Planting Seeds!

This time of year finds me eagerly looking for any sign of new life. The drab, gray, barrenness of winter has me hoping for the bright, fresh colors of spring. And whether it feels like spring or not, it is time to consider the planting of seeds…

Today I received an invitation to a Dinner and Worship evening held in a big, beautiful barn. As I read the invitation my mind went back to the ministry we did in our little, humble barn with the Living Nativity. The young woman who sent the invite was one of the girls who played the role of Mary. She often sang the song, “Breath of Heaven.” The song is somewhat of a prayer that Mary may have sung; recognizing she was chosen by God to carry a load that seemed too heavy, and lonely, in a world as cold as stone. A prayer that asked God for His very breath, the “Breath of Heaven” that would lighten her darkness, would be with her, would make her strong, and would hold her together.

I wondered if perhaps a seed was planted in her heart those cold winter nights as she so beautifully sang that song.

Because as years went by this young woman did find that she was chosen to bear a heavy load; that she too would pray a prayer for the “Breath of Heaven” to lighten her darkness, to be with her, to make her strong, and to hold her together.

Isn’t it interesting that seeds need to die and be buried?

The heavy load she and her husband experienced and the dark time they went through provided an environment the seed needed in order to grow. Those sleepless nights of despair watered the seed, and the Breath of Heaven breathed new life into their hearts and the seed began to grow.

The Glimmer of New Life brings Hope.

And hope is what they needed to build their big, beautiful barn. Her husband’s handiwork became a barn built for fellowship and worship and it stands as an illustration of the truth found in the creation of a seed…

 “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” John 12:24

I don’t take any credit in the accomplishment of their barn or the ministry that God will use it for, but I am reminded that…

whether we realize it or not we are always planting seeds.

Our words and actions are as seeds.

They are heard and seen by those around us. They fall upon the hearts of those we spend time with. And as time goes by they will begin to grow.

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so.” Genesis 1:11

As God created trees to produce seed of their own kind, we too will produce seeds after our own kind.

 

We have the choice of what type of tree we will be, of what type of fruit we will bear, and of what type of seed we will plant…

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” Matthew 12:33-35

And I believe the seeds we plant in our children, our grandchildren, and in others around us will grow bigger, stronger, and bear a greater harvest than we have; either for the good, or for the bad.

The fact that I am a grandma means that I have lived a lot of life, and in those many years I have seen the affects of seed planting. But what I have learned is that whether we have received good seed or bad seed, or whether we have spread good seed or bad seed, every seed needs to die before new life appears. And that is what God’s unconditional love and amazing grace is all about!

God’s resurrection power takes the dead things of life and breathes His “Breath of Heaven” into them, so that what grows from the deadness will be an illustration of how Great God is!

Never under estimate the power of planting seeds!

Wow, that makes me a “Grandma”!

This past Friday, Good Friday, the day we remember all the pain, suffering, and death Jesus willingly endured so that our sins were forgiven, we were healed, and we were made whole. That day we remember when the veil between God and man was torn so that we can talk to God wherever and whenever we want. That day we remember Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb as He died the death for our sin so we too are dead to sin.

Good Friday is the ultimate example of what the enemy  meant for harm, God intended for good!

From the time I was little my memory of Easter Sunday was the greeting Grandma would say when we arrived at her house for Easter dinner; “He is risen!” And my mother would respond with, “He is risen, indeed!”

From death, God brought life!

This is God’s Story!

This is what God has been doing since the beginning of time when He first spoke life into the vast expanse of darkness at creation.

This is the theme throughout the entire Bible!

This past Good Friday brought something else that I will always remember!

At 10:54 am God blessed Cliff and Whitney with a beautifully, perfect little boy! I rejoiced in God’s love, I praised Him for His goodness, and marveled in His perfect timing!

We celebrated the joy of Cliff and Whitney’s little boy!

 

Wow, that makes me a “Grandma”!

I have to admit, that new name causes me to ponder…

What is the role of a “Grandma”?

I find my definition comes from my experiences…

There are so many memories wrapped up in the name, “Grandma.”

Grandma…wasn’t she the woman that lived on the dairy farm where I loved to watch my Grandpa milk the cows and feed the calves? Wasn’t it her house that I spent a week each summer in, when she fed me eggs and bacon, braided my hair, and sent me out to discover all the joys of her farm?Wasn’t it at her house that my aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered together at the long table for Christmas and Easter dinners? Wasn’t her house the one that had great hiding places for hide-and-seek? Wasn’t she the woman I saw every Sunday sitting in the front row of church?

Wasn’t Grandma the one who prayed for every member of her family every day? Wasn’t it her prayers that I knew helped me through some very tough times in my life? Wasn’t it Grandma, who several days before she passed away recognized it was me by her side when I thanked her for her prayers?

Yes, that was my Grandma,

but there is another Grandma…

Isn’t Grandma the woman who came to help me when I had my babies? The woman who bounced my children on her lap? Isn’t she the one I trusted to care for my children when Mark and I went away? Wasn’t it in her yard that my boys climbed the cherry tree and picked cherries? Wasn’t it at her house where my sister, my brother’s families, and my family gathered together at her long table for birthdays and holiday dinners?

Isn’t Grandma the one who prays for me and for my family everyday?

So many memories of my Grandma, and of my children’s Grandma…

Now, I too have that name.

And as I ponder what that means I realize the importance of God’s Story in the legacy of my family.

My Grandma raised her children to know and love God. She taught them the truth of Good Friday and celebrated the joy of Easter Sunday. Grandma prayed for every member of her family; from the beginning till the end.

My children’s Grandma raised her children to know and love God. She taught them the truth of Good Friday and celebrated the joy of Easter Sunday. Grandma prays for her family; from the beginning and will till the end.

These have been my examples…

I know they haven’t been perfect. I know they made mistakes along the way, who hasn’t? But, that is why a Godly legacy is so important and one I am so thankful for.

Grandmas aren’t perfect, but if they point their grandchildren to the One who is perfect that is what really matters!

So, with the arrival of Elliot Martin on Good Friday I will always remember my role as Grandma.

To tell my grandchildren God’s Story.

And to pray for them, every day!

Lessons From A Tree

A neighbor and I would start our days with an early morning walk around the streets of our neighborhood. Along our way there was a tree that I enjoyed walking past especially in the spring because of its sweet fragrance.

One winter morning following an ice storm we found the tree completely bent over. I was sure the tree would no longer live to send forth its sweet fragrance. The coming spring brought no sign of life. The tree remained bent, broken, and brown for the entire year. Walking past this tree I wondered why the owner didn’t cut it down. But there was more to the tree than what could be seen on the surface. The roots of the tree weren’t damaged. Those roots continued to draw up water and nutrients into the bent and broken trunk and branches.

The following spring new growth appeared. There were so many branches coming from that bent and broken trunk. What seemed dead and hopeless sprang to new life, healthier and fuller than the original tree. Once more it sent forth its sweet fragrance.

 

The story of this tree reminds me of the Redeeming Love of God.

Ice storms come into our lives in a variety of circumstances. They cause damage, damage that looks as though the situation is dead and hopeless. It’s during that time we can respond in different ways. We can look at the dead and hopeless situation and give up on it, we can cut it down and remove it from our life, or we can wait on God to bring redemption and new life into it. I’m so glad the owner didn’t give up on the tree. It grew to be a beautiful, sweet smelling tree that is a constant reminder that…

what the enemy meant for harm, God intended for the good!

“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous Love;” Ephesians 3:17

 

There was another tree long ago that held a lesson…

The Greatest Story ever told!

There was a tree upon which the beaten and broken body of Jesus was crucified.

“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:5

It was upon that tree the Perfect Lamb of God shed His blood for the forgiveness of the sin of all mankind.

“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.” Romans 3:22-25

It was upon that tree where Jesus cried out, “It is finished!”

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

That tree of long ago, known today as the Cross, is a constant reminder the no matter what “ice storm” has bent, broken, or left you hopeless, there is no damage that cannot be restored by the Redeeming Love of God.

And as the tree in my neighborhood, God intends for your life to be rooted in Him so that no matter what “ice storm” comes into your life God will work all things together for good…

so that your life will be fuller,

your faith will be made stronger,

and you will give off have the sweet fragrance of Jesus to those around you!

May you remember the Tree this Good Friday and embrace the Redeeming Love of God that He demonstrated towards you… 

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Romans 5:6-11

Picture: Jamie Gillem, Passion Play 2012

“I Can Only Imagine”

Mark, Kayla, and I just went to see an incredible movie,

“I Can Only Imagine.”

I highly recommend it!!!

You must go see it!!!!

It is the story behind the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” written by Bart Millard, of Mercy Me.

Bart’s story is filled with much emotion as he faced many “problems.” I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie, but his story is evidence of how the “problems” Bart faced were meant to  bring him harm and to keep him from knowing who he was created to be, and from the destiny God intended for him.

It wasn’t until a huge “problem” brought him to the end of himself that he did the impossible.

And in doing the impossible he found redemption and success.

He found grace to step out of his “problem,” he found faith to believe for a “possibility,” and experienced a “reality” that only God could orchestrate! 

Bart’s story isn’t unique to him. His story is so powerful and so emotional because everyone who watches it can relate in some ways.

Bart’s story brings hope that no matter what “problem” the enemy brings to harm you, God is a good, good Father who intends a good “possibility” for you and is able to do above and beyond all you could think or imagine!

Bart’s story is one that proves that…

The bigger the problem the greater the possibility!!!

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,” Ephesians 3:20

 

A Battle Plan Like No Other

After spending the past forty years wondering in the wilderness the Israelites finally crossed over the Jordan River, into the land God promised them; a land flowing with milk and honey! Though this land was indeed prosperous, it was filled with “problems.” The first “problem” was Jericho. Jericho was a city surrounded by a huge wall, impossible to penetrate.

Joshua was called by God to take His people, the Israelites, into the Promised Land. God told Joshua they needed to defeat the nations that were in the land so they could live there in peace. Jericho was the first city they were to completely destroy.

Joshua faced a huge “problem”!

Joshua was a mighty warrior and was familiar with fighting Israel’s enemies. He fought battles and experienced God’s miraculous victories.

Joshua was also one of the ten spies Moses sent to check out the Promised Land. He was one of the two that brought a good report, confident that with God’s help they could defeat their enemies.

Now, facing this “problem,” Joshua’s faith was put to the test.

Have you ever spoken out confidently about the power of God and then find yourself facing the very situation that requires you to put your faith into action?

God never leaves us on our own; to fight our own battles, and to solve our own “problems.” When our faith and confidence is in Him we find He is there to show us the “possibility” within the “problem.”

“When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.” Joshua 5:13-15

To see “problems” as “possibilities” requires humility.

In the presence of the commander of the Lord’s army, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. He realized he was in the presence of someone much greater than himself. He realized he had no idea what he should do in light of the wisdom and knowledge of the one who stood in front of him. He humbled himself and asked the commander what he should do. The commander’s reply was the same command God gave to Moses; “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” 

And Joshua’s next words are what I believe makes the  difference to whether we see our situations as “problems” or as “possibilities,”

And Joshua did as he was told.”

God is ready and willing to tell us what to do.

God has the answer to everything we face, if we are willing to bow before Him in humility, to take off our shoes – our striving, ideas, and plans – and to be willing to listen to His advice and carry it out no matter what.

Joshua didn’t try to come up with a plan.

Joshua didn’t go to his men and ask for advice. 

Joshua held to God’s promise…  

“See! I have given Jericho into your hand!”

Joshua chose to see this “problem” as a “possibility” that only God could make into a reality. 

Joshua obeyed God’s plan!

“But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.” Joshua 6:2-5

This was a battle plan never seen before, nor since!

When I take my “problem” to God I find His plans for a “possibility” don’t make sense. They seem foolish; opposite from the ways I feel, different than I would respond.

Then the battle begins in my mind!

Two opposing thoughts, two opposing views begin to war against each other.

I consider my “problem” in light of my experiences and what I have heard others say.

But the words from God contradict all of those.

I find myself trying  to understand God’s ways and convince myself that what He is asking me to do really is the right thing.

God gives me a different plan.

God tells me to walk a different way.

Which will I choose?

This is when I need to see my “problem” through the grid of the truth in Philippians 4:4-7 so that it becomes a “possibility.”

The battle plan God gave Joshua lines up with these verses…

Seven priests were sent out first; “rejoicing” as they blew the ram’s horns.

Then the fighting men followed the seven priests. Marching, not fighting… Let your gentleness be known to all men.”

Then came the Ark of the covenant, representing God’s presence, carried by the priests… The Lord is at hand.”

Then came the rear guard…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” 

Then all the Israelites were to walk silently; without saying a word… Be anxious for nothing.”

I’ve often wondered why God told them to keep silent, to not say a word? I don’t know for sure, but I know that when I’m facing a “problem” I want to talk about it, complain about it to others, and justify why I’m having a bad day. There is something about whining and complaining that I am drawn to. I’m no different than the Israelites while they were wondering in the wilderness for forty years. But, that alone should be a lesson for me. That’s what kept them there. Now in the Promised Land it seems as though God is showing them there is a better way.

Perhaps talking doesn’t allow us to hear God’s voice.

Perhaps talking decreases faith.

Perhaps silence makes way for God’s “possibilities.”

Perhaps silence allows me the opportunity listen to God’s voice alone.

Perhaps silence is where faith increases.

“It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.” Hebrews 11:30

Silence can be powerful!

Silence brings an atmosphere of confidence. 

Rejoicing, faith, and silence diffuses the enemy’s strategy against us.