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In our house we had a Saturday morning tradition.  We would watch a PBS favorite called, “This Old House” followed by its sister show, “Ask This Old House.  While “This Old House” focuses on a total renovation of an old home, “Ask This Old House” focuses on specific projects that can be accomplished in just a few hours.  In one such episode a woman requested the expertise of Roger, the landscaper.  She needed help planting a garden in her backyard.

For me this was nothing new.  Years ago my dad had commandeered a section of our backyard to plant a garden.  Having grown up on a farm, he relished this opportunity to teach us how to grow all kinds of vegetables.  So we learned how to plant beans, beets, carrots, zucchini, and lettuce – all from seed.  But when it came to tomatoes, we always started with small tomato plants – which is exactly what Roger did.

Planting-tomato-plants-deepBut to my amazement, he did something we never did.  Roger instructed the homeowner to plant the root of the tomato seedling deep into the ground, so that even the stem of the tomato plant was covered with several inches of soil.

Now this was counter to anything I had learned from my dad. We always planted the stem or stalk of any plant a few inches above ground.  So I was puzzled.  But fortunately Roger explained his reasoning.

While the stalks of most plants need to be planted above ground, the stem of the tomato was unique.  When it is planted deep into the ground, horizontal roots grow out from the stem.  Thus a strong root system is developed – roots growing vertically and horizontally – providing the tomato plant with much needed stability to support the tomatoes it would produce.

As I pondered Roger’s instructions, I couldn’t help thinking how it parallels a spiritual truth.

In Col. 2:6-7, we read this exhortation:

“Let your roots go down deep into him (Jesus) and let your lives be built on Him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught.”

We need to be planted “deeply” into the soil of God’s grace.  We need a strong root system for our faith so we can bear the “weighty” fruit of Christ’s character in us:

  • the fruit of love for the Lord and for one another
  • the fruit of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, obedience, and self-control
  • the fruit of good works

But how do we “let our roots go down deeply into Jesus?”

By making the intentional choice to be:

  • Planted deeply in God’s Word where His truth can take root in our heart and mind.
  • Planted deeply in His presence by carving out dedicated times of personal prayer.
  • Planted deeply in a church where our spiritual growth can be nurtured.

Then our faith will grow strong and our lives will produce the “fruit” of Christ’s character.  Who would have thought that a tomato plant could teach us such an important lesson!


The Father's House

The Father’s House

My granddaughter, Clio, is coming to Michigan! Oh yes, her mom and dad are coming too. And, as soon as my daughter confirmed their trip, preparations were set in motion. Diapers and Desitin on the counter. The Pac N Play set up in the bedroom. Fresh sheets on the bed. Fresh towels in the bathroom. […]

Hearts Refreshed

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.”  (Philemon 1:4-7)

These are words of the Apostle Paul commending the faith of a man named Philemon – faith that was demonstrated by his love and generosity.  People easily recognized Christ in him, and they were refreshed.  The weariness of the day, the fatigues of life were shaken off, and they were refreshed in their hearts – by what they saw in Philemon.

There is a song written by Scotty Willbanks, and the chorus goes like this:

Let them see You in me

Let them hear You when I speak

Let them feel You when I sing

Let them see You, let them see You in me

So the question I ask myself:  Are people refreshed in their hearts by what they see in me?  Do they see Christ in the way I live my life?  Perhaps I am not alone in being challenged by the example set by Philemon so many centuries ago.

What people saw in his life, what they heard him speak; the way he acted and reacted refreshed their hearts.  They witnessed authentic faith being lived out in genuine love, kindness, and generosity.  And it was refreshing – and faith strengthening!

And what was true for people centuries ago remains true for people today.

If our faith in Christ shows up by the good things we do, by the words we speak, by the love and kindness we extend to others – if they genuinely see the Christ in us – their hearts, too, will be refreshed!


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The Secret of Contentment


Three times he was beaten with rods.  Five times he received 39 lashes of the whip.  Three times he was shipwrecked and once stoned and left for dead.  Yet, the Apostle Paul declared that in every situation, he was content.

Whether he had little or plenty, whether he was in a place of comfort or in suffering, Paul declared:

“I (Paul) have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation . . .” (Phil.4:12 NIV)

Beaten, flogged,

stoned, shipwrecked,

hungry and suffering, yet still content?

With the turmoil and uncertainty that come with 21st Century living, who doesn’t find it at times, maybe even most of the time, a struggle to be content?  And when I am faced with uncomfortable challenges, difficult situations, or overwhelming events in my life, my typical response is just to “grit my teeth” – “to grin and bear it” – to just endure it.  But certainly I wouldn’t declare that I am content in those situations.  But not Paul!

He learned how to be content in the most difficult times of his life.  Even while imprisoned in Rome facing certain execution, he possessed an inner peace.  But fortunately for us Paul didn’t keep this secret of living, the secret of how to live in contentment, to himself.  For in the very next verse, he reveals his secret:

“(For) I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”             (Phil 4:13 NLT)

Paul’s secret was to draw on Christ’s strength which empowered him to be content even in uncertain and adverse times.  And what was true for Paul remains true for us today.  We can learn to be content when we face uncertainty and adversity – by turning to the Lord for strength.

After all it was Jesus who taught us to pray this way:

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  (Matt  6:11)

Surely this means more than asking the Lord for a daily provision of food.  It means we can also ask Him for the bread of strength each day – strength that comes from His wisdom, His comfort, His mercy, and His favor.  This is the daily bread that will strengthen us as it did Paul, so that we too can be “content in any and every situation.”


A Turbulent Ride


The pilot’s voice was calm, even matter-of- fact.

“There will be a bit of turbulence as we land, but not a problem.  Make sure your seatbelts are fastened securely, and we will be landing safely momentarily.”

No sooner had these words been spoken, when the plane suddenly was buffeted by gusts of wind. The plane bounced side to side as the wings tipped up and down.  I had experienced the bumping of a turbulent plane ride in the past, but this was different.  Being jostled from side to side was unsettling.

Truth be told I became more than a bit anxious!  As I double-checked my seat belt and breathed a prayer to the Lord to keep us safe, I then reminded myself of the calmness and sureness of the pilot’s words.  He said, “No problem. We will land safely.” 

Even as the wheels touched the runway, the wind continued to rock the plane. But in that moment, I made a choice.  I chose to trust the words of that pilot who had far more experience with air turbulence than I did.  That trust gave me peace, that trust instilled a confidence that we would arrive safely  at the gate even though in the moment it didn’t feel like it.

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A Small Stone

He stood nine feet tall. Clothed in armor weighing over 120 pounds, armed with an oversized javelin and sword, his presence was “full on” intimidation.  His mocking only intensified the dread and fear felt by his adversaries.

Goliath was the champion of the Philistines and with the contempt of a bully he challenged the strongest among the Israelites to face him.  Yet not one soldier dared stepped forward.  But a young man named David did.

Without a helmet, chest plate or shield,

without  a sword or javelin of his own,

David rushed out to meet this giant with a slingshot and a few stones.

Surely this weapon must have seemed laughable to Goliath.  But when David placed that first stone into his slingshot and hurled it at the giant, that stone represented David’s faith in God to give him victory over this giant.  One small stone, hurled in faith, felled this hulk of humanity who had overwhelmed the army of Israel with a debilitating fear.

One small stone!  Perhaps this is why Jesus said,

“I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move.” (Matt. 17:20 NLT)

Or as we learn from David:

Faith the size of a small stone can fell a giant. Continue Reading

Amazing Love

love-baby-famillyBefore she could squeeze my finger,

before she could light up my day with her smile,

before she could lay her head against my chest and fall asleep,

she was loved.      And, is loved.

As I hold my daughter’s newborn in my arms, make no mistake, she has totally captured by heart. Love for this little one wells up within me, not because of anything she has done but because of who she is.  She is the daughter of my daughter.

As I lovingly rock my granddaughter to sleep, I am reminded how the depths of my love fall far short of God’s extravagant love for us.

“. . . nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. . . . No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God . . . “(Rom. 8: 38-39 NLT)

His love for us is an extraordinary love; a love we did not or could not earn.  He loves me not because I teach a Bible class or am involved in prison ministry.  He doesn’t love me because I go to church or attend a prayer meeting.  Certainly these are important expressions of my faith that please the Lord.  But his love for me, His love for us, is not generated by our deeds.

No, His extravagant love for us is because of who He is and who He has chosen us to be – His sons and daughters!  He loves us because we are His children, adopted into the family of God.  An adoption made possible because His only begotten Son “bled red” for us on the Cross, an ultimate testimony of His amazing love!