God’s Providence – If we notice, we see it

In the last several weeks, we’ve heard sermons about the providence of God. This article is too short  to even comment on that broad and deep subject. But, I will mention a few things I’ve thought about lately.

In the 1960’s I lived in Bel Air Estates subdivision when it was “outside” Statesboro. Georgia. Highway 80 out there was a two-lane blacktop, and most of the roads in the subdivision were dirt. There was a new house   being built down the street from where I lived, so my cousin, Lewis, and I went exploring.

While we were inside the half-built house, a car drove up so we scrambled into the attic and hid. The family building the house was checking out the progress. There was a mother, a father, a son, and a daughter. They didn’t discover us, so, after they left, we climbed down and laughed our way back to my house.

The daughter’s name was Sharon. Our 45th wedding anniversary will be July 20th.

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Mrs. Bice, the guidance counselor at Statesboro High, sent a note asking me to come to her office. When there, she asked me what I planned to do after high school. I said I guessed I would stay at home,      attend Georgia Southern, and figure out what courses to take.

She told me she thought that would be a mistake, and that I should go to Georgia Tech. I apparently had done well enough on the math part of the SAT that her advice was to take advantage of that. So, I did, and became an engineer, which is now clear to me, and Sharon, that it was my calling for a profession.

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When our son Daniel was 4, Sharon and I decided to move from Savannah to either a small town or to the “country.” We found a wonderful renovated 100 year old house in Oliver and signed a contract contingent on selling our house in Savannah. We weren’t able to sell in time, so that fell through. We continued the    process and were out exploring one day and I said I’d show her a friend’s place where I had been dove      hunting. As we drove down the dirt road, Sharon noticed an empty house. We stopped and sat there looking and talking and my friend happened to drive by and I waved him down. He took us down the road to meet the brother of the house’s owner. We’ve lived in that house in southeastern Bulloch County over thirty years now.

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Nearly twenty-five years ago, Daniel’s friend, Garrett, invited us to go to church with them and we  accepted. And now, those many years later, I’m sitting here writing an article for that church’s newsletter.


“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” 
Proverbs 16:9

 

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – But be careful!

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – But be careful! (Facebook folks, click on the link to see the entire post)

wheat and tares phlox 2

Here’s some fallow ground that needed breaking up in late winter. Looks like I could just go in and turn over everything and get ready for Spring. But if you look closely you see some things that aren’t weeds. So I had to be careful breaking  up this fallow ground.

This reminded me of Jesus’ Kingdom parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). There was a field a man planted with good seed (wheat) and at night an enemy came and planted bad seed (tares) in the field. When the field hands saw it (later, when both had grown enough to recognize) they asked the owner if he wanted them to pull the tares up. The owner’s reply was to wait, since pulling up the tares may also pull up the wheat.

While, I had to be careful what to pull up, and pulling some of the weeds actually unrooted a good plant, it was clear enough I could pull the weeds and leave the plants. I’ll leave it to you to study more on Jesus’ parable since it goes deeper than good plants and bad plants. But, I’ll leave a warning that we be careful when breaking up fallow ground – whether physical, spiritual, or relationships. Be sure to look closely for the good and not take it away with the bad.

It’s summer now, and here are the white phlox that were hiding in the weeds.

Phlox in bloom

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – Sometimes it’s OK

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(Fallow Ground – untended and unfruitful)
These Easter Lilies, planted last year, didn’t even get fertilizer this season, but they apparently didn’t mind. Sometimes things go well in spite of our neglect. But, we can’t take that for granted!
Hosea 10:12 needs to be in our mind all the time. “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy, break up your fallow ground; For it is time to seek the Lord til he comes and rains righteousness upon you.”

 

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – Look Back

Early garden shot

(Fallow ground – ground left unplowed and unfruitful)
Here’s a view of my garden from a few years ago. When I looked back on how things were and considered how it looks now, it was easy to see the goal behind breaking up my garden’s fallow ground. Looking back can help us focus.

I started my engineering career as a Cooperative Student working at Savannah Electric. (Meaning I went to school for a quarter and then worked for a quarter, then went to school, etc. for the first 3 years at Tech.) My job for much of that time was designing service to new residences. Typically, it was only installing a pole or two with a transformer and a service to the mobile home or house.

That was no big deal for the experienced engineers in the office, but it was exciting to me. Something new – and I had the chance to make a difference. I even would take Sharon out to the jobs to show her the finished products. Ah, the enthusiasm of being new to something wonderful.

Jesus’ letter to the church at Ephesus (Revelation Ch 2) reminded them of that. He told them to return to the enthusiasm of being new to something wonderful. After commending them for their works, toil and patience, he added:
“But, I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”

Sounds to me that He’s telling them (and us) to look back, and then break up some spiritual fallow ground.

Break Up Your Fallow Ground – The Sower

Planters on porch 3

 

Here’s a bit of “fallow ground” I’ve broken up. This one comes under “things I never got around to”. It’s one of Sharon’s visions she’s had for awhile: “I think it would be great to put some planters on the back porch.” As always, her vision was clear and I was slow getting there. But now, it’s done.
As I mentioned previously, I’ve made “Break up your fallow ground” the theme of my retirement. Some of that relates to my physical garden and flowers. But, the more important part considers the things of God.
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12
Fallow ground is soil left untended that will eventually become unfruitful. It can be left that way for a purpose, like God’s command to the Israelites to let their land rest every seventh year. But, it also may become fallow through neglect or the inability to tend it (for various reasons). Breaking up physical fallow ground means removing trees and stumps, plowing it up, turning it over, adding fertilizer, watering it, and doing whatever a specific plot of ground may need to  become fruitful.
Those steps are clear for the physical garden, but, what about the things of God, the spiritual things? That’s simple to summarize – we start with the focus Jesus gave us – Love your God and Love your neighbor. But, while simple to state, teaching and expanding on what God’s Word says about the why’s and how’s of those points has been every sincere minister’s entire career (and continues to be.) So, obviously, I won’t be explaining everything here. But, I will add a few thoughts that started from a recent sermon by our Associate Pastor on the Sower. Those thoughts, along with the need to rebuild my physical garden, took me to my decision for my retirement theme.
In the parable of the Sower, Jesus spoke of different types of soil – one being the good soil, which He explained to the disciples represented a person’s heart that is ready to receive the seeds being sown (the Word of God) and become fruitful. The Lord is the one who exchanges our heart of stone for a heart of flesh and puts His Spirit within us (Ezekiel 36:26-27). God opens that heart of flesh to hear His Word. (Acts 16:14 – referring to Lydia – “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”) As God’s children, we can rejoice that He has made our hearts the “good soil.”
Yet, even good soil can become fallow and unfruitful. From Hosea 10:12, we see who God gives the responsibility to keep it fruitful—He commands us to work at that. From the verse, we conclude that we can harden our heart against obedience and mercy. (“Hardening our heart” is a great term for allowing it to lie fallow.) We can overlook, or ignore, that we are called to be fruitful. We can neglect the things of God (fail to seek Him.)
Just like breaking up physically fallow ground requires work, so does breaking up spiritual ground. As the verse says, we should sow, reap, break up and seek. (Good action verbs we writers are always told to use.) And, two things (among many) I’ve discovered in this first 4 months of retirement—there is fallow ground in most areas of my life, and you can’t get all those needed actions done at once. It’s a process, and sometimes a long process.
I understand retirement was a major change in my life that gave me time that many don’t have to work on this process. But, no matter what situation you’re in, you have time to begin by seeking the Lord, in the seed sown by the Sower—In God’s Holy Word. “Break up your fallow ground.” says the Lord.

Break up your fallow ground – It’s Spring! (Fallow – idle and unproductive)

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It’s officially Spring here in South Georgia. It doesn’t matter what the date is, spring doesn’t truly begin until the pecan trees start to bud out. They have done that, as you see, so I made it to the local nurseries to get some flowers to start planting. Breaking up your fallow ground is just a step in the process. Something should be planted that will make the soil productive and fruitful again.

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“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12

As you’ll see, I’ll be working on the content of this blog (and considering starting a new blog) for Break Up Your Fallow Ground. The garden part will come as I do tasks in the garden. But, what do I want to say about other areas in life where I need to, and am trying to, break up my fallow ground? And, do I always connect it with what I’ve written about the garden – like this one, “it’s Spring”? I guess that’s another part of the process of breaking up fallow ground – what, where, when, and how; and then, what do you plant. The verse above seems a good foundation.

 

 

Retire and Break Up Your Fallow Ground?

Fallow Ground in the Garden

Here’s a section of the vegetable garden as it has looked since last Summer, and the rest of the garden and the flower beds look much the same. Some of the beds are overgrown. Weeds have punctured the landscape fabric in the walkways and the cypress mulch that once covered them has disintegrated.
Last summer I listed all the things I needed to do in the garden – in addition to new walkways and rebuilding beds, it needs an irrigation system, the pump house needs rebuilding, the blueberries need something to keep the deer out, and on and on. I realized I had no extra time to work on it, so I decided to let the ground lie fallow (remain idle and unproductive) until my planned retirement in January and then I could begin rebuilding it all.
January came, and I retired (about 90%) from “work work” (my term for paid work), and I began work on the garden to-do list. Since there’s a long to-do list of things not involving the garden, and the weather hasn’t been cooperating, the garden progress has been slow. (I’ve found if you don’t have to go out in the cold and wind, it’s pretty easy to choose to stay inside.)
I’ve been pondering what I’ve left idle and unproductive in the garden and figuring out how to address the different pieces and parts (or pieces and plants?) My thoughts eventually led to considerations about other areas of my life that I might have also left idle and unproductive (or perhaps underproductive.)  While full time work work was a great blessing in its time, it also kept me from doing other things – most often for valid reasons, but it also can be just an excuse.
So, I wondered what other “fallow ground” I had left that should be addressed now. I thought in those terms because of my project in the garden, which clearly is fallow ground, and I was remembering a recent sermon by our Pastor on breaking up your fallow ground and one Scripture that he used:

Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap steadfast love. Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12

I took those thoughts of the garden, my life, and this verse and decided to make “Break Up Your Fallow Ground” the theme of this beginning of my retirement. One section of fallow ground is my writing and this blog. So, after several unproductive years, I’ve decided to write about breaking up fallow ground – literally and spiritually and wherever else it might lead. I hope it will give you something to think about, too.