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.

 

 

 

 

 

No Place for Hatred!

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Busted!

15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. I John 3:15 NLT

This Scripture hit me right between the eyes today as we discussed it in Bible study. “Hate” is such an ugly, debilitating emotion. Yet I recalled just a few days before expressing hateful feelings myself about a certain basketball team, a certain coach, and certain players. I do not know, nor have I met any of these people.

Jesus said –

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone,  you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.  Matthew 5:21-22

Dedicated fans (dare I say “rabid”?) are not the exclusive territory of any one team. When Phil was attending Asbury Theological Seminary soon after we married, I cleaned house for an 80-year-old lady who had court side seats in Rupp Arena. Mrs. Moore was a widow and had two season tickets that her husband, a doctor and Kentucky graduate, had obtained during the heyday of Adolf Rupp and the Kentucky Wildcats. She went to those games, often taking a niece or a friend. She told me once their children would inherit the right to those season tickets. Mrs. Moore was a calm, quintessential Southern lady – UNTIL HER WILDCATS were playing!

Similar stories can be shared about most teams with loyal followings. My older brother reminded me when we were reminiscing about the Cubs’ World Series win, that my father, although a Cubs fan, was most consistently for the underdog. (that has been the definition of a Cubs’ fan, hasn’t it?) Even his favorite team did not receive his backing if a little known school or losing program threatened a win. He always thought it was a thrill to see “David beat Goliath”.

There has been an increase in the past few years of fans who take pride, not so much in their team and how it is playing, but in how ugly, disgusting, and downright vulgar their cheering section is. Expletives are commonplace. For these fans, I use the term loosely, it is no longer about the game, but about their extreme behavior in the stands.

Our family has always loved sports and competition. Everyone has played on multiple teams except for myself – who has never been on a team. (Someone has to watch!)

Yet I am concerned about the shift in our culture from cheering for your team to win – to degrading the opposing team, win or lose. I hear comments from fans of all ages that talk about opposing teams, coaches, and players in such degrading terms that hatred is the result.

I have talked this way myself.

I am busted.

As in any situation, when Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, I must confess it, accept forgiveness, and CHANGE MY BEHAVIOR.

I need to do this to honor the Lord.

I need to do this to be a positive example to my grandchildren.

I look forward to watching some basketball in the coming days. I want to focus on cheering for the teams in my bracket.

There is no place for hatred!

Think on These Things

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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

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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.

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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.

 

Fear

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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!

A Good Story

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Everyone loves a good story.

Be honest now, remember the last time you were at a baby shower (Sunday for me) with a bunch of women – many with a birthing story to tell. It is amazing! Anyone who has had a child has a story – some are funny, some painful, some are hard to believe, some can’t remember anything because they were drugged.

Some stories are sadly tragic. Yet each story ends with a birth. My friend Carol, a long time labor and delivery nurse, says that the saddest births are those that end in a still-born delivery. Dear friends of ours lost a baby soon after she was born and I remember what a painful time that was.  After nine months of anticipation and planning all the hopes and dreams of sharing that new life die with the death of that baby.

Sharing these stories, good and bad, happy and sad, keep alive the memories of these precious little lives however brief. Sharing the stories of those babies who did not live or had very short lives allows future children to acknowledge that their life is a gift – not a given.

Children love to hear stories about their birth and early years. The story gives each child a sense of belonging and family heritage that is important as they form their self image. This is important for adoptive children as well. The fact that they were chosen by the adoptive parents and the story of the effort that those parents made to include them in the family will help those adopted to feel every bit as loved and valued as biological children.

The shower Sunday was for a baby whose mother is 42 and the parents have been married 18 years. The testimony of that mother of accepting God’s will when they thought they would never have children is a lovely story of God’s grace and faithfulness.

And…YES! Surprise!

This is a time of the year when many of us celebrate the sanctity of human life. As we do so, we remember that each life is ordained by God and so precious in His sight. The following verses were written by the Psalmist before there were x-rays, ultrasounds, or CAT scans. Yet they acknowledge what we now can see through scientific technology – what grows inside the womb is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.

Psalm 139:13-16

13 For you created my inmost being; 
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, 
   I know that full well. 
15 My frame was not hidden from you 
   when I was made in the secret place, 
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
   before one of them came to be.

This is a story we must tell our children and grandchildren. Share with these children the story of their birth, celebrating together God’s faithfulness.

Each of them is made in the image of God and as their lives unfold, the story of their lives has been written in God’s book – planned by the God of the universe.

Heart Problems

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“Lord, don’t let my heart get hard.”

Phil and I were snowed in on Sunday. Our road had not been plowed and since it was 9 degrees when we woke up, the surface of our road was snow and ice. It was beautiful, especially since we are blessed with a wood stove and are able to look out our windows from a place of warmth.

We took some time to share what was on our hearts – what we felt that God has been impressing on each of us. Then we prayed.

One thing I shared with Phil was that I did not want to allow a critical, or hard heart to develop. I don’t want my grandchildrens’ foremost memory of me to be

“NO”.

We probably all have family members who are most remembered for their critical, crabby attitude, especially as they got older. I don’t want to be one of those people.

Each of our older grandchildren have gone through a “no” phase, usually from around 18 months to two years of age. We recognize this as a stage in development that is normal as a child learns that they are a separate entity and that they have a free will. They also learn that words express meaning – “no” means “I don’t want to”. As caring parents and grandparents we need to discipline these children to understand that they can not always have their own way – nor should they. “No” is sometimes good for us.

How we respond to “no” becomes a matter of the heart – for each of us as well as our children.

Hard hearts develop when we refuse to accept that what we desire may not be God’s will for us.

My friend Patti shared at our last Bible study session on Ezekiel that the recurring theme of that book (not my favorite, I must admit, but needed by me) was the heart condition of God’s people – REBELLION.

Our heart problems start with rebellion.

When our children say “no” to us, it expresses their rebellion, their disobedience. Their hearts become hard instead of tender. They want their own way.

When we say “no” to God, it expresses our rebellion and begins the hardening process in our hearts.

Matthew 13: 14-16

14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,

‘When you hear what I say,
    you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
    you will not comprehend.
15 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
    and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
    so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
    and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
    and let me heal them.’

We cannot hear nor understand what God is speaking when our hearts become hard. Patti went on to share these words that have been ringing in the belfry of my heart ever since she shared –

“The heart of God wants to recapture the hearts of His people”.

YES!

May we let God recapture our hearts.

Soft hearts that see and hear Him.