This is MY garden

I’ve been trying to garden again this summer. Last year wasn’t very fruitful (read about it here if you want the sad story.) I was determined to give my garden more attention this year, and so far, the results have been much better. I’ve already enjoyed my first delicious tomato, and I have more jalapeno peppers than I know what to do with. However, those fruits have come as a result of a lot of work on my part.garden_06_17_16

I spend several hours a week outside – watering, fertilizing, checking for any problems, and pulling out weeds. I just came in from an hour out in the heat pulling out weeds one by one.  It seems like if I ignore the garden for more than a day or two, the next time I go out, it looks horrible. Insects have attacked, weeds taken over, and the plants look droopy from not enough water.

So, as I was working in the garden today, and thinking about what I was going to do when we go out of town in a few days, I started getting nervous. I can get someone to water the garden for me while I’m gone, but no one will care for my garden the way I do. This is MY garden. I’m the only one who cares about it enough to do all the little things that it needs to keep thriving.

There is no telling what it will look like when I get back. It will probably still be alive, but that may be about it.

I’m very protective of my little garden…but I’m about a million times more protective of this little garden:

Kids_2016-01-20 .

There is no one who will care for these three kids like I will. (The husband may come close, but it’s still not the same!)

They are MY responsibility, and you better believe I take it seriously.

Several years ago I heard this great sermon on intentional parenting. It opened my eyes, and I thank God every day that I heard that sermon when I did. What stuck out the most to me was how we so often leave our children’s spiritual instruction to Bible class teachers, when the Bible teaches that it’s the responsibility of the parents to instruct their children.

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Up until that point, my husband and I had been doing exactly what the speaker warned about. We were leaving our children’s spiritual education to Bible class teachers. Thankfully the children were still very young, and we immediately began to take the responsibility of teaching our children spiritual truths in our own home. Words can not express the difference this has made in our home. I can not imagine what our home would look like without the truths of the Bible to guide us or without spiritual conversations being a natural part of our home. The kids still go to Bible class, and that’s a great reinforcement, but no one will pay as close attention to what our children need as my husband and I will.

If we see weeds creeping in and choking their growth, we pull them out – in the heat, one by one, if necessary. If insects are attacking them and eating their fruit, those insects are gone. Period. There is nothing as important to me as seeing those three kids grow into vibrant, beautiful, fruit-producing Christians. Nothing.

Sometimes the environment gets tough for my vegetable garden. We may have several days of high heat and no rain, calling for some extra water. Does that happen to our children? Oh yes. Can’t you see them droop sometimes? Don’t ignore it. Give them what they need. I can’t ignore my vegetable garden and expect that it will stay healthy. I can’t leave it to someone else, either. It’s not that someone else won’t care, they just won’t care the way that I do. It’s not their garden. It’s mine.

Those children are mine.

I can’t ignore them spiritually and expect them to be healthy. I can’t let them droop while insects invade and weeds take over. I have to watch them and listen to them to see exactly what they need, and call in some extra help when I see a problem I don’t know how to handle. I need to tend my garden.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

We can not assume that our children know something if we do not take the time to teach it to them. We, as parents, bear the ultimate responsibility for cultivating our children’s hearts to walk with God. We want them to be more than just “kept alive” like my garden while I’m gone. We want them to thrive.

But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.  Luke 8:15


This Tomato Plant Makes Me So Mad

Tomato

One of the things I love about summertime is enjoying fresh, home-grown tomatoes. Growing up, my Granddaddy always had a garden and plenty of tomatoes for me. I have been known to fill a plate completely with freshly sliced tomatoes and eat every one. So, last year I planted my very own tomato plants and had great success. I was really looking forward to the same experience this year.

I don’t know what went wrong. I’m not sure if I bought a different type of plant, or planted it too late, but my tomato plants this year are doing nothing. Well, not nothing. They have given me a whopping total of TWO tomatoes, but that was about a month ago. Since then – nothing.

I told my husband the other day that I was just going to pull them all up and be done with them. His response was “Why? They’re not dying. They’re green and growing. Give them more time.”

They may be green, but they are not doing what I bought them to do. The whole purpose of their existence in my backyard was to provide me with delicious tomatoes all summer. If they’re not doing that, I don’t want them.

This conversation with my husband reminds me so much of the parable that Jesus told in Luke 13:6-9:

A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, “Behold for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?” And he answered and said to him, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.”

A fig tree that does not produce figs is not fulfilling its purpose. A tomato plant that produces no tomatoes is not fulfilling it’s purpose.

We see throughout the Bible that a follower of Christ who is not bearing fruit for God is not fulfilling his purpose:

“Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.” Titus 3:14

“Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” Romans 7:4

“so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” Colossians 1:10

It is not enough to look pretty and green. That is not our purpose.

Look how Jesus describes the thorny soil in the parable of the sower:

“The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” Luke 8:14

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that the plants die. They become unfruitful.

Why is that? Because they let other things get in the way: worries, riches, and pleasures of this life.

This is where I’ll struggle. I personally fight this all the time. There have been plenty of times in my own life when I have been unfruitful for these very reasons.

I am so very thankful that God has been like the vineyard-keeper in Luke 6. He has fertilized and cared for me when I didn’t even know it. He wants me to be fruitful, and gave me the time to become so. He has been more patient with me than I deserve. He is more patient with ALL of us than we deserve.

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Look, I know how I feel about my tomato plants, and I do NOT want God to feel that way about me. I would like to be described in the same way Jesus describes the good soil in the same parable of the sower:

“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” Luke 8:15

God gives us all the chance to become that good soil. As long as you’re living, it’s not too late.

I guess I’ll give my tomato plants a little more time.