Planting Seeds by faith…

When spring springs cold and the ground lies chill and sodden it’s a risk to plant seeds.

The seed may rot in the ground before it can germinate, or be scavenged by a watchful crow.
The seed may sprout only to succumb to ‘damping off’ disease.
The seedling may emerge to beckon a voracious slug and become his lunch.
The plants may fail to thrive for want of a better soil, a better season, a better care-taker.
Mysterious maladies, competitive willow-tree roots, invisible predators may secretly sabotage the whole crop by day. Or by night a blundering bear or hungry deer may un-do a whole season of diligence.

Why plant?

So I hang onto my seeds–boxes and envelopes and recycled plastic containers of them… from last year’s harvest, and the year’s before and before that… My cupboard grows cluttered with them. The names and the pictures stir hopeful ideals. But the planting of them seems so treacherous an alternative, so risky. I fancy the harvests they could produce but cling impotent to their potential in the package, fearful of the sowing. Yet how will a seed have any hope of growing to flower and fruit if it stays in my hoard for ‘safe-keeping’? There is no hope where the seed is not planted. It may seem safe, but it will die inside its shell over time. Its potential can only be realized where risk is taken.

The promises of God are like that. Seeds, that must be planted in the ground of life-as-it-is, by faith. Seeds that must be watched over in undying hope. When the promises of God are planted like seed in ground that is hard, and circumstances that loom destructive, to hope in their fulfillment is a daunting thing.

A child may well be hopeful when he plants his first bean seed in a cup in a sunny window, just knowing a miracle will happen. But what happens when his experience has brought disappointment? Or frustration. Or discouragement. How do we keep hope alive and keep planting those seeds?

I read that tough times are good for us; they breed endurance (how many times have I been reminded that I need to develop perseverance?) But that’s not all; endurance produces ‘experience’(KJV), or in other words, ‘proven character’, which in turn is supposed to yield hope (Rom.5). What then has derailed in my process of learning hope? Why am I so prone to ‘casting away my confidence’? I stood out in the garden leaning on my shovel staring off into space the other day and just felt the whole enterprise was hopeless. Plagued with such insinuations, I struggled through an afternoon of weeding and turning earth and finally managed to transplant some vulnerable seedlings from their safe hothouse to the wide world of the garden. I even tucked some sunflower seeds in the ground in hopes of glory to come. But I must say, the process which is usually a therapeutic ‘fix’ of soil and sun, was a struggle to hope against hope, and keep going. It was oppressive, these almost audible messages of hopelessness that overlaid my every thought and move that afternoon in the garden.

Ha! Did I say I was wondering about the ‘fight of faith’? Is it a real fight? This was more than an afternoon with the plants. It was a ‘heads-up’ to shore up my weaknesses in the area of persevering in hope and learning to ‘take every thought captive’. If the garden be the battleplace, then so be it. I’ve got to get training somewhere! Abraham stands as my hero of faith: “Who against hope believed in hope” (Rom.4:18) His hope lay in the future, secure in God’s unchanging promises. The fruitfulness of my garden has no such guarantee, but the fruitfulness of my life must be pegged to God’s promise and faithfulness—I am heir to Abraham’s promise: ‘Surely I will bless you and multiply you’ and to the sure hope of the ‘glory of God’. The fact that God has vowed it and it’s impossible for Him to lie gives us a refuge to flee to and “strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:18).

Truth is, I find I don’t have all the answers to responding when doubts fly. That day in the garden singing the old hymns was a start. Filling my mouth with thanks to God for every little thing I could see (and the things I can’t yet see that I’m trusting Him for) helped. By prayer, turning all my efforts over to Him for whatever results–only that His Kingdom come, His will be done on this piece of earth and in this heart and in the lives of those my prayers touch… these are the seeds I planted that afternoon while I plugged away at pulling weeds and turning soil and tucking little seedling into place in hopes of brighter days to come…

For every little prayer of faith is a seed planted. As it must be planted in hopes of what is not yet seen, that means I open myself to potential for disappointment–a big bad word in the book of my personality. But I’m called to confidently plant seeds anyway for the Kingdom’s sake. Will cold springs and damp rot, slugs, insidious roots and wild animals thwart my best efforts? Perhaps. My call is to be faith-filled, to persevere, and to plant the seeds God supplies. The rest is up to Him.

And seriously, I do have some beans to get planting, come what may, today!


‘Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food…
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.’

‘Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,

and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.’ Rom.5:2-5

‘Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.’ Ps.31:24

‘Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.’ Ja.5:7,8

‘For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.’ Heb.10:36

‘Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.’ II Cor.9:10,11

P.S. If you’ve read all the way down here to the very last morsel, may I bless you with some faith-building  music I found this week? Laura Story has her own story of trusting God through real trials—her husband is facing a brain tumor.  The  songs of trust and praise that this has yielded are precious.  A playlist of her songs is available on YouTube at:

Don’t miss “Blessings”   and  “Perfect Peace” (my favorites)!


A Place to Rest in the Fight for Faith

Have you ever puzzled over how it works that we are in a ‘fight of faith’, armed to the hilt against the ‘schemes of the devil’, ever alert and persevering, ever praying for ‘all the saints’… and yet called to REST. In fact we’re called to ‘strive to enter that rest!’ I don’t know about you but I find this a challenging balancing act.

On carefree days, preferably with the sun shining and ‘everything going my way’ (and Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder), I can see quite clearly that rest has to do with maintaining a calm and confident faith in God that knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that He is both present and working for my best good in everything.

But then there are those days… when the body has its ills and the weather is dismal besides. Or perhaps prayers don’t appear to be heard and circumstances seem daunting in one way or another. Then the enemy of our souls, not known to ‘play fair’, zeroes in on our weakest points and whispers his toxins in our ears… gloomy things, hopeless things, reminisces that make the present seem disappointing, fearful prognosis—dismal thoughts to drag down soul and body. The interplay of physical and spiritual is not always obvious. Yes, maybe a good nap and some heart-pumping exercise would do wonders to clarify the situation. I’ve found these to be spiritually beneficial solutions at times. But sometimes there is more to it. When weariness washes desire for everything away, even the passion of one’s calling (and the nap doesn’t fix it)… look out for sabotage.

The temptation may be to ‘throw in the towel’ on some ministry we thought was our calling…or to just shrug and not care about anything…or to grumble, whine, stone somebody, or go to bed for the rest of the day! How do we resist? This is where it helps to have that foundation of trust in God’s goodness and presence with us, firmly laid. The active acknowledgment of these truths will keep the muscle in our faith and prevent us from being easy prey for the enemy’s taunts: “Where is your God?” and the subsequent accusations he knows best how to tailor to our weaknesses.

What do I mean by ‘active acknowledgment’? Well, I’m thinking along the lines of thanksgiving and praise and rejoicing in the Lord, who after all is my strength. I keep being brought back to these themes.
I’ve been memorizing Psalm 32 with Rachel. This is David’s celebration of finding forgiveness after a wearisome harboring of sin. It concludes: “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” He’s excited! Reciting this aloud with enthusiasm is counter-intuitive some school mornings. But it surely is a safeguard against the gloomies! Another line in this psalm says: “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.”(32:7) What is that supposed to mean–‘shouts of deliverance’? I haven’t done any formal word studies or read any commentaries on this but as I mulled it over I pictured God calling out something like: “Over here! Grab the lifeline… here’s the way out” and I thought of Paul’s words about temptation: ‘and He will make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it’ (I Cor.10:13).

If I believe this, my response will be to look to God for the way out. If I don’t… well, likely I’ll sound like the thirsty Israelites in the desert: “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Ex.17:7) They seemed to even exasperate God! After all He’d done to show them His loving care and continuous presence, had they forgotten everything? (Have I?) Even the cloud over their heads (while they complained) sparing them from the blazing heat of noonday sun in the desert? And now they’re ready to stone Moses and run back to Egypt’s ‘free’ food. God did not look lightly on their whining. He saw it as rejection of Himself:

“…you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before him, saying, ‘Why did we come out of Egypt?’” (Numbers 11:20)

And since trusting in His care was their only hope of getting to a place of rest, they got to wander restless for the remainder of their lives.

I don’t want that to be my lot! I don’t really want to be a doubting whiner who panics every time life seems rough. God has chosen to call me His own and to stick with me through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer… committed to my eternal well-being. He invites me to bring my requests with the assurance that He hears each one (I Jn. 5:14,15). He supplies me with all the armor I need for any battle and the sword of His word besides. He asks me to stand firm in faith, nothing flinching, resting in His strength… Surely I can rest in His commitment to me and learn to live out my vows in return. He is mine, and I am His. Nothing can separate us. Will I struggle in this union or learn to rest? Surely I pay Him the highest honor when I choose thanksgiving and turn my gaze His direction when temptation oppresses.

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Ps.50:14)

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.” (Ps.50:23)

David had to talk to his soul at times when oppression mounted and good times seemed just a memory “Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?… while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (Ps.42:9,10) but his thirst was set on God: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”(Ps.42:2) and his hopes were all there too. That’s the way I want to live. And I thank you for listening in this post as I have given my own soul a ‘talking to’ from all the words that have encouraged me this week.


“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you and evil and unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12)

“By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.” (Ps. 41:12)

Thy Kingdom Come

A couple blogs ago I was thinking about the why and wherefore of the promises of God, wondering: Could it be that our generation has collected promises selectively, choosing the ones that cater to our earth-bound comforts and overlooking the others?  Or maybe it’s just that our whole orientation to the ‘why’ of the promises is warped.  They’re not about us, but about Kingdom living, about God’s character, about where He wants our focus.

I had an email in response, introducing me to “Dog and Cat Theology”. Huh-what? No, this isn’t something sponsored by the SPCA, and I agree, the terminology sounds almost sacrilegious, but here’s what it’s about:

‘Using an illustration of “cats and dogs” and how each relates to its master, Cat n Dog Theology challenges Christians to see how we tend, like a cat, to use our Master mainly for getting what we want. The illustration points out the difference between “us living for God” and “God living for us”. The average Christian while saying he lives his life for God is actually living his life to get from birth to death in the safest, softest, easiest and most comfortable fashion possible — and often just uses God to keep him safe, soft, easy and comfortable – and to keep the difficulties, trials, tragedies and adversities away’ (Dr. Gerald D Robison)

Oh. Ouch. Sort of a ‘me-ology’ rather than a ‘theo-logy’ which is none so subtle when you picture it. If you’ve ever known a border collie or a ‘Garfield’ you can conjure up the analogy nicely in your mind. The border collie is all-eyes on the master, awaiting his command, eager, ready, living to carry out his every wish. Garfield is, well, more intent on the service due him. Not a very complimentary comparison.

The trouble begins with thinking God’s promises are there to enhance my comfort, guarantee my success or otherwise establish my ‘kingdom’.  What are they for?  To hang onto like good luck charms?  To bring us success?  When the idealism of youth fades with the experience of age into guarded skepticism, people who once claimed to believe now accuse God of failing to keep His part of the deal.* They have counted on things that haven’t materialized or been deeply hurt by unexpected losses. What promises were they claiming that are not a part of the package deal? What am I believing that’s not part of the ‘bargain’? What exactly has God promised? And where do my hopes lie?

That hallmark passage on faith—the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Fame”– ends with this sobering reminder: “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised…”.  They looked forward to a salvation they did not see.  Jesus had not yet come.  Did they feel ‘blessed’ (as heirs with Abraham of the blessing) as they were being sawn in two or wandering destitute? Only by faith is there ability to ‘count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds’ (James 1:2) Our full redemption is yet future. The trials are readying us for it.

At the beginning of every homeschool year I used to set time aside to find specific encouragement from the Word for my year and to see what God had in mind for our year’s focus. Inevitably promises would come to my attention, often promises directed originally to Israel—and I would take them for my own and inscribe them in my teacher’s notebook to keep before me throughout the year, to encourage me in my endeavors to teach my kids…I look back now and wonder whether I misunderstood some of those words. Where I expected fulfillment that very year in the form of x, y, or z, could God have had a far bigger picture in mind that spanned whole lifetimes? If all my children are to be ‘taught of the Lord’ did that end with Grade 12? Did it show in their being super scholars with top grades? Did they love school and devote themselves to theology studies? Or is this process an ongoing lifelong learning under His patient tutelage, for mother and children alike? Every year I wanted a new promise for a fantastic year–something to fuel my hopes.

Now I’m old enough to know that every year isn’t spectacular and not all learning is a love affair, nor is every teacher an endless inspiration (I wasn’t anyway!) Some of my former students are loathe to crack another book. One is an avid reader. None is keen on more school. But what of the promises of God? I will always run into trouble (and disillusionment) when I think the promises of God are about the success of my Kingdom (my endeavors) and forget that ultimately His promises are about His Kingdom purposes. They reveal to me His eternal intentions, based on His character. They aren’t primarily for my benefit and my pleasure except as I am a steward of His Kingdom and fulfilling His purposes.  And I may not see now how they fit into the plans He is working out through me. Promises call for patience, some of them right up till the coming of the Lord! Am I content to be the patient farmer waiting for rain and the growing of the crop that is under his care, but beyond his ability to produce? (See: James 5:7,8)

I look at Paul’s prayers for the believers he was ‘growing’ and am struck by their focus. Nothing here about material comfort or success but everything about comprehending their inheritance in God so that they can be fruitful for His glory and the sake of His Kingdom….

–that your love may abound…….so you’ll be blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness TO THE GLORY OF GOD (Phil1:9ff)

–that you may know His will……so you’ll walk in a worthy manner, bearing fruit, growing in knowing God…grateful to be part of His Kingdom (Col.1:9ff)

–that you may know Him, and the hope, inheritance, and power that come with that! (Eph.1:16ff)

–that you may comprehend the love of Christ and be filled with it. (Eph.3:16ff)

He admonishes them in terms of their Kingdom calling: ‘Walk in a manner worthy of God who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.’ (ITh.2:12), always looking beyond present troubles to a future hope and living in terms of it—“our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Saviour… who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body!” (Phil.3:20,21) “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” (Phil.3:2)

I am asking myself this week:
What if I were to live as if the Kingdom of God were the most important thing? as if the gathering together of everything under the headship of Christ were really the goal of life (Eph.1:10)…how would that change the way I look at today? If I saw all the sad things, bad things, hard things and glad things, yes, and even the ‘same old’ things that I face on any given day—as opportunities to further the Kingdom of God, as chances to further His agenda in my life and those around me… and the means? His power, His promises, His gifts through His body…And me? just a cog in the works, a joint of the whole, a steward with a mina, an heir of this Kingdom I am contributing to by my service!

Can I re-orient my thinking to seek first His Kingdom, think first of His perspective, pursue always His glory and  hang onto His promises as tools to these ends?  I can make a beginning in prayer:

Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done on earth, just like it’s done in Heaven—without question, without grumbling, without obstacle or delay–today, in my life, in my family. Make us Kingdom-seekers, with mindsets transcending the ‘now’. Teach us to “do all things without grumbling or questioning, that [we] may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…” (Phil.2:14-15)

To God be the glory for the great things He will do in each of us as we trust in His promises and pursue His calling “Today”.

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
II Cor 1:20-22

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful”.Heb 10:23


P.S. *If there is anyone in your life who has grown disillusioned with the Christian life, I highly commend this book to you:
Has Christianity Failed You? by Ravi Zacharias
For an overview of what it contains see my review at:

What Now?

empty nest

It didn’t start out being such a good day. I don’t like getting out of bed. It may be May but it’s still cold and my internal heater doesn’t kick in till toast and tea and oatmeal are in the tank…But getting up is critical if I’m to catch the quiet hour before everyone else is stirring and looking for breakfast. Hmpf. Everyone. These days that means just Jim, Rachel and me. The nest isn’t empty but the fledglings are mostly out and about in the work-a-day world and come home only to roost. Which has something to do with why today didn’t start out so very well. Seems my life’s calling is undergoing a radical shift and I’m not sure I’m ready or able to do the manual transmission thing in real life. If it’s all up to me to figure out and get in gear… well, I’m a little uneasy about that. Once upon a time life happened and duty demanded a response.

I watched a sweet video today of robins feeding their demanding young. No sooner was a worm shoved down the chute then the baby bird demanded more. Baby birds are like that—dependent on parent birds to supply their every need. The sad picture was when the nest was suddenly empty and mommy bird returned with some berries, but alas, no mouths to put them in. She dropped the berries in and just perched on the edge running her beak about the nest absent-mindedly as if she were thinking “what now?”

Good question. Meals are scarcely needed. Leftovers last too long. Laundry does itself it seems and noone’s home to make the incessant clutter that used to offer a full-time option for idle hands… What now? I don’t mind ‘free time’. I’ve always coveted it. Tis a luxury to read a book, or better yet to have time to study a book and make notes and write commentary and journal and read some more…I am at heart a student. Fortunately Rachel lets me help her still with Algebra. That helps. I get to do a little Grammar too. Science I could do without but I keep being forced to learn along with my student. That’s good, I suppose. So is this my calling? Studying. (And a little teaching on the side.) But to what end?

Gardening. I love digging in the dirt, watching seeds grow, and even weeding, to a point. But to what end? Is it a waste of time in view of eternity? It’s time consuming to keep up a garden and really more a hobby than a practical gain…

Hiking is good. Capturing pictures, a delight. Savoring creation absolutely inspires me. But for what useful end?

Well, you get the idea. I’m a mom working myself out of a job and into a new stage of life. It’s not like it’s an unheard of dilemma, but it is a new prospect for me and some days I don’t like it. The routine is less routine. The critical tasks are less critical. The need to get out of bed is debatable on occasion. A less introspective person would go with the flow, enjoy the opportunity to find new uses for time, and revel in the freedom of an uncharted day. Sometimes that’s me. But the ‘responsible’ me lurks just beneath the surface questioning whether I’ve spent my time well, invested my ‘minas’ properly, gained eternal benefit from my day, made the best uses of my energies. It’s beastly. Have I done enough? Am I wasting my life? What am I supposed to be doing?

My best friend and ever-wise counselor suggested I look at my situation with a different question in mind, rather than coming at it from a position of doubt, assuming I couldn’t possibly be doing what God intends for me to be doing… why not consider
1) What if I am doing everything I’m meant to be doing? Or even one step further, consider my unrest and discontent as perhaps indicating something else:
2) What if I’m taking on (whether mentally or actually) things God never designed for me to do—things I only think that I should do?

Oooo now that strikes closer to home. I am the grown replica of a Grade A First grader who always set out to meet teacher’s approval but acutely remembers a coloring page that was met with disapproval. I had colored all the tidily stacked squares in an array of bright colors as per instructions (or so I thought) but something was somehow wrong with the way I’d done it. Must have missed an instruction. It was so confusing to see her frown and not understand where I’d gone wrong. The feeling of it sticks with me to this day. And the lesson:  Follow the instructions. Don’t dare to strike out on your own or color in the wrong boxes…. But alas my life at present looks like that big mimeographed sheet of empty squares waiting to be colored upon. And alas, there are no instructions at the top. Can I really do what comes naturally or would that be selfish? And what is the Teacher saying?

Some days it’s ok to sit in bed a little longer and consider these things. My answer this morning was this: “Walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” The Spirit is my teacher. The sheep hear the Shepherd’s voice. He promises to lead His sheep. I too can learn to listen and to follow His lead…I am not destined to be a confused First-grader with crayons in suspended animation. I can color to His glory. ‘Lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake, Lord.’

A second confirming response came with the first song that played as I started getting breakfast ready. Gulp. How obvious, and how needful to hear this right that moment:

You and I are made to worship.
You and I are called to love.
You and I are forgiven and free.
(When) you and I embrace surrender,
(When) you and I choose to believe,
You and I will see who we were meant to be.” (Chris Tomlin)

Here’s the big picture. I’m called to worship God with my life, to celebrate the forgiveness and freedom He’s given, to surrender my life to Him and trust Him to lead me into all He means for me to be. Where’s the pressure in that?!

But you know, I seemed still to need a ‘pick-me-up’ by mid-day, with afternoon looming full of uncharted potential but short on energy. And it came in an unexpected way, with a calling that drew me right away from my dreadful introspection. I had a short e-mail waiting from my Christian brother on the atheist forum asking if I would send a message to a new person that had appeared and was in need of advice. This was the plea he called to my attention:

I’m 16 years old and i fear death. It’s coming to the point where it’s all i think about. Up until about two years ago you could consider me a Christian, my family members are all Jehovah’s Witnesses. I started questioning my faith after reading many books such as “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, and “God is not great” By Christopher Hitchens. I’ve also read a lot of discussions on this site on matters such as Creationism and Evolution.

I’ve come to the point where one could consider me an atheist. But i miss being a Christian, i really do. I miss knowing that my late loved ones were in heaven and that there was nothing but good things coming for me after death. I miss not having to worry about things such as the meaning of life, or if my life has any meaning at all. Some days i just try to believe in Jesus and God and the bible, but it’s just not the same. My question is is there any hope of anything other than an oblivion of nothingness after death? If not, how do you cope? Do you just not think about death, or have you come to accept death without fear ( if so how).

Please help, if not i fear the worse, going back to being a sheep.

Suddenly it didn’t matter if I knew my ‘calling’ in a general sense. I knew it for this afternoon. To pray for this lost sheep and to write a note of encouragement… And that was enough. I was reminded my life has purpose and God will weave it into others’ lives as He sees fit. That’s His business. Mine is to walk in the opportunities He gives. And literally, I did just that—put on my jeans and headed up Scout talking to God about this one He’s pursuing, asking for wisdom to respond, and singing His praises for such a time as this in my life!


P.S. Thanks for listening to my moaning… (and not laughing at the thought of me worrying about an empty nest when my house is really still quite full!  God must chuckle sometimes too.)

If you love a great home-made video, this is it—complete with empty nest… Click here for the baby bird video: