Passing the Mantle

A dear friend of our family, Janet Halverson Strobeck, passed on to her heavenly home this week at age 93. She is the beautiful woman seated on the right. Next to her is Ruth Muzzy, who also passed on this past year at age 97, and standing is my mother, Esther Barker who passed on in 2018 at age 90.

I use the words “passed on” intentionally because though their bodies died, each of their souls lives eternally with Jesus. What a great reunion they had this week!

These three women became friends early in their marriages and in their last years ended up living at the same retirement community. It was such a gift to each of them to have this dear friendship for over 60 years. Their husbands were friends as well and they had years of sharing life together including the joys of children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Janet found out recently that a great-great granddaughter is expected!

These women first met at College Church in Wheaton in a Sunday School class. Their friendship was founded on their relationship as fellow Christians – “sisters” in the Lord. That fellowship carried them through life’s difficult storms. Each experienced loss, tragedy, heart break, and most difficult – the loss of their husbands after marriages of over 60+ years. They also shared the joys and celebrations of their families and extended families rejoicing with each other.

The three friends prayed together over the years and prayed for each other – their children – grandchildren – great-grandchildren. I am the recipient of so many of those prayers. It has made me feel secure in my faith over the years knowing that these ladies who loved me and loved my family were faithfully lifting me up before our heavenly Father.

I remember “Aunt Jan”, visiting her daughter Carol (we were roommates in Sylva, North Carolina) soon after I first met Phil – who is now my husband. Aunt Jan and Uncle Chuck grilled me on the worthiness of Phil and told me they did so on behalf of my parents. Their main concern was that Phil was a Christian and that his commitment to the Lord was sincere. They took seriously their friendship and love of our family.

Which brings me to the thoughts I am having now as the last of this generation of saints passes on. These ladies were not perfect – you can ask any of their children. They made mistakes and sometimes hurt each other and their families. BUT – they did love God, confess their sins, and dearly loved their families. Each wanted to see the gospel of Jesus Christ shared throughout their community and the world. And each wanted their loved ones to walk in sincere faith.

In II Timothy 1:3-5 Paul reminds Timothy of his heritage in the faith. He mentions the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother.

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

Paul mentions that this faith now lives in Timothy also.

The faith and example of the prayers of Janet, Ruth, and Esther is passed on to the following generation – us.

We must take up the mantle of sincere faith. We must live our lives worthy of the calling of Christ Jesus in our lives.

The mantle has passed on to us – may we carry it well.

Preparing for His Appearing

when they appear in spring …

This time of year I am preparing the places in our native plants area for the spring.

To prepare these places, I remove any debris that has fallen from trees and heavy leaf matter. I clean up all around, and then put a light, protective layer of leaves covering the soil where the trillium, trout lily, mayapple, bloodroot, lady slipper, and Solomon’s seal will appear come spring. As those leaves rot, they feed the soil which benefits the plant growth.

Doing this preparation work will allow these wildflowers to flourish, and it also allows the new growth to appear without the old dead stems and leaves diminishing the beauty of the new growth. Heavy leaf matter and large pieces of tree branches could prevent the new, tender shoots from pushing through when it warms up. This work does not show immediate effect like weeding and pruning do, yet over time its results show the value of the work.

Technically, it isn’t even winter yet, December 21 is that day, but it sure feels like winter. It was 21 degrees this morning and the frost on our deck table was white and thick. In years past, I waited too long before preparing for the emergence of our wildflowers. The flowers came up and when I began to clean up the leaf matter and sticks so the plants had room, I inadvertently damaged the young, tender shoots. There is no set date for trout lilies or bloodroot to emerge. They are usually the first wildflower to pop up along the edge of our yard and are the sign that the mayapples, trillium, and lady slippers will soon follow. Their appearance is determined by the weather, when it gets warm enough, the plants emerge – then bloom.

So, to allow the native plants their full growth potential, I must do the preparation work long before there is any sign of the future blooms.

Our Community Women’s Bible Study is studying the book of Revelation. I have been reminded that in Revelation John urges us as followers of Jesus to “be prepared” for His second appearing. This week, like many of us, I have been preparing our home for the arrival of Christmas. I have put up a tree, strung some lights outside, and gotten my mother’s Christmas china out. All these preparations celebrate Jesus’ first appearance on earth.

What have I done to prepare for His second coming?

Revelation 16:15 in the Amplified Version says –

15 “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is he who stays awake and who keeps his clothes [that is, stays spiritually ready for the Lord’s return], so that he will not be naked—spiritually unprepared—and men will not see his shame.”

So, I don’t need to decorate my house or clean away leaf debris to prepare for Jesus second coming. As my friend Patti Harper said when we were reading this verse – “We need to be awake – aware – and attired.

Awake – realize that Jesus is coming AGAIN

Aware – that no matter what is happening around me – God is faithful

Attired – clothed in His righteousness, Jesus paid the price for my salvation

During these days of cold weather and darkness all around us, may we share the light of Jesus. His Light shines brightest in darkness. May our “hearts prepare Him room” as the beautiful carol “Joy to the World” reminds us.

Then we will be prepared for Jesus appearing.

Who Will See?

This year of 2020 has been a year of challenges. No matter where we live, or who we are, COVID 19 has affected our lives in some way, big or small. Some of these effects will end, hopefully soon. Some will continue because we have been challenged to see our lives and priorities in a new way.

As most of you know, because it is the theme of many of my posts, my “hobby” is gardening. I love working outdoors in our yard which is surrounded by woods. Being outside renews my soul and puts me in the mind-set of communing with my Heavenly Father.

Actually, it all started in a garden, didn’t it? Creation, relationship with our Creator, human’s fall into sin….. all began in a garden. I feel God’s presence most personally in our garden.

Phil and I work hard on tending our plants and keeping the weeds at bay. Because of COVID 19, we have been home much more this year. Meetings in our community, trips overseas, visits out of state, gatherings with friends – all have been cancelled. So, I found myself devoting more time to tending our garden than I ever have before.

The results of that work shows.

But who sees it?

The entrance to our home looks so lovely and inviting – but no one comes to visit.

I cut these flowers and arranged them, but no one was invited to share our table.

So, what is the meaning of all the work if no one sees the end result?

I “drag” Phil around the yard to see a new bloom. I obviously take pictures, but all you gardeners know that a picture does not touch the vibrancy of the color in real life, nor can a photo transmit the smell that emanates from the bloom. Pictures are a nice but incomplete image of the real thing.

So these thoughts caused me to contemplate my motivation for my gardening efforts. Do I do this work so it will be seen by others? Am I just acting on compulsion – driven by some unknown need to pull weeds? (some of my children think that is indeed the case)

Jesus teaches about our motivation for praying in Matthew 6: 5,6

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Now gardening is not prayer, but I do view my gardening efforts as an act of worship, of tending God’s creation. These verses encourage me to continue tending, weeding, trimming, pruning, and nurturing. The point is not if anyone else sees it, the point is in the doing. God sees.

It does bring me joy to see plants flourish. There are probably many activities that we are currently doing that are not noticed, especially during these times of staying home and staying safe.

So, continue doing what pleases the Father, whether it is noticed or not.

#26 In My Garden with God

Full Disclosure: We have had family come, and some friends who have driven through the driveway. They have fed my extroverted soul as well.