Planting Seeds for the Harvest {4.4.17}

Two weeks ago my grandson and I planted some radish seeds in our garden. The soil had been well prepared. It was fed, tilled and ready for seed. The seeds were pretty small and we had to be careful not to let several fall into one spot. God brought the rain shortly after but I didn’t even think to check on the seeds until my husband asked about them. He’s the vegetable gardener in the family but because of a recent injury, I’m the backup plan. Anyway, sure enough – those little seeds had sprouted through the ground. Those tiny leaves were a beautiful sight. Only problem is that there are huge weeds mixed right in there with the seeds. It’s frustrating that the weeds grow so much quicker and larger than the plants! The dilemma…do I pull the weeds and the plants along with them since they are so fragile, or wait a bit. It made me think of God’s Word (seeds planted into our hearts) and the weeds that come in to crowd it out. radish plants

Matthew 13:3-8 “Then he (Jesus) told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Then Jesus explains the parable…

Matthew 13:18-23 “Listen to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

God’s Word and God’s Love are seeds that we should plant into our lives and the lives of others. I’m sure most of us have been recipients of seeds planted by others. The question is, what have we done to bring those seeds to harvest? While God will provide all we need to make those seeds grow correctly, we still have to do our part. Just like planting the seeds in the ground, we must plant God’s Word in our hearts.

Back to our vegetable garden – We also planted several rows of onions. Those were not seeds at all, they were what look like dried up onion bulbs. Those have not sprouted leaves yet. They are still soaking in the nutrients of that well fed soil. That’s what we need to do with God’s Word isn’t it? Soak it up, immerse ourselves in it so that it’s in our hearts and minds. Then the Holy Spirit will bring it to our remembrance when we need it in our daily lives. About those onion sets though…I realized as we were covering them up with dirt that some of them had been planted upside down. So, we had to go back and plant them correctly. Another reminder to treat God’s Word correctly. We can’t pull something out of it to make it fit what we want. It doesn’t work that way and we certainly won’t produce a good harvest. God tells us not to add to or subtract from His Word. We are also not to twist it around. The one who does that will be thrown into the pit of fire at the end. You can find that truth in God’s Word. Read it through to the end. It’s the greatest story ever told – a true story – a promise we can trust in – GOD IS FAITHFUL AND TRUE. He will produce a good harvest if we plant correctly.

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Now, I think I’ll go pull up those weeds – very carefully.

March Madness {3.18.17}

Unless you have no access to a television or newspaper, I’m sure you all know about “March Madness”. We’ve been watching a lot of basketball lately and thankfully, at least three of our Indiana teams are still in the game (Butler, Purdue and Notre Dame). We’ll see what happens today but I am an optimist. One thing is for sure, all the players want the prize.March madness

I’ve noticed that basketball is a lot like life. It’s a battle on the court but the preparation takes place before the game. It takes a commitment first of all, a passion certainly helps, discipline, a will or desire to improve and ultimately win, a game plan and strategy and obviously, a coach and players. I’ve always heard that practice makes perfect and we can certainly see the practice paying off at the free throw line. It also helps to know your opponent and their strengths and weaknesses. This all happens before the actual game. Then even during the game, the coach and players improvise. You see the coach using his slate to give directions/plays to the players as the game progresses. The players have to use their skills in the middle of the action and make decisions quickly because…the ball moves around from one set of hands to another and bounces off of people, floor and basket. They have to be so well prepared that they can react in the midst of it all with quick reflexes.

Such is life. Balls come at us from all directions. Some are good and positive things, others come to distract us from our game and get us to foul out. Our opponent also has a game plan. It’s to get us out of the game and to win our hearts and minds away from God and onto self. He has a variety of tactics he uses. Sometimes he uses our past mistakes, failures, disappointments, regrets, etc. Sometimes he tempts us with things we really like or want. He wants to steal our passion, drive, commitment, purpose and plan. He wants us defeated in the worst way. That’s where our preparation comes in. We have to be prepared to fight off his attacks because they will come.

As Christians, we are part of a team as well. We have the best coach ever – God Himself. We have Jesus Christ interceding on our behalf. We have the Holy Spirit living in us to guide and direct us during the game. We also have teammates (fellow believers) who will come alongside us to encourage and hold us accountable. They can remind us of our game plan, goals and objectives and guide us back to our coach’s instruction (The Word of God).

For all the efforts our opponent takes to get us on the losing end and out of the game, let’s remember…God has a plan for us. It’s a good plan. We need to stay in or get back in the game, keep our eyes focused on our coach and follow His direction and look toward the prize set before us. We can all be winners through Christ.

I say, “Let’s Go Team – on to Victory in Jesus”!

Philippians 3:14 – “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

 

 

Coincidence or Divine Appointment? {3.16.17}

When things happen that seem beyond the “norm” and a little hard to believe, we often call it a coincidence. I’ve changed my opinion about that over the years. I think of them as divine appointments. appointment.pngTwo such divine appointments happened today. Some friends were over this morning for our weekly prayer gathering and one of them shared something from a book she had been reading. It happened to be about praying for our leader’s counsel.  As she was sharing, another friend had a strange look on her face. Then she told us that the very same thing (in scripture) had been in her devotional reading this morning. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I believe it was confirmation from God, a divine appointment, and we all treated it as such.

The second divine appointment came as my husband and I were in a neighborhood home improvement store. A store employee came to help us and asked about my husband’s injury (long story but he’s in a leg brace and using a walker as he recovers from a ruptured quadricep tendon and surgery). Anyway, this man said, “I will pray for you”. As we talked further, he shared that he asks God every day to bring someone into his life that he can witness to or help. Today, God brought us. So, he prayed right then and there in the store – to God’s glory. As we talked, we found out that he is very involved in a ministry to help veterans and homeless in our community. He’s also involved in a healing prayer ministry.  So, we now know how to pray for him. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I believe it was a divine appointment from God.

There are many such divine appointments recorded in the Bible. Just a few are: Philip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40), Saul & Ananias (Acts 9:1-18), Esther (Esther 4-6), Joseph & Potiphar (Genesis 39 & 47).

I have decided to be consistent and faithful to pray for God’s leading every day and that He will open my eyes to see Him at work around me so that I can join Him. After all, I don’t want to miss any divine appointments He has planned for me. Do you?

Joy and Happiness {3.2.17}

I heard it said once that happiness comes from happenings. I think for the most part that’s true, don’t you? A lot of things/circumstances/happenings make us feel happy. Maybe it’s a surprise birthday party when you didn’t think anyone knew or cared. Maybe it’s a new baby that has long been awaited. Maybe it’s the first flowers of spring or sunshine after many cloudy days. Maybe it’s a hug from a friend. Perhaps it’s a valentine from your sweetheart or an unexpected surprise visit from someone you haven’t seen in a while. Many things bring about happy thoughts. And yes, those do kind of revolve around happenings. happinessI believe that I am mostly a happy person. I love life and I love people. Small things make me smile. I’m easily amused. That does not mean however that I don’t have sad times or even the rare angry times. And, those certainly do relate to happenings.

Happiness though can never replace true joy. A circumstance in a friend’s life brought the differences into the light. Several years ago my friend’s husband died. She certainly was not happy about his death. Oh, she knew he was in heaven and that blessed her but still – she missed him terribly. Her life on earth was never going to be the same. But, she had a relationship with Jesus and that’s where true joy of the spirit and soul comes from. Unfortunately, an acquaintance of hers said something to her one day to the effect of “how can you be happy and just go on with life so easily”? Well, I can tell you – it was not easy and it wasn’t happiness that she was exhibiting, it was the joy of the Lord. That was her strength. What a testimony she was to me during that time. I saw the difference.joy

I have another very dear friend who has endured much heartache in her life, more than I can imagine. However, she is one of the most joyful people I know. She lives out the joy of the Lord and the fullness of life to overflowing that God tells us is possible in Christ Jesus. I love to be with her and so do others. She inspires me.

Isaiah 49:13 – “Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song O mountains! For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.”

Romans 12:12 – “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Romans 15:13 –  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” joy-john-15-11

Life is full of positives and negatives, good and evil. However, our attitude can turn our frowns into smiles. God makes all the difference!

Psalm 16:11 – “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Psalm 119:111 – “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.”

Let’s spread a little happiness and joy today as we truly love one another.

Happiness comes from happenings. JOY COMES FROM JESUS.

Love {2.14.17}

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! I hope you are giving and receiving love on this day and every day. It’s hard not to think of love this time of year in our part of the world isn’t it? We are bombarded with suggested gifts for our loved ones. flowers I was in our neighborhood grocery store yesterday and before I even got into the store, the “in between area of carts” was FULL (I mean full) of flowers! It was beautiful! There was hardly room to get in the door. Our retailers help remind us all to give up some cash and show someone we love them. It’s not all about cash though. There are many things we can do and say to show our love. We can get creative and think like a child. They usually know what it’s all about.

I have felt God calling me to write a message on love for this Valentine’s Day and I actually typed one up yesterday but never could get it finished. It just didn’t seem “right” somehow. This morning I realized why. God gave me a message as only He can.

I checked Facebook to see how a friend is recovering from her surgery. Praise God she is doing well. While I was in Facebook I saw a post from another friend. It was a prayer request for a dear friend of hers who is waiting for a transplant. Then it hit me – right in the heart. You see I had a dear friend years ago who was also waiting for a transplant. It’s a terrible time of mixed emotions. You want the transplant because it will give the person needing it hope for continued life here on earth. However, you realize that in order for them to live, someone else must die. We don’t wish death on anyone (or at least we shouldn’t) so that’s a hard thing to wrap our heads and hearts around. Usually the person dies of illness or accident. While that’s a tragic time in the life of their family, it brings hope to the one waiting the transplant. Hope and despair sometimes go hand in hand.

There was another though who died so that we could live. His death was no accident. It was caused by no illness. He willingly gave up His life out of love for The Father and love for all of us – ALL OF US. His name is Jesus. He suffered more than any of us will ever be able to truly imagine and He knew exactly what it would be like before going down that road. Now that is love – true love – sacrificial love – pure love – everlasting love.god-is-love

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:16-21)

We all seek love. Millions of songs, poems, books, movies, etc. are centered on love. We all want to be loved and to love. But this Valentine’s Day, let’s remember where love started in the first place.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

spread-loveToday it seems like we see a lot of hate in our world rather than love. Don’t you wonder what would happen if we turned that hate around by loving others? Let’s give it a try. It’s possible even to love our enemies when we have God in our hearts. We can make the world a better place – one person at a time. Like the song says, “Love is all we need.” Let’s share it.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-38)

Desires of the Heart {2.3.17}

Recently a teenager asked me this question: “What did you want to be when you grew up”? I didn’t have to think twice. My answer: “A wife and mother with a large family.” I think he was surprised by my answer, as many others might be as well. But, I never was career minded. I never had a desire to climb a corporate ladder or be famous. I didn’t even desire college. Somehow I just knew as a teenager that I wanted to be a wife and mother, the best I could. I had some good role models in my family. Of course, getting a baby sister at age 13 may have influenced my decision. I did work out of the home though for over 40 years and still fill in from time to time at my last job. I am thankful that God led me to that job which lasted 18 years and was what I considered perfect for me. How that all came about is another story for another day but God always wants to lead us. Sometimes we are just hesitant to follow (speaking to myself here).

Back to the story at hand…After I was asked that question this scripture came to mind, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) I have been thinking about that ever since. I didn’t “know” God or have faith in Jesus until my children were in double digit ages, unfortunately for them and me (I could have made much better choices). So I didn’t come across this scripture until many years later. I have thought about it often since becoming a Christian but until recently didn’t put all the pieces of my life together (hindsight is 20/20 they say).

As I have been looking back, I realize that God did give me the desires of my heart. Even before I knew Him, He had a plan for me. Of course, my choices got in the way many times but He was always there – waiting for me. I am so thankful that my eyes were finally opened and I was able to see my need for a savior. WOW – life changing. Joyful in the midst of trials (who would have thought that possible?). My desire for a large family had one view (mine). God’s view was quite different. As I pondered this I realized that my family has been and continues to be much, much larger than I imagined.

psalm-37-4The thing is, I always wanted a large family. But, in my mind I had a picture of what that would look like. Lots of kids, all loving each other (never fighting of course); great family gatherings (which we have had), all making positive choices in life (don’t we wish), etc. Funny how life doesn’t turn out like we imagine. I do have a large family by today’s standards. But like every other family, there are struggles. We are told in scripture to expect trouble. We sometimes make bad choices which bring consequences. There is sin in the world and we are all affected by it in one way or another. It’s a constant battle. But, the hard times help us grow and appreciate the good times.

Over the years we have had other children live with us for short periods of time. We’ve had our own children come home now and then for various reasons. We’ve had grandchildren live with us off and on over the years. In the past few years we’ve hosted foster children in our home. Some have come for days and some for weeks but we have had the blessing of touching many young lives with the love of God.

So…I guess all this to say – take a look at your life. Maybe God has given you the desires of your heart and you just haven’t realized it because it doesn’t look like you imagined. Remember, His ways are higher and what He can do in and through you is far greater than what you can imagine or do on your own because… our ways are not His ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9) but He has a good plan for our lives. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Do you have the desires of your heart? If not, maybe the first part of this scripture is missing.

Storytelling {1.18.17}

Storytelling has been around as long as the human race. The serpent told a story to Eve. We know that was a false story (He twisted the truth in his story to her). There are all kinds of stories and many different ways to tell them. Storytelling can be done verbally, written, through music or acting. All are effective, depending upon their content, delivery and audience. The stories can be fantasy, fiction, biographical, historical, self-help, how-to books, etc. There are plenty of options for all situations and people.

I remember that my Grandma used to watch soap operas during the day. She called them her “stories”. I had to be sure not to call during her “stories” or she was so preoccupied she didn’t hear a word I was saying. I never watched daytime soap operas but I did get caught up in Downton Abbey and hated to see that series end. storytelling-campfireA good story has the ability to capture our attention, doesn’t it? We feel like we are right there in their midst. I even dream about whatever movie I’ve watched or book I’ve read that day. So…I do NOT watch scary movies!

I know people who can tell a good story, whether make believe or truth, they just seem to have a way about them that makes us want to keep listening. I am not one of those people. I usually mess up the punch lines in a joke too but that’s another story altogether. I do love a good story though and enjoy being with people who can tell them well.

The great thing about books is that your imagination can create the characters and places as you see them in your own mind. I have always loved to read. My Mom shared that gift with me and I am thankful. I have to admit though that I do love a happy ending in books and movies with all the loose ends tied up on pretty bows. That doesn’t always happen but when it does it makes my heart smile.

once-upon-timeA few years ago we took a family vacation (well, not all of us – we are a large family, but a good group of adults and children). Anyway, we created our own story book on that trip. I started the story and then passed it to another person who added to the story from that point, then on to the next and the next until everyone had participated. It was fun and it was funny to see how each person interpreted the story and characters. We all had fun reading it from beginning to end and seeing the twists and turns each person put into the story line.  I highly recommend that for anyone who is heading out on a trip with a group of people. I think we all enjoyed it (adults and kids).

The greatest story of all though is written in a book that is readily available to all of us here in the United States. The Bible.bible-falling-apart You can read it for yourself either with a book, electronically, or listen to someone else read it, It is so easy to get that I even have it on my phone and computer. This story has everything in it and the best part is – it’s a true story! All through the years people have been trying to prove the Bible false but it always proves itself true. However, you can’t just take a few verses or chapters and try to make sense out of them, you must read the entire thing. Then you realize how true it is and how it all fits together. It doesn’t matter what type of story you like to read, it’s all in the Bible. I don’t know of any other book that offers all these things. Check out this brief list: love, passion, betrayal, faithfulness, miracles, obedience, disobedience, consequences, beauty, disasters, life, joy, peace, relationships, politics, intrigue, blessings, curses, truth, eternal life, war, natural disasters, geography, agriculture, construction, precious gems, astrology, etc. etc. The list goes on and on but the best part is…for those who believe, there are no loose ends and there is a very happy ending!word-of-god

So, if you want a good story – look no further than the Bible. It will bless you and no matter how many times you read it, you will still see something you missed before. It’s a book for lifelong learning and is life giving. It doesn’t get any better than that. So whether you want to hold a book in your lap and read, get it on your phone or computer, or listen to a tape, pick up a copy and get started. You will find it hard to put down. The Bible – the Greatest Story Ever Told and we can read it for ourselves. Enjoy!