Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Time to Plant

A Time to Plant

"A time to plant and a time to uproot" Ecclesiastes 3:2
When I think about planting, immediately Jesus' Parable of the Sower comes to mind. In order for planting to be successful and abundant, good soil is required - whether that planting is in the soil of the earth or in our hearts and minds, as this parable points to. The NIV Study Bible notes says this regarding an abundant crop that comes from good soil:
"The quantity of increase depends on the quality of soil."
Luke's Gospel has an account of the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:4-15. I won't quote the full passage, but will simply focus on how Jesus explains the parable. The seed scattered on the ground represents "the word of God" (vs 11). He goes on, "
"Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." Luke 8:12-15
We have a responsibility to examine the soil of our heart and minds in order to give the seed - the Word of God - a healthy place to grow and produce fruit. So again, let's use this contrast of planting and uprooting, found in Ecclesiastes 3:2, metaphorically for reflection.

Ask God to examine your heart and life and reflect on these questions.
  • Where might there be weeds that are preventing the good soil in your life? Habits that distract you and keep you from spending time in God's Word and in Prayer.
  • What spiritual practices may help you choke those weeds? 
  • What might God want to plant in you right now, in this season? 
  • What might He want to uproot? 
  • What might need pruning? 
In her book, Abundant Simplicity, Jan Johnson speaks of the spiritual disciplines of engagement and of abstinence. 
"Disciplines of engagement help us take in the life of God. Disciplines of abstinence help us let go of life draining behaviors. We need to exhale what is unnecessary as well as inhale nourishment from God." ~ Jan Johnson
Disciplines of engagement are things such as study, prayer, serving others, worship, community, etc. Disciplines of abstinence can include thins such as fasting, solitude, silence, serving in secret, frugality, simplicity of speech and time, etc.

Jan Johnson points out that we are more prone to practice disciplines of engagement. We fill up. But, she says, "They may know, practice and teach spiritual disciplines, but they still find themselves being impatient, egotistical or pushy. This is because they have not blended engagement disciplines with abstinence disciplines, which prune away self-indulgence and willfulness...If we don;t practice abstinence disciplines regularly, we find ourselves stuck. We become reliant on our own devices..." ~Jan Johnson

Practicing disciplines of abstinence may help us get in touch with those things that may be keeping us from a deeper walk with God. God may use these times spent in spiritual practices to help prune us for greater growth. This is definitely what happens in seasons such as Lent, when we choose to abstain from a particular food or practice and instead choose to focus on God. What might God be calling you to in this particular season?

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