? It turns out God doesn’t always function within the guidelines of “etiquette” as we understand it either. He is loving, but often blunt as well. The Lord chastises those He loves (Heb. 12:6). We live in a time where this sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s scriptural. God doesn’t always protect our feelings. He’s busy protecting our spirits and our eternities.

I think it’s important to remember that God still loves us in these moments. I love and adore my son to death. But his lying … I don’t love that at all. I could live without it and I know that this bad character trait will make his life a lot harder than life already is. I love my son so much. I don’t want to see him intensifying his own struggles by something the Holy Spirit can deal with. I want him to embrace this as an eye-opening opportunity to make a change for the better. God wants the same for His children. And the Bible calls Him a good, good Father. I guess I’m not so bad after all!

Standing Outside the Fire

Published May 31, 2017 by Dawn

I walked into a tree limb yesterday morning. It was literally my breaking point. I walked into a tree limb, it poked me in the eye and I started to cry.

 

I know … I sound super lame right now, but it’s true. I fell apart after being poked in the eye by a stick. You’re probably cracking up right now. I’d be laughing too, but … well, ok, I’m laughing now. It wasn’t funny at the time.

 

I hit my breaking point exactly as I just mentioned. After a two-night, surprise admission to the hospital (which means a crappy shower and no razor … let that sink in, ladies … ), I came home right before a strong storm knocked out the electricity (ok, seriously, am I the only one obsessed with taking a shower?). I came home with a kid who doesn’t understand how vital it is to not do anything for the next ten days of his life while his body wards off a very nasty infection that necessitates some of the strongest antibiotics currently known to the medical world. To say I have been stressed lately doesn’t seem like I have adequately conveyed to you the angst going on in me. But do you get it when I mention the tree poking me in the eye? It didn’t even touch my actual eyeball. It just poked me near my tear duct. Tears welled up in my eyes, but the tears from my heart pushed them overboard and I stood in the yard crying like a child.

 

Dear Daddy,

I’m done. Please, not another thing. These so-called light and momentary troubles are getting the best of me right now. I don’t know how strong you think I am, or how strong you want me to be but I assure you I’m not. I’m done. This assault … can I call a time out? I don’t know what you’re aiming at in my life right now, but my hands are up and I surrender. How can I glorify you in this moment? What purpose can you possibly have in poking me in the eye? Cease fire! I can’t take anymore!

 

I eventually sucked it up and got back to what I was doing: picking up the yard after said storm so it could be mowed. The Holy Spirit whispered something to me that Paul said, about counting it all joy in suffering … it was an okay thought and it got me through the moment but that yard just sucked me back in to the here and now.

 

There was so much natural debris in my yard, I decided to start a small fire and burn it little by little. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned how God uses music to speak to me sometimes, but it’s one of my main obsessions, so it makes sense. Only His choice of song was a little strange … Standing Outside the Fire. I don’t think I’ve heard that song since I was a kid. But there I was, standing next to the fire when it started running through my head.

 

Life is not tried it’s just merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire.

 

And I realized that here lately, I have been merely surviving. With my head barely above water, so to speak. Standing outside the fire – existing outside that precious communion with the Holy Spirit – I am barely making it. I am overwhelmed. To be completely honest, I’m not trying. I’m not putting forth much effort beyond just making it through each day.

 

There are several encounters with fire in the Bible. Moses at the burning bush. Moses on the mountaintop. The fire at Mount Sinai. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Elijah. The fire is both unapproachable and engulfing. I can clearly see a progression of the Spirit of God: coaxing us near, engulfing us, drawing us near to Him. When the veil was torn, all of humanity was given a beautiful opportunity to come into this kind of fellowship with God. Unfortunately, there’s also a discomfort involved. Fire purifies. It burns up the natural man until there’s nothing left to hinder in our pursuit of the Father’s heart. It feels a lot like heat and tribulation in this life. Jesus came that we may have life more abundantly, but we won’t ever do more than merely survive if we are willing to stand outside the fire. We’ll just be surviving the onslaught. Never victorious. Never advancing. Never coming into precious communion with the Father. I know I wasn’t made for that.

You and I were made for Him who shows up as a pillar of fire. Who says He will be a wall of fire around us. The children of God were made to be consumed. These sufferings come so that the glory of God might be revealed in us. The fire of His presence. I don’t want to stand outside the fire. I want to step into it. Walk in it, knowing that God is there with me and will not leave me or forsake me. I want to allow His Holy Spirit to purify me through trials. When I am weak, He is strong. Here I am freely admitting my frailty. I am ready and needing God to stand by me and give me strength. These moments are so sweet, even if they seem a little bitter at first. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an even greater glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17).

 

 

Sinners in the Church

Published May 12, 2017 by Dawn

“Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, ‘This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.’ They followed him because he amazed them for a long time with his sorcery.”

Simon was well-known and praised among the people. His witchcraft awed the crowds and led people to exalt him as someone in God’s favor. Sorcery being a demonic activity, we can clearly see that the crowds were wrong. People who easily talked about God obviously did not know God, or they would have seen through the ruse. The crowd was duped by Satan.

 “But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw …”

Finally, the message of the cross resonates with the people – and with Simon – and they all get saved and are baptized. Even Simon.

“When Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ Peter answered, ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin’” (Acts 8:9-13,18-23).

After Simon is saved, he’s still chastised by the disciples because his discernment is way off. Peter recognizes two things in him: Simon was full of bitterness and captive to sin.

Full of bitterness.

Captive to sin.

But saved.

What?

I know it’s hard to believe, but Christians can say the right things, be baptized, and still need to examine themselves. Christians can be saved and still be full of dangerous things. Being made holy is a process. God will shine His light on so many parts of us, showing what displeases Him and expecting us to deal with it so we can draw closer to Him. That’s why it is so important to understand that we should not consider our sin a sad biproduct of living. We are freed from the power of sin. We are freed from the clutches of sin and we are capable of saying “no” to sin. We just don’t. We embrace and excuse our sin because that’s easier than getting on our faces and crying out for God to cleanse us. We would rather not know we need help. We would rather be saved and left alone to wallow in our flesh, like a pig wallows in the mud.

Peter told Simon to repent his wickedness. To ask for forgiveness for the thoughts in his heart. He called out Simon’s sin so that Simon could recognize his need. Having a “Don’t judge me!” attitude ensures that you will remain blind to the things the Holy Spirit has chosen to deal with in you. Having any attitude besides humility ensures that a person is unwilling to see themselves for who they truly are inside. In need of a Savior. Not just once, but every day. The Bible tells us to keep with repentance. That’s a continual drawing near to the cross, seeing the savior there and knowing that it’s because of what’s within us.

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is within you – unless, of course, you fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Self-Annihilate, for the Glory of God

Published March 20, 2017 by Dawn

“…for you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God … put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature …” (Colossians 3:3,5)

I was lying in bed the other morning in a very self-righteous state of mind, counting the cost of transactions already made with the Lord. Parts of myself I have willingly given up and submitted to the Lord, things in life I have placed in His hands and not taken back, although I may have wavered at first. Battles with self that I have won … I was thoroughly patting myself on the back and recommending myself to the Lord in what can only be described as a disgusting display of self-pride. This was my usual prayer time and the Lord was there too, bearing witness to my self-love until He no doubt had enough. He very tenderly (but also firmly) reminded me of a story in the Old Testament that wiped the smile right off my face.

Samuel anointed Saul for a specific conquest and told him to destroy the Amalekites. The men, women, children, livestock … they were to be destroyed completely. Nothing to even suggest they ever existed was to be left. He then left Saul to the battle.

“When Samuel reached him, Saul said, ‘The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.’

“But Samuel said, ‘What this is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?’

“Saul answered, ‘The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.’

When Samuel returned, he was indignant. Saul greeted him with a victor’s hello, but Samuel immediately knew something was not right. Saul boasted in his victory and paraded the livestock and even the king of Amalek around as a spoil of war, bragging that he had completed the mission God had sent him on but that was not how God saw it at all.

“Samuel said, ‘Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, “Go and completely  destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out. Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?’

“’But I did obey the Lord,’ Saul said. ‘I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag, their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.’

Samuel repeated the instructions God had given Saul, but Saul still wouldn’t admit that he had done anything less than completely obey. He was blinded by his own pride. He kept Agag as a sort of trophy for having defeated an army that was notoriously vicious and most often victorious. In the same breath, Saul defends himself and says he did exactly what God commanded and destroyed all of the Amalekites, but admits to keeping Agag alive. Um, hello Saul! Is Agag not one of them?!

In his mind, Saul was justified in keeping Agag. He also distanced himself from the sin of keeping the livestock by blaming it on his soldiers. Twice. With all authority in his hands, he shrugs off his soldier’s defiance against the orders of God. And in case that wasn’t enough to satisfy Samuel, he tells him that the best of the livestock was purposed for God anyway.

When the Lord begins to deal with us in matters of the flesh and our earthly nature, He comes at us resolutely with the command that all must die. All of ourselves that is flesh and not spirit must be given over to death so that we may live in the new way of the Spirit. Because we love Him, we zealously thrust forth everything He points out as being unholy in us and nail it to the cross we are bid to carry. We easily identify our lusts and our unrighteous inclinations. We know they don’t please him … in fact, they no longer please us either, so it’s an easy sacrifice. But if we go on in this way for long enough, God begins to deal with things we would rather He leave alone. Things we carry around as trophies, spoils of war from days gone by. We look Him in the eye and insist it will be dealt with, then squirrel it away out of sight so we can take it out when we think God isn’t looking and admire it some more.

There are things in our flesh we are  sympathetic to that we will never willingly submit to God if we are functioning in our self-will. We have to submit to His will entirely in order to see the job done correctly, or like Saul, we will kill off only the things that serve no real purpose in our lives while keeping parts of us that doesn’t please God. We might even think, in our deceptive hearts, that what we have kept will serve a real purpose in His kingdom. And it will … just not God’s purpose. It will serve earthly purposes. Devilish purposes. Never God’s.

You see, God commanded Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites because He knew the threat they posed to the kingdom of Israel. The rampant idolatry, the constant destruction and war. God wanted His people to live in peace in the land He had so lovingly reserved for them. The Amalekites threatened their peace and security, and their presence threatened their purity and devotion to God. Saul’s sympathies – or pride, as it were – endangered the Israelites for centuries afterward.

There is sin in us – deep, hidden things that when brought to light, we will defend instead of surrender – that are traitorous to us. There is treason within our hearts just waiting for the moment we sympathize with it. Things God has said must go that we have hidden away because it seems to serve a purpose, or exalts our lowly pride. We will even look at God and insist we have given over all of ourselves, put to death all the misdeeds of the flesh, while glancing back at things we know He commanded us to give up and kill completely.  We don’t realize how serious a threat these things can be. How detrimental to our faith and our walk with the Lord. God wants us to live with inner peace and joy, and we are allowing things of the flesh to rob us when all we have to do is kill those desires and inclinations in us and we would be better off for it!

Be careful what you side with in your character. Each of us should bare every part of ourselves to the Lord and let Him approve or disapprove. We will no doubt approve of things that does not please the Lord, so to be all that God desires, we must allow Him to show us what in us is not of the Spirit, and then we must immediately kill the things that displease Him, dishonor Him, or violate our witness in any way. We cannot offer to God parts of ourselves as a holy sacrifice that He has already deemed as an unholy thing. We can never pride ourselves in a job well-done, because to pride ourselves at all is to admit that the job isn’t done. When we have completely died to flesh, we will find ourselves mortified, humbled yet gloriously alive in the Spirit and a pleasure to our Heavenly Father. To become such, we must first abandon all of self to death, so that we can be raised to life in the Spirit.

“To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22)

God is For Us

Published March 16, 2017 by Dawn

My son got in trouble at school yesterday. It wasn’t the first time; in fact, it seems like he’s embarked on a steady stream in the wrong direction as of late because his decisions lately have been reckless. He knows what he should do, but he has begun responding to life out of his emotions instead of wisdom.

I usually know about it right away. He texts me and tells me what has happened, afraid that I will find out from someone else first. He owns up to his guilt and has finally stopped blaming it on everyone else. So there is that … maturity is taking place, even if it seems like things are increasingly negative. He also owns his punishments and doesn’t expect me to rush in and defend him despite his transgression. One of my requirements when he gets in trouble is that he writes an apology note to those involved that have to deal with him. He now does it without having to be prompted.

His text yesterday started like this, “I got into trouble again today. I’m such a bad kid.” He told me what happened and told me he already wrote his apology letters and gave them to everyone involved. When he got into my car after school, he asked me if I still liked him.

Let me make something clear here: I am for my son. He can mess up a million times and I am going to choose to focus on his growth and maturity. When his teachers bring their frustrations over his behaviors to me, I am not going to talk bad about my son with them. I am not going to fraternize over his mistakes with them. I am going to be hopeful and optimistic about my son, even if all they see is a downward spiral. I don’t see that. I see a battle. I see him losing ground. But I also see victories. I see a kid who now knows his weakness and strengths. I see a kid who wants to be a man in spite of a lack of firm examples. I see a kid who takes his prayer life seriously, and has begun to put it first in his life. I see a kid who is fighting against his present culture, even if right now he’s not fighting as hard at school as he is at home. He’s not a lost cause to me. He’s one of my only causes, and I am on his side. I have caught him in indiscretion and I choose daily to forgive, correct, rebuke and discipline with love. I’m not in denial, but I am not losing faith over him. I love him, and I am his biggest cheerleader. I am for my son.

God is for His too.

Not all are sons and daughters.

  • “Therefore, come out from among then and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. And I will be a father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18).
  • “If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all” (Heb. 12:8).
  • “You are all sons and daughter of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).
  • “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

But when we accept Christ through faith, we are adopted and become sons and daughters of God, and for us, there is mercy. There is optimism and hope. There is forgiveness. He sees our sin and chooses to focus on our growth and our spiritual maturity instead. He will never agree with naysayers about who we are or where we are going in life. He knows us. He knows our imperfections, but he also knows our strengths. He is resolutely for us. We are His and He is our biggest cheerleader. He corrects, rebukes and disciplines in love. He takes care of business and He doesn’t allow us to excuse ourselves, but He doesn’t accept our indiscretions as final unless we choose that. God chooses to deal with us mercifully and with much grace. He won’t lose hope, even if we do. We can crawl into His lap at anytime and He will gently and faithfully remind us who we are and whose we are. This is the graciousness of a Father toward His children. God is for us. Hallelujah!

Planted in Christ

Published March 13, 2017 by Dawn

It all started with an egg carton and a whimsical fancy.

I bought a tray of 30 eggs the last time I went shopping, and after using them up, I noticed that the egg carton seemed extremely useful. I was immediately sure of what I wanted to do with it, because on a whim, I had bought flower seeds just a few days before and suddenly, I had the perfect planter to start them in. I planted a different seed in each row, putting down a little bit of potting soil before dropping the seed, then covering each one with a layer of potting soil in top. Then I watered them. I measured the water with an oral syringe, making sure each seed got the same amount. That’s more care than I’ve ever put into planting. This is the third time I’ve planted flowers, and twice before, I labored for hours over the flower boxes and tossed the seeds in prepared soil while hoping for the best. This time, I was meticulous. Every day for the next two weeks, I measured out the water the same way and made sure each had a decent amount. Remembering that April showers bring May flowers, I was liberal with it. The water soaked through the soil, the cardboard and trailed along the table. Those seeds had all the water a seed might need.

I checked my homemade flowerbed every day for two weeks, watching for a sprout. Amidst all of the brown, I noticed a tiny bit of green a few days ago. My first shoot! A closer inspection before bed revealed nine more! I excitedly said to my kids, “Look what I have grown!” Immediately, my spirit was indignant.

“What you have grown?”

Ah, pride.

The Holy Spirit reminded me of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3, “I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor…”

Clearly, it was absurd of me to claim that I had grown anything. I had put a lot of meticulous work into the process, but although I planted and watered the seed, there would be no growth unless the life God put inside it is awakened by God himself. The growth is a miracle of which I am not capable. I am literally going through the motions if God is not doing His work. I believe the same can be said of anyone who finds themselves in a ministry of any kind. It doesn’t matter how much time, energy or thought we put in to anything. If God is not in it, creating life in the midst of our efforts, it’s all in vain.

I also took notice of the amount of water these seeds needed. Every year, the beauty of spring arrives through the coaxing of an abundance of rain. Before that seed sprouts up into something unique and wonderful, it nearly drowns underground. The beautiful thing it soon will be is delicately prepared under a lot of dirt and water. The same is true for us. The beauty that God is meticulously preparing in each of us happens in place of darkness and distress, but if we are willing to accept the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in those dark places, if we are receptive to Him, we will eventually come out from beneath the load of it and show forth a beauty that could not otherwise exist.

Another thing I have learned about plants over the past few years of breeding aloes in my dining room is that plants grow toward the light. Their shoots reach toward the sun. A few days without a light source and plants wither. All other things being the same, couldn’t it also be said of us? How can a Christian expect to remain strong without a light source? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” We need His face shining on us, and we must behold Him daily lest we begin to falter, or cease to grow. Like plants, we will naturally yearn for our light source and reach for it. But there are so many distractions!

I have a Bonsai on my dining room table, and every once in a while, I have to dust it’s leaves because if I don’t, the tree cannot grow. Although it has water and sunlight, it cannot photosynthesize correctly if the leaves cannot absorb the sunlight without distraction. We Christians must also keep ourselves clean of distractions if we intend to grow uninhibited in the Lord.

There are many things in nature that mirror our relationship with the Lord. All the things He has made reveal who God is in our lives. He has taken great care so that we may know Him. Keep reaching for Him, be receptive to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and free yourself from distractions so that you may continue to know Him more. God bless!