Thursday, September 29, 2016

All the Seeds

"He who ears, let him hear." Matthew 13:9

Often times we look at individual circumstances, both the good and the bad, but neglect to look at the whole picture.  We wrap ourselves in excitement over the blessings or we hyper-focus on the trial.  What if we could look at all parts of our journey as truth, Jesus truth?  And if we could do that, how might these truths place us on a new path with Jesus?

One of my most favorite things about God's Word is when I read a familiar story and Jesus sheds new light on it.  When I peel back another layer and the truth of His Word becomes more complex, more beautiful and more applicable to my life.  I recently experienced this peeling back process.  (It just gets me so stinking excited and on fire!)

In Matthew chapter 10, Jesus shares the Parable of the Sower.  He explains the 4 different types of soils (the soil represents our individual walk with Jesus) and what happens to the seeds of truth when they are sown onto the specific soils.  Many teachers and commentaries focus on the soils, which makes sense because it is the most obvious focal point.  Jesus goes into great detail about the soil along the path, the rocky ground, the soil among the thorns, and the good soil. We read the parable and the description and we begin to evaluate our walk and which soil best represents us.  We clearly understand that the good soil is the soil we want, but what in the world do we do to make sure our soil is "good". 

The condition of our soil is entirely up to us.  Life circumstances may stir up the soil.  We can ask for help in picking up the rocks and tossing them aside.  We might ask for help in identifying the thorns.  But listen and understand, we have to be the ones to improve the condition of our soil.  Our spouses, pastors, mentors, children, mommas, no one can do it but you and me.  No one.  The quality of our soil is so very important.  It is how we give life.  How we love.  How we serve.  How we walk this journey with Jesus. 

As I studied this parable, I couldn't remove a specific image from my mind.  Jesus, the sower, is holding a handful of seeds in his hands.  These seeds are seeds of truth.  The seeds represent Biblical truth, God's Word, His people, blessings, the good things, but also the hard things.  The truth of who Jesus is will be known not only through the good, but also through the hard.  The truth that Jesus' mercy and grace are demonstrated when we struggle with addiction, sickness, death, disappointment, and unimaginable pain.  Jesus's love and strength can be felt in powerful ways when life is hard.

Imagine Jesus's hands full of seeds.  These seeds are the amazing, good things, but also the hard things.  Imagine these seeds all mixed together.  Jesus holds them above our soil and He sprinkles the seeds...sometimes several fall, but sometimes the Sower only sows one.  He hopes that the seeds will grow beautiful fruit, but the soil must be rich.  Each seed has the potential to grow fruit to bring glory to God and show others the love of Jesus.  They come from His pierced hands, and He entrusts us with them. 

I find so much peace resting in this picture and truth.  What are some of my seeds...

the godly man who leads our family
my beautiful, inside and out, children
the amazing humans God has placed in our path
opportunities to work with teenagers
the privilege to speak encouragement and truth to women
humiliation so deep that it has altered my confidence
grief of lost babies
difficulties in raising a special needs child
confusion over our calling in ministry

My Jesus held all of these seeds in His hands.  The loss of a child next to the life of a child.  He scattered these seeds with the hope that my soil would grow fruit.  I believe my Jesus loves me.  He wants to do no harm to me.  Abba, daddy God, wants the very best for me. 

Close your eyes and imagine the seeds in our Savior's hands.  Think about the life you have lived thus far and the road that lays ahead.  The Sower is holding ALL of the seeds in His hands.  He is in control.  He is all knowing.  He is all powerful. Rest in the knowledge and the truth that not one seed needs to be wasted.

How is your soil?  Do you need help throwing the rocks out?  Do you need a friend to encourage you as you throw your thorns and thistles out?  How is your journey...your walk with Jesus?

If you can only think of the hard things in life because they have been so BIG and so OVERWHELMING, rest in the truth that even those things can be used to grow good fruit.  Begin with assessing your soil.  Cleaning up the garden and seeking someone to encourage and help you. 

Lean in and hear these words...
Jesus loves you.  The Sower holds each seed in His hands and He is sowing with the hopes of a loving relationship with you.  You are adored by the one who created you. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Pop of Color

One of my favorite past times is watching HGTV and perusing home decorating/improvement magazines.  I will happily sit and look for hours at how to take something bland or broken and turn it into something useful and beautiful.  I love watching stories unfold through the places people choose to live. 

There are a few houses in our neighborhood that I just think are so beautiful on the outside.  We live in an older neighborhood. Not a neighborhood with quaint 100 year old houses.  I'm talking about houses built in the 70s and 80s (like 1970 and 1980).  Most of the houses are dull brick with bland trim.  Let me pause and give this specific time period credit in regards to home design .  The houses in our neighborhood are not yardless, cookie-cutter houses.  We bought in our neighborhood because of the mature trees, large rooms and closets, and the pool in the backyard all at an affordable price.  But character... we have to create the character.  So if I drive past a house and it causes me to do a double take...well, I look again.  I am drawn to houses with just a pop of color.  Whether it is a yellow awning, red door, big pink crepe myrtles, or contrasting, colorful trim, I am drawn to the house that is classic and polished with a pop of color. 

Ten years ago, I traveled to Latvia on a mission trip.  Latvia is a little Eastern European country that was once part of the USSR.  The contrasting building structures told a story of life before communist Russia and one of life during.  We stayed in a grey, concrete building that houses teachers during the school year.  Every room was bland, uniform and the plumbing was questionable.  No color.  No life.  These concrete buildings were built one after another after another.  During our off time, we spent a few evenings in downtown Riga and walked along cobblestone streets lined with beautiful, interesting buildings.  Each building was unique and full of character.  After staying in the communist buildings, I truly appreciated the character and uniqueness of the Latvian buildings. 

Buildings built during the communist period in Latvia.

Latvian buildings that are unique and full of character.

One of the things we noticed on our trip to Latvia was how incredibly beautiful the flowers are.  The color seems so vibrant and breathes life and hope into their setting.  The flowers can be found in the landscaping of the town square, window boxes of the homes, or they would pop up in the unexpectedness of every day life.  The pop of color among the remnants of communist Russia is a visual experience that will stay with me forever.

 I cannot get enough of these pictures.  Imagine living in a country void of hope and walking by seeing this...

This morning, I stopped at the end of our street and looked at the house in front of me.  The same house I drive past several times a day.  And there it stood with its yellow awning and I thought how fun it must be to have a yellow awning.  The yellow awning made me happy.  It causes me to wonder about what is inside of the it just as colorful, whimsical, and bold.  I turned left to begin my afternoon of school pick ups and I pondered my love for a pop of color and why it gives my heart so much joy.  As I thought about this idea of color, I remembered the beauty in Latvia amongst the oppression and uniformity. 
The pop of color in these different environments exudes life,
 happiness, and refreshment.  I want to surround myself with pops of color.

Pop of Color

But the truth is, I want to BE a pop of color.  I don't want to be like the communist buildings in Latvia.  They all looked the same with no individuality.  They are functional, serve a purpose, and overly predictable.  I want to be like the Latvian buildings full of history and a story.  I want to stand out in a crowd...not for the attention to be on me, but rather to be a beacon of light, truth, and joy.  When someone talks to me, I want them to want to be around me.  I don't want to bring negativity and pessimism to the conversation, but rather hope and encouragement. 

Whether we live in our suburban, American neighborhood surrounded by Christian churches and "church" folks or we live in a former communist country, there is still room and a need for a pop of color.  We fill our churches with people playing a part, but I want to be amongst people living a part.  We practice common courtesy on the street and at the store.  We ask one another "how are you", but we don't stop to listen, really listen.  We live our lives like the concrete, communist buildings because it is easier and we can go unnoticed.  But I have the strongest desire to be something more.

I want to be

A pop of hope
A pop of encouragement
A pop of joy
A pop of laughter
A pop of listening
A pop of understanding
A pop of truth
A pop of life
A pop of happiness
A pop of love
A pop of Jesus

I think there is a reason why designers incorporate colorful accents into home d├ęcor.  I believe that it is what draws people into the setting, creates a colorful story, and creates a polished visual experience.  I want to draw people in because it is only then do I truly have permission to share my story with them.

This month, I am going to put my thinking cap on and do two things.  First, I am going to find something to put on our front porch that is a pop of color.  This item will remind me to do the second thing.  I am going to take a good look at my life and how I live it each day.  Am I pop of color to those in my home?  Neighborhood?  Church?  Community?  World?  Am I someone that you want to be around because the love of Jesus is pouring out of my words and actions?  Or am I communist concrete building lined up neatly with all of the other buildings?

Oh, how I want to be a POP of COLOR!