A life lesson from garlic bulbs

A few years ago my father gave me several cloves of garlic from his garden to plant in mine.  I am not one of those people that are able to plant a lush vegetable garden with success.  Honestly, I am pleased when I can gather a few heads of oddly formed broccoli, my tomato plants produce enough to make a few pots of spaghetti sauce, and my lettuce is in good enough shape to make it to my salad bowl.  I am sure my little garden looks pitiful to the experienced gardener.

That being said I was excited at the prospect of growing some garlic.  It is one of my favorite seasonings and I add it to almost everything I cook.  I placed those little bulbs in the garden and watched as they sent up their green stalks.  I came across some green onions and planted those as well.  Before long I was happily clipping shoots of both and adding them to my cooking.  My garlic sent up a thick stalk (which I later found out is called a scape) and eventually flowered.

Autumn arrived and I eagerly began digging in search of the perfect garlic bulbs that had grown and matured underground.  Only they weren't there.  I had roots, but not tasty bulbs.  So I hit the internet and made an interesting discovery. 

When left to its own devices, a garlic plant will put much of its energy into the production of the flower.  While this yields a beautiful flower to look at, it causes the bulb to be stunted.  And I wondered, how many of us are focused on the flower when we should be focused on the bulb.

Admittedly we (or, at least, I) long to feel beautiful, to be "seen" by others around us, to stand out.  We want to be THE flower in the garden.  As a result, we may spend our energy on the things that get us noticed:  organizing the church picnic, singing in the choir, teaching children's church, proclaiming our love for Jesus everywhere we go LOUDLY.  We long to serve.....and be recognized for that service.  And honestly, if done for the right reasons there is nothing wrong with serving in those highly visible positions.  There is nothing wrong with declaring our love for our Savior. But sometimes you have to stop and ask yourself if you are diverting energy that should be spent growing those parts that are unseen. 

You may be the very best Sunday School teacher the church has ever had, but if you are devoting everything to creating the perfect lesson and neglecting your own studies and relationship with God then perhaps you need to reevaluate.  You might have a long list of people that have chosen to give their life to God as a result of your actions in public.  But if your actions behind closed doors are less desirable or holy, maybe you need to reconsider what you focus on. 

I am not saying that you can't, or shouldn't, make the effort to be a beautiful flower.  What I am saying is that, perhaps, we need to be watchful that those efforts aren't costing us a huge price.  We are called to grow. (1 Peter 2:2, 2 Peter 3:18)  A flower blooms and is appreciated for a short time, but the part that remains unseen matures and is the true harvest.

Now if anyone builds on the foundation (of Jesus) with gold, silver, 
precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one's work will become 
manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be 
revealed by fire, and the fire will test what 
sort of work each one has done.  
~1 Corinthians 3:12-13

Prayer from the Righteous

Have you ever experienced a situation, or crisis even, that you know you only made it through by the grace of God? I don’t just mean He got you through it, but that the power of prayer helped you along? And not just your own prayers, but you could feel the prayers of others uplifting and encouraging you and giving you strength? It’s amazing, isn’t it? I had a situation a couple of years ago, that I saw no foreseeable way out. It would take a miracle to fix the problem. I’m not one that typically reaches out for prayers for myself, but this instance I knew it was well beyond me. I texted all of my prayer warriors with what was going on and that I needed prayer, in a big way. I, unlike my typical way, got down on my knees at my bedside and poured out my heart, pleading for God’s direction. I asked Him for the miracle, yes. But I also backed it up with begging for faith that He knew what He was doing and to trust His outcome. I prayed all night intermittently. The next morning I got up to check the status of the situation, and found that it was almost completely restored. It literally required a miracle, and God provided. I don’t mean to sound trite; this wasn’t a life and death situation; this was a way of life situation. And the remarkable thing about it was the one person that was in it with me was shown the miracle. But so were my prayer worriers. These people know the power of God, the other person didn’t. These people have all faced situations in their life that things felt like they were falling apart. I see this as added encouragement to them; to know that He does care for all of us, and everything we experience and live through.

Now I say all that to throw in this next point: I’m reading a book that partly discusses what heaven is like. (I’m only about a quarter of the way through and am not comfortable recommending it yet- but I can say so far I think it is awesome!) It has brought up multiple notions about the afterlife that I find beyond interesting, and more than comforting. (I realize this is a book by a man, but I can’t help but think, if man can come up with these ideals, based on Scripture, then surely the ‘real thing’ is even more fantastic?!?!) But in this book, one character that has recently died, is shown by his guardian angel that he can pray in heaven for his friends that are still on earth.

James 5:16 states that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. The book I’m reading goes on to say “But if the prayers of righteous imperfect ones on earth are effective, how much more the prayers of righteous saints made perfect in the very presence of [God]…Perhaps part of [God’s] purpose in bringing you here now is that your prayers for [your friend] may accomplish even more?” (Deadline, Randy Alcord) The thought that it is possible, and probable, that those in heaven can pray for us is mind-blowing to me. It’s one thing when we have prayer warriors that pray for us here. But to think that we have prayer warriors that pray for us there? The Bible states that Jesus is at God’s right hand interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34). Read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:9-24: if Jesus said that here, even though He was (is) perfect, imagine what He’s praying while He sits in Our Father’s Presence!

When you feel like you’ve got no way out of a situation, can I suggest that you reach out to your warriors here for their prayer assistance? And have faith in knowing that at least One person in Heaven is pleading your cause as well.

A New Name

I have to admit, I’ve never cared for my name. Maybe it’s because I could never find tokens as a kid for myself because it’s spelled differently. (Stac-‘ie’, not ‘y’, not ‘ey’ like most popular spellings.) I guess my parents were trying to be a little different (unlike today when parents name their kids after fruit and colors…). And now I cringe whenever I hear someone call my name; because it typically means I’m in trouble (yes, even as an adult, I feel like I’m often in ‘trouble’) or I’m needed to do something. (And I hate when I’m called to do something, interrupting me and whatever I was doing). (There’s another message in there, but not for this blog…) So—why am I telling you this? Because Jesus will give us a new name in Heaven—and I can’t wait!
Revelation 2:17 (ESV)...To the one who conquers I will...  give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.  In John’s ancient world, a white stone given could mean invitation to a banquet, a badge of friendship or given to one on trial as show that they are acquitted.  Jesus promises that each of His saved ones will receive a white stone, personally from Him- with a special name on it that no one else knows; a private name given to you alone, from Him intimately.  Names have meaning in Hebrew culture, and Jesus has changed the names of several people in Scripture when they began to follow Him, based on what they did for Him and how they served (Jacob to Israel/Simon to Peter/Saul to Paul).  There are only two things that Scripture says we have right now that will last through Eternity: Love (for God and others) and His Word.  The rewards you receive, or fail to receive will be because of these two things: 1) Did you obey God’s Word? 2) Did you do so, out of love?  Based on this, will you be ashamed of how many rewards are burned up, or excited? Will you receive a white stone in the end of days?  And if you do, what name might he engrave on it based on your heart and service?
I started looking up Hebrew names that I’d like to be given with my stone; I didn’t get far; not even all the way through the A’s.  I believe my perfect Hebrew name would be: Aminta: (אַמִינְתָה) (ah-meen-ta): Hebrew name meaning "truth, friendship."  I think I’m truthful, and honest, particularly with friends. (And, I think we all know I’ve been way too honest when it comes to Christ; honest about my failures, anyway.) And then, I had to laugh, because according to the Urban Dictionary, Aminta refers to a female who is sometimes awkward, makes mistakes, talks too much, gets angry, talks loud, is too honest, has mood swings, but is herself.  BOY- If that doesn’t describe me to a tee!  And side note, the Greek meaning is “defender, protector”… and I’d like to think that when it comes to my family, friends and God, I will defend to the end, and protect at all costs {verbally that is- I’m WAY too prissy to fight!}

So I guess we’ve come full circle, once again, about what you’re doing for God.  What are your sacrifices? What is your motivation?  Remember, “loving others is not a one-time decision, it’s a lifestyle” (Chip Ingram- Spiritual Simplicity).  We’ve got to do more, be more, love more.  Don’t you want your white stone?