LOVE My Garden!

0721181019a.jpgThis has been the perfect growing year—good amount of rain and hot days. As you can see, I pack A LOT in my little garden. It’s enough to give us fresh cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, lettuce and snap peas for our dinner. I’ll purchase tomatoes to make into sauce, tomato soup (new “original” recipe last year and delicious! If you want it, just ask), and salsa—another tried and true recipe.

I find myself looking out my kitchen window, admiring the straight weed-free rows and healthy plants. It brings me such joy! I guess the saying is true: you can take the girl off the farm but not the farm out of the girl! I must admit a bit of pride in my heart as well, which is really dumb because…

  • God makes the seeds grow
  • God allowed me to grow up in a farming/gardening family to gain gardening knowledge
  • God gives me the strength to weed the garden
  • God even allowed someone to invent the Liquid Fence that keeps the critters out!

So, my pride needs to be all about Him—my gracious, glorious heavenly Father! As I am writing, I’m watching the yellow finch at the feeder which makes me think of the children’s song:

God sees the little sparrow fall it meets His tender view

If God so loved the little sparrow, I know He loves me too!

What a thought! He sees me, but even more than that, His heart is tender towards me. He protects me, leads me, strengthens me, and feeds me with His Holy Manna—the Word of God. He cares for ME! WOW!

When I look at my garden and experience the joy and satisfaction of a job well done, I think as well of God’s view of me.  Is He pleased? Am I growing straight and tall? Does He see that the little seeds of conviction are sprouting and bringing forth fruit in my heart? Am I “weed-free?” Am I tilled up and pliable in His hands? Am I bringing forth fruit for His kingdom and glory?

My husband loves to see a tree in the middle of a field where it can grow freely, not all trimmed and chopped because of power lines.  He will say, “That tree is doing exactly what God intended it to do.” That is what I want God to see as well when He looks at my outward life and my inward heart-garden! Oh, the joy to think that I can bring such joy to my Master Gardener!

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. {ungodly: or, wicked} But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psalm 1:1-3

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I love conflict!

ID-100122418Just thought I’d get your attention! Seriously though, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say that they hate conflict when in the midst of a struggle.  It’s often a statement which is actually saying, “I don’t want to get involved.” Who likes conflict? There are certainly people who like to shout their opinions or goad you into a verbal debate, but most of us are not wired that way, or shouldn’t be—especially professing born-again believers!

Conflict. Resolution. How do you get from one to the other? What I have learned…

Scenario:

  1. Party A does or says something that offends, riles, aggravates, disturbs Party B
  2. Party B REACTS by becoming angry, cynical, nasty, rude, quiet
  3. Party A then REACTS against Party B’s reactions. In J. Allan Peterson’s booklet Your Reactions are Showing, he says, “We may at any given moment pride ourselves on right actions and yet be reacting with jealousy, or resentment, or anger, or hatred, or fear or self-pity. To react in one or several of these ways when things do not please us will be very harmful to us.”

Poor reactions are the sand that stops the engine of resolution from working properly. Wrong reactions take the focus away from the real issues and add more conflict. So, before the original problem can be resolved, the reactions must be dealt with. The problem is that the reactions are showing deeper character issues. Peterson explains, “Were a person to watch my actions, he would not really know me. My actions would not reveal to him what I really am, because my actions might be planned and practiced for his benefit. But is it our reactions – our spontaneous, unconscious, unscheduled reactions – that reveal what we really are.” OUCH!!!

If, in the above scenario, all the reactions could be peeled away, the real issue could then be dealt with. It may be as simple as a miscommunication or misunderstanding. Perhaps, Party A didn’t realize how important the issue was to Party B. In a situation where a mom is cleaning out a child’s closet after repeated warnings, she may throw out all the “junk” and feel satisfied with a job well done.  However, when Junior comes home and finds that all his “treasures” are now in the trash, we have a conflict. A wife who makes a purchase that seems extravagant to her husband, a sister who twits her sister about her looks in front of other teens, a teacher who calls down a student for a wrong answer—all these are potential conflicts with added out-of-control reactions depending upon what is in the heart of each person involved.

Solving conflict is a part of every relationship and the methods of resolution are as varied as the people involved in those relationships, but several things are absolutely necessary for any conflict to move into resolution:

  1. LOVEAnd now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13 emphasis added). We quote this verse so often, but do you see what it is saying? Love is greater than faith?! How can that be? Love is greater than hope?! I want to “chew” on that a little more, but I’ll try to stay focused! The point is that love is the greatest thing, for out of it comes all the other necessary ingredients:
  2. TRUST—stepping out on a limb for the sake of the one you love and giving them the benefit of doubt. It is so crucial in every relationship.
  3. FORGIVENESS—When those ugly words fly and open old wounds, can you forgive? When the only response you can muster is, “How could you?” and the hurt goes to the core of your being, can you forgive? When it happens over and over again, can you forgive?
  4. CONVERSATION—talk, talk, talk! But be sure to keep the law of kindness in your tongue! That is SO hard to do, but it is possible by the grace of God! Sometimes a little space is needed to cool our jets, but when the motor of self-justification has cooled and the reactions are once again under control, talk… and LISTEN—you need both to call it communication.
  5. CHANGE—Conflict happens to teach us to change. “No man or company of men, no power in earth or heaven, can touch that soul which is abiding in Christ, without first passing through Him [God], and receiving the seal of His permission.1” Nothing catches our loving heavenly Father by surprise. Can you accept the conflict as a tool from your Father’s hand to help you to grow in His likeness?

We can learn so much from our Savior and His ultimate conflict on the cross.

  1. He never complained
  2. He went willingly
  3. He was humbled, thinking only of us and making a way to resolve our greatest conflict!

Looking at the cross always puts every conflict of life back into a right perspective!

So, press on, dear reader. Conflict is a part of life. We all hate it, but resolution is so sweet! It is true—making up is almost, ALMOST, worth the fight! 🙂

1The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, Hannah Whithall Smith (p,41)

My Mission Field

 

cogan house viewThis photo is my desktop screen.  I LOVE it! It is also my mission field. You may say, “But where are all the people? What do you have, I ministry to cows?” No, but there are folks in them there parts! God did not call us to the foreign field or to the city.  He called us to a zip code which has about 3,000 spread over approximately 64 square miles. (VERY rough figuring!) That’s not a whole lot of people! But…

  • Are there people who have not trusted Christ as their Savior? YES!
  • Are their families that are broken? YES!
  • Are there families that are searching for the truth? YES!
  • Are there elderly who need to see Jesus? YES!
  • Are there teens who need hope? YES!
  • Are there children who need to hear the Gospel? YES!

What does your mission field look like? Do you have a mission field?  Is there something that God wants you to do? For example…

  • Does the cashier need a friendly word and smile from you? And maybe even a Gospel tract?
  • Does a neighbor need to know that you care?
  • Does a family member need help? Or even a heartfelt Gospel letter?
  • Could you bake a cake for a busy mom or even watch the kids while she goes for groceries?
  • Maybe someone in your church needs a listening ear or an encouraging phone call or a smiley face text.

All of these ideas are little seeds that may someday bring forth fruit! Go! Enjoy the summer! Plant some seeds in YOUR mission field! And maybe, just maybe, the Lord will even allow you to see some sprout!

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Matthew 10:42

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. John 4:35

 

The Best “CLEAN”

 

downloadThis is not an ad for NORWEX, but I must admit—I’m sold on these cloths, and that’s saying a lot. I’m a hard sell, and when my daughter started selling NORWEX, I thought, “I’ll buy a few things just to help her out.” Well, nearly a year later, I’m still overly amazed!

This morning, as I washed my face with a NORWEX face cloth, I thought once again how amazing this microfiber/silver “baclock” cloth is! Lately, I have felt like I have to wash my face several times a day. We live in NE PA at 1700 ft. elevation. There are times when AC is nice, but for the most part, especially in the spring, the cool evening temperatures make life livable without it. HOWEVER, we’ve been having high temperatures and high humidity and my blood hasn’t thinned out yet. (Is that really what happens? :))  Yesterday, the temperature dropped but we literally lived in a cloud for most of the day. When I went down the mountain I was surprised to see that it was just a cloudy day, but then I noticed that the tops of the mountains—the place where I live—were shrouded in clouds!

CLEAN!  What a nice feeling! The dirt and grim (and glistening, if you know what I mean!) are gone! My skin feels fresh… and super clean!  And, of course, that made me think of my soul.

Not only do we get to enjoy the cleansing power of the cross when our souls are redeemed—made completely spotless in the sight of God because of His Son’s ultimate sacrifice—but we are able to enjoy a deep daily cleansing.  I call it Daily Soul Scrub (DA-P3 = Daily, Alone with Paper, Pen, and Prayer, explained in “Still Waters”).

We sometimes think that a splash of the Word to our souls is enough.  You know: you fling open your Bible, read the first verse you see, and yell, “Done!” The Word of God is alive and it is powerful, but it needs to be applied carefully! Some days, that may be all we can afford, but can you imagine the physical example if that becomes our normal habit? Yikes! Peeyoo! Without sounding too harsh… why do we notice when we need a bath but we don’t notice when our spirits are dirty?

Often, we are tempted to sprinkle the Word into our souls, taking in the little bits of Bible that are splattered within a podcast or radio broadcast. We are blessed to have wonderful resources and I’m all for using them, but DA-P3 is like the first scrub of the day.  It’s alone.  It’s personal. It’s essential!

When our daughter smeared margarine on a mirror and then simply wiped it away with a NORWEX cloth, I was stunned. It was miraculous! (Not really.) But I thought, “This must have been how the Native Americans felt the first time they saw a stick shoot fire and bullets!”

Oh, how miraculous is the Word of God! Trying to cleanse our souls with Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, or the Five Pillars of Islam is like trying to wash my face with a mechanic’s rag. It’s a very useful item to the mechanic, but it belongs in the garage, not the bathroom! Those manmade truths may clean up my life, but they will never be able to remove the sin from my heart! Years ago, I had a wonderful conversation with a Hindu woman. She really knew her religion and her sincerity broke my heart. However, when I asked the question, “What do you do to get rid of sin?” she had no answer even though she admitted that she often pondered the question!

Ah… the best clean! Aren’t you glad that it is free and available to all!!!

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:7-10 (Such powerful truths!)

 

 

 

 

 

Chink in My Armor

chink-in-the-armorIt’s a dreadful thing when Satan finds the chink in our armor. A chink is a place where the armor comes together.  It’s a weak spot for no other reason than necessity. It’s not that the armor is poorly made. Chinks need to be there. We also use that word when referring to a log cabin.  The chinking is the mixture that goes between the logs. If there are any weak spots in the chinking of a log home, the chilling winter wind will whistle its way into the cabin or a varmint may creep in as well.

What is your weak spot? Your “chink?” Where is that place where Satan hurls his fiery darts, trying to destroy you? For me, it’s my children. Our two sons, their wives, and five of our seven grandchildren live over 12 hours away.  I never understood the joy of grandparenting until I became a grandmother.  I love those little ones and just want to spend time with them… but I can’t.  They are too far away.

And what does Satan do? He needles me, tempting me with all sorts of wrong thoughts and foolish reasoning. How slippery the trial he puts before us, decorated to make it look inviting! It reminds me of the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” sitting before the fire licking his wounds. Belle wants to clean the deep scratches but instead, the Beast withdraws and cares for his hurts in his own way. That particular scene is pivotal in their relationship, and as the beast holds out his arm for Belle to clean, she thanks him for saving her life. The cleansing hurts but her tender touch and kind remarks start to heal the Beast internally as well as externally.

So, once again I return to my “normal”—facetime and phone calls. The “decorated path” that Satan puts before me borders on bitterness. I want to “lick my wounds” and have a pity party! But instead, I surrender my desires for the Lord’s will and trust Him to do what is best! That’s not easy but it provides peace in my soul and healing where the fiery darts have wounded. Going my own way—demanding my own way—will never bring lasting peace.  It may relieve the present pain, like the Beast licking his wounds, but I’m looking for eternal rest, not temporary relief!

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3: 5,6

Only Trust Him

Come, every soul by sin oppressed,
there’s mercy with the Lord,
and He will surely give you rest
by trusting in His word.

Refrain:
Only trust Him, only trust Him,
only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you.
He will save you now.

For Jesus shed His precious blood
rich blessings to bestow;
plunge now into the crimson flood
that washes white as snow.

 Yes, Jesus is the truth, the way,
that leads you into rest;
believe in Him without delay,
and you are fully blest.

Come, then, and join this holy band,
and on to glory go,
to dwell in that celestial land
where joys immortal flow.

Only trust Him, only trust Him,
only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you.
He will save you now.

~ John Stockton

 

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

 

Burning, Burning, Burning

Candle_(Slava_celebration)“A good teacher is like a candle, it consumes itself to light the way for others.” I saw this quote in one classroom and thought it was worth sharing, but couldn’t we broaden the scope a little:

“A good pastor is like a candle, who consumes himself to light the way for others.”

“A good Sunday school teacher…”

“A born-again believer…”

Isn’t that our calling–to be spent so that others will see the True Light–Jesus Christ? How are we “consumed?” Like that candle, we become consumed as we live and walk for our Lord.  Our testimony shines because we are “consumed” or are willing to sacrifice…

  • Our ways — living in the light of the gospel may require giving up our ways for His Way.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

  • Our thoughts — EVERYONE has an opinion.  I overheard a 7th grader explaining that she didn’t follow any religion.  She just goes on her experiences. WOW! It made me realize that many people are missing the one essential factor which directs my path. As believers, we are three-part beings: body, soul, and spirit. Our goal is to have the Spirit of God control our mind which, in turn, controls our bodies. When a person leaves God out of the picture, he will listen either to the desires of his flesh or the dictates of his mind.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Below is a chart of the outcomes when we allow either the bodies or our minds have greater sway than God’s Holy Spirit.

Body-controlled Mind-controlled Spirit Flesh wins every time.
Body-controlled Spirit-controlled Mind Spirit is controlling the mind, but only when the body allows.
Mind-controlled Body-controlled Spirit A disciplined person who factors God right out of the equation.
Mind-controlled Spirit-controlled Body A disciplined person, but logic overrules faith.
Spirit-controlled Body-controlled Mind Physical actions overrule common sense quenching the Spirit of God.
Spirit-controlled Mind-controlled Body Spirit has His way in the mind, which, in turn, dictates the body’s actions.
  • Our Expectations — Sometimes we just assume the outcome.  We assume that our marriage will be bumpless, our houses spotless, our children nearly sinless. God’s plan may be different from ours because He sees and knows everything, and His expectations for us to “come forth as gold” often require circumstances beyond our expectations.

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10

A good teacher or pastor gladly pours himself out for his class/congregation, thrilling when he sees a student gain understanding or a church member yield and grow.

Burning with a passion for Christ can cause burnout unless we experience a Maccabee’s miracle! Around 200 BC, a Syrian king took over Jerusalem. He allowed the Jews to stay but prohibited them to worship in their traditional way, encouraging them to worship the Greek gods. Some did, and they were called Hellenistic Jews. However, when this king built a statue of Zeus in the Temple, the Jewish people had had enough and revolted.

When they successfully ousted a much larger and better-equipped army, they cleared out the Temple and rededicated it to the Lord; however, they only had enough oil to burn the Menorah for one day.  Miraculously, it burned for eight, and this miracle is celebrated every Hannakuh.

We will soon be consumed if our strength is not from God.  There isn’t enough wick or wax to finish the course.  Some Christians sputter at the very beginning of their walk, perhaps because they are CINOs: Christian In Name Only. Sputtering is also caused by the splash of the world, our flesh, and Satan who would gladly extinguish our light IF HE COULD! (Praise God, He can’t!) It may be caused because we are too close to the world’s faucet of foolishness, and we are not regularly dipping our candles into the wax of the Word.

Daily, we need to do a self-check to be certain we’re ready to shine brightly, by…

  • Trimming our wicks
  • Cleaning our chimneys
  • Being filled with the Word.

 

“Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.”