My All-In Strawberry Patch: Risk and Relationships

Two years ago I planted a plot of strawberry plants.

I had dreams of juicy red fruit growing organically in my backyard, picked by my minions – er, children – and overflowing bowls of pretty red jewels set out on my table for guests to enjoy.

I asked a friend to come over and dig up the soil. I had my husband line the plot with two by fours. I tended and watered and weeded.

If I had a nickel for every time someone stopped to tell me how hard strawberries were to grow, how the effort wasn’t worth it, I could have paid for a much nicer plot.

I just smiled and nodded and shoved the words deep down inside.

What I should have told them was:

“I’m not growing strawberries. I’m growing commitment.”

Let me explain.

I had thought about growing strawberries for years. Friends grew strawberries and would leave little boxes on our counter. I looked at other local’s raised beds and wanted some for myself. But then I would almost instantly think, “Well, who knows how long we’ll be here.”

Here is where ministry life enters in. It can be weird. Change and calls can enter at any time and plans have to remain flexible. Hearts have to remain flexible. That’s hard for someone like me who is whole-heartedly in, and easily whole-heartedly disappointed.

But you know what…

Life is weird. Change can happen anytime, anywhere, in any profession, in any relationships.

I realized that I was saving half of my heart for what might be. Keeping it safe, committing only pieces of myself so that I wouldn’t have to hurt, to say goodbye. At some point I realized that I was robbing myself of real relationships for what might be, even what would be. I was giving half-heartedly of who I was and expecting whole-hearts back.

Friendships need to be made, and wholeheartedness is not really an option, in life or in ministry.

And so I planted a strawberry patch.

I planted something large, that would take effort, and that I might have to walk away from.

It was beautiful. And it grew 14 strawberries.

Look at this bounty –

ūüėČ

Then, God called us away.

He called us to something new; to plant somewhere else. Oh goodness, it was hard. And every day I fight to be all-in here as well. Questions assail:

Will they like me?

Will they want me?

When will they get tired of me?

I know it’s not about me, but I have to be real. Relationships are hard and hard work and sometimes it seems that finding other people who want to be all-in are scarce.

Because of Christ, we can do it anyway.

Give your whole heart.

Plant something.

Start something.

No matter what tomorrow brings, no matter the response, grow love, and grow commitment to that love.

Christ stands as a constant reminder of the all-in love that our Father gives to us. He gave His whole heart, knowing what would come eventually, knowing that He would have to say goodbye, but trusting the Plan.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)

All-in, my friends. All-in.

Ask questions, ask questions, and ask more questions: Lessons learned from Cross Cultural Ministry

Cultures different from our own can be intimidating.

People from different cultural perspectives may think differently from us, act differently from us, and even value different things than we do.

But goodness God does beautiful things to each of us, and our relationships when we step outside of our own culture for a moment and enter into another.

Missionaries Christel Neuendorf and Rachel Jaseph join  me in conversation to talk about lessons learned from cross cultural ministry.

I sat down and expected a discussion of language and communication struggles, learning where to go, and what to do in a new land, instead my heart and mind were opened to the reality that

culture is across the globe, but also right outside my door.

I think the lessons in today’s podcast will serve us all well, not only for ministry and knowing our neighbors outside of the United States, but for the work we have to do with meeting our neighbors everywhere.

A few of my favorite lessons you’ll hear include:

When in doubt, ask questions.

Often we think of poverty in financial terms, but there is also the reality of poverty of community.

Relationships first. Always.

When not in doubt, ask questions.

Be present with the people God puts in front of you.

Get out, go into your community and find out more, learn more, grow more.

Ask more questions.

Written in Iron Ink: Cross Cultural Ministry –

You can find Rachel and Christel and more information about their ministry at the following links:

https://www.lcms.org/neuendorf

https://www.facebook.com/sendjamesandchristel/

The Implanted Word


I have a thing for TEDtalks. Tell me I’m not the only one?! They can commonly be found playing via podcast in our home while I make dinner, while I run around doing errands, and yes, even while I shower. There’s a glorious amount of information to be had in those 15 minutes or less! I love finding nuggets of wisdom, whether it be about women entrepreneurs in Rwanda, medical advances and brain research, or timeless truth on belief shared by Billy Graham.

Recently, I listened to a TEDtalk on finding design answers by investigating biology in nature. The presenter identified intricate designs in the natural world and encouraged listeners to replicate the patterns of anything from birds nests to symbiosis in their building and program designs.

TEDtalks like this one always make me the most excited and the most sad. Looking at the way God designed creation to be, to exist, and to thrive is such a beautiful thing, but the presenters are so busy seeing the beauty that they almost always miss the Designer.

The stars are placed in the sky…by His hands.

The oceans waves acquiesce to the seashore…by His command.

The flowers unfold their color…by His direction.

Today, we’re going to praise the Designer and learn from His design.

His Word isn’t just given to us…it’s planted in us by the first, the true Creator and Designer. Any good idea I have, it’s from Him. He designed His Word and planted it in us to teach us, to build us up, and to spur us on, as redeemed and treasured people of God.

Let’s read James 1:19-22 to learn more:

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 

During this last week of study, I want to move back through the book of James to set our feet firmly on the Good Gift of words and the Word, planted in us for a purpose.

James 1:21 tells us that God implants His Word in our hearts. God doesn’t just tell us the Word, or give us the Word to hold: He implants.

The Greek phrase for implanted word in the passage above is emphyton logos. If you have a notebook or Bible out, write that Greek phrase next to the text “implanted word.” Now, jot down other translation possibilities- rooted, ingrown, natural, engrafted, or congenital. Implanted is a very good translation because the Word is, yes, rooted in us, but it also grows or blooms out of us. Plants have both roots and blooms. Let’s reflect on those two things.

First, God’s Word is rooted in us.

He digs deep into our hearts and lives, and places His Word firmly in us. How long have you been attending church – since childhood, just recently? Do you have memories of a grandma or a faithful someone who shared the word with you?

God works the Word into our lives in so many ways and very often we may not even consciously see it.

Have you heard the Word as you show up to church week after week, even when your ears aren’t attentive?

Have you saved up notes or cards from someone who encouraged you with His Word?

Do you have a verse of Scripture that rises up from somewhere within you, from a voice you can’t identify (cough-cough…Holy Spirit)?

One of my favorite people on the planet, Miss Ardyth, faithfully taught my kids songs in the Midweek program at church for several years. What stuck out to me about Miss Ardyth’s song selection was that they were always straight from Scripture. My kids were unknowingly memorizing Scripture and singing them all over the house without even thinking about it. Miss Ardyth believed Psalm 119 and taught me to trust in the power of God’s Word tucked deep inside me.

See three different Biblical translations for Psalm 119:11 below:

ESV I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.

NIV I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.

NRSV I treasure your word in my heart,
    so that I may not sin against you.

When we hear the Word, when we read the Word, even when we speak the Word, God is storing it, God is hiding it in us, God is building a treasure store in our hearts and minds. This is God planting the Word – it is taking root.

God’s Word blooms out of us.

God’s Word also just COMES OUT! It blooms up and out. That’s the way it’s designed. When it’s tucked deep inside, it jumps out when we least expect it. It grabs ahold us of in our need and it clings tightly to our neighbor whether they understand it or not. It grows up and out and brings answers where there were none. It gives comfort where only anxiety reigns.

When have you seen it?

God’s Word is planted in you. His Holy Spirit is at work. His Word does not return void. You are reading this, so you are hearing the Word and it is taking root and doing its work. I am so excited to see what He is growing with it!

 

Discussion:

What is your earliest memory of the Word?

Who has the Holy Spirit used to plant His Word in you?

What is your favorite Bible story or Bible verse? How does it speak Hope and Life to your life?