Not Out of Danger, Yet

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Last Year’s Blooms

I just went outside and covered my newest hydrangea bush with a large, upside planter. It is supposed to frost tonight and be a bit colder again. I don’t want the blooms, which set early on this variety, to freeze. They are not out of danger yet.

The older, larger bushes of hydrangeas we have will just have to tough it out – they are too big to cover effectively. They are also mature and have weathered colder winters than this one. They are weather hardened.

When our children were young, we felt it was our job as parents to protect our children from harmful influences. We limited and censored TV watching, evaluated the books they checked out from the library for age appropriateness, and monitored who they played with.

As our children got older and hopefully matured, we allowed them more freedom to choose what they watched, read, and who they spent time with. Sometimes they made good choices, sometimes they didn’t. Yet each decision was an opportunity to grow and learn. They became “hardened” by the consequences of those decisions.

As a gardener, I have planted new annuals when I thought all threat of frost was past.

Sometimes they were “not out of danger” and I had to try to cover and protect them, even though I thought they were safe when I planted them.

Sometimes we do this spiritually. We think we have won enough battles, overcome a particular sin and we can sit back and “just live”.

I can remember thinking, “If we can just get our children through high school….”          Ha! how wrong I was!

Paul warns against this dangerous attitude. In I Corinthians 10: 12-13 he says –

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

We must always be on guard in our hearts and minds and recognize that we are “not out of danger yet.” Someday we will be, when we meet Jesus face to face.

Until then we must be vigilant and on guard.

 

 

In My Garden with God  #17

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Divine Placement

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This post is going to be short. The sun is SHINING and I must get out to my garden – my plants are calling…

This thought has been percolating in my brain since my husband, Phil, shared this scripture when preaching recently.

I believe God has a plan.

  • for all creation
  • for our universe
  • for our world
  • for our country
  • for our community
  • for THE CHURCH
  • for our particular fellowship of Believers
  • for my family
  • for me

It is not an accident that I was born in 1951, to parents who lived in Wheaton, Illinois, who raised me in a God honoring home. God placed me there, I did not choose them.

Yet what a profound influence that has had on my life! Since then I have exercised my God given free will to choose to follow Jesus.

God has led me, disciplined me, blessed me, caused me to suffer – all to prepare me to fulfill His plan in me and through me.

Divine placement is a wonderful concept to ponder. In looking at back at my 67 years of life, I can see God’s hand at work – over and over. At the time I was often not aware of His presence, but in hindsight I see clearly His influence – over and over.

Phil recently helped me transplant a Japanese maple that my father had grown from a two inch seedling. He had brought it back to North Carolina in a baggie on an airplane from my brother’s home in Oregon. Dad had first planted it in a sheltered place above a rock wall in our yard that is protected from too much sun, and from grandchildren’s feet. When it grew to about 12 inches, (about 4 years) he moved it to a large planter where it has grown for the past 12 years. It had become root bound and I knew if it wasn’t transplanted soon, it would become unhealthy and eventually die. We planted it in the ground near to the location of the planter because it had grown well there.

Divine placement?

Paul instructed the Corinthian church on how to grow as the Body of  Christ. He explains that our function or placement in the Body is not arbitrary.          I Corinthians 12:18

18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?

Divine placement!

Each of us has been placed by God to fulfill His purposes. Sometimes we must be transplanted to stay healthy and grow. We may need to “uproot” our children at times to provide an environment where they will receive the needed nourishment and nurture to thrive. God has a plan.

My parents moved after living in our home for 8 1/2 years to a retirement community back in Wheaton where I grew up and where they had lived years earlier. I missed them dearly after they moved. They were 89 and 85 at the time, but how they flourished after being transplanted to that community! They both finished strong at 91 and 90.

Divine placement.

May we grow where we are planted. May we be healthy and bear fruit for GOD’S GLORY.

 

In My Garden with God   #16

Enjoy Them While They Last

img_0833“These camellia blooms are bigger and more abundant than we have ever had!” I told Phil last week. “But we will probably have a frost and and they will all turn brown.”

“You need to enjoy them while they last,” my tending toward pessimistic husband replied. “There is nothing you can do about it.” So, I cut these flowers and put them in a vase. Tonight it is supposed to get down to 17 degrees so these blooms wouldn’t make it.

I will enjoy them while they last – right on our dining room table.

Gardening is my hobby, yet there are many things I cannot control when it comes to the plants I tend. Weather is under God’s authority. I can trim, mulch, and fertilize, but freezing temperatures can still eliminate the blooms I hope to see.

This is a lot like parenting, isn’t it?

We care for our children by feeding, clothing, reading to them, limiting screen time, providing shelter….but so many factors are under God’s authority. We don’t form their personality, their God given abilities, their physical appearance.

I remember talking to my Mother about how stubborn one of our daughters was and being at a loss on how to address her defiance as a 3 year old. “Just wait, Gayle.” Mother said. “She will grow out of this stage before you know it.”

Then with a twinkle in her eye she said, “… and she will enter the NEXT stage.”

How can I enjoy my child right in the moment? Right in the stage, phase, mood – call it what you will – that they are in right now?

Grace.

I need grace to love and encourage my child through each phase of their development. And then grace for the next stage….and the next.

Phil was right, instead of bemoaning the fact that my flowers will freeze, I need to enjoy their blooms for as long as they live. I need to look for and FIND the positive aspects of the stages my child is going through and enjoy those qualities – while they last.

I am not referring here to open defiance, or disobedience. I am focusing on behaviors that are the result of growth patterns, often associated with hormonal changes.

I must be honest and admit it is so much easier to have grace for grandchildren’s behavior then I had for their parent’s behavior when they were that age. The separation of a generation does that. In Ephesians 6:4  AMP Paul gives clear instruction to parents –

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with loving kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Grace

I pray I will search for and find the good in each stage  – and enjoy it while it lasts.

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In My Garden with God  #15

 

 

It’s the Heart That Matters

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I was talking with my friend, Carol, about parenting as Christians. At our age, we are done with active parenting. We each have grandchildren who we love deeply and pray for consistently. We now look back on our own parenting and realize the mistakes we made and wish we had known then….what we know now.

But, that is just the point isn’t it?

We couldn’t know then what we know now, because we see differently from this end.

One thing we agreed on, we wouldn’t focus so much on the “little things”. We spent a lot of time making sure that our children DID certain things. Some of that was important, but now other things seem more significant.

Like our children’s hearts.

In the Bible dictionary it defines the heart as the “central or most vital part of something.” YES! That is what Carol and I realized was most important in Christian parenting – focusing on the heart.

  • Where was my daughter’s heart when she pulled her sister’s hair?
  • Where was my son’s heart when he laughed at his brother who fell?
  • Where were their hearts when they excluded a younger sibling?
  • Where were their hearts when they lied or blamed others for what they did?

45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.         Luke 6:45

It is the heart that matters.

Proverbs 4:23 says it so plainly –

23 Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life.

A child’s words, tone of voice, and facial expressions are windows into their hearts. We must pay attention and strive to touch their hearts so they sense God’s unconditional love for them. That love is what will draw them unto Jesus. “For God so loved the world….” God has designed our hearts to desire relationship with Him. We can help our children open their hearts to God so their hearts are not hardened. Worship, Bible study, fellowship, and prayer will help hearts be open to God.

As a grandparent I am praying that God will guard their hearts from the fiery darts of the evil one. I must be an example of one who has a heart for God.

This prayer from Paul is my prayer for my grandchildren –

18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

It’s the heart that matters.

Dormant

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Phil and I recently planted grass seed on some bare spots in our lawn. Well, it is a stretch to call it a lawn…  You know, the green part in front of our house.

Well, actually it is a stretch to call it green. It is brown mud or moss.

So – last year I planted grass seed about March 3rd and it came up beautifully! Then as the weather dried up in June, so did the new grass. The roots weren’t established enough when the temperatures rose and there wasn’t as much rain to keep the new grass alive.

SO – this year I planted in JANUARY. My plan is that the grass seeds will sprout and the roots will be established long before the temperatures rise and the rain stops. I won’t make the same mistake I made last year.

Only one problem – the seeds are lying dormant.

  • The seeds need water – we’ve had plenty of that.
  • The seeds need sun – we have had several sunny days (between the rain)
  • The seeds need warmth to germinate – NOT ENOUGH WARMTH in JANUARY!

The definition of dormant for a plant is – “alive but not actively growing.”

So, my dormant grass seed is alive, but not actively growing. My hope is that as soon as it starts getting warm, the grass seeds will sprout. At least they are ready and waiting.

This situation got me thinking about raising our children. Two friends and I were talking about this at lunch today – as loving parents we work hard to provide all our children need to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Sometimes we feel we made mistakes with one child, so we try something different with the next child. (just like I did with the seeds) In discussing this we realized that as hard as we tried, we still made mistakes. Only God’s grace made our feeble efforts effective.

In I Corinthians 3:5-7 Paul is talking about how God’s servants minister to their fellow Christians.

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 

It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.          NLT

As Christian parents we must do all we can to help our children grown spiritually. But as Paul said so clearly – “God makes the seed grow”. God will use parents, friends, teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, and YES – grandparents to plant and water those spiritual seeds.

We must not be discouraged if we don’t see growth when we think we should. Those spiritual seeds may be lying dormant – alive, but not actively growing at this time.

God makes them grow.

 

 

In My Garden with God #14

 

 

No Greater Joy

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We visited some of our family this weekend. I had some meeting responsibilities, but Phil (and I later) was able to see

  • one granddaughter play basketball – her team won
  • another granddaughter sing a solo in her Chorus Concert
  • a grandson play basketball – his team won
  • and twin grandsons play basketball – their team won

We were certainly pleased that they all did well and had fun. I am so thankful they are able to play and sing and that they have these opportunities.

BUT, later that day, before dinner, one granddaughter let me read her testimony of accepting Jesus as her savior. Now THAT was really exciting!

After completing her confirmation class, our children’s’ pastor asks each participant to write their testimony down and then bring it to a one-on-one meeting with the pastor. What a wonderful way to affirm their step of faith!’

Several of our grandchildren have made a commitment of faith in Jesus as their savior and have been baptized. There is no greater joy for me as a grandmother than to hear that one of there precious children has become a Child of God.

In III John 2-4, John is writing a letter to Gaius and the churches in Asia and says the following –

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. 

Some of the traveling teacher recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. 

I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth. 

I agree with John – there is no greater joy!

My prayer is that each of these precious children continue to follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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Exodus/Exit

On our father’s 90th birthday…May, 2014

Our Women’s Community Bible Study will be starting back this week. We will be studying the book of Exodus, so I have been doing a bit of background reading. Exodus is of course the story of  ancient Israel’s exodus from bondage in Egypt. It “reveals what is required of them in a relationship with God, but also what God had graciously done to make that relationship possible.” *

That is the question humans have asked since the beginning of time!

As the Living Word, the Bible tells not only the historical account of the Israeli exodus, but the parallel truth of our journey from the bondage of self and sin to the freedom of Christ’s redemption.

This will be a GOOD study!

I have also been thinking of the “exit” of my Mother to heaven three months ago. Throughout the holidays I thought of her often as memories of Christmas past were recalled. I made the caramel popcorn she always made from Grandma Barker’s recipe. I used her beautiful holly china and silverware that had been her wedding present. ( I left the table “set” for a month because it looked so pretty and reminded me of Mother.)

My brother Garry, (the middle of the three of us standing in the top picture) recently sent me the following thoughts –

“I was musing about the biblical injunction to “honor your father and mother”. When I was young I understood this to mean to obey.  Then when I had older children I saw how precious it was when they showed kindness to me and I tried to do that to mom and dad, thinking that the honoring stopped when they died.  Now I realize that one gives honor to your father and mother by living the way they taught, even when they are gone. May we cherish Christ as they did!”

What a meaningful expression of “honor”. My parents loved God and lived their lives to honor Jesus Christ. They were not perfect. Yet they loved each other, their children, and their wide circle of friends well. Mother’s notebook by her Bible had notes from the last sermon and Sunday School class she attended at College Church. At 90 she still knew she needed to remain in God’s Word and in fellowship.

I saw in my parent’s lives their pursuit of a meaningful relationship with God. I saw them struggle at times when circumstances like caring for aging parents and illness challenged their ability to “die to self”. I saw them seek God’s forgiveness and to walk in forgiveness to others.

As I study the book of Exodus, I know I will be reminded of the spiritual legacy my parents have left us. I also know I will be challenged to be set free from the bondage of sin and the idols that I allow to grab my attention. When God gave Moses the 10 commandments He said –

12 “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.              Exodus 20:12

May I honor the God of my father (and mother) by living the way they taught, by following God and being an example to future generations.

 

PS – If you are a women, and live in Jackson County, you are welcome to join our Bible study of the book of  Exodus. It is made up of women from about 15 different churches in our community. Just contact me for details.