Cultivating Beautiful Weeds

I’m not the world’s best gardener – in fact anything that grows in our garden really has to have its own will to survive. We do have a veggie patch, which I like to call the ‘Garden of Neglect’. In an old shoe display case we grow spinach, peas and tomatoes – well we do as long as the rain waters them! One thing I am quite good at growing are weeds – look at this beautiful example:

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Obviously this weed has been given free reign & rain for most of the Cape Town’s winter and has become a beautiful flower. I always heard that a weed is just a plant growing in the wrong place.

a valueless plant growing wild, especially one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop. any undesirable or troublesome plant, especially one that grows profusely where it is not wanted

The problem with my beautiful weed is that it will eventually do damage to our wall and drive way. It looks beautiful and harmless, but eventually it will not be. Why have I not taken it out? Two reasons – honestly I’m lazy when it comes to weeding and I think it is rather beautiful!

There in lies the problem – I think it is the same in my life when it comes to weeding out bad habits and sins. I get lazy, change is too much hard work and if I am honest sin feels good (maybe not now – that is part of the damage that comes later – guilt, shame, separation from God). Jesus suggested a very radical solution for sin weeds and bad habits – serious gardening:

Matthew 5: 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

I am guilty of not taking sin in my life seriously, of being lazy and being comfortable with my beautiful flowering weeds. The damage comes later – the roots go too deep, causing cracks in relationships and it becomes more and more difficult to get rid of the sin weed. The only solution is to cut out the weed – it is dirty, hard work – not fun, and not easy. But God offers us help:

1 Corinthians 10.13  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it

God takes sin seriously as it is so damaging to us and our relationships – the good news is that He also takes forgiveness and reconciliation seriously too.

Lord, help me to be radical in dealing with sin weeds in my own life. Help me to weed out bad habits before they become flowers that I have grown too found of and whose roots go too deep.

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Chocolate Digestives, Blame And Drawing The Line.

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(Photo Credit: Chris Vreeland)

I blame my big brother for my love of chocolate – apparently when I was a few hours old he stuck a chocolate digestive biscuit in my mouth as I sounded hungry. So any chocolate related weight gain must be Big Bro’s fault….

I have been thinking a lot lately about blame – there is such an easy tendency to blame other people for our problems and for our wrong choices. Where do we draw the line at and acknowledge our own faults and sin choices?

It is our in built sin nature that points fingers to other people – Adam and Eve did it. Adam straight away said it was the women you made God who made me eat the fruit – in one fell swoop blamed both Eve and God Himself. Eve straight away blamed the serpent.

Genesis 3: 9-13 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

I remember a teacher in primary school when there was a fight or disagreement would get each party to tell their side of the story, but they had to start the story with ‘I did…’ or ‘I said….’ It was so hard to figure out how to blame someone that way!

It can be hard to accept our responsibility for our sin and our mess ups. Often a lot of what we do we justify by the things people have done to us. I don’t want to minimize the horrible things people have done to each other – yes that does have an effect, it does create a reaction in us (God sees that hurt and it does matter to Him) – but where do I draw the line in my ownership of my wrong choices? If the blame is always passed then the motivation to change can be lost in being the one sinned against, rather than realizing that I’m also one who sins.

So I ask today:

Psalm 139. 23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

I am also mindful that Jesus once drew the line – for the women caught in adultery – and it was a line of grace and forgiveness.

Help me Lord to take responsibility for my wrong choices, and the things I do that sin against you. Thank you Lord for your forgiveness and grace.

Dummy Dummy Dummy and other habits

A few weeks ago I had decided that if my daughter’s dummy goes missing again I would see how she does without it. It was one of those decision made without really thinking about the fear and trepidation that would follow when it actually came to pass. Two nights ago dummy dummy was nowhere to be found. I looked high and low, and panicked. All the spare dummies are also awol – our dummy count went from four to one and now disaster to zero. I asked Jenny where it was – she told me confidently it was in the bin. Then she told me it was in the fish that was in the cake!! Not very helpful. So with a prayer I told her that it was gone. She did ask for I a few times that evening but went to bed without much of a protest. The next morning she did ask for it and the poor thing walked around the house trying out her dollies little plastic dummies and bottles – she looked like an addict trying to get a fix but finding none, gave up.

We are now on day two – two nights normal sleep with no dummy and this morning there had been no request for dummy dummy at all. Phew – have we made it or is she plotting some kind of terrible revenge??

It got me thinking about what are my dummy dummies – what things do I hold too close to that have become an addiction. Habits that are comfortable but destructive. Sins that are well worn that you keep going back to because they are too comfortable. Why can I not quit them as easily? Maybe the hold is too long and too deep. But ff dummy was there Jenny would be using it – the same is with my sin and bad habits – the environment is there, you are always tripping over temptation. If I truly want to give some of my junk up I would need to take radical measures – to cut myself off from the environment that holds temptation and also to have some intervention. Jenny did not willing give up her dummy – she had outside help. I need outside help too and thankfully I have a Father God who can play the parent in this.

1 Corinthians 10:13 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Lord, when I am tempted to pick up my junk and sin, to turn to old habits for comfort, help me to trust them to you. Help me to look for your way out.

Flying snails and other bad habits

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(Photo Credits: Adam Foster)

Mum was right all along. The best thing to do with snails in your garden is to throw them into your neighbours – it turns out that a snail will not travel more than 20 metres to get back to your garden again. This was a technique my Mum practised for a long time, but it is not without its risks. I do remember one afternoon coming home and going out to the garden to look for Mum. She was lying in a bush flat against the fence between our house and the neighbours. When I asked her what she was doing she said: shss, get down! She had thrown a snail into the neighbours and it had crashed into their kitchen window so she had had to duck for cover!

That principle of distance is a good one though. We do need to out a reasonable distance between whatever tempts us to sin:

Matthew 5:27-30 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

I am not a strong willed person when it comes to temptation – for example if I’m dieting I cannot keep cookies in the house – there is no point even trying. It is better to cut myself off from them altogether (or to store them in the neighbours). God calls us to take drastic measures when dealing with sin in our lives, to separate ourselves from whatever causes / tempts us to sin. Too often we toy with temptation, testing our limits, knowing God’s forgiveness is a prayer away. God takes sin seriously and calls us to do the same.

Lord, help me deal drastically with sin in my life, help me to throw away and put distance between whatever is tempting me. Thank you that your forgiveness is always available, but help me not take it for granted.

Growing Giants

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(Photo credit: Henry Burrows)

This weekend I was told if I measure my two year old now and double her height I will find out how tall she will be as an adult. The result surprised me – 170 cm – a whole 7cm taller than me. I’m not convinced – she seems quite petite to me, but you never know. I suppose that could be her potential growth, but factoring in environment, diet, health, if she takes up smoking (she better not!!!) the end results may come out differently. There are many ways that growth can be stunted – according to one blog I read even your beliefs can affect your height!!

It got me to thinking about my spiritual growth – I wonder what my potential is and have I stunted my growth along the way. If I were to list the things that potential stop spiritual growth I would include:

  1. Sin
  2. Bad habits
  3. Wrong thoughts
  4. Lack of discipline – inc prayer and reading bible
  5. Influence of wrong company
  6. Lack of rootedness in God

I’m sure there are others. But what is my potential? According to 1 John our potential is to one day be like Him – Jesus.

1 John 3:1-7 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

What amazing potential we have to grow and be like Jesus – I know we won’t achieve this this side of heaven, but it is certainly worth aiming for. Just as I can provide the best diet and environment I can for my daughter’s growth so I can try to do the same for myself.

Lord help me to deal with anything in my life that stunts my growth in You. When you see me you see I have the potential to be like your Son – help me aim for that.

What stunts your growth?

Ten items or less

I confess – yesterday I went through the ‘Ten items or less checkout’ with twelve items. It is very unlike me to do something so terrible – as I counted the items coming through I felt terrible. No one was behind me in the queue and my faux pas was not intentional – yet I felt bad, I even though of abandoning some items.  I have mentioned before that I have an overactive conscience. Yet I have come realised that it is not that my conscience is over active, it is actually out of tune. I get bothered by the breaking of rules – especially when there can be consequences such as fines, or people looking at me badly. Yet when it comes to breaking other ‘rules’ or standards where the consequences are not so noticeable my conscience does not kick in in the same way.

It is funny how I am a stickler for the ‘ten item or less’ rules yet it doesn’t bother me so much to tell a ‘white lie’, to over indulge, to gossip. It seems that in my dysfunctional conscience the rules that can be punished as more important than the ones that disappoint God. It is a scary thought as it is precisely what Jesus realised the Pharisees were doing:

Matthew 23:2-7  “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  3  So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.  4  They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.  5  “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;  6  they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;  7  they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi.’

Yet God calls us to a deeper faith than just appearance. He calls us to holiness, not just good living.

1 Peter 1:14-16  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  15  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  16  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Lord, I ask you to help me care more about what You think than about what others think. I pray that You will transform my dysfunctional conscience by Your Holy Spirit so that I will develop a true dislike of sin and a yearning for holiness.

My singing washing machine

I made a lovely discovery this weekend – the sound of a little electronic tune drifted from our kitchen to my ears – my new-to-me washing machine sings a song when it has finished its job! I went on a cleaning frenzy and then realised that I also needed to go on an ironing frenzy. The bad thing is that I know these clothes won’t stay clean – by the end of the week I’ll be listening to the washing machines happy tune.

Job expresses this frustration that he can pick himself up, clean himself off but yet through circumstances God would let him land in the dirt again.

Job 9:30-31  Even if I scrub myself all over and wash myself with the strongest soap I can find,  31  It wouldn’t last–you’d push me into a pigpen, or worse, so nobody could stand me for the stink. (The Message)

You see God didn’t make our lives out of Teflon – our circumstances, our decisions and mistakes mark and mar our lives. Unfortunately God doesn’t stop this from happening and in the case of Job He is even the cause of the landing in the pigpen! Why would God let us go through stuff like this again and again? It seems to me that without falling in the pig pen (or being pushed) we may not remember turn to God. He is the only one who can cleanse us and thankfully He does so again and again.

James 4:8-10  Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  9  Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  10  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

By coming to God we receive more than cleansing but he lifts us up and transforms us.

Psalms 51:7-8  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  8  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

In fact when He cleanses us we too, like my washing machine, can sing a song of joy. So the choice is ours – to wallow in the dirt and to say there is no point in getting clean as tomorrow will bring another pigpen, or we can come to God and get a transforming make over, knowing when we land in the mud again tomorrow we can go back to Him again.