"Happy Birthday, Dad!" Trey yelled, running to meet Tom at the door. "Thanks for going to work today!", he added, remembering our daily routine.
Earlier in the day, Trey and I had visited a small grocery store owned by a local Amish family to buy Tom an apple tree. One of my husband's passions is our fruit orchard here at the homestead, and Trey and I talked all afternoon about our surprise for Daddy.
Knowing that Trey wouldn't be able to keep the secret for long, I ran out to get the tree. "Close your eyes, Daddy," I called out.
Before I could make it into the room, I heard Trey's excited stage whisper: "It's an apple tree!" The surprise was short lived, but the smile on Tom's face was awesome.
It struck me that our relationship with God requires similar care to tending a home orchard.
First, we need to keep our friendship with God free of weeds. Tall weeds of discursive thoughts and words: discontent, gossip, anger, harsh words and unforgiveness quickly choke out a healthy relationship with God, distracting us from focusing on God and His plan for our life.
Second, we have to control the thorns of outside influences: the seemingly inoccuous diversions. What we listen to, read, watch on television or on the internet; excessive anything (food, alcohol, shopping); unhealthy relationships; and emotional issues we refuse to work through - these all can contribute to creating a useless jungle of debilitating life issues and God-less thought patterns.
Lastly, ruthless pruning protects our friendship with God. Self-righteousness, legalism, over-committment, and approval-addictions can quickly take away our freedom in Jesus and weigh us down with the heaviness of 'doing it right'.
When our friendship with God is healthy, He promises to send us gifts, "...much like the same way that fruit appears in an orchard -- things like: affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal (gather) and direct or energies wisely."
(Galations 5: 22b-23 MSG)
Dear Father God,
My heart is your orchard. Teach me to recognize the weeds and thorns that are choking out my friendship with You. Please give me courage to prune the branches that are weighing me down, keeping me from the freedom Jesus promises (Galations 5:1).
Thank you for the promise that you have blessings piled up and waiting for me when I worship you. (Psalm 31:19 MSG) I commit to living your way, aware of our friendship, so that you can bring the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control into my life. (Galations 5:22-23 NIV)
In Jesus' Name, Amen.
(Story courtesy of Amy Pecchia, Jersey Shore, PA)"Daniel," Kneeling in front of her young son, Amy pulled him onto her knee. "Honey, it's very important that Mom and Dad that you learn to listen and do what we say."
"Yes, Mommy." Squirming, the preschool boy attempted to inch his way off her knee.
"Daniel, we're going to try something new."
Alert wide eyes immediately focused on Amy's face.
"From now on, when you misbehave, you're going to lose one of the toys in your room for a few days."
"Who picks the toy, Mommy? Do I pick it?"
"No Daniel, Mommy will choose the toy. You'll get it back in a few days."
Slipping off of Amy's lap, Daniel tugged her hand as he walked to his room.
"Not that, Mommy," he pleaded, voice quivering with tears. He pointed to the Jesus cross on his wall. "You won't take Jesus from me, will you?"
Gathering him up in her arms, Amy smiled. "No baby. No one can ever take Jesus from you."
"...absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us." (Romans 8:39 MSG)
I heard a sermon today reminding us to keep it simple. So here it is:
God loves you. God loves you so much that He sacrificed His son so that you would be free.
Are you free? If you're not, please contact me - let's talk about it. Nothing, no one, can ever take Jesus from you. But first, you have to choose Him.
Thank you for loving me. Show me how to love you, how to love those around me. Teach me the meaning of love, Your love.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Fueled by two cups of coffee and a determination to create order, I attacked housecleaning: dishes, floors, and dusting. Trey mirrored my focus, bustling from living room to bedroom, clutching toys and clothing to be put away.
Looking out the window in Trey's room, I saw Sarah laying curled up in a sunny spot, enjoying a soft bed of hay. Contentedly munching a mid-morning snack, she looked more like a cow chewing cud than a sassy pony.
Our cleaning spree came to close, and as I prepared Trey's bed for his nap, I noticed Sarah outside his window. Stretched out in the sun, eyes closed and resting, she looked so peaceful and calm.
I began to look forward to Trey's nap time - and my own chance to be quiet.
"How blessed...the woman you instruct in your Word, providing a circle of quiet..."
(Psalm 94:13 MSG)
Settling our hearts and taking time to be quiet has such value in God's eyes. He wants to speak with us, and our full, busy days can leave little space for the 'circle of quiet' where He longs to join us. I wonder how many times I've missed out on intimate conversations with God because I've neglected to recognize the 'circle of quiet' He is offering to me...
Seeing Sarah stretched out in the sun reminded me that God intends for me to seek out quiet as well, resting in His presence, listening to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit, peaceful in God's 'circle of quiet'.
"Relax and rest. God has showered you with blessings. Soul, you've been rescued from death; Eye, you've been rescued from tears; and you, Foot, were kept from stumbling."
Find a place where you can be alone. Insulate yourself activity by either putting on some quiet worship music or going outside where you can hear the birds singing. Take some deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling until you feel yourself relax. Read the following prayer out loud: "Come, Holy Spirit. I invite you to join me here. I ask that you enclose me in the circle of quiet that God provides. Dear Jesus, Instruct me in the Truth of your Love and open my heart to the opportunity of knowing you deeper. Thank you..." Sit for a few moments, breathing deeply, listening for Jesus' words to you.
Consider the concept that God is blessing you and wants you to take time to reflect on His goodness, His blessings.
Write out the last Psalm in the devotional (Psalm 116: 7-8). Using it as a guide, list out areas in your life where God has showered you with blessings. What are you thankful for in your life? When your list is created, use it to pray a prayer of thanks.