Christmas in August arrives on flower’s blossom

 

If you live in beautiful, green Oregon, as I do, summer arrives when the last cold front finally passes through.  This year
summer arrived July 21—a full month after the wall calendar declared the season had begun.  And when sunshine arrives
that late, the sun-loving flowers don’t make their entrance until later, too.

So,for me, this August feels much like July should have felt. The normally hot weather that wilts us in July has arrived this third week in August. My fuchsias are now in full bloom, my begonias are thriving, and my Christmas cactus is putting on its semi-annual color extravaganza.

What? A Christmas cactus in summer?

Yes, it is true.  This amazing phenomenon was brought to my attention by my mother. Every summer she would put her Christmas cactuses outside as soon as the last frost passed and leave them there  until just before the first frost which usually occurs at the end of October.  Not only did the change of location make the cactus

bloom in the middle of summer, the profusion of color in the fall amazed us all.  Something about the change in temperature and the differences in light energizes the cactus into blooming as
if it will not see tomorrow.

As a Christian I am much like that cactus flower. I’ve been given a transformation—have been taken from the position of a human living in darkness without hope. When I learned who Jesus really was, I suddenly understood what it meant to be adopted as a child into God’s family. I stepped into the light.

Knowing that my ultimate end is an eternity spent in heaven with Him, the difference is like night and day. Like the cactus flower blooms in its new location, so I need to radiate the change given to me as a gift.

All of us who know who Jesus is should emanate that same kind of radiance. We have the promise of a life here lived in God’s
presence and of a future in eternity. That kind of love should make us beam.

A hurting world needs to see us bloom and know the reason for our happiness. But, instead of  blooming twice a year  like the cactus, we should fill our world with a profusion of happiness every  single day.

Jesus said, “Behold I make all things new.”

Second  Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.”

Prayer Makes a Difference

Good news! News worthy of praise.

In late April I wrote of a grandmother who had lost her grandson to Children’s Protective Services and was despaired that the child would soon be put up for adoption and she might never see him again.

Last week I visited with her at the beauty shop where she works. She told me the adoptive mother, who is also the foster mother, agreed to a type of “open” adoption. With this plan the grandmother can see her grandson on holidays, his birthday, and take him out for picnics with the family. Her happiness glowed from her face as she told me; the plan better than she could have ever hoped. She didn’t want to raise the child, but she wanted to be his grandmother.

Many thanks to all of my readers who wrote and said they would be praying about the situation.  The grandmother is grateful for the requests sent heavenward on her behalf.

I have a plaque that hangs in my kitchen. It reads:

Prayer changes things.

“Ask what ye will and it will be done.”  John15:7

Amen and Amen!

Like Zucchini, God’s Love Comes in Never-Ending Supply

 What do you do with zucchini?

Do you hurry past the bin of dark green vegetables at the grocery store, making sure you look the other direction so you won’t feel guilt leaving the squash there? Do you close your blinds when you see your neighbor emerge from her house and head your way with a sack of suspicious contents in her hand? Or do you grow a garden full of the long green cylinders, happy to welcome them into your kitchen just as you welcome the sunshine of summer?

 I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the green vegetable for quite some time. For years I never knew what to do with squash. I’d stir-fried pieces chopped along with other vegetables and enjoyed the mixture over rice. Then someone gave me a “bread” recipe using zucchini as part of the ingredients. Both my husband and I loved that. I picked up other recipes as well—zucchini lasagna, pickles, and cookies. But there never seemed to be as many recipes to use all the zucchini as there was zucchini to use. My kitchen would “runneth” over, if you get my meaning.

 Early in my marriage I had a friend who claimed to love zucchini with a passion. She planted ten hills of the seeds one spring so she wouldn’t run short. After two weeks into harvesting she admitted that she couldn’t keep up. “It’s scary out there,” she said of her garden. Zucchini had taken over, vines grew over vines, oversized zucchini hid like alligators among the leaves. She probably wondered why her friends suddenly made a million excuses that they couldn’t spend time with her the month of August. When the property sold a few years later, I could only imagine the new owners’ astonished faces every spring when zucchini sprouts volunteered all over the yard. I could almost hear them asking, “Where did all this zucchini come from?”

A couple of weeks ago I attended a potluck luncheon with some of my writer friends. One of the guests brought a pasta salad with chopped vegetables—yes, zucchini—marinated in a vinaigrette dressing. I mentioned to her that I always admired people who had recipes using zucchini. She told me she had a pie recipe that she made with zucchini that tasted just like apple pie. I was skeptical, but asked for the recipe.

When it arrived via e-mail I made the dessert and served it to my husband, son and neighbor. They raved about it. My son, who doesn’t like apple pie in the first place, asked for a second piece. My husband, who has a picky palate and can tell by tasting whether I’ve purchased discount store peanut butter or one of the national brands, ate the pie with gusto. My neighbor, who had supplied the zucchini, said that was the best apple pie he’d enjoyed in a long time.

I kept my secret for at least an hour, but I couldn’t help myself from telling them the truth about what they’d eaten. None of them believed me, but when I made a second pie later that week since I had plenty of the vegetable that keeps on giving, they assured me that they really liked it even if it was zucchini.

I’ve always been amazed at how much food our earth can grow. One tiny seed can make a vine that can feed squash or beans to a dozen people. A tomato seed can grow into a plant that produces a five gallon bucket of the fruit. A corn seed can push up a stalk that can yield two or three ears of corn, each cob holding the equivalent of a hundred seeds.

God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that the people He instructed to be “fruitful and multiply” would need seeds that would do the same in order to feed their families. In the book of Luke He draws a parallel between the man who sows the seed and the person who shares news of God’s kingdom with others.

The gardener knows that some seed will fall on rocky soil and be eaten by birds. Likewise many who share the Good News of God’s Son will find those that have no interest, their spirits hardened, their minds closed. The gardener knows other seed will hit soil that lacks nutrients and the vines will sprout only to wither and die. So it is with people who hear the teachings of the Scripture, but lack the tenacity to act on what they’ve learned.

Discouragement would surely befall the gardener were it not for the seed that finds fertile soil, takes root, grows and produces a bountiful crop. Every person who makes a decision for Christ is one of those who found fertile ground and thrived.

 As His people, we should be like the zucchini—sending down our roots into the fertile soil of His Word, letting our spirits grow up like tender young shoots reaching for the sun, and sharing our faith with others just as plants yield their fruits.

Think how we could change the world if we gave some of the love we have received to every person we touch, just like the zucchini vine makes a fruit for every table. How many loaves of God’s truth bread could we make? How many slices of God’s love pie could we serve? The world would receive an overabundance of love from a God who, like the zucchini, never stops giving.

Gardens of the Soul Need Tending to withstand Rainstorms of Life

This spring’s cold and cloudy climate in Oregon lasted longer than previous seasons. Though the calendar said we were into summer, apparently no one informed the weather. When the sun finally emerged and the rain put a lid on itself, I discovered my garden full of healthy weeds. My flowers stood shaking in their roots, the lack of sunshine evident in their paltry green leaves and emaciated stems. As I gave the intruding visitors an unfriendly yank from their place in the soil, it occurred to me that weeds must find ways to grow in darkness much like sin invades our lives when we stray from our source of light—God’s love.

Amid the creeping morning glory, the thistles and the pig weed, I gently separated the young flowering plants from their nasty neighbors.  Though the rain had kept me from the garden for a few weeks, the invaders had taken root and staked their territory like Genghis Khan invading China. The plants I wanted to grow stood like dwarfs next to the ones I didn’t want.  After a morning pulling, hoeing and shaking root balls, my garden returned to a healthier state, my back screaming from lack of use.

So do we, as Christians, let the weeds of sin invade our lives.  We get busy, our schedules teeming with appointments, social events and temptations the world calls us to explore. Slowly we let our personal Bible study slide, our prayer life evaporate and our time with God wither.  Our source of strength is choked out by the showers of life, our healthy souls shrivel up and stop growing.

Suddenly we find ourselves surrounded by things we never intended to be part of our existence.  An exercise program that claims too much of our time…a television sitcom that we just can’t miss…a favorite group that meets during a time that used to be claimed by the Lord. Bible reading falls by the wayside.

 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”(II Timothy 3:16, 17) We won’t be equipped to withstand the temptations of life if we aren’t communicating with the one who calls us. “Study to show thyself approved unto God,”  the Bible says, “ a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.”(II Timothy 2:15). If we don’t read what God has written for us, how will we know Him? How will His truth be brought to the rest of the world?

Eradicating the offending elements takes time. The Bible says to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). We turn back to the source of our power, regain our prayer vigil and reclaim our personal worship time with God. “But when you pray,” the Bible says, “go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to the Father who is in the secret place.” (Matt. 6:6a) “and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

How often do we seek the quiet, still voice of God? Allow Him to touch us like the sun bathes the flowers? Let Him draw us up closer to Him like plants seeking the warmth of the sunshine? With diligent determination those time wasters that we allowed to take priority over our lives will withdraw and we’ll gain the power to put them in a more balanced place in our time.

 God’s garden calls us to be vigilant to our task just like the garden in the backyard requires renewed effort on a daily basis.  Our hearts can be in harmony if they are regularly tuned. The pig weed, thistles and morning glory snatching the life from our souls can be pulled from the soil of God’s flower bed, allowing us to bloom where we are planted, our hands stretched toward heaven, our stems strong and sure as we bask in the light of His love. “Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due time we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”(Gal.6:9)