Many Hands…

My garden is finally all planted and serving up lessons right and left!  This week, my son Nathan helped me finish planting.  We worked side by side, chatting as we worked.  Whoever said, “Many hands make light work” was right!  That extra set of hands made the job go a lot faster, but that wasn’t the greatest asset; his presence was more valuable than his hands!

Do you love your church people?  Are they your crowd?  Would you rather spend time with fellow believers more than anyone else?  I hope the answer to all those questions is Yes, yes, YES!  J  I have found that no matter the task or event, we all love a crowd!  Whether it is Sunday morning worship, the Sunday School picnic or a work day at the church, we love it when there a lots and lots of people!  Why?  I think it’s the hot coals’ syndrome.

I’m sure you all have sat by a fire and watched the coals glow red, alive with heat.  If you take one out and set it aside, it quickly loses its glow and color.

We need each other!  Just as those coals burn brightly all together, Christians draw strength from one another.  It’s difficult to stand alone!  Some of you must do that all day long at the work place.  Oh, the joy of reuniting with fellow believers and getting “fired up!”  Never think that your presence isn’t important at your church!  You never know what the Lord has planned for you to do, if you are willing!

Have you ever thought of all the tasks it takes to make “church” happen?  There needs to be leadership: pastor, elder, deacon. There are others who lead and teach: choir director, instrumentalist, choir members, Sunday school teachers, Wednesday night children’s workers, youth workers.  There are the unseen tasks: cleaners, grass cutters, weed pullers, flower planters, hedge trimmers, painters, snow shovelers, sidewalk sweepers, window washers!  Someone buys the soap for the bathrooms and orders the Sunday school materials!  The list is endless!  I’m sure I missed someone.

As a pastor’s wife, may I say, “Thank you” for what you do in the church, even if it is not our church.  You have no idea what a blessing you are to your pastor; but more importantly, our Master, Savior and Friend is blessed more than we can ever know!  Working together – it’s the key motto of the Army Rangers and I’m sure many other groups.  It’s what makes the church survive!

” Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.” 1Ch 29:9

Twelve Smooth Stones – Gabriel Bachman, high school sweetheart

Gabriel Bachman, two years Esther’s senior, is at the top of his class in every way: academics, athletics and heart.  Every girl longs to be HIS girl, but it is Esther who catches his eye.  I have to wonder if Queen Esther had any admirers among her people before she was taken by the King’s men.  Undoubtedly, it would have been possible. Like Esther’s family, the Bachman’s are wealthy and have business connections all across Europe and inAmerica.  Seeing the Nazi behemoth swallowing their people, Gabriel’s parents make arrangements for him to intern with an uncle inAmericawhile attending the university inNew York City.

“The summer passed slowly.  Gabriel had left in June.  Esther had managed to see him the day before he left; he had come to her house, and she was the one who answered the door.  Before he even spoke, her eyes threatened to tear.

“Esther,” he said, as he nervously placed his hands into his pockets.  Why does she have such an affect on me?  Clearing his throat, he continued.  “May I come in for a moment?”

“Why yes,” she answered, stepping back to allow him to enter the foyer.  She had never entertained male guests before, but knew enough to invite him into the parlor.  Her father and brothers were at work, and her mother had just stepped across the street to visit with a neighbor.  She had hoped, had even dreamed of a moment alone with Gabriel, and it seemed as though she would have her wish!  “Please, have a seat.  Would you like something cool to drink?”  Esther motioned to a chair, and graciously awaited his answer.  In a way, Gabriel amused her.  He had always seemed so sure of himself at school.  Perhaps it was the setting and the circumstances that made his hands shake and his brow glisten!  He seemed relieved to be able to focus on something as sure and solid as a chair!

“No, thank you,” he managed after clearing his throat. “I just wanted to stop by and … say good-bye,” he faltered to a stop.  His eyes mirrored his heavy heart, and she could not hold back the tears.  She tried to hide her face, but he was there, standing close to her, lifting her chin.  Her tears had the opposite effect on him than he would have thought: they broke his heart, but at the same time, they gave him strength.  How he desired to protect her!  Gently, he took her hands and pulled her close.  “There, there, Esther.  It won’t be forever.”

“But how do you know?” she sobbed, barely knowing that she was in his arms. She didn’t mean to be so forceful, but the strain of the past few weeks crumbled her resolve to be strong.  How badly she wanted to escape with him toAmerica.  She felt completely protected in his arms.

He held her close for a moment.  As much as he enjoyed her closeness, he didn’t want to cast a shadow upon their relationship before it even got established.  What would her father or mother think if they saw him holding their daughter?  He gently pushed her back to arm’s length, knowing the memory of that moment would strengthen him in the days to come.  “I don’t know, but even if it is – I will wait for you, Esther.”  His deep voice and penetrating eyes melted her heart.

“I will wait for you too, Gabriel, “she whispered.”

There was one more hug – gentle yet firm.  She felt him sweetly kiss her hair, and he was gone.  She caught just a glimpse of wetness on his cheek as he turned to leave.

It’s not WHAT you do, but WHO you are

Mary and Martha – Mary is the well known “sit at Jesus’ feet and anoint them with spikenard” girl.  As I study her life, I see the qualities of a sanguine personality: sociable, charismatic, a people-pleaser.  She has great spiritual insights and is immortalized by Christ for her actions; she understands and seeks “that one needful thing.”  Luke 10:42)

And then there’s Martha.  Dear Martha, the worried housekeeper, “cumbered about” and complaining to her Lord. Unfortunately, she is remembered for those fourteen infamous words:  “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?” (Luke 10: 40)

But if we will take a closer look at Martha, we find a lesson we all need to learn about heart service.

Three main incidences include both Mary and Martha:

  1. Martha’s cumbered about serving and Mary’s sitting at Jesus’ feet learning. (Luke 10:38-42)
  2. Martha’s conversation with Jesus before He raises her brother Lazarus from the dead.  It is here that we find those beautiful words: “Now Jesus loved Martha…” (John 11:1-53)
  3. Martha’s changed heart about serving just days before Jesus’ crucifixion  (12;1-8)

When she is first seen serving Jesus (and who knows how many others), she is serving a man – a good man, perhaps even a great man; certainly a prophet, but just a man.  Her later conversation with Jesus reveals that she believes that God will do whatever Jesus asks: “… I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (John 12:22)  She believes that God can do anything, but she has no idea of what the God-man is going to do for her TODAY!  Even when Jesus asks for the stone to be rolled away, practical Martha tells Jesus that Lazarus surely stinks, being dead for four days !

Aren’t we so often like Martha?  Yes, Lord, I know you saved me.  I know You created the world, but Who is going to help me get through today’s problem?  Martha was definitely NOT thinking that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead, but He does and Martha is a different servant.

The last time Martha is mentioned, she is again serving.  There are no complaints this time, even though the crowd was probably bigger than ever.  Her risen brother is seated with Jesus at the table,  Mary is anointing Jesus’ feet, AND Martha is serving!!!   I can imagine the knowing look that passed between Jesus and Martha; He’s again saying, “I love you Martha!  Thank you for serving Me in YOUR way.” She now understands HOW to serve!!! What made the difference?  She knows her Savior and that He is worth serving even if it means serving alone!

Do you doubt why you are serving, or have you lost sight of Who you are serving?  Do you feel that your service isn’t as worthy as a more flamboyant server?  Take heart, dear friend!  He LOVES you! He sees your service and your heart! Remember all that He has already done in your life, and you will find the purpose and strength you need to serve with sacrifice.

Ps 103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

Before and After

Well, Tilly perked right up yesterday and did her marvel.  My garden was beginning to look pretty shabby; and even though I appreciate Tilly’s help, I haven’t figured out a way for the tiller to pick out the weeds!  Tilly is a BIG help, but it’s still back breaking work to finish the job: pull the weeds and smooth out the sod.

So, what happens between “before” and “after?”  WORK!  While weeding yesterday, I noticed a process that may help us, especially today:  Mother’s Day.  I hope this will be helpful to you mothers.  In the garden of my life, I will be blessed if I …

  1. See the problem – As the tiny pea, onion, lettuce and potato plants take root and grow, so do the weeds.  We all have weeds in our garden of life.  Do you see them?  Don’t feel bad – we ALL have them.  God was really showing me my weeds this week!
  2. Make a choice – am I going to ignore them or deal with them?  If I ignore the weeds in my garden, I still might get some fruit, but they will not be as strong and healthy if they must grow among the weeds!  Okay, so I’m going to be really transparent this morning and hope that my “weed” problem will be a help to you.  My weed: submission!  OUCH!  It hurts to admit it!  When does it rear its ugly head?  When conflict arises and I fail to trust my husband!  As I read Proverbs 31 this morning, I noticed something new: The chapter does not start with words of instruction on raising children, or being a good housekeeper – The first challenge is this: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.”  After nearly thirty-one years of marriage, you would think that I would have this weed under control!  I think I’ve gotten better, but I still must pull at that weed “by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” (Psalm 199:9) Dear mothers, the best thing you can do for your children is to be the best wife on the face of this earth!
  3. WORK – the Christian life is work!  We are constantly rooting out and planting; however, the benefits are literally out of this world!  Find your weed and attack it with the Word of God, prayer and habit.  Little by little, the weeds of wrong choices, wrong words or wrong attitudes will lessen!

This morning, as I found a bouquet of flowers beside my rocker and a sweet homemade card from my youngest, the tears flowed as I thanked my precious Savior for saving me, keeping me, growing me, spanking me through his Word, and for CHANGING me!  (I’m still a work in process!) To God be all the glory!  Happy Mother’s Day!  May this day be a wonderful day for each of you as you honor your mothers and are honored as mothers.  Take heart, dear friend – the challenge may seem great, but you walk with the One who makes all things possible.  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”  Phil 4:13.

“We have liftoff, Houston!”

When I think about all the hours and effort that would go into space exploration, I feel as though my effort to get Twelve Smooth Stones out there is minuscule; nevertheless, we finally have a date!  Thank you for all of your encouragement and support.  Am I excited?  YES!

I will be posting character sketches including clips from Twelve Smooth Stones over the next few months just to help you to feel like part of the family!  I hope you enjoy them AND they pique your interest. Again, many thanks for all your support.  I wish I knew who you all are, but unless you write a quick note on the blog or email, I have no clue.  I would love to hear from all of you, so if you get a moment, send a comment!

Esther Ruth Raul – main character

Sixteen-year-old Esther and her family live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  The year is 1944, and they have cautiously lived and helplessly watched as the long arm of Nazi tyranny reaches into their community.  Now, it has come to their front door.      

    Monday morning, August 14th dawned dreary.  The sun would not shine today! Esther looked out her window as the trees dripped from the evening’s thunderstorm.  The air felt fresh and clean and the colors in mother’s garden glistened vibrantly even without the sun.  But in spite of all this, there was heaviness in the air.  All seemed strangely quiet.  Esther would often look back and wonder if nature had a premonition about the day’s agenda.  Even the birds were not singing their usual morning canticle of praise to their Creator.  She dressed quickly putting the degrading yellow star on her sleeve.  Today it seemed to mock her, as if to say,” Here I am, come and kill me!”  Last as always, the locket was placed around her neck and tucked underneath her blouse.

            As she descended the stairs the sweet aroma of Mother’s morning scones tantalized her stomach!  She was hungry!  When everyone was assembled, Father bowed his head for prayer and Mother poured the rich brown coffee.  Scones and coffee – her favorite!  It was a usual morning, the usual amount of banter, the usual clinking of silver and china, the usual sweet fellowship, the usual tasty morsels.  All that was missing was the beautiful splashes of color which would adorn their table as the sun’s rays washed in through the stained glass window.  Esther instinctively looked up at the window to admire its glowing translucent colors when every shred of normalcy was shattered by a rock crashing through the colored glass. Mother screamed.  “What …,” was all Father had time to say before the pounding of the front door brought him to his feet.  Ad and Daan were close behind their father as he went to the door.  The sense of foreboding seemed to blanket Esther’s world.  They were here – shouting and pushing into their privacy – their sweet, tranquil home.  At first she thought that they only wanted the men, but two soldiers were heading for her and Mother, shouting, pushing, and cursing.  Before she knew what was happening, Esther was outside on the front sidewalk and Mother was behind her.  Her precious father and brothers could only watch as their women were herded like cattle out into the street.  It was then that she heard her mother’s voice – such angry forbidden words!

“Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him?

Who will say unto him, What doest thou?”

Job 9:12

In a Fog

The past twenty-four hours has been as bazaar as this spring’s weather!  We picked up Nathan, our youngest, near Harrisburg at 5:00 AM.  (I will not miss that part of these college days!)  As I was driving into Williamsport, the fog was unbelievable.  Usually, you come to a scenic area as you head north on Route 15 and can see the entire valley spread out before you until the road turns and you head down the mountain.  Today, I could hardly see the lines on the road!  Anyone who was not familiar with the way would never know about the awesome view that they just missed!

Heaven – it’s there, we just can’t see it.  We’ve read about it, we know dear ones who are now there, we believe it by faith, but the fog of this life keeps it from our view.  Do you live in light of eternity?  Do you move about your daily tasks in the shadow of heaven?

Living in light of eternity puts the shine in our eyes and joy in our hearts as we walk and work in a sin-cursed world.  It puts all of life into perspective and helps us to keep focused on what is important.

So many that we rub shoulders with every day are clueless about the “heavenly” view that they are missing.  Their focus is this world only: get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can!  How sad!  Perhaps, you or I will have the thrill of lifting the fog for someone, today!

“There’s a land that is fairer than day, And by faith we can see it afar;

For the Father waits over the way To prepare us a dwelling place there.”

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth:

 for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away;

and there was no more sea.

 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,

coming down from God out of heaven,

prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Rev. 21: 1,2

While Men Slept

Show me a mom who is serious about God, and I’ll show you a child who is serious about God.  Show me a dad who loves the Lord, and I’ll show you a child who loves the Lord.

Show me a parent who is faithful to church, and I’ll show you a child who is faithful to church.  Show me a parent who makes excuses for their lack of commitment and I’ll show you a child who does the same.

I’ve often had parents of young adults bemoan the fact that their children aren’t following God.  “We took them to church: I don’t know what happened.”  I have yet to see a child, whose parents CONSISTANTLY had family devotions with them, prayed with them, set a good uncompromising example before them, turn away and choose to go astray.

We put sports, shopping, working, family, vacation, and EVERYTHING else before God and then wonder why our children do the same!!!  Wanda, aren’t you getting a little legalistic?  Correction: legalism is anything that one does to work his way into heaven, so, no – I’m not being legalistic.  Wanda, you just aren’t in step with the world.  AMEN and HALLELUJAH!!!

I once told a Sunday school class of senior high students that if they were coming to church just because their parents made them, I would GUARANTEE that as soon as they graduated, they would not be in church.  One young man vehemently told me that he came of his own accord. (I’m not sure why he was so upset – I wasn’t accusing anyone of anything.)  Let me see: that was over ten years ago, and of the eight that I can remember: that young man is dead after a life of running from the Lord, two young men do not attend church, one girl is divorced.  Praise God, one of the young men is faithful and two couples came out of that group – one set serves the Lord in the pastorate!

The most difficult part of the ministry is watching kids fall away from the Lord and ruin their lives.  I see it in the elementary age students, and here’s the problem:

“Sow a thought – reap an action;

Sow an action – reap a habit;

Sow a habit – reap a character;

Sow a character – reap a destiny!”

Dear reader, this principle is true for negative actions/habits as well as positive ones.  Would you please look in the mirror of God’s Word and allow it to change you?  Your child’s destiny dramatically depends upon it.

“But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.”  Mt 13:25