I am so ready for fall! We had such a hot summer this year that the cooler temperatures are a welcome relief. It is wonderful to turn off the air conditioning and enjoy the cool breezes coming in through open doors and windows again! I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune in February and March when we’re all ready for spring to spring but for now I’m enjoying cool.
My favorite things about fall: The leaves changing colors. (They haven’t started yet around here but they will soon.) Making a big pot of homemade soup. (I made two different kinds this week.) Pumpkins. Apples. Pies made from pumpkins and apples and cinnamon and spice. Popcorn balls and caramel apples. (Are you beginning to see a pattern here?) Getting out the sweaters and sweatshirts and long-sleeved shirts. Bonfires. Hayrides. (Bob and I met on a hayride.) Thinking about Christmas coming soon and sneaking out the Christmas CD’s because I just can’t wait to start listening to them again. Thanksgiving. Kids going back to school. Watching (and hearing) Canadian geese and ducks flying in V-formation over my house as they head south. Seeing the little squirrels in my neighborhood getting fatter and fatter as they prepare for winter.
I dream about living somewhere where the weather is “perfect” all year long, but really, I think I would miss the seasons if I didn’t have them. I love the beauty of God’s creation, but even more, I think, I love its variety. What an awesome God to have planned and created all this for us, and then to hold it all together by His power! “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16, 17) How some people can believe this all happened just by chance is beyond me. Only an omniscient and omnipotent Creator could have designed it all to work together so beautifully and actually brought it into being.
He is not only our Creator, but he is our faithful Creator. When Noah came out of the ark and built an altar to the Lord after the flood, God promised “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22) As long as the earth exists, there will always be seasons; faithfully like clockwork He brings them about. Psalm 104:19 tells us, “He appointed the moon for seasons…” and Daniel 2:21 says, “And he changeth the times and the seasons…” He created them and He changes them.
And though the Lord may change the seasons, He Himself does not change! “For I am the LORD, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6) More dependable than the sun, moon and stars, more dependable than the seasons or time or anything, because He created them, He is faithful. The Bible tells us in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” His love and kindness are forever. “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3) His mercy and grace are eternal. “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22, 23) His promises are true. His salvation is secure and everlasting. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (II Corinthians 1:20-22) “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” (I John 513)
I chose this morning to simply reflect on the arrival of autumn, and to praise Him for it and for all the beauty and variety of His creation. I praise him for His faithfulness to us and all that that means—His steadfastness and dependability, His eternal truthfulness, His unfailing provision of salvation and every other blessing we have in this life or eternity. It’s a good thing to simply pause and praise.
I’ve shared the words of one of my favorite hymns before, but I want to do it again today—Great is Thy Faithfulness. They are so true and such a blessing to me.
It’s been over three years, I think, since Robbie began his love affair with apples. He can’t eat them, but he loves to hold them. He is rarely without an apple in his hand during his waking hours, and I frequently have to try to sneak his apple away when he is asleep. I say try because his fingers clamp down like a vise if he senses someone is trying to steal his apples. He plays a mean game of Keep-Away with his apple, too, during playtime.
Last fall I bought him one of those tiny pumpkins that are about the size of an apple. I wondered if he would accept it in place of his apple. Oh yes, he accepted it—in addition to his apple. There was no way he was giving up his beloved apple!
Well, it’s that time of year again. Bob came home from one of his trips this week with a surprise for Robbie. “Robbie! Daddy has a present for you!” he sang as he shook a bag in the air. Robbie got so excited! He leaned forward eagerly and held his arms out. Bob gave him the bag and held it open so Robbie could reach inside. He pulled out a tiny pumpkin! Whoo-Hoo! Then he reached inside and pulled out something else—a small orange and yellow striped, pear-shaped gourd! Robbie was thrilled!
There was just one problem. He had the pumpkin in one hand and the gourd in the other. His apple was in his lap. Three treasures. Two hands. What to do? He put down the pumpkin and picked up the apple. Ooo-but he really wanted that pumpkin! He set down the gourd and picked up the pumpkin. Wait a minute! I want that gourd, too! his face said. This went on for several minutes as Robbie tried to figure out how to hold three precious playthings in only two hands.
I’m not sure how much of that he really understood, but he turned and looked at me with such a look of dismay! “Mom!” his face seemed to say, “Can’t you see I only have two hands?”
I laughed a few days later when I was sharing that with my ten-year-old granddaughter Melissa. Her response was, “So you’ve got Robbie juggling now! Maybe instead of more gourds, you should buy him more hands!” That tickled me. Robbie—juggling?
Robbie could never juggle, but we’ve certainly all been there, haven’t we? Our hands are full, but we need to fit something else in somehow. We feel like we are doing a juggling act and something is going to fall at any moment—or maybe the whole thing will come crashing down! We are stressed out, dashing back and forth, trying to keep our eyes on the ball and everything going smoothly. We’re overwhelmed and crying out, “But I only have two hands!”
I don’t know how some of the women I know do it. They are working jobs, taking care of children or grandchildren, cleaning house, cooking, doing ministries outside the home, home-schooling, being a help to their husbands, and on and on. I live an easy life here at home compared to them, but it never really stops around here, either, with Robbie to care for, writing deadlines to meet, projects to do for our pastor and church, as well as caring for home and hubby. It is a fact of life in our modern American lives. We are too busy, too stressed, too exhausted.
Let’s face it—juggling not only saps our strength, it also saps our joy. Our most precious treasures become liabilities; demands on us that wear us down and wear us out. Instead of enjoying our children to the fullest, we snap at them or push them away with, “Not right now! Mommy is busy!” Our husbands often get put on the back burner, the last to get our attention. And remember the old chorus, There is Joy in Serving Jesus? Where’s the joy when our ministry for the Lord turns into just one more duty I am obligated to perform?
I think sometimes at the end of the day when we fall into bed exhausted, that we feel as Solomon did in Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” Well, I got through this day. Tomorrow it starts all over again.
You may remember the old commercial, “Calgon—take me away!” David, in Psalm 55:6, said it like this—“Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” Well, we don’t have wings to carry us away, and a Calgon bath will help for only a few minutes. What is the answer then?
There are some things we simply must juggle—family, home, serving the Lord. Some of us simply have to work outside the home—not for the little extras, but just to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. Some things, like home schooling, are a conviction, and we know that it may not be right for all families, but it is God’s will for ours. All of these things are important; many of them are precious treasures. How do we juggle them and at the end of the day end up tired, maybe, but still joyful?
There are four principles, I think, that can help us be successful, joyful jugglers! The first is so simple, and yet so hard to remember sometimes: Start the day, and continue all the way through, with the right attitude. Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” God gave us these treasures to be blessings in our lives, not burdens! Rejoice in the little ones clinging to your leg when you are trying to cook dinner; in the teenagers wanting a ride to the youth group activity; in the husband wanting his share of attention, too! Think how empty your life would be without them! Praise God for the home that has to be cleaned, the food that has to be cooked, the job you have to go to. Think how many millions of people in this world go without those very basic things. Thank the Lord for the opportunities you have to serve him with a heart of love and gratefulness for all that He has done for you. He gave you a new day! Praise Him for it! And keep the gratitude going all day long.
The second principle goes along with the first: Do whatever it is that you have to do in God’s strength, not your own. I say it goes along with the first principle because both should be a matter of prayer before we hit the floor running. Colossians 1:10, 11 says, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” So many times I have failed when I have tried to take on something in my own strength! When we pause to read a portion of God’s word—even if it is only a verse or two—we are “increased in the knowledge of God.” When we first praise and thank Him, and then ask for His power to get through the day with patience and endurance and strength, He gives it to us and we come out at the other end of the day with joy at all that the Lord has given to us and done in us and through us.
The third principle is this: Don’t try to be a Super-Woman! Wait a minute! you might be saying right now. What about the Proverbs 31 Virtuous Woman? She certainly had a lot on her plate to juggle! Look at this: “She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple…She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant… She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness…Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”
Wow! Super-Woman? Maybe, but I think there are a few sub-principles that she can teach us. First: Don’t try to do it all alone—Delegate! It seems the woman of Proverbs 31 had maidens to help her. (vs. 15) Sure, the responsibility rested on her, and she jumped right in there with her own two hands and did her share, working from before dawn on into the night, but she had help. Second: Don’t try to do it all at once. I believe there are seasons to a woman’s life. When our children are young, they need us and we may have to postpone for a few years things that we would like to do in order to care for their needs. When we are old, we may not have the strength or physical capabilities that we once had, and we may have to give up things we once enjoyed. I cannot say for sure, but I doubt that the Virtuous Woman did all of this at the same time. She cared for her children when they were young, providing food and clothes for them. When they were older, perhaps, she entered the marketplace and helped the needy. Third: Whatever you do, do with strength and honor, wisdom and kindness, trusting and obeying the Lord. Verses 25-26, 30 say, “Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” When our hearts are right with God, no matter what He has called us to do, we will rejoice in time to come.
The fourth and last principle I want to mention is this: Be content with less. Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, “Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.” Part of our problem as modern American women is that we think we have to have more and better—a vacation or two every year, far more clothes than we could ever wear, a big nicely furnished and decorated house and so on and so on. We think we have to do more—run the kids to every activity imaginable, take on this project and that, have the perfect home and family. We add so much to our plate that it is no wonder we can’t keep up. If we could only realize that we can get along with far less, relax a little more when we demand less of ourselves—think what a burden that would lift!
Psalm 90:17 says, “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” Our hands are filled with treasures. We have to juggle sometimes, but we can do it with joy when we do it in the Lord—with praise and thankfulness, with contentment and in His strength.
Oh, I’m still going to get Robbie that basketful of gourds, little pumpkins and apples, but I think I’ll give them to him just one or two at a time!
It is a wonderful thing to see twin sisters make it to their eightieth birthday together. We’ve always enjoyed seeing them together (and yes, indeed, they fooled us sometimes as to who was who), but now they’re just downright cute as a pair! All weekend long we remarked at the likenesses and funny little traits they shared.
Sunday was their birthday and we had a special luncheon to honor them. The Lakeview Room looked out on a forest, rather than a lake, but it was pretty with its tables decked in pastels, a fully loaded gift table, and the cake with their pictures at age sixteen as the centerpiece. The food from the Inn’s special Sunday buffet was delicious and plentiful. The company was relaxed, and the fellowship was sweet, and both our Birthday Girls were beaming!
We could not let this special day go by without some spontaneous tributes given by their children, grandchildren and children-in-law. My brother called them the “grand matriarchs of the clan.” Their reputation as pranksters was mentioned. Their love, encouragement, help and generosity were appreciated. They were lauded as wonderful mothers, best friends, special grandmas, and over and over—the best mothers-in-law there ever were! I think what struck me most, however, about these heartfelt, sometimes-teary and sometimes-comical sentiments was how many times Mom and Aunt Bon were referred to as women of faith and prayer. The spiritual heritage they have laid down and their prayerful support of their children and grandchildren had made an impact in all our lives, and helped to make us the people we have become—for now and all eternity. They have been found faithful in the calling God has given them as wives and mothers, and we are all eternally grateful and love them deeply. Proverbs 31:28-31 fits them perfectly: “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:28-31)
Although it may not feel like it sometimes, old age is something to be proud of, and a blessing from the Lord. Many times the Scriptures speak of old age as “a good old age.” And although I have sworn to cover my gray hairs until the day I die (!) gray hair is a badge of honor! Proverbs 16:31 says, “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” and Proverbs 20:29 adds, “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” I still have my gray hair, of course, hidden somewhere—I just refuse to look older than my husband!
With old age come many blessings. Mom and Aunt Bon would tell you (and I agree!) the greatest of these are our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. You just can’t comprehend how wonderful it is to be a grandma until you become one yourself! Someone has said that “being a grandmother is your reward for having been a mother.” Someone else has said, “Grandchildren are God’s way of compensating us for growing old.” Whether or not we’ve earned them, the Bible says in Proverbs 17:6 “Children’s children are the crown of old men [and old women!]”
God also tells us that He does not set us on a shelf in our old age but that there is still work for Him that we can do. Psalms 92:14 says, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age …” The elderly are to be examples of holy living and teachers. “That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.” (Titus 2:2, 3) Prayer and intercession are vital ministries the aged can have. 1 Timothy 5:5 says “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.” The elderly are also a testimony to the generations that follow. Psalms 71:18 tells us, “Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” Eunice and Lois are examples of the impact we can have on our children and grandchildren. “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)
It is God who determines the length of our lives. Job 12:10 says, “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” Oftentimes he blesses the righteous and those who are obedient to Him with long life. He said of David in Psalms 91:14, 16, “Because he hath set his love upon me … because he hath known my name…. With long life will I satisfy him…” 1 Kings 3:14 also says, “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments … I will lengthen thy days.” Proverbs 3:1, 2 tells us to “… keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” and adds in Proverbs 9:10, 11, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.”
Psalm 92:12-14 gives us a picture of the beauty of old age in those who love the Lord. It says, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He [or she] shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.” I see beauty in my mother and Aunt Bon, and I know the Lord does, too. What a testimony they are to lives lived for Him and for their families! Many years ago I sent a poem to my grandmother—their mother. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating for it describes my mother and my dear aunt Bonnie—lovely in growing old. I hope I will follow in their footsteps.
Let me grow lovely, growing old—
It all starts with Grammy coming home from church with them today for lunch. I’ve already made the brownies (which I left in the oven waaaaay too long when I got distracted with the kids—good thing we’re having them with ice cream on top!) and the jello salad. I read aloud three chapters of the new book I wrote for Joshua to the kids. And now, while they are at church and before I start making the rest of the dinner, I must sit down and write my blog for this week.
I have less than two hours to write—and I normally spend anywhere from four to six hours writing my blog each week. What to write about? I spent the entire week working non-stop on Joshua’s book, trying to have it done before they came. Not much to talk about there. I spent some time working on the big birthday celebration, but I’ll write about that later. My kids have not been a lot of inspiration this week.
The only thing I can think of is KISS—an acronym I heard of back in the 80’s when Bob was in seminary preparing to be a preacher-boy. It stood for Keep It Short and Sweet. Or Keep It Short and Simple. Or Keep It Short, Sweetheart! (as the young seminary wives would say.) Or Keep It Short, Stupid! (as the rest of the congregation might say!)
And so I am going to KISS (and I have just used more than 300 words to tell you I am going to keep it short!) Sometimes that is not such a bad thing. My father used to like to quote Abraham Lincoln: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” Before Lincoln, though, Solomon said it best—“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 17:28)
I’ve been reading in Proverbs this week and it is interesting to see how much that book has to say about keeping your words short and sweet. For instance, Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Proverbs 13:3 goes on to say, “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.” and Proverbs 21:23 adds, “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.”
Proverbs talks a great deal about not just the quantity of our words, but the kinds of words we speak. We are told to put away lying, flattery, gossip, trouble-making, clamor, quarreling, perverseness and foolishness, and to speak with wisdom and kindness. Proverbs 31:26, in speaking of the virtuous woman, says, “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
I was thirty before I began to see the wisdom in keeping my mouth shut more often—to guard not only what I say, but how much I say. You may find that hard to believe, I know, considering how long-winded I can be when writing this blog! (Even trying to keep it short—I am over 600 words now!) I think that is why I prefer writing to speaking—I can weigh my words and backtrack—deleting what is a mistake, or awkwardly-said, or just should not have been said at all. When you are speaking, once those words are out there, they’re out there for good. You can’t take them back or delete. Whatever we say and whether we keep it short or long, we need to guard our mouths. James speaks of the tongue and the great damage it can do. “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! …And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity… the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil…” (James 3:5-8)
Psalm 19:14 says, ”Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” Let this be our thought for this week: Keep our words short and sweet and always glorifying to the Lord!
(And I said it all in only 794 words!)
We jokingly call ourselves the Dominoes Divas. Dominoes because we play a game called Mexican Train with—what else—dominoes, and Divas because we are—what else—divas! Okay, I’m just kidding about the divas part. We are anything but divas! But we have a good time together and over the years have become a close-knit group.
I say over the years because we have been doing this for somewhere around eight years, I think. My friends began it way back then as a means to reach out to me at a time when I needed some friends and fellowship. Robbie had been sick for a year and I had pretty much been housebound the entire time. Even when I could leave the house, I had a hard time tearing myself away from him and had become somewhat of a recluse. Several of the women in the church decided I needed some friends and some fun and if I wouldn’t get out of the house to get it, they would bring it to me!
I didn’t even know some of them at the time! And I wasn’t even sure if I really wanted to be a part of this. It had been rather thrust upon me and at the time I was an emotional basket case. I didn’t want to leave Robbie’s side, but it made me nervous having them come to my house every month. I couldn’t come right out and say that, of course, but somehow fairly quickly we began rotating the hosting. The idea was to get me out of the house more often.
I think they knew that I was dragging my feet a bit. I made excuses once and a while not to go, but they stuck with me, and as time went by and Robbie’s condition became less critical, I became more comfortable about being a part of the group and began to appreciate even more how these friends had ministered to me with their persistent friendship and caring.
Over the years our group has changed a bit. One friend dropped out, out of necessity, while we added three new friends. The format has never changed, though. We all chip in $5 and order pizza. The hostess usually provides dessert and some snacks to munch on while we play. We play, laugh, joke, talk, encourage one another, and try not to gossip until 9:00 or 9:15 when everyone heads for home.
I must confess, I still dread it when it is my turn to host. I, who used to be Miss Hospitality and who would have large groups of people in my home every weekend for years—well, I am older and a lot lazier now! And it is not that I am nervous or uncomfortable about it anymore, either. Having people over means I have to clean my house! It’s always a good thing, though, when company is coming because it stirs me to do a bit more than just the basics. (You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?!) The second thing I dread is trying to figure out what toppings to order on the pizzas! Decisions, decisions, decisions! For some reason, that little chore always throws me for a loop!
My turn came around again this last Thursday. I had it licked this time, though! I decided to deviate from tradition and not do the pizza thing. Bob was supposed to be out of town and would not be around to pick up the pizza, and I didn’t want to ask the ladies to stop for it. I hate paying delivery charges and tips. I decided instead to make Italian beef and barbecued chicken sandwiches. I bought small French rolls so that if they couldn’t make up their minds which to have, they could have both. I made fruit kabobs on long bamboo skewers to go with the sandwiches, and had the usual assortment of snacks.
For dessert I decided to do something different, as well. How much fun would it be to have six or seven different kinds of ice cream and a couple different kinds of cones and have everyone make their own double, or even triple-dip ice cream cones! Lots of choices, lots of decisions—and it all started in the frozen food aisle at the grocery store! In the end, I had to have a stranger help me decide which flavors to buy! I told you—when there are too many choices, I am not good at making decisions!
It turns out my friends aren’t any better at that than I am! I think they all ended up trying both kinds of sandwiches. And I just had to laugh at my friends, who normally aren’t real big eaters, layer on three, four, even five different kinds of ice cream in a big waffle cone—and then go back for seconds to try the flavors they’d missed! It was crazy—and so much fun! And yes, we actually did get around to playing dominoes!
Choices. We make them every day, whether we like it or not. What to wear? What to make for dinner? What to do first from my to-do list? Which brand to buy? What to order off the menu? (I especially dislike that one—too many choices!)
My friends chose, years ago, to minister to me at a time when I really needed it. I’m sure they had plenty of other things they could have done with their time. They chose to hang in there when I was reluctant. It might have been a lot easier to say, well just forget her, then! and move on. There were others to whom they could have ministered, I am sure. Instead they continued to offer their friendship and fellowship and to show how much they cared. I had to eventually make the decision to step out of my isolation and choose what they were offering. I am so glad for the decisions we each made back then. Our little group has been a blessing, I think, to all of us.
There is so much more to ministry than preaching or teaching, soul-winning or discipling. Just being there for one another, sharing a burden, listening, showing kindness—those are things all of us in the body of Christ can do for one another. I have spent most of my adult Christian life teaching, leading, writing, and sharing the Word in one way or another. I have often had people tell me that my words meant a great deal to them. What my friends did for me, though, in just meeting my needs for friendship and fellowship, being there to share the burdens and to show they cared—well, their actions did far more for me than words could ever have done. I am so thankful they made the choice to share their lives with me.
We all have our part in the body of Christ. Let us each be faithful in whatever ministry the Lord has called us to do. Even when we are not especially or specifically given the spiritual gifts of giving or helping, however, we are all called to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord and to show kindness and share burdens. Let us make the right choices, even when it is not easy, to minister to one another.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ…As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:2, 10)
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another…Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality…Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (Romans 12:10, 13, 15)
We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. (Romans 15:1, 2)
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. (II Peter 1:5-7)
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering… (Colossians 3:12)
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted… (Ephesians 4:32a)
Why then am I writing about jewels this week? I suppose what brought the topic to mind was the fact that I’ve been doing some window shopping on the internet—not buying, but just looking to see what was available if I could buy. And I wasn’t looking at diamonds or rubies or pearls. I’ve been searching for gemstones like beryl and jasper, sardonyx and chalcedony, chrysolite and jacinth.
Huh? Now why would I be interested in jewels like those? I mentioned last week that I had embarked on a new hobby of jewelry making. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to make a bracelet of the twelve precious stones that will be the foundation of the New Jerusalem that God is preparing for us someday; namely jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprasus, jacinth, and amethyst.
I should probably back up here and tell you that I did a little research on those twelve precious stones a couple months ago as I was wrapping up my study in Revelations. I don’t know about you, but I had always been curious to know what beryl and jasper and some of those other less familiar stones looked like. We all recognize emeralds and sapphires, and even topaz and amethyst, but what is a jacinth or a sardius? As I read the description of the New Jerusalem I wondered about the foundation that God made for her, and what those twelve precious stones looked like all sandwiched together.
Here—I’ll let you read John’s description of it for yourself: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.” (Revelation 21:1, 2, 10-21)
My curiosity was up, though, when it came to those precious gemstones. What were their colors? How would they look all sandwiched together? I knew I could not begin to imagine the scope of its beauty, but at least I wanted to get some glimpse of what it might appear to be. I mean, we can try to imagine the pearly gates, and even the streets of pure gold although the Bible says the pure gold will be like transparent glass, but the foundation of all those beautifully colored jewels? Ahh—how lovely to have the world at our fingertips via the Internet! In a matter of seconds, my curiosity about the precious gemstones of the foundation was satisfied!
More or less. I did run into a couple interesting side notes and one little glitch. For instance, the chrysolite of today is what is more commonly called peridot, and is a pale green color. The chrysolite of a couple thousand years ago, and probably what John described, is a translucent gold. And jasper? That was a problem. Revelation 21:11 says, “Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;” When I had researched the precious stones, the only jasper I could find is an opaque reddish-brown color and usually spotted or striped. It is not clear at all. I began to wonder then if the jasper of the Bible is different than the jasper we have today. I could find no pictures of clear jasper, but I did a little more research and found out that jasper is a microcrystalline variety of quartz. Because it contains up to 20% foreign material, the color and appearance of the stone is rarely uniform and does not have the appearance of a crystal quartz stone, although clear crystal-like inclusions are visible in different varieties of the stone. Could it be that the jasper of Revelation was pure crystal, with no impurities to cloud it or add color? I’m not a geologist, so I could be way off base, but the description in Revelation 21 seems to support that idea.
And why is all this important to us now and how do we apply it to our lives? Well, I suppose the answer to that question is that it is not terribly important to us right now. I just got off on a tangent and spent many more hours researching it than it deserved in light of all the other far more important issues we find in the book of Revelations. The Lord gave us this description of the New Jerusalem, however, so that we believers might have something to look forward to and to show us how much He loves us and is planning only the best for us both now and when He calls us home. This journey here on earth is hard sometimes, but no matter how poor we feel sometimes, or how tired or discouraged, we have all the riches and beauty of God to look forward to in the end. The journey is will be worth it all when we reach our destination!
I remember the pastor I grew up with would often say that we ought not to be so heavenly-minded that we were no earthly good. I understand what he was saying, and yet what a joy it is to think every now and then on all the glories of Heaven and what the Lord is preparing for His children! He wants us to live with Him for all eternity! He wants to reunite us with our loved ones and to have us share in fellowship and worship with all our brothers and sisters from every tribe and nation and age of this world! What a family reunion that will be! He wants to motivate us to work to bring others with us to Heaven. And for the believer, He wants us to understand that there is no fear in death. We have glory and peace and joy to look forward to someday. Hallelujah and Amen!
Anyway, I took it into my head that I wanted to try to make some jewelry, so finally when we went down to Julie’s in July we went to Hobby Lobby and I stood for an hour in the bead aisles trying to figure out which tools I needed and which beads I wanted to start with and what exactly I was going to try to make. I didn’t have a clue. Another lady approached me and just as I was about to ask her for some advice, she asked me for help! She didn’t have a clue, either! I didn’t want to spend very much until I knew what I was doing, and if I would stick with it, so when I found some pretty beads on clearance, a few tools at half-price, and some free leaflets with instructions and ideas, I finally made up my mind, made my purchases and took it all back to Julie’s.
That first night I made a bracelet in five minutes. I felt like a kindergartner stringing the simple beads on a piece of elasticized plastic cord. I even had to have Bob tie the knot for me. Then he got inspired and made a matching bracelet for little Hannah with the leftover beads. We proudly went off to church that night wearing our matching bracelets.
I didn’t have another opportunity then to try my hand again with it until yesterday. When we got back from Julie’s I had a lot of catching up to do, a lot of writing, and a big project for our church’s fiftieth anniversary to work on. Finally, last night when the project was finished, I’d been sitting under my computer for weeks and I just needed to do something that didn’t take a lot of concentration (other than housework!) I decided to get out my beads and tiny pliers and wire cutters and cord and try again.
This time I got more creative and took a little more time stringing the beads in pretty patterns. The first one I made was of natural turquoise stones, some flat and round, and some in irregular shapes, with tiny clear glass bead accents. It turned out beautiful and I was so thrilled! It was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to make. The next three were pretty, too, and were designed to be worn separately or together as they were made in a variety of patterns but with some of the same beads and in the same general color scheme. Bob tied the knots the first couple times for me, but finally I learned to do that for myself, too, so I think I progressed from kindergarten to perhaps third grade in just one night! Whoo-hoo!
I am planning to move on to making earrings and necklaces and even watches, but just making simple little bracelets on stretchy cord brought me a lot of pleasure last night. There is something about designing a pattern with all those shiny and colorful beads and stones and then carrying it through one by one until the project is complete that is very relaxing, and then when you have something of beauty in the end—well, it satisfied my creative soul.
I discovered as I was working, though, that sometimes it was a little trickier than it first appeared. There were times when I made a mistake and had to take the beads off the cord until I came to the mistake and could fix it. Other times I had to basically start over in order to change the pattern a bit to adjust for size. Once, I was totally finished and had even tied the knot, and then decided I wasn’t satisfied with some of the stones I’d used. I cut the cord and started over again with different stones. In the end, I was so glad I did!
I thought about that later and thought how like our days that sometimes is! We wake up in the morning with a plan all set as to how that day is going to go. We have a schedule to keep, our daily routine, some special event to attend or we plan to work on some special project. Our pattern is set in our minds. Bead…bead…bead…special bead…bead…bead…bead… And then something happens. Something unexpected. Someone with a need. A mini-crisis. An argument with your husband. You’re running late. All of a sudden that pretty plan you had in mind is out the window.
Julie had a week like that this week. She had planned to start homeschool—a little early, but she wanted to get a head start since she knew down the road there would be some times when they would want to take off, like when David comes home from Iraq and when they come up here for a visit. Every day, though, something came up that prevented her from moving ahead with her plans. Each time they were opportunities to minister to someone.
“Please, could you watch our children for a few hours so my husband and I can go out on a date? We need it so badly and we can’t afford a babysitter.” This from the mom of the worse little terrors in the church.
“Please, could you watch our son every day this week? He’s having problems with bullies at his daycare and there’s only one week left before school starts and he doesn’t want to go back.” Turns out he was the bully!
“Could I come over today with my children?” from a young unsaved mom on one of the worse days with the young bully she was watching.
“My little girl is home from the hospital now, so you can come over with that balloon you mentioned. Oh, and why don’t you bring dinner with you, too, and we’ll eat together?” from another unsaved mom. Big surprise to Julie about making dinner for everyone – again on a day with the little bully.
Every day was a challenge, and she never could get to even the preparation for the start of homeschool, but the Lord had a plan for her week and in the end she was so glad she was open to that plan.
The little terrors from church were sweet and good for Julie and they had a good time with them. And Julie was able to do something nice for a mom who was often a little difficult to be around.
The little bully? On the last day he came through the door with a heartfelt apology to Julie and to Joshua, whom he had picked on all week, and he did his best all day to be on his best behavior. As he was leaving that evening, he said to Joshua, “Sorry again I was a butthead to you, Joshua.” The best thing, though, was that despite the problems they were having, Julie was able to show him and his parents, who were new Christians, genuine love and forgiveness and patience.
Julie had only met the young unsaved mother a couple weeks before at swimming lessons, but she had been praying for her and asking the Lord for some way to witness to her even after swimming lessons had ended. To her amazement, the first words out of the girl’s mouth when she came over were, “I was wondering if you could tell me how I could know for sure if I was going to heaven?” Praise the Lord! Julie was all prepared, too, to talk with her and to give her a tract about salvation and a list of verses she had written out for another lady she was witnessing to. The young mother has not made a decision yet, as far as we know, but she keeps calling Julie every day wanting to talk.
The other lady Julie had written the verses for was the lady who had called her and asked her to bring dinner over. She lives just two minutes away, and amazingly, her husband’s room in Iraq is right next door to David’s! Julie had only gotten to know her recently and had had one or two opportunities to witness to her. It was inconvenient that day to make dinner and take it over, but the door is wide open to the hearts of that mom and her kids as the friendship has been strengthened and Julie has ministered to them.
By Saturday, though, Julie and the kids were frazzled and she pleaded with the Lord, “Please, could we have a little rest today?” She told me later, though, that as the day went on the Lord began to convict her until she went back and said, “Okay, Lord, however you want my days to be, let me always set aside my own plans and be open to what You have planned.”
The Lord has our days numbered and our steps ordered. Psalm 37:18, 23 says, ”The LORD knoweth the days of the upright… The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.” He will lead us step by step, day by day in the way He wants us to go when we are open to his leading and obedient in following. Psalm 25:4 says, “Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” When we are obedient in following the path He has for us Psalm 16:11 says, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”
I would much rather have the Lord set the pattern for my life than try to do it myself. I make mistakes. I don’t always get it right. The things I would choose are not always the best or the brightest or the prettiest. I can only make those bracelets or necklaces one bead at a time. So God patterns my life one day at a time. And when He orders my steps and sets the days of my life according to His plan, it turns into a pattern of beauty and glory to Him. Obedience… ministry… faithfulness… blessing… patience… love… kindness… joy… praise… worship… prayer… peace…
We thank and praise Him for giving us to each other and for helping us through these last forty years. He gave me a man who has the just the right qualities in him that I need in a husband. Bob is dependable, faithful, generous and good, and my biggest supporter. He makes me laugh! He is the best father to my children that a man could be. I have in me the qualities that he needs in his helpmate, as well—a listener and encourager, a soft place to land when he comes home, a helper and someone who loves and understands him. We thank Him for helping us to grow in love for one another.
We thank and praise Him for the beautiful family that He has given us, as well, and that our home and family have been solidly planted on Him. Our children and their spouses know and love the Lord and are serving Him. Our grandchildren, so far as they have grown old enough to understand, have each accepted Jesus as their Savior and love Him. What could be better than that? Our family has been blessed with the precious gift of Robbie and the Lord has used him, as well, to mold us all into the people He wants us to be.
We thank Him for the joy and laughter that have echoed through the walls of our home, and for peace and comfort when our hearts were breaking. We thank Him for carrying us through the floods and fire of testing and trials, and for refining us and helping us to mature in Him. We thank Him for providing for us, for protecting and leading and blessing us all these years. There have been difficult times but He has always, always been there for us. Yes, God has been good to us these last forty years, and I look forward to whatever He has for us during the next however many years He gives us together!
Laurie’s family called this morning to wish us a happy anniversary. I told them how excited we were to reach our fortieth and I mentioned that my grandparents had only celebrated their forty-sixth anniversary before the Lord called Grandpa home. I said, you never know—we might not reach our fiftieth, either, so I am really rejoicing in this milestone. Melissa piped up, “Oh, you’ll reach your fiftieth, Grandma!” and Katie added, “You might even reach your sixtieth!” I laughed. “I don’t know, Katie! Sixty years married to one man? I don’t know if I can take it!” (Just kidding, of course!)
As much as I love Bob, though, I am glad there is only one of him! I’ve been reading about Solomon this week, and I have to tell you, I simply do not understand how the man who was blessed by God to be the wisest of all men could have had 700 wives and 300 concubines!!! “So King Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom. And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart… And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father…And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father…And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.” (I Kings 10:23-24; 11:3-4, 6, 9-10)
Seven hundred wives??? Even for that culture, it seems a bit—shall we say—excessive? Yuck! And then even worse, to allow those women to influence him to turn away from the Lord to false gods—after all he had seen God do. After the Lord had actually appeared to him twice. After God had blessed him so abundantly, more than any other man on earth. It is just incomprehensible to me. What happened to his wisdom? It doesn’t even take a wise man to see and understand what God had done for him and for Israel—any dolt would have realized how God and God alone had so abundantly blessed him and been grateful. Shouldn’t a wise man be able to think for himself and not allow his wives to draw him away?
I simply cannot understand the extent of Solomon’s lack of wisdom and how he turned away from the Lord, but I know we have all allowed things or other people to come between us and the Lord from time to time. I may not have the great wisdom or riches of Solomon, and perhaps I have not forsaken the Lord to the same extent that he did, either, but that does not make me any better than him. Solomon’s story makes me so sad. When we allow other things to take priority in our lives it draws us away from God and obedience to Him, and He cannot bless that in our lives.
I mentioned a number of qualities about Bob that bless me as his wife. There is another one that is perhaps the most important of all. Bob is a godly man who encourages me in my faith. I am so grateful for a Christian husband who puts the Lord first and foremost in his life. He may not have the wisdom of Solomon, but he tries his best to serve and honor and obey the Lord, and he has led me and his children to do likewise. He tries to encourage and teach us, and he sets a good example by the way he lives his life.
Thank You, Lord, for a godly husband! Thank You for forty years of marriage and for the beautiful family You have given us! We are not wise like Solomon was, but help us in our simplicity to simply love You above all else and follow you obediently all the days of our lives. May our children and grandchildren find us faithful in our love for one another and for You and may they follow behind us in love and faithfulness, as well. We love You, Lord. Thank You!
It is so interesting to see how their personalities are developing. Benjamin is twelve and just hitting puberty. You know—the deep ((and sometimes cracking) voice, whiskers on the upper lip, suddenly shooting up in height, and all that. What a fine young man he has become! He so reminds us of David. He’s always had his father’s genes in appearance – darker skin and hair and those heavy eyebrows – but now we see his dad’s personality all over again in him. He’s quiet and laid back, always thoughtful and willing to help, very smart and yet humble, with a love for the Lord and a godly wisdom about him that is remarkable in a child that young.
Hannah is a cute mixture of prissy princess and tomboy following in her brothers’ footsteps. She wants to keep up with them, but at the same time flaunts her girly ways in their faces – mostly because she knows anything frilly and frou-frou annoys Joshua to no end! What a tease! She’s only six, but is as tall as an eight-year-old so sometimes you forget that she is still a little girl. The challenge this week was that she desperately wanted to jump off the diving board at swimming lessons but just couldn’t quite screw up her courage enough to do it. She went in there every day absolutely determined she was going to take the plunge, and then went away disappointed in herself that she couldn’t do it. In the end though, she learned to swim and on that last day swam the entire length of the pool! And learning to swim was what it was all about, so she came away proud of herself after all! We were proud of her, too! She reminds me of Julie when she was a little girl. She could be so stubborn, but in the end that stubbornness turned into strength and determination and has been a gift in becoming the woman she is today.
It is Joshua’s personality, though, that makes me laugh! He is such a chip off the old block – Boppa’s (Grandpa’s) block, that is! There is no volume switch on either one of them. Joshua and Boppa are both loud, loud, LOUD! They have the same sense of humor. They both love to roughhouse. They both would love to be out hunting or fishing. Boppa taught Joshua to make coffee when he was just a little guy so now Joshua can’t wait until he can be a coffee drinker like Boppa! (He got to have little bit for his birthday and declared up and down that he loved it–that is, after he shook the coffee creamer bottle and spilled it all over the kitchen!) He is a hard worker like Boppa and has a kind and generous heart – with a little bit of male ego thrown in to boot. He has a strong sense of what is right and wrong and is always ready to stand up for righteousness. We call him Mini-Boppa and it just makes me laugh!
It is wonderful to watch our children and grandchildren grow and to see that “little bit of me and that little bit of you” in them. We see them carrying on the heritage they’ve been handed and it makes us proud to see that little extension of ourselves and to know that someday when we are gone, a little of us will live on in them. I made a card to send to David in Iraq a few weeks ago that had a picture of the kids on the front. I had found a photo of each of them that really showed their personalities and cropped them out and then formed a new photo with the three of them together. I put “Personality Plus!” on the front of the card with the picture and then on the inside wrote this little poem:
He took the best of you,
A little bit of Boppa,
Grandma and Grandpa Sanchez, too,
Threw in a part of me —
The very BEST of all of us —
And made the very cutest kids
With personality PLUS, PLUS,
We are made in His image, after all. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26a) Sin has distorted that image, but when we are redeemed we are made new creatures. We have His Spirit and our lives are transformed—transformed to be like Him. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29)
To be like Jesus—what would that be? His life exemplified love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—all the fruit of the Spirit. He wants us to produce that fruit and be like Him. (Galatians 5:22, 23) He became a humble servant and sacrificed Himself for us. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) He is holy and He wants us to be holy. “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16)
When others look at me, do they see Jesus in me? Does my life reflect Him? Do they know I am a Christian – a “little Christ”—by how I live my life? I always loved the chorus “Let the Beauty of Jesus Be seen in Me.” It goes like this:
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me–
It makes us happy when we see ourselves in our little ones. How much it must please God when He sees our lives reflecting Him!