The Master Gardener

veg seeds

I was looking at some packets of seeds today, preparing to start them growing inside to transplant into my garden when the danger of frost has passed. The instructions said some do best in full sun, some in partial and some only thrive in shade.

Also, some germinate in 6-10 days while some take 20-30 days before peeking their tiny green shoots above ground. Some can be planted a half inch apart, and some need more room to grow.

It started me thinking how caring for children is like taking care of plants. They are not all alike. In order for them to grow, we have to take care to recognize what the best conditions are for each of them to thrive.

Instructionsplant            1 – they grow at different rates. So what a 3 year-old is doing in one family may be totally different from what another 3 year-old is capable of. And they are both normal.

2 – they need room to grow. Some are very social and can play closely with other children. Others do best with parallel play, rather than so much interacting. They seem to need their space.

3 – amount of sunlight. Some wake up raring to go and can’t wait to get outside and run all day. Others need a more sheltered, protected, slower pace to their day.

The challenge is children don’t come in convenient packets, with labels that help you get all the conditions just right. It’s a matter of getting to know your child, and noting what circumstances and people seem to help them grow, and those that don’t. You can’t make a sunflower grow tall in the dark – or a begonia do well in bright sunlight. So parenting skills need to be developed and refined for each child.

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And what about that picture on the front of the packet that shows what the fully-grown flowers are supposed to look like? Wouldn’t that be nice to have for each of our children? If we knew what they would grow up to be like, we would have an easier time of preparing them along the way.

Our saving grace is that God knows. He has a special plan for each child, a plan to prosper them and not to harm them (Jeremiah 29:11). He loves them even more than we love them. And to provide them with a hope and a future, God has given them the very parents He wants them to have. When we don’t have the wisdom to parent them, He is willing to share His wisdom with us.

So be encouraged that if your child doesn’t look like another child, that’s okay. If they don’t grow at the same rate as another child, or have the same skills or interests, that’s okay too. Just like flowers are different, children are different. They’re supposed to be. Imagine if all the gardens only had one kind of blossom!

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So we water and weed, fertilize and feed, provide shade and sunlight as best we can. But not being sure of what we’ve planted can be hard. Yet, there is hope. Know that even when you’re at your wit’s end, God will help you and give you what you need to parent your child.

Ask Him now. He is the Master Gardener.

 

The beauty of the mountain

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After a brisk walk around the lake, I found a shaded spot to sit where a view of the whole lake spread out before me. The water was calm, and reflected the wide, blue sky and majestic mountains. My attention was drawn to the one large mountain peak in the center of this tranquil scene. It was the highest, but had a wide, darkening cloud overshadowing it.

My first thoughts were sad. What a pity that darkness covered the mountain’s strength and beauty. I wished the cloud would blow over; move away to shadow another place. But looking more closely, I saw that it brought out depth and definition in the mountain that wasn’t perceivable in the bright sunlight. These distinctions added grandeur to the mountain’s appearance.

We are often like this mountain. If given a choice, we would prefer to live our lives in the sunlight, rather than under a cloud. We delight in sunshine, with no problems on the horizon. But often, the beauty of our Christian nature is brought out by the trials that overshadow our lives. God’s gift of peace can be most evident in times of turmoil. Our patience, or lack of, is most evident when it is being tested. Our spirit of joy often shows best in times of hardship.

The clouds also bring rain. The water that nourishes the lush blanket of grass and flowers that grow and add beauty to our appearance, comes from these dark overshadowing clouds. Even the water that runs off clears away debris and creates furrows and ridges that add depth to our character.

Sometimes, the clouds bring violent storms. Lightening may strike, and split the ground; leaving an open wound, an ugly gash of devastation in our lives. Even this is a gift. For the wound creates a new, clear, fertile place where nothing had an opportunity to grow before.

Many times, the sweetest, most beautiful flowers are seen in the shadowy depths of a chasm created by a trauma to the mountain. And, many times, the sweetest, most beautiful blessings in our lives, grow from the deepest hurts.

Appreciate the clouds.

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Spring

Today is my first day of yard work. What a mess! Spring brings new life, and life is messy!

It must be Spring. The calendar says it. The occasional warm day bears it out.

Winter lays down a coat of snow and keeps things covered up until Spring’s warmth melts the frostiness into a nourishing drink of water that encourages and promotes new growth.

crocus-2072985_640When new shoots and tiny blossoms poke their heads up, we begin to see crocus, grape hyacinth and the green leaves of iris, tulips and daffodils. A gentle raking removes the dead tree leaves that have blown into the yard throughout the winter and reveals even more new growth underneath. But for the new growth to continue, the old, dead brown parts from each plant must be removed. During winter, they cover the plants to protect from extremes in temperature and frozen snow.

But if left now, they would block the needed moisture and sunlight. So, one at a time, they must be selected and gently but firmly pulled from the emerging plants to make room for healthy new growth. Once sunlight and water have access, we need to provide fertilizer to feed the newly reborn plants, since over time, the ground’s nutrients are depleted and need to be restored.

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Some of the newly exposed growth is weeds. They have sprung up in the dark and taken root, looking just as green and eager to grow as the flowers. But they too, must be removed, as they compete for moisture, sunlight and space and would crowd out the desired plants.

 

Spring brings work with its new life. And it’s time we roll up our sleeves and get to work in our spiritual lives as well!

In the winter, we often pull back, almost hibernate. With the cold weather, and fewer hours of sunlight, we take our activities indoors. Much of what we do is hidden. We layer activities like we layer our clothes, so people don’t see what’s underneath our busyness. Even though we are growing in our faith, in our relationship with God, it may not be evident. Are we growing? Are we making and taking time to study God’s Word, listen to His voice of direction?                          crocus-590738_640

In Spring we need to uncover and let in the sun, water and nutrients that help us grow again. Has a weed sprung up in a mistaken belief that we don’t need to study God’s Word? Has the lie entangled our roots that we don’t need a small group of Christians to fellowship with – made us think that we can sustain obedience to God and spiritual growth on our own? Has a past hurt or unmet need become a dead leaf that needs to be gently but firmly pulled loose? Have we wrapped ourselves in layers of busyness and old excuses for not serving with our time as well as our pocketbook? These ‘dead leaves’ and ‘weeds’ will kill our growth. They block the sunlight and absorb the moisture we need to have life. They insulate us from the revitalizing ‘fertilizer’ we need to live, and our faith can slowly die, rotting away in our dark, suffocating, isolated, spot.

Life takes work. When we strip away the dead leaves, what will be left? Our faith. Our trust in God. Our saving knowledge that He loves us, has a plan for us and desires to know us better. We need to feed that faith. For it to grow, we need to ‘renew our minds’ and so be transformed into a blossoming, thriving Christian. We renew our minds by reading God’s Word, speaking and listening to Him in prayer, fellowshipping with other believers, thinking on things that are godly. We grow by stretching our faith by giving our money, our talents, and our time in service to our church body and to those outside the body who are physically and spiritually in need.

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God shows us so much through His creation. Let’s be sure we are gleaning all He has to say in every season of life.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV

Freezing? Spring is coming!

 

frozen-18202_640Walking today, I noticed that all the way around the lake, the edges were frozen. There was a little water with a few birds in the very center causing small waves to break over the icy edge. As I took in the scene, I could almost hear God asking…”Have you frozen over too?”

Have we allowed the world to chill us to the point of freezing at our edges?

This hard, cold iciness lessens our sensitivity and makes us feel and act colder. When there is a frozen boundary, that separation creates an inability to make contact. We may say this boundary is our “margin of protection” from the cold, cruel world. But what is the effect?

When we’re frozen, we cannot sense the needs of those around us. And we can’t care for what we don’t perceive. So we act with less love and service to others. This also isolates us from being loved and served because without contact, others cannot perceive our needs either. The coldness is perpetuating, because, as we feel colder and retreat from others, they retreat from us.

We become used to the faces of suffering, and pass them by with skepticism. We have been so overexposed to such great needs that we feel helpless to make a difference. We respond to pleas for support with indifference.

Ever feel the wind blowing off a frozen lake? It is incredibly cold, even colder than the air around the lake. When your life of love and service has chilled, you will blow only a hard, icy draft onto those around you. The usual response to this is to wrap your scarf tighter around your face, pull your coat closer and speed up to get away as fast as possible. And as others turn and pull away from you, your ice thickens.

Usually, there is a beautiful reflection in the lake. But the ice spoils this beauty. Garbage and debris thrown or blown onto the lake now sits on top of the ice, giving it the appearance of an abandoned street littered with refuse. Normally, wave action moves trash to the edge where it can be collected and doesn’t spoil the view. Or, the debris sinks to the bottom, biodegrades, and raises the water level. When we are warm, we respond the same way. Circumstances that don’t fit us are discarded. Other things that happen, we take in and process, and hopefully grow from. But when we become frozen, those little obstacles or hurts are more apparent and longer lasting because we cannot absorb or wave them off. They just sit on our surface for all to see and mar the view.

When frozen, the lake not only looks hard and cold; it looks painful. I could see cracks all over the ice. Each one started with a point of impact and spread in all directions. This web of explosive damage could be traced and connected all around the lake. Our lives are so much more painful when we present a hard, cold surface to the world. We may think it insulates us, but it just creates a showplace for all the hurts that come our way.

This ice keeps water contained. In our lives this hard, icy exterior keeps us from being able to connect with others. Normally the lake accommodates incoming and outgoing water smoothly. Within that ability we have the give and take of accepting and forgiving. We are able to flow to others and overflow our own banks with God’s blessings. Other times we can pull back from overcommittment, from unwise decisions, from bad or dangerous situations.

We are told in scripture to “not withhold good when it is in our power to do it”, and “do not grow weary in doing good”. Ice keeps blessings in. Our cold, insensitive attitudes will tell us to keep what we have to ourselves, when we are called to share.

So how do you see yourself? Have you become less sensitive to those around you? Do others see your growth or your garbage? Are you reflecting God’s love or showing your pain-etched cracks? Are you passing on the blessings or have you frozen your assets?

The answer to a frozen life is the same as the frozen lake. The Son! Heat from the sun will thaw ice and melt it away. But the lake must wait on the seasons. The heat from the love of God’s Son can melt the coldness in your life now. And the good news is: you don’t have to wait. Jesus is here right now to release His heart-warming, ice-melting love into your life. All you have to do is ask.

As you warm up you can feel the needs of others and they can feel yours. As the icy border melts, you can have the contact necessary to interact and share with others, and they with you. This will help you expel the garbage and deal with difficulties. It will keep you from “cracking” under stress. It will allow you to share God’s blessing, and be blessed in return.

Don’t wait. The Son is shining!

 

Will you join your Father?

When I go to my parent’s home for a visit, I love doing things with my father. It doesn’t matter what it is. He is always busy at something. If I get up and he’s in the yard planting gladiola bulbs, I go out and help plant gladiola bulbs.   I don’t do it because it’s my favorite thing to do, or because I am particularly skilled or ‘gifted’ at it, or even because he needs my help. I do it to be close to him and spend time with him.

If he’s polishing the silver, I pick up a cloth and help him polish the silver. If he’s trimming the trees, I pick up some clippers and manage the trash bin. Again, not because it’s my favorite activity, or because I will get recognition, or even because of any sense of accomplishment. But because it’s something we can do together. And I love spending time together.

He is delighted when I help, but if I don’t join him in an activity, there is no condemnation or guilt. He doesn’t get angry with me, or not allow me to join him in other activities. It’s just that I missed an opportunity to spend time with him.

I think it’s like that with our Heavenly Father too.   He is at work all around us. And when we see Him at work, we can choose to join Him. It may be in an area we feel gifted in, or it may not. It may be something we will be recognized for, or not. It may become our life’s work, or it may not. But our motivation is that we get to be with our Father. And that is also our reward.

When I die, it is doubtful I will be remembered for some great ministry work, or some famous accomplishment. But I hope it will be said of me, that I loved spending time with my Father.

In John 5:17, 19; Jesus told us His Father is always at work, and He did only what He saw the Father doing.   What do you see your Father doing? Will you join Him?

The fruit of our labors:

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