Lessons from a Weed
Lessons from a Weed

Some say a weed is just a plant flourishing where you don’t want it to grow. The plant I gazed at certainly fit that description. Its tender green leaves and slim stem contrasted with the smoky-blue Florida sky as it grew in the gutter on my roof. Definitely a place I did not want it to flourish!

I had watched the foot-tall plant growing for several weeks. Inch by inch and day by day, I kept expecting the weed to wilt and die as it reached a point of no return. It didn’t belong there. Yet, there it was, tenaciously rooted in a most inappropriate place. A logical conclusion was that the gutter was filled with decaying leaves and dirt. The combination would naturally provide a welcoming environment for seeds carried by birds or the wind.

A kind neighbor offered to clean out the gutter and remove the weed. But when he climbed the ladder, he made an interesting discovery. The plant was not rooted in dirt. It was rooted in a single, decomposing piece of palm bark. The rest of the gutter was clean.

Lessons from a weed

The lessons taught by this weed were not lost on me.

Importance of Perseverance

First, I was reminded of the adage, “An oak tree is just an acorn that held its ground.” This plant flourished because a lone seed tenaciously clung to the only opportunity it had.

How often do I give up when life becomes difficult? It’s so easy to blame less than ideal circumstances for my failures. The characteristic of perseverance is much like a muscle: it needs exercise to grow in strength. James 1:12, says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial” (NIV). Galatians 6:9 reminds us to “not grow weary of doing good” (ESV) and Romans 5:3-4 tells us suffering produces perseverance.

Danger of Passivity

On the other hand, the second lesson I learned sprang from an observation by a friend. After viewing the photo, she noted, “Interesting how little it takes for a weed to take root.”

Hmmm…what about the weeds in my own life? Little sins easily grow into deep-rooted and destructive habits. And they do it with little to no conscious encouragement from me. Sort of how the weed sprouted and flourished while I passively watched it grow on my roof for weeks.

I love how Elisabeth Elliot addressed this warning:

“Spiritual strongholds begin with a thought. One thought becomes a consideration. A consideration develops into an attitude, which leads then to action. Action repeated becomes a habit, and a habit establishes a “power base for the enemy,” that is, a stronghold.”

What thoughts am I tolerating today that will become strongholds tomorrow?

The final lesson reminds me of yet another adage:

Bloom Where You’re Planted

There were many better places in my yard for that weed to grow, but it grew where it was planted.

Am I content in where God has planted me? Am I listening for the prompts of the Holy Spirit to share Jesus where I am and to be a blessing to those God has placed in my life? Or am I looking longingly at other peoples’ lives, wishing I had been planted in their circumstances instead?

One little weed. Three big lessons.
What are your thoughts?


 
Abounding in Hope Despite the Rain
Hope in Suffering

Hurricane Barry made landfall on the Louisiana coast in July as 2019’s first hurricane. As Barry approached, fears about the Category 1 hurricane focused primarily on water damage from storm surge, an already high Mississippi river, and torrential rain.

And Hurricane Dorian is churning in the Atlantic, aiming for Florida’s east coast as I type this.

Even those who haven’t lived through a hurricane can still relate. Life has a way of hitting all of us with figurative storm surges, high rivers and hammering rains.

I’m familiar with the line, “Into each life some rain must fall,” made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and The Inkspots in 1944. I’m equally familiar with another adage, “It never rains but it pours.” A little rain is one thing. Torrential and unending downpours are quite another.

If you’re not in a season where troubles or suffering seem to be multiplying, you’ve either just come out of such a season or you’re about to go into one. It’s part of life in a broken, sin-sick world.

So how are we to respond to life experiences that feel like a combination of storm surges, high rivers, and torrential rains? Experiences that seem to magnify our brokenness, inflame our fears, or expose our vulnerability?

We approach these experiences with hope. Not the fragile, undependable hope our world offers, but the solid biblical hope flowing from our identity in Christ as children of our heavenly Father.

Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

What is your “despite”? We all have at least one. It could be a dream that seems continually out of reach. Or a prodigal child bent on their own way. It might be a medical diagnosis or a financial deficit. Or it could be a combination of several “despites.” My own “despite” is this new chapter of my life as a widow.

Still, no matter how dark the darkness is, we can have hope. We can remind ourselves of God’s past faithfulness. Of the hope we have for an eternity through Christ. And of the equipping we have from the indwelling Holy Spirit.

This hope fuels courage. Courage to persevere when we’re tired. Strength to continue when we’re weak. Encouragement when we’re discouraged. Power to endure when we’re drained.

The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote to the early church in Rome:

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 NASB).

The word abound means to overflow, flourish, or thrive. So when our rivers overflow and the storms of life flourish, so can hope in the child of God. Regardless of our situation, we could all use some abounding, overflowing, flourishing, and thriving hope, don’t you agree?

Besides…we can’t have rainbows without the rain.

What is your “despite”?
How is hope carrying you through it today?


 
The Relationship Between Worry, Trust, and Eternity
Worry

It happens all too frequently. I sing praises to God on Sunday morning and wake early on Monday morning beset by worry.

The cause might be my growing to-do list. Or circumstances outside my control. It could be due to loss and grief. Actually, the reason is less important than my response.

Worry. Anxiousness.

It comes in the form of a thought life that constantly imagines the worst possible outcome for any situation. I might worry about health, finances, relationships, safety, or any of a hundred other topics.

When I find myself worrying, it means several things.

First, I’m depending on myself. Specifically, I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that outcomes are dependent on my own ability.

Being consumed by worry also takes me out of the present. Instead of enjoying today, I’m too busy obsessing about tomorrow.

And depending on myself means I’m not trusting God. Worry means I believe the lie that God is not working for my ultimate good and His eternal glory.

Antidote to Worry

The antidote to worry is to remember who we belong to.

And that leads to understanding what salvation in Christ really means. Our salvation has 3 components:

Past

At the moment we trust Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior God declares us justified in His sight (Romans 5:1). Justification means we have a right standing before God. His wrath is no longer directed toward our sin, for Jesus “drank” the full cup of God’s wrath against sin when He died on the cross for us.

So I have no need to worry about the past. As a Christian, my past has been covered by the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Present

But God did not stop at addressing our past. He also addresses our present. Every committed believer in Jesus Christ has the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (II Thess. 2:13). The Holy Spirit does the work of sanctification in our life—a  lifelong process of becoming what God has declared us to be: righteous!

So I have not need to worry about the present. God is at work in my life to make me more like His Son. And He will use every situation in my life toward that end.

Future

Finally, we look forward to an amazing future. At the moment a Christian dies, he or she is immediately in the presence of God. As the apostle Paul said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Our glorification includes having glorified bodies, free from even the temptation of sin.

 

Understanding the full breadth of our salvation reminds us God is in control, so there’s nothing to worry about. Whatever happens in this life is both temporary and will be used by our heavenly Father for our good and His glory.

Kick worry to the door and replace it with trust in the Lord who has us covered: past, present, and future!


 
Where Do You Belong?
Belonging

I’ve had some unexpected—and unwanted—visitors this past week.

The first occurred when I let the dogs out one evening for their final outing. A tree frog took the opportunity to hop into the house. Let’s just say he was not easy to catch. Of course, attempting to catch a frog while trying to corral two large boxers is no easy task to begin with. But with a little perseverance, I captured Mr. Tree Frog and released him outside.

Two days later, I’m sitting at my laptop when my dog fixates on a corner in the living room. I get up to see why she’s so laser-focused, but there’s nothing there. The dog remains unconvinced and becomes more agitated. Now I’m wondering what she knows that I don’t know. On the off chance something’s hiding, I angle the furniture away from the wall and find a big, fat lizard, at least 8 inches long.

So, once again I corral the dogs and lock them up. Then I chase the lizard around the house until I catch it. Actually, I caught it 3 times, but it kept escaping. The 4th time was the charm and Mr. Lizard is now enjoying the outside…where he belongs.

Of course, neither of these visitors compares with the alligator who crashed a window to enter a house elsewhere in Florida. Thankfully—and with apologies to that homeowner—I’m glad the gator was not my unwanted visitor #3.

I consider myself to be a lover of nature, but I’m sure you’ll understand when I say some components of nature belong outside and need to remain there.

Which brings me to us…

How do we know where we belong? Or who we belong to?

For Christ-followers, I Corinthians 3:13 tells us Christians belong to Christ. So what we do and where we go should be guided by who we belong to.

Just as a tree frog does not belong in my house, there are places I don’t belong either. This is not about being legalistic, nor is it about isolating ourselves from those who don’t know Christ. It is about making wise choices about my entertainment, the work I do, and the values I espouse. It has everything to do with the books I read, movies I watch, and how I spend my time.

True confession…when I was a new Christian in my early 20s, I was invited to be a bridesmaid for a childhood friend. Her bachelorette party was a girls’ night out at a bar watching men dance and encouraging them with dollar bills—if you know what I mean.

I knew I did not belong there. I was as out-of-place as that tree frog in my living room. But I didn’t have the courage to decline, and I didn’t have the courage to leave by myself after our group arrived. Instead, I sat in a corner, slumped down in my seat, nursed a soda, and prayed the night would end quickly.

Oh, and I prayed for one more thing. You see, as a fairly new Christian, I had only recently learned about eschatology (theology related to end-times). I was terrified Jesus might return that night. I did not want to be seen coming out of a male dance club to join Jesus in the air!

That embarrassing and convicting evening happened almost 40 years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday. And the lesson has stayed with me all these years: don’t go where I don’t belong.

I belong to Christ. My identity is wrapped up in Him. The direction of my thoughts, the words I speak, the things I do, and the places I go are to reflect Who I belong to. That means listening for the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do or go—or not to do or go, rather than following other people. It means understanding that what is okay for someone else, even other Christians, will not always be okay for me.

It also means being willing—and having the courage—to stand alone in obedience to Adonai, the sovereign Lord who purchased me out of the slave market of sin to belong to Him.

Who do you belong to?
If you belong to Christ, do your choices reflect your identity?


 
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