In the Weeds

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; 
be gracious to me and answer me! 
You have said, “Seek my face.” 
My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
(Psalm 27:7-8)

I’ve become obsessed with weeds.

Well, technically, it’s the flowers I’m obsessed with, not the weeds themselves. I’m very blessed to live in an area where social distancing and shelter in place orders are balanced by large yards and plenty of growing things.

Not all of my pals in the blogosphere are so fortunate.

So I thought I’d take a break from my typical Scripture meditations and share some of my favorite bits of Psalms and photos of my recent neighborhood wanderings to brighten things up.

I know a lot of us could use some color in our days. My God must be a fan of color, too. He’s decorated the entire natural world with it. And if He lavishes such detail on the weeds of the field, He will certainly have attention for you.

Seek His face; it is more beautiful even than these…

Closeup of purple dead nettle in flower

Purple Deadnettle is a common front yard weed in my region. It typically blooms in late winter or early spring, often gracing our Middle Tennessee yards in March.

My front yard in mid-March
Field of purple dead nettle near the pond

I’ve seen this weed bloom every spring for the last four decades, but this year I decided to find out more. Besides learning the name, I also learned it is edible! Do a Google search and you’ll find tons of recipes with purple dead nettle as an ingredient.

Apparently it even has nutritional and medicinal properties. I failed to try it out this year, but you can bet I’ll be tossing some in a smoothie or salad next spring. I’m curious about the taste, but alas, my husband mowed before I’d done my research.

The bees seemed to enjoy it, though.

I’ll feature just one more, very similar, early spring weed today. To be honest, before this year, I never noticed there were two lookalikes vying for space. The flowers of henbit are remarkably similar to the dead nettle, but the shape of the plant is very different.

You can see the difference in the leaf structure, though the flowers are remarkably similar. But never fear! Both henbit and dead nettle are edible plants, so just be careful they haven’t been sprayed with herbicide.

I’ll be back soon with another favorite Scripture nugget and some more photos from my suburban adventures. Until then, stay safe and stay sane in the middle of COVID madness!

Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; 
for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! 
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
(Psaalm 27:11-14)

No Pain, No Gain

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

(Proverbs 27:6)

As many of you know, I’m in the editing phase of a novel I hope to have published. The setting is dystopian – either our own world in the future or one enough like it to be almost familiar. It’s meant as an extended parable for sacrificial living and the potential to use or abuse our God-given gifts.

I belong to a critique group, which was a pretty brave act for me. Through them, I’ve received a lot of great feedback. But there’s this one guy…

He never hesitates to ask questions about what is confusing, to point out continuity issues or passive voice or a myriad of other mistakes. In fact, my submissions often come back from their time under his scrutiny riddled with comments and dissected sentences.

I could ignore his emails. I could collect a handful of people who love my writing as is and say very little. But in the long run, I would be the worse for my refusal to hear difficult truths.

As it is, I love the criticism. Not because it feels good to have your rough draft sliced and diced. It doesn’t. I love it because he pushes me to work harder, to tighten and refine and grow as an author.

Naturally, a part of me adores glowing feedback, but the reasonable part of me knows it’s the criticism which drives me to exert my mental abilities and strive toward a better product.

Similarly several years ago, my family took judo under the instruction of a dear friend (whom I often still refer to as Sensei though it’s been ages since I stepped foot on a mat or took a fall). Every time he would praise a technique I’d done correctly, I would blow it for the next 15 minutes. I finally told him, “I think I just work better with criticism.”

He believed me, and lo and behold, I did improve.

My point?

I have been reading the Word of the Lord daily for many years. Studying, memorizing, and reflecting on it are all parts of my average day. I also spend no small amount of time reading works by other Christians.

None of this is to my own credit, mind you. This desire for the Word is a gift from God; one I requested early in my walk with Him and one He happily granted.

Anyway, the more I become saturated with the Word, the more I realize that often it’s the things I want least to hear that I need to hear most.

In today’s American Christianity, there is an abundance of shelf space advertised as “Christian.” But mark my words: Just because a thing speaks of the Lord or quotes Scripture does not mean the teaching is based on sound doctrine.

In an act of audacious irony, our ancient enemy quoted Scripture to the Word made flesh (see Mark 4:6). And believe me, his kisses are profuse. He loves to keep us snuggled in such comfort we overlook the bars of our cozy cage. If I wanted, I could easily surround myself with nothing but heartwarming sentiment.

But then I wouldn’t grow.

I’m certainly not knocking encouragement – God knows every one of us needs it, and He offers it in due time. But we need an equal balance of rebuke and reproof. We need the sharp prick of a goad now and then to remind us to stay on the narrow path that leads to life just as we sometimes need a word to lift us out of the pit to soar on wings like eagles’.

Friends, the Christian walk is not one of self-indulgence and earthly pleasure. We are promised joy, but it is joy in the presence of the Lord. Pleasure at His right hand. This means that our joy will often come not in lieu of suffering but in spite of it.

And to achieve this state of “joy anyway,” we need a full complement of both correction and encouragement. Of discipline and strengthening. We need the wounds of a friend who has the long term as a goal. If we are to become more Christlike, we must also be willing to endure Christlike suffering.

To compete so as to win the prize, we have to put in the hard work of training if we are to run our race well. But the Prize will be well worth our effort!

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 3:13-14)

How about you? Do you tend to gravitate towards what I would call “easy button Christianity?” Or are you equally open to hearing hard truths which require some sacrifice or painful confession in order to grow in Christ-likeness?