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Garden Work

garden

Each summer I volunteer some of my time at a local farm, pulling weeds, harvesting vegetables, mulching, filling CSA bags with goodies, whatever needs to be done. And if you’ve spent any time on a farm, you know that there is ALWAYS work to do.

My daughter had heard about this non-profit farm and years ago we visited it to see how we could help, over the years I keep returning. It requires a beautiful drive in the country to get there, and while I’m enjoying the scenery, I usually pray that God will use me at the garden, placing me with someone who needs a listening ear or encouragement, and He never fails to answer. I’ve had some wonderful conversations while working alongside interns, other volunteers and the farm family over the years.

Last week I drove out to the farm on a beautiful day, praying en route that I could be used to minister to whomever needed it most that day. I arrived and heard voices in a remote area of the farm, I followed the voices to find one intern (there are usually several) weeding a large area with a group of mentally challenged adults and a man who led the group. I quickly jumped in and began cleaning out the area alongside, making conversation as we worked. I was delighted to meet this group of young people who were willing to do hard work, and the intern kept complimenting and encouraging them. Before long, the group announced they were leaving the farm as their time was up, and the Intern said she had plenty to do elsewhere, would I be willing to continue weeding the area I had been working? Of course.

I started the lone task and before long became bored and hot. I kept looking around for someone to come and join me but there was no one to be found. This is unheard of, usually there are people all over, looking for ways to help each other. I found myself talking out loud to God: Lord, I feel like I’m missing something, I come here to help and I asked you to provide someone who needed ministering and I’m out here  alon…….oh. Suddenly I realized I was out in His creation, with no phone or distractions, open and available to hear from Him about how best to help someone. I was the one who needed it most that day.

For the next hour, I opened my heart to hear about the places that God wanted to work in me, about the sins I needed to confess and the weak areas that needed to be strengthened. I have often said that I feel closest to God when my hands are in the dirt, and this day was a gift just for me, as I pulled the weeds and dead layers from around leeks, onions and chard, God was doing the same in me. After all that was removed, it looked like not much was left, but what remained was strong and healthy, much like my own heart. I walked away from the area when my work was complete, never seeing another person at the farm that day.

As I was  driving home, I thought about my part in this; I was open and available, without distractions, doing work and asking God to show up. These are all things I should be doing regularly, because God is always willing to do His part. What seemed wrong and out of the norm was exactly what I needed that day. God has surprised me so many times in my life by allowing me to be used by Him in ministering to others in creative ways, and He did all over again. Just for me.

If you’re interested in a local non-profit farm or looking for a place to volunteer, I can certainly vouch for this this one: http://www.keipos.org/

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Thank You for Your Time

BillygrahamI have a friend named Sean who knows Billy Graham. For years my friend was a manager at a hotel that connected to a hospital, the same hospital that Mr. Graham visited regularly to have tests run. At some point during his stay each time, the evangelist would come into Sean’s office, take a seat and talk with him. About life. About God. About the state of the world and the state of his heart. I was amazed by the idea of such an icon taking the time to get to know this young man. But what impacted my friend most by the whole interaction was the way it ended each time. Billy Graham always said the same thing as he was shaking his hand and leaving his office, “Sean, thank you for your time”. Wow. Can you imagine?

Is it possible that our rarest commodity is time? In this age that values money and materials above all else, perhaps what we should be most acutely aware of is the way our time is spent. We each have choices to make every day; spend hours in front of screens, drinking in the latest/funniest/edgiest offerings by creative strangers or share our dreams and hearts with those in the room. Have you ever had someone you trust and admire pour themselves into you, investing their time and attention into your story? If so, you know the feeling of worth this gives, have you then turned around and done the same thing for someone else?

It’s been at least a dozen years since I’ve heard this story, but it still stays with me. When I am leaving a meeting or an interaction that involved someone choosing to spend their time with me, I try to remember to thank them for their time. If it’s good enough for Billy Graham, it’s good enough for me.

All Day

pray

I was settling in to bed last night, thinking through my last 15 hours and was convicted that I needed to pray for several people who had specifically asked for it, and for many others who hadn’t, and for situations that are occurring and others that possibly could. I was talking to God about talking to God, telling Him how much more I needed to be praying and wondering how to cover it all.

And then I was gently reminded; yes, this is a time when we need to be praying non-stop for our families and communities and states and countries just like so many points in history and like always, this can be done all day everyday. God walks alongside and is accessible all the time. Yes child, pray but do it constantly and for every thing.

It’s not just my right but my responsibility.

Growing Up

Image I grew up with the notion that God was distant and omnipotent, loving His people, but ready to punish and discipline as needed. I don’t fault my Sunday School teachers and their felt boards and characters, but the stories of Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the Whale and even Daniel in the Lion’s Den didn’t do much to encourage a close, personal relationship with the All-Powerful. I was taught to pray before mealtime, at bedtime and at church. For years those prayers were rote words, recited out of fear and awe.

I am certain that the story of Jesus was taught at this time in my life, but beyond the basic message of salvation and the story of Zaccheus up in the tree, it’s all cloudy from the early years. Perhaps I was too young to understand grace and mercy, and only really heard about Jesus when I decided to listen, as a young adult. It was at this point that I understood the need for grace all too well. I began to pray my own words and my own heart for the first time, but because of all the mistakes and poor choices I had made, I spent years feeling unworthy of this gift of grace and relationship, rarely going beyond falling on my face with gratefulness.

I am so thankful that God has been patient with me, allowing me years to become comfortable enough to have an ongoing conversation with Him. It’s not that I now believe I’m worthy of this relationship, it’s more that I trust that He is good enough to make up for all that I lack. These days my prayers look very different; I see God as a constant presence in my day, going wherever I go and witnessing all that I say and do. This way of thinking helps me to stay in relationship with Him, and reminds me that what I am doing with my time matters. I try to let God guide my day, but I can still be pretty selfish and try to make my own way. I’m banking on His continual patience and steadfast love to grow me up into the person He wants me to be.

 

 

Take Care

firstaid

It was a typical weeknight, I was cooking dinner and in a hurry to get it to the table. As I pulled the main dish out of the oven my left hand brushed up against the top coil that was currently 400 degrees, I could hear my skin sizzle immediately. There was a significant burn on my hand in that spot between my thumb and first finger. I didn’t think much of it, I usually heal very quickly.

But this time I didn’t. After several days I noticed it was getting worse, not better; it got swollen and inflamed and was very sensitive to the touch. I work in an industry where people see my hands a lot, and this was not something they want to see.

After a couple of weeks of this, I finally stopped and looked at my hand and thought about why it was still suffering. I realized that every time I picked up my purse, the length of the strap would slide through my fingers as I placed it on my shoulder, rubbing across that burn many times a day. There was no way it could heal because it wasn’t protected. I stopped the way that I picked up my purse and it began to heal immediately.

It occurred to me there are a lot of ways my life looks just like this. When I am distracted I can get myself into trouble, and if I don’t pay attention to my habits, that trouble can turn into something bigger like an infection. All I need to do is intentionally think about where I am and how I am, and I can protect myself, putting life back into balance.

For me this can be finding a daily devotional and reading time, or choosing to talk to someone who loves me enough to say the hard things, or taking everything, even the very small things to God in prayer.

The burn on my hand is now a rough spot that should completely go away very soon, but I would be fine with a scar remaining, to remind me of the lesson I learned. Obviously it would be best to guard myself against the burn in the first place, but when they happen, I need to be intentional in my response.

Chaos and Noise

map

I was running one day last week, more like fast walking if compared to my kids who run every stinking day, and using an app on my phone that maps the route, distance and time. My favorite feature about this app is that each time you tick a mile, a female voice announces your progress and the time that you have covered this new distance. It’s not much, but it works for me because I can track my rate and compare my time against a previous run.

I was running in a quiet neighborhood and knew that I should be hearing that wonderful declaration again at any moment, but all I got was two lawnmowers going at full tilt on the yards I was passing. I held my phone to my ear, waiting to hear the voice. The mowers seemed to be getting louder as I progressed, then I turned a corner and passed some trees and the world was quiet again. Missed it. I had to run another whole mile just to hear her again.

While waiting for the next marker I was thinking about how difficult it was to hear when the noise was right up on me, but all I needed to do was turn a corner and go a tad further for it all to die down again. My mind jumped to my relationship with Christ and the practical application was obvious. So often I say that I am waiting to hear his voice/answer/plan on an issue but then allow myself to stay surrounded by chaos and noise. I have the ability to keep myself distracted for days, even weeks, at a time if need be. Perhaps it is as simple as turning the corner and going a tad further to get back to the peace and quiet so I can hear His voice to help guide me home.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8

Travel Lightly

baggageI heard a convicting sermon recently based on Mark 6, when Jesus sent the disciples out to replicate what they had been watching and learning from him. There were several boundaries that he gave:

Travel in groups of two

Take only one set of clothing, and no food with you

When you enter a new village, stay in one home until you leave that place

When someone is resistant to your teaching, leave them, shaking the dust from your sandals

These orders make sense to me, having a friend along provides company, encouragement and accountability. Bringing only the clothes on your back and no food signifies dependence on God and on the village being visited. Staying in only one home seems practical because everyone who hears of the visitors will know where to find them. And when someone resists what is being shared, leave them alone because your time should be spent with those who are hungry for the message.

How often do I follow these guidelines? Am I living out my calling with accountability, desperate dependence, accessibility and discernment? So often I set out without waiting for another to join me, praying against any type of discomfort, showing little consistency and trying too hard with those who don’t care, and giving too little to those who do.

Looks like there’s more work to do….

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them. They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. Mark 6:7-12

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