Sometimes even weeds can be beautiful

In the spring and summer, our yard here at Safe Haven Farm is full of dandelions. Weeds. All over the place. We’ve had some years when the yard was practically yellow from all the dandelion flowers. And what I’ve learned about dandelions over the years is that the more you try to get rid of them, the more keep popping up.

Dandelions are like the Hydra from Greek mythology. Whenever the hero would chop off one head, two more would grow back. Weeds are the same way. You can chop them off, poison them, hack them to bits, but they always come back because the roots are too deep in the soil to remove completely. Have you ever stopped to think that worry and anxiety is exactly the same?

No matter how efficiently you think you’ve dealt with your worrying, it won’t go away completely. No matter how far away you’ve distanced yourself from anxiety, those horrible, twisting anxious thoughts keep coming back. And it’s not because you want them. It’s because the root of the problem is buried too deep to reach.

What is the root of the problem? For me, it’s fear.

I’m afraid that I’ll fail, that I’ll disappoint people, that I’ll screw up, that I’ll make a mess of things, and that I’ll do such a good job of it that not even God will be able to get me out of it. That’s the fear that whispers to me. Fear tells me that I’ll never be good enough, that I’ll make mistakes so great and so grave that no one will forgive me. And even as I listen, I know it’s all lies, but somehow I still worry. Even though I know it’s not true.

So what do you do? How do you respond to the paralyzing fear that holds you in place and tries to convince you that it’s not worth even trying anymore?

Dandelion at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dandelion at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 56:1-4.

O God, have mercy on me,
for people are hounding me.
My foes attack me all day long.
I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,
and many are boldly attacking me.
But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?

Fear doesn’t come from God. That’s not how He works. So if you’re making decisions based in fear, you might want to make sure you’re following the right person. If you’re feeling fear, which is leading to worry and stress and anxiety, that means you’ve got the enemy’s attention. Usually that means you’re doing something right.

I know that’s not much comfort. Believe me. But it’s the truth.

So how do you manage worry and anxiety if it’s never actually going to go away? And it’s not happening because you don’t trust God. You do. You wake up every morning determined to trust Him for everything, yet still that little voice whispers in your mind. And soon you’re in knots because you’re worrying, and then you tie yourself in more knots because you try to stop worrying so that you won’t worry about worrying. Ugh, it’s a vicious cycle.

I don’t know the answer, but I do know who God is. And I know what this verse says. When I’m afraid, I need to trust God. When I’m afraid, that means I’m trying to solve problems on my own. I’m looking at the difficulties I’m facing and trying to overcome them in my own strength, and I can’t do it. I’m not big enough.

The problems in my life are God-sized. And when anxiety gets the better of me, it’s usually those moments when I’m trying to rush God’s plan or trying to do it myself without Him, usually because I feel like He’s moving too slowly.

Trusting God means not taking matters into your own hands. It means letting go of your plans and your dreams and your goals and giving them to Him. It’s hard and scary, and often it hurts because letting go of anything that matters to you isn’t fun. But that fear you feel in response to letting go isn’t from God. It’s from Satan. He’s trying to keep you from experiencing the very best God has, because God can’t transform your life while you’re still holding on to it.

Remember what God promised. He won’t leave us. He wants the best for us. And His plans for us are good. So it doesn’t matter what anyone else can do to you, as long as you’re on God’s side. You stay right with Him, and He’ll take care of the rest.

You can wear yourself out pulling weeds, and they’ll all just come back again the next day. No, just wait. Let them bloom. Let the seeds scatter. And if at all possible, enjoy them. Even weeds can be beautiful at times, and even weeds like dandelions have can be useful.

Don’t let shame drive you away from God

Do you ever wonder when God will lose His patience with you? I lose my patience with people very easily, especially when I’m driving. But while I know God sometimes shakes His head at me, He’s never given up on me.

And it’s shocking if you really believe what the Bible says, because the Bible says God won’t ever give up on us. He won’t deal harshly with us. He isn’t cruel to us. Even if we deserve cruelty, even if our foolish mistakes make us worthy of His wrath, He won’t stay angry with us.

57J9ZJN1HMToday’s verses are Psalm 103:8-14.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.

I don’t understand God’s love, but I’m thankful for it. You’re going to make mistakes, that’s true. So prepare yourself mentally for it now. Because after you sin, you’re going to want to hide. Adam and Eve did. Everyone in history who has committed a sin has always tried to cover it up, which is funny in a way because who do we think God is? Do we really think we can hide from Him?

I’m only partially joking. Because I hide when I do wrong.

I don’t want to face what I’ve done. I would much rather crawl under my bed and live in denial, but that’s not what I’m called to do. So don’t let shame and fear drive you away from God. If you’ve done wrong, the shame and fear you’re feeling is only going to hurt you, and it’s only going to prolong your misery.

Give your shame to God. Give your fear to God. Let Him take it. Let go. It’s easy to want to hang on to it, but it’s too heavy for you. God is strong enough to carry it and take it away, so far away that you’ll never have to deal with it again, so far away that He won’t even remember it anymore.

It’s hard to believe that God would continue to love us even when we do wrong, but He does. God has no illusions about us. Like the verse says, He knows that we’re only dust. That means He knows we’re going to fail.

Granted, that doesn’t mean He expects us to fail. No, He has great plans and expectations for us, just like a parent has for his or her children. But do you stop loving your children when they don’t measure up? No. And how do you want your children to behave when they screw up? Who do you want them to turn to for help? Their friends? Their teachers? No, you want them to come to you.

Guess what? God feels the same way.

Why should I be afraid?

Psalm 27

DSC_4924The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.

The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
he will hide me in his sanctuary.
He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
singing and praising the Lord with music.

Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
Do not turn your back on me.
Do not reject your servant in anger.
You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
O God of my salvation!
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close.

Teach me how to live, O Lord.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me.
Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me with violence.
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.

Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Sometimes fear can keep you content

Life is overwhelming. Everyone seems to be struggling to keep their head above the waves with all the stuff that keeps coming at them, and not all of it is bad. Some of it is good. Some of it may even be great, but that’s the way life is. We rarely get life in small doses.

I’ve been fighting discouragement in the last few weeks, questioning the wisdom of my choices and the direction I’m going. It’s funny because even when you start out genuinely questioning what God has told you to do, it doesn’t take long before fear sets in.

Fear can be healthy sometimes, but I believe that’s a specific type of fear. There are different kinds of fear, you know. Sort of like there are different kinds of love. The fear you feel in a life-threatening situation can make you stronger, faster, sharper than you would be without it. I’d say that’s beneficial. But the fear you feel when you start questioning what God has told you to do is the absolute opposite of a good thing, and it certainly doesn’t come from God.

In Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, Dune, there’s a famous statement about fear. He states: “Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

While it’s true that fear can sometimes spur us to greater achievements, in most instances, fear dulls us and urges us to settle for less because we’re too afraid to keep pushing for the best. So how do you conquer the fear that will stunt your growth? How do you manage your fear when you face those questions that have no answer?

FearToday’s verses are Psalm 27:1-3.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.

How do you conquer your fear? Remember Who’s on your side.

It’s easy to forget Who set you on this path when the troubles and struggles of life start piling up around you. They look so big, so overwhelming, so impossible to figure out, but in those moments when we’re so afraid that we’re going to fail, we need to stop and remember what we’re doing and Who we’re doing it for.

The Bible says that God is our light, our salvation, and our fortress. Think about that. God is our light. As long as we’re following Him, we won’t be lost in the darkness. God is our salvation. There’s no challenge or difficulty we can face that can have the victory over us because God is stronger than any trouble we can encounter. God is our fortress. No matter what weapons our enemy forges against us, nothing can touch us when we’re taking refuge in God’s presence.

So why are we afraid? Sure, it’s intimidating to face unanswerable questions. Yeah, it’s frightening to start down a path you can’t see the end of. But who sent you? Who are you doing it for? Why are you going?

The fear that comes in those moments doesn’t come from God. The fear that makes you doubt God’s goodness isn’t from Him. The fear that makes you doubt that He will take care of you and love you and forgive you no matter what isn’t from Him. It’s a lie.

If you’re following God, if you’re living your life for Christ, if you’re seeking Him first in every choice you make, God will be right by your side. Don’t forget that.

Don’t let our enemy convince you to be afraid of the uncertainties. That’s what he wants, because if he can keep you scared, he can keep you content. God calls us to be fearless, to face the challenges of life with His strength, which He offers us freely.

So what are you afraid of? If God is for you (He is, by the way), who could ever stop you?

Can you give God the glory for your failure?

In the last couple of months, nearly a year really, I’ve been struggling and fighting with God about His plans for my life. He’s so funny. Just when you think you have Him figured out, He shifts you in a different direction.

I’ve been arguing with Him for ages, and now that I’ve made my decision, I’m wondering what exactly was holding me back for this long. I know it was fear partially, but fear of what? I know part of me feared to succeed and not be prepared enough for success, but most definitely the larger part of me feared to fail.

I’m a perfectionist, so I don’t like failure. I’m a people pleaser, so I don’t like disappointing others. Put those two characteristics together, and you’ve got a dangerous combination. But here’s a question we really need to ask ourselves: Should we really be afraid of failure?

Processed by: Helicon Filter;  MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAToday’s verse is 1 Corinthians 10:31.

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

I understand sometimes that the Bible uses figurative language, which means it’s important to understand the context. If you just pick up a Bible verse and take it literally without understanding who it was written to or why it was written, you could have a faith system based on “eat, drink, and be merry” and “then, Judas hanged himself.”

Context is important in Scripture, but sometimes you get a verse that doesn’t require context. It’s so plain, you don’t have to break it down. This is one of those verses.

Whatever you do, do it for God’s glory.

That means, if you succeed, if you fail, if you win, if you lose, you can do all of it for God’s glory, but what does that look like practically? Can you actually fail for God’s glory? Can you actually lose for God’s glory?

Doing anything for God’s glory used to confuse me. I didn’t know how to handle it practically, but as I’ve gotten older, I think I’ve started to grasp the concept a little better. Glory is kind of an old-fashioned word, and in churchy context, it tends to glow in stained glass colors, which I’ve always found make it difficult to fit into real life. Glory is the credit you give for the events and circumstances in your life.

Did you win an award? Who gets the credit? Did you get a great job? Who gets the credit? That’s the context we think about in giving credit to someone. Usually credit is only associated with what we call positive things. If our life encounters negative things, we don’t give credit. We pin blame.

If you get laid off, you don’t give anyone credit for you. You blame people. If you lose someone you love, you don’t give credit for it. You point fingers. But what would happen to our lives and our perspectives if we start giving God credit even for the terrible things that happen to us? Not in a way that accuses Him but in the way that demonstrates we believe He has something better in mind.

That would take your failure and turn it on its head, because if you fail for God’s glory–if you fail and give God credit for allowing you to fail–is it really failure? No, not at all. Everything that happens in our lives happens for a reason, even if it’s something bad. You can learn something from everything that happens to you, and God is big enough to take every horrible thing in your life and turn it into something beautiful. But before He can do that–or, rather, before you can see Him doing that–you have to be willing to give Him the credit for what’s happening in your life.

It’s not easy, because blame feels so much more natural. Well, it is natural. We’re geared to tear others down, to hurt people with our words, to shift responsibility from ourselves to those around us. That’s natural, thanks to our sinful natures, but if you’re a Christ-follower, you aren’t called to a natural life. You’re called to a supernatural life.

Has something awesome happened to you? Give God the credit for it. Has something terrible happened to you? Give God the credit because you trust He’ll make something beautiful from the ashes.

Don’t be afraid of failure or success. God is enough to work with both, and if you have Him on your side, nobody will be able to stop you. Not even yourself.

Cities aren’t meant to be hidden (and neither is faith)

Homes in the country are easy to spot. At least, they are in Kansas. We’re pretty flat around these parts, so if you’re driving down a dirt road looking for a house, there are a few things you can count on to be true.

Most of the time, you can see a house from miles and miles and miles away. We also don’t have a lot of trees here in the heartland. So many homes are just out in the open. But homes that have been here for a long time are usually always surrounded by some kind of hedgerow. So if you see a big clump of trees in the middle of a field, there’s a good chance there’s a house.

But what if it’s night? Well, then, the best course of action is to look for the yard light. Many farms will have yard lights somewhere on the property that shine brightly enough to illuminate the yard. There are no streetlights in the country, so a yard light is going to stand out for miles and miles around.

That’s the point. Letting people know where you are. There wouldn’t be much point to a yard light that didn’t shine.

Downtown Chicago from Navy Pier, Chicago, IL

Downtown Chicago from Navy Pier, Chicago, IL

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:14.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.

Ever try to think about hiding a city? Gosh, that would take a lot of effort. Cities are big. You really couldn’t even hide a small town anymore. But we’re not supposed to hide our cities and towns, just like we’re not supposed to hide our yard lights. Cities and towns and lights all serve a purpose, and the main purpose is for them to be found.

Cities need people, otherwise they wouldn’t be cities.

So if it doesn’t make sense to hide your yard light or to hide a city, why do Christians try to hide Christ?

On one hand, that’s an easy answer. Jesus upsets people. Jesus makes people angry. He calls them to be accountable for their choices, responsible to face their own consequences, or to recognize the fact that they are not the absolutely authority over their own lives. Jesus isn’t popular, and people who follow Him aren’t either.

It’s not fun to be unpopular. You get left out of a lot of things. And you get made fun of and disrespected.

But how else are you going to see the road in the darkness if you don’t use a light? That’s what we forget. The more we try to keep Jesus to ourselves so we don’t offend other people, the more we hurt our own walk. If we don’t live Jesus in public, it’s really difficult to live for Him in private.

Maybe it makes us the butt of unpleasant jokes or causes people to treat us unkindly, but you know what? Jesus never got treated like royalty. Why should we expect it when He didn’t? And He even deserved it.

Living for Christ on a daily basis is a moment-to-moment choice, and it’s not easy. But the more you try to live your life for Him, doing what He says is right and honoring Him with your choices, the more light you’ll have to see by. And then one day you’ll wake up and the road won’t be dark at all. You’ll know exactly where you’re going because you can see.

And then something else amazing will happen. Other people will start tagging along.

It won’t happen overnight, but slowly others will start asking you questions about why you make the choices you make. They’ll want to know why you’re so sure you know where you’re going. And, more than anything else, they’ll be curious about the light you have in your life. They won’t call it that, but you will see more clearly than anyone else they know. And they’ll want to know what your secret is.

If they ask, be ready to tell them. Because it’s not the name-brand batteries in your super-duper LED flashlight that’s illuminating your road. It’s the light from Jesus in your life. And just like you can’t hide a city on a hill in the darkness, you can’t hide the light of Jesus in your actions. People will be drawn to it. So just be ready.

It won’t be easy, but on the day when that person who was making fun of you comes to you and asks for help, you’ll see that it’s all worth it.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The world is scary but you don’t have to fear it

I’m a child of the ’80s. I grew up in a time when morality and faith seemed to be making a comeback. It was a time when you could almost trust strangers you met on the street. It was a time when things in the world were bad but not so bad.

Fast forward 30+ years later. What happened?

Do you ever wonder? How–in a mere 30 years–did we go from trick-or-treating outside at night to having to do it in daylight? How did we go from the personal accountability of my childhood to the government making laws so that people “do the right thing”?

I don’t think about it very often because it’s so sad. It breaks my heart to see what has become of us. Not just America. But of American Christians, who are just as guilty for the state of our nation and our world as those who don’t believe.

When I was a kid, the scariest thing we had to face was some unemployment or some local gang troubles. That was really it. Now? What kids face now? I don’t know how parents do it. I know so many precious, cherished friends with young children, and I don’t know how they help their children not be afraid when the world is falling apart.

ISIS. Ebola. Conspiracies. Oh, for the days when drugs were the scariest problem in schools. Now our high schools have daycare facilities because so many kids have kids of their own. Now you can’t travel from one place to the next without being frightened that you’ll contract a deadly disease.

But it’s even worse than that. I don’t know if the stories are true, but word is circulating now that wedding chapel ministers are being threatened with arrest because they won’t perform same-sex weddings. And there are other examples of people who are doing what the Bible says is right and they are being threatened because of it.

And if I’m not careful, I start getting afraid of what’s going to happen when that spirit stretches from sea to shining sea–when no one who believes in Christ and refuses to back down in His name is safe.

It’s coming. That day is coming. And if you don’t realize it now, you’d better wake up. You need to make that decision now before the time comes, before your faith is challenged, before it happens. Because you can’t make a decision like that in the heat of the moment. You have to make up your mind now whose side you’re on–your own or God’s.

And it’s scary. I’m not so “Christian” to tell you that a part of me isn’t scared. I don’t want to go to prison. I don’t want to die for my faith. But I will. I made that decision in high school, and I meant it. I guess part of me just didn’t expect to have to face it in my lifetime.

And I’m so glad God knew this was coming. He told us it would come. And those who take Him seriously have been anticipating the day when our world breaks down and starts targeting Christ-followers as their enemies.

Over and over and over in the Bible, God says not to be afraid. Don’t fear. Don’t be afraid. And there’s a reason for that–because this world is scary. Life is scary. And there’s so much that we can’t control because we’re just people. We have so many limitations. So many faults and failures. But God says not to be afraid because He doesn’t have faults and failures or limitations, and He promises that He has everything under control.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 41:13.

For I hold you by your right hand—
    I, the Lord your God.
And I say to you,
    ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Don’t be afraid. God is here to help us. He promises that so many times–more times than I can count–and He never makes a promise that He doesn’t keep.

When you get right down to it, fear is a choice. Everyone fears. But you, Christ follower, you don’t have to. You don’t have to live in fear of anything. Not of destitution. Not of disease. Not of disgrace. Not of danger. Nothing.

That doesn’t mean your life will be perfect. It won’t be perfect until we get home because this world is broken and breaking more and more every day. But that means in this scary world, you don’t have to live in fear.

So choose today. Make the choice today what side you’re on. Set it firmly in your mind, and if you have already made that decision, reaffirm it. Because the day is coming when you will be challenged, and before that day gets here, you’re going to face all sorts of things that will terrify you if you let them.

Just know you don’t have to let them.

Our God is bigger than the world’s fears. Do you believe He can do miracles? Do you believe He is who He says He is over and over and over? Do you believe He is here to help you?

Good. So start living like it.