Despite the Weather

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We have had some weird and wild weather lately, yet I felt like spring had finally arrived.

Then I drove to Wheaton, Illinois to visit my mother and it has been in the 20’s and 30’s. Tomorrow morning the weather prediction is 10 degrees! It will be March 12th tomorrow!

The weather is one of those things in life we do not have any control over. It reminds us we are finite human beings.

We need that reminder once in a while – truth be told.

Because I cannot control the weather, I cannot control when, if at all, plants in our yard will bloom. That is one reason that the wildflower blooms create excitement for me. They are like a surprise, an anticipated, but uncertain gift.

The subjects of the above pictures herald the arrival of my favorite season. I LOVE to see the trillium in bloom. The various colors and parts of these treasures of God’s creation never cease to excite me.

Phil is very patient as I drag him around to see each of the varieties, many of which he helped transplant from further up on the hill in the woods. We have moved over nine different varieties to the edge of the backyard where the woods begin. We enjoy these beautiful flowers and especially appreciate the variety. This picture was taken in our backyard. We are SO BLESSED!

Jesus refers to the beauty of wild flowers in this passage in Matthew 6: 28-30

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?”

These verses remind me of God’s great love and care for me. Jesus said these wildflowers should remind me as well – that when I notice just how beautiful and perfectly they are made – I should be REMINDED that my heavenly Father cares ever-so-much more for me!

I hope you will notice the wildflowers this spring and that they will inspire you and remind you of just how much God loves and cares for you, despite the weather or circumstances in your life.

 

In My Garden with God #6

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Worth the Cost?

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Phil and I spent all Saturday afternoon and evening trimming, pruning, raking dead stems and leaves, and then hauling off the refuse we had created to pitch over the bank.

(one of the many great benefits of living in the mountains is that our cuttings create critter habitat as we toss all cuttings over the bank.  Previous owners also tossed old cars, old furnaces, and who knows what all over the bank – but that is a story for another time)

I carefully removed the old leaf matter from around the area where our native plants grow. The tiny white buds of blood root were just starting to poke through. As I moved on I saw the trout lily leaves and the stems emerging that will soon be crowned with lovely yellow blooms.  “Phil,look at this!”

I LOVE spring!

It signifies hope.

After the cold and sparse winter, new life springs forth! But, to really get the full benefit of  the new growth in spring, we have to pay the price. It was a lot of hard work to trim, rake, prune, and gather the cuttings and dead leaves and stems. The new plants would have come up anyway, at least many of them would. But – they would have been hidden and their growth hindered by the old dead leaves and stems.

In our Community Women’s Bible Study this past Wednesday, my friend Cathy shared her reflections on Ephesians 2: 1-5

2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 

Then she challenged us with questions to ask ourselves – one of which was “Do we consider our participation in the Body of Christ a privilege worth the cost?”

We were all “dead” spiritually following our own way – in trespasses and sin, as verse 2:1 says. But, God, who is RICH in mercy, made us alive with Christ!

As we ask for forgiveness and choose to follow Jesus, God clears away ALL the old stuff so the new life can come forth!

Was it hard work cleaning up our yard this spring? Yes!

Was it worth it? YES!

Especially as I watch new life spring forth each day.

So back to Cathy’s question – Do I consider it a privilege to be part of  Jesus’ Church – the Body of Christ? Yes!

Paul says in verse  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Incomparable riches – meaning NOTHING compares to what God has offered us through his son Jesus.

Is it worth the cost?

Yes!

We must let God rake away the old, dead ideas, traditions, and beliefs that keep the fresh, new life from shining through. The old way that was gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. v3

Then our NEW life in Christ will emerge, fresh, clean, and vibrate like the flowers in spring.

In My Garden with God  – #5

 

 

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!

Seeds of Change

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As I mentioned recently, Phil has been ordering seeds. A box of seeds just came in the mail.

This is a sign of hope!

We still have snow on the ground, and I was waiting to take a picture of our first blooms of 2018. I guess I will have to continue waiting. As you can see from the above picture, our hellebores, our earliest bloomer, have yet to open up. Some folks call these flowers Lenten Roses. Winter has not loosened its grip here!

My hellebores were given me by a dear friend, Lois, and I think of her each time I see them. These plants re-seed themselves and spread, so before long there is a lovely group of these hardy, long lasting bloomers.

Seeds are a metaphor for hope. When seeds are planted, there is no guarantee that a plant will grow. There are many variables that influence the outcome.

  • sun, full sun for some plants, shade for others
  • water, not too much, not too little
  • soil, the right composition for various plants
  • critters! – (groundhogs have gotten their fill of tender bean plants too many times in our garden)
  • temperature – a late freeze, intense heat

All these factors determine the outcome of planting seeds. Yet isn’t is glorious when the right conditions all come together at the right time?

We have a bountiful harvest!

When these factors don’t align, we need to make changes to obtain a harvest. It may mean planting in a different location, supplementing with additional water, guarding tender sprouts from predators, or covering plants to protect from frost.

It may mean changing the type of seeds we plant. We take the necessary steps so our hard work gardening doesn’t go to waste.

This is much the same in our spiritual lives.

We may go through a time spiritually where we don’t “harvest” any spiritual fruit. We lack love, joy, peace, patience, and the other fruit of the Spirit. We may be doing all the things we have always done, yet we aren’t getting the same results.

Psalm 51: 10-13 says –

10  Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

These verses give me hope!

It may be time for a change. Just as doing the same things in our garden year after year doesn’t produce the same results, doing the same activities spiritually doesn’t insure the same peace, joy, or patience.

My friend Patti has walked with God for many years, and recently began sharing God’s Word in a local jail ministry. “I get so much from these ladies every time I go.” she told me today. “They have really had hard lives and to see the way God is working in them blesses and challenges me.”

Patti is planting seeds of change in these ladies’ lives, and it is changing her as well.

I’m praying that God will show me what I need to change so that I can continue to bear fruit – the fruit of the Spirit.

In My Garden with God – 4

Nesting

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In winter, when all the leaves are off the trees, you see things that are not visible when foliage is full. We have found several nests recently and looking at their structure causes amazement and wonder. Birds are master builders using various materials to form nests that perfectly meet the needs of their species.

The small nest in the picture above has sticks that form the outside shape, then grasses, and an inside layer of fine, soft fibers. Perfectly suited for this small bird’s eggs.

Nests are made in a wide variety of sizes and materials. We found one that was almost exclusively sticks, nothing soft or cushiony about it. A humming bird nest found in our forsythia bush is tiny, just as the birds who built it are.

I can see some large nests very high in the poplar tress on the ridge behind our house. I would love to see inside the nests and see how they are constructed. I am not sure what kind of birds built these nests, but they must be large.

I will  NOT be climbing any ladders to check them out. Please Phil, don’t get your ladder out!

Phil is engaging in his yearly perusal of garden catalogs. He has already ordered some seeds and is planning where he will plant things this year. I think Phil especially enjoys doing this because of the anticipation of a harvest. That is a long way off from our current winter weather, but Phil loves being outside and planning the garden is a sign to him that winter will end and spring, summer, and fall will come in succession.

Jesus refers to planting in this passage in Luke 13: 18-20 AMP

18 So this led Him to say, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 

19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the sky found shelter and nested in its branches.”

What struck me about this passage that Jesus used to describe the kingdom of God is the result of the man’s planting.

I would assume he planted mustard seeds to get mustard. (which by the way is my favorite condiment) The verses do not say anything about the man planting seeds to get a tree so that birds could nest in it! 

Yet that is just what happened, and what Jesus compared to the kingdom of God.

What this spoke to me was the fact that we as “gardeners”  will plant “seeds”, but the end results may be very different than we planned. Or, there may be additional results that are totally unexpected!

This is so true with children and grandchildren, isn’t it?

How I want to embrace this aspect of the Kingdom of God.

God’s kingdom is the place where God reigns – where God’s authority rules.

That place must be my heart.

I must be willing to let “seeds” I plant produce mustard, or grow into large trees so that others can find shelter and nest.

I will plant – God is in charge of the results.

God’s will – God’s way.

 

In My Garden with God – 3

 

Beauty Multiplied

 

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“The garden center person told us to plant three bulbs in every hole. That way they look more impressive when they bloom.”

Sadie, a dear, sweet friend recently lost the life, on this earth, of their little baby boy at 21 weeks. It was a sad loss and with it the loss of all the hope that new life brings.

I offered to plant the bulbs they purchased in honor of their son’s short life, since they were going to visit family for an extended period. Sadie passed along the above recommendations of the garden center. Our granddaughters and daughter offered to help me, so one day during a break between the extreme cold and rain we have been having lately, we had the joy of planting 80 spring bulbs.

Now the waiting.

The loss of life carries with it a sorrow that affects each of us in various ways. Sadie and her husband chose to honor the life of their son by planting bulbs that will remind them of his life each spring as they bloom.

They have chosen to replace their loss with beauty.

Isaiah 61: 2-3

To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

I am sure that when those bulbs come up this spring in their multiplied beauty, there will be tears along with the blessing of the flowers’ beauty.

Tears for the loss of the life not with them.

Blessing in the beauty of remembering God’s faithfulness demonstrated each spring as new life comes forth after the bleakness of winter.

Sadie and Dustin chose to name their little boy Hero. As I was getting ready to insert the picture of us planting the bulbs, I noticed that one of my granddaughter’s had the name Hero on her T-shirt. Amazing.

May we allow God to multiply His life in us through times of loss and times of blessing so that we can become those oaks, planted for His glory.

Girls planting bulbs

In My Garden with God – 2

 

 

 

In My Garden with God

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Many of us who seek to truly fellowship with God have a place where we sense His presence more fully then we do in other places. I am not referring here to times of corporate worship where God’s presence certainly is evident.   John 2 tells us “He inhabits the praises of His people”.

I mean that place where we sense God and know that feeling is Him. I have two friends that have told me they feel this way at the beach. They love to walk along the water, feel the breeze and salt air, and bask in His presence. Others feel that presence hiking or fishing.

One of my all time favorite lines in a movie is in Chariots of Fire when Olympic runner, Eric Liddlle, tells his sister why he runs. “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

I feel God’s presence in our garden.

That may seem strange to write about gardens now when we have had such very cold temperatures and the plants are dormant. Let me explain.

We had a big snow last month and the snow was wet and heavy. It broke off several branches, particularly large branches in a weeping willow tree that grows next to the creek. Phil was out cutting up some of the downed trees and I asked him to trim the broken parts of that tree. He did so, even though it is one of his favorite trees.

If we had left the broken branches dangling from the tree, come spring it would be an unsightly mess. The dead limbs along side the fresh new leaves of spring would ruin the natural beauty of that graceful weeping willow.

As I was hauling the cut limbs to toss over the bank, (I LOVE living in the mountains), I sensed God impressing me with this truth – “That is why I have to prune my children.”

That thought took me on a flight of spiritual insight. God has to “cut away” the dead, broken, damaged parts of our lives so that new, healthy growth can take place in the right season. Right now, during winter, all our plants are dormant, but we don’t dig them up and throw all the plants away! Good things are happening!

Dormancy is crucial in the life of plants. They rest, develop deeper roots, and take in moisture. Pruning at this time allows the plant to have fewer branches, so the limited energy of the plant goes to strengthening what is left.

God does that to His children.

Jesus says in John 15: 1- 4

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

When I feel like God is cutting away, pruning my life, I must trust that as the Master gardener, He knows what He is doing.

I must wait to see what appears in spring……