Last year I bought a citrus tree at a local nursery who assured
me it bears fruit each year. I brought it home, replanted it in a large pot and
placed it where I thought was the perfect location on our deck. A few months
later, a few blossoms appeared. I was so excited, and my mouth salivated at the
thought of our family eating organic citrus grown in our back yard. Weeks went
by, and I noticed there was no new growth or fruit on the tree. What went wrong?
Months passed and nothing happened. In fact, at times the tree was knocked over
during strong summer storms.
Eventually, I moved the tree to a new location which was
closer to our home. This location received less Florida sun and was among other
plants and shrubs residing in the earth.
Just before Christmas, I added some newly-harvested compost and
wished the tree well before leaving for the holidays up north. Upon my return, lo
and behold the tree started to blossom! Today it bears heaps of blossoms, fruit
and new growth. When I think of what happened to this tree, I can’t help to reflect
and praise God’s amazing creation, promise and grace. I would like to share two
points with you here:
The tree needed to be around other life to help protect it. In this life, we need to trust God, our family and/or community when we are vulnerable. Whether we are the receiver or the giver of help, we need each other. Jesus knew this and commanded us to love our neighbor, and even our enemies, as ourselves.
Like Jesus’ death and resurrection, the decomposing compost helped to yield the most beautiful blossoms and fruit on this tree. Thank you, Jesus, for your ultimate sacrifice, so we may blossom, bear fruit and remain in your love!
My first few days in Nicaragua were spent with our friends from the Beauty for Ashes Project. This ministry shares the love of Jesus with children and families in the heaps of trash in the capital city of Managua. On the day we arrived, the group had plans to visit a family in a community called Nueva Vida to celebrate birthdays of three (3) children. I was honored to be invited to attend with the group.
On our drive into the community, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the trash heaps alongside the unpaved roads. They were like mini-mountains of garbage, plastic and rubbish ranging approximately 8ft. to 15 ft. high. Each pile cascaded down to become part of the dirt road beneath the wheels of our truck. It was not your typical Main Street welcome.
However, the real welcome came when we arrived at the home of Salva & Henri, their 11 children and 6 grandchildren. Salva, in particular, was filled with so much joy to see me. I briefly met Salva in April at an event in another town and I had forgotten about our encounter. The interaction in April, however, had meant so much to Salva. She almost squeezed the breath out of my lungs as she hugged me in Nueva Vida. It was such a surprise, and yet her Joy was so pure it brought me to tears! As we continued our greetings, Salva shared her testimony of accepting Jesus fully into her heart and living in relationship with Him. The fruit of that intimacy was obvious in the joyful nature within her family as we spent the afternoon celebrating the birthdays and Jesus’ love.
It did not matter where we were, how many flies swarmed the birthday cake or what smells occasionally floated by with a strong breeze. Nothing compares with Heaps of Joy, Love & Peace I found in Nueva Vida that first day!
May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit – Romans 15:13
One week from today, I return to Nicaragua and I have mixed emotions. Part of me can not contain the excitement, yet there is another part of me that feels anxious. It’s not a fear about safety and those physical aspects of the visit. It’s an anxiety of sharing in the suffering of those families and friends on Ometepe who have been adversely impacted by the civil unrest and economic crisis. Some of the questions that arise include: Will I be able to keep it together? How can I be a source of comfort if I become sad?
When I experience this type of anxiety, I know I can dig into The Word, meditation and the wisdom of my mentors. Recently, I’ve consulted advice from one of the world’s most recognized missionaries and Jesus lover, Mother Theresa. She shares it so wisely in No Greater Love, “when you feel in your own heart the suffering of Christ, remember the resurrection has to come. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of Christ risen.”
Wow! How could I so easily let myself get in the way and so easily forget the joy of the resurrection? It’s that simple, yet so hard to put into practice in our daily lives. Let’s keep pressing into it to together to find strength, so we may joyfully share His light and keep His commandment “Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” (John 15:12 NLT).