Way to go, Tilly!

(Wednesday morning – continued)  Even though the sun is now shining brightly, this morning as I was driving Tilly (and she was driving me crazy), the black clouds were rolling in.  Soon the drops came, just enough to make me want to quit.  Frustrated to the max, I thought of all those people who owned Troybilt Tillers.  Why couldn’t I have one of those?  Why do I always have to work with junk?  I could have been done an hour ago!

Now, I know that Tilly is an inanimate object, but I think she was reading my mind again!  Whatever the reason, all of a sudden, Tilly came alive!  She finally found high gear and we were speeding around the garden kicking up dirt like crazy!  You would have thought she was brand new!  I wondered if this was the last life spurt before death, but not true.  She chewed up that dirt, bounced happily over the rocks and finished the job!  AND all before the heavens truly burst forth.

Lesson One:  What if I had quit?  How often do we quit too soon?  We only know the half of it!  I wonder how many times God looks at our lives, knowing the outcome if only we would have stayed faithful!  Had I given in to my discouragement, I would look out every day at a half-finished garden and wonder if I should just forget it.  It would be a constant source of discouragement!  Life can be that way.  We see our failures, are constantly reminded of life’s disappointments, and are tempted to throw in the towel when all the time God is urging us NOT TO QUIT!

Lesson Two: Thou Shalt Not Covet. This last commandment is probably the one I struggle with the most.  As a pastor’s wife, I have never lived in my own home.  It’s a struggle when you have wishes and dreams that you cannot do because it isn’t your house.  Satan LOVES to tempt me into this sin!  But you know, this fall when I am walking out to the garden to pluck a juicy home-grown tomato, it won’t matter that I had to till the garden with a run-down, tired, second-hand tiller.    ( AND: You can be RICH in character thanks to all your junk! – quote from Eight Dollar Teapot).  The tomato will taste just as good!  As we face a small building project at church, one man reminded us that he saw God move in a mighty way when they only had a one room sanctuary and outhouses!!! This project would be easier if we just hired it done, but it costs too much.  Is it possible that God wants to accomplish more than just new walls and bathrooms?  Is He looking for us to build relationships by working together as a church to do the work? As my husband often says, it’s all about people!

But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Ac 20:24  Amen!  I’m glad that verse applies to us all!

Tily Tries My Patience

So, today I decide to till the garden instead of exercising.  Running Tilly is definitely exercise!  She must not have slept well, because she is sputtering all over the place!  She’s lost her spunk!  I baby her along, hoping that she’ll kick into high gear – no chance!  I think she’s upset because I was checking out tillers on the web!  Who would pay over $700 for tiller?  I can buy a lot of vegetables for that amount, even from the farmer’s market!  It’s supposed to rain today and the Ladies’ Missionary Group is coming in an hour and a half, but Tilly has more lessons for me.

  1. Maybe it’s time for her to retire.  Dear older-worker-bee, do you need to step down and let the younger ones take over?  Sometimes we complain that they are not doing the work, but maybe it’s because we don’t trust them to do the job.
  2. Dear younger-worker-be- possibility, do you need to step up to the plate?  You may say, “But what can I do?”  Can you scrub a toilet?  My husband and I joke about the fact that that is where we started serving the Lord – it’s true!  You would probably be surprised at what you could do.  I’ve never met a pastor yet that refused help!  J
  3. Both sides of the fence require a lot of grace!

I think Tilly knows that I was just thinking about checking out Craig’s List – that’s when her belt fell off. My father was a farmer and a machinist – he could fix anything!  So, in the spirit of my heritage, I took a closer look.  Hm, there was a part of the machinery that was hanging at an odd angle, and at a closer look, I saw that a nut was missing!  How would I ever find a nut in a newly tilled garden?  I couldn’t, so I went to the garage.  Now, growing up on a farm, I appreciated my father’s work bench that had every size nut, bolt, nail, and screw that you could imagine!  But, alas, no nut here of the right size.  I prayed as I headed out to the garden.  “Lord, I need a miracle.  You know where that nut is.  I will NEVER find it without your help, and with out the nut (I mean the one belonging to the bolt!), Tilly is done for the day!”  What a gracious God we serve!  After another look around the garden, and when I was ready to call it quits – there was the bolt!  Jehovah-gireh!!

  1. How much do you trust God?  How hard are you leaning on the Everlasting Arms?  We often want to lean and ask only for the select items on our list: the ones that we understand.  Can you ask for His help in the areas you don’t understand; and are you ready to accept the answer He gives?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55: 8,9

  1. PATIENCE!  This is the hardest lesson we (or maybe just I) will ever face!  I was ready to junk the whole thing.  Forget gardening!  Shove Tilly over a cliff and call it a day. God’s ways are SO much higher than ours; but as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now for the rest of the story…”  Maybe tomorrow!

Ode to Tilly

Dear Tilly is my rototiller.  She’s not actually mine – I’m just ‘borrowing’ her from my mom!  I remember Dad faithfully using Tilly every year for Mom.  (He didn’t know her name though! 🙂 )  I guess it’s the farm girl in me, but I love to put on my dungarees (I just love that word!  It sounds so much more “farmy” than jeans 🙂 ) and head for the garden to till it up.  Now Tilly is old and tired, but she starts right up purring like a kitten.  She does have a little cough every now and then, but that doesn’t stop her!  She’s not as strong as she used to be: she’s had a rough life.  I don’t know how many years my folks used her, and I’m not even sure if they bought her new.  Then she sat in the shed for about eleven years.  The wasps got at her and there was water in the engine.  She was a mess; so, we took her to a dear older man in our church, and he got her chugging again!  There are so many lessons to learn while gardening.  Tilly taught me a few today:

  1. She’s old and ready for that big junkyard in the sky, but I still have some work for her to do.  I feel that way sometimes.  I understand Paul’s statement more every day: ”For me to live is Christ, to die is GAIN!” I may be old and achy, but God still has a few things for me to do – you too (even if you’re not old and achy!)
  2. When I hit a stone, Tilly just jumps all over like a bucking bronco!  How do I react when God puts me in a tough spot?  We’re in a battle, dear friend.  Life as a Christian is NOT easy.  There are lots of rocks that can really jolt us, but God will pick out the rocks.  Our job is to stay the course!
  3. I let go of Tilly for a moment to check my watch.  Do you know what she did?  She went her own way – the easy way: down hill and through the already tilled spot!  Isn’t that just like us?  We want the easy road, and oh, how lost we would be if God let us go our own way!!

Half the garden is tilled, but that’s the easy part.  I’ve just finished raking all the big stones and weeds that have the nerve to already be sprouting.  From my kitchen window, it looks pretty good.  To the casual passerby, it looks ready to plant; however, I know better.  I will need to go over it again.  Why?  Because there are lots of roots yet to be dug out, and I need to go deeper into the soil.

 Are you looking good on the outside but a little weedy on the inside?  God knows and sees all the weeds that need to be tended to, and YOU are the only one who can dig them out.  God might come at you with a tiller: a dear Christian friend or pastor or radio speaker who uses the Word to dig at that nasty weed’s roots, but YOU need to pull them out.  The Bible only mentions one root:

“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God;

lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you,

and thereby many be defiled;” (Heb 12:15)

  What a nasty root – its parallel for the gardener is the dandelion.  If you’ve ever tried to pull one out of the ground, you know that they have a tap root – a LONG STRONG root.  You will need a tool to dig it out, and if you don’t get the whole root: Surprise! – another dandelion will appear.  Notice that the root of bitterness not only troubles you, but MANY are defiled!  It’s like acid rain that poisons everything in its path.  You will need the Word of God to root that one out!  Memorize a verse like Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Then we need to dig deep into God’s Word.  I’m honored that you have taken the time to read this, but be sure that you are taking time for yourself in God’s Word – just you and God!  Go deeper: look up cross references; use a commentary; look up words you don’t understand; get a pen and notebook and write down your thoughts.

 “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.”    Job 23:12  Wow! What a verse, but that one needs a whole other blog!  🙂

“…for such a time as this”

It is 1843.  A weary mother sits in her one room log cabin in the back woods of Virginia.  She attends church when the itinerate preacher comes to her “neck of the woods.”  She works hard to keep her little cabin clean, her children fed and her husband  happy.  At times she wonders what life is all about.

Germany, 1932: a grandmother looks back over her life.  She has worshiped God every Sunday.  Her children would call her blessed.  She scrubs the floors, irons the shirts, and plants a garden.  Much of what she does today, she does every day, and she wonders what life is all about.

It is 226 AD.  A young father looks anxiously at his family as the soldiers march through their little town.  They are Christians.  They have seen others persecuted for their beliefs, but God has spared him.  He works hard to keep them fed at the only job he knows to do.  He wonders what life is all about.

She sits at the computer.  She has raised her children for the Lord.  She serves God in her church and teaches a Bible study to teens.  She is busy for the Lord, but sometimes she wonders what life is all about.  I am that woman.

Do you ask the same question that has echoed down through the ages:  What is life all about?  I remember walking up the stairwell EVERY day in high school with a dear friend.  She would turn to me and ask, “Hummski (that was the polish version of Hummel), what are we doing here?”  I would ask her the same question.

Was this Esther’s question as she was taken from her home to a foreign land to live with a cousin, only to be taken again from home and entered into the king’s contest for a new queen?  What is the answer to that age-old question: what is  life?

Our chapter of heroes will help us a bit: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  (Heb. 11:13)  The answer is twofold:

  1. Remember that we are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  We often sing that last stanza of Amazing Grace, but do we stop to think about the meaning of those words?

When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun;

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than we first begun.

As a born-again child of God, this life is just the practice session for eternity!  Keeping that in mind helps us to live our lives in step with God!  What we accomplish here WILL be rewarded there.  We will never be disappointed in eternity for living for Jesus. (F O C U S 🙂 )

2. …for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)  These were the encouraging and rebuking words of Moredcai to Esther as she lived in the safety of the King’s palace while a death sentence hung over all her people, the Jewish nation.  Because of her actions, the nation was spared.

What is God’s mission for you?  He has something for each of us to accomplish.  Among the days of routine and sometimes drudgery, there is a task that God has for each of us.  Perhaps it’s just a smile to a neighbor,  a soft answer to the telemarketer, or a sweet spirit in our homes; however small or great the task, live in the light of doing “all for the glory of God.”

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,

do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31

Joy in Serving Jesus

”Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee:

 he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” Ps 55:22

Are you suffering from the Elijah syndrome?  You know: you’ve seen great victory in battle; joy fills your heart; and then, down to pity party pit you go!  Your life mirrors the latest country song: your hubby’s gone, the money’s gone, the dog is gone… you know the story – it’s the “everything’s gone wrong” song!

I was there today.  I don’t have to give all the details – they do not matter. Satan aimed his fiery darts right at the chink in my armor, and my flesh did the rest!  Poor me!  As much as I tried to tell myself to stop it, it just seemed like I was bent to go down that road.

Dear patient husband of mine!  He suggested a walk.  It helped, but you know what really broke the spell?  Serving Jesus!  We just got home last night (Thursday) after being away for a week; I had three calls to sub this morning (Friday) before 7:00 AM; and then a dear lady called asking me if I was coming tonight.  “Coming where,” I ask.  “You know – the children’s party you scheduled for tonight.”  No, I had forgotten.  All that started me on the slippery slope of despair.  But now, after the party’s over, JOY!  THERE IS JOY IN SERVING JESUS!!  Why He even uses me, I don’t know; but I’m sure glad He does!  He loves me too.  I’ll never understand that!  AND, He forgives all my sins.  Hallelujah!  What a Savior.

Are you in the dumps?  Go bake someone a cake. Make a phone call. Write a letter, all in Jesus’ name!  You will have joy, unspeakable!

“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not,

yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” 1Pe 1:8

A Tribute to Bob Jones University

Have you every squished something between two pieces of glass in order to view it through a microscope?  It’s amazing to watch the substance spread out thin so you can see right through it.  It may be a drop of swamp water – that’s always amazing to see all the critters swimming about completely unaware of your viewing!

Bob Jones University is daily put under the microscope by a myriad of observers.  Some look on from the outside, like the protestor standing in front of the school dressed as a clown, totally clueless about the purpose of BJU.

As my husband and I spent a week at the campus (for Bible Conference AND to see our son – not necessarily listed in order of priority! :)), I felt the need to thank God publicly for this special place, as well as share some of my experiences:

  •   What a joy to be able to be at a Christian university that always serves up a banquet: God-honoring music; challenging messages from God’s Word served by men who are in the battle; and a healthy dose of humor.
  • This week, I sat with Nathan in his music theory class as the teacher taught the lesson from a Biblical point of view.  His comments naturally included thoughts tied to His heavenly Father, as naturally as if he were teaching a Bible class. 
  • There was no need to guard my ears or my eyes as we walked about the campus – the students were clothed and their speech clean.
  • As we sat in a Sunday school class taught by the Dean of Men, I thanked God for the leadership of the school.  This man’s biblical insight and perspective were reassuring.
  • The highlight of the week was hearing Soundforth’s Premiere Concert of their newest CD: Steadfast FAITH.  I was in tears as ten young men sang from their hearts and the orchestra matched their enthusiasm for Christ.

Many see only the school’s faults.  I don’t believe BJU ever claimed to be perfect.  Yes, there have been changes. Some of the changes may not work, but I give them credit for trying.  Yes, there are cold hearts as well as students who push the rules to the limits, showing their rebellion; however, they are the minority!

I am certainly not an expert on all the issues that surround the school; but may I quote my husband: “Eat the fish, and spit out the bones!”  BJU is not for everyone, and there will always be clowns at their doorstep shouting barbs.  Perhaps the following statement shares my heart the best: The Christian army is the only army where we shoot our own soldiers.

“Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” 1Ki 19:18

Life and Death

This morning I received the very sad news of a college friend’s death.  She had been battling cancer, and left behind her husband and two teen sons.  How tragic!  She had accomplished so much in her lifetime; I always felt intimidated by her success.  Now, she’s gone – I can’t seem to comprehend it.

How do we deal with death and dying?  I can’t help thinking of the verse: “Oh death where is thy sting?”  As a Christian, we know that death will not be final, but there is a sting in death.  It hurts to think of a loved one being separated from us.  I can’t even imagine it!  Somehow, it doesn’t seem fair that I was celebrating the life of my grandson while this dear friend was grappling with death and dying.

Please forgive me, but I must share my heart with you, even though I feel as though I know nothing about sorrow.  I’m not the one to write about this:  I have lost my grandmother and my father, but in both situations, they were having such physical difficulties, that I was relieved to see the suffering end.

Is there any hope or peace apart from the grace of God?  No, a thousand times – NO!  He is the only One that we can turn to in our time of need.  Who could possibly give us any answers concerning death other than the One who conquered death for us?  In times like these, we understand Horatio Spafford’s words:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrow like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou HAS TAUGHT ME to say:

It is well, IT IS WELL with my soul.

How do we know that God’s grace is sufficient to make our souls ‘well’?  We don’t know, until we need to know!  I can’t explain it, dear friend; but my simple faith has leaned on those Everlasting Arms time and time again, and has found peace in time of sorrow, strength in time of weakness, provision in time of want, the answer to every question, forgiveness for every sin, a friend in time of aloneness.   He IS the All-sufficient One!  What an amazing truth that He can also be my VERY BEST FRIEND as well.

F O C U S !

Where is your focus?  We’d all like to say that we are focused on Jesus Christ, but if  we are honest and check our focus barometer, we will see that there are MANY other items that take our focus away from the Master.   Does the object of our focus matter?

Many of you may have used Lamaze Breathing Techniques during birth labor.  The whole concept centers around focusing on something other than the labor pains.  Did it work?  (I can’t help you there – I had three Cesarean sections!)

You’ve probably heard the illustration of the farmer who focuses on a tree or post while plowing to keep the row straight.  He often must look back at the plow, and if he doesn’t have a fixed spot at which to refocus his aim, the row will veer sideways.  I’ve never plowed a field, but I have planted a garden.  I remember my parents driving in a stick with a string attached to it into one side of the garden, and then pulling it taut to the other end.  Mom would then keep her hoe beneath the line, and: Voila! a straight row.  Sad to say, at times, I’ve been lazy and have skipped this step in gardening.  Then, for the rest of the summer, I must look out upon crooked rows!  Last year, I not only used the line, but also measured between each row to make sure that I had enough room between rows for the tiller.  What a work of art!!  What pleasure to see those straight even rows; AND, it saved me a lot of work to be able to use the tiller later into the season.

So, where is your focus?  Is it on the circumstances in which our dear Lord has placed you to strengthen you and mold you into His image?  Is it on the failures of a loved one or perhaps your own failures?  Are you focusing on the impossible or the God of the impossible?

Our focus makes ALL the difference; and like that farmer who needs to turn around and check on the plow, we need to check our progress but then swing our focus ASAP back to the rock!

I’m sure many of the Israelites saw what Achan saw in the city of Jericho, but Achan couldn’t stop focusing on all those riches.  Think of it!  These men had been living in a desert on manna, wearing the same clothes for the past forty years!  Now, there at their fingertips were all the riches of Jericho! Achan confesses, “When I saw among the spoils …then I coveted them, and took them.” (Josh 7:21)  Wrong focus!  Think of what his wrong focus cost him: the lives of his wife and children!  Sad to say, our wrong focus may cost us the same consequence!

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Eight Dollar Tea-pot

Last fall my husband and I had a wonderful get-away-time at Cape May, NJ.  It was in October, so the beach was very quiet.  Our hotel sat right on the beach which gave us a side view of the ocean.  (Front view rooms were way too expensive. I really think the hotel should have been called The Ugly Duckling, as it sat there kind of squatty and plain among all the beautiful mansion-type bread and breakfasts!)

We SO enjoyed the beach – in fact, dear husband came back from an early morning walk with SEVEN conch shells in his pockets!  What a treasure!  We rented bikes, toured the local historical sites, and had a WONDERFUL RESTFUL escape.

On one of our excursions, we visited a little shop called “Tea by the Sea.” It was a mix of two shops: the one was totally tea and everything to do with tea; connected to it was a second-hand shop.  Now I had been on the lookout for a new tea-pot for about a year, since the one my wonderful son-in-law purchased for us several years ago was starting to crack.  This shop had every kind of teapot you could imagine: beautiful and expensive.  I didn’t really mind the prices because this was to be my sweet reminder of our time there in years to come; but…I couldn’t find one that just jumped right off of the shelf – you know what I mean.

So, as I’m perusing the vast array of teapots, out comes hubby with that grin that I love so well – it says, “Guess what I found?”  In his hands, which he has hidden behind his back, is my teapot!   It’s exactly what I would like.  It’s country, not showy like the others.  I suppose it’s used or it wouldn’t be back there.  Someone grew tired of the round little teapot imprinted with a blue country heart (SO outdated!), which made me love it even more.  Every time I use it, it reminds me of a wonderful memory just as much as an expensive teapot would have done!  I’m content.

Do you look around your nest and see only hand-me-downs – old stuff that’s seen better days?  Do those things steal away your contentment?  Then you can understand what God meant when He wrote: But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1Ti 6:6 Great gain!!!  You can be RICH in character thanks to all your junk!  Praise the Lord!  Try it!  Love that stuff you have; and when it’s time to replace it, God will provide much better than you ever could, if you will allow Him!  (Remind me to tell you about the two dollar gray pin-striped suit sometime!)

Lone Soldier

There he stands, facing the enemy.  His uniform is in tatters, his weapon is hot from use.  They’ve all left him – alone to face the enemy.  Maybe the battle was too fierce for them, or maybe they just got tired – whatever the cost, they are gone, and he stands alone.

This blog is dedicated to all you dear people who work IN the world.  Perhaps you are the only Christian at your workplace; or it may be that you have an unsaved spouse, or a spouse who isn’t ‘plugged in’ spiritually.  You are the lone soldier.

At times I feel like that. Some days, as I sub in our local schools, I wonder if anyone is listening or seeing these kids!

As a class of fourth graders come into the room, I hear two of them use God’s name in vain – FOURTH GRADE!  The new slang is OMG, “I meant it to mean Oh, my gosh,” one girl explains.  Have you looked up ‘gosh’ recently in the dictionary?  It is an exclamation of mild surprise AND an euphemism for God!  This is my little battlefield.  They probably get tired of me shooting the enemy in their presence, but I truly believe that when God gave the command: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain,” He meant it!  (Ex. 20:7)

So, what is your battle?  Where has God placed you on the field?  Are you in the thick of it right now – alone?  If so, then you must be VERY special – God only pulls out the Navy Seals for the tough jobs.  Does it seem impossible?  It is apart from God.

You know, in a way, we are inside-out knights!  The Medieval Knight was covered from head to toe with metal – quite impressive; however, inside was just flesh and bones.  Yes, the knight was well-trained, but he was just a man covered with a tough exterior.

We are just flesh and bones on the outside, but inside we house the Spirit of God – with power to “subdue kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtain promises, stop the mouths of lions, quench the violence of fire, escape the edge of the sword, out of weakness [be] made strong, wax valiant in fight, turn to flight the armies of the aliens.” (Heb. 11:33,34)  That’s more than any suit of armor can do!  Are you unleashing God’s power against your enemy?  Is your weapon ready, hidden in your heart, “known and read of all men?” (2 Cor 3:2) Lone soldier, if you don’t do it, who will?