A Closer Look

Gärtnern, gardeningBeautiful sunshine and warm days are two things hard to come by where I live. So today, when both were present, I knew what I had to do. I stepped out of the door and breathed deeply the scent of  the flowers, enjoying the bright colors of the marigolds, SunPatiens and Echinacea. Finally, taking a closer look at them, it became clear there was a problem. My SunPatiens though pretty, were much smaller than in past years. The echinacea looked sick, and the marigolds hadn’t filled the flower boxes as they should have. How could this be?  I thought. We had so much rain earlier in the summer. Maybe we had too much for them. I walked around the house to my container vegetable garden and picked a few tomatoes. The same problem besetting my flower garden was affecting my vegetable garden as well. There were plenty of tomatoes on the vine, but they were all quite small. Then I understood the problem. Because there had been so much rain, for weeks on end, I had gotten out of the habit of watering the gardens. When the rain stopped, I thought they needed some time to dry out, so I only watered them a couple of times in the last few weeks. The plants didn’t die, but they began to produce less fruit and their growth was stunted. Because it happened gradually, I didn’t even notice until I really stopped and took the time to look at them.

The same thing can, and often does, happen in our Spiritual lives. We go through great times of nourishment and rapid growth – feasting on God’s Word, spending time with fellow Christians and experiencing a closeness with God in prayer. Eventually, the feasting ends, and we go back to our normal diet of Bible Study, prayer, fellowship, etc. That is to be expected. It is the ebb and flow of the Christian life. The problem comes when we allow ourselves to get on autopilot. Our Spiritual life becomes routine. If asked, we say we’re doing fine, and we think we are. In fact, many times we truly are fine. But if we remain on autopilot too long, if we are not staying alert, we can be headed for danger without knowing it.

Like my plants, we sometimes try to live off the last time we had a really great Spiritual meal, but that only lasts so long. Eventually, the nourishment we’ve stored will be used up in our regular daily Spiritual activities. Then, if we’ve been on autopilot too long, those activities become less frequent. We go from studying the Bible everyday, to reading a few times a week. The excitement we once had at meeting God in His Word, becomes a duty – something we have to check off our to-do list. Our prayer times are fewer and farther between, and we find ourselves just sending up one-line requests to the God of the universe. We still attend church and take part in our usual activities there, but the truth is, we are gradually, oh so gradually, becoming undernourished. Like my plants, we’re still alive, but we’re producing less fruit, smaller in size and we’re on our way to Spiritual death. If we continue to stay on this path, we will surely die.

If I hadn’t taken a closer look at my plants and noticed how undernourished they were, they would have died. They would not have had enough nutrients to produce even small flowers or vegetables. Thankfully, I realized the problem before it was too late and provided the water and nutrients they needed to survive and hopefully, thrive. We need to do the same thing in our Spiritual lives. Periodically, we need to take a close look at ourselves – at our attitudes toward the Spiritual disciplines of reading and praying, serving, and fellowshipping. We need to ask ourselves if we are getting the proper nourishment, or are we on autopilot, getting just enough to survive, but headed for danger? Don’t put it off. Ask yourself these questions right now. And if you need to, take yourself off autopilot, up your Spiritual caloric intake, and let the God of Creation provide the nourishment, not only to help you survive, but to make you thrive.

Compartmentalizing – Good and Bad

File Folders in Wire Organizers(From the Archives – I hope you enjoy it.)           I’ve often thought, and heard others say, that men are really good at compartmentalizing. They can put aside one thing to focus on another, even when the thing they are putting aside is extremely important and upsetting. As women, we may not be great at compartmentalizing our feelings, but there is one way we may be too good at it. Do we compartmentalize our Christianity?

What do I mean by that? Let me give you an example. It’s the first night of a new class you’re taking at the local community college.  In order for everyone to get to know each other, you go around the room with each person telling the others about themselves. When your turn comes, you might say something like, “I’m Sarah Smith. I’m a wife, mother of two, and I work at XYZ Office. I enjoy scrapbooking, bike riding and reading.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re a Christian, why is that not one of the first things you say about yourself?

The above is just an example, but the point is, as Christians, our faith is the most important thing about ourselves. Shouldn’t our Christianity define who we are better than any other role, job, or activity we are involved in? Shouldn’t everything else in our lives, the way we live our lives, stem from our Christianity? Why are we fearful of saying straight out, I’m a Christian?

I used to be nervous about sharing overtly Christian things about myself. Then one day, I was in a group of people, listening to them talk about getting drunk the night before, their promiscuous behavior and using offensive language. They were talking about who they were, why couldn’t I? It was then and there I decided to no longer hide my faith. Since then, when I’m asked what I did last night, if I went to church and taught a Bible study, that’s what I tell them. When asked what I’m working on, I tell them a book about living life as a Christian woman with passion.

A Christian, that’s who I am, and I will no longer hide it like it’s something to be ashamed of. What’s funny is, I’ve found that most people respect my answers and actually want to know more. Doors have been opened because I no longer compartmentalize my Christianity from the rest of my life – there is no “rest of my life”, my faith is what defines me. Jesus said in Luke 9:26 that if I am ashamed of him and his words, he will be ashamed of me when he comes in his glory. I refuse to be ashamed; I refuse to hide who I am. What about you?