Rain, Weeds, and the Good Gardener

I’ve just come in from weeding in the rain. Me and Jesus had quite the conversation so I thought I’d share some of His perspectives. It seemed at every turn God whispered lessons and thoughts, parallels and analogies.  How good He is to take the most mundane task and turn it into a devotional time, which leads to His first whisper.

“I don’t want to do this. I’m tired,” I said.

“I know. C’mon, it’ll be fun. We’ll do it together, ” He said.

Together.  Ah  yes.  He reminded me He is here with me. And my weeds. God reminded me of this download about worship. In short, when we do everything with our whole heart, when we do it for Him, it’s worship.

1) Worship is doing everything with Him and for Him.
“Got it. I’m not weeding, I’m worshiping. Here I go into the downpour,” I said, trying to sound cheerful.

Let me just say, I love walking in the rain. However. I did not want to pull weeds in the rain. So I debated whether the cool weather and soft soil would be worth the wetness. It was.

2) Sometimes the hardest step into the uncomfortable is the first step.
Once I got out there, it was actually enjoyable and the raindrops on my skin proved to be a mosquito repellent. Who knew? (Well, besides Jesus.)

3) Keep your garden watered.
The rain-soaked ground was so easy to work with. As I pulled up weeds and dug around my plants, the soil was pliable in my hands.  The weeds literally pulled up out of the ground with minimal effort. I had gone out couple of weeks ago but the ground was so parched that the weeds only broke off in my hand.

The Lord continued.

“See Jana, you have good dirt. It just needed a little rain to soften it up. And now the weeds come up root and all,” He said.  I pulled in silence for several minutes, but I was more and more aware of the all the weeds that had overtaken my garden.  I kept thinking about His comment of pulling up the weeds up “root and all.” I kept noticing the how soft the soil was because of the soaking rain.

“Kind of like repentance,” He added.



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Tending to Your Heart In Winter

Imagine  a dried piece of toast.  That’s what my heart  looked  like coming out of the holidays.  And I was so confounded by it.

I enjoyed such a rich time with my family and friends, a time for which I am so grateful and don’t take for granted. I don’t know about you, but families can be risky, so having a happy gathering is a big win at my house. Plus when your kids are home for two weeks, and your husband is on vacation, it generally means mom is not! But God answered my prayers that I would truly savor the times we had together. And we did! IMG_5956

Still when it was just me and Jesus again, the kids back at school, Chuck back to the office, the decorations back in boxes, I felt a little iced over. How can this be when we just spent a month celebrating God’s faithfulness and wonder?

Nevertheless. I was dried out. Iced over.  Blah.

In the natural, winter demands protective measures. Covering pipes. Wearing warmer clothes. Increasing Vitamin D until the sunshine returns.

I’m finding the spiritual winter demands extra effort as well. The first step for me in warming up was understanding that I  am not doing anything wrong necessarily. Continue reading

The Missing Ingredient for Breakthrough

“I’m stuck.”     “I can’t.”       “I don’t know how.”

I have come to a real epiphany around these phrases. As a warning, you may not like my revelation, but it is in the Word.  So I guess you’ll need take it up with the Author and Finisher of our Faith instead of with me. Smile.

I’ve spent a lot of time telling people how to get well.  Some respond and some don’t. No problem. But I have also spent a lot of time trying to talk people into getting well. Most don’t.  This is a problem on both our ends. It’s not a counseling issue, it’s a repentance issue.

Why?  Because, while God has forgiven us completely of our sin and no longer counts it against us, there is still a spiritual principle of repentance that is for OUR good health. Let me explain.

Repentance is like a spiritual thermometer. It checks the tenderness of our hearts, our willingness to see with spiritual eyes, our openness to hear from the Lord. When I get in a wad, it is repentance that invites God to redirect my heart and mind. Otherwise I continue to harden—defend — isolate—blame. These heart conditions always lead to stupid actions. Always. That’s why we want our “repentance reflex” to be very quick and strong.

So what is repentance?  To turn back. To return. To agree with God.

It is like Google Maps saying, “Re-routing.”  Somehow we have gotten off the blue line of wisdom or truth so repentance, or returning, helps us get back on God’s blue line of direction. And with repentance comes a promise.

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19-20 NASB)

This makes my heart beat faster. Have you ever felt this burden? The sheer weight of the bitterness, confusion, anger, disappointment, unbelief, sarcasm, shame or accusation?

As soon as we confess it, agree with God, turn our faces back to His, He wipes it away and we are given a fresh breath of His loving presence. Again and again He does this. His mercy never fails.

People who love to repent do get well over time.

But what about those who scoff or ignore or despise even the idea of repentance? Here is my epiphany.

So much time is spent on God’s people who are Clearly lost and yet they act like they are not. This is denial, or worse, pride. I am finding it is better to let them soak in the hard place rather than to give hours of unheeded counsel. Here’s why. I believe our good intentions hamper their healing. People want to talk about their problems and they should. We all need it. In fact the Bible encourages us to confess our sins to one another that we may be healed. (James 5:16)

Yet here’s a dividing point. Danny Silk has this beautiful phrase, “You don’t have a solution for anybody on the planet that doesn’t have a problem.” People who want to massage their problems are not repenting. They want to feel better for the moment but they never want to get right with the Lord. They rarely ever want to confess that they are the problem. And more importantly, they never want to believe that Jesus can or will heal them. Even Jesus asked, do you want to get well? (John 5)
He didn’t ask, do you want spend endless time arguing, blaming, defending, explaining why you are sick and why I should feel sorry for you?

He asked a crippled man, Do you want to be well? When the man started giving his list of excuses, Jesus gave a clear instruction, “pick up your mat and walk.” It was completely counter to what the cripple expected. Here is where choice is a life or death matter in healing. The cripple had to respond to Jesus’s instruction in order to be healed.

Everyone has the freedom to choose life or death. God or drama. Free or stuck. Worship or numbed out.  People have to choose to go to God. To listen and respond in repentance. They need to feel the squeeze of their choices in attitudes and actions. We call this beautiful phenomena “being led by the Spirit.” And we all have to respond when the Spirit tells us to get up and walk.

I think it’s important for us to tell people about the incredible love of God and then get out-of-the-way. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. Not our begging, enabling, cajoling, controlling. Only the Holy Spirit can bring conviction and only the Holy Spirit can empower healing. Our job is to tell them what’s available, love them either way, and then let them choose their own path. Life or death. Healing or addiction. Conquering or quitting.

May we all work on our “repentance reflex.” There is so much more life available in God. I believe repentance is the key that unlocks the door.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. 
Psalm 42:5

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. 
Proverbs 28:3a

For I Know…

How much of what God knows matters one whit to you?

If you read with your eyes and assimilate with your mind that “God knows the plans He has for you,” does that actually impact what you do with the rest of your life, your day, the next hour?

I find in my life that I have this uncanny ability to bank more on what I know, than what HE knows.

This is very, very scary.

Last night in the WGR class, we closed with a song by Sidewalk Prophets. It was so rich that I got up and had another dose of its truth this morning.

The Words I Would Say

Be strong in the Lord and
Never give up hope
You’re going to do great things
I already know
God’s got His hand on you so
Don’t live life in fear
Forgive and forget
But don’t forget why you’re here
Take your time and pray
Thank God for each day
His love will find a way
These are the words I would say

I need to be reminded that GOD has big plans for me and you.  I need to be reminded that “His arm is not too short to save” and “nothing thwarts the plans of God.” But more than simply being reminded, God invites me to live Differently because of this truth. I can rest in the reality that God is for me, with me, calling me out and drawing me in.

The only way to combat fear is to walk with Truth. The only way to change your mind and your life is through worship and repentance. Worship: soaking in the beauty and goodness of God. Repentance: confessing areas that you trust someone, something more than God and turning back towards Him.

I pray that today your hope will be in His plans for you. Yes you.  I pray His plans will fuel everything you think and do with a renewed sense of purpose that your life lived with Him, today, matters for all eternity.

Oh yes, I also pray that because you trust Him, and His plans, you learn to trust that He is going to use what you are going through Today to advance His plans. “For I know the plans I have for you…”

Willing to Change

My head is abuzz with a newly scratched out “To Do List” for 2010. It is full of a grand vision, scary possibilities and deep, deep longings of my heart.  And it is a lot of work.  I was so inspired that I had to take a nap.

I figure I might as well rest up first before beginning anything new. Have you ever felt this way? Wanting to quit from the sheer hugeness of a task?  Throwing in the towel before you have even dared to go one round in the ring?

There is one key ingredient that the Lord keeps whispering to me and Chuck as we look down the coming year: Discipline.

Before you groan, listen to the definition. Discipline:  training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.

That doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?  And to throw my own spiritual spin on it, discipline is being willing to be taught a better way.

Isn’t that what we are all hungry for?  A better way to — fill in the blank — get in shape, manage money, improve our marriages, stop addictions, have healthier relationships, perform better at work, etc.? And if we were honest, what we are doing right now may not be working so well.  We aren’t getting the results we long for.

But when we ask the Lord for discipline, we are in essence asking Him to teach us a better way for better results. Now instead of us working it up in our own strength, we are seeking the supernatural, the God Factor.

Last night, John Dee quoted Roman 2: 4  – that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. “Which means,” he added,  “It is the kindness of God, His love and affection for us, that causes us to ‘change our minds.’ Repentance is changing the way you think, to agree with what God thinks.”

So now put these two words, discipline and repentance, together – willing to be taught a better way, and aligning our thoughts to think God’s way – and we have a pretty potent cocktail.

Change is bound to a happen because you have tapped into what God wanted from you all along: His strength in your weakness. Make your lists. Take your naps. Then go after your dreams.  God is with you all the way.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32

“Lord, grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Psalm 51