My father-in-law is a viticulturist.
In other words, he grows grapes. The vineyard he planted is among fertile fields of northern California, surrounded by miles of thriving nut orchards. My husband and I love to visit, taking time to quiet our hearts and nourish our souls in the scenic farmland. Sometimes, while walking through the property we jokingly caution, “don’t drop a bean, or a beanstalk will sprout and climb to the clouds!”
When we return home, we find an opposite-world. We consider our Colorado property a small slice of paradise but compared to the lush greenery of our “California home” our residence resembles more of a desert. Ours was among the first divided parcels and new home construction in a once-rural area more than 50 years ago. I reason that a farmer sold the least fertile ground first. That’s where we live.
Wisdom from the Vineyard
When it comes to developing a green thumb, I study and try to learn as much as I can from my in-laws. My mother-in-law sends me seeds harvested from her own gardens. Some years when I plant them, they surprise me with stems and leaves and flowers. Other years late freezes add to my gardening struggles, or pesky weeds take over.
My father-in-law freely shares the wisdom and knowledge he’s acquired as he’s learned the craft of vine dressing: careful cultivating, nourishing the vines, and most importantly, thoughtful and meticulous pruning.
Nourishing our Spirits
The lessons we’ve learned from our time in the vineyard go far beyond agricultural and point us to the spiritual, too. Biblical references to pruning and tending vines reach deeply into our lives. They encourage us to nourish and care for our spirits by staying closely connected to our Source of sustenance, Jesus. That’s the place where we find unshakeable joy.
I’ve written a blog post for the Joyful Life Magazine to share more about what I’ve learned that the wisdom I’ve gleaned from the vineyard. I invite you to read the entire post here at JoyfulLifeMagazine.com.
Read the full post here.
May you find strength and joy in the Lord today.
It was my “one word” for 2018. Not as part of a trendy fad, but as a gift from Jesus, the Living Word. It entered my life through Scripture-soaked encouragement from a friend. The Holy Spirit entwined the word into my heart. He helped it take root in the depths of my soul until it sprouted into anticipation of a generous harvest. I worked it, watered it, and tilled it with prayer, meditation, and expectancy.
I believed I was cultivating a lush garden where I could rest in tranquil shade. That’s when the storms arose. When we closed the calendar of 2018, I looked back on a year of overflow that was a sharp contrast to what I expected. I was still numb and slightly nauseous from twelve months of turbulence.
The Power of a Single Word
Throughout the year, our family enjoyed mountaintop highs. First came the glorious news of our daughter-in-law’s pregnancy. Then my daughter surprised us with victory over a lengthy struggle with infertility. Our first two grandchildren were miraculously born four weeks apart, bringing an overflow of indescribable gifts. We saw the Lord’s astonishing provision and relished in our resulting exhilaration.
But there were devastating lows, too. We plummeted when a colleague’s life was taken from him in an instant. Later in the year, my husband faced forced retirement from his job after three decades of faithful service. These events, steeped in loss and grief, brought overflowing confusion, sorrow, and brokenness.
It was a blustery season of rejoicing and despairing, of celebrating and mourning. The storm monopolized my focus until it was all I could see. Jesus seemed more distant than I could recall in recent memory. Even worship—when I’m usually most connected to Him—felt superficial at best. While my lips sang lyrics like “Yes, I will sing for joy when my heart is heavy,” my heart expressed fear and doubt to God. Read more. . .
I wrote this article for The Joyful Life Magazine where it is featured in its entirety. I invite you to join me there to read the full article and discover how the Lord used a year of turbulence to draw me closer to Him and envelop me in His unshakable joy.
Read the full article here
It was a tough morning. I could barely keep my eyes open and struggled to get out of bed with any level of energy. I felt mentally ready to face the day and my spirits were high, but my body wasn’t cooperating. It just wanted more sleep!
Have you ever felt that way?
Naturally, I made my way straight to the coffee pot, which is part of my normal routine. But caffeine didn’t do the trick. I’ve noticed that it’s not always the miracle pep-provider that I hope. Fresh fruit for breakfast didn’t help, either. My time with Jesus helped a bit and I could finally start to move the wheels on this bus. Once I got moving, I started feeling a lot better. My liveliness and clarity were great through a couple of morning meetings, but then I sat down to work at my desk and my energy plummeted again.
Why am I so tired, I wondered. And then it became clear. I haven’t taken a real day off for weeks. Our entire family is getting ready for some big moves and gigantic changes and we’ve all been running proverbial marathons. Several of us have been sick, fighting through colds, coughs, and sneezes just trying to stay on track. It seems we never stop. And that’s probably because, in reality, we never stop.
Rest in the Bible
There’s a little gift the Lord gave us that we tend to overlook. It’s the gift of rest. If I dig deeper into my honesty tank, I’d say we ignore the gift. On purpose. That’s not good.
Our family has a propensity to let our ever-increasing task list and upcoming deadlines keep us from enjoying Sabbath. Perhaps your family does too.
Many Scriptural encouragements remind me that the Lord provided rest for our good. Yet it is an aspect of His protection and provision that we often fail to embrace. Consider with me:
Mark 6:31— And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat (ESV).
Matthew 11:29— Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (ESV).
Exodus 34:21— “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest (ESV).
Mark 2:27— And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (ESV).
Setting aside a day each week for rest is commanded (“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. . .” [Exodus 20:8]), and as with all Scriptural commands, it’s intended for our good and God’s glory.
Rest and Productivity
I find it remarkable that when I take true, Sabbath, I’m more productive afterward. I recognize the Lord’s hand of favor and ease over my work. It’s as if I get more done after a break than I would have without one. Then I wonder why it’s so easy to ignore rest and work straight through the week.
Apparently, I’m not alone in neglecting my rest. The Lord addressed it through His prophet, Isaiah. “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling. . .” Isaiah 30:15 (ESV).
This verse is convicting! God offers us so much in our rest, yet we are quick to turn our back, believing we can accomplish more in our own strength. He wants to do more than provide for our rest, He wants to be our rest. By connecting and abiding in Him, thorough His Word and in prayer, we can find refreshing rest in His presence.
Spiritual Growth Through Rest
As we work to sprout our spiritual growth, let’s make a conscious effort to rest our bodies, minds, and spirits. On top of adopting some of the practices we’ve outlined in this series (time in His Word, meditation, and worship), schedule a real, actual day off and rest. Your rest can look a lot different than being a couch potato. You might decide to sleep late or take a nap, but you’ll also find rest as you get out and do something you enjoy—something that’s not part of work or a project on your “to-do” list.
Rest is a wonderful practice that helps us keep God as a high priority in our lives and avoid making our tasks an inadvertent idol. But rest often takes intentional focus. It certainly doesn’t flow into our lives naturally, so we must actively pursue it to enjoy it’s wonderful benefits.
May you embrace the joy of the Lord today,
Springtime brings one of my favorite things—songbirds. Their lovely melodies thrill my heart, especially the meadowlarks. It’s not a far stretch to imagine that they lift their voice to the Lord in praise. After all, Psalm 150:6 says, “let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
If the birds can praise Him, so must we. What a lovely way to sprout our spiritual growth.
In today’s noisy world, it’s easy to forget that we can worship God wherever we are and in whatever we do. Of course, we can worship on Sunday, but we can also praise Him while folding laundry, changing diapers, driving to work, having a lunch meeting, or helping children with their schoolwork. Our praise can take on many forms, like quiet meditation or writing, generosity, serving, speaking, or singing about Who the Lord is and all He has done.
Regardless of our method, heartfelt worship is essential to sprouting our spiritual growth and deepening our connection to God. And we needn’t save our worship for Sundays.
What Happens When We Worship God?
As we lift up our voice in praise, the Bible reveals several things that happen:
- Psalm 22:3 tells us that the Lord inhabits the praise of His people.
- Through praise to the King, we enter His gates and courts (Psalm 100:4).
- Exaltation of the King invites His response as He accepts our praise offering.
- He captures and consumes our attention as our focus shifts from ourselves to the One worthy of adoration.
- The light of the Lord casts out all darkness (Psalm 139:11-12) so that we can have uninterrupted, unhindered time with Him, enjoying the satisfaction that comes through such wondrous communion.
I don’t know about you, but I long for the Lord’s involvement throughout my week and praising His holy name invites His presence and power. One of my favorite Bible events shows this perfectly.
The Power of Worship
In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat learned that a vast number of enemies were coming to fight. He was afraid (naturally—I would be too), and verse 3 tells us that he “resolved to seek the Lord.” He and his people fasted and then declared adoration to God. In response, the Lord caused His Spirit to fall on a man named Jahaziel and said, “You do not have to fight this battle…I am with you” (vv 14-15). Wow. Can you imagine the peace and assurance that brought?
In the morning when it was time to face their enemies, Jehoshaphat “appointed some to sing for the LORD and some to praise the splendor of His holiness. When they went out in front of the armed forces, they kept singing” (verse 21, HCSB).
Here’s the amazing part. When the people lifted their voices in praise, the Lord set an ambush against their enemies and defeated them. The enemies turned on one another and destroyed each other. And it happened, “The moment they began their shouts and praises” (verse 22). That’s not a coincidence. If we don’t believe that God moves through our praise, we should take a much closer look at the Scriptures and watch more intently in our own lives.
Let’s not save our worship on Sunday, but praise Him with all our might, in spirit, and in truth, just as Jesus instructed in John 4:24. It’s sure to sprout our spiritual growth, draw us deeper into His presence, and enrich our abiding connection with God.
May you embrace the Lord’s joy today –
Yesterday on the blog I laid out a simple, 15-minute challenge to sprout our spiritual growth:
Read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb each day.
The simple practice helps turn our hearts to God and keep Him at the forefront of our minds. The Psalms are filled with encouragement and hope while the Proverbs teach wisdom and point us toward a character-filled life. Reviewing them often—reading God’s Word as an ongoing process—draws us into a deeper, abiding connection with the Lord of Hosts.
That’s the entire goal for sprouting our spiritual growth. It’s the process of transformation that draws us into a closer relationship with Jesus. It prepares us to allow the Holy Spirit, making us more like Christ so that we may participate in the divine (see 2 Peter 1:3-8).
As we begin to adopt new practices, it’s not merely for the sake of doing, it’s for the sake of displaying more of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and less of our worldly nature.
Today’s challenge is also simple:
Mull it over.
Meditate on God’s Word
The thought of meditation has taken on some negative connotations. Eastern religions and new age thinking often twist the Biblical practice. Throughout God’s Word, however, we’re instructed to mediate (mull over) on God and on His precepts and ways. When we meditate according to God’s instruction, we ponder His truths.
Biblical meditation is not a practice of emptying our minds to let “the universe fill the voids.” Rather, it is focusing intently on God’s Word.
As you read Scripture, take time to pause when a verse stirs your heart. For example, when I read Psalm 5:12 yesterday, it captured my attention and felt like a spiritual hug from God. So I paused to meditate.
A Meditation Example
In The Passion Translation Psalm 5:12 says:
“Lord, how wonderfully you bless the righteous. Your favor wraps around each one and covers them under your canopy of kindness and joy.”
I began to mull over the verse, considering the wonderful blessings that God gives His children. My mind traveled back a few days and I recalled God’s goodness in both large and very small ways. I thanked the Lord and spent time recognizing each gift as coming from my Heavenly Father.
Next, I pondered the idea of His favor wrapping around me. It isn’t in front of me or behind me, but wraps all around me, shielding me from every direction. When I considered being covered by a canopy of His kindness and joy, I couldn’t help but smile.
Mulling over this passage brought a new thought to my mind: How can I live differently today knowing that God’s favor wraps around me, He has blessings in store for me, and that I am covered in His kindness and joy? As I face things like an uncomfortable conversation, or a new business venture, or deal with a challenging personality, how can I think and act differently knowing the promises of Psalm 5:12?
Embrace God’s Promises
The Psalms and Proverbs are books of poetry. They’re beautifully written AND they are God’s truth. They’re thick with promises that the Lord will fulfill, and gifts that He wishes to lavish upon us as His own.
By mulling over Scripture, by taking the time to recognize that the Words are intended for me, personally, and by receiving them as my own, my outlook changes. My mood improves. And my hope and joy grow. I recognize that the Lord doesn’t intend for me to say stuck in a life of hum-drum, but longs to bless me as a child of the King.
As we move toward sprouting our spiritual growth, I encourage you to take a few minutes after reading God’s Word and mull it over. Let it penetrate your mind and sink into your heart. Receive God’s promises and grab hold of them with all your might.
My friend, Manyesha Batist helped me greatly. I’m thrilled to share her short video that helps me meditate on God’s Word.
If you’re joining me on this journey of spiritual growth, I’d love to know! Please reach out to me on Facebook or Instagram. And share this post with others if you feel they’ll be blessed!
May God’s Word strengthen you today,