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When You’re Covered In Manure, Count It All Joy

And he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ” Luke 13:6-9

I recently finished reading a book called Chasing Vines by Beth Moore. I couldn’t shake the thought of manure in The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree pointed out in this book. It’s so weird to ponder the concept of poop. If you have kids or animals, you’ve dealt closely with poop at some point. Whatever your experience is with it, it’s gross! And whatever crap you’re dealing with right now, it has a purpose according to this parable.

In this parable, a man planted a fig tree, looked for fruit for THREE YEARS and he found none. Then he went to the vinedresser and told him to cut down the fig tree because it was wasting good ground. But the vinedresser told him to wait a year, dig around it, and put MANURE on it! After all that, if it finally bears fruit, good, but if not, then he could cut it down.

What in the world does this have to do with our spiritual life? Well, first and foremost, what kind of fruit are we bearing? Are we bearing any fruit? One way to do this is to ask those closest to us what fruit they are picking off of us, Gal. 5:22. Our brothers and sisters in Christ have good ground to expect some fruit from our lives (Mat. 7:20). Let’s pray we’re ripe for the pickin’!

The man asks about the fig tree using up the ground, some versions say “cumbereth it the ground” (soil). The Greek word used for this description means to be entirely idle, useless, abolished, destroyed (Strong’s). “Those who do not do good commonly do hurt by the influence of their bad example; they grieve and discourage those that are good; they harden and encourage those that are bad.” (Matthew Henry) 

Sometimes we do more harm than good. And if so, repent and never look back! We have a long-suffering, gracious Heavenly Father waiting for us with open arms! (Luke 15:17-20)

The Long-Suffering Of Christ 

The parable doesn’t say that the man came looking for a lot of fruit, he just expected something, anything. The vinedresser — we know who that is! — was long-suffering (fruit of the Spirit). His long-suffering and patience with us lead us to enjoy the gospel on a different level. But when His patience is abused and taken advantage of, there are consequences (Luke 13:9).

His long-suffering, kindness, and gentleness lead us to repentance, to restoration (Rom. 2:4). And if He’s long-suffering, kind, and gentle with us, how much more should we extend the same to others? 

The vinedresser intercedes on behalf of the fig tree as part of his long-suffering. We are fig trees planted in God’s vineyard. Christ intercedes on our behalf (1 John 2:1-2). The vinedresser doesn’t tell him to never cut it down, but to give it another year and then observe what he finds. We must stand in the gap for others. 

Load Up the Manure 

So what must the man do to the fig tree? Dig around and put manure on it (fertilize it). Sometimes Christ has to do a lot of diggin’ around in our hearts, load it up with piles of manure, and over time, we become ripe and people can start plucking away! I don’t really see piles of crap as the perfect foundation for fruit to flow, but God knows what’s best.

If I’m honest, this is where I am in my walk with the Lord. He’s doing a lot of digging around in my heart and it ain’t pretty in there! The digging hurts and it’s exposing (Psalm 139:23-24). But when I let myself be exposed, then He can finally clothe me and cover me in His righteousness, not mine. 

Lord, if this is what it takes for the fruit to bust out of me, then load up the manure. 

If the tree does eventually bear fruit, it will be even better and add to the beauty of the vineyard. The tree will receive a blessing from God (Heb. 6:7) and bring forth more fruit year after year.

Where’s The Fruit?

But what happens when there’s still no fruit? Cut it down. Matthew 3:10, “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Remember, cutting it down was the absolute last resort.

God is always seeking fruit in our lives. What fruit is He finding? Good fruit? No fruit? Bitter fruit? Plastic fruit? He is a good, good Father who is long-suffering with us and wants us to come to repentance. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

So when you’re covered in manure, count it all joy. You never know what will spring forth from all the crap that’s been piled on you!

I’m Expecting

If you clicked on this article thinking this was a pregnancy announcement, it’s not. I am NOT pregnant. Now that that’s out of the way…I am expecting THE LORD to move in our lives like never before.

We’re in a season of transition, a season of many unknowns. My husband was the youth and worship pastor at our church. This was his livelihood.

It’s scary to step away from something familiar, comfortable, and safe…especially when there’s nothing set in place when you leave. But the Lord said it was time to continue His work somewhere else.

The answer is simple to many questions we’ve been asked: We don’t know. But what we do know is the Lord has provided in only ways that He could over the past few weeks.

I’m not just talking about monetary provisions. I’m talking about His presence in the loneliness, His peace in the chaos and unknown, and His comfort in the brokenness. He’s provided hope through His Word and encouragement through His people.

We’ve seen him do it before, we know He’ll do it again.

It’s exciting to see Him work and do what only He can do. It’s scary because our future is still unknown and there’s no telling where He’ll lead us.

We don’t know where we’re going, we just know who we’re following.

You’re Out Of Your Mind

Serving Jesus in any capacity doesn’t make sense if you really think about it. Especially to the outside world.

Jesus’ own family didn’t understand what He was doing. They even said he was out of his mind for leaving behind what he was doing to go into ministry!

Mark 3:21, “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’”

Just before this, Jesus gathered his 12 disciples and the multitudes surrounded them, so much so that they couldn’t even stop to eat a piece of bread (Mark 3:13-20). (It’s important to note that Jesus didn’t respond to their statement.)

Why would Jesus’ own family think that He was out of His mind?

Here are a few thoughts taken from David Guzik:

  • He left a prosperous business to become an itinerant preacher.
  • The religious and political leaders plotted to destroy Him, so his physical safety was in question. (“The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” Mark 3:6)
  • He picked such an unlikely group of disciples that His judgment could be questioned.
  • But there was one last straw that really pushed his family into this mindset: the pressures of this incredible ministry made Him miss regular mealtimes (For all those with husbands in ministry, I know you can relate!)

“Jesus constantly faced the rejection of the religious and political leaders of the day, and in a way, their hatred of Jesus made sense – He actually threatened their status quo. Undoubtedly, it was far more painful and challenging for Jesus to deal with the way His own people rejected Him. It isn’t easy to be profoundly misunderstood as you try to walk with God.” (Cole)

What Is Faith?

Faith is “… the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things NOT seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). It’s only natural to want evidence. But as Christians, we have to remember that we’re after the supernatural.

Faith is having hope even when you don’t have all the answers or know where you’re going.

“The Lord told Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’” (Genesis 12:1) God didn’t lay out a step-by-step plan for Abram and his family. He just told him to go, or some versions say, “Get out”.

Abraham is mentioned in the Faith Hall of Fame. Hebrews 11:8, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

Abraham (Abram at the time) was expecting the Lord to move in a mighty way. He knew God would follow through on His promises.

This is not a testament of our faithfulness by no means. We are found faithless time and time again. This is a testament of HIS faithfulness.

  • Based upon God’s Word, what are you expecting the Lord to do in your life?
  • What does God’s faithfulness look like in your life?
  • Is there something in your life that the Lord is telling you to go, to step away from, or to get out of?

Trust God in the unknown. You’ll be sure to find Him there.

When You Can’t Sing “It Is Well With My Soul”

If I’m honest, I’ve sung “It Is Well With My Soul” and I did not mean it. Sure, sometimes I want to shout it from the rooftops, but sometimes I can barely get the words out of my mouth.

We all go through seasons of life, but maybe in a particular season we just can’t sing this song with a true heart. It’s like it’s winter and you just have to throw on a coat to make it through, just waiting and hoping for spring to come so you can drop your coat.

But that’s not how I want to live my life. I KNOW that’s not how I’m supposed to live my life. I KNOW that’s not the type of life Christ died for.

I KNOW. But do I really? I don’t want to just know. I want to LIVE OUT what I know.

A few years back a friend and I did a study called How’s Your Soul? with a group of college-aged students. That question has stuck with me ever since. We always ask someone, “How are you?”. More than likely their response is, “Good”, or like every wife in America, “Fine”.

But are we really good? Are we really fine? No, Felicia, I’m not. But is the line at Target a good place to spill my heart out to you? Maybe not. Maybe it is. I don’t know. But what I do know is we avoid the question with a generalized answer.

A better question to ask someone is, “How’s your soul?”. That’ll make someone stop real quick in their tracks. That question makes you pause, makes you really think what it means for my soul to be well.

The only way my soul can be well is if, one, I belong to Jesus. Let me stop right here. If you don’t belong to Jesus, if you’ve never come to the point of repentance, realizing you’re a sinner in need of a Savior — and that Savior is Jesus — your soul will never be well because it doesn’t know the One to whom it belongs. There’s no better time to come to know Jesus than the present!

And two, if I’m spending time with Jesus. Only when we truly spend time with Jesus in His Word can the condition of our souls be reflected back to us. It’s like a mirror. We have to see what He’s seeing.

Our souls come from God Himself who breathed the breath of life.

Genesis 2:7 “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.”

This, my friends, is where we get our soul from. It can only be well if it’s at home. Adam was a man at the beginning of the verse, but he did not come alive until his soul was awakened. 

“If God’s breath created our souls, then we are literally living on borrowed breath.” -Judah Smith

This is why we long for God and depend on Him. We can’t slow down enough to make sure our soul is at rest.

Look at David’s words in Psalm 131:

“LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.”

David no longer felt torn apart by inner nagging and turmoil, but experienced inner peace according to these verses, and we know what David went through. (Study Bible)

Do you know who else spoke about the condition of their soul? Jesus.

Right before Jesus is betrayed, He goes into the garden to pray. He takes three of His closest disciples with Him during this time. He says, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” (Matthew 26: 38)

Jesus’ words are validated because He knew He would be separated from His Father. He longed for Him. This is what made Him sorrowful. We can’t say the same. This should break our hearts.

He was forsaken by His Father so we don’t have to, nor will we ever. We remember His promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you”.

Jesus surrendered to the will of His Father even if it meant separation because He was focused on the bigger picture…eternity.

When I can’t sing “It Is Well With My Soul”, I know it’s because I’m not eternally-focused. My soul is longing to be at rest with Jesus.

Is it well with your soul?

Ezekiel 37:4-10

“Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: ‘Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.’”

“So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Also He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.’”

I’m Bored With Christianity

I’ve been there. It’s not a fun place to be. You go through the motions. You go to church. You read your Bible. You go to bible studies. Nothing.

Coming from someone whose husband is a pastor, no one is immune from this. Yes, even those in ministry.

Something was missing…or rather Someone. The Holy Spirit. I can’t speak from a place of perfection and I’ve-got-this-whole-thing-figured-out. The Holy Spirit has shown me I haven’t relied on HIM.

I am currently reading a book by Charles Stanley called The Spirit-Filled Life. I highly recommend it.

I am going to use Dr. Stanley’s words, “Ask the Holy Spirit to stir up your curiosity.” If we’re “bored” it’s because we’re not aware.

Our awareness of His activity and presence is what needs to change.

Is the Holy Spirit mentioned in your church? How can you follow someone who is not known or mentioned? The Holy Spirit is a PERSON of the Trinity. He’s not an “it”.

“We’ve become so unfamiliar with His ways that we miss His presence.” -Dr. Stanley

If we think the Holy Spirit is a power or force, we will view Him as some sort of divine energy. Um, I’m raising my hand right here because that’s how I saw Him!

The Holy Spirit is defined as having knowledge, will, and emotion.

Knowledge-

1 Cor. 2:11-12- “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”

Will-

1 Cor. 12:11- “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”

Emotion-

Eph. 4:30- “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this last verse and never thought of it as an emotion of the Holy Spirit.

He can become grieved, exemplifying emotion.

Take a look at this verse:

John 14:26- “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

He is our greatest help. He is the Helper. He is the one who teaches us and reveals scripture to us.

If you’re at a point in your Christian walk where you’re bored and there’s no revelation from God’s Word, ask Him!!

I love meeting with believers and singing together. I LOVE bible study. But the daily divine interventions when He reveals himself to you in your daily life, nothing can compare to His presence.

He tells us He will never leave us or forsake us. We know that. But have you experienced His presence? Does what you know resonate with how you live? Nothing is more exciting than the Holy Spirit revealing Himself to me.

*some notes taken from The Spirit-Filled Life

My Son Is Not Defined By A Label

My son has recently been diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and anxiety. If you don’t know what ODD is, it’s oppositional defiant disorder. Before you judge me and think, “you just need to get your kid under control”, he can’t control it. That’s why we’re in behavioral therapy, which has been a great catalyst for him. I’ve seen him mature and grow over the past few weeks of therapy.

Basically when my son feels something, he REALLY feels it. So, when he’s angry, he’s REAL angry. When he’s loving, he’s REAL loving. When he’s excited, he’s REAL excited. 

But that is the beauty and reality of this road we have been chosen to walk alongside him as he discovers how to depend on God: HE IS REAL.

Some days he’ll wake up at 5:45 full of energy and ready to go. GO BACK TO BED! But he can’t control it. My son is fearfully and wonderfully made. I would not change him and the way he is for a second. He is full of life. 

I feel judged…a lot. I feel like a failure…a lot. And as much as I hate to use the phrase, “I feel…”, it’s just the truth. I know I shouldn’t let my emotions dictate my outlook, but if I’m honest, some days I let it get the best of me. 

Rather than people understanding, they compare. THAT IS THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO WITH SOMEONE WITH ADHD. Child or adult. Don’t ever compare them to another child or another adult who does not have ADHD because they don’t have a chemical imbalance that they’re trying to overcome on a daily basis. 

We have homeschooled for the past year and a half, and getting these “results” from the pediatrician solidified my exhaustion and difficulties in homeschooling my son. He is also the most social child I have ever met, so you can see where this has been a struggle for both of us. 

I want to bring awareness to those who do not have a child with ADHD. For the tired, exhausted parent – I mean, what parent isn’t exhausted?! – please offer grace to these children and parents. As Bob Goff states, “Grace seems unfair until you are the one in need of it.” 

I have been so thankful for two friends specifically who have children with the exact same “diagnosis” who have offered me grace, encouragement, and advice. They’ve been there to listen to me vent, cry, and complain. Yes, I’m not proud of those moments. They have helped me more than they will ever know. 

I need to be surrounded with these people.

Not people who will judge and compare my son to their child. Every child is uniquely made, and I’m so thankful God chose me to be his mommy. Sure, it’s been a challenge. But, through it all, I can say God has humbled me like no other through this! 

Before I became a mother, I judged. Yep. I said it. Not proud of that, either. I would see a mom in the store with her screaming kid. “Just take him out already” would be my thought. My mom was in the store one day. While on the phone with her, I heard a child in the background. I told her, “Mom, don’t you judge that momma!” And my mom totally gets it. 

That momma is trying her best to hold in those tears in public. All she is trying to do is get in and get out…just like you. You never know what someone is going through or what obstacle a child is trying to overcome at that moment. 

Now, instead of judging, I go and talk to that mom. I offer any help I can give her during that moment of trying-to-hold-it-together-in-public. 

I do not write this for sympathy or pity. I write this to bring awareness of how you never know what someone is going through and the challenges they are up against. To be a little more graceful to those around you. To be a little more loving and understanding to those around. 

If you or a loved one struggles with ADHD, please don’t ever compare them to anyone else. Know that they are struggling with something they really have absolute no control over…and they’re working through it. 

This diagnosis does not define who my son is. It makes him that much more extraordinary. Seeing life through his eyes changes everything.

Spiritually speaking, we all have ADHD. We get so distracted by the world, we become hyperactive in our earthly lives and our spiritual well-being suffers. We’re looking left and right, getting pulled in different directions, not focusing on the Lord and His ways.

Psalm 119:37, “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.”

Psalm 23:2-3, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His names’ sake.”

The only reason why we are able to focus on God is because Jesus never took His eyes off The Father. (Heb. 5:7)

Have you lost your appetite?

Are you in a season of life where you’ve lost your appetite for God? For His church? For family? For people? For ministry? The things that used to interest you no longer interest you anymore.

Hannah was a woman who literally lost her appetite.

1 Samuel 1:7, “So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.”

I homeschool my son and one thing that drives me crazy is his constant desire for food. That sounds bad as I type it. But literally all day long, “I want a snack. I’m hungry.” I’m not exaggerating.

Our pantry makes a noise, so when he opens up the door I can hear it from wherever I am in the house. Next comes the refrigerator. I hear both pantry and refrigerator door shut. “Mom, there’s nothing to eat!”

Ten minutes later, repeat. “Son, what was there 10 minutes ago is still there. The magic food fairy has not yet come to our house to refill our pantry and refrigerator.” (I’m the magic food fairy 🙂 )

Well, in relation to our walk with God and our spiritual growth, the same is true when reading the bible. Most of the time my pantry is not as empty as he exaggerates. It’s just that what he wants – the snacks – aren’t there.

When reading our bible, there’s always something to take away from it, but maybe not exactly what we were looking for. We are looking for that certain “thing” that we can kind of throw in the face of someone. Do you know what I’m talking about?

We take a machete to God’s Word, thinking it doesn’t pertain to our situation, and miss what God has placed right in front of us. We butcher it up, search it out to only look for the “snacks”, something just to get us by, never filling up on the meat.

Hannah had some“thing” in her face every day. Peninnah. Elkanah had two wives: Peninnah and Hannah.

Here we go with the trap of comparison, “Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.” (1 Sam. 1:2) Comparison is the thief of joy! (Theodore Roosevelt) There’s nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9)! This has been going on for a while.

During this time, barrenness was considered a disgrace. It was very important to carry on the name, have descendants, and raise up workers for the field.

For Hannah to not be able to have children, and have someone who could have children, and all of her children right in front of her face every day, I’m sure, was disheartening.

Not being able to have children in and of itself is enough to make one lose their appetite. But then seeing the other woman popping out babies left and right, living in your house, is unimaginable.

“…although the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.” (1 Sam. 1:6-7)

We understand now why Hannah didn’t eat. She lost her appetite for food because she was being provoked DAILY!

Home usually is a safe haven, but her home was where all of her defeat was taking place. It was right in front of her eyes every single moment of every single day.

What does your situation look like? Have you lost your appetite for God because of someone “provoking you”? Have you lost your appetite for God because of ONE PERSON?! Think about that for a minute.

One person affecting the rest of your Christian life. That one person potentially affecting where you’ll spend eternity because you allowed it. Don’t let ONE person hold you back from the abundant life Christ has intended for you!

Jesus didn’t let that ONE hold him back. He was provoked in the wilderness by the Enemy.

Hannah became focused on what she didn’t have.

  • What is holding you back?
  • What are you hungering for?

Hannah eventually ate. Her situation did not change right away, but she did change, through prayer.

That will be a blog for another day 🙂

Ask.Seek.Knock…ASK!

Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find, knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Ask. Seek. Knock. ASK.

If you have your bible, what color are these words? These words are written in red, which means Jesus Himself spoke these words. He is literally telling us to ask Him questions! You may have heard this before from this verse, but this was a first for me; a revelation in God’s Word.

In Exodus, they would gather manna each morning to prepare them for the day (Exo. 16:21). They had just what they needed for that day, nothing more, nothing less. Then it started all over again the next day.

“But I’m convinced that morning is a principle, not merely a time of day. It signified a position of priority, a place of preeminence…But those moments are always more valuably invested in waiting before God, feeding on His Word, listening to what He whispers to your spirit…while your heart is most open and refreshed and able to assimilate truth.”-Priscilla Shirer

So what does that time look like for you? Does it include music? Is it quiet or are kids climbing all around you? Is it in the morning, during the day, at night, during the middle of the night?

Just as our relationship with our children looks different with each one, God’s relationship with His children looks different with each one as well.

The Quest was a bible study I did. As the writer puts it, it’s more like bible study meets prayer closet. This study has been embedded in my mind and my heart since I started it last year.

I want you to think about when you’re getting to know someone. You spend time together and ask questions to get to know the other person. Let’s say you’re going on a walk with a friend, do questions arise? For example, how are you doing? What’s been going on in your life? It’s kind of inevitable that questions come up.

What about your quiet time with the Lord? Are questions coming up?

There’s a difference between questioning God and asking Him questions. (The Quest video session)

When I think of questioning someone I think of an interrogation, trying to get information out of someone. When I think of asking someone questions I think of desiring to get to know them, really wanting a relationship and knowing their heart. So why should our time with the Lord be any different?

“We need to throw the word quiet out of quiet time.” -Beth Moore

Of course we are to sit at the feet of Jesus and His Word and listen to what He has to say to us, but how are you engaging in the conversation with Him?

Obviously we know He cannot audibly speak to us and respond like we would with someone face-to-face, but He speaks to us through His Word, other believers, songs, situations, etc.

It’s really a matter of how well you’re listening.

The gospels are full of questions, questions that Jesus asked and questions directed towards Jesus. If you study these books of the bible and those asking Jesus questions, you can see the difference in the motives between those who truly wanted to know Jesus and those who just wanted to trap and interrogate Jesus (the Pharisees).

In the study, Beth Moore defines the difference between a quest and a trip. I don’t know about you, but when I’m planning a trip there are lots of little details that need to be planned out in advance to make the most of a trip, eliminating any hiccups as much as possible. “A quest is more than a trip. It’s a jury of inquest, investigation. It’s a pursuit; a search.” (The Quest)

In our relationship and walk with the Lord, it’s a quest. But is it something that you’re pursuing? He’s pursuing us for sure.

Are you searching for Him? Is He what you’re looking for or is something else grabbing your attention?

The more you’re seeking out God and His Word, the more questions will arise.

We fear studying something deeper because there might be something that comes up that we don’t know the answer to…and we might not ever know the answer. That’s the great thing about a mystery!

But if we’ve mastered something, there’s no more mystery in it. (The Quest Study)

I used to read Nancy Drew books and play a Nancy Drew game on the computer when I was younger. When I’d get a clue and it’d lead me closer to solving it, I was so drawn and wanted to continue playing. I couldn’t get enough of these games and these books.

When you have glimpses of Jesus, and He shows you a “clue”, you’ll want more of Him. You’ll continue to seek after Him and pursue Him.

My fear for the Christian church is we have Christians who have never truly tasted that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8), they’ve never had “clues” that draw them near to Christ to continually want to seek Him out.

I just want to challenge you to search your heart and see what your heart is really seeking. Get on board with a quest (a pursuit, a search) with the Lord and ask Him those questions that have been lingering in your heart.

Praying with expectancy

My family and I were on vacation last week at the beach. A brief rain shower came through while the sun was still shining. It was the perfect condition for a rainbow.

My daughter and I waited for the rain to stop before walking down to the beach. Rainbows have always been my “thing”. It never fails that I always see a rainbow when we’re at the beach.

As we were walking we were praying, “Lord, show us a rainbow. We are expecting it.” You can imagine my disappointment when we walked down there and did not see a rainbow.

We even walked on the bridge to get an aerial view of the sky. Still no rainbow. I wasn’t taking no for an answer.

So we stepped off the bridge and starting walking down the beach, still looking up in the sky for the rainbow. Nothing. I kept saying, “I am expecting You to show me a rainbow.”

Then what do you know, I stopped looking all around and I just looked STRAIGHT AHEAD and there was a rainbow…umbrella!! I said out loud, “I meant in the sky!”

Luckily no one was close enough to hear me. Oh, how I love His sense of humor!

But isn’t that just like us in our prayer life? We pray expecting something totally different. I guess I needed to be more specific because after all, He did show me a rainbow, just not in the way I imagined.

When we pray, we go into that prayer already have a preconceived thought of what that answer might look like, but all the while God has something totally different in mind. Sure, He answers it, but just not how we thought.

We need to pray with expectancy but also with an open mind. Sometimes all we need to do is just look straight ahead.

We often miss what’s right in front of us because we’re looking everywhere else for something else.

That umbrella was there the whole time, I just missed it because my eyes were set on something different.

I know this may sound silly to some, but I hope we don’t miss the point in this story: not to miss what’s right in front of us, that He’s already answered the prayer if we would stop looking everywhere else and just look straight ahead at what’s right in front of us.

James 1:6-8, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

The verses preceding speak of the Christian going through trials and the graces that are produced while going through those difficult times.

While the world tells you to be calm during those times, Scripture tells us to have joy (v. 2). The testing of your faith produces patience (v. 4). It flows into praying for wisdom (v. 5). If you lack it, ask for it!

James is telling Christians not to pray for the removal of the trial, but for wisdom through the trial. Guess what the rest of the verse 5 says? That whoever asks for wisdom, through this, God gives it to them liberally, bountifully, and without judgement or criticism!

It’s very fitting that this next verse uses the analogy of a doubting Christian to the waves of the sea. Here we are at the beach, waves going every which way, and I’m looking for an answer to this prayer.

A doubting Christian can be dangerous. Doubt leads our minds astray to the “what if’s” and the “what could have been’s”.

“A wavering faith and spirit has a bad influence upon our conversations. A double-minded man is unstable is all his ways (v. 8). When our faith and spirits rise and fall with second causes, there will be great unsteadiness in all our conversation and actions. This may sometimes expose men to contempt in the world; but it is certain that such ways cannot please God nor procure any good for us in the end. While we have but one God to trust to, we have but one God to be governed by, and this should keep us even and steady. He that is unstable as water shall not excel.” -Matthew Henry

“You will only live a life as bold as your prayers.” -Beth Moore

Are you praying in faith (v. 6)?

Are you doubting when crying out to the Lord (v. 6)?

Are you praying with expectancy?

Belief takes action…so where are you looking?

Pineapple: a symbol of hospitality

If you know me, you know that I love pineapples. They are probably my favorite fruit. Especially now.

They are used for all kinds of health benefits including immune system support, bone strength, eye health, healthy digestion, anti-inflammatory benefits, blood clot reduction, reduces the risk of a common cold and sinuses, and I’m sure many more. These are just what I found in my research. It has also been proven to induce labor. I can actually attest to this one myself as I ate quite a bit of pineapple the night before my water broke and I went into labor with my daughter!

But they are not just my favorite fruit because of all these awesome health benefits, but because it is actually the international symbol for hospitality.

The word pineapple was derived from a Spanish word used to refer to a pinecone in 1398, so it actually had nothing to do with the fruit until about 300 years later when the word became exclusively used for the fruit. The fruit obviously needs a tropical climate to flourish. Hawaii is the only U.S. state in which pineapples are still grown. Of course other countries grow pineapples, but as for the U.S., Hawaii is about it! (Research from LiveScience)

Hospitality is a theme that God has literally thrown in my face over the past few months, something He’s desperately working on my heart.

I fear for those in ministry that we’ve become accustomed to Christians and Christians only. It’s like we’re waiting for the world to come knocking on our church doors. And as we know, that’s not the case. We have to go to them.

When Paul was saved on the Road to Damascus, he wasn’t the least bit concerned for Jesus, or even looking for him for that matter. He had just left the stoning of the martyr Stephen! No way was Jesus even on his mind. But that’s exactly where Jesus met him. The woman at the well, she went looking for water but left with living water. She wasn’t out looking for Jesus. He was already there waiting for her.

As Christians, we need to move past this mentality of staying in our little “Christian bubbles” where we meet with and host only those that think like us, look like us, worship like us, live like us, etc. When Jesus met me where I was eight and a half years ago, I looked nothing like Jesus nor was I looking for Him.

These were the people Jesus met with: Pharisees, fisherman, tax collectors, the deformed, the sick, the adulterers, the homeless, the refugees, the wanderers, the possessed, and even the unclean. (Jen Schmidt) How about you? Would you welcome this group into your home? Would you send them an invite?

Back to the pineapple. The pineapple was a symbol of royal privilege back in the day (don’t you love that phrase?!). It would only be used as a centerpiece placed above the desserts because it was hefty price just to rent it for the day for whatever gathering was being held!

“The more affluent clients of the bake shop would actually be sold the same rented fruit to carve and share with their guests. Any guest who was invited to a party where a whole pineapple was displayed, knew that no expense was spared in guaranteeing the guests’ enjoyment. It was this that made the crowned fruit the high symbol of social events and became the meaning of welcome, friendship, and hospitality.” (The Story of the Pineapple)

Native Americans would place a pineapple outside of their door when they were welcoming guests. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but even outside of some hotels there will be a pineapple carved on a sign outside of the hotel.

Hospitality has become a lost art in our society. And sadly, a lost art among Christians.

“Who is missing at my table? Am I willing to enlarge the boundaries of my heart to allow the core of the gospel living to include anyone and everyone? Does my table look like Jesus’ table, set for all who are hungry and in need?” (Jen Schmidt)

Romans 12:13 tell us to pursue hospitality. It’s a pursuit. Is hospitality something that you’re pursuing?

So when you see a pineapple displayed, come on in!