“Before you know it, …”

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“Before you know it, that kudzu will creep right on in your bed!”

One of the pleasures of walking for exercise is the encounters you have with people who are also walking.

Now some of you are thinking…”I like to exercise alone.” Good for you.  But I know that once I moved away from my walking buddy – Alice Marie – my exercise level went way down. I do better when I talk and walk.

So – on Monday as I was walking by myself,  I saw another frequent walker. We greeted one another and then started talking about all the rain we have had recently. Weather is a frequent topic because it affects all of us and our walking. Then we talked about our gardens, what was doing well – cucumbers, which like the rain, and what was not doing so well – tomatoes – which prefer hot, dry weather.

Then our conversation moved on to kudzu. Kudzu must REALLY like the rain because it is growing up a storm! My friend mentioned that she and her husband used to own some land where they had cows and never had any trouble with kudzu. When they sold the land, the new owners didn’t want cows and before long called and asked what they could do about all the kudzu. It was taking over their land.

“Before you know it, it will creep right on in your bed!” my fellow walker said.

We laughed together, knowing just how close to the truth that statement is.

A little Kudzu history – it originally came from Japan –

“In the decades that followed kudzu’s formal introduction at the 1876 World’s Fair Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, farmers found little use for a vine that could take years to establish, was nearly impossible to harvest and couldn’t tolerate sustained grazing by horses or cattle. But in 1935, as dust storms damaged the prairies, Congress declared war on soil erosion and enlisted kudzu as a primary weapon. More than 70 million kudzu seedlings were grown in nurseries by the newly created Soil Conservation Service.”  Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/true-story-kudzu-vine-ate-south-180956325/#tvkuq1M1sB0CAeTS.99

So – kudzu found a home in the United States to combat soil erosion.

A good motivation – an unexpected result.

I thought about this and a parallel principle to Spiritual growth.

As Christians we are often looking for “quick fixes” to our problems. Some of the these ideas are good. They even work for a time. But there are unexpected results that we didn’t anticipate.

A few examples:

  • marriages in the church are struggling – have a marriage conference
  • children don’t want to sit quietly in church services –  offer children’s church

The marriage conference may offer great information, but what about a month later when the old conflicts rear their ugly heads (and they will) what does that couple do?Having a mature, Godly couple mentor those struggling in their marriages provides ongoing support and PRAYER which is powerful in effecting real, sustained change.

Children’s Church can be a blessing for parents who want to focus on worship. Yet these children specific offerings often become entertainment, not real worship. They do not prepare children to block out distractions so they learn to focus on worshiping the King of Kings, Creator of the Universe, their Lord and Savior. Toddlers do need separate space. But once children begin school, they are able to learn to participate in the most important activity of human experience – Worship of God. By participating in worship, children will learn to worship.

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

We must make sure that we are not practicing “quick fixes” in our spiritual lives that cause us and our children to experience unexpected consequences.

Before you know it….!

 

In My Garden with God – #12

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“They Need to See Each Other”

When my father passed away several dear friends gave me gift cards to purchase a plant in his honor. This was especially fitting since my father was a botanist and naturalist, as well as a biology teacher.

I knew immediately what I wanted to plant in his honor… an American chestnut tree, blight resistant.

When my father became a seasonal ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1959, one still saw many towering gray tree trunks of dead American chestnuts, the last vestiges of a once mighty species of tree in our mountain forests.

Years later when my parents were living with us, Dad told me that he had read about a blight resistant American chestnut that had been developed and was showing promise of thriving in our mountain habitat. He mentioned that we should get one. I called around to a few local nurseries and no one had any of this variety yet.

So, after my father passed away at 91 years old, I again called the nursery and sure enough, they had American chestnut trees. Phil and I went to pick one up and the man helping us said,

“Now you need two so they can cross pollinate and you then you will get chestnuts.”

Of course – Biology 101.

Thinking about the many trees on our property already,  I asked, “How close do I need to plant them?”

“They need to see each other.” he said.

I smile every time I remember this conversation. As I was weeding around those two trees recently, which by the way are growing very well, I was reminded of a spiritual principle that those trees illustrate perfectly.

Trees will only bear fruit, (or nuts) if they are close enough to each other to cross pollinate. As Christians, we will only bear fruit if we are in close relationship to other Christians. We need the cross pollination of our brothers and sisters in faith to keep us growing spiritually in healthy ways.

Some of the effects of cross pollination are:

  • recognizing Truth vs. deception
  • being held accountable to Godly behavior
  • growing the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, self control, etc.
  • learning from what the Lord is impressing on fellow believers
  • being challenged to love and good works
  • reproducing more Christians

It is hard to demonstrate REAL love, patience, or self control if we are all alone. Expressing real love requires an object of that love. My patience is most often challenged by others and I learn to be patient by practicing it on others. It is hardest to demonstrate self control over my tongue when there is actually someone around to hear me. It is through close contact with others that I cultivate the fruit of the Spirit.

I Corinthians 12:12-13, 18-21 says the following –

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

We need each other – to grow, to be healthy, to reproduce.

We must remain close to others Christians, close enough to see each other.

 

In My Garden with God #10

 

 

 

It’s All About the Soil

 

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When folks see our yard, they often ask – “How do you get these plants to grow so well?”

First, I always stress that we are just the caretakers, God is the source. I truly mean that – it is NOT just a statement of false humility. Phil and I have moved plants, sometimes multiple times – until we find just the right location for them to thrive. But, then the rich mountain soil fulfills its God ordained function.

Phil – “I thought we moved this plant last year.”

Gayle – “We did, but I think it will do better over here.”

Phil – “It looks fine here.”

Gayle – “Yes, but it needs more sun to bloom. Just dig the hole, please”

Phil – “Is this why you married me?”

Gayle  – “Yes” (smile – always smile)

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The MOST important factor in the beauty of the plants in our yard is the soil. We had nothing to do with that. Over the years, many leaves and plant matter have decomposed creating a rich, nutritious soil that results in beautiful plants and flowers. That is one of the many blessings of living in an older home. Some of our shrubs and trees are very old and we receive the blessing of their beauty year after year.

But it started with good dirt.

I was thinking about this as I was reading in Ephesians as part of our Bible study. We are in chapter 6. In verse 4, Paul says

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In the Amplified translation verse 4 says this –

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.

I try to place our plants in the best location for that plant. Hostas need shade, Shasta daisies need sun. ALL plants need the good foundation of rich, nutritious soil so their roots can grown down deep in that soil.

As we raise our children, we must first and foremost make sure that we provide a good foundation (soil). In a family this means a safe, secure, loving environment where the child can grow. As the child grows, we must then provide nurture for the specific needs that child may have. Just as all plants don’t require the same amount of sun, each child will not thrive in the same activities or learning environment.

Raising plants are a fitting parallel to raising children. If I place a hosta in full sun, just because my crepe myrtles do well there, the hostas are sure to burn up in the summer heat. Our native plant section is at the edge of the yard where these lovely plants thrive under the canopy of  poplar and oak trees, their natural habitat. When Phil and I move a plant, we study where it has thrived in nature and move it to a similar environment.

We must do the same as parents. Society now labels some of our children “special needs” which I feel is a respectful way to understand that these children have their individual path for growth and development. Yet ALL children have unique needs and recognizing those needs will help ensure their full growth and development. Those who don’t fit into the “traditional school mold”, (like most little boys) will need increased attention to their specific situations. Like some of my plants, they may need to be moved (i.e. try various strategies) several times before just the right place is found.

God is SO patient with us!

My dear friend Julianna is facing challenges with her special needs son, Hawk. They are facing these challenges with faith and grace, choosing to celebrate each step of progress no matter how small. Hawk is blessed to be in this family. Instead of focusing on what Hawk is unable to do at this time, they get excited over each new accomplishment.

We must provide the “soil” as parents – that firm foundation. Then as verse 4 says –  bring them up [tenderly, with loving kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Each child is unique. Each child is precious in God’s sight.

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In My Garden With God – 9

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

 

“The Savior’s Come”

 

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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!

 

 

 

Arise, SHINE!

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Isaiah 60:1-3

Have you ever had something happen to you that seems unique? You feel like you are the very first person to experience it.

Then you share it with someone and they say “Oh, yes. I had that happen to me last week.”  – and they go on to describe JUST what you thought was a first.

Sometimes I feel God does that with me concerning spiritual truth. I will read something in Scripture and sense an illumination of understanding.

Wow! I new revelation for me! Then…

  • I am in a service and the preacher teaches on that very Scripture
  • I turn on the radio and someone shares my very insight
  • At Bible study a speaker shares in the video (which was made at least year or two previous) the very new, freshinsight I just had this week

So, I can either dismiss my excitement over “my fresh revelation” OR I can realize that

God may be trying to get my attention!

I think it is prudent to do the latter. In my over 60 years of being a Christian, God has faithfully used various means to lead me into Truth.

The fact that we Christians are the LIGHT OF THE WORLD and that we must LET OUR LIGHT SHINE  is the Truth that God is impressing me with every where I turn.

Tuesday night at our home group, God spoke to us through Janice that it is dark all around us, but we have the Light of the world.

Now, what does that mean? I know this message is not just for me, (although I sense I am certainly being held accountable) since I am hearing it in church, on the radio, at the Community Women’s Bible Study, our Home Group, and in my personal time with God.

I must respond.

I must let the Light of Jesus shine in all my interactions with others, starting at home. Then I must let my Light shine wherever I go – every day, every place I go.

I also know that my small Light is greatly multiplied in its effect when it is joined with other Lights. We saw this clearly illustrated at the lighthouses we recently visited on the Outer Banks. There was one light, but many lenses that reflected and multiplied the amount of light so that the effect could be viewed for many miles. That greater light had saved many lives over the years!

When we Christians arise and let our Light shine together – the effect will be so much greater!

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Let us arise, and shine the Light together!

Waiting

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“I don’t like to wait, Nana.”

My first thought was, “dear Daniel, you have a lot of waiting ahead of you in life.”

My next thought was “I don’t like to wait either!”

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We were at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The National Park Ranger had given us a time to ascend to the top, all 257 steps. They limit the number of people in the lighthouse at any given time so that everyone is safe, and to maximize each individual’s viewing opportunity. Our time slot was 30 minutes away.

I can understand Daniel’s impatience. The lighthouse was so beautiful, towering over us on a clear October day. We had just eaten our picnic lunch in the park and we had told the children that we would climb the lighthouse after we finished our lunch.

Now we had to wait.

Waiting is part of life.

Yet our culture is programmed for INSTANT response, isn’t it? Not only can we access information all the time most everywhere, we are constantly being enticed to acquire faster service with more data capacity. No wonder our children don’t like to wait!

How can we help our children and grandchildren (and ourselves for that matter) learn to wait with patience and grace?

  • be an example of waiting with patience ourselves

when we are placed in situations where we must wait, like traffic jams, long                     lines in the store, for food in restaurants, for a family member getting ready –                   we must show patience ourselves. Our irritation for waiting will send a strong                 message.

  • talk to our children about why we must wait

explain that many things in life require waiting, like a child being born, for                       instance, and we must wait for these occurrences patiently. Young children                       may not understand the concept of time, but they will understand our                                 example of irritation or patience.

  • create “waiting games” that help the child learn to use time in positive ways

 digital devices can be positive tools in our lives, but pressing a “game” in front of a child whenever the child must wait will create a new set of  problems.                        Look around you and name colors, count people, find objects that start with                     “b”. Use the time to plan a special dinner, a birthday party (that the child must                  WAIT for), have the child write out your shopping list, even if they can only                        write the first letter of a word

  • be prepared to wait

carry in your car, bag, large purse – some “waiting” items. Paper to write                              Grandma a letter (YES!), a coloring book and crayons or pencils, a small book                    to read, or ask the child to tell you the story using the illustrations. Use                                waiting time to count money and explain the various values of coins. (not as                      effective with plastic!)

Sometimes we must wait for YEARS before something happens that we hope and pray for. Yet God is faithful, especially as we wait.

Isaiah 40: 30-31 says this about waiting –

30  Even youths shall faint and be weary,
      and young men shall fall exhausted;
31   but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
      they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
      they shall run and not be weary;
      they shall walk and not faint.
What a wonderful promise for those who learn to wait!
Let’s make it a personal goal to be patient as we wait, and to model that for the children in our lives.