Thursday, July 30, 2015

When Life Seems Unfruitful

Everything is far & long gone by… I would like to step out of my heart & go walking beneath the enormous sky. Rainer M. Rilke

Have you ever had one of those days where you felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole? She asked, hoping for an answer to quench her thirst or curb her restlessness. It has been a long, long, season of waiting, and standing, and believing. It is a frustrating time as well; it is a time that nothing in my life seems fruitful. I am just here…waiting. I suppose I could fill my time with busyness so that I won’t feel the crush of the wait, but that would not prove fruitful either. Nothing seems fruitful at all; as illustrated in Piper’s Farm which is rich in green leaves and flowers, yet lacking fruit. I am weary of walking through the Farm anticipating fruit; I am disappointed each day. It seems that the Farm’s chronos is suspended in time for a harvest as well. 

The trees did not bloom this year;

There will be no apples this summer…

The apricot tree has forgotten to bloom…
The plumb tree which traditionally boasts of more plums than one knows what to do with, did not survive a hard freeze; most of it had to be pruned…
I could not find a bloom on my Texas Bluebonnets, which I am growing to remind me of God’s promise to me…

So, I ceased looking for fruit, and my expectation of harvest diminished.

They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit (Jer. 17:8 NASB).

When you feel like you are being crushed like a grape; God is getting ready to do something amazing with you. 

We all have experienced times when we feel unfruitful. It is in those times we need to press in diligently to hear God’s voice; set your face as flint... He is desiring to be more intimate with us and to deepen our understanding of who He is.

He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel  (Ps 103:7 NASB)

The Israelites witnessed God’s miracles—His signs and wonders; but they would not climb the mountain; they wanted Moses to be their advocate to God. Moses knew God face-to-face, because he desired to be in the presence of the Lord; he would settle for nothing less than basking in God’s glory.

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend (Ex. 33:11 NASB).

Moses knew God’s ways, He understood His character. He trusted God because he knew God was trustworthy. When we don’t seek God, we will continue to walk around in a wilderness; questioning God and losing faith in His promises. The purpose of these dry, unfruitful seasons is to cause us to seek God more ardently than ever; we, like Moses, should not settle for less than God’s presence.  

Things are growing slowly, we had a late start to the warm weather. In Colorado, the growing season is all too short, and as August looms on the horizon, ushering in the fall, it is growing shorter by the day. I see green lush leaves and flowers that open and close, as if to tease me.  I worked hard to get this Farm planted, and it may come to naught. This causes me to be anxious for the fruit of my labor.

After a couple of days of sulking in my fruitlessness, I found a raspberry bush in a lower garden that I have neglected; it holds a few red berries. I planted this bush years ago, and honestly forgot about it; my energy focused on the berry bushes growing in my Farm.  

Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup. Wendell Berry
It caused me to reflect…do we have gifts or talents that we neglect, focusing our energy elsewhere, only to find the thing we neglected bearing fruit? There are things the Lord wants to see you bear fruit in, but you have forgotten to care for it. This is true for me. Use these dry times to cultivate your gifts and talents; be mindful of what you are neglecting. We must not leave our gifts and talents buried in the sand; driven by fear and afraid of risk. The reason I neglected this raspberry bush is that it is not organic. I bought it years ago before I began growing organic food. This bush I thought not worthy of my attention because it is not packaged the way I want it to be. That is how we miss God…when we don’t like the package or don’t recognize His workings when they manifest. The Pharisees made the same grave error. They knew the Hebrew Scriptures better than anyone. The very One those pages spoke of, they did not recognize when He walked the planet and knocked on their doors. Jesus did not appear how they envisioned, so He was despised and rejected (see Is. 53:3). 

Though it seems dark now, God always reminds us of His faithfulness. As I walked through the Farm a few days later, I began to see signs of life…

A few cucumbers…
And a bloom on my bluebonnets…

I have wasted too much time being disappointed; instead I should practice cultivating a grateful heart. My Farm brings me joy and happiness and it contains much to be thankful for. Thanking God in the midst of the crush is vital to our relationship with Him. I am thankful for the beauty of the pumpkin’s orange flowers—a promise of fruit. I am thankful for all the flowers that hold the promise of fruit, and the large green branches that are being conditioned to bear the coming harvest. The harvest may seem late by my perception, but God’s ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8-9). Part of cultivating a grateful heart is finding joy in the everyday mundane chronos. My small humble container Farm brings me joy and I thank Him for the coming harvest. God's beauty and His goodness is all around me. Be thankful...

Be joyful because it is humanly possible. Wendell Berry

When death seems imminent…God always brings life. He cares enough about me to cause my bluebonnets to bloom, to nudge me toward the mark and to remember that He is faithful that promised (see Heb. 10:23). The promise those flowers represent is still alive, though it seems unfruitful right now, God gently reminds me not to let go, and that He is getting ready to do something really amazing.

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments. Habakkuk 3:17-19  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sabbath Sanctuary: Leave It To God

This Sabbath I am absorbed in my thoughts of  resting in God. His Word today is bread for this weary soul. Hold on to God’s faithfulness. Breathe. Breathe in God’s Word like oxygen. Exhale all your cares on Him. He has you and He will fulfill His promise to you.

To whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27 NASB).

Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7 NASB).

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23 NASB).
I know the words “leave it to God” can be misunderstood…the sense in which a Christian leaves it to God is that he puts all his trust in Christ: trusts that Christ will somehow share with him the perfect human obedience which He carried out from His birth to His crucifixion: that Christ will make the man more like Himself and, in a sense, make good his deficiencies. In Christian language, He will share His “sonship” with us, will makes us, like Himself, “Sons of God” (p. 128). C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity
To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside (p. 129). C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

 When Christ is in me (my only hope of glory), my circumstances may stay the same, but I change because Christ is working in me. If you feel like you are being crushed like a grape in a wine press...God is preparing something amazing for you. 

Give it to God and Rest.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Rest In God

{Originally posted 11.20.11}

This verse choked me up this morning; it was the proverbial plank between the eyes. How many times does God need to remind me that He will provide for my every need? I know I am not the only one; many of us fall into despair or discouragement in the midst of our circumstances. God desires for us to move beyond that place of falling back into unbelief.

They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God; they said, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness? True, he struck the rock, and water gushed out, streams flowed abundantly, but can he also give us bread? Can he supply meat for his people?” When the LORD heard them, he was furious; his fire broke out against Jacob, and his wrath rose against Israel, for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance {Ps. 78:18-22 TNIV}.

The dangers of grumbling and despair are paralyzing, and the darkness separates us from God.

Anne Shirley: Can't you even imagine you're in the depths of despair?
Marilla Cuthbert: No I cannot. To despair is to turn your back on God.

(Anne of Green Gables, 1985)

They spoke against God; they said, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?
True, he struck the rock, and water gushed out, streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread? Can he supply meat for his people?”
 {v. 19-20}.

The Israelites were saying, yeah, God performed miracles for us before; He made water gush from a rock, but can He provide meat? This was enough to make God furious. Not only do they question whether God can perform a miracle after witnessing numerous miracles previously, but they also complain that what He has given them is not good enough.

I must confess that I have been there; I was there today. I am faced with what would seem insurmountable circumstances. I have some great ideas on how God can help me—what I think I need. How can I dare question Him, when He has done so much for me. He has yet to fail me, why would He start now? Is anything too hard for the Lord? (Jeremiah 32:27). If God delivered me from previous troubles, why would He leave me now? How can I even entertain for a moment that God can’t or won’t help me? He knows just what I need, which is always better than what I have in mind.

The Israelites unbelief was not unbelief in God’s existence, rather in His ability to provide for and deliver them; though they witnessed His deliverance in parting an ocean to cross on dry land, only for it to crash down on top of their enemies—drowning them in the sea.

Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent {Ex. 14:13-14 NASB}.

The Israelites developed a nasty habit of falling into unbelief. They witnessed the miracles and power of God. God had not displayed Himself in this way before, they were the first to witness His Mighty Hand, yet they could not trust Him. How could God destroy Pharaoh and the Egyptians through such wonders, yet not able to feed them in the desert? Water out of a rock—yes; but how can He provide food? Seems ridiculous, yet how many of us react the same? He delivers us from one trial, but when the next trial appears, we act as though it will overtake us, and that deliverance is impossible.

Sometimes when we get overwhelmed we forget how big God is. A.W. Tozer

While it is said, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked me.” For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? {Hebrews 3:15-18 NASB}

Entering into God’s rest means that we believe what He speaks to us, and we allow Him to fight the battles for us. He led the Israelites out of Egypt, not to wander in the desert, but to take them into the Promised Land. He delivered them from Pharaoh, He provided the bread of angels to feed them, yet when circumstances seemed a little too tough, they did not believe He would take care of them. He desired to be their source; everything they needed—He would provide. Instead of resting in the Almighty powerful God, they complained. The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years for their murmuring and though He provided for them in the wilderness, despite their complaining, they lived out the remainder of their days and died in the desert. They would never see a glimpse of the Promise Land.

This event in the wilderness is a very important one. The Holy Spirit inspired the scribes of the Scriptures to include this account in several places: Psalm 78:18, Psalm 95:8, Hebrews 3:8 and 3:15, and Hebrews 4:9; this however is not an exhaustive list. It is clearly a message the Lord wants to ensure we hear—and take to heart. This message leaps across the pages of the Old Testament to speak again firmly in the New, because He desires to provide for us and to tabernacle with us:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth {Jn. 1:14 NASB}.

It is a call to the Hebrews to come out of that life of unbelief and sloth, that leads to a departing from the living God and to enter into the Promised Land, the rest of God, a life of fellowship and favor. It is a call to all lukewarm, half-hearted Christians, no longer to remain in the outer court of the tabernacle, content with the hope that their sins are pardoned. Nor even to be satisfied with having entered the Holy Place, and there doing the service of the Tabernacle, while the veil still hinders the fellowship with the living God and His love (Andrew Murray, Holiest of All).

It is a call to the Hebrews, and it is a call to us.

Remember Jesus’ words of comfort:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest {Matthew 11:28 TNIV}.

Jesus came to give us rest; when you are weary and overwhelmed, He promises rest when we come to Him.

He again fixes a certain day, ‘Today’ saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, ‘Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God {Heb. 4:9 NASB}.

God promises repeatedly to be a strong tower, a refuge in the storm; we don’t have to keep going in circles wandering in the wilderness with the Promised Land in sight but beyond our reach. The Lord created the Sabbath for man; not man for the Sabbath (see Mark 2:27), so that we can rest, not just on Sunday—a day on the calendar; but also spiritually; a day to be still and hear God’s voice and to be filled with the peace of the precious Holy Spirit—our Comforter.

Sabbath is both a day and an attitude to nurture such stillness. It is both time on a calendar and a disposition of the heart. It is a day we enter, but just as much a way we see. Sabbath imparts the rest of God—actual physical, mental, spiritual rest, but also the rest of God–the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness {Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God}.

From the beginning, God ordained the Sabbath Rest. He created it for mankind, physically and spiritually. He ordained a Sabbath rest for the land every seventh year so the land could rest and regain its nutrients; He is the All-Wise God, and knows His creation in ways we never will. It is for our good to take a physical rest and a spiritual rest; resting in God— knowing He will take care of everything, and fulfill His promises.

Circumstances may look overwhelming, storms may come and toss your boat to and fro. You will scream out “Master don’t you care that we are perishing?!” He does care, and when we rest in Him we will not perish. We will find deliverance and rest for our souls.

Enter Into My Rest

Originally posted 8.17.11

The rest of God. These words roll off my tongue and fills me with a refreshing hope. Many believe that we will rest when we enter heaven. However, the rest of God is for this life, and not only the one to come {see Mark 10:30}.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly {Jn. 10:10 NASB}.

I love the New Living Translation:

The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Jesus’ purpose for us is to have an abundant life; not just in heaven, but on earth now. Life can be hard, and the trials we face drain the ever-loving life out of us. Sometimes, bad things happen because we live in a fallen world, and other trials are allowed as a test:

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them {Ex. 15:22-25 NASB emphasis mine}.

God healed the waters so they would learn to trust in His provision, and to know whatever trial they faced from that time forward, they could trust Him. He is so faithful. Job suffered terribly at the hand of the Accuser…but through it he came to know the God that knit him together:

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth {Job 19:25 NASB}.

“God expects his children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are reliable ones…we might have produced down-right joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely so confident in Him, no matter what was ahead.”[1]

God does not test us so that He knows our hearts; for every heart lays open before Him. He tests us so that we see and know what is in our hearts. When we trust God and His provision for us during the times of testing, and remain obedient to Him, we then enter into His rest. The writer of Hebrews reminds us:

Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried me by testing me, and saw my works for forty years. “Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, ‘they always go astray in their heart, and they did not know my ways’; as I swore in my wrath, ‘they shall not enter my rest’” {Hebrews 3:8-11 NASB}.

We must listen to the voice of God to hear what He is saying to us:

 “When we pay attention in the silence, we open up space where we can meet with God. Unlike prayers where we do all the talking, Jones describes the listening posture of prayer as "a daily willingness to place ourselves on the threshold and wait there." Indeed, he goes on to suggest that cultivating quiet in our lives becomes the time when we move from the agitated periphery of our lives, identifying with our lives without qualification or added information to simply a silent interior space.” [2] 

And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.” Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters {Ex. 15:26-27 NASB}.

I love this last verse. God leads them to the twelve springs and seventy date palms; the imagery is amazing. Palm trees are a symbol of victory, and represent perseverance. The springs, or wells of water {KJV}, represent a place of refreshing. The language of twelve and seventy is purposefully written by the Holy Spirit in all His wisdom. Twelve Palms—one for each tribe. Twelve speaks to the twelve tribes and twelve apostles—God’s perfect number for government. Seventy is the number prior to increase, and it also represents the number of nations on the earth after the flood {Gen. 10}, and of the seventy elders of Israel. Jesus later sent out the seventy as His harbingers {Lk. 10:1}.
Though the place He brings them to is refreshing, He has much more in store for them. If they remain obedient, and trust Him to guide them to the promise land, a much grander rest awaits them.

God does not promise a trial free existence; quite the opposite. Jesus warned that believers will have trials in this world, but He has overcome them (see John 16). When we learn to trust in Him, He will lead us to our land flowing with milk and honey; a greater rest than the palms and the springs. The place He brought them to is a place of refreshing and victory. They witnessed God defeat their enemies and bring them beside still waters to rest. God will perform on our behalf as well. After the trial, He will lead us on to the place of rest and refreshing, and He will allow us to encamp there for a moment—but He has a greater land waiting for us, a greater purpose, if we continue to trust in Him and His promises.

You may also find this essay posted on Christian Women Online

[1] Oswald Chambers. My Utmost for His Highest (New York: Dodd Mead & Co., l935).
[2]Alan Jones, Soul Making (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1985), 62. Quoted by Margaret Manning, Silent Spaces, Slice of Infinity, Ravi Zacharias Ministries. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Piper's Farm: The Beauty of Bees

Bees work for man and yet they never bruise their master’s flower, but leave it, having done, as fair as ever, and as fit to use; so both the flower does stay, and honey run. George Herbert Providence

Yellow, black and a single stroke of red; Too big I cannot fathom how you fly with wings so small
From summer’s last stand into the arms of beckoning fall; The freezing threat hastens you to glean the last of summer’s nectar; Jumping from flower to flower each one brings new hope into the air;
The violet and blush of summer colors fade now with the crisps nights; And mild days...
Piper Green © 2012

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Witnessing the Divine: Rain, George Herbert, and Piper's Farm

Witnessing the Divine  grace of God today, as it is cold and raining on Piper's Farm; George Herbert seems appropriate;

 Rain, do not hurt my flowers, but gently spend
Thy honey drops: do not press to smell them here:
When they are ripe their odor will ascend,
And at thy lodging with their thanks appear.

George Herbert Providence