Looking for the Garden of Eden

“And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed…Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’…And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:8, 18, 25 (ESV) Aren’t we all searching for the Garden? Deep in our souls, we know that’s where we belong. Walking with our Father. Sharing our heart. Worshiping Him. Praising Him. Knowing His love. Love, perfect, complete “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6 (ESV) Yet, she was tempted. She wondered if there was more. She had everything. No need unmet. Unconditional love. Complete acceptance. Walking perfection. Pure heart. Untainted mind. And she wanted more. Perfection reached out for more. “Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.” Genesis 3:23 She lost the Garden. She lost perfection. She lost everything — Except what was most important. Unconditional love. His love cannot be thwarted. His Son took on flesh to mend what was broken. His Son suffered and died to restore that walk. Jesus restored what was lost. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and...

I’ll take instant maturity, please

Grinning with pleasure, I watched my newly planted butterfly garden. The bold yellow of the yarrow and the vibrant orange of the blanket flowers were a great beginning, but I longed for all the green to turn to blossoms. I rushed out each morning, excited to see new blossoms, but nothing seemed to change. Gardening brings a great lesson in patience. Hoping for growth, we plant seeds or small plants where they will get sun, adding soil, food and water. It takes weeks, months or in some cases a year or more to get the full benefit of our labor. We must trust the food, water and sun to bring the seeds to full growth. Spiritual growth is the same. When I read an inspiring verse or book or hear an insightful sermon, I want the maturity offered right now. I read about loving others with all my heart and wonder the next day why I’m rude and uncaring. I learn about the power of thoughts and keeping them focused on truth and want victory that minute. Like my butterfly garden, spiritual maturity comes with time and the right conditions for growth. “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:15 (NIV) Perseverance produces a crop. If I want growth, I prepare my heart with prayer as I would prepare the soil. Letting the Holy Spirit break up the hard clods of sin, I plant the seeds of truth in the soil of my heart by reading and meditating...

A Pointing Finger, A Fiery Tongue

Regret crushed my heart as I realized I had unknowingly hurt a loved one with my judgmental attitude. She was brave enough to confront me and share her pain. I was shocked at first and defended myself but soon concluded that even if I didn’t remember that instance there were plenty of other times I had been disapproving and critical. God has been gradually opening my eyes for years to how judgmental and self-righteous I have been in my life especially when I was younger. When I was young it was easy to take on a few “rules” I knew I could keep and make that my measure of what kind of Christian I was. I chose certain rules (which were emphasized in my teaching) and hid behind them. Rules like don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, stay a virgin till you’re married and go to church every week. I found I could manage these handpicked rules and got pretty good at keeping them. Soon I was proud of the fact I kept these rules and judged those who didn’t. All the while I was blind to what Jesus Himself said were the MOST important commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39 I overlooked or ignored teaching such as: “If I…do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2 “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1 “…Who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12b...

When My Ugly Is Showing

My selfish attitude slapped me in the face. I was in a situation where I realized my attitude was ugly, stingy and self-focused. And this was concerning my eighty-six year old mother! Wow, way to go self. As I thought back over the choices I’d made throughout the day I realized how self-focused I’d been. I felt helpless in the face of my own weak nature. My inability to be a good person. I’m not a good person by nature. When I operate in my own strength, I always default to selfishness. It’s only as I yield to Jesus and trust Him by faith to work through me that I can live and love as He wants me to. Words aren’t enough to express what His grace means. Amazing, astounding, glorious. How can words express thanks for such a gift? I had missed my prayer and Bible reading for 5 or 6 days before this instance and had been operating in my own strength. I was “doing” the right things but harboring a selfish attitude. Then I remembered: run to Jesus! He was right there loving me. He died so that I could come to Him aware of my own failure and sin. I cried out to Him and confessed my sin. I confessed my weakness and remembered how He loves me. How He has always been there to love and forgive, Running to Jesus is always the answer. When sin grips my heart, I run to Jesus. When problems rise like mountains, I run to Jesus. When that voice in my head says I’m a failure, I run...

What Fills My Heart?

“When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy…and the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:45a, 52 (NIV) Looking at the Facebook post, my heart was filled with jealousy. Being filled with jealousy isn’t a pleasant experience! Success often fills my heart with pride. Computer glitches can fill me with anger. And left to myself, I default to selfishness. Being filled with the Holy Spirit and His joy are the best moments. I want to learn to continually seek His filling. But I can’t be filled with the Holy Spirit if I’m already full. If I’m filled with jealousy or pride, He is quenched. “Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (ESV) When I’m filled with anger, I don’t hear His voice. When I’m filled with impatience or unforgiveness, He is grieved. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30 (ESV) Am I filled with lustful pleasure? Then I push Him aside. Am I obsessed with self? Then I don’t see Him. To be filled with the Holy Spirit, I must be emptied of pride, anger, unforgiveness, self-seeking and lust. This means I need be willing to let go of those sins. I can’t live without sin. I’ll never be perfect. But I can choose what I will seek. I can choose to let go when I’m convicted. I can change directions when I realize I’m headed the wrong way. I can look to Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. I can ask the Holy...

When Depression Knocks

“I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.” Psalm 34:1 (NLT) I tend toward the melancholy. A while back I was struggling more often than usual with the temptation toward depression, a lack of joy, and an oppression of the spirit. I know there are many others who struggle with this and I want to share what helps me most. (To clarify: I’m NOT talking about chemical imbalance and I’m not discussing clinical depression, that is a medical condition for which professional help needs to be sought.) I’m talking about a feeling of sadness that comes for no obvious reason. Feeling gloomy or unhappy sometimes in spite of having things go well in life. It might be unexplained or it might come because of sin and suffering in the world or because of my own failings and weaknesses. When I fall into this kind of depression, these choices help me the most: • Singing praise to God out loud. Spending time alone with God and singing praise songs to Him is powerful. There’s more power in singing out loud but listening to praise music is also healing. • Prayer. Our greatest resource. We can tell God exactly how we feel. It’s important also to confess our sins. We can tell Him what we desire Him to do in our lives. If I feel powerless to pray, I pray the Psalms. Some that have helped me are Psalms 37, 34, 32, 23, 27, 40 and 42, but any of the Psalms are helpful. • Reading and meditating on Scripture. Reading God’s Word is essential....

Calm and Quiet

I get agitated when life isn’t going like I think it should. How can I fix this? What can I do? I feel this urgency for God to answer my prayers the way I want. Anxiety starts to drive out peace. God recently spoke to me through David’s wisdom in Psalm 131: “My heart is not proud, LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content…put your hope in the LORD now and forevermore.” Psalm 131:1-3 Pride goes before a fall by deceiving us and making us think we can do life on our own: but we can’t. We decide we know what the answer is and head out in a rush of pride and fall flat on our faces. A haughty person is filled with self and blinded by pride. I don’t have all the answers. There are mysteries in life and creation I don’t understand and I need to leave them in God’s hands. I trust all the unanswered questions to a loving and holy Father who knows everything. I leave to Him the mysteries of doctrine I don’t understand. I trust Him with the whys that come up in life. It takes humility to admit we just don’t know the answers. We can do nothing apart from Jesus. “I have calmed and quieted myself.” I love this statement. Calmed (composed, leveled out, made smooth). Striving, grasping and fretting are the opposite of...

Who SHOULD I Compare Myself To?

“If only I could write as well as she does.” “ Wouldn’t it be great to sing like that?” “I wish people were drawn to me the way they are to her.” “I can’t do this as well as she can so I’m not going to participate.” “Why can’t I be…. smarter, more talented, more popular, more gifted…?” All I can see is what she has that I don’t. We all have thoughts like these. I fight these thoughts daily. Sometimes I struggle with not wanting to use my gifts because I think they’re not as good as what someone else has or because I’m coveting someone else’s gift. Thoughts like these bring pain to our hearts. We feel left out: like we’re not good enough. We feel like God must like them more than He likes us. We all want to be loved and admired. But the truth is these beliefs go against the whole purpose of spiritual gifts! The whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 12 is clear about the role of spiritual gifts in the church. This verse sums it up: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV) To “each,” to every individual believer, a public demonstration of the power and purpose of the Spirit is given. These gifts are the Holy Spirit showing Himself through each believer. It’s not about us; it’s all about the Holy Spirit revealing Himself. For what purpose? To bring us together for the good of all and for the glory of God. How can there be pride when it’s...

Do I Keep it Secret?

“Is it wrong to tell people about the ministry I do?” A friend recently asked in reference to this passage: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:3-4   “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6   “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:17-18 We need both. Praying in secret and praying with others. Giving in secret and giving openly. Fasting in secret and fasting corporately. Secret times with God need to be the priority. Times when we give Him praise for His ears only are essential. I love to let praise flow from my heart. Yielding as His Spirit moves, making up tunes, singing and letting His word inspire me and fill me with thanksgiving and praise. He is pleased because He wants a love relationship with me. He desires secret times with us where we find joy in His presence. He wants us to talk to Him, giving Him thanks and telling Him our needs. He wants us to listen as He speaks...

Stuck In The Attic

Our beloved kitty stumbled into trouble. My husband was improving our attic, adding lights and flooring. While Russ worked, I diligently kept the study door closed and watched our cat Sugar, who was curious about the attic. While he was finishing the work and I was sorting through all the “stuff” we had stored, my husband asked, “Do you know where Sugar is?” “No,” I replied. He heard a persistent meow and discovered that she had sneaked into the attic and over to the eaves where the roof sloped down and was now about a foot down inside the wall. The small space prevented us from seeing or reaching her. Pitiful meowing filled the air. We tried putting a board over the opening, hoping she could jump up. No good. After an hour, I cried out, “She isn’t meowing anymore. Something’s wrong!” I called out to her, but she was silent. Our son came home and was alarmed to learn what happened. Russ decided to cut a hole through the roof to rescue her. He and Jake mounted the roof and began to saw directly above where she was trapped. I watched intently from the front lawn as Russ cut a hole in our roof with a power saw while Jake kept Sugar out of the way of the blade. Then she was airlifted to safety. (I wondered what the neighbors thought.) I rejoiced to see she was alive and well, though filthy. We petted her, cleaned her up and welcomed her with joy. You’d think she’d learned her lesson, but that night she jumped up and meowed to...