Patmos Journal – #6

April 22, 2020

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24

I’m putting some effort into keeping focused in these Patmos days. I hope you are too. There’s a calming effect to getting up at the usual time, getting dressed, having a list to guide my activity, and setting some profitable goals for the day and the week.

I know there’s a huge temptation to “let go” and treat this stay at home as one blurred slouch, but I would suggest that even Paul in prison did not twiddle his days with Netflix and sleeping in. Perhaps the toughest mirror we’ll face is to see what we prioritize and abandon when we have become the boss of our repetitive days–a mash up of Ferris Bueller meets Groundhog Day. Is it any wonder we often learn of discipline and obedience in the Word of God? It’s as if God really knew us, and knows what will profit us. How could that be?

The term “quiet time” has taken on a new meaning, because it’s really quiet around here. I could have a Bible study while laying down in the middle of our street and not worry about getting hit. We’re on a normally busy route that now looks like a set right out of The Ωmega Man. Forget using weed killer on the driveway cracks– I might have to spray the road.

Besides the extra time to read, write and ponder this Word, I’m also getting started on a couple of major projects I’ve not taken the time to tackle. It’s a plus that months ago I had purchased supplies for these jobs. Now, I am barred from those aisles in the home improvement store, where all stocked but “non-essential” materials cannot be sold. By decree, we the comrades of Michigan are to leave home only for food or medicine, or some form of solitary exercise. Just don’t try to do home renovations, gardening or landscaping as a form of that exercise. These activities are dismissed by our head as non-essential business, and certainly not important for any individual’s mental wellness. Happily, our leader has made an exception for us. We are granted a pass to procure the approved mental wellness therapeutic essentials of pot, booze, and lottery tickets. But for now, shopping for a gallon of paint to occupy my lockdown time could get me a hefty fine and/or some time in the hoosegow.

Hmmm. I’ll let you know when I get the logic of these permissions and prohibitions sorted out. I’ve plenty of time to think, as this gadabout has been placed in timeout.

So I’m teaching and sharing a couple of messages on patience this month. James tells us in James 5:7-8; Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

As in James, God’s Word links numerous truths with the cycle of His creation. I think of a few passages from Jesus’ teachings: The wheat and tares. A sower went out to sow… A mustard seed. The fig tree. A sycamore tree. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies…The fields are white for harvest… Observe the lilies of the field…

James uses that link to creation’s cycle in his admonition for us to work patiently in our day, even though we know Jesus will come again. The temptation to sit and gaze into heaven is not a new phenomenon here in these Corona Days. Throughout the ages, many who claimed to know Jesus have used the slightest excuse or inconvenience to be idle, and claim a spiritual pride for it. Idle is idle, no matter how much lipstick you smear on it…

James is practical and clear: The farmer starts early in the year, doing what he should do, with no guarantee that days will be easy and harvest will be bountiful. He is aware of what must be done, and gets to it because it is needful work. James likens patience to the long stretch from preparation to harvest that every farmer or hobby-gardener knows well. The farmer understands that to not do the first things will absolutely turn to catastrophe later on. The Lord will not “make up” for the things that were the farmer’s responsibility. Likewise, the farmer recognizes that the Lord sends the rains, and creates the harvest. So broadly, in our days until the Lord returns, He has purpose for us, and will work through us. That means we are to be focused on labors both spiritual and material.

Paul’s admonition to the Colossians that I began with today also mirrors that same thought, but he also points to the “why” of giving our best in our labors. I‘m not to do work just for my own merit, pride, benefit, or reasoning. I am to see a stewardship in all of my labors, and keep my thoughts on the Master, whether I’m preaching the Word or cutting the grass. All I do, in God’s accounting, sends out my opinion of my Lord. I don’t slap out the routine tasks, just to “git ‘er done.” In every task I should give my best, because He is worthy of my best.

Our testing by this pandemic has come in the Spring, and that fact is not lost on me. It is a glimmer of grace in the midst of the Lord’s allowance of this sifting for our lives. To have milder days under “house arrest” is a blessing I will not overlook, and I give Him thanks. Because of this grace, I am setting time each day to be in the garden and the greenhouse, for there is work in those places that is needful.

And so it goes. I’m turning over soil. Fertilizing, weeding, and composting. There are garden seedlings started, and soon with their first true leaves, transplant work. The lettuce boxes are erupting to life, requiring attention to maximize their yield. The pace will continue on, with differing jobs as the season slowly changes over these next weeks and months. There will not be idle time, even when the last of the harvest is gathered in.

I could delay. It’s an off year. So much is in upheaval. My calendar and schedule are completely off-balance. Excuses line up like the queues in front of the grocery store. There is an overriding “funk” that fights to grant me permission to put off these things, “Why bother at all, in a world so completely upside down?”

But this is spring. And there is little time to waste. The world around us is changing, but the seasons march on, set in God’s plan to continue, for all of earth’s days. When Noah emerged after the judgment of flood, God spoke this word to him and his tiny family: “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22

Yes, it is Spring. A time of renewal, and coming to life. The tomb is empty. The Lord has given us His Living Word, and every promise is true. This is the day to labor for Him, and testify of Him, in all we do. The things that matter, are changeless.

So I encourage myself, and hopefully you as well. Be patient. Be active. Learn endurance, not idleness. Find your rest in Him, as you find your joy in fruitful labors. There is a harvest, and an accounting, just ahead.