Friday, May 21, 2010


Have you ever given your wife/mom/husband/friend roses? You go to the florist and find just the right ones to express what you want to say (red means love, I cannot remember which color means passion), then take them home and put them in a vase…waallahhh you are a hit.

When Denise and I first got married, I would buy her a dozen roses every week. We did not have much money, actually we were flat broke because I was in college and we were young (I was 21, she was 18).

After a few months, she came to me and said, “I really appreciate you giving me these flowers. However, we are really tight on money, so it is the thought that counts. Please stop buying them for me.” This worked for me, after all, thoughts are free (just think about it…see, no charge).

Then, before we could celebrate our first year of marriage, she came back to me and said, “Remember how I said to stop giving me the roses? I was wrong. I really liked receiving them and having them, could you start again?” I told her I would think about it. 

That is one of the benefits of living in Bolivia. Roses are almost as cheap as thoughts. I can buy a dozen roses for less than $2. Other flowers are cheaper than this. So, being the super giving, loving, romantic (cheap) guy that I am, I try to keep a vase or two full of nice flowers.

Yesterday, I was sitting at Denise’s computer working. I noticed something. It was a horrible, rancid, putrid, septic smell. Now this is normal in Bolivia, but we had the windows closed. I thought, “Oh no, the toilets have backed up and are coming out of the floor drain.” I thought this because it has happened. (any one from Bolivia reading this, can you tell me why every bathroom has a drain in the floor that toilets can send septic into the house from?)

I looked around and the bathroom was okay. There was no vomit in the floor from amoeba-ville. The baby wasn’t dirty. All clear. I went back to the computer and started working and there it was again. A NASTY smell that assaulted my nasal passage like a special forces team of stink.

I looked around, desperate to find the source of this bio-warfare. Then, I found it. Right next to Denise’s computer monitor was a vase of roses. I had given them to her two weeks earlier. When I gave them to her, they were beautiful, red roses that smelled like, well they smelled just like a red rose.

Now, the only thing that had changed was time. The flowers that once had the aroma of love now had the stench of hate. As my kids say, “I ain’t gunna lie to you…they are some kind of horrible.”

I actually gagged when I poured the water out into the sink. Now this is coming from a father of 11 that has changed more poopy diapers, cleaned up more diarrhea, and wiped up more vomit than most of you will see in your lifetime. I can eat a sandwich and change a diaper at the same time. (and you thought I had no talent) Yet, the smell was so bad that I truly, outloud, gagged.

I was thinking about those roses today, and a weird application came into my mind. Those flowers are like a lot of us.

We start off bearing a lot of spiritual fruit. Our fruit baskets are beautiful, they are full. They are displayed on our spiritual tables for all to see. Our spiritual lives are fragrant and gorgeous.

But, at some point we stop relying on Christ. We allow our religiosity, our morality, our rituals, our rules to guide us. We aren’t doing anything wrong or bad, it is just that we are no longer going to the ‘market’ to get fresh fruit and flowers.

We still have our spiritual fruitbaskets on display. Our flowers are in the vase, only, unnoticed by us, the petals have started to fade and there are little brown spots on our once bright fruit. Small patches of brown mold is floating in the once clear water. More time goes by, and we are oblivious to what is happening. The truth be told, our spiritual lives now stink. The fruit is rotten and the flowers are dead. Still on display, but no longer accomplishing the purpose for which they were originally given to us by the Holy Spirit. The fruit was for other people, and the fragrance for Him. But unused fruit spoils and unchanged water stagnates.

A sad but vivid image of our moral lives, rotten and stagnated. Remember, we are not doing bad things. We have not replaced the flowers in the vase with marijuana. We have simply not done anything.

Listen to me. Missionaries are not any more spiritual than anyone else. Our vases can stink and our fruit spoil. The only difference is that my vase is in Bolivia and yours is in England or America. All of us have to keep going to the fountain of life, the living water, so that rivers of living water can flow through our innermost being. WE must all actively cultivate our lives through dependence upon Him.

If not, that once romantic and fragrant vase of flowers simply becomes a spiritual stench, and who wants that?

So, friend, when was the last time you put new fruit in the basket and new flowers in the vase? Today is the day to change it!

Joe

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