God’s Workmanship

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I love spring! I love the warmer weather, the sounds of birds, the fresh smells of grass and honey suckle blooming, the beauty of trees and flowers bursting forth in bloom.

Spring fills my senses.

It is such a blessing to live in a region that has four seasons. We have had LOTS of rain this fall and winter and now the result is an abundance of blooms.

Our camellias and forsythia have more blooms than I remember from previous years. The tulip blooms are bigger and more abundant, as were the daffodils, which are now fading. The dogwood trees are just opening here and also have so many blooms.

This may be the most beautiful spring I have experienced Everywhere I look I see God’s workmanship. The variety of plant life, the diversity in color, size, form, and texture all make flowers such a joy to behold. I never tire of walking around our yard and seeing a new bloom or something green peeking through the soil ready to grow up in the warm sunlight. I especially enjoy seeing a plant emerge that I have totally forgotten about since last spring. It like receiving a present I didn’t expect! God’s workmanship.

Ephesians 2:10 says –

10 For we are his workmanship, 

created in Christ Jesus for good works, 

which God prepared beforehand, 

that we should walk in them.

Just as we enjoy the beauty of nature, God’s creation – God enjoys US, also His creation as the above verse states. We bring God joy when we fulfill the purpose for which He created us.

I was thinking about this as I cut flowers in our yard for arrangements for a friend’s birthday celebration. Each type of flower was different – unique – but fit in beautifully in the arrangement. I saw each of these flowers as perfect to complete the arrangement I planned.

I have other flowers I never cut for arrangements. They look better growing in their natural habitat. Trillium are one of my favorite flowers, but I have never cut them to bring inside. They show their beauty best growing outside.

Each of us is different – we look different, we have different talents, different abilities, even different preferences. Yet each of us was created for good works that Jesus has prepared for us to do.

My friend Carol and I are like that. See how much we look alike? (ha!) We are so different in every way, yet our friendship spans 65 years. (oops, now you know how old Carol is!)

One reason our friendship has lasted is that we appreciate the different gifts each other has. How I admire Carol’s medical knowledge and gift of discernment! I don’t envy those abilities – instead, I seek her wisdom when needed. (many times over the years)

Each of us has been created by our Heavenly Father as His workmanship. May we walk in the good works He has prepared for us.

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In My Garden with God  #19

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Time to Wait

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My granddaughter planted seeds last week. Her mother told me the next day that Rachel went out and looked at the spot where she had planted and said – “Where are the flowers? ”

“You have to wait, dear.”

Waiting is SO difficult. Currently I have several very dear friends who are waiting….

  • for results about what cancer treatment is recommended – radiation, chemo, both
  • for healing from a miscarriage
  • for visas to come through so their family can leave for the foreign mission field
  • for results in a court case
  • for hip replacement surgery
  • for results of an evaluation of a grandson with special needs, so he can receive the services he needs
  • for healing of the heart for her precious daughter

All these situations are in the forefront of each of these friends’ minds.

They are also of utmost importance to God.

How do I know that? Because in I Peter 5:6-11, Paul ends his letter to the early Christians this way –

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. 

Verse 7 says, cast – or give ALL your anxiety to God – because He cares for you!

I believe God does care about each of the concerns we face. That may not make it easier to wait, but it does give me hope while I wait.

I called Rachel and told her that Nana had planted seeds, too. I told her it was time to wait – the seeds would grow and be beautiful flowers – someday. Now there is no danger of Rachel just sitting, watching and waiting until the seeds send up shoots. She is one active three-year old – no doubt about it! She will probably remember to check frequently, but Rachel has many other things to do.

That made me think about myself during times of waiting. Sometimes there is NOTHING else we can do, sometimes there are many things to do.

The issue for me is not to miss something God has for me to do just because I am waiting. I need to ask God for direction in the interim, while I am waiting. It also makes the wait time go faster if I am serving others, not just focusing on my own concerns.

God is faithful – we must also be faithful – while we wait.

 

In My Garden with God        #18

Divine Placement

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This post is going to be short. The sun is SHINING and I must get out to my garden – my plants are calling…

This thought has been percolating in my brain since my husband, Phil, shared this scripture when preaching recently.

I believe God has a plan.

  • for all creation
  • for our universe
  • for our world
  • for our country
  • for our community
  • for THE CHURCH
  • for our particular fellowship of Believers
  • for my family
  • for me

It is not an accident that I was born in 1951, to parents who lived in Wheaton, Illinois, who raised me in a God honoring home. God placed me there, I did not choose them.

Yet what a profound influence that has had on my life! Since then I have exercised my God given free will to choose to follow Jesus.

God has led me, disciplined me, blessed me, caused me to suffer – all to prepare me to fulfill His plan in me and through me.

Divine placement is a wonderful concept to ponder. In looking at back at my 67 years of life, I can see God’s hand at work – over and over. At the time I was often not aware of His presence, but in hindsight I see clearly His influence – over and over.

Phil recently helped me transplant a Japanese maple that my father had grown from a two inch seedling. He had brought it back to North Carolina in a baggie on an airplane from my brother’s home in Oregon. Dad had first planted it in a sheltered place above a rock wall in our yard that is protected from too much sun, and from grandchildren’s feet. When it grew to about 12 inches, (about 4 years) he moved it to a large planter where it has grown for the past 12 years. It had become root bound and I knew if it wasn’t transplanted soon, it would become unhealthy and eventually die. We planted it in the ground near to the location of the planter because it had grown well there.

Divine placement?

Paul instructed the Corinthian church on how to grow as the Body of  Christ. He explains that our function or placement in the Body is not arbitrary.          I Corinthians 12:18

18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?

Divine placement!

Each of us has been placed by God to fulfill His purposes. Sometimes we must be transplanted to stay healthy and grow. We may need to “uproot” our children at times to provide an environment where they will receive the needed nourishment and nurture to thrive. God has a plan.

My parents moved after living in our home for 8 1/2 years to a retirement community back in Wheaton where I grew up and where they had lived years earlier. I missed them dearly after they moved. They were 89 and 85 at the time, but how they flourished after being transplanted to that community! They both finished strong at 91 and 90.

Divine placement.

May we grow where we are planted. May we be healthy and bear fruit for GOD’S GLORY.

 

In My Garden with God   #16

Enjoy Them While They Last

img_0833“These camellia blooms are bigger and more abundant than we have ever had!” I told Phil last week. “But we will probably have a frost and and they will all turn brown.”

“You need to enjoy them while they last,” my tending toward pessimistic husband replied. “There is nothing you can do about it.” So, I cut these flowers and put them in a vase. Tonight it is supposed to get down to 17 degrees so these blooms wouldn’t make it.

I will enjoy them while they last – right on our dining room table.

Gardening is my hobby, yet there are many things I cannot control when it comes to the plants I tend. Weather is under God’s authority. I can trim, mulch, and fertilize, but freezing temperatures can still eliminate the blooms I hope to see.

This is a lot like parenting, isn’t it?

We care for our children by feeding, clothing, reading to them, limiting screen time, providing shelter….but so many factors are under God’s authority. We don’t form their personality, their God given abilities, their physical appearance.

I remember talking to my Mother about how stubborn one of our daughters was and being at a loss on how to address her defiance as a 3 year old. “Just wait, Gayle.” Mother said. “She will grow out of this stage before you know it.”

Then with a twinkle in her eye she said, “… and she will enter the NEXT stage.”

How can I enjoy my child right in the moment? Right in the stage, phase, mood – call it what you will – that they are in right now?

Grace.

I need grace to love and encourage my child through each phase of their development. And then grace for the next stage….and the next.

Phil was right, instead of bemoaning the fact that my flowers will freeze, I need to enjoy their blooms for as long as they live. I need to look for and FIND the positive aspects of the stages my child is going through and enjoy those qualities – while they last.

I am not referring here to open defiance, or disobedience. I am focusing on behaviors that are the result of growth patterns, often associated with hormonal changes.

I must be honest and admit it is so much easier to have grace for grandchildren’s behavior then I had for their parent’s behavior when they were that age. The separation of a generation does that. In Ephesians 6:4  AMP Paul gives clear instruction to parents –

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with loving kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Grace

I pray I will search for and find the good in each stage  – and enjoy it while it lasts.

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In My Garden with God  #15

 

 

Dormant

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Phil and I recently planted grass seed on some bare spots in our lawn. Well, it is a stretch to call it a lawn…  You know, the green part in front of our house.

Well, actually it is a stretch to call it green. It is brown mud or moss.

So – last year I planted grass seed about March 3rd and it came up beautifully! Then as the weather dried up in June, so did the new grass. The roots weren’t established enough when the temperatures rose and there wasn’t as much rain to keep the new grass alive.

SO – this year I planted in JANUARY. My plan is that the grass seeds will sprout and the roots will be established long before the temperatures rise and the rain stops. I won’t make the same mistake I made last year.

Only one problem – the seeds are lying dormant.

  • The seeds need water – we’ve had plenty of that.
  • The seeds need sun – we have had several sunny days (between the rain)
  • The seeds need warmth to germinate – NOT ENOUGH WARMTH in JANUARY!

The definition of dormant for a plant is – “alive but not actively growing.”

So, my dormant grass seed is alive, but not actively growing. My hope is that as soon as it starts getting warm, the grass seeds will sprout. At least they are ready and waiting.

This situation got me thinking about raising our children. Two friends and I were talking about this at lunch today – as loving parents we work hard to provide all our children need to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Sometimes we feel we made mistakes with one child, so we try something different with the next child. (just like I did with the seeds) In discussing this we realized that as hard as we tried, we still made mistakes. Only God’s grace made our feeble efforts effective.

In I Corinthians 3:5-7 Paul is talking about how God’s servants minister to their fellow Christians.

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 

It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.          NLT

As Christian parents we must do all we can to help our children grown spiritually. But as Paul said so clearly – “God makes the seed grow”. God will use parents, friends, teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, and YES – grandparents to plant and water those spiritual seeds.

We must not be discouraged if we don’t see growth when we think we should. Those spiritual seeds may be lying dormant – alive, but not actively growing at this time.

God makes them grow.

 

 

In My Garden with God #14

 

 

No Greater Joy

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We visited some of our family this weekend. I had some meeting responsibilities, but Phil (and I later) was able to see

  • one granddaughter play basketball – her team won
  • another granddaughter sing a solo in her Chorus Concert
  • a grandson play basketball – his team won
  • and twin grandsons play basketball – their team won

We were certainly pleased that they all did well and had fun. I am so thankful they are able to play and sing and that they have these opportunities.

BUT, later that day, before dinner, one granddaughter let me read her testimony of accepting Jesus as her savior. Now THAT was really exciting!

After completing her confirmation class, our children’s’ pastor asks each participant to write their testimony down and then bring it to a one-on-one meeting with the pastor. What a wonderful way to affirm their step of faith!’

Several of our grandchildren have made a commitment of faith in Jesus as their savior and have been baptized. There is no greater joy for me as a grandmother than to hear that one of there precious children has become a Child of God.

In III John 2-4, John is writing a letter to Gaius and the churches in Asia and says the following –

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. 

Some of the traveling teacher recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. 

I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth. 

I agree with John – there is no greater joy!

My prayer is that each of these precious children continue to follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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Exodus/Exit

On our father’s 90th birthday…May, 2014

Our Women’s Community Bible Study will be starting back this week. We will be studying the book of Exodus, so I have been doing a bit of background reading. Exodus is of course the story of  ancient Israel’s exodus from bondage in Egypt. It “reveals what is required of them in a relationship with God, but also what God had graciously done to make that relationship possible.” *

That is the question humans have asked since the beginning of time!

As the Living Word, the Bible tells not only the historical account of the Israeli exodus, but the parallel truth of our journey from the bondage of self and sin to the freedom of Christ’s redemption.

This will be a GOOD study!

I have also been thinking of the “exit” of my Mother to heaven three months ago. Throughout the holidays I thought of her often as memories of Christmas past were recalled. I made the caramel popcorn she always made from Grandma Barker’s recipe. I used her beautiful holly china and silverware that had been her wedding present. ( I left the table “set” for a month because it looked so pretty and reminded me of Mother.)

My brother Garry, (the middle of the three of us standing in the top picture) recently sent me the following thoughts –

“I was musing about the biblical injunction to “honor your father and mother”. When I was young I understood this to mean to obey.  Then when I had older children I saw how precious it was when they showed kindness to me and I tried to do that to mom and dad, thinking that the honoring stopped when they died.  Now I realize that one gives honor to your father and mother by living the way they taught, even when they are gone. May we cherish Christ as they did!”

What a meaningful expression of “honor”. My parents loved God and lived their lives to honor Jesus Christ. They were not perfect. Yet they loved each other, their children, and their wide circle of friends well. Mother’s notebook by her Bible had notes from the last sermon and Sunday School class she attended at College Church. At 90 she still knew she needed to remain in God’s Word and in fellowship.

I saw in my parent’s lives their pursuit of a meaningful relationship with God. I saw them struggle at times when circumstances like caring for aging parents and illness challenged their ability to “die to self”. I saw them seek God’s forgiveness and to walk in forgiveness to others.

As I study the book of Exodus, I know I will be reminded of the spiritual legacy my parents have left us. I also know I will be challenged to be set free from the bondage of sin and the idols that I allow to grab my attention. When God gave Moses the 10 commandments He said –

12 “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.              Exodus 20:12

May I honor the God of my father (and mother) by living the way they taught, by following God and being an example to future generations.

 

PS – If you are a women, and live in Jackson County, you are welcome to join our Bible study of the book of  Exodus. It is made up of women from about 15 different churches in our community. Just contact me for details.