Monday, April 03, 2006

miracle grow

i know you all have bibles and are familiar with "the parable of the sower." (Mt.13:3-9, Mk4:3-9, Lk 8:5-8)

i have a question about this. do we have control over what kind of soil we are? and i mean this twofold. do we have control over what type of soil we are to begin with? and if we discover we are a soil we would rather not be, can we change that? or is it completely determined for us? any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

I believe we can definetly change the soil we are. I always interpreted the soil to be something comparable to our attitudes and/or our situations; both things that can be changed.

Tessa said...

That above comment was me...

i accidently posted it some how without my name....

... and i wasn't even done with what i had to say! *sigh*

ANYWAY, thats just my thoughts. I'd also love to hear what you think!

unclepedro said...

I think that we (and God) can change the kind of soil we are over time... in fact, sometimes it is through the growth and death of other vegetation that a soil becomes more fertile. Some plants actually make soil more fertile by fixing nitrogen and nutrients in the soil that would normally wash away. I think the Gospel can be one of the latter plants in our "soil".

The kind of plant that leaves its remains behind might be a revival of faith that dies out (but leaves seeds and mulch behind), family, or friends, or in some cases, I think that faith can sprout in the remains of our too-human (and failed) quests for God's glory. We are ultimately looking for truth and grace and peace but sometimes we go about that in ill-fated ways. I think coming to the end of that road sometimes helps focus people's desire for the real thing. (Of course sometimes it's just the sun beating down on rocky soil... but now I'm rambling)

In case you need to steal a term paper on this subject, here's one. Be sure to use the spell checker because they certainly didn't.

Susan said...

I too have always interpreted the soil to be our heart attitude, which can change if we allow God to work in our lives.

jON said...

unclepedro!!!!!! how did you find me? it is GREAT to hear from you. i hope you're not just hitting me up for a one-comment-stand. i trust you will still respect me and "call me tomorrow."

and yes, folks, i agree with all of you that there is an ability to change things about ourselves. i didn't want to go too far initially and shape your responses. i wanted honest, unprovoked responses. but here is something about this that i am really wondering...

it is one thing to say that i like punk music. i could even tell you what it is about it that i like. these, to me, are the surfacy things that are transitory and shapable. our tastes and habits can change over time.

but behind that. why do i like the things i like about punk music? why does the attitude appeal to me? why does a message matter more than instruments in tune? is there not a sense in which there are some parts of our basic personality that are "just us"? that we have always had our whole lives, when you look back, but perhaps were less defined? as has been said of me recently, i've always been, "the weird one."

my whole life i have had a compulsion to do things differently and i don't know why. even when i try to fit into a movement or group of some sort, i end up finding out what's been done already and promptly taking off in the oppostie direction to explore the uncharted territory. which, interestingly enough, then always leaves me alienated instead of fitting in as was my original intention.

and from what i can tell, this one aspect of my life goes deeper than something i can just change or turn off. it burns in my bones if i do not heed it. it wounds my conscience to not "be" this part of myself. this part that has always been there. this part, that it would seem, is, at its core, "me."

does that make sense? is that something i could really change if i wanted to? or is it something else...?

Susan said...

I think it is something else but I need to think about it for a bit.

Beth said...

Thanks for commenting on my post. It's hard to remain christ like in situations like that where my boss makes me feel like poop. Maybe he does hate himself at work it would make sense that he is unhappy. I will try to remember that too....thanks for the encouragment lol it's hard being the 2nd in command and poop flows DOWN lol

unclepedro said...

Jon, thanks, it's great to be here. I'm a long time listener, first time caller. (Actually, I'm not a long time reader because I'm an idiot and lost touch with you. But I wish I was.) I emailed your hotmail account from a link on an old blog of yours but maybe the message went into spam. You can always email pedro at but never fear, i promise to make comment breakfast for you.

Paul said...

Part of me believes that there is a core element to our lives that God put there - fearfully and wonderfully [Ps.139:14]. And that, no, it will not - and cannot - change. How we allow it to fertilize [so-to-speak] the soil above it [our traits, personalities, etc.] is something we CAN change.

But before we can bring positive change to our soil, we have to embrace that "thing" that God put there - at our core.

jON said...

ah, but there is the rub, isn't it? for me, and for many others whom i have encountered and spoken with, church is the place where we feel the least able to embrace that core part of our being. at least that has been my experience.

in growing up a pk, i spent a lot of time in church. i was always there, basically. and one thing i learned, whether explicitly or implicitly, was that who i was inside was inappropriate and i should not embrace that. i should not be comfortable to be who i truly am on the inside.

some parts, yes. the ones that fit with church culture, by all means. but the parts that don't mesh, well... we need to hide those things away and be ashamed. because they are the "black" things. the "naughty" things.

and again, yes, only some. some things in me are black. but the more i emrace the core of who i am in full daylight, in the full presence of god, the more i think i have been getting the wrong message.

and again, whether explicitly or implicitly, this is the message i got. and that message was bondage to my soul. it was chains that needed to be broken and shed.

because if what you say is true, then i should be emracing the parts of me that are me whether or not other people agree, in order to begin to be able to really see god move and change in my life.

which is what i've begun. and it is indeed true. and now i'm an honesty junkie. i just can't help but be honest with people about the very corners of my being. it helps call me to account.

but it also provides some of the best workplace banter you've ever had.

i'm serious.

try it.

it's a mind scrambler

Susan said...

I found your remarks about being a PK very interesting Jon. I grew up in a home that was non church attending. But we also had a culture all of our own. There were some subjects, some things which were taboo but it was never stated we just knew it implicitly. Interestingly when I had friends come they would sometimes stumble into a taboo area and there would be an awkward silence. After I had been involved in churches for a while I found that I was the one stumbling into the taboo areas and creating the awkward silences because I never quite understood their culture. So for quite a while I kept quiet. Lately I have been getting to the point of thinking too bad if I make them feel uncomfortable I need to be honest about who I am and where I've come from.

I seem to be on a different train of thought in regard to your original question about what in us can be changed and what cannot. Nevertheless I'll share it anyway. I think this is a deeper thing than talking about our attitude. I think it is our way of being in the world, our particular way of looking at life, our understanding of the things that motivate us, which I think God wants to mellow rather than change since our perspective is warped because of the "fall".

My thoughts have been influenced by the book "The Enneagram" (the original not the spin offs). The premise of the book is that Jesus was a perfectly balanced person whereas we are somewhat "off balance". As we experience new birth and grow spiritually the goal is to become more like Jesus i.e. more balanced.

The books looks at the way in which we have become "off balance" and the thought is that we have taken one virtue (at a very young age) and made it a way of living our lives. For example I have a tendency to be a perfectionist which is a good thing until you take it too far. So I don't think God wants me to give up trying to do things well but rather my perfectionism needs to be mellowed by grace. (The other examples are being helpful, being successful, being unique, being knowledgeable, being loyal, being fun, being strong, being peaceable. All of which in moderation are good things but when taken to an extreme become problems.)

I found the book very helpful on a number of levels. I was relieved to find there were other people in the world who had the same tendencies (or compulsions) that I have. Secondly it gave me insight into others and helped me understand their way of looking at the world which was so different to mine. Thirdly it helped me to know in what areas I needed to grow.

Sorry to be so long especially as it may not even be what you were thinking about.

jON said...

okay, first of all, don't ever apologize to me or anyone else here for leaving lengthy and well thought out comments. that is what this blog is for. i'm not a big fan of rules, but i would like to offer some guidelines, recognizing that you are a free being under grace and not law and i am not seeking to put you under law.
but i would like to suggest that you never feel uncomfortable about sharing anything here. ever. i don't care how long or how crazy or how taboo... this is the place where you can be as comfortable as you desire in seeking answers and discussions to your innermost thoughts.
i mean, what else do i have to do with my free time? read some fiction? watch tv? play a video game? come on. this is way better. and the more you leave me to read, the more time i get to spend "doing" this. reading and contemplating and meditating and changing and growing.

i really enjoyed how you put the whole concept of taboo. it spoke to me very deeply and i would agree with you one hundred percent taht this is what indeed happens. i don't care what your culture, we ALL have our taboos. and i wish we didn't. i wish we could simply appreciate each other and accept one another unconditionally, the way god accepts us. even if that person is using their freedom in a way that is unfamilair and even uncomfortable to us. perhaps we can then open up dialogue with them about their reasons behind their behaviors and find that we are more alike than we thought.

and thank you for bringing up balance. a few years ago, a phrase came to me. "the answer is in the balance." for in my extended explorations of scripture, i found that there were extremes. two extreme opposite and contradicting thoughts or emotions in the heart of god. and i think we have different theological camps because too often people will latch onto one side of the extreme, run in that direction, and anyone who does not hold that view is obviously not worshiping the "same god" and they need to be shown their "wrong-ness" so that we all may be "right" and "in agreement."

but, in truth, the answer is in the balance. somewhere between those extremes we find the heart of god.

and i agree that we do latch onto a certain ideal or identity at a young age and run with it. but that identity does go through a change a couple of times as we go through adolesence. at least it did for me. i think i'm talking deeper, here. maybe, maybe not.

but if i hear you correctly, the layer about which i am asking is two layers below any identity that we would take unto ourselves. i'm talking about that part of ourselves underneath the part that has chosen that identity and why it has gravitated to it.

one layer even deeper, the part of you that finds that why appealing. (if you follow me.) but that part, i'm not sure if i can change or even have access to it. it seems to be central. core. a particular bent or approach to life that has been ever present even during my attempts at finding my "fit" or my identity a couple of layers up to be my "public face."

but underneath, there seems to be something else...

the part that our dear friend from canada, paul, has made reference to as being "fearfully and wonderfully made." and the part that the apostle paul made reference to when he said, "...God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb..."

have i lost you?

vin-vin said...

I think that "balance" in God is part of the mystery of God. I believe that we deserve to die because of our sins, but yet I also know that God loves grace and provides it so bountifully... yet I know that God is just. I don't understand how or why God chooses the things he does, and I don't understand how we are judged, but I believe that somewhere in some cosmic sense, his timing and his answers are right. Maybe from a human perspective this looks like balance but from God's perspective perhaps it is just seeing things as they are. Just a ramble.

(unclepedro was taken so I signed on as vin-vin)

Dee said...

Yes I do believe we have control over what kind of soil we are. We may start out as lousy soil with no nutrients but we can find ways to add nutrients that help improve the soil we call our life or we can enrich that soil by surrounding ourselves with good people and things like the word of God. They are things which will improve the soil we call our lives. It is our choice.

Susan said...

Thanks Jon for the encouragement. I'll stop apologizing. I've thought of an example which might help with the discussion.

I know a guy (Peter) whose father died when we was about 6. At the time his initial reaction, understandabley was shock and therefore he expressed no emotion. His aunt said, Oh, Peter isn't crying, isn't he being so strong. He immediately thought to himself, I mustn't cry because that would be weak.

When I heard this I thought to myself but why did he want to be a strong person anyway.(I don't think if this had been me, I would have cared whether I was a strong person or not) Meaning he must have already decided that being a strong person was important to him, which raises your question of why did he find being a strong person appealing, why did he gravitated to it.

I think there is something else going on underneath.

Tessa said...

I'm intrigued by this thing 'the balance'

i mean ive always thought that balence was the best way to approach life so im very... esteemed..(?) to find it spoken of here .

However when speaking of this in the nature of God i find it having even more intrigue. I agree with our friend peter a.h. peterson in that in God's holy character everything is just right, just as it should be. He's so beyond our powers of comprehension! Time and space just don't exist to him.. i mean, isn't that baffling?! Its humbling to think about.

Jen said...

Oooh! I didn't even get to read all the posts yet. I was about to post and my husband just showed up witha chocolate shamrock shake! But, consider the compost...that's all I really have to say. The crap piles on, sits and sits and sits....then we are SOOOOOOOO rich for it later.

I know my soil can be ammended!