Soil Conditioning

Gardening is one of my pleasures in life. This spring I’m busy transplanting rose bushes, adding hydrangeas, and calculating what herbs to grow this season. It’s my version of “crop rotation.” As we dig the holes for our shrubs I’ve learned the importance of digging a very large hole, and since we live at the coast, it’s important to amend our sandy soil with rich, fertile loam. If we don’t take that precaution our plants will never thrive.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke convey Jesus telling the parable of a farmer who sows his seed. This threefold repetition points out the importance of the message contained in the illustration, so we need to pay attention. Some seed falls along a path where it was trampled on and birds ate it up. Some lands on rocky ground, but when the plants begin to grow they wither due to lack of moisture and shallow soil. Even more seed falls among thorns, which grew up with the plants and choked the good plants out. Finally, the remainder of the seed fell on good soil where “… it came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown” (Luke 8:8, NIV).

Scripture informs us the seed described in Jesus’ parable is God’s Word. If the seed falls along the path, it means we’ve heard God’s Word, but don’t understand it. Satan steals it from our hearts; we do not believe and therefore are not saved. If it falls on rocky ground, we’ve received God’s Word with joy, but we have no root and fall away once difficulties arise due to not being firmly planted and established. If it falls among thorns, we’ve heard God’s Word but the worries, concerns, and pleasures of life choke out His truth and we do not mature in the Lord.

However, if the seed falls among good soil, we’ve heard God’s Word and we keep it and persevere in life. We produce a crop—evident by our good works, compassion for others, and all the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

How do we ensure God’s Word falls on good soil?

Discipline is the slow-release fertilizer that continually works to fortify our soil.

Discipline is defined as, “training that corrects, molds, or perfects moral character” ( For the Christian, this training implies an ongoing process and would include practices such as prayer, reading and studying the Bible, attending church, and fellowship with other believers.

But it is through setting aside time with God that we become acquainted with Him and His Word. We cannot neglect to pray for wisdom and discernment prior to Bible study, asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate Scripture. Furthermore, meditating on the Word provides the necessary time to listen and understand. Luke 8:18 (NIV) charges us with, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” We’re to understand and become mindful of God’s Word in order not to forfeit it. Read Scripture, know Scripture, memorize Scripture.

Discipline requires time, commitment, and practice. As we fertilize and enhance our soil with discipline, only then will we become fruitful and produce a crop.

Father God, Please help me to grow in the knowledge and understanding of your Word. I know it’s only by disciplining myself to spend time alone with you and in your Word will I be able to safeguard the condition of my soil. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

The Parable of the Sower appears in the following three gospel accounts:

Matthew 13:3b-23

Mark 4:3-25

Luke 8: 5-18

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Lean on Me

Smitten. That one word sums up how my husband and I feel about Remy, our rescued standard poodle. And Remy delights in us, confidently knowing he hit the jackpot the day we adopted him and took him out of what had been a painful situation for him. Leaning against us whenever the opportunity presents itself, he demonstrates his total devotion and affection for us. This is no gentle lean against our thigh, but similar to Velcro, he adheres his whole 65-pound body to us, leaning so “hard” that we can easily topple over. We’re Remy’s protection and his safe place.

Do I lean into God and is He truly my safe place?

If you’re like me, perhaps you worry more about productivity and all the things that we have to do, when God quietly calls us to lean in and believe in his provision. Often we just grab hold of the steering wheel and move forward in life in our own power. Do we sincerely know how to rely on Him? Do I completely trust Him as wise King Solomon exhorts us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, NIV)?

As the saying goes, it’s so much easier said than done. We give it to the Lord, and then we take it back, rather than depending on His provision and love. God yearns to have us draw near to Him when:

  • Life is painful and we hurt. Perhaps it’s illness, impending surgery, or struggles with children or grandchildren.
  • We’re overwhelmed. We have too much to do, we’ve poured ourselves out for others and we feel drained, and fatigue has set in.
  • We continually struggle with besetting sin. It might be poor choices, habits, or addictions, but sin has ensnared us and we know it.

We may feel like a restless ship out in the open seas dealing with all life has thrown our way. But, just as incoming boats find rest in a safe harbor, Jesus invites us to relinquish our cares and abide in Him. When everything crumbles around us, it’s only by opening our hearts and minds to Jesus Christ, our bread of life, will he nourish and sustain us. We can’t overlook the importance of spending daily time in Scripture and communing with Him in prayer for this sustenance, but let’s also delve a little deeper. Are we taking the time to wait on Him and to allow Him to speak to us through His Word or during prayer? I know I often don’t, and that’s when I start taking control once again and lose that intimacy with our heavenly Father. We need to be faithful to lean and listen, because as a dear friend of mine likes to say, “God’s got this.”

We delight in Remy as he leans into us and takes comfort from us. How much more so as we lean into our Lord with all we have, confident He will meet us and tuck us inside the shadow of His wings. “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 63:7, NIV).

Father God, I confess I like being in control, but I just can’t do all of this on my own. I acknowledge my need for you. Please help me lean into you, trust you, and relinquish my situation to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Exodus 14:14 (NIV): “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Psalm 18:2 (NIV): “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Jeremiah 17:7-9 (NIV): “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

John 15:4-5 (NIV): “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.”

© 2018 All rights reserved.

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When God Says: “Slow Down”

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, over half of Americans (55%) say they pray daily. Women respond as more likely to pray daily than men do (64% versus 46%). With the majority of us women praying, we can logically conclude that there are many different types of answers we receive to our prayers. A Pearl of Great Value will be exploring a few of these in a seven-part series on prayer entitled, “When God Says ….”

Part 5 of 7

Many of us know the feeling—insomnia, anxiety, shortness of breath, and perhaps heart palpitations —all physical symptoms of when life is spinning out of control. We’re convinced we’re living life to the fullest, yet with many demands imposed on us we’re staying busy all the time, and neglecting to take some downtime.

Detecting their fatigue after a time of preaching and performing miracles, Jesus admonished his disciples to, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31b, NIV). How often do we apply that advice? It’s difficult to pull back from a go-go mentality or way of life. Even more so if it’s all good stuff we’re doing for church, family, and others. However, as we pray, we may detect God saying, “Slow down.”

God desires our attention and will use any means to slow us down in order to get it.

I’m reminded of the story of Susanna Wesley (mother of John and Charles Wesley—two eighteenth-century Champions of the Faith) who had little time to herself. As the mother of 19 children, with only 10 of them surviving, Susanna encountered numerous challenges and demands. So, when she wanted to pull away and pray, she would cover her head with her apron. That was how Susanna slowed down and took time communing with her Lord, and her children knew to leave her alone when they saw her in this posture. She lived the truth of Psalm 46:10a (NIV): “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Perhaps it’s time for us to take a good hard look at what we’re undertaking. Are we sacrificing quality time with family and other relationships? Are we merely going through the motions of doing or are we actually thriving in the work we’re accomplishing? Is it possible that instead of being too busy, our problem is actually how we do our activities? Often, this is God’s call for us to prioritize, delegate, and work smarter. For each of us it will look a little different, but God desires His daughters to:

  • Come to the quiet.
  • Relax in His creation.
  • Refresh our spirits.
  • And learn to take a Sabbath rest.

We all know the saying, “Life is short,” and if God is calling us to slow down, it is time to heed what we’re hearing. Earlier this year God used a dramatic situation to grab my attention when I passed out on a Sunday morning. After praying for discernment on what to learn from this event, I’m making wiser choices about how I use my time, ensuring there is quality time with my Lord, my family, and friends. Yes, He will use any means to slow us down.

Father God, I hear your still small voice telling me to slow down. Help me to act upon what I’m sensing is your desire for me. I need more of you and less of this busyness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV): “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Matthew 11:28 (NIV): “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV): “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.”

1 Peter 5:7 (NIV): “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

© 2017 All rights reserved.

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Talk Time

Do you love to talk to God throughout the day as I do? Sometimes it’s a session of intense prayer, other times it’s simply thanking Him for the beauty of His creation. Often I’m just wondering what to do next. No matter the situation, I’m thankful for the quiet confidence that I can talk to God about everything, all the time. But, it wasn’t always like this.

When I was a new believer, the short, but to-the-point admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to, “Pray continually” struck a chord with me. Do you wonder, as I did, how to pray all the time?

Preceding this instruction, we read in verse 16, “Be joyful always,” which directs us in our attitude of how we approach God. Verse 18 concludes with exhorting us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” These straightforward teachings are the key to praying continuously.

As we talk to God we’re to be joyful, giving thanks to Him always. Through prayer we can ask the Lord to change us to reflect these qualities. Adapting this frame of mind, we will find it easier and easier to talk to our Father God throughout the day. Continual prayer will flow more naturally, and

Unlike limited minutes on a cell phone plan, there is no limit to our talk time with God.

Through the years I’ve grown in dependence on God, desiring a heart attitude fully yielded to Him. This awareness of Him can be our way of life as we pray silently in our hearts throughout the day.

I pray you will find reassurance in the lyrics of the first verse of What a Friend We Have in Jesus by Joseph M. Scriven:

“What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,

Oh, what needless pain we bear

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer.”

Father God, Thank you that we can take everything to you in prayer. Help me learn to talk to you continually throughout my day with a spirit of joy and thankfulness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Matthew 7:7 (NIV): “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Colossians 4:2 (NIV): “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

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Sometimes It Takes a Long Time

Due to years of overdoing it at the local gym, my lower back developed occasional low-grade pain. During a bout of independence, because after all, I’m a strong and physically fit woman, I was maneuvering my “at the maximum allowed weight” suitcase during a plane flight to the West coast. No thanks, I didn’t need any help. My back hasn’t been the same since.

For over a year now—a year with some doctor appointments, an MRI, a few medications, and physical therapy—this pain has been my faithful companion. Sadly, I had to give up the gym and put away the golf clubs, but my two-fold exercise instructions include a good deal of walking. I love to walk, and I soon found myself chalking up great distances and feeling some improvement. Conversely, the second treatment portion involved physical therapy, and in my mind, was boring. Plus, I didn’t see it was doing much good. All those stretches and gentle exercises when I’d rather be out and active—so I tapered off from doing them. As you may have guessed, the pain intensified until I finally hunkered down and got serious about the physical therapy routine. Now every morning I faithfully perform the stretches. The progress is snail-like slow and has gone on for a prolonged time, but my pain is currently minimal. I’m learning:

Perseverance and patience work in partnership.

Patience can mean forbearance and long-suffering. Perseverance requires discipline as you work for something despite the difficulties. Unpopular words in a culture which desires instant results. None of us like to suffer, and even more so if it’s for a lengthy period.

God’s Word has much to say about enduring and holding up. Psalm 27:14 (NIV) exhorts us to, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Did you notice this one sentence of scripture admonishes us not once, but twice, to wait for the Lord?

What are you waiting for?

  • A child to accept the Lord
  • A job change
  • A resolution for a financial issue
  • A house to sell
  • An improvement in your health

As I wait, how can I be strong and take heart as scripture instructs me? By doing my spiritual exercises. Just as I have to daily do my stretches and exercises for my back, I need to stay in His Word. Diligently pouring through scripture illuminates my path of waiting. And, I’d much rather proceed in the light than in darkness.

Next, I can pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV) simply instructs, “Pray without ceasing.” By daily remaining in a mindset of prayer and communion with my heavenly Father, I am reassured of His care for me as He surrounds me in the “shadow of His wings.” (See Psalm 17:8) As you travel through your journey of prayer, don’t forget to notice the small steps and advances along the way.

And finally, seek fellowship with other believers and be an encouragement to them who may, in turn, encourage you. Be light to a world that desperately needs to see you handling the situation with grace and dignity. Fellow Christians will lighten your load and ease the pain of the process.

Strengthening my back has been a difficult, long process and it continues to be so. I have to be patient and I have to persevere, just as many of you are doing. My prayer for you is you’ll find the answers you’re waiting for, and you will “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12, NIV) The answers may not come in our timetable and they may not always be of our choosing, but God’s intentions for us are always perfect.

Father God, I’m waiting for your answers and it seems I’ve been waiting for a long time. I ask you to pick me up when I grow weary. Please sustain me and keep me patient, and strengthen me with perseverance during this season of waiting. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Isaiah 30:18 (NIV): “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

Isaiah 40:31 (KJV): “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Lamentations 3:24 (NIV): “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”

Romans 8:25 (NIV): “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

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