Church planting, Inspiration, Leadership, Lift Church, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Transplanting Cactus

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I recently planted three gorgeous little cacti for my bathroom windowsill. They came in tiny yellow plastic pots and I presumed it would take all of five minutes to transplant them to their new homes. My goal was the finished product you see on the left. Simple, eh? Some nice healthy soil, the perfectly sized pot, a sun-filled window ledge. For $10 each including the black ceramic, I was proud of myself for coming up with a cute, inexpensive, low maintenance idea.

What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to get my fat fingers around the edges of the pots in order to pull out the cactus and remove it. As I tried to reach for the little plant, I kept pricking my fingers. It seemed so fragile and small yet every time I tried to grab it, I would pull away in pain. I knew what was best for this little fellow: my cute K-Mart black pot. Not this ugly Bunnings temporary home. img_9965Yet, as the plant drew my blood, I almost ripped the little sucker straight from its roots trying to detach it from its former dwelling.

As a Pastor and leader, I often think about the environment, the soil if you will, of LIFT Church, where people are being planted. Jesus has a whole parable about the quality of soil and how something can flourish or die depending on the environment in which it’s planted.I feel a great responsibility to ensure our “soil” is full of nutrients, giving every opportunity for people to thrive.

However, planting these little cacti made me think more about the plant than the soil.

Each of us has a great personal responsibility to ensure we are not so prickly on the outside that God cannot guide us into the place where our roots can run deep.

I’ve witnessed hurting people hurt others unintentionally because of fear or insecurity. Some people stagnantly wilt in their current circumstances even though healthy soil awaits them only a few steps away. An unwillingness to allow God to grab hold of us causes us to die a slow spiritual death. People are as supple as succulents; and, I know my cacti could have lived quite some time in their flimsy yellow pots. That doesn’t mean it was the best choice for them, however. Just because you and I can survive despite ordinary, mediocre circumstances, doesn’t mean we should.

Our God wants us to have an abundant life.

img_9966Sadly, I’ve watched someone with outward beauty actually push people away, inhibiting her future growth. Soft and beautiful on the outside like like this little succulent on the left, but if anyone gets close enough to see past the gauzy exterior, ouch! We may not physically harm someone in order to keep them out, but harsh words or negativity drive others away. A defensive nature puts distance between us.

God can never wrap his loving arms around us if we rebuff him with our thorns. We might not even realise the repellent we have become because we have learnt to hide behind our brilliant bristles.

I believe God has a wonderful place for each of us to flourish if we allow him to move us. When we let Jesus soften our rough edges, he can grab hold of us completely. I don’t want God to have to pull away because my spurs have pushed him out. I don’t want to inhibit what he wants to do with me because my own personal pain manifests in spikes.

Let’s remind ourselves today of God’s beautiful promise in Psalm 92 and never allow the status quo to forbid our fruitful planting. Allowing God to gently move us, will only bring forth the beauty he has in store.

“Good people will prosper like palm trees, Grow tall like Lebanon cedars; transplanted to God’s courtyard, They’ll grow tall in the presence of God, lithe and green, virile still in old age” (Psalm 92:14 MSG).

Church planting, Inspiration, Leadership, Newcastle

Plucked or Planted?

treeMy community is strewn with uprooted trees and fallen branches after massive cyclonic storms ravaged our region last week. Trees have crushed cars, houses and power lines. I have been shocked to see massive gums lying sideways on the ground with their entire root balls exposed like this one in the photo I took at the end of my street. It’s like the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk came around and pulled up the trees like you and I would pull up a weed.

I couldn’t help but think of some of the beautiful tree imagery found in God’s word as my Facebook feed was bombarded with photos like mine. The Lord promises to make us “oaks of righteousness, displaying his splendour.” The righteous are also told we will flourish like a “palm tree” and a “cedar of Lebanon” bearing much fruit, even in old age.

I don’t know of any scriptures that refer to our beloved Australian Eucalyptus trees or of any reference to 3 metre trees being unstable and easily moved. So, I set out to do some research intending to make a correlation between trees with strong roots versus weak ones and how they might relate to us spiritually.

Much to my creative dismay, I found out all of these trees have amazingly strong roots. I mean, some go down as deep as the tree is tall. Some hardwoods have tap roots digging metres into the ground. Roots can extend sideways as far out as the canopy of leaves above the ground.

Oak trees need little water or fertiliser once their roots are established. Gum trees thrive in wet areas as their roots rest in the upper layers of the soil. Palm trees have roots that regenerate and continually jut out from all angles acting as anchors and feeders for the trees.

The roots of trees are so strong they can crack foundations of houses, lift up concrete walkways, and kill off every other living thing nearby as they take nutrients and water from the soil. No wonder God uses them as similes all throughout the Word as he paints a picture of our strength and glory in his eyes!

So, my question remains – how did these massive Eucalyptus trees in the Hunter fall over with their roots and soil in tact as if I personally transplanted them from a pot and laid them down to await their next home?

The ground around the tree became totally saturated with rainfall, making the tree vulnerable. Then, winds upwards of 100km/hr blew, ripping them out of the ground as easily as you or I could pick a daisy in our back yard. (I’m no arborist so please excuse my simplistic explanation for the sake of your personal growth and inspiration!).

I want to remain firmly planted when the storms of life rage against me, never allowing them to uproot my faith or my view of God and his steadfast care for me.

Unlike a giant gum tree who has no preference or say in where he is planted, we have the privilege of choosing in which soil we place ourselves, how much we are watered and fertilised as well as how much input we receive from the SON (pun intended).

Psalm 92:13 says those who are planted “IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD” will FLOURISH.

I’m a church planter, so it goes without saying I’m passionate about the church. It’s what Jesus says he’s coming back for, his bride; it’s to whom most of the New Testament was written; it’s the hope of the world to bring communities together and to care for those in need; it’s where we teach and instruct; it’s a house of prayer and a place of worship to our God.

Not being PLANTED in good healthy soil as a believer is like telling that gum tree to grow on the sandy shores of Redhead Beach. Or, expecting it to flourish in a car park with concrete all around, poor drainage, and pipes cutting into the roots underneath. No one would think that’s sane! We must find the nutrient rich soil of a local church and stick ourselves in it if we want to flourish.

We must care for the soil and keep it watered by serving and building relationships. Let us never over saturate with self-doubt, fear or judgement of those around us who are doing their best to thrive too. We must stand tall in the face of trials, sending out our roots for Living Water that nourishes and protects. We have to find comfort in the canopy of other believers, knowing there is protection when we aren’t isolated and exposed.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-9