Soil Toil

Image by mwahl from Pixabay

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. –Psalm 95:7–8 NIV

Every year when it’s time to plant our garden, my husband works hard to prepare the soil for the seeds.

First he plows, turning the hardened earth over and under. Then he tills it, breaking up tough clumps of sod and removing the rocks that rise to the surface with the churning—and there are buckets full still, after forty years. Then he works lime and fertilizer in the loose soil with the tiller—and, of course, removes more rocks.

Only when the soil is loose and porous, and boosted with nutrients necessary for plant growth does he drop in the seeds.

Even then his soil toil is far from over. Throughout the growing season, he must keep working it, tilling it to keep it loose and soft, plucking those endless rocks, pulling weeds, and periodically adding more lime and fertilizer.

After every hard rain, the soil hardens again, more rocks appear, and he must hoe around the growing plants so the nutrients they need to grow could filter through to the roots. And, of course, pick rocks.

Even after the harvest the work isn’t done. Plowing the whole thing under allows the decaying plants to add more nutrients to the soil over the winter.

Then, the following spring, he starts all over. The ground always needs work.

Just like our souls. We need a lot of work, too—over and over. The work is never done on this earth.

It all starts with a hardened heart that cannot accept the seed. To get our attention, God often turns our lives upside-down, breaking up tough clumps of stubbornness and rebellion. Then, to soften our hearts even more, He keeps things churned up until we are submissive and workable. Rocks of selfishness and willfulness, which crop up daily, must be removed. Storms of life also tend to bring them to the surface.

But the seed needs nutrition to grow, and too many idle years result in a depleted soul, fallow and barren. To remedy this, the lime of prayer and the fertilizer of fellowship with more mature Christians must be applied—by the bagful.

But we’re not ready to produce a harvest yet, are we? Those weeds of worldliness must be carefully twisted out of our hearts, where their roots reach deep, leeching the nutrients and choking the tendrils of spiritual life.

Only after all this toil—plowing, tilling, hoeing, rock plucking, fertilizing, watering, weeding—can our soil-soul support growth and eventually produce a harvest.

But there is never, really, any one type of soil, is there? Perhaps that’s why I’ve always had trouble answering the question, “What kind of soil are you?”

I am not one type of soil, you see. I am all of them.

Dear God, thank You that soil can be changed. Thank You for changing me—little by little, rock by rock, weed by weed. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 13:3–9, 18–23.

From God, Me, and a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3, © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Contact me @ michelethuey@gmail.com if you wish to use this.

A Little Leaven, A Lotta Heaven

“The kingdom of God is within you.” –Jesus, as quoted in Luke 17:21 NKJV

Friday night at our house is-pizza-and-a-movie night. It began when the youngest left for college, and my husband and I ate out at a local pizzeria. Eventually our date night morphed into dining on frozen pizza at home. After a while frozen pizza lost its appeal, and I rooted around in my recipe box and retrieved my old pizza dough recipe.

Years ago I learned the secret of making good pizza dough. It’s in the kneading. First I dissolve the yeast in warm water. Warm, not hot, because hot will kill the yeast. Then I add the sugar, salt, and oil, mixing it well so the yeast, sugar, and salt dissolve. Then I add about half the flour, mixing it with a wooden spoon until it’s just past the gooey stage.

Then I knead in the rest of the flour by one-half cupfuls—and I don’t pay attention to the recipe! I pay attention to the dough. I’m done adding flour when the dough is just past being sticky, soft like a baby’s behind, and springs back when I lightly indent it with my finger. I rarely use all the flour the recipe calls for.

Now, you’re asking, what does this have to do with the kingdom of heaven? Everything. You see, Jesus spent a lot of time teaching the people about the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, using analogies of things they understood so they would grasp what He was trying to tell them.

“The kingdom of heaven,” He said once, “is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33 GW). The kingdom of heaven is like yeast.

The older versions use the word “leaven.” Leaven, according to my trusty Webster’s, is “any influence spreading through something and working on it to bring a gradual change.” In bread dough, the leaven causes it to rise and gives it a delectable flavor. Ever eat bread that failed to rise? It’s useless, isn’t it? Fit only for the trashcan.

In this world, the leaven is the kingdom of heaven, or the rule of God over all who accept and submit to Him (see John 3:3,5). In each believer, the leaven is the words of the Master, found in Scripture, that gradually spread through our minds and hearts, transforming us, transforming our lives, ever so gradually.

First, though, the leaven must be added carefully then worked through the dough of our lives. Just like bread dough, the secret is in the kneading. Ever knead dough? It takes time and patience—and just the right touch—not too heavy and not too light.

God is the one who kneads His Word through our lives. If you’re dough being kneaded, though, it doesn’t feel too good to be twisted and turned and folded and pushed and pulled. But the Master knows what He’s doing. He’s not following a recipe because we are individual lumps, each needing a different touch, a different amount of flour to be added, and a different amount of kneading time. The Master works us until we’re pliable, soft, resilient—not too sticky or gooey and not too dry or tough. Then He sets us aside for a while for the leaven to do its work.

But we’re still not ready. Like bread dough, we must be punched down, worked again, shaped, and left alone, covered with a soft cloth, so that the leaven can finish its work. It’s a long process.

Child of God, are you being kneaded? Don’t despair. Just remember—a little bit of leaven, worked just right into the dough of your soul, means a whole a lot of heaven.

Dear God, thank You for kneading me in the way I need to be kneaded. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 13:33 and Luke 17:20–21.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Photo courtesy of ABSFreePic.com.