…mine own vineyard have I not kept.  Song of Solomon 1:6  (KJV)

“Come on, we’re going on a field trip,” the bishop announced as he pulled staff members out of their offices.  The rains have been abundant this spring, and so avoiding the many puddles would be part of the adventure as we headed out the door.

We all walked cautiously down the hill and then traversed the pathway that edged the meadow where children hunt eggs every Easter.  We passed by patches of iris that were standing in water, on through stands of Mountain Laurel that had already bloomed, and then made our descent to the springs—the source of the San Antonio River.

When the aquifer fills, the springs burst from the ground and mostly follow their ancient path.  Some spill over onto the meadows creating a bog.  The life-giving source of water has drawn people to this site for thousands of years and was the impetus for settlement of the indigenous Payaya Indians and later the Spanish missionaries.

The sense of history on our sacred grounds is compelling.  Prior to the bequest of the lands to us in the last century, the owner had obviously respected and loved the place where so many had lived and thrived for centuries.  He employed twelve gardeners to maintain the nineteen acres that stretched across the valley and on into the basin.  Besides the native species of plants and trees, Gaucho planted hundreds of azaleas and created a small pond where a boat was moored for an afternoon’s enjoyment.

As we meandered through the soggy grounds, I noticed an overgrown stone walkway climbing the hillside.  And then to our right where terraced cutting beds had lined the walkway, bushes and weeds blotted out all signs of flowers from another day.  The acreage around the old home is lush with naturalistic landscaping, but the farther one roams from the house, invasive plants are obscuring what was once a paradise.  Nothing is static.  Everything has to be maintained.

My practical mother told me of a time she dressed and was headed out the door to do some “good works”.  She said that as she was leaving, she noticed cobwebs on the ceiling of the porch and sensed God telling her she needed to first take care of her own home before she could credibly go out and share Jesus with someone else.  Maintenance.

And so, I’ve been thinking…  Seeing the overgrown beds and walks on our grounds was sad, but it was just a reminder that, while it might be more exciting to get out of the familiar and engage in stimulating ministries, our first obligation is Jerusalem:  our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus and our family and our community.  Solomon’s “beloved” had been busy taking care of the family vineyards, but she hadn’t tended to her own needs (Song of Sol. 1:6).  And Martha was so busy worrying while she worked that she had neglected “the most important thing” (Luke 10:41).  On the other hand, Jesus regularly spent time with his Father, communing and being strengthened by him (Matt. 14:13, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:45, 46, Mark 14:32-34).  Essentially, even our spiritual lives must be maintained.

And that happens through the spiritual disciplines – Bible reading, prayer, and meditation as starters.  To paraphrase the violinist Jascha Heifetz, if I don’t spend intentional time with God one day, I notice it; if I miss two days, my friends notice it; if I miss three days, everyone notices it.  We have to tend our own gardens, spending time with our Father, and then we can go out to work in the fields to which he’s called us.


Lord, thank you for speaking to us in our ordinary days through your creation.  Give us ears to hear and feet to obey.  In Jesus our Lord.  AMEN.


Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 (KJV)

Growing up, Lent was never part of our church tradition, but last year I became very interested in the opportunity to specifically focus on the meaning of Christ’s passion during the Easter season and began my own observation of Lent. It was such an enriching experience that I’ve decided to engage again, so I’ve done a bit of research.

“Lent” comes from an old English word meaning “spring” and is the 40 days prior to Easter. Typically, it’s a time of penitence and can include fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (charitable gifts). It is also a time of self-denial. I love the idea of “spring,” a time for spiritual renewal and refreshing in Christ.

I think for years I rejected the thought of observing Lent because it seemed to me to be an effort by practitioners to merit God’s favor, something that only comes through his grace. But last year as I contemplated my own practice of Lent, I gained a whole different perspective.

Why not grasp Lent as an occasion of thanksgiving for all God’s faithful blessings, I wondered. So I moved into the season skipping as many meals as practical (some might call it fasting), which gave me additional time for prayer and reading of spiritual material. As I pursued study, meditation, and prayer, Lent became a gift rather than a burden. Additional study brought new insights and with that came joy. Prayer brought to mind needs I’d never contemplated along with hearts that longed for divine intervention and ministry. A greater sense of God’s presence became part of my daily experience to the point that I hated to see the approach of Easter, which signals the end of Lent. But, of course, Easter always brings its own joy as we celebrate a risen and ascended Lord who now inhabits the lives of all believers.

I have been looking forward to Lent for months now. Instead of seeing it as denial of myself, I view it as opportunity to move more closer into God’s presence. If you’ve never tried Lent – no matter your church tradition – may I encourage you to prayerfully consider taking advantage of this little space on the church calendar to draw nearer to Jesus. I think you’ll be glad you did. (I’d love to hear about your experience.)

Father, how blessed we are that we can fellowship with you and that you want to share the joy of your presence. Welcome now and forever. AMEN.


…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. II Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

I have a new trainer for my dogs, Edward and Frances. Truth is, as we all know, the trainer is training me, their owner. When I learn how to assume my rightful position as leader of the pack, we will have a more enjoyable and peaceful environment.

I am learning that I am the Alpha (the boss), that I can just ignore those frequent demands for attention, that I set the direction of behaviors for a specific time and place, and that my responsibility is to provide leadership. Which has brought to mind something else that is critical to peace in all our lives…

Have you ever had thoughts, like little puppies, get in your face and demand your attention? Are you ever distracted by nudges from this or that when you’re trying to focus on the Lord? Do worries barge into your peace, demanding dominance and usurping God’s promises for you? We can probably all say a resounding YES.

The obvious conclusion here is that we all need training to know how to deal with our thoughts. They are out there, and they will always be on the periphery watching to see who will have dominance—the Spirit of God in our lives or our thoughts of anxiety, distrust, fear, and negativity.

God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love and of power and of discipline. And so we, through God’s Spirit, confidently take control of those thoughts that threaten to destroy our peace and stability in Christ. We make those thoughts obey Christ. We control our thoughts through the truth of God’s Word; we ignore those thoughts that tempt us to fear; and we discipline those thoughts that want to introduce doubt.

And with faithful practice, as we are trained, the thoughts become captives to our focus on Christ. We dominate them; they are no longer in control. “And the peace that passes understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Lord, why does it take us so long to recognize the authority we have over what we think? Strengthen us to resist anxiety, negativity, anything that diminishes you, your will, and your peace in our lives, and help us to begin to discipline our thought life. We especially need your power for this. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. II Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

I had a wise pastor who regularly encouraged us to take advantage of the church library. “You can only read so many books in your lifetime,” he said. “So read the best books.” That set me to thinking. If I read a book a week, I will read 52 books in a year. One a month would be 12 in a year. Multiply that by the number of years in a life, and that really isn’t a lot of books.

Yes, I admit that I sometimes read light fiction for a break from intense living, but it’s not my regular reading fare. Why? I want to read the best books, and I have limited time for reading.

What, you may ask, is the best book? My all-time favorite is God’s Book, the Bible. Some of its stories are stranger than fiction; there’s history; biography; futuristic reading; poetry; and so on. Real people go through the same things we do, and when they turn to God, he rescues. But the Bible doesn’t sugar coat the real life stories of its heroes and heroines. It talks about real consequences to sin and real blessings to obedience. And it reassures us that we always have a Friend to help us in all experiences and who celebrates with us all the joys that life can bring.

Do you have a reading plan? You know the old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” There are many Bible reading plans available, and there are so many blessings attached to the reading. Spiritual growth is impossible without an intentional, regular devotion to reading the Word and living out its truths. An added benefit is that the Bible is the only book that guarantees good things following the reading.

Sure, I read other books besides the Bible, but I wouldn’t want to neglect it for any other reading. It’s brought me closer to the One I love most. If you don’t regularly take time to read God’s Word, make time. You’ll be glad you did.

Father, your Word heals, restores, brings lights, directs, encourages, reprimands, strengthens, informs, and the list could go on and on. Thank you for giving us this precious gift. Draw our hearts more and more to you and give us a renewed desire to read and study your Word. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. Luke 10:39 (NIV)

Our Bible study has been examining the practice of Christian meditation, a discipline that’s long been neglected. We’ve tried to dissect and analyze all the aspects that make this such an important practice for contemporary Christians.

I think Marietta got it right. She thinks of it as a special date with Jesus, a time to set aside each day to be with him when they can talk, pour out their hearts, listen to each other, and laugh and cry together. She looks forward each day to being with Jesus.

Putting it that way, it’s not at all complicated or esoteric. Meditation, the joy of intentionally taking time to be with our heavenly Lord Jesus.

Father, in our desire to draw closer to you, help us to put aside the things that distract us so that we can truly listen. In Jesus our Lord. Amen.