Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sowing and Reaping

After a very long northern winter it is finally time to plant some flowers! Yay! This week, in the rain (I was very determined.), I went out searching for a variety of plants. I started at one of the big box stores and found the vegetable plants my husband requested for his garden out at his camp.

Then I headed out to the countryside (not very far considering the U.P. consists of mostly “country”!) to a wonderful local nursery that always has quality plants – they are only open for 6-8 weeks and sell locally grown products.

I came home, separated the flowers from the veggies and Charlie loaded his jeep with the “camp” plants. The rest are sitting on our patio table ready to be planted. (Here in the U.P. we are leery of planting anything until the first week in June for fear of a late frost.)  I can hardly wait to “sow”, or in my case, “plant”! Depending on the upcoming weather (and there is some question about a late frost), I plan to get into those flower beds ASAP and get the earth ready to receive those plants.

  I DO SO love this time of year!!! I got out on my bike recently for a long ride with a friend. My hubby ordered a new grill and we initiated it the other night. The grass is long and we are waiting on our teen age friend to come over and get it back in shape. I hear the neighbors’ lawn mowers….a sound that hasn’t been heard in many months! Of course, the gnats are also making their presence known in full force and I’m told the mosquitoes are creating havoc in some areas. Sigh…. Oh well!

With flowers and birds and bees and gnats and mosquitoes bursting on the scene, I can’t help but think about the stories in the Bible that refer to sowing/planting. Jeremiah 17:8 and Psalm 1:3 make reference to being like a tree planted by the water; it’s about having a strong root system, a reference to being rooted in Christ. I Cor. 3:6 draws on a picture of one person planting (the seed of Truth), another watering and God making it grow. Galatians 6: 7-9 reminds us that whatever we sow we will reap.

I am so thankful for those unexpected moments God provides for me… to plant a little seed of Truth in the life of another person. It’s what I love about being a speaker at women’s events; I have opportunity to plant a whole field. And after the seeds of faith have been sown in women’s hearts, the women of that local church begin tending to those seeds.


What does that “tending” look like? It may take the direction of inviting others to a church event or caring for them when life takes a whack at them. It may be as simple as answering questions and encouraging them to come to a Bible study. It might be a discussion after work over a cup of coffee or tea. These are all moments of “watering” the seeds that someone else has planted.

Over all of this, we pray for the Holy Spirit to bring it all to fruition. Only God has the power to change lives. But oh how marvelous it is to be a “worker in His “field”. I look forward to sowing many, many seeds in whatever time I have left on this earth knowing God will bring others to water those seeds. And maybe, just maybe, when I get to heaven I will meet those “seeds” I planted. Now… that would be something!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Ultimate Sacrifice....Remembering


I am so thankful for my memories….the happy ones along with the painful ones.  Memory serves a purpose and when some sort of brain disease erases memories, it would seem life could be pretty one dimensional, full of gaps.  As I age, some of my memories from long ago have grown rather dim but, thankfully, there are others that can be retrieved with reminders and triggers.

Memorial Day, soon upon us, is a day set aside each year designed to prompt us to remember.  It’s a time to remember those men and women, throughout our country’s history, who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our armed forces.   Some communities may have parades; others have war memorials where special ceremonies are held.  For others, it means hanging flags and/or visiting cemeteries to display flags at our veterans’ burial sites.

As I researched this holiday, I learned about another long standing tradition….the Indianapolis 500, an auto race which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911. 

Of course, for those of us living in a more northern climate, Memorial Day is a signal that our long winter is over.  We have possibly enjoyed some spring weather
(a transitional time and not necessarily one of our best seasons here in the Upper Peninsula!) and now we can truly gear up for our beautiful summer.  Here in the U.P., Memorial “weekend” is a time to visit our local nurseries; love getting my flowers in!

Memorial Day also means I can officially start wearing summer white again!  HA!  As a child I was always taught to never wear white before Memorial Day!  I doubt many people find that instruction relevant in this day and age and, honestly, I don’t know where that “rule” originated.  I doubt the fashion police will knock on my door if I break out in my white shoes before Monday!

As important as it is for us to remember our men and women in the armed forces (and it IS important); as important as it is to remember why we have such freedoms (never do we want to take them for granted)….there is One Who paid the ultimate price for us. 
 
Jesus gave His life and died a torturous horrible death so we might have, not only the most satisfying life during our brief time on earth, but eternal life with Him.  As I reflect on the many ways we celebrate and remember those who fought for our freedom, I ask myself the question:  how do I remember and honor the incredible sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf?  His sacrifice was also a fight for freedom; He freed me from the bondage of sin.

Scripture reminds us that there actually was a parade (Palm Sunday) where Jesus was hailed as hero and king.  About a week later there was another “parade”; this time a physically broken and bruised Jesus was dragged through the streets on His way to the cross.

What sort of flag might I display for Jesus?  Could it be that every time I “love my enemy” or extend grace to another sinner, or make church attendance and
Bible study a priority, I am waving the flag of Jesus in my own life?

It is unlikely that I will ever visit the tomb Jesus’ body occupied for a few days. (fore runner to the cemeteries of today?) But maybe, just maybe, bringing the good news of the gospel to the ill or dying (physically and/or spiritually) is akin to running to the tomb, finding it empty and declaring “He is alive!”

I have in my possession a wonderful new book of prayers for military families; it’s called While My Soldier Serves, by Edie Melson.  Check her out at  thewriteconversation.blogspot.com.  I want to plug this book on this special weekend, especially since I know the author and her heart for God’s people who serve our country in the military.

I also have in my possession another wonderful book and it’s called The Bible. This book calls us to learn and remember God’s story all through history; it gives us a beautiful picture of those amazing warriors who went before us, suffered, proclaimed Truth, many of them dying a martyr’s death.  It’s a story about God’s love for us and His provision for our sin through His Son.

In Genesis 9:16 God tells us to remember His promise through the beauty of a rainbow.   In 2 Timothy 2:8 Paul tells young Timothy to remember Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 13:3 says to remember those who are in prison.  In the upper room, Jesus tells His disciples to take the bread and wine “in remembrance of me”.

This weekend, as we remember and honor our men and women in uniform (past and present), let us also turn our hearts to the One Who created all life and forever stands as our Redeemer and Conqueror.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Friendship Building


It’s a beautiful day here in North Carolina and I love the sounds of the birds; there is a virtual symphony performance in the back yard.  The sun is shining, a small breeze is whispering through the trees, it says 87 degrees on the thermometer and I am enjoying life from the perspective of a bug free screened in porch.  If the perfect day exists, this is it.

I do miss my hubby but he too is enjoying his own special moments with friends back at home and we will enjoy a sweet reunion when I return to the U. P. next week.

Tomorrow my girlfriend and I head for the beach…Beaufort, NC to be exact.  (Her husband heads out later today on a golf expedition; though we love having him around, his absence will cinch our “serious girlfriend time”.)  Because I lived in this state for 25 years, I have great memories here. The ocean sounds and smells call to me and the beach gift shops are on our agenda. (I refer to that as “recreational shopping”.) I can’t wait to enjoy fresh seafood after a day of sand, surf and sun. 

Earlier in my visit I had the pleasure of reconnecting with other longtime friends.  Maria and David have walked though many of life’s experiences with me and although we see life through different world views, God has blessed us with an enduring friendship.  I am grateful.

I then had lunch with a friend who was once a work “buddy”.  There was so much catching up to do that lunch hardly gave us enough time.  However, I was thankful for that precious reunion, as brief as it was.  Our friendship spans many years and originated in the workplace. 

I have other friends in the area and it would be lovely to see all of them.  From attempting to do just that during past visits, I have discovered I go home more tired than when I arrived.  None-the-less, it would be great if I could establish a time when everyone could come together in one place….maybe I need to work on that in the future!

The Bible talks about how we can have a friendship with God.  Yes, amazingly, we can have a personal friendship with the God of the universe! (John 15: 14, 15)  If we back up a bit in the book of John, verse 13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? 

So how do we enter into a friendship with the One Who created all things?  How do we experience His presence in a personal way?  It really is not complicated. God’s Word provides answers and the development of our “earthly” friendships provides clues.

How exactly did these longtime friendships start, develop and grow?

First:  we had to have an initial introduction and a desire to explore the potential of getting to know one another.  Is this not also a picture of how it all starts with God?  We get introduced to God – maybe through our family, a friend, a movie or book, etc.  It’s at that moment we decide whether we want to go farther.  The encouraging part is, God tells us in His Word that He desires to have a relationship with each one of us. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says He created us with a desire to know Him.

Second: as we learn more about God, we come to understand His perfect nature as it’s revealed in the man, Jesus.  Seeing God in human flesh, reading about Jesus’ birth, life, temptations and ministry allows us to get to know Him.  (Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”)

Similar to how we develop close earthly friends, we develop our friendship with God.  We communicate, we spend time together, we look to one another for support, we laugh and cry together….we love each other.  Isn’t it the same way with God?  The scriptures are God’s Words to us; sometimes I talk to God using His very words as they are presented in scripture.  God is waiting to spend time with us….as with our earthly friends, we have to choose to meet with Him.

When life is difficult and the challenges come, my friendship with God, Who is sovereign and can provide so much more than any earthly friend, sustains me and helps me to look beyond my circumstances.  I trust my earthly friends but because we all are human and struggle with sin, none of us is totally trustworthy.  Not true of God…He made us and knows us more intimately than anyone.  He is perfectly trustworthy.

God’s love is so incredibly all-encompassing; He is ALWAYS available.  The moment I want to hear His voice and interact with Him, no matter where I am or what I am doing, He is ready to meet with me, love me, comfort me, speak Truth into my life and ultimately bring me into a forever, joy-filled, intimate, satisfying, secure, trusting (and so much more) relationship with Him for ETERNITY!

There are days I allow “stuff” to interfere with my “God meeting”.  My Bible sits unopened for a time.  Before long, I realize I am missing my Friend.  You know what?  He didn’t disappear, I did.  He NEVER fails to be ready to renew our friendship.

Unlike us with our time limits, God can be friends with everyone!  He desires to enjoy a friendship with every person ever born.

LogoIf you live within driving distance of Gladstone, MI I invite you to join me at Grace Church (www.gracemichigan.com) on Sunday mornings.  Our services are at 9:15 and 11am.  We are friends with God but also with each other through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  We would LOVE to have you join our circle.  ALL ARE WELCOME!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Love at First Sight


It was “love at first sight”.  (Imagine violin music here….)  Our eyes met across a crowded room and we knew, in that moment, we would always be together.  Isn’t this the stuff of romance?!

Truthfully….we were children in the early 1950’s, singing in the children’s choir.  There we were, all decked out in our little white robes with the maroon bows under our chins.  In reality, we had very little to do with each other.  And that continued to be the picture of “us” all through our growing up years.  Oh yes, our lives intersected at many junctures: Sunday school, church camp, youth group, high school choir, mutual friends…but no “romantic” involvement.

Fast forward to 2003: by this time we had many life experiences behind us including college, marriage, divorces (sadly), families, careers, etc.  But most importantly, we had both made Jesus the foundation of our faith and our reconnection came as a result of God’s movement in our lives. 

Love at first sight?  Hardly!  Although our “courtship” moved quickly  culminating in marriage on May 8, 2004, we spent hours and hours talking and talking and talking - emails, phone calls, in person.  We spent time with each other's families and friends; we attended church and sought out Biblical counsel.  Moving toward marriage God's way meant being intentional.  Did we experience "romance"?  Of course, but it was not the singular basis for marriage.
 
Many of us who have fallen in love with Jesus did not necessarily experience “love at first sight”.  I sat in church for many years without knowing I needed to not only believe in Jesus, but to also “receive” Him as my Savior.  (If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 8:10) God “courted” me; He loved me in a variety of ways through people and circumstances…. and He was persistent!  (I am SO grateful!) 

Finally the day came when I knew I wanted to be counted among those who wait for the Bridegroom’s return, also known as the “second coming”.

The Bible paints a beautiful picture of marriage portraying a much larger and eternal view; the church (defined as ALL true believers) is the bride of Christ.  We are His beloved.  He gave His life that we might enter into an eternal relationship with God through Him! 

In Old Testament times a couple would become betrothed (similar to being engaged only more binding) and the bridegroom would prepare a home for His bride.  When it was ready, he would return for her and they would marry.  Jesus told His disciples, as He was preparing to return to heaven:  “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14: 2)

This world is fast becoming a hostile environment for those of us who await our “Bridegroom’s” return; Biblical prophecy is becoming reality.  But hang on…it’s also an exciting time!  One day (maybe soon) the heavenly marriage will take place!  Are you ready?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Overwhelming Love


There is nothing like being a grandmother!  Seriously.  Before my first grandchild was born I was pretty laid back about the whole idea; I actually prided myself in not pushing my son to start a family.  I had friends who were very proud grandparents.  They couldn’t stop talking about those little ones and had what seemed like thousands of photographs.  Outwardly I was happy for my friends who had reached this new status in life, but I must confess, inwardly I wondered how it could be THAT big a deal.

And then it happened.  On March 17, 2010, my first grandson was born, and truthfully, it was like someone flipped a switch inside of me.  I was at home waiting on the C-section to be scheduled because labor wasn’t progressing.  I was not worried or anxious, just eager to keep up with the process from moment to moment.

Since I live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and my son and his wife are on the west coast…..and since there were other significant family members also eager to hear the latest news….and since David was totally focused on serving and being present with his wife…there was some waiting involved!  My phone was almost glued to my hand and I watched the minute hand continue to make its way around the clock!

Finally my phone rang!  Henry came into the world and my life changed!  I couldn’t wait to share every detail with anyone who would listen and as soon as I had pictures (love the internet with its ability to provide instant photos!), I had them in my little album ready to share with anyone who would humor me!

Since then, we have been blessed with 2 more grandsons (this family can’t seem to produce girls!) and each of them is precious!  Gratefully, at least one of them lives nearby and this one is uniquely special as Jacob was born with Down syndrome.  He is blond and blue-eyed and brightens our world in amazing ways.

A year ago, another blond, blue-eyed grandson entered our world and he is called “Gus” (short for August).  Last month I had the great and wonderful privilege of being with Gus and Henry to help out with some babysitting.  What fun!!! What a joy!!!  Gus is all giggles and drools and loves mashing his food as he eats.  His big brother makes him laugh and they roll around on the floor.  Henry is becoming a young man (age 5) and was so helpful to his Nana in so many ways. (He was out of school because of a very slight fever – which I think was God’s gift to me so I could spend more time with him!) 

There was a point in time where I was standing in the kitchen, holding Gus.  He was snuggling into my shoulder and Henry was nearby just being his wonderful self. I was overwhelmed with a rush of love that defies words.  This huge avalanche of loving feelings almost brought me to tears.  I didn’t even birth these kids…or adopt them.  None-the-less, it was almost more than I could bear.

Almost immediately it occurred to me that our Heavenly Father loves us in that same fierce way.  It is an incomprehensible, sacrificial, emotion inducing, overwhelming, hardly understandable kind of love.  Did God not literally ask His Son, His one and only Son, to die a terrible death on the cross for us?  Most of us are familiar with John 3:16.

Jesus, hanging on the cross, beaten and bloody and mocked said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)  Who loves like that?!  In Jeremiah 31:3 God says to His people: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore have continued my faithfulness to you.”

Over and over again, the Bible paints a picture of how God loves us unconditionally, without abandon, sacrificially, and He so much wants us to choose to love Him back. But here is the thing…God is a gentleman.  He will never force Himself upon us.  He allows us to make choices and respects us enough to let us live with the choices we make.  It is only through “free will” that love is proven to be authentic and genuine.

I am so grateful for that moment in time, that glimpse God gave me of His unbelievable love through the snuggling and hugging of my 1 year old grandson.  I could almost hear God whisper in my ear, “Judy, I love you a thousand times more than what you are experiencing with these little guys.” 

Because of that unbelievable love, one day, along with all who have made Jesus Lord of their lives, I will worship at His feet.  I will be invited to enter the throne room of God and I cannot imagine, in my wildest dreams, what it will be like to sing “hallelujah, holy, holy”!  Imagine, my voice will blend with the heavenly choir!  I will join in with all of God’s saints in praising and loving the God of the universe/Creator of all life.  I hope to see you there!