Passing the Mantle

A dear friend of our family, Janet Halverson Strobeck, passed on to her heavenly home this week at age 93. She is the beautiful woman seated on the right. Next to her is Ruth Muzzy, who also passed on this past year at age 97, and standing is my mother, Esther Barker who passed on in 2018 at age 90.

I use the words “passed on” intentionally because though their bodies died, each of their souls lives eternally with Jesus. What a great reunion they had this week!

These three women became friends early in their marriages and in their last years ended up living at the same retirement community. It was such a gift to each of them to have this dear friendship for over 60 years. Their husbands were friends as well and they had years of sharing life together including the joys of children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Janet found out recently that a great-great granddaughter is expected!

These women first met at College Church in Wheaton in a Sunday School class. Their friendship was founded on their relationship as fellow Christians – “sisters” in the Lord. That fellowship carried them through life’s difficult storms. Each experienced loss, tragedy, heart break, and most difficult – the loss of their husbands after marriages of over 60+ years. They also shared the joys and celebrations of their families and extended families rejoicing with each other.

The three friends prayed together over the years and prayed for each other – their children – grandchildren – great-grandchildren. I am the recipient of so many of those prayers. It has made me feel secure in my faith over the years knowing that these ladies who loved me and loved my family were faithfully lifting me up before our heavenly Father.

I remember “Aunt Jan”, visiting her daughter Carol (we were roommates in Sylva, North Carolina) soon after I first met Phil – who is now my husband. Aunt Jan and Uncle Chuck grilled me on the worthiness of Phil and told me they did so on behalf of my parents. Their main concern was that Phil was a Christian and that his commitment to the Lord was sincere. They took seriously their friendship and love of our family.

Which brings me to the thoughts I am having now as the last of this generation of saints passes on. These ladies were not perfect – you can ask any of their children. They made mistakes and sometimes hurt each other and their families. BUT – they did love God, confess their sins, and dearly loved their families. Each wanted to see the gospel of Jesus Christ shared throughout their community and the world. And each wanted their loved ones to walk in sincere faith.

In II Timothy 1:3-5 Paul reminds Timothy of his heritage in the faith. He mentions the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother.

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 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.

Paul mentions that this faith now lives in Timothy also.

The faith and example of the prayers of Janet, Ruth, and Esther is passed on to the following generation – us.

We must take up the mantle of sincere faith. We must live our lives worthy of the calling of Christ Jesus in our lives.

The mantle has passed on to us – may we carry it well.

My Father’s Handiwork

     2006

My sister-in-law, Mitzi, recently sent me this picture of my father collecting tiny Japanese maples under the beautiful “mother” tree in her yard in Eugene, Oregon. Dad brought these two inch high seedlings home to North Carolina on the airplane and planted them in a sheltered place.

Now, fourteen years later we have several beautiful trees and so do our daughters! One even traveled north to Wheaton when Mom and Dad moved there to a retirement community. These Japanese maples are especially beautiful in the fall.

All from little seedlings.

The greatest blessing to me is the remembrance of my father whenever I see these trees.

I realized after Mitzi sent me this picture that I have reminders of my father ALL OVER OUR YARD! His handiwork is a constant reminder that my Dad lived here with us for over 8 years, and not only did he live here, but he left a legacy of beauty.

Which leads me to the next realization  – my Heavenly Father has left His legacy – all creation – as a constant reminder of His presence.

Just as I look at a tree or flower that Dad planted and am reminded of him, I recognize that God, in His creative power has made all things, including humans. When I see people, I am reminded that God created humans in His image.

“Red, brown, yellow, black and white, we’re ALL precious in His sight.”

Caring for our garden and the plants Dad left here honors his memory.

Caring for other people honors God who created them.

If I am not showing love and respect for ALL people, I am not honoring the God who created them. In this time of turmoil and unrest in our country, I must do all I can to honor God by showing honor to His creation – the entire human race.

In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus answers a question from one of the religious leaders – “Which is the most important commandment?”

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

When I love my neighbor as myself. I am honoring my Heavenly Father by caring for His creation.

My challenge right now is to show love to all people, not only those I agree with. Because each person is God’s handiwork and He loves them, so will I.

2020

 

In My Garden with God #26

 

 

 

In Season and Out of Season

Camellia

I was complaining to Phil recently about my camellia bush blooming out of season. “These beautiful blooms will all turn brown when it gets cold again!,” I fussed. “It is still winter and these flowers open up as soon as it gets warm.”

“Just enjoy them whenever they bloom.” Phil admonished me. “It doesn’t matter what season they bloom.” And this coming from someone who grew up thinking the four seasons were baseball, football, basketball, and hockey….

The more I thought about it, the more I realized Phil had a point. I LOVE the blooms of flowers. If I enjoy my camellia blooms in April, what is preventing me from enjoying them in December, January, and February, too?

Only my attitude.

They did turn brown two nights later, but I had already picked 5 and we enjoyed them in vases for a week. It was like a touch of spring in our house.

These early blooming flowers have also reminded me of God’s faithfulness and God’s desire that we be faithful.

Just as I should be thankful that the flowers are blooming instead of lamenting the timing, our Heavenly Father wants me to be ready to share the good news of salvation through Jesus whether the timing seems perfect or not. I need to be ready in season and out of season.

In II Timothy 4:2-4 Paul is encouraging young Timothy to be ready to share the truth of Jesus.

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 

They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 

These verses, written around 2000 years ago certainly describe our current culture, don’t they? I know that I am often guilty of not recognizing opportunities to share the Gospel because it is “out of season” – not the situation or timing I am used to or comfortable with.

I need to be ready in season and out of season.

I am so thankful for the encouragement I receive in my garden with God.

 

# In My Garden with God   24