Think on These Things

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Spring is my favorite season of the year. I love seeing the trees bud, the flowers bloom, and the birds building their nests.

If you were here right now you would hear me break out in song!

(scary, huh?)

I remember a friend telling me years ago that it is good for our SOULS to work in the garden. It certainly is good for mine. I see God in all that He created and tending our little part of this vast universe does wonders in helping me keep things in perspective.

Such as –

  • I cannot keep poison ivy out of every part of our property – but I can keep it out of my flower beds and yard. I cannot keep hatred out of our culture – but I can keep it out of my own heart and mind.
  • When plants are new, I need to nurture and protect them. I need to nurture and protect my grandchildren from negative influences when they are in our home by my example.
  • I can protect my plants as much as possible, but their ability to grow and bloom depend on many variables like the temperature, rainfall, pests, etc. that are beyond my control. I must guard my own heart and mind and then trust God in the things beyond my control.
  • I must not neglect my plants after they start growing and even begin blooming. I must weed around them, pulling up weeds as soon as I see them before they take over. When I notice negative attitudes in myself and my children or grandchildren, I must address them right away before they “take root” and take over.
  • I need to “deadhead” or cut blooms from my blooming plants so that they will continue blooming. The best way to do this is share flowers with friends. I must give away or share the gifts God has given me so that I will continue producing more spiritual fruit.

These are a few of the thoughts that nurture my soul as I tend our garden. So many of the things that concern me in our world are far beyond my control.

Yet there are things I can do, starting with my own heart and mind.

I must start there – but not STOP there. As God gives me opportunities to put into practice what I have learned, I need to be faithful to respond.

In Philippians 4:8 (MSG)  Paul says the following –

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

As I tend my garden, I will think on these things – the true, noble, gracious, authentic, beautiful things.

Then, by God’s grace, I will put them into practice.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washing Up

Doesn't their mother bathe them?

“Stay right where you are. After I take a picture, I am going to hose you both off!”

I am so glad I took this picture over 30 years ago. These daughters would probably not remember the time they played in a mud puddle in the yard and finished by smearing mud all over themselves.

They had a great time, then it was time to wash up.

It was a process.

  • hosing down to get the clumps of mud off
  • taking clothes off on the back porch, then quickly running to the bath tub
  • washing their hair repeatedly until I could see their scalps

By the time they were clean, the “fun” of the mud had worn off. As the mud began drying, it did not feel so good on their skin. The scrubbing process also bothered them, washing their hair 4 or 5 times in a row wasn’t pleasant.

I was thinking about the way our culture affects us as parents and grandparents and the idea sprouted in my mind that we often need “washing up” from all the dirt and filth around us.

In Ephesians 5:25-27 Paul is giving instructions to the people in the church in Ephesus. In this verse Paul is asking husbands to love their wives as Christ Jesus loves His bride, the church.

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.

God’s word cleans us!
How does this happen?
We live in a world full of unclean thoughts, evil actions, and just plain nasty language. This can fill our hearts and minds if we let it. Yet we don’t have to wallow in the mud of our culture.
If we read and meditate on God’s word, we replace the dirt all around us with God’s cleansing thoughts and we are WASHED BY HIS WORD!
What an amazing blessing!
The challenge for each of us is to aware of the dirt and brush it off as soon as possible. We need to help our children do this as well. When they repeat ugly, unkind words, we can ask them – “Please say that in a more kind way.” Memorizing scripture is a way to continually “wash” our minds throughout the day. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another”. Ephesians 4:32
This also means that we must watch our own words and actions so that we can be examples of someone washed by the word of God.
Our culture so desperately needs the influence of those who are clean, washed by the word of God.
I pray we will be mothers and grandmothers who are “washing up” with the water of His word, helping to wash the little ones we love.

 

 

 

It’s Hot, Tempers Flare!

“Stop that!”

“You did it first!”

“When is it MY turn?”

“I’m always last!”

“These kids are driving me nuts!”

Don’t these whiny words seem all the more irritating when it is hot?

I remember riding in the car with my brothers when we were young. It was not air-conditioned, and all three of us were in the back seat with no dividers or arm rests. I didn’t want my brothers to touch me, or my stuffed dog, Spotty…..

or even LOOK at me!

I remember my father saying that if the whining didn’t stop, he was going to pull over.

We knew what that meant.

We stopped whining, but we glared at each other.

Well, Gregg and I did…. Garry was reading.

This scenario never happened in the winter. Why not? We rode in the same car on the same back seat….but it wasn’t hot!

As a parent, I remember facing the same situation when our children were young. We did have air conditioning, but usually just opened the windows and we had more room in our Volkswagen Vanagan. (We often had to push it off to get it to start, though.)

I still faced the whining when it was hot, and my patience seemed to melt away along with the higher temperatures.

As the temperature rose, so did the volume of my voice.

How can we face the heat and also the fact that we and our children must control our tempers?

The source of this kind of anger is often physical discomfort. We have no control over the weather, but we can control our response to it. In thinking about this, I remember some helpful suggestions that I have heard and tried over the years:

  • do chores first thing in the morning – it is usually cooler
  • have lots of water available at all times – hydration helps
  • plan for inside, quiet activities during the heat of the day – usually 11:00 to 2:00 or so
  • this is a good time for reading, a video, playing games
  • get in the water – a river, creek, pool, lake, ocean, if possible in the afternoon
  • if not  – turn on a hose or sprinkler
  • plan meals that don’t require a hot stove or oven – sandwiches, fruits and fresh veggies

If riding very far in the car, plan ahead to have enough books, coloring books, or games so there is less chance of squabbling between siblings. Our daughters often use stories on CD in the car and their children really enjoy them.

The Bible addresses the importance of controlling our anger. Ephesians 4:31-32 says –

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

We should admit to ourselves and our children that it is HOT and that we all feel the effects, BUT, we will still be kind to each other, avoiding harsh words and a mean tone of voice.

This does not mean that we don’t correct or discipline our children when they intentionally and willfully disobey. The heat does not justify bad behavior.

It does mean that we give grace to each other, just as God has shown His grace to us.

Got Milk?

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Our new granddaughter is now 3 months old. She is starting to respond to her surroundings, especially her family.

Those first smiles make it all worth it, don’t they?

SO PRECIOUS!

She doesn’t cry much, which is a HUGE blessing since her 4 older brothers need a lot on supervision right now. They are at the “let me see what happens if I do this….” stage.

You will remember this stage if your children are older now because you found yourself saying things like:

  • What were you thinking?  … they weren’t thinking
  • Why did you do that?         ….there often is no reason
  • I can’t believe you did that! ….they can’t either
  • What is the matter with you?…they are children

Does God ever throw up His divine hands in exasperation? Knowing that His eye is on me… I’m sure He does.

But He never gives up!  Praise God!

Neither should we.

Back to our new granddaughter – she does let it be known when she is hungry. She is also quickly satisfied when she receives her mother’s milk. Babies are designed to crave the very things they need for healthy growth and development.

Peter has some words of instruction for us as we grow as Christians –

1 Peter 2: 1-3 (NLT)

2 So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. 2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

We are encouraged to “cry out” for the nourishment we need from the Lord.

Notice that it says – “we must crave pure spiritual milk” so that we can grow into a full experience of salvation. It is an ongoing process.

I am also struck by the phrase “now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.”

It is the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance. Kind speech is the best way for us to reflect God’s kindness as we interact with our children, grandchildren, and each other.

Our challenge is to drink in that pure spiritual milk ….and let kindness pour out.

You Go First

Hawkins - 1st day of school - 2024

“I got to be the leader today, Nana. I was first in line.”

That was the highlight of two of our grandson’s week in school. They were so excited about being the leader and being the first in line in kindergarten. They told me this on the phone after I asked them, “How was school today?”

Now there is nothing wrong with being first. Someone has to be first. I found out soon after we started dating that Phil had a very different idea about being first in line – or being in front of ANYTHING.

I always like to sit in front. This is probably because I always sat near the front in school. My last name started with “B” – Barker – so when we were seated alphabetically, I was near the front. I was also placed near the front, sometimes SMACK up against the teacher’s desk because – can you believe it? – I TALKED TOO MUCH.

I know some of you are thinking – “she hasn’t changed in 53 years”. Others are thinking – “no wonder….”

Phil on the other hand had a last name that started with “W” – Woody – so he sat near the back. He liked sitting near the back and NEVER got in trouble for talking.

“Phillip is such a pleasure to have in class. He is a model student.” his report cards always said.

Gag….

So, we soon realized that we couldn’t sit together. I wanted to sit in the front – he wanted to sit in the back.

(Don’t worry – we have worked it out and we do sit together.)

Our culture celebrates being first. First place, first in line, first prize, first team all-stars, first edition, etc.

If someone cuts in front of us while driving and beats us to a light or an intersection, we fume about it and may even lay on the horn.

Recently Phil and I were driving somewhere and were running a tad late. I knew we would get there on time if we hurried. We were making good time until Phil slowed down and let someone pull out in front of us! Then, when a car next to us signaled that they wanted to move into our lane, he waved them in front of us!

I was irritated by each car that was ahead of us, seeing them as a obsticle to my progress. Truth be told, I was also irritated with Phil.

Phil saw these opportunities as a chance to be kind and thoughtful.

I started noticing his pattern while driving and I realized that he consistently lets people ahead of himself in line, lets others go first, and is not pushy nor aggressive. He just quietly waits his turn.

Jesus taught his disciples about being first

Mark 9:33-35 (NLT)

33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

What a great example to his disciples and to us.

Are we being that kind of example to our children and grandchildren? Do we let others go first? Do we make space for others in line or do we fuss and honk if others crowd in?

I need to be like Jesus and let others go first with the heart of a servant. Don’t you feel blessed when someone lets you pull into a line of cars?

Pass that kindness on to others.

Kindness

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I was reminded yesterday during the Sunday School class I attended with two of our daughters and their husbands that God demonstrates kindness to us daily. It is easy to focus on the judgement of God and the often devastating results of the sin that we see all around us in our world. Yet if we are honest, we must admit that God shows patience and love to us even when we don’t deserve it. The Sunday School class is studying Romans and Paul wrote this letter because the Jewish Christians were requiring new Gentile Christians to be circumcised. Paul begins telling these Roman Christians that they do not have a right to judge and are actually condemning themselves when they judge others. (Romans 2:1)

Romans 2:4 is a verse that jumps out at me each time I read it and one that we as Christian mothers and grandmothers need to take to heart.

Romans 2:1-5 (NIV)

2 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.  Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

God’s kindness is what leads us to repentance. How can we apply this to our interactions with our children in a way that will lead them to repent – not to us – but to their Heavenly Father? When the woman broke the bottle of perfume on Jesus’s feet and washed His feet with her hair – it wasn’t because he had shouted at her and told her that being a prostitute was sinful. Her repentance came because she felt God’s love through His son Jesus. Jesus didn’t have to say, “Now you know how bad being a prostitute is… it is sinful….” No – that woman knew she was full of sin. She also knew Jesus would forgive her and cleanse her heart.

Mothers of small children have the important task of teaching their children right from wrong. Lying is not just a bad choice – it is wrong. As our children become older and begin to make choices based on what they have learned about right and wrong, parents must then help children become sensitive to their conscience – the voice of the Holy Spirit in choosing behavior that is right. We parents will not always be with our children and it is important that children learn to respond to God’s leading at an early age.

I remember one of our daughters coming in to us crying because she had lied to us and felt very convicted. We had no idea she had lied to us. We were so thankful her heart was tender toward God. She still suffered the consequences of her lie, but we showed love and acceptance of her desire to repent. Doesn’t God do that to us? God does NOT beat us over the head with our past sins – in fact He buries them as far as the East is from the West.

Let’s be agents of God’s loving kindness to our children just the way our Heavenly Father shows kindness to us.