Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Knot





FDR said these words, but I don't want just any knot.






Paul, the apostle, and I have become friends in recent years. For a long time I didn’t get along with him; he rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t tolerate his candor or his authority very well. So, I avoided him. I called him names. I judged his motives and intentions. I believed Paul and his ideas and opinions were slanted and bent. But I began to listen to what the Spirit was saying through him. Finally, I put aside my own preconceived notions (that were based on faulty reasoning) and began to really hear what Paul had to say to God’s people—Paul and I fellowship together quite often now. There are times I still can’t quite grasp what he is saying to me, but the Spirit is using the truth that He taught Paul to teach me.

I often wonder how Paul felt when he was being lowered down the wall in the basket. Did he hang onto the rope as his ark decended? Did his friends have rope burns on their hands as a result of their care for Paul? Lately I have seen life as a rope that we cling  to and climb—and if we intend to hang on then we must have a knot at the end. I found my knot in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. We must wrap our arms and legs, actually our whole bodies, around this knot that Jesus tied for us.

This knot consists of three things:


1. HOPE.

Paul longs for God’s people (us) to understand that we have hope, an assurance, of what is coming. This hope guarantees us that there is more. It is more than wishful thinking. It is not hollow or arbitrary. This hope is firmly knotted in what Jesus did for us, and the Holy Spirit is a seal and deposit of this hope. It will be fulfilled.


2. INHERITANCE

Paul yearns for us to understand that as adopted children of God we have an inheritance available to us. But he wants to KNOW that this inheritance begins NOW. Unlike earthly inheritances, we receive God’s inheritance when we die. When we die daily to our selfish, sinful natures we begin to receive a portion of the riches of the inheritance right now. And when we pass from here, our complete inheritance will be waiting for us—and we can’t even imagine the scope of this glorious inheritance. Often we are like the prodigal son and fail to realize it begins in the present; we do not have to demand it be given to us, it’s already available. Often we live like orphans—never understanding what is available to us as children of God.

3. POWER

Paul prays that we will embrace and comprehend the power that is available to us. It is a power that cannot be compared to any other. It is NOT the greed  of this age and culture. It is a mighty and holy energy given to us to live out the calling God has purposed in each of us. Many of us have failed to employ that power and we attempt to live in and on our own power. Our power cannot exert enough energy to enable us to truly live. But my friend Paul tells us that the power that pulled Jesus out of death and into eternal life is the very same power available to us.




Truly Paul embraced the hope to which he had been called. He knew the reality of that hope and banked on it. I believe this hope was what enabled him to walk through and out of the beatings, the scourgings, the slander, the trials, the mobs, the prisons, the misunderstandings and the shipwrecks. His hope was not a wispy, delicate strand. No, it was a cord of three strands braided and knotted, wetted and dried in the blood of Jesus.

Truly Paul understood his inheritance. He knew the enormity and assurance of it. He had been taught about the inheritance of the Jewish people all his life, but in many ways that inheritance was always in the future. Through Jesus Paul came to understand that this inheritance had great benefits for him NOW. There were resources available now to enable him to live a life worthy of his calling.

Truly Paul comprehended the power of God—the resurrection power that can quicken those long dead. Paul learned to live in and utilize that power. He came back from death over and over. Spiritually and physically. This God-power fueled his daily life. It was this power that told Paul that though he considered himself a wretched man there was something available to help him live beyond. It was this power that enabled him to endure the thorn in his flesh and die daily to the desires of his flesh.

Truly Paul wants us to understand this knot. He wrote these truths that we might live.

Really live.

He didn’t want us to have to be knocked flat and cold on a Damascus Road in order to know that these are available to us.

Friends, let God tie your knot, and then grab it and hang on tight!

It will not come undone.

You can be assured.











Monday, June 10, 2013

Dirt and Peppers


In recent days Steve and I have been working and creating new landscape around our little house. I have never done this before on this level: mulch, annuals, bed borders and many other things I still don’t know the names. We have been working together, moving dirt, attempting to save dying azalea bushes and replanting tomato volunteers. This is a new world for me. We have been growing tomatoes for several years now, but this year we are attempting peppers and petunias.

Recently on one of our Saturdays off we had been working all day (by the end we had spent nine hours outside, oh happy day!) The sun was on high beam, the breeze was light. We had quite a few plants to get in the ground, but little space left to put them without creating a garden patch in the middle of the yard (which I am not ready for!). I did, however, have extra pots and decided to put pepper plants in these containers and put them on the porch. If nothing else they could be ornamental for a while.

There I sat in the front yard, in the middle of the sidewalk. My legs were wrapped around the pot and I was bent over totally absorbed in my task. I was mixing potting soil with top soil in a porch container. I dug in the loamy black dirt with my gloved hands. I didn’t like the results so I removed my gloves and sunk my bare hands in the mixture. I was completely unaware of my surroundings.

My husband spoke. Actually I didn’t realize he had sat down on the porch step in front of me and had been watching me play in my dirt.

“You’ve become quite the gardener.” He assessed.

Startled I looked up at him. Suddenly aware I was being observed.

I chortled, “Yeah, right. I don’t have a clue to what I am doing. I’m not a gardener.”

“Are you working with plants?” he prodded.

“Yes, but I don’t know their proper names. I just know it’s a pepper or tomato.”

“Are you mixing dirt?”

“Yes, but I don’t know if I even have the proper ratios or the right kind of soil. I am just simply guessing.”

“Are you using a little garden spade?”

“Yes.” I laughed unsure of exactly what his point might be and completely assured that just using a little shovel didn't make anyone a gardener.

“Do you have dirt on your hands? On your clothes? On your face?’

I looked down. My pants were smudged and streaked with dirt and white places of fertilizer. My fingernails were dark with caked dirt. I assumed that as a result of all of this my face must be dirty too.

“Are you planting a pepper?” He asked.

“Yes. But, Steve, I don’t know the Latin names for these plants. I don’t know when they will come to fruition. I don’t know when the peppers will be ready to harvest.”

He shook his head at me. This wonderful, indulgent husband of mine just grinned at me. “Tamera, I didn’t say you were a professional gardener, but you are a gardener. You are helping things grow.”

I just looked at him. The revelation didn’t come until later. I put the pepper in the pot and covered the stringy roots with soil. I patted down the dirt around  and watered it. Then I heaved the whole thing to the porch and sat it in its place. 

Later that night and the next day I was thinking about this whole exchange between us. I mulled over the dialogue. What I remembered, what came back to me with a vivid punch of clarity, was the look on my husband’s face when he startled me. 

When he spoke those words to me: “You’ve become quite the gardener.” I looked up and I wasn’t able to interpret the look on his face at the moment. In the midst of the words and the actions of the moment I wasn’t able to decipher what I was seeing on his face.

Later when the Spirit brought this conversation back to my mind (and yes, I do believe it was the Spirit.) I recognized Steve’s look.

It was delight.

Who knows how long he had been watching me—his wife playing in the dirt on the sidewalk. Who knows how long he watched me stir and pour and mix. Who knows how long he watched me push back my hair and leave black streaks on my face.

But when I looked up there was delight on his face.

I didn’t recognize it at first (later I asked him if I had interpreted correctly.)

As I pondered this I realized that this is how the Father looks at me.

My Father watches me with great delight when I am in the midst of doing the work he has called me to do. When I am sitting on the sidewalk, absorbed in the planting of the fragile little plants he has put in my care he is delighted.

I don’t have to know the Latin names. I don’t have to know the acidity of the soil. I don’t have to know when the plants will bear fruit. I just have to plant them. Water them. Nurture them.

You see, I’m just a little girl sitting on the sidewalk, playing in the dirt and trying to make things grow.

And when I do these things He is and will be delighted in me. And he will be delighted in you when you do the same.

Oh, and by the way, that pepper plant that my husband watched me plant?

Little peppers are growing on it.