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Posts Tagged ‘service’

Two and a half years ago my wife and I felt prompted to make an addition to our home.  It seemed a little odd since we were facing an empty nest within 8 months as our youngest of four was about to graduate and head off to college.  As we continued to pray the nudge became a clarified vision and so we began the process.  The addition was to add a pool and a garage with an apartment over head.  We designed it, found a builder who worked wonderfully with us to get it done before the two weddings we had that year, and by Memorial Day we had a new swimming pool and pool house.  One of the most exciting aspects of the process for me was the opportunity to design and add the landscaping.

One of the coolest features we designed was a cedar pergola to connect the pool house with our home.  This turned out really nice creating a rather strong contrast of the red cedar against the grey-brown brick of the buildings.  Additionally it framed a small courtyard that needed the creative landscape touch.  One of the things I envisioned were vines climbing up the pergola and providing an additional degree of natural shading as well as seasonal color.  I found some plants that appeared like they would work and I added them into the plan.

Today, two years after completion of the project I regularly begin my day talking to the Lord on the pool house porch.  This morning I was struck by the wonderful fragrance that wafted in and around the little courtyard from one of the honeysuckles that we planted.  The plant has climbed the 12 feet to the top of the pergola and is covered in delicate pink blossoms.

As I breathed deeply I thought about how that little honeysuckle is like believers who grow into committed followers.  Two years ago the plant arrived in a pot that I easily held in the palm of my hand.  We were careful to plant it in good soil.  We amended the soil and added the appropriate fertilizer.  We also watered it whenever conditions warranted.  A regular task through the growing season has been the training of the plant.  You see honeysuckles spread broadly in their natural state.  They tend to be invasive and a nuisance.  We had in mind a vertical growth that looped up and over the pergola.  So on at least a weekly basis we have had to maneuver the branches into the correct direction.  Additionally we have pruned it removing dead and damaged growth as well as branches that weren’t heading in the right direction.

There are parallels with the growth and training of this little plant and followers of Jesus.  The start of our life in Christ is a very delicate time.  If the enemy can’t stop us from hearing and responding to Jesus’ call to save us, he will double down to keep us from growing in our faith.  He hates all Christians, but if he can prevent us from becoming effective, then at least he doesn’t have to worry about us working in tandem with God to expand the kingdom.  During this period of vulnerability it is crucial that new believers be properly connected to a vibrant body of believers who will ensure they are fed, nurtured, and encouraged.

A major challenge for new believers is the process of sanctification that we begin when we say YES to Jesus call upon our lives.  Salvation is God’s gift given the moment we say yes to Him.  Our new life in Christ begins then.  It would be wonderful if all bad habits and sin tendencies were immediately removed at that time too, but it doesn’t work that way.  My personal experience is that some of my sin tendencies disappeared immediately.  Some did not.  1 Thessalonians 4 talks about living to please God which we do as we sanctify ourselves from the old habits and sins.  In a very close comparison this is like the pruning that takes place on that little honeysuckle we planted.  Unhealthy branches and branches that aren’t going the right way have to be removed.  The same is true in our lives.  And these things take action on the part of the new believer usually in alignment with the body of believers they are connected to.

Time is also a similarity between our honeysuckle and the believer.  I have seen a few new believers “flame out.”  In every case they jumped forward with great enthusiasm and vigor, but they wilted within a relatively short time frame.  They had not taken the time to grow, to develop the roots of faith needed to withstand persecution and the various attacks of the enemy.  Jesus talks about this in the parable of the sower see Matthew 13:1 – 23, but especially verses 20 & 21.  As I mentioned before the early stage of plant growth is a very vulnerable time.  The roots must develop depth to be able to withstand a dry spell.

I have a lot of perennials that I have planted.  One of the worst things you can do for a perennial is water it too often.  This results in shallow roots with no depth.  If you then leave for a week or two and there is no rain you are liable to return to dead plants.  This is one of the reasons that the Lord doesn’t just make life all fun and games.  We must experience times of difficulty, challenge, and dryness to cause us to persevere, stretch ourselves, and grow our faith.

Finally I mentioned the wonderful fragrance coming from the honeysuckle.  In the old testament the burning of incense was a prescribed act of worship.  Symbolically we view the drifting up of the incense smoke and fragrance as representative of our prayers and offerings rising to God.  As we spend time in the Word of God, the Bible; as we sit under good, solid teaching; as we apply ourselves to serving others; as we seek to hear and obey God, we will grow in our faith.  It may be all small steps, but they are steps none-the-less.  We begin to take on the mind of Christ more and more.  We are like that honeysuckle stretching, reaching, and growing.  And in our season to blossom, we will burst forth in fragrant, beautiful bloom.  Our devotion and love of the Father will manifest itself in the flower and fruit of a life established and growing in Him.

Let me finish the story about why God gave us the vision to expand.  About the time we finished building, my sister’s house sold essentially out of the blue.  They looked around for some place to live, but that wasn’t working out.  Again that nudge from the Lord convinced us to offer up our home.  The day after our youngest son moved into College, my sister and her family moved in with us.  The extra room made it work fine.  And then 8 months later, our oldest son who had moved away for what seemed like a good job opportunity, realized closer to family was important.  So their family of 4 moved in with us.  So when the vision was given we wondered why soon-to-be empty nesters would be adding on rather than downsizing.  We didn’t know, but we clearly sensed the Lord’s leading so we obeyed.  And because we did we have been blessed to grow so much closer to our grandsons, son, and daughter-in-law as well as my sister, brother-in-law, nieces, and nephew.  I’m convinced that despite the challenges that three families living together will invariably bring, we have all grown through this experience.  And I believe that part of that sweet fragrance is the love and service we have given to one another these past two years.

Be blessed my friend and be a blessing to someone today.

Our Fragrant Honeysuckle

Our Fragrant Honeysuckle

Climbing the pergola this honeysuckle looks and smells wonderful.

Climbing the pergola this honeysuckle looks and smells wonderful.

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