Gardening with Jesus

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This summer God has been downloading so many things to me mostly around the theme of gardening.

You might think that I’m a wonderful gardener. I’m not. In fact, most of the time I give up halfway through the summer. I get tired of the work involved. I just want to sit back and enjoy the flowers. I walk around the neighborhood, admiring the beautiful front yards, wishing I had the stamina to put in the work required to have an award-winning yard.

But I don’t. I suffer from low energy levels and poor physical strength. To keep my energy levels consistent, I’ve learned to pace myself, take plenty of breaks and accept the inevitable. My body can only do so much. It needs plenty of rest.

This week I was at Christian leaders’ retreat in Toronto. My decision to go was almost spur of the moment, registering only two weeks before the conference. I wasn’t sure why I needed to go, it was simply an urging of the spirit.

I can’t go into everything about the things that I learned. Some things will settle and morph as the weeks go by. So many revelations were dropped into my spirit and many wounds were healed. It was an incredible week, full of emotion and intimacy.

At the beginning of this week, I experienced a profound and uplifting vision. I’d like to share this with you. I hope it will be as encouraging to you as it was to me.

The vision opens with me standing in my backyard. I walk over to my garden. Jesus is standing there at my raised garden bed with a hoe in his hand. I am surprised to see him standing there. He waves me over and holds up a rake.

“Come Garden with me.” he says.

“Well, I’d like to garden with you, Jesus, but nothing I plant ever grows. I’ve planted and planted and nothing ever comes up.” I said.

“Garden with me.” he says again.

I stand there unsure. I am so discouraged. I’ve tried this before, it doesn’t work. I want to give up.

“But Jesus, I’ve tried this before. It didn’t work then, Why will it work this time?” I ask.

“Because I’m here. Let’s do this together. The seeds will grow this time.”

I take the rake and start to work the soil with him.

I mumble, “I just want to see some fruit from my planting.”

“Come with me,” he says. He beckons me with his crooked finger.

I follow him around the pergola. There in the middle of a very large backyard filled with trees are banqueting tables, stacked end to end covering the lawn. The line is so long I can’t see the end of it. It seems to go on forever.

(Just a note of explanation here. In the natural, my backyard is very small. It would never hold this many tables. This fact confirms the spiritual implication of this vision. This is about my spiritual life, not my natural life.)

Now back to the vision.

The tables are covered and overflowing with fruits and vegetables.

I look at him in awe.

“Where did these come from?” I ask.

“From the seeds you planted.”

I stand back, open-mouthed, my view fixed at the table. I look at him again, then back at the tables.
Then, I see them.

Scores of people, all races of peoples, all ages, young and old alike, from all corners of the globe, are seated around the tables. It’s hard to see them because they are almost hidden by the produce on the table. They pick from the table and eat, feasting on the fruit that came from my garden.

“Where did they all come from?” I asked.

“These are the fruit,” he whispers. “These were from your seeds. They have grown, they are at the table eating. Your planting was not a waste. Your seeds grew and multiplied. You just weren’t there to see them grow.”

The vision closed. I pondered.

There is so much revelation here, that it’s difficult to pick one issue to talk about. But I will review this many times in the weeks and months ahead. I will leave the relevant learnings for each reader to glean for themselves. At least, for now.

At the end of the week, one person (who knew nothing about me or this vision), spoke this one word of knowledge to me.

“Abundance.”

It was a perfect word that fit this vision from the beginning of the week.

My spirit is overflowing. There is so much more to come.

Thank you, Jesus, for this vision.

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Living in The Land of The Harvest

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This was today’s picking of Concord grapes from my garden. When I tell people in Niagara about my bountiful harvest, they simply nod, smile, say “that’s great” and wander off.

Great? It’s amazing! You do not understand what this means to me.

For most of my life, I lived in regions where the climate was too cold to grow grapes. But here in the wine region of Niagara, this is a common back yard hobby.

Growing something I’ve never grown before is awesome.

But this means even more to me.

You see, I didn’t plant these grapes. The previous homeowner did. And he never received any harvest. Instead, I was the one who reaped this harvest.

There were no grapes last year or in 2015, the year we moved in.

But this year I have more fruit than I can eat.

I have planted plenty of seeds in my day. I’ve had good harvests and bad harvests. Sometimes the plants don’t grow because the summer weather is too hot or too cold, too damp or too dry. Sometimes the crops fail because of disease or insects. Sometimes the harvests are small. But this year, the harvest is huge.

In the natural world, there are a number of truths around good or bad harvests. If you take care of your crop, water it well, fertilize it well and protect it from insects, this should almost guarantee that you will have an adequate crop at the end of the summer. But since we cannot control the weather, it’s the way we work with the weather that encourages our crops. If we ignore this mighty factor, we can end up with either a bad harvest or none at all.

I had no idea how to care for my grapevines. I pretty much left them alone to see what they would do. It was this year’s weather that encouraged them. A hot, humid summer with plenty of rain. I was unable to enjoy the swampy weather that awaited us almost every day. I escaped to my air conditioned house during those hot afternoons. But apparently the weather that I didn’t like was perfect for the grapevines.

We all need different growing conditions to produce the best fruit or to become the best that we can be.

In the gardening world, some believe that a harvest of plenty will eventually follow multiple seasons of drought. This is the eternal hope of the gardener. However, an overabundant harvest can also be a foreboding sign of a harsh winter to follow.

These principles are also applicable in the spiritual world.

In my spiritual life, I’ve applied gardening principles as I’ve watched for evidence of growth or harvest in the lives of others as well as my own. I’ve planted seeds, cultivated, tilled the soil, and fertilized many gardens only to wonder whether I’ve been any help or encouragement to them. With no evidence of fruit or harvest, I’ve walked away discouraged and disheartened. Often, I’ve felt completely useless as a spiritual gardener, thinking that perhaps I should give up trying to be one.

I’ve plucked fruit from branches of great spiritual leaders. But that same fruit ended up rotting in my own life. Much of that rotting fruit was inadvertently dropped into the gardens of others, discouraging their growth, or making them work twice as hard to get rid of the disease or bad seeds that I left behind.

Over the years, God has pruned me, shaped me, and fertilized me. And yet, I still wait for evidence that my branches are bearing fruit.

I’m encouraged by my grape harvest this year. There are also spiritual promises inherent that I can apply to my life.

Some of the lessons I am gleaning from this:

1) The previous homeowner planted the grapevines and never saw a harvest, but I did. I reaped what he sowed.
So too, the spiritual seeds that I plant in someone’s life may never bear fruit in my lifetime. But that shouldn’t stop me from planting. I can be encouraged by this principle. I may sow, others may reap. There may be times when I will reap what someone else has sown, just like my grapevines.

2) We all need different things to grow. Some need more or less heat, some need more or less water, or different types of fertilizer. Perhaps some of us need more pruning than others. Then again, some of us just need to be left alone while we grow silently without being disturbed. We need to recognize that our idea about what healthy growth looks like, might look very different to someone else.

3) A healthy plant will always produce a bountiful harvest if it has received the right nourishment. We simply have to wait.
In our spiritual lives, sometimes we need to practice patience and wait. If we’ve done all the right things, the harvest will happen.

4) A healthy harvest is often the signal of the end of a drought. But that doesn’t mean we celebrate the harvest and quit taking care of the plants. The care continues each year, with hope for an even greater abundance of harvest next year.
In our own lives, we should never take a harvest for granted. The work must continue. There will always be room for a greater harvest. “The harvest is great, but the labourers are few.” (Matthew 9:37)

5) A bountiful harvest can signal a foreboding of a harsh winter. Nature has a way of supplying us with extra food exactly before we need it. The old methods of preserving our excess is a tried and true method that ensures that we have food later when we need it. We need to pay attention to these natural signs.

So too, in our lives, when a spiritual harvest happens, things can happen that may threaten to steal our hard work. Our worst enemy can often be ourselves. We procrastinate and don’t protect the spiritual fruit at our doorstep. We get lazy and complacent. Then we complain when we see all our hard work go right out the window.

6)Preserving is hard work. Ripe fruit demands immediate attention. Otherwise it will rot on the vines. Rotting fruit is waste and benefits no one. Even the plant doesn’t like it. If you don’t pick the fruit, the plant will diminish it’s harvest in future years. It’s almost like it knows when it’s not needed or wanted.

Are we paying attention to the fruit in the lives of others? What about the fruit in our own lives? Are we encouraging spiritual growth in ourselves and in those around us? Or are we ignoring it, making others feel that their gifts of contribution are unnecessary or unwanted?

7) Ripe fruit often gets picked at by birds or stolen by rodents. It must be protected by netting, fences or other natural means until is ready to be picked.

In our spiritual lives, there is an enemy that is watching to steal our fruit, our hard work. How are we protecting it? What are you doing to make sure your fruit is growing safely in a protected environment until it’s ready to be shared? Are we surrounding ourselves with others of like minds to encourage and support each other? The more we grow, the more we need to do. If we want the harvest to happen, we must dig in and do the work.

6) THE HARVEST WILL HAPPEN. THE HARVEST IS COMING. MAYBE THE HARVEST IS HERE? Will you recognize the harvest when it arrives? Will you know what to do with the bounty that you will be receiving? It’s great to dream, but when the time comes, you will have to do something with that fruit. Don’t let it rot on the vine.

Jesus said:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”John 15:1-8 (NIV)

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On Death and Dying

August 8, 2017

The grim reaper has been busy this week. With everything that has been happening around me, I felt the need to write this blog today.

Yesterday, August 7 was my dad’s birthday. If he were alive today, he would be 87 years old. Every year since his death in 2011, I have lit a candle, proverbially speaking, in some form or another to celebrate his birthday and his life.

I often think of his last years when we both enjoyed our weekly Sunday night phone calls. Although those phone calls only started after his life slowed down, it was a tradition that still holds great significance for me. Every Sunday night I wish I could just dial up heaven to talk to him. I miss him greatly.

The second reason for this blog (and perhaps the reason why I am writing this blog in the first place) is that a friend of mine passed away yesterday on my dad’s birthday. She wasn’t a close friend, but a friend nonetheless, someone who impacted my life. This week I will discover more about her life as I spend time with those who loved her.

The subject of death began raising its ugly head last week when I heard of the sudden horrific death of the son of a dear friend of one of my closest friends. He was not someone I knew, but his death still impacted me because it was caused by the hands of others. The parents of that young man will not have closure on that death for a very long time. Graphic and sickening, nothing like this should ever happen, but sadly it does.

Death happens in different ways and no death is ever the same as another, regardless of similarities. Each of the above deaths was very different from the other. The impact on those left behind is nonetheless, traumatic.

My Dad was ill for about two months before he passed. He suffered slowly, his pain and medications gradually increasing until the end. He had plenty of time to say good-bye to family and friends, and he didn’t take this time lightly.

His journey of dying encouraged me to appreciate the value of time in our lives and the importance of making a positive impact on others. After his death, I began to be more grateful for the loved ones in my life. The accumulation of things lost its meaning. I no longer needed to possess as I once did. I learned the importance of ‘being’ in the moment, taking each day as it comes, and becoming more adaptable to the changes in life. With the intentional practice of mindfulness, I continue to learn to ‘let go and let God’. This too encourages me to become more thankful.

My friend’s death was very different from my dad’s. She went suddenly during the night, completely unexpected to everyone. She was still young, in her 60th year, just slightly younger than me. She had no close family and only a few friends that she could count on. She had no time to prepare. Neither she nor her estranged family succeeded in making the effort to repair the wounds from the past. In the end, it was her roommate and her church community that were her family.

I wonder about the thoughts and emotions that her family are dealing with today. I wonder about the regrets that they will feel. How will they cope with the reminders of the many moments of friction that passed between them? Regardless of their relationship, I have no doubt that they will still experience her loss as tragic. And they grieve greatly.

This death teaches the lesson of the importance of resolving conflict and forgiving others quickly. Because we don’t know when we will have another chance. But true forgiveness requires repentance from all concerned. This is only possible if both sides agree to put differences aside and accept each other as the flawed humans that we all are. If only we could embrace the importance of this task.

The death from last week has very different lessons to be learned. This was a young man tragically dying at the hands of others. Completely unexpected and so horrific, it causes bile to rise in our throats from the anger boiling in our bellies.

Things like this shouldn’t happen, but when they do we wonder why.

Is it that our modern world no longer sees life as sacred, but rather as disposable? If so, we need to bring the value of sanctity back to our technological preoccupied world. We are not machines to be disposed of. We need to say no to death and yes to life. The dignity of living requires the education of the principles of respect and honor. A tragic death reminds us that we, as a society, need to re-evaluate those basic human values.

Three very different deaths. Three very different lives. All with valuable lessons to be learned.

Whether expected or unexpected, death is always a kick in the gut forcing us to pay attention to life. Death forces us to pause. It brings us face-to-face with our mortality. It encourages us to review our own lives. It enables us to re-examine our relationships with others. It gives us the opportunity to forgive both those who have died and those around us who are still living. It allows us the chance to grow as human souls, to increase our compassion, to look beyond ourselves and see life from another perspective.

And perhaps, most importantly, death taps us on the shoulder and says, “what’s next?”

Death can be our biggest motivator to change.

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Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

Investigating the claims of the Gospels by J Warner Wallace

Source: Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

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What Kind of Spirit have You Been Given?

A great blog.

LiifeTree: equipping in identity, spirituals, mental health, healing, wonder...

Running several leg lengths would allow me to vault myself past the first couple stairs so that “it” would have less chance to grab my ankles and pull me into the black abyss. Such was my strategizing after about 7 years on semi-hostile planet earth.

Of course my burgeoning rational capabilities argued The Boogeyman didn’t exist and couldn’t possibly live under the basement stairs in a space of 4h x 3w, but my older brother was quite convincing. He had the ability to authentically mimic a police car siren so that my parents pulled off to the side of the road, looking for the flashing red and blues more than once. He could imitate several of The Muppets, like Gonzo and the Swedish Chef and other TV/movie characters. I was convinced a job was waiting for him in Walt Disney’s studios, so you can see why I might have been…

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Is it Mental illness, or is it Psychological Warfare?

Several years ago, I had an a very negative experience.  The church I attended was experiencing some big changes and although these were good, an enemy had an agenda too. Difficulties b…

Source: Is it Mental illness, or is it Psychological Warfare?

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The Mutual Exclusivity of Atheism and Math

Source: The Mutual Exclusivity of Atheism and Math

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