The Life of a Seed, Part Four

SeedThe life of a seed has much to do with the receptivity and the response of the soil. And, in the same way, our receptivity and the responsiveness has an effect on the proclamation of Jesus.

The series, The Life of a Seed, has explored the Parable of the Sower with the intention of understanding how a seed grows into a fruit producing plant. Grasping the considerable influence the ground has upon the life of a seed enables us to know the deeper meaning of Jesus’ teaching. Continue reading

A New Way to Reflect

I began Skipping Stones a little over a year ago. My hope was to reboot a failed attempt at  blogging from years ago; to have a place to write for the sake of writing. I celebrated my 100th post the other day! As I have shared previosuly, I never imagined how rewarding keeping a blog would be, nor did I expect to find such encouragement within the blogging community.

The tag line communicates my original intent for Skipping Stones:

“Skip a stone over water and you will discover you cannot control its destination. Some stones leap to the sky, others dance across the water, while others simply sink. My prayerful meditations are like these skipping stones. I never know where they will land, but I believe God is revealed in the process.”

My writings and messages were the ideal place to begin the blog; after all, my writing and my messages have been a reliable place to reflect upon the presence of God in my life and the life around me!

New opportunities have been presented to me over the past year, and each of these opportunities has enabled me to experience the creative power of God in new ways!

My son and I planted our first garden this past Spring. I wrote about the decision to prepare a garden in the post tillit a couple months ago. The blessings  from the garden has supplied the inspiration for many writings and messages over the last couple of weeks: everything from what a cucumber can teach us about the Christian community to the feeling of wilt when we are exhausted of the Spirit.

The garden has been a place of inspiration and I pray the garden will continue to be a place for me to witness the creative power of God, which may just show up in my writings and messages…

I have recently found another way to experience the awesome power of the creator…

My wife gave me a wood lathe for Father’s Day this year. I have no experience in wood working and I certainly have no experience in wood turning, but I have had a truly awesome time learning the lathe and trying to figure out how to turn wood!

A lot of my writing time as been given to my new adventures in woodturning, which  may explain a bit of my absence from the blogging sphere. The time in the wood shop has been very inspiring, though! I would hope, and I would image, there will be some writings and some messages emerging from the wood shop before too long.

While I might not always walk out of the wood shop with a new idea to reflect upon in my writing or in my messages, I do hope some creations will come from this time that will help me to better perceive the wonderment of the Creator. For that reason, I established a separate category on Skipping Stones to provide a space to chronicle this new adventure! Since the wood turning is different from my writings and my messages, I though it would be appropriate to properly categorize it!

Anyways, here are a few pictures of some of the pieces I have been working on over the last few weeks!

Blessings to you all!!!

The bowl and chalice were my first two projects. The bowl was made from a piece of scrap pine. The chalice is black walnut, which was given to me by a friend.

Each of these pieces are cedar from Edisto Beach, SC. My father called me a couple of weeks ago. He was driving to our beach house and passed an entire cedar tree that had been cut up and placed on the side of the road. I image the tree was destroyed during Hurricane Matthew. I picked up several logs the next day, which has produced some interesting pieces with wormholes running though many of them.

Also, the chalice and paten pictured above was the first complete communion set!

These bowls were made out of spalted Sugarberry, which is also known as Southern Hackberry, from Edisto Beach. The wood came from a tree in our family’s yard. My family has not been able to identify the wood for several years, but with the help of some friends in the timber business we finally discovery it to be a form of hackberry. The tree was trimmed a few months ago and the debris was placed in a pile on the edge of our property… I had no idea the wood had spalted nor that it would produce such interesting grain patterns! Anyways, I have made several pieces of out this wood, but here are a few examples.

My sister gave me a piece of Sapelle and several magnolia branches. The goblet is the sapele, which I gave to here. I left a bit of the bark on the magnolia to give a little additional design. I actually sent the magnolia bowl to my grandmother. The additional bowl was made for a friend. It is made from oak I found on the side of the road…

Sprout: Inspiration for Emergence

SproutWhat is holding you back from emerging from the depths of the dirt and living in the power of the light?

Many of my messages and reflections have given a great deal of attention to all things garden related over the past few moment. There is a simple reason: my son and I planted our first garden this past Spring. We really had no idea what all we were doing, but we had a fun time figuring our way through it and forging new friendships with people who wanted to help us in our efforts!

(Aside: Our first efforts for germinating seeds was pretty hilarious. You can listen to the story in this message from the series The Life of a Seed.)

There have been many blessings that have come from our gardening experiment: watching the plants produce fruits, eating the fresh vegetables, and sharing our vegetables with others! Of course, the greatest blessings has been the opportunity to spend time with my son…

Among all of the blessings, there was a most spectacular and awe-inspiring moment that helped me see the true beauty in farming! — A couple of weeks after my son and I placed the seeds into the germination cells, small sprouts began to emerge from the soil!

The emergence of these sprouts was, well, almost magical…better still, it was divine!

As these sprouts pushed through the soil, they began to unfold into the light. The first leaves opened up and exposed themselves to the light of the sun (or, in our case, the heat lamp). They made themselves vulnerable, accessible, but also receptive to the light that would nurture and sustain their growth!

The sprouting of a seed is a perfect image for a new found faith of a Christian believer.

Faith is like a seed sown into the heart. The seed begins to sprout and grow. As the sprout emerges, it (ought) to open to the light. The light serves the health of the sprout by nurturing and sustaining its growth into a productive plant!

The Word of God is sown into our hearts by the proclamation of Jesus. Those who receive and respond to his proclamation will see faith founded upon the Word begin to grow and emerge. The awe-inspiring beauty of the whole thing is faith emerges and begins to open to the light of the Son, which nurtures and sustains the faith through the power of the Spirit.

The Word of God has been sown into your heart through the proclamation of Jesus! What will you do? How will your heart receive and respond to this proclamation?

My encouragement to you today is to simply be inspired to emerge!

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The Life of a Seed, Part Three

SeedAre you at a place where you can see and hear your blessings?

The third message in the series, The Life of a Seed, allows this question to guide our exploration of the Parable of the Sower.

The message focuses upon Matthew 13:16-17, where Jesus reminds the disciples of their blessing: The disciples are blessed to see and hear the things (the preaching, teaching, and deed of power of Jesus) they have seen and heard! The preaching, teaching, and deeds of power have revealed the secrets of the kingdom to the disciples: the hidden presence in Jesus and the future realization.

Applying these verses to our experience requires a little more of a stretch: You and I share in the blessing of the disciples. You and I have been blessed to see and to hear. Specifically, I am referring back to an earlier interpretation of sight and hearing – to see and to hear suggests our ability to receive (behold) and to respond (understand) to the proclamation of Jesus.

Our ability to see and to hear is rather evolved, too:

  1. We can encounter the secrets of the kingdom and come to a greater understanding of the proclamation of Jesus through our accessibility to the experience of the earliest follower of Jesus! – We have the witness of these early Christians’ encounter with the Word of God recorded in the Holy Scriptures.
  2. We are, also, blessed to learn from the experience of the saints! Everyone from the Church Fathers to the present theologians have passed on their experiences of divine encounter! And, we have the tradition and holy practices of the Church, which invites us to encounter the proclamation of Jesus (and, therefore, the Word of God) in Spirit-filled ways.
  3. The blessing belonging to us extends into our present experience as much as it exists in the past experiences of those who have preceded us in the faith. You and I are capable of encountering the proclamation of Jesus through the Holy Spirit! We can have unique experiences of the Word of God, which reveals unto us truths of the secrets of the Kingdom – The Kingdom is amongst us; and, the Kingdom will be fully realized in the future.

So, are you in a place to see and hear your blessings? It is more than a question of whether or not you are appreciative of the good things given to you! At the heart of the matter is your ability — really your willingness — to receive and respond to the proclamation of Jesus (through Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience)? Have you assumed a position of attentiveness to the proclamation of Jesus that might enable you to see and hear the truth being revealed by God. 

You can listen to the messages in the series at the following links:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

The Life of a Seed, Part Two

SeedThe second message in the series, The Life of a Seed, further emphasizes the need to “see” and hear” (or, to receive and respond) to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom.

The verses examined in the second message, vv. 10-15, focuses upon the response of Jesus to the question of the disciples regarding his responding for speaking to the crowds in parables.

Jesus clarifies his reasoning for speaking in parables. The blessing of knowing the secretes of the kingdom is a gift of God given to those people who have chosen to receive and respond to the proclamation of Jesus. Knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom is essentially the hidden presence of the kingdom (inaugurated in and through Jesus) and the hope for its future realization!

Click on this link to listen to the second message of the series. 

The Life of a Seed, Part One

SeedThe first message in the series, The Life of a Seed, introduces the Parable of the Sower. The parable is the first of seven parabolic teachings in the 13th chapter of Matthew.

The first message in the series establishes the context of this particular teaching – Jesus offers this parable (and the other six kingdom parables) as a response to people, towns, and the religious authorities who have failed to receive or respond to his proclamation.

The first message resists the urge to move directly into Jesus’ explanation of the parables; rather, attention is given to the instructions he gives to the crows before telling the parable an directly following the parable! Jesus instructs the crowds to “see” and to “hear” the parable, which is interpreted as an imperative call to receive and respond to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom.

You can listen to the full message here.

Wilted: Exhausted of the Spirit

WiltedEver feel like you are wilting? Does it ever seem as if you’ve been exhausted of the Spirit?

The issue of “spiritual wilt” was the topic of a message from a few weeks ago – Rivers of Living Water.  The message covered the words of Jesus in John 7:37-39 — where Jesus encourages those who are thirty to come to him and those who believe him are invited to drink. For a more complete consideration, I would encourage you to have a listen to the full message.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post about my new adventure into gardening and how this new adventure has begun nurturing inspiration for my spiritual growthMuch has occurred in the garden (and, I am sure a few more reflections will arise in the coming weeks).

Something very interesting happened about a month ago: my family and I returned from a 48-hour trip to discover our largest plants in a terrible way. Both of the plants were beginning to wilt. The leaves had no life in them and the stems were already limp.

I took a quick inventory of the garden and soon realized the plants were completely out of water. While I drench the garden the morning we left, the following 48 hours were extremely hot. The plants had fallen into distress with the two largest plants already beginning to wilt.

The lives we live are often big and busy – we try to do all we can and as often as we can.  And, quietly frankly, living this way is exhausting.

Even when the betterment of others is our aim, we are susceptible to exhaustion. Sustaining our family, supporting our friends, serving our clients/patients/students is all very exhausting!

Living big and busy lives can wear you down, physically.

For many of us, the exhaustion is more than physical.

The exhaustion is something else; something different.

The exhaustion brought out by our big and busy lives is felt from within — within the body, within the heart, within the place where joy is supposed to thrive.

When our lives gets a little too big and a little too busy, the thriving of joy feels a lot more like a wilting of the heart and the wilting of the spirit.

Back to my plants…

One was of a squash variety and the other was a zucchini.

They were in terrible shape…serious exhaustion, serious wilt.

Over the course of an hour, I began to slowly add water back into the containers. An intentional offering of water was contributed to the roots of these distressed plants.

The response was almost immediate as the stems began standing tall and the leaves became firm within an hour.

The water restored life to the plants.

The water offered to these plants would further sustain their life.

And, most amazingly, two weeks later those plants were producing “fruits” (vegetables) that would sustain the life of my family.

Jesus cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” Now [Jesus] said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive. — John 7:37b-39a

The more complex our lives (and, by here, I specifically mean the more we attempt to do, the more frequently we attempt to do it, and everyone we attempt to serve), the more susceptible we are to wilting of a spiritual nature.

“Out of the believer’s heart will flow rivers of living water,” which is true. But, the believer must first go to the source of the water and drink. The believer must receive and be filled by the water that sustains authentic life. Then, and only then, will the heart nourished by the Spirit grow and bear fruit.

Discover the hope in these words of Jesus for all who have or may be feeling a little wilted…

You are not meant to be the source of water that sustains, supports or serves.

You are invited to come; and, you are meant to drink, to be filled, and to allow the Spirit to work in you and through you.

The fruit produced by you (through you) may sustain the authentic life of another, but you are not the source of the water that restores and sustains. You are simply a witness to the power of the Spirit at work in you.

Feeling a little wilted?

Has life gotten a little too big and a little too busy?

Do not be discouraged!

Your exhaustion does not signal your insufficiency. Your exhaustion is simply a reminder of your need to pause before his presence, to receive the restorative and sustaining power of the living water, and to joyfully experience the power of the Spirit at work in you and through you.

Side Note – I encourage those who have time to listen to the message related to this topic. Properly understanding the full significance of the invitation of Jesus “to drink” requires consideration to a key detail in the passage – Jesus spoke these words “On the last day of the festival, the great day.” (John 7:37) The message takes the timing and the setting of Jesus’s words into account for a more complete interpretation of the significance of this Scripture. 

Together

TogetherHave you ever wondered what a cucumber plant could teach us about the Christian community?

Well, take a moment and listen to this past week’s message, Together, and learn how intertwining our life can help us grow to a greater exposure of the Son.

tillit: Nurturing Inspiration for Spiritual Growth

Slide3Spiritually misplaced is what I will call it…

The way I have been feeling for the last couple of months…it is like I am spiritually misplaced.

It is not the feeling of being lost; it is something else…

Feeling spiritually misplaced is a little like forgetting where you put your cell phone when you walked into the house.

You know what I mean?

You know the phone is there. It is still working – beeping, buzzing, chiming! But, you don’t know remember where you set it down.

You know that frustration?

That’s what I mean when I say I have felt spiritually misplaced. I know my faith is still there, working – beeping, buzzing, and chiming – but it feels like it is just out of reach. The calls are going unanswered because I can’t remember where I set the phone down!

Frustrating!

Have you ever felt spiritually misplaced?

Have you ever felt like your faith was working – beeping, buzzing, and chiming – but it felt just out of reach? Have you ever felt misplaced because you can’t answer the calls?

My spiritual misplacement has had me searching, but I haven’t been searching for my faith, per se. I have come to realize I’ve been searching for something intrinsic to my faith…

I’ve been searching for inspiration.

I’ve been searching for the inspiration supplied by my faith.

I’ve been searching for the inspiration that gets me over doing life so that I can live life – and live it immersed in the abundant grace of God.

I’ve been searching for the inspiration that nurtures my spiritual growth – a growth away from the self and into the presence of God in Jesus Christ.

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One of the most influential teachers from my time in divinity school was Dr. Ellen Davis. She is an Old Testament scholar. Her teaching and instruction was a blessing to my classmates and me.

She brought our attention to a verse in the Bible, which changed my life: “The Lord God placed the man in the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.” – Genesis 2:15

She encouraged her students to consider the meaning of the words translated “till it” and “keep it.” She argued a compelling case for translating the verse to read: to serve it and to observe it. (For a closer examination of her argument, I would encourage you to read her book Scripture, Culture, Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible.)

Without getting into a full discussion about her argument, she influenced me to reconsider my view of creation! She encouraged me to reconsider the relationship God intended for humanity to have with the dirt. She influenced me to question God’s intent for God’s creation, the responsibility God entrusted to humanity, and the blessed ability to encounter the beauty of God’s presence in my life by valuing life around me.

To till it no longer meant to work the ground  for my own delight, or to exhaust the earth of her resources! To till it meant to care for the dirt that nurtures and sustains life! To till it meant to relate to God by valuing, serving, and observing God’s creation.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? – Psalm 8:3-4

How does the dirt of the earth relate to my spiritual misplacement? How does the glory of God’s creation speak to my lack of inspiration?

In the midst of dealing with my misplacement, I decided to till it and keep it.

Literally.

I started a garden.

My son and I went to the local feed and seed at the end of February and bought some seeds, a bag of plant mix, and a couple planting containers. I thought it would be a fun activity for him. He could learn about plants and eat the vegetables he grew.

We returned to the house and tried to figure out how to make plants grow, which is when I discovered I did not know what I was doing!

So, I did what any good millennial would do – I got on youtube and watched videos on germinating seeds, transplanting, and gardening for beginners!

Our initial afternoon activity became a daily opportunity for my son and me to explore and learn together.

We learned how to germinate seeds.

We learned how to transplant seedlings.

We learned how to start a garden, build a raised bed, and create row crops.

In the midst of our new adventure, my inspiration began to emerge from the dirt.

The emergence of inspiration within a garden is not surprising. There is a prayerful quality to considering and caring for the dirt, to watering and tending the plants, to tasting the sweetness of the fruit.

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My son showing his mother the first snap pea.

The garden is not the only place to discover the inspiration that nurtures spiritual growth. The location is not the issue; rather, one’s approach to faith is what matters. It is a matter of perspective. It is a matter of how you choose to see things and how to respond to situations in your life.

What can you do when you are feeling spiritually misplaced?

tillit.

I don’t mean go start a garden (unless that appeals to you). Consider the meaning of “to till it and keep it” for you.

What are you tilling and keeping?

Where are your giving your time, energy, and spirit?

If you are feeling spiritually misplaced, maybe God is urging you to redirect your efforts. Maybe it is time to tillit…to serve and observe the things God values. Maybe it is time to give yourself to the thing or the person you otherwise overlook.

Maybe if you learn what it means for you to tillit, you might discover the emergence of the inspiration that nurtures your spiritual growth.