A Living Sacrifice

As pregnant women, we get a true picture of what it means for our bodies to not be our own. We feel that little life (or lives) moving inside and we realize it is no longer about us.

We may feel sick from certain smells that never bothered us before pregnancy, we also may crave certain foods for no apparent reason. We are no longer in charge and often don’t even understand the changes taking place in our own bodies. This is just the beginning.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

As mothers of young children your body is a living sacrifice.

You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own.

A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family. I can remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again. I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest.

Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”!

Then I felt shame.

These were gifts from God!  Why did I see them as a hindrance? Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.

As we have contemplated this Easter weekend the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, let us embrace the sacrifices we make as mothers moment by moment, day by day.

Jesus is our example – He laid down His life. As His follower, I must do likewise and be a living sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words

Rachel Bob and Larry

Our youngest grandchild, Rachel, is starting to say so many new words.

The best word of all?

Nana!

Oh, how it warms my heart! It makes me melt – I am putty in her hands when she looks at me with those beautiful blue eyes and says – “Nana”.

I think God must respond in much the same way when we say “Jesus”.

Jesus – the name above every name.

In John 1: 1 – John starts his writings about Jesus in a powerful way –

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

John wanted everyone who read his writing to know that Jesus existed from the very beginning – that Jesus was in fact  – God. The WORD had great significance for the Jewish people because they had a long tradition of written expression – teachings from God directly to Moses that taught God’s plan for mankind from the very beginning. For John to link Jesus to this WORD was an amazing revelation.

John goes on to say in verse 14 –

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Jesus expressed God’s glory.

When we worship Jesus and pray in His name, we bring glory to our heavenly Father. Jesus is God’s WORD that became flesh and lived among mankind.

Jesus has the name that is above every other name. Paul writes in

Philippians 2:9-15

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

We bring glory to God when we sing and worship Jesus.

We bring glory to God when we pray and praise Jesus.

May we speak the name of Jesus and bless our Father, just as our children and grandchildren do with the words they speak.

May we demonstrate the value of belonging to Jesus with our words.

 

 

 

 

 

Think on These Things

image

Spring is my favorite season of the year. I love seeing the trees bud, the flowers bloom, and the birds building their nests.

If you were here right now you would hear me break out in song!

(scary, huh?)

I remember a friend telling me years ago that it is good for our SOULS to work in the garden. It certainly is good for mine. I see God in all that He created and tending our little part of this vast universe does wonders in helping me keep things in perspective.

Such as –

  • I cannot keep poison ivy out of every part of our property – but I can keep it out of my flower beds and yard. I cannot keep hatred out of our culture – but I can keep it out of my own heart and mind.
  • When plants are new, I need to nurture and protect them. I need to nurture and protect my grandchildren from negative influences when they are in our home by my example.
  • I can protect my plants as much as possible, but their ability to grow and bloom depend on many variables like the temperature, rainfall, pests, etc. that are beyond my control. I must guard my own heart and mind and then trust God in the things beyond my control.
  • I must not neglect my plants after they start growing and even begin blooming. I must weed around them, pulling up weeds as soon as I see them before they take over. When I notice negative attitudes in myself and my children or grandchildren, I must address them right away before they “take root” and take over.
  • I need to “deadhead” or cut blooms from my blooming plants so that they will continue blooming. The best way to do this is share flowers with friends. I must give away or share the gifts God has given me so that I will continue producing more spiritual fruit.

These are a few of the thoughts that nurture my soul as I tend our garden. So many of the things that concern me in our world are far beyond my control.

Yet there are things I can do, starting with my own heart and mind.

I must start there – but not STOP there. As God gives me opportunities to put into practice what I have learned, I need to be faithful to respond.

In Philippians 4:8 (MSG)  Paul says the following –

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

As I tend my garden, I will think on these things – the true, noble, gracious, authentic, beautiful things.

Then, by God’s grace, I will put them into practice.

 

 

Don’t Give Up

image

This camellia is just beautiful right now! I was lamenting the fact that it is blooming so early and that a freeze or frost might kill the blooms.

Phil said to just enjoy it while it lasts. Stop worrying about what MIGHT happen.

So, I am trying to do that. I have no control over the weather, or how that weather effects our plants. It has been unseasonably warm this February and things are budding out and blooming earlier than I can ever remember.

This camellia is a bush we transplanted from Phil’s Aunt Priscilla’s home after she passed away at 95. We had given her this plant for her 80th birthday (I think) and she had taken special care of it. She fertilized it regularly and pruned errant limbs as needed. When Phil’s family was getting ready to put Aunt Cil’s house on the market, we went to collect some items with special memories for Phil.

Phil decided he wanted the camellia bush, so he got a shovel and began to dig it up. The roots were much deeper that he anticipated and it was quite an effort to finally dig it out. We were not sure that it would make it, if there was enough root still attached to maintain life when transplanted in our yard.

So, we brought the plant 146 miles from Moravian Falls to Dillsboro and took great care in transplanting this camellia. Phil dug a large hole, put in rich, composted soil from the garden, and then planted the camellia, watering it generously.

And, we KEPT watering it. My father took it upon himself to make sure it did not dry out, which would kill what roots were left.

The leaves on the plant gradually dried up and fell off. (For those that don’t know, camellias are an evergreen shrub, they only shed leaves as new leaves push-off the old ones)

Soon, there was only three brown stems where there had once been a lovely, full shrub.

Well, we left it that winter and hoped that maybe new growth would poke out in the spring.

Nothing happened.

No new leaves.

So, later in June, I decided that I would plant something else in the place of that camellia. I started to dig around the bottom of those dead looking stems and …

SURPRISE!

There was a new stem starting to poke up from a root next to the old, main stem! I was so excited, I called Phil to come over and see that puny little stem.

We took great care then to water, protect, and nurture that fragile little stem. Now, four years later, it is a vigorous bush with lovely pink blooms as you can see from the above photo.

image

In Galatians 6:9-10 Paul says this –

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Notice Paul is encouraging the Christians in Galatia to NOT GIVE UP!

We must be careful not to give up on

  • our children
  • our grandchildren
  • our teenagers
  • our parents
  • OURSELVES

Paul encourages us that at “just the right time” we will reap the harvest – or see the results.

IF WE DON’T GIVE UP!

God’s time is not our time.

God is God.

I would have missed the blessing of these beautiful blossoms if I had given up on Aunt Cil’s camellia.

We will miss God’s blessing if we give up on those we love and care about.

And, may we do good to everyone.

 

Be an Ambassador

image

My daughter Hannah and I had the privilege of staying two nights in the home of the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti in 2006 when we were visiting Washington, DC.

We had a lovely visit and even went to a celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day at the Nigerian Embassy with our host and hostess. I saw the most beautiful dresses there that I have ever seen!

How did we happen to have this amazing opportunity?

Well, the story starts in 1956 when I was 5 years old.

I grew up in an old farmhouse that evolved into a house in a neighborhood four blocks from Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. My parents housed students from Wheaton College to help pay their mortgage.

One of those students was a brilliant young man, Raymond Joseph, from Haiti. He was studying at the college and would always greet us in the mornings and evenings in French as he passed by us to his room upstairs. He had the most beautiful smile and was always interested in what my brothers and I were doing.

Raymond Joseph went on to study at the University of Chicago and later worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and worked as a leader in the Haitian opposition movement of then dictator, Francois Duvalier.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a telephone call 55 years later from Raymond Joseph!

He was calling from Washington, DC where he was living and serving as Ambassador to the United States from Haiti. Raymond had been in touch with my mother and she had given him my phone number. We talked for a long time catching up and reminiscing.

He said that if we ever came to Washington, DC we were welcome to stay with him.

Don’t ever say that to the Woodys – we will come!!!

We had the most delightful visit. Ambassador Joseph had his limo pick us up and drop us off for a tour of the Haitian Embassy. We talked at length about the issues facing his homeland and his efforts to work for progress and real change for his people. His love for Haiti and his people was evident in his home, his office, and all he shared with us.

The definition of ambassador is – an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign county.

Raymond Joseph was an excellent ambassador. He represented Haiti well from 2005 to 2010.

The recent appointments of ambassadors for our new administration has prompted the above memories and also started me thinking of our role as ambassadors for Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 5:20-21 says –

20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,  so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

What a beautiful message of reconciliation!

We, God’s children, should be representing our Heavenly Father in such a way as to make others who aren’t Christians desire to become part of God’s kingdom.

Are we being good ambassadors?

Do our children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers, anyone we come in contact with – do they see a Jesus in us who loves them so much He died for them?

  • Do others see grace or condemnation?
  • Do they see joy or sadness?
  • Do they see faith or fear?

God is making His appeal through us!

May we be faithful ambassadors of the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Ashamed

image

I am visiting my mother this week. I am staying with Mom in her apartment at the retirement community where she lives in Wheaton, Illinois.

This week is the year anniversary of my father’s passing on to his eternal reward. He is greatly missed.

My mother is doing well. She is active –

  • physically – exercising regularly
  • mentally – coordinating library services for her community
  • spiritually –  attending her local church and involved in Bible study in her community.

God has been so faithful.

Mother is very quick to give God the glory!

As we walk the hallways (two miles of carpeted hallways here), we see many people who I knew while growing up here in Wheaton. One lady yesterday said to me – “Oh, Gayle, I remember you in “Oklahoma” our school musical that year.

That was in 1969!

What really has struck me is the fact that I am immediately identified as Esther’s daughter. I was walking alone in the hall and a resident stopped me and asked me who I was. “You look familiar.” she said.

When I told her who I was and that I was Esther Barker’s daughter, she responded, “Of course! That is why you looked familiar. I knew Esther when she was your age.” (I now look very much like my mother did when she was 65.)

I have been told I look like my mother my whole life. I have never been ashamed of that fact – since it was so consistently expressed, it has always been one of those givens of my life, like having brown eyes, or being taller than average.

I have always been identified as Esther’s daughter.

That is who I am.

Is my identity as a daughter of my heavenly Father as easily identified? Do individuals that do not know me see Jesus in me?

Is Jesus evident in my words and actions?

That is who I am.

Paul says in Romans 1:16-17

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

I realized that I have never been ashamed of being identified as Esther’s daughter because of the unconditional love she has always demonstrated toward me.

An even greater love has been demonstrated to all of us in God’s giving His one and only son  – Jesus – as the sacrifice for our sins.

I am not ashamed of the gospel. My desire is that I live in such a way that people identify me with the gospel.

May we live in these troubled times sharing the unconditional love our Heavenly Father has so freely shared with us.

Let us live  – not ashamed to be identified with Jesus.

 

 

Fear

image

Fear is darkness.

Have you ever woken up at night and fearful thoughts start running through your head? Those thoughts tend to multiply and sometimes become overwhelming. The fear grips us in a mental, emotional and even physical way. The darkness becomes even darker.

I remember vividly a time soon after the birth of our first child when fear gripped me in this way. Phil was late getting home from a trip (before cell phones!) (although that might not have made a difference since Phil’s cell phone is most often on his dresser – turned off!) and I became consumed with fear. My mind went wild as I planned his funeral, planned how I was going to live as a widow, and raise our little boy without his father. The more I thought, the worse those thoughts became. The darkness became darker!

When he walked in the door, I was an emotional mess!

Yet we may have those same fearful thoughts in the midst of the day and they don’t seem quite as terrible.

Why?

It is the LIGHT of day.

We see things more clearly.

Jesus says in John 8:12 –

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John explains the blessing of recognizing Jesus as the Light and following Him.  – I John 1:7

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Fear is darkness.

Faith is light.

As we allow the Light of Jesus to enter our minds and hearts we will have faith. Just as turning on a light in a dark room reveals where things are located so we don’t stumble and fall, the Light of God’s word illuminates our daily path as we follow Him.

Psalm 119:105 says –

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

When our children are fearful we need to share this truth with them as well. I memorized this verse from Psalms as a child and it still reminds me to follow the light of faith, not the darkness of fear.

There is so much to be concerned about in our world today. We must not let the darkness close in. Fear of the future can have a paralyzing effect on our lives. We should be examples of hope by our words and deeds.

We can choose to walk in the Light!