This morning my first chore was to plant a witch hazel tree. Witch hazel trees are the only trees to hang onto their curly and colorful bloom-like tendrils during our zone 5-6 winters. A tree that I had drooled over for years and finally splurged on from a mail order catalog for my birthday a couple years ago. I took a risk and planted it in a very large pot (around 100 gallon), knowing that anything in a pot is more at risk of succumbing to freezing temperatures, but I was so uncertain of where I wanted it, that I chose the pot. We made it through the winter with plenty of moisture to sustain root growth. One thing led to another and I neglected the attention to the pot during a post winter snap that occurred during the early spring of 2018. The limber branches became brittle and despite my periodic checking, continued to snap to announce my failure and loss and mock my gamble on the pot. The particular company I ordered from had no guarantee, and so I mourned the death of my prized witch hazel tree and tried to let it go.
Fast forward to the summer of 2018, in which I stayed several times in Reed Springs, MO to help with the care of a granddaughter while my son and his wife worked out job training for her new job. On each trip around 20 miles or so before their home, in a town called Highlandville, I passed a nursery that specialized in trees, and kept wishing I could stop. On the last babysitting stay, I called the nursery and discovered that they, indeed, had native Witch Hazel trees! The native variety is not the pretty pink flowered cultivars (though there is some pink in the yellow), but wow. What a pleasant surprise. I managed to prioritize the expenditure and arranged to pick up the tree on my last return trip. The only size available was not much more cost than my former mail order purchase and yet many times taller and more established. The owner agreed to tie the 6-8′ tree into a manageable size bundle and load it in my Subaru. I was ecstatic, and drove the 3 hours home with the top portion of the tree beside me as my passenger.
So this morning was planting time for the Witch Hazel. Digging a hole big enough to generously accommodate a 10 gallon potted tree is no small undertaking. As with any of my gardening endeavors, I spend time in prayer and so clearly see spiritual application. After about an hour of digging with pick ax and sweat pouring, even at 7:30AM, I encountered not just the typical small rocks the Ozarks are so famous for, but a large rock. It was in the way of the hole that I needed, and so I continued to exert great effort at prying it out. After a few minutes of absolutely no headway, I uttered a prayer for a sign of hope before giving up with this very large rock in the way of the future root growth of the witch hazel. After a few more swings of the pick ax, the rock cracked. Clearly, the Lord was giving me hope, not only for the large rock embedded deeply in the way of my planting hole, but also showing me what He can do with stone, i.e., hearts of stone. “I’m going to give you a new heart, and I’m going to give you a new spirit within all of your deepest parts. I’ll remove that rock-hard heart of yours and replace it with one that’s sensitive to me.” Ezek. 36:26 International Standard Version
The picture above shows all the pieces of the same rock.
After the initial crack, I was energized to persevere. Though frustrated that the Ozarks can sport boulder size rocks well below the surface of an unsuspecting lawn, I continued. Sweat pouring, I continued carefully striking blows at the rock in a manner that I hoped wouldn’t keep me awake in shoulder, arm and back pain later, making new cracks, taking out pieces, and marveling at the size of one ridiculous size rock in just the wrong place. As progress was slow, I employed another method, that is, of picking at the dirt all around the rock, so as to access more of the rock for continued blows. All the while praying, listening to the Spirit speak to me about stony hearts, the Master Manipulator of our surroundings so that He can better “reach” us, and how nothing is impossible with Him. He can and will penetrate the hearts of stone.
I don’t know what makes stones geologically, but I do know some of the contributors to stony human hearts…things such as offenses, hurt, pain, bitterness, defensiveness, stubbornness, self-defense, and pride. And to think He gave me the strength and perseverance to remove this deeply embedded stone as large as a turkey platter. I have no doubt it was more for His glory in giving me another gardening devotional, than for my Witch Hazel tree having more space for it’s roots to grow. Yet, sometimes in the process, He showers His love and blessings on my own paltry plans while He accomplishes His greater purpose. And I’m ok with that. After all, I’m just clay in the Potter’s Hands.
I do hope this Witch Hazel lives. I’m sure there will be more spiritual application, what with the brightness it displays in a dreary winter landscape, so I have a hunch it’s going to do just fine.
From “Never Unfriended” by Lisa Jo Baker
“Shalom” radically interactive – taking an interest in the physical and spiritual well being of others. Care about their safety, soundness of body, welfare, posterity, peace and contentment, friendship and good health. Shalom is a radical word that challenges us to wake up from our obsession with ourselves and instead start the deliberate choice of focusing on the people around us and desperately caring less about ourselves and more about their “health, prosperity, harmony and wholeness. It means perfect welfare, serenity, fulfillment, freedom from trouble, and liberation from anything which hinders contentment.” This is the secret to finding and keeping lasting friendships: become women who want to see the women around you flourish. “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9) the “shalom” makers. “It is a word bursting with energy. It mandates action and initiative. Those who are invested, interested, and diligently working for the well-being of the people around them. “For they will be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9)
I want to be the kind of woman who makes other women feel welcome. Where they feel seen, valued, and safe. That means that whether or not we have close friends is entirely in our own hands.
It’s not about whether I’m ever unfriended; but rather about whether I will become the kind of woman who never unfriends.
I was so blessed to be able to jump on board at the last minute and go to the Living Proof Beth Moore conference in Springfield Friday night and Saturday morning. The worship was an amazing experience and the teaching inspiring, stimulating, and stirring. Beth spoke from Ps. 30: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” The Hebrew word for “turned” is Hapak – to turn around…transformation.
In those days sackcloth was some very rough cloth, similar to burlap, that they wore against their skin to cause them to feel outwardly what they were feeling in their hearts when they were undergoing something bad. It was also a message to those around them that they were hurting inside. And for believers, in a similar fashion to fasting, it reminded them each moment to take their burdens to God in prayer.
A few other pertinent cross references were Deut. 22:5, “Yet the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam, but He turned the curse into a blessing for you because the LORD your God loves you.” Hosea 7:8, “Ephraim has allowed himself to get mixed up with the nations. Ephraim is unturned bread baked on a griddle.” I thought that was an interesting illustration. As when a pancake is in need of turning, once side tends to burn and the top side is bubbly and doughy. When our perspective is out of wack and we aren’t listening to what God is trying to say to us we are like that unturned pancake.
To “take turns” in her talk was not meant as in taking turns with someone in doing something specific, but was to do with taking turns (or changes) in life that God would have us take. She outlined six steps to knowing how to take turns.
1) Know to your core that God alone is the turner. (Hebrews 1:3 – The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His naure, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” The biggest work of God is on the other side of two words: to turn. Here is the exquisite Paradox: There is nothing He who cannot change cannot change.
2) Need a turn. Know that you need a “turn”. She referred to a portion of scripture that says “You have drawn me up as from a well). He draws us up from deep pits and we need to be cognizant of our need and His rescue to us. Oswald Chamber said in “My Utmost for His Highest” (June 9), “If you realize that you are lacking, it is because you have come in contact with spiritual reality – do not put the blinders of reason on again. The word “ask” actually means “beg.” Perhaps it’s time we realize our desperate need of His turning us in some new way toward Him.
3) Be willing to take the turn. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, the same way and expecting a change. Some of us need to break free from the bondage of “sameness”. We may not understand why some change is not pleasant. However, there is something healthy about knowing that we will be able to ask Him “why”…”what happened here?” when we get to Heaven. When we have grievous things happen to us, don’t skip the time to mourn. Lam. 5:15-17a says “for this our heart has become sick.” Ps. 107:33-35 talks about the fact that He turns rivers into deserts and deserts into pools. Whether it is good to bad or bad to good (and most of us experience both many times in our lives)…His job is to turn us toward Him!
Ps. 126:4 He restores. The true prosperity gospel is the prosperity of the actual gospel. It is us living out the gospel of Jesus. It is prosperity of our Spirit. It is when our gifting has been put at full throttle.
Ps. 31:11 (The Message) Says “You did it! You ripped off my mourning band and decked me with wildflowers!”
4) Begrudge absolutely no one else a turn. In the old testament the word favor was tied in with the word grace. Always be gracious about the turns that are happening and should be happening in the lives of others. It is not all about you. God is the turner. Move with Him, not in resistance or opposition to Him.
5) Realize Jesus took your very worst turn. Meditate on this. Live your life in response to this. Live in the turn that God is doing in your life. The same thing is going to get the same result. Live in a constant Jesus Consciousness because we are living in a corrupt world.
6) Testify to taking turns. Ecc. 3:7 “There is a time to tear and a time to sew.” When they wore the mourning garment they tore it to signify their mourning and brokenness. So it is interesting that God acknowledges there is a time to sew. Not throw the old garment out and pretend it was never torn. Not pretend we were never broken. But wear the scars that show His healing and redemption. The stitches bore the scars and tell a story. The story should always be about Him and how He used it. He is Jehova Rapha – The God who heals. He mends us with loving stitches by His own hands. He heals our wounds.
Winter is whimpering.
Dreary days come and go.
March winds are bickering.
Spring is making a show.
Heleborus was faithful
to show up in snow,
but its’ debut is fading
as the daffodils grow.
The forsythias stun us
in a short burst of bright,
but the most magnificent fuss
seems to come overnight.
It’s the herald of spring
and most gardeners agree,
the most charming tall bling
the Magnolia tree.
How do you trust God when you’re facing unemployment? Here is a list of encouraging Bible verses for job seekers. Focus on God during this difficult time.
I hope you find courage and hope as you search for new employment. Spend time in prayer and rely on God’s Word. Trust in the Lord because He is faithful and will provide for all your needs.
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Phil Wickham “Divine Romance”
Though I too often let the business of life crowd out the mindset God has laid out for me, the deepest feeling of satisfaction for me comes from time spent in the Word because God never fails to reveal things to me and because His presence is a great comfort and guide in this life full of trials and temptations.
It’s natural for us to try to find comforting things that make us feel happy and I certainly have my favorites: a cup of coffee (even better a latte), a pile of books, family times, a close friend, a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, and dark chocolate to name a few. But I’ve found that nothing can bring the satisfaction I long for except time spent in the Word and worship. Beth Moore says in her “Living Free” Bible study, “I believe God creates and activates a nagging dissatisfaction in every person for an excellent reason….God purposely created us with a need only He can meet…. Unfortunately, salvation alone does not completely fill the need…Christians can be miserably dissatisfied if they accept Christ’s salvation yet reject the fullness of a daily relationship that satisfies…He wants us to find the only things that will truly satiate our thirsty and hungry hearts.”
Sometimes too much of a good thing is gluttony and runaway expectations are hurtful. Beth goes on to say, “I am not minimizing the difficulty, but I am suggesting the obstacles are removed by volition. Some of the idols in our lives – things or people we have put in God’s place – can take much longer to remove. Some of them have been in those places for years and only the power of God can make them budge. We must begin to remove idols by choosing to recognize their existence and admitting their inability to keep us satisfied.”
The Rolling Stones captured the age old problem of dissatisfaction in their song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, ‘I can’t get no satisfaction, cause I try and I try and I try and I try.’ As long as our misguided hearts cause us to seek satisfaction in the wrong places permanent satisfaction will continue to elude us. Not only will it elude us, but our efforts to chase it down and have it can become dangerous to ourselves or those around us. To continue to indulge makes that thing an idol and/or a stronghold. Isaiah knew exactly what happens to an individual caught in such a trap, “He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’ (44:20)” This is where intercession with all sorts of prayers for ourselves and others entrapped can be like a spiritual life raft for the soul. God can and does open the blind eye and set free the captive when we pray with tenacity and faith.
Beth Moore confides in her personal experience of having her eyes opened to a lie she once held tightly in her hand, “I also remember the harrowing moment God opened my eyes to see what a lie I had believed. I cried for days. I originally thought this lie was a good thing…My heart, handicapped in childhood, had deluded me….My only consolation in my idolatry is that I finally allowed God to peel away my fingers…I am very aware that Satan will constantly cast idols before me.”
Chris Tomlin expresses well the delightful satisfaction in choosing what’s true in his song, “Satisfied”.
The most satisfying time of my day is the time in Bible study each morning with my husband. God’s Word never fails to comfort and exhort me. I am grateful for those who have prayed for me, because at times in my life I have blindly fed on ashes and grasped at lies. Have you? Do you know someone was praying for you? I also know some who have or are feeding on ashes and “cannot save themselves”, as Isaiah says, because they don’t recognize the lie. They need and get my prayers! Have you went to war in prayer lately for yourself and others in order to peel a lie from the hand and pull back a friend from a meal of ashes?
It’s easy to notice something disagreeable in others. It’s not so easy to pray for a renewed perspective insofar as our convictions will allow it. Even if our position is unchangeable, our attitude should be gracious so that we don’t become puffed up with pride. Elizabeth in “Pride and Prejudice” drove the point home when she complained about Mr. Darcy, ‘I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.’
“Mere Christianity”, C.S. Lewis says “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…” He also says “the more we have it in ourselves, the more we dislike it in others”. When we focus critically on others faults, then we may become blind sided with a blind side, and involuntarily adopt the sin of pride while we were ironically noting it in someone else.
Blind Side (Noun) 1. The side on which one’s vision, especially the peripheral vision, is limited or obstructed. 2. The side away from which one is directing one’s attention.
Blind Side(d) (v.t.) 2. To attack where a person is vulnerable.
(The Free Online Dictionary)
David said “Search me, God, and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” I wonder if he had just spent time with someone puffed up with pride. The best antidote for those unpleasant moments is to ask God to reveal heart sins and spend some time in introspection and repentance for ourselves, as well as intercession for others.
David was not an average king as far as pride goes. Though he could have abused his power as many in high positions do, he asked God why he had even bothered with him and his family…and yet answered himself humbly, saying that he knew it was for the sake of God’s Word and to carry out His will, and that God had been kind enough to let him. a mere human and servant, know. (2 Samuel 7:18-29) When we really get a grasp on this, we can’t be knocked off guard for long by difficulties and upsets. Whatever comes our way…whatever lot in life we have, if we can just hold onto that it’s all part of God’s plan and for His glory, we’ll be ok. We learn to showcase God in whatever circumstance He chooses for us. He doesn’t hold titles, positions, wealth or any of that in esteem. He values our devoted and intimate relationship with Him. If we’re cast into a humbling role in life, rather short term or long term, we can rest assured that God’s grace is fuller and His presence nearer to give us all we need to trust and carry out His will.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus comforts us with many truths that fly in the face of the prideful, such as, “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more – no less. That’s the moment when you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” If you like treasure hunting, click on the link and you’ll find more. (Matt. 5 MSG)
There are both promises and warnings nestled in the Beatitudes and it’s clear Jesus sees beyond the outward things that we so easily put our pointy fingers on…right to the heart of every matter, which is where God looks. Glimpsing into judgmental hearts has to be another reason why God is disgusted by pride and finds it an insult. If we really are finding something a stumbling block, and choose to pray about it, God is faithful to give us wisdom, reveal our own planks, and show us the direction He has for us, so that we are led by Him and not blind sided by pride.
Much of this post is taken from a message I heard several months ago by Kevin Farr at First Baptist Church (my mom’s church) here in Steelville. It was so meaningful to me I asked for the notes at that time and had planned to include them in a post long before now. I still find the words both challenging and encouraging and worth sharing here.
Whether it’s spiritual family or earthly family, the bonds are made from rich and inexpungible meaning. According to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary “inexpungible” is incabaple of being obliterated. Since Gal. 6:10 tells us to do good especially to those in the household of faith, we can be certain that God wants us to look kindly on our brothers and sisters in the faith and view them as if they were our own flesh and blood family, not thinking of them lastly with our kindness, but thinking especially of them.
In his first point, he outlined some guidelines to living as family. They included not putting our family members under condemnation (while fully supposing those who are truly in Christ would be cooperating with the Spirit’s work within). Thankfully, the Christian is no longer a slave to sin. We are no longer powerless against the sinful tendencies and desires that rise up within our own hearts. “(thus the person dealing with an attraction for porn has the privilege and power to turn from it; the person with a same-sex attraction has the privilege and power to turn from it, the kleptomaniac has the privilege and power to turn from stealing, and on and on it goes.) Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 Note well Paul’s warning to those who do live obligated to the flesh – ‘ you are about to die’ – if you live according to the flesh – i.e. as an ongoing practice…Paul is warning against the eternal ‘death’ which all who are without Christ will suffer…Notice that Paul didn’t say we are obligated to the spirit or to God; rather, we are to live ‘by the Spirit’ – it is a desire of the will…How you live matters, and is a display of what you truly believe….Our sanctification is not a once-and-done activity, nor is it a matter of ‘cleaning up our lives by our own willpower. It is the Spirit of God leading, empowering, and transforming. For those truly saved, the spirit of the person loves what the Spirit is doing and wants more of it. The Christian (man) says…I don’t want to be lusting after female images or gawking and lusting after other women, I want to love my wife; The Christian doesn’t want to be dependent on the drugs of the world to try and supply peace, happiness, joy, and contentment, but wants to be dependent on and trust in God, etc.”
The second portion of the message was on how to know we’re in the family. We have an assurance and a confidence when we are in Christ. We are given this spirit upon adoption as His very own children, and this spirit of adoption leads and guides. Our new Father is jealous over us and our adoption so that He may present us, the church, as a pure bride to Christ. How important to tap into the privilege and power we have been given to turn from that which would draw us away from our adoption.
“Adoption (much more common in Roman culture than Jewish, Paul was surely referring to the Roman practice, writing to the church at Rome) – ‘natural-born’ children in Paul’s day could be disinherited, but an adopted child could not! According to Roman law – once the child had been released by his biological father, it took 7 witnesses to confirm the adoption’s legality before a Roman magistrate. When adopted, the child severed all ties with the old family. The new father had full authority over the new son. The son became an heir to the new father’s estate. Any old debts the son may have had were wiped out. The son now had all the privileges and responsibilities of his new family’s natural children.”
So many rich parallels lie within the Roman adoption laws to our relationship with God. God seeks us and we turn away from our “old” life. Our sin “debts” are covered by Christ’s sacrifice. We are joint heirs with Christ to all that is God’s, particularly eternal life and a sweet relationship with God. We embrace all that goes with our new “family” and God.
In the third and last portion of the message, he reiterated and expounded on the benefits of being in the family. We are heirs to all God has and have Christ as our brother. We share in the burdens and sufferings of others and of the lost.
We are family with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and just like in the picture of Roman adoption, it is not by the blood in our veins but by that of a spirit of adoption; i.e. the one to our inexpungible bond with our Heavenly Father and the other to the inexpungible bonds of earthly families.