Love is What Matters

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I had the privilege of attending the Women’s Conference at Ochre Hill Baptist Church recently. Hosted by Ochre Hill, individuals and churches throughout the county were invited.

Samantha Blanton and the ladies from Ochre Hill did a wonderful job making all who attended feel welcome and celebrated. There were several powerful testimonies as women shared their stories of God’s grace as they moved from Beauty to Ashes.

I was deeply touched by Mamaw Beck. She is a Godly woman, 88 years of age, who has raised a family in our community. One of her children is a former co-worker of mine, Lewis Beck, who is a tribute to Mamaw’s skill as a mother. She has served her church for many years by keeping the nursery. It is obvious to anyone who sees her with children that the children love her and seek her attention. Mrs. Beck still keeps the nursery at 88!

She is not someone who says – “I did that when my children were little, let someone else do it now.”

As part of the conference she shared the following –

I love these children. Someone asked me if I didn’t want to read them a lesson. I told them, no, I just love them. I want these children to love coming to church to worship God, so I just love on ‘um.”

Isn’t that what Jesus did with children?

Mark 10:13-15 NKJV     13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Jesus wanted the children to come to him. He STILL wants children to come to him. I am blessed to know people in our community who value children just like Jesus does, those people love children with Jesus’ love. Tammy Youmans, Courtney Umphlet, Alexis Dills, Luisa McMahan, and Kelly Brown are just a few of the many in our community who lead young ones to Jesus.

I am especially blessed how four churches in our town all come together and offer one Bible School. What a great example to our children and our community to see the Body of Christ working together in unity!

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Here are children ready to share what they learned during their week of Bible School. They played games, learned Bible verses and songs, and made things. They also were loved. Programs, activities, and curriculum all have their place.

Love is what matters.

That is just what Mamaw Dot and Jesus do.

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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.

Heirloom Plants and People

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Heirloom plants are all the rage now. At our local farmers market you can find plants that our grandparents ate frequently, but that I had never seen for sale locally. One plant that is becoming increasingly visible is beets. If you believe the “info-mercials”, beets are the answer to all the physical and mental problems one might face.

My grandparents ate beets. LOTS of beets. Grandma Barker was a wonderful cook, but I never developed a taste for her beets. Grandma and Grandpa Barker moved into our home when I was 11 years old and they brought their beets with them. Grandpa Barker loved potatoes at every meal and Grandma cooked the most delicious potato dishes. Fried potatoes with onions, scalloped potatoes, potato salad, boiled potatoes, and mashed “to perfection” potatoes.

Yet the image of the beet juice creeping slowly across their plates and turning the delicious mashed potatoes pinkish purple still sends culinary chills up my spine.

I have been thinking recently about the heirloom plants that people are now planting in their gardens. I have some heirloom flowering plants that were on our property when we bought it and are as old as our home built in 1880.

What is this fascination we have with the past?

Obviously everyone does not have it. One of our daughters lives in a home where all the furniture is new. It is lovely.

We buy old, vintage furniture and treasure the family heirlooms we are fortunate enough to have. We nurture and protect the old plants and flowers that grace our yard with their perennial beauty.

Truth be told, new appliances are a blessing. I am thankful for a washer and dryer, even though I enjoy using a clothes line, weather permitting. I am glad I don’t have to use a wringer washer and heat the water on the woodstove to wash our clothes. We actually have an heirloom hot water heater in our cellar. It is cast iron and was fed with coal. Our electric hot water heater sits next to it connecting to the hot water pipes that plumb our house. I’m glad I don’t have to stoke a coal fire every time I need a shower!

There is a balance between honoring the heirlooms of our past and utilizing the benefits and innovations of our current culture.

My mother recently gave me my Grandma Barker’s Bible. It is a King James Version which my Grandmother gave to her father, George Auman, in 1946. He was a pastor in the United Brethren in Christ denomination. My Great-grandmother gave it back to Grandma Barker in 1956 after Great-grandpa Auman passed away. Grandma had it rebound in 1964 and she writes in the fly leaf – “The * in the margins are Dad’s markings.”

Grandma has written many notes throughout this Bible in her beautiful, distinct hand. It is well worn, well read, and an heirloom I treasure. It demonstrates her sincere faith on every marked page.

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In II Timothy 1:5, Paul says –

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.

As a grandmother now myself, I want to live like Lois did, like Grace Auman Barker, my grandmother did.

I want my grandchildren to remember my sincere faith.

And when they see the carefully tended heirloom flowers, or the notes in my journals and Bible, I hope it points them to the God who loves them and blesses them as Grandma’s Bible blesses me.

 

 

In My Garden With God # 13

It’s All About the Soil

 

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When folks see our yard, they often ask – “How do you get these plants to grow so well?”

First, I always stress that we are just the caretakers, God is the source. I truly mean that – it is NOT just a statement of false humility. Phil and I have moved plants, sometimes multiple times – until we find just the right location for them to thrive. But, then the rich mountain soil fulfills its God ordained function.

Phil – “I thought we moved this plant last year.”

Gayle – “We did, but I think it will do better over here.”

Phil – “It looks fine here.”

Gayle – “Yes, but it needs more sun to bloom. Just dig the hole, please”

Phil – “Is this why you married me?”

Gayle  – “Yes” (smile – always smile)

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The MOST important factor in the beauty of the plants in our yard is the soil. We had nothing to do with that. Over the years, many leaves and plant matter have decomposed creating a rich, nutritious soil that results in beautiful plants and flowers. That is one of the many blessings of living in an older home. Some of our shrubs and trees are very old and we receive the blessing of their beauty year after year.

But it started with good dirt.

I was thinking about this as I was reading in Ephesians as part of our Bible study. We are in chapter 6. In verse 4, Paul says

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In the Amplified translation verse 4 says this –

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.

I try to place our plants in the best location for that plant. Hostas need shade, Shasta daisies need sun. ALL plants need the good foundation of rich, nutritious soil so their roots can grown down deep in that soil.

As we raise our children, we must first and foremost make sure that we provide a good foundation (soil). In a family this means a safe, secure, loving environment where the child can grow. As the child grows, we must then provide nurture for the specific needs that child may have. Just as all plants don’t require the same amount of sun, each child will not thrive in the same activities or learning environment.

Raising plants are a fitting parallel to raising children. If I place a hosta in full sun, just because my crepe myrtles do well there, the hostas are sure to burn up in the summer heat. Our native plant section is at the edge of the yard where these lovely plants thrive under the canopy of  poplar and oak trees, their natural habitat. When Phil and I move a plant, we study where it has thrived in nature and move it to a similar environment.

We must do the same as parents. Society now labels some of our children “special needs” which I feel is a respectful way to understand that these children have their individual path for growth and development. Yet ALL children have unique needs and recognizing those needs will help ensure their full growth and development. Those who don’t fit into the “traditional school mold”, (like most little boys) will need increased attention to their specific situations. Like some of my plants, they may need to be moved (i.e. try various strategies) several times before just the right place is found.

God is SO patient with us!

My dear friend Julianna is facing challenges with her special needs son, Hawk. They are facing these challenges with faith and grace, choosing to celebrate each step of progress no matter how small. Hawk is blessed to be in this family. Instead of focusing on what Hawk is unable to do at this time, they get excited over each new accomplishment.

We must provide the “soil” as parents – that firm foundation. Then as verse 4 says –  bring them up [tenderly, with loving kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Each child is unique. Each child is precious in God’s sight.

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In My Garden With God – 9

Pure Water

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Spring Lizard

Phil was cleaning out around the overflow from our spring. Several years ago Phil and my father threaded a hose through a vintage water pump and the water now flows freely nestled in our wild flower area.

“Gayle, come look here!”

I hurried over and much to our delight, a tiny salamander was peeking out from some decaying leaves Phil was about to remove. He gently moved a rock, and there was another one! I love seeing these amphibians of God’s creation. They have such a fluid, simple form as their moist skin shimmers in their wet habitat.

I remember my father showing me salamanders as a little girl and telling me not to pick them up because they are very fragile and our skin oil can harm them. Dad went on to say that they were an indicator of  pure water. Salamanders only survive in pure water.

Mountain folks call salamanders “spring lizards”. They knew if salamanders were in their spring boxes, the water was safe to drink.

As I was working outside yesterday, I started thinking about purity. Just as a salamander is an indication of pure water, what is the sign of purity in my life as a Christian?

Is there some quality that indicates I have a pure heart?

I thought about this awhile. Does love, joy, or peace in my life indicate purity? Those are “fruit of the Spirit” and are the result of God’s Spirit dwelling in me.

Not necessarily signs of purity. I asked God, “what denotes purity in our lives?”

Then today, our pastor asked us to read Luke 6:45. Our pastor was preaching on “Soul Food”, yet as soon as I looked at this verse, I knew it was God’s answer to my question.

Luke 6:45  (NLT)

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.

The indicator of a pure life is the words that come out of one’s mouth.

John 7:37 says

37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”

The words we speak come from our heart. Those words then are the indication of what is in our hearts.

A PURE heart speaks PURE words.

The sign of purity in my life will be the words I speak.

This brought me back to my father. When he passed away a bit over two years ago, so many people expressed how kind, thoughtful, and loving he was.

And he was.

My father spoke kindly as his natural pattern of speech. It was rare for him to speak ill of others. I think those of us who knew him would say he had a pure heart.

I want a pure heart.

And the test of that will be what comes out of my mouth. Each morning I pray –

Psalm 19:14

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Amen

 

In My Garden with God    #7

Heaven Is Rejoicing!

 

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photo –  wfmynews2.com

Billy Graham passed on to his eternal reward yesterday. Heaven is rejoicing!

I was 11 years old in 1962 when I had the privilege of hearing Rev. Graham preach. (along with the 50,000 or so other people who were there at McCormick Place in Chicago) I will always remember the power of his message. “For God so loved the world…”

In thinking about the legacy that Billy Graham has left, I have two personal memories that stand out.

The first memory surrounds the crusade mentioned above.

My parents had attended the training to counsel individuals who responded to the invitation at the end of the crusade to accept Jesus as Lord and savior. This training included people from all over Chicago and the suburbs representing various denominations and churches. Billy Graham required pastors and church leaders, Catholics and Protestant to come together and commit to cooperation and participation in planning, volunteering, and participating in all aspects of the crusade. If the local churches couldn’t commit to working together, Billy Graham would not hold a crusade in that city.

This required religious leaders to put aside sectarian differences for the importance of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Literally hundreds of churches joined together involving thousands of Christians. What an example for being one Body!

My family attended College Church in Wheaton, just west of Chicago. My father was a very loyal person and this extended to our family’s involvement in church. We did not attend other churches, even for special events. If the doors to College Church were open – we were there. Yet my parents felt this crusade merited our family’s involvement.

Attending the Billy Graham Crusade was an eye-opening experience for me. Seeing thousands of people singing and praising was awe-inspiring. All these people were worshiping together! The choir was made up of several hundred people led by Cliff Barrows. Seeing individuals of every race and ethnicity gathered in one place to worship offered me my first glimpse of the enormity and diversity of the Body of Christ.

The second memory is from my teen years, during the racial turmoil of the late 1960’s.

Billy Graham made it a priority to include black Christians front and center on the platform at his crusades. These spiritual brothers and sisters were embraced by Billy Graham and Graham’s actions set an example for all Christians – “we are one in Christ”.

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photo – billygraham.org

 

I remember being so pleased by the fact that Billy Graham had Andre Crouch and the Disciples sing for one of the crusades. They were my favorite singing group! Their pride in their race, and more importantly their savior, Jesus Christ was evident. Rev. Graham practiced what he preached when it came to demonstrating the fact that …  God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Billy Graham was not perfect – he boldly acknowledged,including himself “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23  He then shared the truth that we become new creations when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

He left a legacy of life long (99 years long) commitment to serving the God he loved.

Heaven is rejoicing!

Overcoming Evil

It has happened again.

A senseless killing of innocent people. In a church while worshiping, no less.

Where is the God who these folks were praying to?

Does He hear?

Does He care?

These questions flooded my mind yesterday as I heard the news of the tragic shooting in the little town in Texas. A small, unincorporated community where everyone knows each other. The LAST place one would expect such a tragic occurrence.

Just like the place I live.

We know most all our neighbors and wave when they drive by.

I sat in a place of worship yesterday morning, just as those people in Texas did. So did our children and grandchildren in their various locations, surrounded by friends and family.

Christians gather regularly around the world to worship, pray, and learn from Biblical teaching and fellowship.

So did those people in Texas.

I can’t help but think “Why?”

God tells us in Jeremiah 17: 9-10

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
    and desperately wicked.
    Who really knows how bad it is?
10 But I, the Lord, search all hearts
    and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
    according to what their actions deserve.”

There is evil in the hearts of some individuals. We don’t understand it. But these verses assure me that God knows, and that He will avenge the ones responsible.

But what about the innocent victims? Those hurting family and friends of those killed and wounded? Why did God allow this?

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis addresses this very question. In his chapter The Rival Conceptions of God Lewis writes the following –

“Of course, that raises a very big question. If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling ‘whatever you say, and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?’

“My argument against God,” Lewis says, “was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?”

This is why God became flesh – in the form of man – Jesus – to redeem this cruel, broken world. Jesus is the hope of the world.

This realization does not change the very real suffering of those people in Texas. It does not change the very real hurt and loss of individuals throughout the world suffering from human trafficking, abuse, neglect, or cruelty.

It does give hope for the future. God wants to bring each person into the Light of His love, grace and restoration.

Denying the existence of God because one sees the real and terrible suffering of this life does nothing to alleviate, diminish, or explain that suffering.

Our grandsons dress up as “super heroes” ready to vanquish the evil in their back yard. Don’t we wish it was that simple? Jesus has promised to be with us through all the battles we face.

Right before Jesus was beaten and crucified He told his disciples the following – John 16:33 –

33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus wants to give us hope and peace in the midst of the suffering of this world.

We must pray – and hold on to hope.