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Category Archives: Wednesday (I still sound it out)

Tilling, Or The Great Gardener

This is a piece that I originally wrote while living in New Orleans with Mission Year. I revised it last year to appear in the Yellow Jacket (The HPU Student Newspaper), and wanted to share it with you today. I find myself returning to this again and again when I feel God working at something in my life. I hope you find some truth in it for yourself today.

 

“Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes to rain righteousness on you.” – Hebrews 10:12 (NASB)

“To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand beforethe fae of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you.” – Theophan the Recluse

“We have to realize that here the word heart is used in its full biblical meaning. In our milieu the word heart has become a soft word. It refers to the seat of the sentimental life. Expressions shuch as “heart-broken” and “heartfelt” show that we often think of the heart as the warm place where emotions are located in contrast to the cool intellect where our thoughts find their home. But the word heart in the Jewish-Christian tradition refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual. volitional, and moral energies.” – Henri J.M. Nouwen

The year I lived in New Orleans I worked in a garden every Saturday with some of my roommates and a man named Earl.

Earl used to run it as a program for teen guys to come and work, and they even made a hot sauce out of the peppers they grew that was sold, and is still saught after, all over the city. The money made from this was used to help the boys to go school if they wanted. After Katrina, and having several boys from the program killed Earl shut the program down.

When we met him, he was beginning to go back to the garden and restore it to what it used to be so he could run the program again. So, over the course of the year we went down to the garden and did whatever Earl asks of us.

 

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Earl, Braxton, Joy, Katie, and Yours Truly

 

One of the things we did was till up the soil. I used to do a lot of gardening with my dad, and grandmother, so I had tilled before, but always a small area with one of those things you turn with your arms. Earl had a really sweet gas powered tiller. I loved it.

But I also liked to just watch whoever was tilling (usually my roommate Braxton) do that for a few minutes. I could see the dirt turning and turning in the rotors, and the new soil sitting on top of everything. It looked fresh and ready to take on the world.

Usually I was doing something like trimming back a tree, or taking out all but one of a plant that had over grown an area. One Saturday though, Braxton and I redid the little brick border around an area that was going to be replanted soon. As we were pulling them out of their disarray, we began to dig and find more…and more, and more buried pretty deep under the dirt.

We finally got a bunch of them up, enough to make the new border, but realized that the entire dirt area we were standing on used to be a beautiful brick walkway. It was probably a combination of Katrina and time that had covered them so deeply…but it was just amazing to know that had been under us the whole time and we had no idea.

We’re weren’t completely done with that project, and were nowhere near done with restoring the garden to the award winning state it used to be in. We could see improvement though. If you’ve read this far, that’s what I wanted to talk about. One Saturday as I sat watching Jacob, another roommate, till for a few minutes this what was going through my head:

That’s what God is doing in my life, and wants to be doing in all of our lives all the time. We’re works in progress, even though we have a relationship with Christ, we need to, as Paul talks about, work out our salvation daily. God wants to till our hearts so new things can grow. When we first come into relationship with him our hearts (in the sense that Theophan and Nouwen talk about them) are covered with sin.

God doesn’t use the gas powered tiller though, He doesn’t even use the one you turn with your arms. He digs into our heart and soul and sinful nature with His hands and begins to turn the dirt over so that fresh soil can sit on top. When He’s done with that he begins to plant seeds of change in our life. He wants to change the way we live, the way we love, the way we talk, the way we treat others, the way we work, the way we eat. Everything.

He wants to lay that new brick border, and find all the other stones buried deep that we didn’t even know about, and smile a big smile as we joyously celebrate the discovery of what we never knew was there. Then He wants us come along side Him and lay out the new walkway. He wants us to get down and dirty with Him in this as we shovel, sweep, and dig with our hands through the sin in our lives.

The things that were beautiful to the Devil in our old life God wants to wash way to become beautiful in His sight.

I don’t know exactly why God began to show me all of this in a garden, but I would imagine it’s mostly because He likes gardens. He did after all intend for us to live with Him there didn’t he? I’m beginning to see Him as The Great Gardener.

The quotes at the beginning of this post work to illustrate that. This was also what God had been doing in my life, even before I went to New Orleans. In the months leading up to me departing for that adventure I realized that I’d been saying and doing a lot of things, but not fully engaging Christ in my heart. I was finally beginning to at this point.

But like the garden I was only just beginning to see the changes. At the end of the year, the last Saturday I called that place home we layed the final large stones on the pathway through the garden. Our last project. I saw the complete restoration of that particular place. However even though we will not witness complete restoration on this side of heaven, we do get the joy of working toward it with Him.

We are dirty, but He is cleaning us up.

We are destroyed and unrecognizable, but He restoring us.

We are withered, but He is growing us.

What stage of the garden restoration are you in? Do you need to till? Are you ready to plant again?

Grace & Peace In Your Re-planting,
Stippick

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Ask And You Shall…

have asked.

That’s it.

We commonly associate the first part of that phrase, “ask and you shall”, with, “and you shall receive” and mis-attribute it to the Bible. What Matthew 7 actually says is this:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

I think that all too often when we use the phrase “ask and you shall receive”, we’re implying “exactly whatever it is you asked for”.

I have a hard time with that scripturally. I think there are times when that happens…but it’s when that prayer is asked in alignment with the will of God. When we’re praying to have His will made our will then our requests will be more in line with what God is already doing.

I’ve been asking of God a lot over the last few weeks. As I walk with students through the model prayer of Jesus in Matthew six I’ve been strengthening my own prayer life. Verse 11 says:

“Give us this day our daily bread”

How simple.

How shockingly simple a request. What we see when we look at this as a model for prayer is that God desires to hear our requests. God created everything. Knows everything. Sees everything. The thoughts and desires floating around in our heads are not surprises to Him.

But He still gives us opportunity to ask.

How exciting!

I don’t know exactly what Jesus meant in the passage from Matthew 7. I don’t think He meant that we will always get exactly what we ask for when we’re praying. I think that because I’ve never met anyone who has had that experience.

I do think it means there will always be an answer. God will always say yes or no. This way or that way. This thing or that thing. He will give some answer to our questions and requests. There is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. The answer is just not always what we want.

That doesn’t mean we don’t ask boldly though. We ask with utter faith of an answer. Whatever it may be.

Do you ever feel guilty asking God for something? What have you been asking about lately?

Grace & Peace,

Stippick

 

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Time

Lately I’ve been trying to be more productive with my time in general. Unfortunately we live in a world where a short break to [check facebook/twitter/instagram/vine, watch a 30 minute comedy on netflix, read and interesting article] can turn into hours of mindless wasted time.

Yesterday I watched this video and started taking some inventory of how I spend my time. I couldn’t remember the exact phrasing, or where it was, but a quick google search lead me to this verse:

So teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

In fact the entire passage sheds a bit of good light on the perspective we ought to have on time.

The Days So Far

If I live an average life-span I’ve got 19,492 days left to live. That’s a lot of days, but if you watch that video a lot of them are going to be taken up by other things like sleeping, eating, and personal hygiene.

In the 1,334 weeks of my life so far at least 7 of them have been spent watching TV. That’s just in the amount of time I’ve been at Howard Payne. All on Netflix or DVD. A friend and I actually sat down and did the math on it a few months ago.

If I’d taken any part of that 7 weeks of time and put some of it into school? I’d probably be done with math classes for the rest of my life. Instead I’ve failed the same class twice, and quit once.

That is stupid.

The Days To Come

When we talk about being a good steward as far as it relates to what the Bible teaches, most people focus on money. That’s alright, the Bible has some great things to say about being good stewards of our money.

It also talks about being good stewards of our time.

When I’m feeling like a bit of a bum while on my third episode of [insert hour long teen drama here] in one sitting I’m reminded of Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do ,do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…” The passage goes on, and there are certainly other passages we could look at, but this one continually sticks out to me.

If I’m working as for the Lord, I’m wasting a lot of His time.

I love to write. I believe it’s something God specifically gifted me with. It’s why I write this blog. But I also have some other writing projects I’d love to see come to fruition. That isn’t going to happen with bits and pieces of time here and there.

I love supporting Hillary’s dreams. She loves crafting and would like to make that into her business. I’m not creative with crafts, but I can cut fabric for her all day long which frees her to do the actual work.

More than that I too often go to bed tired at 1 a.m. after hours spent in front of the television with a sink full of dirty dishes and wake up in the morning annoyed that I have no clean spoons to eat my Coco puffs!

What We’re Doing

Yesterday Hillary and I verbally agreed to get rid of Netflix. Later that night I’m 84% we non-verbally agreed to wait until after we finished the first season of New Girl (I have to know what happens with Schmidt and CiCi you guys!).

This may not be a big deal for some people, but for us it is. We realized just how much time we waste sitting in front of the TV, not engaging with each other, our pets (that’s important to us), or with household responsibilities.

We’re tired of extended bouts of laziness that are interrupted by annoyance of the desire to be more productive followed by more laziness.

So we’ve decided to just be more productive. It’s going to start with cutting our big distraction (Netflix) and then taking time to examine other areas of our life.

It’s a spiritual issue for us. We want to be good stewards of the time we’re given by God here. That won’t happen if we don’t start actively producing more that waste and tiredness (see: lethargy) due to our laziness.

What would you say is your biggest time waster? How could you change that to be a better steward of the time God has given you?

Grace & Peace,

Stippick

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2013 in Wednesday (I still sound it out)

 

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Freedom for Freedom

Freedom

I’m working in Galatians 6 for a sermon I’m giving on Sunday. While there I came across a text that is familiar to many of us:

It is for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NASB

I firmly believe that this country was founded on the idea of freedom in all kinds of ways. I know one of those was religious freedom. I love that in the same way I’m free to worship Jesus at any given time in any way or place, the same is true for someone who is choosing to live their Mormon, Hindu, or Muslim faith. Theologically I may have all kinds of issues with what any number of other faiths may teach or believe, but we live in a place where they’re free to do so.

I kept going back to chapter 6 reading and re-reading trying to familiarize myself with the text, but my eyes were drawn again and again to that small verse. Tomorrow I will, along with many Americans, celebrate Independence Day. A day where we commemorate the birth of the nation we’re so privileged to live in. Hillary and I have plans with some friends, and I’m really excited – I love America. I love the freedom I experience here. But the freedom Paul is writing about is different and I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Freedom As We Know It

 

If you’re reading this and you live in America it’s because no one has filtered what you can and can’t see on the internet.

If you’re reading this and you live in America you have more freedoms in your life than most people in the world can ever imagine having.

As great as that is…it’s not fulfilling. Freedom to do whatever you want is only freeing as long it’s fulfilling. That dries up at some point. At some point our favorite snack loses it’s once desirable appeal. At some point having two or three relationships doesn’t satisfy our emotional needs. At some point lying here to get what we want there leaves us confused about who we are. At some point owning everything you thought you ever wanted seems meaningless when you have no one to share it with. Freedom to protest what someone else may or may not be free to do is only intellectually satisfying for so long.

Freedom In The Kingdom

Here’s something I know even though I have yet to experience it: The freedom I’ll experience in the full Kingdom of God absolutely dwarfs the finite idea of freedom I have now.

The freedom that is offered by Christ on the Cross is fulfilling. It is a freedom to be who God created us to be. A freedom to love others without condition. A freedom to be loved. A freedom to be honest about our mistakes and faults. A freedom to take God’s name to the darkest places in our darkest hours, and still be seen as someone worthy of the love He is offering.

That freedom is not found in the Bill of Rights.

That freedom is not found in the Supreme Court of the United States.

That freedom is not found in our ability to legislate our own particular brand of religious morality.

That freedom is found through a life saving, life changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

If you have that relationship you’ve got more freedom than you can understand – for the sake of freedom from sin and punishment for that sin.

What are your July 4th plans? What’s the most freeing thing about your relationship with Jesus?

Grace & Peace,

Stippick

 

 

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Prayer and Conversation

This summer I’m focusing on prayer with students. In my own life I’ve seen marked differences in times where my prayer life has been strong and steady, and when it has been weak – or non-existent.

What I’m focusing on trying to get students to understand is that prayer is less a magic eight ball that gives us the answers we want, and more a conversation with someone who is giving us an opportunity to share things they already know.

Conversation involves relationship. Even a conversation with a stranger. Our relationship to them is that of a…stranger.

Conversation involves talking. We have to take the initiative to say something. Anything. It doesn’t just happen – we have to be willing to share what’s going on for the conversation to be effective.

Conversation involves listening. This is hard for us. Listening involves the action of putting our lips together and not opening them. Listening, really listening, involves not formulating our responses (or making a grocery list) while the other person is still communicating to us.

Conversation involves accepting hard truth. What the other person says may not be what we want to hear, but sometimes it is what we need to hear.

All these things and more are important for us to take into our prayer life. We’re using the Lord’s Prayer (or “Model Prayer”) as a framework for our conversations on prayer. Each week as we start we pray it together as it is found in The Message:

Our Father in heaven,

Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
What do you do to strengthen your prayer life?
 

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