Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.

— Hosea 10:12

This verse really sums up well what I have been learning, especially through the opportunity we had this year to have a small garden.

I am not a gardener. At home, poor soil, cold summers, and wind combined to make gardening a futile effort, and after several years of battling against these things, my mother relented and gave up trying to grow vegetables, leaving just one flower bed that was sheltered from the wind.

I was very excited at the opportunity to have a garden here in Stoney Creek, but there were a lot of challenges.

First, we had to decide what to plant. Then we had to plant it - we were blessed to have a staff member till the garden for us, but I was not used to dealing with rabbits, who did their best to eat our beets and peas until we learned how to put chicken wire around them to keep the rabbits out. We also realized that we had planted our beets too close together and they were therefore rather stunted.

Then came the weeds.

At first, not being familiar with the differences between baby plants and weeds, I let both grow together. Then, having learned the difference, we cleared out the weeds.

Then came the portulaca. At home, portulaca is a lovely flower that people take great care to cultivate, but in Stoney Creek it is a dreadful weed. When it first came up, there were thousands of tiny plants, too tiny to possibly pull them all, so we let them grow. Soon, we were overrun.

It took a lot of work to get rid of the portulaca, and we ended up having to hoe out the rows, though of course by then the ground was hard so we were nigh unto needing a pickax. Needless to say, after that, we were more careful to pull them when they were small, however, as we didn't have hours to spend each week in the garden, the best we could do was to keep hoeing the soil to keep it soft, as portulaca doesn't like the soil that way.

Portulaca.jpg

There were many things that the Lord taught me about the spiritual life through this garden, and the weeds.

When I think about the fruit of the Spirit as plants trying to produce fruit, and the sins mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21 as weeds, I understand better, having tended a garden, how important it is to root out the weeds. Here are some things I have learned about weeds: both in the garden and in my own life.

They spread like crazy - just as weeds don't need a special invitation to invade, when I allow one sin -say pride, however small, into my heart, it propagates more - envy, perfectionism, and more pride.

Just because you got rid of every last one last week doesn't mean you get a pass on weeding this week - just because I repented of all of the little sins the Lord revealed to me, doesn't mean that I automatically stop sinning or no longer need to repent.

Weeds take nutrients and moisture away from plants - the sin of pride hinders my prayers, and stunts the growth of the fruits of joy, patience, and peace in my heart

Different environments produce different kinds of weeds - This was especially apparent to me with the portulaca. Portulaca especially likes to grow in hot places, with hard, dry soil. Where other plants struggle it thrives, and makes life harder for other plants. It likes desert-like conditions.

Some sins seem to grow in fertile hearts when everything is going well - such as self confidence, while others grow in stormy seasons - sins like doubt, despair, etc. Others, like portulaca, grow in the desert. These sins, as I have found in my own life, have been self-effort and complacency disguised as patience.

While in the Discipleship Program, I thought that I would grow exponentially in my spiritual walk, and I have grown, but I have also been (and still am) in a 'dry spot', and it's been hard, because you'd think that surrounded by so many opportunities growth would come... easier. And in this dry season, I've noticed that different weeds, different sins than I struggled with before, have started to grow, and they're hard to get rid of. Or perhaps they were always there, but now I know them to be weeds.

In the same way that we had to hoe the ground, to soften it to make it harder for the weeds to grow, the Lord has had to help me soften my heart. It's hard work, and I don't feel like I've made much progress some days. It hurts. It's dusty and there's still thousands of weeds. Some days a little rain comes, and I rejoice. Perhaps righteousness is a bit like potatoes, growing underground, unseen until harvest.

~ Disciple of 2019



1 Comment

 Add Comment




How can I know what God’s will is for my life? This has always been a question burning in my mind, ever since as a young child I realized I would be doing something with my life, and I had to figure out what that would be.

I didn’t want to just do what I want to do, I wanted to do what God wanted. How could I know what that was?

I have thought about this a lot with past decisions I have made in my life. Even before coming to the Discipleship Program, I struggled to know if this year was the Lord’s will for me. Looking back now, I know it was, due to the amazing ways the Lord has worked through it. Prayer is one big thing I have grown in this year, as well as becoming more others-focused – learning what it means to serve, and becoming more of an outgoing person, willing to give of myself.

As the year slowly comes to an end, there is the question of what is next, not often spoken but often running through my mind.

Through a few things we have studied, conversations we’ve had, and the Lord helping me understand, I have come to realize God’s will for my life isn’t and doesn’t need to be as complicated as I always thought it was.

A picture in my head that would describe what I had thought about God’s will would be of a road stretched out in front of me, my life. In that road, there is a fork - a decision I must make - right or left, this or that. One way would be God’s will and the other wouldn’t. If I chose the wrong path, well, it wouldn’t be very good from there. I didn’t consider what would happen down that path, but I knew that it would be bad, and it was crucial to make the right choice.

I have come to see that the picture I had is wrong.

God’s will for me is to know Him more. If I am earnestly seeking Him with my heart, the choice I make will be what He desires as well.

Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

1 Thessalonians 4:3a, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”

Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

And what if I choose the things that are not of the Lord? It’s not the end of the world. Everybody slips off the path and stumbles at different points. The key is to get up again and get back on the right track.

I feel it is encouraging to know that God has a plan for my future. I am realizing that I will most likely not know all of it at once however. Each step I take of obedience will allow me to see one more step ahead, but I may not know (and don’t right now) what the next five years hold.

So, I don’t need to stress about what my life will look like. I simply need to trust the Lord and seek Him with all my heart. God’s call on my life is for me to know Him more and grow to be more like Him. Proverbs 3 seemed to make this all clearer to me. Verses 2-8 say:

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

I don’t know that I feel it in my bones, but this has been a great source of comfort and peace to me, knowing that if I am changing to be more like Him, I am fulfilling His call. I don’t know where that will all take me, but I take joy in knowing I can trust Him with my future.

~ Disciple of 2019



Comments

 Add Comment




A little ago, we were listening to a devotional by a GFA staff member during one of our prayer meetings, sharing about the parable of the tenants in Mark 12. How the lord of the vineyard sent the servants to collect fruit from the vineyard and they were beaten, killed etc. The Lord of the vineyard knew what would happen from the beginning to the end, including that His Son would be killed. Why would He keep sending them if He was God and knew what was going to happen?

In another message (We get a lot of good teaching 😉) that we heard by Joni Eareckson Tada, she shared on the theology of suffering, and how God is able to use the evil in our lives and use it for our good (yes, good) and His glory, that wouldn’t have been possible if those bad things were not in our lives.

When I hear something more than once, it gets my attention. God can and will use the suffering in my life for good. Too often, I view what God is doing and has done in my life with a less than joyful attitude, viewing it almost as if it was of lesser quality. However, He has a plan and knows what is best for me, even if it isn’t what I would choose or plan.

I wouldn’t think that it would be very helpful for me to have seasonal allergies this Fall; however, things have gone differently then I would have planned, and I now have seasonal allergies. I know that this is just a small example of suffering; I don’t want to make light of the greater trials that others all over the world are going through.

Sometimes God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.

— Joni Eareckson Tada

I don’t know what God is going to teach me through my seasonal allergies, or how He will use it for His glory. It may be simply a small amount of patience or dependence on Him. I can live in faith, that he knows what is best for me. I want to grow to trust Him, knowing that He is the finest Author who is writing my story, even it doesn’t appear to be all happily ever afters. My life is not my own.

~ Disciple of 2019



Comments

 Add Comment




In the Discipleship Program, we recently finished an assignment where we chose a spiritual discipline and practised it for three weeks: I did not really ‘enjoy’ this assignment, but I learned a lot about grace.

I chose to work on the discipline of ‘quiet time’, and over all, it went very badly.

I really wanted to work on this discipline because though it’s already a part of my life through DP I often felt like I was doing it merely out of duty and wasn’t ‘getting much out of it’, so I tried to get up earlier to have more uninterrupted time with the Lord.

Before we started the assignment, we went through a book called “Before You Hit the Wall” by Danny Lehman. It talks about the spiritual disciplines, what they are, why to practice them, and practical tips on how to do so. I tried really, really hard to follow the suggestions in the book by setting goals and going to bed early enough to get up to have quiet time. However, even though (for the first few days) I got up almost an hour earlier, I ended up having the same amount of time with the Lord, and I was more tired, so I got off with a bit of a rocky start.

I went to our Discipleship Program coordinator for help and she suggested that I take time later in the day to meet with the Lord, so I did and it was wonderful. Still I struggled to remember to take the time and also to know what to do with the time. I felt aimless. I tried to set new goals, but they always came out as vague as if I didn’t have any. Every time I tried to come up with a form to structure my afternoon quiet time it just became another box to check off my task list.

Through this I struggled a lot with feeling like a failure and like I needed to be doing more, because what I was doing wasn’t ‘good enough’. Then the Lord really spoke to me through the Mary/Martha passage in Luke 10. I really wanted to be like Mary and sit at the Lord’s feet, but He showed me that I was going about it like Martha - always trying to do something. I was very much trying to prove that I could do it out of my own strength and personal discipline, instead of relying on Him. It felt stupid that I would have to rely on Him to do something as easy as having a 20 minute quiet time, and most of the time I came away at least slightly frustrated with my own inability to have a focused quiet time.

So, I’m still having a hard time agreeing with the Lord that my quiet times were not a total failure. In the book Danny Lehman talked about how discipline creates an atmosphere where we can grow. I can see how the Lord did use these disciplines to help me grow, even if it wasn’t in the area or way that I thought He would or wanted Him to. I really wanted to develop a habit of spending time with God, not just making requests/demands or reading the Bible, but to know His presence. I think I had to try in order realize how much this isn’t something that I do. The Lord had to show me that I don’t have or need a one-thing-is-always-right pattern to follow, but a Person, and that while structure is good, it must stay in its place as the means of knowing God and not the end to be arrived at.

According to myself, my self imposed standards, logic, and reasoning, this assignment was a total failure, a grand flop.

But, according to God, it was a success - because God doesn’t use the same measuring tape I do, and He knows where I need to grow a lot better than I do.



1 Comment

 Add Comment




Before coming to the Discipleship Program, I had never been away from home without my family for more than a weekend. I wasn’t expecting what hit me. Sure, I had heard about homesickness before, I didn’t think that it was an actual sickness. But it can be, now speaking from experience.

Why would I go through this physical, not to mention huge emotional turmoil and not run back home where I so desperately wanted to be? That seriously made me think about why I am here.

Jesus. That one word explains a lot. He called me here, I now believe that without one doubt. I had a lot of doubt in my homesickness. If God really wanted me to be here, why was I going through this pain? Wasn’t I stronger than this, more ready? In those sleepless nights I found Jesus in a new way. He was my source of peace and in prayer I found solace. I questioned whether I really had put Him first in my life before. When so much of my surroundings and circumstances are different, I realize what I am really depending on, and where my heart’s allegiance lies.

I am here at the Discipleship Program because I want to know Jesus more. I want to serve Him with everything. I want Him to be my everything. To live a life of laying everything down, that includes laying down my home, my family and my comfort. Everything is a strong word.

Now that I have come to that conclusion, does it all become easy and those troublesome nerves and emotions go away? No, not at all. But I have something to cling to – my Saviour. He is my Rock in the raging sea and Living Water in the empty desert. Feelings are not what should dictate our lives. If I let my emotions rule me, my life will crash pretty quickly. I need Jesus to rule my heart to have peace.

There is another aspect to this. Life is not simply about me and Jesus. Community is very key. Learning to trust my housemates and be close with people other than my family was and still is a point in need of growth for me. I don’t need to put up a false front to those around me. That’s not going to help me at all; in fact, it will hurt me. Community is not about the number of people around me, but about building and maintaining relationships. Sharing pain inside of us with others does not always cause it to disappear, but it is easier to bear. God gave us each other for a reason!

Though it has taken me a while to come to this place, looking back, I wouldn’t have changed one thing in my past few months. The pain and disappointment that I felt in myself, were beneficial in teaching me a lesson. I am not self-sufficient; I am very much in need of the Lord’s grace and the love of my siblings in Christ around me.

~ Disciple of 2019



Comments

 Add Comment

None