August 25, 2011

29 Ways to Stay Creative

Jon Acuff is an amazing writer/blogger--probably my favorite. This video was on his blog today. It's so clever and well-done that I wanted to share it. My favorite is #17. What's yours?


August 23, 2011

Garden Primer

Today marked a personal first.

I ate a cantaloupe grown in my own garden.

Now before you admire my exceptional gardening skills, let me tell you—this has been my worst year gardening.
In March I planted cold-weather seeds like lettuce, pea, spinach and arugula. I pictured bushy plants and the bounty of salads we’d have. And I waited with anticipation for the seeds to germinate and the plants to grow—“35 days to harvest” the seed packets promised.

I waited. And waited. And waited. 35 days became 50, then 70...

A few sprouts emerged. The peas gave early hope of success. But just when the peas started to climb their trellis, a critter got to them. It was a pea pod massacre.

Seemingly frozen in time, tiny shoots of lettuce didn’t grow. And I’m not sure the spinach ever germinated! It all gave new meaning to the term “micro greens.”

Discouraged, but not defeated, in May I set my sights to the summer planting. I added compost and fertilizer to spruce up the soil. Tiny tomato, cucumber, zucchini and melon plants made their home in my garden. Yet again, I had hope.

At the end of June (100 days after planting) I discovered that the lettuces had finally grown enough to be picked. Excitedly, I snipped off some tender leaves and went inside to concoct a salad. I took a bite. Mmmm! Wait … does the lettuce taste bitter? Nah. Well, maybe… but it’s not that bad, really.

The next week I picked a leaf of lettuce and bit it. The bitter flavor filled my mouth. “Yuck!” I said and spit it out. Lettuce season was officially over. One, one-person salad was the extent of my harvest. I ripped out the plants to make room for the summer bounty.

The good news is that I’m having the best tomato season I’ve had in a long time. Gazpacho, BLTs, tuna stuffed tomatoes, tomatoes and mozzarella, and plain old sliced tomatoes have been dietary staples for the last month.

The other summer plants showed promise. Now the cucumber vines are yellowing and ready to bite the dust. The zucchini got a root rot after only a few weeks of producing fruit. Now the condition is spreading to the melons and they’re dying too. Plus, the weeds are taking over, too.

But how exciting it was to discover a cantaloupe growing in the giant tangle of melon vines! Our first one—ever. Sadly, however, it might be the only one.

So yes, I’m bummed about the unfruitfulness of my gardening efforts. My gardening motto has always been “low maintenance.” I plant and water, and fertilize a little bit. Veggies grow. We pick them. We eat them. I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble.

In my personal and spiritual life I want low maintenance, too. I‘ll sow seeds to share the gospel, till the soil of my gifts, fertilize a friendship or water a ministry. And I expect to see results.

But often, like my garden, there is no harvest. A friendship doesn’t blossom. Efforts to share my gifts are unfruitful. A ministry withers. I’ll be honest. My response isn’t to dig deeper and try harder. It’s to reassess and move to greener pastures. I don’t want to waste my time—or suffer the disappointment.

In any type of garden—real or metaphorical—it’s hard to keep going when we can’t see the results. But doesn’t this attitude run contrary to the gospel message? Isn’t our motivation for more than what is evident before our eyes? Aren’t perseverance and generosity key components of living a life surrendered to the Master Gardener?

Indeed, God’s Word offers instruction: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9: 6, 8)

I hear Jesus saying, “Keep going. Keep sowing. Keep tending—in all your gardens—one cantaloupe, one heart won for me at a time. Don’t strive for results you can see. Strive because you love me. I will bless your efforts abundantly. Take time to plant and to water, but know that it is I alone, who makes things grow. Trust me to take care of the harvest.”

This week wild weather hit our area. Thunderstorm after thunderstorm dumped buckets of water on my flailing garden. Mini-floods surrounded it. And even hail pummeled it. The wounded plants are history and the living ones are limping.

But, the skies will clear and the sun will dry the soil. Bountiful harvest or not, I’m not ready to quit. After all, fall lettuce planting season is right around the corner and I have hope.

Lettuce, anyone?

August 20, 2011

Slip Sliding Away!

It's been a wild week of weather here. Blue skies filled with puffy clouds have quickly turned black as one thunderstorm after another has come through. After one wicked storm--that even included hail--our backyard looked like creekside property. Taking advantage of this rare opportunity, my son headed out for some fun. We all had a great laugh. I thought you might too!

August 16, 2011

Traveling Lessons

It's a statistical fact that most young adults turn their backs on the faith of their childhoods. As a parent, do you worry that your kids' faith is equipped for the journey into adulthood? What steps are you taking to prepare them? I'm writing about this today on the Internet Cafe. Grab a cup of coffee and join me there.

I want to thank Harold Camping.

Not because I think the May 21st-end-of-the-world pastor offered much useful information to end times conversations, but because he got people talking. Personally, all the hubbub spurred me to have the “S” talk with my kids.

Not that “S” talk, the other one—salvation.

On separate occasions, I talked one-on-one with my 16-year-daughter and 13-year-old son and asked: “If the world ended today, would you go to heaven?”

Both answered, “I don’t know.”

I followed up, “What do you think you need to do to get into heaven?”

Their responses ranged from “I’m not sure” to “go to church and be a good person” to “believe in God.” Neither of them mentioned Jesus.

Their answers surprised and saddened me since my kids have grown up going to church. When they were little they learned about Jesus at Christian preschool, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. Back then they were willing and eager faith participants with whom I’d sing Bible songs and teach simple lessons about God. << Continue reading ... >>

August 12, 2011

This Wandering Heart

Falling back.

It’s our inclination. Our human nature. Our inner compass. We set out to follow God, but we get distracted, complacent or seduced by something else. We follow our whims and desires. And travel in a different direction. Isaiah wrote about this heart condition: “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own. “ (53:6)

Again and again we trade in God’s plan for our own. It makes being a Christian darn hard work. Impossible work it seems sometimes.

In our prison ministry backsliding is a common theme. Several of the inmates gave powerful testimonies this week in the church service. One inmate told how he’d been actively involved with a prison ministry, coming in every week (like our group does). Through tear-filled eyes he shared how he’d “fallen away” a few months ago and done things that landed him in prison. Now he was the one being ministered to. Humbled and broken, he still trusted God’s plan for His life. He encouraged the men, especially those getting out soon, to stick closely with Jesus.  

“It’s so easy to stray,” he cautioned.  

His words touched us all. And they got me thinking.

So many of the inmates love the Lord and want to start a new life with Christ. But their home environments are filled with drugs, violence, gangs, crime and broken families. When (or if) they get out, the cards are so stacked against them to become productive, law-abiding citizens, let alone faithful followers of Jesus.

When they return home it’s so easy to wander back into their old lives and habits. The consequences of doing so are likely harsh and dramatic—putting many right back in prison.

In my own life it’s so easy to stray as well.

So often I choose my own way instead of God’s. I squander my gifts. I get lazy about prayer, Bible study and devotions. I get distracted and neglect God.  And more than anything else, I let the ebb and flow of life lure me into complacency, busyness and comfort. 

Certainly my prediliction to wander isn't a bad as the inmate's, right? For starters, I probably won't end up in prison. 

Yet, in God's eyes, isn't the end result the same? Haven't we both made the same choice: our own way over God's? Aren't we both left with parched souls and hearts far from the Lord?

Doesn’t my backsliding grieve God just as much as the prisoners’? In fact, might it grieve Him more? After all He has given me every good gift to succeed: education, money, a loving family, security, opportunity, freedom. The odds are stacked in my favor.

But I know even these blessings aren't enough to stay the course.  

Thankfully God knows the fatal condition of our wandering hearts and gave us the cure—Jesus.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.“ (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Sinner, saint and soccer mom. We are all sinners saved by grace.Not one of us can stay true to God’s path on our own. To each of us, Jesus invites, “Come to me.”

And come we must.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing: verse 4
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.