No Greater Joy

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We visited some of our family this weekend. I had some meeting responsibilities, but Phil (and I later) was able to see

  • one granddaughter play basketball – her team won
  • another granddaughter sing a solo in her Chorus Concert
  • a grandson play basketball – his team won
  • and twin grandsons play basketball – their team won

We were certainly pleased that they all did well and had fun. I am so thankful they are able to play and sing and that they have these opportunities.

BUT, later that day, before dinner, one granddaughter let me read her testimony of accepting Jesus as her savior. Now THAT was really exciting!

After completing her confirmation class, our children’s’ pastor asks each participant to write their testimony down and then bring it to a one-on-one meeting with the pastor. What a wonderful way to affirm their step of faith!’

Several of our grandchildren have made a commitment of faith in Jesus as their savior and have been baptized. There is no greater joy for me as a grandmother than to hear that one of there precious children has become a Child of God.

In III John 2-4, John is writing a letter to Gaius and the churches in Asia and says the following –

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. 

Some of the traveling teacher recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. 

I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth. 

I agree with John – there is no greater joy!

My prayer is that each of these precious children continue to follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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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.

A Broken, Fallen World…Blessed.

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I talked on the phone to my daughter, Hannah, while I was working on this blog post. She shared with me something her pastor had shared in his sermon about the number of angels that appeared to the shepherds. 

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”   Luke 2:8-14


So just how many angels make up a “heavenly host”? I certainly don’t know. In Daniel 7:10, Daniel is revealing the prophetic vision he sees where God is enthroned and His power is demonstrated by the “ten thousand by ten thousand (who) rose up and stood before Him”, God’s heavenly host.

So, 10,000 times 10,000 is 100 million! (thank you, Phil)

In Daniel, God is demonstrating His strength as He defeats the beast.

I believe God was demonstrating His power to those shepherds, obviously, but one heavenly being was enough to “wow” the shepherds.

Who, then was this display of force and power for?

That multitude of the heavenly host – MILLIONS of the army of angelic beings – showed the powers of darkness that they were DEFEATED!

The appearance of the heavenly hosts, announcing Jesus birth, was a magnificent display of the awesome POWER of God. I don’t think they looked like the flying babies, or even innocuous pale, winged creatures that are portrayed in so many paintings of angels.

These angels were part of God’s army, dressed for battle, dressed in the full armor of God. It is also obvious that they were not armed for battle with the shepherds who they appeared before. They demonstrated God’s power to the powers of darkness by their overwhelming number and by their rejoicing at the birth of God’s Son. Their mighty presence was evidence of the divine nature and protection for the “helpless” baby – Jesus.

They were praising God because the day Jesus was born – the victory was won!

We recently completed a study at our Community Woman’s Bible Study in Ephesians on the Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer. When I read these verses from Luke today, which I have read so many. many times before, a new appreciation of the angels as part of the “heavenly host”, the angelic army of God, stirred in my heart.

I always appreciated the wonder of the angels announcement of Jesus birth, but now I realize those angels also announced the VICTORY that God has provided through the precious gift of His Son.

May we each rejoice in this victory as we celebrate Jesus birth.

Queen Esther

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“Heaven is rejoicing!”

That is what I said to our children after my brother called yesterday evening to tell me our mother had passed through the veil of this life to her eternal home. I believe that with all my heart.

Heaven is rejoicing.

Esther lived up to her name – she believed she was royalty because she was a daughter of the King of Kings. Mother acted like royalty in the sense that she believed she had inherited all the riches of God’s blessings – and she lived like that. She expected good things to happen to her, and why shouldn’t they? She was a daughter of the King!

When her beautiful amaryllis bloomed for the second time this past year, she called me in an excited voice and said – “I’m sending you a picture – you won’t believe it unless you see it! It is blooming again! God blessed me again!”

Esther saw seemingly little things, even what others might accept as everyday occurrences as blessings from God. By recognizing God’s hand in the world around her, she was constantly blessed by the riches of His grace. Her smile was a reflection of God’s love in her heart.

My mother was 90 years old, born Esther Kathleen Rohner on May 17, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the 3rd of three daughters born to Svea Elise Anderson and Rouleau Lester Rohner.

Just like the queens in literature, my mother had shortcomings. She set high standards for herself and at times imposed those same standards on others. Yet Esther was willing to admit her failings and receive forgiveness.

Mother touched so many lives with her exuberant love for Jesus and God’s Word. She did this literally throughout the world, in Wheaton, Illinois, in North Carolina for 30 years, in Taiwan for 7 years, and even in trips to Brazil at age 86 and 87.

“After 80 you can say what you want!” she once told me with a twinkle in her eye. That means she had 10 years to speak her mind! Look out!

Heaven is rejoicing, and our family is blessed to have had royalty among us for so long. Esther will be greatly missed, but she is with her King. She told my older brother Garry this week that she “just wanted to finish strong.” She did!

2 Timothy 4:7-9 (NLT)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Queen Esther is now wearing that crown of righteousness.

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Four Generations 1979

Supporting Our Children’s Teachers

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In my 25 plus years of teaching I learned some important lessons about communication between parents and teachers.

Some of these lessons I learned because of mistakes I made. I want to share these thoughts with the hope that each of us allows God’s grace to overshadow all we do as parents, grandparents, and teachers. It can be especially hard when the parent is also a teacher! I remember….

So – here goes:

  •  don’t believe everything your child says – check it out.

I had a parent come see me my second year of teaching and ask me if I had dressed up as a moose. No, I had not. In talking further, we realized that I had a dress with a white pinafore (this was 1975) and that the child was trying to tell her mother that I had dressed like Mother Goose – only the child said “moose”. I am so glad she came to ME, and thankful this was before Facebook!

  •  if you have a concern, ask about it respectfully, don’t
    accuse

I remember thinking “why didn’t the teacher let me know about this field trip, assignment, etc. earlier” only to find out a note was sent home – but never given to me. Not the teacher’s fault.

  •  if you have a concern, write a note or an email that says something like this – “I am concerned about Jimmy’s __________ (fear, negative attitude, apathy, lack of understanding of new material, etc) and I was wondering when I could meet to talk with you about it. Is there something I could be doing at home to address this concern?”

Showing up during class or calling during class is NOT a good idea. Teachers want and need to be teaching during class. Waiting around right after school unannounced may also be a problem because the teacher may have after school duty, a faculty meeting, or a sports event for their own child. A note expresses your willingness to respect the teacher’s schedule as well as let the teacher know you want to work together for the good of the child.

  • Whenever something positive happens, especially after you have expressed concerns, share appreciation for what the teacher has done and is doing. It means so much and it also sets a good example for our children.

Eleven of our 12 grandchildren have started back to school. Four of them had their first day today! Some of these grandchildren are in classes of 30 or more. Those teachers have all those precious minds and hearts (and not so precious bodies:) to teach 5 days a week. We must remember to pray for them!

As a former teacher I must remember not to criticize or complain about my grandchildrens’ teachers. God is in control, I need to trust.

The two following verses are a good reminder for teachers, parents, and grandparents since we all share the responsibility of teaching our children.

Proverbs 15:2 (TLB)

2 A wise teacher makes learning a joy;

Proverbs 16:21 (TLB)

21 The wise man is known by his common sense, and a pleasant teacher is the best.

May God Bless this school year!

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

“Before you know it, …”

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“Before you know it, that kudzu will creep right on in your bed!”

One of the pleasures of walking for exercise is the encounters you have with people who are also walking.

Now some of you are thinking…”I like to exercise alone.” Good for you.  But I know that once I moved away from my walking buddy – Alice Marie – my exercise level went way down. I do better when I talk and walk.

So – on Monday as I was walking by myself,  I saw another frequent walker. We greeted one another and then started talking about all the rain we have had recently. Weather is a frequent topic because it affects all of us and our walking. Then we talked about our gardens, what was doing well – cucumbers, which like the rain, and what was not doing so well – tomatoes – which prefer hot, dry weather.

Then our conversation moved on to kudzu. Kudzu must REALLY like the rain because it is growing up a storm! My friend mentioned that she and her husband used to own some land where they had cows and never had any trouble with kudzu. When they sold the land, the new owners didn’t want cows and before long called and asked what they could do about all the kudzu. It was taking over their land.

“Before you know it, it will creep right on in your bed!” my fellow walker said.

We laughed together, knowing just how close to the truth that statement is.

A little Kudzu history – it originally came from Japan –

“In the decades that followed kudzu’s formal introduction at the 1876 World’s Fair Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, farmers found little use for a vine that could take years to establish, was nearly impossible to harvest and couldn’t tolerate sustained grazing by horses or cattle. But in 1935, as dust storms damaged the prairies, Congress declared war on soil erosion and enlisted kudzu as a primary weapon. More than 70 million kudzu seedlings were grown in nurseries by the newly created Soil Conservation Service.”  Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/true-story-kudzu-vine-ate-south-180956325/#tvkuq1M1sB0CAeTS.99

So – kudzu found a home in the United States to combat soil erosion.

A good motivation – an unexpected result.

I thought about this and a parallel principle to Spiritual growth.

As Christians we are often looking for “quick fixes” to our problems. Some of the these ideas are good. They even work for a time. But there are unexpected results that we didn’t anticipate.

A few examples:

  • marriages in the church are struggling – have a marriage conference
  • children don’t want to sit quietly in church services –  offer children’s church

The marriage conference may offer great information, but what about a month later when the old conflicts rear their ugly heads (and they will) what does that couple do?Having a mature, Godly couple mentor those struggling in their marriages provides ongoing support and PRAYER which is powerful in effecting real, sustained change.

Children’s Church can be a blessing for parents who want to focus on worship. Yet these children specific offerings often become entertainment, not real worship. They do not prepare children to block out distractions so they learn to focus on worshiping the King of Kings, Creator of the Universe, their Lord and Savior. Toddlers do need separate space. But once children begin school, they are able to learn to participate in the most important activity of human experience – Worship of God. By participating in worship, children will learn to worship.

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

We must make sure that we are not practicing “quick fixes” in our spiritual lives that cause us and our children to experience unexpected consequences.

Before you know it….!

 

In My Garden with God – #12