Pulling Weeds

pullingweedsWe’ve had lots of rain lately.  Lots and lots of rain.  If it hasn’t been raining the temperature is around 85 – 90 degrees and the humidity is sky high.  It’s been like walking through the bottom of the ocean.

Our battle this summer has been to keep our small yard from looking like a jungle.  Today the sun was shining and it wasn’t 90 degrees out with high humidity.  Good!  A day to go outside and pull weeds.  Some weeds were easy to pull – the ground is still moist from all the rain.  But then there were others that were extremely hard to pull out, you know the ones that snake all over and put down hundreds of roots all over the place.  Some were snaking around our flowers cutting off what small bit of sunshine that they would get.

As I was doing this I thought what a great analogy!! Our lives are like the flowers, trying to grow in a “hostile” environment.  As we grow in our Christian lives, the “weeds” spring up to choke out the sun and the water that we need to thrive.  Regular weeding is needed – pulling the unwanted things out of our life.  Some things come out easily – others are so hard, you never know if you get it all out.  You’ll find you need to do regular weeding to be sure your environment is cleared for growth.

That’s my thought for today – I hope your “gardening” is always easy.

 

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Environment #6 Final Steps

The final step in the environment’s transformation is to give yourself in friendship to the people there.  Win their hearts by showing a genuine care and concern for them.  A true friend does not force her views on others, but works patiently with them, helping them to question the values of the world, maybe even the values for which they have been living.  Years ago I was in a neighborhood Bible Study.  The leader told me that one of the members had originally joined only because she was suffering from depression and was looking for any activity that would get her our of the house.  One day she was feeling so sad she called to say she just couldn’t make herself get out of bed to come.  The other women decided it wasn’t enough to pray for her–they went over to her house, cleaned it and cooked dinner.  Their love and compassion had a lasting impact.  She saw something in their lives that she wanted.  She became a Christian because, as she put it, “Who wouldn’t want to be part of this?”

As we become more Christlike ourselves, and as we influence our friends and others around us toward the Christian ideal, our environments will change.  If you open a Via de Cristo Pilgrim’s Guide, the first thing you see, even before the table of contents are these words:

“To be on a pilgrimage is to go through Christ to the Father, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, bringing others along with you.”

Each one of us is on just such a pilgrimage every day of our lives.

Environments are not changed suddenly or by magic.  You cannot change the world, but you can change yourself;  and as Paul says in the book of Galatians, “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”  Allow God to use you and you will be the leaven that raises the bread.

Environment #5 –Christian Transformation of Environments

As you look at the environments around you with an analytical eye, you will find that in many something is missing –relationships in which people give of themselves.  Remember the train trip I mentioned in my first Environment post?  Most people will not get on the train until they have developed a relationship with somebody else on it.  If you want to be God’s instrument in one of your environments, you must commit yourself to self-giving relationships with at least some of the people there.  As the environment becomes more caring, the tone will change.  It will become more Christlike.

The first step in any plan to change our environment involves ourselves.  God must be at work in our own lives if we expect to be used as a tool to touch others.  One Christian author writes:

“Once it was you and not Christ.  Then it was you and Christ.  Perhaps not it is Christ and you.  But can it come to be Christ only and not you at all?”

We are all at different places on our train trip and most of us have a lot of traveling left to do.  Like the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, we must constantly remind ourselves, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

In the process of change we will use our will, our knees, our intellect and our heart.  It is important to realize that we can only transform our environment to the degree that we ourselves are growing closer to Christ.  Ask yourselves these questions:

  • Do I have the will to change myself and those around me, not waiting for a bolt of lightening or some apostolic accident to get me started?
  • How much time am I willing to devote to prayer and study?  Think of your knees as the levers of the apostle.
  • Is my intellect dedicated to “putting on the mind of Christ” or do I have some higher priority?
  • To what degree is my heart filled with hope and love?  Am I enthusiastic in spite of my difficulties I will succeed because God will it?  Do I earnestly desire to share the life of Christ with others?

If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, then with God’s help you can change your environment.

Environment #4–Transforming an Environment

Environments, even bad ones, can be transformed by people with ideals and drive.  Many of you have probably heard the story of Corrie Ten Boom.  Corrie and her sister Betsie were incarcerated in a prison camp during World War II because the family was caught hiding Jewish refugees.  In the camp barracks, conditions were dirty, crowded and cold.  The women were ill fed and forced to work long hours.  Most became angry and quarrelsome.  Corrie and Betsie had managed to smuggle their Bible and a bottle of vitamins into the camp when they arrived.  They started a Bible Study which attracted more and more prisoners.  They shared their vitamins with the sick and weak –miraculously that bottle of drops never ran out!   Betsie, particularly, prayed constantly.  She even gave thanks for the crowded conditions which helped them reach more women with the good news of Christ’s love, and for their suffering, because it gave them a greater appreciation of the hardships Jesus endured for our sakes.  The terrible conditions didn’t change, but the attitude of the women did.  They became gentle and helpful with one another.  The conflicts gradually ended.

Most of us will never find ourselves in prison, but we can still take the following steps to change our environments for the better.

  1. Know the environment. You must know the people, circumstances and nature of your surroundings in order to influence them.
  2. Study the spirit of the environment. What is the ideal or motivating force?  How do the traditions, organization, and structure of the group play in?
  3. Study the individuals.  In every environment you will find several types of people.  There are followers.  They are satisfied with imitating others.  There are the impulsive.  These folks are wish-washy and lacking real conviction.  Finally there are leaders.  These are the people who can be agents of change.

The leaders are the people you need to be most concerned about.  These people will use their abilities to achieve what they believe is worthwhile  Once you determine who the leaders are, get to know them in order to understand their ideal.  Is it power, accumulating possessions, or something else?  Can you influence them and lead them closer to Christ?

More about transformation coming up on my next post ……

Environment #1

This month I’ll be posting parts of a Lutheran Via de Cristo talk I gave about Environments.  This is the first installment.

It’s has been said, and rightly so, that the Christian life is not a destination, but a journey.  You might choose to think of it as a train trip.  Our first talk spoke about the importance of having an ideal.  It’s just crucial–think about it–you might be at the train station, but you can’t get on the right train if you don’t know where you’re headed.  As Christians, we want to head toward the life of grace, a conscious and growing life in Christ.  This means a lifelong process of reforming and transforming our lives as our will is conformed to His.  Talks about piety, study and action gave us some idea of how to do this through personal spiritual discipline.  Our last talk ,Leaders, presented a picture of the truly dynamic Christian as a leader.  This talk goes a step further because Jesus called us to follow Him, not only for our own salvation, but for the salvation of the world.  This is the true mission of the church.  It’s not enough to get on the right train and sit quietly reading our Bible until the journey ends.  It’s not enough to interact in a friendly and helpful manner with our fellow passengers. We must get off at every stop and invite others to come along with us.

There’s a very good book you might want to read sometime, called “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In this book, Bonhoeffer says that Christianity means community and the fellowship of Christian brothers and sisters is a gift of grace, pure grace.  Then he goes on to tell us that the Christian’s calling is not in the seclusion of a cloistered life, but in the midst of the world, even among enemies!  In the book of Matthew, Jesus instructed his disciples, saying:

“….you are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house ….Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

We can’t stay isolated in our churches and in groups of fellow Christians. We must go out — to our families, our workplaces, our communities –and radiate God’s love into our personal environments.