"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
June 24, 2009
In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus is teaching a multitude of people and gives the parable of the sower. Starting with verse 3, Jesus said, "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside, and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop; some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."
The people didn't comprehend the message that Jesus was trying to teach them. So beginning in verse 18, He explained it to them.
"Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately received it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who receives seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."
I have learned a lot about gardening since Jon and I have married. When I was single, I never had the time nor inclination to plant anything. But the summer of our first anniversary, we decided to plant a vegetable garden. This was a new experience for both of us, and we called my dad for a lot of advice. Since that time, we have planted vegetables, flowers and trees.
A couple years ago when I became a stay at home wife, I took up much of the responsibility of caring for our yard. Not only the mowing, but also the planting and gardening. When the weather starts warming up and getting nice in the springtime, I start wanting to dig in the dirt and plant vegetables and flowers.
The main two things I have learned about gardening is that it takes a lot of time and is a lot of work. I enjoy the planting part, but it's all the work afterwards that gets tedious and time consuming. When you plant things, you have to make sure you dig the hole deep enough so they will take root and grow. You can't just throw the seeds or plants on top of the ground, or they'll eventually die. You also can't put plants in the ground and then leave them. That's just the beginning and the fun part. Afterwards is when the care of your plants and garden comes into play. You have to water, fertilize, weed, mulch; then continue to water and weed and weed and weed some more. When the temperature is hot day after day, the fun goes away. That's when you begin to see just how much of a gardener you really are!
During the summer heat, I tend to look at my garden and flower beds and wonder why in the world I planted so much in the spring! It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it does look beautiful; but it's hot and tiring and a lot of work. But when the hard, tiresome work gets tedious, is when I have to make a decision. Am I going to continue caring for my plants, regardless of how hot and weary I become; or am I going to give up and let the weeds take over, quit watering and stop caring for them, and hope that they'll survive and not wilt and die? It's not always an easy choice, and sometimes I feel like quitting and hoping for the best.
This year, instead of planting a lot of vegetables, I planted most of our garden area behind the house in plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. After I got it planted, it seemed as if I would weed the garden, then a couple days later it would be full of weeds again. I bought some stuff that you can sprinkle in your garden, that is supposed to help control weeds. After using it, I still have weeds, but they aren't well rooted and pull up easily. But I have to get them as soon as I see them, before they have time to become well rooted.
A few weeks ago, I decided that I was going to weed my garden really well, then put mulch down; hoping that would help with the weed control. I really don't know what I was thinking at first; apparently I wasn't thinking much at all! I started crawling around in my garden and was trying to weed it all by hand. I got probably a third of it done, when I had to go into the garage for something. I saw a hoe leaning against the wall. I took it out to the garden, and had the rest of it weeded in a short amount of time. I realized that I was making the job much harder than it needed to be.
But even by using the weed control granules, and with all the weeding and mulching that I've done, I can't just sit back and do nothing from now on. I still have to keep an eye on the garden, and if/when I see a weed crop up, I have to pull it up and get rid of it.
I do have some beautiful flowers and garden areas, but they will only stay looking that way as long as I am consistent in my care of them.
In our own lives, it's much the same way. We can give our heart to Jesus and make the decision that we are going to do what's right and live the way that would please Him. At first, we have peace and are excited about the change that has taken place. We know that we are ready to go to heaven and spend eternity with God, and believe that nothing will ever get between us and our relationship with God.
But if we're not careful, sin will slip in, and if we're not diligent in getting rid it, it will eventually separate us from God. Sin is a lot like weeds in a garden. It seems to crop up each and every day, and it gets tedious and bothersome at times to get rid of it. And it's easy to think that "this is no big deal and I can handle it later". Only we let time go by, and before long realize that we have a whole crop of sin, and not just that one small original one.
There are a lot of things that I am convicted of and would never do. I'm not really tempted to do what we tend to categorize as "big" sins. But I don't find in the Bible where God catalogs sin from smallest to largest; sin is sin. It's those little things that I allow to slip into my life. I don't think that it's a big deal, so just allow it to stay there. But eventually, it begins to grow and spread, and I realize that what was once just one little weed has taken root and gotten bigger.
Each of us has some knowledge of the Bible; maybe some more than others. But what we do with what we hear and know, depends on how deeply rooted and fruitful we will be spiritually.
It's like the parable that Jesus was teaching the multitude. There are those who hear, but when hard times come or they get discouraged, they find that their relationship with God wasn't very deeply rooted. They get angry at God or feel that He is unfair or doesn't care, and it causes them to stumble and turn away from their faith. Others want to have a relationship with God only when they're in trouble or are desperate. There are some who only want enough of God in their life to ease their conscience and keep them out of hell. It's easy to allow "life" and activities to slip in, and soon you find that your relationship with God is not where it needs to be.
But then there are those who accept the gift of salvation and diligently strive to follow and obey God and please Him. They grow in their faith and become well-grounded. They are willing to work at keeping that relationship strong and to get rid of sin as it enters their life, and to resist temptations.
We each choose how deeply rooted we become in our faith in God. We can't blame others for our lack of faith in God. Only I can choose how close or how far away from God I live each day. It's no one's fault but my own if I allow sin to creep in and separate me from God.
Jon and I have several different levels of plants and trees in our yard. We have pecans that have been there for probably a hundred years. We have plants that have become deeply rooted and bloom profusely each year and are gorgeous. There is a volunteer maple that came up in our front yard probably five years ago that has flourished and is now about 10-12 feet tall. We have a honeysuckle on our back fence that blossoms and has done exceptionally well. There are things that I planted last year that came back again this year and are doing fantastic.
But we also have a few things that aren't doing so well. We planted a couple dogwood trees last year and they died. We got two new ones this spring and they have already died. We planted a Japanese maple and rhododendron three years ago, and neither have done well. The Japanese maple has leaves all around the bottom but looks dead on top, and it's never gotten any taller. The rhododendron has never grown much bigger than it was when we planted it. It gets about 2-3 flowers on it each spring, and that's it. We have a hydrangea that we planted two years ago and it hasn't flowered since that first year. It gets green and grows, but never flowers. On the other hand, we have one we planted last year that is growing like crazy and is green and has a beautiful flower on it. I bought two pincushion plants earlier this spring. They looked identical and both looked healthy when I planted them. But one has bloomed and done well, and the other shriveled up and died.
We try to nourish each plant that we put in our yard; but some do well and are healthy, and others die or are stunted in their growth. All Jon and I can do is try to care for each plant, but we can't force them to do well and grow and blossom. We are limited on what we can do for them. Some plants make it and some don't.
Spiritually it's that same way. We can try to encourage and help others, but there is only so much we can do. We can't force someone to accept Jesus and have a strong relationship with Him. We can't force others to have a desire to live for God and grow spiritually and be rooted in their faith. Some will flourish and grow, and some will fall by the wayside and die spiritually. It's heartbreaking when that happens, but each man and woman must choose for themselves how much or how little of God they want in their lives.
There are also people of all different levels spiritually. We are all at different places in our relationship with God, and we are each answerable for what we know is right and wrong. That doesn't excuse us to remain immature in our knowledge of God. We each need to strive to be deeper rooted spiritually.
I'm responsible for what I've been taught and know from God's Word. I cannot and should not stand in judgement of others if they are not on the same level as I am. Also, there are many Christians who are a lot wiser and more mature in their faith than I am. I can't become discouraged and give up just because I'm not where someone else it. But I can strive to become stronger and more deeply rooted in my faith in God. That's what we all must do.
We are all to be rooted and grounded in our faith in God. We must continuously and diligently work at getting rid of the weeds that try to choke out and destroy our faith. When we do so, we will each bear fruit and grow and be strong in our relationship with God.
Loretta spent a long time getting rid of weeds all by herself. She was making progress, and it wasn't a complete waste of time, but she was barely able to keep up with them. When she got out a tool to help, it went much easier. But, she still had to do the work. And she'll need to do some work again from time to time.
Again, it's the same with our spiritual lives. We can pick away at temptations as they sprout, and we can fight back with other distractions from our relationship with God. But we also have tools to help. Prayer is one of the best, especially when applied daily (or more). Attending church, and often becoming more active than simply Sunday Service can be a great help through tougher times. Reading the Bible often helps.
Frankly, I have problems with the cares of this world, so I sympathize. And those are the things that help most for me. It seems odd, but the more stressed I am about not having any time, the more it helps to stop and take one or two minutes to pray.
I am a big iced tea drinker. I don't like it syrupy sweet, but I do want sugar in it. I do not like unsweetened tea. Pretty much year round, I always keep a pitcher of tea in the refrigerator. I've even have my husband where he won't drink so much Pepsi at home, and he'll drink tea instead. I grew up on Lipton tea, which is fine, but I have started buying the Luzianne Decaffeinated tea bags, and now prefer the taste of it. When Jon and I were on vacation in San Antonio, I had some of the best iced tea I've ever drank. It was at a Mexican restaurant. The tea had just the right amount of sugar in it, and instead of putting a slice of lemon in it, they put a slice of lime and a sprig of mint in the glass of tea. The lime and mint mixture gave it a really good refreshing flavor. Putting fresh lemon or lime or fresh mint in your tea at home is something you can do to jazz it up a little.
This past weekend Jon and I left on Friday afternoon to head to Lampe, MO for the weekend. Jon got home early, but we had a lot we wanted to do while we were there and were trying to get things loaded in the truck and remember to take all the tools we would need. We ran to Lowe's and picked up a metal shed kit that we were going to set up on our acreage. So Jon was trying to get all the tools he'd need for us to assemble that. We also had plans to mow and took one of our push mower and a weedeater with us.
We hadn't eaten lunch before leaving, and were going to stop in Springdale, AR at one of our favorite restaurants there.
We finally got taken off! We drove 75 mph on the turnpike (which is the speed limit). Drove around curves and up and down hills. Drove through town in Siloam Springs with all the stop lights. When we got to Springdale and were at the stop light right before the restaurant, we heard a horn honk. We ignored it, because we didn't figure we knew anyone there and we were sitting still at the light. After we turned, another truck pulled up beside us and honked and the driver had the passenger window down and was trying to tell Jon something. Jon slowed down and rolled his window down. The guy yelled that we had a tape measure on our back bumper. Jon pulled over in a parking lot next to the street and got it. I remembered that I had seen it laying in the garage before we left, and was going to put it in a box of supplies that Jon had put in back of the truck. Before I could, Jon wanted me to help him lift the lawn mower up into the truck. I laid the tape measure on the bumper and that's the last I thought of it. We couldn't believe that it had stayed on the bumper from Bixby to Springdale, which is probably a 2 hour drive.
Life may not always seem fair, but it can still be good.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon