Dead Things

The leaves pictured above and attached to this tree are no longer beneficial to the tree. They are utterly useless. Dead. These leaves no longer produce food or nutrients to sustain the tree. They are simply hanging on until a harsh wind blows them away. And when they are gone this tree will later be covered in green, life-sustaining leaves.

Unfortunately, the things that are dead to us don’t just always fall off or blow away. Sometimes we have to remove them. This requires that we recognize our own “dead leaves” and shed them ourselves so we can make room for the things that will allow us to grow and thrive.

Just like leaves, many things in our lives are productive for one season only. We may often try to hold on to things long after their usefulness has past. We may attempt to cling to relationships after God’s purpose has been fulfilled.

Sometimes we wonder why certain things we once did don’t work as well as before. Or perhaps, things we once found entertaining appeal to us no longer. It may even be that a once engaging friendship has simply evaporated.

As we grow and mature there will be old things we should cast off in order that we may grasp what God has for us now. Many people suffer from a syndrome of hanging on to the glory days of the past oblivious that God is offering something different but better now. Many people often fail to see their potential “new thing” because their focus is on what was and not on what is.

Other people fixate on past disappointments, failures or regrets. Pondering these things will not nurture you but instead suck the very life out of you! It is wise to consider the lessons learned from these things yet take the lessons learned and move forward.

Our relationship with God should be ever-growing and ever-changing us! We should be ready for a new life with Him which may require that we let go of some dead things. These may include some of our habits, relationships or even opinions that are holding us back instead of propelling us forward.

Give a little thought to a few changes you can make in this year. Some may be monumental. Others may be quite small. Yet, in determining what you can shed and making room for “green leaves” later, you may actually find 2014 to be your best year yet!

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
1 Corinthians 13:11

“Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, And cause it to give off a foul odor; [So does] a little folly to one respected for wisdom [and] honor.” Ecclesiastes 10:1

Buried or Planted?

There are times in life when we feel stressed and overwhelmed by daily responsibilities. Family obligations, job stresses, health issues and an array of other things can make us feel as if we are overcome and buried beneath a ton of bricks.  We often bury ourselves beneath the weight of unnecessary commitments, circumstances, and even our own poor choices.

In addition, the storms of life can pour more rain on us that any umbrella can withstand. It is at this time we must make the pivotal decision that will determine our outcome. We must each decide if we are buried or planted?

Buried is to be overcome by whatever situation is bearing down and you can’t see your way out from under. Buried is seeing a situation as permanent and immovable. When something is buried it lies dead never to emerge again.

Planted is quite different. Dead seeds are covered with dirt just as something that is buried, however they will eventually emerge transformed into something new! You are planted when you are overcome with the stuff in your life yet expect to rise up from under and into something better, something only God can do!

Our storms dump water on a grave from which nothing will rise forth. For that which is planted, those same storms provide the water necessary for growth, transforming that dead seed into something that will yet live and break out from under the dirt.

We can look at the “dirt” that appears to overtake us and believe we are buried or have faith in God that we are instead planted in that same situation.

The dirt that weighs us down may actually hold the nutrients (circumstances, experience, and maturity) required to grow into what God would have us to become. We all require a unique combination of trials and tribulations if we are to grow instead of wither and die. God truly gives each of us what we need (not necessarily what we want) to grow with Him.

Jesus was planted in the tomb and resurrected into something new. His own disciples didn’t recognize Him upon His resurrection. This same power is available to us when we choose to submit ourselves to God and allow Him to transform us into so much more than we were before!

We need only to ask Him and be changed for the better. Obedience may require that we push through some dirt and weather some storms but it is faith in what God can do that fuels our final outcome.

Which do you choose…buried or planted?

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world,” 1 John 4:4 NKJV

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,” John 16:33 NKJV

Flourishing Finish

As I look out at what is left of my summer garden, it is more than evident that this year is quickly coming to an end. Yet, the pictured summer plant is still standing and going strong, having withstood storms, drought and even my neglect while everything around it quickly fades away.

Unlike the plant, I am guilty of faltering when forced to endure my own storms, droughts and neglect. My coleus ran its designated course and continues to thrive. I refuse to be outdone by a plant!

It is my declaration to run my course and finish 2013 well. I commit to no longer allow imperfect conditions to deter me. I have concluded that when I choose to climb higher, strive for better, and act better, the larger the obstacles I am forced to overcome. Sometimes impediments are beyond my control. However, my largest obstacle is often…me.

Temporary disappointments can linger far longer in our minds well after a problem is gone. It can be hard to reprogram our thinking even after we overcome a hardship. It is human nature to look back on old hurts and offensives focusing on what we’ve endured instead of looking ahead to the promise of a better tomorrow. To the inability to “get over” a setback often thwarts the best intentions to move forward and into God’s promises.

“But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,”
Philippians 3:13-14

I challenge you to push forward toward your prize!  We all have a God-given purpose, goals to meet, and blessings to give not just receive…the work God has imparted each of us to do while we are here on this earth.

Recommit yourself to finish well. If necessary, begin those things God placed in you. God is infinite in His ability to restore and accelerate. Timing is not a concern for Him; His timing can put you years ahead when you were once decades behind.

Trust God. Have faith in what He can do in you and through you! Ignite your hope! Cast aside your fears! Don’t focus on how you started or even where your race began. God is with you every step of the way. Allow God to finish the good work He began in you!

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God,” Acts 20:24 NKJV

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope,” Jeremiah 29:11

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1:6 NKJV

Sun or Shade?

Any gardener’s dilemma often includes where to put a favorite plant. You may have a favorite specimen but not necessarily the ideal place within your planting space that is suitable for that species. I have always been fond of caladiums which are pink, green and red elephant ear like plants that I grew up with as a child. These plants traditionally thrive in shady environments.

When I began my gardening endeavors, I planted about thirty or so bulbs so excited when they finally emerged from the ground. However, my yard had full sun exposure for most of the day. What happened to my plants? The sun fried them to a crisp! Not only was the money spent on them gone to no avail but my labor had been in vain. I wasn’t wise enough to make sure I put those plants in an area suitable for their sustained growth.

Like the caladiums, we too, are flowers in God’s great garden. But fortunately for us, we are given everything we need to bloom where we are  no matter where we find ourselves. If Paul can write a major part of the New Testament from prison, can’t we surely magnify God’s love and His characteristics in our daily lives?

Shade plants will fry in the sun. Sun loving plants will turn yellow in the shade. But God has equipped us with everything we need to bloom right where we are. We don’t have to wait until we are re-potted or moved to a more desirable site before we can exhibit the qualities God would have us to.

If you are in a “hot” situation, act like a cactus. Have your own internal supply of sustenance (God’s Word) to carry you through hot and stressful situations. You can’t expect God to trust you with greater responsibilities if you are failing to do an excellent job with what you have already been given. Look for the best in your situation and magnify God’s goodness in that situation.  Don’t complain, change! Changing your mind and attitude where you are surely prepares the way for where you are going.

If you are a “sunny” person forced into a shady situation, ask God to help you get through moment by moment if you have to. Allow God’s light in you to illuminate the dark places and people who may be around you. Allow the Son to shine through you. We shouldn’t be seeking God to remove us from one situation into another if we can’t illuminate His love where we are, be good stewards of what we have, and display an attitude of gratitude for what He has already done.

Back to the caladiums. Last year I was browsing in the local hardware store and what did I come across? A newer hybrid of plant…sun tolerant caladiums! Too good to be true I was sure but I purchased them anyway. I placed my new beauties carefully in pots where they received direct sunlight for most of the day. To my amazement the plants thrived even in record heat upwards of 106 degrees! God can develop us to survive any environment just as someone developed caladiums that can now tolerate the sun.

With God’s hand we aren’t relegated to the sun or shade. He has enabled us to thrive when we are willing to make peace with where we are at present. Speak peace and love. Give generously, laugh loudly and be a good steward of what you have while anticipating God’s goodness for what you want. This is how we bloom.

God has equipped each of us to bloom wherever we are so we can meet those goals and dreams that He has placed deep within us. It is simply up to us to remember that we can be stable and able no matter where we are.

Sun or shade? Thankfully, we don’t have to choose.


“I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit,” John 15:1-2 NKJV

Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches is one of the most readily quoted. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15: 5 NKJV

Without Him we can do nothing. However, the scripture prior to that, John 15:2 is often skimmed over. It is easy to realize how dependent we are on Christ, yet most of us are remiss and become ill at the notion that to become fruitful we must be pruned.

Without pruning, even the best specimens in any garden will eventually lose the ability to bear fruit. At the very least, the output will greatly diminish. The limbs will become weak and unable to support what little fruit that is produced. Comparatively, the same tree that has been pruned will be shorter but stronger. 

Trees and shrubs that have been freshly pruned usually look awful. Where I live Crepe Myrtles trees are blooming now. However, for them to bloom to the fullest, dead limbs are cut away in winter. The trees look so bad after their winter pruning the process is jokingly called “Crepe Murder.

We often look bad and feel bad when our Father takes to pruning us as well. Sometimes it may be a stray branch here or there that is removed. But then there are times in our lives when we may feel like we’ve been taken all the way down to the roots!

Pruning is painful.

We may even feel like we’re dying all the while God is preparing us to produce more! We don’t often see it at the time or understand. We can feel bad and look worse.  Yet, Jesus promises that every branch that does bear fruit God prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 

Sometimes the removal of things in our lives, though devastating at the moment, eventually make us stronger. Sometimes there is a reason so-called “friends” leave. It may be a job. Or even a relationship.

God cuts off what is not good for us. God often removes those things or people we would in no way leave on our own.

We can have faith knowing that He is our life source and through Him we will be fine no matter how deep the cut. Our progression in life requires some pruning.  Thankfully, the potential fruit is well worth the temporary pain.

The next time you experience a hardship, disappointment or painful experience; don’t assume it is an attack from the enemy. It might be time for God’s hand on you.

It may just be time for you to produce more fruit than you thought possible!

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:7-8 NKJV

Patiently waiting…

As most of the country transitions from spring to summer, I find myself at a crossroad of sorts. Here in the south, anxious gardeners such as myself anticipated the arrival of spring with visions of potential plantings and tidy gardens that promised a bounty of blooms. Frosty temperatures are given a not so found farewell so that we of the gardening variety can  once again “play in the dirt.” Flowers and veggies are tenderly planted, the arrival of dependable blooms such as dogwoods and roses anticipated to brighten not only the landscape but our dispositions as well. The cold damp gray of winter thankfully leaves us as our moods hopefully reflect sunnier skies.

However, after all the annuals had been set in pots, hydrangea blooms  finally dotting my landscape and tomato plants safely in the ground with no threat of freeze, I found there was nothing I had to actually “do” to make my garden grow. Everything I could do for my garden had been done. All that was left was to sit back, enjoy the scenery and wait. With the planting done and the rains come, I was powerless to do anything else that would actually hasten the arrival of homegrown veggies to my plate.

I then realized my garden mirrored efforts taken toward my professional endeavors.  The proper contacts have been made, the work done and now I can only wait for my desired result to come to pass. Oftentimes, we are SO busy in our daily lives that we forget how to be still! We often run around with obligations and responsibilities as well as trying to bring our dreams to fruition that when the time comes that we can do nothing more but “wait on the Lord,” we often find ourselves lost.

Our society is ever pushing faster tech, instantaneous information and a multitude of data is available to us at any given time. However, God’s timing has not seemed to followed that trend, at least in my own circumstances, and I must wait patiently and with a good attitude for God to do what I can not. Just as I can plant my flowers, I can’t really make them grow.  Only God has the power to do that. When we have done all that we can to meet a particular goal, sometimes all we have left is to wait.

I used to pray for patience. I don’t do that anymore as I feel God now gives me PLENTY of opportunities to practice that particular virtue. I have had to rediscover how to wait on the Lord just as the Israelites had to again and again rely on the Lord’s provision and miracles as they journeyed forty years to their Promised Land. I have had to re-learn how to sit and be still in one area of my life as I continue to work diligently on other areas. It has finally set in my sometimes thick skull that being busy doesn’t necessarily equate with being productive.

My tomatoes will grow in the coming months just as other areas of my life await their proper season to bear great fruit. Where once I would have fretted over the time it takes for their maturity, I have wisdom enough to finally sit back with a glass of lemonade on a warm day and allow the Son/Sun to shine on me as I enjoy the scenery… while I wait.

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord,” Psalm 27:14

Is there anything in your life you should be waiting on instead of working on?