Hello As Is Church Family! I am honored to upload to YOUR heart what the Holy Spirit has downloaded to my own during this exciting season. I love how Jesus pursues our heart and ushers our perspectives to align with Him! This month, I invite you to consider how we can effectively confront those paradigms and belief systems—perhaps tackling ONE of these—in which He passionately desires to show us His truth. I want to take you to a time of my life where God illustrated His passion for my own such alignment.
The year was 1994. I was a teenager all too accustomed to the shuffle of multiple foster homes, often uncertain of where I belonged and low on self worth. Each and every move necessitated an adaptation on my part to the new environment I was to be a part. Circumstances in the system led to me being placed in a boy’s group home which resided in a remote ranching community in central Oregon. I can recall the busy mornings, as 13 boys would work together to stir the oversized pot of daily oatmeal. Chores on the vast property would be shared amongst us, treatment of our various mental health conditions would be administered, and systems of reward and consequence would govern our daily routines. The large field on the side of the residence would be a place where I would discover how to throw a football, outrun my pursuers, learn to win and lose, and ultimately where I would discover one of God’s redemptive lessons for my life and future ministry.
This grassy field was like any other in a rural community. When I wasn’t competing on the vast yard with the other boys in the daily demonstration of our athletic prowess, we would be charged with the simple tasks of mowing and watering its greenery. This field would also be the site of shared consequences. In the (recurring) event we elected to make a choice violating the rules of the home, we would be prescribed the task of picking a select number of the field’s ferocious flower: dandelions!
Now there were specific guidelines for ridding the dandelions. In the event we were expected to weed 300 dandelions, we had to present each and every weed with the full root intact. Any plant we pulled that had less than the root, than we would have to go back to the field and begin our count over. The lesson God would use to shape my own restoration for years to come far exceeded the goal of extracting mere dandelions. He would use this thankless task to illustrate the work He wanted to do in the fields of my heart.
Dandelions are pesky. You can have a yard full of them, and whether they contain the deceptively brilliant yellow flower, or have progressed to the nuanced white seed—the same light ‘puffball’ neighborhood kids love to pluck as they make wishes—the plant threatens to overwhelm the most beautiful yards. The root system of the dandelion presents itself a sturdy foe to the best pickers. If you think I exaggerate, I challenge you to go into your yard and attempt to pull the weed by hand with the root intact. You will find this to be every bit the difficult challenge I issue. To be honest, we find it far more convenient to simply mow over the weeds and present a week long deception to our neighbors that our fields and yards are healthy and green.
These principles illustrate the dynamic contained in the ‘fields’ of our heart. The ‘dandelions’ of our life may be any issue or behavior associated in an assortment of dysfunction: addiction, depression, emotional instability, doubt, debt, insecurity, worthlessness; the list could go on. The reality is that we all desire to have the healthy green field, yet we find ourselves battling the network of ‘weeds’ which threaten to consume the ecosystem of our heart. Scripture declares that the battles we wage and the issues we face are not specific to ME. Translation: we ALL make choices, bear the flowers of destructive belief systems, and are faced with the consequences of negligent ‘yard care.’
Friends, Jesus loves us enough to address MORE than what grows above the surface. He knows that we become exhausted in our attempt to present a green field, all the while feeling suffocated by what is growing beneath the surface. As a teen charged with picking dandelions, I was given a tool to extract the roots. This empowered me beyond my own strength to effectively rid the system that threatened to overtake the field. Similarly, Jesus presents us with tools specifically designed to go beneath the surface of our hearts. He gives us both the opportunity and ability to address the unhealthy roots behind the flower; the belief systems behind the behavior.
What I love about the vision and mission of As Is Church, is we are committed to a holistic and Biblical process of growing healthy ‘fields.’ We are passionate about creating an atmosphere where a person is devoid of the pressure of mowing down THEIR weeds in an attempt to appear healthier (often interpreted ‘more spiritual) than their reality. Rather, we desire to partner with the Lord in providing a safe place where authentic growth, tools for extraction, Holy Spirit fertilizer, and safe accountable ‘gardeners’ are made accessible. I would offer and assert that this is where authentic discipleship is lived out amongst a church family.
As one of your pastors, I have the privilege of walking and witnessing the victories many of you have achieved in your desire to commit the fields of your heart to bearing an authentic witness of God’s redemption. Whether you have taken the first steps in surrendering to the Lord for the first time, or are on the road to progress in replacing the proverbial dandelions in your ‘fields;’ take heart that He is patient in the gardening process. I count it a miracle to see a woman who was once alone and beaten down, find identity and purpose in a small group community. To witness one time fallen leaders dig DEEP into their root systems and rediscover that their identity mattered as much to God as their gifts do. To stand alongside friends who are not only involved in Celebrate Recovery, but are now allowing their healthier ‘fields’ be a place of refuge for others beginning their journey. God is ‘gardening’ within our restoration ministry, multiple classes on growing in Christ, Bible studies, small group families, outreaches, marital counseling, mentorship—the list goes on. He is showing Himself abundantly faithful as we turn over our hearts to Him.
So I leave you with this reflection: What are the dandelions growing in your field today? Are you more committed to mowing the flowers down, or are you ready to risk in allowing the Lord to provide you a means to get under the surface? Do you recognize that the field of your heart being healthy has as much to do with the many who will find refuge by its witness and inspire them for their own personal growth? What are you willing to do today, in order to begin (or continue) the ‘yard work’ of your heart? I know this to be true in my life: few things speak to the majesty, splendor, and redeeming love of our God like that of His children being transformed. Remember reader, you are loved by a Father Who is a master gardener, and a church family who is willing to grow alongside you!
With so much love,