Weed out sin, Backyard jungle of weeds

Weed out sin

Weed out sin Hurricane Ian
Hurricane Ian changed our backyard features to a crond — where our creek fused with our pond. Standing on our back deck, I felt like I was on Noah’s ark.

I have had a lot of interaction with weeds thanks to having a small jungle in our backyard.  We bought a house in Central Florida on a creek where the backyard had been “let go.” We tore through the canopy of vines, pulled a bajillion weeds several times and laid nice sod which, a year later, was blanketed in a couple feet of sand thanks to the 500-year flood that came with Hurricane Ian. The sand lasted several months giving us quasi beach conditions until spring came and sprouted a nice crop of weeds. Ian also decided for us that it was time to replace our 40-year-old decaying deck.

Prepping our yard for its makeover is when I spent hours and hours with weeds and discovered they are actually fascinating, offering a palette of personalities.  I am not interested in their scientific or even common names, but in their characteristics. They come in every size and personality imaginable — tall, wide, ground huggers and some that leave you with “gifts.”

My experience with them inspired me to write about how I see our lives played out in nature. Weeds are something that is not desired, which reminds me of sin. Like weeds, sin comes in so many forms. We need to recognize that in order to have a nice lawn that is pleasing and representative of a Christ-filled life, we need to clear out the undesirable, dark parts of our lives.

Tall and terrifying

The first kind of weeds are the ones that are most noticeable. They are tall and a bit terrifying, like substance abuse, adultery, physical violence, etc. For the most part, the world agrees that they are easily tagged as sins. Taking one of those babies out, makes a huge difference in your life.

Take out the easy ones

Then there are those that are very bushy and super easy to pull out.  Those are great because even though they literally take a square foot of space, with one easy pull, you clear a satisfying piece of ground.  Think of something you can grab hold of out of your life and it makes such a difference. This isn’t always easy to identify, but if you are feeling stressed, you have the “busy” quality.  Maybe it’s clearing up some time for others, like getting off social media and helping your neighbor or co-worker.  Or giving some time to fellowship with God, tune in to the Holy Spirit or reflect on Jesus’ love for us.  Suddenly, you feel lighter because time does not have a grip on you: It no longer hijacks your productivity. Maybe it’s getting rid of something that costs you money that you really don’t need. Now your budget is freer so you can pay off debt, save, give a little more to charity or others who are financially struggling.

Weed out sin sneaky snake weed
Some weeds snake along the ground, going unnoticed as the take root again and again.

Sneaky snakes

The ground huggers are the most menacing! They lay low and run, trying to stay inconspicuous, but very effective. They reroot and keep going and going. These sins are not identifiable on the surface, but they do lead to unsettled living. They may be lying to others, gossiping, unintentional bragging, jealousy, quiet prejudices, really anything that isn’t too glaring or that the world doesn’t deem overtly wrong.   These sins can subtly rule your life to where you don’t let loving others in.  They can crawl into your children, affecting your family for many, many generations (sins of our fathers).  It can also infiltrate any group — friends, coworkers, neighbors, even a nation.  In weeding, these are definitely the hardest for me to deal with.

Bombs

In Central Florida, we have an invasive plant known as the air potato.  They are vines that have big heart-shaped leaves, climb up trees and produce fruit — potatoes that grow along the vine and fall to the ground to start another plant.  This models the sin that drops a bomb — it feels like it comes out of nowhere!  The leaves are attractive, heart-shaped, easy to look at.  However, they climb and choke out a tree and keep dropping more sin — the potatoes — to spread it’s vileness.  The sins that come to mind are lust and greed.  Maybe you look at someone you are attracted to, but know it couldn’t possibly go anywhere or cause you to sin, but you give it a opening to come into your life and it digs in deep.  Lust can lead to divorce which can permeate into how your children look at marriage.  Also greed, which is lusting after money.  You see money dangling in front of you and do anything to get it including, unintentionally but knowingly, hurting others, even your friends and family.  Like air potato plants, lust and greed are highly toxic and invasive!

Dog with stickies
Some weeds offer little gifts that are very irritating and can cause us to be bitter.  Jilly did not appreciate her sticky situation!

Shake ‘em off

Then, there are the frustrating ones that have burs or sticky seeds on them. Barely touching them, you get covered. These are little things you struggle with constantly — dealing with traffic, having paperwork pile up, feeling overwhelmed by errands, chores and bills.  These are not all sins, but things we can get bitter about. They are part of life.  If we don’t take care of them, we will keep collecting them until we are covered. These kind of weeds also remind me of social media.  We can easily get wrapped up in all the tidbits of information and influences, that we let them take over our priorities which can slowly destroy our lives.

Turn yourself over to God

The great thing about all of these weeds is that they can be ripped out! Just like Jesus said that if something causes you to sin, then get rid of it (Matthew 5:29-30). We can profess our belief in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but still let weeds grow. It’s not until we also obey what God says, follow Jesus’ example and listen to the Holy Spirit that our yard becomes beautiful and attractive to others. If people see all of your weeds, they won’t want to believe anything you say, including being a Christian, because the weeds show you aren’t living a righteous life. If your soul is cared for properly by working hard to keep the weeds out, others will be drawn to that beauty and get a glimpse of the comfort you feel and confidence you exude by following Jesus.

This means continuously obeying God’s word, keeping Jesus’ love in your heart, and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead you instead of trying to control your life yourself.  The Bible warns you about potential threats, Jesus’ life illustrates battling weeds of sin and the Spirit helps identify and deal with weeds. If we have a good foundation — or “sod” in our analogy — we can keep the weeds at bay. The goal is to show others how beautiful your soul is so they will want that fulfilling life for themselves and create their own immaculate lawn.

Sorry if this weed analogy is a bit cringy.  But, go pull some weeds and you will see what I’m talking about.  It’s very satisfying to toss them into a yard waste can and have them hauled away.  Do you see the analogy here?  Because of Jesus’ willingly sacrificing Himself on the cross, He tossed our sins away, making us Holy.  Thank you, Jesus!!!

For more weed intrigue, read about the Parable of the Weeds, https://www.jesusfilm.org/blog/parable-wheat-tares/

Spread the Word! Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Leigh An Coplin has been a Christian since she can remember and continues to grow in her love for God every day.  With God as her guide, she started Livin’ Light, a Christian apparel business and online resource.  She has a B.A. in Journalism from Texas Tech University and has worked at the Lee’s Summit Journal, Pacific Business News and The Honolulu Advertiser.  Leigh An lives in the greater Orlando area.

Weed out sin
After pulling tons of weeds and moving dirt around, our backyard was transformed into a beautiful spot to enjoy and relax! 

 

Jesus as Gambler Man on train from Unsplash.com

Jesus as ‘The Gambler’

For a reason I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit, “The Gambler” made known by Kenny Rogers in 1978, was incessantly streaming through my head.  I was thinking about how I need to start using email to start a Christian community with my brand, and then, pop, the Gambler began playing.  As I was singing it, I could only think of it as having a sit-down with Jesus himself as the Gambler. Yes, I know Jesus would not likely drink hard liquor, smoke cigarettes or gamble … well maybe for souls. Let’s see.

Two strangers meet “on a train bound for nowhere,” meaning God can find you anywhere.  Even though He is always there, He may not be noticeable through the noise of your life until you have nothing left.  The Gambler (Jesus) notices a lost soul who is “out of aces.”  He stares out into the darkness with the Lost Soul and shares that he makes a living of reading people’s faces.  He knows what they are about by the look in their eyes with the life they are dealt.  Jesus knows who we are, what we are going through and literally dies to help us through our troubles.

Cover of Kenny Roger's The Gambler album
Cover of Kenny Roger’s ‘The Gambler’ album.

Last drink

The Gambler tells his new friend that for giving up his way of life or all that he has left — the last swallow of whiskey — he’ll show him the way.  The Lost Soul in this song, giving away his last drink, is all ears to the one who drinks/takes his sin.  He takes away our sin so we can be free from the guilt and shame of sin.   Through Him, we can restart our lives, follow Him and live a fulfilling life.

Matthew 16:25-26 NLT— If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

Jesus love is for EVERYONE

Like the Gambler — Jesus, in this scenario — Christians put ourselves out there and love people, without knowing the reactions or the results.  You win some, you lose some — “every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser.”  Jesus put Himself out there for EVERYONE — those people who would irritate you and me — all the while, knowing his horrific fate, He still went to the cross because He loved us all so much.  From that, He earned his seat at the right hand of Our Father.  Even as He was being mocked and beaten, Jesus showed His undying love by rooting for us, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a NLT).

Know your cards

The Gambler continues, “If you’re gonna play the game, boy, you gotta play it right.”  “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, (know the proper time to tell people about God, know when to show them) know when to walk away (know when you need to let God do the work), know when to run.”  In the Bible, Jesus tells his disciples to walk away, “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.”  — Matthew 10:14 NLT

The Gambler continues his advice with not to worry about keeping count of the souls you lose and the souls you save, “They’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing is done” — when Jesus comes to collect the saved.  For now, just keep living for Jesus and sharing the Gospel without worrying about who’s saved and who isn’t.  If you get hung up on counting the winnings — or saved — you waste time that you could have been saving more.

Romans 5:8
Livin’ Light’s T-shirt shows the love Jesus has for us … so much that He died on the cross for our sins. Find this shirt at livinlight.com/shop.

He broke even

And finally, as the Gambler who was there to save the Lost Soul’s life came to the end of his advice, his work was done and he died.  The lyrics say, “He broke even.”  His perfect life was sacrificed for the masses of sinners, even this last one.  For that, Jesus sits next to His Father in heaven, yet another real life example of what is awaiting us should we choose to follow His lead.  In that, the Lost Soul found his ACE — his new loving way of life — something worth hanging on to.

To me, the lyrics in the Gambler are spot on for Jesus.  And, knowing when to hold ’em and fold ’em can be linked to the Holy Spirit — a gift Jesus gave us to guide us.  However, according to songfacts.com (https://www.songfacts.com/facts/kenny-rogers/the-gambler), songwriter Don Schlitz wrote this anthem about his earthly father. Check out the article, it’s quite interesting.  Shel Silverstein is even involved the song’s emergence.

A good lyricist can stir up so much emotion and provoke thought. I am thankful for the talent God has given them. Even though Schiltz did not intend for this song to be about Jesus, I see it clearly. It’s so beautiful and fulfilling how God puts his Message into our world just as He says He does:

Psalm 19:1-2 NLT — The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known.

Romans 1:20 NLT — For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

So, gamble on some people!  Save some lives!  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Videos
— Listen to Don Schlitz sing his own song, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-wRJ1PBx54
— And this is Kenny’s version, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hx4gdlfamo

Spread the Word!  Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Leigh An Coplin has been a Christian since she can remember and continues to grow in her love for God every day.  With God as her guide, she started Livin’ Light, a Christian apparel business and online resource.  She has a B.A. in Journalism from Texas Tech University and has worked at the Lee’s Summit Journal, Pacific Business News and The Honolulu Advertiser.  Leigh An lives in the greater Orlando area.