Thursday, August 26, 2021

New Life Mandeville

Three summers ago I bought a Mandeville plant, but it didn't do very well.  I took it in for the winter - it struggled through without completely dying and I put it out in the summer.  It stayed very sickly looking but, being loath to kill something that still had a few green leaves on it, I took it back inside and watered it.  It did not grow and I know it really was not worth keeping.  But, believe it or not I again put it out in a corner of my patio last spring to see what it would do...Well, the best it did is that it didn't completely die. So for the second winter I let it sit in my ensuite with its few half-yellow leaves and thin branches. 
This spring I put it out again, tucked it out of sight, where I didn't have to look at. It grew a little, but nothing that impressed me.   
Then, a miracle happened !!  

One Christmas my daughter gifted me with a book , "The Hidden Life of Trees" by Peter Wohlleben. A very interesting book by a man who could be called a 'tree whisperer'.  One thing he said stuck with me. He said that plants communicate with each other and if two or more different plants are planted in the same space they are provoked to fight for personal growing space - becoming very competitive. They do  not do this with like-plants. 

A dear friend gifted me with a little miniature rose plant several weeks ago. Not wanting the plant to die (I do NOT have a green thumb) I thought it would do best planted outside.  Since my half-dead Mandeville plant wasn't growing anyway, I decided to plant my little rose bush in the same pot. Several days later I looked out my kitchen window and to my shock saw a cluster of super-big Mandeville leaves !  Really?  As you can see in the photo the plant suddenly took on new life and it is thriving, full of fresh new growth and even BUDS !  

I saw a spiritual lesson in this. One of God's object lessons tucked into His creation. 
I thought of the verse in Hebrews 10:24.  The old KJV has the words "Let us consider one another to PROVOKE unto love and good words."  (other translations use  words 'stir up'  'motivate' 'encourage' instead of 'provoke') But I think the word 'provoke' best fits with this object lesson. 
Just like planting the rose bush into the Mandeville pot - PROVOKED the Mandeville to suddenly grow,  so also we are called to 'provoke' one another, in love, to grow in  'good works'  and be an example to those who are watching. We cannot do this if we don't  'have close relationships with one another'. 

We have been 'isolated' or 'quarantined' for much of the past year and a half and we have not been gathering together.  And we see the 'lack' of growth.  Churches open but attendance is low.  Airlines report a sharp increase in aggressive behavior. Is this why we are admonished in Hebrews 10:25 not to "forsake the assembling of ourselves together,....... and the more as you see the day approaching."? In the middle of that verse it repeats the 'provoking' thought , "exhorting one another".   

In a politically correct world mind-set we have lost that zeal to watch over our brothers and sisters to stir them up in their faith.  My Mandeville plant reminded me how important it is to 'be our brother/sister's keeper".  We need each other to grow and be strong. Alone, it is easy to become weak.

Paul, in Romans 14:12-23 spells it out how we are to live in relationship with one another - and if our relationship, our interactions  with one another are not motivated by love, then we will "destroy the work of God" ..

The apostle John's sermon is still all we need to live worthy of God's praise, "Children, love one another!" 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Me and My Ducklings

 I have always loved animals.  Loved to care for them .. loved to tame them.... loved to win their trust, even wild animals. 
We had a little pond on our yard  and one day I decided it needed some ducks to enjoy it.  
So we went to the nursery and  bought several duck eggs and set up a warm place for them to hatch in our foyer.  Duck eggs take longer to hatch than chicken eggs so it took some patience on my part.  
However, after 28 long days of waiting and watching the eggs hatch.   The ducklings were adorable, of course! 
A baby duck needs a 'mom' and their pre-programed instructions are to watch for the first thing that moves because that is their mom and they are to follow her.   
It so happened, of course, that I was the first thing to move in their range of vision so I became, by default or by design, their 'mom'. 
I loved them, especially their gently soft contented cooing sounds.  But it only took me moving out of their sight that the cooing became panicked, piercingly, high pitched squawks that did not let up until I stepped in their view again.   They refused to eat or sleep if they could not see me, and when I lifted them out of their enclosure they followed me as fast as their webbed feet would take them -- close at my heels.   What fun I had with them.   Of course as they got older they were okay living outside with each other for company.  I no longer had to be in sight all the time although they still happily came when I called them, but they had learned that I would reappear if I was gone for a time.  

The memory of those ducks came to mind the other day and thought about how we behave when God is 'out of sight'.  
We too have a pre-programmed awareness of God and our need of Him, but like my little ducklings we need Him to be 'in sight'.  

What does 'in sight' mean to us? 
 Does it not mean when everything is going well, and we have everything we need or want and we feel God is smiling down on us?    But there is nothing like hardship, or disappointment, or loss, or something going side-ways that we begin our panicked 'squawking'  calling for God to 'show Himself' and put things right again. 
Yet, of course, just like I was not 'gone' when my ducklings couldn't see me, so also God is not 'gone' - He is still watching over us -- He will not leave us, no matter what ! 
Psalm 139:7

If my ducklings could not see me, they refused to eat. Because the food was suddenly gone?
No, of course not, I made sure there was always enough food and water for them.  But they would have starved to death, with plentiful food in front of them, if I had stayed out of sight! 
It is a bit humbling to acknowledge, but are we not just like that?  
We feel God is 'out of sight' or far away and we focus on our grumbling or our complaining.  We are so consumed with worry or anxiety that we refuse to 'eat' of the good things that God has abundantly supplied.   It is right there in front of us, but we have blinded our eyes to it and refuse to 'eat' . We are so focused on the problem, on the 'what ifs' and the 'have nots' that have upset our day or our life, that we turn away from the God whose eyes are ever upon us.  The God who desires to encourage us with His love, to remind us that His promises do not fail. The God who will not leave us or forsake us.  No matter what we are going through He will work it for our good.  He desires that we eat of His provisions before us.  our faith, our trust in Him never faltering! 
Phil. 4:6,7 , Is. 43:2, John 14:27 

My little ducklings never questioned where I was going, or where I was leading them.  Their only  focus was to keep up with me and go wherever I was going. 
Would that we were like my little ducks.   Not concerned where God is leading us, not questioning His plan for our life , but  our only concern is  to keep up with Him, following His word and voice.   
Matt. 16:24 

If I was sitting on the grass, it didn't take long and all my ducklings were cuddled up close, on my lap, cooing contentedly.  It always melted my heart to see how much they trusted me. 
It didn't not matter to them that I was 'other'. They didn't question how much bigger I was than them, they never feared that I might hurt them or cause them harm in any way.   They never questioned me in any way.  I was their 'MOM" and all was well with their world. 
They loved nothing better than to be held and cuddled ... are we not also held in God's hand? Does He not invite us to draw near, to bask in His Presence? 
Is. 55:8,9   

Did my ducklings even begin to understand me in an intellectual way? Hardly...  and did it matter?  No...  It did not matter that they did not understand me - it only mattered that I understood THEM !  
Is that not a picture of us and God as well?  We cannot begin to comprehend all that He is... but does it really matter ?  No ... it just matters that He understands us !  
Jer. 1:5, Matt. 6:8, Ps. 139

PRAYER  "Dear Heavenly Father, how we praise you for your wisdom .  We thank you for your love toward us and are so grateful  for your unfailing care over us.  We place our trust in you even when things around us seem dark and fearful because there is no one else we can trust!   Fill us with your Presence and your Holy Spirit, that we may never falter in our steps as we follow you wherever you may lead !   We love you, Lord !  in Jesus' name , amen."

Thursday, June 17, 2021

A Dog - Man's best Friend

You have all heard the idiom "gone to the dogs"  -- well,  my thoughts have 'gone to the dogs' rather literally.  


There are so many negative expressions about dogs ... like if someone is in trouble with his wife he is 'in the dog house' ... or if things are going wrong for someone they say "its a dog's life'.  Or it is rather insulting to say about someone .. "you can't teach an old dog new tricks".  And we describe our society as a 'dog-eat'dog-world' ...   

And yet .. on the other hand we say a dog is man's best friend  --- as the sweet photo above portrays.  

Every part of God's creation is infused with a lesson -- an opportunity to learn about God and our relationship with Him, or it provides a 'mirror' to learn about ourselves !  

So I just want to share a few of my thoughts about what I have learned from 'dogs'.  

1.  "Pride in Belonging!"    
The other day we drove past a homeless camp and there was a man with a beautiful German Shepherd dog.  I watched the dog so proudly walk beside his owner and the thought struck me that it makes no difference to a dog if he is owned by a homeless, penniless, ragged, dirty man living in squalor,  or if he is owned by the Queen of England, living in a palace!   
He knows who he belongs to and is proud of it !   His desires nothing more .. he belongs !  
I thought about how often Christians are not always so proud to acknowledge who they belong to, being afraid of being mocked or laughed at or embarrassed..  We are not always ready to defend our faith, to speak of the One we belong to. 
There is a verse that is sobering and goes beyond just avoiding an embarrassing moment -- but a dog would never be guilty of it .. 
"But whoever denies Me before men, 
him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven."
Matt. 10:33 
(see Matt. 10:32 for the positive) 

2. "Never Questioning"
I think it is impossible for a dog to hold a grudge.  No matter how he is treated or neglected by his owner.  He can be left alone all day and yet  all is well as soon as the master returns and the dog turns himself inside out eager to  communicate his greeting and joy at seeing his master again !  

A dog never blames or questions his master for what he does or neglects to do. Never questions how he is provided for, whether the food is plenty or sparse.  He desires only to be with his Master and seeks his pleasure. 
I think about the times I have heard Christians question God and His ways.  I read yesterday that a very well known Christian leader acknowledged that he shook his fist at God because He did not heal his wife's cancer.
 It would never occur to a dog that his master could do any wrong. 
Wow ... if a dog so trusts a human master, how much more should we trust our Heavenly Father who is infinitely good and wise and full of love toward us ... even when we do not understand His ways !  
Job had a 'dog's'  attitude when he said .. 
the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; 
blessed be the name of the Lord 
(Job 1:20–21).
And we have God's promise in Rom. 8:28 .... 
"And we know that all things work together
 for good 
to those who love God, 
to those who are the called according to His purpose..."

3. "Unconditional love" 
The capacity of a dog to love his master is amazing to watch.  I had a wolf/dog for a pet that showed such pure love in her eyes when she looked at me that it melted my heart.  She thought I was her Alpha Wolf, the one she loved and obeyed .  She made me feel how important I was to her !! 
God's love for us is unconditional  and it is wonderful to acknowledge that kind of love toward us .   But  I have heard many times Christians who will 'brag' (openly or suggestively)  about how God has blessed them as a reward for what they did for Him !  
I like Ann Landers quote, "Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful!"
Yes, God's love for us is beyond what we can understand or fathom but it has nothing to do with how wonderful we are ... and isn't that a relief ?  How could we EVER deserve or earn the love of God.   God loves us because we are His ...  and because of who HE is , not because of who we are.  
And it is true humility that understands that ! 
"Therefore He says, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
James 4:6 
And that beautiful verse in Micah 6:8 
"He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humble with your God."

4. "Self-less service" 
A dog is devoted 24/7 to serving his master and never tires of it.  Dogs will not think twice before protecting their master, risking their own lives ... and they  make wonderful service dogs.  A dog delights in serving and seems to have tireless energy. 
Are we so self-less and committed to service as a dog ?   Speaking for myself I would have to say, 'no'.  
And yet that is what we are called to, isn't it ?  To serve our Lord and Master with joy ? And to serve one another in love?   
"The greatest among you will be your servant." 
Matt. 23:11 

"Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, 
especially to those who are of the household of faith. " 
Galatians 6:10

"Work willingly at whatever you do, 
as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, 
and that the Master you are serving is Christ." 

5. "To Forgive"
A dog is so forgiving he does not even recognize that he has cause to forgive !!  
A quote by an unknown author -  ... "To err is human - to forgive is canine."
God asks us to forgive even as we have been forgiven ... yet, we struggle to let go of our grudges and feelings of having been 'ill done by'. or mistreated!
To not  even acknowledge that we have been wronged ?  That is a hard lesson to learn ... And I think the only way it can be learned is if our love for the offender  is 'bigger'  than our sense of having been hurt or insulted, or offended. 
" And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.
"Eph. 4:32 
"Love suffers long and is kind, ...  is not provoked ... thinks no evil !" 
I Cor. 13:4,5 

It is considered an insult to be called a dog ... but I'm thinking that if someone compares me to a dog, I might just take it as a high compliment !!  😊

PRAYER --- "Dear Lord,  thank you for the many lessons who put into your creation for us to learn from.  Make us more aware of the many ways you speak to us, and may we let your truth change our hearts and make us more like you !  I thank you for all my friends here and I pray a special blessing of your love poured out upon them .. and may they know your love is not earned, it is not deserved, it is simply given !!   You are truly the One, 'who alone is wise and to you be glory and majesty , dominion and power,both now and forever!!! amen' "

POSTSCRIPT    - (ADDED BY THE LORD)  regarding the above 4th point 
I wrote the above lesson early Tuesday afternoon before I went to visit my Dad.  He was not doing very well and had a hard time staying awake.  I waited to feed him his dinner (a few spoonfuls!) and then I left 'just at the right time' to meet a resident at the elevator. We were both going down. 
She warmly greeted me and I was immediately drawn to her. 
Our conversation flowed and this is what I learned about this glowing, joyful lady who looked years younger than her 89 years. 

Her mother was widowed at too young an age, and was a very poor widow with 7 children .. Hilda was one of them. 
Her mother was not well and her youngest sister had serious health issues, needing a lot of care. 
She considered at an early age that if she married and had her own family she would not be able to provide the care her mom and sister needed.  She knew she could not do both and so decided that she would devote her life to caring for others.  With a smile she said, "I know I made the right choice!"   She became a nurse and worked many years in maternity wards and in extended care homes to provide the income her family needed.  
Her life was given in self-less service to others.  
Her mother and most of her siblings have all passed on -- only she and one brother are left. 
When we said good-bye I had tears in my eyes and told her what an inspiration she was to me and I assured her that she had many rewards waiting for her in heaven. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

 The Eternal Living Word of God 

"Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven."
Psalm 119:89 

"But the word of the Lord endures forever"
I Peter 1:25 

When I was a child I loved the book Anne of Green Gables.  I lost count of how many times
I read it.  The most moving part of the book that always brought me to tears in sympathy for poor Anne was the part of the book where she longed for a dress with puffed sleeves. 
She begged and pleaded, but Marilla was unmovable, her cold 'no' so hurtful to Anne.  Finally, Matthew secretly arranged for to have a dress made for her with puffed sleeves and OHH !!  JOY !!  FINALLY, Anne's heart longing was satisfied and she got her puffed sleeves !  
Just because .. I decided to reread the book some years ago.  I was shocked.   The 'main' part of the book was reduced to a few sentences on a couple of pages?  I would have believed the book was an  edited edition  if it wasn't an old copy I was holding in my hand.  How could these few sentences have made such a mountain in my emotions and memory ?

In the early years of my marriage, my husband and I watched the movie "The Birds".  It was terrifying beyond any terror I had ever felt.  I had nightmares for weeks afterwards and jumped whenever I heard a flock of birds outside.    
Years later,  I suggested to my husband that , just for fun, we watch the movie again.   We did, but something had happened to the movie !   It wasn't scary at all - in fact the effects were so contrived and fake that we laughed and laughed throughout the movie .. How could it have struck such terror into my heart the first time I  watched it?

Recently, my sister reminded me of a book we had both read in the early '80's .  It was a best seller at the time  called "This Present Darkness" by Frank Peretti.  For both of us, it was a life-changing book - the kind you never forget !  She expressed the desire to read it again.  I told her I had a copy she was welcome to borrow.   Before I had opportunity to give her the book, I thought I might as well re-read it as well.   I started it thinking it would grab me as I remember it grabbed me the first time I read it years earlier.  I had to force myself to keep reading but gave up after I was about 1/3 through.  It didn't grab me at all.  In fact, I wondered what in the book had seemed so deep and spiritually enlightening?   It seemed kind of silly now, almost.   I did not say anything to my sister when I gave her the book. 
She returned it yesterday and I asked her... "Did you read it all the way through?"   "No", she admitted. 
She said she forced herself to keep reading thinking it would get better, but finally she gave up about 3/4 of the way through.   We agreed that whatever had so impacted us the first time we read it was gone. The book now left us cold and critical of the error and inconsistencies in the book.   

As I considered this and linked the above 3 experiences, I realized something.   
Times change, people change. At different times in our life things speak to us and we interpret them through the circumstances that define our space at the time.  
Even in our spiritual walk, God can use certain books  and speak to us through them.   Yet, we go on, past those check points in our spiritual life. We mature... Our understanding grows.   
Considering the above, I had a flash of insight.  
The Bible is thousands of years old, it has been read and reread by millions and millions of people.   Yet... it never gets old, it never loses its power to impact and change lives, it never loses the living truth expressed and expounded on every page.  The main Character, Jesus, never changes, His message never changes,  His purposes never become trite or out of date, every word is eternally true!  Every time I open it, it is fresh and relevant and speaks the truth and guidance that I need for the day. .  

I had never quite put it together in the same way before - that the fact the Bible is unchanging in its power to impact is an undeniable proof that the Bible truly is the Word of God -- so much more than an ordinary book.