Friday, May 30, 2008

Unplanted seeds

I came home last night from work with a great treasure, old-fashioned sweet pea seeds! Now, that's a rather strange thing for a neurobiologist to bring home from a day at work, but it wasn't a regular work day. I was at a research retreat listening to talks from 8 to 5. While this may sound dusty and boring, it wasn't. The students from my department gave talks all day long about their research and, by in large, they did an excellent job! The setting was pretty wonderful too, The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. Sweet peas were one of my grandmother's favorites and I, the child who loved to dig in the dirt, planted them for years for my own mother. I am excited to take these special seeds for old-fashioned varieties and get them in the dirt so I can enjoy the flowers later!

These seed packages took on a whole new meaning this morning though as I read Ted's May 30th post. One brief statement about scripture, "it's to penetrate into our lives and change us from the inside out" brought a quick visual of my beloved seeds, sitting in little envelopes on my coffee table; they are full of potential but going nowhere because they have not been planted and allowed to "die" in the soil. I wondered briefly how this paralleled what was happening in my life right now.

A strange comparison you think? No, it seemed to me that somehow it was just right as my life contains areas with great potential for wonder and beauty, grant applications that contain incredibly good and exciting data with potential for really helping suffering people, my daughter looking for a new job closer home so that she can actually have a life instead of spending a couple of hours on the road each day commuting, her boyfriend willingly looking for a job here rather than remaining in Virginia just so they can be together and get to know one another better. All these things seem just like my seed envelopes, full of potential for great beauty and delight. And yet, like my seeds sitting on the coffee table, they seem to be producing nothing beautiful at all. Grants, really good grants that my position depends on, aren't funded - because somehow the reviewers didn't get the supplemental data I sent; young adults who are great teachers applying for jobs in a town that needs good teachers and has open positions for them - but each time they are shut out without even an interview; my poor health that seems like it will never be "fixed" so there are days full of exhaustion and low productivity when maximum efficient output is needed. None of it makes sense as from the hands of a loving God.

And yet I wonder, is it just that I need to let these things go, let them fall from my fingers as seeds dropped into the darkeness of the soil to die. Am I instead holding on to them with a tight fist that refuses to let them fall to the ground to die? If so, am I missing the great joy of seeing them die only to live again in a more beautiful and fragrant form? So, I guess the question really is, as Ted has already put it, whether I allow the Word to become flesh in me, dying to myself that I might truly live?


Ted M. Gossard said...

Beautiful words even if it was my post you were referring to (actually, John Frye's post, as that was taken from working through his book). I'm very much honored.

Wonderful seeds and garden. I grew up with that, quite a big garden. And sweet peas. I can remember eating some of them as I picked them as a boy.

Looks very interesting, and where you work is known worldwide, surely.

But letting go and letting God do his work, so hard to do. Letting go by faith. But even if our faith is weak (as I was reminded in chapel this week at work) the result will be the same if we just jump or let go. Hard to do that sometimes, as for me, fear can grip me. But I'm better able to shake it off than I used to be. Though haven't yet shaken the latest episode of it. But i simply must let go and then keep letting go. (Deb is better at that than I am. Maybe I can learn more from here on this!)

Will be praying, Susan.

Ted M. Gossard said...

more from HER, I meant.

Ted M. Gossard said...

And yet I wonder, is it just that I need to let these things go, let them fall from my fingers as seeds dropped into the darkeness of the soil to die. Am I instead holding on to them with a tight fist that refuses to let them fall to the ground to die? If so, am I missing the great joy of seeing them die only to live again in a more beautiful and fragrant form? So, I guess the question really is, as Ted has already put it, whether I allow the Word to become flesh in me, dying to myself that I might truly live?

I will heed these words, Susan. A chronic worrier in my life, like any kind of addicion or enslavement. But so much better than what I used to be so that when it hits me- relatively rare now- I hate it, and just takes me back to the too many days of my past in it.

But your words here are so good and so true. And I want to be meditating on Psalm 73 today, I think.

Litl'l Luther,
Wow, you really got conked. So glad you came out alright. Praise the Lord for that. He is with you! (reminds me of Paul's troubles, and God's deliverance of him).

Ted M. Gossard said...

I think one of my biggest issues in all the above is just trying too hard or getting in the way of the Lord at times, especially during times of struggle.

L.L. Barkat said...

This time of year, I think much about seeds. Today, even, I was sitting beneath my pine and seeds from goodness knows where were raining down on me. Lovely and plentiful.

Who knows, too, which seeds take root. It is, as you say, an exciting, wondrous, though tentative process.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I was actually wrestling a little on this and praying on it a little over night.

We're to humbly accept the word planted in us which can save us (James 1, and see context there) and this salvation is the present tense salvation in Jesus we experience (along with past and future tenses in the NT), this surely pertains to all of Scripture, which is fulfilled in Jesus, as well as pertaining to Jesus in us. So that we need all of the word and Jesus the Word to help us in that, in order to really be that kernel/seed of wheat that falls into the ground and "dies" so as to bear much fruit (John 12, and see context there, and though Jesus is speaking of his death to bring in the fruit of the Gentiles, yet he applies it to all of us in Jesus).

By simple faith we enter into this, in Jesus, and by faith we remain there, so God can do his work.

And this word includes the community in Jesus as well, through whom God speaks his word to us, even as in this, the blog world.

Litl-Luther said...

The longer I stay overseas, the more I honestly question if many Western Christians have truly died to self. I think Jesus would probably speak to many if not most western Christians similar to the way He did the rich young ruler: "Sell all you own...and come follow Me."

A genuine dying to self may require such serious resolve among self-indulged Western Christians.

I’m not pointing the finger at anyone here or anyone in particular. It is just the American Church in general seems so much like the world, so concerned with personal comfort and prosperity; I believe the same words to the rich young ruler apply virtually across the board in Western Christendom. Who has genuinely died to self in the wealthy west? I think we (Christians) are too quick to pat ourselves on the back and not take nearly a serious enough look at our own self indulgence. Genuine death to self is a rare thing.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Lit'l Luther,
I remember Richard Wurmbrand who was fourteen years in prison in Communist Romania, because of his faith in Christ, and went through severe physical and psychological torture, and severe bouts of spiritual warfare it seems- I remember that he said that when he came to the west, to the United States- as he started his ministry, now called "Voice of the Martyrs"- that he said it was harder to live as a Christian for himself here in America, than it had been in Communist Romania and even as a Christian in prison. That Christ was very close to him through his trials in Romania, but seemed distant here, easily, in his own walk in America. I think he felt the affluence here and freedom just seemed to make Christians have less a sense of dependence on God.

Maybe it is more challenging to live it out here, though maybe that's because we haven't been open to God's call as others like you. But we're called to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God daily, no less (Romans 12). This is for us all, in Jesus.

Yes we need to die to self and live to God. Both are so important. (Sometimes in the past of being steeped in "crucified life" teaching, I forgot about the life to God, part.) And this is all for us, in Jesus. We just count on what he has already done for us in his death and resurrection, and live by faith, accordingly. But I know you know this, and surely most or all the readers here. Just telling what I believe.

Litl-Luther said...

Good words Ted. Thanks. And I agree with Richard Wurmbrand. I've heard too many fellows, when they return on furlough to the states, say how difficult it was for them to be there—mainly because they sense lethargy among American Christians. This is one reason I'm apt to believe that persecution is usually a blessing for Christians, rather than peace and prosperity. Faith is stimulated when you have to stand up and suffer for Christ. Dependence on God, passion for the Gospel, etc. is easily lost through affluence. And I’m guilty of it too and would certainly be considered “rich” by Nepalese standards.

"…Give me neither poverty nor riches—Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, 'Who is the Lord?'…” Prov. 30:8-9

Less prosperity would be a blessing upon the Church in America. Stomachs are too full....Just my opinion, but I believe it is true.

simon said...

its a sad state of affairs to think that most things are Hybrid and cannot germinate ontheir own.
For years we belonged to a group called "Seed Savers". Traditional Pumkin,flower seeds etc.... All FULL of flavour and simply wonderful.

Ted BTW I NEVER struggle with anything.. Apart from my blood and even then I just go with drifitng down the river.

Luther- that is the most sensible thing you have said re dieing to self!! If you choose Christianity It is a MUST....

That is why I detest the "prosperity doctrine" which seems to be all the flavour both in the USA and here....

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Yes Simon - it is sad if there are seeds that can't germinate on their own - how do they grown then? I mean, how do they ever sprout?

Again, yes, litlLuther's comments on dying to self are very true - it is a daily walk to pick up the right cross and walk without regard to me, only Christ.

And yes, again (boy, you were on a roll!)the prosperity doctrine is just crap - or should be transparently so - for those who are willing to actually see what scripture says about who Christ was, the life He lived and the fact that He said the servants would have it worse than the Master. You'd think it would be hard to ignore so much of the suffering of the prophets, both new and old testament ones too!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Simon, Susan, and Lit'l Luther,

Amen to all of that!

It's so much about dying to self! That's where we all get in trouble, when we're concerned about ourselves. But Jesus died for us to take care of that, so that our new self in him, can rise to resurrection life in Jesus.

Yes. I so much agree. I want in God's grace to be dead to self, completely.

And with that the health and wealth gospel is surely out the window, for sure!

Add to that, yes Simon. Worry and fear have been a big part of my life in the past, and when I get blindsided by it now, I hate it. Usually it doesn't last long with me anymore, less than a day normally for which I'm thankful.

simon said...

well you should not worry or fear...

"Life is not about what we are given ( or not) it is how we react to our situation that determines who we are" ( thats my quote BTW)

Susan re seeds I meant... you cannot grow form the seeds of the planted crop.... ( does that make sesne?) So if you buy a packet of hybrid seeds and grow a pumkin- the seeds from that pumkin will not grow- see?

simon said...

ted I was thinking- life shold not be about worry and fear- but joy and life- I rejoice even when I cannot walk properly... because I see others who can.....


lorenzothellama said...

Luther: "lethagy among American Christians".

You go over to Bluecollar's blogsite and say that, and they would wipe the floor with what remained of your body after they finished duffing you up!

Susan: When is doggy arriving?

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Llama - the doggie is home since Saturday night - and he actually slept through the night last night without crying - finally, but he pooped in his cage! I will try to take new pictures and post about him this weekend. He surely is different in temperament than dear Cookie!

SimonI understand what you are saying but not how it works. How then do you ever reproduce the seed itself so you can grow more crops?

As to your quote, "Life is not about what we are given ( or not) it is how we react to our situation that determines who we are". It is dead on! Character is who we are when no one is looking!

Ted M. Gossard said...

I agree, Simon! I think some of us have propensities towards certain weaknesses that others of us don't.

But really anxiety and fear are mostly part of my past. If you knew me you would never guess I ever experience that, unless I'd tell you, or at least that's what I've been told.

is God's will for those in Jesus.

And like you say, it's good to see things in perspective. And in Jesus we have the greatest perspective of all, I believe. :)

Ted M. Gossard said...

And more than perspective, it's about life!

When I try to think of how this is "played out" in our lives in Jesus, I have to think of Paul and his words to us, how he wanted to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and fellowship with him in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3) as well as his words concering the death of Jesus being at work in him so the life of Jesus could be made known to others (2 Corinthians).

I just think this goes to show that we in Jesus must choose this path. Already true of us in Jesus, yet something we're to count on and live by, as we see in Romans 6.

To not live this way is contradictory to our being "in Jesus".

Somehow this seed analogy has to do with just sinking ourselves into the will of God in Jesus.

I want to know (more of) this, and do so with others who want the same.

donsands said...

"I rejoice even when I cannot walk properly... because I see others who can.."

I have to say I struggle with my weaknesses, and infirmities in this cursed world.
I look forward to the New Earth of Christ's promise, where there will be no problems with walking, talking, or any other problem that one can think of.
I heard Joni Erickson, who is a quadriplegic, say that she longs for the day she can rejoice with her new legs and arms for the Lord, but for now, she loves Christ, not in spite of her paralyzed body, but because of it.
She is one of God's true trophies.

Ted M. Gossard said...

One thing I want to add.

We can't do it ourselves. Jesus did it for us. So by faith we must enter in. That is, into salvation. Which begins now, but someday will be perfected and complete, as God's salvation is for creation in the new creation in Jesus.

We enter into this salvation by faith in Jesus so that our eyes are touched and we see, our withered hands Jesus says move, and we move them, we hear Jesus' voice as those dead, and we get up, alive.

Jesus dies and takes our deserved death, and we receive his resurrection life. Meaning his death affects us so that it's no longer the old Ted, but a new Ted, the one God meant when he created Ted, or anyone else.

This actually begins now, by faith. A new, eternal life, in Jesus, so that our identity is found in Jesus, our true one, as God intended.

I know for all my faults, I'm a completely different person than in the past. God in Jesus continues to change me to be that seed that falls into the ground and in Jesus becomes the life that God intended. A wonderfully unique life for each one of us who enter into this salvation in Jesus. God's beauty in Jesus seen uniquely in us all.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Another important word, one of my favorite words, GRACE. It's all of grace from God in Jesus.

Meaning it's a GIFT. A gift we receive by simple faith. One we never can deserve so we don't change at all ourselves, but receive it, and then a new life in Jesus comes out of it.

God showed me that new life early on. I used to be known for cussing and swearing and taking God's name in vain and being a rebel. But God changed me overnight when I entered in. But to this day, God is not satisfied until this plant in Jesus becomes all it was meant to be. Alot of pruning in my case. Getting rid of deadness that is not of this new life. So that I can bear God's fruit and the very beauty of Jesus. And by this grace we can each do so in our own unique God-given way, in Jesus.

simon said...

re seeds- All can say as a gardener is :- that when you take the seeds from a hybrid pumkin they will not grow... well they will but not produce fruit

simon said...

Also:- If given the choice between having or not having my blood disorder:- I am happy to have it... becasue it makes me a btter person IMO...

So I do not look forward to "perfection" I enjoy the now...

Ted M. Gossard said...

I think you make a great point. I believe God wants us to learn to be content whatever our circumstances (Philippians) and to accept our weaknesses so that the Lord's strength can be seen in us as we trust him (2 Corinthians). And besides, we all have our limitations (that will always be true), weaknesses and imperfections.

But it's still good to look forward to the time when pain and suffering will be no more, in Jesus.

Ted M. Gossard said...

My post today on resilience in Jesus speaks to this and refers to a friend who is living through a most difficult time. It was so good to see him this week and the love and joy of the Lord in him.

And in Jesus and his resurrection we have a hope that by faith is for us and for all of creation in the new creation in Jesus, to be completed when creation shares in that resurrection life of Jesus, a new created dimension in which created heaven and earth become one in Jesus. All things united and made new in him and by his resurrection.

lorenzothellama said...

Simon: what does IMO mean?