Jackson 5 Friday: Knocking It Out

My husband is one of the most efficient human beings on earth.  He can talk extremely fast, read extremely fast, clean the kitchen in the wink of an eye, and edit my blog (adding commas to make it actually readable) in about thirty-seconds.  He’s amazing.

But he has a brain that requires mapping out the day.  The minute he wakes up, a minute to minute calendar starts to form.  We could not be more different in this regard.  If I have any semblance of a schedule for the day it is always subject to change, always.  So you can imagine the conversations that we have.

Will: “How’s your day shaping up?”

Me:  “I have no idea past taking the boys to school.  How bout you?”

Will then spews out fifteen things that he intends to do in a specified order over the next twelve hours, and then he will proceed to do them.

Our son, Will, is aptly named because he has this same disposition.  He wants to know in advance what the plan is, and he intends for us to keep it.  Poor guy.  His little brain just isn’t as flexible as mine, as Nate’s and I think Sam’s.

So the other night when we spent the night at Will’s work, he was very concerned about when we would be picking up the new minivan.

As soon as I saw him (he’d just spent almost four hours in the car coming a distance of three miles), he wanted to know what the plan was.  He didn’t want to lament the ride or marvel at how I had scaled a wall.  He just wanted clarity on the plan for the next day.

Little Will: “When are we going to get the minivan?”

Me: “I don’t know.  We’ll see.”

Little Will: “Well, when Dad get’s off work, I think we should just go get it then.”

Me: “Well, we’re not.”

Little Will: “Why not?  I think that’s the best plan — to just knock it out.”

This totally cracked me up, because knocking things out is just a part of being a Will Jackson.  Forces have combined to make him — this incredible, beautiful, hilarious, intelligent,  hard-working child–an efficiency-minded, knock-it-out kind of guy.  Both nature and nurture have made Will who he is, yet I believe nature is the primary and heavily dominant factor.

I’d estimate that nature is 97.5% of being a knock-it-out person, and that’s why the other 60% of the Jackson 5 is hopelessly wedded to “we’ll see.”

Theological Thursday: Giving Thanks in Gridlock

Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of my life, and nearing its end I praised Jesus for a bathroom like never before.  I do not mean this with any hint of sarcasm or irreverence.  I mean I praised Him from the bottom of my heart.

On Tuesday, I rear-ended someone and since my minivan was almost nine years old with more than one-hundred-thirty thousand miles, we decided it was time to put her down.  I spent much of yesterday morning surfing the web for deals, reading minivan reviews, talking to my insurance people, calling my friend, Tea, at the Honda dealership (who has almost sold us a new Odyssey on two different occasions), and crunching numbers.  Yesterday also happened to be our friends, the Bradshaws, last day in the DC area.  Since they lived less than a mile from us, we will miss them tremendously.  Their son, Jackson (8), is the perfect in-between buddy for Will and Nate.  They have played together for years, but they have solidified their great love for one another recently with a mutual obsession over footballs cards and a never-ending discussion of who is or will be in the Hall of Fame.

The big boys went out to lunch with the Bradshaws and Sam and I stayed home until Will got home from work at about 1:30pm.  Then I took the banged up minivan to the repair shop, where they essentially said, “yes, no one would fix this.”  I could’ve just left it there, but I decided, “heck, it’s not even three o’clock, I’ll take it and go look at the Sienna before I go get the Odyssey.”  So I drove the smashed up, light dangling van to the Toyota dealership up the road.  Now, it was supposed to start snowing like at 4pm and Will had to be at work at 7pm.  And I was maybe six miles from home.  So I drove the Sienna, decided on the Sienna (based on these factors: 90% price; 9% placement of USB (it’s inexplicably in the glove compartment on the Odyssey); 1% it’s better looking than the Odyssey (it goes without saying that all minivans are hideous so I’m talking about a very slim preference).

I called my brother-in-law, Bob, to run the deal by him, and with his expertise behind me I felt good about the decision.  Yet by the time the paperwork was done there was three inches on the ground and it 5:20 pm.  Since Will had worked all morning and was working overnight, he was napping with Sammy through all this minivan buying.  I then decided I did not want to drive the brand new minivan home because it was looking bad out there and DC drivers are notoriously bad in anything less than pristine conditions.  So my salesman, being a saintly man, and not guessing all that he was signing up for, agreed to take me home.  We just needed to drop the old minivan off at the “repair” shop, it’s final destination.

Fahim and I headed out.  It took forty-five minutes or so to travel the two miles to the repair shop and although things looked pretty bleak, I still had not a clue what was about to happen.  I got in the car with Fahim and talked to Will on the phone.

“Geez oh Pete’s!   This is ridiculous.  I might have to meet you at work.”  And after a few more minutes it was clear that Will would need to pack up the boys and head to work (three miles from home), and Fahim would take me there instead, which would be a little closer for him too.  After another half hour or so we ended up in front of a Chick-Ooh-Lay.  Fahim was hungry and I was thirsty, so we hit the drive-thru.  I ordered plenty of food for my whole family.

For hours, we mostly did not move.  When we turned off Route 50 and rolled continuously for more than three feet, it was euphoric.  But then we turned on Route 29, and I was starting to feel sort of panicked, and the more we sat there the more it felt like it would never end, that I would never, ever get out of Fahim’s car.  Stopping at Chick-Ooh-Lay, is always, always the right choice (see this post from last Friday), but drinking a large Diet Coke when you are stuck in traffic with someone you’ve never met for hours and hours is questionable.  For most of the trip I felt like I was about to wet my pants.   As I sat there with Fahim, Lisa Nowak’s planning seemed brilliant and entirely reasonable.  Fahim offered to pull over, to somehow park the car to ensure privacy.  As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.

Finally as we exited the Beltway back onto Route 50 and merged up to Gallows, I just could NOT TAKE ANOTHER SECOND OF IT.  We were stopped and it was clear we were going to be stopped for another twenty minutes or so.  Beside us were stores — a Starbucks even.  What separated us was a wall about four or five feet high and a fence on top the wall.  The fence was probably six feet tall.  I decided that I had to exit Fahim’s car, scale the wall, climb the fence and use the bathroom awaiting me on the other side.  It looked daunting but I could not sit there one more minute.  So I hopped out and as I examined the fence, I saw an opening.  Yes, it was not big, but I could surely squeeze through.  Now, all I had to do was scale the wall.  Ah, but it was hard (and oh by the way, it was blizzard conditions at that time and I had no coat, no hat and no gloves).  I prayed, please God let me be able to climb this wall, and then I spotted a street sign that had sort of a tri-pod like base near the wall.  Perhaps I could use that as leverage to climb the wall.  It worked perfectly.  Ahh, what victory to be on top of that wall!  But now I was about twenty-five feet from the opening in the fence.  So I had to scoot along the wall, hanging on to the fence to make my way over to the opening.  (I need to go take pictures of this!).

I squeezed through the opening and praising Jesus (literally) every step of the way I walked over to Starbucks.  Just as I was approaching the power flicked off, and Starbucks was already closed anyway.  But next door was Pho Cyclo (a Vietnamese restaurant the boys and I like).  I entered, covered in snow like some kind of deranged loon, and proceeded through the dark restaurant toward what would surely be a pitch black bathroom.  But the lights came back on halfway there, and a bewildered waiter asked, “Take out order?”  I just mumbled something like “oh, on the way out, on the way  out!”

And I did order a Thai iced tea on my way out, because I had to order something!  Then I met up with Fahim again in the parking lot (and he must have wondered why in the world after all that did I have a new beverage in hand!).  I retrieved the Chick-Ooh-Lay from his car and bid him adieu.  We’d spent more than three hours together talking about everything from faith to the NFL, from having kids to having heart attacks, from vocations to vacations, and I was totally awed by his patience and grace.  So please let me know if you are in the market for a new Toyota!

Then I walked to Will’s work from there, which is really just a matter of crossing a parking lot and a single street — although it did seem a little longer without a coat.  Will and the boys arrived at about 10:30pm — it had taken them nearly four hours to go three miles.  The four of us slept in his office, while he worked.  It was like a bring your family to work night for the nocturnally employed.

The Bible says “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  I’ve never given thanks for a bathroom like I did for Pho Cyclo’s.  I’ve never given thanks for being able to greet my family after a three mile trip like I did last night.

The snow is already melting yet may my heart of gratitude not soon fade!

Testimony Tuesday: Tom Tarrants

Since it is such a powerful story, I thought I’d re-post Tom’s testimony for one more week:

Will and I know Tom Tarrants through the C.S. Lewis Institute where he served as president from 1998 to 2010.  As of last May, Tom handed the leadership reins over to our dear friend, Kerry Knott, and is now more focused on teaching and discipleship through the Institute.  Tom has given me permission to share his testimony here on the blog.  To prepare I have listened to a CD of his testimony given in 2008 and also read his amazing book, The Conversion of a Klansman: The Story of a Former Ku Klux Klan Terrorist.  Although the book is now out of print, you may be able to find a used copy online (as Will did for me last Christmas) and I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  This short post cannot possibly do justice to the full power of Tom’s story and the change that Jesus made in his life.

I remember the first time I laid eyes on Tom Tarrants in May of 2005.  I did not know a single thing about him, and he was introducing Ravi Zacharias at a conference I was attending.  I could tell then that Tom had a gentle spirit about him, and this was confirmed when I met him a few weeks later as I interviewed for the Institute’s Fellows Program.  Again, he came across as kind, straight-laced and grace-filled.  So you can understand how very surprised I was to learn his story.  Now, more than five years later, I am struck by what an impact this man and his ministry has had on my family.  Will and I are so proud to count him as a friend, and so grateful to have learned so much through Tom and the C.S. Lewis Institute.

Tom was raised in Mobile, Alabama.  He was taken to church as a boy and made a confession of faith at 13 and was baptized.  But Tom says that only one thing in his life changed after this “conversion”: he no longer feared going to hell.   During the rise of the civil rights movement, Tom was in high school.  He was opposed to integration efforts and fueled his initial anger by reading racist and anti-Semitic literature.  By the time he was twenty-one years old, he was involved in a terrorist organization called the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and his heart was full of hatred.

On June 29, 1968 Tom and an associate from the White Knights terrorist cell were planting a bomb at the home of a successful Jewish businessman in Meridian, Mississippi.  But things did not go as planned.  A police SWAT team, working with the FBI, was waiting.  The gun battle and chase that ensued killed his associate and left a police officer hit with three rounds, one to the heart.  Tom was near death, with four gunshot wounds, two of which were at point-blank range.  When he arrived at the hospital, doctors said it would be a miracle if he lived forty-five minutes.

But Tom did live, making an inexplicable recovery.  He was then convicted and sentenced to thirty years in prison.  But this did not change him.  It took about six months for Tom to plan and execute a successful escape plan with a few other prisoners.  At their hideout, they took turns keeping watch.  A few days after their escape, one of the guys relieved Tom about a half hour early from his shift as the look-out.  Five minutes later gunfire broke out.  The FBI had found them, this man was killed, and Tom knew that it should’ve been him.

Upon recapture, Tom spent the next three years of his life in a 6 x 9 cell.  To keep his mind engaged, Tom turned to books.  He started with the likes of Hitler’s Mein Kampfand then moved on to classical philosophy.  Eventually he felt drawn to read the Gospels.  Tom had read the Bible before, but this time he understood what he was reading.  After a few weeks of reading, Tom got down on his knees in that 6×9 cell and gave his life to Jesus Christ.

Obviously, Tom had more time than most to read, and so he immersed himself in God’s Word for hours each day.  He prayed and wanted to serve God, and he felt God working to change his heart.  In the prologue to his book he wrote:

I was overcome with a sense of my sinfulness — not just for prejudice, hatred, and political violence, but for my whole life-style.  All my life I had been living for myself–what pleased me, made me feel good, made me look good to others.  The feelings, needs, desires of other people were always secondary to what I wanted.  Indeed, the whole world revolved around me and this showed itself in the outward sins of my life.

As I came to see myself as I really was–as God saw me — I was crushed, and I wept bitterly.  How hideous and wretched I was.  Then, seeing my need so clearly and knowing there was only One who could meet it, I surrendered myself to the Lord Jesus Christ as fully as I knew how.  A tremendous weight was lifted from me, and I began to feel at peace at last.

You may have never been a terrorist or known the loneliness of a prison cell.  You may not have served eight years in prison like Tom Tarrants did, but do you know you’re a sinner just the same?  And do you know the peace Tom describes?  Because Jesus has His arms wide open for you.  He wants to take all your burdens.  He wants to lift the weight you are carrying around, whatever it is.  Maybe it’s bitterness or an inability to forgive.  Maybe it’s the ball and chain of meaninglessness.  Maybe it’s the crushing weight of living life without the security of love.  Maybe it’s debilitating fear.  Whatever it is, Jesus wants to take it, and in return, give you peace.

More than any other person I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, Tom is living proof that Jesus Christ changes lives.  I’m praying that Tom’s incredible story is an inspiration to many and that even this week more lives are changed because of this wonderful man of God.

Again, I highly recommend tracking down his book because it tells so well the transformation of this man’s heart and how many people were praying for him and investing in him.  The relationships that Tom experienced in the years that followed are inspiring examples of reconciliation and redemption.  I’m also hoping that Tom will write a follow up book and share what God has done in him and through him in the thirty-four years since his release from prison.

With everything going on in the world today, Tom’s testimony is an apt and vivid reminder that nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 18: 27).

Jackson 5 Friday: Chick-Ooh-Lay and the Perfect Two-Day Vacation

A few months back my family traveled to Michigan for a weddding that occurred on a Friday. We left on a Thursday and came home Saturday morning.  It was like spending a weekend away and then coming home for a weekend.  It was fantastic..  And so we are repeating that grand little scheme again.  Yesterday we drove three hours from home to ski and tonight, we’ll drive home.  We got a great deal, are avoiding the weekend crowds, and we’ll be home for the weekend.  I feel like I’ve struck gold in my own backyard with this double-weekend game-plan.

Yesterday morning we started out numerous times because I forgot Sammy’s coat and because Will kept forgetting whether or not he’d closed the garage door.  It made me laugh to think about what our neighbors might have thought if they saw all of us in the minivan coming and going and coming and going and coming and going between six-thirty and seven.

Then we stopped at a Chick-Fil-A in Cumberland, Maryland for breakfast.  Cumberland looks exactly like Allentown, PA and if you’ve never been to Allentown, you could probably just listen to the Billy Joel song and get a rough idea of the general spirit of the town, which is to say, it’s had better days.  Far better days.  But there’s something sweet and also sorrowful about seeing such a town, with its steep hills, remnants of enterprise and its steeple row — Cumberland has church after church, with spire after spire.  But my whole family loves Chick-Fil-A, most of all my husband and my Sammy.  Will loves the food.  Sammy loves the slide.  In fact, Sammy can spot a “Chick-Ooh-Lay”–as he calls it — a mile away.  So he got his few trips down the slide before we hit the slopes!

Upon arrival we got all three boys decked out in their gear and ready to go, which seems to take about sixteen hours and burns roughly 4,000 calories.  But of course it’s well worth it.  We put Sammy right in ski school and skied a few runs with the big boys before feeding them lunch and putting them in their afternoon lesson.  Then Will and I took a few runs by ourselves which feels to me like the most wonderful, most extravagant date in the world.  The isolation, beauty and quiet of a chairlift is a special thing, and I love that totally uninterrupted time of conversation and contemplation with my man.

Then we tried to have a nice lunch together  We went into the lodge and looked over the menu.  We decided that I’d get a cup of chili and a soft pretzel and he’d get the gyro, and then we’d share.  Yes, I know it sounds like something my grandparents would do, but we can’t help it, we’ve been married 1.5 decades.

But wonder of wonders as we stood there waiting to order, the woman behind the counter asked the girl in front of us (evidently also an employee): “Do you like the gyro?”  We did not hear the response, but the sour-faced questioner went on to comment, “Ughh.  I don’t know what it is about it.  I just can’t get past the smell!” Then another co-worker concurred with the first by acting like she was going to be sick.

I mean what are the chances?  I felt so blessed not to order the gyro!  After that we were quite content with two brick-like pretzels and a cup of watery chili.

Perhaps it’s obvious, but we left the resort for dinner.  In short, slopes — five out of five stars.  Food — half a star, maybe.

Morals: (1) Plan a two day, mid-week getaway.  It can be more of a vacation that you’d think; and (2) Always, always stop at Chick-Ooh-Lay!

Testimony Tuesday: Tom Tarrants

Will and I know Tom Tarrants through the C.S. Lewis Institute where he served as president from 1998 to 2010.  As of last May, Tom handed the leadership reins over to our dear friend, Kerry Knott, and is now more focused on teaching and discipleship through the Institute.  Tom has given me permission to share his testimony here on the blog.  To prepare I have listened to a CD of his testimony given in 2008 and also read his amazing book, The Conversion of a Klansman: The Story of a Former Ku Klux Klan Terrorist.  Although the book is now out of print, you may be able to find a used copy online (as Will did for me last Christmas) and I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  This short post cannot possibly do justice to the full power of Tom’s story and the change that Jesus made in his life.

I remember the first time I laid eyes on Tom Tarrants in May of 2005.  I did not know a single thing about him, and he was introducing Ravi Zacharias at a conference I was attending.  I could tell then that Tom had a gentle spirit about him, and this was confirmed when I met him a few weeks later as I interviewed for the Institute’s Fellows Program.  Again, he came across as kind, straight-laced and grace-filled.  So you can understand how very surprised I was to learn his story.  Now, more than five years later, I am struck by what an impact this man and his ministry has had on my family.  Will and I are so proud to count him as a friend, and so grateful to have learned so much through Tom and the C.S. Lewis Institute.

Tom was raised in Mobile, Alabama.  He was taken to church as a boy and made a confession of faith at 13 and was baptized.  But Tom says that only one thing in his life changed after this “conversion”: he no longer feared going to hell.   During the rise of the civil rights movement, Tom was in high school.  He was opposed to integration efforts and fueled his initial anger by reading racist and anti-Semitic literature.  By the time he was twenty-one years old, he was involved in a terrorist organization called the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and his heart was full of hatred.

On June 29, 1968 Tom and an associate from the White Knights terrorist cell were planting a bomb at the home of a successful Jewish businessman in Meridian, Mississippi.  But things did not go as planned.  A police SWAT team, working with the FBI, was waiting.  The gun battle and chase that ensued killed his associate and left a police officer hit with three rounds, one to the heart.  Tom was near death, with four gunshot wounds, two of which were at point-blank range.  When he arrived at the hospital, doctors said it would be a miracle if he lived forty-five minutes.

But Tom did live, making an inexplicable recovery.  He was then convicted and sentenced to thirty years in prison.  But this did not change him.  It took about six months for Tom to plan and execute a successful escape plan with a few other prisoners.  At their hideout, they took turns keeping watch.  A few days after their escape, one of the guys relieved Tom about a half hour early from his shift as the look-out.  Five minutes later gunfire broke out.  The FBI had found them, this man was killed, and Tom knew that it should’ve been him.

Upon recapture, Tom spent the next three years of his life in a 6 x 9 cell.  To keep his mind engaged, Tom turned to books.  He started with the likes of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and then moved on to classical philosophy.  Eventually he felt drawn to read the Gospels.  Tom had read the Bible before, but this time he understood what he was reading.  After a few weeks of reading, Tom got down on his knees in that 6×9 cell and gave his life to Jesus Christ.

Obviously, Tom had more time than most to read, and so he immersed himself in God’s Word for hours each day.  He prayed and wanted to serve God, and he felt God working to change his heart.  In the prologue to his book he wrote:

I was overcome with a sense of my sinfulness — not just for prejudice, hatred, and political violence, but for my whole life-style.  All my life I had been living for myself–what pleased me, made me feel good, made me look good to others.  The feelings, needs, desires of other people were always secondary to what I wanted.  Indeed, the whole world revolved around me and this showed itself in the outward sins of my life.

As I came to see myself as I really was–as God saw me — I was crushed, and I wept bitterly.  How hideous and wretched I was.  Then, seeing my need so clearly and knowing there was only One who could meet it, I surrendered myself to the Lord Jesus Christ as fully as I knew how.  A tremendous weight was lifted from me, and I began to feel at peace at last.

You may have never been a terrorist or known the loneliness of a prison cell.  You may not have served eight years in prison like Tom Tarrants did, but do you know you’re a sinner just the same?  And do you know the peace Tom describes?  Because Jesus has His arms wide open for you.  He wants to take all your burdens.  He wants to lift the weight you are carrying around, whatever it is.  Maybe it’s bitterness or an inability to forgive.  Maybe it’s the ball and chain of meaninglessness.  Maybe it’s the crushing weight of living life without the security of love.  Maybe it’s debilitating fear.  Whatever it is, Jesus wants to take it, and in return, give you peace.

More than any other person I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, Tom is living proof that Jesus Christ changes lives.  I’m praying that Tom’s incredible story is an inspiration to many and that even this week more lives are changed because of this wonderful man of God.

Again, I highly recommend tracking down his book because it tells so well the transformation of this man’s heart and how many people were praying for him and investing in him.  The relationships that Tom experienced in the years that followed are inspiring examples of reconciliation and redemption.  I’m also hoping that Tom will write a follow up book and share what God has done in him and through him in the thirty-four years since his release from prison.

With everything going on in the world today, Tom’s testimony is an apt and vivid reminder that nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 18: 27).

Jackson 5 Friday: The Affection of the Unaffectionate

My son, Nate, is anti-affection.  When people leave our house, he makes himself scarce.  I guess he thinks it’s just not worth the risk of being hugged or high-fived.  He’d prefer to just disappear when visitors act like it might be time to go.  And when we leave someone else’s house he’s the first one in the car.  It sure will be interesting to see what it’s like for “don’t touch me” Nate to be married!

Yet, thankfully, there are a few exceptions to his no-affection rule.  If I check on him after he goes to bed, he leans down from his top bunk and clings to my neck with such a firm grasp that I worry he’ll fall right out of bed.   Needless to say, I check on him often.

On Wednesday we went skiing at Whitetail in Pennsylvania.  It is like a hundred miles from our house and it is awesome.  I mean it’s not Alta awesome, but the idea that we can drive there in less than two hours makes it awesome enough for me.  The boys have both declared that Wednesday was the windiest day of their entire lives.  And I think it may have been the windiest day of my entire life.   We have gear to beat the band — balaclavas and fuzzy, warm padded helmets, ski coats and goggles, gloves and pants.  But we were still cold.

So guess who wanted to cuddle all the way up the mountain?  That’s right, Nate.  It almost melted away the frustration of the lift stopping four chairs from the top and being whipped around like a flag on the top of Everest, which seemed to be a component of every trip up.  But the affection of the unaffectionate is special, isn’t it?  Nate cuddling is a special treat and I relish every second of it.

1 John 3:18 says “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  Nate is not going to shower me with flowery language or frequent kisses, yet his uncommon affection has an authenticity that is very affirming.

It makes me think about my own authenticity?  Do I love with actions and in truth?  Or am I too full of words and lacking in deeds?  And does my affection mean something like Nate’s does?

How about you?  How does John’s warning about loving with mere words make you feel?

Theological Thursdays: Soil Charades

As I’ve mentioned before I teach a Bible study for elementary-aged children.  We are studying the Gospel of Matthew and this past week we were on Chapter 13.  After we went through our lesson we played Soil Charades.  One by one I took children outside and told them to go back in acting out a specific soil.  This was fun, but short-lived because this amazing group of kids know the soils so well.

One child acted out throwing seeds along the ground and then morphed into a bird pecking up the seed.  This represents people who are told the truth of the Gospel but do not understand it.

One child acted out the seed falling into the crevice of the rock.  The child sprang up like a healthy plant, but then quickly withered.  This represents people who hear the word and receive it with joy.  “But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” (13:22)

Another child acted out the seed that grew among the thorns.  The child sprang up happily and grew for a moment.  But then the thorns started to choke them out.  Jesus explained that this represents a person who hears and understands the Gospel, but lets “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

The last soil had a masterful and darling actress.  She sprung up from the seed with enthusiasm, and to represent her fruitfulness she kept popping up her little arms like new growth over and over, smiling her big beautiful smile the whole time.  Jesus explained that this represents the person who hears the word, understands it, and produces a huge crop.

Jesus gave us such vivid pictures that it is hard for us to miss His point.  I think if we take a moment to reflect honestly, we all know what kind of soil we are.  And we all know that the best soil requires the work of the Spirit to root out weeds, worries and thorns.  Reading the Bible, praying, living in biblical community, serving others, obeying God’s Word, these are all good things — wonderful things that would never impair the fertility of your soil, but I think this passage also has two very specific take-aways.

First of all, we should be testing our soil periodically.  We need to take a look at our spiritual condition now and then to see what can grow in our hearts and lives.  Materialism chokes out growth, as does worry.  Good soil requires an eternal perspective.

Secondly, this passage is a reminder that we should be praying specifically for the right soil.  We should ask for eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to understand, and a yieldedness to God’s will, not just for ourselves but for every person in our lives.

So, whose soil can you pray for right now?