It’s the Heart That Matters

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I was talking with my friend, Carol, about parenting as Christians. At our age, we are done with active parenting. We each have grandchildren who we love deeply and pray for consistently. We now look back on our own parenting and realize the mistakes we made and wish we had known then….what we know now.

But, that is just the point isn’t it?

We couldn’t know then what we know now, because we see differently from this end.

One thing we agreed on, we wouldn’t focus so much on the “little things”. We spent a lot of time making sure that our children DID certain things. Some of that was important, but now other things seem more significant.

Like our children’s hearts.

In the Bible dictionary it defines the heart as the “central or most vital part of something.” YES! That is what Carol and I realized was most important in Christian parenting – focusing on the heart.

  • Where was my daughter’s heart when she pulled her sister’s hair?
  • Where was my son’s heart when he laughed at his brother who fell?
  • Where were their hearts when they excluded a younger sibling?
  • Where were their hearts when they lied or blamed others for what they did?

45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.         Luke 6:45

It is the heart that matters.

Proverbs 4:23 says it so plainly –

23 Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life.

A child’s words, tone of voice, and facial expressions are windows into their hearts. We must pay attention and strive to touch their hearts so they sense God’s unconditional love for them. That love is what will draw them unto Jesus. “For God so loved the world….” God has designed our hearts to desire relationship with Him. We can help our children open their hearts to God so their hearts are not hardened. Worship, Bible study, fellowship, and prayer will help hearts be open to God.

As a grandparent I am praying that God will guard their hearts from the fiery darts of the evil one. I must be an example of one who has a heart for God.

This prayer from Paul is my prayer for my grandchildren –

18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

It’s the heart that matters.

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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.

 

No Fear

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Watch those boys!

I had to bite my tongue not to say those words. I have hiked on Wildcat Cliffs numerous times and thoroughly enjoyed each one. The panoramic views overlooking the sheer rock cliffs are breathtaking and beautiful.

This time I did not enjoy the hike at all. Why? Because fear had a hold on me.

Those sheer rock cliffs became dangerous instead of beautiful because all I could see was one of our grandchildren falling down those cliffs.

My fear robbed me of any enjoyment on that hike. Our grandchildren’s parents were doing a good job of monitoring their sons’ behavior, but fear has a way of blinding us to reason.

That fear was overwhelming. It consumed all my thoughts, made my blood pressure spike, and ruined what should have been a lovely family outing. (Well, everyone else had a great time, especially the grandchildren!)

God wants us to be free from fear. The antidote for fear is faith. When I trust God with my life and the lives of those I love, fear has NO hold on me. That does not insure that bad things won’t happen to me or those I love. It does give me peace that God is in control and that He will use every circumstance to further His purposes. I have seen this truth demonstrated many times in my life.

I John 4:16-18

16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.   17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.   18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

There are so many concerns in our nation and our world that could cause us to fear. Most of these are things that we have no personal control over. Living in fear of these situations, or possible situations will not help the outcome. The future of our nation will not improve because I fear it’s future.

Prayer will help. It focuses my heart and mind on the reality of God’s love for me, His perfect love that casts out fear.

Does this mean I will never feel fear when grandchildren are near a cliff?

No.

But, I will recognize the source of the fear and choose faith.

 

 

 

Pray

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  I Timothy 2:1-4

First of all pray.

Adah and leaves

I don’t know the results of the elections yet. I do know that whatever the results are –            I must pray.

Paul makes it very plain in his instructions to Timothy that I must pray as follows:

  • with petitions – requests for what I may want or need
  • prayers – expressions of my feelings and thoughts
  • intercessions – requests on others behalf, my family and friends, those suffering
  • thanksgiving – gratefulness for life and all my blessings

These four elements encompass all that we may face in the days ahead.

God is faithful and He calls us to pray. God does not need our prayers. We pray to focus our thoughts and hope on faith in God. We need to pray.

What a blessing it will be to show our children and grandchildren that we trust God with the results of this election! Pray together with these children expressing faith that God is faithful.

God has purposes far beyond what we imagine and sometimes those purposes involve success, disappointment, and even suffering.

God is faithful.

Pray.

 

Birthday Blessings

4 generations

Today is my mother’s birthday. She is 88 years old.

We have a grandson, Daniel, who is 5 and the first thing he asks someone after he meets them is “How old are you?” He will then analyze this newly acquired data. He looks very serious as he is pondering a person’s age.

I was thinking about the fact that in our culture, people are proud of their age when they are young, NOT so proud of their age during their middle-aged years, and then proud once again as they reach their 80’s and beyond.

Why is this?

  • children want to get older, be bigger, so each birthday is a milestone
  • our culture values youth, so a person in middle age may not want their age known
  • after 80, people are proud or thankful they have lived that long so their age is something to be pleased about

The women in my family live long lives. When I was in high school in the 1960’s I had three great-grandmothers living, each who were in their 90’s. My mother’s mother lived to be 95.

I knew each of these great-grandmothers and grandmothers except for my maternal grandmother’s mother who lived in Sweden. I never met her.

Of all the many wonderful qualities that my mother, my grandmothers, and my great-grandmothers had – their love for God and their faith in Jesus Christ is the quality that means the most to me. I knew the love they had for me came from the love they had received from the Lord.

What a legacy of faith!

Of all the many things my mother and grandmothers did for me – praying for me is of the utmost value. I am so thankful to have a mother that STILL prays for me.

Paul says to Timothy who he was discipling the faith – II Timothy 1:3-6 NLT

3 Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.

5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.

Paul mentions the spiritual heritage that Timothy had from his mother and grandmother.

This is the legacy we can leave as well – one of praying for our children and grandchildren. I am so thankful for my praying grandmothers.

Thank you , Mom, for continuing to pray for me even as you reach your 88th year.

This is the legacy I want to leave my children and grandchildren – one of faith and prayer.

My friend Janice recently gave me the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. It shares the powerful impact that serious, specific, and strategic prayer can have.

May we build a legacy of faith.

Like Mother Like Daughter

Three Generations - Four Mothers

Three Generations – Four Mothers

“You must be Esther’s daughter.”

I have heard that comment, or something similar all my life.

I have heard that phrase most recently while visiting my mother. Many of the people who live at the retirement community where my parents have lived the past two years have never met me.

They recognize me anyway!

My father passed on to his heavenly home on February 10.

My mother has rejoiced in the fact that Dad was ready to die, he was alert until the very end, and we were all able to share our love and say goodby at the end of Dad’s life on this earth.

Yet, that is not the end of the story.

I traveled to Wheaton to visit Mom in March. She was ready to sort through Dad’s things and distribute them. His clothes were given to a ministry for refugees and immigrants, which would have pleased Dad. We also rearranged some things in her apartment and had time to share many wonderful memories.

I returned to North Carolina on March 24th and on the 25th, Mom suffered a broken femur in a car accident upon arriving at church for the Good Friday service.

My mother’s attitude since these two situations occurred has been inspirational. She has expressed gratitude to God in each case because she has seen something to be genuinely thankful for.

What has Mom been thankful for?

  •  that Dad did not suffer long
  • that they had a chance to share their love and say goodby
  • that Dad was at peace
  • that she did not get hurt worse
  • that she has good care and loving caregivers
  • that my brother and sister-in-law have been so helpful

It has certainly been a blessing for me to see. I planned on comforting Mom during my visits and she has helped me to see the blessings.

“What do you expect, Gayle? God is answering everyone’s prayers for me.” Mom said recently.

Last Sunday morning Mom called me at 7:00 (6:00 in Wheaton). She said, “I know you are going to church today and that you will praise God. I want you to praise Him for how well I am doing.”

You can imagine how easy it was to praise God after that call!

James 1:2-4

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

This Mother’s Day I am so thankful for a mother who is an example of living those verses.

I not only want to look like my mother, I want to have faith like her.

May God bless each of you who are mothers….

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Mother, Where Art Thou?

 

Four Generations 1979

Four Generations 1979

Praying.

I have a vivid memory of walking home from school and getting near to my house  – 600 E. Illinois Street – and seeing my mother rush across the street to be home when my brothers and I arrived.

My mother had been at Cristal Parker’s – our neighbor across the street. They had been praying for their children.

Of all the many wonderful qualities that my mother has – praying for me is the one that means the most to me. I am so thankful to have a mother that STILL prays for me. I had two grandmothers that prayed for me as well.

What a legacy of faith!

On Mother’s Day we as mothers may be asking ourselves – “am I the kind of mother I should be?” We may be hard on ourselves and think ” I am not this way….I am not that way…” making mental lists of our deficiencies.

We women can be so HARD on ourselves.

Yet of all the things my mother and grandmothers did for me – praying for me is of the utmost value.

Paul says to Timothy who he was discipling in the faith – II Timothy 1:3-6 NLT

3 Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.

5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.

Paul mentions the spiritual heritage that Timothy had from his mother and grandmother.

This is the legacy we can leave as well – one of praying for our children and grandchildren. I am so thankful for my praying grandmothers.

Thank you , Mom, for continuing to pray for me even as you reach your 87th year.

This is the legacy I want to leave my children and grandchildren – one of faith and prayer.

“Nana, where art thou?”

Praying.