Spring!

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We have had some weird and wild weather lately, yet I felt this week like spring had finally arrived. The subjects of the above pictures validated my feelings of anticipation for arrival of my favorite season. I LOVE to see the trillium in bloom. The various colors and parts of these treasures of God’s creation never cease to excite me.

Phil is very patient as I drag him around to see each of the varieties, many of which he helped transplant from further up on the hill in the woods. We have moved over nine different varieties to the edge of the backyard where the woods begin. We enjoy these beautiful flowers and especially appreciate the variety. Today, I asked my father to come outside with me as I took these pictures so you can see his hand holding the blooms toward the camera. These pictures were all taken today in our backyard. We are SO BLESSED!

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Jesus refers to the beauty of wild flowers in this passage in Matthew 6: 28-30

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?”

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These verses remind me of God’s great love and care for me.
Jesus said these wildflowers should remind me as well.
I hope these pictures inspire you and remind you of
just how much God loves and cares for you.

Tril 9

Joyful Hearts

Great Great Grandmother Brandt

I heard the most wonderful words this past week – “Nana, I asked Jesus into my heart.”

My heart was filled with joy.

Words cannot express all that we felt. As parents and grandparents who are Christians, our hearts’ desire is to see our family members become members of the Family of God. Both our oldest grandchildren accepted Jesus a into their hearts last week. Their dad prayed with these precious girls aged almost 8 and 6 years old. We are thankful for their parents who have introduced them to God as their heavenly Father and Jesus as their Savior.

I told my granddaughters when talking to them on the phone that I was blessed that they are now my sisters in the Lord as well as my granddaughters. What joy! We are now each our Father’s daughters.

We have prayed for all our grandchildren since we were first aware of their existance inside their mothers’ womb. We pray for their hearts to be open to God and that they would desire to follow Jesus at a young age. Their great grandparents pray for them daily as well as other family members on both sides of their family. All this prayer might seem to guarantee that all our grandhchildren would become Christians. Yet Scripture does not teach that. If it was an automatic result that our children and grandchildren followed Christ, we would not have responded with such joy and excitement at the news of their decision to accept Christ as Savior.

John 1:11-13 (KJV)

11 He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.

12 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

This Scripture makes it clear that we become part of God’s family by “believing on His name.” That means believing all that God’s name or charactor involves. Now each grandaughters’ journey as a Christian begins. Our responsibility is to encourage them, pray for them, and live as godly examples by following Jesus ourselves.

We will make mistakes. When this happens, we must ask forgiveness. By living honest, transparent lives before our children and grandchildren we allow them to see that following Jesus is not always easy, nor is it without suffering. In fact, if we follow Jesus we WILL have trials and difficulties. The good news is that we have the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to walk with God.

The above picture includes my grandmother (on the left) in the lap of her grandmother. Notice the tents in the backgound? They are at a camp meeting of the Methodist church in 1898 when my grandmother was two years old. What a rich heritage I have of godly women who have been followers of Jesus! Our granddaughters are now part of a lineage that we trust will continue until Jesus returns.

You may not have that heritage of Christian relatives. It is a blessing – but it is NOT what causes children to desire to follow Jesus. Children desire to become Christians because they sense God’s Spirit in their hearts and want to accept His love for themselves. YOU may be the start of a line of those who walk with God.

Let your light shine before your children and grandchildren – God is faithful! My heart is full of joy!

Heavy Hearts

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It’s happened again.

Another tragic story about the senseless killing of a child – this time by what appears to be a terrorist’s bomb.

All of us with children and grandchildren want to hold those children a bit closer because we imagine the sense of loss those parents are feeling.
How do we make sense of these horrific situations? How do we prevent fear from consuming us?

There are so many questions and only one answer. Faith.

Yet how can we have faith in a God who allows such suffering?

Our faith is rooted in trust that the God who created us also made it possible for us to be redeemed from this world of evil, sin and suffering. Yes, our Heavenly Father allows evil to exist, but that is NOT the end of the story. Our hope lies in the fact that Jesus has conquered sin and death by His finished work on the cross. While we exist in these “earth suits” we are subject to the effects of original sin. Yet, by God’s grace we are able to exchange the effects of sin for that which is of eternal value.

Isaiah 61:2-4 (NKJV)

2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

This is the great exchange.
• Comfort ….. for those who mourn
• Beauty ….. for ashes
• Oil of joy ….. for mourning
• Garment of praise ….. for the spirit of heaviness

We must pray that God will pour out His love and comfort in the hearts of all those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing.
Pray that we will be able to be agents of God’s hope and peace.

First Love

Nana singing to twins

As mothers we love to record “firsts”. First smile, first steps, first words, first teeth, first haircut, first fit in the grocery store…well maybe NOT that first. The list could go on and on. We cherish these moments that denote milestones in the development of our children.

Our pastor read from Revelation 2:4 yesterday about a “first”. This is a sobering message from Jesus Christ to the church in Ephesus.
Revelation 2:1-4 (NKJV)

2 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.
4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
Jesus lists several things that these early Christians are doing well. He is pleased that they are laboring hard for His kingdom, demonstrating patience, they hate evil, etc.

BUT – those things are not enough. Jesus says that in spite of all these great things, they have lost their first love.
Jesus tells us the first commandment in Mark 12:29-31 (NKJV)

29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Obviously this first love is very important.

I started to think about the first time I felt God’s love for me. I was a very young child, singing the first sing I ever learned – “Jesus Loves Me.”
It was while singing that song I sensed what I now know was the Holy Spirit. He was filling me with a sense of God’s love for me that I was able to understand even at that young age.

I thought about the times I have sung that song with our children and now our grandchildren. I am so blessed that “Jesus Loves Me” is the first song I ever learned and the first song I have sung with our grandchildren. This simple song is profound in the truth it conveys. “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong.”

There have been times in my life when I have allowed other things, even very good things, like my husband and my children to take first place in my life.

When I do that, I open myself up to stress, fear, worry – all the things that are the opposite of God’s presence and the fruit of His Spirit.

I want to keep Jesus as my first love and be an example to my children and grandchildren of one who loves the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. I must never leave my first love.

It is Finished

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One of the greatest challenges for me as a mother of young children was feeling that I was never finished with anything. I would clean up the kitchen after a meal and almost immediately someone was getting a snack, needing me to fix something for a bake sale ….the list could go on and on.
Never ending tasks:
• Laundry – need I say more?
• Clean sheets – someone throws up in bed right after you wash the sheets, bedspread, etc.
• Vacuuming – our children used to ask “who is coming over?” when I got the vacuum cleaner out, then as soon as I vacuumed, someone tracked in newly mown grass or mud.
• Meals – we all need to eat, but for moms the day often seems to flow from one meal to the next and looking back on my day, sometimes that is all I seemed to do.
• Picking up – I have sorted the toys, put all the puzzles together, and straightened the books …..then the children wake up from their nap. All is undone in a matter of minutes.

The fact of feeling that nothing was ever finished discouraged me. Yet that was a false belief because in reality my children were fed, their clothes were clean – these tasks were finished. The tasks just had to be repeated again… and again… and again. Our children had a clean organized home to live in…

Wait – clean and organized home is NOT an accurate description of our house at that time. The Health Department was never called in, we never had to call exterminators, but we lived in our house and you could tell we had four small children.

The issue of never finishing tasks was the concern for me. Yet in the flow of daily living these repeated tasks were essential to the well being of our life as a family.

During the past week following our Easter celebration, Jesus words on the cross “It is Finished” have caused me to see His death and resurrection in a new way.

John’s description of the crucifixion of Jesus shares this scene – John 19: 28-39

v.28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” v.29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. v.30 When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

Jesus death and resurrection was a complete work. Jesus Himself said “It is finished”. There is nothing that anyone can do to make His salvation more complete – neither doctrine nor effort on our part will replace or enhance the salvation that Jesus bought for us with His shed blood.

WHAT A WONDERFUL TRUTH!

Jesus paid the price so that I can live in freedom from the guilt and weight of my sin. It is not something I must do over and over again like the laundry. Once I confess my sin and receive His forgiveness, I am a new creation – not just a remake – but completely new.

2 Corinthians 5:16-18 (NLT)

v.16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know Him now! v.17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! v.18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him.

It is finished and I am so thankful!