(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.”
(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.
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.
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.
What is it?
I downloaded the photos from my camera and remembered all except this one. I had no clue. If I was taking pictures with film and the developed photo looked like this, I would think there had been trash all over it. Or perhaps thought it was a shot from the movie Ghost that picked up the dark spirits passing by.
I reviewed the other photos from the download and retraced my day’s steps. Then I remembered this was a shot from the front yard and there was a flock of hundreds of blackbirds landing and circling in the peanut field across the road. Obviously my camera isn’t fast enough for rapidly moving blackbirds.
If you were able to tell what this was before I explained it, you were more perceptive than even me, who took the photo in the first place. But, I would think most folks were like I was at first – didn’t have a clue.
My confusion over the photo reminded me of Philip and the Ethiopian in the desert (Acts 8.) The Ethiopian was sitting in his chariot reading out loud from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Philip heard him read: “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living”
Philip asked if he understood what he was reading, and the Ethiopian replied “How can I, except some man should guide me?” And Philip guided him through Scripture and he understood (in fact, came to saving faith and was baptized.)
At times we may feel like we don’t have a clue about a passage in the Bible. If prayer and meditation don’t provide clarity, that means it’s also time to ask someone to guide us. And, on the other side, there are Scripture passages we understand clearly. Along with prayer and meditation, that may be the opportunity to guide someone else.
“How can I, except some man should guide me?” Acts 8:31
Cloud Over the Tree Garden
These days smart phones have made it easy to take photos of anything and everything. Some worthwhile and some not. Here’s one I thought was worthwhile. I was cutting grass, listening to a Nero Wolfe mystery novel (on my smart phone). As I made the turn, this was before me. What a beautiful sight of God’s creation!
“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1 ESV
Eyed Click Beetle
I found this bug while inspecting a power pole. (Looking for the pole’s birthmark – probably blog on that sometime). Since my head was rather close to the pole as I moved around it, the bug and I came eye to eye – and I flinched first. The fake eyes did what they were supposed to do, and made me back off.
I later looked it up and found it is an “eyed click beetle”. Definitely right on the eyes but didn’t get to hear it click.
“All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weighs the Spirit” Proverbs 16:2
Big, fake eyes don’t see much. But, the proverbs says our “eyes” (actually referring to our mind’s eye) see what we want to see – making excuses for the wrongs we do. But, the Lord sees clearly into our mind’s eye and on into our heart. Yet, He is still faithful and just to forgive us when we confess.
Praise the Lord for His big heart!