Saturday, July 25, 2009

Spiritual Lessons from Gardening

I've spent a lot of time in my garden the past few days.  I was gone last week, and while it was in okay shape when I left, when I returned, the weeds had begun a full-scale attack to take back the tiny square of land.  It was rewarding to discover some beautiful cucumbers hiding underneath all the weeds!

Usually when I'm out in the garden, or anytime I am left alone with my thoughts, I end up not really thinking anything at all, just repeating a bit of a song in my head over and over.  This weekend was the same, until I started noticing this one weed's growing patterns.  The little green leaves were very easy to pull up, but I hardly ever managed to get the root clusters up with them (which is what you want when you're pulling weeds in a garden).  Eventually I figured out that this particular weed was sending long root fingers out under the ground, popping up lots and lots of these little green leaves and taking over a massive amount of space in a short amount of time.  When I was able to get a hold of the roots, they were incredibly thin but incredibly long, and no matter how much I pulled up there were still more to find!  By this point I was pretty annoyed, and I had moved this particular weed to the top of my kill list -- until I realized that the majority of the weeds in my garden were propagating themselves this way!  They send out lots of little fingers in every direction to ensure that even if you think that you've gotten the main root cluster and the plant will die, the tiniest leaf shoots survive and the pest lives on.  

As I was crouching in my garden, getting really angry at these little plants, I realized that this is probably exactly how sin works for the devil.  When we're off our guard, not paying attention to our spiritual condition, he manages to sink some really big sins (weeds) in us that continually reproduce, sending out their little roots into every area of our lives.  When we recognize the sin and our need for forgiveness and restoration, we yank up loads of the tiny little sins and think that we've gotten a handle on the problem -- but we missed the big root of the problem.  Or, we attack the main sin, easiest to spot, without realizing how far into our lives the tentacles have spread.  

Why is it that it's so easy for the weeds to survive, but the good things that we want to grow in our lives (like basil and tomatoes... or patience and love) take so much more work?


I decided having 3 blogs to keep track of was silly, so I just deleted my crafty blog and imported the posts here.

The Poetry Index is still alive and kicking!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm Incapable

Last week's youth conference was a mixed bag of emotions for me.  The conference was amazing:  well planned timing, a wide variety of activities, the right amount of scheduled and unscheduled time, broad musical tastes, a very spiritual emphasis, etc.  For at least a couple months, I had been feeling very depressed and out of touch with God, and CHIC was a great catalyst to bringing me back into his presence.  But, as any youth leader will tell you, conferences are incredibly draining, physically and emotionally.

I was the only leader for 8 high school girls, six of whom were members of the church.  It's kind of an expensive conference, but it's also only every 3 years, so it gives churches a chance to do lots of fundraising.  The church paid for almost all of the girls (and my) fees.  Because of this, I felt a lot of pressure to make sure that the girls "got" something out of CHIC.  It's a really fun event, but it's also designed to be a deep event.  Naturally, a high school kid's first inclination is to just focus on the fun part and brush over the rest of it.

The first night of mainstage worship, half of the girls remained seated the entire time, even though the 5,000 other people in the auditorium were on their feet with their hands raised in praise.  I was really offended by this, and afraid that it was a sign of what the rest of the week had in store.  Regardless of the pressure I felt from the church, as the girls' youth leader, I wanted to make sure that they "got" it, too!  I said something to them later, about engaging the real reason why CHIC existed -- to bring them closer to God.  The rest of the week, I kept emphasizing that they needed to engage in the seminars and speakers so that God could speak to them.  But the second night of worship, I had a realization.  Even if I forced them to their feet, made them raise their hands in praise and bend their knees in prayer, if I made them answer questions after every seminar and write down what they learned, they still might not learn anything from the experience.  Despite my best efforts, it was still possible that they would leave CHIC thinking about the fun they had and the cute boys they met.  The only person who had any influence over what they "got" out of the conference was God.  It was out of my hands.

After we got home, the Sunday morning church service was devoted to us sharing with the congregation about CHIC.  All the girls were to share at least a little bit about what they had experienced.  I was pretty apprehensive -- I had only spoken with one of the girls about what she had experienced with God during the week.  The rest of them were wildcards.  

Thankfully, naturally, God had been working while I was worrying.  All 8 girls shared some great things about what they had enjoyed and what they had experienced at CHIC -- everything from awareness about human trafficking to a new sense of identity and purpose in God.  Had I two months to prepare, I could not have given a better speech than they did.  Afterwards, one of the parents complimented me on how the service had gone.  I answered, "I had nothing to do with it.  It was all God."  

I heard these words from a Caedmon's Call song a few days after we got back:

I'm so thankful that I'm incapable
of doing any good on my own


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fully alive and she knows, how to believe in futures.

I'm at a conference with 8 high school girls from my church.   It's been an exhausting week, but more about that later. Right now I'm at our evening mainstage session where all 5,000 people have gathered to hear a band, a speaker, and worhip together.  Tonight's featured band is Flyleaf, a hardcore screamo band (they happen to be very strong Christians, which is why they're here).  I wanted to share with you a scene I just watched.

So like I said, Flyleaf is a pretty hardcore band, and people at their concerts get really serious (and dangerous) in the mosh pits.  A few minutes ago Lacy, the lead singer, took a minute to tell all the kids moshing in the front to make sure they take care of each other while they were down there.  She told the boys to be gentlemen and made sure no one needed to get out of the pits.  I'm glad she said that, because I've been down front at concerts much tamer than this one and they are crazy.  But, having been around these kids for three days now, I didn't think it would do much good.  A few minutes later, though, I saw a group of four boys making their way from the front back to their seats in the stadium.  Three of them were obviously escorting the fourth because he had been hurt in some way.  When they got back to their seats I saw him motion to their leaders that he had been hit in the head.

Watching that little scene really touched my heart.  This has been a long week for me, because I just can't comprehend how kids can be so cruel to each other, so hurtful and abusive and crazy.  But seeing those boys take care of each other made me realize that there is still good in the world, that love is still out there in the hearts of kids.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tension is a passing note...

I've been depressed lately.

There.  I said it.  Now it's out there for (theoretically) the whole world to see.  No longer is it just an excuse in my head or a word I fling at my roommate while I am in tears because of some miniscule thing she did wrong.

I'm not exactly sure how I got into this hole, and I am clueless about how to climb out.  I just keep looking up towards the sky.  Sometimes it's beautiful and blue, and I stare at it with longing.  Sometimes it's cloudy and gray, and I'm happy to wallow in my inexplicable sorrow.  I can never tell if the top of the hole is getting closer, or if I just keep sinking down farther.  When I try to grasp for the rope to pull myself out, I can never find it.  I am alone.

I heard this song by Sixpence None the Richer tonight while shuffling through my iPod.

Do I murder when I forget you from afar?
Too drunk on the poison of endless roads and the countless smoky bars.
But tension is to be loved when it is like a passing note
To a beautiful, beautiful chord.

Then, this song by Matt Wertz came on right after.

I will not take my love away
When praises cease and seasons change
And the whole world turns the other way
I will not take my love away

I will not leave you all alone
When striving leads you far from home
And there's no yield for what you've sown
I will not leave you all alone

I will give you what you need
In plenty or in poverty
Forever, always look to me
I will give you what you need

I'm trying to remember -- this will pass, and God will keep his promises.

(I have a video I took of Matt singing this song at a concert in February but YouTube is down for maintenance right now -- I'll try to upload it tomorrow.)