Can you make apple pie?

Every Sunday, a few minutes of our church service are dedicated to an individual sharing a testimony or an update on a ministry in the church, city or world. Recently, we heard from a young woman that is about to begin her calling as a missionary to Thailand. As a cook by trade, she never thought that women’s missions would be a part of her calling, but rarely are we fully aware of everything that God has planned for us.

While talking to her team leads, she was asked “Can you make apple pie?”file0001313662928

To herself, she thinks ‘…I’ve been a cook for nine years. Yes, I can make apple pie.’

“Yes, of course.”

“No, I mean really good apple pie.”

“I mean…I think so, yes?” Continue reading

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New Year’s Resolutions & Earning Salvation

It’s the beginning of February and most of us have probably already broken those New img_4018Year’s resolutions that we made in such good faith a month ago. Maybe it was to eat healthier, to give up sweets, to exercise more, to stay off social media, to pray more, to waste less money, to save more money… It could have been anything. But yet, it probably hasn’t lasted even to the end of the first month.

My goal for the new year was to waste less, be it money, food, resources, time. I chose it call it a goal instead of a resolution because I wanted it to be something I could progress toward through the year instead of fail at right away. I’m not sure that worked, but I’m still striving for this goal.

But what happens when our New Year’s Resolutions, like eating better and cutting out sugar, start to confuse us about what makes us ‘a good person’? Our current culture magnifies our diets, our bodies and healthy living to such a degree that they start to be the rulers by which we measure ourselves. While I am at least grateful that our culture is now celebrating healthy bodies and healthy body image, I’m also concerned about how much of our personal worth is wrapped up in our physical bodies.

We want to earn our ‘goodness;’ when complimented on our weight-loss, our cooking skills, our arm muscles or our marathon time, we respond with something that puts our ‘goodness’ in perspective, the long road it took to learn to love our bodies and the struggle to overcome our health issues or our personal hurdles. There’s nothing wrong with this– if anything, it can be inspiring to others to know that amazing changes  can be made in our lives and we are not permanently condemned to our current situation.

But the thing is, we can’t earn our righteousness. Keeping our resolutions doesn’t earn us any righteousness points when we meet our savior. Even when our resolutions are spiritual resolutions, about spending more time with Jesus or giving more of our time to ministry or increasing our tithes, these actions are not enough to earn us salvation.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

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Sowing Seeds

Most of us know the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, the parable in which Jesus describes a farmer tossing out seed while planting his fields, the seed falling on a variety of soils and how those seeds grew.

“As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” – Matthew 13:4-8By Morgan McClean, courtesy of Morguefile.com

Often we think of this parable as a parable of the soils (some translations do title it this way), a lesson about the conditions of our hearts and our response to the Word. But what if we think of this from the perspective of the farmer? He sows freely, scattering the seed across all the soil, not just the good soil, and allows it to grow freely.

This spring, I took my first swat at a vegetable garden. While I have a little bit of experience with flower gardening, I have effectively no experience with vegetable gardening. But I wanted to try growing some of my own food, having fresh herbs (a basil or mint plant cost about the same amount as a bunch of fresh herbs, anyway) and a few vegetables outside my back door. I tried starting some seeds indoors in the early spring, but none of them really germinated, so I gave up on them and relied on the flower bulbs and vegetable plants I bought from the local nursery. After filling the raised beds with bags of garden soil, I tossed in the little bits soil that I had used in the failed attempt to germinate the seeds indoors.

Within a week of planting a bunch of hosta and astilbe bulbs in the larger of my raised beds, a few large, flat leaves poked up from the soil and I got excited! They didn’t look like hosta leaves, so I assumed they were the astilbe I had planted (but never seen in person before). As time went on, though, it became clear that these were NOT astilbe leaves and the yellow, conical flowers confirmed that these were summer squash plants, popped up from the seeds left in the soil I had tossed in last minute, assuming the seeds dried out and dead. Next thing I knew, the seeds I hadn’t known I sowed were growing rapidly and flourishing.

Sometimes, we sow the seeds of faith intentionally, cultivating the soil of our relationships so that the truth will spring up and produce a good crop as our friends come to Christ and build relationships with him. Once in a very great while, we get to see the harvest, too. But sometimes we don’t. Continue reading