Sunday, February 25, 2018

Feed the Soil

Does the title of this post sound funny to you? Is it something you've thought of before? Chances are the phrase isn't real familiar and may sound a little odd. I've lived on a farm nearly all my life and though I know about fertilizer and have heard of ways to enhance the crops we plant, this phrase is new.

The other night I was listening to a speaker talk about organic farming with my husband. Often these messages leave me feeling like I'm in chemistry class and typically they go over my head. I can pick rock and pull weeds, but when it comes to the science of farming, count me out.

Though I don't understand this aspect of our way of life, I do greatly appreciate the lessons God teaches us as we work the land. When this speaker said, "Feed the Soil," and then went on to explain why and how I didn't think about the dirt in our fields, but instead my mind focused on the soil of my heart. And friend, there are some similarities.

As a farmer's wife, I've never given much attention to feeding the soil. I know my husband tills the soil, cares for the plant and works hard to remove weeds, but feeding the soil presented a new idea. This speaker talked thoroughly about nutrients the soil needs, the impact they have and important role they play in the crop that is harvested. The condition of the soil directly effects the harvest that is produced.

Do you think we can say the same about the soil of our heart? I think so, but the Bible tells us so. The Parable of the Sower clearly talks about different soil types. In Matthew, we read about soil by the road, soil that is rocky, thorny and good. Each soil type impacts the plant that grows and fruit that's harvested. This is true but there's more.

An experienced farmer is not going to plant their crop in bad soil...they know not to put seed in the ground if it's rocky or full of weeds. As believers when we are aware of weeds, we pull them out. If we see a rock of sin in our heart, we remove it. We know our faith will grow when our soil is good, but like a farmer can we make it better?

When my husband started farming organically, this was a more challenging question, but through the years he's learned and discovered ways to feed the soil. He's improved the condition of our soil which has resulted in increased production for our crops. What if you and I take the time to learn about and work on the soil of our heart?

I'll be honest, I don't have all the answers, but that's Ok because I can remind you to go to the One who has all the answers. God created the soil of our hearts and plants the seeds into it; He has the answers and is willing to give us the wisdom and equip us for the work. My husband learns from speakers and reads books to gain information, you and I can learn from the Lord and read His Word.

A few verses..."Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you." (Hosea 10:12) Friend, before we can feed the soil, we need to care for the soil. Is your heart hard? How can you break up your unplowed ground?

"Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm." (Proverbs 13:20) A farmer can use tools and nutrients to feed the soil of his fields, fellowshipping and learning from fellow believers can impact the soil of our hearts. Who is influencing you? Do the people you share with, books you read, movies you watch and sites you visit fill you up or leave you empty? Do they build your faith or push you away from the Lord?

"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." (John 4:34) We can't specifically say Jesus was referring to feeding the soil of his heart, but I believe our obedience today impacts the condition of our heart for tomorrow. Are you obeying the Lord? How does your obedience impact your faith and relationship with Christ? Do you think obedience is linked to your prayer life, worship and time in the Word?

These are a few of my initial thoughts and I'd love to hear yours on how to feed the soil, so please feel free to leave a comment. Farmers never stop learning and they are constantly sharing with one another, don't you think we should do the same as believers?

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord thank you for how you created us. Each and every part. You've created the world around us and have lessons for us to learn. Thank you for this lesson from the farm. Help me feed the soil of my heart. Show me how and then give me the diligence to do the work that it requires. Plant the seed, water it and make it grow. May the harvest be plentiful. In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Excell Still More

At the completion of our basketball season, we gave the girls evaluation forms. The other coach and myself rated the girls on various categories in hopes to motivate them to improve for next year. This job was not easy and I found myself giving many needs improvement and average scores. Prior to passing these out to the girls, we shared that they are in junior high and each have potential for improvement. I even made the statement, "As 7th and 8th graders, you should not be peeking at this point in your playing careers."

The girls didn't say a whole lot after their initial read through, but in the days that followed I found myself thinking about them quite a bit. I found myself thinking...I hope these forms served as motivation not discouragement. I hope the girls can focus on improving their weaknesses instead of being defeated by them. I hope they know with work they can be even better next year than they were this year.

My thoughts didn't stop there; instead God did what He usually does and applied this lesson to my life. First I wondered, "How would the girls evaluate me as a coach?" Then it went a bit deeper - "What if Job evaluated me as a wife? Or my kids filled out a 'Mom' evaluation?" And the deepest thought of all - "What if God was completing it?"

Reflecting on the day that had passed immediately brought to mind areas that needed improvement. I thought about things I'd done wrong and times my patience was short. The temptation for condemnation was there, but thankfully I tuned out the lies from Satan and focused on some positive words loved ones had shared with me as well.

Just like each of my basketball girls, I've had moments of success, but I also have plenty of room for improvement. Friend, can you say the same? I don't know what your roles are, but could you do better? How do you respond when someone says there's room for improvement? Do you see that as a positive or a negative?

Athletes tend to be competitive and have a drive to do better so this type of talk should be motivating, but I know it can be discouraging in ways as well. Improvement takes time and work, but in the world of sports that translates to success. Improvement costs the same for a wife, mom and follower of Jesus too, but it's rewards are priceless.

I encourage you to find some time to think about the roles you play and attitude you have. If you're really feeling brave discuss these things with a loved one. Ask them how you are doing. If you want to really improve, spend some time in the Word and in prayer and ask God to evaluate your heart.

As the answers come, don't be discouraged. I coach my kids and see their potential; God created you and knows your future. He wants what's best for each of us. We'd be wise to listen to what He says and then work on what He suggests.

These thoughts brought to mind a powerful passage I've been meditating on. In 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul says, "Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more." (Verses 9-10)

Just like these people from long ago, we most likely know what we need to do, but can be encouraged to excel still more! I don't know if it's love, forgiveness, obedience, abiding in the Word or something else, but can I encourage you today to do it better today than you did yesterday. Like my junior high girls, you and I have room for improvement! Don't peak today, but instead keeping work towards perfection for tomorrow!! 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Learning from a Loss

Sports…they are truly just games, but they can give us a glimpse of life. This past weekend my daughter’s junior high team participated in a tournament that found us matched up with schools 5 times the size of ours. Now basketball is basketball, but sometimes opportunities and numbers play a part in development. We saw this as the day came to an end. We lost each game, but yet as a coach and mom, I know there were benefits in all that took place.

I briefly shared some thoughts with the team before we all went our own way; then my daughter and I discussed things to a greater extent. Two days have passed and I continue to think about it. I have realized there are not just lessons for the Wildcats, but friend, as believers there are things you and I can learn as well.

 Teammates Are Necessary

 At times during our regular season, one player could get the ball and go score…that doesn’t happen very easily when the competition is strong. When a team runs a full court press, players must work together to get the ball in. When life is hard and trials come, we can’t stand alone. We must ask others for help and prayer. When God calls us to ministry and equips us to live out the great commission, we must work together. We are each unique as is our call, but together we are the body and that is important.
"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." 1 Corinthians 12:27

Focus to the Finish

It would have been easy for our girls to give up, but they had to persevere and finish what they started. This phrase also makes me think of my other daughter’s team…the young Cats won their first two games and then lost by 2. A little too much confidence may have contributed to that loss, so all in all no matter what it is we are doing or the circumstances of life we must set our eyes on Jesus and the task at hand. We can’t be content to go through the motions or so discouraged we give up all together. Basketball players have to focus play after play; disciples of Jesus must be focused moment after moment.
"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

A Wake-Up Call

Thinking about loses had me reflecting on a few defeats I suffered in my playing career. Those thoughts led to a powerful statement…sometimes a loss wakes a team up and sometimes a trial can do the same for a Christian. Prior to Saturday, both of my girls teams had been on win streaks. Things were going well, progress was being made and everyone was happy. In the moment these loses were tough, but I told them sometimes you grow and learn more from a loss than a win. When wins follow wins it can be easy to take things for granted and not work as hard, but that’s not a formula for long term success. When life goes well, we can do the same. Sometimes we’re tempted to do things on our own and forget to rely on God for everything. Just like a loss reminds a team there’s room for improvement, a trial reminds a Christian God is in control.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4 

An Eye Opener

To build on the previous point, defeat opens a team’s eyes to where improvement is needed and conviction helps a believer see their sin. Losing isn’t fun and neither is conviction, but they both play a role. Some of the most successful teams can look back at a loss and know it played a key part in future victories. The same is true for disciples of Jesus…some of our most difficult times in life are the ones where we experience God’s presence the most and are ones He uses to minister to others through us.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

It Will Happen

Losing is a part of sports. I personally don’t know anyone involved in athletics who has never won every competition they participated in. If you suit up for a team, chances are pretty high you will eventually experience defeat. In the same way if you call yourself a Christian, you will be persecuted. As a young girl, I dreamed of playing for a state championship, envisioned making the winning basket and lots of other great things, but I never thought about losing. I can say the same about my early days as a believer…I thought about serving the Lord, ministering to others and growing closer to Christ, but I never once anticipated being persecuted for my faith. Thankfully, the persecution I experience pales in comparison to what some brothers and sisters walk through, but yet just like losing, it happens.  The important thing is how are you prepared to respond when it does? Will you quit the team, give up and move on to the next thing? Or will use this as motivation to not only get better, but grow closer to Christ? Like I told the girls, the answer is up to you!

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. John 15:21