In his gospel account of Jesus’ ministry, the disciple Mark recounts a story of Jesus and a fig tree. Jesus and his disciples were walking from a town named Bethany to nearby Jerusalem when they saw a fig tree in the distance. Mark records that Jesus was hungry, so “he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it.” (Mark 11:13b-14).
The next morning Jesus and His disciples passed the same fig tree, and “the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!” (Mark 11:20b-21).
I have my own fig story, and while it’s not nearly as miraculous or interesting, it taught me something about myself. Something like three or four months ago the hubster and I were shopping at Costco when I spotted a giant bag of dried figs. I’d seen the figs before and always figured they were a good someday purchase. I don’t know what came over me that day, but I reasoned the right time had finally arrived. I snatched up the expensive bag of dried figs and plopped them into our cart.
The hubster seemed a little incredulous at first. “Why in the world are you buying those things?” he asked me. But like a good husband, he let me get away with my one extravagant purchase, and that was the end of that.
Here’s the part of this story where I confess to you that I had no idea what I was going to do with the dried figs. I’d seen numerous healthy recipes online that called for figs, and I knew I wanted to try one of them out. But I’d never actually made a single dish with figs in my life, and I should have considered that I’m not even all that good when it comes to baking new things.
And so the figs went into the cupboard and sat. And sat. And sat. Until one day – when we were getting ready for an all day adventure the hubster had planned – I called out, “pack me snacks!” from the bedroom. Later I opened my snack bag to find a slew of yummy things and a plastic sandwich baggy full of dried figs. They were the one snack that made it home completely untouched.
To this day, those figs sit in my fridge. You know, to “preserve them” until I finally find the time, energy, and wherewithal to enact my grand plans and bake up something delicious that the hubster and I have never tasted before.
And that’s the problem. Jesus didn’t curse the fig tree because it’d been a little too long since His last meal, and like my hubster and a few other loved ones He got grouchy when He was hungry. He cursed the fig tree, because it was pretending to be something it wasn’t. While it’s leaves suggested it was in full bloom, at root it was really just an unhealthy tree without any fruit. It wasn’t using the gifts it’d actually been given.
If I’m honest with myself, I can be the same way with the things that God has given me. Like the figs at the bottom of my fridge, I’m storing up the things He’s nudging me to do for someday. I’m hiding them away or just overlooking them until the “time is right” to really break them out.
Jesus called it hiding our light. (See Luke 11:33).
And his half-brother, James (the son of Mary and Joseph), said it this way:
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. – James 2:14-17
At the heart of these is one single message: our faith is meant to be used. It’s meant to fill us so full of the Holy Spirit that His light overflows to everyone around us through our good gifts and good deeds. If not, it might as well wither up and die like the cursed tree.
There will never be a time when our actions earn us special favor with God or make Him love us more. But our actions can be good indicators of how we’re really doing on the inside. If we’ve really tasted and seen that the Lord is good, then we won’t be able to hide it. It will come bursting out of us everywhere we go, and like a fig tree in full bloom we’ll bear good fruit so that others can taste and see, too.
Original photo of Fig on a Tree by Peter Griffin from publicdomainpictures.net. Adapted for this blog post by Stephanie Oh.
Psalm 4:8 has been one of my favorite verses for a long time. Earlier this summer, during my fascination with my new Photoshop watercolor brushes, we had a friend stay with us during a quick business trip, and I wanted to pretty up the guest room. Priority numero uno: art. Naturally I thought of this verse, and a printable was born.
I hope to have some Christmas Doses of Hope for you in the coming weeks as well. My computer suddenly died earlier this week (eek) so I’m busy re-downloading my software, fonts, and brushes on to my new machine so that I can get back to creating new art.
Have a great weekend!
First, probably the most important thing I re-learned is that accepting Jesus and experiencing His transforming power in our lives is just the beginning. We must also allow Him to make us more like Him and learn to stand firm in our faith. This wasn’t necessarily new info, but it had a lot of practical day to day implications in my life last month.
The easiest way to get up earlier is to adjust my alarm clock by five minutes a day. The same goes for going to bed earlier, too. And the easiest way to make both of those things happen is to have a fridge and freezer full of breakfast, lunch, and dinner already made for the week ahead. This was one of my favorite recipes with chicken sausage chopped up and added to the pot.
This chewable vitamin is my new favorite multivitamin. Did I mention it’s chewable? And delicious? And requires no swallowing?
Christianity Today + Life Beautiful. One part intelligent words, one part pretty pictures. I couldn’t pick between them, so I bought both of them during our trip to South Florida, and loved them both.
There is a movie coming out about Noah in March, and I want to see it like woah. It may not be 100% accurate, but overall it looks like an epic retelling of one of the biggest events in history and one of the most obedient men who’s ever lived. God said build a giant ark, and he got to building. His story never fails to inspire me.
And lastly, Beth Moore’s Get Out of That Pit has been in my purse and my hands for the last two months now. I can’t get enough of it. Every page = serious truth!
Your turn… What did you learn and love in November?
“There will always be people who see everything in the world as a measuring stick of their worthiness, instead of as a burning bush of God’s gloriousness… “The world isn’t a forest of measuring sticks. The world is a forest of burning bushes. Everything isn’t a marker to make you feel behind or ahead; everything is a flame to make you see GOD is here. That God is working through this person’s life, that God is redeeming that person’s life, that God is igniting this work, that God is present here in this mess, that God is using even this.”
Hi guys! Let’s talk about death. Sounds cryptic? Hang in there with me. I’m not talking about the scary kind. (Pause right there. I know as Christians we don’t really think it’s scary, but can we admit that it’s complicated, and we don’t like it, even as we confidently hope for our eternal futures?) I’m talking about the good kind. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus and later His disciples tell us to “die to self.” Most of us resist that, because seriously, it doesn’t sound fun to die. We assume it’s something we don’t want to do when in reality, dying to self is a good thing.
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. – Luke 9:23 (NLT)
Dying to self doesn’t mean giving up what’s good for us. It means letting go of what’s not good so that we can accept what is.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10
right click to save and print. more memory verse cards here.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. – Galatians 5:24 (NLT)
Original photo of Woman Thinking And Biting Her Lips by Michal Marcol from freedigitalphotos.net. Adapted for this post by Stephanie Oh.
It’s official. According to Carrie Bradshaw and the rules of nature, I’m now a real New Yorker. This week marks the nine year anniversary since I packed up my minivan post-college and set sail for the east coast. And if I’m honest with you, I’m still not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. The last nine years have held more than their fair share of life altering experiences.
So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, which is to say giving thanks, I want to share a few of those experiences that stick out in vivid color and really encapsulate what the last nine years have been all about
Moment one… I’m walking to the train on my way to work, and my whole being is celebrating over my fingers and toes. I’m singing praise from the bottom of my heart that I’m moving feet and hands without pain, that I have fingers and toes that work, because this in itself is a gift, and I can’t believe that God is this generous.
This one, I remember all of the time. I have never felt so full of thanks.
Moment two… The same year, I’m on the massage bed with my physical therapist, and suddenly I realize my head no longer hurts. After two years of a constant migraine that stuck by my side from the time I woke up to the time I drifted off to sleep, it’s gone. Just like that. I can’t even remember the moment it left, but suddenly I’m aware it’s no longer here. And I want to sing from the mountain tops that God is good.
I remember this one, too, because it was the beginning of a life being restored.
And moment three, from this week, because it’s never too recent to have a moment make an impact… I’m standing over a sink full of dirty dishes and squeezing soap onto a sponge, and I remember that for two weeks we didn’t have running water in either of our sinks, and this doesn’t feel like a chore. Now it feels like a privilege, and it’s even kind of fun.
(Don’t tell the hubster. That stays between you and me.)
What do all of those moments have in common? An overwhelming feeling of gratitude admist the plain and everyday. Each of them could have been easily ignored, and I’ve probably ignored a million little moments like them before and since. But for whatever reason, in the few seconds that each of them took to pass, my heart and God’s Spirit perfectly aligned and I was filled with thanks.
So as we head into Thanksgiving – a day I hope you’re spending with people who love you, and if not, then a day I hope you know how loved you are – I’m grateful that the years that felt like my world was being turned upside down were actually the years that God was ever so gradually and lovingly turning it right side up.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve rounded up four more ideas for making the most of this season of gratitude. (See our first list here!)
1. Kristin Welch of We are THAT Family wrote this great post on five ways to take back Thanksgiving. She and her family will be spending the holiday in Kenya, but her suggestions for reclaiming this Thursday as a day of thanks are things that any of us can do. It’s totally worth the read.
2. You already know we’re fans of free printables around here. Beautiful artwork to hang around the home or office for just the cost of printing? You can’t get better than that. These free gratitude prints from Mique at 30 Handmade Days are perfect for Thanksgiving. There are three total, and they print to 8×10 size.
3. This year I’ve been dreaming of starting a tradition for counting our blessings with the hubster, and I love this thankful box from the Handmade Home. Ashley drew the gold polka dots onto a white photo box using a metallic marker, which means this is entirely within my skill set and beautiful enough to display all year round.
4. Simply Vintage Girl’s thankful tree is another great way to count your blessings on Thanksgiving. I love the idea of using this as a centerpiece on our coffee table through Thanksgiving or displaying it through the whole month of November next year in our apartment.
What are your favorite ways to cultivate gratitude and say thanks around Thanksgiving?