Friday, October 28, 2016

How to Wait

Isaiah 40:31
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint.

I admit that I always (always, always, always) interpreted this verse to mean that "wait" meant to behave as a restaurant staffer, "waiting tables." Therefore, my strength would be renewed by being busy. While I'm unopposed to making oneself useful during our waiting periods, that is NOT what this verse means. 

This verse is requiring something of far more effort than the usual service of ministry. For in actuality, "wait," means, "TO HOPE."

It doesn't matter if you spend every waking moment in ministerial duties, and then dream of ministry once you go to sleep. How much you work does not renew your strength. In fact, it can often deplete you so thoroughly you haven't the energy or ability to actually do what the Word is instructing; HOPE.

I've experienced giving so much of my energy and virtue in ministry that I lay in bed at night HOPELESS. Besides the enemy's mental attack when I was vulnerable, this is often a lack of discipline on my part. Those in ministry (even ministry outside the church, in volunteer situations) know there is overwhelming joy in serving. We could even call it a "high," akin to a drug hit. It feels empowering to serve. When we are in a season of pain or sorrow, ministry is often the ONLY relief we get. So, of course we would like to interpret this verse to mean that when we "wait" on the Lord (aka: minister) we renew our strength, but in fact the thrill we experience is a high, a hit-in-the-moment. Perhaps even designed by God to be a sort of "pain pill."

In fact, waiting on the Lord is more like a Gym experience, rather than a drug experience. A person can pop a pill and feel empowered even though they're a weakling. A gym experience often leaves one's muscles a little shaky due  to the duress endured in the training process. The Gym-guy may feel more exhausted and depleted, but he's actually building strength. He'll be better off, not only the next time he's in the gym, but the mind thinks more clearly after a gym experience, the digestion works better, healing is released into other areas of the body not even in the targeted muscles after a work out. The Drug-guy feels powerful, but is actually depleting strength while he's feeling like the Incredible Hulk. 

We do not work in our fields of ministry in efforts to win brownie-points with God, as if working more and harder in ministry is a get-out-of-jail-free card. We work in our ministries because it's our gifting and calling, and because it's our offering of sacrifice. It's a beautiful benefit that the tasks inspire and motivate us to keep breathing one more day. While "waiting on the Lord" may involve being busy about our Father's work, it is not what this verse is asking for. 

When we reach a desert or valley circumstance of life, where the joy is gone, the confusion is abundant, the pain is severe, the last thing we have by nature is hope. As children, hope comes very easy and naturally to us. But through life's busyness, and hard knocks, our hope wanes. Perhaps a good comparison to how hope works in us is Melatonin. Our brains easily and abundantly produce melatonin in our youth, but as we age it isn't naturally reproduced and we need to take a supplement to help us sleep. This is of course also true of skin tightness, muscle tone, eyesight, hearing, and so forth. Somehow in the course of our lives hope reproduces on its own less and less. And when we hit a tragedy where we lose so much, we do not naturally get over it and in youthful vibrancy seek the next good thing. We get sick and tired of losing a good thing we were settled with, a good thing we enjoyed ownership of. When it's taken from us we can't see WHY we'd want to go seek yet another good thing, because, of course, there's a risk that it too will be taken. 

Not only does Hope seem non-existent, the very idea of hoping for something feels very painful. We can't tell what to hope for, or why to hope for it.

And yet, this is what renews our strength, causes us to mount up on wings as eagles; Hope.

Hope makes it possible for us to run without getting weary. Hope, not busyness, causes us to walk, even through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This is God's long term plan and purpose for our Gym seasons; to strengthen us.

It's not an easy request. 
Tears are shed when you hope. 
Instead of a high you can feel shaky and vulnerable. 

But Hope is a powerful muscle to build. For Hope powers Faith. Faith makes ANYTHING possible.

So, while you offer your sacrifice of ministry, while you endure hardness, while you pay your bills and are faithful to the routines; hope in the Lord. 

Here are some "booster shots" of scripture to encourage you to HOPE:
Genesis 49:18 (KJV) 18 I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.

Psalm 25:3 (KJV) 3 Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.

Psalm 25:5 (KJV) 5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

Psalm 25:21 (KJV) 21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.

Psalm 37:9 (KJV) 9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

Psalm 37:34 (KJV) 34 Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.

Psalm 39:7 (KJV) 7 And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.

Psalm 40:1 (KJV) 1 [[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.]] I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

Psalm 52:9 (KJV) 9 I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.

Psalm 130:5 (KJV) 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

Proverbs 20:22 (KJV) 22 Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Soul Winning Beyond Acts 2:38

"If someone asks about your hope, be ready to explain it in a gentle and respectful way."

1 Peter 3:15-16


In my youth I had hope without realizing it as it was part of the personality tool kit I was born with. This beautiful hope was further strengthened by my safe upbringing. People were attracted to my hope and lust for life, but when they'd ask me about it I didn't know how to answer them. I had no explanation for my radiant life outside of telling them about the power of the Holy Ghost. While that's the complete bottom-line answer, it wasn't necessarily the most enticing of answers.

In my adult years I experienced the natural knocks and bangs of life. In the process of being shifted around, and knocked about I lost that all-purpose, perfect little tool called, "hope." I found myself utterly hopeless. I saw no reason to raise my kids when I could point to several other people in their lives that I felt could do a better job than I could. I saw no reason to work in my calling of worship leading because singers are a dime-a-dozen. I saw no reason to write because I'm an uneducated wannabe. I saw no reason to fellowship with friends because either I would end up dragging them down with my life-reality, or I was too weak to help them carry their burdens. I was truly hopeless. I asked God many times a day (for many years) to take my life. Proverbs 13:12 talks about how a lack of hope makes the heart sick. Boy, he wasn't kidding. Out of the heart come the issues (the flow) of life. A sick heart infected with hopelessness affects the whole body.

But, "when the desire cometh," Proverbs goes on to read, "it is a tree of life." Whereas its true that obtaining what we hope for is a really great feeling, DESIRE itself is a tree of life! I've experienced the difference in receiving what I wanted, and desiring something. While receiving is a win indeed, the thrill of that newness fades and I'm back to needing another "fix." But DESIRE wakes me up every day with anticipation. If my mood is down, or if I'm ill, or if I'm weighed down with present reality-of-life, DESIRE makes me get dressed, go for a run, breathe deep and chill, read a book to pass the time. DESIRE for certain things (not exclusively material possessions, sometimes it's a desire for situations, relationships, accomplishments) is a tree with roots of stability.  Hope deferred makes the heart so sick, in turn the whole of life is sick. But DESIRE is a tree that produces fruit. A special fruit called, "LIFE!"

I started looking for my hope tool because it was becoming obvious that God was ignoring my plea for The Next Life. He was definitely hearing me pray, clearly. Because he was  answering all of the other prayers I'd pray. He was just stubbornly refusing to answer "that" prayer. 

After some books (and prayer asking God to help me want to live) I began some deliberate outward behaviors in efforts to trigger inward desires. I called these exercises my "happy habits." Every hour (my phone alerts were set) I'd stand from my seating (usually at a desk) and I'd stretch, or do some push-ups (uh-hem. I closed my office door as I didn't want to intimidate my fellow workers with my great might.) I'd smile-for-no-reason (Yes. I just smiled into empty space) And I would speak aloud something I was thankful for. It took about a year, but I started to feel a difference.

It's been about two and a half years now, but I definitely have hope! I must be honest with you, sometimes the desire hurts. Wanting what seems impossible aches to my bones. But, I'm aware that these aches are growing pains, whereas my old ache was due to hope being deferred. 

But here's the really cool part about my present state of hope; I'm a better witness for Christ now. 

NOW when people are attracted to me I am ready to give them a more thorough answer. I'm able to guide them to the source of my tree of life; Christ. 

Christ's love for me enables me to trust that goodness is in store for me.  When I'm in a blue mood it doesn't feel like the end of the world because I know He's going to work things out for my good.  He has my best interests at heart. He has plans for me that have a beautiful outcome.

Soul winners need more than that perfect and beautiful Acts 2:38 experience. Souls winner need to exhibit HOPE in our hopeless world. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Get Back Up

I remember when knockdowns and setbacks were a mere annoyance, as simple to remedy as a pesky bug buzzing around. It was laughable to think that getting back up would be hard! Getting back up required no forethought, no energy, no emotion. I just popped right back up as if I were still a kid on the trampoline in my backyard, propelled to soar to tree limbs with such little energy.
Not so now.

I'm not sure if it's physical age, or the depth of devastation, or why it's different now. But it is different now. 


Each day I plan how to live victoriously in that day. Each day I PURPOSEFULLY live happily. Each day I have to get back up.

When this new method of living was my reality I was so angry at God for not taking me out of this earth to Heaven. If "to live is Christ, to die is GAIN," then what kind of cruelty kept me here? Give me my "gain," for goodness sake! Every plane takeoff where I was on board I'd send texts of love, forgiveness, and mercy before we had to power down our phones. THAT'S how confident I was that God was going to answer my prayer and take me to The Other Side. In the old days I prayed safety and protection over the plane and flight, but I stopped doing that since it seemed like a quick and easy way for God to answer my prayer. I didn't talk about this line of thinking to anybody because I wasn't trying to be dramatic and get attention. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to pay attention to me. I wanted to be left alone to die. But neither God nor man were in sync with me on this one.

"To live is Christ."
I've always seen this activity of living-is-Christ as being very jubilant, therefore very fluid, natural, and easy. But that was from my perspective of youth and fairy tales. What about Christ's life was easy? From his first year of life the government was hunting him down to kill him. While travel is sometimes fun when you're headed to Disney World, a road trip in the dead of night because you're being hunted down certainly turns up the volume on the phrase, "Are we there yet?"

Living-is-Christ puts us in a position to participate in the miraculous, to have power over death, hell, and the grave, and to be surrounded by followers. And as long as these people and situations are helping us accomplish our goals these moments are ecstatic. But let us not forget that Christ was run out of town, was continually in one argument or another with the religious, was rarely with his family, was a 24/7 teacher. Not to mention the final hours of his life; the excruciating crucifixion. 

Dying is gain because it puts us across the finish line. Dying with a clean conscience toward God is gain because we've run a good race and we've finished  our course. But LIVING is necessary to accomplish the victory of death. 

There is no victory in hiding in a hole waiting for death. The will of God is that we get out of the hole and LIVE as Christ did. It is the will of God that we have HOPE. It is the will of God that we experience JOY. It is the will of God that we produce all of the fruit of the Spirit. We are cheating God if we do not get back up and strive to fulfill His will of pursuing these things. 

Why does he ask this of us? So that we are a testimony of His strength and involvement in our lives. If after our devastation we live in a hole we are telling the world around us that God is a liar. Holed-up behavior is exhibiting that God is nowhere to be found, that there is no hope, no joy, nothing to rise again for. 

Christ got back up after his devastation. He got back up because there was more to do. You need to get back up yourself because there is more to do! To die will NOT be "gain" if you do not do the will of God and LIVE AGAIN. 

I personally have chosen four verses that I read EVERY morning. I have alerts set up on my phone to smile EVERY hour. I have a life vision that pops up on my phone EVERY morning; To live in the reality of Faith, Hope, & Love.

My feelings tell me every day that life is not worth living. My logic shows me every day that I should not expect my hopes to come to pass. My present shows me every day that after all these years I STILL have not obtained the desires of my heart. 


I'm suppose to walk by faith, not by sight.

That's why I fight each and every day to get back up again. I smile because the REALITY of life is not what I feel, or see, or think. The REALITY is what I can't see: Faith, Hope, and Love. Christ is not my Fairy Godmother, giving me my whims. He sees the end from the beginning and He's going to give me the desires of my heart based on all He knows of what's to unfold. His top priority as my Father is to protect and defend me. If I'm allowing him to protect me from my desires that will hurt me, everything will work out for my good! If I live every day angry at Him for "making" me live... well, how sad and unproductive is THAT!

Whatever has knocked you for a loop, has left you flat on your back... I'm truly sorry you've gone through those things. But, get back up. It may feel like "fake it 'till you make it," but in fact it's "FAITH it 'till you make it."

Proverbs 24:16 (KJV)
For a just [man] falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Those Pesky Little Foxes

I have experienced the legitimate, bonefide excuses for sadness... Death, handicapped child, betrayal, broken relationship, emergency surgery, and beyond. But, right in this moment I admit I feel terrible for being weak dealing with tiny matters.

I'm not homeless. In fact, I'm writing this from my favorite rocking chair on my porch in the most picturesque part of Florida. I've been the queen of this house for over twenty years. Meanwhile, I have dear friends, acquaintances, and strangers in Louisiana who are utterly (suddenly) homeless due to last week's flooding. 

I live in a town of less than three thousand, and though we have race issues to work out, we don't have anything like the pain and destruction happening in Milwaukee, or some of the bigger cities experiencing such hate and hostility.

I am healthy and strong, full of vitality. I'm able to take care of myself, my kids, and my possessions. Unlike some of my friends who are dealing with incredible pain and weaknesses due to life-threatening illnesses. 

So, right at this moment I do not have a leviathan of trouble smashing my life. Right now, I'm dealing with a bunch of little foxes.

We read about the danger of "little foxes" in Solomon's Song, chapter two, verse fifteen. It is clear the speaker is speaking symbolically, saying, "Let us catch the little foxes that spoil the vine."

The "little foxes" are emblems of that which would damage their love relationship. The idea is that their relationship is like a fruitful vineyard and the little foxes will damage the vineyard unless they are stopped and caught.

Life is full of little foxes. They could be named Bills, or Political Opinions, or Growing ToDo List, or Kids Drum Lesson, or I'm Not Pretty, or [Insert Yours Here]. These little foxes can come upon your life that is fruitful, productive, contributing to your community. They buzz about like mosquitos distracting you from the confidence of knowing you are indeed fruitful. These little foxes begin to devour your harvest. Little foxes are not to be tolerated. 

There is a cure and elimination for little foxes; "Us."

"Let US catch the foxes..."

You need a partner to catch the little foxes. The foxes are not willing recipients to the idea that they can't have the fruit of your life. They are fast, quick-tempered, and can be quite painful! But they're NOT to be tolerated. If you're married, perhaps your spouse will help you round up, and cast out the little foxes from your vineyard. Married or not, sometimes a spouse doesn't see the need to prioritize ridding one's life of little foxes. Perhaps they're too frazzled with their own foxes to be a help to you. (Though I believe some spiritual counsel would help each spouse see how to help each other in this task. Que sera sera.) It's good to know the church has prayer partners and counsellors to help you catch the little foxes. 

Catching the little foxes sometimes means literally casting out unnecessary tasks from your ToDo list. If you've overpacked your list you're shooting your success in the foot. If your appearance is causing you distress then you're focusing too much on superficial matters and you need to move your focus to production and creativity. (Don't forget, not even the models look like what you're seeing online, or in magazines. We literally CAN'T compete with photoshop. Period.) Whatever things are causing you anxiety, you need to reevaluate their priority. 

I remember being incredibly stressed to the point that it shook my self-confidence and creative abilities over my laundry. I felt like such a loser, even though I was writing for thousands, singing to thousands, fulfilling life-goals in spades. Because I had laundry on my couch I felt a total unproductive, lazy loser! Then it dawned on me that my eleven and thirteen year old kids could do their own laundry! I also took it off my list that the clothes had to be folded. (I know. I just sent a thousand Personality A's to the floor with that concept.) But reprioritizimg laundry, and making the task doable made a HUGE difference in the production of my life's vine. I caught that fox and expelled him from my vineyard! 

Never forget, that whether or not you have a spouse who will help you catch the little foxes, or whether friends can or can't help you does not lessen your ability to partner with someone to eliminate the little foxes; Jesus is a ready (and most powerful) help in your efforts to eliminate the little foxes. 

Do not think your little fox problem is too insignificant for His Majesty. He delights in being asked to help you eliminate the little foxes.

You can do this! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Remembering Where To Cast

I think I might have the world's worst memory. I can't even remember the lyrics to my own songs that I've written! Of course, being in a congregation that posts the words overhead to better help the congregation engage in singing hasn't helped reinforce memorization. When I need to remember something about music I contact my friends Angel Craig and Lisa Plappert. When I need to remember something about my childhood, I contact Shawn Hughes. When I need to remember something about church business, past, present, or future, I contact Donald Currie. These people have impeccable memories! Thank goodness I have them in my life, or I'd be sunk! 

There is at least one area of failed remembrance that I've found most humans match me in, we forget where to cast our cares. We instinctually cast our burdens on the one we sense is closest to us. While that should be God, just as the posted lyrics have weakened my memorization ability, humans that we've been blessed with sometimes cause us to not allow Christ to be as near as he's suppose to be. These humans meant to be a blessing in life, be they a spouse, or roommate, a friend, or family, end up a source of pain simply because we're trying to use them in ways they weren't meant to be used. 

In general, women tend to deal more with anxieties than men. It's not that women have more to carry than a man, it's that women are more likely to multitask, giving them the ability to fester in their worries while juggling typical, daily stressors. Men tend to do ONE thing at a time, therefore they worry, but when they have to be at work, they are more inclined to shelve their worry until they're free to think about it again. This isn't healthy for any of us, male or female. While we may become more and more skilled at shelving an anxiety, the anxiety is still there, unresolved, just waiting.

Women tend to want the help of other humans to fix their anxiety. Men tend to want to fix the matter themselves. Yet again, either way is not the purest solution. I can't reveal the reasoning of frustration in men's behavior, but as a woman I can easily say that women stack more anxiety on themselves when they encounter the consistent inability of friends and family to listen or fix. Women get angry (or depressed, or resentful, or any other number of negative reactions) when someone listens but doesn't fix their problem. Men compound the issue by deciding to avoid even listening because they know they won't be allowed to fix it in the end. 

Spouses stew in resentment. 
Friends ignore each other. 
Peers become critical from their determined distances. 

All along the fix doesn't have flesh and blood. The cure can't be seen by the naked eye. The relief we crave comes from turning our attention away from flawed humanity and fixing our eyes on Jesus. 

Jesus said for us to cast our anxieties on Him.

If we see prayer as an unemotional religious ritual, then of course we won't remember to cast our cares on him. If prayer is a duty rather than a fellowship, then we have put a hole in our boat before setting sail and will experience the panic of drowning in the weight of life.

We may reach out to a fellow passenger in our storms of life, but we can't become filled with bitterness when they themselves can't help us. After all, they are merely passengers in the storm as well! But the Master of the winds and waves lives above the sickening storm. He alone can rescue us. 

We must be thankful for and gain health from the friends around us, but we must prioritize the fellowship of Christ. His ear is the only perfect listener, & His hand is the only perfect fixer.

Remember where to cast your cares. 
Cast your worries and anxieties on Christ. He's a miracle worker! 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Not In THIS House

Since the dawn of house building and socialization there has been a child come home from their friend's house and attempt something they'd seen there, but had never experienced at their home. When their parent corrects their behavior the child laments, "That's what they do at my friend's house!" And the parents always reply, "Well, that's not how we do things in THIS house."


My dad has a heightened sense of smell. When we came home from anybody's house, he would welcome us home, then add, "Go change. You don't smell like us."

He wasn't declaring that we smelled bad. We just didn't smell "like us."

There is a reason for this insistence of compliance to house rules. Some parents do not fully comprehend why, they simply have an instinct to preserve and protect the behaviors and rituals of THIS house. But the reasons for this instinct are very important to the health & wellbeing of the family.

Firstly, there are moral codes and laws that each head of household has the right to expect and uphold. "Within the refuge and sanctity of THIS house we follow faith, we don't kill, steal, lie, abuse, gossip, allow racism..." The list goes on.

Beyond moral codes, there are preferences that each household requires differently than others. Things like cleanliness, organization, scents, nutritional adherence...

Then outside the home there are further expectations, such as presentation of appearance, gaming as a family, vacations, defending each other, cheering each other...

Every parent faces the test of their child attempting to blur the lines of what is acceptable in their home. The wise parent keeps those lines in neon-clarity. They do so because there is an ambiance of peace and joy to protect. The rest of the world is chaotic in their lack of law and discipline. The world-at-large will lie on you, betray you, mock you. From the child's experiences in elementary school to the parents' experiences in the workplace, the world causes us to be ever in our guard.

But our HOME is our refuge. We're suppose to walk through the door of our house and be able to let our guard down. From what the eye sees, to what the nose smells, to what the ears hear... There should be an ambiance wherein our soul finds rest.

When anyone in that household begins to threaten the flow of peace within that space, everything of life becomes imbalanced. When parents fight in the home it affects the child's abilities in school, even though that building is far removed from the house. When a child sneaks, or lies in the home it affects the parents' in their workplace. It is a constant effort, and a worthy effort, to keep the ambiance of "THIS house" at peak performance. 

With that established, let me give you a further insight; the congregation you were born-again into is your spiritual family, and it too has its own needs, unique from every other congregation around you.

I've seen parents ignorant of this fact reap great upset in their homes. They've not put two-and-two together that because of the seeds-of-upset they sowed within the "house" of their church, they are reaping upset within their home.

The ambiance of your congregation is what it is because the overseer and protector of that flock has established what is best for that particular body of believers. Adherence to those codes gets the family to specific goals. Attempting to live outside those codes hinders the ability to reach those goals, it causes division in the family. That pastor is forced to rise in defense of the vision God has ordained and say, "Not in THIS house."

Grown adults act like fourteen year olds sneaking about on the very edge of disobedience without blatantly disobeying. It's immaturity and ludicrous. In their role as parent they KNOW their child is headed toward dangerous territory in that kind of behavior, but in their role as a church member they don't see themselves as behaving JUST AS DANGEROUSLY. God help the people who require the pastor to RAGE in the pulpit in order for them to get in sync with the church-family. No pastor wants to do so, just as no loving parent wants to. As the scripture commands, we should be making our Pastor's job enjoyable! For us to cause him grief is unprofitable for US. 

It's further frustrating when a church member looks at other congregations and feels cheated that there are differences. This is nothing short of a child coming home saying, "THEY get to..." 

So what.
That's not what we do in THIS house.

Child of God (my spiritual sibling) let us be ever diligent to keep THIS house in peak performance by having the same rule, and minding the same things. Let's be mature enough to understand that their house has different goals and visions because God ordained they go about their business their way. Just like the differing household rules doesn't make one family better or worse than the other, differing church codes do not make one congregation better than the other. It simply means each "household" is different

I'll give one last comparison in my quest for the wisdom and insight to accomplish unity.

When my baby sister was a teenager she attempted to run away from home. In God's mercy all of the well-laid plans were foiled. But we experienced the worst of helplessness; the one we loved so passionately, had every right to have and keep in our lives was in the power of another. 

There's not a parent that I am acquainted with who excuses kidnapping or running away. Even among divorced parents, they fight tooth-and-toenail, loss-of-limb to retain the right to share life and love with their child. It is the height of heartbreak to lose a child to another human. Merely sitting here typing about this loss causes my heart to race and my hands to tremble. 

As a Pastor's child I can tell you that this is what a pastor and his family endures every time someone leaves the congregation. There is no sleep, no laughter, no peace... Of course, because we're dealing with adults in spiritual matters it cannot be handled as a physical parent handles a physical kidnapping or runaway. It's painful to the core. 

But the heartache of the pastor (and indeed the spiritual siblings) is no less poignant than if your child were kidnapped or ran away.

We must stay in sync and in love with the family God puts us in. If any sibling needs to change homes, it must be done in the right spirit, with the purest of motives, in sync and agreement with the pastor. Just as a wise parent knows if/when a child in the home needs to move on, the Shepherd does too. As a Pastor's child I've witnessed many exoduses. It's blatant which of my spiritual siblings "ran away," and which ones moved honorably. It's obvious which left with the arm-twisting of the prodigal, and which left as Jesus sent his disciples out. Don't be like a foster child, hopping from family to family. People can't develop a thriving root system in that way. 

In THIS house there are rules, and they are for the health and well-being of THIS family fulfilling THESE goals. 

Don't forget, whatsoever a man soweth THAT shall he also reap.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pick Your Grove

We do not get to choose our DNA. Our parents are who they are whether we like their life, or not. Even those who have been adopted; those kids didn't choose adoptive parents anymore than they chose their birth parents. We can't choose our cousins. We can't choose our siblings. We can't choose our aunts or uncles. We can attempt to sculpt our bodies, but we can't choose our body shape. We can't choose our skin pigment. We can choose our behavior and attitude, but we can't choose our personality. We can't choose our height. In these we are stuck, stuck, stuck.

There are so many things about the person in our skin that we have absolutely no control over. But there is something we have control over; which grove we live in. 

Natural trees have no choice where they're planted. They are utterly dependent on the farmer to know what ground and air is best suited for their successful growth and reproduction. But spiritual trees are almost exclusively their own farmer.

We are spiritual trees. We decide where we are planted. God only plants us with our permission. Even in His Supreme status, in this He chooses the role of assistant. He turns all power of choice over to us. I've seen many, many tree plantings in my time of living for God. I've seen when people realize for the first time that God is loving and generous, and has our best interests at heart. In relief they joyfully surrender all to Him, and in doing so they give him permission to plant them wherever He sees best. But over time I've seen some gradually stop seeking His sky for His rain of growth. In their stagnant state (brought about by their detachment from Him) they become dissatisfied with where He planted them, and they start looking for another habitat, hoping to respark their growth. 

I've seen other trees be given marching orders. God himself says to move from the place He personally planted them. God sends trees on an Abrahamic journey, a walk of faith into new territory. Lest we think this is some magical key to happiness, let me warn you with this insight; I've never seen a tree in this situation be glad about this move. When trees are transplanting from church to church, ministry to ministry, job to job, happy and psyched about the transitions, that is a carnal move, not a God-ordained move. Trees to whom The Spirit is being called to move generally have the wisdom to loath the prospect. They're like Christ, both led and driven into the new place.

Whether we transplant because God pushed us, or because we're carnally seeking greener pastures, when we replant ourselves we replant with other trees. We try to seek out our kind. But in our uprooting we can't be sure what we're getting ourselves into. I've never seen a tree eat another tree's fruit. So, while an orange tree may find a grove of orange trees and determine, "We're all orange trees! This is the perfect place for me!" You don't know if those oranges are good or bad fruit, sweet and nutritious, or bitter and poisonous.

How can you tell a Good Fruit tree from a Bad Fruit tree when you're not partaking of the fruit? 

Answer: You can tell by who the tree attracts.

If you find yourself in a position to need to choose a grove, choose a grove that attracts the pure in heart. The pure in heart will not settle for bitter fruit. They bring their children to good fruit. They offer their spouses good fruit. They present to their friends good fruit. And these people WORK to access the good fruit. They may have to pay a price to enter the grove. They may have to ask the grove keeper's permission to pick the fruit. They may have to travel far to be a recipient of the good fruit. Those who want the best know there's a price to pay to have it. And you'll know a Good Fruit tree by the caretaker. How involved is God in the daily care of that grove? Good Fruit trees relentlessly ask The Master to prune, fertilize, water, and weed. The more involved the tree asks The Master to be, the sweeter the fruit will be. 

On the other side of the spectrum is bad fruit. These groves are left unattended. While there may be an owner of the grove, it's not worth the investment of hiring workers to keep the area weed free. It's not worth the cost of pesticides to keep the place pest free. Besides, these Bad Fruit trees reject all intervention anyway. It's on the backside of nowhere, out of sight, out of mind. Therefore nobody has to pay to access that fruit. Bitter Fruit groves attract the derelict, the thief, the irresponsible. Bad Fruit trees attract lazy people who are unwilling to pay for Good Fruit, therefore they must take Bad Fruit. Also, as mentioned before, Bad Fruit trees have very little aptitude to surrender to The Master, if at all. They refuse pruning, they do not seek care, they don't want anyone caring about the weeds surrounding and the bugs invading. Their "Keep Out" signs are posted for the eyes of The Master.

Don't be deceived into having pity on these Bad Fruit trees. They KNOW they're producing bitter fruit, and they refuse to put themselves in any situation to change that outcome. There is a way to alter one's fruit production from bitter to sweet. It's by a process called grafting. Only The Master can do the grafting. A Bitter Fruit tree must surrender to God who will uproot and replant the tree in the best environment for the tree. Then he grafts a part of himself into the tree. If that tree will remain, it will begin to produce the sweetest of fruit. But if that tree is arrogant and prideful, they will not surrender to this process. They remain a Bad Fruit tree and your folly to help is more prideful than helpful. These, "I can help" attempts are truly all about "Me, Myself, and I." 

"I'm the one with insight to help."
"I'm more loving than others."
"I'm going to prove my power."

I point this out because I've seen trees in transit see a grove of bitter trees and feel an undeserved pity. I've seen well-intentioned (howbeit uncounseled) trees believe the Bitter Fruit tree "need" their presence and sympathy. They plant themselves among the Bad Fruit trees, then are forced to endure what The Master never intended them to endure. They reap the hazards of being with trees visited only by thieves who rape and pillage their branches with no thought of care or another season's reproduction. 

Meanwhile, Good Fruit trees are enjoying the joy and laughter of those whom they are generously supplying with Good Fruit. Aware that The Master is purposefully cultivating the ability to reproduce more Good Fruit again the next season. 

You get to choose which grove you plant yourself in. 

Surround yourself with good-tree folks to keep from eating bitter fruit behavior.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.”
Luke 6:43 NIV