Friday, July 25, 2014

Attack of the Ugly Tomatoes

"Hey, sweetie!" I heard a familiar voice say. "It's Papa," he continued on the other end of the line.

"Listen, honey, I've got a bunch of tomatoes that need puttin' up today, and I don't have the time to fool with 'em cause I'm in the middle of cannin' pickles. Do you want 'em? Some of 'em are as big as soccer balls, and they've got plenty a'bad spots that need to be cut off. It's right many of 'em."

"Sure!" I replied.

And that was how I ended up with a bushel of tomatoes yesterday--a bushel of tomatoes that looked like this:

Pretty, no?

Last night and this morning, as I was cutting off the bad spots and setting aside the still-safe-to-eat parts, I thought about how these tomatoes painted a pretty interesting spiritual analogy.

The tomatoes, in their original state were full of bruises, oozes, splits, tears, and mold. All of these blemishes needed to be removed if the tomatoes were to be acceptable for me to use. Admittedly, some of the tomato sores were pretty vile, requiring me to maintain a pretty strong resolution in order to not throw up. (Yuck!)

But after their ugly parts were removed, the tomatoes were good for me to use.

Our lives in Christ are the same way. God has to, even after we are saved, remove the oozing sin spots, bruises, tears, splits, and mold in our lives. He has to cut them away from our hearts and minds if we are to be acceptable for His use.

I wonder how many times God has felt sick over something I've said or done or thought?

Whether it's because I've been lukewarm (Rev. 3:16) or disobedient to God's Word (1 John 3:4), God has had to cut away sin in my life.

Sometimes, it's just a bruise--a one-time thing that I messed up on.

Sometimes, it's a split or tear--something I've done before a few times or a sin I've not confessed.

The worst is when I let that tear become moldy or oozing or both--I let that sin continue to have a place in my heart and it becomes more vile and turns into a stronghold.

Have you ever seen an oozing tomato? I'm not trying to be gross, but when a tomato oozes, the gross part reaches other places on the tomato and everything around it--not just the original section of the tomato itself.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. When we continue in sin, when we don't confess our sin before God (1 John 1:9), it runs into other areas of our lives.

For example, if I'm continually not a submissive wife, then eventually my sin in this area (against God and Red Beard) is going to affect the way I counsel other women, the way I conduct myself in private and in public, the example I set, etc., etc.

Unconfessed sin always affects more areas than we realize. And with that unconfessed sin, our relationships--with God, our family, other believers, and non-believers alike--start to stink and rot.

We need to confess our sins.

Remember what happens next? The second half of that verse says... "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

As soon as we bring that sin before God, He cuts it away. And our lives, if we continue to live clean and holy before our righteous God, are available for Him to use.

Carry your bruises, oozes, splits, mold, and tears to the Great Physician!

--Mrs. D.

P.S. If you want to read more about freezing tomatoes, check out this page

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Straight Pull

Have you ever gone to a state fair or a farming expo? Red Beard and I went to one about 2 years ago, where we saw a Draft Horse pull for the first time.

For those of you who don't know, in a Draft Horse pull, teams of horses pull a weighted sled (they take turns, it's not a race!). The team that pulls the most weight wins. It is impressive how much weight these teams can pull--I believe they pull up to 5,000 pounds (2.5 tons)!

You can read more about pulling here.
Used with permission from Wikimedia commons
What does horse pulling have to do with anything? Well, I'll tell you.

On Sunday morning, our pastor discussed guilt. I'm not going to talk about guilt today, but I am going to use a verse that came up in his sermon: Matthew 11:28-30.
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Now, think about the yoking together pictured in these verses--if we are saved, we are yoked together with God. Meaning, God is now teaming up with us to help us pull our load.

That fact in itself is pretty amazing (and I camped out there in my mind on Sunday for a bit), but let's take this a step further.

What happens if two horses are yoked together, but they aren't of similar size or ability? For example, what would happen if you yoked together

a Draft Horse 
Used with permission from Wikimedia commons

with a Shetland Pony
Used with permission from Wikimedia commons

Because one equine is obviously stronger than the other, the team would not be able to pull in a straight line. They would travel in a circle.

So how can we be yoked up with God considering He is WAY stronger and mightier than we are? How can we be yoked with God and not spin in circles?

We have to use His strength and might for our half of the pull.
>>If we try to minister to other people in our own strength and not in His, we won't make any headway. We'll be spinning in circles. 
>>If we try to figure out a way to "better ourselves" (e.g. get in shape) and don't let God dictate the parameters, we'll be spinning in circles.
>>If we try to "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps" in difficult situations (e.g. job loss, bereavement), we'll be spinning in circles.
Even if we show signs of progress (physical, financial, etc.), we will be off-kilter and spinning spiritually because we didn't let God lead. We didn't let Him do it. We didn't do it in His strength.

I am saying this to you as much as I am saying it to myself. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Red Beard and I are in a state of waiting. If I try to force a change in our situation, I am not allowing God to have control of the situation. I am not trusting His timing. I am spinning in circles.

Are you waiting for something to change in your life? Maybe you're working on losing weight, maybe you're working on getting a promotion at work, or maybe you're waiting to meet the man God wants you to marry.

If you find yourself stressed out over the thing that you are waiting for, you need to (and I need to) let God pull your half of the yoke.

We need to, as the verses above say, come to Him for spiritual and mental rest. We need to learn our Bibles and focus on Him. We need to practice meekness and humility.

If you're waiting for a change, that doesn't mean God is punishing you. It just means you need to wait for His timing. Our souls will not find rest until we yoke up with God and use His strength. Then our waiting and our burdens will be easy and light.

I pray you have a straight pull.
--Mrs. D.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

First Time Camping?

This past week was our first time camping together as husband and wife. We've gone whitewater rafting, hiking, kayaking, etc. together--but not camping.

Other plans of ours had fallen through at the last minute, and since Red Beard had already taken the vacation days, we thought, "Let's go camping!"

Here are some highlights from our trip:

We borrowed a tent the Taj Mahal of 1980's tents from some friends...
Sans instructions, it took us an hour-and-a-half to put it up. Thankfully Red Beard had packed some paracord that he employed to tie up each "U"--or we would've been eating those metal "U's" in the middle of the night!

We had to start our fires with wet wood thanks to the rain, but our foil pack meals tasted excellent.
"Calling all bears! We've got perch here!"

When we were planning this spur-of-the-moment trip, I ignored one of the cardinal rules of trip organization: making a list. This led to my really cool improv footwear for hiking a steep trail: tall hiking socks and pink crocs, baby! I wonder why I got so many second looks from passers-by?

We also saw plenty of deer, met people from all over (the U.S. and abroad), and ate perfectly toasted marshmallows. Pretty cool!

Put it all together, and what have you got? A fun, relaxing time spent together in the quietness of God's creation. It was great. I even fell asleep while we were sitting under the trees, because it's so peaceful in the middle of nowhere.
The peacefulness of the woods reminds me of the peacefulness we can have in our lives if we're living where God wants us to. Such a pleasant place to be! And as much as I may fight being in that place (because I grow discontented or weary with the set-up), there is truly nowhere I would rather be than where God wants me to be.

Go get yourself a spot in the woods, y'all!
--Mrs. D.