My Poor Little Zinnias!

zinniasI decided to start zinnias from seed this year. Yesterday, I transplanted them.  I was amazed at the length of their little roots! They had sent them down as far as their shallow soil would allow them to go and then made a sharp right and started crawling along the bottom of the tray! So, I scooped them out and transplanted them into their own little pots; and this is how they look this morning…

Poor little fellas! I wonder if this is how the disciples felt this morning! It’s Saturday—the wonderful once-a-year Passover celebration culminates today! They should be excited, but you see, Jesus had uprooted them out of their comfortable, several millennia of traditions, and they didn’t even know it until this past week. Even though He told them what was going to happen, their eyes and ears and hearts were blinded to understanding His purpose.

Had my little zinnias known what was coming, they might have hunkered down and said, “No! We’re fine here! We’re not moving.” But if they could have done that, they would have eventually died. They would never have produced any flowers. They would have looked pathetic.

Do you ever feel like that?  God has pulled you up by the roots out of your comfy, cozy spot and put you into unfamiliar surroundings.  They seem harsh and unforgiving. You just want to lie down and die!  But wait! There’s something nice about this new place. Mmmm! My toesies have so much room!  I can stretch way down! And this new soil is really nice. I think I’ll just reach my little leaves towards the sun and GROW!  I’m so glad this happened!

Can we say, “I’m so glad this happened,” when life falls apart?  Better yet, can we say, “I’m so glad God did this?”

I would say most of us do not remember what happened on November 5th, 2017. If I mention Sutherland Springs, Texas, some of us might recall the infamous event. That day, 26 people who went to church to worship God, praising His name with their families and friends. But God had other plans.

How do we cope with something like that?  How do we grow through what would seem to be a dry and barren land? Here are some thoughts:

  1. We fall back on what we know: God is ALWAYS good. This step is so foundational to any further steps we take. Anything less will lead us down the wrong path. “ And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day” ( Deuteronomy 6:24).
  2. We draw closer to God and learn of Him. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Titus, James, Peter… these men experienced firsthand the almighty power of God! They have so much to tell us, and since it is really God’s Word and not theirs, it is a well so deep, it will never run dry! ” Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
  3. We gather strength from others: This is why a network of believers is so important. (Recommended: flesh and blood. Social media is great but it can’t give hugs!) We go to the huddle known as church and we learn and weep and pray, drawing strength from each other. “…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
  4. We take one step at a time. One of my favorite pictures is of the Guardian Angel,41 portraying an angel watching over two small children while they cross a torrential stream via a very rickety bridge. Just like those children, we walk “circumspectly,” testing each toehold to be sure it will hold, avoiding the pitfalls of pity, anger, bitterness, doubts, fears… the list is endless! (BTW, those are all “fiery darts” and you know who is hurling them!)

The apostles would never be the same. In fact, this dark, distressing week was only the beginning. It would pale in comparison to the testings and trials that were coming their way. BUT, Sunday made all the difference!  Jesus’ resurrection changed them, forged them into great heroes of the faith! Oh, to think that our trials as well are designed to kill us… so that we too can truly live!

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

 

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An Overflowing Heart

ID-10051375Is there any better time to write a post than when my heart is overflowing? You may ask why? … a raise? … a new sofa? Is it because of the beautiful covering of snow this morning? … the 25+ birds on my feeder? … my terrific husband? …wonderful kids? … adorable grandchildren? No, none of these.  My heart is overflowing because of the feast I just enjoyed this morning from the Bible! Oh, the joy of precious time alone with my Lord and Savior! It brings tears to my eyes and a pain in my chest because my heart is ready to burst!

Just a little background …

I started off this year using a new Bible reading plan which will take me through the Bible in 90 days! That’s a lot of Bible, but I wanted to give it a try.  Now, here on day 13, I’ve been able to keep up with it, but it’s been a challenge. The greater challenge is getting something from the Word.  With that much Bible pouring into my brain, there hasn’t been the luxury of “studying” the Bible, and I’ve missed it.

So, this morning I studied God’s Word. My friend, Matthew Henry, was a great blessing and took me over the top! I suppose I love his writing because he wrote before…

  • The 2000s millennial worldview
  • The 1990s fundamental shift
  • The 1980s contemporary movement
  • The 1970s Christian school movement
  • The 1960s anti-establishmentarian movement
  • The 1950s post-war era

He wrote before…

  • The colonies were even established in America!
  • Voltaire made his inroad into “modern” thinking
  • World Wars
  • Hitler’s diabolical Third Reich

However, his times were not without troubles:

  • His father was ejected as a pastor from the Church of England because he would not conform to church policy (Act of Uniformity 1662)
  • Matthew Henry himself was a Nonconformist, which certainly meant swimming against the tide!

That was a bit of a sidetrack, so back to this overflowing heart and a challenge:

Will you be at church tomorrow?  Why do you go to church? You see, when we spend time with God it will make our hearts overflow with joy, gladness, thankfulness, adoration, praise.  We just want to honor and praise and glorify our wonderful God.

We go to church for those reasons: to glorify, praise, worship, and honor God. We go to express our love and thankfulness to Him for all that He has done for us! We don’t look at the color of the carpet, the outfit someone is wearing.  We don’t complain about what hymn or song is sung.  We don’t go to critique the teacher, pastor, song leader, pianist or instrumentalist.  We don’t ultimately go to see our friends, but we go to focus on God and realign our hearts and lives back to HIS normal.  It’s sort of like going to the chiropractor!

Here are the thoughts and Words from God that triggered the overflow:

How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!  My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.  Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Psalm 84:1-2

The whole sparrow thing took me to Matthew Henry.  Look at this:

 David … would rather live in a bird’s nest nigh God’s altars than in a palace at a distance from them.  It is better to be serving God in solitude than serving sin with a multitude.  David envies the happiness not of those birds that flew over the altars, and had only a transient view of God’s courts, but of those that had nests for themselves there. David will not think it enough to sojourn in God’s house as a way-faring man that turns aside to tarry for a night; but let this be his rest, his home; here he will dwell. And he takes notice that these birds not only have nests for themselves there, but that there they lay their young; for those who have a place in God’s courts themselves cannot but desire that their children also may have in God’s house

I hope your church is your “home away from home” –a place where you gather with your fellow journeymen and gain strength, rest, and the satisfaction that you have done what God commands, not grudgingly, but with a heart overflowing! Make your “nest” there! Own it! Make it yours! 🙂

 

Sail On!

DONT QUITA new year, a new resolution—it’s January 3rd, how are you doing? Perhaps January 1st is just another day for you, but for me, it’s a new beginning!  I love new beginnings; however, the challenge to accomplish something—sticking to it to the end—can be overwhelming! Last year’s Master Club* Award’s ceremony brought this into clear focus for me.

One young lady received an award which some of the students had never seen before because it requires three years of complete dedication to earning every badge in the program.  This is not an impossible feat, but it does require a lot of commitment. Several students who would return the following fall showed great excitement and interest in earning that award. Now, here we are in the middle of that particular challenge, and I’m having my doubts that any of them will complete all the requirements. How does it happen: completing a task, sticking to it to the end?

Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2Timothy 4:7).”  Isn’t that every believer’s goal? Sometimes the Christian race can seem daunting. Yes, we break forth at the starting line with “new babe” joy and expectancy, but sometimes, when we are out there in the middle somewhere with no end in sight, it can be lonely, discouraging, and seemingly impossible to keep fighting “a good fight.” You’ve probably heard of the farmer who keeps his eyes focused on a certain post or tree to ensure that he has plowed straight rows, but if there’s nothing to focus on, what do we do to keep the line straight? Here’s what my hero, Ron Hamilton has to say:

                        When the going gets tough, sail on! When the sea gets rough, sail on!

                        When you’re tempted to quit, sail on! Don’t give up the ship, sail on!

                        Trust in God’s might. Don’t give up the fight.  Come on! Keep on! Sail on!

                        If you want to succeed, sail on! Christ is all you need, sail on! Sail on!

 

Do you see Him? Can you sense His presence? Do you feel His guiding hand upon your shoulder? He is there beside us… IN us! Wow! So…

  1. Remember that you have a Friend that sticks closer, cheers louder, sees better, loves deeper, and knows you better than you know yourself!
  2. Don’t forget all of God’s helpers! Hopefully, you have a pastor, pastor’s wife, Sunday school teacher, Bible study leader, friend, or family member who can help and encourage you on your journey. Don’t be afraid (or too proud—I can say that because I struggle in that area!) to ask for help.
  3. Set goals! You will never hit the bull’s eye if you don’t put up the target! It’s OK to be hard on yourself and stretch yourself a bit further. This year, I’m trying to read/listen to the Bible in 90 days. That’s a big one for me, but here’s the plan:
    1. I’m using Youversion.com which puts the Bible at my fingertips.
    2. I’m mostly listening to it in pieces throughout the day. (Praise the Lord for earbuds!)
    3. HERE’S THE BIG ONE: I’m not listening to anything else until I am finished with my Bible listening for the day! When I first wanted to become faithful in my Bible devotions, I would not eat until I read the Bible. That worked!
    4. Keep focused on the goal. Sometimes we crash and burn and Satan is right there at our elbow to feed us his lies, like: “You’re being legalistic.” “This really isn’t necessary.” “Who says you have to read the Bible to be a good Christian?” “You’re just doing this for prideful reasons.” Then your flesh comes along and says, “I’m tired.” “I don’t want to read anymore.” “You should be doing…” “I can’t concentrate anymore.” “My eyes hurt.” “My head hurts.” “My feet hurt.” Then the dog barks to be fed, or the kids need help, or hubby interrupts.

When the going gets tough, sail on! When the sea gets rough, sail on!

 When you’re tempted to quit, sail on! Don’t give up the ship, sail on!

 Trust in God’s might. Don’t give up the fight.  Come on! Keep on! Sail on!

If you want to succeed, sail on! Christ is all you need, sail on! Sail on!

Is it worth it? Oh, yes! Can you imagine hearing this from Jesus:

Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Matthew 25:21

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

* a children’s Bible club in which the students earn badges, etc.

 

If Only in My Dreams

61MS3M5UGILBing Crosby made “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” popular in 1943. With US troops fighting both fronts of the Second World War, it’s easy to see why this Christmas song struck a common chord both here and abroad.

We all have dealt with separation from loved ones at one time or another, but the Christmas season seems to magnify the ache. Memories of past Christmases when all the bambinos were under your roof, or a loved one who is now missing was still sharing the holiday gatherings with us can turn our moods blue in a heartbeat!

As my husband and I listened to our Christmas gift from our youngest son—a collection of family favorites played by him on the piano and cello—brought tears to our eyes. Tears on Christmas morning? It happens but it’s OK. Tears are so necessary in this life!  They wash away the hurt, release the pain, and clear our vision.

Separation at Christmas—do we stop to realize that, even though we praise our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ for coming to this world, this greatest gift would mean separation for them? We cannot comprehend God’s omnipresence. Were they really ever separate? Certainly, on the cross, Jesus’ words would indicate that His Father forsook Him. I believe it is Martin Luther who pondered this thought: God forsaken by God. We cannot understand, but we can be grateful. We can allow the Father’s sacrifice and separation to be a comfort to us when we are separated for a time from those we love. The greatest blessing for every believer is that we will never suffer the separation from our heavenly Father that Jesus felt on the cross. Hallelujah!

Family is a wonderful bond that cannot be broken. We may be separated emotionally, spiritually, mentally, politically or even physically from family, but the bond of relationship cannot be dissolved.  Whoever said, “Blood is thicker than water” was right. As this precious, festive season draws to a close and we start another year, may I challenge you to do all that is within your power to restore lost relationships as well as find comfort and peace in our forever Father when separation cannot be helped? Blessed Christmas to you all! Emmanuel—God with us!

Pr 18:24 ¶ A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Why not me?

ID-100180787Last night, my husband had a really bad headache.  He does get migraines, but this was different–just a bad headache.  It started at supper and he took a pill. Later, after picking up kids in the church van, leading Wednesday night prayer meeting and taking kids home, we were watching some TV when I looked over to see him holding his head. The pain was worse, so I got him another pill. I decided to sleep in the guest room and went there after kissing him good night, leaving him there all curled up in a pathetic ball with the covers over his eyes.

It’s now 4:19 AM and my brain is in overdrive. What if he… I should go and check on him, but I don’t want to awaken him, but what if he’s…

Such a morbid thought, but isn’t it possible? Why not me? The hurricanes just snuffed out lives–someone’s husband or father–why not me?

What would I do? More morbid thoughts, but it may be true, or will be true, someday. I hope it’s not today. He’s only 59.

An amazing statement came into my life recently and I can’t give credit, but this morning, in the wee hours of the day, sitting at his desk, they have new meaning:

God doesn’t give us grace for our imaginations.

I can’t even imagine what I would do. Tom and I may be weird, but we play these things through our minds every once and a while.  He, like most men, always says that he’ll die first and he’s probably right.

I think these thoughts are haunting me because –

  • We just remembered 9/11 this week. Sixteen years ago.  That doesn’t seem possible, but I’m sure anyone who lost a loved one on that day feels something different about the day.
  • 9/12 is the anniversary of my own father’s death. It’s always a hard day, mainly because I don’t want to ignore it but I’m never sure what to say, especially to my mom. I write the date on a piano student’s practice notepad and think, what’s today’s date? Oh yeah, the twelfth–the day my dad died, but I don’t say anything.
  • We went to a funeral this past Saturday. It was an untimely death even though his grandmother was 74. Less than a year ago she was healthy. Then the dreaded news came–cancer. Her husband is quite a bit older than she was and he probably never thought he would be facing that day. As I came to him during the viewing, he asked ME how I was doing! And then, after I asked him how he was doing, he said, “Good.  What are you going to do?  It’s how it is, and you just have to accept it.” WOW!

So, I’m heading back to bed. I may slip into our bedroom and just listen. I’m sure he’s OK…

… but if he’s not, I know only one thing, but it’s a really, really, BIG thing:

God’s grace will be sufficient for the day, no matter what it brings. He’s already taught me that. We carry burdens and heartaches. We have scars from past wounds. We’re made of tough stuff, although the bottom line is that God created us from dirt and when under pressure, it crumbles. But …

God’s grace will be sufficient.

I’m thankful that I can’t speak from experience on this one, but don’t we believe that faith is the substance of things hoped for, THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN (Hebrews 11:1)? Can you believe this wonderful, precious promise and the One who promised it for whatever you are facing today? Will you let the strong arms of Jesus carry you through?

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, 
Stand in his strength alone; 
The arm of flesh will fail you, 
Ye dare not trust your own.

Bart Millard

 

 

 

“What’s Your Problem?”

ID-100122418We may have heard this phrase or even used it in a harsh, accusing way, but I’m asking it with a heart of concern. What is your problem? You may say, “I don’t have a problem.” Good for you! Or, you may say, “Where do you want me to start?” Then others might smile and say, “Nothing. I’m good,” with a smile that tries to cover a breaking heart but doesn’t quite get to the eyes. You know what I mean.

I’ve recently discovered something: God’s grace. How does that really work? I’m learning that it only works when we do several things:

  1. Speak the truth in our hearts.  He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart (Psalm 15:2).”
  2. Turn our cares completely over to God. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5: 7).”
  3. Stop trying to salve the hurt with other things. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12: 9).”

How do you deal with hurt? So often we turn to other things for our comfort and don’t even realize we’re doing it! Like…

  • Hobbies – We get busy with a craft or exercise at the gym or parties
  • Home – Ladies, we clean fiercely, or cook extravagantly, or spend lots of time redecorating or rearranging furniture
  • Work – We throw ourselves into our work, spending long hours away from home, especially if the problem is at home
  • Internet – We fiercely display all our pent up anger, hurt, disappointment, frustrations, or whatever on a social media page. We vent.

All of these things, except the last one, are not bad things.  They may even take away the pain for a while, but in the end, we’re right where we started: dealing with a situation that we cannot change.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

 

This poem has long been a favorite of mine, so much so that I put it to music way back in high school! Its simple truths continue to circle back into my life.

When we turn to other sources of relief, we are like a child with a splinter.  We squirm and cry and dramatize, making it more difficult, if not impossible, for the “splinter-remover” to do his or her job! Is that why God had David write Psalm 23? “He MAKETH me to LIE DOWN… He LEADETH beside…”

He knows what is best. We can’t fix it. We can only rest in His grace, allowing it to soothe when nothing else will soothe. Only He can calm the soul. Only God and His grace give peace.  Is it a “once and done” thing? No, my friend. When the problem continues, so does the possibility for angst and the need to once again sit at the Master’s feel and sense His sufficient grace!

Cuckoo Heaven

cuckooDoes it get any better than this: sitting here in my living room, looking out the triple pane window and watching the finches and various other birds come swooping into the feeder as I have my devotions? The sun is shining, the trees are budding, and my cuckoo clock is happily ticking.

Now, if you are a long-time reader, you may remember some posts about my cuckoo clock craze. My first clock came from my husband’s great uncle’s home where it hung silent for years.  It was a carved hunter’s clock, which means that it had a large racked buck at the top, a dead rabbit and bird hanging on either side of the front, and a hunting horn circling the clock face. It wasn’t my pick but I loved it, prayed over it, fixed it, and for, twenty years, God graciously blessed my feeble efforts and kept it ticking! Praise Jehovah-jireh!

But, alas, it died. It was beyond repair.  We even took it to Ye Old Clock Shoppe in Dallas, PA. (If you need to have a clock fixed, this man knows his clocks! The store could be a field trip; it’s that interesting… well, to clock-lovers!)

Long story short, I bought a new clock. Now, for a short marital finance lesson—don’t have “my money—your money” attitudes. If both husband and wife work, then the money pays the bills together. We broke that rule in one area: my books. I’ve kept any monies that I’ve received from my books sales into a separate account.  I’m not sure why; I believe mostly just to be able to be encouraged.  Lest you think I’m “rolling in the dough,” self-publishing is a tough road. It’s “me, myself, and I” when it comes to the process of writing, designing, and particularly selling books. However, that said, I used some of that fund to purchase a new cuckoo clock.

Maybe it’s my German heritage, but I’ve loved cuckoo clocks since I was a child. I remember standing in front of my aunt’s clock as she turned the minute hand to make the bird sing! Thrilled! Some may think I’m crazy to spend, what is to me, a sizeable amount to get my clock, but from the moment I opened the box, straight from Germany, my heart thrilled!

Such a materialistic person! Well, to quote my dear friend Tweety-bird, “You don’t know me verwe well!” Remember, I’m a pastor’s wife, and while we live very comfortably, we’ve always been frugal. Also, I’m married to a lovable, sweet, and charming “bean counter!”

So, is there a point to this babbling? Well, it is the Saturday before Resurrection Sunday. Yes, Satan has already whispered in my ear that I love my clock too much, but may I say…

“All that thrills my soul is Jesus!”

This clock has brought me great joy.  It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and ear, but not the soul! It is not a sin to enjoy nice things until our souls begin to crave those things more than our Savior. He alone brings peace and lasting joy—joy which lasts throughout the ages!

So, I’m content.  My cuckoo is once again ticking merrily in my home, reminding me that every second is precious, not to be wasted. J Each tick helps me to …. “number [my] days, that [I] may apply [my] heart unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12