The Land We Leave- A Story of Legacy Part 2

Today we shift our gaze from the past to the future; from the Spiritual Family Farm we have inherited and the legacy we were given, to the one we are leaving behind. We had no choice in the land we were left; whether there were weeds or fruit, but we CAN choose what we will sow for the next generation. As the old saying goes, “When you know better, you do better.”

What if “legacy” wasn’t relegated to finances and death, but emerged as an intention for 2019? An item on our to-do list? Something we could grow and cultivate today? A filter we used as we walked into every relationship? A story we told with our lives now?

We get to sow into the fruitfulness of those God puts into our lives and that just may be the most important work of all.

We can sow seeds into our children if we are mothers. We can influence the lives of our students if we are teachers. We can pour into our friends, into our community, into our co-workers. They will feast on the fruit that is being produced in our lives or starve from the lack of it.

What’s it going to be this year?

I am humbled and blessed to tell you (again) that my own mother is a mighty woman of God. She sowed a deeply rooted love for the Word into my life in childhood. I watched her study and teach. I saw the books on prayer by her chair. I heard her say no to many things so she could say yes to pouring into an ever-growing group of women on Wednesday mornings- FOR DECADES. That is my Spiritual Family Farm and I will never take it for granted.

I couldn’t inherit Jesus from her, just like our children, friends, the next generation will not inherit a relationship with Jesus from us. They will have to choose for themselves. But we can sow the seeds and they will matter.

The most important tool my mom left me in the gardening shed on the Family Farm was Bible Study. In fact, it saved my life. It saved my marriage, my mind, and our legacy. After I got married and moved thousands of miles away from all I had ever known, my life began to unravel. I was betrayed by my own unrealistic and sinful expectations of marriage and put too much of my happiness and identity on my very young husband.

I lost my way.

For the first time in my life I found myself actually NEEDING the Jesus that I had committed my life to all those years before. And I knew where to find Him. I knew where to look. My mom had shown me the way.

Listen to me, If I had started from scratch with God in those desperate days and years, my story may have turned out differently. What my mother had sown into my life, both in her words and deeds changed my life, my future, our legacy.

So now it is my turn. This is what I desire to pass on to my own four children. If nothing else, they will see their mother’s nose in her Bible every morning when they wake up. Every. Single. Morning. They may feel a little sting of sacrifice as she commits to teaching the Word she loves. They will be challenged from an early age to spend their own time reading their Bible daily. I’m okay with it being merely a checkbox during these early years. It was for me too and I trust God with those seeds. What I do know is that it is my responsibility to pass on the legacy that was left to me- to my own children and to those that are in my sphere of influence. I will make sure that the Spiritual Family Farm is intact when I hand it over.

Prayer, church membership, social justice, evangelism, worship, giving… these can all be a part of the legacy you leave. The hard reality of this world is that we usually reap exactly what we sow, but on the Spiritual Family Farm we have the privlege to provide for others what they didn’t have to work for, for themselves. We can give them a leg up.

I believe a stunning example of a legacy left is found in I Chronicles 28. In my parallel Bible, with several versions side by side, I see a slightly different heading above this chapter in each; “David’s Instruction to Solomon,” “David’s Plans for the Temple,” and “Solomon Instructed to Build the Temple.”   In just comparing the headings, we know that there are two key players in this passage with one objective; David, his son Solomon, and building the Temple.

Here we read the story of King David summoning all the officials of Israel to Jerusalem to let them in on some important plans and an important change in plans! I Chronicles 28: 2-3 says,

“King David rose to his feet and said; ‘Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people.  I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it.  But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name,  because you are a warrior and have shed blood.”

King David had his heart set on building the temple as a permanent dwelling place for the ark of the covenant and the glory of God. Not only that, he had even begun the process by making plans to build it. David had a dream. A good, God-honoring dream. He had plans for this fruitful endeavor in his life.

God had other plans.

In Verse 6, God says,

“Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for  I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.”

I Chronicles 28: 11-18 goes on to list all the plans, instructions, and materials that David passed down to Solomon concerning the temple. He literally passed down the dream of his heart to his son.

But was it just his dream? After all, God basically said that David was unqualified to to build the temple.. that his resume didn’t line up with that kind of work. Where did the dream, the plans, come from in the first place?

Verse 12 screams of legacy when it says,

He (David) gave him (Solomon) the plans of all the Spirit had put in his  (David’s) mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord and all the  surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the  treasuries for the dedicated things.”

It seems that it was God’s plan all along for David to receive the instructions, and for Solomon to carry them out. It was a multi-generational kind of harvest. It was literally a temple of legacy!

We may not have physical blueprints from God for something we are to pass along to the next generation or to those we are allowed influence over, but all of us will leave a spiritual legacy behind. What will it be? We get to choose.

As 2019 begins, my prayer is that we will always have a view of our Spiritual Family Farm in front of us… that we will take some time here at the beginning of the year to plow those fields as well. In I Chronicles 28:19 David says, “All of this I have in writing as a result of the Lord’s hand on me and He  enabled me to understand all the details of the plan.”  What if we pushed pause on the “tyranny of the urgent” and wrote down a plan for our legacy as well? If we are not intentional about putting some thought and prayer into what we want it to be, we may miss important opportunities to sow into others.

What is the “asparagus” you can plant today that someone else will gain nutrition from in years to come? Pray to provide some of those “large flourishing cities (they) did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things (they) did not provide, wells (they) did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves (they) did not plant” (Deut. 6:10-11) for someone in 2019.

After all, legacy is a story where we will never read, “The End.”

Ode to Asparagus: A Story of Legacy Part 1

Ode to Asparagus Gardening Image

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

My Word Of The Year is…. LAUGHTER!  I think it’s kind of weird and I’m not sure what it may have in store for me but God has been clear so I’ll declare it. 

In the spirit of laughter, let me tell you a little gardening story at my own expense:

The very first Spring we moved to the Ranchito I had big dreams for my little garden.  I had spotted it the very first time we walked the property.  It was already plotted out and fenced in.  Now, it was a total mess, full of tumbleweeds and debris, but it was there and it was going to be mine.  As the weather began to warm, I was itching to get to work.  I labored weekend after weekend clearing the garden, pulling weeds, and repairing the fence and watering system (ok, my husband did that part but I held stuff).  After the tumbleweeds were gone and I could actually see the ground I noticed a little sprout and thought, “Hmmmm… that weed looks like asparagus.”  I promptly pulled it up and moved on.  The next weekend I went back out and found the same funny looking weed in the same spot and thought again, “Hmmm… that weed looks like asparagus,” and once again pulled it up.  By the third week, when I finally went out to plant my inaugural garden and found it resiliently popping it’s head up once again, I thought, “Hmmm… You know what? That IS asparagus!”  And it was.

So, like all master gardeners, I’m sure, I went straight to Google to research “planting asparagus” Here is what I found: 

Planting asparagus seeds in an exercise in patience, but one of the most rewarding of all garden tasks.  Asparagus seeds germinate slowly, and the crowns take three seasons before they can handle being harvested.”  Under “difficulty” is said, “Moderately difficult, requires patience.”

Obviously what I finally caught on to was the fact that someone before me had planted asparagus seeds in what would eventually be my little garden, and now I was reaping the harvest.  I didn’t have to be patient.  I didn’t have to wait three years for the the harvest.  I just walked right into my new garden and had asparagus. And honestly, the fact that there even was a garden there in the first place, with a fence and a watering system… I was reaping the benefits of someone else’s hard work.

What would 2019 look like if we all tended to our Spiritual Family Farm?  Our legacy… the one we were left and the one we are leaving?  

Even if we have never grown anything in our life, we are all familiar with the idea of the Family Farm… the plot of land, the tools, equipment, storehouse or barn, maybe even family homestead passed down from generation to generation.  And even if we have no inheritance in sight and not two pennies to leave anyone, we ALL have spiritually inherited land, and a harvest to sow into the next generation.

And not tending to the Spiritual Family Farm will neither make it disappear or flourish. 

Our legacy deserves our attention.  

What did you learn about God from your parents or family of origin?  What did you believe about yourself and the plans God had for your life because of the words they spoke or did not speak into or about you?  What about the cultural air that you have unconsciously breathed in your whole life?  The spiritual atmosphere of your times, your city, your gender?  How about the institutions that you were a part of, or NOT a part of?  Can you name the people in your life that mattered in your spiritual journey?  

As you tenderly walk the boundaries of your inherited land, the Spiritual Family Farm that was left to you, take note of what you see.  Is the equipment broken down?  Are there weeds to pull up?  Or is the storehouse full of harvested seed, ready for the next generation’s planting?

There is so much grace here because we did not get to choose the Spiritual Family Farm that was given to us.  I pray that you find yourself on the receiving end of the covenant of love to a thousand generations because of the legacy that was left for you (Deut. 7:9).  But the very good news is that no matter what you inherited, God’s mercies are new every morning, and every generation (Lam. 3:22-24).

In the Old Testament, God powerfully rescued His people from 400 years of Egyptian slavery through terrifying plagues, and the miraculous splitting of the Red Sea.  He sustained them with manna from heaven and fresh water out of rocks.  He led them with a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night.  He was faithful and tangible and present in their lives like we can only imagine.  When they reached the Land He had promised them, Moses sent 12 spies to scout it out.  And although God had led them there and called the land theirs, 10 of the 12 spies came back with a “bad report” (Ex. 13-14).  They told the people that though the land was indeed very good, the inhabitants were too many and too powerful to overtake.  And the people believed them and rebelled, rather than believe their God who had rescued and sustained and led them to that very place.  So as punishment, God sent the Israelites away from their promise to wander in the desert for 40 years until the entire doubting, faithless generation had passed away. 

But then we come to Deuteronomy 6 where we finally see Moses preparing the next generation to enter Canaan. In verses 10-12 we read; “When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you  – a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

Remember, this was the same generation who had originally reaped the curse of wandering in the wilderness for 40 years because of the unbelief of their parents.  Their Spiritual Family Farm was literally desert until that day.  But here we witness God flipping the script for them.  Now they would reap what someone else had planted and be blessed by it, rather than cursed for it.

He can do the same for your Spiritual Family Farm this very year, but you may have to get a couple of important tools out of the shed.  

I would suggest forgiveness and gratitude.

Instructions to forgive and give thanks fill the Word of God.

We are commanded to forgive just as God forgave us.  Forgiveness never says that the iniquity, the hurt, or the offense was okay.  After all, THAT  is not how God forgave us.  He takes sin VERY seriously.  In fact, it is what nailed His beloved Son to the cross.  But forgiveness always paves the way for fruitfulness in our lives and in our legacy.  It is making a way for the dry, cracked dirt of our hearts, hardened by years of bitterness and pain to bring forth life again.

So as you walk the boundaries of the Spiritual Family Farm you inherited, are there people or institutions that you need to forgive?  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them to you for the sake of your fruitfulness and legacy in 2019.  Make a list.  Pray through it.  Maybe write a letter or make a lunch date.  Maybe not.  But do the hard work of plowing through that barren soil and trust that fruit will sprout in its wake.  It will be worth it.

I pray there are other names that you remember in gratitude…the names of people who pointed you to Jesus, who sowed into your Family Farm, who built the cities, filled the houses, dug the wells and planted the vineyards (and asparagus) you are reaping the harvests of today.

Psalm 77:11-12 says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”  I don’t know about you, but very often in my life, the “mighty deeds” and “miracles of the Lord” come in the form of people.  He loves us and draws us to Himself through the other flawed image-bearers we share this earth with.  

Are there people you need to thank as you think about the Family Farm you received?  Did you learn to love the Word of God from your Mother?  Learn to pray by watching a Sunday school teacher?  Hear for the first time that someone believed in you from a coach?  Read a book that changed your life?  I know this for sure, there is no one in this world that is over-encouraged.  The work of gratitude is holy.  I can’t imagine a legacy more pleasing to the Lord and more needed in our world than one of thankfulness and encouragement.

Plow the fields of your inherited land with forgiveness and gratitude.  And come back for Part 2 as we discuss the Spiritual Family Farm that we are leaving to future generations.

Blessings and prayers for a Fruitful 2019.

My Abiding and My Agenda

I find myself here every few months.  Panting.  Frazzled. Threadbare and world-weary.  Poured out and never filled up, believing it is up to me to keep the world spinning.  And with the holidays upon us, the to-do list grows even longer and the demands grow even greater.  It seems there is no end in sight.

I make a terrible god.

I’m beckoned back to re-take the test I have failed once again.  I shuffle my feet to the heartbeat of my shame until I realize the classroom is a throne room and I am simply invited to rest there.

Or maybe it is a peaceful garden like the one in my dreams, not in my back pasture. It is the place my soul longs for in the noise and hurry of my days and God has been calling me there more and more to teach me about Himself and His kingdom through the physical stuff of soil, seeds, weeds, and seasons.  He is so gracious in His promise that He will be found by us, making His ways plain to us through creation.

So I step in, letting my ears adjust to the quiet, letting my eyes adjust to the sunlight.  And Jesus whispers my life’s verse back to me, “It is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8

“Right!  Yes!” I say too loudly, fumbling for the basket of scrawny, malnourished fruit I am trying to produce on my own,   “Don’t you see how hard I am working?  Don’t you see all the places I am serving, fields I am plowing, people I am loving?” All the while knowing the sad offerings of my broken down basket will never bring Him glory.

He sets it aside, takes my hand, and shows me the Vine. “I am the True Vine, and my Father is the Gardener.  I am the Vine and you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15: 1, 3, 8)

I am not the ultimate gardener in this story and neither are you.

God is the Father Farmer and like all good gardeners, He has a plan.  This plan has been for fruitfulness, from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the garden of my life.  I feel a bit of the burden lifting.

I Corinthians 3:10 speaks this truth; “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”  

I am not the gardener, I am the field.  We are the soil the Father Farmer desires to grow good fruit out of for a starving world.  But unlike a physical field which has no choice in what it will become, we get to choose.  A physical field may be the home of a land-fill or farm, it just lies in wait for the garbage or the seeds. But we co-labor, offering up our lives, our fields up to the hands of the master gardener.

How have I  mixed this truth up in my mind, believing that God is MY co-worker in MY service?  It is evidenced in the panting, world wearied, frazzled state of my soul.

The one and only way to co-labor with the Father Farmer and to offer up my humble plot of ground, is to abide.  It is found right there at the Vine in John 15.

Remain.

But remaining isn’t passive, it is a choice.  It’s a moment by moment choice for me.  But unlike the exhaustion of operating out of my own strength, the work of abiding fills and equips me for the very fruitfulness that will bring God glory.

And I know the biggest enemy to my abiding is my agenda.  Anyone else?

I shelf my fruitfulness over and over when I choose my agenda over my abiding.  I walk away from the peaceful, orderly garden planned perfectly by my Father Farmer towards my own path of striving and control.

An empty terra-cotta pot on a shelf will never produce something of beauty or nourishment.  An empty field, not yielded to the gardener will never be fruitful.  Neither will my life, my walk, my ministry when I place it on the shelf of my own agenda, my own to-do’s, my own ideas for the garden.  That fruit will rot on the vine and the world will think me my own disciple.

And I will re-take the test again.

Though it is simple- this remaining, this abiding- it is never easy.

My agenda is loud and bossy.  My abiding is quiet and satisfying.  “You will know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”  Matthew 7:16-17. When I look at the fruit my life is producing it is obvious if it is growing from my agenda or my abiding.

So I come humbly to my Father Farmer and hand him my field once again knowing what He will grow will be for my good and His glory.  And there I choose to remain.