Harvesting

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

So if we want these qualities in our lives, how do we get them? Is it by trying harder? By putting reminders on our mirror or fridge to say “be kind today.” “Be patient with the crazy driver in front of (or behind) you.” “When you get angry, hold your tongue.”

We so often try to produce these ‘fruit’ by working harder. And yet, God says that doesn’t work…and how well I know it. Just before these verses Paul describes the works of the flesh, i.e. those qualities and behaviors that come naturally to us, as “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (verses 19-21).

I can think of a time when I exhibited four of these in one incident when my temper got the best of me. So first of all, I’m grateful, deeply grateful, for the forgiveness of God that wipes out my sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I John 1:9 ESV

Second, I was reminded by our pastor today that these fruit of the Spirit i.e. love, joy, peace … are HIS work in me, not mine in myself. My challenge is to spend time with Him, focusing on Jesus, loving and worshipping Him, allowing His Holy Spirit to produce these characteristics in me.

What a joy. It’s not my job to make me like Jesus. It’s my job to rest in Him, trust in Him, and allow Him to change me. That’s His job! And He can do what I cannot do myself!

Thank you Lord, for producing more of your likeness, for growing a good harvest in me as I focus on, spend time with you. I love you.

Through a Glass, Darkly

Driving along one of our California freeways, I looked at the mountain and saw the fortress-looking building atop Mount Umunhum in the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. This former Radar Tower was once a key part of the west coast’s air defense system. The tall, square cement building looks immovable, impenetrable, a lone sentry with nothing visible to the naked eye to minimize its impact on the visible landscape.

Two years ago Don, my mother and I drove to Umunhum. The winding road was beautiful, twisty, interesting. About half a mile from the top of the mountain the line of cars came to a halt. We thought that by driving up on Thanksgiving Day there would be little traffic. Evidently others had the same idea.

With only 50 parking spaces at the top, there was quite a wait for cars to leave. Mom and I needed to use the facilities. I thought about walking up the last distance but the twisty road prevented us from seeing how far it was, and I didn’t know how far Mom could walk. So we waited.

We crept to the top where, finally, a handicapped spot opened. We pulled into it, placing Mom’s card on the dash. There was that big, square cement structure. But now it had shrubs and trees and brush around it, a display board, restroom, outbuildings and walking paths.

What a change in perspective–from seeing a stark building against the sky, to being next to that bulky tower, seeing the life and buildings on the same mountaintop and a 360-degree view of the Santa Clara Valley.

How often is my perspective warped because of the angle I’m looking at, the preconceived notions through which I’m viewing a situation, or my own biases?

This beautiful old hymn expresses the desire of my heart:

Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.

Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear;
and while the wavenotes fall on my ear,
everything false will disappear.

Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.

Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

I want to see clearly. How about you?

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

I Corinthians 13:12 NKJV

How Beautiful Heaven will Be

Dad had just received the news that he was terminally ill with leukemia and had only a short time to live. I walked gingerly into his room to see him gazing out the window at the flowers outside.

One of my favorite photos of Dad and Mom. Dad’s been in heaven seventeen years already.

My father turned back to look at me. My eyes were wet with tears. “How beautiful heaven will be,” Dad said with his wonderful smile. I wept.

Don and I attended a wedding reception this weekend for a lovely couple. We saw friends we hadn’t seen in awhile. We met others we’d heard much about. As we spent time talking, we had some rich, meaningful conversations about how we were all connected through Karen and Jerry, parents of the groom, and about God’s work in our lives. Everyone has a story and it was a privilege to hear, and share those, from the widows to the divorced to those impacted by critical illness … but with confidence in the goodness of God.

We had a marvelous time, and hung out beyond the stated end time of the party. I thought, if it is such a joy to meet both old and new friends at a reception on a Saturday afternoon in Saratoga, California — what will our joy meter read in heaven when we meet Jesus face to face, and are reunited with those we love who have preceded us into glory?

Scripture promises that one day Jesus will return to take his followers to heaven for eternity. Some of us will be called home through death before he returns. But we have a choice. That choice is to take him at his word, to accept his forgiveness and acknowledge him as our Lord and Savior; or to reject the grace he offers and be separated from him for all eternity.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17 ESV

If you have never committed your life to Jesus Christ, please consider his great sacrifice and his offer of forgiveness, hope, peace, and eternal life with him.

“How beautiful heaven will be!” I’m looking forward to it.

I’d love to talk about any questions you may have.

Train up a Child …


On every page of the Bible there are words of God that give us reason to hope…In the promises of God, I find inspiration and new hope. Charles A. Allen

II Peter 1:4 NLT “Because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”

If you’ve read my posts for awhile now, you probably know that I come from parents who were fully committed to Jesus Christ, and who raised us to love and honor God and them. No entitlement mentality was tolerated. If we sinned, or disobeyed Mom or Dad, if we were disrespectful, we felt the brunt of discipline. Neither we nor our parents took that lightly!

Me with one of my beautiful grandnieces

But we were loved. I still have pictures of Dad playing “farm” on the floor with my two older brothers, Mel and Arn, and me as we laid out the fences, cows, horses and chickens …

And when I accidentally spilled my glass of milk, Mom got a rag, cleaned it up, gave me more milk, and said something like “Oh well, we can clean that up.” No recriminations. Although I expected punishment, she knew the spilled milk was an accident.

We were taught obedience. No, we didn’t always obey; and we didn’t always like each other as kids. And yet, we stuck together. Once, at my first boyfriend’s house (I was five), my leg went to sleep. Mr.Wageman was a tall, distinguished German man with a strong accent, intimidating to my little self.

It was time to go home. Somehow I managed to tell Mel that my leg was asleep and I couldn’t walk. And my big brother got down in front of the couch so I could wrap my legs around him and ride piggyback home. My dignity was saved!

I don’t remember specific words about how Mel, Arn and I treated each other; but somehow we learned to be kind to each other. I recall getting into trouble for some misdeed when my brothers both spoke up for me. They had my back.

Bob in his hot rod/stroller

And when younger brother Bob joined the family when I was eleven, we extended the love to him. As I grew I took him places with me and loved it when I was 16 (Bob was 5) and others asked if I was his mother. Mel and Arn turned Bob’s stroller into a hot rod and pushed him all around the neighborhood.

My siblings and I have had some major disagreements as adults. But we have managed to communicate about and resolve those issues, sometimes through tears, other times through respectful, honest discussion.

So what did Mom and Dad do to foster this kind of love and mutual respect?

  • “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV) They taught us about God’s love and taught us scripture from earliest childhood.
  • They modeled respect, affirmation and forgiveness in how they treated us.
  • They had, and expressed, high expectations of us and didn’t tolerate lying, cheating, laziness, nasty language, or meanness.*

I am not a parent, but I see some of my nephews and nieces who are wonderful parents – patient, exacting, understanding, accepting, loving, giving and forgiving. I admire the ways they lead and teach their children in example and word. So, if you are a parent of young children, my hat’s off to you! God bless you and guide you and give you every bit of strength, courage, resilience, and love you need to wisely guide those little ones into love for Jesus Christ, and to productive adulthood. And may God give you times of rest in the process!

What are ways your parents trained you that helped you grow and mature? What are you doing with your own children to raise them wisely and with love?

*NOTE: this is my experience with my parents. My brothers may have different perspectives as each relationship is different.

Forged in the Fire

“Lord, be gracious to us;
we long for you.
Be our strength every morning,
our salvation in time of distress.”

Isaiah 33:2 NIV

I was 3000 miles from home, waiting for my husband to receive a transplant, then hoping and praying for his recovery.

Friends I’d never met before and I sat in hospital waiting rooms together. We asked about our respective loved ones, wept and prayed together, laughed over silly memories, held each other as one by one our loved ones passed into eternity. Friendships that have lasted were forged in the fires of adversity, pain, loss.

One of the few times my late husband was moved from Intensive to Transitional Care, he had a roommate. I pulled the curtain between the beds for some privacy.

I saw beautiful, tall Bonnie, whom I’d met in Intensive Care, walk around the unit, looking at room numbers. She opened the door to our room and walked to the next bed. Of all “coincidences” (right!) George, her husband, was Jerry’s roommate.

Bonnie and I greeted each other and sat with our respective husbands. At one point I softly began to sing. “Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee. Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not, great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

Chills ran up my arms as an alto voice chimed in from the other side of the curtain. “Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand hath provided, great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

And I knew I’d met a sister in Christ. Bonnie and I both lost our husbands that Fall, but our friendship has endured.

***

I met beautiful redhead Kathy and her husband Wally, lovely blond Lisa and her Bob, gracious Wayne, and their sweet mother Willene. Willene’s husband, their father, was dying. We too wept and prayed and laughed and held each other through those difficult months. And we’ve shared life since, with visits before Don and I married ten years ago, over facebook, emails and phone calls.

***

Fritz and Frank, dear friends for many years, moved to the East Coast two years ago. Fritz, a nurse, spent time in the hospital with Jerry and me, patiently teaching me how to read the monitors to assess his stats before I left the hospital each night.

***

Don and I saw these friends on the East Coast this week. It’s been a rich and renewing time. These friendships were forged in the fire of suffering. I’m thrilled…

  • to be together again;
  • that our friendships have endured over these fourteen years (and more with Fritz and Frank); and
  • grateful that in the darkest of times, God surrounded me with precious friends who walked through the valley of the shadow of death with me, and I with them.

Just this morning, Don and I prayed together before enjoying breakfast in our hotel. A lovely black woman sat at the table next to us. I noticed she was crying, quietly leaned over and asked, “Excuse me. Can I help?”

Julia swiped at her eyes and looked up at me. “No,” she replied. “You just prayed, and you said ‘Father’. We have the same Father.” And she proceeded to tell us of God’s good work in her life and that of her adult daughter over the past five months.

I’m blessed by God’s faithfulness, not only to me, but to friends we meet in these divine appointments. Friends who encourage me in my own relationship with God and with others.

“By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean …

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

Hebrews 10:20-23, NLT

What divine appointments will God bring into your life and mine today as we become intentional about encouraging others to acts of love and good works? I’d love to hear how He is doing this in your life.