Tag Archive | sin

Cover Crops

Last year, we had a beautiful vegetable garden. It was a labor of love that my husband meticulously planned on paper so he could have the proper spacing, soil balance and growth. It was probably the most easily accessible garden we have even had to date and it was also the most productive. I miss that time.

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I say “I miss that time” because I feel like kind of resemble that garden. For years, I had time of wading through God’s Word in the morning before the kids went to school, was part of a ladies Bible study group, guarded prayer time and sat here before the computer and poured out the things God wanted me to share. I had the proper soil balance and growth- if you will. That is not where I am now and am spiritually depleted. Physically, I have seen changes, too. The busier schedule has resulted (ironically) in less exercise and fast eating…and the addition of many extra pounds. I feel distant…and fat.

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

Proverbs 29:18

Just before Winter, my hubby had researched “cover crops”. These are things that you plant to enrich the soil as well as keep down weed growth in the off-season. It also, theoretically, makes for an easy start-up in the Spring. Low maintenance! After his research, he chose oats. I wish I had a picture to share. When the oats grew it was beautiful! They were a  rich amber color that seemed to ripple like waves of water in the wind. In the cruise control of “low maintenance living” I didn’t see the battle lines that were being drawn all around.

This Spring, I fired up the lawn tractor for the first time. I put the tunes in my ears, hat on my head and took her for a spin. When I engaged the blades to start edging around the garden plot, I saw a wave out of the corner of my eye. Not of amber oats! This wave was brown. I depressed the brake and watched as some sixty little voles scurried through the garden. We had been invaded! Voles are cute (except when they are in my space). They are a relative of mice, have shorter tails and kinda dig like moles but leave no trace except a few small holes in the mulch and ground. They eat bulbs, roots, worms and other things…OATS it seems. This revelation gave us (and our neighbors) a wake up call. This explained why our neighbor’s tree died last year, this was the answer to the question, “What are those holes in my flowerbed?”. It also gave us fresh perspective on some behavior our crazy dog was engaging in this Winter. He was going into the garden and rolling in the oats! Ha ha ha It was like he was making crop circles and snow angels…minus the snow.

Let’s move across the street for a moment. I can’t remember if I told you a few years ago about the water retention pond across from our home. There was a battle there, too. The builder installed a sub-par water retention pond that has never been able to hold water. The improper installation and lack of maintenance also caused erosion on the farm behind it at one point and there was a legal remedy to all of that. Yet, somehow that area was quietly released to the care, custody and control of the residents in our neighborhood to maintain in the late 90s and nobody even knew about it. Before we moved in 15 years ago, it was already an overgrown forest. The county came to the residents a few years back and smacked the residents of our neighborhood with the notion that the water retention area was ours to collectively maintain AND we would have to raise and spend thousands of dollars to clear this area by a certain deadline – and keep it that way in the years and years to come. Wait…here’s the kicker…they also revealed that there were TWO areas. One we thought was just am empty lot. What a surprise! We personally have dumped over a thousand dollars in those holes out there. And – it would seem- displaced a colony of voles in the process. In 15 years we have never seen a vole…until that area was cleared, that is. It stings a little to say. We paid for one problem and caused another.

In our effort to find a low maintenance solution to weeds in the garden over the Winter, it was like we slapped up a neon hotel sign for little creatures who had been kicked out of their home. Laziness paved the way for a silent invasion that we never saw coming.  Laying a cover crop may look like a good way to keep the weeds down, but may become a breeding ground for silent invaders.

Spiritual (and physical) life is not much different. Cruise control is a dangerous place to be if you fall asleep at the wheel. Proper maintenance…daily bread and steady walk…pulling weeds of sin. In an effort to contribute financially to our home, I took a part-time job at school. The initial job offering was an answer to prayer, but I took on more responsibilities after the fact and that threw everything off. I pulled away from group study, don’t have adequate morning time and relationships/friendships are non-existent. Now I am spiritually depleted with an anemic prayer life and find myself surrounded by silent invaders. I am spiritually and physically unhealthy.

Then, yesterday, I read that verse in Proverbs. I have not had much in the area of spiritual revelation in a while. Far from the Word and prayer and time with the Lord.  TRUTH: Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.

If I am not walking with God, I get loose. Standards slip, focus becomes more inward that UPward, I am tempted to look to my own interests instead of the interests of others (contrary to Philippians 2) and I don’t have the blessing of revelation from the Holy Spirit. No wonder I have not had a lot to say here on this blog.

So be careful with those cover crops. Man-made solutions and laziness. A relationship and daily walk with Jesus is the only adequate defense against the consequences of sin.

Now…about those voles…

We won’t have a garden this year. No fruit. We have a battle to wage to restore that plot of land to health. The fruit that comes to this garden will be shared, not stolen. So off to battle I go.

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Tattoos- Love Ran Red

There has been a story circulating on the local and national news stations this week about a man named Bayzle Morgan. You may have seen it, too. He’s a young man who is going on trial for robbery and will be facing a separate murder trial at some point as well. This man is a “Neo-Nazi” and wears that identification (as well as other identifying marks) loud and proud…on his face, head, neck, hands and body.

It seems that the obvious has become a major obstacle when it comes to justice and a fair trial.  To quote from the Las Vegas Review Journal’s July24th story directly:

A month ago, a different group of possible jurors was summoned to decide on the robbery case against Morgan. But one by one, they saw his tattoos and his bald head and said they could not be fair and impartial.

You can read the story here (http://www.reviewjournal.com/crime/homicides/neo-nazi-gets-makeover-hide-tattoos-jury)

The interesting part of this story to me is the judge’s response. The judge in this case has ordered that this man’s tattoos be covered up by a professional make-up artist so there will be no bias based on his appearance. When you read the story, you will see the before and after pictures. What a difference!

A few years back I had a conversation with someone who felt intimidated when she entered a certain store because it was in an area where heavy tattooing is pervasive. The appearance of these folks left her feeling unsafe and vulnerable.(Which is funny because she has tattoos of her own.) While those tattoos are superficial marks, they often do reflect something about the person’s personality and the issues, people or things that may be important to them; both beautiful and sinister. Is it unreasonable to feel uncomfortable based on appearance? Yes. But, let’s entertain another thought. What if- after those marks were made- there was a change. What if those marks no longer reflected who that person is on the inside? My question to her was…

What if we had to wear our sins, past and present, as tattoos on our bodies?

How scary would I be? How intimidating would you be? Would those scary, shameful, intimidating and humiliating marks reflect who I am today? Would they cause people to just make wide circles around me?  Would I get a fair trial?

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1Samuel 16:7

I am SO THANKFUL that the Lord doesn’t look at my sin marks. I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ and now I am clean. He doesn’t see those sins anymore and I am not to defile myself with new marks either. Yes, if you are saved you still sin…I still sin. When Christ takes the stand for me He will present me as the judge did this young man…only it won’t be a temporary covering painted on by a make-up artist. It will be genuine. Washed clean in the blood of the spotless Lamb and presented in white robes.

 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:11

When you are washed clean, walk victoriously in Christ. When you encounter others who are unsaved or saved and in bondage, remember that you were there. Not to say “look at where I am now”, but to proclaim that you have been transformed by the blood of Christ. “Look what HE has done!”  Show compassion and share His love.

Man. I am overwhelmed.

I have a little tidbit to share with you. As I was looking into this story, I began to research the process of covering a tattoo with makeup because of something curious I saw. In one of the pictures in the article, the make-up artist was using something red to cover his tats. I looked up some videos online and sure enough…the best way to cover a tattoo is with a red base (lipstick or powder shadow) followed by concealer, foundation and powder and hairspray. Interesting and cool.

Your love ran red, and my sin washed white…

 

Lessons from the littles: Potholes

This has been one of those weeks. God is speaking (praise the Lord) and teaching me so much through interactions with my kids again. Well, I should say “still”…but, I am actually paying attention this week.

Yesterday, our daughter was asking about potholes. With the recent snowfall, our streets are riddled with ruts, holes and cracks. She asked, “How can ice do that to the street?”

I barely got the explanation out of my mouth when the sermon set in. Oh, mercy! Thank you Lord for this word picture.

I explained:

When the snow falls, the moisture gets into the small cracks in the road. Little cracks that may not be visible to the eye are present because of poor maintenance or just wear and tear. The cold air causes that moisture to freeze and the ice expands because ice is fatter than the liquid water. (She’s 6…she understood that! ha ha) That frozen water/ice pushes the crack opened even wider and when it melts, the crack is larger. Eventually it will happen again and some cars will run over it again and again…then the crack becomes a hole and the hole becomes a pothole.

As I said, I barely had the words off my tongue when “SIN” entered my consciousness. I love opportunities that God places in common everyday life that provide opportunity for me to chat with the kids about God and His character…sin, trials, patience, forgiveness, and anything else that may be tossed this way. So this opened a beautiful discussion on the effects of sin.

If we don’t take our relationship with God seriously -have a daily walk where we seek Him and pursue Him….pray and listen…act in obedience…if we sit on cruise control- then our relationship is not being maintained. This opens us up to the dangers of temptation and sin. Sin may begin to seep in to those unmaintained areas. We may not notice until time passes and a larger crack or a gaping hole makes itself known. I explained that the road crew can patch the road but that portion of road will never be the same. As it is with sin. We can repent and be forgiven but, a scar sometimes remains in the form of memories, consequences or even physical manifestations.

Thanks to my six year old daughter- I will be viewing all of these potholes in a different light. I will also be praying and examining my relationship with the Lord when those quiet times creep in and I have a tendency to cruise a little.

I am so thankful for the many times and ways that the Lord shows himself in the seemingly mundane moments of this life. And so thankful for the “littles” who I have the honor and privilege of shepherding daily.

Thank YOU LORD!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Choking on desire

In the beginning of January we always sit down as a family to discuss family and personal goals. One of my son’s desires for me was that I would start a Sunday School class where I could study and share with others. I told him that I already have a beloved group of women who text bomb each other when the Lord reveals something in study…and, of course, I have my hubby and kids to share with. Shepherding these kids is something I really want to focus on. Upon his request and urging, I have decided that I will dust off the cobwebs and try to share a bit more on this blog. Some of the insights that the Lord gives me may be things you’ve studied out before or maybe you could share with me and ADD TO what I am reading and learning. Last week as I was reading in Numbers 11, I shared with my son and he said, “Mom, THIS is what you need to share!”…so here we go.

Numbers 11…

Quail From the Lord

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.

10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

Then I want to skip ahead a bit (we’ll go back to this part soon).

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

Moving forward again…

31 Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It scattered them up to two cubits deep all around the camp, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. 32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers.Then they spread them out all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah,[ because there they buried the people who had craved other food.

35 From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there.

A brief recap: The people completely forgot about the plagues, deliverance, the Red Sea, a number of miracles…and now manna is not good enough. Whining for meat- in verse 5, they recalled the “good ole days” in Egypt when they ate meat AT NO COST. What? No cost? Really?

In Exodus 1:11 & 13, the Bible describes forced labor, oppression, and how the current ruler worked them ruthlessly. In Exodus 1:22, the Pharaoh ordered that the baby boys be killed. And in Exodus 3:7 the Lord Himself says that He has seen the misery of His people in Egypt and has heard their crying and suffering. So it seems to me that their memory had become a little hazy…or maybe it was the heat. Oh, how soon we forget from what and where we have been delivered.

One thing that keeps coming to mind is Psalm 37:4…Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. When I read the above portions of Numbers, I can see that they are definitely NOT delighting in the Lord. But, I’ve said it before…we can’t be too hard on the Israelites because we are really no different.

So what happens if you do NOT delight in the Lord? What if your desire is burning for something else? The answer is clear and it hits me to my core. God created us to have free will, so if we are not seeking Him and His desires…then we are seeking self and our desires. I think this story illustrates exactly what happens when our desires don’t line up.

God will let us choose and have exactly what we want…and the consequences that go with it.

Romans 1:21-25 says just that:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

In Numbers, the Israelites’ desire was for an abundance of meat and they got it. God provided so much, in fact, that they were wading through it and God had said that they would eat it for a month and it would come out of their noses. (Oh, Aacck! The visual alone turns my gut!) Instead, they didn’t even get the satisfaction of a full belly and they were struck with plague. Gee, I don’t think that worked out as they had planned.

In Romans, their desire was for sin and self…they didn’t acknowledge God or give thanks to Him and God let them have exactly what they wanted. He gave them over to their own desires.

CHOKE. ON. THAT.

I have been there…I have chosen myself and I have choked on the consequences. I wonder how our desire would change if we had advance knowledge of the consequences? Maybe it would change the course for some; maybe. As Hebrews 11 points out (speaking about Moses…go figure)- it is better to suffer affliction than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.

So I guess what I have discovered is the need for constant self-evaluation to really see where my desires meet up with the desires of the Lord.

Father God,  I pray that I will never again have to choke on the abundance of bad choices or selfish desires. Move me to seek YOU first.

In Jesus’ Name! Amen.

 

Life Under the Cloud: 1 Corinthians 10

You know those days when you read something you have read time and time again and it hits you in a totally different way? That’s today.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.

1 Corinthians 10:1

That’s it…it was staggering. I had read those words before, but never heard them that way. It’s usually verse 13 that folks focus in on, but this was profound. They were ALL under the cloud…they ALL passed through the sea. Not different seas…the same sea. You might say “DUH! It was the Red Sea, lady!” Yes, it was- but it’s so much bigger than that.

If you read on, Paul reminded the people that the Israelites all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink…and that drink came from the same rock -Christ (v3). Regardless, they still messed up! In verses 6-10 Paul gives examples of various temptations they fell to and how they were punished as a result. “Do not be idolaters…do not commit sexual immorality…do not test the Lord…do not grumble.” They were all under the same cloud…passing through the same waters- but SOME of them fell to these temptations and some didn’t. The ones who did were punished. There were consequences.

It’s usually verse 13 that people commit to memory:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

It’s one that I have committed to memory, too. To me, it means that we are all exposed to the same stimulus (sorry, Psych minor) yet we don’t all respond the same way to the same stimulus. For instance, we are all exposed to sexually explicit images in marketing these days. Some are deeply affected by it and have to make a conscious effort to guard their eyes and some can just walk past and not think twice. Some can smell alcohol and it’s a sweet nectar that they cannot refuse…to others, it’s a disgusting smell that rivals the urine of a horse. It’s all the same stuff…the same temptations. Some are seemingly unaffected and some find it hard to resist.

We are all passing through the same sea; Under the same cloud.

When I read this today, it was in the context of being a Christian. We are all under the same cloud…that column of smoke that led these people through the desert…the Holy Spirit. We all sit under His authority and are led by the Spirit. Even as Christians, some fall to certain temptations that others don’t. But, it is not without consequence.

In verse 12 there is a warning.

So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Just because you are a Christian…just because you have given your heart and soul to the Lord…just because you go to church and sit under an excellent Pastor…just because you follow the Word closely and pray daily…just because you attend a few Bible studies in the course of the week…doesn’t mean that you are exempt from temptation. (If anything, Satan will turn up the heat a notch or two.) If you think that your Christian walk is strong, believe that you are exempt from temptation and your guard is down- you are in danger. All Christians have an Egypt that we have been delivered from. On the journey, some are tempted by old habits and strongholds that have not yet been surrendered.  We are being refined…we are becoming…we all are tempted. Temptations come in all forms…a knee length dress, a scrumptious piece of chocolate cake, a scent, a song, an unnecessary purchase when the money is tight because “it will make me feel better”, a chance encounter with a friend who is still knee deep in old habits,  a drink, a magazine, a male friend who will lend you an ear when your hubby is not available, a friend who whispers in your ear that “you deserve better”,  a juicy piece of gossip or a flashing icon on the sidebar of a computer monitor. The scripture says “When you ARE tempted”-and you will be- you will have the opportunity to take the bait or flee from it.

GOD IS FAITHFUL! Praise the Lord that we always have a way out when we are tempted. We just have to choose it.

Romans 3:23 reminds us ” for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“. Please remember this…On Sunday, you may be sitting in a row with ten other people- each with a different thorn in their side. If temptation turns to sin, God deals with each of us and there are consequences. Be careful not to judge a person because their sin has a different name than yours. We are all under the same cloud: brothers and sisters in Christ. We all walk through the same sea. If your friend’s foot should happen to turn and slip while walking through that sea- grab their hand and lead them on. I would hope to receive the same grace and mercy; the same helping hand from my friend should it happen to me. Regardless of the temptation that caused me to stumble.wpid-20130624_140640.jpg

This is a picture I took as a storm was moving in. The dark cloud and the brilliant white cloud are so close in proximity…and there’s only a thin strip of blue sky in the middle. There is not a lot of “wiggle room” on the straight and narrow. One step in either direction makes a big difference.

15 Days of Focus: Bonfire of the Vanities

Bonfire of the vanities…it’s more than a movie in the 90’s. It’s a term used to describe the burning of objects that are deemed to be occasions of sin (according to Wikipedia). Wikipedia further states…

The focus of this destruction was nominally on objects that might tempt one to sin, including vanity items such as mirrors, cosmetics, fine dresses, playing cards, and even musical instruments. Other targets included books that were deemed to be immoral, such as works by Boccaccio, and manuscripts of secular songs, as well as artworks, including paintings and sculpture.

This was the very term that came to my mind as I stood near the doors of our woodstove and watched a mound of paper as it shriveled and glowed in the flames.

Yesterday, I shared that I was taking some time off of Facebook to try to break free of the negative aspects associated with it. Last night I started thinking about the “why”…why do some things and people from my past still offend me. Why do stinging words from 20 years ago still pack a punch? It really makes so sense because I am a totally different person now. Darned those things called “feelings”. Baaah! So this morning, I decided to take up my pen and pad and set to work. Listing….and listing…and listing…all of the people, the actions, the words, the offenses that I thought I had released. After a few pages, I began to notice a pattern to some of them. Many of these things I had been offended about and hurt about had the same root. It was the sin of others responding to MY sin. If I had been walking with the Lord the way I should have been and had not been compromising myself- those people would not have had the ammunition to offend me. If I had been paying attention, I would have noticed that some of these insults and actions that came from others had a little truth to them. Many of these insults/offenses were a mirror being held up for me to see my own ugly. Instead of being offended at the reflection in the mirror…I became offended at the person holding the mirror. Wow. It was an interesting discovery.

Vanity.

Facebook is full of it. Narcissism and self-worship.  According to Webster vanity is ” an inflated pride in oneself or one’s appearance.”. Ironically, it also means “empty and valueless”. I find it interesting that the definition of vanity includes both pride and emptiness.

After I completed the list this morning, I prayed over each person and each situation and asked God to help me to forgive and let them go. [Something our pastor recommended we do back in April and I even wrote a post on it!  Let go of the offence…start to de-fence. What a hard head I am!]  FOR REAL this time. To not just say that I am forgiving each…but to actually DO it. I placed the pages in the woodstove and torched them. It was a bonfire of the vanities. Hanging on to these offenses was causing me to sin, so I had to let them go.

 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

The reflection in the mirror is completely different today than it was 20 years ago. This chapter is closed and the book has been burned. I am still not sure about the future of Facebook in my life, but Day 2 of Focus brought me one step closer to Freedom.