Nesting

IMG_3350.jpg

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

 

Advertisements

Beauty Multiplied

 

planting bulkbs

“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

IMG_5767.jpg

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……

“The Savior’s Come”

 

Slide15.JPG

Abigail, with the help of her boys, made this Lego video last year. It illustrates a song written by one of their pastors, Paul Cummings. They did an amazing job!

I LOVE how it proclaims the TRUTH of the greatest gift we celebrate on Christmas.

Watch it with children and grandchildren – you will all be blessed!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Thankful for Freedom as a Woman

Beautiful Daughters
As a woman, mother of three daughters, and grandmother of 5 granddaughters, I feel compelled to respond to all the attention in the media recently about the sexual abuse, harassment, and general disrespect toward women in our culture.
This is not a new issue, but it certainly has come to the forefront. Allegations that are years old are just coming to light.
As a Christian, what should my response be?
I have found freedom to be what God has called me to be, respect for the unique qualities inherent in being a female human being, and courage to stand up to those who would disrespect my womanhood all in my faith as a Christian.
Jesus elevated the status of the women he came in contact with through his time of ministry. He dispersed a crowd ready to stone a woman “caught in adultery” (where was the man she was caught with?) by asking her accusers, “he who is without sin, cast the first stone”.
Jesus encouraged women to learn from his teachings alongside the men who also followed him at a time when women were not part of formal spiritual or intellectual training. Mary of Bethany, Martha, and Mary Magdalene were some of those women who followed Jesus.
Jesus engaged in conversation with a woman who was an outcast (a Samaritan) and offered her the “water of life”. He used a poor widow as an example of true sacrificial giving, in contrast with the wealthy Pharisee of the religious establishment.
My Christian faith has given me a strong sense of my worth as a person. I am free of the stigma any cultural bias may project on me based on my ethnicity, community, education, economic status, or any other designation.
I am a child of God, the Creator of the Universe.
Have men dominated women under the supposed authority of religion?
Absolutely, much to their shame.
Have men hidden behind their “religion” to perpetrate acts of sexual abuse? Yes.
Yet these sins against women and abuse of authority are not rooted in true Christianity. The word “Christian” means “Christ like”.
Jesus Christ taught “the greatest love is to sacrifice your life”, and “do unto others as you would have them do to you”.
Sexual abuse, harassment, and disrespect of women should have NO place in our culture, and most emphatically for those who are Christians.
In I Timothy 5:1-2 Paul is instructing his young disciple, Timothy, in the Christ like way to treat others.
1 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
I am so very thankful for a father, two brothers, a husband, a son, and three sons-in-law who have all treated me with love and respect.
(ok, lots of teasing from several of these males, but ALWAYS love)
I know this is not the case for many women. We as Christians must take a stand for respectful behavior that values the unique qualities of being female. We must speak out against abuse in all its forms.
We must teach our grandchildren what Paul taught Timothy.
We must show love and compassion for those who have been victims of abuse so that they can receive healing and restoration.
Christian women are all our Father’s daughters.

Thankful for Grace

Taking time to be thankful is an important task in maintaining spiritual health. It takes us away from “navel gazing”, focusing on what we lack, think is missing, or what we desire for ourselves, to thinking in a broader sense about all that has been given to us.

Much of what has been given to us we haven’t earned and, truth be told, we don’t deserve.

I think this is especially important in the climate of our current culture. So much of the discourse is negative, divisive, polarizing and unkind. The focus often seems to be on “what is best for me”.

My oldest friend (not in age but in years of friendship) Carol and I just returned from visiting our mothers who live in the same retirement community in Wheaton where we both grew up. Carol’s mother just turned 90, and my mother will be 90 in May.

Driving the 648 miles each way together gave us plenty of time to talk. (not hard for either of us!)

We talked about what God had been putting on each of our hearts recently. Carol is being impressed to practice the presence of God, sparked by a rereading of the book of that name by Brother Andrew. She feels that she needs to recognize every opportunity during the day to mediate or pray. Carol’s days are often filled with family responsibilities, yet she also realized that time slips away each day that could be used to sense God’s presence.

Instead of fretting over waiting in line, or delays in traffic, turning one’s attention to God and what He might want to impress her with, she wants to adjust her outlook on daily interruptions. Instead of becoming stressed and resentful, Carol desires to be thankful and aware of God’s presence.

Carol’s thoughts helped me refocus on something I need to do as well.

I shared that I was being impressed to practice GRACE. I realized I was being critical. My criticism was mainly directed toward people I think are critical. Critical of critical people. Really?! How hypocritical!

Grace.

I shared with Carol that as I realized how sinful my critical attitude was, I also realized the answer was – grace. I don’t know the real motives of why people do what they do. Their motivation might be a deep hurt or a lack of understanding.

God has given me SO MUCH grace. The older I get the more I realize how amazing that grace is! Just like the song says…..”Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”….

So, as Thanksgiving comes this week, I want to focus on being thankful for these two insights, as well as my dear family and friends – and

  • the opportunity to practice the presence of God day by day
  • the grace of God that allows me to sense His great love, in spite of my sin, and extend that love to others.

May God bless us with truly thankful hearts.

Overcoming Evil

It has happened again.

A senseless killing of innocent people. In a church while worshiping, no less.

Where is the God who these folks were praying to?

Does He hear?

Does He care?

These questions flooded my mind yesterday as I heard the news of the tragic shooting in the little town in Texas. A small, unincorporated community where everyone knows each other. The LAST place one would expect such a tragic occurrence.

Just like the place I live.

We know most all our neighbors and wave when they drive by.

I sat in a place of worship yesterday morning, just as those people in Texas did. So did our children and grandchildren in their various locations, surrounded by friends and family.

Christians gather regularly around the world to worship, pray, and learn from Biblical teaching and fellowship.

So did those people in Texas.

I can’t help but think “Why?”

God tells us in Jeremiah 17: 9-10

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
    and desperately wicked.
    Who really knows how bad it is?
10 But I, the Lord, search all hearts
    and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
    according to what their actions deserve.”

There is evil in the hearts of some individuals. We don’t understand it. But these verses assure me that God knows, and that He will avenge the ones responsible.

But what about the innocent victims? Those hurting family and friends of those killed and wounded? Why did God allow this?

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis addresses this very question. In his chapter The Rival Conceptions of God Lewis writes the following –

“Of course, that raises a very big question. If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling ‘whatever you say, and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?’

“My argument against God,” Lewis says, “was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?”

This is why God became flesh – in the form of man – Jesus – to redeem this cruel, broken world. Jesus is the hope of the world.

This realization does not change the very real suffering of those people in Texas. It does not change the very real hurt and loss of individuals throughout the world suffering from human trafficking, abuse, neglect, or cruelty.

It does give hope for the future. God wants to bring each person into the Light of His love, grace and restoration.

Denying the existence of God because one sees the real and terrible suffering of this life does nothing to alleviate, diminish, or explain that suffering.

Our grandsons dress up as “super heroes” ready to vanquish the evil in their back yard. Don’t we wish it was that simple? Jesus has promised to be with us through all the battles we face.

Right before Jesus was beaten and crucified He told his disciples the following – John 16:33 –

33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus wants to give us hope and peace in the midst of the suffering of this world.

We must pray – and hold on to hope.