A Lesson in Weaving

She watched her through the open window that looked down on the small balcony. The young girl looked out over the river that lazily wandered past the castle. The child was hers, but she was no longer looked like a small girl. She had grown in those years she had been held captive by the enemy lord. She felt a lump in her throat that she could not swallow. The girl, her girl, didn’t want anything to do with her, her very own mother, nor her grandfather, the King.

Image by  DarkWorkX  from  Pixabay

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

When they had first found her in the enemy’s castle she was like a caged animal. The room they found her in was filled with waste and squalor. The girl did not recognize her mother at first and when she tried to take her in her arms, which ached to hold her again, the girl screamed. That scream had pierced her soul. They were finally able to get her out of the castle by coaxing her out with sweets. The thought of it still made her shudder.

Eventually, the girl saw that they were not going to hurt her and in fact were going to provide for her pretty clothes and good food, things that she hadn’t gotten when she was a captive, but still, she kept asking when she could go home. It galled her to think her only child thought of his palace as her home, even after how she had been treated.

A noise from behind her caused her to turn. Her father, the King, approached. He put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze.

“Father, I don’t know what to do. I feel absolutely helpless…I know she is hurting, and probably angry at me. I let it happen. I let her get caught by that evil man. I am to blame and now, I can’t even look at her without feeling utterly hopeless.”

The King took in a deep breath and let it out very slowly. She often saw him do this when he was thinking before he spoke, a practice he always thought wise.

“Daughter, you know how very much I love you, so I can understand those feelings of helplessness and even hopelessness. Did you know that I could not sleep at night when you were being courted by your late husband? It terrified me to let you go, knowing each step you took towards independence took you further and further away from me. But, I had to learn to trust the One. I knew that He would always take care of you, no matter where you were. Even when I eventually sent you into battle.”

Image by  Enrique Meseguer  from  Pixabay

She pulled away from him, suddenly feeling angry. “This is not a simple courting session that my daughter went through. She was beaten, starved and we don’t even know yet, if he did other vile things to her. She was just a child. Was the One with her, when that was going on, or has He abandoned her…has He abandoned us?”

The King sat heavily in a chair that stood near the fire burning cheerfully in a brazier. He pulled the footstool in front of him and patted it.

Once again, he wanted her to sit, to listen, to learn from him.

As she did so often, she began to pace. “No! I am not going to sit at your feet, like a little child and have you explain to me, how I need to trust the One. He let my little girl get hurt. He let her get caught by that vile enemy.”

“Now wait a minute. Is it your fault, or is it His fault?”

She stopped and stared. “Well…I….I….I don’t know! All I know, is that little girl is not the same person I knew before she was taken.”

“Are you the same person you were before she was taken?”

She inhaled, trying to practice the same technique he did, not speaking until she was sure she was in control.

“No. I am not.”

He patted the foot stool again and smiled.

Reluctantly she sat.

He leaned forward and took her hands in his own large ones. She could feel the callouses there. He was no show piece. He was a king who fought and bled beside his own men for the causes he believed in. How could he keep his calm demeanor? He always seemed at peace, no matter what.

“How do you to it? How did you send me into battle, knowing full well, I might never return?”

“Do you remember how your mother used to love to weave tapestries?”

Image by  MrsBrown  from  Pixabay

Image by MrsBrown from Pixabay

She smiled, remembering her mother, the Queen working tirelessly into the night weaving various colored threads together. “She used to hang it, so that when we came into the room, we could not see what the finished picture would be.”

The King let out a chuckle. “Oh yes. Once time I tried to sneak in when she was away and she had the loom booby trapped! I suddenly found myself doused by a bucket of honey mead. I couldn’t get the flies away from me for weeks.”

She laughed, remembering her father taking bath, after bath, after bath, but unable to get the sweet ale completely washed out of his hair.

He squeezed her hands. “Your mother always had a purpose for everything she did. Why do you think she presented the tapestry to us only from the back side, until the work was done?”

She shrugged. “I had always assumed she just loved the surprise on our faces when we finally saw it.”

“Oh there was definitely that! However, in addition to that she wanted to remind us of what real life is like.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Life is made up of all manner of threads, some beautiful colors and others dull and even ugly. If you didn’t know that the front of the tapestry was going to be made into a beautiful work of art, you would have thought the piece merely an ugly, jumble of random colored threads and knots where the threads had been tied off. It is that jumbled mess that makes up our lives. The ugly threads and the beautiful ones are all necessary to make the completed picture.

The One is weaving those threads. He is making all of it, even the threads we don’t understand or want to understand into a picture of such great beauty that it will be declared a masterpiece, when we finally see the finished product.

Your mother was an artist and she taught you those same skills before she passed on. What are you going to do with your threads? You can use them to create beauty, or like our now dead enemy, you can use them to weave chaos.”

The King leaned forward and kissed her forehead, then he rose to his feet and quietly left the room.

She stared into the fire, that slowly claimed the fuel it was burning. The fire was chaotic, yet it served a purpose to provide warmth and cook food. It was even beautiful in its dance of flame. Could it be, her father was right; that beauty could come from the chaos of life?

She knew what she had to do. She would teach her daughter the loom. She would teach her the dance of light and flame, darkness and chaos and pray the One would bring healing and beauty for them both.

This is a fiction piece by Amy D. Christensen

In 2010 Ravi Zacharias wrote a book titled, The Grand Weaver. It was this book and the images he shared of God being the grand weaver of our lives that inspired the imagery revolving around the tapestry in this story. If we can grasp His divine plan for our lives, in which He uses all the good, the bad and the ugly, how much easier would it be to let Him have control. I hope you enjoyed this story.

You can see the previous parts to this story by clicking on the links below:

Part 1: Return to Battle

Part 2: A Father’s Perspective

Part 3: Waiting

Part 4: Ready to Die


Mulling It Over - Part 2

It was a good morning to stay inside. The temperature hovered at 32 degrees Fahrenheit making the moisture that fell turn everything into something similar to a glazed doughnut without the sweet taste. Even now, as the temps have risen to a balmy 34 degrees, the ice still lingers, stubbornly clinging to branches, wires, driveways, cars and buildings.

Ice on back door
Ice on branches
Ice on plant hanger

I am looking at a portion of scripture that I introduced last week in the New Testament book of 2 Peter. Peter, one of the original twelve disciples, authored 1st and 2nd Peter. Here is the passage again.

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB)

Last week we looked at verses 1 and 2. You can see that post here. This week we will dissect verse 3. If you have not been a participant in my Mulling It Over series before, let me briefly explain how this works. I love to let the Bible speak for itself. The Holy Spirit gives us the capacity to understand scripture, so what I am doing is sharing with you what I have learned in my study of certain scriptures. I think is is wonderful to study the Bible in different ways, so I would strongly encourage you to do further research and study on various passages, but for this particular study we will just chew on what it says and let the Bible do the talking.

On to verse 3:

...seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
— 2 Peter 1:3 (NASB)

…seeing that His divine power…

The fact that it is divine power, means that it is power of God, not men or machines or whatever you want to use to fill in the blank. This power is from God. It is His to give and His to withhold. Here are a few other verses that talk about His divine power.

With Him are wisdom and might; To Him belong counsel and understanding.
— Job 12:13 (NASB)
I will instruct you in the power of God; What is with the Almighty I will not conceal.
— Job 27:11 (NASB)
O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!
— Psalm 68:35 (NASB)
Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him.
— Daniel 2:20 (NASB)

…has granted to us…

I looked up the word granted in Webster’s Online Dictionary. There are two specific definitions that I feel define the way the word is used in this sentence. The first says, “…to permit as a right, privilege or favor.” God has given us rights. He has privileged us and he has given us favor. It may not always seems like it, but it is true.

The second definition says, “…to bestow or transfer formally; to give the possession or title of by a deed.” God, in His great generosity gives us things. Just as a good father loves to give his children gifts, so too, our Heavenly Father derives great pleasure from giving His spiritual children gifts.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
— Matthew 7:11 (NASB)
Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.”
— Ephesians 4:8 (NASB)
Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”
— Genesis 13:17 (NASB)
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
— Matthew 7:7 (NASB)

So what, exactly, is it that God granted to us?

…everything pertaining to life and godliness…

The word everything is pretty all encompassing. We could all list things that we have wanted that God didn’t necessarily give us, so why does it say everything. The key phrase here is pertaining to. Everything pertaining to life and godliness. We all might think, now wait a minute, there are plenty of things pertaining to life that I haven’t been given. For example, a woman who desires to have a child, but is unable or someone looking for a life partner, but not able to find the right one. What about the man or woman who is out of a job and can’t find work, or people in other countries who live in fear for their lives and the lives of their children? Isn’t the ability to find love, have a family and have a secure, safe place to live all part of life?

How many of you remember the song, sung by Lynn Anderson, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden? Here’s a refresher if you have the time to listen.

The first few lines go:

“I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden

Along with the sunshine, there has to be a little rain sometime.”

It might sound rather trite, especially if you are going through a hard time, but there is great truth there. God didn’t promise us that we would have everything we want, or even everything we need. The power He has granted to us is the ability to live life, regardless of what difficulties come along.

Notice that the verse says everything pertaining to life and godliness. There seems to be a connection here which cannot be ignored. Godliness goes hand in hand with living life. We don’t become godly after life is over, we become godly as we live life. As many of you have already experienced becoming godly often happens during the most difficult portions of life, not during the rose garden moments, but during the monsoon moments. It is during these monsoon moments that God grants us what we need to keep living life, or the grace to give up.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There is nothing wrong with giving up, particularly if you have struggled and struggled. There are times that the giving up is more a matter of our pride than it is the desire to get what we want. We don’t want to look weak, or stupid, or unable to cope. We don’t want to ask for help or admit that this is definitely not what we thought life would look like. But it is okay! Come to terms with it, you are weak, sometimes your decisions are stupid and frankly I have had many days where I just could’t cope, but God has always been there through it all and that brings me to the last portion of this verse.

…through the true knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence.

That divine power that grants to us everything to live this journey we call life and make us godly is only obtainable through the true knowledge of Him. In other words, it is through our acknowledgment and acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior that we are able to live life and be godly. We can’t do this on our own and that is precisely the point.

God called us, each one of us, by His own glory and excellence, which was personified in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the crowing glory of the Father and Jesus is the perfect man, a man of true excellence. When we come to know Him by our faith in His virgin birth, life, death and resurrection, we are given the ability to live this life, no matter what it throws at us. Our loss is an opportunity for gaining more of Him. Our weakness is an opportunity for being infused with His strength. Our stupidity is an opportunity for learning more of Him and growing in His wisdom. Our deepest, unmet desire is an opportunity for becoming intimate with a Holy, loving god.

I hope this verse has given you hope. You are not living this life alone. He is with you, granting you the ability to live life, no matter what storm you are going through. Hang on!









Mulling It Over - Part 3

Once again we are walking slowly through a particular portion of scripture. I love to take a small piece, maybe a few chapters, one chapter or in this case, just a few verses and completely devour it, seeing what we can get out of His Word. I always find it fascinating that God can speak to us anew, even from a portion of scripture that we have read over and over. Just like this horse is chewing up that delectable grass, we too can enjoy the delights of God's word. 

PIxabay

PIxabay

We are looking at 2 Timothy 2:20-26:

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

If you are just joining me today, you can go back and see the first two posts on: 2 Timothy 2:20 and 2 Timothy 2:21, by clicking on the links. Today we are chewing on verse 22.

22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
— 2 Timothy 2:22

This verse is pretty straight forward, but lets take a closer look.

Now flee...

Is there anything more able to get your adrenaline churning, than when someone yells, "Ruuuuuunnnnn"? Think about a few of the movies that have been on the big screen, Star Wars, Indian Jones. The Avengers, or how about the iconic Forrest Gump scene:

This is what Paul is telling us to do. Run as fast as you can away from those things that cause us to sin and turn away from God. We are to flee, like those monsters chasing us are going to eat us alive.

...from youthful lusts....

Paul was writing this letter to a young man, Timothy, who had become a pastor of one of the early churches. He encourages Timothy to flee those youthful lusts, or the things that so commonly grab our attention as young people: improper relationships, money, power, popularity and feeding our appetites are all things that constantly pull at us when we are young. It is sad that so many give in to these distractions, rather than waiting on God and allowing HIm to fill their every need. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Let me draw this out a bit further. I believe as mature Christians we can also be distracted by many things that are less than God's best for us. Think about the shows you watch, the food you eat, the things you buy. How many of these are done to fulfill our lust. Lust isn't just about sex. It is anything that takes precedent over our relationship with God. Am I saying you can't watch that show you love, or eat that cake or buy that dress? No, but we do need to allow God to monitor our actions and speak truth to us, if these types of things are becoming a problem. For some, moderation is easy, for others, myself included, not so much. Sometimes God has to rip things out of our lives to bring us into line with where He wants us to be. 

...and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace...

I decided to lump all of these characteristics together. These are four things we are to pursue. Behind us are the things we are to flee. In front of us is what we are to pursue. Righteousness or godliness, faith or belief, love and peace. We need to chase after these things as if they are rare butterflies that we are wanting to add to our collection.

Pixabay

Pixabay

People who enjoy hobbies such as butterfly or bird watching, desire to see species which are rare or very rarely seen. It is their passion, just as a rock climber loves to scale mountains or an artist loves to paint or mold something out of clay. They have a passion about discovering or creating something new. In the same way we are to pursue these specific qualities We are to have a passion about pursuing God. He shouldn't be someone we occasionally think about, but a being we have a living and passionate relationship with. If we are pursuing the characteristics of righteousness, faith, love and peace we will be pursuing the author who created them.

...with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.

Not only are we to pursue those characteristics, but we are to do it with others who call on the Lord with a pure heart. This seems to encourage us to be in a fellowship with other believers. My husband and I are between churches right now, but we both feel the need to get back into a regular fellowship. It is in the corporate worship and gathering together of like minded people, that we find accountability, stability and the sort of input that encourages growth in our relationship with Christ. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

That being said, let me say, I know what it is like to feel as though the church let you down. Or, to feel like an outsider because of circumstances you had no control over. I get it, and sometimes God will draw us out of the body, to walk a path through a valley, in which we are alone, but I do not believe He intends that we stay there. We need each other, even if only to aggravate each other enough to pursue God with even more passion! Ha, ha.

I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Timothy 2 and I hope today you will examine your own life and see what God is trying to say to you. Is there something you need to flee? Do you need to have more passion in your pursuit of God, or like us, do you need to get back into a fellowship with other believers? Seek God for wisdom and help. He is always faithful.

Have a great day. 

What Trees Say to Me

I often find wonderful lessons in the things that God has created. Take trees for instance. Have you ever noticed that trees stand with their arms constantly uplifted? I know they are not arms, but branches. Isn't it cool that when a tree grows it reaches for the sky. Obviously there are scientific reasons for this, such as the tree's need for light. The tree grows toward the source of light. Of course, if you believe in a Creator, then you probably would agree that God not only made the tree so that it would grow toward the light, but made it so that it could teach us lessons. What sort of lessons can we learn from a tree?

Pixabay - tree

1. Make your roots deep. Trees that have deep roots are better able to stand in the devastating storms that come along. In the past few years we have had a few strong storms come through our town. In the aftermath it is not uncommon to see pine trees laying across yards and roadways. Pine trees have shallower roots. It is harder for them to stand when the winds are fiercely blowing. So too, in our lives, the deeper we grow our roots into Christ and His word, the better we will fair when the strong winds of difficulty sweep through our lives. 

pixabay - tree roots

2. Grow towards the light. As I said before, trees and all green plants will grow toward the source of light. Put a plant in the window and watch which way the leaves and flowers turn after a few days time. Or try moving the plant away from the window and see what happens. Plants need light. We need light as well. Not just the sunshine, but the light of truth and the light of a relationship with Jesus. Without light we will stop growing and spiritually we would eventually die. The light of Christ and His truth gives us the necessary nutrients and energy we need for growth. 

Pixabay - autumn trees

3. Lift your branches up. The trees remember to praise God so why do we so easily forget? What happens when the storms come? The trees bend and sway, but their arms stay lifted up. If something as simple as a tree can keep its branches lifted up, as if in praise to God, even when the storms blow, then we can lift our hearts, hands and voices to Him also, when life gets difficult. I know from personal experience that this is not an easy task. There are times I would much rather curl into a ball to wait out the storm, rather than standing firm with my arms uplifted in praise to Him. However, God gives the strength, just as He enables the tree to stand in the mighty gale.

Pixabay - tree

4. Produce fruit. Whether it be the beautiful leaves that help produce the oxygen we breath, the nuts that fall to the ground in the fall or the many fruits from apples to oranges, cherries to peaches, all trees produce some sort of fruit. This begs me to ask the question, what sort of fruit am I producing? Am I a growing, living tree, producing beautiful leaves that bring life, hope and shade to a world that is weary and worn? Am I bearing fruit that is accessible for all to pick and enjoy? Are my words, my actions, my thoughts and my life bearing the image of the One who created all living things?  

Pixabay - fruit on the tree

5. Be the tree God made you to be. Not all trees are the same. There are so many varieties, shapes and sizes. No two, even in the same family are exactly the same. Look at one maple tree compared to another. Every branch is different. Every leaf is different. Not every tree serves the same purpose. There are hundreds of species of shade trees. There numerous fruit trees....just think of all the different kinds of apples we have. You are just exactly who God made you to be. Are you perfect? No! None of us are. God created you for His purposes. And just as a tree doesn't question how God made it, we can choose to thank God for how He made us and follow His lead to lift our arms in praise to Him in fair weather and foul.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
— Psalm 1:3 (NASB)
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
— Psalm 92:12
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls.
— Proverbs 11:30 (NASB)
“For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
— Isaiah 55:12 (NASB)
For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.
— Luke 6:44 (NASB)

Get Out the Gardening Tools!

This month I have been talking about the idea of growth; growth in our faith, families, friendships and our diets. As we draw near to the end of the month I'd like to look at tools that we can use to help grow the gardens that we tend called life. When I decide to do some work in my flower beds I get out my gardening tools. I put on gloves, pull out my kneeling pad and gather my pocket pruners, trowel and cultivator. For bigger jobs I might need a shovel or a full sized rake. I pick the tools according to the job I am going to do. Our faith needs to be tended in the same way and we need to seek God's wisdom for the appropriate tools to bring growth in our lives. The following are just a few of the tools I use to grow my faith.

gardening

1. Bible study. In my belief system the Bible is God's written word to humanity. I go to His word to learn about His character and to read the history of the nation of Israel and the church. Often people are intimidated by the Bible saying it is too difficult to understand. Others believe the Bible to be full of contradictions and fairy tales. Still others feel that the "religion" that is based on Biblical belief to be harsh and legalistic. I feel that in order to have a better understanding of something or someone I must do research myself. If I want to cook, I don't just watch cooking shows. I have to actually buy the ingredients, get out the tools, mix it together, turn on the stove and put it in. Growth in any area requires a genuine interest in learning and having an open mind about the subject in question. When I go to God's word, I want to learn. I want to know Him more. I want to delve into His deeper layers. If I want to know more about my azalea bushes I need to read about them. If I want to help them to grow and flourish I will learn what is best for them. If I want to grow and flourish in my Christian faith, I go to the source. He knows what is best for me and He wants to see me flourish.

2. Other authors. There are many good authors who write about topics that can help us grow. Many of these authors have educational and experiential backgrounds that have given them knowledge of life and how to live it responsibly. They also have the Holy Spirit who has given them Godly wisdom and insight.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
— 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 (NASB)

Sometimes I will choose a book based on a study of the Bible such as Oswald Chambers' Our Ultimate Refuge: Job and the Problem of Suffering. Or I might choose a book based on the author's reputation for biblical teaching, like Ravi Zacharias' The Grand Weaver. I have also heard of books through my friends including One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala. My other personal favorites include authors from years ago such as A.W. Tozer's The Crucified Life: How to Live Out a Deeper Christian Experience or Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray. Any of these books or other books by these authors and many others provide added wisdom and knowledge about God and the Christian life that will help us to grow.

3. Fellowship. Webster's dictionary defines fellowship as "a community of interest, activity, feeling or experience." My husband and I currently do not attend a church regularly. We had been regular attenders at a local evangelical church for many years. We enjoyed the community of people who had interests in faith like our own and we raised our girls within that community. Unfortunately last year we learned a devastating piece of news which caused us to leave that fellowship. Having been without regular interaction with others who share our faith we feel a sense of sorrow and loss that watching preachers on Youtube cannot fill. While we do intend to eventually find a fellowship again, this experience has caused me to realize just how important a community of believers is to the regular growth of our faith. We know that no fellowship where people are involved will be without difficulty, but community is what God desires for us as we walk in this world. We can learn from each other and we are also supposed to be there to help others in their pain and difficulties.

4. Circumstances. I shared with you earlier this month one of my own personal stories of growth. I believe that God uses the circumstances in our lives to mold us, teach us and help us to grow. That being said we do have a choice as to whether we do grow or not. God isn't going to force us. Part of growing is taking ownership, not only of my beliefs, but of my thoughts, actions and reactions to the circumstances I find myself in. I have found in my own life that obedience is key to growth. When I am struggling with something, say my relationship with my spouse and God shows me an area I need to bring under His authority, I pray that He will help me to make the better choice. When I do make that choice (and I don't always) then it seems as though God opens up a deeper layer of Himself to my spiritual understanding. Growth happens when the choice is made to obey what God is speaking into our lives at the moment. That doesn't mean you won't struggle with the same thing again tomorrow, but it does mean that today you made the choice to grow.

God is capable of causing us to grow in many ways and the ways I mentioned above are a few of the things He has used in my life to bring about growth in my faith. In the comments section below I would love to hear your stories of growth, or some of the tools God has used to bring growth to your garden.

A Personal Story of Growth

Between my freshman and sophomore years at college, I had an internship with my church's youth pastor. He took three of us college age adults and offered a summer of intensive training as co-leaders of our youth group. I knew I wanted to serve God, but I was not sure what that was going to look like, so I was excited about the opportunity to learn and grow under Pastor Dave. Our tasks involved working directly with the youth, planning and implementing activities, as well as speaking and leading our church's midweek prayer services. Not only that, but Dave met with us weekly as a mentor leading us in prayer and memorization of scripture. This was a time of phenomenal growth and excitement as a young person.

church

However, God has His own way of causing growth in our lives and His ways are not always pleasant. About mid way into this summer adventure I began having pain under my left armpit. After a few days large red lumps developed. Not being one to hurry to the doctor, my mother had a two volume set of medical diseases put out by Reader's Digest. In another day or two, when the red lumps painfully erupted, I knew I had a case of boils. An armpit in the heat of summer is not a pleasant place anyway, but throw in some oozing, festering lumps and you can be sure I wasn't a happy camper.

If you have never experienced boils, I can only say, I hope you never do. They are extremely painful. For the most part they can be treated with warm compresses, topical antibiotic ointment and frequent cleaning. If a fever develops see the doctor. For me, there was no fever, just three or four very painful lumps that had to be cleaned and tended several times a day.

In the midst of this difficulty, on one particularly painful day, I cried out to God as I was attempting to clean my wounds.

I asked Him, "Why is this happening? What is it that I need to learn?" 

As if He spoke audibly He said, "Your attitudes are like these boils. You try to pretend things don't bother you, but your spirit is a festering sore waiting to burst. You have a sickness inside of you that you need to let me heal."

Wow! He was right! I had found myself over the course of those weeks becoming increasingly jealous of my co-workers at the church. I was not the dominant, funny, cute personality. I was the work horse. I also found myself frustrated with the youth. They were self absorbed and only ever concerned over having fun, rather than desiring Jesus. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. There I was acting just as immature as some of the 13 year olds and being a hindrance, rather than a help to my fellow ministers. 

Right there in my bathroom at home I fell to my knees and wept. I was letting God down and I was selfish. I confessed my jealousy, my impatience and my lack of love and asked God to help me to grow.

I kid you not, when I say, within a couple days my boils were almost fully healed; the pain, redness and lumps all disappearing as if they had never been there. I realize a skeptic could say, that the boils had run their course and with proper care were at the point healing could happen. I disagree! God knows me so well. He knows my need for pictures. I am a writer. He knows that pictures will stick with me forever and indeed they have. He knew the only way I was going to "get it" was to make me "feel it."

God does not always smack us up side the head to teach us something, but He does what is needed to implement growth in our lives. I grew in three ways that summer. 

First, I grew in a very personal way. It is not easy to be brought low and told that you are really messing up, but God did that to me. It allowed me, not only to see the depth of my sin, but the heights of His love. My mind grew as it realized that God does speak outside of His word. He speaks in very real "words" to our hearts. My emotions grew as I had to let God take the dross that had floated to the surface of my spirit and skim it off. 

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

I also grew in the area of my relationships. I shared my trial not only with my mom, but went to those I was working with, including Pastor Dave, and apologized for having a bad attitude. The use of "analogy" has become a way God allows me to help and understand others. Through other trials in life, God has brought me to a place where I try to think before I act and where I can have a genuine hurt for others who are in pain, physical or emotional.

And finally, God grew me in the area of ministry and community. I realized this wasn't a "one trick pony" show. We are all part of the body and we are all necessary to the body. It is always hard to watch others getting the praise and credit for their work and good deeds, but I have learned to be content (or at least I try) where God has placed me. Not everyone can be a brain or an eye. Some of us are toes and shins! Ha, ha.

God teaches us in very different ways, but He does it for our growth and benefit and for the growth and benefit of others around us. Don't be afraid of growth, even if it is unpleasant. It is just another way, an Almighty God demonstrates His great love toward us. 

Waking Up from Our Black Sleep

In all areas of life, remaining static is not an option. One of the grocery stores I shop at has a small rise in the middle of the parking lot. As much as I try to not park there, I still seem to end up at the top of that small rise. You can guess what happens when I get my cart to the car and try to open the trunk. The cart starts to roll away. Those who say multitasking is really not a very efficient way to do things have never seen a 52 year old grandma fling open the car trunk, hang onto the cart and stuff the bags of groceries inside. Multitasking is essential. In the same way growth is essential in our lives. Life, so often, is like a juggling act, one that takes off even as we struggle to hang on, just like my gravity bound cart. If we do not make purposeful choices to grow, life will get away from us.

Growth in our Christian lives should always be our goal. I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news, but no, we have not arrived and we never will until we meet Jesus in the air. We are to be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1). We are called to be Christ-like (Philippians 2:1). We are to do whatever we do for the Lord, rather than men (Colossians 3:23). Unless you know of some special pill we can take to make us instantaneously Christ-like, we have to grow.

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

It sounds so simple. You've heard sayings such as, "Bloom where you are planted," and "Sew seeds of love." So quaint. So easy. Not! True growth is like exercise: repetitive, grueling discipline. Wanting to do better, go higher and be more is a choice. And most often, not an easy one. Paul spoke in Philippians 2:12 of working out our salvation. Notice in the verse there is a four letter word - work. Work implies effort, but it also implies reward. When God gave Adam the job of naming the animals and tending the garden (see Genesis 2) he was rewarded, not only with a beautiful companion, but with the satisfaction of his effort.

Some of you may be gardeners. I like to play with flowers and plants. I find something richly satisfying about getting my hands dirty. I love the feel of the soil in my hands and the tearing of weeds from their deeper holds. This comparison transfers easily to our Christian growth as well. Is is satisfying to read God's word with attention and understanding. It can be enriching to find a church home where you can have fellowship and teaching with other like-minded individuals.

Think of growth like a river. As long as the river flows freely, growth and health are taking place. When the river hits debris in its path, it may become backed up resulting in a stagnant, murky pool. Do you want to be a stagnant and murky Christian? Or do you want to allow Christ's Spirit to flow freely, directing your life and taking you where He wants you to go?

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

Is growth necessary? Absolutely! Examine your life and ask Jesus to show you where you need to grow. Maybe your prayer life is weak or nonexistent. Maybe you have secluded yourself because you have been hurt. Take steps to reconnect with those who care about you. Maybe you feel God calling you to get back into His word. Why not start a Bible study with other women at a coffee shop? Even in our wilderness wanderings, we still need to grow. In fact, it is often in these times of loss, loneliness and suffering that we have the most opportunity for growth, but it is up to us.

If you were a tiny seed or a bulb, down in the dark earth, you would not think to question, "Gee, should I grow this year?" As soon as the earth started to warm in the spring sun, an energy would fill you with urgency to push yourself up and out of that black sleep, to rise and bloom. We are the crown of His creation. If a little seed can be transformed into a beautiful plant then we too need to push ourselves our of our black sleep and grow.