Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Feed The Tree

We have a pretty large tree in our front yard that, after some inspection, we suspected had some termite damage. After a few seconds of panic, I called a plant guy to ask how to get rid of the wood-eating pests. I wanted to save our tree but, even more importantly, I didn’t want wood-eating insects setting up permanent residence near my house!

According to this friend, one of the best ways to keep termites out is to keep my tree healthy. A dry, damaged, or dying tree attracts the pests, who crave the dried wood. They don’t actually eat healthy trees. We got to work watering, fertilizing, and removing dead branches. 


This same method could be applied to the heart. To protect your heart, and avoid certain things that erode your well-being and spiritual health, you can focus on growing rather than avoiding. Filling rather than emptying. Sometimes, when we are faced with something that needs to change in our lives, we spend an incredible amount of energy trying to eliminate.


If I realize I have an addiction to social media, I just try to stay off social media. If I realize some of my friends influence me to make poor choices, I either fight the peer pressure or avoid the friends. If I realize I am spending every evening of a stressful week watching hours of television or drinking too much wine, I try to just cut it out. ‘Just say no’ works for a season. Well, not even a season. More like, the first couple of tries. Ultimately, what I have learned is that what I put IN is much more important than what I take OUT. 


Philippians 4:8 tells us Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

When we spend our time thinking, reading, participating, doing such things as listed above, we will have little time for the less noble fillers. This is feeding the tree. Feed your heart the word of God. Spend time watering it through prayer and healthy relationships. Replace endless scrolling on your social media of choice with painting, learning an instrument, playing a game with a friend. Let’s not focus on eliminating things from our lives. Let’s focus on putting the right things in…and lots of it! 


Here’s an additional challenge. When it comes to words, sometimes it takes more positive words to fill than it takes negative words to erode. As we begin to grow the trees of our spirits, by filling our lives with the admirable and praiseworthy, we will change the language we use with ourselves and our people. Know that growth takes time. The leaves of a tree will not grow after a single watering session.


It seems like relationships and progress in certain areas can be demolished with one unfiltered phrase or one lapse in judgment. But take heart! God is with us, and is full of Grace for us. Have grace for yourself and those around you. Keep growing your tree by keeping it full of good. Eventually there will be less and less space for the pests.  


Candace Cortez,

Executive Pastor

Monday, July 13, 2020

It’s not too late!

I’m just going to throw this out there. I am not an organized person. I am late, I lose things, and I often don’t have a solid to-do list. I am pretty envious of people who have a system in place for all the areas of their lives. I am more ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ and troubleshoot as things come my way. Good thing I have the spiritual gift of flexibility!

Because of my lack of organization, I find myself returning home because I forgot one more thing. My kids actually play a game, as I come back in the house, that involves guessing what it is that I forgot: my phone, my laptop charger, my wallet, or my coffee. We live in a pretty small town, so nine times out of ten, I will come back home for any of the above items because it’s not too late.

If we are heading to the coast, however, there is a point where I draw the line. It’s too far to go back for that one last thing. It’s not worth the distance traveled and the time it would cost to acquire that forgotten item. Now this line is different depending on the item. If it’s my coffee, I simply drive through somewhere and pick up a different coffee. Not a deal breaker at all. If I’m traveling and it’s my passport, that would be an entirely different story.

During this crazy season we live in, there are so many issues to wade through. How do you feel about COVID-19, about the government shutdowns, about church closures, and about wearing masks in public? How do you feel about what happened to George Floyd, about de-funding law enforcement, and about systemic racism? How do you feel about kids going to school with masks on, or churches being asked not to sing?

So many of these things are in addition to all of the normal issues a person living in a community goes through. The balance of work and parenting, working out a marriage or dating, trying to figure out where you will go to school or if your retirement will work out, taking care of your body and mind, and how to live life well while answering the call on your life to serve others…the list goes on!

I want to encourage you today, not everything can hold priority at the same level, and that’s OK. Not all of these issues are “passport” issues. Some of the things in your life can be sidelined while you deal with the main issues in your world. For some of these things, if you deal with them tomorrow, it’s not too late! You do not have to fix the world or solve every problem today.

God has given each of us a lifetime, and each of those lifetimes are in a piece of God’s larger plan of restoration. So keep the following in mind: 

  • It's not too late to learn! Just because I don’t know exactly how I feel today about particular issue doesn’t mean I can’t work it out. I can also change my mind depending on new insight or experiences. 
  • It’s not too late to change your heart. Healing often comes in stages and the hurts or issues we deal with do not have to be for our entire lives. God wants to restore you personally. There are pieces from my childhood that the Lord is still working on within me and I am so glad that He hasn’t given up on me yet! 
  • It’s OK to let some things slide while you keep the deal breaker things alive. It would not make sense to be scrubbing your floors while your kitchen is on fire! Some issues become like a fire in your life and you need to bring those before Jesus first. That is OK!
  • Everyone’s house is at a different place of restoration.

Be blessed today. Know that it’s never too late for God to do a work in your life. He always wants you to turn to Him. No matter what you have done or how far you have run, it’s never too late to run back to Jesus!

Candace Cortez 
Executive Pastor at Koinonia Church