Got Any Fallow Ground?

Break Up Fallow Ground

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
(For those unfamiliar with the term, fallow ground is ground that is left untended and unproductive. Breaking it up means plowing it to remove the weeds and get it ready for sowing seed and being  productive.)

Someone asked me the other day how my garden was going. I’m thinking they could have been referring to the theme I adopted for my retirement – “Break up Your Fallow Ground.” In the last couple of years, I’ve written and talked about my need to break up the fallow ground in my garden after a time of neglect.

I replied that I had thought long and hard about it but hadn’t made any progress. I told them I definitely decided I don’t need a big garden. When two tomato plants can supply all Sharon and I want for the summer, it’s hard to take the time and effort to plant and tend a row of them. Since Sharon no longer does any canning, you can apply that to most everything that would be grown in a big garden. But I still want to rebuild the raised beds, re-establish the cypress mulch paths, and grow a few things in part of the garden. So, maybe as the weather cools, I’ll make it out there to do some work.

But, I’ve discovered in the last couple of years that the most important “fallow ground” we need to break up isn’t “out there”, it’s within us. The Scripture above doesn’t say go out and plow up your backyard and plant a garden. It says that we should open our heart and renew our mind with the Word of God and that we should diligently pray. It says we should obey and follow Jesus (Love the Lord, Love your neighbor.) It says we should get rid of the weeds in our hearts and mind. As Hebrews 12:1 in  effect says ”lay aside every weight (distraction) and the sin that holds us back and run the race of life God has given us.”

I’m thankful the Lord has shown me areas of my “fallow ground” and helped me to start breaking some of them up. The largest chunk of rock-hard land he’s shown me concerns The Great Commission. Jesus commanded us to be witnesses and make disciples for Him. Yep, the dreaded “evangelism.” Our Bible Study class did a study on evangelism and it opened my eyes to what I was more or less ignoring. Other members of the class (and some not in the class) agreed they had, too.

But we’re working on that now. The word “evangel” means good news—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s become clearer to me that while we should be ready to explain the basics of the Gospel (to evangelize) if opportunities arise, The Great Commission covers much more than that. It involves showing Christ in us to those around us. Telling of our relationship with Him—what He has done for us. It’s being part of the community and going out of our way to help others and to make friendships and build relationships, with believers and unbelievers alike, to open doors of opportunities to show and tell the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s inviting someone to Church or someone to return to Church. Or checking up on someone who’s been absent from Church. Etc. Etc.

So, if the Lord has used these words and His Scripture to reveal some of your fallow ground, pray hard, and get to work plowing it up! God will help as He promised.

Six Month Checkup

August vegetable garden

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 (Fallow ground – left uncultivated and unproductive)

“Hey, Bill— Didn’t you say six months ago that you were going to retire and break up your fallow ground? How’s it going on that?

Well, it depends. You can see from this photo from earlier this week, that the physical break up, rebuild, renovate of the vegetable garden’s fallow ground has stayed on hold through these six months. Now, it’s too hot these days to get started with a good spray of Roundup and have it be effective. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) This garden hopefully, will rise to the top of the list in the Fall.

But, on the flower garden side of things, the Lord has blessed us with much beauty. Much fallow ground was broken up. I’ve posted a couple of photos on blog posts, and several more on Facebook. The one below is the view from our bedroom window.

On other things, I haven’t done as much writing as I had planned (but, I have done more than I was doing, so that’s progress.) My plans to spend more time with my guitar and banjo are still in their cases, so to speak—but they’re still on the list.

I’ve discovered that what happens to impede progress—is life. Like always, there are planned and unplanned things that come up that divert attention from the to-do list of items mentioned above. Also, now that I’m a bit older, I’ve discovered that just resting and staying out of the heat are needful, too.

But, the fallow ground in the above verse from Hosea isn’t referring to these physical things I’ve mentioned (although, I would hope writing and music could fit in with it). The verse is talking about the more important aspects of life—sowing righteousness, reaping love, and seeking the Lord. I’ve been working on those, too.

I won’t mention specifics. But, there have been successes and wonderful blessings (all by the grace of God), and utter failures of commission and omission (all by the humanity of Bill). I don’t plan to quit trying, but I do get discouraged at times. Then, the Lord sends me a message, like He did through our Pastor the other night. In His preface to our church conference, he talked a bit about Galatians 6:9—
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
So, with the Lord’s help, I won’t faint.

Bedroom window view

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 – 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)

IMG_4818

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.

IMG_4815

 

“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.