Tending To My Garden

In my uber-busy world, tending to my own garden is challenging. But, I’ve recently been reminded that it is best to focus on what God puts in front of me, rather than looking to see what tasty morsels might be on somebody else’s plate. Being content and grateful for what the Lord has given me to watch over is more difficult at times than it seems like it should be. Perhaps, that is simply human nature.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15 (NIV)

Had the man, Adam, simply remained faithful to tending to the garden that the Lord had put him in charge of, his life and our lives might have played out differently. But even though God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden, Scripture tells us that they were not satisfied with this and their eyes and appetites wandered. They wanted more.

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Recall the story of James and John-the Sons of Thunder—in the Gospel of Mark?

Mark 10:35-45 (NIV) 35Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 37They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 38“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39“We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” 41When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles LORD it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Scripture informs us that James and John had the nickname “Sons of Thunder”. Imagine that. Here are two of Christ’s closest disciples and Scripture refers to them like they are WWE Tag Team wrestlers akin to the Freebirds or the Legion of Doom.

Certainly, you don’t earn the name Sons of Thunder without reason. James and John were rough around the edges. They were colorful, amazing men. They weren’t afraid of a fight. Like some of us, they might even fancy picking one from time to time. Scripture shows us that they could be aggressive.

Along with that aggressiveness, as many of us know to well, comes a degree of insensitivity. Lack of tact. Overly direct. Not concerned with how our words or deeds might impact others.

You might recall that on one occasion, James and John wanted to call down the fire of heaven on a Samaritan village who did not seem to respond to the message Jesus preached.

Here in this passage, as Jesus speaks of His own impending death about how he would be betrayed and then handed over to the Gentiles to be mocked, spit upon, scourged, and ultimately killed, James and John the Sons of Thunder blurt out: “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask—Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

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Tending to our garden is not something that always comes easy to us.

Pride and envy battle humility and gratitude, struggling for control of our heart, mind, and soul. If we remain humble and grateful, we have greater chances of walking faithfully on the journey God has laid out in front of us. Pride and envy convince us that “Our Will Be Done” instead of “God’s Will Be Done”.

Adam and Eve were shunned from the Garden, bestowing the curse of Sin upon all the generations of man that followed them. I’ll bet they wished when it was all said and done, that they had tended to their garden.

Through the New Testament Scripture, we see James and John transformed, becoming more like Christ, whom they spent every day with for 3 ½ years. Even so, their transformation did not happen overnight. But eventually they learned to tend to their garden.

How about you? Are you like me, struggling to keep your mind, heart, and soul focused on the work God has given you? Have you gotten so caught up in tending to other people’s gardens that you’ve neglected your own?

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Scripture teaches us “Therefore is anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.”

Through Jesus Christ, you and I can be transformed, no longer defined by the sins and shortcomings of our past, but free as servants of God Almighty to prosper in all that we do.

It is a struggle we must endure. Being unfaithful to what God has provided us is no solution. It is a road that leads to no good. With Christ, all things are possible.  Be humble. Be grateful. Remain faithful.

Tend to your garden.

Prayer:

Father, Lord we love you. Help us tend to our garden. Empower us with the ability to be satisfied in that which you have provided for us and entrusted into our watch-care. Help us be faithful stewards of all that you have made us accountable for, remaining humble and grateful as we serve you and your Kingdom, for your glory, and for you honor, and for your praise. Amen. Amen.

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What Do I Really Need?

Welcome to the inaugural guest post on my blog by my writer-friend Kathryn McClatchy. Kathryn and I first met a few years ago at the Writers Guild of Texas where we happily served as Board members. We are co-hosting a big event for the WGT in July and in advance of that wanted to introduce our respective audiences to one another. It is my prayer that you will be enriched by Kathryn’s heartfelt guest entry on The Devotional Guy blog. And now without further ado…

What Do I Really Need?

As my husband was about to turn off the lights and crawl in bed, he turned to me at the door of our bedroom, as is his habit, and asked, “Anything else you need before I come to bed?” I usually answer a last-minute reminder to do something, or prep something for the morning, or say something teasing, or beg him to bring me something sweet. Something. I always need something.

But this week I finished reading The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth, a historical novel set in WWII Berlin, and this evening I’d been reading The Insanity of God by Nik Ripkin set in 1990s Somalia and throughout parts of the world where Christians are persecuted, and for the first time in over 27 years my thoughtful husband’s pre-bed question made me a bit queasy. Need. Do I need anything? Suddenly I realized how very little I truly need.

I was taught Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in every field I studied in college. Perhaps you’re familiar with it also.

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As humans we need basic bodily functions. Everything else is bonus for living, although helpful for a happy and productive life. As Christians, throughout history there are examples after examples that once basic physiological needs are met, we can survive on the Word of God (Matthew 4:4) and hope of eternity (Titus 1:2). Biblical accounts of the Israelites in the wilderness, Ruth and Naomi returning to Bethlehem as widows with nothing, Daniel in Babylon, John on the Isle of Patmos, and so many accounts through history of persecuted and martyred Christians, to the current reports of miracles happening in Russia, the Middle East, Africa, China, and North Korea. People who have lost everything, who are told to curse God or deny Jesus to live, choose to die in order to gain eternal life. Who would die for a lie? Maslow forgot to list the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that convinces Christians of the truth of Scripture. That is required for the Christian life as much as water, air, and sleep.

When we were newlyweds, my groom regularly surprised me with roses. He knew purple roses were my favorite. Later with children, health crisis, and job changes, money became too tight to spend on roses. So he started bringing me lilies which were more cost-effective. And lilies became our loving reminder of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6: 25-34:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

We thought we were doing without. We thought we had reason to worry. We were young, naive, and too blessed to know what doing without really meant. Thinking of this passage in light of the cruelties and deprivation of war, of accounts of concentration camp survivors from the 1940s and of refugees today, of persecuted Christians around the world serving years in prison and labor camps for declaring Jesus is God, I realize how very blessed I am. I also realize how much I have taken for granted.

So now the question is not only whether I “need” or “want” it, but am I truly grateful for what I do have. I’ve pretty well reached the top of Maslow’s hierarchy. The things I grumble and stress over are things or situations that I could easily survive without. I did a #100DaysOfGratitude challenge a while back. I found so many things to be grateful for, and learned a lot about myself (and photography) in the process.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:22).

So what did I answer my husband as he waited by the bedroom door? I told him I just need a safe place to sleep, enough to eat, and someone to love. Noting what I was reading, he smiled and nodded as he turned out the lights. I thanked him for providing those all things for me, and snuggled a bit closer as he fell asleep. Then I thanked God for providing His son Jesus, the gift of salvation, and my husband. I don’t need anything else.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

About Our Guest Blogger:

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After numerous strokes, Kathryn McClatchy started a new chapter in her life in 2010. Utilizing her previous career experiences in Newspaper, Marketing, Coaching, and Education, Kathryn is now writing mysteries, blogging, teaching workshops, coaching writers, and enjoying life with her husband, Steve, and service dog, Gizmo. When not reading and writing, Kathryn enjoys visiting with family and friends, needlework, sewing, trying out new vegan recipes, and enjoying nature. You can learn more about her and Gizmo at Unleashing the Next Chapter.

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Are you a blogger in the DFW area who would like to learn more about blogging? Make plans to attend our big event presented by the Writers Guild of Texas in July.