Summer Anyone?

As I stood at my kitchen window this week and watched rain pelt my patio and the wind whip the trees, I struggled to remember that the summer solstice is a mere eleven days away. Dubbed the wettest Oregon spring in one hundred years, I marveled at how this season differed from last year.

The unseasonably warm days in 2016 teased my dahlias out of their slumber early, many of them blooming by mid-June. In 2017 they’re barely above ground. My patio flowers were planted and thriving, not huddling in their pots trying to stay alive beneath the deluge to which they’ve been subjected these past few months.

I appreciate the change of seasons. Rain is necessary for plant life to grow, wildlife to thrive, and rivers to flow. I’ve seen how a lack of it can devastate an otherwise healthy landscape, turning a beautiful meadow into a patch of weeds. God put the seasons into place and in his wisdom he allows both sun and rain to flavor our world. Too much of one or the other can have disastrous effects on the environment.

Our lives can be a lot like the weather. Events that make us happy and help us enjoy life can be sprinkled with trials that cause us to despair. One season we flourish, another we struggle, trying to make sense of our circumstances. Often we try to fix blame, wanting someone else to suffer in our place.

In Matthew 5:43-45 God’s word tells us: “You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”

Take heart. The rain will eventually disappear. Or the snow. Or whatever weather you are facing that you don’t like. Maybe you have too much sun! In its place will come something different. Appreciate the change knowing all things work together for good. That’s also in the Bible. Look it up.

Mother’s Day Beginnings

Mother’s Day means many things to different people. Most of us view the date as a way to show honor to our mothers, often bestowing gifts and sentiments to them. But, originally, the day began for a very different reason.

The observance grew out of a movement known as the Mothers’ Day Work Clubs, designed to raise awareness of poor health conditions in communities toward the end of the Civil War. A social activist named Ann Reeves Jarvis, working alongside Julia Ward Howe, believed mothers would unite to help the less fortunate and hoped to unify them to work for world peace.

Her daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, found her inspiration for Mother’s Day when she heard her mother say she wished one day someone might create a day just for mothers. Anna was motivated to carry on the social work her mother started. When the older woman died, Anna held a memorial ceremony on May 10, 1908, three years after her mother’s death, to honor the matron’s life work. A shrine was erected at Andrews Memorial Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Anna contributed five hundred white carnations for all who attended the service. This is believed to be the first official Mother’s Day observance.

As commercialization moved in and gifts of cards, candy, and flowers came to be associated with the celebration, Anna Jarvis lost her enthusiasm for the day she’d helped establish. Embittered, she is quoted as saying the printed card was a poor substitute for a handwritten sentiment to a woman who did more for her children than any other person alive. Candy was a pretense for the gift giver to help himself. Only the white carnation, in her opinion, continued to represent the purity of a mother’s love.

Anna Jarvis never married. Her birthplace, Anna Jarvis House, in Webster Taylor County, West Virginia, has been listed as a national historic landmark.

How sad it is that Anna died unhappy with the work she started. Her quest had a biblical basis. The scriptures are filled with references to honoring one’s parents. In Exodus 20:12 we are told, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

However you remember your mother this week, know you are carrying out a command that the Lord established for each of us.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Acknowledgements: Wikipedia online encyclopedia, dltk children’s Bible lessons

The Saddest, Gladdest Day

 

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

Matthew 28:1-7 KJV

Jesus came for the sole purpose of giving his life that we might attain eternal life in heaven with him. The only step we need to take, as it says in Acts 16:31, is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and we shall be saved. The choice is ours.

A joyous Easter to you.

The Dogwood Has Bloomed

The dogwood has bloomed. The tree sits on a corner along the street I  follow to get to my bank. Every year I anticipate the arrival of the flowers, waiting for the splash of white blossoms to stir my heart as I hurry down the thoroughfare.

Not only is the sight breathtaking, it reminds me of the season into which we are about to enter. The most important day in the earth’s history is about to be celebrated, the remembrance one that affects every person on the face of the planet.

Two thousand years ago, God had sent his son to earth. After thirty-three years here, Jesus was about to fulfill his destiny. He traveled much of Jerusalem with his band of followers, teaching people about the kingdom of heaven, healing their diseases, restoring their loved ones. He’d made enemies and gathered many friends.

The Sanhedrin feared him because he spoke against the false teachings for which they were known. He threatened to upset the delicate balance the Jews maintained in the presence of the Roman occupation. They looked for opportunities to remove him.

He knew their hearts. He understood their thoughts. He sensed them watching him. He ate with publicans and sinners. He healed on the Sabbath. They were waiting to accuse him when the time was right.

Passover was coming. Jesus would enter Jerusalem to celebrate with his disciples. No one but him can know this would be the last time he would enter the city. His enemies waited. They plotted. They watched. Soon they would act. God’s plan was about to be fulfilled.

Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” In the violent acts that would follow, everyone would gain access to eternal life. The innocent would be slain, the guilty redeemed, the key to heaven placed within everyone’s grasp. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, it would be only a matter of time.

 

This is the first installment in a three-part series leading up to the celebration of Easter.

 

Pansy Petulance

late-septenber-2016-001Cooler weather, light rain and a long summer behind them, my patio flowers needed pulling this week. I replaced them with the cheery, happy faces of fall pansies.

My son, when he was little, thought pansies his favorite flower because they are always smiling. Something about their bearded petals and wrinkled lines that all converge in the center make them resemble the faces of jolly garden elves. No matter what might be bugging them or how dry the soil around their roots, pansies carry a perpetual grin.

Like these flowers, people often hide behind their smiles. Telling someone how they really feel is uncomfortable. They don’t want to appear weak, or whiny, or out of control. They paste on a smile and glibly say they’re fine when someone asks how they are.

Sooner or later that pent-up unhappiness can turn to anger, bitterness, or depression. As we so often see in our culture these days, people pushed to the edge will act out their inner turmoil, unleashing their fury on others innocent of any crime.

God, in his wisdom, offers solace to the hurting heart. In his word, Matthew 11:28 tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

He knew the world was full of trouble, anxiety, and adversity. He saw us as a people capable of sin and wrong doing. He sent his son, Jesus, to die for that sin by shedding his blood on a cross. He who believes in the risen Christ will not face eternity without God and will be comforted by the Holy Spirit here on earth.

In Psalm 55:22 we read: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

What wonderful promises! To know we can take every problem to him and he hears us, will answer us, and offer comfort to our aching hearts.

Don’t be like the pansy—hiding your troubles behind a perpetual smile. Lift your worries and fears to the great God of the universe. Quiet your mind in stillness before him. Let his presence speak to your heart.

 

 

 

 

Shadowed Strength

patio 007 The nasturtiums finished their season this past week. They might have lasted longer, but the incessant heat against the pavement surrounding their planter fried their blossoms. They crumpled like balloons in a volley of darts—leaves, petals, and stems sagging into a lifeless lump on the ground. As I gathered their remains and stuffed the foliage into a garbage can, I noticed little pods falling into the dirt, seeds seeking refuge in an ongoing cycle of regeneration, a tiny being determined to live again.

I’d seen this phenomenon in other things. The fuchsia I wintered over from last summer sported a big clump of minion bells in its basket this year. No doubt the two hanging pots were close enough last season to share seed which germinated when warm weather called the fuchsia from its dormancy. It’s as if the minion bells knew the fuchsia would be granted favor over an annual and sought to sustain their life in the shadow of the fuchsia’s dominance.

Lending support in a time of vulnerability is the task of the Christian. Caught in the hardships of life, many seek courage from a person who adheres to a higher power. Christians have found answers to their dilemmas and purpose through their faith in Jesus, the Son of God. They provide a source of light to those mired in this world’s darkness, confused by troubling times, or afraid for their lives and the futures of their children.

Matthew 5:14-15 says: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all in the house.”

Like the minion bells seeking refuge in the fuchsia basket, or the nasturtiums hiding in the soil ready to grow, so the weary among us need a helping hand from those who find their strength in a living God. Who is waiting to find protection in your shadow, to know what you know? Who needs to be given the hope God’s word offers to those willing to listen? God’s love poured out through the blood of Jesus is for everyone.

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, slaughter, and destroy. I’ve come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Let your light shine bright.

Overcoming Growth Obstacles

tubers 005

 

One of the benefits of living in the Pacific Northwest is the usually mild winters. The absence of severe weather affords flower gardeners like myself the advantage of not having to dig tubers every fall. We can leave fussy flowers like dahlias in the ground and know that if we mulch them and keep the soil well-drained, the plants will reappear the next season and bloom again without prompting.

However, left to their own devices, dahlias tubers multiply like fleas on a cat. After two or three years in the ground the plant has made so many new tubers that they suffocate each other. They must be dug up and cut apart, allowing the eye protruding on each tuber to send up a green shoot. The sprout will produce a full-fledged flower, given the chance. If not separated, the green shoots have no hope for survival because they aren’t well rooted and can’t get to the sun. Instead of a cluster of blossoms on sturdy stalks, the grower is left with a mound of brown.

In God’s scheme of things, our busy schedules are like the clump of overgrown tubers. We struggle to juggle one activity with another, often letting our relationship with the Lord take a backseat. Like the eager sprout on the dahlia, our faith fights its way through the maze of appointments we consider more important than time with God. Without encouragement and a regular pruning of our schedule, the seeds of faith dwindle for lack of space in which to grow.

Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV) says: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”

What important task in your too full schedule needs trimming that you might find more time with God?

tubers 002

Renewal Awaits Us

peonies 2015 003

Not often do both Palm Sunday and the first day of spring arrive together, but this year they do. Both events represent renewal in God’s scheme of things.

Spring brings rebirth of the earth. Flowers awake from their slumber. Birds build nests for their young. Trees bud out, grass grows, the sun fills the sky more and more often. Rejuvenation is all around us as a sleeping world comes back to life.

Palm Sunday represents reawakening as well. God’s perfect plan would fall into place, the main players ready to act to redeem a world full of sin. One man would die, and thousands more would be transformed.

Rereading the biblical account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11: 1-19), I had to remind myself Jesus knew entering Jerusalem would be the end of his life here. To fulfill the scriptures and finish what he had come to do, he would be crucified. I can only imagine the thoughts going through his mind when he sent the disciples to fetch the young donkey colt waiting for him. Only kings rode animals into town. Just that act alone would raise the suspicions of the Pharisees and Sadducees toward him.

He had to know what conflict would arise when he entered the Temple and overturned tables, sending moneychangers scurrying for cover. He forbid anyone to carry wares through the building. “It is written,” he said, “that my house shall be called a house of prayer to all nations. You have made it a den of thieves.” Now the Sanhedrin plotted to destroy him.

All of the events led to God’s most sacrificial act—the death of his son on the Cross. We who believe have life eternal, all of us forgiven for our sinful natures because of Jesus’ blood shed at Calvary.

As you celebrate the coming of Spring this Sunday, and as you spend time in worship remembering the beginning of the events that led up to Christ’s resurrection on Easter, consider the meaning of renewal in your life. Let God’s miraculous act change you. For you He died.

Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”

Color Makes My World

spring flowers 011

2014 spring 005This week the first of the camellias popped open—bright pink, lacy flowers that cluster among the satiny green leaves. They joined the daffodils who already stand like trumpeters along a parade route, their cheery yellow petals little bursts of sun around the yard.

I’m in love with color—everywhere it appears. And what’s  more 2014 spring 001important, I believe God loves color, too.

When on the third day of creation God blessed the earth with trees, and every kind of seed, and herbs, He looked upon His handiwork and saw that it was good. Fruits and vegetables, flowers and bushes all joined together to give a barren earth a rainbow of hues. When I admire a rare parrot, a flower with a variegated center, a mountain peak covered with trees, rocks and snow, I sense God’s love of beauty. Why else would he say in Luke 12:27 (NIV): “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”

When my daughter first decided on a color for her room—a deep, blue-green shade of teal— I remained cautiously optimistic. What colors would accent it? Could we find accessories? I  needn’t have worried. With window casings trimmed in bright white, the teal tint exploded from the walls. Her readymade bedspread came accented with panels of peach and fuchsia. Framed prints held patches of teal-colored sky, smiling girls in frocks of teal paisley, and  flowers all arrayed in the blue-green shades. The result—glorious color.

I’ve admired portraits in sepia tones—there’s a wide scope of shades within the bronzing of the subject. But without color that world seems stalled, stuck in time. I’ve known a few individuals who are color blind, some not seeing a certain shade, and others missing the entire spectrum. Imagine going outside and everything was black and white. Hues would play out as grays. No green in the trees, no blues in the sky, no riot of tints among the flowers. Just thinking about such a world is depressing.

God knew that. He wanted his creation to worship him. By painting our landscape, He knew he could get us to look up and around at our world and with our uplifted eyes, see Him in the midst of the picture. And in seeing, give thanks.

Is it any wonder the psalmist wrote of his awe of a God who created our world? Psalm 26:7 (KJV): “That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all your wondrous works.”

Thank God for coloring your world.

 

Enduring Love

 valentine blog picture**The man hurried to his early morning doctor’s appointment, anxious to see his physician and leave in time for his next appointment across town. 

The practitioner asked the man what the urgent demand on his time was. He replied he went every morning to see his wife at the memory care facility where she’d been the last seven years. Alzheimer’s disease afflicted her, stealing every recollection of her former life, including him.             The doctor asked the man why he went, when his wife no longer knew him.         He replied, “Because I remember her.”**

Sadness tugged at my heart when I first read this post, having had friends and family consumed by this terrifying disease. Watching a loved one slowly slip away from reality, though he or she still lives, wrenches your spirit.

But the excerpt also stirred feelings of happiness, knowing an unknown husband devoted himself to his wife’s care enough to sacrifice his time daily, with no prospect of having the commitment returned. That kind of love is hard to find in this self-absorbed culture in which we live.

In John 13:34-35 (NKJV) Jesus commanded us to love one another. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Valentine’s Day is a great time to renew your commitment to love others—not only the romantic interests in your life—but your fellow man. Every day each of us encounters someone who is lonely, forgotten, hurting, or ignored. Take time to remember them as Christ remembers you. Be interested enough to listen with a whole heart. You may mend someone’s sorrow.                                                                                           Happy Valentine’s Day.

**(Adapted from another article, author unknown)