Death to Life

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I was SO disappointed after one of the recent cold nights we had. Our camellia had so many buds just waiting to burst open, and the cold snap turned them brown. Just like that, my anticipation of pink loveliness dissipated like the morning dew.

Then, the other morning I was out with my clippers to cut off the reminders of what could have been, and to my great joy, there was a large pink bloom! It was way in the back, under foliage and had been protected.

Death to life.

This is what the Resurrection of Jesus is all about.

Death to Life!

Romans 5:10  (AMP)

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today].

When I think about how excited I was to see the flower blooming, (which by the way I had nothing to do with) I can only imagine God’s joy when His creation, you and me, move from death to life.

“we will be saved because Christ lives today”

Hallelujah!

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In My Garden with God  #8

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Pure Water

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Spring Lizard

Phil was cleaning out around the overflow from our spring. Several years ago Phil and my father threaded a hose through a vintage water pump and the water now flows freely nestled in our wild flower area.

“Gayle, come look here!”

I hurried over and much to our delight, a tiny salamander was peeking out from some decaying leaves Phil was about to remove. He gently moved a rock, and there was another one! I love seeing these amphibians of God’s creation. They have such a fluid, simple form as their moist skin shimmers in their wet habitat.

I remember my father showing me salamanders as a little girl and telling me not to pick them up because they are very fragile and our skin oil can harm them. Dad went on to say that they were an indicator of  pure water. Salamanders only survive in pure water.

Mountain folks call salamanders “spring lizards”. They knew if salamanders were in their spring boxes, the water was safe to drink.

As I was working outside yesterday, I started thinking about purity. Just as a salamander is an indication of pure water, what is the sign of purity in my life as a Christian?

Is there some quality that indicates I have a pure heart?

I thought about this awhile. Does love, joy, or peace in my life indicate purity? Those are “fruit of the Spirit” and are the result of God’s Spirit dwelling in me.

Not necessarily signs of purity. I asked God, “what denotes purity in our lives?”

Then today, our pastor asked us to read Luke 6:45. Our pastor was preaching on “Soul Food”, yet as soon as I looked at this verse, I knew it was God’s answer to my question.

Luke 6:45  (NLT)

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.

The indicator of a pure life is the words that come out of one’s mouth.

John 7:37 says

37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”

The words we speak come from our heart. Those words then are the indication of what is in our hearts.

A PURE heart speaks PURE words.

The sign of purity in my life will be the words I speak.

This brought me back to my father. When he passed away a bit over two years ago, so many people expressed how kind, thoughtful, and loving he was.

And he was.

My father spoke kindly as his natural pattern of speech. It was rare for him to speak ill of others. I think those of us who knew him would say he had a pure heart.

I want a pure heart.

And the test of that will be what comes out of my mouth. Each morning I pray –

Psalm 19:14

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Amen

 

In My Garden with God    #7

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

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