A few weeks ago I returned from Manaus, Brazil, what many call The Gateway to The Amazon. I spent a week on the river with Justice and Mercy Amazon visiting some incredible villages along the river in some obscure areas, and then spent four days meeting with dear friends and jungle pastors in Manaus. (I had a phenomenal week, which is probably a story for another post.) While in the city I requested to see one of the most remarkable followers of Jesus I’ve ever met, a sixty-eight year-old Brazilian woman named Ana (name has been changed). I first met her at our First Annual Jungle Pastor’s Conference a few years ago, and I’ve made a point to see her every visit. Ana’s hard to get your hands on, though. Half the time she’s booked up teaching one of her three-hour classes on hermeneutics, working with her pastor at her church or temporarily living in another country in South America serving the poor. Last year she voluntarily dwelt in a hut, I believe in Peru, where she had to draw her own water, describing conditions I don’t even understand – she was there teaching the bible. And I think she had health issues at the time.
But it’s her smile, her peace, her profound inner joy that in many ways defy the difficult life she’s had: a broken engagement years ago (Ana has remained single), two bouts with cancer, an accident that caused excruciating back pain and literal persecution for her faith. A person can’t fake the attributes her countenance and spirit beam forth. These don’t come from having more stuff or pleasure or entertainment. We hear these words a lot, but they are the fruit that comes from the Spirit. Ana’s peace, joy and radiance is what I want, I just don’t always want the road that unleashes them. But I’m also at the point where I’m not willing to miss Him for anything.
I had an hour with Ana sitting in a friend’s living room. Her grey hair flipped up at her shoulders brushing her cream top, printed with lavender roses. She was also wearing a jean skirt – I’m so sure: adorable. With all of you in mind and, selfishly, with me in mind I asked Ana a few questions about life, faith, her relationship with Jesus. Here are a few of the things she told me…
“If every woman believed what God has in store for her, every woman would devote her life to the service of God.”
She was not wagging her finger when she said this. She was perched on the edge of her seat leaning toward me with an inviting smile the way a mother bends toward her child and says, you don’t want to miss this for anything in the world! Her zeal reminded me of Mary of Bethany: When you’ve tasted the person of Jesus – when you know Him – you will spill your all over Him with delight, even urgency. Instead of wondering how I could drum up greater sacrifice or employ more disciplines, Ana by her very presence reminded me that when you know Him, you will delight in loving Him.
“When God saves you, there’s a specific place for you in His service”, she continued. “There’s only one way to find this out: intimacy with Christ.” I wonder if you believe that about yourself. Or maybe the better question is do you believe that about God – that He really does have a place for you? Sometimes I wonder this, and the remedy comes through spending time at His feet…. listening (Mary of Bethany), or as Ana put it “intimacy with Christ.” The question becomes, am I spending the time?
Ana went onto explain how she talks to God just like she was speaking to me – She tells Him everything, discusses even the mildest of details with Him. She described how we can know His voice like a woman can distinguish her husband’s out of a thousand. She explained how she listens to the Lord by reading His Word – she just finished her 145th reading through the Bible. (But no guilt here – just take it with a spoonful of encouragement, because that’s how she dispensed it. That’s how I took it.) She talked about three qualities that help her discern His voice in any given situation: Peace, joy and assurance in accordance with His Word.
If your background is anything like mine, none of this is necessarily new. Spending time pouring over God’s Word, listening and petitioning in prayer, serving God through obedience are all things we know. But it’s not the “new” that’s going to change us, rather a recommitment to the timeless.
So much distracts us today, perhaps more than at any other time in history. The iPhone alone could be my undoing. I can’t imagine there ever being a time where I had access to more opinions, arguments, “comments” about everything, and yet Ana reminded me once again of The Voice, the One that matters above all others. The Voice of the Shepherd whom His sheep know (John 10:27). She inspired me to take back the time to hear Him. Not that I wasn’t reading the bible or listening, but to re-up my commitment. To really guard it. To silence the alerts and alarms. To protect the space.
Beyond what Ana said it was the serenity of her presence that spoke the clearest. She knows who she is; She knows what she’s supposed to do; She knows the One who goes with her. And out of that understanding flows a peace and a beauty as deep and attractive as the Amazon. This lovely woman didn’t offer me a “how-to” because relationships aren’t that clinical. But she reminded me that purpose, peace and knowing are all attainable qualities through intimacy with Christ. She reminded me the abundant life in Jesus is possible.
Summer is approaching – I hate to say it while still reveling in the fairer temperatures of spring, but if you live in the South I’m afraid spring blinks more than it settles in. In a few weeks children will be set free from school, college students will return home, we’ll go on vacations, long-weekends and mission trips while enjoying the looser rhythms of June, July and August. I can hear my garden crooning from the backyard.
The question is how will we use these summer months for our spiritual enrichment? We plan for getaways and gardens, and we need this same level of intentionality to study God’s Word. But you ask, how can I stay motivated to do this during the summer? (So glad you’re thinking along these lines.) For starters, Beth Moore’s Summer Study this year will be on Priscilla Shirer’s new release: Gideon: Your Weaknesses. God’s Strength. All the info you need to be part of this can be found here.
Beth’s Summer Study is an incredible resource for studying God’s Word through the summer, whether by yourself or within a group. And if you’ve ever watched Priscilla teach you know I’m telling the plain truth when I say she’s one of the best communicators out there. What I’m trying to say is that you can invite your friends into the mix with the utter confidence that they will not. be. bored. And you will not be embarrassed for having encouraged them over. Moreover, Priscilla communicates Christ, so what’s not to love?
Which conveniently leads me to my next thought about YOU possibly leading a group this summer, whether as part of Priscilla’s study or another one God’s put on your heart. There are so many! (A few authors to consider below.) I feel extra spirited about this because of something I experienced this week. So, a little story for your enjoyment…
A few days ago a friend and I drove ninety minutes out of Nashville to a small town in Tennessee where we dropped in on a bible study (pics below). They’d done some of my studies, and through a mutual friend of my late grandfather’s (long and interesting story here) invited me to “surprise” their group. What I didn’t know beforehand was that the host of the study was 92.
I write this unto you another way, ninety-two.
She was wearing sky blue pants, a seabreeze sweater, and aqua marine earrings that tied the whole ensemble together like two berries on a shortcake. She’d assembled 40 plates of chicken salad, fruit and pasta served with homemade cheese straws. You better believe the tea was sweet and the coffee was piping. The deserts were legion. She said she had lots of “help” but you could tell who ran the show: Erline.
Woman after woman – young, “older” and everyone in between – entered her home with shock and awe at the sight of me plopped in the middle of the living room. (There may have been squealing.) (I kept looking over my shoulder thinking maybe Oprah had dropped in.) I had never quite experienced this kind of admiration, but what they clearly didn’t understand is how far more stunned I was by them than they could have ever been with me. I was inspired by Erline’s gusto at –have I mentioned this? – ninety-two year’s old; the group’s commitment to meet and serve one another week after week; the compassionate way they invited their friends and neighbors into their fold; the humility of the lead woman from the local church.
A few of the women shared about what studying God’s Word together has meant to them. Some described the grief of losing sons and husbands, and how God has comforted them through their pain; Others talked of how God spoke through the pages of Scripture; Still a newly declared U.S. citizen shared about how she hadn’t left her home in years until a woman from the study taught her English and invited her to this gathering. A phenomenal story.
The legacy of this bible study group will have eternal ramifications.
My friend and I left emotionally drained and filled at the same time. So humbled by how God uses us, and so moved by how He meets His people when they simply gather, seek Him and encourage one another. I drove away reminded of how POWERFUL studying Scripture and praying together is; How necessary; How vital to our beings, relationships, homes. I was inspirited to be like Erline who opened up her home as well as the other women who brought food and facilitated the study through their local church.
The visit stirred up memories of me sitting in my parents’ sunroom, along with nine other college friends, while my mom slid in a VHS Tape of a “new” Bible Study teacher named Beth. The woman on the videotape was blonde and funny. She knew Jesus. And she changed the course of my life. Beth Moore of course was vital to the process, but equally so was my mom who opened up her home to us college girls. She lured us with baked goods and warm mugs. She gave us a pastel floral couch on which to discuss the difficult years of college. Could you be that person this summer? This fall? (maybe sans the floral couch.) Consider what opening up your home for a summer bible study could do for the lives around you. If (one more time) 92 year-old Erline can do it, perhaps…
***Here are a few LifeWay authors whose studies you might enjoy, a few I know and respect: Angela Thomas, Tammie Head, Jen Hatmaker, Jennie Allen, Lisa Harper, Jennifer Rothschild, Mary Jo Sharp, Vicki Courtney, Kay Arthur, Mary Kassian, Margaret Feiberg, and I hope I haven’t left anyone out. This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, but these are a few LifeWay friends to get you started if you’re looking for a place to begin.
Sometimes quiet and small is okay. It may not make for clever Tweets or garner a slew of comments on Facebook, but it’s nothing to fear; Sometimes private is good. Not every picture has to go through the filters of Instagram and rocket into the public square, it can be for just you; And sometimes hidden is best. Not every blog or bestseller has to be about doing something huge, radical, revolutionary, monumental. By the way, this is not a criticism of the well-known voices we listen to or a critique of their remarkable work. In fact, I am friends with some of these influencers who would be guilty of burying their talents if they did things any other way–they are using their notable gifts truly for the glory of God and they are having a profound reach. So set all of them aside because this is not about them; It’s not a this-way versus that-way. I simply want to ponder another side of what faithfulness looks like.
Tonight two people came to my house to pray. Usually we have six or seven, but this evening there were only three. I made Trader Joe’s French press decaf and served Trader Joe’s sea salt brownies, because I love TJ’s that much. It was small, quiet and I think powerful.
For 46 days my sister and I gave up the same thing for Lent and went through a devotional by Henri Nouwen. The two of us did it together and we read in silence most every morning. Pretty ordinary. Pretty doggone quiet. Still I pray God has changed us through this very small fast.
Over a year ago a friend of mine picked up a struggling woman on the side of the road, got to know her family, and has shared in both their ordinary and special occasions. She’s driven them to church and appointments, bought the kids’ school ornaments for fundraisers and simply been a friend. She doesn’t tell this story from a stage because she doesn’t speak on platforms but, kinda quietly, she’s building the Kingdom.
I had two Jr. High youth leaders who used to take my friends and me to Denny’s after youth group–I consider teen ministry at Denny’s modern-day suffering for Christ–bought us burgers and listened to our urgent and dire struggles that we believed, if not solved, might end the world. They discipled me with patience and love and let several of us spend the night on many occasions even though we nearly burned their house down because of poor microwave popcorn skills. They didn’t get the chance to Instagram the smoke billowing from the kitchen for the reward of a hundred “hearts”, because Instagram didn’t exist. They never blogged about their many years as youth group leaders probably because there were no such thing as blogs. Their service was mostly hidden, but they helped direct the course of my life.
I know a woman who cooks dinner every week for the young single girls in a nearby church. She leads them in Bible Study and meets with them individually for coffee. I once heard her pray with all sincerity, “Lord, there’s not a yacht on any sea I’d want to travel more than I want to be with these girls each week.” (And that, of course, made me think of all the European coastal destinations I’d like to see and how sometimes I want this more than I desire to minister.) The mark she’s making on these women’s lives is profound and hardly anyone knows she’s been doing this every week for two years. She doesn’t have a Facebook profile.
As I’ve been pondering over the past few months, the question is certainly not whether or not social media, publishing, speaking on large platforms, Tweeting, blogging, gaining followers is wrong. This would be to miss the thinking entirely. The question is at what expense are we being drawn to bigger, louder, larger, best-selling, more famous? Are we losing anything in the pursuit? Are we measuring our faithfulness to Christ by “likes” or by lives?
I can only answer these questions for myself and the answers are not always flattering. Paul speaks to Timothy about the value of leading a quiet and peaceable life which is good and acceptable in the sight of our Savior (I Tim 2:2-3). I am yearning more than ever before for a quality of life pleasing to Him, whether known or obscure. This morning I read in I Cor 3:12-13 that “If any man builds on this foundation [Jesus Christ]…his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.” Social Media and pub deals and music contracts can be of great value but they will not be what brings the value of our work to light. This will only be measured in Jesus.
So I guess I want to encourage so many of you who are going about the daily business of seeking Jesus and loving others, some in front of enormous crowds, others in front of a few. Remember the quality of your labor is not measured in numbers or followers or sales, valid as this may be. As I read Henri Nouwen’s Lenten devotional I was reminded of how he spent the last years of his life ministering in a small community to those with special needs. At times in his writing you can sense his angst, as if he feels he’s not adequately using all his knowledge or skills, or that he’s almost disappearing, and yet his writings have transcended his life. The way he served in obscurity is now changing people in the light. Amazing how God can do this.
For “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Heb 6:10) May we humble ourselves together? And in a world of big, let us never fear what’s quiet. Or small. Or hidden.
Christmas is out the door, with the exception of a few hanger-on pine needles I’ll be finding well into August. It’s time for another year, and like a train on a schedule it doesn’t hold its doors for me to get on board, before its smoke plumes and whistles and gears start cranking. Ready or not.
I begin each New Year with a general sense of contemplation, as I imagine most do. Whether we buy into resolutions, diets, gym-joining, goal-setting, we are naturally designed for turning seasons and fresh beginnings. It is only right and good that we consider afresh what we long to do, who we long to be this coming year. Marketing companies may cash in on what this month represents, but its newness they did not create. This is God’s gift of time measurement. Without it we’d have days running into one another unbound by solstices or seasons, the markings that make it possible for us to determine things like, “Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far.” Januaries give us context for what is “far”. They offer us a moment to pause and consider what has happened, and what we long to have happen.
I’ve been doing much of my contemplation this year through the Gospel of Mark. A new friend of mine encouraged me to steep myself in this particular book because Mark writes more about the Kingdom of God than any of the other Gospel writers. Since one of my desires this year is to see a greater coming of Jesus’ Kingdom here on earth – in everyday, real life we’re talking about here – I’m enjoying a book I’ve read many times before, only this time in a different way.
I mused with this new friend who happens to be ministering in a particularly unsettled part of the world. I told her how I struggle to talk about the Gospel in ways the people around me understand, even desire. This is a much bigger conversation than whatever fits into the going length of a blog these days, but her response to me needs little room. In fact, she began with a question: “Kelly, what did Jesus tell the man from Gerasenes, the one He cast the demon out of, to do?” We were eating at a place called Potbelly’s. Just being at a place with this name made me less smart. I couldn’t remember. She smiled and then began to deliver a truth the way Proverbs speaks of a word fitly spoken. “Jesus simply told him” she said, “tell your people about the mercy God has shown you. That was His evangelism strategy.” (Mark 5:19, for precise quotation).
I nearly burst into tears for two reasons I can trace. The first was out of relief. I have so thoroughly complicated the process of sharing my faith, witnessing, evangelizing, however you may name it, that I have missed the ease with which a person speaks about Jesus who has firsthand experienced Him. We should speak of His mercies as naturally as the songbird carols from our windows; I have never once prompted her. If we have a redemptive story to tell we should tell it often to all manner of listeners. Which brings me to my second traceable reason for tears: Sometimes I struggle receiving the mercy God has shown me. If I can’t connect to His personal love then the faith-story I tell others will be forced and awkward, saddled with inaccessible doctrines that may be true, but they won’t be life. The man from Gerasenes had everything he needed to share the fame of Jesus in his community because he’d had a personal encounter with Jesus.
We will talk about Him to the degree we experience Him.
I am still contemplating. Contemplating about what the Lord has done for me, and how He has had mercy upon me. I am examining why I often struggle to receive such goodness, or simply fail to recognize it. The truth is that every Christ-follower has a story of mercy to share, and when we share it with passion, humility, joy and even ease, well then, perhaps more people around us will respond the way the people of the Decapolis responded to the man from Gerasenes.
“and they were all amazed.”
It’s a rainy Monday morning in Nashville, but I’m not complaining because my red and green leaf lettuce transplants need the water and I need an excuse for a hot cup of PG Tips. Also, it’s Bible Study night for me at The Village Chapel and it’s easier for me to stay in and study on cozy mornings like these. At any rate, I’ve been wrestling with something that’s pretty prevalent in our culture – even in our Christian culture, maybe especially in our Christian culture – and I wonder if I’m alone. Now that we live in this strange new world of social media, there is an extra pressure to make ourselves known. The idea of self promotion is not new, but today it feels not only familiar but “essential”. Social media for promotion is being touted not only as an extra resource but as our responsibility. Books are being written and conferences given on how to make ourselves known, heard, read, downloaded; how to promote our work; how to increase Twitter followers and Facebook friends; How to ramp up blogger comments, and on and on…No doubt these are some well thought-through resources with wise insights about how to leverage a brand new medium that has the potential to reach people in once impossible to touch corners of the world. Surely these books are especially useful when a message is worthy of being heard, read or watched. BUT, (and I’m just throwing this out there)…
If something has felt “funny” to you in your spirit about trying to get yourself “out there”, if you’ve ever felt like you’re striving, competing with others, feeling left out, comparing yourself, feeling “less-than” or, maybe worse, “better than”, than here’s something remarkably freeing I read this morning… I was in Luke 14 reading about Jesus’ 40 day temptation in the desert, where Satan tempted Christ to depend on earthly bread, turn His worship away from the Father, and even test the Father. After this grueling journey through the desert, hungry, this is what we read happened next in Luke 4:14, “Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread…”
In light of this platform-building-thing with which I’ve been struggling, I was grabbed by the italicized phrase. “News about Him spread”. WHY? Because He marketed, promoted, Tweeted, got tapped for a huge conference, blogged, found a great manager? Not exactly. Because He emerged out of a crushing walk through the desert in the power of the spirit. Huh, not the way I would have thought news would spread. Interesting that the combination of suffering in obedience coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit were the wings that carried the news like a trending topic on Twitter or a New York Times Best Seller.
Again, not that any of these aforementioned resources are inherently bad by the way – they can be good disciplines and resources when used in the right spirit; It’s just that in the Christian realm I believe good news can spread independent of what we spend so much time thinking we must have. A good song, an insightful blog, a clever Tweet will come and go, but a person who walks in the power of the Spirit, well now, that’s rare – and news about what God’s doing in their lives tends to spread in ways mysterious. And more importantly, the news we need to worry about spreading is not the news about ourselves but about Jesus. Ah, double freedom.
So this morning I am dwelling on what obedience looks like in the face of temptation; I’m dwelling on what it takes to walk in the power of the Spirit. And I’m so moved by the counter-cultural truths of Luke 4:14 that I’ve decided to use social media to blog about it… go figure.
Happy Monday to all of you… Walk humbly today. Walk in the Spirit. Make Jesus known…
Our Winners for the Beth Moore Simulcast Giveaway were Midge and Mary Ann! Thank you all for your encouraging posts. He really does redeem lives. He really does rebuild and renew us. So thankful for our graceful and merciful God!
In case you were wondering who got the Olympic medal for world’s worst blogger this summer, I took home the gold. It was a proud moment. But I’m back with great news about this Saturday, September 15th. You may have heard that one of my all-time favorite bible teachers, Beth Moore, has a simulcast on this day, but you might not have realized that you can be part of this special event in your own living room, on your porch, in your pajamas, eating sugary muffins or bagels with cream cheese. Yes! If you want to involve your friends, which I highly recommend, you can invite them over, or better yet invite yourself over to their house if they have a cushier couch, or stronger coffee. You get the idea. HERE IS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO MAKE THIS A REALITY! (PS – I know college football is on, but this is a perfect time for TiVo, or just remind yourself that there will be college football games on every fall Saturday for as long as America endures. What Beth is going to share will only happen once.)
Listen, I’m urging you to tune in this Saturday because I believe Beth’s specific message will have a profound effect on your everyday reality. She’s touching on an issue every single one of us deals with, something that keeps us from living the full life Jesus came for us to enjoy. Also, I happen to be passionate about her teaching, because her teaching of the Word has literally changed my life – or in keeping with the name of her ministry, you could say I am Living Proof of what God has done. If I could distill the intricate, sometimes agonizingly slow, changes God has worked in my heart, I would say I am living proof of God’s love because He has healed an extraordinarily anxious, even angry, soul into one of peace and greater wholeness. I have by no means arrived – not even close – but the profound transformation that’s taken place in my being could have been accomplished by none other than Jesus Himself.
So… here’s what I’m thinking we should do: Comment on how you are Living Proof of God’s love. This is a great exercise because it forces you to reflect on what God has done in your life, and it encourages others in their journey. Also, we just so happen to have TWO FREE simulcast registrations to give away, and we’ll randomly draw those from those who comment. (We’ll do this Wed at noon, so be sure to get your comments in before then.)
I know there are so many events to attend at this time of year. I’m actually speaking in Portland, TN on Saturday and will love being with the women who will be there! But if you don’t have any other in-the-Word commitments this weekend, I can’t encourage you enough to hear Beth’s heart, no matter what your knowledge of the Bible or even the Christian faith. There are NO prerequisites necessary. You won’t want to miss this, I just know it.
I’m back from the Amazon and so grateful for all of your prayers. It was an amazing trip as always. Though each trip is different I’m convinced that anytime we avail ourselves to those in need – and receive from them what we ourselves desperately lack – we are blessed. We were able to build a very large chicken coop for a village that desperately needed a sustainable food supply. And when I say “we” built a chicken coop, what I mean is that skilled people from Brazil and our team built it and I cheered them on from my hammock while sipping out of a chilled coconut. This may have happened once.
My hope is to write a book about how God has transformed my perception of the American Jungle we all navigate by visiting the one in Brazil, so I’ll save my stories for later. In the meantime, I want to highlight a couple unique opportunities for online Bible study this summer. Many of you already know that Beth Moore is taking her online community (open to anyone) through a study I wrote called Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break (details here). This begins Tues, June 26th on her blog. I love Beth’s heart and teaching so much I can barely take it, so this is an enormous blessing to me and I pray it is for you.
In other fun news (if slaying false gods is fun), I found out that Kelly Hancock from the blog Faithful Provisions will be leading her online community through my very first study called No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern Day Idols (June 25-Aug 20). Kelly H. will do blog posts every Monday beginning on June 25 as well as live Facebook chats on Tuesdays. You can find more specific details here. This study is deeply personal to me since I wrote it during a difficult season of having to let go of what was taking the place of a vibrant relationship with Christ. Though quite painful (seriously kinda tough), the freedom, joy and fullness of His Presence has far exceeded anything I had to part with – there is no comparison. If you’re struggling with peace, joy or freedom, it’s possible that you’ve sold out a piece of yourself to someone or something other than Christ. If this is you, Kelly Hancock’s online group might be a help and encouragement. Regardless of your summer plans, check out her blog which has tons of practical advice on shopping, saving and budgeting. You’ll see why so many people follow her site religiously.
There are so many other studies to pick up this summer. My dear friend Lisa Harper just released a study on the book of Malachi. She happens to be one of my favorite people, and she brings me tomatoes from her garden so you can’t go wrong here. Another one of my favorites, Angela Thomas, has a great study out called Brave. Priscilla Shirer has several, most recently a study on Jonah. Tammie Head recently released her first study called Duty or Delight and I hear it’s great. Currently I’m going through Beth Moore’s study on James, and I’m loving it. There are so many to choose from. My encouragement this summer is to get into Scripture one way or another, simply because it contains words of life. And who doesn’t need some life?
Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about your summer study plans. I’d love to hear from you. Also, if any of you have any garden advice for sprawling tomatoes plants that are threatening to take over what I used to refer to as “my” backyard, please let me know.
***Ordering information for Nehemiah or No Other Gods. (If ordering the NOG study make sure you choose the one that says “study”).
I’m off to the Amazon Jungle tomorrow morning but had to post a garden progress pic before I left. (This growth is only over one month – I’m in awe on a daily basis.)
Oh, yes, you noticed the new fence. Well this is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and now that I have tomatoes at stake (pun possibly intended), I decided to go for it. As you can see, I salvaged some bamboo on the side of the road and made a bean tepee – because I spent all my money on the new fence and am turning cheap. I used some of the branches growing around the old chain-link fence for another mini-trellis in the lower bed for soup beans. I also discovered some brick where my yard was torn up for the fence. This find was the perfect excuse for making another mini bed (not pictured) for another tomato plant along with purple bush beans. My friend April says I’m erring on the side of junky. My neighbors think I’m odd, and somewhat strange garden-y people are beginning to identify me as one of their own. More on this upon my return.
In the meantime, I would love your prayers as I seek to help build a garden of another sorts in a jungle village called Puru Puru. A few of you may have seen the interview from Session 4 of Nehemiah with the pastor of this village sharing about a soup kitchen he and his wife had built. A group of us will be working with Pastor and Mrs. Paiva to add onto this kitchen as well as build a sustainable chicken farm for their village. We’ll also be planting some vegetables, so I’m hoping my “vast” garden knowledge might come in handy.
More than anything, I am longing for Jesus to show Himself to us along the river this week. Please pray with me toward that end. Currently the Amazon river is at one of its highest flood points in all of recorded history. Many are starving and losing their homes. I truly wrestle with why I am able to live where I live, where gardening is more for fun than for livelihood, and where I get to put up things like privacy fences and use water that a timer turns on and off. It’s a mystery to me. One that I often don’t know what to do with.
In the meantime, I am going through Beth Moore’s study on the book of James, and I am comforted by the fact that in the first few verses James reminds us of how important the poor are to him – and should be to us. I am grateful the Bible reveals that riches are not lasting, but what we do through Christ will never fade away. Thank you for your prayers.
If everything dies, this will be my first and only post, but so far green foliage is incrementally moving upward, each day stretching just a little closer to the sky. I feel it is now safe to blog about this garden venture because of the initial growth, but also because financially speaking I’m upside down about 30 years worth of prolific vegetable production, so my garden is an investment I’m motivated to see through. Pretty much if I don’t eat squash and pole beans everyday that I’ve personally grown until I’m in my sixties, I will have lost my retirement.
Here’s how it started. Exactly 18 days ago I was having brunch with two friends, April and Mary Katharine. Somehow we stumbled upon the topic of homegrown tomatoes, probably because this word gets used often in my vocabulary. I can be talking about almost anything and, bam, the word tomato pops out.
“How about I devote tomorrow to help you build raised beds for a garden?” my now forever best friend in the world, MK, says to me.
My articulate response to her proposal went something like, “That sounds amazing. I’m freaking out backwards.”
April was fit to be tied because she was scheduled for a job the next day and was suffering from what my friend Paige calls FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Having no idea what I was talking about, I assured April that there would be years and years of opportunity for her to contribute to what was about to explode in my backyard.
You should know that at this point my backyard was known only for grass, general blah-ness and an occasional firefly. But I’ve always had higher visions. In fact, starting a garden has been a dream of mine over the past few years, ever since I started canning tomatoes from our farmers’ market and subscribing to a CSA, ever since I devoured Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, along with a couple books by Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin. For various reasons I could never get started, partly because I’m the type of person who thinks I need a doctorate in photosynthesis before I toss my first seed in the ground. Friends are a tremendous resource for me when I get locked down like this.
“If we think we have to know everything there is to know about gardening we’ll never get started”, Mk said. This felt like wisdom to me, so the next day we set our alarms – because farmers rise early – and we tore off to the farmers’ market in a blaze of ignorance. Though I was smitten with the burgeoning vegetation roaring in the display beds of the market, I couldn’t even think about seeds or plants yet. I had to get my beds built and the proper soil put in those beds. Fortunately I met a really helpful store manager named Aaron. He seemed to enjoy me at first until he realized I was an unlearned gardening wackadoo. I think the only reason he put up with my myriad questions was because he sensed that my unharnessed fanaticism may lead me to plunk down the money for enough untreated cedar and organic soil to keep him in business until Thanksgiving, as well as to destroy the shocks of my Jeep.
My friend and I loaded up and made 3 round trips, pulled into my backyard and unloaded each time, put together cedar rectangles, wheel-barrowed bags of soil to those rectangles, and dumped them in one bag at a time. As the day wore on and my muscles fatigued I’d slam the bags of soil into the wheelbarrow, gravity would take over, and then the wheelbarrow would take off with a shaky, pale, 30-something woman tearing off behind it. After 140 excruciatingly dense bags of this, I was beginning to rethink this whole garden “adventure” and my friend was rethinking her friendship with me. Turns out that drilling screws into cedar boards and unloading a zillion pounds of manure and worm castings made “going to work” on a Monday look pretty enviable.
After two beds of bordering on illegal amounts of labor I decided to hire my neighbor Manny to build and fill the third bed – this drove up the cost, but again, think of all the money we’ll save if we eat our own vegetables everyday until we’re 109.
Here are the first two beds before Manny built the third one. (There were only supposed be a total of two but I’ll explain the “need” for a third one in post #2. Assuming everything lives that long.)
Here I am celebrating what looks to be pretty much nothing, but it’s all about the hope of what’s to come…
After these two beds were built and filled with the proper soil, I began to obsess about what I would plant in my raised beds. Tomatoes of course, but what varieties and what tomato plant gardener could I really trust? (Heavy stuff.) I had my deep bed for tomatoes and my shallow one for other vegetables like squash and zucchini, beans, peppers and eggplant. Mary Katharine also insisted on okra, cucumber, artichokes, and jalepenos, so these were big dreams we were chasing. And for you gardeners out there, you know they were big dreams limited by small spaces, but I discovered this soon enough.
Next up, my adventures with Lisa Harper to Marrianna’s Heirloom Seed Farm, along with a few spiritual lessons God’s already shown me from elements like plants and dirt. Pretty amazing stuff it turns out.
Would love to hear about your gardening successes and obstacles, especially anything about tomatoes…
Summer is almost here, that lovely season when some of life’s chores begin to wind down over barbeques and underneath the sun’s warmth. For me, the joy of summer is slower days and lingering evenings, a time when you can breath deeply, hopefully taking some extra time to listen. And seek. And be still. And maybe even extend yourself.
Thinking about this makes me especially excited that Beth Moore will be highlighting the book of Nehemiah for her summer blog study this year. Beth is one of my all-time favorite Bible study teachers who I’ve been learning from since my college years. She’s authentic, remarkably funny, passionate, and a continual reflection of how Jesus loves and changes us. She’s just ridiculously fun and amazing.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What about shipping? Orders that contain 1-2 books take 5-9 business days to arrive. Orders of 3 or more items ship Priority Mail and will arrive in 2-3 business days. If you need expedited shipping or have a special shipping need, please contact Sarah Smith at 615-410-2282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Does every study include a leader guide or do I need the kit? Great question! Every study has a leader guide in the back, so you don’t need the kit to get the leader guide.
- Do I need the DVD Kit for Beth’s Summer Study? The DVD Kit is not essential for the summer study, however, Kelly’s teaching sessions will enhance your experience. You can click here for more information on the DVD Kit (note the Kit comes with 7 DVD sessions and a Nehemiah study book).
- Do I have to do this study in a group, or can I do it alone? Either one. If you have a small group you’d like to gather together for this study, that’s ideal. But if you’d like to do it alone, that’s great too.
If you have questions regarding this process or experience any difficulty in placing your order, please contact Sarah Smith at 615-410-2282 or email email@example.com.
A Note From Kelly About Writing Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break:
While studying the book of Nehemiah I loved how the book encouraged the process of rebuilding. Whether rebuilding a piece of our own life or the life of someone else, God’s heart for the sometimes messy process of rebuilding is what Nehemiah is all about. It’s an extraordinary story of what God can do with a compassionate heart that’s yielded to His heart of love and redemption for people everywhere – People God placed on Nehemiah’s heart, people He’s placed on your heart.
As a few of you know from my writing, God has done much to rebuild the broken places inside me while inviting me to be part of the restoration process in the lives of a few in my community, as well as those I’ve met in the Amazon jungles of Brazil. Never has life been this exhilarating, because when God calls us to tangibly love people it’s because He loves people, and studying Nehemiah reaffirmed this remarkable truth in me – A truth that will absolutely change our lives if we’ll believe it and get out there.
If you don’t already have summer Bible study plans, I’d love for you to come along for the Summer Siesta Bible Study Ride with our dearest Beth Moore…