James Chapter 2 (Part 1)

James has been hitting me over the head the past two weeks. Have you ever had that happen to you? Suddenly the one thing you’ve been procrastinating on starts appearing in every aspect of your life. I’ve had conversations with no less than five people about the book of James in the past two weeks, and not by my prompting. Coincidentally, it was also part of the lectionary reading for last week! Okay God, I get it. You want me to know something about this passage. So no more procrastinating… let’s dig into James!

James 2:1-4

This is the section that’s been bugging me the most. Favoritism. We’re all guilty of it, but we’re also all prone to say it’s not a real problem for us. Do we discriminate? No way! We’re educated, “woke”, and you might even say “better than” being discriminatory. We’d never let someone’s clothes dictate whether we allowed them into our friend circles.

Yeah, right.

Take a look around at your closest group of friends. The people in your church. Who you spend most of your time with. People you admire and respect. 

What do they look like? 

Do they look like you? Odds are, they probably do. They might even wear the exact same pair of black compression leggings, black and white stripe t-shirt, and Jerusalem Cruisers (my sister’s fond way of referring to Chaco sandals). That’s my mom uniform, and let me tell you, when I take the kids out to the museum or the park, every single mom is rocking that very same outfit. And those are the moms I talk to.

Now think about the people you aren’t talking to. The people you shrink away from. The people you make an excuse not to reach out to. “Oh they’re too busy,” “It looks like she’s got her hands full,” “I can’t speak Spanish,” “Her kids seem wild.” 

Favoritism is alive and well in our society and in our hearts, mine included.

Verses 3-4: “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Yikes.

Okay, but as it turns out, James argues that those same “poor” people you despise are actually the people who you should look to, because often they are the ones with rock-solid faith.

Verse 5: “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

A Fun, True, and embarrassing Story:

At church one Sunday, I came across a man who was sitting in the back of the church. There were no services going on (it was Sunday School hour) and I was looking for some extra bulletins. This guy had on ripped sweatpants, walked with a limp, and to be frank, didn’t smell fresh. I honestly thought he was homeless and was coming to the church looking for assistance. 

So there I was in my Banana Republic skirt, floral blouse, and high heels alone with a guy who seemed extremely out of place. And you know what? I walked away from him.

After a few minutes (that seemed like an eternity) of the Holy Spirit nagging on me to go talk to this man and check on him, I finally made an effort to welcome him and see what he needed.

And you’re never going to believe this… he was a relative of one of our Sunday School members!!! This man, who I pre-judged as being less than me is actually a patent-holder, author, and stroke survivor. He was simply mistaken about the time our services started and was waiting for the next one. And the hilariously ironic part of this story is that he ended up joining our Sunday School class and studied the Bible with us for an entire year. 

I am exhibit A when it comes to being a Judgey McJudgerson. Thankfully, God is still working on me and he’s not done yet. Hallelujah for second (and third, and fourth, and fifth…) chances.

ANNNNDDDDD Back to James

James 2:6-7

James digs that knife in a little deeper and points out that those same people we idolize (the rich) are actually causing us harm. The Jeff Bezos of the world who race to space but don’t put their employees health and well being first. The politicians and producers who get off scot-free or with a slap on the wrist while the victims of their sexual assaults are publicly shamed and sent death threats. Yes, actually James, you have a good point there. 

James 2:8-9

These verses set up the argument James is about to make, and it’s sort of complex, so we’re going to break it down bit by bit. Verses 8 and 9 lay out that loving our neighbor = right and favoritism is sin = wrong. Simple so far.

James 2:10-11

This is a leap. Sometimes I fall flat on my face when I read stuff like this because it’s starting to sound like Philosophy 101. James is saying that  ANY error we make equates to breaking the ENTIRE law. We become “lawbreakers”. If you break a single law, you are by definition, a law-breaker. You can’t say, “well, I’m a law keeper, except for this one law that I broke”. Nope. There are no exceptions. You’re a law-breaker now. Maybe a heartbreaker, too, if you’re Pat Benatar. I digress…

40 Years Ago: Pat Benatar Breaks Through With 'Heartbreaker'

It’s interesting to me that verse 11 stresses that what we’re really doing is going against God: “For he who said…”. God makes the law, and when we break it, we’re breaking our relationship with God.

James 2:12

So what does this mean, “the law that gives freedom”? Surely, James can’t be talking about all those Levitical laws? The truth is, that the law – the entire law as found in the Bible – is freeing. The law isn’t there to just bust our chops. It’s there to protect us from a lot of negative consequences. Things that can harm ourselves and others. It’s also there to show us that we need a savior, because perfection is out of our reach on our own merit. Jesus himself says, in Matthew 5:17-20, that He came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.

James 2:13

As a result of the mercy we have been shown, we ought to show mercy to others. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

There’s a lot to unpack in James, so I’m going to tackle the rest of chapter 2 in another post. Hope you have a great week!

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Sheep without a Shepherd

Let’s chat about this week’s lectionary reading today! It’s from Mark 6:30-34, 53-56.

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

We pick up here right after Jesus has sent the disciples out two by two into the neighboring towns to preach, plus a little aside about John the Baptist’s beheading. Verse 30 is apparently where the disciples have reconvened to tell Jesus about how things went in the neighboring towns.

But there’s a problem. There are so many people coming and going that they can’t really talk, let alone eat, without interruptions, so Jesus suggests they “come with [Him] by [them]selves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

I love that Jesus acknowledges the fact that these guys are likely super tired from their travels  and preaching and wants them to rest. There’s a time for preaching and hard work and there’s also a time for rest.

But then there’s ANOTHER interruption. People on the shore are following them along the shoreline while they’re trying to go get some R&R. I’d be frustrated in that sort of situation, but Jesus doesn’t react the same way. In fact, he has compassion on them. 

Next, we get the story of the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water, but interestingly this week’s lectionary reading doesn’t include those bits. Instead, we see that Jesus again tries to get away from the crowds, but they continue to seek him out wherever he goes. So much for incognito Jesus!

Jesus has become famous. He can’t go anywhere without being recognized. Though many are wackadoodles, I do feel bad for celebrities and politicians and other people who are in the public eye because they don’t have the luxury of privacy anymore. It must have been exhausting for Jesus to have crowds following him all the time, with very needy people – some who had been sick for a long time – begging for healing and aid. People invading His personal space, touching His clothes, placing sick people in His way. 

But Jesus demonstrates His God-ness again as He teaches and heals them. What a loving and patient Savior we have! 

The next section talks about the Pharisees and their complaint that Jesus’ disciples don’t wash their hands properly, but that’s a story for another day.

I think the lectionary skips over the miracles of the feeding of the 5000 and walking on water to show us what is going on politically leading up to Jesus’ arrest, sham trial, and crucifixion. Jesus can’t be ignored anymore. The simple fact of his existence requires us to choose. Is He savior, healer, and worthy of following as our shepherd or a rabble-rousing lunatic? There is no middle ground.

Sheep without a shepherd

 

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Knit Together – Psalm 139

Well, it’s not exactly the same Sunday that I intended to write this post, but it is A Sunday, right? Better late than never! 

Having a newborn again is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. It seems like I have about an hour a day when the baby isn’t wanting to be held, and most days, I’ve used that time to nap, read, or just space out watching YouTube videos. 

Today, I finally decided to come back to the blog and get back into the habit of posting on a regular schedule. Thanks for bearing with me this past month! 

Psalm 139 is probably my favorite chapter in the Bible. I love the imagery and the reassurance that God is always present with us. Being a knitter, I also love the idea that He “knits” us together in our mothers’ wombs.

God’s knitting skills are pretty intricate, as it turns out! I look at our daughter’s little wisps of baby peach fuzz and feel the soft spots on her skull – little veins showing through her skin, some of which you can even see pulsing as her heart beats. The machinery in there is amazing… she isn’t even able to see us very clearly at this point, but she instinctively knows how to suck and turn towards our voices. 

Having a tiny infant is a great reminder that we are wonderfully made. When I look at my daughters, I can only imagine how much God delights in us as His little children. I hope you’ll take some time to remember that today and bask in that truth. Happy Sunday!

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

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2021 Goal Check-In

Because I’m a task- and goal-driven sort of person, I like to check in on my goals a few times a year. Quarterly-ish seems about right for me, so I’m a little overdue for a check-in. I thought I’d share with you all how I’m doing so far this year, in the hopes that being transparent (and accountable) will help me get back on track! 

For the items below, green text means I’m on track, while items in purple need some work.

My Goals

Theme Verse: Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I haven’t fully memorized this, which is sad since it’s not even a long verse. I’m going to make it my phone background for a little bit and see if it helps me memorize it. You can, too! Just save the image below:

Philippians 4:8

 

Personal Goals

  • Read 2 books/mo (24 total)
    • I’ve read 13 so far!
  • Write in my prayer journal & mom journal daily
    • More or less, I’m doing this. If I forget, I go back and fill in.
  • Phone free mornings & one offline day each week
    • Doing HORRIBLY at this. I need some accountability/ideas on how to curb my phone use, so if you have any suggestions of things that have worked for you, please let me know in the comments below!
  • Have daily one-on-one quiet time with God during kids’ nap time or after their bed time
    • I’ve been doing daily readings from She Reads Truth and have really enjoyed it! The great part is they have built in catch up and rest days on Saturdays and Sundays, so it’s not too overwhelming.
  • Eat less meat by choosing 1 main meat/week
    • I could be doing better about this. It usually ends up being 2 meats per week. Send me some links to your favorite vegetarian recipes in the comments below.
  • Be fully present at meals – no cell phone distractions or leaving the table
    • Again, doing HORRIBLY at this. I did make one change that has helped with my bad habit of getting up from the table during the meal, and that’s having a pitcher of water in the dining room for meals. Usually my getting up stems from being thirsty (I’m a camel when it comes to drinking water). I could still improve on getting up to put away plates, etc.

Family Goals

  • Read a parenting book together with Jonah
    • Haven’t even purchased the book yet. I guess this is my nudge to just go ahead and buy it already! This is the book:

 (This is an Amazon Affiliate link)

  • Visit 5 more state parks as a familyHa Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
  • Visit the farmers market 1x/mo after vaccinated for COVID
    • Fully vaccinated now, but haven’t made it to the market yet.

Financial Goals

  • Open college accts for baby #2
    • Baby is almost here! Will be on my list of things to do in the next few weeks after she’s born.
  • Save towards next home down payment & set up auto-drafts to savings 
    • I’ve set up the automation! Why did it take me so long to automate this stuff? I should have been doing this for years.

Sooooo it looks like I have some work to do! If you have suggestions or comments, leave them below! How are you doing with your goals so far? Any pro tips? I’d love to hear from you!

Coming up:

Wednesday: Garden Update – The Bolt & The Beautiful

Next Sunday: The Importance of Rest

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Happy Easter!

The Resurrection

16 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning,a] just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb? But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth,b] who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.c]

 

Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!

You can use this as your phone wallpaper this week as a reminder that He is Risen!!!

 

Happy Easter everyone!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday:  Top 5 Herbs You Should Be Growing This Year

Next Sunday: What does it mean to be an Easter People?

 

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Palm-Waving Groupies

Happy Palm Sunday! I’m going to be completely unoriginal and take a look at Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem for this week’s devotional. So let’s dig in!

Context


Jesus has just traveled from Capernaum to Judea. It’s approximately 85 miles, so it would have taken several days to hike from Capernaum to Jerusalem (located in the region of Judea). Here’s a map:

Map of Capernaum to Judea

Map Courtesy of https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CP051GOSPELMAPS.htm

He’s also just schooled the Pharisees on divorce, blessed some kids, encountered a rich young ruler who was too attached to his possessions to follow Jesus, predicted His death, schooled the disciples on what greatness really means, and healed a blind man. You know, a typical week for Jesus. 

Why is Jesus moving towards Jerusalem? Because He’s about to go there to celebrate Passover. Plus He knows what He has to do in the coming week – die for the world’s sins.

Now, onto our reading for today.

Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Translated for Today

What an odd entrance! Riding a baby donkey over top of peoples coats and random tree trimmings? 

I tried thinking about this in a way we could picture today. Imagine this:

Instead of a limo or motorcade, Jesus decides to take a borrowed razor scooter into the city. No bodyguards, just a bunch of palm-waving groupies who can’t cobble together a decent red carpet. Instead, they lay the best they have to offer on the ground – their means of warmth and protection (coats) and a traditional sign of victory (palms). 

Tom Brady makes this look good, but few others could pull this off.

Tom Brady makes this look good, but few others could pull this off.
https://www.gq.com/story/razor-scooters-are-not-cool-tom-brady

 

Now that’s just my imagination, but I bet you can come up with something similar. The point is, it’s not a fancy entrance. Jesus comes into the city in a humble, almost humiliating way.

And then we hear what the people are shouting. They’re quoting Psalm 118, a Psalm pilgrims would sing on the way to Jerusalem (how fitting). It’s about victory and deliverance. Then, they implore Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!”

Hosanna is an exclamation of praise that means…

SAVE US Now!

So in effect, the people are saying:

“Save us now!”

“God’s blessed you to come and do this!”

“David’s kingdom is going to make a comeback!”

“For God’s sake, SAVE US!!”

The Jewish people were looking for a political leader. With this humble entrance, Jesus showed, once again, that God’s kingdom looks VERY different from how we sometimes want it to look.

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven! - Mark 11:9b-10

Use this as your phone wallpaper this week!

 

Reflection

As you celebrate Palm Sunday today, think about the following:

  1. What do you need saving from?
  2. How is Jesus currently challenging your ideas about what His kingdom should look like?
  3. Beyond palms and coats, what can you lay down at Jesus’ feet to help pave the way for his entrance into your life?

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Update and Pictures from Our Jubilee Garden

Next Sunday: Happy Easter!

 

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Spring Forth!

Isaiah 43 is a deep passage. There’s a lot going on, and a lot of quotable verses come from it, including the ones I want to focus on today – Isaiah 43:18-19: 

Isaiah 43:18-19: “Remember not the former things,     nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;     now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness     and rivers in the desert.

Save as your phone wallpaper this week as a reminder that God is always doing something new!

 

What’s happening in Isaiah, generally? 

First, let’s take a look at the context – always a good place to start. The book of Isaiah records the prophecies of Isaiah, who lived around the time when Israel fell to the Assyrians. The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are prophecies and events recorded during Isaiah’s lifetime (~700 B.C.), regarding the Assyrian invasion that’s about to come and the events that occur once it’s happened. This section is mostly about judgment for Israel’s and other nations’ sins. 

Chapters 40-66, which is the context for our passage today, are generally thought to be prophecies fulfilled around 500 B.C. during the Babylonian exile, PLUS messages of hope and comfort for the faithful remnant of Jews dispersed after the exile. Lots of hinting at Jesus Christ as the Messiah in this section. But we’ll cover that some other time. 

Fun fact: “Isaiah is the most cited prophetic book in the New Testament and rabbinic literature.” (Moody Bible Commentary, 2014, pg. 1009)

 

What’s happening in Chapter 43, specifically?

So let’s look at Chapter 43. I’ll let you take a minute to read through it yourself. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Okay, read it? Great! Now, the purpose of this chapter is to give a message of comfort and assurance to the remnant of Israel that survives and returns from the exile. God will protect His people. We see callbacks to God’s provision for the Israelites in the Exodus from Egypt (v. 2, 16-17). Then we get to our verses for today:

18 “Remember not the former things,

    nor consider the things of old.

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;

    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

    and rivers in the desert.

The point of these verses is to not dwell on the past (AKA the Exodus and Exile), but to look at what God is doing now and what He will do

It’s easy to fall into the pattern of thinking that the Bible is our own little Magic 8 ball – that each and every verse holds some personal application. Yes, the Bible is alive (Hebrews 4:12) and the Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds of Jesus’ words (John 14:26), BUT the Bible isn’t all about us

No – it’s about who God is and what He has done.

 

Critical Thinking / Application

With that perspective in mind, here are some questions about this passage to get you thinking:

  1. What do today’s verses reveal about God’s character?
  2. …about God’s actions/what He has done?
  3. What would the original audience (Jews returning from exile) think/feel about these words? Would they take on a different meaning for them than they do for us?
  4. What do you think “it springs forth” means? What is the “it” referring to?
  5. What’s going on with the imagery in this chapter? Do you think it’s a physical representation of things to come? Symbolic? If symbolic, symbolic of what?
  6. Look at verses 22-28. This is God’s response to sin and disobedience. What does this section tell you about God’s nature?

I’m interested to hear your answers to these questions! Leave a comment below to join the conversation.

I’m praying for you this week! Leave me a message on the contact page or as a comment below if I can pray for you in specific ways. See you on Wednesday for more gardening goodness.

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Nitty Gritty – How to Prune

Next Sunday: Good Soil

 

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Pruning Time!

John 15 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. The imagery is SO good:

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Before I got into gardening, I’d look at this passage and say, “Hold up a minute! Why are BOTH the unproductive AND productive parts of this plant [or me] getting cut off?!” 

But now that I’ve been in the garden and made those tough cuts on productive plants, I get it.

It’s super easy to remove a dead twig. You can usually just snap it off without using pruners. Dead wood breaks easily – it’s brittle. But cutting live, green growth seems counter-intuitive. However, if pruned correctly, the plant becomes even more productive. I’ve witnessed this myself, year after year. You should see our fig tree the summer after a hard prune… it’s so full of figs that we can’t give them away fast enough!


Pruning does a lot of great things for a plant:

  • It redirects growth, so limbs can be trained the way they should go
  • It rejuvenates the plant, triggering new growth
  • It strengthens the plant – poor structure can lead to cracks and limb or total plant loss when snow, ice, or wind do their thing
  • It produces more flowers and fruit – by cutting off branches, more energy is available for reproduction (AKA flowers and fruit!)

The pruned plant is one that is living its best life. 


Back to the spiritual side of things, how are you being pruned right now? 

Maybe you’ve been upset about the ways you’ve been “cut off” – changes in areas of your life that were once thriving and now just aren’t. 

Stop and consider the following:

  • How might this redirect my growth? Might the changes I’m experiencing draw me closer to Christ? Or at least point me towards Him?
  • Before this change happened, were things becoming kind of stale? Did I need a fresh start or rejuvenation?
  • Can I learn something from this experience that will make my faith stronger?
  • What unexpected fruits might come from this change?

The last part of the John 15 passage shows us how we can consistently and reliably produce this fruit:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (v.4)

Remain in Jesus! Even after the pruning is done (maybe especially after the pruning is done). 

I’m praying for you this week, that you would identify areas of pruning in your life and see them for the blessing they will become!

John 15:1-2: I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Use as your phone wallpaper or lock screen this week as a reminder that pruning leads to fruit!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for Pruning – It’s Not that Hard!

Next Sunday: Spring Forth

 

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Flood

This past week has been RAINY. We’re set to break a record for rainiest winter here in NC. When I look out our back window, I can see huge puddles of standing water. Thankfully, it’s not anywhere near our house or any structures!

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE rain. Unlike the Carpenter’s song, rainy days and Mondays don’t get me down at all. Come August and September, you’ll hear me complaining about not having enough rain for my parched plants. Rain just makes everything feel cooler. Refreshed. Greener. Better, in my opinion.

But lately it’s been a little too wet. Never thought I’d say that, but here we are. I wonder if this is how Noah felt during those first few days in the Ark. After a week, I can imagine him saying, “Okay God, I catch your drift (sorry, bad Mom pun, couldn’t resist). That’s plenty!” But it continued to rain 40 days and 40 nights – no reprieve. What must it have been like for all those people who were caught outside (without an Ark) watching the floodwaters slowly rising? While water can be life-giving, it can also be incredibly destructive.

Well, in the midst of this epic rain, the song “Flood” by Jars of Clay has been on repeat in my brain. The music video is VERY 90s, trying-to-be-grunge, and emo, but the message is pretty good. 

 

Here are the lyrics in case you missed them:

 

Rain rain on my face

It hasn’t stopped

Raining for days

My world is a flood

Slowly I become

One with the mud

 

(Chorus) 

But if I can’t swim after 40 days

And my mind is crushed

By the crashing waves

Lift me up so high

That I cannot fall

Lift me up

Lift me up when I’m falling

Lift me up I’m weak and I’m dying

Lift me up I need you to hold me

Lift me up and keep me from drowning again

 

Down pour on my soul

Splashing in the ocean

I’m losing control

Dark sky all around

Can’t feel my feet

Touching the ground

 

(Chorus)

 

Man! I can really relate to this. Maybe it’s the pandemic or maybe it’s just life, but “slowly becoming one with the mud” and needing God to “lift me up so high that I cannot fall” are both completely on point with what I’m feeling and what I imagine many of you are feeling right now. 

 

King David, my Old Testament boyfriend as I like to call him (I could write SEVERAL posts on why I think he’s bees knees, and maybe I will 😉 ), gives us hope that God does have the power to lift us up out of this gunk:

 

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;

    he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

    out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

    and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,

    a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord

    and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)

 

Are you outside the Ark, slowly drowning in the floodwaters and storms of your life? Do you feel like you don’t have a firm place to stand?

 

GREAT NEWS! There IS a high rock you can stand on:

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  (Matthew 7:24-25, ESV)

 

Jesus’ words and teachings are the rock. Cry out to Him and let Him rescue you today! 

I’ll be praying for you this week! If there are specific things you’d like prayer for (floods in your life?), please feel free to send me a message on the “about” page or leave a comment on this post. 

Here’s to sunnier days ahead!

Psalm 40:2: He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

Here’s a memory verse for this week! Save it as your phone wallpaper as a reminder that God gives us a firm place to stand!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: All About Seeds – Part 3! Selecting Varieties for Planting

Next Sunday: Pruning Time

 

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Where are you planted?

On a warm-ish day a few weeks ago, I had the uber-ambitious idea to take my daughter hiking. That might sound like a normal activity to you, however, let me interject here that my daughter is two. We can’t walk anywhere without stopping ~843 times to look at gravel or a piece of pine straw. 

We’d walked this trail at our local state park before (or should I say, I carried her 90% of this trail before), so I knew there was a good chance we weren’t going to make it more than ¼ mile without a major break. And I was right, because there’s a CREEK WITH A BRIDGE. People. You’d have thought we had discovered the Holy Grail when she found that bridge for the first time. And also, my child cannot resist a body of water – puddles, creeks, rivers, lakes, bathtubs, showers, sprinklers. This child LOVES the water. 

So, of course, we made our way down to the creek’s edge. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for bringing her rain boots (#momwin) and since the water level was only 3-4 inches in the shallows, I let her walk around while I sat on the banks. While I was sitting there I saw this tree:

Tree near stream

Tree roots

Isn’t it striking? Check out those scraggly roots! That moss action! The beauty of the moment just hit me like a ton of bricks.

Then these words came to mind:

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the one

    who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

    or sit in the company of mockers,

2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

    and who meditates on his law day and night.

3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

    which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

    whatever they do prospers.

 

4 Not so the wicked!

    They are like chaff

    that the wind blows away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,

    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

 

Who are you walking with?

Where are you standing?

Whose company are you sitting in?

What do you delight in?

What do you dwell or meditate on, day and night?

 

Where are you planted?

 

The answers to these questions makes all the difference. Choose wisely.

Psalm 1:1a, 2-3: Blessed is the one... whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers.

Save this as your phone wallpaper to remind yourself to examine where you’re planted.

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: All About Seeds – Part 2! Seed Lingo Decoded

Next Sunday: Flood

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