Bare Wood

Bare Wood

My husband and I spent the better part of today working in our back yard. My husband was planting flowers, laying down landscaping bricks, mulch, etc. I was painting our garden shed’s door. This is our third summer in this house. Last summer my husband painted the sides of the shed (the sides you can see from the house), but he ran out of red paint.

And he didn’t attempt the door. I can see the door from the window above my kitchen sink every time I am washing dishes. The people who lived in the house before us never painted it. It has always been just weather-worn bare wood. It has bothered me all this time, so I decided I would paint it.

It wasn’t easy painting wood that had been in the weather for 15 years. The wood was dry, so the paint soaked in, and it will take more than one coat. And I had to stop, and finish tomorrow, because the mosquitoes were coming out in droves. So I will be out there tomorrow to finish. And then when I look out my kitchen window, I can see a beautiful red garden shed with a white painted door.

Was it necessary to paint it? It was functioning fine without the paint. It kept the shed and all the garden implements dry. So it probably could have been left bare for a few more years. But it wasn’t attractive that way. It was bare wood, dull, and not beautiful to look at. It was a stark contrast to the beautiful perennial garden my husband created right next to it, with beautiful flowers and fragrant herbs.

It was hard work painting it in 90-degree heat, and I had white paint on my arms, hands, and my clothing. But it was worth it to be able to look at the beautiful shed from my window every day when I wash dishes.

I was thinking this is a beautiful picture of the Body of Messiah. When I moved to Illinois in 1996, I left a Messianic Jewish Congregation in Maryland that I absolutely loved. It was a close-knit group of people who cared for one another. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but we had true fellowship. I knew when I moved here there was not a Messianic Congregation, so I would have to find a church. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time fitting in, no matter where we went. It was very disappointing to me. I kept trying to find what I had, and when I didn’t find it, we would move to another church. We went to at least 5 churches before we began attending the church where we are members now and have been since 2004.

Has it always been perfect at this church? No, and there were times I wanted to leave. It was difficult being in a church again after 10 years in a Messianic Congregation with two of those years living in Israel.

That was just part of it. I just viewed things a lot differently than most people in the church. It wasn’t a right or wrong thing, I was just different and I felt like a fish out of water. But finally I realized that no matter where I went or what church I attended, the problem wasn’t the church, it was me. I realized if I was ever going to grow and move on in my spiritual life, I had to stay put, and work at being a productive, contributing member of the church. It was a good place, bible-teaching with a good foundation and wonderful pastors, who prayed for us and loved us.

So about a year ago, I finally made the decision that I would stay there. I would not bother my husband with wanting to leave and try to find another place, because I was never going to find what I left. But I could find new and good things that God had for me if I was faithful enough to stay with it. That decision has made all the difference.

Is it easy being in a congregation and having to deal with people? No, but it’s worth it, and it makes us grow in the Lord, because we have to learn to appreciate one another. We have to learn to let things go that aren’t important, for the good of the Body. We have to learn that we aren’t always right, but even if we are, sometimes we have to let it go, because building the Kingdom of God together with other committed, covenant-keeping believers is more important.

Recently, a couple who had been coming to our Messianic Home Group got upset with something someone said at our meeting. The wife of the couple emailed us after she got home and was highly upset that we didn’t stop the person from saying what she said. We didn’t feel she said anything wrong, so we told her that is why we didn’t do anything about it. We tried to reason with her and find a harmonious ending, but she would not have it. To her, she was right and there was no compromise. She blocked our email address, so we could not communicate with her. This couple has not been in a congregation for years, because none of them will teach what they think they should. It’s easy to have this attitude like she did. She doesn’t have to make any sacrifices or bend her will for the good of others, because there are no others. It was a good reminder to me of the importance of being in a committed fellowship. It’s so easy to get into the “I am right” attitude, when we don’t fellowship regularly.

It’s kind of like the difference between bare wood and a white door that is beautiful to behold. I would rather be the white door. I would rather pray that the fruit of the Spirit is manifest in my life so I can bless others and allow them to bless me, as we work together for His kingdom. How about you?

Romans 12:4-5 (New International Version)

4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Psalm 133:1 (King James Version)
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

Dandylynes

Dandylynes

Dandylynes – that’s how my husband pronounces dandelions. This spring there were hundreds and hundreds of them in our yard. I thought I would be industrious and dig them out one by one. I used to do that as a child for punishment. My parents would send us out to dig dandelions when we misbehaved.

I have a lot of experience with it. I did a lot of them, but still there were hundreds of them. I soon realized it was almost a never-ending job, because no matter how many I dug, more popped up. I could have used a weed spray for a quick and easy way to get rid of them. But that has negative consequences on the environment, the water, not to mention our cats might get sick eating the grass that was contaminated by the spray. Yes, it kills the dandelions, but of what consequence?

I was musing on this and thought it’s a good example of our spiritual life. We have these things in the flesh that we try to overcome. It seems like we try and try and they are still there. We may feel like we have made progress for awhile, but then look up to realize it’s still there. There is no short, easy way to be free from our besetting sins. How do we change? How do we walk away from those things that seem to dog us all our lives? I have been meditating on this for weeks, reading my Bible trying to understand the path to freedom.

There were big things that I got free of relatively quickly when I turned my life over to the Lord, outward things like alcoholism, for example. It took some time, but there is something about being visible and in the open that makes us want to walk away from it. But there there are things that aren’t so visible, things that are just as bad, but no one knows about them – except God, of course. Why do we think that as long as no one can see them, it’s something we can ignore and continue in? Pleasing God should be our first desire, but many times pleasing others is our motivation, or even pleasing ourselves, because we feel better when we are free from certain things.

We need to look at our motivation for our actions – is it really to please God, or is it to please people? To look better in the eyes of others? And then, when we realized we need to change something, how can we change? How can we get free of something once and for all? Or will it be there always, and we have to constantly ask God to help us stay free from it? Something to ponder for sure. I think as a Western culture we have become so soaked in the Greek philosophical mindset, that we separate physical from spiritual, our humanity from our spiritual life, and we justify things by saying “We’re only human, it’s human nature, people will be people after all.” But in a Hebraic mindset there is no separation. It all belongs to God Everything we do, whether publicly or privately, has implications for the Kingdom of God and for our relationship with God. There is really no difference, except for our motivation to desire to change.

The amazing thing to me is the longsuffering grace of God that keeps on keeping on with us. After we fail so many times, He comes back and says “Let’s try again.” It’s beyond my comprehension. His love is everlasting and enduring, no matter what. And it seems that sometimes something we have struggled with for so long, one day we awake and we have victory. I don’t know how that happens, but I know it has something to do with listening to that still, small voice in our heart that says “Turn this way, turn away from that.” And each time we do that, we become spiritually stronger, and it makes it easier to follow the right path.