In My Garden with God

IMG_5767.jpg

Many of us who seek to truly fellowship with God have a place where we sense His presence more fully then we do in other places. I am not referring here to times of corporate worship where God’s presence certainly is evident.   John 2 tells us “He inhabits the praises of His people”.

I mean that place where we sense God and know that feeling is Him. I have two friends that have told me they feel this way at the beach. They love to walk along the water, feel the breeze and salt air, and bask in His presence. Others feel that presence hiking or fishing.

One of my all time favorite lines in a movie is in Chariots of Fire when Olympic runner, Eric Liddlle, tells his sister why he runs. “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

I feel God’s presence in our garden.

That may seem strange to write about gardens now when we have had such very cold temperatures and the plants are dormant. Let me explain.

We had a big snow last month and the snow was wet and heavy. It broke off several branches, particularly large branches in a weeping willow tree that grows next to the creek. Phil was out cutting up some of the downed trees and I asked him to trim the broken parts of that tree. He did so, even though it is one of his favorite trees.

If we had left the broken branches dangling from the tree, come spring it would be an unsightly mess. The dead limbs along side the fresh new leaves of spring would ruin the natural beauty of that graceful weeping willow.

As I was hauling the cut limbs to toss over the bank, (I LOVE living in the mountains), I sensed God impressing me with this truth – “That is why I have to prune my children.”

That thought took me on a flight of spiritual insight. God has to “cut away” the dead, broken, damaged parts of our lives so that new, healthy growth can take place in the right season. Right now, during winter, all our plants are dormant, but we don’t dig them up and throw all the plants away! Good things are happening!

Dormancy is crucial in the life of plants. They rest, develop deeper roots, and take in moisture. Pruning at this time allows the plant to have fewer branches, so the limited energy of the plant goes to strengthening what is left.

God does that to His children.

Jesus says in John 15: 1- 4

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

When I feel like God is cutting away, pruning my life, I must trust that as the Master gardener, He knows what He is doing.

I must wait to see what appears in spring……

Advertisements

Testing

image

I spoke to the students of Smoky Mountain High School’s chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes last Friday. I was so blessed to see these young people and their willingness to get up early and come to school on Friday morning at 7:30 am!

They did not know I was going to talk to them about testing.

“How many of you have a test today?” I started by asking.

I went on to share the following message because I know God is dealing with me about this issue and I know some of you are facing life challenges as well.

Ok, to be honest, if we are alive, we are facing challenges, some good, some not so good, and some outright devastating.

What is the purpose of a test?

Good tests have a very important purpose – that is to show you as a student what you have learned – what you know – and what you still need to study or work on.

Tests are not effective when used as a “gotcha” strategy, to catch the students who did not read the assigned passage, or when used as a punishment. They are not effective when they are too easy and everyone gets an “A”, or when they are too hard and no one passes.

A test that covers what a class has recently learned gives both the students AND the teacher a good picture of what has already been learned and what still needs more instruction or practice.

I am participating in the Community Woman’s Bible study and we are studying I and II Thessalonians. When the following verses came up, I began thinking about testing from a teachers point of view, like I just mentioned.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (NIV)

2 You know, brothers and sisters that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.

I asked myself – why does God test us? If He knows everything like the Bible says He does – He knows our very thoughts and the intents of our hearts –

He already knows what I know. God does not need to test me to see how I will do. I believe God tests us so that WE realize where we are in our journey with Him.

If we go through a hard time – do we whine and fuss and think God has turned His back on us? Do we give in to fear?

When we do, we fail the test. The failure shows us what we need to work on.

So do we give up when we fail a test?

NO!

We need to ask forgiveness and examine ourselves. I need to read God’s Word and see what He has to say about what I am facing. I need to get with my friends who are Christians and we need to pray for each other in this area.

James 1:2-4

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The test for me right now is trusting God to show me what He wants me to do with my time. I’ve retired from teaching – but there is no retirement from being a Christian. All of us have a purpose to fulfill in the Body of Christ.

So – we need to thank God for each test,  and just as James says, allow each trial to finish its work.