The wheat field to the far west of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Seeds will grow without your help

For the last few weeks, I’ve been walking 4 or 5 times a week after I get home from work. Not much. Only about 45 minutes. If I were able to stay home and work on the farm all the time, I wouldn’t need to exercise, but I work a desk job. A whole 8 hours or more can go by in a day at my office, and I’ll realize I’ve only gotten up to go to the bathroom twice. And that’s the only time I’ve been out of my desk chair.

So I decided that I needed to do something about that. And walking seemed to be the only option available to me with my schedule. When it was hot, I’d walk 45 minutes on the treadmill, while I streamed episodes of television shows off Amazon. But since the weather has been so nice in recent weeks (and because my parents are at home with me now in case something unforeseen happens out on the road), I’ve been walking outside. The view is so much nicer (and besides, I’m running out of free episodes of Bleach).

I walk from one section line to the other and back, which works out to be 2 miles. Not much. But not bad, considering I’m just starting out. And I can do it about 45 minutes. As I walk, I usually get to see the sun set or tractors out in the fields or sheep grazing. But last night I saw something that surprised me.

Safe Haven Farm, my home, sits at the south end of a 640 acre plot of wheat and alfalfa, none of which is ours sadly. But it’s surrounded by farmland–mostly wheat. But this time of year, it’s all just dirt. Dirt fields as far as the eye can see. I walk right past a couple of them every night now. Except last night, the dirt field west of Safe Haven Farm had developed green fuzz.

Yes, I’m being silly. It’s winter wheat. But what struck me last night was that the farmer sowed that crop of what in the dark a few days back, and all it took was a weekend and a few days for it to cover the entire field. He didn’t have to babysit it. He didn’t have to watch it. He didn’t have to water it. He just planted it and let it go.

And I think that’s an important lesson I need to learn.

Today’s verse is James 5:7-8.

The wheat field to the far west of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The wheat field to the far west of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

I’m not a micromanager, but I am a control freak. I like to know what’s happening and when and how I can help it be more efficient. But what I’ve learned in life is that the more I interfere, oftentimes the more I slow already-existing processes down.

This verse is directed at people who are getting impatient for Jesus to return for His people, and that’s definitely what it means. But it applies in other situations too. Just because you’re given the opportunity to plant a seed doesn’t mean you’ll get to see it sprout, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’ll get to harvest it.

Most times what happens is you plant a seed in someone’s life–a good deed, the love of Christ, whatever–and you never see that person again. You may never know how your actions affected that person. You might have to wait till you get to heaven to learn what difference you made in someone else’s life.

And that’s okay. Or at least, it should be okay.

But there’s something in us that wants to do it all. Or maybe that’s just me. If I’m the one who starts something, I want to be the one to finish it. I want to start with that open, empty field and plant the seeds and watch it grow and harvest it for Christ. Me alone.

But that’s selfishness talking. That’s me focusing on what I want and not necessarily what God wants–or what God says is best for me or for the person in question.

The point is this: We all plant seeds. Every day of our lives, we’re planting seeds. I hope it’s all good seed, because good seed produces a good crop. But regardless whether it’s good seed or bad seed, we all plant. But that seed doesn’t need your help to grow.

If a seed is planted, it will grow without you. That’s how God set up the law of planting and harvesting. That’s a natural law. True, some plants need our help to survive, but not all of them. Most plants will go on living and growing whether we’re there to water them or not.

So don’t despair if you plant a seed in someone’s life and then you aren’t able to oversee it. Don’t worry if you’ve planted a seed and you haven’t seen any growth. Seeds will grow on their own, and someone will always be around to harvest a crop that’s ready. You don’t have to do everything.

So embrace the role of seed planter, knowing that what you’re doing is starting a process that God Himself will oversee. And if you’re fortunate enough to get to watch a crop grow–if you’re fortunate enough to be the one who gets to harvest–be thankful.

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Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Is your friendship about you?

How important are the friends in your life? Sometimes I forget how awesome my friends are. I’m so blessed to have amazing people in my life, and I’m so overwhelmed at their kindness and their encouragement, especially in the dark times of my life.

As many of you know, I tend to be somewhat independent (stop rolling your eyes). I don’t like depending on other people, and I don’t like asking for help. But there are times when I need it. And in those times, I have an arsenal of amazing people who step up to surround me with prayer and words that have to come straight from God.

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Bench in a little garden at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Romans 12:10.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

I thought of this verse today when I thought about friendship. So much of friendship in our culture is about what others can do for us, but what I’ve learned over the years is that friendship–the ones that last–should be about what you can do for your friend.

Have you thought about that? Have you ever asked the friends in your life what you can do for them? Or is your friendship all about you?

What does it mean to show genuine affection to someone? Well, to me, that means you treat someone else kindly out of pure motivation. You do kind things for others because it’s the right thing to do, because you truly want to do it. It’s not a front. It’s not for show. It’s genuine. It’s real.

Show me a friendship with genuine affection, and I’ll show you friends for life.

But genuine affection is a concept, and concepts are great, but they aren’t good for much until you put them into practice. And that’s where the second part of the verse comes in.

Take delight in honoring each other.

Okay. That sounds complicated and religious. Well, it’s not. What does it mean to honor someone? Honoring someone is simply putting that person before yourself. It means showing preference to someone else.

Practically speaking, it’s giving your friend the bigger slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner.

Another translation says to outdo each other in kindness. And another translation says, “practice playing second fiddle.”

Do you need the attention in the friendship? Do you need the be the one who’s at the center all the time? Honestly, ask yourself, because if the answer is yes, I’m sorry to be blunt, but you’re missing the point of friendship.

God made friends so we wouldn’t have to stand alone, so we could be part of a team, so we could be a part of something bigger than we are. There’s a song on the radio right now with a lyric that always makes me smile: “God put a million million doors in the world for His love to walk through/One of those doors is you.”

And that is so, so true.

If you have friends, take the time to find out what they need. Ask them how you can help them. Get involved in their lives for more than just what you need. Practice playing second fiddle. Skip the attention you think you need. You don’t need it. Shower them with the attention. And something amazing will happen. Your friendship will get stronger. Your friend will grow, and so will you.

I have amazing friends who have poured themselves into my life. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. What about about you?

Unlit lamp at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Being selfless isn’t our default setting

Good morning from Cincinnati, Ohio! I’m traveling for work this week, so who knows where I will be posting from tomorrow. But I’m running on five hours of sleep today, so if the interviews I get on film make any sense at all, it will be a miracle. So if you find typos in this, please be merciful.

I noticed something yesterday. Actually, I notice it every time I fly, but for some reason it stuck out to me yesterday more than it has in the past.

People only care about themselves.

Has anyone else picked up on that? It shocked me. Again, I know that. And I’ve seen it in many circumstances, but for some reason yesterday as I was trying to walk through the Chicago airport, this stood out to me more strongly than previous times. People paid no attention to me. They walked right in front of me, usually causing me to stop. They stopped right in front of me because there was something else they needed to do, and I nearly ran into them. And then they gave me a dirty look.

And that’s just walking around in the concourses. I’m not even talking about on the plane. People just want to get to their seats, and they don’t care how rude they have to be to do that. In six hours of traveling yesterday, I encountered one person who was thoughtful enough to offer me help, and that was another passenger onboard the flight from Chicago to Cincinnati who helped me get my carry-on bag back to the front of the plane because there was no more overhead storage. Because the rest of the passengers on the flight had crammed everything they owned into the overhead compartments so the rest of us with carry-on luggage had to check our bags.

Unlit lamp at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Unlit lamp at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Philippians 2:4.

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Being selfless is part of following Christ. Christ didn’t call us to look out for number one in our lives. He has called us to put other people first, to care more about our neighbors (which is everyone around us) than we care about ourselves.

I got to thinking about how the other passengers on that plane were acting and how most of the other travelers I encountered yesterday acted. I know that we live in a self-absorbed world, but I guess it really didn’t hit me how selfishness really affects everyone. And please don’t misunderstand me because I have plenty of selfishness issues myself. But it irritates me that people seem incapable of truly trying to help others.

But at the same time, I don’t think it’s intentional. I don’t think the people who I encountered in the airports yesterday left home with the plan to be rude and inconsiderate. I just think they’re not paying attention.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our little worlds and our little lives and forget that there are six billion people in the world who also have their own little worlds and their own little lives. Life is so busy and it’s so frantic that it’s easy to forget that other people struggle too. But that’s all a part of caring more about other people than we care about ourselves.

It’s a conscious decision to put other people first. It’s a decision that you have to make every morning when you step out your door. Or even before you leave your house. Or maybe before you get out of bed in the morning. Before you talk to your spouse or to your husband or to your children. Before you talk to people at work, at church, at school.

Selflessness isn’t our default. Our default setting is to look out for number one, but that’s now how Christ called us to live. And we need the Holy Spirit’s help to live like Christ did, which means on our own we aren’t capable of living the way Christ has called us.

This concept is heavy on my mind this morning because I’m dealing with a situation that could be very awkward if not handled properly. Basically I need to communicate something to someone who isn’t really interested in listening and who is pretty much in a position of authority over me. And it’s not something I want to do. It’s something I’ve been told to do — by someone in a higher position of authority than both of us.

I have to find the balance between getting the job done and being considerate. And I don’t think I can do that without God’s help.

I love the Message, and I love the way the Message puts this verse. So I’ll end with that and ask you all to pray for me today that I can figure out how to do what needs to be done without resorting to being inconsiderate.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

God will use someone, but it doesn’t have to be you.

Selfless people are heroes. And I find it ironic that the most selfless people I know aren’t wealthy or famous or powerful. Some of them are, but most of them are normal, average people with limited resources. But limited resources don’t stop them from being willing to give everything they have to help someone else.

I was thinking about being selfless this morning, and the story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath came to my mind. It’s a relatively long passage, but it’s a good read.

Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Kings 17:8-16.

Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

This poor widow really had nothing. She had herself, she had her son, and she had enough food left for one meal before they starved to death. Put yourself in her shoes. What would you have done if some crazy, wild-eyed preacher walked out of the wilderness into your home and asked that you feed him before you eat your last meal.

I’d like to think my reaction would be as mild as the woman’s, but I don’t think it would be. If I were in her shoes, I think I might have told him to buzz off and let us starve to death in peace. But that’s not what the widow in this story did.

I’ve often wondered why the woman didn’t hesitate. From what I know of Elijah, he wouldn’t have looked clean-cut and appropriate. Actually, when he came to Zarephath, he had just come from living in the wilderness and being fed by ravens. This was at a time of drought and famine in Israel, due to the evil King Ahab. Everyone was starving. And I’m not sure, but I don’t think that the woman would have heard of Elijah. This was before the events on Mt. Caramel.

But something convinced her to listen to him. Maybe she believed him. Maybe she felt like she didn’t have a choice. Maybe she thought it didn’t matter. Personally, I like to think that she was selfless. Why else would God have chosen her to be the one to feed Elijah? Because that’s what happened. God used this poor widow to provide for His prophet, and as a result, the widow and her son had plenty to eat too.

What would have happened if she had refused to do as Elijah asked? Well, she and her son would have starved. And God would have used someone else to provide for Elijah.

And I guess that’s the point I’m making this morning. We all have limited resources (until we start drawing on what God has made available to us), and we all face a choice about what to do with those resources. And it never fails that the less someone has, the more they are willing to share and vice versa. Granted, I know some very wealthy people who are very generous with their finances, but they seem to be the exceptions.

When it comes right down to it, if you are a follower of Christ, you have a calling to help others, not necessarily wild-eyed preacher types but maybe it’s your next door neighbor. Maybe it’s your friend at school. Maybe it’s a coworker who needs a ride to the airport. And it doesn’t have to be a financial need either. Maybe it’s time someone is asking for. Or clothes. Or shelter. Or just a listening ear.

Someone in your life needs something from you. God has put that person in your life for a reason, and you have a choice to help them in spite of the cost to you personally or to ignore them and put yourself first. You can do either. That choice is up to you. But before you make that choice remember the story of this poor widow in Zarephath. She had a choice too, eat her last meal or share it with a crazy preacher who claimed God would provide for them both.

God didn’t have to use her. He could have used anyone. But in taking care of Elijah, God wanted to bless someone else too. And that’s what happens when you use your resources to help someone else. Not only do you help them, but God helps you at the same time.

You can’t out-give God. You can’t give Him so much that He can’t pay you back. Don’t believe me? Try it. This widow did, and she realized the benefit of serving God far outweighs the instant gratification of serving herself.

God will use someone. It doesn’t have to be you. But you’ll be much better off if it is.