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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Letter from My Father

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I am going through old papers. You know, that box in the back of the closet with papers I have saved for years, but never look at?

Well, I am so thankful I did not give in to my first impulse and throw it all away. I have thrown away some, (why in the world did I save it in the first place?) but I found a treasure, something that really touched my heart.

A letter from my father.

Carol Strobeck and I were in Hawaii for Christmas break of our junior year of college. We had the wonderful opportunity to visit the family of a college friend, Pam Grindle, whose parents lived in Hawaii during the winter months. (their home was in Alaska)

My father wrote to me and it is such a snapshot of his personality – warm, funny, personal, and thoughtful. My father had spent time in Hawaii during WW II while training on his way to the Pacific theater. He eventually served on Guam, Okinawa, and other small islands in his role as a weather man for the Air Corps of the Army. He had such wonderful memories of Hawaii and he was so pleased that I had the opportunity to go there.

As I recall, my father only wrote to me twice, so I am thankful I saved this letter from 1972. (I was 20, 47 years ago!)

Here is part of what my father wrote –

I wonder if you felt like I did in the islands. I think I can describe. When I first experienced the beauty and the general atmosphere of the place I felt a gentleness and softness of the atmosphere that seemed very delicate and wonderful. I often think that the feeling of enjoyment I sensed when I first took in the beauty of the islands was just a slight introduction and foretaste of what God has been preparing for you and me and all of us in the form of Heaven for our eternal reward.”

It is not surprising to me or anyone who knew my father that the natural beauty of Hawaii stirred his heart. He devoted his life and career to studying and teaching the wonder of God’s creation.

My father lived with eternity on his mind. He went on to his eternal reward in 2016 at 91 years of age. Now he has more than the “foretaste” of Heaven, he is experiencing the reality.

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”— I Corinthians 2:9

 

The greatest gifts my father gave me, besides his unconditional love, was his love for God and his contagious love of nature. I caught both extravagantly.

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Time to Wait

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My granddaughter planted seeds last week. Her mother told me the next day that Rachel went out and looked at the spot where she had planted and said – “Where are the flowers? ”

“You have to wait, dear.”

Waiting is SO difficult. Currently I have several very dear friends who are waiting….

  • for results about what cancer treatment is recommended – radiation, chemo, both
  • for healing from a miscarriage
  • for visas to come through so their family can leave for the foreign mission field
  • for results in a court case
  • for hip replacement surgery
  • for results of an evaluation of a grandson with special needs, so he can receive the services he needs
  • for healing of the heart for her precious daughter

All these situations are in the forefront of each of these friends’ minds.

They are also of utmost importance to God.

How do I know that? Because in I Peter 5:6-11, Paul ends his letter to the early Christians this way –

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. 

Verse 7 says, cast – or give ALL your anxiety to God – because He cares for you!

I believe God does care about each of the concerns we face. That may not make it easier to wait, but it does give me hope while I wait.

I called Rachel and told her that Nana had planted seeds, too. I told her it was time to wait – the seeds would grow and be beautiful flowers – someday. Now there is no danger of Rachel just sitting, watching and waiting until the seeds send up shoots. She is one active three-year old – no doubt about it! She will probably remember to check frequently, but Rachel has many other things to do.

That made me think about myself during times of waiting. Sometimes there is NOTHING else we can do, sometimes there are many things to do.

The issue for me is not to miss something God has for me to do just because I am waiting. I need to ask God for direction in the interim, while I am waiting. It also makes the wait time go faster if I am serving others, not just focusing on my own concerns.

God is faithful – we must also be faithful – while we wait.

 

In My Garden with God        #18

Not Out of Danger, Yet

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Last Year’s Blooms

I just went outside and covered my newest hydrangea bush with a large, upside down planter. It is supposed to frost tonight and be a bit colder again. I don’t want the blooms, which set early on this variety, to freeze. They are not out of danger yet.

The older, larger bushes of hydrangeas we have will just have to tough it out – they are too big to cover effectively. They are also mature and have weathered colder winters than this one. They are weather hardened.

When our children were young, we felt it was our job as parents to protect our children from harmful influences. We limited and censored TV watching, evaluated the books they checked out from the library for age appropriateness, and monitored who they played with.

As our children got older and hopefully matured, we allowed them more freedom to choose what they watched, read, and who they spent time with. Sometimes they made good choices, sometimes they didn’t. Yet each decision was an opportunity to grow and learn. They became “hardened” by the consequences of those decisions.

As a gardener, I have planted new annuals when I thought all threat of frost was past.

Sometimes they were “not out of danger” and I had to try to cover and protect them, even though I thought they were safe when I planted them.

Sometimes we do this spiritually. We think we have won enough battles, overcome a particular sin and we can sit back and “just live”.

I can remember thinking, “If we can just get our children through high school….”          Ha! how wrong I was!

Paul warns against this dangerous attitude. In I Corinthians 10: 12-13 he says –

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

We must always be on guard in our hearts and minds and recognize that we are “not out of danger yet.” Someday we will be, when we meet Jesus face to face.

Until then we must be vigilant and on guard.

 

 

In My Garden with God  #17

Divine Placement

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This post is going to be short. The sun is SHINING and I must get out to my garden – my plants are calling…

This thought has been percolating in my brain since my husband, Phil, shared this scripture when preaching recently.

I believe God has a plan.

  • for all creation
  • for our universe
  • for our world
  • for our country
  • for our community
  • for THE CHURCH
  • for our particular fellowship of Believers
  • for my family
  • for me

It is not an accident that I was born in 1951, to parents who lived in Wheaton, Illinois, who raised me in a God honoring home. God placed me there, I did not choose them.

Yet what a profound influence that has had on my life! Since then I have exercised my God given free will to choose to follow Jesus.

God has led me, disciplined me, blessed me, caused me to suffer – all to prepare me to fulfill His plan in me and through me.

Divine placement is a wonderful concept to ponder. In looking at back at my 67 years of life, I can see God’s hand at work – over and over. At the time I was often not aware of His presence, but in hindsight I see clearly His influence – over and over.

Phil recently helped me transplant a Japanese maple that my father had grown from a two inch seedling. He had brought it back to North Carolina in a baggie on an airplane from my brother’s home in Oregon. Dad had first planted it in a sheltered place above a rock wall in our yard that is protected from too much sun, and from grandchildren’s feet. When it grew to about 12 inches, (about 4 years) he moved it to a large planter where it has grown for the past 12 years. It had become root bound and I knew if it wasn’t transplanted soon, it would become unhealthy and eventually die. We planted it in the ground near to the location of the planter because it had grown well there.

Divine placement?

Paul instructed the Corinthian church on how to grow as the Body of  Christ. He explains that our function or placement in the Body is not arbitrary.          I Corinthians 12:18

18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?

Divine placement!

Each of us has been placed by God to fulfill His purposes. Sometimes we must be transplanted to stay healthy and grow. We may need to “uproot” our children at times to provide an environment where they will receive the needed nourishment and nurture to thrive. God has a plan.

My parents moved after living in our home for 8 1/2 years to a retirement community back in Wheaton where I grew up and where they had lived years earlier. I missed them dearly after they moved. They were 89 and 85 at the time, but how they flourished after being transplanted to that community! They both finished strong at 91 and 90.

Divine placement.

May we grow where we are planted. May we be healthy and bear fruit for GOD’S GLORY.

 

In My Garden with God   #16

Enjoy Them While They Last

img_0833“These camellia blooms are bigger and more abundant than we have ever had!” I told Phil last week. “But we will probably have a frost and and they will all turn brown.”

“You need to enjoy them while they last,” my tending toward pessimistic husband replied. “There is nothing you can do about it.” So, I cut these flowers and put them in a vase. Tonight it is supposed to get down to 17 degrees so these blooms wouldn’t make it.

I will enjoy them while they last – right on our dining room table.

Gardening is my hobby, yet there are many things I cannot control when it comes to the plants I tend. Weather is under God’s authority. I can trim, mulch, and fertilize, but freezing temperatures can still eliminate the blooms I hope to see.

This is a lot like parenting, isn’t it?

We care for our children by feeding, clothing, reading to them, limiting screen time, providing shelter….but so many factors are under God’s authority. We don’t form their personality, their God given abilities, their physical appearance.

I remember talking to my Mother about how stubborn one of our daughters was and being at a loss on how to address her defiance as a 3 year old. “Just wait, Gayle.” Mother said. “She will grow out of this stage before you know it.”

Then with a twinkle in her eye she said, “… and she will enter the NEXT stage.”

How can I enjoy my child right in the moment? Right in the stage, phase, mood – call it what you will – that they are in right now?

Grace.

I need grace to love and encourage my child through each phase of their development. And then grace for the next stage….and the next.

Phil was right, instead of bemoaning the fact that my flowers will freeze, I need to enjoy their blooms for as long as they live. I need to look for and FIND the positive aspects of the stages my child is going through and enjoy those qualities – while they last.

I am not referring here to open defiance, or disobedience. I am focusing on behaviors that are the result of growth patterns, often associated with hormonal changes.

I must be honest and admit it is so much easier to have grace for grandchildren’s behavior then I had for their parent’s behavior when they were that age. The separation of a generation does that. In Ephesians 6:4  AMP Paul gives clear instruction to parents –

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.

Grace

I pray I will search for and find the good in each stage  – and enjoy it while it lasts.

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In My Garden with God  #15

 

 

It’s the Heart That Matters

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I was talking with my friend, Carol, about parenting as Christians. At our age, we are done with active parenting. We each have grandchildren who we love deeply and pray for consistently. We now look back on our own parenting and realize the mistakes we made and wish we had known then….what we know now.

But, that is just the point isn’t it?

We couldn’t know then what we know now, because we see differently from this end.

One thing we agreed on, we wouldn’t focus so much on the “little things”. We spent a lot of time making sure that our children DID certain things. Some of that was important, but now other things seem more significant.

Like our children’s hearts.

In the Bible dictionary it defines the heart as the “central or most vital part of something.” YES! That is what Carol and I realized was most important in Christian parenting – focusing on the heart.

  • Where was my daughter’s heart when she pulled her sister’s hair?
  • Where was my son’s heart when he laughed at his brother who fell?
  • Where were their hearts when they excluded a younger sibling?
  • Where were their hearts when they lied or blamed others for what they did?

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.         Luke 6:45

It is the heart that matters.

Proverbs 4:23 says it so plainly –

23 Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life.

A child’s words, tone of voice, and facial expressions are windows into their hearts. We must pay attention and strive to touch their hearts so they sense God’s unconditional love for them. That love is what will draw them unto Jesus. “For God so loved the world….” God has designed our hearts to desire relationship with Him. We can help our children open their hearts to God so their hearts are not hardened. Worship, Bible study, fellowship, and prayer will help hearts be open to God.

As a grandparent I am praying that God will guard their hearts from the fiery darts of the evil one. I must be an example of one who has a heart for God.

This prayer from Paul is my prayer for my grandchildren –

18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

It’s the heart that matters.