Monday, September 28, 2015

Glossy Buckthorn


Catchy title, right?  What in the world is “glossy buckthorn” and what does that have to do with life in general?  Stay with me here!

I do love how many wonderful lessons we can learn by just being aware of God’s revelations through His wondrous creation.  If you have been reading my posts, you know I am not crazy about bats and skunks….and yet they both have their place in the grand scheme of things.

I first became aware of the creepy (and creeping) nature of Glossy buckthorn as Charlie and I were discussing the impact this plant is having on the many acres of his camp property.  He and the other 2 men who co-own the property, asked a friend who retired from the U.S. Forest Service to do a study of their land, with an eye to managing it well.

Among other things, they learned that “glossy buckthorn”:

1.     has very invasive tendencies;
2.     shades out native plants;
3.     threatens Michigan’s wetland communities;
4.     hosts dangerous plant viruses and fungi;
5.     is an attractive plant with shiny leaves and small flowers, appealing to birds and small mammals, and…..
6.     has seeds that are viable for several years.

I know, that’s wayyyy more than most of us need to know about the Glossy buckthorn plant!  So why would it be a subject worth writing about?  Back to my statement that we can learn much from the world our God created.

In the book of Matthew we get a glimpse of how Jesus used the natural world to teach lessons.  Chapter 13 discusses the 4 types of soil in a parable intended to teach us about how we receive the Truth. In that same chapter Jesus tells a story about the weeds…and then the mustard seed. 

In Luke 12 Jesus has much to say about worry and proceeds to paint a word picture that includes the ravens, the lilies, the grass of the field and other birds. Hmmm; looks like the same God that illustrates His lessons with these examples, also made the “glossy buckthorn”.  Just sayin….

Maybe…just maybe there is a lesson buried inside this weird plant.  I like to believe that God can reach my heart in any way He chooses.

SIN can be so like the Glossy buckthorn plant:

1.     Sin can start out as a small thing, like that plant in its early stages.
2.     Sin looks attractive and innocent, much like those glossy leaves and delicate flowers.
3.     When allowed to grow and spread, sin begins to invade other parts of our lives, casting shadows over multiple areas of our lives.
4.     Sin opens us up to worldly “viruses and fungi” and every time we compromise our faith, we are in danger of bringing more sin into our lives.
5.     Like the seeds of this plant that are viable for many years, all too often we suffer the consequences of our sin for years to come, even after we have done all we can to eradicate it.

 My husband and his camp partners are now attempting to dig this stuff out and kill it with whatever will work without damaging other plant life.  This stuff is everywhere!

This pesky plant may continue to bring aggravation and maybe it can never be eradicated.  But we, as believers in Jesus Christ, look forward to the day when we will be perfected and no longer have to struggle with sin.    Jesus took care of that sin through His life, death and resurrection.  HALLELUJAH!!!!  And even now, in this challenging life, with all of its temptations, we can choose well.  The Holy Spirit, Who indwells us and is available to ALL who invite Christ to be Lord and Savior, empowers us to live a life pleasing to God.


I am resting on the promise Jesus makes in the last book of the Bible: “Behold, I am coming soon!” (twice in chapter 22) and Jesus confirms it again in 22:20, “Yes I am coming soon.”  

And speaking of God’s amazing creation, as I write this, my hubby and I are watching the moon go through an eclipse, intrigued by the reddish color. (the “blood moon”)  I half expect to hear the blast of that triumphant trumpet described in I Thessalonians 4:16 when Jesus comes down from heaven to gather us to Himself.  Could it be tonight? Tomorrow? 

I invite you to join the chorus that sings, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Passport Required


Last summer my hubby went on his annual canoe trip into the wilds of Canada.  Besides the wonderful scenery and physical challenges, an additional benefit has been the forging of these male friendships for the past 11 summers.

Every year Charlie has come home with yet another invite (from his canoe buddies) for us, as a couple, to head to Canada for a visit.  We discussed it but it ever seemed to end up a priority….until this year.

This has been a watershed year…. a year when we, and many of our friends, have turned the “I-am-undeniably-considered-old” year.  Birthday celebrations have been especially significant and it was one of those events that signaled it was time for us to head to Toronto.  We got an invite to (friend) Dave’s 70th birthday party; that came hand-in-hand with an invitation from another member of the canoe crew and his wife.  Now we had a party to attend and another couple to house and entertain us.  Done deal!

When we made this decision in August, I realized my passport had expired and looking at the calendar, figured I’d better get that application turned in ASAP.  I headed over to the appropriate governmental office (only a block from my house…don’t you love small town living?!) and picked up the application form.  The questions were endless, many inquiring about my legal status (had I committed any crimes or ever been arrested?) and my citizenship.

I filled it out, updated my photo and sent it off.  I hoped it would arrive in time; all of our travel plans hinged on receiving approval from the “powers-that-be”. Thankfully, my passport did arrive, with time to spare, and my husband affirmed to our Canadian friends that we would, indeed, be joining them.

On the actual day of travel we got an early start, hoping we would get through the border easily.  On the way out the door….and again as we were pulling down the driveway, I checked on that passport, making certain it was not sitting in the house somewhere.  Yes, indeed it was in my possession!

Several hours later we arrived at the US/Canadian border where we were asked a few questions and sent on our way.  Yay!  The return trip, same experience.  More yay!  I breathed a sigh of relief that the process was so easy.

What if….what if we had headed for Canada and arrived at the border, only to discover we had no passports?  I think it’s pretty obvious we would not have been allowed to cross over only to have our travel plans thwarted.

The day is coming for all of us when we will be reaching a time of “crossing over”…leaving our home on earth.  It will probably not be a time of our choosing and could come on us rather suddenly.  Like this border crossing between the 2 countries, where passports were required to complete our journey, we also will need a “passport” if we want to “cross the border into heaven” one day.

But here is the really, really great news!  Unlike all the paperwork I needed to complete to renew my passport, there is NOTHING like that needed for my entrance into heaven.  You see, Jesus did all the work for meand for you!  He bridged the gap for us; you know, the gap created by our sin that separates us from God. He did the hard work required for our entrance into heaven at the end of this earthly journey.

So why do we make this so complicated when all we have to do is accept the blood sacrifice Jesus made on the cross?  I John 5:11 tells us God has given us eternal life in His Son.  Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Peter tells us in Acts 4: 12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name (Jesus) under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

There are not multiple ways where we hope we choose the right one; there are no hoops to jump through; there is no specifically worded script or lengthy form to fill out; there is no secret ceremony.  Just believe in Jesus, confess your sin, ask Jesus to be Lord of your life and then watch and see what He does!  That’s the only “passport” any of us needs to confidently reach the end of this life’s road and joyfully cross the “border”. 

“[That] 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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”  Romans 10: 9 & 10

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Amazing Morning Bike Ride


Sometimes God shows His amazing handiwork when I least expect it.  I have lived  in the U.P. for over 11 years (not counting my growing up years) where I am surrounded by trees, water and wildlife.  I don’t think I take it for granted….and yet, a summer bike ride caught me off guard.
 
My husband and I love our bike rides for the exercise and for the time we can spend together enjoying the sweetness of every day "marriage moments".  We decided to take a quick spin around our beach/park/marina area.  For those of you unfamiliar with our town, we have the wonderful privilege of living in a community that sits on a bay coming in from Lake Michigan.

 

The sun was shining, the water was sparkling and the breeze was just enough to keep the temperature nearly perfect. When August arrives in this part of the world, we can feel autumn whispering in our ears.  There is a subtle shift; the mornings have a slight chill (with evenings dipping into the 50’s) but the days are warm and comfortable.

We rode our bikes past the boats in the marina, observing a few folks out and about, including two women preparing to do some fishing from their kayaks.  It was a quiet morning but soon the paddle boards and kayaks would be available for rental and the already beautiful harbor would become even more colorful.

And then there is the wildlife.  That same morning Charlie got a call from one of our boys whose home is located on a beachfront lot; a skunk was caught in the trap Charlie had set and it had sprayed the area.  Len headed to work and Charlie went out to his house to deal with the situation.  My husband came back with a definite skunk odor clinging to his clothes.  God surely was creative when He gave skunks such a unique way of protecting themselves!

God’s handiwork is nothing less than amazing and I have been so very blessed to live amidst it all!  In my limited human thinking I can’t imagine how God could possibly top this creative act!  However, the Bible reminds us that one day there will be a brand new earth.  Revelation, chapter 21, describes the glorious plans God has for His children.  If this present earth is so incredible (except for skunks and bats!), I have to wonder…. How could He possibly “do one better”?    

Maybe it’s because God Himself will be dwelling with us (!) and there will be nothing to hold us back from full out joyful living.  No sin…no pain…no crime…no sickness.  Wow!

I love the encouragement in 1 Corinthians 2:9,No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him…”  Psalm 96: 11 says, “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it.”  God’s creativity is without limits; He has gifted us every day through His creation…..and the living out of the final chapter of His book is still ahead of us!  Hallelujah!

 

 

 

 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Snuggles, Slobbers and Sticky Fingers

What an amazing experience it is to be a grandmother (or “Nana”…rhymes with nah-nah) to three fabulous boys!  We are so very blessed to have our 4 year old (Jacob) nearby but the other two (Henry, age 5 ½ and Gus, age 16 months) live on the other side of the country.  This month, however, I was able to personally love on these guys because of their time with us in our home.  During their visit we crammed in beach time, family adventures, bike rides and a visit to the fair.  After a few days, this dear family headed back to Portland… minus one; Henry stayed on for a 6 day “Nana and Cha Cha camp”.

 
What a special time.  LOVED having Henry plop into bed with us early in the morning and snuggle up. (He had his own bedroom and went to bed with stories and prayers and snuggles but when early morning came, into our bed he popped.)  Our universe centered around that young man and we took time to play!

Cha Cha, Henry and Uncle Drew had some camp time (at Charlie’s deer camp in the woods) where they did “guy” stuff.  Charlie and I and Henry had more camp time where he got to shoot a rifle, use a bow and arrow, “drive” the side-by-side, make the tractor shovel go up and down and even use the “outdoor bathroom facilities”, if you get my drift.

He and Cha Cha went fishing and Henry got the biggest kick out of storing the worms in our refrigerator. He and I had an afternoon at the zoo.  On my birthday we took him with us to a restaurant for dinner and he had perfect manners.  (Thanks to the vigilant teaching of his parents!)  His uncle Beak took him golfing.  We went to our garden at the farm (where friends of ours live) and he helped pick tomatoes, enjoyed the  animals and rode the pony.

From the farm we went to a nearby Lake Michigan cottage to visit friends; Henry loved being in the water with his new little buddies.  We took all 5 kids to the lighthouse on Stonington Peninsula and climbed up to the top. (Breathtaking view of Lake Michigan!)  On the way home we stopped and had ice cream as the sun was making its final descent.

As if this were not enough, I had the enormous pleasure of flying back to Portland with Henry; because he has traveled so much in his young life, he knows the ropes and was a wonderful travel companion!  In fact, twice he asked to go into the cockpit and both times his request was granted!

Once back in Portland I got to enjoy the “slobbers and sticky hands” part of this adventure when I had the opportunity to spend time with little Gus again.  Nothing like slobbery kisses and food everywhere!  What a doll baby.

Well, have I totally bored you with my grandchildren stories?  Through all of this I am reminded of God’s great blessing of what it means to play an integral role in the life of family.  What a joy for me to hear, “Nana, I love you.”  What a pleasure to have little Gus put his head on my shoulder demonstrating his love and trust.  How special it is to have my beautiful daughter-in-law email me when I’m back home to tell me she missed me.  What a joy to have my son, now doing a great job at being a husband and dad, tell me he loved me as he dropped me off at the airport. (He thanked me for our time “entertaining” Henry but really, it was the other way around!)

I am very aware that not everyone has this beautiful family situation and ALL families go through stressful times.  But in God’s Word, there is much said about being a part of community because community can be very much like family.  In the book of Acts we see the early church forming.  Acts 2: 42-47 gives us a picture of what it is to have close family/community ties.  God made provision for ALL of us to experience the blessing of family/community through Christ and His church.

We LOVE our church family!  We celebrate important dates with them… we often babysit for some of our families… we serve and are served… we grieve over losses and celebrate at weddings.  We gather together in small groups to study and share and discuss.

I LOVE being a grandmother and am grateful for the little ones God has put in my life.  But when I can’t be with them, I still have family around me.  God has provided ….and He will provide for you.  If you have not yet found that community of faith, pray about it.  God will guide you!  If you live in my area, please consider joining me and my family at Grace Church in Gladstone, MI.  (www.gracemichigan.com) Know for certain that it is God’s desire for you to be a part of His family.  And maybe, if you desire, you will have opportunities to enjoy “snuggles, slobbers and sticky fingers” as you align yourself with God’s family.