Don’t Give Up

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This camellia is just beautiful right now! I was lamenting the fact that it is blooming so early and that a freeze or frost might kill the blooms.

Phil said to just enjoy it while it lasts. Stop worrying about what MIGHT happen.

So, I am trying to do that. I have no control over the weather, or how that weather effects our plants. It has been unseasonably warm this February and things are budding out and blooming earlier than I can ever remember.

This camellia is a bush we transplanted from Phil’s Aunt Priscilla’s home after she passed away at 95. We had given her this plant for her 80th birthday (I think) and she had taken special care of it. She fertilized it regularly and pruned errant limbs as needed. When Phil’s family was getting ready to put Aunt Cil’s house on the market, we went to collect some items with special memories for Phil.

Phil decided he wanted the camellia bush, so he got a shovel and began to dig it up. The roots were much deeper that he anticipated and it was quite an effort to finally dig it out. We were not sure that it would make it, if there was enough root still attached to maintain life when transplanted in our yard.

So, we brought the plant 146 miles from Moravian Falls to Dillsboro and took great care in transplanting this camellia. Phil dug a large hole, put in rich, composted soil from the garden, and then planted the camellia, watering it generously.

And, we KEPT watering it. My father took it upon himself to make sure it did not dry out, which would kill what roots were left.

The leaves on the plant gradually dried up and fell off. (For those that don’t know, camellias are an evergreen shrub, they only shed leaves as new leaves push-off the old ones)

Soon, there was only three brown stems where there had once been a lovely, full shrub.

Well, we left it that winter and hoped that maybe new growth would poke out in the spring.

Nothing happened.

No new leaves.

So, later in June, I decided that I would plant something else in the place of that camellia. I started to dig around the bottom of those dead looking stems and …

SURPRISE!

There was a new stem starting to poke up from a root next to the old, main stem! I was so excited, I called Phil to come over and see that puny little stem.

We took great care then to water, protect, and nurture that fragile little stem. Now, four years later, it is a vigorous bush with lovely pink blooms as you can see from the above photo.

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In Galatians 6:9-10 Paul says this –

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Notice Paul is encouraging the Christians in Galatia to NOT GIVE UP!

We must be careful not to give up on

  • our children
  • our grandchildren
  • our teenagers
  • our parents
  • OURSELVES

Paul encourages us that at “just the right time” we will reap the harvest – or see the results.

IF WE DON’T GIVE UP!

God’s time is not our time.

God is God.

I would have missed the blessing of these beautiful blossoms if I had given up on Aunt Cil’s camellia.

We will miss God’s blessing if we give up on those we love and care about.

And, may we do good to everyone.

 

Be an Ambassador

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My daughter Hannah and I had the privilege of staying two nights in the home of the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti in 2006 when we were visiting Washington, DC.

We had a lovely visit and even went to a celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Day at the Nigerian Embassy with our host and hostess. I saw the most beautiful dresses there that I have ever seen!

How did we happen to have this amazing opportunity?

Well, the story starts in 1956 when I was 5 years old.

I grew up in an old farmhouse that evolved into a house in a neighborhood four blocks from Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. My parents housed students from Wheaton College to help pay their mortgage.

One of those students was a brilliant young man, Raymond Joseph, from Haiti. He was studying at the college and would always greet us in the mornings and evenings in French as he passed by us to his room upstairs. He had the most beautiful smile and was always interested in what my brothers and I were doing.

Raymond Joseph went on to study at the University of Chicago and later worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and worked as a leader in the Haitian opposition movement of then dictator, Francois Duvalier.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a telephone call 55 years later from Raymond Joseph!

He was calling from Washington, DC where he was living and serving as Ambassador to the United States from Haiti. Raymond had been in touch with my mother and she had given him my phone number. We talked for a long time catching up and reminiscing.

He said that if we ever came to Washington, DC we were welcome to stay with him.

Don’t ever say that to the Woodys – we will come!!!

We had the most delightful visit. Ambassador Joseph had his limo pick us up and drop us off for a tour of the Haitian Embassy. We talked at length about the issues facing his homeland and his efforts to work for progress and real change for his people. His love for Haiti and his people was evident in his home, his office, and all he shared with us.

The definition of ambassador is – an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign county.

Raymond Joseph was an excellent ambassador. He represented Haiti well from 2005 to 2010.

The recent appointments of ambassadors for our new administration has prompted the above memories and also started me thinking of our role as ambassadors for Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 5:20-21 says –

20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,  so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

What a beautiful message of reconciliation!

We, God’s children, should be representing our Heavenly Father in such a way as to make others who aren’t Christians desire to become part of God’s kingdom.

Are we being good ambassadors?

Do our children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers, anyone we come in contact with – do they see a Jesus in us who loves them so much He died for them?

  • Do others see grace or condemnation?
  • Do they see joy or sadness?
  • Do they see faith or fear?

God is making His appeal through us!

May we be faithful ambassadors of the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Ashamed

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I am visiting my mother this week. I am staying with Mom in her apartment at the retirement community where she lives in Wheaton, Illinois.

This week is the year anniversary of my father’s passing on to his eternal reward. He is greatly missed.

My mother is doing well. She is active –

  • physically – exercising regularly
  • mentally – coordinating library services for her community
  • spiritually –  attending her local church and involved in Bible study in her community.

God has been so faithful.

Mother is very quick to give God the glory!

As we walk the hallways (two miles of carpeted hallways here), we see many people who I knew while growing up here in Wheaton. One lady yesterday said to me – “Oh, Gayle, I remember you in “Oklahoma” our school musical that year.

That was in 1969!

What really has struck me is the fact that I am immediately identified as Esther’s daughter. I was walking alone in the hall and a resident stopped me and asked me who I was. “You look familiar.” she said.

When I told her who I was and that I was Esther Barker’s daughter, she responded, “Of course! That is why you looked familiar. I knew Esther when she was your age.” (I now look very much like my mother did when she was 65.)

I have been told I look like my mother my whole life. I have never been ashamed of that fact – since it was so consistently expressed, it has always been one of those givens of my life, like having brown eyes, or being taller than average.

I have always been identified as Esther’s daughter.

That is who I am.

Is my identity as a daughter of my heavenly Father as easily identified? Do individuals that do not know me see Jesus in me?

Is Jesus evident in my words and actions?

That is who I am.

Paul says in Romans 1:16-17

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

I realized that I have never been ashamed of being identified as Esther’s daughter because of the unconditional love she has always demonstrated toward me.

An even greater love has been demonstrated to all of us in God’s giving His one and only son  – Jesus – as the sacrifice for our sins.

I am not ashamed of the gospel. My desire is that I live in such a way that people identify me with the gospel.

May we live in these troubled times sharing the unconditional love our Heavenly Father has so freely shared with us.

Let us live  – not ashamed to be identified with Jesus.

 

 

Fear

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Fear is darkness.

Have you ever woken up at night and fearful thoughts start running through your head? Those thoughts tend to multiply and sometimes become overwhelming. The fear grips us in a mental, emotional and even physical way. The darkness becomes even darker.

I remember vividly a time soon after the birth of our first child when fear gripped me in this way. Phil was late getting home from a trip (before cell phones!) (although that might not have made a difference since Phil’s cell phone is most often on his dresser – turned off!) and I became consumed with fear. My mind went wild as I planned his funeral, planned how I was going to live as a widow, and raise our little boy without his father. The more I thought, the worse those thoughts became. The darkness became darker!

When he walked in the door, I was an emotional mess!

Yet we may have those same fearful thoughts in the midst of the day and they don’t seem quite as terrible.

Why?

It is the LIGHT of day.

We see things more clearly.

Jesus says in John 8:12 –

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John explains the blessing of recognizing Jesus as the Light and following Him.  – I John 1:7

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Fear is darkness.

Faith is light.

As we allow the Light of Jesus to enter our minds and hearts we will have faith. Just as turning on a light in a dark room reveals where things are located so we don’t stumble and fall, the Light of God’s word illuminates our daily path as we follow Him.

Psalm 119:105 says –

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

When our children are fearful we need to share this truth with them as well. I memorized this verse from Psalms as a child and it still reminds me to follow the light of faith, not the darkness of fear.

There is so much to be concerned about in our world today. We must not let the darkness close in. Fear of the future can have a paralyzing effect on our lives. We should be examples of hope by our words and deeds.

We can choose to walk in the Light!

Heart Problems

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“Lord, don’t let my heart get hard.”

Phil and I were snowed in on Sunday. Our road had not been plowed and since it was 9 degrees when we woke up, the surface of our road was snow and ice. It was beautiful, especially since we are blessed with a wood stove and are able to look out our windows from a place of warmth.

We took some time to share what was on our hearts – what we felt that God has been impressing on each of us. Then we prayed.

One thing I shared with Phil was that I did not want to allow a critical, or hard heart to develop. I don’t want my grandchildrens’ foremost memory of me to be

“NO”.

We probably all have family members who are most remembered for their critical, crabby attitude, especially as they got older. I don’t want to be one of those people.

Each of our older grandchildren have gone through a “no” phase, usually from around 18 months to two years of age. We recognize this as a stage in development that is normal as a child learns that they are a separate entity and that they have a free will. They also learn that words express meaning – “no” means “I don’t want to”. As caring parents and grandparents we need to discipline these children to understand that they can not always have their own way – nor should they. “No” is sometimes good for us.

How we respond to “no” becomes a matter of the heart – for each of us as well as our children.

Hard hearts develop when we refuse to accept that what we desire may not be God’s will for us.

My friend Patti shared at our last Bible study session on Ezekiel that the recurring theme of that book (not my favorite, I must admit, but needed by me) was the heart condition of God’s people – REBELLION.

Our heart problems start with rebellion.

When our children say “no” to us, it expresses their rebellion, their disobedience. Their hearts become hard instead of tender. They want their own way.

When we say “no” to God, it expresses our rebellion and begins the hardening process in our hearts.

Matthew 13: 14-16

14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,

‘When you hear what I say,
    you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
    you will not comprehend.
15 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
    and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
    so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
    and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
    and let me heal them.’

We cannot hear nor understand what God is speaking when our hearts become hard. Patti went on to share these words that have been ringing in the belfry of my heart ever since she shared –

“The heart of God wants to recapture the hearts of His people”.

YES!

May we let God recapture our hearts.

Soft hearts that see and hear Him.

 

He’s Coming, Again!

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The last of our children and grandchildren left yesterday.

We had a wonderful time with family – coming and going at various times with a brief overlap of everyone. It can be wild and crazy at times, yet the joy of having our children and grandchildren in our home supersedes all other factors. We know we are truly blessed.

As I mentioned in my post on December 13th, I spent a lot of time preparing rooms – making beds, putting pictures of the anticipated occupants in the rooms, (learned from a dear friend Donna), a small dish of special candy in the adult rooms, and fresh towels. As much as possible, I wanted each family member to feel welcome and loved.

I also put away any breakable or valuable non-essentials so that we did not have to say “no” any more than necessary.

The preparation paid off – I enjoyed the seven days we had family here and we only broke two dishes, but I wouldn’t change a thing!

So, yesterday we started cleaning up. Phil vacuumed, I put things away. One load of sheets is in the dryer and the second load is in the washer as I type this.

Yet, something my older brother texted me with his holiday greeting keeps resonating in my mind.

“Jesus is coming again!”

We made so many preparations to celebrate the first appearing of Jesus. All were special and held meaning for us and our family as we celebrated Jesus’s birth.

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But what preparations am I making to prepare for His second coming?

In I Thessalonians 5: 19-24 (MSG) Paul addresses this very issue –

19-22 Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.

23-24 May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!

The preparations are quite clear –

  • allow the Holy Spirit to empower us
  • listen to those who speak God’s truth
  • don’t be deceived – test everything by the standard of God’s Word
  • throw away the bad, avoid everything that is evil
  • God will make us holy and whole
  • God is completely dependable – HE WILL DO IT!

God will make us prepared for the second coming of Jesus. We can begin the process by following the first four steps – but ONLY God can complete it.

The joy of preparing for our family’s arrival was the anticipation of them actually coming. Our granddaughter Adella said to me, “Nana, you are so happy when I come to your house.” Yes, I am, and I am so pleased she knows it.

If we had not prepared, I dread thinking of the consequences. No food, no beds ready, no clean bathrooms….There would be no joy on Macktown Gap!

No one knows when Jesus will come again. We DO know He is returning.

I want to commit to intentionally preparing myself – spirit, soul, and body – for the return of Jesus, my Saviour and Lord.

Jesus is coming, again!

Let Our Hearts Prepare Him Room

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I have spent a significant amount of time this month preparing rooms. I usually wait until December 1st to start decorating, partly because I need to prepare the rooms to decorate. I love having family here over Thanksgiving, so there is a lot to clean up.

I don’t want to decorate dust bunnies.

What I enjoy most about decorating for Christmas are the memories. We have many “tacky” yet priceless ornaments that our children have made. Some have pictures on them which are especially fun for the grandchildren to see. “My mom looked like that?”

Preparing the rooms causes a flood of memories to sweep over me.

Where is the food?

The idea of “room” denotes two thoughts for me.

  1. room – a physical space defined by walls
  2. room – a space, place

One of my favorite Christmas Carols – Joy to the World – has a line that says – 

    Let every heart prepare Him room…

As this line repeated itself over and over in my mind I began to think of the meaning of those words.

How do I prepare room in my heart?

I thought about how I prepare the rooms in my home.

  • clean out the dirt and mess
  • put out clean sheets and towels
  • fill the room with pleasant smells
  • decorate the room so guests feel welcome – like a favorite book or toy

This parallels what I must do in my heart to prepare my life to receive Jesus.

  • clean out the sin by asking forgiveness and repenting  – I John 1:9
  • put on the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives – Isaiah 61:10
  • worship, show love – these are a sweet fragrance to God – Ephesians 5:2 AMP
  • fill my heart with God’s Word, write His words on my heart – Proverbs 3:3

Once my heart is prepared, Jesus will live in me through His Spirit. I must be intentional about preparing to receive Jesus  – just as I am intentional about decorating rooms in my house for Christmas. An artist friend, Sheila Atchley, posted yesterday that “We can only give to others what we first OWN for ourselves.”  YES!  Only that which is in our hearts. Are our hearts prepared for Jesus?

Isaiah 9: 6-7 says –

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from                                                                                           the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.

Let our hearts prepare Him room.

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