Grateful for Good FridayDogwoods and Lenten Roses — GREEN GARDEN THERAPY
As posted on Green Garden Therapy.com where you can find Lilka in the garden.
For the twenty years I’ve lived in my home, I assumed the trees in my backyard are some variety of maple based on the shape of the leaves and their brilliant fall color. Only recently did I realize that they are instead American sweetgum. This is rather amusing considering my yard is scattered with their brown spiny seedpods.
I noticed birds picking at the seedpods a few days ago. Apparently, they provide quite the buffet. That’s when I realized the seedpods were hanging from my maple imposters. All these years, I thought those brown balls were just wandering over from my neighbor’s yard.
Curiosity got the better of me, so I did a bit of research. First, I was perplexed when I found that you can purchase these same seedpods online. Pinterest has several uses for them. There is quite a demand for something I consider yard trash.
More importantly, I learned that the seeds found in these pods contain shikimic acid—one ingredient in the prescription antiviral Tamilfu. As a pharmacist, I find that fascinating. What I consider a nuisance is loaded with healing potential. The sap from this same tree is thought to have antiseptic and antifungal properties as well.
My newfound discovery makes me wonder what other things in life are right in front of me that I’ve underestimated and underappreciated. As creatures with our own prejudices, I think we often fail to see the hidden potential in things (and people) unless we are forced to. Some people readily see the positive in everything. Still, for most of us, it takes a bit of work.
Gardening has taught me that there is usually far more to everything than I can physically see. In these challenging times, let us seek to find the hidden potential in all of us.
Devotional prompt: The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous. Psalms 146:8 NKJV
Go up to Gilead and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt; In vain you will use many medicines; You shall not be cured. The nations have heard of your shame, And your cry has filled the land; For the mighty man has stumbled against the mighty; They both have fallen together.
Jeremiah 46:11-12 NKJV
God is calling…
Workers are worried, concerned about dying
Big money don’t care, the stock market is climbing
Liberty stands there with tears in her eyes
Acknowledging Justice has never been blind
This land that once welcomed has shuttered her door
Tariffs leave farmers desperate for more
Big Brother is watching us up from the Cloud
Systemic injustice, dead man on the ground
Stuck at crossroads, a wasted way station
In need of a Healer, our weak wounded nation
“…one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
God is calling us to Him.
God is calling us to Pray.
God is calling us to love one another.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 NKJV
Fall back, spring forward.
More than a reminder for my clock each year, these words describe the cycles of life.
Falling back hurts.
Failed relationships, financial ruin, illnesses, and disappointments are painful. Setbacks can leave us so scarred and scared that we fail to notice God’s restoration.
It is difficult to see the beauty in front of us if we constantly dwell on our pain. Moreover, a preoccupation with our wounds makes them impossible to heal. When you pick a wound, you irritate it and can cause an infection. Worst case scenario, that infection becomes systemic and deadly.
Some of the deadliest wounds don’t affect the physical body at all, but rather they kill the spirit. They kill hope and faith; they destroy all prospects for a fruitful future.
God can heal those painful situations in our lives, but we must allow Him to heal them.
Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is a time for everything:
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
We must be willing to move in God’s timing.
Merriam-Webster defines spring as to dart or shoot, to issue with speed or force, to grow, arise, to leap or jump suddenly. As suddenly as we fall, God can deliver blessings that numb our pain and propel us beyond our wildest expectations. In an instant, God can restore our faith and give us new hope!
The apostle Paul, once notorious for persecuting Christians, sprang forward to spread the Gospel. Arguably the least worthy and least likely of the apostles, Paul made the greatest impact for Christ by writing much of the New Testament.
When we have faith enough to walk the path God prepares for us, it doesn’t matter how many times we fall.
What matters is that we get up and get moving.
Trust God to propel you forward…
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead
Philippians 3:13 NKJV
The greatest of the commandments instruct us to love God and each other. The Bible defines love in many ways; however, love is never defined as is easy.
Love never fails. God never fails.
Love suffers long and is kind. God suffers long and is kind.
It is difficult to suffer long and be kind simultaneously. It can be trying to bear all things and always give those things required of love—generosity and sacrifice.
Love rejoices in truth. God rejoices in truth.
Love does not rejoice in iniquity. God does not rejoice in iniquity.
The truth about ourselves and the people we love is sometimes painful. Even ugly. We fall and we fail. Yet, God continues to love us, pick us up, and grant new mercies each day.
Love bears all things, such as a cross.
Love endures all things—even the crucifixion.
We can never replicate God’s love for us. Still, what if we allowed His Spirit to continually manifest even a fraction of that love in us?
Collectively, we could change the world.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV
God is love…
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;
Ephesians 4:17-18 NKJV
The ice pictured here was photographed a few years ago in Alaska. It was so clean and clear because it lacked the impurities found elsewhere. Likewise, we need to get away to obtain that same sense of clarity in our mind and spirit. The chatter of people, things, and social media can cause us to forget our purpose and pull us away from the very things God tasks us to do.
There are several references in the Bible where Jesus left the crowds (and his disciples) to be alone and pray. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stepped away from those closest to him to be alone. What’s interesting is that the disciples Jesus asked to stay up with him failed him three times that night.
Those closest to us can fail to meet our expectations as well. When we face trials, we may instinctively call other people to draw them into our troubles.
Yet, what if we choose not to solicit the sympathy and opinions of others in trying times and, instead, seek the God who sees the end from the beginning? What would change if we habitually went away—accessible to God’s ministering angels— to be strengthened for the crosses we must bear?
If Jesus had to be alone to gain peace and perspective, how much more necessary is it for us to remove ourselves and eliminate the noise of doubt and fear?
It doesn’t require a grand vacation to gain the clarity we need. Sitting alone and embracing the silence a few moments a day may be all it takes to organize our priorities. Praying in a closet or the solitude of a car can produce calm over chaos.
What could be more important than the ability to hear God and visualize His plans for our lives? What opportunities can we unlock by learning to shut out the things (or people) that steal our time and energy?
I challenge you to break away and create new routines in 2020. Put yourself in positions and places where you can abide with God. Do whatever it takes to gain the peace and perspective that will give you confidence to walk the path He has for you.
We receive salvation by grace. Yet, I’ve learned that peace of mind and clarity of purpose require effort on my part. Solitude renews my mind. Silence allows me to hear God. I’ve finally learned to sit down and be still which generates a fruitfulness that running around like crazy never produced.
Seek and hear God like never before.
What you focus on will inevitably determine what you see…
Pray and hold on.
What we can’t do, God will do.
In His way, in His time.
Keep holding on…
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13 NKJV
Dormancy is defined as “a state of suspended animation.” In botany, it means “not actively growing but protected from the environment.” I’d been in a state of relative dormancy the past two years, tucked away and in the dark. However, I was recently surprised by new areas of growth.
My frequent pangs of grief have thankfully passed. I am no longer just going through the motions or drifting along with the flow. Seeds of purpose planted years ago may finally be taking root. I’ve been working part-time and loving it. I’m pursuing a writing career in earnest with encouraging results. I’ve taken a few classes. I’ve even picked up my camera again.
Physical or mental illness, grief, and disappointment can leave us feeling isolated and in a very dark place. Still, these same dark places and periods of dormancy can facilitate the growth necessary to eventually produce fruitful results.
The seeds I plant in my garden require isolation, a few downpours, and a fair amount of heat if they are ever to grown into the plants I desire. These same conditions in our own lives often cause discomfort, distress, and leave us searching for God. The promise of a blooming season can seem long lost as we linger in the dark.
Yet, transformation occurs in the dark. Beneath the surface roots form. What was once a seed evolves into something entirely different.
God does the same with us.
In our painfully quiet times, we can gain wisdom and clarity that would not otherwise be found. The darkest times in my life forced me to rethink and regroup—reconsider visions and dreams that faded long ago.
Dark places aren’t necessarily bad spaces. Everyone talks of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, but little is mentioned about that Silent Saturday where Jesus was alone and entombed in the dark. When He emerged, some of the people closest to Jesus did not recognized him.
Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” John 20:14-15 NKJV
If our Father felt it necessary to transform His Son in the dark and away from everyone else, surely each us can be transformed during our darkest days as well.
Allow your dark places to prepare you for your purpose and the harvest yet to come…
When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” Luke 5:4-5 NKJV
The very things we long for, pray for, and make resolutions toward will never happen unless we move out of shallow religious routine and into deeper fellowship with God.
Miraculous things happen in the deep. You will not find an Orca where you can easily pick up sea shells. We often wait on God for a breakthrough even as He waits patiently on us to venture into the unknown. Deep means different things for different people. Your “deep” may be a new career, hobby, or even in a break in stale religious habits that no longer yield spiritual fruit.
Scripture depicts how Peter fished for hours and came up empty. As a skilled fisherman, he should have caught something. Defeated, Peter gave up. Yet, at the prompting of Jesus, he moved away from the shore and caught a haul too large for his boat to contain. That’s the kind of miracle most of us are praying for!
Still, when the realities of life interfere with our plans, we can become scarred and bitter. Consequently, we may play it safe and refuse to trust once more. Yet, the safety of the shore is only an illusion. Shark attacks readily occur in shallow waters. Our personal sharks often lurk about: doubt, fear, and naysayers who can never envision what God would do for us!
To receive God’s best we must brave the deep with Him.
- Make God a priority;
talkcomplain less and listen more.
- Dig deeply into the Word. Don’t merely read the Bible, study it.
- Seek God not for what He can do but for His presence and direction.
- Dare to attempt the impossible when God says “yes” while everyone else says “no.”
We must allow God to stir us up and out of complacency!
I want to experience the kind of wonder Peter did out in the deep with Jesus. I would rather a dynamic relationship with God into the unknown than to sit idly along the shore without Him.
What about you?
So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. Matthew 14:29 NKJV
For Ashley, a post from Christmas past…
“Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me,” Psalm 51:11 NKJV
Many people who celebrate Christmas and even some who don’t find themselves rushing around with too much to do and too little time to do it this time of year. A few are stressing over hosting duties. Others have parties they must attend. Still, more are in a frenzied search to find the perfect gift. If retailers had their way, we would all be enticed to buy more presents!
However, I challenge you to breathe a little and focus instead on God’s presence.
God is ever waiting for us to come before Him, worship, talk with Him, and listen to what He would say.
If some of us would only slow down, we could enjoy the goodness of God instead of falling into the trap of running ragged to meet the expectations of others. If only we put that much effort into pleasing God.
If you want to truly embrace the reason for the season, come into God’s presence. Slow down. Sit down. Bow down. Allow God to enter in your spirit and your space.
Christ’s birth and death provides us not only salvation but also the privilege to connect with God without the need for a mediator, high priest or intercessor. Jesus Christ left and ascended so that the Holy Spirit could be available to us. Such a perfect gift our Savior gave us, yet we often fail to “enter in” and appreciate the comfort and peace only He can provide.
The pursuit of things and our attempts to please others can often leave us with little time for God if we aren’t careful.
So, if you are in a continual state of chaos this holiday season, I implore you to run toward His presence. God can calm, refresh and restore. Allow Him to dictate your Christmas season and prompt you to be a blessing instead of constantly stressing.
Choose to end this year seeking God with a renewed passion. Allow each gleaming light to remind you of His Light. The best gifts can’t be placed under a tree. Only God can provide peace, joy, and unconditional love.
May you be overcome by God’s presence this Christmas season.
“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore,”
Psalm 16:11 NKJV
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,”
Acts 3:19 NKJV